Review: Straight On Till Morning (Twisted Tales) by Liz Braswell

Straight On Till MorningStraight On Till Morning by Liz Braswell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Meg’s current ratings for the Twisted Tales series:

1. Reflection (Mulan): 4-stars
2. As Old As Time (Beauty & the Beast): 3.5-stars rounded up
3. Straight on Till Morning (Peter Pan): 3.5-stars rounded up
4. Mirror, Mirror (Snow White): 3.5-stars rounded up
5. Unbirthday (Alice in Wonderland): 3.5-stars
6. Conceal, Don’t Feel (Frozen): 3.5-stars
7. A Whole New World (Aladdin): 3-stars
8. Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid): 2-stars

In this twisted version of Peter Pan, we follow Wendy Darling, who though she has written many stories of Peter Pan and his escapades with the Lost Boys, she has never actually met him or been to Neverland.

However, Peter has sat many a night outside of the window to the nursery, listening to Wendy’s stories. On one such night, he accidentally leaves behind his shadow.

Wendy keeps his shadow, tucking it away in a drawer, and when she stumbles upon Captain Hook, she uses it as a bargaining chip to gain passage upon the Jolly Roger on a voyage to Neverland.

Unsurprisingly, Hook has more sinister plans in mind than he lets on to Wendy, however, and now Neverland’s entire existence is in jeopardy.

Upon discovering Hook’s true intentions, Wendy must work with a tiny and surprising ally, Tinkerbell, in order to correct her mistake.

What was she thinking trusting a pirate!?

Overall, I enjoyed this installment. There were some spots that felt a little slow, but mostly it kept me quite entertained.

I really loved the development of Wendy’s character. She is 16-years old here, on the cusp of adulthood, dealing with her parent’s expectations.

She’s not ready to enter womanhood in the way they would like her too. She finds it unnerving.

Her romp through Neverland is her last ditch effort to hold onto the carefree time of her youth.

If fact, that theme arises a lot, with Captain Hook also struggling with his lost boyhood.

In addition to the exploration of the shift your life can take as you grow older, I also enjoyed the evolution of the relationship between Wendy and Tinkerbell.

Tink and Wendy’s relationship, as we know it, was often steeped in jealousy and petty acts of sabotage.

While that is how it begins here as well, we also see the two of them growing to understand and ultimately, even care for one other. I thought that growth was very well executed by Braswell.

For fans of Peter Pan, I think this will be a lovely take on the original. It’s definitely worth at least picking it up and giving it a shot.

As always, I am looking forward to seeing what stories Disney chooses to twist next!!!

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Review: The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

The Court of Miracles (Court of Miracles, #1)The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Set in the tumultuous time of 1828 Paris, after the Revolution has failed, the city is divided into the royal court, and nine criminal guilds.

Our protagonist, Nina Thénardier, is a young member of the Thieves Guild. Nina is a skilled thief, who has spent her life flying under everyone’s radar.

After her abusive father sells her older sister to the Master of Flesh, the Tiger, Nina desperately wants to save her, but never gets the opportunity.

While living on the streets, Nina gains a new sister, a sister of choice, little and beautiful, Ettie.

Unfortunately, Ettie is such a pretty girl, that she becomes dangerous to be around, for the Tiger has set his sights on her as well.

Nina then dedicates the majority of her time to keeping Ettie out of the monster’s hands. She has to get creative and make some unsavory allies, but she is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the young girl safe.

The Court of Miracles is a fast-paced romp through a fantastical and historical Paris.

The backdrop was dirt, grim, danger and intrigue. Nina’s world is definitely a dangerous one, but she throws herself full force into the game of the underground.

Although Nina seems extremely bold, I think it was more that she had nothing to lose. Ettie was literally her only connection in the entire world.

While many aspects of this were interesting, there was something about the flow that was off for me.

I felt like the structure was: set scene, problem, resolution, next scene, problem, resolution, next scene. It just had a choppy quality to it, in my opinion.

I’m probably not explaining this correctly, but to me, it lacked a smooth narrative flow.

In addition to that, I didn’t have a good hold over time in this story. When it started, Nina was very, very young, but at the end, she’s not.

There was one point where I think a couple of years had passed, but it wasn’t entirely clear. I felt like time was progressing along rapidly, but I had no idea how much time between different sections. Maybe I was missing something on my ARC?

I think it is important to point out that I have never read Les Miserables, or watched any movie or television adaptations. Therefore, I cannot comment on this story as a reimagining of that tale.

There were moments where I felt like I had no idea what was going on. I wonder if I would have gotten a lot more out of it if I had read the original source material?

Overall, I did think this was a fun story. I enjoyed very much the different criminal guilds and the dynamics between them. I found that extremely interesting.

I would absolutely consider picking up the next book in the series. I’m not sure where this story can go from here, but Kester Grant is clearly very imaginative, so I trust they’ll figure it out.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Knopf Young Readers, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I had a lot of fun with it!

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Review: Unbirthday (A Twisted Tale) by Liz Braswell

UnbirthdayUnbirthday by Liz Braswell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Meg’s current ratings for The Twisted Tales series:

1. Reflection (Mulan): 4-stars
2. As Old As Time (Beauty & the Beast): 3.5-stars rounded up
3. Mirror, Mirror (Snow White): 3.5-stars rounded up
4. Unbirthday (Alice in Wonderland): 3.5-stars
5. Conceal, Don’t Feel (Frozen): 3.5-stars
6. A Whole New World (Aladdin): 3-stars
7. Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid): 2-stars

We all know the story of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, but what happened after?

In this installment of Disney’s popular Twisted Tales series, Liz Braswell examines just that.

Alice is now 18-years old and it has been many years since her last trip to Wonderland. In fact, it has been so long that the memories are starting to fade.

There are times when she wonders if it was even real and just the vivid dreams of a little girl with an overactive imagination.

Living with her parents and her slightly overbearing sister, Alice’s favorite past time is now photography.

She has a wonderful camera and wanders all over taking candids of various people and places.

When characters she met in Wonderland start magically appearing in the photos she develops, she can’t help but feel they are trying to get a message to her.

After more and more images come up, it’s clear, they need her help. Wonderland is in trouble and Alice is the only one who can save them.

Finding her way back to Wonderland is tricky, but she eventually succeeds and is able to reunite with old friends.

It appears the Queen of Hearts is more out of control than ever, continuing her reign of terror and executing Wonderland’s citizens seemingly for her own pleasure.

Does Alice have what it takes to defeat her once and for all?

Young Alice may have been afraid, but as an 18-year old, Alice is stronger and more willful than ever. You’ll have to pick it up to find out!

This novel is definitely an interesting one. It felt very different than the other books in the series; heavier in a way.

It follows Alice after her time in Wonderland, so there is no twist per se, to the original tale. It’s more of a follow-up, in my opinion.

A large chunk of the story follows Alice in our world with her interactions with her sister, parents and potential suitors.

There is also a large political element, as Alice’s sister is involved in local politics and tries to drag Alice along even if she is not as interested, or has conflicting opinions.

There was quite a bit of social commentary on nationalism and discrimination against minority groups and immigrant populations.

These are definitely important topics to explore in literature, but I must admit I was surprised to see it here in such depth.

I have read six other books in this series and this is the only one that I can recall having that type of narrative element. Normally, I am all for incorporating such discussions, but part of me feels like it was out of place in this story. It sort of made it feel disjointed for me.

The reason I say this is that when picking this up, I was expecting a magical jaunt through a nonsense world, spending time with some characters I know and love.

While I did get that, the story switched back and forth between the adventure in Wonderland to a very serious, more modern world, where the pace was slowed down quite precipitously. It made the book seem like it was too long.

With this small critique out of the way, overall, I did enjoy Unbirthday. It was nice to be back with Alice and the whole gang.

If you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland, you should definitely pick this up and give it a shot!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I absolutely adore this series and will continue to pick them up for as long as they are released!

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Review: Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)Winter by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A bittersweet conclusion to a fantastic YA-SciFi series. This is retelling GOLD!

Winter is the fourth, and concluding novel, in Marissa Meyer’s beloved, Lunar Chronicles series.

Coming in at over 800-pages, this hefty book provides the final stand-off between our intrepid heroes, their allies, and the wicked Lunar Queen.

There was a ton of action in this installment, some of it quite brutal, and I enjoyed learning a bit more about each of our main characters.

I can’t believe it is over. As some of you may know, I have a difficult time continuing with series. There was no problem with this one. I was that compelled to pick it up.

I love how Meyer built the world out. Each book, you gain more characters, more knowledge of the world and the stakes are steadily increased.

In this book, our newest character, per the title, is Winter, the Lunar Princess.

She was such a delight. Due to repressing the use of her glamour, her mind is a bit janky. She hallucinates and people in the kingdom think she is bit crazy, but love her nonetheless.

Again with this one, I appreciate so much the connections to the original fairy tales.

As a set of retellings, I think The Lunar Chronicles is top notch work. I would love to read further retellings from Meyer and definitely have boosted Heartless up by TBR.

I’m so happy that I finally took the time to pick this series up! I was enthralled the entire way through.

If you haven’t given this one a shot yet, and are a Sci-Fi fan, you should definitely check it out!

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Review: Hood by Jenny Elder Moke

HoodHood by Jenny Elder Moke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

What happened after Robin Hood and Maid Marian rode off into the sunset together?

They had a daughter, Isabelle. This is her story.

Finding herself on the wrong side of the law, Isabelle is forced to flee the village of Kirklees and the priory where her mother, Marian, is Prioress.

With her mother’s aide, she sets out with a destination in mind, where dwells one of her mother’s old friends who can help her hide from the King’s men.

After a fearful journey, over many days, she reaches the Inn her mother advised her to go to.

It’s there she joins up with the Merry Men, learns the truth of her parentage and grows ever closer to meeting the infamous, Robin Hood.

This was an action-packed, super fun story, full of adventure and close calls.

I enjoyed where Moke took this, finding out how Robin and Marian’s ‘happily ever after’ went.

While I had fun reading this, it was quick and light, I wasn’t necessarily blown away by anything here.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a good story, and if you are a fan of the Disney animated version, you should definitely check it out, but I can’t help but wish it would have been built out further.

Moke has a very pleasing writing style and all the bones were here, but I just wanted more.

I believe this is a standalone, but I sort of wish it was going to be a duology. I started to feel very connected with Isabelle towards the end, and the rest of the Merry Men. Personally, I would really enjoy following them on further adventures.

While I wasn’t crazy about some of the content of the conclusion to this tale, I do believe there is a lot more story to tell and Moke is the perfect person to tell it.

Give me more Isabelle. She is just starting to come into her own!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to reading more from Jenny Elder Moke!

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Review: Conceal, Don’t Feel (Twisted Tales #6) by Jen Calonita

Conceal, Don't Feel (Twisted Tale)Conceal, Don’t Feel by Jen Calonita
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Meg’s ratings for The Twisted Tale series:

1. Reflection (Mulan): 4-stars
2. As Old As Time (Beauty & the Beast): 3.5-stars rounded up
3. Mirror, Mirror (Snow White): 3.5-stars rounded up
4. Conceal, Don’t Feel (Frozen): 3.5-stars
5. A Whole New World (Aladdin): 3-stars
6. Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid): 2-stars

I was greatly anticipating the release of Conceal, Don’t Feel, the Frozen retelling of my dreams!

I love the story of Anna and Elsa. There’s so much about being true to yourself and being who you are no matter what others think.

The loads and loads of humor and fantastic side characters is another strong selling point for this story.

In this installment of Disney’s Twisted Tale series, we are proposed the twist of Anna and Elsa never knowing one another.

In this version, after Elsa’s magic harms Anna, their parents give Anna away to a family in the village to raise her. The girl’s memories are wiped and they grow up with no knowledge that they even have a sister.

It started out a little slow for me, but did pick up towards the middle and the conclusion was lovely.

Although slightly underwhelming, most likely because I had hyped it up so much for myself, this is still a good book. It was fun to spend some time with all of these dynamic characters again.

After this though, I am very happy the girls grew up the way they did in the movie and not some other version. That was sad enough!

Am I right?!

If you enjoyed the movie version of Frozen, you should definitely give this one a shot! Let Anna, Elsa, Olaf and all the rest, take your mind off the world for a while.

You won’t regret it!

I love the whole concept behind this series. I am always checking to see what tale Disney is going to twist next!

I am looking forward to continuing on with the rest of the books!

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Review: Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

Foul Is Fair (Foul Is Fair #1)Foul Is Fair by Hannah Capin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a modern retelling of Macbeth, this is absolute genius.

‘For one fleeting second I’m proud of every bruise and every scratch–
the dark handprints on my arms and my neck and my ribs–
my broken claws–
the slash across my cheek–
–because every mark they left, everything they did, didn’t even get close to breaking me.’

On the night of her sweet sixteen, high schooler, Elle, along with her best friends, Mads, Summer and Jenny, plan to crash a St. Andrews Prep party.

They are in the highest of spirits, dressed to the nines, feeling like queens of their world. Nothing can touch them. That’s what they think anyway.

Then the golden boys, the wolf pack, of St. Andrews selects Elle as their next victim.

They chose the wrong girl.

After drugging her drink and raping her, she is left for her friends to rescue. From that moment she vows, she will not play their victim.

They have stolen her power, but she will stop at nothing to get it back.

Recreating herself, Elle, now Jade, enrolls at St. Andrews, infiltrates the golden boy’s world and plots their downfall.

She will reign, in her own world, as well as the world of St. Andrews Prep.

Seducing golden boy, Mack, he becomes her greatest pawn. She puffs his ego and works with his ambition to rattle the St. Andrews hierarchy to its core.

She promises her best friends, her coven, that she is not falling for him, but their mutual interests lie within one another. A Queen needs her King.

Y’all, I think you can tell how much I loved this book. I was so impressed with the courage it would take to write this story.

A revenge story that doesn’t apologize for going all the way. This is about a girl, stripped of her power, fighting tooth and claw to wrest back that power from those who stole it from her.

I speak from the heart when I say this is one of the most empowering stories I have ever read.

Don’t let them define you. Your role in the world is defined by you, no one else.

I fully understand that this will not be for everybody. The writing is extremely unique. I found it to be lyrical and raw.

The homage it plays to the original story of Macbeth was nothing short of brilliant, in my opinion.

So impressed with this. Will read anything else Hannah Capin chooses to write. Brava!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I have no doubt this will be on my favorites list of 2020.

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Review: As Old As Time (Twisted Tales #3) by Liz Braswell

As Old As Time (Twisted Tales, #3)As Old As Time by Liz Braswell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

An imaginative twist on the ‘tale as old as time’ that we all know and love!

As Old As Time, the third installment in Disney’s Twisted Tales series puts forth the question, what if Belle’s mom was the one to curse the Beast?

Following the parameters of a fairly strict retelling, this story has bonus content!

Music to any fan’s ears. We get a back and forth timeline here, one following Belle in the present part of the story we are familiar with, and the other telling of Belle’s parents before she was born.

The Belle we know is without a mother, living with her father, an inventor, on the outskirts of town.

But of course Belle once had a mother. This reimagining tells who she was, the Enchantress that cursed the Beast.

We learn about the kingdom at a time when magic was still present, as well as about the Beast’s parents and their unkind rule over their kingdom.

There is a plague and a fairly harsh ‘witch hunt’, for lack of a better term, that all ultimately leads to the Beast’s curse.

As I mentioned earlier, this felt like bonus content to the Disney animated version from 1991 because a good portion of this stuck so true to that original.

The rest was icing on the cake, filling in the back story of the time before the movie kicks off. I really appreciated that.

Some retellings you want to be wildly creative and unique (e.g. Hunted by Meagan Spooner or Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust), but for this series, the point is to have the original story with one twist that affects the outcome.

I thought that was well done here by Braswell.

I’m a sucker for this series and will continue to pick them up. This is definitely one of my favorites!

If you love the original animated Beauty and the Beast as much as I do, you should definitely give this one a try!

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Review: Coral by Sara Ella

CoralCoral by Sara Ella
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Coral, through the platform of a Little Mermaid reimagining, follows three perspectives through their struggles with mental illness.

Coral: A little mermaid who lost her oldest sister to Red Tide, a condition that mirrors depression.

Estranged and misunderstood by the rest of her family, Coral sets out to find the Prince she blames for her older sister’s demise.

Merrick: A young man whose controlling father is definitely the villain of his story.

After his little sister attempts suicide, and their mother runs off, unable to cope, he blames his father for the entire situation.

When his father announces that he is planning to send his sister, Amaya, to a residential treatment program, Merrick disagrees. He thinks she should be with family and essentially kidnaps her to avoid her going into treatment.

