Monday, October 27, 2014

Five Glass Slippers

Title: Five Glass Slippers

Series: First in Rooglewood's series of retold fairy tale collections

Year: 2014

Author: Elisabeth Brown, Emma Clifton, Rachel Heffington, Stephanie Ricker, Clara Diane Thompson


What happens when Cinderella is so painfully shy that she cannot bear the idea of attending the royal ball? Or when the slipper fits . . . but on the wrong girl? What happens when Cinderella is determined to oust an imposter prince from her rightful throne? Or when she is a cendrillon miner working from a space station orbiting a cthonian planet? What happens when Cinderella, a humble housemaid, is sent with a message for a prisoner trapped in a frightening fairy circus?

Here is Cinderella as you have never met her before, wearing glass slippers and off on unforgettable adventures!

WHAT EYES CAN SEE: Elisabeth Brown
Painfully shy Arella begs her stepmother to let her stay home from the prince’s ball. But kindly Duchess Germaine is determined that her beautiful stepdaughter should be presented at court along with her own two daughters. So, dressed in a gorgeous gown and a pair of heirloom slippers, Arella catches the eye of the crown prince . . . and finds her life suddenly far more complicated than she ever desired.

BROKEN GLASS: Emma Clifton
The slipper fits . . . but on the wrong girl! Rosalind never once danced with Prince Marius at the ball, for she is in love with his brother Henry. If only Rosalind and Marius would stop bickering long enough to invent a scheme, perhaps the three of them can find the real mystery lady. But they must work quickly, for dark deeds are afoot, and the kingdom is poised on the brink of disaster.

THE WINDY SIDE OF CARE: Rachel Heffington
Alisandra is determined to have her rights. She knows that she is the king’s secretly dispossessed daughter, the true heir to the throne. Prince Auguste is an imposter, and if she plays her cards right, Alis will prove it to the world! That is, if charming Auguste doesn’t succeed in winning her heart before she gets her chance . . .

A CINDER’S TALE: Stephanie Ricker
It’s a dangerous life, yet Elsa wouldn’t trade this opportunity to work at Tremaine Station, mining cendrillon from the seething surface of planet Aschen. Nevertheless, when a famous deep space explorer and his handsome son dock their starcraft at the space station, Elsa finds herself dreaming of far galaxies beyond Aschen's blistering heat. There is no time for dreaming, however, when danger threatens the space station, and Elsa and her fellow miners are tested to the limits of their courage.

THE MOON MASTER’S BALL: Clara Diane Thompson
After her terrifying experience there several years ago, the one place young housemaid Tilly longs to avoid is Bromley’s Circus. But when kindly Lord Hollingberry begs her to deliver a message to the mysterious Moon Master hidden away among the circus dwellers, Tilly can’t refuse . . . and finds herself ensnared in a web of enchantment cast by the loathsome Mrs. Carlisle and her beautiful goddaughter.
(from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
What Eyes Can See ~ Arella, Drusilla, & Frederick
Broken Glass ~ Rosalind, Marius, Henry, Evelyn, & Darcy
The Windy Side of Care ~ Alisandra & Auguste
A Cinder's Tale ~ Elsa, Bruno, Jaq, Gus, Marraine, & Karl
The Moon Master's Ball ~  Tilly, Lord Hollingberry, Caroline, & the Moon Master

Review: With all the fantastic-ness that surrounds Cinderella retellings, Five Glass Slippers should be on every fairy tale lover's bookshelf. Seriously. Last year, Rooglewood Press and Anne Elisabeth Stengl hosted a contest in which five Cinderella stories would be selected for the ultimate collection. I, among many, began a story for the contest, and I fell among those who didn't finish in time. Yet, I'm not complaining. There was no way I could have entered my 198,000 word Secret of the Hazel Tree into a contest which sported 20,000 words as the greatest limit. *winks* Who knows? Maybe this year I'll manage a decent entry into the new contest -- Beauty and the Beast!

What Eyes Can See has been labeled the "romance" of this collection, and I'd have to agree. While the others tend to have aspects of romance, Elisabeth Brown made the romance the focus of her story -- which is not a bad thing! It's very sweet, and a quick tale for those who want a little something more from the usual Cinderella tale. Arella, our seemingly heroine, is painfully shy and wishes to keep to herself. Her stepfamily, far from the cliche horrors of the original tale, do their best to help her in whatever ways they can, even taking her to the big ball thrown in Prince Frederick's honor. My only complaint with this story would be a certain plot twist (which I won't reveal here -- spoilers, you know) that had absolutely no foreshadowing. Normally, I don't mind being caught off guard, but this seemed a little too sudden. The ending was marvelous, and extremely satisfactory.

Broken Glass was an excellent read; I considered this my favorite of the collection until... well, you'll see. But this was wonderfully crafted. It's basically Cinderella turned upside-down when the slipper fits on the wrong girl! Rosalind wants to marry Prince Henry but finds the king forcing her to marry the elder brother, Marius, instead. Meanwhile, Marius longs for the girl he danced with, but no one seems to know who she is nor indeed where she happened to get Rosalind's glass dancing slippers. I loved reading the scenes with Marius and Rosalind, for both knew they hated the other, yet their arguments were always so hilarious! Throw in some exploding carriages, fairy godmothers who really don't know what they're doing, and this tale just gets even better. The magic aspect of this story was light, and just as you'd want magic in a fairy tale.

The Windy Side of Care was actually the only tale I was familiar with before picking up Five Glass Slippers. I've followed Rachel Heffington's blog for a while now, and from the moment she posted snippets from her entry, I knew it was going to take a place in the final five selections. No doubt about it. Alis is a young servant in her stepmother's household, just as we'd expect of our Cinderella. However, unlike Cinderella, she knows she's the rightful heir to the throne. She looks exactly like the king, and that's only one of her arguments. Alis teams up with the Lord Humphries, a "godfather" she's never actually met, to undertake the task of proving her lineage. This story felt very Dickens-ish in character, what with plotted murders, tangled webs, and not-as-you'd-expect courtroom cases. Rachel has taken everything we love about Cinderella, shaken it out, flipped it inside-out, and given it all back to us on a silver platter. 

A Cinder's Tale... ah, the more I think about this story, the more I realize it was indeed my favorite out of the entire collection. And thank the stars Stephanie Ricker is writing more set in this world, because I want to know more about Elsa and her crew! Cinderella set in space, eh? Really, it's amazing. To be truthful, I thought it odd that this story should be placed among this collection, as it has no glass slipper in it. True, the famed footwear is mentioned, but no one, and certainly not our Cinderella, wears any during the length of the tale. Stephanie gives us more than just a ball in this story, for this story is also presents a good deal of action and danger. I'm usually not a sci-fi type of gal, but I must say, this particular genre is growing on me. If you haven't read A Cinder's Tale yet, you need to. Just sayin'.

And here we come to the last chapter in which.... Oh, no, sorry. Wrong Disney movie. Bonus points for anyone who recognizes that. *coughs* The Moon Master's Ball is the last of this collection, and let me say, it really wraps things up with a bang! To be truthful, this was probably my least favorite of the collection just because of its darker themes. Tilly, our Cinderella for this story, gets wrapped up in the magic surrounding Bromley's Circus, the annual event most people of Winslow village look forward to. But for Tilly, the circus holds only painful memories, nightmares that haunt her. And her neck bears the scars to prove it. Nothing would induce her to return to the circus.... unless it be kindly Lord Hollingberry's express order. The magic gets deeper with every new page, and Tilly discovers a lot more about fairy godmothers and curses than she wants. The only thing I found confusing was why it was Tilly herself that got roped into the adventure. She was chosen out of a household of maids to deliver Lord Hollingberry's letter and then called upon several times to help again -- why Tilly personally? Never really got that answer.

Advisory: Broken Glass and The Moon Master's Ball both contain magic, for those concerned on that account. While both are technically based on fairy tales, the magic in TMMB seemed just a little too dark for a fairy tale, in my opinion. I didn't care for how heavily the story was steeped in it.

Some romance, obviously, yet it was all light. A few kisses, some handsome men... you know how it goes. And along that note, there were some less-than-desirous circumstances surrounding Alis's and Auguste's births in TWSoC. While nothing is described, I found it just a tick uncomfortable.

TWSoC also includes some (what I'd call) mature language (i.e. "egads," "deuce," etc) -- just something to take note of.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy Five Glass Slippers on Amazon!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ballet Shoes

Title: Ballet Shoes

Series: The Shoes Series (Book #1)

Year: 1936

Author: Noel Streatfeild

Summary: Pauline, Petrova and Posy are found as orphaned babies in different parts of the world by eccentric fossil collector and explorer Gum. He adopts them, takes them to his London home and leaves them in the care of his niece Sylvia and the family Nurse. Then off he goes to continue his exploring, saying that he'll be back in five years' time. When the three little girls are old enough, they choose the surname Fossil for themselves and vow to make the name famous. At first they lead privileged and sheltered lives. But when Gum fails to return after five years, Sylvia's money begins to run out. First she is forced to take in some boarders - an engaging and eclectic mix of characters - but then she decides that the girls should go to acting school. This way they will be able to earn some money before they grow up. Pauline adores the school, as she dreams of becoming an actress. Petrova hates it, all she wants to do is learn about cars and planes and engines. Posy loves it too - she is born to be a dancer and the school is the perfect place for her. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Pauline Fossil
~ Petrova Fossil
~ Posy Fossil
~ Sylvia Brown 
~ Nana

Review: Pauline, Petrova, and Posy are three little girls who haven't a family to call their own. Each from a different part of the world, they find a home with Gum (Great Uncle Matthew) who collects them as playthings for his grown-up niece, Sylvia. As he's always bringing home fossils to exhibit, it is decided that the children be given the surname "Fossil." And that's where their story begins.

I was introduced to Ballet Shoes at a very early age, as our library had a VHS copy of the 1975 series and my family borrowed it several times throughout the year. It was one of my favorite films, but I didn't know it was based on a book until I was much older. Otherwise, I'd have read it a lot sooner. The novel is quite charming, if you're looking for a sweet read about three sisters. It's not the gripping type of modern fluff, but it's the perfect book to just relax with and enjoy or read aloud with your family. Personally, I thought the 2007 film adaption closer to the original plot of the novel, but for sentimental reasons, I still like the 1975 one better. 

My favorite Fossil has always been Petrova, and that didn't change upon reading the novel. Petrova is so selfless; even when her two sisters get wrapped up in their stardom, she's content to let them be. She doesn't care for dancing or acting at the academy, yet she continues on, knowing that the jobs she can get with her experience, she can bring home more money to Sylvia, the girls' beloved guardian. Pauline thrives on acting and her success on the stage definitely gives her a big head. But the author does not pet her vanity; no, for Pauline learns to be humble when her self-obsessed attitude gets her into big trouble. Posy dances, loves dancing, and wants to do nothing else. She gets special lessons with Madame Fidolia and quickly focuses all her attention on the art of ballet. I liked Posy in the beginning of the novel, but as she became more and more selfish about her dancing, I thought her annoying. I just found out that Ballet Shoes is the first book in a series by Noel Streatfeild, and while Pauline, Petrova, and Posy are not continuing main characters, they do appear in book four (Theater Shoes). I'm hoping to read it sometime soon and see where their futures take them!

