Friday, January 11, 2019

Lacy (Ilyon Chronicles)

Title: Lacy

Series: Ilyon Chronicles (Book #5.5)

Year: 2018

Author: Jaye L. Knight

The last thing Aaron ever envisioned was falling for a prostitute. Everything about it spells trouble. However, he can’t help noticing the way her smile lights up when she sees him and how much brokenness she hides behind it. Neither can he ignore how desperately she needs rescue and protection.

When Lacy shares a life or death secret with him, Aaron is willing to risk everything to help her and to show her Elôm’s love. Yet, such a choice could destroy his reputation and maybe even cost him his freedom.

Review: This was such a sweet story set in Jaye's amazing world of Ilyon. Even though I'm a big fan of dragons and action and all, it's been really nice recently to step back and get a deeper look at the characters in this novella and Bitter Winter.

Aaron has fallen hard for a pretty smile. But it's so much more than just the smile. His dearest wish is to rescue this girl Lacy from the scandalous life she's been thrust into, but he knows she needs this job to take care of her family -- particularly her mother, the one with the dangerous cough. For a long time, Aaron has been asking Lacy to attend the meetings with him, since he knows that she desperately needs to see the love of Elôm and experience for herself.

This packs in quite a lot for a shorter story. It's still a good length tale, but it's easily read in a couple of hours. We got a cameo in Bitter Winter, setting up the tantalizing details of this story, but with the huge conflicts going on in that book, there just wasn't time to go back and revisit Aaron's story here. I'm really glad Jaye made this a separate novella. The pace is nice, you don't have to worry about getting your head tangled around a bunch of characters and crazy action all over the place, and we get a tale that's all about true love. Which was amazing. Aaron is a great character and you couldn't help but root for him, and now all I'm waiting for is for his brother to get his act together. Ilyon fans, you know what I mean. My only complaint, really, was that the conflict with the congregation members seemed a little forced.

Advisory: This novella has got some more mature themes in it, but nothing out of the ordinary for the Ilyon books. Lacy is a prostitute at a tavern, not that she enjoys her work; it was the only way she could see for getting money to pay off her father's debts and keep her mother and her sisters from the workhouse. While nothing is described, there is no disguising her prostitute work. It is clearly shown as being wrong, and Lacy more than anyone else recognizes it as a sin. Also, [highlight for spoiler] Lacy reveals her pregnancy to Aaron, knowing her employer will force her to abort the baby and not knowing who the baby's father is. The book also contains the birth of said baby, though the narrating character is not in the room while it happens. [end spoiler]

Also, a quick scene in which a husband helps his wife undress. Nothing is described. But with a married couple, too, expect some kisses scattered among the pages of this novella.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Monday, January 7, 2019

Bitter Winter (Ilyon Chronicles)

Title: Bitter Winter

Series: Ilyon Chronicles (Book #5)

Year: 2018

Author: Jaye L. Knight

Summary: Already struggling with a harsh winter and the threat of food shortage, a catastrophic event leaves those in the Landale camps reeling. Just when things couldn’t get much worse, camp members fall ill with the same devastating sickness that’s sweeping across the country.

Determined to gain the cure, Jace sets off to Valcré. However, there are only two sources—the queen, or a powerful gang of smugglers who have made the dangerous city their home. When Jace gains audience with the gang leader, he finds the price of the cure is steeper than any of them imagined, forcing him to make an impossible choice—betray his conscience or let those he loves die.

Review: Book 2 in this series (The King's Scrolls) just about ripped my heart out and left me in a pile of raw emotions, and this book very nearly did just that again. I mean, c'mon, I was expecting great things from this highly anticipated book, but we're talking a season of winter here -- no huge battles and sieges, right? Time to slow down a little and catch your breath, right?

Ha. Sort of.

The Resistance camp is starving. Food is low, morale is low, and temperatures are even lower. Despite all of that, Jace thinks his biggest dream is about to come true: marrying the love of his life and starting their happily ever after together.

