Review: My Fair Godmother (Janette Rallison)

Product Details
Reading Level: MG/YA
Pages: 311
Publisher: January 6th 2009 by Walker Childrens
ISBN: 9780802797803
Source: My personal copy

My Fair Godmother (My Fair Godmother, #1) After her boyfriend dumps her for her older sister, sophomore Savannah Delano wishes she could find a true prince to take her to the prom. Enter Chrissy (Chrysanthemum) Everstar: Savannah’s gum-chewing, cell phone–carrying, high heel-wearing Fair Godmother. Showing why she’s only Fair—because she’s not a very good fairy student—Chrissy mistakenly sends Savannah back in time to the Middle Ages, first as Cinderella, then as Snow White. Finally she sends Tristan, a boy in Savannah’s class, back instead to turn him into her prom-worthy prince. When Savannah returns to the Middle Ages to save Tristan, they must team up to defeat a troll, a dragon, and the mysterious and undeniably sexy Black Knight. Laughs abound in this clever fairy tale twist from a master of romantic comedy.

I love a good fairytale retelling. While My Fair Godmother wasn’t the best I’ve read in the genre, it was cute enough. The author, Janette Rallison, did a nice enough job bringing a few new elements to some classic fairy tales. 

The story starts off in modern day Virginia with the sisters Jane and Savannah and their shared loved interest Hunter. I thought the story was going to stay in the modern setting, but that was quickly corrected. The Fair Godmother (“Chrissy”) seemed to muck things up when she kept sending Savannah into various fairy tales set in medieval times. You see, Chrissy isn’t very good at her job. She didn’t pay much attention in fairy godmother school so her grades barely scraped by. She spends more time playing around with her friends and shopping than she does listening to her charges. You can imagine how that could cause some problems in the magic department. 

The characters were so-so in My Fair Godmother. Jane and Hunter didn’t offer much to the plot other than the initial conflict. The majority of the story focused on Savannah and Tristan. Savannah was being pulled through various fairy tales because she wanted a “prince” to take her to prom. While that was going on, Chrissy was scoping out Tristan. Somehow along the way she thought it would be best if Tristan became an actual prince, and so he was sucked into the Middle Ages. I will say that when Savannah decided to go help rescue him, that made the story more interesting. There were plenty of action points and hidden twists to keep things lively while the characters were in the Middle Ages. 

The intermittent “memos” from what I think was the Fairy Council was a bit confusing at first. I see their purpose, but it was a bit annoying. There were too many points of view telling the same story. It was Savannah’s story, but the letters offered insight from at least three other characters. For younger readers, that might be a little confusing to follow.

Review: UnWholly (Neil Shusterman)

Product Details:
Reading level: YA
Pages: 416
Publisher: August 28th 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
ISBN: 9781442423688
Source: My own much-coveted copy

UnWholly (Unwind, #2)Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simultaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.

Rife with action and suspense, this riveting companion to the perennially popular Unwind challenges assumptions about where life begins and ends—and what it means to live.

One word: UNCATEGORIZABLE! This series is intense and amazing.

Many authors find themselves facing “sophomore slump” when they write the second book in a series, but not Neil Shusterman! In fact, Unwholly is probably better than Unwind—and I didn’t think that would be possible. Aside from the fact that these books are so unique, the author does an amazing job creating his characters.

In Unwind, I found myself fully invested in Lev, Risa, and Connor. As Unwholly began to unfold, I was equally engrossed in their stories. But there were new characters introduced in Unwholly that really made this book! The one that stood out the most was Starkey. OMG. He is the ultimate antagonist. In fact, I found myself so disgusted with his character and his selfish motives, that I had a hard time reading Unwholly. I would get angry as I read and had to put the book down to cool off. That is powerful writing! For an author to create a villain that is so vile he makes me angry and bitter… wow. Starkey felt real. And I’m not saying that in some super bookish nerdy way either. All of the characters in this book were phenomenal.

Oh, did I mention there is also a modern Frankenstein element going on too? Yep. If you couldn’t tell, the guy on the cover is Cam—a boy created completely from the parts of unwinds. Every piece of his patchwork self was sculpted from living flesh of unwanted children. Creeptastic!

Enough about the amazing characters… the plot(s) need some attention as well. First off, when you look at this book it appears to be one large dystopian plot. But it is SO much more. Each character has his/her own story that is told individually through alternating points of view. Every single character! You would think that would make this a choppy read, but it flows seamlessly (no pun intended, Cam). Ultimately, all the individual plots merge into an action-packed climax that leaves you cursing some characters and aching for others. Stunning! It was flawless.

Above all of these incredible in their own right elements, the most amazing aspect of this book is the deep philosophical level that it brings. Ever since I read Unwind, I said this series needs to be discussed aloud. I still hold to that claim. In fact, I told my teacher friend that she needs to read this series to her 8th grade class (so I bought her a copy). Of course, I said to set the stage she had to build the background knowledge that the entire series centers around: who has the right to play God.

If you don’t know the basis of Unwind, it’s rather complicated. In a nutshell, however, it goes something like this: America could not come to an agreement over the Pro-choice and Pro-life debate, which led to the second Civil War. In an effort to reach an agreement, the government made a suggestion they thought would be so ridiculous that both sides would stop arguing. That didn’t happen though. Instead, both sides agreed to the terms and “unwinding” was born. Pro-life wins out from conception to age 13. From the 13th birthday until the 18th birthday, parents can choose to “unwind” their children (hello, Pro-choice) as long as Science uses every single part of the body. Can we say disturbing?

Keep all that in mind, and add in a character that is entirely created from the parts of unwinds in Unwholly. Now you have the philosophical elements because Cam questions the idea of having a soul. That was some seriously deep stuff in a YA novel! I loved it. Then there is Miracelina. She’s Catholic and wants to be unwound. Based on her religious beliefs and her decision to basically volunteer for suicide, another brilliant conversation about one’s soul emerged. I’m telling you, this book is brilliant and so is Neil Shusterman!

This is not a light-hearted YA dystopian. It is also not a story laden with teenage romance. If you want a feel-good story that leaves you smiling, you should also probably look elsewhere. But if you want a story that will have you questioning society’s values and human nature, then you should definitely read Unwholly!


Review: Unlocking the Spell (E.D. Baker)

Product Details:
Reading Level: Middle Grades
Pages: 272
Publisher: October 2nd 2012 by Bloomsbury USA
ISBN:  9781599908410
Source: ARC from NetGalley
Read it in 1 day

Unlocking the Spell: A Tale of the Wide-Awake Princess (Wide-Awake Princess, #2)
Now that Annie has helped her sister Gwendolyn (a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty) wake up from the 100-year curse by finding her beloved prince, you would think that things would get back to normal. Think again That beloved prince, Beldegard, is stuck in the body of a bear and the only way that Annie can be free of the two irritating lovebirds is to help--by finding the evil dwarf who cast the spell. Luckily, Annie has assistance from handsome prince Liam, and she has many tricks up her non-magical sleeve . . .

I love this series. It is so super cute. Annie is such a great character! She is  Gwendolyn’s (Sleeping Beauty) non-magical sister. Annie received a gift from her fairy godmother at birth that would not let any magic affect her, unlike everyone else in the kingdom. Because of this gift, Annie can sense when magic is near. Her power can also cause someone’s magic to falter. I found this to be one of the best parts of the story. I loved the descriptions of characters that suddenly found themselves without their magical qualities and gifts. One of the other qualities that make Annie so endearing is her resourcefulness. Because she has grown up without the help of magic, she has had to learn how to do many things on her own. Her sister, Gwennie, is described as “the most beautiful princess in the world” (with the help of magic of course), but Annie is often overlooked. While this could be lonely and a bit annoying, it makes Annie a great character. She is smart, stubborn, and extremely clever. The perfect underdog heroine.

The plot also weaves together familiar fairytales with slightly altered storylines. Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood all make appearances—just not in the ways we are familiar with. How the author used these stories and characters was very creative.

This is a middle grades series, which means it is squeaky clean. A little kissing, but appropriate for younger readers. Older readers would probably find it too wholesome. Maybe I’m a big nerd, but I loved it. Of course, I liked the first book (The Wide Awake Princess), too. Personally, I think all fairy tale fans should read this series. It is charming.

Cover Appeal: Dancers

I decided to make this week's focus a little on the artistic side. I was going through my "junk box" the other day and came across old programs from ballets and plays. That made me think about some of my favorite shows. I instantly thought of the ballet Swan Lake. The costumes were so beautiful that the entire production held my attention for hours.

As luck would have it, I found a cover image for the Polish Ballet Company's program for Swan Lake. It is absolutely stunning! If this image ever found its way to a novel, I would covet it until it had a place on my shelf. Maybe even a place behind glass...

Swan Lake - Tchaikovsky, Polish Ballet Poster 

Isn't that beautiful? The designer of that cover is a genius. Of course, this made me start thinking about other cover ideas, and this week's feature: dancers. So here we go... 

 ballet (ballet)

degas ballet tutu

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