127 Following

Howdy YAL!

I used to be the blogger called YAL Book Briefs, but I grew bored of the handle and changed my name to Howdy YAL. I also respond to MJ. I like to read, write, eat truffles, and watch bad Lifetime movies. 

Once Upon a Time...

Grim - Christine   Johnson, Ellen Hopkins, Julie Kagawa, Amanda Hocking

Fairytale retellings are pretty popular right now, so it’s only natural that a anthology focusing on them would be published.  Usually I’m not a huge fan of anthologies because I think immediately cash cow.  But this particular collection of short stories surprised me.


The Key by Rachel Hawkins:

I give this one a C.  While it does convey Bluebeard, this story really felt incomplete in a lot of ways.  I just didn’t really feel any sort of connection to any of the characters.  It wasn’t bad, per say, but honestly it really wasn’t that creative.

It had potential though.  I did like the whole psychic angle, but the thing is it was never really that well fleshed out.  Plus, the open ending just didn’t work for me.


Figment by Jeri Smith-Ready:

A-/A.  Probably one of my favorite stories in this collection.  I liked the message because it wasn’t overly preachy.  Plus, I really liked the characters in this one.  It was a pretty unique take on Puss and Boots.  I’ll probably read more of the author’s work in the future.


The Twelfth Girl  by Malinda Lo:



I really need to refresh my knowledge on The Twelve Princesses.  I liked Lo’s take on this fairytale and I liked the fact she featured an LBGT main character.  This one did leave me with more questions than I had coming in when I finished it though.  Sometimes I’m not sure if that’s such a good thing especially when I know I’m never going to get a full novel.  But I think for short stories where pacing is a critical issue, sometimes that’s how these pieces are going to end.


The Raven Princess by Jon Skovron:

C+/B-.  This one was just okay.  I liked the giants, but the story overall felt like it was heavily a copy paste version of the original fairytale.  The characters were probably what saved it from getting a lower score.


Thinner than Water by Saundra Mitchell



Donkey’s Skin is such a disturbing fairytale and I really liked how Mitchell addressed the disturbing aspect more than the happily ever after.  I really liked how well formed the main character in this one was.  I also thought all the characters were realistic given the situation and I liked how the ending diverted from the original fairytale.  I really have to thank Mitchell for that.


Before the Rose Bloomed: A Retelling of the Snow Queen by Ellen Hopkins:



The verse drove me crazy which really is more of a personal issue than anything else.  I know that Hopkins is a pretty popular author, but I’ve always avoided her stuff because she writes in verse.


This was a retelling of the Snow Queen and with all the press with Frozen and everything, you’d think it would be pretty epic, but nope.  Other than being written in version its pretty much the same as the Hans Christian Anderson version.


Beast/Beast by Tessa Gratton:


The interaction between the two characters is probably what saved this one.  I liked how it ended.  Not resolved.  This was one that probably would’ve been better if  it would’ve been expanded.  It wasn’t bad by any means, I just wanted more.


The Brothers Piggett by Julie Kagawa:

Probably an A.  This is a pretty imaginative retelling.  It sort of reminds me of Marissa Meyer’s books in the fact that it took the essential fairytale elements but it wasn’t a direct retelling.  The characters work really well in this story which is something I found lacked for the most part in this collection.


Untethered by Sonia Gensler:

I really don’t remember much about this one, so I feel like I really can’t rate it (because I don’t remember it).  This could be a better thing than what you might originally think because if I can’t remember it, it probably wasn’t terrible.  But it probably wasn’t the best either since..well, I can’t remember it.


Better by Shaun David Hutchinson:



I really wanted more out of this one.  It’s a retelling of The Pied Piper, but it’s not a direct retelling.  Instead, imaginative with a futuristic world that is facing disease and has androids and robots and all that good stuff.  And I really liked the ending.  I sort of wanted more of this universe.


Light It Up by Kimberly Derting:


Probably between a B and  a B+.


This one was rather creepy.  In a good way.  It was true to the original fairytale, but brought it up into the modern day era. There were some points that were borderline macabre, but let’s face it the original source material is pretty dark too.


Sharper than a Serpent’s Tongue by Christine Johnson:


Probably a B-.  Not a huge fan.


I don’t know if it was the story itself or more of the fairytale that it was based off of that had me frowning.  But I did not like this one.  Especially with how everything resolved itself.  I felt bad for both of the sisters, but especially the one who tried to defend her sister.  Yes, she sort of got her revenge but…this fairytale really has always bothered me.


A Real Boy by Claudia Gray:


A solid B maybe a B+.  I really liked this one.  It was pretty typical Gray more romance than anything else which was sort of hilarious in a way because it was a Pinocchio retelling and I don’t know about you, but I don’ think of Pinocchio.


Oddly enough, I think I like Gray’s writing better in short story form than her full out novels.  Some of the cheese is cut and I think it makes the story a lot sweeter.  That being said, the pacing in this story (at the end) did seem off.


Skin Trade by Myra McEntire:




I just couldn’t get into this one.  I didn’t even know what fairytale it was until my friend, Skyla, informed me that it was based on The Robber Bridegroom which existence I was unaware of until now.


Honestly, the story is just sort of dull and confusing.  I hate saying that, but I really can’t think of anything nice to say about it because it was just that  boring.


Beauty and the Chad by Sarah Rees Brennan:


D as in dumb.


Imagine Dude Where’s My Car meets Beauty and the Beast.

Yeah, doesn’t work so much.  This story really had me just suspended in belief.  In not a good way.


Seriously, the whole concept was almost a slap in the face.  Especially the end when the beast(or should I mean Chad) didn’t realize Beauty was a girl despite the fact she was wearing a dress which I’m sure showed her assets.  Not to mention she didn’t have an adam’s apple, facial hair, or really any other feature screaming male except for short hair.


And being  from the modern age, Chad should’ve known better. I honestly felt like my favorite fairytale had been defecated on.


The Pink: A Grimm Story by Amanda Hocking:


A D.  This one really read like it should come out of my old fairytale book.  It didn’t derive much from the original and I honestly got bored with it.  I was able to follow that though, which was a part.  But God…show some originality.


Sell Out by Jackson Pearce: 


Probably a C+ or C.  I just didn’t like this one.  The narrator seemed a bit too self absorbed for my tastes.  And while he makes the right decision in the end, a lot of this story does not seem Snow White-ish.  I really feel bad for this fairytale.  It’s probably one of my favorites (next to Beauty and the Beast), but I often feel like it gets the raw end of the stick.  Every Snow White retelling that I have read, as of late, just doesn’t seem to do the story justice and this is no exception.  While I thought it was interesting to have the story  told from this particular stories point of view, he was just as undeveloped as that in the Disney movie.


Overall Rating: 

A solid B.  I enjoyed this anthology a lot.  There were a few stories that were really spectacular.  There were a few that had great ideas but the execution just lacked a little.  While there were some, that just seemed like they were more or less a copy paste version of what you find on Wikipedia.  I do recommend picking this one up though if you love fairytales.  For the most part, I liked the effort that the authors put towards this collection and I thought it was pretty well done.

Source: http://howdyyal.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/once-upon-a-timegrim-edited-by-christina-johnson