New(ish)Picture Books: Mini Reviews #PictureBookReviews

I’ve recently started paying attention to picture book releases, and existing picture books because I’m trying my hand at writing a couple. I requested the following books on Netgalley so I thought I had better write reviews for them, albeit very teeny ones 🙂

Pirates in the Library ~ Nadia Ali & Jake Tebbits

 

piratesHardcover, 40 pages
Published October 15th 2016 by Star Bright Books

Prepare to set sail for the adventure of a lifetime with fierce Captain Jake when he discovers a treasure map that leads him, his crew (and a parrot, too), right to the library. Ms. Benitez, the librarian, welcomes them—as long as they behave! The pirates’ search is on! 

Soon they discover—with the aid of Dread Pirate Dewey’s map—treasures galore on the shelves. Now the dilemma: Can they keep these treasures? Ms. Benitez has the answer.

Pirates in the Library is a lovely little story to introduce the wonder of libraries and books to children. They will be sure to love Captain Jake and his parrot too!
The text is nicely rhythmic and repetitive so that children can recite it with glee. The illustrations are bright and simple with a nice warmth and humour to them. I really liked the balance of fun and learning in this story, and the important message of supporting your local library because they really are full of the best kind of treasure – stories and knowledge.
unicorn rating 4

Princess Lemonella ~  Saarein te Brake & Sassafras De Bruyn

princesslemonella

Hardcover, 32 pages
Published October 11th 2016 by Clavis
Princess Lemonella is born angry. She always looks sour and never smiles.
When the king and queen try to find a prince for her, she sends all the candidates away.
Until one prince just rides past her …
 

A funny and romantic fairy tale about how love can make you smile. 


For princes and princesses aged 5 years and older.

 

I was torn by this one. On one hand I loved the beautiful illustrations and some of the themes of the story such as that everyone is different and that there is someone for everyone.

However, I’m not a huge fan of modern children’s stories that are based solely on a princess having to find a prince. I love fairy tales but I do think that they need to be modernised to reflect and embrace diversity. I’m not sure how healthy it is for little girls to constantly read about the need for a Prince Charming, or in this case, a Prince Grumpy!
unicorn rating 3

Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige #YA #Bookreview

stealingsnowTitle: Stealing Snow
Author: Danielle Paige
Series: Stealing Snow #1
Format: Digital ARC, 384 pages
Publication Details:  October 6th 2016 by Bloomsbury Childrens
Genre(s): YA; Fantasy; Retellings
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn’t belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door – and Snow knows that she has to leave …


She finds herself in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate …

Review

I read the original Snow Queen at the beginning of the year after getting it as a Christmas present. I enjoyed it a lot. It’s an odd little fairy-tale but totally compelling. I am also a huge fan of Frozen (which is very, very loosely based on Andersen’s tale) so I was really excited when I saw the premise of this book. 

Snow resides in a psychiatric hospital in New York. We’re not sure why she’s there but she seems to have accepted it. It’s all a bit of a mystery; she doesn’t seem ill enough to be in a secure hospital, although she does have one hell of a temper. Her best friend and part-time boyfriend Bale is also a permanent resident there. But he’s been kept away from Snow ever since he fractured her wrist the first time they kissed. 

But Snow knows he didn’t mean it, he’s just unwell. And she becomes convinced that he’s been kidnapped and taken into another world via a magic mirror.

OK, I know this all sounds a bit hokey but this was actually the most believable and exciting part of the story.

I loved the hospital setting. It was written well and full of intrigue. The characters – both the staff and the patients- were interesting and fleshed out, and the bond between Snow and Bale felt real. Paige seems to have taken a lot of care in building this world for it to be used in such a small part of the story. 

Snow manages to pass through the mirror to the other side – Algid. And this is where it all goes a bit wrong. I felt like Snow was just dumped there with no thought as to where the story should go. The world-building from here on out was almost non-existent, the characters she met were bland and one-dimensional, and quite frankly I had no idea what was going on.

All of a sudden, Snow is a princess who can summon ice and snow, and conjure these elements whenever she feels like it. There was no transition period at all. No fleshing out, no descriptions, it was all just a bit too fast and brief. WhamBamNoThankYouMam.

I felt really disappointed and let down by everyone involved in this book to be honest. Mainly because it had such great potential. It could have been this amazing Snow White / Snow Queen mash-up, but instead it was just painstakingly flat and messy.

I did like that Paige preserved some of the original story, and the idea that Snow’s icy kiss was slowly killing Bale but I couldn’t see past the rest I’m afraid. 

If it wasn’t for the great first couple of chapters and the idea in itself, I’m not sure I would have been able to finish the book, never mind give it two unicorns, but I think it’s a fair rating for the potential alone. 

P.S Three love interests, really!? Sigh. 

unicorn rating 2

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Fairy Tale Inspired Books #TTT

icon4-ttt

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (click the link to visit them) who pick a different topic each week.

This week the topic is: Top Ten ALL TIME Favourite Books of X Genre. I’ve chosen fairy-tales.

Ok so confession time. I have done list before for an actual fairy-tale TTT but I really couldn’t decide what genre to do and when I compiled the list the first time round I hadn’t read what are now some of my favourite books… so I have at least changed it a bit. Promise. 

I LOVE fairy-tales and really like modern re-tellings but they don’t always work. Here is my ultimate list of my favourite books that have been inspired by fairy-tales, as many of them aren’t actually re-tellings. 

The Lunar Chronicles

fairyt1

Each book entails a new take on an old fairy tale, including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White. The story takes place in a futuristic world where humans, cyborgs, and androids all coexist. 

I love them all, including Winter (not pictured).

Poison

w1A brilliant, twisted, spirited anti-fairy tale from the amazing Chris Wooding.

Poison has always been a willful, contrary girl, prone to being argumentative and stubborn. So when her sister is snatched by the mean-spirited faeries, she seeks out the Phaerie Lord to get her back.
But finding him isn’t easy, and the quest leads Poison into a murderous world of intrigue, danger, and deadly storytelling. With only her wits and her friends to aid her, Poison must survive the attentions of the Phaerie Lord, rescue her sister, and thwart a plot that’s beyond anything she (or the reader) can imagine. . . .

This one was a complete surprise. It has taken so many different fairy-tale elements to create a completely fresh, almost sinister world. 

The Darkest Part of the Forest

ng2Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

I can’t rave about this book enough. It.was.Amazing. Holly Black is the Queen of the modern fairy-tale! Love, love, love!

Blood Red, Snow White

bloodredsnow
It is 1917, and the world is tearing itself to pieces in a dreadful war, but far to the east of the trenches, another battle is breaking out – the Russian Revolution has just begun…

Blood Red, Snow White captures the mood of this huge moment in history through the adventure of one man who was in the middle of it all; Arthur Ransome, a young British journalist who had first run away to Russia to collect fairy tales.

Told as three linked novellas, part one captures the days of revolution but retells the story as Russian Fairy Tale, with typical humour and unashamed brutality. Part two is a spy story, set over the course of one evening, as Ransome faces up to his biggest challenge, and part three is a love story, full of tragedy and hope, as every good Russian love story should be.

I wasn’t sure if anyone could pull off a story about the Russian Revolution as a fairy-tale, but mannnnn, Marcus Sedgwick smashed it out of the park. Again!

The Princess Bride

800388What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams?

As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad’s recitation, and only the “good parts” reached his ears.

Now Goldman does Dad one better. He’s reconstructed the “Good Parts Version” to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.

What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

In short, it’s about everything.

I saw the movie before reading the book and I don’t usually enjoy doing things that way round, especially when it’s been such a staple in my childhood, but I really loved the book too!

Beauty

fairyt3When the family business collapses, Beauty and her two sisters are forced to leave the city and begin a new life in the countryside. However, when their father accepts hospitality from the elusive and magical Beast, he is forced to make a terrible promise – to send one daughter to the Beast’s castle, with no guarantee that she will be seen again. Beauty accepts the challenge, and there begins an extraordinary story of magic and love that overcomes all boundaries. This is another spellbinding and emotional tale embroidered around a fairytale from Robin McKinley, an award-winning American author.

Not all of Robin McKinley’s re-tellings have worked for me, but I really loved this one. 

The Looking Glass Wars

fairyt2Alyss of Wonderland?

When Alyss Heart, newly orphaned heir to the Wonderland throne, flees through the Pool of Tears to escape her murderous Aunt Redd, she finds herself lost and alone in Victorian London. Befriended by an aspiring author named Lewis Carrol, Alyss tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Alyss trusts this author to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere will find her and bring her home. But he gets the story all wrong. He even spells her name incorrectly!

Fortunately, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan knows all too well the awful truth of Alyss’ story – and he’s searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland, to battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

The Looking Glass Wars unabashedly challenges our Wonderland assumptions of mad tea parties, grinning Cheshire cats, and a curious little blond girl to reveal an epic battle in the endless war for Imagination.

This was the first Alice re-telling that I ever read and it was great. Utter batshit, but great. I have no idea why I didn’t finish the series. Sigh. 

The Book of Lost Things

bookof
High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own — populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.

This is such a beautiful book inspired by so many different fairy-tales you would recognise and lots of new ideas too. 

Shadow and Bone

summer16.7Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

I loved that this book is clearly inspired by Russian fairy-tales. I’d love to know more about them.

What are your favourite fairy-tale inspired books?

Top Ten Tuesday: Inspired by Fairy Tales

icon4-ttt

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (click the link to visit them) who pick a different topic each week.

This week the topic is: ‘Ten Fairytale Retellings I’ve Read/Want To Read (or you could do fairytales I want to be retold or fairytales I love).’

Love, love, love, love, love fairy tales! My top ten features books that have been inspired by fairy tales, which I have read in the last 2-3 years. Most of these aren’t actual retellings but a mixture of lots of different fairy tales.

Cinder/ Scarlet/ Cress

fairyt1

Poison

w1A brilliant, twisted, spirited anti-fairy tale from the amazing Chris Wooding.

Poison has always been a willful, contrary girl, prone to being argumentative and stubborn. So when her sister is snatched by the mean-spirited faeries, she seeks out the Phaerie Lord to get her back.
But finding him isn’t easy, and the quest leads Poison into a murderous world of intrigue, danger, and deadly storytelling. With only her wits and her friends to aid her, Poison must survive the attentions of the Phaerie Lord, rescue her sister, and thwart a plot that’s beyond anything she (or the reader) can imagine. . . .

The Darkest Part of the Forest

ng2Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Blood Red, Snow White

bloodredsnow
It is 1917, and the world is tearing itself to pieces in a dreadful war, but far to the east of the trenches, another battle is breaking out – the Russian Revolution has just begun…

Blood Red, Snow White captures the mood of this huge moment in history through the adventure of one man who was in the middle of it all; Arthur Ransome, a young British journalist who had first run away to Russia to collect fairy tales.

Told as three linked novellas, part one captures the days of revolution but retells the story as Russian Fairy Tale, with typical humour and unashamed brutality. Part two is a spy story, set over the course of one evening, as Ransome faces up to his biggest challenge, and part three is a love story, full of tragedy and hope, as every good Russian love story should be.

Princess Bride

800388What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams?

As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad’s recitation, and only the “good parts” reached his ears.

Now Goldman does Dad one better. He’s reconstructed the “Good Parts Version” to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.

What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

In short, it’s about everything.

Beauty

fairyt3When the family business collapses, Beauty and her two sisters are forced to leave the city and begin a new life in the countryside. However, when their father accepts hospitality from the elusive and magical Beast, he is forced to make a terrible promise – to send one daughter to the Beast’s castle, with no guarantee that she will be seen again. Beauty accepts the challenge, and there begins an extraordinary story of magic and love that overcomes all boundaries. This is another spellbinding and emotional tale embroidered around a fairytale from Robin McKinley, an award-winning American author.

The Looking Glass Wars

fairyt2Alyss of Wonderland?

When Alyss Heart, newly orphaned heir to the Wonderland throne, flees through the Pool of Tears to escape her murderous Aunt Redd, she finds herself lost and alone in Victorian London. Befriended by an aspiring author named Lewis Carrol, Alyss tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Alyss trusts this author to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere will find her and bring her home. But he gets the story all wrong. He even spells her name incorrectly!

Fortunately, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan knows all too well the awful truth of Alyss’ story – and he’s searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland, to battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

The Looking Glass Wars unabashedly challenges our Wonderland assumptions of mad tea parties, grinning Cheshire cats, and a curious little blond girl to reveal an epic battle in the endless war for Imagination.

The Book of Lost Things

bookof
High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own — populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

ng2
Title: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Series: N/A
Edition: Digital ARC, 336 pages
Publication Details: January 13th 2015 by Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre(s): YA; Fantasy
Disclosure? Yep! I received a copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an HONEST review.

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Review

YES! This is what I’ve been waiting for by Holly Black.

Since absolutely loving The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, I knew I needed to read more by her. I had planned on reading her back catalogue but you know how it is…so little time. Therefore, I was pretty thrilled when I got approved for an advanced copy of this one. And rightly so!

The Darkest Part of the Forest is a fairy book with bite. It reads like a deliciously dark classic fairy tale, but it’s thoroughly modern too.

In the small town of Fairfold, humans go about their days like any average community, but there’s just one difference, faeries also exist. On the whole, faeries have come to be accepted and their magic is seen as harmless. However, many people in Fairfold continue to abide by certain rules and superstitions in order to make them immune to their magic, making you raise an eyebrow as to whether they are as harmless as everyone thinks they are.

The town has an interesting history to say the least. And at the centre of it all, is the horned boy who sleeps in the glass coffin in the middle of the forest. He’s been there for as long as anyone remembers and he never wakes up, or ages.

Protagonists Hazel and Ben have fawned over the horned boy since they were little, naming him their Prince, they both dream of kissing him and they long for him to wake up.

But then he does…. and Hazel and Ben’s lives soon start to unravel. Can they protect themselves and save their Prince, or will their secrets come between them and destroy everything ?

To show your regard, you give each other other lovely bouquets of lies.”

I’m finding it so hard to review this book, which is always a sign that I loved it! There are just so many things I liked about it, it’s hard to put into words.

For starters, I found the writing style beautiful. It’s one of those books where I just wanted to highlight passage after passage. It was honest and heartbreaking, and magical all at once.

Hazel never cried. She was forged from iron, she never broke. No one was tougher than his sister. The worst part was how quietly she wept, as if she’d taught herself how, as if she was so used to doing it that it had just become the way she cried.”

Hazel and Ben really stand out as great protagonists for me. I loved how close they were but that they had so many secrets from each other which twisted and tainted their lives. I loved that they were both in love with the horned boy, and that there was never any hoohaah about Ben being a young gay character – which is exactly how it should be – but you still rarely get gay characters in stories without their sexuality being a big issue, or the driving force of the plot.

I was blown away by how Holly Black built this world of fae but made it so modern. It felt like such a perfect juxtaposition, something I haven’t seen pulled off so well before. For example, she uses age-old folklore such as the residents of Fairfold filling their pockets with iron and oats to protect them from faery magic and in the same breath, the horned boy attracts tourists wanting to take selfies with him.

I loved that Hazel was a Knight. I loved that the kids of Fairfold seemed so normal despite living amongst faeries. I mean, they get wasted  and dance around (and on top) of the the horned boy’s coffin… so much to love.

I can’t even get started on the romances. Seriously. I’ll just stop now.

The only reason I’ve given it 4 unicorns instead of 5 is because it took me quite a few chapters to get into it. But that’s the only tiny grumble I have.

unicorn rating 4Available now in hardback!