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review 2018-03-15 18:06
Forest Born - Shannon Hale

The best character in the series comes at the end - Rinna adds fascinating struggles and a whole new power to the mix, but I may have reached the end of my capacity to marathon Hale's books, as I found this one a bit more of a struggle to get through. Alternately, that could be down to the structure; there's a lot of running around in the woods with less of a traditional story arc and fewer clear stakes. Still, very worth the effort for Hale's trademark insight and nuanced character explorations. It looks like she's focused more on MG/early readers books in recent years, but it would be great to have more classic fairytale-style fantasies!

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review 2018-03-13 18:42
Classic fantasy feels like coming home
River Secrets - Shannon Hale

Another excellent fantasy by Hale. This third book pivots to a male POV with great success, and delves into political drama and learning to value your own uniqueness. Which, yes that's the heart of nearly every YA book, but Hale has a shockingly deft touch at it; she's a master of showing through meaningful character interactions rather than navel-gazing angsty ruminations. Sad that there's only one more entry in the series.

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review 2018-03-11 03:51
Lovely, classic fairytale-style fantasy
The Goose Girl - Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale writes perfect fairytale-style modern fantasies. Every book reminds me of stories I read as a kid, but the level of storytelling sophistication and nuance in characterization holds up by today's standards.


The Goose Girl launches a classic, almost remote or detached-feeling princess story in the type of Euro-historic setting that so often feels tired and overdone, but in this case feels timeless and intuitive. You know the twists are coming, but follow the characters every step of the way. Rather than predictable, the plot feels archetypal.


The princess has a rich, nuanced internal life and faces challenges with realistically flawed reactions. Things get ugly, and it's not only the strength she grows through her trials that helps her, but the hard-won friendships she makes and discovers.


Beautiful, beautiful storytelling that I'd have happily read by age 8 or so. Some light romantic stuff (after all, she's a princess on her way to get married off), but none of the awkward deep-dives into teenaged hormones or explicit behind-closed-doors scenes that push some YA into the mature category. Can't recommend highly enough.

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review 2018-03-08 02:30
A historical fairy tale that has gone straight on to my favorites list, and I’m not usually big on fairy tales OR mermaids! Christina Henry has written something special here
The Mermaid - Christina Henry

'The Mermaid' has immediately gone onto my favorites list, so I can tell you right away that this book is an absolute treat.
When I grabbed my early copy of it at Emerald City Con at the weekend, I hadn't heard it was coming out, so I certainly didn't harbor any expectations for it, and to be honest, I'm not even a big fan of fairytale retellings. Plus I had to dispel any recent images of killer mermaids I still had in my head after reading 'Into the Drowning Deep’ by Mira Grant, and I thought this would be the perfect way to do that.

'The Mermaid' is a historical fairy tale about a mermaid who wasn't content enough with life in the ocean so she decided that life on land, with a man called Jack, who she feels is the love of her life, was where she needed to be. Amelia was able to come and go from the sea as she pleased, and it seemed as though her life was everything she needed it to be...until Jack grew old (and she didn't). She was then discovered by the great P.T. Barnum. The same P.T. Barnum of Barnum & Bailey Circus Company, who is famous for coining the phrase "There's a sucker born every minute."

That's where Amelia's life completely changed, and the story of the mermaid becomes loosely based off the 'Feejee Mermaid' hoax that Barnum orchestrated. Author Christina Henry obviously did a lot of research to include details about Joice Heth and Tom Thumb (reading the novel will make this all clear!); I found all of this, and all Barnum's various 'humbugs' to be absolutely fascinating (and shocking).

Through the eyes of Amelia, who is essentially a stranger, 'an alien' to this foreign modern world that is New York circa 1840, she questions all sorts of things: why wear all the silly trappings of clothes, why are women not afforded the same rights as men, why are animals treated so poorly, why are people who are not white or Christian 'savages', and so on. And she dares to question her new 'employer' Barnum*, who basically is raking in the dough with her mermaid exhibit.
*I have no idea what to make of P.T.Barnum as a person or character, but Henry does say this rendition is the one that suits her story.

There is so much to love about this book: the wonderful characters who fit within the actual mold that was cast, but who now have been brought to life, the writing of Henry's that seems to flow so beautifully and seems so befitting of the time, and all the questions and ideas that spring off the pages through the character of the mermaid Amelia.
And then there's the idea of the mermaid herself, something we think we have an idea about, and here it is done again; I felt like what I was reading was subtle and ethereal, and in the way that that Amelia was trying to show her reality within the book to others, I was being made to believe it too. There are also themes of sadness, loss, and longing, new love, and acceptance, in the book, and I felt those emotions from the characters clearly. It was wonderful to read all of that and move along with the feelings like waves.

Absolutely wonderful book. I already want to own whatever special edition is made. And the Funko Pop.

I received free books from Penguin Random House in exchange for this review. Thank you!

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review 2018-03-04 01:50
Audio Book Review: Curiouser and Curiouser
Curiouser and Curiouser - Melanie Karsak Curiouser and Curiouser - Melanie Karsak

*I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

Alice follows the boy who stole her employers pocket watch, Rabbit, back into the life she left behind. Into the rough part of town she returns, summoned. The love she once felt for William surfaces as the man he is now needs her help. Blackmailed into helping to save her sisters love, The Hatter, from his debt, Alice agrees to help Caterpillar.

Lesley's tone when speaking as Alice feels to fit her curiosity, which is the feel we get from Alice in many stories of her adventure. She has an opinion that she voices, not mean or rude, just a thought to add to the discussion.

Melanie writes Alice with the feel we would expect. A curious young lady with thoughts of her own to share. The story isn't as much falling down a literal hole like in the original story. But Alice living in a world full of wonder, and following a boy nicknamed Rabbit. The world created is full of steamwork and clockwork items. This blended with the steam and smoke draws a world of danger and mystery in which Alice is pulled back into. This is a talent as Melanie very craftily wrote the story in the actual living of the characters.

We see the world full of clockwork and steampunk from the beginning. There is a darkness to the story as well, particularly with one of the characters. Creepy, dark. But fits in the harsh life of the characters here. There is even a touch of magic present. Just a touch. Mostly the world is steam and clockwork.

There is a feel of double meaning to words, it's not confusing but tricky. Listen closely to catch it. I love how people have two names; real name and a nickname. Like William who's known as Caterpillar in town. Each name goes with a different part of his life. Which person is he when talking to Alice? William or Caterpillar? Both are of a different nature and are known for different things to Alice. This gives the twisty feel that we get from Wonderland.

Melanie touches on all the main characters from Alice in Wonderland in her remake. It was a nice game for me to see about spotting them all, though their names do give them away.

I was pleasantly surprised with Melanie's creation here. She captured so many important elements from Alice in Wonderland yet wrote a different story that feels true to the world. So well done!

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