Tag Archives: fairy tale retelling

Ashley Poston’s Geekerella is the perfect fairy tale for the Geek Girl in you

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Ashley Poston’s Geekerella is the perfect fairy tale for the Geek Girl in you

There have been so many times that I have held my breath, waiting to see who will be cast as a beloved character.  Some have met my approval – Claire and Jamie from Outlander.  Others have broken my heart – I’m pointing at you entire cast of Twilight (yes – it mattered very much to this grown woman).  I completely understood Elle Wittimer from Chapter 1 of Geekerella.  Her world crashes down when her favorite character is clearly miscast .  . . Or is he?

I very much enjoyed this Geek girl version of Cinderella, and I’m not alone – this book has a 4+ star rating with more than 500 reviewers on Goodreads!


Goodreads Summary
Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

Enter to win a copy of Geekerella on Goodreads until May 1, 2017!

My Thoughts

This retelling of Cinderella is a contemporary take, perfect for anyone who has ever loved a fandom.  The decision to make “Prince Charming” a movie star is brilliant, and the fact that his side of the story is an important part of the plot adds a lot to the tale you think you know.  And you do know this story, but if you think that means you won’t feel anxious, you are wrong.  This evil stepmother is wicked, and if her brand of mean feels a bit thick at times, it doesn’t stop you from feeling outraged when she pulls her ugly stunts.  Despite her dark cloud, the modern touches are charming – from the pumpkin themed food truck to the decidedly modern take on the fairy godmother – it is worth reading just to study the parallels.  The vibe is more teen movie than fairytale, but I think it will appeal to a pretty broad audience.   I’m definitely adding it to my high school classroom library wishlist and recommending it to fans of reimagined fairy tales as well as those who love a good fandom.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+, but adults can enjoy it as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Shadow Queen – You haven’t seen a Snow White like this

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The Shadow Queen – You haven’t seen a Snow White like this

This reimagining of Snow White added a few important twists to the story that I really felt brought new life to a tired fairy tale.  There are no dwarves. Thankfully. There is a huntsman, but he has a lot more riding on capturing the wayward princess than he ever has before.  There is magic – big magic – tied to land and intentions and heart.  And this pretty princess with skin as white as snow?  Well, she doesn’t need a rescue.  She is a hardcore warrior in her own right, and this version of the story makes it clear that her courage is the real thing that packs a punch and not some idealized virtue that sounds nice in a eulogy.

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Goodreads Summary

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.
But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

My Thoughts

I have to admit that I’m almost done with fairy tale revisions, and I had to take a break before starting over and giving this book my real attention.  I’m glad I took that break.  This book does deserve to be savored rather than devoured simply because the relationships are complex, the dangers feel real, and just when you want to cover your eyes or slam the book closed, another turn of events keeps you in the game.  Lorelai, the protagonist, is easy to connect with, and a strong female protagonist I believe my high school readers will admire and enjoy.  There is a bit of romance, and the author nicely sidesteps the dreaded insta-love by providing a deeper connection.  I think most readers will be quite pleased with their relationship and the relationships throughout this book.  It reminded me of Princess of Thorns a bit, and if you enjoyed that book, I feel sure this one will grab you as well.  I’m adding it to my classroom library wish list and recommending it to all my readers who like their ladies tough and true.  Language and situations are appropriate for middle and high school readers, but adult readers will enjoy it as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas got a bit of a raw deal from reviewers

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A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas got a bit of a raw deal from reviewers

While I keep saying I’m done with the fairytale retellings, I just can’t seem to leave them alone.  I definitely had A Wicked Thing on my wish list for quite some time, but it was just too expensive, especially when the reviews were generally negative.  However, it recently went on sale for $1.99 on Amazon, and I jumped on it.  I can honestly say that, while I might have been disappointed (like so many reviewers) if I’d spent $11 on this ebook, I was quite happy with it as a $2 read.  It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it is a compelling look at life after waking up from true love’s kiss.

