Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Review~The School for Good and Evil

Title: The School for Good and Evil
Author: Soman Chainani
Genre: Children’s Fairytale/Fantasy
Rating: 1-2

Best friends Sophie and Agnes have different views on the fabled School for Good and Evil where children are taught to be fairytale heroes and villains. Sophie longs to be chosen and with her natural beauty she’s certain to be a winning princess. However, Agnes wants nothing more than her solitary graveyard house and occasional visits from Sophie.
Taken to the School, they find themselves in a hairy predicament: Sophie arrives in the sewage of Evil, while Agnes arrives via flower-blooming into the courtyard of Good. As the friends try to convince the teachers they’re in the wrong place, and to change the mind of the secluded Schoolmaster, they find that not all is well and good in the School for Good (or appropriately foul in the School for Evil).
Making new friends on both sides, Sophie becomes more and more desperate for her prince to choose her despite her placement—but the prince keeps choosing Agnes—and the two fight for a chance to escape the school and almost certain death if their fairytale begins and their Nemesis is chosen.

Okay, I’m reviewing this book primarily because it’s in ‘my genre’—fairytales and children’s fantasy. Newcomer Chainani is a wizard of words in his own right and for the first half of the book I was loving it. Admittedly, it’s a big book and took me a while to get through. When I was done, my jaw was hanging open and I realized I had just wasted my time. Basically, do not read this book.

Maybe I should have seen it coming. There had been several little jokes in the early stages of this book: a secondary prince made himself look like the main Prince character and someone commented that Main Prince A should just go marry himself for all his arrogance—meaning, of course, the Imitation Prince B. It was a joke in poor taste, but I let it pass. But by the last couple chapters of the book I was beginning to worry. While I won’t go into detail, allow me to just say that the book ended (SPOILER) with the main two characters deciding ‘who needs princes for a happily ever after?’ I was flabbergasted. And grossed out. Just a bit.

Soman Chainani is a talented writer. He had me excited about the book—and really enjoying it—until the unsettling end. It was not a very happy book as the mixing elements of good and evil brought out most of the tension and it was pretty grim and dark throughout. There were moments of hilarity, and I picked it because I always love a good ‘school’ story. I’m sorry to say that this is not one I can recommend on any level.

Because it is in my genre of reading/writing I feel obligated to review it—and I did read the whole thing—but as only as a warning. I found it woefully inappropriate and amoral. I sincerely wish I could give this book a higher rating and a more pleased review, because it does show a good deal of promise. However, I cannot in good conscience. If my child came up to me with this book I would say ‘Honey, that is a bad book. I’m sorry, but go put it back on the shelf.’ And that is the sum of my review.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

About a Deadline...

Ah, so it’s August now, is it? That’s wonderful. I like August. Summer is coming closer to its end and autumn is just around the corner with its crisp cool breezes and the turning of the trees…

I like August.

But where did July go? Or June, for that matter?

September comes after August, does it? Oh dear.

“I plan on writing the sequel for NaNo this coming November, and if that’s the case, a more clear background and solid foundation is needed. So I made a deadline for myself: [TLS will be edited by] September. I wrote out a to-do list for writing this year, things I felt I had to get done. TLS was at the top of the list, even though it’s ‘due date’ is later in the year.”
(From the ‘Writing with Foresight and Hindsight’ post.)

Um. Yes. Right. Obviously.

Summer has been crazy. You would think it’s the time for things to calm down, but I’ve been away from home—and thus, my writing habits—more often than at home this summer, and TLS has suffered. The funny thing is, some of my other projects (Carousel, Island of the Kahts, and a new Retro Fantasy project) have seen a significant ‘reboot’, which is great for me and them…but less great for The Turq Wars, this year’s coming up NaNoWriMo story.

It’s not the method that’s my problem. Going backwards has helped significantly, believe it or not. It confuses the timeline a bit, and I’m uncertain of the order things should happen in, but I get to write the climactic and important scenes and then foreshadow them in the earlier sections. It’s actually brilliant.

It’s time. Isn’t it always? And I’ve more time than many. So, really, the biggest problem is ‘other books’. Libraries are damaging to my health, I always say. It’s true. Very true. I have a pile of 17 books, mostly novels and mostly library books and mostly off of the New shelf with early due dates, stacked by my bed.

If I truly want to stick to my plan of completing the edits of TLS by September’s end, then I’ll need to be editing and fleshing out almost a chapter every day. Now, the good thing—the relieving thing—is that I have an extra month between my deadline and November, which was intentional. So anything I still need to work out by then, I should have time to do so. But that means the end of procrastination.

And I like procrastination.

(Some pictures I've found via the Internet that look like some of my characters:)

(Young Reisoni Klift, one of my MCs, and her friend Maewyn)

(Heron Lieshellyk Skye, my other MC, although he usually looks happier.)

