Friday, February 17, 2017

Fairy Tales: Timeless Tales (Retellings Part 2)

This week I resume my list of suggested retellings! If you missed it, the first half of retellings is here. Without further ado, we'll kick off with . . .

Sleeping Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty by Mercedes Lackey

Heavy is the head--and the eyelids--of the princess who wears the crown...In Rosamund's realm, happiness hinges on a few simple beliefs:

For every princess there's a prince.

The king has ultimate power.

Stepmothers should never be trusted.

And bad things come to those who break with Tradition....

The moral of the story? Sometimes a princess has to create her own happy endings....

The Five Hundred Kingdom series consists of six adult retellings. As a whole, the series is hit or miss, but I love the premise. What if fairy tales happen a certain way because some mythological force called Tradition dictates that certain things have to be that way. The seventh son has to be foolish, lucky, and the least favored child. The girl with a step-family has to marry the prince, etc.

Those who are aware of the Tradition can try to manipulate it, but those who aren't can get caught up in a disastrous tale. The Fairy Godmother starts off the series, and I'd recommend that because it sets up how the Tradition works, even though it's not my favorite book. All-in-all each book can be read as a stand-alone.

This story is what happens when a little kingdom finds itself so full of fairy tale aspects that it requires a fairy godmother all to itself. Both the fairy godmother and Rosamund shine out as strong female characters who are determined to make their own fate and use the Tradition for them, not be used by it. The two male main characters provide humor and the final elements for an amazing story.

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Aleksia, Queen of the Northern Lights, is mysterious, beautiful and widely known to have a heart of ice. No one would seek her wisdom except as a last resort. But when she's falsely accused of unleashing evil on nearby villages, she realizes there's an impostor out there far more heartless than she could ever be.

And when a young warrior following the Tradition disappears, leaving his sweetheart and mother to fear the worst, Aleksia's powers are needed as never before.

Now, on a journey through a realm of perpetual winter, it will take all her skills, a mother's faith and a little magic to face down an enemy more formidable than any she has ever known.

Another one from the Five Hundred Kingdoms series. This one is my favorite of the series and also my favorite retelling of the Snow Queen. (Creating unique titles clearly isn't Lackey's strength)

The Snow Queen starts off near the end of the traditional tale and it's told from the Snow Queen's point of view. This story twists the roles of the characters and gives the Snow Queen a new motivation for her actions. Her personality and how well she plays her role made me instantly love her. The rest of the story is brand new.

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

The Goose Girl

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life under her aunt's guidance learning to communicate with animals. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady-in-waiting leads a mutiny during Ani's journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to assist her. 

Becoming a goose girl for the king, Ani eventually uses her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny. Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can become queen of the people she has made her own.

This is another book that's made its way into my library and I've read it at least twice. There's two stand out things for me in this tale. The first is the addition of Ani having magic. There are different forms of "speaking" in Ani's world and she has one of those forms. The second is that this book feels very much like the original tale only fleshed out.

The talking blood and horse head are absent(unless I'm forgetting), but otherwise this feels like Hale took the original story and expanded it and filled in all the blanks. Most retelling are tweaking the plot in some way, but this stands out as unique because so much was the same.

I the rest of the series(which are not retellings, but stories from other characters in the world) was okay, but they failed in my mind to measure up to this one and I didn't even add the last two books to my collection. This can be read as a standalone and though I have a friend who'll shoot me for saying so, I'd have been happy stopping with this one.

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

The Princess and the Pea

Violet Eyes by Debbie ViguiƩ

When a storm brings the dashing Prince Richard to her family's farm, Violet falls in love at first sight. Richard also gives Violet his heart, but he knows his marriage is destined to be an affair of state, not of passion. For the king and queen have devised a contest to determine who will win their son's hand in marriage.

To be reunited with her prince, Violet must compete against princesses from across the land. It will take all of her wits - and a little help from an unexpected source - if Violet is to demonstrate the depth of her character and become Richard's bride.

The Princess and the Pea is not a popular tale to be retold, but even if adaptions abounded, I think this one would still snag the number one spot. There's never any doubt as to who the main couple are, but the path to try and be together is still an interesting one.

There are two especially interesting qualities about this story. I don't want to give out any spoilers, so excuse me for being a little vague. The first awesome thing about this book is that there's a whole host of princesses trying to win the prince. The author takes the time to develop quite a few of these other princesses and gives them such unique personalities, that it's hard to imagine they weren't always part of this fairy tale.

The second thing is the tests. I can't say more, but I absolutely LOVED the tests.

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

Blended retellings

These two books are both combined retellings. They're both middle grade, but I enjoyed them as an adult.

A True Princess (Snow Queen/Princess and the Pea) by Diane Zahler

Twelve-year-old Lilia is not a very good servant. In fact, she's terrible! She daydreams, she breaks dishes, and her cooking is awful. Still, she hardly deserves to be sold off to the mean-spirited miller and his family. Refusing to accept that dreadful fate, she decides to flee. With her best friend, Kai, and his sister, Karina, beside her, Lilia heads north to find the family she's never known. But danger awaits. . . .

