Thursday, November 20, 2014

Series Review: The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta

Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles, #1)
At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh to save his kingdom. He stands on the rock of the three wonders with his friend Prince Balthazar and Balthazar's cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood to safeguard Lumatere.

But all safety is shattered during the five days of the unspeakable, when the king and queen and their children are brutally murdered in the palace. An impostor seizes the throne, a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere's walls, and those who escape are left to roam the land as exiles, dying by the thousands in fever camps.

Ten years later, Finnikin is summoned to another rock--to meet Evanjalin, a young novice with a startling claim: Balthazar, heir to the throne of Lumatere, is alive. This arrogant young woman claims she'll lead Finnikin and his mentor, Sir Topher, to the prince. Instead, her leadership points them perilously toward home. Does Finnikin dare believe that Lumatere might one day rise united? Evanjalin is not what she seems, and the startling truth will test Finnikin's faith not only in her but in all he knows to be true about himself and his destiny.

In a bold departure from her acclaimed contemporary novels, Printz Medalist Melina Marchetta has crafted an epic fantasy of ancient magic, feudal intrigue, romance, and bloodshed that will rivet you from the first page.

(Summary from GoodReads)

After loving Jellicoe Road, I assumed that Melina Marchetta plus high fantasy would be the ultimate combination for me. Luckily, I turned out to be right. Marchetta is a brilliant world builder who developed dynamic, engaging characters and wrote their story in a way that broke my heart.

Finnikin of the Rock has a sad premise, and I have to admit that it took me a while for things to start. Evenjalin is mysterious when Finnkin first meets her, and I think her part of the story got off to a bit of a slow start because the reader knows so little. A few parts in the middle of this book were a little bit confusing, and once you got to the end, it was so uplifting that there’s nothing to do but sob.

Like many good fantasies, Finnikin of the Rock had a decent amount of action, however, like with all Marchetta books, it was the interaction that made it so great. There’s a lot of tension between characters—emotions that they want to express but don’t know how, and things that they learn about each other. Marchetta’s world is also full of tragedy, and she made me believe how much pain it caused each and every one of her characters.

I love Finnikin of the Rock because once you get to the end, the payoff is there—you’ll see what I mean when you reach the end of the book. I love that it is it’s only complete book while still laying the foundation for a brilliant trilogy. This is definitely a story that’s earned its place on my favorites shelf.

Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2)
Blood sings to blood, Froi . . .  

 Those born last will make the first . . . 

For Charyn will be barren no more.   

Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home... Or so he believes...  Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been trained roughly and lovingly by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds. Here he encounters a damaged people who are not who they seem, and must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad Princess.  

And in this barren and mysterious place, he will discover that there is a song sleeping in his blood, and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.  

Gripping and intense, complex and richly imagined, Froi of the Exiles is a dazzling sequel to Finnikin of the Rock, from the internationally best-selling and multi-award-winning author of Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, On the Jellicoe Road and The Piper's Son.

(Summary from GoodReads) 

If you took every trilogy I have ever read, Froi of the Exiles would be my favorite middle book amidst all the choices.  Froi may be a long book, but every page of it is beautifully written and expertly plotted.  I was so happy to learn more about Froi and see this series develop.

Book two of the Lumatere Chronicles is set three years after Finnikin, and I loved seeing how much Froi had grown as a character.  He thinks very carefully about who he is and his relationships with those around him, and as the book goes on, he’s forced to keep asking these questions in contexts that help move the plot along.  Of course I also loved learning more about the half-mad princess and Charyn.

Honestly, my favorite part of this book is how well it’s plotted.  If you pick up this large book, then you probably like the series enough to be invested, but you don’t realize how you’ll be absorbed by the time you finish.  Marchetta starts her story off slowly and it just keeps going more quickly until it ends on a cliffhanger.  Because it’s Marchetta the emotional tension keeps building throughout the story, making it a total white knuckle read.

Froi of the Exiles is exactly what book two in a series should be.  It added intrigue, layer, and dimension to the wonderful story Marchetta had already started and is well deserving of five out of five stars and two thumbs up.

Quintana of Charyn (Lumatere Chronicles, #3)
There's a babe in my belly that whispers the valley, Froi. I follow the whispers and come to the road...

 Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi must travel through Charyn to search for Quintana, the mother of Charyn's unborn king, and protect her against those who will do anything to gain power. But what happens when loyalty to family and country conflict? When the forces marshalled in Charyn's war gather and threaten to involve the whole of the land, including Lumatere, only Froi can set things right, with the help of those he loves.

(Summary from GoodReads)

I knew going into Quintana that a lot was at stake and that it was going to be an emotional read.  I turned out to be very right.  A lot of what happened in Quintana of Charyn made me cry, and it was beautifully written, making it my favorite book of this trilogy.

