Home  |  Reviews  |  Vlogs  |  Interviews  |  Guest Posts  |  Fairy Tales  |  Jane Austen  |  Memes  |  Policies

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Survey: Fairy Tale Fortnight wrap-up

Fairy Tale Fortnight is drawing to a close. It's been a crazy event with 135 unique posts between the two blogs, not to mention everything that other people across the blogosphere have posted on their sites.

Misty and Ashley have had a blast making this event happen, but now we want to know what YOU thought! We created this survey to get an idea what went well, what didn't and what we could do better.

The survey is anonymous, so feel free to be brutally honest with us. We can take it.

Little Red Riding Hood: a collaborative bedtime story

We wanted to cap off Fairy Tale Fortnight with something we believe to be pretty awesome.  We've been talking for the last two weeks (and for the last few months, to each other) about how fairy tales are such an ingrained part of society, and everybody knows them and the references.  And fairy tales are really meant to be read aloud - so wouldn't it be awesome if we got a bunch of people together to read a fairy tale as a sort of "collaborative bedtime story"...
So we did.
This video would not have been possible without the awesome support and creativity of so many great bloggers and authors (and 1 adorably enthusiastic little girl).  We want to give you guys a BIG thank you and the best Happily Ever After we can.
We ♥ you!

Alright, grab some popcorn, pull your kid into your lap (unless you don't have a kid, or your kid is a teenager.  That would just be weird)....It's time for the unveiling of:

Little Red Riding Hood:
a Collaborative Bedtime Story

Endless thanks to the following people:


and an awesome kid named Katelin!

Interview with: Basically Amazing Ashley (in which we get our silly on)

Every time I do an interview, I like to include a series of silly quickfire questions at the end.  For Fairy Tale Fortnight, I made a set of questions that we asked every person we interviewed (we even asked you!), and now we share our  silly interview with each other.  You can read my nonsensical answers on Ashley's blog, and here is my interview with Ashley.  We'd love to hear your answers (or your silly questions for next year!) in the comments.

So, Ashley, you've clearly got to be a madwoman to take on the task of FTF with me, and I'm so glad you're as passionate about fairy tales as I am, but that leaves the question - why fairy tales?
I asked this question yesterday (click here to share your thoughts!) because I wanted to hear what draws people to fairy tales. As for what draws me to them, I honestly don't really know. There isn't any conscious thought process that leads me to the fairy tales. I think it is more subtle than that. There is a feeling you get when you read fairy tales, or a really great retelling that you cannot get any other way. It is why I overlook a lot of the 'issues' in fairy tales that normally really annoy me in books. I will forgive almost any error in a fairy tale if it gives me that special fairy tale feeling.

You would think that someone who professes her love for fairy tales as often and as loudly as I do would have a real reason mapped out for loving fairy tales. But I don't. All I can tell you is that I love them. I love them with every reading fiber in my being. I read fairy tales when I thought fantasy was 'beneath me' as a genre and I have never stopped loving them.

Oh lord, we were destined to be friends.  I was the same way.  lol
Moving on: Rapunzel is named after lettuce; what odd thing would you be named after if you were in a fairy tale?
Ugh. I have no idea. It's not necessarily weird, but I'm going to go with Adira. Why? Because I googled names. It came up and means 'strong, noble, and powerful.' Hi. :) I'd be that character in the fairy tale. The one who just kind of hangs out in the background, the one that seems to be just a very peripheral character. And then, turns out that I'm basically the key to everything. (Humble, aren't I)
[Note: Misty is cracking up at this point.]

Love it!  Using that name, give us a line from your life as a fairy tale:
Adira sat and watched as the people cheered for the triumphal return of the royal family. "Their joy has made them blind" she thought. "This is going to end badly".

Ooh, I want to know more!  Perhaps it will be your turn for a short story next year? 
Best fairy tale villain and why?
That depends. As far as Disney goes, Malificent is by far the scariest of the bad nasties, followed closely by the Evil Queen in Snow White.I mean, really. Malificent is just evil and cruel because she wants to be, willing to kill an innocent baby, just because she wants to and because she can. And then the Evil Queen? She orders Snow White killed, just because she's prettier. And she wants her heart as proof of death. Ugh.

As for non-Disney, I'm definitely keeping the Evil Queen there. Not only does she ask for Snow White's heart, but she eats it. *shudders*

Um, yeah.  I mentioned the heart-eating in mine, too...Shudder indeed.
Favorite tale from childhood? Favorite tale as an adult? Least favorites?
My favorite fairy tale has been The Twelve Dancing Princesses for as long as I can remember. I loved it as a kid, and I still love it now.

My least favorite growing up was probably The Emperor's New Clothes. Even as a kid I had a terribly low tolerance for stupidity and every character in this story beyond the con artists and the little boy are intolerably stupid. It's probably still my least favorite. That's one I'd like to see someone retell, because I'd like to see someone do a good job with it.

High Fives for The Twelve Dancing Princesses!  *slaps*  Though I always liked the Emporer's New Clothes.  I can't help but love a story where someone is unafraid to say "Look, I see through the bullshit, and you're an idiot, okay?"
If you could be any fairy tale character, or live through any fairy tale "happening," who/what would it be?
Any fairy tale character? I think that would be a tie. I would love to be the main character in East of the Sun, West of the Moon, because she is her own hero and she makes her own magic, not to mention getting ride on each of the 4 winds! Or, I would want to be the evil fairy in Sleeping Beauty. Think about it- in the classic versions of the story, she terrifies everyone, comes to the baby blessing and curses her to die, and then she leaves. No consequences, no repercussions, no nothing. The worst thing that happens to her, is the last fairy changes it from death to sleeping. Boo hoo. If I were going to be a villain, that's who I pick!

