Sorry this is a bit delayed — I’m swamped at the moment; it’s been a very busy week!

Spent the weekend prepping for the upcoming 39 Clues: Vespers Rising launch party with three books: 39 Clues #10: Into the Gauntlet by Margaret Peterson Haddix; The 39 Clues Black Book of Buried Secrets; and The 39 Clues Agent Handbook.

I realize I wasn’t able to post reviews of the last three books in the series (that I read last year — ooh, that brings my 2010 total to 209!), so let me bring you up to date.

More Cahill family secrets are unraveled in books 7, 8, and 9 as Dan and Amy continue their worldwide quest for the Cahill family treasure, launched with the passing of their beloved grandmother. Grace Cahill, the last Cahill family matriarch, offered all her heirs a choice between one million dollars and the starting clue to uncover the Cahill family legacy, which has produced the source of power and wealth of the Cahills, a family line which has produced prominent personalities in world history and culture, such as Galileo, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Mozart, Van Gogh, Beethoven, Winston Churchill, Mao Zedong, Rasputin, Neil Armstrong, Christopher Columbus and George Washington.

 

As the series nears a highly-anticipated ending, Dan and Amy face new challenges  that test not only their mettle, but also their relationship as brother and sister, and the memory of their parents and their grandmother grace. Throughout their new adventures, Dan and Amy are dogged by the other Cahills, who will do everything in their power to eliminate the competition.

In The Viper’s Nest by Peter Lerangis, Dan and Amy find themselves in South Africa after narrowly escaping a tropical storm (and the local police) in Indonesia. They follow the trail of Shaka Zulu, founder of the Zulu Nation and hero of South Africa. One of the biggest mysteries in the series – the family branch that Dan and Amy belong to – is finally revealed in this book (Aiiee!).

The Emperor’s Code by Gordon Korman takes the siblings to China, and the shocking discovery about their parents’ identity introduces a rift between Dan and Amy, forcing their first-ever separation in the hunt for the 39 clues. Amy is left with their au pair Nellie, while Dan storms off to team up with their celebrity cousin Jonah Wizard. Amy is left with a difficult decision – continue on the path to the next clue marked by the last Chinese emperor Pu Yi, or find her brother and make peace with him.

After a harrowing climb up Mount Everest reunites Dan and Amy, Storm Warning by Linda Sue Park sends them off to the Carribean, following the path laid out by buccaneer Jack Rackham. They come face to face with the mysterious man in black, the phantom that has been tracking them from the start of their hunt, forcing the pair to confront their parents’ dark past.

Into the Gauntlet brings the first series to a close in the last leg of the race for the 39 Clues. Dan and Amy are in London, tracking down the final clue that is tied in with another famous Cahill: the Bard, William Shakespeare! On top of the race for the Cahill legacy and keeping it from falling into the wrong hands, Dan and Amy are also faced with the task of carrying on their parents’ mission: to reunite all the feuding branches of the Cahill family.

I can’t believe I waited so long to read Book 10! I  took the book along with me on Saturday morning, intending to get a start on it while I was getting my nails done (ahh, I really think the salon is one of the best places to get some peace and quiet for reading!), and I practically devoured it before the nail polish could dry on my fingernails!

I’ve never read any books by Margaret Peterson Haddix, but I think she did a spectacular job in wrapping up the last volume of the first 39 Clues series. This volume is considerably thicker than the rest in the series, but I didn’t even notice the length! I didn’t realize how much I missed reading the series, and I’m glad most of the characters (the survivors, at least), are back in this book: Nellie and Saladin, the Kabras, the Holts, Jonah Wizard, Alistair Oh, the Madrigals, and even some drumroll worthy surprise appearances!

The plot is also quite exciting. While the breathless chase sequences are a signature component of all the books in the series, the last leg of the race involves all the feuding parties trapped in one stronghold!

Oh, and a lot more mysteries about the Cahill legacy come to light, but that leaves more questions to be answered in the second series… Thank goodness I got my copy of Vespers Rising (technically Book 11) today, and based on the summary at the back of the book, it’s confirmed: Dan and Amy Cahill are back! Squee! Perhaps in Part 2 of the series the Amy-Ian ship can set sail again (hee hee)!

In preparation for Book 11, I also read the two bonus books to the series: The 39 Clues Black Book of Buried Secrets; and The 39 Clues Agent Handbook.

The Black Book of Buried Secrets is an informative fact book about the Cahills, with a section devoted to each branch: Lucian, Ekaterina, Tomas, Janus, and the Madrigals. The book explores each branch’s history, notable achievements, famous founders, current agents, and stronghold locations.

What I like about this book is that it’s really a bonus — it’s not a repeat of the information that’s revealed in the books, and it provides additional clues (some point to Vespers Rising!) to decode as well. There’s also a very amusing introductory chapter by Rick Riordan, starring all the authors of the 39 Clues as operatives of the different Cahill branches!

Meanwhile, the Agent Handbook is more of a DIY book, designed for 39 Clues readers to fill in as they hunt for clues. It contains important Cahill documents (e.g. Grace’s last will and testament, Dan and Amy’s [immediate] family tree, maps, newspaper clippings, etc.),assorted letterheads (for forging correspondence from the different Cahill branches), various codes and ciphers, and a special section for taking notes on the books (clues, rival agents, hints on future clue locations, new Cahill founders, and new info uncovered). There’s also a very helpful Card List in the back of the book for tracking down which cards are already in your collection!

This book is another mark of how the 39 Clues team has planned out the series to really get the readers involved in the books, and I really admire the creativity behind it. Now I want to go back and read the other books so I can fill in this one! But that will have to wait — I got my copy of Vespers Rising in time for the launch party; I’ll have to start reading it tomorrow!

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The 39 Clues series is an interactive action-adventure series, with over 8.5 million copies in print. Since the series was launched in September 2008, the 39 Clues has drawn readers and gamers in nearly 200 countries worldwide, as its multimedia format gained unprecedented success.

The series, which has appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists, has also been licensed for publication in 24 languages, including Japanese, Italian, Chinese, German, Greek, and Hebrew.  The online gaming component has racked up 1.2 million registered users on the 39 Clues website (www.the 39clues.com) to date, and The 39 Clues Madrigal Maze app for the iPhone and iPod touch has been ranked among the top kids games on the App Store. Movie rights have also been purchased by Dream Works Studios, with Steven Spielberg eyeing to direct.

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39 Clues #10: Into the Gauntlet, hardcover 5/5 stars;

39 Clues Black Book of Secrets, and 39 Clues Agent Handbook, hardcover, both 4/5 stars

Books #35-37 for 2011

The 39 Clues books, including the latest volume: Vespers Rising, are available at National Book Store.

I’ll be moderating the book talk of Vespers Rising at the launch party — see you there!


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