Guest Post: Cheryl Mahoney on Fairy Tale Connections


I am super excited to have Cheryl Mahoney back on my blog for the fourth time to discuss all the interesting connections she has made between her books and fairy tales. I don’t usually host guest posts but I always make a special exception for Cheryl; a fellow book blogger at Tales of the Marvelous, and the author of The Wanderers, The Storyteller and Her Sisters and The People the Fairies Forget. Take it away Cheryl…

I’m delighted to be welcomed onto Jessica’s blog for a guest post today! I love stories that draw in references and connections to other stories, creating a bigger tapestry beyond a single book.  Today, I’m going to explore a bit about some of those connections layered into my newest book—with maybe a secret or two from the author’s-eye view!

My Beyond the Tales series began with the intention to create larger, more complex, hopefully more logical (!) stories that go beyond what we see in the traditional fairy tales. The Wanderers pulls in frequent elements from fairy tales, like youngest sons always succeeding at quests; The Storyteller and Her Sisters retells “The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces;” and The People the Fairies Forget retells “Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast” from new points of view. The Lioness and the Spellspinners is closer to the first book, more independent in plot—but still with plenty of fairy tales references for readers to spot.

In the first portion of the book, one of the chief challenges for the characters is strange spells cropping up without explanation. I hope readers won’t immediately solve the mystery of the spells, but will recognize the literary sources: I use elements of “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “The Red Shoes,” plus a talking animal who could be from many fairy tales.

A later scene involves exploring a magician’s study. This particular magician is a collector of magical items, and I had fun thinking of objects to present from different tales.  The magician has traditional things like Snow White’s apple, walnuts from the tale of “Donkeyskin,” and a golden apple from Greek mythology.  I also couldn’t resist a teacup with a chip in the rim!

Besides connections to fairy tales, I like connecting my various novels. Each book in the series can be read independently, but readers of multiple books will spot connections.  This one links most closely to The Storyteller and Her Sisters.  The princesses in that tale must free twelve princes from a curse, and Lioness is set in the princes’ country, in pre-curse days.  Prince Dastan, the love interest in Storyteller, appears as a child in Lioness.

Magical knitting is a major theme in this book that has not directly appeared in the others—but there is a small link.  I added an extra detail at the last possible moment when I was doing final edits for Storyteller.  That book came out October, 2014, a month before I started writing Lioness, but I was already working out the magic system.  I was just barely in time to include a new detail where Dastan gives my heroine a scarf, dyed a special color that is a trade secret in their country. Lioness reveals what that scarf and color mean magically, for readers who go back to compare the details.

I also had to sneak in another character—Sam Jones is a personal favorite character of mine, who has made appearances in every novel I’ve written, including the unpublished ones I wrote in high school.  He’s always earnest, well-meaning and deeply clumsy.  He already appeared in the other books in this series, and with this one set significantly earlier he can’t really be the same person…so we have to assume that the Sam in this book is an ancestor of the other one.  But really, they’re all Sam, and I was particularly pleased to be able to give him a nice moment highlighting his best qualities.

I hope readers will enjoy looking for the connections in the story—and I haven’t given away every secret about characters or references that may turn up!

Thank you so much Cheryl for another great post. I loved your previous books and I can’t wait to read your new one:

The Lioness and the Spellspinners

Forrest can’t fathom this prickly, knife-wielding girl who so unceremoniously turns up in his family’s barn one morning. His life has never been thisthe-lioness-cover exciting.  Karina can’t make herself trust the strangely hospitable villagers on this island she’s now stuck on, and when they claim they can knit spells into their garments, that doesn’t help.  She knows magic exists, but that’s just ridiculous.

And no one can understand why the chickens have suddenly started laying gilded eggs, or why the horse is talking in rhyming couplets.

When the inexplicable magic goes from mere bad poetry to actual threats, when dancing becomes dangerous and the wrong thought could cause disaster, the only answers are in the past Karina is fleeing—and the only way to survive is for the knife-wielder to trust the spellspinner.

The Lioness and the Spellspinners is now available to buy in paperback or Kindle edition at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Have you read any of Cheryl’s wonderful books? Are you looking forward to reading her new one?

Goodbye September, Hello October 2016


Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? I have had a warm and super busy September with starting a new school year at work, a visit to ICE 2016-Comic Convention, a trip to the theatre to see The Woman in Black and three schools trips: first, up Thorpe Cloud in the Peak District; next, to Cadbury’s World; and finally, to Bosworth Battlefield. Phew! With all that going on here is what I managed to read:

Fiction: 1          Non-Fiction: 1

In September, I finally got round to reading the latest historical fiction, The Queen’s Choice, from Anne O’Brien which swept me back to 1398 to meet Joanna of Navarre and her second husband Henry IV. Overall, not my favourite of O’Brien’s books but still a well-crafted story about two interesting figures in history.

