In Henrietta, Virginia

Once upon a short while ago, mah gurl alerted me to a certain contest.

Raven Recap Contest

The challenge: To summarize the fantastical events of all four books in The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater – (aka, one of my very favorite series in the known universe) – in 200 words or a 1-minute video.

The prize for three lucky winners, chosen by Maggie herself: An exclusive boxed set of The Raven Cycle, plus the contest’s organizers will share the winning entries on their social platforms.

Raven Cycle, Paper Fury Insta
Photo credit to @paperfury on Instagram

I did not initially think to enter, because condensing the plot of even one novel into a 200-word back-o’-book-esque blurb is struggle enough. (I should know. I’ve only had to do it more than a dozen times for my own books.) How in the world to do it for four???

So I put the notion aside. …And then I got dragged out of bed bright and early by my muse, journaled for about an hour, and wound up with a lovely contender of a poem on my hands, fondly entitled “In Henrietta, Virginia”.

Though I hadn’t the patience to count out the words in my handwritten scribbles*, I could tell at a glance that it totaled past 200. That meant that if I wanted my little labor of love to have a shot in the contest, I’d have to call upon my inner bard and recite the poem at sparkling speed.

*(Having subsequently typed it all out, the exact word-count comes to 271.)

Video, recorded. Entry, entered. Winners – as of this post’s drafting – unannounced.

Certainly, I hope to be among the lucky three deemed a cut above the rest by an idolized author! But even if I’m not, it will be something to suppose that she saw art I made in response to hers, and that it gave her joy. After all, were I the author in Maggie’s place, I’d be giddy over a fandom scrambling to put my beloved story into new words.

Non-Stiefvater readers of the blog, meanwhile, are also perfectly welcome to watch my video (linked here!), and/or read the poem at a less break-neck pace below.

In Henrietta, Virginia

A daughter of seers knows two things for truth.

The first she’s been warned of since earliest youth –

To kiss her true love is to kill. Next, her rule:

Avoid the boys from Aglionby school

in Henrietta, Virginia.

 

She knows no temptation until she knows them

So living, so deathly – a strange constellation:

 

A young man’s form holds an ancient soul

That yearns and journeys the world over,

Desperate to discover why

He lives this second chance at life.

He knows not the depth of his wealth, nor his power,

Only the call of the legend Glendower

in Henrietta, Virginia.

 

A son of a dream dreams a world of his own,

Full of cages to rage in ‘til he reclaims home.

A boy in the dust sells his hands and his eyes.

Could this bondage help free him from family ties?

 

A mantle of green seek a waren of grey.

A poet with blood on his hands finds the way,

Along with a love and a life that he craves,

in Henrietta, Virginia.

 

Their searches converse on a line o’ the ley,

The road of the corpses who walk in the day,

But too fast start to fade, become monstrous shades,

Like nightmares that out of thieves’ dreams claw their way

into Henrietta, Virginia,

 

Where you unearth a tomb, expecting one thing,

Only to find the mad light of a tree.

Where hornets are death, unlike robotic bees,

And all could soon fall to the Unmaker’s sting.

 

Ware the words of the forest, the song of the corvids,

You mirrors, magicians, and dreams:

The way you’ve made is the Raven King’s.

<<<>>>

Any other fans of The Raven Cycle (and/or other Stiefvater works) in the da house?! If yes, how well do you think my poem captured the soul of the series? If no, has this post made you at all curious to give the books a read? All thoughts welcome in the comments!

The Year of Winging It

I’m a gal who likes to have plans on plans on plans for things as far in advance as possible.

You would not know that, based on my behavior this past year.

I. How much wood would a wood fan work if a woodwork job would work?

At year’s start, I was working a data entry job that, under a change-up in management, had grown increasingly miserable. I wanted to run, but I didn’t know where to – until, on a whim, I said, “Why not try carpentry?”

Since, y’know, I liked wood, and I heard carpenters make good money, plus it’d be skills I could take with me anywhere, meaning I wouldn’t have to feel tied down to the Chicago area.

…Once I’d completed my 4-year apprenticeship, anyway.

So began the months-long process of getting into the pre-apprenticeship program.

II. Trippin’ down the road

In the meantime, early summer found my sister and me on a road trip to—

Me: “Where you wanna go?”

Sister: “I dunno.”

Me: “Pittsburgh? I hear Pittsburgh’s nice.”

Sister: “Ok.”

Sure, there was minimal planning before we set forth. We booked our hotel rooms in advance, and mapped out a budget of roughly how much we expected to spend. But otherwise, the whole venture was explore-as-you-go. And by and large, the results were good, including walks along water, art shows and animals sanctuaries, an impromptu viewing of “Wonder Woman”, and more.

Road Trip Triptych

III. Wish granted

Not long afterward:

Me: *is depressed*

Mom: All right, none of that. I’m sending you to see “Aladdin”.

Me: !!!

And I mean, you can’t always make your brain less sad by saturating it with a dazzling onstage performance of your childhood heart’s first love. But it sure worked wonders this time!

Aladdin Onstage Triptych

IV. Will Scarlet dies smiling

Then came carpentry school and Temporary Apartment and – the year’s highlight – a visit from BFF Tirzah Duncan! Her coming was very much planned. More spontaneous was our attendance at the Wizard World comic con.

Me [scrolling on Facebook]: “Oh, hey, it’s gonna be in Chicago the weekend you arrive.”

Will Scarlet: “Wait – JOHN BARROWMAN’S going to be there?!?!?!”

Tirzah: “Ohmygosh, can we—?”

Me: “ORDERING! PHOTO OP! TICKETS! NOW!”

Will: *weeping*

John Barrowman Photo Op 2

Honestly, the Barrowman thing was an entire blog post unto itself.

V. Lightning Strikes Twice

Weeks later, I’ve dropped out of carpentry and am questioning absolutely everything about my life. But then—

Me [scrolling on Tumblr]: “Wait – MAGGIE STIEFVATER has a book tour stop in Chicago in two days?!?!?!”

Will and Tirzah: “Babe, you should totally—”

Me: “ORDERING! SIGNING LINE! TICKET! NOW!”

Maggie Stiefvater and Me

This, too, was an entire blog post unto itself.

VI. Living the dream?

Back at my parents’ house, prepping for my split-decision move to California. I knew I needed to land a paying job, so I started filling out online apps for everything from clerical gigs to warehouse work. Not that I really wanted to do any of that.

Hypothetical voice: “So what do you want to do, Danielle?”

Me: “I don’t know! Why can’t somebody just pay me to run away to the woods?!”

Yosemite National Park: “So hey, that dishwashing job in our super fancy hotel you applied for? It’s yours.”

Me: “…”

VII. What comes next:

I have no idea. There’s a month left in 2017 – the year Will Scarlet laughingly (and rightfully) dubbed my Year of Winging It. Anything could happen, particularly if my unpredictable pattern holds going into 2018 and beyond.

It’s a terrifying prospect. And yet… *looks back on it all* …just maybe it’s the life I’m meant to live.

For now.

In Which I’m Seen Ravin’ About Another Stiefvater Novel

First “The Scorpio Races”, then “The Raven Boys”, now its sequel… I think it may be time I just go ahead and call myself this author’s fan.

The Book: “The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2)” by Maggie Stiefvater.

Genre: Paranormal YA.

Blurb (as set down on the front flap of the book’s jacket): If you could steal things from your dreams, what would you take?

Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.

One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.

And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.

Ronan is one of the raven boys – a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface – changing everything in its wake.

Of The Raven Boys, Entertainment Weekly wrote, “Maggie Stiefvater’s can’t-put-it-down paranormal adventure will leave you clamoring for book two.” Now the second book is here, with the same wild imagination, dark romance, and heart-stopping twists that only Maggie Stiefvater can conjure.

My Thoughts: The short version: I want the third book a week ago, please.

The long version: Apart from the characters (which I broke down for ya back in my review of book one), my favorite thing about this book was the way the author says things. She uses language in vivid, unexpected, and often startlingly humorous ways I don’t frequently see and would rarely (if ever) think up on my own. Some small percentage of the time, her choices of phrasing and/or analogy may not quite work for me, but on the whole, I ate it up. Rather than just try to describe it, though, let me give you a taste of what I mean.

The three brothers were nothing if not handsome copies of their father… Declan had the same way of taking a room and shaking its hand. Matthew’s curls were netted with Niall’s charm and humor. And Ronan was everything that was left: molten eyes and a smile made for war.

A smile made for war… So much did that line please me when first I read it, I had to write it down by hand. Had I done so with more snippets from the book, this blog post would be largely ready to go, right now. But I didn’t, and I’m not the sort who easily memorizes what I read, so I’ll have to flip through the pages at random to pull out more quotes for you. Let’s see what grabs me next…

The first week of June, Gansey found a headless statue of a bird with king carved on its belly in Welsh. The second week, they wired a refrigerator in the upstairs bathroom, right next to the toilet. The third week, someone killed Niall Lynch. The fourth week, Ronan moved in.

That’s another trait. That matter-of-factness, never mind what an extraordinary thing has just been said. She makes everyday things poetry, and incredible things bluntly simplistic. There’s beauty in the balance.

“So what you’re saying is you can’t explain it.”

“I did explain it.”

“No, you used nouns and verbs together in a pleasing but illogical format.”

That’s what it’s like, sometimes. Not altogether logical, or logical in a way you can’t quite grasp, but somehow pleasing nonetheless.

I could search through for more examples, but my dislike for skimming would have me reading the whole book all over again – which I will someday happily do, but I am kind of trying to do other things, at the moment.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): If you’re looking for votes, you’ve got a “yes” from me. I don’t even think it’s wholly necessary for you to have read book one first (enough months had passed between my reading of each that I’d largely forgotten the details from the series opener), though obviously I liked that book, too, so there’s another “yes” vote for you; I’m just saying, it can work on its own.

My personal copies of “Dream Thieves” and “Raven Boys”.
My personal copies of “Dream Thieves” and “Raven Boys”.

Such are my thoughts on “The Dream Thieves. If you’ve got any of your own, I’d be pleased to read ‘em in the comments!

“Ravin’” or “Slightly More Organized Reactions Re: Another Book I Read”

Taking a breather, now, from talking about that book I launched the other week (*cough* “The Stone Kingdom”, buy it, it’s aweseome *cough*), so I can talk about a different book entirely.

Back in July, I had to indulge in a bit of “talking with extreme enthusiasm” about a book I picked up for no particular reason and loved. I was subsequently encouraged by friends to read a certain other of the author’s offerings and share my impressions afterward. And because I’m of the opinion that one ought to give The People what they want (within reason, if one can, and if it doesn’t appear to be more bother than it’s worth), this blog post exists.

The Book: “The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)” by Maggie Stiefvater.

Genre: Paranormal YA.

Blurb: “There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve. Either you’re his true love … or you killed him.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them – until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, and he’s 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 is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher 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 doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem. But 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.

CA.0808.raven.boys.

My Thoughts: Another book for which I didn’t bother to read the blurb before I dove in. (‘Cause I’m a rebel, y’all. Or just ‘cause I didn’t feel like dealing with any expectations, this time around.) The first half or more of the book moved rather slow, for me. I had more or less figured that this novel and I just weren’t going to connect when – at no specific point that I can pin down as “the one”, so perhaps it was just a gradual thing – the story started to gain momentum, and by the end, I was sold.

Wait. I’m a liar. I think I know the point where the change took place. Alas, it is a plot point of major spoiler proportions, so I’m afraid I can’t tell you what it is. Let’s just say it made my brain go, “Whoa!” and “Aw, man, did I see that coming?… No, can’t say that I did, but it makes freaking sense! Ooh, bravo, Stiefvater; I approve this turn of events very much,” and demand that my hands start turning pages faster.

Since this is a pretty character-driven tale (yay for those), let’s talk about my feelings regarding all those names mentioned in the blurb.

Blue. I liked her well enough. I didn’t get the sense that she was trying too hard in the way that some characters (male and female, but predominantly female) will sometimes strike me as doing. Y’know, “look at me, I’m so XYZ, hear me roar and love me for it,” or whatever. She was just being her, and didn’t do anything that made me smack my forehead and groan over the stupidity of it all, so she stayed well away from my black list.

Gansey. I appreciate that we got to see a good quarter of the story or so from his perspective (his third person perspective, mind you; the whole novel was narrated in third, which, when done well, can be every bit as intimate as first), else it might have been easy to get the wrong idea about him. As was made starkly apparent during some of his interactions with Blue, he can frequently come off as a too-glossy version of himself that isn’t a fair representation of his self as a whole. (Along those same lines, I also felt for him when he got slammed for employing an advanced vocabulary in everyday conversation, since I’ve taken my share of hits for the same, and it’s irritating as all get-out.) Predominantly, I liked him because he cared so profoundly for his friends. True Friendship is as beautiful to me as True Love. …because, after all, it is true love, just of a different kind.

Adam. His stubborn pride made me want to wash my hands of him, sometimes. It was one of those, “no, actually, I don’t get where you’re coming from, but I guess I can semi-respect it anyway,” kind of deals. And he was a nice guy, and I like nice guys, so he got points for that.

Ronan. Not a nice guy. An inscrutable jerk, actually. Fortunately, I can like that kind of guy, too, so long as I don’t have to deal with him in real life. My fave laugh-out-loud line of the book was his, but I can’t share it, as it pertains to The Game-Changing Spoiler.

Noah. I spent some while wondering when this guy was going to contribute anything I cared about to the plot. I didn’t really get him, or get why we were bothering to include him in the gang of Raven Boys. He was on the fringes, and if I’d taken more notice of that fact (which I didn’t, precisely because it all seemed so marginal), it probably would have annoyed me.

I think I ended up loving him most of all the boys.

Why? Spoiler, that’s why.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): If you can’t take the suspense anymore – (what in the name of all mercy is this ever-lovin’ spoiler I keep taunting you with?! You’re about to climb up the walls and pitch a fit on the ceiling!) – then lay hands on the book and go to town. Then join me in anticipating getting hold of “The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2)”, which came out September 17th. ‘Cause I want me some more Raven Boys, kids.

On the off chance you’re still on the fence, allow me to direct you to Maggie Stiefvater’s Top Ten Reasons to Read The Raven Cycle. If that doesn’t convince you to give the book a try, then I don’t know what to tell you.

Anyone else got any opinions on the book? Or opinions on my opinions of it? I pray you, share them below. It’s what The People want.

“Genuine” or “Random Reactions Re: a Book I Read”

I’m not sure if it’s rare or straight-up unheard of for me to borrow a library book I know zero about. Yet, for whatever reasons or lack of reasons, that’s precisely what I did with Maggie Stiefvater’s  The Scorpio Races. What, just because I read her “Books of Faerie” and liked them well enough, that means I’ll just grab anything of hers off the shelf, never mind even reading the blurb or anything? Since when is that how I roll?

The cover of the copy I read.
The cover of the copy I read.

Whatever. I regret nothing. On the contrary – I feel compelled to make a list (i.e. Lazy Danielle’s version of a[n] “actually having the reputed or apparent qualities or character” book review).

Stuff I Liked About “The Scorpio Races

– The way everyone on the island of Thisby had of addressing each other. Not just first names, not just last names, but first and last names both – Sean Kendrick, Puck Connolly (or Kate Connolly) – almost every time they said the name aloud. That struck me as kinda neat; like they’re acknowledging the genuine whole of a person instead of just a part.

– Speaking of Sean Kendrick, he’s… well, it almost feels like a hideous disservice to say he’s hot, because that’s not what he’s about. He’s deeper than that – deep and wild as the sea from which the monstrous water horses rise, yet calm in the center of it all. Whether he’s hot or not in the eye candy sense has nothing to do with his genuine self. He’s just a magnetic mystery of a man.

A way cooler cover, much more representative of the story inside.
A way cooler cover, much more representative of the story inside.

– Speaking of monstrous water horses, boy, were they ever awesome in a horrifying way. Gotta love mythical beasties. …from afar. Preferably very far.

– Characterization. Stiefvater had a real way of describing people.

As opposed to a fake way, Danielle?

Hush up. Know what I’m talking about or read the book. She had clever/amusing turns of phrase peppered throughout the narrative as well, particularly during Puck Connolly’s turns as narrator. (Not saying Sean Kendrick didn’t have his witty moments, only that wit wasn’t really his job.)

– A side-ish character that I totally felt hoodwinked into liking because I could tell that I was meant to like him, and doggone it, I did! I spent much of the back half of the book fretting that this person would die. Authors are cruel.

– The tension. On the one hand, I don’t like being tense, but on the other, it sure makes a book fly by more swiftly when you’re jittering to know how in the world everything will resolve. So props for keeping the suspense as high as the story’s stakes, Maggie Stiefvater.

– From what I’ve read her say about it, this is as especially dear a story to Maggie Stiefvater as my “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” trilogy is to me, so my heart is happy for her in the “sincerely and honestly felt or experienced” sense of genuine.

– The ending. No, I’m not going to tell you anything about it, what do you take me for? Just be informed that I deemed it satisfying (and genuine, in that it did not feel stupidly contrived), and leave it at that.

So, yeah. Really good book. Guess I’ll add that to the unwritten list of books I seriously need to buy, one of these days (looking at you, “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern and… shoot, I always on-and-off remember the other one. It’ll come to me again later*. And maybe then I’ll actually bother to write it down).

Anyone else read it? Liked/disliked it? Heard about it, somewhere? Happen to psychically intuit that book I’m forgetting?

*“Bruiser” by Neal Shusterman, perhaps? It’s either that, or I keep forgetting two…

**(Weeks later, I kid you not) AHA! It’s “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein! Thanks to this Top 10 Tuesday post over at Between The Lines for jogging my memory…even if Krystal only mentioned it to explain why it wasn’t her cup of tea. X)

*** On a completely different note, there’s still a bit of time left to enter my 200th follower giveaway! Comment here with a fond memory of your time spent here at Ever On Word for a chance to win the prize!