Wednesday, February 20, 2019

How to Fracture a Fairy Tale by Jane Yolen Review

Title: How to Fracture a Fairy Tale
Author: Jane Yolen
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Anthology/Short Story Collection
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                Jane Yolen is one of my favorite authors; I’ve read several of her young adult books in the past, and when I saw a new short story collection sitting on the shelf at one of my local libraries, I snatched it up, eager to take it home and read it. When I realized I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it to the top of my stack and began it immediately after I was finished with The Boneless Mercies. How to Fracture a Fairy Tale is a set of fairy tale retellings, told with lyrical prose and the wry humor that is Yolen’s signature. I was utterly delighted by this collection and devoured it in less than two days. This is easily one of my favorite collections of 2018, and I will be on the lookout for more of enchanting storyteller Jane Yolen’s work!

                This collection of tales contains many different stories, all different interpretations of fairy tales, some well-known, and others, not so much. I loved the variety of the stories; there was something for everyone in this volume. Because of how many stories were in here, for clarity’s sake, I cannot review every piece. So, I will give the book an overall rating and choose a few pieces that I really enjoyed.

                Godmother Death: 5 out of 5 Stars. I really enjoyed this one! I loved the tone; it read like an original fairy tale. Finding no one else to be godmother to his child, a poor villager asks Death in disguise. But as the child grows, Death follows in his wake, indifferent to the plights of humans. But things quickly change when the godson attempts to fool one of the oldest forces on earth. Wry, darkly funny, and beautifully written, it is one of my favorite stories in the volume!

                Sun/Flight: 5 out of 5 Stars. Another favorite of the collection. I loved this hopeful, passionate retelling of one of my favorite Greek mythology stories, Icarus! Given a job in a noble’s house, he falls in love with his proprietor’s daughter, after being saved from drowning in the ocean, he is heartbroken when she moves on to a better lover. Sad, lyrical, and beautifully told, I loved this spin on a tale I thought I knew!


                Allereirauh: 5 out of 5 Stars. I loved the way that this story went back to the fairy tale Cinderella’s dark, bloody roots. Bound by a promise to his dead wife to marry someone as beautiful as she, a king goes mad and pursues his own daughter to wed. Not many people know this version of the story, and the disturbing way that Yolen ended it both had my jaw on the floor and is still lingering in my mind, two days after I finished it. Dark, vicious, with hidden teeth, I will never forget this retelling!

                Granny Rumple: 5 out of 5 Stars. I loved this spin on Rumplestiltskin, infused with Yolen’s own Jewish culture and faith. Rumplestiltskin is one of my favorite fairy tales, and I loved the way that Yolen turned it on its head so that Granny Rumple, the fairy’s widow, came out on top. A hilarious, darkly funny romp that I really enjoyed.

                Mama Gone: 4 out of 5 Stars. What’s a story full of retellings without vampire horror somewhere in the mix? I really liked this story; it was sad, fast-paced, and bittersweet. A young woman loses her mother, and because her father cannot bear to cut off her head and feet, she comes back as a vampire and soon begins terrorizing the small town, tucked up against the mountains. The narrator must try to figure out how to stop her mother’s reign of terror, even at the risk of her own life. Dark, creepy, and bittersweet, I loved Mama Gone!


                Jane Yolen is one of America’s greatest storytellers, and for good reason. She is sharp, honest, funny, witty, and lyrical, and frankly, I’ve enjoyed every bit of her work that I’ve come across. This book was a fantastic literary palate cleanser in between novels, and I loved every moment of it! The bottom line: Fanciful, sharp, dark and honest, I loved How to Fracture a Fairy Tale! Next on deck: Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman!

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke Review

Title: The Boneless Mercies
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                I’ve had this book on my library loan list for a long time, since before it actually came out, so when I saw it on the shelf at my local library, I checked it out. When I realized I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it to the top of my stack, as soon as I finished Black Wings Beating. I have a literary confession to make: I hate Beowulf, the classic old English epic that this book is inspired by. In theory, it sounded like something I would love, but for some reason, I hated it. The Boneless Mercies built on the bones of Beowulf, telling the tale of The Boneless Mercies, young women who take lives for a price. But their leader, Frey, longs for more than the lonely life of a killer, however merciful. When she hears rumors of a dangerous, deadly beast taking lives in the mountains, she leaps at the chance to slay it and become the legend she yearns to be. But even the most legendary make sacrifices for their notoriety, and Frey must decide if she can pay the price.

