Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

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Spindle Fire
By Lexa Hillyer
Publisher: Harper Teen
ISBN13: 9780062440877
Pages: 368
Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairy Tale
Synopsis:

A kingdom burns. A princess sleeps. This is no fairy tale.

It all started with the burning of the spindles.

No.

It all started with a curse…

Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.

Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape…or the reason for her to stay. 


my-thought

“One night reviled, Before break of morn, Amid the roses wild, All tangled in thorns, The shadow and the child Together were born.”

Spindle Fire comes in at an average rating of 3.35 stars on Goodreads.com. This fact , while not terrible, quite honestly breaks my book loving heart a little. I am very biased, as I instantly fell head over hills for this beautiful re-imagining of the classic tale, Sleeping Beauty.  And well, we tend to place the things we love on a pedestal, which is where I feel Spindle Fire deserves to be.

Following two sisters, we are delivered a solid story brimming with fantasy and adventure. Aurora is presented as delicate and gentle, a romantic. Having paid the debt of her sense of touch and voice to the fairies, she is the opposite of her sister Isabelle who is headstrong and outspoken but has also paid her own price; her vision. In spite of their many differences, they share an inseparable bond. So when Aurora falls victim to a sleeping curse and the land is at risk of an invasion by the faerie queen Malfleur, Isbe (Isabelle) immediately sets out on a treacherous journey to save them both. But Aurora must brave her own voyage into the unknown as she awakens in a dark and tormented land.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Spindle Fire is that it is read as two wonderful stories that come together to form one amazing tale. Narrated through alternating point of views, we follow each sister on their personal quest for answers and resolution. For all of their opposite traits, Aurora and Isbe complement one another exquisitely. They have developed a system of communication that allows them to overcome their lack of vision and speech and share an admirable and endearing relationship as sisters. One appears almost fragile, while the other is more daring and rebellious. Yet, we soon discover that they are both equally matched in terms of courage and driven by love and loyalty. Despite all odds, they are willing to sacrifice everything for the chance to be together again and save the land and those they care for. In terms of female protagonists, they the sisters offer a healthy dose of diversity and complexity. If I had one complaint, it would be that I would have liked for the author to explore these elements further. I did manage to find myself adoring them both for a variety of reasons.

The setting and world building are ripe with magic and fantastical elements. Shrouded in a mystifying darkness, it effortlessly met my expectations as far as fairy tales go. Spindle Fire contains the very essence of dreams and nightmares and Hillyer has pulled everything together with what feels like incredible ease, creating something almost familiar but completely original and refreshing.  Add the combined atmospheric facets of Aurora’s story and Isabelle’s high stakes adventure, and it quickly becomes a complete and well-rounded experience that I felt offered many promises and successfully delivered.

With engaging and seamless writing, this is fast paced read. And while there are certainly undertones of a love story occurring within (it is a fairy tale), I appreciated that Hillyer did not allow this to overshadow the real magic and narrative. With a conclusion that was satisfying while still allowing for a smooth segue into a sequel, I am highly anticipating the second book in this duology.

Recommending for fans of Marissa Meyer’s  and Colleen Oakes . If you enjoy a good retelling or fairy tale, this is one to add to your shelves.

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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.

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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.

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