Rummanah Aasi
   I'm on a roll with reading fairy tale retellings this year. So far I've read four books and I do have my eye on reading Enchanted by The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy. I also hope to finally read Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine at some point this year too. There is something magical about fairy tales that keeps us coming back to them and adapting them to either modern day or a completely different setting altogether.

Description: When their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out as teens, they are invited to stay with Sophia Kelly at her sweet shop. Life seems idyllic--until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel, and learns that girls have been vanishing at Sophia's annual chocolate festival, taken by the insatiable witch of Gretchen's nightmares.

Review: As you can probably tell from the names of the characters, Sweetly is a dark, contemporary take on the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. In this retelling, Gretchen's twin sister disappears in the dark woods. Flash forward, 18-year-old Gretchen and her 19-year-old brother, Ansel, still struggle to understand who—or what—took Gretchen’s twin sister that night. After their father dies and their stepmother kicks them out, they travel cross-county till their car breaks down in Live Oak, South Carolina. There they meet Sophia, a beautiful, young chocolatier whose enchanting cottage-shoppe outside town becomes their new home. But both Sophia and the town hold secrets, and when Gretchen ventures into the nearby forest, she realizes things and people are not as they seem—and her childhood terror is real. For the most part, I enjoyed Sweetly. I liked the brother/sister relationship between Ansel and Gretchen. The plot and mythology was a bit slow and dragged for me, but I did like how Pearce tackled the issues of loss, grief, and survivor's guilt. I also thought the climax was a bit gory for my taste, but I'm sure those who like their fairy tales dark won't mind as much. I was, however, completely lost when the Fenris (werewolves) that come out of nowhere in the book. I know they played a big part in Sisters Red, but I really didn't understand what purpose they had in this book. Overall, it was pretty good but not great.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images including gory violence and some language. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, Fathomless by Jackson Pearce, A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

Description: Bewitching can be a beast. . . . Once, I put a curse on a beastly and arrogant high school boy. That one turned out all right. Others didn't. I go to a new school now-one where no one knows that I should have graduated long ago. I'm not still here because I'm stupid; I just don't age. You see, I'm immortal. And I pretty much know everything after hundreds of years-except for when to take my powers and butt out. I want to help, but things just go awry in ways I could never predict. Like when I tried to free some children from a gingerbread house and ended up being hanged. After I came back from the dead (immortal, remember?), I tried to play matchmaker for a French prince and ended up banished from France forever. And that little mermaid I found in the Titanic lifeboat? I don't even want to think about it. Now a girl named Emma needs me. I probably shouldn't get involved, but her gorgeous stepsister is conniving to the core. I think I have just the thing to fix that girl-and it isn't an enchanted pumpkin. Although you never know what will happen when I start . . . bewitching.

Review: I was very excited to read Bewitching as I found Kendra to be a really intriguing character in Beastly. I wanted to know more about her story and Bewitching fulfills that desire and more. In 1666, teenage Kendra relates the horror of watching her family die from a plague, halted only when she becomes aware of her own magic and heals her remaining brother. Though the spotlight is on Kendra, she generously shares the stage with other fairy tales as she reflects on helping and/or harming those around her. We are taken across the years as we revisit the sinister gingerbread house, the Little Mermaid rescues a Titanic passenger, and the Princess and the Pea takes which takes place at Versailles. My favorite fairy tale out of all of these is amazing rendition of Cinderella. Though I knew the fairy tale, I was still turning the pages to find out what would happen next. I flipped back and forth on identifying the heroine and the evil stepsister. Despite the jumpy transitions between the fairy tales, I thought Bewitching was a fun read. I'm curious to see where Kendra is headed next in her chronicles.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and strong sensuality. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Beastly or Cloaked or A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn, Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman, 

Description: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth's fate hinges on one girl. . . . Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She's a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister's illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai's, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world's future. In this thrilling debut young adult novel, the first of a quartet, Marissa Meyer introduces readers to an unforgettable heroine and a masterfully crafted new world that's enthralling.

Review: I never thought a science fiction rendition of the Cinderella story with blending androids, hovercrafts, and netscreens with royalty, a ball, and an evil stepmother would work, but Meyer's inventive and vivid world makes it plausible and enjoyable. I was a bit hesitant that the technological aspect of Cinder's world would be a bit much, but I was worried for nothing. Cinder is the perfect read for those who want an enjoyable book with science fiction elements without reading a heavy science fiction book.
  I loved the characters, especially Linh Cinder who is our sassy heroine that stands on her own. Though she is treated as a subhuman due to being a cyborg and forced to earn the family's living as a mechanic, she stands on her own and isn't afraid to speak her mind.
  While I did learn about the plot twists a bit prematurely with the book's early foreshadowing, I was still enthralled by this book. I wanted to learn more about Prince Kai and see how his and Cinder's relationship become closer. I also wanted to learn more about the Lunar throne. Though there is still quite a lot of world building to create, I think Meyer has a great start with Cinder. I'm eagerly awaiting to see what happens next as Cinder's story continues in four other books. Just a heads up, the book does end a cliffhanger of sorts, but I was actually okay with leaving the story there.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images and some language. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer coming in 2013, Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott, Ash by Malinda Lo, Ella Enchated by Gail Carson Levine, and for 'readable' science fiction try Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld or The Host by Stephanie Meyer

5 Responses
  1. Oh, fine, I surrender. I was SO determined not to read Cinder since I generally dislike fairy tale retellings, but all the wonderful reviews, even by my most critical friends, convinced me otherwise. I'm glad that the sci-fi elements were mild, but interesting enough, and even if it was a bit predictable, it still sounds like an excellent read.

  2. I've been so reluctant to try Cinder because I'm not big on scifi, but with each review I read, I get more convinced that I just might like it.

    I haven't read anything by Pearce yet, but my sister is a fan and has been telling me that I need to read SR. Thought it does seems a bit odd that the werewolf was thrown into Sweetly. Maybe it was just passing through?

    I've only read one Flinn book, and I thought it was okay. But, thanks to you, I'm very curious about her other work. Thanks, R!

  3. Yay, I'm glad you liked Cinder as I really enjoyed it too. Bewitching sounds pretty good; I wasn't really impressed with Beastly. And oh my god, you have to read Ella Enchanted! It's one of my favourite MG reads and my cousin ended up loving it too despite not being a fan of fairytales or fantasy.

  4. Rubita Says:

    Every time I read a review of Jackson Pearce book, I think of The Booksmugglers' review of Sisters Red. They were positively scathing. I noticed in your recommendation section that you suggested Sisters Red...have you read it? What did you think? I've read Sweetly, but that's it...

    I loved Bewitching! I think I could have done with one less sidebar fairytale, but the whole thing was a fun, fast read for me. I like that the MC was mature enough to realize that bringing her evil stepsister down wasn't going to make her feel better.

  5. Missie, Maja: Definitely check out Cinder. It's a great read. I really liked it. I thought it was an original retelling.

    @Ruby: I have not, but I'd read many reviews on GR indicating that I should've read SR first and then Sweetly. I'm going to give it a go and let you know what I think. As for Bewitching, yeah I totally rooted for her. It took me a while to find the evil stepsister. She was really tricky!

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