The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good and Evil

By: Soman Chainani

HarperCollins 2014

A young adult fantasy fairy tale

SchoolforGood-pb-c

Agatha never believed the stories that the two children who go missing from her village every four years were kidnapped to attend the schools for fairy tale characters.  She certainly doesn’t think she belongs in some school for witches and villains, as everyone else in Gavaldon says.  Sophie not only believes, she yearns to reach the School for Good and emerge as the princess she was born to embody.  Plus, she will be lucky enough to have her best friend Agatha with her, only in the School for Evil.  When Agatha lands at the School for Good and Sophie is delivered to the side of Evil, fate, fairy tales, and friendship are thrown into consternation.  Will the girls realize their true fairy tale?  Will they live through it?  More importantly, will they end up still together or will their opposing roles drive them apart?

Chainani’s setting and characters usher readers into his fairy tale world with an intrigue mixed with an unusual directness and defiance.  Switching perspectives between the desperately seeking Sophie and the focused, loyal Agatha keeps the world and its questions spinning, the action has more urgency and the plot more suspense when balanced so well between two characters instead of centering on one focal point.  Thematically, this novel gets off to a slow start, but just when I despaired that the only theme would be appearances, the dark undercurrents of deeper chills and issues emerged.  These deeper subjects grow fast, and Chainani’s world of shifting-perspectives show them off brilliantly.  What starts as a stroll past a sunlit river, discussing the fallacy of looks quickly melds into a twisting chasm roaring with rapids that push Agatha and Sophie towards love, home, betrayal, riddles, success, hopes, and friendship, all while questioning which paths are truly good and which lead towards evil.  The fast pace of the action, the ever-building stakes, and the constant determination of both heroines kept me hooked and, by the end, reeling.  The School for Good and Evil climaxes in a wave that crashes down rather abruptly, but the fullness of that wave is beautiful and satisfying and, while sudden, the ending left me feeling splashed and wishing for more.

The School for Good and Evil reads like a true fairy tale, where each link in the chain feels inevitably bound to the others until the ending feels like a truth.  As a fairy tale enthusiast, that is the highest recommendation I can give to a new fairy tale work.  I will also say that the setting was vivid, all the characters continued to grow on me, as well as in the tale, and I loved the themes-they were fantastically done.  If you like fairy tales, detailed fantasy worlds, complex heroines, Ever After High, or quick-paced action tales, this is a book for you.  Go read it.

Wild Stand

“Wild Stand”

These are my bones, where I stand,
These are my feet, intent as the stones,
This is my breath, my will, my desire,
My hands full of fire, of magic and death

My life, wood, garden-
Alive around my skull,
Surrounds my sense with running,
Culling, cursing, full-

Like all, my teeth have weight,
Sharper than tears, but
Gorging for fears, Trap-
All life’s sap through the gate.

Rip, heave, leave-
These bones yield precious dust,
Thrones for fights and steps-
Watch, thrust, sigh for relief…

Eat, take, wield-
These make all my measures,
Fields of graves, of insides sweet,
Treasures wake us from self slaves,

Nourish me with reapings sharp,
Lock, growl, instincts keeping-
Hiddens flourish, Wantings flock,
Turn eyes in, sweep up the clock:

Life, lust, sate-
These rule within my hut,
My hands and my musts,
Crossing bones against all fools,

Turn, chase, die,
Deny my claws, you’ll never try,
Flaws churn up earths to taste,
Burning haunts win every race,

This is my sun, my moon that beats,
Heart’s a flavor and others a treat,
Lusts are endeavors, all blood flows,
Death, wild, scorn, they my joys sow.

Cackles in the air,
Passion spins upon my toes,
Each one wins without compare,
With one sip of wild Knows.

So welcome in, alone
Mind, heart, soul-
Edges here to hone,
For inside here is where I’m whole.

Top Ten Books to Feed On

I once again decided to do my own top ten list this week, and as tomorrow is the Holiday of Feasting, these are books that focus on memorable foods and feasts.

1. The Magic Thief series by Sarah Prineas
Biscuits!

2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The title food, plus roast pigs and stews! Also a holiday tea tradition that I would love to bring to life…

3. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Eat me!

4. The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye
Spun sugar castles, and gorgeous swans, and ice-cream licking, and nuts!

5. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
Whisper sticks!

6. Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett
Sandwiches, cake, and of course ice cream!

7. House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones
-Ah, the quest to figure out how to convince a magical house to feed you…

8. Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen
-Tea, champagne, and learning to cook and boil.

9. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
-Where food equals home, safety, and order…in comparison to hostile adventurers, anyhow.

10. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Turkish delight!

What are some foods or feasts that you found memorable in books? Alternatively, in shows? Personally, I think “Pushing Daisies” the most delicious
series. It has the pie-maker, the cheese cupboard, and all the honey! On the other end of the spectrum is Fringe, where in spite of all the invitations and references to food made to and around her, Olivia only eats in about 5 episodes, and that depends on whether you are willing to count 5 m&ms as eating or to assume that a raised hand in the blurry background can be taken as actually eating a bite of french toast…

Well, what works shall you imbibe this week?

National Start Your Own Country Day (3)

The time has come once again, nationally (*ironic eyebrows*), to start one’s own country! This third year of my career in statehood, I declare that my new country shall be Dracalia.

Dracalia:
Geography: Laid out like a dragon with wings unfolded and tail curling underneath into the water.

Official Animal: Dragons

Official Flower: Bleeding hearts (They like anything that grows down instead of up)

Official Tree: Weeping willows

Official Motto: “Refinement comes through fire.”

Official Flag: A large, purplish-blue dragon filled with stars holding a green and golden globe in its claws. The background is darkest green.

Known for: Architecture and art, with new techniques and exhibits in everything from chateaus, to murals, to cake-crafting. If it involves balance, beauty, and imagination, this is the place to be. It celebrates its independence day with festivals full of all kinds of dragons depicted through art, movement, and games.

Go forth and proclaim your own country!

Top Ten Non-Romance Relationship Books for Thanksgiving

This week I made my own Top Ten list, in honor of the coming holiday: the Top Ten Books where Gratefulness/Support is Key in People who are NOT in Love with One Another. So much of the time in stories, real support or gratefulness is just there to show which person the protagonist should romantically wind up with, and it can and should be there so often when romance is not at all part of the case. Alternatively, it is there as a background plot-point or a side story, rather than being celebrated. I just want to showcase some of the works where non-romantic relationships are the big deal, not a side story.

1. Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennet
-All about new friends, and the food they feed you!
little witch3

2. Diamond Willow by Helen Frost
-Family and animals, and how they overlap!

3. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salmon Rushdie
-Family, new friends, and even new acquaintances who turn out to be allies, no matter how good they are at it.

4. Gwinna by Barbara Helen Berger
-Family, friends, and animals.
Gwinna

5. The Silent Gondoliers by S. Morgenstern (William Goldman)
-The acts of friendship here, oh how they trump all romance!

6. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
-I love how friendship and support clearly undermines other relationship terms and keeps the heroine going. This is perhaps one of the great reasons why shipping Bitterblue/Giddon revolts me-this book is about the warmth and triumph of friendship-and these readers are flying in the face of that by reading into one of the best friendships in it a romance that was never there!

7. The Merlin Trilogy by Jane Yolen
-Oh, how he connects to people! Family, memories, even the ultimately unworthy who still held his gratitude for a time, it’s all beautiful.

8. The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett
-When Tiffany is your friend, you will wind up grateful.

9. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
-The deepest relationships in here are about family, about friends who become family, and about trust. This is another instance where I get very upset at people who insist that a close friendship ought to have been a romance just because it was the most honest and strong relationship-real gratitude and reliance happens in friendships, too!

