Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Top 10 Books of 2019

A new year is here and that means I get to share my favorite books of 2019! I had a great year for reading with a total of 87 books. I participated(and completed) a book challenge with my sister that had us reading one book a month together. I also had my personal classic challenge for the 4th year in a row.  I only finished one of my three and I'm definitely thinking I'll take it easier this year with my selections.

I was really behind on reviews this year and found myself letting them slip by the wayside. So I apologize for any sparse sections that are the result of not taking notes.

As always there are no special conditions for this list. It's taking EVERY book I read this year into consideration and picking my top ten. Regardless of length, genre, publisher, etc. These were my favorites. Period.

Okay, I lie, I did have one reread that I excluded because that wasn't really fair since it's my favorite book of all time and it'd end up as number one on my list every time I read it(so every 2-3 years) and that'd get pretty boring. (if you're curious it's Watership Down). Other than that though, this is best out of the rest.

So out of 87 books I narrowed it down to my top 10 favorites! And here they are!

10. Call of Brindelier by Missy Sheldrake (4✯)

30367498. sy475 YA Fantasy/Adventure/Romance

A selfish prince on trial for treason. A beloved princess hiding a talent for forbidden magic. The race between Dawn and Dusk to claim Brindelier, a hidden city in the clouds with a promise of ultimate control over the source of power in the Known Lands: The Wellsprings. 

Azi and Rian are back! The newly-betrothed couple once again find themselves drawn into the plots of fairy-kind, bestowed with gifts of new titles and strange, powerful abilities. A threat is revealed; one which Flitt insists is worse than anything they have yet faced. Is she referring to the gathering of Sorcerers who call themselves the Circle of Spires, or is a darker, more sinister force at play? Tib knows. He’s seen the might of the Dusk firsthand.

I always love when I find a series that manages to be consistently good throughout. It's something that seems to happen less and less for me and that makes me all the more excited to recommend this book. Book 3 of the Keepers of the Wellspring was another great addition to the series. I had a few quibbles with some minor things but overall a solid story. The couple who were front and center for book one return to the spotlight here and I missed them so much in book 2! I loved the battle/action scenes and found it impossible to set the book down once I got into the thick of one.

I like that the characters have flaws and struggles. I like that everyone has something they're battling with whether it's prejudice, hiding who they are, a reluctance to change, or temptation. It makes them easy to connect with and though sometimes it might make me dislike them or a choice they make I do believe it makes them feel more human.

9.  Saving Marilee by Annette K. Larsen (4✯)

25379183. sy475
NA Non-magical fantasy/romance

Marriage wasn't bliss—not for Marilee. Instead of finding contentment with the handsome son of a sovereign duke, she found betrayal and neglect. And fear. A fear that finally lifts when her husband dies, freeing her from his domineering hand. But freedom alone can't give her peace, and she must battle to regain her love for life, rebuild her happiness, and reclaim the ability to trust. When her charming neighbor intrudes on her quiet life, she must determine whether his interest is genuine, and whether he deserves the fragile bit of trust she has managed to scrape together. However, trusting is a risk, and she has vowed never to put herself at the mercy of someone else’s whims. Can Marilee take that chance, knowing how terribly she’s chosen before? She doesn’t know if she can survive being wrong again.

For all those who have suffered in silence, no matter the hardship. Everyone deserves a voice.

I wish I could explain just how much I loved this book. This takes place in a fantasy world but with no magic. Apparently some people were thrown off by not being able to pinpoint the genre and then got annoyed when it didn't line up with what they imagined it should be. So if you DO read this there you go. Not all fantasy has magic in it but since this is an invented world it's still fantasy. Okay, enough preaching about genre!

So this book has a very lonely feel to it. Marilee almost never leaves her property the whole book and she's very isolated. I think that helped portray how she felt . . . alone. Her abusive husband has died and now she's left to pick up the pieces of her life. She's been shattered and she's trying to put herself back together.

I felt there was a really important "realness" to this story. The suave man who comes in and says all the right things and seems charming. Then slowly the wife's life falls apart as he picks apart who she is. He makes everyone think she's crazy. He's inconsiderate and belittling. He would do things like lock her in her room and then when she got upset about it use it to say, "Look, she's raving and banging on the door. I told you she was crazy. I'm doing this for her safety." On the outside, most healthy people could say, no, that's not crazy to freak out like that. But when you're in the situation it's a lot harder to see the truth. After awhile, Marilee started wondering if she really was irrational and crazy.

He cuts her off from her friends and family, doesn't allow her to leave, dictates what she'll wear and eat, and terrorizes her.

I was like oh my gosh, I KNOW people who've been through a situation like that. The psychopath that presents a great picture to everyone on the outside. They dress nice, speak well, have great jobs, nice homes, and put up a great front to everyone whose not close to them. If you try and speak up and say hey, this isn't right, this person is nuts, they're not treating me right . . . no one believes you!

So I found this a very powerful story that faced a hard, true to life situation and because I have people in my life that have been there it made it all the more impacting.

It's a slow story and there's not a huge action plot or anything. But I love some good character building and I thought Marilee's situation was one I'd seen in real life and could understand and get invested in. And she was written so well that it was a great reader/book pairing for me.

Buy it on Amazon or FREE on KU!

8. Ella Wood by Michelle Isenhoff (5✯)

25521470. sy475
YA Historical fiction

Love. War. Both equally destructive to Emily's ambitions.

Though she left Charleston a spoiled daughter of the South, Emily returns from her stay in the North a changed young woman. Her assumptions about slavery have been shattered, and her secret dream of attending university has blossomed into fierce ambition. As the passions that are sweeping the North and South toward war threaten to envelop the city she loves, Emily must battle her father's traditional expectations in her own bid for independence. Meanwhile, the real fight may lie with her heart, in the form of a patient young man who is gently but steadily pursuing her.

This was an intriguing book because unlike a lot of historical fiction that centers around the Civil War(or just before that) the main character is more focused on herself than slavery being central. I think that was probably pretty realistic for slave owners and their families--especially when you're thinking teenagers--to not be too concerned about the slaves in their lives.

I mean, teenagers at any point in history are pretty zeroed in on their own personal problems. I was. Heck, I was super mopey and dramatic about the imagined travesties and injustices of my life. So it's nice to feel like yes, this is a real teen. She wasn't cruel or completely unaware of the enslaved humans in her world, but you could tell that it didn't effect her so she pushed it from the forefront of her mind.

This shows how the world was slowly shifting and crumbling. How the divide between north and south grew. And it takes the whole book but eventually Emily starts realizing that she should be more concerned about the lives of the slaves. It's really a lot of growth to see a 16 year old girl go from fixating on the guys in her life, what she wants to do with her life, where she wants to go, etc. to someone who realizes there are other things that are more important to fight for.

7. The Little Selkie by K.M. Shea (5✯)

28452447. sy475
YA Fairytale Retelling/Romance

Dylan—a selkie—makes a terrible mistake when she brashly chases an evil sea witch onto land. Captured and stripped of her pelt—leaving her unable to return to the sea in her sea lion body—Dylan’s only chance of survival is to serve as the sea witch’s tool. Instead of allowing the sea witch to use her selkie ability to control water, Dylan asks a wandering enchantress to seal her voice, rendering her unable to use her selkie magic. Stranded—with no allies and no way to contact her family—Dylan fears she will never successfully steal her pelt back.

Luckily, Dylan is not alone. She is befriended by Prince Callan, a kind, human prince whose country is being pulverized by the sea witch. Combining the strength of humans and the intelligence of the selkies, the pair unites to save their people.

