Sunday, 17 August 2014

School of Deaths by Christopher Mannino

*Honest Review Requested by Author in Exchange for Free eBook
Published: 2014
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing 
Website: Author’s website

“To a world of boys and men,” said Frank, “you’re the biggest mystery they ever dreamt of.”

Susan has been chosen to go into another world and become a Death, while attending the College of Deaths. However, like most of the other students, she did not have a choice in coming to the World of Deaths. If she can pass the Final Test of her first year, she can return to the World of the Living. If she fails, she must stay forever. To complicate her education, she is the first female Death in a million years, and she is the target of misguided hatred.

I hate to say it, but Suzie is bland. She has a motivation (going home), but she lacks a personality. By the end of the novel, I knew nothing about her. The novel would have been richer if the author had her retelling events about her home life before she left it  (Like If I Stay). Because I knew nothing about her, I didn’t really care what happened to her either way.
She is the only female present, and the only female that has been a Death for a million years. This is a grand opportunity to give her contrasting points against the males around her, even if you are using just stereotypical clich├ęs to build upon. She could have been nurturing, clean/organized, emotionally sensitive, intelligent, athletic….anything. She did show a protective side when she rushed in to help someone, but it was rash and confusing. She expressed herself artistically in art class, but she doesn’t continue with this outside of the class.

Plot and Setting
Honestly, when I read the email for this request, I was skeptical about a YA novel with a 13-year-old protagonist. When I encounter 13-year-old protagonists, the book is middle grade fiction masquerading as young adult, and I hate middle grade fiction. The story intrigued me, and when I began reading, I was glad that I accepted the request. School of Deaths is an excellent fantasy for people who like the imaginative and the familiar blended together. The In-Between is my favourite place, followed closely by a place I’ll just call the Gate. The author has a map of the world on his website, in case anyone is interested.
Theplot is there and Suzie and friends react to it for most of the novel instead of having their own agency. The book lacks an overarching sense of urgency, though I wouldn’t call the plot slow. I think the next book (if there should be another) would definitely have Suzie and friends roaming around the world more on their own to create their own adventure.
I do have to say that Suzie questions a hot topic of very important Death history and figures out something monumental. I knew something was up because I was paying attention to the world’s lore, and it didn’t add up. Book, are you trying to tell me that no other Death figured out the big secret before Suzie?

Similarities and Differences

The book is like Harry Potter, because bad things always happen on feast days, and friendship is rammed down your throat every five minutes.

The book is like Harry Potter, except she doesn’t want to be at the school, and when they need to find something, they don’t go ask the expert at the school.

The book is also like My Little Pony, where you are reminded every thirty seconds about how awesome it is to have friends.

The book is also like Dead Like Me, but instead of being thrust into reaperhood, you have to go to school first.

Spoilers Ahead!
There were a few spelling mistakes (“rode” instead of “robe”) but they were few and far between. My problem is when the obligatory friend dies and the MC has to seek vengeance. She only saw him once in the whole novel and she gets way too involved with “[they] were my friend!” Once. You saw him once. If they really were that attached to him, you would have visited him more. 

Final Verdict
This is a definite purchase for a library looking for more fantasy, and it is a good choice for a reading club with members that are on the younger side of YA (and I say this because of the protagonist’s age, not the reading level). Unless you adore the concept of Deaths going to school to learn how to Reap, I think some readers might have a difficult time keeping interest. I adored the concept. While there is room for improvement, I believe that people who liked the early Harry Potter books will enjoy School of Deaths as well.

*Note: The author also have a prequel on his website entitled Shadow of the Scythe that you can read for free.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Gilmore Girls Reading List

Sometime ago I decided that I would read everything that was mentioned from the T.V show The Gilmore Girls. When I finally decided to get down to it, I discovered that many other people had the same idea and there are “Gilmore Girl Reading Challenges” all over the internet. My original idea was blown to smithereens, but it means that I don’t have to compile the list myself. Plus, I am calling it the Rory Gilmore Reading List, because “Challenge” implies failure and competition (and a winner). Neither of these concepts appeal to me, so I am doing this as a personal task and as a librarian.  

Now, I hear that teens shouldn’t be reading what I read as a teen because “it isn’t for them.” I also hear that some teens are worried about making that “jump” from YA to “literature”. Some feel like literature is so sinister that it wants to make the reader fail in life and feel pathetic with its complexity.   

I am going to relate what kind of teens would be interested in the books, and if I can, compare them to YA fiction. I hope to create bridges that are easily accessible.

The Gilmore Girls Reading List has its own tab at the top, and it will be updated as I read. Some I have already read, some I will put off as long as possible (*Cough*The Art of War*Cough*). Everything will get a blog post, even a short one.