Fairy Tale Friday, Book Review: The Duke is Mine by Eloisa James

9521508 Fairy Tale Friday, Book Review: The Duke is Mine by Eloisa JamesTitle and Author: The Duke is Mine by Eloisa James

Publisher: Avon

Genre: Romance

Publication Date: December 27th 2011

Pages: 367 pages

Source: Purchased ebook

Kid-rating: Not for kids. It’s a romance novel: lots of sexual innuendo and um, actual you-know-what.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis

(from GoodReads)
This Duke is Mine

He is a duke in search of a perfect bride.

She is a lady–but a long way from perfect.

Tarquin, the powerful Duke of Sconce, knows perfectly well that the decorous and fashionably slender Georgiana Lytton will make him a proper duchess. So why can’t he stop thinking about her twin sister, the curvy, headstrong, and altogether unconventional Olivia? Not only is Olivia betrothed to another man, but their improper, albeit intoxicating, flirtation makes her unsuitability all the more clear.

Determined to make a perfect match, he methodically cuts Olivia from his thoughts, allowing logic and duty to triumph over passion…Until, in his darkest hour, Quin begins to question whether perfection has anything to do with love.

To win Olivia’s hand he would have to give up all the beliefs he holds most dear, and surrender heart, body and soul…

Unless it’s already too late.

Don’t miss a new version of The Princess & the Pea, asking an age-old question: What is a perfect princess?

My review

The Project Fairy Tale folks were supposed to try to stick to Young Adult books, and I do have some YA Princess and the Pea that I’m going to try to read, but there really isn’t a lot of YA Princess and the Pea stories. Frankly, there aren’t a lot of Princess and the Pea novels at all. As near as I can tell, most retellings are picture books and are mostly just illustrated editions of the original story itself. I’ve seen a few that look to be variations, (a princess and a peanut allergy, or a princess and a packet of frozen peas, that sort of thing…)

This is one of several adult romance novels that I found. I have somewhat gotten away from reading romance novels because so often the sex scenes are so outrageously over the top and stupid I can’t stand it. I thought I’d give this one a try (for research), and I’m glad I did. A lot of why I liked this book is the humor — the whole thing had me laughing out loud. It was a quick read that did not even try to take itself seriously (even in the bedroom), and I had fun the whole time I was reading it.

There was some over the top stuff (especially the ending, the peril at the end was forced and unnecessary), and some of the tension was a little artificially drawn out.

Was it silly? Sure, but sometimes a person needs a silly enjoyable read.

Some of the reviews I read took issue with the way that Olivia, our main character, treated her betrothed, Rupert, who is mentally handicapped. I had actually read these reviews before starting, so I was paying attention, and I have to say that I think these reviewers didn’t give the book enough of a chance. I thought their concerns were dealt with as the book progressed.

As far as the Princess and the Pea elements go:  I though it was pretty cleverly done here. Our heroine’s sister is an aspiring duchess, not a princess, but she is being tested by the Duke’s mother for their suitability as his potential mate. There is a pile of mattresses involved in the story, but no peas, and it wasn’t the duke’s mother that piled them up. This was part of the ending that was a little over the top, and by this point, I could have done without her shoehorning the mattresses in. I’d say that’s a pretty minor quibble on my part, though.

I had never read any books by Eloisa James before, and I will probably read more in the future, I enjoyed her voice and humor. If you like adult romance novels and are looking for something quick and fun, you might give this one a try.

Fairy Tale Friday: Once Upon A Mattress

OnceUponAMattress Fairy Tale Friday: Once Upon A MattressThe musical, Once Upon A Mattress, is a very funny adaptation of the Princess and the Pea story. It sets out to answer some of the questions that I raised in my previous post — where did the princess come from? What was wrong with the other princesses? Why the pea under the mattress test? How did she actually pass the test?

Synopsis

In this case, the princess is actually brought to the castle by Sir Harry, who desperately wants the Prince to get married, so he can marry is own love, Lady Larken. (The Queen has decreed that no one else in the kingdom may marry until the Prince does). The Prince he has found is named Fred, and she lived in a swamp. She truly is a princess, but not like any princess this kingdom has ever seen.

The prince is immediately taken with her, which scares the Queen, who is a domineering tyrant with a mute husband, and a son who is so pathetic, you feel quite sorry for him.

As the Prince and Princess Fred get to know each other (and fall in love?) we learn that Sir Harry and Lady Larken REALLY need to get married ASAP, because a little picnic they enjoyed has resulted in an impending blessing. (And one gets the feeling that they aren’t entirely sure how that happened…) Sir Harry is more worried about the impact on HIS reputation than on the consequences for his love, and frankly, one wonders what Lady Larken sees in him.

