Shelf Control #138: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

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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!

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Title: Tender Morsels
Author: Margo Lanagan
Published: 2007
Length: 436 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Tender Morsels is a dark and vivid story, set in two worlds and worrying at the border between them. Liga lives modestly in her own personal heaven, a world given to her in exchange for her earthly life. Her two daughters grow up in this soft place, protected from the violence that once harmed their mother. But the real world cannot be denied forever—magicked men and wild bears break down the borders of Liga’s refuge. Now, having known Heaven, how will these three women survive in a world where beauty and brutality lie side by side?

And from the synopsis of another edition:

In her inspired re-working of the fairy-tale Snow White and Rose Red Margo Lanagan has created characters that are vivid, passionate, flawed and fiercely devoted to their hearts’ desires, whether these desires are good or evil. It is the story of two worlds – one real, one magical – and how, despite the safe haven her magical world offers to those who have suffered, her characters can never turn their backs on the real world, with all its beauty and brutality.

Tender Morsels is an astonishing novel, fraught with the tension between love and horror, violence and tenderness, despair and hope.

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy many years ago.

Why I want to read it:

After reading Margo Lanagan’s amazing short story collection Black Juice, I was dying to read more by this author. I also read her novel The Brides of Rollrock Island, which I thought was incredibly beautiful (but also disturbing.) I’ve heard that Tender Morsels is very dark, and I’ve read some pretty extreme reviews both pro and con, which make me even more convinced that I should read it and judge for myself.

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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!

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Book Review: The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner

 

Captivating and boldly imaginative, with a tale of sisterhood at its heart, Rena Rossner’s debut fantasy invites you to enter a world filled with magic, folklore, and the dangers of the woods.

Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life – even if they’ve heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods.

But before they leave, Liba discovers the secret that their Tati can transform into a bear, and their Mami into a swan. Perhaps, Liba realizes, the old fairy tales are true. She must guard this secret carefully, even from her beloved sister.

Soon a troupe of mysterious men appear in town and Laya falls under their spell-despite their mother’s warning to be wary of strangers. And these are not the only dangers lurking in the woods…

The sisters will need each other if they are to become the women they need to be – and save their people from the dark forces that draw closer.

What a lovely and unusual debut novel!

Author Rena Rossner draws from folktales, fairy tales, and Jewish history and traditions to create an entrancing story of two sisters whose lives are informed by magic, yet who are deeply rooted among the Jewish villagers in the small town of Dubossary (located in modern-day Moldova).

Liba and Laya are very different — Liba, the elder, is 17 years old, with wild, dark hair and a rounded body. She loves to study with her father, learning Torah and Talmud and all sorts of scholarly Jewish subjects not considered fit for girls. Laya, the younger, is 15 years old, with white-blond silky hair, pale skin, and a lithe figure. She has no interest in studies, but prefers to dream in the sun, alongside their beautiful mother. The girls’ parents are semi-outcasts. While the father was descended from a respectable, revered Chassidic family, the mother is a non-Jew who converted to Judaism when she married the man she loved, yet the neighbors have never ceased to gossip and consider her an outsider.

When the parents are called away for a family emergency, the girls are left home alone in their small cabin at the edge of the forest, and immediately, strange things begin to happen around them. A group of brothers come to town and set up their fruit stall, selling exotic, exquisite out-of-season fruits that the townspeople can’t resist — and beguiling the young women of the village with their impossible good looks and flirtatious, wild demeanors. Liba and Laya have been told secrets by their parents about their own true identities, and each begins to experience her own set of changes — physical and emotional — as she grows into womanhood.

Meanwhile, there are rumors in the village of violence coming closer, as anti-Semitism rears its ugly head and pogroms begin to devastate Jewish communities across Russia. Dubossary has always been different, with Jews and Christians living in harmony, but when a beautiful Christian girl is found murdered in a Jewish family’s orchard, unrest, evil whispers, and soon real danger threatens the Jewish people of the town.

