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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A fun animal story that provides important messages to children about helping animals and protecting nature.

A WAY WITH THE BIRDS

In Faith’s debut middle-grade reader, elements of fantasy are used to share a conservationist message.

Brother and sister Vinny and Jess have a history of helping out injured birds near their home. In return for their kindness to their feathered friends, they are rewarded with an extraordinary gift: Father Dove briefly turns the two children into robins. During their transformation, the siblings meet a variety of different birds and learn how to fly. But there is trouble afoot as plans move forward to build a road through the woods: Trees will be cut down and many birds will lose their homes. Vinny and Jess must help their bird friends put a stop to the project. Though the book gets off to a slow start, things pick up when Vinny and Jess meet Father Dove and begin their adventures with the birds. Some poetic license is taken with avian life: Eschewing simple nests, these birds live in elaborate structures built inside of trees. Likewise, the variety of birds met in the novel are a bit more colorful than one would traditionally find in a British wood. But readers carried away by the adventure will likely not be troubled by such details. Occasional heavy-handed exposition—“Nor did they know at that moment in time, just how much they could help him, that in fact it would be them that would find the clue to saving the birds and saving the day”—disrupts the flow of the story, as does the book’s rushed ending. Although a relatively tame story, a villainous rook and raven make for a few scary scenes. (The two troublemakers suffer dearly for their bad behavior.) Still, at heart this is a story about cooperation among unlikely allies.

A fun animal story that provides important messages to children about helping animals and protecting nature.

Pub Date: April 5, 2007

ISBN: 978-1425978235

Page Count: 124

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2012

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A fresh atmosphere and taut prose make this novella an enjoyable read.

THE CHECK

A NOVELLA

In this suspense novella, a master chef will stop at nothing to prevent a deadly illness from threatening his family.

Carlo Zaratti is head chef and owner of Z, the newest gourmet Italian restaurant in town. Business is growing: What sets Z apart is Carlo’s hands-on approach with his guests, although his impeccable taste in ingredients certainly helps. He runs the restaurant with Mali—his loving wife and the future mother of his child—and Attilio and Enzo, two assistants vying for favor. The enterprise seems poised for success until Mali wakes one night in wracking pain—the onset of a rare and terminal illness known as Kagen’s Disease. The news utterly devastates Carlo; Attilio finds him that morning sprawled out on the restaurant floor, drunk on the cellar’s prize wine. When Carlo later visits Mali in the hospital, a doctor brings encouraging news: The only documented survivor of this rare disease was also pregnant, although her treatment was extremely expensive. Carlo resolves to gather the $5 million necessary for the treatment by any means possible, so he turns to a wealthy patron’s mysterious business associate for assistance. The associate’s plan forces Carlo and his team to create the ideal dining experience for an event so exclusive it will cost thousands of dollars per plate. Unaware of the dark deed this mystery man has in store, Carlo sets to work on his menu. Williams’ (Grass, 2011) prose throughout this tight plot is very economical. Each of Carlo’s dishes reveals Williams’ extensive knowledge of the culinary arts, although the mouth-watering description is unfortunately sparse. More careful control of pacing might have generated more suspense, but The Check’s brevity is a virtue—by the end, the reader can still vividly remember the tense opening scene in which a gunman threatens Carlo with a silenced weapon. Readers may not always find themselves at the edge of their seats, but they will certainly feel their stomachs rumbling.

A fresh atmosphere and taut prose make this novella an enjoyable read.

Pub Date: March 4, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 70

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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