No Country for Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne- ARC Review

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War is coming, and it’s gonna be Pell.

On one side stand the gnomes: smol, cheerful, possessing tidy cardigans and no taste for cruelty.

On the other side sit the halflings, proudly astride their war alpacas, carrying bags of grenades and hungry for a fight. And pretty much anything else.

It takes only one halfling bomb and Offi Numminen’s world is turned upside down—or downside up, really, since he lives in a hole in the ground. His goth cardigans and aggressive melancholy set him apart from the other gnomes, as does his decision to fight back against their halfling oppressors. Suddenly Offi is the leader of a band of lovable misfits and outcasts—from a gryphon who would literally kill for omelets to a young dwarf herbalist who is better with bees than with his cudgel to an assertive and cheerful teen witch with a beard as long as her book of curses—all on a journey to the Toot Towers to confront the dastardly villain intent on tearing Pell asunder. These adventurers never fit in anywhere else, but as they become friends, fight mermaids, and get really angry at this one raccoon, they learn that there’s nothing more heroic than being yourself. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing me with this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available for purchase on April 16th of this year

I was so excited to receive this book, because I loved the first book in the Pell series (Kill the Farm Boy). I was hopeful that this would continue in the fun vein of the first, and I was not disappointed.

This fantastic book not only turns classic fantasy tropes upside down, it shakes their pockets for loose change. I loved it! It was chock full of puns, ridiculous situations, and hilarious characters.

Offi, the emo gnome might very well be my favorite. There’s nothing like a cute little gnome wearing gothic blacks, and rolling his eyes, to make a person chuckle. Reading his interactions with Onni was a lesson in how funny tweaking words here and there can be.

The writing was fantastic, the story was quick-moving and funny as Pell, and I honestly can’t think of a single thing I’d change. I enjoyed this book even more than the first, and that’s saying something. I’m still grinning, thinking about prophetic cabbages…

If you enjoy quirky books, word plays, and a healthy dose of humor, this book is for you.

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My Five Favorite Magic-users in Literature

I saw a similar post on waytoofantasty’s blog and loved it, so of course I had to add my own. Fantasy wouldn’t be the fantastic genre it is without the addition of an epic spellcaster. Here are some of my favorites – and be sure to check out the original awesome post here: waytoofantasy

Raistlin: The Dragonlance Chronicles, Legends, the Raistlin Chronicles, and many others

For me, Raistlin is the epitome of what a mage should be. He’s cunning, enigmatic, incredibly strong, and fascinating. Raistlin is also flawed, narcissistic, and grows more as a character than many other characters I’ve read throughout not just the fantasy genre, but any fiction.

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Marco: The Night Circus

I love Marco’s particular brand of magic! It’s incredibly unique; in fact, I’ve never read a book where magic is written quite like his. He’s also a great character. I like his quiet strength, as well as his creativity.

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Magnus Bane in The Mortal Instruments:

Oh goodness, I love Magnus! He’s so vibrant, fun, andhe’s removed enough from the goings-on (in the first few books that is), to have a very interesting view of things. He’s my favorite character throughout Cassandra Clare’s many series.

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Morwen in The Enchanted Forest Chronicles:

She’s hilarious! She has so many cats, and not a single one is black; she wears robes because they’re comfortable and “serviceable”, doesn’t have any warts, but does have a sign above her door that says, “None of this nonsense, please”. Her matter-of-fact personality is so much fun to read.

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Merlin (of course):

Merlin is a given for me. His personality varies based on who’s writing him, but he’s always wise and incredibly strong. Plus – Arthurian legends rock!

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What do you think? Who are your favorites in literature?

Breaking the Lore By Andy Redsmith- ARC review

Nick Paris is a tough-as-nails, bitter detective, who probably drinks more than he should. Basically, he’s your typical main character in a crime thriller. However, the mystery he’s been thrown into is far from typical: he’s investigating the murder of a tiny fairy. The problem is, he doesn’t believe in magic and is in way over his head.

This book was funny and incredibly clever. I had no idea how the book was going to end, but I didn’t spend much time trying to solve things because I was so busy thoroughly enjoying myself. Nick Paris had a fantastic internal dialogue throughout. Add a loyal but dumb-as-they-come partner, a purple-haired witch, and a gigantic orphaned troll- this book was zany fun!

Things tended to be rather convoluted and confusing at times, but that only added to the fun. I felt bad for poor Nick for a good chunk of the book because he was so far out of his depth and it was an unusual situation for him. While he was a great character, my favorite was either Cassandra, the “magical expert” who took everything in stride and added a wonderful brand of sarcasm to the mix, or the chain-smoking crow. He just cracked me up.

This book was a joy to read, and I look forward to the next book in the series. I hope there will be many more.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Image result for breaking the lore book                                            This will be available to buy on April 15th

The Last Tsar’s Dragons by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple- ARC review

Image result for the last tsar's dragons                Thank you to Netgalley and Tachyon Publications for providing me with the       copy in exchange for an honest review. The book is set to be available June 29, 2019.

It is the waning days of the Russian monarchy. A reckless man rules the land and his dragons rule the sky. Though the Tsar aims his dragons at his enemies―Jews and Bolsheviks―his entire country is catching fire. Conspiracies suffuse the royal court: bureaucrats jostle one another for power, the mad monk Rasputin schemes for the Tsar’s ear, and the desperate queen takes drastic measures to protect her family.

Revolution is in the air―and the Red Army is hatching its own weapons. (taken from Amazon)

Jane Yolen is an expert in dragons. She’s also a seasoned writer, having written children’s books (my youngest loves the “How Do Dinosaurs” book series), middle grade, and adult books. I was quite excited to read this mother-son team-up. Unfortunately, I didn’t love this one.

That’s not to say I didn’t like it: there were many things that I felt were well done. The book switched back and forth between a few different narrators, one of which was Rasputin. He was an interesting figure in history so it was cool to read chapters written from that character’s point of view. The religious zeal, combined with an enormous amount of narcissism, made him an intriguing character to explore.

I’m not sure why dragons were even included in the book: they actually detracted from the story, although my dragon-loving self hates to admit it. The rest of it is basically a historical fiction, and the dragons just didn’t fit. I might have liked it better without the dragons, and I hate having to say that.

There were parts that really dragged for me. I felt that certain characters, such as the tsarina, weren’t utilized to the best of their potential. She could have been written in a way that contributed much more to the feel of the time. Instead, she was just kind of annoying.

Eventually, it did fall into a sort of storytelling rhythm, and it moved along well after that. It ended up being an enjoyable story, but nothing to write home about. I liked it, but it’s not one that I’ll pick up again.

That being said, give it a go, but maybe don’t rush to pick it up the day it releases. If you go into it with the idea of it being a historical fiction, you might enjoy it more than I did, seeing as I expected the dragons to take a more central role.

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth

I finished this gem of a book last night. It’s lovely, but incredibly sad. I didn’t cry (I was afraid it might get me, but my heart of stone prevailed). However, it was touch-and-go there at parts.

While hiding in a bomb shelter during World War 2, the three Hapwell children find themselves suddenly in the Woodlands, which is quite obviously meant to be a similar situation to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. When they return, no time has passed, again similar to the Narnia books. However, of the three children, Evelyn Hapwell finds herself unable to cope with the “real world”. One morning, her sister Phillipa gets a call: Evelyn has disappeared.

I thought the entire book would be told from Phillipa’s perspective as she tried to determine what happened to Evelyn, and how to go on from that news, but the first half is told from Evelyn’s point of view. The author uses famous poems sprinkled throughout to help describe Evelyn’s state of being, from her feelings of being out of place, to her struggle to appear otherwise.

After the halfway point, Phillipa takes over the narrative and it’s obvious that she, too, has her own struggles and ghosts to tackle. The way she handles them is incredibly different, but also leaves its mark on who she is. The author uses well-known works of art during Phillipa’s story line to the same excellent effect as the poetry.

I was surprised that there were scenes from the Hapwell children’s time in The Woodlands. I assumed that wouldn’t be touched on other than to say it happened. It added to the narrative, though.

The symbolism throughout is impossible to ignore, though it’s woven in subtly and seamlessly. It makes perfect sense and adds to the feel of the book.I found myself identifying with aspects of both Evelyn and Phillipa. I suspected the outcome, but it was still a journey I’m glad I went on.

One thing I was blown away by was the author’s ability to make the ending feel like a beginning. Not in an “I need a sequel” or “this book has no ending” sort of way, but in that it felt like you could catch up with the characters ten years from now and there would be a natural progression in their personalities because they were so realistic.

Warning” there is some mention of both self-harm and possible suicide. It’s done in such a way that I was able to handle it, despite those being incredibly difficult subjects for me to read about.

This book was a melancholy beauty, and is worth picking up.

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Six Degrees of Separation- from The Arsonist to The Light Between Worlds

I love the idea of playing 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but changing Bacon to Books! Because, honestly, books are better. Thanks to @booksaremyfavoriteandbest for your awesome post ( read here: https://booksaremyfavouriteandbest.wordpress.com/2019/03/02/six-degrees-of-separation-from-the-arsonist-to-tin-man/). This month, the starting point is:

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The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper

On the scorching February day in 2009 that became known as Black Saturday, a man lit two fires in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, then sat on the roof of his house to watch the inferno. In the Valley, where the rates of crime were the highest in the state, more than thirty people were known to police as firebugs. But the detectives soon found themselves on the trail of a man they didn’t know.

The Arsonist takes readers on the hunt for this man, and inside the strange puzzle of his mind. It is also the story of fire in this country, and of a community that owed its existence to that very element. The command of fire has defined and sustained us as a species – understanding its abuse will define our future.  (taken from Amazon)

I haven’t read The Arsonist, although it looks fascinating and will probably be added to my very long tbr list, so my first link is a wee bit tenuous. But go with me here: I promise it will make sense.
Many people died that day, which leads me to:

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Love Letters to the Dead: A Novel by Ava Dellaira.

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did.

Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more–though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her.

Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was–lovely and amazing and deeply flawed–can she begin to discover her own path in this stunning debut from Ava Dellaira, Love Letters to the Dead. (taken from Amazon)

I had mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it was a moving coming-of-age book and didn’t spare the reader or skirt around hard truths. On the other, it felt overdone and maudlin in an unconvincing way from time to time. I picked it up because there was a recommendation on the cover from Stephen Chobsky, the author of one of my all-time favorite books (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), so maybe I subconsciously set the bar way too high because of that. Either way, it was good but not incredible.

This was another book that had spoke about death, leading me to my next degree:

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 Jackaby by William Ritter: 

“Sherlock Holmes crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” -Chicago Tribune Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain the foul deeds are the work of the kind of creature whose very existence the local authorities–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–seem adamant to deny. (taken from Amazon)

Switching from heavy fare to lighthearted fun, is the wonderful Jackaby series. I loved this book (read my glowing review:  :https://wittyandsarcasticbookclub.home.blog/2018/12/04/jackaby-by-william-ritter/) ! The mysteries in this series are less than ordinary and one of my favorite characters happens to be a ghost,which is the tie-in from Love Letters to the Dead. You can’t get much deader than that. The supernatural creatures in the Jackaby series range from dragons, to the fae, leading me to my next book:

The Wicked King by Holly Black: 

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The enchanting and bloodthirsty sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel The Cruel Prince.

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.
 
The first lesson is to make yourself strong.
 
After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.
When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world. (taken from Amazon)

This series is all about the fae, and is quite enjoyable. I much prefer this sequel to the first book (The Cruel Prince) because one of the storylines from book one that really irritated me has been resolved and more time was spent on intrigue and backstabbing, which made for an interesting read.

The talented Holly Black has also co-written several other great books, leading me to:

The Iron Trial (The Magisterium book 1) by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black.

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Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail. All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him. So he tries his best to do his worst, and fails at failing. Now the Magisterium awaits him. It’s a place that’s both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future. The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come…(taken from Amazon)

My fifth grader and I both read this series at the same time. Okay, admission: we raced to see who got to each book first. It got pretty cutthroat there for a bit. Ha ha! This book, while its own storyline, owes a lot to the success of books that take place in a school for magic (I’m referring here, of course, to Harry Potter). It’s fun, but does get steadily darker as the series continues.

A big theme of the series is accepting who you are and being that person in a world that is big and scary sometimes, which leads to my final choice:

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth. 

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What happens when you return to the real world after being in a fantastical one like Narnia? This YA debut by Laura E. Weymouth is perfect for fans of Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood and Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.

