Wednesday, October 7, 2020

A Book Review: Misfits (Plus EXCLUSIVE interview with the author!)

    This week I'm reviewing the first in a fractured fairytale series that I hope you've heard about already. If you haven't, it is so worth the read, and I can't wait to share my thoughts with you.

    This post comes on Wednesday because it's the three-week anniversary of having my jaw surgery. I thought it would be fun to celebrate having made it this far healing-wise, and on how far this blog has come. When I first blogged about a book series I'd thought would be the perfect start to this site, I never imagined the way my small pet project would take off.

    This month it's going on six months, and already I've been blessed enough to host author interviews, participate in a week of book memes, and to interact with a number of amazing authors and fellow book bloggers. This has been an incredible journey, and I hope I get to enjoy six months more of it!

    There may be minor spoilers as I try to give an accurate picture of the book. The interview has no spoilers.

    (The discussion questions will have spoilers, since they are supposed to be used after reading the book.)

    Check out the awesome cover and review below.

Title: Misfits

Author: Jen Calonita

Series: This is the first in an ongoing series called Royal Academy Rebels. There is also a companion series, called Fairy Tale Reform School.

Targeted Age Range: 8-12

Synopsis: In Enchantasia, becoming a legendary prince or princess doesn't happen overnight. Enter Royal Academy, the training ground for the fairy tale leaders of tomorrow!

But Devin has major reservations about her new school and her royal future. How can she be a princess and the best creature caretaker Enchantasia has ever seen? It doesn't help that there's something seriously weird about RA's headmistress. Olivina seems obsessed with preparing students for possible attacks from villains ("A royal can't rule when they're stuck in a tower!") Devin gets that being Snow White and Rapunzel's fairy godmother has probably made Olivina pretty paranoid, but anytime someone steps a toe out of line, Olivina becomes more of a fairy nightmare than a fairy godmother.

Something isn't right with this lady, and Devin is determined to find out what. But what Devin discovers could change the fairy tale world forever...

Language: "Darn" is used once, along with a "thank God." Expressions like "For Grimm's sake", "fairy be", and "for the love of Grimm" are used multiple times. One snooty princess snaps at Devin, calling her a "misfit".

Violence: Some implied threats of death during suspenseful scenes. It's mentioned that some "unruly" students are banished from Royal Academy.

Romance/Sexual Stuff: It's mentioned that one of the princes, Heath, has a large group of female admirers, who all seem to want to be his future queen. There is also a "Most Likely To Snag A Prince By The End of Year One" superlative. A conversation between Devin and Heath has Devin's dressmaker mistakenly thinking they're a couple.

Spiritual Elements: None

Magic: Since the book takes place in a fairytale world, there is a large amount of magic here. Various magic spells are mentioned and used. Magical creatures/species such as unicorns, elves, dragons, pixies, and harpies are mentioned or make an appearance.

References: There are references to different fairytales, various fancy foods, and to various characters and settings in Calonita's Fairy Tale Reform School series.

Other Issues: The villain of the story lies about her true, sinister intentions, using her magic and influence to do what she wants. She also lies about her past including a former Royal Academy student. Once Devin's lady in waiting eavesdrops on a conversation.

Where To Buy: Misfits is available on Amazon, Sourcebooks, eBay, Barnes & Noble, Abebooks, Alibris, and Indigo. There is also an audiobook version done via Audible.

My Age Range: I think kids aged 10 and up would enjoy this book the most.

Read Aloud: I think this book would be better read alone.

My Opinion: I'll confess that I was a little late on the Fairy Tale Reform School and Royal Academy Rebels fan train. I honestly wish I could've gotten into the books sooner! I am one of those strange readers who read Misfits first, and then Flunked. As someone who's up to date on both series now, I'd suggest that you read all the Fairy Tale Reform School books first, before heading onto this one. Both are great as stand-alones, but it really does make more sense when you read them altogether.
    I really, really enjoyed this book, and I think it was in part to Devin's defiant personality. I loved seeing her doing what she loves as she cares for creatures, and befriending the different-but-similar Sasha and Raina. I also enjoyed all the fun twists on fairytale tropes, and what we know as "normal" for fairytale princesses. Most of all, I liked how Calonita's writing makes you feel like you're beside the characters as they live their lives.
    My favorite character in the book (other than Devin, of course) would probably be Logan. I really enjoyed getting to learn more about him and watch him go on adventures with Devin and her friends, and would love to see him become even more developed as the series goes on.
    I recommend this book for anyone who loves fairytales, who loves creative spins on fairytales, and who's looking for a fun, emotion-packed adventure.

Discussion Questions:

-Devin would rather take care of hurt animals than act like a princess, but her mother doesn't seem to understand this as well as her father. How does this make Devin feel? If you could give Devin's mother advice on how to raise Devin, what would you tell her?

-Headmistress Olivina reveals that she has more sinister motives when running Royal Academy. How does she hide this? Where were some places where you picked up on her more controlling nature?

-Devin and Logan both have to deal with the ways people view princesses and princes. From the story and any fairytales you've read, how are princesses supposed to act and behave? How are princes supposed to act and behave?

-Devin, Raina, and Sasha are three very different roommates. How are Raina and Sasha different from Devin? How is Devin different from Raina and Sasha?

-What was your favorite part of the story? Why?

-After reading this book, do you think you would want to be a princess or prince? Why or why not?

Spellbinding Stories: An Interview with Jen Calonita
September 21, 2020

What inspired you to write Misfits?

When I started the Fairy Tale Reform School series I mentioned there were other schools in the kingdom, like Royal Academy, and readers caught on and started asking a lot of questions! Who goes there? Why is there a separate school for royals? What do they teach there? I decided it would be run by the ultimate fairy godmother who had been pulling the strings on every fairy tale we've ever known. When a new crop of students, with an eye to the fairy tale future, start school there they aren't satisfied with the traditionsprincesses being rescued! Princes only saving princesses and fighting dragons! Devin decides to change all thator is rather forced to.

Do you relate to any of your characters in Misfits? If so, how?

I think all of the characters are fun in different ways. I love Devin's need to stand on her own two feet and not do what everyone else wants her to do because it's the easy thing to do. I love that she loves to get her hands dirty and climb trees and talk to animals. I can't talk to animals, but I love getting my hands dirty! Ha! I love taking a different approach to things. I think Ollie's fear of dragons is something kids can relate to as well. Not dragons, necessarily, but the fear of something "everyone" else wants you to like or doLike, everyone I know loves zombie movies and zombie TV shows, but just because it's cool to watch them doesn't mean I can actually do it myself. I'm terrified! So fear of things and how people will react to hearing your fears was a definite fear of mine as well.

Fractured fairytales are popular! How do you make sure your stories are unique from any other remakes you might see?

I love fractured fairy tales! I adore School for Good and Evil and the Whatever After series and The Land of Stories. There are so many great ones. I think to make it unique you have to focus on one aspect of the story and twist itfor me it was "What happens if a princess doesn't want to be a princess?" Mind you, this was before the whole Harry and Megan thing, which I've followed closely ever since!

Did you have a favorite scene or character to write? Why or why not?

I love writing Logan. He's my comic relief. I adore Raina and how she aspires to be the perfect princess and follow all the rules. Sasha is a young journalist, which is how I started outas a magazine editor—so her quest to get to the root of the story is something I completely understand! And Heath is a our dashing "Prince Harry-type" who is so much fun to write.

Would you consider making another series about Enchantasia after the Royal Academy Rebels books are finished? Why or why not?

I finished the last book in the Fairy Tale Reform School series this past MayCursed, book sixand I miss writing about Gilly and her friends already. That said, I'm working on the third Royal Academy Rebels series, which takes place after Cursed, so you do get to see some fun crossover stuff and learn "what happens after happily ever after", which is a lot of fun!

Out of all the characters you’ve ever created, which one is your favorite and why?

Oh, I couldn't pick a favorite! I love all of them for different reasons. I feel like they're my kids in a way. We've grown up together.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I love Soman Chainani, Sarah Mlynowski, J.C. Cervantes, Elizabeth Eulberg, Stuart Gibbs, and exploring new authors as well.

What are some of your favorite books?

It changes all the time! You should see my TBR pile by my bed. It keeps growing instead of shrinking.

What is your favorite part of being an author?

I love meeting with readers and hearing from readers. Right now we're not traveling or visiting schools, but when I do get to do that, I love hearing what kids are reading and what their favorite parts of the story are.

What’s your writing routine? Any techniques, music, or habits that help you write?

It's hard with most of my family working from home right now! But usually, I love to write with my chihuahua Ben Kenobi on my lap, with some light music playing in the background, in a very sunny spot of the house. And I find I work best in the early part of the day when I'm fresh and full of ideas (well, usually...).

If you could change any story’s ending (including books, movies, TV, or musicals/plays) which story would it be? What would be the new ending?

Movies...well, I've never gotten over Reese Witherspoon picking Josh Lucas over Patrick Dempsey in Sweet Home Alabama! I'd still change the ending on that one! I love rom-coms.

Who would you say was your greatest cheerleader while you became an author?

My greatest cheerleader would have to be my mom. She always encouraged my love of writing, even from a young age.

What’s the best fan mail you’ve ever received?

Any time someone draws one of my characters, I'm amazed they took the time to do that. I save everything they send me!

Why do you write for young people?

This period of time is so life-changing and something I look back on all the time and now see my own kids experiencing. I just love writing for this audience.

Are you working on any other writing projects?

Yes! My next Twisted Tale book, Go The Distance, about Meg and Hercules, is out spring 2021. First up though is a new middle grade I wrote called The Retake about a girl named Zoe who discovers a time travel app on her phone and uses it to try to fix things with her best friend.

When you’re not writing, what are you doing?

Spending time with my family, reading (I'm loving So This Is Love by Elizabeth Lim right now!), and home decor projects. Plus, I love any chance to be outside and on the beach.

What do you hope readers will take away from your stories?

I hope they put the book down and think, wow, that was a fun story that I could get lost in. That's what I love about a good bookit takes you away to a different time and place and you can get lost. Go get lost in a good book!

What advice would you give to other writers?
I would say to not be so hard on yourself. None of us writes a book and it immediately goes off to print. I've been doing this now for 15 years and I would say I learn something new every time I write. Not every story I come up with turns into a book either. But that's okay. You move on to a new idea you love and pour your heart and soul into that because at the end of the day we write because we love it and can't imagine doing anything else. We're storytellers and storytellers TELL stories. 😀

    Thanks for joining me for this special review and interview! I hope you loved reading about Misfits and hearing more about the author herself as much as I enjoyed putting this post together.

    I know that I usually say "thank you" to the author at the beginning of an interview, but this time I wanted to save my gushing until the end, because I want to go into detail about how awesome this author is. Jen Calonita not only responded to my short, rambling email, but was also kind enough to take a chance on a budding blogger and allow me to send at least twenty questions for her to answer. 😊 Through giving me a piece of her time in her hectic, busy schedule (which I'm sure is even more stressful now because it's 2020), she encouraged me to keep on writing and to keep on reaching out to other authors. I am beyond thankful to be able to post this interview and give her work some love.

    Next week I'm thrilled to post another review and interview. However, this author's story comes at life from an entirely different perspective...

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