Apparently the Harlequin is a stock character in European and British theater specifically, the Commedia dell’Arte format – along with a whole host of other characters – including Columbine – his love interest. In this retelling of the Harlequin’s usual story, Gaiman adds a twist to the standard narrative. Even though I was not familiar with the standard narrative, I could see that giving the woman powers and moving her into a main character status is a twist on the standard narrative where the woman is often the object, and Not the subject. Interesting piece.
Cress is the third installment in the Lunar Chronicles (Cinder and Scarlet) and might just be my favorite so far. I loved how all of the characters from the previous books came together and how the final book (Winter) is set up. This is such a creative and fun series that it really sucks to have to wait a year between books.
Cress, our title character, is a young Lunar null who has been exiled to a satellite between Lunar and Earth. She is tasked with spying on Earth and reporting back to her mistress. However, Cress has become fascinated with everything Earthen and instead of turning Cinder and her band over to the Lunars she has decided to help them. Her rescue attempt goes awry however leaving Wolf injured, Scarlet kidnapped and Cress and Thorne falling out of the sky in a disabled satellite. Cinder is still determined to stop the wedding of Kai and Levana and take her place as Princess Selena.
I devoured this book in a day despite its size. Once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. I love how Meyer wove the traditional Rapunzel tale into Cress’s story. I really enjoyed her introduction to Earth and her infatuation with Captain Thorne. This book progresses the story of this series really well. Everyone moved forward and things are lined up perfectly for Winter, which I can’t wait to come out. I really can’t say enough about how much I love this series!
“M is for magic. All the letters are, if you put them together properly.” This tasty tidbit is from Neil Gaiman’s introduction to the book, and wonderfully sums up my view of most of his writing. He has a way of stringing letters together which makes the mundane magical, or at the least, a bit odd. I like a bit odd, and so enjoyed this collection of short stories. It also was interesting to compare stories written earlier in his career to more recent ones, both of which are in this collection. I had read a couple of these tales before, and one in particular (The Witch’s Headstone) became a chapter in Gaiman’s 2009 Newbery winner, The Graveyard Book. Short stories are a great introduction to an author, and so if you are one of the five people not familiar with Neil Gaiman, this collection is a decent place to start. Although it is a collection intended for younger readers, the content is pretty mature, including older cultural references I doubt young readers will understand.
Kingdom of Little Wounds is a most unexpected book. The setting is in an imaginary Scandinavian country in 1572. Young Princess Sophie is on the eve of her wedding, a grand affair, by all accounts. She dies before the nuptial night is over. Poison is suspected, but since all of her siblings seem to suffer from the same symptoms that Sophie had in the years prior to her death, many believe it to be disease.
Out of the royal spotlight, two women struggle to eke out a life worth living in the palace. One is a seamstress named Ava Bingen. After accidentally pricking the Queen while repairing her gown, Ava is demoted to working with the ailing children. The other woman, Midi Sorte, was taken from her native land and given as a gift to a noble. At some point in her service, her tongue is cut in half (lengthwise), so Midi’s power of speech is gone. She proves, however, that one need not speak to get a point across or to be valuable to the machinations of the palace and its inhabitants. Her position taking care of the youngest royal child keeps her relatively safe.
Queen Isobel and her husband, King Christian, struggle to keep up appearances while their legacy falters before their eyes. Some of the most obvious signs of illness are routinely overlooked at the behest of those in power. Others are executed, imprisoned or tortured as potential poisoners of the children, King and Queen. Bit by bit, all three women, the Queen, Midi, and Ava, will find their lives intertwining in unexpected ways.
