These recently released books, including some by local authors, feature twists on fairy tales and other well-known stories.
"Out of the Ashes" by Alicia Buck blends magic and the classic story of Cinderella. Ashelandra "Ashe" Enando Camery is full of spunk and livens up her life with pranks and forbidden magic. She is determined to take after her deceased mother and become a sorcerer. When Ashe's father suddenly becomes ill, she tries to save him with magic but fails. After his death, Ashe is forced under the care of her cruel uncle until she turns of age.
Ashe's uncle starts with extreme demands and control, but soon progresses to violence and turning Ashe into a servant in her own home. Ashe still finds a way to rebel and secretly learn more magic. On a wild whim, she attends a ball at the palace for a night out and some good food. While Ashe does not get the food, she does meet the prince, and that meeting changes the course of her family life.
Ashe and the reader go on a magical journey in search of true love and the truth. There are some scenes of violence but no bad language in this novel.
— Jennifer Autry
"THE SECRETS OF THE PIED PIPER: The Peddler's Road," by Matthew Cody, Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 355 pages (f) (ages 10 and up)
Maxine "Max" Weber and her younger brother, Carter, have been dragged across the world yet again by their father. This time, they're in the little town of Hamelin, Germany, famous for the centuries-old tale of the Pied Piper. They don't get to enjoy the quaint village, however; something terrifying and seemingly impossible happens, and Max and Carter find themselves transported to the Summer Isle in "The Secrets of the Pied Piper: The Peddler's Road."
The Summer Isle should be a place of fairy tales and happy endings. But instead, the enchanted island has as much magic as mayhem. It also houses the unaging, long-ago kidnapped children of Hamelin. All the children want to return home, but first they need to traverse the dangerous Peddler's Road.
Author Matthew Cody has taken a well-known fairy tale and turned it into a marvelous modern-day retelling full of magic and adventure. This well-written book can captivate both children and adults as they are swept into the mythical world of the Pied Piper.
"The Peddler's Road" is a book with clean language and themes. There is no killing and very minimal violence. There are several instances of kidnapping.
Cody lives in New York with his family.
— Elizabeth Reid
In "Ella," Utah author Jessilyn Stewart Peaslee pulls off a difficult feat in producing a Cinderella retelling that not only reminds readers how much they love the original tale but also inspires them to find new elements to cherish.
Ella is a realistic character in her thoughts, words and deeds. She shines through her soot and proves strong in her choices. Victoria, the stepmother, possesses a level of coldness that surpasses evil, but Peaslee brings depth to her character by showing the reason for her disdain.
The ending includes more than one twist, showing Peaslee's ability to craft a story with beautiful prose that allows the reader to rediscover the classic tale all over again and rejoice when Ella finds her prince.
While Peaslee's retelling doesn't have spells or fairy godmothers, she proves there is magic in finding out who you are and staying true to it, and that the most powerful enchantment of all is love.
There is no foul language or sexual content, but there is some violence in scenes where Ella gets her hands whipped.
— Tara Creel
"A LITTLE IN LOVE: Eponine's Story," by Susan Fletcher, Scholastic, $17.99, 288 pages (f) (ages 13 and up)
Inspired by Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables," author Susan Fletcher shares a different perspective of the story in a teen romance titled "A Little in Love: Eponine's Story."
Eponine dreams of love, kindness and compassion — many of the things she is not shown as she grows up, until little Cosette comes to live with her family. Her innkeeper parents, who go from being well-to-do to impoverished, teach Eponine to hate and steal. As she matures, she determines to find solace, peace and goodness in her life by leaving her family and doing good works wherever she goes.
She walks the streets of Paris to find the man she loves, Marius, in a quest to unite him with Cosette, the woman he is deeply in love with.
The book contains brief mild language, and there is no sexual content aside from kissing. The beginning and ending depict images of war as the story is set amid conflicts in 19th-century France. Although there are scenes of war and death, there is no descriptive gore.
"A Little in Love" is a great read for those who enjoy teen romance and drama.
— Micah Klug
TJ Hoisington's "Return to Robinson Island" is an excellent sequel to the 1812 book "Swiss Family Robinson" by Johann David Wyss. It upholds the strong family and religious themes of the original storyline and strengthens them through new romances and friendships.
The Robinson family was shipwrecked on an unknown island on its way to Australia. After Hoisington watched the Disney movie "Swiss Family Robinson" with his son, the idea of a sequel was born.
The main character is one of the sons, Ernest Robinson, who is now 27, a lieutenant in the British Royal Navy and engaged to Elizabeth Cole. He was a witness in the court martial of Capt. Charlie Williamson, who wants revenge.
Ernest and his best friend, John, visit his family on Robinson Island, and they help find a hidden pirate treasure. Greed comes into play as a betrayal by John and a scheming Capt. Williamson bring danger to Robinson Island. The Robinson family must defend the island and themselves.
The importance of God, family, forgiveness and self-reliance are strongly emphasized.
There is some violence, but it is mildly described. There is no adult language, and the romance is kept to a few kisses.
— Kent Larson