Friday, December 23, 2016

Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales

Title: Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales

Series: None

Year: 2016

~ Elisabeth Grace Foley
~ Rachel Heffington
~ J. Grace Pennington
~ Emily Ann Putzke
~ Suzannah Rowntree
~ Hayden Wand

Summary: A lonely girl plots revenge in the shadow of a mountain. A stolen princess fumbles a century backward. A dwarfish man crafts brilliant automatons. A Polish Jew strikes matches against the Nazis. A dead girl haunts a crystal lake. A terrified princess searches a labyrinth. A rich collection of six historically inspired retellings, Once is a new generation of fairytales for those who thought they'd heard the tales in all their forms. 

Featuring the novellas of Elisabeth Grace Foley, Rachel Heffington, J Grace Pennington, Emily Ann Putzke, Suzannah Rowntree, and Hayden Wand. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters: 
~ Rosa Jean and Quincy Burnett
~ Maria and Heath
~ Amanda and Byron
~ Kasia and Romek
~ Ruby Black and Max Moran
~ Nella and Benedict

Review: I loved this collection so much! If it's not already on your bookshelf or your Kindle, you need to add this one right away! I'd highly recommend for any fairy tale enthusiast! We've got fantastic retellings for Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Rumplestiltskin, The Little Match Girl, Snow White, and Rapunzel. Truthfully, I was really excited to see some of the lesser-known fairy tales instead of the usual two or three that everyone ends up retelling. Just a pleasant change. 

The Mountain of the Wolf ~ I loved the descriptions and setting of this tale, but I found it difficult to pick up on the Little Red Riding Hood references at times. The point of view shifted a lot, jumping back and forth between the two main characters (Rosa Jean and Quincy) and then sometimes leaping out to a few minor characters, and it was a little confusing at times. However, the pace was really nice, and I got wrapped up in the story fairly quickly. By the middle, I was completely captivated. I thought it a really neat twist on the usual red hood and wolf story. Overall, I'd rate this story at 4 stars. Not my favorite of the collection, but very enjoyable, nevertheless.

She But Sleepeth ~ This was probably one of the cleverest Sleeping Beauty retellings that I've ever read. Rachel Heffington really outdid herself. The setting and historical details were brilliant and so captivating. I loved the vivid colors and descriptions! It was like reading a fairy tale on a roller coaster, honestly; so many twists and unexpected turns. I will admit, the ending caught me very much by surprise, but I thought Rachel handled it well, considering everything. But yes, for the happily ever after lover in me, it was a little disappointing. The gypsy magic was a little uncomfortable for me to read personally, as it borders on actual occult magic. I won't get on my soap box here (for space reasons) but it was because of this that I'd give this story 4 stars. Magic aside, it deserves 5 stars, but sorry, folks. That's just me.

Rumpled ~ This one ties for my favorite of the collection. I love the story of Rumplestiltskin, and this was just a brilliant retelling. Honestly, I'd reread this whole collection just for the enjoyment of devouring this tale. Fairy tale retelling + steampunk. SERIOUSLY. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT? It was amazing. The tale was wonderfully paced, with twists that were so unexpected, yet crafted so beautifully into the story. SO Rumplestiltskin. Amazing. Really. I loved the steampunk references. The characters, too, were so brilliantly shaped -- instead of just slapping stereotypical fairy tale peoples into the story and calling it good, J. Grace Pennington really took the time to flesh her characters out, making them seem so real and believable. 5 stars. Hands down. No questions asked.

Sweet Remembrance ~ This story had a really interesting concept: The Little Match Girl set during World War II with Jews as the main characters. I began it hungry to get into the story, but kinda floundered a bit while reading it. The chapters alternated between present-time, present-tense action and memories in past tense. Normally, it's hard for me to read in present tense, and it was difficult for me here. But that could just be a personal thing. I thought it went well with the story, considering the emphasis on the memories, but it isn't my favorite style. The story was a sweet romance, but almost a little too sappy and moody for my taste. Knowing the original fairy tale, I began the tale knowing exactly how it would end, and while I enjoyed it, there wasn't a lot that kept me driving on until the end. The only other thing I'd say about this story is a caution about the language. Overall, good, but unfortunately not my favorite. 4 stars.

Death Be Not Proud ~ This one blew me completely away. I've never seen Snow White like this before, but it was AMAZING. I'll admit, at first I was pretty skeptical, because I couldn't see how Snow White was going to come through everything. By the end, I could only sit back in my chair and think, "That was more Snow White than Disney." 5 stars. The historical setting was difficult to follow, and that would be my main complaint. It was so cool to have a fairy tale set in New Zealand with tons of vibrant characters, but oftentimes I felt like the setting slipped into something more American and modern, making it not so completely believable. There is a lot of violence in this one (probably more than any other tale in this collection), but I thought it was handled well. In the end, I really have nothing else to do but to give it 5 stars. Thrilling, mysterious, odd, but so exciting.

