The Book of Pearl by Timothee de Fombelle

Elegant and Sophisticatedly Complex

This would have to be one of the best books I have read this year!!!

A compelling story of a first love that defines a lifetime which is told with an intricate and beautiful writing style.

The main character who we get to know as the story progresses is Joshua Pearl. He is from a world that our own no longer believes in – a world of Fairytale. Pearl knows that his great love is waiting for him in that distant place but he is trapped in our time. As his memories begin to fade, he discovers strange objects, tiny fragments of a story from a long time ago that help in piecing his life back together.

What I liked about this story is how unique it was – the storyline and how it was so cleverly written.  As Joshua Pearl is trying to piece together his memories to circle back to the one he loves after being thrown from his own world to our world, I felt just as confused as Pearl but each chapter develops – each fragment, pieces together a puzzle that guided me to the next part of the story and so on, which finally came together with an answer!!! A tale intertwines fantasy with historical fiction finding you going through the stages of World War II. This was such an absorbing read.

I recommend this to fans of fairytale retellings, historical fiction and YA fantasy.
-Annie

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

The Last Thing She Needs Is a Prince – The First Thing She Needs Is Some Magic

Advanced Review Copy Blog Duet with Annie and Sarah S. rating this book 4.5 Stars!!

Frogkisser!
Princess Anya is forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss and forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own. Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Princess Anya sets off on a Quest to hopefully free her land and teach her a thing or two about the use of power.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this fun retelling of “The Tale of the Frog Prince”. The story was full of fun adventure that would instigate the fright, magic and humour of readers of all ages. Frogkisser! starts out with detailed world building that really shapes your understanding of the protagonist, Princess Anya, rightful heiress to the throne, who, like me, would rather spend her days in the library reading and expanding her knowledge however she is approached by her sister, Morven, who begs Anya to help her get her beloved prince back once he was transformed into a frog by their evil stepstepfather who is attempting to usurp the throne. Reluctantly, Princess Anya agrees and what do you know – Princess Anya must embark on a Quest in an attempt to create a lip balm that will give Princess Anya’s lips the strength to kiss frogs back to human life. I loved the imagination the author put into creating such interesting human and non human animals and the way the land was built and told to the reader was so intricate, it really places you there. I also enjoyed the amusing quest Princess Anya had to endure – when focusing on one goal, she’s roped into several.  I also found the story brought back fond memories of my childhood and my love for Fairytales and elements of “The Wizard of Oz”. Frogkisser! is very well written, very imaginative with such innocent adventure, I would most probably read this again. I recommend this to fans of fairytales of all ages!!!
-Annie

Frogkisser covers familiar fantasy ground: an evil step-parent, a princess in a tower, a frog transformed into a prince, a fearsome creature in the castle moat and a threat to the rightful succession of the throne. Fortunately, Garth Nix takes these basic ingredients and transforms them into a surprising and whimsical tale, which thwarts readers’ expectations in nearly every respect. Our protagonist is Anya, the second-oldest princess of Trallonia, who is much concerned with her burgeoning education in sorcery and would like nothing more than some quality time in the library. Anya’s studies are sadly interrupted by a request from her sister (Morven, the crown princess on the cusp of coronation) to turn a frog back into a handsome prince, the result of their evil stepfather’s interference. What should have been the work of an afternoon unfolds into a much larger quest to reunite a divided kingdom and return civil rights to the people. The book offers strong growth of its protagonist as well as welcome and necessary representation of women in traditionally male roles, such as wise wizards, knights, leaders and heralds. Frogkisser is appropriate for audiences from 8-88 years, providing all of the magic, friendship, excitement and charming animal companions any child could ask for. The prose style also has shades of Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynn Jones, and with its many subversions of classic fantasy tropes adult readers will find much to enjoy here.
-Sarah S.

Special thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending us an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for our honest review.

Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

An interesting concept I would like 3.5-4 out of 5 stars

A creative story line that made me think “Girl Interrupted” meets “Frozen” or “The Snow Queen”. The story starts in a mental asylum, where the protagonist, 17 year old Snow, believes she’s a menace to herself and possibly others however she slowly learns that it may not be a mental instability she is suffering but a power she possesses that’s being suppressed by those who are responsible for her. Trapped in the walls of Whittaker Institute, day by day Snow just feels she really does not belong there – she’s experiencing strange dreams and mysterious unexplainable events until one night, an orderly comes to her with an opportunity for self discovery and she has to decide whether to stay in this high security mental asylum or embark on a new adventure that could be the key to her life and possible gifts. 

The prologue captured my attention very quickly and as the story commenced, it was intriguing however I found part way through the plot appeared to be put on pause as Snow was going through her self discovery. Although I read mixed reviews on this book, I personally didn’t think it was a bad read at all. The mystery of who she is and other characters she meets keeps you turning the page.

