Book Review: As Long as We Live

Title: As Long as We Live: A Retelling of Snow White and Rose Red

Series: None [Released as part of the Arista’s Frosted Roses collection]

Year: 2021

Author: Cortney Manning

Synopsis: Three human sisters live in a Fae realm where every prince is blessed or cursed by a gift of magic, and royal rivalry threatens the future of the land.

Ivy Durran, the oldest sister, is a resilient young woman who clings to her sunny resolve even in the darkest situation. When a terrible blizzard strikes the land, she feels responsible for protecting her sisters: adventurous Rose and vivacious Poppy. However, the storm drives an unexpected visitor to their doorstep, one who could bring hope or danger with his arrival.

Meanwhile, Pierre, the newly crowned ruler of Concoria, strives to bring order to his frozen land and tranquility to his troubled brothers. Nevertheless, the deep magic of Concoria is not easy to tame. While Pierre would love nothing more than to escape into a simple life close to Ivy, the human lass he met years before, he instead shoulders his burdens and seeks healing for his kingdom and family.

Dark magic, frigid storms, and deadly predators must be overcome if Ivy and Pierre have any hope of saving their families and their homeland.

This retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red” is an epic romance with treachery, Fae, and family ties.

Review: Have I mentioned how much I love the fairytale of Snow White and Rose Red? And how underappreciated it is in the world of glittering retellings? I’m so happy that we’re finally seeing more people turn to some of the lesser-known fairytales. Granted, I’ll always love a good Cinderella story, but it’s about time Snow White and Rose Red got more love.

Ivy and her two sisters, Rose and Poppy, are humans living in a Fae world. But that’s exactly how they like it. Their mother works hard with her trading business, and they do what they can to gather whatever it is she might need while maintaining their family’s cottage and taking care of each other. Even though all three girls are fairly different, there isn’t anything they wouldn’t do for each other.

Upon one eventful trip into the woods to gather moonflowers, Ivy, Rose, and Poppy met a Fae boy with his white dove — the latter actually saving the lives of Ivy and her sisters. A quick friendship sparks, and Ivy agrees to be a pen pal to this boy after they separate ways. Thirteen years later, she’s still writing letters to him, but by now she’s almost completely lost her heart to him. Although he’s never given her his name, she calls him her Guardian Protector.

Pierre is the crown prince of Concoria, and he loves being Ivy’s Guardian Protector. Only, as the crown prince, he’s not exactly in a place where he can tell her who he really is. Nor how he really feels about her. No, he keeps pretty busy with his tasks — especially when his father dies and he ascends the throne.

Pierre’s two brothers, Alain and Isidore, have never seen eye to eye on anything. After their father passes away, the differences only become more obvious. Alain, the golden child, receives a blessed inheritance in his father’s will, while Isidore, the reclusive son with strong Fae magic, receives the Forgotten Land, a place of shadows and nightmares. From there, the problems are only beginning.

If I’m entirely honest, it took me a little bit to get into this book. I’ve seen other reviewers mention this after reading this book, and I have to agree with them. A lot of the beginning of the book reads very much as an information dump, some of it growing rather repetitive. Some of the information, I think , was unnecessary in the beginning and could have fit in better later on in the story. Some of those passages were hard to wade through, but it could have been easily fixed with a little more editing and polish. I think this may be the first large novel this author has published, so it’ll be exciting to see how her writing grows with time.

But that’s really the only negative thing I have to say about this book. I was expecting to like this book. It’s a Snow White and Rose Red retelling, after all. I just wasn’t anticipating to LOVE this book.

Ivy, Rose, and Poppy are fun and lovable heroines, and I love the great sister dynamic they have throughout the story. I also love that we’re getting a bit more than just the original two sisters from the original fairytale. This story just worked so well with three girls. I mean, I’m from a family of five sisters, so I love me a good sister story.

But I almost think Pierre, Alain, and Isidore were the stars of the show. The girls were very much the idyllic picture of sisterhood, working together, getting along, supporting one another. I did love that. But the brothers. SO MUCH TO UNPACK. I was originally afraid that they would be gender-swapped carbon copies of the girls that I was already falling in love with, but they were so much more than that. I loved that they all had different stories, different struggles, and different personalities. It’s actually rather difficult to write this review without too many spoilers, because I want to gush and give all the spoilers. *coughing and restraining myself* The brothers were obviously my favorite part of this book.

Once you get a good chunk into the book, the pace really picks up and it’s just hard to put the book down. The climax wasn’t the big, drawn-out climax I had been anticipating, but was an emotional capstone on all the character growth that had been happening throughout the book. No, I wasn’t crying reading the climax. YOU were crying reading the climax. *hides tissues* Again, I am mightily restraining myself from giving spoilers. All the thumbs up.

Oh, and can we talk about the likeness to the original fairytale?? The biggest change from the original is obviously the number of characters. We have three sisters and three brothers instead of the traditional two apiece, but I’m just sitting here applauding the bigger families. I loved how many references to the original the author managed to sneak into the book. Even in the beginning with the “white angel” saving the girls from falling over a cliff. There isn’t a central dwarf character, but we do see the nods to the sisters saving him the three times.

Advisory: We do need to talk about all the magic/special powers in this book — obviously, since I always bring up the magic. The world is clearly defined as a Fae world, complete with Fae characters and Fae magic. I’m not super well-versed in all things Fae, but they reminded me a lot of Tolkien’s elves, with their special abilities that human lacked. For example, Pierre can speak to animals and can usually get them to listen and obey him. Isidore can control light/shadows and illusions, meaning he is able to transform his likeness into something else. None of it bothered me, as it was all clearly set in a fantasy world with its own limits.

Additionally, the Forgotten Land plays a big part of the story. This is a place of shadows and forgotten people; those who happen to fall in are plagued by regrets and fears and typically never find their way out again. I didn’t fully understand how all the magic of this place worked, but I think it fit well for the setting of the book. The description of shadows grabbing at travelers might be a bit spooky to some readers — so I’ll point that out here.

Some light fantasy violence, but nothing too scary, honestly. Most of the “scary” stuff involves the Forgotten Land, but we do have a bit of characters fighting, getting turned into animals, and the like.

And lastly, we do need to bring up the romance, since this is claiming to be an epic romance. YES. It is an epic romance. I was not expecting to fall in love with these relationships as much as I did. Building up a friendship and relationship through letters for thirteen years makes for an incredible slow-burn romance between Pierre and Ivy, but IT IS WORTH IT. I loved getting to see them grow together and learning to support each other in a genuine, loving relationship. Even the secondary relationships were fantastic. I particularly wanted to see more from Poppy’s relationship, since it’s hinted at, but not really shown. *sighs* Perhaps another book? *hopeful grins at the author* For the advisory, however, I’ll say that there is some light physical contact leading to a kiss.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

*Please note that I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.*

*Please also note that this review was supposed to be written almost a year and a half ago, and I am sending my deepest apologies to the author for my tardiness. Sorry!*


The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men…

Or my 2022 wrap-up post.