Six years ago, sisters Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell were swept away to a strange and beautiful kingdom called the Woodlands, where they lived for years. But ever since they returned to their lives in post-WWII England, they have struggled to adjust.

Ev desperately wants to return to the Woodlands, and Philippa just wants to move on. When Ev goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.

Walking the line between where fantasy and reality meet, this lyrical and magical novel is, above all else, an exploration of loss and healing, and what it means to find where you belong. (taken from Amazon)

One of the books I’m currently reading, I can’t say a ton about it because I haven’t finished it yet. It definitely fits in the vein of learning to be who you are and finding your place. My thought on it right now is that it’s beautiful but very, very sad. I have a sneaking suspicion that there will be tears from me at some point.

So, there’s my six degrees from The Arsonist to The Light Between Worlds. Have you read any of these? What did you think?

You should play too! Just start with the Arsonist. I’m curious to see where people will end up.

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto

Wow! This book was phenomenal! I went into it hoping for a new fantasy with an old school fantasy feel (I’ll explain more about that, I promise), and I was not disappointed. It surpassed everything I hoped for.

Here’s a very simplified take on the premise of this book: Veronyka and Val are sisters, eking out a living with only each other to rely on. They’ve been raised on stories of phoenix riders and fierce queens, though their time has passed after a long war. Since then, there have been mutterings of remnants of the Phoenix Riders hiding out and trying to rebuild their diminished numbers.

After Val does something completely horrible, Veronyka leaves her, and disguises herself as a boy in order to join the ranks of the phoenix riders and-hopefully- become one herself.

That is a very basic blurb. There is so much more to this book and it’s all fantastic! There’s another fascinating story line that twists and turns throughout the book, related but separate. Phoenixes, wars, twists and turns-it’s all there.

When I mentioned an “old school fantasy” feel, I meant the sort that includes a hero learning to be who he/she is, magic, fantasy creatures, and a world fully separated from ours, where the fantastical is accepted and not questioned. This all exists within the pages of this book. Now, without further ado, it’s time to spew opinions:

First of all: phoenixes! How cool is that? I’m a sucker for fantasy creatures written well, and these are. In fact, everything about this book is well written. Each character is fully developed and important in some way. There are no “red shirts”, there just to bite the dust. In fact, they’re all so well written that I’m having a hard time deciding who my favorite character even is.

Another thing that I loved about this book is the way it told a very realized history of its world, including wars, betrayals, and belief systems, without ever feeling like it was dragging. It was woven in so well with the main plot line that it just felt natural to be learning so much about this world. There’s also a timeline and glossary at the back of the book, which is awesome.

This book builds slowly, investing time in making you actually care about what happens with these characters. It’s never boring, though, and once it gets going, it really gets going. So much happened so quickly that I was on the edge of my seat for the last quarter of the book.

I can’t think of a single thing about this book that I didn’t like. There is absolutely nothing I would change at all. Well- maybe I’d have the sequel be released already so I don’t have to wait…the agony that can only be caused by a good book.

Read this.

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Tale As Old As Time: New Spins on Old Stories

There’s been a plethora of fairy tale re-imaginings lately, some good, some not so much. It got me thinking: is this a new trend? While it seems that retellings are much more popular recently, there are always books that reinvent older fairy tales and myths. Here are a few that I’ve read, complete with my unsolicited thoughts on each:

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Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige: This reinvention of the Snow Queen was good, but not amazing. I think I would have liked it better if it had been longer, giving it some extra time for setup. That being said, it’s still one worth picking up.

Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent her life locked in the Whittaker Psychiatric Institute, but deep down, she knows she doesn’t belong there. When she meets a mysterious new orderly and dreams about a strange twisted tree, she realizes she must escape and figure out who she really is.

After Snow breaks free and races into the nearby woods, she stumbles into icy Algid–her true home–with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai, none of whom she’s sure she can trust. As secrets are revealed, Snow discovers that she’s on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything . . . including Snow’s return to the world she once knew.

With Algid’s fate resting in her hands, will Snow embrace her destiny, even it means paying the ultimate price? (taken from Amazon)

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Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier: This is a re-imagining of The Six Swans. I remember really enjoying the book, but it’s been quite a while. I think the time is ripe for a reread! It’s much more of a full-on fantasy book, which is always a plus.

Lord Colum of Sevenwaters is blessed with six sons: Liam, a natural leader; Diarmid, with his passion for adventure; twins Cormack and Conor, each with a different calling; rebellious Finbar, grown old before his time by his gift of the Sight; and the young, compassionate Padriac.

But it is Sorcha, the seventh child and only daughter, who alone is destined to defend her family and protect her land from the Britons and the clan known as Northwoods. For her father has been bewitched, and her brothers bound by a spell that only Sorcha can lift.

To reclaim the lives of her brothers, Sorcha leaves the only safe place she has ever known, and embarks on a journey filled with pain, loss, and terror.

When she is kidnapped by enemy forces and taken to a foreign land, it seems that there will be no way for her to break the spell that condemns all that she loves. But magic knows no boundaries, and Sorcha will have to choose between the life she has always known and a love that comes only once. (taken from Amazon)

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The Looking Glass Wars trilogy by Frank Beddor: Very loosely based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (not technically a fairy tale, I know), these books are madcap fun.

The Myth: Alice was an ordinary girl who stepped through the looking glass and entered a fairy-tale world invented by Lewis Carroll in his famous storybook. The Truth: Wonderland is real. Alyss Heart is the heir to the throne, until her murderous aunt Redd steals the crown and kills Alyss’ parents. To escape Redd, Alyss and her bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, must flee to our world through the Pool of Tears. But in the pool Alyss and Hatter are separated. Lost and alone in Victorian London, Alyss is befriended by an aspiring author to whom she tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Yet he gets the story all wrong. Hatter Madigan knows the truth only too well, and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts. (taken from Amazon)


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Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer: I love, love, love this re-imagining of East of the Sun, West of the Moon! Everyone needs to read this! Lovely and atmospheric, it’s not one to miss.

Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart when her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf―the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum: if she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes.

In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, and something new and dark and strange lies behind every door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books- turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear and Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever. (taken from Amazon)

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East by Edith Pattou: This is another retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon. It’s a lot more simply told than Echo North, possibly intended for a younger reader base, but it’s still a good one.

Rose has always felt out of place in her family. So when an enormous white bear mysteriously shows up and asks her to come away with him, she readily agrees. The bear takes Rose to a distant castle, where each night she is confronted with a mystery. In solving that mystery, she finds love, discovers her purpose, and realizes her travels have only just begun.

As fresh and original as only the best fantasy can be, East is a novel retelling of the classic tale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” told in the tradition of Robin McKinley and Gail Carson Levine. (taken from Amazon)

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A Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. I’ll be honest: I really don’t like this one at all, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this one on the list. Based loosely on Beauty and the Beast, as well as The Ballad of Tam Lin, it’s much more of a romance than I enjoy. I also found that some parts bordered on the icky for me. This is an unpopular opinion, though. Most readers really enjoy this series.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin–one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world. (taken from Amazon)

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Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton: This is another book that’s not based on a fairy tale, exactly. It’s based on Beowulf. It’s so well done, though! If you enjoy this book, watch The 13th Warrior, adapted to screen from this book. It’s held up well over time.

The year is A.D. 922.  A refined Arab courtier, representative of the powerful Caliph of Baghdad, encounters a party of Viking warriors who are journeying to the barbaric North. He is appalled by their Viking customs—the wanton sexuality of their pale, angular women, their disregard for cleanliness . . . their cold-blooded human sacrifices. But it is not until they reach the depths of the Northland that the courtier learns the horrifying and inescapable truth: he has been enlisted by these savage, inscrutable warriors to help combat a terror that plagues them—a monstrosity that emerges under cover of night to slaughter the Vikings and devour their flesh . . .(taken from Amazon)

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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden: Inspired by Russian fairy tales, this book is  beautiful and engrossing. I highly recommend it.

Winter lasts most of the year at the edge of the Russian wilderness, and in the long nights, Vasilisa and her siblings love to gather by the fire to listen to their nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, Vasya loves the story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon. Wise Russians fear him, for he claims unwary souls, and they honor the spirits that protect their homes from evil.

Then Vasya’s widowed father brings home a new wife from Moscow. Fiercely devout, Vasya’s stepmother forbids her family from honoring their household spirits, but Vasya fears what this may bring. And indeed, misfortune begins to stalk the village. 

