The Dream Thieves (by Maggie Stiefvater)

16 03 2014

dreamthievesThe Dream Thieves is the follow up to Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys, which was probably the cat’s biggest surprise of 2013: paranormal fantasy could actually be good, a (conventional) good old-fashioned bulky read, you know ? That is why I could not have been more disappointed with The Dream Thieves.

Even though I already had the feeling that Ronan would become an important character – and he is really the focus of The Dream Thieves – the way that this is done is… well, dull… as opposed to the wild and exuberant way in which his character deserved to be at the center of things.

Oh, this book is written well enough but plot and characters just couldn’t hold my interest here because it was soooo slow-moving and really isn’t furthering any of the elements of book 1. The Raven Boys was really an ensemble book. Yes, there was a girl protagonist (Blue) and a boy protagonist, (Gansey), but all the other characters weren’t really secondary… they really all played a pivotal role. That has definitely changed in The Dream Thieves, which is mostly about Ronan (as a dream thief) and when the other characters do appear they don’t really add anything to the overall plot. Their quests from The Raven Boys are almost ‘forgotten’ and they just seem to be filler characters, especially Adam and Noah, who could both be such interesting characters.

This one has all the stereotypical weaknesses of the middle book. Anyway, major major letdown and I don’t really know if I want to continue this series.


The Raven Boys (by Maggie Stiefvater)

24 09 2013

ravenboys1It pays off to go into a book without expectations! Especially when dealing with a paranormal fantasy thingie, which is so not my thing! This just to say that I absolutely loved reading Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys: it was mysterious, it’s a real bulky read (love me some of those!) and it provides some good old-fashioned fun to get sucked into.

I’m glad too that paranormal fantasy doesn’t always need to equal paranormal romance. Even though there’s a bit of romance involved obviously (that’s the whole prophecy thing that starts the whole book!), it really is more in the background of the book, and the focus is definitely on “the boys” (with Gansey being at the forefront here) and their friendship and I’d argue that the female protagonist Blue is – up to now – merely a character in the margin of that friendship and the mystery of the ley lines and the search for this really weird Welsh king!

Yes, yes, you got that right: we get a whole tapestry of strange and X-filesy stuff here. And although it’s definitely a book that sets up a whole new series (complete with slow buildup, which I actually liked) and is as such not entirely satisfactory (lots of unexplained elements), there’s more than enough here to get the cat interested in the rest of the series (which couldn’t be said of other firsts in a series…), especially the somewhat unusual male protagonists (I feel Adam and Ronan will become quite the characters, more so even than Gansey…).

More please!

Paranormalcy (by Kiersten White)

30 08 2012

The cat is not a paranormal buff, so when she does pick up something paranormal – consciously that is – it better be something else entirely. Kiersten White’s 2010 debut Paranormalcy came with a lot of buzz from other paranormal and/or urban fantasy YA authors, such as Becca Fitzpatrick, Lisa McMann and Aprilynne Pike… ultimately resulting in a mega-hype landing her a #7 debut on the New York Times best seller list. Now *that’s* what publicizing a book means. But, ok, so, just to make things clear: buzz + hype ≠ instant cat success.  Quite the opposite, books that heavily hyped hardly every live up to said hype and Paranormalcy is no exception.

16-year-old Evie is a member of IPCA – International Paranormal Containment Agency. This is pretty much an MIB type of agency that operates to ‘neuter’ (neutralize) all sorts of paranormals, like vampires, werewolves, faeries (ex-boyfriend Reth is one), mermaids (BFF Lish) etc. Evie comes in ultra-handy for this agency, because not only is she an orphan (so not to be missed by anyone), she’s also the one and only human who can see through the paranormals’ glamors, so she can spot even illusive shape shifters (Lend, current love interest), or waternymphs or whatever other paranormal creatures are out there. Besides being a Buffy, Evie is also just a girl who likes pink, TV drama and boys, and who wants to have the whole teen experience and who feels sort of lonely all the time – though she doesn’t know that herself, until the love interest Lend points this out to her.

What the cat didn’t like:

  • The main baddie, as in there really isn’t one, or at least she’s not very scary. So she sucks your soul out?
  • The lack of conflict: all they seem to do is run around from compound, to meeting, to dream, to compound, and back again pondering about “there’s a bad guy out there killing :::gasp::: paranormals”, rather than getting to work already…
  • The wannabe funny talk. I’m sorry but Evie ain’t no Buffy and Kiersten White sure as hell ain’t no Joss Whedon! A lot of reviewers praise Evie for being “a different sort of paranormal fantasy protagonist”, mainly because of how witty and funny she supposedly is, but she just … isn’t… there was just a whole lot of emptiness to the babbling going on, and not even as a ‘coping mechanism’, which humor often turns out to be in these ‘I’m all alone and so unique and no one understands me’ type of tales. Again, no Buffy here.

