Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis

I ran across Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis when it was suggested at one my book club meetings (and described as “Snow White meets Star Wars”–which means I’m having a Snow White-themed week on the blog…)  This book wasn’t picked for our monthly read, but I decided to read it anyway.  Because: fairy tale retelling!  It wasn’t quite Star Wars…but it might be “Snow White meets Mockingjay,” in a good way.

Sixteen-year-old Essie has been fending for herself since she was nine years old, living in a mining colony where her closest “friends” are seven drones (droids) she built herself.  She trusts no one, spending her time fiddling with tech and earning extra money fighting cage matches at the bar (really!)  Everything changes when a small ship crashes nearby, and Essie pulls Dane out of the wreckage.  He tells her he’s on a treasure hunt–but the treasure turns out to be the missing Princess Snow, heir to the throne of the most powerful planet in the system.  Essie, of course, is really Snow, and soon she’s unwillingly drawn into interplanetary politics and conflicts.  But she has a choice–to be a pawn or to be a leader, to run away again from her father and stepmother, or to embrace the courage and compassion her mother tried to teach her. Continue reading “Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis”

Book Review: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

I really, really, really want to read Winter, the final book in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles Quartet.  But it won’t be out until November.  So in the meantime, it was some consolation to read the prequel, Fairest, providing the backstory of the terrifying Lunar Queen, Levana (and, incidentally, Winter’s stepmother).

I’ve reviewed the first three books in this series (Cinder, Scarlet and Cress).  It’s a sci fi series, where a Lunar kingdom is hostile towards Earth, and fairy tales are played out in clever ways with cyborgs and satellites.  This one…is the story of Snow White’s stepmother.

Fifteen years old when the book opens, Levana is the unwanted, disregarded younger princess, always in the shadow of her cruel and shallow sister Channary. Levana dreams of attaining renown, respect…and the eye of Evret, a handsome palace guard.  But Evret is devoted to his beautiful wife, and they’re expecting a child.  This doesn’t interfere with Levana’s belief that they’re fated to be together, and she’ll use all her royal power and her ability to manipulate minds and emotions to seize what she wants–beauty, Evret, and the throne too. Continue reading “Book Review: Fairest by Marissa Meyer”

NaNoWriMo 2014 Revisited

I wrote throughout November about my experience doing National Novel Writing Month this year, when thousands of crazy writers set the goal to write 50,000 words of a novel in one month.  I told you at the end of November that I hit my personal goal of 60,000 words, but I seem to have neglected to update on how my December writing turned out!

My larger goal was to complete the novel draft by the end of the year, and I estimated it would be about 75,000 words.  So I wrote away at roughly 500 words a day through December.  And it was much harder!  Maybe it was because I’d already been writing so much in November, or because I lost the NaNoWriMo communal motivation, or just because I re-set my word goal and so I met that instead of the higher one.  Or maybe December’s just a busier month…

But, regardless, I did keep moving forward through the story and the word count, and I crossed the 75,000 word mark on December 29th.  (!)  Which left me with just one problem–I still wasn’t at the end of the story! Continue reading “NaNoWriMo 2014 Revisited”

Book Review: Snow in Summer

Despite mixed feelings about Curse of the Thirteenth Fey, I decided to give another Jane Yolen fairy tale retelling a try: Snow in Summer, a retelling of Snow White. And…I have mixed feelings! But in a very different way.

Snow in Summer (called Summer for day to day) lives in the Appalachians in the 1930s. Her mother dies when she is young, and her father retreats into himself, with little regard for his daughter or anything else. But at least Summer has Cousin Nancy, her godmother who looks after her in her father’s distraction. Until one day Summer’s father meets a mysterious woman and falls under her spell. Summer wants to love her new Stepmama, even if she calls her Snow, assigns chores, and bans Cousin Nancy from the house. But Summer’s father grows ever more listless, and Stepmama has plans for her stepdaughter.

There’s a lot that’s really intriguing here. Yolen played with the elements of the original fairy tale to create something that’s familiar and new. She weaves in the Appalachian setting and culture, while somehow making it work seamlessly with the presence of a magic mirror. Snow White’s father has always been strangely absent in the original, and Yolen builds that into a tragedy of a father who is physically present but emotionally inaccessible to his daughter. Continue reading “Book Review: Snow in Summer”

2014 Reading Challenges, End of the Year

Earlier this week I updated on the best (and worst) of my reading for the year, but today I’m looking particularly at how I did on my several reading challenges…

I’ve grayed-out books read in the first three-quarters of the year, to make it easier to see recent updates.

Fairy Tales RetoldFairy Tales Retold Challenge

My goal here was 7-9 books for the official challenge (which only counts YA and Middle Grade), and 12-15 as a personal challenge, to leave some open slots for grown-up retellings…and then I read almost all YA and MG anyway!  A push in November/December put me over the goal for this one.

