Tag Archives: villianess

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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And I Darken – What if Vlad the Impaler was a Woman?  

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And I Darken – What if Vlad the Impaler was a Woman?  

And I Darken poses the concept of Vlad the Impaler as a woman, and I was not disappointed.  It was initially billed as Dracula meets Game of Thrones, but that is a bit misleading.  Don’t expect any vampires and understand the comparison to Game of Thrones is really based on children being used as pawns in a game of corrupt politics. If that sounds like your cup of tea, prepare yourself for an immersive read that takes you to the rich and exotic Ottoman Empire where every ally can turn into a fierce enemy, and the sacrifices you choose to make can brand you a slave or a powerhouse.  I thought it was a five star read.

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Goodreads Summary

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

My Thoughts

Excellent read with enough action, adventure, and bloodthirsty ambition to keep any reader entertained.  Lada is the daughter that her father never wanted, but she has all the qualities of the son he needs.   She is ruthless, fearless, and feral and she is exactly the character I wanted from the woman who would become the Impaler.  If you love your strong female protagonists holding a sword in one hand and a dagger in the other, she will be exactly what you want, too.  Some readers will see her as heartless because she is frighteningly calculating and, at times, purposefully cruel, so, if you are looking for a gooey core to your warrior woman, you can pass on this one.  However, if you like your antihero fierce and smart, step right up.  Radu, Lada’s younger brother, does play as a nice foil, and he provides the softer perspective to the narrative, so it isn’t all hard edges but there is a very sharp learning curve in this deadly game of power.  It is definitely going on my high school classroom library wish list because it will definitely be a big hit with my readers.   I can’t wait to recommend it to fans of Throne of Glass, Graceling, The Young Elites and Rebel of the Sands.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+, but adults will find this just as engaging.

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

The Star-Touched Queen – a fever dream of Indian folklore and mythology

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The Star-Touched Queen – a fever dream of Indian folklore and mythology

In The Star-Touched Queen,  lush descriptions and exotic details are paired with an epic and mythical feel to create a beautiful book with a really cool story nestled inside.  This book has both content and style, and yet I would hesitate to hand it to just anyone because the style will overwhelm some readers.

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Goodreads Summary

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets — thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself.

A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-Touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.

My Thoughts

It felt like a fever dream.  Things would inexplicably shift and I wasn’t always sure what had happened or why.  Neither was the narrator, and yet she kept forging ahead while I was left a beat behind, still trying to explain what she just accepted.  It reads like a lot of the world literature works I teach, and if you are not willing to just accept some strange elements popping up and go with the flow, it may leave you frustrated.  I think the biggest hurdle appears shortly before the main character faces a monumental decision, and as the story got murkier and more mystical, I felt that a lot of my high school students would close the book and move on.   That would be a shame because the resolution is satisfying, but I know my students well enough to say it would be the breaking point.  There is an audience for this book, and I certainly see it garnering awards.  I think it would be a great book to push readers to a new level.  However, I can’t see it being a book that gets more attention from YA readers than from adult readers of YA.  It is appropriate for high school readers.

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

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.

Who says love is the strongest emotion? My Second Life by Faye Bird – a darker vision of reincarnation.

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Who says love is the strongest emotion?  My Second Life by Faye Bird – a darker vision of reincarnation.

Finally – a YA book about reincarnation that doesn’t focus on everlasting love. This book focuses on everlasting guilt, and that makes this compact read a little darker than I expected, but also very compelling.  The plot is, at times, improbable (reincarnation, people), and the feelings are raw, but I just couldn’t put this book down until I had the answers. This is a fast moving book, and it felt shorter than the 250+ pages. I read it in a single sitting, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find others will as well.

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Goodreads Summary

A pacy page-turner that asks: Can you be held responsible now for something you did in a previous life?

Fifteen-year-old Ana has a good life–she has friends and a boy she likes and a kind mother–but still, she’s haunted by her past; she knows that she lived once before as a girl named Emma, and she still misses her old family. When, by chance in her life now, Ana meets a woman she knew in her previous life, a terrifying memory flashes through her mind of a young girl drowning. Was Emma responsible? And should Ana pay the price? Consumed by guilt, Ana sets out to find out as much as possible about the person she was before and what she had done, only to discover that the family she misses so deeply had dark secrets of its own. To come to terms with her life now, Ana must figure out how to let go of the past.

My Thoughts

I can’t resist a book about reincarnation, and this time I’m glad I didn’t try.  I enjoyed this moody mystery a lot.  I did feel like the ending was a little anti-climatic for all the build up; it was a resolution that did give me answers, but it left me a little unsettled.  I think that is a good word for the feelings this book evoked – it was unsettling.  Part of this is the situation itself, but part of it is the way Ana feels so disconnected from her present and so connected to her past.  I think the lesson here is about clinging to a past that leaves you with no future, and that is a valid life lesson that many of us need to be reminded of when thoughts about mistakes start consuming us.  I think my high school readers will find the premise intriguing, so this is definitely going on my classroom library wish list.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

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

The Abyss Surrounds Us has a wildly original premise that I just couldn’t pass up

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The Abyss Surrounds Us has a wildly original premise that I just couldn’t pass up

I’m betting that YA scifi/fantasy fans will have a hard time not sampling this book out of curiosity.  I’m betting more than a few of them will stay for the ride.  I certainly couldn’t resist it because I loved the concept of sea monsters trained to defend against pirates, and I loved the complicated internal struggle that the plot creates for the protagonist.  While I did enjoy most of the book, I struggled with a few parts, so this is a three star read for me, but will that really stop anyone from picking up a book where sea monsters fight pirates?  No.  No, it will not.

