This is the second book in the trilogy, coming after Finnikin of the Rock. I was really apprehensive about reading it, since it was such a thick book...moreThis is the second book in the trilogy, coming after Finnikin of the Rock. I was really apprehensive about reading it, since it was such a thick book in the fantasy genre – which I still have some trouble with. However, by and large, I was fine with reading it, and most of the time I didn’t even realise how long it was. Spoiler warning – I’ll probably spoil the first book in this review. Go and read the first book first!
This time the story focuses primarily on Froi, the boy picked up by Finnikin and Isaboe during the first book. There are big problems in the neighbouring kingdom of Charyn and Froi is recruited to head across the border with orders to assassinate the king. He is accompanied by the perpetually grumpy, Gargarin, and is soon entered into the royal court on (lengthy and complicated) false pretenses. There he meets the strange and damaged Quintana and the story becomes even more complicated and engrossing. Meanwhile, back in Lumatere, Finnikin, Isaboe and Finnikin’s old friend Lucian are all coming to terms with the responsibilities which have been thrust upon them.
To be honest, at times I felt like the book was too long. I wondered whether it would be better cut into two books, to create a series rather than a trilogy, or whether a heavy dose of editing would have helped. It almost always felt longer during the parts that were set with Froi – there seemed to be endless close calls and near misses which made it harder to follow at times (though maybe I’d have done better if I was the kind of person to look at the maps at the front of books). I adored the parts with Isaboe, coming to terms with not only being Queen, but also being a new mother. I also loved Lucian’s story, and almost wish I could get more about him.
The new characters introduced in Froi of the Exiles are universally interesting, if not always likable. Almost every character is written with several motivations and backgrounds, some of which we only catch a glimpse of as we are reading. Parts of the story are incredibly sad, and other terribly frustrating (just because the characters make silly choices, not because of the writing). I did enjoy it, and I am trying to find the third in the trilogy at the local library, but I might take a little time out with some other books – and I might even stretch a bit more into some adult fantasy!
I knew nothing about this book before I started reading it, only that it was set in Alice Springs and that it was written by an Australian woman. It w...moreI knew nothing about this book before I started reading it, only that it was set in Alice Springs and that it was written by an Australian woman. It was one that I randomly picked off the shelves in the library. (Incidentally, I used to do that an awful lot – just pick up books at random. Now it feels like I look for recommendations, then read reviews and I’m almost too prepared before I read. This challenge is helping me return to my ‘just pick it up’ roots!)
Love Like Water is about three people – Cathy, Margie and Jay – who are all newcomers to Alice Springs. I believe the book is set in the early nineties – there’s talk about basketball and early Yothu Yindi, and the three characters are coming to terms with being adults, being alone and being in Alice Springs. The main story belongs to Cathy and Jay. Cathy is from an outback station, where she’s always followed the expected path – she’s gone away to boarding school, come home, supported her brother (who was always going to inherit the property) and found a local boy to get engaged to. But when her fiance is killed in a plane crash, she packs up and follows her friend Margie to Alice Springs.
Jay, on the other hand, is following a job opportunity to Alice Springs. He’s gained success as a DJ in Sydney and has been offered the morning radio spot for the Aboriginal radio station in Alice Springs. He’s coming to terms with his urbane background, and his family background which is so different to the Aboriginal people in Alice Springs. Additionally, there’s a pervasive racism which allows him to be popular and ‘seen’ in some areas of town, while dismissing him in others.
Finally there’s Margie. Her story isn’t as big and overwhelming as Jay or Cathy. Instead she acts more like a mirror, her point of view reflecting off the other two, who soon meet and find themselves developing a deep relationship.
This was such a lyrical read, the words often read like music. It was easy to fall into the story and almost let it take you along, even when the story made unpleasant twists. Although Cathy, Jay and Margie don’t always make good decisions, they are likeable people and you want them to have good lives. I would easily read more about both Cathy and Jay, as well as the other richly written minor characters in the story. I would highly recommend this book to others, and I look forward to searching for more from Meme McDonald
On a separate point, this was classified and shelved as a young adult book – which demonstrates what a broad range you can find in young adult. These characters are in early adulthood – their early 20s – but they’re definitely not the teenagers, or even the young school leavers, that you usually find in young adult books. I wonder why this wasn’t published as an adult book, and whether there’s a place – and where that is – for stories about people in their early 20s.
Vampire Fiction is a ‘thing’ these days. After reading Team Human, I’m pretty happy about that – especially if it inspired this book!
Mel, our hero, is...moreVampire Fiction is a ‘thing’ these days. After reading Team Human, I’m pretty happy about that – especially if it inspired this book!
Mel, our hero, is pretty anti-vampire. Which can make like a little difficult when you live in a vampire town, New Whitby, and a vampire turns up at your school. Then falls in love with your best friend.
But there’s something a little bit strange about him, not to mention the way the Principal is reacting to him, and Mel is determined to get to the bottom of it.
