06. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Teen Books

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, 488 pages, read by Courtney, on 07/08/2014

Sophie really, really wants to get kidnapped. As the rest of the town prepares to hide away their children before the School Master shows up to make his selection, Sophie is busy pulling the boards off the windows and readying her things. Every so often, the School Master sneaks through the small town, taking two children at a time; one good, the other evil. The kidnapped children are transported to The School for Good and Evil, never to be seen by their loved ones again. Unless they turn up in the storybooks that magically appear in the local bookstore. Agatha doesn’t believe in The School for Good and Evil. She’d much rather keep a low profile and continue living in the cemetery. Naturally, Agatha is a bit surprised when she sees a shadow whisking her only friend, Sophie, away. Agatha grabs onto Sophie and finds herself transported as well. Sophie is elated, until she is dropped off at the Evil school. Agatha is again surprised to find herself delivered to the Good school. Convinced that there’s been a clerical error of some sort, Sophie tries everything in her power to get herself into the School for Good. She doesn’t fit in with the Evil kids; Sophie would never dream of wearing black, after all. Agatha is in a similar situation. She’s uncomfortable with the frilly pink uniform and can’t fathom why all the other girls are so fixated on meeting their princes. It would appear, however, that once the decision has been made, there’s no going back, no matter how badly Sophie wants to end with her chosen prince. Poor Agatha wants nothing more than to go back home to her graveyard where she won’t have to deal with other people or wear pink everyday. Together, they try to find ways to either get back into the “correct” schools or go home.
This was such a cute book. It could easily have felt like a HP spin-off, but it never does. It incorporates tons of fairy tale tropes, but uses them in new or unconventional ways. The twist of the girls being in the “wrong” schools wasn’t a huge surprise, but it poses many interesting questions regarding the nature of good and evil. It’s obvious to the reader that Agatha is anything but evil, in spite of her appearance. Sophie is slightly more ambiguous. She comes across as shallow and inconsiderate, sure, but not necessarily evil. In fact, most of the “good” kids have very similar character traits. The Good school in general emphasizes the appearance of good while the Evil school seems more focused on mischief rather than anything truly evil. The point, of course, is that the kids are fulfilling the traditional roles in fairy tales, but the school presents its dual nature as a preservation of balance. I read this one for my middle school book group and the kids unanimously agreed that it was tons of fun. They loved the sense of humor and the offbeat plot. Frankly, I found it to be a refreshing change of pace in the magic/fairy tale genre.

22. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Fairest, Vol. 3: The Return of Maharaja by Sean E. Williams, 144 pages, read by Brian, on 07/21/2014

fairestI enjoy reading the FABLE stories and spin that is put on them.  These stories focus on strong female characters.  Prince Charming is the focus and the writing of the character was blah.  I was bored from the beginning.

 

10. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Brian, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Short Stories

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman, 330 pages, read by Brian, on 07/10/2014

neilNeil Gaiman is a wonderful writer who can write any genre.  Smoke and Mirrors is a collection of his short stories.  The stories range from science fiction to horror to normal life.  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good read.

 

08. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Graphic Novel

Fairest, Volume 3: Return of the Maharaja by Sean E. Williams, et al, 144 pages, read by Courtney, on 06/28/2014

Ordinarily, I love anything in the Fables universe and the Fairest comics tend to be no exception. Until now. It’s not that the story arc is terrible, it’s just not that great. It’s also really tough to overlook the fact that the Fairest series was meant to shine a spotlight on the women of the Fables universe. Who takes center stage in this volume? Prince Charming. Yes, there is a female protagonist. Yes, she is capable of kicking butt. But it still reads like she’s there to be yet another love interest for Prince Charming. If this were Fables proper, this story arc might have worked all right, but in the context of Fairest, it’s almost insulting and definitely disappointing.

03. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

The Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine , 240 pages, read by Lisa, on 06/10/2014

Once upon a time…A kind sister and a cruel one. A charming prince. A spiteful fairy. A hundred-year snooze. A pea under a pile of mattresses. A kiss.

All the familiar ingredients, but why is the punished sister happy? Where did that extra prince come from, and what does a flock of balding sheep or a fleck of tuna in a chocolate cake have to do with anything?

Gail Carson Levine has waved her magic wand over three well-known fairy tales, and presto! They are transformed — and sparklingly funny-in these delightful retellings:

The Fairy’s Mistake
The Princess Test
Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep

Happily ever after has never been so hilarious!

07. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Teen Books

Splintered by A.G. Howard, 371 pages, read by Courtney, on 05/05/2014

Alyssa Gardner has spent her entire life trying to separate herself from the legacy of her grandmother, Alice Lidell (i.e. the Alice of “Alice in Wonderland” fame). It’s bad enough that Alyssa hears the voices of insects and the occasional plant, she doesn’t need to be reminded that crazy runs in the family. Each generation of women in Alyssa’s family begins to go mad shortly after coming of age. Alyssa has been dreading what seems to be the inevitable. After a visit to her mother in the mental hospital, Alyssa becomes convinced that madness might not be at the root of all this. She instead finds herself stepping through the proverbial looking glass and stumbling into Wonderland. She accidentally drags her best friend/crush, Jeb, through with her. Once in Wonderland, she has to perform a series of tasks in order to break the curse that has been wreaking havoc in her family for decades. Unfortunately, it’s very seldom that anyone in Wonderland will tell her the whole truth about anything and there’s this gorgeous Morpheus character making things more confusing…Can Alyssa break the curse and free the remaining female members of her family? 

I liked this re-imagining well enough. Many of the updates from the original were rather inspired. The plot tends to get bogged down in endless details and the sexual tension, while entertaining at first, wears thin quickly. I really wanted to see Alyssa strike out on her own, but it didn’t really pan out like that. Slightly formulaic and a bit on the angsty side, Splintered is more a book for the die-hard paranormal romance fans looking to branch out from the high school setting.

05. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Kristy, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Cress by Marissa Meyer, 550 pages, read by Kristy, on 05/24/2014

Cress is the third book in the Lunar Chronicles series. Cinder and her fugitive crew are focused on evading capture while simultaneously attempting to overthrow the evil Queen Levana. Their only hope lies in getting Cress, a professional hacker, to help them. Their plans go awry when the group is suddenly separated, leaving them crippled when they need each other most. Will they manage to stop Kai’s marriage to Levana, thus saving Earth from utter devastation?

This book was fast paced and a great read. My only complaint is that this book ended on a major cliffhanger when I thought the series would be over. I am now anxiously looking forward to the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Steam-punk, Tammy

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer, 454 pages, read by Tammy, on 05/11/2014

scarletContinues the story of Cinder and introduces the reader to Scarlet and Wolf. But is he a Big Bad Wolf or a hero in the making? How is Scarlet’s grandmother involved with the Luna princess and who kidnapped Grandma? Can’t wait to read the third book in the series!

 

A fairy tale-like story.  The rulers of Montagne have been rumored to possess and use magic.  But this has been only a rumor.  Grandmonther (queen mother) Benificence, her two daughters Wisdom and Temperance, along with an orphan named Fortitude and a miller’s son Tips all end up at Wisdom’s wedding to the neighboring and coveting kingdom.  Its a pretty fast paced, fun tale, written mostly in letter, epistolary format. wisdom's kiss wisdom-s-kiss

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Teen Books

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige, 452 pages, read by Courtney, on 04/18/2014

