Reading the End Bookcast, Ep. 94: Cozy Reads for Winter Nights, plus Tell the Truth Shame the Devil

I hope all the Christmas celebrators out there had wonderful Christmases! It’s Wednesday, and me and Whiskey Jenny are back to talk about the books we like to read when the weather turns chilly. We have a lot of thoughts about how this type of reading differs from comfort reading. Then we turn to Melina Marchetta’s first novel for adults, Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, about which we each went on a dramatic emotional journey. You can listen to the podcast using the embedded player below, or download the file here to take with you on the go!

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Here are the time signatures if you want to skip around.

1:00 – What We’re Reading
4:50 – Serial Box Book Club
10:53 – Cozy reads for winter nights
28:02 – Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, Melina Marchetta

Books Discussed This Episode

The Skriker, Caryl Churchill
Whipping Girl, Julia Serano
The Templars, Dan Jones
Geek Actually (episodes 5 and 6)
Sunshine, Robin McKinley
Jo Nesbo
Robert Galbraith
Miss Marple mysteries, Agatha Christie
A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong, Cecilia Grant
A Curious Beginning, Deanna Raybourn
Ada. or Ardor, Vladimir Nabokov
The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton
City on Fire, Garth Risk Hallberg
Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, Melina Marchetta

Get at me on Twitter, email the podcast, and friend me (Gin Jenny) and Whiskey Jenny on Goodreads. Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We appreciate it very very much).

Credits
Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Theme song by: Jessie Barbour

If you want to read a transcript, check it out under the cut!

Continue reading “Reading the End Bookcast, Ep. 94: Cozy Reads for Winter Nights, plus Tell the Truth Shame the Devil”

Review: Quintana of Charyn, Melina Marchetta

I actually forgot this book was happening, even though I read and loved Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles just last summer. I saw this one mentioned on Romance Novels for Feminists and immediately emailed Candlewick for a review copy. Which I now have! And it is up for grabs if anyone wants it, so ask in the comments if you’re interested. I’ll do a draw if I have more than one request. I beg you will not enter if you plan to try and read this book without reading the first two books first. You are only hurting yourself if you do that. [ETA: I’ve posted the book away now but you should still buy a copy because it’s good.] The series is kiiiiiind of like a much darker Queen’s Thief series. Speaking of that, when will Megan Whalen Turner have another book? I WANT ONE SO MUCH.

Since I reviewed neither Finnikin of the Rock nor Froi of the Exiles at the time, I will quickly run through the premise of the series. The premise is that many years ago, the country of Charyn invaded the country of Lumatere. The Lumateran royal family were brutally murdered, as were thousands of other residents of Lumatere, and a Charynite imposter took the throne. Furious at the slaughter of her people, a witch of Lumatere called down a terrible curse that prevented anyone from getting in or out of Lumatere, and stopped any Charynite women from having babies from that day forward. So that is the backstory, and then the series itself is about the aftermath of all this — how the Lumaterans and the Charynites have struggled to put themselves back together since the time of these horrors.

You know what I love, my dears? Conflicts about values! And also I love the Scouring of the Shire and Among Others. Which is why this series — and Melina Marchetta generally — is pleasing to me in spite of being (the lovely Julia might pull for the inclusion of a modifier like “cartoonishly” or “over the top” here) dark and full of sadness and pain. Marchetta’s books are not typically about The Event (whatever it might have been; in this case the war and its aftermath), but rather the fallout from The Event.

Marchetta is good at making you love characters who at first seem rotten through and through. At the end of Finnikin of the Rock, you may just about be willing to admit the possibility of Froi’s redemption, but you know you still hate all of Charyn. At the end of Froi of the Exiles, you adore Froi and totally understand why Finn and Isabel are so devoted to him, and you think Charyn might not be so bad after all but there definitely isn’t any way for it to ever have peace with Lumatere because it’s still mostly hateful. And, er, I won’t spoil the end of Quintana of Charyn, but I will say again that Melina Marchetta is wonderful and makes her characters act with painful, but believable, grace.

