Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School) by Jen Calonita

21996359Flunked by Jen Calonita is a middle grade book full of creativity and surprises. Anyone who is a fan of fairy tales and wants to see some of the main villains reimagined is in for some fun. The Big Bad Wolf, Cinderella’s wicked stepmother, the evil sea witch, and the evil queen are now newly reformed professors at Fairy Tale Reform School (FTRS). Flora, Cinderella’s reformed wicked stepmother founded and now runs FTRS, where the motto and mission is to turn wicked delinquents and former villains into future heroes. They all live in the kingdom of Enchantasia where Cinderella, Snow White, Rose (Sleeping Beauty) and Rapunzel reign.

It is here where we meet our main character, 12-year-old Gillian Cobbler, who after three repeated offenses involving petty theft must be taken to FTRS. She is the shoemaker’s oldest daughter, and only steals to help feed her family after the fairy godmother started stealing business from her father. How can she possibly be an upstanding citizen when she feels her only way to get by is by being criminally mischievous?

After meeting Kayla and Jax on her first day at school she discovers that her 3 month stint can’t be so bad when you have friends and are receiving lessons on etiquette, fencing, snake charming, and other various activities. Until she can figure out her next move it seems that she will try to endure her time there. Of course nothing is as trivial as it seems, as something strange is happening at Fairy Tale Reform School and Gillian and her friends are determined to figure it out.

I thought everything about this book was cute including the cover. There were some pleasant surprises and creative retellings throughout the story and it was fun to run into familiar characters and see them put in situations where they had to teach a bunch of middle school delinquents. I think that most middle school children will like this book and it was a joy to read.


Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Cinder Audiobook Giveaway

I’m excited to host a giveaway of Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Woot Woot! This book is all kinds of awesome, being a cyberpunk retelling of Cinderella and so Macmillan Audio is acting as your fairy godmother and offering a free audiobook copy to one of you.

In the spirit of Marissa Meyer’s recent guest post over at Bibliophilic Monologues, all you have to do to enter is name a song that fits in with one of your favorite books. An example from me would be “Give Me Strength” by Snow Patrol really fit in with The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa. That simple!

This giveaway is open to everyone. If someone outside the U.S. wins they will get a Cinder digital download instead. The giveaway will end when the clock strikes twelve on the 25th of January. I hope all of you participate!

Here’s an audio clip courtesy of Macmillan Audio and Novel Novice‘s YouTube page 🙂

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Details, Please (Publisher Description)

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

So What?
This is a fast read, and completely entertaining. It’s not so exhaustively high-tech to the point that you don’t understand what the heck is going on either.  I think this qualifies as a dystopian book, because although the world is high-tech, the world is bleak with disease threatening to kill and no antidote to be found. Plus society is against our protagonist and poor Cinder goes through more than one identity crisis.

As a character, Cinder isn’t all prim and proper or annoying; she’s realistic and not pining away for the prince. The prince knows that his duty is to his people and not about whom he loves…you just get the sense in this first installment that there are bigger issues than just Cinder and Kai. Cinder is the first of a four-book series and Scarlet comes out in 2013. Don’t worry there isn’t a horrible cliffhanger. As a side note Marissa Meyer seems pretty cool she started by writing Sailor Moon FanFiction. What’s not to like?

Oh! For those of you who joined any Sci-Fi challenges or are planning on participating in the Once Upon a Time challenge this would be a good book for both. I’m using it towards my dystopia challenge.

And just because this came to mind while reading here is a Futuristic Paso Doble from Dancing with the Stars 🙂 (nothing like this happened in the book that we saw anyway…it’s just the spirit of it I guess)

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

I’d been hearing a lot of buzz about The Near Witch, and was glad I was approved for a galley. The Near Witch is a hybrid of folklore and fairy tales. There is a slight semblance to The Pied Piper, and yet Miss Schwab manages to make the story all her own. It is certainly worth the hype. What an awesome debut novel.

Details Please
It is said witches and hunters live on the edge of the village of Near. Lexi Harris being a child of the latter lives in such a spot, having the advantage of seeing the comings and goings of town. The thing is, there are no strangers in Near, so when one catches her eye in the window she is curious about him. He seems to melt into the darkness. The town where everybody knows everybody wants to know who this stranger is, but before anyone can meet him the children of Near start vanishing. Lexi’s sister Wren hears children outside asking her to come play; a melody that adults do not hear. Who is responsible for luring the children out of bed and can Lexie convince the town from repeating history?

So What?
The Near Witch gave off a nostalgic feeling and it flowed so well. It was well paced and it had just enough romance. It’s lyrical, full of pretty prose and not in a confusing way. One thing I wasn’t expecting was to genuinely be scared. What started as sort of mysterious grew into a genuinely chilling book. One scene in particular really freaked me out and I had trouble sleeping that night. It had me wanting to double check my windows. It’s funny because although some parts scared me, I felt the book was lovely (such a strange dichotomy, but it worked.) I felt for the characters, and I felt outraged at the villagers. I wanted to be best friends with Lexi, and I wanted a sister like Wren. I love when I actually care for the characters I’m reading about.

I love this book. It has everything, it’s a ghost story with magic and witches. What’s not to love? It kept me repeatedly guessing, and I also learned a lot about how fear can blind us. You know what else is awesome? It’s a standalone! 

P.S. Has anyone seen Sigur Ros’s Glósóli video? It sort of reminded me of The Near Witch, with the same kind of eerie, magical, fairy tale feeling.

