Sunday, May 21, 2017

Roses of May - Dot Hutchison

Publishing: May 23rd, 2017, Thomas & Mercer.
Pg Count: 302 (e-book)
Find the Author: Goodreads
"Four months after the explosion at the Garden, a place where young women known as the Butterflies were kept captive, FBI agents Eddison, Hanoverian, and Ramirez are still entrenched in the aftermath. With winter coming to an end, the Butterflies have longer, warmer days of healing ahead. But for the agents, the impending thaw means one gruesome thing: a chilling guarantee that somewhere in the country, another young woman will turn up dead in a church with her throat slit and her body surrounded by flowers. Priya's sister fell victim to the killer years ago. Now she and her mom move every few months, hoping for a new beginning. When she ends up in the madman’s crosshairs, the hunt takes on new urgency. Only with Priya’s help can the killer be found—but will her desperate hope for closure compel her to put her very life on the line?" -Goodreads Blurb

Last year I reviewed The Butterfly Garden after picking it up on a whim (after having seen it suggested on my Amazon page a gazillion times). It was the start of what is now entitled the 'The Collector Trilogy'. It's being released on the 23rd. And like it's predecessor - I basically read the entire book in one night because I needed to see how it ended. 

If you haven't read The Butterfly Garden yet - don't read this book. It has too many recurring characters and references to the Garden from the first book to make proper sense to read alone. I, myself, kind of wish I had reread Garden before reading this one. However - the new characters and the developing of old ones is original and organic. The tone, and general theme, of this book is different. Whereas Garden was about trauma and how to survive and what you might do to do survive...Roses of May was about what to do after. What happens when you survive, when you're the one left behind? The theme of recovery is layered several times over within the plot. 

Familial bonds - both by blood and by choice - are also a recurring theme. As is the refreshing and clear difference between a healthy relationship and a unhealthy one. Priya, has a tight bond with the 'Quantico 3'. Eddison who has been handling her sister's case since the start in particular. When you have a series centered around the obsession of young girls/women in the most sadistic, creepy-as-fuck way I think it'd be easy to fall into the trap of making all adult male figures a crap-shoot. There is no confusion as to the platonic, paternal nature of the relationship between Eddison and Priya (and her mother). Just because family is blood doesn't mean they are Family. Looking back on the Butterfly Garden I'm beginning to see a re-occurring theme linking the series together. Ultimately the theme shifts from - what to do after making the active stance to no longer being a victim. It's a deeply personal choice and it means different things to different people and I felt that Hutchison effectively communicated this.

My biggest pause on this book was the corny tone the narration took. At times it felt like Hutchison was forcing the lightness into the interactions of the characters. Adding humor, little quirks, and insights solely to re-affirm the shifted tone. I say that because you jump from the anonymous POV of the pervy serial killer stalking and talking about his victims to another character (usually Priya or Eddison). Perhaps that's what made it seem corny. Hutchison can rock the darkness. She is most excellent about it. The contrast between light/dark, good/evil is tangible in Roses. In ways that it was most certainly not in Butterfly.

I also thought Priya's Mom was a little crazy for letting her daughter do what she did. However, I won't spoil it. I just want to add that no kid of mine would ever, ever have to be put in a situation like Priya was. Definitely not to my knowledge and not on my watch.

3 out of 5 stars! Just like the Butterfly Garden. I genuinely look forward to the conclusion of this trilogy. I have a strong suspicion who and what case it might entail. ;)

Until next time..happy reading!


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Foretelling - Alice Hoffman

Publishing: Oct. 25th, 2016. Open Road Media.
Page Count: 72 pgs (e-book)
Find the Author: website

"Born out of sorrow in an ancient time of blood and war, Rain is a girl marked by destiny. Her mother, Alina, is the proud queen of a tribe of female warriors, yet she refuses to touch or even look at her only daughter. Determined to win her mother’s love and take her rightful place as the next queen, Rain becomes a brave and determined fighter. But the dream of a black horse clouds her future, portending death. As one devastating battle follows the next, Rain hopes for a different life for her tribe beyond never-ending bloodshed. Peace, mercy, and love, however, are forbidden words in her language—can Rain teach her sisters to speak in a new tongue before it’s too late?" - Nabbed from Goodreads. 

I've been seeking a take on the Amazon culture for a while (outside of Wonderwoman) now. Having Alice Hoffman, author of my beloved Practical Magic, write one was like getting an extra chocolate bar out of the vending machine. Trust in an author goes a long way. It leads you to buy a book without reading based on the expectation that it's worthy to stand on your shelf. It deeply pains me to say that I am happy I didn't buy this book in physical form. doesn't quite stand up to Hoffman's reputation. 

Yea, that hurt to say. 

She brought me PRACTICAL MAGIC. 


And doesn't stand up. 

We open up on a young Amazonian narrating her life. Her mother is cold towards her, she's raised by the Priestesses, tutored by the best warriors. The premise, the plot is pulling towards the readers. Brings you in with such hope. The world building that is told (told not shown - but more on that later) is shiny and first. And you keep reading because you want to have more...except you don't exactly get it. My personal pet peeve is when a world is built and it's entirely and utterly confusing - you can't figure a picture in your head of what's going down. That's NOT what happened. Foretelling might not live up to Hoffman's reputation but it's still Hoffman we're reading. The problem I faced was that I couldn't connect to the characters, the world was told far more than it was shown, and it went way too fast. The book (in e-book) was only 72 pages. It read like a rough draft (a good one, but still a rough draft) where the characters needed to be fleshed out and the narration needed to be crafted with visual and emotion-based world building. 

72 digital pages was not enough to fully flesh out the plot. There was so much the reader could have experienced. It read like a myth being told - which makes sense considering it is about the Amazons - but what you wanted (and expected) was a novel. 

A positive of Foretelling was the imagery inspired by the many animals Rain and her people were close to. Not just horses - but bees as well were sacred to them. Rain bonded and raised a bear cub as close to her as her horse. The bear became part of her spirit, her strength, her personality. For those who know a little about animal symbolism - it reads as a nod to foreshadowing, a extra foundation of which to understand Rain's personality and motives. 

As for the actual prophecy part of the novel named "The Foretelling" was a surprising twist. The prophecy is a mixture of symbolism, self-perpetuated destiny, and the circle of life. Also bad (or excellent) timing. It's a fitting tribute to Rain's journey and of course, she would act the way that she did. It's got all the makings of a emotional punch in the heart. The kind that makes you cry, freak out, get WAY into a fictional story so far that you wonder if you're kind of maybe a nut job - but it...just doesn't deliver the blow. 

I literally pouted after finishing up the 72nd page.  That was it? I wanted more! THERE WAS SO MUCH MORE WE COULD HAVE EXPERIENCED. Novels are meant to give experiences, they're meant to have so much written that the author is forced by their editor to cut their precious baby scenes out. What I read wasn't a finished novel. It was the bones of an potentially excellent novel written by a talented author. Hence, the experience I was expecting (and looking forward to) wasn't what I got.

It wasn't a waste of my Saturday evening. However, I couldn't suggest purchasing it to put on your shelf (the highest degree of recommendation I can give). If you are intrigued by myths and by the Amazons, if you enjoy Alice Hoffman - borrow it from the library or catch the digital on sale. 

3 out of 5 stars. 

Until next time, 


Monday, April 17, 2017

A Tale As Old As Time, True As It Can Be

Beauty and the Beast!

I've seen the live-action three times because IT'S MY ALL TIME FAVORITE DISNEY! A bit obvious, I'm sure, because I am a brunette, I love books, and the most romantic thing a significant other can do for their book loving sweetie is to present them with a library of their very own like Beast did for Belle. However, like many happily ever afters adopted by Disney - it's rooted in a old fairy tale. Thus, spawning the phrase 'Tale as old as time...'. Beauty (a good heart and what's inside being the most important mark of beauty) has met Beast in many interpretations. I've decided to round up a few of personal favorites/suggestions. Some (hopefully all!) you've read or heard about but if not - get ready to stock up your reading device!

