Retold Fairy Tales

Book Review: Scarlet

Scarlet
Author: 
Meyer, Marissa
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

I continue to be impressed with Marissa Meyer's ability to weave a compelling narrative based on common fairy tale themes but set in a sci-fi framework. A continuation of the story that started in Cinder , Scarlet felt a little distracted as it added in elements from "Little Red Riding Hood" and split its time between the new characters—mainly Scarlet and Thorne—and advancing the plot of Cinder to its next logical step. As long as you realize this series centers around Cinder and her rise to the Lunar throne, this book should provide some great entertainment.

Perhaps what I enjoyed most about this book was how it seamlessly integrated with the lore already established in the previous volume while also being true to its source. Nothing strays too far from the themes of wolves/werewolves, so it's a bit of an obvious connection to make in a series that's titled the Lunar Chronicles. Still, the thought put into constructing a plausible plot from the pieces of a short fairy tale is something that must be applauded. Even so, Scarlet does have some weaknesses that have carried over from its predecessor.

The charm of the characters in this series comes from how realistic they seem. Granted, most of the characters are teenage girls, so there are many quirks that are amusing at first but become irritating over time. In particular, Scarlet seems quite stupid. Her logic is clearly flawed, and it's obvious to the reader that she's going about things all wrong for far too long until she finally "gets it." And—of course—she's going to be attracted to the "Wolf." The other new character, Thorne, seemed underdeveloped as well, but I'm sure we'll see more of him soon.

A somewhat distracted but still excellent follow-up to Cinder, I give Scarlet 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Heartless

Heartless
Author: 
Meyer, Marissa
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This book is about the Queen of Hearts and how she became so evil. Catherine's dream in life is to be the best baker of all of Hearts. These skills end up wooing the king and he eventually asks for her hand in marriage. Her mother wants her to agree, but Cath soon finds her heart is drawn to someone else, the mysterious Joker. With Hearts under attack by the dangerous Jabberwocky, Catherine gets pulled into an adventure that soon unfolds the reasons behind her infamous tale in the book: Alice in Wonderland.

I really liked this book mostly because of the characters. They were really well developed and I felt as if I knew them and was a part of their story. The plotline gets really slow in the middle, but by the end, I really enjoyed it. Meyer is the same author who wrote the Cinder Series. Even though this book is not like the Cinder Series, they are still really similar, so if you enjoyed that series, you will like this book.

Reviewer's Name: 
Emma

Book Review: Of Giants and Ice

Of Giants and Ice
Author: 
Bach, Shelby
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

I adored this series in middle school. Now that I'm older, I'm better able to recognize that it isn't exactly high literature, but it was fun to read. Putting a twist on middle grade and YA fiction's beloved fairy tale retellings, in Of Giants and Ice, main character Rory discovers she's a "character" when she joins Ever After School, which is supposedly an unassuming after-school program but actually a school where characters go on missions and eventually end up in "tales." As the name suggests, tales are when characters become characters in a fairy tale. Rory and her two friends, Chase and Lena, are thrown into a Jack and the Beanstalk tale, but discover there's something waiting for them that's more sinister than just giants. Of Giants and Ice follows a fairly typical middle grade fiction structure, with a "chosen one" middle school protagonist on an adventure with some friends and eventually solving a massive problem that, for some reason, the adults are incapable of handling without the help of kids, but it's an entertaining read with a fun premise. I would recommend for younger readers who are looking for something light and diverting.

Reviewer grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: 
Elanor

Book Review: Cinder

Cinder
Author: 
Meyer, Marissa
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The book Cinder by Marissa Meyer follows Cinder, a cyborg in New Beijing. Cinder is a mechanic in the futuristic city of New Beijing. She lives with her adopted mother Lihn Adri and her two adopted sisters Peony and Peral. One day, while she is in the market square, the Prince Kai of the Eastern Commonwealth, comes to visit her about his droid. The droid Nainsi had key information about the lost princess, Selene, of Luna. With the new disease Letumosis spreading rapidly around the globe, a cure needs to be found immediately.

The futuristic retelling of the classic tale Cinderella was truly amazing. There were lots of hints at the original story that were incorporated into the plot consistently. Marissa Meyer even includes the ball at the end of the book with her own twist on the tale. All in all, the book was truly amazing and very engaging.

Reviewer's Name: 
Natalie

Book Review: Heartless

Heartless
Author: 
Meyer, Marissa
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Based off Lewis Carroll's character the Queen of Hearts, Catherine is a young woman living in Hearts with her parents in their bakery. Catherine knows that the King intends on proposing to her, but she doesn't want to marry him, convinced that he's infatuated with her beauty, but not in love with her. At the King's ball, Catherine meets Jest, the joker, and she falls in love with him. In an attempt to be with Jest, Catherine tries to run away with him to Chess, but doesn't make it.

I like how this book is one perspective of why the Queen of Hearts is 'heartless'. The characters are very similar to Carroll's characters, but the plot is a little different, which makes it more exciting! I also enjoyed how the book touched on the idea of fate, and whether people can outrun their fate, like Catherine tried (and failed) to do. My favorite character was Jest. Being a Joker, he was naturally an amusing character, and his ending hurt me just as much as it hurt Catherine! Hatta was my least favorite character because of all his tricks, and I was surprised when he confessed to Catherine at the end and went mad. This book had the perfect balance or romance, drama, adventure, and heartache.

Reviewer's Name: 
Nneoma

Book Review: Geekerella

Geekerella
Author: 
Poston, Ashley
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Your classic Cinderella story, but with a geeky twist. Geekerella takes us on the story of Elle Whittimore and Darien Freeman. They are two teenagers in love with an old TV show, and they fall in love with each other over a series of text messages. A take on the classic story Cinderella, we get to sit back and watch as all of the fandom-filled fun plays out between the two characters, who only know each other over text, and mostly hate each other in real life. Darien Freeman is taking over the role of Prince Carmindor, from the TV series that both of the characters love, for the movie adaptation, and Elle runs a scathing blog that is starting to make Darien's life much harder than it needs to be. As both of the characters face many different challenges in their separate lives, everything leads up to ExcelsiCon, a con started by Elle's late father, and a con where the two both happen to be in the same place at the same time. I chose this book because I am a long time lover of the Cinderella story, a story that is classic and I have seen played out on the screen many times. That is what originally drew me to the book. But as I started reading the book I was immediately enraptured in the world that Ashley Poston has created. Starfield, although it may not be a real television show and was just created for the sake of the novel, is a show that I would be happy to watch. I think it is safe to say that if it ever did become a show, it would stand beside science fiction classics such as Star Wars and Star Trek. The tale of the two characters, Elle and Darien, while it is a fun and lighthearted story to read, is also filled with grief and loss and love. Both of the characters are dealing with their own drama, and while I may not personally understand the drama that Darien as a celebrity is dealing with (a manager he doesn't like, a somebody sneaking onto set and leaking pictures of him), I do know about the drama that Elle has to go through: drama with friends and drama with school. The story had me reading late into the night, anxiously awaiting to see what would happen next. Geekerella takes on the themes of loss and grief, as Elle is dealing with the loss of her father and mother. We see Elle deal with this grief in many different ways, and she is also forced to deal with her terrible stepmother and stepsisters on a day-to-day basis. Darien is coping with loss as well, but not in the typical sense, and not like Elle. He is dealing with the loss of himself, because we see him dealing with who he used to be before he was famous, and get a sense of grief about who he is now that he is famous. If you love the Cinderella story, and geeky and nerdy TV shows, Geekerella is the book for you.

Reviewer's Name: 
Birdie

Book Review: Cinder

Cinder
Author: 
Meyer, Marissa
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

For years, I had heard of The Lunar Chronicles and thought people were referring to the two Sega Saturn video games, Lunar: Silver Star Story and Lunar 2: Eternal Blue. However, seeing as most people haven’t heard of these video games, I eventually figured out that they referred to the Young Adult series of books. While 2012 was definitely around the height of the re-imagined fairy tale craze, I do have to admit that this science-fiction take on these classic stories is a fresh new way of adapting the plots that we all grew up with through Disney movies.

The first book in the series, Cinder, takes Cinderella's down-and-out heroine and updates her to a cyborg unaware of her royal origins. What made this story engaging was figuring out how the standard trappings of the Cinderella story would be adapted to this futuristic setting. Granted, this made some of the plot points more than obvious well before they happened, but I usually ended up smiling at the bits of homage that Cinder paid to its origins—such as a “pumpkin” of a car and the leaving behind of certain footwear.

While the plot was mostly predictable, I appreciated the awkward “teenager” dialogue of the titular protagonist but only to a point. I’ll admit that YA books have a kind of frenetic style that matches their main characters' emotional turbulence, and Cinder certainly reads like a teenage girl replete with the insecurities, slang, and missed steps that a full-grown adult wouldn’t necessarily have as character quirks. The problem is that having to follow such a snarky young individual for so long through the story makes it eventually grate on my nerves, especially when the path she needs to take in her life is so obvious. Then again, perhaps I’m just a crotchety old man who isn’t in-tune with the youth anymore.

A great sci-fi Cinderella retelling, I give Cinder 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Red Hood

Red Hood
Author: 
Arnold, Elana
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Acclaimed Young Adult author Elana K. Arnold knows there is realism to be found in dark fairy tales and the award-winning author delivers once again, following up her Printz Award-winning Damsel with Red Hood (Feb. 2020), a retelling of the classic fairy tale geared toward older teens. The story centers on Bisou, a girl in a red hooded sweatshirt, who discovers she has inherited the instincts and supernatural strength -- triggered by menstruation during the full moon -- to stop the boys who turn into werewolves at that time from hurting the young women they prey upon. It's a violent and bloody tale enhanced by layered depictions of strong females, positive male allies and a realistic portrayal of teen life. Arnold effectively blends magical realism, dark fantasy elements and modern prose together into a disturbing but ultimately empowering story that celebrates sisterhood that spans generations while shining a light into the dark shadows of rape culture. The story quickly builds to an ending that does not disappoint.

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe P.

Book Review: Cinderella is Dead

Book Cover
Author: 
Bayron, Kaylynn
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

Cinderella is dead is about a girl in a society where women are expected to behave like Cinderella in the beloved (well, they're forced to love it) fairy-tale: wait until you're somethingth birthday and then you must go to a ball to be chosen by a boy/man/grandpa who you will be forced to obey for the rest of your life. Those who refuse are executed. When our main character falls in love with another girl instead of waiting to be chosen at the ball, she decides it's time for a change.

I saw this book ages ago on Netgalley and while I love the cover (and don't be afraid to chose a book by it's cover, kids!), I'm pretty over anything to do with Cinderella as I feel as though I've read around 8 million re-tellings in the last five years or so. Then, I heard some folks from Bloomsbury talk about this book at a recent conference, and I was sold! Unfortunately, though, there was way too much Cinderella in it for me to truly enjoy it. The worldbuilding and plot waffled between being creative and a bit silly. The characters were one-dimensional and the romance unearned. That said, I think the book's audience, younger teens, will enjoy it, so I'll definitely be recommending it.

This is the perfect book for younger teens who just can't get enough of Cinderella or who are looking to make the jump from middle grade to young adult fiction. For this older reader, the coolness of the author's innovation with the Cinderella fairytale was outweighed by bland characters and forced romance. 2 stars - it was ok.

Thanks to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for the eARC which I received for an unbiased review. You can put Cinderella is Dead on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: The Guinevere Deception

Book Review: The Guinevere Deception
Author: 
White, Kiersten
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Premise: Guinevere died in the convent where she'd been sent by an her father. An imposter, Merlin's daughter and Arthur's new protector, is her replacement, and all have been fooled into thinking she's the "real" Guinevere, save Arthur, who she immediately marries and starts to protect.

I found the beginning of the book, with its delicious hints of a larger story of evil and darkness, to be captivating. Unfortunately, those hints, for the most part, stay hints, and the book ended up being a pretty predictable retelling of sorts that was paradoxically too faithful and not faithful enough to its predecessors. It had glimpses of the humor from Mallory, T. H. White and Steinbeck. It had the promise of the adventure that lies in those tales. It just never fully delivered. And the end, when it finally came, was predictable enough to be a bit disappointing.

That said, I do love Arthurian legend, and this version of Guinevere is not without promise. If the next entry gets great reviews, I'll give it a go as my familiarity with the characters and story would render a re-read unnecessary. 3 stars. I...liked it? I'll recommend it to younger readers new to the legend.

Thanks to Netgalley and Delacorte for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Guinevere Deception will be on sale on 05 November, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

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