Review: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel by Alyssa Palombo

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy HollowThe Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow by Alyssa Palombo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel is best summed up as a retelling of Washington Irving’s, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow from Katrina Van Tassel’s perspective. This may seem obvious to many by the title but for those less familiar with Irving’s original story, Katrina Van Tassel, is pretty much the only female ‘real’ character we have in that story. In that tale she is sort of the beautiful, sweet, yet most likely brainless, love interest of Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones.

As soon as I discovered that this book was happening, I knew I needed to get my hands on it as soon as I could. Growing up in New England, I can attest to the fact that there is literally no better place to be that New England in Autumn. That is my honest opinion. It’s just magical and crisp and awesome and just a slight bit ominous and creepy. Combine this with the fact that The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is one of my favorite stories and this sounded like the perfect book for me to get my hands on this Fall.

While this book did start out slow for me, hence the 4-star rating rather than 5, I was completely enamored with Palombo’s ability to create the feel of time and the place of Sleepy Hollow. I felt the atmosphere was richly developed and I had no trouble picturing it all in my mind, from the Van Tassel farm, to the little town, to the woods surrounding the Hudson River, everything was as it should be. I loved the development of Katrina’s character and the strong friendship that was displayed between her and her best friend, Charlotte. I always enjoy a book with strong female friendships and this one was particularly beautiful for anyone else who may enjoy that sort of thing.

The secret courtship between Katrina & Ichabod was definitely a slow burn but once lit…it was on fire. Be prepared for sexy times – I was a little surprised by the sexy times – so, if you aren’t into that, beware, it’s here. If you love that stuff, this is the book for you.

As this love was developing, the first half of the book, I was really getting anxious for my spooky stuff. Where is the headless horseman? I wondered on more than one occasion. Then it happens, one night, All Hallows Eve, of course, that will change Katrina’s life forever. Her world is shattered and through the help of her BFF, Charlotte, and her long-time friend/domestic help, Nancy, she does her best to rebuild herself and to find out what happened that night after her parent’s Halloween party.

I cannot say too much more about the plot without giving things away. I understand this is a story many of us know but I think being told from a different perspective, the author was able to bring a lot of new life and details into this well loved tale. I was impressed with this, the second half of the book really kept me engaged and I loved the way it wrapped up.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and am excited to see what other readers think of this one. Great job with release date as well – October is the PERFECT month to read this book!

Original: Y’all know I love a retelling and a retelling of such a classic piece of gothic literature is a must for me! Very happy to be starting this one and to get Katrina’s POV. My #1 hope = good atmosphere. I am all about that in my Fall reads.

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Review: Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

Brightly BurningBrightly Burning by Alexa Donne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


CONFESSION TIME:

I have never read Jane Eyre.

I know, I know. Put your pitchforks down….
How can I possibly rate a Jane Eyre retelling without having read the original source material? Well, I am going to rely on my very light JE knowledge from the multiple adaptations that I have viewed. My favorite being the one with Mia Wasikowska – I mean, that girl can act, am I right?

Anyway, moving on…this book, Brightly Burning, is a standalone YA science fiction story that retells the story of Jane Eyre but in SPACE. Quite frankly, that is what sold me. I will literally read anything if you tell me it is ‘set in space’. In this version, our Jane is played by Stella Ainsley. She is an engineer and part-time teacher on a decrepit spaceship called the Stalwart. Stella longs for a different life, one that will take her far away from the failing Stalwart. She begins applying for jobs on other ships; the only real way you can transfer among ships in this fleet that are basically assigned based on social class. To her complete surprise she ends up being offered a position as a governess aboard a private ship called…wait for it…the Rochester.

It doesn’t take long after Stella boards the Rochester before she begins to suspect that something sinister may be going on aboard this ship. Strange occurrences, things going bump in the night, inexplicable laughter in the halls…you get the gist. As Stella grows closer to the other people aboard the Rochester, most importantly, the Captain, Hugo Fairfax (also the owner of the ship), she begins to piece together the strange history of the ship and the Fairfax family. Along the way Stella and Hugo’s relationship begins to go way past employer and employee…sparks fly, etc., etc.

That is all I will say on the plot as I don’t want to reveal too much. There were many connections to the original Jane Eyre story – I feel in a way that payed a nice homage to the original text without being ‘copycat’ in its styling. I really loved the setting and I think any YA science-fiction fan could appreciate it. I thought the ships and fleet in general were well constructed. For me the pace of the story was great. I was never bored and I really liked Stella. I understand from reading other reviews that not everyone was a fan of Stella, but for me, I really liked her. I felt I could relate to her – I mean, she is a major book nerd and isn’t one to cow to what society may expect of her; I felt I understood her motivations.

