‘Recommended to all of those who are young at heart’. @OlgaNM7 Reviews #fairytale retelling Heartless Hette by @FarbMl For Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Olga. She blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Olga has been reading Heartless Hette by M.L. Farb

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I am not going to say this is not going to be a long review. I hope it isn’t, but I’m not very good at keeping reviews succinct, especially when I am enthusiastic. And I can tell you now, I loved this novel/fairy tale retelling. But I am decided not to make it heavy. I love fairy tales, and if you want to read about them from an academic or more analytical perspective, there are many books you could check. Among my favourites, I recommend Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy tales and, although it is a work on comparative mythology, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, because the quest motif features not only in mythology but also in fairy tales, and it is central to this story. But my review is just going to tell you why I had such a great time reading this novel.

The author explains where the idea for this story came from at the end of the book, and it was a combination of the dream of one of her sons and her own inspiration of combining it with a classic fairy tale, ‘The Princess Who Never Laughed’ (not one I’m very familiar with, although I think I might have read it once, a long time ago). There are multiple references to other fairy tales, mythological and magical beings, and objects throughout the story, and also true facts, inventions, and knowledge, and the author’s research shines through, although always at the service of the story and its many adventures. I do recommend reading all the back matter of the book because the author explains the meaning of the names of the characters; she shares some of her research (who knew CPR was so old?); and also includes some reflections about the story, which she calls “food for thought”, that would make great starting points for endless discussions at book clubs.

Retellings of all kinds of stories are all the rage, and retellings of fairy tales are quite popular as well. By choosing one of the, perhaps, not so mainstream fairy tales, Farb gives herself plenty of room for manoeuvre, and she makes great use of it. I love the characters. Hette is a favourite of mine, perhaps because we have much in common. No, I’m not a princess, and no, I don’t have a long queue of men knocking at my door, but her love of knowledge, her no-nonsense attitude, her determination to lead her own life, despite conventions, and her decision not to marry (precisely because she wants to be in charge of her future and her kingdom) spoke to me. She is not perfect, though. She is also rigid, lacks a sense of humour, is determined to not let her emotions rule her, and can appear cold and uncaring, but she is honest to a fault, and she discovers many things about herself and others by the end of the story. I also loved the other characters who accompany her in her quest: Konrad, the Fool (fools are always interesting, and he is one of the best); Demuth, a maid who is much more than that; Peter, a talking toad who is also more than a toad (of course). They all teach Hette the importance of friendship, help her learn to look beyond appearances, jobs, and titles, and to appreciate different types of knowledge and points of view.

There are many other wonderful beings and characters scattered throughout the books: sorcerers, witches, magical owls that love riddles, knights gone mad, Nereids, a wolf-man (not a werewolf as such, at least not your standard one), a Kobold (a German house spirit, a pretty naughty one in this case), and many more,  but one of the things I most enjoyed in the story is how most of the characters are not cardboard cut-outs and simply good or bad, without nuances. Even the bad characters have depth and are not just “bad” but have their reasons and sometimes have survived pretty extreme experiences that go some way to help us understand the kinds of beings they are now. We also come across all kind of magical objects and places (rivers of fire, mountains of ice, stone horses, books and sextants with their own ideas, mechanical hearts…), and of course, secrets, curses, and plenty of stories as well. In fact, the main story is framed by another one, like John, a new steward working at a rural estate is forced to attend a performance by a bard, a female bard, even though he thinks it’s a waste of time and nobody should be allowed to attend before all the “important work” is finished. By the end of the story, it seems John has plenty of food for thought of his own.

Apart from the wonderful characters, as you’ll probably have guessed from my comments about the other characters and magical objects, the quest Hette and her friends embark on sees them through many adventures, and anybody with a bit of imagination and a willingness to join these motley crew is likely to enjoy the wild ride, full of scary moments, puzzling events, riddles galore, difficult decisions, sacrifices, heartache, revelations, laughs, and plenty of moments that will make one think and wonder. In my opinion, this story is suitable for most ages (apart from perhaps very little children, although parents will be the best judges of that), and although there are scary moments, and the characters are put to the test, both physically and mentally (the challenges do take a toll on their health and their spirit as well) and suffer injuries and even violence, this is not out of keeping with the genre, or extreme and gore, and I think most older children would enjoy it.

The writing is beautifully descriptive, rich, and fluid; the pace of events is fast (and at some point we get an added ticking clock, so things accelerate even more), and the imagery is vivid and should capture most readers’ sense of wonder and imagination. You can check a sample if you want to make sure you’d enjoy the writing, but here go a few snippets:

“A promise is but the stomach’s wind after dinner, all stink and no substance.”

“Yes, many things are foolish to those who only see things in categories. But life doesn’t sort out so neatly.”

“Seeing paradoxes and allowing that something may be two things at once is one key to wisdom.”

“Who but fools can tell the truth to the great one? Priests are too timid and ministers too selfish.”

I’m sure you already guessed that, but in case you needed me to tell you, the story ends happily, and there is the promise of a short story with more adventures for the main characters coming  up soon.

In summary, this is a delightful fairy tale for all ages, that works wonderfully even if you don’t know anything about the original story, full of heart, inspiring, funny, and packed with wonderful characters, all kinds of scary and challenging adventures, and a perfect ending. Recommended to all of those who are young at heart and love a story full of imagination, romance, and, especially, magic.

Desc 1

When Princess Hette refuses a sorcerer’s proposal, he retaliates by stealing her heart—literally.

Desperate to resist his influence, Hette makes herself emotionless, stifling all feelings until she can find her heart and win it back. Only Konrad, the despised Court Fool, knows where to find the sorcerer, and he has his own curse to battle.

Riddles and magic plague their path, including a memory stealing witch, an unbeatable knight, and a magic book that would as soon drown them as lead them to their destination. Yet, if Hette can’t find the sorcerer in time, her heart will be the least of her losses.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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‘Not your average entry into the annals of retold stories.’ @deBieJennifer reviews Heartless Hette by @FarbMl, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Jennie. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading Heartless Hette by M.L. Farb

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In the saturated market of retold fairytales, it can be hard to stand out. The past decade or so have seen gritty remakes on the big screen, noir reimaginings on the pages of comic books, dark video games, jukebox musicals, and endless shelves-worth of novels rewriting these tales from centuries past.

There’s a reason a reason authors return to this well time and again. Even a mediocre creator can bring something new to Cinderella or Snow White if they want to.

M.L. Farb is no mediocre creator, and the tales she weaves together to craft her novel, Heartless Hette, are not so pedestrian as a reworked Disney movie from decades gone by.

Lovingly threaded with pieces of eight different fairytales and legends, with nods to German history, lore, and court culture throughout, Heartless Hette is not your average entry into the annals of retold stories.

Helmed by a protagonist who knows her own mind and stays true to it throughout, with a delightful supporting cast that includes a talking toad, an insubordinate maid, and a court fool complete with a bell-laden cap, Heartless Hette follows this unlikely quartet in their quest for (what else?) a heart. Along the way they tangle with naiads, puzzle through an inordinate number of riddles, and keep the promises they make to each other, and those they meet.

No re-told fairytale would be complete without magic, and Heartless Hette has magic in spades. Predicated on some truly cockeyed logic, and delightfully mechanical at times, Farb’s magic system is not typical for the genre, and works seamlessly with the world she has crafted for it. Magic in this world can be a tool, a weapon, a map and an inconvenience all rolled into one, and is never the same thing twice. In the hands of an unskilled author that could be confusing at best and outright annoying at worst—luckily Farb is skilled at her craft and her magic, with all its contradictions, fits the story nicely.

Lush in details, rich in characterization, and written with (forgive me) heart, Heartless Hette is far more than just another rewritten fairytale. This is many fairytales woven into an epic quest, one that will test Farb’s characters and delight readers for generations to come.

5/5

Desc 1

When Princess Hette refuses a sorcerer’s proposal, he retaliates by stealing her heart—literally.

Desperate to resist his influence, Hette makes herself emotionless, stifling all feelings until she can find her heart and win it back. Only Konrad, the despised Court Fool, knows where to find the sorcerer, and he has his own curse to battle.

Riddles and magic plague their path, including a memory stealing witch, an unbeatable knight, and a magic book that would as soon drown them as lead them to their destination. Yet, if Hette can’t find the sorcerer in time, her heart will be the least of her losses.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Fairy Tale Style #Fantasy Novella The Tomato Quest by D.G. Driver

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Tomato Quest by D.G. Driver

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3 out of 5 stars

In an undisclosed historical era and place, this story is about lowly gardener Dash, who wants to marry the daughter of the noble for whom he works.  Dismissing his request, Lilian’s father sets him a task: he hands him a box of tomatoes and says that if he can make his fortune before they rot, he may have Lilian’s hand in marriage.  Then follows adventure after adventure, as he struggles to complete the seemingly impossible, while Lilian does her best to postpone the engagement to the man her parents want her to marry.

This is a fun idea and a nicely put together story.  I admit to being slightly bothered throughout by the incorrect use of titles; for instance, a ‘Sir’ should be referred to by both first and surnames, never as ‘Sir Barrymore’, and a Duke would be known as the Duke of such-and-such a place, not as Duke followed by his surname.  This sort of thing is easy to find out; I just checked it in a few minutes on Google, to make sure I wasn’t wrong.  Having said that, the story has fantasy elements, so perhaps it doesn’t matter too much!  It should appeal to lovers of fairy tale romance and happy endings.

Book description

Dash and Lillian are in love, but her wealthy father won’t permit them to be married because Dash is not a suitable match. He is nothing but the son of the family’s gardener. To be rid of the young man, Lillian’s father claims that the only way Dash could ever earn Lillian’s hand in marriage is to find his fortune in the time it takes a basket of fresh tomatoes to rot. Naturally, Sir Barrymore isn’t serious about this challenge, but Dash sees it as his only chance to win the hand of the woman he loves. He leaves immediately on a quest to find a way to complete this impossible task. Meanwhile, Lillian is doing her best to make her parents postpone her engagement to someone else in order to give Dash time to return. It is a whirlwind fairy tale adventure full of danger, cunning, magic, true love, and tomatoes.

An original, romantic fairy tale novelette.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

 

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT MIDNIGHT SISTERS by @saraheboucher #FairyTale #Fantasy

Today’s team review is from Barb she blogs at http://barbtaub.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading Midnight Sisters by Sarah E Boucher

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What is it about fairy tales that keeps us coming back to them, reimagining their details and reinventing their meanings with almost every generation? University of Chicago professor Armando Maggi who studies fairy tales, says:

We cannot live without mythology. It’s the way we reason, the way we survive, the way we make sense of our world. It’s just that the stories we’ve been using—mythic stories, fairy tales, legends—they’re not working anymore. We need something new. What we long for is a remythologization of reality. (—Armando Maggi, University of Chicago Magazine, 11 June, 2012)

 

But I’m not sure I agree with his thesis that our search will take us away from fairy tales. Indeed, if you follow his research into the earliest versions of familiar tales, one thing that’s clear is that while each generation may change the trappings and socially acceptable details of a story, the basic themes and stories keep reappearing.

Take The Twelve Dancing Princesses, the original fairy tale reimagined by Sarah Boucher in her new release, Midnight Sisters. A relatively recent addition to the fairy tale genre, its first documented versions were collected by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. There were also similar versions, such as Katie Crackernuts and others. But by the next generation, the tale was already being changed to gloss over bits deemed offensive by Victorian readers—such as Andrew Lang’s version where death sentences for the princesses’ prior suitors disappeared.

The tale, as reimagined in Midnight Sisters, is told from the point of view of Jonas, a teenage gardener newly-hired at the estate of the Earl of Bromhurst. Jonas is more worried about pleasing his boss than he is about the strict rules around avoiding the Earl’s twelve beautiful daughters. That’s until he meets Ariela, the eldest sister. The tale jumps forward a decade, and the now mature Jonas is completely (although hopelessly) in love with Ariela. Meanwhile, the sisters—who have grown increasingly frustrated by a restricted lifestyle from which the only escape seems to be into marriages with unappealing suitors—have found a way to escape, if only temporarily. Naturally, the discovery that his daughters have disappeared without (apparently) leaving the castle, has the Earl frantic.

Jonas, who is equally worried about the sisters’ safety, decides to try to spy on them to see where they have been disappearing. In this, he reluctantly accepts the help of Braden, a new young gardener who reminds him of his own younger brothers at their worst and best. Their fears, it turns out, are well-founded, and the two must risk their jobs and their very lives in a desperate rescue.

I enjoyed so many aspects of this retelling. The decidedly working class young gardener, Jonas, makes an engaging narrator. With his unsophisticated country background, he seems unimaginative at times, but his unwavering love and loyalty are endearing. The brash, flashy Braden is hiding secrets of his own, but it’s nice to watch as cautious Jonas is slowly won over.

There were pieces that I would have liked to see developed further. The abrupt gap between Jonas meeting Ariela and the later action in the book meant that we were told about their relationship, but we were never actually shown any of the details of how an aristocrat falls in love with a gardener. That lack made it difficult for me to get invested in the lovers’ plight, and made the first half of the book seem slow. The author glossed over the (somewhat unavoidable) sexism in which the sisters must be saved by the heroes and ‘rescued’ into marriage. And the huge cast meant that most of the sisters could only be portrayed as tropes and stereotypes.

But the second half did turn into a nice mystery thriller, with Jonas and Braden stepping somewhat uncomfortably into the role of heroes. There was even a most unconventional fairy godmother figure. And the ending was tied up with a twist in the very best fairy tale tradition, ensuring that most essential of elements: the happily-ever-after.

Midnight Sisters is an undemanding and entertaining retelling of a favorite fairy tale, and suitable for readers from YA to adult. I would give it 3.5 stars, and recommend it for anyone looking for an enjoyable romantic story.

Book Description

Do not meddle with the master’s daughters.

The words rattle around Jonas’s head. What is the punishment again? Death? Dismemberment? Jonas, the newest addition to the gardening staff, can’t recall the exact penalty for breaking the rule. What does it matter anyway? He would never dream of meddling with the Earl of Bromhurst’s haughty daughters. 

Until he comes face to face with Lady Ariela, the eldest of the Master’s daughters. 

Her elusive smile and open manner cause him to question his convictions. In no time, he’s drawn into Lady Ariela’s world of mystery and intrigue, a world where she and her sisters will do anything—including leaving twelve empty beds at midnight—to escape their father’s strict rules.

Only Jonas can uncover the truth and save them from their father’s wrath and their own folly, if he is willing to risk everything he’s ever worked for.

About the author

Meet Sarah Mild-mannered kindergarten teacher by day and self-proclaimed scribbler by night, Sarah's inner fairytale junkie takes center stage with the release of her novels Becoming Beauty and Midnight Sisters. The discovery of a mystery about pants (penned in the second grade) reveals both her lifelong love of storytelling and cute clothes. With countless stories about makeovers cluttering up her hard drive and a walk-in closet bursting with sassy high heels and handbags, Sarah's obsession with dressing up is unmatched. That, paired with her interest in fairytales, led to the birth of Bella, the heroine of Becoming Beauty. When she's not embroiled in either teaching or penning a new tale, cheesy music, movies that cause her to snort while laughing, baking (especially if chocolate is involved), and more British television than anyone this side of the Atlantic has any business watching, keep Sarah entertained. A native Utahn, Sarah graduated from Snow College and Brigham Young University. She currently lives and teaches in northern Utah.

Meet Sarah
Mild-mannered kindergarten teacher by day and self-proclaimed scribbler by night, Sarah’s inner fairytale junkie takes center stage with the release of her novels Becoming Beauty and Midnight Sisters.
The discovery of a mystery about pants (penned in the second grade) reveals both her lifelong love of storytelling and cute clothes. With countless stories about makeovers cluttering up her hard drive and a walk-in closet bursting with sassy high heels and handbags, Sarah’s obsession with dressing up is unmatched. That, paired with her interest in fairytales, led to the birth of Bella, the heroine of Becoming Beauty.
When she’s not embroiled in either teaching or penning a new tale, cheesy music, movies that cause her to snort while laughing, baking (especially if chocolate is involved), and more British television than anyone this side of the Atlantic has any business watching, keep Sarah entertained.
A native Utahn, Sarah graduated from Snow College and Brigham Young University. She currently lives and teaches in northern Utah.

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

The Forgotten GardenThe Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Forgotten Garden features the most delightful magical garden in a coastal cottage in Cornwall. Spanning generations the garden means different things to the different characters. This book is about finding answers and peace, it spreads across the world and back again in its duration.

The first location is London 1913, we meet a stow-away on a boat and hear about the lady known as The Authoress. Next we go to Brisbane, Australia, 1930 and a birthday celebration for Nell. Her father decides to reveal the truth about her parentage. The information sets Nell on a journey to find her real parents, and it’s one that her grand-daughter Cassandra continues after Nell’s death.

A central character to the book is Eliza Makepeace and her book of Fairy Tales, many of which are included in the story. Her surname could well summarise the book in one word. The story, extends over a century, has many twists and turns, revealing what love and loyalty mean to the different people.

A long book at over 600 pages, but one I really enjoyed.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Unenchanted by Chanda Hahn

UnEnchanted (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale, #1)UnEnchanted by Chanda Hahn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Meet Mina Grime, a 15 year old school girl who keeps a low profile and is cursed with clumsiness. Her life is about to become a whole lot more exciting when she saves the life of a fellow student during a school trip.

Remember the Grimm Brothers? Mix that with the tales they wrote and a deadly family curse and there is the makings of this story. This book actually made me go and look up The Brother’s Grimm and remind myself about their work.

Mina plays her part in three tales from the Grimm tales during this book and there are promises of more adventures in the next book in the series.

I loved this book, the fairy tale theme worked for me and I liked the fact that Mina could re-write the endings. This book is written for the YA market but if you like fairy tales it’s very readable as an adult.

Find a copy of this book here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

View all my reviews on Goodreads