Five Stars, Four Stars, Heidi Kimball, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence, Melanie Cellier, Moderate Romance, Moderate Violence, Sian Ann Bessey

Genuine Reality

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Weekly Reading Round-up

A Man Worth Shaving For by Michelle Pennington 52215585._SY475_

Fun and flirty in a refreshing kind of way, but also honest. Tessa is a delightfully relatable character and the plot made me smile from the first page. Logan’s “data analysis” was an adorable addition.  The whole story is a pretty fantastic romantic comedy.

***** low language, moderate romance, low violence, low religion

The Heart of The Rebellion by Sian Ann Bessey pro_pbid_4457231

My favorite historical fictions are ones that prompt me to learn more outside of the book, and this one definitely did that! I found myself googling all sorts of welsh history the more I was pulled into the fascinating plot. The characters, even the minor ones, were well developed and I found myself interested in every little thing going on. The author balanced the medieval history with romance and rebellion to make for a well rounded, fascinating read.

**** low language, low romance, moderate violence, low religion

Where The Stars Meet the Sea by Heidi Kimball pro_pbid_4542127

This book has so much heart, there are so many powerful emotions you feel every one right to your core. Juliet is what every heroine should be and Halstead is her well written foil. Their romance brings out the best in each character. The author balances the tension and the humor very well. I think my favorite part is their counterparts, both Robert and Lady Margaret, aren’t “villains”. Neither character is malicious or catty, all the characters are flawed and all have some redeeming characteristics giving the novel a genuine feeling that I loved. I must admit I was pulled out of the story every so often because I never felt it was clear what Juliet’s mother’s standing in society had been before she married her husband. I might have missed it, but it was alluded to so often I wished for more than “a gentleman’s daughter”. Obviously the minor curiosity didn’t deter the five star rating, it was that good.

***** low language, low romance, low violence, low religion

A Princess of Wind and Wave by Melanie Cellier 51nfuIzMkWL

Aimee was the last one of the three of us to read this cute retelling of The Little Mermaid and we all loved it. There was a lot of it that kept us guessing. The author always weaves in important parts of the original while making the story so unique. The other thing that I love about her writing is how subtly she pulls in messages that uplift and inspire. She’s one of our favorite young adult fairy tale writers.

**** low language, low romance, low violence, low religion

Five Stars, KM Shea, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence, Melanie Cellier

A New Chapter

We are currently in the process of selling our house! We’re excited about this new chapter in our lives, but don’t necessarily relish the work that we have to wade through to get there. I’ve been elbow deep in mudding, painting and packing, making it really easy to pop in my head phones and get lost in a book. It doesn’t lend a lot of time for sitting at my computer. However, I’ve recently read three books I just had to take a quick break from house craziness to share with you. One is the first published work of a new author. The other two are old favorites, but new series’.

Two young adult authors I love recently launched new series’.

Technically K.M. Shea’s is a new series, The Fairy Tale Enchantress, but it ties into her Timeless Fairy Tales books telling the story of Angelique, finally! 🙂

Apprentice of Magic (The Fairy Tale Enchantress Book 1) by [Shea, K. M.]

Angelique hates her magic. Her war-like ability to control any weapon has earned her nothing but the fear and scorn of fellow students and instructors. 

Until Enchanter Evariste appears. The mysterious prodigy takes Angelique as his apprentice and shows her more kindness than she ever hoped to receive. 

But things are changing in the world. Dark things. Evil things. 
Once upon a time is about to become very real…

I loved the background she created for Angelique. Her emotions and her motivations were written so well I felt them with every turn of the page. I especially love how she handled the interactions between Angeliqe and Evariste, she set up the story so well I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for book two which doesn’t come out until April 12th!

Melanie Cellier is one of my top five favorite young adult authors and she recently started a completely new series. The Spoken Mage Series. Voice of Power and Voice of Command are both out now. Voice of Dominion come out April 20th.

Spoken Mage Series Image

For those of you who liked some of the concepts of Red Queen but like me, were turned off by the violence or the love triangle, you will love this series! It has heart and adventure and back and forth politics, in a good way. All with the fantastic writing that I always find in Melanie Cellier’s books.

Now, onto a brand new author. A Beautiful Love: A Regency Fairy Tale Retelling is the first published work of Megan Walker, it comes out on Wednesday, and I’m giving you the heads up now, this in an author you want to keep tabs on.

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Preston Blake had it all—wealth, a picturesque estate, and a growing affection with his childhood best friend Caroline Avery—until an unfortunate accident leaves him badly scarred in more ways than one. Isolated by the cruel eyes of society, Preston’s only wish is to find where he now belongs.

Caroline Avery is recently out in society, and thanks to Preston Blake’s broken promises, finds herself being chased by a determined earl instead of courted by her best friend. When, after a year’s absence, Preston finally accepts an invitation to visit her family’s estate, Caroline is determined to feign indifference to his company.

But being back together proves more challenging than either friend conceived. Caroline longs to return to the past, but Preston cannot let go of his fears. How could they possibly have a future together?

Megan Walker took the tale of The Ugly Duckling that’s not often retold, and brought it to life. Her conversations are witty and engaging. Her characters had both hope and depth. She wrote with such emotion that I found myself siding with both Preston and Caroline. When she pulled in inner battles to the stories struggle it made the tale that much more beautiful. I’m definitely a fan.

I shouldn’t have been surprised considering the company she keeps. This story is part of the Forever After Retellings Series which already includes stories from Sally Britton whose writing I’ve adored for almost a year since her first release last May. (Harry’s book comes out next week and I’m am so excited!) Joanna Barker who is a new favorite, her second book comes out April 1st! Heidi Kimball whose writing I became acquainted with through the Regency House Party, and whose novel A Guarded Heart is currently sitting on my kindle waiting for the next round of painting to begin. Her contribution is the last in this series and releases in April. (Man my tbr list is going to be full of goodness).

These ladies including an author who made her debut with this series, Arlem Hawks, make up the Love Letter Press and will continue to be a beautiful force in the writing community.

Five Stars, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Melanie Cellier, Moderate Violence

Worthiness

I’m a sucker for a fairy tale retelling. I have to admit however, that Snow White wasn’t ever one of my favorite fairy tales. The Disney Snow White wasn’t exactly  compelling. It wasn’t until the tv show “Once Upon a Time” debuted that I finally enjoyed the story of Snow White. She finally had a back story, and gumption. The love story also gave us more than, I saw you once, in which we didn’t converse, and now I’m going to kiss you awake and marry you…weird.

All that being said, I didn’t fall in love with the Snow White story until I read Melanie Cellier‘s, A Dream of Ebony and White.

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“Snow has always lived under the shadow of her cruel stepmother, with only her beloved father and her childhood friend—the huntsman, Alexander—to make life bearable. When her father dies, she should be crowned queen, but instead she finds herself fleeing for her life. With no allies, no skills, and no food, her future could be over before it has truly begun.

But there’s more at stake than just one life. If Snow can’t claim her throne, her kingdom faces destruction. Snow has to make a choice: focus on her own salvation or put everything on the line—even those she loves the most. And if she’s going to succeed, Snow must fight the hardest battle of all, against her own doubt and weakness, and gain new skills and strength she never imagined possessing.”

I love Melanie Cellier’s writing style and her wit. It was the character of Snow White and her insecurities that made me love this story. Every young adult battles with feelings of insecurities and worthiness. Melanie Cellier understands, acknowledges and validates their worries, then gives them strength to battle them. All wrapped up in story of adventure and love.

Her stories have the character development and story line to make them great, but it’s the way that she pulls in the different facets of each fairy tale that makes them phenomenal. The cottage, the mirror, the apple and especially the huntsman were all twined in to give you a brand new love for an old favorite, or a new favorite in my case.

 

Four Stars, Low Language, Low Romance, Low Violence, Melanie Cellier

The Swan

The Ugly Duckling though a well known tale, isn’t one I normally lump into the fairy tale genre. However, the beautiful message came to life under Melanie Cellier‘s hand in her latest Four Kingdom’s book The Princess Search.

The Princess Search: A Retelling of The Ugly Duckling (The Four Kingdoms Book 5) by [Cellier, Melanie]

“An outcast.
A prince.
And a deadly rebellion…

After a lifetime of rejection, seamstress Evie can’t trust Frederic, the crown prince of Lanover–not his words of friendship or the way the warmth in his eyes seems to ask for even more. But when they end up on a tour of his kingdom–one filled with increasing danger–Evie’s mistrust might doom them all.”

Melanie Cellier has a charming way of weaving a fairy tale re-telling with emotions and circumstance that everyone, young and old can relate to. This story was no different. Evie is an enchanting character with a troubled past and through her journey we learn that each stage of life good or bad is “an integral part” of who we are. And there is “beauty and kindness” even in the hardest of times.

It’s these compelling messages and her delightful characters that make her fairy tales stand out as fantastic reads.

As a side note, not only do I enjoy reading them, but I would be completely comfortable recommending them to a middle grade girl.  Not just for the messages they convey but for how clean and clever she keeps her romantic moments. “…after another interlude of our previously interrupted activity.” Classy and clever!

 

Low Language, Low Romance, Low Violence, Melanie Cellier

Once Upon a Time

No matter how old you get, “Once Upon a Time” will always hold magic. Recently a group of young adult authors got together and created The Entwined Tales:

“Every good deed merits a reward, at least according to the Fairy Council. But when a kind woodcutter’s family is rewarded with a grumpy, sarcastic, irresponsible fairy godfather named Mortimer, their lives are changed forever… and not in a good way.

Follow the woodcutter’s seven children as Corynn, Eva, Sophie, Elisette, Martin, Anneliese, and Penelope head out into the world to find adventure, new friends, and their very own happily-ever-afters. Their greatest challenge? Avoiding their fairy godfather’s disastrous attempts to help.”

I love it when books are interconnected creating an instant bond to each additional book that follows. There are six novellas in the series and the last one was just released today. They can all be found on Kindle Unlimited or purchased from Amazon (links included below).

A Goose Girl : A retelling of The Goose Girl by KM Shea

A Goose Girl: A Retelling of The Goose Girl (Entwined Tales Book 1) by [Shea, K. M.]

“As a royal lady’s maid, Rynn has one task: Escort the princess of Astoria to her intended’s kingdom and return home. Unfortunately for the former goose girl, the princess has other plans.

When her charge flees, Rynn’s not only forced to take the princess’s place, but she must also contend with a spiteful fairy horse, a good dose of political intrigue, and Conrad…the mysterious and all-too observant lord who consumes more of her thoughts than he should.

But with war looming on the horizon, Rynn stands to lose more than her heart. Can she convince the princess to return, end the charade, and make peace between the kingdoms? More importantly, can she possibly avoid a death sentence when the truth is revealed?”

This was an impressive retelling with all the details of the original story you love, but from a unique character perspective that made it feel delightfully new. The twists complemented the story making for a diverting adventure.

An Unnatural Beanstalk: A retelling of Jack & the Beanstalk by Brittany Fichter

An Unnatural Beanstalk: A Retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk (Entwined Tales Book 2) by [Fichter, Brittany]“Eva never doubted her place in her happy little world. Born second to a former woodcutters-turned-wealthy merchants’ family, all she ever wanted was to care for her siblings and to play the harp. Unfortunately, when her fairy godfather’s gift-giving goes awry, Eva receives an unusual talent that gets her abducted and betrothed to a loathsome duke with giant plans for the kingdom.

Jack never ventured far from his mother’s farm. But when Eva’s fairy godfather, in an attempt to fix his goddaughter’s plight, forces Jack to take some magic beans and responsibility for saving Eva, Jack finds himself in as much danger as the girl he came to save.”