Poor Amy Gumm. She lives with her mom in a dusty old trailer park somewhere in rural Kansas. Her mom, when not too depressed to leave the house, is always out drinking. At school, things aren’t much better. Amy’s pregnant arch-enemy, Madison, likes to start fights and blame “Salvation Amy” for them. On the day that Amy is sent home from school for fighting with Madison, a storm is brewing. The storm turns into a tornado and whisks Amy, her trailer and her mother’s pet rat, Star, off to another world – Oz, to be specific. The first thing Amy notices when she crash-lands is that Oz looks nothing like it’s supposed to. As Amy begins to meet the inhabitants of Oz, she quickly finds out that her more famous Kansas predecessor, Dorothy, is the ruler of Oz. Her loyal companions are still loyal, but corrupted by greed and power. Dorothy has become something of a dictator dressed in gingham. The use of magic has been forbidden by all save Dorothy and her counterparts. The rest of Oz is suffering dearly. Amy is quickly apprehended by and then saved from Dorothy by a Wicked witch, Mombi, who represents the resistance. Amy has no choice but to join the resistance and they have only one main goal: to kill Dorothy.
This is a fun take on the Wizard of Oz story. Amy makes a good foil to Dorothy’s false cheeriness. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Dorothy portrayed as a bad guy (the Fables comic series by Bill Willingham comes to mind), but she and her Oz counterparts are genuinely evil. I’m still a bit unclear as to how she made such a complete 180 from her original goody-two-shoes persona. Ostensibly, it’s the possession of magic that’s made her turn so evil, but for all I know, there might be more exposition coming in the subsequent novels. Either way, Dorothy and her entire gang make for some really creepy baddies. There’s plenty of action from beginning to end, but the pacing lags through the second half of the book. Some murky potentially-romantic entanglements drag the plot down further. It’s not nearly as much fun (nor as rooted in the original story) as Gregory Maguire’s work, but it will certainly still find a readership among readers who enjoy both a spunky female protagonist and retellings of classic stories.

16. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira

The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe, 352 pages, read by Kira, on 04/14/2014

The-Hum-and-the-Shiver-Alex-Bledsoe1Wild and willful Brownwyn Hyatt is back from the Iraq war.  There are omens that her mother is likely to die, and a haint is wanting thumshivo talk to her.  Will it be possible to change the future and keep her mom alive. Or if her Mom does die, will Brownwyn be able to remember her musical skills in order to learn her Mother’s song.  Will she be able to resist the temptation of her old boyfriend, bad-boy, Dwight?  It also includes the storylines of a Christian minister trying to make inroads into this isolated community of people called the Tufa.  And it includes the storyline of Don Swayback, 1/8th Tufa, who comes back to his roots.

I really liked the storyline of the book up until the last chapter, even if it was a bit slow-paced.  I didn’t like the way the protagotuatha_de_danann_by_mirovia-d4h4bx0nist behaved in the end, so totally self-centereeriu_queen_of_tarad.

10. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction

The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz, 368 pages, read by Angie, on 04/09/2014

This is the story of Jorinda and Joringel, twins who were born to a dead father and an absent mother. They move throughout the fairy tales as the lead characters. And these are not your Disney fairy tales, these are the ghastly, repellent, and sinister Grimm tales. These tales will give you nightmares and make you sleep with the light on. Both children die repeatedly throughout the book and in gruesome ways. There is death and destruction and mutilation and monsters. Good doesn’t always triumph in the end. Some facts I learned: Cinderella or Ashputtle actually means toilet cleaner! The people who fell asleep with Sleeping Beauty aged as they slept. Satan lives with his grandma in Hell. I really found these gruesome stories just as awesome as the narrator said they would be and I am sure kids will really enjoy that aspect of it. The one negative I have is actually about the narrator. For the most part the interjections are funny and don’t take away from the story. However, there is a section of the book where Jorinda and Joringel meet the narrator in Brooklyn and he reads the other two books in this series to them. I thought that section really broke up the story and wasn’t necessary. The rest is awesome…especially Hell. I might have to go back and read the others in this series.

07. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Delphine by Richard Sala, 128 pages, read by Courtney, on 03/21/2014

Delphine tells the tale of an unnamed man searching for his estranged girlfriend. The girl, Delphine, had gone back to her hometown to help with her ailing father, but never returned. The protagonist has managed to track down the town, but is immediately beset by a string of bizarre and creepy occurrences that seem to conspire to frustrate his efforts. He encounters witches, monsters, secret passages, mysterious woods and other stuff of fairy tales. This is, ostensibly, a spin on Snow White (told from the perspective of the prince), though I failed to see the connection until it was pointed out to me. The fairy tale allusions are clearly intentional and Sala’s dark and haunting artwork lends itself well to the atmosphere of the story. It takes awhile to get a grip on the process of events, but that appears to be part of the journey.

31. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Tammy · Tags:

Instructions by Neil Gamain, 40 pages, read by Tammy, on 03/29/2014

instructionsAn instruction book for any adventure you might want or need to take into fairyland or fantasy. Aimed at children and very brief with beautiful illustrations. I enjoyed the story though and think that adults will recognize fairy tales where the main characters didn’t follow the rules and bad things happened.

17. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Kira · Tags:

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman, 325 pages, read by Kira, on 03/15/2014

grimlegElizabeth takes a job at the New York Circulating Materials repository where objects including items from the Grimm tales are loaned out.  However, someone is stealing from the repository and she and her fellow pages investigate.  I really enjoyed the story – its Not perfect, but very entertaining and creative.

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grimm l

04. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Kristin

The Fairy Tale Treasury by Virginia Haviland, 192 pages, read by Kristin, on 02/02/2014

Thirty-two of the world’s best-loved fairy tales, including the The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Frog Prince, Gone is Gone, The Sun and the Wind, and The Bremen Town Musicians.

03. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books

Ash by Malinda Lo., 264 pages, read by Kira, on 02/28/2014

ash_malindalo_500A creative retelling of Cinderella – with a little Tam Lin thrown in.  Ash becomes an indentured servant to her stepmother when her father’s debts come due.  She sees fairyland as an escape from her drudgery and abuse.  The fairy Sidhean who could steal her away from mortals is reluctant to do so, seemingly because he is cursed to love her and have his heart broken.  Eventually, Ash falls in love with the Kings Huntress, and realizes, she might want to stay in the mortal realm.  Enjoyable, 500fullfast-paced rehuntress_arc_cover_webad.

01. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George, 324 pages, read by Kira, on 02/27/2014

dragonslippers  dragonskin-slippers Another story where the orphan maiden is sacrificed to the local dragon, and eventually marries the prince of the kingdom.

Not all goes as planned, first, they weren’t sure the dragon still existed, since no one had seen him.  Then it turns out the dragon really didn’t want to deal with humans, he was too old, and humans too dangerous.  Then it turns out that dragons horde very different items depending on their own particular interest.  This particular dragon hordes shoes.  The protagonist Creel, gets a pair of shoes from the dragon, shoes with special powers.  A delightful tale, I did think back to the Stolen Child, about the theme, enjoying what you’ve got, when Creel was living in the dragon’s cave, eating well, pleasant company, and able to embroider to her heart’s content.  To someone who would love more time to craft, it sounded idea..   Not as good as the other 2 books I’ve read by Day, the pacing wdragonslipas a bit too dragintense towards the end for me.

01. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Inspirational, Kira, Self Help, Short Stories

The Late Bloomer: Myths & Stories of the Wise Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, 380 pages, read by Kira, on 02/28/2014

late bloomer  Clarissa Pinkola Estes examines archetypal themes in fairy tales relevant to unleashing creativity and letting your unique talents blossom. Estes uses a combination of Jungian psychology together with family wisdom to explain the significance of various tales.  I learned that she had been held at gunpoint down in Guatemala, during a period of civil unrest, listening to her inner voice/angel, she eventually started singing to her kidnappers, who let her go, saying the singing was driving them nuts. She finishes each chapter with a blessing.  I really liked this title, As it was so deep & rich, I wouldn’t want to read several back to back.  I really clientImg_estesenjoyed this book, & feel cactslike I benefited from her wisdom.

01. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Kira · Tags:

Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls by Jane Yolen, 116 pages, read by Kira, on 02/28/2014

This was a mixed bag of tales.  Some lived up to the advertising, others were less successful.  One of the problems I had with some of the tales, is telling me how smart the protagonist is, and then all she did was sprinkle magic fairy dust that she had from somewhere to solve all the villages problems.  I realize it is more difficult to show instead of tell, in short tales, but maybe you Not-One-Damsel-in-Distress-9780152020477can’t have short fairy tales that cannot 5c6beb7d1455d9712297b6c80feb8533be shown, but paladinbyxiaji777xj3must be told. strng il_570xN.541902331_kzpc images I did enjoy the story Janet Burd (a Tam Lin variation), as well as the Mollee Whoppee story.