Once in awhile, I find the time to do a book spotlight week, where I feature a book review and a matching author interview to go with it.

This week, I’m very happy to announce, is Monster Moon Week!

Why am I happy? Well, one is that I enjoyed reading the book immensely, and two, I had the pleasure of being critique groupmates (Wohoo, Critique Group 4! You gals rock!) with two of the writers of this wonderful series at last year’s SCBWI-LA Writers’ Retreat. (Watch out for the author interview this Thursday, it’s going to be a whole lot of fun!)

So, to kick off Monster Moon Week, here’s a review of the first book in the series.

A summary of the book from the series’ Monster Moon Mysteries Website:

“Monsters on the loose…end of a bloodline…”

It’s almost Halloween, and twelve-year-old AJ Zantony’s world is threatened by an ancient curse that releases wicked pirates who had been trapped for centuries in his Aunt Zsofia’s creepy mansion, Zala Manor.

The pirates–a vampire count, a pegleg skeleton, and a zombie–have three goals: to find a lost treasure, unleash the restless dead from their graves, and to settle a very old score by destroying the Zantony bloodline.

AJ has to stop them before midnight during Aunt Zsofia’s annual Halloween party. Except he has a big problem–monster phobia! He’s scared to death of monsters. But if he doesn’t act fast, the streets of Craggy Cove will be crawling with zombies.

Will AJ overcome his fear and stop the monsters or bail out? Will Craggy Cove become Zombie Central? Who will be alive when midnight tolls?

My Review

The first book that really got me reading was the Nancy Drew Mysteries. You remember those hardcover books with the yellow spines and the ginger-haired sixties girl on the cover?

Yup, those ones. I picked up one book on a whim and was hooked from then on. I would devour the books in a flash and pick up the next one. The librarian was probably amazed to see a third grader visit the library everyday. (It helped that the library was right next to our classroom).

Then I discovered fantasy books. I abandoned Nancy Drew for Harry Potter (sounds like a love triangle!) and completely forgot my love for mysteries and suspense.

Curse of Zala Manor brought back my love for mysterious events, ominous clues, and scary hidden villains.

One of the Amazon reviewers described the book as a cross between the Hardy Boys and Dracula. I beg to disagree. While the book has scary elements, it’s not so frightening as to scare the living daylights out of anyone. Dracula would leave you sleeping with the lights on, or jumping at every sound—It’s the kind of book you read outside on a sunny day, preferably with a group of tough friends around. Curse of Zala Manor is the kind of book you can read with a flashlight under the covers, and a cup of hot cocoa on your bedside table.

If I were to make a comparison, I would say that Curse of Zala Manor is more of a cross between Hardy Boys and Coraline. Adventure, mystery, and fantastical elements are all rolled into one entertaining and exciting read. The book has everything from dead pirates, to ghosts, to vampires and zombies, all set within the backdrop of a shadowy town.

Children love to be scared, and the authors have managed to get into the minds of kids and make their fear of monsters come to life. At the same time, they manage to show kids how to deal with such fears through the actions of their very brave protagonists AJ Zantony, Emily Peralta, and Vlad the talking rat.

A few science facts are also scattered throughout the book. Parents can read Curse of Zala Manor to their restless children who are dying for a good story (and an excuse to cuddle with their folks).

Teachers can most certainly use the book as a great learning tool for teaching history, comprehension and recall. The book can easily grab kids’ attentions—and keep it. The publisher is also working on a manual that will assist teachers in using the book as a teaching device.

The best part about this book? It’s only the first in a series! That means more mystery, mayhem, suspense and action from AJ Zantony and his gang of Zombuddies.

The second book in the series, The Secret of Haunted Bog will be out this year, and thanks to BBH McChiller, I’ve already had the pleasure of reading it. (Go ahead, be jealous J). I’m planning to do a book review on it, of course, but in the meantime, let me just say it’s just as deliciously suspenseful as the first one.

If you want to know more about the books, go to their website www.monstermoonmysteries.com. You can learn more about the planned books in the series, the authors and the characters there.

And–stay tuned for my interview with the literary witches of Craggy Crove (also known as the fabulous BBH McChiller).

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30 Responses to “Monster Moon Week: Book Review of Curse at Zala Manor”

  1. Lynn Kelley says:

    Aw, Nutschell, what a wonderful book review! I love it! Thanks so much.

  2. easy reading! funtastic for lenten season too, for the young and old (like me).

  3. Rilla Jaggia says:

    Great review, great witches! Can’t wait to read the author interviews with that nutty lot. Yup, they’ve been my critique buddies too…the best!

  4. Steve Harbour says:

    Our young nephews love this book. The three boys want it read to them everytime they visit. It’s always a treat to read and doesn’t seem to get old for them.

  5. Arlee Bird says:

    I was a big fan of The Hardy Boys when I was young. The cover of this book would have grabbed me right off the bat and the subject matter would have cinched it. Wow, now I kind of miss those innocent reading days of childhood and pre-adolescence.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out
    Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

  6. Sounds like a great read and a fun mixture of genres.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

  7. Oh man, I used to love mysteries as a kid, starting with Encyclopedia Brown. This sounds like such a great series. I’m sure I would’ve loved it as a kid.

  8. Pam Torres says:

    Great review! Always looking for great reads to inspire my reluctant reader granddaughter. He mom always loved mysteries so this could be a great fit! Thanks!

  9. Lynn Kelley says:

    Amazon is offering it right now for only $6.44. Or at least as of yesteday. I don’t know why they’re constantly changing their prices, but I sure love a bargain!

  10. Alana says:

    Looks like such a fun read! I will definitely have to check this one out. Appreciate the reference to both parents and teachers regarding the book’s appeal!

  11. Maria says:

    Monster Moon thanks for such a spookilicous review, Nutschell! Our talking pirate rat, Vlad, thanks ye, too! And Arlee, I had to giggle when I read the part of your post about how the book cover would have grabbed you right off the “bat.” Count Ozor, our vampire villain, came to mind. LOL! And Rilla, you are definitely a Zombuddy! And Steve, glad your nephews are enjoying the book. We had so much fun writing it. And so many times while working at Starbucks, we’d jumped out of our chairs and acted out a part, then tried to put the action into words. Really quite comical. Thanks again, Nutschell——Frizelda, your kooky literary witch! :-)

  12. This series sounds like So. Much. Fun. Now that I’m getting back into writing MG/YA…I’ll put Monster Moon on my TBR list! Thanks!

  13. Lydia K says:

    Great review! Hardy boys crossed with Coraline sounds really good with just enough creepiness to keep it exciting.

  14. Lynn Kelley says:

    It’s so exciting reading all these comments! I love it! And, Maria, how funny that you caught that “right off the ‘bat'” comment! I think that everyone who left a comment here is an honorary Zombuddy!

  15. Annie says:

    I’m a fan! Love this type of classic mystery adventure! Definitely reminiscent of my Nancy Drew-with a flashlight-under the covers days. Very fun read. Can’t wait (won’t have to much longer) for the next adventure!

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