Published by Katherine Tegen Books on July 31, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction, Retelling
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Everyone knows what happens in the end. A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss. But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends. One feared, one royal, and one already dead.
Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch.
A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.
But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.
What always impresses me about fairytale retellings is how authors are able to take a beloved story that we all know so well and somehow manage to put their own completely unique spin on it to turn it into something fresh and new. Sarah Henning’s Sea Witch is the third Little Mermaid retelling I’ve read recently and I found myself wondering if Henning could really bring anything to the table that I hadn’t already read. Well, spoiler alert, she can and does! With Sea Witch, Henning offers up a compelling origin story for resident villain, Ursula the Sea Witch. It’s filled with memorable characters, a vivid and atmosphere setting, and a storyline peppered with mystery, secrets, and lies.
I was sympathetic to Evie, the main character, because of a tragedy that takes the life of her best friend, Anna. Evie and Anna were out swimming and while they were racing each other, Anna drowns. Evie survives but is shunned as an outcast by everyone in the small fishing town she lives in. They see her as a witch or curse. The exception to that is Prince Nik, who although he is royalty, has never cared what anyone thinks of him or Evie. She is one of his best friends and like a sister to him. Nik is a fantastic character for a lot of reasons. He’s handsome and kind, hilarious and somewhat of a dork at times, and really just downright loveable. Honestly, he was my favorite character.
I was also drawn in by both the worldbuilding and the storyline itself, which is a fairytale wrapped in a mystery. The story is set in Havnestad, a small fishing town, and the author paints such a vivid picture that I could practically hear the waves crashing and the wind whipping through the ships’ sails, and taste and smell the salt in the air. I also liked that the story had a dark, almost moody feel to it at times. It was so atmospheric that it was very easy to slip into the mystery and follow it until it leads to the “birth” of the Sea Witch.
Sea Witch is pretty well-paced overall, although I’ll admit it did lag a little for me during a festival early on in the story. However, once the mysterious Annemette, who bears an almost eerie resemblance to the drowned Anna, appears on the scene and unloads her secrets on Evie, the mystery intensifies and the pace quickens. The mystery of who Annemette really is, why she has come to Havnestad, and what she wants from Evie kept me eagerly turning the pages. Even with my slight issue with the pacing and my liking a secondary character a little more than the main character, I still quite enjoyed Sea Witch and think fans of The Little Mermaid will love it. 3.5 STARS
Good Luck with That by Kristan Higgins
Published by Berkley Books on August 7, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
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Emerson, Georgia, and Marley have been best friends ever since they met at a weight-loss camp as teens. When Emerson tragically passes away, she leaves one final wish for her best friends: to conquer the fears they still carry as adults.
For each of them, that means something different. For Marley, it's coming to terms with the survivor's guilt she's carried around since her twin sister's death, which has left her blind to the real chance for romance in her life. For Georgia, it's about learning to stop trying to live up to her mother's and brother's ridiculous standards, and learning to accept the love her ex-husband has tried to give her.
But as Marley and Georgia grow stronger, the real meaning of Emerson's dying wish becomes truly clear: more than anything, she wanted her friends to love themselves.
Wow, talk about a book that packs an emotional punch! Good Luck with That was my first time reading anything by Kristan Higgins and I was not at all prepared for how hard hitting this story was going to be. This is a story that tackles a tough but all too relevant issue for many of us – that of body image and how so many people have a tendency to define their sense of self-worth based on how they look and, especially in this story, how much they weigh.
The story follows three friends, Emerson, Georgia, and Marley, who have been friends since they were teens and met at a weight loss camp. When Emerson tragically passes away, her dying wish is for her two best friends to complete the tasks on a list they made as teenagers, a list of things they would do when they finally became skinny. While some of the items on the list now seem silly to Georgia and Marley, they make it their mission to fulfill Emerson’s last wish. This becomes an emotional and sometimes painful journey for both women as they not only strive to face their lifelong fears and complete the tasks on this list but are also forced to reflect on choices that they’ve made throughout their lives. Their perspectives are rounded out as we are also given Emerson’s thoughts as her life and health become increasingly fragile, as seen through the pages of the journal she kept. It was hard to read at times but I thought Higgins did an incredible job of making it all sound so real and so honest.
While Good Luck with That can be an emotionally draining read at times, ultimately I think it just has such an important message and it’s one that I hope will stick with me long after having finished this book. Emerson wants Georgia and Marley to come away from that list knowing that life is too short and it’s so important to just love yourself as you are. You can’t sit around and not live your life to the fullest just because you aren’t whatever your eyes or society’s eyes thinks is the ideal body shape and size.
This may not be a read for everyone as it does deal with such a tough topic, but I think Higgins handles it with great sensitivity and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is in search of a powerful read about body image and self-worth. 4 STARS.