• The Jaguar Stones, Book Two: The End of the World Club by J.& P. Voelkel

      When his Boston home mysteriously takes on the atmosphere of a tropical rain forest, complete with poisonous insects, moss-bedecked walls and oppressive heat and humidity, Max is forced to acknowledge his deepest fear - the lords of death of the Mayan underworld are going to hold him to his promise to help them. To appease them, he must find the last Jaguar Stone, the yellow one, and deliver it to Xibalba. It's not bad enough that he must solve a riddle in order to know where to begin looking, but he has only seven days in which to find the yellow prize and get it to the underworld. Instead of returning to San Savior in Central America where his adventures in Book One ended, the riddle points him to a small village in Spain. He's joined there by Lola, the Maya girl who befriended him in San Savior, and her two howler monkeys whose bodies are temporarily hosting an ancient Maya warlord and his royal mother. Lola and Max become separated soon after meeting, and Max assumes her disappearance is because she's fallen for a young Spanish law student she met on the plane, so he takes off without her. Mystical, mysterious, mythological Maya villains seem to thwart his every attempt to locate the Yellow Jaguar Stone, sending Max into one terrifying situation after another. As he follows the trail of ancient conquistadors to retrieve the stone, Max encounters a world famous rock band on tour. When their drummer gets hurt, they ask him to fill in at a private wedding concert the band has been hired to play. Even the thrill of being a rock star cannot top the adrenaline-producing shock Max experiences as he sees that Lola is the reluctant bride and he realizes what lies ahead if he is going to fulfill his quest.

      Talk about escape literature for teens and pre-teens! This audio book is like a literary video game--where the hero must overcome cascading, rapidly appearing obstacles and threats. In fact, Max likens his quest to playing a video game, and he employs some of the strategies that have made him a champion gamer. Throw in the opportunity of not only meeting, but of playing with a famous rock band and a teenager listener's fantasy comes true. As in the first book in the trilogy, The Jaguar Stones, Book One: Middleworld, Scott Brick's narration is breath-taking. He infuses the voice of Max with alternating measures of bravado, cynicism and plaintive exasperation. Portraying a diverse cast of characters from ancient Maya rulers to Spanish villagers to modern American teens and parents, he makes each believable and recognizable. Throughout 9+ hours of story and historical and religious background, he keeps the atmosphere charged with excitement and anticipation.

      Even if the authors didn't provide the wealth of information about Maya culture, Spanish exploration, and doomsday predictions that they do, this would still be an important book for young adults. Listeners will recognize that Max is a normal boy with human failings, but that he ultimately wins because of truth, integrity, perseverance, loyalty and courage. The plot and characters are mesmerizing and will attract even the most reluctant reader. Rock bands, exotic locales, video games, pretty girls, humor, monsters, danger, combat, the triumph of good over evil--what's not to make this a winner?

      The Jaguar Stones, Book Two: The End of the World Club by J.& P. Voelkel
      Read by Scott Brick
      Listening Library, unabridged: 9hrs, 40 min on 8 CDs