That last maybe 20% felt a little rushed to me and a bit of the science on that end didn’t make sense – it wouldn’t have been possible for the events to occur as quickly as they did but it is a fictional story so I’m not going to go too crazy about that. It definitely didn’t effect my rating at all, I just had a good giggle about it. I can’t really go into what I mean because it would completely spoil the end. I was really happy with it though when I finished. I think it came to a nice conclusion and was a good way to end a standalone novel. I would definitely read more books by Alexa Donne and look forward to seeing what she comes up with next!

Original: I’m very happy with this but it is late and I must sleep. Full review to come…stay tuned!

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Review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

HuntedHunted by Meagan Spooner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, it has now been close to a week since I finished this book and I finally feel like I can put my thoughts down into actual words. Let’s get the main grit out of the way = Hunted is the BEST Beauty and the Beast retelling I have EVER read. Guys, I know I am super late to the party on this one. I think I am probs the only B&B superfan left to read this. Why did I wait this long, you ask? Because I am horrible at life obviously.

I listened to the audiobook of this and I will definitely be buying a hard copy because I absolutely plan to reread this someday. The most impactful aspect of this for me was the atmosphere. It was so well written. Dark, gothic, dangerous – I felt cold, I felt alone, I felt hunted. It was spectacular. The setting is Russia and I definitely felt like it was a nice blend of the classic Beauty and the Beast with Peter and the Wolf. I used to have the record version of the Peter and the Wolf symphony as a child and I listened to it all the time. (I played classic violin, perhaps that makes that fact make more sense…) This book brought back strong memories of listening to that. It is such a feeling.

I loved the twists to Beauty’s character in this as well. That was another really strong aspect for me. I loved how independent, strong, willful and brave she was. She was not a damsel in distress. Nope, not our girl – she was a badass, who though scared, did whatever she had to do for vengeance and that’s the kind of heroine I live for!

Then, of course, we have the Beast. We get his perspective in small parts throughout the book and I found them very interesting. He was absolutely darker than the Beast of the Disney version but no less compelling in my opinion. Along with him, of course, comes the castle fallen into ruin and the hostage situation and the Stockholm Syndrome love trope…and it was so good. I just ate it right up.

I suppose for some this book may seem slow, it is not nonstop action, but for me the flow was absolutely perfect. The pace helped to set up the atmosphere – it contributed to the feeling and I felt it was flawless.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves retellings – particularly if you are into dark, gothic or stabby things. More stabby than lovie…than this book is for you!

Original Review: A classic tale of love via Stockholm Syndrome…

Seriously though – this book – my favorite retelling of all time. I was shocked by how much I truly enjoyed it…

Dark, dangerous, replete with myth/folklore – full review to come…stay tuned!

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Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Publication Date: September 20, 2011    |    Rating: 5-heartfelt stars

This Story! I decided to read this book mainly because I selected Circe, Miller’s second book, as my BOTM Club book a couple of months ago and I really wanted to read this one first. This story took me completely by surprise. I knew nothing about it going in besides that fact that it is based off some events in Homer’s, The Illiad. Despite the fact that I took 4-years of Latin in high school, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about The Illiad today; so, no spoilers there!

I was completely floored by the absolute beauty of this story. The center of the tale is the love between Achilles and Patroclus. I am not a romance reader AT ALL and oftentimes the romance will be my least favorite aspect of a given story but for some reason…this one…struck me straight in the feels. There was something so pure and confident in their love – they were loyal and brave and kind to one another in a way that had me reaching for the tissues instead of choking down my mirth. I just knew from my level of attachment that this one wasn’t going to end well for me. Puddle, puddle of goo, right on the floor. I was overwhelmed by the intensity of feeling this story was able to elicit from my cold, dark heart. The Ice Queen hath melteth.

If you are considering reading this yourself, for whatever reason, I cannot recommend the audiobook enough. This narrator absolutely nailed the feeling of the story – plus, his voices for all characters was just so expressive and was always recognizable for who he was portraying at the time (if this makes any sense at all). In particular, his voice when speaking as Achilles…straight up Chris Hemsworth, which honestly, not a bad picture to have in mind whilst listening to a book.