If the plot sounds a little jam-packed — well, it is. There’s a lot going on here, with Liba and Laya’s secrets and struggles, the mysterious fruitsellers and their addictive wares, the rising anti-Semitism, and the dynamics of Chassidic dynasties as well. Beyond plot, though, there are also so many little touches of loveliness. The book is filled with Yiddish, Hebrew, and Russian expressions (with a handy glossary at the end) that give the story an authentic, rich cadence. Likewise, the flavors and textures of this world come to life through the descriptions of the foods (borscht, mandelbrot, kugel, and more), the flowers and plants, the wildlife, and the natural beauty of the snow, the river, and the forest.

Each girl has her own voice, as we hear in alternating chapters. Liba’s chapters are in prose, and Laya’s are in verse. Each is compelling, and while Liba’s chapters are much more action-packed and immediate, Laya’s have a lightness that’s quite beautiful to read.

Come by, he calls out
after me,
come by, come by.
When moonlight sets itself high in the sky.

Sometimes the author’s notes at the end of a story really give me a different way to understand what I’ve read, and such is the case here with The Sisters of the Winter Wood. In her notes, author Rena Rossner describes her own family’s history in the region of the story and their immigration to America. She also explains the various sources of inspiration for her story, from fairy tales, Greek mythology, and even modern YA literature. She also mentions that the original idea for this book was to write a retelling of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market (which can be read online here) After I finished reading The Sisters of the Winter Wood, I went and read Goblin Market (which I’d never read before), and was so impressed by how well its elements are captured and transformed in Rena Rossner’s book. (I also discovered the connection between Goblin Market and the October Daye series, but that’s another topic entirely.)

Naturally, between the setting and the introduction of folktale elements, I was reminded of Katherine Arden’s excellent The Bear and the Nightingale, although the stories are very, very different. Fans of that book should definitely check out The Sisters of the Winter Wood. It’s a magical story filled with beauty and awfulness, balancing real and fantasy worlds, and above all celebrating the love between two devoted sisters and the sacrifices they make for one another. Highly recommended!

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The details:

Title: The Sisters of the Winter Wood
Author: Rena Rossner
Publisher: Redhook
Publication date: September 25, 2018
Length: 464 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of Redhook

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Children’s Books: Two terrific girl power books by Chelsea Clinton

 

 

Sometimes being a girl isn’t easy. At some point, someone probably will tell you no, will tell you to be quiet and may even tell you your dreams are impossible. Don’t listen to them. These thirteen American women certainly did not take no for an answer.

They persisted.

If you’re looking for easy-to-follow kids’ books to empower and inspire, check out this pair of picture books written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexander Boiger.

Each book offers a selection of profiles of women who persisted — women who were told “no” or faced major hurdles, whether legal or cultural or physical. Each of these women followed their dreams, and made their marks on history by achieving something that no one thought possible.

She Persisted tells the stories of thirteen American women, among them such luminaries as Harriet Tubman, Florence Griffith Joyner, Sonia Sotomayor, and Sally Ride. Each gets her own two-page spread, with images lovingly drawn to show each woman’s progress and achievements, and often, a childhood image to show where she started. A brief, easily digestible paragraph tells each woman’s story. What I especially loved is that for each, there’s a quote, so the young reader will get to hear each woman speak in her own words.

 

Wonderful selections include:

“I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with.” (Sonia Sotomayor)

“I have never written a word that did not come from my heart. I never shall.” (Nellie Bly)

“One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.” (Helen Keller)

 

It’s not always easy being a girl — anywhere in the world. It’s especially challenging in some places. There are countries where it’s hard for girls to go to school and where women need their husbands’ permission to get a passport or even to leave the house. And all over the world, girls are more likely to be told to be quiet, to sit down, to have smaller dreams.

 

Don’t listen to those voices. These thirteen women from across the world didn’t.

They persisted.

In She Persisted Around the World, Clinton chooses thirteen women from all over the globe, all of whom made a difference against the odds. Highlights include Malala Yousafzai, J. K. Rowling, and Marie Curie — but really, they’re all wonderful. The Around the World book follows the same format as the first book, and once again, I really loved the pages with the quotes.

