Undead Book Picks

Let me first say that the Midseason Premiere of The Walking Dead Season 6 was AMAZING!

All the haters for that episode need to just move along because it was the perfect mix of comic book storytelling and an uplifting turn on the well-deserved show descriptor “misery porn.”

With that being said, my zombie obsession is therefore still alive and well. Since Valentine’s Day is for zombies this year, I wanted to make a list of some of my YA zombie book picks:


The Unconventional Zombie Tale — Undead by Kirsty McKay


This story focuses on new girl Bobby and the local high school bad boy Smitty. They are the only two to stay behind on the bus while an entire class field trip is converted into ravenous undead. With a female lead who rises spectacularly to the hardcore occasion, this zombie novel is rather different than most of them which focus on a guy lead. Also, many of the traditional zombie flick tropes are actually parodied in the story. This book is definitely the choice for those who want something a little different.


The Classic — Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

rot and ruin

Considered to now be one of the tried and true classics of the YA zombie genre. It is a zombie story with a post-apocalyptic twist. The main character is 15-year-old Benny who becomes a zombie hunter to help defend his city from the undead. The only problem is that there is a conspiracy afoot and the zombie horde might not be what they seem.


The Survival Story — Sick by Tom Leveen


This book is somewhat of a “locked room” scenario coupled with zombie survival. Almost all the students and teachers at a high school are turned into bloodthirsty attackers. Brian and his best friend manage to find a safe place to stay with a bunch of theater kids, but they must get to Brian’s sister and his ex-girlfriend before they are torn to shreds. Even though the theater kids and Brian never mixed before this day, they band together to make it through the school and get the girls.


Hope you enjoy these zombie picks as much as I did!




YA Fairy Tales – Cinderella

Cicinderella - disneynderelly Cinderelly night and day it’s Cinderelly!

While I wacinderella - folklores never passionate about Cinderella like many of my little girl peers (Little Mermaid FTW!), the story is one of the most popular and one of the longest running fairy tales in the world. The tale falls under the 510B category in the Aarne-Thompson Classification System (remember from last week, this system is the way academics sort through folklore of the world). The 510B category is generally summed up as the “persecuted heroine.”

Basically, you have a girl who is under someone’s thumb as the primary story’s focal point. This framwork is actually widely popular throughout YA right now though (Katniss, Tris, etc). To draw a line between this beloved story device and actual Cinderella retellings, I focused on those books which played with the other parts of the folktale–evilcinderella - egypt/ugly stepsisters and/or stepmother, fairy godmothers/benefactors, and an attraction to a handsome young man.cinderella - india

Most of the European versions of Cinderella have these three additional characteristics along with certain African (West Africa’s Chinye and Egypt’s Rhodopis) and Asian (China’s Yeh-Shen and India’s The Enchanted Anklet) Cinderella stories.

So, without further ado…here are my selections of YA Cinderella retellings:

  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – One of the award-winning retellings that makes the Cinderella heroine powerful in her own right. Rather than relying on a fairy godmother to rescue her, Ella is actually “cursed” with the gift of obedience by her godmother. Just do me a favor, if you are going to watch the movie with Anne Hathaway, judge it separately from the book. While a few things from the movie and book line up, there are not enough similarities to say the movie was derived from the Levine story. cinderella5
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer – What if Cinderella wasn’t so old fashioned? What if she was a cyborg? Futuristic storytelling meets the fairy tale in Cinder. The fact that Cinder is a cyborg makes her a second-class citizen in her world, but her skills as a gifted mechanic help to position her in the middle of an intergalactic struggle and in the heart of Prince Kai. Definitely for those who want their Cinderella with more umph and a sci-fi twist. cinderella4
  • The Selection by Kiera Cass – Being selected as one of the 35 girls who will be given the opportunity to win the Prince’s heart begins as a nightmare for America Singer. She is forced to turn her back on everything she planned for herself. If you want your Cinderella story to be more about love growing between the heroine and her prince, this book is for you. An enjoyment of reality dating shows like The Bachelor would help too. cinderella3
  • The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson – Did you ever think that Cinderella’s stepsisters got a raw deal? This is the book for you if you feel more attached to the poor stepsisters who were only doing as their mother told them. Artistic and quirky Mattie considers herself as the ugly stepsister when pretty and popular Ella gets the attention and even the affection of Mattie’s long-time crush. It is time for the snarky stepsister to rule. cinderella1

YA Fairy Tales – Little Red Riding Hood

I have been wanting to do a special on YA fairy tale re-tellings for a LONG time. There are so many amazing YA re-tellings of classic fairy tales with quite a few being published in the last 5 years.

