Monday, May 2, 2011

Joachim Masannek's The Wild Soccer Bunch: Diego, the Tornado

The Wild Soccer Bunch, Book 2, Diego the TornadoMy nephew has asked me to review some books that he could read, so when I saw The Wild Soccer Bunch: Diego the Tornado up for grabs the LibraryThing Early Reviewers I went for it.  While I've never heard of them, apparently the Wild Soccer Bunch books have been around in Europe for a while and have been massively successful as both books and movies.

It's a quick read, even for kids; while long at 149 pages, it's broken up into chapters that are 4-5 pages in length.

The story doesn't really seem to flow all that well at times, I'm inclined to believe it's due more from it being translated from German and maybe the meaning of some words getting changed slightly, but there are also some spots that really make you wonder what's going on. Like pretty much every scene with the kid's coach, Larry. Is he psychic? Is he a creepy stalker? Who knows. Obviously not the reader.

While I was reading, I kept being struck by how manipulative the boys are. They manipulate one of their little sisters into being rowdy so they can get out of being grounded; they manipulate all of the adults in the book, too. I kept trying to remind myself that when I was nine, I was reading Christopher Pike, Michael Crichton, and Robin Cook, so a little bit of underhanded "adult management" isn't really that big of a deal.

Other than that, there are some really cool moments. Diego's mom is also the Gunslinger, the uber-cool persona she uses when fatherless Diego needs a "man-to-man" talk. She comes up with the two best ideas of the book while acting as Gunslinger. I thought it was awesome.

My other favorite scene from the book, which leads into the second worst scene of manipulation by the boys and even a small spot of blackmail, is the preparation for the boys walking into the bank. It actually made me laugh out loud.

Overall this was a good book, it would probably be even better if I were an 8-12 year old boy who was really in to soccer. The overarching lessons of teamwork, persistence, and overcoming adversity are well played (get it, well played) and fit into the story without being preachy. I would like to say, the original German title Felix, der Wirbelwind is way cooler than Diego, the Tornado… but an English title is probably more accessible for English-speaking kids J.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Michelle Rowen's Nightshade

Hey peeps, I know, I've been gone for-evah, but between work(s) and school I haven't had time to think, let alone let all of you know my thoughts.

I've got a few weeks before summer classes start, so here's a review of a new-ish book:
Nightshade (Berkley Sensation) 
Michelle Rowen's Nightshade came out back in February. But I was waiting to see which would come first: me finding the time to read it or me getting it from the library's waiting list.  The library won, so I had to make the time to read it since there are still tons of people behind me waiting on it.  I know I just reviewed one of her books… but really, that was months and months ago. Just because I haven't been writing, time has, sadly, not stopped. J
         Nightshade is a departure from Rowen's happy, funny vampire books. It's dark, like really dark, and not just a bit deep. That's not to say that Nightshade doesn't have its moments, it does, it's still a Michelle Rowen book, but it's not that kind of Michelle Rowen book.
         Nightshade is about a girl (Jill) who accidentally becomes a deadly vampire snack. One bite from her and they go 'poof,' it's awesome, in a painful neck-biting sort of way.
She then gets a reluctant love interest (Declan), reluctant on his part since he's chemically impotent for 99.5% of the book, and on her part since he's a horribly disfigured, emotionless dhampyr assassin. So, they've got issues.
         Nightshade is an incredibly quick read, it flows, at times it feels like it flows from one scene of vomiting to a scene of bloody mayhem followed by more vomiting, but I liked it. It pulls you right into the action and keeps you there through the entire thing. The characters are real. Especially poor Declan, drugged with a mood altering "formula" since childhood, Declan doesn't know what it's like to be a normal human, he's been so terrified of his dhampyr nature that he's never been allowed to feel emotions at all.
         Bits of this novel do feel a bit preachy about our automatic response to seek a magic pill for whatever ails us, but it’s there and it's gone and it serves a purpose. And anyone who's ever been on mood-altering drugs that didn't feel 'right' will understand and see that they are not always what's needed.   
There's no great romance here, sorry peeps, but if you go into it looking for that, it’s not really there.  The author does leave the potential for more romance in Bloodlust, the next book in this new series.
         Something that struck me as odd, and it could just be my brain having too much free time at the moment, but this book has lots of dhampyrs (half-vampire/half-humans) and the vampire king is named Matthias. If you've read any of Tate Hallaway's Garnet Lacey books, you'll know there's a dhampyr in those books named Mátyás. Am I the only one slightly weirded out by this coincidence? Probably.

Happy reading.

Up next… I will be reviewing a kid's book by my nephew's request. I'm excited about this one, I haven't read an age-appropriate kids book ever that wasn't required for school.

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