10. Entwined by Heather Dixon
-All about family, right to the core, and none of the romances get in the way of that in the slightest.

And 11, because I can: The Magic Thief series by Sarah Prineas
-Allies, friendship, and teamwork.

How about you? What are some of your favorite non-romance relationships or books?

Top Ten Characters Who Should Get Their Own Books

This is a rendition of Top Ten Tuesday by the thebrokeandthebookish.wordpress.com. This week was the top 10 characters we’d like to receive their own books. This was rather tricky as a lot of the books I love, I love because of the protagonist and even when I want there to be more, I want to keep that perspective. Alternatively, there are some books that I would greatly prefer to be rewritten from someone else’s point of view, but that seemed like a separate issue. So, here’s what I’ve got:

Top Ten Characters Who Should Get Their Own Books

1. Lord Akeldama from The Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger
(Review of first here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/soulless-the-parasol-protectorate-series-1/)
-He’s just so charismatic I don’t care what the book’s about.

2. Madame Lefoux from The Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger
-I imagine this as her tween/adolescent years where she’s becoming shocking instead of already established, encountering loves, criticizing everyone’s fashion sense, tinkering with everything and getting into lots of trouble, and obviously messing with local hives.

3. Lord Calliston from Incarceron/Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
-I long for this prequel with the creators and first recorders of the prison.

4. The Persian from The Phantom of the Opera by Gason Leroux
-How he got mixed up with the sultan, how he befriended the Phantom, what he got up to after the Phantom…anything.

5. Minerva McGonagall from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
-Of her youth, of course. I imagine it would be a combination of a Miss Marple in-the-making and Harriet the Spy, only one who can get her spy equipment to do things separately, can partially transform her self into what she needs, will fly her broomstick all over getting into the thick and the mess of things, and who always, always, always speaks up, even when she shouldn’t. Now am imagining her meeting a young Sherlock Holmes and how he would deduce that she was a witch and she would make his life miserable for being so uppity, and he would try and steal her broomstick, and she would convince his parents he was going peculiar in the head, and then they’d take him to psychiatrists who put him on awful didn’t-know-they-sucked drugs to prevent it, and THAT’S HOW HE GETS HOOKED ON DRUGS. Every so often she checked in on him because the older-self Minerva felt kinda guilty, but then the Dark Lord popped up and when she remembered him then it was really just to make snarky comments about how much easier he had it with his nemesis. Okay, this is head-cannon now.

6.Saf from Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
(Review here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/bitterblue/)
-He has the best grace and I want tales of him traipsing around and using it.

7. Dame Okra Carmine from Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
-She’s so feisty, and had to have had so much trouble covering up her condition, and has such an interesting talent, and somehow became ambassador! I want to know!

8. Maddie from Fever by Lauren DeStefano
-I love her and want her to control the new world and I need to know how she’s doing and that she’s totally going to grow up and achieve a leadership role and make everything better.

9. Bramble from Entwined by Heather Dixon
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-I want her to go around detecting nefariousness and protecting the weak with her husband’s support and money, and to burst in on all her sisters and their marriage prospects, etc. It’d be nice to get inside her head.

10. Felix from Frederica by Georgette Heyer
-Can you imagine the story of his scandals-come-apprenticeship in early technology and how he falls for the geeky aerator girl and winds up crashed with her and nothing but a jar of restorative pork jelly and the weird science metaphors he’ll use about his feelings, and how the girl’s father will judge him but then be won over and secretly helpful? It would be great.

How about you? Which characters do you want more of? Would you read the Minerva/Sherlock crossover? If Saf used his grace on you what would you want out of it?

Top Ten Books I ReRead

This is a rendition of Top Ten Tuesday (and a Day) by the thebrokeandthebookish.wordpress.com. This week was the top 10 Books to Reread. I puzzled about that…Books I’ve reread the most? Books I’d like to reread for the first time? I decided to go with books that I’ve reread a lot in recent memory, as opposed to of all time. So, here it is:

Top Ten Books For My Rereading Pleasure

1. The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
Every spring. “There had been a long debate in Council on ‘The Advisability of Inviting Fairies to the Christrening.'”
ordinary princess

2. Gwinna by Barbara Helen Berger
Gwinna

3. The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
Every fall, this retelling of Tam Lin. “The Night is Hallow’een, my love, the morni s Hallows’ Day-”
perilousgard2

4. Let Your Mind Alone by James Thurber
-This book includes several wonderful satires about early self-help advice and just humorous essays about life that work wonders about putting things in perspective, covering issues like travel, wanting a javelin, turtle-catching, and solving life problems with index cards, plays, and ghostly visitors. I reread it whenever I need to take my mind off of life-problems or just laugh.
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5. The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett

6. The works of A.A. Milne
“Forget about the crackers, And forget about the candy; I’m sure a box of chocolates Would never come in handy; I don’t like oranges, I don’t want nuts, And I HAVE got a pocket-knife That almost cuts. But, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all, Bring me a big, red india-rubber ball!”
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7. A Royal Pain by Ellen Conford
-It’s just such a fun one to read out loud. “Right off the bat I have to say that no matter what you may have read in the papers, I don’t think I was such a terrible princess.”
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8. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
-Have you read those ogre and bird languages out loud? It’s marvelous!

9. The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern (William Goldman)
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10. My Mother, She Killed Me, My Father, He Ate Me edited by Kate Bernheimer
-This collection of fairy tale retellings is spooky, and funny, and touching, and haunting, and wonderful.
My-Mother-She-Killed-Me

Top Ten Characters I’d Dress as for Halloween

This is a rendition of Top Ten Tuesday (and a Day) by the thebrokeandthebookish.wordpress.com. This week was the top 10 literary characters I’d want to dress up as for Halloween. This took a lot of pondering as a lot of my favorite characters don’t have any distinguishing costumes…So, here I go:

Top Ten Characters I’d Be for Halloween:

1. Millie Chant from “The Chrestomanci Chronicles” by Diana Wynne Jones
-Extra set of arms, magic, cats, count me in. I’d have to go around explaining who I was and a lot of people wouldn’t know her, but Millie’d be worth it.

christopher-chant

2. Christopher Chant from “The Chrestomanci Chronicles” by Diana Wynne Jones
-This is mainly so I can swan around in his fantastic robes. I need some of those robes in my life.

3. Tiffany Aching from “Wee Free Men” etc., by Terry Pratchett
-I long to wear a green dress and wield a frying pan and measuring tape while eating excellent cheese and feeling witchy. This is also kindof a life goal.

4. The White Witch from “Narnia” by C.S. Lewis
-This just feels like the perfect costume for both eating/distributing sweets and celebrating approaching winter. It also gives the coming season a “This time shall be mine!” spin, which I always like.

5. Inigo Montoya from “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman
-I go around quoting him anyway, this character would be a piece of cake. Of sharp, on-point, delicious cake. And if they didn’t recognize this outfit with a girl in them, there’s the easiest fix in the world.

6. The Mad Hatter from “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carol
-I like hats, I like tea, and I like him. Another character I go around quoting, I feel this would be best for a sit-down costume party.

7. Dorothy from “Wizard of Oz” by Frank L. Baum

-Feels perfect for the night of ghouls to run around going “lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!!” Plus, this is probably the easiest and most recognizable of my choices.

8. Calcifer from “Howl’s Moving Castle” etc., by Diana Wynne Jones
-He is the best and I’m sure whatever costume one could come up with would keep you warm.

9. Jane from “Ironskin”
Ironskin-cover
-She has so many striking looks and one could go around muttering outrageous ragey thoughts whenever taking off your mask…She has a built-in mask!

10. But my ultimate costume, if I could pull this off, would be to go as Baba Yaga in her house on chicken-feet from Russian folklore. Or just the house. Skull fence, chicken-feet, in-character tricks and turns, and getting to cackle all night while demanding payment/food…it would be glorious. Glorious, I say! (If anyone has seen this done or pulled it off themselves, I need pictures.)
babayaga

And that’s me! What costumes appeal to you from the literary world?

Bring Me….a Fairy Tale Shrubbery!

So, I was thinking about fairy tales, as you do, and something occurred to me: on a surface, practical level, the lesson of an awful lot of them seems to be that the better gardener will win. Check this out:

1. Beauty and the Beast-The Beast gets the girl because he has the garden with the best roses. If Beauty’s family were better at gardening, she wouldn’t have had to ask for a rose and they wouldn’t have found themselves in that problem in the first place.
beautybeastrose

2. Twelve Dancing Princesses-The gardener just is the one who gets the princess, because she would rather marry a gardener.
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3. Rapunzel-If the young couple could have just grown their own garden, they never would have had to deal with the witch.

4. Red Riding Hood-If her family had a pretty flower garden, she wouldn’t have needed to wander about the woods for a bouquet or admiring the floral scenery and the wolf’s trick wouldn’t have worked.
Little-Red-Riding-Hood-Final_small_hr

5. Cinderella-how did she manage to get to the ball so quickly and snazzily, AND run away in time for the prince not to see her transformation back to rags while wearing just one flimsy glass shoe? They had a thriving pumpkin patch.

6. Snow White-If the dwarves or Snow White could grow their own fruit they wouldn’t bother with apple-sellers, would they? (Clothing items like combs and ribbons are a different matter of course, but then those were absurdly easy to undo in any case.)

7. The Princess and the Frog-The only positive thing about the princess in most portrayals is that her family had a wonderful garden for the prince-turned-frog to live in, and that is clearly the underlying reason why she manages to marry well. Also, when you’re a frog beautiful gardens are clearly what you look for when you need a princess to kiss you, so that garden lies at the base of the happiness of both title characters.

8. The Juniper Tree-A well-kept tree can even resurrect the dead, in this one!

9. The Wild Swans-If the sister could just have maintained a royal garden once she was queen, she could have slipped some nettles in and not needed to go running around graveyards, getting accused of witchcraft and all the shirts might have been finished!
plucked-nettles-hans-andersens-fairy-tales

10. The Firebird-With no well-grown cherry orchards, this magical creature would not have shown up.

11. Jack and the Beanstalk-If those giants had simply been attentive gardeners, they could have weeded out troublesome beanstalks and kept all their own treasure, at least before a third visit!

As a matter of fact, a lot of fairy tales seem to show that problems arise when people use being in the woods as an excuse not to do their own gardening. It leaves them open to wildflower delays and poisoned fruit. Clearly, we all need to grow our own gardens instead of just hiding behind trees, which is actually quite disappointing since even as a young girl I wanted a yard full of blossoming flowers so I could have that beauty without having to really garden. Yet, look at the evidence! Witches win when they grow thorns. Beautiful gardens attract firebirds, princes, and insightful beauties. Gardening well can get even “villains” new children or keep them out. Maybe I should get one…

Any other fairy tale gardening/shrubberies you can think of? Bring it here and place it here beside this shrubbery, only slightly lower in the comments, so we get the two-level effect…

Snow Queen for Halloween?

Halloween’s fast approaching,
Those ghouls are encroaching,
And if you or yours have chosen
To emulate the queen of Frozen,
Dress-up fit for a Snow Queen,
At Sonshine Smiles Shop can be seen!

Located here: https://www.facebook.com/SonshineSmilesShop

This is my niece as model in this dress:
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And it comes with matching hairclip!
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She also has an official version of a Snow Queen dress, but this is by far my favorite. And, honestly, looking at this versus the official ones, which dress looks like it could better keep the cold from ever bothering its queen?

Orders must be placed soon for delivery by Halloween!
https://www.facebook.com/SonshineSmilesShop, where custom dresses like this can be ordered for estimated $30-$50, depending on size.

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