Review: Faery Tales & Nightmares by Melissa Marr

Title: Faery Tales & Nightmares

Author: Melissa Marr

Publishing Information:  February 2nd 2012 by Harper Collins Children’s Books

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Short Stories, Paranormal

Series information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 418 pages

Source: Borrowed from my local library

Recommended For: Fans of Melissa Marr and readers looking or vibrant and dark short stories

Dangerous promises and beguiling threats swirl together in a dozen stories of enchantments dark and light by New York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr. Uncanny and unexpected creatures appear from behind bushes, rise from beneath the seas, or manifest from seasonal storms to pursue the objects of their attention—with amorous or sinister intent—relentlessly.

I did not read the Wicked Lovely stories in this novel, I have never read the Wicked Lovely series so I didn’t want to ruin anything for myself!

“Where Nightmares Walk,” “Winter’s Kiss” and “Transition” were all beautiful stories. I was especially interested in “Winter’s Kiss” and found it to be truly fairy tale-esque with very sweet details. I thought Marr did a nice job with her vampire story, “Transition,” vampires with attitude have a special place in my heart, especially snarky female ones!

The story “Love Struck” is where I fell in love with Marr’s writing. Though I have been reading some mermaid books lately I was so interested in the way Marr twisted the traditional selchie tale into something different. I found myself wanting more and wishing that it was a full length novel and not just a short glimpse into the selchie world.

I also wanted more from “The Art of Waiting” and the messages of this and “Flesh for Comfort” were not lost on me. Both of these stories read like fairy tales but were also somewhat dark and twisted in a way that I really enjoyed.

Finally, “The Sleeping Girl and The Summer King” was the last story I read and I absolutely loved it. The descriptions of the winter world in contrast with the summer land were vibrant and gorgeous in my mind. This story has been described as a sort of sequel for Marr’s Wicked Lovely series and I can assure you that after reading this short story I will definitley be picking up the series very soon.

The only book by Melissa Marr that I had read before this novel was Graveminder (which I loved) but it is not really a “fairy tale” and therefore I was wary that I was missing something by not reading her Wicked Lovely series. Reading this short story really made me understand how Marr weaves different elements into her story, she sets up a vibrant setting that really draws the reader in and makes you long for more.

Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

gmTitle: Grave Mercy

Author: Robin LaFevers

Publishing Information: April 3, 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance

Series information: Book one in the His Fair Assassin series

Format: Hardcover, 549 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Fans of historical fiction featuring layered characters, strong heroines, and swoons galore

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

Be prepared for my second review this week in which I obsess over the sheer awesomeness of a book I’ve just read.

The book follows Ismae, a desperate girl who has just been sold to an abusive man by her cruel father. When her new husband sees the mark on her back from poison her mother took to attempt to abort her in the womb he becomes enraged, knowing that she is marked by Death himself. He immediately goes to find a priest to “cleanse” her and she manages to escape with some help to St. Mortain’s convent. However, this is no ordinary convent; the sisters here are trained to become assassins for Mortain, the Saint of Death. They are taught everything they need to know to become Death’s handmaidens and deliver vengeance to those who put Brittany in danger. Ismae does her job thoroughly and soon crosses the path of Duval and as their plans become intertwined they learn what it takes to trust and come to understand that the price of honor isn’t as easy as they thought.

The characters of this book were wonderful! Ismae was such a strong heroine who knew her faults and played well with her strengths. She is immune to poison and sees the marque of Mortain before she has even been granted this “gift” by the sisters. This makes her stand out in a significant way and it is because of these gifts that she is able to really understand her worth in the end so she can stand up for what she knows is right. Her sisters in Death are pretty awesome as well, especially Sybella who you only glance at a few times yet she still stands out in a remarkable way.