With Blossoms Gold ~ If I didn't like Rumplestiltskin so much, this story would probably be my favorite. OF ALL TIME. Seriously, Hayden Wand did an amazing job. And I'm not just saying that. Rapunzel in Italy. I was skeptical, too, about this one, and I wasn't completely sold when I began it as the beginning was kinda cliche and slow. But since I love Rapunzel, I kept with it, and wow! Am I glad I did! The fairy tale details were so wonderfully woven into the story, and it just kept getting better. I found the main character Nella so realistic and believable -- and really easy to relate to. As an asthmatic, I've struggled in the past with panic attacks similar to hers, so it was so interesting to see how they were portrayed. I loved the brother scenes with Benedict and Orlando, and the whole "prince-becoming-blind" element from the original fairy tale WAS JUST SO AMAZING I CAN'T EVEN. I wish this story was a full-length novel, because I seriously need it to be. How many stars? Why ask? I wish I could give it 6. 

Did I already say everyone needed to read this collection? Yes? Okay, good.

Advisory: Romance (several kisses), language, and some violence. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Please note: I received a copy of this collection from the authors in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Warden and the Wolf King (The Wingfeather Saga)

Title: The Warden and the Wolf King

Series: The Wingfeather Saga (Book #4)

Year: 2014

Author: Andrew Peterson

Summary: All winter long, people in the Green Hollows have prepared for a final battle with Gnag the Nameless and the Fangs of Dang. Janner, Kalmar, and Leeli—Throne Warden, Wolf King, and Song Maiden of Anniera—are ready and willing to fight alongside the Hollowsfolk, but when the Fangs make the first move and invade Ban Rona, the children are separated. Janner is alone and lost in the hills; Leeli is fighting the Fangs from the rooftops of the city; and Kalmar, who carries a terrible secret, is on a course for the Deeps of Throg. Meanwhile in Skree, Sara Cobbler and Maraly Weaver care for the broken Artham Wingfeather as Fangs muster for battle across the Mighty River Blapp. 

Sea dragons lurk in the waters. Wicked Stranders crawl through the burrows. Ridgerunners and trolls prowl the land. Cloven haunt the forest. Monsters and Fangs and villains lie between the children and their only hope of victory—in the epic conclusion of The Wingfeather Saga. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Janner Wingfeather
~ Kalmar Wingfeather
~ Leeli Wingfeather

Review: This book. THIS BOOK! I have been waiting about four years for this book, AND NOW IT'S OVER! Completely over. It's gonna take me a while to recover from this book. IT WAS THAT AMAZING!

I know. I don't usually get into all caps when writing book reviews. But this book is different. I fell in love with this series a long time ago, and I don't think I know how to handle the fact that it's over. AND I DON'T WANT IT TO BE OVER! The three Wingfeather children, the Jewels of Anniera, have gone through every adventure possible, and now Andrew Peterson has stuck a "The End" on their story. *sigh*

Well, I suppose I ought to put together some sort of review here. After all, that's why I'm at my computer typing right now.

Janner, Kalmar, and Leeli are back for one final adventure. One final battle against Gnag the Nameless. One final push to end the evil destroying their country, their family, their friends, and everything else before it's too late. One final book. One final. Did you get that? 

Life in the Hollows is, at the start, pretty peaceful. Yeah, there's the threat of Gnag looming over everyone, and Fangs creeping where they're not supposed to be, and ridgerunners acting highly suspicious, but it's right where book three left us. However, things start going wrong right after Janner gets blindplopped for his thirteenth birthday. And then everything goes to the Blackwood from there (except for when it all comes back from the Blackwood).

Meanwhile, across the sea, Artham, Sara, and Maraly are having troubles of their own. The book cuts for a bit to follow their storyline, and although there was a big part of me that wanted everything focused on the Wingfeather kids, I really liked how this second story was weaved in. All the action in Dugtown, the horrible Stranders, the devious Fangs... it was like getting to read an epic story within an epic story. [Highlight for spoilers] And I sincerely say that I love the growing father-daughter relationship between Maraly and Gammon. That's all I have to say on that account, because... spoilers.

I also love the development that Janner and his siblings go through. You would think that after everything they've been through, they couldn't get any better. But they do. Janner in particular grew up considerably, and I loved following his journey from selfish boy to sympathetic man (even though he's only thirteen). And, of course, those of you who know the end of this story... FEELS. SO MANY FEELS. I just can't even.

The dragons were so cool. Oskar was perfect, as always. Thorn made me smile every single time he showed up. Leeli was so sweet, and I'm adding a whistleharp to my wish list. SARA -- don't argue, but we need more of Sara Cobbler. Maraly was hilarious. And I even liked the troll. Honestly, there is so much good about this story that I could say, but I don't think you want to hear all that. It really is a good and awesome book -- with illustrations! A wonderful adventure, with epic pictures to boot. Can't get better than that. An awesome end to the Wingfeather Saga.

Although I wish it wasn't the end. But THANK YOU for the epilogue. I needed that. Seriously. Wait 'til you read it. You'll completely agree with me. BUT SO MANY THINGS UNANSWERED.

In the words of Amila Hooperstat, "I won't get on my soap box."

Put me on record for saying that I love Andrew Peterson's narrative and story style for these books. It's so awesome and total fun. Easy to read, but real right down to the core. And hilariously funny. Just what you want in an epic adventure about three siblings. And just what you want to mimic in the book review. 

Advisory: Lots of fantasy action. As the book centers around a war, there are multiple battles in which people (and creatures) are bit, injured, killed, or turned to dust. There are also scary and ugly things, like Stone Keepers, toothy cows, Bat Fangs, and the thirteenth honeymuffin. 

In addition, Gnag uses powerful stones to meld people with animals into Fangs or cloven. There are a lot of scenes centered around the melding and its results, but I thought it handled very well. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars