Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Want to Read Wednesday: Eve

The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her.

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust...and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Giveaway of Frost ARC by Wendy Delsol

I loved this book so much that I want to pass it on, so I'm giving away my ARC of Frost by Wendy Delsol. (And it's kinda fitting for the season, don't you think?)

Links for extra entries:
Review of Stork
Review of Frost
Author Interview

Rules in a Box:
  1. You must be a follower.
  2. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  3. This giveaway is US only since I'm handling shipping. No P.O. Boxes.
  4. Ends at 11:59 pm CST December 31st, 2011.
  5. Winners will be contacted by email and will have 48 hours to respond.
  6. Entries will only be accepted using the FORM, and you MUST include your email address so I can contact you. No email = no books.
  7. Winner will be chosen using a spreadsheet random number generator. 
I reserve the right to amend the rules as needed. (Hopefully this won't happen, but just in case...)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Supernatural Saturday Review: The Forbidden Game

To capture the love of Jenny Thorton, Julian--a visitor from a dark world--draws Jenny and her friends into forbidden games; the contest for a human soul. The prize is Jenny's freedom. The stakes are all of their lives. Jenny's friends are determined to help her win. But Julian is the master of the Game. Jenny's most desperate fight will be with him, this eerily handsome boy with electric blue eyes. He knows her deepest secrets, her darkest fears. He has almost infinite power. And the only thing he wants is for Jenny to surrender to him--body and soul.
 [from Goodreads]

Rating:  4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Teens who love psychological thriller
High point:  The twists and turns
Low point:It's a tad bit melodramatic
Reader maturity:  13+

The Forbidden Game--The Hunter, The Chase and The Kill--is tied for 2nd place as my favorite series by LJ Smith. running closely behind Dark Visions. (Well, it might actually claim 2nd place fully as it own, but don't tell The Vampire Diaries).

I read the first two books in this series once when I was in elementary school, and I remember thinking that they were so captivating. Julian's game was so twisted, and I was rooting for Jenny the whole time. Lucky for me, The Forbidden Game aged well, and when I bought the series for myself this year, I enjoyed them just as much.

The writing is typical of LJ Smith; it can be a bit over the top, but somehow it's suited to the story perfectly. And the story, like Dark Visions, stands apart from the usual paranormal vampires and werewolves. Jenny and her friends are tricked into what is essentially a game of life or death as they battle Julian for victory. That might sound a little flat, or like a poor retelling of Jumanji, but it's actually very psychologically intense, with nightmares and hidden fears coming true at every turn (or staircase).

The first book, The Hunter, is amazing on its own, but I enjoyed finding out more about the history of Julian and the game in the sequels. Since it's mostly a lead-in to the last part of the story, The Chase is a little forgettable, as middle novels tend to be, but the story picks up again in The Kill with lots more action and emotional drama.

The only thing I don't like about The Forbidden Game, specifically The Kill, is the ending (which is why it's behind Dark Visions and possibly tied with The Vampire Diaries). It's not that it isn't a good ending--it is--or that it's too abrupt or out of line with the characters--it isn't. It's just that...well, let's just say that if I'm Team Somebody, the Somebody I'm rooting for took home the consolation prize.

Overall, though--personal preferences about Team Somebodies aside--The Forbidden Game is great addition to the paranormal genre, a book about things that go bump in the night that'll make you wish you hadn't picked it up quite so close to bedtime.

Title:  The Forbidden Game:  The Hunter, The Chase, The Kill
Author:  L. J. Smith
Genre: Young Adult Horror and Suspense
Year: 1994
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Want to Read Wednesday: Betrayal

Where there is love and power, there is always... betrayal.

At seventeen, Cordelia is an ordinary teen with an extraordinary and frightening secret. A secret that induces vivid dreams which she not only experiences true love, but crippling fear while barely escaping with her life each night.

After a life altering event, Cordelia has an unexpected encounter with Evan, the mysterious boy from her dreams, who reveals who and what she is, a descendant of the Greek gods. At that moment everything she knows of her world is a lie, and she must leave the present and go into the past to assume the role she was put on this earth for, safeguarding her ancient empire amidst evil forces that toil hastily to destroy it.

In a race against time, Cordelia must decide if she is truly a part of this dangerous world, or risk defying the gods, and ultimately lose the boy who has put a claim on her heart.

