Thursday, September 16, 2010

Princess of Glass Review (Jessica Day George)

Having once been cursed to dance every night with her sisters, Princess Poppy has vowed never again to put on a pair of dancing slippers. Which is why she's reluctant to participate in the royal exchange program that her father and some of their neighbor kings have cooked up.

Life in far-off Breton isn't so bad, not when there's money to be won playing cards and a handsome prince promising friendship . . . and maybe something more. But when a hapless servant named Eleanora enters the picture and sets her sights on the prince, too, which girl will win his heart? And who is behind the magnificent gowns and slippers that the penniless Eleanora has been wearing to the balls? Only Princess Poppy can see through the magic that holds the rest of the kingdom in its spell. And having fought against one curse before, she's just the girl to take on another!

Once more, I am impressed with Jessica Day George's male and female characters. It is a great mark of talent nowadays when an Author can write interactions between male and female characters (especially ones that are meant to end up together in the end) without making it annoying. I absolutely hate these "playful" banters - and I'm talking about the ones where the girl pretends to be all tough and hate the man, when in fact she is sweet on him, and visa-versa. It is so modern and overall aggravating. It isn't funny; not in my opinion, and Authors do it so much now, which results in the unfortunate occurrence of both characters being irritating beyond words.

Christian, Prince of the Danelaw, is not irritating. He isn't Galen from Princess of the Midnight Ball, but he is just as likable. The Reader cannot help but feel sorry for him when he falls under the spell. You don't want to see him acting stupid, and you end up feeling embarrassed for him (and Dickon) when he makes a fool of himself. But poor Christian isn't to blame, and he struggles valiantly and realizes fairly quickly that something is not right.

Poppy is spirited and not the most ladylike woman around, but she isn't what my sister and I call a "leather-bra-wearing-kick-butt-I-can-do-absolutely-anything-despite-my-noodle-arms" girl who stomps around in clothes that will produce uncouth comments from males, but gets mad when this happens, but is secretly flirting in her anger. She is tough, sharp-witted, and certainly isn't afraid of getting her hands dirty. She does what needs to be done, and yet retains the attitude and grace a woman of late eighteen to early nineteenth-century would have. She's practical, and I absolutely love practical-minded female characters.

The story itself was intriguing. I have read many variations of Cinderella, and this was one of the best. Cinderella - or Ella, as she is usually called in variations - was always the focus of the story, and portrayed as the absolute victim. This one portrayed things a little differently, and I actually didn't like her at first. Even when it is revealed that she is, overall, a victim, she isn't the strong-willed girl most Authors like to see her as, but shy and frightened. It was a very interesting version to read, and in some ways it is my favorite.

I rather hope Jessica Day George writes more stories with the twelve princesses from Princess of the Midnight Ball. I would like to know what happens to the others, and I'm certain there are plenty of fairy tales for Jessica Day George to build around. I'm certainly adding this one along with its companion to my collection.
Star Rating: 5/5 (this book was amazing)

Read Hazel West's review here!

Others in This Series:
1)Princess of the Midnight Ball
2)Princess of Glass

3)Princess of the Silver Woods

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Inside Story Review (Michael Buckley)

Sabrina and Daphne Grimm have studied hundreds of fairy tales as part of their family business, but they never thought they'd actually be in one. And yet that's exactly what happens when they follow the diabolical Master of the Scarlet Hand into the Book of Everafter - a mysterious tome in which copies of the world's fairy tales live out their stories over and over again. The Grimms must track down the Master while avoiding the Book's tyrannical Editor, who is devoted to keeping the stories on track, and his army of story-gobbling revisers. In the Book of Everafter, stories can be rewritten and destinies changed, which is why Sabrina and Daphne must find the Master before he can alter his fate - and the fate of the whole world.

I've found this series funny and one of the cleverest "retellings" I've read in a long time. Most of the characters are annoying, especially Sabrina, but if you are a fan of fairy tales and like to read comedies based on them, then you can ignore these annoyances. Daphne is awesome, and Sabrina does get a little better after . . . five or six books. And the series definitely keeps you guessing once the main plot is introduced (which doesn't take long). That said, let us turn our attention to Book Eight.

I didn't hold too much hope for this one. Eight books is a lot, and authors can make fun of fairy tales for only so long. After reading Book Seven - The Everafter War - I was a little tired of them and dearly wishing Michael Buckley would stop, even though I was greatly impressed with Book Seven's twisty and unexpected ending. Who would have ever guessed that he would turn out to be the Master? I'm glad it took Mr. Buckley a year to write The Inside Story, otherwise I might have found this one tedious. But the rest did my perspective good, and even so there is no denying that this one was entertaining.

As an author, I view characters in a much different manner than your day-to-day bookworm. They can be, and usually are, as real to me as any friend. They have their personalities, desires, bad days, and undying loyalty (or clever evilness, depending on what sort of character they are). An author may think they control their characters' fates, but meddle with their wishes too much and the characters may rebel. It is because of this that I found the situations involving the Editor and the characters in the Book of Everafter so hilarious and rather relate-able (in a sense). The Editor thought he controlled the characters; he revised and revised as much as he wanted in order to keep the stories on track, but in the end some of the characters rebel and he has a hard time keeping them from killing him. In reality, rebellious characters won't kill you (not usually), but they will leave your service, giving you nothing but an empty shell with their name. And trust me - readers notice when this happens.

Over all, this was a fun adventure - following Sabrina and Daphne through various familiar fairy tales and seeing how they messed them up. A safe "what-if" scenario. I particularly liked what Michael Buckley did with the Snow White story. He introduces a concept that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs wasn't always like it is now; that it was once a very dark, depressing, and dramatic story that was too dangerous to be kept that way, and it had to be revised. But the dangerous element could not simply be wiped away - it is still out there, desiring to be free.

Fans of the The Sisters Grimm won't be disappointed. Especially with the hilarious situation between Puck and Sabrina, and the surprising end (though not nearly as surprising as The Everafter War). My only hope is that Michael Buckley will not drag this series out to a point where people just get sick to the teeth of it and quit. Buckley can get by with at least one more installment - possibly two more, but it will be stretching it. Any more and he will be hitting the dangerous zone.
Star Rating: 3/5 (liked it)

Others in The Sisters Grimm Series:
1)The Fairy-Tale Detectives
2)The Unusual Suspects
3)The Problem Child
4)Once Upon a Crime
5)Magic and Other Misdemeanors
6)Tales from the Hood
7)The Everafter War
8)The Inside Story

9)The Council of Mirrors