Da Vinci Code fans will be mildly intrigued.

THE SIDON INCIDENT

A globe-trotting, perspective-shifting thriller filled with conspiracy theories and secret societies.

When the novel opens, the daughter of noted neurosurgeon Maurice Bergman is in a coma: She was poisoned at an archaeological dig site near Sidon, Lebanon, where Joseph, the father of Jesus, purportedly rests. Her father must take her to Rome in order to cure her. Once there, she’s given a drug that magically wakes her, and she’s able to explain to her father what occurred: She stumbled on the bones of St. Joseph, and an angel appeared to her in the guise of her dead mother to give her some kind of a fertility doll. Elsewhere, two men who were hired to fetch the statue of the Virgin are now explaining themselves not to the priest who hired them, but to a third party; the exact mechanics of their criminal endeavors remain murky throughout the novel. Also involved are an Austrian professor of Egyptian antiquities named Ernst Von Biden and an American investigative reporter, Marvin Challet, who seem to be representing the interests of the Catholic Church. Narrative focus switches between these groups from chapter to chapter, further complicating an already bewildering story. Inconsistencies and questions abound, even beside the credulity-straining Gnostic plot. For example, if this girl is so ill, why is she in her father’s house and not in the hospital? Even the best neurosurgeons don’t have access to the necessary level of machinery and medication at home. Furthermore, it’s difficult to swallow that a father fearing for his daughter’s life would automatically take the word of a stranger who calls to inform him about his daughter’s poisoning and who further insists that the treatment for this condition is available only in Rome. Even if that were true, logic dictates that it’s much easier to send medication than to bring a girl in a coma overseas. Indeed, none of the medical aspects of the novel can be looked at too closely. Punctuation errors, usually involving commas, pop up on nearly every page, as does an overreliance on ellipses to indicate speech patterns.  Frequently, clunky phrasing and poor diction submerge the narrative—i.e., “laughed belly laughs.” The author also often ignores that old standby of writerly advice: Show, don’t tell. Sometimes, even the dialogue is painfully expository: “You must be weary having just arrived from Lebanon,” a man helpfully explains to his guests.

Da Vinci Code fans will be mildly intrigued. 

Pub Date: July 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-1451518559

Page Count: 262

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2013

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With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the...

OUT OF THE SHADOWS

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.

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0984991808

Page Count: 389

Publisher: First Snow Publishing House

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2012

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A fun adventure for anyone who’d love to see a few spunky kids trick some bad-news pirates.

FREEBOOTER'S PARADISE

A DANGEROUS TANDEM ADVENTURE

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.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2011

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2012

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