Marshmallow reviews Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani

Marshmallow has reviewed several books by Soman Chainani already. Most recently she reviewed Rise of the School for Good and Evil and School for Good and Evil. Today, for her last review of this school year before the bunnies take off for the month of July, she decided to talk about Chainani’s Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales.

Marshmallow reviews Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani.
Marshmallow reviews Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about/with magic, monsters, and strong female characters, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Twelve tales that we thought we knew have been reinvented (Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel, Beauty and the Beast, Bluebeard, Cinderella, the Little Mermaid, Rumpelstiltskin, and Peter Pan). I would summarize all of them but instead I’ll just go over my favorites. 

Red Riding Hood: Every year the most beautiful girl in the town is eaten by wolves. The villagers surrender the girl, sending her into the woods, down a road alone, until she meets her fate. Our heroine, who isn’t ever named, was chosen by the wolves. She wears a red cape as she walks into the forest, intent on being the first to survive. 

Snow White: A queen asks a mirror for its opinion on the fairest of all. The queen is satisfied by its answer, until it starts to name the queen’s stepdaughter. The queen’s stepdaughter has crow-black skin, blood-red lips, and eyes with whites as bright as snow. The queen doesn’t believe people like that can be fair and orders a huntsman to kill her. But Snow White is harder to kill than expected.  

Beauty and the Beast: A book-loving girl dotes on her rich father. Everyone believes this to be virtue, but in truth, she has plans for her life, bigger than just being a maid/cook/servant. When her father loses his money, and rides out to try to get it back, he is forced to promise to send his daughter to a Beast. The Beast wants love, but the girl has no intentions of befriending the Beast; she wants to kill him. 

The Little Mermaid: A beautiful mermaid is in love with a human. She will do anything for him, despite the fact that they’ve never talked before. In fact, she only saw him once when she saved him from drowning. She wants a sea witch to turn her into a human, so she can be with him, but it turns out that stories always have two sides, and the side you’re on makes the biggest difference.

Marshmallow is reading Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani.
Marshmallow is reading Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani.

Marshmallow’s Review: I found Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales a really good book to read, given certain events going on in human politics. Like in his School for Good and Evil series, Soman Chainani takes fairy tales that we all know and digs deeper. Not only does he change certain thing like places, ethnicities, genders, etc., but he adds an extra layer of meaning. Some of the stories take place in non-descript villages and kingdoms. The time period is that of your average fairy tale. But there is a lot that is different.

For example, Cinderella becomes more than a girl wanting to go to a ball; her story, Cinderella, shows different people struggling to find their happy ending only to find that it wasn’t all it was cooked up to be. Hansel and Gretel isn’t just about two children killing a witch: Hansel and Gretel discover that the witch they’re supposed to kill isn’t the one in the candied house. All the twists are unexpected and fresh, and all together make for really good reading.

That said, some of these tales can be a bit disturbing to younger bunnies—I found the retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story a little scary for example—so I would definitely say that Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales is more for 14-15 and above. Certain stories, mostly Sleeping Beauty and Bluebeard, could be confusing or even disturbing to younger children. In fact, I didn’t quite understand the full meaning of the two fore-mentioned stories the first time I read them. I would say that this would be a good book for both older children and parents to read and then discuss about, especially with the messages in the book. 

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%. 

Marshmallow rates Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani 95%.
Marshmallow rates Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani 95%.

Caramel reviews The Poison Jungle (Book Thirteen of the Wings of Fire series) by Tui Sutherland

Today Caramel reviews the thirteenth book of Tui Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series: The Poison Jungle As usual Sprinkles is taking notes and asking followup questions. 

Before reading this review you might wish to check out Caramel’s reviews of the graphic novel versions of the first five books (The Dragonet Prophecy,  The Lost Heir,  The Hidden KingdomThe Dark Secret, and The Brightest Night), as well as his review of the very first book (The Dragonet Prophecy, the sixth book (Moon Rising), the seventh (Winter Turning), the eighth (Escaping Peril), the ninth (Talons of Power), the tenth (Darkness of Dragons), the eleventh (The Lost Continent), and the twelfth (The Hive Queen).

Readers should be warned that there may be more spoilers in this review than usual.

Caramel reviews The Poison Jungle (Book Thirteen of the Wings of Fire series) by Tui Sutherland.
Caramel reviews The Poison Jungle (Book Thirteen of the Wings of Fire series) by Tui Sutherland.

Sprinkles: So Caramel, this is the thirteenth book. Only two more left I think. Right?

Caramel: Yep.

S: So tell us about this one. Who is the main character this time?

C: Sundew. She is a LeafWing, and she has the strongest LeafSpeak in her tribe.

S: What was that?

C: Remember I told you about it when we were talking about The Hive Queen. Some of the LeafWing dragons can help plants grow faster or slow them down. And Sundew is really good at this.

S: So what is the main story this time? What does Sundew do with her powers?

C: Well, she doesn’t tell her friends about her powers at first. But Cricket asks her some questions and it comes out. And remember the last time, Cricket, Sundew and Blue and Swordtail got to the Poison Jungle to hide. So this is the story of them hiding there.

S: Tell me more. What happens? What is the main conflict in the book?

C: Queen Wasp actually attacks the jungle and takes over a lot of the LeafWing tribes. She also gets Blue and Swordtail.

S: Wait, that sounds like a big spoiler.

C: Yes I guess it is because it happens towards the end. But I could not hide it. It is a big deal. And it is terrible, because Queen Wasp can control people. And now she will control Blue and Swordtail too.

S: Hmm, we should probably put a spoiler alert to this post. But who is Swordtail? I do not remember you talking about that dragon.

C: Swordtail is another SilkWing, he is a friend of Blue. We met him actually all the way back in The Lost Continent.

S: I see. So he was also trying to help Cricket hide and help them all get rid of Queen Wasp?

C: Yes, exactly.

Caramel is reading The Poison Jungle (Book Thirteen of the Wings of Fire series) by Tui Sutherland.
Caramel is reading The Poison Jungle (Book Thirteen of the Wings of Fire series) by Tui Sutherland.

S: Okay, since we already gave away some big spoilers, let us move away from the plot line and talk about the rest of the book. Do you find Sundew an interesting character?

C: Yes, she is strong and also likes another girl dragon, Willow, another LeafWing.

S: I see. Does Willow like her back?

C: Yes. But they are not quite a couple.

S: I see. So does Sundew talk about Willow in the book a lot?

C: Not too much. She hides a lot of her feelings, and her powers, and so on. She does not seem to trust others too much.

S: I see. So on this continent who is your favorite dragon so far?

C: I’d say Willow, because she is the nicest person of them all. She is kind and always trying to help. I also like Blue and Cricket. Blue does not like violence, and neither does Cricket. But also Cricket is very curious, she asks questions all the time. So I like all three of them.

S: Those are very good reasons to like a character Caramel! So did you think this book was at the right tone for the series? Did you think it carried the story along well so you would want to continue to read on?

C: Yes. I think the whole series is very good, all the books are so good! And I definitely want to read the next two books! And soon!

S: Okay Caramel, I get the hint. Let us wrap this up then so you can move on to book fourteen. But before then, what do you want to tell our readers?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel loved reading The Poison Jungle (Book Thirteen of the Wings of Fire series) by Tui Sutherland and is ready to dive into the next book in the series.
Caramel loved reading The Poison Jungle (Book Thirteen of the Wings of Fire series) by Tui Sutherland and is ready to dive into the next book in the series.

Marshmallow reviews The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Marshmallow loved Soman Chainani’s School for Good and Evil series, and reviewed three of the six books for the book bunnies blog, way back in our first year: Quests for Glory, the fourth book, A Crystal of Time, the fifth book, and One True King, the sixth book. Then a couple weeks ago, she got her paws on a prequel Chainani wrote this year, Rise of the School for Good and Evil, and reviewed it for the blog. After reading it, she decided to reread the very first book, School for Good and Evil, to see how it would hold up. She was not disappointed.

Marshmallow reviews The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.
Marshmallow reviews The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about magic, friendship, love, and fairy tales, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Sophie has waited all her life to be kidnapped by the School Master and be whisked away from her boring, plain life. Sophie lives in the quaint town of Gavaldon, where nothing is magical. Perhaps the only out-of-the-ordinary thing in Gavaldon is the kidnappings. Every four years, two children are kidnapped. One child is beautiful and virtuous; the other, cruel and ugly.

For hundreds of years, no one knew what happened to them, until the children realized something strange. The kids who were taken seemed to find their way into the storybooks. They just showed up years later in the fairy tales, but as fierce witches, beautiful princesses, brave princes, or violent villains.

We learn, as events unfold for the main characters of the book, that these children go to a school, specifically the School for Good and Evil. The kidnapper is the School Master. Villains, witches, warlords, and other Evil creatures are trained at the School for Evil, while princes, princesses, and other Good people are trained at the School for Good.

So in this backdrop, Sophie knows that one day she will be taken to the School for Good. She makes sure to do Good Deeds to show the School Master how good she is and why she should be taken to the School for Good. Sophie knows she will be the perfect princess. On the other hand, everyone in Gavaldon knows that Agatha will be taken as the Evil child. Agatha lives in a house in the middle of a graveyard, with her mother (whom everyone believes to be a witch), wears only black, and dislikes almost everyone.

Almost everyone. Sophie visits Agatha (as a Good Deed) every day, until the two become friends. Agatha slowly becomes more than just a pawn used to ensure Sophie’s place in the School for Good. While Sophie wishes for grandeur and eternal adoration, Agatha just wants one person who likes her, one person who could care about her “measly soul”.

Then the girls are both kidnapped, and Sophie’s dreams are realized… until she is dropped into the School for Evil, while Agatha is placed in the School for Good. Sophie struggles to get herself into the School for Good, while Agatha struggles to try to get them back to Gavaldon.

Eventually, the School Master tells them that if Sophie proves that she is not a witch, and if Agatha proves that she is not a princess, they can go home. He asks them: what is the one thing that a witch can never have, and a princess cannot live without? The answer: Love. If Sophie can find love, and Agatha can’t, they can go home. Given who they are, their roles seem easy to play.

Only one complication stands in their way: Sophie doesn’t want to go home; she doesn’t want to at all. 

Marshmallow is reading The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.
Marshmallow is reading The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.

Marshmallow’s Review: The first thing I should say is that I have read and reread this book so many times, my original copy of the book totally fell apart. For this review, I ended up getting a new copy so I could take pictures with it.

One of the reasons why I like this book so much and find it so interesting that School for Good and Evil isn’t just a different retelling of the familiar fairytales, but a whole new one. I think that this tale does fit into the world of other fairytales, and I really enjoyed reading about the world that Soman Chainani created.

School for Good and Evil, as probably everyone who has heard of it knows, is the first of a series of six. It is more or less self-contained, you could technically stop at the end and be done with it, but why would you? Chainani’s world is fascinating, and the stories get even better as you go deeper into the series.

The series is fantastical, magic, witches, fairytales, all are quite extraordinary. That said, the characters are very realistic. And some of them are very annoying (coughSophie,cough). I really enjoyed the way the characters developed throughout the series however. And I really liked how all of the characters had very big flaws in addition to their strengths. It was interesting to see that even fairy tale heroes have problems.  

Rereading the book after having just finished Rise of the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, all I can say is that if you just read the Rise and are about to embark upon the rest of the series, you are in for an amazing ride. The prequel does not spoil the fun of this first book, though of course it does spoil a little bit of the surprise. It is not a big deal however, either case, you learn about the School, one way or another, and the story works either way.

I am excited that Netflix is developing a series version of the books! Here is the trailer / teaser:

I for one am looking forward to it!

Marshmallow’s Rating: 98%.

Marshmallow rates The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani 98%.
Marshmallow rates The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani 98%.

Caramel reviews Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao

Caramel has been reviewing book after book of the Wings of Fire series. Today he takes a break from the dragons and talks about a book about gaming: Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao, published in 2021. As usual, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Caramel reviews Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao.
Caramel reviews Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao.

Sprinkles: So Caramel this book just appeared one day in your paws.

Caramel: Yes, I got it from my classroom library.

S: That is cool, that you have a classroom library and that there are books there that you find interesting.

C: Yep. I often find books there that I like to read.

S: Okay, so why did you pick up this one?

C: Because it looked interesting.

S: And did it turn out to be interesting?

C: Yes, why else would I be reviewing it?

S: Well, that is good. Tell us about it then.

C: This book is about Reyna Cheng, who is a Chinese-American gamer.

S: What does that mean?

C: She plays virtual reality video games.

S: What kinds of games?

C: The one she is playing is called Dayhold and she is very good at it.

S: Does Dayhold exist? Did you ever play it?

C: No, this is supposed to be in the future, it is 2064 or 2067 or something like that, and the video game is in virtual reality. And she is competing against other people as well as some artificial intelligence players. And people who are very good at gaming are like celebrities and there is a lot of money in gaming. So Reyna is not just playing, she wants to become a professional gamer.

S: I see. So she is young though, right?

C: Yes, she is twelve and just finished sixth grade. But most of the other people in the game don’t know who she is and she wants to keep it that way.

S: Why?

C: Because most gamers are boys or men and Reyna knows from experience that as a girl gamer, she will not be treated well.

S: Oh, that’s so not fair!

C: You’re right, and she is so much better than the other players.

S: Well, even if she weren’t, it would be better if people did not mistreat her just because she is a girl.

C: I agree.

Caramel is reading Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao.
Caramel is reading Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao.

C: She is very good though. She beats one of the best players and he was cheating and she still beat him.

S: Wait, I am worried you might be going into spoiler territory.

C: Possibly. but there is a lot more that happens in the book. So there is a troll for example who wants to dox her. And doxing we looked that up, it means that people make your identity public despite your wishes to remain anonymous. And a troll is “a person who intentionally antagonizes others online by posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content” according to a dictionary.

S: Oh that can be very dangerous!

C: Yes she could be in real danger, but she tries to save herself and the book is about that too.

S: I see. Does it also describe the game itself?

C: Yes a little. It seems interesting; you fight people with swords, spears and so on.

S: You did finish the book rather quickly. Was it an easy read for you?

C: Not always. I did not know about doxing and so I had to figure that out. By asking you, my very trustable source. But the book is written in Reyna’s voice and in first person, so that was good, it made it easier to read.

S: I see. If you were to try and find three words to describe the book, what would they be?

C: Descriptive, because there are a lot of descriptions of the game, funny sometimes, and exciting because I wanted to know what would happen to Reyna so I kept reading. It is attention-snatching, it kept my attention.

S: I can see that! Would you recommend the book to other bunnies like yourself?

C: Yup. Some boys think girls can’t be good gamers, so maybe it would be good for them to read this book. Because Reyna is a very good gamer but also it is not nice to mistreat people just because they are a girl.

S: Thank you Caramel, I totally agree. So let us wrap up this review then. What do you want to tell our readers?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel enjoyed reading Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao and recommends it to all other little bunnies.
Caramel enjoyed reading Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao and recommends it to all other little bunnies.