GUYS. Can you believe that 2022 is gone? And here we are, sitting solidly in the beginning of 2023. My brain hasn’t caught up to that yet. I don’t know that I was fully prepared to start a new year, and that was mainly due to the fact that 2022 didn’t go at all to plan.

A Bit of Gold: A Rumpelstiltskin Story

One of my biggest goals for 2022 was to publish A Bit of Gold. Obviously, that didn’t happen. I explained a lot of my reasoning for pushing the publication date in this post, so I won’t rehash it now. However, I did think that there was a good chance I would be able to get it out for Christmas. After all, when I chose to do the rewrite, I still had a good chunk of the year left to work in.


Life had other plans. Life always does.

By August, I hadn’t progressed very far with the rewrite — at least, not nearly as far as I’d hoped to be by then. And of course, besides being busy with summer and kids and the like, something extra happened that proved a large physical difficulty to writing at all. More on that later. But I was still determined to pus through and complete the rewrite before Christmas by participating in my friend Christine’s Fall Fic Frenzy. (Go to this post if you want all the details on that.)

And how did THAT go?

Fall Fic Frenzy Update

It happened. And I wrote a grand total of 8.4K. Eight thousand and four hundred words. Nowhere near my original goal. But I was strangely okay with that.

I think it wasn’t as stressful to write since I wasn’t under the NaNo banner. I was enjoying my story and my characters, but I didn’t feel the extra urge to write, write, write. I had initially wanted to write a traditional 50K, but as the challenge progressed I kept altering my goal to fit my changing lifestyle. I cut it down to 30K. Then 20K. And in the end, I only wrote 8.4K. I mean, it definitely was not one of my better writing challenges. But I still wrote. I got 8.4K written that hadn’t been there before.

But A Bit of Gold‘s rewrite wasn’t complete before Christmas. I am still holding on to finishing and publishing the book this year, but I don’t yet have a set date for that. Obviously, you guys will be the first to know once a date is finalized.

Life News

On top of homeschooling my oldest daughter, Ani, this year we began potty training our son, Joey. And I 100% agree with all those moms who claim that potty training girls is so much easier than training boys. We had a roller coaster of adventures with our younger daughter, Lacie, when introducing her to solid foods we discovered that she had a fairly severe allergy to both soy and eggs. I’m allergic to soy as well, so that allergy wasn’t anything new for me, but eggs has been a bit more tricky to navigate.

But the big news — and the reason I was physically unable to do much computer/screen work this year — is that I’m pregnant with baby #4. And it’s another boy! It was a complete surprise, but we’re so excited to welcome little Benny into our lives in late spring. My morning sickness this time was much worse, but thankfully, I’m far enough along that we’re past all of that. As with my other pregnancies, I’m struggling to look at screens, since doing so triggers nausea. Blue light glasses have helped some, but it’s been easier just to avoid screens.

Happy New Year!

What are some things that you guys are looking forward to most this year? What were some highlights from last year? Let me know below! And be sure to keep an eye out here for news about A Bit of Gold‘s publication date!

God bless!

I’m Not Doing NaNo This Year

Hello, gentle readers! And hello to those more rambunctious readers as well.

Yes, you read that title correctly. I’m not doing National Novel Writing Month this year. At least, not in the traditional sense. Honestly, this wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I know I’m making the right decision for me at this time.

So, let me get into it.

(Note for anyone here who doesn’t know what I’m talking about when I say NaNo: National Novel Writing Month is a month-long challenge during the month of November, during which writers endeavor to write a complete novel or 50,000 words of a novel.)

Why No NaNo?

A lot of it has to do with how heavily political and liberal the NaNoWriMo community has become.

NaNo began as a great little corner of the world for writers who wanted to write. And it was lovely and perfect. I first discovered NaNo in 2012 and I ended up doing two different NaNo challenges that year, one in April with my story Children of a Legend, and then an official one in November with the same book. I participated again in 2013 with my Cinderella retelling, Secret of the Hazel Tree. Unfortunately, NaNo and college don’t mix all that well so I took a break from 2014-2017 to use November for school. In 2018, after graduation, I was back at it with a three-year run working on a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling, The Twelfth Kingdom, which (even though it boasts far more than 150K words) is not yet completed. Last year, I veered from tradition and wrote two books, some of the next installments of my Twist Tale series.

So, apparently I have a history with NaNo. It’s become very special to me, as not only as I’ve used the challenge to get a lot of writing done, but I’ve made some really good friends through the NaNo community.

But now NaNo, like many other groups and parties in our country today, is using their platform to push their own agendas. It’s not just about writing anymore. The community has grown steadily more liberal, and the NaNo brand has become tainted by things that aren’t even connected to writing. It’s both sad and disgusting that people are using everything they can to force their opinions on other people. I’m no longer comfortable aligning myself with the NaNoWriMo brand if they’re going to promote things that I believe are sinful.

Now, I’m not sure yet if I’m going to quit the official NaNo completely for every year to come, but for this year, this is the right decision for me.

I also have an extremely personal reason for not wanting to do NaNo this year. Because for the first time in nine years, I am getting to spend Thanksgiving with my family. As much as I love writing, I don’t want to be tucked away at my computer when I could be catching up and enjoying the holiday with my family.

Which segways into another point: NaNo comes at the worst of times, doesn’t it? I mean, we’re always busy, but November always seems like it is busier than it ought to be with Thanksgiving and the upcoming Christmas season. I love Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I feel that I barely take the time to enjoy Thanksgiving during NaNo because I’m so paranoid about my writing and hitting that elusive 50K. And then after November 30th, I fall into December absolutely exhausted and find myself neck deep in Christmas and I’m not ready for it. I’d like to enjoy my holidays this year, if I can. Especially since this year they promise to be quite busy and packed with family.

So No Writing?

Au contraire, my good friends. I am still writing. I haven’t done so many 50K word months that I’m ready to just sign it off completely. Besides, I’ve always been enough of a NaNo rebel that it’s not unthinkable for me to do something somewhat out of the ordinary.

Banner stolen from Christine’s site here.

One of my very beloved friends, Christine, is hosting a new kind of writing challenge, basically NaNo without the sting of the brand. It’s essentially the same rules as the original NaNo (or a Camp NaNo, if you will) in which writers endeavor to write. And the dates are changed. It’s amazing. Instead of writing all November long and suffocating the holidays with words, Christine’s challenge — now lovingly called the Fall Fic Frenzy — begins on October 15th and runs until November 15th. SO YOU GET YOUR HOLIDAYS FREE. *cue Yzma’s voice* It’s brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, I tell you! You can read all about in her post here.

What’s the Plan?

I am returning to Operation Muttonchops, or my Twist Tale series. It’s my hope to complete the challenge in 30 days (so if you do the math, that ends on November 13th) with the typical 50K words, but split between the next two books of the Once Upon a Twist Tales. Last year, I penned books five and seven, and this year my plan is to write books six and eight. I’ve put some extra prep into planning a bit more of my stories this year, so hopefully we won’t run into too many issues with characters not wanting to cooperate like last year.

