Interesting premise. Pace/plot is too lackadaisical for my taste, but I held out... up until Hyde had sex with a teenager and we got the backstory ofInteresting premise. Pace/plot is too lackadaisical for my taste, but I held out... up until Hyde had sex with a teenager and we got the backstory of a little boy who was sexually abused by his mom.
I will forever refer to this book as the story in which my favorite character is a four-foot-tall talking wheel of cheese. (True fact.) I[4.75 stars]
I will forever refer to this book as the story in which my favorite character is a four-foot-tall talking wheel of cheese. (True fact.) I adore it. Anyone who has ever enjoyed a nursery rhyme will enjoy it. The anticipation alone from wondering which beloved character will be imagined next is enough for me to give this book high marks. That's not even covering the humor, the imaginative spins, or Elspeth herself. Go check out the book and thank me later....more
Rating more like 3.5-3.75 stars. This rating would likely rise with a reread.
THINGS I LIKED:
1. C.J. Redwine is still wicked at killing off important cRating more like 3.5-3.75 stars. This rating would likely rise with a reread.
THINGS I LIKED:
1. C.J. Redwine is still wicked at killing off important characters. Yowza.
2. Kol is such a sweetheart! Not in a beta male kind of way (nothing wrong with that) but in a deep-seated sense of honor and responsibility kind of way. Which is cool because he doesn't start out that way. Character growth!
3. Also, he's a hot shapeshifter prince, which YES PLEASE.
4. Lorelai is also cool. She's a little TOO good at things for my taste, but whatever. She's calculating, analytical, a great fighter, a strong big sister, steady on her responsibilities but also caring, fights for what's right but avoids unnecessary deaths... Yeah. Lorelai is awesome.
5. IRINA! Irina is awful. She's conceited, twisted, and evil. But man, that old axiom about the villains being the heroes of their own stories is totally upheld here. She has REASONS for everything she does, and at points I truly did feel sorry for her. (Shoutout to my man Viktor!) That's how you write a villain, folks.
6. Ewwww the stuff that happens in this book gets gross. That thing with the one lady and the apples? Nope. Nope nope nope.
THINGS I DID NOT LIKE:
1. Before a certain point, it was just too easy for me to put the book down. I think much of that was my fault, not the book's, because I anticipated certain plot points turning in predictable ways and wanted to avoid the fallout (they didn't; I was pleasantly surprised every time), but it made for tough going at the beginning.
2. I didn't understand a character's reasoning at a fairly crucial point. Another character could have chosen a path that would have seriously damaged the paths of two other characters, so I know from a plot standpoint why that path couldn't have been chosen, but from a character perspective, I don't see why the first character turned the second character away from that bad path, especially considering their history.
Notes for parents: Making out, murder (lots of murder), body horror....more
This is probably one of the most delightfully meta books I've ever had the pleasure of reading. No list for this one, because I liked prett[4.5 stars]
This is probably one of the most delightfully meta books I've ever had the pleasure of reading. No list for this one, because I liked pretty much everything. I thought Pin was clever, and Shoe was sweet. Cor was wonderfully three dimensional and not horrid. Actually, everyone who seemed like they might be horrid ended up being well-rounded, which was nice. And the "behind the scenes" twists on the different fairy tale archetypes! Love! The beginning was hard for me just because the whole omniscient overlord trope always make me feel claustrophobic, but it was handled well, in my opinion. Nice. Very nice....more
Oh, book. How shall I discuss you? On the one hand, I enjoyed you, and you did some pretty awesome things. But on the other hand, parts of you were just not good. Let's discuss.
The Chosen Prince is primarily about Alexos, a prince and the presumed hero of Athene. According to signs at his birth, Alexos is supposed to end the never-ending war that's plagued his country. Of course, with great power, blah blah blah, so poor Alexos feels the weight of his destiny every second of his life. He is expected to be unrealistically mature in all things, perfect in every way, a general to inspire his classmates but also set apart. He's a miserable kid, and I felt pretty awful for him. The only truly bright spot in his life is his little brother, the universally adored younger prince, Teo. What a sweet little munchkin.
Okay, so, I can't really talk about the plot. I honestly remember more about the Wishbone version of The Tempest rather than the original Shakespeare, and I don't want to risk ruining anything for anyone. But a THING happens to poor Alexos, and it just about broke my heart. Well, two things, really, but the first one just made me generally sad while the second made me gasp on the train. Great heavens to betsy.
I wanted so badly to adore this book. I did in parts, like during the aforementioned THINGS, the lovely history of Alexos's world (complete with a curse straight from Zeus!), or during the bro moments between Alexos, Leander, and Peles. The characters themselves are pretty neat, and I would love to see what could be done with them by, say, Megan Whalen Turner. Dig right in there! Gimme some depth and heartache! But sadly, I did not get what I wanted.
First of all, the present tense kept bumping me straight out of the story. I don't know why, but I think the story would have been better in the past tense. Also, the narrator is extremely omniscient and indulges in far too much telling over showing. ("He rises from the stool now. She marvels at his maneuvers..." etc.) Every time I tried to dig into the characters, the telling pushed me back. Also distancing? The preaching. Holy wow. Granted, a lot of classic fables were made to impart a moral, but man, this one lays it on pretty thick. Suliman, sweetheart that he is, is preachy as all get-out, and the ending is one slopping spoonful of morality. Also, there are some disgustingly convenient plot points that I just can't deal with. I don't know if they were in the original work (I suspect some were, but hopefully not all), but honestly. It is okay to deviate from the source material when writing a retelling, especially if the source material includes a literal deus ex machina in the form of visions in the fog. Yeesh. There are other things, too, but you can see those in the "Subtracted" section at the bottom of this review.
I wish I had a magic wand. Or Athena's favor. Something that I could use to boop this manuscript on its figurative nose and magically give it the depth and technique it deserves. I guess I should have skipped this retelling and gone straight to Shakespeare. Poor, poor Alexos.
Favorite Non-Spoilery Quotes:
"Well, the goddess Athene is, as you know, famously merciful and kind. And I think she must have looked down on me that day—so tiny and defenseless, you know, with all that hard work ahead of me—and felt pity in her heart. So she changed her mind and gave me one gift after all. What do you suppose it was?"
"It was you, Teo. The goddess gave me you."
Points Added For: The relationships between Alexos, Teo, Leander, Peles, and Suliman. All quite sweet. Love the history lesson at the beginning of the book, too.
Points Subtracted For: Present tense, an intrusively omniscient narrator, poor wording (I really don't think four-year-old Teo would think of anyone as "gaunt, wizened, and brooding"), far too much preaching, weird time jumps, a weak romance, and irritatingly convenient plot devices.
Good For Fans Of: Greek myths, The Tempest, stories with morals
Notes For Parents: Death, attempted murder, physical violence against a female, one kiss.
Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.
Ms. Hodge's first book, Cruel Beauty, was very much a mixed bag for me. There were things I liked and things I didn't, and I left the book looking forward to see what her next book would be like. Enter Crimson Bound. After anxiously devouring this mashup retelling of Little Red Riding Hood and The Girl With No Hands, I'm no less settled on Ms. Hodge's work than I was before.
There are a lot of promising elements in this book, many of which come into play early on and kept my hopes high. Rachelle is a fairly standard YA heroine to start out. She was once a naive and innocent young girl who was swept into a world of evil, hardening her into a killing machine. Thanks to her bloodbound mark, Rachelle has super-strength, super-healing, super-agility, super-fighting skills, etc. It sounds eyeroll-worthy, but since these gifts keep her from spending the majority of the book nursing broken bones and/or dead, I'll allow them.
Rachelle has a bit of a thing going on with two boys in the book, though I hesitate to call it a love triangle. The first boy I didn't much care for and therefore will pass by. He's the stereotypical charming bad boy, and that's all I'll say. The other boy is Armand, illegitimate son of the king and a supposed saint. Yes, an actual saint. He was marked by a forestborn but didn't die, so the forestborn cut off his hands. The king uses Armand as a kind of trophy, while the populace sees Armand as proof that perhaps the bloodbound can turn from their wicked ways. I was particularly intrigued by Armand's lack of hands, as love interests generally aren't given a grievous physical disability, and I liked the tension that develops as Rachelle learns more about Armand and how various parties see and use him for their own purposes. Rachelle and Armand also get a brief scene that so evoked a scene from Queen of Attolia that I almost stopped breathing.
When it comes to Armand, though, the most interesting thing to me is the way gender roles play out. In both action and attitude, Rachelle occupies the stereotypical masculine role in the relationship. She's the hardened loner with the troubled soul and the debt to pay; Armand is the political pawn who maneuvers his way through influence and softly spoken schemes. The one time they ride together, Rachelle makes Armand ride in front while she holds the reins. At one point, she pets his hair. The whole dynamic is pretty fascinating.
The world-building is also interesting. Rachelle's world is based off an aristocratic France, right down to the play village that echoes Marie Antoinette's Hameau de la Reine. There are nods to other countries, such as Imperium (Rome), and religion also plays a big role in the story. Actually, as much as I was dreading it, I was pleased with how religion and its followers were used in the climax of the plot. Way to subvert the Crazy Christians trope!
However, there was also a lot I really didn't like, and it ended up sinking the book for me. First, there are too many repetitive reminders seeded into the plot. I'm not a moron; if you tell me a detail on one page, don't remind me ten pages later. I got this. Second, the mythology, while intricate and deep, ultimately felt sloppy. Since I have a solid background in Christian beliefs, I could piece together how certain concepts and people could be interpreted, but I couldn't figure out how these pieces tied into the larger belief system of Rachelle's world. Take the Dayspring, for instance. I still know next to nothing about... it? him? As the story of Tyr and Zisa is sprinkled throughout the story, the chronology got a little fuzzy for me, and I really got lost when trying to figure out the Great Devourer. It was all very metaphorical when I just wanted straight answers.
Third, so much of the conflict in the plot revolved around choices that made no sense to me. Rachelle learns that the world is going to end and tells NO ONE. Literally, no one. She has to find the missing swords to save the world, but since she can't even be bothered to tell anyone, I couldn't take her urgency seriously. Then, when Rachelle figured out she needs Armand's help, she stresses out about making him want to help her. Again, you'd think saving the world would be enough reason. Then both parties assume things about each other that 1) make no sense, and 2) would have been easily cleared up in a second if anyone had bothered to ask. It was just so nonsensical!
Lastly, I could not get behind the romance in this book for two reasons. First, I refuse to find the other boy, Erec, sexy. REFUSE. We're supposed to swoon over him, love him in spite of ourselves, feel bad for the poor dear, be titillated by his bad boy ways, etc. Nope. Nopety nope nope. He's not sexy, he's not swoony, he's not even a good person. I knew exactly what was coming down the pike from him, and while he did have a good moment or two, I have never and will never ship that.
Second, Rachelle and Armand's relationship could have been SO GOOD (see: the QoA-esque scene), but the foundation isn't there. I can guess why they might be interested in each other, but the evidence isn't on the page. If I'm supposed to believe in a world-altering swell of emotion, you dang well better back it up.
Promising though pieces were, I finished this book having no idea what I just read.
Favorite Non-Spoilery Quotes:
There were three of them, all with rapiers, and she had only a dagger. It would have been a wretchedly uneven fight, if she were human.
It was still a wretchedly uneven fight; it was just uneven in her favor.
He leaned close and breathed in her ear, "You will be the lady dearest and most dreadful."
For a moment, she almost felt the wind of the Great Forest in her hair.
"Mademoiselle, you are very kind," he said to Soleil. "But I did not lose my hands for the purpose of making you feel special."
"I knew you lived," her mother said after a moment. "Any daughter of mine would be ruthless enough."
I tell you, there was nothing she would not do for her brother.
"For your penance," the Bishop said finally, "say three rosaries, one for each year of your sinful life, and offer them for the people you have harmed."
"That is not remotely enough," she snapped.
"Do you need also to confess doubts about the power of God to forgive sins?"
"Yes," she admitted after a few moments.
"In that case, for your penance, say only one rosary."
Points Added For: The myth of Zisa and Tyr and how gory it is, the way the retelling draws out just how creepy the LRRH tale actually is, Armand's lack of hands, the bishop and Justine and how they're used, calling out misogyny and double standards (and the way disabled people are treated), gender role reversal, the picnic scene, awesome female friendship!
Points Subtracted For: Erec's "sex appeal," repetitive reminders, the lack of communication and abundance of miscommunication, the sort-of love triangle, the lack of foundation for their "love," muddled mythology.
Good For Fans Of:Cruel Beauty, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas, fairy tale retellings, gender role reversals, deep mythologies.
Notes For Parents: A forced kiss, violence, gore, murder, sex.
Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.
Intellectually, I like the concept of this book. The premise of the original Sleeping Beauty story is creepy. A girl gets cursed so hundreds of men KISS HER WHILE HE SLEEPS?!!? Augh, yuck. And then, once she wakes up, she has to live with that and the knowledge that everyone she has ever known is dead. What a sucky thing to wake up to.
Oh but I was SO BORED. Aurora doesn't DO anything. She wanders around feeling dazed and lets everyone bully her into being their doll. And while the story may be trying to Say Things about those decisions, the intent doesn't make it any more pleasant to read.
Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.
Somehow, when I first heard about this book, I got my wires crossed. I was under the impression that this was a fantasy retelling of Cinderella. Don't ask, I have no idea where that idea came from. If, for some reason, you're just as wrong as I was, let me clear things up for you before we get started. Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine is a fantasy with a steampunk bent that is a loose telling of Phantom of the Opera. PHANTOM OF THE OPERA!!!!!
Wen is our Christine character. She is the only daughter of a doctor, a downtrodden but loving man who is basically indentured to the local factory in order to keep them both fed and out of the workhouses. Unlike turn-of-the-century Paris, Wen's world is a bit more precarious. She lives in an industrial, war-like country, with her part of the valley under the control of the three local factories. Gochan One, the factory where Wen and her father live, is a slaughterhouse; Gochan Two makes the war machines; Gochan Three makes textiles. It's a grim world, one made grimmer by the seething racial tensions. Though poor and downtrodden, Wen's people—the Itanyai—are the ruling class. They're the bosses and managers and—to the Noor—the oppressors. The history between the Noor and Itanyai is purposely left vague, but they seem to encompass a couple familiar dynamics. First, you have the genocide and utter depravity that mirrors Europe vs. the African nations of our own world. We know that the Noor used to be a proud people, a ruling power of their own before the Itanyai came in with their war machines of death. Now the Noor are ghettoized on their own land, shunted into the poorest parts and treated like animals. And when the Noor come to work at Gochan One, they become the Irish to the Itanyai British factory workers or Chinese-American laborers to white Californian miners. Jobs at Gochan are vile, hard, and dangerous, but they're still jobs, and the Itanyai object to the Noor "animals" taking their spots and bringing their bad luck with them, despite the deplorable contract terms the Noor are forced to sign.
So, yeah, not exactly glamorous Paris, France.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="391"] None of this.[/caption]
When Wen is attacked and humiliated in public by one of the Noor, she turns to Gochan One's legend, the Ghost that watches over the factory and grants wishes in exchange for an offering. She challenged the Ghost, begging him to pay back the Noor scum to prove his own existence. And he answers. The Ghost, of course, is the Phantom character, and shares many of the same characteristics as the original character (physical deformities, twisted psyche, obsessions) with some key difference that I'll get to in a bit.
Melik, the young Noor leader, is the Raoul character—brave, outspoken, honorable. I liked that Ms. Fine chose to follow Raoul's personality rather than his external characteristics. The leap from privileged young noble to valorous slave and devoted big brother is a big one but wise, as it sets Melik up as desirable for his character rather than his wealth.
The story itself was meh for me. I was dreadfully bored in the beginning, put off by the simmering racial tensions (not my favorite subject), Wen's pervy boss Mungo, and the sparks of insta-attraction flying between Wen and Melik. Yes, you both think the other is quite interesting-looking. I get it. As much as I love Phantom of the Opera, I was leery of actually meeting the Ghost and being sucked into his controlling mind games. (In the movie version of PoO, I always preferred Meg Gire, she of the solid backbone and no-nonsense mind.) Unfortunately, I was mostly bored with the heightened tension between the Noor and the Itanyai, largely because it was wearying for Wen and her father to be the only sensible Itanyai in the entire book. Wen herself grows out of her own ignorance and prejudice, but her supposed friends and neighbors aren't given the same privilege. They're all bad, bad, bad, while Wen and her father and their Noor protectors are good.
What saved the book for me was the way Ms. Fine reimagined the dynamics between Wen, Melik, and Raoul. Let's face it, Phantom of the Opera is pretty icky when you think about it. Some pervy old guy watches a young chick grow up while he essentially brainwashes her into thinking he's the Be All To End All, and when some rich young stallion comes along to help her be less afraid, he wigs out and murders a bunch of people and tries to enslave her against her will. The girl then willingly goes with him to save her guy, but the pervy old guy feels so bad that he lets them both go but (it's implied) keeps tabs on them to their dying day. Icky.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="417"] None of this, thank goodness. Pervy little brainwasher.[/caption]
Of Metal and Wishes changes all that. I don't want to get into details for fear of spoilers, but Ms. Fine subtly tweaks the facts and attitudes of all three participants in Wen's (and therefore our) favor. The Ghost's age, the reason for his obsession, his surveillance methods, his attitude toward Melik, Wen's response toward him, and even the parallel scene of the grotto (you know, where Christine has to make her choice) is changed just enough to make the story better and less icky. I appreciate the subtleties of the various characterizations—from Wen's not-so-innocent motives to Melik's relationships to the Ghost's mechanical expertise—and the way they change the flavor of the story. I also liked the open ending.
Favorite Non-Spoilery Quote:
"Part of you is outside the door, watching over the Noor. Wanting him."
"That's true. But part of him is elsewhere too, with the other people he loves. We cannot own each other, [Ghost.] We can only offer what is ours to give."
Points Added For: Wen's medical know-how, her less-than-pure motives, the changes to the interpersonal dynamics, lack of an actual love triangle, the world-building.
Points Subtracted For: Wen being the Good Non-Racist One, Wen having no friends, Mungo (being a perv = lazy shortcut, IMO).
Good For Fans Of:The Phantom of the Opera, books about racial tension, subtle steampunk.
Notes For Parents: Murder (rather graphic), molestation, slut shaming.
Note: I received a digital copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.
THINGS I LIKED: - The prose. Very evocative and atmospheric.
- The retelling. I've never been inside one of the Fates' heads before, and it was a very uTHINGS I LIKED: - The prose. Very evocative and atmospheric.
- The retelling. I've never been inside one of the Fates' heads before, and it was a very unique experience. Since they live outside of time, in a way, the story is very detached and ethereal, but it had some great callbacks to the classic tales as well. (I saw a book titled Endymion in a store this week and physically recoiled.)
THINGS I AM AMBIVALENT ABOUT/SLIGHTLY DID NOT LIKE:
- The immediacy. Usually I separate the things I'm ambivalent about from the things I don't like, but my feelings are too free along the continuum for these points. It's not that I didn't care and more that I didn't care enough to make my dislike worth mentioning, if that makes sense. Because of the way Chloe narrates and the Fates operate, I didn't feel like I was a part of the story. I was an observer, just like they were, only more so. So while I appreciated the beauty of the prose and was somewhat invested in Agalaia's fate, I wasn't AS invested as I could have been.
-The age designation. Didn't completely buy this as YA. Yes, Chloe did go through some teen-centric growth experiences, but so much of this story was about love, marriage, and being a mother. It just didn't settle for me.
-The payoff. I'm also not sure that I bought the payoff. Things... changed. Ish. Chloe and her sisters changed internally. But nothing OUTWARDLY changed, at least from my perspective. Was it a nice story? Yes. Will it give struggling readers things to ponder? Yes. But the story itself didn't have the momentum I was looking for.
Notes for Parents: Murder, rape (off-page; implied), animal death....more
This is it. This is the end of me. I'm dead. I can't.
R.I.P. Shae, killed by Mori and her Lock.
THINGS I LIKED:
- Mori. Mori is freaking awesome. She isThis is it. This is the end of me. I'm dead. I can't.
R.I.P. Shae, killed by Mori and her Lock.
THINGS I LIKED:
- Mori. Mori is freaking awesome. She is as Sherlock is usually portrayed to be: intelligent, arrogant, stubborn, and more than a bit of a jerk. And, for the most part, she GETS AWAY WITH IT JUST LIKE SHERLOCK DOES IN OTHER SERIES. This blows my mind, because when was the last time you saw a FEMALE character get away with being anything less than utterly likeable? Yes yes yes!
- Sherlock. I also loved how Sherlock was portrayed. He's intelligent and socially clueless, just like the average Sherlock, but he is also more blatantly awkward rather than cool. Because let's be honest, Cumberbatch's Sherlock is cool. Downey's Sherlock is cool. Miller's Sherlock is cool. This Sherlock is not. He's awkward and ungainly AND HE KNOWS IT. And it's adorable.
- The chemistry. THEY PLAY OFF EACH OTHER SO WELL! I can't talk about this guys. My heart can't take it. I just can't. I won't. I'll be over here in a corner.