And then a bunch of soldiers burst upon them at the camp, reeking havoc with the sword and bringing along a deadly fever that quickly threatens to wipe out the entire camp and beyond. The remedy isn't easy to come by, as only two people in the realm seem to have access to it: Davira, the evil queen bent on destroying all followers of the true God, and Avery, the man who killed the king and turned smuggler.

There was honestly so much to love about this book. After long marches and battles of the previous books, winter does kinda slow everything down in this book. However, the pace is fast, and every emotion will be wrenched out of your heart as you read. That's a promise. Honestly, I really liked that this book had a different tone from the others so far. Yes, we've got the same cast of characters, the same settings, but different circumstances set it completely apart from the other books. I just don't know how to say all the wonderful things I want to say about this book.

This book was all about character development, WHICH I LOVED. All the little things that Jaye could have stuck in there just because worked so perfectly; each one set up developing characters wonderfully until all you can do is sit there and cheer them on and weep. (Note: Tissues are not included in the purchase of this book.)

Jace is steps away from proposing to Kyrin, but a quest to save the camp throws all of his plans out the window. I'm still so amazed at how Jace has progressed from book one. Part of me wondered if I would tire of him after a while, only because I tend not to like overly moody characters who are deeply pensive and slow at developing. But the baby steps in development are really what make Jace who he is. Every book so far has just pushed him and developed him one layer at a time, and this book exposed the very heart of him. It was amazing.

Daniel. WOW. What can be said? He didn't have a ton of screen time (so to speak) but his development. All the pain and torment was worth it. I love that he's growing and learning and stepping up to do what he needs to do. WOW.

And you gotta have a shout-out to Liam. He tended to be the one of Kyrin's brothers who melted into the background, but here he's got a bit more of center stage. Two thumbs up, and I approve all of the cute scenes. *No spoilers here, though.*

I really liked how Jaye pulled Avery back onto the scene. After his small-but-important appearance in Exiles, it was awesome to see that he didn't end up a hit-and-run character. I still can't decide whether I want to loathe him or love him. ARGH. His character was very realistic, and I can't wait to see what Jaye is going to do with him. Or, rather what he's going to pull Jaye into, since he seems like the type of character who doesn't let the author do what she wants.

ALSO... anyone realizing that we're almost to the end of the Ilyon Chronicles???? THIS IS BOOK FIVE! How did we come to this?? Like, Daican's Heir is the next AND FINAL BOOK IN THIS SERIES?!?! Although I'm looking forward to having the whole series sitting pretty on my shelf to read whenever I please, I don't know that my emotions are ready to surrender to the end yet. AHHH!

Anyway, read this book. Feel the feels. Cry. Cheer. You will not regret it.

Advisory: Fighting/violence/injury/sickness. All in the same tone as the previous books in the series, and appropriate for the books' target audience.

Some kissing and other physical contact between courting/engaged/married couples. One woman briefly mentions to her husband that she suspects pregnancy.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

*Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.*

Friday, January 4, 2019

Five Poisoned Apples

Title: Five Poisoned Apples: A Collection of Snow White Stories

Series: Rooglewood Fairytale Collections (Book #4)

Year: 2018


Falling Snow: The strange dark circus is the only life she’s ever known—but is Snow a performer or a prisoner? 

Raven’s Heir: Taking her in could risk the lives of his rebel band—but how can Damien leave the young woman at the huntsman’s mercy? 

The Fairest One: Her people look for the prophesied Fairest One—but can Livna find courage to step out of the shadows and save her nation? 

Red as Blood: He’s been hired to assassinate the princess, no questions asked—but how can Zaig take the life of one so young, so innocent? 

Snowbird and the Red Slippers: She longs to be worthy of the scholarship that changed her life—but can Jeong Hayan survive the bitter rivalry of a prestigious New York dance school? 

Experience the haunting beauty of Snow White in five thrilling retellings.

