A chatty girl with an unusual knack for fixing broken things interprets a school assignment with flair in Levy’s debut, series-launching chapter book. Gabby’s mother is convinced that her daughter has the gift of gab, but the young girl knows that her true talent is her “Inspector Eyes”: “I can see things other kids can’t see….They might look at the same thing I’m looking at, and they might see the same thing I see on the outside, but they don’t see how to fix it like I do.” Her talent allows her to fix not only objects, but social situations, which is a clever way for Levy to apply her protagonist’s unique skill. Gabby’s biggest problem is her neighbor, Ajay, the son of her mom’s “BFF.” After Ajay breaks his brand-new water gun and Gabby uses her Inspector Eyes to fix it, he won’t leave her alone. Gabby’s mother tries to convince her that Ajay simply likes her, but she’s sure that’s not the reason. Ajay waits for her to walk to the school bus, tries to get her attention while she’s talking to her best friend, and passes her notes in class. When the note-passing gets both her and Ajay in trouble, she uses her Inspector Eyes to defend Ajay, even though he got her into hot water in the first place. The book is framed as a writing assignment; each chapter offers a different problem for which Gabby suggests a solution—even when she doesn’t really have a good one. Several problems never get solved, but they may come up again in future installments. Gabby is a likable narrator, and the high-quality illustrations, one per chapter, are kid-friendly and amusing, featuring a diverse cast of schoolchildren. The seemingly unfinished ending may frustrate some youngsters, but newly independent readers will be comfortable with the vocabulary, which feels genuine to Gabby’s voice. A clever, if cliff-hanging, chapter book that offers a strong female narrator with a unique gift for fixing problems.
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.