Shakespeare Retelling Mini Reviews|| Ophelia, Queen of Denmark/ Illyria/ I, Iago/ Prince of Shadows

Ophelia, Queen of Denmark by Jackie French

Young Adult Historical Fiction

288 Pages

Published: 2015

Standalone

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis

She is the girl who will be queen: Ophelia, daughter of Denmark’s lord chancellor and loved by Prince Hamlet.

But while Hamlet’s family stab, poison or haunt one another, Ophelia plans a sensible rule, one filled with justice and the making of delicious cheeses. Even if she has to pretend to be mad to make it happen, Ophelia will let nothing, not even howling ghosts, stand in her way.

This is Shakespeare’s play, but with what might also have happened behind the scenes.

General Comments

In general I quite enjoyed this novel. It’s fairly short and easy to read, and I thought the worldbuilding was also very good. I had a clear mental image of the setting and the people involved in Ophelia’s life. I quite enjoyed the descriptions of food and clothing and the general running of the castle. But I did get sick of Ophelia’s cheese references.

Written in first person from Ophelia’s point of view, we get to see Shakespeare’s play from a different (female) perspective. For the most part, I liked this version of Ophelia. She’s a little naive, but generally straightforward and pragmatic (at least in her internal narration).

I found the change between Ophelia’s internal voice and the flowery Shakespearean ‘courtly speak’ used between characters quite jarring. It only started happening from the middle of the book, and I don’t understand Shakespeare at the best of times, so I was pretty confused when it first appeared. It was like Jackie French just dropped lines from the play straight into a completely different style of writing.

I didn’t like Ophelia’s relationship with Hamlet at all. It was weird and kind of smacked of insta-love. That being said, it does mirror the play, and Ophelia does reflect on it, which was a relief.

The novel explores themes ranging from greed, to gender divisions to what makes a good ruler.

Other than that, I thought the middle dragged a bit, but I thought the twists on the original play were clever and original.

Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Young Adult Contemporary Magical Realism

144 Pages

Published 2010

Standalone

⭐️⭐️

Synopsis

Madeleine and Rogan are first cousins, best friends, twinned souls, each other’s first love. Even within their large, disorderly family—all descendants of a famous actress—their intensity and passion for theater sets them apart. It makes them a little dangerous. When they are cast in their school’s production of Twelfth Night, they are forced to face their separate talents and futures, and their future together.

This stunning short novel, winner of the World Fantasy Award, is the perfect introduction to Elizabeth Hand’s singular voice. Her many novels offer a window into what it means to create art, to experience it, to feel passionately about the world. Illyria throws her talent into high relief—it is magic on paper.

General Comments

I don’t want to say this is a bad book. It had lovely writing and some beautiful scenes. It was more of a character study than anything else, which is fine, but ultimately I felt it lacked anything resembling a plot. I just couldn’t see what the point of it was.

Also, it wasn’t a retelling. It just featured Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night as part of the story. CW: incest, drug use, implied child abuse.

I, Iago by Nicole Galland

Historical Fiction

370 Pages

Published: 2012

DNF 16%

Standalone

Synopsis

The critically acclaimed author of The Fool’s Tale, Nicole Galland now approaches William Shakespeare’s classic drama of jealousy, betrayal, and murder from the opposite side. I, Iago is an ingenious, brilliantly crafted novel that allows one of literature’s greatest villains–the deceitful schemer Iago, from the Bard’s immortal tragedy, Othello–to take center stage in order to reveal his “true” motivations. This is Iago as you’ve never known him, his past and influences breathtakingly illuminated, in a fictional reexamination that explores the eternal question: is true evil the result of nature versus nurture…or something even more complicated?

General Comments

I don’t have a lot to say about this book. I was interested because I like retellings that explore the villains and their back stories. The writing was decent, but I didn’t care about Iago or his life. Basically, I was bored and I didn’t give two hoots about all the military descriptions (the weapons, the strategies, the training, the barracks.)

Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

Young Adult Historical Fantasy

368 Pages

Published: 2014

Standalone

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis

In the Houses of Montague and Capulet, there is only one goal: power. The boys are born to fight and die for honor and—if they survive—marry for influence and money, not love. The girls are assets, to be spent wisely. Their wishes are of no import. Their fates are written on the day they are born.

Benvolio Montague, cousin to Romeo, knows all this. He expects to die for his cousin, for his house, but a spark of rebellion still lives inside him. At night, he is the Prince of Shadows, the greatest thief in Verona—and he risks all as he steals from House Capulet. In doing so, he sets eyes on convent-bound Rosaline, and a terrible curse begins that will claim the lives of many in Verona…

… And will rewrite all their fates, forever.

General Comments

The first thing I want to say is that this book was extremely addictive. I flew through it. The writing quality is excellent, and Rachel Caine really knows how to emphasise the right notes of a story.

Told primarily in first person from Benvolio’s point of view, Prince of Shadows is the story we know, but so much more. There’s a little bit of a supernatural edge, but it’s mostly realistic (although not necessarily completely believable.)

It was a compelling, action-packed read. I loved the twists on the original, and I think I almost prefer this version. There was still plenty of character development, especially within the Montague household. That being said, there were some dark, violent and frankly distressing scenes.

I often forget to provide trigger warnings because I’m pretty tolerant of awful things, but in this case I feel it’s important. There is a particularly brutal murder of a gay man, and it is a pivotal moment in the narrative. Whether this makes it more or less problematic, I don’t know. All I know is that I was sobbing in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, and my heart was breaking. As for other triggers, since I’m already on a roll, there’s plenty of death, violence and blood. There’s also suicide and homophobia.

July Bullet Journal Flip Through|| Studio Ghibli Theme

Another month, another bullet journal theme. For July I chose to go with a Studio Ghibli theme, and I’m so pleased with how it turned out. I drew almost everything free hand (except the bridge on the first page. I couldn’t get the perspective right.) I’m not going to go into a lot of explanation about each spread, I’ll just name the characters I’ve drawn (and from what movie.)

So to start with I’ve got Chihiro on the bridge looking at the bathhouse from Spirited Away.

I didn’t do much with the calendar spread. The little soot creatures in the corner are also from Spirited Away.

Here I drew Kiki and Jiji from Kiki’s Delivery Service. I didn’t finish her face because it looked weird every time I tried. I also didn’t colour my habit trackers because I couldn’t come up with a basic colour scheme for the whole month that I was happy with.

Next I’ve drawn Totoro and his little friends from My Neighbour Totoro.

I’ve drawn the Kodama from Princess Mononoke in this spread.

For this weekly spread I drew Nausicaa and an Ohmu in the Sea of Corruption from the movie Nausicaa Of the Valley Of Wind. I also didn’t complete her face. I figured a pencil line was better than every other attempt I made, so I just left it.

Here is Calcifer eating egg shells from the movie Howl’s Moving Castle. (Read the original book by Diana Wynne-Jones. It’s one of my favourites!) I did base this off someone else’s art, and here’s the link.

On the left I drew No Face and the hamster thing from Spirited Away, and on the right I drew Turnip Head from Howl’s Moving Castle.

And finally, it’s the Catbus from My Neighbour Totoro!

Thanks for checking out this post! If you have any ideas for future themes you’d like to see let me know in the comments below!

#RetellingAThon Week 1 Wrap Up & TBR

So for Week 1 the theme was mythology.

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I completed three prompts, reading a total of 876 pages:

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Sun’s Mortality: A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna

  • Hindu mythology
  • Retelling of the Mahabharata

Horus’ Eye: The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

  • Egyptian mythology

Reader’s Choice: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Sylvia Moreno-García

  • Mayan mythology
  • Retelling of the Popol Vuh

Next week is focused on Shakespeare retellings.

Here are the prompts and my TBR.

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Do Not Say the Name – Macbeth retelling: Highland Raven by Melanie Karsak

Talk to the Skull- Hamlet retelling: Ophelia Queen of Denmark by Jackie French

Witty Fool or Foolish Wit? – Twelfth Night retelling: Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Foolish Mortals and Faeries – A Midsummer Night’s Dream retelling: Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

Star Crossed Lovers – Romeo and Juliet retelling: Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

Choice – Othello retelling: I, Iago by Nicole Galland

Choice – King Lear retelling: The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

July Wrap Up

General Comments

July was a very mixed bag for me. I honestly don’t remember a lot of it because I was sick with a sinus infection, and was fainting etc. But my birthday was good. It was a four day celebration, which was exhausting, but wonderful. I got new clothes that fit me, so I’m feeling pretty happy about that. Other than that, my Gran was in hospital twice and had to have major neck surgery, which has thankfully gone very well.

Books I Read

Albert: A Life by Jules Stewart ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

This was a well researched read about a fascinating man. At the 3/4 mark my interest started to wane, but had that not been the case I would have rated in 4 stars.

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

This is the third book in the Discworld series, and the first to introduce witches. I love Pratchett’s humour, the way he weaves words, and his worldbuilding. As usual, the plot was solid, and I appreciate the themes. I like the characters, but I don’t always think they’re particularly complex. I find his novels enjoyable to read, but lacking emotional punch.

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I loved a lot about this book. It’s told mostly from Ana’s POV, but it’s interspersed with transcripts from trial interviews. The descriptions were amazing, and the world building was really immersive. I think the themes were probably the standout part of The Kingdom- free will, AI, autonomy, and genetic modification just to name a few.

Florence Nightingale by Catherine Reef ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was a young adult biography about England’s most famous nurse. It was easy to read, well researched, and included images. It doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of life, and provides plenty of context to Florence’s story.

Perception by Terri Fleming ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

This is essentially a Pride and Prejudice sequel revolving around the middle Bennet sister, Mary. I quite enjoyed this. It was sweet and well-written. The only thing I really didn’t like was the portrayal of most women as silly and frivolous.

Currently Reading

Past Forward: Essays on Korean History by Kyung Moon Hwang

Hungry Hearts edited by Caroline Tung Richmond and Elise Chapman

Mary Shelley by Catherine Reef

What I Watched

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Shazam ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

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Anne of Green Gables (1985) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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The Hundred Foot Journey ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Downton Abbey (Season 1) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (rewatch) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple (season 5-6) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Eureka ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

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A Few Best Men ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Currently Watching

My Life is Murder

Catch up on my Blog

Wicked Fox|| Kat Cho (Mini Review)

June Haul

Retelling Mini Reviews|| The Tea Master and the Detective, Unmarriageable, & The Cold is in Her Bones

Fairytale Mini Reviews|| Blanca & Roja/ I’m the Vanishers’ Palace/ Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Descendant of the Crane|| Joan He

Perception|| Terri Fleming [Pride and Prejudice Mini Review]

Blog Posts I Liked

Favourite Fantasy Worlds I’d Love to go on Holiday to by The Orangutan Librarian

Desdemona and the Deep Review by Susan @ Novel Lives

The Golem and the Jinni Review by Dina @ SFF Book Reviews

Fairy Tale Retellings Still Focus on Appearances – And I Think it’s Lazy by Briana @ Pages Unbound

YouTube Videos I Liked

Star Trek: Picard – Official Teaser | Prime Video

I cannot find anyone else who is as excited about this as me. I love Picard, I love Next Gen, and I love Sir Patrick Stewart.

Fruits Basket 2019 Official Trailer 2

I can’t believe I didn’t know about this for so many months.

The Truth About Memory Loss by Jessica Kellgren-Fozard

This is my every day life. I have multiple sleep disorders that impact my memory, so this really resonated with me.

August Anticipated Releases

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The Gossamer Mage by Julie E. Czerneda

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Polite Society by Mahesh Rao

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A Dress for the Wicked by Autumn Krause

All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

My Star Rating System In Brief

I’ve been planning a post explaining my star rating for eight months now. I added to it, and added to it. I’m still no where near finishing. So I thought I’d just write a brief post.

I generally work out my ratings based on the following criteria:

  • Writing (style, ease of reading, editing/grammar)
  • Plot (Engaging, surprising)
  • Characters (Internally consistent, complex)
  • Worldbuilding (Setting, backstory, mythology etc)
  • Personal Enjoyment (Emotional investment etc)

Each criteria gets up to one star. Occasionally I’ll make slight exceptions if I think one element outweighs another element. For example, if the plot is a bit lacking, but the characters and worldbuilding more than make up for it, I might still rate it slightly higher. This is usually only rounding it up by half a star at most. I don’t break down my star ratings in my posts, but I try to cover each element in my written review, so if one is worth a bit more than usual, it’s usually pretty clear.

I am trying to do half stars now, but for much of the year I did round up or down to the nearest star. I don’t think it has a great impact, but if you check out any old reviews, you may want to bear that in mind (This usually happens with 3.5 star books).

I’ve tried to make my system of rating as objective and as consistent as possible, but obviously there’s always going to be some subjectivity involved.

If you want to have an even more basic explanation, here it is:

0 stars – DNF

1 Star – I really hated it, but I finished it

2 Stars – I disliked it

3 Stars – It was a decent book

4 Stars – I really liked it

5 Stars – I absolutely loved it

Just to be clear: for me, a three star book can still be a good book, and often I still recommend them. Just because some parts of a book aren’t quite working for me, doesn’t mean they’re not going to work for someone else.

Let’s Chat!

How do you rate your books? Do you have a defined system, or do you rely more on instinct when you rate?

July Haul #4|| Non-Fiction

Another haul. I am so embarrassed and I have absolutely no excuses.

Mary Shelley by Catherine Reef

On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein,comes a riveting biography of its author, Mary Shelley, whose life reads like a dark gothic novel, filled with scandal, death, drama, and one of the strangest love stories in literary history. 

The story of Frankenstein’s creator is a strange, romantic, and tragic one, as deeply compelling as the novel itself. Mary ran away to Lake Geneva with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was just sixteen. It was there, during a cold and wet summer, that she first imagined her story about a mad scientist who brought a corpse back to life. Success soon followed for Mary, but also great tragedy and misfortune.
Catherine Reef brings this passionate woman, brilliant writer, and forgotten feminist into crisp focus, detailing a life that was remarkable both before and after the publication of her iconic masterpiece.

Louisa May Alcott by Harriet Reisen

Biography of the author of Little Women

A vivid, energetic account of the life of Louisa May Alcott, whose work has delighted millions of readers

Louisa May Alcott portrays a writer as worthy of interest in her own right as her most famous character, Jo March, and addresses all aspects of Alcott’s life: the effect of her father’s self-indulgent utopian schemes; her family’s chronic economic difficulties and frequent uprootings; her experience as a nurse in the Civil War; the loss of her health and frequent recourse to opiates in search of relief from migraines, insomnia, and symptomatic pain. Stories and details culled from Alcott’s journals; her equally rich letters to family, friends, publishers, and admiring readers; and the correspondence, journals, and recollections of her family, friends, and famous contemporaries provide the basis for this lively account of the author’s classic rags-to-riches tale.

Alcott would become the equivalent of a multimillionaire in her lifetime based on the astounding sales of her books, leaving contemporaries like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Henry James in the dust. This biography explores Alcott’s life in the context of her works, all of which are to some extent autobiographical. A fresh, modern take on this remarkable and prolific writer, who secretly authored pulp fiction, harbored radical abolitionist views, and completed heroic service as a Civil War nurse, Louisa May Alcott is in the end also the story of how the all-time beloved American classic Little Women came to be. This revelatory portrait will present the popular author as she was and as she has never been seen before.

Lucy Maud Montgomery by Mary Henley Rubio

Biography of the author of Anne of Green Gables

Mary Henley Rubio has spent over two decades researching Montgomery’s life, and has put together a comprehensive and penetrating picture of this Canadian literary icon, all set in rich social context. Extensive interviews with people who knew Montgomery – her son, maids, friends, relatives, all now deceased – are only part of the material gathered in a journey to understand Montgomery that took Rubio to Poland and the highlands of Scotland.

From Montgomery’s apparently idyllic childhood in Prince Edward Island to her passion-filled adolescence and young adulthood, to her legal fights as world-famous author, to her shattering experiences with motherhood and as wife to a deeply troubled man, this fascinating, intimate narrative of her life will engage and delight.

The Bronte Sisters by Catherine Reef

The Brontë sisters are among the most beloved writers of all time, best known for their classic nineteenth-century novels Jane Eyre (Charlotte), Wuthering Heights (Emily), and Agnes Grey(Anne). In this sometimes heartbreaking young adult biography, Catherine Reef explores the turbulent lives of these literary siblings and the oppressive times in which they lived. Brontë fans will also revel in the insights into their favorite novels, the plethora of poetry, and the outstanding collection of more than sixty black-and-white archival images. A powerful testimony to the life of the mind.

Florence Nightingale by Catherine Reef

Young Adult biography of famous English nurse, Florence Nightingale

Most people know Florence Nightingale was a compassionate and legendary nurse, but they don’t know her full story. This riveting biography explores the exceptional life of a woman who defied the stifling conventions of Victorian society to pursue what was considered an undesirable vocation. She is best known for her work during the Crimean War, when she vastly improved gruesome and deadly conditions and made nightly rounds to visit patients, becoming known around the world as the Lady with the Lamp. Her tireless and inspiring work continued after the war, and her modern methods in nursing became the defining standards still used today.

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Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Biography of the author of Pride and Prejudice.

This new telling of the story of Jane’s life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces that mattered to her. It wasn’t all country houses and ballrooms, but a life that was often a painful struggle. Jane famously lived a ‘life without incident’, but with new research and insights, Lucy Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster, in fact, had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.

Past Forward: Essays on Korean History by Kyung Moon Hwang

A wide-ranging collection of concise essays, ‘Past Forward’ introduces core features of Korean history that illuminate current issues and pressing concerns, including recent political upheavals, social developments and cultural shifts. Adapted from Kyung Moon Hwang’s regular columns in the ‘Korea Times’ of Seoul, the essays forward interpretative points concerning historical debates and controversies in order to generate thinking about the ongoing impact of the past on the present, and vice versa: how Korea’s present circumstances reflect and shape the evolving understanding of its past. In taking the reader on a compelling journey through history, ‘Past Forward’ paints a distinctive, fascinating portrait of Korea and Koreans both yesterday and today.

Containing both extensive chronological and subject tables of contents, the essays are grouped into themes demonstrating a particular facet of the recurring connections between the past and the present. In addition, the book contains a timeline of contents that situates the essays in chronological context and a subject index. While all the self-contained essays introduce particular facets of Korean history and society, they are free of jargon and written for the general reader.

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Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders by Susanne Alleyn

this is not a book on how to write historical fiction. It is a book on how not to write historical fiction.

If you love history and you’re hard at work on your first historical novel, but you’re wondering if your medieval Irishmen would live on potatoes, if your 17th-century pirate would use a revolver, or if your hero would be able to offer Marie-Antoinette a box of chocolate bonbons…

(The answer to all these is “Absolutely not!”)

…then Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders is the book for you.

Medieval Underpants will guide you through the factual mistakes that writers of historical fiction—-both beginners and professionals—-most often make, and show you how to avoid them. From fictional characters crossing streets that wouldn’t exist for another sixty years, to the pitfalls of the Columbian Exchange (when plants and foods native to the Americas first began to appear in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and vice versa), to 1990s slang in the mouths of 1940s characters, Susanne Alleyn exposes the often hilarious, always painful goofs that turn up most frequently in fiction set in the past.

Alleyn stresses the hazards to writers of assuming too much about details of life in past centuries, providing numerous examples of mistakes that could easily have been avoided. She also explores commonly-confused topics such as the important difference between the British titles “Lord John Smith” and “John, Lord Smith” and why they’re not interchangeable, and provides simple guidelines for getting them right. In a wide assortment of chapters including Food and Plants; Travel; Dialogue, Expressions, and Slang; Guns; Money; and, of course, Underpants, she offers tips on how to avoid errors and anachronisms while continually reminding writers of the necessity of meticulous historical research

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The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper

Elise Hooper’s debut novel conjures the fascinating, untold story of May Alcott—Louisa’s youngest sister and an artist in her own right.

We all know the story of the March sisters, heroines of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. But while everyone cheers on Jo March, based on Louisa herself, Amy March is often the least favorite sister. Now, it’s time to learn the truth about the real “Amy”, Louisa’s sister, May.

Stylish, outgoing, creative, May Alcott grows up longing to experience the wide world beyond Concord, Massachusetts. While her sister Louisa crafts stories, May herself is a talented and dedicated artist, taking lessons in Boston, turning down a marriage proposal from a well-off suitor, and facing scorn for entering what is very much a man’s profession.

Life for the Alcott family has never been easy, so when Louisa’s Little Women is published, its success eases the financial burdens they’d faced for so many years. Everyone agrees the novel is charming, but May is struck to the core by the portrayal of selfish, spoiled “Amy March.” Is this what her beloved sister really thinks of her?

So May embarks on a quest to discover her own true identity, as an artist and a woman. From Boston to Rome, London, and Paris, this brave, talented, and determined woman forges an amazing life of her own, making her so much more than merely The Other Alcott

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Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Kathryn Harkup

The year 1818 saw the publication of one of the most influential science-fiction stories of all time. Frankenstein: Or, Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley had a huge impact on gothic horror and science fiction genres. The name Frankenstein has become part of our everyday language, often used in derogatory terms to describe scientists who have overstepped a perceived moral line. But how did a 19-year-old woman with no formal education come up with the idea for an extraordinary novel such as Frankenstein? The period of 1790-1820 saw huge advances in our understanding of electricity and physiology. Sensational science demonstrations caught the imagination of the general public, and newspapers were full of tales of murderers and resurrectionists.

It is unlikely that Frankenstein would have been successful in his attempts to create life back in 1818. However, advances in medical science mean we have overcome many of the stumbling blocks that would have thwarted his ambition. We can resuscitate people using defibrillators, save lives using blood transfusions, and prolong life through organ transplants–these procedures are nowadays considered almost routine. Many of these modern achievements are a direct result of 19th century scientists conducting their gruesome experiments on the dead.

Making the Monster explores the science behind Shelley’s book. From tales of reanimated zombie kittens to electrical experiments on human cadavers, Kathryn Harkup examines the science and scientists that influenced Mary Shelley and inspired her most famous creation, Victor Frankenstein. While, thankfully, we are still far from being able to recreate Victor’s “creature,” scientists have tried to create the building blocks of life, and the dream of creating life-forms from scratch is now tantalizingly close.

July Book Haul #3

Yes. It’s my third haul. I sometimes go completely overboard. I’ll be good next month. I swear. *shifty eyes*

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke

For fans of Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Lois Duncan, and Daphne Du Maurier comes a powerhouse anthology featuring some of the best writers of YA thrillers and horror

A host of the smartest young adult authors come together in this collection of scary stories and psychological thrillers curated by Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’s April Genevieve Tucholke.

Each story draws from a classic tale or two—sometimes of the horror genre, sometimes not—to inspire something new and fresh and terrifying. There are no superficial scares here; these are stories that will make you think even as they keep you on the edge of your seat. From bloody horror to supernatural creatures to unsettling, all-too-possible realism, this collection has something for any reader looking for a thrill.

Toil and Trouble edited by Jessica Spotswood & Tess Sharpe

A young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era.

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth.

History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations.

Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.

A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane.

From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely–has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored.

Hungry Hearts edited by Caroline Tung Richmond and Elsie Chapman

From some of your favorite bestselling and critically acclaimed authors—including Sandhya Menon, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Rin Chupeco—comes a collection of interconnected short stories that explore the intersection of family, culture, and food in the lives of thirteen teens.

A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the confections she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that could cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.

Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one and the same.

Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home.

Finders by Melissa Scott

Cassilde Sam is a barely solvent salvage operator, hunting for relics in the ruins left by the mysterious Ancestors—particularly the color-coded Elements that power most of humanity’s current technology, including the ability to navigate through hyperspace. Cassilde is also steadily fading under the onslaught of Lightman’s, an incurable, inevitably fatal disease. She needs one last find big enough to leave a legacy for her partner and fellow salvor Dai Winter.

When their lover and former colleague Summerlad Ashe reappears, offering them a chance to salvage part of an orbiting palace that he claims contains potentially immense riches, Cassilde is desperate enough to take the gamble, even though Ashe had left them both to fight on the opposite side of the interplanetary war that only ended seven years ago. The find is everything Ashe promised. But when pirates attack the claim, Cassilde receives the rarest of the Ancestors’ Gifts: a change to her biochemistry that confers near-instant healing and seems to promise immortality.

But the change also drags her into an underworld where Gifts are traded in blood, and powerful Gifts bring equally powerful enemies. Hunted for her Gift and determined to find Gifts for her lovers, Cassilde discovers that an old enemy is searching for the greatest of the Ancestral artifacts: the power that the Ancestors created and were able to barely contain after it almost destroyed them, plunging humanity into the first Long Dark. Haunted by dream-visions of this power whispering its own version of what happened, Cassilde must find it first, before her enemy frees it to destroy her own civilization.

The Lens and the Looker by Lori S. Kaufman

There’s hope for the future, but what about the past?

It’s the 24th century and humans, with the help of artificial intelligences (A.I.s), have finally created the perfect post-dystopian society. To make equally perfect citizens for this world, the elders have created History Camps, full sized recreations of cities from Earth’s distant pasts. Here teens live the way their ancestors did, doing the same dirty jobs and experiencing the same degradations. History Camps teach youths not to repeat the mistakes that almost caused the planet to die. But not everything goes to plan.

In this first of a trilogy, we meet three spoiled teens in the year 2347. Hansum almost 17, is good looking and athletic. Shamira, 15, is sassy, independent and an artistic genius. Lincoln, 14, is the smart-aleck. But you don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface to find his insecurities.

These three “hard cases” refuse the valuable lessons History Camps teach. But when they are kidnapped and taken back in time to 1347 Verona, Italy, they only have two choices; adapt to the harsh medieval ways or die. The dangers are many, their enemies are powerful, and safety is a long way away. It’s hardly the ideal environment to fall in love – but that’s exactly what happens. In an attempt to survive, the trio risks introducing technology from the future. It could save them – or it could change history.

A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi

For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice. Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed.

Awaiting trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have led them to these bleak cells: eighteen-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an “honor killing”; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, a teen runaway who stays because it is safe shelter; twenty-year-old Mezghan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for a court order to force her lover’s hand. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, like them, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment; removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.

Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his homeland have brought him back. With the fate this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like the Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.

A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, The House with No Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphan

The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

“That skinny Indian teenager has that mysterious something that comes along once a generation. He is one of those rare chefs who is simply born. He is an artist.”

And so begins the rise of Hassan Haji, the unlikely gourmand who recounts his life’s journey in Richard Morais’s charming novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey. Lively and brimming with the colors, flavors, and scents of the kitchen, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a succulent treat about family, nationality, and the mysteries of good taste.

Born above his grandfather’s modest restaurant in Mumbai, Hassan first experienced life through intoxicating whiffs of spicy fish curry, trips to the local markets, and gourmet outings with his mother. But when tragedy pushes the family out of India, they console themselves by eating their way around the world, eventually settling in Lumière, a small village in the French Alps.

The boisterous Haji family takes Lumière by storm. They open an inexpensive Indian restaurant opposite an esteemed French relais—that of the famous chef Madame Mallory—and infuse the sleepy town with the spices of India, transforming the lives of its eccentric villagers and infuriating their celebrated neighbor. Only after Madame Mallory wages culinary war with the immigrant family, does she finally agree to mentor young Hassan, leading him to Paris, the launch of his own restaurant, and a slew of new adventures.

The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Magical, tantalizing, and sensual, The Mistress of Spices is the story of Tilo, a young woman born in another time, in a faraway place, who is trained in the ancient art of spices and ordained as a mistress charged with special powers.  Once fully initiated in a rite of fire, the now immortal Tilo–in the gnarled and arthritic body of an old woman–travels through time to Oakland, California, where she opens a shop from which she administers spices as curatives to her customers.  An unexpected romance with a handsome stranger eventually forces her to choose between the supernatural life of an immortal and the vicissitudes of modern life.

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The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove

She has only seen the world through maps. She had no idea they were so dangerous.

Boston, 1891. Sophia Tims comes from a family of explorers and cartologers who, for generations, have been traveling and mapping the New World—a world changed by the Great Disruption of 1799, when all the continents were flung into different time periods.  Eight years ago, her parents left her with her uncle Shadrack, the foremost cartologer in Boston, and went on an urgent mission. They never returned. Life with her brilliant, absent-minded, adored uncle has taught Sophia to take care of herself.

Then Shadrack is kidnapped. And Sophia, who has rarely been outside of Boston, is the only one who can search for him. Together with Theo, a refugee from the West, she travels over rough terrain and uncharted ocean, encounters pirates and traders, and relies on a combination of Shadrack’s maps, common sense, and her own slantwise powers of observation. But even as Sophia and Theo try to save Shadrack’s life, they are in danger of losing their own.

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The Eyes of Tamburah by Maria V. Snyder

Shyla is a researcher who resides in the underground desert city of Zirdai, which is ruled by the wealthy Water Prince and brutal Heliacal Priestess. Even though Shyla is sun-kissed – an outcast, considered cursed by the Sun Goddess – she is still renowned for uncovering innumerable archaic facts, lost artefacts, ancient maps, and obscure historical documents. Her quiet life is about to change when Banqui, an archaeologist, enlists her services to find The Eyes of Tamburah: legendary gemstones that bestows great magic to its wielder. These ancient objects can tip the balance of power and give whoever possesses them complete control of the city.

But chaos erupts when The Eyes are stolen soon after they’re found – and Shyla is blamed for the theft. Forced to flee, with the Prince’s soldiers and the Priestess’ deacons on her trail, Shyla must recover the jewels and clear her name. A quest that will unearth secrets even more valuable than The Eyes of Tamburah themselves..

July Book Haul #2|| Retellings

Since I went absolutely crazy this month in terms of purchasing books, I’m only going to link to the Goodreads synopsis instead of including them here. I’ll give a super brief outline of each book.

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The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

Egyptian gods and their mortal, snarky teenage daughter, Isadora.

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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Eastern European folklore

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Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe

Pride and Prejudice retelling/sequel

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What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean

Pride and Prejudice retelling/sequel

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The Grimoire of Kensington Market by Lauren B. Davis

Modern retelling of The Snow Queen

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Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

Anne of Green Gables retelling/prequel

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Realm of Ruins by Hannah West

Fairytale mash up

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The Phantom’s Apprentice by Heather Webb

The Phantom of the Opera retelling/sequel

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Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Rapunzel retelling

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Beyond the Briars by Shelley Chappell

Four fairytale Retellings, including Rumplestiltskin and Sleeping Beauty

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Cadaver and Queen by Alisa Kwitney

Frankenstein retelling

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A Little in Love by Susan Kay

Les Miserables retelling from Eponine’s POV

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The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet by Jennifer Paynter

Pride and Prejudice retelling

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The Kaunteyas by Madhavi S. Mahadevan

Mahabharata retelling from POV of Kunti

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Phantom by Susan Kay

Phantom of the Opera retelling

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Perception by Terri Fleming

Pride and Prejudice retelling/sequel

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Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon

Oliver Twist retelling

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Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh

Modern Sense and Sensibility retelling

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Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell

Les Miserables retelling in space

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The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

The Island of Doctor Moreau retelling

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The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

Jane Eyre retelling in 1960s/70s

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Havisham by Ronald Frame

Great Expectations retelling from Miss Haversham’s POV

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Black Spring by Alison Croggs

Wuthering Heights Retelling

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Jane Steele by Lindsay Faye

Jane Eyre retelling (sort of)

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The Strange Case of the Alchemists Daughter by Theodora Goss

A mash up featuring the daughters of Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, Dr. Moreau, Frankenstein, and Rappaccini. And also Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

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The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

Sherlock Holmes retelling

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A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Female Sherlock Holmes retelling

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Dust and Shadow by Lindsay Faye

Sherlock Holmes retelling