Thursday, August 30, 2018

Flash - the YA Novel Book 2 - Johnny Quick

CW's The Flash returns in his second young adult novel, Johnny Quick.  And before you ask, NO, the title does not refer to the World War II hero by the same name (unfortunately).  That is certainly what I was hoping for, but no - the title refers to the villainous speedster from the opposite-Earth, Earth 3 (well, okay, it was Earth 3 in the comics - but in the CW realm, it is actually Earth 27, since Earth 3 is inhabited by Jay Garrick Flash - yeah, try not to dwell on it, or you'll just get confused...)

Anyway, Barry Lyda, who brought us the first novel, Hocus Pocus, continues the story of Barry Allen and his friends as they begin their search for the magician who somehow disappeared from the Pipeline. Plus, they are beginning to deal with the Earthworm problem as well.  (And speaking of Earthworm, I'm rather thrilled to see this villain used, as the character first appeared in a Huntress back-up story in the pages of Wonder Woman back in the 1980s!) And so the story opens...

Earthworm is claiming another victim while Team Flash tries to revive a near comatose Cisco (a/k/a Vibe).  Cisco has been working overtime to figure out how Hocus Pocus' so-called "magic" technology worked, and after days of non-stop, caffeine-filled work, he fell into a comatose sleep.  So, while Cisco remains in la-la land, Barry (a/k/a The Flash) decides to do take a side-trip to Earth 2 to visit Harrison Wells, who might have some ideas on the Hocus Pocus tech.  Meanwhile, Wally (a/k/a Kid Flash) will work on the Earthworm case.  Sounds easy, right?  Well, if you've seen any episodes of CW's The Flash, then you know nothing every goes quite as planned!

(SIDENOTE - I love the author's use of Madame Xanadu, a much underused character in the DC Universe.  Plus, while making his trip through the multiversal highway to Earth 2, it's fun to "see" the different worlds that Barry glances along the way: Supergirl on Earth 38; a boy with long blond hair fighting a bipedal lion (Kamandi?); a man with a glowing green ring on his hand (Green Lantern!); a rabbit in a cape and unitard (Captain Carrot!!!!); a man and woman smaller than mice wearing red capes (Doll Man and Doll Girl!). Sure, they have only been glimpses, but just those quick, Easter-Egg references make the fanboy in me totally geek out!)

Back to the story - Flash, through happenstance, ends up on a completely different Earth, one that is wholly unfamiliar to him. Where everyone seems to be afraid of him. And where he finds tombstones for Cisco.  And Caitlin.  And Iris.  And Wally.  And just about everyone else he cares about.  He heads back to S.T.A.R. labs, only to find it has been walled off - and with guards at the top who shoot at him for simply coming near the wall!  This is definitely not Earth 2!

With the help of Captain Cold and Heat Wave (who, believe it or not, are the good guys!), as well as the Trickster and the Pied Piper, as well as the Weather Wizard (talk about an Earth of opposites), the Flash goes head-to-head with Johnny Quick - - and loses!  His only help seems to come from Madame Xanadu.  But how is she on this Earth as well?  Barry doesn't have time to ask, for it's off to the races (literally!) as he not only uncovers the true identity of Johnny Quick (hint! hint! it's not who you think it is!), but also fights to save all of Central City from the thralls of a power-hungry, speed demon.

Meanwhile, back on Earth 1, Wally takes on the Earthworm - - and loses!  (What is it with the loser Flashes in this book?)  With Wally missing, possibly in the hands of the Earthworm, Cisco literally beside himself (read the book and you'll find out what I mean!), and the Flash ready to head off for the future to uncover the secrets of Hocus Pocus - well, it's the perfect episodic cliffhanger, leaving readers ready for the next book to come out already!

If you love the TV show, then you'll love the book.  What are you waiting for?  Go get it!

RATING:  10 speed formulas out of 10 for a fast-moving, chock-full of surprises, well-written story that very much felt like I was watching an episode on the CW - loved it!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Goldie Vance GN - Volume Four - Goldie Vance Cracks the Code!

