Better and Better!
Ms. Bowns’ fairy tale retellings keep getting better and better. My favorites in this collection were the first story – The Upper Hand – the last – The Pot That Wouldn’t Stop – and one in the middle - Frog the Inventor. This is not to say the others (there are 12 fairy tale retellings in all) were not good, they are! But I connected especially with those three.
Ms. Bowns’ has converted fairy tales, some more familiar and some less, from their original into rhyme. Then she has added one or more twists making each story both familiar and new. For example, The Upper Hand is a retelling of the Emperor’s New Clothes but, in Ms. Bowns’ retelling the joke is on the clothiers and the Prince (yes, downgraded from Emperor!) definitely has the upper hand.
As with her other collections, my biggest difficulty was the dearth of my knowledge of some of the originals. This, of course, meant the twist was lost until I could find and read the original. However, the stories do stand on their own; they are witty and quick and enjoyable.
Fairy tales, verse, variety, and short, easy, funny read. Recommended!
You think you know your fairytales? Sophie Bowns takes 12 classic tales and retells them with new turns and twists, all while putting them to verse!
Some follow the originals (as I remember them) pretty closely, the big change being the transfer to verse – Rumpelstiltskin and the Shoemaker and the Elves. But others take the familiar tales down new paths.
All are good but my particular favorites are her dark retelling of the Little Mermaid, a flight-filled retelling of the Happy Prince, and her Not So Snow White.
This is an excellent short read. Recommended!
I loved it!
The characters have depth and you, as the reader, feel their tragedy and their triumph. Calvin handles the range of emotions equally well - love and fury, happiness and distress.
I find the world interesting in that Calvin has built her story around old laws and conservative intransigence. “Everybody knows” this will be bad, but the law says… Then what will the protagonists do – come out of hiding and find who they really are!
That is truly the core of the story – who are you behind your façade. At least in my opinion – that is where I found the tension. It is a journey on which we follow the main character, Andrew. At each step he learns something new he faces the question of do I share this? Does it become part of my public appearance, or do I keep it hidden.
The one nit I have with the story is that Calvin gets repetitive on the central interaction between Andrew and his brother Alexander. In my opinion there could be fewer reminders that Andrew sees himself as Alexander’s protector. But, like I said, this is a minor nit in an excellent story. The pace is excellent, the writing is crisp, the result is quite enjoyable.
Very much looking forward to Guardian, the next book in the Caein Legacy series.
An excellent read! K. E. Andrews weaves a gripping tale with layers of secrets against a sweeping tableau. Magic is fading. Does the war Malik Sethos wages have anything to do with it?
The characters are multi-dimensional and interesting, each with their own secrets, personal demons, and desires. The Prince, Raneses, his friend and the captain of the Guard, Uriah, and, most especially the eponymous assassin, Serein.
Skillfully woven are a cast of seco9ndary characters each with personality, some likeable and some not. Each character reveals something of the others they come in contact with - revealing secrets or adding layers to the ones we know.
I espcially likes the way Andrews tells the tale of Serein's "Sun and Stars" and the white voice who refers to her as "volchitsa". These two subplots, secrets of Serein's, are skillfully done and surprising in their final revelation.
The only negative is that the glossary provided at the front was needed by this reader as I was not familiar with a lot of the articles of clothing or architectural features as these were drawn (again with deftness) from a culture I am less familiar with. But after a while I knew what a riad or a qamis or a keffiyeh was.
Heartily recommended. I cannot wait for the sequel!
A delight! Elyse Hart has taken an intriguing concept and made it into a fantastic, wonderful, marvelous poetry and photo book. I received an ARC copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
In 29 poems she paints lyrical pictures of 29 people based on four photographs. The poems are each unique, speaking with a voice that matches the person one can imagine from the photographs.
Is it a true representation? I will never know but Elyse’s artistry makes me, as the reader, think I know them, which, in my mind, is even better!
The pictures shared by the 29 “subjects” are stunning in and of themselves, but it is the poetry that weaves the story. Connects the pictures to the person. Connects the people to each other. Connects the reader to them all.
Poems for Squares will be available March 15 and is highly recommended.
Visit https://www.elysehart.com/poemsforsquares for more information and to order your own copy.
This is really two pairs of connected steampunk stories. The first two center around Jacques Charlay and his store, A Ticking Clockwork. The second two deal with steampunk nuns and monks on a quest.
The stories are fast-paced and full of the gadgetry one expects in the genre. The first pair, where steam and mechanics interact with time is a fascinating tour. Don’t think too deeply just let the fantastical sweep over you. The best part is the description of how Mr. Charlay’s workshop is really, for lack of better terms, a clock that is so efficient it saves time.
Our narrator is an engineer who has the wonderment of a student discovering new things to build on what he already knows. You feel, along with him, those exciting moments of, “Really? I never knew that!”
The second pair is a unique twist on a crime story. There are gadgets, of course, from the TOD (Tesla Oscillator Device) to the Keeper’s Urn, and many others, small and large. The unique twist is that the crime is stealing an old-fashioned scroll and the people tasked with its retrieval are a bunch of classical monks, robes and all, and four nuns who are a bit more classical steam-punk.
These two tales seem a bit more rushed; a bit less polished than the first pair. However the story moves along at a fast clip and is full of ingenious magic (touched with belief) and plenty of gadgets! There is the sharp edge of creativity but the characters do not take the time to develop.
If you like steam punk with a twist, especially time-bending steampunk, these stories are recommended!
K. M. Warfield has created an enjoyable fast-paced, tightly crafted high fantasy story. Magic abounds and the gods frequently come to visit our protagonists – a group of five adventurers who carry the fate of Avoch with them.
The novel weaves several threads deftly from start to finish. There is prejudice and coming of age and finding and building dear friendships. There is the duality of life – one’s private self and the public face we often have to put on for others. All of this is done with a light hand that makes the reader grow with the characters; and despise those that fail to advance.
Religion is also a theme. Avoch is polytheistic and the gods often come visit our characters, to give advice, education, and tools. All of them also demand, in return, devotion and service. Again, this part of the world is dealt with matter-of-factly and lightly; the reader feels no proselytizing or pedantry.
Avoch has more magic than I have ever seen in high fantasy. All our adventurers can wield it. There are magical rooms and traps and devices. Of course, the gods have abundant magic. Finally, so do all the primary villains. Drogon has a machine in the first half that is simply a brilliant creation by Ms. Warfield!
I do have two minor complaints. One, there be no dragons. In actuality, there are very few “monsters” that are not humanoid. Second, there are small leaps in time. At one point the group decides to head for some caves to shelter. The next paragraph Thia is waking up in the cave.
Neither of these detracts from the story.
K. M. Warfield’s Scales and Stingers is highly recommended! Available for pre-order now. Available in stores and on-line March 14.
The Last Stone is an enchanting tale with startling but enjoyable twists on several elements of fantasy stories. Elves? Check, but no pointy ears or amazing prowess with a long bow. Dwarves? Check, but no gnarled faces encased in gray beards toiling deep underground. Magic? Check but with a marvelously refreshing form of “gifts” discovered over time and mastered with practice. As interesting, to me, that this magic is the domain only of nymphs, male and female, who otherwise resemble everyone else! Evil King? Check, but with a very interesting psychological profile the reader only gets to see through the eyes (and the recollections) of those around our protagonist.
Finally, we have Amidale Stone. The Last Stone. Again, she is a common archetype – young, unknowing of her powers when we meet her, but prophesied to save the world of Karne. But she is not an archetype. She speaks to the reader and, as readers, we get to experience her frustrations, the unfairness of her situation, and her pain of loss.
The Last Stone is but an introduction to Amidale, to Karne, and to the battle unfolding between the plucky protagonist and the Evil King, Alaric. I look forward to the next book in the series!
A tightly plotted series of short mystery novels has recently come to my attention.
The protagonist, Connie Murphy, is a senior drug investigator with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Based, at least in part on the author's own experiences, Connie is dedicated to protecting public health and safety, but finds intrigue and danger in the course of what should be routine inspections.
Cheat to Win is the seventh installment of the Connie Murphy mysteries, though each is a standalone work and I would encourage you to jump right in!
Connie's pre-approval inspection at Triple A Labs was suddenly and unexpectedly cancelled. Days later, she discovers that their application has been completely deleted from the FDA files, and the FDA reviewer who was working on the application has disappeared. Connie must find out what is going on...
Cheat to Win is novella length (about 80 pages) and highly recommended. (Link to Amazon ebook). Click this link for all the Connie Murphy mysteries!
Barbara Avon has done it again! A fantastic set of vignette stories wrapped around a creative theme. Each story is self-contained and each has an unexpected twist at the end. Even the intro: "Each room is its own unique story; each chapter, a room. Check in at Owl Eyes and stay a spell, won't you? There's always room for the dead."
The reader quickly understands the theme/the format; the enjoyment is unimpeded and the twist, even though you know it is coming, is still thrilling each and every time!
My one negative is that some of the vignettes are too short, I wish for more detail, a larger story, a fuller treatment of the characters. More!
Owl Eyes is short, 100 pages in the paperback, but the writing is vivid, exciting, tight, and full. My biggest complaint is there is not more of it.
Me as a critic (be careful! the harshness will be well concealed!)