A proud father shares correspondence with his son, who served in the Peace Corps in Fiji.
In May 2007, New Jerseyite Michael J. Blahut III departed for Fiji, where he would spend just over two years in the provincial Cuvu Village teaching such skills as computer literacy and environmental awareness. This book consists of the emails and online chats he shared with his father while he was away, as well as his father’s recollections of his own trip to Fiji to visit his son. Michael opens each message to his father with “Bula Pops!” (“Bula” is a Fijian greeting) and offers detailed firsthand accounts of his day-to-day experiences living in Cuvu. Michael lived near the village chief and was expected to consult with him regarding community requests and inform him of any environmental concerns. One key issue was pollution, particularly the manner in which the locals disposed of waste, so Michael instructed the community on waste management and how to build composting toilets. He got to know the people of Cuvu socially and described their culture and customs—from the ceremonial consumption of the intoxicating Kava beverage, to the British-influenced tradition of “tea-time,” when everyone stopped work for tea and snacks. Michael displays an intimate knowledge of Fiji and is also acutely aware of his status as an outsider there. He eloquently discusses what it’s like to be an American serving abroad and the delicate nature of advising without imposing. Michael’s father’s recollections of his Fiji trip are rather staid compared to Michael’s fluid email prose. However, some readers may find the presentation of the emails a bit too choppy and may wish that this fascinating content had been reworked and edited into a more traditional memoir about service and island life. Nevertheless, this book will likely prove enlightening, particularly for readers considering joining the Peace Corps or visiting Fiji.
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.