13 March 2012

Book Review: Froi of the Exiles

Froi of the Exiles, Melina Marchetta (Gr 9+)

Coming 13 March 2012 – TODAY!
Candlewick. Review copy provided by publisher.

“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 taken roughly and lovingly in hand by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper with a warrior’s discipline. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds in its surreal royal court. Soon he must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad princess in this barren and mysterious place. It is in Charyn that he will discover there is a song sleeping in his blood . . . and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.”

Remember how much I loved Finnikin of the Rock? No? Then click the link or just scroll down a little ways and remind yourself, because woah did I ever LOVE that book! Finnikin was my gateway into Melina Marchetta fangirlishness, and Froi of the Exiles has cemented her as one of my all time favorite authors (so did Jellicoe Road, more on that another time).

Froi’s story picks up a few years after Finnikin’s left off. The Lumaterans are back home in their own country and starting to rebuild. There’s a lot of hurt left for this country and a divide between those who were in exile and those who were trapped inside. Froi has found a place for himself with the Guard and has started to really feel like a Lumateran. He has decided to devote his life to protecting Queen Isaboe, Queen’s Consort Finnikin, and their young daughter. Froi has also decided to become a character I love instead of one I don’t actually like much at all. He has grown and developed into a main character to root for, one whose story will haunt readers.

Elsewhere in the world, trouble is brewing. The nearby country of Charyn, under the rule of a mad king, is in the grips of a disastrous curse, one almost more devastating than the one on Lumatere. The women of Charyn have all been barren for eighteen years. The Charynites have started to leave their wasted homeland and have formed an uneasy truce with the Lumateran Monts. Now the Lumaterans are faced with exiles living in their land and must decide whether or not to help them. Queen Isaboe believes the best way to deal with Charyn is to send Froi in to the country undercover to assassinate their king. I love the way Melina Marchetta deals with issues of tolerance, refugees, and many other modern day topics. She makes readers think about contemporary themes in a fantastical world.

Once again, Marchetta has woven an impossibly intricate, beautiful, gut wrenching story that will pull readers in and not let go. Even at 593 pages (WOW) this book is too short. Readers will find themselves wanting to know everything about Froi, a character they may not have even liked in Finnikin of the Rock, and wondering what to make of Quintana of Charyn. This book has an impressive cast of characters and is told from multiple points of view. Fans of Finnikin of the Rock will be happy to see all their old favorite characters return and to get to know them even better through their own narration. Readers will race through the book and be hugely disappointed when it ends! Seriously, Quintana of Charyn doesn’t come out until when?! It doesn’t even have a US pub. date yet?! GAH! Hurry out and get a copy of Froi of the Exiles – then you can join me in desperately wishing for Quintana of Charyn to come out…or I guess we could all just go re-read Finnikin and Froi.


If you like Froi of the Exiles, you might also like:
Fire, Kristin Cashore
The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Rae Carson
Plain Kate, Erin Bow

12 March 2012

Book Review: Born Wicked

Born Wicked, Jessica Spotswood
(Gr 7+)
Putnam Juvenile, February 7th, 2012. Review copy provided by publisher.

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship–or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with six months to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word… especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate stars scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood — not even from each other.”

The Cahill sisters are witches in a time when being a witch, or even a strong woman, means life imprisonment or death. Their world is controlled by the Brotherhood, an all male religious order that imposes strict rules of conduct. Cate Cahill has been trying to supress her magic and that of her sisters for their own protection, but the girls are getting stronger. With their mother gone, and a new governess in the house, and only a few months before Cate must either announce her engagement or join the Sisterhood (the Brotherhood’s female counterpart) the stage is set for some serious historical supernatural drama!

Cate is an interesting character. She seems to want nothing more than to disappear into the world she lives in. She doesn’t want anyone to notice her, or her sisters, but she can’t help but stand out. She is strong, brave, and caring. I loved her instantly. Cate’s journey throughout the novel is one that will keep readers turning pages and longing for the sequel to come out faster! Her sisters were slightly less developed characters, but still intriguing. Maura, the middle sister, was particularly interesting to me. She’s a very angry character and has complicated relationships with those around her. She seems to be desperate for love and acceptance. I’d love to get a little (or a lot) of her perspective in the next novel.

Jessica Spotswood has created a compelling, interesting world. Her United States was colonized, but never pulled away from England. The big city is called New London, the overall feel of the place is very British, and magic permeates everything (whether the Brotherhood wants it to or not). This is a great book for teens who enjoy historical fantasy and romance.

If you like Born Wicked, you might also like:
Chime, Franny Billingsley
Prophecy of the Sisters, Michelle Zink
Clockwork Angel,Cassandra Clare

29 February 2012

Itty Bitty Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
(Gr 9+)
Dutton Juvenile, January 10th, 2012. Reviewed from purchased copy.

“Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumors in her lungs… for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumors tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.”

Review in 75 words or less:

John Green has done the impossible – written a beautiful, hopeful, never sappy book about teens with cancer. His characters are interesting, loveable, and real. Readers of all ages will take Hazel and Gus into their hearts and keep them there. The only remotely negative thing to say about this accomplished novel is it is dangerous to read it in public. It’s early to say, but this my pick for the next Printz award. (74)


If you like The Fault in Our Stars, you might also like:
Looking for Alaska, John Green
Please Ignore Vera Dietz, A.S. King
The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, Francisco X. Stork

28 February 2012

Book Review: Finnikin of the Rock

Finnikin of the Rock, Melina Marchetta
(Gr 8+)
Candlewick Press, February 9, 2010. Reviewed from purchased copy.

Finnikin was only a child during the five days of the unspeakable, when the royal family of Lumatere were brutally murdered, and an imposter seized the throne. Now a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere’s walls, and those who escaped roam the surrounding lands as exiles, persecuted and despairing, dying by the thousands in fever camps. In a narrative crackling with the tension of an imminent storm, Finnikin, now on the cusp of manhood, is compelled to join forces with an arrogant and enigmatic young novice named Evanjalin, who claims that her dark dreams will lead the exiles to a surviving royal child and a way to pierce the cursed barrier and regain the land of Lumatere. But Evanjalin’s unpredictable behavior suggests that she 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.”

This was my first experience with Melina Marchetta, but it will not be the last. Actually, it opened a floodgate of fan-girlishness that has made her one of my all time favorite authors. Marchetta’s voice is so unique – it flows over the reader so effortlessly that it makes reading her books a true leisure activity. I fell incredibly easily into Finnikin’s world. I had (and still have) a very vivid picture of the land, the people, and the cities in my imagination. Marchetta world builds in a way that any author would be jealous of, so that the reader is totally unaware of it. This was the sort of book that took over my imagination so completely it made it difficult to read a new book once I’d finished. Which, let’s face it, is an awesome problem to have.

The characters who populate this land are diverse, interesting, and will work their way into readers’ hearts. Finnikin is everything you could want in a main character – he’s brave, stubborn, angry, and loyal. Readers will be instantly drawn to him. The secondary characters are abundant, but all of them have their own personalities and places in Marchetta’s story. I was just as attached to some of them as I was to Finnikin (Travanion, Sir Topher, Evanjalin!). The only secondary character who I could never make my mind up about was Froi. Do I hate him or love him? I really wasn’t sure until I read Froi of the Exiles (review to come), which I’m sure is exactly what Marchetta intended.

This novel will pull readers in and force them to keep turning pages. I absolutely loved it and recommend it highly to anyone who enjoys fantasy, strong characters, and amazing world building. I just can’t say enough good things about Melina Marchetta!


If you like Finnikin of the Rock, you might also like:
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkein
The Demon King, Cinda Williams Chima
The Thief, Megan Whalen Turner

