Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Middle School, Teen, Tween Reads

Quick Takes: Graphic Novels

This is a graphic novel summer: so many good ones hitting shelves week after week! Perfect for Summer Reading and anytime reading, there are some gorgeous, fun, fantastic stories to be found.

Ham Helsing #1: Vampire Hunter, by Rich Moyer, (June 2021, Crown Books for Young Readers), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593308912

Ages 8-12

Ham Helsing is a young descendant of a long line of vampire hunters who never seem to live quite long, usually because they make rather silly decisions. Ham was always content to let his older brother, Chad, wear the monster hunting mantle; he preferred more creative pursuits, like painting and poetry, but Chad’s daredevil acts led to… well, Ham is the new monster hunter in the family, so he’s off to hunt a vampire. The only problem is, the vampire he’s out to get isn’t what you’d expect. Ham Helsing: Vampire Hunter is the first in a planned trilogy and is a fun, not-at-all scary story about learning that people aren’t always what they seem, and that it’s always good to have friends to back you up. The action is animated, the dialogue is fun and witty, and there are robotic knights, sight gags, a toddler werewolf, and animated bacon. What more can you ask from a graphic novel?

Author Rich Moyer’s website has links to more of his illustration work, social media, and school visit information. Get a look at some more of Ham Helsing at Random House’s website.

 

 

Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo Book 3: Battle of the Bards, by James Parks & Ben Costa, (Apr. 2021, Knopf Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9780399556203

Ages 11-14

A fantasy more geared toward middle- and high schoolers rather than middle graders, the third volume of the Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo book continues the adventures of the skeletal bard and his jelly-like friend, Gelatinous Goo. In this adventure, Rickety Stitch – an animated skeleton who retains his love of music and his gentle soul, despite having no memory of who he was when he was alive – and Goo travel with an acting troupe to perform in a music competition, but Rickety discovers another performer, a woman named Canta, who brings back memories of his past. It becomes clear that the competition is a distraction from some seedy behavior underneath the city, and Rickety and Goo find themselves right in the middle of the action. The story is full of action and adventure and manages to tug at readers’ heartstrings with Rickety’s genuine tale of loss and memory. Middle schoolers and early high schoolers in particular will love this great wrap-up to a fantasy tale. It helps to read the first two before beginning the third; you may feel lost otherwise, as there is a lot of world-building and character development that’s gone on thus far. Great for your fantasy section.

Check out the Land of Eem website for Rickety Stitch and Eem-related role-playing games and sign up for a newsletter!

 

Apple of My Pie, by Mika Song, (June 2021, Random House Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9781984895851

Ages 5-8

The follow-up to last year’s Donut Feed the Squirrels, the newest Norma and Belly adventure is an adorable romp to save Pops, who falls onto a truck and heads to the apple orchard where he may end up in a pie! Norma, Belly, and their friend, B, are on the case in this sweet story, perfect for newly confident readers. The watercolor artwork is colorful but not overwhelming, with lots of calming earth colors and cute animal artwork. A school trip to the orchard provides some extra fun as the squirrels dash around the kids on their race to find Pops first.

Mika Song’s website has all sorts of treasures for readers, including extra comics, a newsletter signup, and printable activity sheets! Great to bundle with other graphic novels for young readers, like Narwhal and Jelly, Blue Barry and Pancakes, Fox and Chick, and Shark and Bot. You can also mix up the formats and include other books, like Mo Willems’s Unlimited Squirrels series, or Mélanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel series (graphic novels are forthcoming, too: future post!).

Apple of My Pie has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Much, much more to come: let these three start you off!

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Vampires on the Run in Maine? Quinnie Boyd’s on the case!

vampires-on-the-runVampires on the Run: A Quinnie Boyd Mystery, by C.M. Surrisi, (March 2017, Carolrhoda Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781512411508

Recommended for readers 8-12

The second outing for teen sleuth Quinnie Boyd, Vampires on the Run returns readers to the fictional town of Maiden Rock, Maine. This time, Quinnie meets her friend’s aunt and uncle, Ceil and Edgar, who are celebrated writers of a vampire series. They dress in all black, don’t venture out in the sunlight, and are very, very pale. When weirdness starts happening around Maiden Rock, Quinnie’s mental wheels start turning and she recruits Dominic, a new kid in town, to help her get to the bottom of the mystery.

Vampires on the Run is loaded with fun whodunit clues to keep readers guessing. You don’t need to read the first Quinnie Boyd book, The Maypop Kidnapping, to enjoy this newest book; there’s enough exposition to fill readers in. I liked Quinnie, her supportive yet firm parents, her friends, and the inhabitants of Maiden Rock. CM Surrisi spends a lot of time setting up the reader: so much that you kind of know the twist is coming, but it’s a good one.

Vampires on the Run is a fun, cozy mystery for middle graders with a strong cast of likable characters. Mystery readers and fiction fans will enjoy it.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Fearless Vampire Hunters? Henry Hunter and the Beast of Snagov

henry-hunterHenry Hunter and the Beast of Snagov (Henry Hunter #1), by John Matthews, (Sept. 2016, Sky Pony Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781510710382

Recommended for ages 8-12

Tween sleuth Henry Hunter and his sidekick, Adolphus (Dolph, for short) head to Transylvania to investigate the vampire myth and its relation to the Beast of Snagov in this new series debut. Henry is an adventure seeker, a tween millionaire with absentee parents who let him do just about whatever his minds sets itself to; Adolphus is his chronicler, much like Watson to Holmes. Henry reads about the Beast of Snagov – a creature more terrifying than Dracula himself, and who’s rumored to be the origin of the vampire myth – and decides that he and Dolph need to investigate. Off they go to Transylvania, where they’ll investigate the historical Vlad Tepes – Vlad the Impaler, the model for Count Dracula – and meet an interesting ally in the process.

There are secret societies, supernatural creatures, and a very nice tribute to Bram Stoker’s Lair of the White Worm in this fun supernatural mystery series. Kids will get a kick out of Henry Hunter and Dolph. Kids get to vicariously enjoy an adventure without parental intervention, with unlimited resources, and a teamup with a supernatural force in her own right. The characters are light and fun, and there’s some good information about Bram Stoker and his literary creations as well as the historical figure that birthed a legend, to be found here.

The kids in my library love mystery and supernatural/spooky books, so this will be a fun addition for me. I’ll mention Dracula and Lair of the White Worm, and display with the usual spooky suspects: Goosebumps, Cornelia Funke’s Ghosthunters series, and Angie Sage’s Araminta Spookie series. Originally published in Australia, Henry’s got another book in the series, Henry Hunter and the Cursed Pirates, so interested readers can keep their fingers crossed that he makes his way to our shores.

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Blog Tour Promo: SUPERSTITION

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SuperstitionSuperstition_EBOOK
by Lucy Fenton
Release Date: 08/03/15

Summary from Goodreads:
What happens when your childhood nightmares of being bitten by strange creatures in a dark wood aren’t just dreams?

Sixteen-year-old Arden St. John’s life takes a strange turn when she finds an unusual animal injured near her new house on the south east coast of Australia. When she takes it to the local vet, a terrible truth is inadvertently exposed to her.

She discovers a secret underworld, where witches are commonplace and trolls masquerade as queen bees, terrorising the other students with impunity. A world where vampires traffic in the lives of children, draining their bodies once they reach maturity. Where adults auction their own children to extend their lives.

Arden finds out she’s one of those kids, her life traded by the mother she never knew. Now she’s caught up in this ancient and corrupt economy operating just below the surface of modern society. She’s a hot commodity, and it’s only a matter of time before the vampire who bought her comes to claim his prize.

But Arden’s not going down without a fight.

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EXCERPT

The further into the bush she went, the more anxious Arden felt. If something happened to me, how long would it be before Dad noticed? I could be dead for days before someone found me, Arden thought, unhappily. The compulsion to turn around and seek out others grew stronger and her footsteps slowed.

And then through the trees, she saw something. Curiosity overcoming her disquiet, at first she thought it was a rocky outcrop and moved towards it, trying to see what was veiled by the leaves of the trees. The flash of sunlight whitened out her vision as she stepped out of the shade into the clearing. Blinded, she waited for her eyes to adjust. Squinting, the blurred shapes gradually resolved into the ruins of a stone building. The roof was gone and the walls stuck up like the blunt teeth of a fallen giant. Arden walked around what had once been a large structure that had been left to crumble back into the earth. It was built on a headland, the view of the ocean clear on the far side. A lone gum tree clung to the edge of the cliff, roots visible where the earth had crumbled away. Dead, its bare branches stood out starkly white against the dark clouds forming over the ocean. There was a storm coming in, but it was still a way out to sea. Catching sight of a marking on the stone, she moved towards it to examine it more closely. It was weathered almost flat, but tracing the rough gritty surface with her finger, she made out the distinctive shape of a convict arrow.

Amazed, she walked in through a doorway, trying to work out what type of building it had been. There had been a large central room with many tiny rooms opening from it. They were small, storerooms perhaps? Exploring deeper into the ruins, there was a room that had been more protected at the rear and the purpose became apparent. The stubbed remains of bars were still embedded in the stone in one section and in the corner of the room were cross hatched markings on the walls, counting off the days. She was standing in a convict gaol.

Beautiful female Surfer looking for the waves

About the Author
lucy fentonL. C. Fenton lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband and two children. In addition to her cake- making business, she works as a freelance copywriter and pens occasional articles for various online magazines.
Not being one of those people who had a burning desire to be anything in particular, L. C. worked her way alphabetically backwards through the available degrees at Sydney University. Surprisingly, given the amount of fun she had at school, L.C. finally managed to graduate with a completely unemployable degree in Philosophy. A Law degree soon followed, however, simply to make it possible for some organization to hire her.

After ten soul-destroying years wandering aimlessly in the corporate wilderness, L. C. threw it all in and reassessed. Deciding to bring the “one day I will write a book” idea to the present, she started and hasn’t stopped. As a huge fan of the romance genre, she writes the kinds of books that she enjoys to read.

In her spare time, L. C. Fenton…actually she has no spare time. She sleeps or reads copious amounts of romance novels instead of sleeping.

Author Links:

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Posted in Horror, Humor, Teen, Tween Reads

After Dark: There’s something very creepy going on in this town…

after dark After Dark, by James Leck (Aug. 2015, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771381109

Recommended for ages 11-14

Charlie Harker is not having a great day. He’s in trouble on his last day of school; his mom met him to tell him there’s no more money left – their absentee dad spent them all into debt, and she’s putting Charlie, his sister, Lillith, and his brother, Johnny, to work over the summer to renovate his grandfather’s old inn in the boring town of Rolling Hills. The only excitement seems to come from local conspiracy nut, Miles Van Helsing.

Charlie realizes, pretty quickly, that there may be something to Miles’ ramblings. People are acting weird, and Charlie decides to help Miles investigate further. There’s definitely something going on in Rolling Hills, but will Charlie and Miles be the next victims?

This is a fun humor/horror story; think of Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets old-school Fright Night. There are some nice nods to horror history, including references to George Romero and The Lost Boys, not to mention the obvious Dracula references in the boys’ last names. The ending leaves the possibility for a sequel. It’s a good end-of-summer read, and readers who shy away from gore and horror may be drawn in by the sarcastic narration and overall humor.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Steampunk, Teen

All Hail Gail Carriger! Waistcoats and Weaponry concludes the Finishing School saga!

cover47801-mediumWaistcoats & Weaponry, by Gail Carriger (2014, Little Brown Books for Young Readers), $18, ISBN: 9780316190275

Recommended for ages 13+

If there is one writer I fangirl for these days, it’s Gail Carriger. I discovered her Parasol Protectorate series a few years ago, and was immediately hooked. There’s paranormal adventure, steampunk fabulousness, including airships, mechanicals, and loaded parasols, and most importantly, fierce fashion. And tea. A lot of tea. What’s not to love?

When she announced she was writing a YA series that takes place in the Parasol Protectorate universe, I was jubilant.  The Finishing School series: Etiquette & Espionage, Curtsies & Conspiracies, and now, Waistcoats & Weaponry, take place at a finishing school for young ladies. But it’s not just any finishing school: the ladies are taught to be covert assassins as easily as they’re taught to properly bat their eyelashes and set a proper table. If you’ve been following the series, you know that Sophronia left off with a pretty major benefactor last book. He’s alluded to here in Waistcoats, but Sophronia is front and center in this book. She’s working out her feelings for both her friend, Soap, and Felix, a wealthy Duke’s son who’s been flirting outrageously with her. She’s still trying to figure out what Monique – and, by extension, a vampire hive – is up to. And when family drama strikes at her friend Sidheag, she has to be there for her. She’s got a full plate, and watching her juggle it is nothing short of brilliant.

