Friday, February 17, 2012

Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay

And we're swinging by Shakespeare again this week with Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay. Isn't that a luscious cover? It would make me want to read this book even if I wasn't a fan of Shakespeare retellings already.

Although this isn't so much a retelling as a "and then what," which intrigued me even more -- they're dead, right? So then what? Well, in Jay's novel, Romeo and Juliet's deaths are far from the romantic lovers' last stand. Instead, Romeo sacrifices their lives to grant them a kind of immortality; one in which they are forever drawn back to earth to try to save (in Juliet's case) or destroy (in Romeo's case) the young love of true soul mates.

The book makes funny references to the play -- Juliet hates that play, which was penned when Romeo told some hot-shot writer about their tragic death. The book takes place in the modern world, with occasional references to the many other lives Juliet has touched over the centuries.

Not quite your typical ghost story, Juliet Immortal plays with its own distinctive mythology, one that I wouldn't mind seeing again in some form, or knowing more about. For all of that, it's a neatly tied-up novel with no indication that there will be a sequel (but I would read one if Jay ever revisits).

Check out Stacey Jay's website for more reviews and tidbits on the book.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I have been hearing the buzz about Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, all over the web and the fairy tale communities, so if you've already read this, just squee with me for a bit, okay? And if you haven't -- I would say the buzz is not overrated.

This is the story of Cinderella, except it's told in way-future China, in a community where cyborgs are ostracized for being less-than-human, androids are all over the place, and the lunar colonists have become their own species. And if that wasn't fun enough, Cinder is a cyborg mechanic who just happens to be the only person who can fix Prince Kai's broken android.

There's plenty of political intrigue and rich world building in this one -- it's not just a gimmicky Cinderella retelling. There were a couple times when I thought the writing was a little off, but not enough to distract from the story or the characters.

This is well worth a read, and if you don't believe me, the first 5 chapters are free for kindle, so you can check them out for yourself. (Even if you don't have a kindle you can read them on your computer.)

One note of warning: this is the first book of a trilogy and definitely one that ends on a cliffhanger. I am curious to see if Meyer will incorporate other stories in the other books of the trilogy, as well as being curious as to just what will happen in the world itself.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Tempest

The Tempest. Starring Helen Mirren as Prospero (or Prospera). First of all, I have to say I love this concept. Considering how much Shakespeare tends to play with gender roles (literally and figuratively), this is a mild change, but I also love Helen Mirren, so I was eager to see this one.


The movie itself is pretty luscious. It was filmed in Hawaii, and they took advantage of everything from rich jungle to volcanic barren landscapes. The costumes were detailed and all of the era. The only thing that ever felt out of place was the occasional rock guitar riff.

The special effects were sometimes spot on and sometimes looked a little cheap. Don't get me wrong, they worked well enough that you can always tell what's going on. Just if you watch this brace yourself for the occasional wince at a corny special effect.

Still, it is Shakespeare, and the majority of the film is about the people and the language. And the casting in this is superb. There were definitely some faces that I would not associate with Shakespeare -- but I think a match up like that, when it works (and it does here) makes it all the better for being surprising. E.g.:


I was a little lost at first, as far as what was being said (in spite of having been in the Tempest at one point) but if you're having trouble at the beginning, it's just because there's, well, a tempest, and everyone is yelling -- give it another five minutes and I think even the casual Shakespeare fan won't have any trouble following the dialog.

All things considered, I found this to be a very enjoyable and interesting take on one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. I hope you'll check it out.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Me and You by Anthony Browne


Me and You by Anthony Browne is a fairly new retelling of Goldilocks. It is somewhat original, though, in that Baby Bear tells the whole story -- all the text of the picture book comes from what Baby Bear is thinking or saying. And, oddly enough, the three bears are apparently living an idyllic life in the big city. So a few changes from the traditional telling.


The story isn't entirely from Baby Bear's perspective, though -- on facing pages, we see the story of Goldilocks, with no text, and in darker, contrasting images. She's lost, and alone, and scared, we see, moving through the big city. When she comes across the Bears' cozy cottage, where the door just happens to be propped open -- well, you know what happens.


I really liked the style of this one, as well as the unique format. I'm not a big fan of Goldilocks, but this version was refreshing and different enough to be memorable. Definitely recommended for your fairy tale library.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Entwined by Heather Dixon

Entwined just may be my favorite new retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses.

Princess Azalea is the eldest of 11 sisters, and she loves to dance. But on the night of the Yule ball, her mother goes into labor early, and passes away giving birth to baby Lily. Now she and her sisters are cast into mourning, and pushed away by their father, the king, as he grieves for his lost wife--until they find a magical passage, and a way of dancing in secret. But their defiant dancing comes with a price, and they find they may be in deeper than they bargained for.

I've got to say, just first of all -- it's no little feat to make 12 princesses all distinctive characters, and Heather Dixon does it really well. Reading this, I felt like I knew all the girls. Sure, some of them stood out more than others, but none of them faded into the background so much that the rare mention brought a "who?" to my mind.

I didn't feel like the world-building was completely filled out in this book. It's a fictional kingdom, surrounded by other fictional lands, but they celebrate Christmas, and many of the cultural details that get mentioned are very non-fictional. However, it wasn't so distracting that I couldn't finish the book --

-- in fact I'd say it makes me speak more highly of the plot and characters, that the minor irritation of world-building did not stop me from devouring this book in delight. More than that, when I was done with the book, I wanted to go back again, and visit the sisters and their home.

It really is an enjoyable read, and I recommend it for fans of this particular story, or just fairy tale lovers in general. Also a good one to recommend to teens or reluctant readers because it's very engrossing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray

Falling for Hamlet is, as you can probably tell from the cover, a modernization of Hamlet. It takes place in a modern Denmark, with a modern castle full of cell phones and security cameras. Ophelia is in high school, Hamlet has just graduated and is off to college when the familiar events start to fall into place.

Michelle Ray tells the story entirely from Ophelia's viewpoint, and deviates from the play only in minor plot details, with the notable exception that Ophelia fakes her death because she fears for her life. (And so is still around to observe the fallout at the end of the story.)

As much as I liked the concept, the execution was lacking. I found myself skimming over numerous sections of Ophelia's drawn out contemplation of what was going on and what was Hamlet thinking and oh my Hamlet is just so sexy. Perhaps the teenage/high school mentality is not one that I can particular relate to at this stage in my life; it tended to bog down the book for me.

If you're a die hard Hamlet fan, I'd say give this one a try. Or if you're looking for a book that's a good, teen-level introduction to Shakespeare, this one is certainly worth a shot.