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Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2015

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Best Books I Read In 2015.

This year I’ve decided to go month by month. Because what’s the point of all the random listmaking I do if I don’t get to play around with the stats? So, flagrantly disregarding the ‘ten’ thing, because I read way too much to narrow this down.

The best book I read in January was:

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The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, The Persian Boy by Mary Renault.

The best book I read in February was:

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Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

The best book I read in March was:

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The Girls From Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe

The best book I read in April was:

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The Man Who Touched His Own Heart by Rob Dunn, Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon

(a nonfiction double feature!)

The best book I read in May was:

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Jackaby by William Ritter

The best book I read in June was:

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Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein.

The best book I read in July was:

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Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt

(Cause WINTER. Ah, this is my favorite Maiden Lane book by leaps and bounds. I still have a few to get through, but I think it will stay on top.)

The best book I read in August was:

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A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare, Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

The best book I read in September was:

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Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback

The best book I read in October was:

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Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, Simon. vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

The best book I read in November was:

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City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

The best book I read in December (so far? I think I still have one or two books left in me, as I’m home all alone for Christmas) was:

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Police by Jo Nesbo

I think the biggest surprise in this is how much YA is on this list. I didn’t realize I was reading so much YA, much less how much I have been enjoying it. But the YA books I did read were good. Good enough to edge out a ton of other great books.

What made your best list?

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: New To Me

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten New-To-Me Favorite Authors I Read For The First Time In 2015

This year was weird. Most of my new-to-me authors I didn’t like very much. There were a few standouts, but mostly I found myself sticking with old favorites, because new-to-me authors left me cold. That said, there were some standouts.

(in effort to keep these lists somewhat different, I’m not including any debut novelists here. At least as far as I know. First timers get plenty of their own lists!)

1.  Holly Black

I still have not gotten around to reading more Holly Black and I don’t know why but it needs to be remedied asap.

2. Elizabeth Wein

Ahhhhh, tear out my heart and stomp on it and then send those pieces through the shredder and then light them on fire. And I will love every second of it.

3. Max Gladstone

I read three books by Gladstone this year. His worldbuilding is so cool and I look forward to reading the rest of his Craft Sequence series soon. (But not in 2016, alas. Because 2016 is my year of no dudes.)

4. Jo Graham

I was a bit surprised how much I enjoyed her debut, Black Ships. The writing was just so unusual and unexpected. I have a couple more of hers waiting on my ereader that I will hopefully get to in December or January.

5. Emily St. John Mandel

I haven’t checked out any of Mandel’s other stuff yet, and honestly I’m not even sure it appeals to me, but I did really enjoy Station Eleven.

6. Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Stairs was really, really, really, really good ya’ll.

7. Amy Jo Cousins

I don’t usually make a habit of talking about my taste in erotica cause really, no one wants to know that stuff. But holy schmaow what I’ve read by her so far (Off Campus and a couple of free novella things) is so good. And the characters act like adults and talk out their problems which I particularly appreciate in a genre that tends to manufacture tension simply because dumb people don’t use their words.

8. K.J. Charles

I’ve been hearing about The Magpie Lord for what feels like forever, but I kept putting it off and now I don’t know why. I flew through that book over Thanksgiving vacation, and it was so much fun. It reminded me a bit of a combination of Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. And there are sequels and I waaaaaaaaaaant them.

So that’s all I’ve got. Who did you read for the first time this year that you came to love?

 

 

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Gimme More

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Debut Authors Who Have Me Looking Forward To Their Sophomore Novel.

This is the type of post where I can’t make it to ten. Only seven this time. A lot of authors have had enchanting debuts…and then a lot of other books that I love, too! Coming up with ten authors who have only had one book so far was difficult for me.

(This is also the type of post where I make it painfully clear that I don’t know how to add accent marks to the font in WordPress. Some of these women do, more properly, have accent marks in their names. Someone help me internet.)

 

158190281 Helene Wecker- The Golem and the Jinni

An absolutely enchanting tale of supernatural, turn-of-the-century New York City. I’ve been impatiently waiting for a new book from her pretty much since I read the last sentence.

2 Carol Rifka Brunt- Tell the Wolves I’m Home

A strong contender for the best book I’ve read this year. Just go read it; you can thank me later.

3 Cecilia Eckback- Wolf Winter

This is an atmospheric, very creepy novel about a place in history I knew almost nothing about–Swedish Lapland in the early eighteenth century. The characters were very well drawn and the writing in general was fantastic.

