Beastly by Alex Flinn

Beastly
Alex Flinn

Beastly, a modern day retelling of Beauty and the Beast told from the point of view of the beast, has gotten a lot of positive reviews, so I’m happy that thanks to my Secret Santa from the Book Blogger Holiday swap I finally had a chance to read it. 

The Premise: Kyle Kingsbury is handsome, popular, and, a big superficial jerk. His father is a famous newscaster and taught Kyle that people who did things out of friendship or love are suckers, so Kyle lives only for himself. Life is good: he goes to an elite school in Manhattan where he’s ultra popular and has a lock on being voted king of the ninth grade spring dance. Then Kyle decides to humiliate a strange new girl at the dance, and is rewarded with his comeuppance – cursed to be a beast unless he can love and be loved in return. He has two years to learn and to become someone worth loving or he will stay a beast forever.

Read and excerpt of Beastly here

My Thoughts: Kyle is incredibly unlikable in the first few pages of this book. Before his world is rocked by the curse, he really turned me off. In fact, I read a few pages of Beastly through Amazon’s Look Inside program a year or so ago and I was worried I wouldn’t like the book because of him. But once I got a chapter or two in, I empathized with Kyle despite my first impressions. Kyle’s growth from the snobby pretty-boy with negligent parents into a man of character doesn’t happen overnight. It took much of the two years he’s allocated and it’s not an easy road, but I believed and hoped he could make it eventually.

Kyle (who renames himself Adrian), is exiled by his father to a house in Brooklyn when it becomes clear that nothing can fix his appearance. All he has is his faithful housekeeper Magda, and after he asks for it – a blind tutor named Will. Adrian watches the world through a magic mirror. The forced isolation produced by becoming a beast gives him plenty of time for introspection, and he uses the time productively. He starts to appreciate things he thought of as unimportant before, and I enjoyed his discovery of less superficial interests, although he continues to despair of really breaking his curse. That is until circumstances allow Lindy, the “Beauty” of the story to enter the picture.

Lindy is probably the opposite of what Adrian used to be when he was Kyle – not popular, not good looking, and not rich. She lives in a poor neighborhood with an addict father.  Despite being rather plain and not particularly noticeable, there’s something that draws Adrian to her. Adrian’s feelings for her were rather sweet – wanting her to like him, and realizing he can’t buy or bargain for her affections. His loneliness and yearning at this point made their tentative friendship something to root for. While I found Lindy to be a nice person, but not particularly compelling compared to Adrian, I wholeheartedly believed the feelings Adrian had for her. And I believed this version’s explanation of why her family so easily let her go to the Beast.

As a bonus, I loved that Beastly was based on the version of Beauty and the Beast in which Beauty is a reader. Reading books like Jane Eyre, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera and The Picture of Dorian Grey are all part of the story, and I loved the parallels, which were not lost on Adrian/Kyle. I also enjoyed the “transformation” chat room conversations that Adrian joined. It was hilarious to see the little mermaid, the frog prince and others kvetching online.

Overall: A very pleasing modern-day Beauty and the Beast. I really liked this spin on my favorite fairy tale: told from the first person point of view of a spoiled Manhattan teen who does become a better person and has to win the girl the hard way. If you’d like to read a YA with a sweet romance, and you like the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, I recommend this one.

I’m looking forward to reading the other books in this series – A Kiss in Time, and Cloaked. And I’ll probably look for the DVD of Beastly the movie whenever it comes out (it’s been suspiciously delayed in it’s release).

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
Steph Su Reads – 3.5 out of 5
My Favourite Books – positive review
Chachic’s Book Nook – positive review
All Things Urban Fantasy – 2/5
The Book Smugglers – 6/10
Angieville – positive review
See Michelle Read – positive review

Reading Raves: Beauty and the Beast Illustrations

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

I finished Beastly and I’m writing up a review for it, but because I’m visiting my parents I keep getting interrupted mid-thought (hmm).  So while I edit my review here’s some lovely Beauty and the Beast inspired images that I found online.



Angela Barrett



Annie Leibovitz for Vogue Magazine (via Once Upon a Blog)


Rebecca Guay


ertacaltinoz


Marianna Mayer


Allen Williams


George Barr


Eugenio Recuenco


Hilary Knight


Anne Grahame Johnstone

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, Illustrated by Nathan Hale

Rapunzel's Revenge
Shannon Hale

I saw that Rapunzel’s Revenge was for sale at bookcloseouts.com for $2.99 and my husband is a lovely, lovely enabler so he bought it along with 6 other books.. ahem.

The Premise: This is a graphic novel adaptation of Rapunzel with a twist. Rapunzel grows up in a huge, lovely house, surrounded by servants and greenery, but she always wonders why she has strange dreams about another family and why her mother, Gothel won’t let her see what is on the other side of the wall that towers high above their mansion.  Every year, Rapunzel asks, but Gothel won’t answer, until finally Rapunzel finds out herself. This leads to a discovery which makes Rapunzel turn against Gothel and kicks off a series of adventures for Rapunzel on her way to enact revenge.

My Thoughts: I really liked this one. Shannon Hale is known for her young adult novels that are based on fairy tales, but this is her first graphic novel adaptation, which she wrote with her husband. The illustrator has the same last name, but isn’t a relation. As a graphic novel, it’s easily read in one sitting, and the artwork is really good (and it’s all in color). The layout of the panels is easy to read and the faces of the characters are consistent. The story spans a few years, and so we see Rapunzel growing from a child to a young woman, which is conveyed well in the art — she still looks like herself throughout the process, as do the other characters. I thought the artwork easily conveyed desert canyons, lush jungles, strange places, and rough people. It was all very adventurous and fun to look at.

The story was great too. Rapunzel doesn’t need to get rescued by the prince from her tower, she figures how to get out herself. And she’s not put in there by her witch mother to keep her away from men, she’s put in there for actually defying Gothel, who is a tyrant in this world. And Rapunzel kicks butt! Look at the cover for this graphic novel — that should give you an idea. Rapunzel goes through a lot on her way from her tower back to Gothel to show her that “she can’t be a bully without earning a swift kick in the rear”. I loved that independence. The use of her hair as a weapon (it’s a lasso, a whip, a rope) was one of my favorite touches.

There’s a a Wild West theme in the story, because the world has been turned into “every body for themselves” after Gothel took over.  I also liked the hints of other fairy tales that are peppered throughout which are like inside jokes for fairytale and tall tale lovers. I’m dying to talk about it in the review, but I think it’s more fun to find them yourselves, so I will restrain myself.

Overall: The inside of this book met the expectations I had after seeing the cool cover. Lots of fun and I hope there’s a sequel!

Buy: Amazon | Powells | Bookcloseouts

Other reviews:
Bookmoot – “who doesn’t enjoy a new twist on an old story?”
Books and Other Thoughts – “great fun to read”

Hmm.. ogre killing Sleeping Beauty?

Night's Rose
Annaliese Evans

Anyone heard anything about this book? Random Amazon surfing led me to find it. The author's website calls it "historical urban fantasy with a faerie tale twist". It's about a Sleeping Beauty who is an ogre killer! I would read that. There also looks to be hints of a love triangle – not sure I'm so hot on that, but I'm still intrigued. It comes out March 31st from Tor/Forge books.

There's an excerpt here.

Annaliese Evan's is a pseudonym for Anna J. Evans who writes erotic romance. I like her blog.  It also sounds like she has another pseudonym as a young adult author, but I haven't figured that one out yet.

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Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

Ink Exchange
Melissa Marr

I just finished reading Ink Exchange. I read Wicked Lovely earlier this year and I was told this was a different book, so I decided to try it. Well, it wasn't for me either.  There's nothing wrong with the writing, it has a lovely lyrical quality, but I think that somewhere along the line I stopped being able to suspend my disbelief over a supposed near-immortal (kings and their advisers as that) falling in love with a teenage girl. I think I just got too old.

In Ink Exchange, Leslie, who is a friend of Aislinn, the protagonist of Wicked Lovely, decides to get a tattoo. The tattoo she chooses is the tattoo of the king of the Dark Court, Irial, and it connects her to him in a magical way. In the meantime, Niall, adviser to the Summer King and Queen finds himself drawn to Leslie unlike any mortal before her. Leslie in turn is drawn to both men and seems to seesaw her way back and forth between them.

