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

Neverland by Shari Arnold


author : shari arnold

pages : [hardcover] 358

favorite characters : jilly & meyer

memorable quote Live as if they’re going to tell stories about you.

summary :

It’s been four months since seventeen-year-old Livy Cloud lost her younger sister, but she isn’t quite ready to move on with her life — not even close. She’d rather spend her time at the Seattle Children’s hospital, reading to the patients and holding onto memories of the sister who was everything to her and more.

But when she meets the mysterious and illusive Meyer she is drawn into a world of adventure, a world where questions abound.

Is she ready to live life without her sister? Or more importantly, is she brave enough to love again?

In this modern reimagining of Peter Pan, will Livy lose herself to Neverland or will she find what she’s been searching for?

review :

I LOVE Peter Pan. Obsessively. I love the characters, I love Neverland–the whole shebang. What I also love is trying out retellings of the tale. Retold fairy tales are some of my favorite things to read, ever, and there are some great ones out there so I’m extremely excited that they continue to be published. Neverland is imperfect, but I think that some of the book’s best qualities come through in its imperfections.

Livy was interesting. I thought that she was a sweet girl and liked her as soon as I realized why she spent so much time reading to the children at the hospital. Those kids need as much happiness in their lives as they can get and Livy is there to shine for them, as long as she can. She’s struggling through life after her little sister died. Her parents are distant. And then there’s a little spark of something when a boy–well, more than a boy–starts listening in to her stories. Enter Meyer, who was so perfectly Peter that sometimes I wanted to smack some sense into him. And Livy was Wendy, with her own twist. Because of all she’s already experienced, she’s much less . . . naive. She’s willing to try new things with Meyer and invite some fun back into her life but stops whenever it might blend into danger.

Neverland will keep you hooked–even though the ‘Captain Hook’ of the story has both of his hands. The concept of who the villain might be in the novel continues to twist and change, which I thought was awesome. I never knew what was going to happen next because I didn’t know what I needed to prepare myself for. Livy didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she agreed to play Meyer’s games and neither did I!

Another thing I absolutely loved was how some of the concepts of the story throw back to the original (non-Disney version) in a way that I know many people who know the story don’t know exists. It was a pleasure for me to read about a modern take on it all, with a few twists along the way of course.

While this isn’t my favorite story, I do think that I’ll be recommending it. I’d love to go adventuring with Meyer someday–and maybe I will, when I read this book again.

4/5 stars

Review: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me

edited by: kate bernheimer

pages : [paperback] 576

summary :

The fairy tale lives again in this book of forty new stories by some of the biggest names in contemporary fiction.

Neil Gaiman, “Orange”

Aimee Bender, “The Color Master”

Joyce Carol Oates, “Blue-bearded Lover”

Michael Cunningham, “The Wild Swans”

These and more than thirty other stories by Francine Prose, Kelly Link, Jim Shepard, Lydia Millet, and many other extraordinary writers make up this thrilling celebration of fairy tales—the ultimate literary costume party.

Spinning houses and talking birds. Whispered secrets and borrowed hope. Here are new stories sewn from old skins, gathered by visionary editor Kate Bernheimer and inspired by everything from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” and “The Little Match Girl” to Charles Perrault’s “Bluebeard” and “Cinderella” to the Brothers Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel” and “Rumpelstiltskin” to fairy tales by Goethe and Calvino and from China, Japan, Vietnam, Russia, Norway, and Mexico.

Fairy tales are our oldest literary tradition, and yet they chart the imaginative frontiers of the twenty-first century as powerfully as they evoke our earliest encounters with literature. This exhilarating collection restores their place in the literary canon.

review :

This collection of fairy tales fully consumed me as I read through the book.

With a plethora of contemporary authors adding their retold fairy tales to this anthology, there’s definitely a story in here for anyone. While I’m not sure that all will enjoy every story (that’s a rare thing, to really love every installment in a collection like this) there are so many different styles present and takes on the well-known tales that there’s a good thing for anyone here.

I particularly enjoyed (and expected to love) Neil Gaiman’s ‘Orange’. He’s one of the few authors I immediately recognized by name from the list of those who contributed to this work–for others, I know their stories better than their names.

Because I had to read this for school, I didn’t have as much time to sit and think on each story as I would have preferred to do, should I have read this collection in my free time. I could spend hours on each one, to be frank, going on about what did or didn’t work for me, what I loved about the individual writing styles and what I detested about the fairy tales chosen to be retold. Unfortunately, not having the time for that kind of involvement, I was left instead with vague impressions of the stories I’d read one after the other. So if you happen to read this anthology, I would recommend taking the time to enjoy it, rather than speeding through it. Not only is it a fairly hefty volume, the text inside is so dense with wonder and symbolism that you simply need to focus on it rather than the end goal of finishing the book.

