Sing Me Forgotten

Sing Me Forgotten

First Lines: I am a shadow. A shimmer of black satin. A wraith in the dark.

Sorry I haven’t been updating much lately. There was a death in the family on the day my last post went live and I’ve been trying to adjust since then and find a return to normal. It’s been a process. It’s actually kind of ironic, in that case, that this is the book I’m reviewing first, given its emphasis on memory.

Isla was born with a rare power, one that people fear so much she was supposed to have been killed at birth. When people sings, Isla can manipulate memories. Saved at a young age from death by opera house owner Cyril, she’s lived in the opulent opera house ever since. All he asks is that she uses her powers to keep ticket sales high–and that she stays out of sight. Even now, if she’s seen, it means death for her and her protector. But then she meets Emeric, whose voice is unlike anything she’s ever heard before. She’s drawn to the charming boy whose memories hint at ways she can finally be free. As Isda spends more time with Emeric, she becomes more hopeful about gaining her freedom. But the price of freedom will be higher than she ever could have anticipated…

From the moment I read the blurb, I thought this sounded vaguely like The Phantom of the Opera, a thought that was only confirmed as I read the book. And as a fan of that story, I truly wanted to enjoy this.

And in a lot of ways, I did. I loved the way music was incorporated into the story. I loved the setting (a French-esque fantasy world where memories are currency, so memory is valued above all else). I even liked Isda and her internal conflict of what makes a person a monster. (Ok, let me rephrase my earlier Phantom comment. It’s Phantom mixed with Hunchback. Both set in France, both dealing with deformities, both confining the tragic figure in a place of music and culture, ALL LIKE THIS BOOK.)

For the first half or two thirds of the book, I would have given this a 4 rating. Yes, there were moments of predictability. Yes, there were moments where it was hard to really get a handle on some of the world building. (It’s a relatively short book for a fantasy novel. Things happen quickly with little exposition.) But I generally liked it. It was the last bit of the book that sort of ruined the experience for me. Not that it was bad, exactly. It has honest and probably true to the characters if I’m being honest. It just wasn’t how I wanted things to go. It felt like it dove too far into melodrama and clichés to me. But it did feel like how some of the characters would react, so what can you do?

For a debut fantasy novel, this was really good, even if I didn’t totally buy into the ending. This is definitely an author to watch.

RoseBlood

RoseBlood

First Lines: At home, I have a poster on my wall of a rose that’s bleeding. Its petals are white, and red liquid oozes from its heart, thick and glistening warm. Only, if you look very close, you can see the droplets are coming from above, where a little girl’s wrist–camouflaged by a cluster of leaves–has been pricked by thorns as she reached inside to catch a monarch.

I’ve been putting this book off for a while, for a couple reasons, I guess. While I like A.G. Howard’s work (Splintered), she can be a little bit…much. Also, this book has a 3.37 rating on Goodreads, which worried me that it might not be that great.

Rune Germaine has the voice of an angel–but every time she finishes a performance, she feels sick and drained. Convinced that it’s just stage fright and proper direction will help, her mother sends her off to a French boarding school for the arts, rumored to have a connection with the Gaston Leroux and The Phantom of the Opera. Shortly after arriving at RoseBlood conservatory, Rune starts to think maybe something otherworldly is happening here. There’s a mysterious boy in the graveyard who disappears as quickly as he appears. But as Rune starts to form a friendship with the boy, Thorn, who wears 19th century clothing as well, she finds that she’s cured when she’s near him. And Thorn may be falling for the girl with a voice from heaven, but he’s got to manage the real phantom…who will force Thorn to make the toughest decision of his life: lead Rune to her destruction or face the wrath of the phantom, a man who is the only father he’s ever know–and a very dangerous enemy.

A.G. Howard has gained a reputation of being able to twist a well-known story into something new and fresh while still retaining the essence we love so much.

She really wasn’t off the mark with this one.

I rather enjoy the musical, which is most of my understanding of the Phantom of the Opera story, though I have read the book before. I’m just far more familiar with the musical. And it was nice to see those little bits and pieces I recognized crop up in this story.

