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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.

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

Coraline

CoralineCoraline by Neil Gaiman

Pub: 2002

When a little girl goes exploring behind a locked door in her home, she ends up in an alternate world with a button-eyed “other mother” who wants to keep her there.

Opening lines:

CORALINE DISCOVERED THE DOOR a little while after they moved into the house.

After reading Gaiman’s Stardust, I figured I’d better have a go at his other popular book-to-movie — one which I haven’t seen before, basically because in the puppet stop-animation that’s used, even the non-creepy characters look kind of creepy:

coraline

 

What I liked: Well, it was definitely creepy and imaginative. I liked Coraline’s character — she was clever, determined, and smart.

What I didn’t like: Parts of it seemed to move slowly, and other parts were a little too simplistic. Although it was definitely creepy, I never felt like she was in any real danger; she seemed to have the situation pretty well under control and seemed to take it all in stride, which probably isn’t a particularly realistic reaction.

Heads up: Some major creepiness

The Boundless

Boundless

NEW this week…

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

 

4 of 5 stars

On the greatest train ever built, teenaged Will teams up with a traveling circus to save the train from bandits.

Something shifts inside Will, like a door opening.  Maybe it was meeting the circus girl, maybe it was the view of all these new mountains like a gateway to a new and dangerous world — but he feels like his whole life is about to be upended.

Fans of the Airborne series will absolutely adore The Boundless.  Will’s got the strength and courage of Matt Cruse, and Maren is similar to Kate de Vries in her spunk and devil-may-care sense of independence.  And, just like in Airborne, the heroes are working together on a fantastic piece of transportation — this time, the world’s longest, biggest train, that spans over seven miles long and contains over 900 cars.  The picture of the train itself is awesome and fabulous, and the world outside the train is just as exciting and unknown, with great beasts and mythical dangers lurking at every turn of the track.

Some may argue that this story follows a plot a bit too similar to Airborne, and, in fact, it did seem to take me a bit to get into the story simply because of that.  At one point, I wondered why the author didn’t just have Matt fly himself over to America, have Kate join the circus, and plop them both on a transcontinental train.

Overall:  A fun alternate history adventure in the same vein as Airborne

Stardust

StardustStardust by Neil Gaiman

Pub: 1993

A boy leaves the mundane town of Wall on a quest for a fallen star in a fairy world.

Opening line:

There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire.

I normally am adamant about reading the book before seeing a movie. However, when I’d seen Stardust years ago, I had no idea it was based on a book, much less one by such a well-known and much-lauded author. I’ve been telling myself for years that I’d read the book because I loved the movie, and well, I finally got around to it.

What I liked:

This is a classic adventure tale, with fairies and talking trees and whimsical things that aren’t as they should be and I love the amount of creativity and imagination that went into it. It’s been compared to Princess Bride (another book I have yet to see because I love the movie), and I enjoyed both of these 2nd-world fantasies (though this one is really more magical, and more of a portal fantasy than anything else).

What I didn’t like:

Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I recall the movie having more humor. I *know* there was more involved in the story of the lightning pirates and the relationship between Tristran and Yvaine. Basically, I was ruined by seeing the movie first, as this is one rare case where I really did like the movie better.

Heads up: This book would receive even stronger ratings than the movie’s PG-13 rating for its sex scenes and graphic/gory violence.

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.

Six Earlier Days

Six

Six Earlier Days by David Levithan

Pub: 2012

A novella that prequels the six days in the life of the body-hopping “A” from Levithan’s novel Every Day.

I wake up to the sounds of footsteps and muffled giggles, and the smell of maple syrup.

I still love the concept of a teenager who wakes up in a different body each day, and I love Levithan’s writing style. That said, this book read much like a ‘deleted scenes’ bonus from EVERY DAY — there wasn’t a whole lot that added to the plot, or clued the reader into A’s life prior to EVERY DAY, as the blurb had promised. A lot of the themes and situations felt like a bit of a rehash from the full-length novel.

The Dream Thieves

Dream

NEW this week…

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Raven Boys Cycle #2

4.5 of 5 stars

With the ley line awakened, Ronan becomes more and more engrossed in the world of his dreams and the objects which he can take from them.

Sometimes, some rare times, a secret stays undiscovered because it is something too big for the mind to hold.  It is too strange, too vast, too terrifying to contemplate.

Rarely are second books of a series better than the first, but I might have to give that acclaim to the second book of the Raven Boys cycle.  While the first book had an exciting plot and introduced us to some interesting characters, this book takes that one step further.

I love, love, LOVE the concept of being able to take objects back to the ‘real world’ from one’s dreams.  Coolest story premise I’ve heard in awhile.  Add into that Stiefvater’s poetic spin on words and way of building realistic relationships between her characters, and this book was hard to set down.

Heads up:  There is some drug use, coarse language, and lewd joking from one particular character.  I know we weren’t supposed to like him, but I didn’t even really want to read about what he did or said.  Although he’s important to the plot, I wished he hadn’t been included because his character and dialogue are really the only things I didn’t like about this book.

The Dream Thieves

Dream

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Raven Boys Cycle #2

Pub: Sept 17, 2013

4.5 of 5 stars

With the ley line awakened, Ronan becomes more and more engrossed in the world of his dreams and the objects which he can take from them.

Full review coming in September!

Overall:  An engrossing real-world fantasy with a clever premise and realistic character relationships.

The Boundless

Boundless

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

Pub: April 1, 2014

4 of 5 stars

On the greatest train ever built, teenaged Will teams up with a traveling circus to save the train from bandits.

Full review coming in April!

Overall:  A fun alternate history adventure in the same vein as Airborne

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