Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, April 4, 2014

Week ending April 4, 2014

Bell, Ted. Warriors: An Alex Hawke Novel. Morrow. Apr. 2014. 480p. ISBN 9780062279385. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062279408. F
Alex Hawke, the sixth wealthiest man in England, peer of the realm, and superspy is back in his eighth adventure (after Phantom). This time Hawke, with the help of his usual associates, is trying to halt world domination by a cruel and crazed Chinese general. Psychotic despot General Sun Yat Moon needs to be stopped before he can release weapons created by the brilliant Western scientist Moon had kidnapped years earlier. Chyna, the general’s brilliant, nasty daughter, is every bit as ambitious and malevolent as her father, and she intends to destroy Hawke before he can interfere with her father’s wicked plans.
Verdict The action is nonstop as Hawke and his team travel around the world in an effort to disarm or destroy weapons aimed at the United States. Unfortunately, every character here is black and white—good or evil—with no ambiguity or subtle character development. Recommended for Bell’s fans and those readers who favor in their spy fiction a clear-cut delineation between the good guys and the bad guys.—Deb West, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA

Higgins, Lisa Verge. Random Acts of Kindness. Grand Central. Apr. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781455572854. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781455572861. F
Three high school classmates, one divorce, one unstable son, two lost breasts, and a rescue dog with a nervous bladder blend into a road trip of a lifetime. Originally from Upstate New York, now living on the West Coast, Jenna, Nicole, and Claire travel cross-country, back to Pine Lake. Jenna started the whole thing when she followed the cancer blog established by Claire’s hovering sisters from Seattle to Claire’s backwoods home in Oregon. Stopping off in San Mateo to see Nicole was a bonus. Now with lots of time together in an old Chevy Lumina on a 3,000-mile journey, the women learn about one another by slow degrees. Jenna’s husband had served her the divorce papers just that morning; former Buddhist nun Claire is mere weeks past her double mastectomy and disavowing medical advice; life coach Nicole has six weeks before her son returns from a treatment facility.
Verdict Higgins (The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship) has created a circle of friends who aren’t even sure why they are on this quest together, but each discovers something about herself as she sees friendship and the country in a new light. Women readers won’t wish to miss one mile of this rich, thoughtful, and sagacious novel. Men smart enough to want to know what women really think would be wise to dip a toe in Pine Lake.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

starred review starMcQuiston, Jennifer. Moonlight on My Mind. Avon. (Second Sons, Bk. 3). Apr. 2014. 371p. ISBN 9780062231345. pap. $5.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062231307. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
moonlightonmymind040414Patrick Channing is a veterinarian living in Scotland rather than at his Yorkshire estate, Summersby, because Julianne Baxter claimed he had killed his brother during a house party 11 months earlier. So what is Miss Baxter doing in Scotland, riding in a filthy public coach? It seems the impetuous Julianne has had second thoughts about the events of that day nearly a year ago, and now she is bringing Patrick more bad news—his father, the Earl of Haversham, has also died, leaving Patrick to assume the earldom. Patrick expects he’ll be facing the gallows if he returns home, but can he leave his mother and young sisters without benefit of his protection? The fastidious and undeniably nearsighted Julianne offers to marry Patrick in order to ease his way back into society and his new title. With the advice of his friend James McKenzie, Patrick accepts, knowing that a wife cannot testify against her husband.
Verdict A “maddening, unpredictable, and a little bit vain” young woman who “tried on gentlemen like new shoes” takes charge of her rather slovenly husband out of a sense of guilt, but together they manage to forge a true marriage and eventually uncover a murderer in McQuiston’s (Summer Is for Lovers) fast-paced, witty, and totally addictive Victorian romance.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

starred review starRamirez, David. The Forever Watch. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Apr. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781250033819. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250033826. SF
In this “lifeboat” story, the crew of the generational spaceship Noah, believing they are the only survivors of a devastated Earth, are on a 1,000-year journey to save the human race. Over time, the ship’s population has developed into a caste-based social structure. At the highest level is Hana Dempsey, a city planning manager, but she finds herself empty and questioning after her mandatory Breeding Duty, even though she spent her entire pregnancy in a medically induced coma. Her unexpected friendship with the police bruiser Leonard Barrens gives her a chance to help him with a personal investigation—his hunt for a potential serial killer who has been preying on the crew for centuries. He believes it’s a Security Office conspiracy to eliminate anyone who questions the increasingly restrictive “world order.”
Verdict This debut by a former molecular biologist is an utterly marvelous example of the type of thought-provoking sf that embodies its concepts within its characters. Through Hana’s and Leonard’s search for the truth, Ramirez questions not just what information is too dangerous to keep secret but also what information is too dangerous to reveal. Sometimes is it better, in the end, not to know?—Marlene Harris, Seattle P.L.