Winterspell by Claire Legrand is a YA fantasy stand alone novel that is a retelling of the classic Christmas tale, The Nutcracker. The description alone and the whimsical wintery cover had me so excited to spend some of my December in the world of Cane but I can honestly say I have never been so disappointed in something that initially seemed so promising. I had numerous issues with the book which I’ll outline below but if you would also like to see a video discussion of the book you can watch the most recent episode of the Spines with Wines Book Club. The first issue is that Winterspell has little to do with The Nutcracker. The author took this magical story and twisted it into something that is completely different, and not in a good way. I understand wanting to stray from the source material in order to create an original story, but without being told Winterspell is a Nutcracker retelling, it would be near impossible to draw any parallels between the two tales.
The biggest issue that I had with Winterspell is the overabundance of sexualization within the story. Our main character Clara begins training with her jealous and overprotective Godfather at a young age and he instructs her to “press oneself to a wall’s contours and slide along it… like you would a lover.” She also develops feelings for a statue, “Something, she often thought, alone in her bedroom, like need,” and she would send her Godfather away so she could share private moments. With a statue. That makes her feel heat when she touches it. I kid you not. Said statue happens to come to life a little later on and his first suggestion to Clara is that they both take off all of their clothes. We also have the Dr. Frankenstein-esque Dr. Victor who is not only a pedophile, but he also takes pleasure in torturing little orphan girls by chopping them up. Then there’s Anise, the fairy queen and the only character I actually liked, who immediately invites Clara to sleep in her bed and shares kisses with her. The entire time I was reading I did not get the impression that Clara is of an age where all of these adults should be trying to take advantage of her. It definitely happens in real life and that type of story has it’s place, but how it’s connected to The Nutcracker is beyond me.
The first hundred something pages of Winterspell are spent describing Concordia, the corrupt government in New York while Clara lives and the majority of it drags on and feels irrelevant to the story. Then once Clara is transported to Cane, and we reach Book 3, the Summer Palace, the story actually becomes interesting. Until we get to Book 4. Once Clara returns to Concordia, everything is tied up there within 30 pages which seems like too quick of a resolution after being about half the book. The two things I will give Claire Legrand are that 1) her writing style is quite lovely and if the plot and characters had been completely different I could see myself having liked this book and 2) she did a great job of world-building with Cane. The characters who are intended to be the “good guys” have morals too questionable and make mistakes too large to ever be redeemed in this reader’s eyes and I would love if I never had to read about a character like Dr. Victor for the rest of my life. I also really disliked Clara as a main character. I had completely ambivalent feelings toward her the whole time I read and once I finished and spent some time reflecting I realized how much she bothered me. She is extremely contradictory in nature, and she gives up on finding her father too quickly once she realizes she has all this extra time in Cane to hang out at a brothel with her new friends.
Final Thoughts: Winterspell by Claire Legrand is a YA retelling of The Nutcracker which follows a little girl named Clara after she’s transported to Cane. If you’re looking for a whimsical and uplifting holiday read, this is not the book to pick up. The characters have very questionable morals (even the “good guys”), the main character is oversexualized beyond reason, she also has feelings for a statue and the overall story is a chore to get through. If I hadn’t had to read this novel for book club, I would’ve given up very early on. Not my cup of tea!
The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince…but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.
New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor’s ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother’s murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.
Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.
Her home is destroyed, her father abducted—by beings distinctly not human. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they’re to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets—and a need she can’t define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won’t leave Cane unscathed—if she leaves at all.
Inspired by The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.
I’m so excited to be sharing my December Book Haul with you all today! This was a very big month for my book buying because I ended up picking up a ton of collectible editions to add to my library (I mentioned in my Bookish New Years Resolutions post yesterday that I’m going to try to to be more thoughtful about my book buying and invest in collectible editions of favorites that I want to display on my shelves). Overall, I’m just so pleased with my haul even though I wasn’t supposed to buy that many books last month. My favorite set to show off are my new Harry Potter books! What were some of your favorite books you acquired last month?
