At the beginning of the month, I was working on my monthly recap for April when I realized that I only finished reading one nov...moreOriginally posted here.
At the beginning of the month, I was working on my monthly recap for April when I realized that I only finished reading one novel for the whole month. Instead of doing a recap, I thought I might as well just write a review for Thorn by Intisar Khanani. Thorn is one of those titles that I would never have discovered if it hadn’t been recommended through the blog. I was immediately curious when I found out about the premise of this book since it’s a retelling of The Goose Girl fairy tale. The only retelling of The Goose Girl that I’ve read prior to this one was Shannon Hale’s which is one of my favorite books so of course, I wanted to find something similar.
I read Thorn in bits and pieces, while traveling from one place to another. I can’t tell if it was because of this that I didn’t enjoy Thorn as much as I was expecting. I wonder if I would have liked the book better if I was able to read it in one go. I thought the writing was beautiful, I felt that it had a fairy tale feel to it. I also liked Thorn as a character and I was curious about her and what would happen after she loses her place as a princess. In spite of that, I felt that I wasn’t as invested in the story as much as I would have wanted. None of the other characters, except maybe for Falada the talking Horse, stood out for me. I would have wanted to care more for the prince and maybe even the king. I definitely wanted more of the thief Red Hawk. Maybe there were too many characters in the story, which made me feel that there wasn't enough character development for most of them. The tone of the book is also a bit bleak and dark, with several characters having to endure so much but I was fine with that since the original story isn’t exactly a light and fun read. I just felt that some of the problems weren't properly addressed towards the end of the novel. Maybe I’ll have a more positive reaction if I get to reread Thorn. I'm glad I gave it a try since The Goose Girl retellings are hard to come by. I would still be interested in checking out the author’s other books.(less)
A.C. Gaughen's Scarlet is a Robin Hood retelling. I found out about it when trustedbook bloggers started giving it positive reviews. I was delighted when this pretty little book showed up in a surprise package that I received a couple of weeks ago. Again, thank you to the lovely ladies - Angie and Holly - for sending me a copy of this. I couldn't resist reading it right away, you guys know how fond I am of thieves in fiction.
I can't get over how gorgeous the cover design for Scarlet is - doesn't that just draw you in? It's the kind of cover that would attract my attention even if I knew nothing about the premise. I think Scarlet's eyes look very expressive and I love that she's disguised as a boy in the cover, because that's how she usually is in the book. Few people know that Will Scarlet is actually a girl. Just in case you didn't know, I also enjoy reading girls in disguise stories. Scarlet is one prickly character. Even though she's been working with Rob, John and Much for the past couple of years, she still doesn't fully trust them. She works with them but she still holds a part of herself back, never explaining her past and where she really came from. Which is funny because these boys want to take care of Scarlet. Can I just say that I found it refreshing that there are only four people in Robin's band in this retelling? It makes it easier to keep track of them and be invested in who they are as characters. Rob is the leader, John the playful charmer and Much is the quiet one. Here's a funny little quote about the band:
“Of a band with three actual boys, why is it that all the maids lust after the fake one?"
My heart went out to this little group - how they do the best that they could to provide for the people and shelter them from the Sheriff's cruelty. As much as Scarlet pretends that she only stays with the band because it's convenient for her, she does it because she cares for the people. Here's another snippet that I really liked:
"I left little packages in front of the doors; the people looked for them in the morning, and I knew, in some bit of a way, it bucked them up.
I did as much as I could, but it weren't like I could get everyone something every night. That seemed like the cruelest part. I tried not to think 'bout the people that woke up and rushed to the door and didn't find nothing; it made my chest hurt."
You got to love a thief with a conscience. She steals not for herself but for the people. It's rare for a sneaky thief as good as Scarlet to be afraid of anything but her comrades quickly discover that there's something about Gisbourne, the Thief Taker, that frightens Scarlet. I liked this air of mystery about her, it made the book a quicker read because I kept going, waiting for Scarlet's past to be revealed. I also liked the slow burn romance although I'm not a fan of the love triangle. It's not surprising that more than one guy is interested in our feisty heroine but I did feel like it was unnecessary for her to have more than one love interest. As expected, Scarlet was a really enjoyable read. Highly recommended for fans of Robin Hood retellings, thieves in fiction and girls in disguise. Will I be checking out A.C. Gaughen's books in the future? Definitely.(less)
Let me just say that I love the US cover in the edition that I have, showing a girl standing in front of a mirror in a library....moreOriginally posted here.
Let me just say that I love the US cover in the edition that I have, showing a girl standing in front of a mirror in a library. The library and mirrors play major roles in the story so it's an appropriate cover design. Heart's Blood is a haunting retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I was surprised by how different the whole atmosphere in this one was compared to the Sevenwaters series. This one is much darker with a mysterious curse surrounding the chieftain of Whistling Tor, Anluan. Caitrin discovers the place while she's running away from her own problems. Desperate to be employed as a scribe, she willingly works for Anluan transcribing family documents. This is a perfect professional set-up for both - Caitrin knows not a lot of people will employ a female scribe and most people are afraid to visit Whistling Tor, let alone live and work there. As she learns the secrets of the area, Caitrin becomes determined to find a way to break the curse. I liked that Caitrin is a scribe, she was trained by her father who had the same profession, which is unusual in a world where women focus on domestic duties. I also liked that Caitrin has a complicated past and in the course of getting to know Anluan, she learns how to deal with her own troubles. This is retelling where Beauty does not just help the Beast but has to overcome other difficulties in her own life. The secondary characters were also well-developed and I liked how they had their own stories but they're united by their loyalty to Anluan.
I was able to predict part of the outcome of the story and as a result, I wasn't wowed by this story like I was expecting. I'm a fan of unexpected events that blow me away. I also would have loved the interactions between Caitrin and Anluan to have more depth - I felt like the two of them didn't have enough scenes together and I wasn't as invested in their love story as I would've liked. Though darker than her other books, Juliet Marillier's writing in Heart's Blood retains its standard beautiful and lyrical flow. While this book didn't displace my favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling from its position (the title belongs to Beauty by Robin McKinley), I still enjoyed reading this and I hope that Juliet Marillier will continue to write retellings for other fairy tales. She already has retellings for The Six Swans (Daughter of the Forest) and Twelve Dancing Princesses (Wildwood Dancing) but I'd love to read more. I guess I'm just glad that I still have a couple of books from her backlist to go through. I fell in love with her writing in the Sevenwaters series and I can't get enough of it, even if I don't end up loving her other books. Recommended for fans of fairy tale retellings or readers of dark, haunting fantasy.
PS: Wasn't able to take a picture of the back cover but I loved that The Book Smugglers has a quote on it. Yay Ana and Thea!(less)
I can't remember where I first heard about The Family Fortune by Laurie Horowitz but I do know that I became interested because...moreOriginally posted here.
I can't remember where I first heard about The Family Fortune by Laurie Horowitz but I do know that I became interested because it's a retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion. I was glad to find a bargain copy in a Book Sale branch and when I went to the beach for a vacation, I decided to bring this with me because it seemed like the perfect light read. Also, look at that cover, doesn't that make you want to read this book in a beach setting?
The last time I read Persuasion was in college so the details are a bit fuzzy. So because I can't remember much of the original, I'm going to review The Family Fortune on its own and won't be able to compare it to the classic. It was easy to relate to thirty-eight year old Jane Fortune, who is the quiet one in her family. The Fortunes are members of the Boston elite and while her father and sister make the most out of their social circles, Jane is content to curl up at home with a good book. She also manages a literary paper called the Euphemia Review, which is funded by the family's foundation. Here's a nice quote from the book that I'm sure all book lovers will appreciate:
"Usually when I enter a bookstore, I feel immediately calm. Bookstores are, for me, what churches are for other people. My breath gets slower and deeper as I peruse the shelves. I believe that books contain messages I am meant to receive. I'm not normally superstitious, but I've even had books fall from shelves and land at my feet. Books are my missives from the universe."
