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Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425


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Books for Pirate Apprentices and Young Adults

Pirates Off the Deep End                Pirates Off the Wall                Pirates Off Kilter           Pirates Off the Mark

 Cover Art: Pirates Off the Deep End
Pirates Off the Deep End
By T. W. Kirchner
Short On Time Books, 2013, ISBN 978-1492174301, $7.99
Also available in e-book format

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Tommy, Connor, and Dillon Klopt are brothers. Together with their father, Hoody, they are modern-day pirates, stealing from the rich and donating their plunder to a good cause – finding a cure for the disease that killed their mom. But Tommy is a reluctant pirate, especially after their latest heist in which they abscond with treasures recovered from the wreck of a seventeenth-century pirate ship, the Fleurie Jeanne, whose captain was the bloodthirsty buccaneer François l’Olonnais.

Then the pirates find themselves pirated, and in the process Hoody is shot. If that’s not bad enough, l’Olonnais returns from the grave and demands the boys retrieve his sword. They have three days to do so, otherwise Hoody will die. But their own vessel is damaged during a storm, and the yacht they “acquire” turns out to belong to a drug lord . . . or the FBI. Needless to say, the boys are in a tight fix with time running out to save their father.

This first book in the Pirates Off series is a gem! Although written for older children and young adults, grown-ups will enjoy the adventure as well. I admit I was skeptical at first; after all, l’Olonnais was one of the most brutal pirates of his time period and not necessarily a villain one expects to find in a book for young pirates. But Kirchner portrays him in a realistic manner without all the gore. By the end of the story, she provides a plausible reason for why he tortured Spaniards the way he did. While there are many serious episodes in the story, there are also some that are quite humorous, such as when the brothers disguise themselves as girls or Dillon mispronounces l’Olonnais’ name. Also particularly refreshing is that the boys act like boys without superhuman or fantasy-like powers. Instead they use their father’s unorthodox education and their thinking caps to outsmart the bad guys and the good ones. Pirates Off the Deep End is a journey to be savored and once you meet this trio of Robin-Hood-like pirates, you’ll be eager to delve into their next piratical adventure.
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Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar
 
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Cover Art:
                              Pirates Off the Wall
Pirates Off the Wall
By T. W. Kirchner
Short On Time Books, 2013, ISBN 978-1493581619, $7.99
Also available in e-book format

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The Klopt brothers – Tommy, Connor, and Dillon – return in this second adventure, although at the start of the story their pirating days are behind them . . . or so they think. But life ashore leaves much to be desired since their father, Hoody, only has a minimum-wage job, which doesn’t provide enough money for good food, clothes, and an apartment. Instead the boys use their smarts and piratical knowledge to survive at school and evade bullies. Nor does it help that trouble seems to follow them throughout each day, even if it’s not of their own making.

Things really go downhill after Dillon has an accident, which lands him in the hospital and Hoody in police custody. Ever resourceful, Tommy and Connor know they must escape the police station before an adult from child protective services arrives. Matters go from bad to worse when their ghostly nemesis, buccaneer François l’Olonnais, appears while the brothers are evading their pursuers. He provides a bit of advice that helps them to rescue Dillon and their father, but the boys know there’s no such thing as “free” advice.

Since the four can no longer remain in this town, they return to their boat and the water. This time around Hoody repairs other vessels and earns good money, but they don’t stay in one place too long lest the authorities find them. Just when life settles down, who should appear but l’Olonnais with a bit of a problem. He was playing cards and lost, not money but Hoody, and the only way to correct this problem is for the boys to do the bidding of another long-dead pirate, Capitaine Jacques Mignard. It seems he angered a sea witch, who turned his girl friend Cosette into a ship’s figurehead, which is currently hanging on the wall of a restaurant in Vermont. But not just any eatery; this one’s owned by nasty criminals with a secret they’ll do anything to protect. There’s also a time limit for accomplishing this because the 200th anniversary of the bewitching will soon occur. If the boys fail to deliver the figurehead to the sea witch, Cosette will never be able return to her human form. To complicate their problems, the police arrest Hoody and the FBI are hot on the boys’ trail. Even if the Klopt brothers succeed, can they really trust a sea witch?

