The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness
Based on a Japanese fairytale, The Crane Wife follows George Duncan, a man resigned to abuse by life and love because of his kind nature. Then, one night, an injured crane appears in his backyard. Soon after saving the crane, a mysterious artist enters his life, inviting him to take part in her latest project. Things finally seem to be falling into place for George, but beneath the surface of the everyday a dark and ancient story is unfurling. One of lore, love, and loss.
Through shifting perspectives, Patrick Ness poetically captures the paradox of what it means to love. (I know, bear with me.) The story moves easily between George’s life and the embedded myth, eventually merging into one narrative that spans fantasy and reality. A fantasy lover, I found myself drawn primarily to the myth portions. That said, less fantasy-inclined readers should be prepared to exercise their suspension of disbelief. Though “a little trippy”, as described by the friend who recommended it to me, the book’s strangeness ultimately translates in a relatable way. The best way I can think to describe it is whimsically noir. Take it as you will. I recommend The Crane Wife for adult readers who enjoy romance and magical realism/fantasy genres.
Sunlight and Shadow by Cameron Dokey
When Mina was born to feuding parents, a deal was struck. She would live with her mother, queen of the night, until after her sixteenth birthday. But her father breaks the pact, setting in motion a dangerous series of events. To bring back her daughter, the queen enlists the help of a young determined prince armed with his wits and a magic flute. So begins Dokey’s masterful retelling of “The Magic Flute”.
A light read for fairytale lovers, this book is my version of comfort food. It has everything: humor, romance, an age-old prophecy. Not to mention the charming characters who adventure across each page with wit and tenacity. What’s not to love? Told in true yet original fairytale fashion, I was immediately drawn into Mina’s competing worlds, and after reading it once I was happy to return time and time again (I think the count is somewhere around five?). Sunlight and Shadow speaks to a storyteller heart.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
After years of spinning stories about her past–each different, all untrue– the reclusive author called Vida Winter is finally ready to share her real origins. She hires Margret, an amateur biographer and quiet bookshop assistant, to document her tale. So begins the story of two women seeking to reconcile with their tragic pasts.
I recommend this book to lovers of modern gothic fiction, and anyone who is looking for an engaging, suspenseful read. That said, I am not usually a fan of dark dramas. Yet the novel hooked me from page one. It’s beautifully written, if a little lengthy, and has an irresistibly noir feel. At times, it strongly reminded me of Edgar Alan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. I fell in love with Setterfield’s artful style in much the same way Margret falls for that of Vida Winter’s–first surprised, and the enchanted.
Eyes Like Stars (Théâtre Illuminata #1) by Lisa Mantchev
Bertie Shakespeare Smith grew up parentless inside the Théâtre Illuminata, cared for by the characters of every play ever written, who are bound to the theatre by The Book. But unlike her adoptive family, Bertie isn’t a character (she isn’t even an actress), and her origins are shrouded in mystery. Now, the only family she’s ever known is under threat, and she’ll do almost anything to stop it.
Brimming with lovably colorful characters, this book is a personal favorite. I highly recommend it for its wit, drama, and heart.
The most infamous sorcerer in all of Hart, thought by some to be no more than a legend, has resurfaced. He’ll help anyone in need…for a price. Desire revenge on your neighbor? Bring the wizard an ivory snake’s skin and he’ll transform your enemy into a stool. Need to spin straw into gold to stay the king’s wrath? Promise him your first born child. Everything costs something, the question is: Are you willing to pay? This is the question Holden (See Meet Holden) once faced, and now Marley (See Meet Marley Emmons) must answer it for herself.
Inspired by the Grimms Brother’s fairytale, Rumpelstiltskin, this sorcerer is more than he appears. Driven by his tragic and unresolved past, Rumpelstiltskin will sacrifice almost anything to attain what he desires. Years of planning, deal making, and death have finally brought him closer to his goal than he’s ever been before. The end is in sight. All of his pawns are in place. Now all he requires is three enchanted items — a golden flute, a spinning wheel, and a bixbite gem.
The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick
Granite Point is a small fishing town with a long history and a tightly knit community. At the heart we find the Sparrow Sisters — Sorrel, Nettie, and Patience. A gifted gardener and healer, Patience is use to treating the town with her homemade remedies but when Henry, an army medic turned family doctor, arrives in Granite Point, he begins to question her natural and inexplicable gifts. Still, the unlikely pair can’t help feeling drawn to each other. Then tragedy suddenly strikes the town and chaos ensues in a modern day witch hunt.
Herrick’s wistfully detailed style is soothing to read. I enjoyed snuggling up and spending a few hours wandering with the residence of Granite Point. The protagonists were likable, the minor characters lovable, and all were generally well-rounded. (My favorites are Ben and Charlotte ). The story itself was interesting and flowed smoothly. I would recommend this novel as a good choice for lovers of romance, drama, and a little bit of magic.
Every hero needs a villain, but sometimes one villain just isn’t enough. Meet Snow-White and Rose-Red, the sister witches of the woods, who were inspired by a combination of the Grimm’s fairytales Snow-White and Rose-Red and Snow-White and the Seven Dwarves. The sisters serve as two minor antagonists in my novel-in-progress. Most of you are familiar with the name Snow-White from the Disney movie adaptation, where she is portrayed as the kind-hearted beauty. But kids, these ain’t your grandmother’s fairytale damsels.
Aggressive, rash, and deadly with just about anything, Snow is without a doubt the dominant sister. Despite her love of pointy objects and a physical challenge, Snow’s priority is always Rose, who takes a lot of looking after. Prone to whimsy and daydreams of the prince she’s sure will one day come, Rose is irrational, child-like, and extraneously optimistic. Don’t let her carefree nature fool you, or you may end up like the others who’ve happened across her path and turned out NOT to be a prince. Let’s just say, there’s a lot of skeletons in Rose-Red’s closet.
As the fraternal twin daughters of a witch, Rose and Snow had what one might consider an unconventional childhood. They grew up in the forrest isolated and envied by their mother, tasked with protecting a silver tree bearing cursed fruit. “Protect the tree from who,” you ask? Why from seven nefarious dwarfs of course. Eventually their mother died, leaving the sisters alone to protect the tree. Completely void of contact with the outside world, the sisters became wild huntresses that will kill anything or anyone they believe could threaten the tree. Enter stage left, Marley and Holden.
Allow me the pleasure of introducing you to:
- Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden – Intriguing, romantic, and lyrical, this novel was eye-opening. Readers enter a world where women are trained to charm and the illusion of love is an art form. Consider adding this gorgeously written book to your reading list.
- Once Upon a Marigold, by Jean Ferris – Fun and whimsical, this book is an easy and enchanting read. It’s an odd mix of traditional fairytale and contemporary lit, the kind of guilty pleasure you can read over the weekend or save for the summer reading list. Either way, totally enjoyable!
Head to the nearest library and get your hands on:
- You Killed Wesley Payne, by Sean Beaudoin – Clever and fun, this YA mystery was a pleasure to read. Dalton Rev, a seventeen-year-old P.I. fashioned after classic noir detectives, charms page after page, and the colorful array of suspects keeps you on your toes. The book is a darkly funny original I would definitely read again.
- The Night Dance: A Retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, by Suzanne Weyn – Looking for a little whimsy and true love? Try this beautifully retold version of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, another fairytale close to my heart.
- Someday, Someday Maybe, by Lauren Graham – Struggling to find her place as an actress in NYC, Franny Banks is a relatable and charming protagonist. Readers follow Franny as she maneuvers through work, relationships, and the journey to fulfill her dream.
Not sure what to read? Here’s a hint:
1. A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini – From the author who brought us The Kite Runner comes the compelling, beautiful, and haunting story of two women struggling to survive conflict in Afghanistan. Chronicling three decades of Afghan history, it’s a story of family, love, and redemption in the face of tragedy.
2. Sisters Red, by Jackson Pearce – A twist on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, this is one of my favorite revamped modern fairytales. The bond between sisters Scarlett and Rosie is beginning to strain after years of hunting the Fernis (werewolves). Rosie wants a life of her own, but Scarlett, isolated by her childhood scars, can’t seem to see beyond the hunt. Meanwhile, women’s bodies are piling up in the city and the enemy’s power is growing. Very soon, the sisters will have to choose between each other and what they believe.
3. The Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult – Not what I expected, but still incredibly interesting, especially for anyone who is interested in tales from WWII. This book tells the story of Sage, a young woman with cripplingly low self-esteem, who befriends a beloved elderly man of the community, Josef Weber. But Josef has a horrible secret, and as he shares the story of his life, Sage is forced to choose between the man she sees and justice for the man he was.