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

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


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.


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


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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The Fairest Mini-Review of Them All


Fairest: Levana’s Story (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5)
By Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Kindle Edition
Pages: 256
Genre: YA Fantasy


Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.


I typically prefer to follow a series in the order of publication, and that was my original intent upon beginning The Lunar Chronicles. However, after completing Cinder, I soon realized I needed to know more about Levana’s story. It made sense to pick up this small novella up. So I did just that. Here is the part where spoilers may lie. I am pretty confident that I can actually proceed without them, but just be warned that if I fail, I claim no responsibility.

The story line in Fairest is exactly as it is so aptly titled, Levana’s story. If you have read this series or started it, you know exactly who she is. She is the not so charming, but ever “glamouring” ruler and Queen of Luna, a colony established on the moon, now recognized as an individual country.

It is hard to actually discuss a novella of this length in detail without inadvertently revealing the story in its entirety. So I will attempt to highlight my experience with Levana and her story.

It is always unique (though becoming more common) to read a novel or story from the point of view of a villain. Gaining that extra glimpse or insight into the making of a “monster” can offer a refreshing and enjoyable perspective into many of our favorite fandoms. I hold a certain amount of fondness for such stories, and this held true with Fairest. Although, I did not receive exactly what I was expecting.

The back story was rich, entertaining and full of depth for such a short story. It correlated well with Cinder, and I feel the additional insight will enhance my experience with this series moving forward. I even feel pretty confident in my decision to have jumped out of line and chosen this novella as my second read in The Lunar Chronicles.

So what did I expect? In all honesty, I expected that cliché “woe is me” tale. After reading through a few ratings and reviews, this seemed to be the consensus. Poor Levana had been mistreated and forced into this heinous character we now know. I must have missed some huge section of this small novella or read an entirely different version (or maybe I am just heartless), but I never once felt a single pang of heartache for her. This was not a pity show. Well not unless you want to take a good look at some of the supporting characters who endured years with Levana. She is nothing short of psychotic, and while terrible things may have happened in her past, I was unable to muster up a single ounce of sorrow on her behalf. But I loved her character even more for this! Her anger, desperation and desire to be loved may not have won my sympathy, but it did manage to humanize her on a level that makes her very effective as a true villain.

While shorter than expected, this was a dark and beneficial addition to The Lunar Chronicles that did not sacrifice content for length, and I was easily engaged from beginning to end. The writing holds true to what fans have come to expect from the author and is crisp and rich, easily painting a vivid picture that immediately draws the reader into beautiful world building and character construction. The end result was a rewarding read that I recommend to all fans of the series, and I am excited to pick up Scarlet soon.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Purchase Fairest:Levana’s Story

The Snow Queen – Mini Review

The Snow Queen
By Hans Christian Andersen
Illustrated by Sanna Annukka
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 9780399578502
Pages: 88
Genre: Fairy Tale

Book Blurb:

Hans Christian Andersen’s magical tale of friendship and adventure is retold through the beautiful and intricate illustrations of Finnish-English illustrator Sanna Annukka. Cloth-bound in deep blue, with silver foil embellishments, The Snow Queen is a unique work of art.

Sanna Annukka is familiar to many from her collaborations with Marimekko and her artwork for Keane’s album, Under the Iron Sea. For her second book project, she illustrates Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale, The Snow Queen.

A beautiful gift to give and receive

My Thoughts:

Okay, I confess. When I first saw this lovely version of The Snow Queen, I longed to own a copy.  This is the sort of illustration that I simply cannot pass up. The cloth-bound cover and classic fairy tale ensured that this needed to be the latest addition to my bookshelf. And that is where it proudly sits.20161014_133805-01The Snow Queen made its way into my life at a very young age, and permanently earned a spot among my favorite fairy tales. I used to lay in bed at night and excitedly turn through the pages of my large collection of Hans Christian Andersen. I slowly slipped into a winter wonderland as I read about Gerda’s journey to bring the young neighbor boy, Kay home.

The story itself contains a beautiful message of love, loyalty and sacrifice. First published in 1844 and one of Andersen’s longest fairy tales, elements of Christianity and friendship are woven together into a magical adventure to remind us that even the coldest of hearts can be thawed by the love and faith of others. One does not have to hold religious beliefs though to appreciate the significance of this endearing tale.

“No power that I could give could be as great as that which she already has. Don’t you see how men and beasts are compelled to serve her, and how far she has come in the wide world since she started out in her naked feet? We mustn’t tell her about this power. Strength lies in her heart, because she is such a sweet, innocent child.”
-Hans Christian Andersen, The Snow Queen

Many are familiar with Hans Christian Andersen and The Snow Queen. When I requested this lovely title, my intentions were to review this particular edition with the new illustrations. Everything I can remember as a young girl about Greda’s travels holds true in this copy. While many films and books are believed to be have been loosely based on the this story (The White Witch in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Disney’s Frozen and various retellings) this is the tale as I remember it.

Beautifully revived with the magnificent illustrations of Sanna Annukka, every other page of this beloved story is bursting with exquisitely detailed artwork. A new-found joy has been added to an already endearing and entertaining read. I found this to be a wonderful addition to my collection and a must for all who enjoy fairy tales. I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my unbiased review.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Snow Queen: A Tale in Seven Stories at Barnes&

The Snow Queen: A Tale in Seven Stories at

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