Weariland by Mary Shotwell

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to YA Bound Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review Weariland by Mary Shotwell! This fairy tale retelling of Alice in Wonderland kept me riveted. The suspense, danger, mystery and riddles pulled me in so strongly that I wanted to read the book in one sitting. Lason (like Jason with an L) is a descendant of the first Alice that fell into Wonderland (now called Weariland because of the dreariness) many generations ago. The author’s creative imagination changed Wonderland in many ways that I could have never dreamed of, such as the changing of the execution style. Instead of “off with their heads”, the Queen devised a horrible simple machine to take the prisoners feet off. We get to see more of the White Rabbit’s home and family and there is deception from the past in Lason’s family. Her grandmother disappears and Lason dives right into Weariland to solve the mystery and has to figure out everything on her own. I’m glad that Lason’s mother became stronger for her daughter as the story progressed. I grew to care for her as much as I cared for Lason. The danger and suspense kept me hooked – 4 stars!

Spindle by E.K. Johnston

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to NetGalley and Disney Hyperion for the opportunity to read and review Spindle by E.K. Johnston! Spindle is book two of the series, A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston, but it can be read as a stand-alone book. The story is told in a young man’s point of view, Yaasha. His mother is ill and wants him to leave her and travel onward. Yaasha travels with a few of his close acquaintances. He rescues Little Rose from a tower that she was locked in. The group tries to keep their freedom but are eventually captured. They grow very close and create strong bonds of friendship. The tone is dark and the evil Storyteller Queen is a demon who wants to destroy Little Rose; 4 stars for this fairy tale fantasy containing suspense, loyalty and the bonds of friendship!

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. Marina dies after giving birth to Vasya, who is supposed to be special and mysterious in the same way Marina’s mother was. Years later, when Vasya is a young girl, she wanders into the forest and gets lost. She meets two strangers. The first one is told to sleep by the second man. Vasya bolts and is found by her brother, Sasha. Vasya’s father decides to find a new wife so Vasya can have a mother to raise her. Pyotr returns from Moscow with his new wife, Anna. Anna sees strangers just as Vasya does, but she treats Vasya cruelly even though they have this in common. Vasya’s nurse, Dunya, loves Vasya unconditionally. When Dunya dies, Vasya asks for the help of her brother Alyosha. Alyosha truly believes Vasya and helps her to rid the village of evil. After Vasya was threatened with being sent to a convent, Anna bargains with her. If Vasya will venture into the frozen woods and gather snowdrop flowers for Anna’s daughter, Irina, then Anna will let Vasya stay home. While Vasya is in the woods, she’s saved and taken by the stranger, Morozko the Frost Demon, on the white horse. Set in the Russian wilderness and based on Russian history and folklore, this debut novel is beautifully written and imagined. I give it 5 stars because this is the perfect book to read in the middle of a snowy winter.

Spindle by Shonna Slayton

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Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Spindle by Shonna Slayton! I wasn’t expecting this book to be as good as it is. Impressive and creative fairy tale retelling – 5 stars!

Briar, an Irish girl and an orphan, works on the spindle and is hoping for another job sewing for ladies. Briar struggles to take care of her three younger siblings and, since she’s only sixteen, a nanny is helping them until her seventeenth birthday. Henry is Briar’s best friend and cares deeply for her even though his mother doesn’t seem to approve of Briar. Nanny is gone on business and Fanny has taken her place with the children, Since Fanny showed up, people are acting differently than they normally do. For example, Henry Prince is leaving their community even though no Prince family member has ever left before.

The machines are not working well for Briar at the sewing mill. A peddler helps by convincing her to take a special spindle for her machine. Things go downhill from there. Other girls that work at the mill envy Briar’s spindle, touch it and end up becoming very ill. Briar discovers that the people she knows are not all what they appear to be. This fairy tale retelling has historical fiction of the 1890’s added into the storyline. The young women that work at the sewing mill are all dealing with workforce conditions that need improvement and the rights of women who feel trapped, with no options to live differently. Also, the women’s suffrage movement and Polio are part of this story as well. Spindle by Shonna Slayton is the most creative retelling I have ever read! Set generations after Aurora’s lifetime, the true Sleeping Beauty; I highly recommend it!

Vassa in the Night

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Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for the arc of Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter! A short mythology of night is given before the story starts. Vassa lives with her step siblings and has a painted, wooden doll living in her pocket. Erg, the doll Vassa’s mom had made for her, eats human food and tends to steal items from others. The nighttime seems to lengthen a little each night, so time passes slowly. Vassa is determined to figure out the problem with night. A weird story full of creative writing that reminds me of the Studio Ghibli movies, Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away. This story is like a mixture of the two with its own fairytale added in. Great writing + odd story = 3.5 stars.