Far Far Away Book Review

In a small town, where nothing ever happens, everything is about to change

-cover

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Sup kids. It’s only been three months since I last updated. Ya know. We’re into taking it slow here. Anyways, y’all are in for a treat because this book was rad.

So we’re in the town of Never Better where Jeremy, our hero, is haunted by his own personal ghost, the spirit of Jacob Grimm. Yes, half of the famous brothers hangs around our young protagonist, acting as a sort of father and guardian angel. Because not all spirits are evil, okay? Jacob and Jeremy are pretty tight as far as things go, mostly because their arrangement has been going for so long that they’re both kind of used to it. But Jacob, while he enjoys Jeremy’s company, is looking for a way out. He doesn’t want to be in this world forever. He also knows that something bad is coming, specifically the Finder of Occasions, and he’s hoping that by being around to protect Jeremy from it, his good deed will send him into the Otherworld.

And what is this wicked thing that is coming to Never Better? Well, nobody quite knows yet. Except for a few missing kids, the town is mostly stagnant. And life for Jeremy is pretty boring until Ginger, the lady who stole his heart, takes a bite of an enchanted cake and falls in love with him. After that, things start to get a little more interesting.

I am doing a crap job of selling this story, but if you were perusing your local Barnes and Nobles or what have you, and you happened upon this book, I would definitely recommend reading the teaser on the inside flap, because it’s adorable and fascinating and it sucked me in to the story before I had even started it.

In short, this is basically a modern day fairy tale, told from the perspective of Jacob. It’s wonderfully quirky and, though the ending perhaps could have been a bit shorter, it’s hard to complain about this book. Because I genuinely haven’t experienced a story this good in a very, very long time. You know how many novels I checked out from the library this summer? Like thirty. Do you know how many I could actually get through? Four! I kept trying to tell myself, no, read more, it’s better for you, but kids, life is too short for bad books. Seriously. And I wasn’t going to waste my time stumbling through Shadow and Bone, that Grisha trilogy book. People are going nuts over it and I just don’t get it.

But this book? Oh god, this book. It was such a breath of fresh air. The characters were wonderful, just sweetly-flawed little humans tucked into the pages. The story made no pretensions of being anything other than the fairy tale it was, which was nice because it means I got exactly what I expected from it. But you know what really made this book was the writing. Just, the words. They were so good. Not like me, not like this jumbled mess of a blog post. It was so good to read a book where the author could navigate his way around the English language without sounding like SAT practice. He maintained the simple and understated style that the original Grimm Brother’s had, while making it wholly modern and accessible and just a pure joy to read. This book makes reading fun. You know, it’s less often than you think that I get to say that.  But here it is.

If you enjoyed the Book Thief, or Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, then this one is sure to make you smile as well. Because basically, I want to dunk this book in a hot cup of tea and enjoy it every Sunday morning; it’s simply delicious.

And before I head out, I just want to thank all the wonderful people that have been leaving me comments and keeping in touch with me  despite the fact that I am the worst updater in the world. I do read everything you guys post on here and it makes my heart sing to know that you guys are still reading after all these years. And, fear not, I’ve got some really great things in store for us this fall as a reward. So I’ll see you guys later (hopefully next week). Cheers!

Ri’s Rating:

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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

Fever Book Review

Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion, but they’re still in danger. Outside, they find a world even more disquieting than the one they left behind.

-Amazon Book Description

Fever by Lauren DeStefano

If you recall, a long time ago I wrote a review of a book called Wither. I enjoyed it and was really excited to see where the series was going. The sequel picked up right where Wither left of; Rhine and Gabe have just escaped from the mansion. So what do they do next? Life on the run isn’t easy and somehow Rhine and Gabe find themselves in a prostitution camp where they are a two-person cabaret act (an elegant one, we are told) to entertain wealthier guests. The camp is glitzy but Rhine and Gabe aren’t fooled. There are drugs, extortion; their chances of escaping are slim. Yet after spending hardly anytime there, they manage to do just that.

Right around here is where I got disappointed in the book.

First, I realized the writing was actually terribly average. For some reason, I had placed the book down. When I picked it up, I thought, “Wow. I could’ve picked up any old book; there is nothing unique about this one.” Which may be harsh, but it’s true.

The plot was the allure last time; it was secretive and drew you in. But here? The secret’s out. There was nothing to hold you. Rhine and Gabe argued all the time and they both quickly lost their charm. Rhine— she kept thinking about Linden. Didn’t she run away from him because she didn’t like what being his wife entailed? And she has Gabe! The last book was not  love triangle, so I couldn’t understand why this one was trying to be one.

Rhine and Gabe traverse Rhine’s old home after escaping the camp. They don’t accomplish much. In fact, none of my questions were answered. Rhine becomes obsessed with finding her brother and that’s where the book ends. With her on the hunt. Honestly, I feel like it was totally unnecessary, this whole book. I have zero interest in finishing this series and if one of you eventually does, let me know how it ended.

Ri’s Rating:

Q.5/QQQQQ
1.5/5


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.