For readers who like (or at least don’t mind) continual authorial asides, a sturdy middle volume.

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BAD LUCK

From the Bad Books series , Vol. 2

Still struggling to keep up with his wizardly fellow campers, Clay finally discovers his particular talent when the arrival of a large cruise ship touches off a round of assaults and rescues on remote Price Island.

It seems there’s a secret sleeping at the heart of the island’s all-too-active volcano, and Brett Perry, genially vicious owner of the luxury liner Imperial Conquest, has come to seize it for the nefarious Midnight Sun society. Against his horde of well-armed thugs, it would seem that his chubby 12-year-old son, Brett Jr.—plus Clay, airy kleptomaniac Leira (spell it backward), and other residents of Earth Ranch—stands no chance of mounting any effective resistance. But when there is magic in the air and also a new ally who has the young folk envisioning a “Titanic meets Godzilla” scenario, anything becomes possible. More intrusive than ever, “Bosch” not only lays in fussy digressions and many wordy footnotes, he even dedicates the story to himself (with his real name) and inserts himself directly as a character from his earlier Secret series. Along with making his protagonist look a lot ridiculous and, by the end, a little bit heroic, the author strews the tale with fart jokes and gross goo, oblique references to Harry Potter (“expel-your-anus!”), and other crowd-pleasing elements.

For readers who like (or at least don’t mind) continual authorial asides, a sturdy middle volume. (“backmatter”; map and illustrations, not seen) (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-32042-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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A well-knit debut generously stocked with chills, thrills, and chancy exploits.

MONSTROUS DEVICES

A young British teenager’s ordinary world takes a sudden spin to the dark side with the arrival of an antique toy robot that turns out to conceal a terrible, and terrifying, power.

Hardly has Alex unpacked the robot sent by his grandfather than he cuts himself on a sharp edge so that a little blood seeps into its workings. Cue the weirdness, starting with a homework assignment he doesn’t remember finishing and a bully who inexplicably beats a sudden retreat. It quickly escalates into a headlong flight with his grandad and a running fight with a squad of varied but uniformly scary automatons fueled themselves by blood. What’s up? Alex’s robot, it turns out, was crafted to hide a tablet inscribed with the secret name of God that Rabbi Loew used to animate his legendary golem…and nefarious parties are out to revive the clay monster for—well, nothing good. Confused, terror-stricken, and inarticulate throughout, Alex comes off as a pale character next to his creepy adversaries and, in particular, his dapper, glib, secretive, martially adroit, scene-stealing grandfather. Still, as events move along apace, he proves surprisingly resourceful. Love tucks in plenty of icky bits, along with cinematic set pieces and hairbreadth escapes, and he strews enough tantalizing hints about his protagonist’s murky past to excite interest in sequels. The human cast presents white.

A well-knit debut generously stocked with chills, thrills, and chancy exploits. (Horror/suspense/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47858-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

AFTER ALL I'VE DONE

A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A wrenching piece with a wisp of hope for the protagonists if not for the rest of their world.

PARCHED

With severe drought, child enslavement, and multiple shootings of people and dogs, this slim volume isn’t for the faint of heart, though it repays those who soldier on.

In an unspecified African “place of dust and death,” in a story somewhere between realism and fable, Nandi the dog narrates an opening scene in which Sarel sees her parents gunned down. The gunmen, failing to find a water source, set the house afire and depart, leaving Sarel orphaned on her desert homestead. An underground grotto with a well sustains Sarel and her pack of dogs—fully family to her—while they recover from smoke inhalation and bullet wounds. In a nearby city, Musa sits in chains, taken outdoors only when gunmen (those who shot Sarel’s parents) need a dowser—Musa hears a buzz in his skull when water’s nearby. One generation ago, there were faucets and lawn sprinklers; now, gangs kill for a water bottle. When Musa escapes and Sarel’s well runs dry, the tale’s fablelike nature makes their meeting inevitable, even in the desert. The narration uses primarily Sarel’s and Musa’s perspectives, describing nature sparely and vividly. Thirst and heat are palpable as kids and dogs fight fatal dehydration. Occasionally, Nandi narrates, in broken English more distracting than doglike.

A wrenching piece with a wisp of hope for the protagonists if not for the rest of their world. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-97651-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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