Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

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“More than anything, the journal wanted. It wanted more then it could hold, more than words could describe, more than diagrams could illustrate. Longing burst from the pages, in every frantic line and every hectic sketch and every dark-printed definition. There was something pained and melancholy about it.”

There are rare finds in the Teen genre where the writing, story line and characters are so breath-taking and fascinating that you forget what genre the novel actually belongs to. My list of those authors is quite short but Maggie Stiefvater holds one of those coveted (coveted in my mind, at least) spots. Her novel The Scorpio Races blew my mind and I read it within two days. The Raven Boys had much the same affect and, thankfully, it’s only the first in a trilogy so there will be plenty more Stiefvater goodness to be enjoyed.

Blue lives anything but a normal life. As the daughter of a physic, and living in a house full of other family and female friends who are also psychics, she has never doubted that the world is more complex then it seems. Oddly enough her power is not one of clairvoyance, but an ability to enhance and strengthen the magical powers of those around her. Gansey is a Raven Boy, one of many elite and socially privileged boys who attend nearby Aglionby Academy. Gansey too believes in the supernatural and along with his closest friends (Adam, the least privileged of the group, Ronan who is the rebel bad-boy and lastly Noah, a boy with secrets of his own) has been searching for a long lost Welsh King whom he believes is hidden in the countryside. Gansey is determined to follow the ley line (an invisible line of magical power) that runs through Henrietta to this sleeping King and Blue soon joins the hunt after the Raven Boys see her mother for a reading. However, Blue has her own reasons for befriending these boys. She knows a horrible secret; that one of those boys will be dead within the year and coupled with the premonition that she will cause the death of the first boy she falls in love with, she is determined to change fate.

This book has so many elements that I absolutely fell in love with. You put anything paranormal into a story and I am automatically intrigued. Combine that with some good old fashion Welsh history and I will hand over my first born (sorry first born). Stiefvater provides plenty of both and she wraps it nicely in her unique ability to weave a story with finesse.  The nature of the boys’ friendships is also a highlight of the novel. In many ways Stiefvater paints such a vivid picture of friendship that you can only smile and remember those unbreakable friendships you had as a teenager. Adult life tends to step in at some point but Stiefvater invokes that sense of loyalty between friends that we can all admire. They are each such immensely unique characters and yet that only makes their group dynamic even more intriguing, especially when Blue enters into the mix.

Another wonderful thing about Stiefvater is how complex, yet realistic, her characters are. You will find every notch on the scale in them; they’re flawed, hopeful, haunted, intelligent, aggressive, obsessive, caring. Each character has their own dreams and fears, stemming from individual backgrounds and experiences that create a truly extensive world of character development. Their stories are constantly being advanced and just when you feel you have a hold on a particular individual, you learn something new about them or Stiefvater throws in a sudden twist that completely demands you reset your understanding of that individual.

I know it’s safe to say for me that reading Stiefvater’s work is a truly encompassing experience as a reader. She is a truly talented writer and all of her literary tools and skills are put on display in The Raven Boys. Mystery, history and the unknown are complimented by elaborate characters and encased in a truly pleasant writing style. Of the books written by her, none have disappointed. The second installment, The Dream Thieves, was released on the 17th and I have already immersed myself in it. Resurfacing will no doubt come with the same sadness that it was over and the resulting eagerness for the next novel that I felt after completing The Raven Boys.

Devon – a1000booklife

Other books by Maggie Stiefvater: Shiver (2010), Linger (2011), The Scorpio Races (2011) and Forever (2012)

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The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

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“For a long time she was truly afraid of going mad. Afraid of the day when all control slipped out of her hands. She made up images of the world and the light and the life outside. She took refuge in all the nooks and crannies of her brain- those areas that usually become silted up with the ambitions and trivialities of life. And memories of the past slowly surfaced. Tiny moments with hands that held her. Words that caressed and comforted. But also memories of loneliness and yearning and tireless striving.”

Sometimes you find small treasures on the subway. One night as I trudged home with the masses after a long day of work I noticed a poster across from where I was sitting that declared those who loved Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo would find a similar fill in a new series by Jussi Adler-Olsen beginning with The Keeper of Lost Causes. That claim on a subway poster did not fall far from its mark.

Carl Mørck is a brilliant detective, but one that is now marred by a tragic event that cost him a partner. His return to the force comes with an endless source of bitterness and very little motivation for anything. Unable to dismiss him but unwilling to put up with his the remnants of his trauma his superior promotes him to the head of Department Q; a one man team whose purpose is to review cold case files that have long been forgotten. He is soon joined by Assad, a rather cheerful man who has hidden secrets and qualities of his own. The first cold case file that gains their attention is the disappearance of Merete Lynggaard. A politically prominent individual, Merete led an unblemished life with no known public enemies and with even fewer personal relationships, due to her life revolving around the care of her brother Uffe who is mentally damaged from a horrific car accident during their youth. Merete’s sudden disappearance a few years ago left very few leads but Mørck’s intuition will breathe life back into the search for Merete with startling results.

Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is by far one of my favorite books and I have reread it at least three times. Though The Keeper of Lost Causes may not have a Lisbeth Salander Adler-Olsen’s characters are just as multi-layered and complex, and the mystery contains the same addictive sense of suspense. The back and forth narrative between Mørck and Merete keeps the reader engaged, watching both threads of the story developing and gradually merging together. There’s no denying that Mørck is a mess. Living with his ex’s son and a renter who also acts as the housekeeper, an unstoppable desire for the police department’s psychologist and the guilt that plagues him about the partner he failed to save and the other who now lies paralyzed in a hospital bed, Mørck is as multifarious a character any reader could hope for. And there are many more characters that are just as multifaceted.

The Nordic crime writers have certainly carved out a niche for themselves in the mystery genre and Adler-Olsen can easily claim one of the top spots. The detective work that takes place within the novel is fascinating and Adler-Olsen’s writing adds an additional level of finesse to a story that already holds its weight on its own. As much as you can see where the story is going Alder-Olsen keeps you guessing right to the very end on the finer details. There are several stories going on but in the end they all combine to give the reader a thrilling read that keeps you flipping the pages eagerly until the final page.

I’ll agree with the subway poster: if you’re suffering from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo withdrawal get your hands on Jussi Adler-Olsen’s The Keeper of Lost Causes. You won’t be able to put it down, the writing and story will grip you the same way Larsson’s did. Thankfully when you do finish it there are two more in the series waiting for you, The Absent One and A Conspiracy of Faith, along with the release of The Purity of Vengeance in December, 2013. Enjoy!

Devon – a1000booklife

Other books by Jussi Adler-Olsen: The Absent One (2013) and A Conspiracy of Faith (2013)

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