As their quest leads the threesome through the mysterious and sinister Bitra Forest, they suddenly realize they are lost in the elves' domain. To Lilia's horror, Kai falls under an enchantment cast by the Elf King's beautiful daughter. The only way for Lilia to break the spell and save Kai is to find a jewel of ancient power that lies somewhere in the North Kingdoms. Yet the jewel will not be easy to find. The castle where it is hidden has been overrun with princess hopefuls trying to pass a magical test that will determine the prince's new bride. Lilia has only a few days to search every inch of the castle and find the jewel—or Kai will be lost to her forever.

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

The Princess Curse (12 Dancing Princesses/Beauty and the Beast) by Merrie Haskell

Twelve princesses suffer from a puzzling (if silly) curse, and anyone who ends it will win a reward. Reveka, a sharp-witted and irreverent apprentice herbalist, wants that reward. But her investigations lead to deeper mysteries and a daunting choice—will she break the curse at the peril of her own soul?

I've never once contacted an author to ask if they'd write a sequel for something. Until this book. Yes, I'm way above the target age range. This was simply a brilliant book that combined two awesome stories to create a deep tale with fascinating characters. I dearly hope there'll be a sequel, and I'd love for it to be YA targetted.

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

There are a few more recommendations I'd like to put out there and didn't really have a category to put them in. The first is a fairy tale anthology that has various retellings of different stories

From the Stories of Old A JL Anthology

In this international collection, new life is given to fairy tales, both classic and obscure.

Mythical creatures put the fairy in Fairy Tale. Mermaids, selkies, and ocean guardians experience the best and worst of humanity; sisters encounter an unusually friendly bear; a brave bride meets a silly goose; and a spinner of gold sets the record straight.

Urban fantasies modernize classics: a Frenchman learns the truth about magic, his past, and his girlfriend; a girl sets out to find love but receives a curse; and today’s naughty list makes Old Saint Nick not-so-jolly.

New worlds bring a fresh sense of wonder! In the future, a young woman fights for her people and herself; a bastard son finds acceptance in a world ruled by women; and a farmer’s wits win the heart of a frosty king.

Discover unexpected twists on old favorites, and fall in love with new tales and worlds to explore!

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

The second is a series where the first book is about the characters attending fantasy schools for princes and princesses. The sequential books are all retellings using those characters.

Growing up is hard enough for anyone, but for a boy destined to be the Prince Charming of a fairy tale it's an absolute nightmare. Attending Charming Academy you not only deal with the normal aspects of youth, but there are sarcastic dragons, vindictive witches and your princess hates you. Will Lucian survive school and become the prince his parents believe him to be? Join him and his friends as they learn the art of being a Prince Charming.

The following books in the series are the tales of The Princess and the Frog, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and two more that I've yet to get to. (I'm in the middle of the 4th book)

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

Last up is a series where I've read all the books, but it's been so long and stories tend to blend in my head that I couldn't accurately pick out which ones I enjoyed enough to recommend. Violet Eyes is one of the books in this series. The rest are all pictured below and as they're by different authors, the best route to finding all the links is to pull up one on Amazon or Goodreads and find the linked list or also bought. (Yes, I'm too lazy to pull up that many myself)

And that is all for retellings! I read a lot of retellings and have a lot that I still want to read. So hopefully I've been able to pass along some interesting titles you haven't added to your list yet. 

What are your favorite retellings? What do you look for in a retelling?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Valentine's Day Book Sale!

This Valentine's Day, the awesome authors at Fellowship of Fantasy have banded together to provide an awesome selection of free and discount Fantasy and Speculative Fiction stories. Browse the titles, select as many as your heart desires, and discover your next favorite author!

All Fellowship of Fantasy titles are author rated with a guaranteed content level no higher than PG-13, so you shouldn't encounter graphic sex, gratuitous violence, or excessive language.

As pricing can be subject to the whims of the vendors, please verify that the deals are, in fact, still active before purchasing. Thank you!

Bargain Books (priced at 99 cents)

Fellowship of  Fantasy
Rebirth—Frank B. Luke-Amazon
Seven Deadly Tales—Frank B. Luke-Amazon
The Hidden Level—AJ Bakke-Amazon
To Save Two Worlds—AJ Bakke-Amazon
The Regency Shifter Series—KM Carroll-AmazoniTunesBarnes and Noble
Academy of Secrets—Michael Carney-Author Website
Sunbolt—Intisar Khanani-AmazonBarnes and NobleKobo
Wyndano's Cloak—A. R. Silverberry AmazonBarnes and Noble
The Stream—A. R. Silverberry -AmazonBarnes and Noble
Rainbird—Rabia Gale-AmazonBarnes and NobleKobo
Reality Break—Jennifer Kibble-Amazon
Battle for the Throne—EJ Willis-Amazon
Nyssa Glass's Clockwork Christmas—H. L. Burke-Amazon
The True Bride and the Shoemaker—L. Palmer-Author WebsiteAmazon
Cry of the Sea—D. G. Driver-Amazon
Foxtails—Erica Laurie-Amazon
Eun Na and the Phantom—Erica Laurie-Amazon

Free Books

The Buick Eight—Frank B. Luke-Amazon

Cora and the Nurse Dragon—H. L. Burke-Amazon
Lands of Ash—H. L. Burke-Amazon
Prince of Alasia—Annie Douglass Lima-Amazon
Awakening—Julie C. Gilbert-Amazon
Leandra's Enchanted Flute—Katy Huth Jones-Amazon
Mercy's Prince—Katy Huth Jones-Amazon
Woe for a Faerie—B. Brumley-AmazoniTunesBarnes and Noble
Chasing Lady Midnight—C. L. Ragsdale-Amazon
Jin In Time Part One —Karin De Havin-AmazoniTunesBarnes and Noble
Nyssa Glass and the Caper Crisis—H. L. Burke-Amazon

Fellowship of Fantasy

Friday, February 10, 2017

Fairy Tales: Timeless Tales (Retellings Part 1)

Readers everywhere have fallen in love with retellings. Old tales are spun into new. They've grown longer and have added depths to them. What makes a great retelling?

The most obvious qualification is a recognizable plot. Perhaps the names are the same, or similar to the original. Ex. Cinderella might be Eleanor, Ella, or Ellie. Belle might be Bella, Gabriella, Annabelle, etc.

More than the names, you need to hit familiar plot points and aspects of the story. What would Snow White be without some form of the seven dwarves? What about Sleeping Beauty? She most definitely needs to be under a form of sleeping curse at some point.

The goal is to have readers be able to say, "Hey, this is a retelling of blah blah." And know that even if they hadn't been informed ahead of time(by blurb or shelf).

New twists are a must. If the story is the same, it'll be lackluster. Retellings are taking the old and spinning them into something new. Maybe Rumplestiltskin was trying to rescue the child from two horrible people, or the Little Mermaid needed to get legs to find her captured sister.

Magical storytelling and engaging characters are good things to have in any genre. I think it's important to highlight them. Characters need to pull emotion from us. Whether we hate them, love them, or find them amusing, emotion is good. We need to cheer for the heroes and rant against the villains. Often character development in the original tales was lacking and shoring up that weakness now that we are taking novel-lengths to retell the story is important.

Storytelling should still remind us of a fairy tale. It should sweep us away, it should be vibrant, it should make us feel like we're in some fantasy world.

Lastly, the pixie dust touch. This is the special something that each author can bring with their version. It defies a set formula and can't be captured to repeat. It's the thing that will grip readers.

I love reading retellings, so today I'm going to share some of my favorites with you. I expect the list to get long! Any books I've read recently or read multiple times where I can remember details of what I loved(more than a memory that I did love it), I'll attempt to do a short "why I loved this" segment.

We'll start with one of my favorite tales that gets retold. Now I'm not overly fond of the original 12 Dancing Princesses story, but I find it's retellings are often my favorite.

12 Dancing Princesses

The Firethorn Crown By Lea Doue
Princess Lily, the eldest of twelve sisters and heir to a mighty kingdom, desperately seeks a break from her mother's matchmaking. Tradition forbids marriage with the man Lily loves, so she would rather rule alone than marry someone who only wants the crown.
Fleeing an overzealous suitor, Lily stumbles into a secret underground kingdom where she and her sisters encounter a mysterious sorcerer-prince and become entangled in a curse that threatens the safety of her family and her people. Lily can free them, but the price for freedom may be more than she's willing to pay.

The Firethorn crown is an amazing story that really rounds out the charcters more than the original. It also takes the love interest from a different quarter, as well as having more male characters than just the "failed princes" and the love interest. There's lots of potential for more stories and some of the best descriptions I've ever seen in any book.
Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

Entwined by Heather Dixon

Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her—beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing—it's taken away. All of it. And Azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

A tale of twelve princesses doomed to dance until dawn…
Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above.

This has been my favorite retelling of this story for years. It's now tied with number one on my list. I've read this a couple of times and I love it for a lot of the reason I love The Firethorn Crown, good development of the princesses, a unique love interest, and room for each princess to have her own story. Unlike most TDP stories, this one gives a good bit of the story from Galen's pov and having the male main character take a turn in the spotlight was a good move on Jessica's part.

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads


I actually am not a big Cinderella fan. This boils down to my issue with Cinderella staying. Her parents are dead, she's a slave in her own house where she's mistreated. Yet she stays! That drives me crazy! If you're okay with that kind of labor, then at least go somewhere that pays you and treats you better.

The Stepsister's Tale by Tracy Barrett

What really happened after the clock struck midnight?

