Saturday, April 30, 2011

Essence Fairytale Collection

Have you ever wanted to look like a princess or have fairy dust clinging to your fingers? Now you can, thanks to Essence! The Essence Fairytale Collection is a limited edition make-up line consisting of nail polish, lip gloss, and more. I took the above picture at my local Ulta using a cellphone. Isn't the display adorable? Since it's sold at Ulta, you might think the cosmetics are pricey, but they're not--only $2.99 a pop! Not only that, it's not cheap stuff that isn't any good. I bought the nail polish in Fairy Berry and Once Upon A Time, and the colors lasted a week! (Granted, I did use an OPI top coat one time, but not the other!)

ChicProfile and Nail Junkie show you every single item up-close and personal. Aren't some of the colors PRETTY? And I love the design with the swirlies and the fairies floating around on the caps. I'm totally in love!

Hopefully your local salon still has pieces in stock! I know mine is already selling out...

What a great way to live out a fairy tale in your day-to-day life!

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"A Tale of Two Castles" by Gail Carson Levine

Mysteries abound, especially in Two Castles.

A handsome cat trainer, black-and-white cats, thieves on four legs and two, suspicious townsfolk, a greedy king, a giddy princess, a shape-shifting ogre, a brilliant dragon. Which is the villainous whited sepulcher?

Elodie journeys to the town of Two Castles to become a mansioner—an actress—but luck is against her. She is saved from starvation by the dragon Meenore, who sends her on a dangerous mission inside the ogre's castle. There, disguised as a kitchen maid at an ogre's feast, she finds herself cast in the role of a lifetime and pitted against a foe intent on murder.

Newbery Honor author Gail Carson Levine weaves an entrancing tale of a fearsome ogre, a dragon detective, and a remarkable heroine, who finds friendship where she least expects it, learns that there are many ways to mansion, and discovers that goodness and evil come in all shapes and sizes.

From Goodreads

Gail Carson Levine is one of THE authors fairy tale readers turn to and list as a Master Writer. In fact, the only children’s book on my Top Five Favorites list is Ella Enchanted. Granted, I’m sure a lot of that is the nostalgia talking, but there it remains. When I heard that Levine had a new middle-grade novel coming out, I leapt to read it and saved it for the final Fairy Tale Fortnight Stop. While the novel wasn’t the best of the fourteen I’ve read, it was adorable and took me back to my fairy tale roots. I would have loved this novel when I was younger!

While A Tale of Two Castles may not be the most profound fairy tale novel, it’s utterly charming. Elodie is a plucky heroine full of spunk. After leaving home to become an apprentice in Two Castles, her only copper is stolen from her and she’s left with no money at all. Rather than wallow, however, she sets off to become a mansioner (actress), but when she’s refused as an apprentice, she winds up working for a dragon named Meenore. Most of the villagers are afraid of the dragon—and even more petrified when it comes to the ogre, Count Jonty Um, living in one of the city’s two castles. Not our Elodie, however. After an initial burst of fear (and who could blame her), she realizes that these “monsters” are kind souls who aren’t given enough credit. Yes, there is a hidden message in this novel: It’s what’s on the inside that counts—and Meenore and Count Jonty Um have hearts of gold. Levine initially based the story off the legend of Puss in Boots, which, if you recall, has Puss heading off to the castle to challenge the ogre to shape-shift. Count Jonty Um can also shape-shift, and Two Castles is full of cats that would like nothing more than to see him turn into a mouse. When this horrible occurrence happens, Elodie finds herself with a full-blown mystery on her hands. Who is trying to get rid of County Jonty Um, and why would anyone poison the king of the second castle in Two Castles? As Meenore’s apprentice, she’s expected to learn “Deduction, induction, and common sense.” Can the two discover the truth behind what’s going on before it’s too late?

Mixing a mystery with a fantasy in such a way was a brave move on Levine’s part, and a break from her normal fare. She does so with ease, however, creating an engaging mystery that will leave readers looking at every character through new eyes as they try to figure out “whodunit.” There’s a lot of room for future adventures with Meenore and Elodie, which would be welcome stories in the fantasy genre.

In addition to the mystery, one of my favorite things was the way Levine created Meenore. I haven’t read many novels with dragons, but the ones I have are all vastly different from one another. One of my favorite lines from the novel came when Elodie saw Meenore’s wings for the first time: “The wing was a mosaic of flat triangles, each tinted a different hue, no color exactly the same. Black lines of sinew held the triangles together, as lead holds the glass in a stained-glass window. The tinted skin, in every shade of pink, blue yellow, and violet, was gossamer thin. I saw raindrops bead on the other side” (pg 45). In addition, Levine uses Meenore’s smoke when describing the dragon’s mood, from dull scales when annoyed to bright pink smoke and red scales when angry, to gray smoke for sadness and white spirals of smoke when happy. Seeing such detail describe a dragon’s mood was a visual treat that I always looked forward to.


With a new book on the way, some of Levine’s books got a cover upgrade. Ella Enchanted and Ever now have designs to match A Tale of Two Castles:

A Tale of Two Castles is my favorite of the three. The cover embodies what the novel is about. I love how beautiful Meenore’s wings look; the artist really got the stained-glass look right. I also like the way you can see Elodie caught between the two castles of Two Castles, representing her struggle between the King and Count Jonty Um. I also like the treatment given to the title and author, which represents the banners such a kingdom might actually employ. The author design is also used in Ella Enchanted and Ever. After all these years, it’s strange to see Ella with a new cover, but at the same time, I love that the artist has her with that amazing magical book. I want a book like that. There’s also been controversy in the past over the fact that Levine’s characters look nothing like the cover depicts; these are a bit more diverse. Hand-illustrations are big in children’s literature right now, so I think young readers are likelier to pick up these editions than they are the current ones. This is especially true with Ever; the first edition looks more Teen than Middle-Grade, which steers parents and children away from it.

[Review based on ARC edition courtesy of netGalley; all quotes subject to change in final version] A TALE OF TWO CASTLES is available May 10, 2011 at a bookstore near you!

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You're Gonna LOVE Me: "A Long, Long Sleep" by Anna Sheehan

Title: A Long, Long Sleep
Author: Anna Sheehan
Release Date: August 9, 2011
Publisher: Gollancz/Candlewick Press
Received: ARC Courtesy of NetGalley
Goodreads Page


Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for 62 years when she is woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically-induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten sub-basement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long dead, and Rose - hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire - is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat. Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes - or be left without any future at all.

In a way, A Long, Long Sleep reminds me of this year’s bestselling debut Across the Universe by Beth Revis. Both books begin with a character in stasis. In Sheehan’s novel, the sci-fi novel is spun together with the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty. It’s about a sixteen-year-old named Rose who has been stassed for over sixty years and wakes up in a much-changed future, scared and alone. She goes through a lot of heartbreak and hardships, enduring more than most YA characters ever encounter. The merging of two completely different ideas is foreign, yet “right.” This is one book that will get people talking!