But when the storm is over will Dylan choose to stay with Callan, or return to the sea and leave him behind…forever?

This was easily one of my favorite retellings of the Little Mermaid. Yes, Dylan is a selkie, but the plot still holds such strong traces of the original that there's no doubt you'll be able to identify what the story is based on.

There's so many good points to this but I want to say that Dylan stood out as a very original and unique character. She didn't care what other people thought about her or what they said. She let insults flow over her because she truly just didn't care. She stood up for her friends because she realized they WERE bothered when someone was nasty to them. She was the girl who was standing at the buffet line filling her plate to brimming and not caring about what others thought. She wore what she liked, went where she liked, and overall I was like yes, this is the kind of role model readers need(especially the target audience of teens).

Dylan made me smile and the story was so much nicer for her having been trapped on land because she was trying to do something good rather than some stupid "I saw an unconscious guy once and now I'm madly in love to the point of doing something dumb". Heck, while Callan is trying to find the mysterious girl who rescued him guess who doesn't even remember him at first? Yep, Dylan saved him and forgot about him LOL. When she does remember him she was like, ugh, he was so heavy and inconvenient.

Truly a great story with lots of highlights but for me the character of Dylan was the best.

Find it on Goodreads!
Buy it on Amazon or FREE on KU!

6. The Kiss of a Stranger by Sarah M. Eden (5✯)

10048521NA Historical Romance

When Crispin, Lord Cavratt, thoroughly and scandalously kisses a serving woman in the garden of a country inn, he assumes the encounter will be of no consequence. But he couldn't be more mistaken--the maid is not only a lady of birth, she's the niece of a very large, exceptionally angry gentlemen, who claims Crispin has compromised his niece beyond redemption. The dismayed young lord has no choice but to marry Miss Catherine Thorndale, who lacks both money and refinement and assumes all men are as vicious as her guardian uncle.

Trapped between an unwanted marriage and a hasty annulment, which would leave his reputation tainted and Catherine's utterly ruined, Crispin begins guiding his wife's transformation from a socially petrified country girl to a lady of society. Their unfolding relationship reveals encouraging surprises for both of them, and privately each of them wonders if theirs may become a true marriage of the heart. But their hopes are dashed when forces conspire to split asunder what fate has granted. As a battle of wits escalates into a life-threatening confrontation, will it be possible for Crispin and Catherine to live happily ever after?

First off I really like this series. This was the third one I've read(yes, out of order) and it didn't disappoint. Crispin is a nice guy who is being hounded by a lady that just will NOT take a hint. Finally he's pushed to the point of doing something drastic. Mid-conversation he turns aside and pulls what he believes to be a maid into his arms for a long kiss. While he achieves his goal of offending the parasite who has been dogging his steps, he also finds himself in a mess.

Catherine's led a horrible life with her evil uncle that can't wait to be rid of her and strip away her inheritance. When he catches Crispin in the act of kissing her, well, let's just say he finally can work on his goal. He forces Crispin into marriage since he has sullied his niece's reputation and then waits for everything to fall apart.

I loved seeing Crispin being torn between not wanting to ruin his new wife and yet not wanting to keep either one of them in an arranged marriage. But he also finds himself slowly falling for someone he knows must hate him for ruining her life.

I love a romance that isn't love at first sight. A love story where they're thinking of the other person and being kind. They look out for each other's interests and it's not all raging hormones and junk.

Find it on Goodreads!
Buy it now on Amazon!

5. Sand and Storm by Stella Dorthwany (5✯)

39686092. sy475
NA Fantasy Romance

When junior mage Faryn is offered an internship with Professor Shaun Valerian—famous for edgy magic and breaking hearts—she can’t afford to say no, even at the expense of her own archaeological dig. But when they join an expedition in the middle of the enchanted Caladoner desert, Shaun reveals he’s up to far more than excavating dragon sarcophagi. Growing high above the sands is a storm so massive it could destroy the planet’s magical balance. There’s just one chance to stop the cataclysm—a lost super weapon, long buried in a forgotten temple. A temple that Faryn must rob.

Faryn’s cousin Cora has also been drafted into the temple expedition. Newly married to a man she barely knows, Cora is more interested in kindling romance than in digging up artifacts. But as the desert’s strange enchantment infiltrates the magical bond that ties her to her husband, Cora begins to burn with a power that’s been forbidden for centuries. It could kill her—but it may be the only way to unlock the legendary weapon.

As the storm clouds darken, Faryn and Cora will have to choose: between safety and sacrifice, between duty and love, between old dreams and a new magic that will change the world—if the world can survive it.

Another fun romance novel that revolves around a couple who were less then willing to enter into marriage. Cora isn't sure why Damorin and her grandfather are so fired up about this arranged marriage, but she trusts that her grandfather wouldn't pair her with someone who wasn't a good man.

It doesn't take more than a few hours though for Cora to realize that Damorin has zero interest in building a relationship.

Meanwhile Cora's cousin, Faryn, is on her own adventure. Tagging along with a professor she adores, Faryn finds herself at a special dig site examining a temple.

When Cora and Damorin head to the same site, things start spiraling out of control. I really don't care for love triangles and this had them in multiples. But it wasn't hard to figure out that Faryn's interested in only one of the people chasing her and the other is more there for a note of humor.

Cora's situation was a bit more interesting because she really wants a relationship and Damorin is dead set against having one. So when someone pops up who is funny and kind and, if nothing else, interested in Cora, she finds herself with a friendship that makes her marriage all the more complicated.

I liked that Cora doesn't have an affair and it's clear that she's not looking to cheat on Damorin, she just is lonely and wants a friend. She finds one and yes, he's interested in more but when push comes to shove Cora is determined that her marriage is going to work.

The sequel Blood Traitor was equally amazing and though I still don't enjoy Faryn's sections as much as Cora's they do help to set up the plot as a whole.

Find it on Goodreads!
Free on KU or $0.99 on Amazon!

4. The Collar and the Cavvarach by Annie Douglass Lima (5✯)

YA Sci-fi

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

I won't say too much about this one since I actually have a blog post for it where you can see my thoughts in detail. It's actually the only book I did an extended review for on my blog in 2019 so that should be saying something!

I do want to give a shout out though for books 2 and 3 as well. I read them as well this year and gave both 5 stars.

Overall a great start to this trilogy and I loved the raw human emotion and struggles that the characters experience.

Find it on Goodreads!
Buy it now on Amazon or FREE on KU!

3. Storm Glass by Jeff Wheeler (5✯)

YA Fantasy

Theirs is a world of opposites. The privileged live in sky manors held aloft by a secretive magic known only as the Mysteries. Below, the earthbound poor are forced into factory work to maintain the engine of commerce. Only the wealthy can afford to learn the Mysteries, and they use their knowledge to further lock their hold on society.

Cettie Pratt is a waif doomed to the world below, until an admiral attempts to adopt her. But in her new home in the clouds, not everyone treats her as one of the family.

Sera Fitzempress is a princess born into power. She yearns to meet the orphan girl she has heard so much about, but her father deems the girl unworthy of his daughter’s curiosity.

Neither girl feels that she belongs. Each seeks to break free of imposed rules. Now, as Cettie dreams of living above and as Sera is drawn to the world below, they will follow the paths of their own choosing.

But both girls will be needed for the coming storm that threatens to overturn both their worlds.

Storm Glass is the story of two 12 year old girls--though this is definitely not an MG book--who live in completely different worlds. The two don't meet, but you can see how their stories touch and will intersect later.

The bits with Mrs. Pullman were really well-written and were quite chilling. Heck, she could rival Dolores Umbridge for nasty witch with too much authority who hates children and is downright cruel.