But that’s the fun of writing, isn’t it?

I’m excited about this new challenge, and I’m looking forward to diving headfirst into my story on October 15th as part of the Fall Fic Frenzy. And, if all goes according to plan, that may leave me with some free time for other THINGS. You may want to stay tuned…

Anyone else out there participating in the Fall Fic Frenzy? Anyone doing the official NaNo? Let me know!

God bless!

What Barbie and the Diamond Castle Got Wrong (Part Two)

Guess what? I’m back with this rant! I realized that after I posted part one that I hadn’t quite gone through all of the reasons why I hated Barbie and the Diamond Castle so much. In fact, there were still several reasons I completely missed in my rant, and I just had to get them out of my system. Well, this post today is here to remedy that.

If you’ve yet to read Part One, I would highly recommend reading that first, as there may be parts in this post that may not make sense. I should have written it all as one post, but go ahead and blame a tired mommy. When you have three kids, it’s hard enough to make a reasonably coherent sentence, let alone a whole blog post.

Well, enough introduction. If you’re all caught up, let’s get into it!

[Attention: Some spoilers may occur. You have been warned.]

The Lazy Animation

We’ve seen plenty of animators hit their lazy streak. Disney did it with Robin Hood, and there are probably countless other lazy animation bits I could point out if I thought long and hard enough. So, why am I ranting about lazy animation if we’re used to seeing it — even from the king of animation, Disney? To be quite frank, it’s because Barbie even got the lazy animation wrong.

Here’s the thing. When lazy animation is used, it is meant to be an easy bit that doesn’t distract from the story. Disney reused their Snow White dancing footage to make Maid Marion dance in the same way. But they didn’t copy and paste Snow White. Barbie has used lazy animation plenty of times before, the most notable in my mind being using a handful of the Twelve Dancing Princesses as background characters in Barbie as the Island Princess. But that’s the thing: they’re background characters. They fit fairly well into the background, and I even think it’s plausible for Ashlynn, Delia, and the others to have been invited to Prince Antonio’s ball (even if there are like three copies of them around every corner). Even poor Julian’s dupe (Julian as featured in Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper) pops up in random places in several Barbie films. But he typically doesn’t distract from the main characters of the film.

Diamond Castle is lazy animation gone wrong because the copy-and-paste characters aren’t background characters. They’re featured extras, meaning they get their moment on the big screen, maybe a line if they’re lucky. But the audience gets a good shot of their face. Barbie slipped in not only Queen Arianna but also Queen Danielle as featured extras in the tavern scene. This broke the story for many Barbie fans, as we all know the characters behind their faces, and it makes absolutely NO sense for the two queens from Island Princess to be brawling in a common tavern. And yes, I say brawling since they’re some of the crowd throwing mashed potatoes and revenging themselves against the aforemetioned loathsome twins. Additionally, both queens are old enough to have children the same age as the twins (those children being Prince Antonio and Princess Lucianna), and the thought of Arianna and Danielle interacting and flirting with Jeremy and Ian is nauseating.

Barbie… just don’t. Or at least change the character enough so that it isn’t a copy-and-paste replica of the original character. Coloring their dresses differently DOESN’T COUNT.

The Backstory

Liana and Alexa live together in a beautiful little cottage in the woods. They grow flowers, eat bread and jam for their meals, and sing and dance their troubles away. Do you know one thing they never discuss during the entire course of the film?


If they’re just friends, and not sisters, then how did they meet? Where are their families? Are they orphans? Where did they come from? How did they come to own a cottage together in the woods? What drove them to grow and sell flowers for a living? Barbie, you can’t just plop people somewhere without any explanation! Alexa and Liana got into that cottage somehow. I doubt they were born there; or, at least not both of them. If would be more plausible if they were sisters living in their parents’ cottage, but then that would ruin the whole friendship plotline. Oops. A flower-selling business might not bring in enough capital to buy the cottage. Well, if they happened upon the cottage vacant, I really want to know what happened to the previous owner. Or did they kill him to get the cottage? Little dark for Barbie. I NEED to know.

The Magic

Diamond Castle does with its particular brand of magic one of the things that I hate most about magic in most fantasy stories. There are no rules, so nothing makes sense.

The magic of Lydia’s flute is mostly consistent. When she plays it, she is able to hypnotize people and/or basically petrify them, or turn them to what appears to be stone. The only time the flute’s magic doesn’t work is when Liana and Alexa are protected by the heart-shaped stones from the Diamond Castle. Which is explained in the movie, so it all makes sense. Actually, I can go one step further and say that the theme of music being magic is fairly consistent, but even that isn’t always explained.

For example, how is Slider able to sense Melody’s location while she’s singing? Slider is only mentioned to be Lydia’s henchman/serpent, and he has no connection to anything related to music. He shouldn’t be able to pick up on Melody’s music, then. Maybe Lydia programmed him to sense her music? Maybe the race of flying serpents is actually inherently musical, and that’s how Slider can sense when she sings? I mean, there are explanations out there; we’re just not given one.

Remember when I said Lydia’s flute was mostly consistent? Well, when Lydia goes into the whirlpool to fetch her flute, she finds that the instrument is full of water and won’t work. She is therefore caught in the whirlpool and then disappears in a puff of magic. We’re thinking maybe she drowned? Nope, wrong there. She transported herself back to Slider so they could regroup and watch Alexa and Liana from a distance and wait for them to find the Diamond Castle. But… how did she transport herself? We know music is magic, but isn’t her flute a dark magic that hypnotizes people? Now she can transport herself? Uhhh, okay? And in the last climatic battle, the girls’ song of “Believe” overpowers Lydia’s flute and petrifies Lydia and Slider… which is what her flute was supposed to do. But their song did. *scratches head* If you ask me, she should have drowned in the whirlpool. Nobody needed that last “battle.” Nobody.

Also, why does the troll have the easiest and DUMBEST riddle to answer in order to cross his bridge? In a movie all about singing, why NOT have the answer be your voice? *chokes on the stupidity and obviousness*

The Dialogue

Barbie doesn’t always have the most perfect script. We know this and we’re forgiven them some rough lines. But this one is particularly bad. I’m not going to rant about it, but I am going to give you the one quote that always makes me wince.

ALEXA: Don’t even talk about food, my stomach has been rumbling for miles.
MELODY: Ah! So, that’s what I was hearing. I thought it was thunder.
LIANA: Or stampeding horses.
ALEXA: Enough.
MELODY: Or jump roping elephants.

Barbie, what you’re saving in lazy animation please put toward paying new script writers.

And I just realized how I never got into how unrealistic and un-puppylike those puppies were. *shrugs*

Okay, now I think I’m done. Did I miss anything, in your opinion?

Leave me a comment! I haven’t seen most of the Barbie films after this one was released (so about 2010 and onwards). Are there any that are worse than this one? Feel free to rant below!

What Barbie and the Diamond Castle Got Wrong

(Or Why Barbie and the Diamond Castle is basically the worst Barbie movie.)

