Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

BLOG“They said that love was terrifying and tender, wild and sweet, and none of it made any sense. But now I knew that every mad word was true.”

Nyx has lived for many years knowing her fate. Betrothed to the evil ruler of the kingdom, once she turns seventeen she is to marry and move into his castle, far from her family and everything she holds dear. She is intent on carrying out a plan to kill him and free the kingdom once and for all. But once she is behind the castle walls nothing is as she had imagined. The mysteries of the kingdom begin to compound and more questions arise. Most perplexing of all is her charming new husband and fairly soon she is uncertain of what the truth is and who she can trust. She knows that her kingdom depends on her defeating the sworn enemy she can’t help but be drawn to. And the longer she stays, the more difficult her mission becomes.

“If one of us had to die, it ought to be the one with poison in her heart.”

I love fairy tale retellings, Greek myth retellings, basically any new spin on a well-told tale. Cruel Beauty is a blend of a Beauty and the Beast retelling and Greek mythology, which I found intriguing. The novel creates a magical yet eerie atmosphere that is compelling. As the main character, Nyx is strong and complex while the villain proves to be witty and beguiling. Initially I was drawn to the story, however as it progressed it started to feel somewhat meandering and difficult to follow. I love the idea of what the novel tries to achieve but much of it was confusing, particularly the ending, but by then I was truly disconnected from what was happening. Thinking about it, I feel that the writing style is perhaps just not for me. Absolutely a good option for fans of Beauty and the Beast retellings, unfortunately it did not work for me.

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

BLOG“We remember a time of such clarity. We were Beast, we ran with wolves and hunted prey, we lived on the wind and breathed the forest. We wanted nothing but to be, to run, to endure. Want didn’t exist.

And we remember another time, too, a time of longing and desire, where we existed as nothing but want… always the next unattainable thing. There was no joy in what we had, only in what might come.”

Yeva has always felt most at home in the forest, and most at peace while hunting with her father. But as she gets older, the expectations to be a lady of high society and to marry a wealthy gentleman have led to days of polite chatter with baronessas and taken her away from the solitude she cherishes. When her father loses his fortune and she and her sisters have to move to a cabin on the outskirts of the forest, Yeva is secretly glad. Relieved to be back in the environment of the forest, with all its mysterious and unspoken magic. But this new way of life may have cost Yeva’s father his sanity, and when he disappears she sets out to find him and hunt down the creature that her father had become obsessed with tracking.

“She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.”

IMG_4544

Hunted is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. I love a good retelling and Beauty and the Beast is my absolute favourite story for this. This take on the well known story is wonderfully done and I ended up happily spending the day completely engrossed in the adventure. There is depth and nuance to the characters that made me care about their situation and their fate in what was to come. The relationship between Yeva and her sisters is quite touching and was one of my favourite parts of the novel, along with the way the author perfectly encapsulated very complex emotions. With memorable characters and compelling writing, Hunted is a wonderful escape into a new take on a tale as old as time.

“The song wanted. It wanted in the way Yeva had always wanted, wanted not so much a thing as everything, something beyond naming, something more than, different, deeper.”

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

IMG_2030“Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny?”

Now that is a good question.  Kate is definitely stuck.  Stuck in a living situation that is not ideal, stuck in a family dynamic that is not always easy, and stuck in a job she doesn’t care about and simply fell into.  Her father is finally hitting his stride with his research and is possibly about to make a breakthrough.  However, the fact that his brilliant assistant Pyotr is months away from being deported is a big problem.  A problem that Dr. Battista feels could be solved by Kate herself. However, can Kate be convinced to take part in his scheme?

Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Vinegar Girl is a light and easy read.  Having not read the Shakespearean play I can only share my take on the novel as a contemporary story.  Unfortunately, as a contemporary story it does fall flat and did not work for me in a few different ways.  Kate is a 29 year-old modern woman, which makes a lot of her choices and behaviour confusing and at times frustrating.  The motivation behind her actions is never fully explored or explained, and the immaturity of her general attitude is quite tiresome.  Similarly, Pyotr is a one-note character whose intentions and feelings are confusing, plus his portrayal as “the foreigner” comes off as stereotypical and not humorous, which is what I assume was the intention. The story overall does not live up to the fun and quirky potential of the premise.

*ARC provided by NetGalley.  Publication date: June 21, 2016.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

BLOGEligible, a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, takes the Bennet family and the beloved supporting cast of characters to the modern world of 2013 Cincinnati.

“This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.”

As always, Mrs. Bennet is eager to marry off her daughters, especially Jane who is nearing forty.  One very eligible bachelor is Chip Bingley, who recently appeared on the reality dating show Eligible, and is introduced to Jane at a fourth of July barbecue.  Jane and Chip hit it off immediately, while Elizabeth’s encounter with Mr. Darcy proves to be not quite as pleasant.

I am a big fan of retellings and experiencing old favourites in a new and different way, which is why I was very much looking forward to reading Eligible.  As soon as I started the first chapter I couldn’t help but smile, and found it to be sharp, funny, and thoroughly enjoyable.  However, at the halfway point it took a turn and the second half of the novel felt like a sharp contrast to the fun and wit of the first half.  The main issue for me was the approach to the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, which did nothing but reflect the sometimes crass nature of modern dating.  The entertaining banter between the two characters that marked the beginning of the novel was replaced by dialogue and interactions that had the feel of a bad romance novel.

Another issue with the second part of the novel is that too much is thrown together and presented in a way that came off as incredibly ridiculous, and not in a fun way.  Eligible started off very strong, but for me it lost its way and by the end the negatives well outweighed the positives.  Unfortunately, it was just not my cup of tea.

*ARC provided by NetGalley.  Publication date: April 19, 2016.