Intelligent and creative retelling!
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao tells the story of Jade. Jade lives with and has been raised by the monks, being prepared to accept her rightful place as Empress. Jade is summoned to the Empire by soldiers and she meets Xifeng, the Empress that holds Jade’s fate in her hands. Xifeng is cruel and self-absorbed to the point that she’s the only person that matters. Jade makes saving the kingdom from Xifeng her mission and she’s sent on an adventure that takes her through the mythical stories she was raised on, learning how helpful the tales truly are. Julie C. Dao has created an interesting series, with the transformation of Xifeng, that I want to binge read so I can get the most out of everything the characters experience in both books. Intelligent writing, a mythical atmosphere and charming characters earn 5 stars!
A science fiction retelling of Jane Eyre!
Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read and review Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne! A science fiction retelling of “Jane Eyre”, Stella is an orphan unloved by her relatives and an engineer dreaming of being a governess. She’s an engineer on a derelict ship, Stalwart, that’s on its last leg. Stella receives notification of being hired on another ship and is on her way to her future. The Rochester holds many mysteries from Stella- a young captain, a possible ghost and ship sabotage. Brightly Burning is one science fiction story that I love! Normally, science fiction is not my favorite but this story has surprises and mysterious happenings that kept me thoroughly interested. Stella is a great heroine, not overbearing or a simpering damsel. A lengthier book would have allowed more character depth but I enjoyed Brightly Burning as is too, 4 stars!
The Tower Princess by Shonna Slayton is a tale of a kingdom split in half by two warring rivals. A wall is built and a treaty of peace is made; while these two rivals rule, there will be no war. A prince is born on one side and a princess on the other. Both kings are afraid of the two heirs falling in love when they are older, so the two children are hidden away. Without knowing about each other, the heirs discover the hidden space in the wall where they meet for the first time and become friends. Little do they know of the underlying intrigue and plot to rid the kingdoms of both of the heirs. The Tower Princess is a wonderfully told fairy tale that is the beginning of a collection by Shonna Slayton. Strong main characters brought the story to life and an imaginative magical place and Rowan king made it special, 5 stars!
Thanks to NetGalley and Amulet Books for the opportunity to read and review RoseBlood by A.G. Howard! Roseblood. Rune is being taken to an elite school in France and wonders what the motives of her relatives are by helping her have access to this expensive school and paying for everything she needs from tuition to uniforms, when they haven’t been kind or close in the past. Her father passed away years ago and his relations are the ones helping Rune with acceptance to the school. Her mother has traveled from Harmony, Texas with Rune to take her to the school. For some reason, Rune needed to leave her hometown because of some kind of trouble she caused. Her father shared a musical talent with Rune and without him, this talent is taking a toll on her health and life. As I read, I became more engrossed in this interesting twist on “The Phantom of the Opera”. Chapter four intrigued me with it’s foreshadowing and I couldn’t stop reading after that! Magic is somehow involved with this story along with a bit of the supernatural. Each chapter begins with a literary quote that applies to the chapter content and, as always, I appreciate and enjoyed the author’s note at the end of the book which explains A. G. Howard’s research into the truth behind the Phantom. A supernatural fantasy retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, told with imagination and complex, multidimensional characters, 5 stars!
Thanks to NetGalley and Philomel Books for the opportunity to read and review Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao. Xifeng lives with and under the control of her Aunt Guma in a poverty-stricken kingdom where the king forces young women to be his concubines. Guma uses magic that makes others suspicious and cautious. She’s reading cards for Xifeng’s future and the cards state that Xifeng is going to be Empress someday. Xifeng and her boyfriend Wei leave the village for their freedom and their futures. They each discover something new about themselves and each other. This debut novel contains unique elements. The protagonist also seems to be the antagonist and as the story unfolds the theme seems to change. I’m fascinated with Xifeng and her reasoning with all of her actions as well as the beautiful relationship she has with Wei. An impressive, entertaining first novel by Julie C. Dao! 5 stars!
*I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary consideration.
Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for the opportunity to read and review Jek/Hyde by Amy Ross! Lulu is best friends with Jek, Jayesh Emerson Kapoor, who’s a scientific genius. It seems that someone named Hyde has stolen Jek’s bank account information and Lulu wants to get to the bottom of it. This guy Hyde also paid off a teenage girl that he presumably assaulted and people are talking about him and not at all in a good way. Lulu, with the rest of the community, is trying to figure out who Hyde really is and how he’s connected to Jek, especially since Hyde seems to be wreaking havoc and ultimately commits murder. When Lulu discovers the mystery of all that is Hyde, her life changes forever. 5 stars for this engaging young adult mystery with an ending that leaves space for the imagination!
*I received a complimentary copy for voluntary consideration
Dark breaks the dawn by Sara B. Larson is a fairytale retelling of Swan Lake. It’s Princess Evelayn’s 18th birthday and she’s gotten her full powers like she’s supposed to. They are more amazing than she expected. She is happy when her mother, Queen Ilaria, makes it home on the night of her birthday. Only too soon, her mother leaves for battle once again. When the queen is struck down in battle, the kingdom is devastated. Evelayn vows to do whatever it takes to restore peace to her people. The complex world building and character descriptions are amazing and beautiful. I love the colors of skin, hair and eyes and the endless combinations of those attributes on the people of the kingdoms. I was rooting for Evelayn and Tanvir throughout the whole book. An adventure fantasy and a fairytale retelling all in one. 5 stars!
I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault by Candace Robinson. The sinister prologue spooked me and made me curious at the same time. Perrie is an only child living with her single father, since her mother left years ago. Her best friends are her next door neighbor and cousin, Maisie, and August, the teenage boy she has more than just friend feelings for. There’s an odd mystery about the breakup with her ex-boyfriend, Neven. One day, on their way home from school, Perrie, Maisie and August see a large building that they’ve never seen before, Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault. A sign stating there are job openings is hanging on the door. Curiously, Maisie has a job there by the next day. The characters are charming and the humor is refreshing, while something creepy lurks in the background. People are disappearing from their community and August and Perrie enter the Glass Vault when Maisie can’t be found. I don’t want to give anything away, but the twists floored me! A wonderful supernatural horror story full of fairy tale and historical retellings, worthy of 5 stars! Look closely at the cover for hints of retellings in this story!
I voluntarily read and reviewed Bull by David Elliott. Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read and review this book! Bull is a retelling of the myth, “Theseus and the Minotaur”. The author makes the characters as real and relevant as possible and broadens the story to explain more of Asterion’s life from birth to childhood to the complete transformation of his character and sanity and all of this is written in poetic form and in modern language that makes it easily understandable. 4.5 stars!
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to Entangled Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Don’t Kiss the Messenger by Katie Ray! Katie Ray has previously published works under the name of Katie Kacvinsky and her books have been popular with my library patrons. I believe that this new book of Katie’s will be a popular read also. Don’t Kiss the Messenger is a retelling of sorts. The story line is similar to the play, Cyrano de Bergerac where inner beauty overpowers outer beauty. This book is intelligent and eloquent in many ways, while still staying a young adult contemporary story! CeCe and Emmett take turns by alternating points of view throughout the book. CeCe has a scar on the right side of her face that she prefers to not be the focal point when she meets someone for the first time. Emmett is new to the school and a known high school football player. They both attend Honors Shakespeare class and are partnered on the first day. CeCe and Emmett share the trait of clever wit and they have tremendous similarities with their tastes in and knowledge of music and literature. They are both intense and dedicated athletes also; CeCe is the captain of the volleyball team and Emmett is the star quarterback. I love this book with its romantic gestures, self-esteem building thoughts and loyalty and friendship. 5 stars for this amazing realistic fiction read!