Saturday, 22 November 2014

Review: The Beast Within by Serena Valentino

The Beast Within is a YA novel from Serena Valentino, which tells the story of how the Beast's curse, expanding on the timeless Disney story we all know and love. If the story isn't enough to lure bookworms in, the book itself is beautiful--the cover image shown here does not do it justice. I love having this one on my shelf!

Summary: A cursed prince sits alone in a secluded castle. Few have seen him, but those who claim they have say his hair is wild and nails are sharp--like a beast's! But how did this prince, once jovial and beloved by the people, come to be a reclusive and bitter monster? And is it possible that he can ever find true love and break the curse that has been placed upon him?

As a huge Beauty & the Beast fan, I adored this book. As the story explores the Prince's transformation into the Beast and his transformation back into a human, the content is darker than what you may expect. Bloodlust is a major factor here as the Beast's humanity struggles against his curse. We definitely don't get much of this in the Disney film!

Content-wise, this is a fairly clean read. Parents and educators can expect violence, Gaston's womanizing and drinking, and bloodlust. It is definitely a story for readers who have grown up loving the Disney classic. While I don't think this is for younger readers, there is nothing shocking or disturbing to be concerned about.

Quite simply, if you like Disney's Beauty & the Beast, you should definitely pick up a copy of The Beast Within. It's a beautifully written story that twists and expands on the beloved film. Well-worth the read!

4 Stars

You can also check out Maleficent by Elizabeth Rudnick (and make it a beautiful set on your shelf!)

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Review: The One by Kiera Cass

Teen readers looking for a good romance/dystopian series will love Kiera Cass' Selection trilogy. The One is the final novel in the Cinderella-like rags to riches tale of true love. All three novels are a fast, easy read for reluctant and impatient readers. The series also features the elements of drama, danger, a love triangle, and a dystopian world on the brink of war. Basically, it's everything teens want to read, plus the added bonus of pretty dresses and princes.

Summary: The Selection changed America Singer's life in ways she never could have imagined. Since she entered the competition to become the next princess of IllĂ©a, America has struggled with her feelings for her first love, Aspen-and her growing attraction to Prince Maxon. Now she's made her choice . . . and she's prepared to fight for the future she wants.

Find out who America will choose in The One, the enchanting, beautifully romantic third book in the Selection series!

Maxon finally declares the winner of the Selection in The One, which from the beginning, we know will be America. Much like the Twilight series, we know who our protagonist will choose, but misunderstanding and bad choices form obstacles the characters must overcome to reach their happily ever after.

The ending includes a few surprising twists as war officially breaks out and a few main characters are killed off. So while all three novels circle around Maxon and America working out their issues so they can be together, The One delivers on a dramatic finale that makes their love story worth it for me.

As for content, this book does have a few intimate moments that would be considered inappropriate for younger readers. Cass does keep a PG-13 rating for her teen readers--Maxon and America never have sex and the violence isn't graphic. Other content flags include objectionable language, death and guns.

All in all, this is a great choice for teen readers. Kiera Cass has crafted a beautiful, light, fun, and sweet dystopian romance series that teen girls will love to return to again and again. I recommend this series to fans of Divergent, Twilight, and The Hunger Games.

3.5 Stars
The Selection                       The Elite 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Soman Chainani's The School for Good and Evil is a YA fantasy novel for fans of twisted fairy tales. Based on the anime style of the cover, I wasn't sure what to expect, but it turned out darker, with more twists and turns than your typical fairy tale adventure. Chainani creates an imaginative story of good vs. evil, and explores what it means to be defined as a villain or a hero.

Summary: With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she'll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil. 

The two girls soon 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 among 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 and Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

The novel is written for readers ages 8-12, but I think it might appeal better to readers ages 10-14. Coming in at a whopping 496 pages, what this book needed most was a editor with a stronger hand. I work exclusively in the YA book market and I'm a HUGE fan of fractured fairy tales and shows like Once Upon a Time, but I struggled with this book. It's obvious early on where the story is going, but the road to get there is exhausting. There are many scenes peppered throughout of the characters musing on their situation, deciding on their feelings, and wishing for things to be different. Considering how soon the author drops obvious hints about who is good and who is evil, it took far too long (and too much whining and reluctance from the characters!) to get there.

Parents/educators should know that there is some content  to be wary of, including violence, potentially frightening scenes, objectionable language, and mature themes like love, child abduction, and death.

Sadly, this book was a disappointment for me. It lost a lot of its merit with its pace and wealth of unnecessary scenes. However, it does have quite a few positive critical reviews! I can attest to the fact that the book is well-written and the concept is a really good one, but it was a frustrating and exhausting read at times. Sadly, this fairy tale story did not enchant me.

2 Stars