I wanted to like this a little more than I did, but I did find it a pleasant and enjoyable read. Readers who enjoy spinster/rogue romance, tortured he...moreI wanted to like this a little more than I did, but I did find it a pleasant and enjoyable read. Readers who enjoy spinster/rogue romance, tortured heroes with a bad reputation, and heroines who finally get their day in the sun, along with the fairy tale theme, will probably like this book.
Maisey Yates takes the Beauty and the Beast story and twists it on its side with this book. Is the heroine the beast due to her unsightly scars, or is...moreMaisey Yates takes the Beauty and the Beast story and twists it on its side with this book. Is the heroine the beast due to her unsightly scars, or is the gorgeous prince with his decadent lifestyle really the beast?
Disclaimer: I didn't put this review in spoiler tags, although there might be some borderline spoilerish elements. I endeavored not to give too much away, that wasn't necessary to expressing my thoughts of the book.
As I read this novel, it struck me that this is a very serious book. I didn't feel much levity, not that I always expect it, but it was noticeably lacking. Layna and Xander have some serious hurts in their past and their present situations. Xander went off the rails big time and the author wasn't afraid to keep it real in describing Xander's depredations. No Xander did it all in his checkered past (recent and distant). He was notoriously promiscuous to the degree that he doesn't even know how many women he's slept with (and doesn't even remember some of them), abused drugs, and was a hard drinker. In my mind I couldn't help wonder how healthy his liver is. I have alcoholics in my family on both sides, and through them I have seen the effects of long-term alcohol abuse on a person. I was glad that Layna doesn't let him off the hook when she agrees to marry him. She demands fidelity from him, and I was so glad that she required that he get STD tested. It was judicious, considering the circumstances. As for Layna's scarring, it's not just confined to a thin line that barely disfigures her face. She has significant scarring and the tabloids/newspapers say some truly awful things about her. That part was heartbreaking. I could completely understand her fears about going back to the public life she escaped from ten years ago. Going from a shallow, spoiled socialite with impeccable looks to a scarred woman in her near to mid-thirties who is marrying a good-looking future king would be heart-wrenching for any woman. Even with her training that vanity has no place in her life from the convent, that was difficult to weather. Although Xander is clearly the worse bargain, they make it seem like Xander is being altruistic in honoring his promises and marrying Layna.
Yates definitely brings the reality to what seems like a storyline straight out of the fairy tales. I can't say I would be eager to marry Xander with his abuses on his body (and it's not out of judgmentalism, but because you can't just click a finger and erase the effects of such a lifestyle from his body). And I think that it's clear that Xander has a ways to go before he breaks fifteen years of bad habits. I think this is evident when they are first intimate. Xander's lovemaking style while accomplished, does show a certain degree of selfishness and callousness about sex. He doesn't understand why Layna is conflicted about the experience, even though she enjoyed it. This is telling and I think realistic for a man who has spent fifteen years sleeping around with random women he meets as he frequents the casinos where he parties and makes his living gambling. I also liked how Xander's perception of Layna changes. He never thinks she's ugly, but he sees the scars through a harsher lens initially. As he falls in love with her, the scars become a part of her, and he loves the character of her features, because that's who she is. They cease to stand out to him.
Layna isn't portrayed as a perfectly good, pure woman either (other than what she appears to be on the surface). While she retired to a convent for ten years, her actions did have a certain degree of self-motivation. The convent was an escape, although she does realize how much she loves helping others and that her faith in God is real to her, in the process. At the root, it is running away, from the exposure she suffered as Xander's rejected fiance who was horribly scarred by an angry protestor, and also from her own emotional breakdown.
Yes, as I wrote earlier, this is a very serious book. Despite the fact that one would consider this storyline fertile ground for a dramatic, glossy style Harlequin Presents, there is a deep emotional core to this book that refuses to allow the reader to dismiss this book as a light read.
I gave this four stars because it was a intense, layered, well-written, and emotional novel, and I think that Yates handled this dicey subject matter very well.(less)
Willingham's exploration of fables wouldn't have been complete without a look at the Arabian Nights. The folklore of the Middle East fits into this se...moreWillingham's exploration of fables wouldn't have been complete without a look at the Arabian Nights. The folklore of the Middle East fits into this series very well, especially as the Adversary is expanding his takeover of the Fable lands into the Middle Eastern worlds now.