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Supernatural Saturday Review: Frost

After the drama of finding out that she’s a Stork, a member of an ancient and mystical order of women, and that her boyfriend, Jack, is a descendent of the Winter People able to control the weather, Katla Leblanc is delighted when all signs point to a busy and peaceful Christmas. That is, until the snowstorm Jack summons as a gift to Katla turns into the storm of the century, attracting Brigid, a gorgeous scientist who, in turn, attracts Jack. Between the school play, a bedridden, pregnant mother’s to-do lists, and keeping an eye on her aging grandfather, Katla doesn’t have time to question Brigid’s motives or deal with Jack’s increasingly cold behavior. But Katla’s suspicions mount when Jack joins Brigid on a research expedition to Greenland, and when the two of them go missing, it becomes clear that Katla is the only one who can save her beloved Jack from the Snow Queen who holds him prisoner. Adventure, romance, and myth combine in this winter escapade for teens who like a bit of fire with their ice.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Everyone! Especially if they love paranormal...or contemporary...or love stories...or reading in general...
High point:  Katla's voice
Low point:  Nothing, nothing at all
Reader maturity: 13+

I think you know by now that I don't go fangirl* very often, but I'm going to deviate from the norm and strongly encourage/push/shove you to your nearest bookstore, library or laptop (for Amazon access!) to buy Stork, so you can read Stork, be totally amazed and then run out and buy, borrow or steal (just kidding about that last one!) Frost.

Yes, it's really that good! As with all second novels, I approached it with a little bit of caution and, I'll admit, procrastination, but as soon as I started reading, the happy feeling that Stork gave me while I was reading it enveloped me. Frost isn't a happy, sunshiny, summertime book, but something about it makes it a joy to read, like I know that I'm in capable hands and that Wendy Delsol is going to give me an adventure I won't forget.

As with Stork, we're following Katla as she navigates her duties as a Stork, a student, a daughter and a girlfriend. On the first front, it's great that we get to see Kat maturing as a Stork. She handles it in an awkward but respectful manner befitting her age.While her actual Stork duties aren't very time-consuming, being a Stork is all-encompassing, and Frost does a great job of expanding on Kat's potential abilities while allowing other plotlines to take center stage.

As for being a girlfriend, that's really what spurs Katla to action in this novel. Jack and Katla have a great, healthy relationship. They both know they have secrets, but they acknowledge the reason for the secrets instead of devolving into lies or sulking. While I would usually think that such a relationship could easily be dysfunctional, their emotional connection is obvious, and I was rooting for them the whole time.

In Frost, Katla gets to have some really cool adventures in Iceland (pun kinda-sorta intended). There are lots of great Icelandic tidbits tossed in, and I enjoyed immersing myself in the culture for a little while. I hesitate to say much else for fear of spoiling it, but I will say that Katla's time in Iceland is well spent and described in intricate detail (I love the costume touches!) from dresses to mountaintops. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happened next.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that Frost is a stand-alone novel, because I think you really need to read Stork to appreciate the happenings of Frost. However, it doesn't fall prey to second novel syndrome, i.e. it's a story in its own right and it does more than merely serve as a connection between the first and third novels in a series.

One last thing:  in the novels I grew up on, chapters always ended on a cliffhanger or a clever saying. That technique seems to have been abandoned with time, but Wendy Delsol uses it (in Katla's strong voice) to close out the chapters. I love it. It makes everything seem more exciting somehow.

The ending, as with Stork, was utterly satisfying, but also left me anticipating the next novel. I want to know what happens to Katla, Jack and the series' newest character!

*Someone asked me what I was reading and I told her the title. Then the woman asked the author, and I guess the gleam in my eye got a little bright as I told her because she backed away before I had a chance to say much more than, "It's amaaaazing!"

Title:  Frost
Author:  Wendy Delsol
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2011
Book Source:  Received for review from Candlewick Press

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Interview with Wendy Delsol, Author of Stork and Frost

Because Stork is, if not my favorite, then tied for my favorite book of 2011, I jumped on the chance to interview the author, Wendy Delsol. She was kind enough to answer my questions, and I hope you enjoy reading her replies as much as I did.

You can find my review of Stork here, and I'll be posting my review of its sequel, Frost, on Saturday. (It's just as good, in case you wondering!)

I note in my review that Katla has incredible voice. Stork isn’t told from the perspective of an ambiguous narrator; I could tell that it was Katla on every page. Where did you draw Katla’s qualities from? How were you able to make her such a strong character?

WD:  First of all, great questions! And thank you for the compliment contained in this first one.  When writing a first-person character, I try to pass all action and dialogue through the prism of the life experiences and inherent personality traits I’ve ascribed to that individual. In Katla’s case, she’s forthright, confident, loyal, and, well, a little sarcastic.

Is there a real Stork Society (or a myth about a Stork society)? How did you decide to make it into a story?

WD:  As far as I know, the Stork Society is a product of my imagination. When casting about for a fresh paranormal concept, the pre-birth condition came to mind. Angel stories seemed to focus on the post-death phenomenon so it felt like a new perspective. Once I had the visual of hovering souls, the symbol of childbirth—the white bird carrying a bundle—came to mind. From there, I invented white or benevolent witches charged with the responsibility of matching the undecided of hovering souls with the right mother.

There are so many delicate pieces of the story woven throughout Stork. Did you plan them all that way from the beginning or did they pop up unexpectedly? What’s your plotting process?

WD:  I have used the word serendipity when describing the way a book comes together in its final stages. My process begins with a rough sketch, outlining a handful of major plot points. From there, I begin fleshing out the characters and the chapter-by-chapter events. I also admit to a kitchen-sink approach for the first few exploratory chapters. I allow myself to throw a few random objects (or characters sometimes) into the plot to see if it sparks. The Yule Cat in Frost is a good example of this. I found an Icelandic legend of a black cat that attacks all who are without a new piece of clothing at Christmastime. Well, my protagonist Katla does love clothing. I threw it into an early chapter and was pleasantly surprised when it became a plot device later on.

How was writing Frost different from writing Stork? Were there any special challenges that came with writing a sequel?

WD:  One comforting aspect of writing a sequel was that the character’s voice was established. I had already settled in to her language and style of speech. The challenge to a sequel was, of course, keeping the story compelling and the character interactions fresh. Kat and Jack were together as a couple at the end of book one. In order to recreate tension, they (and their relationship) had to face a new problem. Frost was different in that I chose to retell a classic fairytale, The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen (whereas Stork was my own invention). The reworking of a classic tale had a storyline that had to be respected.

Katla’s adventures in Iceland are fascinating, and I enjoyed all the little interesting bits of information you included about the culture. How did you research for that part of Katla’s story?

WD:  I am not Icelandic, and I have never been to Iceland. I used a variety of online resources to research Icelandic customs. I used google earth and google images to get a visual on Icelandic architecture and landscapes. Much of the festival is invented, but there is an annual gathering in Canada and a fair in Iceland that I used as a template for my fictional Dance of the Selkies festival.

I’m really, really excited about Stork and Frost and can’t wait to find out more about Katla, Leira and the Stork Society. Is there anything you can share with us about what’s in store for the series?

WD:  Whereas Niflheim, the Ice Realm, was the focus of Frost, Vatnheim, the Water Realm, will be the important feature in the third book, Tide. Kat has (albeit inadvertently) entered into a pact with Queen Safira. When a messenger/collector arrives, Kat will risk everything to save those she loves.

When was the moment that you realized “This is it. I did it. I’m an author!” What was it like?

WD:  When I obtained an agent and a few months later when we got “the deal.” Those were incredible moments. I had worked very hard and had my share of rejections. Stork was the fifth novel I wrote. But I do love the process and would still be writing today even without the promise of publication.

And just for fun:

A person from the future comes to you and offers you a trip to any time and place of your choosing. You’re allowed to bring one thing with you. Where/when do you go and what do you take?

WD:  I think I go to London in September of 1666 (Pudding Lane) on the eve of the great fire—and with a fire extinguisher. Not only would I get to walk the street of 17th century England, but I’d get to save lives and some architectural gems. Then again, maybe I should go to Ford’s Theatre in 1865 with blanks for John Wilkes Booth’s gun.

What are your three favorite books of all time?

WD:  Ask me another time and the second and third responses might change (P & P will always be my top answer), but today I’m going with:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Wendy, thanks again for stopping by! 

So, readers, do you have any thoughts? Did you like Stork? Are you intrigued? Writers, do you write with serendipity?

Want to Read Wednesday: Jessica Rules the Dark Side

It’s one thing to find out you’re a vampire princess. It’s a whole other thing to actually rule. Newly married Jessica Packwood is having a hard enough time feeling regal with her husband, Lucius, at her side. But when evidence in the murder of a powerful elder points to Lucius, sending him into solitary confinement, Jessica is suddenly on her own. Determined to clear her husband’s name, Jessica launches into a full-scale investigation, but hallucinations and nightmares of betrayal keep getting in her way. Jessica knows that with no blood to drink, Lucius’s time is running out. Can she figure out who the real killer is—and whom she can trust—before it’s too late?

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Giveaways, Week of 11/13

1. Reading Nook is celebrating 500 followers with an amazing giveaway. There are some great ARCs and books from the Iron Fey series being given away, as well as some other possible books and an indeterminate number of winners (love it!). Ends 12/5.

2. A Lush Budget Production is giving away a whole slew of books in the Thank You Giveaway. Up for grabs are:

Ends 11/25.

Winner of A Long Long Sleep

Wondering who won the ARC of A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan?

 The winner is...Emily @ The Ninja Librarian!

Congratulations! Check your email, and I'll have your book out ASAP. :-)

To everyone who entered, thank you so much for entering, following and spreading the word. Keep your eye out for another giveaway coming up soon!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Supernatural Saturday Review: Stork

Family secrets. Lost memories. And the arrival of an ancient magical ability that will reveal everything.

Sixteen-year-old Katla LeBlanc has just moved from Los Angeles to Minnesota. As if it weren’t enough that her trendy fashion sense draws stares, Katla soon finds out that she’s a Stork, a member of a mysterious order of women tasked with a very unique duty. But Katla’s biggest challenge may be finding her flock at a new school. Between being ignored by Wade, the arrogant jock she stupidly fooled around with, and constantly arguing with gorgeous farm boy and editor-in-chief Jack, Katla is relieved when her assignment as the school paper’s fashion columnist brings with it some much-needed friendship. But as Homecoming approaches, Katla uncovers a shocking secret about her past — a secret that binds her fate to Jack’s in a way neither could have ever anticipated. With a nod to Hans Christian Andersen and inspired by Norse lore, Wendy Delsol’s debut novel introduces a hip and witty heroine who finds herself tail-feathers deep in small-town life.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Everyone! Especially if they love paranormal...or contemporary...or love stories...or reading in general...
High point:  Katla's voice
Low point:  Nothing, nothing at all
Reader maturity: 13+

Stork is one of those rare novels that left me feeling both satisfied and happy. Even though it's set in the cold Minnesota fall, Katla brings a lightness and warmth to the pages. Everything about Stork was perfectly chosen and blended together, from the writing to the plot to the characters.

Katla herself is wonderful. She's a pretty average teenager except for the whole Stork thing. I love that she's interested in fashion, but that doesn't make her a bimbo and it doesn't take the place of her having a real personality. She just happens to like fashion, and it just happens to be important to the story. (I'll admit; I cringed during the boot-beating scene...poor boots!) I thought the Stork society would be a bigger part of the story, but I'm glad that we get to know Katla as she's figuring out who she is as a Stork.

The love interest is not only sufficiently swoonworthy, but he also doesn't cause a lot of is-he-or-isn't-he ado about nothing, which I greatly appreciate. He's a complicated character, but not in a dark or melodramatic way. He perfectly complements Katla's sunshine.

There are quite a few little threads of plot running through Stork, but I was never confused. With my favorite thread, I was several chapters in before it dawned on me that maybe a recurring something was actually a thing. I love being teased like that by a plot. There were lots of obvious secrets (as in, it was obvious that they were secrets), and there were several more subtle things woven in for good measure.

In Stork, there's something going on with every turn of the page, whether it be Katla discovering something about her past or trying to avoid Wade or learning about the Stork society. Every sentence, every paragraph, has a purpose, making Stork a very satisfying 350+ pages. And Katla has great voice! I feel like I've read a lot of novels that just blend together, but everything in Stork had Katla's voice stamped on it. I'm not sure how to explain exactly why it stood out, but it's unique--smart, witty and a just a teensy bit self-deprecating.

My [last] favorite thing about Stork [that I'm going to mention] is the ending. Stork is the first in a series, but--thankfully!--it didn't end on a cliffhanger. It was a great ending, tying up loose ends in a logical manner and also filled with action and suspense, and there's plenty of room for a sequel (it's sitting on my shelf, yay!) while still providing closure. As I closed Stork, I actually felt kinda happy, so I guess it's a little bit of a feel-good novel too.

A little bit supernatural, a little bit romantic and a little contemporary, Stork is an enjoyable, satisfying addition to YA literature. I heartily recommend it!

Title:  Stork
Author:  Wendy Delsol
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Received for review from Candlewick Press

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Review of The Poison Diaries

In the right dose, everything is a poison. Even love...
Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure -- or kill.
When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined...
[from HarperTeen]
Rating:   2 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Fantasy readers looking for something different
High point:  The fresh concept
Low point:  Jessamine and her father
Reader maturity: 15+

My feelings about The Poison Diaries are mixed.

On one hand, I love the concept--that plants can talk and have personalities that coincide with their ability to heal or hurt. And the idea of a poison garden, where are the wicked plants can converse and plot is a first for me. Weed, the boy who can talk with plants, is a gentle soul, faced with terrible decisions, but he struggles valiantly to be upright and good.

On the other hand, I thought Jessamine was far too flip to get along well with Weed. He was so serious and unassuming, while she's immature, with a childish self-centeredness. Although youthful, she's also so smart and suspicious at the beginning that I have a hard time believing the lies she fell for that create the primary conflict in the novel. The bad guy in this book is too much; his motives were so obvious that it makes Jessamine's belief in his deceit that much harder to swallow.

I'm not really sure what to say in my final words about The Poison Diaries. It was a good novel in concept and in writing, but I disliked several of the plot points and character traits. Even though I didn't love The Poison Diaries, because the concept was so unique and fascinating to me, I'm probably going to try and pick up The Poison Diaries:  Nightshade.

Title:  The Poison Diaries
Author:  Maryrose Wood, with The Duchess of Northumberland
Genre:   Fiction - Fantasy, Historical
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Won an ARC from Pirate Penguin's Reads

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Want to Read Wednesday: The Girl in the Steel Corset

In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one except the "thing" inside her.

When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch...

Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits. Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.

Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help-and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.

But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on, even if it seems no one believes her.

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Supernatural Saturday Review: Another Pan (Another #2)

Sixteen-year-old Wendy Darling and her insecure freshman brother, John, are hitting the books at the Marlowe School. But one tome consumes their attention: THE BOOK OF GATES, a coveted Egyptian artifact that their professor father believes has magical powers. Soon Wendy and John discover that the legend is real—when they recite from its pages and descend into a snaking realm beneath the Manhattan school. As the hallways darken, and dead moths cake the floor, a charismatic new R.A. named Peter reveals that their actions have unleashed a terrible consequence: the underworld and all its evil is now seeping into Marlowe. Daniel Nayeri and Dina Nayeri return to reimagine Peter Pan as a twisty, atmospheric, and fast-paced fantasy about the perils of immortality.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Paranormal fans looking for something a little dark and different
High point:  How shocked I was at the new Lost Boys
Low point:  John's insecurities
Reader maturity: 13+

While Another Faust was a little gritty for me, I found Another Pan to be much more up my alley. It still has the scheming Governess (in another incarnation), but she plays a lesser role, allowing some other, equally devious, characters to come forward. This reboot of Peter Pan certainly changed the way I see the character from J. M. Barrie's children's story.

Another Pan is a mythic retelling of the Pan story with a hefty dose of Egyptian sand and saga thrown in alongside several smarmy personalities that have nothing to do with Madame Vileroy. It was interesting to see how all the Egyptian legends tied into the story and to watch Wendy and John fight through the web enveloping the school.

Another Pan also has a much more likable cast of characters, ones that I was rooting for and related to more than Madame Vileroy's five charges. Wendy Darling, although a bit wishy-washy, has, as her redeeming quality, her brother's best interests at heart. Her brother is really something--now him I didn't like, but at least his portrayal as a wannabe was amusing. Their father seemed to be a good sort, and I was shocked when Peter (he of the title) was introduced.

The characters are very diverse, each with a distinct personality (except maybe Connor? Does that mean something about him?). Like its predecessor, the writing was fantastic, sweeping me along, and I could feel the doom and gloom that had descended over Marlowe.

If Another Faust was your thing, you'll love Another Pan, and even if it wasn't, I encourage you to give Another Pan a try. You'll never watch the Disney movie the same way again.

Title:  Another Pan
Author:  Daniel & Dina Nayeri
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Received for review from Candlewick Press

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review of Finnikin of the Rock

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.

[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Fantasy fiction fans...and even those who aren't
High point:  Epic drama
Low point:  My misgivings about Finnikin
Reader maturity: 15+

I've been on a book high lately, one that I was worried would be derailed by a fantasy novel that I've heard everyone rave over. I'm not a big fan of fantasy (Lord of the Rings is pretty much my limit), but I'm so glad I received Finnikin of the Rock for review. It was as awesome as everyone said and will be making a permanent home on my bookshelf.

I first started reading Finnikin of the Rock in a doctor's office, and I felt a little silly reading a book with a bright sword on the cover. Within pages, I was too engrossed to care what anyone else thought; I was involved in sharing the pain of the Lumaterans during the five days of the unspeakable. Every time I picked up this book, I was completely immersed. The feeling is almost indescribable, but every time I paused, it was like waking up to real life and realizing that the world had continued moving without me and I didn't even notice that I'd been gone.

Finnikin of the Rock stars a huge ensemble, but I never had any trouble keeping the characters straight. I'm amazed at the realism of the interactions between all of the King's Guard and Finnikin and Evanjalin and the others that they meet on their journey. Non-lead characters have a tendency to feel flat or serve merely to fulfill a plot point, but reading Finnikin of the Rock is like becoming a part of a Lumateran camp and knowing the inhabitants first hand.

Some of the plotlines are classic fantasy (a curse, religious persecution, a throne at stake, poison), but everything feels remixed, with enough unique elements included that I barely had time to notice the tried-and-true; I was too busy being swept away with Finnikin, trying to find Balthazar or his father.

One thing that bothers me, not so much about the book itself but about Finnikin, is that he's really grabby, to the point of hurting Evanjalin more than once. I know it's because he's impatient and not fully mature, but I wanted to tell Evanjalin to run. Finnikin eventually conquers the pride that caused the grabbiness, but that kind of intense manhandling would likely lead to violence in our world. So it bothered me a little bit. I wish that Evanjalin had told him off about that in particular. Her failure to do so certainly didn't stem from cowardice, though, so I'll assume that she was putting up with him in order to save Lumatere.

Just a warning to the easily shocked (like me, I suppose):  While there are no explicit descriptions of adult activities in Finnikin of the Rock, some of the characters are, shall we say, indelicate in their desires and musings. They're not frequent, but a few of the conversations or occurrences made me blush.

Finnikin of the Rock is a book that I believe must be enjoyed at least twice, if not three times or more. I can't be sure of that because I've only read it once (so far), but there are some things I know I missed in my sprint to find out what happens. Even though I've just finished it, I already want to read it again and soak up the details, especially those pertaining to Evanjalin and Finnikin. Now that I know their futures, more of the minutiae will have meaning. (And, I'll admit, I got to the end and was a little confused and actually flipped back through and thought, "Ohhh. I missed that part. Because I was reading too fast.") So either learn from my mistake and pace yourself so that you get the full experience with one time through, or allow yourself the luxury of rereading it. And, of course, to reread it, you must read it for the first time, so if you haven't, what are you waiting for?

Title:  Finnikin of the Rock
Author:  Melina Marchetta
Genre:   Fiction - Fantasy
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Received for review from Candlewick Press

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Monster Mash & Bash Giveaway Winner

Wondering who the Monster Mash & Bash Giveaway?

 The winner of Bad Girls Don't Die is...Lena M!

Congratulations! I'll have your book ordered ASAP. :-)

To everyone who entered, thank you so much for entering, following and spreading the word. The response absolutely floored me, and I'm so excited to get the chance to talk books with you. I hope to see you around!

Want to Read Wednesday: Roadside Assistance

 A very bumpy ride.

Emily Curtis is used to dealing with her problems while under the hood of an old Chevy, but when her mom dies, Emily's world seems shaken beyond repair. Driven from home by hospital bills they can't pay, Emily and her dad move in with his wealthy sister, who intends to make her niece more feminine---in other words, just like Whitney, Emily's perfect cousin. But when Emily hears the engine of a 1970 Dodge Challenger, and sees the cute gearhead, Zander, next door, things seem to be looking up.

But even working alongside Zander can't completely fix the hole in Emily's life. Ever since her mom died, Emily hasn't been able to pray, and no one---not even Zander---seems to understand. But sometimes the help you need can come from the person you least expect.

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.