Premier assassin Celaena Sardothien has been a slave in the salt mines for a year when Crown Prince Dorian comes to fetch her to participate in a contPremier assassin Celaena Sardothien has been a slave in the salt mines for a year when Crown Prince Dorian comes to fetch her to participate in a contest to become the King's Champion--and eventually win her freedom. Although his father is thoroughly evil and intent on taking over the entire world--he already crushed Celaena's land--the other option is slow death by slavery so she agrees. She misses the finer things in life, and enjoys all the rich clothing and food she gets at the castle, as well as the attention of the prince and his handsome captain of the guard, both of whom are reluctantly attracted to her. The contests are fairly easy even though she has to work hard to get back into shape, but all is not well in Adarlan. Something keeps brutally killing the other champions, inside the castle, and Celaena thinks it has something to do with the odd wyrdmarks she keeps finding--relics of a time before the king banned magic. There's something rotten beyond the obvious going on, and there are other ancient forces determined to use Celaena to defeat them. (If she can ever look up from the fawning men, the elaborate gowns, and the piles of food, that is.)
I was trepidatious starting this because I just have a moral issue with reading about "sympathetic" assassins--I just think assassination is wrong. But on reading this, I didn't really get the sense that the unpronounceably-named main character (this book overflows with unpronounceable names that kept tripping me up and pulling me out of the story) was much of an assassin, whatever she said. People kept managing to sneak up on her (mostly attractive young men), people came and went from her bedroom in a continuous parade and she often slept through it, she found strange magical markings beneath her bed and CONTINUED TO SLEEP IN IT, she ate a gift of candy that just magically appeared on her bed without thinking to test it for poison (since more than half of the other champions had been viciously murdered, one might think it would occur to her), she ate heavily before vigorous exercise (you'd think the fact that she always then vomited extensively would tip her off that this was not a good idea), she let people get her goat at the least provocation (you'd think an assassin would learn to control her temper before anything else), and she went into a fight with loose, long hair--perfect for opponents to grab. I mean, seriously? So really, I couldn't take her seriously as an assassin, which meant I was able to read the book.
Overall, there was nothing wrong with the plot, and I liked the secret passages and the secret magic and her friendship with the foreign princess. I could have done without all the descriptions of the ridiculously fancy gowns (and would an assassin allow herself to be wrapped up in something she couldn't possibly fight in?) which didn't seem to come from any identifiable style, but I liked the library and her love of books and research. I can see why a lot of girls especially really like this, and if I were the age for which it's intended, I probably would have as well. But I think I've just read too much Mercedes Lackey, and while she certainly has her flaws, her world building is intricate to the point of exhaustion, and her assassins would never have made all the mistakes C did--it's probably because of reading so much Lackey that I noticed all the issues here. So...not a series I'll continue with, but I'd buy it for my students. ...more
A small town in Maine is holding a new pumpkin festival, but everything seems to go wrong, including finding a dead body. Things go from bad to worseA small town in Maine is holding a new pumpkin festival, but everything seems to go wrong, including finding a dead body. Things go from bad to worse when the main character's husband is arrested for the murder, but she has an idea who the real culprit is--and believes it's tied to the disappearance of a woman in the late 1970s, whose sad story appears as vignettes in the modern story.
I just have to stop reading these. I keep forgetting that I don't care for this series, however good the description and world-building. It's just that no one is ever happy, and it's grim slogging through hours of audiobook when it's just unhappy on top of unhappy. Other cozy mysteries manage to create worlds just as well-built, but they're places you'd actually want to spend time, and characters you'd want to spend time with, so it's not derivative of the genre. I think what niggled me most was how often Lucy, the main character, just gave up in the face of more forceful personalities, but she didn't admit it was giving up; it's always couched as knowing when you're beaten or not wanting to fight a losing battle, etc. But really, it's giving up and giving in. Which is fine if that's how the character is, but own it. As someone who tends to do that myself, I'd rather read about an Amelia Peabody, who lets no one take advantage--much more aspirational!...more
I'm sorry, but this was just not great. There's nothing really wrong with the plot, but it felt like an Enid Blyton book with a lot of swearing and clI'm sorry, but this was just not great. There's nothing really wrong with the plot, but it felt like an Enid Blyton book with a lot of swearing and cleavage--mostly telling-not-showing, the villains were cartoony and one-dimensional, etc. Also felt like a mid-level fanfic. Or maybe a Lifetime movie....more
Kai is half-Japanese and half-American, living in Japan when the 2011 tsunami hits. After a terrifying few days in which he loses his grandparents andKai is half-Japanese and half-American, living in Japan when the 2011 tsunami hits. After a terrifying few days in which he loses his grandparents and his home, Kai's parents send him to his father's brother in Astoria, Oregon. There lives his female cousin Jet, who is determined to become a river pilot on the Columbia like her father even though it's a difficult job for a woman to break into. She loves sailing, but has lost her favorite sailing buddy, Beck, to his friendship with the obnoxious Roland. Jet's main aim for the summer is to win the Treasure Race, which both her father and her uncle won in their day. She needs a crew. Kai used to love sailing, but now he's terrified of the sea. He's also having a difficult time adjusting to his uncle's family, and missing Japan and his parents (who work at a nuclear reactor). Will he be able to overcome his fear and help his cousin out?
I mostly enjoyed this, though I felt Jet's story and her character rang more true than Kai's. With Kai, I often felt that his emotions/reactions were described but not felt, or just were not present. For example, when he learns that his grandparents have died, he recalls some past memories of them, but there's no sense of any emotion attached to the moment. He just continues with his morning. Overall I got the feeling that the author would from time to time remember, Oh yeah, he had a traumatic time, and then try to reference that somehow, but I didn't always buy it. Jet rang completely true, though, with all her desires and screw-ups and complications with friends getting older. The descriptions of Oregon and the Columbia were mostly good, but I often wished for a map because I couldn't picture things from the description alone (there is a map of the race, but it's at the very back of the book--should have been in front, with a bigger map of Astoria and surrounds, as well as a map of Kai's town, which I also couldn't picture). I thought the book moved along well (though that Swedish festival just came out of nowhere), and I liked the drama of the conclusion. I would recommend this for middle schoolers up to 7th grade....more
George, now in the fourth grade, has known she was a girl for a long time--but no one else does. She hates pretending to be a boy, and longs to wear gGeorge, now in the fourth grade, has known she was a girl for a long time--but no one else does. She hates pretending to be a boy, and longs to wear girl clothes and talk about girl things, but is (rightfully) afraid to tell anyone her secret. When her class gets involved with a production of 'Charlotte's Web,' George decides to try out for Charlotte, so she can at least be a girl onstage--maybe that will help her finally tell her mother the truth. But the path is not so easy. She has to deal with a vicious school bully, her clueless brother, a teacher who refuses to let a boy audition for a girl's part, and a mother who pushes the truth away even when it's right in front of her. On the upside, she has a fantastic best friend, and she has determination. Maybe there's hope for her after all.
This book has both won awards and gotten very mixed reviews, so I was interested to read it for myself. I quite liked it, and thought it did a good job of explaining how George felt, for kids who might never have encountered someone transgender in their own lives. There was some infodumping, but not much, and the best friend is a bit too wonderful to be real, but I don't see the problem with writing something more aspirational so that kids in George's position might have some hope. They don't get much of it in other aspects of their lives, and that's in the book as well--you seriously fear for George's life if the vicious bully finds out her secret. It will be a long, tough fight no matter what. It's a really good book to have available, especially at this younger age level....more
The last thing Annie Darling, proprietress of a mystery bookstore on a South Carolina island, expected at Christmastime was for the father who abandonThe last thing Annie Darling, proprietress of a mystery bookstore on a South Carolina island, expected at Christmastime was for the father who abandoned her at age three to turn up, expecting a warm welcome. He doesn't get it, but the fact that he's visiting ex-wife Happy and stepdaughter Rachel, who expected Annie to be a big sister, eventually thaws Annie reluctantly out. Which is a good thing, because her new family needs her support; Happy and Rachel are living with her sister Marguerite, a former movie star made many times wealthy on her own and from her deceased husband. Marguerite has come under the sway of charlatan Emory Swanson, who purports to connect people with their dead loved ones. When Marguerite declares her intention of giving him all her money, instead of leaving it to her husband's children from a former marriage, it seems inevitable that someone will murder her (it is a murder mystery, after all). But Marguerite is not the one found murdered, and the only people who have a motive to murder the actual victim are Annie's new family members.
I read this years ago but forgot I'd already read it when I downloaded the audiobook. Usually these are pretty light, and you have to put up with a lot of repetition of every single outfit Annie puts on and every watercolor in her store and all the times her cat Agatha is nasty (which is permanently) and so forth, and lots of dramatically over-the-top colorful metaphors (fairly tongue in cheek), and that's all here. This is more fraught than some of the others, with Annie's family being targeted, so it wasn't as much fun as some of the others. A good mystery, though....more
Orphaned Christopher overhears two pirates making plans. After they capture him, they force him to pretend to be mute and work on the ship they plan tOrphaned Christopher overhears two pirates making plans. After they capture him, they force him to pretend to be mute and work on the ship they plan to take over, which is secretly carrying government guns to Tortola. To Christopher's enormous surprise, however, it turns out he has a friend on board--a mouse named Leo who describes himself as a "human guide" and helps Christopher survive the dangers of shipboard life. It helps that most of the men aboard ship are kind, and that the captain's daughter--about Christopher's age--takes a fancy to him. As he gets to know more people aboard ship, Christopher feels more and more compelled to reveal what he knows--even though he knows he's risking death for himself and everyone else if he does.
I'm torn about this one. It moves along well and there's plenty of action, and clearly the author knows about ships (though maybe puts too much of that info into the book). The characters are sympathetic, if not complicated. I think maybe I'm feeling the difference between a book intended for an elementary school audience as opposed to a middle school audience. A lot is simplified or glossed over here. At several points it felt like a video game in which if you assemble the elements you need for something (a shelter, food, weapons, etc.), that's all you need to do; the game will do the rest for you and build the shelter, give you food, create your weapons. I just think Christopher had it too easy; he did very little on his own, and would have gotten nowhere without the massive amounts of help he got from the animals and the crew. So...I guess it didn't really work for me, though I can see kids liking it....more
Baronet George Braxton was universally loathed, but his distant relationship to the queen means Inspector Witherspoon is charged with solving his murdBaronet George Braxton was universally loathed, but his distant relationship to the queen means Inspector Witherspoon is charged with solving his murder before Christmas--in a week. The baronet was found face down in his frozen fountain, with a cat on his back. His three daughters all had reasons to hate him, as did his resident orchid-crazy cousin, and many members of his ill-used staff. Mrs. Jeffries, Witherspoon's doughty housekeeper, recruits all her team of domestic servants and friends to solve the mystery without Witherspoon finding out. Will they succeed? Have they ever failed?
This is later in the series than others I've read, so it was interesting to see the developments in the characters--someone is getting married, someone is unexpectedly and secretly wealthy. But really it's just more investigating and another baffling murder. Lots of red herrings this time. Still a fun, cozy series for people who want Victorian mysteries....more
Ove is only 59, but growing more curmudgeonly every year. He's the one in his housing development who reports illegally parked cars, fights over a fewOve is only 59, but growing more curmudgeonly every year. He's the one in his housing development who reports illegally parked cars, fights over a few kronor for parking, and hates his neighbor of 40 years for buying a BMW many years previously. All he wants is to be left alone and for people to follow the rules as strictly as he does. But when a loud young family moves in next door and simply refuses to leave him alone, Ove shows that there's much more to him than just the curmudgeon. Over the course of the book you learn about Ove's life right from childhood, and how his personality has led him through all the developments in his life, and made him a person that, as it turns out, his community can't do without.
Although there's a lot of sorrow in this, it's still uplifting and quirky and full of dark humor and good-hearted characters. Ove is a strong, solid character with unsuspected depths, and you want to spend time with him even though he would drive you nuts. The book is beautifully structured, revealing Ove's past at just the right pace to explain clues the author drops beforehand. The string of events is hilarious and absurd, even threaded with the dark humor, and eventually ties up in the end. Well worth reading....more
Ever since winning the Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library game, middle schooler Kyle and his team have been enjoying an easy fame in the commercialsEver since winning the Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library game, middle schooler Kyle and his team have been enjoying an easy fame in the commercials for Mr. Lemoncello's vast array of video and board games, as well as enjoying the spectacular library the billionaire designed for his hometown. Others think such easy fame is unfair, since there was only hometown competition. Others--especially game-loser Charles Chiltington and his mother--think the vibrant, hologram-filled library is a disgrace and want to wrest control from Mr. Lemoncello. So Mr. Lemoncello sets up a 12-game Library Olympics with teams from across the country, with the prize of a full college scholarship. One Midwest library lover, Marjorie Moldauer, is determined to obliterate Kyle in whatever way necessary, and loathes the entertainment-filled library as much as the Chiltingtons. Kyle is just worried that the hometown team will be so outmatched they'll have no chance. So let the games begin.
This is a fun series, especially for librarians and library lovers, with all the library details, book titles, Dewey numbers, etc. The characters are fairly shallow but that won't bother the kids who read it for the puzzles and the adventure, and to see just how horrible Marjorie and Charles really are. I was fooled in the end, which I appreciated--I like it when I don't guess mysteries, though I did pretty much know how it would end. My one quibble is that on one question the poisonous Marjorie insists that the judges' answer is wrong, and as proof, uses a site she found on Google. That totally should have been questioned to let kids know you can't just blindly trust any site. But otherwise, it was just fun....more
I found this utterly fascinating, particularly as a librarian, because this is a true mystery the author 'solved' by going through old documents, imagI found this utterly fascinating, particularly as a librarian, because this is a true mystery the author 'solved' by going through old documents, images, folksongs, etc. and piecing together a very old puzzle in a totally believable way. I was completely riveted....more
Blacksmith Meg Langslow has been roped into running a craft fair at a Yorktown Battle reenactment, organized by her boyfriend Michael's mother, and MeBlacksmith Meg Langslow has been roped into running a craft fair at a Yorktown Battle reenactment, organized by her boyfriend Michael's mother, and Meg is already regretting it. Michael's mother is running rampant over everyone and everything, particularly Meg, and fining the crafters hundreds of dollars for any modern anachronisms (including things that the "Town Watch" think are anachronisms even though they aren't). As if that weren't enough, Meg's brother is contemplating a deal with a shady software developer whom some friends of Meg are planning to sue, another blacksmith keeps (badly) plagiarizing Meg's designs, the cannons are firing all night, and Michael keeps wanting to talk about their future--which will involve Meg moving back to her hometown. All hell then breaks loose when the shady developer is found dead in Meg's booth, stabbed with Meg's dagger, and the new local police detective just wants a fast arrest--whether he gets the right person or not. So once more, it's up to Meg to sort out the true murderer before anyone else gets killed.
This is another fun series, completely and delightfully unbelievable, peopled with an excess of quirky characters and situations you only wish could be real. If you're looking for a light, humorous mystery series that still has sympathetic characters, try it out....more