Sunday, September 17, 2023

Camp Sylvania and Serwa Boateng's Guide to Witchcraft and Mayhem (#2)

Murphy, Julie. Camp Sylvania
June 6, 2023 by Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
E ARC Provided by Edelweiss Plus

Maggie has waited for years to go to Camp Rising Star with her best friend Nora, but her mother has other plans. A cardiological nurse who was heavy as a child herself, Maggie's mother often makes comments about Maggie's weight and tries to get her to slim down, claiming to be worried about her health. When a childhood friend reopens the "fat camp" the mother went to as a teen, she enrolls Maggie in the camp for three weeks. Crushed that she won't be with Nora, Maggie realizes that her mother won't budge. Camp isn't all bad; she meets the British Evelyn and Kit, who would rather go to Space Camp, and the three get along well in their cabin. Sylvia, the head of the camp and diet product developer and spokeswoman is blonde, thin, and glamorous, but also a little... odd. She changes the rules daily, and insists that the campers eat an all red diet. The counselors also seem to have issues, and the night counselor, Helen, is haggard and scary, asking to be invited in to their cabin. Coach B is the one saving grace, and she tells the girls about how the camp used to be when she was a camper there. The former owners were more fat positive, while Sylvia forbids anyone from using the f-word. There is at least a production of The Music Man being staged, and when she tries out, Maggie gets the lead role! She also sees Nora, who travels across the lake from her camp to say hello. There are rumors about the ghost of a boy who drowned in the lake, Wowie Howie, and odd things going on. Sylvia has a "sound bath" location, the campers are required to donate blood once a day in an air conditioned cabin where they can have usually forbidden foods and technology, and campers suddenly go missing. They reportedly go home, but the girls become concerned when one boy's brother is gone and hasn't said anything to him. When Maggie sees Coach B. throwing away a sack of letters to parents, she launches an investigation and turns up an unsettling side to the camp. While she be able to get out of camp alive?
Strengths: While the cover and description give away a bit of the plot twists, there are still some that I don't want to spoil. The fat positivity is definitely on trend, and Maggie is able to make peace with her mother, which was good to see. The girls get along well and try to enjoy camp, but also are able to throw themselves headlong into the investigation about what is wrong with Camp Sylvania. Sylvia is an over-the-top villain who was played, in my head, by an emaciated Agness Moorehead from Bewitched
Weaknesses: While Twilight fans want more vampire novels, they have very specific parameters for the type of paranormal story they want. It's been hard to get them to check out some good new choices with a different feel, like Barone's The Vanquishers  or Brown's Serwa Boateng's Guide to Vampire Hunting  or werewolf books like Parker's The Devouring Wolf. 
What I really think: This isn't a graphic novel (the cover made me think it might be), but is a good choice for readers who enjoyed the Lumberjanes series or Cooke and Costa's Paranorthern and the Chaos Bunny A-Hop-Calypse. The summer camp reminds me a bit of Berk and Mitchell's Camp Murderface. Throw in a little of Laybourne's diet driven dystopia Sweet, and that's the closest I can come to describing this book!

Brown, Roseanne. Serwa Boateng's Guide to Witchcraft and Mayhem (#2)
September 12, 2023 by Rick Riordan Presents
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Having recently found out her big family secret in Serwa Boateng's Guide to Vampire Hunting , Serwa wakes up and finds herself under the care of her Auntie Effi, in a swanky building in D.C. that is home to many, many creatures with more in common with obayifo (vampires) than with the Abomofuo (vampire slayers) organization in which Serwa was raised. Unable to contact her parents, Serwa decides to stay with her aunt, and is willing to help her find the Midnight Drum, and bring back her grandmother, whom she has been raised to believe is evil. Aside from teaching her valuable skills (hotwiring a car, assembling a makeshift catapult, laundering money!), her parents lied to her about many things, and she doesn't know what to believe. Sneaking out of the Luciole Hotel to case the Smithsonian's Museum of African Art, she comes across her nemesis, Declan Amankwah. She finds that she now thinks he is... a little bit cute! When he invites her to hang out while she is in D.C. (she claims to be hiding after previous incidents), and she later runs into him when involved in some espionage, she pretends that she wanted to hang out as a cover story, and finds she enjoys being with him. She isn't as thrilled with him when she finds out he loaned her a jacket that had a tracking spell on it, which complicates getting the Midnight Drum, especially since its location was a trap. Her friends Roxy, Mateo, Gavin, and Eunju, whose memory she had to wipe in the first book, show up again, still in the know about her secret background as a half vampire/ half slayer! There's a huge Ghanian Gala at the art museum, and it seems like the best time to get the Midnight Drum back, but things get very complicated, especially after her father is turned into a vampire. Serwa goes head to head with Owuo, the god of death, and finds that she has nine weeks to find him a companion... or the job falls to her. Clearly, there is at least one more book of Serwa's adventures on the way. 
Strengths: It makes perfect sense that this is published by the Rick Riordan Presents Imprint, because it has a lot of the same type of humor that Riordan's books have. There are even fun chapter titles. Brown's style is her own, of course, but it made me smile. Serwa recaps her previous adventures, referring to them as the flaming carousel of her life, and her reaction to having to deal with Owuo is the VERY middle grade "Cool. The sadistic god of death knows who I am. Cool. Cool, cool, cool". There is plenty of action (the statue of the two creatures that comes to life on the cover is just one pivotal scene!), a multitude of magical creatures, some of whom are deliciously evil, strong friendships, and even a little bit of romance. This was a fun read, and surprisingly quick for 400 pages! 
Weaknesses: I am not a fan of the enemies-to-romantic-interests trope in books or in real life. No wonder Serwa is conflicted about Declan; how on earth would their relationship work? 
What I really think
: The first books has circulated well, due to the humor and the Ghanaian mythology and culture, so I'll be looking forward to having this book to hand to readers who liked the first title or vampire books with more action in them, like Henderson's Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising series. 

No comments:

Post a Comment