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Monday, April 20, 2015

Trailer Reveal & Giveaway: Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt!

I know today is technically supposed to be a vlog day, but it will be going up tomorrow, so that you guys can see (and enter to win)...

You've already had one chance to win Tiffany Schmidt's crime family-meets-The Princess and the Pea retelling, Hold Me Like a Breath, when I reviewed it for Fairy Tale Fortnight (and that giveaway is still going for a couple of days, so if you haven't entered - do! Double your chances!)
But today the trailer has been released, and you're getting another chance to win a shiny new copy!

Check it out:

To celebrate the reveal of the Hold Me Like a Breath trailer, Bloomsbury is giving away  one (1) finished copy of Hold Me Like A Breath by Tiffany Schmidt! This giveaway is US Only, and ends Sunday, April 26th.
Fill out the Rafflecopter to enter!

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Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt
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Contemporary, Fairy FindTale Retelling, 400 pages
Expected publication: May 19th 2015 by Bloomsbury
Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.

Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can't protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.

And in her family's line of work no one can be safe forever.

All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.

Tiffany Schmidt lives in Pennsylvania with her saintly husband, impish twin boys, and a pair of mischievous puggles. She's not at all superstitious... at least that's what she tells herself every Friday the thirteenth.

SEND ME A SIGN is her first novel. BRIGHT BEFORE SUNRISE will follow in Winter, 2014. The ONCE UPON A CRIME FAMILY series begins with HOLD ME LIKE A BREATH in 2015. You can find out more about her and her books at: TiffanySchmidt.com, TiffanySchmidtWrites.Tumblr.com or by following her on Twitter @TiffanySchmidt.

Find her on:

Other things to know:
This spring, Bloomsbury's sending four amazing authors—Trish Doller, A.C. Gaughen, Emery Lord, and Tiffany Schmidt—to bookstores together for our Boldly Bookish tour. To celebrate it, they are giving away some goodies! All you have to do is buy one of the following books: The Devil You Know, Lion Heart, The Start of Me and You and/or Hold Me Like A Breath and email your receipt to teensusa@bloomsbury.com, in order to receive one of the following prizes:

Preorder 1 of the books pictured above, and get a Boldly Bookish logo sticker.

Preorder 2 of the books pictured above, and get a sticker + a Boldly Bookish bookmark!

Preorder 3 of the books pictured above, and get a sticker + bookmark + a Boldly Bookish button!

Preorder all 4 of the books pictured above, and get a sticker + bookmark + button + a Boldly Bookishmagnet!

And remember, the more books you preorder, the more Boldly Bookish swag you get!

This giveaway brought to you as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Interview & Giveaway: Lindsay Smith, author of SKANDAL | blog tour

Next week, you'll be seeing a vlog with my thoughts on Skandal, the sequel to Lindsay Smith's Sekret, which some of you may recall, I loved. (I was even part of the street team!) But until then, Lindsay sat down to chat with me about the book and what's on the horizon, and to give YOU a chance to get your hands on a copy! Check out our chat below, and then make sure to enter to win!
Hi, Lindsay! Welcome back to The Book Rat! Alright, let's get down to business...
Your book in a tweet: Skandal in 140 characters or less:
1960s Washington not what Russian psychic defector Yulia expects; new and powerful psychic sickness even worse than she fears.

For the Sekret Street Team Tumblr Takeover (which is what I call it in my mind, apparently), the bloggers on your street team made bits of fan art, playlists, or in my case, weird watercolors and propaganda posters... I would imagine it's a bit of a heady experience, seeing your world through others' eyes like that. Between the street team, general reviews, and fans you've talked to since Sekret debuted, did anything stand out to you, in the things people came up with or the way the answered the prompts, or how people have responded to the characters/world?
I was so amazed by the creativity and passion in the Street Team works! Seriously, it was like the rush of seeing my book in stores for the first time magnified a hundredfold. I loved all the graphics people put together with nice creepy espionage, Soviet, and romantic images, and I also loved the playlists they put together—music is such an important part of Yulia’s world, and the mixes of modern and classical music were awesome.

I’m always so happy when people tell me how much they admired Yulia and Valentin and their character arcs. Yulia’s not an easy heroine to like—she’s stubborn, even to her detriment at times, and paranoid and fatalistic—but I’m proud of her growth.

And following up to that, has any of it made you see your characters and world in a different light? Did you start to see things you didn't even realize were there, now that the book is being filtered through so many different people's perceptions?
I’ve had a lot of people ask me where they should start if they wanted to get into classic Russian literature! I know many readers found Yulia’s fatalistic view somewhat overwhelming, which is understandable, but I can’t say I’d recommend Dostoevsky or Akhmatova to those readers, as they’re even more soul-crushing. ;) But there’s some great Russian sci-fi and fantasy being written today—I personally like the Dyachenkos and Inna Shargorodskaya.

