All Book Reviews by Genre: Retold Fairy Tales
In Marissa Meyer's (The Lunar Chronicles) new standalone novel, she explores the Queen of Heart's origin story. Lady Catherine Pinkerton wants nothing more than to open her own bakery with her maid, Mary Ann. But as the Kingdom of Hearts operates in a style similar to that of Victorian England, Catherine finds herself without the money or permission to do so. Worse yet, she's being courted by the king, a silly man that she has little interest in marrying, though she is under constant pressure from her mother to accept his advances. And then, at a royal ball, a hot new court jester with murky motivations appears alongside a Jabberwock and Catherine's life and the Kingdom of Hearts will never be the same.
This was a pretty hotly anticipated read for me, as I adored the Lunar Chronicles. And a lot of the best things about the Lunar Chronicles were present here too: Wonderland and its delightful, sinister, and delightfully sinister characters are definitely a part of the story without overwhelming the character development or seeming trite. It was brilliantly executed. The romance, for me, was just a bit overbearing, and I had a hard time investing in Jest, the love interest. He was introduced as a magician, and then all I could envision whenever he was around was GOB Bluth dancing around to Final Countdown. Decidedly not sexy. We also didn't really learn enough about him for me to ever really care about his fate. I really enjoyed the other parts, though - Catherine's struggles to do right by her parents while preserving her dreams of opening a bakery were realistic and relatable, and her transition from hero to villain was pretty believable in the context of everything that happened. Warning: the food is well described - this book will make you eat any and all baked goods in your house. Oh, and the last 100 pages, the end game, was fantastic. It's a lot of fast paced action laced with emotion, and it's marvelous.
While there was a bit too much romance in this one for my taste, I think those that enjoy a bit more romance in their fantasy reads, or those that love a well-written, somehow inventive fairy tale retelling will love this one. I liked it - 3 stars.
Set in the 1920’s, this is the story of Jack and Mabel, a childless couple homesteading on the Alaskan frontier. The workload is never-ending, and without children to help with plowing, planting and harvest, they struggle not only to survive, but to avoid losing themselves to despair and disappointment. It is a story not only of survival and grit, but also of the kindness found in a community of like-minded individuals and families. This theme is typical of much historical fiction about western expansion and pioneer life, but this story holds an unexpected and delightful twist, where magic, reality and fairytales intersect. The first snow of the year is met with a playfulness that is not typical of Mabel and Jack. They end their snowball fight by building a snow-child near their cabin, complete with mittens, a hat, and arms made from twigs. The next day, they discover that their snow child was destroyed during the night – likely by wild animals. Their journey from that point is full of hope and expectation. The story has a dream-like, ethereal quality, yet the author maintains the sense of solidity that is required for historical fiction to work. The pace is slow, but fits well with the time and place. I sincerely enjoyed this author’s first novel. It made me think about the importance of accepting others as they are – always an important consideration. I have Eowyn Ivey’s second book in my “to read” stack right now, and will eagerly read her future offerings.
“Through the Woods” by Emily Carroll is a comic book collection of whimsically morbid fairy-tales, each mostly self-contained but serving what I would call an important, human theme: the uncanny waits, and surrounds, especially where you wouldn’t expect it. I love the stark yet evocative art throughout this book, and some of the stories did manage to surprise me. I personally love testaments to the monsters under our beds, particularly those intended for adults, and if you do, too, you may carry something interesting away from this collection. At any rate, the art is gorgeous, feeling “classic” even as it’s so unique.
I've yet to read something by Catherynne M. Valente that isn't absolutely gorgeous -- admittedly I may be a little bit biased, as I definitely think folkloric stories are the best, and folkloric stories with lovely playful twists are the BEST best... But when it comes to evocative and clever prose, as far as I'm concerned Valente is on a level all her own. At the moment, I happen to be reading her "Fairyland" series, and so... Behold, the first book -- "The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making!" It's just as whimsical as it sounds.
So there's this little girl named September, living in a lonely house and washing a bunch of lonely teacups all the time and feeling very trapped. A quirky and talkative Green Wind -- apparently a defiant and spirited sort of wind -- riding a leopard shows up to spirit her away to Fairyland if she likes. This book is very much like "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" for the modern age: September has loads more authority over herself and her destiny, for one, and she grows dramatically as a human being over the course of the series. Fairyland helps that along of course, despite being a wild and alien place, complete with folkloric and/or mythological figures both eternal and re-imagined, petulant tyrants with very impressive hats, and interesting twists and turns aplenty that I can say I definitely didn't see coming. Valente's world is simultaneously familiar and wonderfully fresh, like she's composed words to go along to the tune of a well-beloved song, shifting its meaning in unexpected ways while still keeping true to the soul of something timeless.
In this book, you happen to meet Alyssa, the great-great-great granddaughter of Alice Liddell. You may think that's really cool, but no. As her great-great-great granddaughter, she must live with the legacy that the original Alice left behind, which happens to not be a very positive one. Everyone knows that the original Alice went to the asylum for being "crazy" after she came back from Wonderland, and most of her decedents are destined to follow. Those family members that were "destined to follow" include Alyssa's mother, Allison. Now Alyssa is living with just her father and occasionally goes to the asylum to visit her mother. Then, all the teasing from others about her family history pushes her over the edge. She ends up determined to find Wonderland and prove that no one in her family has been "crazy" at all! She decides to follow out with this plan A.S.A.P.. Once she finally gets there, (yes, Wonderland does exist in the book) she goes throughout it and sees that Alice's story has many things wrong with it, and that because of Alice's age at the time, she was mistaken about many things. You'll see White Rabbit and his descendant are NOT really cute rabbits at all. Then the "pretty" flowers from the original tale turn out to be almost like zombies! Eventually, you find out that all the characters you met in the original story, are backwards and creepy! Alyssa will encounter many trials that might keep her from ever going back to the real world. Or will they? I loved this book a lot even though I'm not a fan of the original 'Alice in Wonderland'. This twist made it really exciting, thrilling and like every chapter held an even better part of the adventure! Also, there is a little romance too! But I actually didn't pick this book out. I ended up getting it from a friend for Christmas, and I really didn't think I would like it. That is... till I started it! My favorite parts are seeing all the characters be so different from the originals! But, I also had a least favorite part, which was actually still a great part! It was when Alyssa goes to the asylum to visit her mother and something crazy happens, but I'll leave it a surprise! ;) I feel like I could even relate to Alyssa because I'm always trying to prove I'm right when others think I'm wrong, which might not be a very good thing but..... Anyways, I think that any one over the age of eleven can read this. (if their parents approve of zombie flowers and whatnot) So, if you're looking for a good book, you just found it. No matter if you like the original 'Alice in Wonderland' or not, this story will keep you engaged no matter where you are in its adventure!
Reviewer Grade: 8
The book follows Ada (Alice's friend who does rate a mention in the original) as she tumbles down the rabbit hole after Alice (see what Maguire did there?). In between chapters about Ada in Wonderland, we follow the goings on of Ada and Alice's families above ground. I wanted the book to be Alice in Wonderland meets Downton Abbey, and that is definitely not what I got. The parts in Wonderland were ok, though Ada's character was never developed, and as such, I didn't actually care if she was stuck in a zoo forever with the White Queen or whatever. The above ground parts were painfully boring - even though Maguire added Darwin as a character, which could have been fascinating! We basically follow various housekeepers and Alice's sister Lydia as they traipse around searching for the lost children. Exciting it was not. There was also a ton of completely pointless social commentary - for example, its not exactly shocking that there would be lots of racists in Victorian England.
Oh, and to add insult to injury, Maguire writes as though he's just ingested a thesaurus.
This is the second Maguire book that I've read and hated (I was not very fond of Wicked either), so I believe it will be my last. 1 star.
Hideous Love is a verse novel about the life of Mary Shelley, the woman who wrote the iconic Frankenstein. Mary Shelley ran away with her lover, Percy Shelley and traveled around Europe, getting inspiration from the scenic surroundings for her writing.
Mary Shelley had led a very interesting life full of tragedy and drama and with award-winning Stephanie Hemphill writing it, it'll be great, right?
Ha... no. All I got was disappointment and dissatisfaction.
Reading Hideous Love was a chore. I kept on thinking it would get better, but it didn't happen.
The poems were choppy and I feel like Stephanie Hemphill just tried to make her sentences as short as possible, put them in a pile, and called it poetry.
Horrible Love didn't even scratch the surface of the emotions Mary Shelley must have felt, I couldn't relate to her at all; it was hard not to skim through the poems. I can't help but think that Hemphill didn't even try putting any structure or effort in her novel. A few poems in Hideous Love were written fairly well, but that meager amount can't make up for all of the rest of those tedious and boring poems.The verse novel was mostly about Mary Shelley worrying about the faithfulness of her husband and her actual writing was just tacked on there like an afterthought.
I don't recommend this to anyone, and Hideous Love is possibly the worst book I have ever had the misfortune of reading. The Wikipedia article on Mary Shelley was more interesting and gave more information.
Reviewer's Grade: 8
Elena is a peasant living in Miersk, a village in Russia. Ekaterina is a noble that was passing through Miersk on her way to a ball. Due to an unfortunate accident, Elena and Ekaterina switch places and need to set things right again.
I first took notice of Egg & Spoon because of the aesthetic of the cover. I was about to choose not to read it after seeing the summary, but then I saw that it was written by Gregory Maguire, so I decided against not reading it.
The writing style is truly beautiful, and I can't really find the right words to describe it, which is frustrating, to say the least. To me, the story is slightly reminiscent of having a (very long) conversation with someone; it kind of goes off into tangents, it gets unusually descriptive on small things that don't really matter, and it talks about a little bit about everything. I find that really enjoyable, but for some people, it can seem long and tedious. I had to really concentrate while reading it because I kept on admiring how amazing the writing was instead of actually processing what was happening.
The characters were incredible! Everyone had different and unique personalities and reacted to things differently. I found all of them quite charming in their own ways. They all just had so much character!
The humor had me dying of laughter and really lightened the mood of the whole story.
One thing I didn't like about the novel was its pacing. Everything happened too slowly, and I was always waiting for something to happen to push the story along; Egg & Spoon is definitely not for impatient people, especially since it has almost 500 pages. It was really hard to get through.
Egg & Spoon was based off of Russian folklore and really gave off a fairy tale vibe, which is always a plus.
Egg & Spoon is definitely not for everyone, but, in my opinion, it was phenomenal.
Reviewer's Grade: 8
Linh Cinder is unusual. Her stepsisters and stepmother hate her. Her best friend is an android. Oh, and she’s a cyborg – and she wants to go to the ball. Politics, adventure, and a deadly plague all play roles in this book.
Cinder was fun and exciting. Cinder is a protagonist you can really root for. Prince Kai is complex and interesting – he’s more than just the love interest. Queen Levana is a great creepy villain. The futuristic sci-fi world of New Beijing is expansive and really quite interesting. The plot moved at a very fast pace.
I only have one complaint: the plot twists were a little predictable. But, besides that, it is a fun and interesting book! I have yet to read the rest of the series, but I really think they’re going to be spectacular based on what I’ve seen from this awesome book.
Reviewer Grade: 9
This is one of my favorite book series of all time. Overall, it is a mix between star wars and princesses, perfect for both genders. Rather than set in the past like Cinderella, though, Cinder lives in the future. International affairs on Earth are not so much a problem as the impending war with the Lunars, ruled by Queen Levana. Cinder and Prince Kai have to squash their feelings for each other for more serious matters such as the epidemic spreading quickly across the world as well as how to keep Levana happy, in order to prevent a war against all of Earth. Read this book for an epic, unique dystopian along with a fantastic, surprising ending.
Reviewer Grade: 12
This book focuses on the main antagonist of The Lunar Chronicles series: Levana, before she became the queen of Luna. This book explains many things that were mentioned in The Lunar Chronicles, and shows Levana’s journey from an unfortunate youth into the powerful queen. It was interesting to see the world through the younger Levana’s eyes, and understanding her past. This book also describes drastic steps she took in order to become the ruler of Luna. The setting for the story, the moon, was described and built from a unique perspective, which made it interesting to see Earth from the moon’s.
Reviewer Grade: 8
Similar to the old tale, Cinderella, Cinder follows a cyborg with a mysterious past. Living with a horrible family, much like Cinderella, in the midst of the blue fever, she works as a mechanic and considers herself as useless as her family accuses her of being. That is, until she meets Prince Kai and the Lunar people. What follows is a love story of unbelievable proportions, with action and climax, and every chapter a cliff hanger. A must read for the lovers of the old Cinderella and anyone who wants to experience the story coming back to life in a way that is wholly unexpected.
Reviewer Grade: 12
This is and isn't your typical fairy tale. It is haunting, but not because Jacob Grim is the narrator ghost that only Jeremy can hear. Jeremy's mother may or may not be dead, a child may or may not be missing, the sheriff may or may not be evil, the baker may or may not be jolly, the girl may or may not be gotten and it may or may not have a happy ending. But read it and see if you can predict what happens in Far Far Away...
I mostly read this book for the enjoyment of finding a new take on Robin Hood. It's an excellent story with developed characters and rich plot. A must read for Robin Hood fans, historical fiction readers, and anyone who is just looking for a unique story.
Serafina's Stories shares the folklore of the southwest through the story telling template of Scheherazade's One Thousand and One Nights. Rudolfo Anaya focuses on the time of the Pueblo revolt against the Spanish Conquistadores. The captured Serafina weaves tales from both Pueblo and Spanish tradition that illuminate the similarites and differences of the peoples struggling to coexist in the same land.