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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review - Katana

Hey addicts! Just wanted to let you know that I'm over at TYAC tonight with a review of Katana by Cole Gibsen- a samurai style Buffy. Oh yeah!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Books of December

Aw, so I'm a little late recapping my reading list for December, but I do yearn for consistency with at least one blog feature so we shall proceed as planned and PRETEND that it's not January 7th. I didn't read quite so many books in December - I actually devoted some time to writing and research. Go me! Love to hear your thoughts on my December list.

129. Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta** *dies just thinking about it* Review here. AWESOME!!
130. As I Wake by Elizabeth Scott This is the second book I've read recently by Elizabeth Scott where I've been left feeling unimpressed. I hear so many readers say that they love her writing, but I've had a hard time with her recent stuff. This one was just confusing as hell, and most of it was never really explained, ever. Honestly, a month after reading it, I'm not even sure if I could tell you what it was about.
131. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher* An entire prison that's ALIVE! Now that's a unique premise. I loved all the characters and the overall story, but I thought some of the visual details were very hard to grasp.
132. A Million Suns by Beth Revis ** LOVED IT!!! I plan to review this soon, but let's just say that I read most of the book in one evening, couldn't put it down!

133. Saving June by Hannah Harrington* Review here. Enjoyed it, but I kind of wished it had wowed me, and well, it didn't. Too much hype?
134. Minnesota 13 by Elaine Davis* (non-fiction, historical) This book is for research on my new WIP. Some hints - gangsters, the 1930s, an entire MN county engaged in bootlegging?  I'm not sure if anyone who isn't from MN would find this book as interesting as I did, but I hope to incorporate some of the history I learned and make it interesting. Yes, I do love a challenge.
135. Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. Oh so slow of a start. This book felt so disjointed. The first half focuses mainly on the MC finding friends and getting acquainted with her new school - barely any mention of The Ripper. Then the second half was all Ripper and the friends were completely ignored. With such a compelling subject, I expected so much more from this. Not high on my recommendation list.

136. Katana by Cole Gibsen* Interesting combination of reincarnation and Japanese Samurai. I'll be doing a TYAC review of this next week. Stay tuned!

137. The Gorgon in the Gully by Melina Marchetta* (lower middle grade) I bought this as a Christmas present for my 10 year old, but now I think it was maybe a little too young for him. I'll make sure that my younger son and daughter read it though. Very nice story of a boy finding courage to face his fears and making friends along the way. I got a little choked up at the end. And oh! If you've read Jellicoe Road you'll appreciate the little asides about Jonah Griggs. *big cheeky grin* :)

138. Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell* A lovely gift from a dear friend. It's a story based on the Arthurian Legends written in verse, which makes for a very nice combination. I read this all in one sitting and just loved it. Beautiful prose. Coming of age story set in the Middle Ages.  A bit of a love story (of course) that doesn't end how you would predict. A strong recommendation.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Review: Froi of the Exiles

Title:Froi of the Exiles
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Candlewick
Release Date: March 13, 2012

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. 

First off: 


Whew, glad to get that off my chest. Normally I don't do the whole fangirl thing, but well, MM made me squeal more than once in this book and so I think I have to let loose a bit. I've been recommending this series to friends for a while now, and last week I even told my brother in law to get it. Yes, my BROTHER IN LAW. He used to be a big fantasy fan and he does read YA occasionally, and holy hell, if anyone who likes those two things doesn't read this series then there is something wrong with them.  

Froi of the Exiles is a continuation of the first book, Finnikin of Rock, and yes, unfortunately you do have to read the first book in order for this one to make sense. Froi is a different story in itself, focused  several years later, with a different main character and a slightly different angle. Those that have read Finnikin and long for his return won't be disappointed though; there are plenty of little scenes with Finnikin and Isaboe to make your heart do that pitter-patter thang. I have to say that when I learned the second book would focus on Froi, the little urchin who does quite a few unspeakable things in the first book, I was a little... afraid. Would I like him? Would I be able to forgive his past transgressions and come to the point where I'd fall in love with him? I was concerned. But by the first page, I got my answer. YES AND YES!! Unbelievable, but that's Melina Marchetta for you. In truth, I actually liked the second book better. 

There are a lot of similarities between Finnikin on the Rock and Froi of the Exiles- a curse to be broken, a main character that you predict early on will break said curse, a strong female lead,  sexual tension up the wazooki. :) But make no mistake, it's not the same book. Froi's character is much more complex than Finnikin - happily (for the reader), he's more tortured. Orphaned and broken early in his youth, Froi has grown up to trust no one but himself. When he finds his heart bound to Queen Isaboe, his duty to his queen easily defines him. He takes on the mission to assassinate the king of Charyn with pride and the conviction that he will not fail. All of this comes crashing down on him, of course. His loyalty is tested, his heart is broken, put back together and broken again. Marchetta spares him no grief and it is this that endears him to us and makes us pound our fists with the unfairness of it all when the last, cliffhanger line is read.

A little mention about the other characters in the book. First there was Quintana, the Charyn princess who appears mad and even quite repulsive when we first meet her. I was sort of scratching my head thinking, this is our heroine/Froi's LI? The girl who lets her hair fall into her food? Who eats off other people's plates? But I grew to love Quintana's ferocity and eventually saw what would make Froi fall in love with her. Then there were the two brothers, Gargarin and Arjuro. I was never quite sure which one to hate and which to love.  Both are a little rough around the edges, both incredibly brilliant. I loved their story and how it all fit together with Froi's. Finally, a little mention about Lucian and Phaedra. I wasn't sure what to make of their story. I quite hated Lucian at first for taking a Charyn wife and their resulting conflict, but as I saw the two eventually make their peace (and saw Lucien act more like the gentleman he was supposed to be) I found myself wanting them to fall in love. But then horror of horrors happen, which I obviously can't say because that would be too much of a spoiler. *big cheeky grin*.  I'm so anxious to see how this plays out and what the whole purpose of it was. There are many other characters I could mention, each unique in his/her own right. Melina Marchetta's ability to create complex characters that we both love and hate is reminiscent of Tolkein's genius. I often have to simply stand back and marvel at her.

Oh, I could go on and on about a dozen other little things that I loved about the book. The wonderful world building that makes you feel like  you're RIGHT THERE in that stone-sheltered world. The descriptions *sigh* and the wonderful prose *double sigh*.  The flirtatious dialogue that made me squeal and pound my pound my feet with glee, yes! yes! I do like to give a balanced review though, so I will mention two little things that I didn't like about the book. One, it was a bit hard to keep the backstory straight. There are a lot of characters in the book, many of whom are dead, and so as I was learning the story of Froi's past I had to re-read a bit. Not a big deal overall because in the end it made sense and compared to some fantasy books it was trivial, but I'm just giving it a mention. As for the other thing, and this isn't really a criticism but more of an 'oh phooey' sort of comment, the subject material is just a little too heavy-handed for my son to read. I love getting him excited about series that I've read, but at his age he's just not quite ready for some of the things that happen in this book. In two years though, I fully intend to introduce him to MM's world.

Finally, THANK  YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, to Candlewick Press for letting me review this book ahead of it's US publication date.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Best of 2011

Well, looking around the blogs, it appears that everyone has already been putting putting up there Best of 2011, so once again I am late to the party. O.o. But, hey it snowed last night! Can I be blamed for watching out my window instead of writing a blog post? Can I? Huh? Huh?

I managed to read 138 books in 2011, past my original goal of 100 and then past my second goal of 135. They are listed here on the blog up top if you're looking for some recommendations - anything with an asterisk or double asterisk. I think I'll have to cut back some this year though because I really need to write more, so I'm setting my reading goal for 75. It feels like such a pitiful little number, though I suppose if I get another book written it will be worth it. So anywho, here is a rundown of my stats and then my Bests lists. Hope you find something new to check out.

Paranormal/urban fantasy: 39
Dystopian: 12
Contemporary: 71
Historical: 5
Science Fiction: 4
Fantasy: 3
Aussie (gets its own category cuz there's so many): 10
Novel in verse: 2
Adult: 0!!!
middle grade: 2
Indie/self-pub:  8

Once again I had far more contemporary than anything else, even though neither of the books I'm currently writing fits into these categories. I really envy contemporary writers. The ability to take a simple story idea and write with striking prose and voice without relying on the back up of a "unique" concept really floors me. I wish I were as good. Still, I think that I need to back off a bit with these and focus on some other areas that I'm not as familiar with such as: Historical, Science Fiction, Middle grade, Classics,
Novels in verse and plain old fantasy. I also have quite a few series on my re-read list that I've been meaning to get to such as the whole Hunger Games series.

And now for the awards...

Books with serious "teen" issues that I recommend: 

Hate List - school shooting
Raw Blue - don't want to say because it will spoil the book!
This Gorgeous Game - stalking
Split - domestic violence

Best paranormal (concept) White Cat by Holly Black
Best paranormal (writing) Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Most moving contemporary:  Raw Blue by Kirsty Eager
Best off-beat contemporary:  Guitar Highway Rose by Brigid Lowry
Most tension filled contemporary:  The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

Strongest female protagonist: Quintana from Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

Best boys: too many to choose from!! Let's see there was Tom from The Piper's Son - too sexy. Adam from Where she Went was tortured in a good way. Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road was so serious, and Prince Brigan from Fire who is both dashing and dreamy. I could go on and on...

Best Dystopian Divergent by Vernonica Ross

Best overall YA: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Finally, this is my list of favorite new authors that I vow to check out more from: 

Kirsty Eager
Bethany Griffin
Stephanie Perkins
Nina LaCour
Nina de Gramont
Jennifer Donnelly
Leila Sales
Kirsten Hubbard
Suzanne Young
Holly Black
Tom Leveen

How about you? Have you read any of these? Any that you think I really really need to add to mile-long TBR list this year?



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