Jane Montjoy is tired of being a lady. She's tired of pretending to live up to the standards of her mother's noble family-especially now that the family's wealth is gone and their stately mansion has fallen to ruin. It's hard enough that she must tend to the animals and find a way to feed her mother and her little sister each day. Jane's burden only gets worse after her mother returns from a trip to town with a new stepfather and stepsister in tow. Despite the family's struggle to prepare for the long winter ahead, Jane's stepfather remains determined to give his beautiful but spoiled child her every desire.

When her stepfather suddenly dies, leaving nothing but debts and a bereaved daughter behind, it seems to Jane that her family is destined for eternal unhappiness. But a mysterious boy from the woods and an invitation to a royal ball are certain to change her fate...

This tale decides to take things from the Stepsister's point of view. Imagine if Cinderella was a spoiled brat who believed being asked to do anything was a hardship? Imagine if the stepsister was the one doing all the work and trying to navigate around a spoiled new sister and a mother with her own basket if issues.

A really unique twist that showed characters in a new light and showed what happens when bad nurturing is involved.

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

"Princess, nobody can stop those rumors. People would rather believe in fairy godmothers...than think that you took charge of your own destiny."Like every commoner in the land, Ella dreams of going to the ball and marrying Prince Charming. But after she is chosen to marry the prince, life with the royal family is not the "happily ever after" that Ella imagined. Pitiless and cold, the royals try to mold her into their vision of a princess. Ella's life becomes a meaningless schedule of protocol, which she fears she will never grasp. And Prince Charming's beautiful face hides a vacant soul.

Even as her life turns to misery, the stories persist that Ella's fairy godmother sent her to the ball: How else could the poor girl wear a beautiful gown, arrive in a coach, and dance in those glass slippers? But there is no fairy godmother to help Ella escape the deadening life of the castle. Can she do it on her own?

As a kid, this was one of my favorite retellings. I've read it many times, though not in recent years. My favorite part is the twist. What if Cinderella won the prince and then afterwards realized he and the palace life weren't her HEA? This takes place after Cinderella has come to the palace and before the wedding. You meet a guy one night at a ball and then you fall and love and get married? Uh-huh, that was always a problem with Cinderella's tale, but no more. We see what happens when you up and choose a guy you just met.

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the "gift" of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: "Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally." When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella's life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you'll ever read.

Another childhood favorite, Ella Enchanted puts a curse on Cinderella that compels her to obedience. At last there was a reason for why Cinderella was stuck in her position. With a father who failed as a parent, a wicked step-family who realizes that for some reason their sister HAS to obey them, this book is a recipe for success. The prince is no longer a strange figure that Ella doesn't meet until the ball and there's plenty of magic and other things going on. Ella Enchanted has withstood many contenders to still remain my favorite retelling of Cinderella.

(and you most certainly should NOT watch the movie. I know what movies do to books, so I've never seen it. But I have heard the wailing from fellow lovers of the book that it was a special kind of bad.)

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson

Happily Ever After...Or Happily Nevermore? 

Gisela's childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father's death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela meets the duke's son, Valten--the boy she has daydreamed about for years--and learns he is throwing a ball, she vows to attend, even if it's only for a taste of a life she'll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten's eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.

Captive Maiden is one book in the Hagenheim series which are all medieval fairy tales with a Christian slant and no magic. Very rarely do I see retellings without the use of magic, so this is a fun series that I've mostly enjoyed that feels more like historical fiction than fantasy.

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast is one of my top two favorite fairy tales(based on the original). In light of that, I find it very strange that I do not really enjoy retellings of this tale. I was actually shocked to find only ONE book that retells this story to my complete satisfaction.

Rose of Prophecy by Hope Ann

She is afraid. Not because she is alone. Not because thick roiling clouds obscure the moon. Not because the wind rushes through the forest like a wild dragon. She is afraid because she is late. And to be late means death.

Despite the destruction wreaked by Tauscher, traitor to the King. Despite the distant war led by the Prince and fought with the help of her three brothers. Despite her own poorly-chosen nickname of Beauty, she'd enjoyed life.

But, in a flash of light, Beauty finally glimpses the truth. And the cost. The price which must be paid, or the sacrifice which must be made.

It is a curse which even love alone may not be able to break. 

This story is the only novella on my list and as mentioned, the only retelling of BatB. I've had some middling reads for this tale, but most retellings for this have crashed and burned. 

Like Cinderella, there is a plot point that's always bugged the crap out of me. The father . . . Usually portrayed as a kind and loving parent, I struggle with a good father allowing his daughter to take his place. Or even telling her about the deal!!!

Rose of Prophecy was simply amazing. For the first time, I actually read a retelling where the father didn't tell Beauty! He hid it from her. He was willing to die for her. He wasn't going to allow her to go. He wasn't even going to pitch it as an option. He wasn't going to tell her and have her forever after blame his fate on herself. I could've just hugged the author. 

A combination of dealing with that aspect and a host of other amazing attributes made this one a winner.

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

Peter Pan

Peter and The Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Don't even think of starting this book unless you're sitting in a comfortable chair and have lots of time. A fast-paced, impossible-to-put-down adventure awaits as the young orphan Peter and his mates are dispatched to an island ruled by the evil King Zarboff. They set sail aboard the Never Land, a ship carrying a precious and mysterious trunk in its cargo hold, and the journey quickly becomes fraught with excitement and danger. 

Discover richly developed characters in the sweet but sophisticated Molly, the scary but familiar Black Stache, and the fearless Peter. Treacherous battles with pirates, foreboding thunderstorms at sea, and evocative writing immerses the reader in a story that slowly and finally reveals the secrets and mysteries of the beloved Peter Pan.

That seriously is the blurb. Whoever wrote that thing should be made to walk the plank. Peter and the Starcatchers is a series based on Peter Pan(a story I've never really cared for in any of its variations) and though it's a middle-grade book, the dark edge and depth of the plot and characters renders it just right for young adult and adult audiences.

I highly recommend this series(the first 2 books are the best). Both my husband and I read it and it now graces our library. The first three books would be prequels to the original tale and show us the story of how everything came to be, while introducing some terribly wicked villains and leaving you with the feeling that somehow this really all could've happened.

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

That wraps up the first part of the retelling section! The second part will be posted on Feb. 24th, so keep an eye out for that! If you missed the intro post, you can find it here.

What are your favorite retellings based on these four tales? (Cinderella, The 12 Dancing Princesses, Beauty and the Beast, and Peter Pan.)

Friday, January 27, 2017

Fairy tales: Timeless Tales (Intro)

A beautiful phrase from one of my favorite retelling series that happens to be true even in its simplicity.

Fairy tales have been a part of written and oral storytelling forever and it doesn't matter how much time goes on, readers and listeners still love them. It's a love that is timeless.

Fairy tales are broken down into two sub-genres: retellings and originals. I love both, but I see a lot more of the retellings than originals. Since I love fairy tales, I'm going to do a mini-series on them.

So let's get started!

There is some debate on what actually makes a fairy tale a fairy tale. Here are somethings that are commonly used to define the genre.  

Fairy tales are often placed in a fantasy world with no definite locality. We expect to see good triumph over evil, heroes win their quest or defeat the great evil. Heroes win the kingdom and marry the princess. A lot of times the characters are of simple origins, or are archetypal. The goose girl, the princess in need of rescue, the seventh son, the youngest son, the heroic prince, the kind and dutiful daughter/sister. Fantasy creatures often play a role as well, either as helpers or villains. Ogres, giants, dragons, and trolls. Wicked stepmothers and evil witches. And of course fairy godmothers. Other helpers might be talking animals or objects.

Sometimes it's the plot points that make a fairy tale a fairy tale, and other times it's the elements of the tale such as the inclusion of the above listed things that make it one.

Next we'll discuss who the audience is.

Are fairy tales only for children? Or are they something adults can read in broad daylight out from under their covers?

With Disney and the current slew of live-action films on classic fairy tales, it's hard not to associate fairy tales with fluffy storylines, happy endings, and children. That's just one trail in the fairy tale woods, though.

A lot of old fairy tales had a dark side. They had sad endings, dark moments, deaths, gruesome scenes, and went deeper.

Here's some moments you may not have known about!

- In Grimm's tale, Cinderella's stepsisters cut off their heels and toes in order to make the golden slipper fit their foot, but the Prince spots the blood on their stockings and realizes they are impostors. 
Later the stepsisters invite themselves to Cinderella's wedding where Cinderella summons birds to attack the stepsisters' faces, mutilating their beauty and tearing their eyes out, sentencing them to a lifetime of blindness as punishment for their behavior.

- Rapunzel's beginning rarely changes, but it's worth mentioning the rather disgusting nature of the poor girl's beginning. Her mother can't control her urge for the neighbor's property and instead of asking or buying the food she craves, she convinces her husband to steal it multiple times. When he is caught, he bargains his daughter for an unlimited supply of the rampion/rapunzel. 

Eventually the witch locks Rapunzel in a tower. When the prince shows up, he does make a plan to rescue Rapunzel, but is also sleeping with her and it's an accidental commit betraying her pregnancy that foils their plan. After Rapunzel is cast into the wilderness, the prince climbs up to find the witch and she drops him into a patch of thorns where he is blinded. 

Now things do end happily for the couple, but it's still got a gloomy chain of events that is kind of crazy if you think about it.

- Sleeping Beauty definitely has a major difference between the version we know and its Italian version which has the princess waking after her prince rapes her. She gives birth to twins and that's what wakes her! The story goes on to show that the "prince" is already married and his wife wishes to cook both Beauty and her children! 

Overall there's a lot of injuries, death, and general moments where "gosh, that's a bit much for kids!" With so many fairy tales, and so many versions, there's something for everyone.

Adults or kids, lovers of dark and light. Bittersweet endings? Or Happily Ever After? There are both. Tragedy, comedy, and romance.

I had a friend ask me once what the fun was in reading retellings. "You already know the story!"

It's a legitimate point, and one I think that deserves a response.

First, I'll say that you don't really know the story. You may know the plot points, but the story is new. The character's are new, the world is new, and how you get to those plot points is new.

Second, in a way don't we know most stories? Usually we can gather enough information from the genre and the blurb to surmise some things. We'll be able to pick out which two people fall in love(in a romance) no matter how far apart they are or how much they hate each other. We know somehow they're going to meet and they're going to get over their differences. In a dystopian we know the MC is going to get shaken out of their comfort zone and challenge the system or get swept up in a group who will challenge the system.

There's a lot of things we can guess with a pretty good accuracy rate. So I like to think any book is about the journey, not about the surprise.

To round off the intro into fairy tales, here are some interesting fairy tale related tidbits.

  • The very first Cinderella tale was actually from China! It was recorded around 850 AD. Cinderella is named Yeh-hsien(or Yeh-shen) and wears a dress made of kingfisher feathers. Instead of glass slippers, she wears golden slippers.

  • The habitable region around a star where planets can support liquid water (being neither too hot, nor too cold) is called the Goldilocks Zone.

  • The Guardian made a promo video in 2012 featuring the "true" story of the Three Little Pigs.

  • Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria is easily one of the most famous castles and inspired Walt Disney himself. The Magic Kingdom, along with Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella's castles were based no Neuschwanstein.

 Unlike most castles, Neuschwanstein was created after there was no longer need of defensive architecture. It literally is a fairy tale castle that was built for no other purpose than beauty. From its location to its design, it's not hard to see why people from all around the world have fallen in love with this romantic castle.
  • The Brother's Grimm are famous for collecting 210 fairytales and publishing them in their novel(not intending the work for children). They continued to edit the collection and ended up with seven editions. Most changes were to make the books available to the largest possible audience by removing the sexual and gory parts.
  • Despite the Grimm reputation of violent or sad endings, most of the collection did end happily ever after.
  • Most of the Grimm's stories were collected in the comfort of their home where educated, middle-class women who were excellent storytellers came to share them.
And that's all I have for you today! The next post in the series deals with retellings! Part 1

Monday, January 23, 2017

Blood Debt - ABB Review

Welcome, dear readers, to another Angry Book Blogger review. I've been chomping at the bit to write this post since I finished this story. The meme's within me do not want to be contained!!

Basics first as usual. Blood Debt is a NA something romance. Basically it's about centaurs that are actually humans with abilities so I'm not sure if that puts this in fantasy, paranormal, or mythological. I'd say it's best described as a wish-fulfillment book(for some people).

Her whole life, it had just been the two of them. Before her mother’s last breath, she gave Camille the information she had craved her entire life: the identity of her father. Daring to contact him, Camille was welcomed by an entire family she never knew existed. But nothing comes without a price, as she discovers when her family claims a legendary heritage tracing back to a centaur touched by Zeus.

As she learns the secrets of her Centaur bloodline, she is drawn into a forbidden love with Drake. Her life may be the blood debt required to pay for her mother’s transgressions. The same person who once held her mother captive, and forced her into decades of hiding, now controls Camille. Her only chance is to seek a piece of her mother’s past that will win her freedom and the life she desperately wants.

I'll start with saying I hated this book. I was not feeling well at the beginning of the year and flew through seven books in five days. I'm happy to report that I enjoyed most of them, with a couple okays in the mix. 

This one though, I must've read a different book from everyone else(no I didn't) because almost all the reviews on this are . . . glowing. So hopefully I'll save some hapless reader who may have tastes that are like mine from falling for the same beautiful, positive-reviewed trap that is Blood Debt.

The first paragraph of the blurb is what you learn within like the first two chapters. We start the story with Cami's mother dead and her making a call to the father she's never met. The call goes really well and he wants to see her. In fact, he pays to have her flown to the other side of the country the next day so they can meet.

Cami gets to South Carolina and is greeted by a gooooogeous and well-mannered young man around her age. Surprise! She has a half-brother! He's been sent to pick her up and he leads her out to a ridiculously expensive vehicle. 

Waiting in the front seats are two more ridiculously handsome and polite young men a few years older than her. Surprise! She has two more brothers. They're quick to inform her that there's two more brothers(also hot gentleman, who'd have thunk) waiting to meet her later.

Now, these five men pretty much all look alike, sound alike, act alike, and for some possessed reason the author decided to name them in a way that I knew would cause problems. 

Okay, so there isn't a brother named Bacon but for the life of me I can't remember their names. I just know they were all about the same length and started with B. SERIOUSLY!!!?? I quickly gave up trying to remember who was who and just rolled them all into one who'll now be referred to as Uni-Brother.
Cami then meets her dad who (shocker) is good looking and totally excited to meet her and oh, did I mention, he's filthy rich and lives in a house that I'm sure most of us would weep to know the price of. He also bought all five kids matching expensive vehicles and buys her one as well after 2 days.

She then meets her dad's wife who(was married to him when the one-night stand with her mom happened) is beautiful, warm, welcoming, and just so happy to have Cami in her home.

