& Fridays: Spooky Reads

Not that you probably need any more incentive to get into the spooky Halloween spirit (I know people who are into Halloween, and they get into Halloween…), but how about some creepy, atmospheric reads for these windy, stormy nights? (Oh, that’s just where I live? Okay…)

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Illustrations by Jim Kay. Publisher: Walker Books May 2011

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Illustrations by Jim Kay. Publisher: Walker Books May 2011

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness first hearkened to me from a bookshelf because…well, because it was rather pretty. The unbelievably talented illustrator Jim Kay does so much with just black and white in this illustrated version of Ness’ story. The book feels so intricate and special because of the art.

And also, can I say that I currently possess the illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, released this month, and also illustrated by Jim Kay…and it makes me squeal with joy. It is also incredible. I might do a post just about that book, I love it that much.

The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs. Published September 1902

The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs. Published September 1902

Or how about some classic spooky? Do you read a little Cask of Amontillado, or The Tell-Tale Heart by our morose pal, Edgar Allen Poe? Do you crack open The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs every year on All Hallow’s Eve like other people do with The Polar Express or‘Twas the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve?

They had us watch a movie version of The Monkey’s Paw in high school language arts class….a little bit scarred for life now…

Story from Sarah’s Youth time….

When I was younger, I signed up for a community book club for kids where we read the nominees for the next Newberry Medal. The only two books I remember from the list and the club were Ruby Holler and Coraline.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Publisher: HarperCollins, 2002

Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Publisher: HarperCollins, 2002

I remembered Ruby Holler because it was my favorite. It was pleasant, intriguing, it had a cool cover (I was a sucker for them even then…)

I remembered Coraline because it was freaking creepy.

THE MOM HAS BUTTONS FOR EYES.

BUTTONS.

FOR EYES.

I was impressionable, and an even bigger scaredy cat back then because I think I was about eleven. At one point I think Coraline gets trapped in a closet with ghost children.

Nuh-uh.

Nope.

It would probably still creep me out now, but I have some distance from it.

And let me just say that the cute-looking stop motion movie made from the book? Not nearly as creepy. The book just ratchets the creepy up to about 11.

So what you read for Halloween? Do you read anything different? Any literary-themed costumes out there?

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& Review: More Than This by Patrick Ness

More Than This by Patrick Ness. Fiction. Publisher: Walker Books Ltd September 2013

More Than This by Patrick Ness. Fiction. Publisher: Walker Books Ltd September 2013

The Book Itself: Careful, it might make you dizzy. The graphic background really makes the yellow doorway (which is indented slightly in the hardcopy) stand out. Very mysterious and intriguing.

My Review: A boy drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments. He dies.

Then he wakes, naked and bruised and thirsty, but alive.

How can this be? And what is this strange deserted place?

As he struggles to understand what is happening, the boy dares to hope. Might this not be the end? Might there be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?

I had picked up and put down this book in bookstores several times, always uncertain because the description doesn’t really describe anything. What the heck was this story about? What was I supposed to expect? When it went on sale at a used bookstore, I finally caved and bought it.

It is a rather brick-like book. Nearly 500 pages, it is a lengthy buy-in for not knowing what you’re getting into. This book banks on no one knowing what is going on at any given moment.  And that works to build suspense and tension, but eventually we need answers to make the journey worth it. And More Than This fell flat on several of those counts in the closing scenes.

Seth dies, and wakes up in his old home in England, where something terrible happened in his past. The beginning drags a bit, as it is mainly a montage of Seth finding clothing, food, and shelter, and feeling generally weak and sick. He is constantly tired and when he sleeps, he has vivid dreams that fill in more and more of his memory gaps.

Eventually, we do get an enemy, and we do get other characters (spoiler? Come on, it would be a poor showing if Seth were just alone the entire novel). The story begins to pick up then, with all the hiding and running and backstory fill-in that is now necessary. But it all seems like a great big build up to some big event, some greater understanding of this purgatory or eighth dimension, or whatever it is they are in.

