Chapman, Lara. Accidentally Evil
April 14th 2015 by Aladdin (first published January 6th 2015)
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline.
In this sequel to The XYZ's of Being Wicked, Hallie returns for her second year at Dowling Academy. She is now a Crafter rather than a Seeker, and gets to room with Ivy again, to her great relief. She is still e mailing Cody, and making plans to see him when his school comes to Dowling for the Samhain celebration. She still has the gift of inheritance, and tries to be very careful not to absorb any more powers from other people, although she does pick up the ability to see people's auras from one of her teachers. Kendall and Zena are still up to no good, at one point turning Hallie's eyes bright blue and doing away with her need for corrective lenses! They have even more evil plans up their sleeves (even though they are supposed to be good witches and Hallie is supposed to have the ability to do black magic), and things come to a head at the school's Samhain celebration. There is a third book in the offing, but no date available for it.
Strengths: A decent amount of magic, a boarding school, and lots of girl drama with a touch of romance make this a good choice for readers who loved Harry Potter but want something a little girlier. There are supportive adults, good friends, and the romance is middle school appropriate.
Weaknesses: I don't feel like I have a good handle on Kendall's motivation. Her character is not developed much at all, which makes her a less threatening adversary.
What I really think: I prefer my friend drama without magic, I think, but I definitely have readers for these books.
Shurliff, Liesl. Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk
April 14th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Netgalley.com
When I saw the ARC of this, it occurred to me that there are a lot of fairy tale themed middle grade novels that feature princesses, but not as many that have action and adventure. Since our sixth grade is currently doing a fairy tale unit (and because one of my favorite Gene Kelly movies is his made-for-tv coverage of this story), I had to take a look.
Odd things are happening around Jack's farm, and whole shops and houses are going missing. Surely, it can't be giants, because they haven't been seen in years. When Jack sees his father (as well as a new calf) pocketed by a giant and spirited up into the sky, leaving only a sprinkling of dirt behind, he knows that he must do something. He sells the family cow to Jaber for the magic beans, grows the obligatory bean stalk, and ends up in the care of the giant Molly, who has no intention of eating him. The giant community is beset by a lack of food that seems to be exacerbated by King Barf's overuse of the golden goose, and humans are used to process the human food that the giants take in raids. There are some attempts to grow food, but nothing seems to work. Jack gets put to work alongside Tom, but also tries to find his father. There is lots of humorous adventure-- Jack almost gets eaten in a pudding, pixies bedevil the humans, and the golden goose must be stolen in order to help food grow again in the land of the giants. Jack's young sister makes her way up the beanstalk, complicating Jack's search. Can Jack and the other humans reverse the giant's food issues so that the giants no longer need to steal from them?
Strengths: There are some good explanations for events in the original story. It's fun to see fairy tales fleshed out with some interesting details, and the inclusion of lots of running about and fighting is perfect for this story. I'll have to buy, just because there are so many fairy tales about female characters and so few with males!
Weaknesses: I got sort of muddled with the whole reason behind the giant famine, but at least that premise gave the giants reason to come down and wreak havoc on earth.