Monday, February 27, 2012

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

From In Stiefvater's "Shiver," Grace and Sam found each other. In "Linger," they fought to be together. Now, in "Forever," the stakes are even higher than before. Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened. And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in.

My Thoughts: 
As from my review of Stiefvater’s Linger we all know I admire her writing abilities and her style. I’m sad that this series is over because it was riddled with amazing characters and an interesting concept on wolf lore. While Forever offered many answers to questions from the first two books, it ended with more than could be clarified. 
The first half of the book for me-was drastically slow paced. After recently finishing Linger it was hard to switch from the breakneck pace of that book and then to leap into Forever. I understand that Sam is depressed and worried about Grace being a wolf and is over analyzing everything-but just because he is operating on auto-pilot doesn’t mean the first half of the book had to.
The thing that kept me turning pages was the character Cole. Stiefvater really let us get inside his head in Forever and it was a really fun place to be-scary at times-but insanely fascinating all the same. His voice was rich, authentic, and sharp, like he had his own culture, and it gave the slower first half of the novel a driving force that it desperately needed. Using Cole and Isabel’s quick-tongued passionate on-again, off-again intimacy was also a brilliant tool on Stiefvater’s part. It gave Forever an alternate romantic relationship to route for-even though this one was so completely different from Sam and Grace’s. This new relationship was a great demonstration of another type of love-a hard to handle, know you shouldn’t handle, type of love that many readers will be able to connect with. It’s refreshing to see this kind of character interaction in the YA genre when most relationships are the true-love, soul-shaking kind. I love reading both types but it’s always nice to see an author implement a new concept into their series when you least expect it.
The second half of the book was well delivered. As opposed to the first half where readers are left waiting...and waiting...and waiting for something to happen-the second half has something new and threatening occurring in each chapter. It’s like our characters were in a steady sleep the first half and then woke up with a fire under them in the second half. It wasn’t terribly off-putting and because Stiefvater has such talent when it comes to constructing believable and fresh characters, it didn’t make me put the book down. 
The ending was slightly abrupt for me. We had several chapters of intense action and heartbreaking reactions...but then we are shoved into a future point in time and given an ending that doesn’t tie up everything. This isn’t a bad technique either-I just couldn’t help but want to know more about where the characters I’ve grown to love end up in the future. Instead readers are left to use their own imaginations-which is nice-but as we are not the characters, we can’t really know if they’ll survive or not-be it their relationships or their lives. Either way this series is worth reading and because her style is so unique and crisp, I’ll be picking up future books by Stiefvater. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

From “Dru Anderson has what her grandmother called "the touch." (Comes in handy when you're traveling from town to town with your dad, hunting ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and the occasional zombie.)
Then her dad turns up dead - but still walking - and Dru knows she's next. Even worse, she's got two guys hungry for her affections, and they're not about to let the fiercely independent Dru go it alone. Will Dru discover just how special she really is before coming face-to-fang with whatever - or whoever - is hunting her?”
My Thoughts:
Lili St. Crow has an exceptional knack for creating memorable characters and strong voice in Book 1 of the Strange Angels series. 
The story is told in first-person point-of-view from the perspective of Dru Anderson-a tough and witty new female heroine. Crow gives Dru an outstanding voice-a feature that stays consistent throughout the novel. As a 16 year old girl who moves more than a military-brat, Dru is spending her teenage years following her father around the map-hunting everything that goes bump in the night. And even though she has an insiders perspective to this nocturnal world-Dru’s character is still grounded firmly in adolescence-with a whiplash-fast voice to prove it. 
I’m super grateful that Crow gave Dru’s character a strong and believable teenage voice. This is something that might sound simple enough-but you’d be surprised at how many authors can kill their character’s personalities by getting the voice wrong-especially when the story is told in first-person. The voice is the characters life-blood and is what keeps us turning pages. Dru’s is impeccable and consistent which gives her character credibility and sympathy. It’s fresh tone, flippant remarks, and teenage-hormonal-seesaw-emotional-charge, make Dru the kind of chick you’d either be scared to death of or totally want to roll with. 

