The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good and Evil

By: Soman Chainani

HarperCollins 2014

A young adult fantasy fairy tale

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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.

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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 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-”
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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.

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

“Spinning Straws”

“Spinning Straws”

Afraid my Here’s just a pile of straw,
The flimsiest place of all to hide,
And I see a wolf pacing outside
With dollar-sign eyes and a gaping maw.

Just here spinning dreams of gold,
But can’t know what is real
Or let fears start to heal,
Til the man says one dream’s taken hold.

I entered this space to win more,
Yet what I own is depleted,
And I feel defeated,
So many wisps scatter over the floor.

Maybe I promised my future away,
For what I can’t guess
And now I feel less,
Grasping straws at a name I can’t say.

What name will finally fit?
It seems I have tried-
I know I have sighed,
But still I have failed to find it.

Have I been spinning false gold?
Tossing in my straw bed,
May be losing my head,
I’m not sure I want to be told.

Perhaps there is a one who knows,
Who wants my labors to bear fruit,
And sees the future’s my strong suit,
Where my gold dream is so real it glows…

I’m trying to spin this straw to gold,
As the wolf paces to inspire dread,
And my mind races to ask what’s ahead,
Which name will describe what I hold-

Straw?….Or is it gold?

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.
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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.
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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!
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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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