Review: The Last Ever After

 Presidential Rating: awardsawardsawardsawards

Date Read: 19 August 2016

Favorite character: Hester, Anadil, Dot (the conven basically) and Lady Lesso… Can you see a pattern here?

Summary:

In the epic next chapter of Soman Chainani’s New York Times bestselling series, The School for Good and Evil, everything old is new again as Sophie and Agatha fight the past as well as the present to find the perfect end to their story.

As A World Without Princes closed, the end was written and former best friends Sophie and Agatha went their separate ways. Agatha was whisked back to Gavaldon with Tedros and Sophie stayed behind with the beautiful young School Master.

But as they settle into their new lives, their story begs to be re-written, and this time, theirs isn’t the only one. With the girls apart, Evil has taken over and the villains of the past have come back to change their tales and turn the world of Good and Evil upside down.

Readers around the world are eagerly awaiting the third book in The School for Good and Evil series, The Last Ever After. This extraordinary new journey delivers more action, adventure, laughter, romance and fairy tale twists and turns than you could ever dream of!

Summary from Goodreads.

Verdict:

The concept for the Last Ever After is superb, make no doubt about it. Sophie and Agatha’s friendship once again has a different twist to it and this time, something deeper than what has been shown in the first book and established in the second book. Still however, I felt overwhelmed reading new information shoved into my head in the third book. It seemed to me as if all these notes and ideas were crammed in the last part instead of being evenly distributed in the entire series. Take for example, it is revealed (spoiler alert!) that Stephan actually has better affection toward Agatha but I could not recall it being mentioned in the first two books. Probably I have to read the books again and find hints here and there but as it is, I can’t afford to do that anymore (given my clamoring TBR list).

At last, Agatha and Tedro’s affection for each other has been justified in this book. It turns out it is not just the hormones of adolescence affecting them but something much deeper. I always need to remember that the series is all about 15-year-old kids trying their hands on friendship and love that last for ever after.

Goodbye Cinderella. To every sense of the word. For those who have read the novel, you know what I mean. For those who haven’t, prepare yourself for a completely different Cinderella, someone who’s too Good she is willing to trade places with her step-sisters, the kind you’ll hate so much you don’t want to read her name on a page but you’ll end up loving and missing at the end of a chapter.

I do like the little scenes between Lancelot and Guinevere. And although I will never love Merlin-and I might be the only one who doesn’t – I have learned to love his taciturnity and how he has managed to boost everyone’s confidence, not the Dumbledore kind but let’s not start talking about amazing wizards because I am certainly going to lose.

My biggest concern in this book is Sophie’s inconsistent language. There are times when she gives hifalutin speeches to the point I consider her a philosopher but there are also countless moments when I see her as a complete dunderhead.

Nonetheless, despite certain issues regarding consistency of characters, I have to say the series has been an easy read for me and the fact that it has given a different take on fairy tales is a plus.

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Review: A World without Princes

Presidential Rating:  awardsawardsawards

Date Read: 12 August 2016

President’s Favorite Characters: Hester, Anadil

Summary:

 After saving themselves and their fellow students from a life pitched against one another, Sophie and Agatha are back home again, living happily ever after. But life isn’t exactly a fairytale. When Agatha secretly wishes she’d chosen a different happy ending with Prince Tedros, the gates to the School for Good and Evil open once again. But Good and Evil are no longer enemies and Princes and Princesses may not be what they seem, as new bonds form and old ones shatter.

Summary from Goodreads

Verdict:

I am the kind of person who usually likes the second novel more than the first and it honestly sucks that I didn’t enjoy reading A World without Princes as much as The School for Good and Evil.

In this installment, I finally understand why Agatha has to choose Sophie and why it has been so important to leave Tedros behind as this serves as the foundation of the second book.