Here, we are introduced to Rune, a young girl with the voice of an angel–and singing she can’t control. When she sings, it makes her sick. But she physically can’t stop herself from singing an aria if it gets into her head. She doesn’t even have to know the song–she’ll be able to sing it flawlessly. She’s starting to hate her gift, even though everyone else loves it. Rune starts off the story somewhat beat-down and lost, fearful that this new start at a French music school is going to be just as disastrous as life in Texas. As the story continues on, it was really cool to see her change.

But I won’t lie, the mysterious Thorn was really more to my taste. When he narrated the story, I felt like the story moved so much faster and was so much more interesting. He has a dark past, secrets, and a simple hope for a better future that he’s not sure exists for him. He was actually really sweet and I kind of love him.

It’s hard to miss that some people really seem to dislike this book and I can’t pretend I don’t know why. Parts in the middle are really slow. And some parts are really weird. (There’s one twist I won’t spoil, but when I read it, my first reaction was, “Oh great. Here we go,” with an eye roll.) It wasn’t what I expected–or really even wanted–but I kept with the story and I actually liked how it ended.

I have a hard time pinning this story down. It’s urban fantasy, but not really. It’s a tale of magic, but it’s also not? It’s a retelling, but it’s a totally new story too. I guess maybe this is the kind of book you need to look into yourself to figure out what it is because I think most people will categorize it as something different.

I liked it. It wasn’t my favorite fantasy/urban fantasy/retelling ever, but it had its moments.

More Than Maybe

More Than Maybe

First Lines: I don’t believe in fate. I believe in music. I’ve heard there is one person out there for everyone. One missing half to complete your whole. The fates will magnetically pull the two halves together through some orchestrated coincidence, and that’s it. You’re all set. Bollocks, that.

Ok, so first of all, my apologies on being gone so long. In part, I was experiencing a lot of negative feelings from my job and I fell into routines that didn’t involve writing because that would mean writing about my feelings and…I didn’t want to do that. And the other part is that I’ve been reading a lot of stuff that isn’t YA. But then I realized I’m like a month behind and yeah, we’ve got some catching up to do. Starting with this one.

Luke Greenly has grown up knowing the heat of the spotlight, thanks to his famous rocker dad. But Luke doesn’t want anything to do with fame–he wants to write music instead. He prefers being mostly anonymous doing a podcast with his twin brother and awkwardly hiding his crush on Vada, who works at the bar where he and Cullen record their podcast. Vada’s life is all planned out: learn about the music scene from her mom’s boyfriend who is also a former musician, take over his music blog, get into Berkeley’s music journalism program, and secure a Rolling Stones internship. Luke Greenly was not on that list. But…he’s really cute. And when Cullen releases a recording of Luke singing an original song, why does Vada wish it was about her?

With all the bad stuff going on in the world right now, I have been having a really hard time focusing on books. I just can’t stay with a story very long.

This book changed that.

Erin Hahn seems to be making a niche for herself writing stories that revolve around music and I am perfectly fine with that. She does it well. Vada and Luke’s obsessions with music draw them together in this story–and it still manages to feel so different from her first book, You’d Be Mine. (I also highly recommend that book.)

The characters in this, from our leads to our supporting cast, were all so fascinating and interesting. You have parents who care and are still very much in love with each other, parents who are divorced and are miserable people. You have wacky best friends and relationships that stumble. It’s actually really cool to see such a spectrum and how relationships of all kinds can heal after someone makes a mistake and hurts the other person. Simply put, they all felt real and I loved it.

All of this is great, but there’s just something about the writing that draws me in right from the beginning. There’s just something…intense…about it. In a good way. When we’re first introduced to Luke, we learn he has a massive crush on someone and we get such feeling from that that it’s hard to ignore the story. And then Vada’s so intense about following her dreams and loving music and her job. The feelings are all so real. Hahn really knows how to harness that.

This is really cute. I really enjoyed it. This is definitely one of my top 10 reads for the year.

Top Ten Book Titles That Would Make Great Song Titles

This is such a fun topic! I remember doing the book titles that would be fun band names and this is just an extension of that.

I’m going to warn you, though, I listen to country music (and I love the really old stuff–Cash, Dolly, etc. thanks to the Ken Burns documentary a year ago), so with most of these, I’m picturing story songs.

Let’s check it out!

Top Ten Book Titles That Would Make Great Song Titles

1. Wicked Saints (by Emily A. Duncan)

Country music has a constant link to Christian themes, so the saints part fits in pretty well with that, even when it’s not technically about anything religious (“Cowboys and Angels” by Dustin Lynch immediately comes to mind). I think this song could be a story song about how people are generally good but sometimes make bad decisions.

2. Long Way Home (by Katie McGarry)

This is definitely a country song. Home is a big deal in country. (“Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver, anyone?) I feel like this would be a melancholy song, about how they have to take the long way home for some reason.

3. One of Us is Lying (by Karen McManus)

Without a doubt, I picture Carrie Underwood with this song. With so many dark murder ballads in her career (“Church Bells,” “Two Black Cadillacs,” “Choctaw County Affair”), I could totally see her singing a song about two people talking about something and then, when you get to the end of the chorus or the bridge, you learn that one of them is lying. Perfect country song.

4. Yes No Maybe So (by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed)

We also in country have a theme with relationships and saying yes or no. (“Check Yes or No” by George Strait is a HUGE hit, even 25+ years later.) So I could see this in a very similar vein–a couple of kids passing notes about whether she wants to date him, moving up to adulthood when he proposes, moving up again to whether or not she’s pregnant or something. The passage of time like this will definitely come up again. We do that a lot too.

5. The Fountains of Silence (by Ruta Sepetys)

I’m not going to lie, my first thought here was “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel, which isn’t country, but I do picture a slow, dark sound to this song. The story I see with it is literally a guy sitting at a fountain in the middle of some square thinking through his mistakes and all he hears back is silence from the fountains. Oh! No! Here it is! He keeps dropping pennies/wishes in the fountain and all he hears back is silence! It’s gold! Actually, I kind of want to write a story about that now…

6. The Rest of the Story (by Sarah Dessen)

Much like One of Us is Lying, I picture this as a story where we don’t know the full story at the beginning, but I don’t see this as a murder ballad. I see this as a couple that’s fighting over something and as they walk away, we hear the narrator say in the chorus something about how they don’t know the rest of the story. And then throughout the song, we see them come back together and make up and like, learn the rest of the story? It needs work.

7. The Leaving Season (by Cat Jordan)

We like word play in country and I think this has enough ambiguity to it to work really well (“Don’t Take the Girl” by Tim McGraw or “Even Though I’m Leaving” by Luke Combs come to mind, how they keep changing meaning). I see this as someone watching someone leave at the end of summer, like the end of camp. Then maybe leaving for college and having to leave their hometown and their family behind. And maybe the third one is when their own kids leave for college and they’re getting left behind. It could be really sweet.

8. Save the Date (by Morgan Matson)

I wasn’t going to do this one, but the creative juices are flowing now. I see this as a melancholy song, about someone (girl or guy) who get a save the date card from The One That Got Away. (Thomas Rhett’s song “Marry Me” is the vibe I’m going for.) It can reflect on the bittersweet memories of the relationship and how the other person has moved on. Country music is nothing if not prone to melancholy. Can we party it up? Absolutely. But we don’t shy away from the darker feelings either.

9. The Edge of Always (by J.A. Redmerski)

Ok, this idea isn’t fully formed either, but it does play on that idea of time again, but more in line with “Temporary Home” by Carrie Underwood or “There Goes My Life” by Kenny Chesney. I like this idea of being on the edge of a life changing event. The two obvious ones are marriage and the birth of the first kid. I’m actually picturing this song as really loving, like “I’m on the edge of always loving you” kind of thing. See? I can come up with something besides lovesick odes and murder ballads!

10. Last Year’s Mistake (by Gina Ciocca)

Aaaand we’re back to lovesick. I like for this one having someone reflect back on a broken relationship and the mistake they made by ending it. And then they try to correct their mistake by calling up that person. I would give them a happy ending by saying that they’ll never make last year’s mistake again or something. (Yes, it’s very much like “Austin” by Blake Shelton, which is one of my favorite songs.)

Famous In A Small Town

Image result for famous in a small townFirst Lines: Brit had been fired from the Yum Yum Shoppe, which came as a  shock to approximately no one.

So I’ve read only one other book by Emma Mills and I liked it.  But this, for as good as the jacket sounded, I just had a hard time finding motivation to read it.  Part of it was definitely the cover, which I still don’t understand even after reading the book.  It literally makes no sense.

For Sophie, her tiny hometown of Acadia, Illinois, is both a blessing and a curse.  She’s known her four best friends her entire life and Sophie has always known this town as home.  But when everyone knows everyone…well, yeah.  When her high school band is chosen to perform at the Rose Parade, raising enough money in this small town to make it there seems impossible until Sophie gets the idea to have country star Megan Pleasant play a fundraiser.  Megan, an Acadia native, would be perfect…except Megan’s publicly sworn never to return to Acadia.  Ever.  As Sophie digs for answers, she’ll unravel years-old mysteries and find herself a new fifth best friend…who makes her heart race and has secrets of his own.

This was really good! Sophie is a sweetheart with gutter humor, a combination I found delightful. After discovering the band fundraisers may not make enough for them to go to the Rose Parade, Sophie’s determined to get hometown-legend-turned-country-megastar Megan Pleasant to perform and the proceeds help the band. But as you might expect, it’s not that easy for her.  But her attitude about the whole thing was great.

The characters are fascinating, every one of them. There’s the enigmatic August, who is definitely hiding something. And you’ve got Sophie’s lifelong friends Brit, Flora, Terrance, and Dash, who are all quirky in their own ways. On top of that, there are some of Sophie’s neighbors and the little girls she babysits that are absolutely adorable. So I loved that.

And the plot is actually way more involved than it sounds. There are a lot of little things going on the whole time to keep you interested, overlapping plot lines. There were many times I had difficulties putting the book down to go to bed or work.

It was a lot of fun to read this book. I need to stop underestimating Emma Mills just because her covers are awful.

Shadowsong (Wintersong, #2)

Image result for shadowsongFirst Lines: My dearest Sepperl, They say it rained on the day Mozart died.

I read Wintersong back in the…spring?…and, being a duology, I wanted to finish off this series.  It was gonna be easy, you know?  Two books, done.  And I’d have one more series I could cross off my list.  If I was actually keeping a list, which I’m not.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

It’s been six months since Liesl came back from the Underground.  She’s determined to live her life and grow her music career, but her second chance at life is so much harder than she ever thought.  Her brother, Josef, is cold and distant from her.  And Liesl can’t stop thinking about the man she left behind.  When signs begin to show that the barrier between the Underground and the world above is failing, Liesl knows she needs to do something.  But how far will she be willing to go?  How much is too much to sacrifice?

I had really enjoyed the first book in this series, though I admittedly found it weird at times. But I liked its play on German culture, its delve into the Goblin underworld, and its ties to music.

Pretty much, still what I liked about this one.

I will say that it started off sloooooow. It took me a long time before I felt like I was really getting anywhere. Part of that might have been because I didn’t have time to sit down and sink into it the way I like to. I was reading a chapter at breakfast and maybe another couple before bed. (Normally, I like to sink at least an hour into reading a day, but I’ve been on a writing kick lately.) But part of it, I think too, was that we not only had to set up the currently world Liesl was living in, six months after the end of the previous story, but also her new, manic mindset.

I did really like that this book took a look at mental illness, particularly relating to bipolar disorder and depression, without calling them by name. You see a couple of the characters spiraling, but they don’t have the vocabulary (due to the time period) to really explain what they’re feeling. But we know. We see it. And I liked seeing some of that from the inside, to better understand it.

What I missed from most of this was the Goblin world. Even though that was the crux of the previous book, it wasn’t very present in this book at all. And unfortunately, that’s what I really enjoyed before. And Der Erlkonig really wasn’t in the story much either.

The reason I gave this a four instead of three is because the last 150 pages or so were pretty extraordinary. I don’t want to say there were big plot twists, necessarily, but it was really well-written. Madness, depression, and yes, a few twists made it quite an emotional ending. I liked that.