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 · 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

5 stars · fairy tale · Fantasy · series · young adult

Winter by Marissa Meyer

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Winter

author : marissa meyer

pages : [hardcover] 824

memorable quote Right now, a kiss is the going rate for near-death experiences. It’s kind of a point system.

favorite characters : wolf & scarlet

summary :

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

review :

Marissa Meyer, thanks for knowing how to tear my heart out and making me love every minute of it. I’m going to miss every heart-pounding, anxiety-inducing part of this series. These characters are some of my favorites. They’ve inspired my own writing and lit up my imagination in more ways than I could possibly explain. These are books that I’ll keep coming back to–they’re books that, literally, as I finished the last pages of <i>Winter</i>, I felt the urge to pick up <i>Cinder</i> so that I could start the ride all over again.

I’ve been waiting to read this book for what feels like forever. I read <i>Cress</i>, the third book in the series and one leading up to this finale, nearly two years ago and it was painful to wait to get my hands on this one. Each book in the series introduces us to a new set of characters–more to fall in love with and worry about when they’re steadily placing themselves in more and more danger. In between these books, Meyer released a prequel, <i>Fairest</i>, which deals only with the backstory of our villain, Levana. Knowing where she’s coming from and what she’s dealt with, I can now safely say that Levana is entirely crazy and if I ever saw this Lunar anywhere I’d run the other way as fast as possible. She would do <i>anything</i> to keep her place as queen of Luna and, what’s worse, she is insane enough to believe that the people of the planet love her and that she’s doing it all–starting a war, killing millions of people–for the good of the world.

Despite all of that horrible craziness happening, there were so many cute moments in this book. Because there are so many couples and it’s the last installment, I was waiting for it, and I think I’m satisfied with what I got. Of course, Scarlet and Wolf are my favorite characters EVER so every time either of them were mentioned, even when terrible things were happening (though I won’t spoil anything!) I wanted to squeal with happiness. The jokes in this made me laugh aloud a few times, which got me odd looks from my roommate but really helped to break up all of the, well, heartbreak that was happening.

Because this book is dark. Don’t get me wrong; at one point, I could predict a few things that were going to happen. But that didn’t annoy me. On the contrary, I ended up surprised that the things were actually happening, and wished that I could have a strong word with Meyer about what she was putting these poor characters through. It was one thing for me to think that something devastating could happen and another for it to ACTUALLY happen. This book is a rollercoaster and you should probably triple-check your safety harness before you get on.

If you haven’t started these books now, start before you get spoiled! These are some of the best fairy tale retellings I’ve ever read and because that’s my favorite kind of book, I’ve read a LOT of those. They’re kind of perfect. The best characters, plot, originality, romance, humor, suspense. I could praise these books all day but it wouldn’t be the same as you picking them up and reading them for yourself. And then, you can be as devastated as I am, that they’re finally over and I’ll get no more Scarlet and Wolf in my life.

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · adult · fairy tale

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

Alias Hook

author : lisa jensen

pages : [paperback] 368

memorable quote Children must find not only their happiest fantasies, but their most violent and terrible nightmares. They must face their demons and laugh at them. That is the key to growing up.

favorite character : hook

summary :

“Every child knows how the story ends. The wicked pirate captain is flung overboard, caught in the jaws of the monster crocodile who drags him down to a watery grave. But it was not yet my time to die. It’s my fate to be trapped here forever, in a nightmare of childhood fancy, with that infernal, eternal boy.”

Meet Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. But everything changes when Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of Pan’s rules. From the glamour of the Fairy Revels, to the secret ceremonies of the First Tribes, to the mysterious underwater temple beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, the magical forces of the Neverland open up for Stella as they never have for Hook. And in the pirate captain himself, she begins to see someone far more complex than the storybook villain.

With Stella’s knowledge of folk and fairy tales, she might be Hook’s last chance for redemption and release if they can break his curse before Pan and his warrior boys hunt her down and drag Hook back to their neverending game. Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen is a beautifully and romantically written adult fairy tale.

review :

 Fairy tale retellings are my weakness; every time I spot one or hear about a new one, I need to get my hands on it. Peter Pan is one of my favorite stories so when I first learned about Alias Hook I ordered it for myself.

As soon as I opened Alias Hook and read the prologue I knew that I was going to be hooked (ha, ha) in at least one way because the prose was gorgeous. I’ve never read anything by Lisa Jensen before but now I’m incredibly tempted to follow her (I saw that she has another retelling coming but it isn’t until 2017. How am I supposed to wait that long???). Hook is rather old-fashioned as a character, having lived for centuries, and I think Jensen did a fabulous job of capturing his old-timey prose combined with a slight tinge of modernism that Hook gains from the new pirates coming to fill his ship every time Peter Pan slaughters his crew.

That’s all that Hook knows, fighting Pan, and the boy always wins. Hook can’t count the number of crew members he’s lost since he was cursed into Neverland. Trapped, he’s certain his only escape will come when Pan is killed, but after centuries of Lost Boys returning as pirates to populate his ship, Hook is losing hope. He’s grown cruel, mad, and everything sinister is twisting and thriving inside of him. In the real world, Hook was not always a gentleman, but Neverland takes everything that is inside of a person and makes it that much stronger. Throw in a grown woman, when Pan doesn’t allow such Mothers into Neverland, and Hook has a real choice to make: His love or his love of the fight?

Although some portions of Alias Hook are predictable, that’s only to be expected when we already know the outcome of the original story. What I liked most were the supplemental facts and smaller plotlines scattered throughout the novel. Hook’s past, why Stella was drawn to Neverland, the role of the mysterious fairies–all of these things and more captivated me and brought a darker, more adult tinge to this fairy tale world of Neverland. I’m sure that everyone who can appreciate a good adult novel will love this retelling that really takes something purportedly aimed at children and shapes it into something scarily recognizable.

Honestly, this book was extremely easy to read and impossible to put down. I haven’t had a good book draw me in like this for a while. When I was reading for bed, I didn’t know whether to hope or dread that I’d dream about Neverland, because this is one version of that place I wouldn’t want to be pulled into.

I’ll be recommending this book to everyone. If you like fairy tale retellings, adventure, or romance, you’ll love Alias Hook.

5/5 stars