Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #24 and #25: FABLES Volumes 1 & 2

It seems only right, as it’s been announced that FABLES will be ending at issue #150, that I should finally start my review of the series. Nothing like waiting til the last minute, yes? I’ve been meaning to review FABLES since my last go round of Cannonball and, in fact, did manage to at least review one collection last year, a Bigby-centric collection called Werewolves of the Heartland.

I wish I’d loved that collection more. I’m surprised I didn’t because, as I mentioned, it was Bigby-centric, but I suppose they can’t all be winners. Luckily, the first two FABLES collections, Legends in Exile and Animal Farm, are absolutely:

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Can’t stop thinking about DOCTOR WHO: blame the 50th Anniversary.

I came to comics late in life, thinking (wrongly, like so many people) that they were all superheroes and big-boobed-spandex-clad ladies. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I started reading comics and FABLES was one of the first.

FABLES hits all the marks for me. There’s an ongoing mystery, a smart-as-a-whip-takes-no-nonsense heroine, a tortured hero, still haunted by things he’s done in the past, an unlikely romance that sparks in the first collection and heats up throughout the rest. And, best of all, fairy tale characters, just, ALL OVER THE PLACE.

When ABC announced that Once Upon a Time was going to be a thing, I was of two minds. Part of me thought, “awesome, I love stuff about fairy tales, how cool!” but the other part of me, the larger, angrier part, just think-shouted, “WHAT THE FUCK WHY ISN’T IT FABLES?”

I did try Once Upon a Time for about half a season but it just didn’t hold the appeal for me that FABLES did. Probably because, the entire time I was watching it, I was just wishing it was FABLES. Oh well. Moving on, I guess.

Slight spoilers, ahoy.

Fables vol 1Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile

Our story takes place in a part of New York called Fabletown, where a bunch of fairy tale characters took refuge when their Homelands were invaded by the Adversary and his forces. The Fables have disguised themselves as normal New Yorkers, so the Mundys of the world can’t detect that there are immortal beings in their midst.

We’re introduced to some important Fables, namely Snow White, Fabletown’s deputy mayor, and Bigby (formerly the Big Bad Wolf), the town’s sheriff, when Rose Red (Snow White’s sister) is allegedly murdered. Bigby and Snow team up to find Rose Red’s killer. Prime suspects include Jack (of beanstalk fame), Rose Red’s longtime boyfriend, and Bluebeard, her secret fiance.

We also learn that Bigby has been nursing some hardcore unrequited love for the beautiful Snow White so, you know, YAY SHIPPING.

Fables vol 2

Fables, Vol. 2: Animal Farm

So last issue, we met the human Fables but you just know there are non-human ones, right? RIGHT? Well. There are. FYI. The three little pigs. The three bears. Three blind mice. Chicken Little. Yada yada. While the human Fables get to enjoy the conveniences of big city life, the non-human Fables have to live on The Farm, so as not to arouse suspicion in the Mundy world when someone sees a talking pig wandering around. The Farm seems nice enough, really, but some of the non-human Fables bristle at being told they HAVE to stay there.

Enter the revolution, which Snow White and Rose Red stumble right into. Shit gets real, you guys. Shit gets SUPER TOTALLY REAL.

Anyway, it’s hard to review these without giving too much away. You should probably just read them, OK? OK. Good talk.

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loulamac’s #CBRV review #59: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

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I’m probably going to get struck by lightning for putting this out there on the internet, but I didn’t lose my mind over this book. I’m a bit too old to have grown up with The Princess Bride movie (it was all about Indy, Star Wars and Clash of the Titans for me), but my little brother introduced me to it when I was in my late teens. It’s a great movie, fun, quotable (‘I am Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die’), romantic and exciting; much more than the sum of its parts (although they are excellent parts). Somehow, the book doesn’t hit the spot in quite the same way.

Young couple Buttercup and Westley are parted when he goes off to seek his fortune and earn the right to ask for her hand. Buttercup is the most beautiful woman alive, and comes to the attention of crown prince Humperdinck of Florin. She thinks Westley dead, killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts, and so reluctantly agrees to marry Humperdinck. Just before the wedding, she is kidnapped by a motley crew made up of a Sicilian genius, a Spanish sword-fighter and a giant. A mysterious man in black defeats them all, and rescues her. And then Humperdinck catches up with them, and things start to get messy.