I loved how some of these stories are influenced by more remote and less well-known tales, some more gruesome or heartbreaking than others. While I do love my Americanized classics, there are still so many folk tales and mythologies out there left to be explored and understood by the masses so I was ecstatic (though not particularly surprised, judging by the fabulous array of authors) to see the variety there!

I would highly recommend this collection to anyone interested in fairy tales, modern writing, and short stories. I think that this is something I’ll return to again, to reread favorite stories and linger over those I still need to puzzle out.

4/5 stars

Fairy Tale to Film: Cinderella

I have to admit that when I first heard about a live-action version of Cinderella being produced, I wasn’t too excited, except for the fact that practically anything Disney will be great. Not as excited as I was when I heard they’re making a live-action Mulan. I was honestly going to wait until the DVD release to finally watch this. But hearing everyone raving over the film (coupled with my chance to watch a Disney movie in Downtown Disney!) convinced me to buy a theater ticket.

Even though it isn’t my favorite Disney film (animation or live action, as Tangled will always have my heart) it was still completely magical to watch. And I’ve already bought some of the soundtrack for myself.

While I heard this version made people cry, I only teared up a few times. Once of sadness, once when Ella looked incredibly happy and the cinematography was so great that I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with emotion.

Everyone knows the Cinderella story so it isn’t like it can be spoiled and most would assume that the live action film covers the ground laid out by the animation. There you’d be wrong. As I’d hoped, Cinderella combines more, previously unused elements of the original fairy tale as well as cherished portions of the animation. Definitely worth a watch, if you’ve been afraid they only copied themselves. Disney never does the same thing twice–they redo it bigger and better than before.

This movie is just beautiful. I could rewatch it just to get a chance to appreciate more of the details in the scenes. I also need to look out for hidden Mickeys and Easter Eggs!

Of course, I loved Helena Bonham Carter’s scene-stealing moments and wish that she’d been in the movie a little more. Cinderella herself wasn’t exactly as I’d pictured her to be, but that’s what comes of turning an animated princess into a real-life lady. Still, she was fantastic at presenting the kind of silent strength Cinderella has to have.

Overall, I really loved this adaptation when I hadn’t expected to like it very much. I’ll recommend this to other people and I’d even say give it a chance in theaters. It’s worth the ticket!

What’s your favorite Disney movie? What do you think of this adaptation?

The Bloody Chamber & Other Stories by Angela Carter

The Bloody Chamber & Other Stories

author : angela carter

pages : 126

memorable quote:

She herself is a haunted house. She does not possess herself; her ancestors sometimes come and peer out of the windows of her eyes and that is very frightening

summary :

From familiar fairy tales and legends – Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss-in-Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires, werewolves – Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.

review :

I had to read this collection of fairy tales for an independent study I’m doing. While they weren’t my favorite retellings, I think that these stories are not only well-written but also thought provoking. They’re tales that will leave you to think. You won’t just ponder the connection to and differences from the original story and Carter’s version. You’ll also think through your own interpretation of the endings, as well as the symbolism that crops up in each story.

Though this collection was short, it’s sure to stand out. The stories are bloody. Many of them aren’t happy. But that seems to be a trend, not only in modern retellings but in the original stories themselves! All of us like to hear a good story with a happily ever after but things don’t always work out that way. Carter doesn’t seem foreign to that concept, though she does put her own spin on the idea of a ‘realistic’, unhappy ending. There’s no tragedy simply for the sake of it. It’s impressive, the way she weaves her words together and makes even the smallest of instances in her stories seem to have the biggest share of the impact.

I’d recommend this collection to anyone with an avid interest in fairy tales. While there are other retellings that I’ll pick up to read over and over again, I’m not sure that this collection will be among them even though it is very well-done. I think that it’s worth at least one read and many will like it even more than I did.

3/5 stars

The Stepsister’s Tale by Tracy Barrett

The Stepsister’s Tale

author : tracy barrett

pages : [hardcover] 272

favorite character : will

summary :

What really happened after the clock struck midnight?

Jane Montjoy is tired of being a lady. She’s tired of pretending to live up to the standards of her mother’s noble family-especially now that the family’s wealth is gone and their stately mansion has fallen to ruin. It’s hard enough that she must tend to the animals and find a way to feed her mother and her little sister each day. Jane’s burden only gets worse after her mother returns from a trip to town with a new stepfather and stepsister in tow. Despite the family’s struggle to prepare for the long winter ahead, Jane’s stepfather remains determined to give his beautiful but spoiled child her every desire.