I mean, this is like the PERFECT family. I kid you not. Everyone is rich, has a good job, a nice house, they're healthy, and friendly and there isn't even a hint of them not accepting Cami as a permanent part of their lives.

It is so hard to get involved with a book when everything is so cotton candy sweet and perfect that it gives you a toothache. At this point, Cami's doing a little "something must be wrong" thinking and I'm right there with her. I mean, obviously something has to be wrong.

She's told she's a Centaur(who are not half-horse/half-human but humans with gifts) and it takes all of like two paragraphs for her to be like "Oh yeah, I believe this." 

OH COME ON! Her mother never showed any special gifts, she never showed any special gifts, these people haven't either. And she's totally going to buy it? 

She's already well on her way to believing when the mother starts conversing with her dead mom because apparently spirits don't move on right away. That's the clincher for Cami. No more doubt.

Cami now finds out that male centaurs so outnumber the females that they're desperate to make a marriage. I mean, Cami is a fully-grown Centauride(female centaur) and she is the hottest thing on the market.

Cue hot, polite, dashing, well-groomed, rich man parade. 

"Hello, I'm a tall, fit, perfectly tanned young doctor who owns an island with a mansion on it and 20 servants." 

Uh-huh. These men pretty much are submitting their "husband resumes" by telling her all of their achievements. They're all good-looking and well-off. Top that off with further discussion looking like this, "So what do you like to do HAWT man?" "Whatever you like to do Cami. Anything you think would be worth my time to do, I will do wholeheartedly." "What do you do in your spare time hot man?" "I help out at the soup kitchen and feed starving children in third world countries, and if I have free time I read to kittens in the shelter."
So I can't remember the actual word for word dialogue, but I kid you not she did ask what they liked to do and the answer was whatever she liked, and when pressed she was given a list of saintly deeds.
Shoot me now!

She then attends Uni-Brother's wedding and trips on the stairs. But no fear! Another chivalrous hot man is there to catch her.
Now, you think you know insta-love? Well, you don't until you've read this book. He catches her people. That's all he does!!! And they're now soul-mates.

To be fair, we just see Cami being gobsmacked at first, but later when Drake relives the scene, we see it. He had no interest in her, then he touched her and fully admits to being head-over-heels for her.

Here's where it gets tricky . . . he's engaged!!! To her best friend! Wait, Kristen, wait . . .she just moved here, how does she have a best friend? Oh, didn't I tell you? She met Bianca(Drake's fiancee) at this wedding and Bianca says, "So I have this friend that has visions and she said we're destined to be BFF's." 

Cami goes, "That's so cool! No having to shop around for a friend. I have one already set for me!"

Uh-huh. I can't make this stuff up people.

Centaur rules say that once engaged, the male centaur can have almost no contact with other unmarried female centaurs. We're talking no eyes meeting, no contact, no conversation. And no unsupervised time.

Cami's dad explains this to her, yet she turns around and kisses Drake(on the cheek) after he rescues her(a second time). Like . . . she was just told about this! Drake's the last of his bloodline, he needs this marriage, and any rule-breaking means his fiancee will break up with him and almost no centaur ever receives a second offer because the centaurides see them as "someone else's unwanted leftovers."
And she does that! And that's after he risked himself to save her when she publicly insulted someone without knowing all the facts.

Now let's go back to the perfect life(did we leave it?). Cami's constantly taken on outings with her brothers and she spends time with her dad's wife(Gretchen) who is a SAHM that cooks the most amazing meals and is trying to teach Cami how to use her centaur gifts.

In fact, the only "bump" in Cami's perfect world is that she's expected to marry a Centaur before the age of 30. She does a good number where she's proclaiming she'll marry who she wants and when. She'll marry a human if she wants, because love is love.

Finally! Something that's not having my eyes roll.

Except she's smacked over Drake! A centaur! How convenient that she can spout her bit about "I won't buy into this whole pure-blood thing and I'm all about love" when her looooove is a pure-blood centaur. So no conflict there.

And then she goes out on a yacht trip with Bianca, Drake, and Uni-brother. Bianca drags Uni-brother inside to play an playstation game or something, leaving Drake and Cami alone on deck. Let's be clear, this is the day after the wedding where their only contact was the two brief times Drake saved her and they didn't say more than a few words to each other.

She touches Drake's head to read his mind(because we're still not doing the whole respecting culture thing) and he sends her a bunch of graphic *cough* scenes of the two of them getting down and dirty. Next thing you know, they're kissing.

I'd be like, "EWWW, I don't even know you!!!" *flee scene* Not Cami, she's like "make out time!"

Someone pass me the head desk gif!!

Guilt sets in and Cami hides from Bianca for days, refusing to answer her calls. She calls her only connection back in California for advice. Which, takes me to another point. So she has this guy friend that we're told in no uncertain terms has never been and will never be a love interest. For some reason it was necessary to put him in the book(we'll call him the Nameless one, since I can't remember his name), but his role is down to a few brief phone calls and texts.