If you’ve hung around this blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the classic Barbie films. I grew up watching (and often dancing along to) Barbie’s adaptations of Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Princess and the Pauper, and The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Now I have two daughters, and it’s been so much fun to share these films with them. It’s really nostalgic, if I’m honest, and I’m finding myself willing to overlook the occasional plot hole, poorly written line, and character inconsistencies. For the sake of the memories that I have surrounding the films, as well as the memories I’m making with my daughters, those faults are forgivable.

HOWEVER, there is one Barbie film I find I cannot forgive its faults. And as it has recently become a favorite of my four-year-old, I have been forced to suffer through it, all the while writing this blog post in my head every time in as many severely seething words as possible.

Barbie and the Diamond Castle

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, here’s a quick summary. For those who know the story, skip the next paragraph.

Alexa and Liana are best friends living in a beautiful cottage in the woods. They earn their jam and bread by caring for and selling flowers in the nearby village. They also sing. One day, they discover a girl trapped in a mirror — a girl named Melody who is an apprentice to the three great muses of music. One of the muses, Lydia, uses a flute filled with dark magic, and she is seeking to become the sole muse so she can control music everywhere. Melody escaped Lydia’s attack by hiding in the mirror, and Lydia’s flying serpent, Slider, is on the hunt for her. After Slider burns down the girls’ cottage, Alexa and Liana decide to help Melody defeat Lydia and find the legendary Diamond Castle. Their journey includes finding two adorable puppies, flirting with two rapscallion singing twin brothers, and testing their best friend loyalties in ways they never imagined. And everything wraps up Barbie-happily-ever-after style when they defeat Lydia with music and restore the rightful muses of music back to their places in the Diamond Castle.

Don’t get me wrong; I love a good friendship story, and I think the parts with Alexa and Liana learning to trust each other and not give up on friendship are fine. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just everything else about the movie that Barbie did wrong. In fact, in my experience with the Barbie film franchise, this is probably the worst Barbie film of them all.

[I realize here I need to put this note somewhere in this post: I’ve not actually seen ALL of the Barbie films. I haven’t seen most of the newer-ish ones, so I’m really just rating Diamond Castle against the classic films. If you go by release dates, Diamond Castle and Thumbelina are where I fizzled out and lost interest. Christmas Carol, however, is amazing, and I watch that one on the regular.]

Let’s get into it, shall we?

The Greek Inspiration

This, to me, is the greatest error of the film. We’re dealing with the MUSES, for cat’s sake, and all the classical Greek-ness that comes with them. But how much in this tale is actually Greek-inspired? The name “muses” for the three leading artists; the costume design for said muses; and perhaps a bit of architecture and instrument design. THAT’S IT. Out of the whole film, that’s it.

Now before you get up on your high horse, let me explain. Yes, I do have these expectations for Barbie films mainly because they’ve shown themselves capable of including complex cultural inspirations in their films. Namely, Barbie as Rapunzel. Rapunzel is clearly German, and a lot in the movie reflects the German inspiration. The names are German all around: the prince’s name is Stefan, the evil sidekick is Otto, the feuding king is Wilhelm, etc. You can see German influences popping up in the set designs, costume designs, the music, and even in the whole subplot of the feuding kings. Barbie did research for that film, and it shows. Barbie has proved herself capable of research and producing a good culturally inspired film.

I mean, is it too much to ask for a truly Greek inspired film? Just think of all the wonderful things they could have done with Barbie and the Diamond Castle. Why stop at Melody’s dress design, and give the other girls Greek clothing as well? Greek names? Alexa is close, I’ll grant you, but close isn’t classical. Instead of picking the top two princess-y names for girls in America, what about a Barbie character named Kassandra who lives with her best friend Phoebe? Barbie gave us Norwegian inspired names, Annika and Brietta, for Magic of Pegasus, so we know they can do it.

The classical Greek age was a period of music and art and philosophy; even with the magical bent of this film, I still think they could have done so much to incorporate more from that era — even if it weren’t strictly from the classical age. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that Barbie include the love and war that the Greeks were famous for in The Iliad and The Odyssey. But Homer is still packed with tidbits that could have spiced up an otherwise boring, pink film. Barbie missed out on so much.

The Music

Because I hate this point so much, I had to separate it from the above point. *cracks knuckles* Lydia’s hypnotizing song is probably the most Greek-sounding song in the whole film. And that is a blasted shame. Historians all agree on how important music was to the Greeks, and how much they used it for almost everything they did. Why couldn’t we have had some more music geared toward that?

Naw, instead, Barbie felt the need to cater the the young, contemporary audiences and added in every obnoxious genre of song they could think of. I have to be honest: I have fairly strict music standards for myself and my kids. We don’t listen to most, if not all, of the singing music in Diamond Castle. There’s nothing inherently Greek in any of the songs; there isn’t even anything remotely medieval, either. Looking at the setting and the fantasy-centric plot of the film, hip-hop songs are completely out of line. They don’t fit the the tone of the film at all. Basically, it was lazy composing at its finest. And an effort to make some extra cash on the soundtrack. Boo.

One of my biggest rants is the big climatic song at the end [SPOILER ALERT]. Alexa, Liana, and Melody all sing together to defeat Lydia, and their music and the power of the Diamond Castle combined is enough to overpower her hypnotic music and petrify her. *crickets in the calm before the storm* WHY IN THE BLUE BLAZES DON’T THEY HAVE AN AMAZING SONG TO SING THERE? Oh, Barbie, Barbie, Barbie! This is the big moment, where the power of good and music free to all triumphs over dark music — and ALL the girls are singing is: “Believe, believe.” … ?????? I am so annoyed I just can’t. For a music-centric story, it was the PERFECT opportunity to pull out some crazy, amazing music, with multiple layers interweaving and joining together. Even a simple round would have been nice! They didn’t even try.

… I can’t. I literally can’t.

The Boys

Ooh, yes! It just keeps getting better! Let’s go ahead and talk about the two blockheads who are probably the worst heroes in the entire film franchise.

Jeremy and Ian are identical twins (even if their names aren’t good twin names, but I digress), with matching flirtatious smiles, rogue antics, and dreadful singing. If you couldn’t guess from my previous point that I hate the music in this film, just know: I hate their song most of all. It just grates on my ears; it is physically painful to listen to. And these are the guys we’re supposed to root for to get together with our two heroines?

Ahh, well, let’s take a deeper look. Maybe there’s more to Jeremy and Ian than meets the eye. Maybe they improve under better acquaintance.

HA. Nope. There is nothing redeemable about these two. NOTHING.

1) They’re handsome, and they know it, and they use their good looks to get them whatever (and whomever) they want. They’re entitled brats, and they believe they deserve whatever they want, regardless of what anybody else thinks. (And they really can’t sing.)

2) They undergo ABSOLUTELY no character change within the film. They are still the same creeps in the end that they were in the beginning. Initially, the twins follow the girls to return Alexa’s handkerchief, which they declare she dropped on purpose for them to bring to her. And in the end, they’re still joking about following the girls home because someone has to keep them out of trouble. STALKER MUCH? I don’t know that I root more for any other Barbie couple to NOT get together.