I have no idea whether it was intentional to name Evie’s best friend ‘Lish’ (btw, what was that all about: BFF is randomly killed off and then that’s that? No feelings about it? Ok, then…), but if you really want a ‘refreshing paranormal story’,  then Lish McBride’s Hold Me Closer Necromancer is a much better candidate.  Now there’s a story which does have that Buffy-vibe so much more than Paranormalcy could ever hope to have.  Not that we want our Paranormal stories to be Buffy of course…well, not all the time, anyway.

Anyway what didn’t work for the cat may work for you (this is sooooo not my book!), if you like all that innocent ‘paranormals are amongst us’ babble.  To make matters even worse, though, this is the first part of a trilogy, so this urban fantasy, paranormal romance shtick is getting milked for another 2 books!

Cryer’s Cross (by Lisa McMann)

30 07 2012

The cat has been dead wrong before, judging an author by just one title, but if Lisa McMann’s writing style and plotting in Cryer’s Cross is anything to go by, I don’t think I’ll bother reading any of her other stuff.

Cryer’s Cross has a killer opening sentence (“Everything changes when Tiffany Quinn disappears.”) setting the scene for what should be an intriguing mystery novel in the small rural town of Cryer’s Cross (the cat loves small town mysteries!). Kendall is 17, suffers from OCD, loves soccer and her small town environment, though she also dreams of a career in dance and has applied to Juilliard in New York. Of these 4 elements (the OCD, the soccer, the small town and the dance career), only 2 are maybe vaguely credibly worked out (the soccer and the small town) while the other two are mere plot devices to keep the reader guessing up until they might be of use to the author again, talk about pulling the rabbit out of the proverbial hat… I’m not a psychiatrist, but I do know a little bit about being obsessive, and if you claim that someone has OCD, then this is something that wholly absorbs that person. It is not something you just state (it is mentioned over and over again without us actually experiencing much of it – show us, McMann, don’t tell us!) and then seemingly forget about until it is convenient as a plot device (and even then just say something like “her OCD saved her”).

So anyway, the story is set up as a mystery, but is then interrupted through the introduction of two new characters in town,  Jacian and his sister Marlena. Obviously, Jacian is set up as a potential perp as well as a new love interest for Kendall (sigh), even though she thinks he is creepy – she can sense these things, yo, courtesy of her OCD? Kendall though has been seeing her best friend Nico since before they could walk and talk, yet refuses to call him her boyfriend. Ooh boy. Then of course, Nico goes missing too and Kendall is all: “what will I do without my Nico”? (Don’t worry Kendall, I’m sure Jacian will be there right beside you!) Enter the crazy desk and the voices and the whispers and you get yourselves a ‘supernatural thriller’ that is actually not scary at all.

Anyway, it’s not so much the plot that didn’t work for the cat… OK, so it didn’t work because McMann abandoned the mystery in favor of the potential romance (which totally fell flat because guess what: no chemistry between these two characters whatsoever) up until the last 30 or so pages when the mystery was rediscovered (in the most cliché way possible), much like Kendall’s OCD. Anyhow, even more than the lack of credible plot was the way this story is told: 3rd person present tense narration. There’s definitely a reason why it’s hardly ever used – it feels peculiar to the point of amateurish! I know it should give everything a creepy sense of immediacy and “it’s all happening now all over again” and all that, but it just doesn’t work for me, not in combination with the lackluster plot in any case. Present tense is OK (cf. Hunger Games, Divergent), but I guess it is the combination with that third person singular which gives it an unnatural feel. Urgent  immediacy (present tense) and distance from the main character (3rd rather than 1st person singular) just don’t mesh well.

Oh well, the cat gave it a shot, right?

Flip ( by Martyn Bedford)

30 05 2012

14-year-old Alex wakes up one morning finding himself inhabiting another boy’s body, that of Philip ‘Flip’ Garamond. Not only that, it’s also about 6 months later than when he went to bed the previous night. Alex is  understandably dazzled about this Freaky Friday body swap and tries to figure out why his ‘soul’ has ended up in another boy’s body so many miles and months away from his own body.

This is Martyn Bedford’s first foray into YA literature and it’s fairly successful. The whole body swap topic is not the most original of topics , of course, but Bedford does it quite well, giving Alex some realistic reactions to one of the most mind-staggering experiences someone might ever get. The resolution to  the soul swap is predictably believable too, taking into consideration that this is really a ‘paranormal’ story and any sort of ‘resolution’ is bound to feel at least a little bit contrived or ‘out-of-this-world’.   Instead, Bedford’s writing is solid, Alex is a convincing character and there are a couple of interesting minor characters (that do not get the full treatment they deserve, though, e.g. Flip’s sister or Alex’s best friend David).

Flip is a fast read, has an exciting story and will satisfy a lot of reluctant readers. Nothing to be overjoyed ecstatic about, but solid, decent…

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