Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School #1) by Jen Calonita

28276050Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School #1) by Jen Calonita
Publisher/Year:ย Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2015
Format:ย E-book
Pages:ย 210




Our Mission: To turn wicked delinquents and former villains into future heroes.ย 

Gilly wouldn’t call herself wicked, exactly…but when you have five little brothers and sisters and live in a run-down boot, you have to get creative to make ends meet. Gilly’s a pretty good thief (if she does say so herself).

Until she gets caught.

Gilly’s sentenced to three months at Fairy Tale Reform School–where all of the teachers are former (super-scary) villains like the Big Bad Wolf, the Evil Queen, and Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother. Harsh. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there’s more to this school than its heroic mission. There’s a battle brewing and Gilly has to wonder just how good these bad guys are.


What I thought

This book was absolutely adorable! As a huge fan of fairy tales, I loved this to pieces. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a fairy tale retelling, but if you love fairy tales, this is one fairy tale-inspired story that you don’t want to miss!

Even though it lacks some of the development present in books meant for older readers, I found this to be an incredibly FUN read that also touched on important topics like the importance of friendship, the downfalls of bullying, and the differences between good & evil, villains & heroes.

Besides of all the fairy tale elements, which are so dear to me, I think what made this book so entertaining for me was Gilly. She was such a spunky narrator! Her fierce love for her family shines through her misguided attempts to simply do the right thing. I think her voice would be so fun to read out loud–she’s just so sassy. I wish we would have had more from some of the secondary characters, which is why I only gave this 4 stars.

As far as setting & plot go, I just loved the world of Enchantasia, and I’m very much looking forward to continuing this series so I can revisit this world. There were enough elements reminiscent of my favorite fairy tales to make the story feel familiar, while presenting a story unique enough to keep me entertained.

Overall, this book was an ADORABLE & heartwarming read for me. A valuable addition to middle grade literature, this is one I highly recommend, especially for fans of fairy tales!

The Pale Horseman (The Saxon Stories #2) by Bernard Cornwell

68528The Pale Horseman (The Saxon Stories #2) by Bernard Cornwell
Publisher/Year:ย Harper, 2007
Format:ย Paperback
Pages:ย 349



In a clash of heroes, the kingdom is born.ย 

As the last unvanquished piece of England, Wessex is eyed hungrily by the fearsome Viking conquerors. Uhtred, a dispossessed young nobleman, is tied to the imperiled land by birth and marriage but was raised by the Danish invaders–and he questions where his allegiance must lie. But blood is his destiny, and when the overwhelming Viking horde attacks out of a wintry darkness, Uhtred must put aside all hatred and distrust and stand beside his embattled country’s staunch defender–the fugitive King Alfred.

The Pale Horseman is a gripping, monumental adventure that gives breathtaking life to one of the most important epochs in English history–yet another masterwork fromย New York Timesย bestselling author Bernard Cornwell.


What I thought

I enjoyed this book every bit as much as I enjoyed the first one. This series has quickly become one of my favorites, as has the author.

At the risk of giving away any of the plot, I’ll keep this short. Uhtred & his companions have become so dear to me, it’s like I have no choice but to continue their story, so I know I’m going to keep reading this series.

I think what does it for me is Cornwell’s writing. His writing flows so well that the pages flew by, and I wasn’t even aware that I was reading. Even though this book, in particular, involves a lot of preparation & gathering of forces, the story still moved along at a good pace.

One thing that struck me about this book was how well Cornwell keeps his readers up-to-date between books without being too redundant. You can read these books one after another without feeling like you’re spending too much of your time retracing the previous book. But on the flip side of that, if you haven’t read the last book in a while, there are enough refreshers to get you back up to speed.

Overall, I just loved this book–two books in & I am seriously attached to these characters. I’m still having a blast reading the series with my hubby! You simply cannot find better historical fiction, especially about this time period. Bernard Cornwell is a master!



The Dead Path by Stephen M. Irwin


The Dead Path by Stephen M. Irwin
Publisher/Year:ย Doubleday, 2009
Format:ย Hardcover
Pages:ย 374
Rating:ย ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ



How long has it been since a novel sent chills up your spine?ย The Dead Path is a tour de force debut of visceral imagination and taut suspense–featuring the creepiest setting since the sewers in Stephen King’sย It.

A haunting visage peering out from the trees sends Nicholas Close tumbling from his motorcycle–setting in motion a series of terrible events that leave him a widower surrounded by startling hallucinations. There is no other way to say it: he sees ghosts. They don’t say a word, but they are seemingly forced to repeat their final, harrowing moments in an endless loop before his eyes.

Fearing for his sanity, and with nowhere else to go, Nicholas returns home to his childhood home. Tallong is a sleepy suburb filled with an eccentric cast of characters and a host of memories from his past…all leading to the overgrown woods on Carmichael Road. As Nicholas attempts to reconnect with his estranged family, he becomes entangled in a disturbing series of disappearances and murders. He is now both a police suspect and the target of a malignant force that draws him to an old secret waiting in the heart of the woods. To stop the town’s violent history from repeating itself, Nicholas will have to face his greatest fears and discover what lies at the end of the path.

The Dead Path is the kind of chilling debut readers love to discover. Stephen M. Irwin’s electric use of language, memorable characters, and suspenseful pacing add up to a creepy, can’t-put-it-down tale full of twists and turns, building up to a surprising and unforgettable conclusion.


What I thought

I should know better than to fall for a “this is the next Stephen King” blurb. I wanted to like this a lot more than I did.

I really did enjoy this story. Being that I’m deathly afraid of spiders, I did find myself getting genuinely creeped out. Honestly, the story is what kept me reading. I just had to know what was going to happen. Even though I wasn’t particularly attached to any of the characters (other than Hannah, whom I adored), I still wanted to see how their fates turned out. And that ending? It was pure gold–totally unexpected & it gave me goosebumps.

Where this book fell flat for me was the writing. SO many people have praised it, so maybe I’m just missing something. The style was just not for me. It was overly descriptive, and what I mean by that is not that he went into too much detail, but that he used all these metaphors that just didn’t click for me. It felt like reaching, like he was trying too hard to be profound. For me, this kept jarring me out of the story, so it felt like I was slugging through this book. Like I said, though, many people love his writing, it just wasn’t to my taste.

Overall, this may not have completely worked for me, but I still think this was a strong debut. If you enjoy horror novels, give this one a try & I promise, you’ll never look at the woods the same! One last note, this book has a beautiful design, including a creepy cover with glow-in-the-dark words!

The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Stories #1) by Bernard Cornwell

68527The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Stories #1) by Bernard Cornwell
Publisher/Year:ย Harper, 2006
Format:ย Paperback
Pages:ย 333



In a clash of heroes, the kingdom is born.ย 

In the middle years of the ninth century, the fierce Danes stormed onto British soil, hungry for spoils and conquest. Kingdom after kingdom fell to the ruthless invaders until but one realm remained. And suddenly the fate of all England–and the course of history–depended upon one man, one king.

Fromย New York Timesย bestselling storyteller Bernard Cornwell comes a rousing epic adventure of courage, treachery, duty, devotion, majesty, love, and battle as seen through the eyes of a young warrior who straddled two worlds.


What I thought

How can I even begin to put into words how much I loved this book & how much I’m looking forward to continuing with this series?

This year for Valentine’s Day, my husband surprised me with two copies of this book so that we could read (& discuss) this together. I had such a good time with this–I seriously cannot wait to continue reading this series together.

I admit, I was a little nervous. I was kind of expecting this to be super dry or battle-scene-heavy. (I’m not sure why I had this impression.) But I found this to be an accessible & engaging read. People always complain about first person POV, but for me, I thought that it helped to bring 9th Century England to life.

I found myself growing very fond of this cast of characters–I was honestly so sad to come to the end of this book, even though there are currently nine more books to read in this series. There are many characters I loved to read about–Ragnar, Brida, Ravn, Leofric, Ealdwulf. I feel like I knew them personally. But my favorite has to be Uhtred. He is such an excellent protagonist & narrator–you can’t help but root for him, flaws & all.

As a newcomer to this historical period, I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to follow what was going on. I was needlessly worried, though, because not only were the historical maneuvers/events/characters easy to follow & well-explained, but Cornwell also sprinkled the story with tidbits about daily life during that time. The history & the culture came to life for me, and I felt absolutely transported as I was reading. Even the battle scenes were so vivid & well-done that I was able to visualize everything so well.

Another thing I really like about this book was that for being the first in the series, it still had a satisfying end. There was a good balance of things resolved versus things left unresolved. I guess what I’m saying is that I have enough questions to make me want to continue reading without feeling like the ending was too abrupt or left hanging too open-ended. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the next book!

All in all, if you are interested in Vikings, early England, or romping good historical fiction–you need to read this. I think fans of Vikings (the show) & (I even go as far as to suggest) Game of Thrones will enjoy this. Bernard Cornwell is a master of historical fiction & I’m very much looking forward to reading more of his work!