Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C Hines

This was a great read. It reminded me a bit of playing Zelda or another quest like game. Beautiful women, action and adventure, and some romance. Mr. Hines took my by surprise and I enjoyed the book much more than I thought I would.

Based on the cover, I figured Cinderella and her stepsisters would team up together against some plot or evil doer. This plucky book introduces you to Danielle, or as we know her Cinderella. Yet, Mr. Hines is quick to inform you that the public opinion of Cinderella is not how the story goes. Much like the paparazzi get the story wrong or blow certain aspects out of porportion, Cinderella's true story is nothing like the folk lore. Danielle is eventually introduced to Talia, or Sleeping Beauty. Talia is a fighting expert, her fairy blessings lending themselves as much to dancing as to the graceful movement of the martial arts. Talia, in turn, introduces Danielle to Snow. Snow is indeed Snow White and she is a sorceress. It was her own mother, and not a stepmother, that attempted to murder her. These three young women embark on a rescue adventure that has uncertain outcomes. This was a fun read and I'm looking forward to his next two books. Especially the Red Riding Hood one, since it was alleged that she turned into an assassin.

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

I loved Princess of the Midnight Ball and was eagerly awaiting this new book. Cinderella is one of my favorite stories and I have liked all of the cookie cutter versions I have come across. I was expecting the same basic format, young woman of privilege finds herself without resources and burdened with an aquired family that treats her like a servant, finds help from a benevolent fairy, meet the prince, marries the prince and lives happily ever after. You can imagine my confusion when I began to read Princess of Glass and discover that it is actually Poppy from her previous story about the 12 dancing princesses. Okay, I thought to myself, Poppy is just a tie in and will be an observer somehow. However, what ensued on the pages was the most divergent of the Cinderella versions I have ever come across. And, I still liked it. It made me want to read the original fairy tell of the 12 dancing princesses to see how much she diverged from that tale, as well.

Cinderella is not the good little girl that she is made out to be, there are no step sisters, and the fairy godmother isn't everything she appears to be. I, again, thoroughly enjoyed this tale and look forward to Ms. George's creativity. A definite must read for anyone who loves a good fairy tale.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Aurelia by Anne Osterlund

Poisoned! The first pages tell of a poisoning and threat to the princess. The threats continue and the kingdom reaches out to a former spy for help. In lieu of the spy, his son returns to the palace to help sort out the danger that faces the royal family and Aurelia. Compounding the difficulty of his duties, he is forbidden from telling Aurelia the danger that she has been in and which continues. She continues to take risks that place her in further danger and makes Robert's job almost impossible. As the story unfolds it becomes clear to Robert that the culprit must be someone who has easy access to the princess, which only leaves the most powerful people and the most dangerous to rule out. A wonderful tale that led me looking for more stories from Ms. Osterlund!
(Did I mention that she is also a fellow Oregonian and a teacher?)
(Seriously, read her book Ms. Plumb!)

Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund

Wow! Shout out for Anne Osterlund, a fellow Oregonian. I really enjoyed Academy 7. I never would have read it if it hadn't been for Aurelia. This book brought back all the joy of watching Star Trek with my dad, minus the random weird alien life forms. This is also a detour from my Princess stories, sort of.

The story starts out with Aerin flying in a spaceship that is rapidly failing. She sends out a distress call that launches her into a world she never could have imagined. A world she never even knew about. She eventually crosses pathes with Dane, a young man who looks like a spoiled rich kid, but has a life almost as difficult as her own. Too much more and I might jeopardize the integrity of the author's layered story. This was every bit as fanciful as my favorite princess stories, the horse were just exchanged for spaceships and the evil sorceress, dragon, etc for slavery and an over ambitious government. I sincerely hope that there will be a sequel. ( I read this whole book in less than 24 hours, it was that good)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr

Fragile Eternity is the third book in Ms. Marr's Faery series. This book opens with a return to Aislinn's story. The Summer Queen is adjusting to her change from mortal to fairy. She has to be increasingly careful of Seth, his mortality makes him very fragile in the face of her fairy abilities. Aislinn is also plagued by attention from the Summer King, Keenan. Both "men" are vying for her attention while trying to remain civil for her sake. Seth is increasingly frustrated by Keenan's pull on Aislinn. He feels that each day draws her further and further away from him. His solution is to try and find a way to become part of the fairy world, permanently. His journey begins as Aislinn is trying to find her proper place in the summer court. She is fond of Keenan and feels a pull toward him, but she does not love him. She tries to remain true to her feelings and yet fulfill her purpose for the summer court. She experiences many trials due to her infant knowledge of fairy dealings.

