Tag «Fairy Tale Retelling»

Series Review: Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

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Synopsis for Cinder (from Goodreads):
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.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Series 2015
Series: Lunar Chronicles
Author: Marissa Meyer
# of Books: 4 (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter)

There is a novella between Cress and Winter called Fairest; there are also short stories (full list here)

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fairy Tale Retelling, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: January 2012 – November 2015
Source & Format: Own–Kobo (CinderScarlet & Winter) Public Library–hardcover (Cress

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve wanted to read Cinder since its publication but trying to get my hands on it was a hard thing to do. I guess everyone loves a good science fiction fairy tale retelling. It seemed like the best of both worlds. Eventually, Cinder and Scarlet went on sale for my Kobo but I didn’t want to start something and wait. So this past Christmas Break, I decided to tackle the Lunar Chronicles.

Yah, that was the best decision EVER!

The Concept / The World:

I love that this series isn’t a a full blown retelling of various fairy tales; that it has a loose adaptation and a unique one at that. It reminds me a lot of the TV Series Once Upon a Time where they integrate everything together in a way that always surprises and intrigues me. The science fiction spin on everything is great. It’s not overly complicated but it is complex and I like that a lot. It was so much fun to read!

I also like that we get introduced to new female characters in each book who each get their own story while continuing with Cinder’s. It provides a fresh perspective and also prevents Cinder’s story from being dragged out by forcing so many books. Not that her story couldn’t be that many books, I just like how it all adds to the experience.

The Plot:

I felt like each book built up and reached a climax within it’s own pages.

I think Cinder stands on its own when you compare it to the rest of the series. It serves as the main introduction to the overarching storyline of Scarlet through Winter. But even on its own, it captured my attention from start to finish. It’s a smart yet fun YA story.

Like all the books, I thought there was a great blend of romance, plot and character development. It keeps everything moving at a strong pace and I never felt like there was a dull moment. Even in Winter which was ridiculously long!

If you are worried that there is going to be too much Science Fiction or that it is the main focus of the plot, I wouldn’t worry. The SciFi in this book is used as a great device but I wouldn’t say it is straight Science Fiction or is overly complicated. Everything has been explained in a great (and might I say accurate) way that is easy to follow. It compliments the story in a great way.

I also want to say that I was never able to predict exactly what was going to happen. Meyer definitely takes some risks in where she pushes her characters to go and I appreciated that realistic edge. These are Disney fairy tales where everything is happy-go-lucky (not that I don’t love those tales as well) but I found it refreshing that there was a darker tint and the stories didn’t follow the fairy tales exactly. I would say that these stories are more inspired by fairy tales than they are straight retellings.

The Characters:

I loved all the characters in this series. Of course, I have a few standouts (Thorne is one for sure!) but it was so easy to fall in love with this cast of characters.

Cinder won me over right from the get-go. I loved her wit and some of the comments she would say had me chuckling aloud. Scarlet was strong and stubborn yet had space to grow; Cress was probably a close second favourite because I loved her approach to life and how she handled herself; and Winter was sweet despite all her wounds. All in all, each heroine had her own personality and battle to face and I looked the unique aspect they all brought to the story.

I also liked that there was adequate character development of all the characters, even those who weren’t the leading ladies. The male “sicekicks” had great depth to them as well and I loved them just as much as the ladies did.

And I also have to say that I loved Levana

The Romance:

As soon as Kai and Cinder interacted for the first time, I was in love with them as a couple. They are definitely two of my favourite YA characters ever and I couldn’t help but root for them to get their happy ending.

I also liked all the other romantic pairings. I felt like each couple complimented each other very well and I could see why they would like each other. Well, not so much in Scarlet but I get what was happening there and why so I can over look it (and for the record, I thought that that particular relationship improved in the last two books).

Overall, solid romances that contributed to the stories but never took away from the main plot.

When to read Fairest?

What a dilemma this was! I had no idea when to read Fairest as it is a prequel story but was published between Cress and Winter. I went with Marissa Meyer’s suggestion on her blog to read them according to publication date–and I would say that the author knows best.

I felt like reading Fairest before Winter helps you understand why Levana does the things she does and gives you the history of Luna. You might gain a little sympathy for her but I wouldn’t worry about that too much. I think it benefited me to get the full history before I read Winter than had I read it after. Regardless, I definitely wouldn’t read it before Cinder, it would just cause a disconnect between the stories I think.

Should You Read the Short Stories? When?

I waited to read all the short stories until Stars Above, the short story collection, came out. It’s a great collection and it was nice to reunite with all these characters. I think the exclusive end epilogue story to Winter (called Something Old, Something New) makes it worth it on its own but I did enjoy all the other stories as well. They are put in chronological order as per the Lunar Chronicles time line though most a prequel stories. Again, I would refer to Marissa’s suggestion of reading order if you want to intersperse the short stories with the larger novels, but for fans who have already read the main novels, it’s a great treat to be reunite with everyone and learn a little more about your fave characters.

