Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “fairy tales”

Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review #22: Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley

So. Behind. But am finally on holiday with a guilt-free conscience due to handing in a piece of work the other day, so…laissez les bon temps rouler. (I am also currently very temporarily in France, which I find quite exciting).

I’ve loved Robin McKinley’s work since I read The Blue Sword at the tender age of 11 (there’s a heroine who’s confused and lost and not entirely good-tempered and learns to sword-fight on horseback very quickly and it’s generally awesome!). She is one of my top five favourite authors, but I haven’t read all of her books. And this is because rather than ordering them all at once from Amazon or some other tax-dodging outfit, I prefer to stumble across them, in secondhand bookshops from Helsinki to Florida and friends’ bookshelves and left behind in youth hostels.

Spindle’s End is a riff on Sleeping Beauty. It begins with a long-awaited birth and a christening and a vengeful fairy left uninvited, but then takes on a new twist as Rosie is smuggled away in the aftermath of the fairy’s curse by Katriona, a girl who can talk to animals and who lives in a tiny village with her aunt who is a good fairy. Rosie grows up into an intelligent tomboy, seemingly safe around animals and common villagers, but the evil Pernicia spares no effort in trying to track her down…There are spells and enchantments and glamours, but also farm animals and cooking and babies. Fairies function in a similar way in this particular kingdom as witches do in other fantasy stories – sort of combined midwifes/healers and potential tricksters.

Pernicia’s motivations are left quite cloudy – she is generally a force of evil and seeks revenge for some slight centuries ago, and the choices involved in the ending of the novel is a bit confusing, for me, anyway. McKinley’s work mixes the romantic and the realistic, the eldritch and the heimlich with ease. Spindle’s End is not up there with McKinley’s most innovative or best (which I would say are Sunshine, The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, and Deerskin) but it’s generally very good – a comfort read with occasional flashes of excitement.

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #65 & #66 The Godmother and The Godmother’s Apprentice by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Amid all my Darkover books, I’ve taken a few side tangents into other worlds and writers’ works.  While tidying out one of my many bookcases, I noticed my well-loved copies of The Godmother and The Godmother’s Apprentice by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough.  Once spotted, they just begged to be read yet again.

The Godmother deals with the trials and tribulations of a Seattle social worker named Rose Samson who wishes there were better ways to help some of her clients.  Into the breach appears Godmother Felicity Fortune.  This wonderful character appears to be based on fellow fantasy writer Anne McCaffrey to whom the book is dedicated.  The magic powers that Godmothers have access to in our modern era poses new challenges and strict guidelines as to  how wishes are granted.  Scarborough does a masterful, humorous job of weaving in favourite archetypes in a brand new way.

The rest of my review can be read on my bookhoardingdragon blog.

Quorren’s #CBR4 Review #52 The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant

During the great book search of last month, when I had to make absolutely sure that the mail thief had struck again and I hadn’t just misplaced The Golem’s Eye, I found out I actually had bought two copies on this book.  What can I say, it’s the cat silhouette.  And an intriguing back cover description.

Pia becomes a social pariah at her school in a small German town when her grandmother combusted while lighting the Advent wreath.  Yes, the book starts with flambeed grandma.  Pia is left with only Stink Stefan, the class loner, for a friend.  She and Stefan begin to visit Herr Schiller, a friend of Pia’s dead grammy.  He tells them vivid fairy tales of the town during their afternoon visits.  Soon it appears the fairy tales are becoming real when a girl from the town goes missing.  Other girls begin to vanish.  Pia and Stefan sleuth through the town’s history in an effort to stop the evilness.  Their research leads them to find another tragedy hidden in the town’s past, which has connections to the present vanishings.

Back when I reviewed My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, I wrote a bit about fairy tales in our modern world.  With all of our science and technology, we, as a civilization, can still be driven by myths and superstition.  When the girls of the town go missing, everyone is quick to point fingers are the crazy old guy, because crazy old guy is the modern day witch.  While it’s a fact that most molested children will be assaulted by a family member, society Big-Bad-Wolf-erizes pedophiles.  Because The Other is the real threat; things that aren’t us will harm us.  While these lessons affirms a community, bringing we and we closer together, in the long run xenophobia and blithely ignoring issues in your own community to focus on attacking those that are different, has long term consequences.

pyrajane’s review #33: In the Forest of Forgetting by Theodora Goss

I’m madly getting caught up on reviews.  I’ve got some late library books that need to get written up and returned to the shelves before the fines force me to sell a kidney.

In the Forest of Forgetting is a collection of short stories, retold tales, and fairy stories.  Like all short story collections, there were some I liked a lot and others were just OK.  I picked this up because Terri Windling wrote the intro, and as far as I’m concerned, that woman is magic.  Her collections have introduced me to many of my now favorite authors, and if she tells me to read something, I’m going to read it.

If you would kindly follow me over to my blog, I will tell you about my favorites.  It’s a short entry, but feel free to hang out for a while.  There are drinks in the fridge.


pyrajane’s review #25: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, Illustrated by Ana Juan

This was absolutely delightful.  If you need a break from heavy subjects or want to rest after finishing a long book, catch your breath with a quick fairy tale.  Valente uses the familiar to create something new and fun, and I really enjoyed it.

