Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races cover

The Scorpio Races
By Maggies Stiefvater
GoodreadsAmazon | Audible
Series: no
Release date: October 18th, 2011
Rating: OMG, so good
Times read: 3
Recommended by: A student in my book club

Have I mentioned yet that I am a fan of Maggie Stiefvater’s writing? (Spoiler: yes, here, here, here, and here) “Cause I really do. The more of her writing I read the more that I love it. 

The Scorpio Races is an examination of the water horse myth.  Are you aware of water horses?  I may have vaguely heard about them at some point but I had never given them much thought before now.  They are creepy as hell.  Really. You could not pay me enough to get near one.  Horses are big and pretty scary on their own so I found that I needed very little prompting to find the capaill uisce terrifying.

Puck Connolly is (so far) my favorite of Stiefvater’s heroines.  She has spirit nd a sense of humor. In my head this takes place on an island off the coast of Ireland in, like, the 1920’s.  Evidence: general atmosphere, English speaking but not American, I associate horse racing with Ireland, a reporter references the woman’s suffrage movement, the cars are super unreliable, and also just ‘cause. Am I basing this head cannon on flimsy evidence or am I making sense?

Sean Kendrick has made the water horses (one in particular) and the stables his family. I love how self-contained he is. You know how most people have to seek out others in order to be themselves.  Sean is complete unto himself and I love that about him.  There is an inner stillness and certainty to his character that makes him very engaging even when he isn’t doing much.

All the supporting characters are so well realized.  All of them feel like real people.  It seems as if there should be a coffee table book with a photos essay about the people of Thisby including each of these characters. In particular, I found Pucks younger brother Finn to be charming.   I loved that while we are following Puck and Sean and there are the center of the book they are not the center of the supporting characters existence.

The island of Thisby should also be mentioned.  There was such a sense of place in this novel. I swear I could see the cliffs and smell the sea.  I think that the island concept was brilliant in itself.  If the islanders weren’t all trapped in some sense much of the tension of the book would have been lost.  Many of the characters see the island as a cage.  Something to escape. Both Puck and Sean see it differently.  To them the island is not just home it is an inner calling.  Almost as if the island itself is part of their consciousness.  A part of their thinking, A part of their definition of self. 

So much of this book was about expectations.  What you expect of others, what others expect from you, and most importantly what you expect from yourself.  And all of these expectations (know or hidden) are related to Scorpio Race.  It is interesting that the Scorpio Races cause such turmoil on the island and yet I never once questioned it’s existence.  Normally I would not be able to stop myself from thinking that they should stop capturing the scary monster horses and having a race where people die.

I did not find this to be a slow story but I can understand it others do.  When I think back on it very little actually happens.  There is a huge amount of character development and I had all the feels but if I was to break down the plot it would look pretty flat.  I enjoy that type of writing.  If it bugs you then Maggie Stiefvater might not be the writer for you. If you are looking for atmosphere and characters that you feel as if you know then you will find this book a treat.

From Goodreads:
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen. 

Mini Reviews #3

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Well, it has certainly been awhile. I have been reading like crazy but certainly not blogging. I wish I could say it was because I was working in something cool, but honestly, I just couldn't be bothered with anything that smacks of effort. Hopefully, I will be able to pull myself out of this writing funk and be more regular about posting.

All the Crooked Saints

All the Crooked Saints
by Maggie Stiefvater 

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: none
Published: October 10th 2017
Rating: all the pretty writing
Times read: 1
Recommended by: auto buy author

I was looking for a miracle, but I got a story instead, and sometimes those are the same thing.

 I love Maggie Stiefvater's writing, and I think that it lends itself well to the genre of magical realism. However, character and plot-wise this book does not stand up to her other books. Phrasing wise it does. If you like your prose to carelessly jump back and forth over the line to purple and back again (*raises hand forever) this book is for you. If this does not sound like you stay clear forever because you will spend 456 pages asking yourself what the actual fuck is going on. It is important to note that while most of the main characters are Mexican-American, this is not an #ownvoives book. Nothing jumped out at me as problematic, but I am not sensitized and could very well have overlooked it. YMMV so this is something to consider. Can I tell you what happens in this book? Not really but it was pretty, and I shipped all the things.

Take Me There

Take Me There
by Carolee Dean 

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: none
Published: July 20th 2010
Rating: sad
Times read: 2
Recommended by: I think that Goodreads threw this at me

Words are like people, I think. Put too many of them too close together and they cause trouble

What I loved about this book was this it took the "bad boy" trope and stood it on its head. Dylan is the protagonist rather than the mysterious boy seen from afar. We see his frustrations, his fears, and his loyalty. It is interesting that Dylan doesn't actually make that many bad choices and yet his life and control over it continues to crumble around him in spite of that. I found his illiteracy and yearning for poetry a painful metaphor for all the boys caught up in the criminal justice system. There is a romantic element but although it didn't annoy me it also wasn't the strongest part of the book. It also asks some interesting questions about fate, self-fulfilling prophecies, and the eternal debate of nature vs. nurture. 

The Distance Between Us

The Distance Between Us
by Kasie West

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: none
Published: July 2nd 2013
Rating: cute enough
Times read: 2
Recommended by: Again I think that I first saw this on Goodreads.

I’ve missed my hot chocolate. I just think of you as the guy who brings it to me. Sometimes I forget your name and call you hot chocolate guy.

This was a reread. Seventeen-year-old Cayman has always been told to stay away from rich boys, but a chance meeting at her mother's doll shop with Xander makes her question everything. I like Cayman's sense of humor; I love the fact that they bond while trying to figure out what they want their futures to hold. Cayman doesn't let Xander get away with his nonsense behavior. I think that the real reason that this couple would work is that they genuinely bring out the best in one another. This is YA at it's best and by far my favorite book by Kasie West. 

The Inevitable Victorian Thing

That Inevitable Victorian Thing
by E.K. Johnston 

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: none
Published: October 3rd 2017
Rating: DNF
Times read: 1
Recommended by: I can’t even rememer

I hate to be sanctimonious about it, but it turns out that good conversation solves a great many problems.

 I will be honest I bought this for the cover and for the title. The premise was very cool, but the writing was distractingly underwhelming. The characters are beautifully diverse, but it felt as if the diversity was a costume rather than part of who they were. My main complaint is that we are in at least four characters heads and I was not able to tell one voice from another. Which made it almost impossible to differentiate one character from another. This of course made the book very confusing and frustrating to the point where I had to ask myself why I was spending a Saturday afternoon fighting with a book. Thus I had to DNF this one. Looking at the reviews on Goodreads I take it that this is a love it or hate it kind of a book.

The Art of French Kissing

The Art of French Kissing
by Brianna R. Shrum

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: none
Published: June 5th 2018
Rating: Moar food
Times read: 1
Recommended by: me as I was searching for food books

I, on the other hand, am wound so tight that I can do nothing but scrunch. My skin is scrunched, my muscles are scrunched, my bones are scrunched; I am an ode to the nineties hair accessory.

 Gaze upon this cover and try to tell me you don't want to buy it. For a book about food and cooking, there was not enough time spent describing the food. Seriously, I could have done with about a hundred pages more of food description. There is a discussion about consent and one point that I both really appreciated and that stood out from the book as "The author thinks that a discussion of consent goes here" rather than feeling like a naturalistic conversation. The biggest problem with this book is actually the fact that Carter, the main character, is kind of terrible. Mean, overly dramatic, and way too easily angered. I ended up reading on in spite of her rather than because of her. On the pro side, this book has beautifully represented diversity, and Reid is adorable and infuriating. More about him please.


Book Review: Linger by Maggie Stiefwater

linger cover

By Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Wolves of Mercy Falls
Release date: July 13th, 2010

Let me just take a moment to process how much I love Cole. Linger is still telling Sam and Grace’s story but the focus widens a bit in this book.  We are introduced to a couple of new perspectives.  When I first started reading I was afraid that Stiefvater was going to cause me physical pain by introducing a love triangle that I would have to despise.  Such a lack of faith.

Sam and Grace are relatively uncomplicated characters.  Their chief conflicts in the first book were external.  In this book they are battling with themselves most of the time and that has made them much more interesting. 

Cole is a new character who is introduced in this book.  He is a famous musician.  Normally, this is a trope that I hate so much that I actually become incapable of finishing a book.  Somehow, that is not the case here.  I love Cole.  Cole is an asshole.  Seriously. No holds barred, I am going to say whatever shit is in my head, asshole.   He is ridiculous, self-centered, and a terrible decision maker.  I should not like him. At all.  And yet I want to bring him home, get him therapy, and possible pat his head like a puppy.  Is this a normal reaction to an asshole?  I really found the way that Cole used being a wolf almost like it was a drug very interesting.  Something to numb him and make him forget who he was. 

I enjoyed how Maggie Stiefvater managed to make both Cole and Grace both intensely flawed and yet not defined by their flaws.  Isabel in particular is a kind of abrasive that I would usually be repelled by and yet she used it to help other people.  To get to the heart of the situation.  To point out someone else’s blindness.  She is somehow rough and sensitive at the same time.   

One of the most satisfying part of this book was when Grace FINALLY tells off her parents in the most epic of all parental take downs.  I was all for this as they are some of the worst parents ever while claiming that they are trying to help her for her own good. I can’t really blame them.  I am not sure that I would be comfortable with my (hypothetical) daughter (or son) being in a relationship that is this insense so early.  I would however hope that I would notice before she/he is moving in with her/his partner.

I have to say the whole book rests on the writing.  If I really think through the plot there isn’t much there that is original and the pacing is slow.  Even the characters could be seen as tropes.  To take something that could feel exactly like so much else that has already been written and have the language elevate it like this takes talent.  This is a book that invokes feelings.   Having said that this isn’t my favorite of her books nor my favorite of her series. I feel like her writing has just gotten better. 

From Goodreads:
the longing.

Once Grace and Sam have found each other, they know they must fight to stay together. For Sam, this means a reckoning with his werewolf past. For Grace, it means facing a future that is less and less certain.

the loss.

Into their world comes a new wolf named Cole, whose past is full of hurt and danger. He is wrestling with his own demons, embracing the life of a wolf while denying the ties of being a human. 

the linger.

For Grace, Sam, and Cole, life a constant struggle between two forces--wolf and human--with love baring its two sides as well. It is harrowing and euphoric, freeing and entrapping, enticing and alarming. As their world falls apart, love is what lingers. But will it be enough?