Audiobook Review: By the Book by Jasmine Guillory

Title: By the Book
Series: Meant to Be, #2
Author: Jasmine Guillory
Narrator: Sarah Hollis
Publisher: Hyperion Avenue (Disney)
Publication date: May 3, 2022
Print length: 320 pages
Audio length: 9 hours, 42 minute
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

 A tale as old as time—for a new generation…

Isabelle is completely lost. When she first began her career in publishing right out of college, she did not expect to be twenty-five, living at home, still an editorial assistant, and the only Black employee at her publishing house. Overworked and underpaid, constantly torn between speaking up or stifling herself, Izzy thinks there must be more to this publishing life. So when she overhears her boss complaining about a beastly high-profile author who has failed to deliver his long-awaited manuscript, Isabelle sees an opportunity to finally get the promotion she deserves.

All she has to do is go to the author’s Santa Barbara mansion and give him a quick pep talk or three. How hard could it be?

But Izzy quickly finds out she is in over her head. Beau Towers is not some celebrity lightweight writing a tell-all memoir. He is jaded and withdrawn and—it turns out—just as lost as Izzy. But despite his standoffishness, Izzy needs Beau to deliver, and with her encouragement, his story begins to spill onto the page. They soon discover they have more in common than either of them expected, and as their deadline nears, Izzy and Beau begin to realize there may be something there that wasn’t there before.

Best-selling author Jasmine Guillory’s reimagining of a beloved fairy tale is a romantic triumph of love and acceptance and learning that sometimes to truly know a person you have to read between the lines.

Everybody, sing along!

There’s something sweet and almost kind
But he was mean and he was coarse and unrefined
And now he’s dear and so unsure
I wonder why I didn’t see it there before

In By the Book, Disney publishing comes through with another endearing fairy tale adaptation, thanks to the clever imaginings of Jasmine Guillory. It’s Beauty and the Beast with a modern, grown-up spin, set in the world of publishing, and it’s all very, very charming.

For Izzy, every day is like the one before…

When she first landed her job at TAOAT Publishing (that’s Tale As Old As Time, of course), she was starry-eyed and thrilled to finally be entering the world of books. But a couple of years on, she’s stuck as an editorial assistant, with a boss who doesn’t take the time to give feedback, and a coworker who slyly undermines Izzy’s confidence under the guise of sympathy.

While attending an industry conference in LA, Izzy gets her moment to do something bold: Her boss is frustrated by celebrity Beau Towers, who has yet to deliver even a word of his memoir under contract. He refuses to even respond to emails. Izzy boldly offers to knock on the door of his Santa Barbara mansion and offer her assistance in person.

Once she arrives, she’s wowed by Beau’s gorgeous home — so beautiful it’s practically enchanted! — but less impressed by his surly demeanor. Still, by the time their initial confrontation takes place, it’s too late for her to make her flight back to New York, so she’s stuck as a guest for the night. Her room is gorgeous, and she falls so deeply in love with the luxurious bathtub that she feels like it’s talking to her.

I talk to inanimate objects like my teacup and the candlestick because Beau Towers doesn’t talk to me, and I feel like at any moment the teacup and candlestick will start, like singing and dancing for me.

By the next day, Beau grudgingly agrees to let Izzy stay and offer him writing pep talks, and they soon settle into a routine of writing together in his vast and breathtaking library.

This library was all her library dreams come true. […] Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lined every wall, with those rolling ladders so you could reach each and every book.

Beau’s assistant cooks up amazing food for them, and Izzy even grudgingly tries the gray stuff — an energy drink — and it’s delicious!

FYI, Beau’s wifi password is Lum1ere!

Are you singing along yet? Don’t worry, I found myself breaking into song throughout this adorable book…

Of course, there are ups and downs, disagreements and misunderstandings, but Izzy comes to realize that underneath his beastly behavior, Beau actually is quite a prince. Izzy’s warmth and kindness melt his heart, and by the time she comes swooping down the main staircase in a long yellow dress, he’s completely smitten.

