Review: Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer, #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

“You are made of dreams and this world is not for you.”

Right when I thought my Ronan Lynch obsession had reached its peak, Call Down The Hawk comes out.

Please tell me how it’s been three full years since The Raven King came out and concluded one of the best series out there? It’s unreal. Time is just an illusion.

I still remember cracking open the first book, The Raven Boys, waiting to see if I’ll be impressed. I was completely hooked on the first line. And I sped through the series in a few days’ time. I lived with these characters for months after. I heard their lines echoed in my thoughts.

This new release couldn’t have made me happier. Having my favorite character grow alongside me is a perk granted to few. I don’t take it lightly. Having new iconic Ronan Lynch lines is a perk I don’t take for granted, as well. Having stories about his childhood? In love. Seeing his perspective on ground-breaking scenes in The Raven Cycle? Love. Seeing Declan Lynch break out of his mold? Give me more. G I V E   M E   M O R E.

Like my reviews for The Raven Cycle, I have to mention my favorite gems in here. Future me, this is all you need to know before you start on book 2 in this new trilogy:

Spoilers ahead

  • The main theme of Ronan’s conflicting thoughts on being left behind felt all too real.

“He loved the Barns, he was bored of the Barns, he wanted to leave, he wanted to stay.”

It’s truly heartbreaking to see a gang as tightknit as the gangsey all on their separate paths. From having late-night conversations in the bathroom/kitchen in The Raven Cycle to barely having once a week text contact was breaking me. This is the part of growing up that no one warns you about. So it’s no secret then that I didn’t take for Adam’s new friend group, and I was beyond glad that we didn’t have to spend more than one scene with them. They just don’t get it like the gangsey does.

  • Dauntless Declan. I am so utterly impressed with his character development. I always wanted to see more of him and Matthew, and I got just that. The dynamic between the brothers makes my heart shine.

“Thank God,” Declan said, retrieving his car keys.
“You can if you like,” Matthew said. “But I dressed myself.”
He shot a look at Ronan to make sure his joke had been funny.”

This is such a younger sibling thing to do that I can’t help but smile.

  • But then my mind always returns to that heartstopping moment when the Lynch brothers didn’t know if Matthew was safe. All you want is to know that they’re okay so you can breathe in relief. It showcased just how entangled they are.

“Ronan didn’t know who he would be without them.”

  • I highlighted so many Declan quotes because he just gets it. He understands how it feels to numb yourself so as to not feel anything until there’s a glimmer of hope for a better life.

“Because the safest shape was being both unknown and unchanging”

The Lynch brothers make me feel alive. They understand my deepest fears and most intimate thoughts. Whenever I have the chance to read their words I know I’ll feel a little less alone.

  • Ronan stepping up to help someone he doesn’t even know truly showcases just how much he’s grown. He’s become his own Gansey. He understands himself now better than ever, and it was refreshing to see him open himself up and be vulnerable to help another dreamer. The moment he revealed the significance of the leather bands on his wrist was another hit.

Again, it’s a Declan quote that tells it like it is:

“Declan hated that he loved someone who wasn’t real.” 

  • Besides, did anyone else perceive Bryde as a healthy Kavinsky? Both of them taught Ronan to take charge of his dreams. One did it a bit more provocatively, but still. I feel like he’ll have a big part in Ronan’s life. And I’m not sure with Declan’s proclamation if it’s simply platonic: “Adam wasn’t really enough for him, either, but Declan knew he hadn’t gotten that far yet.”
  • The saddest part was feeling so good reading this book and taking my time with it but also knowing that with each chapter I enjoyed, it took me closer to the end. It came to an end all too soon. I was both happy and sad reading this.
  • Also, this is how you write a follow-up book after years. You don’t info drop everything that happened over the course of four books in the first chapter. You sprinkle it in when called for. So I immensely appreciated that little detail of not dropping everything on the reader immediately. (This is something that really bothered me when starting the third book of The Diviners, “Before The Devil Breaks You”.)
  • Oh, and I encountered the perfect song that captures the darkness and subtle movements in this novel:

The first few seconds of the music playing without any words really has it all.

What else is there to say but that I need the second book now more than ever. Anticipating this release was less gruesome because I had no idea what was awaiting me. Now I know and I want my daily dose of Ronan Lynch.

Check the dreamer out for yourself with my Amazon Affiliate link:

Review: The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton

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“Was she strong enough to carry all these Burdens on her own?
Or would they swallow her whole?”

I knew this book was the one I’d been looking for when I flipped to the last page of the prologue and saw a glimpse of a name I thought to be “Noa,” which was exactly what I was searching for the day earlier when on the look-out for fictional characters with the name Noah, for some inexplicable reason. (I never did find anything other than the biblical story, so please let me know if you have any solid book recommendations.)

The misread name turned out to spell “Nor,” but by then I was already too caught up in the world of The Price Guide to the Occult. I had Nor’s sardonic humor and devotion to anonymity, the promise of a book within a book, and exploring the realms of clairvoyance, telekinesis, divination to keep me satisfied.

To backtrack a bit, I’ve been a huge fan of Leslye Walton’s writing ever since I finished reading The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender back in January 2016. I think about that book more often than I think about any other. It holds such a special place in my heart because it introduced me to two of my favorite aspects in books: family-driven drama & magical realism.

Though I was caught up quickly in the storyline, as I mentioned above, it still took a bit of time to fully settle into the world of The Price Guide to the Occult… And then. Then we get some character dynamics introduced, from Nor’s sweet and lasting encounter with a certain boy to the story of her mother’s “formidable ability to manipulate the minds of those around her.” And it wasn’t long before I was lost in their world, repeating the same old mantra of “just one more page.” Once again, Leslye Walton excels at weaving together an intricately compelling family narrative.

I also had a few meta moments when it mentioned how Youtubers, reviewers, bloggers all raved about the book within our book, “after reading a glowing blog post about The Price Guide to the Occult,” because I was about to do the same.

Speaking of which, here are some noteworthy moments I cherished:

  • The fact that Nor doesn’t attend high school really hit that sweet spot for me. My main problem with YA books is that their setting is nearly always around a school, so I rarely if ever want to revisit those times of my life. So when we have a main character that feels the same and actually dares to drop out and get her GED instead, I’m left glowing.
  • The trusty old companion dogs at Nor’s unwavering side throughout the book.
  • What really got to me, though, was Nor’s unique characteristic of wanting to draw as little attention to herself as possible.

“Nor had never had the heart to tell anyone that all she wanted was to make the slightest mark as humanly possible on the world; she was too preoccupied with proving to herself that she was nothing like her mother to be focused on anything else.”

  • Which then leads me to discuss the subtle crushing she had on a certain someone (and I’m desperately trying to avoid spoilers here). Let me just say that after reading a whole anthology set around the meet-cute concept, I was more than ready for a full romance to sweep me off my feet already. And the author really knows how to keeps us on our toes when it comes to this one.

“This was what it felt like to be around him—constantly pulled in two directions, wanting to be both seen and unseen, and not knowing which one she preferred.”

I really wanted a solid build-up to happen for this couple so that by the time they got around to any kind of intimacy I’d be screaming inside. He could’ve just been standing behind her and my heart rate would pick up. It was refreshing to have love interest be so straightforward and honest about their feelings. I would leave the story to go to bed and then wake with a smile at realizing I’d left off right before he showed on the following page. But the romance was never overpowering in its role.

Anyway. I am sidetracking.

  • One thing I do wish we could’ve gotten a more extensive look into was the Blackburn lineage and their matriarch, Rona Blackburn. Like, exploring the different Burdens each Blackburn received. We got a little taste in the prologue but never fully explored past that point the true grandiosity of the first Blackburn women, which is what I loved so much in the author’s debut novel with her ability to flesh-out each generation coming before the main character.
  • The descriptions of imagery and inner monologue from Nor’s dreams were vivid, and it brought to mind Harry Potter’s struggle with seeing through Voldemort’s eyes. Which is why I was surprised when I read the Harry Potter reference to Azkaban in this book.
  • On that train of thought, Nor’s mother, Fern Blackburn, strongly represented the idea of Levana from The Lunar Chronicles, especially once I read the comparison below made by Nor’s best friend, Savvy. It gave me an unsettled feeling.

“Your mom is amazing,” Savvy continued, “but also kind of terrifying, in an evil queen kind of way. I can totally imagine her convincing the huntsman to kill me so that she can eat my heart, you know?”

  • Speaking of Savvy, aka the Guardian of Unwanted Things, I truly couldn’t have asked for a better best friend for Nor. This following quote speaks volumes about their friendship: “Though Savvy couldn’t actually solve the bulk of Nor’s problems, Nor felt better having been reminded that she had someone who gave enough of a shit to try.”
  • I wasn’t ready to be done with this book by the time I reached the ending, so I decided to read the acknowledgments, and I’m glad I did because of this touching paragraph:

(Trigger warning: self-harm.)

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All of the above were the things I would later remember. And I so hope that we’ll see more of Walton’s stories in the near future. I’m eager to know, in particular, if The Price Guide to the Occult will receive a sequel.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: March 13th 2018

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Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

I’ve seen this book quite a lot online since its release a couple of months back and finally decided to give it a shot yesterday… and I was transfixed almost instantly with that first chapter, especially once the dynamic Nadia was introduced into my life:

“When Saeed and Nadia finally had coffee together in the cafeteria, which happened the following week, after the very next session of their class, Saeed asked her about her conservative and virtually all-concealing black robe.
“If you don’t pray,” he said, lowering his voice, “why do you wear it?”
They were sitting at a table for two by a window, overlooking snarled traffic on the street below. Their phones rested screens-down between them, like the weapons of desperadoes at a parley.
She smiled. Took a sip. And spoke, the lower half of her face obscured by her cup.
“So men don’t fuck with me,” she said.”

Reading her response was a surge of power.tumblr_ocnkae2ng01qh9nffo1_400

I continued on excitedly and became quickly invested in the narrative and the smooth switching point of views. I especially enjoyed how the story shifts from focusing on Saeed and Nadia to introducing swift tales of other character perspectives while stepping through a door that can whisk them far away from their homeland. The language in those stories was in particular eye-catching. And I cherished how it gave us a broader look on a vital topic such as migration.

But circling back to the main pair in this book, I was fascinated to follow the relationship and journey quiet and devout Saeed and fiercely independent Nadia undertook through their shifting positions in life after the imminent fall of their city. From students to lovers to migrants to survivors, and so much more… It was powerful and refreshing to witness.

And this quietly beautiful moment stands out most when I think of them:

“Her leg and arm touched Saeed’s leg and arm, and he was warm through his clothing, and he sat in a way that suggested exhaustion. But he also managed a tired smile, which was encouraging, and when she opened her fist to reveal what was inside, as she had once before done on her rooftop a brief lifetime ago, and he saw the weed, he started to laugh, almost soundlessly, a gentle rumble, and he said, his voice uncoiling like a slow, languid exhalation of marijuana-scented smoke, “Fantastic.”
Saeed rolled the joint for them both, Nadia barely containing her jubilation, and wanting to hug him but restraining herself. He lit it and they consumed it, lungs burning, and the first thing that struck her was that this weed was much stronger than the hash back home, and she was quite floored by its effects, and also well on her way to becoming a little paranoid, and finding it difficult to speak.
For a while they sat in silence, the temperature dropping outside. Saeed fetched a blanket and they bundled it around themselves. And then, not looking at each other, they started to laugh, and Nadia laughed until she cried.”

I was moved and strengthened by this passage.

However, their relationship hit a bit of a lull about halfway through the book for me when it was seemingly going nowhere in particular. And then also in terms of plot or character develemopent there wasn’t anything exciting on the table. But once the book managed to move from that rough spot, I was all the more enraptured.

All in all: Exit West was an impactful read about war and migrants and nativists while also veering into themes of love, desire, and religion.

4/5 stars

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