  1. Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde (MG)
  2. Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley (YA)
  3. Enchanted by Alethea Kontis (YA)
  4. Hero by Alethea Kontis (YA)
  5. Half Upon a Time by James Riley (MG)
  6. Cress by Marissa Meyer (YA)
  7. Jack the Giant-Killer by Charles de Lint
  8. Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler (MG)
  9. The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell (YA)
  10. Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters by Diane Zahler (MG)
  11. Curse of the Thirteenth Fey by Jane Yolen (MG)
  12. The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman (MG)
  13. Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen (YA) (review coming soon!)

Continue reading “2014 Reading Challenges, End of the Year”

Book Review: Curse of the Thirteenth Fey by Jane Yolen

I grabbed two fairy tale retellings close together recently, and read two very different versions of Sleeping Beauty. I reviewed Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters last week, and today I’m looking at Curse of the Thirteenth Fey by Jane Yolen.

Gorse is the thirteenth fey of the title, the youngest in her large family of Shouting Feys. She grows up in a clannish circle, in an idyllic valley—and even if the folly and belvedere and other buildings the family lives in are a little run-down, Gorse loves her home. But she also loves reading about other places in her father’s library, and is horrified to learn her family is under a Vow to never leave their home. When the king Bids the Shouting Feys to come to his daughter’s christening, thirteen-year-old Gorse sets off late—and meets an accident along the way that traps her with two fairy princes who need her help to escape.

I think Jane Yolen is one of those authors people know, right? Wizard’s Hall is what comes to mind for me, but I suspect she’s known for lots of other books too. And that’s one reason I really wish I had liked this more than I did—and I really think I should have liked it more than I did! The problem was the subtitle, describing this as “The True Tale of Sleeping Beauty.” Any story claiming to be the “true” version of any fairy tale can smack a bit of arrogance…but the real trouble here is that most of the story wasn’t about Sleeping Beauty.

I liked the first hundred pages or so quite a lot. Yolen set up an interesting world, I enjoyed Gorse and her family, and there was enough mix of world-building and obstacles to keep me engaged. And then we got to the part about the christening, with the delightful additional note that this particular baby princess is known for her unceasing crying. But Gorse gets interrupted en route to the christening, and while her resulting adventure is interesting too…it took far too long for me to realize that this wasn’t a delay or distraction from the main plot, but actually was the main plot.

Most of the novel is spent with the two princes belowground, as Gorse figures out their history, and realizes that neither prince was what he seemed to be on first impressions. I liked the character development here, of the princes and of Gorse, as she learns about the limits (and opportunities) of her abilities, and the importance of her own confidence.

I think if I had come into this looking for simply a fantasy story, I would have liked all of it just fine. Except…it was supposed to be Sleeping Beauty! And we didn’t even get to the christening until nearly the end of the book. Which left me spending too much time wondering when we were going to get on to what was (theoretically) the main event.

I have to cautiously recommend this one. It’s a genuinely good fantasy! It’s just not a very good version of Sleeping Beauty, considering that story became little more than an epilogue. So don’t go in expecting more than that on the fairy tale, and you will probably like this just fine—maybe more than I did!

Author’s Site: http://janeyolen.com/

Other reviews:
Charlotte’s Library
Quixotic Magpie
The Book Brownie
Anyone else?

Buy it here: Curse of the Thirteenth Fey

Book Review: Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters

I’ve been meaning to read more fairy tale retellings, so of course I snatched Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters by Diane Zahler off the shelf at the library. I’ve already read two previous retellings by Zahler (Princess of the Wild Swans and The Thirteenth Princess), and was curious to see where she would go in this one.

The story focuses on Aurora and Luna, two princesses who have lived in seclusion all their lives. Near the beginning of the book, they learn that this is because their parents are trying to protect them. Their mother is Sleeping Beauty, who fell under her curse, to be awakened after a hundred years by their father. The evil fairy who cursed their mother has renewed the curse on Aurora too, dooming her to sleep for a hundred years and awake alone. When Aurora pricks her finger and begins the curse, she must struggle against Sleep to go on a desperate quest with Luna, in search of the fairy godmother who may be able to help her.

Similar to Princess of the Wild Swans, I thought this was an excellent book for middle grade readers…but a little lacking in tension for me as an adult reader. The characters’ struggles didn’t feel quite hard enough. Aurora discovers a tea that will help her remain wakeful, mostly solving that problem for most of the book, and the girls meet allies almost everywhere they go to help on their quest.  On the other hand, I do love that they go on a quest.  Much better than just sleeping and waiting for a prince to solve everything! Continue reading “Book Review: Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters”