Review | Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

When Rachelle was fifteen, she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless—straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her hunt for the legendary sword that might save their world. Together, they navigate the opulent world of the courtly elite, where beauty and power reign and no one can be trusted. And as they become unexpected allies, they discover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.

4.5 cupcakes

“You always have to choose between the path of needles and the path of pins.”

I wasn’t entirely sure how to feel about Cruel Beauty, but it’s safe to say that I loved Crimson Bound. It borrows elements from Little Red Riding Hood and The Girl Without Hands, creating a dark, captivating story that is a fairytale in its own right. The inclusion of the bloodbound, the forestborn, and the Devourer added a creepy, otherworldly atmosphere to the France setting that was already rich in its own history.

As I mentioned in my review of Cruel Beauty, Rosamund Hodge has a way with words. Her writing is gorgeous and lyrical, and her vivid descriptions served to amplify the dark and imaginative world that she created.

I absolutely loved the cast of characters that make upCrimson Bound. Rachelle, in particular, is fierce, prickly, and haunted by guilt. She’s selfish and self-pitying, yet still desires to stop the Devourer and save the world. I loved that she acknowledged her dark moments, where she admitted that she didn’t believe she deserved to live, but still found reasons to live anyways.

The romance was the one aspect of Crimson Bound that I didn’t love, since it felt forced in the early parts of the novel. That being said, each male balanced a different side of Rachelle so it was well-integrated and didn’t feel like it was thrown in just to create drama. I did prefer the half of the love triangle containing the “bad boy” Erec, though, as it had banter and banter is my weakness when it comes to shipping.

Overall, Crimson Bound was a darkly imaginative fairytale that I devoured in one sitting. It’s beautifully written and home to complex characters, and I highly recommend giving it a read.

Review | Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

15839984Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

3 cupcakes

Cruel Beauty had been on my radar for a while, as I can never say no to retellings, and Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite fairy tales (in part because I wanted a library like the one in the Disney version). Unfortunately, I’m still on the fence about this one – I think I liked it, but I’m also still kind of confused about what happened?

Things I liked:
Gorgeous and lyrical writing. I loved Hodge’s word choices – whether used in vivid descriptions or as the names of characters.
Flawed, wicked characters. Nyx, in particular, is angry, contemptuous, and not particularly likeable, but her actions definitely reflected her situation. And the Gentle Lord has a penchant for deceiving those who make bargains with him, making for some interesting curses.
The mythology. The addition of Hermetic magic and Demon Princes was intriguing, and put an interesting spin on the Beauty and the Beast tale.

Things that didn’t work for me:
The mythology. It was interesting and ambitious, but it felt like Hodge was trying to do way too much at once, and it ultimately left me confused.
The world-building left a lot to be desired. The magic system, in particular, was not very well-developed, and I can’t help but feel that it could have been stronger if a new religious system was put into place instead of relying on the Greek Gods.
The romance. There was so much and the story was quickly bogged down by a love triangle that I was not invested in.
The ending. Nyx had a lot of revelations, but unfortunately, I didn’t; I honestly don’t know what happened or why, and I can’t really be bothered to re-read it to find out.

Overall, Cruel Beauty was beautifully written and ambitious, but the confusing nature of the story and the overwhelming romance made it difficult to enjoy at times.

Review | Fairest by Marissa Meyer

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

4.5 cupcakes

I tend not to get along with novellas, but I just had to make an exception for Fairest – after all, The Lunar Chronicles is one of my new favourite series. While you don’t have to have read the first three books to appreciate Fairest, since any potential spoilers are fairly subtle, it’s more fascinating to learn about Queen Levana’s past when you know who she’s become.

As the title suggests, Fairest encompasses elements of the Snow White story. While there is an “evil queen” with a lovely stepdaughter, I was most intrigued by how Levana’s hatred of mirrors and obsession with beauty were explored. And what Levana looks like under her veil – not really Snow White related, but the reason for why her glamour looks the way it does is just… whoa.

I have a weakness for sympathetic, complex villains, and (surprisingly) Levana fits that bill. She has an incredibly low opinion of herself as a result of her sister’s abuse, and desires attention and affection more than anything else. As a result, she latches onto the first source of kindness that was shown to her: a married guard, Evret Hayle. This is unrequited love at its finest, and through it, we’re shown the lengths that Levana is willing to go to to hold onto her twisted ideas of love, power, and hope. This glimpse into Levana’s head was both sad and slightly terrifying, and I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for her; while it doesn’t excuse any of her actions, it’s hard not to pity someone who has (mostly) good intentions, but accomplishes them in the most self-destructive ways possible.

Overall, Fairest was a lot darker than the rest of The Lunar Chronicles books, but just as addictive. It painted Levana as a more real character without making her likeable, so I’m interested to see if knowing her backstory will colour my re-read of the series in any way. And, of course, I’m even more excited about Winter after those teaser chapters. Is it November yet?

Review | The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

3.5 cupcakes

The School for Good and Evil would make an excellent movie. It has an original premise and vivid descriptions, and also deconstructs fairytale tropes in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. It’s adorable, creative, and (surprisingly) quite dark at times, so I could easily visualize it as a cross between Shrek and Into the Woods, if it were to get the Disney treatment.

One of the things that I loved the most about The School for Good and Evil was its underlying messages. No one is inherently good or bad. You don’t have to live up to others’ expectations or society’s ideals. The School for Good and Evil also made mention of how looks aren’t everything, and that it’s the choices we make and what’s on the inside that truly count. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel as though this last message was as effectively presented – which is unfortunate, given that it’s truly important.

Our main characters, Agatha and Sophie, were the perfect foil for one another. Agatha was quite easy to sympathize with and root for, but Sophie was less likeable. That being said, I absolutely loved the character arc that Sophie went on – especially once she realized how truly important her friendship with Agatha was.

Overall, The School for Good and Evil was creative, entertaining, and filled with so many excellent messages. I’m excited to see where Agatha and Sophie’s tale goes next!

Review | Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison–even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

4 cupcakes

Although I thought Cinder was good, its slow pacing and predictable plot twists kept it from being amazing. Thankfully,Scarlet addressed those complaints, making for a much easier and more enjoyable read.

I absolutely loved Marissa Meyer’s take on the Little Red Riding Hood story. It contained the identifying elements of the original fairy tale (Grandmother goes missing, Scarlet’s red sweater and, of course, the Big Bad Wolf) but all of these elements were given a sci-fi twist that made for an action-packed, unpredictable, and completely enthralling read.

Scarlet introduces us to several new characters that are consistent with the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale: Scarlet, a determined young woman for whom family comes first, and Wolf, a wolf-hybrid-turned-street fighter. I really enjoyed reading about both of these characters, and found myself fully supporting their inevitable relationship – even if it did feel like instalove (since they’d only known each other for a day, albeit an incredibly eventful one) and even if my mind couldn’t decide whether Wolf was the “good guy” or not.

Instead of containing only their story (as I had initially assumed), Scarlet and Wolf’s adventures intersect with Cinder’s – something that I was incredibly happy about, since I don’t think I could wait another whole book to find out how my favourite cyborg was doing. This also brought about the introduction of the charming Captain Thorne, who may or may not be my new book boyfriend. His banter with Cinder was so much fun to read, and I applaud Meyer for not forcing a love triangle along with his introduction.

Overall, Scarlet showed me exactly why everyone loves this series so much: it’s captivating, fast-paced, unique, and contains some of the most loveable characters. It’s safe to say that I’ll be starting Cress straight away.

Fairytale Retelling Reading Challenge (2015)

Mel at The Daily Prophecy is hosting a Fairytale Retelling Reading Challenge for the upcoming year, and even though I told myself that I wouldn’t participate in any reading challenges unless they helped me get through my ARC pile, I just couldn’t say no to this one!

The challenge runs from January 1st – December 31st 2015.

The goal is to read fairytale retellings, but if you want you can also pick other retellings. It’s up to you what you count as a fairytale. Here are a couple of books you can pick from: my bookshelf with fairytale retellings and Fairytale lists on Listopia. You can read Middle Grade, Young Adult and Adult books for this challenge.

There are 6 different levels you can aim for:

-Prince Charming: 1 – 4 books.
-Magic mirror: 5 – 9 books.
-Big bad wolf: 10 – 15 books.
-The wise princess: 16 – 20 books.
-Wicked fairy Godmother: 21 – 25 books.
-Bluebeard: you are killing it! 26+ books

Here’s a tentative list of the books that I’m interested in reading:

Ideally, I’d like to get around to reading all of these, so hopefully that can happen! And if there are any fairytale retellings that you think I absolutely must read, please let me know! 🙂

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Waiting On Wednesday (December 3)

wow

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

This week, I’m waiting on A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, which has an expected publication date of May 5, 2015.

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

As I’m sure you all know by now, the Throne of Glass series is one of my favourites, so I was ridiculously excited to see that Sarah J. Maas was releasing a new series! Not only is the cover absolutely gorgeous, but it’s a retelling of one of my favourite fairytales (Beauty and the Beast) with my favourite paranormal component (faeries) and some really neat Scottish lore (Tam Lin).

Which books are you waiting on? Leave me a link or a list to your Waiting on Wednesday post below.

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