Conflicts, ectoplasmic and otherwise, laid to rest in a deliciously creepy setting.

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THE AGONY HOUSE

A white family’s attempts to renovate a storm-wracked Victorian New Orleans house are complicated by bitterly contending ghosts.

The resident spirits aren’t particularly reticent either, readily manifesting not only to 17-year-old Denise and her newlywed mother and stepfather, but to visiting neighbors as well—as a whiff of perfume, creeping shadows, a falling ceiling, and other ominous portents. But rather than being a stereotypical screamer, Denise has much in common (characterwise, at least) with intrepid, gun-toting Lucida Might, girl crime fighter and star of a 1950s manuscript comic Denise finds in the attic. Priest (Brimstone, 2017, etc.) ably weaves contemporary issues and a feminist strand into this fantasy as, while briskly fending off ghostly visitations and searching out clues to the house’s violent past, Denise makes new friends and encounters pushback from some St. Roch neighbors rightfully leery of white gentrifiers. Highlighted by a wonderfully melodramatic climax, the author brings her plotlines to upbeat resolutions with a thrilling discovery, a revelation about the comic’s author, and a degree of general community acceptance of Denise and her family. Nearly every character’s race, white or black, is carefully but unobtrusively specified. O’Connor (The Altered History of Willow Sparks, 2018) inserts multiple pages from the comic and atmospheric stand-alone illustrations all printed in haint blue.

Conflicts, ectoplasmic and otherwise, laid to rest in a deliciously creepy setting. (Graphic/novel hybrid ghost fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-545-93429-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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AKATA WITCH

Who can't love a story about a Nigerian-American 12-year-old with albinism who discovers latent magical abilities and saves the world? Sunny lives in Nigeria after spending the first nine years of her life in New York. She can't play soccer with the boys because, as she says, "being albino made the sun my enemy," and she has only enemies at school. When a boy in her class, Orlu, rescues her from a beating, Sunny is drawn in to a magical world she's never known existed. Sunny, it seems, is a Leopard person, one of the magical folk who live in a world mostly populated by ignorant Lambs. Now she spends the day in mundane Lamb school and sneaks out at night to learn magic with her cadre of Leopard friends: a handsome American bad boy, an arrogant girl who is Orlu’s childhood friend and Orlu himself. Though Sunny's initiative is thin—she is pushed into most of her choices by her friends and by Leopard adults—the worldbuilding for Leopard society is stellar, packed with details that will enthrall readers bored with the same old magical worlds. Meanwhile, those looking for a touch of the familiar will find it in Sunny's biggest victories, which are entirely non-magical (the detailed dynamism of Sunny's soccer match is more thrilling than her magical world saving). Ebulliently original. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-01196-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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Readers with strong stomachs and a taste for melodramatic narratives bedizened with words like “tenebrous” and “mephitic”...

THE LUNATIC'S CURSE

More luridly gothic deeds and schemes, set near the locales of the author’s Eyeball Collector (2009), Bone Magician (2008) and Black Book of Secrets (2007).

The prosperous town of Oppum Oppidulum, the deep and cold adjacent Lake Beluarum and the Asylum for the Peculiar and Bizarre that sits on an island in said lake all hold horrifying secrets. Young Rex discovers this when his father is confined to the Asylum after suddenly going mad and eating his own hand—to the open glee of Rex’s sinister new stepmother Acantha Grammaticus. Higgins trots Rex himself out to the misty island, where he is befriended by a deaf, young freak-show contortionist, nearly falls under the spell of a hypnotic con artist out to harvest the diamonds scattered thickly on the lake’s bottom and uncovers a number of hideous secrets on the way to a climax that brings just deserts for some and tragic twists of fate for others. Strewing her narrative with dark hints, obscure clues, assorted lunatics and, in particular, both macabre cuisine and a panoply of noxious or tantalizingly evocative odors, the author contrives a highly atmospheric experience.

Readers with strong stomachs and a taste for melodramatic narratives bedizened with words like “tenebrous” and “mephitic” will devour this yarn with relish. So to speak. (Gothic fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-56682-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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