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Monday, August 21, 2017

Why Fairy Tale Retellings?




Hello, my lovelies!

I’m not sure if this is a question you’ve asked since I started blogging again but I know it’s a question I have been asked by other people when  talk about my love of retellings so I thought I’d clear it up here and now.

First of all, I would like to say that I can’t speak for anyone but myself. I’m not the authority on retellings and I certainly can’t offer the final word on why they are so popular. But I can offer my insight and so that I shall.


Questions:
I touched on this in an earlier post but would like to expand it a bit here. Fairy tales have so many questions that need answered and sometimes a retelling is nothing more than that- the answer to a question. We read a story and something doesn’t make sense. Our brains like puzzles, they like to figure things out, and sometimes as writers the way to figure that out is to tell the story over again until we find the answers we’re looking for. We like life to make sense and if stories are just an extension of life then why should they be any different?

Or a retelling is just us asking so that the reader can answer it. Or at least try to. Sometimes we’re just as confused as everyone else but we want others to know we’re asking the same questions. We don’t always have the answers and we never claim to. But sometimes we’re searching for that answer, the question worth thinking about, and we want our readers to do the same. We have nothing profound to say, no incredible point to make, we just want you to think for yourself.


Plot:
I honestly don’t know how many other writers write retellings because of this, but I know that part of the reason I write retellings is because I cannot create plots to save my life. The fact that I managed to finish more than one story with an actual plot that wasn’t a retelling is kind of mind-boggling to me. Because I’m awful at plots.

Fairy tales offer a structure and a frame that can otherwise be hard to come by. They help offer a clear story goal and a basic idea of events that can and should happen. And then we have the freedom to go in any direction we want outside of that. The story can be set anywhere, anytime we want. We can do whatever we want with the characters, they can be whoever we want. But we know where they’re going, know what they’re supposed to do. And fairy tales are honestly so short that when you’re expanded them into a full novel they leave so much room for other things to happen. But with the basic framework already laid out you have the freedom to have fun with all the meat of the story.


A Desire to Share:
I like to tell people “I know how to share; I went to kindergarten.” But beyond the basic ability to share I have found that when it’s something that brings me immense joy, I more than know how to share- I love to.

When I read a story that I connect with it makes me happy and I want to share that joy with people. I want other people to experience what I did. I want the story to mean as much to them as it did to me. If I love a character, I want people to see what I see in them; if my mind if blown by a plot point, I want people to appreciate the brilliance of it; if I find a particular theme, I want other people to think about it the way that I did.

Retellings give us the ability to do that- we can show people the beauty we find in stories, help them see that story through our eyes, show them what we love.


Connection:
Fairy tales connect us to the past in the most special of ways.

Think about it for a moment, would you? The stories we love, the ones from our childhood- whether ones we watched or read or had told to us by someone- were stories other people grew up on years before we did. Sometimes even hundreds of years before. A different version, maybe, but that makes it all the more special. Someone in a different country had a version of that story that means so much to you told to them in a different language hundreds of years before you were even born. You’re connected to that person now, someone you will never meet or even know the name of, but you know the same story and that little bit of your childhood is the same as theirs.

Retellings are just an extension of that. We take stories that were made to be changed with each telling, made to hold a piece of the teller, and we tell them. We change things, we answer the questions we want answered, we ask the ones we don’t have the answers to. We share the characters we love most, draw attention to the evil of the ones we hate. We share with our readers the way we feel the story is meant to be shared. Because as the storytellers of old, we want our story to survive. We want our stories to shape the way others view the tale, want our versions to be a part of someone’s childhood or young adult years or midlife crisis. We want the tales that means so much to us to be expanded, to reach a wider audience, the show the story anew, fresh and ready for a new generation.

One of our biggest fears is that we don’t matter, that we have nothing to contribute to this world, that we have nothing to leave behind. Fairy tales remind us of our connection to people throughout the generations. They remind us that people are always connected to people and that we are never alone. Retelling remind us that we have something to add to this world, that our perspective matters.

Every time we tell a tale we are connected to every single other person who has told it, our version of the story a mosaic of all the versions that came before it. And our own story will be a piece in the mosaic of all the tales that come after it.

We matter. We are not alone. We are all connected. And fairy tales remind us of that.

That’s why fairy tale retellings.

See you on Friday! Until the next time we meet, don’t forget to live happily ever after <3

~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Clockwork Scarab: A Review

Hello, my lovelies!

So excited for today’s book review!




The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

4.5 Stars
Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes never meant to get into the family business. But when you’re the sister of Bram and the niece of Sherlock, vampire hunting and mystery solving are in your blood. And when two society girls go missing, there’s no one more qualified to investigate.

Now fierce Evaline and logical Mina must resolve their rivalry, navigate the advances of not just one but three mysterious gentlemen, and solve murder with only one clue: a strange Egyptian scarab. The stakes are high. If Stoker and Holmes don’t unravel why the belles of London society are in such danger, they’ll become the next victims.
~From Goodreads


What I Liked:

For starters I need to start with a recommendation- I actually listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Jayne Entwistle and I strongly suggest you do the same if you can. She has a lovely reading voice and hearing all the different accents in the story (Scottish, American, different English accents, such as posh, cockney, and middle-class) adds so much to the story.  Now, on with the review.

The Setting: Victorian Mysteries are my most favorite thing in the world. I always forget how much I love them until I read one and then I want to let them take over everything. I seriously don’t want to read anything else- I just want to read every Victorian Mystery I can get my hands on.

And this one doesn’t disappoint. The setting is very Victorian with light Steampunk elements.

The Characters: I love the characters in this story so incredibly much! They all not only feel real and dynamic, but they’re also just good, fun people who I wish very dearly to know.

Mina is the niece of Sherlock Holmes and the author does a good job portraying that and making her very much a Holmes while also making her likable and relatable. She does not feel like the emotionless alien Sherlock Holmes can sometimes come across, though she is much more rational than Evaline- the other main character. The book actually tends to spend a little more time with her than with Evaline, and I feel like you really get to know her in those extra pages. Her avoidance of emotions is explained in depth rather than just written off as “she’s Sherlock Holmes’ niece.” She has reasons and depth and feels real and even though she’d hate me for it I desperately want to give her a hug and let her know how much I care about her.

Evaline, little sister of Bram Stoker, is a dynamic character as well, likable and sweet. She’s much more social and concerned with her appearance than the practical Mina, would rather spend her days researching old volumes or experimenting in a lab. That was the thing I loved most about this book- Evaline is the strong one in the book, blessed with a super strength (more on that later) and the trained to fight, but she’s also the one who cares more about the dresses she’s wearing or the state of her hair. It was just really fun to see something other than the usual stereotype where the girl who is tough and strong also couldn’t care less about how she looks. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just nice to see something different than what I normally see.

And then all the other side characters are so well-done. The villain feels realistically terrifying while also being mysterious and intriguing. Definitely a well-crafted villain. Irene Adler (from the original Sherlock Holmes story) plays a role in the story and it’s so refreshing to see her not only as the strong, clever woman she was originally created as, but also to have her portrayed as something other than Sherlock’s love interest (which is interesting because she was never intended to be a love interest in the original story).

And then there are three guys who play important roles to the story- Dylan, Pix, and Inspector Grayling- and each is real and interesting and well-written. Dylan is your typical American teenager and he’s written the way all teenagers ought to be. He’s real, not a stereotype. He’s not just moody and angsty and annoying. His emotions run high but in a realistic way that is interesting to read. And his development as he comes into his own and grows is so well-done. Pix is your typical ne’er-do-well thief who you can’t help but love. He is all confidence and charm and you can’t decide if you want to kiss him or slap him (Evaline has that exact dilemma most every time she meets him). But the more he’s in the story the more you see his depth, his mask slipping so that you can see the fear and self-doubt he tries so hard to hide. And then there’s Grayling. I’m not even going to try to hide it- I love Inspector Grayling. He is my favorite character. He’s Scottish and self-assured and smart and so very perfect for Mina (more on that in a minute). I just can’t even put into words how happy his character makes me.

The Relationships: This book has so many relationships, both romantic and platonic, and all of them are so well done.

I loved the dynamic between Evaline and Mina so much, especially since it felt like one I’ve never seen in a story before. The girls are two strangers who don’t hit it off at first but who then slowly learn to respect and appreciate each other. Not quite rivals but not quite friends, in a world of stories where girls are portrayed as one or the other. They don’t quite like each other at the beginning of the story, though neither does much about it. They are both hired to solve the same mystery and are supposed to be working together and so they do, though they do sometimes try their best to avoid the other or might voice disagreement with the other’s way of going about things. But they never go out of their way to hurt the other and they never once fight. This story clearly sends the message that even if you don’t like someone, you tolerate them and treat them with respect because it’s the decent thing to do. And then as the book progresses they start to see the good in the other, realizing that just because the other is different that doesn’t mean their methods don’t have merit. They realize they might have underestimated the other and are willing to admit that. They start to grow closer, the care about each other. Not quite friends, as Mina says at one point, but something good.

As I mentioned, Pix and Evaline have a complicated relationship but one I would love to see further developed. They bring out a side in each other that no one else does- they make each other feel comfortable not showing their self-assured side at all times. They let their masks slip and are able to show each other their self-doubts without even meaning to. They’re honest with each other about their fear and doubt when they’re both the kind of people who aren’t honest about those sorts of things with anyone else. And it’s beautiful.

Dylan Eckhert comes into Mina’s life quite strangely but the two very quickly become close friends, Dylan far enough removed from Mina and her life that he is able to offer her perspective on who she is and who she can be. He appreciates her in a way that speaks to her, assures her, offers her confidence. They have a beautiful friendship.

And then there’s Mina and Grayling. This is by far my favorite relationship in the book and I make no secret of the fact that I want Mina and Grayling to end up together. They’re both very smart and deductive and they start the book as rivals, neither pleased with the other’s involvement in the case. But as the book progresses and they’re forced to interact more and more their relationship grows into that of almost a partnership, where they share information and discuss the case in a way they never would have dreamed of at the beginning of the book. They also banter and impress the other with their knowledge and it’s just adorable. So adorable.

The Prose: This prose is incredible. The words the author choses to use in her descriptions, the way she describes things, the movement of the prose. There’s a poetry to it that fills me with delight. It’s beautiful.

She also describe the clothes the characters wear to a degree that makes the costumer in me so happy. Like I just giggle with glee when she starts describing clothes, finding the happiest of places within my already happy place.

That One Plot Point
*MINOR SPOILER*
So it becomes clear almost from the moment that we meet him that Dylan Eckhert is from the future. I have literally been saying for years that I wanted to see time travel in a story from a non-point-of-view character and was surprised to find it in this book- the last place I expected to find it.

But it’s done so well! Dylan feels like a foreigner in this world and he doesn’t quite fit. He fits into the story and with the characters but not the world. He doesn’t quite belong and you can feel that but the way he interacts with everything he comes into contact with. He’s dazed and confused, a bit overwhelmed and maybe even a little scared. But he’s also eager and enthusiastic, a bit in awe of the world and the characters- related to people he thought were just storybook characters! And it’s not obnoxious or in your face that he’s from the future. He isn’t constantly making references or getting confused for the sake of humor. It’s natural, the way it fits into the story, and it feels real, like it would probably really look if a character traveled back in time. And I love it

*END SPOILER*


What I Didn’t Like:

That One Part: So the really creepy villain calls a group of girls "my lovelies" at one point in this way that sort of made my skin crawl and I made a super grumpy face and was like "EXCUSE ME, VILLAIN, THAT'S MY LINE!!" Then I flailed around some and complained to some people about it. I'm still a little bitter. And then I felt like I should share it with you all. But I promise that one line did not affect my rating... too much... heehee.

Love Triangle/Romance: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I said I liked the characters’ relationships above, but I also had stuff I didn’t like about them. As mentioned above, I absolutely adore Inspector Grayling. What I don’t like is that he is part of a love triangle including Mina Holmes and Dylan. It’s made even more annoying because Mina spends a good deal of the book trying to convince us that she is ruled by rational thought, which is hard to believe when she also spends a good deal of the book trying to decide how she feels about both Graying and Dylan. Evaline too has a young man who she is weirdly attracted to. And I liked the two of them (as I mentioned above).

But every time either girl is near one of the guys she feels weird and confused and can’t understand why she suddenly feels warm or confused or nervous. Or she gets a flutter in her stomach. Or she notices how he smells or some small thing about him that she finds attractive. And while I love romance, this got a tad annoying. I know it’s because it’s setting things up for later books, but I would have liked it handled a little less intensely…

Evaline’s “Calling”: Evaline is Bram Stoker’s younger sister and it is revealed very early on in the book that her family comes from a long line of vampire hunters and Evaline has been chosen to continue that calling (chosen by whom is never specified, though it seems supernatural in that the calling is discovered by a series of dreams briefly mentioned and accompanied by super strength).

There aren’t actually any vampires in this book (though the description for the second book says there are in that one). Which is funny because it seems like Evaline’s calling is mentioned on almost every page (exaggeration). It seems like you can barely get anywhere in the story without being reminded that Evaline is special, in case we might forget that.

It’s not a huge deal but it does get a little annoying after a little while and I wish it had been mentioned a little less than it was…

The Mythology: At the center of the plot is Egyptian mythology and while it’s always associated with the villain, it is a clear theme in the story and it can get a little creepy in parts. But the creepy parts are always in connection with the villain and never portrayed in a positive light.


A Certain Plot Point:
*MINOR SPOILERS*

In the midst of the girls’ investigations someone dies. The girls are there when the villain kills her and the girls are helpless to do anything. At least, we’re told afterwards that they were. But when the scene was happening it didn’t feel like there was the right amount of urgency or desire to save her. It very much had an “in hindsight it’s too bad we weren’t able to do anything about that” feel, rather than the “right here in this moment there’s nothing we can do and that’s not okay with me” feeling that I think it needed.
The girls DO show great sorrow later that they weren’t able to help and it’s made clear that there wasn’t anything they could actually do. But in the moment when it happened I felt like it wasn’t handled as well as it might have been…

*END SPOILER*

Overall Opinion
I adore this book. I love it as much as humanly possible and then some. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did, having read it last year only because I was mildly interested and one of the things for the reading challenge I was part of was to read a book outside your comfort zone. So I picked this one because I knew there were things I wasn’t going to like.

But then I fell in love. From the very first sentence I knew I was going to love this book. This recent read was a reread and well worth it. I adore this book so much more than I can say. I spent the hours reading it giggling, crying, and sitting on the edge of my seat in suspense. This is a well-crafted by a very talented author and even with all the things I put under things I don’t like I still would recommend this book in a heartbeat. It’s worth the read. You will lose a piece of yourself to this book and be changed forever in the best possible way.

And as usual I made a playlist for it and then I also made an aesthetic Pinterest board this time as well. So be sure to check those out!

I hope to see you on Monday when I share why I love fairy tale retellings so much. Until the next time we meet don’t forget to live happily ever after <3

~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

Monday, August 14, 2017

What I Learned From Fairy Tales




Hello, my lovelies!

I feel like so often these days people love to hate on traditional fairy tales. They like to say “princess stories are bad” or “they’re all so dark and evil” or “girls need strong female heroines so no fairy tales for them!” It makes me sad, really, when people say that. Because fairy tales shaped my childhood and while they may definitely not be for everyone I do not think writing them off entirely is the solution.

Looking back, fairy tales have always held a deep and special meaning to me. And today, I want to share that meaning with you- specially the things fairy tales taught me:

-Princess and the Pea taught me that I don’t have to look like a princess, nor did other people have to believe I am one in order for me to be one

-King Thrushbeard taught me true love doesn’t leave me where it finds me but pushes me to be a better person

-Beauty and the Beast taught me self-sacrifice is always better and to look past what meets the eye

-The Twelve Dancing Princesses taught me the power of having sisters

-Rapunzel taught me it’s okay to dream bigger than what I know

-The Goose Girl taught me that justice wins in the end, no matter how unlikely that seems in the middle

-The Steadfast Tin Soldier taught me that doing the right thing isn’t always about getting what I want

-Snow White taught me that I can be innocent and full of light even if I am surrounded by darkness

-Arabian Nights taught me I can change with world with stories and the power of my voice

-Robin Hood taught me to stand up for what is right no matter the cost

-Peter Pan taught me the beauty of growing up

-King Arthur taught me that standing for what is just and good doesn’t always mean I get what is right in the end but that’s okay, I need to stand for it anyway

-Maid Maleen taught me that princesses can save themselves

-Sleeping Beauty taught me that sometimes the things that happen to me aren’t my fault

-The Snow Queen taught me to never give up on someone, no matter how far gone they seem to be

-The Princess Who Never Laughed taught me the lengths to which people will go to make the people they love happy

-The Frog Prince taught me it’s important to keep my word no matter how hard it is and to not make vows I don’t intend to keep

-Diamonds and Toads taught me that what I say can either be considered riches or make people run in fear

-The Pied Piper taught me that breaking my word is serious and something that will always cost me dearly

-The Little Mermaid taught me that sometimes things don’t work out the way I want them to and it’s okay for life to be sad

-Mulan taught me that I determine my own worth, not my culture or the people around me

-Little Red Riding Hood taught me that I don’t always know what is best

-Prunella taught me that real men will help me even if I won’t kiss them

-The Ugly Duckling taught me that this too shall pass

-The Lion and the Mouse taught me to never think I am better than anyone else and to value diversity

-Puss in Boots taught me that help comes from the craziest places

-Cinderella taught me it’s okay to want to go to the ball

-Medusa taught me sometimes blessings look like curses

-Persephone taught me it was okay to be more than one thing, even if they are vastly different

-Cassandra taught me that just because no one believes me that doesn’t mean I’m not right

-And then of course there are all the countless stories whose names I am sad to say I can’t recall but were full of strong, clever heroines who used their wit and their cunning to save themselves and the people they loved. I always wanted to be those girls. I always knew I could be. No matter the circumstances, no matter the message of the culture surrounding me. I could be these strong, resourceful women who let their spirits and their character define them.


So fairy tales may not be for everyone but I think we ought to give our daughters more credit. We are so worried about what might harm them that we keep them from wonderful stories about strong, beautiful women who could help shape who they are in the most positive way possible.

Or at the very least please stop saying that they harm all girls because they don’t; I was never harmed and I know many others who weren’t. So perhaps give them a chance before writing them off entirely. Or just let them alone if they aren’t for you or your daughter.

How about you? What are some things you learned from fairy tales, either as a child or more recently? I would love to hear about them.

I’ll see you on Friday with another book review! Until the next time we meet don’t forget to live happily ever after <3

~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Forbidden Wish: A Review

Hello, my lovelies!

I am so excited to share this book with you today!





The Forbidden Wish

4.5 Stars

She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world... 

When Aladdin discovers Zahra's jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn't seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra's very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes. 

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury
~From Goodreads



What I Liked:


The Prose: Oh goodness the prose was incredible! It felt much like it does reading the Thousand and One Nights, that same lyrical magic, poetic prose that just makes me want to cry because of how beautiful it is. Even if this book was horrible, I probably still would have loved it for the prose. But thankfully it was far from horrible.

The style was also really cool. Throughout the book Zahra talks to someone from her past, making the whole book much like a love letter to an old friend. And the author manages to do it in exactly the right way so that it’s all rather perfect.

The Characters: I loved the characters in this story. For me, characters are the most important thing in a story so I was very happy that these ones didn’t disappoint.

Zahra is a fascinating character, deep and complicated and complex and yet at her core a very simple person. She had so many layers to get through to understand her but once I did she was easy to understand in the good kind of way. It’s like when you get to know a friend really well. There was a comfort in knowing her.

Aladdin is adorable and sweet and straightforward and I loved him so incredibly much. He leapt off the page at me and had me right from the first moment. He’s exactly what you want Aladdin to be- the scrappy street rat with a heart of gold- but he also feels real, like his own person and never an archetype. His relationship with Zahra is also very sweet and he’s so earnest and adorable and I just love him.

But the book isn’t just about Zahra and Aladdin and that’s part of what I love so much about this book too- there were so many other good characters- especially Caspida and Roshana- and they were all as well developed as the main two. I kind of aspire to be Roshana and Caspida was so well done- earnest and strong but also so very human.

The Relationships: As I mentioned I liked Zahra and Aladdin’s relationship a lot. They banter quite a bit and it was so funny and I loved it. Those were my favorite bits, when they were bantering.

But there were so many other great relationships, not all romantic. Zahra and Roshana’s relationship was phenomenal and I loved the fact that the main character’s backstory dealt with a sister-like love between two girls rather than a forbidden/star-crossed romance between her and a guy as story are prone to do. Not that there’s anything wrong with that sort of story, it was just very refreshing to see something different.

Caspida also had the loveliest relationship with her ladies. I loved the way they were written. There was honestly so much solidarity between girls in this book that it made me so happy. It was empowerment done right.

The Story: it was just sweet and fun and beautiful and I laughed and I cried and I just really enjoyed it and I want more people to read it so I can talk to other people about what a lovely book it is. It also had some good plot twists and was well-developed and a very enjoyable ride.

The World: the story world in this book was so incredibly well-developed. I actually looked up some of the mythology of the world because it was so well-established that I was sure it had to have come from actual mythology. But nope, it was all developed by the author. And wow was it good!

I read on Goodreads that the author isn’t planning on writing any more books connected to this one and that made me really sad because the story world was amazing and I would have loved so much to see more of it.



What I Didn’t Like:


The Romance: okay, so this isn’t strictly true but I feel like this needs addressed. Because honestly if this hadn’t happened I would have probably forgiven everything else and given the book 5 stars. And I don't know any good way to say this so I'm just going to be blunt about it.

Zahra and Aladdin come really close to having sex and I just wasn’t okay with it. They don’t actually but the scene leading up to it gets a bit steamier than I am comfortable with and I feel like not mentioning it wouldn’t be fair to any of you, my faithful readers. I would still recommend this book but not to anyone under 16 (which, to me, is what PG-13/TV-14 should be).

The Story Goal: the author established a goal for Zahra and clearly laid out the dire consequences for not completing it and then Zahra spent a good portion of the middle of the book focusing on Aladdin’s goal instead, setting her own aside for days at a time. I just felt like she maybe didn’t have the sense of urgency that she maybe ought to have had? Not that either story goal wasn’t interesting or a solid goal, but it just felt like the more important of the two wasn’t handled as the important goal that it was.

Darius: okay, so I actually liked this character but that’s the problem. I just really don’t like it in stories where there is a main villain and a lesser villain and the main villain is abusive to the lesser villain. As soon as you introduce abuse I will like the lesser villain and feel bad for them and everything they do I will see as a result of that abuse and have a hard time hating them for being a bully.

I just wanted more from this character because the author made me feel sympathy for him. She handled him well in the end, but I was still left feeling a little empty when it came to him because I wanted a little something more.



Overall Opinion:


I LOVED this book. I would highly recommend it to older young adults without a moment of hesitation. It was so good and I can’t say enough good things about it. If you think this sounds even remotely interesting you need to drop what you’re doing and read this immediately. Because it was such a lovely book.



And look, another playlist! It’s almost complete except one song is missing (because it isn’t on Spotify). For the list to be truly complete it would include “My Petersburg” from the Broadway Anastasia Cast Recording. But otherwise this is the complete playlist.

Does this sound like something you’d like to read? Let me know your thought on it in the comments! And also let me know if there are any retellings you’d like to see me review.

I’ll be back on Monday to share with you some things fairy tales have taught me; I hope to see you then. Until the next time we meet, don’t forget to live happily ever after <3

~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Initial Post About Fairy Tales




Hello, my lovelies!

When I was growing up my family used to visit my grandma (who lived in a different state) a couple of times a year. We visited every Thanksgiving and maybe once more sometime in the spring.

My sister and I always stayed in the same room, which had shelves of books that were all boring and adult. I would always look through them, hoping to find something new and exciting to read, but was instead met with the same thing- boring non-fiction (I have since grown to love and appreciate non-fiction but that is a story for another time).

So every time we went to visit I would end up reading the same book- a beautiful, thick 800+ book of fairy tales. Oddly enough, I always read the same ones over and over too, maybe branching out and trying another one or two each visit. But I read those fairy tales over and over again, disappearing into their world with glorious pleasure.

I started collecting my own volumes of fairy tales over the years after that, finding that most of them contained different versions of the same stories and I ate each version with the same fervor and delight that I had the last. It was in those years of my childhood that I fell in love with my favorite tales: King Thrushbeard, Rapunzel, The Goose Girl, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Beauty and the Beast, Princess and the Pea.

I don’t remember the first fairy tale retelling that I read, which is sad because whatever book that was it changed my life. But whatever book it was, that’s where it all started and it hasn’t stopped since. Over my high school years I would stumble across new retellings as I scoured the library shelves for something new and interesting. I never sought them out really; they always seemed to find me.

I still have favorites from my childhood that I vividly remember reading and having my mind blown by- the classic retelling that breathed new life into my favorite tales, the twisted tales that played around with changing major elements and pointing out the things that didn’t make sense, the silly ones, the serious ones, the mash-ups, the short stories, the novels. I am so excited that I get to share these stories with you someday, to review the old favorites of my childhood and give you a peek into what played such a major role in forming me into who I am today as well as sharing with you new treasures as I discover and fall deeply in love with them.

Each one of these tales holds a special place in my heart, reminding me of my childhood and the magic I used to live in. I think most of my wonder and idealism came from those stories I read as a child, the brightly illustrated versions of tales that had been told and changed and retold to children for years and years and years before. It made me feel connected to the world, knowing those tales that meant so much to me had meant something to a little girl a hundred years before.

Then I became a teen and started reading some of the original tales and I hated them. They made me mad, that my stories, my childhood wonder, was being messed with in such dark and creepy ways. How dare Brothers Grimm write such tales! I wanted the Disney versions, the children’s versions, that were full of brightly colored illustrations, adorable princesses, dashing princes, true love, and good that always triumphed.

As I’ve gotten older I have come to see the beauty in darkness, in how it plays in our lives to contrast the light. It is a necessary evil that deserves much more credit than I give it. I am still not a fan of darkness for nothing more than the sake of darkness but I find that often what I thought was that in stories was in fact something more nuanced and layered. And if that is so not in the original tale, then surely it is my job to make it so in the retelling of it.

I think I remember my first fairy tale retelling idea (I apologize to my characters if I am forgetting another story that came first). Her name was Sage, a version of Rapunzel, who had the power to heal people by taking their pain upon herself. Unlike the original Rapunzel, Sage was broken and cynical and she needed the help of an annoyingly charming runaway prince and an earnest clergy-to-be nobleman’s son to bring her back to her childlike wonder. And I wasn’t three chapters into the book before I had turned the book into a series spanning at least five books.

There was the Rumpelstiltskin retelling about the girl called Rinity who could weave worlds with her words. There was the Beauty and the Beast retelling about the girl unfortunately named Beauty Amen (nicknamed Amy) who worked at a library in order to pay off a debt incurred by her father. There was the Princess and the Pea retelling about the princess who had not yet been named who set out on a quest to recover a precious heirloom the kingdom had lost years before. Somewhere in there fit the Cinderella retelling about the girl who fit the shoe but wasn’t the girl the prince had danced with the night before. The Mulan retelling about the girl called Orchid who had been turned into a soldier but was really just the earnest girl who cleaned things when she was mad. And (upon my sister’s request) a Robin Hood retelling in which Robin Hood’s morals were called into question by the lovable Maid Marian.

These stories sadly never saw the light of day and I don’t know that they ever will. But there are still a very special part of my childhood and I adore them in ways I cannot even begin to express.

Several years ago, I started to realize just how much I love writing retellings. I had of course already played around with some ideas (even more than the series I mentioned) but I started to realize that whenever I would get a new idea I would start to ask myself “What fairy tale is this like?” or “Can I make this a retelling?”

I cannot come up with plots to save my life. Characters and premises come to me with ease but I have a hard time coming up with the plot. The number of times I have explained a new idea to a friend and ended it with “And then they do… stuff…” is almost laughable.

But fairy tales, they solve that problem. See they give me just enough that my story has a goal of some sort, some sort of general idea about what characters are supposed to be doing, but they also leave enough room for me to fill in my own details, characters, setting, premise, and the like.

And fairy tales have so many beautiful questions begging to be answered and when I read them my brain just wants to find solutions to those questions. I can’t let them lie. Fairy tales beg to be explored and I want to be that explorer. I want to be the adventurer who forges ahead and looks for the answers everyone else was looking for, even if they didn’t realize they were.

And there it is. My fairy tale journey.

I would love to hear about your own journey, about the fairy tales that meant something to you as a child and the ones that mean something now. Be sure to tell me all about them in the comments below.

I hope to see you on Friday when I share another book review. Until the next time we meet, don’t forget to live happily ever after <3

~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Fairy Tales of William J Brooke: A Review





Hello, my lovelies!

My mind is sort of spinning as I write this.

I am fresh off of rereading a series I read as a kid, was wildly fascinated with, and didn’t understand a lick. Rereading them now I appreciate them so much more and that’s why my head I spinning- because there is so much going on inside it, so much I’m thinking about and not sure how to say. But I’ll do my best.


A Telling of the Tales:

5 Stars
This is William J. Brooke’s first book in the series. At a glance it appears to be a series of short stories that retell different fairy tales. Except he likes to mess with the fairy tales, asking questions, making changes. The very first story is a Sleeping Beauty retelling in which Sleeping Beauty isn’t quite convinced that she was really asleep for 100 years. From there the stories just get better (though I do love that first one dearly). Some are happy little stories, most have elements of deep wistfulness. He likes to dig deeply into certain themes, particularly that of looking back on your life and feeling regret. It’s a running theme through the whole series and it’s very interesting.

But don’t mistake these stories for anything too heavy. He mixes comedy in seamlessly, as if to remind us not to take life too seriously. And it works. It works really, really well. I wonder if this series is where I got my love for mixing the comedic with the philosophical. I’d like to think it is.

I love each story in this book (all unconnected to each other) and don’t think I can pick a favorite (okay, that's not true- it's "The Working of John Henry") Each story is so different and varied that at first glance it seems weird that they are all in the same book together. But they work and they work well. Anyone who loves fairy tales needs to read this book as soon as possible. And even people who don’t love them should. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.


Untold Tales:

4.5 Stars
This is the second book in the series and while I really enjoyed it, it just wasn’t as good as the other two. I think maybe because it’s a bit heavier than the others? It made me think a lot more (which is never a bad thing) but there were a few things that I just wasn’t sure how I felt about them. Nothing bad!! I just didn’t love them as much as I did the stories from the other book.

There are four stories in this book. The first three are only slightly connected by the tiniest element, the third and fourth closely connected and featuring a character from the first story of the first book (A Telling of the Tales). It was honestly the last story that dropped the rating down half a star. It was CLEVER. Goodness was it clever. But it was a little too clever in places, like the author was trying too hard and it was just hard to wrap my head around, which made it hard to enjoy.

But this one was still really good and definitely worth the read!


Teller of Tales

5 Stars
This is without a doubt my favorite of all the books. I loved each and every one of them but this one blows the others out of the water. It’s written more like a novel, each story not its own, intertwined with the framework story and acting as a mirror to the characters and their lives (particularly the lives of Teller and the Girl, the two main characters).

All of the stories in this book connect and then the last story connects to the first story of the first book in a super cool way (which I shall not elaborate on so you can experience it for yourself when you read it). The stories are deeper in this book, the characters rounder, more dynamic. They suffer from more real things and are more dynamic. And because you get a whole book and not just a short story with them, the characters grow more, change over the course of the stories.

There are still fairy tale retellings, they’re just different. But the good kind of different. And definitely my favorite.


Overall the series is incredible and I am very happy with the money I spent to buy them since my library got rid of the copies I read as a kid. As I said, I would recommend them to anyone who loves fairy tales or is even slightly interested in them. Or anyone who likes slightly quirky stories that mix comedy and philosophy. Or if you’re a writer, you’d really appreciate not only his prose but the stories he tells about telling stories. They’re so good. Really anyone just looking for some good books to read. Because these are so good. So, so good.

These stories have stuck with me since the first time I read them all those years ago, though I was far too young to understand and appreciate them fully then. I used to think back on them and remember things the author did and the questions he asked about the stories. Even though I didn’t get them fully as a kid, I think these really shaped the way I look at fairy tales. I was scared to reread them, thinking maybe it would ruin the magic but I was wrong. They made things even more magical. The stories made sense this time, they captured me in ways I never would have dreamed they could. I want more and I’m so sad this is all there is.

So yes. I would definitely recommend them. I myself am going to treasure my copies and keep them safe for reading and rereading. Because I just read them but I already know these are stories I’m going to want to revisit very soon.

Also, I made a playlist. There is one song for each story in the first two books, in the order they appear (nine songs in all). The rest of the songs at the end are for the characters in the last book. I don’t have songs for their stories yet and I feel like this book is too special to try to force anything. Hopefully I’ll be adding some songs for them in the future.

I’ll be back on Monday to talk about my personal history with fairy tales and I hope to see you then. Until the next time we meet, don’t forget to live happily ever after <3

~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

Monday, July 31, 2017

Welcome to the (Newly Renovated) Ivory Palace!

Hello, my lovelies! I'm back!!!

I know it has been much too long and for that I apologize. But the hiatus has come to an end! Allow me to welcome you to the Ivory Palace Grand Opening! Please, come inside and allow me to give you the tour.

First of all, you’re probably wondering “Why a renovations?”

Well, besides the obvious fact that I have been really bad about updating consistently, there are several reasons:

-One: like all things should, as I get older I am growing and changing. And as this blog is an extension of me so too it needs to grow and change if I plan to keep it up.

-Two: As much as I know many of you enjoyed reading about the writing world here I started to realize that you never actually really got to see my writing world. And this isn’t a blog about professional writing. This is a blog about my writing and the lens through which I see stories and the stories that matter most to me. So I would like to start making my writing posts more authentic and better reflections of me.

-Three: Book reviews are fun and I really want to do more of them. Plus I love getting to share with you all the lovely books I read (or rant to you about the ones I don’t like). And as a general rule people tend to like posts about books. So it just seems smart to do that…


All right! Now that we have that out of the way, allow me to give you a proper tour.


General Overview:

As you can see, I have a new banner across the top, stating that within the Ivory Palace you will find things pertaining to fairy tales, book reviews, and writer rants. This is of course true or I never would have posted it. Things will basically be very much the same around here, except that there will be posts more consistently and there will be a lot more that has to do with fairy tales. Because I love fairy tales and am finally giving into this fact. I will tell you more about that in the coming month.

You can also see there are more pages along the bar at the top. I like to think of each of these as a newly renovated room in the palace. They include:


“About Me”:

It’s where you get to peek into my personal life and learn about who I am. I have a profession bio at the beginning, which is short and sweet, but a little farther down is also the longer, fun bio.


“My Books”:

This is of course where you can find information about the books I have published and places to buy them. You will also be able to purchase any of my book there in the future (except the Kit Parker books because of copyrights, but they will still be available on Amazon)


“Contact Me”:

If you want to send me an email about anything related to my writing or my blog, this is the place to go to. I would love to connect with you and will try to respond to you as swiftly as possible. And seriously, every like, follow, comment, email, and such make me so incredibly happy so please don’t hesitate! If you are looking to connect with me on social media, you can do so by following the links on the righthand side of the top of this (or any) page.


“Reviews”:

This is the Royal Library, the only room still under construction. But only because I haven’t started posting my reviews yet. In the months to follow as I post reviews I will add links to this page so they will be easier to find in the future.



But my newly renovated pages are not the only changes coming to the Ivory Palace!

Theme:

As I mentioned above, I am revamping my posts so most of them have a fairy tale theme. And there will be a lot more book reviews. Fairy tales have been very important to me for a long time (as I will share with you in the upcoming month) and have become an integral part of my writing. So it would be amiss if my blog did not reflect that.

But I will also be posting writing advice and rants, so don’t worry! I know all of you love to listen to me rant…

In the meantime, please have a look around and drop me any feedback you have in the comments. I would especially love to hear your thoughts on the updates, along with any suggestions for books you would like me to review (fairy tale retellings specifically), writing related articles you would like to see, and fairy tales you would like to hear me talk about.


See you at the end of the week! Until the next time we meet don’t forget to live happily ever after <3

~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess