Wintersong (Wintersong, #1)

Image result for wintersongFirst Lines: Once there was a little girl who played her music for a little boy in the wood.  She was small and dark, he was tall and fair, and the two of them made a fancy pair as they danced together, dancing to the music the little girl heard in her head.  Her grandmother had told her to beware the wolves that prowled in the wood, but the little girl knew the little boy was not dangerous, even if he was the king of goblins.

This was in a display at my library for winter-themed books and, having been on my to-read shelf for some time, I grabbed it.  (It helps a lot that I’m going through a very strong fantasy phase right now–fantasy, paranormal, anything that is vastly different from our world.)  The fact that this sort of sounds like a fairy tale sold me on it.

Since she was a little girl, Liesl has heard stories of the Goblin King.  Stories of how dangerous he is, of how enticing.  At 18 and helping her family run their inn, Liesl uses those stories of the Goblin King to help escape her crushing, hopeless, creatively-draining world.  Feeling her chance at composing slipping through her fingers, Liesl becomes bitter toward her family.  But that all chances when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, who is very much real.  Liesl has no choice but to go to the Underground to get her sister back.  The Underground is mysterious, beautiful, terrifying…and so is the man who rules it.  Faced with ancient laws that work against her, Liesl will be faced with impossible choices to save her sister and herself before her fate is sealed.

This was really different, and I liked that even if I didn’t always follow what was happening.

First of all, I loved the setting. It just felt different. While the year is never specified, it’s pretty clearly Germany in about 1600s-early 1800s, probably skewing more toward early to mid-1700s. (Composers are mentioned by name, so I used those dates to firm up my idea.) This is such a different setting already that I was pulled in.

The whole Der Erlkonig bit was interesting too, though I admit I didn’t always follow that. Being the Goblin King, he’s got magical powers that he uses to trick and pull Liesl into his traps. Of course, there’s more to him and his world than meets the eye.

The plot stuck with me even after I finished the story.  I can’t even quite say why.  Well, ok, maybe I can a little.  I mean, it sort of has this Alice in Wonderland/Persephone and Hades feel to it, which is a story line I adore.  So Liesl gets sucked into an underground world that she doesn’t understand, led by a man she doesn’t trust and creatures that are more than a little scary at times.  That basically sums things up and, no matter how many times I read similar stories, I just keep coming back.

And while I kind of understood who he was as a person and what made him tick, there was some distance between me as the reader and him. I felt like the characters–not just him–were kind of closed off from the audience. This book read more like Literature than a story, so maybe that was part of it. The writing felt loftier. Not that that’s bad, but I did find myself skimming at times on accident.

Still, it was interesting and I do want to see what happens next.


Top Ten Retold Fairy Tales

Hey guys!  So I was recently thinking about retellings of Greek myths (thanks Hermione and Clara!) and, while I was stumped about picking 10 retold Greek myths, I had no problem coming up beautiful retellings of fairy tales.  So I thought this would be interesting.

Full disclosure: I’m completely biased to Beauty and the Beast, if you couldn’t guess that already.  It’s so much my favorite fairy tale that I named a blog after it, so….

Top Ten Retold Fairy Tales

1. Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Image result for hunted meagan spoonerThis is the first of my Beauty and the Beast books.  It’s got kind of a Hunger Games twist on the story, though.  Let me explain.  When Yeva’s father loses everything and moves the family to the woods, Yeva’s relieved.  She loves the wild, loves not making small-talk, and especially loves not being forced to marry against her will.  But her father’s not well and when he disappears into the woods, Yeva sets her sights on the creature her father was obsessed with before his disappearance.  She follows the beast back to his territory and the ruined castle.  But who’s going to survive–Yeva or the Beast?  It’s a darker take on this tale than you normally see, and the story relies heavily on Yeva’s cleverness.  When I read it, I compared it to A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.  The Beast isn’t as human as he usually seems in other stories and there’s a heightened sense of danger in this book.  While it’s not my favorite Beauty and the Beast story (my favorite is later in this list!), it’s still really interesting and worth the read.

2. The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins

Image result for the great huntBased on the Brothers Grimm tale “The Singing Bone”, this is a story I know I won’t soon forget.  I read this as an ARC (because I’m lucky like that) and I fell in love.  A strange beast is terrorizing Lochlanach.  Princess Aerity becomes a prize: whoever can kill the beast gets Aerity’s hand in marriage.  Hunters comes from all over, but it’s Paxton Seabolt who catches her eye.  Paxton doesn’t want to marry Aerity–he wants to kill the beast and protect what’s left of his family.  But this beast isn’t going down without a fight and the kingdom may be destroyed before it does.  What I loved is that the plot seems deceptively simple, but there’s so much going on behind the scenes.  But that simplicity allows us to learn more about the characters because we’re not bogged down by an over-complicated plot.  The action was great, the characters were great, and the world building was awesome.  Read this.

3. Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

Image result for princess of thornsStacey Jay is phenomenal when it comes to fairy tales, you guys.  So this isn’t exactly a retelling as it is what happens to Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, but I’m counting it.  Aurora is a fairy blessed with many powers, but cursed to destroy the free will of any man who kisses her.  So she disguises herself as a boy and joins the army of Prince Niklaas (as one obviously does when one is cursed).  It turns out Niklaas is cursed too.  Together, they try to free Aurora’s brother and unseat the ogre queen who stole throne from Aurora’s family.  It sounds super weird, I know, but it’s addicting.  It’s imaginative and funny and exciting and so much else.  I loved it.

4. Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Image result for of beast and beautyY’all do not understand the absolute heartfelt love I have for this book.  Yes, it’s the second Beauty and the Beast retelling here, but it’s perfection.  And sci-fi, which is something you rarely ever see.  In the domed city of Yuan, blind princess Isra is raised to be a human sacrifice.  Outside of the city is Gem, a mutant beast who fights for his people, the Monstrous, to save them from starvation.  Isra desperately wants to help those around her who have Monstrous traits, but isn’t sure how.  So she enlists the help of captive Gem, who was caught stealing an enchanted rose.  But things aren’t as either one of them believes.  What’s so beautiful about this story is how it plays against what you know of the original story and creates a story that’s even bigger than that behind it.  Also, having a blind character like Isra means we experience her side through sounds and smells and feelings.  It’s amazingly well done.

5. Entwined by Heather Dixon

Image result for entwined heather dixonThere was a time in the early 2010s (oh my God, I feel so old saying that) when the fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses was constantly being retold.  This was one such story.  Azalea has everything she could ever want, but then it’s all cruelly ripped away from her.  The Keeper offers her a deal–and from that day on Azalea and her 11 sisters spend their time with the Keeper.  But he’s more dangerous than they anticipate.  What I loved about this story was the way Azalea’s deal was a mystery for her father and everyone else–people came from far and wide to figure out why the princesses were so tired, why their shoes were ruined every night, etc.  And every character felt unique.  It’s a very cute story.

6. Spirited by Nancy Holder

Image result for spirited nancy holderShh, let’s just ignore the fact that this is the 3rd Beauty and the Beast story on this list, though it’s more like BatB meets Pocahontas.  This one, however, combines my favorite story with my favorite era of history: colonial America.  This may sound weird, but stay with me: it’s 1756 and the beginning of the French and Indian War (that’s what we call it in America; everywhere else I believe it’s called the Seven Years’ War).  Isabella is travelling with her father to a fort to stay safe, but along the way she’s kidnapped by Wusamequin, a medicine man who is desperate to avenge the death of his wife and child at the hands of the British.  So he kidnaps Isabella, but he’s charmed by her.  And things aren’t going the way either of them expected.  Admittedly, there are some things that infuriated me about this story (*cough* European treatment of Natives *cough*), but it’s so well told.

7. A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn

Image result for a kiss in timeEasily the funniest book I have on this list.  A retelling of Sleeping Beauty, this is the story of After.  Talia touched the spindle and brought a curse to her people.  300 years later, Jack escapes his tour group and finds the sleeping Talia.  He decides–oddly–that he needs to kiss her, which wakes her and sets in motion events that Jack wishes he could undo.  But what’s absolutely hysterical is that Talia needs to fit in with Jack’s time…even though there are 300 years between and she doesn’t even know what electricity is.  I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud reading this.

8. Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Image result for princess of the midnight ballA retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s The Twelve Dancing Princesses, this book does not disappoint.  Every night, Rose and her sisters are forced to dance for the King Under Stone.  Galen is a soldier recently returned from war.  Together, Rose and Galen try to discover how to break the curse that forces the girls to dance each night.  It’s suspenseful, it has action, and the characters are incredibly well-written.  It’s enchanting.

9. Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Image result for book of a thousand daysThis is perhaps one of the deepest philosophical books on this list.  Not that it’s not still cute and gives you the warm fairy tale feels, but it’s more than that.  Based on a little-known Brothers Grimm tale, this is the story of Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress.  Because Lady Saren refuses to marry who she’s been ordered to wed, Dashti and Saren are locked in a tower until Saren is forced to make a choice.  It really is a beautiful story and because it’s not as well-known, you truly don’t know what’s going to happen next.  And that’s rare in more retellings.

10. The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry

Image result for the amaranth enchantmentI don’t think this is a retelling, per se, but it very much feels like a fairy tale.  If anything, it’s a twist on Cinderella.  After Lucinda’s parents disappear, she’s sent to work for her evil aunt in a jewelry store.  Then a mysterious stranger enters the story with an even more mysterious jewel and Lucinda’s life changes.  I found the story to be cute, funny, and just uplifting overall.  I’ve had a lot of fun reading and rereading this book.



Is there a book I left off of the list?  Is there a fairy tale retelling that you absolutely love?  Let me know!  Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Vassa in the Night

28220892First Lines: When Night looked down, it saw its own eyes staring back at it.  Two big black eyes, both full of stars.  At first Night ignored them.

I got this book a few months back from Uppercase, but I kind of let it sit on my shelf forever because I just wasn’t sure what to make of it.  I hadn’t really heard of it at all before it arrived in the mail and it seemed like the type of book I had to be in just the right mood to read.

In the  enchanted city of Brooklyn, there are two types of people: the people who can party without worrying about anything and the people stuck in the working class district where the chance of death is much, much higher.  This is Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters.  Nearby is a convenience store owned by Babs Yagga, a women whose policy is to behead anyone caught shoplifting in her store–and sometimes innocent people when the mood strikes.  When Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs, Vassa knows this could easily be a suicide mission.  But with a little big of luck and a magical wooden doll from her mother named Erg, Vassa might just break the curse and free her neighboorhood.  But when Bab’s doesn’t play fair, what will Vassa do?

This book was weird.  Like A.G. Howard’s Splintered series weird.  The kind of weird where you have to read sections two or three times and you still don’t actually understand what’s happening.

Vassa is a teenage girl in Brooklyn who doesn’t really fit in. Her stepsisters don’t understand her and her only real friend is a talking doll named Erg. As a trick (sort of a game of chicken, really), Vassa’s sister insists that Vassa go to the nearby BY’s store, where most people who go in after dark never make it out alive.  I thought Vassa was incredibly dumb for even taking her stepsister’s dare, and my opinion of her didn’t improve much throughout the story.

The story is just so bizarre that it’s very hard to follow and I found myself getting bored of it because it was so hard to follow. I kept giving up. I’d read a chapter or two and put it down to do something more interesting.  That’s never a good sign.

There was very little about the first half of this story that I liked. I never had a single character that I clicked with who kept me reading. I never had a moment where I was excited about what I was reading. Even the climax wasn’t terribly exciting for me besides the fact that I was almost done with the book.

The story only really started to improve when it was in its last twenty pages or so. Once the loose ends started getting wrapped up, I finally started feeling like the story was falling into place. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly encouraging. I had to put up with 270 pages before that.

(Some of you are probably wondering why I even bothered finishing this. I own it, bought through Uppercase. I felt obligated to read it all the way to the end.)

It was just too much.  It tries to play into many fairy tale tropes while simultaneously turning them on their head.  But it felt like it was trying to do this with every trope instead of just focusing on a couple.  It’s overwhelming.  Not one I’ll be reading again.

Hunted (Hunted, #1)

30653719First Lines: We always know before the change comes.  When a storm approaches, we feel it in the thickness of the air, the tension in the earth awaiting the blanket of snow.  We feel the moment the wind changes direction.  We sense a shift of power when it is coming.  Tonight there is hunger in the air.

ARC ALERT!  I received a copy of this from Edelweiss (a great website for getting ARCs) and this doesn’t officially release until March 14, 2017.  You’ve got about three months, so mark your calendars.  Now let’s get down to business about this Beauty and the Beast retelling.

Yeva has grown up with aristocrats and high society, but nowhere feels like home so much as the outdoors, where she can hunt and be away from people.  So when Yeva’s father loses everything in a risky business move, it’s bittersweet for her.  Forced out of society, Yeva and her sisters and father take to an old hunting lodge in the middle of the woods where she doesn’t have to make small talk or fend of suitors.  But losing his business may have cost her father his mind.  When her father goes missing, Yeva knows she needs to hunt the cunning beast her father was obsessed with hunting before he disappeared.  As she hunts him back to his valley and deserted castle, she has to wonder who is going to survive, her or the beast?

This is not your Disney version of Beauty and the Beast.  This is not Robin McKinley’s Beauty, full of romance even as it seems to be a little darker than Disney.  This is more like Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses.  This is actually quite dark at times and feels more like a parable than a fairy tale.  And I have absolutely no problem with that whatsoever.

I loved that this retelling not only pulled in virtually all of the elements that I love so much about the original story (a girl trying to save her father, a cursed beast, character development as they change, etc.), but it also managed to reflect the time in which it was written (i.e. now).  Yeva is not a pushover of a girl, waiting for a prince to come rescue her.  She’s strong both physically and mentally, but also the dystopian feel to the story makes it seem more realistic and dangerous.  It’s a real shift from a lot of other Beauty and the Beast stories.

The story is set in a  land called Rus (which I’m about 90% confident is supposed to be Russia based on names and weather).  The setting really helped make the story that much scarier because of all the snow, the dense forests, the abandoned castles and lodges, and even some of the creatures Yeva runs into.  I’m telling you, Spooner does a really nice job upping the creepy factor in little, innocuous ways that just sneak up on you after a while.

I’ve already mentioned Yeva a little, but I just want to reiterate that she has most of the same characteristics of every Belle/Beauty that I’ve come to love.  She’s clever and persistent, a combination that sometimes makes her come off as arrogant in this book, but for good reason.  The Beast, however, is a bit different.  Yes, he still retains a lot of the same characteristics as well, but this Beast is truly dangerous.  He can be ruthless and divided on what he wants, which makes him dangerous if Yeva pushes him just right.  He’s not a romantic hero, but an animal at times.  You can just feel that he could absolutely tear Yeva to shreds if he so pleased.

Speaking of romance, I hope you aren’t here for a grand love story because this isn’t it.  This is a revenge story, a parable about the dangers of wanting too much, a story of discovering what one truly desires.  You’re not going to see grand gestures of love here, though there are still elements of it.  It’s not completely gone, but it’s way different than you’re expecting.

While I more or less adored nearly this entire book, I wasn’t completely thrilled with the ending.  It wraps up too quickly and, for me, had too many plot holes in the last chapter or two.  I know this is supposed to be the first book in a series, but these didn’t seem like the kind of things that will be mentioned again in a later book.  I needed more of a sense of closure.

Overall, though, I generally found this a treat and I’m really curious to see where the next book in the series goes.

Beauty and the Beast (Timeless Fairy Tales, #1)

41snlt75b7lFirst Lines: Prince Severin happened to be pacing in the little hall when the stained-glass skylight shattered, and a young woman fell through the ceiling with the broken glass.

I’ve signed up for BookBub, which emails you daily with book deals in your favorite genres, and this showed up once on it for either really cheap or free.  Naturally, I struck.  Hello.  I named my blog after this story.  And with all this NaNo stuff, this seemed like an easy story to read while I wrote my own story.

From Goodreads: Once upon a time Elle made a mistake. A small miscalculation sends her through the roof of an enchanted chateau. Stranded until her broken leg mends, Elle is unwillingly forced to rely on the good will of the sour chateau owner —the cursed Prince Severin.

Prince Severin—the commanding general and staunch supporter of his brother the crown prince—is cursed to look like a beast until a maiden falls in love with him. He has given up all hope of shattering the curse, and has only disdain for Elle.

Unfortunately, the pair can’t seem to avoid each other thanks to the meddling of the chateau’s cursed servants. Eventually Elle’s playful manners and Severin’s hidden gentleness draw the pair together.

But not all love stories can end that easily. After all, Elle is not what she seems, and Severin’s life is placed in danger when hostilities flare between his brother and the monarchs of a neighboring country. When Elle risks everything to save Severin, will he be able to forgive her for her lies?

Elle and Severin are interesting characters. They both take a little while to warm up to, but they’re sweet once you get to know them. I liked getting to follow both of them as they slowly started to warm up to each other.  Elle has a lot of secrets, but she’s got a good heart.  And we have a hard time seeing what Severin’s really feeling because he’s used to no one caring.  So it was really fun to see those two open up.

It wasn’t just a simply Beauty and the Beast retelling.  I liked the background plot to all of this, with warring nations and magical beings that inhabit the land. It was something I wasn’t completely sure was going to work (I’ve read other books before where it hasn’t), but it did. The main plot is definitely about Elle and Severin, so this background stuff was so far removed from the story that it was just here and there, enough to make things interesting but not to overpower the story we love.

I’m kind of a purist with this particular fairytale, so the closer it sticks to the source material, the better. This did a nice job of including all the moments that I have come to look forward to while still creating its own identity. I’m impressed.  That’s not easy to do.

Overall, I really enjoyed this.  I can’t wait to see what else this author has done.

Stray (Four Sisters, #1)

stray-hc-cFirst Lines: Aislinn’s hands were bleeding.  Her dress was stained with dirt and muck, her hair unraveling with each heaving breath.  The scent of dampness, of mud and sweat, filled her nose.

This was a book I think I got free from Scholastic as part of their Reading Club rewards one month (which is like, such a blessing and a curse because I can never get through all my books!).  Originally, this book hadn’t caught my attention.  But once it was in my hands?  Yeah, I was willing to try it.

Aislinn seems to have it all: power, wealth, and the title that comes with being a princess.  The only thing she doesn’t have is the ability to control her magic…and that can cost her everything.  When Aislinn’s magic causes too much trouble, she’s forced to give up everything about who she is in order to train to be a fairy godmother.  As a fairy godmother, will Aislinn be able to follow the Path she’s been given…or will she find her own?

As an original fairy tale, I give it kudos for being imaginative and different.  There are definitely elements of different stories in it.  A dash of Cinderella, a pinch of Sleeping Beauty.  Every now and then you read over something and go, “Oh, so this is like this story.”  But for the most part, there’s no story that you can wholly compare it to.  It’s all on its own.

…But I nearly quit at the beginning.  Aislinn’s world is so patronizing and male-centric.  Early on in the book, this was the face I was constantly making:


See, in Aislinn’s world, women are supposed to be meek and biddable.  They are always supposed to listen to their Advisor, who is always a man.  The Advisor is always right, even if in your gut you believe him to be wrong.  Even when your Advisor tries to get you married off to someone who doesn’t care for you at all.  And in the grand scheme of things, you listen to your Advisor first, then your husband/father.  If you have a problem, you go to them instead of trying to figure it out on your own because, hey, women clearly don’t know what’s best for them.

*Fumes*  I hated this.  IhatethisIhatethisIhatethis.

The only reason I stuck with the book was because I hoped there was going to be a “stick it to the Man” moment at the end of the book, where Aislinn would like, roundhouse kick her Advisor in the face and call him a chauvinistic pig.  ‘Twas not to be, though someone did get their comeuppance.

So besides allowing herself to be made into a thoughtless sheep, Aislinn wasn’t that bad…but she wasn’t great either.  I had a really hard time getting attached to her as a character because, in the beginning, I was trying to figure out her world.  Then, once I started having that figured out, she underwent some emotional (or, ahem, lack of emotional) turmoil that suddenly cut off everything that I had to connect me to her.  That was frustrating.  It took several chapters to get that connection back.  And by “several”, I mean something closer to 15.

But once that connection was regained, the story did pick up.  The plot got more exciting and there was actually even a little mystery/suspense.

Honestly, though, there just wasn’t a whole lot of substance to the book.  I found myself skimming pages sometimes just to get to the dialogue because the descriptions contributed little or nothing to the story.  So, not a great read, but not utterly awful either.  Even though the beginning kind of is.

Princess of Glass (Princess, #2)

First Lines: “Perfect,” the Corley said, lips stretched in a wide smile.  She took a shallow pan of molten glass and set it in the air over her head.  “Yes, everything will be perfect this time.”

I’m finally done with all the Outlander books (that are currently released), which means I’m back to a steady diet of YA!  And after getting used to the length of Outlander books, I’m flying through these.  I thought a fairytale might be a nice way of easing back into YA.

*I know this is the 2nd book in the series, but you don’t necessarily need to read the first book to understand this one, so I’m not marking it with spoilers.*

Princess Poppy wants to escape the troubles of her kingdom.  Whispers and rumors follow Poppy and her sisters everywhere because of what they survived.  So when nearby kingdoms decide to do a prince/princess exchange program to promote international relations (and marriages), Poppy finds herself in the country of Breton.  It all goes well until a hapless servant named Ellen is tricked by a vengeful godmother into competing with Poppy for the heart of the eligible prince.  Can Poppy stop what’s coming?

(Ironically, while I’m reviewing this, I’m listening to the soundtrack from Into The Woods, which shares some similarities with this book.  I did not plan this.)

I actually started reading this book back in 2010, and somehow got interrupted and never finished it.  So this time around, I was determined to get it off my to-read list.

This book was just…meh.  I find that a lot of fairytales are this way.  I think some of they try too much to rely on the charms of the fairytale they are retelling (in this case, it’s a vaguely connected Cinderella).  That’s what I feel happened here.  There wasn’t anything here that charmed me.

The characters didn’t seem to have real personalities besides a couple of identified traits.  Poppy calls herself “the tough one” at one point, and that’s really her personality.  Like, that’s it.  She’s tough and stubborn.  Christian, the eligible prince, has even less personality because he spends half the book…not himself.  You can’t really have a personality when you’re not yourself, right?  And Ellen…by Zeus, I hated that girl.  Every time she came into the book, I just wanted to curl one hand into a fist and skip her section.  (I don’t think this is the effect the author intended.)

There were some things I genuinely enjoyed about the book.  The character banter, for one, is usually interesting.  There’s some sarcasm and a few jokes.  There were a couple of variations to the Cinderella story that intrigued me.  But overall, this book is just forgettable.

And forget about there being any kind of romance/love story.  It’s supposed to be there, but, like magic, it just sort of appears out of nowhere.  No build-up, no cutesy crushes, nothing.  That was a huge disappointment.

Overall, I just wasn’t impressed with this.  It was just…mediocre.