The romance is sweet, but maybe because of the fairy tale element, it’s also completely predictable. Of course it’s all going to work out! Of course they’ll find happiness despite their differences! Izzy’s career challenges are neatly resolved by the end as well, and every aspect of the story gets tied up with a pretty HEA bow.

I enjoyed the flirtation, the California scenery, and the glimpse into the world of publishing. I did find the stakes fairly low throughout the book, and the revelation of the bad guy’s deviousness is completely predictable (although this Gaston stand-in does not brag about his chest hair, spitting abilities, or use of antlers for his interior décor, and no one’s actual life is on the line, so he’s not quite as despicable as the Disney version).

In terms of the audiobook narration, it’s most well-done and breezy, although the narrator’s habit of laughing whenever the lines in the books say “she laughed” got on my nerves after a while. Ignoring that, though, it was a really fun listen, and didn’t require a huge amount of focus or concentration in order to follow the story.

There are a ton of cute little nods to the Disney movie — from someone commenting that they feel like they should be wearing a tea cozy to Beau telling Izzy to “be my guest” to the flight attendant named Angela offering tea and cookies– and these all made for sweet giggle-inducing interludes throughout the book.

I mean, in the end, what’s not to enjoy about a Beauty and the Beast retelling? After all, it is…

… a tale as old as time.

As for what’s next in this series…

Nothing has been announced yet, but I can’t wait to find out which adaptation is in store for us!

Audiobook Review: If The Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy

Title: If the Shoe Fits
Series: Meant to Be
Author: Julie Murphy
Narrator: Jen Ponton
Publisher: Hyperion Avenue (Disney)
Publication date: August 3, 2021
Print length: 304 pages
Audio length: 9 hours, 51 minute
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Library
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If the shoe doesn’t fit, maybe it’s time to design your own.

Cindy loves shoes. A well-placed bow or a chic stacked heel is her form of self-expression. As a fashion-obsessed plus-size woman, she can never find designer clothes that work on her body, but a special pair of shoes always fits just right.

With a shiny new design degree but no job in sight, Cindy moves back in with her stepmother, Erica Tremaine, the executive producer of the world’s biggest dating reality show. When a contestant on Before Midnight bows out at the last minute, Cindy is thrust into the spotlight. Showcasing her killer shoe collection on network TV seems like a great way to jump-start her career. And, while she’s at it, why not go on a few lavish dates with an eligible suitor?

But being the first and only fat contestant on Before Midnight turns her into a viral sensation—and a body-positivity icon—overnight. Even harder to believe? She can actually see herself falling for this Prince Charming. To make it to the end, despite the fans, the haters, and a house full of fellow contestants she’s not sure she can trust, Cindy will have to take a leap of faith and hope her heels— and her heart—don’t break in the process.

Best-selling author Julie Murphy’s reimagining of a beloved fairy tale is an enchanting story of self-love and believing in the happy ending each and every one of us deserves. 

If you’re looking for a feel-good modern-day fairy tale, If the Shoe Fits might be a perfect… fit. (Sorry.)

In 2020, Disney’s publishing arm announced its new series of fairy tale retellings, aimed at adult readers. With different authors writing the different installments, each book will retell a classic fairy tale as a contemporary romance. If the Shoe Fits is the first in the Meant To Be series… and I have to say, after reading this one, I’m definitely on board for more!

If the Shoe Fits is very funny, but also surprisingly emotional in key ways. Cindy is a recent graduate of the Parsons School of Design in New York, but after barely squeaking by on her final project, she has no immediate job or career prospects. She returns to LA to live with her stepmother and extended family, planning to nanny for the summer and hit pause for a bit… but then reality TV upends her plans.

