Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Review: Cinderella (As Retold by Mike Klaassen)

About the Book

Published by BookBaby on February 15, 2018

I received an eARC of this novella in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

GoodReads Description

An Orphaned Domestic Slave Discovers the Magic Within Herself.

On Cinderella's eighteenth birthday, the king announces a series of three grand balls in which Prince Willem will select a bride. Cinderella attends the first ball but flees when she realizes that she is a witch. Accused by her stepmother of being a dreaded temptress, Cinderella flees the second ball.

Determined to gain Willem's love, Cinderella attends the third ball only to flee again when she foresees imminent invasion by barbarians. Is the kingdom doomed, or can Cinderella use her newfound powers to save the day?

Cinderella is part of the Klaassen's Classic Tales collection of ancient stories first published in the early 1800s, now enhanced for the 21st century.

If you liked Hansel and Gretel and The Frog Prince, you'll love this novella. Rediscover the enchantment of Cinderella today!

My Thoughts

Although I enjoy reading retold fairy tales, they are often difficult for me to review.  After all, the plot and characters that I'm enjoying are not creations of the author's imagination.  The challenge, then, becomes to judge how well an author is able to make the story their own.  In this case, Klaassen met the challenge.

Klaassen's retelling of Cinderella is chock full of vivid descriptions.  He makes sure to provide every detail of Ella's surroundings as she goes throughout her home as well as to and from each of the balls.  He masterfully describes the scenery, the other characters' attitudes, and even the animals' behavior.  Of these descriptions, I believe the most beautiful is Klaassen's description of Ella getting ready for the first ball.  I won't spoil it here, but it is a definite treat!

Unfortunately, not all of Klaassen's descriptions were as beautiful as his descriptions of scenery, animals, and attitudes.  In each novel/novella that I read, I look for the connections and relationships between characters.  I understood why Ella and her stepmother were at odds, but the relationship between Ella and her stepsisters needed to be better defined.  The reader should want to hate them as much as the stepmother, if not more!  Klaassen was also wary about truly setting the scene for his retelling.  Laws and beliefs of the time period it is set in are brought up, but never explained.  Therefore, there are sections that should frighten the reader that just fall flat. Even worse, however, are the sections that Klaassen wanted the audience to feel Ella's pain and apprehension, but the audience does not have the information to do so.  

Overall, I enjoyed this story.  I definitely recommend it to fairy tale fans!

My Rating

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review: The Apostate Prince

About the Book

Published by Art of the Arcane on October 1, 2017

GoodReads Description

Eighteen years have passed since Justin’s mother broke the God of Light’s curse, freeing humans from the bonds of slavery. Justin is heir to the throne of the Dark Empire his mother built from the ashes, but he is a Red Wizard, an order opposed to the war between the religions of darkness and light - an apostate.

But when a beautiful red-haired knight comes for vengeance, prophesying return of the storm dragons and wielding a sword of light, the fuse of war is lit. To stop it, Justin can no longer sit on the sidelines. Torn between family and love, he will have to make a choice, and put his faith in someone or something other than his magic.

My Thoughts

After reviewing Dark Communion, I was ecstatic when Perry asked me to review The Apostate Prince.  Now, I'm excited to share my review with you.

Just like in Dark Communion, Perry spends a lot of time creating fantastic characters.  I loved that he was able to build not only shape shifting characters, but characters who struggled so much with their identity.  Justin became more realistic as the story progressed.  My favorite character, however, was Celia.  I admire her dedication to her father after his death and appreciated her bravery.  I absolutely died at the end of the book because of her actions.

Perry outdid himself when he described each of the battle scenes.  I felt like I was part of the action and found myself waiting for the characters to burst out of my Kindle.  Way to go, Perry!

Unfortunately, there were a few places where I thought Perry could have done a better job.  Even though I had read Dark Communion, it was difficult to remember enough to make sense of this story in certain places.  Too often, Perry made references to the first book without giving a reader enough information to truly recall the event.  Therefore, this is not a standalone novel and should be read immediately after finishing the first installment.

Additionally, Perry waited far too long to get into the meat of the action.  I know that there was a lot of information he wanted to share with the audience, but I felt that this could be done alongside the action.  In my opinion, he waited because he wanted the audience to really get to know Justin before the information started.  I just wish he had found a different way to do so.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this book.  I'm not sure if there are plans for a third book, but I hope there are and I hope it gets here soon!