We do get a final showdown – actually we get several – but they don’t answer the reader’s and Seth’s questions about the world he’s found himself in. Why does reality seem to bend to his will? Why is he always rescued in just the nick of time, every time? (I am glad that Ness has his character voice this question, otherwise I would have asked it myself and the book’s tension would have lost its sparkle for me: he’s in danger, but I know he’ll get out of it in the next three sentences) Is he living in reality? Or some kind of limbo/side world/hell? So there are a lot of questions, poised to be answered, ready to make this book really powerful and thought-provoking.

And NONE OF THOSE QUESTIONS ARE ANSWERED.

The reader never gets a straight answer as to why this world is the way it is. Seth’s future inside or outside of it literally fades to black, and the identity of the bad guy is never truly revealed.

I hate poor endings. And I dislike investing time in a book, especially a long one that was showing promise as being a suspenseful, meaningful story, only to fall apart on delivering key answers for the plot and themes. I liked Seth. I liked his background and the backgrounds of the other characters (maybe “liked” is an improper description. The backstories involved a number of horrors, but the way they were delivered was meaningful and emotional). And the ending does make an attempt at a hastily thrown together metaphor for life: it doesn’t matter what happens to you in this life or the next one (or whatever you believe Seth’s alternate reality is a metaphor for), if you are at peace with it, and can see a picture bigger than yourself, you have found happiness.

Or something like that. I was just so frustrated with getting to the last page and having that be the last thought, that I didn’t allow it to sink in.

If you’re okay with a metaphor-heavy ending, and having the bigger mysteries unsolved but constantly questioned throughout the story, this really isn’t terrible. But I felt the book could have been so much more impactful and meaningful…and it just wimped out on itself.

My Grade: C-

& Coffee Table Corner: Wordplay

If the title of today’s Coffee Table Corner made you think of the Jason Mraz song, 1.) Good on you, and 2.) I totally planned it that way. I may or may not be humming along to the song right now.

I have stumbled across a few fun fake-word related titles recently, and thought they would make a great coffee table post. They’re short, accessible, and often illustrated with fun little drawings. Plus it’s great to say the made-up words out loud. It makes people think you’re a little crazy.

That Should Be a Word by Lizzie Skurnick. Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, April 2015

That Should Be a Word by Lizzie Skurnick. Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, April 2015

Because you know what? That should be a word! This book says what everyone is thinking.

Starting off as a column in The New York Times Magazine, Lizzie Skurnik’s book points out such gems as “manecdote” (the stories men tell each other), and “flaudit” (pointed insult masked by praise). It’s not uncommon to read one of these words and go “Wait, isn’t that actually a word? Already?” or to see how the word came about – its roots, its synonyms, its rhyming syllables. Skurnik is very clever, as is her book.

 

 

 

 

 

The Made-Up Words Project by Rinee Shah. Publisher: Knock Knock, June 2015

The Made-Up Words Project by Rinee Shah. Publisher: Knock Knock, June 2015

In the same vein is The Made-Up Words Project. Inspired by the words friends and family make up to explain a previously unexplainable phenomenon, or sparked from inside jokes, Rinee Shah lends her adorable/amazing illustrations to the hundreds of submissions she’s received since starting the project. I have a lot of favorites, but in particular: “nurdeling,” or sticking (often wiggling) one’s cold feet under someone’s butt on the couch (I think I like this one because I have perpetually cold feet and have probably disturbed a good handful of family and friends with my attempts to get them warm again). And “yamb,” or Yet Another Miscellaneous Bag. Because I have a ton of those. And do I ever have one in hand when going grocery shopping? No. So do I often buy yet another one so I don’t feel guilty sheathing my wares in plastic? YEP.

Have a Little Pun by Frida Clements. Publisher: Chronicle Books, August 2015

Have a Little Pun by Frida Clements. Publisher: Chronicle Books, August 2015

Annnnd finally…I love bad jokes. Puns. Clever riddles. I have been impressing my new coworkers with my ability to guess/intuit the answers to Laffy Taffy jokes (Why did Johnny take a ruler to bed with him? So he could measure how long he slept! Where do sick boats go? The dock!) and recently, one of my best friends said that whenever she sees or hears something having to do with “bad Dad jokes,” she thinks of me.

That probably should not be flattering, but puns make me giggle! They’re simple, and they’re pure fun. And now there’s a book that appreciates my awkward humor. Have a Little Pun features fantastic illustrations of some pretty terrible puns. An intricate seagull graced with the words “Hey Gull Friend,” a cheeky gopher face amidst “Gopher It,” and the perennial favorite: “For Fox Sake,” with a smug little fox smiling in the foreground.

I would be surprised if these coffee table beauties didn’t spark some brainstorming of your own. Maybe you’ll even submit something to The Made Up Word Project because of your new coffee table addition!

& Review: Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski

Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski. Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, September 2015

Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski. Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, September 2015

The Book Itself: It’s a bit generic, and looks a bit like an M. Night Shyamalan movie poster. This cover would probably not make me pick up the book from a shelf full of new books, but it is ominous in a misty, fade-away way.

My Review: On Marin’s island, sunrise doesn’t come every twenty-four hours—it comes every twenty-eight years. Now the sun is just a sliver of light on the horizon. The weather is turning cold and the shadows are growing long.

Because sunset triggers the tide to roll out hundreds of miles, the islanders are frantically preparing to sail south, where they will wait out the long Night.

Marin and her twin brother, Kana, help their anxious parents ready the house for departure. Locks must be taken off doors. Furniture must be arranged. Tables must be set. The rituals are puzzling—bizarre, even—but none of the adults in town will discuss why it has to be done this way.

Just as the ships are about to sail, a teenage boy goes missing—the twins’ friend Line. Marin and  Kana are the only ones who know the truth about where Line’s gone, and the only way to rescue him is by doing it themselves. But Night is falling. Their island is changing.

And it may already be too late.

I think I heard about this book’s debut in some magazine. It was one of those synopses that I heard and went Wow, I hope that’s actually good. Because the premise sounds awesome! And for the most part, this premise and story held up. I found the book to be creepy in a great way, with this ominous, complex atmosphere that lent itself to a horror storyline. The book lost that tension for me in the last third of the story or so, but I thought it was wonderfully set up.

Secrets and revelations abound between Marin, her twin brother Kana, and their friend/Marin’s potential love interest, Line (whose name I hate! Every time I read it I just thought of this plain line on a page. How else am I supposed to pronounce that?). Before they can flee to a desert land where they will live out the next fourteen years, their families must follow a set of creepy, complex ritualistic arrangements and cleansing of the town. Kana says what everyone is thinking: “It’s like you’re setting it up for someone else,” before he is shushed and dismissed. No one will talk about what happens to the town of Bliss (way too happy of a name) while they’re gone. They either don’t know or don’t want to let the children in on the secret.

And it’s this deliberate lack of information that builds the atmosphere so well in this book. The town slowly darkens, and the children trapped there slowly start to piece together why exactly they needed to flee so rapidly. The first few chapters after they get trapped in Bliss are so well-written, they had me turning pages as fast as I could. The glimpses you get of the “monsters” are just teasing enough to be scary, and the clues they come across while trying to gather supplies are just grisly and ominous enough ratchet it up to heart-pounding.

It’s when you get a better glimpse of the “monsters” that it all becomes….less. Of everything. The characters are suddenly less active, the threat less pressing, the atmosphere still morose but less intense. It isn’t until the end of the book that we get a full head-to-toe descriptions of our enemies. And even then, they’re more weird than creepy. I won’t spoil it for you, but…they are less terrifying than the book in the beginning led you to believe. In my opinion.

As for our human characters, I didn’t find them to be different enough either. They spoke very much the same. All three had the same inflection, same vocabulary, and the same reactions to physical stimuli. And a lot of the time they were those stupid teenagers in the horror films: Why on Earth would you go outside? Why are you splitting up?! HOW ARE YOU THIS STUPID WHEN IT’S CLEAR THAT THINGS ARE OUT TO KILL YOU?!! I didn’t actually scream any of this, but it bugged me.

So I did not love all of the character choices. And I would have actually been just fine never seeing our “monsters”; I thought they were much more terrifying when they were never seen. But all of that aside, this has the potential to become a series, or at least have a sequel: In the desert lands, Marin must be sequestered in something called The Cloister for a year with all the other young women where they eventually carve glow in the dark tattoos all over their bodies (so yeah…creepy). And I would probably read the sequel, in the hopes that it keeps that wonderfully wrought tension and atmosphere of the beginning of Nightfall without the slight unraveling of the tone near the end.

My Grade: C

& Coffee Table Corner: Inspiration Station

Yep, I knew the title was going to be cheesy going into this post. Didn’t stop me. Not even a little!

There are books you keep on your coffee table because they are beautiful – glossy pages, vivid photographs, important-looking covers that look good displayed in your living room. There are books you keep there because they are funny – goofy illustrations, silly puns, bad jokes. And there are coffee table books you keep because they make you reflect. They’re meaningful, and powerful.

The World of PostSecret by Frank Warren. Publisher: William Morrow, October 2014

The World of PostSecret by Frank Warren. Publisher: William Morrow, October 2014

If you haven’t heard of PostSecret (I don’t know where you’ve been, but I’ll forgive you), you’re missing out. Send your secrets to Frank Warren’s house and he will post them anonymously on his website. Thousands upon thousands pour in. The cover of his most recent compilation The World of PostSecret shows just how many cross his path. Every Sunday he posts a few, and they can be equal parts earth-shattering, heartbreaking, hilarious, and somber. The books are beautiful, with nice paper, hefty hardcovers, and a great cross-section of humanity in their pages. At least check out postsecret.com. You owe it to yourself.

 

 

 

What's Your Story? by Brandon Doman. Publisher: Harper Design, May 2015

What’s Your Story? by Brandon Doman. Publisher: Harper Design, May 2015

What’s Your Story? immediately perked my ears when I passed it in a bookstore. Stories? I LOVE STORIES! I think the thought process went. Some pictures depict the process Brandon Doman went through to get complete strangers to write out some of their most vulnerable, painful, humorous stories. A little stand, with paper, writing utensils, and a way to seal away the stories set up shop in a city, and people felt compelled to spill their guts. Thousands of stories later, this book emerges. It’s two hundred tales is just a cross section of the stories the project has gathered, but it’s so lovely to flip through. The stories are in their writer’s original handwriting, some are a few sentences, some are pages long, some included doodles, sketches, writing in a circle, etc. etc. etc. I’m addicted to it.

Before I Die by Candy Chang. Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin, November 2013

Before I Die by Candy Chang. Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin, November 2013

Ahhh the bucket list. You have one or you hate them. But when chalkboard installations went up all over the world with the fill-in-the-blank message “Before I die I want to _____,” people filled them to the borders. Wash it off when it was full and the board would be filled again. The chalk was provided. And again, you see a huge variety of responses, both amusing and pensive. This beautiful book shows  the similarities between cultures, the universal pain and fear and love that people put into their lives and wishes for the future. Love it 🙂

I think you should always choose to put things in your life that inspire you, including the furniture in your living room, so you tell me: what inspires you in your home? Do you have a favorite room or piece of furniture? An heirloom you treasure? Tell me your stories!

 

 

& Review: Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch

Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch. Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Publisher: Berkley, July 2014

Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch. Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Publisher: Berkley, July 2014

The Book Itself: Mysterious and pining, with a red-headed woman disappearing into digital dust. Eye-catching and surreal.

My Review: Pittsburgh is John Dominic Blaxton’s home even though the city has been uninhabitable ruin and ash for the past decade. The Pittsburgh Dominic lives in is the Archive, an immersive virtual reconstruction of the city’s buildings, parks, and landmarks, as well as the people who once lived there. Including Dominic’s wife and unborn child.

When he’s not reliving every recorded moment with his wife in an endless cycle of desperation and despair, Dominic investigates mysterious deaths preserved in the Archive before Pittsburgh’s destruction. His latest cold case is the apparent murder of a woman whose every appearance is deliberately being deleted from the Archive.

Obsessed with uncovering this woman’s identity and what happened to her, Dominic follows a trail from the virtual world into reality. But finding the truth buried deep within an illusion means risking his sanity and his very existence…

I’m not even really sure where to start this review. My thoughts and reflections about this book are so scattered and disconnected. Which is appropriate, because that kind of describes the writing style. Tomorrow and Tomorrow is told from the perspective of a bereaved husband who constantly immerses himself in a virtual copy of a city that was reduced to rubble by a bomb. His wife and unborn child were in the city. He was not. He also has a bit of a drug problem, and tends to obsess over other matters.

All of this leads to a scattered telling. Our John is a troubled guy. And he gets involved in even more troublesome stuff. It’s a splatter-painted telling with drugs, sex, brutal massacres left and right, and instance after instance of hope lost (you like how I used splatter painting as an adjective? Genius). And yet, the descriptions of the city as it once was, and of trying to rebuild a life in the midst of danger and horror can be great, even beautiful.

There just comes a point that too much is too much.

In this world (not exactly dystopian, as the whole world hasn’t ended, just Pittsburgh), Adware is essential. What is Adware you may ask? It’s Google glass on steroids. It is technology surgically attached to your brain and skull to enhance your eyesight as well as bombard you with advertisements for services and products as you look at them in the real world. Sliding into a driverless cab, you interact with the car, accept or decline offers for services and nearby attractions, and pay through this system. It also immerses you in the full-body virtual reality of the once proud Pittsburgh, completely recreated through security cam footage and people’s memories of their loved ones and their surroundings.

Personally, that seems like a nightmare. And Tomorrow capitalizes on this point. Our main characters is so constantly bombarded by these ads and the severe degree of sex and violence the world has fallen into, it begins to inhibit the story. Sex and/or mutilated bodies show up in every chapter as pop-ups or news stories via this Adware. The female president of the nation is never described or even named without mentioning her overtly sexual image: she wears revealing couture to public executions, she has fake breasts, she is featured heavily in porn. Whenever John has a dull moment, and is just sitting there, he describes the dead bodies found outside of nightclubs with their various limbs removed, or the porn pop-ups offered to him every second of every day. It gets maddening. Could we get through a scene without descriptions of massacres or images of women moaning?

So on the one hand, there’s that. On the other hand…that’s the point. He’s bombarded, so we’re bombarded. He can’t get through a day where he’s not confronted with the knowledge that his wife is gone, that this world is corrupt and money/sex/power/scandal hungry to the point of obsession. It serves as a warning really. Don’t let it get to this point. Don’t let your every pause be interrupted with sensation and capitalism. I just think it comes off as a little heavy handed.

Besides all that! (mini rant over?) the book is a little piecemeal. We get the story and the different players involved and what’s happening behind the scenes in drips and drabs. Who the enemy is even by the end of the story is hazy at best.

My favorite section of the story is a survivor’s perspective about the end of Pittsburgh. They were on a bus, literally departing Pittsburgh, when the bomb went off. The story that follows about how people survived or didn’t survive on the bus, and the description of feeling and desperation is heartbreaking, and more real than anything else in the novel.

The story is choppy, but there are moments of greatness in it. If you can handle over-saturated futuristic grit, with a good story at its root, you might like this one.

My Grade: C

& Coffee Table Corner: Pop-Up Books

I don’t remember what my first ever reaction to a pop-book was, but it was probably full of awe and delight. A book that moved! A scene in 3-D! (although I probably didn’t have a clue what 3-D meant – I was most likely a toddler) And I still find pop-up books impressive. Especially with some of these crazy impressive, laser cut, multiple pop-up, expandable numbers coming out lately. Pop-up books aren’t just for kids and their ABC’s anymore.

Beauty and the Beast pop ups by Robert Sabuda. Publisher: Little Simon October 2010

Beauty and the Beast pop ups by Robert Sabuda. Publisher: Little Simon October 2010

I felt pretty dumb saying to one of my coworkers at the bookstore: “Have you heard of this Robert Sabuda guy? His pop-up books are amazing!” Turns out everyone seems to know who Robert Sabuda is. He is the name in pop-up books. He is Madonna. James Bond. Justin Bieber. Everyone knows who he is upon hearing his name.

Now THAT is a pop-up! From Alice in Wonderland

Now THAT is a pop-up! From Alice in Wonderland

But I first came across one of his books on a trip to the coast. In a maritime museum, this big book jumped out at me, The Little Mermaid on its spine. One of them was a display copy, un-plastic-wrapped, and as I cracked the spine, a huge undersea castle leapt from the page, a good foot tall. The illustrations have a stained glass quality, and the pop-ups are incredible. There is often one big one per page, with small flaps telling the story on the side, their own mini pop-ups hidden within. Sabuda has also done similar treatment to Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Winter’s Tale.

Just one of the pages from A Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros. Publisher: Insight Editions, March 2014

Just one of the pages from A Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros. Publisher: Insight Editions, March 2014

My significant other got not one, but two copies of the Game of Thrones Pop-Up Book two years ago for Christmas. We had it at the bookstore and our display copy was…well worn. The whole book expands into a huge map of the world created within the book series, so you can spread the whole thing out on your floor and have a miniature King’s Landing and off in the distance, an icy replica of The Wall. Great attention was paid to the detail on the castles and landscapes, and descriptions of scenes within the books and each setting are scrawled on each page (just don’t get the crap scared out of you by the White Walker pop-up near the middle – scary guys, those ones.)

The Pop-Up Book of Phobias by Gary Greenberg and Balvis Rubess. Publisher: Rob Weisbach Books, October 1999. I chose not to show you the inside of this one...

The Pop-Up Book of Phobias by Gary Greenberg and Balvis Rubess. Publisher: Rob Weisbach Books, October 1999. I chose not to show you the inside of this one…

And then someone decided it was a good idea to make a pop-up book of phobias. I think the thought process went something like this: Hmmmm…people sure are scared of a lot of things. I know! Let’s make it worse by making those fears jump out at them from the page!

But, if you want a way to terrorize guests flipping through your coffee table books, put The Pop-Up Book of Phobias there. I’m sure the nightmares from the creepy clown faces and a doctor lunging forward with a hypodermic needle will subside eventually (speaking of nightmares, there’s a pop-up book for that, too! Some people just want to watch the world burn…)

So for a pop-up book, you need some space…

Everyone remember the pallet craze? I feel like there were a few solid months where every piece of furniture flickering across my Facebook was made out of wood pallets: headboards, dining room tables, end tables, lamps. 

Pallet Coffee Table. Created here at this blog.

Pallet Coffee Table. Created here at this blog.

They’re certainly big enough for pop-up book purposes. And, if you use the whole pallet, they have built-in cubbies for the books!

Plus, wheels help. You know, so you can move the enormous thing.

How about you, readers? In love with pallet furniture? Have a favorite pop-up book?

& Review: Poison by Sarah Pinborough

Poison by Sarah Pinborough. Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Publisher: Titan Books

Poison by Sarah Pinborough. Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Publisher: Titan Books

The Book Itself: I fell in cover love with this book. It’s gorgeous, a hardcover in a thick linen material, and the pictures are indented into the surface in vivid colors.

My Review: An enticing contemporary retelling of the classic story of Snow White. While the the handsome prince, the jealous queen, the beautiful girl and of course the poison all appear, Sarah Pinborough’s charming and provocative spin on the story will captivate fans of the fairy tale all over again.

The first of three brand-new retellings of classic fairy tales by Sarah Pinborough.

I mentioned in a Friday post a while back that I fell in cover love with this series of twisted fairy tale books from Sarah Pinborough. They’re also super short. I think I read Poison in a day. Yay for rainy afternoon reads!

Twisted/fractured fairy tales are a dime a dozen. People love to retell childhood favorite with a touch of modern day cynicism and darkness to them. I think Poison does a good job with its dark mood, but some of the characters and scenes definitely could have been expanded. It feels a little too abrupt, a little too linear and borrowed.

So here we have Snow White. We have her jealous, beautiful-but-not-quite-beautiful-enough stepmother. There is the woodcutter and the prince and even the dwarves. But everybody’s got a touch of madness in them. We have a dwarf named Dreamy. Our stepmother character almost becomes sympathetic. Our prince is prejudiced.

But they all fall a little flat. Even our Snow White, who we’re supposed to root for, does vapid, un-character-like things. There are a lot of scenes ripped right from Disney…with quite a bit of sex thrown in. As a disclaimer: there are several sexual elements and scenes in this fractured re-telling. So if you or the reader you’re buying this for is sensitive to that, I would stay away (this ain’t a seven year old’s birthday present type of book). Sexuality and sexual agency make an interesting point in the conclusion, but at times it feels gratuitous, thrown in there just for spice and not character development.

So I wish the characters were more developed, and the story fresher. We get the dwarves stacked on top of each other, wearing a coat and dancing with Snow White, we get the woodcutter hunting for Snow White in the woods, we get the poisoned apple, the glass coffin. I was looking for something different, and received a retelling trying to be adult by mentioning sex, but falling flat on delivering a retelling that did something truly different.

My Grade: C-