The School Between Winter and Fairyland by Heather Fawcett (Spoiler Free)

Summary

Twelve-year-old Autumn Malog is a servant at the enchanting Inglenook School, where young magicians study to become the king’s future monster-hunters. Along with her Gran and three too many older brothers, she works as a beastkeeper, tending to Inglenook’s menagerie of terrifying monsters.

But when she isn’t mucking out the wyvern stalls or coaxing the resident boggart to behave, Autumn searches for clues about her twin brother’s mysterious disappearance. Everyone else thinks he was devoured by the feared Hollow Dragon, but Autumn is convinced she’s heard–and glimpsed–him calling to her from within the castle walls. But who will believe a lowly servant?

So when Cai Morrigan, the “Chosen One” prophesied to one day destroy the Hollow Dragon, comes to her for help, Autumn agrees on one condition: Together, they’ll search for her brother and uncover the dark truth at the heart of enchanting Inglenook School once and for all.

Rating: ✨✨✨✨✨

My Thoughts

I have been having a really hard time picking up books that I am loving lately, but I was entirely enchanted by this read. This is a switched take on a boarding school and chosen one tale. Our two main characters, Autumn and Cai. could not be more different in their social status or their understanding of the world. However, their stubborn beliefs and talent make them logical allies and interesting friends. The family dynamics felt really authentic and I liked that they showed siblings that weren’t friends but still loved and supported each other.

The world was nothing super new, but I felt like we were getting to see a new side of it, through the Malogs who are decidedly not “special”. I think the monsters were super engaging and endearing. However, due Autumn’s relationship with the monsters of the world make scary situations with them feel tense but not threatening. I felt that this was a story that grew really well and was really well paced especially for a stand alone. It was not a magic bullet ending, but definitely a satisfying one.

In general, this was incredibly charming story that made me laugh and gasp as an adult. I feel like it would be appropriate for 4th grade and up. I would definitely recommend for anyone who is interested a tenacious protagonist, flipped tropes, and figuring out the moral compass of the world.

Dune (2021) – Movie Review

Dune has been one of the most hyped movies of the year with huge press and marketing leading up to its release. Now, it was a faithful adaption of the novel or at least the most faithful adaptation from a book that I have seen in recent years. However, it was not a good movie. It was a beautiful film, but it didn’t work.

When it comes to book to movie adaptations there is always a hope that the it is a detailed and exact translation from page to screen. In Dune, the book, so much in terms of the worlds themselves was left up to the imagination in visuals the function only was described. The movie did a beautiful job bringing the world, the people, and technology into a visual format. It did a great job maintaining the relationships especially between Paul and the main adults in his life (Leto, Jessica, and Duncan). Some of the dialogue was lifted straight out, which was very exciting.

However, so many of the genuine story elements felt compromised for the grand feelings and the world building visuals. There are three main story lines in the plot of Dune: the coming of the Kwisatz Haderach, the fall of the House of Atreides, and the control of Arrakis and the Spice there. Several of these plot points involve tension leading up to them because there is quite a lot conspiracy and tension. I found that we were largely missing that information and it let the tension go turning it from a political space drama to an adventure colonialism story. Now I really liked the explicit colonization framing, but I was really missing the intrigue of the Emperor’s plan, the foreshadowing of the betrayal, and the importance of the spice trade (they cannot give Arrakis up and still function as an empire). They also stopped the story half way through. None of the story arcs were complete! Only the fall of the house of Atreides hit it’s climax but everything else was unfinished. Not even to a clear transitional point, just stopped. I can understand that they want a sequel and to turn it to a film series, but it left a very unsatisfying taste in my mouth.

Ultimately, I do want more adaptions to get this budget and I think it is clear the filmmakers know Dune well. However, I was missing a lot of story elements that make watching movies engaging and make Dune specifically fun to be in.

Monsters at Work: Hit or Miss

The Premise: Monsters at work takes place after Monsters Inc (2001). The series follows Monsters Inc after it reopens to transition to use Laugh Energy instead. The whole company is trying to figure out it’s new place and how to work under new leadership. The new character we follow is Tylor Tuskman who was hired as a Scarer fresh out of Monster U. In the chaos no one thought to let him know the job no longer existed. When he shows up to Monsters Inc. he gets reassigned to the quirky facilities team, MIFT.

My Review:

I was really looking forward to this show as I am huge fan of the films and of the cast of this show. Unfortunately, it felt like the show knew that. I have this theory that you can figure out if a show is for you in three episodes. In my opinion, the show is rather forgettable. All the new characters are “weird” and intense, but they don’t have storylines of their own. Splitting the show with Mike, Sully, Celia, and Roz from the original series feels like it is splitting focus and doesn’t really know it’s own intentions. Mike and Sully even though it supposedly months later are figuring out for the first time how the new company should run and how to be in charge. The most heartfelt episode was episode three but it came it waves and for me too late. It feels like the show has yet to find it’s own heartbeat and direction.

How to Watch: Disney + (steaming service)

Heartless by Marissa Meyer (mild spoilers)

So August’s book club pick for the month was Heartless by Marissa Meyer. It is a prequel retelling to Alice in Wonderland that explores how the Queen of Hearts came to be. We start with Cath, the daughter of the Marquees of Turtle Rock, who desires to open the best bakery in all of Hearts. Things really spiral from there. Initially I gave this book three stars but it is a book that just attaches itself to your mind. Since I couldn’t stop thinking about it I eventually bumped it up to 4 stars.

The romance is sweet and easy. Marissa Meyer does a great job of writing dissonant thinking patterns in a very believable way. While you may hate what Cath does and it’s wrong and there are other options so it’s frustrating. I always understood how Cath got herself to that point. It is the Wonderland that we all remember from the books, movies, etc. However, because this is Cath’s native land she doesn’t find any of it wonderous it’s all normal to her and that translates well in the writing. The most magical part of the story is the baking the way Cath views her beautiful creations. Truthfully, I would read a cookbook written by Marissa Meyer.

The measure of this story that was despite knowing where all the characters end up I still was rooting for their story to be changed.

Now for the spoilers

Continue reading “Heartless by Marissa Meyer (mild spoilers)”

Vicious by V.E. Schwab (Spoilers)

So Vicious by V. E. Shwab was our April Book club book of the month. This book is a Sci-fi book following two men that 10 years after their senior thesis have become archenemies.; also, superheroes. Now I felt that hype has really effected my reading experience lately, but this is the only book that I really felt lived up to all the acclaim it has received in the book community. .

If you like: superheroes, morally grey characters, and mysteries I strongly believed that you will like this story. It is a science-fiction story in it’s elements but the writing and telling of this story is very much in a mystery/thriller style. What truly makes this book special is the character study. Every character has incredible depth and darkness and is nothing like a character I had seen before; however, all that is coming in the spoiler part of this review.

Continue reading “Vicious by V.E. Schwab (Spoilers)”

Bitter Kingdom Review (Spoilers)

So this is a very late (sorry I started a new job) review of The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson. This was our March book club book. This is the finale of an epic fantasy trilogy so obviously there will be spoilers for a majority of this review. What I will say before that section I will say that this was an excellent book. In terms of scope the world continues to grow and grow. I still have world building questions but that’s okay because they are questions for the real world too. It was an incredible satisfying conclusion, all the story lines had conclusions that made sense but were surprising.

So now for in depth spoilers… Continue reading “Bitter Kingdom Review (Spoilers)”

Crown of Embers Review (SPOILERS!)

This is my review for the second book in the Rae Carson trilogy and the second book of 2019 family book club. Obviously because this is a sequel it’s impossible to review this book without spoilers. What you need to know is that this book builds upon the incredible world building of the first book expanding it physically and in detail. Carson has a gift for romance, the incredible pull of characters towards each other is enticing. This whole book is rising action to the climax of book three. Five STARS!

Spoiler time!

Continue reading “Crown of Embers Review (SPOILERS!)”

On Meal Delivery Services

So recently we completed a week of meal delivery services. One of my partner’s co-workers gave us a promo code for a free week of Green Chef.

Setting up:

  • Setting up our week of Green Chef was pretty easy. Choosing the meal plan was our hardest part because they are all based on diet and we don’t have one. But they had every healthy meal plan and potential dietary restriction under the sun accounted for. We ended up picking Heart Healthy. It let us decide which three meals we wanted for the week, which was nice considering I was allergic to 2 of the 6 options.
  • The package came on Monday. It was pretty heavy to move inside. However, very nice that everything including the ice packs was 100% recyclable. The meat and veggies could all be refrigerated throughout the week so no need to worry about defrosting in time for dinner.

Cooking:

  • Every recipe was timed out nicely, so it was all finished and warm at the same time. Except the meatball dish because peeling the butternut squash took me longer than a hot second.
  • The steps were easy to follow and clear for someone who is barely a novice at cooking. Plus the recipe had pictures to follow.
  • The recipes required quite a bit of cooking equipment and for someone who doesn’t have a dishwasher a lot of clean-up

Food:

  • The food was delicious. My favorite was the paprika-cumin meatballs with chimichurri sauce. My human’s favorite was the rosemary-roasted chicken with kale and potato salad.
  • I learned how to make rice pilaf which is significantly easier than the name suggests.
  • We have made the kale and potato salad several times since and plan to again as it is the only was I am currently willing to eat kale.

Rosemary Roasted Chicken with kale and potato salad (toppings optional)

Bavarian Pork Bowl with Quinoa and Kale Salad

Spicy Meatballs with Butternut Squash and Rice Pilaf

Verdict:

  • Recipes weren’t too expensive to make on their own and we have and probably will continue to make independently. On their own the food definitely cost less than the service.
  • Would order again when we become a 2-income household for the pure confidence and variety

Girl of Fire and Thorns Review

So the first book in this year’s family book club was The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. It is a young adult political fantasy set in a Latin American inspired world. One nice thing about this is that it doesn’t just claim to be Latin American inspired there it is s a constant presence in the language, religion, landscape, etc. It follows a young princess, Elisa, who is married off to the widowed king, Alejandro of Joya d’Arena to secure a military alliance. Matters are slightly complicated as Elisa is the Bearer of the Godstone. Once every four generations a light from the heavens grants a blue stone into the navel of a child.

I personally love religion in fantasy novels it’s an automatic buy-in. I think there is so much room to explore, especially when this world where a divine entities existence is unquestionable there are still questions. There are still sects and religious zealots. Carson handles the religion with respect but also the nuance and diversity that an accurate representation requires.

Obviously this book takes place during wartime. As someone who studied political science (focusing in war and genocide), I find any representation of such to be normally lackluster or too brutal. I think Carson tried hard to show the horrors while keeping it Young Adult (more age appropriate/ innuendo instead of description). The opponents in this war are the Irvierne. They are evil and called heretics. My mom and I are in a heated debate about whether they are supposed to be savages or European colonizers. Both work incredibly well in the world and it’s inspiration.

The characters are well fleshed out. While the characters still have their mysteries and more to explore this the beginning of a trilogy. They are multi-dimensional. A vastly intelligent character can have an unhealthy relationship with food. The protector is vengeful. The cowardly wield immense power. Elisa is my favorite Slytherin main character. Hand-to what ever you believe in she is what Salazar Slytherin had in mind when founding his house. All the relationships that develop (romantic, platonic, familial) are rooted so deeply in common purpose, shared interest, a need for attention from anyone, etc. No motivation, word, tear, feels misplaced or put there to move along the plot. It all feels true.

I highly recommend this book if you are interested in military or religious fantasy. Or if you just like reading for me this was a 5 star read.

Below are my favorite quotes from the book and a discussion question. (Obviously spoilers) Continue reading “Girl of Fire and Thorns Review”