The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The Snow Child, a retelling of the traditional Russian folktale, grabbed me from the first page with its plot. In the 1920’s Alaska, homesteaders Jack and Mabel are facing disaster. They’re running out of money and food, haven’t had success starting up their farm, and now winter is setting in. Never being able to have children has been a huge disappointment to them and puts strain on their marriage. They are considering the possibility of giving up and going back East when one night they start to make a little snowman out side. While building, the snowman begins to look a little more like a child. The next morning, the snow child is gone! Leading away from where it lay was a path of tiny child-like footprints. Later, they see a little girl, with white-blond hair and icy eyes, near their cabin. And then things begin to happen.

Over the course of the first winter, Jack and Mabel begin to have a relationship with the child, and in the six years that follow, they build a strange kind of family around her. Every year, Faina appears with the first snow and every spring, she disappears as suddenly as she came. There is something strange and eerie about her ability to talk to animals, to manipulate the weather, to lead Jack and Mabel to the things they need when they most need them. Is she real? Or is she a figment of their imagination, thought up by two lonely people suffering from the long isolation and darkness of the Alaskan winter?

The harshness of the landscape, the ugly reality of life in the Alaskan wilderness is what pushes this fairy tale out of the realm of childhood and makes it a story for adults. The setting isn’t a sparkling winter landscape. The white snow is a backdrop for bloody doings, and when it melts, can uncover terrible things. Likewise, Faina isn’t a traditional snow princess–she is a wild, unpredictable child, who carries a knife under her skirt, who traps and kills for food, who encounters a swan and strangles it to death. In this way, the story leads back to the old, folktales of the Brothers Grimm, in which the magic is even more enthralling and persuasive because of the danger surrounding it.

Though I was drawn in right away, it took me a while to realize how good this book truly is.  Is Faina (as Jack believes), a feral child, separated from her family, or is she a magical creature, as Mabel believes her to be? The question is never fully settled.

Happily ever after doesn’t necessarily apply in this novel, but there is a feeling that whatever happiness does come has been well earned. Just as there are two possible explanations for Faina’s existence, there are two possible explanations for the ending to this story.  As Mabel’s sister writes in a letter from another life: “We are allowed to do that, are we not, Mabel? To invent our own endings, to choose joy over sorrow?” In Ivey’s book, the reader is not only allowed but forced to decide. It usually makes me mad when authors ask their readers to do this, but in The Snow Child, it creates endless possibilities that keep swirling around in my mind!

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Sweetly by Jackson Pearce (Fairytale Retellings #2)

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This is the second installment of the Fairy-tale Retellings.  If you read my review for “Sister’s Red” and took my advise and read it…then you should defiantly read this next book!

When they were children, Gretchen, her twin sister and their brother Ansel headed out into the forest behind their home in hopes of finding an oh-so dreaded Witch they have read about in their story books.  They do not expect to actually find one.  While in the woods, they hear alot of branches cracking and heavy footsteps not far from where the are walking.  All of the sudden out of the trees comes a WITCH! All Gretchen can recall are the eerie yellow eyes that shown as the Witch came up on them.  Of course, scared out of their minds, they run like there’s no tomorrow.  I’m sure I would do the same!!!  When they emerge from the forest and burst into their house, they realize that there are only two of them.  Where has their sister gone? Surly she had gotten out of the woods too…right? Years past and there has been no sign of Gretchen’s twin sister. Missing, varnished or eaten by the Witch? No one knows and of course all the blame for leaving their sister behind is on them.  Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch’s forest threatening to make them disappear too.

Years later, when Gretchen and Ansel are old enough, their step-mother kicks them out of the house.  She never did care for them anyways.  Now on their own, they take to the roads with little money in their pockets and hopes of starting over.  A new life where there are no missing sisters and no fears of the forest waiting for them.  They come upon a town called Live Oak, South Carolina.  Their goal was to head towards the ocean. No forest there, just miles and miles of sand. No where for a Witch to hide! With their car just having broken down, they have no other choice then to walk into the nearest town, Live Oak.  Once there, they realize they have no money to call for a tow-truck or even repair their broken down Jeep. They are then introduced to Sophia Kelly, a beautiful candy maker who molds sugary magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion. Life seems so perfect and Gretchen and Ansel gradually forget their haunted past. Until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel. He tells her the witch isn’t gone and that it’s lurking in the forest, preying on girls every year after Live Oak’s infamous chocolate festival, and looking to make Gretchen its next victim. All of her fears are shot right back into her mind…a fear that no sweet chocolate could ever cover up.

Gretchen is determined to stop running and start fighting back. Yet the further she investigates the mystery of what the witch is and how it chooses its victims, the more she wonders who the real monster is. Gretchen is certain of only one thing…a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.

This book gave me the same amount of enjoyment as the first installment.  Needless to say, I finished this book in one sitting! I hope you enjoy this book as much as the first! HAPPY READING!

(Next installment of the Fairytale Retellings is book #3 Fathomless)

The Night Circus By Erin Morgenstern

The Circus arrives without warning.

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

So recently I read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. To put it simply I LOVED IT!!! I enjoyed every page. It’s set in the late Victorian era. It’s about a game. A game throughout the book we don’t really understand what one has to do to win the game or lose. The main main character (there are a lot of main characters but the one Erin mostly focuses on) is Celia. Her first few years of life were hard. Her mother thought she was the spawn of Satan because she was different. Then her mother died and she was sent to live with her father. Her father is a world renowned illusionist. He travels the world preforming magic tricks. Everyone thinks his tricks are just that tricks. But they are not. He starts to teach Celia. Then one day a man named Alexander comes to visit them. And they agree to play the game. They both choose someone. Her father chooses her and Alexander chooses a boy named Marco. They train their pupils in their own way. A bunch of eccentrics decide to form a night circus. It will be out of this world. Something spectacular, different, dream like. The theme will be black and white. Marco becomes Chandresh’s (the main organiser of the night circus) assistant. He helps him with everything. They hold an open audition for a illusionist. Celia auditions. At first they thought she wanted to be a magician’s assistant. But she didn’t. They were a little wary with her being a woman and everthing. They made her take off her jacket as she had the advatage of bigger sleeves than men. Her dress underneath was sleeveless and strapless. She then picks up her jacket throws it into the audience and it turns into a raven. They wonder if the raven was in her sleeves. So she asks Marco for his notebook tosses it into the air and it becomes a dove. She gets to be the illusionist. They tell that she’ll need to change a bit to fit the black and white theme. Her green dress starts to change black as if black ink was dripping down it and the bottom it stops and becomes snow white. She shakes her head and her curls become black.

And this is only the tip of the ice berg. I haven’t mentioned the Murray twins, the contortinist, Bailey who is slightly a head of everyone, the fortune teller Issabella and the clock maker. And of course what goes on inside the circus. What is all this for? What is the game?
Every now again there are poems about the circus. The book is full of romance, magic, excitment and mystery. I found it a page turner. I have just found that Summit Entertament have bought the rights for the film. The screenwriter is Moira Buffini who wrote the recent adaption of Jane Eyre. It has also been shortlisted for the Orange prize.

You’ll want to go visit The night circus. Explore the black and white tents. 🙂

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining fertility, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This book may have been written over 25 years ago, but as of today it’s story is still extremely believable en eerily realistic. It’s a gripping story and the realistic feeling of the book is what makes it such a good book!

The main character, Offred, is a Handmaid, a woman who is in the household to get pregnant so she can ensure offspring for the couple she lives with. This involves doctor visits and a monthly ‘session’ with the Commander, on a specific date to ensure the best chance of the Handmaid getting pregnant, while his wife looks on and tries to ignore or push her thoughts out of her own mind knowing that she cannot bare children herself. Handmaids have no choice in the matter and are to do as the rules say, so they can stay where they are instead of being sent out to work in the Colonies to clean up the pollution, most likely killing them. It’s picking the lesser of two evils. If you have read the book “The Red Tent”, you will see in this book how much this story resembles the acts of the people in this book. Their beliefs are quite the same as Rachel’s mail Bilhah being offered to Jacob to bear children for them.

It made me realize how much freedom we have right now, and how much we actually take for granted. Women’s rights are quickly stripped away from the characters in the book and they are being used as “property”, unless it involved one of the elite women, who of course, had more rights. Women have few rights, if they have any in the book, and it may sound hard to believe, but Atwood has a certain talent of writing it in a way that’s incredibly believable.

I have to admit that I have a really hard time putting my thoughts on this book into words. It’s a gripping story, compelling, realistic, and very well written. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a story that may introduce you to an adult dystopian novel, without travelling too far away from the YA genre or reading about less realistic societies.The Handmaid’s Tale is a story that will stick with me, gruesome as it is, and it has made me curious about her other dystopian novels!