The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1), Book Review

Author:Maggie Stiefvater
 Published: September 2012

Every now and again, I come across a book that makes me want to be a better writer. When language paints not just a story, but vivid, moving images in your mind.

Once I started this book, I couldn’t help but be inexplicably drawn into Blue and Gansey’s world. Into a world where magic might be a possibility, where money isn’t always power, and where the future is enormously heavy, even if you think you know what’s coming…


8093221486_58da76fdb6_z.jpg“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.


This book has had a lot of exposure in the online book community recently. I’ve seen it popping up time and time again, and while I slowly fell in love with the cover art and the sheer beauty of these books, I knew nothing about the storyline. The post that  pushed me over the edge was on Instagram by Andrew (@BritBookBoy) – his photos are simply stunning – but he had highly recommended this series and his taste in books is not only amazing, but very similar to my own. So, I went out and bought the first three books.

 


Processed with VSCOcam with a9 presetThis book had me gripped from the start. The characters, the intrigue, the mystery. I just needed to know what would happen, after the first page. Without even knowing anything about the main protagonist, or even antagonists, I needed to know. How psychic were these women? What was the significance of what they saw? Who was the boy? How would he die? And so it had sucked me in.

More than just the story though, the mystery unfolding page-by-page, I was thirsty for more information about the characters; about these crazy, weird, complicated, magical characters.

Gansey is entirely captivating. I fell in love with him almost immediately. Even though he’s rich a-hole who goes to a posh, pre-ivy league private school and almost seems programmed to be the kind of character I would usually dislike greatly. With his crazy long name with numbers (Richard Campbell Gansey III) and inability to perceive life outside of his bubble sometimes, his unwavering desire to complete his task is absorbing. You can’t help but root for him to succeed. No to mention, he speaks very proper english, and his use of language is nothing short of thrilling. But more than that, he’s so very charming. And as, unconsciously, uncaring as he may be sometimes (a ‘dick’, if you may, but don’t call him that); you kind of can’t help but want to be a part of his posse. And a part of his never-ending search.

“My words are unerring tools of destruction, and I’ve come unequipped with the ability to disarm them.”

Ronan is like a lost boy – since his father died, he’s almost not sure who he is anymore, and that makes for lots of teenage angst. He’s almost always angry, he’s easily tipped over the edge and he’s hard to get along with if you’re most people; and yet, you just want to know more. Because if you’ve ready this book through to it’s understatedly wonderful conclusion – you know there is so much more.

“Gansey had once told Adam that he was afraid most people didn’t know how to handle Ronan. What he meant by this was that he was worried that one day someone would fall on Ronan and cut themselves.”

Adam is almost the opposite of Gansey; broken and battered, Adam is the only one of the Raven Boys who can’t rely on money from his family to get him by in life. He has to work for his place at Aglionby. He has to lie and try and hide the bruises on his face. He has to sneak, and keep a low profile, and disguise his roots. Adam is mysterious, but he isn’t at the same time, and yet, you can’t help but feel a connection with Adam, and feel like he’s the normal one, the one who understands the real world, and not just the fantasy, a little more than the other boys.

“When Gansey was polite, it made him powerful. When Adam was polite, he was giving power away.”

Noah. Noah. Finding out about Noah is what kept me turning pages well into the night. Finding out about Noah is what got me through hard work days waiting to get home and pick up my book again. Finding out about Noah makes this book addictive. And no more will be said on this – so go and read this book NOW and find out about Noah.

“Noah appeared beside Blue. He looked joyful and adoring, like a Labrador retriever.”

Blue is a little strange. But that’s probably because her mother is a psychic – no, for real – and she lives with several other psychics; women who can actually, quite specifically, see things. Even if Blue can’t. Blue, who exaggerates the energy around her, drives the story forward, and holds the power of the most thrilling, and possibly important, piece of information that we are given at the very beginning of the book – in less than twelve months, Gansey will die. Aside from not really liking her name, (like Gansey, I prefer Jane) Blue herself is likeable enough, even though I didn’t really relate to her as much as I related to Gansey and Adam.

“She wasn’t interested in telling other people’s futures. She was interested in going out and finding her own.”

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Then, of course, there’s the writing. I’ve read Maggie Steifvater books before, but it was the stories that stayed with me then, not necessarily the writing. The Raven Boys however, will stay with me for both. The language, the sentences and the images that are provoked – as an English major and someone who has not only studied language and it’s use in literature, but just as someone who just loves language – this book was magical.

You don’t need to love the fantasy genre to love this book. The character development is amazing, the story is a lovely, overarching masterpiece of language, with each character having their own arch intertwined within it. I recommend this series to anyone who loves getting lost in a book, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

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.

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If you need to be enticed further, here is a fanmade vid to whet your appetite:

Seriously – we NEED Netflix to take this up – I would watch the crap out of this show.

Images: here, here, here,

Ready Player One, Book Review

Author:Ernest Cline
Published: 2011

A perfect feat of nostalgic charm, fangirl satisfaction and completely engrossing storyline.

This book has stolen my heart. It’s so wonderfully written, and so absolutely, insanely clever. It’s been a really long time since I read a book that struck so many chords in me, brought out so many emotions, and brought out a large amount of huge, no-holds-barred, fangirl grins.

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

The book follows our not-so-heroic hero, Wade. After billionaire game-creator James Halliday dies, leaving his fortune up for grabs in a virtual scavenger hunt, the world goes crazy. But when no one has found anything after five years, the competition, while not forgotten, has lost it’s momentum. That is, until Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, finds something. And that’s where the book takes off.

RP1-aestheticI was born in the 80’s and a lot of the references are things that I grew up watching, reading or loving. To have all of these things that I’ve loved in some capacity or another, as a child and an adult, feature so seamlessly in a story that was so contemporary was utterly joyous. But even so, all these great tugs at my heart strings aside, the story was completely engrossing. It started off a little slow, but once it got going, it swallowed me up and I was hooked, dying to know how our heroes would defeat the guys that you can tell were just written to be hated.

Without digging too deeply, and getting all philosophical, this book is just good old fashioned fun to read. I related to more than one of the characters and I cared enough about them to be concerned by what was happening to them – I was dragged into their world and for me that makes a good book.

In a classic battle of Good vs. Evil, and a Star Wars like charm of a rag-tag band of misfits joining in their pursuit to save the world, this book really has everything a fangirl could want and more. recommended to anyone who loves a great science fiction story with a little bit of a love story, loads of texture and a brilliant and gripping ending sequence!

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Imges via: here, here

Five Reasons Why It Doesn’t Matter Who Rey’s Parents Are In The Force Awakens

Rey is the main protagonist in the new Star Wars film, Episode VII: The Force Awakensand she is fantastic. But too many of us are fixated on where she came from instead of how amazing she is, and how well she represents women-kind the galaxy over.

Google ‘Rey, Force Awakens’ or even just ‘Rey’, and you get a truckload of results about who Rey’s parent’s are, where she came from, who else she might be related to, why she is a Jedi, and a few stories about Hasbro leaving her character out of the new Force Awakens Monopoly game (bad move, Hasbro). But what we should really be focusing on is why, as a female lead in a huge, wildly anticipated, multi-million dollar sci-fi film, she is an absolute inspiration.

I’m sure all of the Star Wars fans out there have seen The Force Awakens by now, but of course, for the sake of those who haven’t, this article contains spoilers and should be avoided at all costs if you want to keep your Force Awakens virginity intact. 

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So, a teensy bit of background info: Rey is one of the first Jedi, or at least Force sensitive characters, to come about since Kylo Ren turned on Luke Skywalker and destroyed the new Jedi Order Luke was trying to build. She was left on the desert planet of Jakku as a small child, and is desperately waiting for her family to return and find her. She is a scavenger, and scours the desert plains of the desolate planet in search of scraps to sell in exchange for food rations. She keeps to herself, in her makeshift home inside an abandoned AT-AT, and doesn’t make a fuss about it.

At least until BB-8 rolls into her life and changes all of that. And thus, Rey starts her incredible journey to find the last Jedi. And here are my five reasons why it doesn’t matter whether or not she is Luke’s, or anybody else’s, daughter, but still kicks ass all the same.

1. She looks out for herself, but still cares about others

Rey is deTeedo_Luggabeastpendant upon herself for survival. She scavenges in the dry wastelands of Jakku for scrap from the remains of abandoned Star Destroyers and Imperial Walkers, left from the Battle of Jakku, where she essentially risks her butt climbing about like a pro to find parts and trinkets for trade. Rey looks after herself, and defends herself when necessary, but she also doesn’t turn her back when others are in need, even little droids. When BB-8 gets captured by Teedo, who plans to scrap him for parts, Rey doesn’t walk away, she argues with the scavanger and frees BB-8, and then allows him to follow her and stay the night with her for safety. But her trust in the good of others, as well as her kindness, doesn’t end there, Rey also agrees to help get BB-8 back to the Resistance, in order to complete his master, Poe Dameron‘s, mission. She does this, as well as helping get Finn off Jakku, doesn’t hesistate in saving Finn when the Rathtar gets him, and helps bring down Starkiller Base as well.

2. She kicks butt, all on her own, and doesn’t whine about it

Rey is very capable of looking after herself. She even tells us this, after she and Finn meet Han Solo, and he offers her a blaster, Rey instinctively tells Han that she ‘can take care of’ herself.

And she can. She is strong, brave, and defiant, as can be seen when Unkar Plutt‘s goons try and capture BB-8 from her at the marketplace in Niima Outpost; Rey fights them off almost effortlessly, with her epic staff skills. She also masterfully convinces Stormtrooper JB-007 (Yep, a quiet nod to actor Daniel Craig, who plays this character) to release her, as she taps into her Force powers with ease. Not to mention: she totally whoops Kylo Ren’s butt in their lightsaber dual at the end of the film.

kylo renThough she doesn’t say it, Rey is, as Kylo Ren informs us, very lonely; yet she doesn’t whine about it constantly, or cry because her friends have all gone off to the academy without her (but did you really wanna attend the Imperial Academy, Luke, really?). Rey just takes it all in her stride and makes the best of the situation she’s been put in. Sure, she obviously has dreams: a family she is waiting for, a rebel pilot doll in her hideaway; but she doesn’t feel the need to vocalise it, in fact, we don’t even know about most of these issues until she is facing Ren and he is reading her innermost thoughts. She is strong, and doesn’t wear her weaknesses around like a cloak, no emotions on this girl’s sleeve, no needy damsel in distress here. She just gets on with life.

Finally, little girls the world over, who hate Barbie dolls, have a real, action role-model to look up to.

3. She can fly the Millenium Falcon

Need I really say more on this point? One of the few downfalls of Leia, as kickass as she was, was that she had to rely on the men around her to get her anywhere, and in a fantastic turn of events here, Finn needs Rey to help him get off Jakku, and she does so on the iconic ship we have all come to love so much. Rey seems to be a natural pilot, and while we’ve known a couple of Star Wars heroes to have that trait before her (*cough*AnakinandLuke*cough*), I think the lack of explanation as to why Rey is able to pilot the Falcon only adds to her complexity and pulls us in to her characters further, leaving us wanting to know more. Regardless, though, of wanting to know about her past, the scene itself leaves you immersed in the action, the suspense and the downright epic flying that Rey pulls off in this scene.

It’s definitely one of my favourite scenes from the movie, I sit and smile like a 10 year old every time I watch it. But I love that Rey isn’t perfect, she doesn’t take off without a hitch, and she doesn’t act like she knows exactly what she’s doing; she’s a little unsure of herself, but brave enough to do what needs to be done.

4. She doesn’t need a man to guide her (or even hold her hand)

And being able to fly herself around, leads817104a68b82fc166ab93ea72fb5c255.jpg to another of Rey’s great traits, as previously mentioned, she doesn’t rely on the male characters for much at all. In fact, she tells Finn more than once to let go of her hand because she is more than capable of looking after herself. She can fight, she can fly, she can escape capture – all without the help of her male counterparts, the traditional ‘heroes’ of the universe. Even when Finn, Han and Chewie do show up to rescue her from Starkiller Base, she has already managed to get herself out of their clutches using her new-found mind-control powers, and they bump into her rounding a corner in a corridor, not even really needing their help. Even when faced with Kylo Ren in the final battle, as he tells her she needs a teacher and he can train her in the ways of the force, Rey still looks inside herself for the answers, for the strength to defeat him.

There really isn’t any strong point in the film, where Rey shows a need to be helped, saved, protected or guided by one of her male counterparts. I’m not saying that she’s an uber-feminist who looks down on men, or anything of the sort, but rather that The Force Awakens puts forward three new protagonists and holds them all in equal stead. And this is fantastic; while Leia was an amazing step forward, for female characters in sci-fi and fantasy, and for women in Hollywood at the time, it’s high-time a female lead could hold her own in a huge sci-fi blockbuster.

5. She can fill Han Solo’s boots, or Luke’s perhaps, whether or not she is related to either of them

Chewie isn’t always the easiest of characters to get along with, beat him at chess and he may very well rip your arms out of their sockets, but for reasons we aren’t necessarily aware of, he likes Rey. And at the end of the film we see them become co-pilots as they head off into uncharted space to find Luke. And she does. This is where we leave our protagonist, atop a cliff, in the wind, surrounded by ocean, facing the only known surviving Jedi Master, and not saying a word. Here, again, her defiance shows, and Luke can see it in her, he sees the good in her, the fight, much like he once saw in Han. She knows the Force, even if she does have a lot of training ahead of her, and she knows the good in the universe and is willing to fight for it. She IS the Heroine of our generation, and I’m certainly glad that Disney went with a strong female lead for this film.

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As far as main characters go, Rey is definitely one of my new favourites, and as heartbroken as I am over losing Han; I feel comfortable knowing we have such strong new characters to carry us forward. While I know that Finn is a more likely stand-in for a Han type character moving forward, Rey is now the captain of the Millenium Falcon, and that must mean something! If nothing else, it just means she is pretty damn awesome.


FORCE-AWAKENS-POSTER-final-low-resSo yes, Rey’s past is a mystery, for now. We know that we wont be getting any of these answers until at least December 2017 when Episode VIII is released, and that Disney and the films creators wanted it this way, as even Rey herself refers to her past as a ‘big secret’. But these are just a few of the reasons I think that Rey is still a complete, intriguing, kickass character, who is a brilliant role model for young girls, and a pleasure to watch on screen. Regardless of where she came from, I’m am super excited to see where Rey goes next.

Images via: here, here, here, here, herehere, here

 

Disney Infinity 3.0 – Rise Against the Empire playset Review

DISNEY INFINITY 3.0 on XBOX ONE

© DISNEY. © DISNEY/PIXAR. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 
STAR WARS © & ™ LUCASFILM LTD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. USED UNDER AUTHORIZATION

So I recently purchased a copy of Disney Infinity 3.0 – if you haven’t played this game before, Disney describe it as:

Heroes and villains. Sorcerers and superheroes. Princesses and pirates. For generations, Disney storytelling and Marvel adventures have sparked our imaginations with characters and worlds of magic, action and adventure. Now, Disney Infinity invites you and your family to enter those worlds in game experiences only Disney, Marvel – and your imagination – can bring to life. Click the video below for a glimpse of the excitement you’ll share.


So essentially, you can play in the toybox as any of the characters available to purchase, but you can also play the playsets which hold specific worlds, such as Avengers or Star Wars, which have their own specific characters that can play in them.

And so of course, what with the new release having a huge focus on Star Wars, I decided to go ahead and buy the new starter pack, featuring the Star Wars™: Twilight of the Republic Play Set. This set came with Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano. While this was a nice, sturdy beginning, I still wanted to expand my horizons a little more, so I went ahead and purchased Master Yoda, and Sabine Wren from Star Wars Rebels as well. When I found out that there was also a play set with Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, I couldn’t help myself, and sourced an early copy from eBay.

Be warned, that the following review does contain some spoiler information for this play set. 

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This review is for the Rise Against the Empire play set. I have compiled a video of gameplay, locations, and the cool, fun things you can do in this play set. It has a really neat original trilogy feel, while still having the fun Clone Wars style animation. And while it is a very condensed version of our favourite trilogy, it still has all the key moments that make the game super fun to play for fans of any age.

Here is a video of gameplay, locations, activities and storyline I have put together to correspond with this review:

The game is a mix of ground based activities, missions and exploration, and a little bit of flying; you can take to space in your Millennium Falcon or X-Wing any time you like, and practice shooting down Tie Fighters, or make your way back and forth between the planets which you’ve already travelled to. This means that you can play the whole story chronologically, or jump back and forth to explore, or complete missions you didn’t finish on your first play through. This makes it particularly versatile for if you want to play with a friend, who might not have seen one, or all, of the planets you’ve already visited.

The gameplay has two main types: Flying and Ground missions, with a lot of added exploration.

