My thoughts when I saw that Netgalley was offering this book: JACLYN MORIARTY!!!! AND A SPARKLY COVER THAT SCREAMS "OMG CUTENESS"!!!!! So I signed up...moreMy thoughts when I saw that Netgalley was offering this book: JACLYN MORIARTY!!!! AND A SPARKLY COVER THAT SCREAMS "OMG CUTENESS"!!!!! So I signed up for the e-arc with absolutely no idea what the book was about because hey, I'm like that when it's an author that I love. Did Moriarty disappoint? NOOOOOO. Is A Corner of White at the top of my JM love list? Well, not quite, but it's up there.
A Corner of White is the story of a boy and a girl from two very different worlds who have a lot in common. Fifteen year old Madeleine is from The World - Cambridge, England to be exact. She and her mother are runaways from a life of luxury. Currently living in a flat where her mother sews and tries unsuccessfully to enter a quiz show, Madeline is home schooled by some quirky neighbors along with two other kids, the very ordinary Belle and Jack. Madeline, as observed from Belle and Jack's point of view, is full of colors, but she's really a sad girl who is attempting to understand why she and her mother ran away from their old life.
Sixteen year old Eliot Baranski comes from a parallel world called Cello. He's described as a top athlete, the town's favorite. He often sets things right with a single swoop of his hand. He refuses to give up his search for his father who went missing after a "color" attack. In him, we see a sort of hero, the kind who always catches the ball (or the butterfly child as the case may be), and we truly expect him to save Madeleine as well.
Through the exchange of letters, Madeleine and Eliot's worlds come together. They learn from each other -- about themselves, about their parents, and about how two very different worlds can be similar. As far as characters go, I thought that both were well done. Madeleine is portrayed as rather naive (yet she's smart) and that totally worked for me; I tend to know a few people like that. She seems much the type to go about doing her own thing, the rest of the world be damned. Yet it seems to come from an inner sense of confusion and loneliness and as the book progresses we see why this is. I think many teens could relate to her in that sense. Eliot also seemed rather independent,though in a much more mature way. I flipped back and forth between liking him and thinking he was too much of everything. Which again, I can see as being the truth for some kids with that sort of personality.
I really enjoyed the whimsical quirkiness of this book, and the lack of a solid plot didn't bother me in the least. I'll admit that I wanted to be in Cello more than Cambridge most of the time because it's when we're in Cello (either in Eliot's POV or looking at it through one of the many townspeople's) that the creativity of this book really shines. I mean who would ever think that colors could be sort of like sentient beings that attack and sometimes make people do weird things? Certainly colors can affect our moods, but this was like taking that idea and stepping off a cliff with it. And I applaud Moriarty for that. There was a great sense of setting and atmosphere throughout, though I did often wonder what the purpose of some passages were. Like the random newspaper column written by the Cello Princesses and the scenes in the police station. I suppose that I should have trusted Moriarty to pull it all together in the end because she did, but at the time I was kind of scratching my head wondering why those things were important. They were a bit boring to me, tbh, and tragically slowed the pace of the story.
Overall, this book leaves the reader with a sense of hope and positive feelings (sort of like a belief in magic). Since I tend to gravitate toward books/endings like that, it sat well with me despite the slow pace. Final verdict - 5 stars.(less)
I'm gonna tell you, reading this book I felt like I was at a smorgasbord where all my favorites were being served. First, this book is by an author wh...moreI'm gonna tell you, reading this book I felt like I was at a smorgasbord where all my favorites were being served. First, this book is by an author who wrote one of the best books I read last year: Ruta Sepetys. Second, it's an historical young adult that takes place in my absolute favorite decade of the 20th century: the fifties. Finally, it's set in one of the cities I love best in the United States: New Orleans, or as natives would say, Nawlins. I gotta tell you, I was in hog heaven for three days reading this one.