“We are tired of having a ‘sphere’ doled out to us, and of being told that anything outside that sphere is ‘unwomanly’… We must be ourselves at all risks.” (Kate Sheppard)

“I don’t really know why I care so much. I just have something inside me that tells me that there is a problem, and I have got to do something about it.” (Wangari Maathai)

“The more I did, the more I could do, the more I wanted to do, the more I saw needed to be done.” (Leymah Gbowee)

I do have one complaint about these books, and it feels almost petty to bring it up… but I found it odd and kind of frustrating that no dates are provided for any of the stories. I’m not sure how young readers would know where these women fit into American and world history without providing some sort of timeline or dates as context.

Other than that, I think these are wonderful additions to the world of children’s literature. Both books are lovely, thanks to the clear, intelligent writing and the colorful, eye-catching, girl-positive illustrations. In some ways I loved the Around the World book more, simply because it introduced me to the names, faces, and stories of women whom I hadn’t heard of before. But really, I do recommend both, and hope that lots of parents and teachers will make these books available to the girls and boys they love, nurture, and inspire.

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Book Review: Geekerella

When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.

Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

Oh my, this geeky Cinderella story is oodles and oodles of fun!

Elle is Cinderella — the unloved girl forced to wait hand and foot on her self-centered stepmother and awful twin stepsisters. Elle is still devastated by her father’s death, and seeks solace in the Starfield fandom, which she shared with her father and which helps her find meaning in life. She sees the cosplay contest as a possible path to freedom, with a prize that could help her fulfill her dream of escaping from her terrible life in Charleston and moving to LA to pursue a screenwriting career.

Elle is pretty disgusted by the casting of Darien in the lead role of Prince Carmindor. He’s a pretty-boy soap actor — how can he possibly do justice to such a noble, iconic character? She voices her opinion, loud and clear, on her Starfield-devoted blog… and suddenly, her followers and page views are through the roof.

Meanwhile, Elle and Darien meet-cute through an accidental text, and begin a texting relationship which escalates from silliness to true friendship and soul-baring, all the while not knowing each others’ true identity.

This book is charming and funny in all the right ways, and yet manages to be deeper and more serious than the title and cute cover art might suggest. Both Elle and Darien have serious issues to confront about self-image and being valued for who they are and finding a place to fit in. Elle’s situation is much more dire, of course, as she lives with people who don’t love her and make her life hell. But Darien’s life isn’t perfect either, as his sudden fame results in betrayal by his one close friend, being considered a poser in the fandom (even though he’s been a devoted fanboy for years), and having no privacy while having to constantly put on a public face in keeping with his star status.

The relationship between Elle and Darien is sweet and funny, but equally wonderful is Elle’s growing friendship with her coworker Sage, and her belated discovery that one of her stepsisters isn’t the awful person she thought she was.

Geekerella has all sorts of wonderful shout-outs to the world of cons and fandoms:

As the green room door disappears behind us, I give it one last forlorn glance when a guy with thick brown hair and an even browner coat catches my eye.

“Gail!” I skid to a stop. “I think I see Nathan F–”

Gail yanks me toward herlike a yo-yo. “You can get him to sign your first-edition Firefly comic later.”

The author allows the characters to voice what draws people to their fantasy worlds and makes them so important:

Of course it’s not real. I know it’s not real. It’s just as fake as the Styrofoam props they use and the cardboard sets and the tinny laser sounds and the ice cream machines they try to disguise as “data cores” — I know it’s all fake. But those characters — Carmindor, Princess Amara, Euci, and even the Nox King — they were my friends when everyone in the real world passed around rumors behind my back, called me weird, shoved me into lockers, and baited me into thinking I was beautiful only to push me away just before we kissed. They never abandoned me. They were loyal, honorable, caring, and smart.

And while I don’t usually mention author acknowledgments in reviews, I do love this passage from the author’s acknowledgements in Geekerella:

So I want to thank you. You, the reader. You, who cosplays and writes fanfiction and draws fanart and runs a forum and collects Funko-Pops and must have hardcovers for all of your favorite book series and frames for your autographed posters. You, who boldly goes.