                Frey is the leader of The Boneless Mercies, and she and her friends take lives as mercifully as they can. But despite herself, she does not feel fulfilled by her lot, and she’s not the only one feeling restless. When rumors reach her ears of a vicious, monstrous beast in Blue Vee, taking lives indiscriminately, Frey and her companions must undertake their most dangerous quest yet, through marshes and forests, crossing paths with witches and wicked jarls and kind archers. But Frey must decide if it’s worth seeing their journey through, or she might just lose everything she stands to gain…


This book was a dark, gorgeous, beautiful epic that rang true of the original. I loved the way that the author took Beowulf and turned it on its head. The prose was beautiful, the pacing breakneck; I was immediately spellbound by Frey’s voice and the brutal, beautiful world that she and her friends lived in. I also adored Frey’s steadfast, wonderful friends, especially Juniper, Runa, and Ovie. My favorite thing about the book was the way it portrayed a classic quest. I was transfixed until the shocking, bittersweet ending. I’m not sure if this book has a sequel in the works, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed nonetheless! At times, there were so many characters that it got a little hard to keep track of them all; I almost wish there had been a dramatis personae at the beginning of the book for a reference. But regardless, this book is one of my favorites of last year, and it might be my favorite of Tucholke’s whole body of work; it was amazing. The bottom line: Fierce, brutal, and beautiful, I loved The Boneless Mercies! Next on deck: How to Fracture a Fairy Tale by Jane Yolen!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Black Wings Beating by Alex London Review

Title: Black Wings Beating
Author: Alex London
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Skybound, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                I was browsing the shelves of my local library a few weeks ago, having had a few openings in my stack, and found Black Wings Beating on a shelf, untouched. The stark gray and black cover, adorned with the picture of a flock of black birds in flight, captivated me. I was so curious about the story inside that I took it home with me that night. As soon as I was finished with The Wicked King, I pushed it to the top of my stack and devoured it in two days. Alex London has penned a beautiful, thought-provoking, brutal series debut that grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go until after the book was closed. I loved it; it’s definitely one of my favorite books of last year. I can’t wait for the sequel!

                Twin siblings Kylee and Brysen both long for different things: Brysen wants to be a master falconer, and find someone who truly loves him, but even more than that, he hungers for fame and glory. His sister, Kylee, wants to leave The Six Villages far behind and live on her own, free to make her own choices. But everything changes when Brysen offers to go catch a ghost eagle, the deadliest of all the birds of prey. Unwilling to let her brother embark on this dangerous quest alone, she finds herself trapped in a deadly web of intrigue, secrets, and war. The two siblings must decide if they’re ready to give up everything, even one another, in order to complete their quest successfully, but war is brewing on the horizon, and they must ready for battle…


                I really enjoyed this book! It had everything that I love in a fantasy novel: fantastic worldbuilding, fierce, rich characters, breakneck pacing, intrigue and secrets, forbidden love and war! My favorite part, though, in this book, were the falcons. I was absolutely spellbound by that part of the story. I loved Kylee and Brysen; they were like two sides of the same coin, fiercely devoted to one another but also trying to find their own way outside of each other. The different points of view throughout the book offered some much-needed perspective on the events happening. This book haunted even my dreams, and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it, anxious to get back to it. The pacing was so sharp and quick, and if I wasn’t laughing or crying, I was cheering. This book is one that I’ve been waiting for my whole life. The ending was absolutely insane! My jaw hit the floor, I cannot wait until the next book comes out in September! The bottom line: A lush, dark and gorgeous fantasy, I loved Black Wings Beating, and I can’t wait for the next book! Next on deck: The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke! 

The Wicked King by Holly Black Review

Title: The Wicked King
Author: Holly Black
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Folk of the Air, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                Holly Black and I haven’t had the best relationship until fairly recently. I tried reading her first series of fairy novels, and for some reason, I just didn’t like them. But I read The Darkest Part of the Forest and was totally hooked. The Cruel Prince was one of my favorite books of last year, so as soon as I found out about a sequel, I put it on hold at my local library, and I’m anxious to say that The Wicked King was even better. Full of political intrigue, deadly secrets, shocking twists, I was captivated until the final page, and over a week later, I’m still reeling! I can’t wait for the last book in what might be Holly Black’s best series yet!