While I did enjoy reading The Family Fortune, there were several things that kept me from loving it. I liked the flashback scenes where Jane shares how she and Max fell in love with each other years ago but I didn't think there was enough reason for them to break up. Also, I could understand that Jane never really got over Max but it seemed like there wasn't enough of the present Max to fall in love with in the story. Jane and Max didn't have enough scenes together for them to reconnect and realize that there's still something between them. I can't even remember most of their conversations. The other secondary characters, like Jane's colleagues in the Euphemia Review felt more fully fleshed out than Max. The romance wasn't swoon-worthy and that's an important aspect of the novel. I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second half because it had such a promising start. It's still a good read if you're in the mood for something light or if you're a fan of Austen retellings. Let me know in the comments if there are other Austen retellings that I should check out.
Six Impossible Things is a loose Cinderella retelling, written from a guy's perspective. I don't think I read enough male POV b...moreOriginally posted here.
Six Impossible Things is a loose Cinderella retelling, written from a guy's perspective. I don't think I read enough male POV books and I enjoy reading retellings. As if that isn't enough to convince me to read this, Aussie book bloggers have been raving about this book in their reviews. Dan feels like his life has fallen apart when his parents split because his gay dad suddenly decides to come out of the closet and admit that the family business is also bankrupt. Dan even wants to say "Guys, please, one life-changing shock at a time." out loud because of all the changes in his life. The only positive thing is he now lives next door to the unattainable one, Estelle. He even transfers to her school. Dan is determined to change his image at his new school, he doesn't want to be known as geeky and smart anymore and he wants to hang out with the cool crowd. Things don't go exactly as he planned.
This is such a quirky and fun novel to read, the writing is beautiful and the characters are so distinct. Dan is utterly charming in an offbeat and nerdy way. He's smart, sensitive and tries to be as honest and good as he can be. Yay for good guys! It was interesting being inside Dan's head because like I said, I don't get to read enough books with male protagonists narrating the story. He's also an introspective type so he's more quiet than outgoing. I loved that the book showed his weaknesses like fainting whenever he sees or imagines something gross like raw eggs. Instead of being unfavorable, those vulnerabilities actually added to his charm. Even though things don't work out the way he wanted them to, he did gain a couple of friends along the way and they're all unique and original, even Howard the dog. The book isn't all about the romance even if Dan has a major crush on Estelle. This delightful book is about growing up and changing as you learn how to cope and adapt with the problems that life throws your way. I've heard that this book already has a US publisher but there's no set date on when it's going to be published. If you can order a book from Australia or have someone buy it for you then I highly recommend that you get this one. It's a great contemporary YA debut and I can't wait to read more of Fiona Wood's work. I just have to worry about how I'll get it when the time comes.(less)
Jasmin Field, known as Jazz to her friends, loves observing other people and criticizing them if they don't live up to her stan...moreOriginally posted here.
Jasmin Field, known as Jazz to her friends, loves observing other people and criticizing them if they don't live up to her standards, a trait that is perfect for her job as a journalist. When she gets invited to audition for an on-stage production of Pride and Prejudice for the benefit of cancer patients, she decides to go because it's a great opportunity to scrutinize other people. Plus, she'll get the inside scoop on some actors, especially big-time Oscar-winner Harry Noble who will direct the play. Jazz decides to bring her sister George (who's an actress) and her best friend Mo with her. Things don't go so well when Jazz overhears Harry describe her as "The Ugly Sister." As a result, Jazz's audition becomes impassioned and full of pent-up emotion. It doesn't hurt that Pride and Prejudice is one of her favorite books so she knows the story well. To everyone's surprise, including her own, Jazz gets the part of Lizzy Bennet. Interesting encounters ensue.
