Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon

Of Curses and Kisses (St. Rosetta’s Academy #1) by Sandhya Menon
Publisher/Year: Simon Pulse, 2020
Format: ARC – paperback
Pages: 361
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Will the princess save the beast?

For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: make Grey fall in love with her and then break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…Right?

His Lordship, Grey Emerson, is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated experience–until Jaya Rao bursts into his life. Sparkling and elegant, Jaya’s unlike anyone Grey has ever met. Still, he can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…

As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending.

What I thought

Thank you to Goodreads and Simon Pulse for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Reader friends, the type of review I’m about to write is my absolute least favorite to write. The “it’s not you, it’s me” review.

I want to stress–this was a good book, and I think many young adult readers will enjoy this. And I did like it, I just didn’t love it like I had hoped. I appreciated the nods to Beauty and the Beast, and my favorite part of this story was Grey. I am all about angsty male leads, and he had my heart melting more than once! I do love a good slow burn romance.

It’s just…I think I am too big a fan of Beauty and the Beast to view this even remotely objectively. I went into this with BIG expectations. And it truly was a fresh take on the original tale, unlike many that I’ve read. I loved the boarding school setting, I guess I was just expecting it to be a bit more magical and a bit less contemporary. Again, I think this just comes down to my own personal bias.

Like I said before, I think plenty of readers will enjoy this one. And while I didn’t love this one, I did like it enough to want to continue with the series. I am genuinely curious to see where Sandhya Menon takes these characters next, I think I will just need to adjust my expectations.

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black
Publisher/Year: Little, Brown and Company, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 370
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Guard your mortal heart.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black comes the first book in a stunning new trilogy filled with twists and enchantment, as one girl learns the meaning of true power when she finds herself caught in a web of royal faerie intrigue.

What I thought

You know what one of the best feelings in the world is? The feeling when you love a book so much that you can’t even put into words why you loved it so much. For me, this book was pure perfection. If you had asked me to describe my ideal book, it would be this one. I knew from the moment I held this book in my hands that I was getting ready to fall in love.

Holly Black has managed to write a story that feels like I’ve opened up an old book of fairy tales and stepped inside. The writing is luscious and gorgeous and intoxicating. I absolutely hated to put this book down. I wrote down at least 20 quotes–I just couldn’t get over how stunning Holly Black’s writing is. Upon finishing this book, I could have flipped to the front and read it all over again–that’s how much I loved it.

Not only that, but this book was also the perfect amount of “dark” to be a true fantasy story of the Fae. The deception and the trickery and the cruelty felt less Disney and more Grimm–and I lived for it! All of the characters were perfectly complex and untrustworthy, which was so great because it led to so many plot twists that I never saw coming.

At this point, I’m just gushing. Suffice it to say that The Cruel Prince will be one of my top reads for the year. If you love fantasy and the Fae and dark, twisted fairy tales–read this book!

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

12971662Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
Publisher/Year: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 295
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 1/2




Monstrous mermaids. Vengeful ghosts. A century-old curse. 

When fierce mermaid Syrenka falls in love with a human named Ezra, she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land. The choice comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Generations later, seventeen-year-old Hester knows that love and death are inextricably linked for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect, or a curse? Hester’s solution is to avoid love altogether, until she meets an enigmatic stranger named Ezra and feels drawn to him in a way she can’t explain or resist. Ezra may be able to help her tease apart the strands of her family’s strange history: Ezra knows a thing or two about curses.

The answers Hester seeks are waiting in the graveyard, in the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean–but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and the tragedy of so long ago.

Monstrous Beauty is a dark and brilliantly plotted thriller about sacrifice, enduring love, and hope.


What I thought

I loved this book! As a fan of fairy tales, I really enjoyed how the author portrayed the folklore of mermaids. Like a true fairy tale, this story was very dark & evocative. Actually I was surprised by just how dark, gruesome, and even gory the plot was in some parts. That is not to say that this book is all doom & gloom, but it does get pretty tragic. I would recommend this for more mature readers, as it does touch on some heavy topics, including death, gore, rape, and grief.

But anyway, back to my original point, which is that the writing was deliciously atmospheric. To me, it felt like the perfect rendition of mermaid folklore. When I think of the ocean, the words that come to mind are: dark, mysterious, tempestuous, eerie, beautiful, and lush. I think Elizabeth Fama captured that perfectly with her writing.

I also enjoyed the two storylines–one set in the past & one set in present day. I was worried that this would make the flow feel choppy, but it felt natural to me. In reading the sections set in the past, I was able to figure out the mystery before Hester did. I didn’t find that to be a bad thing though, I thought it added to the suspense as I watched Hester start to piece together the clues.

I will say again that I absolutely loved this book, but there were a couple things I wasn’t crazy about. The first one was something minor: Hester’s swearing. Now, I’m not a saint myself & swearing in books doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I guess it just sounded unnatural in her case? Unnatural & unnecessary. But that wasn’t really the thing that bothered me. I loved this book, but I did not buy the insta-love.


I get it, what the author was trying to do with the Ezra-Syrenka-Hester thing. I just never really felt the connection between Ezra & Hester. I would think if Ezra was a ghost, he would know that Hester is Syrenka’s descendent, so on his part, it felt a little creepy. And as for Hester, I really didn’t get how she went from this cynical, anti-love girl to falling instantly head-over-heels for a guy she met in a cave. All that being said, I do recognize that this is a book for young adults and that, as someone who used to be a teenager, teenagers can fall pretty hard & pretty fast. Also, I’m aware that insta-love happens pretty regularly in fairy tales. Maybe I’m just overthinking all of this, but it just kinda bugged me.

Despite the insta-love thing, I did really love this book & I can absolutely see myself re-reading this at some point. I loved the atmospheric writing & the mermaid folklore & the seaside setting. If you are looking for a mermaid tale that’s on the darker side, you NEED to read this!

Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School #1) by Jen Calonita

28276050Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School #1) by Jen Calonita
Publisher/Year: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2015
Format: E-book
Pages: 210
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟




Our Mission: To turn wicked delinquents and former villains into future heroes. 

Gilly wouldn’t call herself wicked, exactly…but when you have five little brothers and sisters and live in a run-down boot, you have to get creative to make ends meet. Gilly’s a pretty good thief (if she does say so herself).

Until she gets caught.

Gilly’s sentenced to three months at Fairy Tale Reform School–where all of the teachers are former (super-scary) villains like the Big Bad Wolf, the Evil Queen, and Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother. Harsh. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there’s more to this school than its heroic mission. There’s a battle brewing and Gilly has to wonder just how good these bad guys are.


What I thought

This book was absolutely adorable! As a huge fan of fairy tales, I loved this to pieces. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a fairy tale retelling, but if you love fairy tales, this is one fairy tale-inspired story that you don’t want to miss!

Even though it lacks some of the development present in books meant for older readers, I found this to be an incredibly FUN read that also touched on important topics like the importance of friendship, the downfalls of bullying, and the differences between good & evil, villains & heroes.

Besides of all the fairy tale elements, which are so dear to me, I think what made this book so entertaining for me was Gilly. She was such a spunky narrator! Her fierce love for her family shines through her misguided attempts to simply do the right thing. I think her voice would be so fun to read out loud–she’s just so sassy. I wish we would have had more from some of the secondary characters, which is why I only gave this 4 stars.

As far as setting & plot go, I just loved the world of Enchantasia, and I’m very much looking forward to continuing this series so I can revisit this world. There were enough elements reminiscent of my favorite fairy tales to make the story feel familiar, while presenting a story unique enough to keep me entertained.

Overall, this book was an ADORABLE & heartwarming read for me. A valuable addition to middle grade literature, this is one I highly recommend, especially for fans of fairy tales!

East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon translated by Sir George Webbe Dasent


East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon translated by Sir George Webbe Dasent
Publisher/Year: Candlewick Press, 1992
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 40
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟




A kind of Scandinavian Beauty and the Beast, this epic romantic story about a bewitched prince and the determined lassie who loves him has just about everything: rags and riches, hags and heroism, magic and mystery, a curse and a quest, wicked trolls, a shape-shifting bear, and finally, a happy ending.

Master children’s book illustrator P. J. Lynch has created a luminous backdrop worthy of this grand adventure, transporting readers to a world of fantasy and imagination.

What I thought

If you are a fan of fairytales and/or a fan of picture books, you NEED to get your hands on a copy of this book as soon as possible.

I had never read this tale (or any of its adaptations) before, and it’s such a lovely, adventurous, romantic, and fantastical story. It instills such a sense of wonder–I know I would have loved this as a child.

As is the case with fairytales, this tale definitely has its dark moments, what between the trolls, the hags, and even the lassie’s mother. And I particularly adored the element of repetition, reminiscent of traditional folklore. This is most definitely a story to be read aloud.

As far as the illustrations go, there really are not words to describe how stunning P. J. Lynch’s artwork is. The illustrations are evocative and atmospheric–they add to that sense of wonder I mentioned.

East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon is a gorgeously illustrated fairytale that is not to be missed. I definitely need to add this to my shelves!

Traitor’s Masque (Andari Chronicles #1) by Kenley Davidson


Traitor’s Masque by Kenley Davidson
Publisher/Year: Page Nine Press, 2015
Format: E-book (Kindle)
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟





Summary (from Goodreads)

A breathtaking fantasy romance inspired by Cinderella…

Trystan has only two goals — to free herself from her stepmother’s household and to live her life on her own terms. But she cannot do so alone. In her desperation, she accepts the aid of a mysterious band of conspirators in exchange for her promise to help protect the kingdom. Trystan is uncertain whether her new friends can be trusted, but then she meets Donevan, a compelling and enigmatic young man whose face haunts her dreams.

Caught between her desire for love and the needs of a kingdom in turmoil, Trystan attends the Royal Masque, where she learns that her quest for a happy ending may have betrayed the man she loves. Plunged headlong into a nightmare of duplicity, espionage and intrigue, she will have just one chance at redemption, though she may be forced to sacrifice everything she’s ever dreamed of to prevent her kingdom from falling into the hands of a ruthless adversary.

An unforgettable tale of romance, intrigue and suspense, Traitor’s Masque is the first book of the Andari Chronicles, a series of interconnected but stand-alone fairy tale retellings.

What I thought

I grew up on fairytales, so it should come as no surprise that I love fairytale retellings. Traitor’s Masque was quite the pleasant surprise–it was truly a unique take on the traditional Cinderella story.

Honestly, I’m not quite sure why this book took me so long to read because I really enjoyed nearly everything about it. The writing drew me in right away; I liked that it read like someone was telling me an old-fashioned fairy tale. At the same time though, I liked that Davidson kept her story from feeling stale. Embrie & Donevan were not the typical Cinderella & Prince Charming, and I lived for their banter. They felt more human, with their flaws & imperfections.

I think the only (slight) problem I had was with the plot. Don’t get me wrong, it more than kept my interest & I LOVED that it was so different while still keeping that traditional fairytale feel. I guess my issue was the pacing. It wasn’t too slow, but it also wasn’t too fast. I wasn’t dragging through the pages–I enjoyed my time with this story, I really did. I just wish I would have felt that “can’t put this down” feeling.

That being said, this was an excellent read, and it stands as one of my favorite fairytale retellings. I will definitely be continuing this series, especially because I want to see more of these characters!

Wicked by Gregory Maguire


WICKED by Gregory Maguire
Publisher/Year: William Morrow Paperbacks/2000
Source: My own shelf
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 426 pages
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟



When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

What I thought

THIS BOOK. This. Book.

Let me start off by saying that this book has garnered many POLAR OPPOSITE reviews. You either seem to absolutely love this or absolutely hate it.

That being said, I think it’s fairly obvious from my rating how I felt.

I think that, for some, they go into this book expecting the musical. Don’t. Those expectations will ruin this book for you.

I, for one, cannot stop thinking about this story, and that’s how I felt the entire time I was reading. There was just so much to THINK about here, and sometimes I just really crave that in a book.

I don’t even know where to begin.

First of all, this book is split up into sections. These sections are like snippets into Elphaba’s life & what was going on in the world at that particular time. There are jumps in time between the sections, but I didn’t mind that. To me, it didn’t feel like Maguire left anything out necessarily, but rather that he only focused on the important, formative points in her history.

As for the world of Oz, again, do not go into this expecting the whimsical movie world. Oz is much darker & grittier than what we have seen. And I loved it. This is Oz before Dorothy arrives (I’ll get into THAT shortly). There’s corruption, politics, sex, ruthless murder. This is NOT a child’s story, but I really liked that. It was reminiscent of reading Grimm’s fairy tales versus watching the Disney versions. And I liked that Gregory Maguire just kind of put readers in the world. There were no lengthy info dumps or endless descriptions of why Oz was the way it was. He unapologetically left readers to their own devices. I don’t always like this; sometimes I do want that explanation. But it worked here, and I thought it was brilliant. So many readers seem to want to know “why was this?” or “why was that?” We don’t get those answers always, and sometimes things just are the way they are. If that’s something you don’t like, stay away from this book. As for me, the “not knowing” and the “this is just how it is” really allowed my imagination to soar.

Along that note, with regards to the chronological jumps in between sections that I mentioned earlier, it seemed to me that some people were bothered by those. Characters who seem to play rather important roles in one section don’t always show up in the next section, and we don’t always find out what happens to them until some time later. I can see why that bothers people, but really, if you looked at random chapters in my life, the same thing would happen.

As far as Elphaba goes, as the main character, I honestly cannot remember the last time I loved a character as much as I loved her. My heart broke for her again & again, and yet she was always trying to overcome. I’ve always been one to root for the underdog, and I thought what Maguire tried to do with her & with this book was fascinating. Again, there were people who were upset that Dorothy only made a brief appearance in this book, but Dorothy was not the point. Elphaba was. And Dorothy’s role in her life was very minor in comparison to other aspects.

There really are “two sides to every story,” and I thought Elphaba was completely captivating & absolutely compelling. I will never look at the Wicked Witch of the West the same way again. From the very moment of her birth, she has people declaring that she’s evil, and this book takes a very interesting & philosophical look at the nature of evil & where it comes from & whether or not people can ever truly overcome others’ expectations.

All in all, this book was so many things for me: brilliant, compelling, heartwrenching, witty, enchanting, gritty, fascinating. I adored it, and I genuinely cannot wait to delve into the rest of this series. As I’ve said, if you want to give it a go, lose your musical/movie expectations and prepare yourself for the dark & enchanting world of Gregory Maguire’s Oz.