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.

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The Treachery of Beautiful Things Book Review

The trees had swallowed Tom whole.

-pg 3

The Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Frances Long 

It’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed a book, I know. But it’s been even longer since I last read one. I don’t know why but they’re a lot harder to come by in college. Also, I’m just waiting on a lot of books to be released?

Okay so anyways, in this book a girl named Jenny and her older brother Tom are walking by some woods while Tom coaxes some rad tunes out of his flute. His masterful playing attracts some wicked folk and, like the quote says, the woods gobble him up. Jenny goes home and tries to explain this to her mother. She is called crazy, of course, and several psychiatrists later, she is kinda starting to believe that this was all some weird dream. But then one day she hears Tom’s radical music snaking out from the same ol’ woods that swallowed him. Jenny (she’s a bright girl) decides to follow the music see if she can find Tom and bring him home. This plan, of course, does not go well.

So Jenny’s wandering through the woods gettin’ into all kinds of trouble when Jack, a guardian of the divide between the faerie world and the human world, finds her. Initially he wants to get her out of his woods but then he decides she’s kinda hot and also he strikes some deals with various forest kings and queens and he ends up accompanying Jenny on her hunt for Tom.

Jack and Jenny share narration of the story. Jenny is very average. I can’t really say that there was anything outstanding about her except that she can’t stand firm with her beliefs to save her life. The number of times she changed her mind about how she felt towards Jack was killer. And I don’t mean I love him/I don’t love him flip-flopping. But like, he’s good/he’s evil. Seriously, Jenny. He wasn’t that deep. Obviously he wasn’t a bad dude.

As for Jack, he is initially someone you want to hang out with because he’s got a cool job (guarding the edge). He reminded me a bit of Peter Pan. Immortal. Young. Probably hot. The author makes him especially dreamy by having him pine for his freedom by tying wishes, in the form of white strips of cloth, onto a tree.

Sigh.

Jenny falls for this. Their romance isn’t overly saccharine, but it is obvious. Even when the odds are stacked against them, it’s hardly a question of  will they be together but when. I’ll admit, though, I thought it was cute. Nothing special, but cute.

Okay got a little distracted there. Back to Jack’s character. He’s you’re typical immortal forest guardian, though as the story goes on he gets a little dreary. I’m not a fan of characters who agonize over decisions they’ve made (the Do I Help Jenny decision). I mean, I understand a little regret, and I suppose if the character was anal-retentive this would have made sense. But it did not line up with the personality that was already established. What made this particular trait more frustrating was that the story never really explained what the negative repercussions were for helping Jenny, or breaking one of his many allegiances, which begs the question, why agonize over them? Moreover, it never fully explained the roles of those people with whom he had those allegiances. Are you getting confused? Well, now you understand me while I was reading this book.

The rest of the story follows suit. It had some really cool mythology lingering on the sides and an interesting concept, but was bogged down by the romantic aspects, which tended to take center stage more than they should have, an unnecessarily twisty plot, and excessive description. I  remember there was this part towards the end, where Jenny was trying to save the day, and I honestly had no idea what was going on. There were lots of boxes? And hundreds of Jacks? I mean, my understanding was really a moot point anyways since I’d already guessed what was going to happen. I’m not saying this not as some cocky book-psychic. I don’t want to come off as elitist or all knowing (though I am both). (No I’m kidding; I’m not.) I’m just trying to make a point that there was some good source material here and that it did not live up to its full potential; instead it got confusing and predictable.

And the plot. It was doing leaps and tumbles and going places when I just wanted it to follow a path. There were quests and then quests within quests, which, lemme say, I am not a fan of. Like, calm down Mckayla Maroney; I’m not going to dock you points for a linear plot. Sometimes simple, especially when you have a strong setting and mythology to draw on, is better.

I just re-read this review and realized I never mentioned Tom, Jenny’s brother, again. I wish I could fix this but what to say? I have no idea what happened to him.

Basically, this book had me thinking it was going to be a wicked romp through some traditional (and maybe unexplored) mythology. It started off quite well– the writing purely in terms of words was good– but as the book wore on, reading it became more laborious and while I didn’t lose interest per se, I definitely lost patience. It became confusing and the end was so terribly predictable that I can’t even call it satisfying. It had such potential! And sometimes that’s a worse taste than something obviously mundane.

Ri’s Rating:

QQ.5/QQQQQ
2.5/5


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.

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.

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.