Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: May 2013
Pages: 512
Source: Review copy from publisher
For: Review
Series: The School for Good and Evil, Book 1

Summary from goodreads:
The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?
Things I Liked:
I loved the story idea - a storyteller who steals children and takes them to a school for good or a school for evil.  Then the storybooks show up later.  Also, I enjoyed seeing both Amelia and Sophie show both good and evil sides.  The mix up was quite fun.  I also loved the clever ways that they dealt with the mix up, particularly Sophie's ingenuity.  It was a great fairy tale background kind of story and I really got into it.

Things I Didn't Like:
It was a bit heavy-handed in its message at times (looks do not make someone good or evil).  I felt like that one whacked you over the head a lot.  Also, a bit predictable (or so I thought).  Until the ending, which seemed to come completely out of left field in the last five pages or so and left me totally confused and rather disappointed.  Not sure I'll get around to a sequel any time soon.

I haven't read them yet, but it reminds me of Shannon Hale's new series Ever After High

s-factor: none
that I recall

mrg-factor: none
some kissing

v-factor: none
though it was a bit intense in parts

Overall rating: *** (until the ending, which dropped it to **)

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Classic Double Challenge Link-Up for August & September

Sign up for the Classic Double Challenge.

Link up with any reviews/thought posts you've done or will do in August or September (or really any time, it doesn't matter)! I finished Second Star, a retelling of Peter Pan, and I managed to start Peter Pan, but haven't gotten very far.  Anybody out there working on this challenge still?  Hopefully you are still reading retellings and their originals, even if you aren't doing it for my challenge!

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel
Publication date: March 2011
Pages: 352
Source: ARC from publisher
For: Review

Summary from goodreads:
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.
Things I Liked:
This was such a unique view of WWII and something I know nothing about.  It really never ceases to amaze me how horrible humanity can be and also how resilient humans can be.  We can do such cruel things to one another and then justify it.  We can also survive in such dreadful circumstances and some can even be so positive about it.  It's at once heart-wrenching and hopeful to read such stories of survival.  I wish I knew more about the Lithuanians who were taken from their homes and sent so far away.  There is so much that people will never know about.

Things I Didn't Like:
I kind of expected this to blow me away, and I really was impressed and loved it, but I found it a bit more simplistic in style and a bit less gripping in story than I expected.  Obviously, this is a fault of my own expectations.  Still very much worth the read.

Reminded me of The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

s-factor: !
a very few

mrg-factor: X
a little bit of implied stuff

v-factor: ->
there are some cruel things that happen

Overall rating: ****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Lord of the Rings Read-Along, Part 6

Questions from Jenni Elyse's blog.
See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

1. Has your favorite character changed in The Return of the King? If yes, why?
Well, since I was pretty vague throughout in my favorites, not really.  I still adore Aragorn and SAM FOREVER.  Also, Eowyn and Faramir. 

2. Which is your favorite book of the series? Why?
I'm afraid I love them all!  I do love the ending though, since it is so bittersweet.

3. Do you like how the series ended? Why?
Yes!  I think it shows just enough of what happened after the great events that you can feel satisfied.  I also love how Frodo tells Sam that he won't *always* feel torn in two.  After devouring the appendices (actually I didn't read them this time, but previously) right near the very end of Appendix B, it mentions that in legend, Sam eventually passed over into the West as well, after his wife died.  Makes sense to me - as he was a ringbearer too.

4. If you could change one thing about the ending what would it be and why?
I would have liked to have more of Aragorn and Arwen and, Eowyn and Faramir.  Even the appendices don't fill my need for more romance in these books! I did also always feel sad that they came home to the Shire and found it all in ruins.  So sad that they wanted to protect it and it still was hurt.

5. Were there any changes in The Return of the King movie that you liked or disliked?
I think they should have had some of what went on in the Shire.  It kind of made Sam's vision in Galadriel's mirror pointless (though, I guess it was Frodo's vision in the movie).

6. What was your favorite moment in Book 6?
Pretty much anything having to do with Eowyn and Faramir was my favorite.  I did love the moment with Arwen and Frodo.  I had forgotten about that!  They even sneaked something of it into the movies (albeit, it was in Fellowship).

7. Which death affected you the most?
I have to say Theoden's was the most epic.  He really went out with a bang. (Also, I agree with Kami that his death scene with Eowyn in the movie was so much more touching than the book.)

8. Why do you think Frodo didn’t want to kill Saruman and Wormtongue, even after all the destruction and heartache they caused in the Shire?
You know, I think Tolkien really was trying to put his pacifist ideals into Frodo.  Almost throughout his time in the books, he doesn't want to hurt or kill anyone, but especially so after his meeting up with Gollum.  It's just most obvious in this instance.  I think it's very noble and it's also very different from pretty much how anyone else would react, except perhaps Gandalf.  It shows an interesting value for life, even when it seems like it isn't what people deserve.

9. If you were in Frodo’s place, would you have done the same thing? (See previous question.)
Yeah, probably not.  I would have been more vindictive, I think.  Then again, having someone's death on your hands would be rather uncomfortable.

10. If JRR Tolkien were still alive and wrote a sequel to The Lord of the Rings, which character would you want to see the most and why?
Hello, let's have more romance!  I think Faramir and Eowyn need their own series.  For those aching for a bit more Aragorn and Arwen, there are a few pages in Appendix A :)

Thanks so much for hosting such a fabulous read-along, Kami and Jenni Elyse!  It was lovely to devour this series again.
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