The Coonts method (Liars & Thieves, 2004, etc.) has always been slam-bang, seek-your-George-Smileys-elsewhere, but here...

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THE TRAITOR

The G-8 schedules a sit down, al-Qaeda vows a blow-up and once again, the would-be Batman (Jake Grafton) and Robin (Tommy Carmellini) come to the aid of their country.

Paris, one of the loveliest cities in the world, is where something ugly will soon be happening—at least it will if certain ill-intentioned jihadists have their way. In its sights, al-Qaeda, making no secret of its brutal and bloody intent, has the prime ministers of Great Britain and Japan, the Chancellor of Germany, the president of France and, gulp, POTUS. It follows that in D.C. the security wonks are getting antsy. Out of retirement comes intrepid, and damn-near-indestructible Rear Admiral Jake Grafton, charged anew with saving the nation. With him is his scampish young sidekick Tommy Carmellini, who did a little saving of his own the last time the two hooked up. Tommy, however, appears something other than his eager-to-rumble self. Down-time—or, a period when no one is shooting at him—has its obvious upside. But the matter is presented starkly: It’s either Paris or Iraq. In France, as events march apace, there will be times when both heroes will question the validity of their choices. To begin with, an ex-girlfriend with a grudge complicates life for Tommy. An enigmatic opposite number in the French intelligence service makes the usually unflappable Jake a touch less certain than he should be about his ability to protect the president once on foreign soil. As conference day approaches, the prevailing spook mode shifts from cloak to dagger, and suddenly the guys they thought were watching their backs are aiming at them.

The Coonts method (Liars & Thieves, 2004, etc.) has always been slam-bang, seek-your-George-Smileys-elsewhere, but here the action seems forced, and gratuitous, leaving the storytelling punchless.

Pub Date: July 6, 2006

ISBN: 0-312-32359-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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