If you've read Cinder, you know where it leaves off. If not, I won't spoil it for you. So let's just say that Cinder's story arc continues. Meanwhile,...moreIf you've read Cinder, you know where it leaves off. If not, I won't spoil it for you. So let's just say that Cinder's story arc continues. Meanwhile, in France...
Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing and has been for about two weeks. Scarlet is worried sick but doesn't know where to start looking for her. None of the villagers are willing to help because they think eccentric Grandma has just finally gone off the deep end and wandered away. A new street fighter shows up in town and he seems to know something about Grandma's disappearance. But can Scarlet trust him?
I didn't like this quite as much as Cinder but I definitely still enjoyed it. By introducing Scarlet, Marissa Meyer managed to avoid my common complaint that the second book in a series is just filler. Had she stayed exclusively with Cinder's story, I'd probably be complaining. By shifting the focus, she fills in a lot of back story without a big info dump and we learn everything in a way that feels very natural. Hats off for that one! It's apparently a hard thing to do.
My problem was with Scarlet herself. She was angry and yelling for at least 85% of the book. At least it felt that way. If she wasn't yelling, she was thinking about yelling, and very occasionally she was crying. The girl goes through a lot of stress, so to a point it felt authentic. But after that point, I wanted Scarlet to grow emotionally and feel something other than anger or sadness. That's a little unfair but not completely so. I'm not sure if that's how the author wrote her or if that was just the narrator's interpretation. And while I'm picking on that end of things, it irritated me that Scarlet was the only character in the book with an accent. There are other French people who don't have accents. I guess it was a way to remind me that this was Scarlet and not Cinder speaking? I don't know but it bothered me.
I really liked the other new characters though. I liked Wolf, the street fighter, a lot. I thought I had him figured out but I was never entirely sure of where he stood or what was going on with him. Even narcissistic Thorne won me over. He is what he is. I appreciate that kind of self-honesty. There are hints that there are bigger things to be seen from him, but right now, we're good.
As for poor Emperor Kai--I just want to tell him that everything's going to be okay, even though I have no idea at this point if it will be or not. He has no idea what's going on with Cinder. He has no idea if his emotions for her are real or if he's been manipulated. But while he's dealing with his own personal pain and confusion, he's doing his best for his people, even at great personal cost to himself. I really, really like this guy.
Other than Scarlet's...anger issues...I still like Rebecca Soler's narration. Her voice is age-appropriate and she gives the characters life and emotion. I'll keep listening to the series on audio, at least for one more book. I may have to switch to print if Scarlet stays this shrill though.
I highly recommend this one for anyone looking for a very different take on some classic fairy tales. This series gets huge points for originality.(less)
I chose to listen to this because it showed up in my digital library's "recently added" lists and I recognized it as having been nominated for a coupl...moreI chose to listen to this because it showed up in my digital library's "recently added" lists and I recognized it as having been nominated for a couple of Audie awards. "I can't go wrong with something that's been nominated for an award, right?" I reasoned with myself.
It was terrible.
Had it been any longer than two hours, I would have stopped after about 30 minutes. I felt the writer was trying way too hard to be funny and as a result, the whole thing just fell flat. The plot, such as it was, would circle miles out of the way to set up a joke that didn't even make me smile.
The basics are here--the evil stepmother, Snow White, the mother wishing for a child fitting Snow White's description...I guess that's about it. There were tons of other fairy- and folk tale creatures dragged in by the skin of their teeth, which I should have loved, but I didn't. I mostly didn't see any rhyme or reason for who was included and who wasn't. I honestly can't even remember what happened to most of them.
Snow White was super annoying. I believe that was kind of the point, but man, she set my teeth on edge. She's supposed to be about fifteen but she's voiced by Sandra Oh, who is at least as far from fifteen as I am, and she generally acts about two years old. Temper tantrums? Seriously? Not attractive or enjoyable.
I could go on but I won't. I'm sure there's an audience for this, I just don't know who it would be. If you're interested, don't let me dissuade you from trying it out; at two hours long, you don't have much to lose.(less)
All our familiar storybook characters have had to leave their homelands because an evil creature known as the Adversary has destroyed them. They have...moreAll our familiar storybook characters have had to leave their homelands because an evil creature known as the Adversary has destroyed them. They have all converged on New York. In order to fit into mainstream society, there are some pretty stringent rules in effect. Snow White is effectively in control but her right-hand "man" is Bigby, otherwise know as the Big Bad Wolf.
