Review: Transformations by Anne Sexton

The fairy tale-based works of the tortured confessional poet, whose honesty and wit in the face of psychological pain have touched thousands of readers. (from Goodreads.)

Personal Take: There’s something captivating and haunting about Anne Sexton’s poetry. Taking well-known fairytales, Sexton captured their dark essence in her stanzas. Much like the style she’s known for, there are elements of a tortured confession in each of her poems, beginning as if like an anecdote before launching into a familiar, but kind of new, tale. In some instances, it is a jab at the style of how fairytales are told, replacing happy endings with morbid or unhappy endings. One of the things I observed and loved when I read her poetry is the use of language. Sexton’s dark tones were, like I said, captivating and moving.

Transformations brought forth interesting twists  to the well-known fairytales that I reveled in.

Audience: Contains adult themes.

Rating:

 

Other recommendations: Anne Sexton wrote many poetry books, one of which, Live or Die, received a Pulitzer Award for Poetry.

Review: Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson

Toads_and_Diamonds

When sisters Diribani and Tana lose their father, the girls have to rely on themselves to make a living and keep off the streets. But when Diribani meets a goddess at a well, her life is forever changed when she is blessed with a gift; flowers and jewels drop from her mouth whenever she speaks. In comparison, Tana is granted a gift – or a curse, as snakes and frogs fall from hers whenever she speaks. Both sisters are convinced that each of their “gifts” are not what they seem to be, and as they go their separate ways, both aren’t sure if it brings them closer to the good fortune they’ve yearned for, or a bleak death.

Personal Take: The first thing that struck me about this book is that it has such a beautiful cover, and thank goodness the story inside also matched its beauty. Tomlinson beautifully brings the setting to life, with so many organic descriptions and the aesthetic beauty of the culture. The characters are wonderful as well; both of Tana and Diribani are not complete opposites, but both have a soft flare and sharp personalities.

As much as I enjoyed the story, there were times when it felt too choppy, as if there were missing scenes. We (the readers) were plummeted into some scenes without any set up, and it took a while to understand what was going on. The ending was also rushed, and it felt slightly incomplete.

I still enjoyed reading it very much, and if you’re looking for something different, this is it!

Audience: For anyone who’s interested in fairytale-like stories.

Rating: 

threehalfstars

Other recommendations: Tomlinson has written fairytale remakes such as The Swan Maiden and Aurelie: A Faerie Tale.

 

Fairy Tale Giveaway Hop

As a fan of all things fairy tale, I couldn’t resist joining this giveaway hop!

Fairy Tale Giveaway Hop
Hosted by

One of my favourite fairy tales is Beauty and the Beast, and reading books based on that gives me the fuzzies. So I’ll be giving away one of my favourite retellings.

Beauty by Robin McKinley 

So, what do you have to do?

  • Fill out the Rafflecopter below
  • Giveaway open internationally, as long as the Book Depository delivers to your country.
  • Winners must answer their notification e-mails 48 hours after its received, or another winner will be chosen
  • A Reading Kabocha will not be held responsible for items that get lost or damaged during delivery
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Check out the rest of the blogs participating in the hop!

Review: Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon

In order to keep her safe, Princess Margrethe was forced to stay at a convent at the end of the world, and to never reveal her identity until the threat to her father’s kingdom is dealt with. One day, she sees a mermaid bringing a handsome man to shore to be saved…
On her eighteenth birthday, Lenia, daughter of the Sea Queen, saw the upper world for the first time, and rescued a young man, a prince, from the wreckage of a deadly storm…
Both girls who have somehow saved the prince in that one moment, are ready to sacrifice anything for his love.

Personal Take: Let me start by saying, I love The Little Mermaid, the Disney story more than Anderson’s but I appreciate the beauty of the original as well, despite the tragic ending. So I had high expectations for this re-telling, and for the first few chapters, I was wowed. Turgeon’s writing style is undoubtedly beautiful. The imagery and description was beautiful. But there was only so much she could over-describe the same thing. The description became so distracting at some point, it held up the whole pacing, even though the setting was already described before. I usually love this writing style, but it felt that as long as the words to describe the world is beautiful, the story would be beautiful. It…wasn’t really.

Another thing I really struggled with were the characters. The chapters alternated between Lenia and Margrethe, which was fine. I liked both of them, but again the over description was too much from both sides– I read a scene being retold three times. Three! *ahem* So yeah, they were portrayed nicely, initially. Then they meet the prince. Then, I really struggled to like them. Because I did not like him. Which is a problem, because he is a big part of the story, right?

Well, not this one. I read a blogger’s review of this book, and I remember one sentence describing the prince as the only (supposed) protagonist that was two-dimensional (or was it one?), and they were right. For someone who’s a big part of the story, he was so bleh. I didn’t know what he wanted, what he thought. He was just a kid who wanted two things, and had them both, and it ticked me off. What doubly ticked me off is that I saw nothing in him for the two leading ladies to be so enchanted by him. Nothing.

It’s kind of unfortunate, because Turgeon could have taken this and spun it however way she wanted, but it felt like everyone was following a script of the original story despite there being potential emotions and feelings that needed exploring. I didn’t like the love story at all. The “He is my sun, my moon,” whatever love; I couldn’t feel it or understand their…obsession, with him

But the ending twist totally redeemed all that. THAT was ingenious. So overall, it’s nice, but it didn’t reach my expectations of a re-telling.

Audience: Older readers, definitely. I didn’t like how the intimate scenes, because it sort of killed the beauty of innocent love (to me anyway). But yes, this is preferably for adults and older teens.

Rating: 

threestars

 

Other recommendations: Check out other books  by Turgeon, as well as another twist of the mermaid/siren myth by Margo Lanagan, The Brides of Rollrock Island. I’m sure there are other mermaid retellings out there, and would love to hear your recommendations!

Review: The Storyteller’s Daughter by Cameron Dokey

 

Once upon a time, in kingdom who far away, a king was betrayed by his queen.
He resolves to throw away love altogether. Instead, he would take a wife every month, and kill her the morning after her wedding night, unless one woman volunteers to marry him of her own free will and surrenders her life. To the Kingdom’s surprise, Shahrazad steps in to risk her life. On the night of their wedding, she begins to tell a story that not only prolongs her life, but could be the key to saving the king.

Personal Take: I’ve read this story when I was back in high school, and I remember liking it. Now, 7 years later, and the book still hooked me throughout. The story itself is simply told, and Dokey captures this setting of a far away kingdom. I love the light romance between Shahrazad and the king. The small stories that are told are nice as well. But what I loved most is Dokey’s lyrical writing style. It captures that ethereal land and the characters in it.

It’s a quick and magical read.

Audience: This one is for young teens, definitely, and for fans of re-tellings.

 

4stars
Other recommendations: This book is part of the Once Upon a Time series, and it’s written by different authors. Dokey herself wrote about 5 more re-tellings that I’ll be checking out!

 

Review: Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block

Nine collection of stories; a modern re-telling of each heroine and her struggle to overcome her dark fate.

Personal Take: There really isn’t a summary for this, because the stories are pretty short, and the book was a fast read. I enjoyed reading them, but I couldn’t really say I *liked* where Block took the fairy-tales. I understand the modern, but not really why is should be destructive and dark. I liked one story, and just because it was the only heartwarming piece throughout the whole book.

The blurbs described it as lyrical, and I can see that, but there were passages that I felt was redundant.  Still, it was an interesting read, and I’m glad I read it.

Audience: Older readers who are open to fairytale retellings.

 

threestars

 

Other recommendations: I’ve heard a lot about Block, mostly The Frenzy. However, check out the rest of her books.

Review: Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

 

When Keturah gets lost in the forest beside her home, she is convinced that she would never see her home again, and sure enough Death meets her to take her soul. But Keturah strikes a bargain– that she would tell him the most profound love story, and to hear the ending, he must let her live another day. Amused, Death gives her a day to find a true love of her own, and only then would he let her go.

Personal Take: This book was just…amazing. Leavitt’s writing style transports readers to Keturah’s medieval town, describing the people and their superstitions. It had a fairytale feel to it that was heartwarming, and the subtle humor was gold. The writer didn’t offer more than she did, and I’m usually a fan of that style. The romance was subtle and sweet, and Keturah herself was a charming narrator and witty. I loved her innocence.

It may have had an “unfinished business” feel to it, but the rest after the conclusion is left to the imagination, and I think that’s beautiful.

Audience: Fans of fairy tales.

Rating:

4stars

 

Other recommendations: I’m not familiar with Leavitt’s other works, but I think it’s worth checking out. I also recommend Robin McKinley’s books, although those are usually darker fairy tales.

 

Review: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

When potentially beautiful Buttercup falls in love with Westley the farm boy, he decides to seek his fortune in the high seas– that is until he meets his end with pirates. Heartbroken, Buttercup decides to never fall in love again. But when a ruthless prince set his eyes on her, he’ll stop at nothing to get her.

Personal Take: Okay, so when I started this book, I read the first few pages written by William Goldman talking about Morgenstern’s story and how he, Goldman, decided to abridge it and republish it. I thought, oh, what a nice thing to do. Throughout the story, Goldman interferes either to point something out and incorporate an anecdote, or explain why certain sections were cute. It isn’t until I finished it that a friend of mine let the bomb drop- that the Goldman in the book that keeps talking in circles half the time and spoiling events for me- is a fictional character. And that’s when I flipped like a crazy woman, even though it’s my fault for not researching properly the first time.

While I admit that this.. joke rubbed me the wrong way, I can’t deny that I loved the story. The characters, the adventures- it was so unexpected, and anything could happen, it made me look forward to what happened next. Sometimes the descriptions were a little too drawn out and confusing, but the dialogue is witty, the places imaginative. I enjoyed the crazy ride. Now, if only, if only I knew before hand the the supposed “abridgment” mentioned at the beginning of the book by William Goodman was a literary device?

Audience: Teens and adults with a love for fairy tales.

Rating:

4stars

 

Other recommendations: This it the first Goldman book I’ve ever read, but here’s a list if you’re interested!

Review: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

After being brutally violated, Liga Longfield was offered the protection by nature, and for years she and her daughters lived in blissful peace. But when dwarfs and bears threaten the existence of their peace, the daughters Branza and Urdda must come to terms that there is much they don’t know about their world– and their mother’s.

Personal Take: This book was beautifully written. The way it built up on the plot, it was just the right amount of information to get the story moving. The point of views shifted from third person to first person of multiple characters, and for a moment I was afraid I would lose track of them, but it was easy to follow and not confusing at all. The story lines easily connected with each other. What I loved most about this books (other than the language), is that it is not predictable at all. Even though I kept guessing, nothing was what I expected, and I loved how I was caught off guard.

Also, Lanagan had awesome control over the tone in her writing. It was appropriately funny, or sad, and even though the magical part of the story doesn’t come out much, when it does appear, it doesn’t seem so random as it natural.

There are some disturbing scenes, but it doesn’t take up much of the book. One thing I was a little disappointed about (and I’ll try explaining this without spoiling anything) is that at some point in the novel, the pacing was fast, as it should be, but once that particular storyline was done, the pacing went slow again to carefully wrap up the loose ends. Even though I realize how necessary it was to wrap up the story, it took me while to adjust to the rest of the story after the excitement. Still, there were a lot of other surprising twists towards the end that made up for the pace.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this books. Depth, wonderful but strange characters, a colourful world- it’s all there.

Audience: This is supposed to be a YA book, but I suggest older teens who enjoy different stories, or fairy tale retellings.

Rating:

4stars

Other recommendations: While this is the first novel, Lanagan is well known for her short stories. I’ve already read Black Juice, which I really liked (but wished each story was longer!). Her second book of short stories is Red Spikes.

Review: Beastly by Alex Flinn

For Kyle Kingsbury, wealth and beauty gets you everything in NYC, no matter how cruel you are. So when he decides to stand a girl up on one of the dances, he has no idea that he has angered a witch. To teach him a lesson, he’s turned into a beast, and must find his true love, or else, he’ll remain hideous forever.

 

Personal Take: I love the story Beauty and the Beast. It’s one of my favorites, and retelling novels usually gets me excited. So I was really excited to start this, but it was clear that it won’t live up to my expectations. As much as I thought that the modern fairytale was a great idea, Flinn didn’t invest much in the characters. She seemed to just put people in previously filled roles to play their part again. There was no depth for me to savor on either Kyle’s character or how he transformed internally.The Beauty in the novel sort of annoyed me too. But I did enjoy the last few pages, and his desperation to be both good and unselfish.

Then there was the oddity of the circumstances. It felt a little awkward. but the only way I could get through it is pretend that it made some sense.

It’s perfect and fast for young teen readers. I just hoped there would be more depth to it.

Audience: Other than a few, really, really few insignificant swear words, this book is pretty clean. And like I mentioned, young teens will enjoy it.

Rating:

threestars

 

Other recommendations: While Flinn has written modern YA books, she’s writing another novel based on a fairytale, A Kiss in Time, which looks really interesting.