I Return + Suit and Suitability by Kelsey Bryant

Hey, everyone! I return! 🙂

(And if you didn’t notice I was gone, well… that’s either excellent news or… not. I leave you to decide. XD)

There was no post last week due to a long series of conspiratorial circumstances such as being busy, having shoddy/unreliable internet (still the case, actually; thank goodness for cupcake shops with wifi! Yes, that is a picture from today of my yummy cupcake), and a villainous wasp stinging my hand and thereby rendering me unable to type for a few days — the horror! #writersworstfears

BUT I’m back now, at least for the moment. 🙂 So blogging shall happen! Hurray!

I have bookish thoughts for you today, and next week (June 1st) I’ll be sharing an exciting cover reveal here. So excited for both! ^_^ After that I will endeavor to return to a more regular blogging schedule for June… Hopefully.

Meanwhile, I have exciting news to share in the bookish world: there are now THREE Vintage Jane Austen books out! *trumpets and confetti*

Emmeline by Sarah Holman (Emma retelling) which I reviewed, Suit and Suitability by Kelsey Bryant (Sense and Sensibility retelling), and a collection of short stories by various authors, edited by Hannah Scheele, Second Impressions: A Collection of Fiction Inspired by Jane Austen.

I’ve read the two novels that are out so far and LOVED them, and I’m looking forward to reading the short stories! 😀 (You can learn more about the series HERE, or add these to your Goodreads TBR list HERE.)

Meanwhile, I’m here today to talk about Suit and Suitability by my dear author friend, Kelsey, and tell you why you should read it! ;D

Title: Suit and Suitability
Author: Kelsey Bryant
Date read: February 16, 2017
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Historical Fiction (1930s) / Christian / Romance
Age: YA
Year pub: 2017
Series: Vintage Jane Austen, #2 (Standalone. Each book by a different author.)
Fave character: Everett
Source: From the author
Notes: I beta-read this before it was published

My Review

Firstly, I enjoyed this book SO MUCH! 😀 A retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, this version is set in 1930s America during the Great Depression (mostly in Ohio, and parts in New York City), with a dash of mystery added to it, and it was an absolute delight to read. 🙂 It drew me in from the first chapter and kept me totally absorbed, despite historical fiction of this sort not being my usual reading fare—I loved it! ^_^

It was so fun getting to meet the characters (slightly familiar but also oh-so-new!), soak up the absolutely GORGEOUS description and brilliantly well-painted time period, connect parallels and suspect upcoming things with the retelling parts, be surprised by little twists, and enjoy the humor, dialog, spiritual bits, character interactions, and generally just bask in the excellent writing! 🙂

Retelling-wise, it’s definitely recognizable as a take on Sense and Sensibility (at times a little more like the movie, perhaps?), but also its own story. So much of the original story was woven in so interestingly in clever little ways, that I had great fun comparing the two, seeing the similar things and changes and tweaks, especially fitting so well into the new time period! I enjoyed the parallels and predicting things, but there were also enough surprises that it kept me on my toes and left me with some lovely “aha!” discovery moments, like an entirely new book… which in many ways it is. I was VERY pleased with this as a retelling and as a book in general. ^_^

The setting and writing, which I somehow think of together, were both AMAZING. I was in awe at how well the time-period and setting were painted! I don’t know a lot about the 1930s, but it was just set SO. WELL. The way people talked, the clothes, the houses, details, even their names… just all of it was so evocative of the ’30s. The attention to detail was phenomenal and absolutely stunned me. I avoid writing historical fiction largely because I would never be able to do the research well enough to plunge the reader so completely into the world like this book did for me. It helped that the writing was gorgeous (and sometimes amusing!), completely sucked me in, and held me spellbound. It’s quite a long book (largely to accommodate the stories of both sisters) but it didn’t feel that way at all. 🙂 (Also, references to Captain Blood, Agatha Christie, etc., was the best. :D)

Characters! One of my favorite things… and these absolutely did not disappoint. I LOVED THEM! 😀 (I mean, except for a few, but we’ll get to that. *cough*) I loved their dialog and interactions and they had me laughing and quoting them a few times. So much fun! ^_^

