Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hell Week

Hell Week is the (dare I be cliché and say it? I dare!) hellishly good sequel to Rosemary Clement-Moore’s Prom Dates From Hell. This fun, supernatural YA novel continues the Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil series.

Now, if you haven’t read Prom Dates From Hell yet I gently (okay, not so gently) warn you that this review may contain small spoilers. This series isn’t quite as explosively serialized as The Summoning/The Awakening or The Hunger Games/Catching Fire – but still. Don’t want to ruin any of the fun, right? So, I happily supply the link for you to read the review of the first novel Prom Dates from Hell instead: http://bibliophilesupportgroup.blogspot.com/2008/05/prom-dates-from-hell.html

Okay, moving on…

Maggie has moved on from high school (a cool rarity in YA) and is a freshman in her professor dad’s college. But bursting into the local newspaper scene is proving a lot more difficult for our likable Veronica Mars/Buffy hybrid than she hoped. Not even her college newspaper is all that friendly and resists succumbing to her charming personality (that’s a bit of sarcasm, if you didn’t realize that, in honor of Maggie).

However, the Phantom Pledge idea comes about – in which Maggie goes undercover to show what being a pledge during sorority rush is really like. Despite the delicious feeling of seeing her articles (anonymous, of course) in the college paper, once her Anti-Evil instincts kick in, it stops being an acceptable irritance to hang out on Greek Row and becomes moreabout life and death. Something bad is happening, and Maggie’s determined to figure it out. She wouldn’t be the heroine if she wasn’t, after all.

One of the many things I really enjoyed about Hell Week was how Rosemary so easily transported Maggie to college from high school and keep her (SPOILER ALERT – this is your second warning!!) somewhat isolated from her closest friends without the novel being any less entertaining – and, in fact, more believable.

From start to finish, Hell Week is an excellent follow-up to Prom Dates from Hell – matching, if not exceeding, the humor, wit, and chills. I actually can almost say I was more invested in the mystery/supernatural element of Hell Week than Prom Dates from Hell, and that really is saying something.

I really look forward to reading Highway to Hell and hope it is not the last novel Rosemary Clement-Moore pens for Maggie Quinn and her Evil fighting powers. With characters like her eccentric grandmother, barely-believing mom, dorky yet awesome dad, hunky but still geeky boyfriend, and once an evil-genius-to-be turned repentant best friend – how can you go wrong?

Answer: You can’t.

By the way: Happy Thanksgiving! You know what I'm thankful for? You! Thanks for reading my blog and letting me know I'm not the only bibliophile!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Invisible Lines

Invisible Lines is the newest middle-grade novel written by Mary Amato.

Trevor Musgrove has just moved to a not-so-cheerfully nicknamed apartment complex (“Deadly Gardens”) with his hard-working mother and two young siblings. His new middle-school is of a higher caliber than he’s been to, and Trevor is determined to get “in” with the popular boys, stay in an interesting class that he was somehow mistakenly placed, and make the elite “Plague” soccer team.

Thing is, unlike some of his new friends, Trevor needs to baby-sit his little brother and sister every evening while his Mom works to keep a roof over their heads. Also, unlike his new friends, Trevor can’t really afford a notebook for his new advanced science class or the cleats for soccer. He’s not sure how he can make all his dreams come true, but he’s sure gonna try.

First off, if the cover of Invisible Lines puts you off – I’m with you. (Because of technical issues, I was unable to put a cover picture on this post, but to check out the book and see what I'm talking about click here: http://www.amazon.com/Invisible-Lines-Mary-Amato/dp/160684010X/ref=pd_ecc_rvi_cart_1) It comes off even younger than middle-grade. The size of the print doesn’t really help either (large, senior-style words).

But once you start the novel, I’m pretty sure you’ll be as impressed as I was.

Invisible Lines delves into the rarely seen world (in children’s literature, especially) of next-to-utter-poverty. For Mary Amato to really show in a poignant, never overdramatic way, the life of a talented, smart boy living in the kind of apartment complex you never want to live in – dangerous, sad, and sometimes hopeless – and come out with an inspiring book that even brought tears to my eyes – Wow.

