Sunday, February 8, 2015

Double Feature: Fairest by Marissa Meyer &
Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen

by Marissa Meyer
Read: February 1-2, 2015
January 27, 2015 by Feiwel & Friends
Source: Hardcopy Purchase
Category: fairytales, villain backstory, YA, science fiction

Series: The Lunar Chronicles #0.5 (prequel)
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Description: Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now. 

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

In Fairest we finally get Queen Levana's side of the story, and it was certainly enlightening in a horrifying way. That cover is only the tip of the iceberg in how creepy and disturbing Levana's tale is. Thanks to this book, I am now even more terrified of her and what is to come in Winter. Levana is a zealot to her cause, willing to do anything to accomplish it. Not because she's trying to be cruel, but because she believes in her mission and convinces herself that she is right. Even more frightening, Levana has no real understanding of human emotions, even while she has the power to manipulate others' thoughts and feelings. Although there were brief moments when I felt pity for Levana, they were overshadowed by my skin crawling revulsion at her behavior. Author Marissa Meyer has done an excellent job at building Levana's character throughout this book by degrees of horror: from lonely, disfigured child to a Queen so focused on overtaking the galaxy that she will let nothing or no one get in her way. 

We do get glimpses of a lot of characters that come to play in the future of the series, and after reading this, all my hope and fears are centered on them. I am even more anxious for the final book to release. 

Love Triangle Factor: I'm not going to rate the triangle factor as the 'romance' in this book is disturbing at best, and Levana is incapable of knowing what a true relationship is - even friendship. But I do think this is a valuable addition to the series, and a fascinating look at the mind of a villain (who would never see herself as such).

Cliffhanger Scale: Fairest is the prequel to the Lunar Chronicles. The following books are Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and the upcoming Winter


by Cat Hellisen
Read: January 26 - 31, 2015
February 3, 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Source: ARC from Macmillan (Thank You!)
Category: Fairytales, Beauty and the Beast, Middle Grade

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Description: Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from. 

When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive. 

Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast . . . unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever.


I generally dislike the phrase "it's not you, it's me," but I'm going to use it to describe my feelings about Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen. The idea of a Middle Grade Beauty and the Beast retelling with the girl as the beast is an interesting one, but it just didn't work for me as it played out. I think one of my issues was the lack of a proper romance. My favorite thing about this fairytale is the slowly building love story, and I didn't connect as well to a retelling without it. There really isn't any romance in this story, and what is here is more the type to teach a lesson. It's definitely not the kind anyone would swoon over. 

I actually connected well to the protagonist Sarah right away. Sarah's mother unexpectedly walks out on her family one day and Sarah is caught in her own  grief, while also facing the neglect of her father in his inability to cope with the situation. Sarah doesn't understand what happened and is basically left to fend for herself, as the house falls apart without her mother to care for it, and her father can't be bothered to buy groceries or even wash their clothes. I felt Sarah's isolation and confusion over the situation. Then she meets an older boy in the empty lot near her house that she calls Not-A-Woods, and I could imagine why she would feel drawn to the first person who had shown her any notice or kindness in a while. He's mysterious and maybe a little bit magic, and I can definitely see why that appealed to her. 

However, then this book switches locations, when Sarah's father brings her to live with her grandmother in the forest and leaves her there with little to no explanation. I got really annoyed at the idea of this poor girl being left on the doorstep of someone she'd never heard of before. This is also where the story became much more overtly magical and strange, and somehow that led to my lack of interest. I can't even really articulate why I wasn't invested anymore, but I was mostly just bored through the second half. Thankfully, this book is only 200 pages long and a quick read. 

I enjoy looking at fairytales from different angels and  and exploring the idea of what happens after the happily ever after is declared. After all, life - and love - aren't easily wrapped up in a neat package. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for that kind of tale, or it was the lack of romance in a beloved fairytale, but this story wasn't a good fit for me. I do wonder if I'd have felt the same if I'd read this when I was younger, though. 

That said, Hellison is a gorgeous writer. I love the way she uses words in her books, including this one. I'm also a big fan of her young adult series (which becomes decidedly adult in book two), When the Sea is Rising Red and House of Sand and Secrets are filled with twisty relationships and strong, imaginative world building. They are seriously under the radar YA. And I'll definitely be on the lookout for what she writes next. 

Love Triangle Factor: N/A - little to no romance
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone


  1. I just finished Fairest myself. That L. is just awful. She goes from bad to worse. I'm longing for the final book Winter in the worst way!!!

  2. When I first found out about Beastkeeper, I was pretty excited but I am sad to hear there isn't as much romance :( I don't usually mind the lack of romance (and often welcome it) but I adore Beauty and the Beast retellings and the idea of reading one without a strong romance just seems so odd! I also don't like the idea of the parents :(

    I've been hearing sooo many great things about Fairest and y'all have me curious. I wasn't planning on reading Levena's story but I like the idea of seeing this side of her. I guess my major worry was that we'd be forced to sympathize with her and be asked to ... excuse her actions? I don't know :P I am glad though that that wasn't the case! :)

    Lovely minis, Lauren!! :)

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

  3. Hello,
    I found your blog when I stumbled upon your review on The Bone Season (which I loved and I am very excited to read The Mime Order as soon as I can get my hands on a copy). I love reading your reviews! I am a fan of fairy tale retellings, although I've only read a few. My favorite though, would have to be The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickenson. If you haven't read it already, it might be a fun one to try out!

  4. Amazing reviews Lauren. <3 Aw. I felt a bit differently about Levana, hah, as I kind of grew to like her. Ack! But I did think it was all kinds of horrible too. But yeah. I loved Fairest. Glad you liked it too :) I'm so curious about Beastkeeper. But aw, I'm so sorry you had issues with it :( It seems so cute. Hmph. I'm a bit unsure about it now, lol :) Thank you for sharing all your thoughts sweetie. <3

  5. I gave up on BEASTKEEPER after a few chapters because I realized a MG re-telling just wasn't up my alley either. I love the more complicated relationships that Hellison writes so this wasn't exactly my cup of tea. Glad to see FAIREST was a strong volume, though--I need to pick that one up soon. Wonderful reviews, Lauren! :)

  6. I didn't' realize Beastkeeper was a MG book, I'll probably skip it. I don't read too many MG unless they're amazing and it sounds like this one wasn't.

    Fairest…I still haven't read it, but I do like the idea of getting into a villain's head (at least for a couple of hours). ~Pam

  7. I just finished Fairest the other day. I have to say I was a little disappointed; Levana failed to terrify me. :( But it was still an interesting addition to the series. Great review!

  8. Skin crawling is the perfect way to put it. *shudders* I think I maybe felt bad for Levana twice? But ultimately I am so so disgusted by her. I hate her even more now! I can't believe what she did to Evert, and what she almost did to Cinder. It was a difficult book for me to rate because it's so well written, yet it's not a ME book and not something I will ever revisit.

    Great review, girl!


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