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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

TITLE: Sweetly                                SERIES: Fairytale Retellings #1
AUTHOR: Jackson Pearce              PUB. DATE: Aug. 23, 2011
PUBLISHER: Little Brown Books 
FORMAT: Hardcover, 312 pgs      SOURCE: bought
Sweetly (Fairytale Retellings #2)
Twelve years ago, Gretchen, her twin sister, and her brother went looking for a witch in the forest. They found something. Maybe it was a witch, maybe a monster, they aren’t sure—they were running too fast to tell. Either way, Gretchen’s twin sister was never seen again.

Years later, after being thrown out of their house, Gretchen and Ansel find themselves in Live Oak, South Carolina, a place on the verge of becoming a ghost town. They move in with Sophia Kelly, a young and beautiful chocolatier owner who opens not only her home, but her heart to Gretchen and Ansel.

Yet the witch isn’t gone—it’s here, lurking in the forests of Live Oak, preying on Live Oak girls every year after Sophia Kelly’s infamous chocolate festival. But Gretchen is determined to stop running from witches in the forest, and start fighting back. Alongside Samuel Reynolds, a boy as quick with a gun as he is a sarcastic remark, Gretchen digs deeper into the mystery of not only what the witch is, but how it chooses its victims. Yet the further she investigates, the more she finds herself wondering who the real monster is, and if love can be as deadly as it is beautiful

THREE WORDS: Mysterious. Yummy. Spellbinding

MY “I JUST FINISHED THIS BOOK” REACTION: Jackson Pearce has done it again! She’s taken a well-known story and added her own sparkle, zing, snazz, and pop to create something new and extraordinary. Also, I really want some chocolate now. And I feel the need to hug my siblings.

MY REVIEW: After reading and enjoying Pearce’s Sisters Red, I just knew I had to read the companion novel Sweetly. And it’s important to emphasize the fact that Sweetly is NOT a sequel, but companion. Yes, the story taking place exist in the same fantasy world as Sisters Red and there are similar elements, but this book is all its own and can easily stand alone. That being said, you should totally read Sisters Red cause it’s awesome.
Sweetly is a smartly crafted retelling of Hansel and Gretel, that’s stuffed with engaging characters, a captivating and clever story, and enough mystery; romance; and fantasy whimsy to keep you engrossed.

Ten years ago, Ansel, Gretchen, and Gretchen’s twin ventured into the woods near their home in search of the fabled witch. After being chased by a mysterious monster, only Ansel and Gretchen walk out of the woods. Their sister vanished never to be seen again. Their mother soon dies from grief and their father quickly remarries. After their father’s death, 19 year old Ansel and 18 year old Gretchen’s stepmother kicks them out. The two leave Washington state and head for the coast of SC, but before they can get there, their car breaks down in the sleepy town of Live Oak. The siblings find a home here with the beautiful young Sophia Kelly, a chocolatier. Ansel and Gretchen both quickly come to love Sophia and believe that just maybe they found where they belong. But Gretchen’s childhood fears soon come back to haunt her, and along with a guy named Samuel, she must figure out how to stop this monster and uncover the mystery behind the way it chooses its victims.

            THE STORY
Once again, I am awed and delighted by Pearce’s ability to take a story so well-known and iconic, and by adding her own brand of fantasy, humor, and intrigue and by using her confident, unwavering talent, she has turned it into something modern, fresh, and spellbinding. The fantasy and supernatural elements are original and thrilling, but I liked that they didn’t dominate the story. There’s a really great balance between the fantasy and the character driven emotion.

Like in Sisters Red, this book has a real razor sharp bite. Yes, there’s a whimsical quality to the fantasy, but there’s also a real delicious dark, edgy twisted quality to it as well. This is something that I’m slowly coming to associate with and definitely appreciate about Pearce.

Also like Sisters Red, this story is very emotionally driven as well. It isn’t all about monsters and mystery, Sweetly is also very much about love, family, and finding one’s self.

This book moved at a perfect pace; never too slow or too fast. Pearce really allowed me to get to know her characters, and her story developed so naturally. The mystery is clever and well developed, although some things were a bit predictable. Not predictable in the sense that I was able to figure things out completely long before they happened, but predictable in the sense that when some things happened I wasn’t completely surprised. But there were definitely more “OMG *gasp*” moments then “Yeah, saw that coming” moments.

The climax had my heart racing and had me reading like a crazy woman. These scenes exploded with an electric intensity that I found pretty cool.

There were a few things that I really liked on a personal level. I liked that this story was set in the south, SC to be exact. I’m a southern girl, living in NC, and there were some inside things that made me smile. Like how Live Oak is obsessed with their big high school football championship win of 1969, or how the diner serves Cheerwine, and how the siblings were heading to Folly Beach in the beginning of the book. For those non-southerners, southern small towns are crazy about their high school football, Cheerwine is a soda only sold in the south (I live 5 minutes from the Cheerwine manufacturing plant), and Folly Beach is my favorite place in the world.
The story is told from Gretchen’s point of view, making her the most developed character. I really liked Gretchen. On the surface she’s a bit quiet, insecure, and reserved, but underneath that shy exterior she’s quite brave, determined, and sassy. She’s very realistic and relatable.

We don’t get to know Ansel as well as Gretchen (which I would have liked to), but he too, is very well developed. We see him through Gretchen’s perspective though, and since she knows him better than anyone we do get to see him clearly. He’s protective, caring, sweet, and genuinely a great guy. The relationship between Ansel and Gretchen is one that I think many people with siblings can appreciate…I know I did.

Sophia is kind of a whimsical enigma. She’s a young, beautiful candy maker living all by herself in the woods, and she’s pretty fascinating. Her character is easy to like, yet at the same time she’s easy to mistrust as well. I found myself just as conflicted by her as Gretchen is.

Samuel was a fun character to read because he’s so sarcastic and confident, yet he has very awkward, cute moments as well. He has a real enticing edge to him, but also an irresistible sweetness too. I really wish he was in the story more.

The romance in Sweetly isn’t really a huge part of the story, but it is important. As much as I enjoyed the romantic aspects, I liked that they took a backseat to the more fantastical and emotional aspects. Pearce really weaves the romance throughout the story in a very subtle, intriguing way. Gretchen/Samuel had me smiling like a goof, while Ansel/Sophia had me tearing up. There are lots of heartwarming and heartbreaking moments where romance is involved.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: This is a captivating, smartly written page turner. Jackson Pearce has created a fresh, edgy, entertaining read that held me spellbound.  Sweetly is a really awesome book, definitely worth checking out!

4 Cupcakes

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for the review! I totally feel like reading it :)