#FolkoreThursday: Books I Want to Read

Greetings bloglings. We made it! We are in the second post. Folklore Thursday posts are officially a thing. Pat on the back for me. And for you for reading them.

Today, I’m going to share some of the folklore and fairy tale inspired books that I would really like to read. At least one of these is sat on the desk behind me so I will be reading it very soon. Hoorah! Anyway, without further ado, a list:

1. The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood

30052003Look at the cover. Just look at it. It is beautiful and wonderful and I wanted to read it for that. Then I read about it. Now I own it. It is only a matter of time. It’s described as a Victorian murder mystery, delving into folktale and superstition. The title is drawn from the Icelandic Huldufólk, from what I gather they are elves of some description. Having never looked into Icelandic folklore, I am intrigued.

I am unsure what to expect from it, not knowing anything much about Icelandic culture, or even whether it takes place in Iceland, maybe it doesn’t. I will be going into this one blind and that’s fine by me. Come at me, Victorian murder mystery. I am ready!

2. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

30809689It’s a new book by Neil Gaiman. Of course I want to read it. I already know that Gaiman is an exceptional author and that he knows how to handle his mythology so I am expecting great things from this book. I’ve never been disappointed by his work so I am almost completely certain that I am going to love it and I want it to fall from the sky into my waiting hands. Right about now. Any minute now.

No? Ah well, it was worth a try.

I’ve seen a couple of early reviews and from what I gather, it’s been well-received by those lucky few who have read it already. I am jealous. Incredibly jealous.

3. The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente

17694319Yes. It is possible that every single Folklore Thursday post might mention Valente several times. I am not even nearly sorry.

Unfortunately, I am almost certain that I will never get to read this book. It is notoriously hard to track down and when you track it down, it is often incredibly expensive. Cue long sigh. I can dream. And what a wonderful dream it would be.

There is always some hint of folklore in a Valente work. I could probably list every book of hers I’ve not read here and they would all be valid (spoiler alert: there is another Valente book on this list).

4. The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker

21075386I am behind the times with this one. It came out a while ago and it has been on my wishlist since then. I just haven’t got round to buying it, and it’s not yet been bought for me by those in possession of my list (for birthday and Christmas purposes, I don’t force my loved ones to by me books – but if I could…). At least, I don’t think it has. I am doubting myself now.

I was mostly drawn to this book because it’s not about humans. It’s about very established mythological beings and I’ve never read a book from the perspective of a golem nor a djinni – heck, I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book about a golem or a djinni. I really need to get a wiggle on with it.

5. Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

28220892Russian folklore again gimme! (See my last Folklore Thursday post for context.) Vassa in the Night is set in modern day Brooklyn but promises all of the magic and wonder of the folklore it is based on. I want it and I want it now.

I’ve seen it described as quirky, nonsensical and whimsical – three words which just make me more excited. I love a bit of whimsy and a bit of nonsense and the quirkier the read the better. I think this book and I will get on a treat.

I’m intrigued to see how the folklore fits in with modern day Brooklyn, I’d’ve never thought to mesh the two together. I hope it lives up to the magical impression of it that I have so far.

6. Myths of Origin by Catherynne M. Valente

12180219I love a good origin myth, I love it even more when they are well-written, well thought out and completely believable. I know Valente is capable of delivering this so there is no doubt in my mind that these are going to be incredible. Again, it’s an old book but who said these lists had to be new?

Honestly, if I could live in Valente’s books, I would. She’s a poem in human form and I am pretty sure she’s in possession of magic. There is no other explanation. She has to be otherworldly.

Whether she is or she isn’t, she’s definitely talented and for that I am ever thankful.

So those are six books I want to read, which all have at least something to do with folklore, mythology and fairy tales.

Have you read any of these? Did you like them? Will like them? Will I love them? Will I be swallowed whole by a sudden gap in space and time? Who knows. Not me.

Happy Thursday.

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#FolkloreThursday Favourites: Retellings and Folklore-based books

I’ve been following the Folklore Thursday tag on Twitter for a while and it has only just now occurred to me that perhaps I should do some Folklore Thursday happenings on my blog. I am not sure how this managed to pass me by for so long but pass me by it did.

No longer! I am going to try for an interesting folkloric/fairy tale-esque post every week. It’ll give me more excuses to read folklore, so I am excited.

For my first foray into the world of Folklore Thursday, I am going to share some of my favourite retellings and books based heavily on folklore.  Hoorah.

1. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

9781472108685Oh my goodness. I am still not over this book. If you’ve been lurking in this corner of the internet for a while, you already know how much I love this book.

It tells the tale of Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless, and it is probably my favourite book. It is the book that made me interested in Russian/Slavic folklore and mythology (an interest which is very much bubbling at the moment). It is lyrical and beautiful and dark and painful, and I will never get over it. Ever.

I will always recommend this book, it is the first book I mention whenever someone needs something to read.

2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

4407If you’ve not heard of this book before: 1. How? 2. Look it up, look it up right now.

American Gods is fantastic. So fantastic that it will soon be a TV show. I am eager. I’m not sure whether I will actually be able to watch it from my little flat in the West Midlands but I am eager.

Unlike DeathlessAmerican Gods does not just focus on one particular country’s mythology. It has everything, it even creates new things. New gods. New gods which make me want to squeeze them until they break. Ahem. Bit scary there, sorry about that. It’s a jaunt through many mythologies and comes highly recommended.

3. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

276750I discovered this book in college, I think. Someone had found it or been reading it and was outraged by the dark, dark story ‘The Snow-Child’. Of course, I had to read it for myself and then I had to buy the book.

Again, this collection draws from a lot of different places and isn’t just a collection of retellings of tales I was familiar with. My favourite stories are: ‘The Bloody Chamber’ from which the collection gets its name, which tackles the story of Bluebeard; and ‘The Erl-King’, a story featuring a figure from Danish and German folklore, who I’ve been interested in since discovering a wonderfully dark piece of Labyrinth fan fiction which uses the tale as its inspiration. If you like a bit of darkness, give both the Carter and the fan fiction a read.

4. Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

24886019Of course, of course, there is another Valente book on here. How could there not be? She just has so many greats to choose from! This book is gorgeous, both in the writing and in the illustrations by Charlie Bowater. I have long loved her work and was so happy to discover that it would be paired with Valente’s writing.

Six-Gun Snow White is a Western take on, you guessed it, Snow white and it’s a take only Valente could think up. I adore it. It’s a quick read, I discovered it last year and I am pretty sure I devoured it in one sitting.  It’s a wonderful twist on the tale and is just as very enjoyable experience all round. Plus, the hardback is beautiful.

5. The Book of Lost Things  by John Connolly

69136I’ve mentioned this book briefly on the blog before. It’s lovely. Aimed at younger readers, it includes a number of different fairy tales as well as a few little things of its own. Definitely one I intend to read to any potential future children I might end up having.

My love for this book also comes from my experience of it. My copy is delightfully deformed. The book block has been put into the hardcover upside down and back to front. I wouldn’t have noticed if not for the fact that I like to look under the jacket. Much to my amusement, I found the embossed cover upside down on the back of the book. It just seemed to suit the novel so well that I couldn’t help but enjoy it.

6. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

25493853The most recent read of this list, The Bear and the Nightingale is another book based in Russian folklore. I will be posting a full review in the near future so won’t say too much here. I will say that as soon as I saw the cover of this book that I needed it. I didn’t even know what it was about at that point but I needed it. Just look at it, it’s beautiful.

It draws on folklore that I hadn’t yet discovered, which made me deliriously happy and has a wonderful way about it, which I will talk more about in my review.

I know a lot of people had been excitedly anticipating this book until its release on January 12th – it was worth it.

So there you have it. Six of my favourites. I’m always on the look out for more books of this ilk so please do tell me your favourites in the comments – recommend some books! All of the books! I may have a mighty TBR pile but there is always room for more.

Tune in next week (we hope) for a list of books I want to read, and the week after (we hope even more fiercely) for something that isn’t a list.

Have a lovely Thursday!

BBC Radio 4: Neverwhere

 

Beneath the streets of London there is another London. A subterranean labyrinth of sewers and abandoned tube stations. A somewhere that is Neverwhere.

An act of kindness sees Richard Mayhew catapulted from his ordinary life into a subterranean world under the streets of London. Stopping to help an injured girl on a London street, Richard is thrust from his workaday existence into the strange world of London Below.

When I discovered that my favourite of favourite Neil Gaiman novels (and joint favourite of favourite books, though I can never quite stick to a concrete decision of my other favourite of favourite books so perhaps it’s just my favourite) was going to be made into a radio play with a stellar cast including James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Anthony Head, Christopher Lee and Natalie Dormer (whose face is one of my favourite faces), you could probably have lit the whole of London Above with my excitement, if my excitement were electricity. That was a really long sentence, I apologise. (Except, I don’t because when I’m excited, which I am, I tend to talk really fast in really long sentences so it fits the purpose; read it quickly.) I was giddy. I have been clinging onto my copy of the book, the TV series and the idea of a sequel and a half-written short story for a long time (I am still clinging to the idea of a sequel, and How the Marquis Got His Coat Back).

The first episode aired at 2:30 pm (GMT) on BBC Radio 4 on March 16th and my listening journey had a rocky start. As anyone who may be my friend on Facebook will know, the internet at my grandmother’s house (where I am currently situated) has been misbehaving and Saturday was no exception. Loading the radio player was nigh on impossible and I was getting increasingly stressed; I could not miss this airing. I couldn’t listen to the rest of the episodes when they aired because of university and such but the first, I could not miss. Luckily for me, my father is a genius and remembered that Radio 4 is also on Freeview. I was saved and settled down in the sofa to listen.

I was not disappointed. The opening music was haunting and the voices of Messrs. Croup and Vandemar were delightfully creepy. James McAvoy portrayed the appropriate amount of confusion and distress as the newly-displaced Richard Mayhew, and David Harewood’s Marquis de Carabas was as sassy and enigmatic as ever.

One of my favourite parts in the entire novel is the Earl’s Court scene, so I was eager to hear what they would do with it. Christopher Lee is fantastic, his voice is one of those voices that you automatically associate with power but with that power this performance carried vulnerability. The Earl is a man who is not too in tune with his marbles and you can hear it in his voice. He made the scene. While the other characters in his court were good, none of them really stood out – not surprising when put alongside Christopher Lee.

However, I think the Elou Award for Most Incredible Performance (note: this is not a real award) has to go to Benedict Cumberbatch. The voice that crept into my ears was not the voice I was accustomed to hearing and just when I’d gotten used to that voice it turned into a feral thing, a wild thing. His is a voice which can be as tame and sweet as anything one moment and poisonous the next, it is masterful. He has all the airs of an angel (apt) and channels subtle trickles of madness into his words, which then crest into oceans by the end of the last episode. Fantastic.

This is the first radioplay that I have ever listened to (excepting Holly’s Outbreak teaser and an older work of hers which has since been taken off of youtube) and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect; I definitely wasn’t expecting it to be quite so ‘visual’. I wasn’t expecting to be able to see what I was hearing. While I would like to boast that it is a testament to my imagination, I would be lying. True, imagination is needed to some extent but most of the work is done by the sound effects, the mixing, the panning. Neverwhere is an immersive experience. Dirk Maggs is a genius.

The adaptation as a whole was perfect and something to be infinitely proud of, as a long-time fan I was more than satisfied and cannot wait until I can own it and indulge in it whenever I choose. I would definitely recommend a listen.

Books on the Big Screen and going Beyond the Book

I think it’s hard to have a publishing-related blog this week and not write about the Random Penguin in its Penguin House but this is all I will say on the matter (Random Penguins need quiet nights in too especially with such big decisions to make! We will interrupt his evening in the future, next week perhaps). Speaking of quiet nights in, I am currently curled up on my sofa with a bowl of cereal watching Stardust, a lovely evening after a day of scanning and research and Turpin forms and proofreading at Berghahn Books.

The thing about film adaptations is that most people don’t like them. Of course, I am generalising but it seems to be a given that if a book is adapted for the screen a lot of people won’t like it and a lot of people will complain until they’re red in the face about how the conversion from book to film has ruined their darling and the best/most important parts have been cut out.

There is no way of keeping all of the fans happy but there is no denying that book-films bring more fans to their authors. More people will read the book after seeing the film. Personally, I love it when books I enjoy are turned into films and in a lot of cases, when I discover a book-movie I will then read the book it is derived from even if it’s not something I would normally read. I like playing ‘spot the difference’. There are very few I have disliked, even those that bend the story of their book to breaking point.

Some call this blasphemy, I call it perspective. I never watch a film with the expectation that it will be like the book, it would only end in disappointment. Films cannot be like their page-filled counterparts; there are some things in books that cannot be done in films and there are some things that simply don’t work on the big screen. Books can hold a lot more meat so, of course, things will be cut – and that is okay. There is no one universal way to interpret a book so the film will never be as you imagined.

There is one film, the one I am currently watching, which I think sticks incredibly well to the story of the book. Things have been changed, they had to be. If I remember correctly, the book is a shade darker than the film (which was aimed at a PG-13 audience) but the transition seems to fit. They have masked the darker parts with humour – some of them, anyway. It has a special place in my heart, it’s written by my favourite author and some of its scenes were filmed in my hometown, if the pictures and writings on the wall of one of our local pubs are to be believed.

I’m currently reading Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart for the first time, having owned it for years and seen the film and while it is rather different so far it still feels like the same story. Only in the film Meggie doesn’t annoy me quite so much but that may change, I am only halfway through and I will be reviewing it once I’ve finished and before I move on to the next book in the series. (I know, I know I have at least two books to review already – make that four… soon! Soon!)

Anyway, films go beyond the book. And that brings me to the second part of this blog post – going beyond the book.

This morning, when I checked my emails, I was caught by two articles from Publishing Perspectives (1, 2) about Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of InnocenceThe Museum of Innocence is both a novel and a museum situated in Istanbul, a novel which I now want to read and a museum which I can only dream of going to. Upon reading these articles there was one thing that sprung to mind: The Night Circus

I cannot think of a more perfect book to go ‘beyond’ with. If you haven’t read it, you should (review to come). The Night Circus could be such a beautiful exhibition – combine Morgenstern’s imagination with the work of talented artists and set designers and that circus could, in part, come to life. It is definitely something I’d love to see. 

There is something enchanting about books which aren’t just books, books which have things you can see and touch beyond the words on the page. It’s something I would definitely be interested in helping to create some day, if my publishing career should lead me down that route. I hope it does.

Of course, The Night Circus  is an obvious choice for such an endeavour but what other novels would suit being brought to life in … well, whatever form best befits them really, are there any titles that you would like to see, touch, smell, taste? Let me know what you think in the comments, possible-readers! I’m curious.