When her stepfather suddenly dies, leaving nothing but debts and a bereaved daughter behind, it seems to Jane that her family is destined for eternal unhappiness. But a mysterious boy from the woods and an invitation to a royal ball are certain to change her fate…

From the handsome prince to the evil stepsister, nothing is quite as it seems in Tracy Barrett’s stunning retelling of the classic Cinderella tale.

review :

I don’t think that I’ve ever read a Cinderella retelling from a stepsister’s point of view, though I have frequently heard about them. I wasn’t sure how this one would be a new take on the classic tale but was eager to give it a go when I saw it at random in the library. To be honest, it was sheer luck that I saw it was a fairy tale retelling, because when I saw the cover I immediately wanted to put this back on the shelf. I know, I know–don’t judge a book by its cover. I’m assuming the one young woman on the cover is supposed to be Jane, our main character. Probably. But it looks nothing like her. The whole premise of the story is that she lives in poverty and looks nowhere near as glamorous as she should, according to her family name. I’m a sucker for any fairy tale retelling so I knew I’d give this a shot, despite the unfortunate cover.

To be honest, I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. While The Stepsister’s Tale did have some interesting ideas to it, none of them were executed in the right way. Actually, the story ended up being pretty boring. There would be good scenes, ones that would get me excited about the story again, and then it would drag. Nothing would happen to further character development–in fact, at the end, some characters seemed to spontaneously change their attitudes for no real reason or motivation from what I could see. And it wasn’t that the book was monotonously predictable; obviously, knowing Cinderella, any reader has certain expectations of where the story will go. I knew that. I just didn’t enjoy myself on the familiar fairy tale ride.

I still feel disappointed with this book because I feel like the characters, who were fairly interesting, weren’t enough to save the story. I needed a little oomph to invigorate the plot, something that never happened. If the book hadn’t been so short, I’m not sure that I would have been able to finish it.

I don’t think that I’ll be recommending this book because I have many other fairy tale retellings that I would recommend over this.

2/5 stars


Winterspell by Claire Legrand


author : claire legrand

pages :  [hardcover] 464

favorite character : anise

summary :

The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince . . . but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor’s ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother’s murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted–by beings distinctly nothuman. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they’re to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets–and a need she can’t define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won’t leave Cane unscathed–if she leaves at all.

Inspired by The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.

review :

I adore stories based on fairy tales and I’ve never seen anything inspired by The Nutcracker before. I didn’t know what to expect from that and Winterspell certainly went against any thought I might have had about the story. In fact, there is no nutcracker to be seen in the near 500 pages that make up this novel. While it is an interesting read and I can appreciate the fact that it is a standalone, not drawn into a series, it just wasn’t the book for me.

I do feel like the majority of the plot was interesting or at least held enough intrigue to keep me going through the book. Perhaps the only reason that it didn’t feel long is because it concluded in this book when I was afraid a sequel would soon be coming. I hate when authors add on books that aren’t needed; I think Claire Legrand made the right choice in keeping this as one novel. I was happy with the conclusion. In fact, the ending of this book was my favorite part of it. I thought that it worked perfectly for the rest of the book and it made me think about what else could possibly happen after the action of the narrative, without leaving the book such an ambiguous ending as to frustrate me.

I also liked the world building in this book, yet I only enjoyed it in the fantasy realm and not the realistic one. It was terribly difficult to get an idea of the political structure in Clara’s ‘real’ world; I had no idea if it was only present there or if it was throughout the entire world. I had no idea what the rest of the planet was like, only getting a glimpse of Clara’s neighborhood. I liked the journey through the magical cities and warped surroundings in the fairy world much better because I had a better sense of where everything was in that layout and what exactly was happening to that society.

I think it was the characters that needed more fleshing out for me to have enjoyed this fully. We see the worlds, both fantastical and brutally realistic, through Clara’s point of view. But she switches her personality between an ass-kicking heroine to submissive debutante too many times. There doesn’t seem to be a change in her because she had the strength within her throughout the entire novel, only it never appeared when it was inconvenient for the plot. I never got a full grasp of Nicholas, either. I wish he and Clara would have had some longer dialogues together so I could have gotten a better hold on his character. Some things happened with him that I still find it hard to forgive because afterward I felt he was so absent (not always in a spacial sense) that I couldn’t hope to connect with him again.

I really wish that more had been done with Anise. She seemed like a complex character and villain; I absolutely loved reading the scenes including her because I never knew what was going to happen next. I feel like what the author tried to do with her ultimately came too abruptly and left me a little confused.

Overall, this was an okay book for me. It is definitely not one of my favorite retellings; I never would have known about the influence from The Nutcracker if it hadn’t been for the summary and a few key names in the book. There were parts of the novel that interested me but none that stood out as perfect.

3/5 stars