First Lines That Had Me Hooked

There a dozens of books out there that I completely adore, but not all of them have me hooked from the first line. I think a successful first sentence needs to convey something about the setting, main character, or the plot. If it can also pique the reader’s interest and make them ask questions, even better. Here are some first lines that I really enjoyed.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

“On the second Sabbat of Twelfthmoon, in the city of Weep, a girl fell from the sky.”

What kind of city is called Weep? And why is a girl falling from the sky? Is this a common occurrence?

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Avery by Charlotte McConaghy

“The people of Kaya die in pairs.”

Whoa. Hardcore. The love stories must all be tragedies. I’m so in.

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

“I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive.”

Really? And where did you procure these hearts from Lira?

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The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

“This is a story about a man named Eddie and it begins at the end, with Eddie dying in the sun.”

There’s just something so poignant about this, and I want to know what led Eddie, whoever he is, to this point.

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The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

“Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.”

Okay, so firstly, what kind of name is Blue? Also, why are you going to kill your true love, and who keeps telling you this? Where did they get this information? Is it credible?

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

“Joost had two problems: the moon and his moustache.”

How could the moon possibly be a problem? Why don’t you just shave your moustache?

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

“We were all villains in the beginning.”

Wow. That’s a big statement. Who were these villains? Are you still a villain?

Scythe by Neal Schusterman

“We must, by law, keep a record of the innocents we kill.”

Why on earth is it a legal requirement to note who you murder?

Let’s Chat!

What are some of your favourite first lines? Do you think the first sentence can make or break a book? Let me know in the comments below!

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2019 Retellings Reading Challenge|| Quarterly Wrap Up

My quarterly wrap up for the 2019 Retelling Reading Challenge is a little late, but here it is. Because I’ve done reviews for most of these I’ll only give you dot point notes, and I’ll link to my full reviews if you want to know more of my thoughts on any given book.

DNF

Alcestis by Katherine Beutner

Historical Fantasy

  • Retelling of the Alcestis myth
  • Pacing was very slow
  • Didn’t like where the plot was heading, so DNF @ 65%

The Silver Handled Knife by Frances Thomas

YA Historical Fiction

  • Retelling of the Oresteia from Elektra’s POV
  • Pacing was all over the place
  • Felt more like a summary of the myth, rather than a retelling
  • Narrative jumps back and forward
  • Felt no connection to any of the characters

2 stars

For the Immortal by Emily Hauser

Historical Fantasy

  • Retelling of Heracles, Theseus & Amazons myth from Admete and Hippolyta’s POVs
  • Plot and characters interesting
  • Writing needed editing (some sentences were grammatically incorrect)
  • Wish I read series in order

3 stars

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Fantasy

  • A Feminist retelling of Snow White with LGBT representation
  • Focus on relationship between Queen Mina and her stepdaughter Lynet
  • Both live with the heavy unrealistic expectations of their fathers
  • About the family you choose, and moving beyond the expectations placed on you

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

YA Fantasy

  • Retelling of Little Red Riding Hood in French inspired world
  • Solid plot, worldbuilding, and characters
  • Disability representation- Armand, the male lead, is an amputee
  • Themes of penance and redemption
  • Liked the contrast between organised religion and the folk believes still popular in rural areas

4 stars

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

YA Fantasy

  • Latinx retelling of Snow White & Rose Red, with Swan Lake mixed in
  • Gorgeous writing
  • Setting was otherwordly
  • Worldbuilding as a whole was magical and whimsical
  • Loved the relationships between the sisters, Blanca & Roja, as well as their relationships with the parents, and with Page and Yearling
  • Loved the LGBT (especially transgender) representation, which was moving and sensitive
  • About writing your own story, not living the one others choose for you

Stain by A. G. Howard

YA Fantasy

  • Retelling of The Princess and the Pea, with other fairytale elements
  • TW: Child abuse, violence
  • Magical, fantastical descriptions
  • Themes of found family, embracing your scars
  • Huge book, and the pace is meandering

Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Fantasy Novella

  • Retelling of The Snow Queen
  • Magic system was dark and creepy
  • Two main characters with third person present tense narration
  • Enjoyed the plot and characters
  • Lots of gender diversity (neutral, non-binary, transgender etc)

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

YA Fantasy

  • Retelling of Beauty and the Beast
  • Disability representation (cerebral palsy and amputee) was positive and sensitively portrayed
  • Adored the characters
  • The new twist on the fairytale was unique

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer

YA Fantasy

  • Retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon with other fairytale influences
  • Magical, whimsical world with wintry atmosphere
  • I loved the plot and the characters
  • There was a library full of mirror books!