This is not just another retelling, it took all the components of the story and tweaked them to create a refreshing original idea while still being true to the fairy tale. I felt like the writing was a little young and the story line crawled in spots, but over all a fun twist on Jack.

A Bear’s Bride: A retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Shari Tapscott

A Bear's Bride: A Retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon (Entwined Tales Book 3) by [Tapscott, Shari L.]

“After her father threatens to marry her to a dull farmer, free-spirited Sophie runs away from the only home she’s ever known and sets off into the world, seeking adventure and romance. But instead of excitement, she finds a forlorn castle and the solitary prince who lives there.

For twenty years, Henri has been shrouded in mystery and speculation. He’s a legend, a nightmare, a blight upon his fair kingdom. Though Sophie knows it would be wiser to return home, she’s inexplicably drawn to the man of shadows.

But it doesn’t take Sophie long to realize that falling for the cursed prince might prove to be more of an adventure than she ever bargained for…”

Deliciously spunky and highly entertaining. This was possibly my favorite of the series, and not just because it’s a lesser known fairy tale. The author did a fantastic job of showing Sophie’s growth while still maintaining her wit. She also added a few fantastic improvements that made the original story that much more endearing and enhanced the overall plot.

A Beautiful Curse: A retelling of The Frog Bride by Kenley Davidson

A Beautiful Curse: A Retelling of The Frog Bride (Entwined Tales Book 4) by [Davidson, Kenley]“When a bumbling fairy godfather gifts a humble woodcutter’s fourth child with extraordinary beauty, she spends the next eighteen years trying to hide it—behind a book. Now, Elisette is ready to follow her dreams and become a scholar, but her admirers keep getting in the way of her ambitions. Ellie knows better than to rely on her fairy godfather, but she’s desperate enough to risk asking him for help. The trouble is, Mortimer isn’t feeling very helpful. In fact, he’s downright irritated…

After a bit of vengeful fairy magic, Ellie discovers that webbed feet and green skin are even harder to manage than beauty. No one cares what happens to a frog, except maybe quiet, unassuming Prince Cambren, who has enough troubles of his own. Will Ellie find a way to break her curse and live happily ever after? Or will she spend the rest of her life eating flies and living in a pond at the back of the palace garden?”

This was simply that, beautiful. The writing was polished, the characters were delightful and well developed. The plot was charming and surprising. Be aware though, ‘The Frog Bride’ is not the same fairy tale as ‘The Princess and the Frog’, you might want to google it just to orient yourself.  I was a little disappointed with the very end. I felt like their friendship was built so well that you were invested in the transition to something more and it left me feeling rushed and a little let down, but shorter novella’s can feel hurried, overall I really liked it.

A Little Mermaid: A retelling of The Little Mermaid by Aya Ling

A Little Mermaid: A Retelling of The Little Mermaid (Entwined Tales Book 5) by [Ling, Aya]

“All Clio wants is to make her crush—a fellow merman prince—notice her. She isn’t interested in the people on land, much less a certain Prince Lukas, who was stupid enough to fall off a ship on his birthday. But when a bumbling fairy godfather misunderstands her, Clio finds herself in the worst situation imaginable—stranded on land with her tail and voice gone.

And her troubles are just beginning. Not only must Clio learn how to behave like a human, but she also needs to discover the identity of a mysterious assassin, all while guarding herself against flirtatious advances from Lukas, the very person she wants to avoid.”

By the fifth book I’d become invested in the Entwined Tales and the family they’re following. I was especially excited to have one of the books be from a guys point of view and hear about Martin and his unfortunate beautiful gift. However I was sorely disappointed, this story wasn’t about Martin at all. He’s a side character mentioned a few times. It’s also only very loosely based on The Little Mermaid. As a stand a lone story a part from the entwined tales Aya Ling did a good job of helping you imagine what it would be like to go from living in the sea to all of the sudden having legs. But the story overall felt rambly and slow, I didn’t get pulled in like I did with the others in this series.

An Inconvenient Princess: A retelling of Rapunzel by Melanie Cellier

An Inconvenient Princess: A Retelling of Rapunzel (Entwined Tales Book 6) by [Cellier, Melanie]

“Penny knows all about expectation. After all, she’s a seventh child and they’re always blessed, especially in a fairy-favored family like Penny’s. But Penny also knows all about disappointment. Because there’s nothing magical about her at all. She’s perfectly ordinary, even outshone by her own twin, Anneliese.

But maybe being ordinary is a good thing in this case, since gifts from the family’s fairy godfather, Mortimer, tend to lead to disaster. Which is why Penny is filled with dread when she discovers her twin has called on Mortimer for help. Anneliese ran away to find adventure, but now it sounds like she needs rescuing—if only Penny knew where to find her.

But soon Penny has far more problems than the location of her missing sister. When she’s forced to call on Mortimer herself, she’s soon embroiled with a rogue fairy, a tower without doors, a charming prince, and one highly inconvenient princess. With more and more people looking to Penny to secure their happily ever afters, will Penny ever have a chance to find one for herself?” 

Melanie Cellier did a wonderful job weaving Penny and Anneliese into Rapunzel’s story. She always does more than just tell a story, she tells about the heart of people. She captured the essence of a girl trapped in a tower for 16 years and writes her with such whimsy she’s immediately endearing. But then she matches her up with Penny whose felt isolated in her own insecurities for 18 years and the characters are pulling you along into their hearts so you’re apart of their adventure. She does exactly what a young adult author should. You’re so much apart of their coming into themselves that eventually you recognize she’s not just told you a story, she’s told you about yourself.

This was such a fun series to read, and ended as all fairy tales should, with Happily Ever Afters all around, even possibly for Mortimer.

Five Stars, Low Language, Low Romance, Low Violence, Melanie Cellier

I Could’ve Danced All Night

I have a confession, I always wanted to have twins. Then I actually became a mother. When we moved into our current house at one point in time we had five sets of twins in our neighborhood (there must be something in the water) and I started to count my lucky stars that the three I have came one at a time.

A Dance of Silver and Shadow (just came out Sept. 4th) and A Tale of Beauty and the Beast (comes out Nov. 30th) are part of Melanie Cellier‘s  Beyond the Four Kingdoms series. These two novels center around heroines who are twins that share a special gift.

A Dance of Silver and Shadow: A Retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses (Beyond the Four Kingdoms Book 1) by [Cellier, Melanie]

“When Princess Liliana and her twin sister set sail for new lands, Lily hopes to find adventure and romance. But the people of Marin live under the shadow of a curse–one powerful enough to destroy entire kingdoms. To protect them all, Lily and eleven other princesses are forced to participate in a mysterious and secret tournament.

But Lily and her twin have a secret advantage. And Lily grows increasingly determined to use their magical bond to defeat the tournament, save the princesses, and free Marin. Except she might have to sacrifice true love to do it.

In this reimagining of the classic fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, there’s a lot more at stake than worn out dancing slippers.”

This book is the first in the Beyond the Four Kingdoms series, but the characters are loosely connected to Melanie’s other books which are part of  the Four Kingdom Series. I would recommend reading that series first, but it’s not technically necessary, just do it to enjoy the genius of them. For genius they are.

Not only has Melanie done her fairy tale research but she gives each one her own personal twist so that they become unique. Intriguing enough that you feel like you’re reading them for the first time wondering what’s going to happen next; yet not so unique that you can’t appreciate the oh so clever details that tie it to it’s classic roots.

In each book I find myself appreciating how she pulls in even some of the lesser known specifics of these beloved tales. I particularly loved her use of the silver trees and the sleeping potion in this retelling of the twelve dancing princesses.

The novels are characteristically young adult fiction and have that wonderful find yourself and and what good you can do in the world kind of feel. Her writing style is also more than that, I find it to be captivating for many ages not just young adult. I am anxious to read her Beauty and The Beast retelling and see what she does with such a popular classic. –N.C.

*no obvious religious themes or elements