[Side note: Why are there so many romance novels framed around TV dating shows these days? I swear this is at least the 4th I’ve read… and I’ve never watched a single episode of The Bachelor!]

In one of the lovely twists on the classic Cinderella story, Cindy’s stepmother and stepsisters are not evil! In fact, her stepmother Erica is loving and supportive, and her stepsisters Anna and Drew are sweet and love Cindy unstintingly. After Cindy’s father’s sudden death (while Cindy was in high school), Erica moved forward with the surrogacy they’d been planning, so there are also three-year-old triplets for Cindy to adore.

Erica is the creator and producer of the biggest reality TV dating show, Before Midnight. Cindy’s always loved the glamor and romance of the show, but she never could have conceived of being on it herself. When the new season loses contestants right before filming, Anna and Drew are called in as subs, and Cindy decides to take a chance and ask to be included as well. As an aspiring designer with a killer shoe collection, what better way to get her name and her designs out into the world, even if this is way outside her comfort zone? The $100,000 prize doesn’t hurt either — if she can’t find a job, maybe she’ll launch her own brand!

Cindy doesn’t hesitate to describe herself as fat, although it makes her non-fat family and friends cringe. She’s plus-size, and she knows it. She’s tired of going shopping with her sisters and never having options in her size. She’s tired of being told she’s “brave” for wearing stylish or sexy clothes. She’s tired of being viewed as less because of the shape of her body, and she’s tired of being invisible. Go, Cindy!

The actual reality TV experience is just as silly as you’d expect, with 20 women competing for love, although most have reasons for being on the show that have nothing to do with true romance. Everyone wants their moment in the spotlight, and between the influencers and walking memes and mean girls, it’s hard to imagine that love has anything to do with it.

The twist is that this season’s suitor is someone Cindy had met randomly weeks earlier, when the two seemed to share an instant connection. Suddenly, the fake reality dating show becomes a lot more real for Cindy… could he possibly feel what she’s feeling? And what if he doesn’t actually choose her in the end?

I mentioned the emotional aspects of the story. Cindy is still deeply grieving her father’s loss. Her memories of her father and all the ways in which her grief has affected her life are truly touching. The weight of the loss hit her fresh her senior year, which is why she struggled to graduate and felt that she’d lost her creative spark. As she competes on Before Midnight, she also starts to deal more directly with what she’s experienced, how her grief has shaped her last few years, and what reconnecting with her creativity might possibly look like.

I really appreciated the sensitivity with which all this is portrayed, as well as the depiction of Cindy herself as a funny, attractive, determined woman who refuses to feel shame or let others hold her back because of her body size.

I don’t mean to make this sound like serious literature — overall, the tone is funny and sweeet, and there are plenty of silly escapades to laugh over. Surprisingly, Cindy even manages to find true friends among the other contestants, even as the competition heats up, and I loved the idea that women can connect and be kind and supportive to one another even in the weirdest pressure-cooker situations.

The audiobook is a delight. The narrator does a great job with Cindy, as well as making the other Before Midnight contestants and producers come alive as individuals with distinct voices. Also, the dialogue can be very funny, making the audiobook super entertaining.

The next book in the series will be released in May — a Beauty and the Beast retelling (!!) written by Jasmine Guillory (!!), set in the world of publishing and authors (!!). I am so there for it.

Meanwhile, check out If the Shoe Fits! Just a really fun reading/listening experience.

Shelf Control #309: The Starlit Wood edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: The Starlit Wood (New Fairy Tales)
Author: Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe (editors)
Published: 2016
Length: 400 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

An all-new anthology of cross-genre fairy tale retellings, featuring an all-star lineup of award-winning and critically acclaimed writers.

Once upon a time. It’s how so many of our most beloved stories start.

Fairy tales have dominated our cultural imagination for centuries. From the Brothers Grimm to the Countess d’Aulnoy, from Charles Perrault to Hans Christian Anderson, storytellers have crafted all sorts of tales that have always found a place in our hearts.

