Six Crimson Cranes is an Asian retelling of the fairy tale The Six Swans. Magic is forbidden in Kiata. The protagonist, Princess Shiori, is born with magic which she tries to hide from her family. That includes her father the Emperor, her step-mother Raikama, and her six brothers. Shiori is betrothed to a lord from a smaller kingdom, and she has no interest in getting married, let alone being shipped off to a cold northern land with “that barbarian lord of the third rank.” In trying to hide her magic, she misses the betrothal ceremony, meets a dragon, and gets the attention of her stepmother. This “evil stepmother” curses her and her brothers. Her brothers are turned into cranes. And Shiori herself is cursed to have a wooden bowl stuck on her head. The bowl is made of walnut, which conceals objects inside from prying eyes and contains the magic. So Shiori is unrecognizable and cannot use her magic. She is told that if she utters a sound, one of her brothers will die.
I find it very interesting that the majority of the book our protagonist cannot speak. She can mouth words, and write (as long as it does not reveal her identity). And she does have a companion she is bonded to that can hear her thoughts. The first person point of view really gets us into her head, so we as a reader can hear her voice and her intentions, and see how that communication often falters. It provided great conflict.
As in the original tale, our princess is given a difficult task to perform to free her brothers from their curse. I like how Lim wove that aspect in and really made it part of the mythology and magic. The mythology is really well done, so rich and thought out. There is magic, and demons, and dragons, and enchanters. Though the curses are broken by the end of the book, there are greater threats that have been revealed which set us up for the second of the duology (The Dragon’s Promise).
I really enjoyed the romance as well. While still cursed, Shiori encounters the man she was betrothed to. They are given the chance to fall in love gradually, and without the pressures of betrothal or royalty, as Shiori is going by the name Lina. That helped counter a problem in other fairy tales, where often the couple find each other at the end, but have no time for a real romance to grow within the story.
Overall, the story was very satisfying and enjoyable. I look forward to reading the sequel.
Another four months have passed, so let's check in on my progress! At my last update, I had only finished four books out of the twenty-six. I feel much more on track now.
Recap to Date
Books finished since previous update: 11, putting challenge total at 15/26.
Picture books read: 11 (Q through Z). Challenge complete! See my Complete Picture Book A to Z post.
Books currently reading toward challenge: 2
Recommended titles: Donut Fall in Love by Jackie Lau was a fun romance comedy. In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund is a teen murder mystery with nods to the Clue game and movie. Will definitely be reading the sequels.
Am I On Track?
Books read to date: 15
Books still to read: 11
Pages read to date (counting main challenge only): 4304
Pages still to read: 3631
Two-thirds through the year, but only 54 percent through the pages, a little higher if you go by total books. I think I read all the short books early and still have some heavy hitters to go. I do feel more confident than I did at the last update. I read 11 books this last four months, and that's how many I need for the rest of the year. Currently reading six non-challenge books. Once I get those done, I can get refocused. I can do this!
I have completed the Picture Book portion of my A to Z reading challenge! These I did make an effort to read in order, as I had plenty of access to books at the library where I work. I also read more than the 26 needed, for that same reason. So this covers the first picture book I read for each letter.
Spreadsheet of A to Z titles here.
My favorites from the first batch (A to P): Owl Moon by Jane Yolen for a classic and lovely imagery poem, Invasion of the Unicorns by David Biedrzycki was a delight to read, and I Am You: A Book about Ubuntu by Refiloe Moahloli was a very uplifting title.
Favorite title from Q to Z: The Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau felt like a fairy tale, with great art and message. It was the only one on this second batch that I gave five stars to. I was somewhat disappointed in my choices overall.
Some I still enjoyed and rated 4 stars: Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster by Manka Kasha was a great visualization of anxiety and how to deal with it. Wombat Underground Sarah L. Thomson was inspired by the Australian wildfires and how animals were saved by hiding in wombat burrows. The Yippy, Yappy Yorkie in the Green Doggy Sweater by Debbie Macomber was a fun read about moving to a new place and exploring the new neighborhood while searching for a lost puppy.
There were a few great picture book reads outside of my A to Z list that I will mention in my end of year review. Are you doing any reading challenges? What are you currently reading?
