Friday, December 26, 2014

Book Review: Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Media Type: Ebook 
Title: Far Far Away
Author: Tom McNeal
Publisher: Knopf BFYR
Pages: Hardcover; 384
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Source: NetGalley
Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers of the Grimm version of fairy tales; those who enjoy darker stories.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn't even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he's able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it's been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn't been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specifically, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm.

Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings...

I first read Far Far Away last year as an ARC, but at the time I wasn't able to figure out how I felt about it. When I stumbled across an audio book of it last week, I decided to give it another shot. See, I love fairy tales. Specifically the older ones that weren't afraid of a little darkness. There's something beautiful about those tales and their ability to show the true nature of things. That's what Tom McNeal has captured in Far Far Away. He's taken the Brothers Grimm and channeled their energy into a new story. It's dark, twisted, and yet gorgeous in its own way. Best of all? I was much better able to appreciate it this time around.

First off, let me say that I absolutely recommend the audio version of this. W. Morgan Sheppard is a stellar narrator, and I could listen to him read to me for hours. Well, in fact, I did listen to him read to me for hours. I could have listened for hours more though. He is the perfect addition to this story. His voice enchants you into feeling like you're a part of Jeremy Johnson Johnson's life. It's as if you're walking the streets of the town of Never Better. As if you're right there with the ever incorporeal Jacob. I adored listening to this!

As for the story, well, let me tell you that it's definitely not what you're expecting. Like all good fairy tales we start with a character who isn't quite what he seems. When I first met Jeremy I honestly believed I knew where his life would take him. I thought that, as most fairy tales do, things would wind their way to getting better for him. I believed that his best self was hiding inside that shy outer shell, and that he would be rewarded for being such a good person. Oh yes, Jeremy is as good as they come. Which is why I also loved Ginger, the female MC of this story. Her fire, and her mischievousness, really brought the book to life.

So yes, I truly believed that I knew exactly what would transpire. The truth is though, as I should have expected, things took a very drastic turn. We all know that fairy tales need a villain of some sort. Someone who we can loathe and who makes our hero bloom. Tom McNeal threw me a curve with the villain in this story. No spoilers, oh no you won't get them from me. Suffice it say that you won't see it coming. When it does? And things get darker, and darker still? You'll likely find yourself wondering where it all stemmed from, but feeling to consumed with what happens next to really worry about it.

When I read this the first time, I settled on a three star rating because my thoughts were too conflicted to really do more. This time, I'm happy to report that I had a much more enjoyable time in Never Better. I wouldn't doubt that it has something to do with our lovely narrator, but the fact remains that this is now a four star read for me. If you love fairy tales, give this a shot! You might be pleasantly surprised.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.


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