Thursday, January 31, 2013

Just One You

Just One Day
Gayle Forman is notorious for surprising you with a small but powerful book, and she doesn't disappoint with Just One Day. What seems like it might just be a simple romance turns into a very different kind of book, and I think you are going to like the journey!

Allyson is a sheltered high school graduate whose parents want her to "see the world" through a carefully monitored Teen Travel trip. She is reluctant to go, but her best friend is going too, so she packs the emergency kit her mother got her and heads off to England. Towards the end of the trip, Allyson and her friend stumble upon an underground Shakespeare production called Guerilla Will. Allyson is taken by one of the actors who catches up with the girls after the production. Dutch Willem is handsome, mysterious, and everything Allyson has been sheltered from. When he offers to take her to Paris for Just One Day, she realizes this is something she would never do... but Lulu would! 

When Willem nicknames her Lulu, it is like Lulu takes over Allyson. She heads to Paris with Willem, a guy she just met, on an adventure never dreamed she could have. But she wasn't expecting the "just one day" to mean she was left alone in a warehouse in the morning with no idea where she was, how to get home, or money to get there. When she finally admits, hours later, that Willem abandoned her despite their amazing night together, she calls the tour leader who gets her back to England. She returns to the states and continues on with her life, but nothing about Allyson's life is the same.

Usually a strong, confident student, Allyson's freshman year in the pre-med classes her mother registered her for is ugly. Her roommates realize she is a dud, and first semester is a nightmare. When she returns for her second semester, her advisor convinces her to take some different classes to break up her hectic schedule. It is the first time Allyson has ever veered from the plan her mother has arranged for her to go to medical school and become a doctor. But Allyson likes pottery. And Shakespeare, no matter how many ugly memories it brings back. And the saving grace is an unusual man named Dee, a classmate of hers who makes her truly examine who Allyson really is... not who her parents want her to be, or her roommates want her to be, but the real Allyson. The Lulu if you will. And the real Allyson has to know what happened to Willem that day a year ago in Paris...

OK. If you read this review, you have to promise me you will read the whole thing because it is going to describe the wild journey my opinion of this book took from start to finish, and if you stop early, you won't know how the journey ended! So this book started like a mediocre romance that was any parent's nightmare: your sheltered 18 year old daughter agrees to go to a foreign country with a strange, mysterious boy (whom she doesn't even know his last name), very little money, and no one knows where she is going. Sounds like a Liam Neeson thriller, right? Yep. Pretty much. I was waiting for her to get kidnapped and sold into an ugly prostitution ring. That didn't happen, but when Willem abandoned her in the artists' squat, I was intrigued. Maybe this wasn't the cliche novel I was starting to imagine it as (and was shocked Forman would write). And it wasn't...

The Allyson went to college and acted like a whiny, depressed lump and I was totally unimpressed. Yes, honey. Some guy made you think he liked you, you slept with him, and he bolted. It sucks, but is it enough to throw your life away for? I think not! But then I started to realize something. When Allyson starts to take the Shakespeare class and meets Dee, it occurred to me she wasn't acting this way because of Willem (although he was part of it). She missed Lulu! When I realized this, the book took on a whole new light for me. Dee was this amazing guy who morphed himself to any situation he was in. When he a girl saw his pink boots and assumed he was gay, he played gay. When someone heard he was from the Bronx and assumed he was form the ghetto, he played ghetto. He even had a persona he put on to pacify Allyson's parents. Seeing Dee's continuous, unapologetic act made Allyson realize she had been living an act- the one she thought everyone wanted her to live. 

And this is where everything came together for me. It was beautiful really... poetic. I loved it. Dee was a phenomenal character who really made Allyson realize how she had been living her life. It wasn't a romantic relationship, but rather a mutual understanding and respect. And while Allyson's trek back to Paris was clearly to find out about Willem, it was more about finding Lulu- the person Allyson knew she really was. And I loved this transformation in Allyson. More to the point, I loved this novel. It is so much more than a romance, a story about lost love, or even a story about breaking free of your parents. It is about finding yourself. And what 18 year old girl doesn't need to take that journey? So push past the frightening actions of a girl who finally found her will (and took some huge risks that make me cringe) and see the journey of a girl you will be proud of. You won't be sorry!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Shades of a New Beginning

Shades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel
When your options are dying in a spaceship that is slowly shutting down or descending to an unknown planet possibly full of monsters, you realize your choice will be life or death either way. Amy and Elder chose the latter, and the new planet might be scary, but in Beth Revis's Shades of Earth, the real fear comes from the things you know rather than the ones you don't know.