24 December 2011

The Thirteen Days of Doctor Who: Growing Up with the Doctor


Today, we’re doing things a little differently here at Libri Dilectio. In honor of the holiday and the best television show EVER (inarguable), I’m participating in the 13 Days of Doctor Who Blog Hop! This is the final day, so for those of you who’ve been following the hop since the beginning, you’re in the home stretch! Soon you’ll find out who won that highly coveted series 6 box set! Thank you to Erica O’Rourke for hosting and inviting me to play too!
I also have a guest hanging out at at LD with me today, my Dad, Mark! I thought no post about me growing up with Doctor Who would be complete without the man who started it all. You may remember my dad from his previous guest appearance, reviewing I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett. Today he will be wearing TARDIS blue and I’ll be in traditional black. Here we go!
Matt (2) and Becky (4) – Doctor Who babies 1989
The Doctor has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. At the age of 4, I rocked a homemade (thanks mom) mini Doctor Who scarf. My brother, 2 years old at the time, had a matching one. We drank out of Doctor Who mugs when we wanted hot chocolate after playing in the snow, and we both referred to the show as “Doctor Wubbedy” since we sang the theme song, “wubbedy wub wubbedy wub…” Yes, we were cool children.
My dad, who was always available on Saturday mornings to watch The Smurfs or Mighty Mouse, has always been a HUGE Doctor Who fan.  Dad here, actually my first exposure to the Doctor was in 1972 at the house of a friend.  His parents were watching an episode with Jon Pertwee as the Doctor.  To explain the show to me they said, the Doctor was like James Bond from outer space who had a spaceship that was bigger on the inside than on the outside (honestly, it was one of the worst explanations I have ever heard of the show).  My response was, “Let’s go hang out somewhere else and talk about girls.”
Six years later, I found myself in graduate school in Ann Arbor, in an apartment all by myself, and trying to get through the MBA program at the University of Michigan.  At that time, WTVS, the Detroit PBS station, ran Doctor Who on Saturday nights.  I started watching the show in reruns and found Tom Baker to be a wonderful Time Lord.  He made you believe that he was more than human.
Okay, so you haven’t always been a fan, but for a long time, as long as I’ve been alive. I remember watching old episodes of Doctor Who on PBS with you and not understanding what was going on. I liked Sarah JaneSmith best of all the assistants (as they used to be called) and Tom Baker was my Doctor. Obviously, I was a preschooler who wore his scarf! I’ve never hidden behind a couch to avoid the Daleks, but I knew that you didn’t want to mess with those trash bin aliens!
In 1983, I found myself managing the construction of a suburban Chicago cable TV system for Westinghouse Electric.  My plant manager was a big Whovian and every Monday morning, he would come into the office and want to talk about the episode shown on WTTW Chicago late on Sunday night.  It was him who really opened up the world of Doctor Who for me.  Peter Davison was the current Doctor Who or “Tristan” as we called him having been earlier fans of “All Creatures Great and Small.” 
When you were born, Colin Baker had become the Doctor and the show was starting to unravel. Not that that was my fault or anything. I was just born under a bad BBC star or something. Something like that. Anyway, John Nathan Turner was producing the show and the stories were weak, disjointed and sometimes just plain bad, but that didn’t stop me.  I was still looking forward to bringing my children along for a ride in the TARDIS one day.  When you were two, Sylvester McCoy became the Doctor and the shows got worse, although McCoy was a very convincing Doctor.  Then, just as it looked like Becky was ready to join the team, the end came.  Abruptly.  No final episode, no tying up loose ends.  Nothing.  It was 1989 and it was over before it had begun.
Becky and Dad, Whovian Love!
And from then on, we waited. Well you waited. I had pretty much forgotten about the show. In 1994 I found one way to fill the gap: I discovered the Doctor Who series novels and started reading them.  Those novels were what the show should have always been.  The Doctor became a more dark and lonely person, feeling the pressure of keeping the universe together and often losing patience with it.  One of my favorite lines from one of the books was, “I’m what monsters have nightmares about,” which was later used for David Tennant in “The Girl in the Fireplace” episode.  The made-for-tv movie came out in 1996 and the less said about that, the better, although I still think Paul McGann was superb and would have been a great continuing Doctor. You had high hopes for the TV movie, but sadly it just didn’t grab an audience like the BBC wanted and the Doctor went back into hibernation for another 10 years. 
Fast forward to 2005 – another job, but back home in the Chicago area.  I was traveling to Europe every now and then for business.  It was September 13th (a Tuesday – yes, I keep track of these things as any real Time Lord would).  I was lying in my bed in the hotel in London watching the BBC when a promotional spot came on.  It was a shot panning across a wall.  The voice over said, “He’s back.  And it’s about time.” And the shot pans over to the TARDIS.  WHAT??  I had not read that they had started shooting the show again!!  
The next day, I ran over to Tower Records on Piccadilly and bought the first two DVDs of the new series without any way to play them.  I figured out how to watch them on my company laptop, but that only works five times and then the DVD drive gets hosed.  When I got home, I bought a multi-region DVD player so I could watch the shows on my HDTV.  The show was just what it should have been years ago.  It had picked up the darker and more serious elements of the books, but kept the old Tom Baker humor (“Nine hundred years of time and space and I’ve never been slapped by someone’s mother.”).  I honestly could not wait to reintroduce the kids to the show.  But that would have to wait until they got home for Thanksgiving.
In 2005, during my sophomore year of college, I brought my boyfriend (who is now my husband) home to meet my family. He was still at the point that he did pretty much anything my family asked of him, including watching Rose, the first episode of the new season of Doctor Who. I was skeptical of the new reboot, but, after one episode, we were both hooked. Maybe that was the first sign that we were meant to get married.
My dad and I (and my brother, mother, husband, friends) are devoted Whovians. We remember the lines, the episodes, the characters, and the music. Doctor Who is a part of my family, and one of the only shows we really enjoy as an entire family. We’re all loving Matt Smith’s Doctor and will miss the Ponds when they bow out at the end of this upcoming season. We’ll all be watching tomorrow for The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe, and you should too!
To enter the grand prize giveaway, please leave a comment with your name and email address. You may enter once at every stop on the blog tour, for a total of thirteen chances. The Grand Prize giveaway is limited to the US and Canada, due to regional restrictions on the DVD. Individual contests will close at the discretion of the author, but the Grand Prize contest will accept entries on any site until midnight CST on December 24th. The winner will be posted HERE on December 25th, and be notified via email.


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