It's a funny book to be in both my historical and fairytale shelf. I'm not sure if I liked it. I like my fairytales pretty well separated from historyIt's a funny book to be in both my historical and fairytale shelf. I'm not sure if I liked it. I like my fairytales pretty well separated from history, usually, especially if the big plot goal is We're Going To America. I'm just really not a fan of American migration stories. Maybe I read too many of those fictional journals about the girls going to/from America in the 1800s, but honestly, the 19th century is my very least favorite century to read about, anyway, so this book already had some marks against it. Fairytales set in the distant past in hard-to-define countries, please!
But honestly it could have worked, and for about the first part of the book, it did. I really loved Astri's narration - she was brash and shameless and plucky and a survivor in the best, least-melodramatic sense - just kind of a sassy brat, tbh, but while that sounds really unappealing, she pulls it off, because she's also very no-nonsense, very earthy. I love Astri! And her character arc, while kind of uneven/inconsistent, was really fascinating, too. I love characters who are just kind of awful people and know it but somehow can't stop being awful. Hashtag relatable.
But the book's biggest problem is that it's hard to incorporate the magic, wistfulness, oddity, quirkiness, and surreality of a fairytale when you have something as hard-historical as immigration to America. It just /is/. I'm sure there are ways to pull it off but this mere blending of a quasi-fairytale adventure - the goatman who isn't really a goat, the odd Spinning Girl and her not-really-gold-but-it-looks-magical, yarn, the fake magical brush - with historical fact... it just didn't work for me. Maybe I just have poor taste? I don't know. Nothing quite jived right, is all I know.
Also, Crime Pays, and you don't need to worry about stealing a horse and then selling it for the money, or abandoning a human being who you said you'd come back for. No worries. It's all good, or at least not something you have to dwell on/feel guilt for.
So yeah: the first part, a solid 4 stars for a great protagonist and great conflict. The second two parts... eh....more
As scandalous as it is to suggest it, and as much as I wish it weren't true, I don't think Neil Gaiman is the type for me. Or at least, maybe his straAs scandalous as it is to suggest it, and as much as I wish it weren't true, I don't think Neil Gaiman is the type for me. Or at least, maybe his straight fantasy isn't for me. I adore Good Omens, and I have the first three Sandman volumes sitting on my library pile. But after reading Neverwhere last week and now Stardust this week, I'm not sure if we're compatible.
I enjoyed the concept of Stardust, really. The twisting, occasionally intersecting storylines element is one of the things that I loved about Good Omens, and it works here, in short, brief bursts. Unfortunately they also worked against the characters, because I never really felt like I got to know them. Not to mention the Tristran/Yvaine relationship is patchy at best. I liked Yvaine, but I don't know why she ended up liking Tristran at all.
Enjoyable enough, but I'm glad it was short. Here's hoping Sandman is more up my Gaiman alley....more
One of my favorite things so far about this book is the reviews by... hmm. How do I say this appropriately and maturely? Nah. I can't. Reviews by buttOne of my favorite things so far about this book is the reviews by... hmm. How do I say this appropriately and maturely? Nah. I can't. Reviews by butthurt feminists increase my pleasure in this book by 24%. Scientific fact. Before I get to the review of the actual book, I'm going to briefly defend the views that this book espouses, and explain the views that it doesn't, because apparently some people got as far as "STRAWMAN FEMINIST!!!!" and decided it was all trash from there.
Both this book and the book before it have been incredibly subtle and non-preachy - ironic, considering the series title - about morality and the complexities of moral decision-making. Very rarely has Chainani passed authorial judgment, good or bad, on anything that happened within the stories. In the first book, there was no obvious "THE FAIRYTALE EQUATION IS HARMFUL AND REDUCTIONIST" message; neither was there a message encouraging the sort of behavior shown by most of the characters. Along those lines, a lot of moral issues inherent in gender discussions were presented in A World Without Princes, but very little authorial voice comes through to say who and what is right. This is because Chainani respects his readers, even his younger audience, enough for them to realize what is appropriate on their own.
Spoilers for AWWP after this message from Sam Winchester.
Thank you, Sam.
The major villain in AWWP is Professor Sader. Not August, your lovable but vaguely ambiguous history professor from the first book, but his sister, Evelyn Sader. She's the one who changed the School for Good, a shallow but typically well-intentioned co-ed establishment, into the violently misandristic School for Girls. She encourages the subjugation and diminishment of males everywhere, and turns all of the school's classes into either female worship or male-directed violence, mental and physical. She also "revises" the fairytale history, to show the patriarchal enslavement of women. It's like Chainani made the School for Girls into Tumblr Feminist School.
About a dozen reviews of this book have been crying STRAW FEMINIST and asking how this is going to affect the poor impressionable young girls reading this story - what if they, gasp, never become feminists because of Chainani and his anti-feminist portrayal of Professor Sader as a horrible sexist feminist??? And I take a lot of issue with that, mainly for two reasons.
1) I'm a Christian. From a fairly young age, I got disillusioned from most Christian fiction because it was just bad. That meant most of my interaction with Christian characters in fiction were stereotypical caricatures - judgmental, obsessed with rules and Hell, unlikable and people you would never, ever want to emulate. And guess what? Here I am, still a Christian, despite a lifetime of the books I read saying that being a Christian was basically the worst. This is because reading those characters taught me what not to be. I saw what the world thought Christians were like and I determined not to be the soulless husks that they thought I'd be - to be better and more fair and more loving and more real. It was inspirational, almost, even while it could be super frustrating! Because while I knew not all Christians were like what I read in books, I knew that some were. A lot, even. It's not pretty but it's reality and it helps to know reality.
A lot of radical, third/fourth-wave feminists are like Professor Sader. And for the love of God, don't try to tell your young girls and boys that there aren't because it's patently and dangerously untrue.
2) GIVE YOUR GIRLS THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT AND ALSO THE BENEFIT OF CHOICE, DAMMIT. It's okay if a girl doesn't want to be a feminist. It's okay. Your daughter/friend/niece/student/whoever doesn't want to be a feminist because they don't want to be associated with sexism like Evelyn Sader's? The world isn't going to end. She's not going to marry an abusive husband and start wearing solely denim skirts just because she doesn't want to be known as a feminist. It's okay.
Also - while the School for Girls was violently misandristic, the School for Boys was violently misogynistic. The entire School is in chaos - I'm not sure how anyone thinks Chainani justifies sexism on either side when both states are described in such unattractive terms. (That's one place where his authorial condemnation comes down hard.)
Finally - because this is getting longer than I wanted it to be - anyone who has a problem with the ending needs to check their reading comprehension. The story isn't over - the story didn't have a happy ending. You think Chainani wants Sophie and Agatha to end up separated because of the boys they chose? Have you read both of these books? No! No! No! Why do you even think that this is how the story is going to end or that Agatha and Sophie were right to choose Tedros and the School Master or that the book somehow expresses that their separation is a good thing! Oh my god!
I'm done. Check your political bias and reading comprehension at the door. Otherwise you just look foolish and reactionary, and probably a little shallow-minded.
I'm so happy to have this book.
It wasn't as good as the first book, but I loved the concept. Sophie and Agatha deepened even more as characters, and I'm a pretty big fan of Agatha and Tedros, even though Agatha and Sophie have my loyalty. The book had some pretty interesting and conflicting things to say about the nature of romantic vs. platonic love and the line that get blurred between them sometimes. (Tedros and Filip, especially near the very end - I almost cried laughing. Poor Tedros. But also very interesting!)
Sophie's character especially intrigues me. She just... tries so hard. But she doesn't know how. And she screws up so terribly. I can't really blame Agatha for anything, although it makes me really sad. After going through all that Sophie put her through, it doesn't really surprise me, and I can understand. I wish it hadn't happened, and I have faith in their eventual reconciliation, but... yeah. It's complex and sad. She and Agatha are going to suffer so much for this. (Paying for mistakes! My favorite!) I just hope they get back together soon because theirs is the best relationship I've read in a long time.
There are still some discrepancies - characters get away with very little apology needed for things that they did (looking at you, Tedros) and the Agatha/Sophie and Tedros/Filip stuff just feels like waffling - but they're relatively minor concerns in a really, really fun and complicated story. I can't wait for the third book - hopefully they all get their happy ever afters. ...more
I considered the rating for this book for a long time - I balk at giving five-star reviews because that means a really good boHoly shiitake mushrooms.
I considered the rating for this book for a long time - I balk at giving five-star reviews because that means a really good book.
But... well, I mean, this was a really good book.
I'm still trying to figure out exactly everything that I love about it - the characters, the character arcs, the setting, the writing, the plot twists! - but what it really comes down to is relationships.
There's a prince. He's important to the plot. The prince is a really good character.
But it's about Sophie and Agatha. And their relationship. Whatever that is - it goes through several changes over the course of the story. But whatever that relationship is, it's terrible and it's beautiful and...
Wow. This is a really good book. I'm kind of speechless. I wasn't expecting this much out of some kids' lit I picked up on a whim....more
This was a pretty funny little collection of fairytales, written as to be more politically correct. Of course the stories end up ridiculously twistedThis was a pretty funny little collection of fairytales, written as to be more politically correct. Of course the stories end up ridiculously twisted and make you long for dopey princesses and full-of-it princes, but that's the charm. My favorite was the retelling of Sleeping Beauty....more
Alex Flinn, y u no try harder? You could be fantastic. And instead you just go with... this.
A Kiss In Time started pretty decently. Granted, I didn'tAlex Flinn, y u no try harder? You could be fantastic. And instead you just go with... this.
A Kiss In Time started pretty decently. Granted, I didn't like Talia OR Jack, but I figured they would grow up along the course of the novel. And I guess they did, but it all felt so... cheesy. So Disney. And yet, not Disney, because there were some terribly awkward scenes that not even Disney would dream of putting in there.
Talia and Jack never did get anymore likable. The plot never got any more interesting - in fact, it got more boring and more cliché and more obvious as time went on. And what the heck was up with villainess, Malvolia? I just didn't get her. There wasn't enough backstory in the beginning to even care what her thought processes were at the tail end of the book.
Beastly was okay, but this was truly mediocre. Unless I get a recommendation, I think I'll avoid Alex Flinn's books from now on....more
I'm sadly not an expert on Grimm fairytales (or any fairytales, really), but I love fairytale retellings. And A Tale Dark AndFirst read: April 6, 2012
I'm sadly not an expert on Grimm fairytales (or any fairytales, really), but I love fairytale retellings. And A Tale Dark And Grimm is not just one fairytale retelling, but six. At least. All wrapped up in the main characters of Hansel and Gretel.
Long tale short, I. loved. this. It was ridiculously easy to read - honestly, he should teach how to write simply but effectively - and I breezed through it in about two hours total. I'm pretty sure it's because the plot keeps up its brisk, fairytale feel to it as well as its good style. Hansel and Gretel are fairytale characters, but just fleshed out enough to be likable. And the narrator, who interjects his opinions in bold type, was hilarious. He made the book. Not to mention what must be at least a dozen fairytales woven in and out of the plot like a wonderful little tapestry.
I'll stop before I get too poetic, but this was a really, really good book that I want to go grab off the shelf and read again now. For anyone who likes fairytales, or anyone who likes good books in general.
Just to clarify, I believe this is kind of a companion/standalone sequel to Princess Ben. I haven't read that, but it's not hard to guess when the oldJust to clarify, I believe this is kind of a companion/standalone sequel to Princess Ben. I haven't read that, but it's not hard to guess when the old Queen Mother goes around with the appellation of 'Nonna Ben.' Having not read Princess Ben (yet - I'm getting to it), I'm not sure if this is a decent sequel, so I'll just comment on Wisdom Kiss's quality alone.
First off - it sounds GREAT. It's got a wonderful little hook. The princess, the maid, the soldier - it sounds like it'd be a perfect little fantasy read. But what it doesn't tell you (except in little print at the bottom of the sleeve - and who reads that, anyway? amirite?) is that it's a epistolary novel, told in books/letters/encyclopedia entries/what have you.
I love epistolary novels. But I think it kinda took away from Wisdom's Kiss, because, as much as you'd expect otherwise, it kept me distant from the main characters. Princess Wisdom, or Dizzy, never got past the infuriating, airheaded princess who, typically, didn't want to be a princess. Fortitude, or Trudy, never got past a weepy, love-lorn little serving girl trailing after soldier/acrobat Tomas Müller, or Tips. And Tips was... I'm not really sure what I think of Tips. Was Tips an actual character, or just a cardboard cutout for Dizzy and Trudy to fall in love with? (The whole Dizzy/Tips romance was embarrassing. As annoying as she was, Trudy deserved better than THAT.)
What saved the book was actually Queen Mother Ben and her cat, Escoffier. And, somehow, Queen Temperance, though... she never actually came in... I'm not sure how that worked out, actually. But I liked Temperance. Queen Mother Ben was pretty spectacular, though. I would read the whole thing again for her.
So I'm torn. On the one hand, it had a very good plot and pacing (except towards the end, where it suddenly raced ahead like... something that races). On the other hand, Dizzy, Trudy, and Tips made it almost unbearable. On the third hand, watching the scheming of Queen Mother Ben and the Duchess Wilhelmina was inordinately entertaining. I'm torn....more