Bleak and, unfortunately, not particularly compelling.

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KATE'S RING

A Canadian girl endures hardship and struggles in her 14th year.

Kate’s the oldest of six children in a Catholic family living in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in 1925. Ever since her mother came down with tuberculosis a year ago, her father’s been drinking the family into ruin. When he loses his job as a bakery delivery driver, the family relocates to his parents’ remote farm, then returns as her mother’s health worsens. And then another catastrophe strikes. Kate tries to keep charge of her siblings, but eventually they’re farmed out to other family members, and Kate’s father sells the titular ring, which was her mother’s. Much happens, and the characters move around a lot, but they never really come to life—Kate’s brothers in particular seem interchangeable—and a lot of the emotion in the story feels forced. Though the action is told from Kate’s first-person perspective, readers never fully understand what she most deeply wants, or why, and while the setting is carefully drawn, it feels more like a memory than a lived-in place. Kate’s voice is appropriately antique: Her mother’s illness is “consumption,” she has a “pal” named Grace, and she is mindful of “proper” behavior. All characters adhere to a white default.

Bleak and, unfortunately, not particularly compelling. (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88995-567-7

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Red Deer Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the...

DEADLY PINK

Vande Velde again traps teenagers inside an authentically depicted arcade game—but here she works twists into the premise that are both amusing and crank up the danger.

As in User Unfriendly (1991) and Heir Apparent (2002), the game, called “The Land of Golden Butterflies,” is manufactured by the shadowy Rasmussem Corp. and is fully immersive, fed directly into the brain through electrodes. Into this game 14-year-old Grace Pizzelli’s big sister Emily has gone; moreover, she has refused to come out and altered the code so she can’t be forcibly ejected. As sessions that run longer than a few hours cause brain damage and death, the corporation desperately turns to Grace to follow Emily in and persuade her to leave. Reluctantly agreeing, Grace discovers to her disgust that, rather than offering the usual heroic-fantasy or science-fiction setting, this digital world has been colored in pinks and lavenders. It is stocked with (supposedly) benign magical creatures and hunky male servitors—in general, it seems designed to cater to 10-year-old would-be princesses. The idyll has gone sour, though, because thanks to Emily’s fiddling, not only have the wish-granting sprites turned nasty, but the game’s governing Artificial Intelligence has changed the Rules—disabling the “Quit” function and forcing both Grace and her already-failing sister to embark on a seemingly hopeless quest with their real lives at stake.

Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the digital domain. (Science fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-73850-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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A heaping plateful of adventure, spiced to perfection with dangers, deft humor and silly bits.

THE TRAVELING RESTAURANT

JASPER'S VOYAGE IN THREE PARTS

From the Tales of Fontania series , Vol. 1

A seemingly ordinary lad boards a seagoing eatery and is swept up in a series of flights and pursuits that lead him to a higher destiny than he expects (or even wants, particularly).

Having banished all magic (even mention of the word) from the realm of Fontania, evil Lady Gall is on her way to removing the “Provisional” from her title of “Provisional Monarch.” Her attempt to poison Jasper’s beloved little sister Sibilla pitches his secretive extended family into hurried flight. Outraged and confused, Jasper is somehow left behind—but wangles a berth aboard the Traveling Restaurant, a floating diner painted like a circus wagon, and sets out to catch up. Else arranges her narrative into short chapters with titles like “This Is When It Becomes Fraught” and strews it with pirates, wild waters, sudden twists of fortune, family revelations and scrumptious tucker (Jasper finds a snatched chunk of salami “a farmyard of deliciousness in one mouthful”). She sets her quick-witted protagonist on a course that not only sharpens his already-considerable culinary skills but gives him a central role in rescuing his shipwrecked family, decisively scotching Lady Gall’s schemes and restoring magic to the land. Jasper does this with help from a supporting cast stocked with likable enemies, sometimes-unlikable allies and one particularly perspicuous toddler.

A heaping plateful of adventure, spiced to perfection with dangers, deft humor and silly bits. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-8775-7903-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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