Review: The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater
Release Date ~ September 18, 2012
Scholastic Press
ISBN13: 9780545424929
Review copy received from Scholastic Canada

Goodreads Synopsis:
“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.

There are some books I manage to put off for a while, despite their popularity and good reviews. The Raven Boys is one of those, and now having finally read it I can't help but kick myself for waiting so long.

Paranormal fantasy books aren't my favourite, but the first book in Maggie Stiefvater's current series easily drew me in and hooked me with its quirky yet amusing characters, mysterious plot, and Maggie's beautiful style of writing.

  1. An incredible group of characters:

    The characters are all very eccentric and quirky (and they really don't seem THAT realistic, or perhaps I should say "typical" for teenagers) and I find that can be fairly hit or miss for a book. I don't mind different, but I need interesting, strong characters whom I like to keep me going. The Raven Boys absolutely delivered on this, and I was so impressed with Blue and the Raven Boys she meets and befriends. Gansey's written as a charismatic leader and that's exactly how he comes across while reading. I couldn't help but like him, the more that was revealed about him. Adam's bravery comes across loud and clear as he battles his way through difficulties. Even grumpy, icy Ronan and quiet, strange Noah had me invested in their stories by the end. Most importantly, they felt like characters distinct from each other - although they're close friends, they maintained their own lives and interests.
  2. An intriguing mystery:

    For the longest time, I was reading as fast as I could just to figure out exactly what the big mystery was - what was Gansey searching for? What was going on with Blue's family? What secrets do the Raven Boys have? It's all revealed very slowly, and I loved how much this mystery drew me in to this fantastic story.
  3. Gorgeous writing:

    This is the first book I've read by Maggie Stiefvater and her writing took my breath away! The book's atmosphere is creepy and mysterious, and it's enhanced by her style of writing. It's like being teased with a little bit of information - there are little hints and it's very poetic. Her writing flows beautifully for an enjoyable read.
  4. Heartfelt, sincere relationships:

    This was my favourite aspect of The Raven Boys. I loved how strong these relationships were, from the deep bond of friendship between Gansey, Ronan, Noah, and Adam to the fairly tight-knit household Blue lives in. I was particularly impressed with the mother-daughter relationship between Blue and Maura. This is an intensely loyal group of characters, all displaying that loyalty in their own unique way. 
I was worried that I'd find some parts of this book to feel like it was trying too hard - afraid that it might come off cheesy and silly, because there's that fine line between unique and just plain silly. But thankfully, The Raven Boys didn't cross that line. It was a very unexpected read for me (especially the romance, for example!), and one I can wholeheartedly recommend to other readers. 


Sunday Runday {1}

A couple weeks ago, I saw a post by Simon & Schuster Canada on Instagram asking if any bloggers were interested in joining their #RunningLikeAGirl challenge. It featured a book that has been on my wishlist for a while, so I immediately jumped at the chance to participate.

S&S Canada sent over a copy of Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley, and asked participants to sign up for a race in June. Throughout April and May, we're training for that race and reading through Alexandra's book on her first experience training for a marathon (with no previous running experience whatsoever).

Conveniently enough, I had already signed up for a race in June! I signed up for my second 10k race, and I've been casually (or more like "sporadically") running on and off for over a year. I barely survived that last 10k and while it was great to do it, I knew that this spring I would basically be starting from scratch having not run during the winter months. It's so easy to feel frustrated when you start out because it feels SO HARD, and your lungs and heart are like "nope, screw this!" and it can be just as annoying having to break for short walks - but I know it gets better and Alexandra's book is a great reminder of that! I'm following a specific training program through the Nike+ iPhone app, so I went for three runs and two walks since this was my first week: a total of 16.99 miles. I also do strength training (weight lifting) twice a week at my gym, and do yoga once a week.

See? Some proof that I kept up with my training plan this weekend! I'm slow, but I did it :) 
So between now and my race in June, I'll post every so often on Sundays (with most updates on Instagram, and a few on Twitter) sharing my progress as I prepare for that upcoming race!

I'm a few chapters into Running Like a Girl and I absolutely love it - I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fairly new runner, a runner wanting to run longer distances, or someone who has never run before but is curious about starting! Alexandra's writing is so funny and her little stories are so easy to relate to. She covers some very important topics from the start - things like finding the motivation to begin, the kind of running gear that's important when you start out, and what to expect when you actually start running.

One of the most important reminders for me was in chapter 2 because she stressed the importance of being patient and consistent with running. I'm the kind of person who wants to dive right in all at once and expect immediate results, so it was a timely reminder and very reassuring that it's fine for me to be slow and all that matters is that I RUN.

S&S Canada kindly sent over a starter kit to get us going too which was very exciting!

I'm curious if any of you are runners? Are any of you thinking about starting to run? Has anyone already read Running Like a Girl? Thoughts on it?

Feel free to get in touch if you have any other questions about this!

