A young boy travels to the past in order to fix the present.
While walking to school, Hermie Lehman, a kid in St. Louis in the late 1960s, discovers a strange hole floating above the sidewalk. He toys with the idea of stepping through but becomes afraid at the last minute. When he arrives at school, much has changed, including the fact that his best friend seems to no longer exist. He rushes home only to find a stranger living in the apartment Hermie had shared with his mother. Confused, he returns to the spot where the hole had appeared earlier; now, the disembodied voice of Martin addresses him. Martin tells Hermie that he was supposed to have stepped through the hole to be momentarily transported 100 years into the past, where, through a complex chain of events, he would have stopped a runaway cart from killing his best friend’s great-great-grandmother. This one small hiccup in the past has caused innumerable changes in the present, so Martin convinces Hermie to go back in time to try to set things right. Unfortunately, Hermie’s powerful sense of compassion and his innate decency make it difficult for him to hew to the historical script, which sometimes involves innocent people being hurt or killed. If Hermie ever does make it back to his own time, he might not even recognize it. With its straightforward prose and young protagonist, this book would be best suited for YA readers. Radt fills the story with period detail, which helps immerse readers in two of St. Louis’ historical eras, when it was fur trappers’ outpost and a bustling frontier town. His characters are fleshed out and accessible, but some key plot points, such as the identity of the mysterious Martin, are left unexplained. Also, the final act leaves things frustratingly unclear. Still, given its intriguing premise, period detail, well-crafted characters and sharp prose, this book would be an excellent choice for young readers interested in time travel or life in the late 1800s.
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.