Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Two and Twenty Dark Tales

It's been a long time since I have blogged, but in that span of time, life certainly did not stop.  I've been working and reading, and cooking and caring for my family.  I have had stacks of books piled up for reviews; between Library Media Connection, SOYAMRG, NetGalley and Penguins First Reads Program, there never seems to be a time when I don't have obligatory reading to do.  Not that I am complaining...but maybe I am. I am finally reading a book right now that I want to read - Donald Ray Pollock's The Devil all The Time which has been on my to-read shelf for about 8 months.  I am excited to read this - it sounds dark and suspenseful and that's the way I like my books.  I just finished reading Philip Reeve's Predator City quartet - Mortal Engines, Predator's Gold, Infernal Devices and On a Darkling Plain.  These are fantastic books - new classics and I was absolutely weepy at the end of the series.  But, I spent a long time in that Steampunk world, and my brain was craving some new setting.

 Two and Twenty Dark Tales was a switch, but not the one I really wanted.  This is a NetGalley download published by Month9Books, and is marketed as a charity anthology of dark retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes.  I was most pleased with the publisher - this is their first release and they will donate the proceeds from the sale of the first 5,000 books to a charity they love.  In fact, this title is the first in a series of annual charity anthologies to be released.  It is refreshing to see this act of charity in a publishing world that seems to be dominated by greed for money.  I am not ignorant;  I know that money makes the publishing world go 'round, but Penguin's attitude about ebooks and libraries can be called nothing but selfish.  So, bravo, Month9Books and Georgia McBride on your debut.  I am looking forward to future publications.

The book is delivers just what it promises to in its title.  Mother Goose nursery rhymes serve as the inspiration for dark and fantastic short stories for young adult readers.  There are to be 22 tales in the final publication, but this ARC had only 21 total.  There were some extended versions of stories not included, as well as a poem.  Several of the stories stand out to me, while others left me as soon as I finished.  The first story in the book, "As Blue as the Sky and Just as Old" by Nina Berry was an excellent start to the anthology and was inspired by the nursery rhyme about Taffy the Welshman.  I'm a real sucker for Welsh words - there's just something about all those y's that is pure poetry to me.  But this story really captured the retelling or even the real telling of this nursery rhyme.  So many seemingly childish rhymes are in reality based on dark and grim events and folklore.  Berry's story of timeless search for three disguised objects and the evil forces that seek them is deliciously frightening with enough magic glimmering at the edges to keep it light. It was well-developed with just enough back story to make the plot interesting and characters believable.  On the other hand, "Pieces of Eight" by Shannon Delany and Max Scialdone was overly developed for a short story.  There was too much to accomplish - an entire quest- in one short story and I found myself overwhelmed and eventually uninterested in this retelling of the nursery rhyme Sleep, Baby, Sleep.  The authors might want to consider writing a novel based on this short story in order to include the full quest plot and  character development.

"Wee Willie Winkie" by Leigh Fallon and "Life in a Shoe" by Heidi R. Kling are two stories that should be developed into novels.  The setting of each story were unique and beg to be developed fully.  Voice was strong in each as well, and I found myself wanting to know more about the females narrators in these two dark tales.  Also satisfying were "The Wish" by Suzanne Young and "A Ribbon of Blue" by Michelle Zink. These two stories managed to catch me by surprise and deliver an element I wasn't expecting.

Overall, the book is entertaining and a treat for anyone who loves nursery rhymes.  This will be a great addition to school libraries and will be perfect for readers who like their stories short and sweet.  It is a solid first publication for Month9Books.



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