Series Rating: 5/5

Cinder 5/5 | Scarlet 5/5 | Cress 5/5 | [Fairest] 5/5 | Winter 5/5

overall

It’s been a LONG TIME since I’ve enjoyed a story as much as this series! I don’t even know that last time I gave a series all 5 star reviews! This series was just a great blend of everything I adore about the YA genre from start to finish. Definitely a new faovurite and one I would consider reading again years from now.

Read if You Like: Science Fiction, Fairy Tale Retellings, long story arcs
Avoid if You: want a straight romance retelling, dislike ongoing story arcs

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Single Sundays: Never Never by Brianna Shrum

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Never Never (from Goodreads):
James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up.

When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child—at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children’s dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up.

But grow up he does.

And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate.

This story isn’t about Peter Pan; it’s about the boy whose life he stole. It’s about a man in a world that hates men. It’s about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan.

Except one.

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Author: Brianna Shrum
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Fairy Tale Retellings
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Date: September 22, 2015
Source & Format: NetGalley–eBook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I first found this book on another blog (after I added this one, I started to actually list where I find these for future posts). I love Peter Pan. I watched the animated movie as a kid numerous, numerous times. I also adore Captain Hook from the Once Upon a Time TV series <3

So when I saw that there was going to be a prequel of sorts with this book–and one that focuses mostly on Captain Hook–I was sold!

The Concept / The World:

When I started reading this, it reminded me a lot of Wicked: The Musical in the sense that in this prequel, you have two well known enemies start as friends. And the focus is even on the “villain” character (Hook in Never Never and Elphaba in Wicked) more so than the “hero” character (Peter Pan and Glinda) in each case. But are they really the villain? Or are they just misunderstood? That’s what each story tries to convey and I love that approach–well, more so in Never Never than in Wicked.

Back to Never Never: I thought the take on Neverland was really cool. The idea that it’s fuelled by dreams really works for the story. The world itself is easily recognizable to fans of the various mainstream adaptations but it also has this darker feel to it–which was my favourite part. It doesn’t shy away from death or violence–which is what you want (or at least what I want) when I read about a pirate. That doesn’t mean it is gory or extremely violent–all I’m saying is that there are consequences when boys fight with swords and I liked the unpredictability the story had as a result.

The Plot:

I’m not sure what I was truly expecting the plot to be when I heard about this book. I think at first I thought it would be high action but when I started reading, it felt more like an adventure/coming of age story to me. There are definitely action scenes and definitely moments of suspense but I felt like a majority of the time was focused on James trying to deal with his situation in Neverland and his budding rivalry with Peter.

I think some people might feel like that focus makes the story dry at times because I know I initially thought that too. But as I got further into the book, I really became interested in James’ story. And I realized that the reason I truly picked up this book was because I wanted to know more about James Hook the character and how he becomes Captain Hook.

The Characters:

Casting Peter Pan as a villain really gives this story an interesting edge and made me think twice about how I perceive the whole Peter Pan persona. Is he truly saving the Lost Boys or is he just projecting his ideals on others? It also makes you wonder if it truly is a good thing to remain as a child forever; that even if you don’t grow up, you can still lose your innocence but doing foolish actions.

Perhaps a little too deep for this book? Maybe, but I enjoyed the thoughts it provoked in me.

As for Hook, I didn’t think I would have anything in common with him, but I easily attached myself to his character. Like him, I always wanted to grow up. People always say I’m extremely mature for my age and I think that goes hand in hand with being the oldest child AND the want to do things in life that you have to be older/more responsible for.

I liked watching Hook’s character develop and grow. And what I liked even more is that he makes mistakes. He isn’t perfect, he chooses to do some not so bright things and he learns from them. I love that about coming of age stories! It really grounds him from being this over the top villain that I watched as a kid to a real boy who is human too. I love when stories can make me empathize with a villain or make me feel something I would never have felt about them before.

The Romance:

I’m not sure why I didn’t see the romance coming. In hindsight it seems so obvious to me. But nevertheless, I was a little surprised that there was a romance when I first started reading and that it does play a pretty significant role in the grand scheme of things.  In the end, I really enjoyed that aspect. It really worked for the story and those moments were some of my favourite in the entire book.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

If you have ever wanted to know what caused Captain Hook to be the notorious villain he is, this is the book for you! It is Hook’s coming of age story that really makes you double-guess about what you know about Neverland and Peter Pan!

Read if You Like: adventure stories, prequel retellings of well known tales
Avoid if You: don’t like coming of age stories, Peter Pan

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Series Review: A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

A Court of Thorns and Roses Trilogy

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Synopsis for A Court of Thorns & Roses (from Goodreads):
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.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses Trilogy; ACOTR
Author: Sarah J. Maas
# of Books: 6 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological (Books 4-6 are a different story arc)
Complete?: No, Book 4, will be published in 2020
Genre: New Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling, Faeries, Fantasy, Romance
Heat Rating: really warm *spicy YA*
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

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**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was a huge fan of Throne of Glass before it became mainstream. I loved the world Sarah J. Maas created but before I could move her from a “must-read” author to a “favourite author” I needed to read another series/book by her. So when I saw that she was releasing a 2nd series my reactions were this: 1) WHAT?! Write Throne of Glass faster! Not start a new series!; and 2) Yes please!

