Category Archives: Young Adult Fairy Tales

Book/Audiobook Review: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

vassa-in-the-nightTitle:  Vassa in the Night

Author:  Sarah Porter

Genre:  Young Adult Fantasy/Re-Telling

Release Date:  September 20th, 2016

In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling away again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair…

Summary from Goodreads.com

My Review:  This is one of those books that kept popping up in my Goodreads and Amazon pages as suggested reads and I thought it looked interesting, but man there are some very mixed reviews about it out there so I was a little hesitant.  I downloaded the audiobook and started that way, which I think was good since the book was a little slow to start in the beginning.  The narrator did a fantastic job though and I loved her voice and pace as the novel unfolded.  I ended up half listening half reading the book because there were some events that I could not wait until I had to get back into the car to listen too.

Vassa in the Night is based off a Russian Folktale, Vasilisa the Beautiful, that I had actually not heard of before.  I did not read it before this book either, because I wanted to just go into it not really knowing a whole lot about it. Which in hindsight might have not been the best idea because I was thoroughly confused for the first few chapters of this book and reading the folktale might have helped with that.  On the other hand, I think this book is meant to be a little fantastical, so some confusion might have been normal.

Vassa herself was very interesting character, lost after the death of her mother, she does not really know where she belongs.  Except for her doll that has been her companion for six years, she feels alone. The book explores her ability to find out who she is and what she is going to choose to stand up and fight for.  She is stumbling through life at the moment and as readers we are right there with her trying to navigate the world she is in and the obstacles she faces that seem impossible much of the time, but then have very simple solutions.  She has quite a bit of help from unexpected places as well, to guide her to her ultimate end goal.

While the magical elements of the novel were no surprise to me, the amount of bloodshed did catch me a little off guard.  I guess it shouldn’t have, since outside the BY’s store there are detached heads on pikes, but the first half of the book did not have a lot of things happen that were bloody.  The second half though, there are quite a few moments that were pretty gruesome.  Not stomach turning, but just things I did not expect.  It took on a darker tone than the first half of the book.

Reading this review, I know I am not describing the book very much, but honestly, I could not do that in a simple review.  There is way too much happening in this book and giving all of those details away would just ruin it I think.  I liked this book, I did not love it.  I really did not love the ending, but I read that there might be another book in this world eventually which I think is necessary.  If you want to read something that is very different from anything else out there right now and just strange, then I would give this book a try.  I would read the folktale it is based on first, just so you have some idea of what is going to unfold as you enter this world.  I will be watching to see if there is a sequel in the future.

 

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Book Review: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Of Beast and BeautyTitle: Of Beast and Beauty

Author: Stacey Jay

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Fairy Tale

Release Date:  July 23rd, 2013

In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret…

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

-Summary from Goodreads.com 

My Review:  I am a sucker for retelling and fairy tales. I read Princess of Thorns by this author and loved it, so after I finished that I immediately got my hands on this book. Of Beast and Beauty puts a sci-fi twist on Beauty and the Beast that I found fascinating. It took place in a world where the god, for lack of a better way to describe it, is split in two, one good and one evil. Interestingly enough, the evil spirit watches over the “smooth skins” who are people without blemish (for the most part) and live within the only cities left surrounded by walls to keep others out.  There are monarchs that rule in these lands and every so often the queen must sacrifice herself to keep their lands prosperous. The good half of the spirit has been suppressed for far too long and has left for the lands outside of the walled cities to live in a wasteland.  The “monsters” who live in those desert lands starve and perish very quickly. To break the curse in this world a smooth skin has to fall in love with a “monster” and after that happens all the lands will be prosperous again. Too bad neither of them ever see one another and hate each other fiercely. Enter, Gem and Isra.

Watching the two interact together and slowly learn not to hate one another was so sweet. These two have centuries of embedded hatred for each other’s people to overcome. Once they can start to get past that and slowly appreciate each other is when it really starts to get interesting. I loved the slow build of the romance and how the two of them learned more about themselves as they got to know one another.

I loved the world itself and all of the legends and interesting mythology that came with it. Overall, just a great read.

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Book Review: Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell

Unhooked.jpegTitle: Unhooked

Author: Lisa Maxwell

Genre:  Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date: February 2nd, 2016

For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home—all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. Now these delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. The only saving grace is her best friend, Olivia, who’s coming with them for the summer.

But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey, Gwen realizes her mom might have been sane all along.

The world Gwen finds herself in is called Neverland, yet it’s nothing like the stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through her fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the roguish young pirate who promises to keep her safe.

With time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But will she be able to save Neverland without losing herself?

Summary from Goodreads.com

My Review:  I picked this book up because I am a huge fan of Once Upon a Time and the way that Hook is portrayed on that show, so when I saw a book that also has a “Hook” that has redeeming qualities I was very excited.  The book starts out with Gwyn settling into a new place to live after her mother has uprooted her again.  She is trying to adjust to her nomadic life and not really doing very well with it.  I thought that the first couple of chapters moved very slowly and I found myself putting it down to go do other things quite a bit.  I know there needs to be some set-up for the plot, but this one just seemed to drag a little in the beginning.

One aspect in this book that I found intriguing were the two stories that were going on simultaneously.  At the beginning of every chapter there was a small snippet of a story being told about a boy and his brother.  I actually found myself much more interested in that story in the beginning then the story about Gwyn.  I knew the two would intersect at some point, and I really love how they did, but I did find myself wanting more of the tale of two brothers rather than what was going on with Gwyn at some points.  Following along that same line, the chapters were very short, which can be a good at times, but I felt like sometimes they would break at points in the story that did not make sense.  Many of the chapters could have been combined into larger ones that would have helped the story flow better.

As for the characters, I loved Rowan, he was a perfect Hook and I loved how he was portrayed.  I was picturing a younger Hook from Once Upon a Time most of the time when he would appear on the pages and the mystery that clung to him contributed to his appeal.  I wanted more of him throughout the novel and in the final chapters. I liked Gwyn most of the time, but she did get a little whiny at points and it would grate on my nerves.  I know she was thrust into a new world, but I felt like she needed just a little more backbone at some points and I would have loved her more.  Maxwell portrayed Pan very well, which made for an interesting twist on the whole Peter Pan tale.  I love a good retelling, but this was more a reimagining of the stories we know and love, which appealed to me even more.  So much so that I wanted more from the ending.  The climax was great, but the resolution of the story fell flat for me.  I wanted more pages to wrap up a couple of things, more time spent in Neverland exploring this strange world, or even another book.  I don’t think this tale was quite complete and since Maxwell has no plans as of now for a sequel I was left unsatisfied.

The book is classified as a Young Adult and while that did fit, I wish the boundaries had been pushed a little more to make this a New Adult or even and adult book.  The characters needed more room to push the boundaries and I felt like Maxwell needed to make it just a tad darker in some places to push the book from good to great.  There were also strange descriptors in Unhooked, such as “The green-gold scent of the jungle”.   The scent of green –gold?  Not really sure what that is supposed to smell like.  It was moments like that, that took me out of the story that I wish were more polished.

I know it sounds like I am being really hard on this book, but I did actually like it.  I just did not love it and I wanted to love it so badly!  It had everything I look for in a book, it just needed to be more.  I enjoyed the authors’ style and I will look for more of her work in the future, but I am not itching to get into a new book by her anytime soon.  I will always remain hopefully that there will be a sequel to Unhooked, maybe that will answer some of my questions and satisfy me with how Gwyn’s and Hook’s lives turned out.

 

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