(One of the bird automatons in the story)

(Darvis Lieshellyk, Heron's grandfather, as I imagine he may have looked in younger days)

I’ll try to update this blog through the month, to show whether or not I’m reaching the deadline.

Until then, here’s a rather lighthearted teaser for the tale I’m speaking of:

This story begins with a mapmaker—well actually, that’s not quite right. This story ends with a mapmaker. Hmm, well…that’s better, but still inaccurate. Truth be told, this story has an awful lot to do with a mapmaker. Except he isn’t really a mapmaker, exactly. He’s an architect who also happens to make maps. In any case, he is a very important character in the story. Just not the main character.

So, this story is also about a thief girl. Now she is the main character of the story. More or less.

But then there’s the grandson of the founder of the story of which I am speaking. He's also the main character.

And, more than that, I suppose, there’s the Founder himself. Ah, yes, you could say that this story starts with the Founder. And, in all probability, it ends with the Founder, also.

So, then.

This is the story of a mapmaker who isn’t a mapmaker—named Teliod—and a thief girl who isn’t the main character—named Reisoni—and the grandson of the Founder, who is the reason the thief girl isn’t the main character—and his name is Heron—and of the Founder who started it all, kind of, and who just might end it all, kind of—and his name is Lieshellyk.

This is a story about birds and fires and the remnant of humanity living in a city, cut off from the rest of the world and protected from the raging storms outside. This is a story of love and friendship and betrayal and traitors and mysteries and secrets and power and greed and salvation and hope.

This is the story of The Last Storming.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Review~Through the Skylight

Title: Through the Skylight
Author: Ian Baucom
Genre: Children’s Fantasy
Rating: 3

I picked up this book because of the beautiful cover art from none other than my favorite artist Justin Gerard. When I discovered that he had thoroughly illustrated the whole novel, my choice was made.

When I began to read the story however, I was in for something of a letdown. The three main characters—siblings—act alternatively older or younger than the age they supposedly are. The youngest sister I think should have come across as a Lucy-believing-in-Narnia sort, but she came off as a know-it-all sissy. Her elder sister was a generic, bossy sort, and their brother was an average ‘skateboards are cool everywhere’ kind of kid. Literally. (While visiting in Venice with their parents, the children are bored out of their minds—I wouldn’t be, but I don’t blame them. The brother takes to skateboarding everywhere—including inside historical buildings and museums—and runs off from his family more than once.)

Aside from that, the story moved like…like a freight train through molasses is the best way to put it. Like it was supposed to be energetic but was just slow. None of the characters had much depth, and those that did acted in ways that it was hard to reconcile with their character as it had been stated.

The story itself involved traveling through time to help another trio of children, a good deal of magic, an old story in Latin—of which the youngest sister is naturally the best translator—and a lot of other elements that should have made it an excellent read. The story itself seemed pretty cool.

A good deal of the problem comes from being the first children’s book written by an adult author. Some people don’t realize the massive differences between writing for adults and writing for kids. The styles of the story and the writing have to be different, the words used are not the same, the pictures portrayed are painted with different palettes.

Although Through the Skylight is not a bad book and holds a lot of potential (I don’t remember there being any language or questionable material), it is not one I recommend as a good read.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Book Review~The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles

Title: The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
Author: Julie Andrews Edwards
Genre: Children’s Fantasy
Rating: 5

Whangdoodleland waits just around the corner of your imagination as beloved actress Julie Andrews Edwards transports you to the world of Benjamin, Thomas, and Melinda Potter. The siblings find themselves on the journey of a lifetime, led by Professor Savant in search of the illusive Whangdoodle, king of a forgotten and secluded kingdom.

Part Alice in Wonderland, part Dr. Seuss; The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles is a tale of childhood, remarkable imagination and outstanding bravery in the face of a strange new world, and perseverance against the forces that try to end the adventure.

The title engaged me from the start and when I saw that this book was written by Julie Andrews there was no question as to whether or not I would read it. As brilliant a writer as she is on the screen, Julie Andrews Edwards lovingly paints an extraordinary world just beyond sight, with a host of unbelievable characters and creatures—the Whangdoodle himself just being one of many.

Perhaps the only negative thing I found in the book ends up being quite a plot-mover. Avoiding spoilers, the story includes some talk of genetics and cloning and 'playing God', which is a delicate subject and not one that is entirely suited for children’s literature.

Apart from that, I found this book to be one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had to date. The characters were true to themselves, the plot was quick and tempered with humor, and the roles of adults were treated with more respect than they so often are in children’s literature.

A fairly good read and a beautiful story, I recommend The Last of the Really Great Whandoodles.