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The Raven Boys & other recent reading

June 5, 2013

I know I haven’t done of the “what I’m reading” or “What I’ve read” posts in a while – things have been crazy, what with one thing and another, but rest assured that I have been reading, and I’m going to start this post by flailing inconsolably about Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys.

The-Raven-Boys

Not very spoilery review under the cut.

I don’t want to say THE RAVEN BOYS is a masterpiece, because I tend to not like saying stuff like that in case I come back to the thing I’ve called magnificent later and realize that it was just the first flush of enthusiasm that made me love it. Except I started it on the train this morning on my way to work, and thought about it all day while I was reading a not-very-inspiring book for work, and then started reading it again on my way home, and by the time 8pm rolled around I had finished it. 409 pages in one day. I read fast, but by God I blazed through The Raven Boys as though someone were chasing me.

Which, in a way, they were, a bit– Many of my friends, including Bridget Smith, fellow agent (and future podcast pal- keep your eyes out!), who had lent me her ARC in the first place, had been asking me for months whether or not I had gotten around to reading it. For almost nine months I’ve been brushing them off, saying to myself that there were other things I wanted to get to first. Of course, this week I’ve had to pack up the entire contents of my apartment in preparation for moving, and all the reading material I had left in my room was the stuff that I need to return to people. (Including Bloody Jack and Catching Fire, which, don’t judge me!) And after being monumentally book-blocked trying to read Divergent, Raven Boys just looked so… whole. Appealing. I knew Bridget had read it, so it wouldn’t be missing two signatures in the middle of the book. 

So today I read it. And I love the pants off this book. I love the protagonist, Blue. I love her prickly sense of self, how delicately she tries to balance what her family wants of her, what her friends want for her and what she wants for herself. In many ways this is (Richard) Gansey’s book, though, his and the other Raven Boys’; but I love them, too, and their separate journeys towards the uncertain futures they both crave and fear for themselves. The mythology and magic aspects are deftly handled.

In a lot of ways this is a high school book where none and all of the important things are about the actual lived experience of high school. When I think back to my high school experience, I have a few memories of being in class, of being in the lunchroom, of being on the field for band, of being in the library. But I remember my friends viscerally. I remember the bone-deep feelings of love and dejection and betrayal and embarrassment as if they were yesterday, all these feelings jumbled up together and each feeling more vital and urgent than the last. Blue is like that, but Adam is like that too, with his love for his friends and his fear of letting his friends’ lifestyles consume him, no matter if they want that for him or not. Even Ronan, angry Ronan, who doesn’t get a POV chapter in The Raven Boys, comes across on the page larger than life.

I got to the climax of the book and started tweeting and texting Bridget in all caps, trying to send some of the enthusiasm and excitement I felt while reading out into the world. If my twitter fed is to be believed, I’m responsible for two sales of The Raven Boys today- I hope that if anyone reads this post and is inspired, they’ll go out and check it out, too. (Right now it’s $1.99 on the Kindle, and $3.99 bundled with the audio!)

Setting aside The Raven Boys, and the sequel to it that I’ll be trying to figure out a way to procure, I have done a lot of other reading in the last few months so here in no particular order is a little list of my highlights:

Pax Brittanica – Jan Morris / The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich – William Shirer

One of the reasons I’m behind on my Goodreads challenge is that somehow I thought hey! two really long, super-dense history books! Great plan. Pax Brittanica is the second book in a history trilogy about the Victorian age and the British Empire, and if you are into that kind of thing, I highly recommend it. Jan Morris is a thorough writer who makes the driest of subjects–British Imperial history–interesting and charming through the eyes of the people who lived it. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich I picked up a) because it was on sale in the iBooks store and I had a gift certificate and b) because I spend most of my time, history-wise, with WWI and the period immediately before and after WWI, and I didn’t know as much about WWII. Shirer is another writer who is capable of bringing big personalities to life on the page, although I couldn’t help but notice that of his deep rage at the Nazis (mostly for being evil) at least part of it was directed at the terrible military decisions they made later int he war, especially during the Russian campaign.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – N.K. Jemisin

Really fabulous, deeply original fantasy. The world building in this story is smooth and intriguing, and the story is even better. I’m definitely going to check out the next one. I really wanted it to keep going, and while it had a satisfying ending plot-wise, I want endless AUs about what happens after it’s over.

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