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 | 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.

Review | Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

3.5 cupcakes

Cinder started off very slowly for me – to the point where I was terrified that I’d be the black sheep who just couldn’t get into this well-loved series. Thankfully, the pacing got better as the story went on, and I quickly found myself immersed in this book.

I love fairytale retellings, so I’m quite surprised that it took me so long to give Cinder a try. It definitely draws inspiration from the original Cinderella story, however the creative liberties that Marissa Meyer took (which weren’t limited to cyborgs, a futuristic setting, and the Lunars) gave it a fresh, original feel.

Cinder is a wonderful protagonist. Despite the fact that Cinder’s a cyborg, she’s incredibly relatable – her insecurities are balanced by her strength and determination, and she’s incredibly intelligent and resourceful. As in the original Cinderella tale, Cinder faced prejudice and abuse yet didn’t break in the face of this adversity.

The secondary characters were crafted with just as much thought. From the handsome Prince Kai to the cold, somewhat terrifying Queen Levana, these characters all had distinct personalities. Iko and Peony, in particular, were two of my favourites: the cheeky android and adorable sister were not only loveable, but they also helped humanize Cinder by showing off her softer, more vulnerable side.

My only complaint is that the plot “twists” weren’t exactly a surprise; in fact, I had guessed the main one within the first 50 pages. While a certain amount of predictability is expected in retellings, it somewhat detracted from the mystery component of the story.

Overall, I can certainly see why this series has so much hype surrounding it; this unique twist on a beloved fairytale was really enjoyable, so I can’t wait to see where Cinder’s story goes next.

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)

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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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Review | Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

A romantic, historical retelling of classic Gothic horror featuring Edgar Allan Poe and his character Annabel Lee, from a New York Times best-selling author.

Summoned to her father’s home in 1820’s Philadelphia, a girl finds herself in the midst of a rash of gruesome murders in which he might be implicated. She is torn romantically between her father’s assistants-one kind and proper, one mysterious and brooding-who share a dark secret and may have more to do with the violent events than they’re letting on.

1.5 cupcakes

Given that Annabel Lee was one of my favourite poems in high school, I was incredibly excited to read Of Monsters and Madness. Unfortunately, this retelling failed to deliver the creepy, Gothic mystery that I was expecting.

In a retelling, it is expected that authors will take certain liberties, both with characters and plot points. In this case, though, the only elements of the original Poe stories were the character names and the inclusion of his most famous lines and less-than-subtle references to his works. That’s not to say that the storyline is highly original though; in fact, the majority of the plot points were derived from Frankenstein and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. As a result, the mystery (if you can call it that, since the murderer is revealed in the preface) was extremely predictable.

I wasn’t a fan of the protagonist, Annabel. She’s incredibly meek and constantly seeks the approval of her father. She’s considerate and caring, but these traits stopped being admirable when the plot became a running tally of Annabel’s acts of kindness and not a murder mystery.

The rest of the characters were just as bland – especially Annabel’s love interest, Allan. This instalove-fuelled relationship made sense given Annabel’s sheltered life and desire for affection, but the lack of chemistry made it feel contrived and unconvincing.

Overall, Of Monsters and Madness was an incredibly disappointing read. If you’re a Poe purist, you should probably avoid giving this a read.

Waiting on Wednesday (March 12)

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 Winterspell by Claire Legrand, which has an expected publication date of September 30, 2014.

The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince . . . but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor’s ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother’s murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted–by beings distinctly not human. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they’re to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets–and a need she can’t define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won’t leave Cane unscathed–if she leaves at all.

Inspired by The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.

I’ll admit that the extent of my knowledge of The Nutcracker comes from watching an elementary school play that my younger cousin performed in, so the whole concept behind Winterspell intrigues me. I love dark fairy tale retellings, especially when they have faeries and steampunk elements, so this is definitely a must-read for me.

What books are you waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me a list in the comments below.

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Book Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth–an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret–one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

My Rating:  4 cupcakes

I’m ashamed to admit that I have never read Persuasion. As a result, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from For Darkness Shows the Stars, but I was very pleasantly surprised that my lack of knowledge surrounding its predecessor didn’t hinder my reading experience by any means. Instead, it finally caused me to put a Jane Austen book onto my reading list, which is no small feat!

As a biology student, I found myself fascinated by the world that Peterfrend created. In this world, scientific advancements have gone much too far in unlocking one’s true genetic potential. Experiments were carried out on young children in an attempt to engineer the perfect human who was stronger, faster, and better in every way. Of course, as in reality, these advancements do not come without consequences… and that’s where the story starts to get interesting. If we can determine whether or not a child has a disability and use gene therapy to treat certain illnesses, who’s to say that we won’t eventually be able to engineer a human? It wasn’t difficult to imagine this world as a possible future for mankind, adding a dose of scary realism to the story.

One of my favourite parts of For Darkness Shows the Stars was, surprisingly, the relationship between Eliot and Kai as told through their childhood letters. Their relationship has always been one with an imbalance of power, and it was interesting to see how that dynamic impacted their already forbidden friendship. Through these letters, we see how Kai’s knowledge and experiences challenge the information that Eliot has always blindly accepted and how that shapes her future actions.

Eliot North was a very admirable heroine. After I got over the initial shock that Eliot was, in fact, female, I found myself fascinated by her quiet determination. She knew which battles were worth fighting, even if they required tremendous sacrifices, and she also knew when to walk away. While I sometimes wished she wasn’t quite so passive, I can’t imagine that I would have acted any differently given the burdens, responsibilities, and secrets that Eliot shoulders throughout the course of the story.

Overall, For Darkness Shows the Stars is more than a romance story: it’s rife with heavy themes such as class conflict, the dangers of genetic modification, and acceptance. Most of all, though, it shows the importance of hope, and how even the smallest actions can impact someone’s life in dramatic ways.

Book Review: A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

It should have been a short suspended-animation sleep. But this time Rose wakes up to find her past is long gone– and her future full of peril.

Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long gone, and Rose– hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire– is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat. Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes– or be left without any future at all.

My Rating: 4 cupcakes

A Long, Long Sleep is, as the title suggests, a fairytale re-imagining of the Sleeping Beauty story. However, this story is about so much more than a princess who is trapped in a castle; instead, it’s a futuristic, sci-fi story about a girl who comes to some unpleasant realizations about her life, and becomes her own person. It tackles many heavy topics, including loss and grief, and causes you to do some critical thinking about what constitutes emotional abuse.

For the first half of the book, I really wasn’t fond of the protagonist, Rose. She was far too passive and self-deprecating. She fell in love far too easily, and was too awkward and shy to make any friends. She didn’t ask nearly enough questions, despite waking up in a whole new world, and apologized far too much for things that weren’t her fault. My opinion completely changed halfway through the story when the reason why she behaved like this was brought to light. As Rose discovers the harsh truth about her parent’s actions, she learns that she doesn’t necessarily need someone else to come and save her; she’s more than capable of doing that on her own. She makes friends, discovers her talents, and finds a reason to keep on living. Her transformation was heartbreaking but necessary, and I can’t wait to see how she fares in the future.

Although Rose was immediately attracted to Bren, this case of instalove was an exception to my dislike for the trope: the reasoning behind it was really well explained and, for once, the boy doesn’t fall head over heels for some girl that he doesn’t even know. Rose experiences rejection and heartbreak, just like any normal girl, and has a multitude of important relationships, ranging from romantic to familial.

The world building wasn’t the most detailed, but that was more than okay considering that the focus of the story was more on Rose’s character development than what happened to the world during the Dark Times. The sci-fi technology was primarily the vehicle used to explore the topic of child abuse, but that’s not to say that it wasn’t interesting; between stasis tubes, killer cyborgs, and hovercars, I kept wanting to learn more about this technology. Hopefully that will be explored further in the sequel, though I really wouldn’t complain if Sheehan decided to write a book that took place during the Dark Times.

Overall, A Long, Long Sleep is one of those books that snuck up on me. I enjoyed the entire story, but wasn’t fully captivated until the second half of the book – and, by then, the combination of Rose’s emotional journey and the neat futuristic technology kept me from putting the book down until the very end.