A plot to smuggle money into the U.S. by sailboat results in passengers battling treacherous storms and would-be pirates in the author’s debut novel.
Joe Anderson, having had his 40-foot yacht stolen, is stranded in the Bahamas and agrees to sail Mission to Charleston, S.C. Coleman’s book drops the reader right onto the sea—in a water taxi with Joe, on his way to what he hopes will be a job. The sailboat’s owner, Alex Smith, is desperate to sneak his $2 million into the country, mostly to avoid explaining how he has that much cash. The two men; Alex’s wife, Frances; and Mary, a guest whose one-day stay is unavoidably extended, brave storms at sea and men in a cigarette boat who undoubtedly have an interest in Mission. Romance threatens to steer the plot—before setting sail, Frances plays matchmaker to Mary, whom she’s just met, and the man her husband’s recently hired—but once they hit the open water, it’s all about their time on Mission. Still, relationships are well-established: Joe and Mary slowly and believably develop feelings for each other, and the other couple’s tumultuous marriage is agitated by Alex’s obvious infidelity and Frances’ oscillating moods. The author’s nautical terminology is comprehensive but often incorporated with little context, such that boat novices won’t understand some of the jargon. But readers should be able to conjecture meaning when it counts—when Alex or Joe yell orders over heavy winds, it’s abundantly clear that they’re trying to prevent the boat from capsizing. Coleman garnishes the story with eloquent passages—the “twinkling” of lights from houses as the sailboat passes nearby islands. And he uses well-timed humor—Mary swims to another boat to escape Alex’s unwelcome advances and stumbles on a young couple enjoying the ocean water in the nude. But what makes the novel truly great is its simplicity. It’s not bogged down by multiple subplots or characters—just four people to worry about as they sail the vast ocean, and that’s more than enough.
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.