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

YA Fantasy

  • Retelling of The Goose Girl
  • TW: Animal death
  • Focus on MC development from a shy princess to confident young woman
  • Themes of friendship, identity and self-confidence
  • Low on romance
  • Magic was interesting. I liked that the predisposition was innate, but it required practice. Also appreciated that it wasn’t the solution to every problem

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Historical Fantasy

  • An LGBT retelling of The Iliad from Patroclus’ POV
  • Love the writing- super easy to read
  • Worldbuilding was well done
  • Some scenes were quite violent and disturbing
  • Centres around Patroclus and Achilles’ relationship

Here, The World Entire by Anwen Kya Hayward

Historical Fiction Novella

  • Retelling of Perseus myth from Medusa’s POV
  • TW: Rape
  • Beautiful writing
  • Sympathetic and poignant reflection on three key scenes in Medusa’s life

5 stars

The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes

Historical Fiction

  • Retelling of Oedipus and Antigone myths from the perspectives of Ismene and Jocasta
  • Writing was excellent
  • Engaging and interesting plot and characters- told from two POVs, one in past, one in present
  • Liked the twist on the original myth- completely believable
  • Vivid worldbuilding
  • Discussion about writing your own history, and the unknowable effect other people can have on you

March Book Haul

I was good this month. I only bought 5 books! Four were new releases, and the fifth was part of a series I want to finish. I am actually ridiculously proud of myself. I also had money to spare! I honestly hadn’t realised the extent of my addiction to books until I dramatically reduced the number I bought. Next month should be a similarly small haul, which is fortunate because my cats have very large vet bills.

Anyway, on to the books!

The Fever King by Victoria Lee

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release date: 1 March 2019

Series: Yes, #1 of 2

Why I’m interested: Technopath, magical plague, LGBT representation, themes of immigration.

The Cold is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release date: 7 March 2019

Series: No

Why I’m interested: It’s a retelling of the myth of Medusa.

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The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release: March 2018

Series: Yes, #2 of 3

Why I’m interested: Necromancy, Asian-inspired world/culture, second in series.

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The Shadow Glass by Rin Chupeco

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release date: 5 March 2019

Series: Yes, #3 of 3

Why I’m interested: See above. Final instalment.

Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release date: 19 March 2019

Series: No

Why I’m interested: It’s a lady Robin Hood retelling!

Let’s Chat!

What books did you pick up this month? Have you read any of these books, and what did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

The Bone Witch|| Rin Chupeco

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

YA Fantasy

432 pages

Release Date: March 2017

#1 of 3

Synopsis from Goodreads

Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there’s anything I’ve learned from him in the years since, it’s that the dead hide truths as well as the living.

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha-one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

Why I was interested

I was initially interested in The Bone Witch because it featured necromancy and was set in an Asia-inspired world.

General comments

So. I tried to read The Bone Witch last year. Three times. I ended up DNF-ing it every time. The problems I had last year still remain, but I’m just not as agro about it. I think this might be partially because this time I went into it with lower expectations, and I already knew the things I disliked about it.

I ended up actually really enjoying The Bone Witch. Apparently I needed a year to calm down. I still think this book was heavily influenced by Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, but I chose to think of it as a retelling/reimagining of that story, and that made me less belligerent this time.

The Bone Witch is definitely the setup book of the series. It lays out the major characters, sets up the plot, and really immerses the reader in the world. The book is told from two perspectives: Tea of the past narrates in the first person as she learns to be an asha; and a bard in the future/present narrates his interactions with an older, darker, more powerful Tea who is telling him her story.

What I liked

Future/Present Tea: She’s mysterious and full of vengeance. I am so excited to see how the sweet little girl becomes so dark.