Right away, we know this is going to be based on a fairy tale…but not in a way anyone else has done before…

…When the electric-blue seascape I was trying to hold on to was interrupted, not by a hand but by the feeling of lips on mine, I was startled. I sucked in a breath through my nose and sat bolt upright, knocking my head against my supposed rescuer. I couldn’t see. Everything was dark and painful, as if I had just opened my eyes into a bright light after days in the dark.
–pg 9 (Which is really pg 1 after the Contents, etc.)

-All pages from nook edition of e-arc; changes may be made before book launches in print

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Friday, April 29, 2011

"A Curse Dark as Gold" by Elizabeth C. Bunce

The gold thread shimmers in the fading light.

It promises Charlotte Miller a way out of debt, a chance to save her family's beloved wooden mill. It promises a future for her sister, livelihood for her townsfold, security against her sinuous and grasping uncle. It might even promise what she didn't know she needed: lasting hope and true love.

But at what cost?

To get the thread, Charlotte must strike a bargain with its maker, the mysterious Jack Spinner. But the gleam of gold conjures a shadowy past--secrets and bonds ensnaring generations of Millers. And Charlotte's mill, her family, her friends, her love... What do those matter to a powerful stranger who can spin straw into gold?

From the book's back cover (because the summary there is better than the one from Goodreads this time around).

Rumpelstiltskin was always one of the creepier fairy tales. Growing up, who didn’t cower when they heard his requests? With A Curse Dark as Gold, I love the fact that Elizabeth C. Bunce chose to retell the tale in her own unique way. Even better, the book takes place during the Industrial Revolution. Fans of fairy tales with historical twists such as Shannon Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days will eat this novel up. I also love that Bunce’s rendering has a life of its own; "Rumpelstiltskin" himself does not exist in the same form. As Bunce says in her Author’s Note, she was inspired by “Name of the Helper” tales, not just the famous German version we all grew up with. Even more interesting, “naming” doesn’t really play a role in this novel.

The book centers around Charlotte Miller after her father dies, leaving her and her younger sister, Rosie, to run the mill. The old place is falling apart and never allows itself to be properly fixed, leaving the workers to whisper about curses and otherworldly creatures. Charlotte believes their mutterings to be nothing more than superstition, convinced that everything has been one long string of bad luck that has kept the mill from running fluidly. The girls are soon joined by Uncle Wheeler, who seems benevolent on the surface, but is hiding his own secrets. At first, the girls are happy to have his help—until it becomes apparent that he’d rather sell the mill and marry them off. It’s up to Charlotte to take matters into her own hands and keep the mill running. Along the way, she’s met with more bad luck, but also happy coincidences. We watch her marry and have a baby. All isn’t as happy as it seems, however. Someone is trying to ruin the mill, and each time the sabotage is discovered, Charlotte must turn to the mysterious Jack Spinner for help. Eventually, Jack asks for something so priceless in exchange that Charlotte will do whatever it takes to find out the truth behind the mill’s run of bad luck.

A Curse Dark as Gold is beautiful and lyrical, full of descriptions you want to highlight and hold close to your heart. The book is also grounded in reality; Charlotte doesn’t believe the superstitious stories everyone tells, and when she explains why each new scenario is bad luck, it’s easy to believe her logic. Bunce is such a deft reader, that readers are left wondering whether occurrences are supernatural or real just like all of the characters. The novel also consists of strong character development. Jack Spinner is properly creepy, and you’re always on your toes around Uncle Wheeler. You cheer for Charlotte when she finds happiness, but want to throttle her when she holds her secrets close to her chest, refusing to confide in anyone. Even more minor characters have roles to play, and the way Bunce resorts to using last names based on a person’s position the way it used to be helps keep everyone straight. The book starts off slow, but picks up in speed, especially at the end. Along the way, it’s a beautiful story full of historical context with just the right mix of fairy tale thrown in.


At first, this cover doesn’t look like much. It didn’t reach up and grab me from the shelves. On closer inspection, however, it’s full of subtext and meaning. At one point in the novel, Charlotte reflects on how nice it is to have a dress that isn’t stained at the hems. You can see stains all over the frock she’s wearing on the book jacket. Her hair’s pulled back in a way that’s practical so it won’t get in the way at work. The braid also makes her look younger, reminding readers just how young Charlotte and her sister actually are. Finally, I love the way the gold thread is wrapped around her hands. Not only does it give you a hint at the fairy tale lying within, but it’s also draped around her in such a way that it’s like Charlotte is being held prisoner. I LOVE the hidden subtext there! I also like the way the title is gold and flowing like thread, curls and all. It’s a very nice, albeit understated, design.

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Author Interview: Tia Nevitt

Tia Nevitt spins fairy tales from alternative POVs that most people never even stop to consider. If you recall from my review of THE SEVENFOLD SPELL, she wove together a version of SLEEPING BEAUTY from a Spinner's perspective. Talk about unique! The moment I read Nevitt's novella, I knew I wanted to talk to her about her books, and lucky for all of you, she was just as eager to do so!

Here's' a sneak peek at the interview:

2) What made you decide to write THE SEVENFOLD SPELL from a villager's POV?

I didn’t really. THE SEVENFOLD SPELL is a retelling of SLEEPING BEAUTY, and I wanted to write from the point of view of the woman who owned the spinning wheel. Many readers have thought of her as a villager, but I actually envisioned her as living in a tiny neighborhood in the capital city—right where all the action takes place. But the reader is always right!

I wanted to explore the spinster’s point-of-view because I wondered what became of all the spinsters after the spinning wheels were banned. I was watching Disney’s Sleeping Beauty with my daughter and the plight of the spinsters seemed like such a good seed for a story. I wanted to show how everything in Talia’s life changed with the loss of her spinning wheel—her whole future was bound up in it. It happens incrementally, first the loss of an income, which results in the loss of her dowry, which results in the loss of her betrothed, at which time she begins to despair. I tried to put myself in the mindset of a fatherless young lady who is very unattractive, faced with a long life ahead of her with only a cranky mother for company. The only man who ever looked at her must leave… What would she do in search of happiness?

One of the ideas I had from the start is that Sleeping Beauty would actually be Sleeping Ugly. Therefore, I made Talia to be Aurora’s opposite. Where Aurora is beautiful, privileged, dreamy and pure, Talia is unattractive, poor, pragmatic—and sensual. I realize that’s a bit unusual, but a mousy and shy spinster would have been too much of a cliché, and besides, sometimes the character’s choices lead the author, which is very much what happened in this case.

The Book Rat and Books From Bleh to Basically Amazing are both hosting the interview in its entirety on their respective blogs (click their names for access!). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, especially the way she put together her mermaid lore!

Tia, thank you again for a great interview. I can't wait to read the next two ACCIDENTAL ENCHANTMENTS companions you hinted at!

