Review Roundup: Thorn and Mind Games

Borrowed from booksbyintisar.com

Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Genre: YA Fairy Tale retelling

Synopsis: A retelling of the Goose Girl. Princess Alyrra grows up in a cruel household, until she is sent away to marry a foreign prince. However, an attack from without and betrayal from within robs her of her position, leaving an impostor in her place. Alyrra instead ends up as a goose girl, living a different kind of life. She even finds a degree of contentment. But her old life still has ties to hold her down, and the prince she was supposed to marry desperately needs her help–hers, not the impostor’s–against his enemies.

Series: Standalone.

POV: First person single.

Romance: Kind of, yes.

Preview: Couldn’t find a working link to one, though Amazon should have a preview.

This is pure fairy tale (in the traditional style, not Disney style), told in a compelling and believable way.

I have a soft spot for compassionate protagonists who still have a healthy sense of self-respect. Alyrra takes responsibility seriously and is willing to help people even at her own expense, but she doesn’t want to compromise her own happiness, either. She isn’t a martyr–she wants to be able to do the right thing, but she also wants to live her own life. When these things come into opposition…well, that’s the point of the book.

Throughout the story, Alyrra learns who she is and how to stand up for what she believes.

Some gruesome things do happen in this book (fairy tale, remember?). They illustrate concepts like elitism, justice, and vengeance. Some characters are driven by things that have been done to them, and plenty of characters experience injustice of various sorts. Still, the overarching themes of the book are forgiveness, compassion, and mercy. And it’s nice to still have that.

Recommended for anyone who enjoys fairy tale retellings. This is a really good one.

Quotes:

“The next time you walk around looking like a rainy day, I’m taking you to find another youth to save.”

Mind Games by Carolyn Crane

Borrowed from authorcarolyncrane.com

Genre: Urban fantasy, with some elements of paranormal romance

Synopsis: Justine is a hypochondriac, and it’s on the verge of ruining her relationship. Through chance, she meets a man named Packard who can help her by teaching her to weaponize her condition and having her join his psychological hit squad. Justine isn’t exactly thrilled at the though of hurting people–even psychopaths, even with the ultimate goal of rehabilitating them–but the potential for a life where she can form connections with people who understand her is a powerful enticement…

Of course, Packard has secrets of his own, and a long standing nemesis with whom he has unresolved business. And Justine is thrown right in the middle of it, trying to figure out what the right thing to do is.

Series: First in a trilogy.

POV: First person single.

Romance: Notice, up in genre, where I say that this book has elements of paranormal romance?

Preview: I have no luck today–I can’t find a sample chapter for this book either.

Wow. That was not what I was expecting at all. When I think UF, I think gritty and violent. This book wasn’t at all–it was crafty and hopeful. Most of the action was more of the psychological/manipulative sort, rather than the physical sort. Justine is kickass in an emotional capacity, rather than a physical capacity, and manages to play to her strengths very well. This book is different, and it owns it.

The opening scene is great, by the way, establishing Justine’s character and narrative style. I loved her immediately.

The story can work so well because of her. She’s genuinely concerned with doing the right thing, and expresses doubts about what Packard’s tactics from the onset. However, she desperately wants the acceptance and the peace of mind that she would get from accepting his offer. She wants the friends who would understand her. She wants to be able to say what she’s feeling without being ridiculed.

Those are very human desires, and eventually they win out enough for her to start rationalizing what she’s doing–it’s not that bad, because she sees proof that she’s targeting a bad guy. Or, this is only temporary anyway, and she’ll get out as soon as she’s able. The whole time, she remains understandable and sympathetic. She’s put in some difficult positions, and she makes the best of them while ultimately striving for something better in the long run.

And Justine being a hypochondriac also makes for an interesting narrative, especially since the plot continually delves into how these kind of fears grow and always treats those fears with sympathy.

Also, not a standard plot line in several ways, though going into specifics would be telling.

Great read, great narrative voice, and a very interesting and unusual story.

Quotes:

“If you become frightened, you can throw yourself out of car.”

“Fashion magazine disease articles. My personal kryptonite.”

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