- Mycroft. MYCROFT IS THE BEST. He takes the parts I love best about BBC's Mycroft, adds in just the faintest touch of Marney's Mycroft, and then something else all his own. LOVE. HIM.
- Mori's background. Look, Mori is short for Moriarty. You don't have to be well-versed in canon to make some assumptions about that. But Mori is also a teenage girl. She's not some diabolical criminal mastermind (or is she?) But her background is constructed in such a way that—to me—her motivations and reactions made sense. I GOT her, and I could also see the many different possible paths her life could take.
- The emotions. Specifically, the emotions this book caused in me. This book wrecked my life. I almost missed my train stop while reading this book, which NEVER happens. The climax almost had me making audible noises (again on the train), which is a huge commuter no-no. (Basically, learn from me and don't read this on the train.) I finished and was in a daze for HOURS. And after that ending, over twelve hours later I AM STILL VERY MUCH NOT OKAY.
THINGS I AM AMBIVALENT ABOUT:
- Certain depictions. I'm going to list this in parental notes anyways, but just a heads up, there's some domestic abuse in this book. It's not fun (of course) and is a plot point that makes sense in the grand scheme of things, and I didn't have a problem with how things were portrayed and its effect on those involved, but it's also not my place to wave my wand and deem it all good to go. I don't know. That's not my purview.
- The mystery. I totally guessed what was going on, or at least the general shape of what was going on. And that's okay. I usually guess the mystery and I was very entertained by literally every other aspect of the book, so it's definitely not a mark against the story. It just needs to be noted for duty's sake.
THINGS I DID NOT LIKE:
- Nothing No, wait, I take it back. The fact that I have to wait a year for the sequel. I don't like that. :)
Notes For Parents: Cussing, making out, sex, domestic abuse, murder (duh.)...more
This review has been sitting in my drafts for weeks at this point. The only reason I’m sitting down to write it now is because it’s due, but I haven’tThis review has been sitting in my drafts for weeks at this point. The only reason I’m sitting down to write it now is because it’s due, but I haven’t decided what to say. So let’s break it down. I give you the good, the bad, and the whaaaaaaa?
Past Me confuses me sometimes. She leaves her phone in odd places, writes indecipherable notes, and avoids perfectly wonderful books like this one. I don't know why. I love fairy tale retellings, but maybe I've read enough that I worry about being disappointed? Whatever the case, I avoided Stitching Snow for no good reason at all.
Despite its superficial similarities to Cinder (sci-fi retelling about a princess hiding as a mechanic), this book is actually a Snow White retelling, and a good one, too. Our protagonist, Essie, is a fierce little thing. She's the only female in the rural wasteland of Thanda and earns her keep by fighting in sparring matches and inventing and maintaining drones for the planet's mines. She's just what I like in my heroines—smart, talented, handy with her fists, and a bit closed off. Though only seventeen, Thanda has made Essie a grumpy old man in a teen girl's body. Her survival depends on being the best at what she does, not letting anyone close enough to guess her secret, and being scary enough to keep all threats away.
Enter Dane, a traveler from another planet who literally crashes into Essie's carefully balanced existence. Essie saves him and offers to help fix his ship to get him off Thanda, but they aren't exactly best buddies. Essie is her normal, surly self, and Dane has a few secrets of his own. Before we know it, Essie and Dane are off on an interplanetary mission to stop a civil war and save a kingdom from the evil queen.
Here are the things I did while reading this book:
1. Laugh (repeatedly)
2. Swoon (often)
3. Yell (multiple times at various characters)
4. Coo (mostly at Dimwit, my favorite drone)
5. Wail (twice)
6. Cheer (mostly for Essie)
7. Glare at people who interrupted me (I plead the 5th)
Things I did not do:
1. Compare this book to Cinder (beyond the first couple pages)
2. Compare this book to Disney's Snow White
I said that this book had superficial similarities to Meyer's book, and that's true, but once we got past the initial comparison, I didn't think about Cinder and her world even once. Essie is her own girl—a tough, secretive, headstrong girl trying to balance staying alive with doing what's right. She beat off every threat in Thanda on her own for eight years. She stitched together drones with her own two hands, seven wonderful little creatures with their own quirks and personalities that made me giggle and cry. Her story is her own, and she doesn't let anyone in the story or outside of it take that away from her. Her agency is pretty fantastic.
Stitching Snow is just the kind of retelling I like. There are subtle nods to the skeleton of the original tale (the evil queen, the huntsman, the poisoned apple, the dwarves), but they're light, present enough to draw a smile and a knowing nod but not so heavy-handed that they detract from the original parts of the story. And what a story! There's space travel and new planets, wars and trickery, body-hopping and treachery disguised as magic. After a while, I forgot I was reading a retelling at all and enjoyed Essie's story for what it was.
There were so many things for me to like. I love the drones. Love love LOVE them. Dimwit with his faulty chip and Cusser with his knack for picking up new swears are my favorites, but they are all delightful in the way they follow Essie around like ducklings. I love Essie for all the reasons previously mentioned and more. I love Dane, his stubborn insistence on doing what he thinks right, and the way he grows to care for Essie. I even love how the planets we visit subtly remind me of those in the Star Wars universe—Garam as Tatooine, Windsong as Naboo, and Thanda as a slightly more hospitable Hoth.
I had so much fun that I literally only have three complaints to bring to the table. First, I got a little tired of Essie's mother always whispering in her ear. I'm over mystical mothers and their whispers, thanks. Second, Essie and Dan tossed around the L-word too soon for my liking, but I think this book may be a standalone, in which case I'm willing to forgive them. Third (and this is the biggest one), I don't like the angle the story took on the king.(view spoiler)I do like that he isn't exactly the loving father we see in most versions of the tale, but was it really necessary to make him a disgusting, incestuous pedophile? Wasn't it enough for him to be a genocidal manipulator? (hide spoiler)]
But those are the only three complaints I have. Goodreads tells me that this is Ms. Lewis's debut YA novel, which is sad news, since it leaves me with nothing else to binge on. However, I can't wait to see what she comes out with next!
Points Added For: Essie, the drones (esp. Dimwit and Cusser), Dane, Kip, Candaran succession rules (so cool), Taktik, the nods to the original Snow White.
Points Subtracted For: Mystical mama, an early jump on the L-word, the king's issue.
Good For Fans Of: Fairy tale retellings, light sci-fi, adorable drones, literally kick-butt girls.
Notes For Parents: Death, kissing, incest, attempted rape PTSD, drinking.
Note: I received a digital review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.
Read the book. That's all. Read the book. It's wonderful and swoony and hilarious and made my toes curl. Read the book. What? You want to know more than that? What about my status update on Goodreads?
More than THAT? Fiiiiiiiine. But get your ponchos because the fangirl tsunami is a-comin'.
Princess of Thorns is not a Sleeping Beauty retelling. Instead, it reframes the Sleeping Beauty myth (instead of a happy ending, Sleeping Beauty marries a spineless polygamist whose throne is then taken by his soul-eating ogre wife) and tells us the tale of her daughter and son, Aurora (Ror) and Jor. The ogre queen and her high priest brother want to kill the children because the death of a fairy-blessed child is supposed to bring about the ogre apocalypse and the end of the human race. Aurora wants to kill the queen because said queen is holding her brother and her throne captive. In order to achieve her goals, she teams up with Prince Niklaas, a neighboring royal who needs to marry Princess Aurora before his eighteenth birthday to beat his own family curse. Except Niklaas thinks his companion is Ror, the young prince.
Confused? I hope not, but if so, it's completely my fault. The different plot threads running through this story are intricate and numerous, but easy to follow. I loved the multiple, conflicting motivations that ran through this story. As in real life, everyone wants something, often more than one something, and those desires conflict in the most delicious ways. Ror wants to save her brother, to reclaim her throne, to protect her people, to fall in love without triggering her curse, to lose Niklaas, to save Niklaas... Niklaas wants to save himself, to impress Aurora, to lose Ror, to keep Ror safe, to defeat the ogre queen, to simply tend to his own problems... Even Queen Ekeeta, our antagonist, has a myriad of desires and motives, not all of which are evil or vile.
I really could spend several more paragraphs talking about the world-building and be perfectly content. I could tell you about the fairies by whom Ror and Jor were raised. I could get into the creep factor of ogres who transitioned from peeling flesh off bone to sucking down human souls and trapping them under glass. I could talk about the freakily fantastic Feeding Woods, a forest rumored to be full of living trees that chomp down on any ogre that dares venture close. I could with great glee tell you about the multiple fairy tale Easter eggs the author managed to slip into this one book. (I caught Sleeping Beauty, The Wild Swans, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood, and there may have been more.) But I shan't. Why? BECAUSE THIS BOOK IS A SHIPPER'S DREAM.
Niklaas and Ror meet while Ror is disguised as a boy. He frees her from a slaver/POW camp so that she can lead him to her "sister" Aurora. They loathe each other—Ror thinks Niklaas is a smarmy, cocky princeling and Niklaas thinks Ror is a spoiled brat of a fourteen year old. So right off the bat, you've got the "girl disguised as a boy" trope paired with the first part of the "hate-to-love" trope, and instead of focusing on romance immediately, instead we readers get to watch a beautiful bromance blossom. You don't know feels until you watch Niklaas, whom I described as a crass Flynn Ryder type in my notes, grudgingly learn to respect and then cherish his bratty companion. While disguised as a boy, Ror becomes a little brother to Niklaas, someone he strives to protect even as he yearns to shake some sense into the kid. It's WONDERFUL. And THEN Niklaas finds out the truth in the most awesome way, and he's worried about things, and they're screaming at each other but there's this delicious romantic tension sizzling beneath it all and OH MY EVERLOVIN' SHIPPER HEART.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="439"] I SHIP IT. YOU SHIP IT. WE ALL SHIP IT.[/caption]
I literally had to stop just now and flap my hands a bit. I couldn't touch another book for DAYS after finishing this one. As soon as I finished, I wanted to start over and read it again. I made my poor, put-upon coworker listen to my fevered squealing for a solid ten minutes. I USED THE PHRASE "I CAN'T EVEN" OUT LOUD FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE. Do I have quibbles? Sure, there are always quibbles, but my love for this book washes them all away. And I need to stop typing now or I'm going to hyperventilate. Adieu.
Favorite Non-Spoilery Quotes:
My first thought is to tell him to take his "help" and shove it so far between his [butt] cheeks he'll waddle down the road—I stopped speaking like a princess the day I began training as a warrior—but I bite my lip.
"What? Is something wrong?"
"You're ominous-looking is all. Like a plague rider. Or Death's little brother."
"Really? Are you scared?"
"Don't be afraid, Niklaaaaasssss. Death has not come for you tonight."
"Why? Death only wantssss to be friendssss."
"There's something damaged in that head of yours."
"Hand to hand, no swords or staffs?"
"I figured that was the only fair way for us to fight." She crosses to the ladder and steps onto the top rung. "Seeing as I possess superior skill in armed combat."
I snort and reach for my pants, suddenly more inspired about this sparring match. "In your dreams, runt."
"In your nightmares," she says with a wink as she disappears down the ladder.
Points Added For: An opening that plainly states there is "no happily ever after," Ror and her power, Jor and Ror's relationship, Niklaas's subtle growth, Ror calling Niklaas out on his patronizing view of women, Ekeeta's depth (and her creepy "we"), ogre mythology, the Feeding Woods, Ror and her atypical boyish looks, Ror's curse, THE BROMANCE, THE ROMANCE, THE TENSON OH MY HEART, the fairy tale Easter eggs, Gettel, etc. etc. etc.
Points Subtracted For: The beginning was a bit confusing, as was Ror's dream; and while I want to take off for the resolution re: ogre queen, I don't think I can.
Good For Fans Of: Bromance, romance, fairy tales, girls who kick butt but aren't all hard and crazy, Flynn Ryder, blessings with a bite, guys having their worldview re: women expanded, girls disguised as boys, hate-to-love, people who yell when all they want to do is kiss, sad kisses, people who use "love" flippantly and then suddenly feel really awkward, girls who chase boys and boys who chase girls, boys who weep over the girls they love, girls who weep over the boys they love, etc. etc. etc.
Notes For Parents: Mention of suicide (not on page), actual suicide (on page but not "in sight"), language, torture, dirty jokes, polygamy, skinnydipping, infanticide, alcohol use.
Note: I received a digital review copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration.
I decided to review these two books together because they both are attempting to tell the same story, that of a "wild child" taken from the only home they've ever known and thrust into civilization by well-meaning "rescuers." Though they differ greatly from each other in some aspects, both Searching for Sky and Wild hit and miss many of the same targets.
PLOT Both stories begin in the wild, a place that Sky and Cade see as idyllic and natural, if full of challenges. I was impressed by the survival realism in both stories. "Icky" things like how they eat and where they poop were not sidestepped in order to present a more utopian story. The challenges they face—from finding enough to eat to fighting off wild animals—are just a part of life and not the overwhelming monster that will soon face them in the city. They follow the same basic narrative arc of Home -> Strange, New Land -> Confusion and Mayhem -> Finding One's Own Place.
POV/VOICE Sky is the sole voice for her story. The story is told in first person through her eyes, which keeps our view limited and filtered. We learn as she learns. She knows some of the modern world, having received a very slanted description of it from her mother, but is very much overwhelmed when she first arrives in California. Seeing through Sky's eyes gives the prose a very soft feel. Though far from stupid, Sky lacks much of the vocabulary to make sense of her world at first. She also has had very little experience with the sum of human vice, which makes her come across as naive and gullible.
Cade, on the other hand, is the main voice for his story but not the only one. He shares the microphone with Dara, Josh, Dara's father Sheriff Porter, and Dara's friend Sofia. I'll discuss them further down, since Cade is the most interesting and the most dominant voice of the group. Unlike Sky, who was mostly shielded from knowledge of our world, Cade knows too much. His parents taught him that they were the last of their kind, excepting the rangers that would wander through their camp from time to time. Though Cade is ignorant in many things, he's surprisingly well-versed in other subjects, especially those pertaining to science, history, and the way the two connect through war.
I loved that neither story featured the stereotypical "innocent babe" wild child. Neither Sky nor Cade were Tarzan, raised by apes and completely apart from humans. Both were knowledgeable of certain aspects of our world and surprisingly (or not so surprisingly) cynical of the modern era and those living in it. Cade's brilliance and depth of knowledge regarding biology and virology was probably the most surprising and most welcome element for me.
By experiencing our world through their eyes, I was also treated to a heavy dose of claustrophobia in both stories. Though I understood where the adults in both stories were coming from, it was stifling to live through their treatment of Sky and Cade. So many crappy, well-meaning people! Unfortunately, with both Sky and Cade, I was too distant to be truly emotionally involved. With Sky, her soft, lovely prose kept me from getting to the nitty-gritty. With Cade, the prose took on a cinematic quality. The point of view literally moved like a camera with the prose as a movie script as it jumped from character to character. Some people may enjoy this style of view, but I didn't.
CRAPPY, WELL-MEANING PEOPLE Speaking of those crappy people, with Sky, I felt the true weight of being controlled by people who didn't understand. Whether it was her grandmother, her new friend Ben, her crap shrink, or even River, Sky was forever being bossed and managed by people who thought they knew better. My blood boiled when River abandoned Sky in California and again when her therapist described her as a child trapped in a sixteen-year-old body. The way people measure intelligence based on familiarity with modern contraptions is mind-bogglingly unfair.
When it comes to Cade's story, too often our own narrators were those crappy people. Sheriff Porter plays the heavy as the strict, no-nonsense lawkeeper who believes that Cade is a criminal pulling a fast one. Rather than being kind or supportive, he treats the boy with suspicion and disdain from the start. Josh, Dara's boyfriend, is predictably jealous and overly macho. I hated his point of view most of all. Between his hatred for Cade, his possessive feelings for Dara, and the too-close look at their exploding relationship, I was ready to get the heck out of his head. (Points to the author for adding some originality to his character, though. I wasn't expecting such a macho dude to willingly dress up for his little cousin's tea party, and it made me smile.) Unfortunately, leaping from Josh's head often meant leaping into Dara's, the Queen of Crappy Well-Meaningness. Dara, as the love interest, is Cade's "protector," defying her family and friends to keep him safe from the pernicious media. She "gets" him and he "gets" her almost instantly, in a way that no one else in the entire world possibly could. And if that means kidnapping him from a hospital and removing him from all forms of needed medical attention, then by golly, that's what she'll do!
Interestingly, though I despised almost everyone I met in Wild (or, at best, felt apathetic), Wild also had the best interpersonal dynamic, thanks to Dara's friend Sofia. Originally presented as the typical, exuberant partygirl sidekick, Sofia is a rock for both Dara and Cade. The author easily could have made Sofia a jealous rival for Cade's affections, and while it seemed to be trending that way originally, Sofia soon proves herself a loyal supporter and fantastic platonic BFF. To name check one of my favorite platonic pairings of all time, she is Roar to Cade's Aria.
In contrast, the people in Searching for Sky were more palatable but inspired less loyalty on my part. Everyone did things I disagreed with (though nothing too bad), but I was hard-pressed to care. I cared for Sky and wanted to protect her, but felt little to nothing for anyone else.
NITPICKS For both stories, I had nitpicks regarding the believability of the stories presented. With Sky, the nitpicks are small. For the most part, the author handles her situation believably, if narrowly. A little thing that itched at me was Sky's inability to use articles (a, the, an.) I think the choice was made so that she would appear rustic and uneducated, but she would have modeled her speech patterns after her mother and Helmut, and both were educated adults who spoke normally.
With Cade, the story just ended up being so much less than I had wanted. It was less Tarzan, more George of the Jungle as Cade struggled on Dara's turf rather than the other way around. I also was more impatient with Cade, as he did little to endear himself to me at first. One day, I want to meet a "wild man" with a less conventional sense of beauty. Dara is pretty by society's standards, so Cade is smitten at first sight and becomes all macho protective over her and her pretty face and golden hair. But what determines that Dara is pretty to Cade? He has lived his entire life completely detached from society. Why couldn't Dara have had freckles or some extra weight or glasses or a crooked nose? And why must beauty make the wild man devolve into "you pretty girl, you mine" mentality?
Also, while both stories were ones I enjoyed, I found myself eyeing the other stories that crossed my path and wishing I had had those stories instead. In Sky's case, I wanted River's story, to see things through his slightly more mature eyes, or for Sky to expand the narrow confines of her own viewpoint. I wanted to know more of the media buzz surrounding her and to see her as others saw her. I wanted her to make female friends her own age and maybe to meet family members beyond her grandmother. The story is presented in tight focus and it suits the soft, almost fairytale prose nicely, but I kept bumping against the boundaries, wanting to peer over the fence.
In contrast, Cade's story felt too broad. I wanted to ditch the omniscient view and settle comfortable in his head. Let me experience his hardships, his struggles, his curiosity without the intrusion of the other characters. I would also accept ditching Dara to focus on his friendship with Sofia.
CONCLUSION I do wonder what my reading experience would have been had I read these two stories further apart (say, six months instead of one or two.) However, I think reading them as I did was actually a help to both novels, as it allowed me to weight their relative merits and faults more clearly. Searching for Sky is a gentle, softly worded look at one girl trying to piece her life back together. It's more bedtime story than hard-hitting contemporary, though it does bite in a few places. Wild, in contrast, is more of a big picture book as it follows multiple characters through the farseeing lens of a camera. It is the MTV documentary to Searching for Sky's fairytale. Neither blew my socks off, but I can appreciate their distinct styles.
Points Added For: SOFIA, the Sofia-Cade-Dara friendship, science, virology, the conceit.
Points Subtracted For: The ending, the characters who make me want to stab someone, machoism, Dara.
Good For Fans Of:George of the Jungle (minus the slapstick humor), doomsdayers, insta-crushing.
Notes For Parents: Language, kissing.
Note: I received review copies for consideration for each of these titles from their respective publishing companies. ...more
I’m sorry, can I get back to you on this book when I’ve remembered how to breathe? I mean, really, WHAT IS THIS, A.C. Gaughen? I’ll tell you what it iI’m sorry, can I get back to you on this book when I’ve remembered how to breathe? I mean, really, WHAT IS THIS, A.C. Gaughen? I’ll tell you what it is; it’s a heart attack in written form, that’s what it is.
For every book that excels, there’s another that falters. For every book that realizes its own potential and soars, there’s another that limps along lFor every book that excels, there’s another that falters. For every book that realizes its own potential and soars, there’s another that limps along like a gazelle with a busted femur. Killer of Enemies has an awesome premise. It’s a post-apocalyptic retelling of an old Apache legend about a hero who kills monsters. It’s a freaking awesome premise that boasts an amalgam of hot-button elements sure to delight a discerning reader. There’s a Native American female protagonist who’s adept with guns and knives, a legend with history that remains unfamiliar to the general public, really wicked monsters, and crazy-as-a-fox totalitarian leaders. Despite these elements, Killer of Enemies fell far short of my expectations. I’m going to attempt to explain what went wrong, so be prepared for some spoilers.