Review: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

August 10, 2018 in Book Reviews, Fairytales, Retellings, Short Stories

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings A Thousand Beginnings and Endings by Various
Published by Greenwillow Books on 9th August 2018 (UK)
Genres: Retellings, Short Stories, YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.

Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renée Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place.

About The Book

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is an anthology of short stories, retelling the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia.

Editors Elsie Chapman and Ellen Oh have gathered 15 bestselling and acclaimed Asian authors, with each reimagining their favourite Asian myths and legends.

I guess, due to my heritage, I’m mostly familiar with Celtic folklore. That said, it isn’t something that I actively sought out until recently. My 7-year-old Goddaughter has taught me more about Greek mythology than I’ve ever known, and it piqued my interest (as well embarrassing me at my lack of knowledge!)

So when I saw A Thousand Beginnings and Endings which draws upon Asian folklore, with Asian writers, I figured it was time to expand my knowledge.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this anthology. As I find with most short story collections, there were one or two stories that I was less keen on. However, even with those I enjoyed learning about the traditional legends and folktales that inspired the works.

Following each story the author shares the premise of the original tale, myth or legend, and explains why they chose it for their retelling. That in itself is fascinating and educating.

Another beauty of such an anthology is that you get to discover some new (to you) authors. While I’d heard of the majority of the writers, I’d only actually previously read some of Renee Ahdieh’s work. Now that I’ve had a taste of the others’ writing there are many more books to add to my ever-expanding TBR list.

There’s a mix of everything in the collection – science fiction to fantasy, romance to contemporary, there’s something for everyone. My favourites? For me, Julie Kagawa’s Eyes like Candlelight, Alyssa Wong’s Olivia’s Table and Renee Ahdieh’s Nothing into All were perhaps my favourites, but I took something from every reimagining.

Whether you’re looking for a book to dip into, or binge read, I think you’ll enjoy these retellings. If, like me, you are pretty ignorant when it comes to Asian mythology, then I’m sure you’ll learn something too.

Authors

With stories from Renee Ahdieh, Aliette de Bodard, E.C. Myers, Elsie Chapman, Melissa de la Cruz, Cindy Pon, Sona Charaipotra, Julie Kagawa, Aisha Saeed, Preeti Chhibber, Rahul Kanakia, Shveta Thakrar, Roshani Chokshi, Lori M. Lee and Alyssa Wong.

Edited by Elsie Chapman and Ellen Oh.

four-stars

Review: Heartless

February 8, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Heartless Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Macmillan Children's Books on 9th February 2017 (UK)
Genres: YA Fantasy, Retellings
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

I was rather late to The Lunar Chronicles series, but once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. Thankfully I didn’t have too long to wait for its final book, Winter. When I finished the series I was gutted, I craved more of Marissa Meyer’s writing. So when it was announced that Meyer was writing a new book, Heartless, well, I’ve been counting down the months to publication!

Heartless is the reimagined story of The Queen of Hearts of Alice In Wonderland fame. We all know the terror of The Queen of Hearts – but how did she become that person? Heartless tells the story of a cake loving, warm hearted, love-seeking young lady, Cath, who will one day become the terrifying  Queen of Hearts.

I must admit that I’m not the biggest Wonderland fan. I mean I know the stories but it has been a long time since I last entered that world. Nevertheless, from the outset, I could appreciate Meyer’s retelling of this story – the small details that ‘nod’ to the original and make you smile!

I actually think this story was handled beautifully: from the stunning descriptions, to the plot itself. I found Cath to be a very likeable character – which obviously surprised me as the Queen of Hearts is terrifying! She’s the daughter of a Marque & Marquess, whose mother is driven by her desire for Cath to marry the King. Cath, however, wants no such thing. She is a fantastic baker, the best in Hearts, and she and her friend Mary Ann (also her maid) want nothing more than to open their own bakery.

But the King has taken a shine to Cath and her sweet treats, and seems determined to win her hand. There’s no way she could be Queen and a baker. There’s also no chance her parents will let their only daughter disgrace them. And then there’s the Court Joker, Jest. He adds a whole other level to Cath’s complicated life.

