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text 2017-05-28 20:46
In Her Head
The Constant Princess - Philippa Gregory

I've been on a kick with Philippa Gregory novels lately. They've taken the place in my reading schedule of the "bath book" - mass-market historical romances that I read in the bathtub in the morning. I've finished the Cousins' War cycle and traveled into the Tudors. I may read a few more before drifting away from her again, or perhaps not. 

 

 

I really like a few things about Gregory's novels; equally, there are a few things that I don't like so much. She's wonderful with character - especially women. She gives a historical voice to females who often either had no public voice or whose public image was shaped by men over the centuries. She gives the plots and machinations of Renaissance politics great atmosphere. 

 

When reading Gregory, one must remember that she's playing fast-and-loose with history, and some of her choices regarding characters who are historic figures and their motivations have absolutely no documentation. These are historical FICTION, not History with a capital H. But they're pretty fun and easy to digest.

 

What I don't like - often her stories feel remarkably passionless. She covers so many years - decades even - of time in a novel it feels like driving through history at 55 mph. And her writing style sometimes confounds me. That was the case in "The Constant Princess," the story of the young years of Katherine of Aragon. 

 

Gregory's novels, for me, are most successful when they use a first-person point of view, and as a reader you spend the entire book inside the main character's head. "The Constant Princess" inexplicably shifts from third-person to first person, with only a change in typeface. The first-person sections are not diary entries. They are not testimony, nor are they letters. They are not even extended thought bubbles, as scenes happen within them. It's just the author wanting to have the best of both worlds - the ability to live in an omniscient world and to be inside her character's thoughts. 

 

However, there were things about "The Constant Princess" that I really, really loved. First and foremost, I naively have spent my whole life believing Katherine of Aragon's testimony that she and Arthur Prince of Wales never consummated their marriage. Henry was the bad guy. Why would Katherine ever lie?

 

Why, indeed? Could I never see before how much was at stake for her before? This novel not only removed that blinder, but Gregory chooses to give them a passionate, tender love story, making his death even more poignant. It was by far the most compelling part of this novel, and I was moved.

 

I would love to read a Catalina/Arthur love story again - this time at a slightly higher level of presentation. 

 

-cg

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review 2017-05-01 18:10
Beauty of the Beast - Rachel L. Demeter

Not only is the cover of Beauty of the Beast gorgeous, but the story is a beautifully written reimagining of Beauty and the Beast. This is the first novel I've read by Rachel L. Demeter and certainly won't be the last. The story is so vibrant I felt like I was there, even during the few horrifying moments both Isabelle (Beauty) and Prince Adam (Beast) experienced.


As the synopsis warns, there is strong sexual content and sexual assault in the novel (not committed by the hero), so I wouldn't recommend this for readers under 18. Without giving anything away, I also want to warn you that there's a very upsetting tragedy (well, several really) in the beginning which was difficult for me to get through because it tore my heart out and chopped it up in a blender. Let's just say I totally get why Adam chose to isolate himself and is difficult to thaw out when interacting with Isabelle.

 

But soon an undeniable attraction grows between them, simmering at first, then boiling. I wanted to shout at them to get together already and couldn't figure out if they would or wouldn't. Honestly, I enjoyed being kept in suspense. 

 

There are sweet moments, angry ones as well as immensely sad ones. I was taken through the gamut of emotions, the entire spectrum while reading Beauty of the Beast. It was an emotional roller coaster ride, but one in which I wouldn't mind going through again. I'm now anxiously anticipating which fairy tale Demeter will reimagine next. Fingers crossed for The Little Mermaid!!

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review 2016-05-10 18:00
In the Land of Stories: Beyond the Kingdoms by Chris Colfer

Beyond the Kingdoms (The Land of Stories) - Chris Colfer Love this series! Can't wait for the next one! It comes out on July 12th! 

This is the fourth In the Land of Stories novel, for my reviews on the previous three, follow the links for book one, two, and three. This series doesn't exist in a single long story, like some others do. Each one stands on its own, though the history of the previous one influences that later stories. They build on the original versions of fairy tales and intertwine in a great way. I love the way this one has started to incorporate even more types of stories! 

 

It's a great middle-grade book when you're in the mood for one or doing  the Read Harder challenge.

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review 2015-10-09 16:05
awesome steampunk take on Frankenstein!
This Monstrous Thing - Mackenzi Lee

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My stop on the blog tour can be found at Donnie Darko Girl.