Falling Snow // Skye Hoffert

If I'm to be honest, I liked this one a lot more than I thought I would. With the current rage about circus stories going around the entertainment world lately (The Greatest Showman, Dumbo [remake], The Electrical Menagerie, etc.), this story is just what everybody wants. Circus excitement, but with a Snow White twist.

Snow is only one among many performers working to do what they can to entertain the crowds. She's hoping to teach herself to become a tightrope walker, since the pay is higher and that will enable her to eventually leave the show business forever. But for now, she's stuck being a clown with seven dwarves.

Chayse is one of the fae. His mother runs the circus, and is the person of power and beauty at the top of everything. He knows that Snow is the only human in the entire circus (though the poor girl has no clue), and it's his job to watch her. Until someone else shows up unexpectedly and starts to take away that job.

This story was extremely well-paced and fun. True, it's pretty gritty since it includes things such as smoking, drinking, and hints of sexual issues. Overall, though, I'd have to say it handles everything well, and it fine for audiences probably around 14 and above.

I think the tale of Snow White fit really nicely into the circus, particularly with all the fae and magic there. I was a little confused at how Snow was so important to the queen (maybe I somehow missed that part, or there's something about the fae I didn't quite understand), but the twist on the huntsman's scene was brilliance. I loved how all of the original Snow White elements were incorporated, and was not disappointed with the ending. It is truly a Snow White for this generation.

Grit and all, I have to give it a 5 out of 5 stars.

Raven's Heir // Jenelle Hovde

Ahh, the Snow White adventure. I really loved this one. Even though there wasn't an epic quest exactly in this story, it felt most like an epic quest kind of story. And slightly more the huntsman's story than actually Snow White's, so it was cool to get to see more of the Snow White characters brought to life. This story is vying for my favorite in the collection, honestly. These are all just TOO GOOD.

Kara is the heir to the throne, only -- in true Snow White fashion -- her stepmother has taken over and now wants her dead. Succumbing to the evil queen's power isn't an option (obviously), so Kara must flee and find help among the outcasts.

Damien is the son of an outcast noble. And a dead noble, at that, accused of murdering the king, Kara's father. His main motive is to stay invisible to the eyes of society, but he's doing his fair share of rebellious work on the side. When an expected messenger from an old friend turns out to be the runaway princess, Damien knows he has the beginnings of a huge fight on his hands. The queen doesn't allow any to escape her, and it's only a matter of time before the huntsman tracks them down.

My only complaint with this story is the length. Honestly, the first half or so felt like it was building up to a great epic novel, and then (due to the contest's limitations) it rounded out under 20K words. Which was still extremely satisfying, but the end felt a bit rushed. I loved how the author wove all the original Snow White elements into the tale, and it felt absolutely appropriate to be a part of this collection.

Definitely violence/fighting/some bloodshed in this one. Nothing seemed too terribly graphic. However, there were some dark magic elements that made the story feel more mature. Snow White is a tale dark and lovely, and this one was no exception to that description. The magic felt similar to some other retellings that I've read, like Melanie Dickerson's works or Jessica Day George's, so anyone who's a fan of those authors wouldn't have a problem with the magic here. It made sense to have the magic as part of the story considering how the author chose to adapt Snow White.

Though I wish it could have been longer, it's another 5 stars from me.

The Fairest One // Cortney Manning

Unexpectedly, this one contends for my favorite of the collection. I never would have thought it possible. The story started off immediately feeling like it was set in Lewis's Tashbaan and Calormen empire, but it quickly spiraled off into a completely unique Snow White tale.

Princess Livna only wants her father's approval. She's done her best to be obedient and the perfect princess, but he's never really seemed to notice her. That is, until the emperor announces he's looking for a wife (Cinderella-esque style), and her father unexpectedly agrees to her request to attend the grant ball. Even though she doesn't want the emperor's hand in marriage, her attendance could gain her the attention from her father that she craves.

Oren is a dwarf. He's very opinionated. He's also been kidnapped and forced to use his dwarven abilities to the new queen's advantage. His main talent is changing appearances, so she finds him extremely useful when it comes to standing as the fairest in the land. Oren's only friend is the Princess Livna, but even she doesn't seem to be important enough to help free him from the queen's clutches.

And then after the emperor unexpectedly (but predictably) chooses Livna as one of the girls selected to go to his palace as a contender for his wife, things spiral out of control, and Livna finds herself fleeing for her life, with Oren as her guide.

Other than the queen/stepmother and her fabled beauty, the beginning of this story doesn't taste much like a Snow White retelling. But it's well-paced and keeps interest long enough until the Snow White elements smack you in the face and make you feel stupid for not having noticed them sooner. The reason this story is probably my favorite of the collection is because of how the author snuck all the original Snow White elements into the story. The dwarves, the mirror, the beauty, the apple! AND then we've also got the comb that most retellings seem to appropriately forget. What's not to love? This is one of my favorite Snow White retellings to date, and I'm actually looking forward to reading it again. And again.

Advisory: Fantasy action/violence and dark magic. The dwarves have magical abilities that feel very much like the talent of Tolkien's elves from LOTR.

I can say nothing more than 5 well-deserving stars.

Red as Blood // Maddie Morrow

This story scared me. I'm not into vampires or that sort of character at all, and I almost skipped reading this story. I skipped the zombie story in the Beauty and the Beast collection (mainly because I was suffering vivid pregnancy dreams at the time and zombies were the number one nightmare), but since I had received a copy of this collection for the purpose of review, I felt I needed to hold my breath and jump in.

I still don't like vampires, but this story surprised me in a way I never thought possible. Honestly. Wow.

Even though Raven's Heir previously felt like a good bit of the huntsman's story, this is the true huntsman's story of the collection. Zaig is our charming rogue, assassin, huntsman, tracker, etc. While he's not crazy about his line of work, it keeps a roof over his head and food on the table. But when a mission from the queen herself comes within his grasp, he can't ignore it for the glittering pile of reward promised behind one last kill. As it is, he is the best in the business, and the queen only wants the best. The mission? Take the princess out into the woods and kill her, bringing her heart back to the queen as proof of her death. Oh, yeah, and he also shouldn't let the princess kiss him.

And true to the original fairytale, Zaig can't complete the murder. Instead, he takes Princess Ailda to hide out at his old lumberjack stomping grounds and brings back a pig's heart instead. Surprisingly, the queen buys his lie, and everything looks like it's home-free for Zaig.

That is, until his timber friends helping hide Ailda from the queen start dying one by one, and the queen is the main suspect.

I never thought vampires could work so well as a Snow White retelling, but IT WAS PERFECT. I'm so at war with myself right now since I want to loathe every vampire story, but this story was just so well done. I loved the every little twist of the fairy tale elements, and AHH. I'm still kinda in shock at how perfect it was.

Obviously, advisory on the violence. Yes, there's vampires, and, yes, there's blood. I would definitely rate this the most violent and bloody of all the stories in this collection, and some of the graphic description is not for the weak at heart. The supernatural elements of the vampires felt very much like Jessica Day George's Princess of the Midnight Ball, so anyone who's a fan of that and doesn't mind some blood would really enjoy this story.

Argh. Vampires. BUT IT WAS SO PERFECT. *shakes head* 5 stars.

Snowbird and the Red Slippers // Rachael Wallen

This story... what to say? Overall, I liked it, but it didn't seem to fit with the rest of the collection. After all the epic Snow White retellings with action and intrigue and mystery and danger, this one was just... almost shallow and too calm. Getting into this story was actually kinda confusing. In many ways.

Jeong Hayan has left her Korean home to make a new life in America, and her fondest wish is to become the best-trained dancer. She has an uncanny talent that is super unique to any fairy tale ever written: she can sense the emotions of clothes and shoes and similar objects. She's not outspoken or overly ambitious, but another dancer in her school seems to have singled her out for torment and whatever pain she can inflict. The only thing brightening Jeong's (turned American name, Snowbird) days are a vibrant pair of red ballet shoes that crackle with life, hope, and danger. Shoes that are the color of blood.

This story focused on our Snow White character, Snowbird, almost exclusively. I really liked how the author incorporated the under-used elements of the comb and corset that many retellings often ignore. Here, they're perfectly situated as a tiara and a bodice. With the slippers themselves, it all felt very well suited to a Snow White tale, given that Snowbird can sense their emotions.

Intertwined with Snowbird's story is another tale of a Snow Maiden who became the secret dancer who mysteriously disappeared. And possibly died. The story itself feels like a fairytale and doesn't make sense until the end of the story when PLOT TWIST! And spoilers. I do like how that all came together, but I can't say much more on that.

I mentioned before that I felt that this story didn't fit with the others in the collection. After the rush and adventure and danger of the previous tales, this one started VERY SLOWLY. To me, the first two chapters at least could have been condensed down into a couple paragraphs. Other sections of the tale are pretty wordy, with not much moving the plot along. My other complaint is that the main character didn't seem to have a ton of development. We got to know Snowbird little by little throughout the story, which was great, but other than a bit of confidence and courage, she was still pretty much the same character at the end. Many of the other characters felt like they were superfluous and could have been written out completely without much changing the story at all. To be honest, after such great stories at the start of this collection, I was disappointed to end with this one. There, I said it. Sorry, folks. A very well done retelling, but it didn't fit. In its defense, however, it was well-received by many other readers.

Therefore, a sad 4 stars for this one.


Overall: This was a strong conclusion to the Rooglewood fairytale contests. I was never a huge fan of Snow White, but I will always hold this collection dear since it was the first contest that I personally entered. (I'd started stories for each of the contests, but never actually came through with entering a finished story for any of them.) Each of the stories was perfectly unique, so that you remember each one vividly after reading all of them straight through. And I think this is the perfect collection for any avid fairytale enthusiast. Definitely darker as a whole (and advisably for slightly more mature audiences) when compared to the other Rooglewood collections (though, I confess, I've not read the Sleeping Beauty one yet), but beautiful and rewarding nonetheless. This may very well be my favorite Rooglewood collection.

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.*

*Apology to the publisher: This review was supposed to be completed and published by December 10, 2018. Due to a busy holiday season of getting sick, having no internet for two weeks, and helping my parents move, I was unable to complete this review until now.*

Friday, December 14, 2018

Fated: Cinderella's Story (The Destined Series)

Title: Fated: Cinderella's Story

Series: Destined (Book #1)

Year: 2017

Author: Kaylin Lee

Summary: All Cinderella wants is to take care of her family.

After working tirelessly for five years to prove herself among the city’s elite, she’s about to graduate and win a coveted spot in city government. Then it all blows up in her face—literally.

A violent, anonymous force has been targeting commoners in horrifying attacks. Now they’ve set their sights on Cinderella. Either that, or she’s losing her mind. It doesn’t help that she’s falling for a mage who’s way out of her league.

Just as she manages to recover from the attack that left her scarred and traumatized, the city’s mysterious enemy destroys what’s left of her future. But when they go after her family, they cross the line. The whole city is in danger now.

How much is Cinderella willing to risk to save the city that has always hated her?

Review: For any fans of Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles, the Destined series needs to be the next series you read. I've not read past this first book, but the story here blew me away. We're missing the galaxy/other-worldliness of Meyer's world, but we've got hardworking heroines and snarky dialogue and sweet romance and heart-pounding suspense and political intrigue and all the things. Just saying.

Ella wants nothing more than to graduate well and land a much-coveted government position that will enable her to take care of her family. Well, her stepfamily -- a loving mother with lots of secrets and her two young daughters. But unlike the traditional Cinderella, this one is loved by her family and she chooses to work hard to support them since they can't step a foot outside of the family bakery. Cinderella's stepmother, Zel, has a secret power and a scent that any government tracker could pick up. If caught, Zel could be forced into tyrannical service -- deadly in the wrong hands.

Studying and running the bakery is Ella's life before her final exams. And then the Scarlet Blight enters the picture. Before she knows what's going on, the coveted position is far out of reach, and she's back burning stinky cinderslick to scrape whatever living she can from the bakery.

The Cinderella elements from the original fairy tale were so cleverly woven into this story! The fairy godmother isn't anything like what you'd expect, but fits in so perfectly -- given the "godmother's" unique talent. The ball, and everything... wow. And then, once I hit the end of the book, I had to scrape my jaw from off the floor BECAUSE THERE'S MORE. In addition to a beautiful Cinderella retelling, we've got a Rapunzel AND a Beauty and the Beast retelling adding to the whole story. I won't gush. But seriously. I didn't start this novel intending to give it a full 5 star rating, but I think I have no other choice. I need more books from this author.

Advisory: Some light romance, but pretty light, and built slowly and effectively. A few characters "swear" but no actual words are given.

Some action/violence. The Scarlet Blight is a terror organization putting off bombs and such in the city, leaving people wounded and dead behind them. Expect blood and injuries and the like.

This book also contains magic. However, there are only certain people who have the ability to wield it, and those who don't have that "spark" apparently cannot learn it. However, those who are able to do magic (like the mages) must exercise their talent like a muscle to grow it and develop it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Courage and Corruption (Tales of Taelis)

Title: Courage and Corruption

Series: Tales of Taelis (Book #3)

Year: 2016

Author: Sarah Holman

Summary: Catherine is going with her mother and younger siblings to the mountains to hide from the coming war. While she fears what might happen she is looking forward to some time away from her twin brother, with whom she often fights. One foolish act changes all their plans, and one story caused not only confusion, but more fighting. 

Christopher does not believe his father’s story that they are descended from royalty. He is sure the story his father tells cannot be true. However, he is forced to go to the mountain castle of Coraway along with his mother and siblings. Will his father ever see him as a man? Will he and his twin ever be able to stop fighting?

Little do Catherine and Christopher realize that they hold the key to Taelis’ future in their hands. While they discover the truth before it is too late? 

Review: Book Three in Sarah's Tales of Taelis series did not disappoint. It'd been a while since I read the first two books in this series, but I was able to jump back in without much trouble. These books, I would say, could be read as standalones, but there are some plot points that tie in with the previous books, particularly the cliffhanger that we got from Alditha's bravery.

King John, Bryon, and Brianna return, but mainly as cameo appearances. It's been years since the events of book #2, and new heroes are arising. Christopher likes to think he's one of them, but some quick words from his father cut him down. He's constantly fighting with his twin, Catherine, and his father doesn't think he's acting like a man, and therefore, he's not allowed to accompany the knights to the looming battlefront. Since Christopher believes that a man's place is to prove himself in a fight, it feels like the worst betrayal getting sent with the women and children to safety.

Catherine, in turn, wishes her twin hadn't been sent to accompany them, but there's not much she can do about it. Except keep fighting with him, much to everyone's dismay.

But a surprise tale from their father has them laughing at the possibility that they're descended from royalty. With the current king of Taelis nearing death and without an heir, it's very possible that their family could be called upon to step up to the job. Only -- Christopher and Catherine can't accept the tale as the truth. How in the world could they be the heirs to a throne, descended from a legendary prince who went missing in childhood?

Overall, I liked this book. It had the same tone and feel as the other books in the series, and I think it fit in quite nicely. I can't say that this is my favorite of the series, but it helps answer a lot of questions that come from the ends of the previous books.

The characters were great. It was awesome to see some returning characters from book two, and get a glimpse of how they aged. The whole book seemed to be leaning towards a great conflict, but to be honest there wasn't a ton of action. I do wish we could have seen a bit more action and adventure, but I guess after the first two books, we're getting a nobility, sit-around-and-talk reprieve. Lots of stories about hidden doors and conflicts, but we didn't get to see much action around them.

The main conflict was the inner fightings of both Catherine and Christopher, as each tried to learn the lessons thrown at them. Thus, there was a lot of character development. However, I think this is one of Sarah's more preaching-heavy books. Lots of words of wisdom and truth given to these two fighting twins, and while I didn't disagree with what was said, it felt pretty preachy and sometimes heavy to wade through for a fiction book.

Advisory: Some medieval fighting/violence. A jousting tournament is held, and later on the king leads an army into battle. Some injuries are described, but nothing graphic.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Beast of Talesend (Beaumont and Beasley)

Title: The Beast of Talesend

Series: Beaumont and Beasley (#1)

Year: 2017

Author: Kyle Robert Shultz

Summary: Private eye Nick Beasley lives in a world where fairy tales ended a long time ago – where zeppelins now soar the skies instead of dragons, and where the first automobiles have taken the place of flying carpets. He’s made a name for himself across the Afterlands by debunking fake magicians and exposing fraudulent monsters. This is the modern age, after all. Magic and monsters are long gone.

At least, that’s what Nick believes. Until he gets magically transformed into a monster, that is.

The only person who may be able to help Nick is Lady Cordelia Beaumont, one of the last enchantresses in the Afterlands. But in order for her to cure him, they’ll have to retrieve a powerful artifact from a ruthless crime lord – who is also Cordelia’s father.

The fate of the Afterlands lies in the hands of a runaway enchantress and a monstrous ex-detective. What could possibly go wrong?

Review: Ready for a quick, action-packed ride that'll have you believing in fairy tales again? I've been hearing about this book for MONTHS, had it recommended so many times by so many different bookworm friends and fairytale enthusiasts, and I finally just NOW sat down to read it.

Wow. It was everything I'd thought it would be, and nothing like what I expected.

Nick is a detective -- and, he's certain, a pretty good one at that. His job has been to rid the world of the false belief in magic. He's cracked multiple fairy tale cases wide open, proving to everyone that magic is, in fact, not real. When we first meet him, his persona is almost that of a Sherlock Holmes character -- confident and clever, but with a tick of desperate as his funds are quickly running out. If he's going to continue to support himself and his little brother, he needs to crack another case soon and get paid considerably.

The case that comes to his door is not exactly the one he's hoping for, but it does have a hefty payment attached to it. With no other option, Nick Beasley agrees to help the infamous Lord Whitlock find a magical artifact: the Clawthorn Rose of the Beauty and the Beast legend.

And that's where all his troubles start. Throw in a snarky, spontaneous younger brother and a lady-turned-enchantress who doesn't always have the best of plans, and you've got the perfect recipe for a fairytale adventure.

Is there anything really that I could say I didn't like about this book? Ummm... not really. Except the length. Way too short for the amount of adventure and humor that I wanted. Good thing this is only the first in the series. Warning: You will want book two immediately, so be prepared.

Crispin was my favorite, of course. I'm a huge fan of younger siblings with a passion for trouble, and he was just spot-on, the best, the cat's pajamas, etc. etc. And there are also steampunk things, which always makes stuff better. What's not to like about steampunk fairytale retellings? *cough* No, that's not shameless advertising.

I also really liked all the fairytale elements. Not only is the book a spin on the traditional Beauty and the Beast story, but we're also visiting things from Snow White (which Shultz's version made TONS more sense than the original fairy tale, but still creepy) and other fairy tales. And, of course, the rest of the series seems to promise only that in abounds.

Advisory: Violence. Through the magic of the Rose, several humans are turned into beasts. Fighting commences, blood is spilled, but nothing terribly graphic.

Magic, of course. There's not a ton about it packed into this book since the book itself is so short. Cordelia is one of the few Charmbloods left in existence, families who are able to learn to control magic. Apparently, only those with Charmblood, er, well, blood in their veins are able to control it, but it is a skill that must be learned. Magic can be performed through casting of runes, though it takes a life source to sustain a spell, whether that be the caster himself or another life form nearby. The magic in this book didn't really bother me, as it's clearly a fairytale setting in a fictional world.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book

Title: Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book

Series: None

Year: 2017

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Summary: Smart, bookish Belle, a captive in the Beast’s castle, has become accustomed to her new home and has befriended its inhabitants. When she comes upon Nevermore, an enchanted book unlike anything else she has seen in the castle, Belle finds herself pulled into its pages and transported to a world of glamour and intrigue. The adventures Belle has always imagined, the dreams she was forced to give up when she became a prisoner, seem within reach again.

The charming and mysterious characters Belle meets within the pages of Nevermore offer her glamorous conversation, a life of dazzling Parisian luxury, and even a reunion she never thought possible. Here Belle can have everything she has ever wished for. But what about her friends in the Beast’s castle? Can Belle trust her new companions inside the pages of Nevermore? Is Nevermore’s world even real? Belle must uncover the truth about the book, before she loses herself in it forever.

Review: First off, can we talk about the synopsis?? GETTING LOST IN A BOOK! Belle has had plenty of practice getting swept into a book's story, falling in love with written characters, and cheering on the hero/heroine while turning the pages. This story is just like that. But not. Nevermore literally sweeps her into another world where she lives the story. And what's even better -- the author of Nevermore says she's writing the perfect story for Belle. It's just what she needs to distract her from the gloomy prisoner life of the Beast's castle.

At least, that's what she thinks.

The first and last scenes with Love and Death set the perfect tone for this book, while tying back epically to the live-action film. I've always wondered what game it was that Love and Death are always prophetically playing... and now it makes sense: Chess. I am neither Love nor Death, so now I understand why chess just isn't my thing.

I'm always a little skeptical when I pick up one of these kinds of books. The classic Disney tale is something that we all know and love, and when people try to add to it, it doesn't always come out right. This tale happens right in the middle of Disney's live-action remake, after *spoiler* the Beast saves Belle from the wolves, but before their iconic yellow-dress dance.

But getting a new story to fit in perfectly with the rest of the whole story is often a very difficult task. Because you want the book tie-in to feel complete on its own, you have to allow for character development and plot structure that doesn't compromise the story that you love in the film. Yes, I'm a story snob. But I do think that this author managed to pull it off quite nicely. I was so paranoid through the whole thing, wondering how she was going to compromise Belle, how she was going to damage the Beast's character and growth, how she was going to add too much to allow for the film's reality -- but it didn't end up that way at all. I was very happy with the satisfying ending that allowed for a smooth transition back into the finishing chapters of the film.

Honestly, this reads like a glorified fan-fiction that seamlessly transitions to and from the film. Belle's wish to get lost in the story was incredibly Belle-like, and I could see it happening. The book allows her to draw a step closer to the Beast in a way, but *spoiler* without making her confession of love in the film seem unrealistic in timing.

My only complaint with this book, really, is the beginning. We get a lot of information of the events in Belle's life leading up to the start of the book, all told in awkward flashbacks. Flashbacks are a great way to incorporate needed information, but no smooth transition into the memories or a flashback within another flashback (I mean, seriously??) only make for pages of confusion. Also, a petty complaint: with the scene of the Beast giving Belle the library, I kept waiting for the Beast's line from the film about the books being written in Greek, but it never came. *le sigh*

Anyway, if anyone ever wondered why, after the Beast gave Belle his library, Belle didn't spend the rest of the film in the library reading, read this book. It explains why.

Advisory: Some magical elements. The Beast and his castle are the recipients of an enchantress's curse (who ironically turns out to be Love), and Love and Death make a bet on whether or not Belle will break the curse. *spoiler* The whole book is basically how Death cheats. #nosurprisethere While Belle is in the book, she encounters magical illusions and later some perilous characters that try to persuade her to stay within the pages of the story. A few of the scenes tend to the more creepy side (reminding me a little of Alice in Wonderland, actually), but still within the fairytale vibe of the film. Caution for those who might want to know: walking marionettes may be included.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars