Category Archives: modern fairy tale
The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson
Published August 15th 2012 by Fire & Ice Books
Format: Kindle ebook: freebie
Length: 194 pages (or 224 pages?) / 330 KB
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Fairytale
Reading Level: All Ages
Goodreads | Amazon
Everyone knows how all those fairy tales go. The princess gets beautiful, nabs her prince, falls instantly in love, lives happily ever after and leaves her evil stepsisters in the dust. But what happens when you’re the ugly stepsister and your obnoxiously perfect — read pretty, smart, and, worst of all, sickeningly nice — stepsister is dating the charming, tall, devastatingly handsome guy you’ve had a thing for since you were nine years old?
Quirky, artistic and snarky Mattie Lowe does not lead a charmed life. Her mother is constantly belittling her on Skype. Mercedes, the school mean girl, has made it her personal mission to torment Mattie. But worst of all? Her stepsister Ella is the most beautiful, popular girl in school and is dating Mattie’s secret longtime crush, Jake Kingston.
Tired of being left out and done with waiting for her own stupid fairy godmother to show up, Mattie decides to change her life. She’ll start by running for senior class president against wildly popular Jake.
Ella can keep her Prince Annoying. Mattie’s going to rule the school.
And no one, not even a cute and suddenly flirty Jake, is going to stop her.
I first saw The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson during its blog tour and when I saw it was available as an ebook freebie, I snapped it up. I adore fairytale rewrites. A fairytale mash up is pretty much guaranteed to make me happy. The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back was fun and light and a nice, quick read. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It…ignited a fiery ball of rage in my chest that burned with the heat of a thousand suns. Let me explain my epic rage to you. (I’m about to be harsh. Sorry.)
Wilson used the biggest, baddest ugly stepsister/duckling cliché of them all. The world is being tricked, everybody! The ugly stepsister isn’t really ugly at all and with a little bit of effort, some hair styling, and a touch of makeup she can be utterly beautiful. The underdog is only some eyeliner and lip gloss away from being the pretty princess. Mattie’s style is punkish and funky, she’s got an attitude and a problem with stupid people, but none of that matters because she apparently has great boobs. In fact, we’re told that one of the first real meetings between Mattie and her object of obsession Jake is between lover boy, a skimpy robe, and her awesome boobs. It’s one of those ridiculous situations where if the nerd takes their glasses off they are suddenly pretty or handsome and as a certified ugly person, I am deeply insulted. Ella is just misunderstood and Mattie really isn’t ugly. The only problems these girls have are the ones manufactured in their heads. They are rich, beautiful, and hormonal and I want to gag.
[deep breath] Sorry if some of my indignation got on your clothing. I think I was the completely wrong person to read this book. Yes, it has a basis in the fairytale Cinderella. But it is also a teenage drama and teenage drama makes me want to scream. I have zero interest in teenagers’ petty problems. I would have dropped Jake like a hot potato after he asked me to do the school project on my own and then add his name to it. No excuses; I don’t care how much pressure your parents are putting on you. Instead, Mattie continues to chase after the ass. I think my eye started to twitch at this point.
Despite my displeasure with many things, I did finish the book. The Stepsister Strikes Back has some charming points and watching Mattie make a real connection with Ella and then stand up for herself against her mother was nice. It’s predictable but that’s just the nature of the creature when dealing with a fairytale rewrite. It would have been nice to see some sort of twist but the plot remains fairly straight forward. It would help if the book followed the blurb it has but it’s less about Mattie taking charge and coming into her own and more about everyone around Mattie teaming up to get her and Jake together. It’s a disappointing fake out, really. The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson was just ok in my opinion. I’m mostly just glad I didn’t pay for it.
Rating: 2.5 stars : Meh
Whoa, it’s been awhile since I had a book review up. I need to get back into the game. I picked up a bunch of books during my trip to Main Street Books a few weekends ago and I really need to get cracking on them. In fact, I believe they would be perfect for the Wicked Wildfire Readathon starting up on Wednesday. For today, I’ve got the review of Witch Catcher by Mary Downing Hahn for you all. This review is going to be fast and dirty. You’ve been warned.
Summary from Goodreads:
When her widower father inherits a castle-like estate in the mountains of West Virginia, 12-year-old Jen is thrilled. It seems like a wish come true. But she quickly realizes that not all change is positive. Her dad has a mysterious new girlfriend, Moura, who slowly drives a wedge between Jen and her father. Furthermore, Moura has an unusually strong—almost obsessive—interest in the antiques that fill the mansion, especially a beautiful glass globe that Jen finds hanging in a window. When Jen’s cat accidentally breaks the globe, which Moura calls a “witch catcher,” strange things begin to happen….
Witch Catcher was another of those books that tells a classic fairytale, emphasis on the fairy. Like with Witch Hill by Marcus Sedgwick that I reviewed a few weeks ago, Witch Catcher gives us a story that is embedded in our collective psyche. It feels familiar, reaching back into oral tradition. The intrepid heroine faced with danger to her family and a new friend in need of help, rising above herself and becoming more than she ever thought she could have been. This is the story where magic invades everyday life and those are the best fairytales.
I adore the characters, especially the aunts. The fairies are well done and I liked how even they weren’t completely good. I’ve studied some Fae lore, and that little fact right there made the whole book for me. Witch Catcher by Mary Downing Hahn was a pleasure to read. It’s simple and the plot is as old as time, but it’s a good book for the nostalgia factor. Don’t expect to be wowed but it’s a solid story with likeable characters. It’s a story you’ve heard before but still speaks to the place deep inside that still believes in magic. I’d recommend it for a lazy evening read.
I burned out about two weeks ago. I was trying to do too many things at once. I was getting into a new fandom, which means I was writing new stories, then I was acting as a beta reader for another writer, and then I was trying to read two books a week. Something had to give and the book blog got pushed to the back burner. I hate, hate, hate feeling rushed and pressured like that and just had too many things on my plate. But I’m back after that short hiatus and I am easing back into the book world with a cute little book called Diary of a Fairy Godmother by Esmé Faji Codell.
Hunky Dory is a witch and top of her class at charm school. She is going to be the wickedest witch wherever the four winds blow. Hunky excels at being bad, which is good. She can wilt flowers with a stare and even turn a prince into a dragon. But she always turns them back. In fact, Hunky’s interest in wishcraft instead of witchcraft gets her kicked out of charm school and even out of her own home! Now Hunky is determined to become the best fairy godmother she can but she’s not quite sure how to do it. Finally, motivated by jealousy over her friend Rumpelstiltskin’s crush on the girl in the roomful of straw, she meets the ticket to realizing her career dream – Cinderella.
I adore books that take classic fairy tales and turn them on their heads and Diary of a Fairy Godmother is certainly twisted enough. This book was a cute, quick read and perfect for a lazy afternoon and to ease me back into reading. The word games took a little bit of getting used to. Everything bad is good in Hunky’s world and being a little wicked is the whole point of the story. The characters and character names are amusing. There are names like Frantic Search and Velvet Underground and all the little witch girls are hilarious. The world building is half the fun.
A few different fairy tales sneak in throughout this story, including Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. It’s sort of like what those fairy tales would be like if the characters made mistakes and had a healthy dose of attitude and snark. Hunky is trying to make her own way in the world and her fumbling is amusing. She is the original wishing well and even builds her own house out of cookie dough! (No children are eaten as a result. Sorry.) The main character appears to be a young child, about 13 or so to my estimate, and while we are told she is much older than that, I found it so odd with Hunky’s mother kicked her out of the house. It was weird. But then, Hunky is no ordinary kid and this is fairy tale world, so I should probably stop overthinking this.
Diary of a Fairy Godmother by Esmé Raji Codell is a cute coming of age story that reminds readers to make their own way in the world and that if they want something, they have to work for it. Wishes are never a good short cut. A person needs to build character. (Of course, if my Aunt tried to give me conflict as a birth gift I’d probably turn her into a toad at the first possible moment. But then, my Aunt isn’t the evil queen so maybe not.) Diary of a Fairy Godmother was a swift, sweet read with a witty writing style and was perfect for a lazy afternoon.
And now we come from classic fantasy to classic fairy tale with Winterling by Sarah Prineas. This is another well written juvenile book. It’s on the small side, with just under 250 pages. Most of the books I’ve been reading lately have touched 400 pages, so it was nice to come across a quick little read like Winterling. The story is classic fairy tale, with a distinct Chronicles of Narnia feel to it, complete with an evil winter queen character. Reading Winterling brought a sense of nostalgia for fairy tales and myths I often read as a child and I found myself really enjoying the book even though the plot was a common one.
Fer, short for Jennifer, lives with her witchy grandmother. While running through the wood one night she stumbles across a pool of water and saves a black dog being attacked by wolves. From there she is pulled into a land of wonder and magic through the Way. On the other side of the pool, Fer finds a beautiful Lady, a kingdom trapped in winter, and a people losing themselves to their wild animal sides. Something is wrong, spring will not come, and Fer must figure out a way to save the kingdom from a ruler who is not who she seems and discover the secret of her parents’ death and who she really is.
Winterling is pure classic fairy tale and a sweet little read. The plot is unremarkable and fairly predictable but the sense of nostalgia I felt while reading it warmed my heart. I felt like I should be cuddling up with my own grandmother and listening to her read to me. Winterling is the style of story that is so familiar because a lot of the same plot elements are seen in common fairy tales. These elements are a type collective memory in the human soul we all share and are present in fairy tales around the world. As such, we already know what’s going to happen in the story but in my opinion that doesn’t detract from the book. The fairy tale is what it is and doesn’t try to be anything else. I feel sort of bad because Winterling really is a good book but I can’t seem to find much to say about it!
The characters have traditional fairy tale roles as well. Fer is the lost heir. She is the seemingly ordinary girl that turns out to have an extraordinary lineage. Rook is the magical creature trapped by evil, a good guy made to do bad things and the fae trickster. The Mór is the evil queen, the ruler whose evil corrupts the land and brings eternal winter. We even have a journey to a magical land through a strange portal (thankfully, not a wardrobe). It’s all very Narnian and C.S. Lewis-esque. These elements are so familiar to us as a culture that the story feels like curling up in a wooly blanket.
Winterling by Sarah Prineas is a book anyone, young or old, will enjoy reading. It’s the type of story that connoisseurs of the fairy tale genre will love and has the classic elements that will appeal to a wide range of readers. This is a book that people will recognize and feel comfortable with because of the familiar fairy tale components and characters that feel like old friends. Reading Winterling was rather like coming across an old cherished memory; the rediscovering of a piece of childhood. I recommend it to anyone looking for a quick, entertaining fairy tale story. This would make the perfect bedtime story for any age.
The Death Catchers by Jennifer Anne Kogler was a surprise find that I stumbled across when I was forced to walk down a different isle because of a mother and her crying demon offspring at the library. Thanks demon offspring! Then I discovered it had Arthurian legend as its basis and counted it as a double win. It also has grim reapers, magical sisters, and one very confused teenager. You can’t lose with that team! This is my second book of 2012 and counts toward my 100 books in a year challenge.
Lizzy Mortimer’s grandmother, Bizzy, has a secret and on Lizzy’s fourteenth Halloween she learns that her family has a special origin, one that connects her to King Arthur and Avalon. Words swirl on the newspaper page and Lizzy sees the announcement of the death of her best friend, Jodi. Lizzy discovers that all legends are based in fact and an ancient grudge threatens her family, her friends, and the world itself. It’s a race to unravel the secret of The Last Descendant, Vivienne le Mort, and figure out Lizzy’s part in the future of the world.
I loved this book. I disliked this book. I am of two minds about this book. First of all, it was a surprise Arthurian legend find, although it is only the female Avalon characters that show up. (I’m hoping for a sequel so we can see Merlin woken up. I would bet money that Jodi is really Merlin reborn. [or that’s what I am hoping anyway]) Still, it has Arthurian legend as its base and that makes me happy. I also have a soft spot for death characters; grim reapers, banshee, lords of the underworld, etc. I want to pet them. So that’s another positive for this book. But my biggest peeve about The Death Catchers is the style and form it is written in. The narrator and main character, Lizzy, writes the whole story as if she is summiting a report to her teacher, Mrs. Tweedy. Apparently the events of the book caused her to miss an important school assignment and Mrs. Tweedy is allowing Lizzy to do a make-up project.
This would have been an inventive and amusing way to begin the story if Lizzy didn’t stop at the beginning of every chapter to talk to the fictional Mrs. Tweedy. We’re reading along in a chapter, happily engrossed with events, and then WHAM, Mrs. Tweedy and some stupid English fact derails us. It’s like having the floor suddenly disappear from under you and about as pleasant. Why Kogler insists on chopping up the story by doing this at the start of every new chapter, I have no idea. It ruined the whole flow of the book, in my opinion. I quickly found myself just skimming the first few paragraphs of each chapter so I could get back to the actual story.
Formatting faux pas aside, I loved the plot. The rest of the book almost makes up for the annoying Mrs. Tweedy parts. Lizzy is flawed and uncertain and makes a great main character. The male lead has that annoying habit of being perfect in every way, so much so that I have to roll my eyes a little when I read about him. It sounds like our heroine is hooking up with a plastic Ken doll. Bizzy is awesome. She’s the type of grandmother everyone wishes for and is probably the most badass character in the book, despite being in her seventies. The surprise reveal is actually a surprise because you didn’t know there was another surprise to be revealed. We think we have everything about the Hands of Fate figured out but then a new fact appears and things get even more complicated. I’m rarely surprised in books now’a days but The Death Catchers managed to keep its secret until the very end.
The Death Catchers was a very good book but those annoying chapter beginnings kept it from being great for me. It’s a lovely coming of age story and the characters are a lot of fun. Bizzy and Jodi are the stereotypical kooks in the story but they are generally entertaining if you look past the cliché. There are a few hiccups in the writing but your mileage may vary and this might not even bother you like it does me. I’m glad I stumbled across Jennifer Anne Kogler’s book, even if it was because of a screaming demon child.
Here we go! My first book for 2012. I started The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab exactly on January 1st, so I wouldn’t cheat on any of my book challenges. This book counts toward my 100 book goal for the year and for the Witches and Witchcraft challenge. The Near Witch was one of those books that I was really looking forward to at the end of 2011. A lot of the YA and witchy book readers had been tracking this book and I’ve seen a few reviews that gave it good marks. When I tried to check the book out of the library in the beginning of December I ended up having to wait almost three weeks because all the copies were gone and there was a waiting list. I wasn’t the only one looking forward to reading The Near Witch.
Near is a village that sits out on the moor, a world unto itself. Lexi lives on the edge of the village, where only witches and hunters make their homes. Her father was a great hunter but he dead and left Lexi’s mother a ghost of her former self. Then one night Lexi sees a stranger out on the moor, a pale boy with dark hair. Soon after, the children of Near begin to disappear and people would like nothing more than to blame the stranger. But Near holds a terrible secret and Lexi must fight to save her home and her little sister from a myth.
I was really excited to read The Near Witch. It was one of the books I had been looking forward to during the autumn. Unfortunately, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. The story was a tad slow, with a lot of running around the village waiting for things to happen and the main character dealing with her stupid uncle. (Gods save us all from people who think they know better.) Near is a village that sits by itself on the moor and as soon as I understood the setting I knew one of my biggest aggravations was going to rear its head. Whenever there is a small village setting it never fails that most of its inhabitants are completely stupid and total bigots.
I don’t know what it is about the isolated village setting that makes authors flip some magical switch, but it never fails that the characters (mostly older males) turn out to be prejudiced buttheads. Lexi’s biggest obstacles in the story are her uncle, who thinks Lexi’s behavior is not befitting a girl, and her ex-best friend, who seems to be obsessed with Lexi and races past the creepy mark into psycho in a single chapter. The first time Tyler manhandled Lexi I wanted to knock his head off with a baseball bat. I hate that. Males characters to not have the right to pick female characters up and cart them around like they are nothing better than empty headed dolls. I hated Tyler and felt vicious pleasure when Lexi kicked him where the sun don’t shine later in the book.
There is a great deal of running around the village, Lexi avoiding her uncle and the Council, and waiting for things to happen. When we do get to the part where the witch appears, it’s a little ridiculous. I laughed when the witch’s bones pulled up the moor and created a body. It’s silly and pretty predictable. There is a little instant-romance between Lexi and the stranger; also predictable and silly. The Near Witch appears to be your standard fairy-tale that’s just been fleshed out. Most of the middle could be removed and we wouldn’t lose anything important.
I was hoping for something a little more original and creative from The Near Witch. Instead I got a typical fairy-tale story with secondary characters that I wished would drop dead so that the main character could just get on with it already. It was a slow and predictable story without much to really set it apart. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab is an okay book if you’re looking for an ordinary fairy-tale but don’t go looking for anything incredible.
Is there a better antidote to a lonely teen existence than a dose of fairy-tale magic? Elizabeth has yet to make friends at her new Manhattan private school, and she feels equally alone at home with her remote father and taskmaster stepmother. Then Elizabeth’s teacher recommends her for a job at the New York Circulating Material Repository, and as Elizabeth befriends the other pages, she begins to learn that fairy tales aren’t just fantasy and that many of the special collections’ artifacts belong to her favorite childhood stories, including the magic mirror from Snow White. Just as Elizabeth learns about the repository’s impossible wonders, some of the most powerful objects, and then some of the pages, disappear, and she finds herself leading the dangerous rescue. Captivating magic fills the pages of this exciting new novel from the author of Enthusiasm (2006). The story occasionally loses momentum, but action fans will find plenty of heart-pounding, fantastical escapades as the novel builds to its satisfying, romantic conclusion. ~ from Booklist.
I have a great fondness for modern-day fairy tales or any book that melds the two together. I picked up The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman when searching the shelves of the YA section at my local library for another book and was pleasantly surprised to find an original story that kept me interested until the very end. Who knew that the artifacts from our favorite fairy tales would be kept in the basement of a New York repository? Including the seven-league books, a mermaid’s comb, and the sinister mirror from Snow White! But when fakes are beginning to turn up in the place of the real artifacts, it seems the fairy tale is turning a little dark.
I genuinely liked the main characters and enjoyed the fact that the heroine ends up with the boy, just not the boy she thought she wanted. The big, giant love-story in the book is between two secondary characters and sort of sneaks up on the reader. The villain of the story doesn’t really show up until the latter half of the book and only has a passing scene in the first half. This means that the villain is genuinely a surprise but it also means that the reader may have trouble fitting the character into the scheme of things. He sort of comes out of nowhere and it’s hard to fit a new character, especially a character as big as the villain, into the book’s cast so late in the game.
The Grimm Legacy is a good book with an original idea that I am happy to recommend to any reader looking for a little magic in their everyday lives.