RUNNER

Following the death of his father and faced with the prospect of a cold, hungry winter in Northern Australia, 16-year-old narrator Charlie Feehan struggles to find his way into adulthood. Set in a bustling working-class neighborhood in Richmond, Melbourne in 1919, Charlie goes behind his grieving mother’s back as he works as an alcohol runner for local crime boss Squizzy Taylor. Covering a lot of ground (poverty, violence, identity, family, friendship, romance, athleticism), this episodic novel has more than a few holes and contrivances. For instance, the streetwise kid who understands the danger faced by a local prostitute is unconvincingly naïve about the intentions of his mother’s violent suitor, a plot thread that seems inserted to help Charlie hold onto his ill-gotten cash. Still, this vivid coming-of-age tale, steeped in period dialogue that may initially prove challenging, may satisfy determined readers with its colorful characters, gritty action, a protagonist who grows and changes and its resonant themes and issues. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: April 10, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-375-83744-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

BEHIND THE BLUE

A fan of magic and her reluctant companion embark on an adventure when the mysterious Blue Man charges them with a mission.

Little Katherine contemplates what exists behind the scrim of the sky, and she gets her answer after she meets a boy named Charlie, who literally runs into her upon fleeing a blue man and a talking salamander he encounters in the nearby forest. The man is non-threatening, and asks the two to help him recover some lost items, to which Katherine heartily agrees. He doesn’t provide much information, however, so once she and Charlie enter this enchanted universe, they must take it upon themselves to figure out what the Blue Man has lost and how to go about helping him find it. With the help of guides like snarky, enigmatic Gerald and good-natured Frank, the children travel through very deep puddles to different realms behind the clouds, learning about the Blue Man’s nemesis, Grey Lady, who may have snatched his magical dragon stones. Schilling’s well drawn, vibrant world elevates his story above the standard adventure quest. His lively, amusing dialogue complements a fantastical world where fish flit through the air like bees (and may accidentally transport you elsewhere), manta rays make shy cabbies, crushed flowers pop back to life and magic permeates everything. While adults will find the narrative captivating, this book is tailor-made for storytime read-alouds.

An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

Pub Date: July 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-595-36189-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

A killer thriller.

THREE HOURS IN PARIS

Black takes time out from chronicling the neighborhood-themed exploits of half-French detective Aimée Leduc to introduce a heroine as American as apple pie.

Kate Rees never expected to see Paris again, especially not under these circumstances. Born and bred in rural Oregon, she earned a scholarship to the Sorbonne, where she met Dafydd, a handsome Welshman who stole her heart. The start of World War II finds the couple stationed in the Orkney Islands, where Kate impresses Alfred Stepney of the War Department with the rifle skills she developed helping her dad and five brothers protect the family’s cattle. After unimaginable tragedy strikes, Stepney recruits Kate for a mission that will allow her to channel her newly ignited rage against the Germans who’ve just invaded France. She’s parachuted into the countryside, where her fluent French should help her blend in. Landing in a field, she hops a milk train to Paris, where she plans to shoot Adolf Hitler as he stands on the steps of Sacre-Coeur. Instead, she kills his admiral and has to flee through the streets of Paris, struggling to hook up with the rescuers who are supposed to extract her. Meanwhile, Gunter Hoffman, a career policeman in a wartime assignment with the Reichssicherheitsdienst security forces, is charged with finding the assassin who dared attempt to kill the Führer. It’s hard to see how it can end well for both the cop and the cowgirl. The heroine’s flight is too episodic to capitalize on Black’s skill at character development, but she’s great at raising readers’ blood pressure.

A killer thriller.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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H.I.V.E.

THE HIGHER INSTITUTE OF VILLAINOUS EDUCATION

How do super-villains become super-villains? Apparently, graduating from H.I.V.E. would be a good start. This fun romp starts with the arrival of a new class of students, kidnapped out of their daily lives and whisked away to an unknown hidden island. Whether sent by super-villain parents or snatched out of an orphanage because of a precocious prank on the Prime Minister of England, these teens must adapt to a new curriculum, consisting of Villainy Studies and Stealth & Evasion 101 in lieu of the traditional three Rs. Of course, some things never change—living up to a parent’s reputation, dealing with the bullies from the Brute Squad and making new friends are part of every teen’s life. And while some students are clearly happy to be where they are, there are those who are looking for a way out—any way out. This is a fun, intelligent and rapid read, an astringent breath of fresh air, in counterpoint to the sweetness of Hogwarts. Technology replaces magic, and brains are the key asset. This is Walden’s first novel, but clearly not his last, as this is a six-year program. Let the adventure begin! (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: May 22, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4169-3571-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

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