The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.14

Summary:

So here’s the thing. Irish universities do this thing where they give all the students “reading week,” which is to catch up on studies and decompress from midterm essays being due, etc. Instead of doing what was recommended, I went traveling for a week to 3 separate countries and, needless to say, was behind on work. Couple that with a general anxiety disorder and the mental block that builds up when I don’t do something for a while, and you can understand why it’s been almost a month since I’ve posted anything.

But I’m back! Forcing myself to do this! Getting back into the swing of things is going to be tough but I’m really going to try to get these going regularly and post some travel/general life updates, since I was enjoying doing those as well. And hey, why not tell you about the books I’m reading? Content™, folks, I’m going to try and create it.

What better way to ease myself back into The Raven Cycle than with a chapter about the women of Fox Way? Here we go.

Emily from a month ago post-it-noted that this is it, this is the kind of chapter that sets this series apart from so many others. All the characters are rich, including the side characters and the parents. Finding parental figures with personalities other than the generic “overbearing” or “free-spirited” is near impossible, and Maura Sargent alone would be a treasure. Having Calla and Persephone makes this book a winning lottery ticket.

So, the plot: the women are bored. They’re going to test the limits of how psychic they are. We love them for it.

On days off, when the mixed drinks emerged, it often became a game. Maura, Calla, and Persephone scavenged the house for magazines, books, cereal boxes, old decks of tarot cards—anything with words or images… Maura called it continuing education. Calla called it turning tricks. Persephone called it that thing we could do if there’s nothing on television?

Calla is drunk (we’re happy for her). Persephone isn’t (Persephone doesn’t need us to be sad for her, because she’s sad for herself). Before we can see about Maura’s mental state, the doorbell rings, and in walks the Gray Man. He doesn’t want a reading, which is refreshing. He says he’s doing research for a novel. Nobody believes him.

The women let him stay because he can recite poetry, and they give him alcohol because he can recite it in the original Old English. The Gray Man is very handsome, so the conversation is very flirty, especially on Maura’s part. They eventually decide that it’s time to impress him, and this is when we realize how good at their jobs these three women really are.

“Would you do the honor, Mr. Gray?” Maura handed him the deck of cards. “You’ll have to ask ‘top or bottom’.”

Mr. Gray gravely accepted the responsibility. He asked Calla, “top or bottom?”

“Three of cups. And top, of course,” Calla said, her smile plum and wicked. “The only place to be.”

Hell yeah.

Calla and Maura trade correct predictions on which card is at the top or the bottom of the deck. Persephone raises the stakes (and becomes queen of the observable world) when she says the king of swords is 16 cards from the top and she’s right. Legend.

She’s also right about the fact that the king of swords is Mr. Gray’s card:

“The king of swords is a very powerful card. He’s strong, but impartial—cold. He is very, very good about making decisions based on facts instead of emotion. No, it’s not a terrible card. But I’m picking up something else off it. Something like…”

“Violence,” Calla finished.

Once they’re done reading him for filth, the Gray Man admits he’s a hit man with little to no prompting. There’s a moment of shock, everyone gets over it, and they all have another drink and a nice conversation. When the Gray Man asks Maura out, she says yes. It’s all very civilized, until he leaves and you find out that Calla stole his wallet.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I love this chapter. I mean, I already talked about it being a gem just due to the amazing side characters that this book gives us, but as a chapter? As a way to humanize the Gray Man and make him a deeper and more complex antagonist who’s not very antagonizing at all? Simply amazing.

I want you all to think back to book one, where we had that absolutely nasty chapter in which Barrington Whelk came into 300 Fox Way without an appointment and demanded a reading. He was a prick. I was uncomfortable. I did not like reading that chapter and I didn’t like talking about it. This chapter is basically a thesis paper on why the Gray Man is infinitely preferable to Barrington Whelk, and it got an A.

I’m a fan of all the flirting that Maura does being connected to violent threats and meaningful glares. Only Maura would flirt with a known hitman. The morality of these women is both fluid and amazing. Also, I’m never particularly afraid for Blue’s life, because I truly do believe that the Gray Man would get himself killed before he ever laid a finger on Blue. I also believe that, after witnessing this interaction, he’s not malicious and wouldn’t hurt Blue unless there was money in it for him. The ethics of that are sketchy, but at least he didn’t kill his roommate because Daddy’s credit cards stopped working, you know?

The last thing I have to say on this topic is that Persephone is a Virginian Luna Lovegood. Go ahead, try and change my mind. You can’t. Because I’m right. That’s all I wanted to say.

Best Character Moment:

He did absolutely nothing to make his words easier to accept. It was impossible to tell if he was asking them to believe him or to humor him or to fear him. He merely laid out this confession and waited.

Finally, Maura said, “might be nice to have someone deadlier than Calla in the room for a change.”

Best Turn of Phrase:

At that moment, the doorbell rang. Maura swore delicately: one well-chosen and highly specific word. Calla swore indelicately: several more words with rather fewer syllables.

Action: Ah, the action present in inaction *chef’s kiss* 7/10

Magic: I don’t even need to explain myself. 12/10

Comic Relief: Drunk Calla and Persephone watching Maura violently flirt with a hit man should be a Netflix Comedy special. 10/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.13

Summary:

This chapter begins with probably one of the most relatable sentences Stiefvater has ever written:

Blue very much liked having the boys over to her house.

Dude! Me too! Have the boys over every chapter!

We get an explanation about why this is that involves how she sees the boys differently when they’re in a space that’s definitively hers, especially since around her family she can’t lay claim to it the way she can around an outsider. It’s hard to be a human battery in a room full of psychics, something we so often forget about Blue.

Only Gansey and Adam are visiting today. Ronan is somewhere else and Noah is elsewhere, so after a quick Gansey OOTD (green shirt, fancy coffee, restless energy) we get right down to business. They’re trying to decide whether or not today is the day they go back to Cabeswater, and there’s two sides: team “there are rules regarding the energy that we don’t understand, so it’s too dangerous and we shouldn’t go”, and team “who cares we’re going anyways.” Can you guess which one comes out on top?

[Maura] would see a rich boy dressed and coiffed like a newscaster—but his eyes were like the dreaming pool in Cabeswater. He hid the insatiable wanting well, but now that she’d seen in once, she couldn’t stop seeing it. But he wouldn’t be able to explain it to Maura.

And he would never really have to explain it to Blue.

There are some fun side plots, like the consumption of Maura’s horrible-tasting psychic tea and, as with every Blue POV, finding Gansey’s vulnerability attractive, but the fact remains that this is a Decision Chapter and the decision has been made. Calla has something to say about it, but Blue and Gansey are teenagers, so there’s no reason for them to listen.

Blue and Gansey both remember Adam at the same time. Gansey takes the opportunity to ask Blue about the murderkiss as promised. Actually, he calls it “that no-kissing curse thing,” which is a mouthful and made me really glad I invented the term murderkiss. It really rolls off the tongue.

They have a small, heated argument during which Blue tries really hard to pretend like she isn’t attracted to Gansey and fails miserably. Instead of facing her failure she runs outside to inform Maura they’ll be going to Cabeswater as soon as Ronan arrives, and to ask about the scrying bowl in the attic. Maura lies, Blue calls her out on it, and then Maura admits to using it to look for Butternut (the colloquial term for Blue’s absent father).

Because they forgot about Adam again, Blue’s surprised when she catches Maura and Call looking at him. My post-it note here said “Adam!!!! Bby boi!!!!!” which I think is most people’s reaction to any mention of Adam Parrish, but certainly not Blue’s.

He sat in the reading room by himself, the diffuse morning light rendering him soft and dusty. He had removed one of the three tarot decks from its bag and lined all of the cards face up in three long rows. Now he leaned on the table and studied the image on each, one at a time, shuffling on his elbows to the next when he was through. He looked nothing like the Adam who’s lost his temper and everything like the Adam she had first met. That was what was frightening, though—there’d been no warning.

The grown-up psychics decide someone needs to talk to him, and Calla announces it won’t be her. There’s a lovely train wreck analogy in which Adam’s described as a derailment, because he’s taking quite a bit of time to come off the tracks, but he’s coming off nonetheless. Because they’re psychic, I assume they knew that Adam could hear them the whole time.

He has a very healthy response to the whole derailment issue: “that would mean I was on the tracks to start with.” Sad and self-aware, that’s our Adam.

And then, probably my favorite part of the whole chapter, which I will copy below as not to mar it with my poor summarizing skills.

Gansey appeared beside Blue in the doorway. He shook his empty bottle at her.

“Fair trade,” he told her in a way that indicated he had selected a fair-trade coffee beverage entirely so that he could tell Blue that he had selected a fair-trade coffee beverage so that she could tell him Well done with your carbon footprint and all that jazz.

Blue said, “Better recycle the bottle.”

Whatever works, Blue. Whatever works.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I love this chapter with a particular fierceness because it looks both backwards and forwards at some of my favorite Blue and Gansey moments (known to fandom as Bluesey, which is a very cute name).

Blue is surprised when Gansey refers to her using her real name because she’s so used to Jane. That’s amazing. That’s adorable. I’m going to shut up about it before y’all get annoyed with me. Then, we get the first appearance of Blue and Gansey’s romantic yogurt consumption. I know, I know. You’re asking: how the hell can yogurt consumption be romantic?

Well, when it’s yogurt with fruit on the bottom and one person likes the yogurt and one person likes the fruit and they share the experience of consuming a delicious and nutritious snack, how can you not pass out at the pure and unadulterated romance? That’s right, you can’t.

And then, lastly, it’s the way that Blue and Gansey interact. With Adam, Blue completely freezes. Unless she’s angry, she loses any semblance of character she previously had. Instead, when she’s with Gansey, it’s very Elizabeth and Darcy. They have these quick, witty conversations that start with one of them (usually Blue) angry and end with both of them laughing. An example:

“Isn’t every female relative of yours in this house somewhere?”

Blue whispered furiously. “Don’t be un-un—“

“Couth? Uncouth?”
“Disrespectful! My grandmothers are both dead.”

“Well, Jesus. What did they die of?”

“Mom always said ‘meddling’.”

That’s how you develop a romance, people.

(We are going to ignore the plot-hole of Blue knowing how or when Artemus’s mother died because it’s small and insignificant, but I do want to brag about my knowledge of the series by pointing it out. So, I guess we’re not going to ignore it. I’ll shut up now.)

Overall, my feelings about this chapter can be summed up in one sentence: Thank God, we’re going to Cabeswater.

Best Character Moment:

Gansey took a drink of his healing tea. Maura’s chin jutted as she observed the lump of It heading down his throat. His face remained precisely the same and he said absolutely nothing, but after a moment, he made a gentle fist of his hand and thumped his breastbone.

“What did you say that was good for?” he asked politely.

Best Turn of Phrase:

Gansey completely forgot they were being secretive and let out a tremendous laugh. It was a powerful thing, that laugh. He only did it once, but his eyes remained shaped like it.

Action: The promise of future action is enough for me. 7/10

Magic: I don’t think Maura’s tea quite did the trick. And anyways, she spent the whole chapter being distinctly unhelpful. 4/10

Comic Relief: Gansey insinuated that Blue’s family keeps the male relatives live in the basement! Classic comedy! 11/10

The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown

I spent last weekend at Dept. Con 5, which was billed as Dublin’s biggest YA convention. I found out about it on Instagram, where I follow Savannah Brown because I admire most everything she does and love looking at pictures of her cat (whose name is Ladybug—amazing! Unprecedented! 10/10!). Having never been to a convention of any sort, starting out in Dublin was probably a smart move. It was a relatively small crowd that seemed to have a good sense of community; the Irish writers had friends in the audience and stuck around to hear their fellow authors speak on their work. I can’t say I loved every second of it because I get tired and hungry pretty fast, but let’s say I loved exactly 5/6 of it. That’s a pretty good ratio, so shoutout to Dept. Con 5, which is where I bought my copy of The Truth About Keeping Secrets.

I binge read it in one night and now I’m here to talk to you about it! I know, I know, it came out a while ago, but at least I’m within the same year of publication. That’s better than I usually do. Without further ado, I’m going to stop telling you about my life story and move into talking about the book (I’m going to try and be as spoiler-free as possible, but no promises. If you’re ride-or-die on knowing nothing, I would stop reading here).

It starts off with the image of Sydney’s father lying in his coffin. If you think this is morbid, you’re right. Welcome to The Truth About Keeping Secrets, where the book is about “death, grief, gay” (by the author’s own admission). The setting is small town Ohio, which doesn’t particularly need an introduction. As someone who’s spent a meager two weeks there, those words send a visceral reaction of being held in a vise-grip of community that knows everything about you and can make you feel simultaneously overexposed and incredibly alone.

Sydney’s father was the only therapist in town, and he died in a car crash that Sydney can’t quite believe was an accident. I haven’t written many funeral scenes in my own writing, but when I do the eulogies are always Fault in Our Stars level beautiful and poetic, exactly what the reader needs to hear to get the waterworks going. Brown is supremely brave in not taking that route: Sydney’s eulogy about her dad is stuttering and uncomfortable and implies that maybe one of her father’s patients killed him over a secret. While she’s talking, the Homecoming Queen shows up, and Sydney can’t figure out why.

So that’s the set-up. I wouldn’t say it’s a simple plot, but it’s straightforward. Sydney gets a vaguely threatening and homophobic anonymous text, she reacts, she tries to figure out what’s going on with her father. But the strength of this book isn’t necessarily in the plot. You could call it a thriller but I wouldn’t say that. This is simply Sydney’s story, complete with grief and anxiety and the unique pain of falling in love.

The best parts were towards the beginning, when Sydney was given pages and pages and pages in which to grieve.

The terror of it all was almost funny. Truly. The pain was ludicrous, completely unreasonable, completely alien; I found it impossible to believe that this sort of feeling could even exist, that the boundaries of human suffering extended this far. As I collapsed back into bed, I realized that, if good and bad feelings lived together on a scale, I’d never experience the good equivalent of the badness I was feeling. Ecstasy lives somewhere in the clouds but misery tunnels, deep, deep, to the centre of the Earth and out the other side.

Cockroach flesh. Itchy insides, fingernail-peeling. Pins and needles everywhere, inside, outside, upside down.

It’s not grief captured on a page, but it’s as close as I’ve ever seen.

The story moves beyond this, because it has to in order to keep any semblance of a plot. We move through time fairly quickly, once June is introduced: the Homecoming Queen with a secret, one of Sydney’s father’s patients who takes a particular interest in her. She starts driving Sydney to school, helping her deal with the grief. We can see Sydney falling in love with her and I don’t know about you, but I was chanting “remember her boyfriend, Sydney,” because close female friendships are a minefield of gay pain and Sydney’s been through too much already.

Of course she didn’t listen to me.

June took a breath and spoke, totally devoid of emotion, like she was reading off a grocery list. “I don’t like myself very much.”

How? I said that out loud too. “How?” It wasn’t patronizing, but it wasn’t really meant to be encouraging, either; it just didn’t compute. How could a girl like that not like herself? And then after, without thinking, I told her. “You’re everything.”

June pretended not to have heard. “I just don’t.”

The emotional buildup to this relationship does its job well. It happens slowly, it doesn’t come out of nowhere, Sydney considers how unhealthy it might be and how ill-advised. The foil set up for June, Sydney’s childhood friend Olivia, does her job well. June and Sydney choose each other over the whole middle of the novel.

That and the fact that Sydney has started attending a support group, and meets Leo, who never felt fully real to me which is why I’m not going to talk about him much. He was one of the weaker characters, unfortunately, because he had a lot of potential, but he did end up feeling a little flat. In the end, though, I was just glad Sydney was making more friends. She needed them.

Meanwhile, the thriller plot hasn’t gone away. Whoever is harassing Sydney continues to escalate, nobody believes her when she says something is wrong, classic YA. What changed the game for me was the ending.

I didn’t see the “who” coming. We’re given a beautiful red herring that’s executed perfectly, the clues are there when you comb back through the novel. My main issue with the ending was that it wasn’t given the space to breathe. I think Brown was trying to make a statement with the consequences of the harrasser’s actions, and I agree that 100% happy ending would have felt unrealistic. However, the scene at graduation felt gratuitous. I spent twice as much time thinking about the logistics of it, the outrageousness of the spectacle, than I did feeling any sort of satisfaction at the outcome.

During her panel, Brown said that she and her editor went back and forth over the ending a couple of times. I wouldn’t say the ending ruined the book, but I felt like the author had an endpoint in mind for Sydney’s emotional state, but not much else. If she’d given it 30 more pages, I think it a lot of the problems I had with it could have been eliminated. That said, me calling it “the weakest part of the book” is a totally relative statement. I loved this book. I loved Sydney’s voice, I loved the care taken with regards to representation and diversity, I loved how human and flawed all these characters seemed.

I’m not going to include a quote from the end of the book because I want whoever’s reading this to grab a copy from their local library and read it themselves! It’s somehow both a quick read and a deep one. It has emotional impact but it won’t leave you laid up in bed all day. All the perfect markers of a YA book. And you can support a lovely young creative person who was incredibly kind when I was a nervous wreck at her signing!

Read the book! Only good things will come of it.

a day in cork

Turns out I really do like talking about the places I’ve been since I learned how to buy train tickets online! Who would’ve guessed? So I’m back to talk about the trip I took to Cork, which I enjoyed despite the time crunch of needing to be back at the train station to catch the 20:25.

(orange houses!!!!! these are only here because i appreciate a neighborhood that knows how to coordinate a theme)

Cork is around a 3 hour train ride from Dublin. It would’ve been much faster if we hadn’t stopped at 20 stations in between, but then I wouldn’t have been able to see the cows and sheep as we slowed down, which would’ve been a huge missed opportunity. I also sat next to some interesting characters, but if odd train company is what you’re looking for in a day trip, my experience was down to luck. Whether you call chatty seatmates good luck or bad luck is down to you.

Now, I’m traveling with a group of English majors from my home university, so after walking around and getting first impressions of the city, we went immediately into a used bookstore to browse for half an hour. I have to say, it was a lovely bookstore. I’m not used to seeing many secondhand bookstores in America but here they seem to be everywhere, and it’s one of my favorite things about living abroad.

(if it seems like all I do is take pictures of aesthetically pleasing bookshelves, you’re correct. it is all I do)

Beyond bookstores, my friends and I were interested in food and art and pretty much nothing else. The English Market was nice because the man who sold me a bagel with smoked salmon also sold me an apple sponge that had enough powdered sugar on the top to suffocate a grown man. There’s a park just outside that we ate in, valiantly fending off the seagulls, that was sunny and nice and had a fountain with no water that we sat on.

As for art, there was a pretty small gallery that had an exhibition on stained glass and a movie about Caribbean immigrants that was confusing and interesting. I wasn’t so sure about all of the plaster casts of famous sculptures on the ground floor, but I did enjoy the collection of paintings they had on the second floor. A game I like to play in museums is to ask everyone I’m with which painting they would Goldfinch. Goldfinch (v.), meaning, which painting would they take if the museum exploded and they had one free pass. I’ve noticed saying the phrase “if the museum exploded” in front of the security staff hasn’t made me any friends, but it’s a good game if you’re find yourself in a gallery with nothing to do.

(this photograph was strongly enhanced by the fact that I was playing the pride and prejudice 2005 OST through my headphones. would highly recommend)

There was also a flea market going on, which, in my quest to become broke, I explored thoroughly. I spent a lot of time dialing phone numbers on a broken rotary phone and explaining to my friends that 911 was chosen as the U.S. emergency number for its speed and ease to dial. They were shocked. The phone entertained us for far longer than I’m willing to admit. On to the next activity.

(all jokes aside, I almost bought the rotary phone. it was amazing and I don’t regret any of the time we spent together)

By far my favorite thing to do when I travel (besides buying books I don’t need) is explore religious buildings. In Ireland, those are overwhelmingly churches and cathedrals, where for a small fee you can walk inside and admire the stained glass, stonework, and whisper to your friends because it feels rude to speak at a regular volume inside a church.

The church we went to was called St. Anne’s and for around 4 euro we were allowed up and into the bell tower, where they conveniently left a songbook so we could play Ode to Joy on the church bells for the whole town. My friends pointed out that it probably gets annoying, hearing tourists play the same songs over and over again, especially since it took us a while to get good at it. I pointed out that she only said that after we’d been yanking on the bells for ten minutes, and it was probably too late.

(sorry, townspeople! although I was in my high school band for a year so it probably wasn’t that bad)

The best thing about St. Anne’s, though, is that if you keep going up they have an observation deck and then if you go down they have a churchyard where families come to play with their children and dogs. We spent a lot of time on the observation deck making noises at birds and looking at Cork spread below us, but we spent even more time in the churchyard, lying on the grass and reading. I met a dog named Benji and was witness to a bunch of kids chasing a soccer ball for hours. It was one of the most relaxing afternoons I’ve spent in Ireland.

(we climbed to the top of a church to look at another church)

I’m not going to pretend that I have any restaurant recommendations or that I’m a seasoned traveler who knows exactly what I’m doing and can rate this city on a scale of 1 to 10. I do know that I had a lovely time and took plenty of pictures that haven’t yet seen the light of day and deserve to.

So, that was my day in Cork. We got dinner and a pint or two, headed back to the train station where I left my phone in the bathroom and had it returned to me by a nice group of girls dressed to go out, and went back to Dublin.

Okay! That’s everything! Thanks for coming to my TED talk and visit Cork because the people were nice and the church was beautiful (I could say that about every city in Ireland, but it’s true for Cork too! Promise).

life update (again)

I know that I literally posted one of these a little while ago, but in that time I have traveled 3200 miles and crossed one (1) ocean in order to start my semester abroad in Ireland! So this whole new country new culture new taste of Guinness thing has me pretty busy, and I don’t have the motivation to write anything fun. Just a disclaimer, if that’s what you came here for.

I’ve been spending the majority of my food money at the secondhand book shop across the river, which is basically a library with the late fees up front. Or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself. But other than that I haven’t been doing many things with books, since a lot of the new young adult stuff that I would get from my library at home and then endeavor to review here hasn’t made its way up to the secondhand section of the bookstore, and I’m simply not willing to buy anything new, so instead of doing that I thought I’d start a little travel series!

I’ve been to a bunch of places in Ireland already, since I’m trying to travel mostly within the country, but I will be traveling more as the term goes on. If I like writing about places I’ve been, I’ll do more, and if I don’t, then I’ll stop doing them altogether. Either way, you’ll see whatever I can manage to put together and either you’ll like it or you won’t. That’s how it goes.

To start with something easy, I’m going to tell you about Dublin! Yay, Dublin.

I live in a small apartment with people from my college that’s like a 25 minute walk from most of the fun places in the city. That means I end up taking the bus a lot, which I would like more if I hadn’t been in the splash zone of a rogue lad as he threw up last night. That’s university, I suppose.

(This is Dame Street. It has pretty red buildings and pedestrians with no sense of personal space and wheely bags.)

As a human being, the most important things I do are eat and sleep. I’m not going to show you where I sleep because (a) I don’t think you care and (b) it’s not clean right now, but I WILL show you a meal that I cooked! I made twice baked potatoes and salad for my whole apartment and although it’s not the best looking meal, it tasted good and I made it with love, so. We’re calling it a win.

(I bought this plate for a single euro and I’m so in love with it that I want to take it home. Will it fit in my suitcase? We’ll find out!)

Other than that, pretty much all I do is walk around, go to class, buy groceries, and visit museums. And buy books I can’t afford, but my dad reads this blog, so I’m going to try and stop mentioning it. Someone take away my tram card, and I’ll stop going across the river to buy literature, but until then… I’m an ocean away, who’s going to stop me?

(Pictured above is my fun shopping list, a street I don’t know the name of, an aesthetically pleasing bookshelf at my favorite bookstore, and the weird architectural juxtaposition right outside the Chester Beatty Library)

To finish off this lovely life update, I’d like to say that I’m doing all right! Certainly missing Cool Ranch Doritos, but everything else has been okay, and I’ve been making do with Salt and Vinegar Taytos. Be back with another chapter update soon!

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.12

Summary:

In the beginning of this chapter, for an exceptionally lovely page and a half, we are thrust back into 300 Fox Way. It’s been so long that I almost forgot what their house number was, which is a travesty. I promise it will never happen again.

But, as things go at Fox Way, this is a pretty quiet morning. We’re mostly concerned with Blue’s summer reading and its subsequent interruption as her Aunt Jimi comes in to smudge the room. I didn’t know what that was, but I quickly found out it’s when you burn bundles of herbs and then walk around to cleanse somewhere of bad energy. The bad energy we’re getting rid of today is Neeve’s, because unlike the reader, the occupants of Blue’s house haven’t forgotten that she was doing bad witchy stuff very recently.

Now Jimi waved the lavender and sage in Blue’s face. “Sacred smoke, cleanse the soul of this young woman before me and give her some common sense.”

Blue is waiting for Adam and Gansey to come over and leaves the smokiness of her room, fully preparing to wait for them out there, when she realizes the attic door has been left open. What teenager wouldn’t be inclined to snoop, with an invitation like that? Blue goes upstairs.

She finds that everything has been packed away and shoved to the side except for Neeve’s mirrors and her scrying bowl, which looks like it’s been recently used. That doesn’t make sense, not only because Neeve has been gone for months, but because scrying is dangerous and the women of Fox Way have been sufficiently warned against it. We are (not so subtly) posed the question: who’s scrying? And what are they looking for?

We then switch point-of-view to a nice little flashback where Ronan explains how he once saw the devil. This isn’t a joke, or a fun little metaphor where he describes the human cruelty he’s been witness to. No, Ronan Lynch saw his father shoot a red, horned being in the head. What he called the devil then showed Niall its genitalia and then left.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this story, except to tell you all that it’s supposed to serve as an explanation for why Ronan is religious and transition to a scene in St. Agnes, with Noah and all three Lynch brothers.

It was the devil who drove him to church every Sunday, but it was his brother Matthew who drove him to a pew beside Declan.

Declan looks terrible. We know why he looks terrible; remember when he got the shit kicked out of him in chapter two? But he doesn’t tell Ronan everything, instead saying it’s a burglary and refusing to say anything more about it. Ronan’s a little jealous; he’s definitely of the fun sibling mentality that dictates nobody but him can beat up his brothers.

That sweet bonding moment is interrupted when Declan, acting with no tact (as per usual), tells Ronan that Kavinsky isn’t Lynch Family Approved and they should stop hanging around each other. Even if there wasn’t gay tension there, Ronan would still have a right to be pissed, but you can see how the setting might up the tension. Catholic church, estranged brother telling you not to talk about the boy you dreamed a present for the night before—it’s a lot to take in.

Sometimes, Declan seemed to think that being a year older gave him special knowledge of the seedier side of Henrietta. What he meant was, did Ronan know that Kavinsky was a cokehead?

In his ear, Noah whispered, “Is crack the same thing as speed?”

Ronan didn’t answer. He didn’t think it was a very church-appropriate conversation.

When church is over and they all leave, we get a wonderful cameo from Declan’s-smart-girlfriend-Ashley, who fights with Ronan and acknowledges the church as an institution is oppressive to women (thank you, Ashely, you underappreciated bottle-blonde goddess). Ronan is having none of this and leaves to look for a street race. Which is to say, he leaves to look for Kavinsky and the spiritual satisfaction he didn’t find at church.

I’m going to gloss over this part, because I know that Stiefvater loves cars but I just don’t know anything about them. Descriptions of souped-up whatevers and loud mufflers just confuses me. Let’s just say that Ronan knows how to find a car with which to race, and that takes the kind of Rich Boy Car Knowledge that he and Kavinsky have in spades.

Noah and Ronan drive in the direction of Kavinsky’s house. Kavinsky shows up in his Mitsubishi, calls Ronan a fag, and then pretends to get offended when he’s called a Russian in return. I realize that I truly do not understand teenage boys, and thank God for that.

Ronan wins the street race. For one second, he is happy. It’s a new experience for the both of us.

Thoughts and Feelings:

These new-fangled chapters with their multiple locations and diversified plot structures are really throwing me for a loop. It feels like years since we were smudging Blue’s room with her Aunt Jimi! Granted, that makes sense, as any church service also seemed to me, in childhood, to take several years, but still. Wow.

We got to meet Matthew for the first time, which is nice. There’s a gratuitous description of his dimples (which makes sense in a couple books when you learn more about the Lynch family structure) and he turns down the church wine which is very adorable and wholesome for a boarding school boy. Declan and Ronan make a lot of angry noises at one another, which makes sense with what we know of their characters.

I was a bit startled by the throwback to Neeve and her mysterious disappearance, because she feels so irrelevant now. It’s also well-within my moral code to just write her off. She messed with stuff she shouldn’t have messed with—she deserves to be gone! Anybody who had a healthy appetite for reading as a kid knows that’s what happens to villains. They don’t die, because killing is ~wrong~, but they deserve whatever odd punishment is granted them.

I wasn’t so much startled by all the anger that was floating around the church. This is Ronan’s book, so seeing what he does on the weekends is inevitable. It was a motley crew, though, there’s no denying that. Ronan, Noah, Declan, Matthew, and then Kavinsky. In hindsight I have to say I’m glad Blue was there to balance it all out.

I’m excited for this to move forward, though. Blue dropped the hint that she’s waiting for Adam and Gansey, Ronan is angry and ready to mess some shit up for everyone, and Noah is being proactive about the state of his soul. It’s pretty much all I can ask for as we transition to figuring out what the hell is going on with Cabeswater and where Glendower is sleeping. If we ever do, in fact, find out either of those things (don’t worry guys, I’ve read the series. We do find them out. It just takes a couple more books).

I’m going to stop rambling and go to the highlights now.

Best Character Moment:

A lady reached over the top of Noah to pat Matthew’s head fondly before continuing down the aisle. She didn’t seem to care that he was fifteen, which was all right, because he didn’t, either. Both Ronan and Declan observed this interaction with the pleased expressions of parents watching their prodigy at work.

Best Turn of Phrase:

And so Ronan became a reverse evangelist. The truth burst and grew inside him, and it was laid upon him to share it with no one.

Action: As street races go, this one took place after a house-cleaning and Catholic mass. Not all that exciting. 5/10

Magic: I personally hated the magic we were presented in this chapter, which was the red devil that Ronan saw with his father. It felt superfluous and creepy for no reason. 2/10

Comic Relief: Man oh man does Matthew provide relief from the tension between his older brothers. But how funny was it, really? 6/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.11

Summary:

This is an interesting chapter in that it doesn’t fall into any of the predetermined categories. It’s more like a dream scrapbook, moving from Ronan to the Gray Man to Adam in quick succession. This format was so daunting, in fact, that I took a 2 week break from doing any work with regards to this blog and now I feel like a big idiot who does nothing but sleep and watch YouTube videos. But we all knew that was true even before I stopped reading Dream Thieves, so I don’t know what I was so worried about.

We start off with Ronan’s dreams, which are naturally the most exciting:

It was a massive old forest, oaks and sycamores pushing up through the cold mountain soil. Leaves skittered in the breeze. Ronan could feel the size of the mountain under his feet. The oldness of it. Far below there was a heartbeat that wrapped around the world, slower and stronger and more inexorable than his own.

When I dream, it’s usually about missing class. This is infinitely more interesting.

The trees are calling him Greywaren in Latin and everything is ominous and rustly, so Ronan calls out for a girl. I’m not exaggerating, he says “Girl?” and then she appears. She’s been around since Ronan was a kid, big when he was little and now vice versa. She talks to him in Latin and helps him make things real so he can take them home. He calls her Orphan Girl.

In the time it’s taken for Ronan to describe Orphan Girl, he’s dreamt hundreds of hornets to crawl all over his hands. But this is a dream, and Ronan is the king, and when he decides they aren’t hornets, they aren’t. Now they’re ladybugs, and Ronan is moving forward in the dream.

He scratches on a rock: the trees speak Latin. He grabs a replica of Kavinsky’s sunglasses to take back with him, to prolong the game. The Orphan Girl asks Ronan to take her with him, but he wakes up instead.

Then we’re thrown into the mind of the Gray Man, who is dreaming of a stabbing. He’s never the victim; first he’s the wounds themselves, then he’s the one doing the stabbing, and then he moves on to be the knife itself. That’s weird enough to jar him out of sleep, but remember, this is our Gray Man. Ever the pragmatist. He just rolls over and goes back to bed.

And then, last, Adam. Adam’s not even sleeping.

Curled on the mattress, he covered his face with his summer-hot arm. Sometimes, if he blocked his mouth and nose, just this side of suffocation, sleep would overthrow him.

He’s doing the immensely pleasurable thing we all do while we’re trying to go sleep where we think about every awkward and horrible things we did the day before. Adam is thinking about when he lost his temper in front of Blue, and when he sacrificed himself, and whether he even deserves to be alive. You know, everyday stuff.

Basically, everyone else gets to dream instead of Adam. What a surprise.

Thoughts and Feelings:

Here’s the thing about this chapter: it’s almost entirely contenders for my best turn of phrase category. It’s a transitional chapter to get us away from the exposition and into the action, and it’s beautifully written. But it’s ultimately unsatisfying. I didn’t learn anything from these characters that I didn’t already know.

Was it cool? Yeah. Did I get Harry Potter’s Nagini dream from Order of the Phoenix vibes from the Gray Man’s knife dream? Yeah, obviously. But did it enhance my understanding of the story or the characters within it? No, not particularly.

Now in the interest of getting my Ulysses reading done in time for class today, I’m going to cut this short. But an apology is due for being so lax about this, and to compensate for that I’ll be doing another life update complete with pictures very soon! Not that anyone cares, but it does make me feel better.

Best Character Moment:

Time was a circle, a rut, a worn tape Ronan never got tired of playing.

Best Turn of Phrase:

He had been here before, lots of times. He’d grown up with this recurring dream forest. Its roots were tangled in his veins.

Action: Other than several stab wounds and a pair of sunglasses, I have nothing to show for reading this chapter. 3/10

Magic: Dream forest! 7/10

Comic Relief: I laughed at nothing but my own jokes. It’s not a rare occurrence, but it is disappointing. 4/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.10

Summary:

At this point all I do is apologize for posting updates late, and I’m tired of it! Especially when it pertains to self-imposed deadlines about a passion project that I’m only doing because I couldn’t find it anywhere else on the internet. Chapter updates will come when they come, and this will be the last one until at least Monday because I’m going on a class trip to Yeats country this weekend and will be too busy hearing about Innisfree 30 million times to think about Maggie Stiefvater and her creations.

But, anyways. Back to the book.

Gansey hung up the phone at the end of last chapter, but somehow he’s back on it, talking to Adam again. He wants Adam to come with him to some fundraising party his mother is throwing, since Adam might find a political internship or something equally as snakey to do with his time. Gansey’s trying to placate Adam’s confusing rules about when he is and isn’t allowed to accept help while also unrolling an enormous satellite map of Henrietta, and it’s proving difficult, to say the least.

For some weird reason, though, everything seems to be going okay at Monmouth. Adam agrees to go to the party, Gansey gets his map pressed flat, Ronan and Noah are dropping expensive things out of second floor windows. And then, as if that wasn’t good enough, Adam asks Gansey for help with Blue. Specifically her whole hang-up on kissing—why won’t she do it? Is it Adam? Has she talked to Gansey at all, and if she hasn’t, could Gansey bring up the subject gracefully and see what’s up?

“I’m really bad at talking, Gansey,” Adam said earnestly. “And you’re really good at it. Maybe—maybe if it just comes up natural?”

I don’t know if you remember, but in the last book Blue and Gansey had a conversation that seemed to be about nothing but kissing. Gansey has the whole story but it’s a secret story that’s not his to tell. He does his best to skirt around the definition of a lie, but it would be a really bad idea to say “yes we’ve talked about it but no I’m not telling you what she said” to your emotionally vulnerable and deeply insecure friend. It would actually transcend really bad and be firmly in the realm of disastrous.

And also, Gansey has a very obvious thing for Blue, and it’s hard for teenage boys to rationalize those feelings. And Gansey still is a teenage boy, no matter how many times he’s described as being an old man. And then there’s this:

“Well, she’s not really like a girl. I mean, sure, she’s a girl. But it’s not like when I was dating someone. It’s Blue. 

Oh, Gansey. This is going to pose such a problem in the future.

The rest of the chapter is consumed with Noah’s righteous anger at being thrown out the window by Ronan (“you’re already dead!”) and questions of whether or not Adam has a red tie to wear to Gansey’s mother’s fundraiser. It’s all very short, and sweet, and it makes me wary. What’s going to explode next?

Thoughts and Feelings:

Although I have to be at the train station in an hour and am therefore glad this chapter was short, I don’t really understand why it wasn’t rolled into the previous one?

Like, okay, I get that Dollar City was a setting for a phone call touched by magic. And this call is distinctly non-magical; in fact, it pertains to everything that I forgot was going on in the Gangsey’s lives because I was too focused on the magic. But it’s suspended in time. I have no idea when this chapter takes place. Is it the same night? Is it several days later? It feels like you could pick up these four pages and plunk them anywhere else in the novel and they’d work just fine.

And I’m not saying I don’t understand the impulse to put them in. I totally get it! I, too, love the background noise of Ronan and Noah breaking expensive things for fun, and who wouldn’t want to throw their dead friend out a window? But to have a cliffhanger (stated by Noah, of all people) lead into a chapter like this is distinctly unsatisfying. It leaves the same taste in my mouth as a chapter about the Gray Man does: okay, that was nice, now what?

I’m not denying the fact that towards the end of the book I’ll be begging for chapters like these. I’ll be like, “boo hoo, where are soft moments with my boys where things are cute and Ronan is engaging in destruction of property?” But for now, I’m spoiled and I want something different.

So apologies for such lackluster thoughts, but I’m only as good as my source material. It was nice, but nothing special.

Best Character Moment:

Blue was a fanciful but sensible thing, like a platypus, or one of those sandwiches that had been cut into circles for a fancy tea party.

Best Turn of Phrase:

Once, he had dreamt that he found Glendower. It wasn’t the actual finding, but the day after. He wouldn’t forget the sensation of the dream. It hadn’t been joy, but instead, the absence of pain. He couldn’t forget that lightness. The freedom.

Action: I said it once and I’ll say it again: Noah gets thrown out of a window!!! 5/10

Magic: Absolutely none, except that Noah doesn’t die upon defenestration. 2/10

Comic Relief: A soft kind of funny that I was mad at but have come to appreciate. 6/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.09

Summary:

Will I always be a little late posting these now? Yes. That’s just who I am as a person. Does that stop me from getting excited to talk about a beautiful bottle episode chapter in which Gansey, Ronan, and Noah terrorize a dollar store cashier? No, of course not.

Last chapter, Adam and Blue had a fight and then Cabeswater sent Adam an image. For this new scene, we’re teleported to Dollar City, where Gansey receives a phone call. Southern dollar stores have such a distinct aura to them. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I’ve spent enough time messing around in Dollar Generals in South Carolina looking for the perfect thing to spend my single dollar bill on to know it’s something else. Our boys and their slightly domesticated bird definitely belong there, that’s all I have to say.

We’re given a beautiful portrait of all the things you can buy at this Dollar City: animal shaped erasers, notebooks with guns on them, a clock shaped like a turkey (upon discovery, Gansey says “mon dieu” and it’s probably the worst thing he’s ever said).

But the whole reason they’re in the store is because Ronan’s angry and this is how to distract him. The only problem is that now Gansey’s on the phone and all that does is stoke Ronan’s anger:

But tonight, under the fluorescent lights of Dollar City, Gansey’s hair was scuffed and his cargo shorts were a greasy ruin from mucking over the Pig. He was barelegged and sockless in his boat shoes and very clearly a real human, an attainable human, and this, somehow, made Ronan want to smash his fist through a wall.

Like okay, I get it, we’re all in love with Gansey and need his OOTDs and want him to kiss us all the time… stop being so mad about it.

We spend a lot of time alternating between Ronan eavesdropping on the Gansey side of the phone conversation and musing about Kavinsky or longing to go back to the Barns and be with his family. The only thing that can break that spell is Noah, appearing with a snow globe full of glitter like a ghost in shining armor.

And then, a revelation: remember how Adam’s rent got changed to reflect exactly the raising of his tuition? And how he immediately blamed Gansey, and was so mad about it? Yeah, it was Ronan.

If Adam had been thinking straight, though, he would’ve considered how it was Ronan who had infinite connections to St. Agnes. And how whoever was behind the rent change would have had to enter a church office with both a wad of cash and a burning intention to persuade a church lady to lie about a fake tax assessment. Taken apart this way, in seemed to have Ronan written all over it. But one of the marvelous things about being Ronan Lynch was that no one ever expected him to do anything nice for anyone.

The emotional ramifications of this admission are cleverly avoided when Noah blinks out of existence, dropping the glitter filled snow globe and freaking everyone out in the process. He reemerges from the void quickly enough, grabbing onto Ronan and using all his body heat as energy. Ghost Noah is always to chill and cuddly that it’s easy to forget he’s the spirit of a murder victim and therefore inherently unpredictable.

Noah’s explanation is that they ley line just disappeared. The apparition Adam saw in his apartment corroborates that story: something funky is going on. And then, in classic Stiefvater ending, Noah tells Ronan he knows where the anger comes from, and when Ronan asks what he knows Noah is like “it’s not my job to tell other people’s secrets” which, like, okay I guess? But it’s such an annoying way to end a chapter because it’s just not addressed and is also very frustrating. The end.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I’ve come to the conclusion that I love this chapter’s ambiance but I don’t necessarily like its contents. I love the idea of the Gangsey in a dollar store just messing around while the clerk wonders why the hell they brought a raven pretending to be a pet, but the reality of it—the ley line disappearing and the fact that they’re always being so weird about Adam—makes the whole scene less enjoyable than you think it would be.

Like, okay, let’s talk about Adam. Every single time he’s mentioned in a scene, whoever’s point of view it is dedicates at least a paragraph to talking about how different he is after the sacrifice. How he’s something “other,” that they don’t know how to deal with anymore. First of all, did they ever know how to deal with Adam? They treated him like just as much of a mystery in the first book, and there wasn’t even a dream forest in the equation. Secondly, so what if he’s different than everyone else? Ronan pulls things out of his dreams, Blue is a human battery, Gansey died and came back to life, and Noah died and is still dead. But yeah, sure, I’ll believe that Adam’s the one who just doesn’t fit in anymore.

I don’t know why it makes me so frustrated. Actually, yeah, I do know why. It’s because it’s chapter nine and we’re still sitting around talking about how we don’t understand what’s going on with Adam yet, meanwhile not once have they gone to Cabeswater and, I don’t know, asked. We get the feeling that it’s been weeks since the bargain was made, and yet nobody seems interested in doing anything but speculating about it.

But I’m tired of being indignant, so I want to end on some happy feelings: the warm and fuzzies I got when Noah held up the glitter snow globe to Ronan and everyone looked at it in wonder. Thank you and good night.

Best Character Moment:

Noah made a rude gesture, a hilariously unthreatening act coming from him, like a growl from a kitten.

Best Turn of Phrase:

Chainsaw let out a terrible creaking sound.

She cried, “Kerah!”

He laid a frozen hand over her head, comforting her, though he was not comforted.

Action: Absolutely none, unless you count dropping a snow globe. 3/10

Magic: Noah, being both a real boy and a ghost, all in the same chapter? Amazing. 10/10

Comic Relief: Also Noah- amazing!!!! 12/10!!!!!!!!

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.extra (How I Write a Chapter Review)

Hi, and welcome to “Emily gets bored of reviewing chapters and goes looking for other self-indulgent content.” I’m your host, Bored Emily, and I’m here to talk you through how I go about writing each TRC Reread post. I’ve done this upwards of 55 times, so I’d like to say I have it down to a science, but I really don’t.

There’s a couple different style of chapters that you’ll find in The Raven Cycle, some more common than others, and after the standard first look process I go through with every chapter, they mandate different processes and styles of writing. I’m going to do my best to talk about the process overall, as well as go into a little more depth about three distinct styles of chapter you can find in Stiefvater’s writing.

Post-It Noting

Before I even crack open the word document where I write all of the chapter reviews, I go through the chapter with a pen and a stack of post-it notes. This is partially for me–I discovered that if I went straight into summary I wasn’t enjoying the content–and partially because without getting a sense of the chapter as a whole, the reviews were really top-heavy and unfocused. I spent a lot of time talking about what was going on at the beginning and then ran out of steam by the end, and there was no understanding of the chapter as a whole narrative unit.

I drop a comment whenever I see something that might be a good quote for the ratings at the end, or when I notice something interesting or dumb. A lot of it is just me cheering on Blue whenever she does something sassy.

They’re helpful because a lot of the time I’ll be tired of writing once I get to Thoughts and Feelings, and that sucks because I do have a lot of those during the first pass at a chapter, I just forget them while I’m summarizing. Being able to go back through and scan for notes not only jogs the old memory but also creates a process of inherent revision: I get to tweak the original post-it idea into something that makes a little more sense and flows better in whatever section of the review it’s going in.

the fun thing about post-its is that they can be helpful, cute, or so unnecessary I don’t even want to address them

The timing varies; I sometimes do this right before I jump into a review, and sometimes I’m too lazy to write so I just get a couple weeks ahead on post-it noting. There’s pros and cons to both methods; fresh eyes can be good but if I wait too long I might have no idea what the hell I was trying to say.

Whether or not anything on the Post-Its makes sense, after I’m finished marking up a chapter I have to jump into summary and review. This process is pretty different for each type of chapter, so I’m gonna go through them one by one.

Short Villainous Interludes

Stiefvater likes to throw in a word from our resident bad guy every couple of chapters. I was more against this in Raven Boys because I didn’t like the villain, and less so in Dream Thieves because the Gray Man has a sense of humor. But regardless of the character, Short Villainous Interludes have a couple of key characteristics: 1) They’re less than 5 pages, 2) They feed the reader 1-2 important nuggets of information that the Gangsey doesn’t know about yet, and 3) For the first 2/3 of the book there is little to no emotional weight to them.

These are easy to bang out because there’s very little plot to cover. The summaries are quick and consist mostly of me just making fun of people, and my thoughts and feelings are most generally something in the realm of “ugh” and “this is not as bad as I thought it was going to be.”

Where I run into trouble, sometimes, is the ratings. I’m supposed to pick out a character moment and a turn of phrase, but often these chapters are so short I’m left feeling like I’ve already copied the entire thing in quotations. But while that feels morally wrong, it’s not the worst thing. I wasn’t lying when I said these chapters are, at most, five pages. It’s not a lot to be copying down.

Bottle Episodes

This term comes officially from television, when, to save money on sets and extras (and maybe for the writers to do an in-depth character study, but this feels like wishful thinking on my part) there is an entire episode spent in one place. Think “The One Where No One is Ready” from Friends.

What I mean when I talk about books is a chapter where the Gangsey and/or the women of Fox Way are hanging out in one place and talking. This could have emotional weight or be important to the plot, but it could also be utter nonsense. The key to these chapters is that we’re learning about the characters and there’s not a lot going on besides a lot of hilarious side comments I want to include but don’t have room for.

Posts about these chapters end up being far too long and enormously over analyzed because I’m having such a good time learning about and gently making fun of my favorite characters. I write them fast and I mourn them when they’re over.

Long Emotional Rollercoasters

These chapters are exactly what they sound like. They usually involve Adam Parrish or Ronan Lynch and their complicated pasts. Whenever I skip a post or take time off, it’s usually because I ran up against one of these and the work just isn’t that fun anymore.

That’s not to say that these chapters aren’t good–they are, and they’re enormously important, and this series would be absolutely nothing without them. It’s just that there’s so much going on with these characters that I don’t feel qualified to talk about, or that shouldn’t be lightheartedly addressed, and it takes a long time for me to figure out how to go about them. And on top of that, these chapters tend to be the longest in terms of word count, so there’s another reason they come out much slower than the others.

On the plus side, they’re usually the ones where I spent far too much time agonizing over which sections to quote simply because they’re full of words put together in such a lovely way. It’s just that they often talk about such unlovely subjects, and it makes me feel a lot of feelings.

To Sum Up:

There are other kinds of chapters you find in these books, but the three detailed above are the most common. I might do another post later on the other kind, but I also might not. I’ve learned not to promise anything, since I’m so bad at keeping up with anything during the school term.

I’ve wanted to make a post like this for a while, so I’m glad it’s finally happening! I might start including pictures of my post-its in the actual chapter reviews, since frankly that and the summary are my favorite two parts of the process and I’m doing this primarily for me, so why wouldn’t I enjoy myself?

If you have any suggestions for this process, or just think you know a better way and want to tell me about it, please do! I’ve bankrupted myself on post-its and fancy pens, and would welcome an alternative!

(thanks for reading, see you soon, etc.)