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly series hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we’re eagerly awaiting. This week I’m choosing Traitor Angels by Anne Blankman. Traitor Angels is a historical YA novel which I couldn’t be more excited about because it follows Elizabeth Milton, the daughter of John Milton who spends her days transcribing that masterpiece you may have heard of, Paradise Lost. But at night, Elizabeth spends her time learning sword fighting and languages. Her father ends up gets kidnapped by the king and she spends the majority of the novel following his cryptic clues along with a handsome Italian man. I’m just so excited to get my hands on a copy! It comes out on May 3rd, along with MANY other must-buys (*cough* ACOMAF, The Rose and the Dagger & The Unexpected Everything *cough*).
Six years have passed since England’s King Charles II returned from exile to reclaim the throne, ushering in a new era of stability for his subjects.
Except for Elizabeth Milton. The daughter of notorious poet John Milton, Elizabeth has never known her place in this shifting world—except by her father’s side. By day she helps transcribe his latest masterpiece, the epic poem Paradise Lost, and by night she learns languages and sword fighting. Although she does not dare object, she suspects that he’s training her for a mission whose purpose she cannot fathom.
Until one night the reason becomes clear: the king’s man arrive at her family’s country home to arrest her father. Determined to save him, Elizabeth follows his one cryptic clue and journeys to Oxford, accompanied by her father’s mysterious young houseguest, Antonio Vivani, a darkly handsome Italian scientist who surprises her at every turn. Funny, brilliant, and passionate, Antonio seems just as determined to protect her father as she is—but can she trust him with her heart?
When the two discover that Milton has planted an explosive secret in the half-finished Paradise Lost—a secret the king and his aristocratic supporters are desperate to conceal—Elizabeth is faced with a devastating choice: cling to the shelter of her old life or risk cracking the code, unleashing a secret that could save her father…and tear apart the very fabric of society. (via Goodreads)
Top Ten Tuesday’s are a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish in which anyone who participates creates a Top Ten list of books based on a weekly prompt they provide (the list for advance topics can be found by clicking the link above).
This is my first time participating in Top Ten Tuesdays after reading plenty of everyone else’s posts throughout 2015. I thought bookish resolutions would be the perfect place to jump in since it’s January which means it’s a great time for new beginnings and fresh starts! I’m not necessarily going to be creating a post for the topic every single Tuesday but I’ll definitely be joining in on the topics I find most interesting.
1) Reading goals
In 2015 I set my Goodreads reading goal at 100 books and I ended up surpassing my goal by 8 books which I’m very proud of considering that I had some slow months in the latter half of the year. I’ve decided to set the same 100 book goal for myself this year because I have a lot going on (ie. wedding planning) and since I was satisfied at the end of 2015, I’ll be happy if I reach or surpass the same goal in 2016! I also want to complete all of the 2016 Reading Challenges I signed up for!
2 Reviewing goals
I did a fantastic job of reviewing the majority of books I read in 2015 and I want to continue on that path in 2016. There were a few reviews that I wish I would’ve written a little closer to when I had finished reading (just because procrastinating bothers me, not because I feel like it effected the content of the review in any way).
3 Book Buying Goals
Unlike most people, my book buying goal doesn’t necessarily have to do with buying less books or spending less money on books because a big goal for me in 2016 is to build an even better Book Collection. I really want to invest in collectible editions of some of my favorites (I’m particularly eying some Folio Society editions). I also want to make a huge effort to read my new release books right away instead of letting them sit on my shelf until they end up in a video like this.
4 Book Photography Goals
I mentioned in my End of the Year Survey that I’ve gotten really critical of my photos to the point where I don’t post as much as I want to because I feel like the reality of my photos don’t live up to the ~expectations~ I hold myself to (it’s RLY hard to get good photos when you leave for work before the sun rises and come home after it sets). I want to make an effort to take a bunch of photos on weekends that I can edit and post throughout the week. My goal is to to post at least one Bookstagram Photo a day (Monday – Friday) for all of 2016. Ambitious, I know!
