Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Middle Grade Spotlight: Fall Books

When I was in college, I went through a middle-grade literature revival. Basically, what that means is that I read Harry Potter and, consequently, my eyes were opened to other books for young readers. I read so many great middle-grade books in those years, some by myself, some with my roommates, and some with my sister. The great middle-grade revival is really what led me to Young Adult fiction where I've been hanging out now for many years. I still do love middle-grade, and every once in a while it's fun to revisit this section of the bookstore. Here are some of the middle-grade books we've enjoyed this fall.


Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley:
Gertie is a girl on a mission, and she always fulfills her missions. Her new goal is to become the best fifth grader in the universe, thereby keeping her mother from moving away. All is well until the first day of school brings new girl, Mary Sue Spivey. All of a sudden, Gertie has major competition. How will she keep Mary Sue from hindering this, her most important mission of all? This book was charming. I loved the small town, southern feel, and the way the book captured a fifth graders thoughts and problems. I was invested in Gertie's journey and enjoyed rooting for such driven character. Gertie's Leap to Greatness is out October 4, 2016 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Review copy from NetGalley.

The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg:
On his first day in New York, John meets Shelby. She's brusque, blunt, and addicted to sugar, but somehow, everyone in the neighborhood seems to be her fan. John-- or Watson, as Shelby insists on calling him-- begins to understand why when a classmate asks Shelby to find her missing dog. Watson gets swept into Shelby's world of mystery and deduction, possibly making a friend in the process. This book is such a fun homage to Sherlock Holmes. I love the way Elizabeth Eulberg tailored the original characters to be children in New York. Her attention to detail is impeccable, which I especially appreciate in a retelling. The Great Shelby Holmes is out September 6, 2016 from Bloomsbury Childrens. Review copy from NetGalley.

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel:
Steve's house has been full of worry ever since his baby brother came home from the hospital. The baby isn't well and probably never will be. Steve just wants the baby to be better, so at first he's relieved when the queen wasp in his dreams tells him she can fix the baby. But as the baby's "healing" draws closer, Steve begins to think that maybe he should never have teamed up with the wasps. This book is so strange and so good. Kenneth Oppel does an amazing job conveying a child's fears when faced with real-life, too-big-for-him problems. I read this book in two sittings. The Nest is out in paperback on October 4, 2016 from Simon & Schuster. Review copy from Edelweiss.

One Half from the East by Nadia Hashimi:
Obayda is the youngest of four daughters and when her father loses a leg in an explosion, her family is desperate for some good fortune. It is decided that Obayda will dress and act as a boy, a bacha posh. Now known as Obayd, she is very uncomfortable with her new life until she meets another bacha posh. The two learn to love their lives, but a bacha posh is not meant to be a boy forever. This story made me think; it made me wonder. I was fascinated by this glimpse into a culture I know little about. Thematically, I would consider this an older middle grade novel, bordering on young adult, but it is definitely worth a read. One Half from the East is out September 6, 2016 from HarperCollins. Review copy from Edelweiss.

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd:
Only Emmaline can see the winged horses that live in the mirrors at Briar Hill Hospital. She often wonders about their mirror-world. Then one day she finds a winged horse in the closed-off garden. It is injured and she must protect it, but the world is such a dangerous place. Not only is there sickness all around, but a war is raging and no one is safe. This beautiful story is a work of magical realism or perhaps metaphor set during World War II.  Questions of reality are secondary to the themes of love and danger in this poignant and enchanting middle-grade tale. The Secret Horses of Briar Hill is out October 11, 2016 from Delacorte Books for Young Readers.