Husband

I love Sophronia, and seeing her develop as a character throughout these three books has been a delight. She goes from being a headstrong young girl who likes to find out how things work, to a headstrong, determined young woman who exudes an air of polish when she needs to, but is never afraid to pull on a pair of trousers (gasp!) and get right into the thick of things to find out what she needs to know. She’ll take on a vampire or a werewolf if it means helping her friends, but she’ll always think things through and try to come to the best situation for everyone involved. It’s also tremendous fun to see the storylines developed in The Parasol Protectorate come full circle here; Finishing School takes place about 15-20 years before, and events discussed in the first series find their origins here, as do several key characters.

I’m sad to see Finishing School dismissed, but I can’t wait for Prudence, her new series, to hit stores next month. Pick up the Finishing School series. You’ll be so glad you did. And make sure to stop by the Finishing School website, where you can take some lessons of your own, and download an educator’s guide to the series. THERE’S AN EDUCATOR’S GUIDE TO THIS SERIES. Why wasn’t I taught this stuff in high school?!

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Posted in Adventure, Espionage, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction, Steampunk

Book Review: Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger (Little, Brown, 2013)

etiquette and espionageRecommended for ages 13+

Gail Carriger, author of the Parasol Protectorate series, kicks off her YA Finishing School series, set in the same universe as the Parasol Protectorate series, with Etiquette & Espionage.

Fourteen year-old Sophronia is driving her society lady mother crazy. She climbs trees. She takes apart things to figure out how they work. She lines her books with rubber from a dumbwaiter in the house. Fed up with Sophronia’s antics, she sends her to finishing school – Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, to be precise.

What neither Sophronia nor her mother bet on, though, was that this is no ordinary finishing school – when they say “finish”, they mean “finish” – the students learn how to curtsey and flutter their eyelashes, but they also learn about poisoning, espionage, and weapons placement. Sophronia is learning to be a spy and an assassin in addition to being a lady. But she also stumbles into a mystery involving one of the students as soon as she boards the coach to school – what is really going on at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, and what does her newfound nemesis have to do with it?

While I am a big fan of the Parasol Protectorate series and went into this series with high hopes, I was a little let down here. I understand that this is the first book in a new series, with much to be established, but I felt there was an overall lack of plot to drive the story forward. It seemed more a collection of “look what Sophronia’s got herself into now” moments, with some vague subplot surfacing to give her an archenemy in future books.

The dry humor is there, though, and that kept me reading. I love the way Ms. Carriger writes, and I enjoy her stubborn heroines who can lock horns with a werewolf and then stress about their state of dress and look for a cup of tea. I enjoy the Parasol Protectorate universe, and there’s paranormal and steampunk aplenty here, with werewolves, dirigibles, and automatons for all. There are a few pleasant surprises for Parasol Protectorate fans, too.

If you’re a fan of Carriger’s, you’ll at least enjoy the universe and references. I look forward to the next book in the series.

Posted in Fantasy, Media, Science Fiction

DVD Review: Hellboy: Blood and Iron (Starz Home Entertainment, 2007)

Recommended for ages 12+
For those unfamiliar with the Hellboy comic book and movie series, let me provide a very quick overview: Hellboy is a demon from Hell, brought to earth by Nazi occultists during World War II. He was saved by the Allies and raised as a son by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, and later went to work for the secret international Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD), founded by Professor Bruttenholm. His two closest friends and partners are Liz Sherman, a human who can create fire with her mind, and Abe Sapien, an amphibious humanoid.

In Blood and Iron, the BPRD is asked to investigate a haunted mansion purchased by a billionaire who wants to make money from it as a tourist attraction. They learn that the mansion is haunted by ghosts, witches, werewolves and hellhounds and that the evil undead Hungarian countess and vampire Erzsebet Ondrushko, who Professor Bruttenholm has tangled with before, is back to cause more trouble. Ondrushko appears to be based on the real-life historical figure Elizabeth Bathory, and Greek mythological figures Hecate, goddess of the crossroads and witchcraft, and harpies are also thrown into the mix.

 
Mike Mignola, Hellboy creator, was one of the screenwriters on Blood and Iron and the cast who plays the characters in the movie voice their characters in this animated film. Fans of the comics and the movies will be happy here; there is plenty of paranormal activity, snappy dialogue and character interaction, and wild fight scenes and gunplay. While some of the imagery may be rough for younger viewers – there’s not direct graphic violence, but there is blood and some implied torture – older ‘tweens and teens have played more violent video games. Parents, watch it first, then use your judgement.