Long Lankin Book Review

Said my lord to my lady, as he mounted his horse:
‘Beware of Long Lankin that lives in the moss.’

-pg 1

Long Lankin Lindsey Barraclough

This one is long over due. It’s sad, but besides two more posts, I will be basically caught up on reviewing all the books I’ve read since summer. It’s not that I haven’t had time to read since university started, but that it took a lot longer than I thought to set up a local library card. And the selection was…low. I’ve got a lot on hold, and there are also some fantastic books coming out in the coming months that I have rationed my Nook gift card for so at least we have that to look forward to. In the meantime, let’s talk about Long Lankin.

A summary: Cora (our main character) and her little sister Mimi are dropped off in the countryside to live with their elderly Aunt Ida who is, to say the least, not happy to see them. Auntie Ida has her reasons for her displeasure– last time two young girls came to visit her, dark events came to pass, and the appearance of Cora and Mimi threatens to awaken that evil. With the help of Roger and Peter, two young village boys, Cora must unravel the secrets of the past in time to save her sister from the clutches of Long Lankin.

In my humble opinion, it is very difficult to make a book scary. You don’t have music, or visuals. I think it’s much more difficult to build anticipation with words. But when well executed, the result can be, well, astounding.  I’m easily scared, I’ll admit that. But this book was one of the most terrifying things I have ever read in my life. It was deeply, bone-chillingly haunting.

Half the reason for this was the excellent development of Long Lankin, our source of terror. So there’s this horrific poem from olden times that tells of a murderer, Lankin, who sought to revitalize his body with the blood of an infant. Barraclough took this little known tale and wove it into Cora’s story, adding on some 400 years of history surrounding Lankin. There was a lot of material to explore here and the author revealed it all so very slowly, keeping the anticipation ripe and the tension high. I was so very curious about Lankin’s back story because I think that’s what makes a villain truly terrifying, when they’re so well-developed, they seem real.

The sweet fear of wanting to know more about Lankin tangled with the mystery and desperation of Cora’s situation. There’s some dramatic irony here; from the poem, you know sort of what Lankin is and that Mimi, the younger sister, is in danger because Lankin feeds of children. So there’s tension knowing that Cora’s stubbornness could land them in some serious trouble. Yet at the same time, you are very much in the dark because this evil creature isn’t fully revealed; it’s done tantalizingly slow. A glimpse here, a shadow under the window. A rustle in the dark. So you know what’s out there. You know what it wants. But you don’t know how it got to be, what it’s going to do next, and more terrifyingly, how it– and even if– it can be defeated.

In this way, I found myself totally engaged in Cora’s story. Lots of eager page flipping and honestly, I couldn’t sleep while I was reading this. Mostly because when Lankin is fully described, it’s so utterly human and creepy that you just can’t help but jump at every sound, every tap at the window.

Apart from mastering the art of instilling fear into the reader, the story has a great plot. I mean this is a lot of build up that goes somewhere. It’s an original story, from beginning to end. There were twists and turns and solutions I would have never thought of. At no point did I figure out what was going to happen next, which is so very rare an instance these days.

The writing was excellent. Moody, atmospheric, engaging. While Cora is the main character and usually the narrator, other characters also take over the point of view, which injects a certain depth into the story: you learn about the little details of the side characters and this odd little town. Each character definitely had personality and voice. Sure, I got frustrated with some of the character’s actions, but the way that makes you fist pump the air, like aww yeah character development!

I have to say I especially liked the relationships between Corra, Mimi, Roger, and Peter. They acted and thought like children, in that weird wise and stupid, brave and fearful place that kids seem to embody. They would fight and tease each other and they ran around and I guess there was just something in the way they talked and interacted with each other that really brought them to life in my head. I have a very clear vision of what they look like and how their voices would sound, as if I had watched a movie, despite the book not really going into detail about these things. They came across very naturally.

The ending for this book was great. I don’t want to give anything away, but let me tell you that there was no slow part, from beginning to end. It’s a longer read, but it kind of sneaks up on you and wraps you up and at some point you’ll look up and realize that it’s past midnight and you have to make that long walk up the dark stairway by yourself and you’re so invested in the story and it’s all so real to you that you the thought of going upstairs on your own is the absolutely most terrifying thing.

What? That was just me?

Well, my point is I read this book during the summer when it was hot and sunny, and it was great, but guys, it’s winter and how great would a story like this would be when the trees are bare and the nights are cold and long? Lemme tell you, it’d be awesome.

Ri’s Rating:

QQQQ/QQQQQ
4/5


0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.

The Wicked and the Just Book Review

“All that coined still owed, and back they’ll come at Easter. God only knows what they’ll see fit to take next.

-pg 146

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats

This book was such a shock for me. It’s historical fiction taking place in 13th century England and focuses on the tensions between the newly conquered Welsh and the English. The story is from the point of view of two girls, one an English landowner’s daughter (Cecily) and her Welsh servant (Gwen). The little book flap talks about how Cecily moves to Caernarvon which has a large Welsh population and Gwen is her servant and they clash and I read it thinking holy crap what kind of dumb sister bonding story have I gotten myself into.

But thing was, it was nothing– nothing– like what I expected. In fact, the last thing this book is was a stupid story about people overcoming their differences.

It was much more serious. I’ll tell ya, Cecily was a bit of an idiot. She was selfish and vain and didn’t know how to consider others. Probably because she never had to, and especially because she had been raised to think that way. There’s no point in degrading her for these traits, they’re historically sensible and just the way she was. And it’s not like Gwen was better. She was cruel and you wonder how many problems she could’ve solved with proper communication. What we have in this story are two equally flawed and infuriating characters living in a time of social and political unrest. These outside factors eventually explode and change the lives of Gwen and Cecily.

From that description the books sounds mature and adult-orienteted, but it’s not. It’s historical fiction for young adults, kids. Anyone, really.

What I really appreciated about this book was the way it told a historical story with great simplicity and realism. There was no extended explanation about how people dressed or long details about what the clothes look like. No Shakespearian/slang mash-ups. I’m sure the authenticity was due to the fact that the author is a historian and thus very familiar with the time. This translated into what I can only describe as a window to the past. It felt very real and natural.

I also enjoyed the fact that the characters were not sidetracked by clichés. There is no romance here, though there seemed many a time where that would be a possibility. However, going down that path would’ve detracted from the history; it would’ve been an easy solution to the tensions between Gwen and Cecily.

This is certainly one of my shorter reviews. Overall, I enjoyed reading this and I feel like it’s the type of book that should be picked up in 4th to 9th grade classrooms for reading and discussing and learning.

Ri’s Rating:

QQQ/QQQQQ
3/5


0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.

Scarlet Book Review

No one really knows ’bout me. I’m Rob’s secret, I’m his informant, I’m his shadow in dark places.

-pg 1

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Recently I was accused of skimming books but hey– here’s a book that I read all the way, so you can put that in your pipe and not smoke it because duh cancer.

Well the short of the long is that I loved this book. Sometimes I wish that books were like candy in that I can have a pile of Twix and that is good, but having multiple copies of the same book does nothing for my happiness and this frustrates me. Because I want more of this book.

This book was about Robin Hood. I adore him. I host equal love for retellings of legends. This book was a blend of both and it was indeed a potent mix.

For those of you who don’t know, Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men had quite a few characters besides the well-known Little John. There was his pal Will Scarlet. Now in the original tale, Will’s a boy. But here, the main character is a female Scarlet, masquerading as a boy (the gang knows her secret) in order to hide from certain men (don’t want to spoil anything). The traditional story of thieving from the rich in order to give to the poor is carried out, but more emphasis is put on the fact that Robin is the rightful (though currently displaced) lord of Nottinghamshire. This gives the plot a firmer structure because the Merry Men have an overall goal of getting Rob his land and titles back as opposed to just being outlaws forever. Since we’re talking plot here, I’d just like to throw in that there was good suspense and plot twists that I never saw coming. Snaps for Gaughen!

Now Scarlet is the main character of this book and she has her own set of secrets and problems, but her focus, as a loyal member of Rob’s group, is on helping him. Scarlet never told the group about her past and I won’t spoil it here for you, but as she wants to keep her true identity hidden, it makes utter sense that she won’t be setting up her own agenda anytime soon.

Scarlet was the type of character I can really get behind. She was brave and fiercely loyal to Rob, a whizz at knives (as was the traditional Will Scarlet character), and she even had some flaws. Scar had an eating problem (not like anorexia). As she described it in the book, Rob felt the injustice of his people and she felt their hunger; it made her sick to think of eating when others couldn’t. Admittedly this fizzled out a bit towards the end, but it was an interesting trait to give a character. Scarlet was also stubborn to a fault and it got her in trouble many a time.