Advisory: Nothing that I can think of.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy Ballet Shoes on Amazon!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Before Midnight

Title: Before Midnight: A Retelling of "Cinderella"

Series: Once Upon a Time Fairytales

Year: 2007

Author: Cameron Dokey

Summary: Etienne de Brabant is brokenhearted. His wife has died in childbirth, leaving him alone with an infant daughter he cannot bear to name. But before he abandons her for king and court, he brings a second child to be raised alongside her, a boy whose identity he does not reveal.
The girl, La Cendrillon, and the boy, Raoul, pass sixteen years in the servants' care until one day a very fine lady arrives with her two daughters. The lady has married La Cendrillon's father, and her arrival changes their lives.
When an invitation to a great ball reaches the family, La Cendrillon's new stepmother will make a decision with far-reaching effects. Her choice will lead La Cendrillon and Raoul toward their destiny -- a choice that will challenge their understanding of family, test their loyalty and courage, and, ultimately, teach them who they are. (from Goodreads)
Main Characters:
~ Cendrillon
~ Raoul
~ Anastasia
~ Amelie 

Review: I love fairy tale retellings, and Cinderella stories (particularly at the moment) fascinate me. Sure, I'm not a huge fan of the original Cinderella tale with the dorky prince and sparkles everywhere, but hey! There's a lot of potential there! There are sooo many ways Cinderella can be retold, and this, Before Midnight, is just one of them.

First off, I really like how the author included Cinderella's father. In the original tale, he lived and was still around, but he kinda disappeared in the middle, only to pop up back at the end and dumbly remember he had a daughter named Cinderella. Cameron Dokey took his character and really fleshed him out. Definitely a plus.

The brother/sister relationship between Raoul and Cendrillon is not typical of most fairy tales, but I loved it. Usually, fairy tales get too wrapped up in describing the romantic love between couples, yet they miss out on some of the most rewarding love of all: the love of a sibling. Their banter was wonderful, and truthfully, I was glad that the author didn't stick them together at the end in romance. Also, I liked the different approach on her stepfamily. They treated Cendrillon like a servant, true, but there was character development involved, and the novel ended with multiple redeeming qualities and a noble kinship between Cendrillon and her stepfamily. 

There are three romances that pop up in the novel -- Cendrillon's and then also her stepsisters'. Personally, the relationship between Cendrillon and the prince I found horribly shallow. It was BOOM! they were introduced, interrupted, then met again, danced, and fell in love. Seriously, five minutes and they were sharing a kiss! *shakes head* There was a lot of talk about true love and love at first sight, but I felt they talked about it too much and never actually explained it. I'm not a proponent of insta-love, so it all seemed rather weird to me. Yes, I know this is a fairy tale, but... *sighs* Her stepsisters' romances, though, I found much more enjoyable. They took a little more time to known their prospective suitors, and their relationships were much more believeable. 

Advisory: Obviously -- romance. I believe there were three light kisses mentioned, but nothing really goes farther than that. 

There is a magical aspect to this novel that isn't really magic, but I thought I'd mention it. The weather, the garden -- certain things are described as being harsh, unproductive, etc. based on the treatment/attitude of Cendrillon's father. Characters make wishes, and those wishes are shown as coming true, though if some power was involved or if it was just coincidental, I cannot say. That was never fully explained, and on the whole, I thought all of that odd.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Click here to buy Before Midnight on Amazon!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Lizzy and Jane

Title: Lizzy and Jane

Series: None

Year: 2014

Author: Katherine Reay

Summary: Lizzy and Jane never saw eye to eye. But when illness brings them together, they discover they may be more like Austen’s famous sisters after all.

Lizzy was only a teenager when her mother died of cancer. Shortly after, Lizzy fled from her home, her family, and her cherished nickname. After working tirelessly to hone her gift of creating magic in the kitchen, Elizabeth has climbed the culinary ladder to become the head chef of her own New York restaurant, Feast. But as her magic begins to elude her, Paul, Feast’s financial backer, brings in someone to share her responsibilities and her kitchen. So Elizabeth flees again.

In a desperate attempt to reconnect with her gift, Elizabeth returns home. But her plans are derailed when she learns that her estranged sister, Jane, is battling cancer. Elizabeth surprises everyone—including herself—when she decides to stay in Seattle and work to prepare healthy, sustaining meals for Jane as she undergoes chemotherapy. She also meets Nick and his winsome son, Matt, who, like Elizabeth, are trying to heal from the wounds of the past.