Sera's parts are lacking in action and she never leaves her home, but wow, there's so many dynamics that are packed into her scenes. Scenes with hardly any new characters and no change of scenery! It was incredible. I did like how her character was a balance between a person with strong morals who was willing to put herself out there to protect others and a kid who is still intimidated by the scary adults *cough* her dad *cough* in her life. It was very believable the way she reacted.

I enjoyed so many of the secondary characters too. I liked the lawyer guy at the end who helped Sera, and Joses, and Hugilde.

You can tell this is all gearing up to something big. It's a story that's a beginning. It has a nice bit of self-contained plot that wraps up so that we do have a solid story with all the steps a book should have. And yet, it does leave you wanting more and some unanswered questions, and basically leaves you with the feeling that this is just the beginning. Which it is. It's the perfect way to start off a series.

Overall, really fun and amazing. This got my blood pumping, it got me invested. Love the characters, the world building. The writing is stellar and really had me swapping from super interested and MUST TURN PAGE to raging at the injustice of the world and wanting to leap into the pages and strangle some of these horrid people. Also lots of great little bits that I think impart important "life lessons" such as not having to explain yourself all the time, and not following the crowd. People watching your life don't know anything beyond what they see, so don't follow their advice just because. Remember they can't see the whole picture.

Another pitch for book 2 as well here. I gave that one five stars and hope to be continuing on with the series soon.

2. Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani (5✯)

17969479. sy475 YA Fantasy Adventure

In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.
Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.

If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted for the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.

I enjoyed book 1 Sunbolt but took some time getting to Memories of Ash as I felt that Sunbolt was too short to feel truly complete(so I did feel a little ripped off) and I felt like a lot of time had been devoted to the characters, plot, and place the first part of the book took place in to just have the character leave all of that behind and not return to it.

Interestingly enough my husband and a friend of mine felt similarly about Sunbolt. I braved Memories of Ash first and it completely blew me away. This definitely felt like a full novel. The character is traveling through some interesting places and I get the feeling that we will eventually return to them. So the level of detail didn't feel unwarranted(plus it was a journey so it wasn't like we spent a long time on any one place). There were my two issues in Sunbolt wiped away.

We get to see how much Hitomi has grown. There's plenty of adventure and heart racing moments. I loved the traveling and meeting new people(and non-humans) and seeing new things. I loved the glimpse into a different culture as Hitomi meets some of her father's people. I'm really hoping that gets explored more in-depth in later books.

I loved how many new characters there were and the variety of loyalty and integrity that they showed. So many characters who helped out Hitomi and had various reasons for doing so--even at risk to themselves. Just a nice cast of well-rounded individuals. I loved that she got to meet backup with Kenta because he's a character that NEEDS more page time.

I liked that Hitomi is willing to risk everything to help out Stormwind. It shows a lot about her character and makes it easy to get behind her.

Overall this book is rich in characters, world building, and a unique story. You need to read Sunbolt for this to make sense but, as I told my friend and husband, Memories of Ash is even BETTER.
Find it on Goodreads
Buy it on Amazon!

1. Selkie's Song by Kimberly A. Rogers (5✯)

41748503. sy475
NA Fairytale retelling/romance

A selkie’s song can enchant a man and tame the sea . . .

Naia’s unusual love for human things led her to become the sole artisan in her clan. But when this passion leads to her abduction, she loses more than contact with the sea when her pelt is taken. Unable to shift forms or return to the sea without it, she knows she will die if she cannot recover the pelt soon. Cut off from her family, Naia must appease the human king while persuading his lovesick son to honor past arrangements.

Malik has loved and lost before, an experience leading him to shy away from love. When Naia is stranded, however, he risks everything to find her. Together they uncover a plot that would sweep up humans and selkies alike in a war that would destroy the Five Kingdoms and possibly all of Sonera.

When the enemy acts, can they save sea and land . . . and each other?

Hands down my all time favorite retelling of The Little Mermaid. A little crazy that it's also the second selkie version I've come across and it happened to be in the same year.

A few chapters in I actually got misty-eyed because I was like THIS IS GOING TO BE GOOD and it's been so long since a romance plot hit me in the feels that knowing I was going to get a good one was like *sniff sniff* it's been too long.

I mean the mermaid character(who is a selkie) has this garden underwater(it's not actually underwater. They live in air pocket houses in the rocks and her roof is actually part of some rocks that poke above the waves and they have tiny holes for sunlight to come in.) where she raises land plants for no other reason than she loves them. She's seen as odd and the misfit because of how she looks and what she does for a hobby.

And this selkie leader--he is freaking tracking down flowers that are really beautiful and exotic and transporting them in cases underwater to bring to her for her garden.

And she has nooooo idea and I was like, "I'm not crying you are!!!" because it was so darn sweet how he was just doing something for her like that. That's romance peoples. He figured out what she liked, what she was passionate about and he showed interest. He wasn't going, "ermagosh you're so hawt and we just met and you're hawt so I like you." No, he actually has gotten to know this woman and her family. He's learned what interests her and he's going out of his way no matter how busy he is and get her something she likes even if she's totally oblivious.

Every problem I've ever had with the original and the numerous retellings was dealt with for the FIRST time. It makes me so happy that someone else doesn't like the same things and fixed them! And put in a super sweet romance that I could actually get behind.

I have to say though that the prince was so well done that I wanted to strangle him. He needed to die a slow and horrible death. I didn't warm up to him at all and I can't imagine how Naia managed to not drown him.

Find it on Goodreads!
Buy it on Amazon or FREE on KU!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Best Fairytale Retellings

My sister and I have been talking about our favorite fairytale retellings. It's sooo hard to choose just ONE favorite. I figured it'd make a great topic for a blog post. If you're looking for some retellings this summer here's my breakdown of my favorites by tale! (And no, I'm not even limiting myself to one favorite per tale if it's a close call.)

While I know this is not my first post on retellings, I hope that it's been long enough that this will hit some fresh readers who maybe haven't read my other posts and also I've got over 2 years of additional reading done since then and I have NEW BOOKS FOR MY LIST! I've tagged each title with "new" to show which ones were not previously on my list of favorites. Everything else is an old favorite that's still going strong!Without further ado let's begin!

Beauty and the Beast

  • The Rose of Prophecy (out of print)
While BatB is super popular and I absolutely love the original and the potential it holds, I don't tend to like many of the retellings. Enter this awesome novella that won first place for BatB retellings hands down.

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. 

This book solves one of my MAJOR issues with both the original and its various retellings. It always bothered me that the father put his daughter in the position to sacrifice herself to the beast. LIKE WHY THE HECK TELL HER THAT'S AN OPTION!

Anyway, that's always been my big issue with BatB, but there's some other fun changes the author makes that I enjoyed. I liked that the sister's were kind as well as beautiful. Without giving spoilers, I really loved the twist on why Beauty was late returning to the castle. I loved the twist on why the Beast did everything he did and the reason there was the whole "father or daughter" ultimatum.

Sadly this little novella has been unpublished and since it was in ebook form only there's no way to get a copy of it. Since I can't really recommend a book that no longer exists, this'll be the last time it makes my list.

  • The Whispered Kiss (NEW!)
3005076The only adult novel on my list, Whispered Kiss, is a fairly clean romance(perspective and all) and while it's definitely more romance heavy--too many details--than I personally prefer, I think it'd be considered light/clean romance for most romance readers. 

With the sea at its side, the beautiful township of Bostchelan was home to many-including the lovely Coquette de Bellamont, her three sisters, and beloved father.