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Author Interview: Sarah Porter

In February, I was lucky enough to read an ARC of LOST VOICES by Sarah Porter. I loved it so much, I created You're Gonna Love Me so I could squeal about the book with you despite the fact that it didn't come out for MONTHS. And boy is *forever* sneaking up on us. July 4th is not that far away! While LOST VOICES isn't a direct fairy tale, it incorporates mythical beings such as MERMAIDS and reads like one. I really enjoyed this book and can't WAIT for the sequel, WAKING STORMS. I wanted to spotlight Sarah and get you all excited for her debut, and she was just as excited to participate in Fairy Tale Fortnight!

Here's' a sneak peek at the interview:

4) Can you tell us more about your overall goals for the trilogy?

That’s hard to do without giving too much away! But Luce has a long way to go, and things will get much worse for her before they can start to get better. The trilogy is really about a choice we all face: we can stay stuck in our pain and keep repeating the same reactions to that pain, the way the mermaids keep sinking ships. Or we can look for creative ways to break the cycle and move on. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do, but ultimately that’s what Luce has to accomplish.

The Book Rat and Books From Bleh to Basically Amazing are both hosting the interview in its entirety on their respective blogs (click their names for access!). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, especially the way she put together her mermaid lore!

Sarah, thank you again for a great interview. I can't wait for the next two books in the trilogy. I've wanted to read LOST VOiCES since the moment I saw the gorgeous MERMAID on the cover!

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"The Stepsister Scheme" by Jim C. Hines

What would happen if an author went back to the darker themes of the original fairy tales for his plots, and then crossed the Disney princesses with Charlie’s Angels? What’s delivered is The Stepsister Scheme—a whole new take on what happened to Cinderella and her prince after the wedding. And with Jim C. Hines penning the tale readers can bet it won’t be “and they lived happily ever after.”

From Goodreads

Originally, fairy tales were dark and grim, not the light, bubbly Happily Ever After stories we all know and love in these modern times. Jim C. Hines pulled obscure versions of fairy tales you might not be familiar with when creating his four Princess novels. For example, one version of Cinderella that he found revolves around a plot where the stepsister attempts to assassinate Cinderella. He pulls from Sun, Moon, and Talia, one of the darkest versions of Sleeping Beauty. Etc., etc. The best thing about reading the first book in his series, The Stepsister Scheme, was finding all the obscure tales and trying to figure out what was based on fact and what came from his own imagination. I have yet to finish The Mermaid’s Madness or begin Red Hood’s Revenge (or the upcoming finale, The Snow Queen’s Shadow), so this review won’t talk about any future books. I anticipate seeing quite a bit of old lore in the series as a whole, however.

The Stepsister Scheme starts out innocently enough. As you might guess based on the title, the main character is Cinderella, who has married her prince and is now living Happily Ever After. Or is she? Despite her newfound glamour, Danielle still has the heart of a cinder girl and is always trying to figure out how to clean things. She’s also overly polite. At first, her character is very weak, but she develops in a fantastic fashion over the course of the novel. I loved watching her evolve. After her stepsister attempts to assassinate her and her husband, Prince Armand, is kidnapped, Danielle slowly begins to grow a backbone. She’s helped along this route by the Queen, who has a secret service consisting of Talia (Sleeping Beauty) and Snow (Snow White). Together, the trio of princesses head for fairy land to get Armand back as a sinister plot unfolds.

I loved seeing princesses, who are often perceived as weak, as strong characters here. These are the female role models Disney princesses can only dream of one day becoming. At first, I didn’t care much for Talia. She’s a prickly princess with a huge chip on her shoulder. As Hines unveils her horrifying tale, however, it’s easy to see why she has become so closed-off. It’s also interesting to note that she’s gay, which adds an additional dimension to her story. Snow, on the other hand, is easy to love. She’s by far the most interesting character, in my opinion, though I do love all three princesses. She’s a huge flirt, but upon a closer look, there are many more facets to her than anyone else. She wields powerful magic through her mirrors and is one of those girls who looks gentle and fragile, but can break your neck before you have a chance to so much as blink. She also has a heartbreaking story in her background that we eventually learn about.

Overall, this series is shaping up to be fantastic. Initially, I was thrown off by the covers, but I’m glad I didn’t judge the books based on them. I would have missed a special fantasy series. I can’t wait to throw myself into The Mermaid’s Madness, which is based on The Little Mermaid, one of my favorite fairy tales. Hines has generously provided the first chapter on his website for everyone to read!


As I mentioned earlier, these aren’t my favorite covers. They look very staged and seem geared toward a male audience. Then again, they also fit the genre, as most sci-fi/fantasy novels tend to have understated covers. The blurb is also misleading. As much as I love Esther Friesner, I don’t think the three princesses are really a match for Charlie’s Angels. Snow is the only one who looks at all the way I expect her to. Then again, based on the cover and her pose, she reminds me a lot of the character Ty Lee from Avatar: The Last Airbender; even her book personality matches up. I could easily see her after making this connection. My favorite cover of the four is for The Snow Queen’s Shadow, coming out July 5th.

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Carolyn Turgeon is AWESOME. I *LOVED* her unique takes on CINDERELLA and THE LITTLE MERMAID in her novels GODMOTHER and MERMAID. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of RAIN VILLAGE and her upcoming YA Debut, THE NEXT FULL MOON.

Not only do I love her writing, but Carolyn herself is one awesome lady. When I asked her to participate in Fairy Tale Fortnight, she not only agreed to an interview, but also a giveaway! Bookworms, you have a chance to win an autographed copy of MERMAID! Three chances, actually. Carolyn is super-generous and giving away copies to THREE lucky winners. And there are Mermaid tattoos. Did I mention the mermaid tattoos?

Check out Caroyln's blog, or, if you love mermaids, her new I AM A MERMAID blog!

Here's' a sneak peek at the interview:

6) Which of the books you've written is your favorite so far? What makes it the most special to you?

Hmmm. I think that would always tend to be the latest one. Right now I’m very excited about THE NEXT FULL MOON and writing for this younger age group. I found it surprisingly easy to write as a twelve-year-old, which is possibly a little worrisome, and was able to draw on my own memories and experiences more than I have for any other book. Like the characters all go to the lake in their town, where there’s an old carousel and people sell lemonade and they can all go swimming or lie out on the beach. And I was just directly describing the lake my friends and I used to go to in East Lansing, Michigan, where I lived from when I was twelve to fourteen, and I hadn’t thought about that lake in years. We moved around a lot when I was growing up, and so I’m really distanced from some of those memories and places. It was kind of nostalgic and wonderful, writing that book and slipping into those memories and this old self. Also, I have to say, I think the trauma and awkwardness of being twelve mixes really well with the fairy tale elements in the book, and I like the idea that something magical is happening to you as you hit puberty and you just have to figure that out.

