From dust jacket (which purportedly contains clues to the pseudonymous author’s identity) to closing page of disguised...

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JUSTIN THYME

From the Tartan of Thyme series , Vol. 1

Hidden messages, ambiguous clues, cryptic hints and double entendres crowd chockablock into this puzzle mystery.

Time, and Thymes, play central roles. In line to become the 25th Laird of Thyme, Justin is a 13-year-old scientific genius whose redoubtable mother, Lady Henny, is kidnapped in the wake of discussions with his (seemingly) amnesiac father about actually building a time machine. His ruminations about time travel (conveyed in handwritten notes between each chapter) dovetail with strange arrivals—notably a (seemingly) senile old man who may be long-missing grandpa Lyall Austin Thyme—and investigations that turn up a wealth of suspects in his mother's disappearance. Along with odd timepieces, red herrings galore and images of clue-bearing ransom notes, postcards and email messages, the author chucks in a comically diverse supporting cast. This is led by a sullen, lovesick gorilla and a new cook fresh from the “Café Roman à Clef” in Paris, who in one memorable scene serves up anatomically correct gingerbread men (“You not likings nuts?”). A kidnapper who remains unidentified and at large at the end, a newly minted time machine/motorcycle begging to be tried out and the strong “all is not as it seems” atmosphere throughout pave the way for sequels.

From dust jacket (which purportedly contains clues to the pseudonymous author’s identity) to closing page of disguised notes, a pleaser for fans of reading that requires decoding. (map, cast list) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-9562315-9-8

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Inside Pocket

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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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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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.

THE STARS BELOW

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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