Basically Cami texts/calls him if she's going to do something at first in case this perfect world is not what it seems(it is). And then this once for advice. I mean, he literally is the most useless character and the role he played was unnecessary. 

But we get to spend about a chapter in his pov as he freaks out over not being able to get ahold of her and flies to SC to make sure she's okay. (more on this later)

Finally Cami decides to talk to Bianca and we find out(while in Bianca's pov) that her premonition friend also knew that Cami and Drake will have insta-love if they touch and informed Bianca. Bianca took Drake to the wedding with the hope of setting him and Cami up. That's why she left them on the deck of the yacht.

So no conflict there because Bianca's aware and totally cool with this. She informs them of her knowledge and her genius plan so that no one ends up unattached or in trouble, etc. etc. Cami gets Drake, which frees Bianca to get her one true love who just so happens to be the guy that Cami is supposed to marry unless someone else marries him first. 
All is well in Cami's world!

Wait, but this book is about a blood debt! Yep, and now we'll get to that. When Cami's mom ran away and left her fiancee, because of how serious that matter is(possible bloodline dying out since no one wants the reject) there is this thing called a blood debt. You think ooh scary, but not really. No one collects on females because there's so few of them. Cami's life isn't in danger, and we know that pretty early on.

Cami meets the man her mother ran from and he did actually get a second chance and now has a son. He says in repayment of the debt, if this son isn't married by 29, Cami has to marry him, and she can't marry until he has. This of course is the man that Bianca loves and since we learn that quick, there's no tension about whether or not this'll be an issue.

At this point the most interesting thing is that Cami's mom is desperate to tell her something and refuses to tell any of the people that can actually communicate with her.

I spent the whole book waiting for Cami to learn her spirit-communication gift and get this super-important, highly-classified message from her mom. The VERY end she finally can speak to her for a few moments and mom tells her something completely random and dull instead of the important message. Then she fades out before she can say the important thing. SERIOUSLY?
Besides all of the above, I found it really annoying that any parts of the story that could've been interesting were immediately dealt with(problems or roadblocks being swept aside with ease) or were just never resolved.

Cami only ever reads Drake's mind and it's always love scenes of what he'd like to do with her(romantic or sensual). She only communicates with her mom at the end and it's not to receive the anticipated conversation.

The character she misjudges she never apologizes to or even thinks in her head that wow, I misjudged that person. 

The antagonist is given one pov scene near the beginning where she's hunting Cami, but then we're told that Cami's father has spoken to this person(grandmother) and all is well, so you forget about it.

Which makes Cami's kidnapping extremely bizarre. All the grandmother does is trap her on her estate, say you have to marry the person she already agreed to marry if he didn't marry anyone else, and teach her some boring history.

If Gage's(her forced fiancee) dad had wanted the marriage for sure and immediately, he couldn't made that the condition of the blood debt and not tell her she can wait until she's 29. The history had very little import. The only interesting bit of this whole section of the plot is that her grandmother is whacked and that Cami's mom ran from crazy lady not her fiancee.

She even finds her mom's old journal but that's another letdown because we get like two small entries and the rest is glossed over.

And Gage is allowed to bring Bianca and Drake to stay on the estate, which makes the kidnapped thing a lot less tension-filled. Grandma finds out there's some sort of fancy love-square going on and walks out to the garden with her hands covered in blood to say "I killed them." Gage runs in and screams and cries, and comes out covered in blood. Clearly they're dead. (Gage is one of the good guys, so he has no reason to lie.)

Yet like one chapter later, we find out they're just being held prisoner somewhere. Wha-how-I. DOES ANYONE ELSE SEE THE ISSUE? And it's never explained! 
Meanwhile, Nameless got thrown off Cami's family's property and goes down to the grandma's estate because he senses something is wrong. He gets turned away at the gate and taken back to the airport. He then returns home. Like, what was even the point of him doing all of that? So much space taken up to show a failed trip!

And the only thing we learn is that he's half-centaur which there was absolutely no indicator of that at any point in time. 

That hits on most of my major issues with the novel. (Had a few there, did you Kristen?)

Honestly, the amount of problems with the plot and characters makes me feel like this is such a hit is because it's for readers who want to imagine themselves striking it rich in this way. You get the perfect everything and all issues are easily made moot. Apparently "HAWT" men is a huge part of why other reviewers loved this book.

So yeah, if that's your thing then you'd probably love this book. And who knows, maybe that's what the author was going for. Clearly there are lots of people who read and loved this book. I did enjoy the character of Bianca, but other than that, this was a definite fail for me.

I like things to be more realistic and for there to be a good story arc. I found the romance to be ridiculous with the immediacy, and then the back and forth on Cami's part. And so on and so forth.

You know how women are like, "This is terrible, don't eat it." And men are more likely to go, "Oh dude, that was nasty. You have to try it." This is one of those cases where I almost want to say, "this is so bad, you have to read it to believe it." Not that I want anyone else to suffer, but seeing is sometimes believing.

In conclusion, I gave Blood Debt 1 star.