A modern-day Lizzy Bennet as a journalist is a great idea. I think it's the perfect occupation for someone smart, funny and isn't afraid to say what she thinks of other people. I enjoyed reading this retelling probably because I'm a fan of the original Pride and Prejudice. One small problem that I had was that the characters who are supposed to represent the ones from the original also play the same role in the stage production. Jazz is Lizzy in the play and she's really the Lizzy of the story. Her beautiful sister George, who represents Jane, is cast as Jane in the play and her romantic interest Jack also represents Mr. Bingley and so on and so forth. I think it would've been better if more of the characters weren't part of the play because it would make the premise more believable. Other than that, I enjoyed reading this retelling because I could relate to Jazz. I love that she's too lazy to exercise and is appalled when Mo suddenly decides to go to the gym regularly. One of my favorite lines in the book is when Jazz was asked by Harry what makes her sad and she answers with, "Um. When I finish a chocolate bar." It was interesting to see where the author went in terms of variations to the original and how she adapted the story to a modern setting. There were times when we get to see Harry's perspective and I thought it was funny how he didn't understand why he found Jazz so intriguing. All in all, a good book to read when you want something light and fun and if you're curious about Pride and Prejudice retellings. It saddened me to discover that Melissa Nathan passed away in 2006 but I'm interested in looking up the rest of her books. Let me know if you've read them and what you think of them. Also, please comment if you have other P&P retellings that you'd like to recommend.(less)
I love retellings. I like seeing how authors make the story their own while using another story as the foundation. Jane is a fa...moreOriginally posted here.
I love retellings. I like seeing how authors make the story their own while using another story as the foundation. Jane is a faithful retelling - all of the major events in Jane Eyre were there but April Lindner found ways to insert some new scenes to make the story more believable (loved the pool scene). What I really liked about this book is it found a way to seamlessly modernize a classic story while keeping the essence of the original. Jane is still very much a plain Jane - practical, studious and hard-working. She's a no non-sense kind of girl who has no interest in celebrities of any kind. This makes her the perfect nanny for the reclusive rock star Nico Rathburn's young daughter. Mr. Rochester as a rock star is such an original and very fitting concept. It goes well with his past as a wild, young man, determined to cruise through the highs of life. Now that he's a little older, he's learned from his mistakes and is trying to live a much simpler life. I think it's great that Nico's age doesn't reduce his overall appeal because he's still totally hot - hello rich, brooding, reformed, rock star! What's not to like?
My favorite line in the novel is probably this: "Jane, you get me. And I think I get you." This one line perfectly describes the romance between Jane and Nico. In spite of the age gap and all of their differences, the only thing that matters is that they understand each other and they're both comfortable in each other's presence right from the start. Their story captivated me. Oh and it's funny that in this novel, their first meeting can be considered a meet cute. Even knowing what will happen in general, I was excited to move along, trying to think of how the story will develop in this new setting. I can see old fans of Jane Eyre falling in love with this charming retelling. What's good about it is I think it will also attract new fans because you don't have to read the original to recognize how well-written this debut novel is. Can't wait to see what April Lindner writes next.(less)
I enjoyed reading a book about Mulan because I only know her story because of the Disney movie, which I really liked because I love warrior women. I r...moreI enjoyed reading a book about Mulan because I only know her story because of the Disney movie, which I really liked because I love warrior women. I really like the beginning of this book but my usual complaint with the Once Upon a Time series still stands, I think it would've been better to add more meat to the bones. I felt like the latter part of the book wasn't fully developed. The events felt too abrupt.
It's still a light and fun read for those who're interested in Mulan and those who just enjoy fairy tale retellings. (less)
I think Cinderella has the most number of retellings out there, probably because it's a very popular fairy tale. Ella Enchanted is set in a world full...moreI think Cinderella has the most number of retellings out there, probably because it's a very popular fairy tale. Ella Enchanted is set in a world full of magic, where fairies exist as well as ogres and gnomes. When Ella was barely an hour old, a fairy named Lucinda visited her mother and gave her the gift of obedience. Her mother and their cook knew that it wasn't a gift so much as a curse but Lucinda won't take back the gift. As Ella grows, they try to protect her from the effects of the gift. They forbid her to tell anyone about it so that other people won't be able to take advantage of her. Not even her father, who is constantly away on business, knows about the curse. Ella had a fairy godmother and her mother asked the fairy godmother to take away the curse, but the fairy godmother said that only Lucinda can do that. Although, she also said that it might be broken someday without Lucinda's help.
It's interesting how Ella adapted to the curse. Instead of being cowed, she tried to find ways to get around obeying orders: "Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally."
When Ella turns 15, her mother gets sick and passes away. This is when her adventures begin. Her father, who doesn't know what to do with her, sends her to finishing school. Later on, her father marries another noblewoman who has two awful daughters. The novel follows the original story in the sense that Ella doesn't get along with her step-mother or her step-sisters. The rest of the novel revolves around Ella's adventures as she tries to get rid of the curse. Along the way, she interacts with a lot of interesting people, including Prince Charmont, Char for short. For of course, a Cinderella story needs a prince, right? But Ella Enchanted is very much Ella's story as she comes to her own and realizes what she needs to do to break the curse.
Ella Enchanted is a Newbery Honor book that a lot of people obviously enjoyed. It's a fun, easy read for those who enjoy fairy tale retellings or fantasy novels. (less)
I love fairy tale retellings and Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale so I'm always curious about retellings about it. I've read most of the...moreI love fairy tale retellings and Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale so I'm always curious about retellings about it. I've read most of the books in the Once Upon a Time series but I felt like they weren't really for me. I don't know why, maybe because they were trying to keep the books short, I felt like that stories weren't fully developed. The same was true for this one.
The beginning reminded me of Robin McKinley's Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast because Belle has two sisters that are both beautiful while she is not. Although in this retelling, Belle focused on it more. It was a huge problem for her that she was named Belle (which means Beauty) but she wasn't beautiful.
Cameron Dokey deviated from the usual story by coming up with the Heartwood Tree. Instead of a rose, Belle's father took home a branch from the Heartwood Tree.
Overall, the book was just okay for me. I would've probably liked it better if the story was more developed. I didn't really feel that the Beast and Belle connected during the short time that they were together.(less)
Shannon Hale did a wonderful job of weaving a new story around the basic elements of the original fairy tale. Falada (the horse) is there, the maid in...moreShannon Hale did a wonderful job of weaving a new story around the basic elements of the original fairy tale. Falada (the horse) is there, the maid in waiting is there, the princess is sent to another kingdom and becomes a goose girl. Shannon's writing in The Goose Girl has been often described as "lyrical". I'd have to agree with that description because her writing is really just beautiful. I love how she reimagined the whole fairy tale and came up with her own story. It's also fun to read a retelling of a fairy tale that's not that popular.
This book is narrated by the Crown Princess of Kildenree and her name is Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee (Ani for short). Ani is such an interesting character. Throughout the book, you can see her grow from a child to a young woman and develop from an insecure person to one who knows what she has to offer the world. There's also a love story here and by the time you discover who the love interest is, you'll love him as much as you love Ani (notice I didn't mention any names).
I gave this book to a friend last Christmas and she got excited when she saw it because goose girl is her favorite fairy tale. She finished reading it in a couple of days and she said that it's a good, fast read. It's very easy to read and you become so engrossed with the story that you don't want to put it down until you finish. If anyone is interested, the first chapter of the book is up over at Shannon's site.
The Goose Girl is actually the first in a series called the books of Bayern but it can be read on its own. The other books in the series are Enna Burning, River Secrets and Forest Born, which I haven't read because I'm waiting for it to come out in paperback so it will match my other books. (less)