First thing first : The fairy tale originated from France from Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot De Villeneuve. However, it was retold in a shorter fashion for younger girls by Jeanne-Marie LePrince Beaumont. According to Wikipedia..she did not credit Villeneuve as the original source of the story and thus it was believed that she was the creator of the tale when she was, in fact, retelling it. Andrew Lang retold it and put it in his Blue Fairy Book. 

There are many different times and different worlds that Beauty and the Beast could be set in. There's Disney-verse, of course. But also more serious, mythologically and historically steeped settings. And then there are the creative, more 'inspired by' variations. 

Beauty : A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
Robin McKinley

Published: June 30th, 1993
Publisher: HarperTeen
Page Count: 243 pgs.
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling
Find the Author: Website
"A strange imprisonment...Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage. When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, 'Cannot a Beast be tamed?'." - Nabbed from Goodreads.

This was the first book that popped up in my brain. Most of the books I read way back when in High School but this one was one that I chose to pick up again recently. McKinley is a lovely writer to read. I enjoy reading the world that she describes and her unique take on Beauty. Beauty doesn't consider herself a beauty but it is hinted that she is handsome in her own right. It's hard, when you have two traditionally beautiful older sisters, to see your attributes. Also - while I was looking into the info on the book I found out that McKinley wrote two more books and entitled the series "Folktales". I haven't read them but they piqued my interest. 

Belle : A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast
Cameron Dokey

Published: January 1st, 2008
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Page Count: 224 pgs.
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Romance, Retelling
Find the Author: Website
"Belle is convinced she has the wrong name, as she lacks her sisters' awe-inspiring beauty. So she withdraws from society, devoting her time to wood carving. Secretly, Belle longs to find the fabled Heartwood Tree. If carved by the right hands, the Heartwood will reveal the face of one's true love. During a fierce storm, Belle's father stumbles upon the mysterious Heartwood -- and encounters a terrifying and lonely Beast. Now Belle must carve the Heartwood to save her father, and learn to see not with the eyes of her mind, but with the eyes of her heart." - Nabbed from Goodreads.

Belle is a woodcarver!!! I had forgotten all about this (so perhaps not terribly memorable?) until I saw it pop up on Goodreads. I remember reading this forever and ever ...well...probably back in 2008. The woodcarving and the Heartwood tree is familiar. I think, based on the fact that she CARVES WOOD - she is by far my favorite incarnation of Beauty. 

Donna Jo Napoli

Published: January 1st, 1999
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Page Count: 272 pgs.
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling, Historical Fiction.
Find the Author: Website
"Orasmyn is the prince of Persia and heir to the throne. His religion fills his heart and his mind, and he strives for the knowledge and leadership his father demonstrates. But on the day of the Feast of Sacrifices, Orasmyn makes a foolish choice that results in a fairy's wretched punishment: He is turned into a beast, a curse to be undone only by the love of a woman. Thus begins Orasmyn's journey through the exotic Middle East and sensuous France as he struggles to learn the way of the beast, while also preserving the mind of the man. This is the story of his search, not only for a woman courageous enough to love him, but also for his own redemption." - Nabbed from Goodreads.

Just in case you were wondering....this is from the Beast's point of view. The cover is..rather self explaining. This is the story about the Beast and if you can't tell from the title then be tipped off by the guy with a rose in his mouth peeking out at you from underneath a mask of a lion. I assume the rose is to reinforce the connection with Beauty and the Beast. The potential of experiencing another culture is also enticing. A Prince of Persia as the beast. There is so much potential there and if I remember correctly (been since a few years since I read it) the story telling is enchanting and the book holds up. 

Alex Flinn

Published: October 7th, 2007
Publisher: Harper Teen
Page Count: 304 pgs. 
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Fiction, Retelling, Romance.
Find the Author: Website
"I am a beast. A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster. You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell. Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly." - Nabbed from Goodreads. 

Again with the Beast perspective but this time - with a modern setting. And also a movie with Vanessa Hudgens (and an Olsen twin). This book is definitely, firmly planted in the comfy YA genre. A modern teenage Beauty and the Beast. But, instead of trying to put a realistic, scientific approach to the fairy tale - the magic is kept! Like the book by McKinley there are other stories spun off from this book - about the immortal witch. I've not read them yet, but I hope to soon. She seems like my kind of Witch. 

Disney time! This whole post was spawned from my seeing a Disney Beast POV book at Barnes and Nobles (and, of course, seeing the live action repeated times). 

The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast
Serena Valentino

Published: July 22, 2014
Publisher: Disney Press
Page Count: 215 pgs
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Retelling.
Find the Author: Website
"A cursed prince sits alone in a secluded castle. Few have seen him, but those who claim they have say his hair is wild and nails are sharp--like a beast's! But how did this prince, once jovial and beloved by the people, come to be a reclusive and bitter monster? And is it possible that he can ever find true love and break the curse that has been placed upon him?" - Nabbed from Goodreads. 

I love, love, love Disney and I'm one of those adults that is totally secure about watching Disney movies at anytime, anywhere and without a kid in sight. However, I was a little more reticent to purchase a Disney Press book. I have a limited budget for books and I'm particular about what makes the cut. Thankfully - it's free through Kindle Unlimited.

As Old As Time : A Twisted Tale
Liz Braswell

Published: September 6th, 2016
Publisher: Disney Press
Page Count: 496 
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retelling.
Find the Author: Website
"What if Belle's mother cursed the Beast? Belle is a lot of things: smart, resourceful, restless. She longs to escape her poor provincial town for good. She wants to explore the world, despite her father's reluctance to leave their little cottage in case Belle's mother returns—a mother she barely remembers. Belle also happens to be the captive of a terrifying, angry beast. And that is her primary concern. But Belle touches the Beast's enchanted rose, intriguing images flood her mind—images of the mother she believed she would never see again. Stranger still, she sees that her mother is none other than the beautiful Enchantress who cursed the Beast, his castle, and all its inhabitants. Shocked and confused, Belle and the Beast must work together to unravel a dark mystery about their families that is twenty-one years in the making." - Nabbed from Goodreads

Behold, a perspective that shines a light on Belle's mysterious, absent mother. Also written by one of my favorite writers. I read her Chloe King series back, way back before Freeform (then ABC Family) tried to do a TV series on it. And I found out that my favorite alternative retelling of Snow White was written by her under a pen name. While I haven't actually read it - I can fully suggest it because I've not only read and enjoyed the Author but I've read another book she wrote in the series (Aladdin...what if he hadn't saved the day after all?) and can approve it. 

Honorary mentions to - Uprooted (Naomi Novik) and Jane Eyre (Bronte). If you haven't ever read either -do so promptly. It's vitally important to your life experience that you do. ;)

Have you read any retellings that isn't mentioned here? Please share because I am always on the look out for Beauty and the Beast tales. Also...if you haven't seen the live-action Beauty and the really, really ought to. THREE TIMES. And it was better each time.

Until next time,


Sunday, April 9, 2017

All The Love For The Redwall Series By Brian Jacques

I was one of those kids whose parents objected to Harry Potter on religious grounds. I never read the books, watched the movies, learned what house I was until I was an adult. I went to the very last Harry Potter movie when it came out because (at the time) I was like THIS IS MY ONLY CHANCE TO SEE THIS FANDOM IN THEATERS! (Thankfully, I am completely proven wrong. #FantasticBeastsAndWhereToFindThem!). While other kids were waiting in line to get the next book in the series - I was searching my library for anything, everything that could fill the empty space where Harry Potter was held sacred by my peers. Then I read a book about a abbey of woodland creatures in a forest called Mossflower....

Redwall by Brian Jacques

Published: 1986
Publisher: Avon Books
Page Count: 352 
Genre: Young Adult, Children, Fantasy.
Find the Author:

"In the glorious tradition of Watership Down comes a powerful tale of fantasy, courage, and epic adventure—the heart-soaring story of a wondrous quest to recover a legendary lost weapon…and of a bumbling young apprentice monk named Matthias, mouse-kind's most unlikely hero.War erupts in the Summer of the Late Rose, shattering the peace that had reigned in Mossflower since the magnificent mouse, Martin the Warrior, laid down his mighty sword generations earlier. Now a dark cloud of doom and despair hangs over the ancient stone abbey of Redwall. Cluny the Scourge—the one-eyed embodiment of evil, the most savage bilge rat that ever jumped from a ship to shore—has arrived with his rodent horde to conquer…and to destroy." - Nabbed from Goodreads.

Redwall was my Hogwarts. It's not as well known but if you look in the right places you will find the inhabitants of Mossflower woods concocting recipes and doodling fan art in the quieter corners of The Internet. We are, generally, a peaceful people more focused on getting the best recipe for the Otter's Hot Root Soup than arguing which species is better or whatever we could fight about but don't because we want to honor Martin the Warrior's Spirit. 

There is a formula Jacques created and yet there is not. There are the badgers in the mountains (EULALIA!!!!), the otters of the sea, the origins of Martin the Warrior and the stories that came before Redwall Abbey was founded. He explores all of this in the 21 book series. Yes, 21 books. About woodland creatures in a non-denominational peaceful religious community battling it out with various foes. You are constantly reading different perspectives, following different journey's that end up tying together in the end. While the series jumps around on the timeline (chronological and timeline order can be found on his website) you see many familiar faces but you're never bored. Because something is always happening. Gypsies stealing from your traveling characters! Accidentally wandering into the lair of a snake! Pirates arriving on land to plunder! A myth must be proven right to save everyone! REALLY GREAT FOOD DESCRIPTIONS!!! ADORABLE LITTLE 'DIBBUNS' ANTICS (small children of Redwall). 

When I was a kid/tween this semi-kinda-formula was my escape. Most of ya'll went to Hogwarts with Harry every year. I went to Mossflower Woods and followed various woodland creatures as they defeated The Bad Guys. (My particular favorites were the ones centered around the Badgers of Salamandastron Mountain). I spent a couple of summers watching the adapted animation tv show on the PBS channel. The theme song still brings on the nostalgia feels. (And, if I remember correctly pretty spot on the adapting part.

The highlight of my Redwall Fandom Career happened, of course, when I found out that Brian Jacques was coming to Des Moines, Iowa. To the children's store called The Learning Post to be exact (provider of my Boxcar Children collection and source of sticker books for my ever expanding sticker collection.). I remember carrying my beloved, well worn, used paperback copy of Redwall while we waited. I remember thinking that he looked a lot like my Dad and had the same fashion sense (Ivy Caps). His wife accompanied him. And when it came time for book signings and my turn came up she made a smiling comment that my book was very well loved. He told me that in his upcoming book Loamhedge there was a small rabbit maiden who used a wheelchair (totally made my year).

As you can clearly see - it's still a very well worn copy but nevertheless treasured signed copy of Redwall. :) I had to stop using it and retire it to a quiet, dry, sun-sheltered spot on my bookshelf. lol.

I could probably count on one hand the amount of people I've met that are familiar and are fans of Redwall and Brian Jacques. Like I said above, we're a quiet folk used to not having anyone know what we're talking about when we bring up our love for Redwall. I met one of my best friends on SecondLife and what was the cementer of our friendship? Not only did she know Redwall and Brian Jacques - SHE LOVED THEM TOO.

And, just FYI, if I had been a character in the series I probably would have been a Squirrel. They were deadly with a sling and 'flew between the trees'. At a younger age, I sooooo imagined myself a squirrel picking off bad guys from high up on the ramparts of the Abbey. If not, then I was a badger warrior-maiden like Cregga Rose Eyes who retired to spend peaceful years as Badger Mother of Redwall.

So, if you haven't ever picked up a Redwall book - go to the library and look up Brian Jacques. If you're busy and listen to audio's - good news, Brian Jacques narrated with a full cast many of his books. (I'm listening to the Long Patrol right now). When you're done come and know that this is a place that knows what you mean when you say "RRRREEEEDDDDDWWWWAAAAAALLLLL!!!!!"

Until next time, 


P.S. Really, really great food descriptions. So good there's a cookbook.