Looking back on this blog, I realize I never posted any thoughts on the Goldie Vance comic book series published by Boom! comics.  It originally came out as a monthly series, with break in-between each 4-issue arc. However, for whatever reason, after the first twelve issues, Boom! decided to switch the publication from monthly issues to graphic novels only, so "issues 13-16" was sold only as a bound graphic novel, labeled Volume Four (as issues 1-4 was Volume 1, 2-8 was Volume 2, and 9-12 was Volume Three).

Anyway, if you're thoroughly confused, don't be!  If you love a good, clean mystery in the same vein as Nancy Drew, then go out to your local comic store (or makes Barnes & Noble order it for you) and pick up any of the trade paperbacks of this series.  It has a teenage protagonist whose father runs a hotel in sunny Florida, and she has taken it upon herself to assist the hotel detective (no, these storeis are not set in the present) in solving cases. But rather than your typical missing luggage or stolen jewelry, Goldie usually finds herself smack dab in the middle of international mysteries!

Volume Four (which has no specific title, although the tagline on the back says it all:  Goldie Vance Cracks the Code!) finds Goldie finally being taken seriously by her father, as well as Walter Tooey, the real hotel detective.  He asks her to help him figure out what has happened to a couple of bands who have not shown up for the music festival that weekend, and to also see about what is causing the recent power outages.  Two simple enough tasks, right?  Wrong!  Remember, Goldie and Nancy share a love of mysteries, as well as coincidences, so from the get-go, the reader knows that there is something a lot more sinister going on here...

It seems the music festival, and the music industry in general, is harboring some very dark secrets, and that someone is using the records for something other than music.  Goldie figures out that it is one particular song being played by the local radio station that happens to be playing every time the power goes out in town.  With the help of her friend, Cher, she discovers not only what it is that is causing the black-outs, but also uncovers some secret messages in Russian on the album covers!

Of course, Goldie jumps the gun and ends up accusing the wrong person, which gets in a lot of trouble, not just with her father and the hotel staff, but also with her girlfriend!  So, when Goldie stumbles across the identity of the real culprit, she's left with the "boy who cried wolf" syndrome and has to find a way to prove she is right this time!

For this story, Jackie Ball has taken over the writing chores, from a story by original creator of the character, Hope Larson.  The artist is also new, with Elle Power now doing the art instead of original co-creator Brittney Williams.  Yet, despite the change in writer and artist, the characterization remains consistent, as does the art style and quality.  Honestly, if I had not looked at the credits in the front of the book, I would not have noticed the change in creative teams.  Which, quite frankly, is a good thing, because that means that the story and art are so well done, the change had no impact on the great stories being told.

And, this is a small thing for some, but for me, it meant a lot - the book has four chapters (one chapter per issue), and it maintains the numbering - meaning the first chapter is listed as Chapter Thirteen (which would have been issue 13 if the series had remained monthly), and the trade provides us with what the covers of each issue would have been if the series had maintained that publication schedule.  So, even though I had to switch from monthly issues to trades, at least there is some consistency!

"...a spunky teen detective in the tradition of Nancy Drew," says The A.V. Club, and I would have to agree.

RATING:  9 sticks of American gum out of 10 for providing a good, clean mystery that can be enjoyed by mystery fans of all ages!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Boxcar Children: Great Adventure 4 - The Shackleton Sabotage

After the difficulty of making it through the last book I read, I knew I needed something quick and enjoyable, so I reached out for the fourth part of this Boxcar Children story.  The books may be intended for young readers, but the stories themselves are fun, easy to read, and usually bring a smile or two to my face while I am reading them, making this the perfect choice.

The Shackleton Sabotage continues the kids' adventures around the world as they return stolen artifacts on behalf of the Reddimus Society.  The book opens with the Alden children headed for Australia to return an old coin with a hole in the center.  They are greeted by their aunt, who joins them on this latest leg of their journey, and together they visit various sites throughout the country before returning the coin to a doctor just off the coast of the land down under.  The second half of the book finds the four children, along with their aunt, traveling down to the very far south region of Antarctica (where, conveniently enough, not only does their aunt know a researcher and historian who is working there, but he turns out to be the Reddimus agent to whom they have to return the sixth relic!).

As always, there are plenty of coincidences to help the children get where they are going and have just the right amount of contacts to stay on track and stay safe, even with the Argents' agents hot on their trail.  Let's face it, there has to be a large amount of suspension of disbelief for these books to work, as no parent, grandparent, or guardian in their right mind would send four children around the world to return stolen relics, knowing that dangerous spies and criminals are after those very relics.  Further, there is no secret society in this world (or any other, for that matter!) who would use children, all under the age of 15, to do their work for them.

But, this is a children's mystery, after all, and in order to work, the children, no matter their ages, must have complete autonomy.  At least the author maintains their childhood, as there are plenty of things these kids don't know about the countries they visit, and the reactions of Benny and Violet (the two youngest) to the new venues and new experiences are very definitely child-like and realistic.  That, I will admit, is part of what makes these books fun, as the reader gets to experience some of these things through the eyes of a young child, and it can bring back good memories of being so young and innocent.

The one thing I do find interesting about this book is the title.  The Shackleton Sabotage.  From that title, one would think that the Argents would be up to something sinister in that Antarctic station, and that they would be creating havoc by sabotaging something there. Yet (and perhaps this might be considered a spoiler!), absolutely nothing sinister, deadly, dangerous, or even remotely villainous happens in Shackleton. In fact, there is no evidence at all that the Argents' agents even followed the children to Shackleton. So, it leaves me wondering what prompted them to choose this title for the book?

Aside from that, this was another fun romp with the Boxcar Children, and I look forward to seeing how this all concludes in the next book (particularly since the kids have finally figured out which of their so-called friends has actually been spying on them for the Argents!).

RATING:  7 dingoes on the loose out of 10 for showing the world just how independent children can be - I mean, after all, who needs parental supervision?  (Okay, okay, I'll keep my sarcasm in check from now on...)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Kitty Hawk and The Curse of the Yukon Gold - Book One of the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series


Oh, excuse me. Sorry, had to wake myself up after reading this book. I have been so very fortunate in taking chances on series that are a little off-the-beaten-path, so to speak, and have found them to be really good. Once in a while, though, once comes along that reminds me that not every author can write an engaging story. This is one of those cases.

I picked up Kitty Hawk an The Curse of the Yukon Gold for several reasons. First, the advertisement compared it with Nancy Drew. Second, it was listed as a mystery. Third, the main character is an aviator, and Mildred Wirt Benson, the first ghostwriter for the Nancy Drew series, was a pilot. With that combination, I knew this had to be good. Author Iain Reading proved me wrong, that's for sure.

Kitty Hawk (and, yes, that's her name - it's a good thing she grew up with a love for flying!) is an eighteen-year old girl who is just graduating high school. She has been flying all her life, and she even has her very own sea plane, which, in this first adventure, she plans to fly up to Alaska to study the social interactions and eating habits of humpback whales. She even manages to get a clothing line company to sponsor her expedition. The back of the book indicates that she "finds herself caught up in an unforgettable adventure involving stolen gold, devious criminals, ghostly shipwrecks, and bone-chilling curses."

Is there stolen gold?  Yes.

Are there devious criminals?  Criminals, yes.  Devious, not by any means.

Are there ghostly shipwrecks?  Only in a twice-told story.

Are there bone-chilling curses?  A curse, yes.  Bone-chilling?  Hardly.

For all my hopes of mystery and adventures, this book reads more like an encyclopedia that anything else. Every chapter is filled with paragraph after paragraph of geographical information about the west coast of Canada and most of Alaska, along with historical facts (with plenty of fictional information thrown in there to fit the story) about the Yukon Gold Rush (a/k/a Klondike Gold Rush). And just in case you might confuse this with an actual fictional tale, there are plenty of maps strewn throughout the book, as well as an appendix at the back of the book that will give you even MORE information about the historical facts and real places discussed in the book.

There is some adventure to the story, which begins when Kitty stumbles across a gang of thieves and is kidnapped by them and forced to fly them over into Canada to transport their stolen gold.  But mystery? No, no real mystery involved, other then the mystery of why I ever bought this book in the first place.  Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh. There were moments that I did enjoy of the book, such as Kitty standing up for herself, her experience with the humpback whales, and her ultimate victory over Amanda Phillpot at the end of the book (yes, Kitty has her very own foil - just like the Dana Girls' own Lettie Briggs, Amanda serves no purpose but to try and foil any good deed that Kitty does - although she only appears briefly at the beginning, and then at the end, of the story).

There is very little character development in the book - from the get-go, we are told that Kitty loves flying, and that's all we really know about her from the book.  Her kidnappers are somewhat cookie-cutter, and although there are some revelations throughout the story, there is nothing that provides the reader with any deeper understanding of the men.  Kitty's parents, her foil Amanda, her possible love interest Edward, and even her friend Skeena - readers get absolutely nothing about these characters other than their names.

It is a real shame - had the author chosen to take the mystery-route rather than the educational route, this could very well have been a great mystery - plenty of opportunity for mysterious, dangerous settings, as well as heart-stopping cliff-hangers.  Instead, I know way more about the Alaskan and Canadian countryside, their climates, etc. than I ever wanted to know.  So, if you are looking for a deeper education of Alaska and Canada - then this is the book for you!  If you are looking for a good, engaging mystery - you better pass on this one, because you won't find what you are looking for!

RATING:  2 cardboard-tasting protein bars out of 10 for at least giving us an 18-year old protagonist instead of a pre-teen, and for making her brave enough to follow her instincts.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Boystown - Season One

Family. Love. Deception. Power. Revenge.  Welcome to Boystown.

Sounds like the absolute perfect description of a nighttime soap opera, along the lines of Dynasty, Dallas, Falcon Crest, Knots Landing, and the rest. And if that is what you were thinking, you'd be absolutely right!  Boystown is definitely a soap opera, set in the lively Chicago neighborhood referred to as Boystown.  The only thing is, this Boystown, you won't find on your television.  You see, this Boystown, written by Jake Biondi, is a soap opera in novel form.  Biondi even goes so far as to refer to each book as a "season," and each chapter is called an "Episode."  I've had these on my Amazon watch list for a while (there are eight in publication so far), and I finally took the plunge and bought the first season and read it.


I can't believe how perfectly Biondi is able to capture the feel of a nighttime soap!  The perfect mix of romance, drama, betrayal, lies, greed, and secrets that could crumble an empire.  It seems everyone has something to hide, and sooner or later the worlds of these characters begin to collide, and when they do, secrets are bound to come out with devastating results.  And the reason I am screaming "NO!" so loudly is because Biondi also ends the book just like every nighttime soap has done since Dallas kicked it off with that jaw-dropping, shocking cliffhanger, "Who Shot J.R.?"  Just as I got caught up in the characters and storylines, not only does the first season end, but it ends with a Maldavian-massacre-esque cliffhanger that leaves the reader wondering - who lived? who died? and whose lives will never be the same?

Okay, so for the basics - the story centers around several couples - Derek Mancini and his wife, Joyelle - - Derek's brother Emmett and his boyfriend (soon to be fiance!) Keith Colgan - - Emmett's friend Max Taylor and Max's long-time partner, Logan Pryce - - and not to be left out are the two college students graduating from the University of Notre Dame and preparing to take on new jobs in Chicago, Jesse Morgan and Cole O'Brien (who are only friends).  At first, everything seems kosher with these relationships, but as the storylines develop, the reader is quick to discovery (like with any good soap!) that there are tensions and secrets just beneath the surface.  Trust me, when I say that it's one wild ride!

- Derek has a weekend tryst with Cole while away on business, unaware that Cole has taken a picture of his driver's license and now knows where he lives...

- Keith is preparing to propose to Emmett on New Year's Eve, but he soon becomes concerned when a dangerous voice from his past begins to make his presence known...

- Logan is an alcoholic who cannot control his liquor intake, and Max is reaching the limit of how much more he can take...

- Jesse has been sleeping with Ben Donovan, but now that he is graduating, he ends things with Ben - but Ben is not quite ready to let Jesse go...

- Cole convinces Jesse to let him find them an apartment in Chicago - and the one he finds is conveniently just across the street from the "happily" married Mancinis...

- Jesse is hired by Logan's firm, and Jesse is immediately attracted to his new boss, not caring he is partnered...

- Ben places a tracker in Jesse's phone that lets him know where his obsession is at all times, while at the same time, slowly seduces Jesse's mother...

And if all of those juicy tidbits aren't enough to pull you in, Keith's past catches up to him in the worst possible way when Emmett goes missing!  Mismatched as they all may be, they pull together to try and find their missing friend.  And if there were not enough secrets being hidden, Derek and Emmett's brother, Justin, shows up to help with the search - but what in the world is he doing with that gun in his suitcase?  And can Officer Michael Martinez, who begins to develop an attraction for Keith, help them find Emmett before it's too late?  (Well, the only thing I will tell you is, remember - this is a soap opera with a big season finale cliffhanger!)  It's Dante's Cove meets Dynasty meets General Hospital (with a little bit of Soap thrown in for good measure)!

***NOTE - I do have to provide a disclaimer, as the book does contain some very explicit sex scenes, but thankfully they are quick (no pun intended there) and do not detract from the story.

RATING:  8 gold and silver wedding rings out of 10 for creating a world of characters that you want to like and hate at the same time, and for drawing you into the story just in time to leave you hanging - literally!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Miraculous TPB Vol. 1 - The Trash Krakken

As an adult, there are not a lot of cartoons that I like.  I have watched the various Justice League cartoons (of course), and some of the DC animated movies (although they are a bit too dark for my taste), but otherwise, there haven't been any others that have caught my attention.  At least, not until I stumbled across Miraculous while flipping channels.

Miraculous tells the story of Ladybug and Cat Noir, two young super heroes in France.  Marinette and Adrien, two students who, unbeknownst to each other (as well as their friends), assume the identities of the super-powered Ladybug and Cat Noir.  They two heroes gain their powers courtesy of their kwamis, Tikki and Plagg.  What is endearing about this story, though, is the unrequited feelings they have for each other - Marinette is over the moon about Adrien, but too shy to tell him; meanwhile, Cat Noir is totally in love with Ladybug, but she keeps him at a distance.  Together, they do constant battle against a variety of villains created by the evil Hawk Moth, who is determined to steal Ladybug's miraculous earrings and Cat Noir's miraculous ring.  Of course, he's never actually succeeded, as Paris' finest pair of heroes always manage to outwit the villain and free the lacky from the devious akuma. The first season of episodes have aired here in America, and I've been anxiously awaiting for season two to air.

Meanwhile, Action Lab Comics has been taking each episode and publishing it in comic book form, collecting every couple of stories into trades.  Only recently, though, Action Lab has begun publishing new, never-before-told stories, and "The Trash Krakken" collects the first four issues of this new series!  While the prologue and Chapter 1 are cute, but not overly exciting, Chapters 2 through 4 provide an all-new tale that takes Ladybug and Cat Noir out of their elements and throws them into a completely different kind of story (unlike anything seen from the cartoon series).

The prologue and first chapter find our two heroes fighting a young boy at a lacrosse game who isn't thrilled at losing to Adrien and his classmates - enter: Replay!  With the power to throw people into repeating instant replays of their last action, it seems he might be an impossible foe to stop!  But leave it to Ladybug to come up with a solution that "reflects" her quick-thinking abilities!  The art on this first tale tries to mimic the appearance of the cartoon (I give the artist credit - the scenes where Marinette and Adrien change into Ladybug and Cat Noir and pretty spot on!), but I think it is the art in the last three chapters that creates more of a feel of the cartoon.  Even if the story is a bit out of the ordinary...

And speaking of that story - "The Trash Krakken" introduces Ladybug and Cat Noir to a team of superheroes in the good ol' USA.  That's right, our dynamic duo get brought to the United States of America to help the President of the United States (who happens to be a superhero) and her team of super heroes defeat a giant trash monster from destroying the country!  The President plans to have her heroes defeat the monster and use Ladybug's miraculous ladybug power to restore everything back to normal.  But Ladybug isn't sure she can handle something this big, and when she notices a stuffed squid in the midst of all the trash being absorbed into the monster, she has an idea that could save everyone.  The only problem is, the President does not want to hear it.

So what's a French superhero to do?  Well, when you've got a faithful sidekick who would follow you anywhere, there's only one thing to do - jump out of the frying pan and directly into the oven!

It is an interesting story that, for once, does not involve Hawk Moth or one of his akumas.  A part of me hopes that the writers (and Action Lab, if they continue to publish any new, never-before published stories like this) will follow up on this, as I'd like to see what created the Trash Krakken and whether more villains will come out of it.

If you love the Miraculous cartoon, then you'll enjoy these new stories from Action Lab.

RATING:  9 balls of genuine American chewing gum out of 10 for expanding the universe of Ladybug and Cat Noir!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Second Goth Girl Novel - Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death

"Fete" is an old English word, meaning party or celebration, usually describing outdoor festivals.  It is pronounced the same as "fate," and thus, as soon as you read the title for this second book in the Goth Girl series, you know you are in for a real treat.  I mean, let's face it:

Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death

With a title like that, what's not to love?  And, as with the first book, author and illustrator, Chris Riddell, fills this mystery with plenty of puns, unusual names, and countless literary references (such as the cabinet-making faun, Mr. Tumnus, and his apprentice, Lucy).  And for those completely unfamiliar with our protagonist, Ada Goth is the daughter of Lord Goth, and they reside in the somewhat-stately, overly-unusual, and always-outlandish Ghastly-Gorm Hall.  Ada's mother died some years ago, and until the end of the first book, Lord Goth could barely even acknowledge his daughter, as she reminded him so much of Lady Goth.  But after Ada helped the Ghost of a Mouse prevent a tragedy in the first mystery, Lord Goth has begun to see his daughter as the bright, young, talented girl that she is.

And so we come to this second mystery, in which Riddell introduces the reader to the annual Full-Moon Fete, which, by chance, Lord Goth finds to be very boring and rarely, if ever, enjoys.  But, as the villagers love the festival, Lord Goth opens his home each year for the unique event.  Only, this year, there is to be some added events - such as the Great Ghastly-Gorm Bake Off, the artistry of the Twee Raffelites, and the Transalvanian Carnival of the Glum-Stokers (that would be Vlad, his wife Glad, and his two children, Mlad and Blad).

But something is off about this year's festival.  Ada begins to wonder what Maltravers, the indoor gamekeeper, is up to.  He seems to be keeping a lot of secrets (which is nothing new), but when he harbors the night-grocers in a hidden room in the basement and seems to be welcoming a number of uninvited guests to this year's fete, she has to do something.  But her father is out of town, and all of her friends (the members of the Attic Club - what happens in the attic, stays in the attic!) are all busy helping get the Hall ready for the upcoming events.  Even her new governess, Lucy Borgia, has suddenly found eyes only for the elegant Lord Sydney Whimsey, who has come to Ghastly-Gorm to oversee the set-up of this year's Full-Moon Fete.  So how is she going to get to the bottom of the mysterious goings-on before it's too late?

And did I mention that Ada finally comes face to face with Marylebone, her lady's maid - who turns out to be a shy bear?  No, literally, I mean it.  She's a real bear!  Who happens to have received a letter from a long-lost love who has made his way in the world and is finally able to give Marylebone the life she deserves.  But how can this lady's maid go off into the world and marry the man (bear?) she loves, when she is so shy that she can't even leave the large closet in Ada's room?

Oh, and lest I forget, Ada's birthday happens to be the date after the Full Moon Fete - the big question is: will anyone remember it (particularly since no one has remembered it since her mother died)?

I would definitely rate this series on part with the Oz, Narnia, and other classic series of the same sort, with its over-the-top, unusually-serious, fun-natured storytelling and beautifully rendered internal illustrations.  I recommend this to anyone who loves not only mysteries or Gothic tales, but just plain ol' good stories to read!

RATING:  10 overly ornamental fountains out of 10 for good, old-fashion whimsical silliness that is presented totally serious and straightforward, making it so worth the read!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Class - from the Universe of Doctor Who: What She Does Next Will Astound You

It was with a heavy heart that I picked up this book to read - as I knew this was going to be my last chance to spend time with April, Ram, Tanya, Charlie, Matteusz, and of course, the devilishly sadistic Quill.  The television show on BBC was short-lived (only one season), but it showed so much potential, had some excellent (and good looking!) actors, and was yet another spin-off from Doctor Who that expanded on that growing universe of characters and shows.  Now, after having read the previous two books, I picked up the third book, ready to enjoy this last bit of time with the stars of Class.

Sadly, What She Does Next Will Astound You fell flat, and it was a disheartening final farewell to the show and its characters.  Author James Goss has written a lot of BBC material - from Doctor Who to Torchwood to Being Human.  He has even written a fairly decent audio story for the Dark Shadows series from Big Finish Productions.  So I really expected more from the story than what I got.

The premise was not altogether bad.  Students have been disappearing from Coal Hill School, but everyone is so caught up with the crazy internet challenges to help stop the disease known as Skandis that no one notices.  No one except April.  She realizes something is off.  The oh-so-handsome Seraphin, who has a vlog online that urges people to take up the challenges, seems to be placing hidden messages in his videos.  And the teenagers who are doing the challenges are becoming more and more reckless, with some getting seriously injured and others putting their lives in mortal danger - all for what?  To help raise money for a disease no one has heard of?  When April gets frustrated that no one is listening to her, she places her own online challenge - and ends up in the Void.

What is the Void?  Well, it's someplace.  A place with white walls, white floors, white furniture, white ceilings, where the doors blend into the walls, and it is challenging to find your way around.  What is more challenging, though, is the truth - the truth about Skandis.  The truth about the internet challenges.  And the truth about where those teenagers have been disappearing and what they are being forced to do.

Sounds interesting, right?  Well, it might have been, if it had been written as a normal prose novel.  Instead, for reasons unknown (perhaps because he thought it might appeal to the teenage audience?), Goss decided to tell the story in an unusual way - a sort-of stream-of-consciousness, changing points of view, sudden interjections of news flashes or memory blips, every day conversational style of writing.  And for me, this did not work at all.  It is not until page 119, when April wakes up in the Void, that the writing begins to be a little more straightforward storytelling.  The first 118 pages, though, jump around so much, it is jarring, in places disjointed, and quite frankly, annoying.  It does nothing to provide characterization, it doesn't garner any sympathy for any of the characters, and it leaves the reader (well, at least me) feeling rather bored.

Which is not the way I wanted to feel reading the final story of Class and its characters.

But, it is what it is, and so the final tale does little to build any of the relationship among the characters, provides no character growth for any of them, and while it was admittedly fun to watch Quill enter the Void to discover she is able to kill the enemy (she still can't kill Charlie, though), which she then does with relish and enjoyment, by the end of the book, I was left only with a feeling that I was glad it was over.  It's a shame that this is my final farewell to Charlie and the gang, but at least I have the DVDs I can go back and watch again - - and who knows, maybe BBC will be brave enough to allow authors to venture into the world of Class again in the future and take Quill and her students beyond that first season, so we can see what happens next (although I just discovered that Big Finish Productions has gained the rights to do audio stories to continue the adventures!  Yay!!!)

RATING:  5 bowls of bland porridge-stew out of 10 for pointing out that society's addiction to the internet and technology could very well be their downfall.