Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell (Against All Expectations #1)

love comes callingEllis Eaton, a young actress who dreams of Hollywood stardom, takes on her toughest role yet when she agrees to pose as a friend and temporarily work at the telephone exchange. If she succeeds, she’ll earn the funds she needs to skip town and make her dream a reality. When Ellis overhears a threat to Griffin Phillips, the boy everyone assumes she’ll settle down with, she commits to foiling the plot to hurt Griffin while avoiding his romantic advances.
 
Siri Mitchell ventures into the Roaring Twenties with a charming, but scatterbrained, heroine in Ellis whose mad-cap escapades will have you laughing at her misadventures. Mitchell’s book is well-written and has moments of (surprising) depth with a pulse on class relations and the dark side of Prohibition. Featuring a gorgeous Art Deco-influenced cover, the book also includes end notes on Prohibition and the real gangsters of Boston in the 1920’s and discussion questions for book clubs or classrooms.

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This review first appeared in the August 2014 issue of Historical Novel Review. I received a copy of the book for the purposes of a fair review.

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Entwined by Heather Dixon

entwined_heather dixon

Come and mend your broken hearts here.

Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her — beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing — it’s taken away. All of it. And Azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He’s trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late. (GoodReads description)


The Specs

ISBN: 0062001035 , hd, 472pp, 2011 by GreenWillow Books, YA, Fairy Tale Retelling, Romance


There is so much humor in this book, I love it.  This is one of my favorite moments, near the beginning of the book (so not spoiling anything):

“[…] Azalea looked down to see a pudgy little hand reaching out from beneath the tree, grabbing at his trouser ankle. Azalea cringed. “Not there, Ivy, you great idiot,” came a whispered voice from among the boughs. “Left — left — no, left is this way–” The hands peeking from beneath the tree skirts felt around, grabbed the ends of the platter, and slowly, with clinks and clatters, dragged the plate in.”

Azalea is one of several sisters who are forbidden to dance after their mother passes.  When Azalea discovers a secret passage that leads her to a magical, silver forest, there is all the dancing they could desire.  But slowly, things go missing: a handkerchief, a brooch, etc.

The Keeper is an enigmatic feature, the mysterious type women are drawn to, but you never really can tell what his secrets are, or his motivations.

There is some great character development with Azalea’s sisters, particularly Bramble and Clover, who each have their romances in the book.  Azalea is perhaps more in tune than her sisters into recognizing danger, but as she tries to break away, a treasured artifact goes missing and she is drawn in deeper.

This is one of the best revisionist fairy tales I’ve read recently and it’s very well done.  I can’t wait to re-read Entwined again and this is one of those titles that is going in my permanent collection.  Take a look and tell me if you agree.

The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

princess-curse

“Merrie Haskell’s middle-grade fantasy novel Princess Curse is an imaginative retelling of the fairy tales The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Beauty and the Beast.

In the fifteenth-century kingdom of Sylvania, the prince offers a fabulous reward to anyone who cures the curse that forces the princesses to spend each night dancing to the point of exhaustion. Everyone who tries disappears or falls into an enchanted sleep.

Thirteen-year-old Reveka, a smart, courageous herbalist’s apprentice, decides to attempt to break the curse despite the danger. Unravelling the mystery behind the curse leads Reveka to the Underworld, and to save the princesses, Reveka will have to risk her soul.

Princess Curse combines magic, suspense, humor, and adventure into a story perfect for fans of Gail Carson Levine.” (Goodreads review)

 

Before I launch into my thoughts about this book, I just want to take a moment and say that I hope I get to meet Merrie Haskell someday.

We both wrote our first stories at the age of seven, we both got BAs in anthropology (mine cultural, hers biological) and we both work in libraries that house a million + books.  The fact that she’s written books haled as appropriate for fans of Gail Carson Levine, Shannon Hale and Karen Cushman (Goodreads) and Karen’s endorsed The Princess Curse, is just frosting on the cake.

I love, love, love Levine, Cushman and Hale (see where I met Shannon Hale), so stumbling upon this book and looking it up on Goodreads (my go-to) and discovering all that praise, well, I was thrilled. I guess it was just one of those serendipitous things that happens sometimes. I really hoped that this book wouldn’t disappoint me and it was so much better than I had hoped. 🙂

This charming story is set in Sylvania (modern-day Romania) and includes some folklore terms thrown in for color involving witches and dragons and ogres.

This is the first fairy tale that I’ve read set in Romania which has a personal connection for me. My parents spent some time there when I was a teen and I remember them trying to teach me a few expressions they’d picked up, such as:

“Cu placere!” (you’re welcome) – sounded like “couple of cherries”

“La revedere!   La revedere!” (goodbye) – sounded like “river dairy”

“bine” (good) – sounded like “ben-a”

(Thanks to Linguanaut for a reminder on the spelling)

Expressions aside, Romania has a wonderful culture of folklore and mythology which Haskell references without trouncing out some of the Romanian tropes (no gypsies appear in this book).  I’m not read-up on Romanian history but I would guess the setting is some time in the Middle Ages. It certainly has that Karen Cushman feel of when her books are set (ex: The Midwife’s Apprentice) and Haskell doesn’t romanticize the life of Reveka, an herbalist apprentice.

There are elements of classic fairy tales built into Reveka’s story (advertised as ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’) but I would say there’s also elements of ‘Briar Rose’ too.  Reveka is a likable enough heroine with plans and dreams of her own but she’s not a 21st century heroine in a medieval setting — an altogether too common error in today’s YA.

Reveka is practical enough to know the ways of the world at thirteen and understand that she would rather be her own mistress than marry and assume the responsibilities of her husband’s trade.

As I’m sure others have pointed out, it will seem odd to think of a thirteen year old pursuing a career (or marriage) when the average marriage age in the USA today is 27 (Atlantic.com). I was 27 when I married actually but when you’re going back hundreds of years…things were different. Life expectancies were shorter. It’s a cultural divide as much as it’s a divide in centuries.

Reveka is old enough to recognize an opportunity so when she hears about the reward for breaking the curse of the dancing princesses, she jumps at the chance. Reveka is drawn into a world of magical and mythological beings and mysteries she must solve at the peril of her own soul.

This book also opens with a great first line:

Three days after my thirteenth birthday, Armas, the Executioner and Chief of Prisons, came for me while I ate breakfast.

Isn’t that great?

Haskell tactfully avoids any romantic entanglements with Reveka (who is, just thirteen) and the men in and around the castle, which would just come across as odd, if not disturbing, to readers.  I loved one moment in the book where her master (employer) says of Reveka that she’d no more consider (a certain person) romantically than she would a donkey.

The shadowy figure she meets is an interesting, complex character.  There is a lot to explore there and while we do find out more about him, his story is by no means left resolved.  The Princess Curse could be a stand-alone book but I hope it won’t remain that way for long.  I want to rejoin Reveka’s life and watch her break another curse.

Rating: 4 stars, because I think the concept, author, and story are awesome.

Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson

unleashing mr. darcy
Warning: This book contains at least one explicit sexual scene and may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman teetering on the verge of thirty must be in want of a husband.

Not true for Manhattanite Elizabeth Scott. Instead of planning a walk down the aisle, she’s crossing the pond with the only companion she needs; her darling dog, Bliss. Caring for a pack of show dogs in England seems the perfect distraction from the scandal that ruined her teaching career, and her reputation, in New York. What she doesn’t count on is an unstoppable attraction to billionaire dog breeder Donovan Darcy. The London tycoon’s a little bit arrogant, a whole lot sexy, and the chemistry between them is disarming. When passion is finally unleashed, might Elizabeth hope to take home more than a blue ribbon?

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Evertrue by Brodi Ashton (Everneath #3)

evertrue_ashton

Terrified for her survival, Nikki and Jack begin a desperate attempt to reverse the process using any means possible. Even Cole, who they expected to fight them at every turn, has become an unlikely ally — but how long can it last? Nikki needs to feed on Cole to survive, Cole needs Nikki to gain the throne in the Everneath, Jack needs Nikki because she is everything to him — and together, they must travel back to the Underworld to undo Nikki’s fate and make her mortal once more. But Cole isn’t the only one with plans for Nikki: the Queen has not forgotten Nikki’s treachery, and she wants her destroyed for good. Will Nikki be forced to spend eternity in the Underworld, or does she have what it takes to bring down the Everneath once and for all?

In this stunning conclusion to the Everneath trilogy, Brodi Ashton evokes the resiliency of the human spirit and the indomitable power of true love. (GoodReads)


The Specs
ISBN: 006207119X, hd, 368p, 2014 Balzer + Bray, YA, fantasy, mythology, romance


Thar’ she blows! Spoiler Alert!!!!

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