You Choose, I Read – Review of The Princess and the Goblin

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The Princess and the Goblin
By George MacDonald
Publisher: Puffin Classics
ISN13: 9780141332482
Pages: 235
Genre: Fairy Tale

Synopsis:

Princess Irene lives in a castle in a wild and lonely mountainous region. One day she discovers a steep and winding stairway leading to a bewildering labyrinth of unused passages with closed doors – and a further stairway. What lies at the top? Can the ring the princess is given protect her against the lurking menace of the boglins from under the mountain?


my-thought

The Princess and the Goblin is my second You Choose, I Read selection. And it did not disappoint. Stick around to meet the wonderful reader who recommended this classic fairy tale! This is a small, but noteworthy tale. I will be keeping this review on the lighter side and encourage you to explore the story on your own.

“Seeing is not believing – it is only seeing.”

Having been originally published in 1872, I admit that I began with some trepidation. Even as an avid fan of fairy tales, I am no stranger to the challenges of reading older work. It can be easy to find yourself lost among the dated language and styles of writing. But that simply was not the case here. I welcomed the surprise of discovering that even now, this endearing story still seems to read with a certain ease and fluidity that I appreciated.

The Princess and the Goblin was not the complex, exciting sort of read we have come to expect from today’s fantasy but there was much to be admired within its simple magic and charming characters. This felt like a visit down memory lane of what I imagine must be the earlier roots or at least notable influences of the fantasy genre we have come to love presently.

“People must believe what they can, and those who believe more must not be hard upon those who believe less. I doubt if you would have believed it all yourself if you hadn’t seen some of it.”

And of course, no fairy tale is complete with a moral lesson tucked within the pages. Here we learn the importance of having faith and “The Golden Rule”. Presented through a cast that includes a lively and adventurous princess, a kind  miner boy and a mysterious grandmother, all elements come together successfully in a small tale that leaves a lasting impression.

I recommend picking this up if you are a fan of fairy tales, as I feel it truly encompasses the essence of the genre. I regret not having stumbled upon this sooner so that I might have read it aloud with my own children. It is a quaint read that will be a lovely addition to any family library.

Purchase Links:

Amazon US  Amazon UK  Book Depository


Meet The Reader Who Recommended This Book

Geoffrey2Geoffrey Angapa is a familiar and welcomed presence here on Books, Vertigo and Tea who was kind enough to answer a few questions and share a bit more about himself with us!

Please tell everyone a little about yourself and your writing.

First of all, much thanks to Danielle for giving me this opportunity and for reading the book in question! Well, my name is Geoffrey Angapa, and I was born and raised in the city of Durban, which lies on the east coast of South Africa. (Of note in Durban are: its excellent climate; Moses Mabhida Stadium, which has a remarkable design; City Hall, which is supposedly a replica of the one in Belfast; its excellent beaches; its Zulu, English, and Indian cultures; and a great deal more.) I am a lover of all that is old and old-fashioned. Last year I self-published The Quest of the Golden Apple (which was first reviewed by Danielle). It is a sort of fairy tale, or a traditional fantasy (as I often say). The general consensus of reviewers seems to suggest that the book, though pleasant, is rather average, and I have long accepted that. Last year I also began working on the sequel, whose title is The Enchanted Shield, and its beginnings were rather slow and uncertain; but, as time progressed, the book came together more and more, and raced towards a conclusion, so much so, that by the end of March this year, I got to the end. Still, much then remained to be written: the beginning had to be written almost from scratch, and gaps throughout the narrative had to be filled. I am working on the revision at present, and much work remains to be done. Its release is still a long way off; for my methods of revision are quite slow. At any rate, I am extremely excited about the book, extremely excited to give it to the world, and I have aimed to improve upon its predecessor in every way possible. (Many things have inspired me during the work, even CPU design: the way AMD’s Zen microarchitecture and Ryzen CPU have aimed to improve so greatly over the previous design, and to knock the competition, Intel, off its throne.) One of the complaints about The Quest of the Golden Apple was its plot, whose structure was not quite right. This time round, I have expended much effort and thought on the design of the tale’s structure and plot. The setting has been greatly diversified, and there are improvements across the entire tale. As strange as it may sound, I have applied (or at least I have tried to apply) a few game design principles to the book (I am not a game designer though). One suggestion that I can offer to other writers out there is that of prototyping: even if it is only (as I did) in one’s head, try to prototype content before you write it, and through iteration on the original concept, allow it to reach critical mass of quality. I have not always done this myself in writing The Enchanted Shield, but I have at least tried (often or at times) to prototype concepts in my head a bit before writing. Still, I’ve often written after little thought! Another useful game design principle, which I haven’t properly applied myself, though I suppose I have a little, is to decouplestructure and content from art; that is, first get the structure and the content right, through iteration, and then apply surface detail and polish.

If you had to name one book that was very influential in your life, which would it be?

Many writers have influenced me, and I owe a great debt to the English writers of the past; but the book that has influenced me the most, or at least much at one time, is perhaps The Lord of the Rings. Indeed, much of Tolkien’s work has, even his essays (for example, “On Fairy Stories”). If I might cite another writer, Samuel Johnson, the great 18th century writer, is perhaps one of them; but indeed, many different writers have given me much.

Do you drink tea, and if so what is your favorite blend? 😉 (I had to ask).

Indeed, I am a tea-drinker, and have been one for a long time. I drink black tea, with milk, and no sugar. I favoured a certain brand and type of tea before; but I have become uncertain of it, and prefer not to recommend anything; for different teas can have different effects on different people.

Why did you choose to recommend The Princess and the Goblin for my latest read?

I’ve enjoyed many children’s classics, and The Princess and the Goblin is one of my favourites. It possesses an almost mythical quality at its best times, though it is perhaps a little ill written. Some motifs or sequences in the book are quite astonishing, generally all the things relating to Irene’s grandmother, or rather great-great-grandmother. The rose-fire, etc. In short, it is a delightful tale.

Thank you again Geoffrey, for this wonderful recommendation and your time! 
Please make sure to visit Geoffrey and learn more on his site.

Happy Reading!

Danielle ❤

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer ~Audio Book Review

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Heartless 
By Marissa Meyer
Narrated by Rebecca Soler
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Duration: 14 hours 34 minutes
ISBN13: 9781427267948
Genre: YA Fantasy

Synopsis:

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.


my-thought

Anyone who even remotely knows me knows I am infatuated (maybe unhealthily) with all that is Wonderland. Picking up Heartless was a gimme, but finding the time to read it was becoming a challenge. I do happen to own a physical copy that I had originally pre-ordered. However, between my neverending TBR and constant bouts of vertigo, audio seemed to be the best solution.

“A heart, once stolen, can never be taken back.”

Heartless takes us back to a time before Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole into the infamous Wonderland. We are introduced to Catherine, a young girl with a passion for baking and a heart that desires true love. Courted by the King but longing only for the court joker Jest, Cath begins a forbidden affair that may have disastrous outcomes. This is the story of how a girl in love will rise to the throne and eventually become known as The Queen of Hearts.

Characters were a mixed bag for me in Heartless. This is a fast paced retelling that incorporates the familiar denizens of Wonderland to provide us with a prequel. We are given a rare opportunity to dive behind the scenes and take a look at the “ingredients” that lead up to the final cake, AKA the Queen of Hearts. Catherine is our protagonist. She is young and full of ambition, driven by her desires to open her very own bakery with her best friend and household servant Mary Ann. But when the King decides to court Cath, she soon finds herself facing an endless list of obstacles that will not only challenge her aspirations but her heart that belongs to Jest, the court Joker. I have to be honest, while I appreciated our heroine’s emotions and situation, there was a part of me that continued to feel a tinge of annoyance. She knew what she wanted, but I felt her voice and actions were weak at times. There was this ongoing attempt to approach matters logically that had me pulling hair at times. I did not dislike her, but I couldn’t help but feel she was her own worst enemy.

Additional characters included a customary entourage ranging from the Cheshire Cat to the Mad Hatter. We are even offered an extension into Wonderland’s occupants with the introduction of some new faces such as Jest and Raven. There is no shortage of bizarre and eccentric behavior that offers a bit of welcomed predictability.

The plot was straight forward, lacking some of the imagination I have come to expect from Meyers, but that is not to say it disappoints. This is the making of a Queen that will come to reign terror on Wonderland, and for all purposes that story has been accomplished. However, it is told with little emphasis on the actual world. World building or lack of is where I struggled the most with Heartless. As an avid fan of Alice in Wonderland, I have always held firm to the idea that this is a tale that has always relied on the whimsical world to succeed. After all, it was the time down the rabbit hole that added a real element of magic to Alice’s adventures. But that constant need to explore and uncover the oddities that we are accustomed to was absent. This may be a rare case of the author actually placing too much faith in the reader’s knowledge. Wonderland is meant to adventurous and immersive. This was more character driven and I missed that facet.

The story telling and writing is every bit reminiscent of what I have come to expect when reading Meyer. It flows with a steady narration that facilitates a fluid and fast paced experience with a few unexpected twists. It is fun and effortless. I appreciated that while there is a love story contained within our protagonist’s tale, it unfolds slowly with many elements that prove to be more realistic than the typical instalove you encounter in many retellings.

The audio narration took a few chapters to settle into, but eventually came into its own. It is my understanding that Rebecca Soler also narrated the Lunar Chronicles. I found her tone and pacing to be ideal in terms of the story, but struggled with some of the dialog. However, this is always my complaint with audio. I enter with this unrealistic expectation that each character should have a truly unique voice (i.e. like 20 narrators for one story). I do feel that Soler eventually achieved this individuality to an extent and gave a life to Wonderland’s inhabitants that ultimately provided an enjoyable listen.

While I was surprised with the lack of world construction and desired more of an imaginative approach to Cath’s story, it was still a solid one that managed to paint a history that fits well into the grand scheme of things. This is a must read for all fans of Wonderland and retellings that offers satisfying back story, and it successfully provides more depth to a beloved classic.

Purchase Links:

Amazon US  Amazon UK  Book Depository

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You Choose, I Read – Review of The Bear and the Nightingale

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The Bear and the Nightingale
By Katherine Arden
Publisher Del Rey
ISBN13: 9781101885932
Pages: 322
Genre: Fantasy/Fairy Tale

Synopsis:

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.


my-thought

The Bear and the Nightingale was my first You Choose, I Read selection. I have to confess, that there was a certain amount of internal joy when I saw this title pop up on Rafflecopter, as it has been on my TBR for some time.

Russian folklore is something I have only recently been introduced to. But during my short time of acquaintance, I have discovered a deep appreciation for it. It is an area I plan to explore with every given opportunity.

For those of you who happen to be less familiar than myself with the folklore and Vasilisa, she is a traditional Russian fairy tale character. The differentiating quality of this particular young female protagonist is that instead of requiring rescue as we typically encounter in older fairy tales, she is better known for setting out on her own. She often overcomes a series of obstacles to defeat the villain. And here we are presented with another beautiful rendition of such tale.

Vasilisa has a hidden gift. One that she dares not share with others. She can communicate with the spirits of the forest and house. But when a newly arrived priest and her stepmother put a halt to the honoring the household spirits, things take a sudden turn. Winter settles in hard and the land fails to produce and provide. Lives are at risk and evil that has been contained within the forest quickly encroaches.  Now Vasilisa will expose her “talent” in effort to save her family and land.

For two reasons in particular, The Bear and the Nightingale pulled me deep within its pages and refused to release me.

  1. Exemplary storytelling.
  2. Adult fairy tale/retelling.

Character development was certainly among The Bear and the Nightingale’s list of shining accomplishments. I was not prepared for the fondness that I would  discover for Vasya (Vasilisa). Like an ugly duckling coming into her own, she is resilient and bold. Her growth and evolution easily rival those of any female character I have encountered over the last year. She commands respect and effortlessly fills those ever strong-willed and determined shoes you might be familiar with if you have experienced Russian folklore. Her brazen and spirited attitude in the face of constant adversity makes her as memorable as she is admirable.

The plot invites you in and promises to satisfy. All necessary components are in place and come together beautifully to create a unique and fascinating experience. The combination of Christianity intermingled among homes that still held Pagan beliefs proved to create a setting ripe with potential that the author did not neglect. Learning of each Slavic Spirit and how the household placated them was an intriguing facet that added a welcomed touch of culture and provided an appreciated depth and richness to the story .

Arden spares no want for detail while creating an enticing world that delivers all one could desire of a fairy tale. Expectations are exceeded. Saturated with folklore and fantasy, she  has taken classic storytelling to new heights. We are thrust into a culturally rich and atmospheric read that is so immersive you find yourself hard pressed to walk away.

With a gratifying conclusion that left me wanting more, The Bear and the Nightingale is now one of my top reads for 2017. Recommending this delightful gem to all fans of fairy tales.

Purchase Links:

Amazon US  Amazon UK  Book Depository


Meet The Blogger Who Recommended This Book

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Stephanie is no stranger in the book community. She can be found at Teacher of YA, blogging and reviewing YA titles while sharing valuable feedback regarding books in the classroom setting.

I recently asked Stephanie 5 questions to get to know a little bit more about her and her blogging. Here is what she had to say:

Thank you Stephanie, for the wonderful recommendation!


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