“If you were lucky in love, you sure as hell were lucky in life.” // Review of “Beau and Bett” by Kathryn Berla

Title: Beau and Bett
Author: Kathryn Berla
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 27/06/19 – 29/06/19
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

This was a really hard book to rate and review. I found it readable enough. I liked some of the characters. But I just couldn’t work out what the book was trying to do. I had no particular investment in any of the characters and I wasn’t particularly concerned about the outcome.

Now that I’ve lambasted the book with that opening paragraph, I should say that there were certain things I liked. I liked Beau’s part-Cajun family and their dynamics. I liked that Beau was kind of the oddball in the family. I really liked the descriptions of the Diaz ranch. That is something I haven’t really come across in a YA book before, and i liked that Bettina wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She wasn’t going to leave the ranch either – she saw herself staying there and running it eventually. But all the characters ever did was build a fence. Like, every time Beau went over there. Sometimes Bettina would make them a beautiful lunch in the middle of the day, then they’d go back to the fence.

I guess part of my issue was that the links to Beauty and the Beast were pretty tenuous.. I didn’t really buy the romance at all. I think part of the reason for that is that Beau is interested in another girl for at least the first half. And the lie that Beau catches Bett in, according to the blurb… I mean, I got why it bothered him. But I was expecting something a bit bigger.

Additionally, the reasons for Bett being called Bett the Beast at school were kind of flat, and everything around that suddenly seemed resolved at the end. It felt like perhaps the author was trying to do something with the whole #metoo movement and make a comment on rape culture, but it just wasn’t explored enough.

It’s possible that without the claim that it was a retelling, I could have enjoyed this a bit more. As it was, I really looking for parallels with the fairytale, and not really finding them, so ultimately I was disappointed.


(Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for a free copy of this book  in exchange for an honest review)

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Book Review: “Ensnared” by Rita Stradling

Title: Ensnared
Author: Rita Stradling
Genre:
fairytale retelling/sci-fi
Date Read: 14/06/2017 – 19/06/2017
Rating: ★★

Review: 

I was really excited to read a futuristic retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Unfortunately, this one had a few too many elements that made me feel a bit iffy, so I ended up not enjoying it much in the end.

To save her father from prison, Alainn Murphy takes the place of a robot that looks just like her, in the home of Lorccan Garbhan, a disfigured billionaire who has never been outside the tower he grew up in What she expects is a life of servitude, but that’s not what she ends up getting…

There were some things I did like, so let’s talk about those first. I liked most aspects of the near-future world, including the variety of different robots and AI. I also liked the villain of the piece (I won’t give too much away). I thought the character’s motivations were quite well done,  but I did feel that the climax was a bit too drawn out.

The thing that bothered me the most about this story was that as the romance developed between the two main character, Lorcann still thought Alainn was a robot. Even when they start having sex. Even when he starts proposing to her. There was a point where Alainn’s brother says something about Lorcann’s subconscious knowing she was human even if he hadn’t consciously figured it out yet, but that wasn’t enough for me. This could have been explored really well, but instead, it was barely looked at, other than Alainn feeling guilty for continually finding reasons not to tell Lorcann the truth.

As I said before, I felt the climax was a bit too drawn out, and the same could be said for several sections. The book felt too long and there were sections were I was bored enough to consider not finishing. I think this book could have worked really well with a bit of tightening up and a deep exploration of the issues it brought up (and hey, I read an ARC, so for all I know, this did come out more in the final version), but as it was, this was definitely not what I hoped for.


Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book for review.

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“She cried for the girl who had never belonged” // Review of “Fairest” by Marissa Meyer

Title: Fairest (Lunar Chronicles 3.5)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA/SFF/villain backstory
Date Read: 07/12/2016 – 08/12/2016
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I honestly can’t decide where I sit with this book. Was it supposed to make my sympathise with Queen Levana, the evil queen terrorising the Earthen Commonwealth in the Lunar Chronicles? Or was it meant to show how dark and twisted she was and nothing else? Because I couldn’t work out what the book wanted me to feel, I ended up feeling quite unsettled by the end.

