Posts tagged mystery

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Cinderella is an Assasin

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Eighteen-year-old Celaena Sardothien is a prisoner in the salt mines of Endovier, living out a life sentence for her life as a notorious assassin. After surviving a year as a slave in the harsh mines, she is suddenly given a way to freedom: the king is hosting a competition for a position as his personal assassin, and Prince Dorian, crown prince of Endovier, wants to champion Celaena. Despite her loathing for the war-faring king, Celaena agrees, and her new journey–emotional and physical–begins. Once she arrives at the palace, she finds her competition to be fierce, full of other criminals and soldiers. Over the weeks of elimination challenges, Celaena finds herself involved with many of the big names at court. She also finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery as other potential assassins are found dead, one by one. Is she next? How can she stop what seems to be a malevolent, magical force? A destiny awaits her beyond any she could have imagined. Oh, and don’t forget love interests! (I’ll just say “love triangle with swoon-worthy guys” and leave it at that.)

Maas started her story on the premise that Cinderella was actually a deadly assassin. (more…)

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

History Turns Into Itself in This Newbery Winner

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Jack Gantos has a whole summer planned full of baseball, history books, and war movies when suddenly, caught in the middle of his quarreling parents, he becomes “grounded for life,” ruining everything. Even though he lives in the dying town of Norvelt (originally founded by Eleanor Roosevelt to help poor families) and there’s not much to do, when his mom volunteers him to help an aging neighbor type up the town’s obituaries, he’s less than thrilled. Soon, though, Jack finds himself absorbed in the town’s history and the “original” Norvelters, as his spunky neighbor calls them, and he’ll do anything to get out of house arrest and over to help her in her task. Soon he’s involved not only with the obituaries but in a feud with an old man who ride’s a trike, play-acting the Grim Reaper, distributing Girl Scout cookies, digging a fake bomb shelter, and a near-constant nose bleed, not to mention a potential murder. Suddenly his summer is anything but dull!

Described as “melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional,” Dead End in Norvelt is a most-times funny and sometimes heart-breaking story of a boy coming of age in an old town past its prime full of wacky yet believable characters. Both darker and lighter themes blend with Gantos’ humor as Jack finds himself imbedded in nearly everything going on in town. The relationships between Jack’s parents and himself are enough to fill a book, but author Gantos has woven an entire town’s worth of personalities and interactions together seamlessly. (more…)

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (book three in Graceling companion series)

Fantasy Adventure with Beauty, Intelligence, and Depth

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (Book three in the Graceling series)

Review based on an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC).

Let me start off by saying if you’re not familiar with Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series, go here first to read our review of the first book, Graceling, in this companion book trilogy. It’s a great fantasy adventure with an active, feisty female protagonist, and both Ruby and I loved it (and all consequent books!). If you have read Graceling and it’s companion Fire, carry on.

Bitterblue is, obviously, the long-awaited third book in Cashore’s fantasy world of the Seven Kingdoms. While Graceling focuses on Katsa (a young woman with a killing grace) and Fire goes over the mountains and into the past to show us the Dells and a human monster named Fire, Bitterblue focuses on the young queen of the same name. (Never fear, Katsa and Po fans: they, along with other familiar faces, are woven throughout the pages and in Bitterblue’s life.)

It has been eight years since Bitterblue’s father, the mind-controlling graceling King Leck, was killed, and she has been growing up under the title of Queen of Monsea. Surrounded by old advisors who would like to pardon all crimes under Leck’s horrific reign and pretend those decades never happened, she finds herself under a mountain of paperwork, governing a land she does not feel she knows. At first Bitterblue trusts her advisers’ judgment, but her growing frustration and a sense of ignorance about the reality of her father, his reign, and the people and society of Monsea makes her realize that she has much to learn. In a moment of exasperation, Bitterblue sneaks out of the castle one night in servant’s clothes and finds herself in a crumbling city full of thieves–some friendly, some dangerous–and finally realizes that the “truths” she is being told in her castle are not real. Through her budding relationship with two thieves and printers, Bitterblue slowly learns about her kingdom through her disguise and starts to uncover the fog that Leck left on his subjects, as well as the deceit and misinformation making its way to her palace. As her own mind wakes up to the realities of her kingdom–both beautiful and tragic–and she starts a secret project to uncover who Leck really was and how she can bring her people back to the light. Bitterblue is more of a mental adventure than its predecessors, but it still holds the key ingredients that have made all of Cashore’s books a success, including romance, adventure, suspense and intrigue, and difficult, sometimes philosophical questions about self and others. I loved Bitterblue, and my only (minor) regret is that I didn’t re-read the companion novels before diving in. (more…)

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assasin Book I)

French History, the Lord Death, and a Convent of Assassins

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (His Fair Assassin, book one)

Review based on an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC).

Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae has had a harsh life: born the daughter of death, her “mortal” father fears and hates her, and after years of beatings and abuse, she is sold into an arranged marriage. When strangers help her to escape, she finds herself taken to the convent of St. Mortain, where she learns that she is not only Death’s daughter but also a tool of Death’s revenge. At the convent Ismae becomes strong, learning everything from poisons and hand-to-hand combat to societal etiquette and effective spying techniques. Over the years, she develops friendships, new skills, and a place she calls home. (All of this takes place in 15th-Century Brittany.)