While the plot may seem preposterous, Kirchner crafts a tale that is truly believable and aside from the ghosts, her characters pull off all their adventures much like MacGyver got out of all the dilemmas he faced in the television show. The only ones who employ violence are the bad guys; the brothers use their pirating skills and brains. The result is a sometimes humorous, sometimes serious tale that will appeal to young and old alike. Unlike the first book in the Pirates Off series, which ended with the Klopts getting a new lease on life, Pirates Off the Wall sets the stage for the next book, Pirates Off Kilter, so if readers want to learn what happens to Cosette, they will have to read the third book. I, for one, look forward to doing so because the Klopts’ piratical adventures are great fun!
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Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar
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Cover Art: Pirates Off Kilter
Pirates Off Kilter
By T. W. Kirchner
Short On Time Books, 2014, ISBN 978-1500761585, $7.99
Also available in e-book format

When last we encountered the Klopt brothers – Tommy, Connor, and Dillon – they and their father, Hoody, had a new mission. If they fail to locate Ayson MacFarlane, find his ring, and return it to the sea witch, Cosette will become the wooden figurehead of a ship. Permanently.

The task given to Tommy seems an easy one, but Connor warns, “you can’t trust pirates” – nor sea witches – and wiser words were never spoken. The journey to Scotland takes longer than expected, and once they arrive they find out that Ayson has been dead for nearly two centuries. Where is the ring now? No one knows and what few clues the boys unearth seem to lead to more dead ends. With time running out to meet their deadline, L’Olonnais pops in to offer help in the form of another phantom, Captain Greer Red Boots. But she’s about as helpful as a sore thumb, which leads to suspicions that perhaps she wants the ring for herself. And she’s not the only one with such designs. The sea witch’s brother intervenes and flash freezes Hoody, making it even more important for the boys to discover the whereabouts of that ring and get it back to the sea witch before it’s too late.

In this story, magic takes precedence over piracy and the outside-of-the-box and often comical ways in which the boys outwit pirates and witches never quite lives up to the same level of ingenuity found in the earlier titles in this series. The high-octane action is missing as well, giving way to the ability to interpret puzzling clues that may stump middle readers as much as it does the Klopts. For me, Pirates Off Kilter was somewhat disappointing, perhaps because my familiarity with and knowledge of Scotland prevented me from thoroughly immersing myself in the story. Also, some readers may have trouble understanding Scots (the language the Scottish characters speak), although this is not what the residents of Mull, where the story takes place, would speak. Still, readers of the other books may enjoy this third adventure.
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Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar


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Cover Art: Pirates of the Mark
Pirates Off the Mark
By T. W. Kirchner
Short On Time Books, 2015, ISBN 978-1517765491, $7.99
Also available in e-book format, $2.99

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Having retired from piracy, the Klopts – Tommy, Connor, Dillon, and their father, Hoody – live on their docked boat. Hoody and Cosette, the newest member of their crew, have jobs and life begins anew. Except . . . Tommy still has the hourglass tattoo that his ghostly mentor placed on his arm, and as long as it’s there, François l’Olonnais can miraculously appear whenever the whim strikes. Whenever he does, he always wants something that ends up getting Tommy and the rest of the Klopts into trouble.

Not this time. Hoody is adamant. The tattoo and l’Olonnais must go! Of course, nothing is ever that simple.

The instant Hoody and Cosette go to work, l’Olonnais appears with news that someone plans to steal a valuable artifact from the museum. Well, not really someone . . . a ghost. Or more specifically three ghosts, and only Tommy can stop them. But to do so he, Connor, and Dil will have to break into the museum. Which is against the law and might jeopardize the clean slate the FBI gave them after their last adventure. L’Olonnais tells them it’s the only way to protect Cosette. So how can the boys say no?

Of course, plans go awry and the boys are caught. The police believe their excuse for being in the museum; they were just chasing after their dog. Only problem? The dog isn’t really theirs. But they can’t tell the police that! When Hoody finds out, he issues his ultimatum, but it’s up to Tommy to convince l’Olonnais to release him. And he’s surprised when the ghost pirate agrees . . . with the stipulation that Tommy must wait three days. At the end of that time, if he still wishes the tattoo removed, l’Olonnais will accommodate him. In the meantime, the ghost pirate agrees to stay away from Tommy.

But three days is a long time. Especially when those three ghosts – not to mention a few others – want Tommy to join their crews. And then there are other nefarious thieves who have their own axes to grind where the Klopt brothers are concerned. Could it be that, for once, l’Olonnais speaks the truth? That the hourglass protects Tommy? A lot can happen in seventy-two hours . . . .

Once again Kirchner delivers a rousing, modern-day swashbuckling adventure that requires brains, rather than brawn, to solve the puzzle. Geared toward middle grade readers, Pirates Off the Mark is great fun for pirates of all ages. Are you savvy enough to take the plunge?


Review Copyrighted ©2016 Cindy Vallar

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