I love fairy tale retellings and Beauty and the Beast is a very popular one. So I really was expecting something out of the box with this book; especially because it focused on actual Fae, my favourite fantasy species. I also was expecting some fantastic world building, a strong heroine (or at least one who becomes strong) and a great romance. Some tall shoes to fill but I knew Sarah J. Maas could do it.

This book was everywhere before and after its release! ARC reviews were posted months in advance and there was so much hype that I was a little terrified to read this. I avoided all reviews (sorry everyone!) so I could go into it with a fresh mind and give it a fair shot.

The Concept / The World:

I loved the world Feyre lives in because I LOVE faerie stories! Doesn’t matter how many faerie books I read, each one has its own unique flare that sucks me in and this book is no exception. Maas does a great job building up the world and devotes the first half of the book really explaining how the faerie world works. And this could have been really dry but I felt like things moved along at a decent pace for the first half of the book so it didn’t bore me.

As for the Beauty and the Beast element, I liked that it didn’t follow the traditional conventions. The parallels are obvious but I felt like each had its own little spin on it. I thought it worked really well and I would have to say it is one of the best (if not the best) Beauty and the Beast retellings I have had the pleasure of reading.

The Plot:

So, don’t hate me, BUT, I felt like the first half of the book was really slow. It could easily just be due to the fact that I was reading it really early in the morning or late at night so I was more than a little tired. However, I feel like there really wasn’t much happening in the first half of the book besides building up the world–which is fine and all but not my personal cup of tea. I like action in my books and when it comes to faeries, I love their games.

Which is why I adored the second half of the book. It focused more on the faerie world’s political games, had more romance and had better character growth. I couldn’t put down the book once I reached the halfway point. And I knew that going into this book because Throne of Glass was written in the exact same way: slow and building.  So while I was expecting it, that doesn’t mean I was happy that that was the case.

The Characters:

What I loved about this series is that these characters made you work to like them. Feyre is jaded and initially hard to like because she really isn’t in a good place in her life. You really sympathize with her and I enjoyed watching her grow throughout the novel.

Tamlin–yeah, I wasn’t completely sold on him. I really didn’t feel like he was present much in this book enough for me to develop a crush on him. Sure, in theory he is everything a swoon-worthy hero needs to be: mysterious, charming and caring. It just didn’t work for me.–I’ll explain more in my romance section. I feel like he’ll have some great development in the sequel (that seems to be the trend in the Throne of Glass Series) so I’m hoping that will convince me of his “amazingness”.

All the other characters were great. Love ’em or hate ’em, they were all well developed and evolving as the story progressed which was great.

The Romance:

For a majority of the book, I wasn’t really sold on the romance between Feyre and Tamlin. A lot of their interaction isn’t narrated verbatim, rather it is just summarized by Feyre after it happens. Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great scenes between them–because they’re are–I’m just saying it didn’t totally convince me their feelings were at that higher level. I could see why they would suit each other, I just wanted more scenes together that showed that.

For me, I couldn’t see why Tamlin had such deep feelings for Feyre when they really hadn’t talked all that much. They ignored each other at the start of time together (or at least is seemed like that because a lot of their interaction happens “off-stage”) and then BAM! His primal instincts are calling for her. It was a little too alpha male for me and I don’t like alpha male heroes.

Eventually, I warmed up to their romance and was totally rooting for them–it’s hard not to really given what happens in the last third of the book. It’s just that they won’t be gracing the top of my favourite couples list anytime soon.

I know that some people’s concerns with the Beauty and the Beast romance is the Stockholm Syndrome  situation. I definitely had those thoughts when I started reading and I could see why people would label it as that (I mean Feyre can’t really leave) BUT, I felt like these two would have connected even if they weren’t kept to his estate for the majority of their relationship.

Now, I feel like I have to say that is book is more like a New Adult Fantasy than it is a Young Adult Fantasy. While the sex scenes aren’t fully described (and there really isn’t a lot of them either)–they are sex scenes that don’t leave much to the imagination which isn’t really a YA characteristic. I found that refreshing because I don’t understand why sex should be so taboo in YA (I’m not saying full out, descriptive endless pages here)–it happens people so why should we ignore it!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I really don’t know what to expect for the next book! While not everything is wrapped up in this book, I felt very satisfied in how everything is left at the end of the book. I’m not dying for a sequel though I really do want to read it. I have some worries because I fear that one of my least favourite romantic tropes is on the way BUT I’m putting my faith in Maas to deliver and totally shock me like she did with Crown of Midnight–no pressure though!

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–July 3, 2016– Book #2: A Court of Mist and Fury


I was really impressed with this book!