As she tends to Jane's needs, Elizabeth's powers begin to return to her, along with the family she left behind so long ago. Then Paul tries to entice her back to New York, and she is faced with a hard decision: stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane, or return to New York and the life she worked so hard to create?
(from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Elizabeth Hughes
~ Jane
~ Nick
~ Cecilia

Review: I've had my eye on this book for a while, after loving P&P for over a dozen years and after hearing all the raving reviews for Katherine Reay's Dear Mr. Knightley. I haven't read that one yet, but when I was offered a chance to read an advance review copy of Lizzy and Jane, I jumped at it. Inspired by one of my favorite novels, how bad could it be?

In a nutshell, I was disappointed. I'm not exactly sure what I expected, but this book wasn't it. I guess I envisioned something along the lines of a modern-day P&P retelling, yet even reading the first chapter, I could see that wasn't it. So don't expect a retelling. In all regards, this is more of a Persuasion retelling with bits of Sense and Sensibilty thrown in. We've got a broken hero, a heroine who lost her bloom, and a letter in the end -- sound familiar? In addition, Lizzy and Jane are not the soulmates that Austen's famous sisters are; they fight, and share many, what are described as, Elinor-Marianne moments in the course of the novel. I really appreciated all the Austen references, though. The author is a true JA fan, and it shows. Two thumbs up.

Elizabeth is a successful chef in New York, and she loves her job. Well, that is until her boss tells her she is not up to her usual standards and suggests she take a holiday... after he hires a new sous chef for the restaurant. Feeling replaced, Elizabeth makes the cross-country trip to visit the family in Seattle in she hasn't seen in I-don't-recall-how-many years. Her sister Jane is battling cancer, the same horribleness that stole their mother from them when Elizabeth was still in high school. Returning to Seattle isn't easy for Elizabeth, nor is it easy for Jane to accept her sister back after the hard years between them. It isn't until Elizabeth finds peace helping out in a new way, with the food she loves in blends she never expected, that she feels she's finally doing the right thing. 

Now you'll notice that I only gave this book three stars. Why the three stars? It was a well-written book, the plot was interesting with a few surprise twists, and people interested in this genre will love it, I'm positive. However, it just didn't fit in my definition of a favorite book. I'm not a moody hero/heroine fan, and I really didn't care for all the brooding in several chapters. People feeling sorry for themselves a lot tend to get on my nerves. I liked the minor characters probably the most -- Kate and Danny, Elizabeth's niece and nephew, were fun to read about. The three stars mainly are explained in my advisory later on. Just little things that added up to mount a sour taste in my mouth. And no, that wasn't intended to be a pun or an insult to Elizabeth's potpie.

What I did like was the food references. Elizabeth knew her food, and although there were times I questioned her cooking skills (she adds cinnamon to enhance tomato flavor in sauces and adds black pepper to applesauce; who puts pepper in applesauce? cinnamon - yes; sugar - yes; we even do maple syrup at times, but black pepper? sorry, rant over), I couldn't help but get hungry during the many cooking passages. And Elizabeth made the cooking even more enticing for me by mixing in stuff from classic works. For instance, she crafts Jane's meals out of a love for Jane Austen, using Austen's novels as inspiration. Other meals get Ernest Hemingway inspiration, and she's always quoting something on food from famous works of literature -- including The Wind in the Willows! I thought that especially neat.

Advisory: Romance, obviously. Our romantic couple shares a few kisses and admires each other's physical attractions. Blech. One man talks about an immoral relationship he had years ago and how it's affected him until present day. Umm... there were a few "adult comments" and a word or two of language, so please read with caution. Various characters are described as having cancer, and as Elizabeth visits the hospital, she sees the treatment they undergo. One character accidentally cuts her hand badly (cue blood), but it's not handled too graphically. Just little things here and there that put the book down overall in my opinion. 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

Click here to buy Lizzy and Jane on Amazon!

*Please note that I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review. This novel will be released on October 28th.*