The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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A word of warning: I am going to sing praises to this book throughout my review. Yes, it’s THAT kind of a book. So good and magical and heart-warming and intense and I could probably list a number of adjectives but none would do this book the justice it deserves. It is AMAZING. Yes, I am partial to it since Maggie Stiefvater is one of my favourite authors and the story is set on an imaginative island somewhere near Scotland/Ireland but even if that would not be the case, I would still love this book to the death and shoved it in everyone’s faces (which is exactly what I’ll do tomorrow when I get back to uni).

I took my time with this novel. It took me three days to finish it but I literally went from one sentence to the next and marvelled at each paragraph. That actually happens quite often, especially when I’m reading a particularly interesting story because I don’t want it to end so I go slowly and really try to appreciate what the author has done. It happened with The Raven Cycle as well.

If you ask me what this book is about, I’d have to say that at a first glance it’s about a close-knitted community living on an island where each year a race takes place and in that race jockeys ride murderous water horses who try to eat them and escape back to the ocean. Sounds great, right? But there’s so much more to the story than that. It’s also a story of a family growing apart, a lonely man trying to gain his freedom and independence, a patriarchal community where changes are NOT welcomed and an old religion worhipping the gods of the ocean. It’s a story about love and sacrifice and the importance of family and it’s also a story about killer water horses.

My personal library contains a few collections of fairy tales and folk stories and one of them is a collection of Scottish folk tales which is where I first read about the dangerous water horses called kelpies who pray on innocent victims and lure them into the water. This story takes that myth but bends it substantially. Maggie Stiefvater does that a lot, she takes old myths and makes them work in her favor. She’s brilliant at that. And she is also known to focus primarily on the atmosphere, the feel of the story, not so much on the narrative and the characters themselves. I think this is portrayed beautifully in The Scorpio Races.

If you decide to read this book, you’ll meet two main protagonists. The first is a girl named Puck Connolly (in reality her name is Kate but her friends call her Puck) who decides to compete in the race with her horse Dolly because she wants to help her family. There she meets a four-time-winner Sean Kendrick, a man of few words but with a particular knack for horses. They become unlikely friends and even something more but they both fight their own battles. This was probably one of my favourite things about this book – though there was very little romance in it, the love parts that were included were simply magical and heart-wrenching.

The last 50 pages of this book were so intense I kept whispering to myself oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. I even texted my sister because my heart was beating like crazy. For a few minutes I thought the worst had happened and then came the ending which made me cry so hard. The last page… Brilliant, truly brilliant.

A lot of people on Goodreads have criticised this book saying the pace was too slow but that is THE WHOLE POINT. IT HAD TO BE SLOW. The island life itself is slow-paced so of course you can’t have a million different things happening all at once. And also although it may seem like nothing happens, that nothing is actually EVERYTHING. I mean come on, you just missed the entire essence of this book.

What you can do with this book is you can FEEL IT in every single page. You can literally feel the cold on your skin, you can smell the salt in the air, hear the waves crashing. You feel for Sean who lost his father to the races and is now by himsef. You feel for Puck and Finn and Gabe who also lost both their parents to the sea and are now trying to do the best they can. Puck and Sean together are just, agh, SO MUCH, there really isn’t any other way to describe it, they just make you fell so much, I almost squealled every time they were together.

Just go and read this book. Please. It will change you.

I’ll see you on Thisby.

(Also, this book reads like a poem. It’s THAT GOOD.)

“Does anyone ask you why you stay, Sean Kendrick?”
“They do.”
“And why do you?”
“The sky and the sand and the sea and Corr.”

Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races

 

 

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Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover

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The title sort of summarizes it perfectly. I was very, very disappointed with this book. Lake annoyed me so much that I even considered throwing the book away and while I loved reading from Will’s POV, he was way too cheesy. There are basically only two major things that happen in this book and I hated both of them. Like, I literally rolled my eyes when they occurred and said out loud: ‘Is this for real?’

The story is set one year after the events of Slammed. Lake and Will are both raising their brothers and attending university. They still hang out with Eddie and Gavin and the two kids get a new friend/neighbour Kiersten. Everyone is happy and spending time with each other and then Lake and Will get into a fight, Lake starts throwing tantrums, she basically behaves like a 15-year-old and Will does everything he can think of to get her back. Part two in the book: they get into an accident and Lake is in terrible state. One hospital scene follows the next. The book ends with a not-exactly-a-surprise and we are left wandering what exactly went wrong here?

Will was so immature in this book, he went from being a responsible adult to a confused teenager. All he does is chase after a girl who doesn’t deserve it. Lake, why did you get so upset with what happened? You’ve been dating Will for a year now and then you act like a child? Seriously? The kids saved the book because they were very adorable and funny but Will’s actions regarding Kel and Caulder were uncharacteristic. You don’t threaten 12-year-olds, especially if you are a teacher!

I don’t really know what else to say because I’m afraid I’ll start criticising even more. Eddie and Gavin were lovely and so was Sherry, they made the novel better. The story was focused mostly on Lake and Will but not in a good way like in the first book. I honestly don’t know how the novel got such rave reviews. It seemed like it was mostly written for money and not a lot of thought went into it and that is such a shame because Slammed was really good. There is no way I’m reading the third book, even though it’s mostly about the first one but I just want to preserve the memory of Slammed as it was before I read Point of Retreat.

Love is the most beautiful thing in the world. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest things in the world to hold on to, and one of the easiest things to throw away.

Colleen Hoover, Point of Retreat

Slammed by Colleen Hoover

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My first date with Miss Hoover was absolutely sublime; I loved her book! Layken and Will were so adorable, my heart goes out for them. I hated how their romance was pushed aside because of their positions and I rooted for them until the very end. Despite touching some very difficult and troublesome topics, this book had a feel-good quality to it. Family and friends are what makes life bearable and it’s wonderful how this is portrayed in the story.

We meet Layken and Will right at the beginning of the novel. Layken lost her father a few months ago and so her family moved to be closer to her mom’s job. Will is her new neighbour and when their younger brothers become instant best friends, the two become close and even go out on a date. But when Will turns out to be a teacher at Layken’s school, they have to be sensible about it. Too much is at stake. Their romance has to stop, at least for now.

A surprising and harrowing turn of events pushes them back together as Layken has to deal with yet another approaching tragedy. But this time it’s different. She has friends, good friends, and Will, of course. She is no longer a teenager but an adult. And with Will by her side, she can face anything, even the terrible events that await her.

I am currently listening to the Avett Brothers whose lyrics are written at the beginning of each chapter. I wish I’d listened to them while I was reading the book because I finally fully understand what Layken and Will were feeling. Colleen Hoover, this was such a great idea! To connect music and fiction, it doesn’t get better.

What I loved about this book is (beside the romance, of course) the character development. Layken and Will are both flawed, they aren’t all powerful, beautiful and sassy, no, they’re just like the rest of us, faced with obstacles in life that try to pull you down. But they are both so brave and strong and they do what they have to in order to protect their family. Nothing is as important as family and friends. I totally agree.

The next best thing in the book is the slam poetry. It moved me despite the lack of performance. Will was such a talented poet and his words made me want to write again. And Eddie, gosh, Eddie! What a wonderful character! I hope we see more of her in the next book because she makes the best best friend ever.

Okay, so I pretty much just talked about how much I love the book. I did love it but I didn’t adore it. I had some issues with Layken because she seemed to be super angry all the time, especially at Will who already had so much problems of his own and I was so mad at her for giving him a hard time. Also, the way they instantly fell in love with each other seemed a bit far-fetched. And the second tragedy that Layken has to face… seriously? I felt so sorry for her.

I’m not the biggest fan of romance novels but every once in a while I like to read them and this was a great choice. It wasn’t too sappy and predictable; I liked the main characters and want to see where the story takes them. Colleen Hoover is one of the best romance writers I’ve come across so far and I’ll be sure to pick up another of her books soon. I have to finish Layken and Will’s story, right?

Does he treat you with respect at all times? That’s the first question. The second question is, if he is the exact same person twenty years from now that he is today, would you still want to marry him? And finally, does he inspire to be a better person? You find someone you can answer yes to all three, then you’ve found a good man.

Colleen Hoover, Slammed