Review: Lost Boy by Christina Henry

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain HookLost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who is the most intriguing character in Peter Pan?

If you answered anyone other than Captain Hook, you are wrong.

Captain Hook is by far the most compelling character and this is the Captain as you have never seen him before!

This is the origin story of one of the world’s most underrated villains, straight from the mind of Christina Henry.

Y’all, Ms. Henry has a dark and wildly creative imagination and we stan that!

This story follows our infamous Captain before he is known as such. This tells of his earlier life, known as Jamie and chosen by Peter Pan to be his first and best boy.

As many of you are already aware, Peter is a spoiled, petulant little prig who also happens to function with the most murderous of intentions.

I have always considered Peter Pan to be a jerk and this certainly did not dispel that notion. Jamie tries his best to keep Peter on the straight and narrow and to protect the boys that he collects.

Overtime, he begins to see Peter for what he truly is. He also comes to identify this life he has been living on the island to be not at all what he was sold.

Coming in at under 300-pages, this is a quick read but in my opinion, you have everything you need to make this a moving and impactful tale. The final pages of this blew my mind. I was speechless upon finishing.

I have so much love for this story and truly believe this to be one of the best retellings I have ever read and certainly the best origin story that I have ever read.

This is dark with a constant feeling of menace that I cannot recommend highly enough to horror fans or just fans of darker works of fiction in general; not necessarily horror.

My dream would be for Christina Henry, in about 8-years, to come out with a sequel to this that completely flips the power balance between Peter and Captain Hook on its head! For those of us that would love to see the downfall of one, Peter Pan, this would be the most delightful tale to ever be penned, I am sure.

So, Christina, have your people call my people.
Kidding!!! I don’t have people.
DM me if you want to brainstorm and let’s make this happen!

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Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Gods of Jade and ShadowGods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sweeping fable told through the lense of 1920s Mayan culture!!!

Channeling her inner-Cinderella, Casiopea Tun, is tidying up around her Grandfather’s quarters, as she does every day, when she unintentionally frees Hun-Kame, the Mayan God of Death, from his imprisonment.

Brought back to life after his brother slayed him and captured him in locked box, Hun-Kame is ready to get his life and his kingdom back. Unfortunately, or fortunately, for Casiopea, he needs her help in order to do so.

Tied together by an unnatural bond of flesh and soul, they set out on a quest to recover the parts of him stolen and hidden away by his brother. So begins the adventure of a lifetime for young Casiopea, who is finally able to escape the degrading clutches of her family.

This is such a beautifully told story. From beginning to end, Moreno-Garcia weaves the most intricate tale of love, power, forgiveness and sacrifice. I love her writing so much. It is simple and lyrical, flowing smoothly from chapter to chapter.

I first fell for Moreno-Garcia’s writing when I read, The Beautiful Ones in 2017. Even though that book was also beautifully written, this one is on a whole other level. Her writing has matured so much and this story truly transports you not only to the culture she is introducing but to the time period as well. Simply stunning.

I loved learning more about Mayan mythology and culture. I think anyone interested in more modern retellings of myths and legends will enjoy this one. Even if you do not think that is something you would be crazy about, at its heart, this story is a quest and it delivers in that capacity in spades.

Casiopea is such a wonderful character. Although raised in terrible circumstances, mistreated and abused by those around her, she has an incredible sense of will and resolve that she channels throughout her adventure. In her heart she has the strength of a lioness and that serves her well. I adored her, I adored Hun-Kame and the two of them together is pure magic!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and had such a great reading experience with this one. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has a fan in me and I will definitely be picking up anything else she writes!

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Review: Blood & Sand by C.V. Wyk

Blood and Sand (Blood and Sand, #1)Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

HOLY UNDERRATED BOOK!!

This one took me by surprise.
Gender flipped Spartacus retelling?
I am so here for that!

When Attia, a warrior princess who has lost all of her people to slaughter by the Romans, finds herself handed over as a gift to a champion gladiator, all she can think of is escape. Escape and revenge.

Trained from a young age to fight in hand-to-hand combat, Attia is a force to be reckoned with from the very first pages.

This girl is badass and not afraid to show it. Navigating her captivity, Attia begins to feel out who she can consider an ally and who is an enemy.

Xanthus, the man to whom Attia is gifted, is a prized Gladiator. Known as the best of his kin, he ruthlessly slays down all who come before him. Things are often not as they appear however and overtime you learn Xanthus may not be as ruthless as they would have you believe.

