Adult fairy tales

All posts tagged Adult fairy tales

The Book Collector – Alice Thompson

Published January 11, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Alice Thompsons new novel is a gothic story of book collecting, mutilation and madness. Violet is obsessed with the books of fairy tales her husband acquires, but her growing delusions see her confined in an asylum. As she recovers and is released a terrifying series of events is unleashed.

What did I think?:

I had never heard of The Book Collector before until the wonderful booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights recommended it when my sister and I went there for one of their glorious reading spas. Apart from it having the most gorgeous, eye-popping cover art, I knew I had to have it as soon as I heard the words fairy-tale, dark, disturbing and gothic. The Book Collector was all of these things and so much more besides and managed to pack in so much drama, intrigue and delicious murkiness into just 224 pages meaning that I flew through the pages with ease, enjoying every single minute.

Our main female protagonist is Violet whom is nineteen years old and an orphan when we first meet her but within a year she has a whirlwind affair with Lord Archie Murray who she ends up marrying and having a son with called Felix. Archie is a book collector by trade (hence the name of the novel!) and has many beautiful first editions that Violet enjoys looking through but he becomes very possessive and mysterious about a particular book of fairy tales that she is not allowed access to under any circumstance and he keeps under lock and key. Meanwhile, Violet is finding motherhood more difficult than she expected. Her husband is unexpectedly controlling and she begins to suffer hallucinations. Whilst trying to remove what she believes to be insects from her son’s body one day she unintentionally harms him and is marched off to an asylum by Archie until her mental health recovers. When she returns, Archie has employed a nanny, beautiful and enigmatic Clara whom she instantly resents.

There are bigger problems however. A number of young women are going missing and then being found in the most brutal of circumstances. Many of these women Violet knows from the institution and she is terrified, both for her sanity and for her own life. Can she find the connections between these vicious deaths? And what part does the intriguing book of fairy-tales have to play in this particular story?

Phew! I told you it packed in a lot right? This wonderful little novel is just as grim and deeply unsettling as the synopsis suggests. As a result, it’s probably not going to be for everyone, especially if you’re slightly squeamish or queasy as there are some graphic, no holds barred descriptions of some quite nasty stuff in here, therefore a strong stomach required! If you’ve been following my blog for a little while you might remember I’m a bit of a sucker for the words “fairy-tale” when describing a novel and I adored the way in which these elements were weaved into The Book Collector. It was morbid, a happy ending isn’t necessarily guaranteed, there’s always an evil “bad guy” to be vanquished but aren’t the best kind of fairy tales exactly like this? Occasionally whimsical, haunting and definitely troubling, this small novel is a little gem of literature. It’s quick and easy to read but the events you find within has the potential to stay with you many months after you’ve turned the last page.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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Five Star TBR Pile Predictions

Published August 22, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from http://lithub.com/in-praise-of-the-book-tower/

Hello everyone and welcome to something a bit different on my blog today. One of my favourite book-tubers, Mercedes from Mercy’s Bookish Musings recently posted a brilliant video where she went through her TBR and tried to predict which five books would be five star reads for her. She then did a wrap up video after she had read the books to see how many she had got right. I thought this was a fantastic idea and immediately wanted to do the same as a blog post rather than a video. Honestly, none of you need to see me stammering away in front of a camera – it’s not a pretty sight. I’ll leave it to the experts! Without further ado, I’ve picked five books from my TBR that I think will be five star reads for me and I’ll give you a little bit of background information about how I got the book and why I think I might give it five stars.

1.) Stay With Me – Ayobami Adebayo

Stay With Me came across my radar when it was short-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction earlier this year. I was lucky enough to attend an event where I got to hear the short-listed authors read from their books and answer some questions. I had already heard brilliant things about this book from reviewers whose opinions I really respect and trust but hearing the author speak on the night had me determined that this book was going to be great. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Mostly because people with very similar reading tastes to my own have praised it to the heavens and I’m anticipating I’m going to feel exactly the same way.

2.) The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker

Mercy from Mercy’s Bookish Musings is responsible for my interest in this little beauty. She raved about it in a recent video and after hearing her review, I knew I had to have it. I mean, check out this opening:

“Vincent Appleton smiles at his daughters, raises a gun, and blows off his head. For the Appleton sisters, life had unravelled many times before. This time it explodes.”

Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Again, a great review from a person with similar reading tastes to my own, the dark content and that opening is just too intriguing to resist.

3.) The Book Of Strange New Things – Michel Faber

This book has been languishing on my TBR for a ridiculous amount of time and it’s about time it gets read! I’m a big fan of Michel Faber, especially after his beautiful novel, The Crimson Petal And The White and I’ve been looking forward to reading this for the longest time. I feel like it’s going to be a bit like The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell and The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, both of which I loved. I understand Michel Faber is either taking a break from writing or has said that he’s not going to write any more novels at all and I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been putting off reading this book – I just don’t want to admit to myself that I’m never going to read anything new by him again! Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Mostly due to the premise which immediately pulled me in and I have to say, that gorgeous cover. Okay I know, never judge a book by its cover! (But I do!).

4.) The Bear And The Nightingale – Katherine Arden

I’ve been coveting this book ever since I first saw it in a bookshop – I mean, just look at that cover! There’s a few buzz words that will guarantee I’ll buy a book and some of them are “fairy tale,” “Russian,” “with a dark edge,” and this book has all these things, I’m certain it’s going to be gorgeous. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? It looks to have everything I would want from a novel and yep…..that cover again!

5.) Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts And Daring To Act Differently – Emer O’Toole

I love a bit of non-fiction, especially when it’s a topic that fascinates me, in this case gender stereotypes and feminist issues. There have been some brilliant reviews of this book and I can’t wait to get to it. I think it’s going to be interesting, eye-opening and I’m hoping to learn a lot too. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Probably because of the subject matter which I’m always hungry for and the fact that I’ve heard nothing but good things.

So that’s five books from my TBR which I think (and hope!) are going to be five star reads for me in the future. I’ll get on with reading them in the next few months and then I’ll be back with a wrap up post where I’ll let you know if I was right in my predictions or not. I will also be reviewing each book separately as always but I’ll do that after my wrap up post so as to not give anything away ahead of time. 

Make sure to check out Mercy’s video on her channel to see which books she has predicted will be five star reads for her. If anyone else wants to do this, I would absolutely love to see your choices, please leave a link to your post (or just tell me your choices) in the comments section below!

 

Short Stories Challenge – The Shadow Tree by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Published September 27, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Shadow Tree all about?:

The Shadow Tree introduces us to Ella, a servant working in a royal household who tells stories to two spoiled children with an ulterior motive of her own.

What did I think?:

I’ve managed to finish a couple of collections since I began my Short Stories Challenge a couple of years ago and when I was recommended Sourdough And Other Stories by a blogger I admire – FictionFan, I knew I had to include it in the challenge, instantly intrigued when she mentioned something along the lines of “dark fairy tales for grown ups.” Now that I’ve read the first story, The Shadow Tree, I want to thank her so much for recommending it, this is a collection I’m sure I’m going to love, exciting both my dark side and my secretly childish one. 🙂

Our main character is Ella, a fascinating woman with a secret past that works as a servant for royalty with no clearly defined role. She uses her skills as a herbalist to concoct potions for both noble men and women and for the Queen herself, when she needs a break from her husbands amorous advances. Although, to be fair, Ella helps her out in that regard by warming the King’s bed herself. This puts her in quite a privileged and protected position in the court and allows her access to the couples children, two of whom, Brunhilde and her brother Baldur are malicious little deviants that enjoy torturing animals and to a lesser extent, their weary mother who cannot understand where their horrible behaviour has come from. Ella is well aware of the characters of the two older children and in fact, there is a reason why she remains so close to them, telling them elaborate myths and legends for their bedtime stories as cover for a rather different plan that she hopes will lead her back to her former life.

I was bowled over by just about everything to do with this story. The style of writing was so beautiful that I instantly felt that I was reading a fairy tale that I had previously never read but at the same time felt startlingly familiar. All classic fairy tales from the past have that little bit of darkness or a twist within that gives you a little shock to your system and The Shadow Tree was a great example of that delicious fright you get when an author pulls you in so far just to take the rug out from under your feet at the end. Step up Angela Slatter – my new favourite author. I’m really excited to read the rest of the stories in this collection!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Unremarkable Heart by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone).

Gingerbread – Robert Dinsdale

Published September 20, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Fairy tale and history, wilderness and civilisation collide in this brilliant and magical new novel from the author of Little Exiles.

In the depths of winter in the land of Belarus, where ancient forests straddle modern country borders, an orphaned boy and his grandfather go to scatter his mother’s ashes in the woodlands. Her last request to rest where she grew up will be fulfilled.

Frightening though it is to leave the city, the boy knows he must keep his promise to mama: to stay by and protect his grandfather, whatever happens. Her last potent gifts – a little wooden horse, and hunks of her homemade gingerbread – give him vigour. And grandfather’s magical stories help push the harsh world away.

But the driving snow, which masks the tracks of forest life, also hides a frozen history of long-buried secrets. And as man and boy travel deeper among the trees, grandfather’s tales begin to interweave with the shocking reality of his own past, until soon the boy’s unbreakable promise to mama is tested in unimaginable ways.

What did I think?:

This is the first book of Robert Dinsdale’s that I’ve read and picked up this copy from a wonderful Oxfam charity shop near Tottenham Court Road in London where the synopsis immediately intrigued me and begged to be bought and devoured. I love fairy tales, fairy tale re-imaginings, alternative fairy tales… you name it. Just the mere mention of the word fairy tale will ensure it gets put in my basket and after reading lots of positive reviews of this novel on Good Reads, I was eager to get stuck in and form my own opinion. Gingerbread is like nothing I’ve ever read before and although fairy tales play a huge part in this novel, it’s not your average “happily ever after” read. If I had to compare it to something, I would probably choose Roald Dahl’s version of Cinderella from his Revolting Rhymes book (not entirely sure why!) except that the story is incredibly unsettling and plays on your mind long after the book has been closed.

Our narrator for Gingerbread is a young boy (unnamed at least in the beginning) who has moved in with his grandfather (known as Papa) in Belarus with his mother who is herself dying of cancer. Before she passes away, the boy’s mother manages to extract two promises from her son. One, that he will scatter her ashes in the forest by the cottage where she used to live in her childhood and two, most importantly, that he will look after his grandfather, no matter what. Unfortunately, the boy is about to discover how hard it is going to be to keep these promises to his mother. Papa is hugely reluctant to go into the forest but after a lot of pestering the boy manages to persuade him to go there so that he can fulfil part one of his mother’s wishes.

The problem is, now that Papa has arrived in the forest at his old cottage, he becomes increasingly loath to leave it again which is okay at the start as the two ensconce themselves safely within the house. The boy has always enjoyed the magical stories his papa tells him and indeed he seems to have a gift for luring the listener deep within a time where a Winter King wars against enemies of the West. It is not long however before everything slowly begins unravelling leading to the cottage being abandoned, the two living in make-shift shelters in the woods and practically starving and the stories that Papa tells becoming more frightening erring on the monstrous. The boy stops going to school and is filthy, thin and very concerned about the transformation he sees day by day in his grandfather’s character. The lines between fiction and reality become blurred and when a family with a girl called Elenya moves into the cottage it could be a desperately needed lifeline to bring the boy and his grandfather back to civilisation. Or, it could be very dangerous for them all.

This was such an intriguing novel and definitely not what I expected when I first picked it up. I loved the way in which the author used historical fiction blended in with fantasy and even at some points horror, to create a mish-mash of genres that fit so perfectly in this unique story. It’s a fairy tale yes, but a very different one and I really enjoyed the pockets of darkness that Robert Dinsdale placed within the narrative to illustrate a descent in mental health that takes the characters back to their very basic selves. I think the phrase “survival of the fittest,” definitely applies to this story and there are certain depths you think as an individual you would never stoop to but perhaps when your life is on the line, this attitude no longer holds weight and you have to fight to stay alive.

For some parts of the novel, you have to suspend your disbelief which wasn’t a problem for me personally but I can understand why some people may find it difficult or too unbelievable. In this way I thought Papa was a fantastic character and loved exploring his murky depths but my heart also bled for the boy who at the end of the day is just trying to keep his beloved mother’s last wishes and look after his grandfather. The addition of Elenya was also a nice choice, bringing new life to the story and it was interesting to follow her growing relationship with the “wild boy.” This book probably isn’t for you if you like your endings all wrapped up with a little bow and everyone living in harmony together – it’s incredibly dark and twisty and will play with your mind for days after finishing it. However if you’re a big fan of the darkness and subtle horror like me, read this book immediately (and maybe don’t go into the woods on your own).

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Dreams & Shadows – C. Robert Cargill

Published December 8, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

It begins with a love story. A love that is almost too sweet, too perfect. From that love comes a child. Love is wonderful.
Until someone unspeakably vile scuttles out of the shadows and steals the child away. Leaving a changeling in its place.
But this is no ordinary fairy tale…
C. Robert Cargill has written a modern American tale. A tale that twines the real world with the supernatural. A tale of faerie changed. Faerie that has danced alongside our world.
It is a realm that we visit with two boys. It is a dark, dark place to grow up.

What did I think?:

I had never heard of this book until I visited the wonderful Mr B’s Emporium in Bath and it was one of the recommendations as part of my Reading Spa. As soon as I saw the cover I was instantly excited, ever more so when I read the synopsis of the novel. There are many weird and wonderful fairy-tale and magical characters but beware, this is definitely not a story for younger readers. The book maps the journey of two young boys, Ewan and Colby from their childhood where the magic first begins to an incredibly messed up adulthood, where the magic just won’t stay away.

The book begins “once upon a time,” as all good fairy tales should, however, I’ve already mentioned that this story is a bit different compared to your average fairy story and the author proceeds  to shatter a family’s life by replacing baby Ewan, (who makes his parents deliriously happy by the way) with a Changeling – the work of some very naughty fairies. The eight year old Colby in contrast, first comes across this strange world on one of his jaunts into the woods when his mother is having (ahem!) “visitors.” He is given strict orders not to come back before a certain time and in general, is largely ignored and emotionally abused. Meeting a djinn (genie) called Yashar seems like the perfect opportunity to turn his life around for the better, especially as Yashar is obliged to give him three wishes. One of his wishes is to be able to see everything supernatural in the faerie kingdom and beyond, one wish that he may live to regret.

On entering the kingdom, Colby meets Ewan who has been raised by the fairies after being snatched from his family. The two children, along with a faerie called Mallaidh soon become fast friends and enjoy many happy hours playing within the kingdom. All this jollity cannot last long in a tale as dark as this, and Ewan soon relies on Colby to save his life, returning him to the world of man. In the second half of the book, we meet Colby in adulthood, who has become disenchanted and world-weary. He is struggling to make a career as a musician without much luck and is tired of the supernatural world that he encounters on a daily basis. It soon becomes clear that what happened between Ewan and Colby in childhood has affected the faerie kingdom permanently. War looms, violence is plotted and Colby is soon in grave danger of losing his life. This is where some of the more dark and twisted elements of the story come into play. First of all, we have Knocks the changeling who was the substitution for Ewan when the faeries came to take him away. Believe me, Knocks is not impressed with being removed from the faeries and makes it his mission to destroy Ewan in whatever way possible. You think faeries are lovely? Think again. These faeries are ruthless, tricky, blood-thirsty, always with a hidden agenda. If Ewan is going to fight against the faerie kingdom, he has to use all his strength and cunning (and maybe a few supernatural friends of his own) otherwise things could go very badly, very quickly.

I really loved this book and found myself caught up in the author’s obviously vivid and superb imagination in creating this dark fairy tale world. The monsters and beastly creatures are amazing but my favourite character was probably Yashar the genie as we got to hear a lot of his back story making it almost like a fairy tale within a fairy tale if that makes any sense! Some of the scenes in the book wouldn’t be out of place on the big screen, and as there is quite a lot of violence and gore, I probably wouldn’t recommend it to those of us who have a weak stomach. I’m very excited also to learn that this book will be part of a series and on the strength of this book, I’ve already got the paperback pre-ordered and ready to go. A big thank you has to go to Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath for recommending me this fabulous read.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories – Angela Carter

Published April 23, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

From familiar fairy tales and legends – Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss-in-Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires, werewolves – Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.

What did I think?:

I have been meaning to read another Angela Carter book for a while after enjoying “Nights at the Circus.” This book seemed like a perfect opportunity to dip into her short stories, and I was intrigued by the premise of this book – a “warping” of classic fairy tales as I enjoy a bit of magical realism from time to time. So, these fairy tale are definitely warped and certainly not for children! This book was first released in 1979 and I can imagine it causing a bit of a stir then, and probably still would even today. They are not really “re-tellings” of fairy tales, but rather Carter’s take on them, with occasional vague references to the original story. Some of the quotes are unforgettable and completely hilarious, for example – in the words of Puss in Boots:

“I went about my ablutions, tonguing my arsehole with the impeccable hygienic integrity of cats, one leg stuck in the air like a ham bone;”

My star rating is based on the book overall, as some stories were a bit hit and miss, but the stories I loved included the title story, Puss in Boots, and “The Werewolf.” Throughout the book however, I was mesmerized by Carter’s beautiful descriptive writing and ease with language. The vivid imagery she uses had me transported to a different place, to the extent where I found myself quivering – particularly after the end of “The Werewolf.” Read it to see what I mean!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art