If you could have abilities like Yulia or one of the characters in the book, would you choose to? And what would you most want to be able to do? Least?
I think Sergei’s and Marylou’s “remote viewing” ability has the potential to be the least intrusive; I’d totally use it to watch concerts half the world away or go sightseeing in, like, the Himalayans. In Skandal, I explore the pyrokinetics a little more, and their ability could be incredibly dangerous, but how fun would it be to start a campfire wherever you needed one, or extinguish fire where it shouldn’t be? I’d least want the scrubbers’ ability: the ability to change people’s thoughts and control them against their will. I can’t immediately think of any 100% ethical applications for that.

Music has been a huge part of the story, both because the style of music was undergoing an upheaval during the time period of the book, and because of the way Yulia and Valentin connect to music (and use it as a shield).  Could we get a playlist of songs that are meaningful to one of the characters, or to the book itself?

You got it! Some of these are songs that are mentioned in the books, while some are just songs I liked to listen to while writing (including a few that obviously didn’t exist in Yulia’s time):

And with Skandal finished and out, what's next on the horizon?
I actually have another book releasing later this year, also from Macmillan Kids! Dreamstrider is a standalone high fantasy book, about a girl who has to manipulate the dream world to save her real world from a nightmarish war. We recently revealed the cover, which, in my completely biased opinion, is just stunning. I can’t wait to share this book with the world.

To celebrate the release of Skandal, the awesome folks at Macmillan have offered up a copy of the book to one lucky read in the US or Canada! To enter, leave some love for Lindsay in the comments, and fill out the Rafflecopter below! Ends April 23rd at midnight, EST.
Good luck!

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Skandal by Lindsay Smith
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336 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Roaring Brook Press
The dramatic sequel to Sekret, this psychic Cold War espionage thriller follows Yulia to Washington, DC, where she fights to discover the truth about her family without losing control of her mind.

My mind is mine alone.

Life in Washington, D.C., is not the safe haven Yulia hoped for when she risked everything to flee communist Russia. Her father is reckless and aloof, and Valentin is distant and haunted by his past. Her mother is being targeted by the CIA and the US government is suspicious of Yulia's allegiance. And when super-psychics start turning up in the US capitol, it seems that even Rostov is still a threat. Ultimately, Yulia must keep control of her own mind to save the people she loves and avoid an international Skandal.

Lindsay Smith's love of Russian culture has taken her to Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and a reindeer festival in the middle of Siberia. She lives in Washington, DC, where she writes on foreign affairs. SEKRET is her first novel.

Author Links/Info

 Full Blog Tour Schedule
April 8-Icey Books
April 9-Exlibris Kate
April 12-Fly Leaf Review
April 15-The Bookrat

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Teaser, First Impressions & Giveaway: Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

I had really wanted to review this for you guys for FTF, but unfortunately, it (and a few other books) got here just before the event started, which didn't leave me enough time to read them all, try as I might (and I did try!). But because this one comes out the last of all of the books I'd planned to review (July!), I had to save it for last, and my superhuman reading skills failed me. I have started on this one, and I DO intend to review it for you, closer to its release, but until then I'm going to share my First Impressions with you, as well as an excerpt, so you can get a taste of the book yourself!
Check those out below, and then make sure to enter to win a copy for yourself! And keep an eye out for my full review of Silver in the Blood this summer!

26 April 1897

Dearest Lou, 

Whoever said that travel was exotic and full of adventure clearly has not sailed on the White Lady. Before you worry yourself sick that I am sitting in some squallid cabin, suffering from seasickness, fear not! Of course it is all that is respectable and luxurious, and I would never do something so horribly undignified as become seasick. Fear, rather, that I, your dearest cousin and bosom companion since infancy, shall die of boredom before the trip is even halfway through! I do not know why Papa would not let me take the train from London. I could have stopped in Paris and waited for you, and we could have made our way to Bucharest together. The Orient Express is all that is fashionable.

But my mother was adamant that I avoid Paris at all costs. I am to be punished until the end of time for one moment of frivolity! She couldn't possibly know that William Carver is spending the summer in Paris, could she? I certainly didn't tell her! I have been dying to see Paris, and I could have gone shopping with you besides!

Aunt Kate reminds me endlessly that Bucharest is the Little Paris, and that should be good enough for me, but I disagree!  Why limit myself to the 'Little Paris" when I can see the big one? And thus far there is nothing to see but ocean, and no shopping, and no Will Carver or any reasonable substitute. I am becoming most disagreeable. Aunt Kate is threatening to lock me in my cabin if I do not shake off my "mood," as she calls it. She has yet to see me in a true "mod," dare I say. Much more of this and I shall descend into a despair so black that no amount of elegant dinners in the dining room or walks along the ship's promenade to take the air will bring me out of it.
Unless, of course, we are attacked by piraes. Young, dashing pirates. Will Carver would look very handsome in pirate costume, don't you think, Lou? Oh, you are too far away to ask!