Thorn is a retelling of Grimm's The Goose Girl. The original is a strange story with a lot of elements that I wasn't sure a new telling could make sense of. But Khanani surprised me. More on that in our upcoming book club discussion. I hadn't seen this tale done before, so that was refreshing as well.
Alyrra is a princess in a small kingdom. She is not happy in her royal life, and when she gets betrothed to the greater neighboring kingdom's prince, she fears her life will get worse rather than better. I would warn a trigger for physical abuse. Not very many described, but much in the emotional aftermath and state of mind. Alyrra understandably does not trust men, especially those in power. So when circumstances, magical as they may be, give her the opportunity to live out life as a mere goose girl instead, Alyrra struggles with that desire for freedom conflicted with any responsibility for duty that she might have.
Alyrra has to learn a new way of life, in a new city and country, where she doesn't speak the language. I really felt for Alyrra's character, and enjoyed watching her growth as she learned to care and trust for others. The book deals with differences in caste, and what is justice. The ending was well done and satisfying. This is the first in the Dauntless Path series, but it is a standalone. The subsequent books are a spinoff featuring a new character. I definitely recommend this, both as a Goose Girl retelling and as a fantasy.
In exchange for saving her father from dying in the freezing winter wilderness, Echo Alkaev agrees to stay with the white wolf in his house under the hill for one year. Echo North weaves together the the tales of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, Beauty and the Beast, and Tam Lin. All have in common falling in love with a beast. Meyer combines these so expertly it is as if they were always meant to be the same story.
Like Beauty and the Beast, Echo finds a library in one of the rooms. But this is an enchanted library, with book mirrors, where you enter the story instead of merely read it. This was an excellent way to introduce variance in the settings and introduce more characters when much of the book takes place within the one house.
The house itself is enchanted, with these magical rooms needing to be stitched together so they don't go wild or fall away from the house. The wolf teaches Echo how to do this stitching, so she begins to find a purpose in caring for the house.
There were a few twists through the tale, some of which I saw coming, and some which I most definitely did not. The story kept me highly engaged. I wanted very much for Echo to succeed in breaking the curse. But curses and witches don't let go easily. There is a very dramatic scene at the climax that wrenched my heart.
The ending was not an automatic happily-ever-after. The characters have to deal with what their emotions are out in the real world, and figure out how to reinstate themselves after being apart of it. Secrets and lies are not just swept under the carpet or easily forgiven, they must be dealt with.
But the old magic wins in the end.
I recommend this book, especially if you have enjoyed Uprooted or House of Salt and Sorrows. Great characters, a unique setting, and everything steeped in magic. I will definitely be reading more by Joanna Ruth Meyer.
T. Kingfisher is the nom de plume for Ursula Vernon for her adult fiction. Kingfisher once stated that, regarding The Raven and The Reindeer, she was "kind of worried that no one who isn't familiar with the source material will find this story even remotely readable". I have to disagree. Though I am familiar with some of the basic elements, I have yet to read the original Hans Christian Anderson tale (I will be doing so before our official discussion). I found The Raven and the Reindeer to be very steeped in fairy tale and accessible at its basic elements.
We have talking animals, shapeshifting, witches, wise women, and romance. There is a bit of gore, but not that graphic. The main character, Gerta, loses her best friend Kay when he is taken by the Snow Queen. Determined to rescue him, she begins to quest north. She gets the help of animals, particularly a talking raven named Mousebones, and gets wisdom and lore from elderly women along the way. And she is hindered by the elements and, of course, other people.
Gerta is very relatable. She is transitioning to woman-hood, still figuring out how she fits into her own body and the world around her. I love that on her quest to save her friend she also finds herself. The world is big and wondrous compared to her little town.
My favorite character is Mousebones. He has all the best dialogue. I quote one of my favorite passages below. There are a lot of great lines in the book and I had to stop and share some aloud or write things down. It was a joy to read. It's also not a long book, so it went quickly. So bundle up warm and dive into this wintry book. I hope you join us in our discussion in The Enchanted Garden Book Club.
"Do you have a name?" asked Gerta.
Another amazing book from TJ Klune. Earlier this year I read and reviewed The House in the Cerulean Sea. I loved it so much I bought it and preordered Under the Whispering Door. I was not disappointed.
It takes dying for Wallace to learn how to live. A Reaper collects Wallace from his own funeral and takes him to the ferryman's teahouse. This is a place of transition, where you have time to adjust before choosing to go through the door into whatever the afterlife holds. Wallace goes through all the stages of grief. He starts out a very unlikeable character, but learns and grows in his time in the teahouse. This is a heartfelt story about love and loss and redemption. It's not about religion or what is on the other side of the door. I laughed; I cried.
This is light on the fantasy compared to The House in the Cerulean Sea. In that it will probably appeal to a larger audience. It is very queer and diverse friendly. I highly recommend the book, especially if you enjoyed his previous title. And these books look amazing on the shelf. I adore the artwork.
"We aren’t supposed to force someone before they’re ready. That’s not our job. We’re here to make sure they see that life isn’t always about living. There are many parts to it, and that it continues on, even after death. Its beautiful, even when it hurts."
"The first time you share tea, you are a stranger. The second time you share tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share tea, you become family."
House of Salt and Sorrows is a haunting, gothic tale steeped in lore and the sea. This is a retelling of the Grimm tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Erin A. Craig does a magnificent job elevating this story. Each of the sisters is given a name, but collectively known as the Thaumus Dozen. The family lives at Highmoor, a manor on the sea. Their life and religion revolves around the sea, and the sea god Pontus. I could hear the sea and smell the salt.
The story begins with their mother and four of the sisters tragically dead. Rumors begin that the Thaumus family is cursed. The point of view of the story is Annaleigh. She is convinced that this latest death was no accident, and seeks to find the truth. She meets a mysterious man not from the islands, and also reunites with an old childhood crush. Tired of years of mourning, the sisters find an escape to dance away their woes.
One part ghost story, one part mystery, one part romance, and all fairy-tale. This was a completely new retelling of a familiar tale, yet manages to still be very recognizable as such. I was thoroughly enchanted and swept away. Craig's descriptions are immersive, the characters come to life, and the mythology seeps through the pages. You can tell she did a lot of world-building, with each region having its own deities and culture. The world felt very alive and that it had a history, it didn't just exist for this story alone.
I highly recommend this one. It felt very Haunting of Bly Manor - both haunting and romantic.
The June book for our Enchanted Garden Book Club is Towering by Alex Flinn. This is a Young Adult, modern retelling of Rapunzel. The story is told in two perspectives, both first-person present-tense, of the main characters Rachel and Wyatt.
Rachel, 17 years old, has been kept isolated by her Mama, cut off from the world in an old tower. What she knows of the outside world are old memories of her youth and books. The books are all older, classics, so she has no knowledge of the workings of the modern world.
Wyatt is the same age as Rachel. After a tragedy back home, losing his closest friends, he moves out to the country to live with Mrs. Greenwood, mother of his mom's childhood friend. There he comes across a diary of Danielle, Mrs. Greenwood's daughter, who had disappeared seventeen years ago.
Wyatt is able to hear Rachel's singing and finds a way to track the voice and meet her. The two end up saving each other, and solving a mystery of missing people in town.
This book wasn't a must-read for me. I was hoping to enjoy it more. Despite the first-person perspectives, I didn't feel connected to the characters. Some of the writing, especially in the early chapters, was confusing, with thoughts interrupting actions and conversation in odd places. Rachel is of course very naïve, due to her protected nature. I felt the romance was rushed, very much a fated, love at first sight, with no weight behind it. There were magical aspects to the story that didn't really get explained. I had hoped for possibly a connection to the Fae, but that didn't seem to be the case. There is a prophecy with nothing to support it, and no reasons given for Rachel's magical properties.
I have not read any of Alex Flinn's other titles, so cannot say how it compares. This does not seem to connect to the Kendra Chronicles. This met the basic premise of a Rapunzel retelling, but I'm sure there are better ones out there. Do you have any you would recommend?
Linus Baker is entirely mundane, but far from ordinary. He is a case worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, monitoring orphanages of magical children to make sure both the children and staff are safe. His life changes when he gets a classified assignment to evaluate an orphanage of six highly unique and possibly dangerous children.
This book was such a joy to read. Great writing, great dialogue, great characters. We get introduced to the six through Linus's eyes, and fall in love with them as he does. I won't spoil you with their descriptions, as I hope you go meet them for yourself. The big lesson is not to judge by a person's file or first impression.
Linus is the best Linus that he can be, as that's all he knows. He doesn't see anything extraordinary about himself, but those around him can see otherwise. I think we all have blindspots, admirable qualities that we don't recognize in ourselves that others must point out for us. I think that's another lesson this book tells, to be open to praise and acceptance and love from others.
Warning: This book made me cry. Because it made me feel. This book was truly a delight and I highly recommend it. I will definitely be checking out TJ Klune's other books.
"I'm just me...." " I don't know how to be anyone but who I already am. This is how I've always been. It's not much, but I do the best I can with what I have."
I would call this book a narrative with a splash of magical realism. It's not so much a fairy-tale retelling as it is simply inspired by the tale. It is a tale that doesn't have expectations. No clear plot, with the focus on family and what you make of it. The majority of the book is the main character Harriet sharing her life story with her daughter Perdita.
Harriet comes from the magical country of Druhástrana, which actual means "the other side" in Czech. The four main landmarks are a giant-sized shoe, a broken loom, a jack-in-the-box, and a well.
A girl grew up in a field. Well, in a house, with her family, but the house was surrounded by stalks of wheat as tall as saplings. The girl's earliest memories are framed in breeze-blown green and gold. Ice and moonlight, sunshine and monsoon, the wheat was there, tickling her, tipping ladybirds and other pets into her lap.
It is in that well that Harriet first meets Gretel. Gretel is a big influence throughout most of the story, but mostly from off-screen. The owner of the farmland that Harriet lives at is actually Gretel's mother, Clio. Harriet's family makes gingerbread, which is almost magical in its addictive properties.
A gingerbread addict once told Harriet that eating her gingerbread is like eating revenge. "It's like noshing on the actual and anatomical heart of somebody who scarred your beloved and thought they'd got away with it," the gingerbread addict said. "That heart, ground to ash and shot through with darts of heat, salt, spice, and sulfurous syrup, as if honey was measured out, set ablaze, and trickled through the dough along with the liquefied spoon. You are phenomenal. You've ruined my life forever. Thank you."
Clio recognizes the value in this gingerbread and wants to make a business. She takes impoverished girls from the country and takes them out into the real world, setting them up in a "Gingerbread House" and calling them her Gingerbread Girls, having them make and sell this gingerbread to the populace. This is the section that takes the most reference from Hansel and Gretel, with the sugar-dusted look to the house, the allure of the gingerbread, and fattening the girls up (though for PR rather than to get eaten).
But we don't dwell long with the Gingerbread Girls, and Harriet and her mother move to live with a sponsor, Aristide Kerchival, in London. It is here we get an in-depth analysis, what feels more like a character study, as Harriet rates each member of this Kercheval family in order of readability. This was my least favorite part of the tale, where I would read entire pages and just kind of gloss over. We do eventually move on to learning of Perdita's conception (Harriet's drunken messages and the courtship thereafter being one of my favorite parts of the book).
I have a hard time recommending this book, because I had such a hard time reading it. It wasn't poorly written, or confusing. There were parts of this book that I absolutely loved, and others that I really struggled to get through. It was unexpected and nonlinear and stands very much on its own. I haven't read any of Oyeyemi's other works, so can't say if this is typical of her style. If you are looking for a fairy-tale retelling, this isn't it. If you are looking for an unexpected tale with more of a literary focus but with fairy-tale like qualities, and you are open to its presentation, then this book may be for you.
If you have read (or are reading) this book, we'd love to have you join in our book club discussion. I'm really curious what everyone else thinks of this book.
This is our December book for The Enchanted Garden Book Club. Toads and Diamonds is a retelling of a Charles Perrault's tale. This is the first novel length version I have read, and I highly enjoyed it. Rather than taking place in a European setting, this book takes place in a fictionalized India. The two religions central to the story are both fictional but still feel authentic. Tomlinson did a wonderful job bringing the cultures and characters to life. I felt like I could step into their world.
