Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pennyroyal Academy--M.A. Larson

Title: Pennyroyal Academy
Author: M.A. Larson
Publisher: G.P. Putnam, 2014.
Pages: 320 p.
Source: VOYA
Compensation: None

The first novel in a planned series, Pennyroyal Academy, opens with a young girl lost in a dark magical forest who stumbles on a deserted cottage. Hoping for shelter, she enters and quickly realizes she has made a huge mistake. The cottage belongs to a witch who returns with a captured boy. But this is no ordinary boy and girl. The two of them are able to escape the evil witch and begin a journey to Pennyroyal Academy, a school for knights and princesses who learn how to battle evil witches. While at the Academy the girl with no name discovers she is the victim of a curse and slowly discovers her true identity.

The traditional idea of princesses as kind generous girls remains true, but M.A. Larson has given them other qualities as well: strength and witch fighting abilities. Pennyroyal Academy is a boot camp for girls to train to join the Princess Army and help rid the world of the evil dangerous witches.  Readers will love the references to well-known Grimm's fairy tales as well as the idea of princesses who are not damsels in distress and can do their own saving. Younger readers who are closer to the princess-loving age may enjoy the novel more, but older readers will also appreciate the girl-power update to the fairy tale world of their youth.


That's my official VOYA review. I just finished reading Pennyroyal Academy to my 7 year old and she decided to do her own review as well:

M.A. Larson, Author
Pennyroyal Academy, Title

I liked Pennyroyal Academy because it is fiction and Evie learns about her family and I liked that it was different because the princesses were fighting witches instead of laying around.

I think that people should read it.

Edited 1/6/15 to include this tweet from Larson. How cool is he?

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Monday, December 01, 2014

Bane Chronicles--Cassandra Clare

Title: The Bane Chronicles
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry, 2014.
Pages: 528 p.
Source: VOYA
Compensation: none

Known to fans of Cassandra Clare's series The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices, Magnus Bane is an immortal warlock straddling the line between good and evil. The son of a powerful demon, Bane often finds himself coming to the aid of helpless mundanes (regular humans) as well as other Downworlders (Werewolves, Vampires, Fairies) and even the haughty protectors of the world, Shadowhunters. A supporting player in Clare's series, Bane gets the center stage in The Bane Chronicles, a collection of short stories about his past and present. As with most short story collections with more than one author, the writing is a little uneven and some of the stories are less interesting than others but Bane's charismatic over-the-top character is enough to keep one reading. While just a companion to the two series and not a prequel or sequel, knowledge of the series definitely enhances the enjoyment of the book. The stories are mostly in chronological order starting with Bane's friendship with fellow warlocks Ragnor Fell and Catarina Loss in 1791 and following his exploits in mundane affairs (the French Revolution and the Stock Market crash in 1929). Fans will be most interested in the stories concerning Bane's connections with the Shadowhunters and his relationship with Alec Lightwood of The Mortal Instruments series.

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Friday, November 07, 2014

Hero--Alethea Kontis

Title: Hero
Author: Alethea Kontis
Publisher: Harcourt, 2013.
Pages: 277 (ebook)
Source: Library ebook
Compensation: None

A while back I came across a book at the library that jumped out at me: Enchanted by Alethea Kontis. It was a delightful mash-up of fairy tales that I thoroughly enjoyed. One night while searching my library's ebook collection another book jumped out at me: Hero by the same author. This is not a sequel and knowledge of Enchanted is not necessary to read it, but the reader's experience is definitely enhanced by it. 

Saturday is the sixth sister in her rather large and odd family. All of the other sisters have been granted some kind of power by their fairy-aunt Joy, except for Saturday. Saturday is the most "normal" of the sisters and concentrates on helping her father and brother cut wood and help maintain the house. When a visitor arrives with a message that her mother's older sister has died, things start to change for Saturday. She mysteriously summons an ocean--and her older sister the pirate queen Thursday--and manages to get kidnapped by a powerful witch who thinks she is her older brother Jack. Saturday is not the only one held captive by the witch. A young man cursed to appear as the witch's daughter (who escaped years earlier) and a shape shifting chimera are also residents of the mountain above the world. The young man Peregrine just happened to have been having visions of Saturday all of his life and naturally falls in love with her. 

Hero has just as many fairy tale references and the framework that fairy tale readers love with a bit of a twist. Instead of a "damsel" in distress, Saturday is the hero and she saves Peregrine. Although she is posing as her older brother and he is pretending to be the witch's daughter, it's still pretty girl power strong. I loved Saturday and her strength. She is not a weak helpless maiden waiting for someone to rescue her. As we expect from fairy tales there is romance and instalove, but it wouldn't be a fairy tale without it. Hero was just as entertaining as Enchanted and I can't wait to share it with my daughters someday. I look forward to reading more companion books about the other sisters. 

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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Saving Francesca--Melina Marchetta

Title: Saving Francesca
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003.
Pages: 244 p (ebook)
Source: Library ebook
Compensation: None

I have a thing for Australian authors (Garth Nix) and Melina Marchetta is definitely on that list. She is quickly becoming one of those "must read everything they write" authors for me.

Francesca is used to her somewhat overbearing mom Mia starting the day with a feel good song and a pep talk and encouraging Francesca to chase her dreams and stand up to the man. But one day Francesca's mom doesn't get out of bed. That one day turns into two which turns into four which turns into months and Francesca's life is turned upside down. Although Francesca liked to complain about her mom controlling her life and trying to turn her into a mini version of herself, when her mom is hit with a bout of severe depression and cannot continue running the house and family, Francesca doesn't know how they'll survive. No one knows how to help her mom and they all blame each other. Their once very close-knit family starts falling apart at the seams. On top of it all Francesca is in a new school (one of the few girls in a former all-boys school) with no friends and confusing feelings for her new male classmates.

There is something about Marchetta's writing that just pulls me in and makes me forget everything else. She has the unique ability to make me sympathize and become each of her characters. While Francesca is definitely the main character and protagonist, I also felt myself drawn to her mother and putting myself in her shoes as well. It's a mark of good writing when the reader can understand everybody's perceptions and motivations. It's a hard book to read because of FEELINGS, but so very worth it. It's a good look at depression and what happens when someone who is always doing the "taking care of" and "fixing" needs to be taken care of and fixed. There isn't a simple fix to Mia's depression, but with a little time and patience, Francesca discovers just listening can go a long way. I truly enjoyed this book for both teens and adult fans of YA literature.

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