Ms. Marr's first two books dealt mainly in the struggle of human versus fairy. While this book also has an element of this, it is much more focused on the fairy world in this story. It will be interesting to see if she returns to the human versus fairy pattern for her next book.

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

This is Ms. Marr's second book in the series. I already mentioned that this was my introductory book to the series.

Ink Exchange breaks away from the story of Aislinn, who is still present but not as central in this story. We follow her friend Leslie. Leslie has been abandoned by her mother and father. Her mother is gone and her father uses substances to avoid reality. She is left to the mercy of her brother, a user who uses her as payment to settle his debts with his dealers. Leslie is broken because of the rape, abuse and abandonment. She is estranged from her friends because she feels like she cannot share what has happened to her.

As a sign of independence and liberation, Leslie decides that she needs to get a tattoo. It is a symbol for her that her body is her own. She takes a long time deciding what tattoo to get and finally settles on one that is created by her friend the tattoo artist. It is a unique design and Rabbit will not tattoo it on more than one person. Leslie is unaware of the link it will cause between her and the fairy realm. She must face another battle to liberate her body and escape the dark fairies that persue her.

I enjoyed this story. Because I read this story before reading the Wicked Lovely, there were times that I felt like I was missing some of the story. Another darkly good read.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

This was the second book of Ms. Marr's that I read. The first was the sequel to this book. Although, I would have preferred to read them in order, I was able to follow the story line without too much difficulty. I did feel like I was missing some information as I read Ink Exchange, but it didn't affect my enjoyment of the story. Ms. Marr's series definitely leans to a darker side of fairy tales. I tend to gravitate towards Cinderella type stories, so this was a detour for me.

In Wicked Lovely, we meet Aislinn, a teenager who, for her whole life, has hidden her ability to see fairies. Her mother died when she was an infant and so she was raised by her grandmother. Aislinn has a circle of friends at school and is attracted to Seth. Seth lives in an old rail car, which offers protection from fairies. Just as Aislinn and Seth start to explore a relationship, she draws the attention of the Summer King. He is a powerful fairy who is the embodiment of summer. He has been searching for his missing Queen for centuries. He thinks Aislinn might be the one, or she might be the next in a long line of mortals who are sacrificed because of his search. Aislinn soon finds herself drawn to both Seth and the Summer King. She is forced to navigate her feelings for both "men" and her emerging importance to the fairy realm.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

I have to admit, the only true exposure I have to the story of the twelve dancing princesses is the Barbie movie. Not being an expert on this story, I do not know how closely this story resembles the original nor how far it may actually swerve. I did find it very interesting and am eagerly awaiting another of Ms. Day George's books.

A mother who desperately wants children makes a deal with a diabolical underworld king. Little does she know that she is a pawn and will never produce the heir for which she longs. Instead she will produce 12 beautiful princesses. With each daughter, she returns to the villanous king and asks again for his help. Each time he "helps" her, she finds herself further indebted to him. She is forced to dance for the king at his midnight balls to repay her debt. Eventually, she wastes away from the constant strain on her body and the lack of sleep. She leaves behind her loving husband and her 12 daughters mourning her loss. As her debt was unfulfilled, her daughters are forced to continue dancing for the evil king. His intention is to never let them go, but to marry them off to his 12 half-breed sons. The evil king is unable to leave his underground lair, but his sons are able to enter the earthly realm at night. The children of his sons and human women would result in underworld children that could live on the earthly realm with no restraints.

Some interesting twists and turns occur during the story and I can only say I will not ruin the ending. Read the book, it's a good one.

Midnight Pearls by Debbie Viguie

A retelling of the little mermaid. The story starts with a prelude of Pearl's sorrowful wedding day. The first chapter, however, takes you back to her discovery by a fisherman. Each chapter starts with a new glimpse of her wedding day and then proceeds to show you more of her childhood as a fisherman's daughter.

I think the oddest change for me was the lack of presence of the sea witch in this story. She definintely plays a role, but it is very subdued and her actual exposure time in this novel is very limited. Ms. Viguie includes an interesting twist by uping the ante and placing more lives at risk with the sea witch's curses.

One of the most important things for me, a happy ending. Ms. Viguie definitely delivers a happy ending. Not the one I had thought the story was leading to, but happy never the less.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fire by Kristin Cashore

This was another winner by Cashore. Her second book is a prequel to Graceling. Here we meet beautiful, mind-numbing monsters. When a human looks upon these creatures, the human becomes so enraptured that it often allows itself to be eaten. Monsters also are drawn to other monsters and there is often a kill or be killed consequence.

The heroine in this story is called Fire. She is named for her hair, which contains all the hues of her namesake and is so brilliant that she must keep it covered to help protect her identity. She is the last human monster. She begins her story at her estate in the countryside. Her friend and sometimes protector, Archer, lives on the neighboring estate. There have been increasing occurences of trespassing on her land and, in the opening pages, she is injured by someone they think to be a poacher. The poacher is mysteriously blank and Fire begins a journey to discover who is sending these men to her property.

There is a reintroduction of Leck. He is the antagonist of her first book. You know the outcome of his story, if you have read Graceling. It is even more interesting to read of his beginnings, especially when you know how powerful he becomes in his later years.

This was a wonderful story and I am intrigued to read her next book in the series, Bitterblue.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

This is a story with which I have fallen in love. Cashore has a unique concept that really drew me in to the story of Katsa. Born with eyes of two different colors meant that you were graced with a unique ability. No two gracelings were exactly alike. You could be graced with a special ability to swim, a special ability to learn, a special ability to fight, or a special ability to ... It's in part the plausibility of this special mutation that makes the fantasy exciting. The other part of the equation is Katsa, herself. She is a strong young woman who faces depressing expectations and must decide to allow herself to be pigeon holed or to break free and discover her full potential. A good story that was difficult to put down.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Beauty Sleep by Cameron Dokey

I love a good fairy tale about a girl who finds herself in trouble and ends the story with the prince and the crown. One of my favorites is Sleeping Beauty. This may be why I didn't fall in love with this retelling. The story is good and I can understand wanting to put a unique twist on it. However, I prefer the Disney version. This version is one part Sleeping Beauty, one part yellow brick road and one part Quantum Leap.

My favorite version of Sleeping Beauty begins with the infant princess receiving a curse. This version is no different. It diverges from the ordinary by taking you through Aurore's childhood, instead of jumping to her life right before the curse falls. I had some trouble as the author seemed inconsistent on the age difference between her heroine and her cousin. At one point he is 10 years older than Aurore, at another 8 years separate them and again she starts a flashback as a 10 year old, only to switch in the middle to an 8 year old. Maybe it was part of the time traveling aspect of the story or maybe not.

Instead of a beautiful, perfect princess, I found a young girl who didn't quite fit and was allowed to behave as a working class girl. This caused a schism with the nobles of her kingdom, who preferred her male cousin. The 16 year-old Aurore decided to take a journey of self-sacrifice to save her kingdom. She travels to a forest that has a mind of its own and often reminded me of the craziness of Oz. Here she meets a young man who seems to be telling her about herself and yet he keeps telling her that the princess has already met her curse and slept for 100 years.

The end of the story, which was a little too easy for me to predict, involves my Quantum Leap comparison. Without ruining the conclusion, I found it difficult to embrace the author's time traveling solution and outcome. I didn't think I was difficult to please when it came to the fairy tale genre, but I no longer can say that all I want is a happy ending. I think I will stick with the Disney version for now.

Once Upon A Time...

as all good fairy tales begin, there was a girl who loved to read. She loved to share her favorite stories almost as much as she loved to enjoy them herself. She decided that she should stop pestering her loved ones with the details of these adventures and start a list. A list that could be read if one so chose or could equally be ignored.