Now a new generation of storytellers have taken up the mantle that the masters created and shaped their stories into something startling and electrifying.

Packed with award-winning authors, this anthology explores an array of fairy tales in startling and innovative ways, in genres and settings both traditional and unusual, including science fiction, western, and post-apocalyptic as well as traditional fantasy and contemporary horror.

From the woods to the stars, The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales takes readers on a journey at once unexpected and familiar, as a diverse group of writers explore some of our most beloved tales in new ways across genres and styles.

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy back in 2016.

Why I want to read it:

I originally bought this book after seeing a mention of it online, which listed the contributing authors.

According to Amazon, authors with stories in The Starlit Wood include: Charlie Jane Anders, Aliette de Bodard, Amal El-Mohtar, Jeffrey Ford, Max Gladstone, Theodora Goss, Daryl Gregory, Kat Howard, Stephen Graham Jones, Margo Lanagan, Marjorie Liu, Seanan McGuire, Garth Nix, Naomi Novik, Sofia Samatar, Karin Tidbeck, Catherynne M. Valente, and Genevieve Valentine

With a line-up like that, how could I resiste? I was especially drawn to this book because of Seanan McGuire, but there are so many other writers here whose work I love too.

As an added incentive, the editors later released another story collection, Robots vs. Fairies, which I actually read — and loved! My review of that book is here.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 books with doorways

I’m sticking with Top 5 Tuesday again this week! I’m participating in the meme originally created by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm, now hosted by Meeghan Reads.

This month’s topics are like a bookish scavenger hunt — what fun! You can see all the topics for March here.

This week, it’s all about doorways, and I’m happy to share a few faves:

  • Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune: Sweet and uplifting!
  • A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle: I read this one ages ago, and I think this is as far as I got in the Wrinkle in Times series. Someday, I’ll go back and read the rest!
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow: I loved this book so much! The plot is fascinating, and I loved the main character.
  • Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire: The first book in the Wayward Children series introduces us to a world where doors lead children to new lives. Such a favorite.
  • The Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley: A fairy tale collection that includes new stories as well as retellings. All are lovely.

What “door” books do you love?

As always, if you have a TTT or T5T post this week, please share your link!

Book Review: A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

Title: A Spindle Splintered
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Publisher: Tordotcom
Publication date: October 5, 2021
Length: 128 pages
Genre: Fairy tale/ fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow’s A Spindle Splintered brings her patented charm to a new version of a classic story. 

THIS is the way to write a novella — short, sweet, spare, and totally on point.

In A Spindle Splintered, we meet Zinnia Gray on the cusp of what she’s sure will be her last birthday. Thanks to her rare genetic condition, her death is inescapable, and as she explains to people who ask her about future plans, she’s just running out the clock.

Because of her condition, Zinnia has tried to accelerate as much of her life as she can, finishing high school and then college early, getting a degree in folklore, never forgetting that for all her life, she’s been in the process of dying. And maybe because of that, fairy tales in general and Sleeping Beauty in particular are her obsessions.

Even among the other nerds who majored in folklore, Sleeping Beauty is nobody’s favorite. Romantic girls like Beauty and the Beast; vanilla girls like Cinderella; goth girls like Snow White.

Only dying girls like Sleeping Beauty.

In a moment of utter weirdness, Zinnia pricks her finger on the spinning wheel her best friend Charm (short for Charmaine) has set up for her birthday. Suddenly, Zinnia finds herself between worlds, finally landing in one in which an impossibly beautiful princess is calling for help. Primrose is a more traditional version of a Sleeping Beauty, cursed at birth to fall into a 100-year slumber on her 21st birthday — but thanks to Zinnia’s intervention, her doom seems to be avoided, yet she’s left to face a different sort of doom, getting married off to the perfect prince, much to her dismay.