The Book Rat and Books From Bleh to Basically Amazing are both hosting the interview in its entirety on their respective blogs (click their names for access!). I loved seeing how Carolyn initially decided to fracture GODMOTHER the way she did, what drew her to THE LITTLE MERMAID, and, of course, a look at what's next!

Carolyn, thank you again for a great interview and this amazing giveaway opportunity. I can't wait to delve into more of your work and hope everyone else will love you as much as I do!

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Word Count Wednesday (6)

Word Count Wednesday is my way of sharing my weekly writing progress with you and holding myself accountable for not giving up.

So without further ado, this week's "Word Count" for Super-Secret Project/Codename: FIZZYPOP:
(Why Fizzypop? sounds fun!)

This week: 0 pages :(
Total to Date: 74 pages
Start Date: March 2, 2011

How far is this in terms of a word count? I'm not sure. I get 150-400 words per page depending on how small I'm writing and/or how many cross-outs I have. (Plus, that gets me an extra round of editing!)

Yeah……I feel horrible about how little writing I’ve done. Every time I sit down to write, all I can think about are the books I still need to read for Fairy Tale Fortnight. It distracts me and my brain can’t stop thinking about everything I have to do. Plus, I feel guilty for taking the time away from my reading. I already took time out to read two books not coming out right away that I can’t review, but still wanted to highlight during the event, so that’s sixteen books. The three books I have left to read are on the longer side now…unless I switch things up. Not that I regret anything. I love the books I’ve been reading and am so happy to be sharing them ALL with you, especially the two future ones (I’ll spotlight the other tomorrow or Friday).

At the same time, I ALSO feel guilty b/c I haven’t been writing. I was doing so well…and just getting to the good stuff! I hope to get back on track next week!
Then again, I always have the problem where… When my head is full of everyone else’s characters, it’s hard for my own to live there as well. It’s why I went on a Reading Hiatus for so long last year. Right now, it’s especially tough because I’m reading fairy tales, and what I’m writing is a fairy tale, but not the way these are. I haven’t read anything based on what I’m writing (Does it even exist? This tale is obscure…), which helps, but the type of fairy tale is completely different. There are other books I should be reading that will keep me in the right mindset. All these books do is make me want to live in a fantasy world!

When I DID think about writing this past week, it was to come up with ideas for my high fantasy brainchild that I started a couple years ago for NaNoWriMo and put aside. I think I mentioned it on here recently when talking about worrying about whether or not I chose the right title to focus on. I got two major ideas for it this week, though. I’m not sure how to connect it all together, but when I figure it out, I know that this story will be the stronger for it! Now I’m glad I wasn’t focusing on it; I wasn’t ready!

I also maybe, possibly have a critique partner now. It seems like we’ll mesh well, but time will tell. More on that another day, but it was exciting news for me!

Next week, here I come! I’m ready for you already…!

That's how my week went! Do you have a WIP at the moment? What was your word count this week? To date? Let's support one another! This week, I hope you did better than me!!!

"The Wide-Awake Princess" by E.D. Baker

In this new stand-alone fairy tale, Princess Annie is the younger sister to Gwen, the princess destined to be Sleeping Beauty. When Gwennie pricks her finger and the whole castle falls asleep, only Annie is awake, and only Annie—blessed (or cursed?) with being impervious to magic—can venture out beyond the rose-covered hedge for help. She must find Gwen's true love to kiss her awake.

But who is her true love? The irritating Digby? The happy-go-lucky Prince Andreas, who is holding a contest to find his bride? The conniving Clarence, whose sinister motives couldn't possibly spell true love? Joined by one of her father's guards, Liam, who happened to be out of the castle when the sleeping spell struck, Annie travels through a fairy tale land populated with characters both familiar and new as she tries to fix her sister and her family . . . and perhaps even find a true love of her own.

From Goodreads

With all this talk lately regarding the merits of fractured fairy tales, sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and enjoy a sugar-spun story. The Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker is ADORABLE. I think it’s my favorite book yet by Baker, who wrote the Tales of the Frog Princess series (the first novel was the inspiration for Disney’s The Princess and the Frog). The novel revolves around Princess Annie, the younger sister of Crown Princess Gwendolyn. As babies, Gwendolyn was cursed, destined to prick her finger on a spinning wheel upon turning sixteen. Not wanting another cursed princess, the King and Queen ask one fairy to gift Annie when she is born, making it so that no magic (good or bad) can ever harm her. When Gwendolyn pricks her finger and sends her kingdom into one hundred years of sleep, Annie is the only one unaffected. The Wide-Awake Princess is her story, and deservedly so—Annie is one kick-ass heroine!

I hate how fairy tales can fall into tropes where the prince is always the one to save the day and rescue the powerless maiden. Not so here. One thing that hooked me early on was the way Annie saves Liam ( one of the unaffected guards who was away from the palace when the curse set in). He gets all shame-faced about it, but Annie could care less. Without her, he would have died. Liam joins Annie on her journey to gather up princes in an attempt to find her sister’s True Love. Along the way, she encounters a mish-mash of fairy tale encounters such as Hansel and Gretel as cleverly thrown together as something out of Stephen Sondheim’s epic musical Into the Woods or the Shrek movies. There’s even a fairy tale role for Annie, which I didn’t see coming, but was delighted about. The way the novel arrives at its conclusion was completely satisfactory. I especially loved the way romance builds between Annie and Liam despite their opposite roles in society. This book hit my sweet spot in all the right ways. It’s ADORABLE and I loved it to bits. I would have loved to see what happened next and wasn’t quite ready to leave Annie behind; she’s such a strong heroine that she wormed her way irrevocably into my heart.


The cover is just as sweet as the story it’s concealing! Until I actually picked up the book and started reading, I thought this novel was going to be another Sleeping Beauty story, albeit one where the Princess somehow didn’t fall asleep. Looking at the cover again now, there’s so much I previously missed. Annie is staring out the balcony window, which is the first thing your eye sees upon analyzing this cover. How did I ever overlook the sleeping girl on the bed behind her? Now it’s completely obvious that this book is about TWO princesses. I also love the way there are sleeping courtiers and knights in the foreground below Annie. While Annie is described as average-looking in the book due to having been bestowed with no magical blessings at birth, the girl on the cover is really cute! To me, she looks just as pretty as her sleeping sister, the “beautiful one.” I think Annie is still adorable… No wonder Liam always tells her that! I love the way the title typeface draws out the pink in Annie’s dress and uses a nice storybook font. Likewise, E.D. Baker’s name uses the coloring from the castle walls, which is more muted and fits in better at the bottom. None of the typography is obstructive, leaving us leeway to admire the beautifully-illustrated cover.

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Interview: Victoria Schwab

Last week, I spotlighted Victoria Schwab's upcoming novel, The Near Witch. You guys, this book is FANTASTIC. I can't wait for you to read it. You're going to be blathering on like idiots, too! Plus, Victoria has a fantastic blog that I love reading. You should all follow her and see why she's one awesome lady! Anyway, I interviewed Victoria for Fairy Tale Fortnight and after reading this interview, you'll be dying for her novel (if you aren't already!).

Here's' a sneak peek at the interview:

I would love to know more about how you came up with the story of The Near Witch. What gave you the idea?

It actually all came about from two sentences thought up about six months apart. One was "There are no strangers in the town of Near" and the other was "The wind on the moors is a tricky thing." I knew immediately I wanted to put them together. My first thought was, "Where's Near?" I started to ask questions and explore the village in my head. It was very exploratory at first, organic, just getting to know the place, as told through this girl's voice. Then the mystery began to form from those two sentences.

The Book Rat and Books From Bleh to Basically Amazing are both hosting the interview in its entirety on their respective blogs (click their names for access!). I loved seeing how Victoria came up with her novel, as well as hints at what's coming next!

Victoria, thank you again for a great interview. I can't wait to see what you come up with next!

Check out today's FTF Event Schedule!

GIVEAWAY REMINDER: "Human Blend" by Lori Pescatore

Just a reminder:

There's still time to enter to win an autographed or digital copy of Lori Pescatore's Human Blend!

While Lori sadly didn't move on to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award's Semi-Finals, she was a Quarter-Finalist. Congratulations, Lori!

Go HERE to enter this International Contest! The final day to enter is Monday, May 2nd!


Welcome to the final Blog Tour Stop for Jackie Morse Kessler’s RAGE, the second book in her RIDERS OF THE APOCALYPSE quartet!

For those not familiar with the series, check out my reviews of HUNGER and RAGE to get caught up! They’re well-worth your time.

Jackie, thanks for your fantastic responses. I enjoyed reading about how you came up with your ideas and LOVED the hints of what’s to come!


Jackie, you've previously stated that there was a lot leading up to why you began writing HUNGER. Did you always envision writing about the other three Horsemen as well, or did that come later?

JK: Oh, that definitely came later. Specifically, it happened when I was talking to my agent on the phone, right after I handed in HUNGER to my editor, and my agent asked me, “So, which Horseman are you writing about next?” And I was like, “NEXT???” She pointed out that there are Four Horsemen, and so I started thinking about it, and based on events in HUNGER, it made sense for the next Horseman to be War. And from there, I made the connection of having a teenage self-injurer—specifically, a cutter—to take up the Sword of War.

What made you decide to add a fantasy element such as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to a real, hard-hitting issue such as self-abuse? Personally, I love the way you mashed the two together. It doesn't come off as "preachy" and will get readers who may not otherwise read about such issues to pick up the book.

JK: Thanks! I actually had the idea of having an anorexic teenage girl become the new Famine for about ten years before I wrote HUNGER. I’m not the first one to do that; MARVEL COMICS had a supervillain back in the 1980s called Famine, who was an anorexic teenage mutant with the power of destroying food. She, along with the other Horsemen, wore costumes and rode mechanical steeds and fought the good guys. (Kapow!) But that was really about the battles; it didn’t focus on the girl’s anorexia. I wanted a story that took a hard-hitting look at eating disorders; I used to be bulimic, so having eating disorders be the focus was extremely important to me. You could take the Horseman element out of HUNGER, and there would still be a story. It would be a different story, granted, but it would still be a story. If you take the eating disorders out, then there would be no story left.

Next up is a book revolving around Pestilence, LOSS. Can you tell us a little bit about what to expect?

JK: The book that I **just** finished writing!!! :) LOSS is about a bullied teenage boy who is tricked into becoming Pestilence. There’s a lot more about the Horsemen in this book, and readers who have read HUNGER and RAGE may be happy to hear they’ll see a lot more of Death. :)

Are you able to reveal any secrets yet about the final book in the quartet? Will we see the awesome Death we all know and love, or be introduced to someone new? Do you have a title yet?

JK: **rubs hands gleefully** BREATH will be Death’s book. And I am giddy. Giddy, I tell you! Death is the only Horseman who is the original, so I think it’s not exactly a spoiler that it will be the same character that you’ve seen in HUNGER, RAGE, and LOSS.

What was the hardest thing about writing RAGE? The easiest?

JK: Man, that book was tough, emotionally speaking. It left me feeling raw and exhausted. And, um, about a third or so of the way through the book, I threw out my synopsis because, well, it was wrong. :) So I was pantsing a good chunk of the book, which was sort of terrifying when you’re used to plotting (and you have a contracted deadline to hit). I had no idea how the book was going to end until I wrote the last two chapters. :) “Easy,” I couldn’t say, but the coolest part of writing RAGE was when I finally heard the voice of War. I was about to write what was supposed to be the big battle/climax...but as I started, I heard this voice, and it said: “The world is a wound, and I will cauterize it.” And I was like, WHAT???? And that’s when I first really got War as a character, so I went back and made a bunch of changes. But that was awesome.

In RAGE, Missy's voice is so distinctive and different from the way Lisa sounded in HUNGER. Of the Four Horsemen, who is your favorite to bring life to and write scenes about? Why? I'll admit that personally, I'm a huge fan of Death. He's fantastic!

JK: Thanks! I’m glad the two voices are distinct. And yeah, Death is my favorite, hands down. Boy, wait until you read LOSS — you get to see a completely different side to him!

Did you always know the way in which you'd destroy Missy's life at the party? What gave you the idea?

JK: Yeah, I knew. From the moment I had the idea for the book, I knew. It was one of those fully-formed ideas that just happen—the same way that Death looking, sounding and singing exactly like Kurt Cobain just happened. Man, that was a tough scene. I cringed when I wrote it. (And I wanted to punch Adam in the jaw.)

I love that you donate some of the proceeds from each book to charities designed to help people with similar issues to the ones your characters suffer from. What made you decide to take this step?

JK: I knew from the beginning that I was going to donate a portion of HUNGER proceeds to the National Eating Disorders Association. I mentioned earlier that I used to be bulimic, so it was important to me to do something to help others who are suffering from eating disorders. And when I wrote RAGE, my crit partner mentioned To Write Love On Her Arms, and after I read about the organization, I knew it would be perfect for that book. If there’s a unifying theme to the Riders of the Apocalypse, it’s how we choose to destroy ourselves—and how we choose to save ourselves as well. And so, I’m giving some of the sales to specific charities. :) To everyone who buys the books: thank you for helping to make a difference!

A BACKWARDS STORY is the final stop on the RAGE BLOG TOUR, though Jackie will stop by The Hate-Mongering Tart on May 1st. Please be sure to check it out!

"Rage" by Jackie Morse Kessler

Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was . . . different. 

That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a new kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control.
A unique approach to the topic of self-mutilation, Rage is the story of a young woman who discovers her own power and refuses to be defeated by the world.

From Goodreads

Whoever could have thought that pairing issues of self-abuse with fantasy elements such as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse would be a good idea? Jackie Morse Kessler did. Her series isn’t just good, either: It’s GREAT. Last year, I read and reviewed Hunger, which was about an anorexic girl chosen to become Hunger, the Black Rider. Her latest novel, Rage, centers around a cutter asked to take up the mantle of The Red Rider, War. The next book, Loss, will deal with a bullied boy who is tricked into becoming Pestilence, the White Rider. The final book, Breath, revolves around Death, The Pale Rider, though in what way, we don’t yet know. I love the way these issues are blended into fantasy novels. Teenagers suffering from such issues who wouldn’t read realistic fiction will find their way to the fantasy/paranormal books, find these books, and realize they aren’t alone. That in itself is powerful, because sometimes, this is the only way these issues can be heard. They’re written in such a way that the novels don’t seem “preachy,” which allows readers to better connect and feel for the characters. I also admire the way a portion of the proceeds from each book goes to support organizations such as the National Eating Disorders Association and To Write Love On Her Arms.

Rage is about a girl named Missy who has withdrawn from life after breaking up with her boyfriend. The only time she’s able to feel anything is when she cuts. She’s tormented at school; because she dresses in a lot of black, she’s called foul names such as “cutterslut” and “emo cutter girl.” Everything comes to a head at a major party, when life as she knows it is completely and utterly destroyed. Unlike in Hunger, there’s more of a balance within Missy. She actually wants to be War and takes up the mantle. She knows that she has issues, that cutting can kill her. She sees that her path leads to darkness. I liked how Missy was focused on more things and knew that what she was doing was wrong, but just...couldn't stop. I also like the way she embraced being a Horsemen right away, but struggled with the nature of what she had to do. Because Missy actually wants to accept her lot, we see much more of her journey. Some of the most powerful images come when she struggles to balance her own wants and needs with those of War, whom she now embodies. This was my favorite part of Missy’s journey in Rage. In Hunger, on the other hand, I most appreciated the way Kessler took us through the stages of a disorder, when Lisa didn't even know she had one. She was always denying it and couldn’t even recognize that she had symptoms such as a fuzzy tongue, lost hair, etc. that were slowly killing her. I liked different things about each novel, but both were powerful in their own way.

Death is still my favorite character, and I can’t wait until we get to his book. Kessler just finished writing Loss and has hinted that we get to see a completely different side of the Pale Rider. He’s her favorite character as well, so I can’t wait to see how he shines in book three (let alone his own). I’m so excited to read about his story and find out what makes him so interesting. I really enjoy reading about all the different Horsemen in each book and then seeing them again later on. While some Horsemen change, others stay the same, and it’s like returning to well-loved characters with each new book. I can’t wait to see where everyone is and how they have evolved in Loss.


I love these covers. They’re beautiful. They’re very symbolic and each one uses an image that represents each Horseman’s symbol of office. Famine has scales, so they dominate Hunger’s cover. War has a sword. The sword on the cover’s blade is stained red, which represents many things, from anger (‘rage,’ if you will) to death. The foil and swirls add shininess and beg readers to pick the books up because something exciting is inside. Plus, each book is only about 200 pages, making it a more practical buy for slower readers in addition to faster ones that eat books for lunch.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Toads and Diamonds" by Heather Tomlinson

Diribani has come to the village well to get water for her family's scant meal of curry and rice. She never expected to meet a goddess there. Yet she is granted a remarkable gift: Flowers and precious jewels drop from her lips whenever she speaks.

It seems only right to Tana that the goddess judged her kind, lovely stepsister worthy of such riches. And when she encounters the goddess, she is not surprised to find herself speaking snakes and toads as a reward.

Blessings and curses are never so clear as they might seem, however. Diribani’s newfound wealth brings her a prince—and an attempt on her life. Tana is chased out of the village because the province's governor fears snakes, yet thousands are dying of a plague spread by rats. As the sisters' fates hang in the balance, each struggles to understand her gift. Will it bring her wisdom, good fortune, love . . . or death?

From Goodreads

Vastly different from Charles Perrault’s The Fairies, in my opinion, Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson is a much-better version of the tale. For those not familiar with the original, two step-sisters encounter a disguised fairy on separate occasions. The younger of the two is blessed with a gift: Whenever she speaks, flowers and jewels fall from her lips. The eldest isn’t a kind person, so the fairy curses her to spit out snakes and amphibians when she speaks. In traditional fairy tale fashion, the good-hearted, but downtrodden maiden overcomes all while those that put her down get their just rewards. Tomlinson took a fresh look at the original tale and thought, “What if the fairy blessed both sisters?” Both sisters are kind, good-hearted people who honestly love one another despite the fact that they don’t share blood. Some parts of the tale remain consistent: Diribani is blessed with the gift of jewels and flowers, while her stepsister Tana is given the ability to speak snakes and toads. But which is a blessing and which a curse?

Tomlinson sets Toads and Diamonds in India, where snakes are revered. Tana has also received a gift, not a curse, though there are those who flee from what her lips release upon speaking. Many families own house nagas, snakes that eat the rats and keep pestilence from spreading. While outwardly, Diribani has received a priceless gift and releases a small fortune whenever she has something to say, it’s actually a curse in disguise. She’s locked up and kept away from everyone; her jewels line the king’s coffers and a greedy governor wants her for himself. Toads and Diamonds is told in alternating POVs, so readers are able to follow both Diribani and Tana, seeing what becomes of the sisters and their “gifts.”

Overall, Tana was my favorite of the sisters. She’s made of strong mettle and goes through so much agony, while Diribani has a much easier life. Diribani’s story flatlined a bit, and at times, I was eager to get back to Tana’s plight. There was so much heartbreak and misery in her life; Tana was braver than most girls in her situation. As with any other fairy tale, there are also romantic prospects involved, though a relationship is hard for either sister due to their unique gifts. The throne doesn’t want to let go of Diribani’s riches while Tana feels that no one could love a girl who spits venomous snakes. The setting also played an important factor in the book and was a character in and of itself. I loved that Tomlinson modeled her land on a real country, India, and invented two powerful religions that are similar to ones we have in reality, while still being quite unique. Everything fit together well and created a lovely atmosphere not often seen in literature. Combined with an unusual outlook on what constitutes a blessing or a curse, Toads and Diamonds leaves readers with a lot to think about and reflect on.


This is yet another beautiful, eye-catching cover that made me want to pick up the book to find out more. I just want to sit here and stare at it forever. There’s so much symbolism after reading the novel, too. The book takes place in India, which is hinted at through the henna on the model’s skin and the special sari she’s wearing. She’s also wearing golden dowry bracelets, which are mentioned quite a few times in the novel. She’s holding a flower, which represents Diribani, the sister who speaks jewels and flowers. If you look at the sari belt in a certain way, the wrinkle looks a lot like a green and gold snake twining around her, representing Tana, the sister whose lips drips with toads and snakes. I also like the typeface used for the title, not to mention the TITLE itself: Toads and Diamonds. It mentions both sisters, both POVs. It hints at what is to come when the reader picks up the book and looks inside.

The inside design is lovely, too. The start of each chapter looks like this:

Very nice overall design!

Check out today's FTF Event Schedule!

Teaser Tuesdays: "Toads and Diamonds" by Heather Tomlinson

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

To participate:
*Grab your current read
*Open to a random page
*Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

W h a t I ' m R e a d i n g :

Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson

"Washing over her in an irresistible wave, the goddess's regard bathed Diribani in a beauty like sunrise. Or music. Or the strong, sure line of a green snake, writing a girl's fate in the sand."

(~pg. 25 [US hardcover edition, available now])

Goodreads Summary here.

Actually, I just finished reading this one. Normally, I like to wait a couple of days before posting a review, but I still have a few books to read for FTF, not to mention review! Look for a review tonight :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Author Interview: Eilis O'Neal

Earlier this year, I reviewed The False Princess by 2011 debut author Eilis O'Neal. While not directly a fairy tale, it has a lot of fairy tale roots and will appeal to fans of authors such as Shannon Hale. Eilis was sweet enough to take the time to do an interview for Fairy Tale Fortnight with me! Here's' a sneak peek at the interview:

Was it hard coming up with your own lore when you began world-building for TFP? How did you bring everything together?

It’s always such a balance when you’re world-building. With THE FALSE PRINCESS, there are quite a few elements of the world—the oracle of the Nameless God, the way magic works, the tension between commoners and nobles—that are essential to the plot. The reader needs to understand them and how they work to really get into the book. But TFP also has heavy doses of mystery, adventure, and romance, and so the pacing has to move along at a pretty good clip. So it was sometimes a challenge to balance fleshing out the world and its rules and keeping the book moving. I want the information to be there, but in a way that feels natural and keeps the book going, rather than a ten page diatribe on exactly how magic functions in Thorvaldor. So that was what I tried to concentrate on: getting the needed information into the book in a natural way.

The Book Rat and Books From Bleh to Basically Amazing are both hosting the interview in its entirety on their respective blogs (click their names for access!). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, especially the sneak peek at what Eilis is working on next!

Eilis, thank you again for a great interview. I can't wait to see what you come up with next. Hopefully, one day we'll get a full-fledged fairy tale from you! :-)

Check out today's FTF Event Schedule!

Author Interview: Cindy Pon

Earlier this week, I reviewed Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon. It was absolutely GORGEOUS and well-worth the wait! Cindy was amazing enough to stop by and answer some burning questions I had about whether or not her Phoenix duo stemmed from fairy tales or her own imagination.

Here's' a sneak peek at the interview:

Was it hard coming up with your own lore when you began world-building, especially because, despite the Chinese influence, Xia isn't China? How did you bring everything together?

That wasn't the difficult part. The difficult part was allowing myself the freedom to make stuff up! I had to realize and accept that I wasn't writing a historical or even a historical fantasy (which would have to take place in a certain time or place in our history), but creating my own world inspired by China.

Once I gave myself that freedom, it was easy to just write Ai Ling's story the way I envisioned it. It is no different than what Tolkien or Lewis or many fantasy authors did, use real culture and myth but also create your own for your fantasy world.

The Book Rat and Books From Bleh to Basically Amazing are both hosting the interview in its entirety on their respective blogs (click their names for access!). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! I definitely learned something new; thank you!

Cindy, thank you again for a great interview. I hope to one day go back to the world of Xia and delve into your beautiful storytelling once more!

Check out today's FTF Event Schedule!

Cover Crazy: "The Book of Heroes" by Miyuki Miyabe

Cover Crazy is hosted by The Book Worms. Each week, bloggers "admire the art and beauty of a book’s design, so I’m going to post minimal words. It is up to you to write how you feel and what you like about it the way you’d like to."

Why I Love This Cover:

This is an older cover that I love. I reviewed The Book of Heroes last year. (In fact, this was one of my earliest reviews!)

When I reviewed the book, this is what I said about the cover:

I also took a more in-depth look at the cover and understood why the artist created the image they did (much as I did after finishing Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me earlier this year). It made sense in a way it wouldn't have before I started reading the book.

Looking at the cover again a year later, I still love it. The gold embossing against that beautiful orange background really pops. I love the illustration by Dan May and the way you don't see most of the girl's features. In a way, the illustrations take on a whimsical Harry Potter feel while continuing to be completely their own.

I adore the way books are flying everywhere. That and the book's very title are the other two things that draw me in. I love books and I love heroes, so this sounded right up my alley. It's also beautiful to see the design continue around the spine, back cover, and both flaps.

The back cover has darker tones, some of the books have sprouted legs and are walking around, and creepiest of all? The shadowy villain in the background. This darkness continues on the flaps, hinting that all is not well in this magical realm of books.

I can't even explain it: I just REALLY love this cover! (And the book was pretty darn good, too, if you're looking for something new and different!)

What do you think? What cover are you crazy about this week?

[The Book of Heroes is available now.]

"The Amaranth Enchantment" by Julie Berry

When Lucinda Chapdelaine was a small child, her parents left for the royal ball and never returned. Ever since, Lucinda has been stuck in perpetual servitude at her evil aunt’s jewelry store.
Then, on the very same day, a mysterious visitor and an even more bizarre piece of jewelry both enter the shop, setting in motion a string of twists and turns that will forever alter Lucinda’s path.

In this magical story filled with delightful surprises, Lucinda will dance at the royal ball, fall under the Amaranth Witch’s spell, avenge her parents’ death, and maybe — just maybe — capture the heart of a prince.

From Goodreads

What’s better than a traditional Cinderella story? One that steals elements from the tale, but forges its own path. The Amaranth Enchantment is about a girl named Lucinda whose parents died in a horrible accident the night of a ball. She goes to live with her uncle and step-aunt, a woman who treats her like a servant. A magical woman—the book’s version of a fairy godmother—is the catalyst for Lucinda leaving to make it on her own. Following the elements of a fairy tale, she falls in love with a prince and winds up at his ball, but that’s where the similarities end. In a way, the novel reminds me of a Disney movie because memorable characters include a lovable thief named Peter and a pet goat named Dog (why Dog, idk, but it’s cute!).

The Amaranth Enchantment might read like a fairy tale, but it also has some sci-fi tendencies. The “godmother,” Beryl, is from another planet and has a special stone that gives her magical abilities. This stone is so valuable that an evil man wants it and will stop at nothing to get it back. Beryl begs Lucinda for help, offering to restore everything she lost if she can retrieve the stone, which was stolen by a thief named Peter and sold to the Crown Prince. This is one place where The Amaranth Enchantment succeeds: Lucinda doesn’t wait around for a man to save the day. She pulls it together and takes charge herself despite the consequences. She was the opposite of Beryl, who wasn’t able to solve her own problems.

My favorite character was Peter, the thief. He was the most animated, and stole every scene. He had surprises up his sleeve that I never saw coming, too. I felt he was the most well-developed of all the characters. While I admired Lucinda’s spunk, I felt she was a little too naïve at times and often found herself in bad situations due to this. I also wish Prince Gregor was a little more fleshed-out. There weren’t as many romance scenes as I would have liked, but I’m hoping to see more in Berry’s future novels. For a debut novel, The Amaranth Enchantment had many good ideas, and the story was still fun to read. There were twists and turns I never saw coming, and I loved the fact that despite the Cinderella influence, Lucinda was her own heroine, and not a reincarnation of anyone else.


I LOVE this cover. It’s beautiful. I was first drawn to this book because of the pretty cover. I love the way the title is written in silver foil, lending it a magical air. Amaranth flowers play an important part in the novel and I love that Lucinda is holding one. The magic dust rising from the petals gives the cover a magical feel. The dust (and swirlies) continue onto the back cover, giving the jacket a united feeling. I also love Lucinda’s dress. The embroidery is so beautiful, and I wish I could look at it in even closer detail. Simply gorgeous!

Check out today's FTF Event Schedule!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Matchless" by Gregory Maguire

In celebration of this special holiday, I bring to you both a gift and a review. While fractured fairy tale guru Gregory Maguire's short story, Matchless: An Illumination of Hans Christian Andersen's Classic "The Little Match Girl" is based on a Christmas story, I thought it was still appropriate to share today. The book came about during the 2008 holiday season. Every year, NPR has an author write and read a Christmas story for its radio show. Here is where the gift comes into play: You can read and listen to Matchless online right now (or do both!). It's always nice hearing an author's words from his own lips and adds an extra dimension to the story. NPR and Gregory Maguire gifted us with this special treat, which I am re-gifting to you. Happy Easter to those who celebrate! If you don't know the Hans Christian Andersen's story The Little Match Girl, Sur La Lune has a version available for you to read online. Disney also put together a beautiful wordless short set to music with the last DVD release of The Little Mermaid, which can you watch right now on YouTube:

The best reason for owning a copy of Matchless and not relying solely on the above links is this: The accompanying pictures. Gregory Maguire drew each and every one. I had no clue he was an artist in addition to a writer. The pictures are quaint and fit in perfectly with the tone of this short story. The illustrations made this tale much more precious than it already was. The cover hints at what is to come with a box full of matches, their tips embossed with red foil. Each new page of the box uncovered a new delight; I wanted to see each drawing as much as I wanted to see the way Maguire wove two tales together.
For you see, Matchless isn't solely the story of The Little Match Girl. Told in three parts, it's also the story of her father and sisters as well as a poor boy named Frederik and his mother. The stories come together in a way that's both bittersweet and heartwarming, if such a thing can be both.

Frederik's family is so poor, they can't always afford matches. His mother works long hours as the Queen's seamstress. On Christmas Eve, she attempts to buy matches after work, but can't find a vendor. This is the same night the poor little match girl can't find anyone to buy her matches and freezes in an alley. This coincidence tears on the heartstrings and makes what happens to the poor girl more poignant. On top of that, Frederik also plays a part. Making a village to play with out of bits and bobbles such as netting, broken cups, and empty thread spools, the boy decides he needs a boat for his village. He goes out to find one and comes the little match girl's shoe, which she lost in an accident. In the story's third part, he discovers a house key in her shoe, and it is this key that brings the two family's together in an unexpected fashion.

Matchless is both new and familiar, merging two stories together in a way that creates a tale of its own. Reading certain parts gave me the chills; others made me sit back and wonder, "What if?" There's so much new food for thought in this rendition of Andersen's classic tale. As tragic as the original is, this version brings an uplifting element as well. Even if you're well-versed in The Little Match Girl, there's still something new to love.

Check out today's FTF Event Schedule!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

"The Swan Kingdom" by Zoë Marriott

When Alexandra’s mother is slain by an unnatural beast, shadows fall on the once-lush kingdom. Too soon the widowed king is entranced by a cunning stranger — and in one chilling moment Alexandra’s beloved brothers disappear, and she is banished to a barren land. Rich in visual detail, sparked by a formidable evil, and sweetened with familial and romantic love, here is the tale of a girl who discovers powerful healing gifts — and the courage to use them to save her ailing kingdom.

From Goodreads
Fairy tale re-tellings often take on a life of their own. Some follow their roots more closely than others. Zoë Marriott’s then-debut novel, The Swan Kingdom, is shaped after Hans Christian Anderson’s The Wild Swans (which is a variation of The Six Swans by the Brothers Grimm). At the same time, The Swan Kingdom is like neither tale. It takes on a life of its own, full of lore that never existed in the original telling.

For one thing, there are only three brothers here—not six, not eleven, three. The number is much more manageable. Besides, I pity the poor girl who winds up with such a gaggle of brothers, especially when she’s the youngest. Talk about overprotective! Alexandra follows after her mother, a magical wise woman at one with nature. Whenever the two had scenes together as Alexandra learns more about the power of enaid, it brought to mind the type of magic used by Crysta and Magi Lune in one of my favorite childhood movies, FernGully: The Last Rainforest. Comparing the two, it was easy to visualize the enaid whenever it appeared in the novel. The addition of the Circle of Ancestors also brought tales of old to mind; I could picture this ancient, magical place perfectly. I always love when I can “see” what I’m reading, even if it’s only due to my own weird way of categorization. Marriott also twists the traditional tale by killing the children’s mother and showing us the way the King becomes besotted by the evil enchantress. I loved her creepy, disturbing descriptions when the three princes are transformed into swans.

My favorite addition to the original tale is the fact that Alexandra and Gabriel connect before she takes her vow of silence. I loved seeing their relationship slowly build as they got to know one another. After Alexandra realizes what she had to do to restore her brothers’ humanity, she can no longer speak until she has spun tunics out of dangerous wanton’s needle by hand. The first tunic takes her four months to complete, and the needle has already scarred and destroyed her hands. When she’s reunited with Gabriel and unable to tell him of her plight, I truly felt her pain and suffering. Marriott also twists the ending in a way that’s much less violent than the original tales, but still full of breathless anticipation.

If you like the original renditions or want to read another version of the tale once you finish The Swan Kingdom, be sure to also check out Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, which is a darker, grittier version of the tale. Marillier went on to write many companion novels, but only this first book follows a traditional fairy tale path.


I love the way Alexandra’s brothers are on the cover of this novel. The swans look gorgeous flying over the water. I always love watching birds fly over the lake when I go to the park. There’s something so peaceful about the movement. I also like the fact that Alexandra’s hands are brushing against her torso in such a fashion, with her eyes closed and head tilted. It feels like she’s calling forth the power of enaid, centering herself, at one with the land and the forest. This cover really captures the spirit of the tale within. To top it all off, I love the title treatment, especially the way the “K” swirls out.” It feels like a wisp of wind that could blow away at any moment.

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