| |Come See About MeAuthor: C.K. Kelly MartinPublication Date: 6/2012Publisher: Self-published[Goodreads|Amazon]Blurb(GR)
: Twenty-year-old Leah Fischer's been in a state of collapse since the moment police arrived on her Toronto doorstep to inform her that boyfriend Bastien was killed in a car accident. After flunking out of university and cutting herself off from nearly everyone she knows, Leah's saved by Bastien's aunt who offers her a rent-free place to stay in a nearby suburban town.
Initially Leah keeps to herself, with no energy for anyone or anything else, but it's not long before her nurturing neighbours begin to become fixtures in Leah's life and a much needed part-time job forces her to interact with other members of the community. And when Leah is faced with another earth-shattering event, her perspective on life begins to shift again. Soon Leah's falling into a casual sexual relationship with Irish actor Liam Kellehan, who has troubles of his own, even as she continues to yearn for her dead boyfriend. Clearly she's not the person she thought she was—and maybe Liam isn't either.
Author: C.K. Kelly Martin
Publication Date: 9/25/12
Publisher: Random House
Blurb(GR): THEN: The formation of the UNA, the high threat of eco-terrorism, the mammoth rates of unemployment and subsequent escape into a world of virtual reality are things any student can read about in their 21st century textbooks and part of the normal background noise to Freya Kallas's life. Until that world starts to crumble.
NOW: It's 1985. Freya Kallas has just moved across the world and into a new life. On the outside, she fits in at her new high school, but Freya feels nothing but removed. Her mother blames it on the grief over her father's death, but how does that explain the headaches and why do her memories feel so foggy? When Freya lays eyes on Garren Lowe, she can't get him out of her head. She's sure that she knows him, despite his insistence that they've never met. As Freya follows her instincts and pushes towards hidden truths, the two of them unveil a strange and dangerous world where their days may be numbered.
Many of my friends have urged me to try out C.K. Kelly Martin over the past year, and it just so happened that I ended up reading two of her books in succession this summer – two very different books, as it turns out. I liked one of them a good deal and the other one…not so much. So today, I thought I’d pull out the old Sandwich Method ™ and review them both in one post.
So. Firstly, for the delicious bread part of the sandwich (I’m thinking it’s Great Harvest white cheddar and garlic): Come See About Me
really stands out amongst its YA brethren. Which may or may not be because it’s actually an adult novel. Yeah, okay…maybe it’s not quite appropriate for the younger side of YA, but I would easily recommend this to anyone 16 and older. The protagonist is in her early twenties and is experiencing debilitating grief for the first time. She’s a young person trying to learn how to cope with loss, school, parents, and relationships. It reads like a YA. It walks like a YA. It quacks like a YA. The only way that it doesn’t quite fit the YA mold (particularly in America) is that it contains a few sex scenes.
Let’s talk about the sex scenes because they were – seriously – my favorite part of the book. (Cue the studio audience track going Oooooooooh.)
No, no, not in that
way. (Okay, a little bit in that way.) The sex scenes in this book are some of the most honest and healthy portrayals of sex I’ve ever read. The sex here is messy and awkward. It’s fun. It’s a stress-reliever. It’s healthy. It’s casual, but not callous. And the lovers somehow manage to do it without being perfect the one
forever and ever for the rest of eternity soul mates. All of which is depressingly unheard of in our stories about young people. I love the relationship between Leah and Liam – two very flawed characters who don’t have a perfect relationship but still find some small measure of solace with each other.
I also really love the way that C.K. Kelly Martin writes. Her prose is very straightforward and stripped down in a way that reminds me of Sara Zarr. It’s the kind of writing that tends to gut me about 90% more efficiently than flowery prose ever will. However (and here’s where we start to bleed into the filling part of the sandwich – I’m thinking it starts off with mayonnaise, blergh) that just never happened for me. I never connected emotionally with this book. I think this just might be one of those times when a book and I simply don’t fit. I couldn’t relate to Leah and her complete, debilitating breakdown. No part of this story resonated with me. My own grief stayed silent and cushioned and safe in all the corners where I like to stash it away. Maybe that’s because I am not really a breakdown kind of person. I am more of a recovering shove-it-all-down-and-soldier-on type of person. Where the matter of fact voice of Holly from Holier Than Thou
nearly ripped me in half, Leah’s story did almost nothing for me (more on this later).
And now we come to the part of this review where I’ve (hopefully) wedged my negative thoughts between two slices of deliciousness. Yesterday.
I have very little praise for this book. I felt turned off almost immediately by this girl, who is a tall blonde piece of gorgeousness with a past and a special power she doesn’t understand and whose biggest source of angst (besides this past/power combo) is the annoying way that every boy in school
wants to date her. I wish I had a loaf of Great Harvest white cheddar garlic bread for every time I’ve read that set-up in a YA novel.
The beginning is practically all telling with almost no dialogue or action – like the main character is quickly summarizing her own life. Then he told me all about something or other. Then I walked to school. Later that week I had a sandwich. Then I talked to some more people.
It’s set in the eighties, but everything feels incredibly superficial. There are here and there references to things like new wave and pay phones but it never feels immersive. It feels like fakey window dressing for a flimsy, half-constructed place.
The sci-fi elements are introduced gradually to begin with, which is really what kept me reading – even as I was bored, I still wanted to find out what was really going on. But then at around 60%, the main character bizarrely decides (or rather, insists)
that she needs to see a hypnotherapist – one that she randomly selects from the phone book – to uncover her latent memories. And it works. And then it turns out that what she’s been suppressing is a 20 page long, dry, encyclopedic history of her entire world – a world that seems to check every single box of the “derivative futuristic sci-fi” checklist. I wouldn’t recommend this for sci-fi fans. Or people who hate infodumps. I'm not sure what the filling of this sandwich is, but it’s dry, boring, and forgettable.
The only positive for me is that the romance is rather angst-free. There’s no unexplained love at first sight, and no tortuous “I want you but I can’t have you…”
moments. Unfortunately, this book – unlike Come See About Me
– contains the standard YA super long make-out scenes that the main characters seem only too willing to stop abruptly with no joy. If the survival of the human species depended on the teenagers of YA, we’d all be doomed.
Anyway, enough about that. Let’s get back to the bread. Come See About Me
is one of the best self-published books I’ve ever read. Admittedly, I haven’t read very many but I’m pretty surprised that this book wasn’t picked up by someone. My friend Kelly from Stacked also compared Holier Than Thou
to Come See About Me,
saying (about Holier Than Thou
“This would be a neat book to pair with CK Kelly Martin's COME SEE ABOUT ME since they tackle grief and figuring out what lies ahead for those who are young but not teenagers. I didn't think Buzo's book was as strong, but it was still enjoyable.”
I completely agree (well, except that I preferred Buzo's book). I have this theory that those of us who related strongly to Holier Than Thou
won’t connect with Come See About Me
and vice-versa. I’m mailing my copy of this book to Tatiana to see if my theory holds water. I have three data points so far - if you've read both of those books I'd love to have more!
As for my future with C.K. Kelly Martin, I will definitely be checking out more. I can't recommend Yesterday,
but Come See About Me
is worth reading. I love her writing style, and I'm convinced that one of her books will work for me.Final Verdict:Come See About Me: 3.5/5 StarsYesterday: 2/5 Stars
We are so excited to have Rachel Hartman
, author of the recently-released fantasy novel, Seraphina
, here at The Readventurer today. Last month, she went on a family vacation to England and rediscovered how wonderfully scenic the countryside is. She's here today to discuss how the years she spent living in England and the scenery of that area affected her world-building in Seraphina
. If you've already read Seraphina
, we know you'll have fun seeing if Rachel's photographs align with your imaginings of the setting. If you haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for? You should pick up a copy soon...or if you're in the US, you should enter our giveaway to win it! Don't forget that there is a short prequel, Audition
, available to read online here
. (PDF alert)
The English Goredd
When I was sixteen, I spent a year in England. My father took a sabbatical in Kent, and we lived in the hamlet of Godmersham, a tiny place, without a post office or a single shop. Our house had once been the coach house of a larger estate. It was surrounded on three sides by sheep pasture; across the lane were fields of blue-flowered flax and yellow rapeseed.
It was an easy walk to the Stour River, over the little bridge to Godmersham Park, where one of Jane Austen’s brothers had lived. She visited frequently, supposedly basing Rosings on the manor house and Mr. Collins’s parsonage on the parsonage next door.
Jane Austen attended this Norman church! here’s a sign that says so.
If we walked up the hill beyond the river, we reached the Pilgrim’s Way – that’s right, the old footpath to Canterbury. I was surrounded by literature, as well as sheep.
Although seriously, there were plenty of sheep.
If you want to accurately envision Goredd, the world of my novel, Seraphina, south-eastern England is a good place to start. I sometimes suspect that half the reason I’m a fantasy writer is that the landscape and architecture captured my heart and wouldn’t let go. My imagination laid down roots, and still draws sustenance from the things I saw that year. I travelled back recently, after almost twenty-four years away, and felt once again that I was in the place where my imagination intersects with reality.
First of all, there's the bucolic countryside:
Check out the South Downs! Also, the big chalk dude.
Some of those public right-of-ways are a thousand years old; they let you walk straight through farmers' fields. We used to hike around on weekends, or even after dinner, crossing chalky, flinty meadows, edging through hedgerows, all over the rolling weald. This land was domesticated long ago, and yet one can't help feeling that there is some still older wildness lurking just beneath the surface.
History is writ large in the buildings. I walked the streets in Canterbury, admiring Roman walls, Tudor and Georgian buildings, many eras living side by side. Country houses often have floors at many levels, where wings were added without quite enough forethought (or measurement). I am particularly fond of oast houses, and made sure Goredd had its share (as mentioned by Sir James in a story about encountering a battallion of dragons).
Oast houses are a type of kiln for drying hops; that pointy bit on top turns when the wind blows, keeping the ventilation just right. Technically, this round-house design dates to the 19th century, a bit late for my fantasy world, but I figure Goredd has its own variation on the thing. In fact, Goredd has all kinds of wondrous buildings. Here’s another style one often sees, the brick-and-half-timber:
We stayed in the room above the arch.
The most important building in Goredd, of course, apart from the castle, is the cathedral. St. Gobnait’s in Lavondaville is modelled directly upon my favourite cathedral of all time, the one and only Canterbury Cathedral.
I got this off of Wikimedia Commons because all my pictures turned out crappy.
Oh, how I love this building. I’m not even sure why. Maybe it’s the literary angle, the dramatic history, or the fact that they let you walk around in the spooky Norman crypt. Maybe it’s the fact that it can make you feel so small and so large at once, or simply that this was the first cathedral I ever saw and you never forget your first. Whatever the case may be, I could stare all day at that perpendicular nave.
This one’s mine. Crappy.
Seraphina’s Garden of Grotesques also grew out of a quintessential English place: Sissinghurst Castle Gardens. The landlord of our rented Coach House had lived at Sissinghurst, and we had visited the gardens on several occasions when they were closed to the public. As a teenager, I found it magical. It was wonderful to see it again, to rediscover every nook and cranny of the place and let myself get lost in the hedges.
Totally lost, here.
The garden is divided into many little sub-gardens, almost like rooms, and I think that’s where I got the idea that each of Seraphina’s Grotesques might have a designated space. There's an orchard, a moat, some pristine stretches of lawn:
And statues. And topiary.
There’s a cottage garden and a lime walk.
OK, I didn’t get a picture of the cottage. But what a lovely lime walk!
And last, but far from least, there was this bench:
You're not allowed to sit on it, which is a pity.
If you’ve read Seraphina, you may remember a bench like this belonging to Pelican Man. His is planted with oregano; he finds the smell soothing when he sits there. Well, when I spotted this bench at Sissinghurst, I started pointing at it and laughing. My husband and son, who were somewhat reluctant visitors to this garden, thought I had heat stroke until I was finally able to explain to them that this was the bench I'd described in my book.
And that I'd forgotten it existed in the real world.
England is still trickling into my work, even when I'm not aware of it. Who knows what new detritus accumulated during this vacation? I can't wait to write some more and see what unexpected footpaths my imagination takes next.
Thanks for sharing some of your inspirations with us, Rachel! You made us a bit jealous with all of your beautiful vacation photos.
Hartman will be on tour in September to promote her new release. Is she coming anywhere near you?
9/18 – 7pm – Children’s Book World
, Haverford, PA
9/19 – 5pm – Warren-Newport Public Library
, Gurnee, IL
9/21 – 7pm – Barnes & Noble
, Skokie, IL
9/23 – 2pm – Barnes & Noble
, Lynnwood, WA
9/25 – 7pm – Copperfield’s Books
, Petaluma, CA
9/26 – 6pm – Barnes & Noble
, El Cerrito, CA
9/28 – 7pm – Barnes & Noble
, Santa Monica, CA
9/30 – 2pm – Authors Tent, The Word on the Street
, Vancouver, BC
Rachel's publisher, Random House
, has provided a finished copy of the book for one lucky winner in the US. The giveaway will be open until 12:01 am EST on 9/5/12. Good luck!
A Straight Line to My HeartAuthor: Bill CondonPublication Date: 8/1/11Publisher: Allen & Unwin[Goodreads | Amazon]Blurb: A funny, poignant, realistic story of Tiffany's first love and first job, and the inevitability of change in the first summer out of school
School is over, not just for the year, but forever. Tiff and Kayla are free, which is what they've always wanted, but now summer is nearly at an end and that means life decisions. Tiff is hoping her job at the local paper will lead to something more, but "The Shark" soon puts her straight on what it takes to become a hard-nosed reporter like him. At home, Reggie—the only grandad she's ever known—has quit smoking and diagnosed himself as a cactus, and then Kayla hits her with some big news. And into all this stumbles Davey, who plays rugby but quotes Truman Capote, and is the first boy who has ever really wanted to know her. Tiff is smart with words and rarely does tears, but in one short week she discovers that words don't always get you there; they don't let you say all the stuff from deep in your heart. Review:
I want to write a review of this book, truly I do, but all I keep doing is singing "Groovy Kind of Love"
by Phil Collins and thinking about Aussie contemporary YA lit. "When I'm feeling blue, all I have to do, is take a look aaaaat you, then I'm not sooo blue."
That's where I stop singing, lest this turn into some sort of awkwardly sexual booklove situation. It is true that Aussie YA books and I have a groovy kind of love, though. Raw Blue
, Piper's Son
, A Little Wanting Song
, Six Impossible Things
, Holier Than Thou
; these books all just knocked it out of the park for me, and my favorite thing about them is that they aren't really about anything but living. While slice-of-life stories are common for every age group, young adult books can very quickly become angst-ridden "no one can understand me, my pain is so singular" types of stories, which really alienates me as a reader. Somehow many Australian authors seem to be successful at conveying the depressing bits of life, all the while with the undertones of the familial and friendship connections as an anchor that keep the narrative from getting to negative.
In A Straight Line to My Heart
, Tiff(any) is trying to enjoy her summer after finishing high school. She has an internship lined up at her local newspaper and a new crush on a footballer from a nearby town, but the story doesn't dwell on one plotline throughout. Instead, it basically just follows Tiff through about a week of her summer. The cast of characters is fairly controlled and there are not a lot of random mentions, which allowed me to really get the feel of several of the central players--Tiff, her family (who are actually more a surrogate brother/uncle, Bull, and grandfather, Reggie), Bull's girlfriend Zoe, her supervisor at the newspaper, and Tiff's new love interest, Davey. In addition, the setting is contained to only around three or four locations. While I do appreciate lots of action and plot twists in most genres, contemporary fiction is the place where I'll give up basically everything for the characters and a connection. I loved Tiff's voice from the initial library scene opening where she is annoyed to be rudely interrupted while she is lost on the moors with Heathcliff, and I couldn't help but laugh at the note that Davey gave her later in the book:I like you but you mightn't feel the same way about me, and I wouldn't blame you. To save us both from any awkward moments I've figured out an easy way to do this. Nod if you're even slightly interested in getting to know me. Write a ten page explanation if you're not.
"Write a ten page explanation if you're not?" That is so classic, and I really hope I remember to use it on someone in the future. Because I loved Tiff so much, it was lovely to see everyone else through her eyes. She thought about people's motivations for their actions--what did Bull's girlfriend want to hang out with her for? Why was Reggie trying to avoid going to the doctor? I wish I could contemplate and remind myself that there are usually reasons for everyone's bad attitudes or, alternatively, for their acts of kindness. Quite surprisingly, this book did not make me cry, but I believe that Tiff is so lucky to have the family relationship she has (and likewise, her family is lucky to have her), and I think she makes a few more valuable connections with people during her summer. Tiff would be a very hard person to dislike, but I could totally see her just fading into the background. I'm so happy that Condon picked her out of the crowd and decided to tell her story.
The list of people who might love this book is pretty long. I'd recommend it for fans of the books I mentioned earlier, though I think the style most resembled a mixture of Cath Crowley and Fiona Wood. Bill Condon did a fabulous job of making me totally forget that he was a male writer with a female narrator, so I'd add anyone who is looking for a successful example of writing a main character, in first person, of the opposite sex. Also, this book is for anyone who is a fan of slice-of-life stories full of heart and a bit of humor.
Thanks to Arlene from WinterHaven Books
for lending me her copy. You're a star.4.5/5 stars
Looking for a blogging home? Our friends over at Badass Book Reviews are looking for one or two new bloggers
– go check them out!
Yet another news outlet is attempting to round up a best-of list, this time for “best novel of all time” – Huffington Post
is inviting their readers to vote on this shortlist
, which they’ve arranged bracket-style. I have no idea how they decided which books should go head to head, but as expected there are dissenters in the comments.
Vacuous Minx once again sheds light on goodreads’ practices
– this time in part one of a two part series investigating their overall motives. Are they more interested in drawing in business from authors/publishers or are they concerned about maintaining the space for readers as they claim? The Guardian
covers the recent controversy surrounding possible racism in Victoria Foyt’s upcoming YA novel Revealing Eden.
Proving that even New York Times
best-selling authors with major film deals can get miffed and act immaturely about negative reviews, Emily Giffin and her husband stirred up some drama last week when he posted a comment on a very short negative review on Amazon which, in my opinion, was pretty fair and did not attack Emily Giffin personally in any way. Blogger Corey Ann, who later became a target in this hullaballoo, recaps everything on her blog
And, because I generally feel the need to follow up the author misbehavior items in these posts with fun and distracting things: Check out this endlessly fun YA dystopia generator from telophase
. I just generated this surefire bestseller for some aspiring book packager out there: “Whimper: Stamps have been banned and the government controls bird watching.”
I love this tumblr: Literary Jukebox
, which pairs a quote with a song each day. The shortlist for the Queensland Literary Awards
was released and Kirsty Eagar, Margo Lanagan, and Vikki Wakefield are all nominated in the young adult category.
My final item on the fun list – am I the only one who finds this incredibly exciting? (Nerd alert.) Published in Science
last week, Harvard University scientists announced that they’d converted a 53,000 word book into DNA!
Thus proving that I am right in the years long debate between my husband and I – there’s nothing that we can invent that nature hasn’t already accomplished one hundred times better.
And my final item for the day – just to toot our own horn a little bit – a great blog from the Manhattan Public Library, Little Apple Bookworm, wrote about using our flowchart for discovering new YA titles
Hope you all are having a great weekend! Let us know what’s happening in your various corners of the internet!
Le sisters at La Push, WA.
Bribery goes hand in hand with having siblings. I have three siblings and we absolutely work according our own sort of barter system where we call in favors to balance things out from years ago. Elephants never forget? Well I would argue that siblings never forget--it's one of the best and worst things about them. The other day, my sister found two huge spiders and she was too chicken to kill them. "Would I do it?" Of course I would...if she wrote a guest blog post for us! Muahahaha! Luckily, my younger sister Aileen is quite a reader. Though I tried to get her to explain why she likes several romance authors--Julia Quinn
, Teresa Medeiros
, Judith McNaught
--she instead chose to not listen to me at all (as usual) and picked her own recommendations. Take it away, Aileen
Flannery agreed to dispose of a spider in my room if I agreed to do an “If You Like This, You Might Like That”
blog post. So here I am, arachnophobe and all. I’ve read different books than Flanna and she requested that I recommend a few:
The Chronicles of Prydain:
How do I love thee, Lloyd Alexander. The movie version of The Black Cauldron
does little justice to this wonderful series. Through five books, we follow Taran, assistant pig keeper, as he protects his land of Prydain from Arawn Death-Lord, who commands a legion of the undead and unsavory. This book is based on the same Welsh folklore as that of the Lord of the Rings
, but each takes a very different interpretation. You will find some similarities, but they are very different novels. If you liked Harry Potter
and are looking for something to fill that hole in your heart, The Chronicles
are a good place to go. These novels are written for a younger crowd, but stand up well to adult reading. I could read all five in a weekend, and sometimes do.
, by Robin McKinley, is a retelling of (you guessed it!) Beauty and the Beast
. McKinley’s Beauty is an awkward, pimpled, clumsy bookworm in a family of great beauties. Great beauties who are terribly nice, to boot. Beauty is funny and caring, and a good role model for young girls. If you like books with strong female characters who are into books and learning, you will like Beauty
. Also, if you like Gail Carson Levine
’s fairy tale retellings or Howl’s Moving Castle
, you may like this.
Speaking of badass heroines, Sabriel
has to be up there for books with a strong female lead. Garth Nix created a world in which the Victorian Age of a country much like England is separated from a more magical kingdom by a wall. The magical kingdom, much like in the Song of Ice and Fire
series, is a place where the dead can walk. Sabriel is a necromancer in training who must leave school in the un-magical world and return to her birthplace once her father, the Abhorsen, dies. If you like Anna Dressed in Blood
or Blood Red Road
, chances are you will like Sabriel.
The Forbidden Game:
Ah, here we come to what may be my most controversial “If You Like…” recommendation. The Forbidden Game
is a trilogy of novels by L.J. Smith, of The Vampire Diaries
and Secret Circle
fame. Obviously, if you like either of those series, pick this one up. The Forbidden Game
follows Jenny, our main protagonist, and her group of friends as they unleash a terrible evil while playing a board game. This might sound ridiculous, but it’s not. It’s actually a pretty freaky novel. Jenny’s whole life has been stalked by a supernatural creature who fell in love with her while she was a child and uses the game to escape into her world. She and her friends each have to live through their worst nightmare, as the game progresses and it’s both frightening and enlightening. Here’s the controversial part…If you liked Twilight
, or any other book with a sort of helpless love/love triangle/beautiful men fighting over me novel, you’ll probably like this.
and Maus II
are divergences from my earlier recommendations, but the graphic novels are fantastic. Art Spiegelman retells the story of a Holocaust survivor through a graphic novelization with mice as the main characters. As a junior high/high school student, these graphic novels helped me get a narrative of the Holocaust that wasn’t too overwhelming while respecting the seriousness of the subject-matter. If you like The Book Thief
or The Diary of Anne Frank
, check these out.
The Blade Itself:
Last but not least is Joe Abercombie’s The Blade Itself
. I’ve only read the first of this series, but that was due to lack of funds and law school rather than lack of desire. Blade
is a dark, twisted story of kings that takes place around the medieval era. If you like Game of Thrones
, but wish there was less politics, or if you like The Name of the Wind
, but wish there was more blood and torture, The Blade Itself
is for you. Dark, complex, twisted, and wonderful writing.
It's always surprising to me how people who spend so much time together can manage to read so many different books. I'm a little ashamed to say that I haven't read a single one of these, though I often flipped through Maus when I was a kid. Also, though I'm sure Aileen will roll her eyes at me for this comment as I'm sure she's told me before many, many times, I don't think I knew that The Black Cauldron was based on a book. (New mission: Get Aileen to do a Book vs. Movie post) I am sad that she will be going back to Oregon this morning but I'm happy that she fulfilled her part of the spider bargain and wrote this post. Thanks for the recommendations, A!
Have you read any of these books? Do you agree with her picks? Do you have any other recommendations for us?
Thirteen (Women of the Otherworld, #13)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publication Date: 7/24/12
It’s been more than ten years, a dozen installments, and hundreds of thousands of copies since Kelley Armstrong introduced readers to the all-too-real denizens of the Otherworld: witches, werewolves, necromancers, vampires, and half-demons, among others. And it’s all been leading to Thirteen
, the final installment, the novel that brings all of these stories to a stunning conclusion.
A war is brewing—the first battle has been waged and Savannah Levine is left standing, albeit battered and bruised. She has rescued her half brother from supernatural medical testing, but he’s fighting to stay alive. The Supernatural Liberation Movement took him hostage, and they have a maniacal plan to expose the supernatural world to the unknowing.
Savannah has called upon her inner energy to summon spells with frightening strength, a strength she never knew she had, as she fights to keep her world from shattering. But it’s more than a matter of supernaturals against one another—both heaven and hell have entered the war; hellhounds, genetically modified werewolves, and all forces of good and evil have joined the fray.
Uniting Savannah with Adam, Paige, Lucas, Jaime, Hope, and other lost-but-not-forgotten characters in one epic battle, Thirteen
is a grand, crowd-pleasing closer for Armstrong’s legions of fans.Review: Have Kelley Armstrong's books always been like... this? So superficial, so packed with mindless action? I know I didn't particularly like her YA novels or her last two adult novels, but were her earlier works this bad too, and I was just too inexperienced and liked them in spite of their flaws? I will have to investigate this and read her earlier books one of these days and for now just assume that they used to be better, and I had a legitimate reason to become a fan of both Women of the Otherworld and Kelley Armstrong.Thirteen is just meh. I feel like gone from this series are hot romances, spunky heroines and interesting mythologies. What's left are: family reunions and running around.I have the vaguest memories of the two previous books in the series - Waking the Witch and Spellbound. It's hard for me to remember anything except
the feelings of disappointment in Savannah, her romance with Adam and the hectic, cliff-hangery plots. This disappointment carried over into Thirteen
There is nothing "stunning" about this conclusion, IMO. The gist of this story is that this group of supernaturals (The Supernatural Liberation Movement) is creating havoc, trying to force the rest of supes to come out and take over the world. And, of course, only Savannah and hew crew can save humanity. The thing is, the balance of power from the get-go is so much in our friends' favor, I don't know why anyone would worry about the outcome. For goodness sake, they have an angel (Eve) and Lucifer on their side! With no suspense, no mystery and no real danger, the novel reads like a mix of numerous kidnappings (I am pretty certain that any book shouldn't have any more than one kidnapping; this one has at least three!), escapes, betrayals, main characters doing and saying what they've done and said in every book already (they are, in a way, their own cliches) and the stupidest villains ever who reveal their plans to anyone who asks. The only thing Thirteen
accomplishes successfully is a HEA FOR ALL, with love proclamations and babies. Armstrong even manages to give each and every woman of the Otherworld the last word by letting Elena, Jaime, Hope, Eve and Paige narrate one needless chapter each. Otherwise Thirteen
is a poor hide-and-seek extravaganza with people getting kidnapped and released/rescued every ten pages and not a moment of contemplation, a piece of cool world-building, or even some decent sexy times to shake things up. (I don't think one measly, passionless "slide in" is worth mentioning.)A sad conclusion to the series, to be sure. I am tired of repeating this, but I wish authors would cut off their series while they are ahead instead of producing low-quality junk and losing their credibility. My adieus to this series, which is going to migrate from my series-still-like to series-abandoned-lost-steam
shelf, and to another author who I once respected but am not sure now
I would care to support any more.2.5/5 stars
34. That's how many books there are in J.D. Robb's (Nora Roberts') In Death series
, and coincidentally also how many I've read as of last month. (This number does not even include the short novellas and stories that have appeared throughout the series) When I did my '110+ Books I Intend to Read Next' list
, one of the series I needed and wanted to catch up on was this one so I started listening to the audiobooks of the ones I'd yet to complete. Listening to each one back to back really gave me some insight into the series and also made me even more aware how Nora Roberts has some sort of puppet string hold over my body whereby she can manipulate me into buying and enjoying every book she writes, and even if I don't enjoy them, I'll give the stinkeye to anyone who tries to badmouth her. Really, she should spend a bit of her fortune on recreating Roarke's mansion but in Maryland so Roberts devotees could do a "Nora Roberts books-themed vacation." Actually it would have to be an entire fake town and here are some features this fake town (Robertsville? Robertstown? The Roberts Plantation?) would include: Every person is hot, your mechanic, your doctor, the dog walker, your child's teacher, your priest, every house has a well-tended garden, everyone's bookshelves are stocked, and the town will have great pizza. There you go. Well, probably someone would have to play the villain but I'm sure they could pay people like Catie and Tatiana to walk around giving menacing looks at the vacation-takers. I would go to this place, for sure. Of course, there would be daily discussions of books and places in town where you could reenact different books.
Fine, I'm joking about this. (No, I'm not.) But Roberts really does have certain formulas in her books that show up repeatedly, and after listening to four In Death
books in a row, I kept thinking about the formula for a book in the series. Please know before proceeding that I am absolutely addicted to this series, so it's all in jest. Roberts could write a book where all of these things happen three times each and I'd still read it/listen to it and love the experience. So, I present to you:
50 Things Very Nearly Guaranteed to Occur in an Installment of J.D. Robb's In Death Series
1. A workout scene that includes virtual reality and/or a swim in the pool
2. A dinner with red meat and/or pizza (or more likely, two dinners, one of each)
3. Someone is stealing Eve’s candy!
4. Eve bribes Dickhead (the lab guy) with baseball tickets.
5. Obligatory mention of the cat, Galahad.
6. Uh oh, it’s a back and forth between Eve and Summerset. (or four)
7. “Go ahead! Speak to my superior!” His name is Whitney, and he’s always on my side.
8. Mira is looking very put together, looking serene, and drinking tea in her pastel pantsuit.
9. Does Peabody’s butt look big in this?
10. She-body joke from McNab.
11. Also, sexy time for Peabody and McNab, to which Eve will roll her eyes and/or tell them she feels uncomfortable or to get a room.
12. Surprise! The case has some connection to Eve. (Does every killer have it out for her?)
13. Roarke owns the building/s/every building they go to.
14. Look at this new invention I’m working on!
15. Eve has a hot shower. (101 degrees, too hot according to Roarke)
16. They probably have sex in the shower, though.
17. Time for the tube of Pepsi from the vending machine! Angry words may or may not be had.
18. Eve questions where some piece of clothing came from in her closet. (Spoiler Alert: ROARKE BOUGHT IT, HE BUYS ALL YOUR CLOTHES, WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS QUESTIONING THIS?)
19. Roarke gets so caught up in the sexytimes that he cannot help but tell Eve he loves her in Irish.
20. Despite cop protocols in real life and the fact that he is involved in every business venture in the galaxy, Roarke will always be involved in every case. (and also smarter and better at computers and business than everyone else)
21. Eve will move most of the operation to her house instead of Cop Central, but everyone seems okay with that since there will be lots of tasty food.
22. Eve will be referred to as “Roarke’s cop” by at least one random person.
23. Is this REAL coffee?
24. I bet you forgot that Baxter and Trueheart were in this series. Isn’t Trueheart such a babyfaced cutie?
25. Eve has a nightmare.
26. Roarke doesn’t know what to do but obviously does the right thing.
27. Roarke will dig into someone’s finances and ALWAYS find some hidden accounts.
28. Also, he will bypass a security system.
29. Mention of licensed companions and some futuristic drugs like Zoner and Rabbit.
30. Good cop/Bad cop interrogation of a suspect
31. There’s a room in Eve and Roarke’s mansion that Eve didn’t know even existed! (Seriously? Who hasn’t gone in every room in their house? Even if it has 100+ rooms, I think it could/should be done.)
32. Did Leonardo design that outfit?
33. Look at the baby! Here’s Mavis! Remember how Eve and Mavis are BFFs even though they never seem to really be supporting each other or hanging out?
34. Trina does a makeover.
35. Eve and Roarke function very well for only sleeping about 3 hours a night…
36. Until Eve is so exhausted that she passes out in her clothes and Roarke finds her.
37. Roarke fingers the button of Eve’s he keeps in his pocket.
38. Nadine’s hassling Eve for info on the case and Eve has no comment except “they’re pursuing all leads.”
39. A page later, Nadine’s getting an exclusive.
40. Feeney’s leading up the geek squad with his puppy dog eyes. Best cop Eve knows. He’s her inspiration.
41. You don’t want to interrupt Roarke at work, Eve? Too bad, Caro’s been told to put you right through.
42. Peabody will be hungry on the job. (Pro-tip: Pack some snacks for the road.)
43. Did you know Peabody came from a family of “Free-ager” hippies?
44. “How do Charles and Louise get on so well as a couple? How does she live with his job choice?” Eve wonders.
45. Let’s make a murder board!
46. “They’re mine now.” (the victims)
47. Mention of the utilitarian beauty of Eve’s cop car, courtesy of Roarke.
48. Eve will double park her car in front of a ritzy building and sass the doorman.
49. Roarke will notice Eve’ tired eyes and plan a nice evening for them. (With meat. Both kinds.)
50. “Totally mag.”
I am very curious to see how much longer this series will continue. Though I still love it, I am wondering how Roberts can develop Eve and Roarke's relationship further, especially considering many of us are just waiting for them to have a child. However, Roberts has repeatedly said that plot point will probably be the end of the series
so it seems like I have my hopes up for what will likely be a letdown. What do you think? Do you read this series? Do you have anything to add to my list? Another one comes out in September (Delusion in Death
), does anyone want to keep a tally list with me?
The books I recently listened to were Indulgence in Death
, Treachery in Death
, Big Jack
, New York to Dallas
, and Celebrity in Death
. Absolutely the only issue I have with the audiobooks is Peabody's nasally voice but the narrator must've picked that voice in the beginning and she sure cannot change that thirty books later. Four of those were on my 110+ Books list so my count is up to 10!
The Brides of Rollrock IslandAuthor: Margo LanaganPublication Date: 9/11/12Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers[Goodreads|Amazon]Blurb(GR): On remote Rollrock Island, men go to sea to make their livings—and to catch their wives.
The witch Misskaella knows the way of drawing a girl from the heart of a seal, of luring the beauty out of the beast. And for a price a man may buy himself a lovely sea-wife. He may have and hold and keep her. And he will tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she. He will be equally ensnared. And the witch will have her true payment.
Margo Lanagan weaves an extraordinary tale of desire, despair, and transformation. With devastatingly beautiful prose, she reveals characters capable of unspeakable cruelty, but also unspoken love.Review:
There’s no question in my mind that this book is brilliantly written. I’ve been consistently impressed and moved by Margo Lanagan’s prose since my first experience with her work a few years ago and this book does not disappoint in that regard. However, and this will actually be a positive for many readers – this book is far more tame and accessible than Tender Morsels.
It’s even more accessible than the short story of hers that I read in Zombies vs. Unicorns
last year. And that’s not to say that this book is all softness and happiness and rainbows – far from it. But compared to the other two works of hers that I’ve read, this one just isn’t as…traumatizing.
As I said, this will actually be a positive for many readers. I would definitely suggest this book for anyone who wants to give Margo Lanagan a try without being overwhelmed. This is the book you should start with
. However, as someone who loves her darker and more gruesome side, I actually really missed the shock factor that I’ve come to expect from her. I loved this book quite a lot, but I know that it won’t linger in my mind quite as much as Tender Morsels
This book is absolutely brilliant though, both in its poetic beauty and in its technical precision. She is one of the few authors I know of who seems to marry those two elements effortlessly. I appreciate both (although I think maybe I have a slight preference for poetic beauty over technical precision) but when I see them come together in one work of art, it never fails to leave me in awe. Not only does she seamlessly connect six different narrators, she tells this story in a sort of spiraling timeline. She starts in the middle, moves to the beginning, and then moves through the start to reach the end. In a less-skilled author’s hands, all of these narrators and the shifting timeline could easily become a huge mess. But she makes it feel absolutely perfect – like the only way this story could possibly be told.
I don’t typically enjoy reading through a whole cast of narrators, but Margo Lanagan makes me love it. Her stories are handed off from one pair of eyes to another, like a relay, and the result is an incredibly three-dimensional view. We get to see through the eyes of young Misskaella, a girl with a power that she doesn’t understand, but that seems to scare or disgust everyone on the small island where she lives. As she grows and even her family seems to wish she were never born, as her isolation and bitterness increase, it becomes easier to see why she would want to punish them all. From within the soft, blubbery bodies of female seals, she pulls forth girls: tall, pale, graceful, and biddable girls. Girls who seem to bewitch every single man on the island. Through the span of decades, she changes the entire face of the island, effectively removing it from the modern world and isolating everyone who chooses to stay. The torch of narration is passed through the wives and children of these men, who are cast aside; to the men themselves, who are hopelessly lost to the selkie brides; to the children born of these new marriages; and finally back into Misskaella’s life through the eyes of her apprentice.
I fell so hard into each one of these different characters that it was sometimes hard to move on. But it was exciting too – like having my firmly held beliefs proven wrong over and over again. (Am I the only one who really enjoys that?) The only small gripe I have is that I wish she had included a selkie bride as one of the narrators. It sort of
happens with Daniel Mallett, the son of one of these women, but not completely. I really wonder why she chose not to include that point of view.
Her writing is just absolutely stunning though. For example – this passage, which is about giving up a child for his own well-being:
“All the years to come crowded into that time, and I lived them, long and bitter and empty of him. The rightness of what I had done, and the wrongness both, they tore at me, and repaired me, and tore again, and neither of them was bearable.”
I have never gone through that courageous and painful act, but she made me feel as if I had. Perfect Musical Pairing
The Cranberries – Dreaming My Dreams
Whenever I listen to this song, I think about my children growing up and heading out into the world and leaving me behind. And I feel such a mix of emotions – pride, grief, desperation to hold onto their little selves, eagerness to prepare them for adulthood. I think that the old cliché is right – one of the truest tests of love for another person is the ability to let him or her go. And I think that it’s interesting that in The Brides of Rollrock Island, it is the “villain” who is able to let her loves go, while her “victims” can’t seem to. They are so desperate to hold on to their loves that they strangle the life out of them. So this is where I come to the * from above. After writing this review, I realize that this book left more of an impression on me than I originally thought. This book is quieter and more subdued than Tender Morsels but it still lingers.
As you all well know, the three of us are massive fans of Melina Marchetta. We've talked about her books
and her talents
extensively in the past. We were all excited when she recently released a new short story featuring Lady Celie of the Flatlands
in the Review of Australian Fiction.
And we simply can't wait for the release of Quintana of Charyn
this fall. (Well, the Australian release is this fall but I doubt any of us will be able to wait.)
So you can imagine how happy and flattered we were when Melina agreed to answer some of our questions. We hope you will enjoy her answers and her insight as much as we did!
We loved what you said in your recent talk at Books of Wonder, about your writing process - that you wait for a character/voice to arrive first, then see who he/she brings along, and then listen to the dialogue for a long time before committing anything to paper. So, we have to ask: who are you listening to now?
Believe it or not, I’m still listening to Taylor Markham and the Jellicoe gang after all these years, but that’s because talk of a film in the near future has cranked up and those characters need to feel fresh in my head. Mostly I’m thinking of a bunch of new characters (and old) for a TV series I’m co-writing with Cathy Randall, which include Jessa McKenzie and Tilly Santangelo, but also Akbar, Sebastian, Florence, Hughie and Claudine. [Melina is talking about this 10-part TV project
.]And speaking of TV projects, (from Flannery) many of my friends and I are severely addicted to Dance Academy so it was extremely exciting to me to recently find out you were writing an episode for the upcoming season and that you’ve written one or more episodes in the past. Can you talk a little bit about how much freedom you have in terms of plot and dialogue when writing for the show?
That’s so funny. I went to dinner with Jo Werner and Sam Strauss the producer and creators of the show the other night and told them about your DA love. They were thrilled. I’ve written for them in both Season 2 and 3. They’re great people to work with and Jo Werner will be producing my next two projects and after years and years of being asked by others, I’ve trusted her with the film rights to Francesca.
The hardest part about writing for someone else’s show is getting the characterisation right. I know my own characters inside out, but that’s not the case with Dance Academy
, and no matter how much preparation I’ve done, I still get things wrong in first and second draft. Sometimes the mistakes are about sense of humour or colloquialisms. Also, DA is very controlled by the children’s television classification so there’s not a swear word or sex scene or sexual reference in sight which is very difficult when you’re writing the “will-they/won’t-they-go-all-the-way” episode. I’ve never had to write with restrictions so it’s been very good discipline.When we heard that you were planning to concentrate on writing for TV after the publication of Quintana of Charyn, we were heartbroken. How can we go on without having another book of yours to look forward to? Do you expect this hiatus from writing fiction to be long?
I’m just so tired, you know. It’s a different sort of tired than when I was teaching and of course, I’m no less tired than anyone else, but I need a break from the solitary nature of this work. I’ve never fallen out of love of novel writing and I know I’m going to be yearning for it. I’ll definitely be writing shorter pieces. I recently had to write a short story for an online magazine about Lady Celie of the Lumateran Flatlands and I enjoyed it so much. But I also have to work out where I’m going with my writing career. I have the most amazing loyal readership, but it’s small and I have to find a way of making it bigger without selling my soul.
(from Tatiana) It took you years to conceive and write your first novels and now you have a new book release practically every year. How were you able to change your writing pace so drastically? Was it only a matter of having more time to write now that you are full-time writer?
No, it certainly wasn’t about having more time. I wrote Francesca and Jellicoe at the busiest time of my teaching career. I think the second wave of my writing career was about confidence and timing. I wrote Alibrandi from the heart and had no idea about process or my craft. Which made it so hard when people would say to me, ‘Do it again.’ How can you do something again when you weren’t quite aware of what you did right in the first place? Of course I couldn’t admit that to anyone. It took eleven years and I think writing the film script of Alibrandi helped. Screenwriting is all about craft and structure and so many rules and I learnt quite a lot about process during that time working with the director Kate Woods who is now on board to direct Jellicoe. So it’s no coincidence that I started writing Saving Francesca a year after the release of my first film.
Are you involved in a writing group? Do you converse with other writers or seek advice and support from other people while writing?
I don’t belong to a writers’ group except for when I’m plotting for TV with my co writer and producers. I tend to disappear in groups of more than four, but I have a strong connection with writers, both here and in the US at a one-on-one level. We rarely speak about the actual content of our work, but we’re a great support to each other. There are very few people you can have a whinge to about the down side of writing such as the daily isolation, or the lack of publicity or bad reviews or wondering what the next royalty statement will look like or whether it’s worth pursuing the career. It’s the same sort of workplace chatter and support you’d get in a staff room or office.
(from Catie) I am a huge Anne of Green Gables fan, and I’ve read several interviews where you mention being inspired by the scene where Anne hits Gilbert over the head with her slate (after he calls her “carrots.”) I just love that. And I know that you’ve also said that you often include scenes in your books that were inspired by that moment. What are some of your favorite “slate over the head” scenes from your own books?
I use those moments to convey that one character (usually the male) thinks he has all the power. And then the other character (usually the female) shows, rather than tells, that it may not be the case.
My favourite to write was when Francesca has the Trotsky/Tolstoy exchange with Will Trombal in Saving Francesca. It’s an important moment for the reader as well, because Francesca could easily be seen as a pushover when the story begins, and I had to hint that there’s more to this girl.
There are a few of those moments in Jellicoe (the scene in the prison cell when Taylor threatens to burn down the Club house as well as the cow manure scene) but the earliest one in Jellicoe is when Taylor and Jonah are younger and she approaches him on the railway platform, and he tells her to go to hell and she tells him she’s been there and hell’s overrated.
In Finnikin, of course, it’s after Evanjalin speaks for the first time and then Finnikin realizes she’s understood every word between him and Sir Topher because she speaks as many languages as he does.
(from Tatiana) You’ve talked often about how characters in your contemporary novels have “twins” in your fantasy novels. Whenever I read Saving Francesca, I imagine Francesca’s parents as grown-up Josephine Alibrandi and Jacob Coote. For some reason I feel like they have the same dynamic. Am I crazy?
Half crazy anyway. Whenever I’m asked whether Alibrandi will ever have a sequel (absolutely not) my response is that Mia Spinelli is a grown up version of Josie Alibrandi. Josie and Mia are fiery, passionate and driven. But I don’t think that Jacob Coote is Bobby Spinelli.
My most obvious twins are:
Will Trombal and Finnikin of Lumatere (pragmatic, a bit dry, and don’t cope well with women).
Tom Mackee/Lucian of the Monts – My editor and I call Lucian, ‘Medieval Tom’. Everything that comes out of their mouths is so so wrong, but they mean well and I love their relationship with women of any age. Tom has a great place in the lives of Frankie and the gang, as well as with Georgie’s world and his little sister and mum and both nans. Lucian is the same. I loved every one of his scenes in Quintana of Charyn. Apart from Froi, he goes on the biggest emotional journey and it’s the women who take him there. I also think both those lads come from the same gene pool as Santangelo in Jellicoe. All of them live under the shadow of charismatic fathers, and all of them have leadership of some sort thrust upon them.
We’ve noticed (and appreciated) that you write some of the most honest sex scenes in young adult literature. Is it important to you to represent sex and intimacy in an honest way to teens?
I’m not saying it isn’t important for me to represent it honestly, but it’s not the number one intention. It’s a personal thing. I appreciate many things about religion, and people’s faith amazes me, but I resent the guilt I felt growing up when it came to sex or sexual thoughts or whatnot. I grew up thinking I was going to go to hell. But in saying that, I will not throw in a sex scene for the sake of it. It must belong to the story being told. The sex scenes in Jellicoe, for example, were part of the story, but they have not found a place in the film script. To use an awful pun (but there’s no other way of saying this) sex between Taylor and Jonah in the film would climax their story too early. The tension between them has to be there until the very last frame.
It’ll be interesting to see where I go with Lady Celie if I continue writing novellas or short stories featuring her and Banyon, because she’s 22 and he’s about 30, so certainly not the YA age. That doesn’t mean it has to be 50 Shades of Lumatere. For me, nothing works better than sexual tension and less is more when it comes to writing it. It’s where romantic comedies today are dismal and excruciatingly boring and it’s why more adults are reading YA.
What do you think of this new genre - “new adult”? (Which is basically a genre that targets readers in their early twenties.) Did you think about writing for slightly older young adults when you wrote The Piper’s Son? Do you think you’ll ever write a purely adult novel?
I don’t’ think of audience when I write. In my mind how can The Piper’s Son not be a novel for teenagers and how can it not be a novel for adults? Genre labels are so tricky. My greatest commercial failure is going to be what I consider my best book, which is The Piper’s Son. And it will be a failure, not because of the writing or characters or sense of place, but because people don’t know where to place it. My greatest commercial and critical successes overall are Alibrandi and Francesca, because they fit into a genre (and because the girls don’t have sex).
Personally, I don’t think there should be a new adult genre. I think novels like The Piper’s Son belong in both the adult and YA section of a bookstore and library. Sadly, there seems to be a whole lot of politics involved into why they can’t be part of both.
(from Flannery) The only one of your books I’ve listened to on audio is Looking for Alibrandi and I honestly sat in a parking lot and sobbed during “that section” of the book. I want to go back and listen to The Piper’s Son on audio because the Australian narrators for your books make it feel even more authentic to me. Do you have any input in the audiobook production or narrators? Have you listened to the voice performances of any of your books? (*Actually, I listened to half of On The Jellicoe Road but I got too excited and wanted to read faster so I finished it in book form:))
I listen to all of my books as a point of closure because I’m always interested in someone else’s interpretation and because I like audio books. Once or twice I will re-listen, especially when I was writing Quintana and I had to check Finnikin and Froi for continuity. Listening to my work the first time is very confronting and I’m the worst judge because I’ve lived with those voices in my head for years and then to hear another’s reality is strange. I’ve had a bit of a say with The Piper’s Son and Froi here in Australia. They’ve sent me a couple of audio voices to choose from. I also got to speak to the actors about pronunciation.
I agree with you about the authenticity of the Australian voice. At the moment I’m being asked whether I’m okay about a big international name for either Taylor or Jonah in Jellicoe. The producers both here and in the US agree that it will ensure Jellicoe becomes an international film if one of the two leads is a big name. I’m pushing for Taylor. I think she’s more a citizen of the world. Jonah has such a distinct Australianess to him. I could be wrong, but I think he would change considerably as a character if an American or English actor played him.
(from Catie) The world of Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles is immaculately drawn and feels very fresh but at the same time, I can see a lot of parallels between it and some of my other favorite fantasy novels: The Queen’s Thief series, Tigana. Did you draw inspiration from either of these when you were starting The Chronicles of Lumatere? Was there anything that you did draw inspiration from?
| || |
When Finnikin came out and readers truly did not like the novel (there were many) Tigana seemed to come up time and time again, especially regarding what Guy Gavriel Kay did better. Some even flirted with hints of plagiarism. And that’s not a criticism about reviewers, just a fact. So to be honest, I’ve avoided Tigana like a Charyn plague and I’ve always considered it my treat read for when I finished the trilogy. But I’m going through
that coming-down-from-a-high period that happens after a novel goes to print and I know I’ll feel bereft reading it because it will be everything I love in a fantasy novel. So I think Tigana will be my Christmas read.
But Attolia, oh my goodness, a big yes. Unashamedly. When I was planning Finnikin in my head, I wanted Evanjalin to do something pretty awful for plot and characterization reasons, but didn’t want to go there because I thought no one would like her. I didn’t want to alienate the reader. And then I read The Queen of Attolia and everyone who’s read that book knows exactly what scene I’m talking about and it unleashed something brave in me. Also, MWT has this ability to create intricate passionate and tension -filled relationships between the younger characters and their elders, for example Gen and Relius and even the Magus. So the relationship between Finnikin and Sir Topher or Froi and the Priestking and Gargarin and Arjuro are very much inspired by The Queen’s Thief series.
Compared to Finnikin of the Rock, Froi of the Exiles is much more intricate story, with many twists and turns and mysteries and characters. How did you manage to keep track of this very difficult plot while maintaining a good level of suspense? Did you use flow-charts or white boards to keep the pieces of the puzzle together? And is Quintana of Charyn going to be as twisty?
No, I use none of those things. I want to because they look fantastic and they’d make my life easier, but logic is not a bedfellow of mine. I’m one of the untidiest people in the world. I usually start off with good intentions, lose everything and find my notes and scene cards the week after I go to print. So I have to trust my head and it doesn’t let me down. It’s about re-writes for me. I think that if I planned things more I wouldn’t have to re-write so often, but I find pieces of gold in all the mess of not planning. “That Scene” Flannery was referring to in Looking For Alibrandi was one of them. Totally unplanned. The scene in Jellicoe where Jonah reveals what he was doing on the platform is another one. Dom’s confession at the AA meeting in The Piper’s Son was another. And Quintana’s personalities were totally unplanned. So I stick to the mayhem in my head.
There are a few big reveals in Quintana, especially about who or what cursed Charyn (which was still a mystery to me when I finished writing Froi). Quintana is twisty emotionally. It’s very much a relationships based novel.
(from Tatiana) One of my most favorite couples in Froi of the Exiles (and there are many, believe me) is Lucian and Phaedra. I won’t lie, for a huge part of the novel I was infuriated by Lucian’s actions towards his wife, but because of that his redemption in the end was so much sweeter. What inspired you to put Lucian through this journey?
Lucian is one of my favourite characters too. If he were real, he’d be the type of young man I’d be proud of. It’s hard as a writer to re-introduce a beloved character in such a negative way. I did that with both Lucian and Tom Mackee. I knew that Lucian’s humanity would come through his interaction with the enemy and I was really hoping the reader would stay with me because Lucian (and Froi and Quintana and the rest) aren’t the easiest people to like at the beginning.
I can’t really discuss his relationship with Phaedra because it gives too much away for those who haven’t read Froi, but I’ll give you an idea of the genesis of that relationship. When I first started writing Froi, I thought Lady Celie was Froi’s love interest because he lives with her family. That didn’t work and it taught me you couldn’t force your characters to be somewhere they don’t want to be. So next I decided Celie would be Lucian’s love interest. Celie’s goodness would take him to the valley where the homeless Charynite’s were camping. Obviously that didn’t work. So it made total sense that Lucian’s love interest would be one of those refugees in the valley and not a particularly strong girl on first appearance (much like Celie). But I love those types of characters.
Of course now Celie has her own little novella and I don’t think I’ve heard the last of her. Phaedra and Celie are more than just love interests. I had a Patrick Swayze dirty dancing moment with both of them when I realized that no one puts Celie or Phaedra in a corner.
In our reading circle, mostly comprised of American readers, you are a superstar. Do you feel like you are better known now in Australia or in the US?
Thank you. If the average person on the street asks me what I’ve written here, it’s all about Alibrandi. People in their 20’s and 30’s either studied it at school or watched the film. But I have a bigger fantasy audience in the US than here in Australia. I think those who have read The Lumatere Chronicles in Australia are those who have followed my writing from the beginning, whereas in the US people discovered my work through the fantasy series or Jellicoe. Every time I’m introduced here in a literary capacity, Alibrandi is mentioned. It was a very important novel in my life but I’d love to be referred to as the writer of On the Jellicoe Road or the Lumatere Chronicles. Regardless of everything, they are better novels. Now when someone approaches me and tells me how much they love my book. I’m very polite in my response and ask them which one, although I know exactly what they’re referring to.
You transitioned so smoothly from contemporary realistic fiction to fantasy. Are there any other genres you would be interested in trying out? Science fiction maybe? Or mystery?
Unfortunately I don’t have science fiction cleverness. But the fun about writing the Lady Celie novella was being able to write a mystery crime story. Jellicoe was a mystery as well. I’d also love to write a historical novel because I loved the research involved in writing The Lumatere Chronicles. It makes me very sad to think that my next trip to Europe won’t revolve around castles and underground cities and cobblestone streets and medieval seaports. Which goes back to your earlier questions about the writing hiatus. Perhaps it won’t be so long after all.
Well, there is some hope for us in the end! Thank you Melina, for taking time to talk to us. Melina Marchetta can be found at her blog
, and on twitter
Attention! The biggest scandal of the week! A crime perpetrated by Lauren Conrad and that can be seen on Buzzfeed
in all its glory! Watch as Lauren shows the best way to "display vintage books or slightly used books" by cutting out and throwing away all pages of the books and sticking just the spines in a side of a storage box.
Clearly, this is the kind of craft project that can interest only people who don't read books but like to "display" them. Among the legitimate questions asked by book readers and book lovers are: Why didn't Lauren Conrad cut up her own books? Why did she destroy brand new books? And why weren't those Lemony Snicket book spines even glued to the box in order of publication (shudder)?!
The best response to this crime against literacy was delivered by Mr. Snicket himself, as reported by The Huffington Post
:"It has always been my belief that people who spend too much time with my work end up as lost souls, drained of reason, who lead lives of raving emptiness and occasional lunatic violence. What a relief it is to see this documented."Conrad has since removed her video from both YouTube and her website,
but hasn't spoken publicly about this incident yet.
Moving on to less silly articles. (Or maybe not.) If you remember, last week Sue Grafton had some, no, a lot, of very unflattering things to say about self-publishing
, even though she wasn't expressly asked about her opinion on the subject. We all have our feelings about self-publishing, some very negative, especially in the current climate of many "indie" authors behaving unprofessionally or plain crazy. However, we also know that not all of the self-published authors are hacks. Self-publishing is a legitimate, fast-growing, profitable business option, and many authors have taken and are taking financial advantage of it. In her later clarification
, Sue Grafton proves that just like Shannon Hale a couple of months ago
, she has many ideas about self-publishing without actually knowing ANYTHING about it. Hugh Howey, who himself has had a lot of self-publishing success, articulates what we think about Sue Grafton's position very well in his responses to both Grafton's original
The way we see it, if traditionally published writers took time to learn about self-publishing and put their prejudices aside, they could actually make significantly more money. For example, do writers with existing fan bases really need their publishers' help to sell and market (and get a huge cut of the profits of), let's say, e-specials - short stories, novellas, guides, etc.? Hm, don't think so. The discussion about why YA is dominated by female writers continues.
This week Salon argues that the reason why women writers dominate young-adult literature is the reason why many guys avoid it
- that is that YA as a category of literature lacks prestige and thus is easier for women to enter. While there is certainly some truth to it - YA is kicked by just about any white man who has access to writing for The Guardian, Washington Post, etc., this assertion doesn't explain why other openly prestige-less genres (like SF or fantasy) have always been and are dominated by men. Another topic that keeps getting discussed, constantly, is
the necessity of removing DRMs from ebooks, so that paying readers could read their electronic books on any device they wish to use. But of course that would not do for the corporate machine. Why, we have no clue. Some time ago Tor pioneered the idea of going DRM-free and started selling its ebooks without DRM protection. Now UK's Hatchett threatens Tor's authors to assure their contracts have stipulations that require all their books to have DRM protection, or else! This threat is delivered under the guise of desire to protect intellectual properties from pirating, but really, who thinks that people who pirate and upload ebooks online wouldn't know how to go around DRM? As Cory Doctorow says
: "DRM doesn’t stop people who scan books, or retype books. DRM doesn’t stop people who download widely available cracks that can remove all the DRM from an entire e-book collection. And DRM doesn’t stop people who are inclined to download the DRM-free pirate editions. All DRM does is punish legitimate users who had the misfortune to be so honest that they paid for the book, rather than taking it." When will this fear of ebooks stop? Publishers, embrace ebooks, make them affordable and movable. This way you will have much more people willing to pay for these books rather than
search and obtain them for free online. Why is publishing an industry so resistant to change?
But let's get wrap up this post with something less negative. The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
(a bad writing contest) announced its 2012 winners and runner-ups. And the winner is...:"As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so, his soul needed regrouting."
(Cathy Bryant, Manchester, England)Make sure to check the contest site for