Alternative Fairy Tales

One reason why I love fairy tales so much is because I love the alternative ways that different authors choose to tell the familiar stories. Putting twists on famous fairy tales opens up whole new interpretations for readers and viewers, and can really change the way certain characters are portrayed. The AADL has a whole host of alternative fairy tale stories of all types. One of my favorite collections is a teen series, contributed to by various authors, that “retells” many different fairy tales. There are 15 total retellings in the series, including Midnight Pearls: A Retelling of The Little Mermaid, Before Midnight: A Retelling of Cinderella, The Crimson Thread: A Retelling of Rumpelstiltskin and Beauty Sleep: A Retelling of Sleeping Beauty along with retellings of Jack and the Beanstalk, The Magic Flute, and others.

In the adult book Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi has reimagined the story of Snow White and the Deven Dwarfs as set in the United States in the 1950s and 60s. Maintaining the focus of the original fairy tale’s obsession with beauty, Oyeyemi turns her retelling into a story of race, vanity, and family, while also painting an enchanting picture of life in Massachusetts during the mid-twentieth century. Readers will find that Boy, Snow, Bird is a thought-provoking novel, described as “gloriously unsettling” by the New York Times Book Review.

For those who are eager to read a number of alternative fairy tales, we even have some collections of retold favorites. Try Swan Sister: Fairy Tales Retold, or The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold, both compilations of alternative fairy tales from many cultures written by famous authors.

Also in our collection are The Stepsister’s Tale, Snow White and Rose Red, and the movie Ever After: A Cinderella Story.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #471 - "Knowledge is gained through wisdom, my friend. Use the sword wisely.” ~ Brian Jacques

With swashbuckling action that brings to mind Alexandre Dumas' Three Musketeers, Sebastien De Castell launches a dynamic new fantasy series with Traitor's Blade *, where a disgraced swordsman struggles to redeem himself by protecting a young girl caught in the web of a royal conspiracy.

The Greatcoats were once the king's elite magistrates, 144 men and women whose mission was to travel the land and uphold the King's Law. But the powerful Dukes overthrew the king and the Greatcoats were scattered and disgraced. Now Falcio Val Mond and his fellow magistrates Kest and Brasti are reduced to working as bodyguards and mercenaries, jeered by the citizenry as "trattari" - tatter-cloaks, and branded as traitors. Implicated in a carefully orchestrated series of murders (including that of their employer); and the life of a young orphaned girl is at stake, they must search for a way to reunite the Greatcoats, and to restore order to Tristia, with nothing more than the tattered coats on their backs and the swords in their hands.

"This debut is a triumph of character, with every protagonist a fascination, especially Falcio, a tormented and ridiculously honorable man. Humor abounds, mostly in the sparkling dialog among our Three Musketeers-esque band of brothers..." Look for Greatcoat's Lament and Tyrant's Throne, Book 2 and 3 of The Greatcoats series already in the works.

In the meantime, you might enjoy these readalikes:

Gentlemen of the Road * * * (a personal favorite) by Micheal Chabon. In the Caucasus Mountains in 950 A.D., two adventurers wander the region, plying their trade as swords for hire, until they become involved in a bloody coup in the medieval Jewish empire of the Khazars as bodyguards for a fugitive prince. A swashbuckling adventure yarn, along the lines of The Arabian Nights.

Captain Alatriste * by Arturo Perez-Reverte, the first installment of a historical series where wounded 17th c. Spanish soldier Alatriste works as a swordsman-for-hire in Madrid.

* = starred review
* * * = 3 starred reviews

Exciting new summer releases for adults and teens!

Summer is far from over, and the next few weeks will offer up a release of lots of exciting new summer reads for teens and adults, perfect to bring along on August vacations!

The Queen of the Tearling is the debut novel in a new fantasy series by Erika Johansen. This first book introduces the main character, a princess raised in exile, who begins a perilous journey back to her homeland to attempt to claim the throne that is rightly hers. Although the story brings to mind medieval times, it actually takes place in the 24th century, and the world is as easy to get lost in as Westeros or Panem. Additionally, Warner Brothers has already bought rights to make a movie of the book, and Emma Watson will star in the film!

Dollbaby, by Laura Lane McNeal is a coming-of-age story set in New Orleans in the 1960s and 70s. Upon her father’s death, 12-year-old Ibby is dropped off at the home of her eccentric grandmother Fannie, whom she has never met. Taken under the wing of the housekeeper, Queenie, and her daughter ‘Dollbaby,’ Ibby grows up with a backdrop of the Vietnam War and events surrounding the passing of the Civil Rights Act. As she gets older, she learns more and more about the life of Fannie, and about the events that have shaped her into who she is today. Reviewers of this book have called it “heart-warming” and “beautiful” and it is certainly a must-read for historical fiction fans.

Landline is the latest novel by favorite author Rainbow Rowell. Fans of hers will be excited to read work by her more geared towards adults, but with the same wonderful character development and believability that she is known for in her YA novels. Landline tells the story of Georgie’s crumbling marriage, and through flashbacks (and some tinges of the paranormal) readers see the circumstances that have lead Georgie to where she is today. Readers experience through Georgie her own struggles in making choices about the decisions that many of us make in our lives surrounding career, family, and home. Despite the magical element to the story, Landline is a relatable and realistic read.

Scary Murder Mystery – With Ghosts!

In the mood for something spooky this summer? Then give The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud a try.

This unusual murder mystery is set in an alternative England where ghosts have grown more and more active in the last few decades and Psychic Detection Agencies like Lockwood & Co. employ talented young agents to track down and destroy the sources of these hauntings. When Lucy and her fellow Lockwood & Co. agents uncover an unsolved murder while searching for the source of a haunting, they decide to solve the mystery with the help of the victim’s locket…but someone is out to make sure they never solve this case.

Full of adventure and genuinely scary encounters with ghosts, this story may be written for children but it is not for the faint of heart. Recommended for fans of Alvin Schwartz’s scary stories or older readers who enjoyed Libba Bray’s The Diviners.

Audiobook fans may also wish to check out the audiobook of The Screaming Staircase, which was named one of ALA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2014.

Hogwarts for Fairy Tales

School may be out for the summer, but this summer is the perfect time to discover The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.

At this school, students learn how to be fairy-tale heroes and villains, with good students (known as Evers) attending classes like princess etiquette and animal communication and evil students (known as Nevers) tackling subjects like uglification and henchman training. The story focuses on two new students, best friends Sophie and Agatha, who seem to have been mixed up in the wrong schools. As golden-haired Sophie struggles in the School for Evil, trying to convince everyone she really belongs in the School for Good, foul-tempered Agatha just wants to escape the School for Good and return home.

Fans of the Harry Potter series will enjoy this new twist on a magical boarding school, complete with its own annual traditions, mythical creatures and unusual headmaster, while fans of Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm will appreciate its exploration of the darker side of fairy tales.

Love Roald Dahl? Try Mr. Gum!

Mr. Gum is a thoroughly rotten old man, but the Mr. Gum series by Andy Stanton is anything but rotten. In fact, it’s downright hilarious.

Reminiscent of Roald Dahl, this series combines plenty of off-the-wall humor with an eccentric villain and a touch of magic to create a thoroughly enjoyable read that is also a fantastic read-aloud. The series begins with You’re a Bad Man, Mr. Gum!, in which our villainous Mr. Gum attempts to get his revenge on the dog who dug up his yard. It continues with Mr. Gum and the Biscuit Billionaire, Mr. Gum and the Goblins, Mr. Gum and the Power Crystals, Mr. Gum and the Dancing Bear, What’s for Dinner, Mr. Gum?, Mr. Gum and the Cherry Tree, and Mr. Gum and the Secret Hideout.

So if you’re looking for new adventures after journeying to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and making friends with Matilda, then you should definitely take a look at the Mr. Gum series.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #455

Violet Kupersmith, still in her early 20s, offers "(a)n extraordinarily compelling debut of ghost stories, written as an undergraduate (Mount Holyoke) that grapple with the legacy of the Vietnam War".

Praised by fellow writers as "surgically precise and feverishly imaginative" (Tea Obreht), "...teem(ing) with sensuous and exuberant life" (Valerie Martin), "...deftly funny and yet so deadly serious" (Yiyun Li), The Frangipani Hotel * * will not disappoint.

The titular L'Hotel Frangipane, "swanky name, shitty place", located in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, is a 1/2-star, seven-story death trap, run haphazardly by an extended family where a beautiful young woman, floating fully dressed in an overflowing bathtub in an unoccupied room, seduces an American businessman into a moonlight swim with dark intent.

In "Skin and Bones", in need of losing a few pounds, an overweight Houston teenager is shipped off to spend the summer with her grandmother in Ho Chi Minh City, only to discover the delicious Bánh mì, offered by a curiously-friendly street vendor as the city naps in the sultry afternoons.

Based on traditional ghost stories told to her by the author's Vietnamese grandmother, "each of the stories is replete with characters both fabulous and ordinary, stories out of this world and firmly rooted in it. Each is meticulously told by a storyteller talented and wise beyond her years." Highly recommended for literary fiction fans.

* * = 2 starred reviews

Young People's Theater: The Wizard of Oz

Young People's Theater will present the classic story of The Wizard of Oz from May 16-18 at the University of Michigan Power Center. For ticket information, click here. Meanwhile, YPT also is organizing summer camps which you can learn about here.

Hugo Awards


Hugo award finalists have been announced. The awards will be officially given at this year’s World Science Fiction Convention called Loncon 3 since it is the third time to be held in London, England. If you love scifi or fantasy, this is one of the largest and oldest annually held convention for fans (the first one was held in 1939 in NYC, and it has been held continuously since 1946). This year marks the 75th anniversary of the convention so in addition to the Hugo Awards, there are Retro-Hugo Awards honoring the best of scifi/fantasy from 1938. The following are this year's best novel nominees:

Ancillary justice by Ann Leckie: story focuses on the AI soldier, Breq, previously a starship now in a fragile human body; a space opera that will make you think what it is to be human vs AI; 1st part of the Imperial Radch series

Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross: multiple award winner Stross continues delving into the Freyaverse and our post-human descendants started in Saturn’s Children, followed by a short story called ‘Bit Rot’

Parasite by Mira Grant: a genetically engineered parasite that lives inside all humans delivering meds, protecting us from illness, and boosting our immune system? Sounds good until they start thinking on their own…1st in the Parasitology series. Mira Grant also writes award winning urban fantasy under the name Seanan McGuire , and has been nominated for Hugo awards for Feed and Deadline

Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia: the series is available, and you can read a short prequel to it for free online called the Grimnoir Chronicles: Detroit Christmas

Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson: anyone who knows scifi/fantasy has heard of this epic series that spans some 14 volumes with prequels; some J R R Tolkien influence, some Asian mythology…there was a computer game and a roleplaying game, even a soundtrack album Jordan died in 2007 and Sanderson picked up his notes for the final book and turned it into 3 books. Fans launched an online campaign to get the entire series nominated so it should be interesting to see if it wins!

Winter is on its way out, but Season 4 of Game of Thrones is coming!

Many of us are eagerly awaiting the start of season four of Game of Thrones, which begins on Sunday, April 6th on HBO. The AADL has the first three seasons of the show on DVD and Blu-Ray, but we also have a large selection of other Game of Thrones-related materials that fans may be interested in. The show was inspired by and is strictly based on the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. The library has all five of the currently published books available. Martin has said that he may publish the sixth installment of the series, The Winds of Winter, in 2015. Even if you’ve already seen the show, reading the books is a cool way to find out more details and clear up any confusion.

The AADL also has graphic novel adaptations of Game of Thrones. These are fast-paced and colorful reads that fans will surely enjoy. There are also unique books about the Game of Thrones fantasy world and the show in our collection. The Wit and Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister collects a number of the hilarious and witty quotes said by one of the most popular characters into a fun book. The Unofficial Game of Thrones cookbook: from direwolf ale to auroch stew—more than 150 recipes from Westeros and beyond has appetizers, side dishes, main courses and desserts, all inspired by meals or situations from Game of Thrones. We also have the official companion to the HBO show, Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones. It is filled with hundreds of photos of the set, actors, and props from the show. Finally, an extremely helpful book is The Lands of Ice and Fire: maps from King’s Landing to across the Narrow Sea, a collection of maps and diagrams that show the world described by Martin in his books and shown to viewers on the show. As fans know, keeping the many settings of Game of Thrones straight can be a challenge; this book can help those who are struggling better visualize the continents of Westeros and Essos

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