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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:


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.



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:



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

Liesel & Po


Liesel & Po by Lauren Oliver

Pub: 2011

4 of 5 stars

When Will, an alchemist’s apprentice, accidentally swaps a box of magic with a box containing the remains of Liesel’s father, it starts them on a journey, together with a sympathetic ghost.

Po hated the impression that living people had of ghosts.  It hated their idea that ghosts could find nothing better to do than hang around in basements and abandoned warehouses, jumping out at people.

This book takes a completely ordinary world and two very ordinary children and give them a few very extraordinary elements, that changes this Dickens-like tale to something fantastic and poignant.

This is, however, somewhat deeper than your normal middle grade book, dealing with issues of grief and the afterlife, verbally abusive relationships, murder, and some pretty rotten characters.  It reads a bit like a fairy tale, which some reluctant readers might not appreciate.

Overall:  Sweet, heart-wrenching tale of two orphans and a friendly ghost who helps them on an important journey.

Star Wars: Jedi Academy

Star Wars Jedi

Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown

Pub: Aug 27, 2013

4 of 5 stars

This graphic novel for middle grade students follows Roan’s first year at Jedi Academy, where he learns to use the force, build light sabers, and deal with the everyday struggles of middle school.

Full review coming in August!

Overall:  Fun illustrations, great mix of Star Wars fun and real life middle school

Peregrine Harker and the Black Death

Peregrine Harker

NEW on shelves today

Peregrine Harker and the Black Death by Luke Hollands

When a young journalist sets out to investigate the rising prices of tea, he stumbles upon a smuggling ring, a gruesome murder, and all sorts of danger and adventure.

Just one look surely wouldn’t hurt, and anyway who gives a fig about tea, coffins are much more interesting.

This book is incredibly action-packed: full of murder, mystery, lies, intrigue, heroic rescues, dangerous strangers, dark nights, car chases, smoking guns, coffins, smugglers, portly men with cigars… and that’s just in the first fifty pages.

My biggest problem with this book is that I just couldn’t seem to keep up.  I’d read a few pages, put it down, and when I came back, I’d have completely forgotten what had taken place to get the young hero into whatever predicament he found himself.  He continuously went from the frying pan into the fire over and over again so many times that I began to not really care that he was in constant danger; I was desensitized to his plight.  Not only that, but the clues all fell quite conveniently into his lap time and time again, to the point where it seemed the bad guys were just throwing themselves at him, and he ceased to take an active ‘investigative’ role.

Granted, I don’t know if anything changes in the last 2/3, and if you’re the type that enjoys Michael-Bay-esque 90-minute epic battles, then this book might be for you, but for me, it just didn’t work.

Abandoned after first 1/3 due to loss of interest, frustration with plot.

The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle

Hero's Guide to Storming

The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy
The League of Princes #2

Pub: Apr 2013

4.5 of 5 stars

The princes from various fairy tales team up (with a bit of help from their princesses) to find a magical treasure and defeat an evil warlord.

Mere words cannot defeat a true hero.  Unless they happen to be the words to some sort of Instant Death spell.  Magic is scary.

This series is so much FUN!

Rarely does a sequel live up to the fun, excitement, and hilarity of the first book in a series.  This book takes the characters we all loved in the first story and threw them together again, AND added more unique characters to join in the adventure.  Though the cast of characters is quite large, the author does a fabulous job of giving them each their own personality, their own likes and dislikes, their own shortcomings and subtleties.

Overall: The plot?  Fantastic.  The humor?  Laugh-out-loud.  The princes?  Simply charming 🙂

Other books in the series:
Hero's Guide

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

Hero's Guide

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
The League of Princes #1

Pub: 2012

4 of 5 stars

The Princes Charming from the tales of Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty join together to defeat an evil witch and prove themselves heroes to the kingdoms — and princesses — who are less-than-impressed by their past attempts.

“Oh, give me a break,” Liam yelled, and stomped his foot in anger.  “Why is there a dragon here?  Nobody mentioned a dragon!”

This book was so much FUN!

I love books like this, where you get so caught up in the unique (and somewhat over-the-top) characters, the silly humor, and the absolutely absurd situations in which they find themselves that you just want to keep reading about them, long after the book is over.  The relationship dynamics between the characters are awesome, too, and leave so much potential for development in the sequel(s?)

The classic fairy tales serve as the backdrop for this epic adventure, but adds to them in a way that makes them more fun.  For instance, Snow White has now married her Prince Charming, Duncan, and their life together is one of crazy, quirky antics where they frolic in the woodlands and give names to all of the animals.  He enters the story when Snow decides she needs some “me time” and sends him off into the woods, where he gets himself hopelessly lost and happens to stumble across the other Princes Charming on their quest.

Overall:  Both silly and sweet, a fun adventure that is sure to make you smile

Loki’s Wolves

Loki's Wolves

NEW this week…

Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr
The Blackwell Pages #1

3 of 5 stars

Matt (a descendant of Thor) teams up with Laurie and Fen (descendants of Loki) to gather a team of other god-descendants who will battle monsters to prevent the end of the world.

It was like the world had spun backward a thousand years and now they were old enough to eave home and get married, old enough to fight, old enough to die.  They were being asked to risk death because somewhere forever ago they had relatives who were gods.  Worse still, these gods had died and left them a mess to handle.

This myths-in-present-day middle grade adventure is somewhat typical of the genre (is that a genre on its own?  seems like it).  Start with some kids descendant from gods, add in some mythological doomsday, toss in a “chosen one” prophecy, spice it up with some rivalries and prejudices, and you have a sure win for fans of Rick Riordan’s middle grade series.

This story, however, seemed to be just that and not a whole lot more.  I didn’t feel like there was much to set it apart from Percy Jackson or The Kane Chronicles.  Perhaps middle-grade readers who adore the mythological-descendant series will really get into this one, but for the older reader, it seemed very formulaic and predictable.

Overall: A fun ride, but not much for originality.

Peregrine Harker and the Black Death

Peregrine Harker

Peregrine Harker and the Black Death by Luke Hollands

Pub: June 3, 2013

When a young journalist sets out to investigate the rising prices of tea, he stumbles upon a smuggling ring, a gruesome murder, and all sorts of danger and adventure.

Full review to be posted in June

Abandoned after first 1/3 due to loss of interest, frustration with plot.

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