I received this ARC from publishers via NetGalley. 

Beauty by Robin McKinley

A lot of books I’ve read lately could have been used for the Once Upon a Time V challenge, but I decided on Beauty, because not only does it fit the bill, but Uncoolghoul highly recommended it.

Having read books from Robin McKinley before it was cool to go back and read her 1978 debut. It sticks very close to De Beaumont’s version, and is magical in its own right. It feels more like a retelling for adults than for children. Not that it has adult content, it just feels grown up somehow.

In this version Beauty has two older siblings named Grace and Hope. Beauty’s actual name is “Honour,” but being too young to understand the concept,says she’d rather be called “Beauty,” and it sticks. Unfortunately for her she turns out to be the least pretty of the three. She’s thin and awkward with big feet. She feels she let the family down by being plain. So of course she comes to hate the name that does not describe her. But we all know she is the clever one who enjoys reading.

Beauty’s father is a wealthy merchant, but one day his ships get lost at sea and they lose everything. They move to the country in the north, a land that is known for its magic and enchantments. So of course the one rose her father picks for Beauty happens to be from the Beasts enchanted garden. In exchange for his life he must bring back one of his daughters.

We all know the familiar story, but what I loved about this was that no one is really a villain. Yes, Beast scared the father and falsely threatens him, but he did not have villainous intentions (we learn later on.) Beauty’s sisters are just as kind as they are beautiful, and the father treasures them all.

Beauty is courageous enough to be taken away from her family and the life she knows.Her sister Grace offered to go in her stead, but Beauty owns up to the responsibility that she asked for rose seeds in the first place. Also the Beast is nothing like the Disney version. He never argues with Beauty, in fact he is so kind and patient I was surprised. I guess I was expecting some yelling, and a scene with wolves (yeah, that didn’t happen.) Actually Beauty is more likely to throw a tantrum every once in a while, but she always apologizes for her behavior later. She acknowledges that being the youngest she usually gets her way (but not in an obnoxious way.) Like when the enchanted handmaids dress her like a princess she freaks, because she doesn’t feel pretty enough to wear such finery. Although as the book progresses she becomes as beautiful as she is honorable.

As she comes to trust Beast the magic of the castle little by little reveals different things to her, like the library filled with books not yet written. How cool is that?

Overall, we all know how it ends,but it’s told in such a magical way and the details here and there really make this novel a classic and a must read for fairy-tale fanatics out there. I don’t know why it took me so long to finally read. It’s awesome.

Just because… here’s some Annie Leibovitz pics from the April ’05’ Vogue issue featuring Drew Barrymore as Beauty.

So pretty…

Howl’s Moving Castle By Diana Wynne Jones

Whenever I have a bad day I watch Howl’s Moving Castle. It’s just something I do, so I was bound to read the novel the film was loosely based on. Diana Wynne Jones is now forever engraved in my mind as the epitome of a fantasy writer.

Is it Howl’s cavalier personality, or Sophie’s practicality that keeps me reading? Perhaps it’s Howl’s resident fire demon, Calcifer, or the fact that Howl’s castle door is actually a portal that opens onto four different places? It’s everything and more. The tongue-in-cheek pokes at fairy tale clichés are funny. Sophie doesn’t expect anything exciting to happen to her as she’s the eldest (and as we all know in fairy tales exciting things only happen to the youngest.)

And being the eldest is certainly turned on its heels when Sophie ends up offending the Witch of the Waste who literally turns her into an old lady.

The odd and magical thing is that after this transformation is when Sophie finally starts learning about herself and becoming an awesome heroine. Before she was shy and led a tedious life in a hat shop, but once she aged she really didn’t care what people thought of her. Howl is deliciously her opposite, where she is practical he is nonsensical, shallow and vain. Of course in the most likable way. Each character balances the other. This book takes you through such a fun adventurous journey. One everyone should take at least once.

On a sad note, R.I.P Diana Wynne Jones, who died today after a long battle with lung cancer. You’ll never be forgotten as your words and stories will forever be engraved in our hearts.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Mass Market Paperback: 560 pages

Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (February 18, 2002)

Believe it or not, I had never heard the fairy tale about six brothers who are turned into swans by their evil stepmother. I failed to pick up the book sooner, because I thought the premise was silly, but Juliet Marillier makes everything seem probable, that two worlds that mirror the other exist, and that there is a link between both worlds. And we as the reader are held captivated.

This tale is about a sister who goes through much hardship to free her brothers from this curse, and yet so much more.The relationship between Sorcha and her brothers shows such devotion, and you honestly feel the love they have for each other. Every emotion is shown in its purest form. This novel is all about love, selflessness, loyalty and perseverance amidst adversity.This is by far one of the best fairy-tale retellings that I have read.

Sorcha makes difficult decisions, and you feel a bond with her. Not one character is flat, and you feel as if you know them personally. And as the reader you start to see the bigger picture that Marillier is painting. Not one character means more than another, because somehow they are all intertwined.

Daughter of the Forest was simply magical. There is something about the way Juliet Marillier tells a story. It feels like you are sitting at a campfire and she is addressing only you, just weaving her tale. Her writing is an art form. You think you know what a good book is, and then you actually read one and…wow.

Although I love happy endings, she deals with situations realistically. Realistic in a poetic way, and not jarring. It’s storytelling at its best.

Many passages were so beautiful I just had to read them again. Simply put, just read it. It’s hauntingly poetic.