Happily Ever After


Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess; she lived on the highest floor of her apartment building, and her life was filled with Disney movies and coloring books. She spent her days reading and writing, and no prince or evil Queen ever told her what to do. She surrounded herself with beautiful things and laughing faces, and all that glitter kept the darkness away. She never worried about living happily ever after because she was happy right now, and that’s all that really mattered. 8482ee5074bc90572f81570b117cadf9Every morning, she rolled out of bed, about 30 minutes too late – because she was not a morning person, and asked “Mirror mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” And the mirror never responded, but she was pretty sure it would say, “You,” if it could…

I’ve always loved princesses and fairytales, but for some reason, since moving into my own apartment, my love for all things “fairest of them all” has turned into a full blown obsession. Maybe it’s because I’m finally free to spend my days doing whatever I want without some boy complaining that “we’ve already watched Beauty and the Beast 4 times this week,” or maybe it’s because I’ve purposely covered my walls with pictures of Cinderella… or maybe it’s because one of my best friends is a 3-year-old who’s equally as obsessed with the movie Tangled as I am – and she once referred to my apartment building as a “castle.” Whatever the reason, I’ve spent the past few months watching Disney movies every single day, and reading fairytale books every single night. It’s been absolutely wonderful. Without further ado, here’s a few books I loved so much, they’ve somehow taken my obsession with gowns and glitter to an entirely new level.

The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon StarStarStarStarStar

The Fairest of Them All

If you love fairytales at all, you need to check out this author. I’ve read almost all her books. She takes a classic fairytale, gives it just the slightest (and oftentimes dark) twist, and makes it new (I’m pretty sure I’ve reviewed both Godmother, her modern – and psychological – retelling of Cinderella, and Mermaid, her somewhat morbid take on our favorite fishy-friend). However, Fairest of Them All takes fairytales to a whole new level – especially if you’re a fan of Rapunzel (aka the princess that epitomizes unrealistic hair expectations). Before delving into this book, which begs the question “what would happen if Rapunzel was Snow White’s evil queen?,” I decided to catch up on some classic Grimm’s fairytales.

Their take on Rapunzel starts with a husband and wife who, for some reason, live in the shadow of an evil enchantresses wall. Just over the wall, a bushel of rapunzel grows (I think it’s a type of lettuce). The wife sees the rapunzel and longs to eat it so badly that she begins to waste away. The husband, seeing this, climbs the wall to steal some of the rapunzel from the enchantresses garden. The enchantress sees him and allows him to take the plant, as long as he gives her his firstborn child in return (seems totally fair). The man agrees and when the baby is born, the enchantress, Gothel, takes the baby and names her Rapunzel. We all know what happens next; Rapunzel gets stuck in a tower, Gothel uses her hair as a rope ladder, and she spends her days singing beautiful song and bonding with whatever wildlife makes its way into her tower. One day, a prince happens upon Rapunzel and the two conspire to meet every evening. Unfortunately, Gothel catches wind of this plan, cuts Rapunzel’s hair off, and uses it to draw the prince to the tower – where she basically pushes him over the edge. In a weird twist, he lives, but some thorns scratch his eyes and blind him. He stumbles around the forest for, well, I don’t know how long, but eventually stumbles into the desert (in what universe is the forest right next to the desert?) where he discovers Rapunzel. Her tears heal his eyes (bring back what once was mine…) and he immediately whisks her back to the castle where she is crowned as “princess.” Talk about happily ever after.

The Fairest of Them All starts similarly – in that Rapunzel was whisked away from her parents by Mother Gothel, but she’s under the impression that she was “rescued.” You see, Rapunzel’s real mother was so obsessed with getting her hands on some rapunzel (the lettuce, not her daughter) that she went batshit crazy. Gothel took the girl and raised her as her own, deep in the woods. The two live beneath the ruins of an old castle (pretty much all that’s left standing is the tower – which Rapunzel sleeps in, but only by choice) and Gothel teaches the girl the art of healing. They both possess magic, but mainly just the magic to heal a broken heart. Magic is pretty frowned upon in the kingdom, but that doesn’t stop young women from stealing away in the middle of the night to beg Gothel, a known enchantress, for a love potion. In any case, a prince happens upon their cottage one day and invites Rapunzel to a royal ball – she, of course, agrees, but Gothel, wanting to keep Rapunzel safe from palace life, locks her in the tower. Fortunately, Rapunzel has long flowing hair – long enough for the prince to climb when he comes to her tower the next day to enquire why she missed the ball. Long story short; they sleep together, he tells her he’s engaged to someone else, and leaves her with her heart in pieces.


Thus begins Rapunzel’s descent into…not madness – but something close to it. When she discovers that the prince, now King, has had a daughter of his own, named Snow White, with his new wife, the Queen, she and Mother Gothel decide to take matters into their own hands…

This book had it all; “mirror, mirror, on the wall,” romance, action, adventure, beautiful princesses, evil queens, and magic – both light and dark. Plus – just look at that beautiful cover!

When I shut the cover on Fairest of Them All (metaphorically, of course – I read it on my nook), I just couldn’t fathom leaving the world of princesses and magic just yet, so I picked up Spindle’s End and delved into the tale of Sleeping Beauty…

Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley StarStarStarStarStar


In the Grimm’s fairytale, the King and Queen invite 12 of the 13 Wise Women of the kingdom to celebrate the new princess’s birth. This isn’t because they don’t like the 13th Woman, but simply because they only have 12 golden plates (obviously). The shunned Wise Woman bursts angrily through the doors, just after the 11th Woman has bestowed her gift upon Briar Rose, and curses the baby to prick her finger on a spindle and die on her 15th birthday. The last Wise Woman softens the curse by claiming that the princess won’t die, but sleep for 100 years. The King orders all spindles to be burned and, on Rose’s 15th birthday, they leave her home alone (seriously?!). Of course, she pricks her finger, and the whole castle falls into a deep sleep. Before long, the entire thing gets covered in thorns and any prince who attempts to rescue the Sleeping Beauty gets stuck to the thorns and dies. But then, 100 years later, just as the castle is about to wake up, another prince decides to try his hand at rescuing the princess – he finds the castle, not covered in thorns, but surrounded by flowers that part for him as he makes his way to the tower to wake Sleeping Beauty. Uh, yeah… doesn’t he sound brave?


Did not actually happen.

Anyway, Spindle’s End begins with the birth of Briar Rose (although she has about 15 names in front of that) and the invitation of (almost) every fairy in the kingdom to serve as fairy-godmothers. All but one, evil fairy, at least. Katriona, a guest to the princesses name day, is disgusted by the gifts the fairies are giving – red lips, white skin, golden hair, etc., etc. But then the evil fairy, Pernicia, appears and curses the baby to, you guessed it, prick her finger and die before her 21st birthday. As Pernicia makes her exit, Katriona finds herself holding the baby and, suddenly, forced to kidnap her – or save her, depending on how you look at it. She takes the princess, now known as Rosie, to live with her in her cottage in the woods where “ordinariness” will surely save her from Pernicia’s grasp.

For 21 years Rosie lives with Katriona and grows to be, not beautiful, but kind of weird looking. She has golden hair, white skin, blue eyes, and pearly teeth, but all those features come together in a way that’s not quite natural. She spends her days working at the blacksmith shop and believing she is Katriona’s orphaned niece. But, because this is a fairytale, the dark magic eventually catches up to her – forcing her and her friends to go on a darkly magical journey that ends in, well, not quite “happily ever after.” a694ce22a8a0b7caa08ca32968313ce8

I loved this book because it was written like a classic – even though it was actually written just 14 years ago. It reminded me of the old books I used to read at my grandma’s house – things like “The Enchanted Castle,” “The Five Children and It,” or even “The Phantom Tollbooth.” And the ending proved that true love’s first kiss didn’t have to be between a prince and a princess, or even a man and a woman (take that FrozenSpindle’s End did it first!) – true love saves the day, but not in the way you would think. It was an amazing story, worthy of being a classic, and I can’t wait to get my hands on some more Robin McKinley books.

Hellhounds and Sirens and Bears, Oh My!

Actually, now that I think about it, I’m surprised Goldilocks and the three bears didn’t make an appearance…

This is one of those “two birds, one stone” or “two books, one blog” blogs. This is because I ended up reading two books at once last week (something I was forbidden to do in the third grade after an unfortunate mix-up between Mr. Poppers Penguins and Mary Poppins). I am also very tired right now and basically writing this in effort to keep my eyes open until an appropriate bedtime…

Let’s start with The Woodcutter, which I special ordered in… because it had a beautiful cover.

The Woodcutter by Kate Danley StarStarStar

ta daaaa

They have since redone the cover which is why the only picture I could find of the original cover is small and blurry. Anyway, it’s also about fairy tales, which I normally love. However, this book somehow crammed every single fairy tale ever written (minus Goldilocks) into 250 pages. It was clever, it flowed well, it was enticing, and honestly a little overwhelming.

After finding Cinderella scared to death (literally) in the forest, the Woodcutter, protector of the Wood and the 12 Kingdoms, sets out on a quest to kill the offending beast (whatever it may be). Along the way he encounters pixies (including their leaders Oberon and Titania), Snow White, Rapunzel, Rumplestiltskin, Red Riding Hood, Jack and the beanstock, giants, *deep breath* the princess and the pea, Odin and his hellhounds, the billygoat gruff, the troll under the bridge, the twelve dancing princesses, the red shoes… etc. However, he soon discovers that the beast is only half the problem – an evil Queen has been capturing pixies and gathering their magic dust to increase her own (stolen) power. The Woodcutter must save the pixies (and in turn the Wood itself), return the rightful rulers to their thrones, capture an errant hellhound, and overall rid the land of evil. All in a days work.

For some reason I was finding it very hard to get into this book, it was a fast read (mainly because each chapter was approximately one page long), but characters came and went so quickly that it was hard to get attached to any one of them. There was also such a multitude of characters and quests springing up on every page that it was hard to keep track of the actual story… almost as if the author was trying so hard to squeeze in every fairy tale that she forget there was a plot line taking place beneath it all. Like I said before, the story was very creatively spliced together and well written, it was just fairy tale overkill.


Siren’s Storm by Lisa Papademetriou StarStarStari/2

I ended up reading this book because I forgot to take a book to work and I always, always, always read on my breaks. I live too far away to go home for lunch so I escape the confines of the retail world through books. Naturally when I realized I forgot to bring a book I panicked… until I remembered I work in a book store. I hastily grabbed the nearest teen book I could find and cracked it open. I didn’t expect to like it enough to finish it (I should have known better, I almost always finish books, even if I hate them), but I ended up reading the entire thing over the course of the week. And I didn’t hate it, I actually somewhat enjoyed it…

Will’s brother Tim disappeared one year ago when the two boys were out sailing off the beach near their house. Will doesn’t remember the incident, he only remembers waking up on the beach with a bloody face and a flaming sailboat, but no one in the small town of Walfgang believes him. Except Gretchen. Gretchen is Will’s best friend. She is also an incurable sleepwalker who finds herself waking up in some very strange places. Her dreaming body is inexplicably drawn to the ocean while her conscious self is terrified of it. In effort to take her mind off things she takes up a summer job at a local café, there she meets Asia, a green eyed vixen with long black hair and melodious voice… who has an incredible ability to control people without a single touch. Asia is new in town and the residents are mystified by her swift arrival. Will swears he saw her crawling into the ocean in the middle of a hurricane, but even stranger things begin to take place in the town of Walfgang

One thing I will say about this book, there is no silly, stupid, mushy gushy teen romance. I was actually able to enjoy the story without Will getting sidetracked by Gretchen’s boobs or Gretchen getting sidetracked by Will’s lips. (The author is a little awkward about switching point of views but you get used to it). In fact, aside from being hormone happy high schoolers, all the characters were very down to earth and believably human. Both Will and Gretchen were affected by Tim’s disappearance (though neither realizes exactly how much or why). They have just reached that awkward stage between childhood friendship and newly developed romantic feelings, unfortunately they are forced into a situation far beyond their control before those feelings can come to fruition. Asia is mysterious and not decidedly good or evil – we soon discover she has her own past to contend with. While Will and Gretchen battle their inner demons, Asia prepares for a battle with demons that are all too real. Their reactions are as realistic as they can be for a paranormal teen fiction novel in which Siren’s attack the town.