The story starts out where you least expect it to. Well, for a young adult novel that is -- in a brothel. The main character, Josie, is introduced and even as a child, she shines so bright it's like you KNOW this book is just going to get better and better. And it does. Josie is a tough cookie, but at the same time she's sweet as pudding. She has high morals and just wants to escape the sordid life her mother has put her in, but to do that she has to play the game of manipulation herself. And she's good at it. There were moments where you feel soooo bad for Josie (like when we're told that her mother came a parent's night dressed in a fur coat with nothing under neath!), and you want her to win and get out of her situation more than anything. And then things just get worse -- all due to her mother. I hated her mom, I truly did, but what struck me about Josie's character is that she doesn't let herself feel that hate. It makes you scratch your head while thinking to yourself, well, that's actually quite admirable. Because hate makes people ugly, and although Josie's desperation drives her to do some unexpected things, her character is anything but ugly.
But Sepetys didn't stop at Josie's character. No, there are a whole cast of colorful and loving and unexpected characters. Confession time: back when I was in high school I came across a book packed away in my mom's closet, a book entitled *get ready to gasp* The Happy Hooker, written by then New York madam, Xavier Hollander. Oh, how I devoured that book! (okay, you can stop gasping now). The thing that struck me about The Happy Hooker was how the prostitutes were portrayed as...well, as happy. And like... well, like a family. It was eye-opening, and I mention it because reading Out of the Easy and watching all of the brothel characters in this book reminded me of The Happy Hooker, minus the erotic aspects of course. First we have Willie, the brothel madam, who seems like this hard-hearted beast at first but who we come to learn is really a caring woman, almost like a mother to Josie. Then there are the prostitutes. They all have their own quirky personalities. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but at all times just like a family. We're not made to forget that they're prostitutes though - there are plenty of fun descriptions of their patrons and green feather boas and what not -- but at the same time you get a sense of empowerment through them. These women had life throw them a curve, and they learned to roll with it and not let it roll them over. It was well done, and I give Sepetys huge kudos for portraying the women this way. It also kind of makes me wonder if she ever read The Happy Hooker herself. :)
Touching a bit on themes: one that stands out in this story is that monetary worth and societal position does not make a person what they are. We see this again and again as we wade through the story. The prostitutes in the brothel are not bad people. Willie is not a heartless old crone. Cokie is not just a poor cab driver, but a good friend. And on the flipside, a rich businessman has more creep to him than respectability. All of these people have helped to shape Josie's character and personality. They've given her hope and dreams and love that she otherwise wouldn't have had. Warning: spoiler!!!! : I really thought that this was set up for Josie to come to the realization that New Orleans isn't a beast afterall, but her home, as Willie tries to convince her. However, Sepetys doesn't seem to take the lesson that far. She never brings Josie to the conclusion that she can love New Orleans, with all its faults, because its the people who make a place home. When Josie leaves it does indeed seem as though she's leaving everyone and everything behind.
After finishing this book, I read through the acknowledgments, which I tend to do these days just for fun. I was surprised, and quite happy, to find that Anne Rice inspired Sepetys's writing of the New Orleans setting. I won't say that I felt quite as immersed as I always feel when reading Anne Rice, but I do think she did a decent job. The details were there - the descriptive architecture, the food, the sounds of the French Quarter, the smell of the streets after a night of partying. It gave me a little tug that whispered, "let's go there again!" and at the same time made me want to revisit some of Rice's stories.
Overall, I'd give this book 5 stars. Great characters, wonderful setting, excellent writing. Thoroughly enjoyed it!
I really liked the first VA book, was so-so about the second, but this third one... OMG!!!! I will say that it starts off slow and it may "seem" like...moreI really liked the first VA book, was so-so about the second, but this third one... OMG!!!! I will say that it starts off slow and it may "seem" like not a whole lot is happening, but don't worry, it all comes together in the end and then you're like holy hell!!! Somehow I managed to buy two copies of this one when I thought I had bought the 3rd and 4th, so now I have to wait to read #4. Kicking myself now!(less)
Rarely does a book surprise me as much as Riley Gray's Laced In Malice did. In the ten minutes it took me to read the first chapter, I was hooked. By...moreRarely does a book surprise me as much as Riley Gray's Laced In Malice did. In the ten minutes it took me to read the first chapter, I was hooked. By what, you ask? The descriptive train ride through the English countryside? Umm...no. By the main character's texts with her mum? Aside: even though I'm not English, I have an itching desire to start using the word Mum. Definitely no. By the sexy, leather clad, cigarette-smoking hotty who got a nice verbal backhand from the MC when he propositioned her for a quickie. *insert shifty eyebrows* Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner.
