If you're looking for a magical adventure story similar to Harry Potter, you won't go wrong with The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey.
Jaxter Grimjinx is the young and clumsy son of a long line of thieves. His one talent lies in thwarting magical burglar alarms with non-magical concoctions of herbs. His family lives off of the spoils of their successful jobs. They are not without some honorable characteristics. Their "marks" must always be of a certain class, display a certain amount of wealth, for the Grimjinxes would never steal from the needy.
The town lives by their Prophecies. Every year, a new tapestry is revealed that was woven in the past by the town's prophets. This year however, the tapestry shows the worst predictions ever: numerous dire events, magma men, floods, droughts, flying skeletons, etc. as well as the the four Grimjinx family members, clearly foretelling that the Grimjinx family will save the town of Vengekeep from disasters.
But the tapestry is a forgery. Jaxter's mother, the best forger in the land, created the tapestry to get them out of a heap of trouble. Unfortunately, she unknowingly wove it with forbidden fateskein, which means that everything on the tapestry WILL ACTUALLY OCCUR.
The Grimjinx family is in for it now. Jaxter comes up with a plan to create a chemical solution that will destroy the tapestry,but he must journey all over the five provinces to collect the ingredients.
With his one and only friend, Callie, by his side, epic adventures ensue. Will the Grimjinx family of shysters finally fulfill their destiny as heroes? Ya gotta read it to find out.
I loved it. You will too.
Also, Brett Helquist drew the imaginative pictures. You may remember him from such books as The Series of Unfortunate Events, or the mind-bending Chasing Vermeer, or one of my favorites, Listening for Lions.
The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens is an exciting if confusing tale of time travel. Three children shuffled from one horrible orphanage to the next, end up as the only residents of a dark mansion, the wards of a mysterious Dr. Pym.
The plot is very involved as the children accidentally discover that they can travel through time by placing a photograph of the destination (when and where) in an old book that they find in the mansion. The books is of course, the Emerald Atlas, and the evil Countess wants it badly. Too bad she's in the past. She captures one of the siblings though, so back and forth, forth and back, the children and the atlas go.
The Emerald Atlas is a fine read, but there was one desperate scene where the youngest of the three children wishes desperately and unfulfillingly for something to pray to.
That and the fact that Amazon etc. keep comparing The Emerald Atlas to both Lewis's Narnia and the Pullman's His Dark Materials (remember that hullabaloo? Decidedly anti-christian author writes his own "Narnia" books) series makes one wonder...
Looking for the perfect cottage read while on vacation? Need something heartwarming and fun for the beach? Those four sisters, that Hound, and their very best friend (in the style of Little Women's Laurie) are on vacation too! The Penderwicks at Point Mouette is the third tale in the series by Jeanne Birdsall.
This time the Oldest Available Penderwick (OAP) will not be Rosalind as she is going to New Jersey with a friend. Soccer-loving Skye takes center stage as she and Aunt Claire take the rest of the gang to a tiny cottage near the coast in Maine.
Bonus: The cottage is just down the road from a general store that sells fresh pies every day. I want to go to there.
The plot is mostly about Skye finding it in herself to be responsible, Jane learning about romance and getting her heart broken, and Jeffrey discovering the answer to one of his life's greatest mysteries, "Who is his father?"
Jane does kiss dashing and rude skateboarder, Dominic, at the park, only to find out later that he was dared to kiss as many girls this summer as possible by his brother. She is thoroughly distraught and Skye blames herself for letting this silliness get out of hand.
The mystery of Jeffrey's father is solved when the cottage owner next-door finds out by chance that his short-lived marriage 13 years ago resulted in a son. Jeffrey's mother never told his father about Jeffrey. Jeffrey's love of music has been squelched by her also because it brought painful memories of his father. Jeffrey is upset by all of this, and angry at his father (though how could it be his fault that he was never in touch if he never knew he had a son?). Can their shared love of music and the Penderwicks help them to reconcile?
I have always loved the Penderwick sisters and their strong familial bonds, their mishaps and escapades. They are an awful lot like a modern March family from Little Women, with a great big dog thrown in.