Book Review: Curses

review-cover-cursesTitle: Curses

Author: Lish McBride

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Fairytale

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Merit Cravan refused to fulfill her obligation to marry a prince, leading to a fairy godling’s curse. She will be forced to live as a beast forever, unless she agrees to marry a man of her mother’s choosing before her eighteenth birthday.

Tevin Dumont has always been a pawn in his family’s cons. The prettiest boy in a big family, his job is to tempt naïve rich girls to abandon their engagements, unless their parents agree to pay him off. But after his mother runs afoul of the beast, she decides to trade Tevin for her own freedom.

Now, Tevin and Merit have agreed that he can pay off his mother’s debt by using his con-artist skills to help Merit find the best match . . . but what if the best match is Tevin himself?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ll be honest, I very nearly gave Curses by Lish McBride, 3 stars rather than 4. Part of that was my own preference – I’m not into comedy and silly hijinks. The other part, is because I feel this book just wasn’t categorized right… or to be more precise, it didn’t fit into any given category just right.

Although the book is labeled Young Adult, it doesn’t quite fit what you’d expect to find in a young adult novel. Yes, the characters are about that age range, but because of the historical-leaning context of the society they live in, they aren’t really teens as we know them. Tevin is the eldest son in his family and carries the weight of the safety of his siblings on his shoulders. Merit is entrenched in trying to find a husband. Combined with some of the darker themes in the book, you could easily place this book squarely into the New Adult, or Adult category, and no one would blink an eye.

All of that, however, is belied by the writing style. Despite the more adult themes and the young adult characters themselves, the book is written more like a children’s book. Part of that is the humor and hijinks, some of it is the over-the-top comedic world-building, and a lot of it rests squarely on how the narrative itself is written. Don’t get me wrong – it isn’t badly written: the pace is quick, the writing is clear, and it’s easy to sink into the story – it just doesn’t sound like a Young Adult book. When I first started reading, this really threw me. I nearly set the book down.

The characters’ actions, the way they spoke at times, and the events of the plot were overdramatic and fantastical like you’d find in a children’s book or a middle-grade story. I mean, one of the characters gets turned into an ostrich for three months. These aren’t bad things per se, but they weren’t what I was expecting, and they certainly weren’t hinted at in the synopsis or cover.

In the end, I actually did end up liking the book even if it wasn’t what I thought I was getting into, or even what I was looking to read. I liked the characters, I liked the plot, and the world-building – although I’ll admit, I almost docked it a point for the curses support group – because that was giving me some serious Cursed Princess Club comic vibes, and it felt icky to see it being used in so similar a way. If you like fairy tale retellings that don’t take themselves too seriously, you might really like this book… just know what you’re getting into. Don’t expect a serious YA Fantasy Romance. Expect a middle-grade fantasy with fairy nobility, ostrich’s crashing weddings, and beasts that wear sundresses and smash teacups, and you’ll be all right.

Book Review: Red Wolf

review-cover-red wolfTitle: Red Wolf

Author: Rachel Vincent

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

For as long as sixteen-year-old Adele can remember the village of Oakvale has been surrounding by the dark woods—a forest filled with terrible monsters that light cannot penetrate. Like every person who grows up in Oakvale she has been told to steer clear of the woods unless absolutely necessary.

But unlike her neighbors in Oakvale, Adele has a very good reason for going into the woods. Adele is one of a long line of guardians, women who are able to change into wolves and who are tasked with the job of protecting their village while never letting any of the villagers know of their existence.

But when following her calling means abandoning the person she loves, the future she imagined for herself, and her values she must decide how far she is willing to go to keep her neighbors safe.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I found Red Wolf by Rachel Vincent to be a fantastic retelling of the little red riding hood fairy tale. The book combined the familiar aspects of the original story (the woodcutter, little red riding hood, the wolf, and the little old grandmother in the woods), with a more modern and morally ambiguous plot.

The book was well-written and paced nicely. I only found one typo that stood out in the text, and I loved the characters. It was interesting to see the world-building behind the fairy-tale turned on its head and then turned over again by the main character’s choices.

If you like Young Adult Fantasy stories or fairy-tale retellings, I would highly recommend you pick up this book and give it a try. This book was fantastic.

Book Review: UnEnchanted

 

review-cover-UnEnchanted

Title: UnEnchanted [An Unfortunate Fairy Tale 1]

Author: Chanda Hahn

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Mina Grime is unlucky, unpopular and uncoordinated, that is until she saves her crush’s life on a field trip, changing her High School status from loser to hero overnight. But with her newfound fame brings misfortune as an old family curse come to light. For Mina is descended from the Brothers Grimm and has inherited all of their unfinished fairy tale business. Which includes trying to outwit a powerful Story from making her its next fairytale victim.