Moo by Sharon Creech:
Reena and Luke are city kids, through and through, but now they live in rural Maine and their parents volunteered them to help crazy Mrs. Falala with her animals. Reena does not immediately connect with any of the animals, and she finds herself in a battle of wills with Zora, the stubborn cow. When Mrs. Falala decides she wants Reena to show Zora at the fair, Reena truly has her work cut out for her. I loved this story. I'm a sucker for a book in verse and I've been a fan of Sharon Creech since I read Walk Two Moons as a kid. Moo is sweet, sincere, funny, and lovely. I enjoyed every minute of it. Moo is out August 30, 2016 from HarperCollins. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet:
Noah Keller's parents are acting really weird. When they picked him up from school they told him they were leaving for East Berlin right away so that his mother could do research for her dissertation. Then they proceeded to tell him Noah Keller is not really his name, his birthday isn't what he thought it was either, and that he needs to follow a long list of rules while in Germany. Noah is pretty sure his parents aren't what they seem. This middle-grade story of a boy behind the Iron Curtain was not exactly what I expected, but I liked it all the same. I could especially appreciate the book because in 1989, I was the same age as Noah. It was interesting to imagine myself in his shoes. Cloud and Wallfish is out September 2, 2016 from Candlewick. Review copy from NetGalley.

P.S. More middle-grade recommendations.



Gertie's Leap to Greatness, The Great Shelby Holmes, One Half from the East, and Moo reviewed by Paige.
The Nest, The Secret Horses of Briar Hill, and Cloud and Wallfish reviewed by JoLee.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Young Adult Books Inspired by Shakespeare

2016 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death. The year has been full of celebrations, performances, and special events to commemorate The Bard. (Check out Shakepeare400, Shakespeare400Chicago, and Shakespeare 2016.) Because we really are all about commemorations over here at Intellectual Recreation we wanted to get in on the action before the year was up. So we did what we do best and gathered a group of Young Adult Books inspired by Shakespeare's plays.



As I Descended by Robin Talley:
Robin Talley's new book is an LGBTQ retelling of Macbeth set in a Southern boarding school. It's spooky and perfect if you are in the mood for a ghostly tale.

Illyria by Elizabeth Hand:
First cousins and first loves are cast as opposites in their school's production of Twelfth Night where all their secrets come to a head.

The Taming of the Drew by Stephanie Kate Strohm:
Headstrong Cass McKay is cast as Kate in her summer Shakespeare theater's production of The Taming of the Shrew. In a role reversal, Cass decides it's her castmate, Drew, who needs taming.

Saving Hamlet by Molly Booth:
As assistant stage manager, Emma Allen, attempts to save the drama club's production of Hamlet she ends up back in 1601 at the Globe Theater! How will Emma juggle two productions of Hamlet--one in the past and one in the present?

Something Rotten by Alan Gratz:
Hamilton Prince's father is murdered. With an overabundance of suspects, high school sleuth, Horatio Wilkes, is going to have to pull out all the stops if he wants to solve the case in this modern twist on Hamlet set in Denmark, Tennessee.

Ophelia by Lisa M. Klein:
Lisa Klein imagines the story behind one of Shakespeare's most tragic side characters in this retelling of Hamlet. How did Ophelia become involved with Hamlet and what drives her to her demise?

Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray:
This modern-day retelling of Hamlet brings together Shakespeare and the challenges of dating a famous prince. What happens to the story of Hamlet when the paparazzi gets involved?

Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay:
In Verona all those years ago, Romeo killed Juliet in order to gain eternal life. In the hundreds of years that followed, Romeo and Juliet have been fighting one another, returning to earth again and again to either destroy true love or protect it. 

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon:
A Romeo and Juliet tale where the Juliet character has a rare disease, and Romeo is the forbidden boy from next door who could kill her just by being in her presence. 

Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond:
Wirewalker Jules Maroni and trapeze-artist Remy Garcia seek to uncover the mysteries of the past, discover why their families are enemies and who wants the past to repeat itself in this Romeo and Juliet tale set in the circus. 

Shame the Stars by Guadalupe Garcia McCall:
Set along the Texas-Mexico border of 1915, Joaquin and Dulcea are involved in a forbidden romance. Shame the Stars recasts Romeo and Juliet amidst the racial and political tensions of Texas history.

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge:
This dark fantasy retelling is set in a world with blood magic, forbidden necromancers, and zombies. A truly creepy Romeo and Juliet tale where Paris and Rosaline are stars and Juliet is a trained killer.

Ronit and Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin:
This novel in verse sets Romeo and Juliet amidst the modern-day Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Can Ronit and Jamil's love prevail over centuries of distrust and hate? Out February 21, 2017

How to  Keep a Boy from Kissing You by Tara Eglington:
Aurora is saving her first kiss for someone special, so when she's cast as Beatrice opposite her obnoxious neighbor in her school's production of Much Ado About Nothing and the role requires locked lips, Aurora determines to do everything in her power to make sure that kiss never happens.

The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill:
This loose retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream involves a high school drum major trying to win a talent competition and save her band aboard the cruise ship Destiny where misunderstandings and complications abound.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Reading on a Theme: Young Adult Parallel Reality Books

I love how books allow writers and readers the opportunity to explore "what ifs." Perhaps one of my favorite "what ifs" is the question of what would have happened if a character had made a different choice or could access a parallel world. In this Reading on a Theme we return to one of our favorite topics parallel realities and multiple dimensions.

First Earth or Second Earth?
Stel lives on First Earth and has always known about the Corridor, a portal that connects First and Second Earth. She also has a secret: she has the ability to open portals to Second Earth and other parallel universes. When the Corridor begins to destabilize, she knows she needs to do everything she can to save her world. The Corridor is a science fiction adventure. A. N. Willis jumps right into the story and lets the reader catch up. The world she created is fascinating. It took me a little while to get into the book, but I think it's because it was jarring for me to go from the contemporary parallel realities to this deep, rich science fiction, so don't let that deter you. The Corridor was out June 2015. Review copy from NetGalley.
 
With or Without Kylie?
When Jonathan Aubrey was eight he narrowly escaped dying in a terrible plane crash that killed the rest of his family. As a very sad and lonely child, Jonathan learned he could create other worlds. Now, ten years later, Jonathan splits his time between the real world and a parallel world where his long time crush, Kylie Simms, is his girlfriend. Jonathan's worlds start to unravel when he mixes the two worlds up, and the Kylies begin to take on the traits of their twin. In A World Just Right is an incredibly interesting genre-bending debut from Jen Brooks. I felt very compelled to find out how it would all turn out. The book does move a little slowly, but I thought the payoff was well worth the wait. In A World Just Right was out April 2015. Review copy from Edelweiss.


 Return or Run?
When Hadley takes her boyfriend's car without his permission he retaliates by posting a nude photo of her. Hadley must decide whether to confront him or take his car as far away as she can. Hadley's choice splits the narrative and the reader follows her on both journeys. It turns out the stakes are much higher than she thought. A Million Times Goodnight is a beautifully executed parallel realities story. Kristina McBride weaves the narratives together seamlessly. I loved watching each story and was anxious to see how everything would resolve. This book was poignant, powerful, and so much fun to read. A Million Times Goodnight was out July 2016. Review copy from Edelweiss.


France or New York?
Summer Everett is excited for her trip to France to visit her dad, but as she's boarding the plane, her phone rings. Does she answer? Her action drastically changes her summer plans. The story splits between her summer in France and her summer in New York. In both places, however, she learns of a family secret that may break her. How will she uncover the truth? Two Summers combines two of our favorite themes: parallel realities and American girls in Europe. Both elements made this book a lot of fun to read. I was impressed with Aimee Friedman's attention to detail as events mirrored each other in the different time frames. The book left me with some questions and was a unique parallel realities story. Two Summers was out April 2016. Review copy from Edelweiss.


Fiona or Fi?
Fiona is a shy, songwriter trying to find the courage to perform her music. She also bears the scars of a tragic accident on her face, which makes it all the more difficult for her to come out of her shell. But what if there hadn't been an accident and her face was whole? Perhaps she would be Fi, an all-state lacrosse star. Everything That Makes You follows the journeys of both girls and shows that one event can change not just one person, but everyone around her. Moriah McStay takes the parallel realities tale a one step farther as she tells the story of this girl years after a choice split her fate. This is a fantastic debut novel. Everything That Makes You was out March 2015. Review copy from Edelweiss.


The Corridor, A Million Times Goodnight, Two Summers, and Everything that Makes You reviewed by Paige.
In a World Just Right reviewed by JoLee.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Historical NonFiction for Young Readers

Last year I did our first post featuring nonfiction books for young readers. I'm so excited to be bringing this series back again this year. This time we have a number of books that explore politics (timely in an election year). Also, several books explore the contributions of women in history. A surprising theme is that quite a few of these books have to do with science and medicine. Although aimed at a middle-grade or young adult audience, many of these books are fascinating at any age.




Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of a Legendary Nurse by Catherine Reef:
I've been eager to learn more about Florence Nightingale ever since I did a study abroad in London many years ago. Many have lauded Florence Nightingale's accomplishments, but I did not know how much resistance toward her life's work she received from her family. It was also fascinating to gain a little more insight into Nightingale's personality. She was not easy to get along with! Catherine Reef does an excellent job establishing historical context. I enjoyed hearing about the other famous historical figures that Nightingale knew personally. Out November 8, 2016 from Clarion Books.

Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring by Enigma Alberit and Tony Cliff:
I've long thought that the work of female spies during the American Civil War was a topic well-suited to a YA novel, so I'm excited to see that a few books on this fascinating aspect of American history are making their way into the hands of young readers. In this nonfiction book, readers follow the actions of Mary Bowser, an African American women who became a servant for Confederate President Jefferson Davis in order to spy on him. Mary Bowser's story is incredible. This was a brave, daring woman. The story is told in an engaging manner and includs "spy" activities for the young reader to solve. Out January 10, 2017 from Workman Publishing Company.

Blood, Bullets, and Bones: The Story of Forensic Science from Sherlock Holmes to DNA by Bridget Heos:
Bridget Heos uses historical cases to tell the history of forensic science and criminal investigation. This book is absolutely fascinating. Although it is a bit macabre at times; we are dealing with criminal investigations after all. I loved how Heos used actually cases from history to steer the book and show the progression of forensics as well as its limitations. In many ways, this book is demystifying, in that it takes a profession that has become so popularized through TV and novels and gives us the gritty details and actual facts. Despite the abundance of names and medical details, Heos delivers a very readable, intriguing book. Out October 4th from Balzer +Bray.

Eureka! 50 Scientists Who Shaped Human History by John Grant:
Something you probably don't know about me is that I actually loved science as a student (especially basic-level science classes before heavy math gets involved). John Grant basically provides an encyclopedia of great scientists beginning with the ancient Greeks and concluding with scientists like Stephen Hawking. Each short entry gives a basic outline of the scientist's life and work. I would have loved this book as a kid. I think my 11-year-old self would have read and reread her favorite entries again and again. As a lover of history and admirer of science, I quite liked the book today. Out August 2, 2016 from Zest Books.

Bleed, Blister, Puke, and Purge: The Dirty Secrets Behind Early American Medicine 
by J. Marin Younker:
The early history of American medicine is not pretty or particularly refined. Younker's book chronicles the development of American medicine from the colonial days until the late 1800s. The books covers a wide range of topics, some I found a little dry, some made me squeamish, and some I found fascinating. I struggled a bit to find my stride at the beginning of this book, but I raced through the final chapters that discussed Civil War medicine and women's medicine. This book is a good one for anyone who is interested in medicine or American history. I think most history lovers will be quite fascinated by a least a chapter or two. Out October 25, 2016 from Zest Books.

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam Way by Steve Sheinkin:
Steve Sheinkin is the master of engaging young adult history books. The Vietnam War has been more of a hole in my historical knowledge than I'd like. This book helped to fill in some of the gaps. Government insider Daniel Ellsberg risked everything to expose secret government documents to a country very divided over the war. It was fascinating to learn these how various elements of history that were distinct in my mind are, in truth, very related. The major themes in this book are still very relevant today, and I've been telling everyone I know to read this book. Out September 2015 from Roaring Brook Press.

This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audobon by Nancy Plain:
I really enjoyed this gorgeous biography of John James Audobon. Audobon is one of the most fascinating early-American artists. He was an artist, a naturalist, an explorer, and a writer. His life's work was to publish a book containing illustrations of all the birds of America. He spent his life rambling through the country collecting birds, and he discovered many species. Nancy Plain's book is both engaging and informative, and it is filled with glorious reproductions of Audobon's art. Out March 1st, 2015 from University of Nebraska Press.

A Kids' Guide to America's First Ladies by Kathleen Krull:
This encyclopedia of America's First Ladies is absolutely charming. In the introduction Kathleen Krull grabbed my attention, and she never lost it. Krull advances chronologically and gives a brief biography of all the First Ladies. I think she handled both the positive and less-positive aspects of each woman's life quite well and in an appropriate way for young readers. The result is that the reader gets a good picture of the various personalities and challenges each woman faced. A timely book, for certain and one that I would have loved when I was young. Out January 3, 2017 from HarperCollins.

March of the Suffragettes: Rosalie Gardner Jones and the March for Voting Rights
by Zachary Michael Jack:
In 1912 Rosalie Jones organized a march from New York City to the state capitol in Albany. Incredibly, she and two other women took only two weeks to walk the entire 175 miles, arriving at their destination just before New Years. I enjoyed learning about Rosalie and her compatriots. It was interesting to learn about those who supported them and those who did not. This topic seems particularly timely to me. As the 100th anniversary of the nineteenth amendment approaches, I would love to read more about the women who paved the way for women's suffrage. Out September 27, 2016 from Zest Books.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Reading on a Theme: The Wild West

This Reading on a Theme was so much fun. The books are full of danger, revenge, girls shirking societal norms, and hidden treasure. And, although westerns have, of course, been around for many, many years, the wild west setting felt like a fresh and new type of historical fiction for YA.

Steampunk Wild West:
Westie lives in Rogue City, a place where humans, creatures, and Native tribes freely mingle. It's a rough town, but it suits Westie just fine. There she has the freedom to pursue her one goal: find the cannibals who killed her family. Revenge and the Wild is a fun combination of urban fantasy and steampunk.
Michelle Modesto created a really interesting alternate wild west. Westie is a pretty single-minded person, and I appreciated her spunk and grit, even as she kept bungling things. I quite liked many of the side characters, as well, especially Alastair and Costin. The cannibals are pretty creepy, making for a heart-stopping conclusion. Out February 2nd, 2016. Review copy from Edelweiss.


Digging for Dinosaurs:
Rachel and Samuel are the daughter and son of two famous, dueling paleontologists. Both as driven as their fathers, Rachel and Samuel scheme their way out west hoping to uncover the bones of a gigantic carnivore. Although their fathers can't stand each other, Samuel and Rachel are drawn to one another as two young people who share an obscure passion often are. I am strangely fascinated by the Bone Wars and paleontology, and I really enjoyed Kenneth Oppel's book. The setting, the characters, the conflicts on the site and with the Sioux were so well drawn. The romance was, at times, a bit heady for me, but, in the end I was fully on board. This book made my nerdy little heart so happy. Every Hidden Thing is out October 11th, 2016. Review copy from NetGalley.


Runaways:
Samantha and her father are the only Chinese people in their tiny village and many are none too happy they're there. So when Samantha's father dies in a fire, her life is put in jeopardy. With the help of a runaway slave, she heads west. She and Annamae disguise themselves as boys and join a group of cowboys on their way across the country. Stacey Lee is a beautiful writer. The images she paints are incredible. I really appreciated the friendship between Sammy and Anna. They take great care of each other throughout the book. Under a Painted Sky is an excellent historical fiction that captured the struggles and triumphs of life on the Oregon trail. Out March 2015.


Seeking Revenge:
Disguised as a boy, Kate Thompson rides out to bring vengeance down on the heads of the gang that murdered her father. Along the way she picks up some unlikely allies, uncovers her father's buried secrets, and has to face her grief and the dark consequences of revenge. I really enjoyed Vengeance Road. Erin Bowman conveyed the atmosphere of the dry Arizona landscape quite well. I especially like how Bowman incorporated the legend of the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine into this story. Kate is a strong character, but I also like that Bowman gives her leading lady a softer side as well. And, I was not expecting some of the reveals at all. At all. Out September 1st, 2015. Review copy from NetGalley.


Sensing Gold:
Lee is an independent girl who does more than her share keeping the family farm afloat. Her ability to sense gold has been a great help to her family, but when tragedy strikes, she knows she needs to flee. Disguised as a boy, she starts the long journey to California. Hopefully, sensing gold will help her make a new start. This book is a combination of historical fiction and magical realism. I love the subtlety of the magic Rae Carson includes in this world. I love Lee's tenacity and the people she meets on her journey. Walk on Earth a Stranger is such an interesting and fun read; the perfect blend of history and fantasy. Its sequel, Like a River Glorious, was out September 27, 2016. Review copy from Edelweiss.


Revenge and the Wild, Every Hidden Thing, and Vengeance Road reviewed by JoLee.
Under a Painted Sky and Walk on Earth a Stranger reviewed by Paige.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

13 Spooky Reads for the Halloween Season

It's that time of year again--time to pull out all the creepy, spooky, ghostly books for a month of Halloween reads. Today we are linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for a Top Ten Tuesday all about Halloween.

What are you reading this Halloween Season? Today we're featuring thirteen (because that is the spookiest number, after all) YA and Middle-Grade books that you might not want to read with the lights off.


And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich: Sisters Silla and Nori must navigate their aunt's creepy, haunted house where Nori plays with a ghost in the basement.

The Delphi Effect by Rysa Walker: Hitchhiking ghosts, government conspiracies, kids with weird and creepy powers. This book is a perfect addition to a Halloween reading list.

The Heartless City by Andrea Berthot: A retelling of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where Jekyll unwittingly created a race of heart-eating monsters.

As I Descended by Robin Talley: A retelling of Macbeth set at a southern boarding school where aspiring power-couple Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten unleash a dark power.

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace: A girl rises from her grave a year after her murder. Who killed her and what has she transformed into?

The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud: Reading the newest addition to the Lockwood & Co. series is my favorite Halloween tradition. I'm so happy but so scared all at once.

The Stranger Game by Cylin Busby: In this suspenseful thriller, Nico's sister returns after a four-year absence but can't remember anything about where she's been or why she vanished.

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather: Samantha Mather, descendant of Cotton Mather of Salem Witch Trial infamy, moves to Salem where she encounters unhappy Descendants and a unruly ghost.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab: In a city divided between monsters and humans true enemies are not easy to spot.

Omega City by Diana Peterfreund: A middle-grade adventure featuring government conspiracies, Cold War era technology, and a hidden underground bunker.

The Graces by Laure Eve: Everyone says the three Grace sisters are witches but no one knows for certain. River will do anything to become part of their circle.

A Drop of Night by Stefan Bachman: Anouk is selected to help with the excavation of an underground palace in Paris and becomes a pawn in a creepy and sinister game.

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar: Tamaya and Marshall take a shortcut home through a forbidden wood in this middle-grade thriller.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Blog Tour: Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick | Giveaway


Last year I read two nonfiction books about twentieth-century Russian history. I cannot say enough good things about Candace Flemings' The Family Romanov and M.T. Anderson's Symphony for the City of the Dead (featured here). Both were absolutely fabulous, and I walked away from them with larger understanding of the Russian Revolution and the early years of the Soviet Regime and a desire to read more about that time. Enter Blood Red Snow White. I'm so excited to be part of the tour for this fascinating book.




Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick

Published in the US by Roaring Brook Press - October 2016

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Russia, Fairy Tales

Source: Review copy from the publisher


It is 1917, and the world is tearing itself to pieces in a dreadful war, but far to the east of the trenches, another battle is breaking out - the Russian Revolution has just begun...

Blood Red, Snow White captures the mood of this huge moment in history through the adventure of one man who was in the middle of it all; Arthur Ransome, a young British journalist who had first run away to Russia to collect fairy tales.

Told as three linked novellas, part one captures the days of revolution but retells the story as Russian Fairy Tale, with typical humour and unashamed brutality. Part two is a spy story, set over the course of one evening, as Ransome faces up to his biggest challenge, and part three is a love story, full of tragedy and hope, as every good Russian love story should be. 


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Marcus Sedgwick's Blood Red Snow White is set during the years of the Russian Revolution and the early years of the Bolshevik regime. Blood Red Snow White is a smart and beautifully written book that weaves history and the lives of real historical figures with Russian fairy tales. 

The Russian fairy tale aspect is probably strongest in the first novella that chronicles the lead-up to the Russian Revolution. The writing, the pacing, and the charging Russian bear all lend a fantastical quality to the historical events, yet they remain tragic and bloody, as Russian fairy tales often are.

The World was changing. Nothing could stop that. There can be no magic by daylight, it is a thing of the dark and shadows and the black and white of nighttime, and just as that is true, it is also true that fairy tales cannot live in the modern world of color. The time for princes and tsars and grand duchesses and especially holy madmen was gone. In its place came a world of war and revolution, of tanks and telephones, or murder and assassination (from Part I: A Russian Fairy Tale).

In Parts Two and Three, Sedgwick tells the story of Arthur Ransome, a British journalist working in Russian. A real historical figure and well-known writer, Arthur Ransome published, among other things, a book of Russian fairy tales entitled Old Peter's Russian Tales

Russian fairyland is quite different... Somewhere in that great forest of trees--a forest so big that the forests of England are little woods beside it--is the hut where old Peter sits at night and tells these stories to his grandchildren (from the epigraph).

Other than his name, I did not know anything about Arthur Ransome before reading this book, and I found his life fascinating. Ransome had to navigate through a very dangerous time in Russia. He knew many important political figures of the day, including Lenin and Trotsky. He fell in love with Trotsky's secretary and risked his life for her. As a man trapped between two worlds, Ransome was never safe.   
 
I thought I knew what I was doing, and why. Or should I say, who I was doing it for, but life is never that simple, and with hindsight we see our lives laid out behind us and we think; God damn me to Hell, I was a fool (from Part 3: A Fairy Tale, Ending).

Sedgwick's story is just intricate enough to be very interesting and so readable. I loved the tone of the book and the mood established by the fairy tale structure. My days reading about Russia are far from over.



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Follow the Blood Red Snow White Blog Tour and don't miss anything! Click on the banner to see the tour schedule.

http://fantasticflyingbookclub.blogspot.com/2016/09/tour-schedule-blood-red-snow-white-by.html
 

About the Author:


Marcus Sedgwick was born in Kent, England. Marcus is a British author and illustrator as well as a musician. He is the author of several books, including Witch Hill and The Book of Dead Days, both of which were nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award. The most recent of these nominations rekindled a fascination with Poe that has borne fruit here in (in The Restless Dead, 2007) the form of "The Heart of Another" - inspired by Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart." Of his story, Sedgwick says, "This was one of those stories that I thought might be a novel originally but actually was much better suited to the tight form of the short story. I had the initial idea some years ago but was just waiting for the right ingredient to come along. Poe's story, as well as his own fascination with technique, provided that final piece of the puzzle."

He used to play for two bands namely playing the drums for Garrett and as the guitarist in an ABBA tribute group. He has published novels such as Floodland (winner of the Branford Boase Award in 2001) and The Dark Horse (shortlisted for The Guardian Children's Book Award 2002).


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