In a nutshell, I think guys who sleep around and use women are creepy (doesn't everybody?). But I loved that Gray was able to take this stock character, the man whore, and change him into something real. Oliver comes across as intelligent, not just because he's in the highest classes but because *gasp* Gray actually makes him sound intelligent! He actually has a well-thought out explanation for why casual sex is okay. Now, I'm not saying that I bought his excuses, I'm saying that Gray made me believe that he believed them. And in the process, like Zara, I was eager for him to see how wrong he was. Everything else about Oliver puts him in the "yes please" category. He was charming, polite, a writer (GOD yes!!), and knowing that I was going to see this sexy and intelligent young man change his tune hooked me to the story. But I don't want to leave you thinking that Oliver didn't make me want to pull my hair out or slap him silly because I did want to do both those things at various points in the story. And in the end, I wasn't entirely sure of his motivations. I kept flip-flopping, was he really just into Zara because she was an unattainable conquest or did he honestly care about her? Was he a victim too or was he hiding something BIG? I'm not going to give the story away, but I will say that Gray did an excellent job of giving his character enough depth that I loved him even while I was never 100% sure of him.
Now, Zara. Admittedly, she comes across as a goody two shoes (as it says in the summary), but she also had a tongue on her that I admired. She could give it back to Oliver just as easily as he gave it to her. I was rooting for her from the start. But there were moments in the story where I was scratching my head and wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her so she'd wake up. Thankfully, a few chapters after I had that moment of thinking, 'you're so stupid', she had me questioning whether I was the one who had to be shaken awake. Zara was too trustworthy, but at the same time, she made me realize that I am too. I asked myself, if I were in Zara's shoes would I have tried to brush aside my misgivings about the people I called friends? Would I have tried to give them the benefit of the doubt? Sadly, the answer is probably yes. I am, like Zara, a bit naive. The good thing is that I like characters who can make me see flaws in my own, and Zara did this, so two thumbs up for her.
Together: so here's a bit of analysis that I hope will give you an extra incentive to buy this book. 50 Shades of Gray. I haven't read it. I have no desire to read it. But I have read countless discussions of it, and there's one thing they all seem to agree on. The plot line of the girl turning a guy around and making him into a worthy man is the success of that book (well along with the sex and I'll get to that in a moment). I think the same could be said of Laced In Malice. I was so so eager to see Zara turn Oliver around or for them to come to some sort of middle ground. Like I said, I'm not a 50 Shades fan, nor do I want to be one, but if you're looking for a toned-down version of that book, and a better written one, then I say look no further. Laced in Malice delivers.
The sex. Well, I had to bring this up because of the 50 Shades reference above, and I want to be fair both to the author and to my readers. Individually, I'd say that I've come across scenes in other young adult books that are just as intense as the ones here. The difference I think comes with the fact that there are more scenes of this type in Laced In Malice. It is not erotica by any means, but it does give the book a heavier sexual draw than most other young adult books I've read. I hate to put an age limit on books, but for those who want to know what it's like, that pretty much sums it up.
I feel like all I've talked about is the relationship between Zara and Oliver, and while that was a driving force as to why I loved this book and read it in one day, it wasn't the only one. I really loved the mystery/thriller aspect that Gray set up. I had my suspicions as to what was happening, but I was never 100% sure of who to trust. Like I said above, I kept flip flopping. Back and forth. Back and forth. I don't think I've gotten sea sick by a book before, but this one gave me that experience! Others have mentioned a likeness to Cruel Intentions or Mean Girls. I've never seen either of movies and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad one. Maybe if you have seen them, knowing this is similar will draw you in. If not, then consider yourself in for a treat?
Finally... the ending! GAH!!!!!! MISS GRAY, YOU HAD BETTER SET YOUR BUTT DOWN AND START WRITING THE SEQUEL!!! Yes, I can say that because she's a friend of mine, but that in no way taints my review. Those who know me know that I'm stingy with my 5 stars, and Laced In Malice deserves them all.
Since finishing Quintana 4 days ago, I've been trying to think of a way to explain why this book resonates with me so well. Little did I know that Mar...moreSince finishing Quintana 4 days ago, I've been trying to think of a way to explain why this book resonates with me so well. Little did I know that Marchetta explains it herself in the back of the first book in the series, Finnikin of the Rock. She writes:
"I was told often that I couldn't write fantasy unless I had read all the greats and knew the conventions well, but I think the first step to writing good fantasy is knowing this world we live in well. I wanted to look closely at that world-- where loss of faith, loss of homeland and identity, displacement of spirit, and breakdown of community are common-- because these are the scenes in today's media that affect me the most."
Her words are spot on. The story told in the Lumatere chronicles feels so familiar and real because to a certain extent it is real. We only need to turn on the news to see it. But this story also has something which I think gets lost in real life. Hope. And heroism. Combining those two elements -- a real world reflection and heroic "feel good" fantasy elements-- are what make this series stand out for me.
Plotwise: With the second book in the series, it seemed as though some of the subplots were getting in the way of the main story. Not the case here. In the third book, Quintana, queen of Charyn, is in hiding and pregnant with Charyn's prophesized "little prince". Bestiano, the man after the crown, will execute her if he finds her. Meanwhile, Froi is also desperate to find Quintana. Worried for her safety, he's trying to find an army who will fight for her and bring her back to her homeland, knowing that even if he succeeds, he'll never be allowed to raise his son himself. Marchetta moves back and forth between Quintana's story and Froi's story with ease. But in addition, several subplots weave amongst these two points of view. Queen Isaboe can't let go of her hatred for the Charyn empire, and Lucien is embroiled in a complex love story as well. Somehow Marchetta manages to tie both subplots into the main plot so that by the end everything comes together. Seen as a whole, I'd say there wasn't much to the story that was unexpected. It followed a well laid and satisfying path. Individual scenes however were unique. There were definite moments when the reader is thinking, how is Froi (or insert name) going to get out of this one? The expectation is always there that he/she will, but seeing how they do it was always exciting.
Characters: By the third book we're well acquainted with most of them, but I think one of Marchetta's talents is that she lets us see "new" sides to these characters that we don't expect, like in the case of Queen Isaboe. It's hard to see Isaboe treating Quintana so unsympathetically -- we love both our heroines! But Marchetta makes a great effort to help us understand why, and then even more spectacularly, she lets Isaboe's character grow in such a way that she becomes a hero all over again (as said above, it was expected, but how it was done was truly masterful). Other characters are explored with more depth as well. With Froi, we see more of his tender side. With Finnikin, we see more of his insecurity. With Lucien, we see his stubbornness but also his willingness to admit he made a mistake. With all of them, we see a passion for life and love and kinship that endears them to us. Fifty pages into the book, I sat back and just thought, wow, to have such passion for the world, for country, for my kinsmen, for family, what would that be like? Not that I'm a cold and unfeeling person, but in modern society with friendships that come and go, a busy work life that doesn't leave much time for family, and moving around to other countries with relative ease, it's easy to feel disconnected. Marchetta's characters reminded me of how things ought to be, and how I want them to be.
Dialogue: I can't convey enough how the dialogue and humor in this story affected me. Reading along, I smiled to myself. I grinned. I even laughed out loud from time to time. My romantic bone was tickled and I sighed with contentment. So, so many good lines are present in this book, one only needs to open to any of the five hundred pages to find one. In many respects it reminded me of the movie Robin Hood in the way that the story combined high adventure with slapstick humor (in a medieval sort way of course). This series NEEDS to be made into a movie.
Overall verdict: 10 out of 5 stars. Even when I love a series, it is rare that I will finish the last book and eagerly grab for the first one again so that I can read it all over. With Quintana, I did. I actually finished Finnikin of the Rock two days ago and plan to move back through Froi in another week. And then, I think I'll do one more read of Quintana. There are a lot of characters in this series, and I admit that I lost track of who all of them were. A thorough read-through of the whole series is warranted. Then, maybe I'll have gotten enough. Maybe I'll be satisfied until some Hollywood movie producer gets off his butt and starts casting. Or... maybe I won't.
