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.

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Once Upon a Time 4×1 “A Tale of Two Sisters”

Well, I caught up on “Once Upon a Time” just before its new premiere and…I’m still not sure what I think about it. On the one hand…

The Good:
1. Elsa’s character remains intact. After her ominous arrival last season from Rumple’s “I’m-scared-of-this” vault and emergence over the last great evil-Zelena’s-dark magic symbol, I feared for the integrity of her flawed, but good heroine personality.
2. This is one of those episodes where everything looked just as it should. This is very important for a show dabbling in iconic images and moments, but from everything “Frozen” to dancing with Belle, this episode was charming to literally watch.
3. We don’t have to go back to the past again! Yay! Personally, I found that storyline in the last two episodes too much stalling for too little payoff, especially since it’s pushing at Regina in all-too-cliche ways.
4. The mention of Netflix was a funny meta touch.

However, the other hand is weighed down with…

The Bad:
1. Finding ‘The’ author of fairy tales??? That’s just not a good idea and my folklorist heart is already pained. I suppose the most acceptable solution would be to find Disney himself, but…then we’ve got a whole other kettle of meta fish happening that’s just too close to home for magic to keep off the fishy smell.
2. Can everyone just stop messing with Belle already? Just STOP IT. One of the things I liked about last season was how she got to call out her tormentors and remind everyone just how raw a deal this crazy optimist, of all people, got in previous seasons. STOP MESSING WITH HER, I DON’T CARE IF SHE DOESN’T KNOW.
3. Obviously Henry is the best option for Regina-company and deterrent right now and it’s plain stupidity and selfishness that keeps Emma hounding her personally to try and prove that she was right.
4. Look, I’ve been trying to reconcile myself to Hook/Emma for an entire season now and having a hard time of it, having Emma share my hesitation is not helping.
5. If an enchanter comes to claim that hat and dares to call himself Merlin without being the most awesome character ever I will hate this show.

Also, I’m not sure which category this goes in, but according to that timeline, the powers of True Love and pixie dust thought that Regina and Robin should get together before she became the full-fledged Evil Queen who messed with Marian, which has to mean that it thought they’d make a better match than Robin and Marian IN THE FIRST PLACE, EVEN! I’m not sure what to do with that. One voice is crying out-don’t mess with Robin and Marian, it has to at least be history!, while the other is saying hah-see, Marian never really should have gotten him to begin with, go Regina! It’s confusing. What do you think of that?

Of course, we still have those nitty-gritty questions to get into about predictions for this season…

The U(gly U)nknown:
1. Will Anna’s journey in the Enchanted Forest run her into more wolves in the form of Red? That is my greatest hope right now.
2. Will Belle get pregnant with a boy they’ll name Chip as a tribute to their love?
3. Perhaps instead of the author we can get Scheherazade who’s been telling these stories to her sultan? That would be cool. Correction, that could be cool. Could also be a big mess, but at least better than finding any kind of author.
4. Can we count Mickey Mouse as an author? o.O
5. It’s probably all going to have to do with Roland and him getting attached to a savior-Regina with her this time, isn’t it?
6. So are Hans and his brothers “waiting to pounce” ruling the roost back in Arendelle? Or did they follow Anna and trap her to try and get her to marry Hans/one of them a la Penelope in the Odyssey? I do like the image of Sven helping to break that up eventually. Or, could be both!
7. This also makes me think that Ariel and Eric and their island is reminiscent of Calypso, the sea’s daughter, and her lovers’ island, no?
8. Which brings me to Hercules and how on first hearing Regina had a second soulmate, I thought of him. He likes dark women, doesn’t he? (Plus, he could have wanted a tattoo of the lion he defeated.) It would be fun if they could have at least a fling.
9. Who wants to bet that “the truth” about Elsa and her powers is that she really has a different father than Anna does, or was adopted from her sister or something, which will make her actually related to Enchanted Forest folk? After all, this show is nothing if not incestuous! See: Hook, chasing after his stepson’s babymama, etc.

Well, those are my thoughts. What are yours? Any predictions-without spoilers!-or speculations to share?

Top Ten Authors I’ve Only Read One Book/Series of but need to read More

This is a rendition of Top Ten Tuesday by the thebrokeandthebookish.wordpress.com. This week was top 10 authors I’ve only read one book by but need to read more. I have expanded it to one book or one series as I’ve just recently managed to cross off a few authors that would have fit this meme. Here we go:

Top Ten Authors I’ve Only Read One Book/Series of but need to read More:

1. Sarah Rees Brennan of “Unspoken”
(Full review here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/unspoken-the-lynburn-legacy/)
kami

This first book of a series blew me away and now I’m in the ridiculous situation of being behind on a series I started all my friends on because none of the bookstores seem to still be carrying the sequel now that I’m at liberty to read it. Even my local library has failed!

2. Rachel Hart of “Seraphina”
I love the characters and the issues in this work and am eagerly awaiting whatever she comes out with next, be it a sequel or something entirely different.

3. Kristin Cashore of the “Graceling” series
(Full review of “Bitterblue” here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/bitterblue/)

I adore the way her mind works and whatever’s next, sign me up!

4. M. M. Kaye of “The Ordinary Princess”
ordinary princess

This is perhaps my longest lagging. Those of you following this blog will know that I am absolutely enraptured with “The Ordinary Princess” and my expectations for her other works are through the roof. So far I haven’t been able to push myself into active pursuit of them in case said expectations get shattered. Still, it is a meandering sort of search…

5. Lauren DeStefano of the “Chemical Garden” trilogy
(Full review of “Sever” here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/sever-chemical-garden-trilogy-3/)
(Poem based on “Fever” here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/madames-turn-in-fever/)

DeStefano’s lyrical writing style draws me in and inspires me, as shown in the poem above!

6. Elizabeth Loupas of “The Second Duchess”
books_duchess

History, mystery, supernatural presence, and literary references lead by a courageous and persistent heroine, bring on more!

7. Alan Gordon of “Thirteenth Night”
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I still must read more of this world where jesters run the show and Shakespearean intrigue continues.

8. Tom Reiss of “The Black Count”
(Full review here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/the-black-count-glory-revolution-betrayal-and-the-real-count-of-monte-cristo/)
BLACK-COUNT-COVER

This historian has fantastic narrative, transparent research, literary references, and even the best footnotes ever. For example, one told the story of a British officer stationed in India who came to join (and die) in the French revolution, having developed “a strain of militant, Jacobin vegetarianism.” In the brief space of a normal footnote, not the giant “Moby Dick” type ones, too. Go read about Alexandre Dumas’ father!

9. Anne Eliot Crompton of “Merlin’s Harp”

This author’s version of fairies is the most similar to mind that I’ve yet seen in print. Also, we all know I love a good Arthurian tale, no?

10. Helen Frost of “Diamond Willow”

This book’s words are shaped in beautiful silhouettes, with bold words making a message at the heart of each section of this story about family, about love, and about growing up in a world where humans reincarnate as animals to watch over their descendants and survival is as much about friendship as oneself. It’s beautiful.

So, have any of you read any other books by these authors? Are as excited as me to see what else the newer ones will come up with? Have your own authors you haven’t got enough of through your slowness to find or their slowness to write?

Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 4)

Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 4)
By: Gail Carriger
(http://gailcarriger.com)
Orbit Books 2011
A steampunk historical mystery review

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Alexia Tarabotti faces continued assassination attempts on her person with hilarious resignation. Not so when a deranged ghost reports a plot against the queen. Alexia’s investigations lead her headlong into the Kingair plot of the past, the secrets of other women, and oh, yes-her final month of pregnancy.