I think that it would be impossible to integrate all of the encompassing Arabian Nights lore into one volume, and I don't think Willingham ever intended to try. Instead, he uses this story as an introductory volume, and it has some elements that really stand out in the 1001 Nights lore. One well done example was the Jinn that the Arabian delegation brings alone with them. I think that perhaps that shows you the powerful motifs of the Arabian Nights in one large sort of concentrated burst at the audience. And of course, the Fables of Fabletown have to account for the power of such a force of nature, and counter-attack or at least attempt to neutralize it, much as one would consider taking on a nation with a stockpile of nuclear weapon that you want to maintain peaceful negotiations with. Never fear, Fabletown has some potent tools in their own toolkit.
Another effective aspect of this volume was the addressing of cultural differences that the Middle Eastern worlds had from what I would consider the European Fableworlds. Prince Charming is a big buffoon, and is completely unequipped to handy any diplomatic relations, thus his predecessor King Cole is called in to do this important job. I did find myself agreeing with Charming on one aspect of the Middle Eastern Fablelands culture though. Sinbad is a diplomatic leader of the Middle Eastern contingent, with a very wicked advisor who might open a few cans of worms that need to be dealt with.
Not related so much to the Arabian Nights storyline but to the overall Fables arc was a story about two wooden creations of Geppetto who fall in love for each other and wish to be human, but will have to pay a hard price. This story reveals Willingham's wonderful storytelling skills and the bittersweet tone and content of this volume in a nutshell. He shows that the opposite side has players that can also evoke the sympathy of the readers, even though their acts and methods might be reprehensible or just neutral morally in the scheme of things.
I'm sure there are some heavy underlying themes in this graphic novel, and I have only scratched the surface. I feel that I would love to reread all of these and revisit the whole series at my leisure, which is why I definitely want to get copies of these for my collection one day.(less)
I picked this up because it was recommended to readers who enjoyed A Tale Dark & Grimm on Amazon. I loved the humor and the quirky twist on the fa...moreI picked this up because it was recommended to readers who enjoyed A Tale Dark & Grimm on Amazon. I loved the humor and the quirky twist on the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel in A Tale Dark and Grimm, and I just plain love fairy tales, so I am looking for innovative, interesting retellings of these classic stories. I'm glad my library had this on audio. It was a fun and quick read, about 3 hours (It took me longer because I listened in spurts).
Initially, I was very drawn in. The characters of Sol and Connie are captivating, their story was somewhat poignant. I definitely felt for these kids. If you're familiar with Hansel and Gretel, you can get a head start on the storyline, although McGowan throws in some novel touches that were fun. I won't say which, because that's the fun of reading it. Sol is a young genius and inventor who gets a huge blow to his confidence that he has to work through. His mischievous, free-sprited, and intuitive sister Connie carries a burden of guilt related to Sol's greatest failure. This is a pivotal element of this story, and the author does carry it through successfully to the end. The story shows what the child-eating witch is up to in the modern age, and she's definitely streamlined her operation.
The child-eating witch is truly heinous. What makes it even more harrowing is that people actually volunteer their kids to be eaten because of the manifold failings of those kids! Definitely folks who shouldn't have reproduced! It's humorous, but on one level it's really kind of disturbing that parents would set their children up to be eaten by a witch just because they misbehave or fail to live up to certain standards. I think that they are even worse than the witch, honestly.
This is one of those books that won't appeal if you don't like a dark and kind of twisted sense of humor. Let me just say that here and now. But I think readers who like the Hansel and Gretel story won't find anything here that countermands the original story. Instead, this is just a modern update with more humor.
If there was anything I was underwhelmed with, it was the use of the secondary character who happened to be a witch as well, but she's a good witch. I understand why she couldn't help the kids very much, but I still feel she was underutilized in the story. I also wished there was some sort of confrontation between her and the evil witch. Also, I feel the ending was too abrupt. I know this is supposed to be a short book, but I wasn't fully satisfied with the ending. I definitely wanted more story and more closure.
Overall, this was pretty good. It's hard to rate it higher or to perform a very intensive analysis, because it's very short. I am glad this was recommended to me because I liked A Tale Dark and Grimm. However, it doesn't live up to the excellence of that book, and that's one caveat I would give any reader who is investigating humorous, middle grade/juvenile fairy tale retellings.
