Friday, January 29, 2016

Marchetta Month: Quintana of Charyn

Title: Quintana of Charyn (Lumatere Chronicles, #3)
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Viking Australia/Candlewick Press
Release Date: September 26th, 2012!

From Goodreads...
There's a babe in my belly that whispers the valley, Froi. I follow the whispers and come to the road . . .

Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi must travel through Charyn to search for Quintana, the mother of Charyn's unborn king, and protect her against those who will do anything to gain power. But what happens when loyalty to family and country conflict? When the forces marshalled in Charyn's war gather and threaten to involve the whole of the land, including Lumatere, only Froi can set things right, with the help of those he loves.

My Review!
Closing the book on this series is very hard, and I’m not quite sure how to let these characters go yet. I became so unbelievably invested in their stories, their lives, their journeys. I became so obsessed with this series, took my time and savored the books because I didn’t want them to end. But, by the time I hit that epilogue, my heart felt so happy and full. I can count on probably one hand the number of times I didn’t want a series to end. And sometimes I want more with my babies. But then I think about all they went through to get to that ending, and then I think their peace and happiness should not be disturbed.

When I first read Finnikin in 2014, I was not obsessed. I had loved the book, and the characters, but I didn’t become invested enough to want to finish the series asap. It wasn’t until my reread, and when I continued onto Froi, that I fell so in love with everything about this series that I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to properly review it. What can I say that I haven’t already said? How can I possibly explain to you the depth of emotions I felt while reading this series? How can I express how amazing Marchetta is with character arcs and relationships? This woman has a god-given gift for storytelling, and I will forever read her books after this, no matter what they’re about. This series is pure gold.

Most of that has to do with how character-driven these books are, how the plot is second to the readers understanding these people. Not just understand them, but LOVE who they are inside and out. Their character arcs are amazing. That adjective is not enough to describe it, but it’s as close as I can get. Isaboe is my home girl, my fave, the badass Queen of Lumatere. Finnikin, her ginger-haired, prideful, and stubborn king. Froi, the thief from the streets who grew up in a god-awful environment and who never believed he had any worth as a person. Trevanion, Captain of the Guard, a surly, silent, and imposing man who blames himself for things out of his control. Perri, the deadly assassin who has a hidden soft side when it comes to the people he loves. Lucian, leader of the Monts, a young man just trying to live in his father’s footsteps and be a good and kind leader to his people. The Charynites: Gargarin, Quintana, Phaedra, Lirah, Arjuro, De Lancey. People who prove that blood does not make you who you are, that you don’t have to mold yourself into being what everyone else wants. Two sides, two people, two kingdoms intertwined so thoroughly now that they will never be enemies again.

The magic of this story is not actual magic, but in the relationships that are forming throughout the series. The magic of love, of care, of kindness and forgiveness, of passion and emotions so strong that you start to understand just how powerful those relationships can be, and how unshakable. Sometimes I still believe Finnikin doesn’t deserve Isaboe, but he’s the one person who makes her feel so worthy and wanted, and they stand by each other through everything. Trevanion and Beatriss, two people who went through so fucking much during the curse that I don’t know how they they could still smile afterward, but who find peace in each other’s arms and a much-deserved second chance. Froi and Quintana, kids, just kids who have been beaten down and pushed beyond imaginable but who survived, and whose souls recognized in each other a brokenness that brings them understanding and a desire to heal together. Lucian and Phaedra, people from opposing kingdoms who help each other open up and find their true potential, and who learn to love despite their differences and blood. Perri and Tesadora, childhood enemies whose relationship was intense, but they fit so well together, and they understand and accept each other’s flaws. I also LOVED the banter and scenes with Lirah and Gargarin, and Arjuro and De Lancey. These four have known each other almost their whole lives, and they have a lot of history and it makes for deliciously intense scenes. There are not only romantic relationships, but those between people who aren’t related by blood, by people who are, those of family and those of friendship. They added so much depth to an already richly detailed series.