I enjoyed A Court of Thorns and Roses but somethings just weren’t on point for me, so it wasn’t an automatic 5 star read.

But what Maas does here is genius! The manipulation of the Beauty and the Beast story; the richness of the faery world; to Feyre’s character development–everything hits its peak here, making this one hell of a read.

While I still struggled to like Feyre, she definitely grew on me; as did the romance. The way everything interweaves and builds really helped with that.

I can’t wait to see what is in store for this cast of characters next!

–July 21, 2017– Book #3: A Court of Wings and Ruin

Oh dear, I’m in the minority for this one!

My rating hovers somewhere between 2-3/5 but considering the fact that I would have DNF’d this book at the 30% if it wasn’t the finale of the series (which it isn’t [ugh], but it is the end of the arc), I’m going to leave it at a 2.

Admittedly, I had high expectations. ACOMAF blew me away in every respect so it would be a hard book to top regardless. And the hype around any Maas book is so UNREAL lately. So I was a little scared to start this one.

This one just seemed painfully slow. Which sucked because it started so strong! Yet once I reached the 30% mark, it totally lost me. It just seemed slightly repetitive and monotonous to me. This book could have easily been 200 pages shorter and it would have delivered successfully. I needed more intrigue and action to keep my full attention.

So maybe seek an alternative opinion! Because others seem to enjoy it, but for me, this one fell flat and it has me thinking the next 3 books aren’t going to be for me.

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My Rating: 3.5/5

A Court of Thorns and Roses 4/5 | A Court of Mist and Fury 5/5 | A Court of Wings and Ruin 2/5

overall

This series starts slow, peaks in the middle and has a slower end. But if you want a series that keeps you guessing; is rich in characters and the world; and has a heroine who truly transforms from start to finish, you might consider investing your time in this one!

Read if You Like: slower stories, world-building, faeries
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, don’t like jaded heroines, don’t like fairy tale retellings

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Series Review: Once Upon a Crime Family by Tiffany Schmidt

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

Once Upon a Crime Family

 

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Hold Me Like a Breath (from Goodreads):
Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.

Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can’t protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.

And in her family’s line of work no one can be safe forever.

All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.

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Series: Once Upon a Crime Family
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
# of Books: 2 (Hold Me Like a Breath, Break Me Like a Promise)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Fairy Tale Retelling, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 2015 – June 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

**This post was originally published as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to reflect my conclusion to DNF this series. It will not be further updated.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

First off, I love the cover! That’s mostly why I even considered reading this book. Tiffany Schmidt has a few books on my  TBR list but the promise of a mafia/crime family book stole my attention. Add to that the fairy tale retelling, I’m sold!

I was hoping this book would be faster paced and grittier than Nicole William’s Crossing Stars (which was a retelling of Romeo and Juliet with modern day crime families). So I was really excited to read it but some “meh” reviews made me lower my initially high expectations.

The Concept / The World:

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what the fairy tale element of Hold Me Like a Breath was until I read the author’s note at the end. That’s when everything clicked into place. So don’t go into this thinking it is a straight fairy tale retelling: it’s simply influenced by one particular fairy tale and that’s about it.

On the other hand, I loved the organ black-market aspect. It was nice to read a a story about a crime family that doesn’t deal in drugs or loans. It also added an interesting ethical/moral debate to the book (though it isn’t a highly philosophical book by any means).

The Plot:

I found this book took a long time to build up to the main plot. It definitely has a slower vibe to it but it always held my attention. I won’t lie: I definitely wanted more physical action when it comes to crime family conflicts but that really didn’t happen. It’s there in little spurts but nothing crazy.

While this book did have the gritty parts to it that I wanted, the majority of this plot is about Penelope growing up and becoming independent. Which is great but not entirely what I was expecting.

This book kept me on my toes. While I had predicted some plot elements (they were super obvious) there were other aspects that stopped me from knowing the ending right away. I really had no idea how everything was going to wrap up and I liked that a lot.

The Characters:

Penelope is exactly what you would imagine from a girl in an overprotective family; she’s struggling for independence and wanting to rebel. This can get really annoying in a character but I really warmed up to Penelope and loved watching her grow.

The rest of the cast is pretty typical and perhaps borders on the cliche; however, they really worked for this story and truly supported Penelope in a way that didn’t take away from her development or overshadow her.

The Romance:

While the romance is really important in terms of the plot, it isn’t some grand romance novel. For me, it left a little something to be desired (I LOVE romances) and I wasn’t sold on it. I think it is was how it was executed (which is one of the twists I talked about earlier) and how I had my heart set on one outcome but it didn’t play out like I expected.

So while I don’t love how everything unfolded (that’s just the romantic in me), I think it worked for this story and liked that it took a backseat when it needed to.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I have NO clue what is in store for the rest of the series. I assume it’s going to follow a different set of characters but I have no idea. It isn’t high on my priority list to read but I’m curious to see what the sequel’s spin will be.

