Memory – Madison E. Grey

 

4/5 stars.

Initially, I wasn’t sure how much I was going to enjoy this book. The blurb sounds similar to a lot of YA fantasy that I’ve read, but after the disastrous attempt at reading (and enjoying) The Cabin (see my review here), reading Memory was a relief.

Ms. Grey did an excellent job of reeling the reader into the story. There were parts of the story that were less gripping than others, but overall, I wanted to find out what happened, and nothing got in the way of that throughout the story. There were a few slips in the editing throughout the book, but compared to many other YA authors that I’ve read (again, see my review on The Cabin as a direct comparison), Grey’s writing was a joy to read.

The only thing that caused me to rate this a 4/5 instead of a 5/5 was that the pacing in the last 40% of the book or so was a little rushed, and there were parts that were a little unclear. There was also a lot of action packed into the latter 40% or so, that seemed to serve little purpose but to move the story along. But again, these were not enough to be a detriment to the book overall or to decrease my enjoyment of the story.

Here is a list of what makes Memory work well for me:
* No insta-love and the romances are not the main focus of the story
* Main characters that are actually likable
* Humorous but realistic view of life/the world/the situations in which the characters find themselves
* Compassionate characters
* Not a lot of telling, but a lot of showing (YES!!!!!)
* Prose that is not clunky and a story arc that flows well

The only other issue that I have is that Memory ended on a kind-of cliffhanger that points to reading the sequel… but I can’t complain too much about that, since some of my favorite YA authors do the same.

Definitely would recommend to anyone who loves a quick, action-filled fantasy tale. Also for those who are burnt out on the typical YA protagonists and love triangles – this was a welcome breath of fresh air. I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye out for more books by Ms. Grey!

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They Mostly Come Out At Night – Benedict Patrick

Many thanks to the author for providing a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

5/5 stars.

I am just going to make a note at the beginning of my review: this is an honest review. I’m not giving this 5/5 stars as a favor or anything like that. I don’t do that stuff.

But… Wow. Just wow. When I initially received a copy of this book, I read 70% of it in about 2 days. I knew I would probably give it a 5/5 rating, but I wanted to give myself some time/space away from it just in case I was a little too excited about it to be fair.

So I set it aside. The week or two that I meant to set it aside for, turned into about four or five months (or 6 months…). I picked it up again today, and finished it.

Why am I telling you this? Well, so you know that my 5/5 stars was not just the starstruck “Oh my gosh this book was amazing” high that I sometimes get after reading a novel that gripped me. This is a starstruck “Oh my gosh this book was amazing AND I WANT MORE” high that has lasted for months.

As a voracious reader as well as a writer myself, I have a very vivid imagination. As such, I don’t watch TV – I read instead. Seeing things like book adaptations on TV/in movies can be somewhat frustrating since they’re not always portrayed as I’d like to see them portrayed. I know for some people, TV is relaxing and more distracting.

Again – why am I telling you this? Because reading They Mostly Come Out At Night is like watching the action-driven portion of a movie, except you get to fill in what the characters and places look like yourself. I could completely envision myself there, with Lonan, with Artemis, with the Magpie King… fighting in the forests, running through the halls of the Eyrie, seeing the destruction in the Eyrie, seeing the darkness that overtook the forest. I could also very vividly see the more gory scenes even though they were not extremely gorily written (so the enchantment of “seeing” what I read, especially evident in this book, was not always a blessing).

I don’t entirely know how Benedict Patrick managed to write They Mostly Come Out At Night the way he did. I don’t know how this book, above all others that I’ve read in recent years, plays out in my brain like a movie, with none of the issues that watching movies/TV comes with for me. I don’t know what it was about his writing that pulled me in, but whatever it was, I want more.

I loved how myths and legends were the backbone of this book. It was not a unique idea, but the way that it was carried out was, in my opinion, unique and wonderful. I definitely recommend this to anyone, but especially those who love fantasy combined with myths/legends.

Warning, though: They Mostly Come Out At Night does have portions that are dark and sad. So be ready to be pulled into the world that Benedict Patrick has created, and be ready to feel All The Things™.

Blog tour, part 3: My review of Downcast by Cait Reynolds.

Prior to reading this review, I urge you to read Downcast Blog Tour!!, the first post in this three-post installment, so you have a sense of what Downcast (and the blog tour!) is all about.

Many thanks to Booktrope, via NetGalley, for an opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

4.5/5 stars.

I really enjoyed Downcast.  The protagonist, Stephanie, was — to me — a very realistic portrayal of a daughter who is living a life that is almost 100% dictated by her mother.  At the start of the book, Stephanie didn’t really seem to realize just how peculiar her mother was, compared to her friends’ parents.  Nor did she realize that there was anything odd about her upbringing, lack of extended family, etc.  I really disliked her mom, though, because she seemed to be the absolute epitome of a “helicopter parent.”downcast cover large

However, as the book goes on, Stephanie begins to understand that her mother is not only peculiar, but she is — in short — “losing it.”  The very steady, very routine life that she and her mother lived for many years begins to change and become disrupted when Stephanie meets Haley at school — he and his brother Zack are newcomers to the area, and mysterious ones, at that.  Haley is very attracted to Stephanie and of course, vise versa (how could a living, breathing girl not be attracted to Haley’s mysterious nature, especially a girl who is accustomed to being an outcast?), but Stephanie’s mother doesn’t like the idea of her daughter spending time with boys, much less dating them.  Haley and Zack are polar opposites: literally as different from each other as light and dark.

The pace of the novel picks up when Stephanie decides to make some changes; in a normal teen’s life, they wouldn’t be considered large changes (wardrobe additions, new hairstyle, etc.), but in Stephanie’s life, they take on monumental proportions.  This is where the book becomes really intriguing, and from here I am not going to share any more about what happens — since if you really want to know, read the book.  It’s definitely worth the investment.

My only “problem” with Downcast — at least, at first — was the fact that although it’s a retelling of “one of mythology’s greatest love stories,” I didn’t figure out which myth it was retelling until near the end.  However, since having read it and thought about that a little bit, I take back what I said.  I think it’s a good thing that it wasn’t as plain as day, since if I had known which myth it was based on, I would’ve been able to foretell at least a little more of what happened in the book than I was able to.  And that, for me, would’ve made the ending less enjoyable (as well as less exciting).  So again, I am not going to share which myth it retells, although if you are more familiar with mythology than I am, you probably will pick up on it sooner than I did.

The ending was perfect in my eyes, as well.  Again, I’m not going to give it away, but I have a feeling that it will lead perfectly into the next book in the series, which I am definitely going to be snagging once it’s published. (After I read Downcast and realized that it was the beginning of the series, I got really excited.) Although Downcast is a relatively quick read, that doesn’t make it “less than” in my eyes.  It just means that Cait has the ability to hook readers with her words and pull them into the worlds that she so carefully creates.

I definitely recommend Downcast to anyone who is interested in novels that retell myths, as well as those who enjoy paranormal YA romance (although I’d say that this is very untypical from the average YA romance books, of course, since the paranormal element/mythology retelling was the main part of the story).

Well done, Cait.  I’m very excited to see what other books you will be publishing in the coming months and years!  Thank you for letting me be a part of the blog tour for Downcast — it was my privilege.

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Top 10 books I read in 2013!!

This Tuesday’s top ten, as sponsored by The Broke & Bookish blog, is the top 10 books you’ve read in 2013.  This year I read more than I had in several years previous, so I will have to refer back to my Goodreads list to remember which ones were my favorites. 🙂

1) Phoenix Rising, by Pippa Ballantine.  This book was delightful steampunk, and I adored the characters in it.  Their awkward interactions… priceless!!  I also laughed a fair bit while reading it (well, in my head – I tend not to laugh out loud when I read books, not sure why).

2) Slumber, by Tamara Blake.  This is one that I got from NetGalley, but man, did it stick with me!!  I really want to see a sequel to this, as much as I am sure that I won’t.  It’s a YA novel, and is excellently written.  However, prepare for the ending if you decide to read it… that’s all I’ll say about that!!

3) In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson.  I posted my review of this awhile back here on my blog, but goodness, this is another one that stuck with me.  It’s a novelized history of the US ambassador to Berlin in 1933… and it is so very gripping.  I’m not usually one to rave about nonfiction, but this one was absolutely excellent.

4) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer.  This is another that I wrote a review of on here, I believe.  It’s another WWII book, but a novel this time, and I really adored it and the characters in it.  I’m sad that Ms. Shaffer died, because I’m sure she could have written more amazing novels had she had the time.

5) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  The feels, all the feels!!  I adored this book, as cliche as that may be… I mean, it’s one of the best known YA novels of recent years and it seems like everyone who read it loved it.  But still, it definitely makes it into my top 10 of 2013.

6) City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.  I know there are a lot of mixed feelings about this book’s author, and I never would’ve picked it up except my book club was reading it and it looked interesting.  And it was interesting!!  It gripped me from the first page… and the ending… whoa. 🙂 Now I just have to see the movie…

7) The Broken Rules of Ten by Gay Hendriks.  This one was another NetGalley book, but it was excellent even if the formatting for Kindle was odd.  I can’t put my finger on why I adore this book as much as I do, except that Ten was a very adorable character at such a young age, and it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that portrayed youth in such an honest way.

8) Soulless by Gail Carriger.  This book was entirely fluff, but it was good escapism reading. 🙂 This year has been rough enough for me that I need books like that, and I am glad that I have the rest of the series to read as time allows – and I mean, any book that is in a series entitled “The Parasol Protectorate” wins, doesn’t it?

9) Postcards from Nam by Uyen Nicole Duong.  This was an excellent, excellent book, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  The writing is luminous and paints vivid word pictures of Vietnam during the war and of the children involved.  It is a painful novel to read, in parts, but is still one of my favorite books that I have read in quite some time.

10) I shall wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett.  This is the first Tiffany Aching novel that I read, and since I adore Pratchett, of course it had to be in my top ten!! 🙂 Once again, wonderful escapist reading, and Tiffany is such a lovable protagonist.  Plus, the Wee Free Men!!

Those are my top 10 books read in 2013, and believe me, it was tough to pick out of the 50-some that I did get read before this past fall semester ate my face. 😉 What are YOUR top ten? I’d be interested to know!!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 recommended books!!

This idea is taken from The Broke and Bookish blog, over on Blogspot.  They have Top Tens every Tuesday, and while sometimes they’re not things that I particularly have an opinion on… this week I certainly do.  Well, if I can weed out my top ten recommended reads from all of the other books that I have read!! (All of the links lead to Goodreads.)

 

1) The Little White Horse – this is an excellent story for people of all ages.  It is for all ages, although originally written as a children’s tale.  It has an almost fairytale-like quality.  I first encountered it when I was eleven or so, borrowed it from the library, and then wanted to reread it.  However, then the library had gotten rid of their copy, so for my birthday, I got a copy.  I still have it, and I now realize I need to reread it.  Such an amazing story.  Definitely a “cosy read” for those blustery evenings, or the days when you’re home sick, etc.

 

2) Sarah’s Key – set in WWII (a time period I find so very fascinating!!), this book tells the story of a ten year old girl and her younger brother.  It hops from 1942 to present day, telling Sarah’s story about the round-up of Jews in Paris, and what happened to her little brother.  It is a sad tale, but very well written.  I have enjoyed other books by Tatiana de Rosnay, and I highly recommend any of her books.

 

3) Mr. Churchill’s Secretary – this one is also set in WWII.  While the title made me think of a dry, dusty office with an elderly woman taking notes in shorthand, this book was anything but dry or boring.  As I wrote in my review of it, “it takes a little while for McNeal to set up the plot … [but] it was exciting, so intriguing by the end that I couldn’t put it down.”  It is full of intrigue, mysterious happenings, and fascinating characters.  I believe it was McNeal’s debut novel and it was an excellent start.  I look forward to reading any of her others that I may come across!!

 

4) Feed – the first in a trilogy called the Newsflesh trilogy, this novel is set in future America, where zombies roam freely.  It was a little slow at the beginning for me, but when I finally let myself get caught up in the plot, it was an excellent read.  While I normally am not a fan of “zombie literature,” this series is an exception.  I have actually recently just ordered the rest of the trilogy so I can read them at my own pace and truly enjoy the excitement that runs rampant through Mira Grant’s work.

 

5) The Ladies’ No. 1 Detective Agency – the first in a wonderful series by Alexander McCall Smith, this book introduces us to the indomitable Mma. Ramotswe.  Set in Botswana, this book – and the rest of the series – is another “cosy read.”  The prose is gentle, the plot comfortable – not too exciting, but interesting enough to hold your attention.  McCall Smith’s attention to detail is extraordinary, and I found myself feeling as though I were there in Botswana with Mma. Ramotswe when I was reading this book.

 

6) Discount Armageddon – also by Mira Grant, otherwise known as Seanan McGuire, this book is a paranormal adventure set in future Manhattan.  Or rather, a parallel Manhattan, since I don’t think it particularly spells out that it’s in the future.  It’s just a different Manhattan of today than actually exists.  It’s a fun ride, and I am looking forward to reading the next one in the series – not that “cosy,” but definitely enjoyable.  It’s the best kind of book to read while you are waiting for something, since I know that I got so caught up in it that I often did not notice time passing at all.

 

7) The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – this is an excellent novel by Anne Bronte, one that I believe is not know as broadly as it ought to be.  It draws the reader into the world of Helen Graham and Gilbert Markham, and makes one wonder what the mystery is behind Helen’s reclusive behavior.  I actually need to find a copy of this so I can reread it – I first read it when I was about fourteen and enjoyed it immensely, although I believe I would enjoy it more if I read it today.

 

8) Emily of New Moon – although less well-known than the Anne of Green Gables series, this book is the first of a very delightful trilogy.  L.M. Montgomery has always been a favorite author of mine and although I love the Anne of Green Gables series, this trilogy was – to me – a better read.  It starts out with young Emily, a newly orphaned girl of ten or so, moving to her Aunt Elizabeth’s farm, and details her adventures with Perry and Ilse, two new friends that she makes as she goes to school (Ilse) or runs wild around the countryside (Perry).

 

9) Alanna: the First Adventure – although I am sure that if I looked back at it now, it wouldn’t be such a favorite, it was one of the best contemporary books that I read while growing up.  I really ought to reread it sometime soon through the eyes of an adult and revisit that fantasy world that so caught me in its grip when I was younger.  Tamora Pierce was one of my favorite authors back then, when I first forayed into fantasy.

 

10) Redwall – the first of Brian Jacques’ lengthy Redwall series, this book was one of my favorites while growing up too.  Although the plots of the books were all similar, I loved reading the adventures of the mice and other animals in the Redwall Abbey.  Once again, I need to reread these books, since I want to see how they have changed since I have grown older (read: since I have changed as I have grown older ;)).

 

What are your top ten books? 😀