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Friday, September 22, 2017

The Princess Test: A Review

Hello, my lovelies, I’m back for book two!

The Princess Test by Gail Carson Levine
4.5 Stars
King Humphrey has decided it's time for his son, Prince Nicholas, to marry. But he must make sure the bride is a real princess. So he devises a series of princess tests, designed to weed out the phonies and the fakes. Meanwhile, Nicholas has fallen in love with Lorelei, a mere blacksmith's daughter. She's no princess, but he wants to marry her all the same--but how will she ever pass the terrible tests?
-From Goodreads

When I read this series as a teen I read them out of publication order because I read them in the order I could get them from the library. This was actually the last book that I read so it was nice to actually read it in the “right” order this time around.

I really love this book. It’s a Princess and the Pea retelling and the author does such a wonderful job with it. Her additions are clever and fun, while also keeping with the original heart of the tale.

What I Liked:
As I stated, I really like this book. It might be my favorite of the series (I’ll hold out on making that decision until I’ve reread all of them though). The story is sweet, much like its predecessor. But this story feels tighter than the other, better put together.

I love the twist the author put on the original tale, stating right from that start that Lorelei (our “princess” who actually happens to be a blacksmith’s daughter) is a very particular person. From her birth she has always needed things to be just so.

But this need is just that- a need more so than the desire most Princess and the Pea interpretations tend to make it out to be. Lorelei doesn’t do the dishes not because she’s spoiled and stuck-up but because she gets a rash when she does. She is also very accident-prone so any game she plays or chore she is set to almost always ends in blood.

At heart she is a sweet girl who hates how much of a burden she is to everyone. And when she does point out that things aren’t just so she does it kindly and discretely. She is never stuck-up, picky, or rude. She’s kind and loving and gentle and I love her so much.

Just as much as I love Prince Nicholas, the love interest. He’s kind and earnest and endearing. He isn’t particular at all, not noting the subtle imperfections that his parents and Lorelei so easily pick out. He is quite happy and content with taking life as it comes.

His and Lorelei’s relationship is sweet and charming (and like the last book very appropriate even for younger readers). The author puts a nice twist on the “love at first sight” cliché, while also avoiding the “bickering at first sight” cliché. I loved them together from the start and that never changes over the course of the story.

As with the last book (and as is a running theme in this series) the writing style is clever and fun. The King and Queen (as a twist on the original tale) are very finicky and their words choices fit that. It’s really fun and makes the story even better. The narration is also great, making it the perfect sort of book for reading aloud.

What I Didn’t Like:
The villain in this book is the housekeeper Lorelei’s dad hires to look after her when her mother passes. The woman gets fed up with how particular Lorelei is and how much work she is to care for and she decides to do her in. It’s honestly all a bit weird. I don’t know why the author felt this was the right thing for her story because I frankly find it really, really strange.

It’s only a part of the book’s conflict though and I was able to overlook how odd I thought it was (perhaps from all my years of reading actual fairy tales and having to overlook other really strange things?)

As I have said several times, I really like this book. Save for the weird side-plot of the murderous housekeeper there isn’t much I dislike about it. I definitely liked it more than the first book and am so very excited to keep rereading the series to see what else the author has in store for this world.

The playlist, as I stated last week, will be up when I've finished reviewing the rest of the series!

On Monday I’ll be sharing my thoughts on how writers can talk to non-writers (a follow-up to this post) 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

P.S. Let’s chat! What are some of your favorite Princess and the Pea retellings? What are some things you haven’t seen but would like to in a retelling of this tale?

Monday, September 18, 2017

How To Talk To Writers: A Guide

Hello my lovelies!

Today I wanted to talk about writers.

We’re a strange breed, don’t you think?

We can be introverted or extroverted, young or old. We come in all shapes, sizes, and races. The only thing we all really have in common is we’re all creatives who have a story (or several stories) to tell.

Also, we can be hard to talk to.

Now some of this is on us. We can be intimidating to talk to because writing, while a common enough career choice, isn’t one people come in contact with all the time. Writers are like garbage workers- you know they exist but how often do you really meet one?

