Category Archives: Series Reviews

Charlie Bone

I had intended to review something from the teenage end of the age spectrum this time, but as I was walking by the Ns in 9-12 Fiction a glint of sparkly blue cover caught my eye and I realized that I never finished reading the Charlie Bone series. I read books 1 and 2 back before Christmas (I seem to have a penchant for European authors these days) but 3 wasn’t in stock, and now it was, so I said “never mind” to my previous plans and took The Blue Boa back to the lunchroom with me.

Well.Book 1 - Midnight for Charlie Bone (2006 US/CA/UK Softcover Reprint Edition, Egmont Books)

Author: Jenny Nimmo

Summary: Charlie Bone has found himself Endowed. Suddenly granted the ability to communicate with the people in photographs and paintings, his eccentric aunts ship him off to Bloor’s Academy, a school for gifted children, to further develop his talents. Unfortunately for Charlie, there is plenty of activity going on behind the scenes in the school that his kind nature won’t permit. As he gathers more enemies among his classmates and teachers, he bands together with new friends and unexpected allies to force out the truth behind Bloor’s mysteries, and the fabled Children of the Red King.

There are five books so far (at least one more expected in August 2007), starting with Midnight for Charlie Bone, and the series is referred to as “The Children of the Red King.”

Two Cents: Someone pointed me to this series after I greatly enjoyed Golden & Grey, and later a customer compared it to Harry Potter, which seems to be a common trend for this series. Well, the magic elements are there, along with a boarding school full of untrustworthy classmates and evil teachers, plus a protagonist that finds himself abruptly thrown into a strange new world where he’s not just a normal kid anymore. The similarities do stop there, and though I was unsure if I wanted to continue on to Book 2, I did, and it did much to raise my opinion.

This series has a large cast of interesting characters. You don’t get to know all of them well, but the potential is there, and the ones that are developed are developed well. The series is dynamic and keeps you turning the pages, to be sure.

Recommended For: Younger end of the spectrum; these look thick but the print is large and there is some decoration in the margins. Ages 8-10 or so, fans of Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket, definitely falling into the adventure-fantasy category.

Personal Rating: 7/10

Links to Buy Book 1: Amazon US / CA / UK

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Filed under Ages 9-12 Series, Series Reviews

Macdonald Hall

OK, I’ll admit it, Gordon Korman is my hero. The Macdonald Hall (once known as simply Bruno & Boots) set has been my favourite YA series since I was old enough to be legitimately reading them. As I recall, this transpired in the library of my old elementary school with a copy of Go Jump in the Pool! My personal copies of these books are still those musty 1970s editions, though the recent rerelease (slight editing of titles and older technology references, I noticed) have attractive new covers, not all of which I could resist buying as well. Oops.

At least they’re nicely priced. 

Author: Gordon KormanThis Can’t Be Happening! (2003 Canadian Softcover Edition)

Summary: Bruno Walton and Melvin “Boots” O’Neal have been partners in mischief ever since they came to be roommates at Macdonald Hall, a respected boys’ school. Of course, this always means trouble for the staff and occasionally the students of the Hall (not to mention Miss Scrimmage’s Finishing School for Young Ladies, across the street), and such is how This Can’t Be Happening! opens – with the dynamic duo being separated and sent to live with new roommates. Bruno must concoct a plan to put things right, but everything manages to backfire on him, until a strange coincidence puts him and Boots in the spotlight…

Later books (there are seven in all) cover adventures with disagreeable teachers, a huge and hilarious fundraising campaign, millions of zucchini sticks, a Hollywood movie being set on campus, hijacked television broadcasts, masked practical jokers, and more than one encounter with the “well-behaved” young ladies across the street, not to mention their psychotic, shotgun-wielding Headmistress, and occasionally the police.

Two Cents: I already mentioned that I loved these books. I probably will never stop; they are downright side-splittingly hilarious and the dialogue is gold. I only wish there were more of them – and that they were longer. The 2003 version of This Can’t Be Happening! clocks in at 128 pages, and the others are longer, but not by much. Personal favourite is Lights, Camera, Disaster! (original title was Macdonald Hall Goes Hollywood) for the no-holds-barred amazing characterization of Jordie Jones and his merry partnership with Bruno and Boots.

I often tell customers who are looking at these (Korman is a popular author, especially looking at the Kidnapped series, so people frequent the K shelf looking for more of his work) that it’s his first work – the first Macdonald Hall book was written when he was 12 – and still one of his best. Definitely worth checking out!

Recommended For: The younger end of the 9-12 spectrum, simply because of the size of the books, or perhaps for kids who are slower taking to reading. The content is perfect for just about anyone – these are funny and don’t appeal to any particular genre or age, great for both genders as well, and don’t have any objectionable content.

Personal Rating: 10/10

Links to Buy Book 1: Amazon CAIndigo

Amazon UK/US doesn’t seem to carry the latest printing, so trying your local store – new or used – is a good bet. In Canada, Chapters/Indigo/Coles often keeps them stocked and they’re available on the website as of this writing.

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Filed under Ages 9-12 Series, Series Reviews, Top Recommendations

Artemis Fowl

Fitting that this is my first review, seeing how it was an Artemis book that inspired me to create the blog. The Lost Colony (Book 5, US/Canada Hardcover Edition)

Author: Eoin Colfer

Summary: Young Artemis Fowl seeks to recover his family’s fortune, using his vast intelligence to take his missing father’s place as a crimelord. He finds himself in an incredible situation, though, when he kidnaps a fairy and holds her at ransom. His adventures with LEPrechaun officer Holly Short, dwarf Mulch Diggums, Foaly the Centaur and other mythical creatures from the world below continue for a total of five books, with a sixth planned for late 2007.

Two Cents: This series hooks you. I picked it up because it was a big seller and the fifth volume had just come out when my local store put hardcover versions of books 2-4 on sale for $7 each, as well as the first at a special $3.99 ($2.99 in the U.S.) price. It was a just in case I ever decide to read these kind of buy and I’m glad I did. The introductory book is a bit hard to get into at first, but as the series progresses the characters develop in wonderful ways and Colfer isn’t afraid to put them in danger. The adventures are exciting and full of interesting concepts and technology, and the emotions the characters (particularly Artemis, Holly and Butler in the later books) go through are incredibly convincing.

Recommended For: 9-15s and maybe even higher. I’ve noticed that this is shelved both in the preteen and teen sections – good decision there. Fans of spy novels, adventure novels and even fantasy readers can get into this. Easy to read and impossible to put down.

Personal Rating:  10/10

Links to Buy Book 1: Amazon US / CA / UK

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Filed under Ages 13 and Up Series, Ages 9-12 Series, Top Recommendations