Just to give an example-one without any spoilers-I’m going to post a couple random quotes from Dru.
“It smelled like damp wool and wet concrete in here, as well as formaldehyde carpet and the exhalation of two thousand kids. Not to mention sweaty stocking feet and food pried from underneath Ronald McDonald’s bumpers. School smell. It’s the same pretty much everywhere in the U.S., with only slight regional differences in the foot-sweat and served-roadkill departments.”
“It felt hinky. Super extra hinky with a side of bad sauce.” 
Crow’s skills don’t stop at voice either-she’s also talented at character development-which is illustrated beautifully through the second main character Graves.
In the beginning this seems to be just another gothic boy checking out the new girl, but underneath layers of black-trench-coat and black hair, there is a complex guy with depth and insight. He hasn’t had the perfect life either and when Dru and Graves’s lives are intertwined-a breakneck adventure unfolds that is out of both their leagues. Two teenagers-left without any help from the outside world-form a strong bond when facing near-death experiences about every two seconds-because something always wants Dru dead. And the relationship between them isn’t forced-Crow blends it together with a wonderful combination of character interaction and dialogue and neither is heavier than the other. 
This fast-paced book is a must read for any paranormal YA lover. The descriptions are on point, the characters are credible and worth caring about, and the storyline is fresh. The only complaints I have is that at times Crow repeated herself-but the intensity of the story more than made up for it. I’ll be picking up the rest of the series to see where these characters end up. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Linger: By Maggie Stiefvater

       Linger is the second book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver series. The books are set in the small town of Mercy Falls where werewolves secretly dominate the woods. Sticking close to semi-traditional werewolf lore-werewolves are created by getting bitten by an existing one. Though in this series they aren’t half-man half-wolf creatures that stock humans, they are simply beautiful wolves that live in the woods. They loose their human selves for a season-the shift from human to werewolf being triggered by the cold. After winter ceases and summer takes over they return to their human lives. A time-stamp is placed on them though, for how many times they can shift, and no one can outrun becoming wolf permanently for long. 
That is anyone but Sam. 
Sam was introduced in the first novel as a main character. A teenager with a tragic past and a shaky future. A werewolf who looks forward to summer’s in Mercy Falls, where he works in a bookstore and secretly admires the girl of his dreams-Grace.
Grace was also introduced in the first novel as a main character. She was bitten by a werewolf when she was a little girl-but never shifted into one herself. The first novel uncovers the reasoning behind that-a forgetful father who left her locked in a hot car all day. This caused her temperature to sky rocket and an unknowingly prevented her from shifting into a werewolf. Years later she is still mesmerized by a particular wolf in her woods. She soon discovers it is Sam and they embark on a passion filled journey that leads them to a “cure” for Sam’s werewolf bite. 
They apply to temperature theory to Sam-willingly giving him Meningitis to induce a fever. Even though Sam knows his life is at risk he will do anything to stop the change and live forever with Grace as a human. The first novel ends after the fever successfully prevents Sam from returning to his werewolf form. 
Linger opens up where Shiver left off-with both Grace and Sam as human and enjoying each minute they get to spend together. Of course not everything is hugs and puppies-Sam grapples with the uncertainty of his new always-human life and Grace is struggling with mysterious illnesses that she suspects has to do with being bitten all those years ago. Mix in new werewolves shifting back to human and absentee parents trying to become present and you’ve got one big tension riddled story.
Stiefvater tells the story in a multi-narrative 1st person point of view. This gives the reader a first person perspective from several different characters-each chapter is titled by the name of the person who is speaking. She pulls this off magnificently! There is major risk when choosing this method of storytelling-the voices could sound too much alike, the reader could easily get confused about whose head they’re in, and story-lines could get jumbled. Stiefvater avoids all these potential car wrecks by keeping her character’s voices distinct, separate, and unique. I believe that even if the chapters titles weren’t tagged with the character’s names I’d still be able to figure it out within a few sentences-that is how unique each character is.
Speaking of characters-another strong point in what makes these novels great-is the relationships. Grace and Sam’s of course is the main focus. They’re in love and it is the kind of love that transcends high school crushes. It is passionate, endearing, and completely right and the chemistry between them is made effortless by the great writing shaping it. There are also several side relationships that contribute to the tension and pace of the novel. The relationship between Grace and her parents offer a wonderful demonstration of how much an impact absentee parents can have on their children. It is a strained relationship-especially when they try to make a strict appearance in the final act-and I feel many young readers can relate to the obstacles Grace has to overcome when dealing with them. Her parents lack of interest in her also creates a wonderful sympathy and helps readers become attached to her character. There are also several different friendship relationships that either loosen or strengthen during the story as well. 
Stiefvater’s use of imagery in the novels is what keeps me turning the pages. She has this way with constructing language into nature. I don’t know how else to put it. It’s as if she is building an abundant forrest-from the smallest twig to the largest tree-with words. Readers are completely submerged in this nature rich world and it is so on point you can almost smell the trees and the wolves that run through them. 
Linger is a wonderful follow up to Shiver. It’s packed with anxious tension, romance, and a twist that will leave readers howling for the third installment.