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[sticky post] "The Way to Winter": about it and where to buy

It’s the start of a winter like any other in our world, where Gerda works in her beloved conservatory while her twin brother, Kai, falls in love with their beautiful new neighbor. Everything changes when a sliver of an enchanted mirror begins to corrupt Kai. The Snow Queen, a barely-remembered character in Scandinavian folktales, is revealed to be anything but imaginary when she abducts Kai to fix her broken mirror that can make winter last forever.

If Gerda wants to save her brother and stop the Snow Queen, she will have to journey through all four seasons in a world where birds can change into humans, trolls lurk in the forest, and memory is a fickle thing.

This memorable retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” is sure to delight fans of fairy tales and adventure.

The Way to Winter is currently available for sale in multiple formats and at multiple locations online.




Amazon sells the paperback and Kindle ebook in multiple countries. If you do not live in the United States, look it up on your country's Amazon website; there is a good chance that it will be available.

I'm usually not a person to do impulse spending. I keep lists of things I want or need to buy and generally do a good job of sticking to those lists, including books. But not long ago I had almost an hour to kill in a bookstore, which is always a dangerous situation when it comes to restraint.

I already own three copies of "The Snow Queen," two of which are illustrated. Then I saw it: a hardcover volume of the fairy tale with thick, crisp paper and full of color illustraions by printmaker and textile designer Sanna Annukka. The pictures are gorgeous, with bold colors and full of personality, different from most other fairy tale picture books you'll see. Some of my favorites are the illustrations of the hobgoblin, the Robber Girl, and the Snow Queen herself. The text of the story is translated by Jean Hersholt and is very enjoyable.

If you've been looking to treat yourself to an illustrated edition of a fairy tale, get your hands on this one.

Fantasy and "women's work"

I’ve been thinking about this post on Tumblr that talks about wanting fantasy heroines who don’t look down on female-coded work. I realized that I couldn’t think of many that specifically fit this description, but I do know of some fantasy novels and short stories that are positive about traditionally feminine tasks:

Dragon Slippers trilogy by Jessica Day George: The heroine repeatedly saves the day using her sewing skills. She also becomes successful at making a living by sewing. The author also has a retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” titled Princess of the Midnight Ball featuring a boy who knits, but I haven’t read it yet.

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede: Admittedly, Cimorene isn’t too interested in most female-coded pursuits, but she makes great cherries jubilee and chocolate mousse. Cleaning supplies also turn out to play a major role.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley: The heroine works in a bakery and is very passionate about her baking.

Antickes and Frets by Susanna Clarke: This short story features enchanted embroidery done by Mary, Queen of Scots and Bess of Hardwick, the Countess of Shrewsbury. It can be found in Clarke’s collection, The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel: Though more magical realism than outright fantasy, this novel revolves around cooking and the effect food prepared by the heroine has on other people.

Feel free to add any fantasy works you can think of!
A large portion of my Saturday evening has been spent watching Sigur Ros’s 2016 road trip video and writing about regicide.

In a fictional sense, of course. No real people, living or already dead, have been harmed in the writing of this first draft.


winter fairy tales

Now that we've made it past the shortest day of the year (and I’ve already driven through my first snowstorm), I’m in the mood for some winter fairy tales. I only know of three, though:

The Snow Queen (Hans Christian Andersen)
The Little Match Girl (Andersen)
The Twelve Months (Eastern Europe, though I’ve also seen a mention of a variation from Greece)

Can anybody recommend some more?
You have recently accepted a post as a governess to two children in Norfolk, England. Upon arriving (and getting an odd reaction from a husband and wife at the train station when they learn your destination), you learn that you are to be the only adult living in the house and that the last governess posted the position herself before running off literally the moment you turned up. That same night, a pair of invisible hands grabs you in bed and drags you down before you get free.

Do you:

A) Leave immediately and return to London.
B) Post an advertisement for a new governess, then leave.
C) Find the nearest adult and demand to know what is going on, then leave.
D) Decide to stay and make the best of it, because why not.

If you answered “D,” congratulations! You have made the same choice as Eliza Caine, a young schoolteacher living in Victorian London whose father recently died, has no living family or close friends, and chose to answer an advertisement for somebody wanting a governess who can start work immediately.

“This House is Haunted” is exactly as titled, which makes me laugh, but at the same time it’s certainly the clearest advertisement of a ghost story I’ve ever encountered. I recommend this book for people who like haunted house novels featuring odd children, or isolated governesses, or creepy mansions in the countryside, or isolated governesses who end up taking care of odd children while living in a creepy mansion.

To give Eliza credit, she does make attempts to find out more about the children’s current situation, the family in general, and the fact that she’s the sixth governess in one year, but is frequently stalled by everyone’s unwillingness to talk about these things at all. In one scene she threatens to camp out in the office of the family’s lawyer all day until she gets some answers, which I find delightful.

Without giving too much away, the plot features some elements that make me think of “Jane Eyre” and “Rebecca.” The ending is also very good, which can be hard to find in horror fiction.
This book has been on my To Read list for a long time and was part of this year’s goal to get through as many books on the list as possible, starting with the ones that I couldn’t remember what they were about. When I borrowed this book from the library, I thought it would be ghost stories written by Dahl. Instead, the Introduction reveals that in the 1950s Dahl pitched the idea for a television series of ghost stories to be shown in the U.S. and read hundreds of stories in order to choose ones suitable for adapting to film. The series fell through, sadly, but fortunately he decided to put together this anthology of fourteen ghost stories he liked the most. The book as a whole is enjoyable but I particularly recommend the following stories:

Harry by Rosemary Timperley: A couple’s adopted daughter gains an imaginary friend. I love the slowly growing feeling of dread throughout this tale.

Elias and the Draug by Jonas Lie: The only story is this book not written by a non-English language author, Lie is an author from Norway who spins a tale of what happens to a fisherman and his family after he throws his harpoon at the wrong seal.

Ringing the Changes by Robert Aickman: Creepy, creepy, creepy. Recommended for anybody who wants a story of people visiting a town they’ve never been to before and encountering a horrifying local tradition.

The Telephone by Mary Treadgold: Sad as much as it is scary, this story looks at the dead and the living being unwilling to let go of each other.

The Ghost of a Hand by J. Sheridan Le Fanu: You would think that there’s no way a story simply about a hand being the only part of a ghost anybody sees could be disturbing. You would be wrong.

Afterward by Edith Wharton: Given how much I hated reading “Ethan Frome” in high school (You guys, I hated it so much. I will never get over how much I wanted to throw this book against a wall), the fact that I enjoyed this story about a woman whose husband mysteriously disappears came as a complete shock.

On the Brighton Road by Richard Middleton: Short and atmospheric. How do you know if you area dead or alive?
This is a worthwhile read for anybody who is looking for a teen novel about creepy schools. Kit Gordy has been dropped off at the boarding school Blackwood Hall for its first school year by her mother and new stepfather immediately before the two adults leave for a European honeymoon.

First sign of trouble: the school is in an old home in the middle of the countryside past a run-down village in upstate New York.

Second sign: upon seeing the school for the first time, Kit’s immediate reaction is that something about the place is evil.

Third sign: There are only four students to begin the brand-new exclusive school’s first semester.

Unfortunately for Kit and her classmates, they do not have cars and cannot hightail it out of there. And everything seems fine at first—the classmates are nice, the classes are good, and Kit’s young piano teacher is sexy.

It’s difficult to decide how much else I can say to recommend the book without giving the plot away. What I can say, without having to use a cut for spoilers, is that there are indeed ghosts, and possession, and creepy adults who strongly feel that the end justifies the means.

Trivia: This book was first published in 1974. A revised edition was published in 2011 to allow for changes in name trends, ways of talking, and technology. This is the version I read. I can’t say how it compares to the original but I think Duncan does a good job of addressing the question of why a 21st century teen who’s disturbed by the strange happening at her school doesn’t call or text for help or take to the hills.

The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

What I knew about this book going in: Oscar Wilde wrote a story about an English ghost having to cope with an American family who are completely unrattled about living in a haunted house. And I have to say, this fulfilled all my expectations.

The ghost of Canterville Chase is that of Sir Simon of Canterville, who has successfully been haunting the home for about 300 years by the time the Otis family turns up. Canterville Chase comes with a housekeeper who’s more than happy to fill the family in on every creepy story. And the first one? A blood stain on the carpet that “has much been admired by tourists and others, and cannot be removed.” The eldest Otis son immediately declares that it can be removed with Pinkerton’s Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent, and scours the carpet clean. The ghost puts the stain back the next morning, but it’s the thought that counts. My favorite part of that scene is not only the fact that the stain remover works, but a teenage boy was carrying it with him, ready to use it at any time. Aside from being hilarious in its own right, this scene sets the tone for all future interactions between the ghost and the Otis family.

The story is a delight and I recommend it for anybody looking for a comedic ghost story or wanting fiction about somebody reacting in a practical manner to living in a haunted house. The resolution to the haunting was also one I didn’t expect, which makes me like the story even more.
1. Thou shalt not donate porn.

2. Thou shalt not attempt to donate dozens of boxes of books the day before the sale begins.

3. Thou shalt not donate books that are falling apart.

4. Thou shalt not donate books covered in dust, fluids, or other filth.

5. Thou shalt not donate VHS tapes that thou recorded at home while watching television.

6. If the books have been in boxes for longer than one month, thou shalt inspect the boxes for bugs, dead or alive, and remove any found before donating.

7. Thou shalt not donate used workbooks or coloring books.

8. Thou shalt inspect the books for any personal papers and remove them before donating.

9. Thou shalt not donate items the library has said it does not want.

10. If donating books while the library is closed, thou shalt clearly identify them as donations and leave them in a place protected from rain.