Bourke's Bookshelf: Disguising the truth

This week’s books include “Splice” by Sara Judson Brown, “The Kill Artist” by Daniel Silva, “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger and “Pax” by Sara Pennypacker.

Stack of books sitting on a bookshelf.
This week’s books include “Splice” by Sara Judson Brown, “The Kill Artist” by Daniel Silva, “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger and “Pax” by Sara Pennypacker.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
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I wouldn’t read as much as I do today if a love and appreciation of books wasn’t instilled in me from a young age.

I can still fondly recall some of my favorite book series as a kid — “Junie B. Jones,” “The Magic Treehouse,” “The Baby-Sitters Club,” “Dear America,” “Nancy Drew.” I’m sure if I go dig around in my parents’ attic, I’ll still find stacks of those books that have sat untouched for more than a decade.

Because I think encouraging kids to read is so important — and because I got a top-notch recommendation from one of my favorite kids — I’ve decided to add a kids section to my column when I get the chance. So this week, I bring you science fiction, action thriller, classic literature and the heart-wrenching story of a boy and his pet fox.

‘Splice’ by Sara Judson Brown

I don’t often review brand new books, but a new installment of the series that essentially introduced me to the science fiction genre last year is something I had to jump on right away.


“Splice” is the followup to “Siren’s Cove” and the second book in Sauk Rapids author Sara Judson Brown’s Perigalacticon series.


The books follow time jumpers Anaya (Ann) Chapman and John Galeas, along with Anaya’s brother Sean, who holds the old monarchical title of montressador. In “Splice,” Anaya is still recovering from the near-fatal crash that temporarily wiped out her memory and brought her to the doorsteps of John’s bar. Now, the two are still working alongside, but there’s a much bigger mystery they need to help solve.

We learn more about Sean — or Montressador Chapman — in “Splice” as he aids a former love interest in the investigation into a valuable stolen sword.

But theft is just the tip of the iceberg. Gruesome murders, a hippy cult, illegal drugs and a missing time jumper create enough suspense to fuel that “just one more chapter” mindset over and over again until suddenly there are no more pages.

If any of this sounds interesting, I urge you to first grab a copy of “Siren’s Cove” and delve into Brown’s imaginative world.

‘The Kill Artist’ by Daniel Silva

This recommendation comes from former Dispatch publisher Terry McCollough.

The Kill Artist

While I’m not necessarily convinced spy novels are in my wheelhouse, I did find “The Kill Artist” to be a quick and exciting read.

Gabriel Allon is working full time as an art restorer, a job he originally took up as a cover for his real work as an Israeli intelligence agent, focused on tracking down and taking out Israel’s enemies. But when his old friend Ari Shamron coaxes him back into the line of duty after an Israeli ambassador is murdered in Paris, old traumas and grievances take over, forcing Gabriel to risk everything to get his man. Lives are on the line, as are crucial peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

Round the clock surveillance of suspected terrorists, aliases upon aliases and the constant worry of being found out create heart-pounding suspense, enticing the reader to keep turning page after page. It was a difficult book for me to put down, as the mantra “just one more chapter” played over and over in my head.


Gabriel Allon is the protagonist in 21 books by Daniel Silva, with the 22nd set to come out this summer. “The Kill Artist” is the first in the series, which I know I’ll be coming back to when I get the chance.

‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye

“The Catcher in the Rye” is another one of those “classics” I never had to read in high school but figured I should check out at some point. Now that I have, I’ve got a lot of mixed feelings about 16-year-old Holden Caulfield and his strange tale.On one hand, there was a lot of teen angst — so much teen angst. So much anger, so much egotism, so much sexism. It wasn’t only Holden who was angry either. Almost every character introduced seemed to have an unnecessary amount of pent up aggression.

But on the other hand, there’s a kid who is quite obviously struggling with severe mental health issues, and those troubles clearly impact the way he sees and interacts with other people.

I really don’t know whether I want to punish Holden or wrap him up in a big hug and tell him everything will be OK. To be honest, I think he could use both.

There was something oddly intriguing yet massively annoying about this book. I know Holden has good intentions, but at the same time, he completely lacks social awareness and common sense.

My other point of contention is with the ending. I’m not a huge fan of books with ambiguous endings, and I’m not sure what to make of Holden Caulfield’s last words. Has he truly hit rock bottom, trapped in a psychiatric facility for the foreseeable future, or is it just a blip? Is there really another fancy prep school lined up for him to attend in the fall — a last-ditch option for a hopeless kid — or is he just delusional?

I read one review of “The Catcher in the Rye” that said most people either love or hate the book because they either identify with Holden or they don’t. I think that’s an apt assessment, but I honestly can’t figure out where I fall on that scale.

Kids pick: ‘Pax’ by Sara Pennypacker

My first “kids pick” comes from my 10-year-old nephew Levi, who is one of the brightest kids I know and, as it turns out, has fantastic taste in books.



“Pax” is a middle level book geared at kids around 8-12, though the subject matter might be most suitable for kids on the higher end of that range. Death, war, abuse and animal cruelty figure into the story.

When war separates 12-year-old Peter from his beloved pet fox Pax, the boy embarks on a treacherous journey to recover his friend. Life lessons abound — about friendship, loyalty, persistence and staying true to oneself. I’ll admit it doesn’t exactly culminate in a nice neat and tidy ending where everything is wrapped up, but it’s a powerful read any young person likely won’t soon forget.

“Pax” was in the running for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature in 2016.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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