Book Review: Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions Book 2: Wizardry Goes Wild

9781490770215_COVER_V3.inddTitle: Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions Book 2: Wizardry Goes Wild
Author: Sunayna Prasad
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Age Group: Middle Grade
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

After months of living a normal life, thirteen-year-old Alyssa McCarthy faces magic again. Only this time, though, she is cursed with it, thanks to an old depressed skeleton named Errol. Alyssa’s time with her godfather, Alex, will never be the same again, as she can perform sorcery, but never control it.

            From letting out enchantments at school to creating outdoor disasters, Alyssa is bound to face consequences. She can only get rid of her powers if she can boost her confidence levels and improve her bravery. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. She must measure those abilities with a special device called a skillometer. Will she be able to get rid of her unwanted wizardry?

 Alyssa McCarthy is back for another adventure in Wizardry Goes Wild. This time, she’s cursed with magic, but she struggles to control it – a talented sorcrer she is not. Alyssa doesn’t want to be a wizard at all, but she can only get rid of her powers if she raises her confidence and improves her bravery.

I enjoyed the first book in this series, so I was glad to see Alyssa again. She’s a wonderful, bright girl, and in this book, she’s on a bit of a personal quest, making it easy for the reader to get to know her even better.

The blend of technology and magic works well, the plot is fast-paced, and the characters are very likeable. Middle graders will love this book.

Mini-Reviews: Haunted by the Abyss, The Haunting of Tenth Avenue Theater, The Mirror Chronicles

minireview

Time for some mini-reviews! What are mini-reviews, you ask? As the title suggests, these are short reviews, consisting of one paragraph tops, about a book. It’s a way to catch up on the books I’ve read a while ago, but never got around to reviewing.

Haunted by the Abyss

Tite: Haunted by the Abyss

Author: Sarah Soderlund

Genre: Non-Fiction, True Haunting

Rating: 3,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Journey into the terrifying abyss, where malevolent spirits and otherworldly beasts lurk. From childhood experiences with demons and aliens to a Missouri cemetery filled with phantom drums and territorial ghosts, these first-hand accounts of paranormal phenomena will chill your bones and thrill your mind.

Sarah Soderlund, also known as Paranormal Sarah, has been psychically gifted since childhood. Her intuitive abilities, coupled with her education and extensive astral world investigative skills, provide a unique and fascinating perspective into the supernatural. She describes not only what happened in her haunted childhood home, but also why some houses are “alive” and how ghost energy can slam doors, whisper your name, or even manifest as a full-blown or partial apparition. Haunted by the Abyss takes you deep into Sarah’s investigations, where you’ll discover that these stories aren’t just scary . . . they’re real.

Review: An interesting account of Sarah Soderlund, Paranormal Sarah as she’s nicknamed, her gift to see spirits and her experience with the supernatural. She talks about the things she went through growing up in a haunted home, and then her experiences afterward – and she sure has a lot of experience. The book was an easy, quik read, but entertaining nevertheless.

The Haunting of the Tenth Avenue Theater

Title: The Haunting of the Tenth Avenue Theater

Author: Alex Matsuo

Genre: Non-Fiction, True Haunting

Rating: 2,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Is San Diego’s renowned Tenth Avenue Theater home to an unlikely cast of ghosts—and if so, what has kept the spirits of the dead bound to this venue of entertainment and illusion? From reports of a child’s tragic death on the premises to a suicide stemming from overwhelming guilt, there is grief, turmoil, and unfinished business lingering within these walls.

Alex Matsuo, an actress by day and a ghost hunter by night, was granted unlimited access to the haunted property where she has performed as an actor and staged professional readings of her plays. Investigating the popular and thriving theater she has always considered home, Alex must unravel the turbulent history of the building in order to find out why the ghosts of the Tenth never want to leave.

Review: Having never heard of this theater or the ghosts that haunt it, I was intrigued to learn more. However, the story involved a lot more around the author and her thoughts, feelings and perceptions than it did around the ghost stories. The actual history and research of the ghost sightings was also not extensive enough, as if the author just briefly glanced over it. The writing wasn’t stellar either.

The Bell Between Worlds

Title: The Bell Between Worlds

Author: Ian Johnstone

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Half of your soul is missing.
The lost part is in the mirror.
And unless Sylas Tate can save you, you will never be whole again.

