A travel memoir from a mother and her two young sons on a tour of India.
On the flight to New Delhi, Margulis and sons—Julian, 12, and Fillip, 10—unhappily discover that their seats’ entertainment systems are out of order, a tip-off to the fact that, although they’re anxious for adventure, the family isn’t quite ready to leave behind their creature comforts. The sheets, towels and napkins in their hotels are covered with brown stains, and the author spends too much time describing her attempts to procure clean replacements. Their drivers don’t speak much English, Margulis repeatedly informs the reader; similarly, it would be better to tell the reader fewer times that some Indians are unable to determine whether her kids are boys or girls, thanks to their long hair. Eight days of the trip coincide with Passover, something Margulis seems not to have planned for, so she has a hard time explaining to waiters the ingredients her family needs for their Seder. Margulis has an assortment of other concerns: sharing train compartments with strangers, cold water in hotel showers and other worries she probably should have expected, or could have avoided by not venturing beyond typical tourist haunts. Thankfully, the whining fades away as the charms of India win over the family, and readers will be engrossed in the trio’s experiences in Varanasi, Agra, Jaipur and especially the Thar Desert. Margulis offers information about each place they visit, finally relaxing enough to enjoy the new experience by coming to ignore the things that so preoccupied her in the beginning of the book. Her writing is strong (she has contributed to Fodor’s) and readers may come to see her as something of a parental role model because she allows her sons to experience India on their own terms, not necessarily hers. As long as there’s a glass of wine with dinner, Margulis is a happy traveler indeed.
By turns amusing, touching and occasionally irritating, this travelogue colorfully portrays India, perhaps convincingly enough for readers to want to visit with their own children.
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.