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The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw

Hero'sThe Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy
The League of Princes #3

★ ★ ★ ★

Pub: April 2014

The League of Princes sets out to clear their names after being accused of killing Princess Briar Rose.

Opening lines:

“Harrumph.”

King Wilberforce was in a foul mood, as he had been ever since Prince Frederic had stormed out of the palace months earlier. His son had never lashed out at him like that before. And to think it was simply because he had banished his son’s fiancee.

The League of Princes is hands-down one of my favorite MG series. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom and The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle were clever, witty, and — most of all — fun, and this final book of the series (sob!) lived up to the excitement of the earlier books.

What I liked: I love the characters and the crazy situations they get themselves into. I love the quirky turns of phrase and the silly slapstick humor. And there’s a character named Val Jeanval! Is there anything about this book I don’t love?

What I didn’t like: Um… Well, there certainly are a lot of characters, and it can get confusing at times keeping track of who’s where when. I didn’t mind too much, but I could see how it might frustrate some other readers.

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Second Star

Second

 

NEW this week…

Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Wendy Darling goes searching for her missing surfer brothers and finds herself in a mysterious cove inhabited by runaways.

Opening lines:

I can smell the bonfire before I even get out of the car. It’s dusk, and the sun is low on the water.

I picked up this book because, well, hello, Peter Pan! I was really interested in a modern-day retelling w/ Peter and the lost boys as surfers. Very cool premise, and lovely cover (though it is eerily similar to We Were Liars‘ cover)

What I liked: I loved the nods to Peter Pan, from an orphan boy named Peter who flies on his surfboard over the waves, to his ex-girlfriend tagalong Belle with blonde hair and major attitude, to a great big dog named Nana. The setting is fabulous; I loved how the whole story engrosses the reader in the life of a coastal surfer.

What I didn’t care for: A large amount of the plot revolves around a love triangle and a drug dealer who specializes in a new kind of drug, dust. The MC spends a good chunk of the story doing things that don’t really make sense as she tries to find her brothers. I don’t really understand why she makes some of the decisions she does, and the whole last part of the book goes off in another direction which makes you question if this is really an unreliable narrator (a la We Were Liars). The ending didn’t feel resolved to me at all, and made me wonder if this was intended to be a series.

Overall: A beautiful setting, cool Peter Pan references, but the unresolved ending made me unable to ‘think happy thoughts’ about it.

Heads up: Teen drug use

Feather Bound

Feather Bound

NEW THIS WEEK…

Feather Bound by Sarah Raughley

When Deanna’s friend Hyde (who has been assumed dead for nine years) shows up at his father’s funeral, Deanna gets pulled into a world of secrets and betrayals of the rich and powerful, and must fight to keep her own secret safe.

Opening lines:

At precisely seven in the morning, my oldest sister, Ericka, arrived at our Brooklyn shack and was horrified to find our dad sprawled out on the couch, basting in a sea of beer cans.

When I first read the premise for this story, the part about ‘human swans’ confused me, so I’ll tell you flat out: some humans are also swans. They discover this during puberty when they grow a robe of feathers out their back, feathers which show themselves when their “fight or flight” mechanisms kick in, but most the time are hidden from the world beneath skin. Swans are considered second-class citizens, and their feathers hold important powers. There, now doesn’t that pique your interest?

What I liked: The premise is brilliant. It’s based on traditional fairy tale The Swan Maiden, and the adaptation to the modern world is fascinatingly done, even integrating swans into the world’s history, economy, and social classes. It looks, feels, acts like the modern world, with the difference being the addition of swans. The characters were complex and relate-able, and their relationships were realistic. Deanna and her sisters remind me a bit of the March sisters from Little Women — each unique, each with her own struggles, but each fiercely devoted to one another.

What I didn’t like: Some really awful stuff happens to pretty much all the characters. At times it was hard to read simply because of the horribleness of what was happening. Then again, it really wouldn’t be the same story without these elements. Also, the father figure is quite useless.

Heads up: violence, sexual content/rape, language, human trafficking

Feather Bound

Feather Bound

Feather Bound by Sarah Raughley

Pub: May 6, 2014

When Deanna’s friend Hyde (who has been assumed dead for nine years) shows up at his father’s funeral, Deanna gets pulled into a world of secrets and betrayals of the rich and powerful, and must fight to keep her own secret safe.

Opening lines:

At precisely seven in the morning, my oldest sister, Ericka, arrived at our Brooklyn shack and was horrified to find our dad sprawled out on the couch, basting in a sea of beer cans.

Full Review coming in May!

Overall: A fascinating premise (half-swan humans whose feathers hold magical powers!), interesting characters, and a world very much like our own.

Cinder

CinderCinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer

Pub: 2012

A mechanic in a future world tries to save her stepsister from a plague and prevent the handsome prince form finding out that she’s really a cyborg.

Opening lines:

The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle. Her knuckles ached from forcing the screwdriver into the joint as she struggled to loosen the screw one grinding twist after another.

With the recent release of the third book in this series, I found myself wondering once again why I hadn’t taken the time to read this yet. It’s got a fun mix of elements, from fairy-tale re-tellings to cyborgs to an insane/supernatural race of people that live on the moon. It’s one of those things that sounds so crazy, there’s no way it can’t be awesome.

What I liked: I loved the sci-fi aspects (the mind control, the cyborgs, the search for a vaccine for a worldwide plague) and how the author tied in so many of the Cinderella elements (a cruel stepmother, a handsome prince throwing a ball, even an old beat-up car the color of a pumpkin) and yet made it new and fresh, turning Cinder into a character who was trying to rescue the Prince, rather than the other way around. And on that note, it was nice to see a female lead who didn’t spend the entire book swooning over the handsome love interest.

What I didn’t like: Well, if you’re paying attention at all, you’re likely to be able to figure out the ‘twist’ at the end within the first fifty pages or so. It also ends on a cliffhanger, so be sure to have Scarlet ready to pick up as soon as you’re done with it.

Overall: Really fun sci-fi twist on a fairy tale

Second Star

Second

Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Expected Publication: May 13, 2014

Wendy Darling goes searching for her missing surfer brothers and finds herself in a mysterious cove inhabited by runaways.

Opening lines:

I can smell the bonfire before I even get out of the car. It’s dusk, and the sun is low on the water.

Full review coming in May!

Overall: A beautiful setting, cool Peter Pan references, but the unresolved ending made me unable to ‘think happy thoughts’ about it.

Anyone But You

AnyoneNEW this week!

Anyone But You: A Modern-Day Spin on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet by Kim Askew & Amy Helmes

Teens from two feuding Italian restaurants in Chicago fall in love and, in order to be together, must uncover the source of their families’ hatred for one another.

Opening line:
I took a deep breath and backed through the swinging stainless steel door, leaving the chaos of the kitchen and entering the hushed, dimly lit dining room.

As the third book in the Twisted Lit series (which includes Exposure: A Modern-Day Spin on Shakespeare’s Macbeth)the authors once again take some basic elements and themes of Shakespeare’s plays and works them into a modern-day scenario that teens can relate to.

I loved the idea of two feuding restaurants, and although I saw the *twist* in the 1930s/40s backstory coming a mile away, it answered a question that Shakespeare never did — the question of how this feud began in the first place.  Interesting take on it, for sure!

There is a bit of insta-love, but you can hardly fault the authors for that in this particular case, and — although I don’t want to spoil anything — the modern-day characters don’t go nearly as overboard with proving their love as the original Shakespeare characters!

Anyone But You

AnyoneAnyone But You: A Modern-Day Spin on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet by Kim Askew & Amy Helmes

Pub: January 18, 2014

Teens from two feuding Italian restaurants in Chicago fall in love and, in order to be together, must uncover the source of their families’ hatred for one another.

Full review to be posted in January!

Overall: A cute story of pizza, pasta, and forgiveness, inspired by Romeo & Juliet

Sense and Sensibility

TLCBookTours
SenseAndSense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

Pub: Jan 2013

A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic novel, in which two sisters deal with the ups and downs of love.

“Sometimes,” she said loftily, “it is only a matter of recognition.  Time means nothing.  Nothing at all.”

Fans of modern-day retellings, here’s another one to check out!  Trollope’s book based on Austen’s novel of the same name is probably one of the closer retellings that I’ve seen.  Having just read the original, it was easy to see how nearly every scene lined up with one in the original, and nearly every conversation and turn of events was worked into the new story.  Among the biggest differences — Marianne has asthma (thus her frequent illnesses), Margaret has more a personality of her own, and the antagonist (I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t read it) is involved in drugs.

Also among the differences was more angst — or perhaps it’s just more recognizable as angst in modern form.  Whatever the case, I didn’t feel nearly as sympathetic towards Marianne or Elinor in this version than in the original, mostly because I got a little sick of them pinning all their hopes and dreams on the men in their lives.  In Austen’s time, reliance on men and their money made sense due to the way their society was set up, but in modern times, it just made them look a bit pathetic.  If anything, it creates an interesting comparison between how the interminglings of love, marriage, family, and finances have changed in the last two hundred years.

Gatsby’s Girl

ClassicsRetold

GATSBY THURSDAY!
GastbysGirlGatsby’s Girl by Caroline Preston

3 of 5 stars

Pub: 2006

This biographical-fiction novel tells the story of Ginevra Perry, based on F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s first love, who broke his heart and inspired such characters as Isabelle Borge and Daisy Buchannan.

So typical of Scott, to take a punch party at a shabby country club and fill it with flickering lamplight and romantic interludes.  To take a stuck-up pre-debutante and turn her into a noble creature capable of deep feelings.

The first 3/4 of this book captivated me.  I loved seeing Fitzgerald’s life story, so often mimicked in his own books, through the eyes of one of his “PD”s (Popular Daughters).  It was easy to see how the great romantic egotist could take a half-hearted romance that meant so little to Ginevra and turn it into an epic story of love and loss like The Great Gatbsy.  Though Ginevra’s character was shallow, fickle, and flighty, it fit well with Fitzgerald’s own perception of the ‘carelessness’ of Daisy.  I loved the connections and how the author tied in historical facts about the Fitzgeralds and the real-life Ginevra, as well as parts of Fitzgerald’s stories, to create a very realistic, believable story of “the one who got away.”

The final section of the story (from about the time when Ginevra and Zelda meet) could probably be entirely skipped.  The final meeting with Scott in Hollywood was interesting, but the rest seemed to be two steps backward for Ginevra as a character — someone who finally knew what she was doing and was acting maturely reverts to her old, careless ways, making the whole thing end on a rather bleak note.

Overall: Reading like one of Fitzgerald’s novels, this story combines fact and fiction in a way that’s believable and intriguing.

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