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Fun female teen fantasy with blurry adventures but fine romance.

In this kickoff to a new YA series, Sam Clemens is sent to a boarding school on a remote jungle island in Malaysia, where she deals with new relationships and dangers.

Almost 17, orphan Sam Clemens is leaving Torundi for the first time, at the insistence of Dr. Jean, head of the pharmaceutical research team that helped raise her on the island. He is alarmed that she spotted a mysterious man while escaping from a leopard deep in Torundi’s rain forest, so he is sending her off to an international American boarding school in Penang, Malaysia. Upon arrival, Sam contends with a variety of teen embarrassments, including explaining her unusual name and odd wardrobe. She begins to make friends with her female roommates, and even gets involved in the students’ co-ed socializing. Then she makes an astounding discovery: Gabe Jones, the handsome, only slightly older lab assistant for one of her classes, is her Torundi jungle stranger. He denies it at first, but her persistence and their mutual attraction soon leads to him confessing that he’s working for UnMonde, the company funding Dr. Jean’s research. By novel’s end, Gabe and Sam get back to Torundi but must stay on the run from UnMonde as well as the island’s power-mad sultan, with the latter having a surprising, particular interest in Sam. McCreedy, who penned a previous girl-power tale called Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen (2014), puts plenty of promising ingredients into this sophomore effort. Sheena-like Sam offers amusing outsider perspective, as when she notes, after two months into boarding school: “I’ve been a good Darwinian. I’ve adapted and survived.” Her growing relationship with Gabe is also quite enjoyable, with intense interludes that will be pleasing and familiar to Twilight fans. Unfortunately, what’s really going on in Torundi is less effectively executed, with the book’s Bourne Identity/Indiana Jones–type action unfurling at rather dizzying—and often confusing—speed. Still, McCreedy concludes her narrative with a nice twist, setting up a sequel that will hopefully explain more.

Fun female teen fantasy with blurry adventures but fine romance.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2014


Page Count: 217

Publisher: Penelope Pipp Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

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From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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Little Blue’s fans will enjoy the animal sounds and counting opportunities, but it’s the sparkling lights on the truck’s own...

The sturdy Little Blue Truck is back for his third adventure, this time delivering Christmas trees to his band of animal pals.

The truck is decked out for the season with a Christmas wreath that suggests a nose between headlights acting as eyeballs. Little Blue loads up with trees at Toad’s Trees, where five trees are marked with numbered tags. These five trees are counted and arithmetically manipulated in various ways throughout the rhyming story as they are dropped off one by one to Little Blue’s friends. The final tree is reserved for the truck’s own use at his garage home, where he is welcomed back by the tree salestoad in a neatly circular fashion. The last tree is already decorated, and Little Blue gets a surprise along with readers, as tiny lights embedded in the illustrations sparkle for a few seconds when the last page is turned. Though it’s a gimmick, it’s a pleasant surprise, and it fits with the retro atmosphere of the snowy country scenes. The short, rhyming text is accented with colored highlights, red for the animal sounds and bright green for the numerical words in the Christmas-tree countdown.

Little Blue’s fans will enjoy the animal sounds and counting opportunities, but it’s the sparkling lights on the truck’s own tree that will put a twinkle in a toddler’s eyes. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-32041-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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