The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees #bookreview #YA #fantasy

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more—until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive? 

With a description that reads nearly like a fairy tale and a magical cover, do I really need to explain why I wanted to read this book?

The writing is lush, beautiful, and velvety, with imagery that will transport you to another place.  Some lines I re-read several times because of the way the author weaves words together.  There are basically three stories in this book, and the chapters alternate.  Somewhere around the middle or so, it’s revealed how they’re connected.  Rhea and her family are adorable and quirky, and the Darkness in the attic is spine-tingling and alluring.  It’s a nice touch.

With the first half of the book, I was all in and just wanted to find a secluded corner with no interruptions.  And then I got to the second half, and it lost me.  It has the feel of a fairy tale, but I felt untethered, and unsure of what was real in the story.  Even the dialogue was off, sounding more juvenile, and I found myself skimming the pages instead of savoring them as I had in the first half of the book.

Many other reviewers loved the dreamy, storybook feel of this novel, but I need to feel more grounded in my reading, with a better grasp of the plot.  Even though it turned out not to be for me, I’d still recommend this book because of the extraordinary writing, and I wouldn’t hesitate to read another novel by this author in the future.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

 

 

The Wish Granter (Ravenspire #2) by C.J. Redwine #bookreview #YAbooks #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence he can’t stop.

Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown.

So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself.

But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, Bishe’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul. 

This series is based on re-tellings of fairy tales, but can be read as stand alones.  The The Wish Granter is an adaption of Rumpelstiltskin – which I had to look up, as the original tale is a distant memory.

I fell hard for Ari.  With her undying loyalty, steadfast determination, cunning negotiation skills, and love of pie – I just adore her.  And she always carries snacks in her handbag – a necessity in life.  Sebastian’s backstory is nothing short of heartbreaking, and he maintains his distance with people – but not for long after meeting Ari.

No doubt you’ve heard that death and taxes are the only certainties in life.  There’s another – the death of a beloved character in any of this author’s novels.  I’ve read several of her books now, and it’s a given.  No spoilers here – you’ll just have to read it yourself.

I read this for a book club (the theme for the month was re-tellings) and it was the perfect selection – exciting action, a sweet romance, an instantly lovable princess, and a loathsome villain (if karma ever needed to make a visit, it’s to this guy).  If you enjoy twists on old fairy tales, I highly recommend this series.

 

The Royal Deal (Chasing the Romantics #1) by D.G. Driver #RBRT #FairyTale #TuesdayBookBlog

A pampered princess is told she must marry a prince she doesn’t like, let alone love, on her nineteenth birthday. Desperate to find a way to stop this arranged marriage, she makes a bargain with her father. If she can survive for three months in the forest with no help of any kind and return healthy and unharmed, then she can choose the man she will marry. The King accepts the wager, knowing he can’t possibly lose. Princess Faith knows she must win this deal, but once she ventures into the forest, she has no idea how she can possibly succeed. – Goodreads.com

D.G. Driver’s books have always captivated me, and The Royal Deal is no exception.  I generally prefer darker fairy tales, but I liked the sound of Princess Faith.  Although headstrong, determined, and spontaneous, she just wants a chance to control her own life.  Ill-prepared to survive in the forest, perhaps she should have thought things through a little better before striking a deal with her father, the King, but whatever the case, you have to admire her chutzpah.

With the appearance of the hermit, I wondered if this would take a turn toward Beauty and the Beast, but I was glad to see that it didn’t.  Not that I have anything against Beauty and the Beast, but I was hoping for more originality than ‘they lived happily ever after’ – and that’s what the author delivered.  I felt the ending was abrupt, but satisfying.

This isn’t a sparkly fairy tale with the prince rescuing the princess – it possesses a more modern spin, with the princess learning independence and building self-esteem.  The Royal Deal is a charming tale that takes only a couple of hours to read at the most, and I’d recommend it to both fans of traditional fairy tales and those who are looking for a different take on the standard stories.

I received a digital copy of this book through Rosie’s Book Review Team.

 

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert #bookreview #YA #fairytales

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong. – Goodreads.com

Not really being a fan of the more light-hearted fairy tales, I found this book description very appealing.  I came to the rapid conclusion that The Hazel Wood is wildly creative, and fans of dark fairy tales will adore it.  Writers in particular will enjoy the plot and character creation aspects mentioned.