Dear Lou, the other thing is that I'm missing you!  If you were here this would be far more bearable. I shall console myself that one of us shall see Paris—the real Paris— and that soon we shall be reunited! Even if it is in a strange place! And I shan't even be able to send this letter until we reach land, which I pray is soon.

Much, much love, 

First Impressions:
As you can see, this is Victorian-set, semi-epistolary novel (not all of it is in letters; they are interspersed), and that's something we don't see a ton of these days! I for one am excited, because I love things that are different from everything else out there, and also things that take something old and give it new life!

The action and intrigue of the whole thing picks up pretty quickly from the start, which I'm glad of -- it's not drawn out, with a prim little story of a Victorian teenager, that then suddenly becomes something other. I have a feeling we're going to get the excitement and adventure both quickly and boldly, so I can't wait to truly dig in!

And of course, I'm a  big fan of Jessica's, so I was already looking forward to this, but I'm also getting a touch of a Gail Carriger vibe, who is another author I love -- I think this could be something really fun and new in tone from Jessica, and I am very eager to see how it plays out!

Make sure to stop back by this summer for my full review of  Silver in the Blood, before its July release date. But until then, please to enjoy this...
The awesome folks at Bloomsbury have offered up a copy of Silver in the Blood to one lucky Fairy Tale Fortnight reader!
This giveaway is US only, and ends April 22nd at midnight EST
To enter, make sure you are registered on the FTF giveaway registry, and then fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
Good luck!

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Historical Fantasy, 358 pages
Expected publication: July 7th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
A New York Times bestselling author brings dark secrets to life in a lush new YA perfect for fans of Libba Bray or Cassandra Clare.

Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and—most terrifyingly—learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, and it is time for Dacia and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate . . . or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might.

With a gorgeous Romanian setting, stunning Parisian gowns, and dark brooding young men, readers will be swept up by this epic adventure of two girls in a battle for their lives.

Are there more "authorly" pictures of JDG? Yes.
But do they have her bursting out of her own book,
overtop of a griffin? I didn't think so.
Jessica Day George likes chocolate, knitting, books, travel, movies, dragons, horses, dogs, and her family. These are all things to keep in mind if you ever meet her. For instance, you could bring her chocolate to make the meeting go more smoothly. You could also talk about how adorable her children are, even if you have never seen them. You could discuss dog breeds (she had a Maltese named Pippin, and grew up with a poodle mix and a Brittany Spaniel). You could talk about Norway, and how it's the Greatest Place On Earth, and Germany, The Second Greatest Place On Earth. You could ask her about yarn, and indicate a willingness to learn to knit your own socks, if you can't already do so.

And, well, you could talk about books. Jessica's books, other people's books. It's really all about the books. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld: Friends, family, school, they were just obstacles in the way of getting more books.

She would like it if books came with chocolate to eat while reading them. 

Want more fairy tales? Return to the main schedules
by clicking here for The Book Rat or here for A Backwards Story

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Moments from 5 years of Fairy Tale Fortnight!

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke & the Bookish, and today's topic is Top Ten Inspiring Quotes from Books. Bonnie and I have decided to mix things up a bit and do a 5th FTF anniversary retrospective of sorts, which means today won't be inspiring quotes so much as quotes and moments from the last 5 years of Fairy Tale Fortnight. It's hard to pin these down, really, so I'm sure I'm going to miss some. (Also, now that Ashley, my original co-host, is no longer blogging and her blog is gone, some of those moments are lost to history!)
But here are 10 of the moments that always come to mind, that I've loved in some way and find myself thinking about, years later. (And if you want more, I've been sharing them all FTF-long as "In Case You Missed It" posts!) I would LOVE to know some of yours in the comments!

10. I'm going to kick off with my favorite thing of this year, which was my giveaway of a watercolored glass slipper. It's not that this is the best thing I've ever done, or even my favorite post of this year, but this will be the one I remember. I had a goal this year of bringing more me into the blog, and sharing my silly little side projects, like these watercolors, is one way of doing that. So that makes me happy, and knowing that one of you will have something personal from me makes me even happier. ^_^

9. Because it's something I personally like to talk about, IRL, I was happy when Elizabeth Blackwell joined us to talk about strong female characters, and had this to say:
But I’ve discovered, in my own life, that there are many ways to be strong. Elise [main character of While Beauty Slept] quietly subverts other’s expectations. She knows that keeping a secret can be the key to holding power. And when she is tested, she finds strength within herself that she didn’t know she had.[...]Being strong doesn’t always mean being tough and loud—and that goes for real life as well as literature. 
8. Two vlogs on the same note as each other often come to mind, and they are my "Genre Push" of fairy tales, where I tried to narrow down the perfect retelling for different types of readers (and the list is lengthy), and my Top 10 favorite retellings vlog from 2012 -- though I think some of these may have been bumped from their spots in favor of books I've read since... May need to do an update to this!