The flying gameplay, as much fun as flying the Falcon is when you’re just zooming around, exploring space; isn’t necessarily as easy as it seems. I’ve never really gotten the knack for flying and aiming at the same time, but dodging and escaping enemies is still an awful lot of fun. Flying the X-Wing has a little more oomph to it, and is a bit easier to maneuver. Overall, while flying is fun, I personally found the missions a little frustrating.

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The exploration gameplay, on the other hand, is pretty awesome. It has quite a lot of free roam, and lots of ways to find secrets and hidden goodies. You can climb up buildings, slide along ropes to other buildings and run along rooftops, treetops, and ice glaciers. It has a basic, fun and fluid ‘Assassin’s Creed’ style to it, but gives you quite a lot of freedom to explore these locations that we have already become so familiar with.

The play set takes place in three main locations, all of which are covered in the video above. Tatooine, Hoth and Endor.

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Tatooine: Mos Eisley in particularly, but you can also roam around to find the likes of Jabba’s Palace and the Sarlacc Pitt. You can ride around on a Bantha which is really cute, albeit a little slow. But if fast is what you’re after, you can always jump in a land speeder and zoom your way around. This Jawa made me smile with his not so subtle Skyrim reference!

wampaHoth: There isn’t an awful lot of things to do on Hoth in regard to exploration, but you can of course, you can zip around on a TaunTaun. My favourite part was fighting the Wampas, needless to say I died a few times, those guys are tough! This location has it’s peak as you make your escape and take down the AT-ATs!

endorEndor:  Just as you would expect, Endor is kind of beautiful. It has is such a lovely lush feel after the cold barrenness of Hoth. And of course, there are Ewoks. They aren’t very detailed, more like little children’s Lego figures, but still cute none-the-less. There are some more cool places to explore here, such as the treetops and the Scout Trooper camp. Not to mention, riding a speeder at top speed!

The Storyline sticks somewhat to the original trilogy, but of course is condensed for the purposes of a short, streamlined play set within the larger game that makes up Disney Infinity. But your favourite characters are still their good, old selves, with Leia’s levelheadedness, Han’s contempt and Luke’s whining. For the most part, it’s as you would expect, you shut down tractor beams, you fly the Falcon and you face off with Vadar; but it’s still a hellova lot of good, old-fashioned fun!

The Figurines:  There are still several figures that aren’t available yet (in Australia anyway). These include Luke and Leia, who come with the Rise Against the Empire playset, Han Solo and Chewbacca, Darth Vadar and Darth Maul – these are due to be released in Australia on the 8th of October. There is also a limited edition Boba Fett figurine, currently only available as part of the Playstation 4 buddle pack.

All-in-all, I think that this addition to Disney Infinity’s already impressive spread is a very well planned, well made and all-encompassing win; it has most of the things the fans will have hoped for, and is fun and engaging for the new generations as well. I recommend any Star Wars fan to play this game!

Millennium-falcon-icon Millennium-falcon-icon Millennium-falcon-icon Millennium-falcon-icon Millennium-falcon-icon   5/5 Falcons!


You can find all the official information for this play set on the Disney Infinity website, HERE.

You can watch the announcement trailer and see more images of the game HERE .

Images: here, (the screenshots are my own, taken from my  own gameplay.)

Video: Created by me using gameplay footage taken from my own play through of the play set. The game, it’s characters, storylines, locations and everything else contained within, are property of Disney.

Teaser… Disney Infinity 3.0 Review, coming soon!

So I recently purchased the latest version of Disney Infinity, version 3.0.

I am currently working on a review for the game, which will have a lot of footage and cute in-game easter eggs and things, which are going to take a bit more game play and editing to make it as awesome as this game deserves it to be, so for now, I just wanted to tease you all with a short clip from the Mos Eisley section of the Rise Against the Empire playset. Enjoy!

So riding a Bantha is super cute, and the exploration in the game alone can bring days and days of entertainment, let alone the awesome and fun storylines and more involved gameplay. Hope to bring you my full reviews of this game soon!

I will be reviewing three separate aspects of the game, the Toybox, the Star Wars™: Twilight of the Republic Play Set, and the Star Wars™: Rise Against the Empire Play Set. And of course, the Star Wars™: The Force Awakens™ Play Set when it comes out at the end of the year!

Not to mention, this game has some of the most kick-ass female characters in several galaxies!

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Image via: here, here,

Video: recorded myself on Xbox one, username Felix Turtle