3) They actually quite anti-feminist, which is a shock for Barbie. I’m not a feminist, but even some of what they do and say is irritating. Upon hearing the girls singing, the twins say, “Not bad for girls.” When serenading the girls at dinner (i.e. the incredibly grating song that I can’t even listen to), they say the girls belong with them. Hello, could you have asked them out on a date first? They’re fine lying to the girls to avoid meeting up with the troll again, even when they know the girls are in a hurry to reach the Seven Stones. Overall, they really don’t have any helpful or encouraging comments for either of the girls.

4) Oh, yeah, and if they didn’t have their horses to help the girls get to places faster, they’d be completely useless. Do you notice how they disappear in the Diamond Castle right before the big music battle with Lydia? Why didn’t we just give Alexa and Liana the horses and cut Jeremy and Ian out entirely? They don’t do anything. Except annoy me.

Anyway, I should wrap this up before I break my keyboard. I type harder and faster when I’m passionate.

What about you? Are there any flaws from the Diamond Castle that I missed? Do you think it’s one of the worst Barbie films, or are there some good things that I apparently missed while watching it? If you’ve seen one that is worse than this one, let me know in the comments (and I’ll know to avoid watching it in the future).

The Jolly Genre Jubilee Tag

I don’t know that I can recall the last time I did a tag. And I’m not about to go bothering about my archives to figure that out. It’s been a while.

Anyway, since I’ve been trying to scrounge up things to blog about, I discovered this jolly-looking tag on Hayden’s blog and Hamlette’s blog, I couldn’t resist filling it out. And after a little digging, I found the blogger responsible of the tag’s origins, and I would love to thank her for it: Kenzie of Smudged Thoughts. I wasn’t officially tagged, but all three lovely ladies previous mentioned offered the tag to whomever… and I guess I’m whomever.

A Bit of Housekeeping & Rules

  • thank the blogger who tagged you, and leave a link back to their blog [Not tagged, but links are linked above.]
  • leave a link back to the creator of the tag  [Also, linked above.]
  • answer the questions honestly, and include at least one (1) gif of a pelican [Pelican has entered the chat; look below.]
  • tag 3+ friends to do the tag on their own blogs!  [Not officially tagging since I wasn’t tagged, but feel free to snag!]

And we’re off, folks!

What is your favorite genre of fiction to write?

I write mainly in a subsection of fantasy, a little something that some people refer to as Kingdom Adventure. It’s basically low fantasy without magic. If you want a full-blown definition of Kingdom Adventure, check out this superb post. And yes, it is my favorite. With fantasy, I never have to go back to check if I’m writing things as historically accurate (I have a great fear of writing something terribly inaccurate to particular historical periods) and I can explore the worlds outside of magic and explain things in good, ‘ole fun; I just have to deal with the shenanigans of my rebellious characters.

What genre would you NEVER get caught writing? . . . EVER.

The first one that comes to mind is erotica. I’m not much into the whole romance genre, anyway, and c’mon, folks! My husband and I didn’t even hug before we were married — there’s no way I’m writing in a bunch of characters kissing before marriage if I didn’t get to do it! That… and you know, morally, I really don’t think erotica should be a genre at all.

What fictional genre feels most like home to you?

Fantasy is the easy answer. I grew up reading LOTR, Narnia, and the like, so fantasy like that is just my comfortable genre. Specifically, epic fantasy, you know — the stuff with knights and dragons and swords and a good bard caterwauling at the wrong time.

I’m also really drawn to historical fiction. Before LOTR, there was American Girl and the Little House books, and I cannot tell you how many times I read through all of those. Laura Ingalls and Kirsten Larsen were some of my best friends. So, in some ways, historical fiction is more homey than fantasy, even though now I enjoy the fantasy more.

If you could transform your real life into any genre of your choosing, which would it be?

MUSICAL. (It’s not a book genre, but the question doesn’t specify that it HAS to be a book genre, so there.) I love music. I love singing. I would LOVE for my life to be a real, all-out-there musical. I mean, I’ve got the singing in random places down pat; it’s just the choreographed dance numbers and everybody else’s involvement that seems to be troublesome.

What genre does your real life most resemble at the moment?

Definitely a comedy. XD My husband is super busy with his doctoral work, and I’m currently raising three kids ages four and under while trying to juggle a writing life on the side. If that’s not the hilarious stuff that comic strips are made of, I don’t know what is. I mean, we’re already at the Calvin and Hobbes stage, but — instead of talking to a philosophical tiger — my son runs around talking to and running from crocodiles. *shrugs* I have a feeling he’s going to be our family’s next creative writer.

What’s a genre you’re interested in writing, even though you’ve never written it before?

I want to dabble more in historical fiction, particularly American pioneer, WWII, and regency fiction. Those are some of my favorite historical periods, but (as I mentioned before) I have a great fear of being historically inaccurate. My husband was a history major in college and I have a lot of well-researched friends — and they all know when an author takes historical liberties in a book. I, too, dislike finding those errors in stories, and I do not want to become an author who commits that crime just to embellish the tale.

And now I’m realizing that I’ve actually written some historical fiction before, and that’s really not answering the question honestly.

Okay, then I wish I could write true mystery. I have included mystery in some of the books I’ve written, but I’ve never written a true detective novel. I realize I’m no Agatha Christie, but I think it would be so much fun to take a crime and work through it backwards, just to watch people work through it the regular way.

What genre is your most recent plot bunny, and where did it come from?

I can’t answer this one with too many details since my most recent plot bunny (or bunnies, if I’m honest) is an idea for my published series, Once Upon a Twist Tales. And since those ideas are constantly changing, I don’t release the information until I’m about ready to release that book. Just keep things easier for me since I’m not committing to an inflexible schedule and overarching plot. I CAN, however, tell you that it is in the Kingdom Adventure genre, and contains two of the series’ most beloved characters. But no promises from me on that, since this series hardly ever sticks to the plan.

How many genres have you written thus far in your writing journey?

Fantasy (duh), and then I’ve dabbled with historical fiction, dystopian, sci-fi, contemporary, poetry, mystery, and I think that’s it? I’ll probably think of one more after I publish this post, but it’s still a decent list. One day I’d love to be publishing more than just fantasy novels, but we’ll see when that will ever happen. Not fully giving up hope. I’ll have more time once I don’t have kids in diapers. XD

Me, zooming towards productiveness.

Now it’s your turn! Here are the tag questions so you can fill them out for yourself! And be sure to check out the the previous bloggers’ answers in the links above.

  • What is your favorite genre of fiction to write?
  • What genre would you NEVER get caught writing? . . .EVER.
  • What fictional genre feels most like home to you?
  • If you could transform your real life into any genre of your choosing, which would it be?
  • What genre does your real life most resemble at the moment?
  • What’s a genre you’re interested in writing, even though you’ve never written it before?
  • What genre is your most recent plot bunny, and where did it come from?
  • How many genres have you written thus far in your writing journey?

God bless!