My Thoughts

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Review: Happyland: A Fairy Tale in Two Parts

About the Book

Happyland: A Fairy Tale in Two Parts by Tes Mekonnen illustrated by Anthony Resto

GoodReads Description

Would you like to court me to Happyland?" Prince Gobbledygook asks Lily Marshmallow and himself. Therein the journey begins to find Happyland. Follow him as he tries to define happiness with a little help from his friends, Big Wig Sophisticated Pig, Brutus Beaujolais and Cornelius Wordbook, an English gentleman with a book-for-a-head. Prince Gobbledygook duels, loses his ladylove, regains his original name and gains a friendship that will last for fourforevers. Will they make it to Happyland?

My Thoughts

Before I really get into the meaty part of this review, can we please just stare in awe at that cover?!?!?  I am absolutely in love with it and with all of the art in this book!  Resto can start designing tattoos for me whenever he wants! It's gorgeous!

Although the illustrations could tell the story by themselves, Mekonnen did a wonderful job writing a story to give Resto something to draw.  The diction put me off from the story at the very beginning, but the more that I read, the more I understood. I felt like I was reading a different version of Slaughterhouse Five because of the way the word choice affected my understanding.  It definitely takes some willingness to be imaginative and childlike to read this book.

The novel is filled with a plethora of witty word plays.  These kept me giggling the entire way through.  I won't spoil any of them now, but I do want to congratulate Mekonnen on the ability to be so funny in such an already goofy tale.  If Mekonnen is nervous about adding flair to his writing, he did not show it in this piece!

My favorite part of this novel, and the reason this book will most likely find its way into my classroom library, is because of the wonderful morals that are presented at the end of every chapter.  Mekonnen takes the time to give not only an example, he spells out the moral for the audience.  I admire his ability to find the moral in the fun.

By far, my favorite character was Prince Gobbledygook!  He was an absolute gentleman who wanted nothing more than happiness for himself and his love.  Such a sweet guy!  Despite his positive qualities, he had a few obvious flaws.  These definitely brought his character from the page to real life.

With every favorite character comes a least favorite-Prince Hobo.  Jiminy Christmas!  What an annoying pain in the neck!  I spent a lot of time hoping that he would just shut his trap and go away.  Although that happens, it's a bit too close to the last page of the novel for my taste.

Mekonnen did a wonderful job spelling out most of the lessons he hopes to teach by this novel but there is one thing that I cannot figure out.  Throughout the novel, Lily is the only female present.  She is portrayed as a weak, aloof, and unintelligent woman who needs a man to be happy.  She is not seen as a person by the two princes, but rather as an item or a piece of property to be won.  I am not sure what Mekonnen was trying to do here.  Is this Mekonnen's way of stating that is his belief of women?  Is it simply an artistic choice to make Lily seem like the protagonist when all along Prince Gobbledygook is the important one?  Is Lily simply there to illustrate the growth that Prince Gobbledygook goes through as he seeks happiness?  I like to think that it's the latter.

Overall, I enjoyed this book!  I definitely recommend it to fans of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Lewis Carroll.

My Rating

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Review: The Merciless

About the Book

Published by Razorbill on June 9, 2015

GoodReads Description

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.

Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.

Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls...unless she wants to be next.

By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

My Thoughts

The Merciless is definitely a difficult book to review.  After all, it was everything I expected it to be. Each of the reviews that I read likened it to Mean Girls and those reviewers were most definitely not exaggerating.

Let's start with the positives.  Vega definitely pays attention to detail!  She wants her audience to feel the mental pain and physical anguish the characters go through, and she does not spare any effort, verb, or adjective in this endeavor.  I was truly impressed with her writing style in this area.

However, I did not enjoy this book very much overall.  Many of the characters felt rushed and underdeveloped and even though I just finished this book a week ago, I remember very little of the plot.  I remember enough to know that I would not purchase this series for my classroom library as many of the parents would be upset by the graphic violence and religious themes.

Many of the reviewers who spoke about this book mentioned the surprise ending.  I'd like to take a moment to do exactly that.  The ending is the part of this book that I remember the best.  The insane character development and added suspense delighted me.  Despite these positive portions, I cannot ignore the fact that the ending seemed too drawn out and felt too easily pulled together.  It was as if Vega was so exhausted by her efforts to create imagery that she was unable to create a terrific denouement.

In fact, the ending of this book encouraged me to give the second book in the series a chance.  I made it through 109 pages before I chose to DNF.  This was largely because I felt that, again, the characters and plot were underdeveloped and flat.

I would recommend this book to fans of Mean Girls and to individuals who are seeking short term, thoughtless entertainment.  

My Rating