Lent, reading, and where I am

Today is the first day of Great Lent, which starts the period leading up to Pascha. For Orthodox Christians, this is a really important and special time. This year I’ve decided to read juvenile & middle grade books, as well as some adult non-fiction. Right now I am re-reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s wonderful Gift From the Sea (prompted partly by a Twitter conversation with EWein). I’ll probably put some quotes from that on Tumblr, because it’s so, SO powerful.

But for this first week, I’ll probably be fairly quiet online. If you should need to reach me for some reason, feel free to send an email. As I said, I’ll probably be putting quotes on Tumblr and maybe checking Twitter a time or two. Real blogging will recommence next week, when I try to post reviews of all the books I’ve been reading and also go to a day of PLA and generally get overwhelmed and excited at the same time.


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Fairy Tales and Retellings

vasilissa the beautiful bilibin

Vasilissa the Beautiful by Ivan Bilibin

February 26th is Fairy Tale Day, which I didn’t know until recently. Fairy tales are a really important part of my internal mythology, so I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight some of them. For this list, I went with a fairly limited definition of fairy tales. I want to do another post that highlights some folk and fairy tales from other countries, but I thought including those here would expand the scope a little too much for one post.

I’ll also note that this is list is not meant to be exhaustive. I haven’t necessarily read all of the books here, and in the Middle Grade & YA Retellings section, I starred the books that I’ve actually read and recommend; the others I either had more mixed feelings about, or haven’t read yet. These are all, however, books I have some personal knowledge of. If there are great books I’m missing, let me know!

The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Arthur Rackham

The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Arthur Rackham

Classic fairy tale collections
Peppper and Salt by Howard Pyle
The Fairy Ring by Kate Douglas Wiggins and Nora Archibald Smith
The Blue Fairy Book (and sequels) by Andrew Lang
Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales (obviously the Pantheon version is the Only Correct Version)
The My Book House series has many folk and fairy tales in it.

Pepper and Salt by Howard Pyle

Pepper and Salt by Howard Pyle

Newer collections
The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon
The Fairy Tales by Jan Pienkowski
Fireside Stories: Tales for a Winter’s Eve by Caitlin Matthews and Helen Cann

Fairy Tales, by Jan Pienkowski

Fairy Tales, by Jan Pienkowski

Individual picture books
Vasilissa the Beautiful and The Firebird by Ivan Bilibin
Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges and Trina Schart Hyman
The Sleeping Beauty by Trina Schart Hyman
Snow White by Trina Schart Hyman
The Lady and the Lion by Laurel Long
The Tale of the Firebird by Gennady Spirin
Snow White and Rose Red by Kelly Vivanco
The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Mahon and Kinuko Craft
Beauty and the Beast by H. Chuku Lee and Pat Cummings

The Six Swans, P.J. Lynch

The Six Swans, P.J. Lynch

Middle-grade & YA retellings
East of the Sun, West of the Moon
East by Edith Pattou*
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Jackie Morris Kessler
Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
The Twelve Dancing Princesses
The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell*
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler
Entwined by Heather Dixon
Beauty and the Beast1
Beauty by Robin McKinley*
Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley*
Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley*
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
Sleeping Beauty
A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan
Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters by Diane Zahler
The Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine*
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Ash by Malinda Lo*
The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry
Snow White and Rose Red
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan*
Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede
Maid Maleen
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale*
White Cat
White Cat by Holly Black*
Seven Swans
Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
Deerskin by Robin McKinley*
Goose Girl
Goose Girl by Shannon Hale*
A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce
Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack by Shannon, Dean, and Nathan Hale*
Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
Once Upon a Time series by various authors

Grimm's Fairy Tales, Pantheon edition

Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Pantheon edition

Adult retellings
The Firebird
In the Forests of Serre by Patricia McKillip*
Laura Florand’s books often have a fairy tale element to them, but since part of the fun is finding it, I’m not going to spoil them!

The Lady and the Lion, Laurel Long

The Lady and the Lion, Laurel Long

Other resources
Sur La Lune
My Pinterest board
Theodora Goss’s Pinterest board

1. Note on retellings of Beauty & the Beast and Cinderella: these are both really important stories in Western culture. I have not attempted to collect anything like all the stories that have an element of either, because that would be half the books ever published. Instead I’ve gone for those that are directly inspired by the fairy tales.


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Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Friendships

This is a post for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. You can find out more and follow along there!

This week, we are supposed to pick an older topic that we might have missed. As it just so happens, Rachel Neumeier had a post recently about relationships, both romantic and non-romantic. I found that I couldn’t name as many fictional friendships as I thought I ought to, so here is a list that’s at least a start. For the purposes of this list, I have only included friendships, not family relationships, even though those are also something I value a lot in books. So, in chronological order:

1. Frog and Toad from Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad series. (I am Toad, for the record. I have even been known to mutter darkly, in moments of stress, “The whole world is covered in buttons, and not one of them is mine.”)

2.Betsy, Tacy, and Tib from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series. I love this series, and its three friends; I love Betsy Ray and her writing and acting; I love Tib and her fluffy curls; I love Tacy’s shyness; I love the chocolate-colored house and Deep Valley.

3. Anne Shirley and Diana Berry from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series. Are they really suited to be friends? Maybe not, but they are, and I love how they show such different ways of approaching life.

4. Costis and Gen from The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner: I could have put a number of relationships from this series on the list–Eddis and Attolia, Sophos and Gen, Gen and the magus–but the slow-growing, hesitant friendship between Costis and Gen is the relationship that drives the entire third book.

5. Taylor and Raffaela from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: I love how at the beginning of the book they don’t even seem like friends, and yet by the end of the story they’re clearly so important to each other. I love their shared history and the way they look out for each other.

6. Janet, Molly, and Tina from Pamela Dean’s retelling of Tam Lin: Janet is the main character and usually the most sympathetic, but I found this portrayal of being friends in college really rang true. I liked the way Dean shows the shifting stages of friendship, the ways that the relationship between the three changes over time.

7. Mae and Sin from The Demon’s Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan: SRB did a very interesting thing with these two–she made them explicitly rivals, not over a boy, but over a Market. It’s something they both really care about, and yet they want to be friends and they have to find a way around that. It’s so neat.

8. Queenie and Maddie from Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: Do I need to explain this? Oh, okay: “It’s a little like falling in love, finding your best friend.”

9. Rose, Roza, and Irina from Rose Under Fire, also by Elizabeth Wein: When I read RUF for the first time, I got to the line in Rose’s narrative about Roza and Irina being more than sisters, and I didn’t buy it. But by the time I got to that perfect, beautiful ending, I did.

10. Otter, Cricket, and Kestrel from Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow: One of the many things that Sorrow’s Knot did brilliantly was show a complex friendship, that’s in many ways the most important relationship in the whole book. These three are woven together so tightly; I have trouble thinking of one without the other two.

Honorable mention: Eileen and Polly from Connie Willis’s Blackout/All Clear

So what are your favorite friendships? What am I missing?

(I accidentally published a draft version of this yesterday–hit publish instead of save draft and then screamed, “NOOOOO!” at my laptop in a very dramatic fashion.)


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Recent Reading: 2-21-14

And-All-the-StarsAnd All the Stars by Andrea K Host: Several blogging friends have been praising Host’s books for a few years now and I finally got around to reading one. And All the Stars is marvelous–diverse, thoughtful sci-fi, which takes a somewhat improbable scenario and makes it real and human.

The Bearkeeper’s Daughter by Gillian Bradshaw: Historical fiction about Justinian and Theodora, with the focus on a probably-not-real son of Theodora’s. I liked the way Bradshaw weaves in the court history and politics while also keeping a very human and down-to-earth focus on John and his struggles.

Imperial Purple by Gillian Bradshaw: There’s a similar setting and ethos to this one, which looks at the end of Theodosius II’s reign. I found that having the main characters being regular people caught up in larger events gave me more of a sense of everyday lives, as well as being a perspective you don’t always see in historical fiction.

Pride of ChanurThe Pride of Chanur by C.J. Cherryh: Rachel Neumeier told me to read the Chanur books, so I did. :) I loved the way Cherryh keeps the narrative entirely from Pyanfar’s point-of-view, making it far more effective than splitting the story between characters. Perhaps because of that, I did feel a slight distance from the characters, more so than with the Foreigner books. Nevertheless, I am definitely invested enough to read the rest!


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Picture Book Monday: Feburary 2014

Open Very Carefully by Nick Bromely and Nicola O’Byrne: This one is interactive & mixed-up; it’s quite fun!

Knock Knock by Daniel Beaty: This one might come across as an issues book, but it has a very powerful message and a sincerity that kept it from coming across as too heavy-handed.

The World is Waiting for You by Barbara Kerley: There was a nice format to this one, with the images of kinds and then what their interests might lead them into. It’s STEM-y but there’s a sense of wonder and curiosity to it that makes it the best kind of STEM-related thing

Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson: Lovely, quiet story. However, I was a bit flummoxed by the ending, which didn’t at all provide the kind of resolution I was expecting. It felt like Nelson was trying to make some kind of point–about self-sufficiency? nature?–but I wasn’t sure what exactly that was and so it fell a little flat.

And the Cars Go by William Bee: Love! I will rant at length about picture books that rhyme, when they don’t need to and don’t have any real sense of rhythm or poetry. Here, it’s the opposite–a strong rhythm that doesn’t attempt to rhyme or be poetic but builds up into a marvellous cacophony of travelling sounds. Bee’s colorful illustrations are also great.

Patti Cake and Her New Doll by Patricia Reilly Giff: A bit precious, but sweet.

Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble by Tatyana Feeney: I love Feeney’s books–her sense of line is great and she treads the tricky grey area between sweetness and sentimentality with a lot of grace.

Founding Mothers: With a focus on the women of the Revolution, this one has a great sense of forgotten history beyond the obvious.

Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon: Very enchanting! But the tea snob in me is offended by the fact that Lipton and Twinings are mentioned in the same sentence! *faints*

The Lost & Found Balloon: If this had simply been illustrations, I would have been completely charmed. As it is, I found the text heavy-handed and too limiting
The Case of the Missing Donut: It’s very fun! But I didn’t feel like it was a story that stayed with me in any way

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Links from around the web 2-19-2014

- The Toast is rapidly becoming one of my favorite sites, and Mallory Ortberg’s guide, “When to Give a Kid a Book” is amazing. It features Tam Lin, Betsy-Tacy (“Betsy-Tacy because they are charming and Midwestern and about best friends and will eventually instill within said child the love for tolerance, the Edwardian era, emotional restraint and Episcopalianism that is necessary for a semester abroad at Oxford.”), and Jeeves (“Twelve is the perfect age for Jeeves. No older, no younger, no matter how precocious you believe this particular child to be. Twelve is just the right age to imprint on Wodehouse, and you always start Wodehouse with Jeeves. Psmith is for fourteen. Mr. Mulliner and Lord Emsworth can wait until college. Twelve is for Jeeves.”). I am not QUITE sure I agree about Psmith, who is my best beloved* favorite Wodehouse character, but never mind.

* No, seriously, I almost typed this.

- And then there’s this post about Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, which I don’t think I’ve read but clearly need to. “To Kill A Mockingbird makes you think you understand the way things are, and the way things should be. Roll of Thunder makes you quiet down and listen.”

- If there’s one must-read on the Jordan Davis murder, it’s surely this one, from Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic: “When Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis, he obliterated a time-stream, devastated an open range of changes. And somewhere on that American jury, someone thought this was justice, someone believed in the voodoo of shotguns and teleportation. Michael Dunn killed a boy, and too robbed a man of his chance to be.”

- “Impatience Has Its Reward: Books are Rolled Out Faster” I have no words for how much I hate this. I would rather wait for a book and have it be better written.

- Kelly Jensen has some very thought-provoking points about the NYT YA Bestsellers list, gender, and John Green. There’s also this great response.

- On Feburary 14th, The Cybils Awards were announced. Yay! Congratulations to all the winners, especially Meg Medina for her wonderful Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.


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Engines of the Broken World by Jason Vanhee

engines of the broken worldThere are some books that are a bit difficult to review, because all you want to do is talk about THAT ONE THING, except that THAT ONE THING is intensely spoilery, and you don’t want to spoil anything. (See: Code Name Verity.) Engines of the Broken World is one of these books, which means I’ll be dancing around what I really want to say the whole time.

And I really don’t want to give you all plot summary, either. I had a vague sense of setting when I went in and not much else. So all I’ll say is that there’s a girl named Merciful and her world is ending in ice, in fog, with a whimper.

Oh, and the first half of this book is one of the scariest things I’ve ever read. It’s not horror, in the sense of Stephen King or Rick Yancey. It’s not even exactly the “something’s about to jump out at you” kind of scary. Instead, it’s quiet, chilling, insidious. Bad things happen, and there’s a sense of something not quite right. And then you hit a particular page and stop halfway through, because something there didn’t add up and then you flip back frantically to confirm your suspicions. And all the time, the world is shrinking, quite literally.

Merciful, being in the world, doesn’t see all of this as clearly; she can’t flip back to earlier chapters and confirm her suspicions. But because her voice is strong and beautifully written, I never felt annoyed with her for being dense. Scared for her, yes, because if she doesn’t figure it out, terrible things are going to happen. Scared for her, because they’re happening anyway.

Now, for me, the middle third or so of the book didn’t quite work for me–the pacing slowed down a bit and there was a lot of new information that didn’t quite fit together smoothly. There were still some genuinely horrifying and arresting scenes, and Merciful’s voice is so strong that she carried me though it. But I also wasn’t quite as sure about the way religious themes were used in this section, and how they fit with the world that had been so amazingly drawn earlier.

But then the ending–oh, the ending. Wow. Pitch perfect, gorgeously written, able to take a piece of text that has been used so often that it is almost bare of meaning and somehow make it so emotionally affective that I cried my way through it. I finished and thought, “This is how you end a book.”

Despite its unevenness, this one is gutsy and beautiful. I highly recommend it for the evocative setting and the characters, especially Merciful. And I will definitely keep an eye out for whatever Vanhee writes next.

Book source: public library
Book information: 2013, Henry Holt & Co; upper mg/YA (for the middle grade kid who doesn’t mind some violence & scariness)


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