Cover Impressions: Very nice, if a little cutesy. I understand that it is middle grade,...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: Very nice, if a little cutesy. I understand that it is middle grade, but I usually prefer for these books to have an appeal to older students as well. The background images are beautiful and the crest and banner title are very well done.
The Gist: For hundreds of years, the children of Gavaldon have been going missing. Every four years, two at a time, one beautiful and one ugly. After a time, the children of the town realized that these former playmates were appear within the pages of their favorite fairy tales. Sophie has spent her entire life preparing for this day, maintaining a beauty routine, sewing dresses and doing good deeds. Agatha, on the other hand, would do anything to remain at home with her gravestones and evil pet cat. When the two are swept away, they find that a serious mistake has been made and their fortunes have been reversed. Beautiful Sophie to the School for Evil and ghastly Agatha to the School for Good. As they try to fight for their hearts' desire, the girls learn about themselves and the barrier between Good and Evil.
Review: The School for Good and Evil opens on the eve of the night when children regularly disappear from their homes. Most children are trying to make themselves as undesirable as possible, while Sophie attempts to flaunt her assets as a princess. She is determined to be spirited away from her home to the School for Good where she will meet her prince charming. Along side her, will certainly be her friend Agatha, the child for whom the term "witchy" was coined. As her counterpart, Agatha will enter the School for Evil and the two will find a way to maintain their frienship despite the rivalry of their schools. The premise for this book is very unique and charming. The thought of children being stolen from their homes only to show up in the pages of storybooks is both wonderful and terrifying. I do wish that we were able to spend a little more time with Agatha and Sophie within their village and to learn more about the mysterious town from which no one can choose to leave.
This novel features some fantastic characters. Sophie was difficult to like, but that was kind of the point, while Agatha did lose a little of herself by the end of the novel. Sophie's roommates where a fantastic addition. They had the best lines and often left me laughing out loud. These characters could easily hold a story or series of their own (hint hint!).
The School for Good and Evil was a beautiful mix of Wicked, Harry Potter and the humor of Roald Dahl. It was really fun to see the juxtuposition between Good and Evil. The schools were truly equal but opposite, down to the smallest detail. I must admit, I had more love for the School of Evil as they had more interesting characters and it was enjoyable to watch them revel in the dank, dire and disgusting. The world building is truly fantastic and well fleshed out, though it is a little difficult to keep track of all the rules and the names of the students. This was aided by the alternating point of view which worked well to show the thoughts and feelings of both girls as well as to give a glimpse into the inner workings of both schools.
The plot was a little predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless. The ending was a little strange, and I can't wait to see how this plays out in future books. I am very excited to see this on film. I think that it will translate really well and that the setting will play out beautifully on the big screen. Overall, an excellent addition to the Middle-Grade section of my classroom library. I cannot wait to jump back into this world in 2014.
Age: 10 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: Magical Violence Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None (less)
Cover Impressions: Definitely interesting. Stands out from the typical YA cover. Love th...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: Definitely interesting. Stands out from the typical YA cover. Love the font and the red shoe. Will fit nicely with the cover for Scarlet, can't wait to see the covers for the two after that.
The Gist: In this updated re-telling of the classic Cinderella story, Cinder, a cyborg, lives with her horrid adoptive mother and two sisters. Her city of New Bejing has been decimated by a mysterious plague and no one can find a cure. When a chance encounter with the sought after Prince Kai and a brush with the plague brings Cinder under scrutiny, she begins to learn about who she was before her surgery and the important role that she may play in the country's security.
Review: I don't normally go in for Sci Fi novels. Which will explain why I didn't get around to this book until a year after the release date. I was finally tempted by the great reviews and the fairy tale aspect.
The character of Cinder is interesting, if occasionally infuriating. She refuses to believe that she is anything special and has a lot of difficulty standing up for herself. She has a tendency to talk herself out of taking any action and this often drove me to distraction. At the same time, she is clearly a caring individual (in a world seeming to be populated with the most unfeeling of citizens) and with wonderfully sarcastic wit. Her step-mother, Audrey was cold and calculating, but at times came off as bit too cartoonish in her hatred. I loved the addition of a sympathetic sister and cheered Marissa Meyer on in being able to make some difficult choices as to the fate of her characters. I truly enjoyed Prince Kai and could feel a real spark between him and Cinder. I really was rooting for them to finally get it together (ie for Cinder to stop fighting the inevitable) and was horrified by the unwanted advances of Queen Levana.
The plot was fairly predictable and I really hope that Meyer didn't intend the final big revelation to actually be a big revelation for the reader. I did enjoy the unexpected twists on the Cinderella story and the reversal of the plot (ending with the ball instead of starting with it). It allowed the book to be based on the fairy tale, but with enough originality to be given its own life. I especially liked the tidbits that alluded to future characters and allowed me to wonder where this might lead in future novels.
The ending was a little unsatisfying. I kept seeing the minutes tick away and thinking "she can't possibly end it without more resolution". I guess I was hoping for some emotional or romantic payoff - all that chemistry for nothing! I can deal with the cliffhanger ending this time, but I really hope Meyer doesn't make it a habit.
For those interesting in the audiobook, it is voiced by Rebecca Soler, who is wonderful. Her pacing is good, her voice is fantastic and she is able to pull of a number of accents throughout the book.
Bring on Scarlet!
Age: 12 and up Gender: Female Sex: Kissing Violence: Mind Control, Gunplay Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: Drinking Other Issues: Descriptions of Medical Procedures (less)
Cover Impressions: I really like the cover of this one. I received an EARC, but I really wish I could see the physical copy. I am rooting for shiny an...moreCover Impressions: I really like the cover of this one. I received an EARC, but I really wish I could see the physical copy. I am rooting for shiny and textured scales.
The Gist: Rudy's brother suffers from Cystic Fibrosis. In an attempt to save his life, the family moves to a remote island that is famed for a special type of fish that can heal and prolong life. Without the excitement of friends and frivolity, Rudy finds himself longing for a companion - and then he finds Teeth, and begins to discover the dark secrets of the island and its inhabitants.
Review: I requested Teeth because I had heard great things about Gone Gone Gone and it has been sitting on my TBR pile for quiet a while. Those who love Hannah Moskowitz seem to RAVE about her. However, if Teeth is indicative of her writing style, perhaps I best stay away.
I loved the premise for Teeth. The mysterious island with magic fish that could heal and prolong life in otherwise terminal cases, was fascinating. I longed to find out what made the fish so special and what secrets were being hidden by the inhabitants of the island. Unfortunately, much like Rudy, once I began to receive my answers, I wished I had never asked the questions. The setting was interesting, the morality issue that made up much of the first half of the book was thought- provoking. Had the novel continued in this frame of mind, I would have been left much more satisified.
To be honest, I am finding it difficult to write about what bothered me, and that is a testament to how much it bothered me. (view spoiler)[Teeth involves numerous incidences of rape. We see both a woman raped by a fish, and a mermaid/fishboy raped by men - over and over again. Once this plot point was revealed, I could no longer enjoy the story. Even now, it leaves a sick taste in my mouth to recall the details. (hide spoiler)]
Moskowitz is certainly a writer who can evoke strong emotions in the reader. She is skilled at writing in a way that is raw and heart-wrenching. I do believe that most readers will recognize the beauty that can be found in this story. Teeth is well written, and I can recognize the genius in it - I just didn't like it. I felt like I was watching a car crash - I knew that continuing would result in seeing things that I could never forget but I just could not look away. In the end, I could not get past the pain. I ached for Teeth. I wanted so badly to rescue him and by the last page, I was left feeling sad and empty.
Due to the nature of the rape in this book, as well as the frequent swearing, I would not recommend it for my teenage students.
Age: AT LEAST 16 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing, talk of masturbation Violence: Rape, Physical fighting/abuse, gunplay, murder Inappropriate Language: LOTS! Fuck, Shit, Slut, Bastard, Bitch, Asshole Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Cover Impressions: The cover is pretty, and I like the dark tone and colors but it doesn...moreThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover is pretty, and I like the dark tone and colors but it doesn't really stand out from all the other "pretty girl in a pretty dress" in YA. If it wasn't for my slight obsession with witches and fairy tale re-tellings, I probably never would have picked up this book.
The Gist: Bewitching spins together a number of fairy tales as it follows Kendra, a witch who tries to help people but, inevitably, makes things worse.
Review: I thoroughly enjoy books that re-tell or take a different spin on fairy tales. This book should have been right up my alley, but there was something about it that just didn't click. First of all, I wasn't a fan of Kendra (does anyone else think this is an odd name for a character that originated in the 1660s?). We never really learn anything about her motivations. The story opens with her escaping a plague ridden town with her brother in tow and being captured by the witch from the Hansel & Gretel story. This witch teaches Kendra how to control her powers but we see very little of these lessons nor do we learn anything else about the history of that witch or Kendra. Eventually, the brother disappears - for no apparent reason and we abruptly shift to the Cinderella story of Emma and Lisette.
In Emma, I see a character that I could enjoy (despite her being ANOTHER YA character who is obsessed with classical novels - puhleese!). She grew up in a priveledged household, but it ultimately just a lonely little girl. When her stepfather brings home a daughter Emma never knew about, she hopes to gain a friend and instead finds Lisette to be a mastermind at manipulation. A few things bothered me: 1) we never find out why Lisette lived in abject poverty while Daddy Warbucks spoiled Emma and her mother 2) the father seems like a decent guy, but while bonding with Lisette he COMPLETELY neglects Emma - FOR YEARS!
Just as I am getting interested in Emma and Lisette's story, there is yet another interlude while Kendra tells us another story. The shifts in time and narrator changes made for a very choppy storyline and left me annoyed. Each time one occurred, I was tempted to put the book down and never pick it up again. In the end, it felt like the author started this book with a handful of short stories and then concocted a weak storyline in order to link them all together into one book. Perhaps, if the entire story had been told from Kendra's point of view (or at least switched between just Kendra and Emma) it might have flowed better.
In the end, I found this novel unsatisfying. While the novel may be exactly what some readers enjoy (and judging by many of the reviews, it is) it was simply not for me and I do not think I will be continuing with Kendra's story through any subsequent books.
Age: 15 and up Gender: Females Sex: Kissing, Violence: Death by drowning, Inappropriate Language: Bastard, Slut Substance Abuse: Underage Drinking, Marijuana Use (less)
Cover Impressions: The white rose dipped in blood speaks to innocence lost and is an image tha...more This review can also be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The white rose dipped in blood speaks to innocence lost and is an image that stands out among the plethora of girls in pretty dresses that make up a huge chunk of YA novels today. However, I am not a fan of the title font. It seems a little too weak against such a stark image.
The Gist: Mirabelle has spent her entire life listening to the rules and sanctions set forth by her Godmothers. Now, as her 16th birthday draws near, she is about to break their biggest one: returning to the place of her birth, Beau Rivage. Here, Mira encounters a world where fairy tales take a dark turn and everyone has a role to play, whether they wish to or not.
Review: In Kill Me Softly Sarah Cross creates a fairy tale world that interposes with our own. It lies, just beneath the surface and can be seen by anyone willing to peer through the veil. However, these are not your disneyfied princes and princesses fending off colorful dragons and over-the-top Queens (though, don't get me wrong, Maleficent scared the CRAP out of me as a kid) instead, Cross takes inspiration from the original Fairy Tales which feature evil plot twists, casual murders, the hacking off of limbs and buckets of blood.
Against this backdrop of Happily Ever After gone wrong, Mira meets Blue, a boy who does everything to push her away and his brother, Felix who does everything not to. As a character, Mira is a little difficult to like. She is often rude and ungrateful, which seems completely out of character for a person who, up until now, has blindly followed her Godmother's orders. It feels a little unreal that a character who is so quick to anger, did not question these rules or show any sign of rebellion prior to her slipping away in the middle of the night. Blue, on the other hand, is a character who does everything possible to make Mira dislike him but she (and the reader) cannot help but root for this wounded hero. Whenever I hit a section where Mira was spending time falling in love with Felix, I found myself itching to turn each page, hoping that Blue would be waiting on the other side. The "love" that Mirabelle claims to have for Felix, feels forced and wrong but shows it's importance by the end of the story (much like Romeo's "love" for Rosaline).
The plot is interesting but more character based than action based. Because Cross weaves together a number of fairy tales (some of which are less likely to be recognizable to most readers) we have a vague idea of where the story is headed, but are still able to be surprised by plot twists. I do believe that the novel is a stand-alone and I hope that this is the end of Mirabelle's and Blue's story. However, I thoroughly enjoyed my walk through Beau Rivage and would very much like to read the tales of some of the other characters. This world is simply too interesting to let go of so easily.
Age: 16 and up, this one is NOT for your 12 year old! Gender: Female, though some males may enjoy the clever re-working of well known fairy tales Sex: Intimate touching, talk of sex Violence: Loss of limbs, murders, Inappropriate Language: Bitch, Shit. Substance Abuse: Underage drinking. Smoking. (less)