In Ratner’s debutnovel, set in a small town in Florida, Capt. Henry Selmer has a simple life and aims to keep it that way.
The Navy veteran spends his days operating a drawbridge in Rock Key, Fla., working on his novel about a traveling salesman and visiting the Star Grill, a struggling diner where he’s one of the many regulars. Henry’s primary aspiration is to one day inherit the role of lighthouse keeper, a post occupied by his only friend and fellow curmudgeon, Carmine, where he can keep a watchful eye on the unstoppable flow of progress. But when Eddie Eye, a young, irreverent “mullet” (named for the legendarily dumb fish, not the legendarily dumb haircut) begins working at the drawbridge, the simple, steady life of Capt. Henry is suddenly upended. The novel quickly embraces the familiar trope of carefree youth confronting stubborn tradition. It’s a formula that’s been proven to work, and this novel is no exception; it’s finely detailed and populated with salty characters and their charming, intertwined stories, including those of Orrin, who owns the Star but pretends to be a lowly cook, and a man everyone calls the senator, who is always politicking over coffee. Ratner treats his characters—including the town itself—with care and consideration, allowing each the space, often by switching perspectives, needed to develop. But, like life in a small town, the momentum can often seem sluggish. The chapters feel less like a progression of plot or conflict than episodes of daily life in which the characters opine and share long-winded wisdom. This forestalling of action creates a feel similar to a bedtime story—simple, unwavering characters inhabiting a small world, with stories that accumulate rather than progress—rather than a novel with a traditional arc, but those who appreciate a leisurely pace will enjoy it.
Slow, charming and delightful, this coastal novel makes for a great summer read.
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.
In Herold’s debut novel, a young, womanizing boozehound struggles to catch up with his elusive Alaska-bound cruise ship.
Young, single Tom Courier has just been gifted an all-expenses-paid trip aboard the Nordic Princess, courtesy of his cousin and co-worker, Scott. His objective: two weeks of bourbon-soaked, coitus-filled relaxation. Things seem on track after he achieves his objective an hour into his initial connecting flight. From there, however, his plans veer wildly off course: A bomb detonates on the plane’s wing, forcing an emergency landing in Portland. Tom misses the Princess’ departure, but his luggage finds its way on board and serves as motivation throughout the story for him to reach the ship. Unfazed, Tom seizes the opportunity to spend an erotic evening with Mandy—the “cougar” he met on the plane—in a secluded hideaway in the Oregon wilderness. Herold’s ominous foreshadowing hints at Tom’s impending misfortune, and trouble continues to lurk just below the surface for much of the novel. The author maintains sufficient momentum as his protagonist pushes on, inching ever closer to reaching his stateroom aboard the seafaring vessel. Yet an ensuing stream of uncannily coincidental mishaps keeps him perpetually one step behind. On his next layover, in British Columbia, Tom finds himself in another love affair, this time with a local surfing champion named Giata. In increasingly predictable fashion, this fling proves more urgent than catching the ship, of which Tom remains in tepid pursuit. Unfortunately, Tom’s seemingly one-track mind accentuates his shallow depth of character and risks preventing many readers from relating to him. Following another airplane crash, Tom finds himself in the port town of Ketchikan, Alaska, engaging in yet another romance with a local beauty. There, he’s hurled inexplicably into a two-man campaign to track down a mythical, luck-bringing sea beast. The story’s rapid pace continues at the expense of character development, while typos throughout further distract from the more subtle plot threads Herold attempts to weave. Despite the lulling effect of its rhythmic, seemingly inevitable series of calamities, the story revives for a compelling final twist.
A fast-paced, engaging trip to the heart of a bachelor, without enough plausibility or dimension.