Strange Sweet Song: Review

May 9, 2014 2014, 4 star books, fantasy, Gothic, Kim 68 ★★★★

Strange Sweet Song: ReviewStrange Sweet Song by Adi Rule
on March 11, 2014
Genres: fantasy, gothic, paranormal
Pages: 336
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
AmazonIndieboundBarnes & NobleGoodreads
A young soprano enrolls in a remote music academy where nothing, not even her mysterious young vocal coach, is as it seems

Outside Dunhammond Conservatory, there lies a dark forest. And in the forest, they say, lives a great beast called the Felix. But Sing da Navelli never put much faith in the rumors and myths surrounding the school; music flows in her blood, and she is there to sing for real. This prestigious academy will finally give her the chance to prove her worth—not as the daughter of world-renowned musicians—but as an artist and leading lady in her own right.

Yet despite her best efforts, there seems to be something missing from her voice. Her doubts about her own talent are underscored by the fact that she is cast as the understudy in the school's production of her favorite opera, Angelique. Angelique was written at Dunhammond, and the legend says that the composer was inspired by forest surrounding the school, a place steeped in history, magic, and danger. But was it all a figment of his imagination, or are the fantastic figures in the opera more than imaginary? 

Sing must work with the mysterious Apprentice Nathan Daysmoor as her vocal coach, who is both her harshest critic and staunchest advocate. But Nathan has secrets of his own, secrets that are entwined with the myths and legends surrounding Dunhammond, and the great creature they say lives there.

Lyrical, gothic, and magical, Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule will captivate and enchant readers.

A wish granting feral space cat.

This book has one. I kind of just want to leave that there and walk away. Seriously, do you need to know more?! Okay, okay fine.

Were you like me? Did you take one look at the synopsis, see that the main character’s name is Sing, and that she…sings? Did you think this book must therefore be senselessly silly? If you were like me I have good news for you: you tragically underestimated Strange Sweet Song.

Yes, Sing is a very silly name and especially for a singer. This is true. It should console you to know that Sing herself hates it as well. Her parents were celebrities in the classical music world. Think of it as an unfortunate celebrity baby name. It is a part of her prison. A command, and a  constant reminder of the shadow of her famous parents from under which she cannot escape.

The story is told in three alternating points of view. It is mostly Sing’s story with the other POVs providing the harmony to her melody, weaving in and out, supporting and enhancing her journey like the lines of a symphony.The contrasting plotlines begin far flung from each other. There is an air of mystery to the story. We don’t start out knowing who the third POV really is and how his story is related to Sing’s. I loved the way that this plotline slowly unfolded revealing the answers bit by luxuriant bit. The mystery itself is so fascinating and is told on a much larger scale than it at first seems.

The history of the Felix and the mystery at large come together as the book goes on crescendoing toward the convergence with Sing’s storyline. Do not go into this expecting fast paced twists and revelations. This is a book that takes its time with the plot and arriving at its answers. It is so sumptuously written I just reveled in the details and in Sing’s quiet, yet powerful reflections.

Oh, and in case you were wondering. Yes, the wish granting space cat is one of the POVs. Space cat POV! And that is all I will say on that subject lest I should spoil anything for you.

I thought Sing was so realistically and wonderfully portrayed. Ambitious, yet full of self doubt. She struggles to find and define herself under the weight of the expectations placed on her. She is in fierce competition with the school’s resident diva but the other character never delves into a “mean girl” caricature. Sing herself does some not so great things in her pursuit of the lead role.And in many ways, this is a coming of age story. Sing makes mistakes. She makes bad decisions, she handles her friendships poorly, she falls for the resident gregarious bad boy…I love that in the midst of this atmospheric, mystical, Gothic setting (there is a SPACE CAT prowling the forests) there is a normal teenage girl making normal human mistakes. She is a good person with good intentions at heart. She’s just as flawed as all the rest of us humans. It made her story even more special to me.

Sing has been struggling with her voice for the past two years. Something is off. She isn’t at her best. She lives in her mother’s shadow and it’s crushing her. And yet sometimes there is no magical curse. Sometimes the only person holding us back is ourselves. There is a real world magic in discovering that you can be the rescuer in your own fairy tale.

The romance is unexpected, and it blossoms much later in the book than I liked, but it was so, so lovely. I can appreciate the long setup in some ways, and the transformation of the relationship between these two characters is so subtle and has its very own magic. The scenes between Sing and her love interest spark with such a happy glow. They practically glimmer with tension and unspoken longing. Really, there are moments in this book that are heart stoppingly sweet. And then, it’s also very bittersweet. There is a unique paranormal element that complicates things a bit. Sometimes love slips through your fingers despite the best of intentions. Sometimes there are forces beyond ourselves at play.

This book brought me the closest to having a book hangover that I’ve had yet in 2014. Days later I was still thinking of these characters and what’d they’d been through with that telltale little heart pang that lets me know when a book means something special.

I hope I have been somewhat cryptic and unrevealing in this review. It was my intention but hopefully it was not confusing! This book is best enjoyed knowing as little as possible going into it. Just relax and let the plotlines unfurl. Let it slowly reveal the mysteries and transform the relationships. The only thing that held me back from a higher rating is that I wish there had been less focus on the normal, every day nitty gritty of Sing’s high school life (and that regrettable drama with the scurrilous charmer) around the mid point of the book and more focus on the actual love story.

I am just so very fond of this gothic and moody, mysterious and ethereal story. I loved its exploration of transformations both magical and mundane, physical and incorporeal. I can’t do justice to how lovely and lyrical Adi Rule’s writing is. You must experience it for yourself.

If you have ever known what it is to long for something, to be something that you cannot have or cannot be. If you love music. If you have ever experienced that intense connection that only happens when two people share their love for a work of art, when you connect on that level of intense shared humanity. If you have ever had a love that could not be kept no matter how hard you grasped at it or how hard you wished for it…this book is for you.


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I’d like to thank my cousin Emily for choosing this as her pick for our two person book club. To my detriment I would not have read it otherwise. Thanks, Em!


kim teal








68 Responses to “Strange Sweet Song: Review”

    • Kim

      You do need this book! Correct thinking! good job! :p Really, don’t get distracted by Sing’s terrible name. This is nothing at all like The Selection. Her name is just part of the unfortunate burden she must be bear. It is as wonderful as it seems, I promise.
      Kim recently posted…Discussion: Indie Books We Recommend

    • Kim

      Isn’t the cover beautiful? *sigh* This really is such a wonderful story. And yes! I loved how much music figured into the plot here. It really isn’t common and I did wonder if those not as familiar with music and musical terms would enjoy it as much or if it would be confusing. I think it’d be fine, though. It’s such a good book! Reeeeeead it. :D
      Kim recently posted…Discussion: Indie Books We Recommend

  1. Ari

    The cover is really lovely and I think that I prefer unexpected late romance to insta-love or rush loved or whatever. Also I like the sound of “lyrical writing” and the books I’ve enjoyed the most were surprisingly the ones i knew close to nothing about ;))
    Ari recently posted…The Art of .. having fun!

  2. Meredith @ Pandora's Books

    Wow, this sounds amazing… I definitely judged it by the cover, silly title and the character’s cheesy name (I mean.. Sing? Seriously..) I picked it up a few times in the bookstore and always put it back. But your review gives me hope! I love the slow build-up with the romance – that’s really refreshing from some other YA books out there. This book seems to have a Phantom of the Opera feel to it, which is intriguing, too. Plus, the fact that it basically gave you a book hangover? That means it MUST be good.

    Awesome review, thanks! :)
    Meredith @ Pandora’s Books recently posted…Review: Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn

    • Kim

      It is the only book this year that has even remotely come *close* to giving me a book hangover. It’s exalted, basically. This book really is tragically underrated. You picked it up a few times and even though you put it back the fact it was a few times means this one is calling to you! Answer the call! You shan’t regret it. And you’re spot on with the Phantom of the Opera comparison. There is a teensy bit of that. Like the best parts of the atmosphere of that story are present here, I’d say. It really is just a lovely story. Go get it! Go! And then let me know what you end up thinking. :)
      Kim recently posted…All Four Stars: Blog Tour Sign-Up!

  3. Thomas

    Love how you start off this review by commenting on how the book might seem silly, and then you end it by remarking on just how great it is. Strange Sweet Song does not sound like something I’d pick up just by reading a synopsis or scanning a few Goodreads reviews, so thank you for delving deeper into its characterization and writing!
    Thomas recently posted…Fear, No More

    • Kim

      Yeah, I was so guilty of pre-judging this one “not for me” and I was sooo wrong. I fret now about what else is out there that I’m unfairly passing on. Present yourselves to me, books, so I may love you! Alas, it doesn’t work that way. I hope you give it a chance, Thomas! It really is a beautiful and sweet story.
      Kim recently posted…All Four Stars: Blog Tour Sign-Up!

  4. erinf1

    this is the first I’ve come across this book! Thanks for such a thoughtful review. I’m definitely adding this to my wishlist if only for the concept of a wish granting feral space cat :)

  5. Heather @ Buried in Books

    I was sure with that set up that this was going to be an awful book. A feral space cat is a lot to accept. And then a singer named Sing, as you said, obvious. But wow, you have me convinced I need this book. I’m not confused, but thank you, I have no idea what is going on. I appreciate that you didn’t give anything away. I haven’t seen this book anywhere. Thanks to your cousin. Great review!
    Heather @ Buried in Books recently posted…Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

    • Kim

      I’m shame faced to say I thought so too. I actually had this on my TBR list, gave it some examination, then *took it off.* Terrible! I’m so grateful to my cousin for basically forcing me to read this. I am so pleased to hear I have convinced you now! And am super glad to hear I was not too confusing and just cryptic enough to lure you in without giving anything away. :D Hope you love it!

    • Kim

      Yeah, I was definitely being the shallow one when I pre-judged this book by Sing’s name. I’m so glad it’s being added to your TBR! It’s such a lovely story. I hope you enjoy. :)
      Kim recently posted…Strange Sweet Song: Review

    • Kim

      Yesssssssss. Join us. Join the side of the space cat! It’s a good place to be. I hope you do end up reading it and that you *love* it.

  6. Deyse

    This book cough my attention because of its pretty cover but so many books have pretty covers and end up in dissapointments that I let it on the bottom of my tbr but now that I’m seeing more and more positive reviews I need to read it, soon. AND A SPACE CAT POV???? WHAT??? Need it in my life.
    Deyse recently posted…I Become Shadow, by Joe Shine

    • Kim

      Ah yes. We’ve all been fooled by a pretty cover or two, haven’t we? I actually sort of pre-judged this one thinking it must be one of those deceptive cover books. Nope! Wrong and wrong for me. But happily so! It is good to be wrong when the book turns out great. :) And you’re right you need a space cat POV in your life. Everyone needs space cat POV in their lives.

  7. Carol

    The feral space cat has definitely got my interest!this is a lovely review, and it sounds like the book has all of the elements I love in a great story.

    • Kim

      Thank you so much, Carol. If you love the mere sound of it then you will for certain love the actual book. It carved a special little place in my heart and totally surprised me in doing so! Enjoy!

  8. Leandra Wallace

    If you had left it at ‘a wish granting feral space cat’ and walked away, I would have followed you and started tapping on your shoulder- ‘Hey, hey! Tell me more!’ =) This sounds so good and atmospheric, something I really like in my books. Great review!
    Leandra Wallace recently posted…Six Things on a Saturday

    • Kim

      Hee, well I’m glad I ended up elaborating after all. :) It is *so* atmospheric and perfect to curl up with on a misty day. If you like atmospheric you’ll this. I hope you give it a chance!

    • Kim

      Yes! I love the typography too. :) I thought Sing was so great because she just felt normal and relatable. And I loved the juxtaposition of that against the ethereal and dreamy fantasy elements going on around her. I hope you love it!

  9. Melliane

    wow a space cat POV? lol it’s so fun I’m curious to discover that. And you’re right Sing for a singer is quite difficult. Thanks for the great review I didn’t know this one but it sounds really fun!
    Melliane recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #93

    • Kim

      I know!! Space cat POV? If I were a person hearing a book pitch it wouldn’t be necessary to go beyond, “So there’s this Big Cat that is born of the galaxy and descends from the stars…” Immediately sold! If you feel put upon by Sing’s name just trust me. She feels worse. :p And yay! It makes me so happy that you hadn’t heard of this before but now that you know about it it sounds like something you’ll like. All my warm and fuzzy book blogger feels!

  10. Jonnie

    Space Cat?

    I’ll give it a shot, but only because you said you had a hangover. I love books like that.

    • Kim

      What I want above all else in a reading experience is something that sticks itself into my heart and won’t let go of me for days, if not longer. In other words, I am just always wanting a book hangover. They have mostly eluded me so far this year. But this one came close. So I get you. And I think you should read it. I’m glad to hear you’ll give it a shot. :)

  11. Larissa

    I’ve never heard of this one before, so thank you for putting it on my radar c: Haha the first thing I thought when I read the summary was about the ridiculousness of Sing da Navelli’s name. Glad I’m not the only one who thinks it’s strange and even the main character herself finds it to be odd. A wish granting space cat? Alright. I can roll with this book [; I’m not one who is a fan of multiple POVs, but you described them so beautifully here that I believe I’ll not only tolerate them but adore them. Also the fact one is from a cat’s POV? It must be perfect. The romance also sounds amazing, I love a good slow burn romance.

    Great review <33 You described the positives of this one so well, I want to get my hands on it right away.
    Larissa recently posted…Review: To All of the Boys I’ve Ever Loved Before by Jenny Han

    • Kim

      It was the first thing I thought, too, Larissa! And I was so, so wrong. Yes, Sing herself hates it. You hate it. I hate it. We are all in agreement!

      Yessssss. Accept the wish granting space cat into your life. You’ll be the better for it. :D The multi-POV isn’t so bad here, I don’t think. Then again I’m a person who loves multi-POV. It does mostly stay with Sing, occasionally shifting to the other 2 POVs to provide clues and advance the plot. It’s probably “multi POV lite” I think. Hopefully.

      And YES! FERAL SPACE CAT POV! Come on. How is that not awesome?!

      The romance almost sneaks up on you. You don’t even realize it was a slow burn, that it was even happening and then *poof* it’s there. Does that sound instalove-y? It’s not I swear. I mean, you just realize it with the character that it’s been slowly developing all along. It’s great writing! I hope you *love* it. Please let me know if you do!!

  12. Pili

    Very glad that you picked this book! I am also extremely glad that I got the chance to read an ARC via NetGalley because it was such a fantastic and unexpected delight! I loved the setting, the gothic feeling, THE FELIX!! and that it was a fantastic standalone!
    Great review, Kim! I agree that it’s best going into the book knowing as little as possible!
    Pili recently posted…Ink & Batter #1: Splintered by A.G. Howard!!

    • Kim

      Yayyyy! It makes my heart so glad to find other friends who liked this book! It truly was an unexpected delight. You are spot on, Pili. The Felix is so spectacular. I kind of just want to crawl into Adi Rule’s brain and find out where on earth you come up with a wish granting space cat! Just wonderful. And thank you for bolstering me on the “knowing as little as possible front.” I feel bad now that I might have been a little too unrevealing. Trust me, everyone. It’s for the best.

  13. Jenny @ Reading the End

    Hahahaha, I’m glad you didn’t leave it there! I’d definitely have skipped past the review if you’d just said “wish-granting feral space cat”, and then I wouldn’t have added the book to my TBR list.
    Jenny @ Reading the End recently posted…Lady Audley, belatedly

    • Kim

      Haha oh no! I’m glad I expanded upon my feelings after all! I am *so happy* to head you’ve added this to the TBR! I hope you love it. :)

  14. A Canadian Girl

    “I hope I have been somewhat cryptic and unrevealing in this review.” Uh yes! Lol, but it’s the good kind where you just want to know more :) I haven’t heard of this one at all, Kim, and from the summary thought it probably wouldn’t be for me, but you’ve convinced me that I’m wrong. So, I’ll now be checking this one out!
    A Canadian Girl recently posted…Mini Reviews: Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn and The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

    • Kim

      Haha uh oh! I hope I wasn’t *too* cryptic! I just really, really don’t want to spoil anything and it’s haaaaard with this book. Trust me, you won’t to be able to experience the unfolding of the mysteries for yourself. And I am *beyond* delighted to know that I’ve brought this book to your attention! I noticed that I really haven’t seen any other sort of opinions out in the blogosphere and I felt it a duty to let any potential kindred spirits know about this one. I mean, I’m fairly certain if this book *seems* like the sort of thing you’ll like then you will like it. But you, like me, are a person who read the synopsis and thought “not for me” but it was totally for me! What a pleasant surprise. I hope you find it to be the same. :)

    • Kim

      It is to my sorrow that I report this is a standalone. I want moooooooore! But everything is tied up very nicely in the end. There’s no need for another book at all. I just want one. I hope you love it!

    • Kim

      Yay! I am glad your attention has been caught! The cat has intelligence, but it is rather wild. Also, I suppose I should make it clear that this is more of Big Cat like a mountain lion or tiger, rather than a house cat. It’s not so much up to trickstering as it is ripping your throat out if it catches you. Whoops! But if you’re lucky you’ll get a wish. Haha. It’s part of the magic and the mystery! I swear this makes sense if you read the book. Read the book!!!
      Kim recently posted…Strange Sweet Song: Review

  15. Wendy Darling

    WTF, why have none of the reviews I’ve read ever mentioned FERAL SPACE CAT? Forget the girl and her song, that is a huge selling point for me right there. I almost stopped reading the review, tbh. But then I would have missed “gothic and moody” and “ethereal” and “lovely romance,” and those words just get me crazy excited to read this ASAP. Thank you for always knowing just what to say to get me interested in a book, Miss Kim!

    • Kim

      WTF. Really? “Feral space cat” is the first thing that jumps to mind that I should mention in a review of this book. It’s a *wish granting feral space cat.* Come on. It should be a huge selling point for everyone. If not, what is wrong with you!? :P

      I did think of you a lot as I was writing the review! It kept occurring to me like, “Hmmmm. You know, I think Wendy would really appreciate this one.” I HOPE YOU DO. :D This is not a typical Kim book. It really surprised me. I don’t often go for the whole moody atmospheric gothic thing but I loved it here. :)

  16. Emily

    Thanks for the shout out! I’m glad you liked it so much. I really liked Sing. She felt like a real teenage girl making real mistakes – while a space cat haunts her mystical prestigous academy.

    • Kim

      Of course, Emmy! I really wouldn’t have ever read it if you hadn’t picked it so I am in your debt. And you know I agree so much about Sing. She was such a real, normal girl navigating her way through the high school politics and the heavy expectations placed on her. It was great to see such a refreshingly realistic character.

      The concept of the space cat sort of sounds insane but it belongs here. It just does. “Oh yes, this is this really sweet gothic and lyrical story that takes place at a music conservatory. Oh and there’s a space cat.” Whatever. The space cat works and wonderfully!

    • Kim

      RIGHT?! It’s like I thought this would be a straightforward lyrically Gothic creepy romantic mystery…and then suddenly SPACE CAT! I’m reading and I’m like, “Wait…this cat…came from the stars…and I’m reading it’s point of view…What is going on?? I don’t care it’s awesome!”

      So yeah, this book is pretty good. :D
      Kim recently posted…Strange Sweet Song: Review

  17. Tara Dairman

    “you tragically underestimated Strange Sweet Song”

    It is so easy to do that based on the concept and cover and character name, but I agree that this is such an amazing book–one of my favorite reads of the year. And I keep hearing people say that this isn’t the type of book that they’d normally pick up, but that they adored it anyway…and really, what higher praise can there be than that? Great review. :)

    • Kim

      You are so right. And I think this book has definitely taught me to be less critical in deciding which books to give a chance. I was just so wrong about this one from my initial judgment of the synopsis.

      I’m so delighted to hear that you loved this one as well! And that is so true for me! This isn’t the type of book I would normally pick up *at all*. I’m not normally drawn to gothic, atmospheric books but I really loved this one. It is *such* a lovely story. I think it’s making me reconsider a lot of things in how I approach a book. :D

  18. Ellie

    I Just finished reading this book a few days ago, I was lucky enough to go to Adi Rule & Leah Cypess’ signing in Cambridge. And they were both really awesome. Adi herself was like “Yeup Space cat, I think that’s all I need to say.” and she even noted that she got a lot of crap for Sing’s name :P
    I ended up really loving the book and agree about the romance being a bit too late, but still so lovely. Also, I wish I could sing so I can bring a space cat to me with my voice :)
    Ellie recently posted…Secondary Characters are like Dessert

    • Kim

      Oh yay! Someone else who’s read this! I really haven’t seen much coverage of this book at all in the blogosphere so I am happy to meet a fellow fan. :)

      And seriously. Space cat should be all you need to say. We all wish we could draw a space cat down from the stars. I feel you. I feel bad to hear that she’s gotten crap for Sing’s name, though. The point of it is that it’s terrible! I guess I also feel bad because I was one of the people who immediately dismissed this because of her name. For shame, me! The romance came late but I think it’s a great testament to Rule’s writing that it still felt so organic and not rushed. In the hands of a lesser writer I know I would be rolling my eyes so hard but she really made it work. Such talent!

      • Ellie

        Lol I have to be honest, I was like “REALLY? SING? Sounds just as bad as American Singer….” Which…. is why I still have yet to read The Selection *hides*
        I actually never heard of the book before I got to the signing, I went for Leah Cypess, but I’m soooo glad Adi was there or I never would have picked up the book.
        And the romance was soooooo nice. I wiiish it came sooner just so I could have MORE of it because it was so pretty and smooth.
        Ellie recently posted…Secondary Characters are like Dessert

        • Kim

          Oh that is exactly what I was like as well. My mind went right to The Selection when I saw this character’s name in the synopsis. I was immediately associated it with my distaste for that series. And now I see the error of my ways! It was so unfair of me to do so. This book is in a completely different league.

          I haven’t seen much discussion, good or bad, about this book in the blogosphere at all. I felt I needed to do my tiny part to get the word out there, you know? So I’m glad you found it as well. :)

          The romance was so, so swoony. Like you I just wish it happened sooner. More swoons!

    • Kim

      No, I think that’s wonderful! You’re not an obnoxious snob like me who would have otherwise missed out on this great book if my cousin hadn’t made me read it. This is a good thing! And that space cat better make you want to read this asap. What else are space cats for?!
      Kim recently posted…Strange Sweet Song: Review