An engaging introduction to a world of wonder and intrigue.

ANNABEL PICKERING AND THE SKY PIRATES

THE FANTASTICAL CONTRAPTION

A teenager goes on the run and flies with pirates in this middle-grade Victorian steampunk adventure.

Thirteen-year-old Annabel Pickering lives in an alternative history version of Victorian England, where all mechanical devices are steam-powered and airships flood the skies. Annabel is from the upper classes. She attends an elite girls’ school and from an early age has taken riding lessons. Her parents are both scientists. Annabel believes in England’s greatness and the sanctity of the queen. She’s never questioned the status quo. But then her parents are abducted—not even formally arrested—by the police. Suddenly everything changes for Annabel. She is forced to hide with the odd spinster from down the street (Miss Doubtweather) and her nonverbal niece and take flight with a crew of rough-but-kind pirates. Miss Doubtweather, it turns out, is part of a secret society of freethinkers, to which Annabel’s parents also belong. The pirates are more accurately smugglers; breaking the law, yes, but upholding their own moral code. The more Annabel sees, the more she must question her assumptions. But where will this get her? Will Annabel escape the Queen’s Guards and rescue her parents or spend the rest of her days in prison? Shaffer (Urban Yogini, 2017, etc.) writes in the third person, mostly from Annabel’s point of view but also from other characters’ perspectives when she isn’t present. Annabel is a naïve protagonist and tends to follow rather than lead the plot. But she is courageous, determined, and can think for herself. All told, she makes a good guide to the steampunk setting. This tale is well described and very imaginative, featuring not merely the standard elements, but also several novelties (such as the fabulous notion of using liquid to store information). To a large extent, this series opener focuses more on worldbuilding than storytelling, but the action does heat up, and the pirates in particular come into their own (albeit while talking in heavy buccaneer accents that can be a bit off-putting). A smattering of high-contrast, black-and-white illustrations by Garbay (Le Voyage Extraordinaire, 2019, etc.) adds to the impression of Victoriana. Though not entirely satisfying as a stand-alone adventure, this volume has enough captivating material to draw middle-grade readers into the series.

An engaging introduction to a world of wonder and intrigue.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Fantastical Contraption

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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