As for fairy tale events- I would want to be at the ball where the 12 Dancing Princesses go every night. Every version of the story makes it into such a lovely, enchanted place and I would love to be there.

Oh my gah, you just said you'd curse a baby to die... *looks askance at Ashley*
 Now that we know you are evil, would you rather:
-- live under a bridge with a troll, or all alone in a high tower?

Live in a tower, but only if it had books! I am happy spending long periods of time alone. So, provided I had a never ending supply of books and food, I'd definitely pick the tower.

-- ride everywhere in a pumpkin carriage (messy) or walk everywhere
in glass shoes (uncomfortable)?

I think pumpkin smells really bad. So, I'd pick the glass shoes. This is partly because high heels aren't super comfortable shoes in general, so adding the glass probably won't change the comfort level that much, but also because I could take them off! If I could, I would go everywhere barefoot, so this would give me a great excuse!

-- eat magic beans or golden eggs?
Definitely the eggs! Jack's mom just tossed the beans into the yard and they grew like crazy! Can you imagine what they would do inside you?!

I can't help but think that the eggs would have much nicer side effects.

We'll have to get together for a golden egg omelet.
-- have a fairy godmother or a Prince Charming?
The Fairy Godmother. I feel like I've read enough fairy tales to know how to properly ask for favors from a fairy. I'm also really great at creating and finding 'side-truths' and loopholes so I'd think very carefully about what I was asking for to make sure I got exactly what I wanted.
Prince Charming is overrated and nonexistent. I'd much prefer ending up with a boy who is real...

- style 50ft long hair or polish 100 pairs of glass slippers?
The hair. Really, all you have to do is brush it. Or braid it. I'd much rather brush hair for a while than polish those stupid shoes I decided to walk around in!

I picked hair!  Imagine what we could do together!  It would be like the ultimate hair show. ;)
-- be forced to spin straw into gold for hours on end, or dance every night until your shoes are worn through?
Dancing. Being forced to spin straw into gold doesn't mean that I'd somehow know how to do it, and I don't want to tempt fate by having my own version of Rumpelstiltskin pop up. Plus, I really do like dancing, and I imagine I'd get really good at it if I had to do it night after night .

You guys, I just want to take a minute to THANK Ashley for all of her awesome throughout this event.  I think I very well may have gone insane on my own, and I know the event would not have been nearly as complete or awesome without her.  
For reals, Ashley - THANK YOU so much!  Everything we did during FTF we agreed on and made awesome together.  It was kind of freakish how in-tune with each other we were, and I feel like I've gained a fairy tale sister.   I can't wait for next year!  ♥

Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier

Juliet Marillier

Second of the Sevenwaters trilogy of novels about the last days of heroic Ireland, Son of the Shadows takes up the story of the children of Sorcha, who saved her enchanted brothers, and Hugh, the Briton she married. Sorcha's daughter Liadan is a gifted seer and healer who thinks, in spite of her visions, that she knows what the future has in store for her--caring for her dying mother and then an alliance marriage to Eamonn. A chance meeting on the road carries her off to care for a dying man--one of the mercenaries of the sinister Painted Man, Eamonn's archenemy and a killer for hire. Liadan discovers that she cannot choose whom she loves and that she and the Painted Man are as bound up in destiny as her mother and father were before her.

Earlier today I reviewed Daughter of the Forest, which I called my favorite fairy tale retelling of all time (and one of my favorite books, period.); Son of the Shadows is the 2nd book of the series, and I was a little hesitant to read it because it follows Sorcha and Red's children (meaning Sorcha and Red would be older and shuffled off out of the picture, and I just wasn't ready for that), and I'd heard that the series starts to go down hill after the first book. And though this did lack some of the magic of Daughter of the Forest, I certainly wouldn't say that Son of the Shadows is the point where the series starts to go downhill.
It's strange, though: some of my favorite things about the book are also some of my complaints. So I'm just going to get right into it.  And, um, there will be slight spoilers.

I liked the way Son of the Shadows expanded the mythology of Sevenwaters (and Ireland) by incorporating the Old Ones and giving the fey a run for their money.  They were an interesting element, and I really liked it.  They world and mythology was also expanded in that there are characters from around the world.  The Painted Men were fascinating, and going behind the scenes with the "bad guys" and feeling pity for them, sometimes even rooting for them - it was interesting, because it was hard to know where to lay your allegiance.  (Which I think was a good thing, because it puts you more in Liadan's mind, who is having a similar problem.)

But when I first started SotS, I was more than a little worried that it was going to be a lukewarm rehashing of DOTF, covering the same ground with "new" characters, and trying to recapture the magic. And there were times that I felt this did sort of peek through, or Liadan did come close to being Sorcha, especially in the beginning, before she began to distinguish herself. But as it went along, the similarities faded and Liadan became her own character, and I liked her for it. She was much more willful than her mother, and even sort of brazen, which is not something I would call Sorcha. Where Sorcha took her lot in life and struggled to make the most of it, Liadan went after what she wanted, even when it was sometimes incredibly reckless. Their similarities (beyond both being healers and respected members of their community - and unwittingly enchanting every man who crossed their path) was in the lengths they would go to for those they loved. There didn't seem to be anything they wouldn't risk, which is complicated when the people you love require contradicting things of you.

While I'm on the topic of love, I do want to talk about the...romance between Liadan and Bran.  I have a friend (the one who recommended the books to me in the first place) who likes Bran more than Red, and that I just don't get.  Maybe it's the tortured soul thing, maybe it's whatever it is in women that makes them like bad boys, but as much as I liked Bran as a character, and even as a love interest (at times), I would never in a million years compare their romance to Sorcha's and Red's, or claim to like anyone more. (Red 4eva!)  I did like Liadan and Bran together, and I liked his slow transformation into someone worthy of being liked.

There was an honesty to the situation, and an acceptance that people aren't perfect (and perhaps Bran was a good foil to Liadan's somewhat Mary Sue character).  I sometimes felt as if I was reading the story that would have been if Sorcha had ended up with Simon instead of going to England and meeting Red.  That was interesting - but it never gave me butterflies the way that DOTF did.  I loved it, and I looked forward to the scenes where they were together, even if only briefly, and that's high-praise, really.  But I just can't get crazy fangirly on this one.  I loved both characters and found them intriguing, but they were also frustrating and the beauty of the build-up and discovery just wasn't there. It would come SO CLOSE and then just not go all the way*. I liked them, almost even loved them, but they weren't quite magic.  Sorcha and Red were magic.

*But they did.  Boy, did they.

There were other things that worked but didn't work for me, too.  I liked the darkness of the story which, as dark as DOTF was, I think actually went a little darker.  There were dark moments in DOTF, and a villain or two, but it was overpowered by so much valiance and righteousness and love.  SotS shows us how even some of the good guys get corrupted.  Times are changing in Liadan's world, and mostly not for the better.  There is a lot of darkness and mistrust and loneliness and violence, all compounded on one another.  And though I liked this, sometimes it was just too much. I don't mean this from a "too much for my delicate sensibilities" standpoint, because I don't have those.  I mean, sometimes it was just too much: Eammon could have been a cartoon villain, twirling his curly mustache at the end.  And though there were times I loved his obsessive need for control and his callousness, and there were times that I could see it crack and even feel pity for him, there were also times when I was just wanted to be done with him.

But the fact is, there was never anything bad enough in this book to keep me from recommending it, or even loving it.  I'm just holding it up to the impossibly high standard Daughter of the Forest set.  And for those of you who are fans of DOTF but haven't read this one yet, allow me to tease you with this:
There's more Finbar!!
I truly loved his role in this book, and his connection to Liadan.  It expanded her character and his quite nicely.

Do yourself a favor and pick up Daughter of the Forest and Son of the Shadows.  Trust me.

I much prefer this cover --->

Fill-In: The Third Child, from author Maureen McGowan

The Third Child:
a fill-in from author Maureen McGowan
There was an old woman who lived in a Birkin bag. She had 3 children, the bane of her existence. The first was a thick-headed, doltish son, who was prone to buying magic beans and geese that laid strange orange eggs. The 2nd was a beautiful but haughty daughter, who stared at herself ceaselessly in any reflective surface, speaking in rhyme to the reflection there. But the 3rd child, Pandora, she was the worst of all. The first 2 children gave her endless grief, but it was Pandora who drove the old woman to distraction, for Pandora was always greedy.

The old woman had no choice but to lock Pandora high in a tower -- from which Pandora promptly escaped, climbing down a ladder made of hair and fleeing in a giant pumpkin carriage. (The old woman’s fault, you see, for braiding hair-ladders and growing what were surely mutant pumpkins...)

The 3rd child traveled night and day, finally reaching the Great City. When Pandora reached the City, she opened a manhole and discovered the sewers flowed with gold. It seemed too good to be true. So Pandora promptly stole a bucket from a poorly attended vendor’s stall nearby, and set off to climb into the sewers.Pandora‘s quest was not an easy one, and before long, she discovered the bucket had holes.   Not knowing what else to, Pandora did what any greedy 3rd child would do: using her skirt, she plugged the holes. This of course caused her to run through the streets half naked, which led to her arrest for stealing a bucket filled with yellow paint. Which is exactly what one would expect of such a 3rd child.Pandora lived infamously ever after, of course. But to this day, when ever someone says Fool’s Gold, everyone thinks of Pandora , the 3rd child of the old woman who lived in a Birkin bag.

Thanks, Maureen!
Maureen McGowan is the author of the Twisted Tales series, including Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, as well as a short story in The Mammoth Book of Time Travel Romance.
Make sure to check back with us in late May, when Misty and Ashley will both be a part of Maureen's blog tour.
Ashley will be reviewing Cinderella: Ninja Warrior.
Misty will be reviewing Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters, #1)
by Juliet Marillier

from Goodreads:
A beautiful retelling of the Celtic "Swans" myth, Daughter of the Forest is a mixture of history and fantasy, myth and magic, legend and love... To reclaim the lives of her brothers, Sorcha leaves the only safe place she has ever known and embarks on a journey filled with pain, loss and terror. When she is kidnapped by enemy forces and taken to a foreign land, it seems that there will be no way for Sorcha to break the spell that condemns all that she loves. But magic knows no boundaries, and sorcha will have to choose between the live she has always known and a love that comes only once.