My love of fairy tales goes back a long time (traditional children’s stories, picture books, and of course Disney). Also, in addition to being a YA lit lover and librarian…I actually hold an undergraduate degree in anthropology. WEIRD, right? Well, I like to think it’s weird in a good way and led to a lot of research into fairy tales and folklore from around the world.

We will start off this theme with the classic Little Red Riding Hood!little-red-riding-hood-jessie-willcox-smith

Cool but random fact –> Red Riding Hood falls under the 333 Aarne-Thompson Classification System (really cool way to categorize folklore from around the world). The 300-series of the Aarne-Thompson System is defined as “Supernatural Opponents.”

Versions of this tale practically blanket Europe and can be found throughout East Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Most of the European versions involve a red cloak or tunic. The Brothers Grimm version mentions a red cap. The stories in Europe, the Middle East, and some of the Asian ones feature a wolf as the primary antagonist while Africa and the other Asian versions allow for local animals instead. Another variant is called “The Wolf and the Kids” which shows a wolf antagonist attacking baby goats (kids) who were left home alone.wolf and the kids

While most folklorists believe the story to be one of the most ancient that we still hear today, the earliest written proof is from the 11th century in a poem from Belgium. The poem talks about a girl wearing a red baptism tunic who wanders into the woods and has a run-in with a wolf.

Almost all the stories focus on the idea of “stranger danger” and an innate fear of the wild woods versus the safety of town. Then, the stories seem to split between the main character using cunning to get out of a sticky situation or being rescued.

The newer YA versions of the stories try to focus on “Red” saving herself. Here are some of the best (IMO) of Little Red Riding Hood’s (LRRH) YA re-tellings:

  • Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge – When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.  Good+Reckless+Girl Protagonist+Deadly Meetingcrimson bound
  • Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce – Scarlett and Rosie March are both fighters of werewolves. Scarlett is physically scarred from an attack when she placed herself between a werewolf and Rosie. While Rosie feels she owes her sister for her life, Scarlett becomes a little too fanatical about her werewolf extermination mission. Bad Wolves+Cunning Girl Protagonist+Blatant Recklessnesssisters red
  • Through the Woods by Emily Carroll – This graphic novel is a compilation of fairy tales that have gone seriously wrong. If you like horror with your fairy tales, this is the book for you. The tale that links to LRRH is at the conclusion and features a wolf appearing outside of a girl’s window in the creepiest way possible. Young Girl+Trickster Wolf+Major Creep Factorthrough-the-woods-253x300


Sources for the Little Red Riding Hood folklore factoids:

What Wide Origins You Have, Little Red Riding Hood! by Rachel Hartigan Shea from National Geographic

Could Little Red Riding Hood Reveal the History of Human Migration by Sarah Griffiths

Aarne-Thompson-Uther Classification of Folk Tales from the Multilingual Folk Tale Database

HISTORY! Sort Of… Frontier Crafts

0-545-03342-XThe book Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede is an alternative history based in the American frontier.

Think of it like Little House on the Prairie meets Harry Potter. It is actually the first book in the Frontier Magic Series which follows Eff (born a thirteenth child) and her family that lives in a frontier town. The local settlers may have chosen a poor location for their town though as it is close to the magical divide which separates humans from supernatural beasts.

There are tons of frontier crafts to make this story come alive while you read it:

  • Make your own hand dipped candles!
    • http://www.education.com/activity/article/dipped-candles/
    • hand dipped candlesAll you need is is a tall, skinny tin can, an old saucepan (one you don’t mind getting messy because wax can be very hard to clean up), a big chunk of wax, 15-inch lengths of candle wick, and small, straight sticks about 12 inches long.

HISTORY! Sort of…

Rewriting history is a time honored tradition. As the old saying goes, “winners write the history books.”


Some new YA authors have started to think that history can be rewritten for entertainment purposes–instead of that icky lying, vilifying people, and hiding dirty secrets by rewriting actual history books.

Most of the time these types of books are called “alternative history/histories.”

leviathanSometimes the stories run parallel to actual history like Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series, which is a steampunk twist on World War I.

Other times you get historical stories that are twisted to allow for magic or fantasy. Melissa de la Cruz came out with a book just last year with this type of alternative history. It is called The Ring and the Crown, and the book takes place in a world where the Franco-British Empire (think 1800s) is incredibly powerful due to its control over the world’s only source of magic.ring and crown

These alternative history books are great for people who enjoy history but who aren’t crazy about reading a dry and boring nonfiction book. Allowing for the history to be flexible can make the story move better for the reader with plenty of action and depth to characters.

Want something kind of historical but not boring?

Check out these awesomesauce YA alternative histories:

Becoming Darkness by Lindsay Francis Brambles (World War II)

Gods and Warriors by Michelle Paver (Ancient Greece)

Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore (1930s)

Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede (American Frontier)

Drift and Dagger by Kendall Kulper (late 1800s)

The Number 7 by Jessica Lidh (World War II)

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (Early Middle Ages)

The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer (Industrial Revolution)

YA Fairies – Silent Orchids

Not all fairy-based YA literature has to be on the level of other popular YA. In fact, there are some (like the O.R. Melling books previously covered) that like to embrace a more traditional view of fairy folklore. These options normally have several links to the Celtic traditions of fairies and little people.


The book Silent Orchids by Morgan Wylie is definitely in this stream. However, it takes things in a different direction. Rather than just embracing an ancient story and modifying it for the modern world, she actually uses some elements from the fairy tradition and then just implements them in her own version of the modern world.


It follows the story of a girl named Kaeleigh who was abandoned as a child and is about to turn 18. As she reaches this age of adulthood, she feels the pull to find her family and unravel secrets of her past. She travels with her two best friends Chel and Finn as she tries to reach the fairy realm of her birth, Alandria. Also, the book looks into the Ferrishyn fairy warrior Deagan as he is on a mission that could change the fate of Alandria. The two tales intertwine beautifully as Wylie certainly has a gift for writing and for lovely yet realistic descriptions. The overall feel is very dark and adventurous, making this a great fairy book for guys and girls who prefer more beefy action.

silent orchids


Bring It to Life (BITL)!


Make your own paper orchid.


The symbolism of the orchid is a very important part of this book (duh). Therefore, a paper orchid craft project can be a great way to embrace the novel.


There are actually several ways to create a paper orchid since the flower is rather unique in its appearance.


I personally like the written (with picture assistance) directions from Lia Griffith’s DIY site. My preference for this source is that there are plenty of photos of finalized paper orchids and ideas for how to use them. The step by step instructions and pictures make it easy to follow too.






Also, there is a nice YouTube video of a rather simple paper orchid. It is more along the lines of an origami orchid than the Lia Griffith cutting-craft version. This orchid is actually really quick and simple too.




paper orchid1

YA Fairies – Dark Promise

Aaaaand we’re back!


This one is definitely a good choice too. It is called Dark Promise by Julia Crane and Talia Jager. The book was just released last year and has inspired its own book series called Between Worlds. It is a classic example of YA fairy literature mixed with romance.


Basically, the story follows Rylie who feels that everything is going great as she approaches her 16th birthday. However, just before she turns 16, Rylie discovers her life is not what she thought. Her actual mother is revealed to be a fairy and she warns Rylie that on her birthday she will come into her powers. She even will have a change in appearance which she can keep hidden from humans but not from other fairies.


To make matters worse, it turns out Rylie’s birth father promised her to the prince of dark fairies named Kallan. The dark fairies are therefore after her to fulfill the deal. Buckle up for a fun adventure laced with plenty of fairy romance.

dark promise


Bring It to Life (BITL)!

Fairy Make-up – Just in time for Halloween!


One of the coolest aspects of Rylie’s transformation into a fairy involves her appearance. Specifically, her facial marking seem really amazing to me. With this in mind, fairy make-up is the perfect way to honor the novel. Not being very gifted with specialty make-up tools myself (mostly because I don’t have a very steady hand which leads to problems in pretty designs or even basic things like eyeliner), I think we need to outsource to a professional for this one.


Here is a link to my personal favorite YoutTube tutorial for fairy make-up. Also, I think that the end result would be rather close to Rylie’s look.



fairy makeup


For those who are more inclined to read their instructions (this is a literary blog after all), here is a link to a step by step tutorial for fairy make-up in written form as well.



fairy makeup 2