A pleasant, if somewhat unfocused, children’s tale.

KAI AND THE MAGIC JACKET

A debut picture book about a modern-day boy who meets his Chinese ancestors.

As the story opens, a mysterious red box appears on Kai’s doorstep. In it, he finds a beautiful red silk jacket. Kai is mystified when his mother calls the jacket a “special gift” and adds, “You’ll understand what I mean one day.” That night, he falls asleep with his new jacket on, and is awakened in the middle of the night by three magical visitors: Tai-Poh, Tai-Goong and Uncle Fay. They tell him that all firstborn children in his family receive this special jacket, and with it, their guidance. Several days later, when Kai’s cousins tease him about being too scared to cross a dangerous river, his ancestors warn him to “do what is right, not what someone else wants him to do.” Kai listens and resists his cousins’ teasing, potentially averting a disaster. As months pass, Kai’s ancestors continue to advise him, but soon the jacket is too tight, and Kai also learns he’s going to be a big brother. He puts the jacket back inside the red box and it disappears in a twinkling of light, but he knows his ancestors will always be with him. Campbell delivers a story that at times seems a bit scattered; are young readers receiving a lesson about the importance of not giving in to peer pressure, or is the book preparing soon-to-be older siblings for a family’s newest arrival? The book emphasizes that Kai is his family’s firstborn child and that only firstborns may wear the magic jacket, but much of the narrative leaves this behind, instead dealing with why it’s important for Kai to reject his cousins’ teasing. However, even if its focus is a little unclear, the narrative itself feels fresh, and the illustrations are bright and cheerful. Readers may find that the pacing feels rushed in places—several months pass during the course of the narrative, which seems odd for a picture book—but the effect doesn’t overpower the story. Although some of the characters could have been a bit more fully developed, they’re still all distinct enough to carry the story to its conclusion.

A pleasant, if somewhat unfocused, children’s tale.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615585055

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Blissful Thinking Publishing, LLC.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2013

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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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