fairytale retelling · review · young adult

Golden – K.M.Robinson

“Betrayal is always bad, but betrayal by someone close is so much worse.”

 

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Blurb: “The stories say that Goldilocks was a naïve girl who wandered into a house one day. Those stories were wrong. She was never naïve. It was all a perfectly executed plan to get her into the Baers’ group to destroy them.
Trained by her cousin, Lowell, and handler, Shadoe, Auluria’s mission is to destroy the Baers by getting close to the youngest brother, Dov, his brother and sister-in-law and the leaders of the Baers’ group. When she realizes Dov isn’t as evil as her cousin led her to believe, she must figure out how to play both sides or her deception will cause everyone in her world to burn.”

This is an extra special blog post this week as the book in question, Golden, has been written by a dear, dear friend of mine. (Though I feel obligated to add that this doesn’t change my review)

The story is a goldilocks retelling and follows a girl called Auluria who wakes up in the home of the Baer family with no memory of how she got there. Thanks to help of Dov, she slowly starts to fill in the gaps. She was running from someone but she still can’t remember who. As her memories continue to surface she remembers her purpose of being in this house: to make Dov Baer fall in love with her, then destroy his family.

I am an absolute sucker for political elements of books, especially in a medieval/fairytale sort of setting and Golden really delivers that. On one side you have the government ruling with an iron fist and on the other you have The Society with the Baer family in the middle. All these aspects were explained so well and alongside with the world building there was the perfect framework for a story. It didn’t fall into “info dump” territory and instead felt like the process of learning and discovering this world was authentic.

Auluria proves to be a great but equally frustrating character at times as she doesn’t feel she should just sick back in a safe space when she’s more than capable of going out and fighting.

I only have a few issues and the main one is pace: it feels like Auluria’s memory returns too quickly and it would have been nice to spend more time with Auluria exploring her surroundings and forming an even more natural relationship with Dov; the love itself once her memory comes back feels too rushed as well. This is the first book in a trilogy and it felt like it was trying to get enough groundwork in that we can speed into the next one.

But that didn’t take away from my enjoyment. I find the complexities of this world so fascinating and can only wait with bated breath until I can get my hands on the next one.

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fairytale retelling · fantasy · review · young adult

The Neverland Wars – Audrey Greathouse

“There is envy in the sky, Peter, and when the heavens are jealous, no good can come of it.”

 

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Blurb: “Magic can do a lot – give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That’s what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home. However, Gwen doesn’t know this. She’s just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though – and when she does, she’ll discover she’s in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Everyone knows that I adore Peter Pan. It is my all-time favourite story and I will eat up any adaptation or spin off to do with it. So when I was sent a copy of this book, it was safe to say I had some expectations in place.

The story follows Gwen, an American teenager whose only cares in life are getting through her life and what she’s going to wear to homecoming. That is until Peter Pan takes her sister. Gwen’s world changes as she learns that her father works for a company that deals with magic and there are many cases of the children from those involved in the industry being taken to the magical Neverland she thought only existed in the book. Matters are made worse when Peter Pan returns to claim another victim and this time, he has chosen Gwen and war is looming – a war between Neverland and reality.

What I really liked about this book was that Gwen’s reason for going to Neverland was so her sister wouldn’t be alone. However I was disappointed when the characters get there and the little sister is absent for most of the book. It seemed to make Gwen’s reasoning for going there in the first place just totally redundant. Another thing I liked was the Once Upon A Time TV show style of having fairy-tale characters but their stories exist in books and films in the real world rather than it being something completely new to Gwen. There didn’t seem to be much explanation about the war or much build up to it: the groundwork was laid as to why but the war itself just happened out of nowhere as if they hadn’t planned for it.

The aspect that kept me reading quite a confusing book was the mermaid scenes. They’re my favourite part of the Neverland universe and were so creepy and unnerving.

Overall, it was an okay read but not something I think I’ll return to in the future.

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fairytale retelling · fantasy · review · young adult

A Court Of Mist And Fury – Sarah J. Maas

“You want to save the mortal realm?” He asked. “Then become someone Prythian listens to. Become vital. Become a weapon.”

 

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Blurb: “Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring court – but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people. Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politic, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms – and she might be the key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future – and the future of a world cleaved in two.”

This is the sequel to the New York Times best-selling book A Court Of Thorns and Roses. The story opens with Feyre recovering from the events of the first book and dealing with how she’s going to tell her lover, Tamlin, about the deal she made with Rhysand; the High lord of the Night Court. Feyre and Tamlin’s wedding approaches and Tamlin becomes increasingly more protective of her, demanding that she only stay within the house, and occasionally extends this to the grounds. But it’s been more than a month, and Feyre knows that Rhysand will show up soon to cash in on their deal: having her for one week, of every month, for the rest of their lives. And now Feyre is immortal, this is a deal that will last a very long time.

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and I don’t think I’ve ever been so let down by a book.  This book is over 600 pages long and there didn’t seem to be much plot or substance to it at all. I’ve noticed recently with Sarah’s books is that (despite me being a fan of her work) they’re just getting longer and it feels like they’re long for the sake of being long; most of the content could easily be cut down.  So it felt like a long-winded book anyway and I just couldn’t connect to any of the characters like I had in the previous book, I just found myself resenting most of the characters throughout my reading experience. Character motivations seemed all over the place.

I honestly can’t really tell you what the plot is about because there just didn’t seem to be any and it just appeared masked by roaming around different places to open up the world, endless conversations and a lot of very very graphic sex scenes. (I note that while this is a YA book there was no “mature content” warning on the book itself) I’m all for sexual liberation etc but it was just out of place and thrown in there to create something a little steamy to keep the readers interested.

The only thing I really liked what the process of Feyre discovering her powers and learning to control them, but with Rhysand being the one to train her it just felt creepy and made me quite uncomfortable. Another thing I noticed was that Rhysand was constantly referred to by two names: “Rhysand” and the shortened “Rhys.” While this could just be me being a little picky, the constant interchanging on the two names made me feel like there were two different people there. And Feyre, for the most part, wasn’t comfortable around him so her resorting to nicknames again felt out ofplace.

In Sarah’s latest newsletter she talked about this book and how she actually wrote this series before Throne of Glass and how A Court Of Thorns And Roses had just been gathering dust on her computer. After reading this book, I really wish it was just a stand-alone and had stopped at the first book.
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fairytale retelling · fantasy · review · young adult

Alice Takes Back Wonderland – David D.Hammons

 

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Blurb: “After ten years of being told she can’t tell the difference between real life and a fairy tale, Alice finally stops believing in Wonderland. So when the White Rabbit shows up at her house, Alice thinks she is going crazy. Only when the White Rabbit kicks her down the rabbit hole does Alice realise that the magical land she visited as a child is real. But all is not well in Wonderland.”

**I was sent this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

The story opens with seven year old Alice running out of the courtroom after the case that takes place in the original story. As she runs to freedom, the Cheshire cat spouts his usual nonsense, this time about fairy tales and their echoes (echoes are how we know fairy tales, and the fairy tales are what really happened). For example, in the story as we know it, Alice is an English girl from the nineteenth century, in this book she is an American girl from the twenty-first century.

She returns to her world only to be told that the people she met, the adventures she had, and the world she visited are not real. She spends Christmas in a mental hospital, gets diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. One line that really broke my heart at this point was: “I told the doctors I didn’t believe ADHD was real. They told me they didn’t believe Wonderland was real.”

Ten years of therapy sessions, popping pills and re-affirming to herself that what she experienced was not real, Alice is finally (slightly) on the mend. That is, until the White Rabbit shows up in her bedroom.  Wonderland has changed and he needs her help: The Ace of Spades is now in charge and the Cheshire cat is dead. It is also later revealed that Ace send the White Rabbit through the rabbit holes and into the real world so he can collect things, because Ace wants Wonderland to be a mirror of our world.

The mad hatter wants things to return to well… as normal as they can be in Wonderland so he tells Alice that she need to seek help from other fairy tale characters to create an army to take back Wonderland. He puts Alice in a flying machine and sends her on her way.

So time for my thoughts.

Going back to what I mentioned about the mental struggles Alice faces when she returns from Wonderland; this part was so well written. To say this happened very early on in the story, you really feel for her and just want to reach through the pages, hug her and tell her that Wonderland is real. The pressure she has put on her by her mother and sister to be normal and go to university etc was just so sad to read.

However for me, this is where everything good about this book ended. The transitions between the worlds when Alice sets off on her adventures were just too jarring and felt kind of like I’d hit a brick wall. She seemed to spend way too much time in Wonderland to say there was this sense of urgency to create an army to beat Ace and the pace of the book was lost because of it.

It felt to me that a lot of the fairy tale characters were just thrown in randomly, without much thought, in order to get people buying this book for the very fact that it’s mentioned on the blurb  (in particular Peter Pan). I just felt like these types of characters were used for that reason and then left with a pretty sub-par story. Now I am all for fairy-tale retellings/reimagining’s but I feel like the idea of “echoes” was used as an excuse just to allow the author to change the fairy tales and their characters as much as they have done.

Also, I don’t know why the story needed to be americanised. It added literally nothing except obviously a location change in the real world. The only way the story would have been affected if the location had remained England and that time period was that there would have been no ADHD diagnosis and instead they would have just simply called her “mad” and shunned her.

If I wasn’t reading this because it was sent to me by a publisher and I had to give an honest review, then honestly I would have stopped reading this before the halfway point. However, it was only fair that I read the book in its entirety.

Overall, a very disappointing book.
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discussion · fairytale retelling · fantasy · young adult

Top Books of 2015

So another glorious year of reading is over and while I await new releases with great anticipation. It’s now time for me to reflect on my favourite books I read last year.

Disclaimer: not all of the books listed came out in 2015, some of them I just happened to read in that year. I will state these accordingly. Also, the order the books appear in this post doesn’t reflect the order in which I enjoyed them.

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill (2015)

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This story follows teenager Emma O’Donovan who goes to a house party with her friends. She wakes up on the front porch of her house the following morning with no memory of how she got there or what happened. Until various photos and videos start to make their appearance on the internet. This book is a very difficult read and I won’t lie, it’s not pleasant at times. But this doesn’t mean we should avoid the serious and important topics this book discusses. The quote on the front of the book says “She writes with a scalpel.” That couldn’t be more true.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E.Schwab (2015)

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In A Darker Shade Of Magic there are four londons: Grey London which is dirty, boring and lacks magic, Red London where life and magic are admired with a flourishing empire, White London which is ruled by whoever murders their way onto the throne, and Black London… which no one speaks of.
Kell is the last of the Travelers – rare magicians with the ability to travel between the various londons. He smuggles items from realm to realm for those who are willing to pay the price. But when he accidently gets accused of treason, the only thing left for him to do is flee.
Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2015)

 

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Simon is a not-so-openly gay sixteen year old sending emails to his secret lover who goes by the name of Blue. He understands Simon, and Simon has quite a few feelings for the person on the other side of his emails. When the emails fall into the wrong hands, Simon finds himself being blackmailed by one of his classmates: if he doesn’t play wing-man and help this person get with his friend, then the emails will be released to the entire school and not only that, but the privacy of Blue will be destroyed.


Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2011)

 

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Told through the medium of prose and creepy old photographs, a horrific family tragedy sends Jacob looking for clues on Cairholm Island off the coast from Wales. Here he discovers the abandoned orphanage known as Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. When chased by a girl who produces fire and a boy who can turn invisible, Jacob finds himself trapped in September 3rd 1940, the day Miss Peregrine’s home was destroyed by a bomb dropped during World War II. And he’s stuck in a time loop where the day restarts just as the bomb hits the home.

Throne Of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (2012)

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After years of being a prisoner in the salt mines of Endovier, eighteen year old assassin Celaena Sardothien is brought before the Crown Prince, Dorian who offers her her freedom. But only if she competes as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. If she wins, she must serve the kingdom for four years and then she will be free. But when a contestant turns up dead, swiftly followed by the death of another, can she find out who is behind the killings before she becomes the next victim?
All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (2015)

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Theodore Finch is fascinated by death and constantly thinking of ways to end his life. Violet Markey is living for the future, counting each pitiful day until graduation. When the pair meet on the ledge of the school’s bell tower they inadvertently save each other.

When paired together on a project, the new duo are sent off to discover “natural wonders” of their state, making some important discoveries about themselves along the way.

 

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (2005)

 

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Tally is an ugly. She cannot wait until she turns sixteen and becomes a pretty: to become part of a world where her only job is to look good and have fun. Tally’s friend, Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty and decides to run away. As Shay’s only friend, Tally is approached by the authorities who offer her a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all.
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon (2015)

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Everything Everything tells the story of Maddy, a teenager with a rare illness – she’s allergic to everything. She can’t go outside. She has spent her life interacting with only her mother and nurse.

But when a moving truck appears next door and Maddy sets her eyes on Olly, she feels she has to get to know him, no matter what the cost will be.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2014)

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It’s the morning of Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Nick is out buying last-minute presents while his wife is adding the last details to her treasure hunt based on clues linked to aspects of their years together. When Nick returns home to find the home trashed and his wife missing, he calls the police.

But the suspiciously articulated crime scene and disturbing passages in Amy’s diary lead the detectives to wonder, could the husband have killed his wife?
A Court Of Thorns And Roses by Sarah J.Maas

 

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An utterly beautiful Beauty And The Beast retelling following the huntress Feyre who kills a wolf in the woods. Later, a beast-like creature demands retribution and takes her as his prisoner to a magical land she’s only heard about in legends. Feyre learns that her captor isn’t a beast but in fact Tamlin – one of the immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
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fairytale retelling · young adult

A Thousand Nights – E.K.Johnson

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Blurb: “Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not be next. And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead.”

*I was sent this book by the publisher but the publisher but this in no way affects my review*

The premise for this book may sound very similar to The Wrath and The Dawn which was recently very popular in the Booktube world. That’s because they’re both based off the fairy tale One Thousand and One Nights.

The story opens with a village waiting nervously for Lo-Melkhiin to arrive and pick a new wife. The protagonist – unnamed- expresses her worries that her sister will be chosen because she is both intelligent and beautiful. Not wanting this series of events to come true, she approaches her mother’s sister and begs to be made to look like her sister: “dress me in my sister’s clothes, braid my hair as you would hers and give me those charms she would not grieve to lose.” (Think of it as a less dramatic “I volunteer as tribute” moment from The Hunger Games) The plan works and Lo-Melkhiin takes the protagonist back to his city and marries her. On their first night together, he asks if she is afraid on him and she says no. He then says he knows that she took the place of her sister and asks about her. The protagonist -surprised – wakes up the next day and the next… and the next.

The protagonist struggles to meet and talk to people as they all avoid her, believing that she will not be around long enough to get to know, so naturally she’s feeling iscolated. She gets to meet Lo-Melkhiin’s mother who is intrigued by the protagonist because she doesn’t fear her son. The mother says she will tell her a story about what made Lo-Melkhiin the way he is now.

The basis for the rest of the plot is the protagonist exploring her new home and getting to know her new husband.

So it’s clear that the latest “trope” in Young Adult literature is fairytale retellings. Which is all well and good, I love fairytale retellings! However, there is a way to make a good retelling, and this wasn’t it.

While I really enjoyed the world building that, for me, was the only redeeming quality of this books.

There were no names given apart from Lo-Melkhiin. This made it very hard for me to feel like the protagonist was more than 2D and throughout reading the book I just felt disconnected. Characters are referred to as “my sister”, “my father’s father” stripping them of any identity which would have vastly improved the reading experience. On top of this, there were no descriptions of the characters. It’s hard to care or connect to a story when they plot and ideas are there but the characters are wibbly wobbly figures that don’t really fit in place.

I know the bare basics of the original story but in terms of the relationship between the protagonist and Lo-Melkhiin and the fact it’s Young Adult, it’s only natural to expect some kind of creepy relationship to form as a result of the forced marriage. But that was not the case. Nor was there even a mutual respect between the pair by the conclusion.

Because the story was so lacking in terms of character, I actually found myself skipping sections and even, dare I say it, hoping it would end.
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children's fiction · fairytale retelling · fantasy · review

The Land Of Stories: The Enchantress Returns by Chris Colfer

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Blurb: “After decades of hiding, the evil Enchantress who cursed Sleeping Beauty if back with a vengeance. Alex and Conner Bailey have not been back to the magical Land of Stories since their adventure in The Wishing Spell ended. But one night, they learn the famed Enchantress had kidnapped their mother! Against the will of their grandmother, the twins must find their own way into the Land of Stories to rescue their mother and save the fairy tale world from the greatest threat it’s ever faced.”

Like probably many of you, I first discovered Chris Colfer in the hit American TV show Glee. It was my admiration for his work ethic and his focuses outside of Glee that led me to The Land of Stories series. I adored the first book. The creativity and twists on classic fairy tales such as Red Riding Hood were so refreshing to read.

I finally muddled through my TBR (to be read) and reached the second book in the series titled The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns. Truthfully, I was nervous going into this book. The first book, The Wishing Spell, was so good that I was worried that this book would fall below my expectations. Which sadly tends to happen a lot with a series. (See Mockingjay in The Hunger Games series) I wasn’t sure how much this initial idea could expand and it was a long book to say it’s 9-12 fiction – the edition I read was 517 pages.

But praise the literary Gods for Chris Colfer did not let me down.
This book was perfectly paced: no parts felt like they were rushed and none felt like they were dragging. The twists on each fairy tale had me in awe over Colfer’s clever mind. The writing didn’t feel as solid for me as in The Wishing Spell but the plot was on point, which made up for the writing.

The driving plot focus of The Wishing Spell , for those unfamiliar to the series, was in fact… the wishing spell, which is a kind of portal to the real world. Protagonists Alex and Conner Bailey have to take memorable things from each kingdom to build it, in order to return home. For example, Cinderella’s glass slipper is one of the objects they have to obtain.

In this book, just as the title suggests, The Enchantress is back and she has a whole lot of vengeance to dish out. When Alex and Conner’s mother is kidnapped, they find themselves back in The Land Of Stories trying to save her. To destroy The Enchantress, Alex and Conner need to build “The Wand of Wonderment” which is made out of the six most prized possessions of the six most hated people in the world (ie the villains). I liked the villain  aspect being the plot driving force. It was nice to see them more involved than just the single baddie the protagonist has to defeat.

There is a third book in the series titled The Land of Stories: A Grim Warning and Colfer is currently working on a fourth book.

He also has a Young Adult book out called Struck By Lightening which has been adapted into a film starring Chris Colfer himself.

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