A female justice scheduled to review a landmark case is threatened with blackmail.
In Chicago, a civil jury awards $100 million in compensatory and punitive damages after a smoker dies of cancer. The damages are to be borne equally by the company, Icarus Tobacco, and its executives. It’s a seminal case in that liability has been conferred not only upon the organization, but also upon its principals, which could make employment in the industry a crime. In D.C., the U.S. Supreme Court convenes and agrees to “grant cert”—i.e., judicial review—of the case Icarus v. Burke, which, in the words of one justice, sets a “dangerous and pernicious precedent.” The nine justices are of various ages and persuasions, including a Hispanic chief justice and the court’s first African-American female justice, Aurora Sims. President Cray, assisted by his henchmen, does his unethical best to ensure a pro-tobacco resolution. The greatest pressure is on 39-year-old Aurora, whose personal history yields some compromising photos that make her an ideal target for blackmail. But Icarus’ benefactors may be flying too close to the sun. The story is crisp and well-written, and the legal analysis of the case, along with the motivations and proclivities of the justices, has a ring of truth. Aurora, whose quiet beauty and gentility mask the steel beneath her skin, isn’t going down without a fight. Pacing is even, as the author touches on each of the justices, as well as the actions of an opportunistic intern. There’s plenty of material to mine, including sexual harassment, an extramarital affair, emotional and mental instability and betrayal. On the downside, the character of scheming President Cray approaches caricature; the surname of a minor character changes from page to page; and at times, closing quotes are omitted in the dialogue. Still, the story is strong, particularly its theme that a woman’s indiscretion carries much more weight than her male counterpart’s.
A tight, gripping tale with a few flaws and an authentic Supreme Court setting.
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.
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.