As far as suitability for young readers, I think it's fine for kids who are 8-12 (or older readers who like J/MG fiction). However, this would be too scary for a younger reader. Not that much is described, but the idea of a witch eating bad kids or even worse, their parents giving them away to the witch, is pretty disturbing, even for a much older reader like myself.
If you are able to get this on audiobook, I recommend it. I liked the narrator.
Hajar's Hidden Legacy is a book for fans of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. It plays out a lot like that much-loved story, although that is not t...moreHajar's Hidden Legacy is a book for fans of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. It plays out a lot like that much-loved story, although that is not to say there is no innovation or unique touch here. Maisey Yates careful touch with writing romance and the manner in which she builds a layered, emotional story is evident here. Her characters are real life, both struggling with emotional wounds from their past.
Zahir is a tough nut to crack. He doesn't want to be married to Katharine, and he definitely doesn't want to love her. He's afraid to let her in, and he is unable to let go of his guilt about surviving the attacks against his family. He hates himself, and that is very evident. He also fears his life is over. He exists because he must protect his country. But he is in a world of pain. At first, I wondered why if he thought his scars were so hideous, he didn't get plastic surgery. I came to realize that his disgust with his appearance was more about his disgust about how he survived when his parents and brother didn't. He felt like he was the unworthy one who lived. His truly believes he is unable to heal emotionally. He is like a lion with a thorn in his paw, and that requires some real nurturing and persistence from Katharine. Katharine was just the heroine to soothe his savage breast.
While Zahir has the bulk of torment, I liked that Katharine had her own angst to deal with. She was dismissed, sidelined, and marginalized by her father. He truly does not value her, and he shows it. But she craves his approval and moves mountains to get it. I loved how Zahir stood up for Katharine to her father. I also loved how Zahir helps to validate Katharine and build up her self-esteem, despite his own struggles.
Yates carefully builds the tension, both romantic and sensual. The love scenes are quite steamy, but it's very natural to the story. You can see that the connection between Zahir and Katharine has entwined itself between them on many levels. Before they both know it, their match is very much one of love and devotion, as well as a marriage of state. Their mutual fears of not being enough are assuaged by the fact that they are just what each other needs.
Hajar's Hidden Legacy is very much a novel about the healing of emotional wounds and the development of love between two hurting people. It lacks the drama of some book in this category series. Instead, it's more of an introspective novel about the development of a relationship that turns into a deep love between two people who weren't even looking for love, but needed it the whole time.(less)
Jennie Lucas is the author to reach for when you want the high drama quotient and the fairy tale vibe to your Harlequin Presents. Lilley is so starry-...moreJennie Lucas is the author to reach for when you want the high drama quotient and the fairy tale vibe to your Harlequin Presents. Lilley is so starry-eyed, it will probably make a more cynical reader roll her eyes. I didn't mind it so much. I think that if I'm in the mood, it works for the story. I felt that she definitely deserved better than she got with Alessandro, but in his defense he did try to push her away initially to protect her. I didn't want her to go back to him when she has important news. I wanted her to go in the other direction. I think it's because I strongly like when the hero has to do the chasing. I don't like when the heroine falls into his arms so easily. Lilley is a true love believer. She has a heart that is so sweet and kind, I just wanted to protect her from the world. I could identify with her fear about taking risks. I think we all feel like that sometimes. Especially when the root is a sense of inadequacy and that no one truly accepts you for who you are. I hate that Alessandro contributed to that feeling of inadequacy in how he treats her when they are married. He needed and did receive a hard wake up call, but it came at a high price to Lilley.
Jennie Lucas can be a bit over the top sometimes, but in a way, I like that. I think the best Harlequin Presents are the ones that don't feel like real life, but take you away to 100% escapism. When that's combined with a story full of emotional genuineness it's a great combination. While I won't ever hang out with billionaires, I can identify with the human emotions that both Lilley and Alessandro feel, and their struggles with family and a sense of meaning for their lives.
I would have to give this four stars because it kept my eyes glued on the page, the sensuality was sizzling, and the character's emotions felt real and powerful and their story unfolded in a way that I was entranced with and didn't want to stop reading. Plus, the Cinderella vibe is very well done.(less)
I wanted to like this more than I did for a few reasons. I loved the author's Chronus Chronicles series, and I am absolutely crazy about the fairy tal...moreI wanted to like this more than I did for a few reasons. I loved the author's Chronus Chronicles series, and I am absolutely crazy about the fairy tale, "The Snow Queen." Another wonderful aspect of this novel is that the main character, Hazel, is a young girl who is Indian in ethnicity (from the country), although adopted by a white, American couple. I think that Ursu has something powerful to say about being 'other' in a society that is primarily of a certain race/culture. How that can impact a young person, and the wounds it causes that person as they walk through a world where they feel alien.
I also enjoyed the deep friendship that Hazel has with Jack. However, I felt that this aspect of the novel, which is probably the crucial element, fell short. Hazel is almost obsessed with Jack. He's like an anchor to her in a stormy sea that her world has become since her parents' divorce. While I don't mind that she is bonded to Jack, I never felt that Jack was as bonded to Hazel as she was to him, which bothered me. Understanding the fairy tale source helps to appreciate the rift that forms between them, but as it was written, it's not enough. We are given breadcrumbs (if you'll forgive the unintentional pun) to suggest that Jack's issues are also about his mother's bout with depression, but while I can see that Hazel and Jack spend so much time together, I could have used more of his viewpoint on how important his relationship to Hazel was to him. Clearly she was the right person to save him, but more depth on his point of view would have been great.
Ursu made the choice of ending this novel with some questions left in the air. I can't fault her on that, but it did leave me dissatisfied about some situations that weren't addressed, both in the winter woodland and in the lives of both Hazel and Jack. Despite that, I do have the conviction that things will work out for Hazel and Jack. Even though the problems in their families might not be resolved, we know they have each other to get through those times. Also, knowing that Hazel has found more connections in her life other than her mother (and absentee father) and Jack. She needs those. She also needs to know she is fine as she is. She needed that validation, especially with they way her father failed her. One scene I was so glad that Ursu included, her mother telling her that she was perfect and didn't need to change was very important. Kids need to hear from their parents that they are approved of and loved despite any perceived short-comings.
As far as "The Snow Queen" retelling, it was well-done, and I liked the manner in which Ursu personalized it to Hazel and Jack's story. I felt that the White Queen's menace and authority was slightly undermined by the resolution. I would have loved more descriptive imagery of her Ice Palace. I liked how Ursu creates a world of magic that intersects with the 'real world' in that children travel to this other place to escape from their disappointing lives on the real side of the woods. I hurt for the children who suffer from the cruel effects of selfish magic that the woods bring out in adults and the creatures who live in the woods.
Ursu's writing is good. She drew me into Hazel's story and I felt for this wonderful little girl. It broke my heart to see her feeling so disconnected and flawed. No child should feel that way. I am all for color-blind adoptions, but I feel that her parents should have worked harder to make sure Hazel wasn't alienated by the fact that her ethnicity was distinctive from her parents and many of her peers. I loved the fact that Ursu does address this so poignantly, but she doesn't offer a lot of solutions for the issues Hazel felt.
Overall, I think my biggest issues with this novel were the lack of resolution on those crucial issues and the fact that I think some really important aspects of the story (outside of Hazel and Jack's bond) weren't dealt with in the depth I wanted. I know this is a book for younger readers, but the maturity of the writing makes me want more from the author as far as an emotional resonance and completion about the familial issues faced by Hazel and Jack.
I would be curious to see what a younger reader thinks of this book. If they grasp the deeper, melancholy aspects of this novel. I feel that its melancholy and darker elements hit the right note for a mature reader, but might be lost on a younger reader. Although the ending is hopeful, I can't help feeling a lingering sadness now that I have finished it.
Overall, I found this anthology disappointing. The ratio of stories I didn't like or was indifferent about was higher than the ones I liked or loved....moreOverall, I found this anthology disappointing. The ratio of stories I didn't like or was indifferent about was higher than the ones I liked or loved. I really, really hated the Peter Straub story. I don't usually have that severe a negative reaction to stories/books, but this is one of them. On the other hand, I loved the Patricia Briggs and Michelle West stories. In between were some clever and enjoyable stories mixed in with the ones I disliked. I could probably come up with a very exact rating if I did the math, but I think I'll settle for a 3 star rating and move onto the next book.
As a mini-review, I have to keep this short. My advice is to check this out of the library unless you are a completist for any of the authors within. I believe that many are not new to this volume, so you might be able to find them elsewhere.
It's going to be difficult writing a full review of this one. Sigh.
Annie West couldn't write a bad book if she tried. Because of that, I have high expectations. Also, I messed up. I read Prince of Scandal first, and I...moreAnnie West couldn't write a bad book if she tried. Because of that, I have high expectations. Also, I messed up. I read Prince of Scandal first, and I loved that so much. I am not big on the modern royalty theme, but she made me buy in hook, line and sinker with that book. So that's why I didn't like this one as much. I just didn't connect to Alaric as much as I did with his cousin Raul. Alaric seemed more, I don't know if callous is the word... I did feel sympathy for his journey and his losses, but I felt that he didn't show the sensitivity that Tamsin needed. At the end of the day, I felt that Tamsin was too good for him.
Maybe it's because Tamsin had some serious self-esteem issues, and she was sort of a 'babe in the woods'. I kind of felt like she was in over her head and he was manipulating her. That's what was off about this book.
Also, he's too much of a rich playboy type for me. I'm not saying he wouldn't make a good ruler. I just think that he has some character development he needs to do. Maybe Tamsin will be good for him, tempering out his tendency to be impulsive and wild in his emotions. I did like the proposal scene and the ending. That was quite romantic.
For a reader who likes the Cinderella theme, the normal heroine who gets swept off her feet by an experienced, wordly prince, this book will probably be very enjoyable. It's well-written, with good atmosphere, sexual tension and love scenes, a vulnerable, likable heroine, and a nice dose of angst. That's why I gave it four stars even though Alaric didn't quite catch me as a hero.(less)
I loved, loved, loved this book! This is the kind of book that I wish I could find more of. I think it was a wonderful fix of humor, horror, suspense,...moreI loved, loved, loved this book! This is the kind of book that I wish I could find more of. I think it was a wonderful fix of humor, horror, suspense, angst, and a great coming of age story. I didn't think that I would appreciate a story with Hansel and Gretel thrown into other fairy tales, nor could their story sustain a full-length novel. I was wrong on both counts. Hansel and Gretel became very dear to my hearts. They started out as little children who were doing what little children did. Living their lives, having fun, basking in the love of their parents and caregivers. Until circumstances cause them to embark out into the cold, cruel, scary world.
Adam Gidwitz doesn't go easy on Hansel and Gretel, nor does he go easy on the reader. There are some very violent, disturbing aspects in this story. For that reason, I disagree with the 9 and older rating. I would say it should be 11 and older. I realize that he is true to the original Grimm's fairy tales, and I know I did read fairy tales at a younger age. So maybe some kids would be fine with it. As a grown up, I winced on some parts myself.
I loved the aspect of the narrator breaching the third wall and talking to the audience as he read. He would warn us to send the little kids to bed or to get the babysitter. He would warn the reader that some very bloody parts were coming, and good thing he did. He would encourage the reader through the very sad parts (and they were very sad). He would make hilarious asides that had me braying with laughter in my car as I listened. My sister told me I was silly when I laughed at some parts yesterday. But it was so funny! This is a truly fun book, guys! And Johnny Heller, the narrator, did such a great job of creating a lively atmosphere for this story. Kudos to him!
A Tale Dark and Grimm is a story of courage. It's a novel that shows that children have depths of endurance, ingenuity and strength that adults often dismiss. I'm not saying that every child could survive what Hansel and Gretel endure, but I think about what kids go through every day, and this message resonated with me. It's also a cautionary tale to parents. Parents need to consider carefully what it means to be a parent, and how much they cherish their children. Are children a means to an end, a possession, or are they worth their weight in gold? I'll leave that to people with kids to decide, although I have my own opinions on that.
My verdict on this book is as follows: Read it! If you like fairy tales, you definitely need to read it. If you see this on audio at your library, pick it up, just for fun. Although some parts are pretty tough, this was a very entertaining and often moving story. I borrowed this from my library, but I definitely want to get my own copy to add to my keeper shelf, preferably with my fairy tale collection.
This was a total impulse buy that paid off. I loved this book. It was one of those stories that I couldn't put down, and I was compelled to read, even...moreThis was a total impulse buy that paid off. I loved this book. It was one of those stories that I couldn't put down, and I was compelled to read, even though I had already started some other books. It couldn't believe how fast I read it, within about four to five hours.
I love medieval romances, so that helped. And I'm a sucker for the broken/scarred/hurt hero. Well, Roderick is all three. He comes back from the Crusades a broken man, although he had lots of baggage before he went there, with a father who did nothing but torment and treat him poorly and had driven his mother to suicide. Thankfully, his good friend that he makes during the Crusades saves his life and gets him medical attention, and the word that his father has died and he must find a bride to keep his land, gives him the strength to fight to get better and to come back to England.
There were times when Roderick descended into self-pity. I suppose this might not work for all readers, but it was realistic. If if a man had always been talked down to and ridiculed by his father, I wouldn't expect him to have the healthiest self-esteem. Yes, he might annoy some readers the way he pushes his son away and doesn't want to let Michaela in, but I loved Roderick from the first page. He's one of those heroes I really wanted to see happy. I could understand why he kept those he loved and who loved him at a distance, feeling he wasn't worthy and would fail them.
I adored Michaela as well. She had some moments of self-interest, but at the same time, I could see why she was motivated in such a fashion. She had been picked on her whole life because of her mother insisting that she had gotten kidnapped by The Wild Hunt. They called her Devil's Child and stuff like that. She was clumsy and tended to trip and run into things. Plus she grew up poor, although very much loved. One night at a party at her overlord's manor, she gets his attention by her bond with his daughter, Elizabeth, who hasn't talked since her mother died. Also her beautiful singing voice makes Michaela stand out. He invites her to come live with them as Elizabeth's companion. Because of this attention she gets from him, she fell in 'love' with her overlord, and he made some gestures like he was going to marry her, but married her arch-nemesis instead, humiliating her. So she decided to marry the Beast, who was the lord over the man who spurned her, a move motivated out of revenge against this man who spurned her, since he won't inherit the properties of Roderick, his cousin.
She goes to his rundown castle, determined to fulfill the required ninety days of residence before the marriage. When she finally sees The Beast, she is instantly attracted to him, scars, limping, and surly demeanor and all. She falls into his beautiful and bright green eyes, and likes his large, sculpted body, despite the fact that it's clear that his leg and arm are crippled. Their dance around each other made this book worth reading. There was an intense attraction between Roderick and Michaela that sparkled off the page. At times, Michaela was very much put into the role of the "Chaser," but it worked for me, because Roderick had never been loved in that way, so it was nice to see someone working for his affections. It was cute how Roderick was somewhat bewildered by his strong feelings for Michaela.
Another thing I loved was the toddler Leo. He was so cute. I just wanted to take him out this story as my own baby. I loved his baby talk, and how loving he was. As Roderick's acknowledged son by a prostitute in the Crusades, he had a big role, since he was Roderick's heir. Also, the interplay with Roderick as he tries to keep his distance out of fear of destroying his son the way his father destroyed him was pivotal in the evolution of this story. Just reading the scenes with this cute little boy made this book so much more enjoyable. I'm so serious. This kid was so adorable. I liked the way Michaela bonded with him and helped improve the relationship between Roderick and his son. Like any baby, Leo loved his father unconditionally, but was somewhat kept at a distance that was somewhat confusing for the toddler. I was glad that this changed significantly over the course of the book.
Hugh was also a great character. His steadfast friendship and aid to Roderick. His love and care for Leo. His flamboyant tastes in clothing. His potty mouth and irreverent humor. His bad advice to Michaela about how to snare Roderick's affections. It gave this book another appealing layer.
There is a thread of the paranormal that runs through this book that intensifies at the climax. I thought it was very interesting, and also unnerving. It was very cool. Now I have to read the short story in Highland Beast, which is about a character who shows up in this story.
I really, really liked this book,and I would highly recommend it to fans of scarred/wounded heroes,and heroines who are determined to get their man, but aren't obnoxious about it. I'm glad I was able to spend a few hours with Roderick, Michaela, cute little Leo, and Hugh, who made me laugh, and also choked me up with his devotion to Roderick. It was time well spent.(less)