Some events that happen at Trevor’s apartment building startled me with its stark and heartbreaking reality. Things that many kids see or hear about daily, but you rarely read in books written for the age group. Mary Amato never talks down to her reader, and keeps the tone steady. I never felt that I was being taught a lesson, as much as seeing a real person’s life and the unpretentious encouragement that comes from that.

Mary Amato portrays Trevor’s mom realistically and sympathetically, but never smoothes away the flaws or edges of the authenticity of this life.

Yet, I make Invisible Lines sound far more depressing than it really is.

Invisible Lines also has lots of humor – at first the humor seemed a bit childish, but before I knew it I was enjoying it and identified the down-to-earth nature of the banter and jokes in everyday life. The characters in general, especially Trevor’s classmates and Trevor himself, came across as very grounded and recognizable to your own (at least my own) middle-school experience.

I never expected to be inspired (or find out so many, believe it or not, interesting facts about) mushrooms! But, I lie not, I’d be surprised if you don’t agree with me in saying that Invisible Lines is a powerful, sweet, and funny look at a boy who has a lot stacked against him and proves that it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Another novel that proves that the label “Ages 10 & Up” means nothing. ;)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Candle Man: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance

The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance is the first book in a planned trilogy named Candle Man by Glenn Dakin.

The plot centers on teenage Theo who has been brought up in what would basically be described a “secluded” way. You see, he’s been told since he can remember that he has a serious and dangerous illness involving his hands, which means Theo wears special gloves. Thing is, his guardian, Mr. Saint, and his ever-present butler, Mr. Nicely (I know, awesome names, right?!) have kept Theo so cut off from the outside world, that he can’t help but thirst for knowledge of the rest of England.

So as soon as Theo has the opportunity to escape the confines of his room, he takes it. Even if he is rather frightened and unprepared for what lies ahead of him.

What he doesn’t realize until later is, his guardian might not be such a “saint”, nor his butler quite as “nice” as he always believed. And maybe he has a true ancestor; someone called reverently the “Candle Man”. And maybe there’s an evil conspiracy at works.

And maybe, just maybe, Theo is the only one who can stop it.

With a title like The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance, I already had a feeling I would like it. And guess what?

I did. :)

I liked it quite a bit actually! Right away there was a hint of A Series of Unfortunate Events in the style of writing (not quite as many vocabulary definition pauses, though, lol) and zest of characters. That’s a plus right away, in my Lemony-Snicket-lovin’ opinion.

But the plot itself was original, fun, engaging, and had just the right amount of seriousness and depth to make it more than just a fluff book (which I have nothing against – I just do appreciate some sincerity). Theo is truly a sympathetic, likeable character. Glenn Dakin manages to make him naïve without making him stupid, and sweet without being wimpy.

The whole cast of characters are flavorful and attention grabbing – and the action is actually rather thrilling! The fantasy elements and creatures were well executed – and, again, quite unique and interestingly incorporated into the plot. I think you’ll know what I mean when you read it.

I don’t want to give too much away, is pretty much what I’m saying. As always. ;)

I think the point is: There are actually twists to give away, which means you should NOT pass on The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance just because it may say “Middle Grade” or “Ages 10 and up”.

Most of us bibliophiles know better than to pay any attention to these labels – since an awesome book knows no age limits! But I was once, alas, a simple-minded bibliophile-in-training that for a time did pay attention to such things – so I warn any that are as I once was.

Candle Man: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance is a witty, smart, entertaining fantasy novel that left me quite, ahem, “vigilantly” looking out for the next book in this trilogy. ;)
Check out the official website at: http://www.powerofthecandleman.com/

Vampire's Assistant Giveaway Results!

Thanks to everybody who entered the Vampire's Assistant contest! Two winners have been selected and sent emails. If you are one of those lucky people make sure to email me back ASAP! :)

Go see the movie, bibliophiles! With all those previews they're showing on TV, ya can't help but be intrigued, eh? ;)