Red Rider’s Hood
Young Adult / August 16, 2017

Dark Fusion #2. Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary: In this second entry in Neal Shusterman’s Dark Fusion series, he twists the familiar fairy tale “Red Riding Hood” into a brooding story about a city plagued by gangs. Red, a boy famous for cruising around in a bloodcolored Mustang, takes on the Wolves after they rob his grandmother. He decides to beat them by joining them, to learn their weaknesses. After a while, however, he finds himself drawn to the pack. At the next full moon, will Red take up their murderous ways, or will he take them down? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Quite a creepy little retelling of Red Riding Hood. I like the distance achieved, where the story is obviously fairy-tale based but far enough away to be its own story, and I think Shusterman did a good job with the rather dark, gritty city setting and atmosphere. Not sure I agree with the main character’s choices, but it’s not a story where the right/wrong sides are pinned down hard and fast – it’s fairly open-ended for the reader to decide. (Note that the Dark Fusion series is more a grouping than a series… no need to read the books…

Frogkisser!

Author: Garth Nix. Summary:  The last thing she needs is a prince. The first thing she needs is some magic. Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own. Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land—and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low. My Thoughts: It was funny for the first chapter or so, but then it got just a little bit bland. Everything was just a little too humorous and stylized for my taste, although I realize that the author did it on purpose, and the message was a little too blatant. Mostly, it felt too much like middle-grade magic, not like Garth Nix fantasy. However, the message was good, even…

As Old as Time
Young Adult / June 7, 2017

A Twisted Tale #3. Author: Liz Braswell. Summary:  What if Belle’s mother cursed the Beast? Belle is a lot of things: smart, resourceful, restless. She longs to escape her poor provincial town for good. She wants to explore the world, despite her father’s reluctance to leave their little cottage in case Belle’s mother returns—a mother she barely remembers. Belle also happens to be the captive of a terrifying, angry beast. And that is her primary concern. But Belle touches the Beast’s enchanted rose, intriguing images flood her mind—images of the mother she believed she would never see again. Stranger still, she sees that her mother is none other than the beautiful Enchantress who cursed the Beast, his castle, and all its inhabitants. Shocked and confused, Belle and the Beast must work together to unravel a dark mystery about their families that is twenty-one years in the making. My Thoughts: The prose was fairly mediocre, but I really liked the changes the author made to the Beauty and the Beast story. It’s not an easy one to pull off as a good retelling; weird enough that outside of the fairy-tale context often doesn’t work at all. But the background she built…

The Wish Granter
Young Adult / May 17, 2017

Ravenspire #2. Author: C.J. Redwine. Summary: The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence he can’t stop. Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown. So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself. But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, she’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul. (Published…

The Snow Child
Adult / March 21, 2017

Author: Eowyn Ivey. Summary: Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm, she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning, the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them. (Goodreads Summary) My Thoughts: Think fantasy x Jack London. I loved it. The description and the characters’ perception both bring out the harsh beauty of the wilderness, but that beauty morphs here and there…

Mechanica
Young Adult / January 13, 2017

Mechanica #1. Author: Betsy Cornwell. Summary: Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home. But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: So. Steampunk-Cinderella. Apparently a bunch of people had problems with slow pacing, but I don’t have problems with that usually, so it was fine. I loved Mechanica: her independence, her determination, her strength. I loved (parts of) the ending, and its message. Cinderella taking care of herself, and choosing her own fate? Oh, yes. But… it did fall a little flat. We have so much interesting build-up with the fae, and the possible war,…

Heartless
Young Adult / November 22, 2016

Author: Marissa Meyer. Summary: Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen. Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: Set in a Victorian Wonderland, with a delightful mix of history, whimsy, and just the right amount of references to Carroll’s books, Heartless is the story of the girl who would become the Queen of Hearts. I delighted in it. To be sure, the romance was fast-paced (Flirting at their first meeting? Come on.) and the final chapters were rushed (how do…

The Chosen Prince
Middle Grade / Juvenile / October 11, 2016

Author: Diane Stanley. Summary: On the day of his birth, Prince Alexos is revealed to be the long-awaited champion of Athene. He grows up lonely, conscious of all that is expected of him. But Alexos discovers that being a champion isn’t about fame and glory—it’s about sacrifice and courage. Alexos follows the course of his destiny through war and loss and a deadly confrontation with his enemy to its end: shipwreck on a magical, fog-shrouded island. There he meets the unforgettable Aria, and faces the greatest challenge of his life. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: The Chosen Prince is set in a fairly generic, medieval-type kingdom. There is poverty and starvation for the prince to learn from and try to better; a neighboring kingdom that is always at war on the border; peasants, nobles, and farmers. Although the specific setting that Alexos interacts with is always clear, the world in general felt a little flat and fuzzy to me. Diane Stanley may, of course, have been trying to evoke the medieval stereotype on purpose. I did like the story. Alexos is a sympathetic character, and plot took a couple of twists that I did not see coming. Content Review: Sexual content:…

Mirrored
Young Adult / August 14, 2016

Author: Alex Flinn. Summary: Beauty is the key to everything. At least, that’s how it seems to Violet—ugly, bullied, and lonely. To be beautiful, in her eyes, is to have power and love. And when Kendra, the witch, teaches Violet how to use magic, she may finally get what she wants. For Celine, beautiful since birth, her looks have been a hindrance. She discovers that beauty is also a threat—especially to her stepmother, Violet, who doesn’t want anyone sharing the attention she worked so hard to get and who will do anything to be the fairest of them all. But beauty isn’t only skin deep and love isn’t based on looks alone. And though Violet and Celine may seem to be completely opposite, their lives are almost… mirrored. Content Review: Sexual content: Some kissing. Character watches a television show that has “drinking and whoring” and a “hot blond dragon chick who gets naked a lot”. Gossip that an obnoxious teen star mooned school kids out the window of his limo. Some innuendo. Character has her first period. Language: 14 scatological terms, 13 derogatory names, 5 anatomical parts, 1 d***, 1 acronym Violence: Boys throw rocks at a girl, knock her…

Ella Enchanted
Middle Grade / Juvenile / August 4, 2016

Author: Gail Carson Levine. Summary: Ella is a strong-willed, contrary girl – but if you give her an order, she’ll obey every time. She has to. Her fairy godmother gifted her with obedience at birth, and while Ella has learned to stretch the limits, in the end she must live with it. But this isn’t going to stop her from running away, taming ogres, meeting elves, and chasing down fairies to try and break the spell. And even maybe, just maybe, falling in love. My Thoughts: One of the funnest fairy tale retellings I’ve ever read. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: Some girls at boarding school are mean to her, ordering her around. Some ogres tie her up and threaten to eat her. Her stepmother makes her work as a servant.