Book Review: Gilded in Ice

Title: Gilded in Ice

Series: Bastian Dennel PI (Book #2)

Year: 2021

Author: Sarah Pennington

Synopsis: Bastian has two new missing person cases. One is cold. The other is his own sister.

Since his success solving the Midnight Show disappearances, Bastian Dennel is sitting pretty. And with the new high-profile cold case that just got dropped in his lap, he’s pretty sure things will stay that way for a while. But when he finds out his sister has gone missing without a trace, he’s determined to find her and bring whoever’s responsible to justice — even if his only lead is a stray cat with a knack for vanishing unexpectedly.

Kona Dennel’s plans have already been upended, so when the talking cat she’d befriended asked her for help breaking an enchantment, she didn’t see any reason not to say yes. She didn’t expect to be trapped in a frozen mansion or to be drawn into conflict with a mysterious lady of the fair folk. Even the cat is hiding more secrets than she realized. It’ll take a skilled detective to untangle this web . . . but since Bastian isn’t here, Kona will just have to do it herself.

Secrets abound, and the one creature who knows the truth isn’t talking. Can Bastian and Kona outwit a fae who’s been at this for centuries? Or will thawing out the long-frozen truth drop them in over their heads?

A magical mystery reimagining Snow White and Rose Red and East of the Sun, West of the Moon in the jazz-age world of The Midnight Show.

Review: Have you ever started reading a book that you just KNEW you were going to enjoy, and then ended the adventure loving every bit WAY more than you thought you would? I always know I’m in for an amazing read whenever I pick up one of Sarah’s books, but she manages to blow me away every time.

Bastian Dennel thinks his career is finally shaping up. After all, solving the mysterious disappearances around the Midnight Show wasn’t a case just anybody could crack. Even the police are impressed by his accomplishments. And that’s exactly why the latest case to fall into his lap is cold. It’s been months since Mikael Alkinson was last seen, and everybody — including his parents — are giving him up for dead, but his brother believes Bastian may be the answer to finally bringing him home.

But that’s before Bastian’s own sister goes missing, and his life is upended even more. Kona isn’t the type to run away — so there must be something foul at work here. His other sister, Roselle, tags along as his assistant on the case, but even she can sense the magic and mystery of the fair folk around every corner.

Meanwhile, Kona is very much alive and doing everything she possibly can to not go stark raving mad from boredom. Talking to the cat helps, but she’s desperate for the oven to cooperate.

From the very first page, this book was just amazing. After getting to know Bastian through the first book, it was so much fun getting to see a bigger part of his world with his family, with him interacting with his sisters. I loved his big-brother-protective bits. So sweet. His relationship with Dayo hasn’t changed from where the first book left it, and I’ve loved getting to see the slow build-up to maybe something more. There’s no insta-love grossness and senseless romantic relationships over here, folks. *applause*

Kona and Roselle were a lot of fun, too. Both took turns narrating, but each had a distinctive flair and voice so that it was easy to tell one from the other. Kona’s struggles with the oven in particular were VERY relatable for me (though, alas, I must blame a ruined recipe on the baker and not the oven). I thought she accepted the chore of breaking the cat’s enchantment a little fast, but her fight to win the challenge came through very strongly. Roselle didn’t get a lot of “screen time” but I do hope that she returns in a future book! I would love to see more of where her story goes through vet school. *wink, wink*

I’d heard reports of how this book was a mix of Snow White and Rose Red as well as East of the Sun, West of the Moon, and I had no idea how in the world Sarah was going to combine those two fairytales without losing some of the original fairytales’ elements. To be fair, this book (IMHO) leans more toward being a stronger East fairytale than it does being a SWRR fairytale. But all of the elements were blended so well, and it was so cool to see how Sarah pulled out the different pieces to carve a whole new story.

If you’re familiar with the fairytales going into this book, you definitely have a sense of where it is all going. However, even knowing all of that, I found myself often on the edge of my seat, begging them to go faster and KNOW something. I just couldn’t read it fast enough. The mystery was gripping. If I could have read it all in one sitting, I would have. Time was just not my friend on this read.

I’ve only read the first two books in this series (and I truly hope Sarah is planning on writing more than the three currently published), but I could read them both again tomorrow and love them just as much as I did the first time. The world-building is phenomenal, and the jazz-age and fae-encrusted twists just WORK so perfectly. Reading this book was like settling into a familiar, cozy blanket and being delighted in watching the blizzard outside your window. If you couldn’t tell from this review already, I’m highly recommending that you read this book and every other one that Sarah has written. If forced, I might say that I enjoyed this book just a bit more than I did The Midnight Show. *le gasp*

Advisory: Some violence. Characters are trapped in spells, injured/killed, though nothing is graphic, and I think it’s all suitable for a younger audience.

There is some jazz-age influence with characters drinking/dancing/flirting/and the like in bars and speakeasies. One character makes his own alcohol and encourages others to drink it, too. Alcohol is presented in more of a neutral light; everybody drinks it. While I understand the significance of the alcohol in such a story (with both the fae and the jazz influences), I was a little bothered by how much alcohol was there, as well as watching characters I was supposed to root for drink. That is a personal thing, as I know drinking won’t bother many other readers. But I just wanted to throw that out there.

With fae and fair folk, of course, there must be magic. The world Sarah has created here is very much a fantastical world, and all magic is done by magical beings — mainly the fae. In addition to the real world, fae and some humans can walk about in a dream realm. Spells are mentioned, enchanted animals can talk, but none of the magic here bothered me in the least.

And very slight romance. But it’s very sweet and light, and you can’t help but ship these characters HARD. VERY hard. And all I want is to read more and see these relationships blossom into something amazing.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Related Review: The Midnight Show (Bastian Dennel PI, #1)

*Please note that I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Also, I’m very sorry, Sarah, that it took me this long to post this review!*

Book Review: Secrets of the Mountain

Title: Secrets of the Mountain

Series: None

Year: 2021

Author: Wyn Estelle Owens

Synopsis: If there’s one thing Svanhilda has always known, it’s the importance of family. When her little sister Rósfrída was born, Svanhilda promised her mother that she and her sister would stick together. But as the years passed, tragedy after tragedy befell her family, ripping it apart piece by piece, until only Svanhilda remains at home with her ailing mother. And Rósfrída? She has stayed with Svanhilda, as they promised long ago—every time Svanhild looks at her reflection, she sees her little sister instead, trapped in a prison of mirrors and treasure. Their only hope is that either their seafaring Father or Rósfrída’s strange bear friend might find a way to free her.

Tryggvi lost his mother and father a long, long time ago—so long ago that he barely remembers them. When a boy prince named Asbjǫrn finds him wandering in the woods, he takes Tryggvi home and calls him brother, and his parents welcome Tryggvi as their son. Some years later, Asbjǫrn leaves to study for a year… but he never returns, and is thought dead and gone.

But Tryggvi is convinced his brother still lives–and not without evidence. So, now that he is finally old enough, Tryggvi sets out to find Asbjǫrn, armed with his cat and an amber pendant which enables him to see the truth of things. And he will find out the truth and bring his big brother home. After all, he promised his baby sister he would, and that’s not a promise he’s willing to break.