The nifty thing about this story was disbursement of personality among characters other than Scarlet. I felt like Rob and Little John and the other Merry Men had their quirks, their habits, their ups and downs. For instance, Rob had a serious hero complex which really defined his actions in the story. At times, his desire to be a martyr was even a little frustrating— but in the sort of way that brings me glee because he wasn’t perfect.

In fact, as far as casts go, this one was particularly lively and engaging. Part of that can be attributed to Scarlet’s narration. She had such a strong voice— I could pick her out of a sampling of first person characters. Mainly because she spoke like a commoner with funky grammar. Initially I was like, what the cabbage? But it grew on me quickly and really made Scar’s world pop. In general though, the writing was excellent. Well paced, great dialogue, good vocabulary. I mean, it was just a delight to read this writing.

If you were to look online at this book, it would certainly come off as a trashy romance novel because the descriptions focus obscenely on the fact that Scarlet (understandably) likes Rob. Well let me tell you that it is a feature of this book but not the highlight. The romance was very tasteful. It’s slow building and they’re both a little thick but in a sweet sort o f way. But it does not overwhelm the action or the greater plot. It adds to the story, like icing on a cake.

I mean, if I really had to think about, this book was like icing on the icing. Better on great. I just really enjoyed it in a way that I haven’t enjoyed many books recently. It was original and so very different from the dystopian cesspool out there. I loved that it managed to mix elements of adventure and romance and folklore in a really approachable and enjoyable way.

When I first read it I was so impressed I was shocked at my feelings so the next morning I woke up and read the whole thing over again. And I still loved it.

If you’re still not convinced I will let you know that WordPress’ recommended link right now is for a Wikipedia page called “WOW.” Even the internet is impressed and if that doesn’t get you readings this– there is no end for that sentence because you should be reading this.

Ri’s Rating:

QQQ.5/QQQQQ
3.5/5


0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.

Under the Never Sky Book Review

Since she’d been on the outside, she’d survived an Aether storm, she’d had a knife held to her throat, and she’d seen men murdered. This was worse

-Amazon Book Description

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

I feel like the year was 1956 when I read this. So long ago. And I don’t even have my notes with me…but I think I can still write a fair review.

Aria and Perry are the heroes of this story. (It’s told in first person, alternating points of view.) Aria lives quite the sheltered life inside the Reverie– the world outside is actually quite dangerous for once. It’s not just propaganda. There are dangerous Aether storms and the world is decidedly harsher. But one thing leads to another and Aria finds herself kicked out of the Reverie’s safety and into Perry’s world. Naturally, he is unwilling to keep her around as they have separate agendas, but she grows on him and vice versa and they end up both seeking a better world (one without the Aether storms) with their friends…I think– it’s been a while.

So basically this story is an adventure with Aria and Perry walking around. A lot.

Anyways, Aria and Perry are good narrators. I think I prefered Perry a little bit more as Aria’s single-minded determination to achieve her goals seemed kind of fruitless, but probably because I could guess at what was going to happen to her and her goals long before it did. So she was pinning after something that I knew wasn’t going to end well. Did that make her unbearable? Not really, just not as good as Perry.

Perry for his part was humorous. I don’t know if that was intended or not. Probably wasn’t. But the way he could barely keep his hands off Aria– when that happened, I laughed. Like at one point, they were training with swords or whatever and he was like, too close, can’t handle it and handed the job off to his friend. Okay, so it’s one of those things where you have to be there to see the humor, but I guess you hardly see a male lead weak-kneed over a girl, so it was funny. And nice.

And since we’re on the topic of the love story, (though I hardly know how we got here) it was one of the better ones I’ve read. Solid. Not too whiny.

The final stages of the story I felt were a little passive, a little hurried. Like the author was trying to wrap things up. I didn’t see the point since there was obviously going to be a sequel. Just cut it off when the going is good if there is gonna be more to come anyways.

Have I covered everything yet? I feel like I’ve talked a lot without really saying much. Or I’ve just said a lot and made no sense. I’m reading what I wrote and man I sound nuts.

The writing was good. Definitely read-able. The plot was engaging, though the back story has some explaining to do. But maybe in later books?

To be honest, this book may be better than I’m making it seem, but it reminds me very strongly of two books I’ve read with two very similar concepts. So first, the Aether storms sweep through the change the people and the landscape and they’re dangerous and magical right? But I experienced that in the amazing story of The Storm Thief. I mean, it’s basically the same thing, except The Storm Thief was better. And then Perry, he’s supposed to be a savage. But to be honest, he wasn’t that wild. Maybe the society was a little more violent, but if you want real savages in heart-stopping action, then I’d choose The Inferior any day– it’s such a good book.

So you see my dilemma here is that this book is a lesser combination of stories that I loved. But most people probably haven’t read either of those books. I highly recommend them, guys. But if you’re set on this one, I suppose you could do worse. Maybe the sequels will blow me away.

Yeah so to end this, if my feels for this book were a salsa, they’d be mild.

Word.

Ri’s Rating:

QQQ/QQQQQ
3/5


0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.

Born Wicked Book Review

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship – or an early grave.

-Amazon Book Description

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Okay so I tried to update, but I don’t know why it takes me so long. I have all these notes and it’s not even hard. So I apologize. For the delay? I don’t even know what I’m saying any more. Let’s just get on to the review.

I really liked this book. When I first started it I questioned why I was reading it. Wasn’t it just going to be another pathetic paranormal romance? Filled with overused tropes and lacking in plot?

Oh was I wrong. This is the story of three young witches who are trying to keep their secret hidden in a world where having magical powers would get them killed by the Brotherhood, a religious sect that controls the area. To add a little more crazy into Cate’s (the eldest sister, our main character, and narrator) life, she only has a few months left before she must choose who she is going to marry, or if she’d rather become the equivalent of a nun in the Sisterhood. Making her choice complex is her childhood sweetheart returned home and Finn, her gardener and fellow suspect in the eyes of the Brotherhood.

From that summary, yeah it may sound a little typical. But it’s so well executed that old becomes new and I was too caught up in the story to really think, ugg love triangle? Actually, while we’re on the subject, I was happy to see that the love triangle isn’t exactly what you expect. Initially, I was all for the childhood sweetheart, but as the story progressed (and as Cate got to know him better) I became more intrigued with Finn. It isn’t actually a conflict of loving both of them; she knows who she likes more.  Her decision is between a life of a love and a life of safety. As the leader of the house, she also has to ensure that her sister will be okay, so you can start to see why it isn’t easy for her to drop everything and follow her heart.

From the details in the setting, I want to say that this story takes place in New England America, and I’d like to say it’s around the turn of the century, but it’s hard to be sure. Mostly because the signs are subtle, and because the author has picked and chosen aspects of certain times that she likes best. There’s Salem Witch Trial-esque happens, and but chaperones seem to be required, but technology is slack and the fashions seems a little outdated. But maybe that’s the Brotherhood’s doing?

Regardless, I kind of loved that you can’t place it exactly because then the author is competing with any preconceived notions. She has the freedom to make rules as she likes, and I guess that’s in what made this such a fun read. Sometimes, especially when books are set in the past, I get hot and bothered over historical inaccuracies; if they’re using folklore or legends, I don’t like it when they get the stories wrong.But here, Spotswood set her own standards for what was acceptable or not in this society and it makes the tale believable. Her characters aren’t stuck speaking in a weird mush of old and modern, which was great.

The fantastical elements also blend well. I’m not a huge fan of characters discovering their powers, and I kind of liked the way the sisters were aware of what they could do and how the younger ones were frustrated by not being able to learn more. One thing that was handled nicely was the use of magic, because it seems like hey if you have magical powers, you really shouldn’t have any problems. Because you can just magic them all away.

But magic was logical here and when I thought, why don’t they just use their powers now, they did. And when they shouldn’t have, they didn’t. Lovely.

There’s a lot of mystery here due to the Brotherhood, the side characters, and lore of the book. Background is slowly revealed (with good pacing) and I felt like this tale has solid roots, you know? Like, the author thought about this a bit before writing it down.

I really enjoyed Cate as a character. She was intelligent, very family oriented, and focused. I liked her story; I liked this book. I even liked the cover a lot.  I am actually pretty excited for the next one in the series and I hope that the author can keep this up. Invest a few days in this one, guys. So worth it.

Ri’s Rating:

QQQ.5/QQQQQ
3.5/5


0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.