2020 Book #66 – The Glass Queen by Gena Showalter

Title: The Glass Queen
Author: Gena Showalter
Date finished: 9/22/20
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, fairy-tale retelling
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Pages in book: 415
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Forest of Good and Evil series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley/Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Once Upon a Time meets Game of Thrones in book two of New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter’s magical, romantic dark fantasy series, in which the fairy tales we know and love are prophecies of the future. Welcome to the Forest of Good and Evil, where villains may be heroes and heroes may be villains…it all depends on who you ask.

Ashleigh Ansklelisa may be called the Glass Princess due to her weak heart, but Saxon, king of the Avian, knows she is more dangerous than broken glass, in this Cinderella retelling that sweeps readers into the magical land of Enchantia, filled with treacherous enemies, unexpected allies, forbidden love, and dangerous magic! Can destined lovers find their way to each other, or will evil win the day? Everything changes at the stroke of midnight as one determined princess fights for her legacy, her love, and the crown that is her destiny.

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I thought the premise behind this book sounded pretty interesting, and since it’s the second in a series I decided to read the first beforehand also (The Evil Queen). I read both around my birthday and I am so glad that I did! These were great stories and were just perfect for me. I love fairy tale retellings and these were SO GOOD. I liked the first book in the series a little better just because I loved Everly’s character, but The Glass Queen was also excellent. I’m not sure if the author was influenced by her friend Kresley, but there are ALOT of things in both these books that remind me of Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series. The Glass Queen reminded me a lot of Thronos’ story from Dark Skye combined with both main characters stories from Dreams of a Dark Warrior. And the oracle Noel reminds me almost too much of Nix. Which isn’t a problem for me because I adore that series. There was obviously less steam because these are young adult and not romance but there was still great tension and chemistry between the main characters. I loved all the world building and details, and I can’t wait for the next book to come out! I’d definitely recommend this series!

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2019 Book #20 – Kingdom Cold by Brittni Chenelle

411E7gzFfZLTitle: Kingdom Cold
Author: Brittni Chenelle
Date finished: 3/17/19
Genre: Young adult, romance, fantasy
Publication Date: February 14, 2019
Pages in book: 278
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Kingdom Cold series
Where I got the book from: Author/Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Attempted murder, that’s how sixteen-year-old Princess Charlotte’s engagement starts. It seems like the only thing she has in common with Prince Young of Vires is their mutual discontent.

When her kingdom’s attacked, Charlotte’s parents renegotiate her hand in marriage to a handsome stranger with a sinister plan. With the people Charlotte loves dying around her, and her kingdom’s future at stake, the only person she can turn to is the prince she betrayed. But, should she save her kingdom or her heart? One must fall.

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I liked this book more than I expected to. Charlotte started out pretty whiny and petulant (not to mention impulsive) and I was worried those traits were going to stay with her throughout the book. Fortunately her character evolved some over time and I even ended up liking her. I didn’t feel that I really got to know her full character though, there were parts of the story that moved too quickly for me and it felt almost like there were large gaps in the story and the development of the relationships. Charlotte obviously evolved into a strong and fierce princess and I wish I had seen that transition more fully. The author’s writing style could use some smoothing out where I thought there might be rough edges, but I really enjoyed the plot and the potential of the characters. There was emotion, action, adventure, romance, and danger – everything you could want in a novel. I didn’t want to put it down and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. The ending was so overwhelmingly sad but was also something different and made it a little more unpredictable. I’m not sure how the author managed to transition the story into a second book but I’d be pretty interested to find out.

Link to author website

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2019 Book #9 – The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross

51rYxamUQJLTitle: The Beast’s Heart
Author: Leife Shallcross
Date finished: 2/7/19
Genre: Romance, fairy-tale retelling, fantasy
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
Pages in book: 414
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both.

I am the Beast.

He is a broken, wild thing, his heart’s nature exposed by his beastly form. Long ago cursed with a wretched existence, the Beast prowls the dusty hallways of his ruined château with only magical, unseen servants to keep him company—until a weary traveler disturbs his isolation.

Bewitched by the man’s dreams of his beautiful daughter, the Beast devises a plan to lure her to the château. There, Isabeau courageously exchanges her father’s life for her own and agrees to remain with the Beast for a year. But even as their time together weaves its own spell, the Beast finds winning Isabeau’s love is only the first impossible step in breaking free from the curse . . .

My rating:  2.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I read this book as part of the Bookish Romance Novel Bookish Bingo Reading Challenge. This book will be checking off my “Retelling” box, since its a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale!