Sylas Tate leads a lonely existence since his mother died. But then the tolling of a giant bell draws him into another world known as the Other, where he discovers not only that he has an inborn talent for the nature-influenced magic of the Fourth Way, but also that his mother might just have come from this strange parallel place.
Meanwhile, evil forces are stirring, and an astounding revelation awaits Sylas as to the true nature of the Other. As violence looms and the stakes get ever higher, Sylas must seek out a girl called Naeo who might just be the other half of his soul – otherwise the entire universe may fall…
Review: Sylas felt like a real person, so alive and realistic that I could just picture him being an actual person. He was flawed too, and those flaws made him more realistic. The writing was haunting and imaginative, and the story unique and original, with excellent world-building. The only downside I’d say would be the author’s tendency to use long descriptions sometimes, derailing the narrative.

Mini-Reviews: Little Sister Death, Her Final Breath, The Worlds Traveler

minireview

Time for some mini-reviews! What are mini-reviews, you ask? As the title suggests, these are short reviews, consisting of one paragraph tops, about a book. It’s a way to catch up on the books I’ve read a while ago, but never got around to reviewing.

Little Sister Death

Tite: Little Sister Death

Author: William Gay

Genre: Horror

Rating: 3,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

David Binder is a young, successful writer living in Chicago and suffering from writer’s block. He stares at the blank page, and the blank page stares back—until inspiration strikes in the form of a ghost story that captivated him as a child.

With his pregnant wife and young daughter in tow, he sets out to explore the myth of Virginia Beale, Faery Queen of the Haunted Dell. But as his investigation takes him deeper and deeper into the legacy of blood and violence that casts its shadow over the old Beale farm, Binder finds himself obsessed with a force that’s as wicked as it is seductive.

A stirring literary rendition of Tennessee’s famed Curse of the Bell Witch, Little Sister Death skillfully toes the line between Southern Gothic and horror, and further cements William Gay’s legacy as not only one of the South’s finest writers, but among the best that American literature has to offer.

Review: I love ghost stories, and this one is no exception, although at times, it didn’t catch my attention quite as much as I thought it would. It’s basically a retelling of the Bell Witch Haunting, but now when David Binder and his family move to the Baele homestead, where he hopes to find inspiration for a new book. The bouncing from era to era is a little difficult to follow at first, and makes it harder to connect to the characters. However, in the end it all ties up nicely.

Her Final Breath

Title: Her Final Breath

Author: Robert Dugoni

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 3,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite has returned to the police force after the sensational retrial of her sister’s killer. Still scarred from that ordeal, Tracy is pulled into an investigation that threatens to end her career, if not her life.

A serial killer known as the Cowboy is killing young women in cheap motels in North Seattle. Even after a stalker leaves a menacing message for Crosswhite, suggesting the killer or a copycat could be targeting her personally, she is charged with bringing the murderer to justice. With clues scarce and more victims dying, Tracy realizes the key to solving the murders may lie in a decade-old homicide investigation that others, including her captain, Johnny Nolasco, would prefer to keep buried. With the Cowboy on the hunt, can Tracy find the evidence to stop him, or will she become his next victim?

Review: I enjoyed the first book in the series, so I picked up the second one too. It was an okay read, and it had a few surprises, but the case unfortunately wasn’t all that interesting or original. Some of the drama seemed useless and done half a million times already. It did get better toward the end, and I did still enjoy myself reading it.

The Worlds Traveler

Title: The World Traveler

Author: M.L. Roble

Genre: Middle Grade

Rating: 3 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Life on the run from madman Martin Reimer gets in the way of everything.

For fourteen-year-old Phillip, it has meant having to stay hidden, unable to use his gift of moving through maps to search for his missing father. But the arrival of a stranger named Delroy brings unexpected opportunity, for Delroy is a man with the ability to travel worlds hidden within our own and he was sent by Phillip’s father. Now Phillip will do everything he can to find his dad, even if it means tricking Delroy into helping him or a quest through those hidden worlds.

Even if leaving home means Martin can now find him…

Follow in the adventures of Phillip Stone and Natalie Bristol from the award-winning book The Magician’s Doll!

Review: I didn’t know the book was a sequel, until I started reading. I didn’t really need the first book to grasp what was going on though. I enjoyed the story, but there was a lack of consistency, and the author used telling instead of showing. The pacing went from slow to fast in milliseconds too. So while it’s enjoyable, the writing could use some work, and the story wasn’t alwways consistent either.

