The best nostalgic books that hit the spot

Astrid V.J. Author Of Aspiring: Part I of the Siblings' Tale
By Astrid V.J.

Who am I?

I am an award-winning and USA Today bestselling South African author, social anthropologist, and transformational life coach. Human transformation and the question of human social nature are key themes in all of my writing, which explores the experiences of people on the margins or with a background of overlapping cultures. I am a book dragon who loves reading adventures in almost every genre and that broad scope of my reading explorations has wormed its way into my writing style which, though broadly defined as fantasy, encompasses elements from other styles in a rich and ‘aromatic’ blend.


I wrote...

Aspiring: Part I of the Siblings' Tale

By Astrid V.J.,

Book cover of Aspiring: Part I of the Siblings' Tale

What is my book about?

Pride and Prejudice meets Ella Enchanted in this two-times 2019 Literary Classics award-winning fairytale fantasy.

At her mother’s deathbed, Elisabeth learns her mother’s illness is no accident and that her own life is in danger. Evil witches are plotting to take over the kingdom of Vendale. All alone, naive, and untrained, Elisabeth’s determination is all she has to confront her mother’s murderers as she discovers love at the same time. While Richard’s behaviour sends distracting mixed messages, Elisabeth finds herself stuck in limbo: she is treated like a child but is forced to make adult decisions. Meanwhile, the witches’ plot spins a fateful web around her. This is the first part of a two-part story.

The books I picked & why

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Ella Enchanted

By Gail Carson Levine,

Book cover of Ella Enchanted

Why this book?

From the moment I picked up this book, I was quite literally enchanted—or perhaps it was spellbound. I absolutely adore the quirky style, the banter, and the magical setting, not to mention the very powerful message about breaking away from the control of others, particularly social pressures, to think and choose for oneself. I also love the inventiveness of this Cinderella retelling, which gives you all the events of the original fairytale, but presented in a way that is so utterly new and different.


Pride and Prejudice

By Jane Austen,

Book cover of Pride and Prejudice

Why this book?

This is one of those books I love to read over and over again. The deep and powerful emotion, as well as the dreamy historical setting and Austen’s impeccable style never ceases to sweep me away on this grand adventure of the heart. It just hits the spot every time.


Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales

By Jakob Grimm,

Book cover of Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales

Why this book?

I love fairytales, whether the dark originals with their painfully executed morals or the softer ‘children’s’ versions that have become household staples, these fairytales are part of my German heritage and have been a staple in my life from the start. What I absolutely adore about the complete collection is being able to see how different peoples have latched onto different fairytales. There are the household favourites in almost all cultures, like Snow White, but there are also those practically unknown in English that are commonly shared in German, like Brother and Sister. While there are even others that are rarely seen in either culture, like The Nixie of the Mill-Pond. As I’ve grown older, I’ve also come to see the powerful messages of transformation embedded into these fairytales, and that is something I love to revisit and re-analyze over and over again, finding the beauty of hidden messages that passed me by in the early days.


A Song for Arbonne

By Guy Gavriel Kay,

Book cover of A Song for Arbonne

Why this book?

I love all of Kay’s works, and yet this one maintains a very special place in my heart because it’s set in a fantasy realm steeped in Medieval vibes. Following in the tradition of the first fantasy books, and also the older tradition of the first romances, this book overflows with songs and poetry that bring the culture of this world to life in a way unlike any other. The nostalgia in this book hit me very hard the first time I read it and it definitely took me back to Arthurian legends and Medieval romances.


Silent Melody: A Pied Piper Retelling

By Alice Ivinya,

Book cover of Silent Melody: A Pied Piper Retelling

Why this book?

This Pied Piper of Hamelin retelling is one of my favourite retellings of all time. It combines the deeply fairytale feel of thirteenth-century Europe with an action-adventure unlike any other. And the romance. Ahhh, the romance! I’m also deeply impressed with Ivinya because she’s one of the few fantasy authors I’ve read who consistently explores disability and the empowerment of characters finding their way around such obstacles to become mighty heroes in their own unique ways. In this story, for example, the main character, Adelaide, is deaf and therefore the only person who can defeat the Pied Piper. The magical world where the children from Hamelin are taken is both beautiful and terrifying, reminiscent of the older, darker fairytales, while it also captures the charming beauty of days gone by.


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