Now, let’s not forget about Duval. ::swoons:: ladies this is the man we have been waiting for! He is not a teenager infatuated with Ismae at first glance and even as they work together he does not overstep his bounds but instead gives her just what she needs when she isn’t even aware she needs it. I loved this. It’s no question Ismae has had some traumatic experiences with every man she has come in contact with so it’s not surprising that she is extremely untrustworthy of Duval through most of the novel. Duval isn’t so happy to be saddled with her either but as his feelings change he comes to appreciate who (and what) she is so he is able to understand her as no one has ever done. The actual romance though? So painstakingly slow in a way that literally had me holding my breath. So many of their moments together had me on the edge of my seat to the point where Duval grabs Ismae’s ankle and I heard myself give a girly “eep!” out loud. Plus he calls her “my fair assassin” in regular conversation! Love! Duval is dedicated to his family, country and has a fierce dedication to his friends that shows his loyalty in a beautiful way. Seriously, move over Mr. Darcy, methinks I have found a new literary husband!

One of the things that had me thinking was the fact that this book had a ‘YA’ label. Don’t get me wrong I think it is a perfect read for YA readers and no, I don’t think that the themes are too “dark” for YA readers. However I do feel that there are some adults that will be wary to read this book due to the connotations that (they believe) go along with YA novels. This book had many adult themes and I am recommending it to a wide range of readers from YA to adult because I think it can be appreciated by them all. Also, there were some elements that were missing (ahem, bodice ripping) that would have made this a very adult book and though I am not complaining because slow burning romances are kind of my FAVORITE it is no question that the novel would have read a little different.

I have to say that this novel is one of my favorite books of all time. There were so many parts of this book that reminded me of Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters series and those of you who know me (or who follow my blog) know that this is probably the biggest compliment I can give. The strong heroine, slow burning romance and ending that focused on what is easy versus what is right are only a few of the things that I find in both novels. The novel was a gorgeous read that I honestly can’t say enough about, I highly recommend it to fans of Juliet Marillier, strong heroines and anyone looking for a new brooding literary crush.

I am so grateful to have received an ARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via Netgalley and the only qualm I have is that now I have to wait an immensely long time for the companion novel, Dark Triumph to come out!

Review: Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey

Title: Dragonswood

Author: Janet Lee Carey

Publishing Information: January 5, 2012 by Dial

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Series information: Book 2 in the Wilde Island Chronicles

Format: Hardcover, 407 pages

Source: Borrowed from my local library

Recommended For: Fantasy lovers who are looking for a novel that focuses on relationships of all kinds growing in a land rich in fantastical elements.

Wilde Island is not at peace. The kingdom mourns the dead Pendragon king and awaits the return of his heir; the uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans is strained; and the regent is funding a bloodthirsty witch hunt. Tess, daughter of a blacksmith, has visions of the future, but she still doesn’t expect to be accused of witchcraft.

Surprisingly enough, this story started out not with dragons but with witches. Tess lives with her abusive father and meek mother in a small town that becomes overthrown by witch hunters. Unfortunately, Tess is convicted of being a witch by some villagers and is forced to succumb to tests to prove her innocence. Through a dramatic turn of events, Tess escapes and goes into hiding taking her two best friends with her.

Soon after, the three girls are found hiding in a cave by a mysterious man. A man whom Tess has been having visions about for some time. Though her visions didn’t provide much insight as to who this man was or why he lives secluded in an old hunting lodge belonging to the late king. Tess and her friends are left with no choice but to put their fate into this man’s hands but Tess becomes determined to learn more about him and his dark past and they become bound as Tess learns more about herself as well.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I was intrigued in the way witchcraft was brought into the storyline and I really enjoyed the way the author tied it up with the fae story and the background of Tess and her visions.

Tess was a very strong character, she was brave and she didn’t want to be married off like other girls her age but wanted to draw, be independent and be able to run off into the woods whenever she wished, without a question from a man in her life. I liked that she had flaws to her character and wasn’t a perfect female lead, it made her more likeable. Garth was so likeable that I think I fell in love with him as soon as he was introduced. He reminded me of some of the male leads in Juliet Marillier’s books, specifically Red from Daughter of the Forest. He was calm, cool, collected but also so strong and willing to fight for what was right. The secondary characters were also wonderful contrasts for Tess, her friends started off as girls who wanted nothing more than to be married off and taken care of. Once they were all thrown into danger these girls changed and their strengths came out.

I loved the plot twists and the introduction of the fae into the already dragon ridden world that Tess lives in. It was interesting to see how strong Tess was when she was given everything she thought she wanted and how she weighed it against what it would cost her. I also adored the love story of this novel. It was not instantaneous which always makes me very happy but it was gradual and heartbreaking and strong and most importantly, it was believable. I wanted more from this love, though the author provided just enough to make it beautiful and lasting in my mind.

I liked this book significantly more than Dragon’s Keep and I recommend it to fantasy lovers who are looking for a novel that focuses on relationships of all kinds growing in a land rich in fantastical elements.

In the enchanted Woodland wild,

The Prince shall wed a Fairy child,

Dragon, Human, and Fairy,

Their union will be bound by three.

And when these lovers intertwine,

Three races in one child combine.

Dragon, Fey, and Humankind

Bound in one bloodline.

Review: Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby

Title: Wonder Show

Author: Hannah Barnaby

Publishing Information: March 20, 2012  by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Series information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 288 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Readers looking for a quick story that shows the beauty in the family that you choose, not the family that you’re born into.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, friends and neighbors, allow me to change your lives! Step inside Mosco’s Traveling Wonder Show! You’ve read about them in magazines, these so-called human curiosities, this tribe of misfits—now come and see for yourselves. We’ve got a gent as tall as a tree, a lady with a beard, and don’t miss your chance to see the Wild Albinos of Bora Bora! Ask Madame Doula to peer into your future (only two dollars more if you want to know how you’re going to die).

And between these covers behold the greatest act of our display—Portia Remini, the strangest of the menagerie because she’s a ‘normal’ among the freaks, searching for a new beginning on the bally, far away from McGreavey’s Home for Wayward Girls, where Mister watches and waits. He said he would always find Portia, said she could never leave . . .

Oh, it’s not for the faint of heart folks. If you’re prone to nightmares or you’ve got a weak ticker, you’d best move on. Within these pages lies a tale of abandonment, loss, misfortune for the rich and glory for the poor (and a little murder doesn’t hurt). It’s a story for the ages, but be warned: once you enter the Wonder Show you will never be the same.

I am very grateful to have received an ARC via Netgalley, the book will be published on March 20, 2012.

Story telling is a crucial part of Portia’s life, each night she listens to the stories of her family members and she has a natural talent for weaving stories of her own. Soon Portia’s life is turned upside down when everyone she knows leaves her promising that once they make enough money they will come back for her. Portia is left with her aunt who is not a very pleasant woman and after some time her aunt decides that Portia is too much of a burden so she drops her off at McGreavey’s Home for Wayward Girls. A man who goes by the name “Mister” owns McGreavey’s and he is a very unpleasant human being. Portia is determined to find her father so she does what she needs to do to gain information. After some traumatic events Portia decides to run away and gets caught up in the life of a misfit.

This book was very enjoyable, Hannah Barnaby does a great job storytelling and the characters were very unique and fun to read about. I was immediately sucked in to Portia’s world and the entire story had a vibrant feel to it. This story wasn’t all happiness though; it was actually quite the opposite. There were very real topics in this story such as abandonment, death and guilt and overall it was rather dark. There were parts that reminded me of the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket that I read a few years back, Count Olaf and Mister definitely share some characteristics. The highlight of Wonder Show was definitely the characters; they were all unique and “curious” in their own way.

My biggest disappointment in this story was that it wasn’t detailed enough, there could have been more to the story and the characters. The “misfits” were all so odd and I would have really enjoyed more of their back-stories and their relationships with Portia. The end of the story was endearing but it felt rushed and I couldn’t understand why it was happening as the relationships between the characters weren’t explored enough and their love for Portia was a little confusing to me. There was also an offhand comment about a ghost who follows Portia around yet it wasn’t explored further at all and I found that very disappointing. I suppose this means my biggest problem was that I wanted more from the novel, which isn’t exactly a negative thing.

This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2012, I think it was a successful debut from Hannah Barnaby and I recommend it to those looking for a quick story that shows the beauty in the family that you choose, not the family that you’re born into.