The landing is far from smooth, but Amy knows landing means she can finally unfreeze her parents and the rest of the Earthborns. The problem is the shipborns- they don't trust the Earthborns. When they finally unfreeze the group that was meant to make the transition to the new planet safer and more efficient, Elder realizes Orion's prediction may have been correct: the Earthborns were either going to make them slaves or soldiers. But the Earthborns know how to use their weapons, and with crazy pterodactyl-like creatures trying to eat them, guns can come in handy.

But the creatures on the planet aren't the only thing to worry about. When people start going missing, and Phydus (the ship's crowd control drug) is found in the systems of the dead and the creatures, the group begins to realize something fishy is happening on the planet. They find ruins that were clearly made for humans, and Sol-Earth still hasn't contacted them. They fear that the extra 200 years they were trapped in the ship may have made them a lost cause and they are now left to survive on their own. But people keep disappearing and an explosion on the shuttle destroys all their food and weapon reserves. So whether or not Earth can hear them becomes the least of their problems. Instead, the Earthborns and the Shipborns have to come together for one purpose: survival. 

This series was one of those runaway successes that just got better and better with each book. The story was interesting on a claustrophobic ship, so with a new planet to explore, it was even better! My one criticism was that I wanted more of the new planet. I wanted more and more creatures! But I suppose I have to be satisfied with what I got, which was still pretty great! The added conflict between the Earthborns and Shipborns just made the story that much more interesting. After all, the idea of who has the upper hand in such a situation is so subjective, you will find yourself rooting for someone different with each turn of a page!

This is a fabulous story for either a science fiction fan or someone who prefers modern novels. The series is gripping enough to hold anyone's interest over the three books. In fact, while the ending was solid, I still wish the story would continue on the new planet. There are some interesting discussions to be had regarding the technology in the book as well. For instance, how fast does technology out-lap itself? Become obsolete? While we don't have 500 years to run an experiment, I am sure showing our students a cell phone from 10 years ago, or better yet, one of those car phones in a bag, will certainly drive the point home! This series is a beautiful expression of technology, human emotion, and basic human instinct all wrapped into one!

Friday, January 25, 2013

What goes down in California stays in California.
by Paige C.

Art Geeks and Prom Queens by Alyson Noel is a fiction book. There are  a lot of  great themes in the book. One of them is looking good is better than not looking good at all. Another one is being popular is better than being a geek. One of the big problems in the book is  when a girl lets go of her true self and starts to acted like one of the popular girls. Alyson Noel wrote  some overall  great books like Forever summer, and  Kiss & Blog. The story line of the whole book was that a girl name Rio moved from New York all the way to California. She had to leave all her friends at home and go to a new school with no one that she knew there. She made new friends, and then the most popular girl in school asked her to sit at her table. She sat there, and left her friends that were there for her in the begin. Then the scandal happened with Rio and her new friends. You're going to have to read the book to see what Rio does. How can she go from being the art geek to popular? There were some interesting moments in the book that you would never guess that happened.  Rio does things that you would never think she would or wanted to do. The reason is in the beginning of the book she is  just the nice new girl in the school that knows no one and likes to do art. Then all of sudden she turns into this girl that no one likes because the popular kids changed her. She realizes that no one would like to be friends with a girls like that . Some possibilities the book suggests is that you need to stay true to yourself and never change just because you want to fit in. Stay true to yourself because sooner or later you will find a really great friend who will be there for you even when you think they don’t like you. If you're hooked now just wait till you get your hands on the book and can’t  put it down for one second because once you open it, you will never want  to put it down. This is one of my favorite books ever, and every teen girl who is going in to high school or is in a private school and misses public school or have problems making  friends and keeping them should read it. It will make you feel like you are back there, and it's a great book for teen girls. I would recommend it to you. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lovely, Dark, Deep

Lovely, Dark and Deep
With a title so haunting, a cover so beautiful, and a description so vague, Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Amy McNamara was a mystery from the start. You might not know what you are getting yourself into as you start this book, but the outcome is nevertheless powerful.

Wren Wells survived the car accident, but not in one piece. Since the death of her boyfriend, Patrick, she hasn't been able to carry on with her life. The only reason she even started speaking again was to get the therapists off her back and get her mother to let her go live with father, the artist who is so wrapped up in his own creations he barely notices he has a daughter. And for Wren, being able to fold into herself and avoid all interactions is exactly what she needs. Until she meets Cal.

