Monthly Archives: June 2016

Review: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Where did I get this book? I bought it. It's a keeper!

Where did I get this book? I bought it. It’s a keeper!

Is there anything more bittersweet than the final book in a series you love? I’ve been eagerly anticipating The Raven King, the fourth and final book in the Raven Cycle, but once it was in my hands I had a flash of ambivalence. If I read it, it would be over, and I didn’t want it to be over!

Needless to say, I read it anyway. (Stop here if you haven’t finished the first three books!)

It has been nearly a year since Blue first saw Gansey’s spirit walking on the ley line with all the others destined to die. She and Gansey have kept their relationship a secret from Adam to spare his feelings, and Blue has resisted the temptation for a kiss that could prove fatal to her true love.

Ronan tries to dream something that will save Gansey, with unexpected results. Soon he and the others realize that a sinister darkness is overtaking Cabeswater and infiltrating Ronan’s dreams, a force that’s even capable of possessing Noah. Ronan and Adam, as the Greywaren and Cabeswater’s magician, work together in a dangerous effort to stop the destruction. In the process, Adam learns more about Ronan’s secrets and starts to rethink his own vision of the future.

Gansey places all his hopes in finally finding the tomb of Owen Glendower and using the promised wish to save them. The one person who might be able to provide answers, Blue’s long lost father, Artemus, maintains a frustrating silence on this question, although he must know more than he’s saying. When he does open up to Blue, his revelations help her understand herself and why she’s always felt so out of place.

Maggie Stiefvater’s love for her characters shines through in every page, which only increases the tension as the end approaches. How can this possibly end well for anyone? Rather than spoiling it, I’ll just say that the resolution is satisfying without taking any shortcuts that might feel like cheating after the four-book build-up.

I will really miss these extraordinary characters, the lush atmosphere of magic, the teenage limbo of longing for the future while fearing the loss of everything you cherish in the present. In their own way, these books truly are magical.

Genre: Magical YA that even a jaded middle-aged adult can love.

Read it if: You love stories of transcendent friendships and prophecies fulfilled; you have ever wished you could live inside a tree; you read and loved the first three books (obviously.)

Skip it if: You dislike teenagers, magic, nature, etc.; you haven’t read the first three books.

Movie-worthy: At this point I think it would have to be a TV series rather than a movie. No way could you cram all this into a couple of hours. It certainly has the potential for some gorgeous visuals (and I would love to see opening credits based on the author’s cover art.) Okay, can someone make this happen please?

 

Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Where did I get this Advanced Reader's Edition? Penguin Random House and the Reading Room sent it to me, no strings attached.

Where did I get this Advanced Reader’s Edition? Penguin Random House and the Reading Room sent it to me, no strings attached.

Jason Dessen has a good life. He teaches physics at the local college, he has a wife he adores and a well-adjusted fifteen-year-old son. If he sometimes feels regret for the research career in quantum physics he abandoned when his then-girlfriend Daniela told him she was pregnant, it’s only a momentary emotion.

Unlike most people, Jason gets to find out what life would have been like if he’d made a different choice. After a masked attacker abducts him on his way home one night, he awakens in an unfamiliar world where he never married or had a child, where his research on quantum superposition has led to a world-changing breakthrough. (That’s not a spoiler, it’s in the blurb!)

As Jason races to reclaim the life he lost, the implications of each decision he makes take on new and urgent meaning. Part breathless thriller, part SF cautionary tale, Dark Matter manages to create genuine emotional impact while it hurtles toward a surprising and thought-provoking conclusion. It will leave you pondering your own life choices, and where all those other roads might have taken you.

Genre: Science fiction techno-thriller with philosophical implications.

Read it if: You love Michael Crichton’s books but always wished his characters had a little more emotional depth; your favorite ’90s show was Sliders; you like inventive thrillers that demand to be read in one gulp.

Skip it if: You couldn’t care less about Schrodinger’s cat; you only like hard science fiction with all the science-y details fully explained; you categorically reject the concept of the multiverse.

Movie-worthy: Yes, please! I would see this movie in the theater, preferably in IMAX 3-D.

 

 

Review: On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee

On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee

Where did I get this book? The library.

In this dystopian novel, Chang-Rae Lee depicts a future where economic and class divisions have become formalized in separate communities. The story revolves around Fan, a young tank diver in a fish farm. She is a quiet and hard-working member of her community, B-Mor, where order and family come first. B-Mor is a facilities settlement, established to provide agricultural products to the wealthy Charter villages.

The Charters hold significant power over B-Mor, determining the residents’ access to medical care and the minimum occupancy for their communal residences. A tiny percentage of students pass a test allowing them to leave for a presumably brighter future in the Charters, but ambitions are modest at best for most of the population.

When Fan’s boyfriend, Reg, disappears after a mandated medical check-up, Fan slips away from B-Mor. Their love and their fates beyond the boundaries of the settlement become the subject of a communal obsession among those they left behind.

If at this point you are imagining a breathless first-person present narrative featuring a young, action-star heroine on a mission to save her lost love, I’m going to have to stop you right there. This story is told primarily from the collective perspective of the B-Mor residents, a choice that sometimes renders the story frustratingly opaque and emotionally distant.

That being said, Fan’s journey is a compelling one, revealing a landscape marred by inequality and self-interest. Outside the safe walls of the facilities and the Charters lie the counties, where lawlessness and violence prevail. Fan uses her youthful appearance to pass for a child and demonstrates remarkable presence of mind in the face of numerous threats. Somehow she retains a quiet, centered gift for compassion that the world in all its cruelty cannot touch. Whether that will be enough remains uncertain, even in the book’s final pages.

Genre: Literary dystopia.

Read it if: You enjoy speculative fiction by literary novelists; you enjoy dystopias that explore potential outcomes of current societal trends; you like stories that raise more questions than they answer.

Skip it if: You dislike first-person plural narrators; you object to ambiguous endings; or you prefer your dystopias fast-paced and action-packed.

Movie-worthy: Maybe. It would be an unsettling indie film, for sure.