We love to imagine history as a romanticized version of itself. This version is far less kind and likely much closer to the realities of life in such a setting. Underneath the veneer of fancy clothing and royal privilege lies a kingdom in peril. The reader realizes far before many of the characters that it is not poison that caused the death of Princess Sophie. Nor is it poison that threatens her siblings. Rather, it is syphilis, a disease that was reputedly quite well-spread at the time (and was considered incurable). Many of the “mad” kings of history were known to suffer from the disease. This story could have been far more graphic and, frankly, gross, but for Cokal’s hypnotic writing style. Cokal herself describes the book as “a fairy tale about syphilis”, which is fairly accurate. The narrative trades off mainly between Ava, Midi and the Queen and each has their own narrative “style”. The way in which the story plays itself out is full of intrigue and danger, though the unexpected ending leaves the reading believing that the kingdom just might survive, after all. The Kingdom of Little Wounds was highly unusual, dark and lyrical. It’s not a book I’d recommend to everyone, but for the right reader, it’s a tale one can really sink one’s teeth into.
Feisty Scarlet is young the star of the second book in the Lunar Chronicles series. When her grandmother, a former military pilot, goes missing, Scarlet does everything she can to find her. This quest to find her grandmother leads Scarlet on a dangerous journey with the street fighter, Wolf. Her quest also leads her to cross paths and develop and unexpected friendship with Cinder.
This book subtly deviates away from the retelling of Cinderella and instead displays innovative retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Fans of the first book will be sure to enjoy the second book in this series. My only complaint is that Cinder’s storyline fades too far into the background of Scarlet.
Cinder, the first book in the Lunar Chronicles series, is a must-read for teens or adults who enjoy retellings of classic fairy tales. This book features a teen named Cinder: a talented cyborg mechanic who has a miserable home life and a mysterious past. Despite her second class status and occupation, Cinder manages to catch the eye of the local prince. But with a plague destroying the earth’s population, a war being threatened by a ruthless lunar queen, and Cinder concealing the fact that she’s a cyborg, will the romance between these two blossom or burn?
This retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale is fresh and original. But be warned: once you pick this book up, it will be hard to put down!
Preparation for war between Fabletown and the Empire begins! The Adversary calls a conference of the Imperial elite to decide what to do about Fabletown and Pinocchio has to face up to his divided loyalties between his friends and his family. Meanwhile, Bigby decides the time has come to confront his father, the North Wind, while the cubs learn more of their family and celebrate their birthday! Plus, Burning Questions by the fans answered!
One hundred years ago, steamboats ruled the rivers. Captain Twain of the Steamship Lorelei is one of the best-known captains on the Hudson River. One day, he rescues a mermaid who has been injured by a harpoon. The captain hides her away in his quarters and tends to her wounds. As she recovers, the two begin get to know one another. Twain, who hopes to be a writer one day, also finds that his writing block has vanished. Meanwhile, the ship’s owner, the Frenchman Lafayette has been corresponding with a mysterious author about ways to rid oneself of a mermaid’s curse. The mysterious author prepares for a very public debut aboard the Steamship Lorelei. As the three characters’ lives converge, so too do elements of mythology and folklore, culminating in a series of events that none of the characters could have ever foreseen.
I went into this thinking that it had something to do with that other Twain of Midwestern fame, but such is not the case. The real Mark Twain is, however, referenced at least once by the characters themselves. Captain Twain is, in many ways, a parallel to the literary figure. I loved the artwork in this comic; it suited the story beautifully. It tends to have an almost-underwater/dreamlike quality to it. The story is rich and unexpected, with distinct magic-realism tendencies. In short, it’s pretty much everything I look for in a graphic novel.
Andi, Quinn, Frederick and Dylan are all sucked from their lives and into another world. It is a world where fairy tales are real. They are assisted/kidnapped by a mysterious Mr. Jackson who is reluctant to turn them over to his boss. The four must figure out why they are in this world and what role they need to play. It turns out each of their grandparents escaped from Elorium many years ago and they are back to finish the abandoned tales.
I really enjoy fractured fairy tales and this one didn’t disappoint. The girls’ tales were easy to figure out. Andi had a magical cloak and shoes, Quinn’s hair grows at an alarming rate. The boys were a little more difficult and less obvious. I liked the mystery of the story and the open-ended ending that allows for more tales.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.com.
Laura and her husband Dan’s attempts to conceive a child have taken a toll on their marriage. They move out to the countryside in Wales to remove some stress. Then Laura start interacting with characters from the past (some are ghosts invisible to others, while some are characters seem to be enacting past lives).
No – this book is Not as good as other Paula Brackston books I’ve read. It was difficult to identify with the main character Laura, and the parallel story was Not upbeat at all.
Poor Rump. His mother died before giving him his full name. He has always been stuck with half a name and no destiny. He lives with his grandma in The Village on the Mountain. The villagers look for gold in the mines to send to the King (King Barf!). All of their rations come through the fat, greedy miller Oswald. This is a land where names have power, magic exists and pixies and gnomes are everywhere. Rump discovers his mothers old spinning wheel and discovers he can spin straw into gold. The magic comes at a price and soon he finds himself in the power of the miller. When the king comes looking for the new gold, the Miller claims his daughter spun it knowing that Rump would help her. Rump goes to the Kingdom and does help Opal, but at a huge cost. Because of the magic Rump can not give the gold away, he has to receive something for it. He is unable to bargain, he must accept any trade offered to him. When Opal offers her first born child Rump despairs but he has to accept. He runs away to Yonder to find his mother’s family and to hopefully break the bargain. Alas, it is not to be. Rump has to find his true name in order to overcome the magical curse and be free.
I love fractured fairy tales. There is just something so enchanting about taking a story we all know and turning it on its head. The tales of Rumpelstiltskin are really not that detailed in explaining why things happen. Liesl Shurtliff simply fills in Rumps backstory for us. She explains his actions and those of the other characters in the story. The Miller becomes the true villain in this tale and Rump is simply a boy who has to find his destiny. I loved all the fantastical characters like the pixies who are attracted to gold, the gnomes who are messengers and the trolls who don’t eat people! I thought this was a thoroughly creative and imaginative story and I loved it.
I enjoy reading the FABLES graphic novels. These stories have a great balance of humor, action and horror. Fairest explores the secret past of Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzul, Cinderella, The Snow Queen, Snow White, Thumbelina and others. Forget Disneys’ Once Upon a Time and read Bill Willingham’s FABLES.
The characters of stories and legends have been driven from their homelands by “The Adversary”. They are now living in the “mundy” world. Those able to pass as human or able to afford glamours live among the mundys in New York. Those who can’t pass live at “the farm” in upstate New York. The first few chapters are the story of Rose Red’s murder. Her sister Snow White and Bigby Wolf investigate, linking the murder to both Jack (of beanstalk fame) and Bluebeard. The second set involves the farm and the uprising of its inhabitants. I loved Willingham’s take on these characters. I love that Prince Charming is a freeloader and has been divorced by both his wives. I liked Snow White as a take charge administrator. And I really enjoyed Colin pig’s escapes to the city (though I was saddened by what happened to him at the farm). I was a little surprised by how adult this book was considering its characters, but I guess that is why it was in the adult section at the library not the teen section! I will definitely be checking out the rest of this fun series.
At this rate, I’ll read just about anything with Bill Willingham’s name on it. The various spin-off series from the Fables franchise are no exception. This particular offering features back stories for both Briar Rose and the Snow Queen. Great balance of humor, pathos and literature. The ladies in the Fables world kick butt and I look forward to spending more time with them in the future.
Becky Randle has not lived the most exciting life. She lives in a single-wide trailer with her 400lb mother. She works as a cashier in a failing supermarket. She has exactly one friend in the tiny Missouri town they live in. Becky doesn’t really ask for much, though she dreams of more.
When her mother dies, Becky discovers a name and a phone number hidden in her mother’s things. The name is Tom Kelly, one of the most prestigious fashion designers in the world. Against her better judgement, Becky gets in touch and is whisked away to New York where she is told by Tom and his handlers that, if she wears three dresses designed by him, she will become the most beautiful woman in the world. Becky is highly dubious, believing herself to be set up for some sort of embarrassing reality show or something of that ilk. When she looks at herself in the mirror, she sees bad skin, limp hair and a body she’s less than happy with. How can she possibly become the Most Beautiful Woman in the World (hereafter “MBWitW”)?
The first dress is red and Becky quickly discovers that it does indeed make her the MBWitW, but only when she’s with other people. When she’s alone, she looks like an overdressed version of herself. She eventually begins to get used to the adulation and creates a persona to match, dubbing herself “Rebecca” and reserving “Becky” for her non-MBWitW-self. Only after she realizes that Tom Kelly’s talents are indeed exceptional, she is presented with the other half of the bargain: she has one year to meet someone, fall in love and get married. If not, she’ll go back to being Becky forever. If she can make it happen, she’ll continue to be the MBWitW for the rest of her life. Her rise to super-stardom (because extreme beauty evidently becomes famous on its own) puts her in a position to meet plenty of potential princes to enable her “happily ever after”. Imagine her surprise, however, when a very real prince takes an interest. Is a year long enough to fall in love and get married? Can Becky really fall in love when she’s living her life as Rebecca? Who is the prince really in love with: Becky or Rebecca?
It’s an interesting enough premise, but it kind of felt like a mess to me. I get the message that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, etc., and that’s a good one to send to a teen audience. I just felt like everything was a bit of a stretch. Tom Kelly as a character is more than a bit perplexing. I’m not even entirely sure what he is, though he’s clearly modeled after Calvin Klein. Most of the characters have some sort of real-life counterpart, which points to satire, but doesn’t quite pull it off. While the twists in the book were surprising, I felt like they ultimately dragged it out even more. This really should have been a novella or a short story to maintain maximum effect, but at novel-length, it lagged in places for me. I had heard that this book was supposed to be really funny, but I wound up finding it a bit over-the-top, particularly when it came to Becky’s rabidly protective BFF. This one probably works for some folks, but I don’t think it was the book for me. Not bad, just not what I was hoping for.
Welcome to the town of Never Better. It’s the home of young Jeremy Johnson Johnson, a teen with the unusual ability to hear ghosts. He is presently accompanied by a rather famous ghost: Jacob Grimm (of the Grimm Brothers). Jacob has been “haunting” (yes, I’m using the term very loosely) Jeremy for quite some time, protecting him from the Keeper of Occasions (an entity only Jacob seems familiar with). Jeremy, for his part, is quite content to be constantly accompanied by this ghost. Life has been rather lonely for him. His father became a shut-in after his mother ran off years ago. Jeremy has been doing his best to keep the tiny family afloat, which is rather difficult as their sole source of income is the family bookstore, The Two-Book Bookstore. The bookstore really does have only two books, volumes one and two of his grandfather’s autobiography. Needless to say, business is not good and foreclosure is imminent.
When redheaded, gregarious Ginger takes an interest in Jeremy, the two set off a series of events that will lead them into a deadly situation that only Jacob Grimm can help undo.
Narrated entirely by the ghost of Jacob Grimm, this book is one of the most original and intriguing fairy-tale-related stories I’ve come across. It takes a moment to get used to Jacob’s manner of speaking, which is appropriately didactic and peppered with German phrases, but the narration does wonders to set up the atmosphere of the book. The town of Never Better has a slightly menacing and dreamlike quality to it. For instance, there’s a Santa-like baker in town whose bakery makes a rare type of cake with superstition on the side. Whenever the green smoke rises from the chimney of the bakery, the town then knows that delicious Prince Cakes will be on the menu the next day. There’s also the matter of the town’s runaway problem. Young folks leave and never come back, yet the townspeople are largely unconcerned. All the mysteries eventually tie in together to create a truly unique and timeless world where it seems anything might happen, particularly if you have the ghost of one of the Grimm brothers on your side.
“A contemporary retelling of Rapunzel told from the alternating perspectives of three teens whose fates unknowingly bind them together to destroy a greater evil”
While I really like the twisted fairy tales, this one left me feeling like the book was reaching but not quite hitting the mark. It didn’t flow well, although I like the premise of it.