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Goodreads Summary

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

But Cas has fought pirates her entire life. And she’s not about to stop.

My Thoughts

Cassandra is a well developed and complex character who I genuinely liked for her honest response to her bad situation.  She loves and loathes the decisions she has to make, and that makes her feel less like a character and more like a real person.  The secondary characters also had some depth that added a nice element of unpredictability to the plot.  It was easy to see how Cassandra’s initial resolve began to waiver as she learned more about her enemy.  I didn’t particularly care for the romantic relationship for some reason. I thought there was a lot of care taken to give the relationship time and reason to develop, but, in the end, I just didn’t buy it as romantic – friendship, yes, but romantic love, eh.  Other readers might not feel the same way, but I wasn’t sold.  I wasn’t quite happy with the resolution because I was a little confused about what decision Cassandra was making – was she fooled, did she not care, or was she plotting a stealth revenge?  It was a hard twist to take in at the end, but that is something that might bring readers back for a follow up read.  Overall, I think this is a pretty cool concept, and I think my high school readers would find it novel and engaging as well.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school and beyond.

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

Janet B. Taylor’s Into The Dim is an exciting new addition to the YA time travel genre

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Janet B. Taylor’s Into The Dim is an exciting new addition to the YA time travel genre

If you like time travel, this book is going to be right up your alley.  Into The Dim is more serious than Kerstin Geir’s Ruby Red books, and less grim than Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book, but it is full of what makes them so appealing: a real girl must overcome doubts to carry out a mission in a surprisingly dangerous past.   It isn’t Outlander, but I still gave it five stars.

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Goodreads Summary

When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing. Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.

My Thoughts

The author succeeds in building a world (or two) that is part reality and science and part magic and mysticism.     I found that very appealing, and it takes readers from  a Scottish manor full of time bandits to the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine.  I have never troubled myself with the science of time travel, being more interested in the romance of it, so I easily accepted the rather shrouded explanations.  I loved the plot which had plenty of twists and turns, and the cast of characters really added to the suspense because so many of them were operating with their own agendas (you know, like in real life).  As a narrative voice, Hope is very easy to connect with. Her decisions sound quite reasonable, even when they are dangerous, because it is so easy to see how her isolation leads to her desperation.  I particularly enjoyed the journey she took to overcome her own fears and doubts and to become aware of who she really is as a person.  I’m not going to tell you it is the most introspective work I’ve read for YA readers, but it certainly kept me glued to the page from beginning to end.  I did think it had a slow start, but it didn’t take long before I was ignoring things like food and sleep to spend time with this book.  I think many of my high school readers will find this sweeps them awat as well, and it is definitely going on my classroom library wish list.  Language and situations are appropriate for middle and high school readers, but adult readers of YA will enjoy the adventure as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley 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+.

Need by Joelle Charbonneau is a YA suspense/thriller that is hard to read but hard to put down

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Need by Joelle Charbonneau is a YA suspense/thriller that is hard to read but hard to put down

Need is a really edgy and engaging read!  I read it cover to cover in one sitting despite my growing horror because I just had to know who and what was behind this awful scheme.  I’m not going to tell you this is great literature or try to convince you that there are lessons about morality and social media to be learned through this story.  This is absolutely a book you read for entertainment of the rubbernecking variety, and I certainly got an eyeful.

Need will be released Tuesday, November 3, 2015.

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Goodreads Summary

“No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better.”

Teenagers at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need . . . regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature.

My Thoughts

The story is a series of narratives that are all held together by the protagonist, Kaylee.  Her situation and bungled attempts to help make her someone readers will quickly empathize with, and her inherent goodness makes her likeable.  Some readers will be overwhelmed by the large cast of characters in this book.  Breathe.  Most of them aren’t really important and are stereotyped to give you a fast idea of who they are without wasting a lot of time – exactly the purpose of stereotype in writing.  Relax. Just read.  The major players will start to distinguish themselves fairly quickly, so just wait to start memorizing every name and need.  This is such a smart way to set up this book because it really creates suspense and adds a lot of dramatic irony – it doesn’t take long for you to figure out who this is going to play badly for.  The joy is reading to see if it happens like you expect, and it is paced to deliver.  It doesn’t fool around – rewards come quickly and there are no real lulls in the action. However, I did have a problem with the resolution.  I’m not a big fan of the villian confessional monologue as a resolution, but, again, it is a device that gets a job done quickly.  It was in keeping with the whole teen slasher flick feel of the rest of the story, so it was satisfactory enough to wrap up the fun, but it wasn’t as great as it could have been.  Overall, I think this will be a big hit with my high school readers, and I see it making the rounds based on word of mouth.  I just need folks to practice reading, so I can ignore the violence, selfishness, and awful picture of humanity it portrays (to be fair, these behaviors are appropriately censured and punished).  I especially see this being popular with reluctant readers because it is hard to resist.  Situations make this most appropriate for high school readers.

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