Hunted by Meagan Spooner

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I know, I know, I’m SUPER late to read this book. For some reason I thought it was a Robin Hood retelling, not Beauty and the Beast. Oops. But when I finally realized what it really was, I got it immediately. And it’s molded with Russian lore? Yes please.

I loved it. I mean what’s not to love?

Yeva would have preferred to be admired for her skill, but she’d suffered the great misfortune of having been born a girl.

Every book I read needs to start with this sentence. I loved the writing, the toeing the line between the original and being original. I loved the characters and the moral of the tale. Some may say they’re tired of Beauty and the Beast retellings, and to them I say NAY. This was meant to be.

So if you like this kind of thing (like I do) it’s a perfect read. Not too light, not too dark, and just familiar enough.

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Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf

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Zera’s heart is in a glass jar belonging to a witch, and the only way to get it back and reclaim her freedom is to exchange it with a prince’s.

You know what sucks? When a book could have a name that perfectly embodies it but it can’t because it’s already taken and a bestseller (*cough Heartless cough*) so it has to take on a really weird long winded one instead (like Bring Me Their Hearts, when really it’s just one heart?). Honestly, Entangled should have just gone with The Heartless, but I can see why they didn’t. It just sucks.

Anyway, after reading the beautiful-but-super-bleak Cruel Prince, I wanted something light and sassy, and this book was IT. It pushes all the right buttons of traditional tropes in all the fun ways and I enjoyed it immensely. It had an interesting blend between magic and tech, and I really loved the characters. Everyone had their own goals and took significant plot-defining steps towards them, which is something rare to see with secondary characters in YA. Also queer and disabled rep – yes please!

I will definitely be picking up the next book, though since this was an ARC (thanks Netgalley!) it’s going to be a while before it comes out. Overall, I loved it and I’m excited for more!

The Princess Game by Melanie Cellier

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Every cover for this series is freaking beautiful. Just wow. I can’t get enough of them.

The story had a great twist on the original that made me read this before any of the others. The Sleeping Princess isn’t actually asleep, the curse just makes it so she acts like a dimwit instead of the intelligent young woman that she is.

Unless she’s in disguise that is.

I just loved this idea, and while I enjoyed the plot and the romance, I found myself skimming more and more until I was turning pages with barely a glance. There was just too much hanging around and talking and not enough to keep me interested. I just wanted to know what happens!

Anyway, it really was a great twist, and anyone who likes retellings would enjoy this book. I’m excited for The Little Mermaid and The Swan Princess coming out this year. Yes please!

The Princess Companion: A Retelling of The Princess and the Pea by Melanie Cellier

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I have never read a Princess and the Pea retelling, so this book immediately got my attention. Fairy tale retellings are my jam!

I was really excited to read this, and it turned out to be a sweet basic story that reminded me of the Faerie Tale Collection Series by Jenni James, minus the insta-love. The constant emphasis on beauty felt a bit distasteful, but it was a fairy tale. What did I expect? I did enjoy the book and I’m really interested in the next one.

However, there was one issue: someone stole all the commas.

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Ok, so maybe not ALL the commas, but a lot of them. Maybe it was an ebook conversion error that ate the commas like pacman.

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Or maybe Australia has different grammar rules? I don’t know. I did enjoy the book, though, and I hope book 2 has escaped the comma thief.

Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale by Carolyn Turgeon

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As someone currently writing a mermaid book, this was a perfect read. I seriously could not put this book down. It was beautifully written, stayed within the original minus minor tweaks here and there, and opened up a whole other world within the fairy tale – the world of the princess.

I’ve read a lot of re-tellings, and I absolutely love it when it gives us more insight into how things happened. A lot of reviewers are saying there was no point to this book, but I disagree. This was definitely a wonderful story, and while there were a couple out-of-nowhere sex scenes, it was beautiful and lyrical and made me feel inspired to write.

If you want a great Little Mermaid story with a slight twist that will leave you breathless, this is perfect. But if you’re looking for something original, well…. you probably shouldn’t be reading re-tellings haha.

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

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A modern Russian fairy-tale retelling about Baba Yaga and Vassilissa? There was no way I wasn’t going to buy this. Everything about it screamed PLEASE READ ME and I started reading it immediately.

That was three weeks ago, and I just finished it today.

The thing is, it wasn’t too long or too boring. It was just so beautifully written, so abstract, that my brain got too tired from just trying to imagine all the things this book shows us.

If you’re a writer trying to improve your prose, this book should be considered a manual.

Let me tell you, Russians LOVE to be abstract. They love metaphors that don’t actually mean anything, that can’t really be seen but envisioned, things that sound beautiful just to sound beautiful. This book did an amazing job at conveying that, and I cannot begin to describe the talent I am so insanely jealous of that can write that way.

The story itself had a very interesting premise, and was executed…fairly well. I say it like that because there were many points that felt so out of place I couldn’t help but go ‘this doesn’t make any sense!’. Not at the bizarre magics of Baba Yaga’s ‘store’. Not at the explanations of Night and night and the pieces of it. Not even, at any of the characters’ motivations or actions. I got all that.

What I didn’t get was the point of half the characters’ existences, aside from being there to move the plot that didn’t actually have anything to do with the plot. They were just…there. The random kid, the lawyers, even her father. Just…why? They felt so out of place that the whole thing became too muddled, and it didn’t start out that way. Vassa and Erg were great together. I loved the relationship between Vassa and her sisters. Babs and her henchmen? Perfect. And it should have stayed that way.

Another thing that really bothered me were the unnecessary splashes of romance. Vassa was weirdly attracted to our equivalent of Frankenstein. She’s 16 and he’s literally a giant monster-doll-thing she can’t talk to or see the face of and somehow she’s thinking of how she maybe like-likes him? And then Erg calls him her boyfriend? Where does that line of thinking come from? This isn’t Beauty and the Beast. He’s not wooing her. It was disturbing to say the least. It’s like the author wanted it to be more YA than MG and thought what better way to up the age group than add some romance. Ick.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book, and I loved all the magic and description. If you’re looking for a lyrical but sassy tale of magical realism, this is the crème de la crème. Just be ready to ignore some weird stuff and not focus too much on the plot. Enjoy it for the beauty and the fun, and you won’t be disappointed.

Puss without Boots: A Puss in Boots Retelling by Shari L. Tapscott

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I have to say – what a cool cover!

And the name is intriguing to say the least. How many of us actually know the fairy-tale Puss in Boots? Growing up in Russia it was one of many French tales I enjoyed, and so I had to get this book.

It reminded me a lot of the Faerie Tale Collection Series by Jenni James. Cute and feel-good with insta-love and magic and just all those sweet and wonderful things fairy tales should be. It was gender-swapped with a few twists along the way, and I enjoyed reading it, wondering what would happen.

There were quite a few things that felt incomplete, like the point of Puss’s boots. I feel like if the author took just a little more time to think through the plot, it could have been a really great book. For a quick novella it was a fun read, but it left me wishing for more explanations, more development. A worthwhile between-books filler, well written and cute, but not quite satisfying.