This book is now available in stores.. Many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me an Advance Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

-Annie

Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

Blog Duet by Annie and Amanda – rating this book 4 stars

This story will take you back to the enchanting place of Wonderland long before Alice fell down the rabbit hole. This story follows Princess Dinah, the heiress to the throne – the future Queen of Hearts – in a place that is ruled under an iron fist by her father, the king. Characters such as Cheshire, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter make their appearance in this fantasy/twisted fairy tale that sets a whole new light on a place we all thought we once knew.

Amanda:
This Alice in Wonderland prequel of sorts was a quick read. There were interesting aspects to this novel, especially seeing how the known characters from the Alice in Wonderland universe fit into this story. Although I enjoyed this story, I couldn’t exactly find a main plot line – it was like reading about the world building of Wonderland, meanwhile there was a dark story lurking within this world. Some parts of this story remain a mystery to me – some I managed to predict – but it has kept me hanging for part 2 where I am hoping my questions will be answered. I see potential with this series so I am interested to read the next one. The read along was fun – Annie and I were texting each other over a few days updating each other on which parts we were up to – we both agree, we absolutely hate the King!!! and we both have theories as to some of the characters which we won’t share here to avoid spoilers.

Annie:
Well I had the pleasure of doing a read along for this book with Amanda and it was quite fun texting with page and chapter number updates – a lot of which included emoticons expressing my shock or anger at particular parts of the story. I have to say, it’s not a bad prequel to Alice in Wonderland and it certainly explains a lot about the Queen of Hearts and how she become what we know her to be in future stories. Although this was a dark retelling/prequel to the story we all know, I felt it was quite creative how the author intricately rebuilt the world of Wonderland. It was also quite funny to see how a deck of cards have such involvement in the ruling of Wonderland – hearts were royal.. clubs were dark military etc. I found this to be a fast paced read, very easy to follow and even with a story full of mystery, twists and turns, there were moments we would “call it” and other times that slapped us in the face. Like Amanda, I see potential for this series so I am looking forward to the subsequent book/s.

Special thanks to Harper Collins Publishers for sending us an Advance Review Copy in exchange for our honest review

A Stolen Kiss by Kelsey Keating

A whimsical fairytale retelling that steals the heart…4.5 stars

“I’m expected to marry a girl I just met and live happily ever after with her. We were supposed to fall in love at first sight, right? But the thing is, I don’t even know if I like her much right now. She attacked me! Look at the bite marks!” 

Reading A Stolen Kiss is like reading a fairytale that broke all the rules; it is vivid, beautiful, thought provoking and unputdownable. Imagine the Prince, Princess, Sorcerer and the Lady’s maid all having multiple dimensions to their personality with weaknesses, self doubt, fears, choices, opinions that’s different to what’s expected in their traditional role in fairytales; where the story turns the traditional tale of “true love’s kiss breaking the swan transformation curse” on its head; the result is a well executed whimsical fairytale retelling with endearing characters. I enjoyed the adventure, character depth/development, magic (an essential ingredient), lots of plot twists and beautiful tender dialogues. This fairytale retelling definitely went above my expectations. It is also empowering to read a fairytale where the characters are self-aware of their role in a traditional fairytale while having choices to be different! Highly recommended for readers of romance, fantasy novels and especially those that like fairytales with a twist.

Other great quotes:

“The one you care for. You don’t care for this version? He’s rather honest, though, isn’t he? Or are his truths like mine—unwanted? You want the pretty package…. the heart of gold. You don’t want the baggage that comes with it.”

“If you focus on your mistakes and your failures, you’ll never grow past them”

“Everyone’s so obsessed with doing the right thing, but if you’re miserable doing it, how can it be the right thing?”

Click here to read the book blurb on Goodreads.

– NJ

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Sevenwaters #1 … 5 stars

I simply cannot put this book down because of its exquisite, sensational writing and engrossing storytelling. Sorcha’s story is a dark magical fairytale where her personal strength plays an essential role in her journey to save her family. This story is one of triumph of the human spirit, faith and belief, and most of all, love. Written in first person narration, it is both raw and heartfelt. Recommended if you like strong female characters that challenges the patriarchal society, fairytale retelling with strong female presence and voice, sensational story steeped in Irish tradition and folklore, magical mysterious characters/circumstances as well as a sweeping love story worthy of a thousand songs.

Click here to read the book blurb on Goodreads.

-NJ

 

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

bitter greensBitter Greens by Kate Forsyth: 5 stars

Australian Author and friend Kate Forsyth dazzles readers with her book, Bitter Greens. This is one of my all time favourite reads. So beautifully written, so creative is the storyline which is in fact a fairy tale retelling of “Rapunzel” that is intertwined with the scandalous life of one of the tale’s first tellers, Charlotte-Rose de la Force.

Set in 18th Century Versailles, Charlotte has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV to the nun monastery where she meets an old nun, Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens.

A lot of thought and research went into this story. Kate spent time overseas going through the Brothers Grimm archives so the places and times in this story are historically accurate. I honestly could not put this read down, took approx. 3 days for me to finish. Three women, three lives, three stories, braided together to create a compelling story of desire, obsession, black magic and the redemptive power of love. So captivating.. I gave this 5 stars, would give it 6 if I could..

Click here to read the book blurb on Goodreads.

-Annie