Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Malice: Are you chickin'?

Tall Jake take me away, Tall Jake Take me away, Tall Ja..(cough, cough). The smoke gets me every time. I’m really not scared about ending up in Malice, it just that this whole burning things insid,e makes me choke every time and can never finish. Fortunately for Tall Jake, many kids don’t have that problem, Malice is one of those places where you get there by doing a little ritual and saying “Tall Jake take me away” six times (then wait around for creepy Tall Jake to whisk you away to the fun little place we call Malice).  Malice is also the name of a crazy comic book about Tall Jake and the kids that he takes. Of course, this is all just a big rumor and not really true at all (I have never seen this comic book). None of the kids really believe it to be true until Kady’s and Seth’s friend Luke disappears and a copy of Malice is found in his room with blank pages. Seth can’t let it go and things get weird for Kady after they begin to dig deeper into a story of a kid who recently reappeared after having gone missing and can’t remember anything about where he was. When Luke fails to reappear, Kady and Seth set out to find answers to connect Malice with the missing kids.

This book is mostly a regular novel but contains portions of graphic novel as we see pages of the comic Malice. The format works great for the book and I found myself pushing forward to get to the next graphic novel portion. It wasn’t an incredibly scary book but it did have that eerie feel at parts, as it kicked me back to the looking in the mirror in the dark with a candle and saying “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary.” It’s that whole thing of knowing it shouldn’t be true but scared that it might be. Tall Jake and Malice exist in this realm of rumor/myth. The idea was original and pretty intense all the way through. There is plenty of intense action and originality in this story and it kept me going. Did I mention that the hardcover book has an awesome 3D cover with Tall Jake on the front that drew everyone in who saw it? Well, It does, and it’s definitely cool. This is an everyone book that will leave you saying, “Tall Jake take me away.” (I think I only managed to say “Tall Jake take me away” four times, eeeeee, five times. That was close I almost said, “Tall Jake take me away” six times while this stupid concoction was still burning. Oh my gosh, what was that scratching. Momma?) 

Beastly: Why can't you just kiss my ugly face?

Arrogant overly vain Kyle treats people like crap because he’s so cool he can, mistreats the wrong chick so she takes away everything that makes him likable by turning him into an ugly beast. Now instead of getting all the chicks he wants, he can’t help but scare them away and everyone else along with them. One small catch, he has 2 years to get a girl to love him and kiss him or he stays the way he is forever (If I were writing this story I might call it Beauty Becomes the Beast and Then Can’t Change Back, but that would be a really long title so maybe Beastly works)

I know, just like me, you’re probably thinking, why redo a story that is such a household tale, and I’m not sure I know the answer to this. I will tell you, despite the fact that this whole story was so familiar, I couldn’t help but find myself still cheering for this character and getting involved in the story. The characters were written well enough to keep me engaged in spite of the story being so well known for me (penalty of growing up with a young sister who loved Disney movies).   In the end the story takes a slight unexpected turn and it ended up not all that bad. If you don’t mind a change-up of traditional fairy tales and would like another shot at Beauty and the Beast then this story beats watching the roses grow. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X (Is teen alien redundant?)

Daniel X is your run of the mill teenage alien hunter hunting down the universe’s most wanted aliens. Did I mention that he can manipulate matter. (Insert eye roll here with long overly dramatic sigh.) What do you mean that you don’t think there’s anything “run of the mill” about teenage alien hunters? You don’t know what it means to manipulate matter? Okay, I’ll come down off my scientific high horse and speak to the “lay person.” He can make things real by imagining them to be, using stuff that already exists around him. Let me give you an example: he makes his friends by thinking them up and making them real, tangible, able to talk and act and think using atoms in the air. So, I guess that makes him unusual even for aliens (man am I off to a good start).  Daniel is hunting down alien outlaws on a list of aliens that live on planet earth (aka Terra Firma) or at least hang out here from time to time. He’s seeking revenge for the death of his parents (aren’t they all) who were killed by some other worldly giant praying mantis called, none other than, the Prayer. This time Daniel is seeking #6 Ergent Seth, and he may just have bit off more than he can chew.

The whole idea was kind of goofy from the start, but I kind of liked it anyway. Maybe I thought the story was about me (aka Daniel) or maybe it was just kind of fun. It was a pretty quick read and it was entertaining enough to want to read the other books in the series. As a science teacher, I always wonder why with all the diversity of life on our planet alone (don’t even get me started about Gliese 581), why are most aliens always pictured being like something that we already know. Kids are surprised everyday by little crazy looking things they discover in the microscope, but yet we can’t even stretch our imagination to come up with something with a different and strange form unlike anything we see on our planet (The Host by Stephanie Meyer was a pretty good form for an alien in my opinion)? With all that being  said, I think middle-schoolers and those with a liking for some good, quick, clean entertainment will enjoy their flight through this book. I’ll put the series on my list.