Monday, January 31, 2011

New Book: Castle Waiting Vol. 2 by Linda Medley

Castle Waiting (Vol. 2) (Castle Waiting (Fantagraphic Books))

I mentioned Castle Waiting (Vol. 2) (Castle Waiting (Fantagraphic Books)) by Linda Medley last May, several months before its December release, but forgot to highlight it upon its release date. Castle Waiting has a small cult following. Medley's name has been removed from the published book with no comment from either author or publisher but the work is hers all the same. I won't venture any futher into those waters, but you can read a review and some other thoughts on it at She Has No Head! – Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting Volume II by Kelly Thompson.

And, yes, this does use fairy tales. From Wikipedia:

Castle Waiting is a comic book series created by Linda Medley. It is in a world of fairy tales and mythology featuring a mix of old-fashioned storytelling and more ironic, modern touches.

Castle Waiting was first conceived in 1984, when I was studying folklore and children's book illustration in college. I had filled a sketchbook with character designs, intending to do my own 'take' on some of the classic Grimm's fairy tales. What really fascinated me were the background characters — their unexplained pasts, and their often unresolved fates.

— Linda Medley, afterword to Castle Waiting: The Curse of Brambly Hedge (1996).

I haven't read it yet, but the reviews have been positive--enthusiastically positive--and there is hope that the series, while completed rather abruptly, will eventually continue.

Here's the description from the publisher:

The long-awaited return to Castle Waiting! With its long-awaited second volume, Linda Medley’s witty and sublimely drawn fantasy eases into a relaxed comedy of manners as Lady Jain settles into her new life in Castle Waiting.

Unexpected visitors result in the discovery and exploration of a secret passageway, not to mention an epic bowling tournament. A quest for ladies’ underpants, the identity of Pindar’s father, the education of Simon, Rackham and Chess arguing about the “manly arts,” and an escape-prone goat are just a few of the elements in this delightful new volume.

The book also includes many flashbacks that deepen the stories behind the characters, including Jain’s earliest romantic entanglements and conflicts with her bratty older sisters, the horrific past of the enigmatic Dr. Fell, and more. 384 pages of black-and-white comics
Here's also a video preview of the book to give you an idea of the interior. This is not your typical book, graphic or otherwise.

And here's the first volume:

Castle Waiting

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Book: A True Princess by Diane Zahler

A True Princess

A True Princess by Diane Zahler is officially released this Tuesday, February 1. (It's also available as an ebook.) It is Zahler's second fairy tale retelling following last year's The Thirteenth Princess, which drew inspiration from Twelve Dancing Princesses. This new book is most indebted to The Princess and the Pea, so I am most excited about it. I can count the number of novel-length books that draw direct inspiration from that tale on one hand. Of course, the tale itself is super short, but I do think it has much scope for imagination for authors and am surprised it doesn't get used more often.

Book description from the publisher:

Twelve-year-old Lilia is not a very good servant. In fact, she's terrible! She daydreams, she breaks dishes, and her cooking is awful. Still, she hardly deserves to be sold off to the mean-spirited miller and his family. Refusing to accept that dreadful fate, she decides to flee. With her best friend, Kai, and his sister, Karina, beside her, Lilia heads north to find the family she's never known. But danger awaits. . . .

As their quest leads the threesome through the mysterious and sinister Bitra Forest, they suddenly realize they are lost in the elves' domain. To Lilia's horror, Kai falls under an enchantment cast by the Elf King's beautiful daughter. The only way for Lilia to break the spell and save Kai is to find a jewel of ancient power that lies somewhere in the North Kingdoms. Yet the jewel will not be easy to find. The castle where it is hidden has been overrun with princess hopefuls trying to pass a magical test that will determine the prince's new bride. Lilia has only a few days to search every inch of the castle and find the jewel—-or Kai will be lost to her forever.
Yes, that description makes it sound like there is some Snow Queen influence along with some other Norwegian folklore. That's the beauty of authors who love fairy tales, they usually have to use more than one.

There aren't many professional reviews of the book available yet, but the book is averaging 4 out of 5 stars from most readers on Amazon and GoodReads and elsewhere.