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Goodreads Summary

Rhiannon Thomas’s dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her “true love” is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.

My Thoughts

I’m not sure why this book got slammed by reviewers.  I quite enjoyed it.  It was suspenseful and unexpected, and when it comes to fairytale reimaginings, I feel like I’ve read enough of them that I can be trusted when I say that.  Perhaps it was the rather dismal and hopeless atmosphere?  Aurora is definitely between a rock and a hard place in this book, and things do seem decidedly grim.  Maybe the problem was the fact that Aurora wasn’t a woman warrior from the second she wakes, but it is pretty clear exactly how she was raised, and I thought she was pretty consistent based on her past.  There were enough factors pulling at her that I wasn’t sure what I would have done in her place, and I thought she was actually pretty brave if rightfully cautiousness.  She is a pawn for many of the male characters in the book, but in the end, it actually felt like the only choice she could make was to pick the person who would use her in a way she approved of.  Hey, freedom is sometimes only the right to choose your prison.  In fact, that ending took this book from just being an okay read to a series I’m interested in continuing.

I did have some complaints.  The pacing isn’t as consistent as I would like.  Scenes of action were followed by scene after scene set in the same bedroom or garden.  It wasn’t a huge issue, but it wasn’t as interesting as it could have been.  I also didn’t think that all of the characters were as well rounded as they could have been, and I really wanted some more dimension for characters like the queen and the prince.  These aren’t insurmountable obstacles, and, like I said, I’m interested in seeing what the second book in the series has to offer.

If you like fairytale revisions, or if you enjoyed Sleeping Beauty, this is definitely worth sampling.  While it is definitely a different spin, this book might just be what you are looking for if you enjoyed Stacey Jay’s Princess of Thorns.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.

Once Upon A Time: Red’s Untold Tale left me underwhelmed

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Once Upon A Time: Red’s Untold Tale left me underwhelmed

I thought this was going to be a general re-telling of a fairy tale classic, but it is actually connected to the show Once Upon A Time (I was given a different summary than the one on Goodreads which is a lot clearer about that). I wasn’t really impressed as an adult reader, and even adult fans of the show will probably be disappointed, but middle school readers might think it is just right.  Three stars from me, but the reviewers at Goodreads scored just under four stars.

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Goodreads Summary

Red is 16 and lives with Granny in a cottage in the village, where boarding up the house and hiding during Wolfstime is a means of survival. Red help’s Granny with Granny’s baked good business, catering as well as door-to-door sales.

Red has a constant internal battle between her wild side and her strict, overprotective upbringing, and the issue of “control” as she discovers she has a hot temper when the “mean girls” push her too far. (“When we learn to control it, we needn’t fear it,” Rumpelstiltskin says in the series.) She has flashbacks to her 13th year when she received her cloak and the nickname “Red.”

She is plagued by nightmares that she doesn’t understand, but the Once Upon a Time fans will recognize them as her wolf side coming out.

Red balances the difficult times with Granny at home and the girls at school with an emerging and satisfying romance with Peter.

My Thoughts

This book is definitely going to be most appealing to middle school readers.  The conflicts are firmly middle school territory – mean girls, jealousy, disagreements with Granny.  Red is angsty and impulsive.  She has an irritating habit of doing the opposite of what she is told because she thinks she knows best, and that leads her to drugging Granny so she can sneak out, stealing so she doesn’t have to explain how the mean girls got the better of her, and wandering into the woods at the height of wolf season to make a deal with a strange magician.  I found the pace to be a little slow, and my interest drifted as Red mostly got tormented or yelled at by Granny for a majority of the book.  Peter admired her and had a knack of showing up just when she needed him most, and their slow blossoming relationship is sweet if unrelentingly G rated.  I think that this book is trying to give fans of Once Upon a Time an origin story for Red, but I haven’t seen the show since the first season, and I didn’t really connect it to the show until I finished reading.  Perhaps avid viewers would find this story fascinating, but I thought it was fairly mundane and dull.  Through flashbacks, readers learn about how Red got her nickname and how she came to own her red riding hood.  In the course of the story, readers also discover a little about Red’s parents and their deaths.  I’m not sure if anyone really desperately wanted this  background information because most of it can be inferred, but just in case you did – here.  As an adult reader, I was underwhelmed.  A lot of the story seemed very ordinary and nothing about Red really stood out as a narrative voice.  The plot line is rather predictable, and the resolution is sweet enough to give you a tooth ache, but wholly unrealistic.  I can’t help but think that this book is forgettable in a genre full of more memorable and distinct female fairytale protagonists.  I can’t even begin to guess how much context is lost on me simply because I haven’t followed the show, but I can’t help but imagine that adult readers who look to this book because of their love of Once Upon A Time will be a little disappointed.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Liz Braswell’s A Whole New World puts a spin on Disney’s Aladdin

