An inventive adventure tale marred by familiar plotlines.

FANTASTIC ADVENTURE OF CARTA

A quartet of friends searches for treasure on a mysterious island in this novel. 

Jack Simmons is a 29-year-old living an unfulfilling life in Manhattan, a low-level computer clerk who aspires to become a software developer. In the hopes of lifting his sagging spirits, he decides to visit his mother, who is still reeling from the sudden death of his father. She reveals that his father left him a letter and a key to a locked chest that turns out to be filled with antique artifacts and a map of a Caribbean island somewhere near Barbados. Jack’s father, an archaeologist, had become obsessed with finding the island, which allegedly harbors a centuries-old treasure but is contaminated by a curse. According to Jack’s mother, that fanatical commitment to locating the island, named Carta, consumed his life. Later, she suffers a heart attack, and her doctor says she will need to be cared for in an expensive nursing facility. Jack decides he can raise the money for her health care by finding the booty that eluded his father. He sets off for Barbados with his best friends—Arthur McIntosh, Michael Hagen, and Lucie Lapierre—and is able to ascertain that the strange island once belonged to Alexander De Carta, a doctor conducting experiments there, who inexplicably vanished. The island was then shuttered in response to puzzling “mishaps” that plagued it. Jack and his friends locate Carta and travel there to discover its riches. But they are furtively shadowed by Josh Connelly and James Perkins, two of Jack’s work colleagues intent on stealing his reward and humiliating him. Leger (Reflections of the Heart, 2010, etc.) conjures a complex tale that combines a rich, imaginative history of early 19th-century piracy with a rousing contemporary adventure on a dangerous Caribbean island. Nearly every element of drama is included: mystery, intrigue, the supernatural, violence, and even a love blossoming between Jack and the plucky Lucie. But the plot as a whole is a tapestry of timeworn formulas, and even for a fabulist story challenges credulity. In addition, the writing, especially the dialogue, is mechanical and spiritless. Early on, Jack tells his mother: “The atrocious news of your heart attack bewildered me, and I came as soon as possible.”

An inventive adventure tale marred by familiar plotlines.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5462-2567-6

Page Count: 246

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2018

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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GUTS

THE TRUE STORIES BEHIND HATCHET AND THE BRIAN BOOKS

Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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