Dewey's Read-a-Thon Spring 2014 Mini Challenge


We are now at HOUR 22 of Dewey's Read-a-Thon! We are SO close to being done, wow! Congratulations to all of you for doing so well with your reading goals :)

I have a fun little challenge for you now, in case any of you need a little break from reading.

Welcome to my Books Around the World Challenge!

The rules for this mini challenge are simple:

All you need to do is list FIVE books that take place on FIVE different continents. Fill out the Rafflecopter form, listing your books (include the book title & author so I can verify) and list which continent the book takes place on.

For example: (And don't list this example on your form, since I'm giving it to you for free!)

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (North America)

(If you need a hint, search around on Goodreads for lists! Those should help you out.)

There's a prize for this challenge, too - the winner will get their choice from the prize page on the Dewey's Read-a-Thon website right here. I'll let the winner know how to fill out the form to select their prize. Note that this challenge is open for international readers and you can still win a prize no matter where you're from!

Good luck and have fun!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Dewey's Read-a-Thon April 2014

Good morning!!

I'm so excited to participate in another 24 hour Dewey's Read-a-Thon this year! It's one of my favourite readathons, and later today I'm actually hosting a mini challenge too! So make sure you check back for that and participate in some of the other mini challenges here.

I'm trying not to overestimate how much I can read for my goal, and I've decided on these four:

I was *hoping* to finish up The Raven Boys before the readathon, but alas those plans did not work out. I'm on page 157 at the start of the readathon. I've also read about 16 pages from The Nethergrim. I'll update this blog post and Twitter during the 24 hours.

I also need to go for my scheduled long run tomorrow, and I'll either listen to an audiobook during the run or I'll just take a break.

Good luck! Can't wait to spend the day reading with all of you :)

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Friends, I am reading from Ontario, Canada where it is a gray, sleepy day so far :) 

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Finishing up The Raven Boys! 

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Hmm probably my key lime pie greek yogurt. 

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I JUST finished school this week so I'm thrilled to be celebrating with a readathon! (Clearly, I party hard.) 

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

Hmm... I've planned a run as my mid-break which should help keep me fresh and focused.

Starting time @ 8:14 am EST
RAVEN BOYS page 157

Hour 12 Update (8:04 pm EST)
So after twelve hours of the readathon I finished:
The Raven Boys (total of 251 pages today)
The Snow Queen (1 hour 16 minutes audiobook)

Currently reading: The Chaos of Stars (126 pages in)

So far, not so bad! I likely won't hit my whole goal but I made a great dent :)

Mid-Event Survey
1. What are you reading right now?
The Chaos of Stars!

2. How many books have you read so far?
This is my third book of today.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
The Nethergrim! I love a good fantasy book and have high hopes for this one.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
A little bit, but I was mostly free already.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
No interruptions - I'm good at tuning other things out :)

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
That we're only HALFWAY through it! I won't make the whole 24 hours, but it feels like I've been reading for so long already haha.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Not yet!

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
I'm not sure if I would change anything yet.

9. Are you getting tired yet?
Yes! I can really feel it now.

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
If you aren't feeling a book, just walk away and pick up a different one! I don't fight through a book during a readathon. There's time to read it later.


Review: The Beautiful and the Cursed

The Beautiful and the Cursed (The Dispossessed #1) by Page Morgan
Release Date ~ May 14, 2013
Delacorte Books for Young Readers ~ Random House
ISBN13: 9780385743112
Review copy received from Random House Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
After a bizarre accident, Ingrid Waverly is forced to leave London with her mother and younger sister, Gabby, trading a world full of fancy dresses and society events for the unfamiliar city of Paris.
In Paris there are no grand balls or glittering parties, and, disturbingly, the house Ingrid’s twin brother, Grayson, found for them isn’t a house at all. It’s an abandoned abbey, its roof lined with stone gargoyles that could almost be mistaken for living, breathing creatures.
And Grayson has gone missing.
No one seems to know of his whereabouts but Luc, a devastatingly handsome servant at their new home.
Ingrid is sure her twin isn’t dead—she can feel it deep in her soul—but she knows he’s in grave danger. It will be up to her and Gabby to navigate the twisted path to Grayson, a path that will lead Ingrid on a discovery of dark secrets and otherworldly truths. And she’ll learn that once they are uncovered, they can never again be buried.

The Beautiful and the Cursed is an incredible gothic story with features I enjoy having in a book, yet Page Morgan includes enough fresh content to completely captivate me while reading.

The first book in The Dispossessed series is a little bit historical fiction with some paranormal elements - but most of all, it's delightfully mysterious!

  1. A paranormal story featuring gargoyles:

    I've read all sorts of paranormal books (from vampires, to faeries, to werewolves, et al) but I've yet to read a story about gargoyles. I'm also less familiar with gargoyle mythology, so this was completely new and exciting to me as a reader. It's very cool to read about, and it really set this book apart from others for me. Gargoyles are seriously underrated!
  2. Unexpected characters:

    I honestly thought that I had Ingrid and her sister Gabby all figured out at the beginning of the story, along with the main male characters. So imagine my surprise when these characters (particularly the two sisters) ended up being completely unpredictable. There's much more to them than meets the eye, and I think they are going to continue to grow and develop in latter books and I can't wait to see what incredible fighters they become by the end.
  3. A creepy, macabre storyline:

    I like my books to be a little dark, because I find them more engaging that way. The Beautiful and the Cursed definitely did not disappoint in this way! There's so much going on with the mysterious murders, and I was racing along with Ingrid and Gabby to uncover what was happening in Paris. 
I'll admit that I'm not (yet) sold on much of the romance, because it all felt rather sudden and artificial in some ways. It just felt like there was too much, way too soon. But at the same time, I still felt drawn into it and I'm looking forward to the next book in this series to find out more of what happens and how the characters grow. 

So what I want to know from you is:
You just moved in to an old creepy house in Paris. Dead bodies of young women have been turning up in the city... do you go exploring to uncover the truth? How adventurous are you?

Keep reading for some very exciting news...

The second book in the Dispossessed series, The Lovely and the Lost, is coming out on May 13, 2014 which is exciting and SOON!

But for those of you who haven't read the first book (or you just want your own hardcover), I have a signed copy from when I met Page Morgan at a Random House Canada event last year for one of you lucky, lucky readers!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Waiting on Wednesday {37} We Were Liars

Jill @ Breaking the Spine hosts this weekly meme where we can share a book that we are so excited for and are anxiously awaiting their upcoming release!

This week my WoW pick is...

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Release Date ~ May 13, 2014


A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I've heard from so many people who have already read We Were Liars, and I'm just dying to know all the secrets and twists in this book! It's so mysterious that I have to read it just to find out what everyone is talking about!

Will any of you be reading We Were Liars once it is released? Or is there just too much hype surrounding this book?


Review: The Story of Owen

The Story of Owen (Dragon Slayer of Trondheim #1) by E.K. Johnston
Release Date ~ March 1, 2014
Carolrhoda Books ~ Lerner Publishing Group
ISBN13: 9781467710664
E-galley received via NetGalley

Goodreads Synopsis:
Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival. There have always been dragons. As far back as history is told, men and women have fought them, loyally defending their villages. Dragon slaying was a proud tradition. But dragons and humans have one thing in common: an insatiable appetite for fossil fuels. From the moment Henry Ford hired his first dragon slayer, no small town was safe. Dragon slayers flocked to cities, leaving more remote areas unprotected. Such was Trondheim's fate until Owen Thorskard arrived. At sixteen, with dragons advancing and his grades plummeting, Owen faced impossible odds armed only with a sword, his legacy, and the classmate who agreed to be his bard. Listen! I am Siobhan McQuaid. I alone know the story of Owen, the story that changes everything. Listen!

As much as I love YA books, it can be so difficult to find a book that I believe would appeal to a wide variety of readers. The Story of Owen is a book that I'm confident in recommending to all types of readers; it doesn't matter the reader's gender, age, or preferred genre. I firmly believe that this is a story that can work for anyone who appreciates fiction and is looking for a good book.

  1. Just a taste of fantasy:

    Dragons play a central role in The Story of Owen, yet this book isn't pure fantasy. There's just enough appeal for readers who like fantasy, yet it's grounded in reality so that those who prefer contemporary stories are sure to enjoy this book as well (regardless of how they feel about dragons). It's this really cool blend of two genres for a book with a very unique feel to it.
  2. The most incredible relationships:

    The Story of Owen is remarkable in how it portrays a number of relationships; from Siobhan's deep friendship with Owen, to her budding rapport with Sadie, to her relationship with her parents, to Owen's relationship with the (numerous) members of his family. They were all different but reflective of real life and deeply touching. I was particularly thrilled by the friendship between Owen and Siobhan, and I loved that this wasn't really a romantic love story - it's a nice change of pace!
  3. A story about sacrifice:

    I think nearly each and every character in this book had to give up something, as evidenced by the masterful storytelling in The Story of Owen. It's heartbreaking to find out what each of these characters has sacrificed, but it's beautiful at the same time. 
I did find, however, that there was a significant amount of build up to the story and that it seemed to take a while for the plot to really move forward. There's so much background put into the development and world building that it takes a while to really establish that which makes the beginning part of the book slower than the ending. 

But I have to say that as a Canadian growing up in Southern Ontario, I loved reading a book set in my neck of the woods! It was so cool to be able to picture in my head the exact places and locations where events in the story took place. Siobhan came across as a very realistic, individual type of character. She had her own interests and voice that stood out. And it is such a beautiful story, there are so many readers who will thoroughly enjoy E.K. Johnston's debut novel!

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