Meyer incorporates the characters you’d expect in this tale, obviously with her own twist. It’s clever, it’s creative and, as ever from Meyer, it is beautifully written.

I loved her building of the Kingdom of Hearts, the talking animals and strange sights that we associate with Wonderland.

I did have a few issues with this book, but on the whole, I very much enjoyed it. Naturally, I kept comparing this in my mind to The Lunar Chronicles but that isn’t fair. This is a totally different story and one that Meyer tells beautifully.

Fair warning though – this book will make you crave cake!

four-stars

Review: RoseBlood

January 10, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fairytales, Retellings, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: RoseBlood RoseBlood by A.G. Howard
Published by Abrams on 10th January 2017
Genres: YA, Retellings
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-stars

In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

RoseBlood is a Phantom of the Opera retelling. Let me start by saying that although I’m familiar with the Phantom story, I’m by no means a ‘Phan’. However, the premise of this book captured my attention and I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC by the publisher.

Yes, this is the same A.G. Howard of the Splintered series. However, although I have the books on my shelves, I haven’t yet read them, so RoseBlood was my first encounter with A.G. Howard’s writing.

I must admit, I struggled with the opening quarter of the book. I felt it to be rather slow and it took me a while to become invested in the story.

However, once the ‘scene-setting’ element was over I definitely enjoyed the story more. Although, it was more Thorn that kept me reading than Rune.

Howard’s retelling of this story is creepy, mysterious and imaginative. She draws upon her research of the legend to inspire her story and the result is an interesting combination of High School tale and paranormal romance.

Howard’s writing is beautiful. Her descriptions are stunning and as a result this tale truly comes to life in the mind’s eye.

While I ended up enjoying this book and its concepts, I wasn’t crazy about it. Perhaps I went into it with overinflated expectations? When I did really start to get into the story, it ended! Personally, I felt the ending too abrupt – I didn’t feel satisfied by its content or pacing.

I realise this is a somewhat mixed review, but I *did* enjoy this, I just wasn’t blown away by it. I loved the gothic nature of it though – Howard absolutely captured that creepy, Gothic feel.

All in all, once the book gets going it’s a good read with interesting concepts and some intriguing characters. It’s Howard’s descriptive writing that I enjoyed most though – I felt as though I was actually in RoseBlood!

three-stars

Review: A Thousand Nights

June 28, 2016 in Book Reviews, Fairytales, Retellings, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Thousand Nights A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston
Published by Macmillan Children's Books on 30th June 2016 (Paperback)
Genres: YA, Retellings
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-stars

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to my village, looking for a wife. When Lo-Melkhiin - a formidable king - arrives at her desert home, she knows that he will take her beautiful sister for a wife. Desperate to save her sister from certain death, she makes the ultimate sacrifice - leaving home and family behind to live with a fearful man. But it seems that a strange magic flows between her and Lo-Melkhiin, and night after night, she survives. Finding power in storytelling, the words she speaks are given strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. But she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king ...if only she can stop her heart from falling for a monster. Set against a harsh desert backdrop, A Thousand Nights by E K Johnston is an evocative tale of love, mystery and magic that would not feel out of place if Scheherazade herself were telling it. And perhaps she is...

A Thousand Nights is a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights, and it’s the first of its kind that I’ve read, so there will be no comparison with other such retellings currently on the market. What I can say though, is that while I enjoyed this book well enough, I wasn’t crazy about it. I wanted more from it I think.

Johnston is herself a forensic archaeologist. She has travelled extensively and draws upon these experiences as well as her studying as inspiration. I really liked that about this book; you can feel her first hand experience of the desert in these pages.

Much like the traditional story, it is the telling of stories that keeps the King’s wife alive. Where her predecessors were murdered during the night, the King’s new wife has discovered a way to keep herself alive – her fearless storytelling. She also uncovers a hidden power that will allow her to face down the daemon residing within the King.

While I can appreciate the storytelling in this book, I found it hard work at times. In all honesty, I’m not very familiar with many of the traditional tales that are entwined within One Thousand and One Nights. So perhaps it’s my own ignorance that’s the reason I wasn’t captivated by this book? Perhaps I would have been more absorbed had I been familiar with the tales being retold?

However, I loved the way Johnston captured the Arabian setting. Her descriptions are beautiful and I did feel transported to the desert.

Truthfully, I don’t have much more to say about this one. Maybe it’s my own ignorance that hampered my enjoyment, or maybe I just wasn’t quite in the mood for it?

P.S. That cover though – STUNNING!

three-stars

Review: Tell The Wind and Fire

April 2, 2016 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Tell The Wind and Fire Tell The Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan
on 5th April 2016
Genres: Retellings, Fantasy, YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-stars

Tell the Wind & Fire is about a young girl called Lucie who lives in a New York very different from the New York we know: the city is torn between two very different kinds of magic, and Lucie’s own family was torn apart years ago by that conflict. Lucie wears magic rings and carries a burden of guilt she can’t share with anyone.

The light in her life is her sweetheart boyfriend Ethan, but it turns out Ethan has a secret too: a soulless doppelganger created by dark magic, who has to conceal the face identical to Ethan’s with a hood fastened by a collar nobody but a Light magician with magical rings can take off… and who introduces himself to both of them by, for reasons nobody can understand, saving Ethan’s life…

A New York that is split into two cities – Light and Dark. Where those in the Dark City go hungry and crave revenge, while those in the Light City live a more privileged life. The Dark City is suppressed by the Light Council of the Light City and a revolutionary group (the sans-merci) forms with the aim to take back control.

In a world where there are two types of magic – Light and Dark. It’s a world where the magic of Dark Magicians can be used as a last resort to save a life, but which creates a dark Doppleganger of the saved. Dopplegangers are hooded, collared and feared by all.

This is a retelling of a Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Now let me first say that I haven’t read Dickens’ novel (I know, I know) but I’m familiar with the story. In fact I read up on the story before starting this book so that I could assess and identify the similarities. However you do not have to be familiar with the original to read and enjoy this book.

I could see the similarities with Dickens’ work as I read this book. From the blindingly obvious, a main character called Lucie Manette, to the decidedly more subtle. But this isn’t an analysis of their similarities, if it were I could go on for a while, so let me tell you about this book.

Lucie is a Light magician born in the Dark City. However, she is now a resident of the Light City. She is the girlfriend of Ethan Stryker, the blood of one of the most powerful men in the Light City. She had her own childhood fame and so the young couple are revered by the City and its media.

When Ethan is accused of treason, a crime which usually culminates in immediate death, Lucie tries to save him. However his rescuer ends up being a Doppleganger, Carwyn, a young man who wears the same face as Ethan under his doppleganger collar and hood. Carwyn is from the Dark City and being a doppleganger is naturally untrustworthy.

I mentioned Lucie’s childhood fame? Well she’s somewhat of a symbol used by the sans-merci resistance, who aim to topple the Light Council, free Lucie (who they see as being trapped hostage by the Strykers) and reunite New York into one city.

Gosh, as I started writing this I realised how much detail there is in this book. It’s not an easy story to summarise, at least not without spoilers, so if my summary’s a bit dodgy that’s why!

Honestly for the first third of this book I wasn’t fussed. I wasn’t particularly enjoying it but I do hate giving up on a book. I’m glad I stuck with it though because the rest of the book swept me up and I really enjoyed it.

I found the similarities with The Tale of Two Cities really interesting. Obviously this book is hugely different from the original but I really liked how Sarah Rees Brennan drew upon her love of the classic to write this.

Lucie and Ethan? I totally wasn’t bothered about their romance, at least at the start of the book. There was something about the couple that I just didn’t take to. However, as the story progressed I suppose I started to ‘get’ their relationship more.

The star for me though was Carwyn, he was definitely my favourite. This Doppleganger who is treated like filth by the world, who”s inherently evil, but who really made this book for me.

All in all, I’m glad I stuck with this book as I enjoyed it in the end. I often judge a book on whether I thrust it into my husband’s hands and insist he read it – I won’t be doing that with this one but it was enjoyable all the same.

 

three-stars