Cal is infectious. His kindness and caring is so sincere, Wren can't help but let him in (even if it is reluctantly at first). But Cal comes with his own demons. His recently diagnosed MS threatens his way of life and breaks the fragile soul who lost his mother to the very same disease. Apart, this pair is the most unsteady, tormented set of individuals. Together, they are lovely. They are dark. They are deep.

This is such a fluid and poetic novel. It is written beautifully, and that adds to the sincerity and gravity of the story being told. Both Cal and Wren are battling such dark demons that when they come together, you almost worry they are going to drag each other down. But they don't. They are each what the other needs: someone who listens but doesn't judge. Through their relationship, Wren is able to finally admit all the circumstances of the fateful car accident where Patrick died because focusing on Cal makes her own struggles seem less life-threatening. And Cal's illness is so painful to watch, especially after having lost his mother to the same illness. I loved the way these two were two halves who came together to make one whole individual, healing and ready to live lie again.

It was interesting how the supporting characters around them dealt with their struggles, especially Wren's parents and her friends from before the accident. It is interesting how they blame Wren and need her to push past the pain, but don't know how to help her do it. In fact, when she really sinks into a dark place, the only way they can think of helping is doing things that make it even worse for her at times. I imagined how real this was when people don't know how to help a person they love so dearly as that person slowly falls apart in front of their very eyes. This is a beautiful and haunting book, and if you want to talk to McNamara about it, she will be at Oblong next Sunday! I hope to get out there, and I am looking forward to finding the perfect student to pass this book onto. Its haunting beauty and poetic story are perfect for those deep, sensitive students!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Rite of Passage for All?

Rite of Passage
In searching for books that were a) literary b) would contribute to Black History Month and c) were simple enough for my students to complete independently, I stumbled upon this lesser known Wright novel. It was perfect for my purposes, but it was also a frightening and severe book that will shed light on a life my students weren't fully aware existed.

Johnny is a good student. He works hard in school, his teachers always give him a proud smile, and his parents and siblings love him. Johnny has a good life in Harlem. But one fateful day, when he returned home from school, everything came crashing down around him. His stuff was all packed and waiting in the hallway to be taken when he got into his building. When he asked his mother why they were leaving, Johnny heard the worst words in his life: they weren't leaving; he was. 

Johnny's family wasn't really his biological family. They were his foster parents who had raised him since he was six months old, but now the system wants to move him. His parents fought to keep him, but the foster system has rules to follow. Johnny's new family is coming to pick him up, but he can't process everything since it is happening so fast. When his new family arrives, he does the only thing he can do: he runs. Now Johnny, a kid who has had a comfortable life full of love and family, finds himself on the streets of Harlem without a penny in his pocket. How is such a boy to take care of himself? He becomes the Jackal. 

This was such a sad book. It was so well written: clear, concise, and didn't beat around the bush. It is about 115 pages, so it is a fast read that packs quite a punch. The life of Johnny is all too realistic. When he left his parents, he joined other boys who were escaping the foster care system, although for different reasons. A system that was supposed to save them instead forced them to fend for themselves by mugging and beating people on the streets when they should have been focusing on school and sitting for the dinner their mothers prepared for them. It was heartbreaking. The system failed them. And what happens next is painful to watch. 

This is a stark reality not only of the foster system, but of the few and limited options a boy like Johnny has. When he couldn't stay with the family who loved him (which is absurd and accurate for the system), he had no other option than to band together with other boys and fight for their lives on the streets. His options were so few and far between, and no child should have to make those decisions. This is a powerful little novella that will be perfect for the project I am doing in my literature class. I am interested to see how my student reacts to it when he has finished the story of Johnny. Will he change as much as Johnny did?

Monday, January 21, 2013

You'll Love it Through the Ever Night

Through the Ever Night
Aria and Perry are the couple who made us all melt in Under the Never Sky. She was a Dweller, living in the high tech domes who was cast out into Perry's post-apocalyptic world where food is scarce and every place you go dangers greet you. In Veronica Rossi's Through the Ever Night, their story continues as they fight to protect those they love and most of all, to return back to one another.

Now that Perry is Blood Lord of the Tides after his brother's death, he has more responsibilities than he knows what to do with. With a tribe full of starving people and the Aether storms threatening to kill them all, he can barely keep everyone alive let alone work past the fact that most of his tribe thinks he is incompetent. But when Aria finally returns to him, he feels like things might eventually be better than they are now. There is hope. But when his tribe proves they don't want Aria to be marked as an Aud (a person with super hearing), as one of them, and they do so by poisoning the ink used to make her marks and almost kill her, he realizes he is torn between his heart and his responsibility.

