Thursday, November 3, 2011

Scream Like You Mean It

Halloween is over. For all of you vampires and werewolves inspired by the season and just now coming off your sugar high, I have a couple reviews just for you.

"Killer Pizza: The Slice"

By Greg Taylor
For Ages 10 – 14
 Four months after the first "Killer Pizza" tale ends, "The Slice" begins. Toby, Annabel, and Strobe are back in action in a new fast-paced adventure with new monsters, perilous fights and interesting locations. Rated 4.5 (violence, peril, monsters)
Our "Scooby Gang" begins their adventure in New York City, where they are scheduled to take part in a training program for promising Killer Pizza employees. This trip is not about pizza though. It is about monsters. Note: If you missed the first book you need to understand that Killer Pizza is a successful pizza chain that acts as a front for monster hunting and relocation.

In New York the team is sent to meet a Dekayi girl at Central Park and bring her into headquarters so that she can be protected from her own kind. Very little is known about the Dekayi, beyond their existence. Things take a predictable but thrilling turn. Soon the Dekayi monster-girl, who we come to know as Calanthe, is living with Annabel in Hidden Hills. The gang protects her, learns about her people, and tries to help her assimilate into normal everyday teen life. It’s easier said than done.

True to the first book, “The Slice” stays solidly in the B-movie fun zone and mixes in a little “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” with “Men in Black.” It delivers a zesty entrĂ©e of action, monsters, and humor that will have preteen and teen readers turning the pages. Hopefully Greg Taylor won’t make us wait too long for the next sequel. There is plenty of peril, frights and gross out moments. If your preteen or teen is prone to nightmares, be cautious with this take out. Otherwise, order up and enjoy this tasty treat.

"Wolven: The Twilight Circus"
By Di Toft
For Ages 9 – 12
What do you get when you combine werewolves, cryptids, the military and your average teenage boy? An action-filled adventure called, "Wolven: The Twilight Circus." Rated 4.25 (monsters, violence, peril) 

In this follow-up to "Wolven," Nat Carver, the average teenage boy and a royal wolven named Woody run away and join the circus. The first tale left Nat, his family and Woody on the run from the British government and on the world’s "most wanted" list.

Now, traveling with a special circus of mythical and magical creatures Nat is becoming more aware of special skills such as telepathy, hyper-sensitive smell and even a shape shifting. His new skills will be tested as they face evil vampires (not all vampires are evil) and their arch nemesis Lucas Scale, a twisted werewolf who made a deal with a demon for greater power.

Reading the first book helps, but it’s not necessary. Toft does a great job adding humor and gross-out moments for preteen readers. The action is plentiful and the characters are well-developed. Readers become emotionally attached to Nat, Woody and the other strange creatures of the circus and will enjoy the supernatural lore and magical moments of illusion without much of the gore that can be found in edgier young adult materials. It is a very solid addition to the "Wolven" series.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What's So Punny?

Ready for a new review? Of course you are. Why else would you be here? Before I get to the next book, I want to announce that my reviews have been picked up by The Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina. Yay! Now for a new review.

"Seriously, Norman!"

By Chris Raschka
For Ages 10 - 14
It's "39 Clues" without the deadly enemies and family fortune and... well, the 39 clues. This meandering journey of observation and imagination is filled with big ideas, adventurous travel, quirky characters and humor. Rated 4 (bad language, perceived peril, adventure)

Best know as an illustrator on books such as, "Sourpuss and Sweetiepie," "I Pledge Allegiance" and "A Ball for Daisy," Chris Raschka makes his fiction debut with this adventure that seems to be more about enjoying the journey than reaching any destination. Everything begins when Norman Normann miserably fails his high school entrance exam. A good score would have gotten him into an exclusive high school. His well-meaning but oblivious parents hire Balthazar Birdsong, a highly-unorthodox personal tutor to prepare him for next year's exam. Balthazar gives Norman a dictionary and the directive to read it from cover to cover. Balthazar also encourages him to observe the clouds, and use his imagination.

When the dictionary entries seem to for tell the future Norman learns that his father sell bombers for a living and is mixed up with some strange and shady characters. Before long Balthazar is teaching Norman and his friends Leonard, Anna and Emma. They decide to rescue Norman's father, Orman, from the bomber business and track him halfway around the world. Good thing the tutoring seems to have prepared Norman for anything that he may face.

"Seriously, Norman!" is filled with unique perspectives, definitions, absurdity, puns and wordplay. There is plenty to like and plenty to dislike. The ideas seem to ramble as the story meanders from one event to another. Parents who are concerned about their children learning and using bad language should be aware of pages 220-221, which cover a four-letter word beginning with the letter S. It does nothing to propel the story, so if you are reading the book as a family feel free to skip those two pages.

Although "Seriously, Norman!" is entertaining, I think I prefer Raschka's picture books.