Beauty - Robin McKinley

Beauty: a Retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast
by Robin McKinley
Genre: Adult Fiction
Form: Hardback Book

A strange imprisonment
Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.
When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, "Cannot a Beast be tamed?"
Robin McKinley's beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple: "Beauty and the Beast."

Source: booksamillion.com

I love the story of Beauty and the Beast. It was my long-standing favorite Disney film for forever. I think I like it mostly because I can relate to Beauty. Her love of books, hope of true romantic love, and down to earth-ness on many aspects of life. Anyhow, someone recommended Robin McKinley’s rendition of Beauty and the Beast to me after I read her book, Sunshine. It took me a while to get a hold of the book (I was waiting on a trade from swaptree.com), and then I just had many things on my to be read list that I just wanted to get to first…so it took me a while to get it. Reading Beauty on the skirt-tails of reading The Thirteenth Tale was perfect, because the authors have a very similar style. There are a lot of details in the writing style. It was a good combination for me.

I was captivated with this story from the start. Again, I think it was mostly because I knew the story, I knew what happened and was really excited to see it unfold. But then again, thinking about to reading Sunshine, I was captivated by that story too. It took me a long time to get into it, but once I was I cared about the characters and was excited for what happened. I think Robin McKinley must have a very unique writing style that does that. I cannot pinpoint exactly what it is that is so great. Maybe in some small way it IS all the details in her books that eventually slam into each other to make this wonderful story. Her books don’t have a lot of action. Well, Sunshine did closer to the end, but still yet, I found the book moved very slow. Her books are also not overly romantic. In fact, in both books I’ve read of hers, Robin McKinley has left me wanting – wanting MUCH MUCH more. More so with Sunshine than Beauty.

As a reader, I do like details, I like full stories with a wonderful happily ever after, I really like romance. I love perfect couples. Beauty did offer most of that to me. It wasn’t until after the book was done and read that I thought, “but what about…?” There were so many things that just didn’t get explained in my opinion. Things like, what DID Beast eat anyway, that probably really aren’t important details in the story, but ended up being important to me. I also wanted more love, more of a connection between the two. I’m afraid that Beast proposing every night to Beauty felt more like desperation than love. It felt like he just wanted to break the curse and move on rather than he was truly in love with her. But, on the other than, there was the scene where Beauty faints and Beast carries her. His tenderness at this, and her shock when she wakes up in his arms, was beautiful – and the most expressed love that I saw from Beast, outside of granting her a week with her family.

So I loved the book, and at the same time it was “eh, just okay” too. It’s weird to have two different opinions, and makes it even more difficult to write about it. It did get me thinking that I’d like to read a book from the Beast’s perspective, since most every rendition is from Beauty’s. A quick search on booksamillion.com brought me to Beastly by Alex Flinn. I’ve never read anything by Alex, and am not sure how this will measure up to the usual story, but I’m sticking this on my TBR list and hoping for the best!


The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Genre: Adult Fiction

Form: Book

Sometimes, when you open the door to the past, what you confront is your destiny.

Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long. Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author's tale of gothic strangeness -- featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire. Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.
Source: booksamillion.com

The Thirteenth Tale surprised me. I had attempted to read this book once, almost a year ago. I probably got to the 2nd chapter and put the book down. There are so many words, so many descriptions and not enough action. I like dialogue and I like stuff to happen. It felt like story was just words for me. Despite that first start, I decided when an online book group wanted to do this book, that I would give it another shot. Once again I found myself slightly lost in it’s descriptions and felt like the book was moving slowly, since this was sort of like an assignment than reading for pleasure, I pressed on. I’m very glad that I did.

When I attempted to describe to my husband what this book was about I said something like, “Well, let’s put it this way; the author of this book is writing about a semi-biographer/bookstore clerk who is writing a biography of an author who is dictating the story I am reading.” So from the perspective of Diane Setterfield, that is some pretty complex writing to begin with. The Thirteenth Tale is filled with so many surprises, twists and turns that it definitely makes up for the slow pace of the book. In fact, I’m positive that the slow pace of the book was rather intentional. Diane does not reveal the next surprise until it is absolutely necessary, and every single time I caught myself thinking, “Man, didn’t see that one coming!”

My one and only complaint with the book happened at the very end. (I apologize in advance for this spoiler, but I cannot voice my complaint without the spoiler. If you haven’t read the book, you may want to stop now and come back after you read it and continue my review!) The appearance of Margaret’s sister cheapened her entire story for me. For the entire book Margaret is haunted by the twin sister who died at birth. She spends a lot of time mourning over the loss of this person she never actually met in real life. But it’s not exactly the person, but the connection of twins that has her feeling as though she is missing half of herself. There are many instances in which Margaret finds herself looking at her sister, almost communicating with her in away – and every time she is “seeing” her sister, it is actually a reflection of one kind or another of herself. So there is no actual ghost. So to write the entire story in that way, and then at the very end let there actually be a ghost really did nothing for met at all.

In reality, this part of the book was only a very small segement, a side story of the whole. The story of Adeline and Emmeline is the story that had me glued to this book. Okay, “glued” might actually be too strong of the word. Like I have mentioned, there are a lot of descriptions and long paragraphs. This made it very easy for me to put the book down and come back to it. That is not how I usually am, I usually cannot put the book down because I can’t wait to find out what happens next. But, even when I did put the book down, the story and the characters were playing their part in my head, keeping me wrapped up into it’s story.

I highly recommend this book!