 Leslie is first in great pain over her home life, a mom who left, a dad who gambles, and a brother who does drugs and uses Leslie to pay off his debts. Then after her tattoo, which leaches out her real feelings, she's so separate from herself and constantly numbed that it was very difficult to feel anything for her when she felt so little herself. At that point I just found it hard to connect with anyone in this book. I was having no trouble imagining their terrible beauty, but besides hearing how good they looked, their individual personalities and connections weren't developed enough for me. For example, whenever Leslie felt good to be with Irial and Niall I just felt like it was the product of what creatures they were, not real. And Niall's feelings of betrayal contrasted with his supposed experience with these people – why is he surprised? He became uncharacteristically more naive in this book compared to the last one.  Despite all this, I was at least satisfied with the ending. I was close to thinking I preferred Wicked Lovely over this second book until I got to the end, but this ending felt more right. And yeah, I did see that Leslie realized something about those feelings that were leeched from her – the fear and hurt, the bad stuff, were needed as much as she needed the happier feelings, in order to feel whole. That growing up on her part, plus the darker aspects of this novel were positive parts of the book. But still, I don't know, it still didn't work overall for me. I was unsatisfied for some reason, but I know that most people who I have seen review this online have reviewed this positively, so I'm probably in the minority. It may be that this novel would have worked better for me if it was packaged in a short story or novella. Maybe then I would have accepted certain things I felt were missing or inferred them more than I have here.

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Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely
Melissa Marr

I kept hearing only good things about Melissa Marr's debut young adult novel Wicked Lovely, so after visiting copies of the book at the bookstore several times, I finally got hold of one to read.

I'm dense because I didn't notice until I was about halfway through the book that the girl on the cover is holding flowers covered in frost. Which ties in with the story. Doh! It is a lovely cover though even without noticing that!

Aislinn goes to an all girls school and lives with her protective grandmother in a town called Huntsdale. For the most part she's a normal teen, except for a wariness she's developed because she has the ability to see faeries. This isn't the sweet kind of faerie but rather capricious beings who are everywhere, usually invisible, playing cruel games on others. If they knew she could see them, Aislinn knows she would be harmed, she's been taught by her grandmother (who also has this ability), to lay low and pretend she can't see them. She spends her days as a normal kid, going to school, and then hanging out with her best friend Seth, an older kid with tattoos and piercings who lives in a train. The iron keeps out the faeries so Aislinn tries to spend as much time as possible there, while harboring secret feelings for him.

Unfortunately for Aislinn, she does eventually gets noticed by Keenen, the Summer King, who decides she's the next girl who could be the Summer Queen. For years he's been chasing human girls, asking them to pick up the Winter Queen Beria's staff and help him break the hold his mother has on the seasons. Every girl who has picked up the staff could not hold off the chill and thus they have become the Winter girl (the current one is Donia) until another girl relieves them.

Overall: I'd recommend this for fans of Holly Black, but I think I like Holly Black better. It has that same type of young adult in modern times with faeries feel (along with my thoughts of how are the parents letting these kids roam about so much?). There are mild allusions to sex but it will likely go over the heads of the innocent. The story had a fairy tale in modern times vibe, reminding me of stories about the struggles between two deities or royal beings over who rules the season - Summer and Winter. And the writing has a lyrical, lovely fairytale lilt which just goes with the story beautifully. There was some greying of characters – especially that of Keenen – he's not seen as the bad guy, even though he's been callous in the past, but I thought that Seth was a bit perfect, and the Winter Queen was a bit heavy handed. I also thought that every main character in this book was described as being gorgeous, so I was imagining these perfect looking beings (including Seth and Aislinn) in a semi-dramatic fantasy, doing stuff like: yearning for things that they couldn't express and being caught in a tragic game for eternity… I wish I saw less romantic characters, but I'm not sure if I'm just being old and crabby here in thinking that. Another thing – I also didn't understand why there needed to be a Summer Queen when there was no Winter King? I'm still a bit confused about that. Anyway,the ending was satisfying. A fine way to pass the time, and I'm sure it's a keeper for many, but not a keeper for me. I'm interested enough to read the next book Ink Exchange, which deals with the Dark court (I think?), but it's going to come from the library.

Review at Dear Author (they gave it an A-)

Review at The Book Smugglers (they gave it an 8 – Excellent).

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Short stories and the Journal of Mystic Arts

Via things mean a lot – I found out that there is a free online short story in Holly Black's Tithe/ Valiant/ Ironside universe called "Going Ironside". It's very short and bittersweet, from the point of view of an exiled faerie, hitting hard times in the city. I didn't know about it so thought I would link to it here.


The website the short story is on is the Journal of Mystic Arts (aka JoMA) which is an online magazine having it's final issue after many years:

JoMA is sponsored by the Endicott Studio, a nonprofit organization dedicated to literary, visual, and performance arts inspired by myth, folklore, fairy tales, and the oral storytelling tradition.

Endicott & JoMA have been online since 1997. JoMA's last issue is the Summer '08 issue, but our extensive archives of 10+ years of mythic arts material will remain online as an on-going source of mythic arts information & resources.

Founded in 1987, the Endicott Studio is directed by Terri Windling & Midori Snyder.

Other stories by familiar (to me) authors I wanted to point out:

"Silver and Gold" by Emma Bull

The Tale of the Mountain King and His Sky Bride” by O. R. Melling

 

Some Poems:

"Bone Mother" by Holly Black

"The Step-sister's Story" by Emma Bull

"Boys and Girls Together" by Neil Gaiman

"Instructions" by Neil Gaiman

Ok there is so much more by Neil Gaiman and Jane Yolen and Charles de Lint and Terri Windling and Delia Sherman and others. Worth spending some time there if you haven't been.

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Ironside by Holly Black

Ironside is the third (and final?) installment in the Faery Tale series by Holly Black.

The first one, Tithe follows Kaye who is "not human and doesn't know it" as she discovers the faerie world and gets caught up in their politics.  The second one; Valiant follows Val as she is homeless in New York City.  Val runs into problems with the faerie drug "Never" – used by the exiled fae to lessen the issues caused by the iron in the city, but addictive and bad for humans. Ironside returns the focus to Kaye and finishes up the story.

The protagonists in this series are teens in the New Jersey, New York area who are independent outcasts, with friends of a similar ilk. There is a familiarity and ease in their conversations that feels real and reminds me of teenagers, except these teenagers are a little bit less innocent than others. They do a lot of adult things like smoke, drink, have sex, take drugs, get themselves in trouble..its all part of the dark edge to these books. The faery side of things is not light and fluffy - they're beautiful but disturbingly dangerous creatures. Humans are of little value and often toyed with because fae have powers and like to have some fun, even if it means death to an innocent that stumbled onto their path. Despite the dark side to the books, there are some happy endings to be expected out of them – each has a bit of romance thrown in, usually between a human and someone they thought was out of their league. It's sweet if you aren't a cynic about that stuff. Underlying that all three books are tied together by the same thread – unrest between the Seelie and Unseelie courts - first there is the unraveling of a peace agreement, then there are changes to who rules the Unseelie court.

******* From this point on there are spoilers for the first books ***********

In Ironside, Kaye is still in love with Roiben, who is the newly crowned Unseelie king. Kaye lives with humans still, but visits the faerie world whenever she can. Unsure of her place in faerie society, Kaye gets tricked into declaring her love for him publicly, and Roiben responds by giving her an impossible task: find a faerie who can tell an untruth. Kaye can't see Roiben again until she fulfills this task, and if she can't see him, she questions if she belongs with the faerie – there is no one to belong to. This is mirrored with her life as a human girl – her mother doesn't know that Faye is a changeling that replaced her real daughter, and Kaye feels very guilty about this.

My thoughts: I liked this book and it does tie up the story very nicely, though I think I preferred the first two books over this one. The beginning dragged a little for me, but I was really into the story in the second half of the book – I wasn't sure how it was going to end and I liked that. A couple of minor things I guessed, but for the most part I was an on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen to everyone. There was also a couple of cameos from characters in Valiant here too (brief appearances from them with the exception of Luis, who plays a bigger part in Ironside). As usual I really liked the descriptions of the faerie world and how they continue to secretly survive amongst humans (who can't see them as they really are).

There are some minor moments of disbelief – like I have a problem with Kaye being a blond asian (I'm half chinese so I pay attention to mixed race characters, and this little detail bugged me). Being blond is pretty much an impossibility if she is half Japanese. I would believe brown, but not blond (recessive gene yo)! Anyway, this wasn't brought up much in Ironside as much as it was in Tithe.

This book also shifted focus a bit more onto other characters besides the main one (Kaye). We see some of the thoughts of Roiben, who is usually distant and hard to understand from Kaye's point of view, and we also see what's going on in Corny's head. Corny is an interesting character because he's become fragile and fearful after his experiences in Tithe. In Ironside, Corny goes very far to try to protect himself. Actually the theme of doing something that's not quite right because you want to protect something else is a reoccurring one in this book.  Right and wrong gets murky, like life, and this is especially true in Roiben's case, who is responsible for his people and wants to protect those he loves, even when they think he doesn't care about them.

P.S. This is a book I waited to read because it wasn't in softcover. The paperback edition came out July 08, but the hardcover was out April 07. Sigh. Not sure why there was such a long wait there.

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The Hunter’s Moon by O. R. Melling

This is a young adult novel was recommended as being along the same lines as Holly Black's Faerie series, so I went to look for it. Findabhair and Gwenhyvar (Gwen) are two cousins (one Irish, one American) who want to believe in Faerie and to have adventures. Gwen visits Fin one summer and they plan to tour Ireland together, centering around famous Faerie related places, but soon after their tour begins Finabhair is stolen by the Faerie, leaving Gwen to seek her. Gwen pretty much gets guided by helpful strangers to chase her cousin, the king of Faerie, and his court across Ireland.

While the writing was really lovely and magical, especially in describing the scenery, the story felt predictable – a quest story, sort of mirroring fairytales of snatched princesses and the brave journeyer who uses their resourcefulness to save them. It started to get repetitious – Gwen catching up with Fin, then losing her again, then following her again to the next site. The characters themselves were also a little flat. I found myself bored several times and putting the book down. What I felt redeemed this book were those beautiful descriptions (especially of Faerie) I mentioned and all the references to Irish myth. You could tell the author knew what she was writing about. Here's an example of a passage when Gwen is asked to dance with the fairies:

"Parting leaf from twig and eyelid from slumber, anyone and everything was awake in the night. To life we wake from the long forgotten dream, the beautiful mystery. The taste of existence is a drop of honey on the tongue. So very sweet and very old, we have gone to seed and run wild in the wind. It ws a dance of stars and flowers and souls. Gwen stepped into the chain to become part of the whole. How long she danced she couldn't know. Time branched like a tree and each bud was eternity. She could feel the world dissolve into myth."

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Stardust by Neil Gaiman

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OK, most people reading this blog know that the Stardust movie is coming out very soon. In the U.S the opening date is the 10th of August. At first I wasn't that pysched about it, but slowly I began looking forward to this more and more, and now its probably one of the movies I'm most looking forward to. The cinematography looks like it will be pretty judging by the stills on IMDB . Of all the actors in this, I'm most interested to see Michelle Pfeiffer as the "Lamia" (in the book her character is called the "Lilim") – I think she can do evil well. There will be a whole host of other famous faces involved as well (Robert De Niro, Claire Danes, Sienna Miller, Jason Flemyng, Peter O'Toole, Rupert Everett, Ricky Gervais). I'm not sure I've heard of the actor playing Tristan Thorn though – Charlie Cox? I'm sorry, but he looks a little like a doofus.. is that just me? We shall see.

Anyway, in preparation I had to re-read Stardust. I read it when it first came out.. 7-ish years ago was it(?), and I remember the Wall, Tristan Thorn going after a star for the woman he loves, and that was pretty much it other than liking the book.

I don't feel like I've read much Gaiman. I've read some Sandman (read up to volume 5 of the graphic novels but some jerk stole volume 6 from the library and I can't move on from that point. I'm bitter…), CoralineWolves in the Walls, and Neverwhere. Out of those I'd say Neverwhere is the only one that fits into the same category – adult fantasy novel, and its been a long time since I read that too. So basically as I was reading Stardust I was mostly thinking .. hey this Gaiman guy is a pretty good writer huh? I seemed to have forgotten how well thought out each sentence felt. I think its even better the second time around.. truely feels like a fairy tale. Every paragraph is .. magical. So I guess that may explain the legions of fans. 

If you haven't read Stardust, its starts at the village of Wall, which borders Faerie.  Between the village and the Faerie kingdom (Stormheld) is a wall. And in this wall there is one gap, which is guarded day and night by the villagers for centuries, except for when the market comes to the meadow on the other side of the wall. This market happens every nine years, and because of this market, Tristan Thorn is born. Stardust is chiefly the tale of a young man (Tristan), setting out on a foolish quest for a fallen star in order to impress the woman he thinks he loves. Of course he finds more than he expects and wonderous adventure occurs in the land of Faerie.

Oh 9 / 9.5 out of 10.

This book seems to have some inspiration from John Donne's Song (Go and catch a falling star..). The other book I can think of which I loved and is similarly inspired by that poem is Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. There. Two posts in a row where I have referenced Diana Wynne Jones. But am I missing another book? Do tell, I will want to read it.

The one thing I would complain about with this book is.. wow there are a lot of things that fell into place ridiculously easily weren't there? I mean, there are hardships and whatnot, but I sure noticed there were a lot of convieniant things going on? That they were.. oblivious to? Right? No? And yet, when everything is wrapped up, there is still something that made me a little sad, but it made the book realistic at a point where it was looking dangerously close to too pat. Discuss.

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