  • Everett Shepherd is my favorite. 😀 The character he’s based on (Edward Ferrars, of course) wasn’t very present in the original book, so it was fantastic that he got a more “screen-time” in this retelling! I loved that. 😀 Everett was really well-written and I loved him. 😀 He was so awkward and sweet and quiet and nice and just… basically the best! ^_^
  • Ellen Dashiell, the main heroine of the story, was also so well-written and I really liked her. 🙂 She felt so REAL to me. I felt bad for a lot of her struggles and cheered her on, and she was just a great heroine—rather inspiring, actually!
  • Calvin Bradley is AWESOME. I do wish he could have been in it more, but I suppose part of the point is that he’s in the background being steady and faithful and kind and solid and grave and dependable, so… I guess that’s all right. 🙂 But he was fantastic! ^_^
  • I loved Frances! :O A very opinionated secretary who was not (I think?) based on anyone particular, she was such an unexpected character to steal my heart, and really claimed her own as a memorable person. She’s so blunt and fiery and just… the best. 😄 I was really surprised at how much I ended up liking her. 🙂
  • In contrast, I really disliked Leona. UGH. -_- I mean, we’re supposed to dislike her, so that means she was written well too. 😄 And one of the things about Jane Austen books seems to be that there’s always THAT character we love to hate. 😛
  • I’m not saying who, but I was taken off-guard by how CHARMING and likeable a certain character was (anyone who knows the Sense and Sensibility story will pick out who I’m talking about). He was well-written enough that I found myself liking him at first even though I knew who he would turn out to be! I did really dislike him as time progressed and as his situation dictated, but the fact that I liked him at all to start with… I was impressed with that.
  • On that note: yes, I will finally talk about the other heroine of the story, namely Marion Dashiell. It’s tricky here, because at times I liked her, and other times… I really, really didn’t. But I feel like that’s appropriate, because that’s exactly how I felt about Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. A lot of people seem to like her but, really, I just DID. NOT. LIKE. MARIANNE. Ugh. So Marion in this version was very similar, which means I think she was written right. 😄 I did like her more than the original Marianne, I think, but they’re both so flighty and dramatic/passionate/un-reined-in, and while at times I connected with Marion Dashiell over loving books or thinking Ellen might be a little to nice or something (simply because I’m likely not as patient and kind as Ellen, so that’s one thing Marion and I have in common, unfortunately) I just on the whole didn’t like her, and I also didn’t understand her theater passion/obsession because I’m not an actor. 😛 (I’m a writer and an introvert, and the idea of acting on a stage terrifies and appalls me, which means I simply don’t understand her acting passion.) Much of the story is about Marion, and I just didn’t enjoy her parts as much, BUT they were still very interesting, and I suspect others would really enjoy reading those parts; I think it’s just a personality thing where I don’t really (personally!) like Marianne/Marion in either the original or this retelling. So that was just me. Hence, the fact that I loved this book so much despite that, shows how awesome it is. 😀

Also, I think it’s neat how, while Marion and Wilkie’s story was definitely very much there, it wasn’t the only thing that Marion was doing, since her focus is largely about acting too. Even if I didn’t care for her goals so much, it made it interesting that she had something going besides just a romance—and the same with Ellen. I liked how the plot had a lot more to it than just the romances—even though I loved those too. 🙂

There are many things I loved that I can’t directly address due to spoilers, but suffice it to say that the romances (not telling whose! ;)) were at times painful (as expected) but ultimately SO SWEET and rewarding and lovable. ^_^ Sooo many mixed emotions on the ride and I enjoyed it all so much! ^_^ My favorite pair of all, especially. They are the sweetest thing, poor darlings, and they go through so much but it’s all so worth it and their patience and quiet goodness is rewarded and it’s so SWEEEEET! ❤ I’m just really really happy with the entire plot related to them. 😀 JUST YES. Their parts were so fun and I just… I so enjoyed reading about them! I’m ever so pleased that they got more focus than their original counterparts, because they totally deserve some more focus and this time they get it! ^_^ But but but much cuteness of two sweet love stories. ^_^ BASICALLY THEY WERE PERFECT.

