Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Invasion of the Scorp-lions and The Fourth Ruby

Hale, Bruce. Invasion of the Scorp-lions (Monstertown Mysteries #3)
31 October 2017, Disney-Hyperion
Copy provided by the Publisher

After fighting monsters in The Curse of the Were-Hyena and Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies, Carlos and Benny know a thing or two about dispatching supernatural creatures. They're not quite sure what to do, however, when their classmates show up ranting and raving, then plunge into comas. Ghosts are suspected, so Ms. Tamanese tells them that the kindergarten teacher at their school is a medium who does seances. When they consult Ms. Freshley, she's more than happy to help, but when they try to contact the spirits, Ms. Freshley also rants and falls into a coma! The boys' principal, Mrs. Johnson, knows they didn't cause the coma, but decides to hire them to find out what IS causing the coma. She offers them a master key to the building and two free passes to get out of detention! When they are poking around in out of the way spaces, they find a terrifying scorp-lion, and Carlos is bit. Luckily, Benny manages to save him by pouring cola on the wound! Feeling like they need more back up, the boys visit the house of the new girl, Esme Ygorre, since she has mentioned that her mother "makes monsters". It turns out that the family is descended from Igor, Dr. Frankenstein's lab assistance, but the mother swears she didn't have anything to do with the new monsters. Eventually, the boys get a change to talk to Mr. Hanzomon, whose company is helping with the school's science fair, and find out some interesting and helpful secrets.
Strengths: Benny and Carlos are appealing protagonists who reluctantly step into their roles as the school's protectors. Carlos has some real life worries that add some depth to the story. The monsters and villains are goofy but threatening. There are lots of laugh out loud lines, and Hale has clearly been in an actual middle school and talked to students recently. The school situations are plausible, and most of the adults in the book are supportive and helpful.
Weaknesses: The book isn't formatted in an ideal way. In order to have a smaller lenticular cover, the book is small, and so is the print. I'd just as soon have a standard sized book with larger font and no lenticular cover. It would wear better.
What I really think: The lenticular covers on these make them an easy sell to readers of Gilman's. Tales from Lovecraft Middle School books, and there's a small but steady fan base for monster books.

Hannibal, James R. The Fourth Ruby (Section 13, #2)
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
October 31st 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Jack Buckles, fresh from his adventures in The Lost Property Office, is still struggling under the stigma of being a Section 13, and trying to hold his own as a Tracker in a competition. Ash is still better than he is, although Jack is trying to learn more things from Professor Tanner to make himself better. Jack's father is still unconscious, and Jack visits every day, hoping to make a difference. When Jack help's Tanner out finding some crown jewels, he, Gwen, and even his young sister Sadie get pulled into a global search for four rubies with different powers that had been owned by Genghis Khan and had been the seat of his power. They travel to the Tower of London and the Kremlin, where they meet Raven and her brother Ghost, who are thieves who help them steal the second Ruby. Their allies aren't always their allies, and before long they are talking to a Russian automaton who is giving them the secret to finding the other two rubies. When Sadie is poisoned, however, it is imperative that Gwen and Jack find the antidote in time to save her. Even if Jack can fend off this latest threat, will it be enough to save his sister and his father, and to allow him to overcome his difficulties within the Ministry of Trackers?
Strengths: I am clearly a sucker for any book set in London! Aside from that, this series features a complex but reasonably organized fantasy world, lots of adventure, clear cut missions, identifiable villains, and plenty of things blowing up. There are a lot of fantasy books out there, but I don't have a huge readership for them in my library. The Section 13 series has just the right balance that I look for-- comple enough that my fantasy readers can really get into the details of the world, but fast paced enough with fun characters so that I can enjoy the books while trying to wrap my head around the details!
Weaknesses: I was a little confused by meeting the different versions of the same characters, but didn't stop to think hard enough about how this occurred. Also, the first book in this series had an odd trim size-- rather square. As a librarian, it bothers me when the books are put on the shelves. Both minor complaints that students will not have.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, although I'm hoping this wraps up the story by book five.

Ms. Yingling

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