Marshmallow reviews A Crystal of Time by Soman Chainani (Book 5 of The School for Good and Evil series)

Last week Marshmallow reviewed Quests for Glory, the fourth book of Soman Chainani’s School for Good and Evil series. Today she writes about her thoughts on the fifth book: A Crystal of Time.

Marshmallow reviews The School for Good and Evil: A Crystal of Time by Soman Chainani.
Marshmallow reviews The School for Good and Evil: A Crystal of Time by Soman Chainani.

Marshmallow’s quick take: If you like books about fantasy, twisted fairy tales, and Soman Chainani’s books, then you will enjoy this book! If you haven’t read the first four books of the School for Good and Evil series though, then you might want to read them first.

“In the forest of primeval
A school for Good and Evil
Twin towers like two heads
One for the pure
And one for the wicked
Try to escape you’ll always fail,
The only way out is
Through a fairytale.”

It all began in The School for Good and Evil, Soman Chainani’s first novel. This was a school of fairy tales, where witches and princesses, warlocks and princes were trained. In the end a select few would become the heroes and the villains of future storybooks. The tales would be recorded by a magical pen, The Storian. We learn about this whole world through the eyes and experiences of Agatha and Sophie, two friends whose destiny takes them to different places and brings them back together.

The first book is followed by A World Without Princes, where witches and princesses are friends, and warlocks and princes become accomplices. The dividing line now becomes gender, instead of good versus evil.

The third book of the series, The Last Ever After, reorganizes the world of the School, and Sophie and Agatha have many new adventures.

The fourth book, Quests for Glory, started the Camelot Years. If you want to learn about the book, see my review from last week.

This review is about the fifth book of the hexalogy.

Marshmallow’s summary (with spoilers): When “King” Rhian puts a bounty on her head, Agatha is on the run. With her true love about to be executed, her best friend forced to be the “king’s” queen at the tip of a knife, and everyone else who could help her in prison, Agatha has nowhere to go. That is, until she meets her wild-haired canary-like Beautification teacher who takes her on stymph to the School for Good and Evil. (A stymph is a ginormous bird with no skin or flesh. It is practically a skeleton that is alive.)

The students there are all first years and have barely unlocked their finger glows. (Every student at the School for Good and Evil has a finger glow that is a unique color. For example Agatha and Tedros’ finger glows are different shades of gold, while Sophie’s is hot pink.) In other words, they are not very good at magic yet, but they are still eager to help Agatha rescue Tedros and the rest of the rebels.

Agatha and her accomplices are eventually able to save their friends, but some people are left behind, including Sophie. The rebels go back to save them and do so, but at a cost. Clarrisa Dovey, the dean of Good, who was Agatha’s godmother, dies, and is finally reunited with her true love, Lady Lesso, the deceased dean of Evil. (Lady Lasso was murdered by her blood-thirsty son, Aric, in The Last Ever After.)

But during the time Sophie was at Camelot, she discovered that Rhian and his twin Japeth are not only trying to be the king of Camelot but of the world. They plan to do this by destroying the Storian’s hundred rings that secure the very life of the Endless Woods. By the time the whole rebel team learns about this, there is only three left and time is running out. Will they be able to stop Rhain and Jaspeth before it is too late?

Marshmallow is studying the crystal of time.
Marshmallow is studying the crystal of time.

Marshmallow’s Review: The longest of the series so far (624 pages!), this was a great read! My new favorite character is Nicola, a first year, who saves the lives of Agatha and her friends many times. Agatha’s cat is pretty cool, too. He’s funny. And if you’re wondering, Sophie is not as bad in this book as she used to be, but she’s still annoying.

This book answered some open questions from previous books, and posed a lot more new ones. Can’t wait for the sixth and final book!

Marshmallow’s rating: 100%

Marshmallow rates A Crystal of Time 100%.
Marshmallow rates A Crystal of Time 100%.

Caramel reviews Narwhal’s Otter Friend by Ben Clanton

Caramel enjoyed reading the quirky adventures of Narwhal and Jelly in Narwhal: The Unicorn of the Sea!, Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt, and Peanut Butter and Jelly. Here he shares his thoughts on the fourth book in Ben Clanton’s Narwhal and Jelly series: Narwhal’s Otter Friend. Sprinkles is taking notes and occasionally asking followup questions.

Caramel reviews Narwhal's Otter Friend by Ben Clanton.
Caramel reviews Narwhal’s Otter Friend by Ben Clanton.

Sprinkles: Caramel, you are reading another Narwhal and Jelly story! Tell me about this one!

Caramel: Narwhal finds a new friend, an otter. And Jelly gets jealous. Even the title of the second chapter is Jealous Jelly.

S: So Jelly is worried about losing his best friend, right?

C: Yes, but he’s ok at the end. They all of them become good friends. And they go to outer space together for new adventures!

S: Did this story feel familiar to you Caramel? Did you ever find yourself in Jelly’s position? Or how about Narwhal? Or the otter in fact?

C: I feel more like the otter actually. I meet many new people every day. I like making new friends. And I like to pretend to be a river otter sometimes.

S: You do love to swim, don’t you?

C: Yep! Very very much! Can I tell you my favorite facts now?

S: Ok Caramel. But this time the facts are about otter, right?

C: Yes there are some otter facts in the book, but I want to tell you about jellyfish! Did you know that people fed jellyfish peanut butter?

“Aquarists (people who keep or maintain aquariums) at the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park in Dallas, Texas, tried feeding peanut butter to moon jellyfish and found out that the jellyfish cold thrive on it!”

And here is another fact about jellyfish I like:

“A jellyfish’s body is made up of about 95% water!”

And next to it there is a jellyfish saying “What-er?” Get it? It’s “what” and “water” at the same time!

S: That is funny Caramel. And that is a lot of water in the jellyfish. Do you know how much water we have in our bodies?

C: I thought 75% or something, right?

S: Apparently an adult human is 60% water, but since we are bunnies, we would need to look elsewhere. This reference guide says we are about two thirds water!

C: That’s still a lot of water. But jellyfish have still more water!

S: That is really interesting Caramel… Jellyfish do kind of feel watery don’t they? Remember you touched some moon jellyfish in that touch tank at the aquarium?

C: Yep. I remember. They were very smooth! One of them had a scar on its top…

S: Oh that’s sad Caramel… I wonder how it got the scar.

C: Maybe it got scratched by one of the kids touching it?

S: Yes, we have to be gentle with the creatures in the touch tank, right?

C: Right.

S: OK Caramel, tell me about how the book is organized. Does it have its usual three chapters and a fact chapter and a superhero chapter again?

C: I don’t remember. Let me look again. Yep! The superhero story is called Strawberry Sidekick vs The Deviled Egg this time.

S: The Sidekick is Jelly and the Egg is the otter? And Sidekick feels “egg-nored”, right?

C: Yes! Jelly is still mad at the otter at this point of the book. But then in the last chapter things all get better.

S: That sounds really neat Caramel. What did you like most about this book?

C: The pictures! I keep reading and reading the book over and over again.

S: Yes, there is not yet a fifth Narwhal and Jelly book. I’m sure you will be reading the fifth one as soon as it gets out, right?

C: Yup! I’m looking forward to it!

S: Till then, what are you going to do?

C: I guess I’ll read the four books I have again and again.

S: That’s commitment! We will still need to find another book to review next week.

C: Perhaps. I’m trying to sound mysterious here.

S: Yes, indeed you do sound mysterious Caramel! A great way to end your review!

C: Yay! Let me say it again: Stay tuned for more reviews from the Book Bunnies!

Caramel really enjoyed Narwhal's Otter Friend!
Caramel really enjoyed Narwhal’s Otter Friend!

Marshmallow reviews School for Good and Evil: Quests for Glory by Soman Chainani

Before digging into the fifth book of the School for Good and Evil series by Soman Chainani, Marshmallow reviews the fourth book: School for Good and Evil: Quests for Glory.

Marshmallow reviews School for Good and Evil: Quests for Glory by Soman Chainani.
Marshmallow reviews School for Good and Evil: Quests for Glory by Soman Chainani.

Marshmallow’s quick take: If you like twisted versions of fairytales or books by Soman Chainani, then this might be the book for you. If you did not read any of the first three books in the School for Good and Evil series, you can still enjoy this one, but I would definitely recommend reading the previous books before reading this.

It all began in The School for Good and Evil, Soman Chainani’s first novel. This was a school of fairy tales, where witches and princesses, warlocks and princes were trained. In the end a select few would become the heroes and the villains of future storybooks. The tales would be recorded by a magical pen, The Storian. We learn about this whole world through the eyes and experiences of Agatha and Sophie, two friends whose destiny takes them to different places and brings them back together.

The first book is followed by A World Without Princes, where witches and princesses are friends, and warlocks and princes become accomplices. The dividing line now becomes gender, instead of good versus evil.

The third book of the series, The Last Ever After, reorganizes the world of the School, and Sophie and Agatha have many new adventures.

This is the fourth book in the series.

Marshmallow’s summary (with spoilers): After graduating from the School for Good and Evil, Agatha and Sophie think that their story is finished. Sophie as Dean of Evil and Agatha as the future queen of Camelot seems like the perfect ending. But their story is not over, the Snake has yet to strike.

We learn about the story of the Lion and the Snake from Agatha:

“Once upon a time there was a beautiful new kingdom without a king.” The Lion and The Snake stepped up to be the king. To decide who would be king, there was an election. Those who thought that a king should be clever voted for the Snake and those who thought a king should be strong voted for the Lion. It was a tie. “And so the Eagle was brought in to make the final choice, since he flew high above and saw the world in a way no one else could.” The Eagle asked them a question, “If you were king, would the Eagle be subject to your rule?” The Lion said yes, the Snake said no. The Eagle chose the Snake.

That night the Snake with his minions ambushed the Eagle and his clan and killed them all. The Lion and his comrades were too late to save the Eagles. As the Lion was about to kill him, the Snake uttered the following:

“You dare not kill a king. The Eagle chose me because he wanted freedom. He got that freedom. What happened after does not change the Truth. The throne is mine. I am your king. Just because you do not like the Truth does not mean that you can replace it with a Lie. And if you kill me, your new king will be a Lie. Kill me and I shall return to take my crown.”

Tedros, whose destiny is to be the king of Camelot, can’t pull the sword Excalibur out of the stone. His faithful knight Chaddick lies on the shores of Avalon, betrayed by the Lady of the Lake and killed by the Snake. The Quests of all the fourth years fail seconds after Chaddick’s death; there is now a new Quest: Defeat the Snake. Once they begin the new Quest, the Storian begins writing a new story.

Marshmallow’s Review: The plot, as you can see from the above, is kind of complicated. But once you get into it, the story is captivating. The author is extremely successful in evoking strong emotions from the readers about the characters (I hate Sophie sometimes!) If you read the first three books, expect a surprising ending!

Marshmallow’s rating: 100%

Marshmallow rates Quests for Glory 95%.
Marshmallow rates Quests for Glory 100%.

Caramel reviews Peanut Butter and Jelly by Ben Clanton

Caramel enjoyed reading the hilarious adventures of Narwhal and Jelly in Narwhal: The Unicorn of the Sea! and Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt. Below he shares his thoughts on the third book in Ben Clanton’s Narwhal and Jelly series: Peanut Butter and Jelly. Sprinkles is taking notes and occasionally asking followup questions.

Caramel reviews Peanut Butter and Jelly, by Ben Clanton.
Caramel reviews Peanut Butter and Jelly, by Ben Clanton.

Sprinkles: Caramel, you can’t seem to have enough of these Narwhal and Jelly books!

Caramel: Because I love them! I can’t wait till the next book comes out.

S: You are planning a review of the next one too, right?

C: Yes, but let me first tell you about this one. In this book Narwhal finds out that he loves peanut butter. He eats so much peanut butter that he turns yellow. He eats all the peanut butter in the whole wide world, and then gets very small. He is as small as a peanut! And he’s still yellow!

S: So what happens when there’s no more peanut butter to eat?

C: He goes back to waffles. And peanut butter when he can find it.

S: That sounds so funny! Ok, let us look at the book together. Is the book organized in a similar way to the previous ones?

C: Yes, there are again three chapters, and a fact section (Delicious Facts) and another superhero story (Super Waffle and Strawberry Sidekick vs PB&J). Can I tell you my favorite fact from this one? Or two?

S: Ok, let us hear it Caramel.

C: Here I go:

“Scientists believe narwhals suck up their food whole and eat mainly fish.”

and

“Sea cucumbers eat all sorts of things, including poop.”

And right next to this fact is a slimy sea cucumber saying “Yummy!” These books are so funny!

S: You especially appreciated the yummy poop joke, I’m sure!

C: Yes!

S: I could guess! Ok, what else do you want to tell us about this book?

C: Can I just read one chapter out loud?

S: Yes, but only to me. Others have to read the book themselves!

C: Fine. (Caramel reads out loud the chapter titled “Ahoy! Peanut Butter?”, giggling all the way through.)

S: So we learn a lot about Narwhal in this book, right?

C: He gets funnier and funnier in every book. And Jelly looks very confused all the time. And did you know that the author Ben Clanton ate 41 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while writing this book?

S: Wow! That’s a lot of PB&J sandwiches! So Caramel, which character feels closer to you? Do you think you are more like Narwhal or more like Jelly?

C: Jelly! No Narwhal. I love peanut butter, too! I kind of even feel like a peanut sometimes.

S: You are kind of small for now, that’s true. Ok, so let us wrap this up. How would you complete this sentence:

What I liked most about this book is …

C: Peanut Butter! That is Narwhal’s new name in this book. Because he is funny.

S: Thanks Caramel. I’m looking forward to your next review.

C: So am I!

Caramel loved Peanut Butter and Jelly!
Caramel loved Peanut Butter and Jelly!

Marshmallow reviews A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz

In her third review Marshmallow shares her thoughts on A Tale Dark & Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz.

Marshmallow reviews A Tale Dark & Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz.
Marshmallow reviews A Tale Dark & Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz.

Marshmallow’s quick take: This is the story of Hansel and Gretel but not the version we are accustomed to. Though it is a scary book, it is a great read. Definitely not for younger kids though; too bloody!

“Reader: beware. Warlocks with deadly spells, hunters with deadly aim, and bakers with ovens retrofitted for cooking children lurk within these pages. But if you dare, turn the page and learn the true story of Hansel and Gretel — the story behind (and beyond) the breadcrumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches. Come on in. It may be frightening, it’s certainly bloody, and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but unlike those other fairy tales you know, this one is true.”

Marshmallow’s summary (with spoilers): After having their heads cut off by their father, the king of Grimm, and coming back to life because someone puts their heads back in their places, Hansel and Gretel run away in fear that their father will decapitate them again and next time they may not be so lucky. Their escape turns into a failure; they face problem after problem and they seem to be cursed. (They are actually cursed.)

They travel from town to town and village to village in search for good parents. While in search for good parents, Gretel and Hansel go through many challenges. like losing a finger and nearly being killed by a warlock (Gretel) and being gambled away to the devil and disguising as the devil’s grandma (Hansel).

But when they hear rumors about a dragon wrecking the kingdom of Grimm and hiding in a human body to stay unseen, they decide that it is time to go home to Grimm. They have to save the kingdom! But someone very close to them has been taken over by the dragon. Someone who they had known for their whole life. Should they kill the infected person or not? Save the kingdom but lose one of their closest family members? You can find out in A Tale Dark & Grimm.

Marshmallow’s Review: This was a great read, but it is not, I repeat, it is NOT for children younger than seven. The narrator says himself many times not to let younger children read it.

The author writes little notes that foreshadow what will happen, like in Chapter 5: A Smile As Red As Blood. (A Smile As Red As Blood is about how Gretel falls in love with a man, who turns out to be a warlock, who invites girls to his house and kills them and after that eats them for supper. I already told you the book is really bloody!)

“No, of course it can’t. The moon can eat children, and fingers can open doors, and people’s heads can be put back on. But rain? Talk? Don’t be ridiculous. Good thinking, Gretel dear. Good thinking. ”

Though this is a scary book it is a great read. It is the original story of Hansel and Gretel, plus extra added. Instead of killing the witch who lives inside an edible house, they find a baker inside, who tries to eat them. There are gambling dukes and talking ravens that see the future and warlocks who like to cook young women.

Marshmallow’s rating: 90%.

Marshmallow rates A Tale Dark & Grimm 90%.
Marshmallow rates A Tale Dark & Grimm 90%.

 

Caramel’s second review: Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt, by Ben Clanton

Caramel enjoyed reading the hilarious adventures of Narwhal and Jelly in Narwhal: The Unicorn of the Sea! Below he shares his thoughts on the second book of the series: Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt, by Ben Clanton. Sprinkles is taking notes.

Caramel reviews Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton.
Caramel reviews Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton.

Sprinkles: What do you want to tell us about this book Caramel?

Caramel: This is the second book about the adventures of Narwhal and Jellyfish. In this one, Narwhal is a superhero. And Jellyfish is his super side kick. Can I just read out loud to you a bit?

S: Sure!

C: Here I go!

“Ahoy Jelly! I was just about to go for a swim. After that I’ll have something for lunch. Probably a waffle! And then … I’m going to become a superhero!”

C: It’s very tempting to read! I want to continue to read it to you!

S: Why do you like it so much Caramel?

C: The pictures are so funny! The characters are so funny! Everything is funny! And there are facts again, and I love to read them. Can I read you one of my favorite facts in this book?

S: Sure.

C. “The mimic octopus can change its color, shape, and movements to look like other sea life such as snakes, lionfish, stingrays, and jellyfish.”

This book has three chapters, or no, wait. It has five chapters. Three of them are about Narwhal and Jelly. And one is about facts and the other is a story Narwhal and Jelly write, called Super Waffle and Strawberry Sidekick. This book is really hilarious!

S: That is a big word Caramel!

C: But the book is really really funny!

S: So how would you complete this sentence:

What I like most about this book is …

C: It’s funny! And Narwhal and Jelly are silly but fun to read about!

S: This time the author Ben Clanton describes himself on the back cover as “more powerful than a toy locomotive”. What do you think that means?

C: I have no idea! He seems to be a goofy and funny guy! I like his books so much!

S: And we will review more of his books soon!

C: Stay tuned for more reviews from Book Bunnies!

Caramel recommends Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton highly! May the Force be with you!
Caramel recommends Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton with much enthusiasm!

Marshmallow reviews The BFG, by Roald Dahl

In her second review Marshmallow shares her thoughts on an old favorite: Roald Dahl’s The BFG.

Marshmallow reviews The BFG by Roald Dahl.
Marshmallow reviews The BFG by Roald Dahl.

Marshmallow’s quick take: If you like stories about orphans, or if you are a fan of Roald Dahl, then this might possibly be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s summary (with spoilers): When Sophie is snatched out of her bed during the witching hour by some unseen horror that stifles her scream for help with a gigantic thumb and carries her to some unknown land, naturally she thinks that she is going to die. (The unseen horror turns out to be a giant, the Big Friendly Giant from the title of the book.) But when the giant starts a conversation about how human beans (beings) taste like, how Turks taste like turkey, and how people from Jersey taste like cardigans, and how Greeks taste greasy, she is very confused. At the end of the conversation, the giant proclaims that he does not eat “human beans” for snacks, and Sophie feels better.

“What a strange and moody creature this is, she thought. One moment he is telling me my head is full of squashed flies and the next moment his heart is melting for me because Mrs. Clonkers locks us in the cellar.”

Sophie soon learns that the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) is the only friendly giant in the Land of Giants; all the others eat humans. Sophie thinks the BFG is “strange and moody”, but soon they become very good friends. The BFG is gentle and kind. Sophie is lonely.

In the afternoon, they see the other giants galloping off to England to eat people. (They apparently just grab them and eat them on the spot!) The giants always tell the BFG where they are going. For example, “We is off to Mrs Sippi and Miss Souri to guzzle them both!”  

Sophie and her new friend the BFG need to stop this massacre of human beans. Can the Queen of England help?

Marshmallow’s Review:I think that The BFG is a good book. It poses a lot of philosophical questions. For example: Are the giants that eat humans much worse than we are? At some point (page 71 in my edition of the book), Sophie says, “I think it’s rotten that those foul giants should go off every night to eat humans. Humans have never done them any harm.” The BFG answers, “That is what the little piggy-wig is saying every day. He is saying ‘I has never done any harm to the human bean so why should he be eating me?`”

“That is what the little piggy-wig is saying every day,” BFG answered. “He is saying `I has never done any harm to the human bean so why should he be eating me?`”

The illustrations by Quentin Blake help the reader imagine the characters in the story, especially how much bigger the giants are from the human beans. They are bigger than the BFG and Blake’s drawings help us see that.

This is a good book, but it can be frightening for kids younger than five. Sophie gets kidnapped by a giant at the beginning of the story, right from her bedroom in the middle of the night. When I was about five and my mom wanted to read this to me, I got really scared and so we had to stop reading.

Marshmallow’s rating: 90%.

Marshmallow rates The BFG by Roald Dahl 90%. May the Force be with you!
Marshmallow rates The BFG by Roald Dahl 90%.