Jack the Giant Killer comes tearing into their headquarters one day with a story of finding Rose Red, his on-again off-again girlfriend and Snow's sister, missing from her apartment, which is covered in blood. Has there been a murder? Who did it?
The first thing that struck me is how very much Snow White in the opening pages of this graphic novel looks like Regina/The Evil Queen from Once Upon a Time. My husband was even struck by it when I showed him. I know that doesn't have much to do with anything, I just found it amusing.
Anyway, I really liked this story and the world that Willingham has built here. I am a fan of Once Upon a Time, so the idea of storybook characters living in our world is familiar to me. Still, this take is slightly different (and first--I just came to them backwards). They aren't cut off from the world in a little out-of-the-way town; most of them are living in the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world. I liked seeing how their personalities allowed them to thrive or not in that setting.
I was surprised by the mystery and had absolutely no idea "whodunnit." I was also amused by the characters gathering at the end for the classic "parlor scene" so familiar to fans of the cozy mystery.
I liked the art a lot as well. I liked the whole book, but what really stood out to me were the--frontispieces?--for each chapter. I spent a long time looking at each one to make sure that I didn't overlook some subtle detail. They were amazing.
I don't have a whole lot else to say. I like the tension between Bigby and Snow White and I'm interested to see where that goes. I felt this was a strong beginning to a series that will probably get better with time.
I recommend this is you're a fan of retold fairy tales. I've already picked up the second book from the library.(less)
In the Five Hundred Kingdoms, a force called the Tradition tries to fit likely young men and women down the well-trod paths of fairy tale characters....moreIn the Five Hundred Kingdoms, a force called the Tradition tries to fit likely young men and women down the well-trod paths of fairy tale characters. Now it's trying to work its magic on Princess Rosamund but Godmother Lily is doing her best to thwart it. The Queen has just died and Lily sees the Tradition building, trying to force Rosmund into the role of Snow White. Lily consults with the King and they agree that Lily should secretly fulfill the role of "evil stepmother." Someone else is trying to play off the Tradition's magic though and a huntsman really does make off with Rosamund. After a rescue in which not one but two Prince/Hero types play a part, Rosa and Lily join forces to help Rosa choose her own destiny and ensure the safety of their small but wealthy kingdom once and for all.
The title of this one is a little misleading. There is actually more of Snow White or Rapunzel than Sleeping Beauty here. Still, I enjoy this series for the way the traditional stories are turned upside down and this mish-mash works for me.
Rosa and Lily are very likable characters. They very much set their own courses. Rosa has learned how to cook and sew, just in case she finds herself in a setting where Tradition would require those skills. She's learned diplomacy and common sense from her mother, a commoner who married the King for love. Lily is a powerful Godmother who manages a particularly difficult kingdom alone and with ingenious solutions. Her arc is secondary, but I really liked it.
I definitely liked Siegfried. He's the descendant of-- let's call them Norse gods. He's become aware of the Tradition's power as well and he's doing his best to avoid an Oedipus-like fate that has been foretold. He's big and brawny but he has a heart of gold and the wisdom to accept good counsel, no matter its source. I liked him from the beginning.
A lot of the story's action takes place around a competition for the fair princess's hand. Some of the trials the poor princes and heroes are set are hilarious! Herding sheep, collecting eggs, solving riddles, racing in full armor, dealing with enchanted objects... I really enjoyed these parts.
The Sleeping Beauty is one of my favorite books so far in this series, and I recommend it for anyone looking for a mixed-up fairy tale.(less)
Cinder is a cyborg living in New Beijing with her evil guardian (read: adoptive mother) and two adoptive sisters. She single-handedly supports the fam...moreCinder is a cyborg living in New Beijing with her evil guardian (read: adoptive mother) and two adoptive sisters. She single-handedly supports the family by working as a mechanic in the local market. One day, she looks up and finds young, handsome Prince Kai in her booth. He asks her to fix a broken android for him and engages in some pretty harmless flirting.
