Quick Pick Reviews #9

Maid of the King’s Court // by Lucy Worsley (2016)

Maid-of-King's-CourtGenre: YA, Historical (Henry VIII)

My Thoughts: This is the story of Katherine Howard, who becomes Wife #5 to Henry VIII. It’s told through the eyes of her cousin, Elizabeth (but not to be confused with Princess Elizabeth, who eventually becomes Good Queen Bess.) It’s certainly an interesting look inside court life at the time of Henry VIII, especially interesting to me were the games the courtiers all played. The flirtatious activity among… well, everybody. This is really what gets Katherine Howard into trouble.

In the history books, there’s so much attention given to Henry’s first three wives. (This makes sense, since they are the mothers of his three children that became Edward VI,  Mary I, and Elizabeth I.) This book gives a little insight into his next two wives…  [3 Stars]


Crossing Ebenezer Creek // by Tonya Bolden (2017)

crossing-ebenezer-creekGenre: YA, Historical (Civil War)

My Thoughts: I thought I’ve read everything there is to read about the American Civil War, but apparently not. This book brought to my attention something new. (And I always love learning something new about history!) This story revolves around General Sherman’s March to the Sea. And joining that march were the newly freed slaves, courtesy of the Emancipation Proclamation. We get two POVs in this story: Mariah and Caleb.

I will have to say that I wanted to love this book more than I did. But for some reason, I did not really connect with either of the protagonists. I think this may have been due to the fact that there are too many other characters “cluttering” the story. Not that there couldn’t have been other characters. I think it’s important to the story to include the other people. But the writer in me wanted to combine some of them. As a reader, I was getting too confused! Who was who? The cover is also slightly misleading. I would have loved to see a row of silhouetted characters standing over on the other side of the water. (It IS a beautiful cover, though.)

This is a heart-breaking story. I won’t spoil exactly what happens. You’ll just have to read to book. [3 Stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

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Review: Code Name Verity

code-name-verityBook: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, WWII
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: The story of two friends, Maddie and “Verity”, who find themselves behind the lines in Occupied France. Maddie goes into hiding, but Verity is being interrogated by the Nazis. As a spy, she is forced to spill secrets in order to survive another day.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I loved the friendship between the two girls. And the hard choices that have to be made pose a real dilemma for them. (No spoilers here!)

2) We get both versions of what happens to each girl. First, it’s Verity’s turn. Then Maddie’s. I love how when you come to Maddie’s account that, all of a sudden, things from Verity’s account (supposedly throw-away details) start to make more sense.

3) There’s a lot of spy code going on in this book. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

4) I love the Peter Pan references, especially with “Mrs. Darling” (aka Verity’s mum in Scotland). It works very nicely with all the RAF flying done by her children.

5) There are some surprises with the characters, which I don’t want to give away, especially two secondary characters: Georgia Penn and Anna Engel.

6) SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer von Linden was a complex character. At times, I hated him. At other times, I found him almost sympathetic. He’s not your typical Nazi caricature. Although, he’s definitely a Nazi. And the Bad Guy.

7) I love how the title of the book fits in with the story. The themes of truth (verity) and lies. And that grey part in-between.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) During Maddie’s account, I sometimes found I mixed up some of the characters. Especially with the family in France where she is staying as a “cousin”. I still don’t fully know who’s who.

2) This book was slow at times. This is not a huge criticism, though.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I really liked this peek into Occupied France. It wasn’t a page-turner, so don’t expect that. But it makes you realize what a tough time these spies had when they were caught.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Review: Not If I Save You First

Book: Not If I Save You First
Author: Ally Carter
Genre: YA, Contemporary/Thriller
Rating: 3.5 Stars

not-if-i-save-you-firstBasic Plot: Maddie and Logan are best friends. He’s the son of the President of the United States. She’s the daughter of the head of the Secret Service. Then, all of a sudden, Maddie and her dad move to Alaska, with no access to the outside world. Maddie writes letters to Logan, but he never responds. Then, six years later, he shows up in Alaska. Maddie is furious with him. But then he gets kidnapped, and she realizes that it’s up to her to save him.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The setting in Alaska. And while there IS snow, that’s not really why it’s cool. They’re pretty much in the middle of nowhere… a world so different from our own. (Unless, you happen to be reading this in an isolated cabin Alaska. But then, why do you have internet? Maddie doesn’t. UNLESS, you’re a spy with some fancy satellite connection. Then, if that’s you, why are you reading this blog?)

