The Roman goddess of love pays a visit to Cleveland.
The goddess Luna has the duty of uniting long-lost lovers, a task she carries out with a vengeance. Luna herself was once mortal and still grieves for her own lost love, the Roman soldier Annaeus Antonius. Her memories of Annaeus draw her to an antique store in Cleveland, where she finds and purchases the dagger he carried with him to war. To her delight, she also identifies the woman behind the counter, Marisa Forte, as a candidate for her divine attention. Marisa has stayed single despite countless blind dates, in part because she’s still overcome with memories of the one boy she loved with all her heart: David St. John, a high school superstar who joined the Navy after college and then dropped out of sight. Luna sets out to find David and discovers that he’s now serving as a pilot for the CIA. In Reno, she appears to David and tells him she’s going to help him reconnect with Marisa so that they can live happily ever after. After getting over the initial shock of a goddess appearing in the cockpit, David, who shares Marisa’s fond memories, agrees to the wild romantic plan. The quirky, sometimes bizarre story is downright earthy, yet strangely endearing, as it weaves the modern-day love story with flashbacks to Luna and Annaeus’ ancient love and tragic ending. Pacheco’s writing can sometimes become erratic, yet the characters are likable and impressively three-dimensional—except for Nino, the “nice” Mafia hit man, who’s a bit hard to swallow. The plot is often heavy on coincidences, but divine intervention has a history of shaping love and life as it wants.
A fun, light read brightened by a splash of mythology.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.
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.