I also have to apologise, because there will probably be spoilers in this review. It was too hard to talk about some of the things I had issue without going into detail.

Levana has grown up unloved and unwanted, the younger, unappreciated princess of Luna. When a palace guard shows her some kindness, she latches onto him and uses her powerful manipulation ability to convince him that he loves her as much as she thinks she loves him. This is just the beginning of the downward spiral that leads to her becoming the feared and despised ruler that Cinder and her friends take down.

Levana is incredibly messed up. And you can see how she would justify her actions to herself. As with Heartless, which I reviewed on Monday, the progression of the main character into darkness is so gradual you almost don’t register it happening. And at first, I really did sympathise with Levana and her plight. However, the story reached a point where her actions were just too problematic (mind-controlling someone into marrying and having sex with you is rape, even if you’re making them think they’re willing), before the point where I felt Marissa Meyer wanted us stopping sympathising.

Given the subject material, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, but the whole tone of the book just felt so much darker than the rest of the Lunar Chronicles. I felt like I wanted to go back and read all my favourite Cress/Thorne scenes just to remind myself what I enjoyed most about the series. Maybe this was Meyer’s intention. Like I said, I was never sure!

While it was interesting to see the whole progression of Levana’s evilness, it didn’t really add a huge amount to the story, and I can see why some people are fairly “eh” about this particularly installment. We saw a lot of familiar characters, and it was interesting seeing exactly how Levana carried out her plans to have Cinder killed and things like that, and also get a bit more of a glimpse into the world of Luna, but I don’t think you’re missing much if you’ve skipped it.


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“Murderer, martyr, monarch, mad.” // Review of “Heartless” by Marissa Meyer

Title: Heartless
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre:
YA/fairytale retelling
Date Read: 30/11/2016 – 06/12/2016
Rating: ★★★★☆

Review: 

With it now being about a year since I finished reading the final installment of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, I had forgotten just  how much I loved her writing. Heartless certainly reminded me!

Catherine is the daughter of the Marquess of Rock Turtle Cove, and destined to be married to the King of Hearts. All she wants to do is open a bakery with her best friend, Mary Ann. When she falls for the mysterious new court joker, she knows she will put him above everything else, and if the worst happens, she will seek vengeance.

Meyer once again creates a vibrant ensemble cast of characters. Catherine’s journey from idealistic, privileged young girl to cold and hardened Queen of Hearts is a well-written progression, even if towards the end I did want to shake her and tell her that she’s only seventeen and new love will come her way.

really loved Jest as a love interest, mostly because he’s not that entitled douchebag of a love interest that seems so popular in today’s YA fiction. While his origins are mysterious (we learn more about him as the book goes on and he starts being more honest with Cath), he comes to genuinely care for Cath. While their romance was over-the-top in that way that teenagers are always over-the-top about that sort of thing, insofar as this is a teenage romance we’re reading, it read and developed really well (even if it is in a similar vein to Romeo and Juliet in terms of heaps of passion in a short amount of time all ending in tears).

The side characters are all well-drawn, even if I do want to shake them. The King is bumbling and shy, Cath’s parents are well-intentioned but frustrating. Hatta, a colleague of Jest’s who you may have guessed is the precursor the Mad Hatter, was a particular favourite, along with Jest’s Raven, who speaks in rhyme in the same meter as Edgar Allan Poe’s (in fact, in her author’s note, Marissa Meyer says she likes to think that this Raven is the one from the poem, and I’m very happy to roll with that).

The world-building is simple, but effective, and Meyer works in many references to Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. The plot ducks and weaves, and there was a period in the middle where I thought it started meandering a bit, but as with the Lunar Chronicles, everything ties up very cleverly in the end. And when I say “cleverly” I mean, everything falls apart and the ending will leave you feeling like you were punched in the gut, but…

I had high hopes for this book because I find it so hard to find any Alice in Wonderland-inspired books that I actually like. I really hope more writers take a leaf out of Marissa Meyer’s book, rather than trying to do the whole “quirky teenager finds out she is the descendant of Alice Liddell”-type story. This one really worked!


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Book Review: Splintered by A. G. Howard

Title: Splintered (Splintered #1)
Author: A. G. Howard
Genre: Fantasy/fairytale adaptation
Date Read: 17/06/2015 – 21/06/2015
Rating: ★★

Review:

splinteredcover Look at that cover. I had really high hopes for this book, pretty much based on the cover alone. Alas, it was not to be.

In Splintered we meet Alyssa, the descendent of Alice Liddell, the namesake of the titular character in Alice in Wonderland. Her female ancestors have always been cursed, hearing insects talk and other weirdness. Eventually, Alyssa finds out that the Wonderland in the stories is real, that she is the only one who can save it, and most importantly, that her childhood friend, Morpheus, who visited her in her dreams when she was young, is really sexy but less than trustworthy.

I’ll get my ranting out of the way first. Though I only mentioned Morpheus above, there is actually a love triangle, with Alyssa’s best friend’s brother, Jeb, as the other point. Jeb was awful. He was controlling and over-protective, and it drove me crazy. He wouldn’t let Alyssa make any of her own decisions, even though she was the one who actually had latent memories of Wonderland and of the two of them, was going to be capable of getting them home alive.

Morpheus, on the other hand, while definitely morally ambiguous, at least had faith in Alyssa and her abilities. He always let her choose. Even when it often turned out that he was on his own side more than Alyssa’s or Wonderland’s as a whole, he was still preferable as a love interest.

Alyssa as a character was okay. I got the sense the author was trying to make her “quirky” and “alternative” with dreadlocks and a skateboard and that sort of thing, but she still felt pretty bland. She spent a fair bit of time swooning over either of her two guys, though when she was with Morpheus, she did at least want to take charge a bit more.

The world-building itself was pretty good; I’ve read a few Wonderland adaptations before and this one took things in different directions, which I did appreciate, even if I wasn’t entirely I liked the direction. It was definitely a much creepier Wonderland than usual, and some of that I got really into, while there were other parts that made me go, “… really?”

Overall, I felt this book could have been really great, but suffered from objectionable or boring characters. I read a few reviews of the second one because a small part of me was interested in continuing the story, but based on a few things I read, I decided not to. I think it would just make me crankier.

Book Review: Grounded – The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison

Title: Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel (Tyme #1)
Author: Megan Morrison
Genre: Fantasy/fairytale adaptation
Date Read: 29/04/2015 – 01/05/2015
Rating: ★★★★★

Review:

groundedcoverI discovered this book entirely by accident, and boy, am I glad I did! I had been looking for a Rapunzel adaptation that really explored the psychological effects of Rapunzel’s isolation, and this book captured it perfectly!

In Grounded, we meet a Rapunzel with a completely perfect life. She has her tower, she’s looked after by Witch, and she is kept safe from the peasants that would try to poison her below. That is until a boy named Jack climbs through her window and claims that she had met him the day before. The next thing Rapunzel knows, she’s climbing down her tower and joining Jack on an adventure in a world she’s never experienced. As they travel, Rapunzel begins to learn that Witch hasn’t been telling her the whole truth, and that maybe she might even be better off without her.

Both the characters and the world-building are outstanding. Rapunzel has grown up in one of many realms within Tyme, and throughout the book, she and Jack end up exploring several of them, and hearing about others. My mouth was watering as I read about the different foods available in the marketplace in the Yellow Country, and the descriptions of the Fairy Realm (I will admit that it’s now been a little while since I’ve read the book, so I can’t remember exactly what that realm was called) made me want to visit. There were also hints of other fairytales taking place in some of these other lands, something I assume will be explored in later books.

Rapunzel’s characterisation is great. If you’ve seen the movie Tangled, I got a vibe of that version of Rapunzel from this one, though book!Rapunzel is around 12 or 13, rather than 18. I wanted to hug her as she tried to reconcile everything she’d known with the new information she was learning about herself and about Witch, and using leaps of logic to get there. Jack was also sweet if somewhat long-suffering – having to look after Rapunzel was not something he was planning. We got a little bit of his back story in this book, but I think there is much more to come.

This was one of those cases where I found out a book within days of its release, finished it a few days later, and now have to wait who knows how long for the sequel. I have a feeling the wait will be worth it, though!