Monday 10: Of Favourite Fairy Tale Retellings

Monday 10 is a post where I share a list of 10 bookish items based on a theme, subject, idea, fancy, etc.
Note: I put 3 asterisks beside the titles I have read and recommend. I have not read all of the books I put in these lists, so be sure to check them all out!

I have neglected this website a lot in the past two months for different reasons. The most important one is that seem to suddenly have difficulties reading long books, almost nothing can retain my attention. So I mostly just read bits and pieces here and there, or short stories online, or, best of all, fairy tales. So I thought I could make this Monday's list on my most loved fairy tale retellings.

* 10 Fairy Tale Retellings that I've Loved or Find Interesting *
There are far more I want to read eventually, including the marvelous work on Robin McKinley .

Happy Monday!


Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Minor Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new theme is given.

This week the is : Top Ten Minor Characters

95% of the time I prefer sidekicks to main characters. That is a fact of my life, I rarely identify with the protagonist. But I do not see this week's Top Ten as a list of sidekicks I like. I think of minor characters as those ones that are almost never there in the adventures. They might be present in only one chapter, or they might make several appearances throughout a story, but are never the protagonists or secondary characters. But they are important. They are those characters you wish were present more, the ones that stay in your head even though they only said 5 lines. Maybe it's because they are not as overly present that, if well written, they inflame our imagination. We can imagine all of their stories, all of their adventures that they are having when we are not looking (reading). So here are some of my favourites:

1. Serafina Pekkala - His Dark Meterial series, by Philip Pullman
I read Pullmans series when I was 15 and in French, and haven't re-read them since (and I should) so details are hazy, but I know I love love love it still. I was always fascinated with Serafina and the witches, with their all-females society in Finland, and their love of flying, their longevity and general bad-assery. Serafina was strong, sensitive, mysterious and often kind and helpful. I wish Mr. Pullman would write a novel about her and the witches or, if not about Serafina, then about another witch in this great world of his.

2. The Childlike Empress (Moonchild) - The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
I fell in love with the Childlike Empress when I was young, through the movies, but have since loved her through the book as well. She is far more passive than what I usually like in female characters. She has no adventures, doesn't go on quests, and is barely active in the action of the novel. That said, I love her. I love her because she is the most important person in Fantastica. She doesn't rule her world through a political system, in fact she barely interacts with he rest of the world. But she IS Fantastica. She is the living embodiment of its life force. Should she die, the whole of Fantastica would too. Her lifetime is not measure in time, but in names which only the imagination of a human child can give her. When I was younger I would lie awake at might, imagining her, coming up with names for her, and still she is there often, in my mind, with her white hair, white gown and golden eyes, older than everything, but still looking like a 10 year old girl.

3. Meriadoc Brandybuck - The Lord of the Rings trilogy, by J. R. R. Tolkien
Merry was always my favourite of the four hobbits. Most people that I know will prefer Pippin or Sam, and I love them both, but I cannot let go of Merry. He was the first hobbit, in the book, that struck me and claimed my attention. He showed smarts and cleverness when he determined that Frodo was indeed trying to leave the Shire without his friends. He then showed courage and determination throughout the series and, in my opinion, deserves as much love as all the rest of his companions.

4. The Weasley family - Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling
I love them all. Ron is my favourite character, but I love all of his family. Yes, even Percy. And poor Charlie who is barely there and mentioned in the whole of the series. Even in their poverty they find happiness in being with one another. They fight for each other and for the ones they love. They put everything on the line to bring the war to an end and defeat Voldemort. Molly and Arthur were in The Order of the Phoenix twice. They are true Griffyndors and, well, I just love them.

5. Baba Yaga - Deathless, by Catherynne M. Valente
Okay, I am not even done with this book, but I love Baba Yaga. Admittedly, she is one of my favourite fairy tale character, and it would therefore be hard for me to not like her, but there are some interpretations that I like better than others. This, being one of them. Highly respected magician and witch, she has her own sense of justice. She never hides the fact that she eats people and children and is generally what we would consider evil, but she counsels the protagonist nonetheless. I love her bluntness. She tells things the way they are, she does not lie or wrap them in dreams and deceit and is bold and feared.