Magic system: There are a few different kinds of magic that exist alongside each other in this world. magic is largely the province of women. The more powerful ones can be gifted in elemental magic or necromancy. The less powerful can sense magic and perform simple spells and rituals. Those with powerful magical abilities go to a neighbourhood in Ankyo, the capital of Kion, called The Willows to learn to harness their magic, which is activated by runic symbols. They also learn the arts of music, dancing, conversation, history, politics, martial arts and meditation. The men with magical abilities are drafted into the army to be trained in battle/combat magic.

The other part of the magic system relates to Hearts Glass. They are objects that everyone wears around their necks. Asha are able to read the colours like mood rings. Different colours mean different things. Green means sickness, blue means worry, red is the standard colour of health and happiness. A silver Hearts Glass also indicates that the owner/wearer has magical abilities.

World building: The world is really detailed and beautifully crafted. Chupeco clearly spent a lot of time building the setting, the mythology, the magic system, the political systems and the history of the nations in The Bone Witch.

Themes: While not completely resolved in this instalment, Tea and her friends begin to challenge the accepted gender roles in Kion society. Likh, a boy who works in a jewellery store in The Willows, has magical abilities, but he doesn’t want to join the army. He wants to become an asha, and train in the traditional female arts.

What I disliked

Pacing: It was a bit slow, especially during the first half of the book.

Descriptions: Frankly, they are a bit excessive, but once you know what everyone, in any given situation, is wearing they ease off a bit.

Characters: In general I didn’t think any of the other characters besides Tea were given much complexity or growth in this book. There are hints that lead me to believe this may be rectified in book two, The Heart Forger, so I remain hopeful.

Let’s Chat!

Have you read The Bone Witch? Do you like stories about necromancy? Have you ever gone back to a book you previously hated and DNFed? Let me know in the comments below!

Series I Won’t Continue (Even Though I Like the First Book)

I’m terrible at finishing series. There are dozens that I’ve started and still haven’t finished. While I intend to go back to most of them (though it seems less likely the longer I wait), there are some that I just don’t have the desire to continue, and it’s not because I hated the first book.

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

YA Fantasy/ Romance

I was happy where the story wrapped up, and I think it could have been standalone novel. I wasn’t much of a fan of the twist that is going to keep the story going, so I’m not going to continue. Simple as that really. Also I suspect book two is going to add in new character points of view, and I’m not really that excited for it.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Sci Fi/ Horror

I loved this book so much. It was in my top 10 of 2018, so why am I quitting on the series? Because I’m a coward, and I don’t think a sequel could possibly be as good as the first book. I usually rate book 2 and 3 lower than the first. Plus, I was satisfied with the ending, and am of the opinion that it would be madness for the characters to continue on the quest.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

YA Fantasy/ Romance

This was essentially a standalone novel, and the rest of the books in the series follow other characters at a later date. While I liked the side characters in this book, I’m not that interested in where their lives go afterward, so I’m not going to waste my time.

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

Middle Grade Fantasy

This was an entertaining and light read about a boy and a demon fighting over control of one body. I didn’t hate this book. I’m just not the biggest fan of middle-grade because I always feel like something is missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. For this reason, I chose not to continue the series.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

YA Fantasy/ Romance

While I didn’t hate this book, I just didn’t care enough about the characters or the story to continue. Don’t shoot me! I had super high expectations going in, and I was underwhelmed. That being said, it was easy to read, and I had no major problems with the characters, plot or worldbuilding. I just don’t want to experience it again. Ever.

The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Sci Fi/ Horror

I don’t feel like this needed to be a series. The novel is amazing as it is, and I’m okay not knowing what happens afterwards. I think that sometimes it’s better to leave the reader wondering, instead of ruining the mystery.

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

YA Sci-Fi/ Fantasy

Mirage was a really good book. I wouldn’t have rated it as highly as I did if I didn’t like it. One reason I don’t want to continue is the love story. I actually liked it, which probably means something terrible is going to happen to tear them apart, and I don’t think my poor heart could take it.

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The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

YA Fantasy/ Romance

Again, this not a terrible book. It was just overwhelmingly average. I felt the book finished in a place that wraps up all the loose ends, and I’m not really desperate to follow what happens to the characters after the climax of The Queen’s Rising.

Crimson Bound || Rosamund Hodge

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

YA Fantasy

 448 pages

Release date: May 2015

Standalone (companion)

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis from Goodreads

When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

General Comments:

I initially gave this book four stars, but the longer I took to write this review, the less enamoured I was. I really enjoyed reading it at the time, but a few weeks later not as much is standing out to me.

I can’t say it’s really a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. It’s more like one image from the fairytale was used as a prompt for a completely unrelated story. That being said, it was a decent story. It just isn’t a fairytale retelling.

This is the sort of book that would appeal to people who enjoy plot-driven novels featuring stubborn female characters on a mission to save the world. And probably a lot of other people. (I’m not very good at this.)

What I liked:

The writing was really solid. Crimson Bound was really easy to read, and I breezed through it.

I liked Rachelle. She did something awful, and she is trying to make reparations. She let pride win out over the things her elders had taught her and she paid the price. As a Bloodbound, she uses her heightened physical abilities to destroy threats from the Great Forest, choosing to protect humans as penance. I felt that she was a believable and sympathetic main character, but looking back I can also see that she was a bit flat. She had a single minded goal that she pursued, and she didn’t experience that much growth as a character.

I liked the juxtaposition of the Christian-inspired religion of the city and the pagan mythology that still flourished in the more rural areas. I thought the mythology and magic surrounding Woodwives and the Forestborn was interesting too. Woodwives use charms and talismans made from everyday items to cast spells, while Forestborn individuals draw on the power of The Devourer and the Forest. Forestborn can essentially curse humans to become Bloodbound, wherein they start to change into a creature that is not quite human. Bloodbound and Forestborn are stronger, faster, and more violent than humans, which makes them figures to be feared.

I also really appreciated the depiction of a main character with a physical disability. Armand is a bastard prince and has become a double amputee before the story begins. He wears two silver hands, and the struggles he faces both with and without them are explored. Wearing them causes him physical problems and restricts his movements, but he faces shame and people’s pity when he doesn’t.

What I disliked:

There wasn’t anything I really disliked. As I said in the general comments above, I suppose my biggest disappointment was that it was so forgettable.

 Let’s Chat!

Have you read any books by Rosamund Hodge? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Mini Review: Winterglass || Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Fantasy Novella

130 pages

Release date: 2017

Standalone

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis from GoodReads

Winterglass is a sci-fantasy about one woman’s love for her homeland (Sirapirat) and her determination to defeat the Winter Queen who has overtaken the land.

The city-state Sirapirat once knew only warmth and monsoon. When the Winter Queen conquered it, she remade the land in her image, turning Sirapirat into a country of snow and unending frost. But an empire is not her only goal. In secret, she seeks the fragments of a mirror whose power will grant her deepest desire.

At her right hand is General Lussadh, who bears a mirror shard in her heart, as loyal to winter as she is plagued by her past as a traitor to her country. Tasked with locating other glass-bearers, she finds one in Nuawa, an insurgent who’s forged herself into a weapon that will strike down the queen.

To earn her place in the queen’s army, Nuawa must enter a deadly tournament where the losers’ souls are given in service to winter. To free Sirapirat, she is prepared to make sacrifices: those she loves, herself, and the complicated bond slowly forming between her and Lussadh.

If the splinter of glass in Nuawa’s heart doesn’t destroy her first.

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Why I was interested:

It’s an Asian retelling of The Snow Queen.

General Comments:

I’ve taken ages to write this review, because I just didn’t know how to express the things I wanted to say. Winterglass is a wonderful novella that manages to explore gender diversity and colonialism in only 130 pages, while still having well developed characters, a great plot, and an AMAZING magic system. It packed a real emotional punch, and I think it will stay with me for a long time.

What I liked:

Gender Diversity: I want to say that Winterglass is a celebration of gender diversity, but that’s not quite true. While numerous gender identities are present, including non-binary, neutral, and transgender individuals, the gender diversity is so seamless and matter of fact that it feels less like an overt celebration, and more like an accepted part of life that doesn’t need bells and whistles. I think that is why I enjoyed and appreciated this part of the Novella so much. Sexuality was similarly portrayed in a frank and no-nonsense manner.

Magic system: The magic system is amazingly disturbing, but intriguing. You can hurt peoples shadows and spirits, and kill them to make ghosts who literally power cities by providing heat and energy. The magic system was a big draw for me. It’s dark and mysterious and creepy.

Sympathetic Main Characters: The two main characters had quite reserved and distant personalities, but I still found them interesting, sympathetic & understandable. It’s the mark of good writing when you can still connect with a character who isn’t completely lovable.

What I disliked:

Occidentalism: Winterglass is set in an Asian coded country, and I had issues with the use of the term occidental. Not because I have a problem with people taking back power by utilising terms that were used to harm them, but because the automatic association is with it’s ‘Other’, Orientalism, and it seems to me that it just perpetuates the same kind of black and white, ‘us’ and ‘them’ sort of thinking that can be dangerous. On the whole the story seemed to be more focussed on portraying gender diversity than any other political agenda, so I’m not going to harp on about it. But it seems to me even using the term itself is somewhat of a political act, so I think it needs to be mentioned.

The Ending: The only other thing I was slightly disappointed with was the ending. Mostly because I didn’t want it to end. I want to know what happens next in Nuawa and Lussadh’s lives! I want to know more about the magic system!

February Bullet Journal & Digital Planner Flip Through

So this month I continued my bookish bullet journal, and I started a digital planner. The content is essentially the same, but I’ve added a few more organisational, day to day things to my digital one.

Bullet Journal

I kept the same set up as January for my bookish bullet journal. I chose to keep theme and colour scheme pretty simple too. Again, it’s heavily inspired by Amanda Rach Lee. I also purchased some Washi tape and started to play around with it a bit.

I’ve got a separate title page, and have my monthly goals and TBR on a page together.

I track my reading on my monthly calendar spread, as well as planned blog posts.

I have a single page to note new releases that I may be interested in, and I mark the ones I pre-order or purchase. The next page is my TBR for VaLITines Readathon.

I’ve got a full page for my book haul, and one for my reading wrap up.

I also have a recommendation list based on a theme that I’ve compiled, which is Fairytale retellings for February. On the following pages I have a list of my favourite Korean Dramas, with the rating in the heart.

Finally I have my Fairytaleathon TBR, with the books I read marked.

Digital Planner

I purchased a 2019 Monday Start Portrait Planner from Boho Berry, along with some digital stickers for banners, weather icons and habit/mood trackers.

I’m using the app GoodNotes on my iPhone, although any PDF editing program should work if you want to give it a try.

For February I purchased Valentine’s Digital Planner Stickers from CCMDigitals on Etsy, but I haven’t done much with them because I only started my planner on the 23rd.

Most of my pages are the same as my bookish bullet journal, and since I haven’t decorated any of them in my digital planner, I won’t bother posting pics of all those spreads this month.

The one thing that my digital planner has that my bookish journal doesn’t have is weekly spreads for appointments, events, tasks, etc.

I’m pretty excited to expand on my digital planner next month, and my theme is autumn foxes (it’s Fall in the Southern Hemisphere). I’m also starting a physical bullet journal for planning/organisation, as well as a pre-printed bujo, so I’ll probably do a post comparing the three methods at the end of March.

Let’s chat!

How do you keep track of your reading? Do you also use a planner for everyday stuff? What works best for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Fairytale Retellings || Recommendations

Hello all, and welcome. Today I bring you a magical recommendation list of fairytale retellings. I’ve tried to include a whole range of stories, from The Little Mermaid to Snow White. You may notice that there is a distinct absence of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast retellings. Why, you ask? Well dearies, that’s because I’m bringing you separate recommendation lists for them later this year, so keep an eye out!

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To Kill a Kingdom By Alexandra Christo

YA Fantasy

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This take on The Little Mermaid is a bit darker than the Disney version. Lira is a siren princess and she has a prince’s heart for every year she’s been alive. Prince Elian is on a mission to destroy all sirens and make the sea safe again.

There’s adventure, sarcasm, friendship, morally grey characters, and an enemies to lovers romance.

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Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

YA Fantasy

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Spinning Silver is a fairly loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin with Eastern European folklore mixed in. Miryem is the daughter of money lender, and takes over his job when she’s old enough, earning more in a few months than her father earned in years. Her ability to turn silver into gold earns her the unwanted attention of the Staryk King, ruler of a non-human race who live in the snow and ice.

This book contains a beautiful wintry atmosphere, demons, bargains and three strong intelligent female leads.

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The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Goose Girl is the story of a young princess whose ambitious servant takes her place when she’s on her way to wed the prince of a neighbouring kingdom. She ends up working as a goose herder, and attracts the attention of the prince. In this version Ani, the princess, also has a magical gift for speaking to birds.

If you enjoy retellings that retain their fairytale vibe, a focus on friendship, and coming-of-age stories, The Goose Girl may be your cup of tea.

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Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Winterglass is an Asian inspired retelling of The Snow Queen. Nuawa is a gladiator who intends to kill the Winter Queen and free her country from winter’s dominion, but only if the shard of glass in her heart doesn’t kill her first. It features huge gender diversity, strong female characters, and a dark enthralling magic system that uses ghosts as energy sources. If these things pique your interest, this novella is for you.

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Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Echo North is a retelling of the Norwegian fairytale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, with splashes of other legends and fairytales thrown in. Echo Alkaev makes a deal to live with a white wolf for a year in his magical house under a mountain in exchange for helping her father.

If you like books with a wintry atmosphere, libraries, fairytale mashups, and gorgeous worldbuilding, this is definitely one to try.

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Stain by A. G. Howard

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Stain is a loose retelling of The Princess and the Pea with many other recognisable fairytale influences. Set in a world that has been divided in two, Eldoria exists on the surface and is bathed in permanent sun, while Nerezeth has been dragged underground along with the moon, and exists in eternal night. Princess Lyra, heir to Eldorian throne looks like the night folk, and is incapable of human speech, while Prince Vesper, crown prince of Nerezeth looks like the day folk. To reunite their world, they must find each other, even after Lyra’s evil aunt expels her from the palace, and Lyra begins life in The Ashen Ravine as a crossdressing girl called Stain.

This book is huge, but if you like found families, lush descriptions, stories about fate and embracing your scars, and you don’t mind a meandering pace, this is definitely worth a read.

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Crimson Bound By Rosamund Hodge

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Crimson Bound is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in a French inspired world. When she was fifteen, Rachelle killed her aunt after being marked by a Forestborn, turning her into something both more and less than human – a Bloodbound. For three years she has worked for the King, slaying woodspawn in order to atone for her crime. Now, she is assigned by the King to guard his son, Armand, a man rumoured to have resisted the Forestborn’s curse, and who lost his hands in the process.

If you like antiheroes, complex mythology, French inspired settings, and disability representation, Crimson Bound may be to your liking.

Currently Reading

blanca and roja

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

Blanca & Roja is a retelling of both the ballet Swan Lake and the fairytale Snow White and Rose Red featuring Latinx sisters as the lead characters. The del Cisne girls are as different as day and night. Blanca is pale and fair, while Roja is dark with deep red hair. Blanca is sweet and gentle, while Roja is all sharp edges. And they have always known that one day they would be separated by a family curse. A curse that ensures two daughters are born every generation, and the swans in the woods will take one of them. One is destined to remain a girl, while her sister becomes a swan.

If you like magical realism, beautiful writing, stories about sisters, or sensitive transgender representation this is definitely a book that should be on your radar.

On my TBR

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Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. She is torn between two paths. Should she use her magic for good and serve mortals, or should she follow a  darker path fraught with unknown consequences? Kingdom of Ash and Briars pays homage to Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, Cinderella & Jane Austen’s Emma.

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Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

This Little Mermaid Retelling explores the origins of The Sea Witch. Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch.

A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

This Snow White retelling is set in a Chinese inspired world, and follows the rise of the Evil Queen. Xifeng is beautiful, and the stars say she is destined for greatness, that she will be the Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her.

In order to rise so high she must reject the man who loves her and embrace the magic that runs in her veins – magic that is fuelled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. But is the price fo the throne too high?

Upcoming Releases

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House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

YA Fantasy

Release date: 6 August 2019

House of Salt and Sorrows is a retelling of Twelve Dancing Princesses. Annaleigh and her sisters live in a manor by the sea, and they are cursed. At the start of the story, four of her sisters have died tragically, and Annaleigh begins to have disturbing visions which convince her that her sisters’ deaths were not accidental. Meanwhile, her other sisters sneak out every night to attend glittery balls and dance all night. But who, or what, are the really dancing with? Annaleigh must unravel the mystery before someone else dies.

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The Evil Queen by Gena Showalter

YA Fantasy

Release date: 25 June 2019

This retelling of Snow White charts the life of the Evil Queen. Raised in the mortal realm, Everly has no idea she is a fairy princess until she develops the ability to commune with mirrors. Then she discovers the awful truth, that fairytales are not only real, they are prophecies of the future, and Everly is destined to be Snow White’s greatest enemy.

Let’s chat!

What are your favourite fairytales and retellings? Have I missed any of your favourites? Let me know in the comments below!

Stain || A. G. Howard

Stain by A. G. Howard

YA Fantasy

500 Pages

Release date: January 2019

Standalone

 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis: 

Once upon a nightmare, her fairy tale begins…

After Lyra—a princess incapable of speech or sound—is cast out of her kingdom of daylight by her wicked aunt, a witch saves her life, steals her memories, and raises her in an enchanted forest … disguised as a boy known only as Stain. Meanwhile, in Lyra’s rival kingdom, the prince of thorns and night is dying, and the only way for him to break his curse is to wed the princess of daylight, for she is his true equal. As Lyra rediscovers her identity, an impostor princess prepares to steal her betrothed prince and her crown. To win back her kingdom, save the prince, and make peace with the land of the night, Lyra must be loud enough to be heard without a voice, and strong enough to pass a series of tests—ultimately proving she’s everything a traditional princess is not.

Why I was interested: 

It’s a retelling of The Princess and the Pea, and I love fairytale retellings.

General Comments:

This book was a trial for me. I loved it, but I almost quit on it a few times, because it was.  So. Damn. Long. In the end I stayed up late and read the last 150 pages in one sitting. Firstly, because I knew I wouldn’t pick it up again if I didn’t just power through it. Secondly, because once I did get sucked back into the story, the pace picked up and all the action started to really happen. In my opinion, it’s more of a reimagining than a retelling, and it definitely also had some other fairytale vibes: The Little Mermaid, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella all come to mind.

If you love gorgeous descriptions, detailed worldbuilding, found families, fairytale retellings, and a meandering pace, this could be the book for you.

What I liked:

The writing was magical, and the descriptions were so evocative and detailed that I had a really clear picture of what this world looked like. Howard really managed to retain the whimsical Disney-esque fairytale atmosphere throughout the story. There wasn’t a single moment when I wasn’t completely absorbed and immersed in the world.

The mythology and history of the story and the characters was also immensely detailed, so it was an absolute thrill to watch as all the pieces fell into place. I thought the premise was fascinating: a world torn in two – one half lived on the surface in permanent sunlight, while the other half was dragged underground and lived in never ending night. As a concept it was hard to grasp, but the detailed descriptions really brought it to life for me.

My favourite part of the entire book was Lyra/Stain’s found family. They were such an odd bunch, and I felt like they didn’t really have as much time together as I would have liked thanks to a time jump. (That being said, without that time jump this would have been a much lengthier book, and it’s already huge.) Crony is a non-human harrower witch, Luce is a sylph who lost his wings, and Scorch is a winged horse. I really enjoyed their interactions with Lyra/Stain, and how they allowed her to grow and become the best version of herself.

I should probably say something more about the characters, but all I really want to do is call out Crony’s name. I don’t know why I loved her so much, but I did. I adored her. She’s   quite ugly, and her accent/speech is kind of odd, and she has so many regrets, but she’s so full of love. She was the most vivid and complex character in this novel, and one of my favourite secondary characters. Ever.

All of the main characters in Stain were given a detailed backstory, which I really appreciated. I often feel a bit robbed in books with an amazing side cast because we don’t see enough of them, but that was not the case in this novel. While Lyra/Stain is the main character, Prince Vesper, Crony, Luce, Scorch and Aunt Griselda are all given plenty of page time (is that a thing? It’s like screen time, but in a book… Maybe it’s only me?)

Lastly, I wanted to comment briefly on the themes of this book. Obviously it’s about the family you make for yourself, but it’s also about embracing your scars and your experiences. One of the major take home messages for me was that your external appearance counts for very little because you can change that, so it is your character that makes the biggest impact on the world.

What I disliked: 

It’s so damn loooong. Sometimes it was hard to pick it back up, because the pacing slowed to a halt at times. While the descriptions were great, there was a ton of them, and sometimes I really just wanted to get back to the actual plot.

That being said, if you can push through those lulls, then this is a really satisfying and emotionally charged story that is well worth reading.