Plenty of magic, a touch of romance, an appealing heroine, and a talking lobster lighten Townley's tale of deadly sibling...

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A BITTER MAGIC

After Cisley's mother disappears into the shards of a black mirror during her illusion act, the 12-year-old must discover her own powers to learn whether her mother is alive and how to find her.

Cisley lives with cold and mercenary Uncle Asa in the Crystal Castle, a maze of ever changing glass and mirrors that trap and confuse Cisley. Friendless, fatherless, and largely having been ignored by her beautiful and talented mother, lonely Cisley has only her pet lobster, Elwyn, as a companion until she meets Cole, a boy from the village. As she becomes acquainted with Cole, she also becomes aware of her uncle’s unjust treatment of the Roma who also live nearby. Cisley's mother has left a clue to her return: the scent of a pure black rose. As Uncle Asa, lacking true magic and fiercely envious of his sister's magical abilities, frantically works in his lab to create this essence, Cisley fears for her life. The twists and turns of the plot and some dangling ends slow the pace, which speeds up considerably in the gruesome and melodramatic climax as the castle shatters, leaving shard-impaled dead bodies strewn about. Equally abrupt is the happily-ever-after ending that quickly follows this darkness, but this comes as a welcome release after the moodiness of the book.

Plenty of magic, a touch of romance, an appealing heroine, and a talking lobster lighten Townley's tale of deadly sibling jealousy. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-449-81649-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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