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.  

Beastly
Young Adult / July 29, 2016

Author: Alex Flinn. Summary: I am a beast. A beast! Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright. I am a monster. You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll,stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell. Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: This retelling of the Beauty and the Beast is set in the present and narrated from the point of view of the Beast, but beyond that is quite faithful to the story. This is rather creepy, because while a daughter in exchange for a man’s life is a turning point in a fairy tale, it’s a lot weirder in modern times. The main…

Across a Star-swept Sea
Young Adult / July 20, 2016

Author: Diana Peterfreund. Summary: Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy. On the neighboring island of Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous aristocrat Persis Blake. The teenager uses her shallow, socialite trappings to hide her true purpose: her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo… is her most dangerous mission ever. Though Persis is falling for Justen, she can’t risk showing him her true self, especially once she learns he’s hiding far more than simply his disenchantment with his country’s revolution and his undeniable attraction to the silly socialite he’s pretending to love. His darkest secret could plunge both islands into a new dark age, and Persis realizes that when it…

Witches Abroad
Adult / June 15, 2016

A Discworld Novel. Author: Terry Pratchett. Summary: Once upon a time there was a fairy godmother named Desiderata who had a good heart, a wise head, and poor planning skills—which unforunately left the Princess Emberella in the care of her other (not quite so good and wise) godmother when DEATH came for Desiderata. So now it’s up to Magrat Garlick, Granny Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg to hop on broomsticks and make for far-distant Genua to ensure the servant girl doesn’t marry the Prince. But the road to Genua is bumpy, and along the way the trio of witches encounters the occasional vampire, werewolf, and falling house (well this is a fairy tale, after all). The trouble really begins once these reluctant foster-godmothers arrive in Genua and must outwit their power-hungry counterpart who’ll stop at nothing to achieve a proper “happy ending”—even if it means destroying a kingdom. (Goodreads summary.) My Thoughts: Usually, the melting-pot style retellings that try to cram as many fairytale references into one story as possible are just annoying. They’re scattered and random, and I don’t like the stories being reduced to a passing paragraph or two around the protagonist as he/she continues on his/her way. Witches…

Cloaked
Young Adult / May 31, 2016

Author: Alex Flinn. Summary: I’m not your average hero. I actually wasn’t your average anything. Just a poor guy working an after-school job at a South Beach shoe repair shop to help his mom make ends meet. But a little magic changed it all. It all started with the curse. And the frognapping. And one hot-looking princess, who asked me to lead a rescue mission. There wasn’t a fairy godmother or any of that. And even though I fell in love along the way, what happened to me is unlike any fairy tale I’ve ever heard. Before I knew it, I was spying with a flock of enchanted swans, talking (yes, talking!) to a fox named Todd, and nearly trampled by giants in the Keys. (Summary from goodreads.) My Thoughts: While it was fun to notice all the fairy-tale references, especially the less-common ones, there were so many I felt they blended together. The book felt like stone stew, with everything hode-podged together until it was hard to keep track of the main conflict. The main character was something of a doofus, and didn’t notice what was right under his nose. I.e., it was clear from the beginning that the…

Snow
Young Adult / May 18, 2016

Author: Tracy Lynn. Summary: The Duchess Jessica’s childhood began with a tragedy: her mother’s death. Her father, heartbroken at the loss of his beloved wife, could not bear to raise the child. Largely ignored, Jessica spent the first eleven years of her life running free on the family estate, cared for only by the servants. Then her father decides to remarry, bringing an end to Jessica’s independence. At first her new stepmother just seems overly strict. But as Jessica grows into a beautiful young woman, it becomes clear that her stepmother is also wildly — and murderously — jealous of her. Jessica escapes to London. Going by the name Snow to hide from her family, she falls in love with an odd band of outcasts who accept her into their makeshift family. But when her stepmother appears in the city, repentant and seeking her forgiveness, Jessica will have to decide whom to trust…with her life. My Thoughts: A short, fun, rather inventive retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It’s completely recognizable, although the author is quite loose with the connections – there aren’t even seven Lonely Ones to match the dwarfs. It wrapped up very quickly, and I…