Brooke: The most mysterious of the perspectives, Brooke is struggling with depression and anxiety and currently residing in a treatment center. She is the most challenging to decipher.

As a reader, you can tell all three perspectives are related somehow, as the storylines begin to run parallel but you don’t know exactly how.

Once all is revealed, it makes sense and is a very heavy story to take in.

While I understand how important the topics tackled in this book are, I personally had a hard time connecting with the story.

The writing is strong and I know for the right person, read at the right time, this book could mean so, so much.

For me, the perspectives began to run into one another and I just never felt fully engrossed in the story. With this being said, I am still glad that I read this.

I think it is a completely unique way of exploring very serious mental health issues.

I urge you to read the author, Sara Ella‘s, review for this book as she includes a full list of trigger warnings. I definitely think that is important for this one.

Tread cautiously if you are at all worried that something may be harmful to your mental state.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I do consider this a heartbreakingly beautiful tale and appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

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Review: Geekerella (Once Upon a Con #1) by Ashley Poston

Geekerella (Once Upon a Con, #1)Geekerella by Ashley Poston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What can I say?

I am a geek and I loved this book.

My last completed book of 2019.
What a great reading year.

During the course of my holiday 2019 travels, I found myself alone in the car, A LOT. I wanted a little romance to keep me alert during my drive.

Not for me exactly but on audio. I had been putting this book off forever, for unknown and totally irrelevant reasons, and on a whim decided to download it.

The stars had blessed me on that day, as I found so much more in this story than romance. It touched my nerdy soul.

I felt filled to capacity with acceptance and understanding whilst listening to this modern-day Cinderella retelling. At its heart, a story about embracing your passions and never apologizing for who you are or what you love.

Our protagonist, Elle Wittimer, is a teen living with her Step-Mother and two Step-Sisters in South Carolina, and yes, you guessed it, the Steps are wicked!

Elle tries to stay out of their way at home. She spends her summer days working in a food truck called the Magic Pumpkin and her nights blogging about her favorite fandom.

Starfield, a classic scifi show that she has loved her whole life is her drug of choice. It’s the one thing that makes her still feel connected to her deceased parents, both huge fans.

When it is announced that Starfield is soon to get a movie reboot, Elle can’t wait to see who they cast. As any superfan though, she’s worried they are going to ruin it.

Do reboots or adaptations ever truly do justice for our loves?

After teen heartthrob, Darien Freeman, is announced to be playing the pivotal Federation Prince Carmindor, Elle knows it is going to suck.

What would he possibly know about Starfield? All he knows are abs workouts and alarmingly charming smiles, right?

Fueled by anger, she takes to the web and blogs what a travesty it is.

Darien Freeman is a fan however. Being cast as Carmindor has been a life-long dream for him but he’s been cast to play a role, not just in the movie but in life. Bubble-headed playboy is his image and he is forced to stick with him.

Written off by the Starfield fandom as a faker of the highest order, Darien finds himself frustrated and misunderstood. But what can he possibly do about it? He’s trapped.

Under the same stars, Elle is trapped as well. Her Steps are downright cruel to her but she has no means of retaliation or true escape. She feels powerless against them.

To promote the new movie, the Starfield execs plan a cosplay contest to be held at ExcelsiCon; the very same Con created by Elle’s late father. She can’t believe her luck and sees the grand prize, tickets to L.A., as her means of escape.

Darien is not pleased when he discovers he will be forced to attend the Con. He used to love attending Cons but to have to go and not be able to proclaim his love as a true fan feels stifling.

Reaching out to a phone number listed as info for ExcelsiCon he ends up getting in touch with Elle but neither knows who the other is. Thus begins their relationship, via texts, and their means of finding escape through one another.

From the very first chapter, I fell for Elle and her story, hook, line and sinker. The homage to the original tale of Cinderella, while bringing it fully into the 21st-century, was beautifully crafted. I loved all the little details and connections throughout the book.

As the synopsis states, this is also a love letter to nerd culture and for many of us, that means a lot. To feel that we aren’t alone and there are legions of people out there just like us, who love the same things and accept us and don’t call us weird. It feels good.

Overall, I was really damn impressed with this and hope to be picking up the next, Once Upon a Con installment soon!

Thank you, Ashley Poston, for writing this. It was absolutely wonderful!

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