Clarity, engaging characters, and a surprise or two make for a delightful tale for young readers.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2012

READ REVIEW

THE PIG WAR

A boy’s summer with his grumpy grandfather turns into a fun adventure on an island in the Pacific Northwest in this contemporary middle-grade novel.

In his fiction debut, third-grade teacher Holtzen captures the attention of young readers with a tale inspired in part by a historical event: the Pig War, an 1859 boundary dispute between the U.S. and Great Britain. Kell and his younger sister, Grace, must spend their summer with a grandfather they’ve never met on Mobray Island in the San Juan Islands, an archipelago in the state of Washington, after political unrest abroad disrupts their parents’ travel plans. The boy takes one look at his grandfather and his primitive cabin and decides his summer is going to be terrible; but he soon finds an old pistol and a 19th-century diary. While trying to keep an eye on the rambunctious Grace, Kell becomes absorbed in solving the mystery of the artifacts. Life on Mobray Island turns out to be more fun than he first expected, and when he reunites with his parents, he’s sorry to say goodbye to the island and his grandfather. Kell is a likable character, and many young readers will identify with his frustrations about life on the isolated island. Children may also relate to his early disappointment about having to visit an older relative, which emerges when Kell becomes annoyed with his grandfather and thinks, “All you do is make weird sounds with your mouth.” The mystery of the journal and gun, as well as Grandad’s mysterious “fishing” trips, will keep readers turning the pages to find out what happens next. Readers in the Pacific Northwest will especially appreciate this novel, while a dash of suspense and adventure give it a broader appeal.

Clarity, engaging characters, and a surprise or two make for a delightful tale for young readers.

Pub Date: May 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475051360

Page Count: 146

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.

NO REMORSE

Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.

Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.

Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0980806601

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Marq Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the...

OUT OF THE SHADOWS

Tragedy turns into triumph in Carlson’s debut novel about a young woman who regains her self-confidence after multiple losses and years of dejection.

Before readers meet 28-year-old Jamie Shire, she has already hit rock bottom. Jobless, she drinks away her days on her best friend’s couch as she wallows in loneliness. Among Jamie’s troubles: Her mother died when she was a child, the only man she ever loved wouldn’t reciprocate, her unborn daughter died, and she continuously feels rejected by her father and brother. After a chance encounter with a wealthy woman at a coffee shop, Jamie accepts a live-in job researching philanthropic causes at Fallow Springs Estate. Reaching out to the house staff and eventually working with Darfur refugees afford Jamie some valuable context for her own pain; she’s able to gain confidence as she learns to stop fearing rejection and start pursuing her dreams. Throughout the novel, the author skillfully creates mood. In the beginning, when Jamie borders on depression, her emotional touchiness and oversensitivity will create an uneasy feeling in readers. But as Jamie slowly regains confidence, readers will also feel increasingly optimistic. Alongside the main character’s emotional struggle is the struggle faced by Darfur refugees, although this plotline doesn’t advance too far; yet details from Jamie’s trip to the refugee camp in Chad—the types of beer served at the aid workers’ bar or a depiction of a young refugee sitting blank-faced and tied to a pole because he might run away—effectively transport readers to faraway places. Jamie’s story will interest readers, but, with a weak ending, the story leaves many unanswered questions. Who is Jamie’s wealthy employer? Does Jamie’s work in Chad help anyone but herself? And what of the conflict Jamie feels between herself and the refugees, between the haves and the have-nots?

With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the destination.

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0984991808

Page Count: 389

Publisher: First Snow Publishing House

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more