Primrose and Zinnia set off on a quest to break both their curses, but nothing is really as it seems. The story culminates in a terrific action sequence and ends with plenty of surprises, while also leaving the door open for further tales.

I love the writing, the characters, the inventiveness of the storytelling, and the overall attitude and tone. I don’t always get along with novellas, often feeling like I’ve been left without the full picture and that I’ve read a synopsis rather than a full story. That’s not the case in A Spindle Splintered.

This novella reads just like a fairy tale, plus the modern elements make the characters relatable and bring humor even to totally grim (Grimm?) situations.

“Well, Harold,” I say gently. “They’re lesbians.”

(I’m not going to provide any context for that quote — just know that it’s perfect and made me laugh.)

The book has beautiful woodcut illustrations from the traditional Arthur Rackham versions of the story. You can see some of these here — scroll down to get to the woodcuts. These illustrations enhance the magical fairy tale elements of the story, and make the entire book feel classic, even in the more contemporary scenes.

I loved A Spindle Splintered, and can’t wait for the next book in the author’s Fracture Fables series,:

A Mirror Mended
To be released June 2022

A Spindle Splintered is a delight. Don’t miss it!

**********

Through affiliate programs, I may earn commissions from purchases made when you click through these links, at no cost to you.

Buy now at Book Depository – Bookshop.orgBarnes & Noble

Shelf Control #292: Winter Rose by Patricia A. McKillip

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Winter Rose
Author: Patricia A. McKillip
Published: 1996
Length: 262 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Sorrow and trouble and bitterness will bound you and yours and the children of yours…

Some said the dying words of Nial Lynn, murdered by his own son, were a wicked curse. To others, it was a winter’s tale spun by firelight on cold, dark nights. But when Corbet Lynn came to rebuild his family estate, memories of his grandfather’s curse were rekindled by young and old – and rumours filled the heavy air of summer.

In the woods that border Lynn Hall, free-spirited Rois Melior roams wild and barefooted in search of healing herbs. She is as hopelessly unbridled – and unsuited for marriage – as her betrothed sister Laurel is domestic. In Corbet’s pale green eyes, Rois senses a desperate longing. In her restless dreams, mixed with the heady warmth of harvest wine, she hears him beckon. And as autumn gold fades, Rois is consumed with Corbet Lynn, obsessed with his secret past – until, across the frozed countryside and in flight from her own imagination, truth and dreams become inseparable…

How and when I got it:

I bought the e-book version when I saw it listed as a price drop. It was many years ago, but I don’t know when!

Why I want to read it:

From what I’ve seen on Goodreads, this is a Tam Lin retelling, and that’s enough for me to be sold! I’m always up for a good retelling, and I love fairy tales in general… plus, the synopsis for this book sounds lovely and magical. And who can resist that gorgeous cover?

I haven’t read anything by this author before, but I’ve heard her name from a bunch of trusted sources, and I think I have an old paperback of hers somewhere on my shelves as well.

I’d love to know if you have recommendations for other Patricia McKillip books. And meanwhile, what do you think of my Shelf Control choice this week? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Shelf Control #288: This Is How We Fly by Anna Meriano

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: This Is How We Fly
Author: Anna Meriano
Published: 2020
Length: 480 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A loose retelling of Cinderella, about a high-school graduate who–after getting grounded for the whole summer–joins a local Quidditch league and finds her footing.

17-year-old vegan feminist Ellen Lopez-Rourke has one muggy Houston summer left before college. She plans to spend every last moment with her two best friends before they go off to the opposite ends of Texas for school. But when Ellen is grounded for the entire summer by her (sometimes) evil stepmother, all her plans are thrown out the window.

Determined to do something with her time, Ellen (with the help of BFF Melissa) convinces her parents to let her join the local muggle Quidditch team. An all-gender, full-contact game, Quidditch isn’t quite what Ellen expects. There’s no flying, no magic, just a bunch of scrappy players holding PVC pipe between their legs and throwing dodgeballs. Suddenly Ellen is thrown into the very different world of sports: her life is all practices, training, and running with a group of Harry Potter fans.

