Tag Archives: tween action

Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, by Elise Stokes, 2011, Book Review

cassidy jones vulcanI’m excited to be in on the release of Elise Stokes’ second novel, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift. This fast-paced series is reminiscent of the adventures of comic book superheroes, except Cassidy Jones happens to be a totally hip, totally stubborn, totally modern fifteen-year-old girl. A freak accident left her with enhanced senses and superhuman strength that she struggles mightily to adjust to. She may be saving the Seattle suburbs by night, but by day she must try to fit into Queen Anne High School, navigate those tricky guy-girl relationships, and make sure none of her friends figure out her secret. Such a rumor whispered to the wrong individual would put her loved ones at serious risk.

In Vulcan’s Gift, a top-secret weapon leftover from Nazi German, long considered a myth, surfaces on Catamount Mountain. It’s up to Cassidy and her brilliant sidekick, Emery, to figure out and muscle down this new threat. Throw in a missing Siberian tiger, multiple Sasquatch sightings (not to mention the gaggle of faithful Sasquatch followers), family wealth, and a shiny new villain, and you have the recipe for a teen-pleasing page-turner.

Let’s backtrack to Emery for a moment. Son of the scientist connected to Cassidy’s enhancement, Emery has some impressive credentials of his own. At age fifteen, he’s already earned a college degree and put off graduate school to guard and guide Cassidy. Unrealistic? Of course! As you recall, we’re talking comic book superheroes here. Anyway, Emery is light years ahead of the pack in maturity and intellect, and his perfection can get downright obnoxious. Yet, there’s a warmth and genuine affection to his character that makes me hope Cassidy will finally be done with her high school crush, Jared, once and for all. Aside from Cassidy and her wonderful physical dilemma, Emery is by far the most complex character of the series.

There are many things I appreciate about Vulcan’s Gift, not the least of which is Ms. Stokes’ polished writing style. While it isn’t poetic or abundant in creative word pictures (which I have a real penchant for) it IS solid, smooth, and so easy to readperfect for a high-flying adventure. I also applaud Ms. Stokes for leaving out the language and content so many of us find objectionable in children’s literature. I didn’t miss it! Her imagination for thinking up a superb plot is better than most and packaged air-tight, and colorful, bigger-than-life characters are becoming her trademark. No, this series isn’t particularly deep or beautiful, or even witty, but it sure is fun to read!

Once again, the end of the book leaves lots of wiggle room for a new adventure. Questions from the first book remain, and now we’ve left a psychotic new villain on the loose, last seen laughing maniacally. I’ll be eagerly awaiting book three, Elise!

Read my review of the first Cassidy Jones adventure, then find it here: Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula.

Found (The Missing: Book One), by Margaret Peterson Haddix, 2008, Book Review

found-picThis book was recommended to me with little explanation, and I expected it to be just another run-of-the-mill, edgy adventure story, with a little too much language and content a little too old to comfortably call it a tween book. Wrong! Found is much more than I bargained for. It’s a fantastic, clean page-turner entirely suitable for young readers (8-13) with some mind-bending twists along the way. I had to tear myself away when the clock tipped into the wee hours this morning and finish it up at first light.

Within, Jonah Skidmore knows he’s adopted, and it’s never been a big deal. Until he receives some mysterious letters in the mail. Then his new friend, Chip, finds out unexpectedly that he’s also adopted, and receives the same disturbing letters. Coincidence? Prank? They think so. Until people begin vanishing right in front of them. Until they, along with Jonah’s sister, Katherine, stumble onto classified information listing Jonah, Chip, and many other thirteen-year-old adoptees as “survivors.” Until they look up a “witness” on the same list and hear about a disappearing plane filled with babies. Until events happen that are chronologically impossible. Then the kids take the letters seriously. Letters that read, “You are one of the missing.” And, “Beware!  They are coming back to get you.”

Sounds good? Yeah, it is. Ms. Haddix took me by complete surprise. I had no idea where this was going, and I’m not going to give anything away. You’ll just have to read it for yourself. But make sure you have plenty of time; you won’t want to put it down either.

My only complaint is one I often make about high-action stories. The writing is streamlined and unadorned. Oh, it reads smoothly and delivers a full plot, but I miss the beautifully-written prose, depth and imagery found in slower-paced books. As is too often the case, it’s a trade-off, action for quality. But I got over it pretty quickly and enjoyed the ride. I highly recommend you grab a copy. Ages 10+

I also recommend that you have the next book of the series handy. Found leaves you hanging, big time. Book two, Sent, was released in 2009. Book three, Sabotaged, was released in 2010. Book four, Torn, has just been released this week. (I must get caught up!) Ms. Haddix has said on her website that three more books will be forthcoming in the series. They will be Caught, Kept, and Revealed. Watch for them!