Europe 2015: Neuschwanstein Castle

It’s been more than a month since I came back from Europe and I’m still not done with my travel updates here on the blog. I’ve even gone back home to Manila since then. I’ve been distracted by real life, reading and writing book-related posts (which is what this blog is actually about LOL). As promised, here’s an update on Neuschwanstein Castle, one of the sites we visited that I LOVED.

Neuschwanstein Castle is probably one of the most famous castles in Europe. It was the inspiration for Disney’s iconic Sleeping Beauty castle. It’s located above the village of Hohenschwangau, which is 2 hours away by train from Munich. I really, really wanted to see Neuschwanstein which was why I chose Munich as the exit point (with Prague as the entry point) when I was booking tickets for Europe. Check out the pictures and let me know if you agree with me that Neuschwanstein Castle is worth a visit.

View of the town of Hohenschwangau and Alpsee, the lake nearby:
Hohenschwangau 2

Some shots of the front of the castle:
Neuschwanstein - front Neuschwanstein - front 2

And the back of the castle:
Neuschwanstein - back

We joined a tour of the castle interiors but pictures weren’t allowed inside, which is too bad because the rooms we saw were all beautiful. Not surprisng since King Ludwig II intent was to make the castle his refuge from court life. There is a magnificent view of the castle from a bridge called Marienbrücke:
Neuschwanstein Castle

From this area, there is a view that shows Hohenschangau Castle, where King Ludwig II grew up. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to explore this yellow castle.
Hohenschwangau Hohenschwangau castle

I’m so glad I got to see Neuschwanstein Castle in person, and in such gorgeous weather too. It’s really the stuff fairytales are made of.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

I have mentioned Daughter of the Forest several times here on my blog because I’ve heard so many good things about it. Book blogger and Goodreads friends have told me that this novel is one of their favorites. It’s a retelling of the fairy tale The Six Swans and that makes it more interesting for me. This was my Want Books? pick just last week and luckily, Fully Booked had one copy left. Sure it was in their Cebu branch and they had to send it by courier to Manila but what the heck, at least I got a copy. 🙂

Here’s the summary from the Macmillan website and is also the summary at the back of the book:

Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.

But Sorcha’s joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift-by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever.

When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all…

Wow, just wow. I was blown away by this book. I mean I had high expectations because of what everyone said but I was still pleasantly surprised at how lovely it was. A word of caution – this was not an easy book to read. I know that I mostly read YA novels so I just wanted to get this out there. It was hard to read because of everything that Sorcha had to go through. The writing is so vivid and imaginative that your heart will break whenever there’s pain and suffering for the main character, which happens several times over. But this book is well worth the trouble. There were times when I had to stop reading because my heart went out to Sorcha, she suffers when she deserves to be happy. The only other Marillier that I’ve read was Wildwood Dancing and though I enjoyed reading that, I wasn’t impressed. After reading Daughter of the Forest, I can now join the ranks of Marillier fans out there.

I enjoy reading fairy tale retellings because it’s always interesting to see where the author will take the story using the fairy tale as the backbone. This one was no different. Using the gist of The Six Swans fairy tale, Ms. Marillier made the story come alive with a wonderful blend of historical fiction and Celtic mythology. Sorcha is the seventh child of Lord Colum, a seventh son himself and Lord of Sevenwaters. As the only girl, Sorcha is well-protected and beloved by her brothers. I loved how distinct each brother’s personality is and how close-knit they are in spite of their differences. They were all tied together by their bond as siblings. Daughter of the Forest is a wonderful story about love – love for your family, love for the land where you came from and true love, which is elusive and comes only once in a person’s life. That speech towards the end of the book is a winner. I’d love to post it here but I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read the book. For those who’ve read it, does “You are bone of my bone, and breath of my breath.” ring a bell?

I just got copies of Son of Shadows and Child of the Prophecy from Fully Booked yesterday. Son of the Shadows occurs a generation after Daughter of the Forest and I’ve been assured by Angie and Holly that it’s just as good as the first one in the series. I’m excited to read it!

Beastly by Alex Flinn

I’ve heard about Beastly a couple of years back but I haven’t been able to find a copy. I’ve always been curious though. Thanks to muntingprinsesa who gave me the book, I finally got to read it.

Here’s the summary from Alex Flinn’s website:
I am a beast. A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog, but a horrible new creature who walks upright – a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever – ruined – unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and a perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly beastly.

I’m always curious about Beauty and the Beast retellings. This is different from the other retellings that I’ve read because it’s set in modern-day New York City and told from the point of view of the Beast. The only other retelling narrated by the Beast that I know of is Beast by Donna Jo Napoli. This is unusual because the story starts before the transformation. So readers get to find out what the Beast did to deserve the curse as punishment. In Beastly, Kyle Kingsbury is popular, handsome, has a rich dad and knows that he’s living the perfect life. He’s also a snob, looks down on people who he thinks doesn’t deserve his attention and judges people based on their looks. A witch in his class wants to teach him a lesson so she casts a spell on him. Unlike the Beast in other retellings, Kyle only has two years to find a girl to love and break the curse. Depressed that he lost his so-called perfect life, Kyle moves to a huge Brooklyn house with just a blind tutor and their housemaid. He even changes his name to Adrian, which means darkness.

I liked the modern setting of the story and that Kyle/Adrian is just a teenage boy. During his isolation, he watches DVDs and goes online to chat with a transformation support group. These chat logs in between chapters are pretty funny. One common thing that I noticed is that in these retellings, the Beauty of the story always likes to read books. Lindy, the Beauty in Beastly, is no different. I just wish there were more anecdotes on the interaction of these two characters. I didn’t feel like their relationship was fully developed. All in all, it was still pretty interesting to read a different kind of Beauty and the Beast retelling. I recommend this for fans of fairy tale retellings.

Check out Alex Flinn’s website for an excerpt of the book. The prologue and the first chapter is there. There’s also a preview of the movie. I hope they show the movie here when it’s released. I want to watch it. The cast of characters is pretty interesting though. Alex Pettyfer plays Kyle, Vanessa Hudgens plays Lindy (the Beauty of the story), Mary-Kate Olsen plays Kendra (the witch) and Neil Patrick Harris plays Will (Kyle’s tutor when he becomes the Beast). Isn’t Lindy supposed to have red hair? And it’ll be interesting how NPH will act in this movie.

This book is one of my entries in the Once Upon a Time challenge.

Fairy Tale Retelling

I like fairy tale retellings because it’s always interesting how an author can take a well-known story and make it her own. A few years ago, I discovered Simon & Schuster’s Once Upon a Time, which is a series of fairy tale retellings. I think I have most of the books in the series because I collected them before reading them. I stopped collecting after reading the books because I was disappointed. I’ll post what I wrote in Goodreads about two books from the series that a friend gave me recently.

Belle: A Retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” by Cameron Dokey

Belle is convinced she has the wrong name, as she lacks her sisters’ awe-inspiring beauty. So she withdraws from society, devoting her time to wood carving. Secretly, Belle longs to find the fabled Heartwood Tree. If carved by the right hands, the Heartwood will reveal the face of one’s true love.

During a fierce storm, Belle’s father stumbles upon the mysterious Heartwood – and encounters a terrifying and lonely Beast. Now Belle must carve the Heartwood to save her father, and learn to see not with the eyes of her mind, but with the eyes of her heart.

My Thoughts:
I love fairy tale retellings and Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale so I’m always curious about retellings about it. I’ve read most of the books in the Once Upon a Time series but I felt like they weren’t really for me. I don’t know why, maybe because they were trying to keep the books short, I felt like that stories weren’t fully developed. The same was true for this one.

The beginning reminded me of Robin McKinley’s Beauty I love fairy tale retellings and Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale so I’m always curious about retellings about it. I’ve read most of the books in the Once Upon a Time series but I felt like they weren’t really for me. I don’t know why, maybe because they were trying to keep the books short, I felt like that stories weren’t fully developed. The same was true for this one.

Cameron Dokey deviated from the usual story by coming up with the Heartwood Tree. Instead of a rose, Belle’s father took home a branch from the Heartwood Tree. Overall, the book was just okay for me. I would’ve probably liked it better if the story was more developed. I didn’t really feel that the Beast and Belle connected during the short time that they were together.

The Wild Orchid: A Retelling of “The Ballad of Mulan” by Cameron Dokey

Wielding a sword as deftly as an embroidery needle, Mulan is unlike any other girl in China. When the emperor summons a great army, each family must send a male to fight. Tomboyish Mulan is determined to spare her aging father and bring her family honor, so she disguises herself and answers the call. But Mulan never expects to find a friend, let alone a soul mate, in the commander of her division, Prince Jian. For all of Mulan’s courage with a bow and arrow, is she brave enough to share her true identity and feelings with Prince Jian?

My Thoughts:
I enjoyed reading a book about Mulan because I only know her story because of the Disney movie, which I really liked because I love warrior women. I really like the beginning of this book but my usual complaint with the Once Upon a Time series still stands, I think it would’ve been better to add more meat to the bones. I felt like the latter part of the book wasn’t fully developed. The events felt too abrupt. It’s still a light and fun read for those who’re interested in Mulan and those who just enjoy retellings in general.

Once Upon A Time

I’ve never participated in a challenge before. I wanted to participate in the 2010 Author Debut challenge but I’m not sure if the books on that list will become available over here. The Once Upon A Time challenge seems more doable since I read mostly fantasy anyway. It looks like a lot fun! I found out about this from Chelle over at Tempting Persephone. Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting the challenge.

The fourth annual Once Upon a Time Challenge officially begins on Sunday, March 21st and ends June 20th. I chose the Quest the First option, which means I need to read at least five books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time IV criteria. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or a combination from the four genres.