On the mountain there is a cave, and in the cave there is a mirror, and in that mirror live two friends: a girl and a bear, trapped in secrets, imprisoned by treasures of great worth. But help is coming, and the secret deeds done in darkness will be revealed, and the prisoners will be set free.

Review: I love that the fairytale Snow White and Rose Red is finally getting the love it deserves. There aren’t a ton of retellings out there, and it’s one of those fairytales that you instantly fall in love with and then worry over all the retellings being TOO similar. But this isn’t like any other SWRR retelling that I’ve ever read. This is one you’re definitely going to want to read.

(I’m going to apologize right now for neglecting to add in all the accents and letter markings for the various names. It was just a lot easier to pen this review without having to paste all of those in; and I’m also very thankful that I’m typing this review instead of speaking it, as many of the names I’m really not sure how to pronounce. Not a negative thing in the least, however. The more authentic names catered greatly to bringing out the culture and influence of the book.)

Svanhilda and Rosfrida are as close as sisters can be. They do everything together — much of which includes running all over their grandfather’s mountain at the wanderlust whims of Rosfrida. Their adventures together have given them all sorts of fun and new things to do, even meeting elves in different parts of the mountain. Svanhilda would do anything for her sister, and her love is put to the test when Rosfrida accidentally gets trapped in a mirror. A giant bear and a looking glass are Svanhilda’s only connections to her sister, but with little to no hope of freeing Rosfrida, despair begins to set in.

Tryggvi was an orphan all out on his own until Asbjorn came across him in the woods. Asbjorn has always wanted a younger brother to love, so he doesn’t waste any thought before adopting the lost lad. Their brotherhood bond only grows stronger until the day Asbjorn leaves for a year-long study on the mountain and never returns. Years pass, and — despite everyone else’s doubts — Tryggvi believes his brother is still alive. And once he gets his chance to go on the mountain, he’ll bring Asbjorn home.

The sibling relationships in this book were just the best. Svanhilda patiently interacting with her younger and very active sister I could definitely relate to as an older sister myself. And I especially love that we got a little “found family” with Tryggvi and Asbjorn, which is still just as rewarding, but a different dynamic than blood siblings. And I’ll say it here: Tryggvi was my favorite. He was just so likable from his very first scene, and he had the best stick-to-it, yet gentlemanly, attitude. Plus, his interaction with Allvaldi was just gold. Okay, his interactions with everybody were gold. *shrugs* Tryggvi was just the best.

The worldbuilding was just so VAST. I kinda lost track of some of the minor characters and forgot if they were whole/half elf or dwarf. But the world itself was super rich and diverse, and the different aspects fit so nicely into the SWRR storyline. The way Wyn incorporated one original fairytale element in particular was PERFECT, and I’ll try not to spoil it for everybody with my fangirling. There was so much to notice and love about the original fairytale coming through this story, so two thumbs up in the retelling department from me.

One of the things I wasn’t too thrilled about was the pacing of the book. The first part, while setting up some nice scenes of the sibling relationships deepening, was a bit longer than it probably should have been. While it was nice to be present as a reader for those scenes, they did drag some and reading them got a bit tedious. The time Wyn spent building up so many things in the beginning made me think that she was setting up for a big epic, but the story never grew to that length. If I’m honest, this book actually isn’t super long. I myself read it in a couple of hours, and I enjoyed getting to read it all like that in one good chunk.

But I still have questions! I want to know more of Tryggvi’s heritage, the significance of his parents and what really happened to them (which, unless I’m forgetting something, we really didn’t get an answer for). I wanted so much more in the denouement, and now I’m realizing I may just need a sequel. *coughs*

Anyway, let’s just take a moment to bask in all the SWRR gloriousness in this book. Because we need to. Because SWRR. *basks* We need more retellings like this. Not just ones of SWRR (but obviously we need those), but ones that really focus on being true to so many of the fairytale’s original elements while still feeling fresh and unique.

Advisory: Some fantasy violence, but nothing major. Characters get ill, a few die, a bit of fighting is described, but again — nothing graphic or overly scary. The way the climax played out made me feel that the book would be a great read for younger audiences since it wasn’t super intense.

Obviously, magic. As per the original fairytale, a character is literally turned into a bear. The dwarves and elves within the world each have different kinds of magic, but to me they felt very fantasy-like, the magic they did being more talents and skills than casting spells. Many of them can “smell” different kinds of magic, so that played an interesting part to the story. It really didn’t bother me.

There are a few scenes that suggest there are higher, magical authorities, but I struggled a little in understanding their role exactly — not quite like a God/gods, but more like angels/guardian angels/messengers, almost? It may have been just me, however, and the fact that I probably don’t know my Norse mythology and its components well enough.

And romance. There’s really not anything to worry about here — all very clean and light. Not even a kiss. *nods seriously* I enjoyed both couples very much, particularly the younger couple and their fun scenes, but I have to admit I was actually wanting a little more. [SPOILER ALERT] Svanhilda and Asbjorn made a great couple, and they were cute together, but I felt that their romance was a little rushed. They had great interaction as friends early on, but there really wasn’t anything romantic mentioned until nearer the end. I would have loved to see more hints at their budding relationship before they started talking about courting. [END SPOILER]

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

*Please note: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. And also this review is very much overdue — sorry, Wyn!*

The Truth About A Bit of Gold

Hello, all!

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted — I realize that and I’m very sorry. Still working on balancing all the online and writing stuff with three kids.

Anywho, it was my very fond intention that A Bit of Gold would be released by the end of May. *crickets* And it’s now (basically) the end of May. And the book isn’t anywhere near ready to come out. One, because I’ve not had a lot of time to work on it like I would want. And two… well, because I hit a snag while editing.

You see, A Bit of Gold was the very first book that I wrote from the Twist Tales series while doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I love pantsing my NaNo stories, and it always ends up super complicated and wordy and delicious. ABoG isn’t supposed to be super wordy, and that’s where my first problem lies. I am desperately trying to keep these books somewhat in the category of similar length, so I have to be very careful about how much I’m stuffing into this book word-count-wise.

When I finished writing the first draft during NaNo, I liked the book well enough. I was also busy jumping straight into writing book seven of the series, so I didn’t take the time to properly chew over the completed draft. And I kinda regret that. Because as I’ve been editing, the one thing that keeps popping into my head is: “It’s just good enough.”


I don’t want my book to just be good enough. I settled for good enough with The Rose and the Balloon, and I regret that. I would love to go back and re-edit that first book — make it really shine like it’s supposed to. Someday, I might even do that. But I have that chance to shine up A Bit of Gold, and make it really sparkle. I’m going to take that chance. Seth Stendahl deserves a lot better than this first draft I’ve got.

This is something that I’ve been slowly learning with self-publishing. Since I have the ability to make my own deadlines, I’m not tied down by having things be just good enough. I can take that extra time to polish my work and make sure it’s the best it can be. I rushed with The Rose and the Balloon, and although that story holds a very dear place in my heart, I think you can tell that I rushed it. I don’t have to publish a book just to publish a book. If I’m going to share my writing with people, and share these characters that I love so much, I want it to be better than good enough.

I’m not going to settle. I don’t want to make my readers settle.

It’ll be quite a bit of rewriting on my part, as I’ve realized I need to ditch one subplot in favor of another, but it’ll be worth it. To be honest, I’m cutting out a character altogether so that can focus on a minor character who truly needs that extra spotlight. Not because he or she deserves it in any particular way, but because that subplot will make the book. And — if I play it properly — segue perfectly into book six. Warning: I may be working on another epilogue. *dramatic music*

So, A Bit of Gold won’t be available as soon as I was hoping. I am sorry for that, but I’m excited about taking the time to polish this tale properly. I will try to keep you all updated on my rewriting/editing process and when you can mark your calendars for the book’s eventual release.

God bless!

Book Review: Runaway Lyrics

Title: Runaway Lyrics

Series: None [Released as part of the Arista’s Frosted Roses collection]

Author: C.O. Bonham

Year: 2021

Synopsis: What one sister has, she must share with the other . . .

Snow loves music. She has spent her entire life learning, new instruments and memorizing new pieces, only to while away her life in a country manor with only her mother and twin sister as company. If only she could get out on her own and play in front of a real audience.

Rose loves magic. The things she can do with music would amaze her twin sister, but whenever she shows her, Snow quickly forgets as if the event had never happened. If only Rose could get out on her own and work some real magic.

When an airship crashes near their home Snow’s magical abilities awaken. Together the sisters must learn to use their magic, rescue a pair of cursed princes, and discover their own secrets.

Discover the magic of music in this retelling of Snow White and Rose Red.

Review: I don’t know that I’ve read anything by this author before, but she’s definitely one I want to keep my eye on! In the spirit of a wholly honest review, I have to say I read this book in one sitting. I love the fact that it’s is a Snow White and Rose Red retelling — since the world DEFINITELY needs more of those. And this is a retelling that needs to be on your TBR!

Twin sisters, Snow and Rose, are super close siblings, but they really don’t see eye-to-eye on much. Both love music, but for different reasons. Snow appreciates the structure and memorization that goes into a song (and she struggles playing by ear), but Rose thrives on the improvisation and magic in her music. However, anytime that magic appears before Snow, she acts as though she can never remember it happened, and Rose has given up trying to make her remember.

Everything gets flipped upside-down when an airship crashes near their home and two strangers come to their door in need of help. Snow’s memory begins to return, and the resulting adventure is one wild ride.

And who are those two strangers? Stepbrothers, Wickham and Bayare, are princes who have just escaped from a dangerous situation at home — but not before Bayare was transformed into a bear. Wickham, ever helpful, tries to reverse the spell on his own, and succeeds in returning Bayare to human form during the day, but also in turning himself into an owl at night.

I loved how different each of the four main characters were. Yes, it is a sister story with Snow and Rose, but Bayare and Wickham, for me, took the cake. XD Wickham, especially, was so much fun. I love that we got more animal transformations other than the original bear, and he made such a great owl. Owls are probably my new favorite fictional characters, and Wickham was the best. He began the story as pretty naive, but I enjoyed getting to see him “grow up” in a way and understand the world and people at a greater depth. Bayare is just the sort of fictional, fantasy prince that you want to root for; he has such a great heart.

I can’t write a review of this book without mentioning something about the sisters. Sibling relationships are big for me, and this one wasn’t a disappointment. There are several differences between the two girls, things that keep them estranged. However, Rose and Snow both develop a better understanding and trust for the other twin, and that was really cool to watch happen. Twins are sometimes difficult to write, as they have a tendency to become indecipherable from each other. I was so afraid Snow and Rose would do that as the book progressed, but they thankfully grew together without becoming mirror copies of each other. They each retained their individuality by the end of the story.

The steampunk side of the story was so great! Steampunk really is becoming a genre that deserves this kind of love, and it was so much fun to read in this book. Automatons are everywhere, as well as other classic steampunk vibes, but everything mixes so well with the magic systems that it’s sometimes difficult to see where ends and the other begins. I just loved the extra-ness it all lent to the story. Steampunk for the win!

The Snow White and Rose Red elements from the original fairytale were great, too. Only a few things are altered or cut out, but the many things the author left in really worked for the story! The scenes with the dwarf were great — although, I didn’t see the connections with the dwarf until later.

I’ll be honest — I didn’t care for the mother very much. She suffered from a bit of Disney-poor-parent syndrome, or a parent with good intentions but not so great execution/actions. [SPOILER ALERT] Instead of trying to make the best out the girls’ birth father and their illegal, magical abilities, she merely never told them the truth and hid Snow’s memories of magic to keep the girls safe. I felt like she could have had a better reason for doing what she did, or perhaps have trusted her daughters with more since they were older? Maybe it was just me, but I found it annoying.

My biggest complaint is probably the lack of polish on the story. While the characters and plot really shone, I wish the final draft could have gone through perhaps a few more bits of editing before published. The narrative was super heavy on telling rather than showing, and the punctuation and grammar were sometimes off. And that’s the real reason I’m taking a star off my rating. Overall, probably not a huge issue, but mistakes like that wake a reader up from the dream. It’s just distracting.

Advisory: Some fantasy violence. Nothing too terribly scary, though, IMHO.

And magic. I think the magic system in this book is super unique. The steampunk elements meld nicely with the magical elements, and I really loved that the two worked together, rather than warred with each other. There’s your typical wizard and other fantasy magic, but the twins’ magic is comprised of their music. There are a few scenes in which a spell is cast, sometimes through the general magic, sometimes through the power in music. Additionally, characters are mentioned learning magic, studying for exams on magic. It didn’t bother me as this is clearly a fantasy world, and the spells aren’t something one can repeat outside of the book.

This isn’t necessarily an advisory point, but it coincides with the magic bit above, so I’m putting it here. But this is important. I read a few reviews of this book in which the readers complained about the presence of magic (i.e. they didn’t realize there was magic in the book, and then stopped reading because of it) — and I found that really odd. The magic was a big part of the story, and the actual summary/back blurb for the book states that there is magic. I’m confused — why would you expect a magic-free book when the summary states there is magic? So, be warned: There is magic in this book. If you’re looking for a non-magical adventure, this book isn’t it. But, if you give the magic a chance, there’s a whole lot more to love about this book.

Light romance with a few kisses, but the relationships are built slowly and genuinely. I really liked both couples, and how they helped bring out the best in their respective partners. There are a few mentions of women “sleeping around/being unfaithful” and thus getting pregnant, but not anything super descriptive.

Also, a scene with girls in their “underwear.” When a situation presents itself where the twins need to match each other, the only matching clothing they have with them is their underwear. But, given the descriptions (or the lack, thereof) and the supposed steampunk time era, the underwear really isn’t immodest, and nothing more is said on the matter.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

*Please note that I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, and that this review is VERY much overdue! Sorry!*