Tag Archives: adventure

Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

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Title: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle Book #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Paranormal adventure

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

**Spoilers in this review should be minimal**

TL;DR: I LOVED this book. If you like well-rounded characters, an atmospheric setting, and a paranormal streak that crosses the globe, this book is for you.

Oh my god. I devoured the second half of this book, and immediately, dug out the second book, The Dream Thieves.

The Raven Boys centers around four boys in Henrietta, Virginia, who attend the local private school, Aglionby Academy, and their new friend, Blue, who is the daughter of a psych. Gansey, Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Blue become entangled with Henrietta’s local history and paranormal legacy as they search for ley lines, lines of energy that crisscross the globe, connecting sites of historical and magical importance. Gansey is searching for one thing, the resting place of the legendary Welsh king Glendower. Legend says that if you wake the kind, he will grant you favor, and Gansey knows a few people who could use some favor. Blue has always been mildly envious of her mother and her friends’ psychic abilities, but Blue has an ability of her own, amplifying energy, and she may be the key to helping the Raven Boys find Glendower.

What I loved about The Raven Boys was the characterizations, not just of the characters but of the setting as a whole. Everything, from the Virginia landscape to Gansey’s dilapidated car, has a soul, and these characterizations add a whole new level of detail and beauty to Stiefvater’s story. The settings are atmospheric and lend themselves to firmly integrating yourself within the book. Even the magical elements later in the book fall perfectly into the realm of reality because they are so believable and so in tune with the rest of the world.

Maggie Stiefvater’s characters shine brightly in a novel where they could easily be lost or flattened beneath the heavy mythos and mystery of the story. Each of the Raven Boys is very distinct, each with their own flaws, complexities, and reasons to love them. We have Gansey the driven adventure-seeker who wants nothing more than to search the earth to find Glendower. His life is complicated by trying to manage his wayward friends, Ronan and Adam, and not insult people by simply being Richard Gansey III (can you smell the old money?). Adam is a scholarship boy from a bad home. He tries to be all things, a research companion to Gansey, an independent man, an A student, but he flounders under the weight of his violent home life in the local trailer park. Ronan is the opposite of Adam, a fighter, a trouble-maker, a boy with all the money in the world and nearly nothing that makes him happy. Noah, is… well, he’s Noah. Then, there’s Blue. She’s a sensible free-spirit who wears homemade clothes and was born with the ability to amplify the energy of those around her, which is infinitely useful when you live with a bunch of psychics.

The story itself is a wonderfully complex paranormal mystery that spans four books. We begin the story at a graveyard that sits on a ley line on the one night of the year when psychics can see those who will die that year march toward the otherworld. From there, we discover how the ley lines connect with the mysterious Welsh king, Glendower, and the mysteries surrounding Henrietta. Despite all of the pieces that make up the mystery, Stiefvater makes it easy to digest and quickly draws the reader in to make them as obsessed with discovering Glendower as Gansey. It’s as intricate as The DaVinci Code but with a hundred times better characterization and atmosphere.

Am I looking forward to the second book? Hell, yes. The book may be labeled as young adult but the only thing juvenile about it is the age of the main characters. The Raven Boys is a story rich with history and texture with characters as complex as any book taught in a college classroom.

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The Earl of Brass: Blurb and Excerpt

Here is the blurb and an excerpt for The Earl of Brass, book 1 of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices.

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Blurb:

Lord Sorrell wants freedom. With the responsibilities of an earldom and a dominating father awaiting him in London, he escapes to the East, but he fears he will be grounded forever when a freak accident results in the loss of his arm. Depressed and facing a restrictive life, Lord Sorrell seeks what will make him whole again: a new limb.
Fenice Brothers Prosthetics is in jeopardy. Hadley’s brother is dead, and the business has fallen on her shoulders. Clients begin to turn her away and she soon fears the business will fail until she disguises herself as a man. But one person sees through her. In exchange for a new arm, Lord Sorrell offers her a chance at independence in the deserts of Palestine.
What they uncover is more precious than potsherds or bones. The desert hides secrets worth their weight in gold. Will Hadley and Lord Sorrell make it out alive or will they, too, be entombed beneath the sands?

 


Excerpt:

With a lurch, Eilian awoke just in time to see his trunk rapidly approaching the end of his nose. He tumbled over his luggage and into the paneled wall, landing in the narrow space between them as the trunk slid back into his chest. Grabbing the armchair, he hoisted himself to his feet only to be hit with a wave of nausea. The world felt as if it had been turned on its side. He forced his door open and staggered into the hall, swallowing down the bile rising up his throat. His gold pocket watch slipped from his vest and hung at an angle as he hobbled toward the observation deck, but when he reached for the rail, the ship rolled to the right as if shot from a sling, slamming him into the unforgiving wood. Screams erupted from behind closed doors. The heavy furniture slid, trapping men and women under them as they were thrown from their beds. As the aristocrats began to filter from their rooms, he scrambled to his feet in stunned silence, rubbing the sore arm he knew would soon contain a bruise to match the one on his leg. His eyes trailed to the world just beyond the mullioned glass of the ship. Only a few hundred yards below, lightning cracks illuminated the miniature people standing in the village streets, gazing up at the lumbering giant. He could nearly make out their features in the glow of the streetlamps. How could they be so low if they weren’t landing?

The captain’s stridulant voice was ringing out, calling for order, but Lord Sorrell didn’t hear him as he noticed the people below shifting slightly. They tilted, and as they did, his feet began to slide across the Turkish carpet of the observation deck. His stomach somersaulted as he grasped the rail, hoping it would pass. The moment his other hand reached the brass railing, the airship plunged forward as it yanked everything toward its bow. Eilian’s hands slipped down the bar, but the sinews of his arms and legs held firm. Passengers screeched as they fell to the floor and tumbled into the legs of chairs and great skeins of drapery and carpet. The reminders of home entrapped them and smothered them beneath their silk and Berber folds. The pops of glass globes from the gas lamps reverberated through the dirigible as the bow shot back up and teetered unsteadily. Eilian froze with his trembling hands clutching the rail. His breaths came rapidly as he strained to stand up, his body weak from the shock of holding on during the deathly plummets. For a moment, there was silence as the others waited for something to happen. The chilled night air whistled in through the glass of the observation deck, which had been shattered by a dining chair impaled in the brass mullion.

At the port observation deck, the cries of men and women rose to a shrill din. A man called for the captain after a child had been jettisoned overboard. As the dirigible continued its dull tour, Eilian caught a glimpse of her shattered body leaking blood into the capillaries of the cobbles below. Something is very wrong, Lord Sorrell thought as he calculated the distance below to be only three hundred yards. Taking a calming breath, his mouth was filled with the sulphorous odor of methane as it wafted from the globe-less gas lamps. If they were to go down, they would surely incinerate when the fire of the engines met the hydrogen of the gasbag and the methane in the gondola. A wine bottle lazily rolled past Eilian’s feet toward the nose of the ship. The HMS Albert had begun its final dive.

The field and the hard cobbles were rapidly approaching as Eilian ran toward the aft of the ship. Maybe if he could make it to the farthest point in the gondola, he would have a chance. As he reached the hallway, pushing past men and woman in motley brocade and black dinner jackets as they began to slide past him, his feet slipped from the polished floor. The world erupted around him in a maelstrom of cacophonous voices and groaning wood and metal as they struck flesh and earth. Fire flooded the ship as Eilian collided with the boards.

 ***

 Eilian’s eyes fluttered open as he lifted his head from the raft of paneling that lay beneath his bruised and swelling cheek. The fractured wood scraped his knees and palms as he hoisted onto his trembling knees and stared into the hall as it lay on its side. Flames burned through the remaining walls as he stepped over doorways and bodies as they lay broken, crushed beneath pieces of beds or impaled by the broken ribs of the dying airship. The drone of men’s voices wisped across the wind, but as Eilian followed them, they were drowned in the crackling fires and moans of the ship. The smoke burned his eyes and prickled his throat as he waited in the abyss for a means of escape. His back and legs ached with each movement, but he pressed on as pieces of elephantine canvas fluttered down, incinerating before they ever reached the ground.

Staring back at him between spilled trunks and lumps of fabric was the prime minister’s brother. His dull eyes were fixed on him with his mouth poised to scream, but his body lay splayed like an abandoned doll with his neck contorted at an impossible angle. Flames licked at his temples, biting his hair and nibbling away at his flesh. Eilian had seen funeral pyres in India, but nothing had prepared him for the demented dead, forever in agony once their suffering had ended. Wrenching his eyes away, he stepped over a woman and her child as they held each other. The disembodied voices crept over the wind, putting him back on the path to safety. When he listened again, the ribs of the dying ship groaned in pain as they sagged under their load.

He threw his arm up to stop the impact, but the beam knocked him down, pinning him beneath its red-hot iron. Eilian Sorrell screamed as the metal seared through his clothes and into his flesh until he was certain his heart would stop from the pain. Like a wounded animal, he thrashed and writhed until he worked his legs and torso free, but his right arm remained lodged and continued to burn. Kicking off the beam, he hoped to free his numb limb, but on the third attempt, the sole of his shoe melted onto the metal. Finally, he twisted and pulled, hoping sheer force would free it, and with the sickening release of suction and the smell of burnt meat, his arm dislodged.

Eilian averted his gaze, hoping what he saw was a hallucination as he heedlessly rushed toward the voices on the wind. His heart pounded as he saw the moon between the naked ribs of the dirigible. Flames leapt and popped beside him. Sweat poured down his back and chest, stinging his open wounds. The searcher’s lights pierced the gnawed openings in the outer hull as he burst into the cool night air. His knees gave way, and he collapsed into the dewy grass. Pain flared from his right side, squeezing the cries from his throat. As voices called out around him and tried to lift him onto the stretcher, they hesitated at his right side. Suddenly, the pain subsided, and the world went black.

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Series Introduction: The Ingenious Mechanical Devices

As I was trying to figure out what to write for my next blog post, I realized I never introduced the series The Earl of Brass and The Winter Garden are part of. The title of the series, The Ingenious Mechanical Devices, was taken from the name of a book by Al-Jazali called The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices.  The book was written in 1206 and describes over fifty automaton devices, such as mechanical clocks, pistons, programmable robots, automatic gates, and many other inventions.

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While I was researching automaton devices for The Earl of Brass, I came across Al-Jazali and was immediately fascinated.  I don’t think many people realize how far back these robotic devices were being invented, I know I didn’t.  As someone who can barely put together an Ikea shelf, I am always fascinated by people who are able to create works of art that are not only beautiful but functional.  This book of automaton creatures and machines went perfectly with the aesthetic of steampunk as well as Eilian Sorrell’s love of Middle Eastern culture.  With each story in the series, there is a machine or creation that features in each book.  In The Earl of Brass, it is Eilian’s mechanical arm, and in The Winter Garden, there is an electric machine that can steal or deposit souls.  What the device will be in book three, I do not know yet. Continue reading

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Wrap-up and Resolutions

Wow, 2014 has been a crazy year for me.  A great year but a whirlwind of insanity at times.

This year, I began graduate school to earn my MFA in creative and professional writing, and now that a full year in the program has passed, I can say that I love it and believe I made the right decision.  I don’t think my parents were terribly pleased when I decided to change my course of study in the second half of my junior year from pre-med to English major, but I’m a lot happier reading and analyzing books and writing constantly than I ever was doing dissections and memorizing muscle groups (though biology and science still hold a special place in my heart and in my books).  In 2014, I also became a graduate assistant at the university I attend, which means I help out the professors and put together the end of semester newsletter as well as work on the department’s literary magazine. Continue reading

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Cover Reveal for The Winter Garden: Book Two of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices

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Well, my second novel finally has a cover! I am beyond excited to present the cover for The Winter Garden: Book Two of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices. The illustrious Javier Ruiz has created a lovely cover for the second time in the style of a paper theatre.  The book is slated to be out in early 2015, but it already has a Goodreads page found here.  The synopsis is as follows: Continue reading

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The Winter Garden: Book Two of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices

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The Winter Garden: Book Two of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices is only chapters away from completion (apart from editing), so I decided it was time to post the blurb and hopefully build up some hype.  Here is it:

Emmeline Jardine and Immanuel Winter are only months away from achieving their dreams, she will enter debutant society and he will receive a degree from Oxford, but a day at the Thames transforms their lives forever, intertwining their souls and putting them into the path of a predator.

Ripped from the comfort of the world they know, Emmeline and Immanuel are thrust into a struggle for their survival. Even though they escape, Immanuel is forever altered by his time in captivity. Gradually he begins to settle into a normal life as the coroner’s assistant until he comes face to face with the man who nearly destroyed him.

Unaware of what he is capable of, Emmeline is infatuated with the dashing madman and follows him deeper into a world of corrupt mediums. When a murderer masquerading as a monster begins to hunt beautiful Spiritualists, Immanuel knows the key to stopping him lies within the girl who shares his soul.

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What I Have Been Up To Recently

I have not been a very good blogger recently. Keeping up with posts is never easy for me, but I have a grand announcement, I published a novel.

The Earl of Brass began as a project for my undergraduate classes, and it is finally out in the world for all to read. The story involves adventure, a little swashbuckling, traveling to distant lands, Victorian England, and a hint of romance. The synopsis is as follows:

When Eilian Sorrell, a promising archaeologist and the eldest son of the Earl of Dorset, loses his arm in a dirigible crash, he fears he will face a bleak future among London’s aristocracy. On a quest for normalcy, Lord Sorrell commissions a prosthetic arm but finds the craftsman is not what he seems. After the death of her brother, Hadley Fenice takes over his prosthesis business but knows it will be an uphill battle as women are discouraged from doing man’s work. In return for building Lord Sorrell an automaton arm, he offers her a chance at freedom by following him to the Negev Desert under the guise of a man. But what lies beneath the desert is more precious than potshards or bones. As they venture deeper, they discover a society where the path of life is not governed by gain but by passion. When imperialistic invaders come in search of a new colony to pillage, Eilian and Hadley are forced to defend their fleeting glimpse of paradise.

The story is available on Amazon in paperback or ebook, Smashwords , and Barnes and Noble

In the coming weeks, I will be writing on self-publishing, my current and future work, and how it is to be a somewhat struggling writer looking for an audience.

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