In Bostchelan, Coquette knew happiness, and as much contentment as a young woman whose heart had been broken years before could know. Thus, Coquette dwelt in gladness until the day her father returned from his travels with an astonishing tale to tell.
 Antoine de Bellamont returned from his travels by way of Roanan bearing a tale of such great adventure to hardly be believed. Further, at the center of Antoine's story loomed a man-the dark Lord of Roanan. Known for his cruel nature, heartlessness, and tendency to violence, the Lord of Roanan had accused Antoine de Bellamont of wrong doing and demanded recompense. Antoine had promised recompense would be paid-with the hand of his youngest daughter in marriage.

Thus, Coquette found herself lost-thrust onto a dark journey of her own. This journey would find her carried away to Roanan Manor-delivered into the hands of the dark and mysterious Lord of Roanan who dominated it.

The heavy romance in this keeps it from being something I recommend often(due to many of my friends preferring less sensual content as well) and it did lessen my enjoyment of the story. However it did some really unique things with the story. The father is actually a selfish jerk (instead of the author trying to sell a loving father who ALWAYS tells Beauty she can save him if she gives herself up) which made me happy that it solved my issue of how a loving father could do what he did. Because he's not a loving father! HA!

I also liked that Coquette and Valor actually knew each other prior to the books events. They were sweethearts that were not allowed to marry. Their separation was bad for both but it brought out the best in Coquette and the worst in Valor so that when we meet them in the story we see someone who is Beastly inside and someone who is Beautiful.

  • A Tale of Beauty and Beast (NEW!)
36199298Princess Sophia has helped her twin sister Lily save the duchy of Marin. But now Sophie faces an even greater threat when she sets out to free the cursed kingdom of Palinar from its beastly prince. Alone, and with danger on every side, Sophie must navigate a magical castle and its even more mysterious master to discover the secret to breaking the curse.Except the more time she spends with Prince Dominic, the more she starts to question who exactly she's supposed to be saving. With time running out for the trapped inhabitants, and the reappearance of an old enemy, Sophie may have to choose between saving the kingdom and following her heart.

There's plenty of ties to the original fairy tale and yet the story spins out in a fun and unique way. I honestly was sad that I didn't get to see more of Sophie and Dominic's story because I really really liked the slow build up to the romance. It made sense that it was slow and I loved how it was handled. But that made it so that by the time the characters admit their feelings and can show them, the story is about over! And at that point i was all in on their relationship and wanted some more of those romance moments.

Princess and the Pea

I so badly wish this was a story that saw more retellings because for whatever reason it really inspires authors to make an AMAZING book.

  • The Princess and the Pea(NEW!)
32501051Only a true princess can save the kingdom. 

Alaric wants to be king. He wants to continue the peace and prosperity his father created in Aeonia. But with enemies questioning his bloodline, he’ll have to put his heart on the line and marry a stranger to secure his right to rule. Only a match with a true princess will silence his critics and protect his future.

Lina’s lineage is shocking at best and deadly at worst. Over a century ago, she put herself into an enchanted sleep to seal away a horde of dark creatures. Now both Lina and the goblins are awake. Without friends or resources, Lina must seek the help of the Council of Kings. To get close enough to them to ask for aid, she’ll need to convince everyone she’s a true princess.

As Alaric searches for a true princess to marry, Lina tries to convince the world she is one. But while they try to save the kingdom on their own, they may find what they need is each other. 

On the rare occasion I want to shake an author and say, "Why did you do this to your amazing book?" This was one of those times. This sat on my kindle forever because it's title is literally the same as the tale it's based on. No creativity there. The cover is pretty in a simple way, but by no means eye-catching. So there it sat. And it's sequel(The Frog Prince mentioned later on) suffers from the same issues. The author couldn't be bothered to think of a title and the covers aren't selling it. Ugh!

Anyway, all that to say that this is AMAZING. Easily tied with long time front-runner Violet Eyes.

I mean . . . come on. Lina is a FREAKING SHADOW WARRIOR! She's so amazing! She's not some peasant that gets swooped up by a prince or a princess that meets her handsome true love. No. Not Lina. She's not a princess or a commoner. She's a magical, kickass, shadow warrior that's been fending off dark creatures for over a hundred years. She's a flipping legend by the time she awakes. Only she's not just a story. She's legit and so are the dangers she fights against. Now she has to somehow face this monstrous force in a time where everyone's forgotten about these dangers and her league of warriors is no longer in existence.

Overall a very unique retelling of The Princess and the Pea. Stellar writing and characterizations. Two in the morning, people! That's how late I was up to finish this. It was something I started that night and 7 pages in realized I was NOT going to bed that night. Nope. Not until that book was finished.

The only reason this doesn't beat out the other contender is because the romance/love interest was rather lackluster. I think if the author had actually written a non-romance of the story it would've been MUCH better. Easily could've ended up being #1 if this had gone the friendship route instead.

  • Violet Eyes
6609571 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.

This book gets a lot of hate--among the few who've read it--but I really do love it. Yes, I appreciate some of the complaints and understand them, but this idea of the WHY behind such a hairbrained test was genius for me. I loved the twist at the end and I loved that not all of the "other girls" were horrible brats like how some books what their special snowflake to stand out so they make her the only nice female.

This introduced some truly unique ideas to the Princess and the Pea and for that reason (and the fact that the love interests actually met prior rather than meeting one rainy night as the girl bangs on the door) this still holds a spot on my list.

Twelve Dancing Princesses

Hi, my name is Kristen and I'm an addict. A TDP addict. I'm really trying to narrow this down because either this is a super popular tale to retell or I just happen to read and love a ton of them. Or possibly both. So believe me when I say this is the narrowed down list. The first four I couldn't honestly say which one I liked the best. It's a four way tie. The last one is also a favorite that I couldn't NOT mention.

  • A Dance of Silver and Shadow (NEW!)
36186930 When Princess Liliana and her twin sister set sail for new lands, Lily hopes to find adventure and romance. But the people of Marin live under the shadow of a curse—one powerful enough to destroy entire kingdoms. To protect them all, Lily and eleven other princesses are forced to participate in a mysterious and secret tournament.

Lily spends her nights competing in a magical underground realm and her days unraveling the dangers of this new court. Although she needs the help of the Marinese prince, Lily knows she can't let herself grow too close to him. There's no time for romance when the duchy is about to fall to the encroaching darkness and the winner of the tournament faces a terrible fate.

But Lily and her twin have a secret advantage. And Lily grows increasingly determined to use their magical bond to defeat the tournament, save the princesses, and free Marin. Except she might have to sacrifice true love to do it.

Let's stop a moment to appreciate the absolute beauty of this cover. In fact, every story in the TDP section is gorgeous. Major props to the cover artists. 

Lots of new twists. The world building was very well done. The characters all had the right amount of development. I couldn't put this down and was up late into the night to finish it.

Unlike any retelling I've seen, these princesses aren't sisters(or at least not all of them). A Princess Tourney has been called and by the ancient laws of the land, all eligible princesses within the borders of the participating kingdoms MUST attend. They are forbidden to speak of the trials(magically forbidden) and have to perform their best to prevent a death curse from falling on someone they care about.

There's multiple layers to this story, there's plenty of personalities, the story begs to not be put down.

  • The Firethorn Crown
27315475  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

  • The Princess Curse
  • 9588207Twelve 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

    • Princess of the Midnight Ball
    • 3697927A 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.

      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 (the MMC)Galen's pov and that really helped take this to the next level.

      Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

      • Entwined
      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

      King Thrushbeard

      • The Scarecrow King(NEW!)
      • 18597268
      Princess Rinda of Balinore knows of only one way to get her cold father’s attention – to be an obnoxious, spoiled princess. When she finds out that the king plan to marrying her off to a far-flung nobleman, she puts on her best bratty show in front of the entire court. But Rinda’s plan backfires, and she soon finds herself married to the most ineligible man ever. Her new husband is monastery raised, poor as dirt, and a traveling minstrel.

      A very, very bad traveling minstrel.

      But Alek isn’t what he seems like on the surface, and neither is Rinda. She won’t take this marriage lying down, and schemes to find herself a new husband – a king. But as she and Alek travel together, they learn that not only are appearances deceiving, but goals can change in the blink of an eye, and love can get in the way of the strongest plans…

      A rarely retold story that shines unexpectedly from an author who doesn't write retellings, or even fantasy for that matter. This book was so amazing that I hope it won't be her only foray into the genre. The best part of this is how the two main characters are developed. Rinda has a reason for her tasteless comments and hoity toity attitude. While Alek also has a reason for choosing to come for a bride that was nasty to him and that he doesn't love(because let's be honest, one short meeting where the other person insults you is not going to result in love).

      The only complaint I have is that this isn't part of a retelling series!

      Little Mermaid

      • The Little Selkie(NEW!)
      • 28452447
      "Dylan—a selkie—makes a terrible mistake when she brashly chases an evil sea witch onto land. Captured and stripped of her pelt—leaving her unable to return to the sea in her sea lion body—Dylan’s only chance of survival is to serve as the sea witch’s tool. Instead of allowing the sea witch to use her selkie ability to control water, Dylan asks a wandering enchantress to seal her voice, rendering her unable to use her selkie magic. Stranded—with no allies and no way to contact her family—Dylan fears she will never successfully steal her pelt back.

      Luckily, Dylan is not alone. She is befriended by Prince Callan, a kind, human prince whose country is being pulverized by the sea witch. Combining the strength of humans and the intelligence of the selkies, the pair unites to save their people.

      But when the storm is over will Dylan choose to stay with Callan, or return to the sea and leave him behind…forever?"

      There's a ton of retellings of the Little Mermaid but I always have some quibble with it. This one addressed so many issues I have with various versions of this tale.  One of my favorite parts is when Dylan realizes the prince is the same guy she'd saved months ago. The guy she was extremely annoyed about saving and that he was so heavy and kept falling off the piece of wood she put him on, forcing her to continuously stick with him. The guy she'd mostly forgotten about while he's been obsessedwith finding her. It was just so humorous compared to the lovesick mermaid we know who spots a handsome guy and saves him because she things he's hawt and then pines after him.

      Dylan's got her own reasons for being stuck in her human form, and it's definitely not because she is chasing down some guy she doesn't even know.

      Peter Pan

      • Peter and the Starcatchers
      • 34262
      Still holding it's spot as my #1 is Peter and the Starcatchers. Hands down this is my favorite retelling of Peter Pan. The audiobook is superb, so I recommend listening to a clip of that and seeing if you love it as well before starting this series. This is one of the rare occasions where I would say listen to the audio instead of read the story because the quality of the audio is stellar.

      While I definitely enjoyed the first two books in the series the most, I also liked the the last two books and can happily recommend the whole shebang. This is middle grade but appeals to a wide range of people.

      This tells the story of Peter Pan, the Lost Boys, Hook, Tinkerbell, and all the rest before we meet them in the original story. There's danger, adventure, pirates(of course!), a secret society whose mission it is to protect the world, and a darkness so purely evil that it gives you shivers.

      Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads


      • Ella Enchanted
      Here's a classic that's a hard sell for me. I really, really, really, do not like Cinderella. Right up there with Snow White for one of my least favorite fairy tales. As a result, it's a story that despite having a ton of retellings . . . I'm just so picky about.

      An old favorite that I think just about anyone who's read retellings has read. Gail Carson Levine has delivered some truly stellar fantasy tales over the years and as a 90's child I really appreciated growing up with these. Ella Enchanted was my second favorite of her books and is still my favorite Cinderella story. I've a well-worn well-loved copy that I've kept with me since childhood.

      In case you haven't read it, I'll just share the blurb and let you discover the rest!

      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.

      Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

      • The Stepsister's Tale
      • 18722882
      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 was rather slow-paced, but I actually really enjoyed it. I loved the twist of the Cinderella being a bratty little rich kid, the dad being an over-indulgent parent, the stepmother being mentally disturbed, and the stepsister's trying to survive despite everything.

      The real twist for me was that it was the parents who really caused a lot of the issues. Cinderella's dad spoiled her, never corrected her, and was basically a horribly lenient parent. We see the effect this has on Cinderella and though she is a brat, with time, as her dad is no longer feeding her behavior, she starts to mellow out and by the end we at least see some potential for her to grow into a decent young woman.

      The mother was intriguing in her blinded belief that the family is still rich and respected and I really felt for the sisters who were trying to survive despite the mother's actions that made this difficult. The romance was sweet and I wish there'd been more of it. I loved the slowness of it. This was no insta-love and that was refreshing. I wish there'd have been more time spent on it as the chemistry and such was good.

      I'd recommend this for anyone that wants a light and fluffy read and is okay with something slower-paced with little action. The characters are really the key here.

      Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

      • A Wish of Glass(NEW!)
      • 25674742
      Deep in a forest glade, the fey folk dance with Isidore, a young human child. Their kinship is the very fabric of her childhood. When her mother dies and her world darkens with sorrow, Isidore finds her belief in the fey folk wavering.

      The love of her new step-sister, Blessing, proves an unexpected gift in her time of need. Yet even as their friendship blooms, Isidore begins to see that Blessing is everything she herself has always wanted to be, but is not. Jealousy grips Isidore as she watches this beautiful new sister steal away all she holds dear.

      Driven to desperation, Isidore turns to the fey folk once more. She has only one wish to claim from them, one chance to make things right. But she must tread carefully. For wishes, like hearts, are easily broken. And obtaining the one thing she desires could mean destroying the one thing she truly needs.

      One of the interesting points is you can't say for sure who's story this is. Is it Cinderella's story? Or the Ugly Stepsister? It could be either. That made it layered right from the start.

      Isi(who I won't reveal if she's Cinderella or the stepsister) loses her mother, has an estranged father, and when her father finally starts to be part of her life he suddenly remarries. Now she's in a new home and has a step-mother and a step-sister. Her life is spiraling and she never was on solid ground before that. Isi's got so many problems, but I loved watching her growth as I went on this journey with her.

      I thought the romance was unneeded, but otherwise I found this to be a Cinderella retelling that stands out by miles from every other story of its kind.

      • Princess of Glass(New! Only because somehow it missed my last list)
      7199667Hoping to escape the troubles in her kingdom, Princess Poppy reluctantly agrees to take part in a royal exchange program, whereby young princes and princesses travel to each other's countries in the name of better political alliances--and potential marriages. It's got the makings of a fairy tale--until a hapless servant named Eleanor is tricked by a vengeful fairy godmother into competing with Poppy for the eligible prince.

      Though I don't love this as much as the first book in the series, I did really, really love this. I've always been disappointed that the author didn't continue and give each sister her own book.

      • Fated (NEW!)
      • 35846895All Cinderella wants is to take care of her family.

        After working tirelessly for five years to prove herself among the city’s elite, she’s about to graduate and win a coveted spot in city government. Then it all blows up in her face—literally.

        A violent, anonymous force has been targeting commoners in horrifying attacks. Now they’ve set their sights on Cinderella. Either that, or she’s losing her mind. It doesn’t help that she’s falling for a mage who’s way out of her league.

        Just as she manages to recover from the attack that left her scarred and traumatized, the city’s mysterious enemy destroys what’s left of her future. But when they go after her family, they cross the line. The whole city is in danger now.

        How much is Cinderella willing to risk to save the city that has always hated her?

        This is probably the most unique spin on Cinderella that I've read. I'm not a fan of Cinderella's story for many reasons, but this handled those amazingly. Cinderella is not a weak-willed, broken person. She's determined, smart, ambitious, and kind.

        She wins the rare honor to attend the Academy where if she graduates well she can improve her family's circumstances. Instead of being cruel, her step-mother and sisters(who aren't really related) are generally nice people who unfortunately need to stay hidden to stay safe. They've allowed rumors to circulate that Ella is mistreated and so on in hopes that it'll keep her protected.

        Everything comes crashing down when an attack on the Academy during the finals not only puts Ella in the "hospital" draining her family's finances, but also snatches away her chance to complete the exam.

        Schooling down the drain and her dream vanishing before her eyes, Cinderella tries to pick up the pieces of her life. Scarred, and without a hope of advancing, she pours her energy into the bakery. Alongside is a mage who's been blacklisted. Together they combine their talents to take their business to new heights.

        But someone out there doesn't want them to succeed and Ella can't tell if the creepy threats she's getting are real or just her traumatized mind cooking up things after the attack.
        The Frog Prince(All new!)

        Wow! So this didn't even make it on my list two years ago. Since then I've definitely hit the jackpot with this slimy tale! You're not getting just one or even two recommendations, but FOUR because they were all so good that why not give you more story options? But which one is you FAVORITE, Kristen! If you had to pick one. I'll at least answer that. It was the Green-Eyed Prince. No doubt in my mind that it blew every other retelling of the Frog Prince out of the water. (see what I did there?)

        • The Frog Prince
        Prince Nolan has had enough of Princess Blythe—the woman to whom he has been betrothed since infancy—and her simpering letters. Does the princess truly not have a brain in her head? Never before has he communicated with someone who seemed so childish and spoiled. It was time he met her for himself, to decide if he could actually follow through with this marriage. But to do it right, she must not see how handsome he is. He needs a disguise—something that would show him her true nature.

        Nolan asks an old herb woman to transform him into a creature that is disgusting to any female—a frog. The spell will last thirty days unless the princess does the impossible and kisses him. Now the true test begins. Will Blythe prove to be as monstrously annoying as he believes she is, or will he learn to see past his judgments and find a loving princess waiting for him?

        Blythe and Nolan find themselves dreading their arranged marriage(their only communication being through letters). Nolan decides that to be fair to his intended, he would test her before deeming the match unsuitable.

        His solution: to turn himself into a frog for 30 days or until he receives a kiss from Blythe. He figures he can truly judge her character by how she treats a disgusting, slimy frog of no importance.

        I loved that there was a motive--and a good one--for the prince being a frog and requesting what he did of the princess.

        • The Green-Eyed Prince
        • 36148019
        An enchantress is murdering Queen Kartek's soldiers and threatening her kingdom. Kartek's healing jewel has been lost. Her only hope of saving her kingdom seems to lie in the hands of the green-eyed stranger who claims he can save her jewel and her people...but the price is steep, and the young queen doesn't have much time.I loved so much about this book, like the fact that the princess character was a queen, a ruler, not a child. She was mature and was juggling a lot of real life responsibilities. I also liked the fact that unlike the original, she's not a spoiled brat who foolishly promised anything for a toy and then breaks that promise. (not to mention then throws a fit when she's force to keep her word)

        Kartek has the weight of the world on her shoulders and what she drops is not a mere toy but something she desperately needs. And though the dropping was a bit of her own fault because she was fiddling with it, I completely understood why she'd needed to get away from her chaotic life and just have a minute of peace. She beats herself up about it but to me it made her human.

        I really hate to say more and spoil this story. So I'll leave you with a strong urge to read this. Great characters, a nice handling of the romance, and just wow.

        • A Midwinter's Wedding
        Princess Cordelia is used to being overshadowed by her many brothers and sisters. So when she's offered the chance to attend her brother's wedding in a faraway kingdom, she leaps at it. In Northhelm, she'll finally have the chance to stand out. And maybe, just maybe, she'll even find romance.

        But not everything in the Northhelmian court is as it appears. With her brother distracted by the wedding, only Ferdinand, the ugliest man at court, will listen to Cordelia's concerns. An observant princess and a strangely amphibious soldier may be the only thing standing between all Four Kingdoms and disaster.

        This is part of a series, but is capable of standing alone and was by far my favorite despite being a novella that was shoehorned between books 3 and 4. Great romance and I actually loved both the main characters. Cordelia was fun and smart. Ferdy was sweet and brave. I liked that Cordelia is honest with herself in the fact that she wanted to go to this wedding to snag someone rich and handsome(preferably a prince). And she admits it's not a good thing that she judges on appearance.

        Ferdy listens to Cordelia--as in actually listens. She realizes this and it's so cool to watch their relationship develop as they grow to respect one another.

        • The Frog Prince
        • 36316247
        All she needs is a clue 

        After a disastrous Princess Test, Carina tries to pick up the pieces and prove she is still a trustworthy spy. But all her evidence points to magical interference, and her father won’t believe such preposterous theories without proof. She’ll have to solve this mystery fast to salvage her reputation, but can she do it alone?

        All he needs is a kiss

        When Carina refuses to attend his brother’s wedding, Prince Stefan crosses the ocean to change her mind. But the perfect surprise turns into a perfect disaster when a witch transforms him into a frog. Only a kiss from Princess Carina can break the curse, and she doesn’t seem inclined to kiss anyone. Can Stefan win her heart before it’s too late?

        Or will dark magic sweep them all away?

        This is a second book (to the Princess and the Pea) so be warned with that! 

        Proof that it doesn't pay to get your brother a nice present!!! Okay, maybe it does . . .

        I mean, all Stefan wants is to get his brother a wedding present. That's it. Simple. But oh, first he has to be a landlubber stumbling over his own feet on a ship that doesn't get to the right destination anyway! Then he gets attacked, and cursed, and sheesh, couldn't the girl have just shown up to the wedding?!

        Now he's a frog in another country trying to win a kiss from a princess who has way too much going on to deal with some weird frog and his drama. Carina has a list of problems and she didn't sign up for a frog stalker.

        One tough princess in a hard life and a cursed prince who just wanted to get a stinking present for frog's sake!

        The Snow Queen

      • The Snow Queen

        • 2200913
        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.

        This one is my favorite of the Five Hundred Kingdom series.

        The Snow Queen starts off near the end of the traditional tale and continues on from that point in 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 majority of the story is original content since it's a "what happened after" type of retelling.

        Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads

        The Goose Girl

        • The Goose Girl
        179064Anidora-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree spent the first years of her life listening to her aunt's incredible stories, and learning the language of the birds. Little knowing how valuable her aunt's strange knowledge would prove to be when she grew older. From the Grimm's fairy tale of the princess who became a goose girl before she could become a queen, Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original and magical tale of a girl who must understand her own incredible talents before she can overcome those who wish her harm.

        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

        Friday, January 25, 2019

        The Collar and the Cavvarach - ABB Review

        I was flipping through my kindle, trying to decide what to read and considering the amount of books I have THAT is never an easy decision. Now I definitely have my "things" when it comes to what covers attract me.

        The Collar and the Cavvarach is not the kind of cover that attracts me. But I read Annie's Prince of Malorn a few years back and loved it so much I recommended it to my husband and bought the paperback. So while the cover wasn't doing anything for me, I know I like Annie's writing. At last, I took the plunge and opened it.

        Here is my review:
        25454725Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

        The story starts off with Bensin, a teenage slave who has one mission in life--to save his five year old sister from a life of slavery. Following up on a promise to his mother on her deathbed that he would protect his baby sister, Bensin is willing to take any risks or punishments for himself if it means his sister will be free.

        How can you NOT root for this kid right from the start? He's so nice and patient to Ellie as he's sneaking her across the city in hopes to get her freedom before their owners put a slave collar on her.

        Things go awry and I quickly realized this world is no joke. They have no qualms about punishing slaves, no matter their age. 

        It's right at the start and I was already mad. Oh, I just wanted to storm the entire book and rant against the system. LIKE FOR REAL!?

        And then this cop guy comes and he's all nice but he's like, "Yeah, man. I can see why you tried this, but it's illegal and you shouldn't have done it. How about you do it the legal way."

        I was like WHAT!!! LEGAL WAY! So on his one day off he can get odd jobs(which seems to earn about $50). And he has to save THAT up to buy freedom! So yeah, sure, he's going to buy her freedom in 30 years!!!

        Bensin gets a break though when he gets sold off and ends up the property of Steene. Steene's always been against slavery, but finds himself doing something he's morally against when his life is turned upside down by a divorce from his rabid ex-wife.

        I mean, that woman is seriously evil. She's a rich snob who managed to roll around in a messy divorce and come out with every hair in place and everything in her pocket. Meanwhile Steene is struggling to pay rent on his crummy apartment!

        AND SHE DOESN'T EVEN WANT ALL OF IT! She just wanted to make his life miserable and prove she could take everything. Complete witch and I hope she falls in a mud puddle somewhere. Special space mud that never washes off.

        Steene is a coach at a local training academy that teaches kids and adults sports they can enter competitions with. The only one that's really focused on in the book though is the cavvarach and shil sport. Which as far as I could tell was a sword with a backwards hook halfway up the blade and a plastic-like arm shield. 

        Anyway, Bensin is actually pretty good at this so they make a great pair. As far as slavery in this world goes, Bensin's got himself the ultimate position.

        This is a great story about the grey areas in life. Bensin's got his faults along with his good attributes. Ellie, while adorable, has some of annoying traits that little kids have. She's real. 

        Shigo, the Watch officer that talks to Bensin after they're caught hires Bensin to do some work for him and is generally kind to him and supportive. While he's a nice person, he never says he's against slavery or seems to have any issue with it. His comment to Bensin early on about just save up money to buy freedom sums up his views on it. There's a legal way to get out of it and regardless of the practicality of it, go that route. 

        While that makes it hard for me to like him, I also see the value in having a character that's not just all bad or all good.

        Steene believes slavery is wrong, yet he owns a slave. One of my favorite parts of the book is his struggle with the choice he makes. It doesn't matter how much time passes, his conscience is still bugging him.

        He knows his choice is wrong and he tries to validate it. He tells himself why it's different, but the little voice in his head tells him that his reasoning is flawed. 

        This is a tale of one boy's love for his sister. It's a tale of friendship and courage. It's a tale full of trying and failing, and picking yourself up and trying again. A story that talks about how a person's value isn't any less than someone of a different status. It's got black and white and shades of grey. It'll make your stomach churn with the reality of slavery and its ugliness and how easily people accept it. And it'll make you cheer for one slave boy who never stops fighting.

        Another 5 star book by Annie Douglass Lima. I was cheering for Bensin, railing against the system, lecturing Shigo, and ready to storm the universe chanting freedom!!! This is Bensin, the little Braveheart, who will risk it all for his sister.

        Friday, January 11, 2019

        Book-A-Month Sister Challenge

        For 2019 my sister and I will be reading a book together each month. It sounded like fun to be able to talk about the same book and be reading at least one book a month. I've also invited some friends to join in as well throughout the year if they see anything interesting.

        We spent the first week of January gathering recommendations from readers and authors, plus doing a little browsing of our own. Then we had to take that sizeable list and each of us made a list from that of the ones that we were interested in, which then we compared her interests with mine and took the choices that made it on both lists.

        Lastly was the step of narrowing it down even further to have 12 books and then putting them into some semblance of order. Here's the final results!


        15812184KYLA HAS BEEN SLATED - her memory erased, her personality wiped blank. This is the government's way of dealing with teen terrorists: give them a fresh start as a new person. They teach Kyla how to walk and talk again, give her a new identity and a new family, and tell her to be grateful for this second chance.

        It's also her last chance, and to ensure that she plays by their rules, Kyla is fitted with a Levo, a bracelet that monitors her mood and will stun - or even kill - her if her levels of anger or violence rise too high.

        As she adjusts to her new life, Kyla can see she is different from the other Slateds. She asks too many questions and is plagued by nightmares that feel like memories - even though she shouldn't have memories. Who is she, really? Has her Slating gone wrong? And if only criminals are Slated, why are innocent people disappearing? Torn between the need to understand more and her instinct for self-peservation, Kyla knows a dangerous game is being played with her life, and she's determined not to let anyone see her make the wrong move...

        Reasons we picked it: I have a love/hate relationship with dystopian novels. While I love the idea of them, I rarely see them executed well from start to finish. But I can never resist trying another one. My sister is new to the genre and picked this out of the 12 for us to read first, so I'm guessing it looked interesting. (I'm totally writing these segments without putting her on the spot and grilling her for details on her choices!)


        27181052The children of dragons and humans, the dracons, control eighty percent of the world’s governments. Humans worldwide are either subservient or prey. On the small vacation island of Mabi, humans call for war.
        Sixteen year old Dakota Kekoa lives a double life. By day, she pretends to be a human to infiltrate Mabi Academy, a 'humans only' high-school. At night, she works as a henchman for her draconic mafia family, utilizing her ability to steal and manipulate emotions.

        When Dakota’s human friend is kidnapped, she takes on the mission to find her. This is not just any mission though; she is diving head first into the escalating conflict between humans and dracons. As more girls disappear and some are discovered dead, Dakota realizes her first honorable mission may also be her last.

        Reasons we picked it: My family likes to joke about the "ninja chick" trope. You know, the girl who's somehow beautiful and completely tough and ruthless at the same time. The one who we're told is able to take out 20 guys at one time, blind-folded, and injured. But we never see her do that. We just see her get in the way and screw things up with only the occasional super awesome move that's totally eye-rolling in its utter lack of believability.

        Well this cover looks like that and it both intrigues me and makes me smile. I mean, come on, the girl is standing there in the typical "ninja chick" attire with her hair all perfect and flowing down. Spotless white shirt. Plus she has a gun AND a fireball. Because one just isn't enough . . .

        Personally, I just want to know what the story behind this cover is. The story sounds cool, but the cover makes me laugh. I really hope it's good though.

        This is also an Indie book and I love reading and supporting talented indie authors.


        24763621The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride....

        All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They've enraptured her mind and spirit and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesel can't help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

        But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds--and the mysterious man who rules it--she soon faces an impossible decision. With time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

        Reasons we picked it: Uh, because the cover is gorgeous? And yes, it sounds interesting. I'm stupid about covers that have clear objects with random items inside them. I don't know why. My number one cover hook is definitely people. If I see an interesting person on a cover it makes me want to know their story. The see-through object with stuff inside is the runner up though.

        I also find the blurb super intriguing, so I have high hopes for this one.

