Alex O’Donnell and the Forty Cyber Thieves



by Regina Doman

Published 2010

I was quite sleep-deprived when I posted last night, so hopefully that entry made as least a modicum of sense.  Don’t ask me why I posted a picture of Gypsy Jack; I really have no idea.

Alex O’Donnell is the fifth installment of Doman’s Fairy Tales Retold series, and was definitely my favorite.  Alex, whom we first met in Waking Rosehas finished college and is heading home while he decides what to do next.  He’s been dating one of Rose’s friends, Kateri (the crazy activist one), but Kateri, unknown to Alex, has decided that this relationship just isn’t going to work out in the long run.  When Alex invites Kateri to come visit his family, she decides it will be the perfect opportunity to break up with him in person.

However, when she gets there, the O’Donnells are nothing like she’s expected, and life gets complicated fast.  Alex’s dad has accidentally received a large sum of money – and events go haywire from there.

First off, I have to say that this book isn’t super realistic, but at the same time, it’s plausible (even if not probable), and that keeps the story going.  The O’Donnells are fantastic, and I actually ended up feeling like Kateri wasn’t good enough for Alex (about my only real gripe with this book was that it really felt like Kateri expected Alex to do all the changing to make their relationship work instead of acknowledging that they both had weaknesses that they needed to work through).  If you’re interesting in ninjas, sword-fighting, computer-hacking, or running your own hotel, this is definitely a book for you.

Although this story fits with the others – Rose and Fish even make a brief appearance – it can definitely be read as a stand-alone.  There are religious themes throughout, but it’s not a preachy book.  Doman does a fantastic job tailoring her modern story to fit the original Ali Baba, and the snippets of the original tale at the beginning of each chapter of this book really tie things together.

All in all, this book is a rollicking adventure that I definitely recommend.  4/5.

The Midnight Dancers

by Regina Doman

Published 2008

This is the fourth installment of Doman’s “Fairy Tales Retold” series.  While the first three built on each other and should definitely be read in order, The Midnight Dancers is only loosely connected and can easily be read as its own story.

Per usual, Doman does a fantastic job creating a (semi anyway) plausible situation, allowing the familiar story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses (one of my favorite fairy tales, incidentally) to unfold, sans magic.

The story is about a family of twelve daughters.  In a Brady Bunch-like move, Mr. Durham, a widower with six daughters, marries a widow with six daughters of her own (the youngest one in curls).  This mixed family produces a lot of characters to follow, but Doman does a fairly good job giving everyone different enough names, making them much easier to follow.  (For some reason that I can’t understand, authors frequently give characters very similar names, which gets very confusing when there are a lot of different people to follow; The Thirteenth Princess comes immediately to mind.)  She’s also unafraid to have sisters whose stories/opinions are not super important – some of them are basically just names and that’s okay because we don’t really have time to listen to the opinions of all twelve girls.

The story focuses on Rachel, one of the two oldest sisters.  Tired of her conventionally conservative and dull life, Rachel yearns for excitement, adventure, romance – all things that seem completely out of reach.  Instead, she’s stuck spending her days working around the house and around their church family as well.  Her relationship with her dad has deteriorated, and all in all Rachel feels bored, unappreciated, and stifled.

When she and her sisters discover a secret passageway from their bedroom out of the house, Rachel views it as a perfect opportunity to start really living life.

Meanwhile, a few years earlier, Mr. Durham met Paul Fester, who actually saved his life (they were both in the military at the time).  Those who have read Doman’s other books will recognize Paul as one of Rose’s college friends.  Paul happens to be living for the summer near the Durham’s home, and, through a series of events, finds himself trying to help Mr. Durham out by trying to find out what, exactly, his daughters are up to.

Overall, this was a really good book, and I actually really enjoyed it.  However, there were times that I felt like the story spun out of control a bit.  The “bad guys” that Rachel and her sisters meet are a little over-the-top (as an aside, I’m also not sure where Doman gets her information on how people act when they’ve smoked some weed; I really am not confident that it leads to all the evils she sets forth), and seem to rather suddenly go from a kind of sleezy would-be seducer to a potential rapist and murderer, and it all seems a bit much.  In the same vein, Paul seems to take the whole “wait until the girls decide to confess for themselves” line a bit far, as there reaches a point where they’re actually going to be in danger, and he’s still shilly-shallying, waiting for them to realize the errors of their ways and freely confess.