What can I say, I saved the best for last.  Daughter of the Forest is my favorite fairy tale retelling of all time.  (So far.  Let me know your faves and try to prove me wrong!)  I did a mini-review of this once before, but I want to expand on that now, and get a little gushy fangirly.

I read this for the first time after having just finished Wildwood Dancing (also by Marillier).  It came highly recommended by a friend, so I was pretty gung-ho.  But the first 30 pages almost made me put it down.  It's not that they were awful, but there was so much info-dumping, and nothing to really grab me and make me read it.

And then that all changed.  I lost copious amounts of sleep over this book both times I read it, because when it gets going, it gets going.  I was so in it, and I cared so much about Sorcha and Red and the brothers/swans and what was going to happen.  The pacing of the relationship is beyond beautiful, perfectly suited to tease you and keep you hungry for more while never losing the tension by drawing it out too much.

When I originally reviewed this, I mentioned some issues I had with the villain and his Scooby-Doo tendency to spill his guts.  I had less of an issue with this on rereads, even though it is a pet peeve of mine when characters do this -- I love this so much that I look back on everything with rose-colored glasses on.  But why, you ask?  Where to begin...

Everything about this book feels fully realized, which is always impressive, and more so when you consider that this was a debut.  The characters felt real, and Marillier did an incredibly good job of making each memorable and distinguishable.  The 6 brothers spend most of the book off-stage or as swans, and yet I never had any trouble remembering who was who, what they liked, what type of Character (capital C) they had, etc.  So much love and layering went into their creation, you can just feel it.  So you can only imagine the creations Sorcha and Red became.

There's so much pain in this story, and pain in the telling, and Mariliier doesn't just wipe the slate clean in the end.  I really respect that, it makes everything feel more real and authentic and human.  There are bad things that happen - as there are in real life - and Marillier did a really good job of not flinching away from that, and in showing the healing process and allowing her characters to work through things, come to terms with things.  For those of you who have read the book, I'm not just talking about what happens to Sorcha.  Multiple characters in the book face some really difficult things, and Marilier shows real honesty in her writing when allows a good does of realism alongside the fantasty aspects.  There's always the wonder, sometimes the certainty, on the reader's part that there are things that they characters may not be able to come back from.  There are wounds that may never heal.  I don't like a sugar-coated story, and Marillier did a very respectable job of showing the highs and lows.

And this brings me to perhaps the thing that makes this the book of awesomely epic proportions that it is: aside from the info-dumping in the beginning, and the Scooby Doo moment at the end (rough patches), Marillier is incredibly good at Show-Don't-Tell.  Sorcha is a silent character (have I mentioned that I love a well-done silent character?  Because I do.); everything is sort of filtered through her and her silence, and the pain and heaviness of it, and the shelter that it can provide.  I think writing from the perspective of a character that couldn't just spill her guts allowed Marillier to hone her talents in writing a tale that shows a complete picture and lets the audience gather more than what is said.  Or maybe she's just naturally skilled at this.  Whatever the reason for it, this is one of the most present books I've ever read.  I felt this book.  I can't tell you how many times I got butterflies when reading this - not just because of the slowly-developing romance, but because something was about to happen.  Even rereading this, I still got butterflies - I knew what was going to happen, for crying out loud, and it still made me have a physical reaction.

God, writing this is making me want to read it again.  And I know when I do, it will be another all-nighter, because I'll just have to keep reading until I get to _________; and when I get there...well, maybe I should read until I get to ____________.  But I promise to go to sleep after that.  Well, maybe one more chapter...

Stick around - later today I review the 2nd book, Son of Shadows.

Short Story Saturday: Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life & TimesPolitically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life & Times
James Finn Garner

Once upon a time, in the olden days, heavy-set middle-aged men would congregate in their elitist clubs, sit in over-stuffed leather chairs, smoke air-choking cigars, and pitch story ideas and plots to each other. Problem was, these stories, many of which found their way into the general social consciousness, reflected the way in which these men lived and saw their world: that is, the stories were sexist, discriminatory, unfair, culturally biased, and in general, demeaning to witches, animals, goblins, and fairies everywhere.

Finally, after centuries of these abusive tales, which have been handed down - unknowingly - from one male-biased generation to the next, James Finn Garner has taken it upon himself (that's right, yet another man) to enlighten and liberate these classic bedtime stories and retell them in a way that is much more in keeping with the society in which we live today.

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, then is the fruit of Garner's labors. We'd like to think that future generations of fairy-tale fans will see this as a worthy attempt to develop meaningful literature that is totally free from bias and purged from the influences of a flawed cultural past.

If the Jon Scieszka tales were the great slapstick fairy tale parodies for kids, James Finn Garner's Politically Correct Bedtime Stories are what those same kids read when they're all grown up.  Lampooning fairy tales and political correctness itself, these tales are utterly ridiculous and laugh out loud funny.  (Occasionally Scoff Out Loud, too...)

