By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
By Peter Stone
Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2014
Ethan Jones and the remaining members of his ragtag team of foragers are back in the second installment of Stone’s Dystopian trilogy. The group is on their way back to Newhome, the post-apocalyptic Australian town where Ethan and his friends — with the exception of his Japanese wife, Nanako — grew up.
It is Nanako’s dream for her and Ethan to return to a relatively normal life, especially after they leave her hometown of Hamamachi under the less-than-ideal circumstances of being accused of being terrorists.
Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse almost the moment they pass through the gates into Newhome.
First, there’s a senior custodian officer (Newhome’s law enforcement) who has it out for the teenaged couple. Then there’s Ethans jilted, ex-fiancee, who has made it her mission to make Nanako’s life a living hell. And to top it all off, there is a sniper among the Skels — wandering scavengers, attacking anyone who comes in their way — terrorizing and killing custodians and civilians of Newhome alike.
In addition, memories from Ethan’s lost year — thanks to a bout of amnesia after he was shot in the head a few years earlier — begin to return. But not all of the returning memories are good as he begins to realize he spent that year as a Hamamachi Ranger — that community’s elite law enforcement group that is not all what it seems.
“Infiltrator” begins right where “Forager” ended and does not lose any of the momentum gained from the trilogy’s first installment. There is a little something for everyone. From action-packed fight shootout sequences between Custodians and Skels, to tension-filled moments as Ethan and his friends are brought in by law enforcement for questioning, to sweeter scenes between Ethan and Nanako as they learn how to be a couple again.
And just as “Forager” ended on a cliffhanger, “Infiltrator” will have readers chomping at the bit to get to the trilogy’s final installment to see what happens to Ethan, Nanako, their friends and the two communities of Newhome and Hamamachi.
By Marissa Meyer
Rampion Books, 2015
Before New Beijing’s best mechanic, Cinder, loses her mechanical foot at a ball; or a young French girl named Scarlet teams up with a street fighter named Wolf; or an isolated young woman named Cress escapes her satellite tower, there was a girl named Levana.
Known as the Lunar Queen Levana in Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, “Fairest” gives us a glimpse of the lonely young princess who just wanted to love and be loved before she became hellbent on world domination.
The story begins with the death of Levana’s parents, the king and queen of Luna. Levana is just 15 and her sister Channary has become queen. As she watches her sees how little her frivolous sister cares about the kingdom she rules, Levana can’t help but feel she would do a much better job of taking are of Luna and its citizens.
In “Fairest,” we see the circumstances that have led Queen Levana to become the unsympathetic and power-hungry leader we have grown to know so well in Meyer’s series. We learn why she relies so heavily on her glamour — a supernatural method disguise commonly used by Lunars — and her fears about being seen without it.
For those who have followed the Lunar Chronicles from the beginning, “Fairest” is the prequel we’ve all been waiting for to learn why things have grown so volatile and hostile between Earth and Luna — or the moon. We see how deep-seated the animosity between the two planets is as some of the acts of war against Earth precede not just Cinder, Scarlet and Cress, but even Levana’s rule.
We are also introduced to younger versions of the series’ various characters, including its heroines, in “Fairest” — long before they discover their true identities and become heroines. This was particularly fun for me to read as we see how these girls became the people they are in the later years of the story.
Killed on the Whim of a Hat
By Colin Cotterill
Minotaur Books, 2011
Jimm Juree was on her way to being the top crime reporter for the Chiang Mai Daily Mail. Her reporting skills had helped her solve a number of cases that had previously been closed by the police and her stories had gained national attention in Thailand.
With so much going for her professionally, it comes to no surprise that when her mother sells their home and relocates the family to a small rural village in the south of the country, Jimm does not take it well.
Stuck in the middle of nowhere where the most action is fighting old ladies for a spot in line at the post office, Jimm is positive her career — if not her life — is over as she knows it.
But then, a van containing the skeletal remains of two hippies is discovered in a local farmer’s field. And within 24 hours, an abbot at a local Buddhist temple is violently murdered and the only suspects are the temple’s monk and nun.
Suddenly, Jimm’s quiet country life isn’t anymore.
“Killed” is a fun whodunit mystery with an array of great characters — most of whom are members of Jimm’s family.
From her mother Mair, the gentle but firm matriarch of the family who seems to be slowly declining into dementia, to her ex-cop grandfather who barely speaks, to Jimm’s transgendered older brother who is now her older sister and a former beauty pageant queen and her younger, bodybuilding-obsessed brother, Jimm’s family may all be vastly different, but it there is no question that they love each other deeply and would do anything for each other.
And then there’s Jimm herself. After having her career interrupted so abruptly by her mother’s whim, Jimm’s excitement at having a few juicy stories to write — not to mention mysteries to solve — is almost contagious and readers can’t help but cheer her on along the way.
“Killed” is the first in Cotterill’s Jimm Juree mysteries and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for her next. (end)
Samantha Pak can be reached at email@example.com.