The Thirteenth Princess

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fairy Tale Love and Some Wedding Anniversaries

Card exterior

So today is my 13th wedding anniversary. It's a special day for John and myself not just because we were wed on this date, but because we share it with both sets of our parents. To clarify, my parents were married on this day 40 years ago. John's parents were married on this same day 40 years ago, too. We lost John's dad a few years ago, so the day is tinged with some sadness, too, but it's a blessing to have come from two sets of parents married all that time ago who stuck it out and stayed married despite all the challenges inherent in any relationship. All this means we had to get married on a Wednesday night in late January or wait several years for a Saturday wedding. That day was perfect with a high of 78 in Nashville. Most January 28ths are very wintery so we also enjoy the few that get us snowed in like last year when we spent three days at home tucked away from the world, well not the internet world, but the rest of it.

A few weeks ago I was browsing through a Hallmark shop that was going out-of-business and discovered this card which has apparently been around for at least a year. I rarely shop for cards and mostly write letters to John, but this card was perfect for both of us. Not sappy. Funny, but pulling in some obvious themes from our life.  John also loves Hoops & Yoyo (really, he's been on their site which appears to be down right now more than once) so it wasn't just pulling in the fairy tale reference for me, but the goofiness of the characters for him.

Card interior

What you can't see here is that the card is a talking card that plays a recording of Hoops & Yoyo talking about fairy tale love. I found a YouTube video of a little girl playing with the card so you can hear the words. They are funny and made John laugh.

That said, if I hadn't married John there is a good chance SurLaLune wouldn't exist. I took that original HTML class a few months after our marriage so I could better understand his career choices and goals for he was just starting out as a graphic designer at the time. He has helped me with several design elements over the years--the most professional looking elements are his, like the banner on this blog, the rest is mine. I don't really have an artistic rendering bone in my body although I can work well enough with beautiful elements to make something pleasing, a skill taught me by my mother.

Happy Anniversary, John! I hope for many more decades with you at my side. Happy Anniversary to the parents, too.  Without them, we wouldn't be here either...

PS: Believe it or not, I had prewritten the two previous posts for today about fairy tale romance novels before I remembered that I had planned this post for today. My subconscious can be a scary, scary thing.

Carola Dunn's Fairy Tale Romances

The Frog Earl

So earlier this week I was sleepless thanks to a lingering cough and resorted to some lite reading late at night. I ended up choosing The Frog Earl by Carola Dunn as my light reading of choice and had a fun time with it. Yes, this is a romance novel. Yes, it is almost twenty years old and has been rereleased to ebook format along with several of Dunn's other novels. This also means it is not a bodice ripper but more in line with Georgette Heyer lite. If that is your taste, Dunn's books may be for you. I was interested since I have read some of Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple mystery series and enjoyed them. I own this one somewhere as a tattered copy found at a used bookstore years and years ago but I've never read it. My allergies often hinder reading old paperbacks and they have to go in sealed boxes to prevent my sneezing. Not an issue with an ebook...

Here's the book description:

Escaping into the countryside to nurse his wounded pride and heart, Simon Hurst encounters the lovely but eccentric Mimi (half English, half Indian and all mischief) who promises him three favors—then only grudgingly doles them out. If he can capture that last one—that kiss—before she learns the truth about his identity, he should transform into an earl once again.
I had fun with just how many ways Dunn incorporated the Frog Prince into the story. It's fun and clever with several little "wink-winks" at the reader. In truth, I was impressed with just how well the tale is incorporated into the plot. There is no magic but the fairy tale elements appear in several places. I think I also enjoyed it because it is rare to read a novel-length interpretation of the tale. We have Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast everywhere, but the Frog Prince is pretty rare and Dunn shows how it can be successfully used.

The leads are interesting, too.  Few Regencies I've dabbled with include half Indian, half English heroines so that was a change of pace. I definitely got my $4 worth of entertainment on a sleepless night. Now I will be adding her other fairy tale romances to my TBR pile for when I need some lite reading. I will share those below although I haven't read them myself yet.

Lady in the Briars

Lady in the Briars by Carola Dunn is a take on Sleeping Beauty, a much less literal adaptation of the fairy tale it appears.

Book description:

Rebecca Nuthall, downtrodden unpaid companion to a relative, is saved from drowning by Lord John Danville. Lord John has been ordered abroad by his father after indulging in a frivolous but near fatal duel. About to leave for Russia with his cousin Teresa Graylin and her diplomat husband, he persuades Teresa to take Rebecca along as governess for their little girl. In St Petersburg, Rebecca blossoms…until she is arrested for espionage. Once again, John must risk his life to rescue her.
This review from Library Journal is more descriptive and better explains how the Sleeping Beauty theme is used.

After nine years of terror and abuse by her uncle, Rebecca Nuthall flees to London. There she enjoys a dull but safe and insulated life as a companion until she meets the Graylin family and becomes involved in their adventures of intrigue. Lord John Danville, a gentleman of the ton with profligate habits, has been banished to the family estate. Old friends with the Graylin's, he too becomes involved in their schemes--and with Rebecca. Initially John feels sorry for Rebecca; she is so timid and fearful of men. His feelings change as he and Rebecca travel with the Graylins to Russia and Rebecca learns to overcome her fears and assert herself. A light, diverting romance, this is the author's ninth Regency.

The Magic of Love
Finally we have The Magic of Love by Carola Dunn which is actually a collection of three Regency romance novellas. I own this one but had quite literally forgotten about it.

Book description from the publisher:

Three Regency Fairytales and a Halloween ghost story:

RUMPLESTILTSKIN—with an unexpected hero

ALADDIN’S LAMP—turns up in Regency Oxford, jinnee and all

THE FIREBIRD—with a wer-fox as heroine

with Superstition—a Halloween short story, in which a Gypsy’s fortune-telling proves doubly accurate
All of these books are also available in other ebook formats, not just Kindle mobis, at Belgrave House where several of Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple short stories are free for downloading.

New Book: When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

When Beauty Tamed the Beast (Happily Ever Afters)

When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James was released this week and is the second in what appears to be an ongoing fairy tale inspired romance series by James. It is also available as an ebook. I've read that another reason that romance is doing well in ebooks is that people can read them without displaying the somewhat embarrassing covers although this one isn't too bad.

I'm sure the fairy tale inspiration for this novel is no surprise. The title gives it away quite easily. It's Beauty and the Beast, of course.

Book description from the publisher:

Miss Linnet Berry Thrynne is a Beauty . . . Naturally, she's betrothed to a Beast.

Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant, lives in a castle in Wales where, it is rumored, his bad temper flays everyone he crosses. And rumor also has it that a wound has left the earl immune to the charms of any woman.

Linnet is not just any woman.

She is more than merely lovely: her wit and charm brought a prince to his knees. She estimates the earl will fall madly in love—in just two weeks.

Yet Linnet has no idea of the danger posed to her own heart by a man who may never love her in return.

If she decides to be very wicked indeed . . . what price will she pay for taming his wild heart?
Sounds likes a classic romance novel. James is growing in popularity in the genre and this title already has several positive reader reviews. I admit I am always worried by Beauty and the Beast adaptations that make the Beast sound abusive, but I've also learned to not take back cover descriptions literally. For example, the Booklist review makes the hero sound much less abusive:

After Prince Augustus Frederick reneges on his promise to marry her, Linnet Thrynne faces social ruin since everyone—based partly on her mother’s scandalous past and partly on Linnet’s ill-fated decision to wear a ball gown that gives the impression she is pregnant—now believes Linnet is a hussy of the first degree. Fortunately, Linnet’s aunt, Lady Etheridge, comes up with a solution. Rumor has it that Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant, is in the market for a wife. The irascible nobleman’s only requirement is that his bride-to-be be a woman “more beautiful than the sun and the moon,” a condition Linnet easily meets. Linnet is certain once the beastly Piers meets her, he will fall under her spell. But immediately after encountering the cranky doctor, Linnet realizes the intractable, intelligent, and altogether intriguing Piers is not exactly the husband for whom she bargained. With equal measures of superbly nuanced characters, sexy passion, and scintillating wit, James deftly fashions a fairy-tale-perfect romance.

Did you like the nod to East of the Sun and West of the Moon, a B&B variant?

The previous book in the series is A Kiss at Midnight which used Cinderella for inspiration.

A Kiss at Midnight
I also have a fairy tale themed romance novels page on SurLaLune which needs updating despite its great length.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Movement to Make January National Folklore Month

I really dropped the ball on this one. Back in early December, Lise Lunge-Larsen emailed me about her forays into having January become National Folklore Month. Lise is a storyteller and author who also blogs at the Children's Literature Network at Snip, Snap, Snute. This past month she has been blogging specifically about folklore, including fairy tales and storytelling. Here is an edited version of her email:

Last spring I began blogging once a week about folktales for Children's Literature Network ( an organization out of Minnesota that seeks to promote children's literature. I proposed last year that we should declare January National Folktale Month on order to promote more reading of folktales in the classroom and at home. After all poetry gets all of April to itself! During the month I will post a blog about various ways to incorporate folktales, fables and myths into the curriculum and everyday life. I am sure I will reference your blog and website a great deal and wondered if there was any way I could talk you into mentioning this on your site?
My blog is called "snipp, snapp, snute" after the traditional way to end a tale in Norway. I am after all, a native of that country.
As I said, I'm late to the party, but Lise's blog is excellent and I recommend giving it a looksy. I'm also predisposed to like people who work in folklore and children's literature, especially if they are Norwegian since I can claim a quarter of that myself through my grandfather who is 100%. Here are the posts she has shared this month:

And the Moral of the Story Is…

Telling the Tale

The Fairy Tale

Animal Adventures

Oodles of Noodles, or Noodlehead Stories

Cumulative Tales and more!

A Bag Full of Tricks

Pourquoi Tales, part deux!

Pourquoi Tales, part 1

Happy Folktale Month

And for good measure while we're here, here are some of Lise's books which I imagine look familiar to some of you:

The Hidden Folk: Stories of Fairies, Dwarves, Selkies, and Other Secret Beings The Troll With No Heart in His Body The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God

The Legend of the Lady Slipper (Ojibwe Tale) Noah's Mittens The Race of the Birkebeiners

Reminder: SurLaLune Book Club: January 2011: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Sisters Red
Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Just a reminder to everyone to join or at least read the SurLaLune Book Club: January 2011: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. It has gotten a somewhat slow start, but so far we've discussed the heroines' personalities, the usage of LRRH and even the cover art. I need to jump back in myself sometime today...

And don't forget to be reading My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales for February's read! It's quite a different book from this one.

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales

Fairytale Reflections (17) Jane Yolen at SMoST

Touch Magic

It's Thursday and I haven't shared last week's Fairytale Reflections (17) Jane Yolen at SMoST! And it's Jane Yolen. Of course, we all know who Jane is, so no introductions are really necessary although Kathrine Langrish offers a great one in the post, including discussing Touching Magic and Briar Rose.

Yolen doesn't pick a favorite fairy tale to discuss, but instead writes about fairy tales and writing in general.

Briar Rose

Here's an excerpt, and as always, click through to read it all:

A number of years ago, folklorist Alan Dundes coined the term “fakelore” to describe stories not from the folk canon but that sounded and tasted and felt like those stories but were invented whole cloth by writers. Lumping in, I suppose, Madame LePrince du Beaumont and Isak Dinesen with Hans Christian Andersen, Angela Carter, and (gulp) me.

Though of course the perceptive lover of such tales could have pointed out to him how often the best of those stories have already moved back into the folk corner, hiding there for a number of years until they have emerged as—ta!ta!—folk stories.

I don’t like Dundes’ dyad and actually make this distinction: the greatest stories I know whether folklore or fakelore touch on the sacred, that moment when head and heart and soul combine.
More books by Yolen, just a representation since I can't show all 300+:

Except the Queen Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls The Young Merlin Trilogy: Passager, Hobby, and Merlin Sleeping Ugly

Twelve Impossible Things Before Breakfast: Stories Favorite Folktales from Around the World (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library) Come to the Fairies' Ball Not All Princesses Dress in Pink

Pay the Piper: A Rock 'n' Roll Fairy Tale (Yolen, Jane. Rock 'n' Roll Fairy Tale)  Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook for Young Readers and Eaters Troll Bridge: A Rock 'n' Roll Fairy Tale 

Tam Lin The Barefoot Book of Ballet Stories Once upon a Bedtime Story: Classic Tales 

Mirror, Mirror: Forty Folk Tales for Mothers and Daughters to Share Firebird Mightier Than the Sword: World Folktales for Strong Boys