A heartfelt yet unsentimental look at the lives and loves of American adolescents.

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IN MEMORY OF TODD WOODS

Two best friends navigate the emotional surprises and social hazards faced by modern teenagers.

Bob and Pete have been best friends since before they can remember. They speak to each other in Star Trek code, know all the tricks in every arcade game and can talk about anything while sitting under one specific traffic light at a quiet intersection. The only problem? They’ve both recently fallen in love with Ellen Trumbull, the most beautiful, most popular girl in school. When Ellen takes a fancy to Bob and introduces him to her rarefied social milieu, Pete is left on the margins. Bob finds that he has no one in which to confide his anxiety about all the new experiences related to having his first girlfriend; to his adolescent dismay, he also has no one to brag to. While Pete builds a life without him, Bob discovers that all is not as perfect as it seems in the upper echelons of high school society. Although the jocks and prom queens present a veneer of coolness, the suicide of one of their own, golden boy Todd Woods, has thrown their assumed invulnerability into question. As Bob and Pete strive to reconnect after Bob’s romantic betrayal, they discover that everyone, even the wealthiest and the prettiest, suffers from the same emotional growing pains. Taylor channels the thoughts, feelings and perspective of the male teenager so effectively that the reader may experience acute nostalgia—whether positive or negative—for his or her early teen days. It’s curious, however, that, despite providing the title and the conceit of the novel, Todd Woods’s suicide remains somewhat vague. Ultimately, though, this oversight matters little; the real subject of this coming-of-age novel is the precarious evolution of male friendship.

A heartfelt yet unsentimental look at the lives and loves of American adolescents.

Pub Date: March 8, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.

NO REMORSE

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.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0980806601

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Marq Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2012

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With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the...

OUT OF THE SHADOWS

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.

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0984991808

Page Count: 389

Publisher: First Snow Publishing House

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2012

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