Every single place in a story that anyone could possibly find fault, Garner has turned it on it's head and made it so PC as to be BS... (hence why I'm always abbreviating the series title as PC BS - I doubt that was unintentional on the author's part).
Take for example, Little Red Riding Hood, which opens the collection:
There once was a young person named Red Riding Hood who lived with her mother on the edge of a large wood. One day her mother asked her to take a basket of fresh fruit to her grandmother's house - not because this was womyn's work, mind you, but because the deed was generous and helped engender a feeling of community. Furthermore, her grandmother was not sick, but was rather in full physical and mental health and was fully capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult.
So Red Riding Hood set off with her basket through the woods. Many people believed that the forest was a foreboding and dangerous place and never set foot in it. Red Riding Hood, however, was confident enough in her own budding sexuality that such obvious Freudian imagery did not intimidate her...
There are the obvious things, like the reference to the woods, but even silly little things like the spelling of "womyn" and the refusal to call Red "little" or a girl - this attention to detail and to flipping everything on its head is found through out.
The further along you read, the more it builds on itself and the more ridiculous and funny it gets.  Consider later in the same story, when we get to Little Red's classic line "But Grandmother, what big teeth you have!"  The wolf's reaction?
"I am happy with who I am and what I am!"
and he prepares to eat Red, as always.  And the Woodsman bursts in, of course, but does not get his usual welcome reception.  Instead he is called a sexist and a speciesist for "bursting in like a Neandrathal" and expecting his weapon to do the thinking for him.  Fit and active grandmother bursts up from the wolf's belly, out through his throat, and slays the Woodsman, whereupon she, Little Red and the wolf set up "an alternate household based on mutual respect and cooperation."

Each story ends more ridiculous than the last, all in the name of political correctness.

  • The naked emporer is just embracing a "clothing optional" lifestyle. 
  • The witch in Rapunzel becomes Rapunzel's "momager," raking in the big bucks on Rapunzel's singing voice and good looks. 
  • The spinner in Rumpelstiltskin "guesses" his name because he is still wearing his name badge from the "Little People's Empowerment Seminar."  
  • The 3 little pigs shout insults at the wolf who is looking to take their land ("Your gunboat tactics hold no fear for pigs defending their home and culture!" "Go to hell, you carnivorous, imperialistic opressor!"), then sing protest songs as the wolf huffs and puffs - and falls down dead from heart attack brought on by too much fatty food.  
It's all utterly ridiculous and good silly fun.  And a super quick read, too, with each story only being 2-3 pages, and the whole book being less than 80.  And though this type of humor is certainly not for everyone, if it is yours, I'd recommend picking this one up.

Opening Lines of The Faery Reel, from Erika

Here with a guest post for us is Erika of 100 Stars or Less and The One A Day Y.A. Project!
Take it away, Erika!

First of all, I want to thank Misty and Ashley for having me here doing a guest post for their fabulous Fairy Tale Fortnight event. I have been looking forward to this for a while so it's an honour.

Now I want to talk to you all about something that interests me very much - opening lines. The interest is very much there for every story I pick up, but since this is Fairy Tale Fortnight and not just any fortnight, I thought I'd take it into the realm of fairy/fae tales. Then what just happens to be sitting on my shelf? Why it's The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm, an anthology of short stories from authors such as Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Gregory Maguire, and much more.

I have to admit, I was very much drawn into this book because of the amazing illustrations heading each and every short story. Not to mention the gorgeous cover page. If there is a "school of thought" on the issue, I'm of the type that believes all fairy tales should come with amazing pictures to drool over bring the story that much more to life. Charles Vess is a genius.

But to get to the point - opening lines...

I believe opening lines are very important in any story but possibly, they are just more important than ever when you are considering both fairy tale retellings, and short stories. Fairy tales are not just bedtime stories, not just fun tales to tell your children or to read when you are trying to remember the "good old times". They are also classics. And the opening lines to these tales are also classics. Who can't recite one of the most used, most memorable opening line off the top of their head?

"Once upon a time..."

Not to mention the great and honourable runner-ups:

"A long time ago..." 
"In the beginning..."

So how does an author re-telling or making their own fairy tales compete with that? And as a reader, does it have to be something quite special? Do you have to be wowed, does it have to feel nostalgic, or do you simply want to be drawn into the story the same way you'd want to be drawn into any story?

 In my own experience, I felt like maybe knowing these stories were supposed to be fairy tales had ruined them just a tad for me. Because I have fuzzy memories of reading other tales before bedtime, of watching Disney movies with my sister and best friends based off fairy tales, of pretending to have the grand adventures that these stories promise every little girl. And these stories just weren't that. Reading alone in your basement on a (self-imposed) deadline just isn't the same. Even if you do throw in a hot cup of cocoa.

 The opening lines I thought, were good. Well thought out, and would have pulled me into the story. As not only fairy tales, but short stories I think this is very important. A short story doesn't have the benefit of introducing a reader to the world and characters like a novel does. There is very little time to pull the reader in and move on. And as a reader, I know I'm a bit fidgety when it comes to short story collections. I don't have to read them all in order of course, so if something doesn't grab at me right away, I'll just move on the next story and come back to that one later. But I don't want to jump around. I want to be pulled in by each and every one of them as they come. It just makes the collection as a whole feel that much better when this is possible. Opening lines in short stories...definitely important!

I would have liked this book. IF they weren't fairy tales, I might have actually been able to read them, enjoy them, and tell you all about the wonderful writing in the pages between the book. Sadly, I could not. Maybe... hopefully...in the future I will be able to love these amazing retelling like many of the other readers out there.

And for the moment I can give you all a taste of some of these opening lines, and if you aren't quite as nostalgic about your fairy tales as I seemed to be, please consider seeking out this book and reading them for yourselves.

by Patricia A. McKillip

"All my sisters caught mortals that way. I have more sisters than I can count. It's easy, they told me. And when you get tired of them you just let them go."

by Gregory Maguire

"Though the sky was a peerless blue, there had been thunder since dawn. Low thunder, leaving an acrid odor of twists of gray gauze that the wind pushed across the fields."

by Ellen Steiber

"Oh great. I've pissed off the faeries."

by Katherine Vas

"Papa sobs every night when he thinks I'm asleep. Especially during a storm, when the rain bangs on our roof, like a bill collector demanding to be let in."

Thanks once again to Misty and Ashley for having here during Fairy Tale Fortnight. If you'd like to come check out either of my blogs, you can find me at One A Day Y.A.: Playing with Books and 100 Stars or Less.

Interview with Elizabeth C. Bunce, author of A Curse Dark as Gold and StarCrossed

With us today we have the lovely Elizabeth C. Bunce, author of A Curse Dark As Gold a fantastic retelling of Rumplestiltskin (set in the Industrial Revolution!  Brilliant!) and the "Thief Errant" series, which is about Digger, a spy and thief who unwittingly finds herself at the center of a magical rebellion.  The first book, StarCrossed, is out now, and the second, Liar's Moon, comes out in November!
Make sure to stick around till the end of the interview for a chance to win your own copy of StarCrossed!
Without further ado, I give you: Elizabeth C. Bunce!

~What inspired you to set the tale of Rumplestiltskin in the Industrial Revolution?
A couple of things, actually. First, I wanted to set the novel in the time and place of fairy tales—that imaginary Fairy Tale Country—and thanks to classic artwork by Dulac, Dore, and others, for me that's the 18th century. Second, it was a natural extension of the decision to set the story in an ailing textile mill, because the social and economic changes of the Industrial Revolution presented an existing set of realistic obstacles and conflict for the plot. And, to be perfectly honest, I was in love with the clothes of the era, and just couldn't imagine Uncle Wheeler dressed any other way!

A Curse Dark As Gold~What was the research process like for the story, both on the fairy tale front and the historical front?
On the fairy tale front, I read as many traditional versions of Name of the Helper tales as I could—not just early "Rumpelstiltskins," but also pieces like England's "Tom Tit Tot" and Scotland's "Whuppity Stoorie." But my goal was always to focus on the story of the girl who bargains away her infant son, so I did stick pretty close to the "Rumpelstiltskin" framework. The rest of the research—oh, mercy! I dug into everything from everyday life in the 18th century, to traditional folk magic and ghost stories, and, of course, a huge amount of research (both book learnin' and the hands-on kind) into the woolen textile industry. I have monographs on wigmaking, esoteric economic histories of individual mill towns, even the journals of period woolworkers. For me, research uncovers not just the things you know you're looking for—but almost more importantly, the things you had no idea you needed.

~Will we ever see more stories set in Charlotte’s world?
Yes! I have one published now, a ghost story called "In for a Penny" in the Scholastic anthology Bones, edited by Lois Metzger (July 2011). And I have a few more ideas—including more retellings—up my sleeve, as well.

~Why fairy tales? What is it that calls to you, personally,as a writer, and why do you think readers connect to them the way they do?
As a reader, I'm even a bigger fan of retellings than I am of the original tales. I am fascinated by the ways authors expand and adapt the source material while keeping the stories fresh and accessible to today's readers. There's so much potential in the fairy tales, and I find it really comes to life in a brilliant retelling. I'm particularly drawn to the fairy tale landscape—the dark woods, the impenetrable briar hedge, the castles. But as a writer, I like the challenge of re-imagining those classic settings; expanding the borders of Fairy Tale Country, as it were!
~StarCrossed seems pretty different from Curse; did you feel it was a departure for you? How does StarCrossed’s Digger compare to Curse’s Charlotte?
I like to say that Curse was written for my adult literary and fairy-tale scholar self, while StarCrossed and Liar's Moon were written for my inner 16-year-old fantasy fan. So in that way, I can't say the series is a departure, although it did feel very different to write Digger's story than Charlotte's. As characters, Digger is a complete 180 from Charlotte. Charlotte thinks over everything before she makes any move, and Digger is very much more a Shoot First, Ask Questions Later kind of girl. Oddly enough, their goals end up being the same (saving the people they care about), but their methods are a little different. I have a feeling Digger would have taken one look at Shearing and Stirwaters, said, "To hells with this," grabbed everyone, and lit out of there.

~StarCrossed is a series, so I know you’re in the middle of that, but are there any plans to tell more straightforward fairy tale retellings in the future?
Definitely! The first novel I ever wrote was a retelling, I have a collection of short retellings that's been in the works for a while, and I've just started collecting research materials for a Victorian-era fairy tale project I'm excited about.

~What’s your favorite scene you’ve ever written?
I don't know! What a great question. Since we're talking about Curse, let's narrow it down some. I still think that book has some great scenes (I especially love the conjuring of Jack Spinner, the introduction of Biddy Tom, the crossroads, and the denouement) ... but today I'm feeling romantic, so I'm going to say Randall's gift of the watch. There's something magical about those rare moments where you can capture everything about a story in just a few lines, and I think this scene between Randall and Charlotte tells us so much about both characters.

Lightning Round!

~Rapunzel is named after lettuce; what odd thing would you be named after if you were in a fairy tale?
Hopefully I'd get a name! But it would probably be something like Donkeyskin or Aschenputtel. Maybe Doghair. Hundehaare. That sounds about right.

~ Using that name, give us 1 line from your life as a fairy tale:
Hard by a great prairie, in a cottage surrounded by mud in all seasons, guarded by a pack of hounds, lived a woman known as Hundehaare, whose back was permanently bent from bending over her books, her fingers gnarled and pricked from the needle. But from her muddy cottage, Hundehaare crafted things of great wonder, and her work was sought by folk from distant lands.
(Ok, that's two lines!)
[The judges confer...Two lines is acceptable, since they are such good lines.  :)  ]

~Best fairy tale villain and why?
Well, see, I tend to take a longer, more sympathetic view of my fairy tale villains, so it's difficult to come up with a list of inexcusable baddies. The thirteenth fairy in "Sleeping Beauty" is awfully petty, but, then, who hasn't felt wounded at being excluded from a party? And for mismatched dishes? But after giving this some deep thought, I'm going to have to go with The Pea.

~Favorite tale from childhood? Favorite tale as an adult? Least favorites?
My favorite always was and will probably always be "Beauty and the Beast." The least favorite one is hard to answer; it used to be "Rumpelstiltskin," hands down—but I feel kind of bad about saying that now, since the story has actually been very good to me!

~If you could be any fairy tale character, or live through any fairy tale "happening," who/what would it be?
Although it directly contradicts another answer below, I'm going to say I'd like to accompany the soldier as he follows the dancing princesses to Faerie.

~Would you rather:
-- eat magic beans or golden eggs?

-- live under a bridge with a troll, or all alone in a high tower?

-- be forced to spin straw into gold for hours on end, or dance every night until your shoes are worn through?
Spin. Was there ever any doubt?

Thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with us, Elizabeth!  For those of you who haven't read A Curse Dark as Gold (was there ever a better title?), Misty and Ashley both highly recommend it!   And if you haven't read StarCrossed, here's your chance!


Thanks to the awesome people at Scholastic, we have a beautiful finished hardcover copy of StarCrossed to give away to 1 winner!
To enter, answer this question: If you were to retell a fairy tale, what would it be and where/when would you set it?
Then, fill out this form.
Ends May 5th May 8th!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Castle Waiting: Lucky Road by Linda Medly

 Castle Waiting Volume 1: Lucky Road
Linda Medley

A fable for modern times, Castle Waiting tells the story of an isolated, abandoned castle, and the eccentric inhabitants who bring it back to life. It's a fairy tale that's not about rescuing the princess, saving the kingdom, or fighting the ultimate war between Good and Evil... but about being a hero in your own home.

In the middle of my reading for Fairy Tale Fortnight, I was craving some graphic novels.  It had been awhile, and my fingers were itching for them.  And then I opened up my Google Reader one day, and the Polish Outlander had posted a bunch of graphic novels; I popped over to Goodreads to mark some of them "to-read" and came across another one she was reading that hadn't been in the post: Castle Waiting, Volume Two.  The title - and her enthusiasm for the story - hooked me, and I immediately went to my library's request page to see if they had volume One.  No.  No, they did not.  But they had another volume that makes up part of volume one (this series has some of the most confusing, convoluted ordering): Lucky Road.
Request this title?  Um, ☑

I didn't even really know what it was about.  I just wanted a comic and it had a cool title -- it fit the bill.  And y'all - it's about fairy tales.  No effing joke.  I just now got the full Volume One,  and Lucky Road is in about the middle of it, so I did miss a little bit of back story about Castle Waiting and how it came to be, but I actually kind of liked just being plunged in.  It made for a quirkier read, and one I thoroughly enjoyed.  Basically, Castle Waiting works in some familiar story lines and characters that will be recongnizable to fairy tale lovers, but it is really its own thing.  It uses the fairy tale realm as a base for the world, and expands out from it, bringing in a lot of the side characters and everyday people from the fairy tales we grew up with (I love this, btw.  I love that Medley didn't just do a straightforward retelling, or feel the need to explain to the reader -- you know the stories or you don't, but she's not going to hold your hand through them -- it all just is, and I love that.)

Lucky Road follows Lady Jain who, pregnant and fleeing from her husband's home, is in search of the fabled Castle Waiting and the sanctuary it is said to offer.  I loved everything about her journey to the Castle, her reception there, and getting to know the odd but lovable castle inhabitants.  Medley packed so much personality into the characters in such a short time that I came to love them.  And they had me continually cracking up.  On top of the fairy tale elements that make up their characters - Henry and his heart caged in bands of iron; the handmaidens who slept 100 years alongside their enchanted mistress - they each have their own quirks that made them memorable.

The story and their interactions were so silly and light-hearted and fun, but not frivolous - the reader is always aware that Jain is running from something - and that they probably all are.
click to embiggen
But in the meantime, they're going to have fun and make the most of life, and carry on with their little quirks, making fun of each other and being made fun of in return.

You know that warm feeling you get when you read a new book and you know it was meant for you?  You've made a new friend, and you're going to be together forever?  As light and silly as this was, that was how I felt.  It was exactly what I wanted, even if it was only a fragment of the story.

I just got the full Volume One (and Vol Two is on request), so I will definitely be continuing my adventures with Castle Waiting.  I understand that the story as a whole has some feminist aspects, and gets compared a lot to Chaucer, and I can see bits of that in Lucky Road.  I bring this up for 2 reasons:

  1. If you're thinking, I'm not going to read that, it's fluff - know there is more to it.  Feminism! Chaucer!
  2. If you're thinking, Feminism? Chaucer? - know that it's fluff!  It's fun, and it's not going to beat you over the head just because it's got some subtle heft to it!  
(speaking of heft - the full Vol 1 clocks in at about 500 pages)
So, to stop rambling so I can get back to reading, I just want to leave you with some of my favorite oddbits from the story, and this last thought: I think this will be one of the few graphic novels I feel the need to buy - if that doesn't recommend it...
I'm so sending this one to my preggers friend, Jenn!
This little guy is one of my favorite characters.

Just another piece of silliness,
this one showing the great expressiveness
and personality in their faces/the drawings.
A fairy tale princess who wakes up, sniffs a pretty flower
 then cracks her toes = my kind of fairy tale princess!

Guest Post: Cloaked, from Sheila @ BookJourney

Our guest post today comes from Sheila @ BookJourney.  After you've finished reading it, I'd suggest hopping over to Ashley's blog for a giveaway from Sheila!

When I seen this bookish adventure coming up hosted by Misty at The Book Rat and Ashley from Basically Amazing Books, lets just say my "spidey senses".... were activated...
I had not read any of the "New" fairy tales but have many fond memories of fairy tales as a child...
... and I remember my Great Grandmother reading these stories to me, large hard cover books with gorgeously detailed pages read so often that I knew the words before I could read them.... and who knew then that those stories would stick with me a lifetime? 
So... the question was when I was asked to create a quest post about a fairy tale book of my choice... could I bring the magic of those books back?

Fairy tale is a type of short narrative that typically features such folkloric characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments.

I personally find this interesting as in todays stories of wolves, vampires, fairies and feys - they are considered paranormal and not fairy tales at all.  

And my quest began.... did I want to read and review a classic fairy tale... or did my literary mind into  a new fairy tale and see what they were like... not knowing of course, old or new - if I would be able to capture that fairy dust again that makes a fairy tale come to life...
"flip flip flip" I went through the pages of fairy tales I found on-line and "click click click" as I went through the books on Amazon until.... finally
I settled on Cloaked.
I liked that is seemed to be a mix and match of old fairy tales put in a blender to make a new one... it was both old and new.... both classic and new release....  that appealed to me.  I also liked that this was the other of Beastly which I have not read, but know of and know that it is also being made into a movie.... that too appealed to me. 
So - with no further ado..... I bring you....

Cloaked by Alex Finn

So you start with a teenage boy named Johnny who works at his mothers shoe repair shop in a pretty sweet hotel in South Beach, Florida.  In years past his relatives were called cobblers, but now... well that just sounds like a dessert. 
Johnny spends his free time hanging out with his BFF Meg and dreaming of designing his own shoe line that will bring in so much moolahthat his mom will no longer have to fret over keeping the electricity bill paid up and deciding between food for dinner or the rent on their home. 
Then one day a famous Princess shows up at the hotel and she is too gorgeous for words.  Johnny can not help be drawn to her and in a chance meeting the Princess shares with Johnny a story that is so unreal it has to be true, of her brother the prince being kidnapped and turned into a frog (maybe that is frognapped).  Johnny takes on the role of "rescuer" when the Princess offers him a large sum of cash as well as her hand in marriage if he succeeds in bringing her brother back to his former self.  For Johnny, this could be an answer to all their money issues as well as marrying the Princess?  How is this not a win win?
Yet all is not as easy as the newly appointed frog catcher would think for many evil forces are at hand to stop Johnny on his quest.... such as witches and giants, and six enchanted swans, a talking rat and a talking fox.... and each new character Johnny meets seems to have an agenda of their own and his one task turns into many....
and in the end as Johnny works through all the hoops to get to his dreams... he really has to rethink his dreams and what he really wants is not what he thought at all...

My adventure forward into this fairy tale was interesting.  It was not a "pick up and love it from page one" style read for me.  It took a while for me to warm up to our young Johnny and the wild craziness of talking animals, a magic cape - of course - ALL MAGIC CAPES appeal to me.... seriously, who wouldn't want one of these!), a crazed killer teen and a witch for a mother, giants, and of course... smoking hot looking shoes.....
yet as I committed myself to experiencing this book, the more I read - the less it felt like a commitment and it became actually fun.  Silly fun yes, but fun all the same.  I enjoyed the beginning of each chapter as it gave a little quote that was from an old fairy tale and then the chapter actually tied in with the quote.... brilliant.  Really brilliant.

As long as the shoemaker lived all went well with him, and all of his undertakings prospered.

~The Elves and The Shoemaker

Author Alex Finn incorporates several lesser known fairy tales in to this book.  they are The Elves and The ShoemakerThe Frog Prince,The Six SwansThe Valiant Tailor, The Salad, The Fisherman and his Wife and The Golden Bird.  I love this idea of fairy tales within a fairy tale and for that I really found this book to be a fun adventure. 

Thanks, Sheila!  Don't forget to stop by Basically Amazing Books for a giveaway from Sheila, everyone!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...