Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Princess of the Midnight Ball
by Jessica Day George

ISBN-13: 9-781599-904559
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!

As the crown princess, Rose is never without a dance partner. She and her eleven sisters are treated to beautiful gowns, slippers, and dances at party after party in their father’s palace. But their evenings do not end when the guests return home. Instead, Rose and her sisters must travel deep into the earth to the wicked King Under Stone’s palace. There, the girls are cursed to dance each night, even when they grow exhausted or ill.

Many princes have tried – and failed – to break the spell. But then Rose meets Galen, a young soldier-turned-gardener with an eye for adventure. Together they begin to unravel the mystery. To banish the curse, they’ll need an invisibility cloak, enchanted silver knitting needles, and, of course, true love.

Princess of the Midnight Ball is a fantastic retelling of the fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Cursed to dance at night for the King Under Stone, Rose and her sisters despair of ever breaking the curse. Soon their country is thrown into turmoil and cries of witchcraft when the plight of the princesses becomes known. Only Galen, a soldier recently returned home and working in the palace gardens, has the strength of will – and heart – to discover a way to save the twelve sisters from their fate.

I adore Galen. He’s such a nice boy! He has known only war; being born to a career soldier and his wife, Galen has been on the front lines from an extremely young age. An orphan, he travels to the capitol city in order to find the rest of his mother’s family. Once there, he takes a position helping his uncle in the palace gardens. Galen is extremely polite, loyal and hard working. He respects his aunt and uncle, and doesn’t disregard the youngest princesses just because of their age. He always tries to cheer them up and keep them (all) safe. The twelve princesses are named after flowers. It’s a little confusing keeping them straight all the time (besides the oldest and the youngest ones), but Rose is the main princess to know. Rose is the oldest, and deeply cares for her siblings. She’s very refined and poised, and has a protective streak a mile wide. She would do anything to keep her sisters safe (and she does). Rose can keep her head in a tough situation and has strength to spare.

The flow of the action and storyline was done very well. I was never bored, but neither was I overwhelmed with information and activity. The mysteries of the plot begin to build right away with the Queen visiting the King Under Stone and when Galen meets a strange woman on the side of the road. Add in the fact that the princesses are cursed to never speak of their plight to anyone. The reader receives more information than the characters, so it’s not quite a mystery. Instead you find yourself wishing that Galen could hear you and just see what’s in front of his face (obvious details to us, but not to him). The idea isn’t so much to find out what’s wrong with the princesses, but how Galen is going to save them from dancing every night. Right up until the end you can’t be sure if he will succeed or not, and the last few action scenes are wicked.

Even though it’s based on a fairy tale, Princess of the Midnight Ball is set in a time period that seems to be a mash-up of a real time and place. The countries resemble Germany, Belgium, Rome etc., and it is close to the start of the inquisition – the witch hunts that swept through Europe. The story had that traditional fairy tale feel to it, but the setting made it just a little bit more familiar. Princess of the Midnight Ball is a masterful adventure full of magic, love and chivalry, proving that even the worst events can lead to happy endings.

Sisters Red release day!

Today is the OFFICIAL release day for Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce!

I was lucky enough to have my local bookstore recieve 2 copies a couple weeks ago, and get there quick enough to grab one. As today is the official release date, I’ll be spending it reading the book and following Twitter obsessively as @JacksonPearce spends the day giving away prizes to those using the #sistersred hash tag.

Although I may be spending the day reading, I’m holding off until Fairy Tale week in August before posting my review. I’ll definitely tweet if I loved it or not, though ūüôā

Beastly by Alex Flinn

Beastly
by Alex Flinn

ISBN-13: 9-780060-874186
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!

I am a beast.

A beast. Not quite a wold 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.

I’m always interested in a good fairy tale re-telling, and Beastly is one I’ve had on my to-read list for ages now – it was just never available in any bookstore in my city. With the upcoming release of the movie, is it any surprise that I walked into one of my local bookstores and found it sitting on the shelf? Nope! I’m just glad they kept the original cover instead of re-issuing the book with a movie cover (more on that later). I’d yet to read a Beauty and the Beast re-tell, and I’m so glad I started with Beastly, especially since it’s told from the Beast’s point of view.

Kyle Kingsbury has it all – he’s gorgeous, wealthy and high on the ladder of social success at his elite New York school. Life is great, until he insults the wrong person and finds himself on the receiving end of a witch’s curse. Turned into a Beast, he has two years to get someone to fall in love with him and kiss him, or else he’ll stay that way forever. Abandoned by his famous dad, Kyle lives with a maid and tutor, locked away in a house, an enchanted mirror his only view into the world outside his windows. And then into his life comes Lindy, the girl who could be the answer to his problems, as long as Kyle can get her to look past his looks and see who he is inside.

Beastly was wonderfully true to the story of Beauty and the Beast, but this time we get to see how things are for the Beast. Kyle is a truly shallow person – his character at the beginning is one I would have steered clear of in high school. The curse becomes his blessing in disguise – it brings him to Lindy while making him a better person. Kyle is forced to see that not everything is about the way you look (unlike what his father would have him believe), and that it’s who you are inside that counts. We get to see just enough of the characters (Kyle, Lindy, maid Magda and tutor Will) to feel connected to them, to feel that we know them. The plot skips along at a nice pace, touching on the major changes in Kyle’s life along the way.

Slotted in between story sections (the book is broken up into parts) are chatroom messages in a chat led by a Mr. Anderson, for transformed people. We get to see the Little Mermaid, a frog who needs to be kissed by a princess, a man transformed into a bear and sisters Snow White and Rose Red. The interludes are quite cute and really bring back the whole fairy tale feel to modern day New York City. The twist at the end involving the witch was also unexpected but great. I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. Hey, it just means I got a surprise at the end!

This was such a good book, full of magic, true love and the idea that it really doesn’t matter what you look like or what you wear. What matters is who you are on the inside, and that you are a good person. Kyle was poisoning those around him with his derision and mockery, and thus poisoning himself. When he stopped caring about the packaging, about the superficial, his entire personality lightened considerably. The message is one I think anyone and everyone should take in. Do it by reading this book and you get a great story out of it, too!

Just as a little extra, here’s the trailor for the movie starring Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen and Neil Patrick Harris to be released July 30, 2010.

Once Upon a Week: Spindle‚Äôs End by Robin McKinley

Spindle's End Spindle’s End
by Robin McKinley

ISBN – 13: 978-0-441-00865-0
Rating: none yet, tentative 4 ♥ / 5 ♥

A masterful retelling of “Sleeping Beauty”. Cursed by the evil fairy Pernicia, Princess Briar-Rose is kidnapped by the young fairy Katriona in order to save her and is raised by Katriona and her aunt. But the determined Pernicia, intent on revenge for a defeat 400 years before, won’t give up her search.

 

Unfortunately, I cannot give a full review of Spindle’s End right now. I had to order the book in, and it arrived only at the beginning of the week. It’s quite a bit longer than I thought, and with my work schedule this week I had very little time for anything else but sleeping. I am half way through, though!

I’m really enjoying Robin McKinley’s writing style, it’s very lyrical and kind of cheeky. Her discriptions are beautiful and not overwhelming. So far I’m quite intrigued by her characters, and her unique take on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. I quite like Katriona (a young fairy), and her aunt. The world McKinley’s created is full and varied – I love her take on magic!

So far, I’m giving this a 4 out of 5 hearts. Once I finish, I’ll post another half review and give my final rating!

Once Upon A Week: Ash by Malinda Lo

Once Upon A Week, a full week dedicated to fairy tales, hosted by Vanessa of Today’s Adventure, kicks off today! To start things off is my review of a retold fairy tale – Cinderella, to be exact.

 

Ash Ash
by Malinda Lo

ISBN – 13: 978-0-316-04009-9
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!

In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, re-reading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meeys the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love – and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Even if I had heard nothing of Ash before seeing it in the bookstore, the cover alone would have made me pick it up. I’m such a minimalist at heart, so it’s perfect for me. But I did know what Ash was about, which made it the perfect book to start off the ONCE UPON A WEEK fairy tale week!

Ash was everything I could want in a fairy tale. It was soft and sweet, with just the right amount of adventure and suspense to keep the story flowing and intriguing. Malinda Lo’s writing style is very reminiscent of early fairy tales, and so was perfect for a retelling. Throughout the book, Lo’s characters would read or tell fairy tales; each one was it’s own unique story and I found they only added to the plot rather than stall it, which could have easily happened. I did not find them distracting in the least, and in fact wish I had a book of those fairy tales to read!

I thought that Ash was a wonderful character. I easily sympathized with her, and her emotions and thought processes came across beautifully. The stepmother and stepsisters were perfectly done – they were present enough to be a hindrance to Ash, but still in the background like an afterthought, which just felt right to me. I do wish I had gotten to see more of the fairy Sidhean, though. The book jacket promotes him as dark and dangerous, but I felt more like he was lonely with the ability to be dangerous. He was just not what I was expecting. Kaisa, on the other hand, was a wonderful enigma. A huntress who feels sadness for her kills, and a member of the King’s court who may still believe in the old fairy stories. She is gentle, kind and generous and it was inevitable that Ash fall for her. The parts of the story where Ash was with Kaisa were some of the best written, in my opinion. You could almost feel the confusion and wonder that Ash felt.

Malinda Lo manages to create her own unique vision of the Cinderella fairy tale while still staying true to the original. The father dies, leaving Ash alone with a stepmother and two stepsisters. Ash is then relegated to the position of servant. Although there is no fairy god-mother, Sidhean plays that role. In Ash, Lo adds in her own celebrations and fairy stories, creating an entire world that you don’t see in Cinderella, but there is still a fancy ball at the palace, and a rush to be home before midnight. And above all, there is still a happily ever after.