Friday, November 9, 2012

Two and Twenty Dark Tales Blog Tour: Review, Interview + Giveaway

Paranormal Young Adult
340 pages
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall. The authors include Nina Berry, Sarwat Chadda, Leigh Fallon, Gretchen McNeil, and Suzanne Young.

Dark is an extremely apt description for the short stories in this anthology, the lives of the protagonists in each one often marked by pain and sorrow, their journeys, however short or long, traveled with Death as a constant companion. While there is darkness to be found in every tale, each author threads their needle with a different shade of black, some weaving terror and brutality through their stories while others add beautiful stitches of light to break up the darker threads, ensuring a drastic fluctuation in our emotions from story to story.

Sing a Song of Six-Pence by Sarwat Chadda
Based on the rhyme in which twenty-four blackbirds are baked in a pie, "Sing a Song of Six-Pence" is one of the tales that beautifully combines dark and light, a brief look at a gritty and corrupt fantasy world making us wish we had all the pages leading up to this brief snippet to enjoy, as well as all the pages that might come after. The two leading characters have both experienced profound loss, but by the concluding paragraphs have gained back the pieces of themselves they've been missing, leaving us with peace, though it's a peace tinged with melancholy.

Wee Willie Winkie by Leigh Fallon
One of the shorter stories in the anthology with one of the biggest impacts, Ms. Fallon crafts and extraordinarily eerie tale set in a small town that has a shocking abundance of older people and a relative dearth of younger children. The explanation for this skewed population is one that raises the fine hairs on our arms and includes a parting line that echoes in our memories late at night when we’re all alone.

Boys & Girls Come Out to Play by Angie Frazer
Ms. Frazer does a stunning job of creating a world with substance and detail in only a few short pages, bringing to life a characters who face death as payment to a to a coven of witches; a calling card left to those who are chosen beckoning them to tempt fate as the witches brutally test young men and women to see who has the most potential. Cruelty runs rampant, happiness is a foreign emotion, and love is briefly found and then violently snatched away to leave us with pounding hearts and wet cheeks.

Tick Tock by Gretchen McNeil
"Tick Tock" is one of the true horror stories in this anthology, a short nightmare of a tale involving a babysitter, a disturbing clock, and a quartet of unnerving children who speak only the Mother Goose rhyme on which this story was based. Our skin breaks out in tiny pebbles and full body shudder runs through us as we reach the end, needing a few moments to breathe deep and regain our equilibrium before we move on to the next dark interpretation.

A Ribbon of Blue by Michelle Zink
The final short story in the anthology, "A Ribbon of Blue" eases us out of the shadows and both literally and figuratively into the light with a tale of a young girl struggling to take care of a grandmother with rapidly deteriorating health even as she herself battles the everyday challenges of cerebral palsy. We instantly connect with Ruby, hoping that though the multitude of tales that came before it suggest things won’t end well for her, her fate will be positive in nature. While our wish for only good things for Ruby isn’t granted without a steep price, we are left with a warmth in our hearts as we close the back cover, grateful Ms. Zink’s story was last.

 Overall Rating: 4/5

As part of the promotional tour for Two and Twenty Dark Tales, I'm thrilled to welcome author Leah Cypess to the blog to answer a few questions about her fabulous addition to this anthology!

If you had the opportunity to retell and put your spin on another nursery rhyme, fable, or fairytale, which one would you choose?

That’s an easy one, since I’m currently working on a “prequel story” to Twelve Dancing Princess and shopping around a science-fiction retelling of Bluebeard and a fantasy retelling of The Boy Who Drew Cats. I am a big fan of retellings! (I also have a sequel to Rumpelstiltskin being published soon in Sword & Sorceress.) I don’t know which one will be up next, but if it turns out to be a nursery rhyme, I think Jack & Jill has a lot of possibilities.

After reading the Mother Goose rhyme on which “Clockwork” is based, what was the first element of the world you created to pop into your head?

It was obvious to me that the mouse is the central character, and that the mouse is actually a person who been changed into a mouse. So the first element that occurred to me was the question of who turned her into a mouse and why.

Let’s say Amarind was able to turn back time and leave a brief message for either herself or her sister before the events of “Clockwork” take place. What would she say and where would she hide it to ensure only she or her sister found it?
Interesting question! I’m guessing she’d warn herself about the coup, and she’d probably leave the message somewhere pretty typical… like her underwear drawer. It’s not like anyone would be searching for it.

When we first meet Amarind, she’s been transformed into a mouse. If you fell prey to transformation magic, what type of creature would you most hope you were changed into?

NOT a mouse – I hope the story made that clear! Probably a bird with the least possible amount of predators. Or, wait, an extinct animal whose predators are all extinct too! Yes, that sounds pretty safe.

The Witch from “Clockwork” is to interview you as part of a promotional tour for Two and Twenty Dark Tales. What’s the first question she would ask and how would you answer?

Her: Who was it who trapped me and how can I break the trap?

Me: I don’t know yet, silly. That’s fodder for another story…

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Leah! This tour kicked off back in October, so if you're interested in checking out all the amazing reviews, interviews and giveaways that have already taken place, be sure and take a look at the full schedule HERE. The next stop will be tomorrow at Novel Thoughts Blog. More information on Two and Twenty Dark Tales, the tour, and Month9Books can be found here:

Buy Two and Twenty Dark Tales on Amazon


Thanks to the wonderful team at Month9Books and Leah Cypess, I have one ecopy of Leah's MISTWOOD to give away to a lucky winner! Since this is an ebook, the giveaway is INTERNATIONAL, please just leave a comment on the review or interview along with a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway will run through midnight on Friday, November 16th after which time a winner will be chosen and emailed. Have a great weekend everyone!


  1. I am just not a fan of Anthologies mainly because I also do not like Novella's and short stories.. When when I look at all those authors contributing? I might need to get over myself and finally read it :)

  2. I'm not a big anthology fan but I'm not sure why that is. I keep getting the ones with my favorite authors but I never pick them up. Its strange cause I love that sense of accomplishment every time I finish a book but maybe its not the same.
    Anyway, this has some fab authors in it and it reminds me a bit of Laini Taylor's Lips Touch Three Times. Its totally different but hers are all shorts that are very dark, strange and twisted but so beautiful. That was one book of shorts I loved. But the artwork was a big bonus as well.

  3. Ok creepy..and I totally want it :D There is nothing more to say really. Very cool

  4. Although short, Leigh Fallons short sounds so eerie and amazing, and Michelle Zink's does too, especially because it ends the anthology on a hopeful note. I don't know who the editor was, but someone did a very good job. I also adore the idea behind this, Mother Goose nursery rhymes have so much potential for this kind of thing. :)

  5. Wow. I hadn't even heard of this book before now. Usually, I'm ot the biggest anthology fan but I just LOVE fairy tale re-tellings!

    Thank you for the chance to win Mistwood!

  6. I haven't read too many anthologies, but this one seems mesmerizing. I love the dark feel and the short stories you described hooked me in just from your description of them! I'll definitely have to check out a copy of this one soon - amazing review, Jenny! :)

  7. Oh I like it when authors write anthologies, I like it but haven't had much luck, some of these short stores sound fantastic! I especially like the sound of Gretchen McNeil's! Thanks for putting this on my radar Jenny! :)

  8. What a clever idea, not only to retell the nursery rhymes but have different authors do it. It gives you a little insight into each author and how twisted they may be!!!! Thanks for letting me know about this book and I may need to borrow it!!! hint hint

  9. I think I know someone who would love this for Christmas! Thanks for pointing it out to me!

  10. I really love anthologies. All of these authors told very creepy, interesting, and highly imaginative stories. I enjoyed this whole collection.

  11. Awesome interview! I love a good spin on a classic story!

  12. I've read a couple retellings of Twelve Dancing Princess so would be interested in reading Leah's version since I liked her pervious books.

  13. I've had mixed success with anthologies but I do find them very helpful to sample some author's writing that I've heard about but haven't read yet such as this book. I've never read a retelling of a nursery rhyme or at least that I can think of at the top of my head. It definitely sounds like a very clever idea.

  14. Oh! Novellas can be a lot of fun when done right, and it sounds like many of these were! And dark is fun. :)

  15. I am the sort of reader who likes to admire anthologies from afar. While they might have the most intriguing covers (like this one!) and mention so many of my favourite authors, I just can't seem to get into them like I do with full length novels. Though, having said that, I really like the sound of Tick Tock. I enjoy being creeped out of my skin. ;)

  16. I don't pick up many anthologies...because they either leave me feelimng like something is lacking or leave me wanting more! This one sounds pretty creepy (and tempting)...especially Tick Tock.

  17. I do enjoy anthologies... especially a good collection of shorts. This sounds like it fits the bill quite nicely. Oh and I love retellings too! What a great review and interview. I think I've just added a anthology to my wishlist.

    Oh and put me in for the book as well. I'm intrigued with her ideas.
    books (dot) things (at) yahoo (dot) com

  18. I can't believe I haven't gotten to this, I have a copy. I love short stories great for when I have a short attention span. I love dark and cannot wait to dig into this. So glad to see you enjoyed it! Have a great weekend, Jenny!

  19. I love the idea of this but I do tend to have a hard time with short stories. Mostly because I wind up wanting MORE! Very cool that you enjoyed this collection, though. I love the concept of this one.

  20. I would love to read this book. It sounds very good. Please enter me in contest.

  21. Sounds fantastic! Thanks for the great giveaway!


  22. Great interview! Thanks for the chance to win!
    natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

  23. As many other commenters, I don't enjoy short stories with unfamiliar characters either, since I don't think a meaningful and impressing story could be done within so few pages, but when I look at the authors who have written it, holy smoke! My head is definitely screaming "I want to read that" :O

  24. What a fabulous idea. And clever title! I love fairytales and would like to read the dark side of these well known classics. :)

    nicnac63 AT hotmail DOT com

  25. Thanks so much!
    cassinz10 at gmail dot com

  26. Not entering, just wanted to leave a comment: This sounds right up my alley. I have read a lot of Terri Windling/Ellen Datlow collections of re-told fairy tales.

  27. Thanks for breaking all these down for us. Gretchen McNeil's tale sounds super creepy. Great review Jenny and thanks for the giveaway. :)

  28. I'm actually looking forward to this one. I'm interested to see how childhood rhymes & stories get re-told.


  29. I'm usually not a fan of anthologies, but after seeing those awesome authors above, I think I might give this a try one day :) I'm especially looking forward to Gretchen McNeil's story! Awesome review Jenny :)

  30. I love the cover, it's so creepy! Thanks for such an insightful review! Ooh, there's a short story by Gretchen McNeil? I recently read Ten and loved her writing style! ^^

  31. What a great review and interview! And thanks for the giveaway! =D


  32. I haven't heard about The Boy Who Drew Cats so it looks like I'm going to learn something new today. Must find out what that's about via Wikipedia :)