Read more over at my blog

Quorren’s #CBR4 Review #34 Fables: The Good Prince by Bill Willingham et al.

I took a breather from this series for a few months and I’m glad I did.  I came back to one of the strongest collections in the series.  Although, I was a bit hesitant at first; they used a blurb from The Onion on the front cover.  I gave it the side eye for a few minutes trying to decide if it was sarcasm.

The Good Price revolves around Flycatcher, the former janitor of Fabletown.  Earlier in the series, Fly would not have been my first guess for the Fable that would strike the first derisive blow against The Adversary.  Fly’s innocence allows him to take up Lancelot’s old armor and descend into the Witching Well, where he reanimates all the dead fables that have been buried there.  Blue Beard and Sher Khan make a small reappearance, I would’ve loved to see more of the sudden, but inevitable betrayal.  They came off as more of sinister Laurel and Hardy then the forces of treachery and evil they used to be.

Fly manages to spill no blood as he faces many of The Adversary’s armies.  Eventually he takes away a large source of The Adversary’s power, which, combined with the special ops and sniper training Fabletown residents are getting, means war is coming.  Of course, the whole series has been a build up to war, but now it seems closer to the horizon.

ElCicco#CBR4Review#23: The Canterville Ghost and The Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, by Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde’s two fairy tale collections and The Canterville Ghost were published within a five-year span, between 1887 and 1891. The Canterville Ghost and his first collection of fairy tales feature some humor along with moral messages on themes of love, self-sacrifice and redemption. The second collection of tales carries on with some of the same themes but is much more serious and adult-oriented. They are more like morality tales than fairy tales.

The Canterville Ghost is a delightful short story about the American Minister’s family moving into Canterville Chase, a house that has been haunted for 300 years by a previous Lord Canterville who murdered his wife and has terrorized family and servants ever since. The Otis family — father, mother, older brother, sister Virginia, and twin boys — are undaunted by the story and handle the hauntings with aplomb. Upon finding a deep bloody stain on the carpet where the original murder occurred, they whip out Pinkerton’s Champion Stain remover and Paragon Detergent. They eliminate the stain and continue to remove it every time it reappears. The ghost is affronted by the Americans’ lack of respect for him and tries every trick he knows but fails to get the desired response. If anything, the ghost becomes terrorized by the house guests. There is a sweet ending to this tale involving the ghost and Virginia and a chance at forgiveness and redemption. This would be a fine story to read to kids, and adults will delight in it as well.

The Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde comprises two collections. The first, The Happy Prince and Other Tales, was initially published in 1888 and features 5 short, charming tales that are geared toward both children and their parents: “The Happy Prince,” “The Nightingale and the Rose,” “The Selfish Giant,” “The Devoted Friend” and “The Remarkable Rocket.” “The Selfish Giant” is probably the best known of these. I remember reading it in Reader’s Digest when I was a child and loving it. All of the stories in this collection focus on themes like love, sacrifice, redemption and everlasting life. The first four tales each feature a character who gives of him or herself, even to the point of death, and they willingly make sacrifices in the name of love. The first three treat the themes with seriousness and pathos. The final two use humor and skewer those who see themselves as above the rest of the world– financially and/or socially.

The second collection, The House of Pomegranates, published in 1891, is decidedly more adult in its approach, one might even say political in its themes of justice, morality and equality. I can’t imagine reading it to children, and each story is dedicated to a particular person for reasons that I have not been able to determine. “The Young King” is about a boy of humble means who discovers he is about to be king. He is overwhelmed and excited at the thought of the riches he will have — the crown, mantle, scepter, etc. of the rarest and costliest materials. But then he dreams of how this costly finery is produced — by the blood, sweat and sacrifice of poor working people — and seeing the injustice of this, resolves to wear his own humble clothing to the coronation, a plan resisted by everyone at court. In “The Birthday of the Infanta” a child who is a dwarf is brought to the Infanta’s birthday party as an entertainment. The boy is delighted to make her happy and thinks that she has kind feelings for him, but she laughs at him, not with him. When the dwarf sees what he is to her, he dies, and the birthday party continues, the Infanta and guests unmoved. “The Fisherman and His Soul” is a complicated theological sort of tale about a man who falls in love with a mermaid — a soulless creature with whom he can only be united by getting rid of his own soul. The story is full of somewhat tedious detail about the journey his soul takes. I wish I could say that I understood the message Wilde was trying to convey here, but the most I can get out of it is that true love is stronger and greater than anything and redeems everyone. Finally, “The Star Child” is about a baby found in the woods and raised by a humble woodsman’s family. He grows to be beautiful but cruel and rejects his own birth mother in horrid fashion, then regrets it. He then goes on a journey to find her and repent. This might be the only tale in this collection that I could imagine reading to a child, although it has an ending that is somewhat ambiguous — both happy and unhappy.

The Complete Fairy Tales only take up about 85 pages and The Canterville Ghost runs around 55, but the reader is given a lot to think about in those few pages and will experience both joy and sadness. I would love to discuss the fairy tales in a book group.

pyrajane’s #CBR4 review #13: The Book of Flying by Keith Miller

The writing in this book is beautiful.  More than beautiful.  It’s the kind of book where you need to pause and reread so you can hear the words a second time.  There were parts I needed to say out loud because the phrasing was so good.  It became a tactile experience for me – the cadence paired with alliteration and consonance and assonance created a flow and I needed to feel the words in my mouth.  It was gorgeous poetry in prose form and even as I was pulled into the story I still needed to slow down to enjoy and marvel at the writing.

Read my entire review and why I loved this book so much over on my blog.  And if you’re even a little bit into folklore, pick it up.  It’s amazing.

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #39: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Dudes, it’s been waaay too long since I read this book. This review is not going to be my best ever. (I am SO BEHIND in my reviews. For instance, this is my 39th review, but I am currently reading my 46th and 47th books. I’m sure this is a problem a lot of you are having as well. Please take this opportunity to whine in my comments. I will not mind.)

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (longest title EVER, so good thing it’s so adorable) came to me very highly recommended from several sources, so I was extremely excited to read it. I even bought myself a shiny hardcover copy. I’m happy to say I enjoyed it very much, although it wasn’t as great as I was hoping it would be.

TGWCFiaSoHWM (!) is about a little girl called September who is spirited away to Fairyland one day for an adventure. She traverses Fairyland with an assortment of magical creatures and beasts, including her very own Wyverary (his mother was a Wyvern, and his father a library). She also encounters a woman made of soap, a town made of cloth, a herd of wild bicycles, and a race of half-people that I’m frankly at a loss to explain. Sure there’s an “evil queen” figure propelling her into all sorts of scrapes, and little whiffs of destiny here and there, but ultimately, it’s September herself who charts her own course around Fairyland and comes out the other side.

TGWCFiaSoHWM is charming and whimsical, and extremely imaginative, but for most of the book, it is a little light on character development. Valente packs so much imagination into her world-building that it’s breathtaking, and her sentences are frankly magical, but she spends far less time on the creations that populate this fantastical universe she’s created. For that reason, until the end of the book, reading TGWCFiaSoHWM felt like a bit of a shallow experience. All frosting, no cake. And other such metaphors.

And then the ending happened.

Until I read the ending, I was all set and ready to give the book three stars. And then the ending kind of knocked me on my ass. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say that all the emotion and character depth that was missing throughout most of the book was packed into its last hurrah. The story of The Marquess was devastatingly sad and horrible in the best way possible. It made me rethink the whole rest of the book. I actually think this book would have been much oomphier with The Marquess as the main character, or with her story as a framing device or something. Something to let you know that September isn’t the real show here, that her journey into Fairyland signifies something more important when seen through the lens of The Marquess’s story at the end of the book.

But then again, this isn’t my story, it’s Valente’s, and her heroine is September. Anyway, the ending was awesome even though I think she could have worked it into the rest of the story somehow, so I’m giving this like 3.75 stars, but I’ll round up to 4 just because I’m feeling magnanimous.

[Cross-posted to Goodreads.]

Quorren’s #CBR4 Review #23 The Child Thief by Brom

I was hesitant to buy this book, because unless you’re Cher, you can’t pull off the monosyllable, one name without sounding like a pretentious douche-nozzle. But the Barnes & Noble Buy-2-Get-the-3rd-Free table is an irresistible temptress.

The Child Thief is a grittier reboot of Peter Pan.  Neverland is actually the cloaked in mist isle of Avalon.  Currently the island is besieged by the fleasheaters – a group of pilgrims who mistaken washed up on Avalon’s shore trying to get to the New World.  The faerie folk and other magical creatures that live on Avalon came on a diplomatic mission to open talks with the new settlers and were massacred. Peter is half faerie, but after a falling out with the ruling faeries, he took an isolated part of the forest for himself.  He now travels to the real world and leads children living on the fringes back with him to be soldiers of Avalon.

Peter meets Nick, a 14 year old kid on the run from drug dealers.  He brings him back to Avalon, to join his clan, The Devils.  The Devils are children Peter has brought back and trained as soldiers.  Sekeu, basically analogous to Tiger Lily, is peter’s second in command; she is a Native American from the early days of the discovery of America.  Nick doesn’t take the transition to soldiering in Avalon very well.  He starts to show the signs of becoming a Flesheater himself.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the book (in the beginning).  Brom is foremost an artist and while his writing style is a bit basic, he created an intriguing story.  However, thematically, he is heavy handed.  The book is a big metaphor for civilization versus nature, organized religion versus spirituality (clap your hands if you believe!).  The story still captivated me, until the ending.  Peter has no real character development by the final act.  Sure, he goes the independent route, but that choice felt hollow to me.  He STILL is getting what he wants with little to no concern for anyone else.  The whole book was leading him down the path to change his behavior and Brom went with an ending akin to giving us a pat on the head and a little push on our way.

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