Another refreshing change to to the tale is the family relationship. Like the original, there is a step-family. Diribani lives with her step-mother and step-sister, Tana. Unlike most fairy-tales, they all get along and care for each other. There is no wicked step-family here. The other big change that surprised me was the gifts the sisters got. Both went to the well and encountered the goddess, who listened to their hearts desire. One sister came out speaking flowers and gemstones, the other speaking toads and snakes. Yet both here are blessings, and not curses. They may not always see them that way, and of course other characters react in their own manner, but there is no clear "good sister" "bad sister" here.
Both sisters have their unique trials and tribulations as a result of their gifts, and must learn how to make the best of them. Despite the differences in their individual journeys, there are many echoes between the two that I enjoyed noticing.
The only thing I felt lacking was the end. I would have loved a short epilogue showing what came after. It still felt satisfactory, and I highly recommend this book. For a deeper discussion, check back later this month on our Enchanted Garden blog. In the meantime, come join us in our Facebook group to discuss this book and all things fairytale.
I discovered Rachel Caine through the Chicks Kick Butt anthology. It was a short story featuring her Weather Warden main character. There was a car chase, and unique magic. I was hooked. I got the first Weather Warden book, Ill Wind, from the library, and ended up buying the entire nine book series.
It’s urban fantasy, taking place in our world but with elemental magic and djinn. The main character is a Weather Warden, having control over the weather. There is plenty of action, romance, and of course magic.
There is also a spinoff series, Outcast Season, which I own but haven't yet read.
Then you have the Revivalist series, an urban fantasy/thriller/horror. The main character is a funeral director, who becomes a zombie--murdered for finding out her employers are selling a resurrection drug, then resurrected herself--and gets involved in taking down the company responsible for her new condition.
Prince of Shadows
But Rachel Caine also writes for Young Adults. I don't remember who gifted it to me, but I also own Rachel Caine's YA novel Prince of Shadows. This is a stand-alone historical fantasy that retells Romeo and Juliet, but from Benvolio Montague's perspective. Benvolio is a thief, the Prince of Shadows, and has his own romance with a Capulet. It's a unique spin, and very engaging.
The Great Library
Very different still from the other series on this list is The Great Library series. This one is YA alternate history steampunk fantasy. I read these as they came out, and it was so difficult waiting in between books. The premise is that the Great Library of Alexandria was not destroyed, and is now the controlling power for books and knowledge. The main character, Jess Brightwell, comes from a family of book smugglers. There are book burners, and automata, and a blend of alchemy and magic.
Despite her illness, Rachel Caine's latest series is the one that is the most potent for me. Stillhouse Lake follows Gwen Proctor, mother of two and former wife of a serial killer. Her (ex) husband may be in jail, but despite the court's acquittal, there are those that do not believe she could have lived with the man and not known of his deeds, and possibly even been an accomplice. Gwen has had to grow tough fast, to survive the hate, protect her children, and try to live a normal life. But the haters keep tracking her down. This suspense thriller is so heartbreaking and emotional. I am always torn between needing to read more and having to put the book down because the feelings are so strong.
I recently finished book three. The fifth book has been finished and is slated for a 2021 release. I already pre-ordered the book, but only wish Rachel Caine could still be around to see it come out.
Rachel Caine is also the author of the Morganville Vampire books (YA Supernatural) which have been adapted as a web series, and coauthored Dead Air, a thriller serial audio story about a true crime podcaster.
I am glad I haven't yet read everything Rachel Caine wrote, as that means I have more to enjoy and discover. She lives on in her writing.
Have you read anything by Rachel Caine? What book/series has been your favorite?
This is a story about bargains and debts. The threaded elements of Rumpelstiltskin are told thrice over. Spinning Silver follows the intertwined stories of three daughters. All flawed, not traditionally beautiful, and each finding their own strengths throughout the tale. Each has their life bargained away, yet they fight for their values and beliefs, don't give in to the patriarchy, and make their new lives better for it.
The main character is Miryem, a Jew in Lithvas, a fictional country in late medieval Europe. Her father is a money-lender, a traditional occupation for Jews, but he's not very good at it. After a hard winter and mother sick, young Miryem takes it upon herself to go out door to door and collect debts. She soon gains a reputation for turning silver into gold. But there is a fae-like race, the Staryk, who come with winter and are always seeking gold. The winter-king hears of her boast and wants her gifts for his own. He gives her Staryk silver to change into gold.
You can see the heart of the tale is definitely Rumpelstiltskin, but Novik truly makes it unique in the telling. I really enjoyed all the different character viewpoints and aspects. There were also some nice twists in the character motivations of the villains. What starts out as a good vs evil isn't so clear in the end.
I loved the magic elements. There is a strong fire vs ice theme throughout. Fire and ice, silver and gold. There is no name guessing like the original fairy tale, but there is an emphasis on the importance of names.
Spinning Silver started out as a short story, included in The Starlit Wood anthology. I re-read the short story before beginning the novel. The short only follows Miryem, and ends when she fulfills her bargain to the winter-king. The novel introduces more viewpoints, and continues the tale much further. I would definitely recommend just going straight for the novel. The text of the short story is included almost word for word as it is woven in, just expanded on in much more depth.
I can't really comment on the accuracy of the Jewish community, as my main knowledge is from Fiddlers on the Roof. The book doesn't go into a lot of depth on their religion/culture.
If you don't like first person point of view, or are easily confused by multiple point of view characters, then this book isn't for you. There are the three main characters, and a couple of side characters, that get viewpoints, and all in first person. It could definitely be disconcerting to some. I did find that I could identify who's head we were in within a few lines. Each character voice was different enough and quite well written.
Though this is marketed for adults, I believe the content is also appropriate for young adults. It is a longer book, 466 pages, so that may turn off some. The plot never dragged, it held my attention the whole way and was hard to put down. I definitely recommend this not just for fans of Rumpelstiltskin, but for any who enjoy a satisfying fantasy with strong female lead characters.
"...magic that came only when you made some larger version of yourself with words and promises, and then stepped inside and somehow grew to fill it."
If you're interested in discussing this or future titles with us, come join the Enchanted Garden Book Club group on Facebook.
Deviating slightly from my all-fantasy book reviews to talk about this light Science Fiction Romance. The Taylorsville Library (where I work) partners with the Taylorsville Senior Center for Senior Book Club. We would meet at the senior center once a month, and I assisted librarian Elizabeth Weaver in running the book club. Our last meeting was in March, right before everything shut down for Covid. April's book was to be Crosstalk by Connie Willis. It was my book pick for the year, and my turn to lead discussion, and we had hoped that we would still be able to discuss the book, if just postponed. At this point in time, however, I do not foresee us getting back to meetings this year. Or at least not to discuss April's book. So, as I still love this book, and took the time to create discussion questions (as none existed), I am sharing my thoughts here instead.
I highly enjoyed Crosstalk. We got it as a summer reading reward from the library. My first time through the story, Jeff (my husband) read it aloud. I was thoroughly engaged by the story and characters. The story takes place in a near alternate future, where there is a medical procedure that opens up the brains pathways to allow two people to feel each other's emotions. Our protagonist, Briddey Flannigan, gets the procedure with her new boyfriend, Trenth Worth. But instead of connecting with Trent, Briddey connects with someone else.
I read through the book a second time in preparation for book club, and enjoyed it as much, if not more, than the first time. I was able to really see all the clues that led up to the twists. Connie Willis does a great job creating characters that feel real, and you really get into Briddey's head. The romance isn't the central plot, but does play a major role. The ending is satisfying. I definitely recommend this for anyone who wants a light science fiction read.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Mirror, Mirror was an interesting take on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Gregory Maguire placed the story in a historical setting, Montefiore (in Tuscany, Italy) in the 16th century. It's historical fiction with a dash of magic. Elizabeth will be delving deeper into that historical foundation on our Enchanted Garden blog.
Like the original tale, we still have the elements of a step-mother type figure, a mirror, dwarves, and the attacks of hunter, comb, corset, and apple, and ending with a glass coffin and a kiss. This is definitely a Snow White tale. Where it differs is how it portrays those different elements.