That night, Cinder's life takes a turn for the worse. Her beloved younger sister, Peony, is diagnosed with an incurable plague. Her guardian blames Cinder and starts making life much, much harder.
Prince Kai is having a hard time himself. The Lunar Queen has decided that she is going to marry him or start a war. Kai genuinely cares about his people and would do almost anything to protect them, but he just can't bring himself to agree to marry the evil queen. She invites herself to his palace, where he gets to see what a ruthless ruler she really is.
I had my reservations about this. I love me a retold fairy tale, don't get me wrong. But it's all science-fictiony. Cyborgs? Androids? Not my thing. And then it's set in a future that sounds a little post-apocalyptic? Definitely not my thing. And yet, searching around for something mildly dystopian to read for a reading challenge, this is what I chose. That cover. The rave reviews. It's worth a shot, right?
Absolutely. Yay! I pretty much loved it!
Cinder had me from the beginning. She's so self-reliant but she doesn't hate people. Give me an evil stepmother and make me do all the work to support her lazy ass? I would hate everybody. Cinder loves her younger sister and even the family android, who was very spunky and cute, I must admit. She tries so hard to forget about Prince Kai and not be all fan-girly like the rest of the country, but she just can't get him out of her head. She faces everything that is thrown at her without a whole lot of resentment; she just tries to do what she can to get through it. She could easily have been a whiny teen and I wouldn't have blamed her, but I wouldn't have liked the book either. She rocked.
Prince Kai. We came so, so close to a lasting character crush. It's there, don't get me wrong, but he isn't way up in my top tier. He had the perfect opportunity but he just didn't do what I wanted him to do. He took the high road and did what was best for his country. I should love him for that, shouldn't I? No. I wanted the gigantic gesture for the girl that he is on his way to loving. Screw the millions of other people in the country. I'm only being slightly sarcastic. He was great though. Funny, smart, approachable, and accessible. He seems to be wise beyond his years, but he could be a snarky teen too. I kept picturing him as Disney's Aladdin for some reason. Maybe because he first shows up in a market? That didn't help the crush-o-meter any.
There's enough of the original fairy tale here to be recognizable, but it is very much it's own story. My poor husband had no idea what I was reading.
"Hey. You know that Cinderella-cyborg book I'm listening to? You won't believe what just happened in it."
"The Cinderella-cyborg book." Duh.
"Oh, come on. I've told you all about it. You know, the prince's android is broken and she's a cyborg and she's fixing it and there's this plague--"
"Suresuresure. What about it?"
"We-ell," and off I would go. Poor thing. He heard all about it and he never did understand what I was talking about. He's so good about humoring me.
Reading it, it all makes sense. Cinderella as a cyborg? Abso-freaking-lutely. She kicks ass.
There were a few times when I wondered if it was supposed to be quite so obvious where things were headed, but then a big twist that I didn't see coming would throw me off. I was right about the big things but a lot of the details were surprising. I'm very happy about that.
I was not happy with the ending. It just sort of stops! I hate that! Good thing the next book comes out this week.
The narrator, Rebecca Soler, did a great job. She sounds young enough to match the part and she didn't hesitate to reflect Cinder's emotions.
If I haven't confused you past the point of no return, read this. It's a good story that transcends whatever genres we might try to fit it into. (less)
Aza was abandoned at an inn when she was an infant. Luckily, the innkeeper and his wife decide to adopt her as their own. Aza grows up to have an unbe...moreAza was abandoned at an inn when she was an infant. Luckily, the innkeeper and his wife decide to adopt her as their own. Aza grows up to have an unbelievably beautiful singing voice, but she does not have a pleasing appearance, to put it nicely. Other Ayorthians value her for her voice, but they're appalled by her looks. They like beauty in every aspect of their lives and are downright offended by non-beautiful things and people.
Aza, in a strange twist of fate, finds herself attending the King's marriage, where she becomes the Queen's lady-in-waiting. But Queen Ivi has her own plans for the country, and those plans might just spark a revolt. Can Aza help to save her beloved country?
I can't quite make my mind up exactly what I think about this audio. I loved the full cast narration, and this book was perfectly suited to that. Sarah Naughton did a fantastic job as Aza, and I also really liked the voice of Prince Ijori. The Ayorthians are constantly singing. Constantly. Just everyday conversations will randomly have a sentence or two sung. For that reason, I think I did a little better with the audio than I would have with print. I find it frustrating to read songs in the middle of prose. (I'm looking at you, J. R. R. Tolkien. That's probably part of the reason I never finished reading The Lord of the Rings. You and your endless songs.) I love to watch musicals, so this should have worked a little better for me than it actually did, and I can't put my finger on why. The singers all did a great job. The lyrics weren't always perfectly metered, for lack of a better word. I could hear the singers trying to fit that extra syllable in somewhere, and it sounded rushed. I think part of my problem is that very few of the songs were fast. They were mostly ballad-y, which worked fine, but there were just too many. One or two, "The Song of Ayortha" in particular, just dragged on and on and on. It was more of a dirge than an anthem. It was actually sung so slowly that I couldn't half understand the words, so I just wanted this song to freaking end already!
The story was pretty cute though. Aza got a little tiresome with her constant obsession about her looks. She's at that awful age where it really, really matters though, so it was understandable. There's a good message for young girls here, but it's not something that bashes them over the head. I liked the twist on Snow White. It was a very original take on the tale, and I never really knew where it was going. The love story seemed to happen a little too fast, but then, they always do in fairy tales, don't they? At one point, I started to feel like the judgmental Ayorthians were only getting what was coming to them. Okay, so we all judge based on appearances, but they never even try to get to know Aza or let her give her side in any story. They were maddening! Prince Ijori was a prince worthy of the title. I really liked him.
I recommend this if you don't think the songs will throw you off. While I had some issues with it, I did like it, and I even recommend the audio. Feel free to skip past "The Song of Ayortha" though!(less)
Cassie Dasent is growing up in an Arctic research station with her dad and his team. Her grandmother has always told Cassie stories about her mom and...moreCassie Dasent is growing up in an Arctic research station with her dad and his team. Her grandmother has always told Cassie stories about her mom and how the family lost her to the North Wind and the Polar Bear King. When Cassie was younger, she believed these stories, but as she's grown older, she hears them as a metaphor for her mother's death.
Until she meets the Polar Bear King.
Cassie has a chance to save her mother. All she has to do is marry the King. Can she be that brave for a woman she doesn't even remember?
I enjoyed the way that this fairy tale has such a very scientific background. I forget sometimes, but I did earn my biology degree back in the day, so to have that mixed in with a fairy tale was absolutely perfect for me. Don't get all weirded out by that. There's nothing difficult to understand (I promise), it's just that Cassie has been trained as a scientist all her life and suddenly she's in the middle of a fairy tale. I liked seeing her adapt to that and shift her world view. I also liked the way that her training made Bear's job easier. Now that I think about it, having the book set in the modern world makes me feel like magic can be around any corner. And isn't that nice to think about?
I liked Cassie as a heroine because she was feisty and because she took this changing world in stride. She knew what she wanted to do and she went for it. Absolutely nothing stood in her way.
I even liked Bear and how much he cared about his duties. There is one scene that really bothered my latent feminist tendencies though. I understand where he's coming from, but it really, really bothered me.
I really liked this take on "East of the Sun, West of the Moon." I've also read Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George, and I have to say that I prefer Ice. I always do better with characters I can relate to and understand, and Cassie did that for me. I liked the twists the story took. I did guess what was going to happen at the end, but not until I was already in the middle of the big climax.
My one real complaint is that the book just stopped. Things are technically resolved, but I do like some sort of epilogue or afterward, and I didn't get that here.
I do recommend this for fans of fairy tale retellings. It's an enjoyable take on the original tale with a likeable heroine as well.
That's all the synopsis I want to give, but I'll give you more.
Henry Whelp is a good wolf. He's never gotten into...moreWhat if the Big Bad Wolf was framed?
That's all the synopsis I want to give, but I'll give you more.
Henry Whelp is a good wolf. He's never gotten into any trouble. Nevertheless, he finds himself in juvie after he breaks a truck window. His father is the Big Bad Wolf of Little Red Riding Hood fame, and everyone is just waiting for Henry to go bad. Henry eventually finds out that his father believes he was framed. See, George was working for Dust City's version of the mafia. They make their money by selling synthetic fairy dust to the population now that the fairies have disappeared. But what exactly caused them to disappear in the first place?
I love the whole idea of this book. The synopsis reminds me a little of Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crime series. I enjoy those, so I thought this could be a winner for me and it was.
Henry is a nice guy who just can't get a break. He ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time pretty frequently. He tries to do his best, but no one is looking for that; they're only looking for his mistakes. He finally just has to take matters into his own hands and start following the clues to their conclusion.
Along the way he meets a female wolf, Fiona. Fiona is a smart little hottie. She actually sees the best in Henry. Her brother is a real trouble-maker, but he actually has some good points, so she's used to looking for the good in people.
The mystery twisted and turned and I had no idea where it was going. When it's all resolved, it makes perfect sense, but it's darker than I expected. There are some slightly disturbing parallels between the book and humanity's darkest times. That's all I say. It didn't bother me, I don't think it would bother most readers, but it did surprise me a little.
I enjoyed playing "spot the fairytale character," and they showed up in some very unexpected places. I always get a kick out of that.
If the synopsis appeals to you at all, read this one. It's a fast, entertaining read that I thoroughly enjoyed. I even find myself hoping that I'll get to read another book starring Henry and Fiona in the future.(less)
Scarlett March was horribly scarred when she defended her younger sister from a Fenris (werewolf) when they were both young. They lost their beloved g...moreScarlett March was horribly scarred when she defended her younger sister from a Fenris (werewolf) when they were both young. They lost their beloved grandmother in the same attack. With guidance from the local woodsman, Pa Reynolds, and with Silas Reynolds as a partner, the March sisters become deadly Fenris hunters. Now that the girls are in their older teens, something has the wolves out in masses. Scarlett, Rosie, and Silas decide they can do the most damage by moving to Atlanta, the center of all this wolfish activity, and hunting there. But what bait can they use? Feminine wiles just aren't working as well here for some reason.
Oh, I'm so torn on this rating. I couldn't put the book down. Even when the trio was in the library studying, trying to figure out how to beat the wolves to whatever it is they're looking for, there was still some drama going on between them that kept me entertained. Knocking it back is the fact that I knew exactly what was going to happen. I didn't know how it was going to play out, but once I found out what the wolves were searching for, I got it. There were tons of clues scattered throughout that just kept confirming what I thought. I could have overlooked that and still kept it at four stars, but the resolution felt a little--forced? That's probably the best word. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just say that the wolves' behavior made zero sense to me.
Scarlett was the strongest character in the story, but I just couldn't bring myself to like her. She was too focused and too intent on how her way of life was the only viable way. She accuses Rosie of being selfish, but she's completely blind to how she's being selfish by laying a huge guilt-trip on Rosie to keep her hunting. She says that she hunts the Fenris in order to protect the innocent, but really it's just about revenge and power for her. In a twisted way, it's become almost an addiction. She doesn't feel complete until she's out kicking some Fenris ass.
I liked Rosie a lot more because I could understand where she was coming from. She hunts out of a sense of obligation to her sister for saving her life. I get that. She's so lonely though. She adores Scarlett, but she's only sixteen. She wants to meet boys and dance and go to school like a normal girl. As Scarlett frequently points out though, once you come out of the cave of ignorance, there's no going back. Rosie wouldn’t do what she wanted to do, like taking fun classes at the community center, for fear of upsetting Scarlett. That started to get a little irritating, but in all honesty, I would probably have acted the same way. It's easy to get focused on the family drama and define Rosie by that, but then she hunts some Fenris down and reminds you that she's tough-as-nails when she wants to be also.
I'm being way harsher on this than I meant to be. Even though I didn't like Scarlett, she did feel real. We all know those super-intent people who focus on the job at the cost of everything else. Even though I guessed the basic storyline, I did enjoy reading the book and will get to any possible sequels eventually. If I hadn't been able to guess what was going on, this definitely would have been rated higher. I think most readers will like this a lot, so I do recommend it. Oh, and who can resist that cover? Love. It.(less)
Take Rapunzel and plunk her down smack-dab in the middle of a Louis L'Amour book and you have the gist of this fun graphic novel.