So, yah, in summation: READ THIS BOOK! The world would indeed be a better place if this book were required reading and I honestly believe that.

Original review: 💔😭😭😭😭😭 oh my gods & goddesses! This book. Those last few lines. I am going to curl up in the fetal position somewhere and stare at the wall for a few days.

Retellathon Wrap-Up

It’s wrap-up time! So, if you follow me on social media or this blog, you may recall that last week I participated in my FIRST ever readathon. I had so much fun and ended up completing 3 books for it and meeting 4 out of the 5 challenges! I’m proud of that – between working full time and being Dog Mom of the year with three times a day long walks – I think that is a pretty solid week. In completion order the books I read and challenges met are as follows:

1. The Beast Within by Serena Valentino (Villains #2): Rating 2.5-stars.  This one was really rough for me. I hated the Beast/Prince. He was a complete ass and I don’t feel his character changed at all during the course of the story. I did not want Belle with him and don’t know why she would choose to be. I understand when a guy gives you a library that can be tempting but he must have some other sort of likeable qualities as well. The story itself was all over the place and felt very rushed. Overall, may be a better fit for readers aged 10 to 13. I read this book to satisfy Challenge #1, which was to read a retelling of your favorite fairy tale. Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite and I have actually owned this book for a while, so, even though it wasn’t the best book for me, I am happy to cross it off my backlist!  For my full review on Goodreads >>> Meg’s Full Review

2. Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes (Queen of Hearts Saga #1): Rating 4.5-stars. This is essentially an origin story for the Queen of Hearts. I love retellings from the villains perspective, that’s honestly one of my favorite subgenres of YA. This one felt very true to the atmosphere of the original story but brought a lot of new concepts and unique twists. I loved the deep, dark overall feel of the tale. There were parts that were very gritty and creepy which works perfectly with the story. Alice in Wonderland is not a feel-good tale; it is dark and scary with twisty-turny, upside-downy things that just make you feel on edge. I read this book to satisfy two challenges actually. Firstly for, Challenge #3, which was to read a fairytale retelling from your heritage. I chose to go with my Irish heritage for this one and since Ireland was a part of UK&Ireland at the time the original story was written, I think that counts. I made that executive decision, yes. The second challenge it met was Challenge #5, which was to read a retelling with a dark twist, and as the hosts of the readathon pointed out, this would include stories from the villains perspective. So, check and check! For my full review on Goodreads>>>Meg’s Full Review

3. Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust – Rating 4.5-stars rounded up to 5 on Goodreads. This is a fabulous feminist retelling of Snow White and the Evil Queen. (Side Note: I always want to call her the Wicked Queen – I am from New England, everything is wicked to us.) Honestly, I haven’t even written a review for this yet because I am still grappling with how much I loved it. It was a long one too – almost 400-pages.  If I had one critique, that would be it.  I think probably 40 to 50 pages could have been edited out of it. Other than that, it was fantastic – and a debute – gurl, what!? I think this is probably the best retelling I have ever read. I am so happy that I finally got around to it as it has been on my shelves since it first released in September of last year. The Challenge this met was Challenge #2, to read a queer or gender flipped retelling. This story features a f/f relationship. I promise to write a full review of this book soon!

There was one challenge that I did not complete and that was Challenge #4, to read the group book, The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill. After hearing other Retellathon participants thoughts on it, I am actually glad I did not start with that one.  Let’s just say the overall opinion is not high and I wouldn’t be surprised if a copy or two got tossed in the actual garbage.  Luckily, the cover is insanely gorgeous so even if I never read it, at least I can look at it once in a while and soak up its prettiness.

What is your favorite retelling? Have you read any of these? I want to know – leave a comment below or contact me through any of the social media links to the right!

 

Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oates

Publication Date: May 3, 2016    |    Rating: 4.5-stars!!!

I enjoyed this so much – I listened to the audio to complete some challenges for Retellathon. This book hadn’t even been on my radar (and I LOVE retellings) but I needed an audiobook to get through the week and SCRIBD had this one. After seeing that the overall Goodreads rating was only around a 3.6, I didn’t have the highest expectations going in. I didn’t read any of the reviews in advance, so I have no idea what the issues are with this one after listening to it.

This is essentially an origin story for the Queen of Hearts. I love retellings from the villains perspective, that’s honestly one of my favorite subgenres of YA, and who doesn’t love an origin story? This one felt very true to the atmosphere of the original story but brought a lot of new concepts and unique twists. I loved the deep, dark overall feel of the tale. There were parts that were very gritty and creepy – blood, gore, torture – it’s all in here but not in an obnoxious way. IMO it all works perfectly with the story. Alice in Wonderland is not a feel-good tale; it is dark and scary with twisty-turny, upside-downy things that just make you feel on edge.

I loved the relationship between Dinah (the Queen of Hearts) and her Father. He is a demonic, evil, spiteful little man and I really hope he gets his in the next book! Speaking of the next book, I ordered this and the second book this morning from Book Outlet and I need them like yesterday! This left off on such a cliffhanger – I cannot wait to see where the next book takes Dinah.

Another thing I enjoyed about this was Cheshire. He is an aide to the King and you can tell he is all kinds of devious. I’m not sure at this point what his true motivations are but he sure is a tricky one! He is described with similar qualities to the Cheshire Cat from the original, yet in this tale, he is a man. We also meet Dinah’s main caregiver, Harris, who is just such a sweet man, who loves her like her Father never has. He is just a pure and precious gem who I hope survives the wrath that is the King of Hearts! For Mad Hatter fans, have no fear, he is in here too; as are all the cards, the croquet games and general royal chaos.

Overall, I feel like this book needs some more love. I definitely plan to get the entire series and will probably even read this one again. I am majorly geeking out over this right now. I am going to go back now though and read other reviews; I am really curious to see what others didn’t enjoy about this one!

SIDE NOTE:Retellathon Book #3: I am using this to meet two challenges. The first is challenge #3 ‘Faraway Land’ (to read a retelling that is based off a story from your heritage) – I am choosing to go with my Irish heritage for this challenge. At the time Alice in Wonderland was written, and a time when my ancestors were still there, Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland so technically, this works. I am also using it for challenge #5 ‘Unhappily Ever After’ (to read a retelling with a dark twist) – as this is told from the villain’s perspective, the infamous Queen of Hearts, this works! BAM!

Review: The Beast Within by Serena Valentino

Published: July 22, 2014   |   Rating: 2.5-☆s   |   Villains Series Book #2

Okay. This one was rough. There’s not a lot here and what is, wasn’t great for me. Ugh, this hurts my heart to write this. I have all the books in this series and am obsessed with the covers and naked books. I have read the first book in the series, Fairest of All, and gave it four stars. I don’t know if maybe the fact that Beauty & the Beast is my favorite fairy tale of all time made me judge this one differently -I just don’t know.

First, let’s get this right out of the way: I hated the Prince/Beast. There was nothing redeemable about him and his story arc was completely flat. I don’t feel he evolved as a character at all. Belle ends up with him and you’re like, gurl, NO! While reading his character, all I could picture in my head was Joffrey Baratheon, and any GOT fan knows that is not a pretty picture.

The story was all over the place. Some parts of the book were taken directly form the Disney movie (the original animated one that I have watched 2,568,401 times) which normally wouldn’t bother me, but the dialogue was exact and it didn’t explore any of the scenes at all. It felt so rushed and like there was no heart behind it at all. Picture: Beast saving Belle from wolves, here’s a library, Gaston & Beast fight, a kiss, THE END – in about 20 pages with no coherent connection or exploration of ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc.

One thing I did enjoy was the friendship of the Prince and Gaston prior to him being cursed. That was interesting and I thought that added to the original story in a unique way. Even though this one let me down, I am definitely planning to read the rest of the books in the series. Maybe the others will work for me more as I am not as attached to the stories and characters. I would recommend this for a much younger audience; perhaps tweens wouldn’t feel so bent with it as I was! Thanks for reading my rant – I truly do not enjoy having to write a review like this. It makes me sad 🙁

As a side note, I read this book to complete one of the challenges for Retellathon, which I am currently participating in. I mentioned Retellathon in an earlier post – basically, the first challenge was to read a retelling of your favorite fairy tale. That being said, I really wish I would have enjoyed this more.  What is your favorite fairy tale? Have you ever read a retelling of it that disappointed you?  I want to know! Leave a comment here or contact me through the comment links to the right >>>

Review: Macbeth by Jo Nesbo

Publication Date: April 5, 2018

5-stars!!!! – A tour de force of brutality & ambition!!!

I was so excited when I discovered that the Hogarth Shakespeare series was adding Macbeth to its line up. It is my favorite of all the Shakespeare tragedies and I was looking forward to seeing how Nesbo would give it a modern twist. I have never read any of his books before but had heard very good things. He certainly did not disappoint – this soared above even my highest expectations.

The action takes place in a drug and crime-ridden city in the 1970s. Drug dealers and local crime lords hold as much power and sway over the people as do the police and politicians. The whole atmosphere is dark and visceral; you can smell and feel the dankness and despair. You are instantly dropped into this world and admittedly, at first, I was a bit confused as you are right in the action and all the players are already there. However, it didn’t take long (about 15% on an e-reader) before the tale truly starts to take shape and for me, I was so engrossed, I couldn’t put it down.

The characters are true to their roots as Shakespeare created them and I felt that the main premise of the action was extremely well planned and executed. The modern versions of the plot points were richly imagined and expertly woven into the final narrative. Macbeth, so strong and weak at the same time, so influenced by his Lady, easily steered, brutal yet kind, haunted and driven. Ughhh, it was soooo good! No one in this town was safe once Macbeth and Lady were set on their ultimate drive to power – aspirations and political intrigue, love for one another, plagued by their pasts – their relationship was just so spot on, there is no better way for me to describe it.

Slytherin book recommendation all day long – I absolutely adored this book! Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review. I cannot wait for this one to hit the streets -everyone needs a dose of this! Shakespeare himself would be proud!

Review: Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan

Publication Date: February 9, 2016

Rating: 3.5-stars:  This was a good book. A fun, fast-paced, easy read. I made the mistake of reading some Goodreads reviews before I started it, which I generally try to avoid, and kept waiting for the terribleness to set it. It didn’t for me. I had a great time reading this. Granted I didn’t go into it expecting Pulitzer Prize for Fiction quality so maybe that helped.

This story is a retelling of the fairy tale of Rapunzel. In this very dark world, where an eclipse of the sun has darkened the land for almost two decades, we meet Luna, now 17-years old, having lived in the tower since the day of her birth. She is sweet and innocent and obviously dreams of the world outside her tower walls. There is a boy, Fowler, who ends up at the tower and yes, there is instalove on her part. In some reviews people were quite negative on the instalove but I say in this case, it actually kind of works. I mean, the girl has legit been locked in a tower her entire life with only the two adults who have raised her for human interaction. I do not find it surprising or cliche that when a young man her age finally comes into her life she would be instantly attached to him. I mean, when I was 17, I could see a guy for 2-minutes and be smitten and I certainly didn’t grow up in a tower.

The action really picks up when Luna and Fowler are forced to leave the tower and try to make their way to the island of Allu where they anticipate safety. This world is really scary, dangerous and literally dark so they come to rely on one another and over their long journey do grow to love one another. The book left off on an amazing cliff hanger and I am excited to start the second book.

So, in conclusion (hehehe), was this book perfect? No. Were there parts I rolled my eyes at slightly or noted that the author had used the same exact phrasing in previous paragraphs? Sure. Did I have a heck of good time reading it? Yes.
If you are looking for a dark fairy tale retelling that you can read quickly and just forget about life for a while, I would definitely recommend this book!

Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Publication date: February 7, 2017

Stunning – 5-stars – I loved this book.

For pretty much the entire book I was thinking I would be giving this one a 4-stars (which is a great rating, it means, I really liked a book) but then I reached the last portion of the story and it stripped my breath from me. So enchanting, so beautiful, so heartbreaking. I will admit that the first 50 to 70 pages of the book, I really wasn’t sure what to think; if I liked it, didn’t like it, what was going on, how the heck do I pronounce these names…but eventually, with a little patience, it started to weave together the most intricate, spellbinding story of forbidden love I have ever read. Perhaps it makes sense to view it as a musical composition, timid at first as the story begins to unfold, solid and constant through the middle then a crescendo as we rush towards our ultimate conclusion.

I do not read a lot of books with a strong romance element, and this story is definitely all about the romance, but this one touched me deeply. I was surprised by how quickly it turned steamy actually and believe I even blushed once or twice! The love between Elisabeth and her Goblin King is somehow fractious, violent and childish all at the same time. Their connection is so tangible, I felt it in my heart; the ups and downs of their lustful and rough coming together. The musical elements of the story were beautiful – they bring it alive – if this were to be turned into a movie, I believe it would have an absolutely revolutionary soundtrack! Overall, I felt drawn into the story, slowly but surely and once I was in, I was in, entire. I cannot wait to read the next book of the series which is titled Shadowsong and was released on February 6, 2018. I actually received a free copy of Shadowsong from the publisher in exchange for an honest review – so, time to get start!

Happy reading bookworms!