Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Drawing inspiration from classic Faerie lore, A Court of Thorns and Roses is an encapturing retelling of the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. The story follows Feyre, a 19-year-old huntress, whose only goal is to provide for her family. However, everything gets turned upside-down when her cottage door gets ripped down by none other than one of the High Fae themselves, demanding retribution for the wolf she killed in the woods.

Swept into a world of magic that she’d only known in myths, Feyre must navigate the world of the Fae with caution all while keeping her hunting instincts alert- there are secrets that the Fae are keeping from her, and a blight that creeps towards her homeland – will she find out what lurks beneath the rose gardens and golden chalices, or succumb to the beauty of the magic around her?

Amazon.com: A Court of Thorns and Roses eBook : Maas, Sarah J.: Kindle Store

Honestly, my hopes for this book weren’t very high, but I was pleasantly surprised! While it definitely isn’t a complete 5/5 stars in my book, I loved reading it and it had me turning pages well into the night. As Beauty and the Beast retellings go, I loved being able to connect those parallels but also see what the author changed or mixed with Fae lore to make it her own. There’s a very colorful cast of characters and strong worldbuilding, which I especially appreciated.

Another thing I liked was that while the romance between Feyre and her love interest was a main point that drove the plot forward, espeicially towards the end, it didn’t seem to overpower the other aspects of the book, which was refreshing. That’s not to say the romance was bad, though; it was well-paced and filled with heartfelt moments.

Overall, I would say that this book is definetly worth the read! It’s also a series, so if you’re like me and tend to speed through books pretty quickly (and have a small obsession with romantic fantasies) this will be perfect for you!

-Luxy B.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Book vs. Movie: Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Castle Book 1) - Kindle edition by Jones,  Diana Wynne. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three daughters, which is deemed as “most unlucky”. Over the years, she’s accepted that she won’t have a fun, lavish future like her younger sisters, so she becomes content with being holed up in her family’s hat shop, trimming lace and styling bonnets.

However, everything changes when the Witch of the Waste visits the shop and curses her to become an old lady. Desperate for a solution, she hikes her way to the infamous “moving castle”-belonging to no other than the soul-eating wizard Howl. Here, she strikes a deal with Calcifier- an evil fire demon- hoping he can lift her curse.

Along the way, Sophie discovers that the wizard is not all he’s said to be and that maybe there’s more to herself than she thought.

I discovered the book Howl’s Moving Castle shortly after I watched the movie adaptation by Studio Ghibli, and neither disappoint. They both capture the essence of a world that’s both modern and magical in their own ways.

The main difference between the two is that the Studio Ghibli movie follows a slightly different plot, as do most movie adaptations. The concept of Sophie being the eldest-and therefore, prone to failure-is almost completely eradicated, focusing more on how her looks are subpar and modest compared to her sister. Although, this ends up tying in well with the movie’s altered story, as it is a story of self-acceptance, I was sad that this major plot point didn’t get included.

Howl's Moving Castle by Hayao Miyazaki, Hayao Miyazaki, Chieko Baisho,  Emily Mortimer, Christian Bale | DVD | Barnes & NobleĀ®

There were also characters that didn’t make it into the movie, such as Sophie’s sister Martha and Howl’s family that resides in the mortal realm. While I was disappointed to find this out, Studio Ghibli makes their adaptation work in it’s own way, using their staple “ghibli-magic” to create a version of the story that’s lovable and great to watch, preferably on a rainy day. And of course, as always, the animation is stunning.

Despite their differences and minor plot changes-and the watering down of Howl’s oddly lovable snootiness- the movie adaptation does an excellent job of capturing the story that Wynne-Jones wrote so magnificently.

-Luxy B

Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianne Wynne Jones is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive. The Miyazaki animated film can also be checked out from the library.

Diversifying the English Curriculum: Representation in Literature

If you ask a group of high schoolers what they read in their English Lit. class, you’ll most likely hear very similar answers from all of them: A Tale of Two Cities, Shakespeare, The Great Gatsby, A Christmas Carol, the list goes on. For decades, most of what students read in their English classes has been the same.

While it is important to read and analyze classics such as the ones mentioned, many schools disregard representation in the chosen books for this said motive. When taking a look at the demographics of the authors that have written most of the books in the high school curriculum, you’ll find that almost all of them are men, and almost all of them are white. This results in many students’ English class experience being Euro-centric and lacking in diversity.

In my own high school career, I have only read one book written by a woman (out of 8, currently) and no books written by any POC authors. Writing is my passion, and while I hope to one day be able to use that in my career, it’s discouraging to not see a more diverse range of people representing this career path.

Not only is the diversity of authors important, but also the content that is in these books. A less diverse pool of authors means that the stories read will most likely not contain many different cultures and points of view. One of the main aspects of literature is being able to resonate with the story, and without diverse authors, many high school readers are left feeling disconnected from the lesson and unrepresented in their classroom.

Another important aspect is being introduced to new cultures. This is especially important in schools that are lacking in diversity. Being exposed to different values, religions, and ways of life in general through literature prepares teens for the world, and teaches them to be respectful toward others that have different lifestyles than they do. It helps to be knowledgeable of other beliefs besides one’s own, but this isn’t possible if English classes’ works of literature do not represent a wide variety of cultures.

We live in a world that is quickly changing, a lot for the better. English classes need to reflect this change and update curriculums so that students can learn from and resonate with what they’re reading.

-Luxi B.

Social Parallels in Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince

In The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, protagonist Jude Duarte is one of the few humans living in the world of Faerie after being taken from her home in the mortal world. The book (and the whole trilogy, which I highly recommend), follows Jude as she navigates the complicated politics of the Faerie realm and tries to prove that she can be extremely powerful despite her being a human.

The challenges that Jude faces due to her being human clearly reflects social issues in the real world regarding discrimination, even if it sometimes gets lost in the magical world of the book. Many fantasy novels and worlds have discriminatory elements between different magical beings (i.e. “mudbloods” versus “purebloods” in Harry Potter, and humans versus elves in The Witcher).

While these instances may not be direct commentaries on social issues, we can use them as a new lens in which to view these problems and how they compare to the real-world thing.

Amazon.com: The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, 1): 9781478923732:  Black, Holly, Kelly, Caitlin: Books

In The Cruel Prince, Jude is considered lucky to be living the life she lives. Because her father is of high ranking, she and her sister are able to attend one of the best schools and live in an extravagant house. While this would be a blessing for anyone, a fortunate life for a human in Elfhame has even slimmer chances. Because of their short lifespans and susceptibility to “Glamour” – the Faerie ability to basically control minds – humans are most often used as brain-numb servants.

Even in the best case, such as Jude’s life, humans face harsh criticism and mockery from the other inhabitants of Elfhame. Throughout the series, Jude is very often treated as a waste of space.

Obviously, nobody in the real world is facing discrimination based on the fact that they’re human. However, the relationship between humans and Faeries in The Cruel Prince parallels many struggles that religious, racial, and sexual minorities face today. It can be harder to gain powerful positions and to be seen as equal for both Jude and these minorities.

It’s important for authors to make these parallels, even if not completely intentionally, so we as readers can learn and empathize with these issues.

-Luxy B.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.