Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Review: Beauty and the Beast retellings

Beauty by Robin McKinley
Pages: 256
Rating: 3 our of 5 stars

I've always thought of this as one of those classics I "should" have read a long time ago. It felt like one of those Important Books that I somehow missed out on during my childhood. It also very like a very 1990s book (this cover was from the 1993 edition and the one I most associate as the "real" version), but I was surprised to realize that it was actually first published in 1978. To me, that's "old" and make more sense why I've associated it with a classic or standard version.

Unfortunately, I didn't read it in the 1990s. I read it in 2016, and I read it six years after I'd read Cameron Dokey's version Belle (part of the excellent Once Upon a Time series). Considering McKinley's version came out long before Dokey's did, I have things kind of reversed in my mind, which isn't entirely fair to McKinley but it is what it is. Since I read the Dokey version first, to me that's the "original" and McKinley's is the copy.

Belle by Cameron Dokey
Pages: 224
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Both versions are so similar that I don't know that my opinion of them wouldn't just be reversed had I read them in the opposite order. They're both written in that superficial way that works really well for fairy tale retellings. What I mean is that the characters don't have depth, the romance is very undeveloped, and the plot doesn't always make perfect sense, but none of that is a bad thing because it's supposed to be that way in a fairy tale.

Both versions stick closely to the bones of the fairy tale: family of sisters lose a mother and fortune, father has an incident with the beast and a rose (a man whose appearance and estate are cursed because his personality is beastly), girl takes place of father in a bargain with the beast, girl and beast find love, enchantment is broken, happily ever afters abound.

There isn't really much to either story beyond that, and nothing more is needed. Both stories are pleasant, slightly beautiful, forgettable in the details, but remembered fondly in the broad strokes. I'd recommend them both equally, but I personally lean toward Dokey because we met first (also, her book has the more beautiful cover. Even the reprints).

I enjoy these types of fairy tale retellings and I think it's somewhat unfair to compare them to the types of retellings where the author takes the bones of the fairy tale and then fleshes them out with their own unique story. Both approaches have their value and I enjoy them both. But, the latter has the ability to stick in my mind more, grip my heart more, and just feel more

Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
Pages: 402
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Special Shelf

Juliette Marillier's version is the more kind of retelling. It's a Beauty and the Beast retelling, yes, but it's also it's ok unique story. The bones of the original tale are used as a framework that Marillier then weaves her story around. The original becomes almost more inspiration, loosely alluded to and there enough to guide the story but not enough to dictate it or make what happens next wholly predictable.

What sticks in my mind is less the traditional tale and more a mix of ghosts, wintry chill, and peril. An old, isolated castle with cold stones, exploration, and hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. And by treasures, I don't mean gold, but things like libraries, hidden historical clues, stories lost to time, curses, magical artifacts, and secret rooms.

This is the kind of book where things are uncovered. My joy in reading came from following main character Caitrin as she explores the castle, meets the mysterious, friendly, and frightening denizens, uncovers the past, and pieces together the curse. The romance itself was ok. I wasn't a huge fan of the beast because he's, surprisingly, kind of weak. But that's ok, because everything else more than made up for this.

This is the type of book that makes me think of the word storytelling all italicized and underlined. This was a book to be savored, even though I flew through it, utterly absorbed. This is a book to be reread. It reminded me of books like Uprooted and The Thirteenth Tale and holds a place on my Special Shelf.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Pages: 336
Publisher: Del Rey
Released: January 10, 2017
Received: ARC from publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I kept hearing all sorts of things about how beautiful and lyrical this book was and that usually means I'm equally intrigued and worried about being bored. I like beautiful books. I also know that waxing poetic about how beautifully written a sentence is can also be code for "dull."

Lucky for me, this was the kind of beautiful that is also absorbing and captivating. The chapters are on the longish side and usually that's a bad thing for me, but it didn't bother me in this book. Mostly because I was so, well, absorbed.

The book starts out in one direction and then slowly winds toward the main thread of the story. It first introduces side characters and background characters and normally this would really frustrate me because I hate books that take forever to get going, but in this case it worked for me. Again, chalk it up to the absorbing writing? Probably. It was almost like little fairy tales building on one another to create a bigger fairy tale.

And, yes, this is definitely one of those fairy tale type books. The characters have the depth and nuance of fairy tale characters, which somehow manages to be both shallow and deep at the same time. Sometimes things happen in illogical ways but it works because it's a fairy tale story and sometimes you just need to go with things in these types of stories. The plot winds together slowly and sometimes disconnected, but always methodically and building inexorably toward the final showdown between good and evil.

Bottom line

Beautiful, absorbing, captivating, atmospheric. This recalls childhood stories with all of the magic a good storytelling can impart.

Recommended for readers who enjoyed: 

Friday, January 6, 2017

2017 Library Reading Challenge

Challenge Basics:  

Name: 2017 Snagged at the Library Challenge
Previous Hosts: Geeky Blogger's Book Blog (in 2016)
Starts: January 1, 2017
Ends: December 31, 2017
Eligible Books: Books from my libraries 

Why I'm Interested:  

Last year this challenge put in perspective the idea that, while yes I do have access too all these great libraries, there is a definite "use it or lose it" factor in play here. Libraries weed their shelves, I move. So, with that lesson in mind, I want to make an effort to consistently check out books from my library.

Books Completed:

3. Tudor by Leanda de Lisle (TX)
2. Kristina by Carolyn Meyer (TX)
1. Rose Cottage by Mary Stewart (TX)

Books DNF'ed:

2. The Midnight Tunnel by Angie Frazier (TX)
1. Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot (TX)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2017 Read My Own Books Challenge

31/12 books

Challenge Basics: 
Name: Read My Own Damn Books Challenge
Previous Hosts: Estella's Revenge
Starts: January 1, 2017
Ends: December 31, 2017
Eligible Books: Books you own prior to 2017.
Levels: I'm going to try to read and/or DNF and get rid of 12 books I own.

Why I'm Interested:  

I seriously have too many books and they keep sitting on my shelves unread. I did this challenge in 2015 and ended up getting rid of almost all the books I read for the challenge, which means I've carted around and found room for all those books that I didn't even end up liking. Before I move again, I need to reevaluate the books I'm bringing with me and make sure they're books I actually want.

Some books I'm considering: 

Anything on my Own-Unread shelf that I acquired prior to 2017.

At the start of 2017, here's where I stand as far as what books I own and what percentage of them I've read:

31% Acquired in 2016
17% Acquired in 2015
32% Acquired in 2014
50% Acquired in 2013
39% Acquired in 2012
75% Acquired in 2010-2011
83% Acquired in 2008-2009
85% Acquired in 2003-2007
96% Acquired in 2002 and earlier

Books Completed:

31. A True Princess by Diane Zahler (2016)
30. Katheryn, The Wanton Queen by Maureen Peters (2016)
29. House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier (2012)
28. Medusa the Rich by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams (2016)
27. My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes (2014)
26. Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (2016)
25. Aphrodite the Fair by Joan Holub an Suzanne Williams (2016)
24. The Time Traveling Fashionista: On Board the Titanic by Bianca Turetsky (2011)
23. Cashelmara by Susan Howatch (2016)
22. Treason's Harbor by Patrick O'Brian (2003-2007)
21. Confederates Don't Wear Couture by Stephanie Kate Strohm (2015)
20. Sinner by Amanda Stevens (2016)
19. Catherine of Aragon by Alison Prince (2015)
18. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier (2012)
17. The Ionian Mission by Patrick O'Brian (2003-2007)
16. A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh (2016)
15. The Grave Robber's Apprentice by Allan Stratton (2016)
14. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (2016)
13. The Surgeon's Mate by Patrick O'Brian (2003-2007)
12. The Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick (2013)
11. The Fortune of War by Patrick O'Brian (2003-2007)
10. Desolation Island by Patrick O'Brian (2003-2007)
9. The Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien (2013)
8. Moment of Truth by Phoebe Rivers (2016)
7. The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry (2013)
6. Spirits of the Season by Phoebe Rivers (2016)
5. One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire (2016)
4. Mischief Night by Phoebe Rivers (2016)
3. Mariana by Susanna Kearsley (2016)
2. Haunted Memories by Phoebe Rivers (2016)
1.The Guests on South Battery by Karen White (2016)

Books DNF'ed:


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2017 Historical Fiction Challenge

25/15 books

Challenge Basics:  

Name: 2017 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
Hosts: Passages to the Past
Starts: January 1, 2017
Ends: December 31, 2017
Eligible Books: YA and adult historical fiction books. Non-fiction included.
Levels: I am going to try for 15 books

Why I'm Interested:  

Historical Bio: These are the weightier, meatier books that I want to make top priority. They go into detail about actual people and events and I'll learn the most from them. I've thrown in the non-fiction books onto this shelf, too. I've been toe-dipping into non-fiction, and I'd like to continue that toe-dip.

Historical Fantasy: These vary as far as actual historical learning goes. Some have a ton of historical detail, but most just use a historical setting. Some of my favorite books come from this shelf and I don't want to neglect them just because they're not heavy historical fiction.

Historical Lite: These are a lot like the books on my Historical Fantasy shelf, just without the fantasy elements. Usually they're mysteries or romances set with a historical backdrop of varying degrees of detail. They're often easy breezy, fun books and I want to make sure I read them as well.

I also went on a buying spree and brought home a whole bunch of historical fiction books that I don't want to leave unread for years. So, extra points if I read those.

Books Completed:

Historical Non-Fiction

4. Behind the Palace Doors by Michael Farquhar
3. Seven Kings of England by Geoffrey Trease
2. Tudor by Leanda de Lisle
1. The Tudor Tutor by Barb Alexander

Historical Bio (fiction):

10. Katheryn, The Wanton Queen by Maureen Peters
9. My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes
8. Cashelmara by Susan Howatch
7. Kristina by Carolyn Meyer
6. The Lost King by Alison Prince
5. Catherine of Aragon by Alison Prince
4. Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
3. The Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick
2. The Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien
1. The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry

Historical Fantasy:

2. The Time Traveling Fashionista: On Board the Titanic by Bianca Turetsky
1. Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

Historical Lite:

9. The Visitors by Sally Beauman
8. Treason's Harbor by Patrick O'Brian
7. Rose Cottage by Mary Stewart
6. The Ionian Mission by Patrick O'Brian
5. A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh
4. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
3. The Surgeon's Mate by Patrick O'Brian
2. The Fortune of War by Patrick O'Brian
1. Desolation Island by Patrick O'Brian



Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 Re-Read Challenge

Challenge Basics: 

Name: The Re-Read Challenge
Hosts: Belle of the Literati (in 2016)
Starts: January 1, 2017
Ends: December 31, 2017
Eligible Books: Books you've already read.

Why I'm Interested:  

I always feel guilty rereading books, but I also really enjoy rereading my old favorites. Especially when I'm feeling vulnerable to scared or sad or disoriented (which are all feelings that go along with Big New Changes, even when they're good). I also realized how much I like revisiting the books that made me happy. Also, I prefer listening to audiobooks of books I've already read.

So, I've been doing a little rereading last year, and I enjoyed it so much that I plan on continuing that this year.

Some books I'm considering:

My Special Shelf favorites, of course. Also, books I liked enough or am curious enough to re-listen to on audio.

Books Completed:

8. Shattered Mirror by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
7. The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell
6. The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White (audio)
5. The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery
4. The Conjurer Princess by Vivian Vande Velde
3. The Changeling Prince by Vivian Vande Velde
2. Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
1. The Initiation by L. J. Smith

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 Keep the Books Off the Shelf Challenge

Challenge Basics: 

Name: Keep the Books Off the Shelf Challenge
Hosts: Me!
Starts: January 1, 2017
Ends: December 31, 2017
Goal: 15 books
Eligible Books: Books you acquire in 2017

Why I'm Interested:  

I'm not sure if anyone is actually hosting a challenge like this, but it's a challenge I'm giving myself. Every year I participate in the Off the Shelf Challenge where I try to read as many books I own as possible.

Downside? Those challenges don't count books you acquire during the challenge year, and I think they should! Sure, I know the goal is to read all those books that have been languishing year after year, but what about preventative measures? I think those should be rewarded, too!

(I feel like a health insurance plan)

So, enter my challenge. I'm going to try to make a dent in the books I get in 2017 and therefore whittle down my mountain of books remaining unread on my shelves in 2018.

Some books I'm considering: 

As many books from my Acquired 2017 shelf as possible. At the end of the year I'll compare how many books I acquired to how many books I've read from that list to see how well I've done. I'd like to shoot for reading/DNF-ing at least 15 books.

Books Completed:

37. Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith
36. The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
35. The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
34. Marrying off Mother by Gerald Durrell
33. Behind the Palace Doors by Michael Farquhar
32. Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith
31. The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire
30. The Picnic and Suchlike Pandemonium by Gerald Durrell
29. Seven Kings of England by Geoffrey Trease
28. Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne
27. Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts
26. Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock
25. The Secrets She Carried by Barbara Davis
24. The Visitors by Sally Beauman
23. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
22. The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken
21. The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt
20. The Lost King by Alison Prince
19. The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood by Susan Wittig Albert
18. The Tale of Holly How by Susan Wittig Albert
17. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
16. The Perilous Princess Plot by Sarah Courtlaud
15. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
14. The Tudor Tutor by Barb Alexander
13. Horton Halfpot by Tom Angelberger
12. Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
11. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
10. Three Singles to Adventure by Gerald Durrell
9. The Garden of the Gods by Gerald Durrell
8. Birds, Beasts, and Relatives by Gerald Durrell
7. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
6. Dream Magic by Joshua Khan
5. Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire
4. A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire
3. The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire
2. Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire
1. Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire

Books DNF'ed: 

6. Radiance by Alyson Noel (audio)
5. Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot*
4. The Queen's Mary by Sarah Gristwood*
3. History's Strangest Characters by Geoff Tibballs
2.  Haven by Mary Lindsay
1. Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

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