With its heightened sense of mystery, ominous cast of characters, and detailed descriptions, this book enthralled me.  Twists, surprises, wonder – it’s all here.  Some readers may not enjoy the pop culture references, but I did.  Alice is well-read, and it seemed right for her character.

Hinterland is both magical and threatening, and it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole with this book.   The Hazel Wood is scheduled for publication January 30th, 2018.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital ARC.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden #bookreview

A young woman’s family is threatened by forces both real and fantastical in this debut novel inspired by Russian fairy25489134 tales.

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift – a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay. – Goodreads.com

The beautiful cover is what initially drew me to this book – then the wonderful reviews, because it’s not something I’d typically pick up.  The hint of the supernatural is what clenched it for me.

The lyrical writing and atmospheric setting immediately reached out and lured me into this story and the Russian tales have delicious dark elements to them.  Generally, I prefer a more fast-paced plot, but a gradual unfolding seems more appropriate for this type of book.  The characters are fully-fleshed, especially the spirited and unconventional Vasya, and the dark forces are chilling – both figuratively and literally, as the characters in this book are freezing a good bit of the time.

Something I struggled with was most of the characters going by a couple of different names and I was confused at times – but that may not be a problem for other readers.

I’d recommend this to fans of fairy tales, folk lore, and Russian history – a bewitching and enchanting read.  Thanks to Penguin First To Read for the digital copy for review.  The Bear and the Nightingale is scheduled for publication January 10th, 2017.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden #FridayBookShare @ShelleyWilson72

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Friday Book Share was created by Shelley Wilson.   Anyone can have a go – all you need to do is answer the following questions based on a book you are currently reading/finished reading this week and use the hashtag #FridayBookShare.  The rules are as follow:

First line of the book.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb.

Introduce the main character using only three words.

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book).

Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?)

Your favorite line/scene.

I’m reading The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden.

First line:  It was late winter in northern Rus’, the air sullen with wet that was neither rain nor snow.

Recruit fans by adding book blurb:  A young woman’s family is threatened by forces both real and fantastical in this debut novel inspired by Russian fairy tales.

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift – a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.

Introduce the main character:  At this point in the book Vasya is only 6 or 7-years old, but she’s stubborn, adventurous, and determined.

Delightful design:

25489134

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audience appeal:  Fans of Russian culture and fairy tales, history, a hint of the supernatural, and lyrical writing.

Your favorite line/scene:  Tears of confusion spilled down Vasya’s cheeks.  The one-eyed man’s avid face had frightened her, and this man’s fierce urgency frightened her, too.  But something in his glance silenced her weeping.  She lifted her eyes to his face.  “I am Vasilisa Petrovna,” she said.  “My father is lord of Lesnaya Zemlya.”

They looked at each other for a moment.  And then Vasya’s brief courage was gone; she spun and bolted.  The stranger made no attempt to follow.  But he did turn to his horse when the mare came up beside him.  The two exchanged a long look.

“He is getting stronger,” said the man.

The mare flicked an ear.

Her rider did not speak again, but glanced once more in the direction the child had taken.

far far away – by Tom McNeal

It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn’t even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he’s able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it’s been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn’t been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specifically, one voice: the voice of the ghost of16030663 Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm. Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings. . .

Young adult veteran Tom McNeal (one half of the writing duo known as Laura & Tom McNeal) has crafted a novel at once warmhearted, compulsively readable, and altogether thrilling–and McNeal fans of their tautly told stories will not be disappointed. – Goodreads.com

This was probably not a book I’d normally read, but with all the remakes of fairy tales these days in TV and movies, I thought, “Why not try it?”  Plus, there was a ghost.  It was unlike anything I’ve ever read, and I’m glad I took a chance on this book.

The plot was well-paced and took me in unexpected directions.  As with fairy tales, especially Grimm, there were some very dark moments, but it was also a wonderful tale of adventure, fantasy, mystery, a little romance and comedy.

The characters were odd, quirky, imperfect, and hilarious.  I laughed out loud more than once and although ambivalent at first, I quickly added Ginger Boultinghouse to my list of favorite characters.  She was straightforward, sometimes inappropriate, mischievous, and although misguided at times, attempts to do the right thing.  The relationship between Jeremy and Jacob was heartwarming.  Jacob came at a time when Jeremy very much needed someone in his life and although a ghost, Jacob acted as both a friend and paternal figure.

This was an entertaining read and I would highly recommend it to 10+ age middle grade and adults who love fairy tales.

This review was based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.