The framework of Rapu...moreTake Rapunzel and plunk her down smack-dab in the middle of a Louis L'Amour book and you have the gist of this fun graphic novel.
The framework of Rapunzel is here. Hungry mom, eager-to-please dad, evil witch, girl with crazy-long hair in a tower. But that's about where the similarities end. See, Rapunzel doesn't want a prince to come along and rescue her. Oh, no. She wants revenge. And she's perfectly capable of serving it up all by herself, thankyouverymuch.
This was a lot of fun, and I can't give a real reason for knocking it back to three stars. Maybe it just veered a little too far away from the original? Or maybe Rapunzel was unrealistically self-sufficient? The girl was locked away in a tower for years, but she can kick some ass without even thinking about it. Now that I'm thinking about it more, it jumped around a little too much. Of course Rapunzel has lots of adventures, but there was nothing in between. It just jumped from castle to tower to town to ranch with very little transition. I think that's what bothered me the most. And Rapunzel's hayseed way of talking got a little old.
There was a lot that I did like though. I liked that Rapunzel was a strong young woman. Her partner-in-revenge, Jack, was a charming rake. He doesn't think too much about stealing to get by, but Rapunzel knocks some morals into his head. I mostly loved the illustrations, although I never looked at them quite the same way after my husband asked me, in all seriousness, "Why is there a string of sausages on the cover of your book?" I liked that we got an explanation for the extraordinary length of Rapunzel's hair. I liked that Rapunzel's revenge wasn't just about her personally, it was about her family and returning balance to the place where she lives.
It's a quick, fun read and I'll get around to the sequel some day.
The lass is the last child in a family of nine and the fourth unwanted girl. She is so unwanted that her mother doesn’t even bother to name her. When...moreThe lass is the last child in a family of nine and the fourth unwanted girl. She is so unwanted that her mother doesn’t even bother to name her. When a polar bear comes crashing through the door one night and asks her to live with him in his castle for a while, she agrees on the condition that her family will be provided for. And her adventures begin.
I really don’t think I’ve ever read East of the Sun, West of the Moon (the fairy tale that this is based on), but I truly enjoyed the book.
Retold fairy tales obviously come in many shapes and sizes, and this book stayed very true to the feel of the old fairy tales. The characters were developed a bit more, but I still wouldn't say that they're well-developed. The story was more about "what happened next," and I kept turning pages to find out exactly that.
I liked that the lass could talk to animals. It added an extra element to the story when her pet Rollo could tell her what the castle walls smelled like.
There were some lessons to be learned here, such as not giving up and avoiding trying to be something you're not.
I was going to give this four stars, because I really did enjoy it while I was reading it, but now that I'm trying to write my review a week later, I find that the book has already faded in my memory, so I'm going to bump it down to three stars.
I'll still recommend it, but I'll probably find myself searching out a different re-telling of this fairy tale to see how they compare.(less)
This is Neil Gaiman's poem, "Instructions" bound as a picture book and illustrated by Charles Vess.
I love this.
I have to admit that when I first came...moreThis is Neil Gaiman's poem, "Instructions" bound as a picture book and illustrated by Charles Vess.
I love this.
I have to admit that when I first came across Gaiman's poem in Fragile Things, I read it, thought it was pretty cool, and moved on, both in the book and in my head. It wasn't until I met Charles Vess at a book signing for Drawing Down the Moon and he told us about this project that I really got excited about the whole thing. He had prints of his artwork for us to look at. As I flipped through them, I knew this was going to be something special.
And it is.
Basically instructions for surviving a fairy tale, Gaiman weaves many themes into this short-ish poem. Help who you can. Don't trust those who seem untrustworthy. Trust yourself. Come home at the end.
And suddenly you realize that he could be (is?) talking about how to live your life well. And you are reminded again what a master Gaiman is.
As for the illustrations--perfection.
I love Vess's artwork. It has such a perfect fairy tale feel to it. And when you sit down to really look at just one of these illustrations, you are blown away by the amount of subtle detail worked in.
I highly, highly recommend this. Children will love it, and so will readers of any age who understand that the truest advice can be found in "children's books."(less)
Mulan's mother died in childbirth, leaving her father heart-broken. He can't bring himself to come home from the battlefield and visit the child who c...moreMulan's mother died in childbirth, leaving her father heart-broken. He can't bring himself to come home from the battlefield and visit the child who cost his beloved wife her life. When he finally does return home after the emperor dismisses him, he finds Mulan a young teen who very much has a mind of her own. She is a brilliant, talented girl. Her best friend Li Po teaches her to read and write and shoot a bow and arrow. Her caretaker teaches her embroidery. Of course there are bumps along the way as Mulan and her father get to know each other for the first time. But when the Emperor summons his men to fight the Huns, Mulan knows that she can't let her injured father go fight as a regular soldier. Those archery lessons just might come in handy after all.
This was a decent book, but I have a couple of complaints. I was excited to read a non-Western fairy tale re-telling. And while I did enjoy the story, and I really liked Mulan herself, this book stayed a little too faithful to what I know of the legend from the Disney movie. I enjoy re-tellings that add an unusual twist to the story, or develop characters more fully. I don't really feel like I got that here. Mulan was pretty well-developed, but I can't say the same for any of the other characters. There are two separate love stories, and I have to say that I was surprised by both. Sure, I knew they were going to happen, but it was just sort of like they met and they were in love. There was no buildup to it. Also, the ending felt a bit rushed. I don't know what could have been done to change that, but I read the big crashing climax and was left thinking, "That's it? All this build up for that?"
Those complaints aside, I did like Mulan a lot. I wouldn't call myself a tomboy, but neither can I imagine mindlessly embroidering my life away. I wouldn't have the guts to do what Mulan did though, and I admire her for doing it. It's always fun to read about characters who do what you can only dream of.
I'm being harder on this than I really intended to be. It wasn't bad, I just think that it could have been better. As it is, I'll probably quickly forget that I ever read it. If you don't mind such a straight-forward telling of the story, you will probably enjoy this one.(less)
Ash is a re-telling of Cinderella, with more fairies and no fairy godmother.
The style this is written in is not a style for me. It feels true to what...moreAsh is a re-telling of Cinderella, with more fairies and no fairy godmother.
The style this is written in is not a style for me. It feels true to what I remember of the original Grimm's fairy tales, but that doesn't mean I like it. It's all third person, watching Ash do her thing, with very little dialog. I like my characters to talk more than that.
I did like the twist on the tale, but I think that if you call yourself a conservative, you will dislike it a lot. No judgment, I'm just sayin'.
And I think that's really all I have to say. It was okay, but I've honestly already forgotten most of it and I just finished it last night.(less)
As luck would have it, the very day Dashti enters the service of a lady is the very day said lady is bricked into a tower for seven years to learn obe...moreAs luck would have it, the very day Dashti enters the service of a lady is the very day said lady is bricked into a tower for seven years to learn obedience. Dashti goes along with her to keep her company and take care of her. Between fighting off rats, Lady Saren's torpor, and the unsettling attentions of Saren's two very different suitors, Dashti has her hands full. And that's just the beginning.
I love Dashti. She grows so much in this book! She starts off a simple girl from a simple way of life, unquestioningly following the laws of the land, and she becomes a strong woman, confident in herself and her abilities. The book is really Dashti's diary, so it was interesting to see her thinking and even her writing style change as she grows into herself.
Dashti's is the most obvious transformation, but Lady Saren quietly undergoes some drastic changes. She starts out a weak, irritating, ineffective girl who seems to be nothing but a chain around Dashti's neck, but sometime when you aren't looking she becomes something... more.
This is my first time reading Shannon Hale, and if this is any indication of the rest of her work, it won't be my last. I sat down to get started on this before spending a little time on the computer, and the next thing I knew I was finishing it. Seriously. One sitting. There was one part that started to drag just a little bit, but somehow a book about two girls in a tower became a page turner. I enjoyed how Dashti's "voice" changed as she changed, and I'm very impressed with Hale's skill in pulling that off.
I was thrilled to read a young adult book with a strong female lead and no love triangle in sight! Yay! I know I wrote the bit about two suitors, but believe me, there's no love triangle.