Blog Tour and Series Cast: Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

I’m delighted to be participating for the Quintana of Charyn blog tour. As we all eagerly await the US release of the last in Melina Marchetta’s stunning Lumatere Chronicles series, I couldn’t help but ruminate a bit on all of the characters that we’ve come to know and love in Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles.

I can’t help but cast characters in my head when I’m reading. Here’s how I imagine the characters in the Lumatere Chronicles series. (Warning: The pictures in my head often don’t match up to character descriptions. But it’s my vision, so change it if you don’t like it).

Finnikin

Isaboe

 

Froi

Quintana

Phaedra

Lucian

Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour here.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Books for People Who Liked Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

1. The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner

These two talented ladies found inspiration in each other’s work, and it shows. There’s much of Howl in Gen, including an impossible wit and proclivity for temper tantrums. There’s also just enough fantasy to keep genre fans satisfied.

2. Nightrunner series by Lynn Flewelling

Flewelling’s series juggles numerous adult themes and so the tone is more mature than that of Jones’s classic children’s book. However, Alec and Seregil constantly snark at each other and get into hijinks reminiscent of Sophie and Howl’s adventures.

3. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

There’s decidedly less humor in Cashore’s series, yet fans of Diana Wynne Jones’ writing will surely find much to love in Cashore’s lush worldbuilding.

4. Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Unlike Howl, Unspoken is set in modern times, yet Brennan has infused her story with the same wry humor that Jones was so well known for. Had Jones decided to write a gothic romance novel, Unspoken surely would have been its doppleganger.

5. A Matter of Magic by Patricia C. Wrede

Mairelon reminded me quite a bit of Howl, though he was rather less prone to histrionics. A Matter of Magic is a slower read than Howl and rather less funny, but it’s a great example of a fantasy of manners.

6. Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman can turn anything into gold, and his attempt at an original fairy tale is no exception. Both Howl and Stardust excel at not taking themselves too seriously, which I believe is an important but oft-overlooked elemet to any humorous fantasy novel.

7. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

McKinley is the queen of fairy tale adaptations, yet her Damar stories are just as brilliant. While Howl fans should seek out McKinley’s entire catalogue of work, The Blue Sword is a good place to start.

8. The Princess Bride by William Goldman

If you’re after humorous fantasy, you can’t do better than The Princess Bride.

Some other titles that aren’t quite as similar yet that might interest Howl’s fans include: Chronicles of Lumatere series by Melina Marchetta, Study series by Maria V. Snyder, Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, and Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.

 

One Year Blogoversary GIVEAWAY

Alright, so my blog isn’t turning 25, but at least it shows I can bake. Mmm, cake.

Today, my wee little blog celebrates its first birthday. It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by since my blog transformed from a niggling thought at the back of my head to a reality. I’ve achieved more this year than I could have hoped for, made a few fellow blogging friends along the way, and read some fantastic books, which is really what it’s all about. It seems only fitting that my first giveaway should be celebratory in nature.

To commemmorate my first blogoversary, I’m giving away two books from three of my favorite authors. One lucky follower will win a copy of Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. A second follower will win a copy of Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Oh, and in case I forgot to mention: Will Grayson, Will Grayson is SIGNED.

Alright, now I’m going to do the shameless self-promotion bit, but really, don’t you want to win one of the fabulous books mentioned above? So to enter, please become an email subscriber of my blog and leave a comment telling me that you’ve signed up. For kicks and giggles, also let me know what your favorite most underrated book is, because I’m always looking for suggestions.

Entrants will gain an additional entry for each of the following:
  • Following me on Twitter (@BooknShortLatte)
  • Friending me on Goodreads (Shortlatte)
  • Tweeting the link to the giveaway
  • Commenting on any previously-posted review

Include your total number of entries in your comment, please! Contest runs from Sunday, July 15 through midnight on Sunday, July 22.

So that’s it. Go forth and let your entries abound.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week is a freebie week, and I’ve decided to do: Top Ten Books That Made Me Cry

Disclaimer: I am not proud of my reaction to many of the following books. Procede your own risk (well, really, it’s a risk to my credibility as a blogger, but regardless…).

1. The Host by Stephanie Meyer
I’m not a hardcore Twilight hater. I’ll admit, I have the books, and while they don’t tend to make their way into my reread pile, I probably won’t discard them anytime soon (all flaws and abusive relationship portrayals aside). The same goes for the movie (though luckily, I have enough pride to have limited myself to owning only the first, and that’s because it’s hilarious[ly bad]). However, I actually think The Host is rather underrated. Meyer will never be a literary author, but after slogging through the first two-hundred pages, I was shocked to find myself tearing through this. And when I reached the end, I was sobbing: big, heaving, ugly sobs. I’m not saying it’s great literature, but give it a chance; it might surprise you.
2. A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks
All kidding aside, Sparks isn’t an author who usually makes it onto my TBR list. However, I hold a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf for this one title. I’m not quite sure why, because I really don’t like Jamie very much, but Landon gets to me every time. The setting (unlike the movie, the book is set in the 1950s) also really works for me. I like that Sparks left the ending of the book purposefully ambiguous, because otherwise I would be an utter wreck whenever I finished this one.
3. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
This book gutted me, utterly. It remains my favorite Marchetta title, and Tom is my absolute favorite of her characters. The intertwining of his troubles with those of his family is painfully raw, and though he manages to come out in a positive place, the journey is excruciating at times.
4. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
I wasn’t a huge fan of Forman’s If I Stay duology, but I have to admit that the first book did have me teary-eyed at times. It was more of a mist than a full cry, but it gets credit nonetheless.
5. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Time Traveler’s Wife ruined me for all other books for months. I still haven’t gotten over the beautiful tragedy of Claire and Henry’s romance, and I doubt I ever will. This is one title that, as much as I loved it, I haven’t been able to reread since my first experience because I just can’t bear putting myself through the pain a second time.
6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Alright, I admit it. For as much as I’ve ragged on Rowling’s writing in the past, this last one got to me. I believe that Fred’s death was what did me in (same goes for the movie the first couple of times I saw it). And for those who haven’t yet read or watched Harry Potter…whoops.
7. Lover Awakened/Lover Mine by J.R. Ward
These two are by far my favorite installments in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. After a dubious start with Dark Lover, Ward managed to create a world and characters so dynamic that my heart beats alongside theirs despite the more ridiculous elements of the stories (slang and product-placement being among its foremost flaws). Zsadist and Bella, John Matthew and Xhex: my favorite couple is a toss-up on any given day. Of course, that’s not including Qhuinn and Blay, the conclusion to whose story we will finally be getting next year.
8. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
This book nearly collided with a wall. When I think of reading experiences in which I became fully immersed in the story, to the point where the outside world ceased to exist, this one usually to comes to mind. The last few pages threatened to shatter the delicate thread of emotion that had built up within my seventh-grade heart throughout the day.
9. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
I read spoilers. I read the last page of a book before I buy it. I knew what I was getting into. That didn’t make the inevitable any less severe. I fell in love despite myself, knowing all along that my heart would get broken, and even so, I’m already looking forward to my next reread.
That’s all she wrote for this week. My choices are a bit unconventional, to say the least. What can I say; I’m a hardened cynic except for when I’m not, and that’s usually at unexpected times. Are there any books that are guaranteed tear-jerkers that I’ve omitted?

Meandering Around the Interweb

In my various hours of wandering through book blogs far and wide, I’ve come across some pretty fantastic posts lately, so I thought I would spotlight my favorites. Hopefully I can make this a semi-regular feature, although my laziness will test the bounds of my determination to do so, so stay tuned for now.

While I’m drowning in the tears that can only be brought on by The Reichenbach Fall, perhaps I’ll drink away my sorrows with some of these delightful Sherlock blend teas. I’m particularly curious to try Moriartea.

Heroes and Heartbreakers had some interesting television news this week. Apparently, come fall we will have a new Beauty and the Beast adaptation, this time with an update of the classic 80’s TV show. I can’t help but be rather disappointed with the trailer (and not only because I was an adamant Lana hater during the Smallville years). I’m sorry, but a little facial scar does not a beast make, especially when the monstrous attitude is replaced with a penchant for altruism. From the snippets we get here, it looks like he might become a tad more beastly when he’s in angry mode…but, no, wait- scratch that, he’s still handsome. Oh, well. At least we still have time to hope that the Anne of Green Gables modern update is better. But honestly, I’ll take Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie any day.

The Piper’s Son happens to be my favorite Melina Marchetta, and Kat Kennedy over at the Cuddlebuggery Book Blog recently wrote a wonderful review that expresses all the reasons I love this book more eloquently than I could. In other Marchetta-related news, according to Goodreads, the fourth book in the Lumatere Chronicles has a name, and it’s…Ferragost. Thoughts? Do you think this the official title, as it doesn’t really fit in with the first three.

There’s some interesting discussion of late about just what dystopian actually means, and how it differs from post-apocalyptic fic.

I’m guaranteed to track down this Princess Bride-inspired wine pack for my next dinner party. And don’t worry, according to the website, the Inconceivable Cab holds no traces of iocane powder.

I can’t help but love reading Amber at Down the Rabbit Hole’s reactions to recently completing her first viewing of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While I don’t agree with everything in her post about why Buffy and Spike are meant to be, she makes some good points nonetheless. I’m even more interested to hear what she has to say about her foray into the world of Season 8 comics, as I’ve abstained from them myself. Personally, I love how Whedon ended the show, and while I’m somewhat intrigued by what I’ve read of the comic continuation, I’m also too apprehensive to delve in myself.

The world lost a wonderful writer last week. As always, Neil Gaiman’s words regarding the love he held for Ray Bradbury’s work are beautifully poignant and a lovely tribute.

A Spell of Vengeance by D.B. Jackson

I’ve been salivating for D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker since spotting the gorgeous Chris McGrath cover last year, and was so excited to receive an advance copy from NetGalley. The short story, “A Spell of Vengeance,” written for Tor.com makes me all the more excited to read it this weekend.

Once again, the scientific community has made a discovery that has gone shockingly unremarked-upon by the general populace. Bulgarian archaeologists have uncovered human remains from the Middle Ages with iron stakes protruding from their chests. These skeletons serve as evidence of actual vampire hunting back in the day. Beware, ye squeamish; the link leads to some relatively graphic images.

Jeaniene Frost and Ilona Andrews had a Twitter battle on behalf of their respective heroes, Bones and Curran. I think this speaks for itself.

Lynn Flewelling has written a short story in which Seregil from her Nightrunner series and Bast from Patrick Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind have a cage fight. I’ve never actually read Rothfuss (I know, I’m getting on it), but regardless, my money’s on Seregil every time.

And possibly one of the best things I’ve ever seen, Super Mercado has graced the world with Game of Thrones of Muppets. While they’re all super clever and fit in with the real cast surprisingly well, I think I stopped breathing when my eyes landed on Petyr Beakish and Dr. Varys Honeydew.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Books Written In The Past 10 Years That I Hope People Are Still Reading In 30 Years

1. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Stiefvater’s lilting prose and honest characterizations mark her work as a cut above the typical young adult fare. This story of a seaside community whose residents participate in annual water horse races is a beautiful yet disturbing take on an original folk tale.
2. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Gruen’s tale of a young veterinarian who joins the circus by luck of circumstance is simple yet moving, and though the characters don’t break any new ground, her lush descriptions of circus life will make you yearn to leave behind the ordinary trappings of your own life.
3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Honestly, anything published under Gaiman’s name should be required reading thirty years from now, but since my favorite adult novel of his, Neverwhere, was published more than ten years ago, I’ll stick with this lovely children’s story for purposes of this list. Gaiman’s work in eminently readable by adults and children alike.
4. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
Another author whose entire catalogue should be required reading, it was difficult to choose just one Marchetta. The story of Tom Mackee and his broken family is my favorite of her books. It’s painful, difficult to read at times, but always gently, brutally truthful.
5. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
I still haven’t read The Book Thief, but I don’t need to in order to know the strength of Zusak’s writing. Ed Kennedy is one of the most relatable everyman narrators I’ve had the pleasure of reading. His story is at once funny and inspiring.
6. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
Allen’s writing is cotton candy rather than a main course, but that doesn’t lessen its blissful impact. She has a real way with words; you’ll want to visit every quirky town she describes and indulge in each delectable dish the characters create. Fiction needs some levity and pure fairy tale happiness.
7. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Years after first reading this book, I still haven’t healed the massive hole it punched in my heart. It takes a bit of work to get into the swing of the narrative, but once you are immersed in it, it’s difficult not to get wrapped up in the grand arc of Claire and Henry’s story.
8. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
Levithan’s image of a high school life where gay is the norm might seem somewhat conspicuous in its improbability, but once that tableau is accepted as a magical realist backdrop, the tale that unfolds is heartwarming and totally familiar. And Infinite Darlene just might be one of the secondary characters most deserving of her own novel.
9. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
It’s not my personal favorite of his, but I believe it’s nonetheless Green’s best work to date. His impossibly witty, pop-culture laden dialogues are unlikely to be exchanged between real teenagers, but it doesn’t matter, because Green understand the human experience in a way that transcends age.
10. The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner
This one might be cheating a bit since the first two were published more than ten years ago, but since it’s still ongoing I’m going to include it. I’ve yet to come across another author who has utilized such a wide range of literary techniques to consistently fool readers while simultaneously staying completely true to her own style and to her characters. Gen is one of my favorite literary characters ever, and his story is deserving of a spot on everyone’s reading list.

“Waiting On” Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a meme created at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases that we can’t wait to read.

This week I’m impatiently awaiting the US release of Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta.

Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

According to Goodreads, all we know as of now is that it is set three weeks after the events in Froi of the Exiles, and though I didn’t fall in love with Froi as I had hoped I would, I still can’t wait to see how Froi and Quintana’s story unfolds.

This title will be released in Australia on September 26, 2012; still no word on the US release date.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

The Past Week

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

What I Didn’t Say by Keary Taylor

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart

The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Reading Now

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

The Week Ahead

Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Review: Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a huge Melina Marchetta fan, and her fantasy debut Finnikin of the Rock cemented my love for her writing. Yet despite how wrapped up I got in Finnikin, I did find it to be rather slow going at times. Marchetta doesn’t skimp on the details of the worlds she creates, and becoming acquainted with the various lands and peoples of fantasy fiction often proves one of my primary challenges while reading the genre.

At twice the length of its predecessor, Froi of the Exiles is a hefty book. To be blunt, it’s

Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

bloated. Six-hundred pages are devoted to political intrigue, deception, and foretold prophecy, yet the substance could have been conveyed easily and more successfully in half the space. Yet, Froi‘s excessive length serves a purpose beyond mere disinclination to edit. To cut out the pages where tensions drag and emotions recirculate to the same conclusions would be to diminish the desperation that serves as Froi’core.

I had high expectations going into Froi, and to be honest I’m not sure they were entirely met. I remain invested in the story despite being detached from the characters. In Finnikin, while I didn’t adore either Isaboe or Finnikin, I understood what made them tick, and so I threw them my support. While I found some interesting characters introduced in Froi, they failed to earn my love as have the characters of most series that I anticipate with the fervor that I do The Lumatére Chronicles. By all accounts, Quintana should be one of my favorite characters of the series, and she might yet fulfill that role. For now, I’m keeping a cautious distance, because while I might not love the characters from Lumatére that we first met in Finnikin, I do like them, and I sense that Quintana could wreak some havoc on their happiness before events are finished. Still, Quintana holds my interest in a way that Isaboe never has; her lot in life has been equally as destructive, if in a different fashion, yet I suspect that Isaboe’s pride would not have allowed her to cope in the way that Quintana necessarily has. Both women are survivors, but their methods are so strikingly different. Both are fierce, with Isaboe displaying that ferocity with noble strength while Quintana adopts a feral, instinctive manner.

Unfortunately, while I’m intrigued by Quintana, I wasn’t sold on her desire or capacity to form a relationship with Froi, let alone the intimate one that they forge. I have no doubt that Quintana is capable of moving past the emotional damage that she has had to bear. I find it safe to say that she isn’t there yet, though, and likely won’t be at least until she is able to control her urge to snarl at threats and annoyances. Perhaps Froi’s seduction was a necessary step toward her ultimate healing, but my emotions weren’t swept up in the act the way I felt Marchetta hoped for them to be.

In contrast to Quintana’s layers, Froi came across as regrettably flat. He held the weight of the book, indeed, perhaps the entire series, upon his shoulders, yet he never emerges as his own man. When we first met Froi in Finnikin, I couldn’t wait to see how Marchetta would set about redeeming this seemingly reprehensible boy. Based on the one chapter we were granted through Froi’s eyes, I thought I understood Marchetta’s plans for Froi, allowing the readers to witness his slow transformation from misled boy to man. Instead, Marchetta chose to begin Froi three years after Finnikin‘s conclusion, thereby robbing readers of the opportunity to journey with Froi through his confused emotional development. When we meet up with Froi again, he has already processed the feelings with which he was just beginning to grapple at Finnikin‘s end. We are told of his loyalty to Isaboe and Finnikin, of his understanding that his past was reproachful, yet in the gap between youth and manhood I sense little of the old Froi whose narration I was looking forward to. While he was an adequate conduit to tell the story, I didn’t miss his perspective when Marchetta switched to stories on the sidelines. Marchetta’s trademark humor could well have found a place in Froi’s thoughts, and its omission wasn’t necessary to lend gravity to an already grim narrative.

Some might feel that Isaboe and Finnikin’s scenes were unnecessary filler, but I rather enjoyed the glimpses into their married life as queen and her king. In contrast to the dire events occurring in Charyn, Isaboe and Finnikin’s banter was a welcome reprieve. Where off-page passage of time hurt Froi’s development, it worked well here, as witnessing the couple’s happily-ever-after in real time would have come across as maudlin. Instead, it feels as if we are simply given a peek into the life of a well-adjusted couple, a life with flaws and joys, one that isn’t demeaned by contrived strife or artificial obstacles.

Many readers lament the amount of sex and violence in this volume. While Finnikin wasn’t altogether innocent on this front, there’s no doubt that Froi turns up the volume on both counts, yet it doesn’t feel gratuitous. This series is no fairy tale, and Marchetta clearly trusts her readers to grasp the significance behind the events that unfold. This series is an excellent example of narrow-minded genre labeling, because I’m not sure exactly what is young adult about this story apart from the characters’ ages. Had the publisher swapped the colorful, character-based covers for ones in subdued tones focusing on setting, the books could easily be shelved in the fantasy section, and adult readers would be none the wiser. Many of the story’s nuances will likely go over younger readers’ heads, and even so there is abundant material here that requires a mature temperament to appreciate its significance.

Overall, the tale that Marchetta is slowly weaving has my attention captured even if my sympathies have yet to be drawn to any character in particular. It’s a rare feat that an author so enthralls me without similarly endearing me to her characters, yet Marchetta is no common author. Even at her worst, her writing soars above the rest.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

The final exams rage on, but despite it all I’ve managed to get in more reading than I thought possible.

The Past Week

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn

The Seer and the Sword by Victoria Hanley

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Reading Now

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

The Week Ahead

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta