Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's Two-Fer Tuesday- on Wednesday!

To make up for my absence last month, I present you with not one, but two quick reviews! I found both of these books at the library by chance. I had read them in the past but couldn't remember the title or author or anything. Serendipity rocks.

Free Fall by Joyce Sweeney is the story of four teen-aged boys who go to explore a cave. Neil is the oldest and the main character. Along for the ride are his younger brother David, David's best friend Terry, and Neil's best friend Randy. Of course, they get lost and trapped. No one has any idea where they are, so they have to survive and escape on their own.

This isn't just a story of survival. There's a huge load of emotional baggage that the boys bring into the cave with them, starting with the fact that none of the boys get along. Neil and David's little sister died a couple of years earlier when their house burned down. It's technically David's fault, but Neil blames himself and has shut David out. He also has never told his best friend about this (Randy moved to their town after the fire). I find it hard to believe that no one at school ever mentioned this to Randy, but whatever. Terry is a wuss, and Randy is sarcastic and mouthy. He and David both have hot tempers and muscular builds, and may just kill each other before this whole thing is over. Being trapped and possibly close to death, the boys are forced to come to terms with their issues and work together to survive.

There is action in the form of cave exploration, rattlesnakes, a climb that doesn't work out, and a daring escape. The emotional stuff is heavy- we're talking dead sisters, abusive fathers, divorce...This is also a story about teen-aged boys, and they act the part well. There is swearing up to and including the "F" word, bathroom humor, sex talk (but no actual sex), and fighting. this is not G-rated Trixie Belden stuff. I found Free Fall to be an effective and exciting enough story. And I'm a sucker for a story about siblings, so that was a plus. But again, this book is loaded with profanity, so consider yourself warned.

The second book I found is Murder at the Spaniel Show by Lynn Hall. It's pretty obscure, so I'm not going to bother with the cover art. Tabby is a teenager who works at Quintessence, a springer spaniel kennel in rural New York. The kennel is set to host a national springer spaniel show when things get wacky. Someone starts sending threatening notes to the Ted Quinn, the man set to judge the Best In Show competition. Ted is the twin brother of Turner Quinn, the blind owner of the kennel, and he has flown in all the way from England to judge.

Tabby is just the "kennel girl," but she manages to be right in the middle of everything that happens at Quintessence. No one is really sure if the threats are serious or just a sick prank, but Tabby grows increasingly anxious as the three days of the show wear on. She does manage to figure out who the culprit is, but it's too late. Sort of.

Lynn Hall has apparently written over 80 books, but I hope most of them are better than this one. Honestly, I found it a bit boring. I didn't feel like I really knew Tabby, other than she's slightly overweight and kind of sarcastic. There is a lot of information about dogs and dog shows here, but I still didn't get any sense of Tabby's "passion" for dogs. In hindsight, the culprit is pretty obvious, but I'm still not really sure what that person was trying to accomplish. To be fair, I may be expecting too much from a book that is geared towards grades 6-9.

OK, back to Trixie after this. Since Halloween is coming, I feel it only appropriate to read The Mystery of the Headless Horseman. I hope to have it up in a couple of weeks.