The book closes with drama enough for a sequel; action-happy readers will be hoping for it

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JULIUS & THE SOULCATCHER

From the Watchmaker series , Vol. 2

A steampunk thriller uses Victorian science as a framework for cinematic monster goofiness in 1838 London.

It's been six months since 15-year-old Julius Caesar Higgins' last time-travel adventure (Julius and the Watchmaker, 2014), but it seems he has to save the world yet again. Together with his guttersnipe BFF, Emily, Julius has to defeat a passel of villains perfect for animation: tiny, odd-faced Mr. Tock; a pair of comical-but-dangerous thugs, one short and solid, the other tall and "thin as a workhouse dog" with a face "like a stalactite"; Abigail, the murderous automaton made of forks and knives and pocket watches, like a 10-foot praying mantis crossed with a spider; and countless ambulatory, zombifying, soul-catching orchids that pull themselves from their pots and chase their victims. In a twist, they travel through time and temporarily look like “native” children in a village in Brazil, “gone all brown.” (The characters otherwise all appear to be white; Emily speaks in exaggerated, spelled-out lower-class English: "Frough wot?"; "I wasn't planning on nicking naffing.") There they visit Charles Darwin, who in history at this point was visiting local botanical gardens and documenting insects but who here is ineffectually rescuing nonverbal native children from the soul-catchers, which leave their hosts planted husks, like some sort of Anne Geddes or Giuseppe Arcimboldo portrait gone horrifically wrong. Julius’ self-talk, printed in italics, peppers the text: “Concentrate, Higgins.”

The book closes with drama enough for a sequel; action-happy readers will be hoping for it . (Steampunk. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-925240-17-7

Page Count: 337

Publisher: Text

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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I AM NUMBER FOUR

From the Lorien Legacies series , Vol. 1

If it were a Golden Age comic, this tale of ridiculous science, space dogs and humanoid aliens with flashlights in their hands might not be bad. Alas... Number Four is a fugitive from the planet Lorien, which is sloppily described as both "hundreds of lightyears away" and "billions of miles away." Along with eight other children and their caretakers, Number Four escaped from the Mogadorian invasion of Lorien ten years ago. Now the nine children are scattered on Earth, hiding. Luckily and fairly nonsensically, the planet's Elders cast a charm on them so they could only be killed in numerical order, but children one through three are dead, and Number Four is next. Too bad he's finally gained a friend and a girlfriend and doesn't want to run. At least his newly developing alien powers means there will be screen-ready combat and explosions. Perhaps most idiotic, "author" Pittacus Lore is a character in this fiction—but the first-person narrator is someone else entirely. Maybe this is a natural extension of lightly hidden actual author James Frey's drive to fictionalize his life, but literature it ain't. (Science fiction. 11-13)

     

 

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-196955-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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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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