Firmly back in London, and in control of husband, home, and helping, Alexia’s indomitable spunk and efficiency return this series to the light-hearted antics of Soulless. Heartless allows Alexia to upend supernatural society, even while it delves more deeply into her supporting cast. Biffy, Lyle, and Lord Maccon all hold together and even out the tone of this work so that the deep undertones begun in Blameless continue to support the world and characters of this creamier, more refreshing novel, like a tart on firm, chocolate crust. With plenty of fun and significant revelations, Heartless is an enjoyable rush to a climactic, parasol-dropping crescendo that will have you searching for the last book in Gail Carriger’s series.

Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 3)

Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 3)
By: Gail Carriger
(http://gailcarriger.com)
Orbit Books 2010
A steampunk historical romance review

GermanBlameless

On her own, Alexia finds herself facing down epic scandal, betrayal, and assassins wielding homicidal ladybugs. Needless to say, she responds by gathering loyal companions and traveling across Europe to find answers, be it from scientists, murderous vampires, or even the Holy Templars.

An involving, quick read, Blameless amps up the action and world-building. The supernatural machinations behind this plot lead to more twists and consequences for the Maccons’ set. From devious schemes and werewolf drunkenness on the home front to the strange and sinister philosophies of Europe, Carriger puts her characters through the wringer. The expansion of French and Italian culture continues to expand this fascinating paranormal world with Alexia’s spirited tourism and unexpected transports to lead the way.

The middle book, Blameless proves the least light-hearted, but brings a passion and a flawed reality to these characters that enhances them through the rest of the series. Like tea, a sip of the unsweetened stuff will make the properly served version taste even better.

Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 2)

Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 2)
By: Gail Carriger
(http://gailcarriger.com)
Orbit Books 2010

A steampunk historical romance review

GermanChangeless

Changeless sees the intrepid Alexia Tarabotti settled into a position of power, both as muhjah to the queen and Alpha of the Woolsey pack. So when immortals of all kinds suddenly begin to lose their powers on a wide scale, Conall Maccon runs off to tend to his old Scottish pack, and suspicious activity begins to follow Alexia around, she is naturally up to the task.

This sequel considerably broadens Carriger’s world in several directions, by introducing the rest of Conall’s werewolf pack, delving into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the Alpha’s move to London, taking readers to Scotland, and uncovering more details about this world’s intriguing rules and wherefores. The new characters are introduced and expanded without taking away from the original characters’ growth, the numerous mysteries facing Alexia keep the plot steaming along full-speed ahead, and this heroine performs her antics with such aplomb that I didn’t mind that some questions don’t get wrapped up until later books. Amazingly, the clothing details of bizarre hats and edgy attire attain even greater heights of distinction in this work.

In short, this is the vindicated and indomitable Alexia Maccon as everyone loves to see her, and the plot has enough going on to keep her busy and readers highly entertained. However, unlike Soulless, this book ends on an abrupt note that requires swift continuation into Blameless, so have it at the ready.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2278388/)
Directed by: Wes Anderson 2014

the-grand-budapest-hotel-tv-spot-invasion

This film works like a kind of wedding cake. The aesthetics are the frosting, absolutely gorgeous to look at and it makes you crave sugar. The plot is this delightful thin line of raspberry filling: not really the point of the film, but bright, sharp, and with a proper pop of flair, much like master concierge and star of this story, Gustave H. I believe the reason this film is harder to connect to for some is because in most cases the plot provides the cake itself and drives the viewing. So, to have the plot provide only a line of filling may seem like it was made disproportionately or without enough sponge. Yet, this movie does have a very solid cake base to hold up the filling and the frosting. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is driven by tone. What holds together this pastry of marvelous images and whacky doings together is that feeling that happens by looking at the world as it is while remembering how it once seemed to be. It’s a nostalgia cake baked with the whimsy to imagine and the resignation to live on. When paired with the visuals of eccentric people thrusting themselves zealously into outrageous positions, it’s extremely humorous.

Like wedding cake, it may not be to everyone’s taste, but it has real symbolic depth that’s worth trying out. Besides, the cinematic frosting is fantastic!

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