Mini-Reviews: The Lost Girl, Abandon, Took

minireview

Time for some mini-reviews! What are mini-reviews, you ask? As the title suggests, these are short reviews, consisting of one paragraph tops, about a book. It’s a way to catch up on the books I’ve read a while ago, but never got around to reviewing.

The Lost Girl

Tite: The Lost Girl

Author: R.L. Stine

Genre: Young Adult, Horror

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Generations of children and teens have grown up on R.L. Stine’s bestselling and hugely popular horror series, Fear Street and Goosebumps. Now, the Fear Street series is back with a chilling new installment, packed with pure nightmare fodder that will scare Stine’s avid fan base of teen readers and adults.

New student Lizzy Palmer is the talk of Shadyside High. Michael and his girlfriend Pepper befriend her, but the closer they get to her, the stranger she seems… and the more attractive she is to Michael. He invites her to join him on a snowmobile race that ends in a tragic accident. Soon, Michael’s friends start being murdered, and Pepper becomes convinced that Lizzy is behind the killings. But to her total shock, she and Michael are drawn into a tragic story of an unthinkable betrayal committed over 60 years ago. Frightening and tense in the way that only this master of horror can deliver, The Lost Girl is another terrifying Fear Street novel by the king of juvenile horror.

Review: When I was a kid, I loved the Fear Street books. They even inspired me to write my own horror series. “The Lost Girl” still has some of that Fear Street magic, like with the two time periods interacting, and it’s no surprise R.L. Stine still has some surprises up his sleeve, and knows how to tell a story. That the book still manages to creep me out means the Fear Street series hasn’t lost its charm at all, and that it’s still deliciously creepy.

Abandon

Title: Abandon

Author: Blake Crouch

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Paranormal

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

A gripping thriller from Blake Crouch, internationally bestselling author of the Wayward Pines trilogy.

On Christmas Day in 1893, every man, woman, and child in a remote gold-mining town disappeared, belongings forsaken, meals left to freeze in vacant cabins—and not a single bone was ever found.

One hundred sixteen years later, two backcountry guides are hired by a history professor and his journalist daughter to lead them to the abandoned mining town so they can learn what happened. Recently, a similar party had also attempted to explore the town and was never heard from again. Now the area is believed to be haunted. This crew is about to discover, twenty miles from civilization with a blizzard bearing down, that they are not alone, and the past is very much alive.

Review: A surprising read filled with twists, that jumps from 1893 into the present seamlessly. It offers excellent characters, especially Abigail Foster and her crew, who move into the town of Abandon. All characters have quirks that make them stand out, and all of them have a past they bring to the table. The book had a clautrophic vibe, and definitely gave me the chills a few times.

Took

Title: Took

Author: Mary Downing Hahn

Genre: Horror, Middle Grade, Ghosts

Rating: 4,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

“Folks say Old Auntie takes a girl and keeps her fifty years—then lets her go and takes another one.”   Thirteen-year-old Daniel Anderson doesn’t believe Brody Mason’s crazy stories about the ghost witch who lives up on Brewster’s Hill with Bloody Bones, her man-eating razorback hog. He figures Brody’s probably just trying to scare him since he’s the new kid . . . a “stuck-up snot” from Connecticut. But Daniel’s seven-year-old sister Erica has become more and more withdrawn, talking to her lookalike doll. When she disappears into the woods one day, he knows something is terribly wrong. Did the witch strike? Has Erica been “took”?
Review: A haunted house/woods story with a twist. Old Auntie was amazing, and she was creepy enough that ten-year-old me would’ve been half terrified to go to sleep. But adult me loves this creepy old hag living in the woods and taking kids. Daniel was amazing. So intelligent for a boy his age, so brave when he risked everything to save his sister. A page turner, for adults AND middle graders.

Mini-Review: Escape from Witchwood Hollow, The Sisters’ Grimoire, Mothman’s Curse

minireview

Time for some mini-reviews! What are mini-reviews, you ask? As the title suggests, these are short reviews, consisting of one paragraph tops, about a book. It’s a way to catch up on the books I’ve read a while ago, but never got around to reviewing.

Escape from Witchwood Hollow

Tite: Escape from Witchwood Hollow

Author: Jordan Elizabeth Mierek

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Witches

Rating: 5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Everyone in Arnn – a small farming town with more legends than residents – knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.

After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to Arnn. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.

Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.

To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness.

How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?

Review: I knew this would be a hit from the moment I started reading. Witchwood Hollow is such an amazing, imaginative seting, and the story is so unique and original. Honoria is an amazing character, and I admired her bravery. Loved the focus on witches, and how it all wrapped up in the end. Definitely one of my favorite books I’ve read this year.

