Saving Francesca

Rating:
Author: Melina Marchetta
Genres: Young Adult
Pub. date: Mar. 2003 (re-read May 2019)

This was super enjoyable to read for the second time and I actually enjoyed it more on my re-read than I did the first time I read it. I’ve been dying to read her newest book, The Place on Dalhousie, but it’s not available at any bookstores in Canada or on the kindle store, so I finally broke down and ordered a copy from Book Depository. After ordering it, I discovered that it actually includes some of the same characters from Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son.

Saving Francesca was Marchetta’s second book, published in 2003, and The Piper’s Son was published several years after that. I believe all 3 books involve some of the same characters, but could all be read as stand-alones. The Piper’s Son is the only remaining Marchetta book that I haven’t read, so I decided to take the opportunity to re-read Francesca and Piper before I read the newest book.

I liked Saving Francesca on my first re-through, but it didn’t stand out to me. I think this is because I read it right after the first time I read On the Jellicoe Road. Jellicoe Road is one of my favourite books of all time, so after reading it I was enthusiastic to try out some of Marchetta’s other books, but Francesca couldn’t really compete with Jellicoe, so I didn’t rate it as highly. I’ve probably read Jellicoe 4-5 times since the first time I read it, but this was my first time re-reading Francesca and I really liked it a lot more. Now that I’ve had the time to separate it from Jellicoe Road and view it on its own merits (rather than just comparing it to Jellicoe), it’s actually a really good book.

Saving Francesca is about 16 year old Francesca Spinelli and her family. Francesca has always had a really close relationship with her mother and then one day, her mother basically shuts down and fails to get out of bed. She suffers from depression, which is something Francesca has never really been exposed to and struggles to understand. At the same time, Francesca has just started a new school and she misses her old friends and doesn’t feel like she belongs at her new school.

Even though none of her other books have been as great as Jellicoe Road, I have always loved Marchetta’s writing style and characterization. I would absolutely classify her as one of my favourite authors and even though I’ve outgrown a lot of YA, I don’t feel like I’ll ever outgrow Marchetta’s work. I love the way she writes teenagers and friendships. I don’t know how to describe it, but when I read her books, I feel like I’m walking into a world already fully realized. She is great at Show, Don’t Tell, and I never feel like I’m being introduced to a story, so much as just becoming immersed in it.

Her characters are so vibrant and I love the way they relate to one another. Melina is the master of the “from-hate-to-love” relationships and I love how she develops friendships in her books. Saving Francesca is a coming of age story as well as a book about mental illness. I mostly liked her approach to mental illness, with the exception of the aversion to taking medication for it. There shouldn’t be any stigma associated with taking medication for mental illness and wish it would be normalized more in books. Many people suffer from many different mental illnesses and medication really helps them. Francesca’s family was pretty adverse to it in this book, which was too bad because I think drugs could have helped Mia get back on her feet a lot faster.

But I did like her other themes about being there for one another and that having good days doesn’t mean that you’re better, but that having bad days also doesn’t mean that you’re not okay. The characters gave each other space to work through their issues and I liked that Francesca understood that while there maybe wasn’t a lot that she could do for her mother, simply being there might be enough.

One thing that really makes a book a winner for me is when an author writes well developed secondary characters. I loved all the secondary characters in this book, especially the teenagers. Every single one of them was flawed, yet they all had traits that made them special and likable. I loved Tara’s spirit and Siobhan’s unapologetic approach to life and Justine’s goodness and Thomas Mackee’s nonchalance and Jimmy’s soft understanding and support. I even kind of liked Will this time around, who I definitely didn’t on my first read through. He’s a bit of a shitty character, but I was willing to forgive him for his mistakes this time around and appreciated that he was able to grow and make choices outside of the rigid plans he set for himself.

This is a short book and subtle. I liked the honest depiction of mental illness, but as usual with Marchetta’s books, what really made it stand out was the characters. I love a good character driven book and she never lets me down. Can’t wait to read The Piper’s Son and The Place on Dalhousie!

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Empire of Storms

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genres: Fantasy
Pub date: Sep. 2016 (re-read Oct. 2018)
Series: Throne of Glass #5

It’s pub day for Kingdom of Ash! I finished my re-read of Empire of Storms in perfect timing (last night) and I already picked up a copy of Kingdom of Ash this morning! Here’s my review for Empire of Storms and I’ll be posting my review of Tower of Dawn in the next day or two while I read my way through the finale!


This book destroyed me. Even though I’ve already read it and I’ve had that cliffhanger hanging over me for the last two years, it still killed me. I am now dead, thanks Maeve.

