In this mystery, Shadow brings to life the fear of terrorism in a big city.
Jack Oldham, a soon-to-be ex-member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, scans the crowd on New Year’s Eve, weary from constant high alerts and threats that lead to nothing. During the festivities, his concerns change after a bomb scare over a bag that contains the belongings of a college student named Jessica. Jack’s worried she’s missing. Preoccupied by the bag and the missing girl, Jack searches for her throughout the city, sifting block by block through its history while trying to keep its citizens safe. The hunt turns out to be for naught: Jack tracks down Jessica’s mother and then Jessica, who is safe at home. But things don’t add up: Jessica wasn’t anywhere near the neighborhood where the bag was found on New Year’s Eve, and the photo on her ID isn’t hers. Jack realizes this isn’t about a missing person; it’s about the safety of the city he loves. The bag has something to do with a larger plot and the terrorists who, after the death of Osama bin Laden, are more ready than ever to strike another blow against America. Shadow has crafted an entertaining mystery that borrows from the best in mystery and noir, while adding a heavy dose of modern paranoia. Jack Oldham, the compelling detective, is riddled with doubts and scars, and rather than being a standard cardboard cutout, he feels vivid and believable as a protagonist. Shadow deftly evokes the constant high alert in a modern security state, as if there’s always conspiracy around the corner. His language can feel clunky at times, though, and he sometimes drops in eyebrow-raising sex metaphors, although they’re usually just spirited jolts in this thrilling lookout for the bad guys’ next move.
A striking story that will leave readers looking around the corner in fear.
Tragedy turns into triumph in Carlson’s debut novel about a young woman who regains her self-confidence after multiple losses and years of dejection.
Before readers meet 28-year-old Jamie Shire, she has already hit rock bottom. Jobless, she drinks away her days on her best friend’s couch as she wallows in loneliness. Among Jamie’s troubles: Her mother died when she was a child, the only man she ever loved wouldn’t reciprocate, her unborn daughter died, and she continuously feels rejected by her father and brother. After a chance encounter with a wealthy woman at a coffee shop, Jamie accepts a live-in job researching philanthropic causes at Fallow Springs Estate. Reaching out to the house staff and eventually working with Darfur refugees afford Jamie some valuable context for her own pain; she’s able to gain confidence as she learns to stop fearing rejection and start pursuing her dreams. Throughout the novel, the author skillfully creates mood. In the beginning, when Jamie borders on depression, her emotional touchiness and oversensitivity will create an uneasy feeling in readers. But as Jamie slowly regains confidence, readers will also feel increasingly optimistic. Alongside the main character’s emotional struggle is the struggle faced by Darfur refugees, although this plotline doesn’t advance too far; yet details from Jamie’s trip to the refugee camp in Chad—the types of beer served at the aid workers’ bar or a depiction of a young refugee sitting blank-faced and tied to a pole because he might run away—effectively transport readers to faraway places. Jamie’s story will interest readers, but, with a weak ending, the story leaves many unanswered questions. Who is Jamie’s wealthy employer? Does Jamie’s work in Chad help anyone but herself? And what of the conflict Jamie feels between herself and the refugees, between the haves and the have-nots?
With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the destination.
Pirates, magic and a secret society collide in this fantasy middle-grade novel.
This fast-paced novel follows best friends Cameron and Miguel, who are looking for adventure while cruising through their Arizona town on a tandem bicycle. They find it when an enchanted pirate ship flies overhead and lands in a convenience store’s parking lot. The ship sets up as a shop, which uses an intoxicating mist to trick customers into buying overpriced sea-themed merchandise, while simultaneously making them defenseless against pickpocket pirates. Cameron has bigger problems when Blackbeard, the ship’s intimidating captain, decides that the tween has stolen a powerful ring that would allow him to shape-shift into any person he imagines. Raising the stakes, the pirates kidnap Miguel and force him to perform grunt work with no chance of release. Cameron enlists the help of his best gal pal, Marcella, to free Miguel, but their mission takes a surprising turn when they discover a secret society protecting an underground gold mine. Author Loge keeps the action coming as the trio encounter a nasty doppelganger, a sinister talking parrot and a gang of violent pirates. The breezy writing ensures that the story doesn’t get stale. With so many quick twists and turns, young readers could get lost along the way, but Loge clearly explains all the unexpected changes to keep his audience on track. In addition to a sprinkling of black-and-white illustrations, Cameron’s easy friendship with Miguel and Marcella keeps things light and youthful when the tale could have been bogged down with one too many odd, mystical events. The heart of the book—a young boy as the chosen one who must defeat an evil enemy—has been a common YA plotline in recent years, but Loge’s energetic style makes the theme seem fresh.
A fun adventure for anyone who’d love to see a few spunky kids trick some bad-news pirates.