Just the ticket for a class on how not to write an adventure story.

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DEAD MAN'S HAND

From the Caden Chronicles series , Vol. 1

When his family decides to spend their vacation at a ghost-themed old-West tourist trap, Nick is not enthusiastic, but when, minutes after their arrival, he discovers a dead body in a barn, he perks up.

Nick has a passion for detection aided by the Internet and has formed a group that calls itself the Cyber Sleuths, which uses analysis of television shows to solve crimes. This is Book 1 of a proposed series and is as preposterous as any TV crime show. At 14, Nick is both determined to uncover a murderer and easily distracted—by a girl, the need to be right and attempts at humor. Unevenly written and riddled with Nick’s irritating asides as well as seemingly random Bible verses, not much works here, least of all the mystery. Adding in rattlesnakes, bears, revolvers and deadly attacks with a shovel from a mysterious someone who is simultaneously packing a revolver doesn’t bring it up to snuff. The pace is meant to be fast, and it is. But by focusing on speed, it is often annoyingly vague—much like the younger sister who whines and nags whenever she appears, for no apparent plot-based reason.

Just the ticket for a class on how not to write an adventure story. (Suspense. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-310-72344-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Zonderkidz

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes.

THE TOWER OF NERO

From the Trials of Apollo series , Vol. 5

In this tumultuous series closer, Apollo, transformed into a mortal teenager, takes on both a deified emperor in a luxurious Manhattan high-rise and an older adversary.

Lester/Apollo’s coast-to-coast quest reaches its climactic stage as, with help from both eager squads of fledgling demigods from Camp Half-Blood and reluctant allies from realms deep below New York, he invades the palatial lair of Emperor Nero—followed by a solo bout with another foe from a past struggle. Riordan lays on the transformation of the heedless, arrogant sun god to a repentant lover of his long-neglected semidivine offspring and of humanity in general, which has served as the series’ binding theme, thickly enough to have his humbled narrator even apologizing (twice!) to his underwear for having to change it periodically. Still, the author delivers a fast, action-driven plot with high stakes, lots of fighting, and occasional splashes of gore brightened by banter and silly bits, so readers aren’t likely to mind all the hand-wringing. He also leaves any real-life parallels to the slick, megalomaniacal, emotionally abusive Nero entirely up to readers to discern and dishes out just deserts all round, neatly tying up loose ends in a set of closing vignettes. The supporting cast is predominantly White, with passing mention of diverse representation.

A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes. (glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4645-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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