I also liked the subtle references to other classic mythological tales, namely the Odyssey and Dracula. If you end up reading the book, check out the authors note.

The only real downfall to the story is its predictability… which is evident from page one. SPOILER ALERT: Asia is a siren. Okay, that’s not really a spoiler, it was pretty clear from her first appearance. She pops up in the middle of the road in a hurricane then slithers down the rocky beach and into the water. She never really tries to hide what she is. Gretchen keeps dreaming that she’s running towards water and wakes up standing at the edge of a bluff, high above the ocean. She’s taken to humming a haunting tune that makes Will think of the day Tim disappeared. It doesn’t take a literary analysis to figure out that Gretchen is somehow involved. The ending with pretty anticlimactic… nothing really happened that I didn’t already anticipate. There is a sequel but I’m not sure I care enough to read it. Overall it wasn’t half bad and I would recommend it but I would also recommended that you keep your expectations low.

Alice I Have Been

This book came to me at the perfect time. It’s one of those books that you can get completely lost in. It creates a world so realistic and wonderful that when you pull yourself out of the story to get a snack or answer the phone you’re disappointed by reality. Reality suddenly seems mundane and you find yourself with the ever increasing desire to read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  At least that’s how I felt when I was reading this book. And I needed that, I was feeling overwhelmed by life, I had just spent a month on editing odd jobs and I decided to treat myself to a book of my own. I book I could enjoy without over analyzing. A book I could escape into. This book was it. If I could give this book six stars I absolutely would.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin StarStarStarStarStar

This is not a story about Alice in Wonderland. I thought I would be disappointed by that but I wasn’t. I thought I wanted a story about a little blonde girl with an overactive imagination but this story was better. This story is about Alice; Alice of Oxford, Alice the Dean’s daughter, Alice the brunette. Alice whose spirit inspired her dear friend, Mr. Dodgson, to write down the story of Alice in Wonderland. A story that Alice begged for, a story that she’ll wish was never written.

Alice I Have Been is written in three parts following Alice through three different stages of life and love. It begins in 1859 when Alice is just a little girl with a dirty pinafore. Her and her sisters, Ina and Edith, spend their days roaming the campus with Mr. Dodgson, a quirky math professor who enjoys telling stories and taking pictures, and Pricks, their prickly, portly nanny. Alice has always felt a special connection with Mr. Dodgson who didn’t seem to mind if her dress got dirty and never scolded her for her outlandish desires (ie: running barefoot through the grass)… much to the dismay of her older sister, Ina, and their nanny – both of whom tend to vie for the attention of Mr. Dodgson. Unfortunately Mr. Dodgson only has eyes for Alice. He willingly grants her every wish and fulfills her every desire. He allows her to run barefoot through the grass, he lets her live like a wild child (if only for the afternoon), and he assures her she will never outgrow his company.

One day, as Alice and her sisters drift down the river, Mr. Dodgson tells the story of Alice in Wonderland – much to Alice’s delight. She begs and begs him to write the wonderful story down, which he does – effectively enshrining her in Wonderland forever – a gesture that would both honor and haunt her for the rest of her life.

I can’t even explain how amazing this book is without giving anything away. Alice learns first hand that there are many different types of love; infatuation, true love, boundless love, endless love… lost love. All the while she struggles with her identity as Alice in Wonderland; a girl that the world has fallen in love with, a girl who cannot live up to her fictional counterpart.

The characters in this story are emotional and real and all too human. I cried over them, several times. This book made me cry several times. That’s unheard of. Not to mention the way this book is written! Melanie Benjamin’s writing style is beautiful and poetic and mysterious. I almost wished I was reading it on my nook so I could highlight some of the more beautiful quotes and post them on facebook for all the world to see. She keeps things from the reader and reveals them just when you start to think she won’t, and those revelations are powerful. When I closed the cover on this book I wanted to open it right back up and start all over again. This is easily one of my new favorites.