The Sister’s Grimoire

Title: The Sister’s Grimoire

Author: Suza Kates

Genre: Paranormal, Witches

Rating: 2 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Tate Whiteburn has come home to Bar Harbor, Maine, but what should have been a short trip takes an unexpected turn. The Victorian house near the cliffs holds much more than painful memories, and when lightning strikes midnight, family secrets unfold.

She and her sisters have no choice but to work together, as they find strength they never knew they had . . . and face danger from a place they never knew existed.

Review: The good: the book focuses on three sisters and their bond. The bad: it kind of reads like Charmed. There’s a Victorian house, a grimoire, witchy magic being passed from mother to daughter, and so on. While entertaining, the plot sometimes jumps from place to another, which made it difficult to follow. Characters were flat too, and hard to relate to.

Mothman’s Curse

Title: Mothman’s Curse

Author: Christine Hayes, James K. Hindle (illustrator)

Genre: Children’s Book, Middle Grade, Paranormal Mystery

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

When Josie and her brothers uncover a haunted camera, the Mothman legend becomes a terrifying reality that threatens their entire town in this spooky and action-filled novel. Josie may live in the most haunted town in America, but the only strange thing she ever sees is the parade of oddball customers that comes through her family’s auction house each week. But when she and her brothers discover a Polaroid camera that prints pictures of the ghost of local recluse John Goodrich, they are drawn into a mystery dating back over a hundred years. A desperate spirit, cursed jewelry, natural disasters, and the horrible specter of Mothman all weave in and out of the puzzle that Josie must solve to break the curse and save her own life.
Review: What an entertaining read! For an adult, the characters are a little flat, and some of the plot parts aren’t all that original (a haunted camera has been used just about a million times already) but I’m sure kids will love it. The story flows well, it’s fast-paced, the characters do have little quirks that kids enjoy reading about, the book uses local legends which makes it seem more realistic, and whenever it gets too creepy, the cartoon-like illustrations will help dissolve that fear.

Book Review: Wilhelmina and the Willamette Wig Factory

Wilhelmina and the Willamette Wig Factory ebook (1)Title: Wilhelmina and the Willamette Wig Factory
Author: Whitney Dineen
Genre: Middle Grade / Paranormal Mystery
Age Group: Middle Grade
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Wilhelmina and the Willamette Wig Factory is Book 1 in the Willy and Tommy Adventure Series. Wilhelmina Snodgrass and her family move to the Willamette Valley, Oregon, against her express wishes. Not only is she sure her life is over, but she’s convinced she won’t make any friends. That is until she meets her eccentric blue-haired neighbor, Thomasina Andretti. Willy and Tommy become involved in a s conspiracy to reopen The Willamette Wig Factory, with their unsuspecting friend, Georgianna Carbunkle. The plot, however, is orchestrated by three of Willy’s ancestor’s, from beyond the grave. Scrapes, mishaps and the unforeseen occur; including becoming sworn enemies with Tiffany Peterson, the most popular girl in the seventh- grade, a crush on super-stud, Jamie Armstrong and a mysterious carousel. Willy and Tommy have it all-mystery, revenge and romance. Monteith, Oregon, becomes the stage for adventure beyond their wildest dreams!

Wilhelmina and the Willamette Wig Factory is the first book n the Willy and Tommy Adventure series. Wilhelmina and her family move to Willamette Valley – something Wilhelmina isn’t too pleased about. Convinced she won’t make any friends, that’s until she meets her neighbor, Tommy. Together they get involved in a conspiracy set up from beyond the grave to reopen the Willamette Wig Factory. From start to end, this is a delightful read that middle graders will love.

Willy is so much fun, and her fellow troublemaker, Tommy, is too. They’re both slightly eccentric and definitely unique, and they form a great mischievous duo. There’s a lot of humor to the story, and the characters are three-dimensional and intriguing.

I can’t wait to read the next book. I loved the whole paranormal angle, the characters, the plot…basically everything.