In all seriousness though, with the exception of the ending, I barely remembered anything from this book aside from a rough outline of events. I forgot so many of the details that it was almost like reading a brand new book! I feel like this series keeps getting more and more convoluted, but I kind of love it. I don’t know if the way everything has come together was intentional from the beginning, or if Sarah has just somehow been able to make it all work out as she writes each new book, but I really hope it’s the former. I love smart plots. It’s what makes Harry Potter such a beloved classic. Sure, it’s fun and creative and heartbreaking, but it’s also insanely detailed and super clever. Empire of Storms has a crazy large cast of characters, and while I’m not super crazy about each of them, together it makes for smart and well developed story.

I really can’t guess at how Maas is going to resolve all this drama in the final book. I wonder if we’ll get some new character perspectives. In some ways I hope not because it’s hard enough keeping track of the 800 million characters we already have, but I also don’t think I could resist getting Ansel’s internal monologue.

What I loved about this book was that this is the first time we actually get all of the characters together at once (except for Chaol, not really missed TBH). In previous books the characters have all been doing their own thing, which makes for a dynamic story, but not always a fast paced one. Empire of Storms has a slightly slow start (although barely), but once you reach like… 15 or 20% it is literally impossible to put this book down! I think it has to do with our characters finally meeting up with one another. There are less storylines to follow, more badass-ery, and it just makes the whole plot flow a whole lot quicker. Like the entire final 30% of this book is just one huge nail-biter.

I definitely think this is one of the best books in the series. I’m still on the fence for which is better, Empire of Storms or Crown of Midnight, but it’s hard to compare them since they are very different in structure. CoM is more of a traditional fantasy with just 3 viewpoints, whereas EoS is undoubtedly epic fantasy. I love them both. The stakes are so high in this book and we finally get to see the full might of Aelin’s power. I know there are people out there that don’t like Aelin because it’s like she can do no wrong, but I think that in the first 3-4 books (at least), she makes a million mistakes and Queen of Shadows and EoS are the first books where she starts finally pulling her life together. Should she have held her secrets so close to her chest in this book, maybe not, but her whole life has revolved around secrecy up to this point and she does start bringing some of the members of her court into her plans. Not all of them, but hey, it makes for more dramatic reveals!

I have to talk about Lysandra first. I expressed my love for Lysandra in my QoS review and my love for her continues to grow in this book. I would argue that Aelin trusts Lysandra more than anyone, maybe even Rowan. She entrusts Lysandra with so many things in this book and with the greatest task of all at the end of the book. It’s so refreshing to see their female friendship amongst all these possessive male relationships. And I like her (mostly) non-interest in romantic relationships. Lysandra has been taken advantage of by men her entire life and I think it’s very accurate that she would have little interest in pursuing anything with men and I’m really glad Maas didn’t just impulsively hook her up with Aedion, even though that’s obviously where things are headed. Either way, Lysandra is BADASS. I can’t decide what I love more, sea dragon or ghost leopard.

Second, I have to talk about Elide. I did not love Elide in QoS. I didn’t dislike her, she was just kind of boring, but I am totally into her in EoS and think she’s actually one of Maas’ most important characters. Every other character Maas has written has been extremely physically powerful. They all have either magic or insane battlefield skills. I love that Elide has none of those things, yet she is not powerless. Fighting is not the only kind of strength. Lorcan gets Elide out of a lot of her mishaps, but she saves herself several times too and I loved that she was clever and always planning her next move to get herself out of trouble. One of my favourite scenes is early in when she successfully bluffs her way out of the Ilken attack. I was waiting for Lorcan to swoop in and save her and I loved that she got away on her wits alone. She is a bit of a pawn in the story sometimes, especially at the end, but she offers something very different from the rest of the characters. And yes, I totally ship her and Lorcan and LOVED Lorcan’s growth in this book.

Dorian’s storyline is interesting in EoS and I can’t decide if I like it or not. He is very passive for most of this book and to be honest, a lot of the time I kind of forgot he was there. He’s broken and recovering from what happened to him in QoS, so that’s to be expected, and I’m excited for where the story might take him in KoA. I like that Dorian ends up with the keys at the end of EoS because he has always deferred to Aelin in the past and I think it’s finally time for him to be one of the heroes of the story. I couldn’t decide whether I liked his darker side in this book or not though. He is definitely changed as a result of the Valg Prince and has a much darker side, portrayed most often with Manon, which I thought was realistic that he might have been a little corrupted by the valg prince, but I do miss the sweet Dorian from the first few books.

Try as I might though, I just don’t like Aedion. I find it hard to pinpoint what it is I don’t like about him. He’s too arrogant for me and I don’t like the emotional responses he has to things that upset him. He is a total asshole to Gavriel – I mean I can understand why he’d be pissed – but as far as I can tell Gavriel never really knew who he was and is blood-sworn to a psycho, so it’s not like there’s much he ever could have done about it. Plus Aedion does a 180 from QoS in his feelings about Aelin. In QoS, it’s like she could do no wrong, but in EoS he’s totally pissed at her all the time and I don’t like how he always reacts with anger. And then when he freaks out at Lysandra at the end for no one telling him about hers and Aelin’s plans – like you are not entitled to know everything or to everyone’s trust. When Lysandra was like, “I serve Aelin, not you”, I was like, “Yaaas girl, tell him”! He supposedly loves Lysandra and claims that he just wants her to be happy, whether it’s with him, someone else, or no one at all, but I still feel like he feels he’s entitled to her and it just irks me.

Anyways, I wasn’t planning to go through a detailed character portrait of everyone, but it’s hard not to because they are all such interesting people and it’s fun seeing how they’ve grown over the past few books. I won’t get into them all. I don’t think I have a whole lot to say on Rowan. The sex scenes are a little cringe-y, but overall I thought Rowan was toned down a lot in this book from the last and I liked him a lot more. PLEASE FIND AELIN FOR US ROWAN.

I also don’t have a whole lot to say about Manon. She was obviously BALLER in this book and I’m so glad to see her re-united with the thirteen. They are like the ultimate in girl power and I can’t wait to see what havoc they’re going to wreak in KoA.

In conclusion, my wish list for KoA is as follows:
– Rowan please find Aelin ASAP and save us all from the extended torture that has been the last two years. My heart has been trapped in an iron box all this time.
– More Ansel, maybe even an Ansel perspective? Love that fiery redhead!
– Dorian kicking some ass, becoming a hero in his own way and hopefully re-uniting his kingdom under a better banner than his father represented
– Manon and Asterin, I don’t care what they’re doing, I just think this is such a fun pair
– Happy Lysandra. Yes, Aelin made a huge sacrifice for her friends and her kingdom, but so did Lysandra. She is giving up everything and more than anything I just want to see her happy.
– Elide saving the day through some feat of wits, not strength. Also, even though I think Lorcan is a total coward for crawling after Maeve at the end of EoS, I hope these two can work it out because I love them together.
– Some alternative to “the queen that was promised” that doesn’t make us all blubbering messes at the end of this book

That’s all, it’s really a pretty simple wish list Sarah, my bad for not sending it to you earlier, please accommodate in tomorrow’s book release. JK, we all know we’re gonna be dead tomorrow because Sarah J Maas is going to kill us all with this finale.

September Monthly Challenge

I am feeling so re-energized after my August Monthly Challenge! I kind of flaked out a little bit on a real challenge in August and just challenged myself to read as many of my existing books as possible, but this was so successful in getting me out of my book slump and making a dent on my TBR!

I feel like my September Challenge is a bit half-assed too, but necessary. This month I am challenging myself to:

Re-read the Throne of Glass series

Yes, I have already read all the books in this series, but I’ve been dying for a re-read and I’ve been forcing myself to wait until just before the final book in the series, Kingdom of Ash, is released. I’ve been waiting for this book for what feels like FOREVER and I’m really excited to jump back into the Throne of Glass series and see what I think of it the second time around. I re-read The Assassin’s Blade in August so that I could start right with Throne of Glass in September. The Assassin’s Blade is the prequel to the books and I actually never read it until after I’d finished Empire of Storms, and I think the series is going to make so much more sense now that I’ve actually read this book. I would definitely recommend reading this one first if you’re just starting the series.

For those of you who are living under a rock and haven’t heard of Throne of Glass, it’s an 8 book series by Sarah J Maas, with the 8th and final book coming out on October 23rd. It’s set on the continent of Erilea, which has pretty much been conquered and taken over by the King of Adarlan. Celaena is from Terrasen, which was pillaged by Adarlan when she was 8 and magic suddenly disappeared from the land. She was found by Arobynn Hamel, the king of Assassin’s and trained to be the greatest assassin in all of Adarlan. The series follows Celaena and a huge cast of characters and as far as epic fantasies go, I do really love this one.

I am going to be on vacation for the second half of September, so I’m aiming to get through Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, and Heir of Fire in the next two weeks. Then I’ll continue with Queen of Shadows and Empire of Storms in October. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to re-read Tower of Dawn or not. I don’t really want to because I didn’t really like it and it is SO LONG. But honestly, I probably will because I want to be totally up to speed when I start Kingdom of Ash and I can’t really remember the important plot points at the end of Tower of Dawn… I just remember they were important to the greater story.