Search

Brewhaha Book Cafe

For Writers, Readers & Tea-drinkers

Category

fantasy

Book Review: Barefoot on the Wind by Zoe Marriott

Hana lives in a remote village surrounded by impassable forest and haunted by a terrible beast. Once a month, the beast claims another victim, from children to the elderly, including Hana’s brother. Since then, Hana has done whatever it takes to keep her parents alive as food dwindles and despite her father’s neglect.

Then the beast chooses her father. He wanders into the forest just like all the others, but this time Hana goes after him and manages to bring him back. Alive, but unconscious, and he won’t wake up. Hana begs for anyone in her village to accompany her into the forest and fight the beast to break the spell on him. No one volunteers, so she goes alone.

There, she fights the beast and while she survives, she is badly wounded. A strange, cloaked man finds her and takes her to his home in the middle of an enchanted garden, tending to her wounds for several days. Hana is intrigued by his kindness and mysteriousness, down to the fact he doesn’t remember his own name.

But he does know about the curse on her village, its origins, and the true monster of the forest. Only by working together and finding the truth of the curse can he and Hana free her father, the village, and themselves.

This is an AMAZING retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in Japan. I love Zoe Marriott’s books and this one is one of my favorites. Hana is a tough, determined heroine and the story itself is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Zoe Marriott doesn’t pull punches when it comes to the curse’s backstory. Great book!

Recommended Tea: Jasmine Green Tea

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling

Camp Nanowrimo

IT’S ALMOST HERE!! Camp Nanowrimo starts in 6.5 hours (for those of us on eastern standard time at least). I have my story mostly planned out, though there are quite a few holes. Check out my two posts about my story to be here and here. It’s a young adult fantasy novel about teens with super powers. But not in a big, us against the world type of story. I’m focusing much smaller, on an incredibly powerful teenage girl and her battle with PTSD, as told through the eyes of the guy who falls in love with her.

Wish me luck. I’ve never written a story told entirely from the guy’s perspective. Should be interesting!

I’m also using Scrivener to write this manuscript and so far I am really liking it, as far as outlining and research goes. I’ll write up a review for it once the month is over.

If you’re also participating in Camp Nanowrimo, comment below and let me know what your goal is and what your story is about. And good luck to all!

NaNoWriMo is OVER!!!

And I did it!!! And it’s not even midnight yet. I’m so proud of myself (you know, for not writing the 50,000th word at 11:55). I completed 50,264 of The Funeral Ghoul and…well…21,590 of Believing in Magic. So not quite what I wanted to accomplish, but hey, I’ll take it! I’m hoping to complete them both before the end of the year.

I think one big difference this year from last year is that The Funeral Ghoul is actually moving along very well. There aren’t any huge plot changes needed (yet) and I know mostly where it’s headed (and as I warned Mez, it’s going to be heartbreaking) though the details are a little fuzzy. Can’t wait until I get there!

As for Believing in Magic, it’s harder for me simply because it’s not really moving. It will, I think, in a scene or two. The main problem is that I’m trying to convey how hard it would be for someone with social anxiety to be whisked of to a completely new world with new rules and new ways of doing things. Which means that I find myself describing how hard it is for her to find her new classroom by herself and how she hides in her room instead of having to face the horror of the mess hall…and so the story itself creeps by.

So there’s how my NaNoWriMo went! Let me know if you participated and how you did and what your plans are now! Happy December, everyone.

Book Review: Dreamwood by Heather Mackey

Lucy Darrington loves helping her father in his work as a ghost clearer, traveling across America investigating supernatural phenomenon—and then he suddenly leaves her alone at Miss Bentley’s School for Young Ladies. There she is forced to stay while he travels to Saarthe, a logging town where the trees are dying from a mysterious blight. Stifled by the strict rules of the school and feeling a bit betrayed by her beloved father, Lucy takes matters into her own hands and runs away, determined to meet her father in Saarthe But when she arrives, she learns her father is missing after traveling to the Devil’s Thumb in search of Dreamwood, a potential cure for the blight. And no one comes back from the Devil’s Thumb.

Confident her father is alive and she can reach him, Lucy sets out for the Devil’s Thumb with the frustrating Pete Knightley, whose family stands to lose everything because of the blight. And all that stands in their way are sea serpents, the Lupine people, starvation, and a forest that causes horrific nightmares. As they travel, Lucy’s confidence begins to fade. Even if she survives the Devils Thumb and finds the Dreamwood, will she find her father?

Despite my less than stellar review (this book is incredibly full of plot, hard to pick what needs to be in the summary), this book was pretty good. It took me a while to get into it, simply because Lucy annoyed me with her overconfidence, bordering on snobbery at some points. She acts uppity even while she is (and I am) disgusted with herself for acting that way. Fortunately, this is actually a main point of the book, Lucy learning she doesn’t know everything. It just takes her a very long time to learn it, and it frustrated me. A lot.

The plot is fast paced and full of fantastical creatures and magic. While it starts out light-hearted, the book turns very dark by the end (think the beginning of the Harry Potter series compared to the end of the series). However, I think the second half is much better than the first. Overall, a good book if you can get past Lucy’s annoying personality. This is one of the very few times I have found the plot of a book to make up for an annoying character.

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy

Tea: Soothing Caramel Bedtime Tea

My Favorite Author

 

So my favorite, all time, hands down favorite book is Pride and Prejudice. Classic, romance, literary. But my favorite author?

Dean Koontz.

In case you haven’t heard of him (I pity you) Dean Koontz writes science fiction thrillers (or just thrillers). When I read his books, I usually start at my own house and end up at my parents because I’m so scared! His books are incredible. I’ve read almost everything he’s written (over 60 books) and I love every one of them. I know when I get his newly published books, which I buy the day they come out of course, I know it’s going to be a great book.

Being a writer, I can’t just say I love his books, I have to figure out why I like them. So here’s why!

The Characters

His characters, from the protagonist, to the antagonist, to the most minor of characters, are all fascinating and distinct. His bad guys range from a sentient computer imprisoning a woman in her own home to power hungry men and women to a man’s own mind turned against him. Not to mention killer clowns, killer Nazis, and killer monsters. They are terrifying but written so well, also incredibly realistic. I never want to meet any of them.

But even better than the bad guys are the good ones. There’s the woman determined to save a girl based only on seeing her picture, the genius dog (literally), and the man who sees dead people. What I love about them all as a whole is their determination to do the right thing, usually for no other reason than that it is the right thing. You can’t help but root for them!

The Endings

I love happy endings and I want my favorite characters to survive the book, and, as a rule, Dean Koontz delivers. Not all of them, but the vast majority. Though his books are scary and violent, I know they are going to make it. It may not be a perfect ending, but it will be a satisfying one with all characters happy, or at least in a better place than they were. Except for The Bad Place. Didn’t see that coming.

The Scares

As long as I’m in a lit room with people, I like being scared. I watch scary movies when I fly because I’m surrounded my people! And Dean Koontz’s books can be terrifying. Is there anything scarier than people being evil for the sake of being evil? Probably a thing of relentless hunger and no empathy. Not only his characters are scary, but the way he writes makes it even more terrifying. So much fun!

The Laughs

Pretty self-explanatory, but it has to be a gift to write books that are both terrifying and hilarious!

The Dogs

Dean Koontz obviously loves dogs and they often show up as wonderful supporting characters in his books. Need I say more?

Now I want to reread some of them. Here are my favorites!

Relentless – A man, his wife, their genius son, and rather strange dog are on the run from a powerful organization. This is one of the funniest books he’s written!

Watchers – Einstein is a dog as smart as a person being hunted by a sadistic monster. This one is so heartwarming and Einstein is perfect.

Life Expectancy – The day he was born, Jimmy’s grandfather predicted five horrible days to occur in his life. And that’s also the day his troubles with a killer clown started. This book has one of the best first sentences ever written!

77 Shadow Street – The Pendleton is a large house converted into apartments with a strange, terrifying history and something strange is happening there again, something evil. This book terrified me!

 Of course there is also Lightning, Phantoms, The Good Guy, Cold Fire, By the Light of the Moon, and Tick Tock. I think I might reread Tick Tock tomorrow…or By the Light of the Moon.

200px-tick_tock

Who is your favorite author? Did they write your favorite book? Why do you like them and what book what would you recommend as a first time read trying out that author? Let us know in the comments!

 

April Greetings!

Happy April! Has spring come to everyone? We are very green and have had some fun (and scary) storms. So it’s one in the morning here in Georgia. Why am I up late? Because there is a Camp NaNoWriMo going on, and I am determined to write at least a little every day, even if it’s just a couple hundred words. Mez is also joining me at camp, so wish us luck!

Fortunately for us, we held a Fairy Tale Competition last month, and to help us out with the blog, we will be posting our top four reimagined fairy tales each Monday, and a quick how we are doing on Friday. Thanks to everyone who participated!! So here is out first one, a reimagining of Goldilocks by Alex Thaxton!

log-cabin-1886620_1920

Goldilocks: The Untold Story

Re-imagined by: Alex Thaxton

    Once upon a time, in a land very far away, there lived a young girl with beautiful golden hair… Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.  I’m sure you have, in some way or another, but I’m not here to tell you that she was eaten when the bears suddenly came home to find her snoring in one of their beds, or to tell you that she lived happily ever after; this is the real story.

You see, Goldilocks (for that was the name of the young girl) was my best friend.  We did everything together—rode our ponies, went to school, window shopped in our little village, and went on walks through the woods.  It was on one of these such walks that the incident occurred.

While humming and skipping along, we came across a house in the woods which we had never happened upon before.  Our parents had taught us not to speak to strangers, but they had also always encouraged us to be polite, so we decided we should try to say hello to the inhabitants.  After walking all the way around the house, we still couldn’t find anyone nearby.  I tried to convince Goldilocks that we should be on our way, but she wouldn’t listen.  She always was a stubborn girl.

Goldilocks found a door that was unlocked, yelled “Hello!” as she opened it, and crept inside.  I followed, hesitantly looking over my shoulder the whole time.

“Goldi,” I whispered, “we really shouldn’t be in here.”

“Why are you whispering?  There’s no one home.  Let’s just explore the place!  Look over here…there are three different-sized chairs.  That seems strange—so mismatched…” she muttered as she marched herself right over to the largest of the chairs.  “Here, give me a boost.”

“We really should go, but I’ll do just this one thing for you, and then I’m going home—with or without you.”

I gave her a boost into the giant chair.  It was large enough for her to lay down without any of her body hanging off of it.  She stood on the edge of it and looked down at me, pouting.

“I think you should stay.  We could both fit up here.  Come on, take my hand,” she said as she knelt down and stretched out her hand.”

“Fiiiiiine.  But then I’m going home.”  I had to climb the leg of the chair as though it were a small-ish tree until I could reach her hand.  She helped me the rest of the way up.  “Wow, this is an even bigger chair than I thought.”

“See!  It’s so fun.  But I also want a chair that’s not so hard to get into.  Let’s climb down, then try the medium-sized chair.”

“Ok…but I still think that one will be too big.  You try that one, and I’ll try the smaller one.  And then, for real, I’m going home.”

“Ha ha, seems like I’ve heard that before,” she said with a smirk.

She hoisted herself into the medium-sized chair, and I sat in the little one with ease.  “This one is just right,” I said.  “Maybe a little bit too wide for me, but at least I didn’t have to climb into it!”

“Let me try it!”

No sooner had Goldi sat in the smallest chair, than she spotted a table with bowls on it.  One of them was steaming.

“Ooooooo I wonder what that is!”

“Goldi, don’t even think about it!  You’ll barely be able to reach the table anyway.”

Unfortunately, I think she took those last words as a challenge.  She clamored into one of the chairs at the table, and up onto the table itself—that was the only way she was able to reach the bowls.

“Mmmm, it looks like porridge.  I love porridge…especially after all the climbing I’ve just done.”  The steaming bowl was, of course, too hot for her to try.  The second bowl she came to had apparently been sitting out for a while.  She dipped her finger into it, pulled out a glob of porridge, and tasted it.  “Well, it’s tasty, almost like they added cinnamon to it, just like I always do…but this one is cold.”

“Goldi, get down here now, and let’s go.  Please!”

“Hold your horses!  There’s one more bowl up here, and I’m hungry.  I just want to try it, then we can leave.”

She moved to the next bowl.  Just as she had done with the previous bowl, she dunked her finger into this one, pulled it out, and tasted the porridge.  “Oh, this one is just right!  And it tastes like cinnamon too!”  To my disgust, Goldi began to use her entire hand to eat the porridge.  She started off slowly, but then a sort of frenzy took over, and she was nearly shoveling it in, until the whole bowl was empty—at which point, she licked the bowl clean, then licked what was left of the porridge off of her hands and arms.

“Well that was one of the most horrid displays I’ve ever seen,” I said.

“Stop trying to be such a grown-up.”  Goldi then climbed back down onto a chair, and down to the floor.  Then, in spite of my objections, she seemed to sort of float towards the back of the house—away from the door we came through.  I tried to grab her arm and pull her back towards the door, but she didn’t even seem to feel it.  She had suddenly grown very strong…and if I remember correctly, her arm felt bigger than normal.

“Leave me alone,” she grumbled (or was it more of a growl?) at me.  “I’m going to take a nap, and I don’t care what you say.  Go home.  I’ll be fine.”

She entered a room with three different beds in it—one giant, one just a little too big, and one that seemed like it was somewhere in between.  With the hand that I wasn’t pulling, she felt each bed, but settled for the smallest of the three.  The first was much too soft, the second was too hard, but the third was, apparently, just right.  I tugged on her arm one more time as hard as I could, but to no avail.  I didn’t know what to do.  I knew our parents would be looking for us soon, and who knew when the owners of the house would return…but as my brain fired off different scenarios, something started to happen.  The golden hair that she was known for seemed to be growing in soft curls on her face, neck, and arms (at least, that was all that I could see since she was under a blanket).  It stopped growing once it reached about two inches thick, but the only “normal” thing that was still visible were Goldi’s eyes.

Then, her eyes started to change too.  They grew farther apart, and became more round.  I was slowly backing away, out of the room, when I noticed that she was growing ears—and not human ones.  These were round and fuzzy, and more on top of her head than human ears.

Snap!  I heard a twig break outside the window.  “Oh no, they must be back!  What do I do now?”  I barely had time to recognize that I had just spoken aloud to myself, when Goldi’s hands shifted on top of the blanket.  Only, they weren’t Goldi’s hands anymore.  They were the hands (well, the paws) of a bear!

It was all I could do not to scream.  I knew then that the house must’ve belonged to bears, and that there had to have been something strange in the porridge that Goldi ate.  I heard the front door creak open, and voices coming through—one very low and gruff, one that kind of sounded like honey (if honey could make a sound), and the third was somewhere in between.  I hid under the bed that my friend was sleeping on.  I couldn’t just leave her there—I had to make sure she would be okay.

I heard some grumbling near the table about porridge being eaten, and I heard them shuffling and clomping toward the bedroom.  They took in the scene of Goldi lying in the bed, and I heard them mutter “not another one.”

I peeked my head out from under the bed.  “Umm, excuse me,” I said nervously.  “My friend and I wandered in here, and she ate a whole bowl of porridge, even though I tried to stop her, and then, she, umm, turned into a bear?  I don’t know what to do.  Please don’t be mad.”

The giant Papa Bear turned and stomped out of the room.  The Mama Bear came toward the bed.  In her honey-like voice, she began to tell me a sad story about how they, too, used to be humans.  An evil witch had played a trick on them and given them some cinnamon to use in their favorite meal: porridge.  Years ago, they used it, and the same thing happened to them as happened to Goldilocks.  She explained that the only reason they still used the cinnamon was that it tasted so good, and that they assumed they were the only ones who would be eating it, so it wasn’t doing anyone any harm.  She promised they would look after my friend, if I would promise to one day catch the evil witch and bring her to justice.  Mama Bear knew that no one would listen to a family of bears.  BUT, Mama Bear did tell me that I shouldn’t tell the real story until the witch was finally caught, or she might come after me.

So I came up with the lie to tell Goldilocks’ parents—that she was eaten by bears in the woods, and that I barely escaped with my life.  Now, however, after years of searching and spreading that lie, I am able to come clean.  I am happy to report that the evil witch was indeed found, put to trial, and condemned to a life sentence of scrubbing out bowls of old porridge.

And she did not live happily ever after.

Fairytale Blueprints

Fairytales are special. We all know that, the way they endure through the years, capture our imaginations, and inspire authors to put their own spin on them.

They also serve as a great blueprint for us writers. Though they differ story to story, many of them have similar elements that can offer us writers guidelines in our own stories. For simplicity sake, I’m going with the most known versions of the tales, and I’m just pulling some generalities. Here we go!

The Hero

dp3

Kind – It doesn’t sound like much, but almost always the heroes of fairytales are kind people, usually surrounded by not-so-kind people to make their kindness shine even more. Now, I’m not saying our main characters need to be sweet, cheerful, singing princesses, but there does have to be something the readers will like about them. There has to be some reason for us, as readers, to want the hero to succeed and not want them to jump in the nearest volcano. Almost always, when I put a book down, it’s because I don’t like the main character.

Brave – Fairytale heroes are almost always brave. No one wants to read about a wimp who does nothing. They can be scared, shaking in their glass slippers, but heroes have to keep moving despite the fear. It took a lot of guts for Cinderella to step into that ballroom all on her own, or for Snow White to flee into a forest she had no skills to survive in. Our heroes have to move, respond to what is going on around them. Belle could have let the Beast have her father, but she took his place. And we love her for it!

The Villain

Disney-Villains-Line-Up-disney-villains-30603523-2560-1920 (2)

 

The villains in fairytales are strong, stronger than the heroes. Snow White was against a queen who used black magic. Cinderella had a stepmother who had complete control over her. Giants, witches, evil queens, tyrannical kings, and, of course, Gaston, the narcissistic chauvinist we all love to hate. Villains need to be strong, whether they are human, forces of nature, or whatever you can come up with! The hero should have to struggle to overcome the villain. There should be no chance in a normal world the hero can take on the villain.

The Supportside (2)

 

Snow White had seven dwarves, Cinderella had a fairy godmother and some mice, Mulan had Mushu. Witty, funny, interesting side characters who support the heroes and give them aid when they need it. Good support characters can really make a story and also provide handy ways to keep things interesting. Heroes can argue with their sidekicks (Eugene and Maximus from Tanlged), get into trouble because of them (Mulan and Mushu), or use them as sounding boards (Sherlock and Watson).

The Conflict

frog-1862977_1920

Something has to happen for a story to form. A ball is announced, a queen’s jealousy boils over, a prince is turned into a frog. Something, good or bad, has to change in your heroes life, and that is when the story begins. If war had not come to China, Mulan would never have joined the army. Many fairytales simply have the hero embarking on a journey , usually to find a treasure. Childless couples trying to have children or getting a child and things not turning out right is also very popular. The point is change.

The End

bow-1137007_1920

Satisfying. That is the biggest thing I look for in the end of any story. Fairytales almost always end with a marriage and the villain suffering a suitable fate…sometimes involving nails and a barrel as in the Goose Girl story. And if it’s Disney, a girl in a beautiful dress. Stories need to wrap up, tie off all the loose ends, leave a resounding feeling. Villains get their comeuppance, heroes get their happiness. That seems to be a little more up in the air nowadays; for some strange reason some people like unhappy endings and sometimes villains get off scot-free, but even then, the best books leave you satisfied that everything ended the way it had to end. Tie a bow on it, it’s done!

So there you go, my take on how fairytales can show us how to write! And three and half days until Beauty and the Beast comes out. CAN’T WAIT!!!

What Are Fairy Tales Made of?

When you hear the word Fairytale, what images immediately infuse your mind?

**(By the way, that’s a genuine question- we really do want to know, so please leave us a comment!)

For many folks, the word Fairytale will conjure up an illustration from a favourite childhood bedtime story, long locked away in a mental keepsake treasure chest. Maybe it’s Goldilocks confronted by three disgruntled bears, Little Red Riding Hood facing off a ferocious wolf, or Ariel singing on a rock in a mist of ocean spray.

The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson and Walt Disney have all contributed to our notions & mental images of fairytales, whether or not we can put our finger on just what makes a Fairy Tale… well, a fairytale.

fairy books.jpg

So what is it that all these stories have in common. What makes them a patch in the vast fabric of Faerie? 

A Fairytale is impossible to define academically. Even one of the greatest Masters of Fairy Stories in the English language, George MacDonald, admitted in his “The Fantastic Imagination,”

Were I begged to… describe the Fairytale, or define what it is, I would make answer that I would as soon describe the abstract human face… a fairytale is just a fairytale, as a face is just a face.

If MacDonald couldn’t describe it, I’m sure as anything not going to try! Perhaps it’s easier to say what a Fairytale isn’t. In his essay “On Fairy Stories,” J.R.R. Tolkien clarifies that,

Fairy stories are not in normal English usage about fairies or elves, but stories about Fairy, that is Faerie, the realm of state in which fairies have their being.

Of course by “fairies,” Tolkien doesn’t mean tiny wee, winged folk with flower-pettle tutus and bonnets. Did you know, that picture of fairies didn’t come around until the Victorian period? And that’s really quite recent in the long history of Faerie.

Far from being being a bunch of Tinkerbells, the residents of Faerie include King Arthur, Robin Hood, and many other larger-than-life heroes and heroins. The borders of Faerie stretch far away, and long ago… across time and space. And the laws of Faerie, though formidable when broken, are not the same as our laws – man can speak to beasts, magic enchantments can transform a prince into a toad, or a servant into a princess! And, for those who adhere to the laws of that magical realm, there awaits justice, triumph over evil, a Happy Ending. But be warned! For those who dare to break its laws, it is a Perilous Realm.

So there’s a hint of the ingredients in this Fairytale Soup we’ve all tasted, and all recognise even if we can’t describe it.

But where do fairytales come from?

The fairytales we know and love have their roots in many different cultures: French, German, Celtic, Nordic, Russian… the list goes on.  It would seem the Realm of Faerie dates back further than any of our modern cultures, a sort of common ancestry that knits us all together. As Tolkien points out,

The history of fairy stories is probably more complex that the physical history of the human race, and as complex as the history of the human language. All three things: independent invention, inheritance, and diffusion, have evidently played their part in producing the intricate web of Story. It is now beyond all skill but that of the elves to unravel it.

It’s no wonder we love fairy tales so much! It’s as if they’re in our blood; part of what makes us human. This “Web of Story” connects us across age gaps, cultures, even time periods! Fairytales remind us that we were made for more than the mundane: we were made for the High Romance, the heroic deed, the unexpected & hard-earned Happy Ending. Long live the Fairytale!

What pictures come to mind when you hear the word “fairytale”?
Which fairytale is your all-time favourite?
Don’t forget to enter our Fairytale Retelling Competition happening this month!

Announcing Fairytale Month + Competition

Have you seen them? The first tentative snowdrops lifting their sleepy heads… the first golden daffodils trumpeting out the arrival of Spring! Soon drab, grey England where I live will transform into a Faery Realm of apple blossoms, forsythia hedges and cool, green forests… the perfect setting for fairy revelries!

So Keep your eyes peeled for sprites, leprechauns and the like, and join us here at Brewhaha Book Café as we celebrate our favourite Fairytales all March long!

From the Brothers Grimm to Walt Disney, from Irish Folklore to German old-wives tales, we’ll be exploring the depths and heights of the Realm of Faery… including a look at fairytale retellings through the ages. 

And now for the creme: We are inviting YOU, fellow fairytale enthusiasts, to take part in a month-long competition of fairytale retelling!

Here’s how to take part.

  • Pick your favourite fairytale and give it a twist; retell it as it’s never been told before! Maybe that means setting it in modern day, or telling the story from a different character’s point of view, or imagining what might have happened if… Sky’s the limit here! 
  • Email your submission (no strict word limit, but maybe aim for 1,000 words or fewer) to us at sippitsisters@gmail.com along with your name & any other tidbits about yourself you’d like to share.
  • Bri & I will announce the Winner & Runner Up on 31 March + feature the retellings on the blog!

We can’t wait to read your fairy-retellings! Now go take a walk in a magic wood, pull out your old Disney collection or sit down for an hour with Hans Christian Anderson… whichever portal takes you to the Realm of Faery. We look forward to journeying there with you this month!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