Monday, June 02, 2008

Fairy Tales! and a calendar of events

It's June! Glorious, busy June!

I am back from Iowa--it was beautiful and sunny and I ran into Kelly at the coffee shop and am happy, sleepy, and sunburned. It's fun to see that the people I went to college with are fundamentally the same. We're happier and better dressed, and can now afford MUCH better beer, but fundamentally we're the same. And it's awesome.

We have some fun events coming up here in blog-land. Events YOU can all play along with at home.

First off, Weekly Geeks has declared this week's geekery to be "catch up on reviews week" which I think is something we all need to do, right? So this week (until Friday) I'm aiming for 5 reviews a day. (Even though I am way more than 25 books behind-- I currently have 39 unblogged books, but given I have issues blogging 5 books a week, I'll aim for 5 a day. It's like vegetables. 5 a day!).

This weekend is MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge. Go sign up for your chance to turn X-treme Reading into an X-treme sport. Also, take a vote in my sidebar for which books you'd like me to read!

AND! At the end of the month (June 28-29) is the 24 Hour Read-a-thon to benefit Reading is Fundamental. More information on the event and to sign up is here. And information on how to sponsor my reading extravaganza is here.

Anyway, let's get started on that 5-a-day business, ok?

Ever Gail Carson Levine

As far as I'm aware, this is an original tale. Olus is the Akkan God of the winds (part of a pantheon that reminds one of Greek or Roman mythology. At 17, he's the youngest of the Gods by a few hundred years and is lonely. He longs for a mortal friend, but fails in his attempts to make friends.

Kezi lives in the land of the Admat, and omnipotent, invisible God more similar to the religions of Abraham...

In his longing for friends, Olus has become a shepard and rents land from Kezi's father and falls hopelessly in love. However, Kezi is doomed to die. Not in the way that all mortals will die eventually, but she has been promised as a sacrifice to Admat and will die in 30 days.

Olus knows of ways one can become immortal, but Kezi would have to realize that there are other Gods than Admat, and she must become a herione and Olus must become her champion. Only then can they possibly save Kezi's life.

Told in short chapters of alternating viewpoints, this is a bit of a departure from such Levine classics as Ella Enchanted and Fairest but Levine knows how to tell a story. The language is more sparse than I'm used to and it lacks her usual humor, but Levine can paint a scene with a minimum number of words . I liked the illustrations used above the chapter numbers-- the numbering system looks like an ancient form of writing and it was fun to realize what was going on there. I think Levine fans will still love this. I also think it will really appeal to fans of Julius Lester's Cupid: A Tale of Love and Desire.

Book of a Thousand Days Shannon Hale

Once again Hale turns to the Brothers Grimm for inspiration, this time, not Rapunzel as the tower suggests, but Maid Maleen.

Set in a land inspired by Ancient Mongolia, Dashti is mucker, a nomad, looked down on by the city dwellers. But she is also an orphan and must find work to survive and becomes the maid to Lady Saren, only to find that Saren is about to be locked up in a tower for seven years after refusing the match her father has made.

Dashti goes to the tower where it is dark and foreboding. Although they have been left enough food to last seven years, that's only if they can keep it from the rats. Lady Saren is spoiled and given to tantrums. She is also completely helpless. Lord Kasar, the dreaded fiance appears frequently to taunt the captives. But Khan Tegus, Lady Saren's true love also visits and brings small comforts in the form of a branch that smells of the outdoors and a cat to help with the rats.

Shannon Hale is still on the top of her game. She can paint a culture and a people with just a few sentences. This book is also illustrated, which is nice. I'm reading it in ARC form, so I think some illustrations are missing but the ones that are included are nice. Most are made to look like the illustrations Dashti herself has drawn in her diary, but there is high artistic quality.

There is much to the book besides the days in the tower, although there isn't much to the Grimm tale, and that's where Hale's magic lies-- when she takes the tale way beyond its original borders, while still staying true to the source material.

full disclosure: I got the ARC from the publisher last summer at ALA, but I would have read it anyway, I mean, it's SHANNON HALE!

The Swan Maiden Heather Tomlinson

Doucette has always been jealous of her older sisters. Beautiful and haughty, they're able to work magic, while she is plain and stuck at home learning how to be a chastelaine. Embroidery and running a household is nothing on her sisters who can fly.

But then she finds the swan skin her mother has hidden from her, the swan skin her mother would give Doucette's future husband in order to keep her from running.

But, the true story comes when Doucette falls in love with a shepherd boy. In order to gain the right to marry her, he must perform 3 impossible tasks. But that might not be enough to keep them together...

Doucette is a character that's easy to identify with, but more so. Not only are her sisters perfect and beautiful, which is bad enough, but dude! They can fly! And Doucette is always falling down and tearing her clothing and always left behind.

And then when she gets what she thinks she wants, it doesn't necessarily help.

A wonderful addition to the genre that should be read by everyone who likes Shannon Hale or Juliet Marillier, but will also appeal to those who aren't already converts to the new breed to fairy tale retellings or original tales that maintain that old timeless quality.


Ana S. said...

I hadn't heard of The Swan Maiden before, but you got me very interested with the comparisons to Shannon Hale and Juliet Marillier.

Alessandra said...

I hadn't heard of the Swan Maiden before, either. You've made me want to find it and read it!

Becky said...

I really enjoyed Ever and Book of A Thousand Days. I keep meaning to get to Swan Maiden too but it just hasn't happened quite yet.

Cheryl Vanatti said...

I have 2/3 of these books and am ashamed to admit that I haven't read them. I've not heard of the Swan Maiden. I'll have to start looking....

(jumped over from Bookworms Carnival)

Lightheaded said...

Hi! The Bookworms Carnival post pointed me in this direction. Now I have to add The Swan Maiden to my theoretical wishlist. Hahaha! Looks like an engaging read and the plot is similar to a local folk tale somewhat.

Robin said...

I've been enjoying these fairy tale retellings, too, and love Shannon Hale's work. I hadn't heard of The Swan Maiden, so I'm going to have to search for it. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard of any of these but they sound good:) will have to add to my huge TBR list

Amanda said...

Great reviews! I haven't heard of the Swan Maiden before.

Clare - The Super Mommy Club said...

The Swan Maiden is about to be added to my wish list! I think I'll add that Hale book too since I absolutely loved The Goose Girl

Melody said...

Great reviews! I haven't heard of The Swan Maiden either, and I'm going to check that out. Thanks!

Debi said...

Another here who has never heard of The Swan Maiden. And another who is definitely adding it to her wish list!

By the way, I'm in awe...3 reviews in one post. I struggle to finish each and every one...I think 3 at once might kill me.

Rebecca Reid said...

Guilty: I haven't read any Shannon Hale.I keep hearing about her, though, so it's about time!

Jennie said...

Thanks everyone!

Swan Maiden is a great book that I really enjoyed, so I hope you do too!

And Rebecca, you *must* check out Shannon Hale, she is one of my favorite authors!