Final note: Special thanks to Erika Denn and Candlewick Press for providing me with an Advanced Reader Copy of this book!! :) (less)
Whew, glad to get that off my chest. Normally I don't do the whole fangirl thing, but well, MM mad...moreFirst off:
MELINA MARCHETTA, I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Whew, glad to get that off my chest. Normally I don't do the whole fangirl thing, but well, MM made me squeal more than once in this book and so I think I have to let loose a bit. I've been recommending this series to friends for a while now, and last week I even told my brother in law to get it. Yes, my BROTHER IN LAW. He used to be a big fantasy fan and he does read YA occasionally, and holy hell, if anyone who likes those two things doesn't read this series then there is something wrong with them.
Froi of the Exiles is a continuation of the first book, Finnikin of Rock, and yes, unfortunately you do have to read the first book in order for this one to make sense. Froi is a different story in itself, focused several years later, with a different main character and a slightly different angle. Those that have read Finnikin and long for his return won't be disappointed though; there are plenty of little scenes with Finnikin and Isaboe to make your heart do that pitter-patter thang. I have to say that when I learned the second book would focus on Froi, the little urchin who does quite a few unspeakable things in the first book, I was a little... afraid. Would I like him? Would I be able to forgive his past transgressions and come to the point where I'd fall in love with him? I was concerned. But by the first page, I got my answer. YES AND YES!! Unbelievable, but that's Melina Marchetta for you. In truth, I actually liked the second book better.
There are a lot of similarities between Finnikin on the Rock and Froi of the Exiles- a curse to be broken, a main character that you predict early on will break said curse, a strong female lead, sexual tension up the wazooki. :) But make no mistake, it's not the same book. Froi's character is much more complex than Finnikin - happily (for the reader), he's more tortured. Orphaned and broken early in his youth, Froi has grown up to trust no one but himself. When he finds his heart bound to Queen Isaboe, his duty to his queen easily defines him. He takes on the mission to assassinate the king of Charyn with pride and the conviction that he will not fail. All of this comes crashing down on him, of course. His loyalty is tested, his heart is broken, put back together and broken again. Marchetta spares him no grief and it is this that endears him to us and makes us pound our fists with the unfairness of it all when the last, cliffhanger line is read.
A little mention about the other characters in the book. First there was Quintana, the Charyn princess who appears mad and even quite repulsive when we first meet her. I was sort of scratching my head thinking, this is our heroine/Froi's LI? The girl who lets her hair fall into her food? Who eats off other people's plates? But I grew to love Quintana's ferocity and eventually saw what would make Froi fall in love with her. Then there were the two brothers, Gargarin and Arjuro. I was never quite sure which one to hate and which to love. Both are a little rough around the edges, both incredibly brilliant. I loved their story and how it all fit together with Froi's. Finally, a little mention about Lucian and Phaedra. I wasn't sure what to make of their story. I quite hated Lucian at first for taking a Charyn wife and their resulting conflict, but as I saw the two eventually make their peace (and saw Lucien act more like the gentleman he was supposed to be) I found myself wanting them to fall in love. But then horror of horrors happen, which I obviously can't say because that would be too much of a spoiler. *big cheeky grin*. I'm so anxious to see how this plays out and what the whole purpose of it was. There are many other characters I could mention, each unique in his/her own right. Melina Marchetta's ability to create complex characters that we both love and hate is reminiscent of Tolkein's genius. I often have to simply stand back and marvel at her.
Oh, I could go on and on about a dozen other little things that I loved about the book. The wonderful world building that makes you feel like you're RIGHT THERE in that stone-sheltered world. The descriptions *sigh* and the wonderful prose *double sigh*. The flirtatious dialogue that made me squeal and pound my pound my feet with glee, yes! yes! I do like to give a balanced review though, so I will mention two little things that I didn't like about the book. One, it was a bit hard to keep the backstory straight. There are a lot of characters in the book, many of whom are dead, and so as I was learning the story of Froi's past I had to re-read a bit. Not a big deal overall because in the end it made sense and compared to some fantasy books it was trivial, but I'm just giving it a mention. As for the other thing, and this isn't really a criticism but more of an 'oh phooey' sort of comment, the subject material is just a little too heavy-handed for my son to read. I love getting him excited about series that I've read, but at his age he's just not quite ready for some of the things that happen in this book. In two years though, I fully intend to introduce him to MM's world.
Finally, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, to Candlewick Press for letting me review this book ahead of it's US publication date. (less)