#ReadIndie Book Review: The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic

Neil Josten is the newest addition to the Palmetto State University Exy team. He’s short, he’s fast, he’s got a ton of potential—and he’s the runaway son of the murderous crime lord known as The Butcher.

Signing a contract with the PSU Foxes is the last thing a guy like Neil should do. The team is high profile and he doesn’t need sports crews broadcasting pictures of his face around the nation. His lies will hold up only so long under this kind of scrutiny and the truth will get him killed.

But Neil’s not the only one with secrets on the team. One of Neil’s new teammates is a friend from his old life, and Neil can’t walk away from him a second time. Neil has survived the last eight years by running. Maybe he’s finally found someone and something worth fighting for.

This is going to be a little different as a review because this is the third time I’ve read this trilogy this year (if that tells you anything about my opinion), and I’ve also read all of the extra content available on Sakavic’s tumblr. After finishing the series, you can definitely see how Sakavic sets up for the final book and where the story is going to go. However, the first time I read it I had no idea where it was going, so if that happens to you, I encourage you to keep going. Especially, since this is a book about a demisexual character written by an aro/ace author. It was probably the first book I ever read about someone on the ace spectrum, so it’s definitely worth it to keep going.

The book starts out about a kid on the run from his father just trying to find some kind of happiness in playing a sport he loves. As it turns out, Neil’s running from more than just his father, he just didn’t know it. The story does get pretty dark and graphic as Neil’s complicated past catches up with him. What I love about Neil though is that he is a survivor. No matter what is thrown at him he continues to get back up and keep living, sometimes out of pure spite (which is definitely something I can relate to).

I do love every single character (that’s not trying to kill Neil) in this series. They’re all flawed and complicated and it makes them more real. But they’re also sarcastic little shits that make you shake your head and laugh in disbelief. Wymack is the perfect example of all bark and no bite when it comes to his team, he yells at them day in and day out, but would lay down his life for any one of them. Andrew becomes the steadying force in Neil’s life if only because he’s been through just as much as Neil and Neil comes to learn that relying on Andrew could be the easiest thing he’s ever done. The rest of the Foxes stick with Neil even through all the crazy drama he brings with him. They make him believe he can have nice things (if he doesn’t up his big mouth and call his biggest rival an asshole on National TV) and a home with them.

At the end of the day The Foxhole Court is a story about home and finding a family, and sticking around on a chance of hope, even when you don’t think you deserve it. That’s why this story resonates so much with me, why I’ve read it three times this year. The struggle to find a balance between what you’ve known your whole life and what you desperately want instead is something I think a lot of people can relate to.

I’d give the trilogy an overall 4.5 bards.

Book Review: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

theravenkingNothing living is safe. Nothing dead is to be trusted.

For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey…and is certain she is destined to kill him.

Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.

When I walked into the Raven Boys fandom earlier this year, around two months ago, I was a good four years late.  My experience coming into the fandom so late was kind of like this gif:

Everyone was freaking out about Gansey, Blue, Adam, and Ronan and I was just coming in with pizza and asking to join in the fun.

You can check out my reviews of The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves. I was a bit slack and never wrote one for Blue Lily, Lily Blue because I was too excited about the release of the final installment.

Now, this gif can also kind of describe how I felt going into the final novel of the Raven Cycle anyway, because I was expecting to just be completely surprised, duped, and amazed by what I read.

I was.

First and foremost let me address the obvious: Yes, Gansey DOES die.  I appreciate Maggie being so open and positively adamant about Gansey “going down,” to put it in her words.  It was poignant and necessary, and despite having known about his impending doom since the first page of the first installment, it still was so amazing.  We got everything we desired out of it, the true love’s kiss and all.

The story picks up very soon after the end of Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and readers are thrust immediately into the aftermath of Maura’s return with Artemis (who is literally hiding in a closet), and how it is going to affect the overall arch of the story.

Stiefvater’s writing is just as succinct as in the previous installments, and even the introduction of three new characters was seamless and felt absolutely necessary to the progression of the narrative.

Shippers will be so happy with this installment as Lynch x Parrish finally becomes officially canon (which was confirmed by Maggie herself, so don’t come screaming spoilers to me! *hides*).  I’m not going to lie, I immediately texted Olyvia to tell her that it was happening, and that I was not ready for the goodness.  While it isn’t an overly descriptive section of the novel, it is perfectly done in order for readers to be able to imagine it on their own, and it gives plenty of leeway for those fan fictions that I know are already floating around in the internet-sphere.

Noah. My sweet baby Noah. You deserved to live.  You deserved to be there and celebrate the culmination of the narrative with your best friends.  You deserved so much.  But, I love how Stiefvater still made him so intricately involved in the plot.  He was the most excellent example of a character who had lost his “muchness,” (to quote Alice Through the Looking Glass), but was still so important to the entire Raven gang.  I really wish there had been a little bit more closure between him and Blue, but that is beacause I think they had such a beautiful friendship.

Speaking of developing friendships, I really could not have been more pleased with the development between Ronan and Blue, as I really think they are almost two sides of the same coin.  The loves of Adam and Gansey’s lives, respectively, with hot tempers and overtly opinionated personalities.  A small gesture in the epilogue really brought it to fruition and I loved it.

There were disappointments and great successes in the culmination of The Raven Cycle, and overall I think that the entire plot was well executed and what I would consider the best of Stiefvater’s writing so far.

Olyvia and I both really enjoyed it and we were both left with some questions, as every good novel should provide, but the story was just wonderful.

Make way for 5 Bards for the Raven King!

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Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: April 26, 2016

The fourth and final installment in the spellbinding series from the irrepressible, #1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.

All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love’s death. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

Book Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take?

Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.

One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.

And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.

Ronan is one of the raven boys—a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface—changing everything in its wake.

You can check out my review of the first Raven Cycle novel here.

I couldn’t help but immediately dive into The Dream Thieves as soon as I finished The Raven Boys.  I have officially succumbed to the Raven Cycle fandom and I am not ashamed.  I’m so glad that I finally picked these up because I am enjoying them immensely.

Dream Thieves picks up not long after the events of Raven Boys, but I can say that I’m really glad I was able to read these two back to back.  Not that it is too confusing or anything, but there is a lot of detail that Stiefvater put into these novels that I’m sure would have required re-reads during the long time between them in order to remember everything important.

dreamthievesquotesThere was a significant change in the point of views for this novel, because while the first was mostly Blue, Adam, and some Gansey with a hint of Ronan, this one is 85% Ronan.  I missed getting the nice third person limited views of the of the rest of the group, but it was surprisingly relaxing to read the inner workings of Ronan Lynch’s mind.  He really has had a very haunting life, one that readers barely glimpse in the first novel.

I appreciated the addition of Kavinsky as a major player in this novel as well, even though he is an asshole.  Stiefvater did a great job of providing a character that is similar to Ronan,  but with much darker intentions, in order to show us that Ronan really is a hero and worthy of his ability to pull things from his dreams.  There are a lot of circumstances of his life that come to light in this novel and there is the addition of thugs and assassins in order to raise the stakes.

I am ranking this one a bit below Raven boys in my ratings, only because, while I really enjoyed this one, I liked the first installment a bit more.

So much for the sophomore slump in a series, I say, because Stiefvater kept my attention the entire time.  I have already started the third installment, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and I cannot wait to see where she takes us next.

4 Bards

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Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

I can honestly tell you that I’ve not been a fan of Stiefvater’s previous work.  I found the Shiver trilogy unenjoyable and The Scorpio Races a bit boring. Don’t get me wrong, these are just my personal opinions of those novels and it’s very possible they were just not my cup of tea.  I encourage everyone to form their own opinions of them and read those novels.  However, I would rather you skip all of those and go directly to The Raven Boys.

I finally see what magic some readers have been seeing in Stiefvater all this time, because this novel was addicting, astonishing, amazing, and a host of other positive adjectives that don’t start with “a.”

by tumblr user: sturmhond

Not only has Stiefvater created a world that I didn’t want to leave (I immediately read The Dream Thieves and am currently reading Blue Lily, Lily Blue), but she has also given readers a group of characters that are so different but yet still have aspects of someone you know within them.  Blue isn’t necessarily exactly like everyone, but some aspects of her personality or her behaviors are familiar.  Everyone knows someone who seems to have two sides, one that they show to the world and the other they reserve for their friends, just like Gansey.  There’s the person who has to work hard for everything they have, like Adam.  And Ronan, well, he is damaged and aren’t we all a little damaged? I can’t say much for Noah, other than we do all know someone who is dead.  We aren’t necessarily literally haunted by them as Noah has corporeal form, but we are haunted by memories.

The plot is wholly original with the nice Arthurian spin to it, and I just can’t praise it enough.  I loved the use of magical realism, and I adore Blue’s family and all of the secondary characters.  Even just reading this, I’ve learned more information about the tarot than I already knew and hope that the rest of the novels continue to teach me.

I found the POV shifts to be a bit rough toward the beginning of the novel, especially since they were each in third person limited.  However, once the novel established the characters a bit more fully, then the shifts seemed more organic and it became more flowing as if these characters almost share a stream of consciousness, even though they do not.

Overall, I’m giving this first installment 4.5 Bards and keep an eye out for my reviews of The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue.

I’m seriously kicking myself for waiting to pick these up.

four.fivebards

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