Alongside that, I read The Hairy Dieters: Fast Food by Si King & Dave Myers; the fourth cookbook in their dieting series. I am not looking to lose weight particularly but I do love how down-to-earth and well balanced these recipes are; plus these new recipes can all be made in 30 minutes.

Pick of the Month: The Hairy Dieters: Fast Food

That is just 2 books finished in September which I am really disappointed with, especially as I don’t feel like I’ve read less. However I have been reading some real chunksters, including: A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin and The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas. As well as two Christian non-fictions: 90 Days Through the New Testament by Ron Rhodes and Surprised by Hope by Tom Wright.

In October, I have no fixed plans and I really hope to do more reading!

What did you do and read in September? Do you have any plans for October?

New Read: The Queen’s Choice


After reading The Forbidden Queen in 2014 and The King’s Sister last year, Anne O’Brien is rapidly becoming one of my go-to authors for my historical fix. Her latest offering is The Queen’s Choice which was released earlier this year.

This time O’Brien swept me back to 1398 to meet Joanna of Navarre (also known as Joan). She is the daughter of the hated Charles II of Navarre and the wife of John IV, Duke of Brittany. Whilst at a wedding at the French court she meets Henry Bolingbroke, the son of John of Gaunt. There is an instant connection between them which grows into true affection during Henry’s exile, but they are torn apart just as quickly when Henry returns to England to confront his cousin, Richard II. For several years life continues for Joanna, during which time she loses her husband and becomes the regent of Brittany for her young son. Then, just as she is emerging from her mourning she receives a surprising and audacious proposal from England: Henry wishes her to become his wife and queen.

Joanna is not a character I have read about before. O’Brien portrays her as a strong, intelligent and proud woman. If you know your history, you will know she does become Henry IV’s wife and the queen consort of England – to reach that though she will have to sacrifice a lot, including: the regency of Brittany and heartbreakingly the custody of her sons. Then, she faces much hostility in her new home as there is a long-standing feud between the English and Bretons. While I could often sympathise for Joanna I could also see how much her pride made situations for herself and those around her ten times worse!

A character I really enjoyed getting to know better was Henry. He was a background character in O’Brien’s The King’s Sister and I recently read a history of him by Chris Given-Wilson. This book reinforced the idea of Henry as a wise, brave and fair man, who had so much potential as a king but sadly never reached it due to arguments with parliament, constant war and finally, poor health. It was lovely to read about Henry on a more personable level – seeing him as a loving husband and father, although O’Brien also portrays him with a fiery temper. I found it particularly touching how Joanna nurses him through his long and painful illness.

Sadly, the death of Henry is not the end of the troubles for Joanna as we also see her trials and tribulations during the reign of her stepson Henry V. And, really that was the issue with this book for me – there was almost too much drama, and doom and gloom. I was left feeling a little bereft by it all. Now I totally understand that O’Brien can’t really help that historically Joanna’s life was full of trouble and so this not a reflection on her skill as a writer at all. In fact, that I felt bereft shows that O’Brien very realistically brought it all to life for me. Just for my personal taste, I just wished there had been a bit more happiness!

Overall, The Queen’s Choice is not my favourite of O’Brien’s books but it is still a well-crafted story of the lives of Joanna and Henry IV; two interesting figures in history. I still very much look forward to reading more by Anne O’Brien. Good read.

Thank you to the publishes for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Have you read any other books about Henry IV and Joanna of Navarre?

New Books: September 2016


Hello my fellow bookworms, I had such a splurge of new books in August that some books have had to be carried over into this month’s post. Here are those other goodies I have added to my bookshelf:

Dreaming Spires by Laurie R. King

The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King

Jingo by Terry Pratchett

Soul Music by Terry Pratchett

At the end of August, I had another chance to browse in some of my favourite bookshops. In the St. Giles Hospice bookshop I snapped up four books. First, two more of Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mysteries which I have been keeping my eyes peeled for, after enjoying The Beekeeper’s Apprentice earlier this year. Secondly, I am always looking to add to my Pratchett collection and this time I found two books; both of which are new-for-me.

The Butterfly Summer by Harriet Evans

Then at the end of the long Summer break from work, I went to visit my mother who asked if I fancied reading this. I have never read anything by Evans before but the synopsis mentions a big, country house with a mystery; how could I not give it a try?!

Do you fancy any of these? What new book purchases have you made recently?

Challenge: 10 Books of Summer (Wrap-Up)

10 Books of Summer

The 1st September has arrived, which means summer is officially over and I have come to the end of the 10 Books of Summer challenge; hosted by the lovely Cathy at 746 Books. I feel I have had a great summer of reading but I also think I blinked and missed it! So let’s have a look at what I actually managed to read:

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M Harris

The Gospel of Loki

This is the first novel I have read by Joanne M Harris – I was particularly interested in this one because of my childhood love of Norse Mythology and I thought this was a really interesting and refreshing twist on these ancient tales of gods, giants and monsters.


The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code

I finally got round to reading Brown’s second thrilling adventure to star Robert Langdon – this time he delves into the history, art and symbols of Leonardo da Vinci and the secrets of the Priory of Scion.


Master of Shadows by Neil Oliver

Master of Shadows

Having enjoyed many documentaries presented by historian Neil Oliver I was interested to read his debut novel – I found it to be a detailed and very realistic historical adventure, that swept me back to the bloody downfall of Constantinople.


Trouble at the Little Village School by Gervase Phinn

Trouble at the Little Village School

The second novel in Phinn’s charming Barton-in-the-Dale series which continues the touching and humorous tale of a small school and village.


Wendy Darling, Volume I: Stars by Colleen Oakes

Wendy Darling

After loving Oakes’ previous novels, I was excited to read this; the start of her new, young adult series. My expectations may have been a bit high, however I did find this to be an enjoyable fantasy adventure in an expanded, detailed and magical re-imagining of Neverland.


The School Inspector Calls! by Gervase Phinn

The School Inspector Calls!

As you can see, I didn’t wait long to read the third novel in Phinn’s charming Barton-in-the-Dale series which continues the touching and humorous tale of a small school and village.


A House Divided by Margaret Skea


Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye


While I finished reading these two great books my full thoughts are still to be posted. Keep your eyes peeled!

Which means I have read …


I am really pleased with my result this year and while I didn’t finish it I am also a good way into my 9th book: The Queen’s Choice by Anne O’Brien. That means it is only A Feast for Crows by George R R Martin which I haven’t picked up off my list – I am sure I will be picking it up very soon though! Last year, I read 6 books and I was reading my 7th which I was pleased with; especially as it was my first year taking part in this challenge. So I am even more pleased with my progress this year. Bring on next year!

Have you read any of these books? Did you take part in this challenge?

Goodbye August, Hello September 2016

August 2016

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? While there have been a few rainy days, on the whole here in the UK we have been enjoying a few weeks of lovely, sunny weather – just what I needed over my long summer break from work. This break has not only been good for my soul but has been brilliant for my reading too. Here is what I managed to read:

Fiction: 4          Non-Fiction: 2

In August, I again made good progress through my list for the 10 Books of Summer challenge. First, I read the light and  comforting The School Inspector Calls! by Gervase Phinn; the third book in the Barton-in-the-Dale series. Next, I was swept back to 16th century Scotland reading historical fiction A House Divided by Margaret Skea; her second Munro novel. And, finally I stayed in the past with Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye; a gripping historical mystery inspired by Jane Eyre. My thoughts on these last two books are still to be posted.

That’s 3 more books read off my 10 Books of Summer list and the end of August also means this challenge has come to an end too – I will post a full round up of the challenge later today. I also ticked another title off my Classics Club list by reading the charming, comedy-of-errors Mr Harrison’s Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell; another tale set in a small, provincial town from The Cranford Chronicles.

Alongside these fictions I also read two non-fictions. First, I read an interesting and comprehensive history, The Secret Poisoner by Linda Stratmann. Which delved into the murders and poisons that shook the Victorian world. Then at the end of the month, I finished the thought-provoking, Christian non-fiction The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. This is the first choice for my church’s book club which starts in September. My full thoughts on this book are still to be posted.

Pick of the Month: A House Divided and The Circle Maker

That is another 6 books finished in August which is great! I also started reading historical fiction The Queen’s Choice by Anne O’Brien and the classic, adventure The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas.

In September, I will be starting back at work with a new Year 5 class. I am also looking forward to attending a Comic Fest and I have tickets to see ‘The Woman in Black’ at a local theatre.

What did you do and read in August? Do you have any plans for September?

New Books: August 2016

New Books - Aug #3

Hello my fellow bookworms, after being so good in July I am now bringing you my second new books post in August, oops! Here are more goodies I have added to my bookshelf:

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

On a recent trip to my hair dressers I had the chance to browse in some of my favourite bookshops. First, in the St. Giles hospice books shop I was pleased to find these two books. I am always looking to add to my Pratchett collection and this is a new-to-me story. And, after enjoying Ibbotson’s lovely young adults novel I have been keeping my eyes peeled for her children’s novels to try.

New Books - Aug #4

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

The Adventures & Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Next, on the same trip I went in the Oxfam bookshop and found another two books. First, I found a nice compilation of Sherlock Holmes stories – I have previously read and loved these but that was on my Kindle; I am now pleased to have a physical copy for my bookshelf. Then, I was thrilled to find Moon Over Soho the second book in Ben Aaronovitch’s fantasy, crime series, because I already have book one and five on my TBR pile.

New Books - Aug #5

Surprised by Hope by Hope by Tom Wright

Finally, in the post arrived a second-hand copy of this Christian non-fiction which is the October required book for my church’s new book club. I am currently reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson for our first meeting in September.

Do you fancy any of these? What new book purchases have you made recently?