                The Wicked King picks up where The Cruel Prince left off, with Jude and Cardan dealing with the aftermath of the events from the first book. Cardan is now King of Elfhame, thanks to Jude’s scheming, and she is his seneschal, the Court’s highest advisor. She has the power and position she so craves, even if it means using the most hated enemy as her puppet. Her little brother, Oak, is safe in the human world with her other sister, Vivian. But in Faerie, no one can be trusted and everyone has something to hide. When Jude is betrayed by someone closest to her, she must hold even tighter to her newfound power, even as the whole of Faerie and her own family plot against her…

                I really, really enjoyed this book; it’s easily one of my favorites of 2019. I usually get anxious about sequels, because I’m worried it won’t live up to the hype of the first book. But that wasn’t the case here. Though obviously, it took a while to remember everything that happened, considering it had been a year or so since I read The Cruel Prince. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately drawn back into Faerie, and spellbound by Jude’s vicious, cutting voice. I was blown away by the political intrigue of the novel; that took up a huge part of it and I really liked it. And the twists! The turns! The shocking secrets! The killer sexual tension between Jude and Cardan! One of my favorite tropes is enemies to lovers, and I loved the tension between them. I also loved the other characters: Jude’s family, The Bomb, The Roach, Ghost. But more than anything, that ending! Oh, my goodness, how am I supposed to wait until 2020 for answers?! You’re killing me, Holly! I will definitely be on the lookout for the third book in the trilogy! The bottom line: Lush, descriptive, and powerful, I loved The Wicked King even more than The Cruel Prince! Next on deck: Black Wings Beating by Alex London!

Monday, February 4, 2019

A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney Review

Title: A Blade So Black
Author: L.L. McKinney
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: A Blade So Black, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                A Blade So Black has been on my library hold list since it first came out last year, so when I was finally finished with Onyx and Ivory, I pushed it up to the top of my stack, eager to dive in. Alice in Wonderland has always been one of my favorite stories, ever since I saw Disney’s animated version as a child. But I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for a retelling like this one, with a hilarious, nerdy and spunky black Alice in the spotlight! This is Wonderland as you’ve never seen before, full of dangerous magic, heart-pounding action and adventure, forbidden love and darkness, and I loved every moment of it!

                Alison ‘Alice’ Kingston tries her best to be a normal teenager, but that’s pretty much impossible when she goes back and forth between busy Atlanta and Wonderland—yes, that Wonderland. She protects the human world from monsters called Nightmares, trained from the age of sixteen by the mysterious, charismatic Addison Hatta—Hatta for short. But her already crazy further careens out of control when her beloved mentor is poisoned by a wicked, black knight, and Alice must journey farther into Wonderland than she’s ever been before in order to find the answers she so desperately seeks. To add to all of this literal life or death stress, her two lives—normal teenage Alice and fledgling hero Alice—begin to collide, risking everything she holds dear. Hearts will break, heads will roll, and Alice must tap into the strength she never knew she had to save everyone she loves and drive back the dark…


                This book was so refreshing! Retellings are one of my favorite subgenres; I’m such a sucker for a new spin on a classic tale, and I loved that the main character, the heroine, was black! The world has been waiting for a more diverse Alice for a long time, and McKinney more than delivered on that score. Diverse books for the win! I was immediately drawn into Alice’s world, from the very first line, and the pacing was breakneck; A Blade So Black grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go until the breathtaking, cliffhanger conclusion. I also adored McKinney’s vivid, dark skewing of Wonderland; it carried the threads of what I’ve always imagined that world to be like, but with a good, healthy dose of darkness, monsters, gore and curses! I loved the characters, each felt like a new friend, from Alice, the young woman trying to juggle two lives, Hatta, her beloved, sexy mentor with more than his own fair share of secrets to hide, Maddi, the whimsical barkeep, Chess, friendly, sweet, and quiet, and Alice’s best friend, Court, hilarious on her own; I loved her! I also really liked Alice’s mom; she was one of my favorite characters in the whole book. And the mysterious Black Knight! Oh, my goodness, after that ending, I need answers! How am I supposed to wait until September for the sequel?! I’m dying here! My only quibble with this was that I wish we knew more about the people who came before Alice and Hatta, and the romantic tension was killing me! The bottom line: A beautiful, diverse and action-packed retelling of Alice in Wonderland, I loved A Blade So Black! Next on deck: Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett Review

Title: Onyx and Ivory
Author: Mindee Arnett
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Rime Chronicles, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                Mindee Arnett is an author from my own state, Ohio, and the first book I ever read by her was her debut, The Nightmare Affair; it left me feeling kind of lukewarm. I liked the concept, but it wasn’t my favorite. But her series opener, Onyx and Ivory, has been sitting in my library stack for a while. When I realized that I couldn’t renew it any more, I pushed it to the top of my stack as soon as I was finished with Fire and Heist. This book was a lush, pleasant surprise: breakneck pacing, well-drawn characters, political intrigue and nefarious plots, with magic, danger, forbidden romance, with a shocking ending that leaves plenty of room for a sequel; this book has become my favorite in Arnett’s body of work. I’m so excited for what happens next!

                Kate Brighton has fallen from grace, ripped from her station as one of the King of Rime’s gentry, after her father dies; he attacked the king and almost killed him. Known now as only Traitor Kate, eking out a meager living in the King’s imperial riding service, The Relay, she is an outcast, hiding a deadly secret. From her father, she inherited forbidden, deadly magic known as wilder magic. Even more frightening, she can use that magic to control drakes, dangerous flightless dragons. The King’s order of magists hunt for Wilders, and the cruel inquisition only gains more traction when mysterious attacks begin happening all over Rime. Corwin, the younger of the crown princes, has his own secrets to hide, for fear of hurting his family, and his chances at the throne, even though he doesn’t seem to want it. When Kate reenters his life, he is forced to confront everything that he kept into the past. Drawn to one another despite all of the forces conspiring against them, they begin to dig into the dark past of their histories, and begin to realize that what they uncover will risk not only the kingdom of Rime, but the whole of the world as well…


                As I said before, this book was a pleasant surprise. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres, and I really liked Arnett’s take on it. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately drawn into the dangerous, magical world of Rime. One of my favorite parts of the book was how strong the characters were, especially Kate. This book had all of my favorite things in a fantasy opener: dragons, magic, forbidden love, political intrigue and dangerous secrets. I also adored the slow-burn, forbidden romance between Kate, the exiled traitor trying to clear her father’s name, and Corwin, stifled and desperate to make his own way, despite his family and station’s expectations. It took me much longer to finish it, as my life has been absolutely crazy recently, but I enjoyed it very much. The only thing that I wish was better was the worldbuilding; I wish the establishment of the gods’ roles in the book had been expanded on. Nonetheless, I’m very excited for the sequel! The bottom line: Mindee Arnett has redeemed herself fully in my estimation with her series debut, Onyx and Ivory! Chock full of romance, intrigue, and more than one monster, I loved it, and I can’t wait for the sequel! Next on deck: A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Fire and Heist by Sarah Beth Durst Review

Title: Fire and Heist
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                Sarah Beth Durst is one of my favorite authors; I read Vessel by her a few years ago, and I’ve been hooked on her work ever since. When I found out that she was publishing a new book in December, as soon as I had an opening, I reserved it at my local library. As soon as I was finished with The Crimes of Grindelwald, I began to read it, and I devoured it in a little over four days. Fire and Heist is an urban fantasy involving one of my very favorite things: dragons! And not just any dragons, but weredragons! This book had everything that I love in a fantasy novel: a feisty, hilarious and independent heroine, forbidden love, dark secrets and perilous quests, strong family bonds; I loved it so much! Fire and Heist is one of my favorite books of 2018.

                In Sky Hawkins’s family, gold is everything, and that’s hardly surprising, considering that she, her brothers, and father are weredragons, or wyverns. But things have never been the same for them all after her mother’s mysterious disappearance, which everyone, even her own family members, refuses to talk about. To make matters worse, her boyfriend Ryan has broken up with her, and all of her friends aren’t talking to her. Lost, furious, and desperate for answers, Sky attempts to make her own rite of passage: a heist, engineered by her. But things become even more complicated when, during the course of it, she stumbles across a dangerous secret that could change the fates of not just Sky and her family, but all wyverns throughout the world. Determined to uncover what really happened to her mother and why her family has been ostracized by the community, she joins forces with her ex, brothers, and friends to pull off the most dangerous heist yet, even if it means risking everything…


                This book was wonderful, as warm and comforting as a cup of hot chocolate on a cold, dark winter’s day, and I really enjoyed it. It’s probably one of my favorites out of Durst’s entire body of work; I was drawn into Sky’s dangerous, glittering world immediately, and her voice was so funny and warm; I loved her, as well as her close, tight-knit family. The pacing was breakneck; as I read, it kind of reminded me of Ocean’s Eleven and Six of Crows, without all of the darkness. This book was a reminder of why I love urban fantasy. I also adored the other characters, especially Ryan and Gabriella, as well as Sky’s parents and brothers. I was laughing, cheering, and crying the whole time I was reading this; I felt as though I made some new friends by the end. I also really enjoyed the ending; it was bittersweet and surprisingly true to life. (Well, as true to life that you can get when you’re reading about wyverns, but I digress.) The only things that I didn’t like about Fire and Heist was that it seemed to take a long time for the big reveal to happen, but that was minor; overall, I really enjoyed Fire and Heist. A gorgeous, hilarious book about being brave, the bonds of family and friends, and the idea that some things are just more precious than gold and jewels, it is one of my favorite books of 2018. The bottom line: A hilarious, heartfelt novel that I will never forget, I loved Fire and Heist! Another knockout from one of my favorite authors! Next on deck: Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett!