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Unearthly Asylum (The Joy of Spooking Series #2)

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  • Posted October 18, 2010

    Another infusion of Joy!

    Sequels are tricky things, what with the balancing act of preserving what made the first book good while creating a fresh story. The more I enjoyed the first book in a series, the more anxious/hopeful I feel as I approach the second. A good first book could be a fluke, after all. I loved the first book in the Joy of Spooking trilogy, FIENDISH DEEDS. I will not keep you in suspense: the second book more than realizes the potential of the first to kick off a fantastic trilogy. Now I'm conflicted, because I can't wait for the third book, SINISTER SCENES, in Summer 2011, yet that will be the end of the series!

    In FIENDISH DEEDS, we met Joy, a morbid yet likable young denizen of Spooking, her decaying hometown perched on a hill outside the perfect, cookie-cutter suburb of Darlington, where she attends school with the insufferable Darlings. Joy adores everything about Spooking and is convinced that her favorite horror writer, E.A. Peugeot, was writing about Spooking in his chilling tales. When the presumed bog of his stories is threatened by the ambition of the mayor's assistant, Octavio Phipps, she springs into action. In UNEARTHLY ASYLUM, Joy is out of sorts because her little brother/sidekick is occupied with a new friend and her mission to prove that Spooking was the home of Peugeot runs into a major obstacle. Meanwhile, Phipps has a new plan to destroy Spooking, involving the creepy old asylum (the possible setting for Peugeot's story, "The Asylum"). When her beloved pet frog turns up on the wrong side of the asylum wall, Joy mounts a rescue operation. Will she make it out in one piece? Will she find proof of Peugeot's presence in Spooking? Will she uncover the secrets of the strange asylum? Good heavens, you don't really think I'd answer these questions, do you? Go read the book.

    The snappy dialogue and clever wit of FIENDISH DEEDS continue in the second book. I was delighted to find that Joy was not only as delightful as she was in the first book, but Bracegirdle has added new dimension to her character. In the first book, her loyalty to Spooking was unwavering; in the second, she begins to see that decay may also have a downside. She also considers the possibility that she might be mistaken about Peugeot having lived in Spooking. Phipps, Joy's nemesis, is also fleshed out further. We learn more about his past and the source of his hatred for Spooking. His interaction with Joy is a delight. As Joy's mother decides to send her to a psychiatrist, attitudes toward mental illness are touched on.

    A sample of Bracegirdle's witty phrasing: "Her already excitable character had become impossibly effervescent, and like a shaken pop bottle, she seemed about ready to explode." (p. 158)

    Source disclosure: I received a review copy of this book.

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