Friday, August 29, 2014

Review: Gilded Ashes (Cruel Beauty novella) by Rosamund Hodge

Title: Gilded Ashes
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Publication date: April 2014

From Goodreads:
A romantic and fantastical reimagining of the classic Cinderella tale, Gilded Ashes is a novella by Rosamund Hodge set in the same world as the author's debut novel, Cruel Beauty.

Orphan Maia doesn't see the point of love when it only brings pain: Her dying mother made a bargain with the evil, all-powerful ruler of their world that anyone who hurt her beloved daughter would be punished; her new stepmother went mad with grief when Maia's father died; and her stepsisters are desperate for their mother's approval, yet she always spurns them. And though her family has turned her into a despised servant, Maia must always pretend to be happy, or else they'll all be struck dead by the curse.

Anax, heir to the Duke of Sardis, doesn't believe in love either—not since he discovered that his childhood sweetheart was only using him for his noble title. What's the point of pretending to fall in love with a girl just so she'll pretend to fall in love with him back? But when his father invites all the suitable girls in the kingdom to a masked ball, Anax must finally give in and select a wife.

As fate would have it, the preparations for the masquerade bring him Maia, who was asked by her eldest stepsister to deliver letters to Anax. Despite a prickly first encounter, he is charmed and intrigued by this mysterious girl who doesn't believe in love. Anax can't help wishing to see her again—and when he does, he can't help falling in love with her. Against her will, Maia starts to fall in love with him too. But how can she be with him when every moment his life is in danger from her mother's deadly bargain?

Cinderella is one of my favorite fairytales, so I was over the moon when I found out this book! I love Rosamund Hodge’s debut, Cruel Beauty, and I’m so excited to tell you guys that Gilded Ashes is just as amazing! It has all the things I love from Rosamund Hodge’s Cruel Beauty: strong heroine, slow-building romance, twisted humor, and intricate plots. ♥

My mother loved me more than life itself. That’s how everything went wrong.

In Gilded Ashes, we meet Maia, daughter of a noble family who spends her days acting as the maid of her family. Maia’s family consist of a stepmother who demands nothing less but perfection, an uptight and desperate to be loved stepsister named Koré, and a kind yet foolish stepsister named Thea. They have no money and live in a rundown mansion. When Stepmother learns about the upcoming ball in a Duke’s house, she knows that it’s their chance to restore the family’s wealth and honor by marrying her daughter to the Duke’s son.

Koré asks Maia to deliver her letters to the Duke’s son, Lord Anax. This leads to Maia’s encounters with the ignorant noble, their unlikely friendship, and later, their slow-budding romance. But this is not a usual Cinderella tale and Maia can’t risk loving or hating anyone – not if she wants those people to stay alive. The only person she can love in this world is her mother, or specifically, the ghost of her mother.

Gilded Ashes is set in the same world with Cruel Beauty, and I love the similar references. Shadow that can make you go mad and a demon lord who will grant wishes if you’re willing to pay. While the novella is only 105 pages, it’s rich with characterization. Every character is not one-hundred percent good or bad, and even Stepmother has her own reason of being cruel to everyone including herself. The stepsisters are not usual ornaments in the story, but they serve great roles.

I love Rosamund Hodge’s heroines: they are delicate balance of intelligence, snark, and kindness. They are not easily won over and I like that about them. I very appreciate the fact that those heroines are the ones who decide their own fates in the end. They create their own stories and do not serve as only vessels for other people.

In short, I really enjoyed Gilded Ashes and look forward to read future books from the author. It’s a satisfying book for a novella and one I would recommend to those searching for short work or great fairytale retelling. It’s not usual Cinderella retelling. If you enjoyed Cruel Beauty, feel free to dive in! You wouldn’t disappointed. :)

If Koré can convince Lord Anax to marry her, then she will leave this house. Probably she will take Thea with her. Maybe they’ll even convince Stepmother to live at the palace with them, and then I won’t have to protect anyone.

Nobody to protect. I can hardly imagine such freedom.

“I’ll do it,” I say, my heart beating a swift, dizzy song of maybe, maybe, maybe. “I’ll do it.”


4 cups of tea!
Absolutely fairytale-ish. Beautiful.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review and Giveaway: Lore: Tales of Myth and Legend Retold by Brinda Berry, Karen Y. Bynum, Laura Diamond, Jayne A. Knolls, Theresa DaLayne, Cate Dean

Title: Lore: Tales of Myth and Legend Retold
Authors:  Brinda Berry, Karen Y. Bynum, Laura Diamond, Jayne A. Knolls, Theresa DaLayne, Cate Dean
Publication date:
Publisher: Sweet Biscuit Publishing LLC

From Goodreads:
A collection of six folklore retellings that will twist your mind and claim your heart.

SHIMMER: A heartbroken boy rescues a mermaid... but is it too late to save her?

BETWEEN is about a girl, a genie, and a ton of bad decisions.

SUNSET MOON: Eloise doesn't believe in Native American magic--until the dreamcatcher spiders spin her down an unknown path.

THE MAKER: An incapacitated young man bent on revenge builds a creature to do it for him.

A BEAUTIFUL MOURNING: The story of a Maya goddess torn between duty and love, and the ultimate sacrifice she must make to achieve true happiness.

THE BARRICADES: When a human girl risks everything to save the life of an Eternal prince, will their feelings for each other change the world they know, or tear it apart?

I was in the mood for anthology, so Lore, An Anthology: Tales of Myth and Legend Retold was a great read for me. I like some stories more than the others, but overall it was a nice read and I came out knowing much more about myths and legends.

The first story, Shimmer, is a mermaid story with a twist in the end. It has romantic atmosphere, but the pacing is a bit too slow for my taste. I found the second story, Between, very interesting. It’s a classic high school elite clique story, but the appearance of djinn (genie) make this story memorable. I think the LGBT stuff can be taken more carefully, but I like the story in general. In my opinion, Sunset Moon has the strongest characterization in this anthology. It’s a bad girl meet good guy story, and their relationship is definitely swoon-worthy! I love Native American folklore, so it’s not hard for me to fall for this one. :)

The Maker… what can I say? It’s a take on golem mythology and the story reminds me a bit of Frankenstein. The guy makes a golem in order to take revenge on his girlfriend. The story lays heavily on description of action and it can bug you at times, but the plots are simply intriguing. I can definitely see the author’s potential in the story. A Beautiful Mourning has very beautiful, flowing written style. The story has poetic atmosphere in it which I’m sure many will appreciate. I love the ending in The Barricades. It ends with a hopeful note, and I think it suits well as the last story in this anthology.

All in all, Lore, An Anthology: Tales of Myth and Legend Retold is a fascinating read for me. If I have to play favorite, I think it would be A Beautiful Mourning. I’m a sucker for beautiful writing style and melancholic plots. ;) Sunset Moon is good as well. This anthology is a recommendation for anyone who wishes to visit many myths and legends in one go. From mermaid story to golem myth: just pick your favorite lore! :)

The heat from his skin dulled as his sharp eyes softened. “I will love as the mortals.” He leaned in and brushed his lips against mine. My eyes fluttered shut. “Fearlessly and without limitations.”

A Beautiful Mourning

3 cups of tea
Great for in-between reading!

This is part of the tour hosted by Xpresso Book Tours. Thanks for letting me joining the fun, Giselle!



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