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review 2015-01-10 02:17
Review: Folk Tales from Russian Lands by Irina Zheleznova, and the film Morozko/Jack Frost
Folk Tales from Russian Lands - Selected and translated by Irina Zheleznova

Another childhood read - apparently I'm still on a roll with those. This is a Dover paperback from 1969, and I've lost track of how many times I read as a child. It wasn't until this reread that I really thought about how I've never known how to pronounce any of these names - and still have no clue. Names like Pokati-Goroshek, Pilipka, Hiysi, and Altyn-Saka. Even my favorite - Basil Fet-Frumos - I'd remembered as Fret-Frumos.


I'd also never thought to look up Irina Zheleznova, who selected and translated the stories in this book. She doesn't seem to have a website (in English, that I could find that is), but if you check her name on any book site you'll find lots of material. I think there are a lot of children that have her to thank for introducing us to these fairy tales.


It's thanks to her that I know what a yurt is! But since there were no web images to look up back then I only had a sketchy idea of what they looked like. And I'm only now looking up how you play the game of knucklebones (which is mentioned in a lot of folktales around the world). But then I bet there are a lot of kids now who've never heard of the game of jacks (I was not good at it, I preferred to spin them).


The witch Baba Yaga always confused me. In some stories she's - well, not nice exactly - but you can go ask her for advice and she won't immediately try to kill you. While in other stories she will indeed immediately try to kill you. It's actually thanks to Baba Yaga that I remembered this book, come to think of it.


A few days ago I was randomly looking at things on youtube (the ol' one vid leads to another game) and found myself remembering the 1964 film Jack Frost - a Soviet film originally called MoroĢzko. I'd seen it in the 1970s when a midwestern tv channel would schedule dubbed foreign films for their weekly Children's Theatre show. Which resulted in me watching some really bad and weird foreign children's films. For some reason I fell in love with this particular film - I'm betting it has something to do with Father Mushroom, and also that Baba Yaga's house really walks (a little) on chicken legs. Anyway, I found a youtube version of the film which is much longer than the dubbed version - probably because it has singing.


Morozko, with English Subtitles (1 hr 18 min)

You'll be able to tell from the editing that this is not an entirely professional film. But the quality and color in this print is insanely better than the one I saw as a child. I also learned thanks to the subtitles that I missed out on a lot of rhyming dialog. Because of the over-the-top characters, Baba Yaga played by a male actor, slapstick - it reminded me of the UK's panto. (Am wondering if there's the same tradition in Russian children's theater?)


If you decide to actually watch some of this - Father Mushroom first appears around 14 minutes in. Maybe someone can tell me what's up with those little bell things he's always ringing. Also speaking of fashion - because Father M's hat is stylin' - check out the embroidery on everyone's outfits. Father Frost/Jack Frost's is especially fab. I envy his coat.


How good a movie is this? Um, well, MST3K used it, which I think says it all. (I don't think it's one of their better episodes though.) So yes, cheese factor is high.

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review 2014-05-07 00:00
Jack: The Tale of Frost
Jack: The Tale of Frost - Tony Bertauski Even thought this book is classified as Young Adult it is really more for all ages. It has a great vibe and is beautifully crafted. Many of the characters are adult and only two are actually teens.

This is the follow-up to Claus and it was really terrific. The way the story jumped ahead to modern times was wonderful. I loved seeing how the world evolved and the Elven Pawn adapted to being with humans.

I have found when reading Mr Bertauski that there are many layers to the story. They are woven together and information is doled out like sweet treats in small doses. I never really guess all the intricacies that make up the whole. With the first book I never quite caught on to what the end result and that made it thrilling. I love when a book can surprise me!

The narrative is mixed and has many voices, while most of it is from Sura's POV, you get a real feel for all the characters. It helps make a fuller more realized world with intricate characters. I loved Sura's strength, Jo's loyalty, Mr Frost with his plans and Jack who is very complicated. I was a touch disappointed that Jack lost all the growth he had at the end of the last book. He was more annoying than he had been, there was just something in the last book that was missing, the thing that kept him likable.

The story this time felt slower, there was a lot of exposition to cover and that tended make the pace drag. It is all necessary, just a bit slower than I usually like. It all comes together in the end. The last quarter of the book really picked up considerably. It is all worth it when all those little details come together to bring up the big finish. So many subplots made it almost impossible to guess how things would turn out! Again, love that surprise!

I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by James Robert Killavey, who did such a great job on the first book. He has a real feel for all the characters and the idiosyncrasies that make them up. He manages to match Jack beautifully and keeps him annoying with his grating tones. He has a great pace in his read that helps move the story along at slower moments. Really fantastic combination of reader and story!!

Overall, I enjoyed this modern retelling of the Jack Frost myth and the way it connects with the first book. Beautiful storytelling that surprises and delights at every turn. I have been enchanted by these books and definitely plan to check out other works by this inventive author!
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review 2014-03-31 18:43
Jack: The Tale of Frost - Tony Bertauski

[I got a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
However, that was a few months ago—I totally missed the Archiving deadline—so I don't know if my copy is actually an ARC, or if it's exactly the same as the one that was officially published. Apologies for my taking so long to reading the book.]


Rating this book is hard. I read other works by this author, and liked them a lot, but somehow, this one didn’t elicit the same response from me. (I also preferred the first book in this series, Claus.)


There were beautiful things in this story, some of them in their sadness (Frost’s part, Sura), some comical, some that were both (Jack’s time among the humans, their instant rejection and his subsequent obnoxious ways). The plot itself also spins a very particular tale, and if you haven’t read Claus, then you’re going to miss on several details and connections.


I guess the main problem for me was that I felt disconnected from the characters, and would have wanted to get to know them more, “walk” with them some more—especially for the last 20%, when light is shed on several aspects of the plan. Perhaps I also wanted Sura and Joe to play more of a part in it? It’s hard to tell, but it made me feel frustrated.


On the writing side, I noticed a few jarring tense shifts now and then. However, as I said, I don’t know if my copy was the final release, or an ARC, so those may not remain in the published product.

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photo 2014-01-31 02:36
On Sale!

Exciting news! 


UNTOUCHABLE is only 99c on Amazon from Feb. 1 through Feb. 7


If you enjoy fantasy and unique twists on classic fairytales, you'll probably enjoy UNTOUCHABLE



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review 2013-12-19 12:30
[REVIEW] Claus: Legend of the Fat Man by Tony Bertauski

Claus: Legend of the Fat ManClaus: Legend of the Fat Man by Tony Bertauski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Recommended for: Great for Christmas and those young at heart.

Read from December 05 to 18, 2013 — I own a copy

4 Stars for this Bone-Freezing yet Heartwarming Book.

Nearly freeze my butt off reading this one. Felt like I have just gone through sub-zero in the North Pole. I was effectively transported to the Arctic experiencing blinding white snow and bone-deep chills. Besides that the reindeer rides almost ripped my poor acrophobic heart out. No amount of preparation could have calm my heart enough for such a rough ride. The World's Top Rollercoaster ride would simply be kiddie rides in comparison.

The story begun in year 1818, with an adventurous family of three trekking through the harsh Arctic environment with undying determination to reach the North Pole. It is a feat no one has yet succeeded. Unfortunately their plans was foiled when they were left for dead by their guides and a snow storm was raging. The Santa family was torn apart during that storm and Jessica and her teenage son Jon was left to fend for themselves when Nicholas disappeared in the storm while trying to locate their guides. Unbeknownst to the Santas, they were in for the biggest adventure of their lifetime when they were sucked into the scientifically advance world of the Nordic elven. Although it's a mathematical world with much scifi elements in it, I still find it magical and wondrous!

In Claus, we get to meet lots of fantastical creatures and legendary beings in the land of forever winter. Just to name a few, there is the famed 9 reindeers with Rudy being the biggest and strongest of the herd, the Abominable Snowmans, the round rolly-polly Nordic elven, cold and dangerous Jack Frost, and on goes the list. Only thing is... they all come with a twist, a scientific one of course since this is a scifi cum fantasy take on the legendary red robe fat man. Think genetic manipulation, energy field devices, holographic displays, space compressor and atom fragmenters, doesn't it all spells fun and adventures? So many wondrous things to keep us entertained. Asides from the fun and gripping adventure, the text was powerful enough to help cool down the temperature of my oven-like room. Snow and freezing water never left my mind throughout the story and what a treat it was for a tropical dweller like me. *bliss*

Cane the smallest and oddest elf is probably my favorite character although he is mute and was only a side character with a small role. For some reasons he is very endearing to me. It could be my motherly instinct taking hold of me. Hehehe. I felt that Cane is the character who has truly lost something most precious to him and my heart aches for him.

As for the rest of the characters they were well developed and round (no pun intended). They each have their own background and unique characteristic. They have their own hopes and dreams with strong will to back it up. In short, they are memorable characters. The author's magical pen has brought them to life vividly.

Romance was a constant here even in the midst of chaos caused by the elven war between two elven factions. The pure undying love between Nicholas and his wife Jessica was beautiful to behold. Along with the durable love between the kind hearted elven couple, Nog and Merry was just as inspiring. Then there was also the budding young love between young elven Tinsel and Jon.

Jack, the negative force in this story was just a misguided and misunderstood soul. He could have been as great as Claus if he was given the same opportunity to shine, to be accepted and acknowledged.

Unfortunately the elven has lost track of what is important especially in the upbringing of a child. Poor Jack was shut out by his own people, even his own twin brother and mother was essentially ignoring his existence just because he was different, a freak of nature, an unintended results of a genetic manipulations to create the perfect ruler. Hence he was the so-called unwanted extra, a defective child whereas his brother was the ideal their people sought after. Jack has my empathy as he is only a product of negligence and discrimination. Jack is a lonely soul not by own desire but of disregards and unfair treatments. All he ever seek for was acceptance and love. I could understand his self preservation ways through his tyrannic rulings over the elven.

(spoiler show)

I guess he who sows bad seeds, shall reap bitter fruits.

What didn't worked well for me was the ending. It was a little abrupt with some loose ends left whipping in the cold winter wind.

Seems like Santa just got up one day and decided to travel the world gifting children with toys just because of his sudden fancy. I know that he thinks it's time to announce and unite the elven with humans but why setting such a tradition of gift distribution? It's just that the idea was not properly introduced therefore it felt plastered on just for a jolly ending for the Christmas season.

(spoiler show)

Another peeve was with what had happened to Jon Santa after that unfortunate incident while escaping the six-leggers creatures.

Why on earth does he need to lose his memories just to become an elven? So that he could be with Tinsel? He could be an elven and love Tinsel and his new life even with his memories intact right? It was a cruel thing to do to a mother. Jessica doesn't need this test of love to prove her love for her only child. She does not deserve any further pain. To me it wasn't a necessary plot to steer the story and it felt more like a nuisance to irk me. *Takes deep calming breath* Sigh... perhaps it was a plot to separate Jon and his mother in order to develop Jon and Tinsel's budding love. And, to project the strong spirit and bravery of Jessica and Nog when they were both on the run together. Damnit! it pains me to see Nog leaving Merry behind on his quest to save and protect Jessica.

(spoiler show)

Lessons of the story...
Never play god.
Never ever try to cheat Mother Nature.
Balance is the way to keep the cycle of nature healthy.
Greed only leads to destruction.
Never forsake your child.
Never underestimate anyone.
Never judge a person by external appearance.
Discrimination is an act of cruelty, an assault on human rights.
Courage and determination leads you towards your goal.
Love prevails and kindness rules.

Tony Bertauski has certainly revamped the legend of Santa and making it hip and current. The story and its charming characters touched my heart and warmed my soul. It is a lovely book for those young at heart and great for the winter holiday season.


Title: Claus: Legend of the Fat Man
Related: Claus
Author: Tony Bertauski
Publication Date: June 19th, 2012
Type: Novel, 73,300 words (approximate)
Genre: Fantasy, Holiday, Science Fiction, Young Adult, Adventure, Alternate Universe
Tags/Keywords: young adult, holidays, captive-captivity-confinement, restricted freedom, special abilities, legends, suspenseful, action-packed, adventure, romance, love, family, alternate universe, amazing worldbuilding, science fiction, santa claus, jack frost, elf, reindeer, snowman, winter, snow, arctic, north pole, northern lights, aurora borealis, war, hatred, discrimination

Some legends are forged in fire.
Others are born in snow.

In the early 1800s, Nicholas, Jessica and Jon Santa attempt the first human trek to the North Pole and stumble upon an ancient race of people left over from the Ice Age. They are short, fat and hairy. They slide across the ice on scaly soles and carve their homes in the ice that floats on the Arctic Ocean.

The elven are adapted to life in the extreme cold.

They are as wise as they are ancient. Their scientific advancements have yielded great inventions -- time-stopping devices and gravitational spheres that build living snowmen and genetically-modified reindeer that leap great distances. They’ve even unlocked the secrets to aging. For 40,000 years, they have lived in peace.

Until now.

An elven known as The Cold One has divided his people. He’s tired of their seclusion and wants to conquer the world. Only one elven stands between The Cold One and total chaos. He’s white-bearded and red-coated. The Santa family will help him stop The Cold One.

They will come to the aid of a legendary elven known as… Claus.



Comment on December 6th, 2013 @ 8pm:

Caved in and bought it from SMASHWORDS at its promo price, USD0.99. Another Christmas book to read for the holiday.

(spoiler show)

Comment on December 6th, 2013 @ 4pm:

Seriously considering dropping everything else to read this book first. I have a feeling this would help get me into Christmas mood.

It's on sale at a number of bookstores now. So why not?

The PREVIEW; was fantastic! It hooked me in instantly. And I am compelled to find out how the unfortunate Santa family could survive such calamity. I am worried for them now.

(spoiler show)

* Reviewed on December 18th, 2013

View all my reviews

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/782479442
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