All tagged Scholastic

Five Thoughts on Maggie Stiefvater's The Dream Thieves

The second installment in Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle series, The Dream Thieves, is out today and I've been pondering just how to write about it. I've come to the conclusion that this series is so very complex, while also being subtle, that it's nearly impossible for me to "review" the books in this series in a traditional sense. 

In lieu of an actual exhaustive review of The Dream Thieves (you can read our not-review of The Raven Boys here, by the way), I thought I'd completely cop-out and provide you with a list of five things I'm still pondering after reading The Dream Thieves.


#1 The Dream Thieves is even more dreamy and atmospheric that The Raven Boys.  

It was mint and memories and the past and the future and she felt as if she’d done this before and already she longed to do it again.

These novels are rooted in their atmosphere, intricate mythology and tangled relationships that they're going to either work for readers or leave them wondering what the hell they just read. And I mean that in a good way--I adore this series and believe it's different from anything else on the shelves at the moment. Reading this series feels more like I'm experiencing the story, rather than reading a book--it's just that immersive. 

3 Recommended Creepy Reads

I enjoy novels with a bit (or a lot) of the occult and ghost-y elements. As you know, I am a fan of the creepy, so those elements fit the bill perfectly. I've recently read three that I enjoyed and thought I'd share my thoughts with you.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

•Portland, Oregon–––––October 14, 1918•
The day before my father's arrest, I read an article about a mother who cured her daughter of the Spanish flu by burying her in raw onions for three days. 

Thus begins a truly fine fantastic debut novel about sixteen-year old Mary Shelley Black. Her father’s been arrested for treason, her boyfriend’s fighting overseas, influenza threatens to deplete the population–it’s a fearsome world, a bleak reality for Mary.

Cat Winters captivated me with her unusual historical novel, In The Shadow of Blackbirds.

Interspersed throughout the book are photographs of the era. Images of this bleak period in American history bring stark life to the words skillfully woven into a story of a young girl who sees the spirit of her lost love crying out to her as she struggles to maintain her own balance in a world twisted with fear and injustice.

Read the rest! 


A Unique Historical Novel - The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford

As I mentioned when I wrote about Jennifer Donnelly’s wonderful A Northern Light, I love the idea of historical novels, but I often struggle to enjoy them. I’m incredibly picky about historical fiction, so I was thrilled to discover Natalie Standiford’s The Boy on the Bridge. 

Set in 1982 Leningrad (St. Petersburg to you kids) in what was then known as the USSR (Russia to you kids), The Boy on the Bridge chronicles main character Laura’s semester abroad (she’s a Russian major at Brown). She lives in a horrible barracks-style dormitory known as Dorm 6, and takes classes in Russian language and literature.

They’re constantly monitored, eat horrible food and live a fairly sparse life, though it’s far beyond the standards of most Russians. When they first arrived in Leningrad, Laura and the rest of the students are warned to avoid relationships with the locals, as they are seen as targets for young people wanting to get out of the USSR. Marriage to a foreigner is the easiest, most accessible, way out of the Soviet Union, so college students like Laura, looking for adventure are good prospects for a ticket out. 

Through what seems like a chance meeting on a bridge near her dorm, Laura meets Alyosha (he’s named Alexei, but doesn’t use that name), a 22-year old artist employed in a “make-work” job painting scenes from movies on posters at theaters. He suggests that the two spend time together so that they can practice each other’s languages, and Laura and Alyosha quickly become embroiled in a whirlwind romance—a romance with an end-date, since Laura is only in Leningrad for the semester. As Laura becomes immersed in Alyosha’s world, she begins to wonder if there’s a way they can have a future, if she can give him a better life in America. 

The Boy on the Bridge is beautifully historical and rooted in the time.

Review: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell

Strings Attached by Judy BlundellStrings Attached depicts the fifties in all its grime with an edgy tilt highlighting the days of the McCarthy Era hearings on a witch hunt for communists. This era of bomb drills, mobsters and a rapidly changing America where nothing is as it once was but no one knew where it was heading comes alive in Judy Blundell’s 2011 novel.

Kit Corrigan, a sassy redheaded triplet whose mother died giving birth to her three children, is a multi-dimensional and fascinating character who falls in love with dance at a young age. Life for her plays out in terms of dance movements. Metaphorically, it’s as if she’s dancing allegro and flies into the arms and heart of love as if she’s a heroine in a tragic ballet.

Strings Attached travels with Kit both physically and emotionally as she leaves Providence, Rhode Island for a career as a Lido Club dancer in New York, becomes embroiled in the underbelly of  mobster life, finds her way back to Providence and the strength of family while facing the secrets that brought them sorrow and tore them apart.

Indeed, there are strings attached in many ways, good and bad.

Joint Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Note: This is a joint review by Sarah, Laura & Rebeca aka Renegade.

Blue had two rules: Stay away from boys, because they’re trouble, and stay away from raven boys, because they were bastards.

Without a doubt, the first book in Maggie Stiefvater’s new series, The Raven Boys, was one of our most anticipated novels of the year. All of us adored her 2011 standalone novel, The Scorpio Races, and couldn’t wait to see what sort of world Maggie created next. 

Blue Sargent has been warned her entire life that if she kisses her true love, he will die. When she and her clairvoyant mother hang out in the local graveyard on St. Mark’s Eve—as they due each year, for the first time, Blue sees a soon-to-be-dead person. This boy speaks to Blue and he’s a Raven Boy—one of the students at the exclusive Aglionby Academy in her Virginia town. 

Soon, Blue finds herself entangled in the Raven Boys’ world, a world filled with magic and mystery. 

The World/Setting

Laura: I love the setting of a boarding school in a small town, with the push and pull that comes from those who live there year-round and the revolving door of students. It reminded me quite a bit of the dynamics of Ithaca, New York where I attended college. In both cases, so much of the town’s economy and cultural vitality is dependent on the student population, yet there is still a tension between those who consider it home and those who come off as entitled, sweep in and out at will and live separately when they are there.  

Sarah: I am a sucker for boarding school in a small town books (there were a lot when I was a kid, okay?), so that alone makes me happy. The tension between townies versus the Raven Boys is really interesting and felt very vibrant. The magical world that’s alive beneath the surface of their town is really brilliant. I love how Maggie always takes a tiny bit of folklore (in this case, the Welsh sleeping kings) and makes it into something I completely believe in. The magical elements are thoroughly developed in this first book, but I also feel like there’s a roadmap for even more in this world’s mythology in the future books. As I was reading, I could feel the layers unpeeling. The way she melds the contemporary world and the paranormal is really distinctive in The Raven Boys, even more so than in the Mercy Falls series