There are a lot of politics in the early part of the book. The step-mother figure is Lucrezia Borgia, a historical figure known for her beauty and vengeance. She and her brother are responsible for sending off Bianca's (Snow White) father on a quest to find a rumored branch of the Tree of Knowledge with its three remaining fruits.
I felt the main themes were innocence versus sin. Even the magic had a religious undertone. You have the innocent Bianca, who goes away just as she is approaching maturity, retaining her innocence, and then sleeping through many of her years of change. She is away from the world and the carnal influences of the Borgias and the commoners of the village. Whereas Lucrezia is enjoying her time lording over the villa while the master is away. She does what she wants, and banishes or punishes anyone who gets in her way.
I had a hard time getting into the book with all the politics and the uncomfortable vulgar talk (and actions) of the commoners and Borgias. I thought the second half was better, once Bianca was with the dwarves, and I could see how other Snow White story elements came into play. But even then, I was analyzing it as the fairy tale, and not able to escape into the story and enjoy it on its own merit.
This was my first introduction to his work. He definitely has a way with description, as I have never seen the same metaphors or similes used. Here is one passage that stuck with me:
"One day the moon had swaggered up to the sun and punched it in the eye, and the world had gone midnight at midday. Birds had lost their bearing and smashed against the walls of the kitchen garden, and Primavera had made a stew of them."
You would probably enjoy this book if you are already a fan of Gregory Maguire's writing. Or if you enjoy books rich with history and politics. It did bring the tale more into this world.
Come back later this week, and join us at the Enchanted Garden to follow our discussion of Mirror, Mirror.
I discovered the Unicorn and Yeti books while shelving at my library. The cute art and fun title immediately caught my eye. I love the unique friendship of a unicorn and a yeti. The first book, Sparkly New Friends, goes over how they meet and how, despite their differences, they can be great friends.
The text is perfect for the advertised reading level. Each book is broken down into three chapters, or mini stories, for easier absorption. Unicorn and Yeti are adorable friends, and I enjoy reading about how they overcome their differences and frustrations, learning to compromise and make their unique friendship work. Even though I don't currently have an early reader in my house, I can say these are enjoyable for all age levels. Both my husband and my 16-year-old son read each book as I bring them home.
These books are part of Scholastics new Acorn line, aimed at readers ages 4-7. There are three books in the series out so far, and two more with publication dates.
Book 1: Sparkly New Friends
Book 2: A Good Team
Book 3: Friends Rock
Book 4: Cheer Up (October 6, 2020)
Book 5: Fair and Square (March 2, 2021)
Uprooted had me hooked from the first page. I loved the voice, all the characters and the plot. The story has fairy tale influences, but is not a retelling. The main character is stuck in a tower like Rapunzel, there is a definite Beauty and the Beast vibe, and I loved the twist on the virgin sacrifice to a dragon. There is even reference to Baba Yaga.
Every ten years, a teenage girl from the village is chosen as tribute to serve the wizard (known as The Dragon) to help protect them from the corrupted woods. Agnieszka, clumsy and unable to keep her clothes clean, is not the expected choice. Usually girls are just servants, doing domestic chores around the tower. But Agnieszka is special, she has a spark of magic, and The Dragon is determined to teach her how to use it.
The two approach use of magic differently. I love how Naomi describes the different types of magic, and how they eventually come together. The Dragon uses very rigid spells, whereas Agnieszka is more nature based and going by instinct.
As much as I loved this novel, it is not for everyone. It has a complex magic system, and there is darkness in the corruption. We read this as my book club pick, and most of the other members don't typically read fantasy. There were times they were confused and I had to explain elements to them. As a regular fantasy reader, however, this immediately went to my favorites list. Though Goodreads reviews seem to be love it or hate it.
This is a must read if you enjoy intricate world-building and magic systems. Recommended if you enjoyed The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert or anything by Juliet Marillier. It was a very enchanting book that captivated me right to the end.
Ten Books to read if you liked Uprooted
Mary W. Jensen. Author, poet, gamer, library shelver.
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