As is often the case, it turns out the rock of a man has a heart of gold, and that’s just how I like them.

Attia and Xanthus become attached to one another in a deep and meaningful way over an admittedly short amount of time. Did I care? No.

If you loathe an instalove trope, you may have some issue with this. Honestly though, the way this is told, you may be too busy dodging the blood and guts to even care.

Ancient Rome was brutal, y’all, and I like that Wyk doesn’t shy away from that. Sure, this is a romance, but it is wrapped in a historical cloak that makes it so much more than that. I found the atmosphere of this vivid and visceral.

There were scenes set in Pompeii that made you feel like you were there. I mean, really the whole book made you feel that way, but I have always been intrigued by the volcano. Fascinating, right!?

Overall, I was really impressed with this. There is a bit of a cliffhanger ending that has left me chomping at the bit. Let’s hope the release happens in 2019!!!

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Review: Part of Your World (Twisted Tales #5) by Liz Braswell

Part of Your World: A Twisted Tale: A Twisted Tale Series, book 5Part of Your World: A Twisted Tale: A Twisted Tale Series, book 5 by Liz Braswell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Ummmmmm…

Well, that was a book.

I wasn’t crazy about this one, guys.
I just never connected to it. It’s possibly my fault. I finished the lastest edition to the Twisted Tales line-up, Mirror, Mirror, last month and really enjoyed it. Compared to that one, which does have a new author to the series, this one felt very flat and forced.

The format of this one worked against it, in my opinion. The other books I have read in this series follow the events of the Disney movies fairly closely in the beginning. Then one plot element will change, be ‘twisted’, and the rest of the book will explore what could have happened following the new plot twist.

This one did not do that. It began years after the final events of The Little Mermaid, the twist being that Ursula had won and was now married to Prince Eric.

Y’all, Ursula slays, so I am fine with that. It was just the story focus was much more political and there were just odd little details everywhere. I don’t know, it just felt so off to me in comparison with the other books in this series.

I think maybe if you aren’t as familiar with The Little Mermaid animated Disney film, you may actually enjoy this more. I think for people who are hella nostalgic over that movie, this book just won’t have the right tone for you. But, then again, I could be completely wrong and completely in the minority opinion on this, so, bottom line, if this sounds interesting to you, pick it up!

There is a reader for every book. Sadly, I just wasn’t the reader for this one!

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Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Girls Made of Snow and GlassGirls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

☆☆☆☆.5 stars rounded up!!

All she would remember was the story that would be passed down by those watching: the cruel stepmother, and the wronged princess who had returned from the dead to strike her down and take what was hers. She didn’t want their story to end this way. And more than that, she knew she had the power to change it.

This Snow White retelling was completely original and definitely took me by surprise! This is a debut? Seriously? Melissa Bashardoust’s creativity and originality is on full display with this story.

Lynet and her regal stepmother, Mina, have always had a close relationship as far as ‘step’ relationships go. Young Lynet has admired her and aspired to be strong and smart just like Mina. She never knew her own mother and discovers during the course of the story that a magician actually made her from snow under her father’s orders.

Mina, motherless herself, feels her unbeating heart is perfectly normal. She doesn’t know that her own magician father actually cut out her heart at one point and replaced it with one of glass. After living most of her young life feeling unloved, Mina’s goal of marrying Lynet’s father becomes reality for her and she becomes Queen. She is fond of Lynet and feels they have a special bond.

However, when Lynet’s father suddenly decides to make her the Queen of the Southern Territories, displacing Mina as their figurehead, things dramatically change. Now Mina looks at Lynet as a competitor and we all know the best way to take care of competition…

I know from the synopsis it sounds a little strange but trust me, it works. There is some chasing, some running through the woods, some injuries, a potential queer love interest, girls being their own damn heroes and a whole lot more.

I read this book as part of Retellathon. Retellathon is a readathon hosted by some great Booktubers which I am really hoping turns into an annual affair. I used this to satisfy challenge #2: ‘True Love’s Twist’ – read a queer or gender-flipped retelling.

If you are like me and love retellings I would highly recommend this book. It is dark, it is different and it is definitely worth picking up. I cannot wait to see what Bashardoust comes up with next! **I actually read this book in July 2018 but just realized that I had never reviewed it. I guess I was so busy with Retellathon that week that I put it off! Better late than never…

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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!