I still don’t believe that it is true love between Tedros and Agatha though. Probably it is just their hormones that kept them looking for each other in the first chapters of the story (teenagers!). Tedros has the maturity of an ant and I couldn’t believe that other hero students follow him, only to shove him aside in the middle of the book. Not against homosexual relationship of any sort, I am quite open to Tedros kissing ‘Philip’ in the novel but there is something about the boy, Tedros, that irritates me. Is it his innocence, the tendency of loving anybody who shows ultimate trust and sincerity to him? Or is it his stubbornness? What can I say about having too much expectation on a 15-year-old successor of King Arthur’s court?

What I don’t understand is the need for Tristan to be a girl. I’m not convinced that he has just decided to turn into the girl so he/she can return to the comforts of the Good castle. He somehow confesses his admiration for Tedros which for others may look like a love confession implying that Tristan might have been gay all along but then again it has not been established– or it may have been and I just missed it.

The reason behind Miss Sader’s blue butterflies and her distaste for men have been revealed. Still, I thought, disliking men must not be shown by looking like men, i.e. Beatrix cutting her hair short and other girls taking personal care for granted. I do understand Sophie honorable idea that embracing femininity means women must take good care of their appearance and appreciate what they have.

The saving glory of the book is the ending. A part of a trilogy, I understand that the book has to have a cliffhanger, in this case, Sophie ending with the Schoolmaster himself (sorry for the spoiler). This goes back to the characters’ consistency as I have mentioned here. I only ask myself whether it is age appropriate for a mother to ask her 15-year-old daughter to kiss her on the lips and her daughter falling for that trap. However, in a world where a kiss is the most powerful magic, it is better not to ask.

As regards my choice of characters, I’m particularly amazed by how Hester’s and Anadil’s personalities manage to be consistent- working for Good by remaining incredible selfish which is an Evil trait.

Review: The School for Good and Evil

Presidential Rating:awardsawardsawardsawards

Date Read: 8 August 2016

President’s Favorite Character: Hester

Summary :

The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

Verdict:

It’s a different kind of fairy tale, a series that breaks every notion of happy-ever-afters we have gotten accustomed to reading. Anything is possible: girl kissing another girl, a boy kissing another boy, princess making friends with a witch. Just when you thought you have an idea of who’s going with who, the novel dives into a whole new twist, encouraging you to turn to the next page until you finish it. Yes, the series is gripping.

In the first installment of the series, the prince does not get the chance to kiss his princess and friendship evidently overpowers the distinction between Good and Evil. There is charm, humor, and wit in the story that can send anybody to fits of laughter–or giggles– wherever they are reading and this happened to me when I was in a public transportation, earning myself curious and even scandalized stares from other passengers.

What I like about this first book is how realistic the personalities of the main characters are. I can relate to Agatha when she gets frustrated with a self-absorbed and self-professed-epitome-of-goodness Sophie. Then again, I understand how Sophie gets too involved in what is happening in her own life to care about her friend. Hester, on the other hand, although is not a main character in the story, is my favorite owing to the consistency of her character.

Apart from the characters, I have immensely enjoyed my ‘stay’ in The School of Good and Evil, not that similar to living in Middle Earth nor getting educated in Hogwarts, but still a great experience. I can imagine staying in the library with the good old tortoise or having a friendly banter with my reflection on the bridge. I can also see myself seeing the deans of Good and Evil, Professor Dovey and Lady Lasso in their office. Truth be told, I want to see Augustus Sader’s paintings and see the Master himself.

The first novel of a series should be able to set the standards and encourage readers to continue to the installments and I’m quite happy that this book has delivered to my expectations.

Re: Book Reviews- still relevant?

Disclaimer: I came upon a well written rant blog about book reviews becoming irrelevant – which was actually a great discussion question posted by TheDayDreamingBookworm. Visit it here.


 


I do read reviews from time to time BUT I often read them AFTER I finish reviewing a book. Let’s just say, I don’t want to let other reviewers influence how I react on a novel –this on the other hand is considered a cliche by many but then that doesn’t stop them from reading other blogs, does it? In my case, just as much as I hate it when people speak and interpret things in the movie theater, I detest the buzzing — and sometimes annoying– commentaries of book reviewers in my head, blocking the author’s [and the book’s] voice which after all IS what I have to review.

 

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The Peculiars

The Peculiars

A Book Review of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

by Jahzeel Dionne V. Ybasco

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“There are peculiars all over the world,” Miss P, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

 

Having a different world where diversity is tolerated and encouraged is a famous theme in the fantasy genre that it does not come as a surprise Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children reminds me of Harry Potter, Pendragon, and X-Men . Special beings mingling with normal humans, wise old people taking care of the young ones and passing on the legacy, protagonists having to live up to their peculiarity, their gifts, the nature of their powers–this formula contributes to MPHPC being a page-turner.

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Review: Eragon

THE VOICE OF ERAGON

An Analysis of Christopher Paolini’s novel, Eragon

by Jahzeel Dionne V. Ybasco

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That some books are inspired by other classic and more renowned books is nothing new to me. It is to be expected. As million books are published every day, it is not surprising that some have the same content, almost the same story, and even with the same characters garbed in a different attire and name. When I read professional and non-professional reviews on Eragon saying it is but a fanfiction of Lord of the Rings, it did not affect my desire to read the novel. After all, fanfictions are there for fans to enjoy. There are some readers who don’t get satisfied with how stories end and they resolve it by making up stories. A story about dragons and a fanfiction of a trilogy I really love made a perfect formula. I was excited to see what Paolini had cooked up. Or so I thought.

Eragon‘s likeness to Lord of the Rings is quite evident. Brom looks like Gandalf, a very inconsistent Gandalf. Sometimes he speaks like an old man, another, a rude old man. Eragon is a combination of a less sophisticated Legolas, an indecisive Aragon and a braver Frodo Baggins. Urgals have a resemblance to Uruk-hai. However, story-wise, the novel has a great potential. Every page of the novel has made me wonder if there is something more to being a Rider. Alas! I have to read the sequels to learn more.

What only bothers me is the consistency of the voices of the narrator and even the characters—it is irritating. In the first few pages, Eragon has made himself appear as a hero, in the next, a reluctant hero, and in the last pages, a love-sick hero. There are times when he and his dragon, Saphira, act like mother and son as presented in Saphira’s endearment “little one.” They act like lovers, too, as exemplified in the following lines:

I love you too.”

Then, I’ll bind you all the tighter.”

If it isn’t a combination of bestiality and S&M, I don’t know what to call it.

I have expected the blue dragon to speak in a language of the old, a dragon that has experienced a lot of things. There are some pages that give me the satisfaction to see this side of Saphira. It is disappointing to see her switching back to a bickering dragon. Perhaps comparing Saphira to other dragon-stereotypes is unfair but she does sound like a weakling to me. I have to consistently remind myself the novel has been entitled Eragon and not Saphira.

I also am waiting for the time when I can distinguish the language of the elves from the dwarves and from the human beings. Establishing their nuances is challenging particularly when there have been so many books that have already done-or attempted doing-that. However, LOTR‘s elf language is still different compared to the others. As a writer, Paolini can still improve that aspect of the novel.

It has been quite remarkable for a person that young to have published novels. I commend Paolini for that. However, with age comes maturity and experience. This brings another question to my mind. When should a writer stop editing his /her work? I have felt Paolini’s genius and inexperience in Eragon. Still, with the number of people he has been able to reach through his novel, and the growing number of those who want to read his novel, having people judge his work compared to other classic fantasy novels out there is inevitable. He cannot alter the story anymore. It is out there waiting to be devoured. What he can do is improve its language.

Will he?

Review: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Not once have I been astounded by fantasy classic authors for their ability to create different worlds and make them seem real. I was blown away by Pullman’s story, I can’t help but feel for Lyra, Pantalaimon, and the characters they have met on their journey. I enjoyed the excitement of looking for the lost kids, traveling with the gyptians and fighting with Iorek.

I’m having a little problem taking in what the novel says about religion, daemons, other worlds, and sin though. There are so many sectarian or anti-sectarian concepts crammed into the last three chapters of the novel that upon reaching those parts I couldn’t help but wonder why Lyra had to go through a perilous journey only to listen to a sermon. It doesn’t also help that my readings on the Northern Lights hinder my understanding of how plausible it is to have a different world beyond the aurora. That and the fact that I am 27 years old…

All in all, I was captivated by how the novel was pieced together, how I could easily relate to the young Lyra and her knack of expressing how she sees the world. Then again, I would have loved the book had it subtly presented religious concepts.

A Story of Archetypes

A Review of S.K Michels’ debut novel, The Shadow and The Light

By Jahzeel Dionne V. Ybasco

An archetypal story with seven leading characters, among them a muse, an old man, and three hero archetypes, this novel has a certain appeal, not different from George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. What makes this novel interesting is the author’s ability to tell a grim story in a fairytale-like manner that although the reader is immersed in The Shadow, he/she can’t help but be optimistic that in one of the four hundred pages of the book, a hero—or two—will come and save him/her.

It was like seeing an animation in my head. The setting has been described so well, it feels like you enter a completely different world. For a fantasy novel, that is saying something as only few authors, new authors in particular, can achieve that—create a world and make people feel it is real.

S.K. Michels is a genius in storytelling. However, I think the dialogues between and among characters can use an improvement since reading the novel has made me so concerned about those individuals. There are moments when I can’t distinguish Murdoch’s language from that of Arienne’s but maybe because they come from nobility. I have to say though that the dialogue does not get in the way of the intense scenes and actions provided in the story.

However, as the story progresses, I can’t help but think that it is another take on Frodo Baggins as he embarks on his journey toward Mt. Doom. It was the same darkness trying to take over and the protagonist trying to keep it at bay. Even Sapineald reminds me of Lothlorien, and eorin the Elves. Even the sceolians helping to retrieve Caliphurn from the Ghenna reminds me of the Eagles from Lord of the Rings. I don’t really mind though because for a Lord of the Rings fan, this is a treat.

Still, with her knack of using words to create an imaginary world full of intricate details and amazing and lovable characters, S.K. Michels is undeniably a talented author to watch out for.

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Dear S.K.,

Thank you for the opportunity of reading your awesome book. Please do write another story. I CAN’T sit not knowing what may happen to Greenwyth after the war. Also, you owe Baldarich his existence since I really want to know the importance of his inclusion in the story. Lastly, please do give me another opportunity to read your sequels.

From one of your first fans,


Prex

Review: My Rebellion Checklist by Susan Soares

I received a Free Copy of this novel in exchange for a review.

The checklist is realistic, something that teenagers will definitely appreciate. In the beginning, I expected it to be fast-paced, that the protagonist would somehow tick off some elements of her checklist every chapter and it would include activities like go skydiving, have a relationship with a drug-addict or get drunk everyday. Tori, however is quite different as she tries to follow her checklist in the order that she has made them. The activities aren’t as dangerous as I thought they would be but are safe and not at all surprising for a girl at Tori’s age.

My Rebellion Checklist has interesting characters, more interesting than the protagonist actually which has made the book more fun to read. I am torn between loving Zack and hating him because he’s cool and stupid at the same time. I totally adore the way he supports Tori but excessively quoting those lines from famous sports athletes makes me cringe. It is quite weird that Annie who gives Tori the best advice regarding pregnancy is the one who kept pushing her to do something extreme which isn’t even a part of her list to begin with.

One social issue tackled in the novel is divorce. The fact that Tori’s family’s relationship is always tested has kept me hanging. Being an Asian, I am a big supporter of family oriented TV shows and novels and divorce doesn’t sit well with me. I guess Tori is still happy no matter what the result is.

I do have some minor concerns though. I am not sure though whether the accident in the beginning of the novel is necessary. Tori’s problem with her family catapults her to having the Rebellion Checklist and somehow the first three chapters don’t give it justice.

Despite not having reached certain expectations set by the title—I mean, come on, titles can always be misleading—, it is a good read.

Rating: 4 stars