Monthly Archives: August 2014

Teens Can Write Too – August Blog Chain!

Which characters are you most like?

When I saw the question for this month’s Teens Can Write Too blog chain, my initial reaction was “Oh, this will be easy!” But when I actually tried to write my post, I realised there was one tiny problem: I didn’t know any characters I was most like. I stared at my bookcases for at least 10 minutes and wracked my brain for even longer, desperately trying to think of a character I was like. But I came up with nothing and I found myself wondering if my second attempt at the blog chain would be over before I’d even started. However, I was determined to find a book with just the character I was looking for (basically, myself), and luckily I didn’t have too long to wait as I was going into town the next day. I found myself in WH Smith, trying to find a book which looked interesting, and I ended up finding two – both in the ‘buy one, get one for £1’, conveniently – and whilst I thought The Rain by Virginia Bergin did sound like a really good book, it was when I read the synopsis for Alice Oseman’s Solitaire that I thought for the first time in years, if not ever, “this is just like me.

I hadn’t even started the book, but from reading that main character Tori Spring likes ‘[…] to sleep and I like to blog’, I figured it couldn’t hurt to see if I could work something out from those two things alone – well, and that she’s pretty cynical of everything too! In all honestly, it’s a little unnerving how alike we are, and it’s not always good aspects either. Tori is often talking about how much she dislikes socialising and people (I can most definitely relate to both), but there is one scene in particular where she reacts to something in exactly the same way I would. Tori walks past two girls in the street, one of whom is asking who Lewis Carroll was, and Tori’s reaction was “’in my imagination I pull a gun out of my pocket, shoot them both and then shoot myself’”. When I read that, I just sat in my room with a huge grin on my face, saying “Yes!” emphatically and repeatedly. It was a little morbid perhaps, but also absolutely perfect – hearing people ask questions like that in reality is something which always leaves me stunned and no longer wanting to have to live on this world, and I honestly don’t think that scene could be better if it tried.

I think that fact that the author is only about 19 is the reason I’m able to relate so much to Tori; it’s not an adult trying to write about the teenage mind, it’s instead a teenager herself writing so brilliantly honestly about another teenager and I feel she captures it wonderfully. It’s impossible to read this and not find at least one thing that makes you think “That’s exactly how I feel!” – and I imagine that the discussion of the sexual tension between Harry and Draco is something that will appeal to a good few of us! It’s little things like that which make this such an honest representation of most, if not all, young people, and not just myself.

Sure, lots of things she says or the way she acts may be things only I relate to (e.g. “‘This is because I have a very low opinion of most people’”), and okay the title of this month’s blog chain is which character are you most like – but I think, in one way or another, all of us here are a little bit like Tori Spring. A little bit cynical, a little bit morbid, and a little bit moody – but we’re teenagers. It’s expected of us, and Alice Oseman gets that perfectly.

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and (Look for the announcement to next month’s chain!)


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“The Dream Thieves” by Maggie Stiefvater Review

Dream Thieves

I meant to write a review of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys pretty much as soon as I had finished it – but due to an awful attention span, I never got past the first sentence. Having just finished the sequel, The Dream Thieves, I’ve decided I’ll write my review for this while it’s still fresh in my mind and then, if I can face it, I’ll go back to The Raven Boys (don’t hold me to that).

I really didn’t enjoy The Raven Boys at all, and ordinarily it’s not a book I’d have picked up for myself, but I was recommended/asked to by a friend, and having previously enjoyed The Paladin Prophecy, Quarantine: The Loners, and The Culling (all recommended by the same person), I decided it wouldn’t hurt to try it. If I could travel back in time to the moment where I decided to order it, I would most emphatically force past–me not to bother, to just get something else instead – I was not a fan. I mean, it picked up towards the end, but nobody wants to be reading a book and hoping that it’s maybe just a slow start, only to discover that it’s a slow middle and a slow first half to the ending as well. BUT this isn’t a review of The Raven Boys (henceforth abbreviated to TRB); no, this is a review for The Dream Thieves, a book which was apparently much better than its predecessor.

Clearly, I read a different book. As much as I disliked TRB, that was nothing compared to how I felt whilst reading The Dream Thieves (now TDT). It would have been far more use as fire kindling than as a book, that’s how much I detested it. I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters – Ronan’s pet bird was more likeable than the rest of them combined. I took a few days to read this book as I just couldn’t get into it all. It wasn’t enjoyable at all, and the new character “Mr Gray” bored me to tears – I skimmed over most of his parts. However, I read enough of the scenes including him to finish the book thinking “Why the hell is nobody concerned that he’s a hit man?!” Seriously, nobody appeared to care – indeed, Blue’s mother seemed more than content to go out with the guy, after finding out he was a hit man. Even minor characters, like the people who run the hotel or wherever the Gray Man is staying don’t care; their conversation went like this:

“‘What do you do?’
‘I’m a hit man.’
‘Hard to find work these days, is it?’”

If that were me, I’d be a little more concerned, although I like to think that this couple just thought the Gray Man was joking (please tell me that’s the case). I’m also convinced there’s a bit where the Gray Man is thinking about how he doesn’t know of any other hit men and it just makes me think that that’s probably because they don’t go broadcasting to all and sundry about what they do for a living! That in mind, I can’t actually find this part in the book, so there’s a change I’ve imagined it, but I’m pretty sure it’s there. Somewhere.  Considering we’re introduced to “The Gray Man” in Chapter 2, and I skipped most of his parts since, then I imagine that only goes to show how mind–numbingly dull he was as a character.

The prologue wasn’t too bad, and I found I kind of liked it, but then I had to move onto chapter 1. With the first sentence being “Theoretically, Blue Sargent was probably going to kill one of these boys”, my first thought was something along the lines of “just hurry up and do it, and maybe kill the rest of them while you’re at it”, so I’m sure that goes to show just how good a book it is. And okay, that line was undoubtedly in reference to the whole thing about Blue killing her true love if she kisses him, but I wouldn’t have minded in the slightest if she just thought “Screw it, I’m killing them all!” – it would have made for a great plot twist. And for an exceedingly short book, but in the case of TDT that’s no bad thing. I’ve read some of Maggie Stiefvater’s books before (the Shiver series, and Lament and Ballad), and have had mixed thoughts (not great, and enjoyable respectively) but this series is by far the worst of hers. You don’t read this book, so much as endure it and I’m not really sure why it’s getting such good reviews.

The majority of these 4 and 5 star reviews (how is it doing that?!) all seem to come back to one thing: Maggie Stiefvater’s “beautiful” way of writing. Where exactly, may I ask, are they finding this beautiful writing? I’ve read both books in the series so far, and frankly the writing isn’t great. Time and again she failed to captivate me, or at least keep my interest for more than a few paragraphs – I honestly think the only reason I kept reading this one is because I was in the middle of nowhere and really needed something to do. It turns out that I would have had more fun sticking pins in my eyes. I, personally, don’t think the writing is all that great and definitely doesn’t deserve to be cited as “beautiful” – it’s average at best.

For all my complaining and criticisms, there is one bit which made me really, really happy. That fact that it’s an issue with the grammar, however, doesn’t make the book any better; nor does the fact that it’s on page 383 – it took over 300 pages for me to find something that made me happy?! I have a weird satisfaction with finding grammar/punctuation/spelling mistakes, although at the same time it does make me wonder if these people actually have editors… In the case of TDT, the statement in question is:

“‘How terrible it would be, Blue thought, her mind on Adam again, to not have a mother who loved you?’”

In my eyes, there should be no question mark there; it should either be a full stop or an ellipsis to add emphasis. However, if the author actually wanted to pose it as a question, then it’s the wording that should be re–arranged, to make it “How terrible would it be […] to not have a mother who loved you?”  Perhaps that the thought is broken with the explanation that Blue is thinking about Adam is what makes it seem incorrect; I could very well be the one in the wrong, but reading it as the author wrote it just doesn’t work for me and is too disjointed.

I realise that I’ve said very little about the characters in the book, but that’s because there is very little to say about any of them! They all seem to merge into one being and there’s next to nothing that’s interesting about any of them. Normally I can say “I liked/didn’t like so and so because…” but with these character I can’t even manage that – there is nothing to say about them. They’re completely unremarkable. There was one character I thought I was going to like, and I quite liked the relationship he had with Ronan. That character was Kavinsky, and in the beginning I was quite impressed and was coming up with little scenes I hoped would happen, or things that would make a great plot twist with the two of them. Alas, none of them happened, and Kavinsky turned into yet another badly written character in this mess. One of the things I hated about him was all the crude comments he would make to Ronan about his sexuality, and okay I suppose it’s to amplify Kavinsky’s character, as well as to show that part of Ronan’s character is that he’s gay, or at least bisexual, but the way in which it’s done is just almost painful to read. It made me cringe at times and it also makes it so obvious too. Now I’m not saying that a character’s sexuality should be made into a big deal, but there are ways of dropping it in casually with no fuss – and Stiefvater doesn’t quite manage it. It’s almost as though she tries to make it into no big deal and it’s supposed to come about from a series of passing remarks, but instead it’s made blindingly obvious and subtlety just goes completely out of the window.

All in all, I wasn’t impressed with The Dream Thieves, and I somehow found it even less interesting than The Raven Boys. The 3rd book in the series, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, is supposedly out in October, but whether or not I’ll read it is a different matter. On the one hand, I absolutely hated the first two books (and that’s as good a reason as any for not continuing), but on the other, I hate to leave a series unfinished… I suppose if I find the book on offer somewhere, I’ll have nothing against picking it up – I’ll be able to read it knowing that I won’t have spent too much money on it!

This isn’t a book I recommend, but then again, if the positive reviews outweigh the negatives (i.e. just mine, by the look of things) then maybe give it a go – and then hopefully discover that I’m right and that this isn’t a book to waste your time on!

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