THE VENGEANCE OF BEN-BALLA

THE FIRST IN THE NARVIK/RUBINO SERIES

Nash’s debut novel is a straight-forward pulpy tale of revenge and espionage set in Southwest Florida.

Dexter Rubino, a once-great Secret Service agent, has retired to a meager pension and a position with Basalt Security, a company catering to the retired presidents who vacation in the islands off the southwest coast of Florida. Steelworker Matt Narvik spent his life savings to retire in the same area. Days before Christmas 2009, Rubino is presented with a mysterious proposition—millions of dollars to arrest Philippe Ben-Balla, an Iraqi arms dealer who plans to assassinate President George H.W. Bush, the man he holds responsible for the killing of his sons in the first Gulf War by Saddam Hussein. This information unravels in a series of events that moves forward at a lightning-quick pace to entertaining results. Part of the joy of the novel comes in its economy; it’s sparse, with the lines between good and evil blurring very little. Rubino is the good archetype, Ben-Balla is bad and Narvik is the innocent man, somewhat pathetic but lovable, caught in the middle of the web of violence. Character development is inserted sparingly so as not to detract from the action. With this fast-paced approach, Nash reels readers in from the first page and keeps his numerous characters active and integral to the plot. Perhaps a bit too much attention is spent on the tactical side of things and to the sailing terminology that takes up pages of space. But, otherwise, the novel is a nearly pitch-perfect throwback to simple pulp fiction. Nash plants the seeds of a second adventure, somewhat clumsily, at the end of the story, something he has earned by creating an entertaining world full of vibrant characters that deserves to be seen by a wide audience. The book puts all the intrigue and suspense of a Bond film into a sleek, no-nonsense package. Nash has produced a surprising, entertaining tale of pulp intrigue that will leave readers clamoring for more.

 

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-0983799405

Page Count: 375

Publisher: Brazenhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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