Still, there are some excellent conversations in this book.  Paul is Catholic (as is Doman), while the Durhams are protestants.  While Doman doesn’t go quite so far as to say that the Durhams are wrong, she does manage to portray a very stereotypical “conservative Christian family” that doesn’t sit entirely comfortably with me, especially since it felt as though many of the questions she raised about faith, church, and family, were left unresolved.

I did like the way that she brought Rachel and her dad back together, allowing both to realize that they were wrong; overall, it felt like the Durham family was definitely on its way to becoming stronger and closer at the end of the book.

Overall, a solid read, although a bit overly dramatic at times.  4/5.

Waking Rose



by Regina Doman

Published 2007

So, this is the third book of the Fairy Tales Retold series.  While the first book sort of introduced everyone and the second book focused on the older sister, Blanche, the third story is about the younger sister, Rose.

In the beginning, Blanche marries her hero, Bear, and they continue on their road of perfect coupleism.  Meanwhile, Rose has long harbored feelings for Bear’s younger brother, Fish, but Fish doesn’t reciprocate, a point he makes abundantly clear.  Rose decides that it is time to move on from Fish, and to simply enjoy life.  That fall, she starts school at a small Catholic college a few hours from home (but only about an hour from Fish).  She makes friends, becomes involved in the school play, and starts research for a huge paper.

First off, I’ll say that this book was fine.  The story was alright, and Doman’s ability to write a story sans magic that is still definitely a fairy tale is still impressive to me.  But out of the four Doman books I’ve read (I haven’t reviewed The Midnight Dancers yet), this one was by far and away the most far-fetched.  Just…  too much.  Too dramatic, too over-the-top.  While I really enjoyed watching the relationship develop between Rose and Fish (I think that that was really well done), the overall plot left me raising my eyebrows in confusion and surprise far too often (and not the good kind of surprise – more like Why in the world did you just do that?!!?  How is that a natural way for these characters to act/react?!?!).  

On top of that, Doman seemed determined to write this book very formally.  There’s a hint of that through all her books, revealed in the usage of words not always included in our common vernacular, but she goes overboard in Waking Rose.  For instance, this sentence:  “The progeny of the deceased nurse looked at each other dubiously.”  Are you serious!?  Couldn’t we just say “Mark and Frances”??  The whole book is like that.

The other thing (while I’m on a ranting role) that irrationally annoyed me about this book was the fact that whenever she switched viewpoints between Rose and Fish, she would title the new section “His” or “Hers.”  The point of view changes actually worked perfectly fine – it was an excellent way to get to know the two characters.  But neither voice was the first person – both were told in the third person, so it’s immediately obvious that we’ve switched to what Fish is thinking/saying/doing from what Rose is thinking/saying/doing.  The whole His and Hers things just seemed clunky and unnecessary (almost as unnecessary as me bothering to gripe about it).

Despite all that, and despite using a coma again to further her plot, overall the story wasn’t dreadful.  I haven’t been doing a very good job giving specific rankings to books lately (trying to get better again!), but I’d probably place the other two around a 4/5 (maybe more like high 3s??), and this one at a low 3/5.  A fun read, but one that could have easily been shorter, simpler, and a little more believable.

Black as Night

by Regina Doman

Published 2004

So my sister really wanted to borrow this book before it was due at the library, and she spirited it away before I had a chance to take a picture…

At any rate, this is the sequel to The Shadow of the Bearand, like the first book, is the retelling of a fairy tale – except set in modern times, without magic.  In Black as Night, Doman tells the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and I was more than a little impressed at how she capture all the basic tenants of the story even though she didn’t have magic, a witch, or dwarfs.

Doman seems to understand what makes a fairy tale a fairy tale, and thus her stories are unmistakably fairy tales.  Black as Night was fairly believable.  The story was well-paced and engaging.  In this particular instance, dumping us into the middle of the story and then feeding us bits of the back-story as necessary really worked (sometimes it’s just confusing), as it definitely added to the confusion and terror that Blanche (the heroine) was feeling.

I think that the scariest part of this story was the same as it was with The Shadow of the Bear – injustice.  That Blanche, though completely innocent, could be so completely framed, was terrifying.  That those whom she should have been able to trust now suspect her, leaving her friendless and alone – that really fit the essence of the story of Snow White.

As I mentioned when reviewing The Shadow of the Bear, Doman is unashamedly Catholic, and her characters are as well.  This is a major part of the story, but it works.  Anyone who has truly come to grips with their religion knows that it is a huge part of who you are; the Catholicism of Blanche and some of the other characters is an intrinsic part of who they are, and without that aspect, much of their motivation, hope, encouragement, and yes, even frustration and despair, would be lacking.

While I think that the book will read fine for someone who is not particularly religious, it may still make someone who believes differently uncomfortable.  For me (a protestant Christian), the only confusing part were moments where Doman assumed that her readers were Catholic and thus would completely understand what was going on.  It wasn’t usually difficult to follow, but, for instance, she seems to assume that the reader will know the difference between a friar and a monk.  It’s a sort of running joke throughout the book where someone says something about a monk, and one of the friars points out that they’re actually friars.  I had no idea that there even was a difference, and finally had to look it up.  It seems as though it would have been just as easy to, the first time it was mentioned, actually tell the readers – something along the lines of, “Oh, we’re not monks – our focus is on serving those around us, rather than living a cloistered life – we’re friars.”

A large part of this story is Blanche not knowing if she is going crazy or not, and Doman gives us that very well – wasn’t even sure whether or not Blanche was going crazy.  Even though at times it felt a little over-the-top, Blanche’s paranoia and fears were very real.

This book was longer than The Shadow of the Bear, and in some ways it felt too long.  I can’t say exactly where it dragged, but it did, a bit.  It was a book that, when I was actually reading it, I didn’t want to put down, but when I wasn’t reading it, I didn’t feel inspired to pick back up.

In short, it was a gripping read, but could have lost some pages without losing too much story.  It was intense, well-written, an excellent fairy tale, though perhaps overly religious for some.  However, I definitely recommend it as a sequel to The Shadow of the Bear (they really need to be read in order).

The Shadow of the Bear



by Regina Doman

Published 1997

Someone, and I can’t remember who (SO BAD at remember who recommends books to me!  I’m sorry!), recommended this series of fairy tales retold to me.  The Shadow of the Bear is the first and is a modern-day retelling of Snow White and Rose Red.  I’ve actually always really liked that fairy tale, and was excited to see someone paying attention to it.

Doman tells a story without magic, yet a story that is still most definitely a fairy tale.  I really, really enjoyed this book, and am looking forward to reading the rest in the series.

One of the things I especially loved was the way that the beginning of each chapter was a quote from the original fairy tale – that really added context and helped the reader to see the parallels between the original story and Doman’s version.  The story was well-paced and the characters were engaging.

The author is obviously a Catholic, and her conservative viewpoints come through strongly in her writing.  However, she isn’t obnoxious about it, and there are no “preachy” sections.  I would be thrilled to find more YA Christian fiction like this, as I think that Doman has struck an excellent balance between allowing her characters to naturally discuss their religion (and the morals thereof) without making the book into a theology lesson.  I also think that the story is strong enough that non-Christian/non-religious readers will also find it enjoyable and intriguing, which, for me, is the hallmark of good fiction: are the story and characters strong enough that even someone who completely disagrees with the author’s viewpoint can still enjoy them?  (e.g., I obviously have a lot of disagreements with Elizabeth Peters’s Amelia Peabody books, but the story/characters are strong enough to keep me reading anyway)  For Doman’s tale, I think the answer is yes.

Sometimes the writing does get a little …  flowery? … for me (one scene where they’re getting on the subway and one of the characters goes off on this thing about how these underground trains remind her of dragons yadda yadda and, I don’t know, it just felt a bit over-the-top with this poetical description in the midst of the conversation; on the other hand, the character has a bit of an overly-dramatic personality, so in a way it fit, lol) but overall the story moves briskly.

Excellent read, 4/5.