Several years later and in the midst of her first assassination assignment–her job is to find a man “marked” with Death’s fingerprint and perform His will–she encounters a handsome but frustrating nobleman, Duval, and he becomes a complication that follows her into her next trip and provides riddles as to the protection of the Duchess of Brittany, Death’s true intent, and the way the world truly functions. As the political intrigue grows, Duval and Ismae grow closer, supposedly working together while struggling to trust one another. When the convent determines it is Death’s will that Duval be assassinated, Ismae finds herself in an emotionally tumultuous position, unsure of her loyalties and her developing feelings. All the while Brittany is threatened by attack from France and the young Duchess is in ever-growing danger and in need of Ismae’s protection. Without giving away too much of the plot or romance, let’s just say it’s a really good page-turner! (more…)

The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan

Oh my Zeus! Is that a Greek god in that book?!

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Really? you must be asking yourselves. Rick Riordan? Hasn’t the whole world pretty much reviewed his books, like, years ago?

Well, yeah.

But hey, I loved the books! (Also, I’d rather review The Son of Neptune than clean my room.)

On the off chance that nobody here has read (or heard of) the Percy Jackson series, here’s a brief overview: ancient Greek gods and goddesses are real, and they never disappeared–they’ve followed the rise of Western culture and currently reside on Mt. Olympus over the Empire State Building. Percy Jackson–main character, obviously–discovers he’s a “hero” or Greek “demigod”, a half-mortal, and his father is Poseidon, which turns out to be problematic. After a brief time at Camp Half Blood, he and his new friends are off on a quest full of mythical beasts, minor deities, and worldwide catastrophe. It’s rollicking good fun, incredibly smart, and impressively accurate on the ancient history/mythology level. Alas, after five books, the series was done.

But wait! There’s more! (more…)

The Dark City (Relic Master)

A Four-Part Epic Saga Begins

Relic Master: The Dark City by Catherine Fisher (Book One)

In the world of Anara, members of the Order have been outcast and are hunted down daily by the Watch, a governing body that warns the people against the superstitions and trickery of the Order. Despite the dangers, Masters continue to shield the magical relics–seemingly mystic technology–left by the Makers, gods from long ago. Since the darkness came and the Order’s citadel fell to ruin, life is dangerous, and it is difficult to know who to trust.

In The Dark City, the first in Catherine Fisher’s new four-part series, relic master Galen Horn and his sixteen-year-old apprentice Raffi are interrupted one night with a message from a mysterious rider: a new relic has been found. Galen, who lost his powers in an accident, is eager to search out the center of all Maker powers with the hope of being healed; Raffi is still learning and scared, and he knows that the dangers of their journey are very real.

Soon on their travels they realize they are being followed and discover Carys–secretly a spy for the oppressive Watch–and invite her to join them, though they withhold their natures and purpose. Eventually their journey leads them into the dark city of Tasceron in search of the Crow, an ancient magical being that Galen hopes can heal him.  Constantly in danger and on the run, they learn more about each other and question beliefs on trust, loyalty, faith, and the things they value most. A twist at the end will leave the reader grabbing for more as we, the educated outsiders, start to understand things that the characters themselves do not. (Admit it: it’s always fun to figure things out and feel smarter than the main characters!) (more…)

A Spy in the House

Mystery and Murder in Victorian London

A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee

It is Victorian England, and Mary Quinn, a savvy twelve-year-old orphan with a secret, has been caught stealing food and is sentenced to hang. Through good graces and a series of sneaky maneuvers, she is rescued by a stranger and taken to the Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls for a proper upbringing where she will learn a lady’s traits.

Fast forward a few years, and Mary–now a well-respected and well-cultured young woman–is grateful but frustrated, unsure what she’s fit for and bored of needlework and polite conversation. When she finds out the academy is also a cover for the Agency, a women’s secret spy corporation, she’s swept up in the journey and learning, determined to further prove herself to those women who saved her that day on the street years ago. Sent on her first mission to listen in on conversations and observe while a more accomplished insider takes control, Mary quickly finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery and throws herself into the case, deeper than her peers would like. To add to the trouble she’s already in, a dark, mysterious man–a little broody, but rather like other romantic interests in the historical genre–keeps getting in her way and observing her attempts at infiltration. Mary quickly realizes that she must agree to partner up for the information they both so desperately seek. Romance, though forbidden, is in the air… And all the while, a murderer and master thief is on the loose. (more…)

Revolution

An Amazing Whirlwind of Emotions and History

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

(Review based on ARC of the book.)

You’ve got to respect a historical fiction novel for teens that has three pages of bibliography.

In this emotional whirlwind of a book, an American high school student–lost in despair over the death of her younger brother and the mental instability of her mother–finds herself through music and the history of the French revolution.

Andi is the equivalent of a musical prodigy, and when her brother dies, music is the only thing besides caring for her mother that keeps her going. (The anti-depressants help, but only just.) She’s flunking out of her private school, and she gets an ultimatum: complete a well-orchestrated senior thesis or don’t graduate.

Andi’s dad sweeps her off to Paris, hoping she can focus on graduation while he tests a 200-year-old heart for proof that it belonged to the dauphin, son of Marie-Antoinette. In the process, Andi discovers a hidden diary belonging to another 17-year-old girl, Alexandrine Paradis, the daughter of a puppeteer, who finds herself companion to the dauphin right before the start of the French revolution. Andi’s depression continues to rise and fall, and she gets pulled into Alexandrine’s story of pain, faith, and hope as Alex tries to survive the bloody massacres of her time and save the child prince. As Alex writes, “They are a truthful account of these bitter, bloody days.” Andi finds herself absorbed in the past, so much so that one night she finds herself thrown into the horror of Alexandrine’s world, unsure of what is dream and what is reality. (more…)

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