I was also very very pleased with how a lot of the plot turned out at the end! EEP. There was even a little sleuthing involved off-screen which made me think of the Hardy Boys and that time period, and it made me happy. 😀 Plus a couple of quite surprising twists, different than the original, which I absolutely LOVED in this! 😀 (Like how the stories of a couple of side-characters turned out, and the plot about Mr. Dashiell.)

Intriguingly, I felt like not only was this a good retelling of one of Austen’s books, but it seemed (to me) to hold true to the general worldview of what I feel like Jane Austen might have been trying to get across in some of her novels, about Christianity and morality, and perhaps about a peaceful rural life of contentment versus the rush and callousness of the city, etc. It all worked really well with this specifically Christian retelling. I quite liked the spiritual aspects of this book and thought they were well-done and inspiring. 🙂 I only recently picked up on those kinds of aspects Austen seemed to put in her books; it might have been reading Mansfield Park recently that helped me piece together this parallel connection. But somehow, some of the things in Suit and Suitability point to a deeper alignment with the (perhaps at times overlooked or forgotten) subtle hints in the original books, and just seemed to FIT with Jane Austen’s works. 🙂

Overall, I LOVE THESE CHARACTERS AND THIS STORY! ^_____^ *hugs it for always* Despite not reading much historical fiction or being particularly a fan of the ’30s, and almost not even liking (sometimes) one of the main characters (a.k.a. Marion) I just so enjoyed this! It’s definitely an excellent book (I kept being blown away by the writing—sooo good) and, what’s more, a fantastic retelling of Jane Austen’s original book! I just so enjoyed it! ^_^

I definitely recommend this book, to anyone who likes Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, the 1930s, well-researched Christian Historical Fiction, sweet YA romances, all of the above, or even just an excellently-written tale of charming (and sometimes funny) characters and their journeys in love and faith! 🙂

(Thanks to the author for the chance to beta-read this book before it was published. 🙂 I was not required to write a review and these are my honest opinions.)

About the Book

The mystery surrounding their father’s criminal accusations is almost as hard to solve as the many puzzles springing on their hearts.

Canton, Ohio, 1935. Ellen and Marion Dashiell’s world crumbles when their father is sent to prison. Forced to relocate to a small town, what is left of their family faces a new reality where survival overshadows dreams. Sensible Ellen, struggling to hold the family together, is parted from the man she’s just learning to love, while headstrong Marion fears she will never be the actress she aspires to be. When a dashing hero enters the scene, things only grow more complicated. But could a third man hold the key to the restoration and happiness of the Dashiell family?

Find the Book

Amazon • Goodreads

Author Bio

Since becoming an Austenite as a teenager, Kelsey has dreamed of writing a book in ode to Jane Austen. Sense and Sensibility is one of Kelsey’s favorite novels and Elinor Dashwood is her favorite book character, so it’s easy to imagine her ecstasy as she was writing Suit and Suitability. This is her first published historical fiction work; she has also published two YA contemporary novels.

Kelsey lives in Central Texas with her family, where she’s also a copy editor, a martial arts instructor, and an avid student of the Bible.

You can connect with her online here:

Blog • Website • Goodreads • Facebook

So what do you think? Have you read or watched Sense and Sensibility? Does Suit and Suitability intrigue you? And have you read any Jane Austen retellings you can recommend to me? Tell me aaaall in the comments! 🙂 Thanks for reading! ^_^

Book Review: King’s Blood by Jill Williamson

Title: King’s Blood
Author: Jill Williamson
Date read: April 26, 2017
Rating: 2 stars
Genre: Fantasy (Christian)
Age: Adult
Year pub: 2017 (Bethany House)
Pages: 601 (paperback)
Series: The Kinsman Chronicles, #2 (Book 1: King’s Folly. Book 3: King’s War, coming soon)
Fave character: *classified, for reasons which shall be revealed*
Source: Received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from author—many thanks! 🙂
Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor WebsiteMy review of book 1: King’s Folly

My Review

2 stars

Regarding my rating: I’m sorry! I just don’t do well with dark, sad books. So for me personally, I did not end up enjoying this book in the end; but keep in mind that this is only my opinion!

Short version

This book was too dark, gritty, and depressing for me, plus my favorite character got killed off, which is Not Okay.

Longer version

This book was generally well-written, suspenseful, and I enjoyed some parts of it, particularly the occasional humor and three characters who were my favorites and therefore classified.

But when one-third of the people you actually like in a book DIE (after spending 1000+ pages with this character), it’s not a pleasant prospect. -_- This book left me a furious, devastated, sobbing wreck at the end, which rarely happens; and unlike the majority of the reading population (it seems), this did not actually please me and make it an automatic 5-star read. I don’t actually like having my heart torn to shreds and left feeling desolate and without hope. What can I say? I’m weird like that.

The incident of the Not Okay character death wasn’t the only thing; overall, the book is a very heavy read. I know it’s supposed to be an Adult Fantasy book, so I suppose it can get away with grittiness and darkness and other, more mature content, but it was just a little much for me, personally. I’m not a teen anymore, but that doesn’t mean I like reading things like this. (I don’t recommend it to teen readers.) It’s much like King’s Folly in that way, though maybe a bit darker.

If you liked the first book and didn’t mind the darkness and more adult slant of the story, then you’ll probably like this one, so I will not stop you reading it. 🙂 Just be aware that it seemed (to me) like nothing good happens in this for any of the good guys, really; the bad guys triumph a lot, and the idea that Arman (the allegorical God) is in charge and loves them is kind of a laugh, given how awful everything is. It seems like nobody’s in charge except the author making everyone miserable. I’m sure it’ll get better in the last book, and this is just the mid-trilogy hour of darkness? But at the moment it seems like there’s basically no hope and it’s super depressing, honestly. At least, that’s how I see it. Again, just my personal opinion! In general, I think Christian fiction is supposed to lift you up and encourage you, but this one did exactly the opposite for me (even though others might think differently). It’s not just that it’s depressing (yes, there will be dark times for characters in any book) it’s that it’s so long to spend going through 600 pages of darkness like this.

It’s also possible that we’re supposed to feel this way at this point in the saga; perhaps this hopeless feeling is exactly what is intended, so that it can set up for a contrast with some wonderful turn of redemption and eucatastrophe in the final book. Maybe it has to be this dark to show the light that is coming. We shall see. 🙂 (But it’s going to have to be pretty big of a turn-around, is all I’m saying.)

Anyways, don’t let me stop you from reading this if you liked the first one! (Or if you’re interested in reading the first one.) Very likely the rest of the world will like it, and it’s just me, myself, personally, who couldn’t really enjoy it in the end. But this review is meant to be my personal, honest opinion, so there it is. By all means read the series if you wish. 🙂 Just be aware it’s dark, and start with the first book, not this one, because when I started this one, even I had trouble remembering all the characters and stuff going on at first (since it had been a year since I read book 1), though I picked up on things fairly quickly.

Things I Liked

Don’t get me wrong—there were definitely parts of this that I enjoyed!

  1. I liked the first book, and started out really excited for this book and enjoyed it a lot at first. 🙂
  2. I was so happy to be back reading about these characters, who I didn’t realized I’d missed until I was reading about them again.
  3. Sometimes it was funny and made me laugh. 🙂 (A lot of the dialog was great in that respect. :D)
  4. As mentioned, three certain characters were my absolute favorites, and I loved reading about them. ❤
  5. Most of it takes place on ships at sea, which was really interesting (if eventually a bit monotonous because they’re super tired of being stuck at sea. XD).
  6. The writing was good.
  7. I’m almost tempted to slap another star on my rating just for that gorgeous cover. I mean, look at it! I love it. 😀
  8. I was super proud of myself for reading all 600 pages of this thing. 😄 Nothing like that feeling of accomplishment when you make it through a huge book. 😉
  9. It was super neat to start getting more hints at things moving toward how they are in the Blood of Kings Trilogy. Names, things, places, people… Very cool! Some of those parts were highlights for me. 🙂
  10. Not to give spoilers, but overall, I really liked the stuff near the end there that made it a lot more like the Blood of King’s Trilogy—makes me want to read By Darkness Hid and the rest again! ❤

Conclusion

In closing, this is likely a very good book, by many readers’ standards, and I don’t want to dissuade anyone from reading it, exactly. If you like dark epic fantasy, it may be for you. This is simply my personal feelings on the book. 🙂 It was just too dark for me and ripped my heart out, which I did not appreciate.

I’m still curious to find out what happens, and I look forward to reading King’s War whenever it releases; and after that, re-reading the absolutely awesome Blood of Kings Trilogy. ^_^

(I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book. These opinions are my own.)

So how about you, readers? Have you read any of Jill’s books? (She’s an excellent writer, even if this one didn’t quite make it for me.) Has a beloved character’s death ever tipped the scale in your view of a book? And have you read any good books lately? Let’s chat in the comments! 🙂

(And if you’d like to chat specific spoiler-y aspects of this book, you can do so in the comments of my review on Goodreads, which is the same review as this, but in the comments spoiler tags rule. ;))

Review: FOUND by Sally Lloyd-Jones, Illustrated by Jago

I’m doing something a little different today… reviewing a picture book!

Found: Psalm 23

by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Illustrated by Jago

Published by Zondervan: February, 2017

Find the book here: Publisher | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

My Review

FOUND is a charming board book, 20 pages in length, and is an adorable and touching depiction of the 23rd Psalm.

I’m firmly of the opinion that we can never outgrow children’s books, and this one is lovely!

It’s a precious picture book about the Shepherd looking after His sheep. The text is simple but lyrical, basically a simplified version of Psalm 23. I would have preferred it to have the exact words of the psalm, but, that being said, there is also a sort of charm to the way it’s written so that it’s easier for smaller children to understand.

(illustrations © 2017 by Jago)

The illustrations (of the Shepherd, sheep and lamb, and lush meadow and stream scenes) are deceptively simple, but further inspection shows the depth of detail—I could look at it over and over again (and I have!).

(illustrations © 2017 by Jago)

The lamb is my absolute favorite. It has SUCH personality and is just the most adorable thing! I love when it smiles. ❤ This book is worth it just for that little lamb. It’s so cuuute!

If you have a child, nephew, niece, or other little friend (or even for yourself!), I highly recommend checking it out. Just in time for Easter, too! I really enjoyed it. ^_^

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

So, do you ever read picture books? Isn’t this one cuuute? ^_^ Do you have any favorites from childhood (or recenter)? And don’t you want a lamb like that? 😀 (I know, I know, that’s beside the point, but still!) Thanks for reading! 🙂

Emma Retold: Emmeline by Sarah Holman (Review)

emmeline3d

Hey, everyone! 🙂 As promised, I’m here today with:

My Review of…

Emmeline by Sarah Holman

5starrating

I beta-read this book awhile back, and I’m so delighted that it’s released to the world now! Seriously, if you like Jane Austen or the book Emma (or films!) at all, you’re going to want to try this one out! 🙂

Emmeline is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, set in the 1930s during the Great Depression. This book is the first of a series of such retellings, The Vintage Jane Austen.

Now, as a disclaimer, I’d like to say that I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, that I’ve never (to my knowledge) read a book set in the ’30s, and that before this I hadn’t read any retellings of Jane Austen’s novels… Yet even though it was not my usual reading fare, I enjoyed it immensely!

I read Emma for the first time not long before reading Emmeline, so the original story was fresh in my mind when I read the retelling, which only added to the delight I found in reading it. Retellings have always intrigued me, and I adored this one. 🙂 It was fun connecting the parallels of events and characters in this retelling to the older tale, their similarities and differences and twists, and seeing how well the story translated into the new time period.

It was well written and engaging (possibly Sarah Holman’s best work yet!) and I was impressed with so much about it, including how well put together it was, as a retelling and as a book in general. It’s a fairly short read (I read it in two days), which left me impressed also that it fit in all the important Emma-type things, in far less space than the original book, without feeling condensed.

Fredrick Knight (the Mr. Knightley of this version) is so awesome! His character was pretty much my favorite thing about the book — well, him and his relationship with Emmeline. 😉 He’s like a mix of the original Mr. Knightley, and some sort of Hardy-Boys-type character (thinking of the time period), though more grown up, of course, and so very REAL. Fredrick was just an amazing character — so good and kind and firm, not afraid to tell Emmeline when she’s wrong about something (which is often. XD) but also willing to have fun. HE’S THE BEST.

Another thing I loved was the relationship and banter of Fredrick and Emmeline — their dialog was priceless! And the thing about the hat. 😄 Their interactions were just SO well written!! BASICALLY THEY’RE THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS BOOK AND I LOVE THEM AND THEIR STORY SO MUCH! ^_^ ❤

The ending was a little quick (but I loved it so much anyway!), and a circumstance about Morgan’s ending surprised me a little, so I’m not sure if I liked that, but otherwise I have no complaints and just really enjoyed it. 🙂

Other fun things:

  • The details like the food they ate (yum!)
  • Literary references (the Rover Boys! <3)
  • All the little feelings of the ’30s which felt authentic and pulled me directly into the time period.
  • A Christian theme runs through the book which I really liked and felt was done well.
  • Humor and drama and banter, which I loved! 🙂

Overall, a very enjoyable read — I loved it! Recommended to any fan of Jane Austen, or Christian historical fiction with a dash of romance, or the ’30s… or just a good clean enjoyable read!

(Also, can we talk about how absolutely GORGEOUS the stunning cover my dear friend Hannah designed? Just. Just. Yes. <3)

I can’t wait for the rest of the Vintage Jane Austen series of retellings in the ’30s (each by different authors) to come out, and I’m very much looking forward to re-reading Emmeline!

About the Book

img_3447What if Jane Austen’s Emma lived in America in the year 1930?

The talk of stock market crashes and depression isn’t going to keep Emmeline Wellington down. Born to wealth and privilege, Emmeline wants nothing more than to help her new friend, Catarina, find a husband. Emmeline sets her sights on one of the town’s most eligible bachelors, but nothing seems to go right. Even her friend and neighbor Fredrick Knight seems to question her at every turn.

Will she help Catarina find the man of her dreams? Why is her father acting so strangely? Will the downturn affect her life, despite her best efforts?

Find the Book

Amazon  Goodreads

You can find out more about the author of Emmeline, Sarah Holman, at her blog, www.thedestinyofone.com, and more about The Vintage Jane Austen series at www.vintagejaneausten.com.

Give me your thoughts, dearest Roadlings! Is or is not Mr. Knightley the best? (The correct answer is YES! ;)) Does Emmeline intrigue you? Have you read any retellings of Austen’s novels that you can recommend to me? Tell me all! 🙂

Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales (Review)

onceboxset

This last week, an exciting new release happened… Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales, an ebook box-set collection of half a dozen novellas by six different authors!

I’m here today with a review for each of the six stories, but first a bit about the collection…

About ONCE

oncecover

Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales

Six fairytales you thought you knew, set against a tapestry of historical backgrounds.

  • A lonely girl plots revenge in the shadow of a mountain.
  • A stolen princess fumbles a century backward.
  • A dwarfish man crafts brilliant automatons.
  • A Polish Jew strikes matches against the Nazis.
  • A dead girl haunts a crystal lake.
  • A terrified princess searches a labyrinth.

A rich collection of six historically inspired retellings, Once is a new generation of fairytales for those who thought they’d heard the tales in all their forms.

Featuring the novellas of Elisabeth Grace Foley, Rachel Heffington, J Grace Pennington, Emily Ann Putzke, Suzannah Rowntree, and Hayden Wand.

Find the book

Amazon | Goodreads


Author links

My Review

4starrating

Overall rating for the collection: 4 stars

Six interesting retellings of six different fairytales by six skilled authors. I found each of these to be unique and very well written, although each of them are quite different from each other, and I enjoyed some more than others. Overall, a quite good collection of tales! Here are my thoughts on each.

(I received a free e-ARC copy of this collection from the authors.)

THE MOUNTAIN OF THE WOLF (by Elisabeth Grace Foley)

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4 stars

This one started out a little slow, so I was nervous I wouldn’t enjoy it, but once it got intriguing I was hooked, and read the second half in breathless anticipation.

The Little Red Riding Hood retelling part of it only came in near the end, but it worked really well and was unique. Not sure I’ve ever read a retelling of that one before! I haven’t read many westerns (I’ve seen a lot more. ;)) but I really enjoyed this one!

It all felt super authentic — descriptions, dialog, characters… all of it. Rosa Jean was a well written character who I quite liked, and Quincy Burnett was awesome! The writing is detailed and skilfully firm — I could really see the setting, even if it made the beginning slow.

Other than a quiet beginning and the fact that it took a little while for anything to be explained (including the fact that I automatically assumed Rosa Jean was a thirty year old woman whose husband had died… um, nope.. whoops), it was really good!

A gripping, vivid, well-written story, which I quite enjoyed and made me happy there at the end. ^_^ *hugs book*

SHE BUT SLEEPETH (by Rachel Heffington)

5starrating

+

1starrating

=

3starrating

5-star story, 1-star ending

(don’t know what to rate it overall, so I’m going with 5+1=3 stars [shush, don’t question my maths])

This story was GOLDEN and I ADORED it and it was amusing and cleverly witty and fascinating and fresh and I was grinning the whole time I read it and it was a sparkling 5 star story… until the last second when everything crashed and burned and it ripped my heart out and left me DEVASTATED AND FURIOUS and I can’t say what happened because spoilers but IT WAS NOT OKAY AND I AM NOT OKAY AND I’M SO UPSET I CAN’T EVEN RIGHT NOW.

Some people might not mind such an ending but for me it just totally made everything not okay. I couldn’t even keep reading the collection for awhile because this one ripped my heart out so bad and made me so furious. *SADNESSES OF ALL SADNESS*

It was a modern-turned-time-travel-1897-Romania-Sleeping-Beauty-magical-gypsy-curse kind of story with a beautiful love story (most of the time), and was a magical, clever, fresh, funny, well-written, unique story, with so much personality and charm. I just loved it so much. Which is why it’s so tragic that the ending was… well… tragic. It’s not a fairytale romance, it’s a tragedy. And I need my happy endings or else I’m a heap of displeased as high as Mount Everest. So that was super disappointing, even though the rest was really good! BUT IT MADE SAD AND ANGRY AND UGH.

I just… don’t know what to rate it, since half of me says to give it 5 stars (or at least 4… knocking one off for the ending), and the other half of me wants to rate it 1 star and not even be sorry and howl from the rooftops how such an ending is so many levels of not okay. Bad endings tend to cancel out good stories for me. Plus, I expected something else to happen with Ioan, and it never did? There were a bunch of unwrapped-up things like that. I just… I really thought the ending would come together into something clever and interesting and happy and then it DIDN’T. Lost opportunities, IMHO.

Um. I’ll just be over here in a corner feeling conflicted and royally distraught.

Great story. Awful ending. We’ll leave it at that. (BUT IT WAS SO GOOD. BUT UGH THAT ENDING WHYYY. -_-)

RUMPLED (by J. Grace Pennington)

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4.5 stars

This story was so good! Definitely one of my favorites of the collection. 🙂

This was a Rumpelstiltskin retelling with a steampunk/sci-fi twist set in an alternate-history America (really intriguing, but I wish we’d learned more about it in the story than we did).

It was much more like the original fairy tale, in terms of plot layout, than any of the other stories in the collection, but I actually loved that because it made the differences, despite the similar framework, stand out a lot more strongly. Because this story was SO Rumpelstiltskin, and yet SO twisted around and fresh and different.

The writing is brilliant but also down to earth. The characters were real and interesting. I liked Amanda, and Byron, what was seen of him, was great. It almost felt like a Beauty and the Beast story occasionally, which was actually cool.

There were mysteries which kept me guessing, and I stayed on the edge of my seat for most of the story, immersed and reading as fast as I could, wondering how it would all turn out.

Overall, it was a beautifully written, entrancing and original tale, with a touching love story and a good dash of suspense, at least for me. I loved it! Definitely a favorite. ^_^

SWEET REMEMBRANCE (by Emily Ann Putzke)

2starrating

2 stars

This is one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” things. I knew from the start that this would be a story that would not be a favorite.

World War II, The Little Match Girl, first-person-present-tense, tragic love story, with a lot of darkness and grimness, and favorite character dying, and no happy ending in sight… Those are like some of my least favorite things ever, all rolled in one (seriously, it’s only missing dystopia and zombies. XD) so I knew it just wasn’t my thing.

But I admit I was surprised how sweet the romance was and how beautiful the writing was (in some of the flashbacks, anyway), and I could see why it was written how it was (the flashbacks, which are actually most of the story, are in past-tense, so it made sense to tell it that way), and Romek was the best (*sadnesses*), and it was gripping despite not being my thing.