Here are my possibles:

I already have some of the books in this pile of possibles but I’m still waiting for the others to be released. I’m really hoping they become available here.

Beauty and the Beast

I like fairy tales because I like the phrases Once upon a time and Happily ever after and what they mean. I like happy endings because I want to feel good after reading a book. This is one of the reasons why I like fairy tale retellings. I also like retellings because it’s always interesting how an authors come up with a new story woven around the basic premise of old fairy tales.

My favorite fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast. I’ve read a couple of retellings of this tale such as:

Beauty by Robin McKinley
Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley
Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey
Beast by Donna Jo Napoli

I also have Beastly by Alex Finn in my wish list. Beauty is my favorite out of all these books.

In my quest to find more retellings of Beauty and the Beast, I came to realize that there are other stories that are similar to this tale such as Cupid and Psyche’s story in Greek mythology and the Norweigan fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon, which in turn, have their own retellings. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis for Cupid and Psyche and the following for East of the Sun and West of the Moon:

East by Edith Pattou
Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

I don’t have a copy of the last one so I haven’t read it. But I just finished reading Ice, which is the reason why I’m writing this post. If there are other retellings out there, please let me know.

Speaking of Once upon a time, here’s a nice quote that I got from Godreads:

“We don’t need a list of rights and wrongs, tables of do’s and don’ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.” — Philip Pullman

Beauty by Robin McKinley

I’m a fan of fairy tale retellings. My favorite fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast – I love the original story, the Disney adaptation and a couple of retellings including Beauty by Robin McKinley.

Here’s the synopsis from Robin McKinley’s site:

Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are beautiful. But what she lacks in looks she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty declares she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will.

I think I found out about Beauty in some of the forums that I used to browse in, I’ve forgotten where exactly. But I do know that I was looking for fairy tale retellings and since Beauty and the Beast is my favorite and it looked like Robin McKinley’s retelling is a classic, I thought I’d give it a try. I’m glad that I did. Beauty follows the pattern of the original story but with added complexities.

I like that Beauty is an ironic nickname for the character because she’s not as beautiful as her sisters, Hope and Grace. Her given name is Honour but when she was a child and her father tried to explain what it meant, she told her father “Huh! I’d rather be Beauty.” and the nickname stuck. Beauty is thin and awkward and is known for being “the clever one”. She likes to read and study and her dream is to become a scholar in the university.

Also another major difference from the original story is that Hope and Grace are not just beautiful but kind as well. All of the girls love each other and their merchant father. When the family encounters financial difficulties, they decide that their best option would be to move to the country and start a new life. They move to a small town in the country in a house beside a mysterious forest. Time passes and they learn to be content with their new life.

You know what happens next – the merchant father receives word that one of his ships survived and he needs to go back to the city to see to the business. He returns with a rose for Beauty and a story about a Beast in the forest who demands one of his daughters in exchange for his life. Beauty volunteers to go. In a castle somewhere in the forest, she meets the Beast. The rest, as they say, is history. Beauty is a retelling that doesn’t have twists that vary from the original story, it’s mostly a fleshed out version of the fairy tale. This is a good start for those who want to try reading fairy tale retellings but not for those who expect variations in the story. And I’d like to point out that this is YA (young adult), as are the other books that I’ve written about. I think that matters to some people.

Beauty is Robin McKinley’s first novel. She has another retelling of Beauty and the Beast entitled Rose Daughter and she also has a retelling of Sleeping Beauty entitled Spindle’s End. Check out her site for more details about her books. I plan to write something about The Blue Sword because it’s one of my favorites as well.

Other book details:

Availability: Beauty is available in some Fully Booked branches.

Price: P359

Amazon link: Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast

Here’s the Amazon star rating for it:

Thanks for reading this post! I hope that after reading this, you go ahead and buy a copy. To those who’ve read the book, what do you think? 🙂 Non-LJ users can leave anonymous comments.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

I have mentioned Shannon Hale a couple of times here in my blog. I mentioned her in both my Crown Duel and Queen’s Thief review last week. That’s because I loved the The Goose Girl so much that after reading it, I checked out her blog. The Goose Girl is a fairy tale retelling of a Grimm brothers story of the same name.

Here’s the summary from Shannon’s website:

She was born with her eyes closed and a word on her tongue, a word she could not taste. Her name was Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, and she spent the first years of her life listening to her aunt’s stories and learning the language of the birds, especially the swans. And when she was older, she watched as a colt was born, and she heard the first word on his tongue, his name, Falada.

From the Grimm’s fairy tale of the princess who became a goose girl before she could become queen, Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original, and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can lead the people she has made her own.

I was browsing in National Bookstore Cubao when I first saw The Goose Girl. I was starting to get interested in fairy tale retellings so I thought I’d give it a shot and I’m glad I did. For those who haven’t read the fairy tale and want to check it out, Shannon has it in her site over here. I knew the story before reading the book and a few chapters in, I remember thinking that it looks like it’s going to be a great book. I was right!

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