Charyn is a fragile kingdom that’s undergoing some major changes.  By this point in the series I really cared about Quintana and Froi and however they ended up, and I also knew that every choice they made had a huge impact on the people around them.  A lot of the action that happens in this book is quieter stuff, such as people dealing with new lives and losses, yet I cared so much that I still found myself quickly turning the pages and trying to absorb every moment.

Marchetta managed to make me cry a lot in this one.  Froi has a lot of things to figure out since he feels loyalty to Charyn and Lumatere.  And seeing how different nuclear families grow and change throughout this book really got to me.

Quintana of Charyn was a beautiful conclusion to a series featuring characters I genuinely care about it.  I would give this trilogy to anyone who wants character driven YA fantasy.  It’s no surprise to me that even more Marchetta books are finding their way to my favorites shelf.

Disclosure: I purchased copies of all of these books because I knew they would blow my mind.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Book Haul (69) and What Are You Reading?

For review:
Boys Don't Knit by T.S. Easton
The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond
Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline B. Carlson
The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Just One Year by Gayle Forman
Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta
Blogs and bloggers mentioned:
Angie of Fat Girl Reading
Kelly of Belle of the Literati

How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky by Lydia Netzler
Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen
Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta
Annabel by Lauren Oliver
Dancing In Red Shoes Will Kill You by Dorian Cirrone
Hana by Lauren Oliver
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Zom-B by Darren Shan
Mockingbird by Katherine Erskine
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus by Tom Angleberger
Amulet, Vol. 3: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi
Lumberjanes #1 by Noelle Stevenson
Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting
Who Is Dolly Parton? by True Kelley
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
Noggin by John Corey Whaley
Feed by M.T. Anderson
Currently reading:
The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas
My True Love Gave to Me
Truth and Dare: 20 Tales of Heartbreak and Happiness
What I plan to read:
Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact by A.J. Hartley
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
The Winner's Crime

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review of Fault Line by Christa Desir

Fault Line
Ben could date anyone he wants, but he only has eyes for the new girl — sarcastic free-spirit, Ani. Luckily for Ben, Ani wants him too. She’s everything Ben could ever imagine. Everything he could ever want.

But that all changes after the party. The one Ben misses. The one Ani goes to alone.

Now Ani isn’t the girl she used to be, and Ben can’t sort out the truth from the lies. What really happened, and who is to blame?

Ben wants to help her, but she refuses to be helped. The more she pushes Ben away, the more he wonders if there’s anything he can do to save the girl he loves.

(Summary from GoodReads) 

Most people probably expect stories about rape to be from the victim’s perspective, but that’s not the case with Fault Line.  Desir’s novel is all about a boy named Ben who starts dating a girl named Ani shortly before she is sexually assaulted at the party.  Fault Line offers a fresh, well written, and emotional perspective on sexual violence.

I’ve seen other reviews complain about character development, so we’re going to start there.  Ben and Ani really only date briefly before the assault, and some people complain that Ani felt underdeveloped and wondered why Ben stayed with her.  I actually thought that this was an extremely important element of how Ben deals with Ani’s assault—perhaps staying with her isn’t the best thing for either of them, but he stays with her because he thinks it’s right.  Fault Line is about narrative and what happens to Ani.  How is Ben letting his story affect her?  Should he be thinking more about how the assault affected Ani or himself?  I love the fact that teen readers will pick up this book and get to think about whether the way Ben behaved was right or wrong.  Ben is a little stubborn which can make him hard to like, but to me what matters is how realistic he is.

Desir’s plotting is quick: no time is wasted in getting to the action of this story.  The ending of this book is emotionally tough because the reader has grown attached to these characters, but doesn’t necessarily get a lot of answers. It’s messy and a little confusing, which is exactly the type of experience Ben has.

I cannot stress enough what a valuable and important book this is.  Desir takes an extremely relevant topic and deals with it in a way that young adult literature hasn’t seen too often before.  Fault Line may be short, but it will send your heart through the wringer and pack a lot of punch as you read it.

Other reviews:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review of The Geography Of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

The Geography of You and Me
Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they're rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

 Lucy and Owen's relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and -- finally -- a reunion in the city where they first met.
A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith's new novel shows that the center of the world isn't necessarily a place. It can be a person, too. 

(Summary from GoodReads)

After loving The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight but being disappointed in This Is What Happy Looks Like, I considered The Geography of You and Me to be Jennifer E. Smith’s last chance. Would I read her books again or not?  Smith’s latest was a cute but still slightly flawed reading, making her an author whose books I’ll only be getting from the library from now on.

Although Smith doesn’t always characterize place accurately, her descriptions of it are vivid, and make the reader feel like he or she is there, which is definitely the case in The Geography of You and Me.  I really got to know what places were important to Lucy and Owen, and I loved how much I learned about Owen in this process.  As much as I wanted to adore and root for Lucy, I felt like her character wasn’t fleshed out enough.  She struck me as an incredibly ordinary person without a lot of interests.

Smith’s prose manages to shine through in this novel.  I always turn to her when I look for prose that has a nice balance of loveliness, romance, and heartache.  She manages to make very sweet observations about romance.

I guess what I really noticed as I read this book is that Smith’s novels are starting to feel formulaic.  Boy meets girl, boy and girl are separated for whatever reason, and then by chance end up back together.  I may be oversimplifying, but I feel like she’s putting out the same story over and over again. It’s nice to know what to expect from her, but in some ways I’d almost be more interested in her future work if she did something a little different.

Disclosure: I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

YA Mini-Reviews

Graffiti MoonLucy is in love with Shadow, a mysterious graffiti artist.
Ed thought he was in love with Lucy, until she broke his nose.
Dylan loves Daisy, but throwing eggs at her probably wasn't the best way to show it.
Jazz and Leo are slowly encircling each other.
An intense and exhilarating 24 hours in the lives of four teenagers on the verge: of adulthood, of HSC, of finding out just who they are, and who they want to be.
A lyrical new YA novel from the award-winning author of Chasing Charlie Duskin and the Gracie Faltrain series.
(Summary from GoodReads) 


Graffiti Moon is a book I picked up because I’d heard great things about Cath Crowley’s writing.  While I think Cath Crowley is a good writer, I wouldn’t say I’m the Target audience for this book.  I always struggle a little bit with books about artists, but as someone who isn’t an artist, I don’t always get it.  For example, I thought it was really cool that Lucy was into glassblowing, but I didn’t really get why she wanted to track down the graffiti artist.  Crowley’s prose is nice, but not the kind of prose that makes me want to weep. I found the romance to be a little predictable and I just wasn’t especially entertained by the plot of this one.  I don’t regret reading it, but found it to be good rather than exceptional.

The Rules for Disappearing (The Rules for Disappearing, #1)
She’s been six different people in six different places: Madeline in Ohio, Isabelle in Missouri, Olivia in Kentucky . . . But now that she’s been transplanted to rural Louisiana, she has decided that this fake identity will be her last.
Witness Protection has taken nearly everything from her. But for now, they’ve given her a new name, Megan Rose Jones, and a horrible hair color. For the past eight months, Meg has begged her father to answer one question: What on earth did he do – or see – that landed them in this god-awful mess? Meg has just about had it with all the Suits’ rules — and her dad’s silence. If he won’t help, it’s time she got some answers for herself.
But Meg isn’t counting on Ethan Landry, an adorable Louisiana farm boy who’s too smart for his own good. He knows Meg is hiding something big. And it just might get both of them killed. As they embark on a perilous journey to free her family once and for all, Meg discovers that there’s only one rule that really matters — survival.
(Summary from GoodReads) 


I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I picked up The Rules for Disappearing—it turned out to be such a great book!  I do not recommend reading this book at night when you know you have to get up for work the next day, because this book is so addictive.  I had to know what happened, and I also enjoyed the sweet romance with Ethan.  There was a nice twist at the end, and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on The Rules for Breaking.

The Theory of Everything
One part Libba Bray's GOING BOVINE, two parts String Theory, and three parts love story equals a whimsical novel that will change the way you think about the world.
Sophie Sophia is obsessed with music from the late eighties. She also has an eccentric physicist father who sometimes vanishes for days and sees things other people don’t see. But when he disappears for good and Sophie’s mom moves them from Brooklyn, New York, to Havencrest, Illinois, for a fresh start, things take a turn for the weird. Sophie starts seeing things, like marching band pandas, just like her dad.

Guided by Walt, her shaman panda, and her new (human) friend named Finny, Sophie is determined to find her father and figure out her visions, once and for all. So she travels back to where it began—New York City and NYU’s physics department. As she discovers more about her dad’s research on M-theory and her father himself, Sophie opens her eyes to the world’s infinite possibilities—and her heart to love.
Perfect for fans of Going Bovine, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and The Probability of Miracles.
(Summary from GoodReads) 

Kari Luna’s book The Theory of Everything is perhaps one of the strangest books I read in 2013. Luna’s novel focuses on a young girl who has bizarre visions and is also trying to track down her physicist father.  When I first started reading about Sophie’s visions, I thought they were quirky and even a little bit cute.  As the plot progressed, it felt like the themes started to get a little bit serious.  I felt like the visions managed to overshadow the storyline, and that the plotline with the visions didn’t go anywhere.  I’d pass this one off to readers who want something that’s light, fun, and different.


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