The story has it all – star-crossed lovers, revenge, poison, torture, resurrection, sword fights – and it is charming and funny. The characters are wonderful (my personal faves were Fezzik the giant and Miracle Max), and Humperdinck and his factotum Count Rugen are loathsome baddies. What makes it different from a standard fairy tale is that Goldman presents it as the abridgement of a much longer book by an S Morgenstern. Framing the book is a fictional story of how he first heard it as a child and how he came to publish the ‘abridged version’, which is interspersed with Goldman’s explanations and commentary. I think it was this that grated, and stopped the book being truly magical.

Right, I’m off to hide in my underground bunker in case lots of crazed Bride-iacs descend on me.

ElCicco #CBR5 Review #29: The Golem and The Jinni by Helene Wecker

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The Golem and The Jinni is a fantastical story, a fairy tale of sorts that takes place in turn-of-the-century New York’s Little Syria, but also throughout hundreds of years of history. Like other tales, it deals with themes such as the consequences of greed and selfishness, true love and self sacrifice. But having creatures such as a golem and jinni in New York among immigrant communities in the process of losing touch with old traditions and beliefs as they are assimilated into the melting pot gives this novel a unique spin.

The main characters are, obviously, a golem and a jinni. The female golem, Chava, was created from clay by an unsavory former rabbinical student to serve/be wife to a man en route to New York from Poland. The man dies on the trip and Chava is masterless, a dangerous situation for a golem. A kindly elderly rabbi discovers who and what she is and takes her under his wing to try to guide her and keep her safe. The jinni, Ahmad, springs out of a metal bottle in Arbeely the tinsmith’s shop in Little Syria. Ahmad was enslaved by an unknown evil wizard hundreds of years ago and wears an iron cuff, which keeps him enslaved in human form but allows him to use some of his magical skills, such as creating heat and fire with his hands. He makes an excellent metal worker, and Arbeely takes him in and hides his secret.

As neither Chava nor Ahmad require sleep, they roam the streets of old New York at night and happen upon each other. While the average human would not notice anything unnatural about the golem or the jinni, they each immediately recognize the unnatural in each other. Chava sees that the jinni is made of fire and Ahmad can tell that Chava is made of clay. They form a truly “odd couple.” Ahmad is angered by his loss of independence and guided by his passions. He cares little for the consequences of his actions. Ahmad seems reckless to Chava, who can read others’s thoughts, is a rule follower and tends to be much more practical in facing her life situation. She is happy serving, as it is part of her nature to serve, while Ahmad bristles at servitude.

Ahmad and Chava are surrounded by a caste of characters who have their own tales, each fascinating in its own way. Schaalman, the man who created Chava, is a dark and frightening man. Saleh the ice cream man lives on the periphery of his community and is deemed an oddball deserving some pity, but his past tells a very different story. Sophia Winston is a young woman from a wealthy family whose encounter with Ahmad changes her and turns her life on its head. There are several others as well, and while it might seem in the first half of the book that these various story lines cannot come together, Wecker beautifully weaves them into a marvelous magical story with a big showdown at the end. The Golem and The Jinni would make a great graphic novel in the right hands.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Golem and The Jinni. It’s an impressive and lovely first novel from Helene Wecker and a sweeping tale of old New York and some of the immigrant communities that formed it.

Katie′s #CBR5 Review #11: The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson

Title: The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back
Author: Sariah Wilson
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: 
Review Summary: Fun, cute, with an awesome heroine and characters with unique personalities, although definitely on the younger end of YA books.

Life’s not always fun and games when you’re the ugly stepsister. Mattie Lowe is sick of her perfect, beautiful, and (worst of all) genuinely nice stepsister. Not only is she more popular than Mattie; she’s also dating the boy Mattie’s had a crush on since she was nine years old. Fortunately, Mattie’s not the sort of girl to take things lying down and when she finally talks to her stepsister, it might turn out they have more in common than she thinks.

Read more at Doing Dewey…

pyrajane’s review #4: Briar Rose by Robert Coover

Briar RoseI don’t know how to even begin to give a warning for this review.

If you’re familiar with original fairy tales, then you’re prepared for what you’re going to see when you get to my blog.

If not…

OK, look.  A lot of crazy things happen in this book.  Bad things.  Possible trigger things.

You’ve been warned.

Lollygagger’s #CBR5 Review #6: Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Lost by Ron Vitale

In the past I’ve read reviews of books and thought ‘damn, that was harsh.’ And while I maintain that some critics come across as snotty jerks, after reading this book I’m starting to understand that, if forced to read many of similar quality throughout my career, I might start to lose a little bit of my tact despite my best efforts.

As others have mentioned, Cannonball Readers were offered this book (and its sequel – which I will not be reading, because I try to avoid making the same mistake twice) for free with the understanding that we would read quickly and report back.

This is not a horrible book. In fact, I can imagine where the inspiration came – other fairy tales are starting to have origin stories (or perhaps always did, but are experiencing a resurgence now). And the idea of following the ‘happily ever after’ is really interesting. It just wasn’t well done in this instance – there is simultaneously too much and not enough going on in the storytelling, the devise used doesn’t really seem to work for this story, and the characters are, in my opinion, almost universally unlikable (including Cinderella).

I have a few issues with this book so I’ll work through them here. First off, the author is clearly not short on ideas; unfortunately there is a whole lot of telling and very little showing. Part of that likely comes from the challenge of a first person narrative in diary form, but my experience reading Silver Linings Playbook showed me that it’s possible to create a rich, complex and interesting character who is telling the story without filling it with lines like “I know you are a good person.” Cinderella may be a good person, but having her best friend say it doesn’t do much for me – I prefer a book show it to me. Or perhaps show me she ISN’T a good person, and that her friends don’t understand her. Something.

Other times statements were made that suggested something had taken place – the most glaring example was the line “All my training had prepared me for this moment.” Huh? Granted, I did find myself bored at times, but I read the whole book, and that line stood out like a sore thumb. Cinderella had been training? I know she was off with her mentor ‘getting ready’ and ‘preparing’ but what did that mean? What was the training? How was she ‘preparing’? What was she doing? It’d be much more interesting to see her in that moment if I had an understanding of what she was calling upon to get through it.

I also have to disagree with another reviewer who thought the writing was good. I don’t think it was horrible, but it wasn’t good. As the book is set in Europe during Napoleon’s time, the author tries to make the language formal and a bit flowerier. I don’t have a lot of experience with modern-day re-tellings of fairy tales but I really, really hope that they don’t all suffer from this forced language. It took me nearly half of the book to get past the feeling that every single paragraph was written in a struggle with an author’s guide to 19th century writing.

I did appreciate the author’s attempt to give the book a bit of a feminist spin, but I think he missed the mark. Nearly all the ‘good’ women in the book are witches, and every single man she encounters either directly causes her pain or is indifferent to her. If the author was going for ‘girl power’ and the idea of saving yourself, he seems to have gone a bit too far. I love that she doesn’t need a man, but does every man need to be totally unlikable?

I still want to find a book like this that I would enjoy reading – I don’t spend nearly enough time reading fiction and I know I’m missing out. I just wish that I hadn’t spent the last six days with this one.

loopyker’s #CBR5 Review #01: Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Lost (Book 1) by Ron Vitale

Cinderellas Secret Diary Book1

Disclaimer: This was given as a free e-book to interested CBR5 readers. This in no way influences the outcome of my review.

I was excited to accept the free e-book of Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Lost since both young adult fantasy and the retelling of fairy tales are amongst my favourite genres and I’m always happy to discover more. This story also includes a little taste of historical fiction – another of my favourites.

As the title suggests, this book is written in first person from the viewpoint of Cinderella’s diary a few years after her marriage to the Prince. They are very far from living “happily ever after” at this time and Cinderella is very unhappy with her marriage and her whole life in the castle where she is under great pressure to produce an heir for the Royal family. She is dealing with big decisions about her life, marriage and motherhood. Hints of political intrigue around England and Napoleon are also entwined with the magical elements of fairies and witches.

It all sounds great to me in theory, but fell short of my hopes in practice.

Read the rest of my review at Loopy Ker’s Life.