Book Review: The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley

The Mere Wife is a unique mythological re-telling, in the vast cacophony of re-tellings out there right now. It stands up as a lyrical adventure through the ladies who hold up the Beowulf myth, with beautiful writing taking centre stage.

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Maria Dahvana Headley’s work is always strong with a beautiful point of view of the world, however I wasn’t as sucked into The Mere Wife as I was with some of her other work, for example, her YA series Magonia and Aerie set in a magical flying world.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Beowolf myth the story may be more difficult to engage with.

It offers a unique perspective, set in the present day, with odd injections of magic and myth thrown in and is beautifully lyrical, I just found the pacing a little bit slower than I’m used to. It is certainly a compelling story where two mothers: suburban housewife Willa and a battle-hardened veteran Dana struggle to protect their sons.

If you’re a fan of  Beowulf  or of Maria Dahvana Headley already I would highly recommend. However if you’re more interested in a magical read with maximum adventure then I would send you to the pages of Magonia where you can get lost in the adventure.

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Autumn Books Preview :#Fashion Victim by Amina Akhtar

Fashion Victim is like fashion itself, cut throat, vicious and murderous… Because that’s exactly what working in the fashion industry is like. Anya St Clair is a girl with a mission. She has worked incredibly hard throughout her career to make it to the top. To work at exclusive fashion magazine La Vie, she has to be at the top of her game all of the time. And she is – but whenever she looks at her life, she feels like something is missing. Something that her fabulous colleague Sarah has to be precise – the perfect look, perfect job, and the perfect clothes. The perfect everything. But when Anya has to go up against her for a promotion, things venture from being competitive to violent and Anya has a whole lot of bigger problems on her mind.

Fashion victim is a hilariously fun story that looks at when fashion goes too far. When stillettos are more than shoes and cutting edge becomes dangerous. It’s all the better when you take into account that Amina Akhtar has worked for countless  fashion magazines and publications. This is someone with insider information. And that makes her imaginary venture into that world so much better. You’ll love every minute of it.

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Autumn Books Preview: The Distance Between me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti

The Distance Between Me and The Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti is a story told
with such honesty and matter-of-fact bravery that it will stick with you long
after you leave its pages.

It tells the story of 9 year old Mafalda, who is slowly losing
her sight due to a genetic disorder known as Stargadt Disease which causes
progressive vision loss, and eventual blindness. It is a disease the author Paola
Peretti shares, after discovering she possesses it fifteen years ago. Mafalda’s
world is defined by her slowly disintegrating sight, the way her family
treats her, the things she is allowed to do – and not supposed to do. Her best friend
is her cat and she confides in the main character of her favourite book about her
fears and worries. It is telling that she admires and loves a character who goes
on grand adventures and has freedom to do what he wants.

Mafalda’s frank sincerity is a stand out feature of the novel. She measures her sight from how many steps she can see herself in the mirror and thinks often about the things
she can still see and worries about the day she will not be able to see them
anymore.

She has to discover the things that will bring her joy and will give her power without her sight. The book becomes an even more powerful statement when you realise the words that Mafalda is speaking are likely thoughts that Peretti has had herself.
Mafalda’s voice is that of a child, so she can examine her world and how her disease afects her through a more innocent perspective than that of an adult.

Her story is a from an angle that isn’t usually one given to young readers and they will be all the better for it. Because of the voice of the story, Mafalda’s tale may appeal more to younger readers, but personally, I spent a beautiful lyrical afternoon in her company and would heartily recommend it to lovers of novels such as Anne of Green Gables and Little Women.

Those wonderful stories of strong girls who are determined to tell their stories and share them with the world, just like Mafalda.

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Autumn Books Preview: Girls Resist by Kaelyn Rich

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Girls resist is the guide book we all needed as teenagers – and perhaps still need in our lives. Released by Quirk Books Girls Resist is a guide for every activist girl out there. It would be the perfect gift for any girl, deftly explaining terms like privilege and the glass ceiling and micro aggressions at the beginning of each chapter and also giving a clear idea on how to combat those through activism at the close. It is a book that doesn’t talk down to the reader instead treats them as an equal and takes their hand to try and help build a better world together. It’s also an extremely entertaining read, with contributions from the author including her own experiences and her activism tips. It’s accompanied by some lovely illustrations that really set the tone for the book, making it an object that you would want to have around your house as well as read. No other publisher operating right now seems to understand the delight of beautiful packaging quite like Quirk books. And long may they last. So says Girls Resist and so say I. 

 

Autumn books preview: Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Just out this week, Laini Taylor’s Muse of Nightmares is one of our most anticipated YA reads of this year and it did not disappoint!

I cannot fully express just how much I have been looking forward to reading the Muse of Nightmares. Along with being a massive Laini Taylor fan, I’ve been desperately dying to read Muse of Nightmares since about the minute I finished its predecessor Strange the Dreamer in 2016. It has the (dubious) honour of being one of the first books we featured in Cinders, I raved about it then and I’ll rave about it now. Strange the Dreamer created a beautifully lush and detailed fantasy world in the way that only Laini Taylor can – with true originality and inspiration. And after reading the conclusion, Muse of Nightmares, I’ve come to a realisation: Laini Taylor doesn’t write books, she weaves tapestries. Tapestries filled with stories upon stories, details that are so delicious you want to eat them whole. She weaves treasured items and should be lauded as one of the best fantasists working today because to my mind, she’s incomparable. Muse of Nightmares takes us to a new state of living, literally. Sarai – having fallen to her death at the close of Strange the Dreamer, now must live with a new reality, that of being a ghost and being under her foster sister – and fellow godspawn’s – Minya’s total control. She and Lazlo have to tread carefully and treat their budding romance with caution. Lazlo has to deal with his own discovery of power over the godsmetal citadel that has haunted the city of Weep and figure out what it means to finally have answers about where he came from. 

Most authors would struggle with tying up the loose ends of a story like this but Laini Taylor is not most authors. She deals with all of the stories, from the godspawn in the citadel, to the citizens of Weep with care and passion. Her characterisation is sympathetic and nuanced, there isn’t a single one dimensional player to be found. The only question over the story is whether perhaps the eventual antagonist ought to have been introduced in Strange the Dreamer? However Taylor weaves them into the story deftly in Muse of Nightmares and I was just left wishing I could have more time with them. Laini Taylor has gifted the fantasy world with another gem of a series and I for one could not be more grateful. These will be stories you’ll want and need to read again and again. 

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Book Review: The Transfigured Hart by Jane Yolen

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Originally released in 1975, The Transfigured Hart is a beautiful, sweet novella by Jane Yolen. Proving that the world-renowned fantasy author has nigh universal appeal, the digital re-release by Tachyon Books reads as though the book was released a week ago, sans the presence of smart phones or computer technology. 

The story centers around two young teenagers, Richard and Heather who separately come upon a unicorn, and have to decide how to work together, in order to see the unicorn once again. 

Both Heather and Richard, despite having different interests are presented as being intellectual equals, with Heather depicted as the more emotionally mature of the pair, which – for anyone who has known a thirteen year old boy – is highly accurate. 

The writing is beautifully lyrical, as we have come to expect from Yolen, but also has the refreshing rhythm of argumentative teens thrown in amid the dialogue. 

The story is a grounded and entertaining depiction of a well-worn fantasy trope, but is handled with care and finesse by Yolen. It is fascinating to see how she integrates teenagers into the magic of the Hart’s domain, and how the real magic that occurs is between two very different people solidifying an enduring friendship. 

And isn’t that the joy of fantasy? Of seeing traits you wish you had and traits you wish you didn’t reflected in people who witness magical scenes?  Jane Yolen will always be a lyrical superstar and a moment spent reading her stories is never a moment wasted. 

The Hawkman by Jane Rosenberg La Forge – Book Review

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The Hawkman is a unique fairytale set against the backdrop of WWI and examines the trauma of war, isolation and the perennial fairytale notion that if we just extend a helping hand, we can change a life. 

Taking inspiration from lesser-known fairytales such as The Bearskin, it tells the story of the strangely nick-named, Hawkman, also known as Michael Sheehan, an Irish veteran of WWI and his saviour and friend, Miss Eva Williams. The story is told in a dreamlike fashion, alternating between different character’s perspectives and fairytale re-tellings. 

For those who have an affinity for historical fiction the well researched depictions of the POW camps of the First World War and the experiences in orphanages at the turn of the century will be of particular interest. However the frequent segues into these perspectives can be disruptive to the main story. 

Often characters will begin to reminisce while in the middle of a conversation which can be confusing for keeping track of the story. That being said, the whole novel reads somewhat like a half-remembered dream, so this may be the author’s intention. 

That is not to say that there isn’t anything to enjoy in The Hawkman, readers of magical realism will likely find a great deal to love in the story. 

The benevolent, brave, characterisation of Eva Williams was a stand out for me and I was disappointed when she was sidelined from the narrative towards the end of the novel. Much of her experiences are given over to the other characters, which, for me, diminished her impact in the story’s finale. 

While The Hawkman wasn’t my favourite version of a fairytale re-telling, the story is one that will likely appeal to fans of historical fiction and magical realism.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston – Book Review

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With a name like Cinders you can hardly expect us to pass up a book like Geekerella can you? Geekerella is a modern Cinderella story, except this particular Cinder’s prince is of the sci-fi variety – can you say meant to be? Geekerella follows a dual narrative, between Elle, our Cinderella fangirl and Darien, our secret sci-fi prince.

Elle is a nerdgirl who is obsessed with erstwhile TV show Starfield (think the original Star Trek/The Next Generation). Her connection with the show is one of her few pleasures, given her mentally abusive stepmother and bullying/apathetic stepsisters. However despite Starfield being the one glimmer of light left in Elle’s life, she wakes up one morning to find it threatened by the casting of teen heart-throb and famous soap opera actor, Darien Freeman as lead Prince Carmindor. 

Geekerella is just so much fun. It takes a light, relatable look at romance and at fandom, where evil stepsisters are more interested in maintaining their vlog than their hair. 

Through a series of plot twists and mis-adventures, the pair of them end up meeting – not at the ball – at the Starfield Convention cosplay contest! The rest, as they say is geek-infused history. 

Geekerella is just so much fun. It takes a light, relatable look at romance and at fandom, where evil stepsisters are more interested in maintaining their vlog than their hair. 

The whole story is a wonderful snapshot in time: Elle works at a vegan food truck, aptly named The Magic Pumpkin (no points for guessing where her fairy godmother resides!); Darien is a secret fanboy with airbrushed abs and an overbearing father. 

Both characters just draw your interest and firmly keep it there throughout the novel. Elle is written as an empowered young woman in a crappy life situation and her experience of using fandom as an escape is one that will ring true for thousands of other young women.  The division of the book also gives us some much needed perspective into Darien’s mindset and makes him a much more sympathetic character. Fandom is a refuge for both of them, Elle because of the connection with her parents, especially her father and Darien as the one place that can be himself.

The book – which was released by Quirk Books last year is just out in paperback, right on time to take with you on your summer holiday excursion! For fans of fairytales, nerd culture and fandom Geekerella is a bright ray of sunshine, I wasn’t able to put it down!

Cinders magazine received this book in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson

The Wren Hunt, you might have heard of it? Or the Wren Boys? If you’re from outside of Ireland you probably won’t have – and even if you’re living in Ireland, the chances are slim… They’re boy’s who hunt the wren the day after Christmas. Nowadays the wren boys chant and sing and parade through towns on St Stephen’s Day, a fun, if old-fashioned tradition. But for the characters of Mary Watson’s The Wren Hunt there is much more to the tradition than meets the eye.

Every St Stephen’s day Wren is tortured, because of her name and more importantly because she’s an augur. And the boys who torment her are judges. They hunt her for the sport, or so they think. Really, they are drawn to hunting her because of her magic. Wren has a secret – a big one – and it’s up to her to keep it a secret. The only way she can save her family and her people is if she turns spy among the boys who treat her like their personal plaything. If she doesn’t, her world as she knows it will never be the same. Bu the longer Wren uses her magic in secret, the looser her grip on reality becomes.

It’s rare that a story about Irish magic doesn’t involve mythology that is ancient or fairies who are benevolent. The Wren Hunt takes a sinister song and weaves a complex mythos all of its own. The characters are relatable and the Ireland feels familiar rather than a poorly drawn copy. If unusual fantasy with determined heroines is your thing  then you’ll enjoy the unique perspective of The Wren Hunt. Mary Watson will have you racing through the woods all night long.

Book Review- Not if I save you First by Ally Carter

How many times have you thought – life as a secret service agent must be fun? Many? Me too. Well, Maddie Manchester knows exactly what it’s like. Because her father was one. He isn’t anymore, because, well, that’s what happens when your father takes a bullet for the president. He tends to re-think his priorities and move himself and his teenage daughter to Alaska. Far away from the president and far away from the president’s son Logan, Maddie’s best friend.

Six years go by and Maddie is left in the depths of nowhere – acquiring all of the skills a typical teenager possesses, chopping wood, skiing, hiding out. Life is quiet and peaceful. That is, until Logan shows up on her doorstep, bringing his own brand of trouble right along with him. There’s nothing like the president’s son to arrive and throw your life into complete disarray.

Ally Carter’s newest adventure is fun from top to bottom. The sheer enjoyment that comes with following Maddie’s adventures is infectious. Ally Carter takes the typical teen romance and injects it with a fun dose of adventure and mayhem.

Not if I Save You First is not a book to be taken seriously, however it is very enjoyable and will give every reader a fun weekend of imagining running for your life and falling in love.