Never give up on your dreams and never let anyone tell you that what you love is inconsequential or useless or a waste of time. Because if you love it? If that OTP or children’s card game or abridged series or YA book or animated series makes you happy?

That is never a waste of time. Because in the end we’re all just a bunch of weirdos standing in front of other weirdos, asking for their username.

Geekerella has a sweet teen love story as its central storyline, but it’s also a love letter to fandoms and geeky delights. And as a fangirl with Funko-Pops and hardcovers of my favorite book series and all sorts of random geeky toys and t-shirts, I could absolutely relate… even though my teen years are way in the rearview mirror by now

Definitely recommended for anyone who loves to dream of fantasy kingdoms and schools for magic and impossible universes. I just hope that the author will treat us to an expanded view into her made-up Starfield world, because I’d definitely like to know more!

A reading note: I read a finished copy of the book from the library, and not an ARC — and since it was a finished copy, I do need to say that the book could have used another copyediting pass. There are typos (like “use” instead of “us”) and missed words scattered here and there throughout the book, and they’re jarring. No one likes to be interrupted in their fictional pursuits by having to stop and figure out what a sentence is supposed to mean!

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The details:

Title: Geekerella
Author: Ashley Poston
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication date: April 4, 2017
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Young adult
Source: Library

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Audiobook Review: Reflections (Indexing, #2) by Seanan McGuire


“For her to love me, she had to be willing to kill me. Anything else would show that her heart was untrue.”

The struggle against not-so-charming storybook narratives isn’t the only complicating factor in Henrietta “Henry” Marchen’s life. As part of the ATI Management Bureau team protecting the world from fairy tales gone awry, she’s juggling her unwanted new status as a Snow White, dealing with a potentially dangerous Pied Piper, and wrangling a most troublesome wicked stepsister—along with a budding relationship with Jeff, her teammate.

But when a twisted, vicious Cinderella breaks out of prison and wreaks havoc, things go from disenchanted to deadly. And once Henry realizes someone is trying to use her to destroy the world, her story becomes far from over—and this one might not have a happily ever after.

Indexing: Reflections is New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire’s continuing new urban fantasy, where everything you thought you knew about fairy tales gets turned on its head.

Book 2 of the fabulous Indexing series is just as fun and dangerous as the first! The story continues, as Henry’s field team is back out there fighting the good fight to keep fairy tale narratives from killing lots of innocent people. The gang is back together, along with a few new folks (including the HR lady who also happens to be a Bluebeard’s Wife).

It’s not all silly games, though — the stories become dark very quickly, and the various characters, especially Henry and the ever-fascinating Sloane, must face down the demons of their darkest secrets and the scary bad guys of their pasts in order to save the day and save themselves.

Sloane is technically a secondary character, but in Reflections, she gets to take the first-person narrative for several chapters, and she’s a hoot, particularly in the audiobook, where her voice comes across as a potty-mouthed, spoiled, super cranky Valley Girl. Kudos to narrator Mary Robinette Kowal for making Sloane just so excellent.

The voice-work throughout is pretty terrific, only faltering a bit for some of the male characters. This didn’t bother me as much in the 2nd book, because overall the narration is just so compelling and captivating, really capturing the humor and the tension and the darkness so convincingly.

I really ended up loving both of the Indexing books, and want more! Will there be more? Please tell me there will be more! While Reflections comes to a very satsifying conclusion after a truly epic adventure, there’s plenty of room for further adventures of Henry and her field team.

See my review of book #1, Indexing, here.

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The details:

Title: Indexing
Author: Seanan McGuire
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: 47North
Publication date: January 12, 2016
Length (print): 325 pages
Length (audiobook): 12 hours, 18 minutes
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Purchased

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Thursday Quotables: Reflections (Indexing, #2)… two weeks in a row!