6. Frau Totenkinder - Fables series (comics), by Bill Willingham
Another witch. What can I say, I love witches, they are always the most interesting characters. Fran Totenkinder represents all the unnamed witches in fairy tales, including the one in Hansel and Gretel. Her name means, approximately, "dead children" in German. Before reaching the mundane world and being part of the general amnesty of Fabletown, she sacrificed her own newborn son for power, was responsible for the curses on Beast, The Frog Prince and Rapunzel and brought despair to countless villages and people. In the series she is an old and frail-looking woman, who possesses enormous powers. She generally helps the other inhabitants of Fabletown, but never really loses that dangerous edge. Even though she now uses all of her powers to help and protect, she is still feared and looked up too.

7. Neville Longbottom - Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling
While Neville has good moments, especially toward the end of the series, he is not that present as a whole, but oh, who cannot love him? He is brave and smart, even when he thinks otherwise. He has a terrible family history, his parents, not dead, but still absent for him. He takes part in Dumbledore's Army, goes to the Ministry of Magic with Harry in book 5, reforms the DA with Luna and Ginny in book 7, escape his tormentors, helps students, attacks Voldemort, destroys the last Horcrux and helps Ron in taking down Greyback. If that's not kick-ass and brave, I don't know what is. But even more importantly Neville is loyal, sweet and kind, and will always be one of my favourite characters.


And, I'm stuck. All the other ones I can think of are more secondary characters than minor characters. Or they are from movies or TV shows. I'm sure I'll go to bed tonight and some character will pop into my head, and I'll hat myself for forgetting him or her. Oh well.

Who are those minor characters that you love?


Quick Review: Teeth - Vampire Tales, ed. by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

I've been reading a lot of short stories lately, on and off the web, but I must admit I often get lost in which collections and/or anthologies to buy at the bookstore. But I NEVER hesitate to buy an anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. I am always impressed, amazed and entertain by their selection. I am particularly fond of their mythic series (which I will post about soon), but was very excited to see they had edited a collection of YA short stories based on vampires. Part of my excitement was due to the fact that I like vampire stories, but have been completely disappointed with the state of vampire fiction in the YA world these past few years (we all know what I'm talking about). So I thought, "Finally!" when I saw the book at the bookstore and grabbed it right away.

Now if you are like me and like vampire mythology (the old and the modern), than this book is for you. The stories in this book range from sweet, romantic, eerie and spooky to dark, brutal and violent. It covers a range of myth and folklore and probably invents a few as well. What I appreciated is that each author approached the subject in different directions, but that you were never really left with a sense of safety. The inherent danger that is vampires, whether they are friends, enemies, parents, children, hunters or preys is always there, hovering over each plot, each character, sometimes more omnipresent, but never really absent. And that's what I liked best. I must say that most of my favourite stories were the more violent, deadly ones, simply because I prefer my vampires that way. More deadly creatures, than romantic interest, or broody reformed undead. But even the stories that were quieter and more contemplative (or sometimes that involved only vampires, therefore removing the immediate death threat a human would feel in their presence), were still somehow interesting for their way they approach the subject. And still this anthology managed to stay in tone with the YA world of vampires. It even included two poems (one by Neil Gaiman, one by Emma Bull), and that seriously made me happy. Poetry, in my opinion, should show up more in the YA adult world of literature (and seriously, if vampires and all their dark mythos aren't showing up in all those angsty teen poems written in the margins of a math book, than teenagers and young adults have change A LOT since I was one - and it really wasn't that long ago)

So. Some favourites included: "Vampire Weather" by Garth Nix, "Late Bloomer", by Suzy McKee Charnas, "Sit the Dead", by Jeffrey Ford, "Sunbleached" by Nathan Ballingrud, "In the Future When All's Well", by Catherynne M. Valente, and "The Perfect Dinner Party" by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black. I also really really liked the very informative introduction on vampire folklore written by both editors.

I really recommend this anthology if you are looking for something a bit different. Surely, in all those nineteen well-crafted stories, there is one for you.


Waiting on Wednesday (8)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating

Wildwood, by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Carson Ellis
Release Date: August 30th

The first book in the epic middle-grade fantasy series full of magic, wonder, and danger—nothing less than an American Narnia—from Colin Meloy, lead singer of the highly celebrated band the Decemberists, and Carson Ellis, the acclaimed illustrator of the New York Times bestselling The Mysterious Benedict Society
(no real summary could be found yet)

Okay, I admit, I love The Decemberists' music, including their brand of storytelling in their song. But even then, I think I would buy this book, sorely based on the cover. Look at it! It's gorgeous! Plus "American Narnia" sounds intriguing :) 
(summary from Goodreads)


Monday 10: Of Short Stories Collections & Anthologies

Monday 10 is a weekly post where I share a list of 10 bookish items based on a theme, subject, idea, fancy, etc.
Every reader and blogger is also invited to participate and make their own list. It doesn't have to have the same theme, it just needs to pertain to books!
If you do make your own list and post it to your blog, share the link in the comments. Or if you prefer write your own list in the comments!
Note: I put 3 asterisks beside the titles I have read and recommend. I have not read all of the books I put in these lists, so be sure to check them all out!

I love short stories and short stories collection. So here are some of my favourites, and some I am dying to read. Most of them are fantasy, fairy tale retelling or mythic fiction inclined.

* 10 Short Stories Collections Worth Reading *

Collections I recommend:

Collections I'd like to read:

What are your favourite short stories collections? What do you recommend?
Happy Monday!

Review: The Poison Eaters, by Holly Black

Holly Black is fairly known in the YA world for her urban fantasy novels about fairies as well as in the Middle-Grade world for her Spiderwick Chronicles (with illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi). The first novel I read by her was Tithe, part of her Modern Fairy Tales series and it was also the book that introduced my to YA fairy fiction. I also happen to love short stories, so when I saw the paperback edition of her short story collection at the bookstore, I just couldn't resist. I thought it was a collection of new stories, but soon realized it was an anthology of previously published stories. No matter, as it turned out I had only read three of the twelve stories included in other anthologies, so it all felt pretty new anyway. And it was such a fun read.

The Poison Eaters contains twelve short stories that introduce the reader to a wide range of characters, worlds, and/or fantastical creatures. All of them have a bit of a dark side to them, some more than others. All of them are written in Ms. Black beautiful prose. There are vampires, fairies, an eating-contest with the devil, girls that are both poison and poisoners, book characters coming to life, werewolves, unicorns and more. Each story follows a young protagonist facing a dark, quite often dangerous, always out of the ordinary situation. A lot of them also shows issues often affecting young people (and adults too) such as drugs and homelessness.

Often, the author brought a little twist to otherwise well-known creatures. I especially liked her take on vampirism in "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown" where it is treated more as an infection or a sickness, something usually seen in zombie stories. It probably shouldn't be surprising, come to think of it, as both zombies and vampires are undead. I also really liked "A Reversal of Fortune", about an eating contest with the Devil. It is a nice interpretation of the Trickster theme so often seen in old folktales and fairy tales. "The Night Market" is about fairies in the Philippines and the dangers of bargaining, and insulting, them. "The Coat of Stars", a beautiful story about a young man who must save his lover from the fairies, discover things about himself, and navigates a turbulent family life, was especially touching. Other favourites include "Paper Cuts Scissors" about characters from books coming alive at night through the power of a man, and the boy who wants to free his girlfriend who lock herself in a novel of her own. As well as "The Poison Eaters" about girls especially groomed to be weapons, where only one touch of their skin will bring one's death. Finally, for fans of Ms. Black's Modern Fairy Tales series, "The Land's of Hear Desires" revisit characters from the beloved trilogy, especially focusing on Roiben and Corny. My geeky side also laughed a little and was entirely delighted when a character in the story "In Vodka Veritas" said: "Want to go to Western Plaguelands tonight for a raid? I heard about a sunken temple in Caer Darrow with lots of purple drops", and understood exactly what he meant (I blame my boyfriend for introducing me to MMOs)

The only downside, in my opinion, of The Poison Eaters is that it is entirely too short. Even some of the stories left me wanting more more more. But I guess sometimes that is the point. Such stories are just meant to be a glimpse into a much larger, sinister, and hopeful world, left to our imagination to ponder on.
The Poison Eaters is a perfect little collection to introduce readers to Holly Black's work and her brand of urban fantasy.