So I just love Beauty and the Beast, I have since I was a kid. Who wouldn’t love a story about a smart, book-reading, law-abiding woman who gets kidnapped/rescued by a prince with a kick ass library! So I was intrigued by this novel as I’ve never thought about fully delving into the Beast’s point of view through this whole debacle. And I’m glad that I read this – there were definitely some interesting points to the novel and some creative differences from the original story line that I enjoyed. I didn’t end up loving this however, for a few reasons. I found the Beast’s “voice” to be, well, whiny. And pretty feminine-sounding for the character he was trying to portray. He just kept going on and on, the book ended up feeling so repetitive. And this book seemed (for me) to bring into stark light how unhealthy the Beauty and the Beast story line is. I’ve always loved the movie(s) but this scary dude kidnaps this young girl and its basically a romanticized case of Stockholm syndrome. While I will continue to like the story, the book itself and these particular versions of Beauty and the Beast didn’t really come to live for me. Also, as interesting as it sounded hearing the story from Beast’s point of view, I ended up finding it frustrating that I didn’t know what Isabeau / “Belle” was thinking at any of the times throughout the book. Overall I’m still glad I read the book since it did have some very creative aspects that were added to the traditional story line but overall it wasn’t my favorite read.

Link to author website

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2019 Book # 2 – The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

51qqjkvcdqlTitle: The Winter of the Witch
Author: Katherine Arden
Date finished: 1/10/19
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, magical realism, fairy tale
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #3 in the Winternight Trilogy
Where I got the book from: Publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

“A tale both intimate and epic, featuring a heroine whose harrowing and wondrous journey culminates in an emotionally resonant finale.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviewers called Katherine Arden’s novels The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower “lyrical,” “emotionally stirring,” and “utterly bewitching.” The Winternight Trilogy introduced an unforgettable heroine, Vasilisa Petrovna, a girl determined to forge her own path in a world that would rather lock her away. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.

My rating: 5.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have read the first two books in this series and loved them. For me, this series has been so interesting, different and refreshing, and I have thoroughly enjoyed each book. Also, I don’t know who designed the covers for this trilogy, but they have been GORGEOUS. They really draw the reader to the book and represent each book’s story so well.  I found this book a bit easier to jump back into than the last, though it does still take a good amount of additional concentration compared to some of the other novels I’ve read recently. There are just so many characters to keep track of and they’re all called multiple names/nicknames throughout the book. It can be daunting to keep track of at times, but it’s definitely do-able. This book could possibly be classified as “wordy” – to be honest if it were any other book I would probably say it is – but with this book I found each word to be so necessary to the magic of the story, and I found myself going back over the pages because I didn’t want to miss a single word. The author uses intense descriptions to draw the reader into the story and trap them in this Russian world of magic and wonder. And the narratives surrounding the fight scenes were so good that I felt like I was there, watching the sweat drip from the warriors’ faces.

This book really made the reader question the idea of right vs wrong and good vs evil. I love when books make us reevaluate our ideas of morality, and I thought this was a very interesting sub-layer to the story. One of my favorite quotes in the book was “monsters were for children,” as Vasya learns that the truth is more complicated than simply being able to pick a side and call it the “right” side or the “good” side. All of us have the potential for goodness inside of us and all of us have the ability to make a difference in the world, even in unorthodox ways. I just loved delving into this concept within the story line amidst all of the action and magic that the book brought to life for me. I highly recommend reading this series and I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with next!

Link to author website

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2018 Book #34 – All the Ever Afters by Danielle Teller

61NMINqPepLTitle: All the Ever Afters
Author: Danielle Teller
Date finished: 4/26/18
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, fairy-tale retelling
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: May 22, 2018
Pages in book: 373
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss and Library Thing NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss and Library Thing in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In the vein of Wicked, The Woodcutter, and Boy, Snow, Bird, a luminous reimagining of a classic tale, told from the perspective of Agnes, Cinderella’s “evil” stepmother.

We all know the story of Cinderella. Or do we?

As rumors about the cruel upbringing of beautiful newlywed Princess Cinderella roil the kingdom, her stepmother, Agnes, who knows all too well about hardship, privately records the true story. . . .

A peasant born into serfdom, Agnes is separated from her family and forced into servitude as a laundress’s apprentice when she is only ten years old. Using her wits and ingenuity, she escapes her tyrannical matron and makes her way toward a hopeful future. When teenaged Agnes is seduced by an older man and becomes pregnant, she is transformed by love for her child. Once again left penniless, Agnes has no choice but to return to servitude at the manor she thought she had left behind. Her new position is nursemaid to Ella, an otherworldly infant. She struggles to love the child who in time becomes her stepdaughter and, eventually, the celebrated princess who embodies everyone’s unattainable fantasies. The story of their relationship reveals that nothing is what it seems, that beauty is not always desirable, and that love can take on many guises.

Lyrically told, emotionally evocative, and brilliantly perceptive, All the Ever Afters explores the hidden complexities that lie beneath classic tales of good and evil, all the while showing us that how we confront adversity reveals a more profound, and ultimately more important, truth than the ideal of “happily ever after.”

My rating:  4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have recently enjoyed the influx of fairy-tale retellings and the tales that are told from a different point of view. I loved the movie that came out a few years ago, Maleficient, and of course one of my all time favorites in this vein was the musical, Wicked. From these stories we learn that evil is not born but made, and truthfully is decided by the story-teller. Tales are exaggerated and told to paint the story teller in a sympathetic tone so that the reader will empathize with their plight. Agnes as a character was much easier to empathize with than I expected, especially considering how well the Cinderella story was ingrained in my mind prior to reading this book. Agnes as a character though was so strong-willed and determined to find a better life both for herself and for her daughters that it was easy to root for her success. And while many things in her life could be defined as “unfair,” her logical approach never let that fact weigh her down and instead she persevered in spite of the unfairness of her circumstances. At first I found the narration to be a tad overly wordy but after a little bit of adjustment it was easy to read, and the words painted such a vivid portrait that infused the text with emotions and feeling. I enjoyed this book immensely and I love that by reading it the reader is made to re-think the truths of good and evil. This was truly an enjoyable novel and I would definitely recommend it, especially for fans of the Cinderella story.

Link to author website

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2018 Book #2 – The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

51wY6en8tdL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Girl in the Tower
Author: Katherine Arden
Date finished: 1/8/18
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, magical realism, fairy tale
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: December 5, 2017
Pages in book: 342
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Winternight Trilogy
Where I got the book from: Publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A remarkable young woman blazes her own trail, from the backwoods of Russia to the court of Moscow, in the exhilarating sequel to Katherine Arden’s bestselling debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale.

Katherine Arden’s enchanting first novel introduced readers to an irresistible heroine. Vasilisa has grown up at the edge of a Russian wilderness, where snowdrifts reach the eaves of her family’s wooden house and there is truth in the fairy tales told around the fire. Vasilisa’s gift for seeing what others do not won her the attention of Morozko—Frost, the winter demon from the stories—and together they saved her people from destruction. But Frost’s aid comes at a cost, and her people have condemned her as a witch.

Now Vasilisa faces an impossible choice. Driven from her home by frightened villagers, the only options left for her are marriage or the convent. She cannot bring herself to accept either fate and instead chooses adventure, dressing herself as a boy and setting off astride her magnificent stallion Solovey.

But after Vasilisa prevails in a skirmish with bandits, everything changes. The Grand Prince of Moscow anoints her a hero for her exploits, and she is reunited with her beloved sister and brother, who are now part of the Grand Prince’s inner circle. She dares not reveal to the court that she is a girl, for if her deception were discovered it would have terrible consequences for herself and her family. Before she can untangle herself from Moscow’s intrigues—and as Frost provides counsel that may or may not be trustworthy—she will also confront an even graver threat lying in wait for all of Moscow itself.

My rating:  4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

This action-packed fairy tale was an intriguing, and at some points dark, story of a young woman coming into her full potential. Vasilisa (Vasya for short) sets off on a journey and ends up involved in another other-world plot of doom. Along the way she finds her feelings for Morozko, the frost demon, growing unexpectedly. The beginning of this book I found a little hard to delve into. Even after I enjoyed the first book in the trilogy so much, the beginning of this book jumped right back into the story and it took me a minute to remember where we had left off. After I was able to get back with the story though, I couldn’t put this down. Once you’re able to push past the first approx. 50 pages of the book, it just drags you right into this other world of magic and snow and danger. The narratives in this novel are amazingly descriptive without being overly wordy (in my opinion) and, while at times the story is quite dense, the text includes a wealth of details that really enrich the story line and the world created to transport the reader. The author really brings the magic alive in this book  and creates some heart-pounding action scenes as well.

I just have to say too, I think this series would move SUCH an AMAZING movie series if it was done correctly. Vasya’s vibrancy contrasting with the stark, snowy wilderness and also the bustling metropolis of Moscow would be an amazing picture to see on the big screen.

I thought this was an amazing book and a great continuation of the story line. I can’t wait to see where the author takes us in the conclusion of the trilogy, The Winter of the Witch, coming in August 2018.

Link to author website

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