7. I shared an Ariel lookbook with you as an ICYMI post earlier this month, but my favorite might be last year's lookbook for Belle (probably because I wanted to be her, and certainly wanted to dress like her, when I was a kid). Though I'm not sure anyone else cares the least little bit about these, I love doing them, and they always make me smile when I look back on them -- and probably will even more as the years go on and fashions become laughable... ;)

6. In one of my more unique posts -- and I mean unique in that, it'd probably be hard to pull off again, because there aren't often books so similar, and yet so different -- I compared three retellings of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, side by side, and gave my verdict on which ones failed it and which ones nailed it
I also made the most juvenile joke I think I've ever made, so... there's that.

5. I took a look at some weird tales. Some REALLY weird tales, and they still kinda haunt me to this day... I just... I don't even know what's going on.
What even, Grimms?

4. We've played a couple of Mock Cover games, where you make your own cover for a fairy tale or retelling, but my favorite that I've personally done was 2013's Wolf - a cover I still love so much that I kinda want to write a Little Red Riding Hood retelling to go with it... lol

3. I listed my top 3 tales that I desperately wanted to see unique, solid retellings of, and surprise, surprise, Jack & the Beanstalk and Rapunzel are on it. I had actually forgotten about this post, but I find it particularly funny, given my recent Tea Chat...clearly these are long-standing issues with me. ;)

2. In my review of Jodi Lamm's Titan Magic: Body & Soul, I had some lovely, glowing things to say:
The thing I love about Jodi Lamm's writing is that there are a lot of things I love about Jodi Lamm's writing. 

I was going to list an actual item there, like that her writing is deep and layered.
Or that it's lyrical and lovely.
That it uses the inhuman as a canvas for a study in humanity.
That it's heartbreaking. Triumphant. Poignant.
But as you can see, as soon as I try to pick out the thing I love, a whole host of others clamors to be chosen, too.
But the reason that this quote means something to me is that, beyond reminding me of how much I love this series, I don't think I ever would have found or read these books without Fairy Tale Fortnight. It's possible, but without the strong fairy tale theme of this blog, Jodi wouldn't have found me, and without a fairy tale event to prep for, I may well have dismissed this indie gem out of hand, as I normally did/do with indies & self-pubs (just because of the sheer volume of requests I get, and books I have). And I would have really been missing out. So I have Fairy Tale Fortnight to thank for some of my favorite books, and the chance to share one of my favorite passions with you -- and have it reflected back at me.

1. This "collaborative bedtime story" from the first year. Even though it's rough, this is still one of my favorite things to have ever done on this blog. Pulling together all of these different people, bloggers, authors and readers alike, and getting them to read Little Red Riding Hood -- getting their interpretations and their 'bedtime story voice' -- and the satisfaction of seeing this crazy idea I had not only come together but have people enthusiastically joining in, is still kind of amazing to me. As frustrating as it was to pull off and try to edit together, I wish I'd made it a yearly tradition.

Want more fairy tales? Return to the main schedules
by clicking here for The Book Rat or here for A Backwards Story

Interview with Betsy Cornwell, author of Mechanica!

I can not believe it is the last day of Fairy Tale Fortnight, you guys, I really cannot. But it is, and we're kicking it off with an interview with Betsy Cornwell, author of Tides, and the upcoming steampunk Cinderella retelling, Mechanica. Check out what she has to say below, and then enter to win a copy of Mechanica for yourself!

Welcome, Betsy! What inspired you to write a steampunk version of Cinderella?

Way back in the spring of 2009, I was a junior at Smith College in Massachusetts, and I got approval to spend most of my senior year working on a book-length collection of fairy tale retellings. My last semester of college consisted of one poetry class and a weekly meeting with my project advisor (we usually met over sushi), plus a bunch of writing time in the library. It was pretty much my ideal lifestyle (and still is!).

At the same time, my best friend was doing some research into steampunk for a set design class. I loved the whole aesthetic, and  I'd been having conversations with my advisor about the machinations of fairy tale narratives: the way they're so perfectly, beautifully constructed, but at the same time can be claustrophobic, especially all those very narrow and specific definitions of happily-ever-after.

Cinderella seemed to lend itself particularly well to a steampunk retelling: there's already clockwork there, in the all-important midnight clock, and the story itself is one of the most archetypal, tight, and 'perfect' of them all. So Mechanica started as just one short story among a dozen or so in my independent project collection, but with my advisor's encouragement, it quickly grew from there.

Mechanica is dedicated to that advisor, Betsey Harries. She believed in my writing career when I wasn't sure if I believed in it myself, and in that sense, she's definitely my fairy godmother.

What was the easiest part about writing MECHANICA? The hardest?

The easiest part was writing in Nick's voice--she's the narrator and my Cinderella. I don't usually write in first person, and in many ways Nick and I aren't that alike, but I've always felt that I know her well and can hear her voice clearly, if that makes sense.

For a long time, the hardest part was admitting that the story had to keep getting longer. As I said above, I'd thought it would just be a short story for a college project, and I felt as if I should move on to other things! But even though it started out at a mere 10 pages and is now exactly 300, I'm still not done. I've intentionally left a few things open-ended, in hopes that I'll be able to write a sequel (or two, or . . . oh dear, I might never be done).

You've written about both fairy tale lore and selkie lore now. Will you delve into more types of classic stories in future novels?

Oh, yes. I'd love to be primarily a fairy tale reteller in my writing career. I'm just now finishing a companion novel to Tides that focuses on lore about male selkies, and I have plans for a Vaudeville-era "Snow White and Rose Red" and a reimagining of Jane Eyre in the near future, if all goes well! I'm also the story editor at Parabola magazine, and I get to write about fairy tales for them a whole lot, which is great.

What are your favorite obscure fairy tales?

"The Selkie Bride" has always been one of my favorites, and I think it does count as obscure, even though selkies are getting a little more love these days. I wrote my first novel about them, and there are other wonderful selkie books out there, like The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley and Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler. The film Song of the Sea just came out, of course, and The Secret of Roan Inish and Ondine are both beautiful selkie movies. The web series Caledonia is worth checking out too, and--hmm, I could go on about selkies, but I think that's enough! Find them, read them, watch them. Selkies are great.

I've also always loved the old Scottish ballad "Tam Lin." In fact, the first piece of writing I ever published outside of a school magazine was a retelling of Tam Lin called "Shapes." It came out in a lovely online journal called Fickle Muses that only does fairy tale retellings. I was as proud of being in that journal as I was when I got my book deal!

If your life was a Disney movie, which would it be...and which character would best represent you? 

THAT IS SO DIFFICULT. When I was growing up I would have said either Belle or Ariel, given my twin obsessions with books and mermaids. However, the answer that sprang to mind right away for this question is Lilo or Nani from Lilo and Stitch, and I'd say they both represent my personality fairly well, depending on the day. Plus, I just bought a used car (with my Mechanica advance!) and named him Stitch.

Which fairytale villain would you never want to reform and why?

The first character I thought of isn't generally labelled as a villain at all: Triton, Ariel's father in the Disney version of The Little Mermaid. I grew up with a father prone to rages and verbal abuse, and as an adult, I really can't see Triton as a positive father figure at all. Triton gets no fairy tale brownie points from me!

You have to wonder what made him exile Ursula, too. Now that's a villain whose story I'd love to hear . . .

Which fairytale mode of transportation would you want to try out?

Fairy dust, of the Peter Pan variety. I've had plenty of times when it would have been lovely to fly on the power of happy thoughts!


- Dragon or kraken?
Sea dragon??
[I like the way you think, Betsy...]

- Mermaid or princess? 
MERMAID 10000000%

- Hero or villain? 
Both. Definitely both.

- Prince or knight?
Knight. 'Proven bravery' over 'born to privilege' any day.

- Befriend the birds or the mice?
Aww, mice. I once had a pet mouse named Kimberly after the Pink Ranger.

Thanks for joining us!!

To celebrate the upcoming release of Mechanica, Betsy has offered up one physical ARC (US) and one e-ARC (INTL) of Mechanica to 2 lucky winners!
This giveaway is structured as listed above, so yes, it is international! The giveaway ends April 22nd at midnight, EST
To enter, make sure you are registered on the FTF giveaway registry, and then fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell
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304 pages
Expected publication: August 4th 2015 by Clarion Books
Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn't want a fairy tale happy ending after all.

Betsy Cornwell wrote her first novel, TIDES, as a student at Smith College. After graduating from Smith and getting an MFA from Notre Dame, she moved to Ireland to live with the fairies.

Her second novel, MECHANICA, a steampunk retelling of Cinderella, is coming in August 2015. A companion novel to TIDES, currently called COMPASS, is slated for early 2016.

Betsy is also the story editor for Parabola Magazine, and in her free time she wanders around Ireland looking for rose hips and hazelnuts, and also keeps dairy goats.

Want more fairy tales? Return to the main schedules
by clicking here for The Book Rat or here for A Backwards Story

Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt

Don't forget, I have a giveaway of this book going on right now! Make sure to stop by and enter to win!!

Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt
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Contemporary, Fairy Tale Retelling, 400 pages
Expected publication: May 19th 2015 by Bloomsbury
Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.

Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can't protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.

And in her family's line of work no one can be safe forever.

All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.

Like yesterday's thoughts on Beastkeeper, this is an interesting one for me: on one level, I really like it, and on another, I have some pretty major issues with it.
We'll start with the things I liked:

This is a retelling of The Princess & the Pea set in a crime family, about a girl with a rare disease that makes her incredibly delicate, and that is kinda genius. The Princess & the Pea can be a kind of problematic story, and it's certainly always been one that required a HUGE suspension of disbelief: there's a girl who's so fragile, a single pea under a massive stack of mattresses (which somehow don't just squish the pea into oblivion) causes her massive discomfort; this is somehow a desirable trait... It's one of the more odd fairy tales out there (though by no means the oddest). Both the affliction that Penelope has, and her status as a result among the various crime Families, really works to tie in the retelling aspects and make it actually believable. There are a lot of clever nods to the story, most of which subtle enough to be unobtrusive, but well-developed enough to add that extra layer.

The crime family aspect, and even some of the general plot, hit some of the same notes as the Birthright series, which I love. Penny isn't cold like Anya, though, so it's like getting the plot elements  -- crime family, questions of legalization, constant danger, grief for those lost -- but filtered through a completely different character. This may be a comparison that will be lost on those who haven't read All These Things I've Done and the rest, and it may even be personal to me entirely, but I think if you like any of the things I mentioned, either here, just now, or in any of my reviews for the Birthright series, then you may like this as well.

And speaking of grief, it does that extremely well. I wasn't expecting it, and I didn't feel that I was particularly emotionally invested (and also, I saw some of the grief coming), and yet it still hit me like a punch to the gut. I barely knew the characters at the point that things start to unravel, and yet I felt their pain, and I felt for them. The core characters, those affected, said things and did things in their grief that felt so real to me that I grieved -- it all felt very real, and it reminded me of my own moments of grief and loss, of witnessing the grief of those I care about, in a really visceral way. I'm honestly still a little amazed at how real the pain felt at times, and how well it was carried through the story


Sometimes everything was far too easy. Penny spends her life being coddled and living in a perpetual state of fear for her life, essentially, so that even though you know she wants to break out a bit and experience life, it's still jarring when Penny's finally off-estate and running for her life, health at a near all-time low, and acting rather recklessly, frankly. I mean, I love the subplot of her finding her independence and her voice, and proving to herself (and everyone else) that she's more capable than the china doll they treat her as. But it goes beyond that simple desire to live life, into basically flouting all the rules she's ever known -- which yes, I get, is often a teenager/independence thing... But when you're on the run for your life, could easily DIE, even just left to your own devices, I'd think you'd be a little bit more careful, no matter how much you hate that word...

To also be seemingly already in love with someone she's always known, to then be so immediately and obsessively drawn to someone new, whom she's just met, who she knows nothing about and who followed her home and she keeps finding waiting outside her apartment (keep in mind: she's in hiding, so people watching her apt should set off MAJOR warning bells...) -- it all starts to get a little TSTL, which is a term I hate, but come on now! And even though I pegged who this new guy was immediately, and I understand the need to work him in somehow, I have to say, I didn't love the way it played out. Though it ended up kinda endearing, it took me time to wrap my head around, and it was time that I felt like it should have taken Penny. It happened to fast to feel like there was any real basis for it; it reads as a flight of fancy, on both their parts. Forced love-triangles aren't my thing; nor are ultra-convenient coincidences. And to accomodate this new player in town, it has to throw other things into chaos, which is also something I saw coming a mile away, and also didn't like how that played out. Again, it felt shallow and somewhat baseless, and for a story that started strong and was reminding me of a fast favorite, it sure didn't end that way. The shift was so dramatic that I almost stopped reading.

In the end, I did enjoy myself, and am even curious enough to see how it plays out, that I'll likely read the next book -- eventually. I think plenty of readers will be able to get lost in and enjoy this, though, and if you are a lover of fairy tale retellings, it's worth it if only for the clever (and actually pretty solid) spin on The Princess & the Pea. But it is a mixed bag, and if some of these things are pet peeves of yours, know that going in, because this may not be the book for you.

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Book Spine Poetry: FTF-style!

I love a good book spine poem, and there is something about them that always seems to turn magical and fantastical and perfectly suited to fairy tales... (Well, mine do, at least.) If you're unfamiliar with the concept, you basically gather a stack of books whose titles, when linked together and read in order, make a poem. It can be brief or longer, very poem-esque or more impressionistic -- it can even just be one which sounds damn cool, but doesn't mean much of anything.

My poem today is about a girl discovering a fantastical world she never thought she'd experience -- a girl who has learned to fly. Where she learned this, whether it was a gift bestowed in a fairy tale, just what exactly her backstory is, is completely open to your own interpretation (and is half the fun!); check it out below and let me know your thoughts, or even your own book spine poems, in the comments.

Hope you enjoy!

The summer I learned to fly —
the space between, between the sea and the sky — 
wondrous strange.

Across the great barrier, the sky is everywhere:
a million suns glow, shine...

Summer and bird, 
blackbird -- 
the girl who could fly.

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#FairyTaleFortnight Game-Time Fun-Time!

I love getting all nostalgic and playing silly games from my childhood, so I thought for 1 of the last videos of Fairy Tale Fortnight, we'd do just that.
Playing a little Would You Rather; Kiss*, Marry, Kill; and MASH!
If you don't know how to play, info is linked below (but they're all pretty self-explanatory). If you DO know how, tell me some of your answers/results in the comments!

More on the games:
Would You Rather | Kiss, Marry, Kill | MASH

Music by Kevin Macleod (http://incompetech.com/)

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Review: Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen

Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
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Middle grade / fantasy, 208 pages
Published February 3rd 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from.

When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive.

Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast . . . unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever.

Occasionally, I come across books that I find difficult to review. Whether it's because I don't like them and wanted to, like them too much and don't know how to express it, or am in some weird limbo where I can't even begin to tell you what I liked or didn't like, and why, there are some reviews that just stump me a little.  And sometimes, as I work through what I felt about the book, these reviews can get a little long, and maybe a smidge circular. I'm not saying that my review of Beastkeeper will be one of those reviews, but... (it's totally one of those reviews.)

I want to start off by saying that I liked it. I did, and I want to make that clear, because I may undermine that statement, and I don't really mean to. It feels original and unique, and not only because of the role reversal of the female lead being the cursed beastly one (which I loved, btw). Though it morphed into something beyond a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, the elements that shaped it are clear and present, and this made it have a fresh feel, while also feeling familiar and reminiscent, and that's a style that's really well-suited to me.

I do wonder if this would have been better served as an older YA novel, though, even though I like the middle-grade feel of it (and I like a middle grade book that's willing to go a bit dark). But I feel like, maybe some things would have been more fleshed out, or the darkness and gray area better explored if it were YA -- though I'm torn, because I think there's something about MG styles of storytelling that is perfectly suited to fairy tale retellings! I guess I kinda wanted both, and both would have offered me different things, and I think I've worked my way around to an odd sort of back-handed compliment, because in saying I wanted more, it's kind of a good thing: when I really like a story or concept (or character, or world), I want to keep exploring it. I want to see it from every angle. So the fact that I want means something. That I want X and I want Y, and I want more means that I didn't want to let it go, but wanted to keep digging into what was there, keep discovering its facets.

I also wish it would have been longer, which is a thing I think I also said about Cat's The Sea is Rising Red.  There's a tendency in some authors to have an almost meditative build-up, then a really interesting reversal that gets rushed straight through to the end, It's not an overriding thing, it's not that it feels incredibly rushed, or anything like that. It's more...there's a point where things got especially interesting for me, and I wanted more of it. The last 25% of the book, say, could have been stretched out a bit, and made me a very happy camper. (And this may go back a bit to the idea of being YA and exploring things a little more fully and slowly -- though I think I said the same thing in When the Sea..., which was YA, so who knows.)

I think people will love or hate how things play out in the end, and I'm really not sure where on the spectrum I fall. I love when something doesn't go down predictable paths, or doesn't give easy answers to difficult questions, and for that I appreciate Beastkeeper, and Cat Hellisen's writing in general. But at the same time, sometimes when you lay a groundwork of the familiar, and you reinforce it and bolster it, only to tear it down at the end, it can either make things seem delightfully subverted, or it can make things seem unplanned and unfocused. I had a suspicion that things were not going to follow the predictable HEA route, so I wasn't terribly bothered by this, but it has that comforting, summertime middle grade adventure feel to it* that may make some people, if not irritated by the end, maybe puzzled or uncomfortable about it. It probably won't be what the majority of readers are expecting (and that can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the type of reader you are, and what you want from a story).

In the end, I was left feeling a bit like I did with When the Sea...: I felt so close to falling head over heels for it, but I just couldn't quite get there. With a touch more development, a more slow-simmering plot and a chance to really get to know the characters more intimately, I think this would be something I'd be pushing on people for many years to come. I hate to say that it fell just shy of that, especially because I said the same of When the Sea..., and then found myself constantly thinking about it for years after I'd read it. The characters still pop into my head, unexpectedly and uninvited, to this day; I can't shake them. And when a story worms its way into my head like that, that means something.

So I don't want to leave you with an impression that I didn't like this, because I did. It's hard, in reviews like this, because when a book is so close for me, I end up talking about all the things that would have pushed it over the edge into a fast favorite, and feel like I end up giving the impression that it had a lot of problems, or that I flat-out didn't like it. But if I don't like a book, often there's not much to say; I end up indifferent. It's only when I really like something that I'm so close to loving, that the reviews come out in this tangle of emotions that makes me feel like I have to explain away everything I've said, so that you're left with the impression I want you to take from it, rather than the one I'm afraid I've actually given...
Or maybe I'm just a little neurotic.

*Don't ask me what makes this feel like a "summertime middle grade adventure" because I don't think it could really be described as any of that, on more than a very shallow level. It's more a feel I associate with some books, probably based on some weird synesthetic process, from books I've long since forgotten, and I really couldn't begin to justify or explain...

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Guest Post & Giveaway from Merrie Haskell, author of The Princess Curse!

There are no new fairy tale retellings from Merrie Haskell this year, leaving Misty to (continue to) pine away, wishing for a YA sequel to the fabulous The Princess Curse. But just because there's no new book (for Misty) to get grabby-handsy with, that doesn't mean we can't check in with Merrie and pick her brain for more insight into her characters, now does it? 
If you haven't guessed (or listened when I outright told you), The Princess Curse is one of my favorite fairy tale retellings, so I'm pleased as punch to get any and every last bit of TPC-stuff I can. So Merrie, being the lovely, obliging person she is, has dropped into today to give us a peek into Reveka's brain! And she's also offered up a giveaway of The Princess Curse, now out in paperback, so stick around until the end!Take it away, Merrie!

I’m not the type of writer who warms up with writing exercises--I often use them after the fact to flesh out character motivations and suchlike things, sometime between 2nd and 8th draft.

I found a totally random exercise I did for The Princess Curse somewhere after the fourth draft.

Ask your main character: List 20 things you had already learned about life by the beginning of this book.


1. Lying is only wrong if you get caught.
2. Saint Hildegard is the greatest woman who ever lived. Pity she isn’t canonized yet.
3. Thyme pies taste better if you pick the thyme yourself.
4. You can never be too clean. Or take too many baths.
5. Fathers are more trouble than they’re worth.
6. Nuns live a good life. Even with the getting up in the middle of the night to pray thing.
7. Breakfast may be sinful, but it sure is delicious.
8. Tansy is good for repelling ants.
9. Apparently, unwed men and women can conceive children. Apparently also, Sister Maria is a bigger liar than me, as it turns out.
10. Orthodox priests aren’t that bad. But they are a little shady, if Brother Cosmin is any example.
11. Princesses are kind of useless. I think it’s because of their shoes. Impractical. Also, the hats. Also, the lengths of their hems. And their sleeves.
12. You can hatch eggs in your bosom, if it’s as warm as a chicken’s bottom. Pa met a woman who did that once.
13. I am not cut out for kitchen work.
14. Wild cabbage cures excessive vigor.
15. Inheritance law is kind of stupid, everywhere you go.
16. Not everyone loves the King of Hungary. And by “not everyone,” I mean more than just the Turks!
17. Living in the Last Outpost of Christianity stinks like rotten Easter eggs.
18. Young wives are notoriously discontent.
19. Dracula wasn’t all that honest, you know? Testing people’s honesty all the time requires tricking them. He didn’t actually live up to his own standards, if you ask me.
20. I’m not beautiful, but I am pretty smart.

Merrie has offered up one paperback copy of The Princess Curse to one lucky Fairy Tale Fortnight reader!
This giveaway is US only, and ends April 22nd at midnight, EST.
To enter, make sure you are registered on the FTF giveaway registry, and then fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell
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Retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses (and then some)
328 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by HarperCollins

Merrie Haskell’s middle-grade fantasy novel Princess Curse is an imaginative retelling of the fairy tales The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Beauty and the Beast.

In the fifteenth-century kingdom of Sylvania, the prince offers a fabulous reward to anyone who cures the curse that forces the princesses to spend each night dancing to the point of exhaustion. Everyone who tries disappears or falls into an enchanted sleep.

Thirteen-year-old Reveka, a smart, courageous herbalist’s apprentice, decides to attempt to break the curse despite the danger. Unravelling the mystery behind the curse leads Reveka to the Underworld, and to save the princesses, Reveka will have to risk her soul.

Princess Curse combines magic, suspense, humor, and adventure into a story perfect for fans of Gail Carson Levine.

Merrie Haskell grew up half in North Carolina, half in Michigan. She wrote her first story at age seven. She attended the University of Michigan, graduating from the Residential College with a degree in biological anthropology. She works in a library with over 7.5 million bound volumes.

Her first three books are The Princess Curse, Handbook for Dragon Slayers, and The Castle Behind Thorns. She has won the Schneider Family Book Award (Middle Grades) and the DetCon1 Middle Grade Speculative Fiction award, and she was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature.  Merrie lives in Saline, Michigan.

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