Like many Melina Marchetta books, there’s some barrier to entry with Quintana of Charyn. Marchetta jumps straight back into the action without a lot of “previously on” to assist you (which is why you should read it right after reading the first two! in a glorious binge, Ana!). She eventually does provide some background — like, this is who this guy is to Froi, this is what happened with Lucian and Phaedra, and so on — and I was able to jump back in the swing of things without too much difficulty. In the beginning our characters are much divided, by emotional and physical distance. Early in the book, Finnikin said Froi was dead to him, and I was just spiraling into premise denial when this happened:

“You returned for me, Finn. After everything you said…I’m surprised you were able to convince Perri and your father to return.”

Finnikin laughed. “All I had to do was stop the horse and say, ‘I think…’ and they were racing back into the woods to you.”

So then I was back in. I just hate it when people I love are in a fight. I do not read Melina Marchetta books for people to hate each other. I read them because people in Melina Marchetta books are — once they’ve bestowed their love — unswervingly loyal. My fave!

In a way, I enjoyed this third book less than the first two, maybe because a few things felt like a retread of emotional territory that was already covered in Froi of the Exiles and even in Finnikin of the Rock. But that’s okay. It’s been a while since those two books came out, and I had forgotten a lot of the stuff that happened in them.

As in the first two books, I loved watching the development of a cautious respect, then an intense love and loyalty, between the characters — in this case, between Quintana and the women who were guarding her. It’s great that Marchetta doesn’t feel the need to soften Quintana’s nastiness and weirdness, but just shows you that there are other sides to this damaged woman that make other characters’ devotion to her understandable.

And, of course, as with all Melina Marchetta books, I loved it that the thrust of the book seemed like it was going to be toward revenge and war, but instead it was toward forgiveness. (In the words of the super great Tony Kushner, forgiveness is where love and justice finally meet. Oh Tony Kushner you glorious genius.) And that is why I like Melina Marchetta even though many sad things (perhaps too many? one might argue?) occur in her books.

Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.

You know what? Candlewick Press!

Hi, everyone! I am back from my hiatus and have missed you awfully. For the first few weeks I was like, Yeah! Freedom! No blog posts to write!, but then pretty soon I felt forlorn at not hearing from you, and I have this new Nook where you can highlight passages, which means I don’t have to constantly be at war with myself about whether this one passage is entirely awesome enough to be worth dogearing a poor little book what never did me any harm. I can just press highlight. Er, but anyway, so, I have missed you, and now I am back. I can’t promise I will be the world’s best blogger, but I’m going to do my best to schedule posts in advance and then be at leisure to answer comments and read your wondrous posts all during the week. We’ll see how it goes.

Upon the occasion of my return, I would just like to say: Candlewick Press. Is pretty much the greatest. It would be impossible for there to be one publishing house that published all the books to cater to all my reading needs, but Candlewick Press reliably hits a few very sweet spots for me, which are:

  1. Young adult books that do not mind being Dark. (Hi, Patrick Ness!) (It’s cool to be an author and have a last name that rhymes with “Press” cause then if Patrick Ness wants to he can say “I’m Patrick Ness of Candlewick Press,” thus making the world sound more like a Dr. Seuss book.)
  2. Excellent characters I care about.
  3. Putting excellent characters I care about in dark situations that are dark, and then sticking all the emotional landings. This is tricky! Not everybody can do it. But Candlewick authors seem singularly gifted in this area.

If you are taking this rave about Candlewick to mean that I still love Patrick Ness and have used the summer months to read through Melina Marchetta’s backlist, and am drawing generalizations based on those two examples because I like having rules to guide my reading, especially in YA fiction where I like plots dark and emotional landings stuck, you are correct. That is exactly what is going on here. But I think I’m right! I have a plan to read a whole bunch of Candlewick’s fall catalog of middle grade and young adult books, and then report back to you on how right I was about Candlewick being awesome in general. Not just because of two authors I think are good, but all the time.

