Middle-grade readers (boys especially): Don’t dillydally; grab this nearly flawless book.

BLACKHEART'S LEGACY

BOOK 1 OF THE ODYSSEY OF JON SINCLAIR

In the first book of debut author Copus’ planned series, a boy and his grandmother travel back in time to hobnob with marauding pirates in search of hidden treasure.

Clearly familiar with what should constitute the building blocks of a kid-friendly adventure story, Copus begins the book with a seemingly foolproof plan gone disastrously awry. Alistair and Kathryn (Grammy) Sinclair—12-year-old Jon’s grandparents and full-time guardians following the mysterious deaths of his parents in a plane crash—are gearing up to send Jon to 1776 Philadelphia to witness the signing of the Declaration of Independence. While retired NASA employee Alistair won’t be joining them in the silver time-travel capsule Carousel this time around, Grammy goes along for the ride to prevent any mishaps. But with a loud whirl and a classic sci-fi jolt, the ship’s malfunctioning navigation device instead sends them crashing to the shores of 1692 Port Royal, Jamaica, kicking their journey into high gear. Soon, Jon is kidnapped by the crew of the Black Opal, led by the notorious Captain BlackHeart. Grammy—disguised as a boy named Gramm—gains passage as a cook on the ship of BlackHeart’s conniving rival, Shark Scar, in hopes of somehow crossing paths with Jon. As the novel picks up speed, so too do the cleverly hidden surprises. BlackHeart isn’t as nasty as he initially seems; it’s easy to root for him and his devoted crew during treasure dives and explosive battles with warring buccaneers, especially since he’s taken the ever-trusting Jon under his wing. Gramm’s grandmotherly resourcefulness in winning over Shark Scar’s mutinous, scurvy-inflicted crew never feels unbelievable, and one character’s just-in-the-knick-of-time appearance adds an element of urgency to an already deliciously thrilling finale. The cliffhanger ending foreshadows an exciting voyage to the lost city of Atlantis.

Middle-grade readers (boys especially): Don’t dillydally; grab this nearly flawless book.

Pub Date: June 23, 2010

ISBN: 978-1450534420

Page Count: 330

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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Lots of buzz after a seven-year hiatus, but even die-hard Outlander fans might need more action.

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GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE

The ninth book in Gabaldon’s Outlander series finds the Fraser family reunited in the midst of the American Revolution.

It’s 1779, and Claire and Jamie Fraser have found each other across time and space and are living peacefully in the American Colony of North Carolina. This novel opens with the mysterious return to Fraser’s Ridge of their daughter, Brianna, her husband, Roger, and their children. In a previous book, Brianna’s family time-traveled to 20th-century America and planned to stay there permanently. It’s clear that Jamie and the others expect the troubles the family faced in the future will follow them to the past; unfortunately, after their return, the book pauses for several hundred pages of exposition. Gabaldon reintroduces characters, summarizes past events and tragedies, and introduces new characters. The text features not one but two family trees (the one in the back is updated to include the events of the book), and readers will need both to keep track of all the characters and relationships. The Outlander series has always been concerned with themes of time and place, and this novel contains intricate details and descriptions of daily life in Colonial America, clearly the result of countless hours of research. But Claire and Jamie have always been the major draw for readers. Now that they are grandparents, their love story is less epic and more tender, exploring the process of aging, the joys of family, and the longing for community and home. The last third is more plot-driven and action-packed, but the cliffhanger ending might leave readers feeling as if the book is just filler for the promised 10th installment.

Lots of buzz after a seven-year hiatus, but even die-hard Outlander fans might need more action.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-101-88568-0

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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