Even as Melissa pulls away to pursue new relationships and their other BFF Xiumiao seems more interested in moving on from high school (and from Ellen), Ellen is steadily finding a place among her teammates. Maybe Quidditch is where she belongs.

But with her home life and friend troubles quickly spinning out of control–Ellen must fight for the future that she wants, now she’s playing for keeps.

How and when I got it:

I bought the Kindle version at the end of last year.

Why I want to read it:

I mean… Quidditch, obviously!

That’s really what drew me to this book when I first heard about it, but I do think the synopsis sounds really charming. There’s so much to explore when it comes to the transition from high school to college — leaving old friends, finding new ones, realizing that BFFs may want completely new experiences, following one’s passions… This book seems to take on these issues within the framework of playing Quidditch, and I am so there for it!

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Through affiliate programs, I may earn commissions from purchases made when you click through these links, at no cost to you.

Buy now: Amazon – Book Depository – Bookshop.org

Shelf Control #253: Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Black Swan
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Published: 1999
Length: 416 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

As the only child of a powerful sorcerer, Odile Von Rothbart has studied the magical arts under her father’s stern tutelage all her life. Yet she feels only fear toward him. For considering his wife’s untimely death the ultimate betrayal, Baron Von Rothbart scours the land in the shape of a great bird of prey. His personal mission is to capture woman who arouse his wrath and inspire his rage for vengeance against all womankind. These poor souls he turns into swans—forcing them to spend their lives as beautiful but powerless animals who only regain their human forms briefly each night by the transitory light of the moon.

Yet though Odile is terrified of him, she has learned far more than her father, the baron, intended to teach her—both of the magical arts and of Von Rothbart’s idiosyncratic nature. And both as a woman and the guardian of his swan flock, her heart goes out to each and every young maiden ensorcelled by her vindictive father.

And then the noblest of Von Rothbart’s enchanted flock, the Princess Odette, finds the courage to confront her captor, wresting from him a pact which could lead to freedom for herself and all the swan-maidens. Knowing Von Rothbart will use all of his magical cunning to avoid honoring this pact, will Odile have the strength to face him in a final magical confrontation which, if she fails, will lead to her death and the murder of all in her flock? 

How and when I got it:

Found at a library sale, of course! I’ve had Black Swan on my shelf for at least 3 or 4 years now.

Why I want to read it:

This is my second time featuring a Mercedes Lackey book as a Shelf Control pick — even though I still haven’t gotten around to reading the previous one yet. Her books just sound so good!

I’ve seen this book referred to as a fairy tale retelling, but it’s actually unclear (as far as I can tell) whether there was a specific fairy tale that inspired Swan Lake, or simply that the ballet includes elements that were common in folklore of the time.

In any case, I’ve always loved Swan Lake, and Black Swan is definitely a reinterpretation of the story told in the ballet. I think it sounds amazing, closely following the ballet’s plot, but focusing on Odile and giving her magical gifts and a feminist agenda.

Have you read this book? Does it sound like something you’d want to read? And do you have any other Mercedes Lackey books to recommend?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Audiobook Review: Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston

Title: Bookish and the Beast (Once Upon a Con, #3)
Author: Ashley Poston
Narrator:  Caitlin Kelly, Curry Whitmire
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication date: March 29, 2016
Print length: 288 pages
Audio length: 7 hours, 21 minutes
Genre: Young adult fiction
Source: Digital review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley; audiobook purchased from Audible
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

In the third book in Ashley Poston’s Once Upon a Con series, Beauty and the Beast is retold in the beloved Starfield universe.

Rosie Thorne is feeling stuck—on her college application essays, in her small town, and on that mysterious General Sond cosplayer she met at ExcelsiCon. Most of all, she’s stuck in her grief over her mother’s death. Her only solace was her late mother’s library of rare Starfield novels, but even that disappeared when they sold it to pay off hospital bills.

On the other hand, Vance Reigns has been Hollywood royalty for as long as he can remember—with all the privilege and scrutiny that entails. When a tabloid scandal catches up to him, he’s forced to hide out somewhere the paparazzi would never expect to find him: Small Town USA. At least there’s a library in the house. Too bad he doesn’t read.

When Rosie and Vance’s paths collide and a rare book is accidentally destroyed, Rosie finds herself working to repay the debt. And while most Starfield superfans would jump at the chance to work in close proximity to the Vance Reigns, Rosie has discovered something about Vance: he’s a jerk, and she can’t stand him. The feeling is mutual.

But as Vance and Rosie begrudgingly get to know each other, their careful masks come off—and they may just find that there’s more risk in shutting each other out than in opening their hearts.

It’s no surprise that Bookish and the Beast is completely charming. After the delightful Geekerella and the lovable The Prince and the Fangirl, how can Ashley Poston miss?

For those unfamiliar with the Once Upon a Con series, these books take us into the world of Starfield fandom, as devoted fans cross paths with stars of the movie reboot, all structured along the lines of classic fairy tales with a modern twist.

Starfield is a (fictional) cult TV series with a huge, obsessed fan base. In Geekerella, Starfield is being rebooted as a movie, and fans are up in arms over what they see as questionable casting and a fear that their beloved characters will be sacrificed in the name of box office success.

Two books later, the Starfield movie franchise has completely filming the second movie, and the fans are ecstatic. Unfortunately, the bad boy of the movie’s cast, Vance Reigns, who plays anti-hero General Sond, can’t stay out of the tabloids. At age 17, he parties hard and gets in trouble endlessly. Finally, fed up and wanting some serious damage control, his parents arrange for him to hide out in a small town in North Carolina at the home of the film’s director, along with a guardian to keep him in check. And Vance is not happy.

Meanwhile, in the same town, Rosie Thorne is entering her senior year of high school. She has two amazing best friends, Annie and Quinn, and lives with her dad (a former punk rocker who causes her friends to swoon, and who they refer to as Space Dad — because “he’s so beautiful that his beauty is out of this world…”. Rosie lost her mother the previous year, and she’s both still deeply grieving and also sick of everyone seeing her as the girl with the dead mother and nothing more.

Rosie and her dad’s finances are shaky, having spent all their savings and then some on medical bills, but they get by. A chance encounter with Vance’s dog leads her into his orbit, and after she accidentally ruins a rare Starfield book from his borrowed house’s library, she agrees to pay it off by working in the house, tasked with organizing and cataloging the cartons and shelves full of books.

What neither Rosie nor Vance realize is that they’ve met once before, at ExcelsiCon, the annual convention dedicated to Starfield. Wearing masks, they spent one magical evening together, but left without disclosing their true names or faces. Neither has been able to shake the memory of their first meeting or the feelings it stirred up, but both have accepted that they’ll never know who that special person was.

Until…

Well. It’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling, so you know where this is going. The house where Vance is living is known locally as the “Castle House” — a vanity project of some millionaire, not usually inhabited, with moats and turrets, located at the end of a hidden lane through the trees. Rosie stumbles upon it (at night, of course) while trying to rescue a dog that ran in front of her car, and when she follows the dog (uninvited and unannounced) into the spooky, dark house, she runs right into Vance, who is outraged by the intrusion and behaves… um… beastly.

I loved all the little B&tB references, from a diner waitress named Mrs. Potts to the rose symbolism to the library as a way to a young woman’s heart. Little lines thrown in made me smile:

They probably got sick of being the middle of nowhere and left to have grand adventures in the great wide somewhere.

… and also:

… it’s pretty, and at least — unlike most of the houses around here — it doesn’t use antlers in all of the decorating.

Then there’s the story’s villain, Garrett Taylor, a handsome, popular jock who can’t believe someone like Rosie could even dream of turning him down. Like Gaston, he’s decided Rosie is the prettiest, therefore the best, and he deserves the best. His persistence goes from annoying to overboard to damaging, and he simply won’t listen to Rosie’s rejections.

The story is sweet and clever, and keeps the Beauty & the Beast storyline going without it ever feeling forced or overdone. At the same time, Rosie and Vance are fleshed-out characters with inner lives, each dealing with pain and emotional challenges, each striving to find a new future.

The author shows us Rosie’s grief and the depths of her loss, and how dramatically losing a parent can devastate a teen’s entire world, leaving her feeling not just the loss, but also the isolation and the rootlessness that comes with being different and losing a mother’s love and support.

I really loved this book, and enjoyed the through-story bits that continue expanding the world of Starfield, its characters, and its plot twists. One of the characters refers to Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, and like Fangirl, the story within the story always leaves me wanting more. Might Ashley Poston actually write a Starfield book? Because I’d love to get more Carmindor, Amara, and Sond into my reading life!

The audiobook is really well done, with two different narrators — one for Rosie, one for Vance. They keep it light and entertaining, and let me feel like I was listening to the characters telling their own stories.

I have one complaint about the audiobook, and it’s a pretty big one that, days later, still makes no sense to me. Vance’s last name is Reigns, which I assume is pronounced like “rains” — there are even some tabloid headline puns about Vance needing to be “reigned” in.

So why, then, does the Rosie narrator (and occasionally the Vance narrator too) pronounce his last name as “re-gins” (with a hard G, kind of like begins, but with the accent on the first syllable). I couldn’t figure out what I was listening to at first, and had to go back to the print version to see if I’d misunderstood. Like, is Vance Reigns his stage name, but the family name is actually Reagans or something? Nope, it’s Reigns throughout the book.

So why does the audiobook have a different pronunciation? No idea. But it’s super annoying, and constantly distracting. Did they finish recording, realize it was wrong, and decided not to go back and fix it? Honestly, it makes no sense at all.

I realize I’m harping on about this, but it was distracting throughout the entire audiobook, so as much as I loved it overall, this one thing made it really frustrating too.

Putting that aside… I wholeheartedly recommend Bookish and the Beast. I think this is my favorite of the Con books, and I really hope there are more to come! And while this could possibly be read on its own, I really recommend reading the books in order, because you might not get the Starfield elements and what they mean otherwise.

Don’t miss these wonderful books!

Me, after finishing Bookish & the Beast

Shelf Control #192: Poison: A Wicked Snow White Tale by Sarah Pinborough

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.png

Title: Poison: A Wicked Snow White Tale
Author: Sarah Pinborough
Published: 2013
Length: 187 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A beautiful, sexy, contemporary retelling of the classic Snow White fairy tale, illustrated by Les Edwards.

Poison is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the Snow White story which takes all the elements of the classic fairy tale that we love (the handsome prince, the jealous queen, the beautiful girl and, of course, the poisoning) and puts a modern spin on the characters, their motives and their desires. It’s fun, contemporary, sexy, and perfect for fans of Once Upon a TimeGrimmSnow White and the Huntsman and more.

How and when I got it:

Who says brick and mortar bookstores can’t survive? I wandered into a local bookstore last year, saw this book on the shelf, and had to buy not just this one, but the two other volumes in the series (Tales From the Kingdoms) as well.

Why I want to read it:

It just checks all my boxes! I may be a little burned out from too many fairy tale retellings, but Poison and its companions (Charm and Beauty) sound different enough to make me want to read them. Plus, they’re short — and admitting my shallowness here — the editions are so pretty and look so nice together! No wonder I had to get all three.

Also, I’ve been meaning to check out this author for a while now, so these books appeal to me for that reason too.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!

__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!