And when you don’t come in contact with us very often it’s understandable that it can be hard to know what to say to us. And while it’s certainly a generalization and one that by no means applies to all writers, a lot of times we’re introverted individuals. We can be quiet, reserved, shy, whatever you want to call it. So when you start talking to us, while you’re being friendly, we’re a little nervous and what is coming across as maybe disinterest, snobbery, or shortness is nothing more than anxiety.

Introverted or extroverted, we’re wondering if you’re judging us. Because we’ve all been judged before. Are you going to tell me my career choice is a bad one? Are you going to make that same “joke” everyone makes about how you hope I like to starve or that I need to get used to rejection? Are you going to tell me that I should be writing this new idea you came up with the other day? Are you going to ask why I don’t just self-publish my books because you have a cousin who did that and it’s so easy?

But what else are you supposed to say? How are you supposed to talk to these strange and oh-so-fascinating individuals?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!

Please Don’t Ask If We’re Still Writing:
Chances are if you talked to me a few months ago about my writing or you remember my mom mentioning it to you when you saw her at the store last week, then yes. I am still writing. Writing is a very important thing to me so when asked if I still am it comes across that maybe it isn’t obvious how seriously I take my writing. And that hurts. I want to make this a career so when asked about it as if it’s merely a passing craze can be a bit annoying.

Also the answer to that question is a one word “Yes.” I’m not sure if you actually care more about that and want me to elaborate or if you’re just being polite and would hate it if I went into detail about my writing.

Instead Maybe Ask:
“What are you writing?” If I’m not working on something it will be no different than the question above where I say I’m not and we move on. But there is a very high chance I’m working on something and I am usually very excited to talk about it. I have an answer to that question.

Other questions that are good to ask are “So what exactly do you love so much about writing?” “Why are your characters special to you?” “What does your writing routine look like?” “How often do you sit down to write?” or really any question directed to get the writer to talk about their writing. If you have questions we would rather you ask those, would rather share that part of our lives with you, than have you ask a question with a one word answer.

Please Don’t Make Jokes About Our Choices:
We know writing is hard. We know making a career out of it will likely pay little and that we might even have to get another job to support ourselves. We know that rejection letters are a common thing and we are going to have to accept them. We know. Any friendly advice you feel the need to offer in the form of a joke we have heard before. So many times before.

And it hurts, honestly. When you tell us you work at a bank or as a teacher or a secretary or in retail or customer service or any other career that isn’t in the arts we don’t make jokes about those. Or we shouldn’t. You know how annoying it is when people make jokes about your job or talk about it like they know more than you do. It’s the same with writers. Ours is a career choice like any other.

Instead Maybe Ask:
Again, ask why we’ve chosen that career. It’s crazy if you think about it- we know we’ve chosen a job that may never make us any money. We understand the truth behind the starving artist stereotype. So why, knowing what we know, have we still chosen to follow that career? Instead of assuming it’s because we’re delusional or don’t understand what we’re getting into, ask us what our reasons are.

Because trust me, we have them. There are as many reasons as there are writers but I promise that every writer has their reasons. So if you want to know, please ask. We would love to tell you our reasons.

Please Don’t Tell Us Which Publishing Path to Take:
A lot of times when the fact that we’re a writer comes up, we’re asked about publishing. Have we done it? Do we plan to? What route are we going to take?

Publishing is a very complex world and one that should never be entered lightly (as I discuss at length here). Just because your cousin Martha self-published doesn’t mean it is right for every writer you come into contact with. In fact, there are a lot of writers it isn’t good for. But a lot of young, impressionable writers don’t know that and it is the people who don’t understand the publishing industry, who tell these writers that self-publishing "is a wonderful option!" that end up hurting writers in the end.

Writers need to do their research and seek the advice of professionals before they take any steps toward publishing. Just as we don’t tell you how to work toward getting a promotion at work, so too non-writers really shouldn’t be telling writers how to go about publishing their work. Self-publishing is something that needs to be approached with absolute surety that it is the right option for the writer. It's not right for everyone and if it isn’t right for a writer then doing it can hurt their chances of publishing traditionally in the future.

So please, if you take one thing away from this, please stop telling writers to self-publish.

Instead Maybe Ask:
What our publishing plans are. We’re either going to say traditional publishing, self-publishing, we don’t plan to publish, or we’re not sure. From there you have so many questions you can ask us! Why have we chosen the path that we did? If we don’t plan to publish then what drives us to still write consistently? Ask us what steps traditional or self-publishing entail and how we plan to approach them.

There are so many complexities to publishing and if we have the answers we would love to share them with you. So please don’t assume you know more than we do about any of this and instead maybe listen? Or if you want to share profound wisdom with us about something, tell us about your own job. I’m sure whatever career you’re in I know next to nothing about it and I would rather you tell me about it than you tell me how to do my own job.

Please Don’t Tell Us What to Write:
This one happens all the time. Someone finds out we’re a writer and their first response to it is “I had this idea that you should write.”

The problem with this is that most times it isn’t a genre we write. I write Young Adult Fairy Tale Retellings. Romantic Adventure Comedy is my preferred genre to write in and I write stories that are driven by characters and their interactions more so than plot. So when you start telling me about that hard sci-fi idea you had that I really need to write I honestly get overwhelmed. I can’t write hard sci-fi. I didn’t grow up with it and haven’t fully gotten into it since. So while I can appreciate it as a genre it’s not one I understand enough to actually write a story in. So you telling me I need to write the story puts me in a very awkward position.

How do I tell you no without it coming across that I hate the idea? But how do I tell you that I like the idea without it coming across that I plan to write it? I start to panic then and look for a very quick way out of this conversation. Which is sad, because I really did enjoy talking to you before this.

Instead Maybe:
Either ask about what we do write and what sort of things we’re working on or else just tell us you have an idea you’d like to write someday. Your idea probably isn’t a bad one; it’s just not something we want to write. Don’t take it personally.

And even if it is in the genre the person writes that doesn’t mean they have to love it to make it worth something. Sometimes an idea just doesn’t click for a certain writer. That doesn’t make it a bad idea, it just means that isn’t the writer to write it.

Please Don’t Ask Questions Out of Judgement:
As I have stated again and again, we writers really don’t like to be judged. No one likes being judged.

When I asked my writer friends what some things were they would like to be asked by non-writers or things they hated being asked the theme that popped up the most was that it wasn’t always the questions so much as how the question was asked.

“So why do you write?” can be a very loaded question. If you ask it out of genuine curiosity it makes us happy because we can share a piece of ourselves with you. But when asked out of judgement because you don’t deem it a worthy endeavor we pick up on that and it makes us not really want to continue with the conversation.

Same goes for any question you ask really.

Instead Maybe:
Ask out of genuine curiosity with a desire to hear our answers and have a conversation or change the subject. We aren’t going to be offended if you don’t want to talk about our writing.

Writing is a very personal thing to us. It is important and valuable and we are learning how to use it to say what we want to say, how to tell stories as we seek to understand the role stories play in our society, and how to understand ourselves and the people around us. It means something to us and it hurts when someone comes along and tells us condescendingly that they don’t approve of our choices.

We don’t ask you why you became a bank teller or a waitress or a mother or a sales clerk. We don’t offer snide comments and pointed looks about your wages or whether you offer anything of value to society. And if we do it’s wrong of us to do so. So very wrong.

So please, don’t do the same to us. Either seek to understand us or move on with your life. We have ourselves figured out and assuming that we don’t isn’t going to benefit either of us.

Thank You:
Some of my favorite people in the world are the ones who don’t write and don’t understand it at all but have taken the time to care because it means something to me. So to everyone I know who has played that role in my life, thank you.

And if you have a writer in your life, seek to play that role for them. I promise, we’re not so strange once you get to know us. We really do make sense, I swear.

What are some things you have learned from the writers in your life that you might not understand otherwise?

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

~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Fairy's Mistake: A Review

Hello, my lovelies! Excited to share today’s book with you!

The Fairy’s Mistake by Gail Carson Levine
3.5 Stars
Two very different sisters have two very different encounters with the fairy Ethelinda. Rosella is kind and helpful. Her reward: Jewels and gems tumble out of her mouth whenever she speaks. Myrtle is rude and spiteful. Her punishment: Bugs and vipers slither out of her mouth. The fairy Ethelinda feels she's meted out justice just right--until she discovers Rosella has been locked up by a greedy prince and Myrtle is having the time of her life!
-From Goodreads

This is the first book in the Princess Tales series.  It’s a retelling of Toads and Diamonds, a classic, lesser-known fairy tale. This series has been a part of my life since I was a teen and I am so excited that I get to read it again and share it with you over the next several week!

What I Liked:
This book is cleverly written, the tone being set from the very first sentence. You immediately know this is going to be a fun, light-hearted story. It has a very classic fairy tale feel, this story able to be put right alongside an original fairy tale with ease.

It’s a quick read- I read it in a single sitting- with the airy tone making the story move easily. There isn’t much meat to the story; the plot advances rather fast with each scene furthering the main plot. And yet the author manages to pack a good deal of character development into what little space she uses.

The characters are so well-done. I really loved Rosella, who is “blessed” with precious jewels. She is sweet and kind but the author, though she doesn’t delve too much into it, gives her a depth that makes her feel more than a pushover. She is sweet and kind and she lets herself be taken advantage of by the people around her partially because of these qualities but also partially out of fear. It’s a well-done explanation and one I really appreciated seeing.

Myrtle as well, Rosella’s sister and the one “cursed” with toads and snakes and bugs, is someone I found myself liking. There isn’t much to like about her as she isn’t necessarily a nice person. But still, for some unexplained reason, I found myself unable to dislike her. Still, her rudeness is never portrayed as something that is good or right or that should be emulated.

Prince Harold has some nice character development as well. He changes the most over the course of the story and I really like what the author did with him.

The relationship between Rosella and Harold is really adorable, despite my reservations about their age (see my comments below in “What I Didn’t Like”). It’s hardly such that can be called a romance given that there is so little time to dwell on it, making it a good story even for a younger audience.

And the book has illustrations! I don’t know when the last time I read a book with illustrations was and it’s quite refreshing.

What I Didn’t Like:
The story is simple and sweet but I felt it moved rather fast in places. I wished there was more time to delve into the characters or plot a little deeper, instead of just moving on quickly. It suffered from the same things original tales do- there were holes I wished to see filled instead of glossed over. Also, as much as I liked Harold’s development, it might have been nice to see it take a little more time so that it could grow more naturally. And I would have maybe liked to see Myrtle grow a little more as a character.

My biggest concern is that Rosella and Myrtle are only fourteen. I didn’t remember this being the case when I first read the series but it’s stated quite clearly in this first book. And from what I've reread of the others it feels like this is a common theme in the stories- very young people getting into relationships. There is a disconnect, given that it’s a fictional kingdom and things move too quickly to really delve into how young they are, so I don’t think the author is encouraging anyone that young to actually be in a relationship. But it still startled me a bit when I read it now.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s simple and quaint and while not anything extraordinary, it’s charming and clever and well-written. For the first book in a series I think it could have started out on a bigger bang. But it offered hope for greater things to come in the future and I’m looking forward to rereading the rest of the series!

I would highly recommend this book for middle grade readers or older. Or it could even be read aloud to younger readers who might not quite be able to read some of the bigger words on their own.

Have you read this book or any others by this author? Does this sound like something you would like?

Since the book is so short I’m going to hold off posting a playlist until I review the last book since it will be a series playlist rather than a separate list for each book. I look forward to sharing that, along with the rest of the books, with you in the upcoming weeks!

I hope to see you on Monday for a writing related post. Until the next time we meet, don’t forget to live happily ever after <3

~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

Monday, September 11, 2017

Is Your Story Fit For the Internet Age?

Hello, my lovelies!

Let’s be honest: we all want to be famous.

As we plan, and outline, and write, and edit, we picture our book on the bestseller list. We picture book signings in huge fancy stores, packed, with lines longer than any book signing has had before.

We’ve got a dream cast picked out for when they make our book into a movie (not if, when), ignoring the little voice in our heads that reminds us by the time we get famous none of these people will be the right age to play our characters.

We’ve practiced interviews in our heads, have posts planned, have dreams of what kind of author we plan to be (the kind who hangs with their fans, the mysterious and elusive writer, etc.).

We all want to be famous, all picture our book going big.

So, I’m going to indulge you in that fantasy. You want your book to go big. If it does, is it suited to the internet age?

See, everything’s on the internet these days. People don’t mean to do it, but they go see a movie or they read a book and they posts spoilers without meaning to. They write a review and mention the ending. They screenshot scenes with the dialogue on screen and it gives just a little too much information. They post a Facebook status, they post to Tumblr, they post on a “book confessions” thing, and then it gets posted around, shared and reshared.

Then I see it on Pinterest and know how it ends.

Before I even started reading the Divergent series, I knew how it ended. I hadn’t read one single word in the book and I knew the most major spoiler at the end. I also knew every major character and most of their backstories in the Heroes of Olympus series before I finished reading the series that comes before it (Percy Jackson).

I finished the entire Divergent series in the space of a week. I never finished the first Heroes of Olympus book, Son of Neptune. So, why did I finish one but not the other?

I couldn’t get through Son of Neptune for a number of reasons, but I think I could have overlooked every other reason if the author hadn’t hit me in the face with the idea of suspense every five seconds.

There’s this huge mystery surrounding one of the main characters in the book. Major, major mystery with so much suspense. The entire book rides on it. Now, years ago, you could make your book ride on one thing. You could center your plot around one key point. But not today. Not in the YA world.

See, I knew the answer to the question the author was dangling over my head. So every time he dangled it, every time he made the engaging part of his story ride on the fact that I didn’t, it fell flat. I didn’t care, because I knew. And, that was the only thing his plot seemed to ride on. The burning question, the big things that needed an answer, I knew what was going to happen.

So I didn’t care.

On the other hand, knowing how the Divergent series ended didn’t change anything for me, because there was so much else going on. The books have so many layers, so many facets, that if one or two of them are spoiled, there’s still so much there, so much that is unknown and so much else going on, that the series is still engaging to read.

And yes, the story’s working toward the major spoiler, but the author never dangles it over your head. It’s not a huge mystery, not some huge thing that the entire series hinges on.

Now, I’m not saying your story can’t hinge on a plot twist. I’m saying you have to give your story more of a draw than that.

A good example of this is the original Star Wars trilogy. We live in an age where almost everyone knows Darth Vader is Luke’s father. “Luke, I am your father” is one of most quoted movie lines of all time (even though that’s not actually a direct quote from the movie).

But people don’t hate Star Wars because they know that, even if they know it before they watch the movies. Because there is so much more to the story. The entire plot doesn’t ride on whether or not we know Vader is Luke’s father. There’s more to it and that’s why people are able to enjoy the movies even knowing what is going to happen.

Your story can have plot twists. Major plot twists. It can have the biggest plot twist in the history of plot twists. But your story can’t hinge on that.

Basically, books that are only good the first time through don’t work anymore. Those worked in an age where people didn’t have spoilers, people didn’t know what was coming. Now that we have stories being spoiled left and right, you need something better.

The internet has presented us with a challenge; one that the great writers will rise above and see as a push to make their book even better. It needs to stand the test of time, needs to be able to be read and reread and still be just as magical to read as it was the first time through.

It might take a little more time, might be a little more work. But then, writing is work. It’s so much work.

And, I would like to specify that I think this mostly applies to the YA genre. Spoilers don’t seem to get out as much in books written for the adult world. Like, Agatha Christie’s books have been out for ages and I haunt a lot of literary sites, read a ton of literature related blogs, but I have yet to see a single spoiler for any of her books. So, I’m not sure it applies as much with other genres as it does the YA. I think it’s because young adults are more active online and they especially seem to interact through stories. But that might only seem to be the case because I’m in more contact with young adults and read more young adult books than adult.


What are some of your favorite stories that include plot twists? What are some that fall short for you?

I hope to see you all on Friday for a new book review! Until the next time we meet, don’t forget to live happily ever after <3

~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

Friday, September 8, 2017

Rapunzel's Revenge: A Review

Hello, my lovelies!

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale
4.5 Stars
Once upon a time, in a land you only think you know, lived a little girl and her mother . . . or the woman she thought was her mother.

Every day, when the little girl played in her pretty garden, she grew more curious about what lay on the other side of the garden wall . . . a rather enormous garden wall.

And every year, as she grew older, things seemed weirder and weirder, until the day she finally climbed to the top of the wall and looked over into the mines and desert beyond.

Newbery Honor-winning author Shannon Hale teams up with husband Dean Hale and brilliant artist Nathan Hale (no relation) to bring readers a swashbuckling and hilarious twist on the classic story as you've never seen it before. Watch as Rapunzel and her amazing hair team up with Jack (of beanstalk fame) to gallop around the wild and western landscape, changing lives, righting wrongs, and bringing joy to every soul they encounter.
 ~From Goodreads

This graphic novel has been one of my favorites from the first time I read it! I was going to say that I was ten or eleven when I first read this book but a quick look at the publication date shows I was fourteen when it came out. So I’ll just say it feels like this book has been a part of my life for a very long time.

What I Liked:
The Retelling- This is such a clever take on Rapunzel! The author sticks close to the themes and ideas of Rapunzel but sets it in a new setting and offering us some delightful twists, making the story more one of Rapunzel coming into her own and learning to stand not only for herself but also those who’ve had their voice taken away from them.

The Setting- This book is set in a fictional world that is based off the Old West and It. Is. Glorious. It had all the feelings that you want out of a stereotypical western and then some. My little western loving heart was so incredibly happy.

Jack (and Jack and Rapunzel’s Relationship)- Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk) happens into Rapunzel’s life quite by accident. And from there the two bicker, banter, and become fast friends. Jack’s exactly the type of conman you want in a story- shady but lovable- and he runs into your heart right from the very first page. He’s funny (partially because he isn’t funny but thinks he is), clever, terrified of getting into danger and yet always scheming some scheme, and just really, really fun.

He and Rapunzel have a wonderful relationship, starting as two strangers thrown together, growing into friends, and then developing into something more. It’s sweet, natural, and I love it.

The Story- As I mentioned above this is more a story of Rapunzel coming into her own, learning to be strong, and standing up not only for herself but others as well. It starts when Rapunzel is locked in the tower and she realizes she has to get out on her own or stay there forever.

But the moment she realizes she needs to save herself is also the moment she realizes the villain is evil and that Rapunzel isn’t the only person she’s oppressed. So when Rapunzel decides to save herself she also decides to save the others who’ve suffer so much worse than her. And the more she travels the kingdom the more oppression she sees and the more her resolve is strengthened.

It’s a really powerful message and one I think more girls need to hear. So often empowerment is portrayed as a personal thing- “You’re strong and capable and you don’t need anyone but yourself to save you!”- but here we’re given a step further. “You’re strong and you’re capable and not only can you save yourself but you can save the people who aren’t strong enough to save themselves too.”

The Diversity- It’s sad that I have to put this (because this should be so normal I shouldn’t have to mention it). But I loved the fact that Native Americans get a good amount of screen time in this book in portrayals that aren’t just stereotyped or as nothing more than a threat to induce excitement or as villains or as token POC characters. They’re portrayed both as individuals and an incredible group of people, fierce and proud and worthy of respect.

This is a fictional west. The authors could have easily done what other have done and written them out of it altogether, claiming that they weren’t part of this west, which is a grievous error I’m glad these authors didn’t make. They included a very forgotten or otherwise misrepresented part of the west with respect and dignity and for that I am so very grateful.

What I Didn’t Like:
The Prince- The book strays a little into “Girls rule, boys drool!” territory for a quick second after Rapunzel escapes the tower and comes across the arrogant prince who declares he’s going to save the princess. He’s super sexist and Rapunzel is rightly revolted by him so she sends him on his way. I just feel like this character pops up in nearly every book like this. Can we not have a book meant to empower girls that features a character like this? I get the idea of showing girls that even when they encounter negative guys like this they’re stronger than that and they can rise above these things. But this character is always flat and a walking political point, which is distracting when the rest of the cast is so well-developed…

And I’m spending why too much time on this because this character is literally on maybe two or three pages so it’s not a huge deal. And Jack does a good job making sure the readers know that the author doesn’t think all guys are arrogant and incompetent. So yeah, it’s not a huge deal. It just bugged me…

I love this book. It’s not perfect, no. Not even close. But it’s fun and well-written and it has good characters and it makes me laugh. It’s also played a huge role in shaping how I view Rapunzel. Much like Rapunzel in Tangled, this Rapunzel has given me a view of her as spunky and strong, determined and driven, rather than the timid and stupid girl people often try to make her out to be.

I also realized rereading this that there are things I associate with Rapunzel that come from this story. More often than not, I picture Rapunzel as a redhead, instead of the blonde she traditionally is. I also associate her with Jack and the Beanstalk and I’m not sure if that came from my retelling that includes Rapunzel and Jack or if the idea for that part of the retelling subconsciously came from this book.

I would recommend this book to middle schoolers or older. And I would definitely recommend it. In a heartbeat.

You can find the playlist here!

I hope to see you all on Monday for a new post about writing. Until the next time we meet, don’t forget to live happily ever after <3

~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

Monday, August 28, 2017

How to Write a Fairy Tale Retelling

Hello, my lovelies!

Has all this talk about fairy tale retellings lately been inspiring you to write your own? Have you been wondering how exactly one even goes about writing a fairy tale retelling? Because if so, buckle up, because that’s exactly what I hope to show you today!

Read the Fairy Tale:
This seems rather obvious but seriously it needs mentioned, especially because we live in a world where Disney exists. I really hate to break it to you, but retelling Disney movies is actually illegal. Unless you work for Disney writing retellings of their movies (because that job does exist), you can’t write books based off their movies. Yes, their stories are based on fairy tales but they changed things and added to them and if you use those elements it’s stealing (I know, it can all be sort of tricky sometimes…).

So make sure you read the story. Find a version in the public domain and read it to make sure it’s a tale you really want to retell.

And then reread it and reread it again. Know that story inside out. If the tale wasn’t originally written in English see if you can find different translations in public domain and read those. Keep reading until you feel like you really understand it, understand the characters, and know what you want to draw out from the story. After all, you can’t really call it a retelling if you barely know the story you’re claiming your story is based off of, can you?

Decide What Direction You Want to Take:
Do you want to write a strict retelling of the story, staying as close to the original as possible while expanding on it? Do you want to take the basic story and set it in a different setting, like a historical period or a dystopian future or space? Or do you want to tell a story more inspired by the original tale that pays homage to it but isn’t a strict retelling?

Are you writing a classic retelling where the main character is the main character or are you going to make a side character the hero? Are you drawing on the darker themes of the tale or highlighting the comedic side of it? What do you want your readers to take away from this- deep, thought-provoking questions or a sense of fun and adventure?

Pick Out Important Elements:
Is a Cinderella retelling without footwear of some sort really a Cinderella retelling? Don’t you need someone to sleep for a long time in order to retell Sleeping Beauty? Can you retelling the Twelve Dancing Princesses without having a group of siblings (or sibling-like characters) who dance a lot?

There are certain things that make a fairy tale that fairy tale and you can’t just claim that a story is a retelling of that fairy tale while ignoring those things. Sure, a Cinderella story doesn’t have to feature a stepmother, but if your character has a stellar home life it’s going to make people wonder if she’s really Cinderella.

So look for the important things in the story you’re retelling and figure out how to work them into your story. And remember, depending on the direction you’re taking, you can keep these elements as close to the original as you want. In the Cinderella retelling I’m working on right now her shoes are a pair of standard issue military books and there isn’t a single glass slipper to be seen. So you don’t have to stick with exactly what is laid out in the fairy tale if you don’t want to, as long as it reminds readers of the original.

Don’t shy away from trying to incorporate the elements in clever and creative ways. It’s your story, you are free to make it as different as you want. But also don’t feel bad if you want to keep it close to the original. If you want glass slippers, make your Cinderella wear glass slippers and have her rock them. Because again, it’s your story.

Something to consider also is how those elements translate into the setting you’re telling your story in. If you’re writing a science fiction retelling maybe figure out how the magic from the original tale can translate into science. If you’re writing a Rapunzel retelling set in the modern world how does the tower work? Is it a literal tower or something different? I once read a retelling where the tower was a very tall apartment building. So just keep in mind that your setting will help develop the story.

Look at the Story a Little Deeper:
Once you’ve looked into the basic things that people expect from something based off the story you’re retelling, look a little deeper. Find those things that maybe people don’t know all that well and see if you can include them in your story somehow.

For instance the Little Mermaid can get very heavy in its exploration of what it means to live believing you don’t have a soul and if you’re retelling that story it wouldn’t hurt to try and see if you could include that. It’s not necessary, obviously, but why stick with the very bare bones of the story when the finer points are such a treasure trove?

And as an added bonus you’ll make people who love the original tale incredibly happy because you’re digging deeper into the story than people usually do. And making people happy is always nice.

Look for a New Way to Tell This Story:
Or, in other words, how can you bring fresh eyes to this story?

I’m certainly not saying that you can’t write a retelling that is close to the original. My heart has a very special place for those sorts of stories, especially as the world tries more and more to tell us that every retelling needs to be DIFFERENT! and NEW! and CLEVER! But your story doesn’t have to blow our minds. If you want to write a story that tells the story we all know, do it.

But this is your story and make it yours. You aren’t telling a fairy tale, you’re retelling it. So show us what the story means to you. Show us what is important to you. Show us why your perspective matters. If you have something to say don’t shy away from saying it. Especially if you’re sticking closely with the original tale, make sure you show is why this is your tale and not Charles Perrault’s or the Brothers Grimm’s.

Figure Out How You Want it All to Look:
When I first started working one the series I’m working on now I went through and wrote down all the plot points from the original tales on index cards. On the other side of the card I wrote down how that plot point translated into my own story.

For example, the side of the card with the original plot points might say: “Cinderella’s mother dies and her father remarries and the girl gains and evil stepmother and two stepsisters.” The other side with my story’s original ideas might say: “Cinderella’s mother dies and her father reenlists and enrolls her in military school. No matter how hard she works she ends up being constantly overshadowed by two fellow cadets- Maren and Karina.”

See how they’re similar but different? You don’t have to do it the same way I did- you should do whatever works for you- but it does help to have it worked out somehow, even if just in your head. How does it all look?

Similar to how the setting affects the story elements, so too will the setting have an effect on the plot. If you are writing a modern retelling of Sleeping Beauty then how does she fall asleep? How does she wake up? In the original those were tied to magic so you have to figure out how to pay homage to the original without breaking the rules you’ve established for your story world.

And how do you want the characters to look? Do you want them to be close to the original or do you want to put a unique or creative spin on them? How does the setting affect them? How does it change their design? Red Riding Hood will different in a futuristic dystopian America than she will in the 1920’s.

Have Fun:
I feel like this is the key to any writing project. There is no point in writing anything, including a fairy tale retelling, unless you’re having fun. So make sure whatever project you decide to jump into, whatever story you decide to retell, however you decide to retelling it, enjoy it! Writing’s hard, yes, but if the idea of the project doesn’t make you happy, if you can’t find the pleasure in it, consider taking a step back and trying to find that again.

Or if you start working on it and realize you hate it then just stop. Again, no point in forcing yourself to continue if you’re dreading it before you even start.

Do you have any retellings you’re working on right now? What are some stories you’d like to see retold? Be sure to let me know in the comments!

I hope to see you on Friday for my next 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 25, 2017

Guest Post Announcement!

Hello, my lovelies!!

No new review today but I was asked to guest post on the One Year Adventure Novel blog today and I am delighted to share that with you!!!

I share some of my insight on publishing and how to know when you're ready to do so- along with the steps to take in order to get ready. You can read the post here:

Be sure to let me know what you think of it!

I'll be back on Monday 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