2) I really liked the opening chapters that are set at the White House. I love the juxtaposition between the “two lives” that Maddie has led. The one in DC versus the one in the middle of nowhere, Alaska.

3) Each chapter opens with one of the letters Maddie has written to Logan over the past six years. At first, this seems like just a neat way to show how Maddie has spent the lonely hours in the wilderness. However, as it turns out, those letters do prove to be plot-important.

4) Stefan makes for an interesting “bad guy”. He had some good points about him. But there were also some not-so-good points. (See What’s Not Cool)

5) The final phrase of the book gives us the context of the book’s title. (But don’t read it ahead of time!)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Re: Stefan. I didn’t understand why he lets Maddie and Logan talk so much after he’s kidnapped them. I kept thinking: “If I were Stefan, I wouldn’t let them do that.” I might have even gagged them. Maybe I’m a better kidnapper than Stefan? (Uh oh. That’s probably not a good thing.)

2) I felt the story got a tiny bit convoluted at the end.

3) People get shot throughout this book. Some of these same people don’t die. I find that pretty amazing… and kind of… unbelievable? Not that I WANT them to die. It’s just pushing my suspension of disbelief…

FAVOURITE QUOTE…

This quote comes at a time when Maddie is showing Logan how to start a fire in the middle of nowhere. (Note: Mad Dog is her father’s nickname for her. Logan also uses this nickname from time to time.)

“I told you, Mad Dog,” he said at last. He made himself meet her gaze. “I remember everything I read.”

(Chapter 20)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – Overall, I did like this book. I felt engaged pretty much from the outset. I liked the letters and thought they tied the book together quite nicely. It’s just a little convoluted at the end. (But for the ending, it would have gotten 4 stars.)


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Review: On the Spectrum

on-the-spectrumBook: On the Spectrum
Author: Jennifer Gold
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: Clara’s guidance counselor is worried that she has an eating disorder called orthorexia. Clara thinks she’s just being healthy about her weight. Then she goes to Paris for the summer to visit her dad and his new family. Her half-brother, Alastair, is on the spectrum for autism. As he and Clara walk about Paris, they challenge one another to take baby steps in overcoming their great fears.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Paris? Croissants? A boulangerie? Yes. Yes. Yes.

2) Love the cover on this one. I like the line drawings of the different buildings. And then there’s the little line drawing of Clara and Alastair at the bottom.

3) So, this is a book about a girl (Clara) who struggles with orthorexia, an eating disorder fixated on healthy eating. Not quite anorexia, but its “healthier” cousin. And Clara’s struggle in this book is depicted in such a real way. Same goes with her ballerina mom. The opening of the first chapter (which is kind of like a prologue) is quite poignant. The beginnings of Clara’s obsession with making sure she has a flat tummy.

4) The relationship that develops between Clara and her brother, Alastair, is sweet. I’m almost surprised at how quickly it happens. Especially since she hasn’t seen Alastair since he was practically a baby. But for some reason, I did believe it.

5) I loved the comparison of the two siblings both being “on the spectrum”, each in their own way… Alastair for autism, and Clara for an eating disorder.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I think we spent too much time in New York City at the beginning of the book. We needed to get to Paris quicker. That said, I know we need to start with her normal life, but we could have lost a couple of chapters, no problem.

2) I didn’t like some of the on-the-nose dialogue, especially between Mag (the stepmum) and Clara. I’m not sure apologies come that quickly or easily. It just seemed like something out of a “How to Heal Families” scenario from a psychology text book…

3) Too many kisses, too early on. Not so spoil who kisses whom… But there were too many “first date” kisses, in my opinion. It kind of made all of the kisses lack-lustre.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I enjoy learning something and definitely learned about eating disorders in this one. I thought the author was able to really get in the head of Clara regarding her eating struggles.

Review: Full Ride

full-rideBook: Full Ride
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Genre: YA Fiction, Suspense
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic Plot: When Becca’s father is sent to prison, Becca and her mother must rebuild their lives in a small town in Ohio. To protect themselves, they have to keep that deep, dark secret hidden. Three years later, Becca applies for a full-ride scholarship to college. Suddenly, the past is revealed and Becca’s whole future is at stake.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Becca is well-portrayed. I definitely felt for her, not only in losing her daddy to prison, but the fear she lives with trying to hide her true identity.

2) I liked Becca’s group of friends. It’s nice when she realizes she can trust them.

3) The mystery surrounding the fate of Whitney (of the scholarship fame) was done well. We get hints what happened, although it’s a nice, slow progression to the ultimate reveal.

4) I thought Haddix did a good job in her set-ups, leadins to the pay-offs later in the book. I loved the little details, like the u-haul switch before they move. And the essay switch-up was good.

5) The chapter headings were interesting. Basically telling us if it were “Then” or “Now”, often hinting at Becca’s state of mind. For example: “Now (Why, oh, why aren’t I in a different now?” or “Now—and things can get worse”.

6) I like how Becca’s father is portrayed. We’re able to feel the disgust and the sympathy, and all the emotions in-between that Becca feels toward her daddy. For a character that is hardly in the story, he has a very real presence.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) [*Minor Spoiler] I thought the “sting” at the end of the novel a tiny bit unrealistic. Or rather, it didn’t seem it fit in with the rest of the story. It was like watching Hollywood suddenly take over.

2) The trip near the end of the story also felt a little forced. Like why is it that all of a sudden Stuart’s parents can’t make the trip? And then they only agree to the young people going is if Becca (the good student) is going?… How do they even know Becca? It’s very clear in the book that Becca never goes to the homes of her friends. So, that just seemed a tad too convenient to the purposes of the plot.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – I enjoyed the suspense of this book. It kept me guessing just enough to keep me reading. Overall, a good read.

Review: Hunted

HuntedBook: Hunted
Author: Meagan Spooner
Genre: YA, Fairy Tale Retelling
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: A retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast… set in medieval Russia. When Yeva’s father doesn’t return home from one of his hunting trips, she goes out to find him. She ends up a captive in the castle of a Beast.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Yeva, aka “Beauty”. I liked her. I particularly like how she grows during the course of the story. For her recognition of her own faults, as she comes to see the good in the Beast.

2) I like what Spooner does with the story. It doesn’t follow the Disney storyline (you know, with roses and magical furniture). And it doesn’t fully follow the original French version either. (For example: Beauty’s two sisters are not quite the same as the jealous duo that end up as statues at the end of the actual fairy tale.) And yet, the elements that make up the story of Beauty and the Beast are definitely in this book.

3) I loved the inter-chapters that give us insight into the Beast. I particularly like that they begin as fairly cryptic. Then as we get to know him, they help us understand his frame of mind.

4) The imagery and motifs surrounding the Firebird, and what Spooner does with the Firebird plot-wise in this book, is nicely done.

5) Bonus points for incorporating the magical fairy tale “rule of three” into Yeva’s own story. It’s hard to explain how this is done, but it’s done very well. It’s almost a breaking of the fourth wall of sorts. But it doesn’t feel gimicky. It works with the plot.

6) The cover is beau-ti-ful!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The tag-line is “A Beauty deadlier than the Beast”. I thought this was a stupid tag-line. First of all, it almost turned me off to reading the book. Secondly, after reading the story, I don’t think it’s true. It makes the Beast sound like a wuss. (He’s not.) Nope. If I were on the marketing team for this book, I would have STRONGLY recommended to remove this ridiculous tag-line.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This is a delightful retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story. If you like this fairy tale, then you should have a blast reading this book!

Review: Young Man with Camera

young-man-wth-cameraBook: Young Man with Camera
Author: Emil Sher
Genre: YA Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic Plot: T— is the young man with the camera. And he’s dealing with a lot of issues, including a disfiguring scar, and the school bullies. He finds an escape in photography. Then he strikes up an unlikely friendship with a homeless woman. 

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Love the stuff about photography. As a photographer myself, I enjoyed the analysis of various famous photos that the teacher shows to T—. In addition, we have the actual black and white photos scattered throughout the book show a young photographer’s attempts at viewing the world around him.

2) T—’s relationship to the various secondary characters, especially Lucy, the homeless woman. I especially liked the realism captured with her character. There’s a moment where he can’t reach her (it obvious she has some form of mental illness), and he doesn’t know what to do. I liked how that played out. Sometimes with mental illness, there isn’t anything we can do… in the moment. But T— still comes back another time. He doesn’t give up on Lucy.

3) Another relationship I enjoyed was that of Sean and Watson the dog. What a good friend Sean is.

4) While I didn’t like the bullies, I thought they were well-portrayed. It was painful to see T— trying to deal with them. I liked his “unsaid” moments… things he said in his mind, but wouldn’t say out loud. He does this throughout the book, and not just with the bullies, but with many of the adults around him.

5) Other elements I liked… Jared’s character arc. I like how that played out. Especially with regards to the photo that T— gives him.

6) I like the cover of the book with the blue-toned black and white image. Especially with how the camera is covering the identity of the boy’s face.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The adults around T— are somehow amazingly dense (with the exception of Ms. Karamath). The Principal especially and the police officer. I don’t understand why they think T— is such a trouble-maker. Because he’s so quiet? Because Ryan lies about him all the time? I didn’t quite buy this, and so it felt forced to me… like the author said that’s how it is, so there.

2) T—’s attraction to fire… I didn’t think this was set up right. So, he likes to go out and watch houses on fire. I don’t see how that marks him as having SUCH a fascination with fire. Why not make him carry matches around? Why not make it so he light fires in the park? Why not make it so he lights fires in order to take photos of the flames. THOSE would seem like it would earmark somebody with an attraction to fire. But none of that happens in the book (except that he goes to see a few house fires). Oh, and his made-up Zito scale to measure the intensity of a fire. That’s actually quite cool, except nobody knows about this scale but us, the reader. (I’m not even sure Sean know about the Zito scale.)

3) The thing that got to me most of all is the ending. This is what downgraded a 4-star book to a 3-star book, in my opinion. [*SPOILER] I don’t understand why he doesn’t tell his parents, teachers, principal, police that he didn’t set the fire! Why doesn’t he show the pictures of Lucy’s attack!! It doesn’t make sense!!! Especially once Ryan is charged… Can’t these adults see?! I think the author was trying for realism by not having a sugar-sweet-every-works-out ending, and I like that idea in theory. But to make that work, T— would have had to have been a real trouble-maker. If he had been caught, early on in the book, setting other fires (I mean really caught, not framed by a look-alike), then I could see why the adults around him wouldn’t trust him, including his parents. He has SUCH a good relationship with his teacher. Her message that you can change things through photography isn’t fully played out. He has the pictures to change things, but he never uses them. Like I said, I wasn’t convinced by this ending, and so it seemed off to me. [END SPOILER]

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – Overall, I liked this book. I liked the message of the teacher that you can change things through photography. Of course, when it comes to photography, maybe I’m biased 😉

Review: The Crown’s Fate

Crown's FateBook: The Crown’s Fate
Authors: Evelyn Skye
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic Plot: Sequel to The Crown’s Game… Vika is the Enchanter for Pasha, the Tsarevich-soon-to-be-Tsar. And Nikolai? He has been banished to a shadow-state. But now, he’s out to snatch the crown from Pasha. A whole new duel is put into place to see who will ultimately wear the crown. And Vika is caught in the middle.

**NOTE: This review is FULL OF SPOILERS for both The Crown’s Game and The Crown’s Fate.**

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I was glad the Nikolai was dead-dead. I like how he was turned into a shadow-creature, similar to the “mask” he wore when they started the Crown’s Game in the first book. (However, at times, it was really hard because his personality is SO different from the last book. See section below…)

2) I actually liked Vika better in this book. Not that I didn’t like her in the last book. But, this book definitely made me cheer more for her. I thought the band on her arm, forcing her to be at the beck and call of Pasha, a necessary plot point. All magic in these types of books MUST have some drawback. This is Vika’s thorn.

3) Yuliana. I hated Yuliana. And then I liked her and admired her. And then I hated her again. And then I liked her. She is such a conundrum for me.

4) The Decemberist Plot. I really liked how the author was able to fit in some historical Russian events, like the Decemberist Plot. As I was reading, I was trying to figure out how she was going to make it all work out with the fictional elements.

5) The Ending: The Good. There are things I love about the Ending and things I hated. My fairy-tale-happy-ending heart was very pleased overall with this ending. Vika and Nikolai will work together as Enchanters. Yay! (Unfortunately, it’s not all good. See below…)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I was expecting a few things to play out. Like the volcano? They mention Vika’s mother in the first book in connection with the volcano, but I didn’t feel this was played out in this book. In other words, why mention it in the first place?! Let Vika’s parentage remain more mysterious. Not knowing anything is sometimes stronger than knowing it, but it never goes anywhere plot-wise. (And, no, taking us to the volcano in a dream doesn’t qualify as being important to the plot. That scene really could have taken place anywhere.) Note: Compare this to Nikolai’s backstory with his mother. Now that is key to the plot!

2) Opening scene in the Kazakh Steppe. Again, I was expecting this to somehow play out at the end. Did I miss something? Vika does this cool freeze-frame thing, but that’s it. We don’t hear about it anymore. Why???

3) After his father’s death, why is Pasha NOT considered the Tsar? In other royal circles, where it’s clear who is next in line for the throne (in this case, like Pasha, the son of the late Tsar), the heir is immediately considered to be the new monarch from the moment of the death of the old monarch. This doesn’t “wait” until the coronation. The coronation just confirms this. Now, granted, my knowledge of royal protocol comes from the British royal system. The statement announcing the death of George VI in 1952 was: “The King is dead. Long live the Queen!” The Queen, of course, being his daughter, Elizabeth II. Her coronation didn’t happen for over a year later, to give the people time to both mourn the death of their king (and her of her father), and prepare for the celebration of a new monarch. Maybe it’s different in Russia???

4) Not sure I fully believed in Nikolai’s sudden lust for the throne.

5) The Ending: The Bad. As mentioned before, there are things I love about the Ending and things I hated. I’m not sure I believed the Ending. I’m having trouble imagining in my mind the scene where Nikolai suddenly realizes what he’s done to Vika as he and Pasha rush over to her poor, unconscious body… And everybody just stands there? All 10,000+ of them? Waiting and watching as Nikolai does his thing with the hand (which made me think, Oh, so Vika’s like Luke Skywalker now!)… This time of reconciliation and forgiveness and understanding seemed to come too easily. Why didn’t this happen earlier? Why is this happening in front of a huge audience of Russians? When it comes down to it, I just didn’t believe it.

6) As I was reading, I predicted that Nikolai would not die in the end. (I was right.) But, I also predicted that Pasha would die. (I was wrong.) I primarily made this prediction based on Nikolai’s name. Because I knew there was a Nicholas I of Russia during this time period. I checked, and yes, Nicholas I does indeed succeed Alexander I in 1825. So, I was surprised that Evelyn Skye did not have this play out! All she had to do was kill Pasha. (Not by Nikolai’s hand, of course. That would have been awful!)

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – I am probably being generous with this rating. It’s not as good as the first book, but I did find it an engaging-enough read. Since Nikolai is my favourite character in the book, I did find this book hard to read at times because he was so… different. And dark. Very dark.

Review: The Crown’s Game

The Crown's GameBook: The Crown’s Game
Authors: Evelyn Skye
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic Plot: It’s 1825 and two Enchanters are being groomed to help the Tsar Alexander rule Mighty Russia. But the Tsar can only have one Enchanter. This is where the Crown’s Game comes into play… Which will pit Vika against Nikolai in a deadly duel that neither of them asked for.

WHAT’S COOL

1) I must say that I really liked both Enchanters as soon as I met them. Usually, you’re drawn to the first protagonist you meet, but somehow the author pulls this off with BOTH her protagonists. Although, if I had to pick, I think I liked Nikolai slightly more. I liked his style of magic. (Maybe it was the putting the books in order at the library that tipped the balance!) Not that I didn’t like Vika. I liked her, too!

2) I liked the contrast between the Mentors: Sergei and Galina. Sergei is definitely more likeable, but I like how Skye humanizes Galina towards the middle/end of the book. Of course, being such as she is, she still has a trick up her sleeve that serves the plot. And ultimately, she comes off as self-serving.

3) Pasha and Yuliana. I generally liked Pasha, the Tsarevich. I definitely liked the friendship between him and Nikolai. Although I thought he was a little stalkerish when it came to Vika. Regarding, Yuliana. When she first comes into the story, I thought I would like Yuliana, but her character just went downhill for me. (Which is one of the reasons we have the ending of the book that we do. So, this is not necessarily a bad thing.)

4) Very cool how Evelyn Skye was able to incorporate some real Russian history into the book. (I’m glad she put the historical notes at the end, including where she deviated. Of course, this is historical fantasy, so don’t expect things to be super historical.)

5) I looked forward to seeing how each Enchantment would play out. In fact, the closer I got to the end, I actually forced myself to stay up (past my bedtime) to finish the book. I wanted to find out what happens!

WHAT’S NOT COOL

1) Some of names I thought were a little odd. Like Renata. I’ve never heard this name in connection with Russia and, frankly, it doesn’t seem like a Russian name to me.

2) I felt there were a lot of characters to keep track of. Almost too many. I’m not sure some of them were necessary… like Renata. Or even Ludmila.

3) For some reason, I didn’t like the overt Cinderella connections in the story. Like the glass pumpkin and the bakery called the Cinderella Bakery. It was too much “in your face”. I would have preferred a more subtle approach. (The masked ball was more subtle.)

4) The Ending. As I was reading this, I thought “This is a 4-star read!” And then came The End. Sigh. I’m not sure how it should have ended but, this ending was a let-down for me. I want to like it. I like the idea of the nobleness of what happens at the end. Here’s to hoping that the second book is able to revive this rating back to its 4-star place. (UPDATE: You can read my review of The Crown’s Fate here.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – This book had a bit of a Hunger Games vibe to it… albeit with an historical, Russian theme running through it… With magic, of course. I liked The Hunger Games, so this was a plus for me. (So close to being 4 stars!)

If You Like Russian Fairy Tales

Bear and the NightingaleSo… I recently read The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden.

Everybody is raving about this book. So, what can I say?

Well, I liked it. But…

I probably didn’t like it as much as you. I don’t know why, because I love Russian fairy tales. In fact, that’s the reason I read the book in the first place. I loved the premise. (And the cover of the book. I mean, just look at it. It’s enticing me. Yes, even now. It’s drawing me in…)

So… this book did not make me want to write a review of the book. (I am definitely not inspired to write a review just now. Maybe later? Instead, I decided to come up with a list of books that I recommend for those who did love the book and loved it because of the Russian fairy tale aspect of the book.

Without further adieu, here is that list*:

7973Enchantment // by Orson Scott Card

While he’s probably best known for his sci-fi (Ender’s Game ring a bell?)… Orson Scott Card does a wonderful job with this book. It mixes Russian folklore and fairy tale elements with our modern world. In a sense, it’s a Sleeping Beauty story. The story begins in the modern day with Ivan, who travels to Russia as part of his graduate studies. But then he comes across a woman sleeping in the middle of the forest and… Well, I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t read it.

By the way, I am truly enchanted by this book. It is probably one of my favourite books outside of classic literature and have read it numerous times.


1369831Blood Red, Snow White // by Marcus Sedgwick

This book is broken up into three parts. The first part deals with the events of the Russian Revolution almost as if it were a Russian fairy tale. Actually, it’s very reminiscent of Old Peter’s Russian Tales (see below). The second part introduces us to Arthur, an Englishman who comes to live in Russia. It’s almost like reading a new book, but you begin to see how it connects with the first part. And finally, the third part shifts yet again, this time with first person POV. We continue our story, seeing Russia through the eyes of Arthur.

P.S. The Arthur in the book is based on the real life experiences of the author, Arthur Ransome. (If you don’t know who Arthur Ransome is, he wrote one of my favorite children’s series: the Swallows and Amazons books. And yes, Swallows and Amazons does get a nod in this “fairy tale”.)


old-peters-russian-tales-by-arthur-ransome-fiction-animals-dragons-unicorns-and-mythicalOld Peter’s Russian Tales // by Arthur Ransome

Speaking of Arthur Ransome… He really did live in Russia at the time of the Revolution. And he came to love Russia very much. Part of his infatuation led him to write a collection of Russian fairy tales. He created Maroosia and Vanya who live with their grandfather, Old Peter. It’s Old Peter that brings us the stories “that Russian peasants tell their children and each other.” Beautiful writing. Wonderful stories.


Honourable Mention…

The Crown's GameThe Crown’s Game // by Evelyn Skye
I just finished reading this. So, I’m not sure it even belongs on this list. It has some fairy tale elements, like Enchanters and magic. But it also seems a little like it shouldn’t quite be on the list. Probably because there are no bears mentioned in the book! (Tigers are are mentioned. But I don’t remember any bears!)  In all, I haven’t quite decided if it’s got that Russian Fairy Tale vibe. Anyway,  I liked the book, so I’m going to tag it on here for now.

City of ThievesCity of Thieves // by David Benioff
Again, this one isn’t so much a Russian Fairy Tale. It’s more of a coming-of-age story set in the time of World War II. And it’s been awhile since I’ve read it, but I remember a fair bit. It definitely has that Russian feel. It’s the story of two young men on a quest to find a dozen eggs during the Siege of Leningrad. Maybe it’s the quest that made me give it Honourable Mention status.

*Please note that none of these books are really children’s books. Although for some odd reason Blood Red, Snow White is listed as a children’s book. In my opinion, it is not. (Not that a child couldn’t read it.) In any case, the only book on this list suitable for kids is probably Old Peter’s Russian Tales. Those were meant for children of all ages. Grown-ups, too!

Got any books to add to this list? Please let me know in the comments. Because I love a good Russian fairy tale!