Allies & Assassins by Justin Somper

allies & assassins Allies & Assassins

In a fantasy/murder mystery mashup, sixteen-year-old Prince Jared finds himself inheriting a princedom at the death of his elder brother, Prince Anders. He’s not ready to rule and much less ready for the decisions he’s called on to make as his cousin, the Captain of the Guard, investigates his brother’s murder. Despite what seems like obvious evidence, Prince Jared listens to the new Physician’s apprentice, a girl named Asta, when she tries to convince him that the suspected murderer is just a ploy for the real killer. As Prince Jared and Asta team up to find the true killers, more and more of the Council of Twelve come under suspicion as there are more deaths and seemingly neatly tied motives. Can they find the real culprit before the entire princedom of Archenfield is plunged into war and chaos?

Not your typical fantasy book, but full of drama, intrigue and a whodunit murder mystery. More for middle grade readers despite some sexual references and crime scene investigative descriptions (love, babies, affairs). However, I did not love this book. I was vaguely bored by the various hours and council positions, and just did not like the characters enough. This was definitely more plot-driven. Doesn’t mean I won’t be reading the second book! I especially did not like Jared’s family except possibly his girl-cousin, who dropped off the face of the book despite being introduced as an interesting character. Too much was going on and not enough connections to the main character to really make you feel what was happening.

Nevermind my opinions though; read for yourself!



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Posted by on September 30, 2014 in Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen


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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

In honor of Banned Books Week, here’s one of the YA classics that is frequently banned. I had the occasion to read it over the summer, and I just have so much admiration for Arnie and his courage. So, read a Banned Book this week, and if you haven’t before, pick up this one (or Thirteen Reasons Why).

The-Absolutely-True-Diary-of-a-Part-Time-IndianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Feeling downtrodden because of his medical abnormalities and his outcast and bullied social status, Junior or “Arnie” dares to dream that he can leave his Indian Reservation to have a better life and education off the rez. As he talks about the sad realities and choices his family makes just to survive, he discovers that he doesn’t want their life. He wants to be a cartoonist and live his dreams, unlike his older sister who was once the brightest kid but now just lives in the basement. When Junior loses his control and throws a book at his teacher to protest how Indians are being poorly treated by the world and have to use ancient geometry books, his teacher, Mr. P, instead of being angry at him, teaches him to hope to be different. He tells him to not give up and accept how the white people treated them hundreds of years ago or how the Indians accept that this life is all that they can have, and they give up on achieving things that matter. With this new revelation, Junior decides to attend a new school, located in a prosperous white farm town, and though his parents try to gently talk him out of it, they eventually support him and warn him that every other Indian will believe he is turning his back on them and their way of life. As Junior deals with the fallout of his choices, he grows up and learns to stand up for himself and what he wants, but also he learns acceptance and is accepted in turn even though he’s different.

It’s a poignant novel exposing the reality of Native American life and how the possibilities can change when you make them change. For a boy who seemed to be trapped and abused, even he can be set free to offer his gifts to the world. Hopefully he will inspire you, too, to stand against the crowd and be yourself.

Notes: This books contains sexual references (but not sexual actions), offensive language, alcohol, death, and violent situations. Overall, it’s just honest. Don’t let the notes scare you, but do know that’s why this book has been banned (though it shouldn’t be!)

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Posted by on September 23, 2014 in Contemporary fiction, Young Adult/Teen


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Cat Royal Series, 5 & 6: Black Heart of Jamaica and Cat’s Cradle

I was very lucky to get my hands on these copies of the Cat Royal mysteries, as they are only published in Great Britain. A few libraries in the United States have copies, and I was able to borrow them. I love this series because it’s just enough excitement, romance, action, historical fiction, and clean reading to be an awesome series, especially for middle grade readers. I confess, I’m not sure why these are not more popular? I love Cat Royal and her friends, and I especially love the fun fictional quotes in the beginning of the book from time-period famous contemporaries of Cat Royal. You can read my review about the first four books here.

n245213 Black Heart of Jamaica (Cat Royal, 5)

After her escapades being press-ganged into service aboard a ship in Her Majesty’s navy, Cat Royal finds herself in Philadelphia with virtually nothing to do. Intent upon making her own way, she and Pedro join a new group of players bound for the Caribbean. Upon their arrival in Jamaica, Pedro is not allowed to disembark to join the troupe as he is African and there is an uprising of slaves over on a neighboring island. Pedro, fortunate to be free, will not be treated well if he was allowed into Jamaica. Already fervent in his hatred of slavery, Pedro searches for any way to join the uprising. Meanwhile, our heroine must learn to be independent even without her faithful almost-brother. Though she was slated for minor parts in the rehearsed plays, she quickly is cast to the forefront in the leading ladies’ roles. Much to her surprise, she rediscovers her old mate, Billy, now turned into a ‘gentleman’ plantation owner and a great admirer of her skills as an actress. Delightful verbal sparring and banter ensue with the always dastardly Billy and the stubbornly righteous Cat, and Cat finds herself in a tangle when Billy gives her a slave. Billy makes it so Cat cannot free her, but neither can she refuse to keep her, as the girl will be put to harsh work. Cat reluctantly keeps her, but determines to do her best to outwit Billy. As a result, Pedro and Cat get in a huge fight, and Pedro disappears. Desperate to know whether he is alright, Cat abandons the theatre group to find him, and what follows is a very interesting adventure. The despicable Mr. Hawkins is back too, and he is out for revenge against Catherine.

cat Cat’s Cradle (Cat Royal, 6)

In this adventure, Cat heads up to Scotland to find out whether she has any remaining family after new information pops up in London that a woman was posing as Cat’s relative. Cat pretends to be a mill worker to get to know the Moirs, and as she does, she can’t help loving them. However, Mrs. Moir doesn’t like Cat at all. So, instead, with help from another local boy, Jamie, Cat journeys into the moors to find her younger half-brother, Rabbie, who is part of a group of rowdy, uncouth thieves. Once again, her daring lands her into a pot of hot water as the law comes after her and her association with Rabbie’s criminal band. Will Cat finally gain a real family or will the reputation of her half-brother’s relatives tarnish her own good standing?

Once again, fantastic adventures perfect for up and coming middle grade readers! A bit of romance, adventure, and a dose of hearty justice to boot.

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Posted by on September 16, 2014 in Historical fiction, Young Adult/Teen


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Of Neptune (The Syrena Legacy, 3) by Anna Banks

Of-Neptune-Of-Poseidon-3-Anna-BanksOf Neptune

The final book in the Syrena Legacy trilogy, in Of Neptune, Emma and Galen have a great need for a vacation. Galen is still mourning the death of Rachel, his human friend/mother figure, and seems to need space from the kingdom and his brother Grom’s kingly pressures. They were already planning to head into the mountains, but Emma’s grandfather, King Antonis, asks her to visit a small town near Chattanooga, TN called Neptune. He doesn’t give her any more clues, and when Emma and Galen make a stop at a nearby lake, they get a very big surprise. They meet a Half-Breed boy named Reed who lives in Neptune, and the town is full of freshwater Syrena and Half-Breeds that live harmoniously with humans. All seems perfect and idyll in this little town, or is it? When Emma and Galen get in a fight over their future, Galen threatens to leave, storms out, and is kidnapped by Syrena thugs. While he figures out how to get out of this mess and back to Emma, all without endangering his brother, Emma is busy being romanced by Reed and seduced into advocating for Neptune’s rights with her grandfather and mother. Both Emma and Galen must deal with the pressures their society and customs place on their relationship and that realistically they might not have a future together. Can they bring a greater glory to Neptune or will their society be exposed and exploited by the human world?

This is a quick read, captivating if but for the brief moments of reading it, and satisfying to end the series (other books found here). Though the characters are certainly older, this emotionally seems to be more of interest to middle grade readers. Some conflicts, romance, and a happy ending. Fairly clean read, except for the few instances of violence/death. Even in the epilogue’s “mating ceremony”, things are basically G rated as it reads more like Ariel’s wedding ceremony to Eric in The Little Mermaid and definitely less suggestive than the honeymoon scenes in Breaking Dawn.

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Posted by on September 9, 2014 in Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult/Teen


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Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

8b4659348d64f3809ce0d425400fcfe3Rebel Belle

Another female superhero novel, this time taking place in the South among young ladies who must be the picture of southern hospitality and grace.

Harper Price is a perfectionist and everyone knows it, even her arch-rival David Stark, a school reporter. Harper was born to succeed and when she unsurprisingly wins Homecoming queen, what is she doing when she’s supposed to be on stage accepting a crown?

She’s killing her crazed history teacher, who’s wielding a large sword and trying to murder her, with her high-heel because he killed the janitor. Oh, and the janitor gave Harper some weird power before he died. Unfortunately for Harper, it means that she is now under a supernatural compulsion to protect David Stark since the history teacher and apparently other people are out to get him. She’s a Paladin, required to protect her Oracle until death. Harper can’t get over the irony of this newest life goal, and is upset at the wreck it is making of the rest of her life. How’s she supposed to be a perfectionist, save David and the earth from destruction, and still date!? Just when she thinks she has everything under control, she discovers she might have other feelings for David, too.

Compared with other books by Rachel Hawkins, I liked the Hex Hall series better, but Rebel Belle is entertaining if slow and murky to start. I found Harper to be a hard character to relate to (for all that I am also a perfectionist and have my own Southern roots), and just when the story was getting really good, it ended. Sometimes the plot moved very fast and sacrificed some characterization, with most of the characterization happening through the action scenes.

This is a pretty clean read, with all of the strong language masked by other word choices, and while there is romantic love interest and some talk of sexuality, no real other action in that area.

Guess we will see what happens in the next book!



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Posted by on September 2, 2014 in Contemporary fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen


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