5 BookTube Goals
I’m really proud of how consistently I was able to post videos on my BookTube channel in 2015. February will be my one year mark and there’s a good chance I will hit 100 videos by that time! (Thanks in huge part to Andrew’s incredible editing skills). In 2016 I want to keep doing what I’ve been doing because it’s my favorite non-work-thing-that-I-treat-like-a-work-thing that I do.
6 Read-a-thon Goals
I want to actively participate in at least 3 read-a-thons this year. I’m currently working on the TBR Takedown 3.0 event which runs through the 10th and I’m definitely planning on participating in BookTube-A-Thon again because that was one of my favorites. I’m also considering RYBSAT. I’ve always wished I could do Deweys 24 Hour Read-A-Thon but I’m an old lady so there’s no way I could stay up for 24 hours reading. There have been numerous times where I’ve tried to read before bed and woke up to my book falling on my face.
7 Book Blogging Community Goals
2015 was the year that I discovered what a huge community of book bloggers there are, thanks in large part to Alexa of Alexa Loves Books who hosted the Book Bloggers Love-A-Thon. I met the majority of book bloggers I interact with regularly during that event and I couldn’t be more thankful! I want to participate in so many more events like this in 2016 (like the OTSP Secret Sister Project, TBTB Secret Santa which is how I met Michelle of Pink Polka Dot Books and I’ll definitely be doing the Love-A-Thon again). I’m really looking forward to making even more online friends that may someday turn into IRL friends. I also want to attend more bookish events since there are SO many in NYC. I feel like I have no excuse for not going to them all! And lastly, I want to make an effort to comment more on the sites that I follow and read every single day. There are probably a ton of people who don’t even know that I keep up with all of their post because of my lack of comments but I swear I’m there and I’m listening!
8 Book Unhaul Goals
I really need to do a major book unhaul and purge my current collection of books I’m never going to re-read, books I thought were okay but I don’t have shelf space for, books I really dislike but I’ve kept so I can hold them up for negative questions in BookTube tag videos and just some old ones that I’ve lost interest in. I just need to make sure I can find a good place to donate my babies and to know that they’ll be loved once I let them go!
9 Goodreads Goals
My number one Goodreads goal (besides the year challenge I previously mentioned) is to keep extremely organized shelves so my end of the year posts will be easier to complete. I remember last year seeing the billion shelves many book bloggers have and thinking yikes! that seems like a nightmare to keep up with. Then I did all of these end of the year posts and I kept thinking, WHY DIDN’T I CREATE MORE GOODREADS SHELVES?!
10 Bookish Organization Goals
Since 2016 started I’ve been using Hazel of Stay Bookish’s Book Blog Planner and I’m pretty obsessed with it! The design is just beautiful and it’s really helped me stay organized so far. I may have even outlined some things I want to do in December of 2016 because that’s how far ahead it’s inspiring me to plan. I also want to make sure that I always carry TWO notebooks (one for blog ideas and one for BookTube ideas) with me at all times. The amount of times I’ve had a great idea and forgotten it due to not writing it down is unacceptable. Lastly, I’m going to continue keeping an iPhone list of books read by month in addition to Goodreads updates because I’ve been doing this since 2012 so it’s really just pure habit at this point.
Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill is a cute contemporary YA novel that will allow you to feel like you’re on vacation and traveling through London. I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages as it’s been recommended to me by numerous people so I’m glad that I can cross it off my list and now say that I too enjoyed it! The story follows Julia and her high school class who are traveling to London for a week during the year to absorb the culture but sadly her best friend is unable to attend. She gets stuck being paired with an obnoxious and immature classmate named Jason and from the moment they get on the plane until the very end, hilarity ensues.
Meant to Be features a slow burn love / hate romance (my favorite!) but the pacing of the events in the story feel action packed. Throughout the trip, our main character Julia is juggling several men while she sorts out her feelings, something she’s never had to do before and it shows. She can be annoying at times (she’s your typical overachieving know-it-all) but she also has a much softer side that believes in everyone having an MTB (or meant to be). Her partner Jason is one of the most immature YA guys I’ve ever read about and I could easily relate to her frustrations about him. Julia is such a rigid rule follower that a free spirit like Jason often clashes with her in most situations. The one thing I found slightly unbelievable were all of the awkward moments Julia found herself in. It just seemed like too much to happen to one person but despite all of her faults, I found myself rooting for her.
My favorite part of this book was exploring London with Julia and Jason. Lauren Morrill makes the reader feel as though they’re also a first time tourist which is something I hadn’t been expecting. They visited a ton of historical sites (such as Stratford-Upon-Avon, The Globe Theater, The London Eye and even Harrod’s) that I’ve always been dying to see but they also spent time during their trip doing several offbeat things which enhanced their cultural experience even further. I found the overall plot to be predictable but it didn’t at all take away from the enjoyment I felt while reading the story. I love witnessing character growth, especially when the main character is an uptight person who’s thrusted out of their comfort zone (and even more especially when said character is experiencing that growth in a place like London). Julia modeled her dream relationship off that of her parents and I loved that comparison throughout the story. Since Julia is away and doesn’t have a ton of access to phone calls she really has to rely on herself to sort out her beliefs and the way she chooses to act which I really appreciated.
Final Thoughts: Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill is a darling contemporary novel perfect for anyone looking to lose themselves in a slow burn romance. It’s also ideal for anyone with a case of wanderlust because traveling through London in Morrill’s words is so vivid that it’ll leave you feeling like you’re on a vacation of your own. The plot of the novel is predictable but it’s everything the description and cover promise to be- swoony, engaging and fun!
A girl with it all planned out discovers a romance she never expected in this funny debut about a class trip to London that HelloGiggles.com says you’ll love “if you’re into swoony romances with a little bit of history thrown in.”
This spring break, Julia’s rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she’s partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love. Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be. (via Goodreads)
In addition to all of the wonderful new releases I’m anticipating and planning on reading in 2016, I also want to read a bunch of books that I already currently own. There are a ton of books I really wanted to and had every intention of reading in 2015 but for whatever reason, I just didn’t get to them so I’m making them a priority in 2016.
Yesterday Cassie, Melissa and I had our third episode of the Spines With Wines Book Club. For December’s book we wanted to choose something holiday themed but since we had all already read My True Love Gave to Me, Let it Snow, and I had read Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, we decided to go with Winterspell by Claire Legrand which is a YA retelling of The Nutcracker. Unfortunately, none of us liked this book for very many reasons so this was a pretty interesting book club. I’ll also be posting a written review later this week.
We’re only a couple of days into 2016 but I’m already gearing up to participate in my first read-a-thon of the year which is called TBR Takedown. TBR Takedown takes place from January 4-10 and there are list of challenges that you can choose to complete which I’ve outlined in video below. I’ve also linked a ton of stuff in the description box of the video if you’re interested in finding out more about the challenge or some other bookish goodness! Let me know what you’re going to be reading if you participate. Happy reading!
One of the 2016 Reading Challenges I signed up for this year is the Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge hosted by Jess of Gone With the Words and Danielle of Love At First Page. My goal is the Grand Slam which means I’m committing to 21+ contemporary romance reads which I think is very achievable for me! Each month of 2016, the girls will be hosting a monthly link-up and they’ll announce a topic that anyone who signed up for the challenge can participate in. This month’s topic is the 10 most anticipated romances for the first half of 2016. It was actually really hard to narrow down my list (I feel like I say this ALL the time but BOOKS). I’m hoping to catch up on a bunch of contemporary romances I already own in addition to the books I’ll be adding to my shelves throughout the year.
Preorder the Books from Amazon!