The plot is second to all of that, to the characters arcs and the relationships, but it never got boring. Its penchant for quiet rather than action-packed scenes does not diminish the fantasy in it. There is magic. I’m not sure if I completely understand the fantastical, in regards to Froi and Quintana and the souls they carry inside of them, and Isaboe’s walks in her sleep, so I might have liked a bit more resolution there, a bit more clear-cut details. But honestly, it didn’t make the story any less, and I found myself rather not paying as much attention to that aspect of it. And throughout the story, the series really, many secrets come to light and force the characters to open up their hearts and minds. It also helps them explain certain events and actions of other people. There is rage and anger and pain and darkness and two kingdoms who have each been through their own shit, who have each been beaten down by curses. They fight, but they make peace by the end. It was beautiful to see these two kingdoms unite in such a way, that not only showed the strength and compassion of humanity but how imperative survival is, even if it ruins relationships. I think I did wish for a more intense ending, though, instead of one that was reminiscent of Finnikin of the Rock. But let’s be real, I wouldn’t change a thing about this book.

The heart and soul of this book, and its series, are the characters. The characters that I’ve come to love so deeply, who are relatable and real and weak and strong and kind and mean and unlikable and likable. Characters who make you love them despite their flaws, despite actions that you might not understand or sympathize with. Characters who have been through so much, who have had to do what they could to survive in circumstances that were out of their control. No one in this whole story is untouched by darkness and pain. There is not one character who has not been put through hell and who has not fought their way out of that pit of grief and heartbreak. Through the relationships they forge with each other, they all find a much-deserved peace and happiness that is powerful enough to overcome any darkness. That epilogue was beautiful, and I wanted to cry as I was reading it because I didn’t want to say goodbye to these characters. I didn’t want to say goodbye to this series. But Quintana of Charyn was a satisfactory ending, and an incredible tribute to the characters who made this story what it was.

Favorite Quotes!
“It would have been the last thing I could have endured. Your death would have been the very last I could have endured.” -Arjuro 

“Do you know who tells me my worth, Phaedra of Alonso? ...Me. I determine my own worth. If I had to rely on others, I’d have lain down and died waiting.” -Quintana 

“Do you love me? Because if you don’t, I’d wait until you did. I’d wait weeks and months and years.” also: “Can I be reminded of how the Gods drew you?” -Lucian 

“I don’t care what your blood sings, Froi. You belong to us. You’re a Lumateran.” -Isaboe 

“Our bodies aren’t strangers. Our spirits aren’t strangers. Tell me what part of me is stranger to you, and I’ll destroy that part of me.” -Froi 

“I’m not worth the valley.” -Froi “You’re worth a kingdom.” -Finnikin


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Marchetta Month: Froi of the Exiles

Title: Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2)
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Viking Australia/Candlewick Press
Release Date: original date, October 3rd, 2011

From Goodreads...
Blood sings to blood, Froi . . . 
Those born last will make the first . . . 
For Charyn will be barren no more. 

Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home... Or so he believes...

Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been trained roughly and lovingly by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds. Here he encounters a damaged people who are not who they seem, and must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad Princess.

And in this barren and mysterious place, he will discover that there is a song sleeping in his blood, and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.

Gripping and intense, complex and richly imagined, Froi of the Exiles is a dazzling sequel to Finnikin of the Rock, from the internationally best-selling and multi-award-winning author of Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, On the Jellicoe Road and The Piper's Son.

My Review!
Spoilers! Sorry! I just cannot talk about these books without them.

When I first read Finnikin back in 2014, I wasn’t interested in the sequel, because of Froi. I could not let go of his attempted rape on Isaboe, who was Evanjalin at the time. I couldn’t see how I could ever love a character like him, no matter how he had grown up or who had taught him to be so ugly. But if there is one thing Melina Marchetta does SO well, it is in the way she writes and breathes life into her characters. Because by the end of this book, not only had I learned to love Froi, but I had wept for him.

I’ve wept for a lot of characters in this story, probably none more so than Isaboe, who will forever remain my favorite. And so I kind of feel like I’m betraying her a bit by understanding and sympathizing with Froi. I cannot ever forget what he had done, nor could Froi himself, or Isaboe. But, by following his character in this story, I was able to grow to love him in spite of it. Melina does not turn this into a rape apologist story, to be clear. He had never once been absolved or forgiven for his rape attempt, and he certainly feels so much shame for it. It is something that he will walk with for the rest of his life, but what made me love him, was his determination to prove his worth and to be a better man. And when he travels to Charyn to kill the king, and he poses as a last born son, he’s put in a position that he had never wanted. Throughout the whole of this story, Froi is pushed beyond anything, is caught up in a curse that should not be affecting him, and is learning about his past as he goes. He is angry, hurt, torn between Lumatere and Charyn, between saving himself and saving the girl he’s come to love. Despite all he’s done in the past, Froi is a genuinely good person inside, someone who had just been brought up in a dangerous and unforgiving and ugly as fuck environment. In an environment where he learned that power could, and should, be taken by taking someone else against their will. He’s learned that…. the hard way, something that painted his actions in that barn in Sorel in a new light. No, it was not an excuse. No, he was not forgiven. But it seems he’s found a home and happiness with the people who had no reason to take him in afterward, and perhaps he’ll learn to forgive himself for it. And I loved him because of how he’s grown as a character in three years.

I also freaking LOVE Quintana of Charyn. This girl, man. She is wild and cutthroat, but also incredibly vulnerable and delicate. She’s grown up in a dangerous environment like Froi had been, and so he feels a definite connection with her, and he becomes her greatest ally when neither of them seem to want it. I hated how Quintana was treated, not by Froi, but by the people in the castle who were supposed to nurture her. She’s their PRINCESS. She should have been treated like a princess, but she wasn’t. Because everyone believed she had been the sole curse maker, and that she had been the one to bring down grief and pain in the kingdom. She’s called a whore, for something she can’t control and for a courageous act on her part to save the other last born girls of Charyn. She is deserving of so much more, even if she is not completely likable at times. But oh, she’s so REAL. So incredibly strong and perhaps a genius for how she’s survived all these years with no one else on her side. Do not underestimate her. She is smart, brave, and a survivor. But she has also been broken down by others in her life, and she doesn’t expect anyone to be able to love her for who she is, doesn’t believe she is worthy. But this girl deserves the world, and she is worthy of everything, and Froi starts to show her that.

I was worried and a bit hesitant on the romance because of Quintana’s character at first; she just seems so delicate and vulnerable, like it would be easy to take advantage of her. But the care Froi took with her was wonderful. And not only that, he understood her, and he also came to realize that she is just so very strong and able, that she isn’t as fragile as she seems. That she is his equal. Froi and Quintana recognize in each other a brokenness that neither can seem to mend by themselves. And perhaps they won’t be able to heal the brokenness in each other, and perhaps they shouldn’t (love doesn’t cure all), but it gives them an understanding that not many people have. The two of them fight like hell, are downright mean and stubborn toward the other, but they love fiercely. Though they have a lot to obviously work through, and though they were brought up in different kingdoms, I believe they could be good for each other. That they HAVE been in this book, when no one else was there for them, and they only had each other for companionship. I’m curious to see where their relationship leads in the final book!

I cannot believe how much I love and live for these characters. ALL of them. Not just the Lumaterans, but the Charynites too. Every single one has been touched by the darkness, has either been a witness or been subjected to the ugliness of the world and other people. Not only are we learning about the pasts of the new characters, like Lirah and the twin brothers Arjuro and Gargarin, who I LOVED, but we are seeing how the events of the Lumateran curse are still affecting people 3 years after it was lifted. I cannot tell you how much I have sobbed for the characters in these novels, for the way that they do what it takes to survive, for the way that they kept going and didn’t give up. It hurt so much to hear the stories. To understand exactly how broken some of them still are from the events that happened during the ten years of terror. I can imagine they won't ever heal completely, but the most amazing thing about these books is that they are not alone. They have each other, bonds and connections, that warm my heart and make me so happy to read about.

These books aren’t action-filled, and Froi spends most of the time at the palace, and then on the run. But his POV is broken up by Lumateran chapters that I ended up happy to have, even if they stopped the action over in Charyn. It could easily dip into boring territory, but it doesn’t. The series is very much character-driven. They are the most important part, second to the plot. And I don’t think there are many books where I can say there were moments where I could laugh on one page, and shed tears in the next. I had so many different feelings throughout the book, especially after secrets are revealed and pasts are spoken about. Truths are unveiled and characters are pushed to the breaking point. Everything keeps building up to an epic finale that I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for, because how can I ever leave this world and its characters?

Froi of the Exiles was not a book I ever thought I would WANT to read, but I’d kept hearing that the sequels to Finnikin were 100% better, and I was curious enough to see how Melina wrote Froi’s character arc. Because though he is not the only main character, or the only one who has page time, he is the HEART of the story. And I should never have doubted that Melina could make me love him. I will never doubt her again.

Favorite Quotes!
“You find her strange? When as a child she managed to separate parts of herself and make them whole beings? Each situation requires a different Quintana. But she survived. In this cesspit. That’s not strange or mad. It’s pure genius.” -Lirah 

“...warn the Monts that if I have to travel up to speak to them, the regret will be theirs.” -Isaboe 

“I don’t despise you for what you allowed to happen to me. I despise you because when I was released, you refused to be found and I needed you more than anything in my life. Not to mend my broken bones, Arjuro. I needed my brother to mend my broken spirit.” -Gargarin 

“It’s not that I liked you the least, it’s that I feared you the most. The reginita taught me to like you. There was a strange joy to her that lifted my spirits. But you, Quintana of Charyn, you made me love you.” -Froi


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Marchetta Month: Finnikin of the Rock

I started 2016 off with Jellicoe Road, and then I decided to finally finish the Lumatere Chronicles after I got the books. So it was basically Marchetta Month for me. :D They were the PERFECT choices to start a new year of reading, and I am now a forever fan of Melina Marchetta. She is a storytelling genius!

Title: Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles, #1)
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Candlewick Press/others I'm not sure about
Release Date: original, September 29th, 2008

From Goodreads...
At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh to save his kingdom. He stands on the rock of the three wonders with his friend Prince Balthazar and Balthazar's cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood to safeguard Lumatere. 

But all safety is shattered during the five days of the unspeakable, when the king and queen and their children are brutally murdered in the palace. An impostor seizes the throne, a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere's walls, and those who escape are left to roam the land as exiles, dying by the thousands in fever camps.

Ten years later, Finnikin is summoned to another rock--to meet Evanjalin, a young novice with a startling claim: Balthazar, heir to the throne of Lumatere, is alive. This arrogant young woman claims she'll lead Finnikin and his mentor, Sir Topher, to the prince. Instead, her leadership points them perilously toward home. Does Finnikin dare believe that Lumatere might one day rise united? Evanjalin is not what she seems, and the startling truth will test Finnikin's faith not only in her but in all he knows to be true about himself and his destiny.

In a bold departure from her acclaimed contemporary novels, Printz Medalist Melina Marchetta has crafted an epic fantasy of ancient magic, feudal intrigue, romance, and bloodshed that will rivet you from the first page.

My Review!
*I spoiled things. I couldn't not. So, yeah.

My word, I am so glad I reread this. I must have rushed through the book the last time, because I slowed down and actually PAID ATTENTION to stuff. And I became so, so deeply invested in these characters and in the journey to free Lumatere from the darkness and an impostor king on the throne. It was a harrowing journey, but one that was made so much more important for the people on it. Okay, so I once read a blog post from Melina* about Jonah and Evanjalin, two characters from two different stories, but there was a reason for it. And apparently she’d noticed that readers had been more forgiving of Jonah for the shit he did, and they despised Evanjalin for actions that were maybe sort of worse, but also like not? Anyway, while I was rereading, I kept thinking of this post. And it pisses me off now, because what the hell? Evanjalin is straight-up one of the best heroines I've read about. Seriously, if you really hated her for her choices, you might need to reevaluate your life and the way you view women.
*I could be really wrong about this, but I SWEAR I remember reading a post about this; maybe it wasn't from the author, but it was a thing, I know it.

Here’s the truth about Evanjalin: she does what needs to be done. Everything she did, all the choices she made, the half-truths she told, the secrets and silence, all of that was for one reason: to get her people back home and make Lumatere whole again. She is the fucking QUEEN. She is needed and important. I know she lied; I know she made people feel like they couldn’t trust her. I know her throwing Finnikin into prison was horrible and could have ended SO badly, but it didn't. She did NOT deserve all the shit that got thrown her way, especially from the people who were supposed to love and support her. She did what she had to do for Lumatere, for her kingdom, for her people. And she went through a lot, but she survived it all. I don’t know how she did, because I definitely don’t have the strength to do some of what she did in the book. She’s so fucking tough, so strong, so POWERFUL. She is a leader, a warrior, a girl who grew up too fast and who never had a childhood. She’s a girl who set into motion a plan to break the curse and save her people. Evanjalin walked their sleep and felt EVERYTHING they were going through, had to be inside the head of someone who witnessed the hideous acts committed against her parents and sisters. She lost her brother through his sacrifice to save her life. She lost her home and her immediate family all in 5 days. And she could have easily given up. I wouldn’t have blamed her if she did. But Evanjalin is not the kind of heroine who would sit back and wait for others to take action. Perhaps she was a bit reckless at times, a bit manipulative. But ugh, no. She was a cunning, stubborn, loyal, and compassionate person who only deserved peace and happiness.

tbh, I kinda think she deserved better than Finnikin, but well… I adore this guy, I do. But what once I had ignored now pissed me off so much. He was so bitter, so despairing, and so fucking PRIDEFUL. And stubborn, which was pretty hilarious when he and Evanjalin butted heads. Which was to say, a lot of the time. He doesn’t know she’s Isaboe, his childhood friend and nemesis as only kids can be to each other. But that should not have mattered; I get that she was a suspicious character, but he could have been a lot nicer to her, a lot more understanding and compassionate. He’s seen a lot on his travels, has heard tales that would make even the toughest of men cry. He’s had to watch his people suffer, knowing that no matter what he does to help them, it wouldn’t be enough to overshadow the fact that they don’t have Lumatere anymore. But he tried his hardest, his best. No, he wasn’t always the most easily likable character for his words and actions, but he had a lot to work through. He had a lot to LEARN, about himself and about his future. And I can see why they didn’t want to tell him about Evanjalin being Isaboe. They wanted him to CHOOSE the path leading them back to Lumatere, instead of the plan he’d been working at for ten years. I still think he could have been more understanding, more tolerant where Evanjalin is concerned, but it’s not so simple because he’s also had a hard life. And what he’s seen and heard had been more than enough to drown his heart in darkness and pain and despair so he no longer believed in the light. But you know, Evanjalin had been through a lot too, and she was stronger than he was BECAUSE she still let herself hope for better.

Evanjalin, er, Isaboe’s hope was infectious. Her compassion and willingness to help others was inspiring. Her quick to temper, but quicker to forgive attitude made her such a strong character. And I wish Finnikin had recognized that earlier, had seen that she didn’t need to be protected or sheltered. That she didn’t need anyone else to save her, that she had been saving herself for a lot longer than they’d met again. Ten years she spent wandering the world, both in light and in darkness. Ten years trying to get her people back home. Finnikin couldn't quite get it through his head that what Isaboe didn’t need was a protector, but an EQUAL. Someone who wouldn’t stand in front of her, but by. her. side. It just took Finnikin a long time to finally understand that, and to finally accept that he’d rather be with her in a position that he hadn’t thought he’d want, than watch her marry someone else. Their romance was quiet, subtle, so very little there, but so BELIEVABLE. I don’t totally ship them, because I stand by what I said about her maybe deserving someone else who wouldn’t hold her back. But I could see the connection between them, the shared history and I loved that both of them found solace and happiness with each other when they never thought they would again.

Let’s just say, though I have mixed feelings on the romance, I think everyone deserved love after all they’d been through, deserved to find happiness. Even young Froi, who had attempted to rape Isaboe when he didn’t know her at all. I do NOT forgive him, will never forgive him, and I know Isaboe will never forget (or forgive) that night. But I also remember Sir Topher’s words and wisdom: “he doesn’t know anything but ugliness.” It’s not an apology, not a way to explain it away, brush it under the rug. But it IS something that makes you think, that makes you remember that not everyone grew up in a good home, with good people. It’s something that reminds you that the world is so ugly, and that some people have only ever known that. It doesn’t excuse him, nothing will for me. I love Isaboe so much, and I hate that he did that. But I also know that she is an almost forcefully compassionate person, and even when she sold him to a trader, she stole him back because she couldn’t leave him there. I cannot wait to see what Melina does with Froi’s character arc, and I’m glad that, through his time with these people, he has become more than what he was. He would give his life for Isaboe and Finnikin, and he’ll never forget their kindness.

They are not the only ones who bring Froi under their wing, who back Isaboe and Finnikin as they prepare to lead their people home. There are many characters; most of them Lumateran who were displaced. Sir Topher, Finnikin’s mentor, a wise, humble, keen old man who basically groomed his protege to become King. Trevanion, the King’s Guard and Finnikin’s father whom he breaks out of jail. Their relationship was so wonderful, and so full of so much feeling and emotions. Actually, all of the relationships were powerfully intense in their connection. I became so invested in, not just Finnikin’s and Isaboe’s characters, but in ALL of them. Even the ones who didn’t have many cameos. And ahhhh LUCIAN, MY BABY. I may or may not have squealed when he showed up on the pages again. I hope most of these characters are in the sequels a good deal, or else I will miss them dearly.

This book was so heavy and dark and gritty, so full of despair and pain and grief. So many people had lost their humanity, or perhaps had never had it in the first place. And the acts they committed were despicable and awful and gross and made me cry so hard, so many times. This novel was intense, and it was a journey that will put your heart through the wringer. I feel so battered, but also so healed. There was a lot of darkness, but there was also light. And hope. And the amazing way people can work together and rebuild their lives, the way they support and care for their neighbors. It was hard to hear the stories, but they deserved to be voiced. They deserved to not be forgotten, and I know the people of Lumatere will never, ever forget the last ten years. But together, with each other, they will finally be able to build a future for themselves and their children.

Finnikin of the Rock may have been slow at times, but it was super impactful. So many points that hit me straight in the heart, that made me cry as if *I* was the one in pain, and not the characters. I don’t know how you can become so connected to a book like this, but Melina Marchetta has magic. Her storytelling is amazing, just the right and careful way in which to bring you to the end. I was so sad when it was over, but the ending was happy and hopeful and the people were FINALLY celebrating. So it was worth all of the hardships and pain, all the grief and the tears, and it will not be an easily forgotten book.

Favorite Quotes!
He understood, with a clarity that confused him, that if anyone dared touch her again, his sword would not stay in its scabbard.

“It’s against the rules of humanity to believe there is nothing we can do, Finnikin.” -Evanjalin

“Then I choose to drown. In hope. Rather than float into nothing.” -Finnikin

“Does she belong to you, Finnikin?”
“No. But she belongs to my heart.”


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Blog Tour Stop: The Mystery of Hollow Places

Title: The Mystery of Hollow Places
Author: Rebecca Podos
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Release Date: January 26th 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery

From Goodreads...
All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It's the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when she was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as troubled waters.

When Imogene is seventeen, her father, now a famous author of medical mysteries, strikes out in the middle of the night and doesn't come back. Neither Imogene's stepmother nor the police know where he could've gone, but Imogene is convinced he's looking for her mother. She decides to put to use the skills she's gleaned from a lifetime of her father's books to track down a woman she's never known, in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she's carried with her for her entire life. 

Rebecca Podos' debut is a powerful, affecting story of the pieces of ourselves that remain mysteries even to us - the desperate search through empty spaces for something to hold on to.

Amazon paperback


Now I have the author, Rebecca Podos, on my blog talking about her hideaways, favorite book genres that take her away from reality, and the challenges of writing a YA thriller. :)

1. A friend mentioned that the main character is looking for places her father could be hiding out, and since my blog's name is The Fox's Hideaway, I thought it'd be cool to connect them. Do you have any "hideaways" of your own? Safe spaces you like to go to?
I do, and one of my favorites is a beach about a half hour from my house. It’s not a very glamorous beach. It’s not in a spectacular seaside town, and you have to hike about a mile up a trail to get to it. And when you do, the sand is almost 100% shells and rocks, and there are crabs scuttling along under the water. But that means if you bring your beach shoes and get there at, say, 8 in the morning, you can be there for hours before anybody else shows up.

2. Books are my hideaway, and most of the time I find it easy to escape reality and dive into another world. If you have any, what are some of your favorite books or genres that you can easily escape reality from? 
I love magical realism, because it’s almost an exact reflection of the world, but not. I love horror—when I was in high school and on summer vacation, I’d check out every Stephen King book in the local library, one by one. It wasn’t a huge library, but I feel like half of the books were by Stephen King. And like the main character in Hollow Places, I love mysteries, because of that satisfying narrative structure, wherein if you’ll just hang on, you’ll have all the answers by the end of the book.

3. Since your book is a mystery/thriller, I wondered if it was more difficult to write for a YA audience. How do you balance keeping the mystery on-the-edge-your-seat intriguing but still believable and realistic when it comes to having a younger character? 
I tried to address the questions I sometimes have when reading or watching mysteries starring teenagers: Why does everybody have a hacker friend to help them investigate? How are they able to drive all over the place chasing leads, when as a teenager, I sometimes had to scrape together five bucks to limp to work on a quarter of a tank? Why aren’t they constantly getting grounded by their parents for skipping school to go on a manhunt? I mean, there are plenty of realistic YA mysteries out there right now, so I’m far from the only one asking these questions. 
But mostly, I tried to keep the characters real, to make their motivations understandable and their choices believable. So hopefully, that worked out!


Rebecca Podos' debut YA novel, THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES, is forthcoming from Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins) on 1/26/16. A graduate of the Writing, Literature and Publishing program at Emerson College where she won the M.F.A. Award for Best Thesis, her fiction has been published in Glimmer Train, Glyph, CAJE, Paper Darts, Bellows American Review, and Smokelong Quarterly. Past Awards include the Helman Award for Short Fiction, the David Dornstein Memorial Creative Writing Prize for Young Adult Writers, and the Hillerman-McGarrity Scholarship for Creative Writing. She works as a YA and MG agent at the Rees Literary Agency in Boston.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Tsar's Guard Parade

Today I'm happy to be participating in the The Tsar's Guard Parade for Evelyn's Skye's debut fantasy! When I first heard about The Crown's Game, I HAD to have it. And I am so excited about the book and this blog tour! Coming up with a topic to talk about was pretty hard, but I find Russian culture and history fascinating (even though I don't know a whole lot, to be honest). So I thought it'd be fun to share some novels that are either set in or inspired by Russia that are on my TBR. :)


9 Russian Set/Inspired Novels I Want to Read

1. The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
I mean. Obviously, this is on my list! Fantasy is my FAAAAVE, and I especially love that this seems to be set in an alternate Russia where magic is normal, and there are people with special and powerful gifts.

2. Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie
This is another Russian-inspired fantasy I want to read. Also one that has a main character with a special gift! I've heard such great things about it, and that cover is SO. PRETTY. 

3. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
This is one of those really huge and popular books that I hear about a lot but have continuously put off. Probably because it's over 800 pages, and let's be real, who has time for that? :p

4. Sekret by Lindsay Smith
I love books involving spies and main characters who are morally complex. It seems it also has a bit of paranormal/magic in it. WANT.

5. The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges 
This is like a fantasy/paranormal series set in Russia, and I've had it on my TBR for awhile now. I'm hoping to get to it soon, especially since the books are all published. 

6. The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford
I hadn't heard much about this one when it came out, but I was very interested in it at the time. It's got some mixed reviews, but I definitely want to give it a try, especially since the romance sounds different.

7. The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb
I found this one through the lists on Goodreads, and it sounds so good! I'm a big fan of paranormal stories about death, and it's set during the Russian Revolution, so I'm even more interested in it.

8. The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller
This is set during World War I and is about the Romanovs. This particular piece of Russian history fascinates me, and this book sounds like a nice spin on the story.

9. Queen of Tomorrow by Sherry D. Ficklin
I read the first book in this series, and I wasn't very impressed. HOWEVER, I want to give the sequel a chance. But it's really unfair that these covers are so pretty, because they just make me want to love the books so badly.


I hope you enjoyed this post, and that you might have found more books to add to your TBR! Be sure to check out the rest of the parade here on Evelyn Skye's website. There are so many fun posts to read!

Here is a little bit more information on the book and author, and be sure to enter the ARC giveaway below! :D

Title: The Crown's Game (The Crown's Game, #1)
Author: Evelyn Skye
Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Release Date: May 17th, 2016!
Pages: 416
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
From Goodreads...

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

About the Author:
Evelyn Skye was once offered a job by the C.I.A., she not-so-secretly wishes she was on "So You Think You Can Dance," and if you challenge her to a pizza-eating contest, she guarantees she will win. When she isn't writing, Evelyn can be found chasing her daughter on the playground or sitting on the couch, immersed in a good book and eating way too many cookies. THE CROWN'S GAME is her first novel. Evelyn can be found online at and on Twitter @EvelynSkyeYA.


This ARC giveaway is INTERNATIONAL!! So yeah, you WANT to enter!