5 stars · fairy tale · fiction

Stardust by Neil Gaiman: everything I need in life

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Stardust

author : neil gaiman

pages : [paperback] 266

memorable quote :

Have been unavoidably detained by the world. Expect us when you see us.

favorite character : tristran

summary :

Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria—even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristran learns, lies Faerie—where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman comes a remarkable quest into the dark and miraculous—in pursuit of love and the utterly impossible.

review:

WORDS CANNOT EXPRESS HOW MUCH I LOVED THIS BOOK.

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Not that I can ever underestimate Neil Gaiman anymore. After The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Graveyard Book (just to name two), I’m ready to devour everything he’s ever written. Luckily for me, Stardust has been on my mental TBR for years. My physical TBR for a pile. Now I’m kicking myself because, after reading it, I realized that this is one of my absolute favorite books for the year–if not of all time.

It’s that amazing.

If you love fairy tales, or retold fairy tales, you’ll love this one. It’s like a fairy tale for adults–but not, you know, those adult themes. It’s the kind of perfect you want to go into knowing almost nothing about, just so you can fall headlong into the story and fall in love with Tristran Thorn.

Apart from the fact that I kept thinking “Tristran” is just a really complicated way of saying “Tristan”, our hero was amazing. Mostly because he isn’t perfect. He’s a little foolish, making promises to people he barely knows about things he hardly knows about. Running off to lands he knows absolutely nothing about and accepting help from people he’s just met. But he has such a kind heart, such good humor, and such a loving soul that you can’t help rooting for him and desperately hoping that the people he meets along the way will root for him, too. Because, of course, he’s entered the land of Faerie, where nothing is ever quite as it seems and most creatures aren’t as nice as you would like them to be.

But it’s oh so magical.

I don’t know why I love stories about Faerie so much when the creatures aren’t so nice. Maybe because it means most of the characters will be inevitably witty or clever. Tristan is kind of accidentally both of those things, which makes him even more endearing.

And then there are the other characters. I can’t delve much into them, because I don’t want to give anything away. I want you to step into this book, into this world, and be sucked in as deeply and immediately as I was. You’ll want to own this book, re-read it immediately, and share it with everyone you know.

I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear I’d recommend Stardust to literally anyone. So what are you waiting for? Go take a trip to Faerie.

5/5 stars

 

3 stars · fairy tale · young adult

Spelled by Betsy Schow is a fun mashup of fairytale madness

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Spelled

author : betsy schow

pages : [paperback] 345

favorite character : kato

summary :

Fairy Tale Survival Rule #32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.

Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Talk about unhappily ever after.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called “Kansas.” Now it’s up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse…before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.

review :

If you’re someone who doesn’t have the patience for unlikable narrators, then Spelled isn’t the one for you. If you’re like me and can put up with Dot’s shenanigans, then I think you’ll really enjoy this book.

Spelled is the first in a series about fairy tales ranging from The Wizard of Oz to Cinderella to Greek mythology. There’s a little bit of everything in here, and it’s kind of awesome that even major fairy tales will just have a minor shoutout in the background of a scene. How casually it’s all thrown together just shows how usual this is for Dot, when her entire life revolves around these magical things and the so-called ‘rules’ of story that ensure the good guys win every time. All until Dot ruins the magic holding her world together and everything about happily ever after seems to become its opposite.

Dot is forced on a wild adventure with extremely unlikely (and also kind of unlikable) companions. It’s a little strange that out of three main characters, not a single one of them is inherently pleasant. I wasn’t sure of how to feel about that at first, but this isn’t your typical fairy tale. Just like Dot is fighting to get her normal life back together, she’s also fighting the magically satisfying character growth that’s coming her way.

And the worldbuilding was excellent! I love the nods to original stories, like Dot’s magical heels. Familiar but unique, all at once. The patchwork quality of the land was great as well, because you never knew which story connected with the other and would cause more magical mayhem.

This is a very quick and fun read that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’ll definitely be reading more of the series!

3.5/5 stars

5 stars · fairy tale · fiction · young adult

HEARTLESS by Marissa Meyer does terrible things to your heart

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Heartless

author : marissa meyer

pages : [ARC] 464

favorite character : jest

summary :

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king’s marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

review :

Where do I begin, with an author like Marissa Meyer? She writes retold fairy tales. Those are the kind of books and stories I love most in the world, because all at once they’re familiar and excitingly new. She does it so well, so creatively, that I look up to her both as a reader and a writer. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her, once, when she went on tour for her recent book of short stories that tied into her Lunar Chronicles collection.

But Heartless, that was a new experience. It’s the first book I’ve read by her (and the only that exists so far as I know) outside of the Lunar Chronicles. It’s still a retelling, in the fact that it takes the story of Alice in Wonderland and tells the origin story of the Queen of Hearts. But it has none of those familiar friends, from the other books, so I wondered if I would enjoy this one just as much.

I did, mostly because I gave it the chance to be different. There was a serious case of insta-love, which could partially be forgiven because what fairy tale doesn’t have insta-love. There were moments where I worried that the plot would move too slowly and I would get bored, but the beautiful writing and the intriguing way Meyer interprets the world to make it vivid and familiar kept me captivated. But it’s the origin story of a villain. A woman who’s been wronged so much that she can’t help but snap. I wasn’t sure if Meyer could pull it off, because for so long in the story Cath is nearly likable.

But then it happens. You begin to see little hints of what she could be like, if she weren’t forced to be prim and proper and a lady. Threatening to wrap a flamingo’s neck around a tree. Steadily getting more violent and less likely to hold her tongue around people who would prefer not to hear such words from a woman of her status.

That’s another thing–social class means so much in Hearts, where Catherine lives. It practically dictates the plot of the novel and determines the outcome of her life for good or for bad. She can’t marry beneath her. She can’t refuse to marry someone above her. All the while, the citizens of Hearts seem mostly content to just ignore the problems of their world because it means they can continue to live in luxury. Which, honestly, is a cliche that appears in a lot of books nowadays, but I loved seeing how all of these little moments created because of this society banded together to create the Queen of Hearts.

It was terrifying. It was brutal. I may have cried a little. But I loved, and definitely recommend, Heartless. Though I won’t be giving away my heart anytime soon, and will hopefully be holding onto my head as well.

5/5 stars

5 stars · fairy tale · Fantasy · horror · Uncategorized

Through the Woods — a graphic novel that will terrify you

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Through the Woods

author : emily carroll

pages : [hardcover] 208

summary :

‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.

These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.

Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…

review :

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book ever since I spotted it on a Barnes & Noble shelf, coveted it, and never thought that I’d ever be able to afford it. Which ended up being true, because I happily found that my school library had procured a copy of this book recently and I was the first person to check it out. With how long I’ve been waiting to get my hands on Through the Woods, it did not disappoint. In fact, these five horror stories left me shivering long past when I was supposed to get to sleep.

These are no normal retold fairy tales. They’re the kind of things you’d rather not hear, because more often than not there are no happy endings, and no guarantees that the characters you fear are not walking among you–or maybe waiting underneath your bed. That’s the kind of story Carroll is not only great at crafting, but illustrating. Yes, this graphic novel isn’t exactly ‘graphic’ in its horror, really, but sometimes the creatures it leaves up to your imagination is far worse than what is pictured on the page. I love how she turns that around on the reader, so in the end you aren’t sure of what, exactly, you’re afraid of, just that something is very wrong. Much like most of the protagonists in the stories feel. Before terribly creative and terrifying things happen in their lives.

Some of the tales reference easily recognizable fairy tales and others seem to have emerged on their own with no immediate influences, though through the tone and artistry they feel as ancient and warning as some of the oldest known fairy tales. I love that Carroll was so easily able to adapt an approach that brought back some of the gruesome aspects of original fairy tales but spun it all so that this storytelling is wholly her own.

I could gush about it forever, really, because the illustrations are amazing, too. I love the way the text itself because an image in the story, playing with the figures depicted. Sometimes changing color and size to indicate what is speaking and how the reader should feel about what is said. It’s such a layered book that I feel has been severely overlooked, and now I’m going to go and push it on all of my friends.

So, yes, of course, I recommend Through the Woods–just don’t read it on a dark and stormy night, when you’re home alone.

5/5 stars

 

3 stars · fairy tale · series · young adult

Reign of Shadows was a Rapunzel retelling that’s both amazing & disappointing

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Reign of Shadows

Reign of Shadows #1

author : sophie jordan

pages :  [hardcover] 304

memorable quote :

Life is full of regrets.
They’ll cripple you if you let them.

favorite character : luna

summary :

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

With lush writing and a star–crossed romance, Reign of Shadowsis Sophie Jordan at her best.

review :

There were some parts of this story that I loved so much. Parts where I wanted to toss the book in the air while I celebrated how wickedly awesome that new detail or plot point was. And then something would happen that would be utterly predictable, or just a little cringe-worthy, so, slowly, my enthusiasm waned.

So. Rapunzel is my favorite fairy tale, hands down. From the creepy old versions right up to Tangled, it’s my thing. I’m kind of even working on my own version of it.

Luna is awesome as a Rapunzel heroine. She can handle her own in any situation, even though she’s barely left her tower throughout her life. Basically, if I had to be stuck in this terrible world filled with a perpetual night, I’d want her as an ally because I’d probably get out of it alive. Unfortunately, as soon as tall and brooding Fowler showed up, there was insta-love all over the place. The kind where Fowler, in his half of the chapters, gets very angst-y about how he’s never going to even care for someone again, much less love them. You’ll see how well that turns out.

However, I did enjoy the dual narration. They each had their different life experiences in this horrible world so it was interesting to get a more complete view of it by cobbling together their thoughts and memories. But there were a few plot twists dealing with them that were so heavily foreshadowed, I was not surprised in the least. I was actually kind of surprised that I was right about what was going to happen because I was hoping I was being tricked, in some way.

The thing I have most of a problem with, I think, is that this is supposed to be a duology and it could all be one book. I reached the ending and feel like I didn’t get to the meat of Reign of Shadows yet. It still felt like an introduction to only the superficial problems this kingdom is facing. It makes me worried that too much is going to be packed into book two. The cliffhanger ending here is frustrating because it reads more like a chapter ending with a cliffhanger than an actual conclusion to a book.

I’m definitely going to read the sequel, just to see where things go, but I won’t be purchasing it for myself.

3/5 stars

5 stars · fairy tale · young adult

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer reminds me to get a boyfriend

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Stars Above

The Lunar Chronicles short story collection

author : marissa meyer

pages : [hardcover] 369

memorable quote :

I will accept any amount of monsters my mind wants to give me, but I will not become a monster myself.

favorite character : scarlet & wolf, always

summary :

The enchantment continues….

The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories—and secrets—that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic. How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing? How did the brooding soldier Wolf transform from young man to killer? When did Princess Winter and the palace guard Jacin realize their destinies?

With nine stories—five of which have never before been published—and an exclusive never-before-seen excerpt from Marissa Meyer’s upcoming novel, Heartless, about the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, Stars Above is essential for fans of the bestselling and beloved Lunar Chronicles.

review :

I can’t believe that The Lunar Chronicles is over. I remember waiting for years for new installments to come out, for cover reveals and sequel names and anxiously wondering if my beloved characters could possibly be okay at the end of all of this. And now, it’s over. And I’m forced to be okay with it.

Stars Above is a collection of short stories featuring most of the same characters and some of the same stories that have previously been published in this series. If you’ve read or purchased any of the paperback versions of the books, there might have been a bonus story tacked onto the end of it. Luckily this collection doesn’t just try to capitalize on having all of those in one pretty package. There are so many extra, new stories here that it’s definitely worth the purchase. And, to cap it all off, there’s a story that takes place after Winter. Is now when I admit that I immediately skipped to that story? Don’t judge me. I was listening to Marissa Meyer herself! When I had the chance to meet her at a signing, and told her of my undying love for some certain characters, she mentioned how much I would love this story.

The Lunar Chronicles have never made me cry but this epilogue nearly did, probably because I was so happy. There are so many things going on. It kind of reads like a fanfiction “what if the story continued?” but the best part about it is that it’s completely canon. (Please excuse my internal excited screaming.)

Some of the other stories crushed my happy little heart afterward, of course. Not all of the characters have had happy childhoods and it was interesting to see what brought them to the people they are today. There was also an interesting little story, “The Little Android”, a The Little Mermaid retelling that didn’t seem to feature any returning characters that I know of but touched me nonetheless.

If you love Marissa Meyer, you’re going to love this collection. But, please, read the series first and don’t spoil yourself with the ending before you get the thrill of the beginning.

5/5 stars

 

4 stars · fairy tale · series

Cold Spell, a retold fairy tale to make you shiver

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Cold Spell

Fairytale Retellings #4

author : jackson pearce

pages : [hardcover] 323

memorable quote :

Maybe all you can do, when your world is burning, is hold on to the thing you love the most.

favorite characters : ginny & lucas

summary :

Kai and Ginny grew up together–best friends since they could toddle around their building’s rooftop rose garden. Now they’re seventeen, and their relationship has developed into something sweeter, complete with stolen kisses and plans to someday run away together.

But one night, Kai disappears with a mysterious stranger named Mora–a beautiful girl with a dark past and a heart of ice. Refusing to be cast aside, Ginny goes after them and is thrust into a world she never imagined, one filled with monsters and thieves and the idea that love is not enough.

If Ginny and Kai survive the journey, will she still be the girl he loved–and moreover, will she still be the girl who loved him?

review :

I’ve been reading the Fairytale Retellings series for a long while now. It’s one of those series where the books don’t necessarily need to be read in order, or you could pick and choose which you’d prefer to read. They’re more like companion novels than a cohesive whole. Maybe that explains how this book managed to be released three years ago and completely escape my notice until a few months ago. How? Why? I don’t even know how I found out about it eventually. But I do know I’m glad I bought it.

Sisters Red will forever be my favorite, but Cold Spell comes a close second. Ginny is such a strong leading lady and I love how fiercely she loves Kai–and desperately wants a life and love for herself. She’s never had a real family and, while she’s searching for her true love who’s been kidnapped by the Snow Queen, she’s really searching for her sense of self. And runs into some rather weird and unpredictable problems on the way. Yeah, I definitely never saw those coming.

What I really love about these books is that they read like fairytales, even though they’re settled in the modern era. Ginny really feels like she’s on a quest, and it’s modernized in the most realistic (and, somewhat contradictory to itself, fantastical) way. She’s fighting each step of the way and you’ll end up rooting for her too, I promise.

It’s been a while since I read the other books in this series so, as soon as I finished, I felt the immediate urge to gather up all of the books and do a reading binge so that I can catch all of the little connections in all of the books. Some are not so obvious, and I love that it’s like putting together a puzzle to see how these pieces fit together.

I would definitely recommend this book, although I’m not sure if this is the end of the retellings or not. Until then, I highly recommend these four!

4/5 stars