4 Erin Lindsay McCabe- I Shall Be Near to You

This Civil War novel almost wrecked me, which was all the more poignant because I didn’t expect it to. I’m curious to see what McCabe will get up to next; whether she’ll stick with the era and become a sort of Jennifer Chiaverini, or whether she’ll tackle a new time period.

5 Suzanne Rindell- The Other Typist

This roaring twenties thriller made a big impression on me a few years back.

6 Tea Obrhet- The Tiger’s Wife

I’m not sure what happened to Obrhet. A few years ago, she was the buzzy author everyone was talking about and I’d have expected her to have a follow-up by now. Whatever it will be and whenever it will end up appearing, I’ll be excited to read it.

7 Paula Hawkins- The Girl on the Train

This is undoubtedly the debut of 2015. It has been tremendously popular and, at least as far as I was concerned in library-land, came out of nowhere. I wasn’t completely blown away by it, but I did think Hawkins made some interesting choices and it was an interesting read. Whatever she does next is sure to get a lot of attention.

 

Who are you waiting to see a sophomore effort from?

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Vampires

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is a Halloween themed freebie.

I love Halloween. It’s probably my all-time favorite holiday. And I am kind-of-sort-of-maybe-in-the-process-of writing a vampire novel. I mean. I am. It’s pretty atrociously bad right now, but I should probably just own up to it, right? I am working on a vampire novel.

SO. Weird obfuscations and silliness aside, here is my vampire reading list for said novel. For inspiration and tropes and all that fun stuff, although of course I hope the style and plot is all my own.

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Books I’ve read

1. Bram Stoker- Dracula

I have complicated feelings about the father of all vampire novels. Basically, I respect it as a literary touchstone, but when it comes to the actual book I find it…well, really boring. I think I need to see how I feel about it now that I’m not in high school any longer.

2. Holly Black- The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

I love this book. Have I mentioned that I love this book? Because I love this book. It’s scary and visceral and wonderfully character-driven.

3.  Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu- Carmilla

I read this story basically every year. Every time I get something new out of it.

4. John Joseph Adams, ed.- By Blood We Live

There are a lot of great stories by a lot of different style of authors in this collection.

5. Justin Cronin- The Passage, The Twelve

I need the conclusion to this trilogy. It’s such a unique spin on the vampire mythos, and I really enjoy it.

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Books I’ve yet to read

6. John Ajvide Lindqvist- Let the Right One In

I just recently saw Let Me In, and I adored it. It is so fucking scary and beautiful. I’ve yet to see the original version of the film, but it’s on my list. And I had no idea until recently that it was all based on a book…which now I have to read.

7. John William Polidori- The Vampyre

Polidori is probably the biggest omission in my knowledge of classical vampires. I know so much about this story, about it’s creation and it’s influence on Stoker, and yet I’ve never read it. So I need to rectify that.

8. Octavia Butler- Fledgling

The last time I read Butler we didn’t get on so well. I really just found her style awkward and highly overrated, which in some circles of SF is dangerous to say out loud because it’s akin to sacrilege. But, I’m willing to give this a try. Maybe I’ll like it better?

9.  Michael West, ed.- Vampires Don’t Sparkle!

Another story anthology; I love the title’s cheeky allusion to a certain series which I will not touch with a twenty foot pole.

10. Deborah Harkness- A Discovery of Witches

I understand that this is witches and vampires? I’m interested to see what it’s like.

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I have read many, many (many, many) bad vampire novels in my day. And I’m not particularly looking to go in a paranormal romance/typical UF direction, or read them either, which leaves out a lot of the long series. But! Recommend me some vampire novels, folks. Help me fill this list out!

Oh hey, and if you have nonfiction recs about vampires, throw those at me too. I have a pretty basic encyclopedia type reference on vamps, but I’d love to check out more substantial nonfiction on the subject.

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR.

184618231. N K Jemisin- The Fifth Season

I feel like I have been waiting on this book forever. When I’m allowed to buy books again in November (I’m gonna make it through the budget freeze. I am. I AM.), this is the first one I’m going to get.

2.Marrisa Meyer- Winter

Finally, finally, finally, finally! In all truth, I probably won’t be able to crack into this until 2016, but I’m glad it’s finally (almost) published.

3. Rainbow Rowell- Carry On

I’ve already got a bad case of the squees. It’s so pretty. I just love it already. Plus:

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(it’s Rainbow Rowell. Of course it is.)

4. Naomi Novik- Uprooted

Everyone is talking about it. I’m jumping on the bandwagon. (if I can find a copy.)

5. Wilkie Collins- The Moonstone

This massive monster is my Halloween book this year. I hope it’s spooky!

6. Haruki Murakami- Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

I haven’t read Murakami in so long I’m a little bit worried, tbh. I picked this one up because it’s small and I think I’ll like it. Hope that’s the case.

7. Jo Nesbo- Police

So. Almost. Done.

8. The Apex Book of World SF

I recently bought a bundle including all three volumes of these anthologies. Gonna try to start with the first and see how it goes!

9. Jhumpa Lahiri- The Lowland

I’ve been putting off this book and I’m not sure why. But I’m going to power through it, I promise.

10.Ann Leckie- Ancillary Mercy

I really hope I don’t put off book 3 as long as I put off book 2!

 

What are your plans for Fall?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Picture Books

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is a FREEBIE — your choice!

I process all of the children’s and YA books at my library. With so many books coming across my desk, I get a chance to look through all the beautiful picture books and fall in love with them. Most of my friends have kids in the infant/toddler stage…so I am getting pretty familiar with building libraries for pre-reading kiddies.

So this week, here are some of my favorite picture books! Many of them are books that have come across my desk very recently, but some are books that I loved way back when I was a kid, too.

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1. Bob Shea- Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great

Sparkly Unicorn + Grumpy Goat = Magic. I really like Shea’s illustration style, and this book is all sparkles and color and cuteness overload.

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2. Yuyi Morales- Nino Wrestles the World

Lucha libre! This feisty luchadore can defeat any threat, except his nemeses, Las Hermanitas!

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3. Susan Eaddy- Poppy’s Best Paper

When Poppy grows up she wants to be a famous writer. So how come her best friend is the one who’s papers are being read aloud in class? This book (with freaking adorable illustrations) is a really great exploration of jealousy, procrastination, and other not-great behavior, and even though I’m thirty I kindasorta identified with it?

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4. Adam Rubin- Dragons Love Tacos

Everyone loves dragons. Everyone loves tacos. But make sure you don’t give your dragons spicy salsa, okay?

 

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5. Joe McGee- Peanut Butter and Brains

zomg, adorable zombies. This is about a little zombie who dares to be different, and dreams of one day tasting that culinary delight, PB&J. It is so. Stinkin. Cute.

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6. Marjorie Flack- The Story About Ping

A bunch of oversensitive grumps on Goodreads are whining about Ping promoting spanking. Please. It’s a cute book about a cute little duck and a boat with a face. I loved this when I was little, and I still do.

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7. Verna Aardema- Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain

I have always loved this book for the colorful illustrations of African animals.

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8. Polly Cameron- “I Can’t,” Said the Ant

The line illustrations are simple and very retro. I’m having trouble finding this book still in print. It was absolutely my favorite book ever when I was small and I wish I could find it to share with new generations.

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9. Andrea Beaty- Rosie Revere, Engineer

This is a book about experiencing failure but not quitting. Full of clever rhymes and whimsical inventions.

 

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10. The BabyLit board books

These board books are introductions to classic literature for pre-literate children. They range from counting primers to Spanish language primers, and they are completely adorable. BabyLit will probably bankrupt me, honestly, because I buy them for everyone. (For what it’s worth, among the toddler set in my circles, it seems that Jabberwocky is the hands-down favorite.)

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Top Ten Tuesday: It’s Not Me, It’s You

 

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Ten Characters You Just Didn’t Click With.

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1. Jamie Fraser- Outlander

Oh Jamie Fraser, I expected more from you.

I wanted to like him. Look, I am shallow. I fully embrace my shallowness. So yes, hot Scot? Bring it.

But the book version of Jamie was really kind of disturbing to me. Who is this wife-beater and what happened to the charming, romantic hero?

2. Corin and Tam- Moth & Spark

I wanted to like this book, but I couldn’t even make it halfway through. These characters were as boring as a blank page, and I’m pretty sure the hadn’t even met by the time I stopped reading but would still have had zero chemistry.

3. Calliope Reaper-Jones- Death’s Daughter

This is less a character I “didn’t click with” and more a character who would “incite me to homicide,” but nonetheless. This incarnation of, well…Death’s daughter, was one of the most actively vile narrative voices I have had the displeasure of reading.

4. Adelice- Crewel

A character who is so perfectly, naturally talented that she has to “pretend” to be a clumsy loser to save her family in a totally contrived dystopian world. And of course two boys are in love with her. And of course she’s the only person who can stop…well, whatever the conspiracy was. Yet I couldn’t tell you a single one of her “memorable” traits.

5. Yelena- Poison Study

Another perfectly amazing and talented YA heroine who is blander than paste and doesn’t ever seem to do anything to live up to her reputation.

6. Alina Starkov- Shadow and Bone

Oh, and Alina makes three. Some YA heroines are just really boring to me, I guess.

7. Harry Dresden- Storm Front/Fool Moon

I gave Harry Dresden two tries, but he just didn’t appeal to me. I gave the books decent reviews at the time, but I didn’t keep up with them and it’s probably because I didn’t feel much of anything for the main character.

8. Nina Borg- The Boy in the Suitcase

Looking for a new crime/thriller series, I came across Lene Kaaberbol’s Nina Borg. There was nothing bad about this book, really, but I just never connected with the character and didn’t stick with her.

9. Gale Hawthorne- The Hunger Games

Perhaps I am rewriting my reading history with my experience of the movies. Liam Hemsworth’s Gale is just so…boring. But really, what purpose does Gale serve in these books outside of the love triangle? I’m sure I’d be Team Peeta with or without him.

10. Dana- Kindred

Everyone loves Kindred, but I was disappointed by it. So much so that I’ve never read anything else by Butler. I thought the writing was weak and I did not like or empathize with the main character at all.

Boy, this is kind of a downer of a post, huh?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Class time

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is  Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught X 101.

There are a lot of different ways you could go with this. In fact, I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone’s lists this week. I think I’m going to host a pretend Creative Writing course this week. Talent can’t be taught, of course, but there are certain books that can provide instruction, inspiration, and guidelines. So these are some books I would share with a writing class were I actually a successful writer myself.

For the first half of the class, some excellent technical and theory books:

Wonderbook_Case_r2.indd1. E. M. Forster- Aspects of the Novel

This slim book has some of the most inspiring writing advice I’ve ever come across.

2. The Elements of Style/The Elements of Grammar

You have to know the rules before you break them. You have to know the rules before you break them. Say it again, as many times as you need to get it through your head. You have to know the rules before you break them. 

3. Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter- What If?: Writing Exercises For Fiction Writers

This is the first prompt/exercise book I was ever exposed to, and it has a ton of great starting points for stories

4. Christopher Booker- The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories

A bit of a heavy academic tome, but once you learn that all stories come from the same place, it kind of takes the pressure off, in a way. Great for general book nerds, too!

5. Jeff Vandermeer- Wonderbook

There is so much going on on every page of this book that it personally gives me a bit of sensory overload. But it’s a great way to kickstart creativity.

For the second half of my class, I would turn to actual fiction. If you want to write good fiction, you should be able to tear it apart and see what makes it tick. Now “good fiction” and “sale-able fiction” can be different things for different people. And obviously each writer brings their own likes and dislikes to the table, and is looking for different things in a class. But shut up, it’s my hypothetical writing class, so I’m going to teach you the fiction I want to teach you.

6. Robert Penn Warren- Short Story Masterpieces

It’s overwhelmingly white and male and midcentury. Read it anyway. Useful for: learning how to craft a short story.

7. The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov

Useful for: drowning in beautiful language, learning to be playful with form.

8. George R. R. Martin- A Game of Thrones (just, and I cannot stress this enough, just book one. My hypothetical class has no time for discussion on bloated series that overstay their welcome.)

Useful for: learning how to juggle multiple narrative perspectives. Who knows what, when do they know it, what does the reader know, and do they really know what they know, or anything at all? Also useful for: creating character and subverting tropes.

9. Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility

Useful for: writing comedy, character and relationships, turning a small family drama into a centerpiece of action.

10. Daphne du Maurier: Rebecca

Useful for: learning unreliable narrators, creating an atmosphere (in this case one of suspicion and dread), writing some fucking excellent prose.

Because my hypothetical writing class is also endless, and because I’m so very cool, we would also watch the entire runs of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Battlestar Galactica, because those three shows taught me new ways to look at stories and storytelling that I’d never even conceived of.

What do you think is essential study for aspiring writers?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Shut Up and Take My Money

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Auto-buy Authors.

The only thing that most of these writers have in common is that their books make me happy. Once an author makes my auto-buy list, they’re there until I stop trusting them; I don’t even need plot summaries to plop down the cash. Authors *have* been booted from the list in the past, but these have pretty stable for the past two or three years (Tessa Dare is the newest author that I’ve read and fallen in love with on this list).

1. David Mitchell

2. Tana French

3. N. K. Jemisin

4. Courtney Milan

5. Rainbow Rowell

6. Gillian Flynn

7. Tessa Dare

8. Mary Robinette Kowal

9. Elizabeth Hoyt

10. Karen Russell

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Top Ten Tuesday: Once Upon a Time…

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Ten Fairytale Retellings I’ve Read/Want To Read (or you could do fairytales I want to be retold or fairytales I love).

There’s a lot to unpack in this topic. Because fairy tales and folk tales are so abundant in popular culture. They’re archetypal, easy to riff on; they show up in obvious places and in ones you don’t expect. So I could easily make this list just the best ten retellings of x fairy tale, or my ten favorite retellings of fairy tales through historical fiction, or my favorite short stories that play with fairy tales, or ten really fucked up fairy tales that need to be reworked right now. (Then you can get down to the nitty gritty of classification: should I include folktales? What about more generalized myth? What about stories from non-Western traditions? What about stories with grounding in religions?)

So what I  settled on in the end is a hodgepodge. These are some of my favorite was fairy tales have been told in popular culture. They aren’t all books. That’s right. We’re going multimedia, today.

180796831. Helen Oyeyemi- Boy, Snow, Bird

I loved this short, utterly transporting novel and the dark character at it’s center.

2. Genevive Valentine- The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

Valentine has an exquisite grasp of language, and while this book sometimes rests on archetypes, it is a fascinating resetting of the 12 Dancing Princesses.

3. Eliza Granville- Gretel and the Dark

A mélange of the more disturbing aspects of fairytales, this two-pronged historical novel doesn’t quite go far enough for me, but it is beautifully written.

4. The Decemberists- The Crane Wife

My favorite Decemberists album ever, The Crane Wife of course does not just contain the titular story, but those songs are the centerpiece and are also perfect. Witness:

5. Marissa Mayer- The Lunar Chronicles

I was dubious when I started reading these sci-fi reworkings of classic fairy tales (to date, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel). There are some sillier elements, but they are on the whole so much fun to read, and the characters are so well developed. There’s a ton of diversity without feeling like tokenism, and the old stories are approached in really interesting ways.

79452956. My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer

This is an anthology of a number of literary authors writing fairy tales inspired by a wide range of traditional stories from across the globe. The design inspires me as much as the stories, honestly.

7. Disney’s The Little Mermaid

Frozen is big, I know, but anyone who thinks it’s a unique phenomenon needs to travel to my house circa 1990, when I was five years old and The Little Mermaid was the greatest thing in the world. Every bookworm wants to be Belle, but in my secret heart I longed to be Ariel. Watching the movie when I’m older I’m able to see it’s problematic aspects (and one of my main takeaways now is, damn, teens are annoying), but it was the kickoff of the Disney animation Renaissance for a reason.

8. Disney’s Sleeping Beauty

My other favorite Disney animated fairy tale is Sleeping Beauty, mainly from a design and animation standpoint, because it is just such a gorgeous film. I haven’t watched Maleficent and I probably won’t, because I don’t want to ruin my experience of the greatest Disney villain of all time with a thinly veiled rape plot.

9. Ludmilla Petrushevskaya- There Once Was a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales

A collection of haunting, disturbing, altogether weird little stories.

10. “The Handless Maiden

This weird fairy tale is one of the more disturbing ones out there, and it’s also my all-time favorite. It’s a morality tale which should be boring; the central figure is entirely without agency as her father tries to sell her, cuts off her hands, and then completely abandons her. She’s so saintly that her pure tears inspire an angel to regrow her hands. At the outset it seems not-very-interesting beyond the initial violence of its premise, yet there’s something about it that haunts me, and calls for riffing and retelling in different forms.

tl; dr: I really, really love me some fairy tales. What are your favorites?

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