        42974536When an unstable and determined sorceress kidnaps their parents and hides them in a book, longtime friends Jenny Fletcher and Josh Park find themselves deep in the world of the Compass. It's been their ticket to unprecedented adventure and is now their only hope for finding their families. The Compass can take them into any book, but it cannot protect them from the dangers lurking within the pages. That is up to them. 

        The Sorceress has left a ransom note demanding items from five familiar but dark fairy tales in exchange for information on their parents whereabouts. Jenny and Josh must rely on quirky but highly skilled new friends who know all about the Compass for training and support to survive the fairy tales, obtain the required items, and face the Sorceress herself.

        While dealing with the loss of their families and the dangerous tasks set before them, they press toward independence and adulthood but also battle inner doubt and fear. It's a constant struggle, wondering if they have what it takes to finish what they've started, maintain their friendship, and stay alive in the process.

        Reasons we picked it: This was one of the indie books that was recommended to us specifically for this challenge. This made it high up on both of our lists, so it was an easy choice to make for the final cut. It sounds interesting to for the unique plot. I can't say I've read many stories where the character in the book travel through other stories/books. I can recall a kid's series and then a young adult one, but that's it.

        Set in Georgian England, fifteen-year-old Sophia is trapped by the limitations of living in a man's world. Forced by her father to give up everything she loves, Sophia is ordered to make a new life in Bath. By day, she is trapped in the social whirl of balls and masquerades. By night, she secretly swaps her ball gowns for breeches, and turns to highway robbery to get her revenge ...When one man begins to take a keen interest in her, Sophia must keep her distance, or risk unmasking her secret life.

        Reasons we picked it: We both enjoy historical fiction, so there was no way we weren't going to pick at least one from that genre for the list. This author's work has come across my radar a few times and I've really wanted to try her. I've been stalling based on the lack of availability of her material. (no ebooks and no copies within my state's library system) But now I'm going to track down a hard copy and buy it so IT BETTER BE GOOD! Hopefully we picked a good one to start with.

        The Green Ember

        23754884Heather and Picket are extraordinary rabbits with ordinary lives until calamitous events overtake them, spilling them into a cauldron of misadventures. They discover that their own story is bound up in the tumult threatening to overwhelm the wider world.
        Kings fall and kingdoms totter. Tyrants ascend and terrors threaten. Betrayal beckons, and loyalty is a broken road with peril around every bend.

        Where will Heather and Picket land? How will they make their stand?

        Reasons we picked it: My sister has heard a bit about this book and was intrigued. She suggested it and I've enjoyed a few animal character books over the years (anything from Watership Down to the Redwall series) so I was like yes, let's do this.

        Selkie's Song

        41748503 A selkie’s song can enchant a man and tame the sea . . .

        Naia’s unusual love for human things led her to become the sole artisan in her clan. But when this passion leads to her abduction, she loses more than contact with the sea when her pelt is taken. Unable to shift forms or return to the sea without it, she knows she will die if she cannot recover the pelt soon. Cut off from her family, Naia must appease the human king while persuading his lovesick son to honor past arrangements.

        Malik has loved and lost before, an experience leading him to shy away from love. When Naia is stranded, however, he risks everything to find her. Together they uncover a plot that would sweep up humans and selkies alike in a war that would destroy the Five Kingdoms and possibly all of Sonera.
        When the enemy acts, can they save sea and land . . . and each other? 

        Reasons we picked it: We've both read previous work by Rogers and when we were scrambling to finish this list and needed one more, I went, how about this one? I love retellings and thought it means I'll now have to wait to read this *eye twitches* it'll be worth it to drag my sister along with me. I was going to read it sometime January, but I guess I'll stare longingly at it on my Kindle until then.

        And of the other last minute choices I threw out there, this was the one my sister liked best. Fingers crossed. We picked this one off the list of suggestions for indie authors as well.


        Kitrin always assumed her overprotective parents were just paranoid—until the trees started talking to her.

        For sixteen years, Kitrin has longed for freedom from her parents' secluded manor. However, one day her emotions trigger flowers to bloom, roots to grasp, and trees to bend. Unable to control her unexplained abilities, she finds an anchor in a young man with sad eyes and his own secrets. A man who sends sparks through her, but who might be tied to her destruction.

        Palace outcast and nephew of the king, Prince Bryce lives under the shadow of his father's execution for treason. To escape the toxic court, he takes comfort in the company of the kindhearted Kitrin. However, as the mysteries in both their pasts are revealed, he realizes the girl he loves is someone his family wants dead.

        Reasons we picked it: This was another one that was at the top of my sister's list. I'm going to hazard a guess and say this is one of the ones she is the most excited about. (Just a hunch). I already had it on my Kindle so that worked out perfectly. I was like yep, you know I'm interested. It's sitting right here in my epic pile. And this makes #3 for a selection taken from the indie recommendation list.


        42854173What if the job you took to stay alive might be what kills you?

        Kade knows what it is to suffer. He knows what it's like to lose everything and everyone around him.

        His job in a Stormer Unit guarantees not just his survival in the decimated country of Azetaria, but his sister Meg's. Even if it means facing the Numachi warriors baying for his blood, he'll do what it takes to keep her safe.

        Hadley is alone and surviving the only way she knows how. By hiding where predators won't find her and scavenging enough just to keep her alive.

        When desperation drives Hadley to search for her missing brother, she mistakenly accepts the offer of recruitment into the Stormer's camp, only to be partnered with Kade and sent as a scout into Numachi territory.

        The intimidating young Stormer may just know where her brother has gone. But can they stay alive long enough to find him?

        Reasons we picked it: I just love this cover, and the blurb. This was another one that ended up at the top of both of our lists when we put them together. Also one of the indie books recommended to us for the challenge.


        The Mermaid Summer

        About a hundred years ago, they say, a mermaid ruled the cold sea that washed around northern lands. She was beautiful and dangerous, and the fishermen of those parts were careful to speak well of her. All but Eric Anderson, who scorned her very existence - until the day the mermaid smashed his fishing boat against the rocks, nearly killing him and his crew. Eric bid his family good-bye, for after that, no one would sail with him. His grandchildren, Jon and Anna, never stopped missing him; so from the moment they saw the mermaid for themselves, they knew it was up to them to tame her and bring their grandfather home again...

        Reasons we picked it: My friend Heather Hayden mentioned how much she loved this book a few years back and it's been lingering on my to-read list since then. This was our other last minute addition and I'm like, now's the time to finally get around to reading that!

        Dragon Kin: Sapphire and Lotus

        32858696The ancient prophecy speaks of the five, those who will come to save all of dragonkind. Like most prophecies, it leaves out a lot of the important details…

        The very ordinary elf girl who runs for the hills—and gets lost in a forest instead. The dragon egg, precariously perched high in a tree on a dark winter’s night.

        And what happens when egg meets girl.

        Reasons we picked it: Dragons? Do we really need more reasons? I didn't think so. 


        Battle for the Throne

        26138751The sword quivers in Alaina's hand. With one final stroke she can slay the gladiator, win back her freedom ... and lose the trust of her people forever. 

        The Kingdom of Falyncia is caught in a war between a guardian spirit and a powerful demon. Alaina barely escapes with her life, yet she vows to one day claim the throne. When she finally returns home, the enemy has her in his grasp. Now she must choose between freedom and staying true to her people. If she fails to kill the gladiator, torture awaits. Can she find the courage to face it? Or will the demon triumph again?

        Reasons we picked it: This was our final choice from the list of indie books we had recommended to us. I found the blurb interesting and it sounds like it's going to be a nice medieval fantasy/adventure romp. 

        And that's our 12 for the year!