Tag Archives: reimagining

Jane Steele – Jane Eyre reimagined as a serial killer.  Yeah.  You want it.

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Jane Steele – Jane Eyre reimagined as a serial killer.  Yeah.  You want it.

Having taught Jane Eyre for several years, I found the premise of a serial killing Jane quite amusing.  I have often wanted to knock off a few characters myself, so it sounded like a good time.  It really was.  While this book does maintain some of the bones of the original Gothic romance, all of the stupid sentimentality and dithering heroine mess are pushed aside.  Of course, that means some of the major themes that made Jane Eyre a book of its time are missing as well, but this is, by far, a more satisfying read for a modern sensibility.  While this isn’t a YA read, so many YA readers felt tortured by the classic, I felt compelled to pass this on.

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Goodreads Summary

A reimagining of Jane Eyre as a gutsy, heroic serial killer, from the author whose work The New York Times described as “riveting” and The Wall Street Journal called “thrilling.”

“Young Jane Steele’s favorite book, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, mirrors her life both too little and too much…In an arresting tale of dark humor and sometimes gory imagination, Faye has produced a heroine worthy of the gothic literature canon but reminiscent of detective fiction.”

—Library Journal, Starred Review

“Reader, I murdered him.”

A sensitive orphan, Jane Steele suffers first at the hands of her spiteful aunt and predatory cousin, then at a grim school where she fights for her very life until escaping to London, leaving the corpses of her tormentors behind her. After years of hiding from the law while penning macabre “last confessions” of the recently hanged, Jane thrills at discovering an advertisement. Her aunt has died and her childhood home has a new master: Mr. Charles Thornfield, who seeks a governess.

Burning to know whether she is in fact the rightful heir, Jane takes the position incognito, and learns that Highgate House is full of marvelously strange new residents—the fascinating but caustic Mr. Thornfield, an army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars, and the gracious Sikh butler Mr. Sardar Singh, whose history with Mr. Thornfield appears far deeper and darker than they pretend. As Jane catches ominous glimpses of the pair’s violent history and falls in love with the gruffly tragic Mr. Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him—body, soul, and secrets—without revealing her own murderous past?

A satirical romance about identity, guilt, goodness, and the nature of lies, by a writer who Matthew Pearl calls “superstar-caliber” and whose previous works Gillian Flynn declared “spectacular,” Jane Steele is a brilliant and deeply absorbing book inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre.

My Thoughts

At first, I thought this would be a dark mirror image of the classic tale, and that can be boring.  The events paralleled but with some twists.  Eventually, though, this work became its own, and I thought the last half was a spectacular adventure/mystery.  On top of that, this story has a much more exotic and engaging love interest.  (Sorry, Rochester, but you kind of always gave me the creeps anyway). This is really what got my stamp of approval. Without killing the suspense or even the angst, the author manages to create a very compelling , somewhat bloodthirsty and  thoroughly sigh worthy love story.

I thought this was a great romp through sacred literary fields, but there were some things that might keep you from having as much fun as I did.  First, the language is elevated and that means you have to think a little bit.  The same issue stumps many would-be readers of Jane Eyre, so I’m just putting it out there.  Second, there is a decidedly dark sensuality in this read.  Charlotte Bronte definitely didn’t use some of these words and images, so prepare yourself for some more modern expressions of sexuality.  Somehow these things seem so much more scandalous and wicked when placed in this context, so I thought it was a little shocking, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  If you are my grandmother and believe that we are all ruining the world with the acknowledgement that people have fantasies and sex, you probably can’t handle it.

Overall, I enjoyed this read enough to finish it in a day.  I think that it would make a nice parallel text and an interesting study in theme for a college class, but I’m not sure it would be as well received by my high school readers.  I would definitely consider it for a book club read because there are lots of topics for discussion.  I do think you can enjoy this book without having studied Jane Eyre, but watching the movie (the one with Michael Fassbender, of course) might help you make a few important connections and increase your appreciation for its rather irreverent twists.

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

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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 Kiss by Lucy Courtenay is a British YA RomCom that puts a new and hilarious spin on a Shakespearean Classic

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The Kiss by Lucy Courtenay is a British YA RomCom that puts a new and hilarious spin on a Shakespearean Classic

I have seen a lot of retellings and reimaginings that make great works of literature more accessible for YA readers, but I haven’t enjoyed one quite this much in a long time.  If you like movies like Clueless or 10 Things I Hate About You, or even Easy A, you might really enjoy this take on a Shakespearean comedy.  

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I would describe The Kiss as a Bridget Jones for the YA set.  This is a YA RomCom imported from the UK, and I enjoyed every outrageous and ridiculous moment of it!  Delilah, the sixteen year old protagonist, returns from holiday (I feel so sophisticated when I write it that way) in France with the legendary Aphrodite’s Kiss, the kiss gifted to mortals by the goddess herself – the kiss to end all kisses and tie him to you so tight he’ll never let go.  When she passes it on, it makes its way through a crowd of young British university students leaving love and heartbreak in its wake.  While Delilah does bumble around and generally make an idiot of herself in front of the hot guy, this isn’t a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, but instead, it updates Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (the musical version of the play also has a rather large role in the book).  Delilah is a mess, but she is a fixer, so she spends much of the book attempting to right everyone’s life.  Madness and mayhem ensue in the form of creeptastic drug dealers, a couple of old lady lushes, lusty French pen pals, and zombies. I liked Delilah for all her miscues.  She is smart and witty, but not as mature as she thinks she is.  Her journey to a happy ending is fraught with mistakes, but I believe most readers will embrace her well meaning attempts as well as the resolution.  As for the other characters, I liked them, too.  They are not your usual folks, and I found them interesting and colorful. Here is the problem some readers will have – these kids are young (16), but they have a lifestyle more along the lines of a college freshman in the US.  Drinking, partying, and snogging play large roles in this book.  While not graphic, if I had read this as a teen, I would have been on the first plane to England because it sounds like American teens are missing the party, so if you can’t tolerate the teen fantasy life, skip it. (I assume this lifestyle is exaggerated, because if it isn’t, I’m definitely buying a plane ticket). If you can’t be bothered to puzzle out a few words of unfamiliar slang, skip it.  If you want a good laugh and a charming romp through a ridiculous love story, this is your book.  

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.

Spelled by Betsy Schow will leave you asking, “What The Spell Just Happened?” (in the very best of ways).

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Spelled by Betsy Schow will leave you asking, “What The Spell Just Happened?” (in the very best of ways).

While the tone in this book is much more lighthearted and slightly irreverent when compared to several of the latest YA fairytale reimaginings, fans of books like Stacey Jay’s Princess of Thorns or RC Lewis’ Stitching Snow will probably get a kick out of Spelled.  Oz isn’t the only thing that gets an update here – pretty much every story you every loved gets some kind of a cameo.  If you are a purist with no sense of humor, you can skip it, but if you are up for a little adventure and snark this summer, definitely give Spelled a chance.
  

Self centered and spoiled Princess Dorthea of the Emerald Kingdom makes one little wish upon an enchanted star and singlehandedly breaks the rules of magic and storybooks.  Now her mom and dad, the King and Queen, are stuck in Kansas, her fiancé has been turned into . . . well, it looks like a puppy with wings, and she is left to find the magic over the rainbow with only a kleptomaniac kitchen girl to help.  This isn’t the Oz we all know and love, but a wicked mishmash of all the storybooks you ever cherished.  The characters were enchantingly human in their flaws.  Dorthea is not as smart as she thinks she is, and readers will enjoy her bumpy ride to maturity — she reminded me of Cher from Clueless! The “handsome” prince, too has some work to do on his charming.  And that snarky, bitter kitchen girl?  Well, she is a surprise for everyone right up until the end.  The adventures of this band of unlikely heroes is unique and original.  Success is never certain, and readers won’t be able to guess what is going to happen in the next chapter, let alone predict the resolution.  Fast paced and clever, Spelled will engage readers of all ages. 

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

I Am Her Revenge is a contemporary YA Reimagining of Great Expectations.  How has it taken this long for lovely Estella to get her own book?  

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I Am Her Revenge is a contemporary YA Reimagining of Great Expectations.  How has it taken this long for lovely Estella to get her own book?  

The plot of Great Expectations has always fascinated me, so when I realized that I Am Her Revenge was going to be a contemporary YA reimagining with the character of Estella narrating, I began counting down the days to its release.  I wasn’t disappointed.  If you haven’t read the classic coming of age tale, you can still enjoy this book about a girl who has been raised to be a ruthless heartbreaker in the name of revenge.

  

Vivian has been groomed all her life for this moment.  She has had practice runs with practice boys and perfected the art of becoming whoever you want her to be, all in the name of getting revenge on the man who broke her mother’s heart.  Ben is her target, the son of the man who crushed her mother with his cruelty.  All she has to do is play her cards right and everything she has worked for will be achieved, but as the pressure mounts and a boy from her past resurfaces, Vivian begins to question the plan her mother has spent the past seventeen years constructing.  Set on the grounds of an elite private school in the isolated moors of England, this book brings to a new generation the story of a perfectly honed weapon wielded by a woman wronged.  Vivian is the protagonist you love to hate, and she is proud of that fact.  Her mother’s mantras about weakness are deeply ingrained, and she has little conscience about manipulating everyone she encounters.  Her transformation from femme fatal to a character that readers will empathize with is seamless and perhaps the biggest manipulation of all.  The secondary characters are much less dynamic, which is expected in a book with such a strong narrative personality, but both main male characters come across as a little too good.  The plot has some surprises in store, even for those who know the original work.  Most readers will see the big twist coming from a mile away, but it was pretty interesting to see how the author chose to stage the climax, and I was content with the resolution.  There were times when the pacing slowed, but it was part of the plot and a consequence of the limited setting, so it wasn’t detrimental to my enjoyment. The motives behind the original story were a little weak to begin with, and the motives in this book are only slightly better – a little hard to swallow for the practical reader in me.  Overall, I enjoyed this book and devoured it in a few hours.  If you are a fan of Dicken’s Great Expectations (not the purists, though) or if you just like a protagonist you can love to hate (Gone Girl, anyone?), this is a book you will probably enjoy.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.