To break the fairy tale curse on her family and stop these deadly events, Mina must finish the tales until the very Grimm end.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I liked this book more than I expected to. I picked up UnEnchanted on Amazon some time ago because it sounded interesting, had a great cover, and was more importantly, FREE at the time I purchased it. Of course, being a frequent free-book-offender, I was well aware that a good portion of the time, when I pick up a book free on Amazon, I cannot expect it to be spectacular. Most of the time, the free books are indie books with questionable editors, and sometimes, questionable authors. I was therefore pleased to find out, UnEnchanted did not fit into that category.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were several issues I had with the book. Some of these issues include: Missing words, misspelled words (there are only a few, I promise), and a few incoherent moments where plot holes swallowed up bits of the narrative—but overall, I still genuinely liked the book.  It is a Young Adult book, so I may give it a bit of leeway for some issues. The characters were sometimes dramatic (though not overwhelmingly so in my opinion), and it was an incredibly fast read (216 pages). So, understandably, a lot of detail was left out at times, and the plot moved along very quickly over a short period of time. I will admit that this bothered me a bit. I would have preferred the author to have taken more time to develop the story—because I really think it could have been even better, but I’m still going to give the book an overall rating of 4 stars. If nothing else, than for effort.

This was a cute story. I genuinely liked the characters (who weren’t overly whiney as in most Teen novels), the changes to the classic fairytales were clever and certainly a new take on stories that have been re-hashed hundreds of times. The romance was sweet, and mystery permeated the pages as both I, and the main character, Mina, worked to unravel various aspects of the plot. I will admit that I wasn’t entirely pleased with the villains. It’s not so much that they were poorly written, or overly dastardly (as with many novels), but that I didn’t really feel that strongly about any of them. I’m sure they were supposed to be scary – and I had no trouble believing they were scary to Mina…but… eh, not so much to me.

Overall, I’d certainly recommend this book to anyone who likes whimsical urban tales of fairytales set askew, YA or otherwise. I’m going to be looking into other books from this author in the future.

Book Review: Dealing With Dragons [Enchanted Forest Chronicles 1]

 

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Title: Dealing With Dragons [Enchanted Forest Chronicles 1]

Author: Patricia C. Wrede

Genre: Middle-Grade, Children’s, Fantasy

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Take one bored princess. Maker her the seventh daughter in a very proper royal family. Have her run away.


Add one powerful, fascinating, dangerous dragon.

Princess Cimorene has never met anyone (or anything) like the dragon Kazul. But then, she’s never met a witch, a jinn, a death-dealing talking bird, or a stone prince either.

Princess Cimorene ran away to find some excitement.

She’s found plenty.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ve done something I haven’t done in a very long time. I read a middle-grade book. More importantly: I thoroughly enjoyed a middle-grade book. I first stumbled upon this series about 18 years ago, when I was 12. It was one of the first fantasy books I ever picked up in middle-school, and it left enough of an impression that many years later, as an adult, I was willing to pick it back up. Surprisingly, I had loved the book so much all those years ago, that I still remembered almost the entire plot.

Dealing with Dragons at it’s heart is a story about the Princess Cimorene. She’s the youngest of seven daughters, and the only one who detests being a princess. She’d like nothing more than to do something exciting with her life—and she tries. She takes fencing lessons, cooking lessons, even learns foreign languages for fun, but her plans are always put to a stop by her over-bearing parents, and when they start to arrange her marriage for her, she decides enough is enough. Cimorene runs away and throws everything to the wind, giving up her life of riches and nobility to become a dragon’s maid.

What ensues is a hilarious romp through Middle-grade fantasy with an empowered princess who isn’t going to let anyone tell her what to do with her life anymore. In the process she makes friends like the dragon Kazul, Alianora the neighboring captured princess, a stone prince,  and Morwen the witch. She fights a dastardly wizard, fends off enamored knights and princes intent on “rescuing her”, and has the adventure of her life.

This book is a hilarious twist on your usual fairytale, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone—children and adults alike. Get the entire box set, you won’t regret it.  I’d personally recommend it for anyone 3rd grade and up.

Book Review: Before Midnight

 

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Title: Before Midnight [Blood Prince 1]

Author: Jennifer Blackstream

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Loupe always dreamed of getting married. She yearned for a caring husband who would take her away from her servant-like existence at home with her stepmother and two stepsisters, a man who would love her forever. Those dreams ended the day she was bitten by a werewolf. Now she’s a mindless beast on the night of the full moon—a condition that forever prevents her from sharing a marriage bed. Not even the attentions of a handsome and endearingly strong prince can convince her that the life she wants is still possible.

Etienne is a prince in need of a werewolf. A werewolf himself from birth, Etienne and his family have protected their kingdom with tooth and claw—literally—for thousands of years. Unfortunately, the spell of a well-meaning witch is slowly turning him human. Only the bite of a cursed werewolf, one who was not born with the beast inside, can save him from becoming human. He has no time for anything that will not lead him to a cure for the cure. Not even the beautiful maiden whose gentle nature soothes his soul can take his mind from his goal.

Love cares little for the best laid plans or the impossible. A grand ball. The stroke of twelve. A magic “slipper.” All kinds of things can happen when you don’t leave the ball…Before Midnight.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Wow, what to say about this book. Like most books that I read, I skipped over the synopsis. Call me lazy, or forgetful, but I usually like to jump into books not knowing a lot about them. I usually read the title and the genre, but other than that, I leave it up to fate. I like to jump into things not knowing where they’re going. Sometimes I end up pleasantly surprised, and sometimes I end up going “oh… that’s what this is…” Unfortunately, this was a bit of the latter.

At it’s heart, Before Midnight is a retelling of the Cinderella story. That isn’t bad in and of itself—I think given some care, retellings can be almost better than the original story as long as the author puts some effort into really expanding upon the core idea. This story wasn’t like that. Yes, there were a few things changed—for instance: the prince is a lycanthrope… in fact, the entire royal family is. Also, the Cinderella of this story, Loupe, is a loup garou (bitten werewolf vs. born a werewolf like the prince). That certainly promises to make the story a bit of a different telling – and it did… to an extent.

The main problem I had with the story itself is that it was predictable. It didn’t take more than the first three chapters to realize that this story was a retelling – and hence, I already knew the ending. There weren’t any plot twists or turns to surprise me, and I instantly knew everything was going to turn out all right. That’s how fairytales end. To be honest, it would have been nice to see this end tragically, or at the very least have a bit more tension built in. There were some instances that I thought were going to lead to conflict (Like Loupe and her family being poachers and skinning wolves left and right) that quickly fizzled out and in the end, didn’t make much of a difference.  The evil characters were Evil with a capital E, and the good characters were Good with a capital G. There was no gray area.

The narrative itself jumped around a little bit. Going into the story, my first impression of the narrative is that it was slow and dry. The Introduction was verbose and filled with needless detail about each character it introduced and every movement they took. It dragged. Then in the middle of the story, once it got into the romance between Prince Etienne and Loupe, the language turned very… blunt and modern. I wasn’t sure what time period the story was set in (and I wasn’t given a lot of clues) but it seemed odd to have the prince say things like “tell me you jest” and then in the same chapter have him drop the F-bomb.

Not only did the narrative move around a lot, but so did the mythology; including things such as the world-tree, but also the fey, vampires, werewolves (two types, from two different mythologies), demons, angels, dryads and berserkers… It’s not bad to have a mixed mythology like this – in fact, usually it’s quite entertaining, but again, it made it hard to figure out where this story fell in it’s world building. I think I would have preferred a more stringent set of rules to adhere to. It would have at least been nice to know what part of the world the story was taking place in, or the time period—neither of which I was privy to.

The characters themselves weren’t bad. I liked Etienne (even if he was a bit moronic by his lack of realizing Loupe was a loup garou…), and Loupe was… pleasant despite her weak character. I only wish the author hadn’t softened the blow of Loupe’s big kick-ass moment by basically telling us what was going to happen with a short backstory about an ancestor. It really stole her thunder. My biggest complaint about any of the characters was Loupe’s name. Why on earth would an author name the main character after her own species..? A species, I might add, that the prince spends the entirety of the book looking for? It was so obvious that I literally face palmed. It made the prince seem stupid, and it made me angry, because I felt as if, as a reader, I was being treated as moronic as well.

In the end, I felt as if the reader was being treated like a child for most of the story. The impacts were softened for me, the tension was pushed aside, the events were obvious before hand…honestly, it was a bit frustrating. So why did I give it three stars? Because despite all of this, the book wasn’t bad. It was a quick afternoon read, I was entertained, and the writing itself was clear and grammatically correct (minus one missing word I found). I liked it. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrendous either. It was, and I hesitate to say this, cute. Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes, if they’re a fan of werewolves and the story of Cinderella. I don’t think I’d push it on to any hardcore paranormal romance readers though. It certainly wasn’t genre breaking or fascinating, but it was okay.