When I write the summary like that, Team Human looks a little sparse, like it doesn’t really have much in it at all. But there’s a lot more besides a vampire detective story going on here. There’s love stories left, right and centre. There’s the complicated world of high school friendships. There’s the confusing notion of determining who you are when you’ve lived less than two decades of your life (and when you’re surrounded by people who contemplate their 20th decade . . .). Then there’s the whole new vampire world.
It’s acknowledged that vampires can be dangerous – they’ve got power beyond what humans have, that’s why they have the vampire section of the police force. Being a vampire, in Team Human, has become a regulated thing, allowing them to live alongside the humans in their town. Even becoming a vampire is extremely regulated – but since there can be catastrophic consequences, this is a Good Thing. The world that has been created here is extremely rich, and it’s going to leave a lot of readers like me – wanting more stories set in this universe.
Mel is a sympathetic and believable main character. She isn’t always right, but it’s easy to understand her motives. She’s surrounded by a great cast of characters – I’m a big fan of both Anna and Kit. What’s even cooler about the group of characters is that it’s incredibly diverse, but in a perfectly normal way.
This is the book that I would have (and will, if I see them) recommended to some of my more mature students. I can see it gaining a bit of cult popularity among teenagers who are a little over the Twilight ‘thing’, but who enjoy speculative fiction. I’m also going to be recommending it to the adults I know – especially my sisters who I think will both enjoy it
Losing it is a story of four girls who make a pledge to lose their virginity before schoolies. The story, told in four different parts, charts their y...moreLosing it is a story of four girls who make a pledge to lose their virginity before schoolies. The story, told in four different parts, charts their year as they dodge the obstacles of driving tests, parents, older brothers and questions of sexuality to ‘Do It’
To be honest, I didn’t like this book. I’ve read a lot of reviews on it which rave about how great it is to see female sexuality and teenaged sexuality treated so well, and it is a very sexually liberated book. However, throughout the whole book it felt like the characters were two dimensional, defined by only a few things – one of which was always their virginity. Zoe is boy-mad, scattered and a virgin! Mala is boy-crazy, has over protective immigrant parents and is a virgin! Abby has overly christian parents, a difficult brother and is a virgin! Bree is beautiful and cool and is a virgin!
The idea that there was something essentially wrong with girls who hadn’t had a sexual experience by the time they finished high school, also annoyed me. While it’s a convenient set up for the book, there’s something really wrong with the idea that a girl must make the choice to have a sexual experience during her high school years, or she might get drunk and loose on schoolies and ‘do’ someone she regrets. Virginity is seen as an inconvenience or a burden, something which has to be ‘got rid of’ so that you can enter womenhood. And these (apparently) very smart girls, known at the Geek Girls, all automatically buy into that, without one of them saying – oh wait a minute, I can make my own choices about my body without anyone dictating to me what I need to do to become a woman!
Then there’s the slightly unbelievable part where not one of the girls has any regrets about becoming sexually active, even when it goes a bit pear shaped or they don’t have any kind of romantic feelings for the other person involved. I realise that this is the truth for some people, but I find it a little hard to believe that not one of them had any regrets at all.
There’s also the very convenient plot point, where the girls promise each other that they will keep any of their sexual exploits secret. Of course, by doing this they remove a vital support network (good thing none of them had any regrets then, since they had no one to turn to if they wanted to talk about it) and set up a painfully obvious plot twist.
Being sexually liberated doesn’t mean that girls have to lose their virginity early. It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with those who choose to wait until they’re older or something wrong with those who choose to find a partner that they have a connection with or even (gasp!) love. By having all four of the girls in this book participating in sexual activities without hesitation or regret, it makes it look like this is the only acceptable way to behave – that girls should be so sexually liberated that they’re not allowed to have feelings that a) sex at that age may not be for them b) sex with people they don’t love may not be for them or c) sex might actually have consequences. I’d hate to think a teenaged girl would come to this book and think that she’s ‘wrong’ when she thinks about sex, because she doesn’t meet the ‘sexually liberated’ style that is the only way portrayed in this book.
I’ve been reading Melina Marchetta books since Alibrandi came out and my mother pointed out that the author had the same first name as me (totally a r...moreI’ve been reading Melina Marchetta books since Alibrandi came out and my mother pointed out that the author had the same first name as me (totally a reason to read a book!) But I’d skipped over this one, since fantasy is really not one of ‘my genres’. I have been coming around on this, though. In 2011, I devoured the Ranger’s Apprentice series (meeting the author, John Flanagan was a good reason to do this), and I enjoyed reading The Hobbit to my class in 2009. Generally, though, if there’s a map at the beginning of the book and it’s not historical fiction, then I generally give it a miss.
Since Finnikin cam out, though, I’ve had a number of people recommend it to me. And the Australian Women Writers Challenge, seemed like a pretty good kick up the bum to finally borrow it and read it. I can understand why it was recommended to me – there’s no dragons or trolls or dwarves or other complicated lore, which feel like you need a lifetime of reading fantasy to really ‘get’ and appreciate. However, there was deep magic and there was a map at the front of the book, which did make it feel like ‘one of those books I don’t read’ no matter how far I got into the story.
The story is about Finnikin, the son of Trevanion, the head of the King’s Guard. After the Unspeakable, the royal family is destroyed and the kingdom of Lumatere is left entombed, while those who could escape were left as refugees, locked out of their own kingdom. Finnikin and Sir Topher (the King’s First Man) are left travelling around the rest of Skuldenore, gathering both names and stories from fellow refugees.
That is, until they are drawn to the strange novice, Evanjalin, who leads them on an adventure they never expected – along with the promise that she would lead them to a surviving member of the royal family. Along their journey they meet Froi, a young thief, before collecting the scattered members of their old kingdom who can help them make it strong again.
There were so many expectations with this story, since a number of people had recommended it to me. It was they style of fantasy I think I enjoy the most – more emphasis on different magic, politics and history and less on magical creatures. The magic was very clearly the magic of women, which at times jarred against the traditional male roles which were evident throughout the story. As much as I enjoyed Finnikin as a narrator and main character, it would have been fascinating to have more of an insight into the world of women in this world – because Finnikin is excluded, so are we, which reminds me of how much of ‘real’ history we are excluded from because no one wrote the women’s stories.
I don’t think I’ll be going out to buy the series, but I did enjoy reading it and I have borrowed the second in the series to read (though it’s huge!) I think those who enjoy fantasy would enjoy it, though – I would recommend this one to my sister, if she hasn’t read it already. I would recommend it to teenagers who are wanting to read fantasy, and I actually think this is a book that boys could get into as well, though the cover seems to be marketed towards female readers – I notice there’s some other editions out there with more gender neutral covers.
This is a book that totally grew on me. It’s about Matilda, (everyone calls her Tilda), who lives in rural Tasmania. She’s far from being a perfect st...moreThis is a book that totally grew on me. It’s about Matilda, (everyone calls her Tilda), who lives in rural Tasmania. She’s far from being a perfect student, though she’s very smart, spending a lot of time wagging school with her boyfriend. Then one day she spots an elephant seal on the nearby beach. The elephant seal, who seems to be far from it’s normal home, is heavily pregnant, and the subsequent birth of her baby ends up turning Tilda’s life completely upside down.
This is very much a book that unfolds as you read it. There’s no big passages of exposition, instead you learn about Tilda’s home life, about her friendships, even about her school principal as the book unfolds. It’s very clear to the reader that every character has a story, whether big or small, and that lives intertwine, especially in smaller country towns.
I was feeling a little ‘meh’ about this one when it started – I felt like it was treading over ground that I’d seen many times before. But then there would be a subtle twist, and I’d be left facing a completely different direction. It’s a book that’s stayed with me since I’ve put it down, too, and I find myself wanting even more of the story – especially to find out what happens next. The English teacher in me has a bit of a field day with the themes to explore, but I think most readers would pick up on some of them.
If you like this book (and I thoroughly recommend it), may I suggest reading Juggling with Mandarins, Shooting the Moon or Buddy by the New Zealand author V. M. Jones. This book reminded me very much of those books, and I thoroughly recommend them too!
This was a surprising book. It kind of had it in my mind what it would be about, but it managed to hook me in in a surprising way. I loved Jordan and...moreThis was a surprising book. It kind of had it in my mind what it would be about, but it managed to hook me in in a surprising way. I loved Jordan and her devotion to football, but I particularly loved her relationship with her father, and her growing understanding of the people around her. A really good read(less)
Ben discovers he has a year to live. Instead of doing anything about his blood disease, instead of telling anyone, he decides to keep it secret and to...moreBen discovers he has a year to live. Instead of doing anything about his blood disease, instead of telling anyone, he decides to keep it secret and to grab life whole heartedly. But that's not all the book is about. It's about love and brotherhood and the pain of mental disease. It's about being 18 and convinced that there's some things that are black and white and having to accept the shades of grey.
It's not a perfect book - at times the main character seems too perfect, at times you just want to shake the whole lot of them. But the more I think on it, the more I think of the inconsistencies as something to be considered.
Not everyone is going to get or like this book. I don't even think I'd recommend it, because you'd never know if the person would like it or not (recommending is such a personal thing). But I enjoyed reading it, particularly the later parts of the book, and I'm glad I did come across it.(less)
A young-adult novel, in verse form, set in Brisbane. Okay. But this was suprisingly good, with well written characters who came through easily despite...moreA young-adult novel, in verse form, set in Brisbane. Okay. But this was suprisingly good, with well written characters who came through easily despite the verse. Although POV changed a few times, it was easy to follow.(less)