Ghoulish Song by William Alexander; Margaret K. McElderry Books, 166 pages ($16.99) Ages 8 to 12.


William Alexander, who won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for “Goblin Secrets,” works his magic once again in this thrilling tale of a girl’s heroism in a strange, vividly realized world of goblins, witches and music that has the power to hold a bridge together and protect a town from flooding. Kaile is a baker’s daughter who wants to be a musician as her grandfather was. But a goblin’s gift of a flute made of bone has terrible consequences, as it separates Kaile from her shadow, a condition that means her family and the townspeople consider her to be dead and she is forced to leave her home. The flute also awakens the wrath of a terrifying ghoul. The story grips the reader from the first sentence: “The last day of Kaile’s life did not start well.” Alexander beautifully crafts his story, vividly evoking the sinister city of Zombay, where coal is made from human hearts, where workmen labor to haul stones, their injured parts replaced with “gearworked” fingers and toes, where the baker’s punishment for faulty loaves is being locked in an iron cage and dunked in the river. Alexander’s ode to the power of music leaves the reader with the lingering sweet echo of a new and entirely original fairy tale.

– Jean Westmoore


Breaking Point by C.J. Box; Putnam, 384 pages ($26.95)


C.J. Box melds hot-button ecology issues and thrilling plots while balancing the story between environmental and human issues.

Box’s high standards have never been more evident than in the 13th novel in his series about Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett. “Breaking Point” skillfully shows how government can enhance lives and preserve the environment while also portraying the legal system run amok. But “Breaking Point” is no treatise pitting an individual vs. the big bad Goliath of government. The tense plot of “Breaking Point” provides edge-of-the-seat suspense filled with unpredictable twists and realistic characters worth caring about set against the vivid wide open spaces of Wyoming.

Many people are near breaking point, as Joe learns when he becomes involved in the problems of neighbor Butch Robertson. The hard-working owner of a construction company, Butch is the prime suspect in the murder of two armed EPA agents who had come to stop him from building on his land. Butch planned to build a retirement home for himself and his wife on land for which they scrimped and saved for years, but suddenly found themselves in a legal quagmire from which there seemed to be no solution.

A vindictive EPA director, a former sheriff with a grudge and a former soldier are now after Butch, who has fled to the mountains. Joe agrees to lead a posse, hoping if he finds Butch first he can stop more violence.

Based on a true incident, “Breaking Point” is infused with the frontier spirit of an old-fashioned Western.

Box’s contemporary spin on the Western makes “Breaking Point” an explosive thriller that careens from one unpredictable twist to another.

– By Oline H. Cogdill, Sun Sentinel