Warburton (Sappers Six, 2010) tells a Cinderella story about a British teen working at a superstore.
Oliver Goodfellow sits in a wet parking lot bemoaning his job collecting shopping carts, as he’d rather be studying architecture. His three “grotty” (unattractive) co-workers, meanwhile, always put him down. Bob, Charlie and Jack—a group Oliver calls “the grot”—are portrayed as looking just like Oliver, but with unpleasant expressions and gorillalike limbs. A daydreaming Oliver recalls reading “Cinderella” to his young cousin: “Since I’m a boy he thought that story would never happen to me.”The grot interrupts Oliver’s reverie as they leave for a party at the Disco Club; Oliver, unfortunately, has to stay and work. In the parking lot, he meets Teresa, a “ ‘drop-dead’ pretty” rollerblading girl. Not only does she have tickets to the bash, but she also convinces her father, the store manager, to let Oliver leave—as long as he collects all the trolleys by 10 p.m. Oliver’s delighted but worries about his work clothes. Teresa—serving as fairy godmother and princess—borrows stylish clothes and athletic shoes from the store’s sample bin. Oliver pushes her to the party in a Christmas-decorated trolley, and they create a stir on the dance floor. The grot is amazed: “ ‘Cor!’ was all that they could say.” Oliver slips away just before 10. The next morning, Oliver gets a better job inside the store, and Charlie pulls trolley duty. Teresa, confused by the switch, can’t tell which boy was her dance partner. Oliver, although puzzled, decides to have some fun, suggesting that each boy try on the returned trainers to see if they fit. Soon, Teresa and Oliver are reunited, and everyone laughs about the turnabout Cinderella tale. While the idea of recasting this age-old story in the workaday world has some potential, readers may find this version’s text to be overly wordy and stilted and its illustrations rather stiff. Younger picture-book readers may have difficulty relating to the older characters. The story is also so filled with obscure British expressions that it may not appeal to some American audiences.
An intriguing but flawed update of a classic fairy tale.
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.