But Vasya’s stepmother only grows harsher, determined to remake the village to her liking and to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for marriage or a convent. As the village’s defenses weaken and evil from the forest creeps nearer, Vasilisa must call upon dangerous gifts she has long concealed—to protect her family from a threat sprung to life from her nurse’s most frightening tales. (taken from Amazon)

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer: This is a steampunk re-imagining of Cinderella. I have tried multiple times to read it, and for some reason I just don’t enjoy it. I don’t know why: by all rights it should be right up my alley. Give it a go: then tell me what I’m missing so I’ll stick with it. Ha ha!

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. (taken from Amazon)

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Uprooted by Namoi Novak: Last, but most certainly not least, this book is based on a Slavic fairy tale. While parts of this book followed usual fairy tale tropes, it’s an incredibly unique book overall. I need to read more Slavic fairy tales because the feel of this book is fantastic. I have a feeling I’d love the original source material as well.

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose. (taken from Amazon)

While this list is in no way complete, here are some that I’ve read. Which retellings have you read? Did you enjoy them? What are some I’ve missed that I need to read?

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

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Um…this is going to be a rather convoluted post, simply because this is a book genre that I don’t normally read. I’m trying to read outside my comfort zone this year. It’s going to make for some interesting reviews.
In the 1820’s The Montrose family leaves Boston, amid a scandal, to move to Willow Hall, a big house in the country. The family consists of the parents, the oldest son (whom we never meet), and three daughters; Catherine, Lydia, and Emmeline. The story is told from the point of view of Lydia, the middle daughter.

What is described as a ghost story is actually a family drama, with a large dose of romance added in. That is far from the usual type of book I read, so I can’t really compare it to others in the same genre. But maybe that’s a good thing?

The author is very skilled at creating an eerie atmosphere, and the first few chapters were engrossing. Unfortunately, the ghost story aspect ended up being left by the wayside in favor of relationship drama and romance. The romance seemed to be going for a Pride and Prejudice vibe, so if you go for that sort of thing you might be jazzed. I honestly didn’t care about it at all, though.

I liked the youngest sister, Emmeline, and the leading man, John Barrett, but I couldn’t stand either of the oldest sisters. It’s been a while since I’ve wanted to reach into a book and smack someone as much as I wanted to wallop Lydia. She had an irritating martyr complex that grated on my nerves. The oldest sister, Catherine, was selfish and narcissistic. There was never any explanation for the reason she was that way, so she came across as a very underdeveloped character.

There were some parts of Catherine’s storyline that were very difficult for me to read about. I don’t want to give anything away, but be aware there is some serious unpleasantness throughout the book.

If you enjoy period romance, including longing glances, misunderstandings, and “propriety be damned”, then this book is for you. There is a review on the back of my copy of the book that compared it to Kate Morton’s works. I quite enjoyed The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Morton, so I would suggest you read that as well (or, dare I say, instead?).

Have you read this? What are your thoughts on it?

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

In an Absent Dream is my first book by Seanan Mcguire. I know, I know: I should have started with Every Heart a Doorway, but I saw this one at the library (our library doesn’t have the others) and it was calling my name. It’s a standalone that takes place in the same world as Every Heart a Doorway, so I decided to take a chance and read it first.

It was so good! It follows Katherine Lundy, a quiet, lonely girl. One day on her way home from school, she comes upon a tree with a door in its center. Oooh, I love a good doorway story! This particular door leads to the Goblin Market, where Lundy (never give your full name in the Goblin Market) learns what it means to have friends, make important choices, and live with the consequences of not giving fair value.

This book was interesting in that it didn’t follow Lundy’s adventures as much as I would have expected. Instead, it focused on her as she changed and became who she was meant to be. I wish that some of those adventures that were merely mentioned were fully explored ( I want to see the battle with the Wasp Queen!), but I loved what the author did do with her book.

It was sweet and surprisingly sad. I didn’t expect things to end the way they did. I suspect that there were things that I would have appreciated much more if I had already read the other books in the series, but I still really liked this book. I’m now even more determined to read the rest of the series. Seanan Mcguire managed to write a book that was simple and accessible, while tackling the complex subject of becoming. Oh- and bonus points for having Lundy read the Trixie Belden books (I read all of those when I was young)!

Have you read this? Is it even better after reading the others in the series?

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