So I’m giving it an extra star for being well-written and having some good things like that. I just… why can’t stories have happy endings? -_- Anyway, I’m sure many people will enjoy this one, it just wasn’t for me.

I just don’t enjoy tales that are hopeless and depressing, no matter how well-written they are. Just my personal preference.

DEATH BE NOT PROUD (by Suzannah Rowntree)

4starrating

4.5 stars

I wasn’t sure what to think about this one for awhile, but it surprised me by drawing me in and I ended up really enjoying it!

I found it interesting that it was set in New Zealand in the 1920s, and I enjoyed the slight unfamiliar touches of the setting and time period. Very loosely based on Snow White, I simply LOVED finding little hints and parallels to that fairytale. Unless you knew to look for them, they could easily slip through the cracks and not be noticed, so I found them to be quite clever and fun to look for. 🙂

It’s more of a thriller, murder-mystery type story, and much of the time you don’t know who to believe or trust, which only added to the suspense and mystery. Normally I really dislike stories which leave out key bits of information that we ought to know but for some reason I didn’t mind in this one. I guessed a lot of things, but despite that the mystery kept me on the edge of my seat.

The heroine, Ruby Black, was somewhat strange and I wasn’t sure if I liked her at first, but I found that didn’t really matter because by the end the characters were so real to me that I found “liking” or not had no say in the matter. They just… were. The other characters were interesting too, particularly Max, who we saw the most of besides Ruby, and who I was really kept on my toes wondering about.

There was also some poetry and imagery woven in, which only added to the ethereal feel. It was exciting and beautifully written, and the tiniest bit eerie, but in a way that didn’t bother me. I just… really really liked it! 🙂 Which surprised me, because it started out a little rocky and I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it. I’m so glad I kept reading!

Somewhat haunting and gorgeous and strange and unique, and I liked the clever fairytale twists in it. Another favorite!

WITH BLOSSOMS GOLD (by Hayden Wand)

5starrating5 stars!!! Favorite of the collection! ^_^

THIS STORY!! *shrieking* I just loved it so so so much! ^_^

A retelling of Rapunzel, set in Renaissance Italy, this story was like golden sunshine and I LOVED it. What if Rapunzel (in this story, Nella) didn’t want to leave her tower?

It starts out a much lighter-hearted story than the rest, but it has its share of reality and war and adventure and peril as well. All of that comes later, but first we must meet quiet Nella, and two princes who are SO much fun to read… seriously, the dialog in this story is FANTASTIC. It’s mostly about Nella, who’s odd but nice and has to face many fears, and Prince Benedict, who is just… asldkjflk HE’S GREAT OKAY.

The humor in this story is superb and had me laughing aloud several times, or just grinning and grinning, quite unable to stop. The banter Benedict has with Nella, and with his brother (seriously great brother scenes with Benedict and Orlando, even if there weren’t a lot) just made my day.

In a way it’s a simpler plot than some, but it was just so refreshing and fun and gorgeous and I adored it. ❤ When war threatens and peril engulfs our main characters, they must be brave and press on in the face of adversity, with only their love, ingenuity, and faith to guide them.

There wasn’t a lot of Christianity, exactly, but it was worked into the story and certainly more prevalent than in the other stories in this collection. I quite liked how it weaved in. I also loved how some of the original fairytale things got worked in, in different ways than you’d expect. The labyrinth, for example, was cool. 😀

It was a beautiful, sweet love story and fairytale retelling, with princes and castles and towers and knights, loads of humor, and priceless character interaction and bickering which I seriously cannot say enough about because I LOVED the humor and fun and characters and banter! ❤

I just… *flailing* I don’t even think I can think of anything I disliked about it. IT WAS AWESOME, OKAY? The perfect note to end this collection on, it left me grinning and beaming and just so happy. ^_^ This story is the BEST. EVERYONE, READ THIS COLLECTION IF JUST FOR THIS STORY!

I loved it so very much and it made me incredibly happy. ❤

There you have it! My thoughts on ONCE. Overall, I enjoyed them. 🙂 How about you, my Roadlings? Have you read, or do you wish to read, these tales? Which most interests you? Hurray for fairytale retellings! ^_^