I have opted not to pick up the sequel because A) my library doesn’t have a copy and B) the plotline doesn’t interest me.

My Rating: DNF

Hold Me Like a Breath 3.5/5 | Break Me Like a Promise N/A

overall

I enjoyed reading Hold Me Like a Breath even if it wasn’t what I was expecting. It’s not a high action, fast paced adventure rather, it is a coming of age story with a small fairy tale basis. Unfortunately, it just didn’t WOW me. I’m interested in the sequel but I’m really have no idea what to expect so I’m not counting down the days; hence, time will tell!

Read if You Like: slower stories, coming of age stories, crime families
Avoid if You: want a integrated fairy tale retelling, don’t like coming of age stories, want more action

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Single Sundays: Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Princess of Thorns (from Goodreads):
Game of Thrones meets the Grimm’s fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.

Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora’s throne ten years ago.

Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it’s too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

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Author: Stacey Jay
Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling, Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve enjoyed Stacey Jay’s novels in the past for their original retellings of classic stories, like Romeo & Juliet and Beauty and the Beast. So when I saw the Princess of Thorns novel as an upcoming novel from her, I immediately went to see what it was about. Three things immediately sold me on this book:

  1. “Game of Thrones” meets (I love watching Game of Thrones, I have yet to tackle the books)
  2. “Grimm’s fairy tales” (I love fairy tale retelling stories)
  3. Sleeping Beauty (my favourite Disney princess is Aurora)

This book just seemed to have been made for me and I wasn’t going to do it the disservice of not reading it.

The Concept / The World:

Considering I was reading this book solely for the concept, I was expecting great things and I really did like the setting of Princess of Thorns. It was gritty and intricate which made reading about Aurora’s and Niklaas’ adventure very interesting.

I don’t recommend starting this book when you are tired like I did or else you might be a little lost at the start. It took me a lot longer to understand what was going on because I wasn’t in the right mindset and that dampened my reading experience. But once I understood the elements of the curses I really liked them.

The Plot:

I would say this book is more of an adventure/quest novel than a strict fairy tale retelling. Yes, the fairy tale element is a huge part of the plot but I never felt like I was reading a regurgitation of Sleeping Beauty. When you read it, you clearly understand why they say it is like “Game of Thrones meets Grimm’s fairy tales” because that is the best way to describe it. However, don’t be expecting the politics of Game of Thrones when you read. Rather, expect Aurora to be more like Daenerys Targaryen in the second season (second book) where she struggles to find an army to get back her throne: which means it can be a little boring at times.

I did feel like the book was slow to start and I felt my mind wandering as I was reading. Again, I wasn’t in the right mindset when I was reading it (I had to read it ASAP to return it to the library on time) so I kept waiting for it to get really exciting and it never really did. I found the last half was a lot more interesting to read but it didn’t wow me in any way. I also think Stacey Jay’s writing isn’t totally for me. This is the fourth book by her that I have read and I find her writing style confusing. I’m often rereading lines to make sure I have things clear and I’ve found that to be the case with all her books so far.

The Characters:

I really liked Aurora. She reminded me a lot of Katsa from Graceling in the sense that she could kick some serious ass when needed but was a more reserved heroine (ie not in your face). I liked that she was strong and independent and had some passion for her cause. While she may not be my favourite heroine ever, I did like her and never got annoyed with her.

Niklaas on the other hand took me a while to like. It’s weird because I normally like the suave, charming male heroes but I didn’t instantly love Niklaas like I was expecting. And I think a part of that is the romance…

The Romance:

*sigh* I really have mixed feelings on this romance: the critic in me is battling with the reader in me.

The critical me can appreciate the “friends to lovers” approach this book takes. It’s a classic Shakespeare scenario where the girl disguised as a boy falls in love with the boy she is helping. It even reminds me of the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty where Aurora and Philip meet for the first time and find that connection that saves them later on. I can appreciate the approach, it just doesn’t mean that I liked it.

I wish the romance had a little more of a spark to it. Because once it was there, it was great. I loved the relationship between these two, I just wish it was elaborated on earlier in the book.

My Rating: 3.5/5

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I really, really wanted to love this book but it fell flat. To me, it was Princess Aurora’s shot to prove that she isn’t the perfect case of Damsel in Distress and for the most part I truly think she did. I just wish the other elements were up to snuff and the book was 50 pages shorter.

Read if You Like: quest based stories, fairy tale retellings
Avoid if You: want more passionate romance, dislike slower starts

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Series Review: Beau Rivage by Sarah Cross

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

Series: Beau Rivage
Author: Sarah Cross
# of Books: 2 (Kill Me Softly, Tear Me Apart)

There are two novellas: After the Ball and Twin Roses

Book Order: Connected but follow chronological events
Complete?: So far–but more books could be published
Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale Retellings, Romance, Drama, Fantasy, Dark
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple

Thoughts:

I read Kill Me Softly a long time ago (before a sequel was ever announced) and I really don’t remember all that much about it. I know I didn’t love it but I enjoyed the world Sarah Cross created and was open to the idea of read its sequels.

