Real-world characters should engage readers, though the R-rated scenes aren’t as muted as the author perhaps intended.

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The Searchers

When terrorists kidnap and hold for ransom UNICEF workers in the Middle East, a man gathers his fellow Army Rangers to save the abductees, including his wife, in this debut thriller.

Having been deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, Department of Defense analyst Jim Warwick has seen his share of violence in the Middle East. So the Ranger’s understandably apprehensive about his wife, Julie, assessing children’s medical needs in Arabic countries for UNICEF. Julie promises to call Jim every night during her two weeks in Oman and Yemen. When she misses a call, Jim assumes the worst and, unfortunately, with good reason: Julie and three others from UNICEF have vanished. An organization called Liberté claims the abduction and demands a hefty ransom. Jim, however, thinking the United Nations is not doing enough, orchestrates a rescue mission with Ranger pals Scott Masters, Ed Hill, George McConnell, and Damon Harris. Leaving Damon in the United States to handle communications/logistics, and bringing Julie’s military-trained best friend, Rachael Fayyad, the group first travels to Yemen. The band follows the terrorists’ trail, getting intelligence however it can, be it bribery or torture. After the initial ransom deadline passes and results in one hostage dead, Jim is desperate to find Julie before Liberté, an al-Qaida offshoot, decides to get rid of the remaining trio. The story’s believable, grounded characters contrast with the oft-referenced, larger-than-life Hollywood heroes. The Rangers, for one, rely on reconnaissance and stealth, avoiding full-on assaults in enemy territory. And they’re not without flaws; Jim, recovering from injuries in Afghanistan that may necessitate an amputation, becomes addicted to painkillers. There’s little perspective from Julie as a captive, heightening suspense, as it’s not always clear whether she’s still alive. Similarly, what her captors may or may not do to her is predominantly left to readers’ imaginations, which is just as effective as witnessing potential horrors. Ollivier steers clear of foul language, opting for “holy smokes” or the occasional “gosh dammit.” But it’s an odd contradiction to the Rangers’ interrogative methods, like waterboarding or convincing someone he’s eating his own flesh— when what he’s actually consuming isn’t much better.

Real-world characters should engage readers, though the R-rated scenes aren’t as muted as the author perhaps intended.

Pub Date: May 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-30547-8

Page Count: 406

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2016

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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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