So that’s that. Now, a programming note.

I am tired of my blog having this boring name, and I am thinking of changing it. I called it a boring thingĀ only because I did not really realize how amazing the blogging community was going to be, and that actual people in the world were going to be reading my blog. I thought it was just going to be a site on the internet nobody but me knew about where I would keep a record of what I was reading. But that turned out to be wrong, and then I was too lazy to change the name, but I kind of want to change it now. Any suggestions? Something slightly weird would be best, because I am slightly weird. And something that suggests “Books may be read about herein.” Or maybe something to do with being from Louisiana? Or living in New York? Or reading the end before I read the middle? Any suggestions are welcome!

And, hi! I missed you!

Review: Jellicoe Road, Melina Marchetta

One definite conclusion I have reached from the first half of no-spoilers September is that reading the end sometime saves you misunderstanding the point of a book. I was sure Jellicoe Road was a good fit for the RIP Challenge, a dark gothic fantasy orphan boarding school book. When really all along it was a dark family tragedy orphan boarding school book. Happily for me and my reading experience, I like family tragedy nearly as much as gothic fantasy, so this disparity made me merely muddled, and not ultimately dissatisfied.

Orphan Taylor Markham is the leader of the Jellicoe School army, which must defend its territory against the Cadets and the Townies in a war that has been going on since long before any of them were born. But the lines between the students, the Townies, and the Cadets become fuzzy when Taylor’s longtime guardian Hannah disappears without a word, and Taylor begins to learn more about her own past, and how it relates to a car accident that happened on the Jellicoe Road over two decades ago.

While I was reading this book, I was sometimes bewildered and flipping backward (but never forth! I am a woman of my word!) because of how many characters there were. I was not always immediately able to keep them straight. Fortunately a quick glance at the other reviews, using the Book Blogs Search Engine created by the lovely and brilliant Fyrefly (this blatant plug brought to you by Book Blogger Appreciation Week because I seriously appreciate the hell out of that search engine), revealed to me that everyone found this book bewildering. Hooray! Or, well, semi-hooray. Hooray that I am not alone, and unhooray that when you read this book, and I think you should, you may experience some confusion because the characters are many and sometimes difficult to keep straight.

Apart from that one problem, I loved Jellicoe Road. Once I got past the first couple of chapters, I was absolutely sucked in and couldn’t stop reading. Marchetta manages to make the reader feel that a lot is at stake in the characters’ relationships, without any of them becoming overwrought. High-stakes relationships are lovely to read about, but hard to sustain, and Marchetta manages it at least partly by never giving anyone a pause to catch their breath. The characters suffer, fairly endlessly, but not unreasonably much, not so much that you start thinking, Oh, come on, you’re just trying to think of more and more and more things to do to them; which is something I start thinking pretty quickly with depressing books.

Rereading may turn up a different reaction, because the more I think about it, the more I cannot believe how much pain and suffering the characters all go through. But on this first reading, I was whipping through at a breakneck pace because I was dying to find out what happened the kids in Hannah’s book, and what was going to happen to Taylor and Hannah and Jonah Griggs and the Brigadier. I am excited to read more by this author, and I have checked out a book by her that actually is fantasy and I assume from past experience is dark, so I can read that for the RIP Challenge instead of this.

Who else read it:

Book Addiction
Necromancy Never Pays
Emily and Her Little Pink Notes
Hey Lady! Whatcha Reading?
It’s All About Books
Angieville
The Happy Nappy Bookseller
bookshelves of doom
Persnickety Snark
my fluttering heart
Inkweaver Review
The Children’s Literature Book Club
Wordbird
The YA YA YAs
YAnnabe
Teen Book Review
Maggie Reads
Random Thoughts from a Random Teen
Dear Author

If I have missed yours I will gladly add a link!