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Liz Braswell’s A Whole New World puts a spin on Disney’s Aladdin

I hesitated to review this book here because it is really for a much younger crowd. This is not YA.  It might not even be a middle school read.  It has gotten so much interest, though, that I thought it might be worth my time to give you a good idea of what you are getting so you can go into the book with open eyes.  For the right age group, this could be magical, but for an older crowd, this will be a little too tame and predictable.  This book is publishing on September 1, 2015.

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Goodreads Summary

Welcome to a new YA series that reimagines classic Disney stories in surprising new ways. Each book asks the question: What if one key moment from a familiar Disney film was changed? This dark and daring version of Aladdin twists the original story with the question: What if Jafar was the first one to summon the Genie?

When Jafar steals the Genie’s lamp, he uses his first two wishes to become sultan and the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Agrabah lives in fear, waiting for his third and final wish.To stop the power-mad ruler, Aladdin and the deposed Princess Jasmine must unite the people of Agrabah in rebellion. But soon their fight for freedom threatens to tear the kingdom apart in a costly civil war.

What happens next? A Street Rat becomes a leader. A princess becomes a revolutionary. And readers will never look at the story of Aladdin in the same way again.

 

My Thoughts

I think fans of the Disney animated film of Aladdin will be happy with how faithful A Whole New World is to the characters and spirit of that version.  I haven’t seen the animated film since it came out, which might have been almost two decades ago now! However, I immediately pictured each character as their voice took up the dialogue.  The genie is the most memorable character for me, and he is still wise cracking in this version of the story.  My problem was that I still see them as animated characters while I’m reading this.  With all of the sophisticated reimaginings that have been coming out over the last few years, I think I was expecting something more since this was marketed as YA.  This is literally the Disney version with a twist.  While middle school readers might still find this engaging, I think YA’s and adult readers of YA will find this disappointing.  Don’t get me wrong, this is well written and polished smooth, but it just doesn’t have the complexity to engage mature readers.  There is romance, adventure, and battle, but it is all focused on a single goal without really developing any subplots or deep character growth.  Everyone is either black or white, and it goes without saying that small time “bad guys” like the street rats are all just thieves with hearts of gold when given a chance.  Character motivations are limited to greed or noble things like love and compassion.  That is all well and good, but YA readers are usually going to call “bull” when they read something that feels contrived.  I think this is a book that you can share with an elementary classroom or read with your child who has enjoyed the movie, but I can’t see it getting a lot of interest in a high school library. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 4+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell is a steam powered Cinderella reimagining with lots of surprises

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Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell is a steam powered Cinderella reimagining with lots of surprises

Mechanica took a lot of hits from reviewers that I usually agree with, so I was a little afraid to give it a go.  I was surprised to find that I really did like this book, and I was puzzled by so many negative responses to it.  Some said they loved the message but found it boring.  Others just wanted to complain that it sounded too much like Cinder (it’s nothing like Cinder).  I don’t know if we are about to see a fairytale retelling backlash soon, but even if you have read the ten other books that revisited Cinderella this year, I think you can still find a lot to delight you in Mechanica. There is a tiny metal horse that comes alive here, people! His name is Jules!  You just think you’ve read it all!

this book has changed publication dates (again), so it won’t actually hit shelves until Tuesday, the 25th of August.

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Goodreads Summary

Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

 
Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn’t want a fairy tale happy ending after all.

My Thoughts

Mechanica is an enchanting fairy tale retelling that combines steampunk and fae magic and has the seed of the Cinderella story at its core.  While it starts out pretty predictably, patient readers will find it eventually veers in a different direction that is both empowering and reflective.  You’ve read this story before, and maybe even read it set in different times and places, but Mechanica deals with it in a way I haven’t seen before.  This book isn’t focused on going through the plot points and hitting all of the predictable moments you have probably been internalizing since childhood.  This book is more about the character, and about her ideas of love which have been shaped and molded by her circumstances. It is about the protagonist (and the reader) recognizing how love doesn’t have to follow all the conventions and ideas that society tells us are indicators of love.  In order to get that point across, this book had to veer away from the expected and idealized trappings of love that almost inherent in a Cinderella retelling. This results in a lot of bafflement for readers who can’t see why the pattern deviates.  Smart, thoughtful readers, though, will recognize the value in the changes.

My biggest complaint is that it does walk a fine line between YA and middle school readability.  The complexity of Nicolette’s internal struggle is engaging enough for an older reader, but at times, the external struggle feels too young.  I was annoyed when the narrative over explained things I had already inferred, and this happened a lot when the step-sisters were in a scene.  The start of the book isn’t as sophisticated as other fairy tale retellings that are floating around (probably because it is sticking so closely to the traditional source at that point).  When the narrative begins to move away from the expected plot, the story becomes more complex.

Essentially, I think this can be a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers, and if you are at the more mature end of the reading spectrum, you need to stick it out because it definitely will surprise you.  I will add this to my high school classroom library because it does offer such an important message and I think the changes will be just controversial enough to prompt discussion and debate.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Christine Norris’ A Curse of Ash and Iron isn’t just another Steampunk Cinderella

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Christine Norris’ A Curse of Ash and Iron isn’t just another Steampunk Cinderella

There have been many reimaginings of the Cinderella story in the past few years, and you may think you have seen all there is to see, but you would be wrong.  This one looks very steampunky, but it really didn’t feel full on steampunk – steampunk lite – so don’t pass it up just because that isn’t your thing.  If you enjoy a good fairytale retelling, I think you should definitely give this one a sample.

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Goodreads Summary

Benjamin Grimm knows the theater is much like real life. In 1876 Philadelphia, people play their parts, hiding behind the illusion of their lives, and never revealing their secrets. 

When he reunites with his childhood friend Eleanor Banneker, he is delighted. His delight turns to dismay when he discovers she has been under a spell for the past 7 years, being forced to live as a servant in her own home, and he realizes how sinister some secrets can be. She asks for his help, and he can’t refuse. Even if he doesn’t believe in ‘real’ magic, he can’t abandon her. 
Ellie has spent the long years since her mother’s death under the watchful eye and unforgiving eye of her stepmother. Bewitched and hidden in plain sight, it seems no one can help Ellie escape. Not even her own father, who is under a spell of his own. When she sees Ben one evening, it seems he is immune to the magic that binds her, and her hope is rekindled along with her friendship.
But time is running short. If they do not find a way to break the spell before midnight on New Year’s Eve, then both Ellie and her father will be bound forever. 
My Thoughts

This was a truly charming and delightful retelling of Cinderella. I have read several stories that set out on this same path this year, but I felt this one had some truly unique elements to offer. First, I thought this was most interesting because it was a dual narrative between Eleanor and her childhood friend, Ben. The addition of a male narrative to the story was a real surprise, but it added something special to the story, a something that I suddenly see has always been missing. The themes are also unique because of the setting. While this does have a steampunk vibe, it takes place in a believable Philadelphia in the late 1800’s when scientific exhibitions were sweeping the nation. This book pits the budding scientific advancement and the art of illusion against real magic and superstition in a very cool way. It also brings up themes of class differences and gender equality. Neither of these is pushed in an aggressive way, but they really enhance the story and add depth to characters and plot points. Finally, the author used a different approach to explain the troublesome questions of why Cinderella’s father never stopped EvilStepmother and why Cinderella didn’t just ask for help. Smart and fun. I found this very engaging and read it all the way through in one sitting. I wasn’t bothered by the fact that I already knew the basics of the story because the events were fresh, and, truth be told, I wasn’t exactly sure how it would end. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+, but adult readers of YA will also find it rather enchanting.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Ugly Stepsister  by Aya Ling is a fun little remix on an old classic

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Despite the serious nature of the cover, The Ugly Stepsister is a light, funny RomCom revision of Cinderella.  It would be more appropriate if her lovely blue dress was blowing up and showing her drawers because that is about how things go for this misplaced protagonist.  If you are looking for a little fairy tale escape, this is a refreshing and imaginative frolick.  Some people won’t like the antics and tropes the writer employs, but I found it rather delightful.

  
A modern teen rips a storybook by accident and is transported into the story of Cinderella where she must play the role of an ugly stepsister until she is released by a happily ever after ending.  When key characters are missing and events start playing out wrong, that storybook ending starts looking impossible, and no modern girl could want to spend the rest of her life in this not-so-idyllic setting, or could she? If this sounds ridiculous, it is (a fact that the protagonist points out frequently).  There was a moment when I thought this was going to be a long, punishing read of amateurish proportions.  There is always that danger when you read indie works.  This does have some elements that could have been more polished, but I’m glad I pressed on beyond that one moment because it is worth the read.  I do have to say, Purists, beware – If you are looking for a sophisticated and serious reimagining, skip this one, but if you are up for a bumbling romp, this is exactly what you want to read. Kat, the protagonist, is my girl, and I knew it when she admitted she couldn’t function around beautiful boys and that Anne of Green Gables was her comfort book.  She is awkward and completely unsuited for the role she is thrust into, but boy does she play it like a champ.  I liked this Prince Charming more than others, and I think he will wrap more than a few readers around his unassuming finger.  The plot was interesting because Kat kept trying to make characters and events fit into her expectations, and though there was an element of predictability, the twists and turns that grew out of mishaps and miscues kept turning up things that surprised me.  Her modern sensibilities didn’t jive so well with the social structure of storybook land, either, and her campaign for equality adds a nice laugh and a depth to Kat’s character that I hadn’t expected.  If you liked the tv series Lost in Austen, this is a similar treatment, so chances are good you will enjoy this book.  I think my YA RomCom readers will enjoy this.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Stephanie Oak’s debut YA novel, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, is beautifully disturbing but also surprisingly hopeful

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Stephanie Oak’s debut YA novel, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, is beautifully disturbing but also surprisingly hopeful

Why isn’t there more buzz about this book?  Everyone should be talking about this book, if only for the premise I couldn’t quite believe – Minnow’s hands are removed by her cult. Say What? Surely it is metaphorical, right.  Uh, no.  Girl gets her hands cut off by the cult leader as punishment.  Crazy.  And crazy good.  Minnow is an intriguing character, and I thoroughly enjoyed her journey.  I’ve read several cult books this year (did you know that was a thing -YA books about coming of age in a cult?) and several fairy tale retellings (I had no idea Grimm could be this grim).  This was by far the best, and if you like a  haunting and beautiful, if disturbing, Bildungsroman, you will have to search long and hard to find one that surpasses this strange little gem. 

 

Goodreads Summary

 With a harrowing poetic voice, this contemporary page-turner is perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, Julie Berry’s All The Truth That’s in Me, and the works of Ellen Hopkins.

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust.

And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.
Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it’s clear that Minnow knows something—but she’s not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in oneself. 

My Thoughts

Whenever I come across a book that is such a mix of dark and bright, I’m always intrigued, but I found this book and it’s haunting prose particularly impressive for its ability to surprise me at almost every turn.  I didn’t know anything about these characters or the plot, but I managed to make assumptions about everything, all of which the author carefully and thoughtfully disproves time and again. Of course the plot is compelling because Minnow is the only one with all the answers, and she is holding her cards close right up until the end. The author’s true craft, though, is in the narrative, which seamlessly slips between the past and present, building suspense and giving a true reckoning of a girl that isn’t as weak and naive as circumstances would have you initially believe.  Minnow is a character who would be so easy to pity, but she is so much more than the things that have been done to her, and the author succeeded in drawing her as a complex character that lives and breathes beyond the page.  Readers will be horrified as details become clearer, but they won’t doubt for a moment that Minnow is going to survive.  I particularly enjoyed the friendship that formed between her and her hardened teen cell mate.  Their sisterhood is a nice parallel to the twisted sisterhood that failed to protect Minnow when she needed it most. Themes of friendship, forgiveness, revenge and love add real depth to the story, but the biggest message is finding your own truth in a world where others will use their idea of truth to enslave you.  I had never read the Grimm’s fairytale that inspired this book, but when I did, I was pretty awestruck by the brilliance of this reimagining.   I think my high school students will enjoy this book, especially those who enjoyed Julie Berry’s All The Truth That’s in Me and it’s enigmatically silent and haunted narrator.  Adults, too, will find this book hard to put down.  Situations and language make this a book best suited for mature high school readers.

I received an ARC through the Penguin First To Read program in exchange for an honest review.

Hold Me Like A Breath is the first in a series of fairy tale retellings that are part Grimm and part The Sopranos

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Hold Me Like A Breath is the first in a series of fairy tale retellings that are part Grimm and part The Sopranos

I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I picked up Hold Me Like A Breath, and it took me a long time to decide I did like this story of a physically weak female in a brutally violent world, but by the end, I was so sold.  This is certainly something different from the long list of books featuring impossibly tough female protagonists, but realism does have its perks.

 

 

Seventeen year old Penelope lives within the guilded cage built by the money from her family’s dealings in the black market organ transplant business.  It isn’t just the guards and gates that keep her inside.  A severe blood disorder guarantees that she is coddled and protected in a thick layer of cautious air kisses and soft padded spaces.  She dreams of being free, but when she finally escapes, it is in a hail of gunfire brought on by a rival family.  Left to find her way in a world she has never been prepared for, Penelope will learn what it means to live, to love, to lose, and to survive.  While I expected Penelope to be a really strong female protagonist, someone who seizes power and respect, she just wasn’t that girl.  That was okay with me.  We can’t all be Katniss, and the strength that Penelope has is more realistic for the average reader to aspire towards – grit.  She is absolutely knocked on her tail many times in this story, and her blood disorder forces her to admit her weakness isn’t just an underestimation of her abilities by the patriarchical structure of society.  She really doesn’t know how to navigate a world were every friend has become a suspected enemy, and neither does the reader who sees everything through her perspective which creates a lot of anticipation and suspense.  I really had a hard time putting this book down once the action started, and the line in the summary about betrayal had me wrapped in knots because I knew it was coming, but I just didn’t know who or where it would come from.  The romance in this story was sweet and gently romantic.  Penelope has all the longings any teen girl will relate to, but the author takes the time to develop a companionship between her characters, and if the love that grows from it felt a little rushed, it can be explained by the rocky and bruising circumstances.  Readers who recognize this as fairy tale realism will be quite pleased with the mix of human limitations and romantic idealizations. I tried not to ruin the inspiration for this story (one I didn’t pick up on until I read the author’s notes) — it was such an Ohhh! moment, and I think others will enjoy it as well if they can wait that long to peek.  This is the first in the “Once Upon A Crime Family” series, and I will certainly be looking for the next.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.