All the Crooked Saints: A Review

Here is a thing that draws everyone to Bicho Raro: The promise of a miracle.

Here is a thing everyone fears after their first miracle: What they’ll need to do to complete their second miracle.

The strange magic of miracles has been a part of the Soria family for generations–long before the family left Mexico for the desert of Bicho Raro, Colorado.

Now, in 1962, three cousins are at a turning point where magic and action intersect.

Joaquin wants many things. He wants his family to understand him, he wants to spend time with his cousins, most of all he wants someone to hear him DJing as Diablo Diablo on the pirate radio station he is running with Beatriz from inside a box truck.

Daniel is the current Saint of Bicho Raro. He performs the miracles and he sets the pilgrims on their paths to help themselves. Despite his saintliness he is incapable of performing the miracle he needs for himself.

Her family calls Beatriz the girl without feelings, objectively she can’t argue the point. But when unexpected misfortune befalls Bicho Raro, Beatriz will have to reconcile her feelings (or lack thereof) with the logical fact of what she has to do next.

Everyone wants a miracle but when miracles go horribly wrong the residents of Bicho Raro might have to settle for forgiveness instead in All the Crooked Saints (2017) by Maggie Stiefvater.

Find it on Bookshop.

Set in 1962 when radio waves could be stolen and miracles weren’t quite so shocking, Stiefvater’s latest standalone novel is a story of miracles and magic but also family and forgiveness. An omniscient third person narrator tells the story as Beatriz, Joaquin, and Daniel are drawn into the center of the Soria family’s tumultuous relationship to the miracles and pilgrims who shape so much of the Soria identity.

Pilgrims come to Bicho Raro hoping a miracle can change their life, or maybe their fate. The Soria family changed years ago on a lonely night when a miracle went horribly wrong. The Soria cousins–Beatriz, Joaquin, and Daniel–might be the ones to help right the wrongs of that night. But only if they’re willing to risk changing Bicho Raro and themselves forever.

All the Crooked Saints is an evocative and marvelously told story. Wry humor, unique fantasy elements, friendship, and the fierce power of hope come together here to create an unforgettable story. Not to be missed. Will hold special appeal for readers who enjoy character driven fantasy.

Possible Pairings: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson, A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi, Eventide by Sarah Goodman, All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry, The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth, Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher at BookExpo 2017*

The Raven King: A Review

“If you can’t be unafraid, be afraid and happy.”

The Raven King by Maggie StiefvaterGansey has been searching for his lost king for years. In the years after he died–and was brought back–Gansey is certain that finding Glendower is his destiny. Surely, such a quest is what he was saved to complete?

Along the way Gansey’s unlikely friends have joined him in the hunt: Ronan, a dreamer inextricably linked to the ley line and the magic of Cabeswater; Adam, who bargained away his autonomy to become Cabeswater’s magician; Noah, whose grip on his life is becoming more and more tenuous the longer he is dead; and Blue, the girl from a psychic family who is not psychic at all, the girl who is going to kill her true love with a kiss, the girl who loves Gansey.

For months now, Gansey and the rest have been creeping closer. Glendower is almost found. Dreams and nightmares are building. A storm is coming. Every quest has an end, but this time no one knows what they will find when it’s over in The Raven King (2016) by Maggie Stiefvater.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Raven King is the final book in Stiefvater’s widely acclaimed Raven Boys Cycle. It is preceded by The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, and Blue Lily, Lily Blue. This book should definitely be read in order with the other books in the series and (obviously) has spoilers for the earlier books.

It’s always bittersweet to come to the end of a much-loved series. With characters like Blue and Gansey and Ronan and Adam, it’s especially hard to say goodbye. But The Raven King is the conclusion these characters deserve–possibly even the one they have earned–after everything they’ve survived and accomplished in the rest of the series.

Like the rest of this series, The Raven King is extremely well done with flawless writing and a tight plot. Although some rare readers might find the ending a bit too perfect, this book is also an excellent example of what you have to always trust the author.

The Raven King is a story where all of the characters are hurtling towards very specific goals and destinations only to realize that in the end the destination wasn’t the point at all–it was the journey, it was the people met along the way (particularly when it comes to the new characters introduced here). A completely satisfying conclusion to a stunning and evocative series.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix, It Wasn’t Always Like This by Joy Preble, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, Pivot Point by Kasie West, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

*A copy of this title was acquired from the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2016*

The Anatomy of Curiosity: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Anatomy of Curiosity by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, Brenna YovanoffIn an old walk up in Brooklyn, a young woman is hired as a reader and companion for a strange older woman. What starts a job quickly turns into something much more important as Petra learns about context, ladylike behavior, and speaking her mind all while finding an unusual kind of friendship in “Ladylike” by Maggie Stiefvater.

In a faraway land a young soldier works to disarm magical bombs left behind by rebels. The hum of the desert lulls him and the mysterious magician on his team enchants him, but sometimes loving something is hard until you know the truth about yourself in “Desert Canticle” by Tessa Gratton.

In a town where water is scarce, drowning is a rarity. There are a lot of ways to tell the you about the boy she found drowned in a half inch of water, but there’s only one right story for Jane and the drowning place in “Drowning Variations” by Brenna Yovanoff.

The Anatomy of Curiosity (2015) is the second anthology from authors (and critique partners) Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stievfater and Brenna Yovanoff. In this followup to The Curiosities the focus is more squarely on the mechanics of writing and how ideas can become stories.

Find it on Bookshop.

For this collection each author wrote a new novella and details their writing process in a preface and margin comments. Between each story all three authors also discuss how they tackled finding critique partners, revision, and managing doubt.

Each author frames their margin comments and notes in the context of their focus when writing. Stiefvater discusses character (how she builds characters and conveys characterization through different aspects of the story), Gratton focuses on world-building (how worlds shape characters and how world-building choices shape the rest of the story), while Yovanoff talks about ideas (getting from the idea she has to the story she wants to tell with a particular project).

It’s worth noting that The Anatomy of Curiosity can be read, first and foremost, as a set of engaging fantasy novellas. As fans of these authors would expect, each novella is well-written and evocative in its own right. In reading the marginalia and supplemental materials, however, readers are treated to not only excellent fiction but also an insider’s view of the creative process from three incredibly talented writers.

The Anatomy of Curiosity is a must-read for aspiring authors and fantasy fans alike.

*An advance copy of this book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2015*

Blue Lily, Lily Blue: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie StiefvaterBlue hasn’t looked back since taking up the strange quest that has consumed four Raven Boys. Since then Gansey, Adam, Noah, and even Ronan, have amazingly become her best friends. What first seemed like disparate priorities and an absurd alliance has since blossomed into the strongest friendship Blue has ever known.

Their friendship isn’t the only thing to have changed since the search started.

Some bonds have strengthened while others have threatened to break. Dreams have offered as much wonder as terror.

And family, it turns out, can mean all kinds of things.

But as Blue, Gansey, Adam, Ronan and Noah come closer and closer to the end of their search all of them have to wonder what will come next. With so much to gain from finding what they are seeking, none of them–maybe especially Blue–has thought hard enough about how much there is to lose in Blue Lily, Lily Blue (2014) by Maggie Stiefvater.

Find it on Bookshop.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third book in Stiefvater’s widely acclaimed Raven Boys Cycle. It is preceded by The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves. Although this book is the third in a four book series it works surprisingly well on its own with references to key events in previous books and a larger focus on both old and new characters.

This story picks up about a month after the events of The Dream Thieves.

Stiefvater offers another atmospheric fantasy filled with wry humor and unforgettable characters ranging from the protagonists readers have come to love to antagonists who are indecently likable. Lyrical, spirited prose moves along this character-driven story as we learn more about all of the major (and even some of the minor) players in this tale.

New problems–and losses–ensure that Blue Lily, Lily Blue will stand on its own merit outside of the (many) strengths of the Raven Boys Cycle. This installment also continues to keep the ongoing plot of the series fresh and exciting as nothing in this story is quite what readers will expect.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue also reaffirms the ties between these unlikely friends and the strength that can be found in such powerful bonds. While all of the characters grapple with what they know and do not know, both about themselves and their search, this novel cleverly celebrates the hidden depths to be found in all of their relationships.

This book goes in unexpected directions and circles back to events from the first book in a seamless manner that highlights how carefully this cycle is plotted. While Blue Lily, Lily Blue necessarily leaves unanswered questions it is a satisfying novel that strikes just the right chord between forward plot development and closure for this installment.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix, It Wasn’t Always Like This by Joy Preble, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, Pivot Point by Kasie West, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher*

The Dream Thieves: A Review

The Dream Thieves by Maggie StiefvaterEverything changed for Blue, Gansey, Ronan and Adam before they ever found Cabeswater. Things changed for Noah long before that.

Now that the ley lines have awakened even more changes are coming to the small town of Henrietta. There will certainly be more moments of wonder; maybe even things coming close to magic. But darker things are also being drawn to the power of the lines.

Ronan always knew that his family was different. He always knew that his dreams were different. Ronan always knew that, in some fundamental ways, he was different.

It wasn’t, after all, everyone who had a pet raven named Chainsaw. Nor was it everyone who acquired such a pet from his own dreams.

As Gansey’s search for Glendower and Cabeswater continues it soon becomes clear that Ronan’s dreams are at the center of their latest puzzle. But with so many people searching and grasping for pieces of Cabeswater, it’s unclear how much will have to be lost before the next piece of the puzzle will be found in The Dream Thieves (2013) by Maggie Stiefvater.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Dream Thieves is the second book in Stiefvater’s Raven Boys quartet. This book picks up closely after the conclusion of book one, The Raven Boys. While both books are delightful on their own, it’s unlikely readers new to the series will be able to catch up without reading the first installment.

This book focuses much more on Ronan even as Stiefvater continues to delve into the mysteries surrounding Glendower and Gansey’s search. Blue and Gansey have their moments, of course, but it was a pleasant surprise to have the book focus so much on Ronan. (Even more of a surprise to realize how very likable he is as a character.)

Stiefvater’s writing is top-notch as this series continues. The focus on Ronan’s dreams and a new secondary character takes the story in a new direction while Stiefvater’s beautiful prose and familiar characters continue to deliver everything readers will remember with fondness from The Raven Boys.

The Dream Thieves is a perfect blend of skillful storytelling and suspense as tension builds until the final confrontations in the story. Being the second book in a series of four, there are (of course) several questions left by the end of the story including a very surprising ending. That said, Stiefvater delivers everything fans will hope for and expect from her in this novel along with a story that is certain to resonate with readers.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix, It Wasn’t Always Like This by Joy Preble, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, Pivot Point by Kasie West, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

The Raven Boys: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Raven Boys by Maggie StiefvaterBlue’s family trades in predictions that range from the non-specific to, for Blue, the very explicit warning that she will kill her first love.

That’s never been a problem since Blue doesn’t believe in love or much care for boys, particularly the so-called raven boys from the Anglionby school who walk around her small town like they own it.

As the only non-clairvoyant in her family, every year Blue takes down the names of souls she cannot see on the corpse road while her family watches them pass. Every year is the same.

Except this year Blue does see something.

There are only two reasons Blue would see a boy clearly enough on the corpse road to make out the Anglionby crest on his sweater; only two reasons he would tell her his name is Gansey: Blue is either his true love. Or she is going to kill him.

Gansey wears his raven boy persona easily, using his wealth and prestige to get what he wants–and needs–to search for something even his closest friends sometimes doubt is real.

Charming and determined, it’s as easy for Blue to become caught up in his world as it was for Gansey’s other friends: Adam, a scholarship student struggling to navigate Anglionby on his own terms; Ronan, sharp, bitter and determined to keep the world at arm’s length; and Noah, the quiet observer who sees a great many things but shares very little.

As Blue and these improbable raven boys find each other things start changing for them and their small town. Together they could unearth untold magic and power, as long as they can find it first–and control it–in The Raven Boys (2012) by Maggie Stiefvater.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Raven Boys is the first book in the four book Raven Cycle.

With such varied characters and a sweeping story, it’s hard to summarize or review a book like The Raven Boys. As she did in her Printz honor title The Scorpio Races, Stiefvater once again presents a new world with a fascinating take on mythology that is all its own.

Stiefvater creates a varied cast with characters ranging from calculating to naive, from prickly to endearing–often at the same time. With so many brilliantly dimensional characters it’s hard to pick a favorite, or even a star*, in The Raven Boys as Stiefvater expertly allows each character their chance in the spotlight.

Being the first book in a series there are, of course, unanswered questions at the end of The Raven Boys along with some tantalizing hints of things to come later in the series. While the lack of resolution is frustrating at times, Stiefvater’s characters and intricate writing guarantee readers will want to come back for the next installment in her Raven Cycle.

*That’s a lie. Blue and Gansey are definitely my favorites of all time–I want to be Blue and befriend Gansey. Though in all fairness I really do mean it when I say all of the characters have their moments in this fantastic ensemble cast.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix, It Wasn’t Always Like This by Joy Preble, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, Pivot Point by Kasie West, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*

Exclusive Bonus Content: In case you had any lingering doubts that Maggie is brilliant, be sure to check out the trailer she made for The Raven Boys. And by “made” I mean she did the art, animated it, wrote and performed the music and put the whole thing together.

The Curiosities: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

What happens when three talented writers decide to write  short stories and pieces of flash fiction every week to hone their craft and share with each other? If those three authors are Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater, and Brenna Yovanoff you end up with a website called MerryFates.com and, a few years and novels later, you also get a short story collection featuring such oddities as a vampire kept in a box for luck, a small town re-visioning of the Arthurian legend, and school for children to dangerous to be in the real world–because they are demi-gods.

The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories (2012) by Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater, and Brenna Yovanoff is, as the title suggests, a collection of short stories. But it’s also a lot more than that. Starting with the email exchange that inspired the project, The Curiosities is also a guide through the creative process of three talented writers.

Find it on Bookshop.

Already filled with inspiring stories, The Curiosities takes things one step further with a tantalizing guide through each story. Each story is introduced by two of the three authors. Footnotes, commentary and informative sketches can also be found throughout as the women reflect on their own writing and growth as well as the strengths found in each others’ stories.

Aspiring authors might find the overall package would have been complemented by a fuller explanation of the inspiration for some stories, particularly when a prompt was involved. With notes printed in each author’s own hand, the matter of deciphering who is writing in the margins also takes some time.

The Curiosities is a clever, wry collection that takes standard anthology conventions and turns them upside down. Filled with stories to inspire and amaze, this one is sure to appeal to readers who are meeting the authors for the first time as much as it will to long-standing fans.

In fact, Nicole and I had so much fun reading the stories that we were inspired to start a similar project this month. Little Women Stories is already up and running. You can find stories from Nicole and myself there every month. (August’s stories are already posted and so is September’s prompt if you want a preview of what to expect next month.)

Possible Pairings: The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012

Miss Print Book Club this January

As some of you might already know, I run an online book club where we read and discuss a new book every two months.

The book club is reading my favorite book from 2011 this January and February: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Discussion questions are already posted on the Scorpio Races discussion tab and waiting for your thoughts.

Our next two books will be:

Fracture by Megan Miranda (March/April)

and

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (May/June)

Hope to see you all in the discussion threads!

***If you would like to join the Miss Print Book Club go to http://missprint.wikispaces.com/ and click join now in the yellow bar near the top of the page. After that I’ll email you asking to confirm and then you’re in and ready to start talking books!

The Scorpio Races: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Scorpio Races by Maggie StiefvaterNo one knows what draws the water horses to the beaches of Thisby year after year. It is never safe–not when a capall could appear at any time bigger than a regular horse, faster too, and much more dangerous. It is never safe but it is never so dangerous as the first of November–race day.

Each year the race draws tourists from the mainland coming to try their luck in the races or observe from the relative safety of the cliffs surrounding the beach. The racers keep their own counsel on their reasons–some seek glory while others hope to prove their worth guiding a capall down the race path and well away from the tempting waves of the sea. The race purse itself is, of course, another motivation.

Sean Kendrick cares little for any of that. All he wants is Corr–the one water horse he can’t have. Corr remains elusively out of reach race after race. Until this year at least.

Puck Connolly has already lost a great deal to the water horses of Thisby. Yet the races might be her only way to hold onto her older brother before the mainland spirits him away forever. Is the winning purse from one race worth challenging some of Thisby’s most basic traditions as the first girl to ride on race day? Is it worth riding beside the horses that have already taken so much?

Only one rider can win on race day–if they can stay alive long enough to finish the course–and the stakes for both Sean and Puck couldn’t be higher but as this unlikely pair trains side-by-side they might find a greater prize than anything from the race purse in The Scorpio Races (2011) by Maggie Stiefvater.

Find it on Bookshop.

If Stiefvater proved her appeal and gained wide popularity (not to mention New York Times Bestselling Author status) with her Shiver trilogy about the (were)wolves of Mercy Falls, she proves her range and talent with The Scorpio Races. Evocative and charming this novel is as much an experience as it is a book.

In the tradition of Diana Wynne Jones and many other talented fantasy authors, Stiefvater has not just written a story in The Scorpio Races. She has created a world. The island of Thisby and the beautiful, deadly capall uisce (pronounced CAPple ISHka) come vividly to life with each page as the culture (and inhabitants) of Thisby become as much a part of the story as the plot itself.

Told in chapters alternating between Sean and Puck’s narrative voice, this book has not one but two winning narrators readers will want to cheer for. Filled with beautiful landscapes, memorable characters and a fierce hope and affection for a great many things The Scorpio Races is a beautiful, satisfying, fantasy that will stay with readers long after the race is finished one way or another.

Possible Pairings: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Entwined by Heather Dixon, Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst, Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Keeper of the Mist by Rachel Neumeier, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2011

Shiver: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Shiver by Maggie StiefvaterYears ago, when Grace was attacked by wolves, Sam saved her. He has been a presence in Grace’s life ever since always lurking on the periphery each winter in Mercy Falls, watching her, protecting her.

Even though they have never spoken.

Sam has been watching Grace for years, waiting for her, making sure she was safe. Even when he couldn’t remember her name he knew she mattered. He knew he loved her even if it was impossible because of what he was.

No matter how Grace and Sam might feel about each other there is always one insurmountable truth separating them: Sam is a wolf.

A werewolf more specifically.

Every year when the temperature drops, Sam changes into a wolf–Grace’s wolf, the one always watching her from a safe distance–trapped in his changed form until spring when the temperatures rise and he can become Sam again.

That was Sam’s reality, his unavoidable truth, and the one thing Grace never really believed. At least, not until she met Sam, the real Sam.

Once Grace knows the truth, sees her wolf made human, losing him is unimaginable.

Being with Grace is all Sam has ever wanted; the one thing he always held onto as a wolf.

But the temperature is falling in Mercy Falls and with the looming threat of winter Grace and Sam are running out of time in Shiver (2009) by Maggie Stiefvater.

Find it on Bookshop.

Shiver is superficially a paranormal/supernatural* romance with werewolves. But, really, it is so much more than that.

Poetic and urgent, Stiefvater’s writing is poised to exceed expectations and stay with readers. Told in chapters alternating between Grace and Sam’s voices the urgency of winter’s approach and the strength of our heroes’ love are both tangible. Grace and Sam are a charmingly authentic couple in a town filled with well-developed and unforgettable characters of both human and lupine persuasions.

Shiver is, really, just a beautiful book. The physical design from the cover (with art by Christopher Stengel) down to the text printed in blue ink is just as impressive as Stiefvater’s original take on werewolves in this complex, charming and extremely satisfying start to a what promises to be a stunning trilogy.

Grace and Sam’s story continues in Linger (which is printed in green ink).

Possible Pairings: Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Sea Change by Aimee Friedman, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneggerº, A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde

*Are paranormal and supernatural different things in the publishing world? I don’t actually know if they have different definitions or not.

ºIt kills me a little bit to pair this book with Shiver because I truly think Shiver is so much better and does everything TTTW should have done, but in a more masterful way. BUT if you don’t have my issues with TTTW these books do have the same sense of urgency and tone of sweeping romance. Draw your own conclusions.