This Monstrous Thing is an awesome steampunk take on the Frankenstein story that breathes new life (ha ha!) into the monster tale. When Alasdair's brother Oliver dies, Alasdair brings him back to life using clockwork parts but he doesn't come back the same way he was before he died. Then the book fast forwards two years.

Alasdair keeps the fact that he brought Oliver back to life a secret from their parents, and I wondered why. I could see both pros and cons of letting them know the son they thought was dead was alive again in some way, but I think ultimately Alasdair feared for Oliver's safety. Clockwork men and women are hated and feared, and Alasdair knew he couldn't hide Oliver forever if he brought him home.

I wasn't a fan of Alasdair's father - he was too gruff with his living son. If I only had one son who was still alive, I'd like to think I wouldn't be so tough on him. I guess it was because of the difficult life their family leads due to the secret and illegal work they do with clockwork parts. Still, I wasn't a fan of their father.

I do like Alasdair and Oliver. Their relationship sounded very close before Oliver died, but it changed after Oliver was brought back from the dead. It changed in ways Alasdair couldn't have predicted, and I loved the exploration of their relationship and the factors that changed it.

Admittedly there were a couple of slow moments in This Monstrous Thing; however, I still enjoyed the story. I love that there's an exploration of what makes us human and the question of whether that humanity is wiped away (and if so how much?) when you start adding mechanical, moving parts to keep the body going. But most of all, how much humanity remains when you die and are brought back with mostly mechanical parts? When you can't remember much of your life?

If you're a fan of Frankenstein and are looking for a fresh re-imagining of the story involving a tale of two brothers, then This Monstrous Thing will be right up your alley.

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text 2015-08-04 15:48
Top Ten Tuesday: August 4
Briar Rose - Jane Yolen
Tam Lin - Pamela Dean,Terri Windling
Zel - Donna Jo Napoli
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories - Angela Carter
Spinners - Donna Jo Napoli,Richard Tchen
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister - Gregory Maguire
The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold - Francesca Lia Block
Snow White And Rose Red - Patricia C. Wrede
Fitcher's Brides (Fairy Tale (Tor)) - Gregory Frost
The Nightingale - Kara Dalkey

(Original Top Ten Tuesday concept from The Broke and the Bookish)

 

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is Best Fairytale Retellings I Have Read and/or Want to Read.

 

Reimaginings of fairy tales and classic stories is one of my favorite genres. I've read quite a few, but there are a lot out there still to tackle, so I've split the list between "read" and "want to read." Some of these are compilations rather than single stories (The Bloody Tower, The Rose and the Beast). I probably could have easily made a whole list out of the Donna Jo Napoli books I've read and loved (she seems to specialize in YA fairytale retellings), but I limited it to my absolute favorites to give room to others I have enjoyed.

 

Read:

 

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen. The Sleeping Beauty story told in the context of the Holocaust.

 

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean. A very bookish campus novel that reimagines the Scottish folktale of Tam Lin and the Fairy Queen.

 

Zel by Donna Jo Napoli. Rapunzel in 1500s Switzerland. I recall it as a very beautiful YA love story, though I read it years ago.

 

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. A classic feminist reimagining of multiple famous fairy tales, though the title comes from a version of Bluebeard.

 

Spinners by Donna Jo Napoli. Napoli reimagines the story of Rumpelstiltskin, giving new motivations and greater depth the the characters.

 

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire. It's been a while since I've read this, but I remember being fascinated by the nuance Maguire gives his characters.

 

The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block. A charming, if very short, collection of multiple retellings.

 

Want to read:

 

Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede. Wrede sets her version of the famous tale in Elizabethan England.

 

Fitcher’s Brides by Gregory Frost. This one recasts Bluebeard as a charismatic preacher in mid-19th century New York. This is probably the one I want to read the most.

 

The Nightingale by Kara Dalkey. Dalkey recasts the Andersen tale in the court of ancient Japan.

 

(These three to-read titles are all part of the same Fairy Tales series, as are Briar Rose and Tam Lin, edited and compiled by Terri WIndling, who often worked with Ellen Datlow on their famous anthologies).

 

BONUS to read: All the Ellen Datlow-edited short story anthologies (Snow White, Rose Red; Black Heart, Ivory Bones; etc). I have several of them, and have dipped in and out, but I really want to read them all eventually.

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