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Welcome to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!
A little programming note: While I’m mostly back to weekly postings, I find I’m not at 100% yet! I’ll continue to post Thursday Quotables most weeks. If I happen to skip a week when you have a post to share, feel free to link up to whichever TQ post here is most recent. Many thanks!
Onward with this week’s Thursday Quotable:
Indexing: Reflections by Seanan McGuire
(published 2016)

Because I’m “reading” this series via audiobook, it’s taking me quite a while. So, for the second week in a row, I just have to share a few passages from Reflections, which has been keeping me riveted (and occasionally snorting with laughter) on my morning commutes. First, an ominous passage:

The air was cold, and the wind tasted of apples, and something was very, very wrong.

Ooh. Chills, right?

And a moment that made me laugh, courtesy of my favorite character Sloane, who is tough as nails and talks like a Valley Girl:

I produced my badge from my pocket and held it up for the camera to see. “Agent Sloane Winters, ATI Management Bureau. We’re with the United States Government; we’re allowed to punch people if we want to.”

“Please tell me that’s not going to be our new motto,” said Demi.

And finally:

I glared at her for a moment before I started striding toward the entrance to the maze. “I hate you,” I said.

“I know,” said Ciara, following me.

“I’m going to play jump rope with your intestines.”

“Won’t that be fun for both of us.”

“Don’t make fun of me.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Add your Thursday Quotables post link in the comments section below… and I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week too.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

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Audiobook Review: Indexing by Seanan McGuire


“Never underestimate the power of a good story.”

Good advice…especially when a story can kill you.

For most people, the story of their lives is just that: the accumulation of time, encounters, and actions into a cohesive whole. But for an unfortunate few, that day-to-day existence is affected—perhaps infected is a better word—by memetic incursion: where fairy tale narratives become reality, often with disastrous results.

That’s where the ATI Management Bureau steps in, an organization tasked with protecting the world from fairy tales, even while most of their agents are struggling to keep their own fantastic archetypes from taking over their lives. When you’re dealing with storybook narratives in the real world, it doesn’t matter if you’re Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or the Wicked Queen: no one gets a happily ever after.

Indexing is New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire’s new urban fantasy where everything you thought you knew about fairy tales gets turned on its head.

Indexing is a fun take on a dangerous situation — memetic incursions, in which fairy tale narratives intrude into the real world, activating people into playing out their pre-programmed stories with potentially disastrous results. A Sleeping Beauty stumbles into a metropolitan hospital, and suddenly everyone in the facility is plunged into a deep sleep. Snow Whites have a hard time avoiding poison, and a wise Snow White will never, ever eat an apple. A Pied Piper with a flute in her hands can wreak havoc simply by playing the right song.

It’s up to the field team at the ATI Management Bureau to head off these incursions and keep the world safe (and happily ignorant) from the narrative’s dangerous intrusions. The main character is Henrietta Marchen, better known as Henry, who is a not-yet-activated Snow White — and yes, that means that she has skin as white as snow and lips as red as blood, which in real life makes her look pretty scary as opposed to Disney-princess adorable. Henry’s team includes Sloane, a decades-old evil stepsister who seems to forever be a petulant teen, Jeff, the team archivist who’s also a part of the shoemaker and the elves narrative, and PR dude Andy, who isn’t touched by the narrative at all (although he does have a close encounter with a Frog Prince).

The plot takes the team through a variety of emergencies, where they rush in to save the world from the weirdly dangerous fairy tales that pop up with increasing frequency. It’s up to the team to figure out why the incursions are happening at an unusually high rate. Someone is messing with the narrative itself, and if they can’t find and stop the perpetrator, reality itself is doomed.

Indexing is quite an enjoyable read. Despite the fairy tale subject, it’s a gritty urban fantasy, with bloody deaths and salty language. (My favorite is when Sloane, abrasive and obnoxious but loyal in her own caustic way, refers to Henry as “Snow Bitch”.) The memetic incursions are always surprising, as the author takes classic fairy tales and makes it plain just how deadly their effect could be if transposed to the modern world and set loose.

Narrator Mary Robinette Kowal does a great job of capturing the personalities of the main characters such as Henry, Sloane, and newbie Demi, although she struggles to do convincing male voices. You know how some audiobook narrators can convey both genders in such a way that you absolutely forget that you’re listening to a woman doing a male character or vice versa? That doesn’t happen here. I found it a bit distracting whenever the narrator would lower her voice for the portrayals of Jeff and especially Andy — they sounded artificial, and it consistently took me out of the story.

That said, the narrator’s version of Henry was excellent, especially when Henry’s inner Snow White takes the lead. Just by the voice, you can absolutely tell which part of Henry’s personality is dominant at the moment. And I loved her nasty Valley Girl voice for Sloane — so offensive and pissed off, really pretty perfect.

The plot of Indexing does take some puzzling through, as the concept of the narrative isn’t always entirely clear. The explanations of various occurrences and their resolutions are occasionally overly convoluted, and I felt the world-building could have used just a smidge more fleshing out.

All in all, though, Indexing is really a fun experience, and listening to the audiobook kept me engaged and entertained for all the hours I spent with it. I’m looking forward to starting the sequel!

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The details:

Title: Indexing
Author: Seanan McGuire
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: 47North
Publication date: May 21, 2013
Length (print): 420 pages
Length (audiobook): 12 hours, 5 minutes
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Purchased

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Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday: The Beast’s Garden

There’s nothing like a Wednesday for thinking about the books we want to read! My Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday post is linking up with two fabulous book memes, Wishlist Wednesday (hosted by Pen to Paper) and Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine).

My most wished-for book this week is:

Beast's Garden

The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth
(Published in Australia on August 3, 2015 – US publication date ???)

Synopsis via Goodreads:

A retelling of The Beauty and The Beast set in Nazi Germany

The Grimm Brothers published a beautiful version of the Beauty & the Beast tale called ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’ in 1819. It combines the well-known story of a daughter who marries a beast in order to save her father with another key fairy tale motif, the search for the lost bridegroom. In ‘The Singing, Springing Lark,’ the daughter grows to love her beast but unwittingly betrays him and he is turned into a dove. She follows the trail of blood and white feathers he leaves behind him for seven years, and, when she loses the trail, seeks help from the sun, the moon, and the four winds. Eventually she battles an evil enchantress and saves her husband, breaking the enchantment and turning him back into a man.

Kate Forsyth retells this German fairy tale as an historical novel set in Germany during the Nazi regime. A young woman marries a Nazi officer in order to save her father, but hates and fears her new husband. Gradually she comes to realise that he is a good man at heart, and part of an underground resistance movement in Berlin called the Red Orchestra. However, her realisation comes too late. She has unwittingly betrayed him, and must find some way to rescue him and smuggle him out of the country before he is killed.

The Red Orchestra was a real-life organisation in Berlin, made up of artists, writers, diplomats and journalists, who passed on intelligence to the American embassy, distributed leaflets encouraging opposition to Hitler, and helped people in danger from the Nazis to escape the country. They were betrayed in 1942, and many of their number were executed.

The Beast’s Garden is a compelling and beautiful love story, filled with drama and intrigue and heartbreak, taking place between 1938 and 1943, in Berlin, Germany.

Ever since reading a review of this book on the Book’d Out blog, I’ve been dying to track down a copy. So far, I haven’t been able to find out when this book will be published in the US, but I really hope it’s soon!

What are you wishing for this Wednesday?

Looking for some bookish fun on Thursdays? Come join me for my regular weekly feature, Thursday Quotables! You can find out more here — come share the book love!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I host a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

Top Ten Tuesday: My favorite fairy tale retellings

TTT magic

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is about fairy tale retellings — either ones we’ve read or ones we want to read. I’m doing a bit of both.

I’ll start with the fairy tale retellings that I’ve read and loved:

1) Deerskin by Robin McKinley: An incredibly moving and disturbing, yet oddly beautiful, retelling of the somewhat obscure fairy tale Donkeyskin.

Deerskin

2) Robin McKinley writes such amazing reimaginings of fairy tales, that I’m going to include another three as one item: Beauty, Rose Daughter (both retellings of Beauty and the Beast), and Spindle’s End (a retelling of Sleeping Beauty).

McKinley collage

3) Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale: I’ll admit to being confused by the tower for a while and assuming this was a retelling of Rapunzel, which it is not. According to the author’s website, it’s a retelling of a lesser known Grimm tale called Maid Maleen. But in any case, no matter which tale it’s based on, I really enjoyed it!

Book of a Thousand Days

4) The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine: I think the concept of this book is just so clever — The Twelve Dancing Princesses retold as a tale of harshly confined sisters in Jazz Age New York. (review)

Girls at the Kingfisher Club

5) Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce: I really liked this retelling of Red Riding Hood (who seems here to be mixed with heaping spoonfuls of Buffy).

Sisters Red

6) The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer: I have a sneaking suspicion that these books will be everywhere for this week’s TTT topic! I’ve absolutely loved the books in this series so far, and can’t wait for the final one to be released this fall. (And then the series will be over… sob.) (review)

lunar_collage2

7) My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me edited by Kate Bernheimer: This collection of rewritten fairy tales includes some really weird and wonderful new versions of classic tales. You can read the collection straight through or pick it up and read stories at random. Either way, very entertaining. Plus, you just can’t beat the title.

My Mother She Killed Me

8) Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman: Another collection of rewritten tales, in this case classic Grimm stories rewritten by the masterful Philip Pullman. Includes both tried-and-true favorites and well as more bizarre or obscure tales — quite fun to read. (review)

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm

9) Fables by Bill Willingham: The Fables series is simply one of my very favorite things ever. Take just about every fairy tale character you can think of, put them into modern day New York, create incredibly complex world-building, and write 150 comic books in the series. The series is available as a series of paperback volumes, and the final volume, #22, was just released last week. I can’t quite bring myself to read it — I just don’t want it to be over! (tribute)

Fables v22

10) Finally, two from my shelves which I haven’t read yet, although I’d like to:

FTretell collage

  • Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, a retelling of Rapunzel
  • Bound by Donna Jo Napoli, a retelling of Cinderella

Fairy tale retellings are such fun to read. Which ones do you love?

Share your link, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

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Take A Peek Book Review: Fairest: Levana’s Story by Marissa Meyer

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought. This week’s “take a peek” book:

Fairest_Cinder

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

My Thoughts:

This slim novel is sure to please fans of the Lunar Chronicles books, finally giving us the backstory of just how Queen Levana ended up so crazy evil. Of course, it will also frustrate fans of the Lunar Chronicles, being so short and including a tease for the next (and final) novel in the series, Winter, due out in November.

In Fairest, we learn about Levana’s horrific childhood with her cruel and deranged sister Channary, and see how Levana, to a certain extent, never stood a chance of being a decent, well-adjusted person. The Lunar ability to create glamours and hide one’s true face is put to full use, as Levana uses a series of mind-tricks in her desperate search for love and happiness. But love that is coerced isn’t love, and Levana’s path from her teen years until the point when her story meshes with the Cinder timeline can be seen as one long, twisted, downward spiral.

There are places where I felt pity for Levana, perhaps even understanding. How could someone raised as she was be expected to turn out with any hint of a moral compass? Still, the sympathy is pretty quickly destroyed as Levana’s mad quest leads her to greater and greater acts of horrifying cruelty and devastation.

The hardcover edition of Fairest includes the first three chapters of Winter, which I decided not to read. I’d rather wait until I have the entire book in my hands!

Fairest answers a lot of questions about Levana’s past and the history of Lunar-Earthen politics and war. If you’ve read the first three books in the series, you’ll absolutely want to read Fairest as well. And for anyone who hasn’t given this series a try yet… jump on board! I was very late to the party, thinking that all the hype around the series couldn’t really hold up, but I was — happily — proven wrong. I really love this series, and can’t wait to read the conclusion… despite hating the idea of getting to the end!

Want to know more? Read my posts on Cinder and my Lunar Chronicles series binge.

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The details:

Title: Fairest: Levana’s Story
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication date: January 27, 2015
Length: 222 pages
Genre: Young adult/science fiction
Source: Library