Book Review: The Thinking

THUMBNAIL_IMAGEcoverTitle: The Thinking (The Landland Chronicles #2)

Author: Dallas Sutherland

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Age Group: Middle Grade

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

LANDLAND BECOMES ITS OWN SAVIOUR …
The Greying snakes across Bigriver towards Landland … all the lands are in turmoil. Meah combines her power of thinking with the magical Book of Colours, and joins the Bigriverland army to fight the horrid Firbog. Faith, Hope, and Charity, the white many-headed-winged-thing, returns. Auntie Beryl has become the evil Queen Berilbog– she must be stopped. Many-headed-winged-things soar high over battle-fields, three-humped-beasts-of-war go on the rampage, and, from out of the mists of the greying, slithering Homunculi goad them on.
Meah’s magical plans are not what Landland needs– Firbog hordes swarm across a dried up Bigriver into Landland, cutting their way through The Scented Forest, all the way up to the tip of Mount Beacon.
Chaos reigns supreme, Landland writes its own story … but the story is all wrong. Meah looks for a way to escape. Will she find her father, The Biggo, again? Can they win their way home– should they leave Landland and all their friends in the clutches of Auntie Beryl, the Grey Lady?
 

I read The Greying, the first book in this series some time ago and enjoyed it, so I was eager to jump into The Thinking. The book certainly didn’t dissapoint. It takes off where the previous book left off, bringing back all the characters we’ve come to know, and some new ones. There are so many original elements that it’s hard to mention them all. I enjoyed Auntie Beryl as the evil Queen Berilbog, and also the magical Book of Colours, the Firbog’s in general, the Homunculi, and basically, everything about the book. Dallas Sutherland has amazing imaginative skills, as he shows, once again, in this book.

Landland becomes more an actual being too here, and it works surprisingly well. Meah is awesome, and as reader, you can’t help but cheer her on as she tries to save the day.

Middle graders will love this series.

Book Review: The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

20578940Title: The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1)

Author: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Age Group: Middle Grade

Rating: 2 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.
Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.
All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.
So he tries his best to do his worst – and fails at failing.
Now the Magisterium awaits him. It’s a place that’s both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.
The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

I wanted to like The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1). Really, I did. I enjoyed Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter series, and although I haven’t read any of Holly Black’s books yet (shame on me), others have told me what an amazing author she is. Granted, the synopsis of this book read like a summary of Harry Potter, and I saw the similarities, but I still hoped the book would be different enough. Alas, turns out it wasn’t.

The basic plot eerily resembles Harry Potter. A young man, Callum Hunt, goes to a magician’s school to learn control his magic. Except, Call doesn’t really want to go – all his life, his dad told him to stay away from magic. His dad wants him to fail The Iron Trial, the rest that allows certain kids into magic school, called the Magisterium. But despite Call doing everything he can to fail, he gets accepted anyway. He’ll discover what secrets the Magisterium holds, and if it’s really as horrible as his dad warned him about…

All right, so I’m all for how people should still be allowed to write books about kids going to magic school. Harry Potter did it, sure, but it’s been done before, and it’s been done after (I’m thinking “The School of Good and Evil, which was also about a magic school). But…There’s a difference between having the same basic plot (kid goes to magic school), which is no biggie…and rehearsing just about every single thing from the Harry Potter books.

The villain here is a one-dimensional baddy called “The Enemy”, supposedly because people are too afraid to say his name. Ring a bell? The main character has two best friends: a boy and a girl (again, Harry Potter similarities). And then the most OBVIOUS one  – at birth, called was marked by the Enemy. The parallels are MORE than just ‘kid going to magic school’, and they’re annoying. They made me roll my eyes. They even made me upset. I can only tolerate so many similarities, people.

On top of that, the book just doesn’t have anything original. Not a single thing. The plot is boring and overused, bordering on cliché. The characters are stereotypes and two-dimensional. The magic system is flawed, the world building needs serious work. Connecting to any of the characters, even Call, was almost impossible. The pace is slow, especially from the moment Call enters the Magisterium, and it drags on for pages on end, even taking some detours in the plot.

The surprise at the end was a fun twist, but one that I saw coming from miles away. I know I’m not a middle grader and that middle graders might love this, but I seriously doubt it. Kids are picky nowadays. They too want good world building and characters they can root for. So even if the writing isn’t always stellar, they at least want a decent plot and plenty of action, none of which they’ve given here.

If you want a good fantasy book for middle graders, pick up the Lockwood & Co series. It’s infinitely better than this one.

 
 
 

Book Review: Little Miss Evil by Bryce Leung and Kristy Shen

21839656Title: Little Miss Evil
Authors: Bryce Leung and Kristy Shen
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Age Group: Middle Grade
Rating: 3,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

When you live in a volcano, ride to school in a helicopter, and regularly see your dad on the news with the caption “EVIL GENIUS” underneath his picture, it takes a lot to rattle you.
Until you get a message that says: We have your father. Deliver the NOVA in 24 hours or we will kill him.
What’s a NOVA you ask? It’s a nuclear bomb capable of turning the city into a radioactive mushroom cloud, and ever since Fiona’s dad built it, it’s caused nothing but grief. But telling him to stop building weapons is like telling Michelangelo to stop painting.
And that’s why thirteen-year-old Fiona has a flamethrower strapped to her arm. After all, who’d mess with a girl who can throw fireballs?
Apparently, these guys. Big mistake.

Little Miss Evil is an original, entertaining story about Fiona, the daughter of a supervillain, or evil genius if you will, who lives in a vulcano, spends her days with her dad’s minions/soldiers/army and his newest inventions (including an arm that shoots fire for her thirteenth birthday) and in short, is anything but normal. It’s the first story I’ve read featuring this premise, and it was definitely unique and entertaining.

After Fiona gets her birthday present, everything starts going wrong. Her dad’s enemies (another supervillain) attack, and they manage to kidnap her dad. Now it’s up to Fiona to lead her army into battle and save her dad. But then their enemies send them a message: give them the NOVA (a nuclear bomb that could turn the city into radioactive ashes) or they will kill her dad. Fiona asks her friends (fellow supervillains’ kids, since no one else will talk to her at school) for help. But can she save her dad, without giving them the NOVA?

So, the story was fun and entertaining, and sometimes I even laughed out loud. Middle graders will love Fiona’s humor, the flamethrowers, the submarines, and everything that makes these supervillains engaging. Fiona is fun, too. She struggles with being the kid of a villain, and she wants to be an ordinary person – she’s not sure if she ever wants to be a supervillain herself. She’s easy to relate to, and her personality makes her a good protagonist for this kind of book (where the main character could’ve easily been evil too, which is harder to relate to).

But…the book’s major flaw is its lack of characterization. Fiona has a personality, but most of the other characters lack one. Even her dad lacks real personality, and so do her friends and just about any other secondary characters. Ruby could’ve been awesome, but she too didn’t have much of a personality, so she didn’t stand out at all and turned out to be rather bland.

The story is simple and straightforward, but it’s entertaining all the same, and I don’t mind those traits in a middle grade book. The book sure has humor, too. So really the only thing I can complain about would be the lack of characterization for everyone except Fiona, but don’t let that stop you from reading this one. It’s like Despicable Me, but from the POV of a kid.

Book Review: Snake in the Grass by M.E. Sutton

snakeTitle: Snake in the Grass: Hero’s Sword Vol. 4
Author: M.E. Sutton
Genre: Middle Grade, Adventure, Fantasy
Age Group: Middle Grade
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Things are getting interesting at Tanner Middle School. The only official candidate for student council president is Jaycee’s nemesis, Trina Poppelman. Plus there’s a new girl in school. At first glance, she looks like she’d fit right in with the cheerleaders, but Jaycee senses something different about her.

Things are getting interesting in Mallory, too. Lady Starla is expecting an Imperial envoy to discuss new taxes. She plans to oppose the measure and asks Lyla to stand by her side in a show of support. However, when the envoy goes missing, the situation becomes a lot more serious than a proposed tax increase.

In this fourth installment of the Hero’s Sword series, Lyla and Roger hit the road to find a missing envoy before Starla pays the ultimate price for his disappearance. Along the way, Jaycee learns that winning isn’t always the end-game result.

I had some trouble with Snake in the Grass first, because it’s the fourth book in a series, and I hadn’t had time to read the other parts before I started this one. But once I got the hang of things, and figured out who was who, the book turned out to be a pleasant read. I’m sure kids will love it.

The characters are interesting and three-dimensional, in particular Jaycee. She’s very authentic, a good representation of middle school girls, what they care about, what they don’t care about, and what matters to them. Yet at the same time she’s not generic, but special, creative and imaginative, and also quite brave.

I particularly liked the scenes in Mallory, the whole storyline with the missing envoy. The plot worked, in Mallory as well as in the regular world, and you soon feel for these characters, and want them to succeed. The dialogue is spot-on, and sounds very realistic, especially Jaycee’s dialogue. The book also has an appropriate amount of humor, which kids will like too.

It’s an imaginative, well-plotted adventure that I’d recommend to middle graders and young teens. And occassionally, an adult who enjoys middle grade books (like me, for example).