Book Review: “Ravencliffe” by Carol Goodman (ARC)

9780670784776_ade07Ravencliffe by Carol Goodman

Publisher: Viking
Publishing Date: December 2
Genre: young adult, fantasy, historical fiction, gothic
ISBN: 9780670784776

Goodreads: – 
Rating: ★★★★

Avaline Hall is no ordinary girl.

She’s a student at Blythewood Academy, an elite boarding school that trains young women to defend human society from the shadowy forces that live among us.  After the devastating events of her first year at Blythewood, Ava is eager to reunite with her friends—and with Raven, the compelling but elusive winged boy who makes her pulse race. She soon discovers, though, that the sinister Judicus van Drood hasn’t finished wreaking havoc on Blythewood—and wants to use Ava and her classmates to attack a much bigger target.

Ava’s the only one with any hope of stopping van Drood. But to scuttle his plans, she must reveal her deepest secret to everyone at Blythewood. What’s she willing to sacrifice to do what’s right—her school?  Her love?  Or her life?

Avaline ended her first year at Blythewood with more than just the knowledge that fairies exist in our world — she knows who (or rather what) her father is. A tumultuous summer break leaves Ava nostalgic for the comforts of Blythewood and all it entails: routine, classes, her friends Daisy and Helen, and Raven, the Darkling who works so hard to convince her that not all Fae are evil. But returning to Blythewood actually leaves Ava more haunted than relieved, for Judicus van Drood has a sinister plan in mind, one that will destroy the school and leave any remaining girls exhausted, torn, and ruined. The only solution Ava can see is revealing her true nature, no matter the consequences.

Gosh, if you thought Blythewood was magical and enchanting and touching in a way that only Harry Potter and A Great and Terrible Beauty could be, then you’ll fall head over heels for this. Amp up the gothic melodrama, throw in history of magic, allude to historical disasters to come and connect our world with that of the Fae, and you’ve got yourself Ravencliffe. While the first book met the standard expectations of typical Gothic literature, this one met every single point on target: the adventure, the heightened emotions, coincidences and quick solutions, and an all-encompassing romance.

Do not devour this book all at once. Because of the heightened melodrama, the mix of so many new characters and settings, and one disaster piling on top of another (which leads to an inevitable explosion of an ending), it can feel like too much too soon if read quickly. Savor it. Enjoy it. Live each chapter. The best way to enjoy a book such as this is to take it slowly.

For a concrete portion of a review — rather than my vague, cautionary ramblings and excitement over the fantastical — allow me to praise Goodman’s ability to keep the romance distinctly triangle-less. Ava is torn not between two boys — one human and one Darkling — but between two lifestyles: to accept the portion of herself that is Darkling, and therefore face potential exile from the human and Darkling worlds, or to shun that portion of herself and remain steadfastly human. That being said — and as real and honest and beautiful as her relationship is with Raven — I will not deny Nathan’s affections for her. It’s clear he prefers her company to others girls’ yet every interaction felt incredibly platonic. Thank goodness. The love they share for one another runs like siblings’ love. Also, every encounter Ava has with female Darklings and Raven cracked me up — it’s so typical for a girl, the way her mind jumped to unreasonable jealousy, and then mental slapping for ever thinking such a thing.

This book is so much more than the romance, but I cannot delve too far into it without giving away major plot points. More magical creatures, more magical places, more ominous events tied to actual history, more self-discovery, more characters outside the Order, more alliances, more everything. It’s remarkable. I’m excited to see where Goodman takes us next.

Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Viking for review!

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters That Deserve Their Own Book

Top Ten Tuesday, a concept started by The Broke and the Bookish, is a themed post that connects bloggers to bloggers, bloggers to readers, and readers to readers. Every Tuesday has a special topic, and this Tuesday is Top Ten Characters I Wish Would Get Their OWN Book.

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You know what? I love reading the romantic interest’s side of the story, but sometimes not within the same book. Dual perspectives can really work, and I have nothing against them. But I also like to read a story through one character’s POV and speculate what the other character is thinking and doing. Just like real life: you only know your perspective…what about your friend’s? Probably why I love Gayle Forman so much — her companion books are divine.

So the characters I’m most interested in reading are, in no particular order…

1-3. Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Sirius Black

4. Etienne St. Clair

5. Mr. Rochester

6. Matt Finch

7. Alexei (though this may ruin the ambiguous ending of the story)

8. Levi

9. Miss Havisham (this has been done, though! I’ll need to read it!)

10. Augustus Waters

Which character’s perspective would you love to read? Do we have any similar ones?

Book Review: “Jackaby” by William Ritter

20312462Jackaby by William Ritter 

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Published: September 2014
Genre: young adult, fantasy, historical fiction, gothic, mystery
ISBN: 9781616203535
Goodreads: 3.79
Rating: ★★★★

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

Abigail Rook had dreams of taking adventures around the world, following her father’s footsteps in archeology and unearthing history’s mysteries. But after a series of negative responses from friends and family, she decided to create her own adventure, and ended up in New Fiddleham where she met the extraordinary R.F. Jackaby, an investigator in supernatural occurrences and crimes. From the moment she steps through his door, the town erupts in mayhem: a serial killer is on the loose. Jackaby and Junior Detective Charlie Cane are convinced it’s a supernatural being, and though Abigail cannot see proof of it, neither can she see the villain as a human. Adventure has finally begin.

What an amazing genre-bender! It truly is a blend of Doctor Who and Sherlock, with the incredible supernatural events and beings — what’s even more, so many of these creatures are of various cultural lore — and sole Seer of the beings, and the obnoxiously intelligent and socially inept detective wrecking havoc around the police. Gosh, I loved Jackaby. I loved the way Abigail worked around him, too. Her wit and spunk really helped the two of them bounce ideas off one another, fight off unwanted attention, push aside those who didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t believe. Both were incredibly fun.

Reading this was like candy. Not too frightening, not too humorous, just the right amount of fantasy and realism, wit and logic. Any fan of either of those British shows would eat this up. I can’t go into too much detail, else I’ll spoil the book. Let’s just say I’m glad this is the first of a planned series. You can bet I’ll be buying the sequels.

Goodreads Choice Awards, NaNoWriMo, and Secret Santas

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Goodreads Choice Awards 2014: Opening Round! And let me tell you, there are some fantastic books up on the ballot! I’ve reviewed several of them this year, so hop on over to my 2014 Reviews and check them out.

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You may have noticed I haven’t blogged an Advance Excitement at a Glance post for November. While I like to think I planned out the following situation, I regret to say I did not. It was just a happy coincidence.

There are many great books coming out in November, and a few of them I was lucky enough to receive ARCs. Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to get around to reading them properly for review, so there will be no November ARC updates. (However, there’s a book coming out in December whose review will be posted mid-November — look out for that!). I’m also busy this month for a completely different reason: NaNoWriMo. Academic papers? Got it. Critiquing and editing creative works? No problem. Coming up with plot ideas and characters and the whole world? Fine. But actually completing a novel-length creative piece? Wow. So I’m a bit frightened, but my writer friends have rallied around me and so far I’m doing pretty well with this whole NaNoWriMo thing!

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Um, book bloggers? Sign up for this now. The Broke and the Bookish is hosting a Secret Santa, and it looks like so much fun. Sign-ups end November 14th, so hurry on over and fill out your form to give to and receive bookish goodies from another book blogger this holiday season!

 

Did you vote for your favorite books of 2014?
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo?
Have you signed up for #TBTBSanta?

 

Book Review: “Voyager” by Diana Gabaldon

10987Voyager by Diana Gabaldon 

Publisher: Dell
Published: 1993
Genre: historical fiction, romance, fantasy, adventure
ISBN: 9780440217565
Goodreads: 4.37
Rating: 
★★★★★

Their passionate encounter happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser. Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her… and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.

Then Claire discovers that Jamie survived. Torn between returning to him and staying with their daughter in her own era, Claire must choose her destiny. And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face the passion and pain awaiting her…the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland… and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that can reunite—or forever doom—her timeless love.

Claire’s told her daughter Brianna about her birth father, Jamie, and the unusual circumstances in which he and Claire met. With Roger Wakefield’s help, Claire and Brianna begin a desperate search to find out what happened to Jamie after Culloden, as evidence points to his survival. When they make a discovery that he could still be alive 20 years after the battle — 200 years exactly for Claire — Claire decides to take a chance and return to him. But will he be the same man she left 20 years ago? What sort of life is he leading now? And though Claire clings to the memory of him, does he still hold her in his heart as well?

SPOILER ALERT
Events pertaining to Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber are within this review.
SPOILER ALERT

While only slightly put off by the 1960s Scotland in Dragonfly, I was not put off at all in this book! I love Roger and Brianna, their personalities and enthusiasm and general goodness. They’re fleshed out much more in this book, and even while Claire was reunited with Jamie I did wonder how they were getting on. Could they follow Jamie and Claire in the history books? How was Brianna dealing with the loss of her mother? How was Roger coping with his newly discovered, time-warped family history? How was Brianna coping with her newly discovered, time-warped family history?! I’m excited to see more of them in future books.

Gabaldon knows just how to answer all the reader questions. I was happy to see the conflict and slow decision Claire encountered when faced with traveling back in time to see Jamie. Of course she’d go back — but that takes preparation. And she did it so well, so thoughtful of her daughter’s well-being, of her career and friendship with Joe (who is also awesome, by the way), her forgiveness for Frank (who frankly (ha ha) doesn’t deserve it, the bastard, but it was well done and very Claire-like). It was fun to see her collect the proper coinage, the right dress, the knowledge of history and culture and politics — so much preparation to blend in for her arrival.

Not to mention the constant insecurities and questioning upon reuniting with Jamie! They love each other, pure and true, but it has been 20 years, and so much can change a person. The book takes place across four months in the 1760s, and while the reader gets snippets of Jamie’s past (his hiding, his imprisonment, his servitude in England), Claire learns of them briefly and at very inopportune moments. It’s as if they know one another so deeply, and suddenly there’s a rift they must work through. It was beautiful (and heartbreaking) to read. I’ve never read of a couple more human than these two.

So much happens in this book. If I thought Dragonfly was filled with several many names and circumstances, I had to think again. New acquaintances, reconnections, pirates and military, nieces and nephews, adventures on land and by sea, Scotland and France and the Caribbean — it was all a jumble of love, adventure, shock, discovery, and brand new beginnings for these two. And I can honestly say that at this point, I don’t care where they end up as long as they’re together.

I also hope Jamie’s no longer an outlaw, poor fellow. But clearly he becomes one again at some point in future books. Sigh. Can’t seem to catch a break.

Halloween Reads!

It may be the end of October, but there’s nothing stopping you from reading these spooky, chilling books throughout the rest of autumn and winter. There’s something thrilling and menacing about these dark, cold months that draw people to this sort of literature. I could go to great lengths explaining it’s all Charles Dickens’s fault, but that’s a whole other post.

You may recognize many of these books from the majority of my 2013 book reviews, the year I worked on my YA Gothic Literature graduate thesis. The Year of Wonderful Nightmares. (Seriously, who enjoys nightmares? What’s wrong with me?) You may also see some repeats from last year’s Halloween TTT. But since then, a whole host of creep-tastic YA and MG lit have burst forth in the publishing industry. Walk into any bookstore and you’ll see them cramming the shelves. Makes my heart warm! It warms my heart so much, I not only blogged for Quirk Books on it but also created a master list here just for you!

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 Classic Gothic

  1. Long Lankin — 1950s haunted manor, a cursed family, and a being that snatches children in the night. Also, super creepy folk song.
  2. The Dead of Winter – like a Dickens and Susan Hill mash-up. English moors, corrupt family, and a orphan stuck in the middle of it all.
  3. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea — Love Heathcliff and all his ambiguity? You’ll love this book.
  4. The Book of Blood and Shadow — a thriller at its finest, with societies and murderers and mistaken identities.
  5. The Hallowed Ones — OH. MY. GOD.
  6. The Poisoned House — Another Dickens-esque novel, with ghosts and ouija boards and revealed identities.
  7. Shadowed Summer – a Southern Gothic novella, full of taboo topics that come back to haunt…literally.

In short, these are Classic Gothic books. Some are frightening for the creatures, some for the atmosphere and setting, and others simply because it makes you question your beliefs and morals — and what’s more frightening than that?

Retellings

  1. The Name of the Star — the first of a trilogy, and it harkens back to the 1888 Ripper murders…which are quite similar to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Just sayin’.
  2. Strands of Bronze and Gold — Bluebeard fairytale in Antebellum South
  3. Madman’s Daughter — HG Wells’s Island of Dr Moreau
  4. Her Dark Curiosity – Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (the next book, out January 2015, is Cold Legacy and it’s a retelling of Frankenstein!)
  5. This Dark Endeavor – Young Frankenstein
  6. Ashes on the Waves — Poe’s Annabel Lee with Celtic origins

Retellings are always popular. Of course, retellings could not be possible without their classics. Poe, obviously, is a great author to start with. Follow up with Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Shelley, Collins, Stevenson, and you’re in for a treat!

An honorable mention is Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. It’s more fun than spooky, but it’s like when “Hocus Pocus” is on TV: it’s not Halloween without it.

halloweenreads2

  1. The Fall — a retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher
  2. Jackaby — a blend of Dr. Who and Sherlock
  3. The Kneebone Boy — children stumble across a half-boy half-animal
  4. Say Her Name – creepy twist on the Bloody Mary legend
  5. Through the Woods — a gothic graphic novel!
  6. Fiendish — harkens back to The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Monk, so count me in for the magic
  7. The Swallow — a standard ghost story, doubly chilling because of the children
  8. Winterkill – The Village meets Oregon Trail. YES.
  9. Dream Boy — what if all of your dreams came true?
  10. White Space — what’s written between the lines, falling into book after book, and the meaning behind it all
  11. Doll Bones — Creepy, haunting dolls. Leave your lights on, folks, and don’t stop playing with your toys!
  12. Nightmares! — bad enough in your sleep, even worse when they become true
  13. Monstrous Affections — an anthology of fearsome creatures and ambiguous romance

And on that note, I think it’s perfectly acceptable for me to leave it at No. 13, don’t you?

What are some books you’d recommend for Halloween or frightening reads? Have you read any of these?

Book Review: “Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares” by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan 9780375859557_p0_v2_s260x420

Publisher: Ember
Published: October 2011
Genre: young adult, romance, holiday
ISBN: 9780375859557
Goodreads: 3.88
Rating: 
★★★★

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a cosmic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Dash, a snarly word buff who’s done with the whole concept of Christmas, stumbles across a red notebook next to his favorite books at The Strand. The directions inside send him all over the store to solve a riddle and answer a dare. Intrigued, he follows through, and waits his next turn. Lily, the instigator and lover of all things festive, continues with the red notebook dares, thrilled to have something to look forward to while her immediate family is away for Christmas. Soon enough, the daily interactions between Dash and Lily across NYC leave them wondering: do they want to meet in person, or would that destroy their notebook persona?

This is a teen rom-com if I ever read one. There are moments in this book that are outrageously hilarious and entirely implausible, and yet it’s so perfect for who Dash is and for who Lily is that it simply works. It’s like online dating, only a bit more fun, organic, and mysterious. Dash and Lily don’t know one another, yet their interactions through the notebook reveal their strengths and weaknesses, their hopes and dreams, successes and failures. They’re their true selves — albeit somewhat edited (because, heck, sometimes writing/speaking to a perfect stranger is easier than face-to-face confrontations) — are in that notebook. Their fear of shattering it and desire to genuinely meet war within, and it’s exciting!

A short holiday read, perfect with cookies and cocoa. It made me wish to visit NYC again in the winter, and that’s saying something!