The Unexpected Everything
P.s. I Like You
Bookishly Ever After
Firsts: A Novel
Tell Me Three Things
The Museum of Heartbreak
Summer in the Invisible City
Summer of Sloane
When We Collided
You Know Me Well
Alice of The Geeky Burrow is one blogger that consistently and continuously leaves me feeling inspired me after reading her posts. I’ve been reading her site since she started blogging and I’ve witnessed her blog’s evolution over the past few years into what it is now. I’m always finding something new and helpful (like her guide to using Trello for blogging), enjoying her openness and honesty in posts like Tea Talk Tuesday, providing my eyes with some serious eye candy from her snapshots or fangirling over our mutual love of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Alice is the epitome of organized and her goals are always focused and clear cut. Her most recent post Being More with Less in 2016 has once again left me thinking about my upcoming 2016. I left her a comment commending her on choosing such a meaningful word to sum up her year yet again and said that I would never be able to choose just one for my own year. But then I started thinking more seriously about it and I came up with one that suits my desire for 2016; Risk.
While I did have a wonderful year in 2015, I definitely stayed inside of my comfort zone for its entirety. There are *some* minor risks I took and to the outside observer they may assume that I went for everything I wanted but in my day to day life, I can honestly say that I don’t feel like that’s the case (especially in the latter half of the year). In 2015 I let fear get the best of me. After a terrible experience on the subway (the A train which is an express and I was stuck on it from 59th street to 125th with no place to escape to in between those two stops) I started getting really nervous about riding the subway alone which is something that has never bothered me in all of the years I’ve been commuting for school ,business or pleasure. I started saying no to things I really enjoy, like going out with friends, because I would preemptively dread the train ride home afterward and I’m sad to say that I’m still catching myself doing this. (2013 Kristin would take 4AM trains alone without a care in the world, and would never dream of saying no to a social event and I want her back). In June, I moved back home to save money before my wedding (which has been GREAT) but I’m now spending a good portion of my day commuting and I often find myself turning down after work plans because I have an additional excuse. I think about how if I were to get home at midnight, I would only have about 5.5 hours at my house (for sleeping, showering, blogging etc) before I would have to leave again the next morning and that seems really unappealing. I also rarely go into NYC on weekends because those are the only days that I don’t have to be on trains. But it wasn’t until November when the terrorist attacks occurred in Paris that I really gave in to my fear. I became consumed with thoughts of how NYC is a huge target because of the high population of people. I honestly spent almost a full month afterward dreading going into work and not being able to even read on the train because I was too preoccupied with being aware of my surroundings in case something were to occur. My mindset would often be “if I can just make it to work” and once 5:30 hit “If I can just make it home.” I began to feel like something happening was more of an inevitability than a possible isolated incident and I let it get in the way of my everyday life. I’ve never been this way before. It’s pretty stressful and definitely not an enjoyable way to live. In the past I’ve always walked around confidently, went after what I wanted and thought very little about all of the obstacles I would face along the way and I am determined to get back to that point which brings me to my word of 2016.
For me, 2016 is going to be all about taking risks. I’m not saying that you can expect to see a skydiving recap on my blog anytime soon, but you will see more event posts. I’m talking about risk-taking in the seemingly minor everyday choices I make, especially accepting more invitations from friends and seeing more sights around NYC since really, I’m very lucky to live here and I should take full advantage of it. I’ve been doing a better job of this in the past couple of weeks but I want to get to the point where I don’t feel like I’m giving myself a little pep talk to do something that will, without a doubt, be really fun once I’m there! 2015 has made me worry that it would be very easy for me to become a hermit, especially when I get to look forward to going home to see Andrew every night, so 2016 is going to be all about going out and taking chances (with Andrew in tow of course when the event interests him). It may seem silly that I’m equating such a big word to something that seems so small, but until I rebuild that fearless foundation, I will have closed myself off to those bigger risks anyway. I think by assigning the word risk to my year, I’ll constantly be thinking about. It’ll force me to leave my comfort zone. I’ll be more thoughtful about all of my choices and what I want out of them. So 2016, here’s to adventure!