Saturday, February 7, 2015

On My Nightstand - Jan

Yep, I'm back with this regular feature.  Yaaaaaaaaaaaay for blogging about what you love!  I really enjoyed my Jan reads, and I'm hoping I can make equally good picks for the months ahead.  Get ready for some thought-bullets...

'Finnikin of the Rock' - Melina Marchetta

  • 'Finnikin' is a bit of a slow-burner, to begin with.  There is a bit of back story to deal with, plus all the character intros and scene setting required of a series with this scope...
  • ...But then it gets good.  REAL good.  
  • The characters are complex, the world building is excellent, and the narrative dips and weaves in a v. satisfying way. 
  • I'm gonna be straight with you, there are things that you're gonna see coming from a mile off (true of all three in the series), but this in no way detracted.
  • There are some very strong characterisations, which I think is Marchetta's biggest strength.  They get under your skin.  

'Froi of the Exiles' - Melina Marchetta

I felt like this was a really strong Part Two for the Lumatere Chronicles (though after discussion with pals, I think there is some division about this).  For me...
  • The tension was just right.  So many secrets to unwind, so many relationships to build/heal.  Light on the action, but with an underlying sense of danger to fill it's place.
  • Froi was such a compelling anti-hero.  I liked him best of all when he made bad decisions or said the wrong thing.  Lovable rogue, all right. 
  • There is a definite Game of Thrones flavour to this series, but these are far more palatable.  There is a stronger character focus, and the depravity is generally alluded to rather than described.  Generally.  There are definitely upsetting scenes though, you've been warned.  
  • If you love character-driven fantasy, packed with adventure, intrigue and even a bit of Royal Court drama, this series is def for you.

'Quintana of Charyn' - Melina Marchetta

I feel heavy-hearted about this one.  I don't want to doubt any of the decisions of a writer who in my opinion never misses the mark, usually.  But for me, 'Quintana' was a mark missed.  It was a combination of many things that made this book feel like work and not pleasure, which was entirely unexpected considering how excellent the first two were!
  • My biggest disappointment was that I grew to like certain of the characters less and unfortunately didn't connect with Quintana at all..
  • I didn't enjoy constantly knowing more than the protagonists.  This effectively replaced tension with frustration.  Especially as the characters drifted further from their cause...  I felt (again) like this was a GoT device, used less successfully here.
  • 'Quintana' definitely has less of a YA feel (married relationships + marital relations + heavy content).  It also felt like all of the chars. had come of age by now.  Some of them are parents, some of them are about to be.  I liked this, actually, but I'm no longer a teenager...
  • There are a lot of story lines being threaded together in 'Quintana'.  Some I liked better than others.
  • There is more of the world to explore, and I liked the world, a lot. 
  • A certain Queen got on my nerves waaaaaaay too much during book 3.  
I seem to be in the minority of readers who didn't adore 'Quintana of Charyn' - so don't take my word for it!  And certainly don't let this deter you from reading the series which is SO WORTH IT!!!  Even just for book two which had every element of excellent storytelling, IMHO.

'Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe' - Benjamin Alire Saenz

Awww, sob sob!  Such a beaut story...
  • Saenz doesn't try to do something with this story, just lets it tell itself.  It felt like such an honest account - never boring, never forced.  
  • The pacing is slow, but this is a fast read.  Entirely character driven, but they are v. compelling characters.
  • This includes the parents.  The lovely parents.
  • I wanted to shake Aristotle sometimes.  I mean really!  Figure out what everyone else has figured out!  But that is the bitter heart of this story and made it all the more tender.

'I am Not Esther' - Fleur Beale

I'm a little behind the 8-ball on this one.  Has everyone already read this?  
  • I found it riveting - the story never lost momentum and the situation never stopped being fascinating. 
  • It's also on the shorter side, easy to finish in a day or two.  
  • Beale's writing is sparse - there are no flowery descriptions.  This took getting used to (I'm a flowery descriptions kinda gal), but was perfectly suited this particular story.  I have since started on 'Juno of Taris' and have found the writing far more descriptive.  And my point is - Beale is clever.  
  • Kirby annoyed me at times, but then again, tough situation so what do I even know?  Also, she's a teenager.  Teenagers have allllll the feelingz.
  • Um, did I mention fascinating?  
I have such an enticing pile of books on my nightstand - it's actually pretty hard to pick the next title, which is why I started on three simultaneously.  We'll see which one hooks me first...

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