The Mud and Stars Book Blog

thoughts from a girl who spends her days in other worlds…

Mini reviews: ‘This Savage Song’ and ‘Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore’

on July 3, 2017

Hi everyone! So… I disappeared again. 😦 BUT… although I haven’t been blogging much, I HAVE been reading. Here are some mini reviews of two books I finished recently. Let me know your thoughts if you’ve read either of these; I can see a lot of people disagreeing with me on the first one, but I’d love to hear from you all the same. 🙂

This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab


Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters.

All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection.

All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music.

When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

My rating: 3 stars

I think this is going to be an unpopular opinion, as I have seen so many 5 star reviews of this book, but I found it quite… boring. I had high expectations, because I adored Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, but I felt disappointed by this one. The thing I loved most about ADSOM was the world-building, but I found the world-building in This Savage Song to be the weakest aspect of the book. I found everything vague and confusing, and although there was a lot of info-dumping, it didn’t help me to develop a clear picture of the world.

Another thing which prevented me from getting into this book was the pacing. It was so slow, and when I hit the 200-page mark and virtually nothing had happened, I knew I had no hope of becoming a die-hard fan. I felt so let down, because everyone seems to really LOVE this book, but I felt like I must be reading a different version to everybody else; it never really gripped me, and I never felt desperate to pick it up.

Something I did like about this book was the characterisation. August and Kate both felt like real people, and I was interested by their (extremely different) backgrounds, and what kind of people those backgrounds has turned them into. Kate irritated me at times, because she could be unnecessarily mean, but I could see how being raised by a man like Harker, and then shipped off to countless boarding schools throughout her teens, had led to her developing such a hard shell. Although she wasn’t always likeable, I felt sorry for her, and I appreciated her for the complex character that she was. By the end of the book I had developed a soft spot for her, because I saw that shell beginning to crack.

August was a sweetie, and was probably my favourite character. I loved his passion for music, and the way it kept him grounded was so interesting to me. I also liked that he was just as complicated as Kate, despite not being ‘human’. Although he was technically a ‘monster’, he experienced struggles with morality, and fought hard for his sense of humanity, which made him the opposite of a monster in my eyes.

Overall, I found this book very slow, and although I loved the characters, I felt they were a little let down by the story itself. The book did pick up pace in the second half, and the last 50 pages were very exciting, so for that reason I ended up bumping up my rating from 2 to 3 stars. I probably won’t be reading the sequel, but I will definitely be picking up the sequel to ADSOM soon, and I’m not giving up on V.E. Schwab. I love her writing style; it’s just this particular book that wasn’t for me.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan


Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs―the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has inherited his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long-buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left. 

My rating: 3.5 stars

I had a lot of fun reading this book, and it kept me gripped until the very last page. That being said, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. From the title I was imagining a cosier kind of mystery, but this book was surprisingly dark. Which was fine, because, y’know, I do love me some darkness. I think I just wanted this book to be quirkier than it ended up being. Don’t get me wrong, we meet some quirky characters along the way, and I loved the bookstore setting, but I think both of these could have been utilised more in the story. Considering the bookstore is mentioned in the title, I was expecting it to be more of a character in its own right, but it felt more like a distant backdrop. I would have loved more descriptions of the bookstore, so I could have had a clearer picture of it in my mind.

All this said, I did enjoy this book, and the mystery was fantastically handled. There were two strands to the story – the mystery of Joey’s suicide in the bookstore, and the mystery of the ‘Hammerman’ from Lydia’s childhood. I thought the way Joey left messages for Lydia in books for her to discover after his death was fascinating, clever, and original. Joey was an endearing, interesting character and I wish we had had the chance to meet him in the story before his suicide. He was a lost kind of character who spent all day every day wandering around the bookstore, and I identified with him a lot in that respect, because I am somebody who turns to books to help me make sense of the world and myself.

The Hammerman mystery was very gripping too, and the flashback scene to when the murders took place was terrifying. I slept with all the windows closed in 30 degree heat because I was so freaked out by the thought that someone might get into my house and bludgeon me to death with a hammer. The connection between the two mysteries was gradually revealed through some clever storytelling, and I didn’t guess anything until a twist towards the end led me to work everything out correctly.

All in all, I enjoyed reading this book, and although I wanted the bookstore to be a bigger part of the story, I was thoroughly gripped by the two-strand mystery. I finished this book in two sittings, so I definitely recommend it if you want a quick, absorbing read to help you while away an afternoon.



10 responses to “Mini reviews: ‘This Savage Song’ and ‘Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore’

  1. Emma says:

    I feel much the same with This Savage Song! I adore V.E. Schwab’s Darker Shade of Magic trilogy so I feel like a traitor for saying it but I found TSS and Our Dark Duet to be just a bit above “ok”. I ended up giving them 3.5 and 4 stars respectively but I still had issues with pacing and… like the concept was great but the execution wasn’t my favourite?? As I’m saying this I feel like downgrading ODD half a star! But the characterisation was really good and I can’t fault that or the plotting, I’m just very conflicted, haha, I guess I just don’t understand all the hype? 😛

    • mudandstars says:

      Glad to know I’m not the only one who feels this way! I think you’re right – it just didn’t really live up to the hype for me either. I agree that the characterisation was great, but the pacing stopped me from wanting to pick it up again. I noticed you gave ODD a higher rating – how did it compare? I think I’m going to re-read ADSOM soon so I can pick up the rest of the trilogy, I enjoyed that one so much more! 🙂

  2. I’m really curious to see how I’ll feel about This Savage Song because I feel like the only reviews I’ve seen have either loved it or shared your sentiments and said it was too slow. I loved the Shades of Magic series, but I feel like this one is definitely going to be different to that. Great reviews, Jess!!

    • mudandstars says:

      Ahh thank you 🙂 Ooh that’s interesting – I’ve only seen 5 star reviews, so I thought I must be in the minority with how I felt about it! I hope you enjoy it more than I did! Have you read the whole Shades of Magic trilogy? I can’t wait to pick up the next two books.

  3. I am actually reading This Savage Song right now and I totally agree with you. Her Shades of Magic series is one of my favorite series of all times, so it was going to be hard to live up to it for me anyways. I’m wondering if the fact that it is YA is why Schwab focuses more on the characters vs. the world building? I find that I am just not as invested in this story as I was in the SoM trilogy… BUT I am still enjoying it for what it is and loving Schwab’s writing as per usual.

    • mudandstars says:

      Glad to hear I’m not the only one who feels this way. Perhaps that’s what it is; the world-building definitely feels lacking. Which is a shame, because the worldbuilding in ADSOM was flawless. I definitely need to pick up the rest of the Shades of Magic series soon!

  4. hadeer says:

    I completely agree with your assessment of This Savage Song! I just finished reading it myself and I found myself very lukewarm about it all. The world-building needs a lot of work, in my opinion. There’s no denying Schwab is a talented writer, and it’s not that this book is bad, but it’s just very average.

    • mudandstars says:

      So glad I’m not the only person who feels this way! I felt very lukewarm about it too. I found the wordbuilding very vague. Which is a shame, because the worldbuilding in her Shades of Magic series was so brilliant. I agree – it’s not a bad book, but definitely average. I was left with a ‘meh’ feeling, rather than being wowed.

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