Cinder
Young Adult / May 13, 2016

Lunar Chronicles #1. Author: Marissa Meyer. Summary: In a futuristic world sleek with hover-cars and androids, yet devastated by plague and threatened by the lunar queen, a sarcastic female mechanic is swept up into palace intrigue against her will. When the prince urgently requests her aid in fixing a droid carrying classified secrets hours before her stepsister falls ill with the deadly plague, the chain of events is set in motion. Cinder will have to fight for her liberty, learn the forgotten secrets of her own past, and confront who she really is. And decide, in the end, whether there is anything she, a cyborg teenager, can do to save her country from the cruel lunar queen’s plots. My Thoughts: Sharp, clear prose is the initial building block of this re-told fairy tale, followed by three-dimensional characters, dynamic dialogue, and a convoluted plot. This is Cinderella as you’ve never heard it before. Cinder combines science fiction, dystopia, and fairy tale into one package, and does it without feeling strained or over-packed. The first convention broken is that it’s set in Europe. The second, that the main character is not beautiful. And for a third, she and the love interest don’t…

A Whole New World
Young Adult / May 8, 2016

Twisted Tales #1. Author: Liz Braswell. Summary: What if Aladdin never used the lamp? When Jafar steals the lamp and begins maximizing his wishes for world domination, Aladdin and Jasmine are going to have to unite, bringing rich and poor, royalty and thieves, together to take down the tyrant enslaving their city. My Thoughts: Meh. The characters were flat and the story-line, despite all the promises, was predictable and didn’t explore any of the exciting possibilities. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this re-telling, it just lacks depth and tension. Content Review: Sexual content: Scantily clad dancing girls in parade. Some light kissing. Language: 3 d*** Violence: Monkey attacks a man with claws. A thief is roughly arrested and dragged away. One character shoves another of a balcony, killing him. Magician hurls a tame tiger across a room, smashing him into a wall. Character crushed by a falling column. One character stabbed. Magic twists a man’s head around until his neck snaps. Character knocked out with a blow to the head.  

Ariel
Young Adult / April 30, 2016

Author: Grace Tiffany. Summary: Ariel is a dream escaped from a dying man’s mind. She’s ruled her island alone for centuries, trapped within the Bermuda Triangle. The first human who lands on the island refuses to help her escape the Triangle, and indeed Ariel ends up trapped. It is centuries more before a man and his daughter land on the island, and Ariel is freed. Now she has her chance all over again, with a human to strengthen her again. My Thoughts: Tiffany made some interesting choices in writing this book. For starters, our female Ariel is an inhuman character – she’s the protagonist, and yet unrelatable for us, for she has no understanding of love or death, no ability to work or capability for loyalty and affection. Secondly, as a sprite representative of imagination or art, she is static. Where almost every protagonist will have a character arc, Ariel has no redemption story. She is what she is, what in the fae would be soulless, and there can be no progress or regression. I can’t say right now whether I agree with Tiffany’s metaphors or her representation of imagination/art in Ariel, but Ariel is certainly an interesting reimagining of…

The Forbidden Wish
Young Adult / April 23, 2016

Author: Jessica Khoury. Summary: Zahra, jinni of the lamp and prisoner of old, is released from her lamp for the first time in centuries when Aladdin finds it. Haunted by the death of the only friend she ever had, Zahra must try to keep herself from growing too attached to Aladdin as she waits for him to choose his wishes… especially when the jinni king offers her freedom in return for help rescuing his son from the humans. But as the two go through trial and hardship together, hiding Zahra from the flautists who would imprison her and moving Aladdin into place to start a revolution, Zahra begins to realize she has failed in the worst way possible. And her king is coming to exact his payment. Zahra must make her decision, give her alliance and risk her life for one side or the other, once and for all. My Thoughts: A fluffy, rather middling retelling of the story of the lamp. It is set in a desert/kingdom type, but not Arabia; it is clearly a new world by the author. This actually seemed a good choice. Had Khoury gone ahead and set it in Arabia the potential for failure…