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Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Check Off your Reading List Challenge 2014.

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Sign up here to join us! Here is the October-December linky.  We are also very excited to share that Pansing Books will be giving away copies of Cherub Dark Sun by Robert Muchamore to two lucky CORL participants from October-December.

Carrie Gelson of There is a Book for That is also hosting #mustreadin2014.

Many thanks, dear Iphigene, for this lovely widget. Truly beautiful.
Many thanks, dear Iphigene, for this lovely widget. Truly beautiful.

I think this is the first time that I am doing a Monday reading exclusively on YA fiction. It’s always a heady feeling to be transported to strange, surreal, fantastically-odd neverlands.

IMG_4029The Raven Boys

Written by: Maggie Stiefvater
Published by: Scholastic, 2012
Review copy provided by Pansing Books.

I resisted this book for quite a bit. I abandoned it several times before I finally made a decision to read through it and allow the voice of the book to breathe its secrets to me, and I am glad that I listened. Young adult fiction is a genre that is mostly a hit-or-miss for me, as I often find the narrative quite formulaic, and I could discern a budding love triangle brewing between Blue, Gansey, and Adam. Despite that, I felt that there was something inherently promising with the story as I slowly warmed up to Blue’s eccentric family.

Blue Sargent’s entire family is attuned to the supernatural. Her mother can read shaded bits and pieces of the future from scraps of feelings gathered here and there. Neeve is the epitome of the new-age aunt who is more there than here, with the boundaries between this world and the next blurred with the way she perceives the world. Blue is not very sure what makes her special, exactly, except that her mere presence tends to magnify certain energies somewhat – auras become clearer, card or tarot readings become a little more definite and less vague, allowing gifted individuals to reach different levels of intensities. I like her character here – quite off-beat without being out-and-out strange; somewhat creative and insouciant with just the right amount of seriousness and stability too. And yes, her true love would die if she kissed him. And she is about to fall in love.

Drawing created by Maggie Stiefvater. Click on the image to be taken to her website.
Drawing created by Maggie Stiefvater. Click on the image to be taken to her website.

Then of course, there are the beautiful Raven Boys – wealthy, self-entitled, carelessly-arrogant, extremely handsome boys from the iron-gated Aglionby campus where only the most polished, brightest, well-connected, and privileged boys from old-Virginia-families go to. There is Gansey with his absolute perfection and his obsession with Glendower that fills every fibre of his being. Ronan Lynch who is beautifully broken, forever-sullen, lost in his own pain, coming up for air only as Gansey provides him with a purpose with all this Glendower business and the possibility of having a wish granted. Noah who is silent and practically blends in with the woodworks – the twist about him in the end was something that totally caught me by surprise. Then there’s Adam Parrish – proud, always attempting to blend in with the crowd that he hangs out with while at the same time recognizing how he is not one of them privileged Raven Boys whose money has roots. Adam has to work hard to pay for his own tuition, working three jobs at a time, because he is determined to have everything that the rest of the Raven Boys have and take for granted – all through his own wits and hard work.

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Drawing created by Maggie Stiefvater. Click on the image to be taken to her website.

While one can say that the search for Owen Glendower, a medieval Welsh noble, is the very essence of the story – I feel that what really made me gravitate towards the book in the end was how each of the characters went beyond their usual archetypes, revealing surprising vulnerabilities and just enough truth that allows the reader to feel their pain and root for their cause. I also liked how the sense of the paranormal here has been rendered so exquisitely that it almost seems credible, which is saying a lot. There is just enough supernatural that allows one to dip into the unknown – but not too much that one gets hopelessly lost in the fantastical realm. The narrative takes a leisurely pace in the beginning, and has its own distinct taste and voice that would take a bit of getting used to. There is enough suspense, however, somewhere in the end that would keep the reader flipping through the pages, and make the reader want to read the next book immediately to find out what happens after. I am glad that I went out of my proverbial comfort zone to read this novel. It was a satisfying read.

IMG_2377The Girl Who Circumnavigated
Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making

Written byCatherynne M. Valente
Published byMuch-in-Little, 2011
Review Copy provided by Pansing Books.

We have given quite a lot of love to this novel here at GatheringBooks. Fats has written quite a detailed review of Fairyland here. And my two book clubs here in Singapore have read this book – which means I have gone through two major group discussions about this novel.

GatheringReaders at the Jurong West Public Library.
GatheringReaders at the Jurong West Public Library.
Saturday Night Out for Book Geeks - my book club with the young-at-heart.
Saturday Night Out for Book Geeks – my book club with the young-at-heart.

This book is a celebration of all things strange, fantastical (I mean, come on, marids and wyverns), with a dab of darkness thrown into the mix; just enough to make the light bounce off and reflect in the most surreal ways but not enough to drown the reader in absolute despair. But there is tragedy here that can be felt, more sensed than read in the literal sense, as Valente explores her own monomyths and allows her intuitive mind to play around. It’s like she gave her inner, pained and cowering seventh-sight (that dwells in some hidden dark part of her) a pen to write – and the results are layers and metaphors and coded imageries that might mean a great deal to her as she makes sense of her own past – and I am sure would prove to be a fascinating read for her therapist. And so there is author intrusion here – as this is about Valente as much as it is about September, the narrator has made certain of that with its insistent voice, its pointed pokes and prods – steering the emotions felt, the direction of the plot, navigating Valente’s uncharted territories, as if afraid that without such an authorial compass, she might get lost in the telling. As a psychologist, I can not help but be riveted by where she seems to be going and what it must have taken her to get there – not just September but Valente herself.

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It was difficult for me to like September. There is very little about her that I can truly connect with – as she seems too fragmented, not really there, always in the process of unraveling – losing her heart, losing her hair, losing her hands, losing her sense of self.

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Then there is Saturday – the marid with the sea in his veins:

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I liked Saturday, perhaps as much as I loved the concept of the wyvern.

Like Raven Boys, it also took me awhile to get into this book. But it proved to be an entertaining read, especially as I can not help but perceive the story to be a stained-glass window to the author’s soul.

Currently Reading…

I am now in San Diego, California! My third visit, if I am not mistaken. And as per usual, San Diego does not fail to captivate. 🙂 I will again be traveling this Wednesday with my family to Baltimore to do a conference presentation at the National Association for Gifted Children Convention – and yes, I’d be talking about picturebooks!

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My apologies to Monday reading friends if I have not gotten around to visiting your posts lately – will make up for it, promise! 🙂

I did finish reading Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. What a perfectly riveting read! Now halfway through the second book in the Grisha trilogy: Siege and Storm. And this is even more fast-paced than the first one – with characters to die for!

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I can not recommend these books enough – fellow bibliophiles, read this series! I am so surprised that my circle of geek friends has not read these novels yet. I feel like I’m watching a TV series and each chapter is a perfectly crafted episode. Thoroughly satisfying read. Will provide a more detailed review of these books for our current reading theme in the next few weeks.

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Reading Challenge Update: 274-275 (25)

10 comments on “[Monday Reading] Of Ley Lines and Fairylands

  1. I love both The Raven Boys and Siege and Storm! Have a good week!

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  2. Stiefvater’s books are new to me. I currently have book three on my e-reader but have not read the others. Should I go back to book one? Thanks for the review!

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  3. Good to read your thoughts on The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making- I never got past the second chapter… shall pick up sometime again since I had the same issue, couldn’t connect with September…

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  4. So glad to read your words about Raven Boys. It’s on my #MustReadin2014 list, and I’ve started and abandoned twice this year. Not excited about trying to push through before the end of the year, but you have convinced me that I need to try again. YA is hit or miss for me too–but I’m not sure why. YA does seem far more formulaic to me than middle grade does, but I wonder if I just find the formula of middle grade more appealing and hence overlook it as formula? Or perhaps middle grade–at least the middle grade that I tend to read–isn’t as formulaic? Must think more. I’m going to put Shadow & Bone on my #MustReadin2015 list. Haven’t even finished this year’s list but of course it’s always a delight to plan the next! Enjoy your travels this week!

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  5. I really need to read The Raven Boys! I’ve owned it for awhile, but…. 🙂

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  6. I’ve never been able to get into Stiefvater’s books, Myra – but your post makes me think that I need to get going. PS. So looking forward to seeing you at NCTE!

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  7. I hated Stiefvater’s The Wolves of Mercy Falls series, but have gotten sucked right into The Raven Boys. While I loved the Valente series, I’ve found it impossible to get readers in my library as connected to it. Perhaps it’s because they are too young to get all the nuanced meanings.

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  8. I am a huge fan of this Raven Boys series. Must admit – quite addicted. Loved reading your words here.

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  9. Pingback: Catching Nightmares, Stolen Moments, and Unmoored by the Circularity of Time in Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Dream Thieves” | Gathering Books

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