Aria knows what she has to do to protect Perry, and it is the hardest thing she has ever done in her life: she has to leave him. In order to save Perry's nephew Talon from the dome, she must bargain with its crazy leader, the very man who exiled her from the dome. And the only thing she has left to bargain with is the Still Blue- the one place left safe from the Aether storms. But the one man who knows how to get to the Still Blue is the very man who bought Perry's sister from their older brother. And Sable isn't a bargaining kind of man. With the weight of the world on their shoulders, Perry and Aria must find a way to solve all their problems, all their people, and find each other again.

Can I just tell you how much I love Perry and Aria? They are amazing. And the thing I love the most about them is they know the world is bigger than just the two of them. Their loyalties to their people and their friends and family leaves them unselfish and makes their love just that much more special. It was hard to watch them be physically apart for the majority of this book, but you knew how necessary it was. Their sacrifice made the continuation of the story that much stronger. 

This story continues to balance between tortured post-apocalyptic landscape and high sci-fi, super tech futuristic world. It makes the story fascinating and addictive. While the landscape is fascinating, it is the characters who will keep you coming back. Even the supporting characters are just as compelling as Perry and Aria. Roar is a man you can't wrap your head around, and yet you just adore him. Rossi has a talent for dynamic characters who you can't help but find yourself emotionally invested in. It makes for a great story, and most of all, it will keep you coming back!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Playing Games with Your Mind

Mind Games
Any sister knows that regardless of how much you may fight or argue, you would walk through fire or step in front of a bullet for your sister. Sisters are a force that no one truly understands unless they have their own sister. In Kiersten White's Mind Games, the girls may have special abilities, but their bond as sisters defies all, including an evil corporation that wants to use them as tools against the world.

Fia has done everything to protect her blind and telepathic sister, Annie, after their parents are killed in an accident Annie foresaw. That includes joining a school that is less school and more training facility for young girls with abilities the "school" plans to use for whatever nefarious activities their need. Over the years they have convinced Fia that if she doesn't follow orders, Annie will be the one to suffer. For a sister, there is no bigger threat.

When Fia and her flawless instincts are sent to assassinate someone, she sees her target bend down to pet a dog and can't imagine herself ending his life. On a whim, she whips him away, leaving enough evidence to convince her bosses that he is indeed dead. She squirrels him away and returns to the school, but she isn't prepared for what she learns upon her return. It was her own sister who sent her to murder this boy. Now Fia doesn't know who to trust and where to turn. The boy she saved, Adam, is the first person Annie has truly wanted to open herself up to, but any contact with him would put him in danger. What Fia doesn't realize is the danger is much closer to home than she ever could have imagined.

Mind Games is told in four perspectives: both Fia and Annie now, and Fia and Annie as they transitioned into the school starting a few years earlier. This may seem like a great way to get back story without an information dump, but for me it clouded this otherwise great story. It made it incredibly confusing to figure out who you were reading about, and I found myself jumping back to the beginning of the chapter to see who was speaking and when more times than I should have had to. I think this could be frustrating for a younger or weaker reader, and I know it frustrated me. I almost wished this story was told in two books- start with the action of the "now" for this book, finish your series (because it is to be a series), and then write a prequel with the expanded back story. Otherwise, it was just too difficult to keep up with at times, especially when you were flipping the pages like mad because you couldn't wait to find out what happened.

I hope this idea of four perspectives won't carry over into the next book now that the history has been established. I loved both characters as they were clearly frustrated, disturbed, and yet so caring at the same time. They struggled with their relationship as sisters, but they also cared about one another. The sacrifices they made (Fia especially) were a true testament to their bond as sisters. On a whole, I really liked this story, but I found the four perspectives distracting. I am excited to see where the series goes from here, but I hope the flashbacks are limited. In particular, the ending of this story opens up for the sequel to be phenomenal! Can't wait!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Tragedy in Paper

The Tragedy Paper
What constitutes a real tragedy? For a young adult, the answer to that question could be any number of things. For the students of this East Coast boarding school, the tragedy paper is their final goodbye and their biggest revelation. In Elizabeth Laban's The Tragedy Paper, traditions, a social hierarchy, and a literature assignment can change someone's life forever.

Duncan moves into his new dorm room for his senior year, and he finds his "treasure" left from the senior before him to be a bundle of CDs. Despite the crapshoot of a tradition, he had hoped for a better treasure and certainly a better room. But once he starts listening to the legacy Tim, last year's senior who happened to be albino, he has a hard time looking at everything the same way. After what happened last year during the tradition of the Senior Games, he has been different this year anyway. Now, hearing Tim's story about how it all happened, Duncan has a choice: either the tragedy changes who he is or he changes how the tragedy controls their lives.

Tim has always been an outcast. It is hard to hide your differences when you are albino- everyone notices. But starting a new school his senior year, across the country, and in a private school, is more than Tim really thought about when he agreed to give it a try. But on his journey out there, he was stranded in an airport hotel with a beautiful girl named Vanessa. And as luck would have it, Vanessa is headed to the very same school Tim is now a part of, traditions and all. After their whirlwind night building igloos and ordering room service, Tim feels a connection to Vanessa like he has never felt before. However, her boyfriend might not feel the same way about their connection. And now, in a school full of traditions he is completely oblivious to, Tim must find a way to finally find out who he is and how far he is willing to go.

As I started to read this, I immediately thought of Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why. With the CD's and the story left as a legacy, it all sounded very familiar, but it was still really well written and the story was interesting, so I was excited to find out what happened. Add to that this layer of intrigue surrounding the traditions at the private school. This is one of those true East Coast boarding schools layered with generations of students, traditions, and mystery. But the traditions are actually kind of sweet. The idea of the senior before you leaving a treasure for your moving-in day or the seniors hosting an event each year to tap in the new junior committee. All of it is kind of quaint, actually. It wasn't the Skull and Bones stuff you might be thinking of. 

And the Tragedy Paper, a kind of thesis culminating in a Literature class's study of true tragedy, is brilliant! In fact, it gave me a lot of insight into my own senior class, and Laban's ideas surrounding this class and this teacher are brilliant. Then comes the adults in the book. Supportive, loving parents, and even a wonderful step-father Tim adores! The teachers? Let's put it this way, the headmaster picks Tim up at the airport after his flight is delayed! This really was a jackpot of stellar adult role models. And I really liked this! So many YA books have absentee parents and cruel, useless teachers. The adults in this book were truly great, and I appreciated that.

*SPOILER* My biggest struggle with this book was the "tragedy" at the end. I hate to even say this, but I wanted a bigger tragedy. Yes, I am sure the tragedy would have been life-altering for those involved, but as they all survived relatively unscathed, I am unsure how believable Duncan's traumatization would have been- it felt forced. Like Laban didn't want to kill anyone she liked, so she just banged them around a little bit. I think the build-up of Duncan's reactions and the tragedy paper needed a tragedy so devastating it would have shaken my world up. But I didn't get that. And sadly, it ruined the ending of a really good book for me. *END SPOILER*

So, I would definitely pass this onto my students, especially being part of a boarding school. It was a great, clean book and perfect for a younger student even though it is about seniors. I wish the ending was a little bit more powerful, but that doesn't detract from the really beautiful writing. And I can't wait to meet Laban at Oblong next month! I hope she has a lot to talk about!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How the Guardians Came to Be

Rift: A Nightshade Novel
In the Nightshade series, Andrea Cremer gave us the Guardians, humans with wolf spirits who can shift into wolf form to protect against unnatural evil beings. But how were the Guardians created? If you ever asked yourself that question, I think you are going to like this new prequel series that starts with Rift

Ember is being collected to pay a debt that was owed for her very life to begin. In order to save her and her mother, her father made a deal for a special healer to send his daughter for service to a secretive sect of the church. When they come to collect, her father is distraught (having better plans to marry her off for his own political influence), but Ember is actually excited to leave the future life of a wife and a mother. She knows there is more out there for her. When she arrives, she is shocked to learn just how much is out there... but not surprised enough to leave.

After the initiation where Ember chooses her path as a hunter, it is the prey that changes her life. Horrible supernatural creatures threaten innocent people, and they are responsible for keeping innocents safe. When her mentor is chosen, she is first nervous then excited to learn it is to be Barrow, a man whose mere presence leaves her longing. But it is his expertise and strength on the battlefield that has her excited to train with him. What none of them expected, however, is the horrible evil that is brewing right under their noses. And the worst part of that evil is its ability to corrupt good hunters with warped ideas of how the means can justify the ends. Now the hunters who refuse to ever side with evil may be hunted themselves, by the very people they trust the most.

This was a phenomenal prequel, and I have to say I think it was even better than the first series! I always loved the pack dynamic and how the wolf side played into everyone's lives, but this connection to the Knights Templar and the hunting of so many kinds of evil is just too interesting! I think it adds this additional layer of intrigue that makes me appreciate the original series even more. I know there is a second book out there to this prequel series, but I hope Cremer will keep going with it! It reminds me of Sarwat Chadda's Devil's Kiss, especially with the strong female hunter role who struggles to balance being a woman, being a hunter, and how that job is societally unacceptable for women. It makes for one heck of a leading lady!

Having read about this history behind the Guardians, the Searchers, and the Keepers, I now wonder how I read that original series without knowing this information. It seems so vital to the story! In fact, I think I would suggest someone to read this series before Nightshade if they haven't already read those books. I think this story is really exciting and will help your understanding of the Guardians even more. Although, maybe it will reveal TOO much from the original series? I guess it is your call! But whatever you do, don't skip any of Cremer's books!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Moment of Silence in the Face of Fantasy Greatness

Froi of the Exiles: The Lumatere Chronicles
It is no surprise that Melina Marchetta would write an amazing follow-up to Finnikin of the Rock. It IS surprising to me that I could love a book as much, if not more, than I loved Finnikin. Froi of the Exiles is a continuation of Finnikin and Isaboe's story as their faithful Froi heads into Charyn to do what he does best- eliminate any danger to Lumatere.

Charynites are flooding into the valley under the Lumaterian Monts to escape their tyrannical king. Unfortunately, having just come out of years of terror, curses, and exile at the hands of Charynites, the Lumaterians are uncomfortable having the very people who tortured and raped and exiled them in their backyard. But there is a very big difference between the refugees and the people who held Lumatere captive. These Charynites are just as terrified of their king as Queen Isaboe and Finnikin are. Being the queen she is, Isaboe decides to send Froi, the boy who once tried to rape her and she once saved from slavery, to assassinate the king. When Charyn's curse is revealed, no child has been born since the princess Quintana 15 years ago, Froi is sent in as one of the last born boys. As Quintana claims to be the key to breaking the curse by bearing the first child, a child to be fathered by a last born boy, she is also fear... and ridiculed.

Quintana, daughter of the king's mistress, is forced to be intimate with every last born boy in the hopes of breaking the curse. Froi doesn't know what to expect from a girl of such a history, but when he meets her, he can't believe this is the princess talked about across the lands. She is a mess. Ratty hair, the same ugly, ill-fitting gown every day, odd behavior, and quite frankly, she is one step from total and complete madness. Froi should be disgusted, but there is something about this young woman who refers to herself as the "whore of Charyn". In playing his role as a last born, Froi learns more and more about Quintana as well as deeper and deeper layers into the mysteries of Charyn. The job he thought would be a relatively simple assassination quickly becomes a mystical and twisted tale he is closer to than he ever thought possible. With political instability on the horizon, invaders ready to storm the country, and traitors working from within the very castle they are supposed to protect, what chance does Froi have to remain detached?

This story left me speechless. And quite honestly, very little leaves me speechless! It was phenomenal. 10 stars out of 5. Beyond all expectations. Best book I have read since Finnikin. And I do not hyperbolize here. Marchetta is a genius. I have often thought of writing a book, but I fear after reading this book, the intimidation factor is just too great. How could I ever enter a genre where something like this is written?? But setting my star-struck, jaw-agape fascination, I can't tell you enough how brilliant this author and this series is. It defies all boundaries of greatness and Marchetta will be talked about a century from now. Mark my words- this series will be the new Lord of the Rings. It will be revered and passed on for decades.

The series is very, very mature. It is complex and intricate. It deals with terrifying situations and the evilness that has such a root in the human race. Stories are intertwined and confusing at first, but in the end, you will be left as floored as I was. I think Froi was always an interesting character for me, especially since he tried to rape Isaboe (before he knew she was the queen) and she forgave him. Now he is her most trusted companion besides her husband. How could you love this man? This book will make you not only love him, but respect him as well. His dealings with Quintana are funny and petulant at times, but they are amazing and transformative. And Quintana? This is a girl you think is crazy, brilliant, sad, brave, pitiful, exceptional, and everything in between. You are horrified by how she acts but then you see all she takes on to protect the nameless girls in her kingdom. It is such a tumultuous experience, you will finish this book and never be the same. But you will never forget Quintana and Froi either. Luckily... there is a third book! So here is to Quintana of Charyn! I can't wait.