Review: The Memory Thief

The Memory Thief
By Lauren Mansy
Published October 1, 2019 by Blink

Publisher’s Summary:
In the city of Craewick, memories reign. The power-obsessed ruler of the city, Madame, has cultivated a society in which memories are currency, citizens are divided by ability, and Gifted individuals can take memories from others through touch as they please.

Seventeen-year-old Etta Lark is desperate to live outside of the corrupt culture, but grapples with the guilt of an accident that has left her mother bedridden in the city’s asylum. When Madame threatens to put her mother up for auction, a Craewick practice in which a “criminal’s” memories are sold to the highest bidder before being killed, Etta will do whatever it takes to save her. Even if it means rejoining the Shadows, the rebel group she swore off in the wake of the accident years earlier.

To prove her allegiance to the Shadows and rescue her mother, Etta must steal a memorized map of the Maze, a formidable prison created by the bloodthirsty ruler of a neighboring Realm. So she sets out on a journey in which she faces startling attacks, unexpected romance, and, above all, her own past in order to set things right in her world.


The Memory Thief is a young adult fantasy with an interesting premise, but it just didn’t work for me.

This book has a great concept. In this world, memories are currency. The Gifted can take The Memory Yhiefand give memories, and this talent is often abused. The idea of someone invading your memories, stealing them, and even profiting from them is creepy and fascinating. The Gifted can gain a talent or skill by stealing a memory. For example, the heroine, Etta, is a skilled fighter because of memories she’s stolen. This is all very cool, but the rest of the book didn’t hold up.

My biggest issue is that the pacing of the book felt off. There are a bunch of plot twists that come in quick succession in the middle of the book. Although they were cool twists, they didn’t have much impact because they happened so quickly and with characters that had just been introduced or hadn’t been well developed. The pacing is also an issue in the romance that develops between Etta and another character. It happens so quickly and then there’s a plot twist that might drive them apart, but since they had barely been together, it felt contrived.

I also had trouble keeping track of the various groups. There are the Gifted and ungifted, but also multiple other groups and they weren’t well defined. There were two groups introduced briefly with no information, and it wasn’t until I found a glossary at the end of the book that I was able to figure out who and what they were. I wonder if this book was originally much longer or intended to be more than one book, because there is so much compressed into 300 pages. It could have benefited from being a bit longer.

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

Review: Uncharted

By Erin Cashman
Published September 4. 2018 by Page Street Kids

Uncharted was a fun, quick YA read. It skews a bit toward the younger side of YA.

Annabeth is a young woman with a lot of baggage. She suffers from depression related to her intense grief over her mother’s death. She blames herself, and she’s still in great pain. She and her father attend the funeral of some old friends of her parents, and she reconnects with Griffin, her former childhood playmate and the son of the dead couple. Then her father disappears, and Annabeth searches desperately her him, while fighting her growing attraction to Griffin and wondering if she can trust any of her father’s friends, all of whom seem to be keeping things from her.uncharted

Annabeth’s parents were part of a group of explorers who went searching for unusual things and lost places. Annabeth is convinced that their explorations have something to do with her father’s disappearance, but no one will give her any information. She resorts to some not particularly smart moves to try to gain information, but her behavior feels true to her age and situation, even if I found it occasionally frustrating. I like that the author explored Annabeth’s ongoing depression. Because she was once hospitalized and she’s still under the care of a psychiatrist, she worries that the police won’t take her seriously.

I was intrigued by the mysteries in the book. The adults are explorers, and the idea that they may have stumbled upon a hidden island is fascinating. I’m interested to see this explored more in the next book.

I think the cover design of this book is a bit odd. The photo of a girl standing at the end of pier feels much more appropriate for a contemporary YA. There’s a map design superimposed over the cover image, but it’s subtle and not particularly noticeable at first glance.

I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.

Review: Grim Lovelies

Grim Lovelies
By Megan Shepherd
Published October 2, 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Have you ever wondered about fairytale characters who are turned into animals? Or animals who are turned into people? If you have, Grim Lovelies is the book for you. It’s the story of a group of “beasties,” animals transformed into people who are fighting to stay human.

Grim LoveliesOur heroine Anouk and her fellow beasties were created by Mada Vittoria, a powerful witch living in Paris. Anouk is the youngest of the beasties, as she’s only been human for a year. She is a house servant for her mistress, and she’s never been allowed to leave the house. She watches Paris from the windows and wonders about the world outside. When Mada Vittoria is murdered, Anouk and the other beasties have only three days to find a spell to keep them human or else they will revert to their animal form.

This is a great setup for a fantasy novel, and there were parts of it I enjoyed. The magic world is an intriguing one, with royals at the top of the food chain and witches just underneath. Then there are the witches’ boys, adopted sons who provide blood for their witch mothers’ spells; goblins, who are treated as second-class citizens; and the beasties, who don’t really fit in anywhere. I loved the goblins. They were hilarious, and their fashion choices sound awesome. (I love that the beasties occasionally mistake humans for goblins because Parisian humans have started dressing like goblins.) The stakes were high for the beasties. Going back to being an animal means losing their memories of being human and the found family they’ve made, and this is particularly hard for Anouk, who’s only just begun to live.

There were some things that I was less into. I didn’t find most of the characters very interesting, and the only one I found intriguing wasn’t in the book very much and came to an unsatisfying end. I wasn’t on board with the romantic aspects either. Anouk has a romantic entanglement with a fellow beastie and another character seems to be romantically interested in her. Since Anouk comes across as very young and innocent, two characters being so attracted to her seemed unrealistic (or a little creepy).

This book skews a little more to the younger side of YA, and I think readers in that age range will really enjoy it.

I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.


New to Me: Kat, Incorrigible

Kat, Incorrigible
Stephanie Burgis
First published 2011

My history with this book
None, since it was only published a few years ago.

My thoughts
Kat, Incorrigible is a delightful middle grade book about a 12-year-old girl in Regency England who has magical talents. It’s an alternative Regency England where magic exists. Katherine Ann Stephenson is the youngest of four children. Her mother, from whom she inherited her talents, died shortly after she was born, and her father later remarried. Kat’s stepmother values propriety above all else and wants to restore the family’s social position, which was damaged because Kat’s mother was a witch.

Kat spends a lot of time getting into trouble, and she’s often at odds with her stepmother and her older sisters, prim and proper Elissa and spitfire Angeline. The family’s financial situation is dire. Kat’s older brother Charles has incurred huge gambling debts and will be sent to debtor’s prison if he can’t pay them. The family can’t afford to bail him out, but if he goes to prison, it will ruin the family’s reputation and make it impossible for the sisters to make good marriages. The family’s best hope is for the beautiful Elissa to find a rich husband, and the stepmother has her eye on Sir Neville Collingwood, who is very rich, but also very creepy and his first wife died under mysterious circumstances. Kat is determined to save her sister from marrying Sir Neville, and she’s willing to use her newfound magical powers if needed.

So, basically, you’ve got all the social pressures of Pride and Prejudice against a backdrop of magic. Even with magical powers, Kat and her sisters are at the mercy of society. I enjoyed the social aspects of the book very much. I was less impressed with the magical system, which felt a little vague to me, but this is the first book in a trilogy and I assume the magical side of things will be explored in more detail in the subsequent books. Kat is a great heroine, a feisty kid who strains against the conventions of society. She’s very bright, but she’s still a kid and she often misinterprets situations, sometimes to hilarious effects. I also enjoyed the subversion of the evil stepmother trope. In this case, Kat’s birth mother was an actual witch, and although Kat can’t stand her stepmother, the woman isn’t evil and she’s stuck in a difficult position.

I think this book would be good for kids who are interested in history and/or magic. Depending on your child’s age and interest in history, you may need to provide some context about Regency England. You could have an interesting discussion with your child about women’s roles during this period and how constricted their lives were.

Would I want my kid to read it

Is there any objectionable content?
No. Obviously, there are historical attitudes toward women that are offensive, but they are well done in the historical context, and Kat rebels against the constraints of society.

It’s available in print and ebook.

New to Me: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
Judy Blume
First published 1972

My history with this book
I loved Judy Blume as a kid, but I had never read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.
My husband loved this book as a kid and recommended it to me.

My thoughts
I feel liked I missed out not reading Takes of a Fourth Grade Nothing as a kid, because I enjoyed it so much as an adult, and I wish that I could have experienced it as a kid. It’s a fantastic and very funny book. It’s quite similar to another one of my favorites, Beezus and Ramona, with a long-suffering older sibling and an adorable but annoying younger sibling.

Peter is 9 and his little brother Fudge is almost 3. Fudge is widely adored, but he’s also a holy terror, and poor Peter feels insignificant and ignored. Fudge’s adventures are hilarious, but being the nice, stable, normal kid isn’t always easy.

Judy Blume is so good at capturing a kid’s voice. Peter feels so real, and there’s nothing precious or precocious about him. The book doesn’t really have a plot. It’s mostly hilarious episodes of Fudge behaving badly and Peter making funny observations. In one chapter, the mother takes the boys to buy new shoes. She’s horrified that Peter has a hole in his sock, but she’s fairly blase about Fudge having a meltdown. “How could my mother have been so embarrassed over a little hole in my sock and then act like nothing much was happening when her other son was on the floor yelling and screaming and carrying on!” Peter’s mother ends up convincing him to trick Fudge into trying on new shoes, and Peter is torn between thinking it’s funny that Fudge is so easily fooled and feeling bad for him.

Fudge’s third birthday party is probably the funniest part of the book, although it does seem slightly dated. Fudge’s father isn’t there, and the other mothers just drop their kids off. Having given and attended of small children’s birthday parties, I can confirm that drop offs are not a thing nowadays, and dads no longer get to skip their own kids’ parties. Attending the party are a crier, a biter, and a kid who eats everything in sight. The party goes about as well as you’d expect.

Does it hold up?
Not having read this one as a kid, I don’t have a point of comparison, but Judy Blume is pretty timeless. There are some minor dated elements (references to daytime muggings in Central Park, their building has an elevator operator, the dad is clueless about most aspects of child-rearing, Peter mentions “dope pushers,” Fudge gets saddle shoes), but otherwise, it holds up well.

Is there any objectionable content?
Just some mild fat-shaming of a chubby toddler.

Can you read it aloud?
Yes. The audiobook would be great for a car trip with kids.

Would I want my kid to read it?
Yes, definitely

It’s widely available, in print, ebook, and audiobook format.