In the meantime, the Queen and her Wizard are devising tests to get rid of the completely unsuitable Princess Fred, and decide upon the mattress test.

once 2005 Fairy Tale Friday: Once Upon A Mattress

A visiting minstrel, and the court jester turn out to be the heroes of the story because they (a) come up with a plan to help Lady Larkin escape her situation and go to the beautiful land of Normandy and (b) they overhear the Queen scheming with the wizard about the pea plot, and are able to “help” matters along — they stuff Princess Fred’s mattresses full of swords and armor and other bulky metal objects, so it’s no wonder she doesn’t sleep a wink.

Lady Larken is caught escaping, but it doesn’t matter, because Princess Fred has passed the test — the prince has a bride, and the King finally puts his stands up to wife, finds his voice again, and everyone lives “happily, happily, happily ever after.”

Broadway and TV

Carol Burnett was the Princess Fred in the Broadway production (1959) (and in 2 made for TV versions, 1964 and 1972). The musical has also been filmed more recently (2005), with Carol Burnett as the Queen, Tracey Ullman as Princess Fred, and even more notably: Glee’s Matthew Morrison (Will Schuester) as Sir Harry. It was fun to watch, especially when we were getting ready for the high school production, however it was only just OK. The Carol Burnett version was infinitely better…unfortunately, I’ve only ever seen the 1972 version, and that was many years ago: I haven’t found it on DVD, and YouTube only turns up some very bad screen captures of someone’s TV.

Suzanne’s Trip Down Memory Lane

I’ve mentioned that this has a special place in my heart: during my senior year of high school (a million years ago! OK, it was 1990), our school staged a production: and I was Lady Larken. And more recently, the high school that I am now working at staged it, and I was the accompanist for the show. Plus, I made a “quilt” that we draped over a metal bunk bed to be our 20 mattresses…my dogs still sleep on that “quilt.”

It has become very hard for me to separate the additions of “Once Upon A Mattress” from the original story when I think of the Princess and the Pea. The fact that Princess Fred was “helped” in the mattress test harkens back to versions of the story prior to Andersen’s most popular telling — she was often only able to pass the test because a helper had told her about the test beforehand. And the fact that the Queen is such a miserable person colors my perspective of her, even in the original.

As a musical, Once Upon A Mattress is a lot of fun, and lends itself well to high school productions. It’s not spectacular by any means, but it is a sweet and funny retelling, and I will always remember it fondly, not just for the story itself, but also for the high school memories.

It’s funny, the high school productions that I have helped with as an adult  have all been fraught with both highs and lows. Every single productions has been plagued by worries that the students won’t pull it off because they are still learning lines and stage directions and music and dancing right up until a week before the production. They always manage to pull it off, barely, but it makes me wonder back to my high school days — I suppose we were that way, too. In fact, I know we were: we had to make changes to one of the songs because some of us hadn’t learned the music in time!

Have you seen a production of Once Upon A Mattress? What did you think?

As I mentioned last week, my fairy tale posts this month are inspired by a group of bloggers who are writing about fairy tales and retellings this month, the host is The Cheap Reader. I am participating unofficially, as I did not get signed up (I didn’t hear about it until just a few weeks ago!)

Fairy Tale Friday: The Princess and the Pea

I’m sure I’m not the only one doing this sort of thing on my blog, but I’m going to try to devote Fridays to Fairy Tales.

The current inspiration actually came from a project that a group of bloggers are doing called Project: Fairy Tale. If I’d known about it at the time of sign-ups, I would have totally signed up, but I’m going to unofficially participate here on my own, and I think I’m going to be using a fairy tale this month that no one else is using….The Princess and the Pea.

 

Edmund Dulac   Princess and pea Fairy Tale Friday: The Princess and the Pea

I have a very soft spot in my heart for this particular fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, and I’ll share more about that as the month goes on.

To read the actual fairy tale as written by Andersen (it’s quite short), you can visit Sur La Lune Fairy Tales (which is, by the way, a very excellent resource for all things fairy tale…lots of commentary about the actual stories, as well as lists of retellings and re-imaginings and more). It’s interesting to note that there were other versions of this story before Andersen popularized it, I’ve always thought that it was his to begin with.

You are probably familiar with the tale: a prince needs a princess, and none of the candidates have been just right. The tale doesn’t tell us what is wrong with them, or how many there have been. A princess shows up in the middle of a storm, and the Queen decides to test her, to see if she really is a princess.

The test is the peas placed under the pile of 20 mattresses and 20 feather beds. (It’s actually 3 peas in this version). Our princess, of course, does not sleep a wink, proving she is truly a princess, since only a real princess would have been sensitive enough to feel the peas.

And then the prince and princess live happily ever after.

Knowing the details of some of the variations and adaptations of this story have probably skewed my thinking about it, because I am left only with questions. Did the princess really feel the peas? Or was she tipped off by someone? What’s with the prince and being so choosy? Is there something wrong with him? And where did the princess come from? Where is her family? If she’s a princess, why is she wandering around by herself in a storm?

I will admit that part of the reason I like this story is the image of the pile of beds and bedding. I’m a quilter — I have a lot of bedding in my house! (I’ve lost count of how many quilts are in my house. We use them all the time — often with multiple quilts on a bed at once…) The artwork that this scene inspires is probably the best part of what’s come out of this story!

**********************

For next week’s post, I’m actually going to cheat, and not post about a book retelling, but a musical — Once Upon a Mattress — the real reason that I’m such a fan of the Princess and the Pea story!

Happy Friday. Hopefully it is warmer and less snowy where you are.

 

Book Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

12558285 Book Review: Splintered by A.G. HowardTitle and Author: Splintered by A.G. Howard

Publisher: Amulet Books

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retalling

Publication Date: January 1, 2013

Pages: 384 Pages

Source: Hardcover, purchased

Kid-rating: In my opinion, some of the situations and conversations steer this towards an older crowd.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis

(from GoodReads)
This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

My review

It’s always a little nerve-wracking to start watching or reading something that you have been waiting for with high hopes. And it’s even worse to have said the object of that anticipation start off slowly…but thankfully, Splintered won me over, and we’ll all live happily ever after. For now.

Splintered hit a lot of the high points for me in terms of what I’m looking for in a story that’s a retelling or reimagining of another story. Top of that list is imagination — I like seeing thing I recognize from the original, but the retelling needs to be full of lots of new and interesting ideas, it will hopefully surprise me and keep me guessing, even if, in the end, the story turns out the way the original did — it just gets there using different means.

A.G. Howard is VERY imaginative! The ways in which she took the source material of Lewis Carroll’s story were fantastic (in several senses of the word!) While I was waiting for my copy (I was planning on reading this as an e-book on release day, only to be thwarted: the e-book version doesn’t release until the 15th), I downloaded a free copy of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” I’m not sure I’ve ever actually read it, or if I did, it was many many years ago. A person would not have to have read the book, because so much of Alice’s world is a part of our popular culture, but I think that having the original so fresh definitely enhanced my enjoyment of this book.

There were a couple of places where the writing seemed a little uneven to me, but those were minor. Something that bugged me was the constant reference to Jeb’s labret (a piercing below the lip, above the chin). I didn’t mind that he had it, a piercing like that definitely brings to mind a certain type of guy, but I felt like I was being pummeled over the head with it, and it would take me out of the story for a moment.

All in all, I quite enjoyed this book, the first of my debut author challenge reads and hope that Howard writes more. I would love to see her imagination and creativity at work in future books, and I’m guessing her writing will just get better as time goes on.

Book Review: Beastly by Alex Flinn

544891 Book Review: Beastly by Alex FlinnTitle and Author: Beastly by Alex Flinn

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Romance, Retelling

Publication Date: First published October 2, 2007

Pages: 336 pages

Source: Purchased

Kid-rating: Clean.

Star Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Synopsis

(from GoodReads)
A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright–a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever–ruined–unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly

My review

The other day I was leaving a comment on a blog post that read something to the effect of “I’ll have to try that, I really like retold fairy tales.”

And then I had an epiphany, that maybe it would be really cool (for me at least…) to…well not devote myself to retold fairy tales, but maybe focus on them here on the blog.

And lo and behold, on Christmas day, I had downloaded a copy of Beastly that was on sale in the iBookstore. I really wanted Splintered to be my first read of the new year, but I hadn’t ordered a hardcover, because I was going to read the e-book on the 1st…only I discovered the e-book doesn’t come out until the 15th.

Unfortunately, as you call from my star rating above: this was only barely OK. I mean, I finished it, and I didn’t hate it, but it was definitely not as good as I was hoping it would be. Rather than getting lost in the story, I spent most of it wondering how I was going to review it.

And this is going to sound sort of stupid, but I had trouble suspending disbelief on this one. (I know, of all of the SFF I read, I’m going to quibble about whether or not it’s believable?? I guess that’s what makes a book really good: convince me that your outrageous idea is not so outrageous, and I’m yours.)

A lot of my problem was that this was, to my thinking, not an updating of the story: it was just the basics of the original story dropped in to modern day NYC, and that didn’t work for me.

Oddly, I went and looked at the trailer for the movie that was based on this, and THAT actually looks like they did a better job updating the story in a way I might have believed than the book itself did.

Bottom line: there are better retellings of Beauty and the Beast. I’d skip this one and go for something else. Like Beauty, by Robin McKinley. Which I’m currently re-reading.