I think it should be a big disclaimer that these fairy-tale retellings are true to the original tales: meaning they are gory and not always that happy as they primarily focus on the curses. Don’t go into these books thinking you are reading some light-hearted, Disney-esque fairy tale retellings (like any of Alex Finn’s novels) because you will be sorely disappointed! The best way to describe it is like a darker Into the Woods (the movie/play) as a book featuring teenaged characters.

So I went into Tear You Apart not really remembering anything about Kill Me Softly.You really definitely don’t have to read Kill Me Softly to enjoy Tear You Apart but it does help you to be more familiar with the world of Beau Rivage. but I found that Tear me Apart brought me up to speed quickly enough…it just wasn’t enough to keep my attention for long.

I actually read Tear You Apart in two installments. The first time I read it I was away on vacation and I found that the book couldn’t keep my attention. To be fair, I was reading it when I was tired and had found a spare moment to pick it up. However, I really did feel like the story moved too slowly for me to actually enjoy it. I loved the premise and I really didn’t mind all the angst but it just took too long to get somewhere. So I stopped reading it when I was about a third of the way through and decided to try it again later when I could give it a fair shot.

When I picked it up the second time, I found it much easier to read and I think that was the case because the plot actually starts to move somewhere. Instead of focusing on one girl’s curse we get multiple curses at play and that just made things much more interesting to me. It gets a little darker as well and I really had no idea how it was all going to end.

While there are no immediate plans for more novels in this series I would be open to reading them if they ever do get published. The biggest reason I rate this series on the lower end of the spectrum is because I haven’t found any characters that I truly like. I love the world and I love the incorporation of multiple fairy tales but I just have a hard time finding characters I want to root for. And perhaps that is part of the charm or goal for this series–who knows?–but I just haven’t made that strong enough connection to bump up my rating.

I do want to read the novellas since I think I might like those characters more and they sound interesting. My library has yet to get them so I have no immediate plans to read them. But if given the chance, I would read them.

Conclusion:

For those who like darker stories, especially fairy tales, this is a great series for you!

Rating: 3/5
Would I Recommend this Series to a Friend: No.

Similar Reads: Devoured by Amanda Marrone

Synopsis for Kill Me Softly (from Goodreads):
Mirabelle’s past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents’ tragic deaths to her guardians’ half-truths about why she can’t return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday—and discovers a world she never could have imagined.

In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems—the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who’s a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairy tales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.

But fairy tales aren’t pretty things, and they don’t always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairy tale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairy tale curses of their own . . . brothers who share a dark secret. And she’ll find that love, just like fairy tales, can have sharp edges and hidden thorns.

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Series Review: The Iron Fey by Julie Kagawa

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SERIESous’ Top Book Series: Top Series #11, Must-Read Author
Series: The Iron Fey
Author: Julie Kagawa
# of Books: 4 (the Iron King, The Iron Daughter, The Iron Queen, The Iron Knight)

There are lots of novellas and extras that take place between the books. A full list is here.

There is also a spin-off series: Iron Fey: The Call of the Forgotten

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Faeries, Romance, Action, Mythology, Fairy Tales
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person

Thoughts:

This was one of the first series I read in an eBook format–and truth be told I wanted to read this series so bad that I started to read eBooks just so I could read it! So I strained my eyes on my tiny iPhone screen reading the first two books of the series and then read the rest on my best gift ever: my Kobo.

By the time I picked up The Iron King I had read a considerable amount of faerie novels. While some didn’t do much for me, I do have a few that are within my top series picks so I do have a pretty hefty set of standards when it comes to faerie novels. But one thing I find with these faeries novels is that each series has a different spin–and this one is no exception.

Ms. Kawaga creates a world that is so unique yet easy to follow that it’s extremely easy to get immersed in it. Not only does she blend in the faerie world with the human world but she manages to add everyday fairy tales and other aspects that just give this world so much depth. It was such a pleasure reading about the world Meghan and company are in.

And Meghan is probably one of my top favourite heroines ever. She is just so strong and independent that I never got annoyed with her–even when a love triangle comes about (but let’s be real, we always knew who she was going to pick). Her complex to save the world (aka Lead-Heroine Sacrifice Syndrome) didn’t piss me off, it just made me really sad at times because I really didn’t know how everything would end up. Ash and Puck were also fantastic.

That was another thing I loved about this series. It was never predictable. Sure I could put the dots together but it wasn’t until I got the clues that I had an inkling about what was going to happen.

Each book built upon the last and reading the novellas is extremely helpful in bridging the gaps between the books–so I recommend that you do follow the reading order you see on Goodreads.

When I read this series, it was only a trilogy but the fourth book, The Iron Knight was on its way due to fan demand (and when you read the third book you will understand why). I was really worried about this book because I find when author’s write something because fans want it, the result is a mediocre fan-fiction effort (I’m looking at you Breaking Dawn). But The Iron Knight was fantastic. I laughed, I cried (more like balled my eyes out and sobbing) and it made me really excited to see where the spin-off series was going. It gave me the impression that Kagawa had always intended to write this story because it was crafted so well.

I haven’t picked up the spin-off series yet, but it is near the top of my to-read list!

Conclusion:

I remember telling my roommate she had to read these books and she did and she loved them! It’s not just a romance novel set in a faerie world–it’s a complex story that happens to be filled with a romance, lots of action and plot twists. Simply a great series that I think even older “young adults” (ie adults) will enjoy.

Rating: 4.5/5

Similar Reads: Glimmerglass by Jenna Black (Faeriewalker Trilogy #1); Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (Wicked Lovely Series #1) and Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston (Wondrous Strange Trilogy #1)

Synopsis for The Iron King (from Goodreads):
Meghan Chase has a secret destiny; one she could never have imagined.

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth – that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil, no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

Fresh Fridays: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (Cruel Beauty Universe)

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge  | Cruel Beauty Universe

Other books in the series:

SERIESous’ Top Book Series: Favourite New Series 2014, New Must-Watch Author 2014
Series: Cruel Beauty Universe
Author: Rosamund Hodge
# of Books: 2 (Cruel Beauty, Gilded Ashes, Crimson Bound)
Book Order: Connected (as in same universe)
Complete?: No, Crimson Bound will be published Spring 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Mythology, Romance, Mystery, Supernatural
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person

Thoughts:

I was really excited to read this book and pounced on it when it was available at my library. I’ve really been enjoying these dystopian/post-apocalyptic retellings of fairy tale stories lately and this book was no exception. I actually think that this one is one of my favourites.

This book reminded me a lot of the movie Inception and once you read it and see what is unfolding, you will get why. The blending of mythology, the Beauty and the Beast story as well as dystopian elements was done beautifully. There are a lot of layers to this book and as a reader (and studier of literature) I really appreciated it.

But I know a lot of people won’t like this book for those exact reasons. The writing style really reminded me of Graceling–it’s old fashioned in a way that we don’t particularly see in dystopian Young Adult novels. I also found that Cruel Beauty did remind me of Graceling when looking back at it. I didn’t feel like I was reading a regurgitation of Graceling while reading Cruel Beauty–they are two completely separate books with entirely different premises. But there are definitely similarities between the storylines and I think Nyx (Cruel Beauty) and Katsa (Graceling) have a lot in common. Both are extremely angsty and I think Nyx’s angst might not rub people well. I know I had a hard time with it at first but I didn’t really mind it because I understood why she felt that way–and that becomes more apparent as you read.

My favourite part of this book is the plot. It is a mystery essentially and I liked trying to figure it out as I went. Over time I put the clues together and figured it out, but often I didn’t really see the answer until I read it. Which resulted in me doing a bit of a gasping in surprise and saying “that is so cool” while the puzzle pieces connected mentally!

I was worried that this was going to be a lot like Of Beast and Beauty and while they do share some similarities–these books have two entirely different messages and plots. I think the romance is stronger (or at least to me I understood it better) in Of Beast and Beauty but I really warmed up to Ignifex and Nyx’s story by the end. Definitely readers of one will enjoy the other.

I’m excited to read the next book in the universe and I’m glad that there will be more books set in this universe because it is a truly fascinating world Ms. Hodge has created. I will definitely be checking out more of her books in the future!

UPDATED (June 26/14): Gilded Ashes is the next book in the series but it is a novella and not a full-out novel; which disappointed me at first because I wanted to read the next novel in the series. But this book was the perfect length when all is said and done. It doesn’t have the “mystery” element that Cruel Beauty did but it has a lot of cool supernatural pieces to it and I really enjoyed reading it; a very cool spin on Cinderella. What I like about these books is that the romantic leads aren’t gaga for their significant other right away; that the relationship really builds and develops between them. Overall, a great contribution to the series!

Conclusion:

This book will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea so I highly recommend that if you are interested in reading it, you grab the sample or read the first 70 pages here. If you aren’t drawn in by the mystery and story after the first 20 or so pages, don’t continue. But for those who like reading books that have a challenging mystery and are filled with Greek mythology–grab this NOW!

Rating: 4.5/5

Similar Reads: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay; For the Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund (For the Darkness Shows the Stars #1) and Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Graceling Realm #1)

Synopsis for Cruel Beauty (from Goodreads):
Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

Single Sundays: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Synopsis (from Goodreads.com):
In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret…

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

Review:

I initially read the synopsis for this story based on the striking cover. The title also gave a hint that this was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast so that also grabbed by attention. It wasn’t until I noticed that author’s name that I realized I had read her series Juliet Immortal and had enjoyed the retelling she did there. So with so many things seeming to align, I decided to put my name on the hold list.

Truth be told, I almost stopped reading this book. The first 20 pages or so were really tough to get through. I think most of it had to do with the setting and the descriptions of the characters. I had a hard time visualizing the world that was being described and that always turns me off a book. I always like to have a firm grasp of what the world and characters look like when I am reading and I wasn’t getting that here. So I decided to act on my 50 page rule–if I didn’t like what I was reading or didn’t care about what was happening after 50 pages, I was dropping this book.

I couldn’t even tell you what page I was at when I realized I was starting to like this book. It just snuck up on me and before I knew it I was 100 pages in and excited to see what was happening next.

I think what happened was that the focus of the book shifted from appearances and instead focused on character and plot development. I think it is important not to go into this book expecting an exact retelling of Beauty and the Beast because that isn’t what this book is. Sure there are elements of the story present here but it isn’t what is driving this story. This story focuses on finding yourself in a world of restrictions and learning to love others–which you will argue is the point of Beauty and the Beast, especially the Disney version but that is where the similarities between the two end. I find the Disney version focuses more on the romance between Belle and the Beast while this book focuses more on independent growth and breaking the curse.

Also, the story can get very depressing at times and is set in a world of desperation and no hope. It’s very dystopian in its approach and often sad but I think it really works here.

Irsa and Gem really mature as the book progresses so while they aren’t my favourite literary heroes of all time, I can respect their characters.

What I really liked about this book was the mystery Irsa uncovers about the curse. The curse development really helps push this book and gives it something more than character development. Learning more about what the curse is, how it was created and how you can break it was really interesting to me and I think that is what kept me reading.

Conclusion:

This book starts off a little slow but once the characters get invested in saving their respective people the story starts to pick up. Those who don’t mind a bit of fantasy mixed with dystopian settings will really enjoy this. Not for everyone but if you like trying something new or like different takes on fairy-tales, you will like this!

Rating: 4/5

Shorthand Stats:
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Fairy-Tale Retelling
Recommended for: 17+

Similar Reads:

  • Beastly by Alex Flinn (Kendra Chronicles #1)
  • Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (Under the Never Sky Trilogy #1)
  • Devoured by Amanda Marrone

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Movie Mondays: Ella Enchanted

Movie Mondays: On Mondays, I will review a book series or novel that has been made into a movie. I will then answer the question that everyone asks: which is better, the movie or the book? Here is this week’s offering:

Book: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine | Movie: Ella Enchanted (2004)

Which did I read/see first? MOVIE

Book Cover | Movie Poster

The Book:

Series: Enchanted
Genre: Teen, Medieval, Romance, Magic

Thoughts:

I wanted to read this book ever since I watched the movie and so, two years after the movie was released I grabbed my local library’s copy and got cracking!

It took me awhile to get into this book. I believe this was caused by two things: 1)I was expecting it to be like the movie and 2) I was probably a little too old to be reading it.

I’ll tackle #1 first. As we all know, movie scripts often take liberties in order to condense a book into a 90 minute film and that is the case here. While the basics are the same in the movie, there is a drastically different plot in the book (it is more of a Cinderella retelling with a twist than in the movie) and that wasn’t what I was expecting.

Which leads me into #2, I was a little too old to read this. This book is definitely geared towards the younger teen crowd. The writing is great, but the plot and setting is definitely “middle school” in its approach and just didn’t appeal to me enough.

Conclusion:

I was disappointed in this book, but I know that if I read it before the movie came out, I would have loved it. Great story and message, just not my cup of tea when I read it.

Rating: 3/5
Similar Reads: Beastly by Alex Flinn (Kendra Chronicles, #1)

The Movie:

I can remember finishing this movie and wanting to watch it again. I just thought it was such a cute story and I loved every minute of it. And my feelings on this have nothing to do with my huge crush on Hugh Dancy 😉

There were quite a few things I enjoyed besides the casting. I liked the story and the characters–it was a fun, funny, fantasy adventure that I hadn’t seen a lot of lately in the teen romantic comedy movies of the time. I also liked the modern yet medieval approach to the world (like the escalator in the market or the paparazzi). I thought it was a neat twist. Mind you, I was also 12 when I watched this for the first time so I was the target audience but if it is on the TV, I can’t help but to watch it — this probably has everything to do with my crush on Hugh Dancy 😉

After reading the book, I think I would have been severely disappointed in the movie. They weren’t alike as I mentioned before, although I still think it kept true to the message of the book–girls have the strength to do whatever they set their mind to. I think the movie was geared to appeal to a larger age range and for that to happen that had to change the story to get it there.

So, which is better: the book or the movie?

In this case, the winner is MOVIE . This is definitely a personal opinion and one I think would be the reverse if I had read the novel before I watched the movie. Both are entertaining in their own way–it is just one of those cases where it depends on your age and what you see/read first.

Do you agree? Leave a comment below!

Synopsis for Ella Enchanted (from Goodreads):
At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the “gift” of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: “Instead of making me docile, Lucinda’s curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally.” When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella’s life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you’ll ever read.

Trailer: