A sometimes-wandering but consistently challenging entry in the Snipesville Chronicles.


From the The Snipesville Chronicles series , Vol. 4

The fourth in a series of YA adventures by Laing (Look Ahead, Look Back, 2012, etc.) about three time-traveling students who visit flash points in history.

Siblings Hannah and Alex Dias, along with their friend Brandon Clark, have traveled through time with the guidance of history professor Kate Harrower. Since surviving adventures in World War II–era England and the antebellum American South, the kids are back in sleepy present-day Snipesville, Georgia. Alex and Brandon become irritated while watching the Pageant of Snipes County Pride’s bland portrayal of early-20th-century race relations, so they seek out more information on the Atlanta Riot of 1906. Alex doesn’t care for time travel, but Hannah loves it and practices mind exercises in order to do it on her own. She first visits England in 1951, where her friends Verity Powell and Mrs. Devenish live; she eventually ends up in 1906, as a maid in the Ickswade home; there, she hopes to help 19-year-old Elizabeth Hughes—the younger Mrs. Devenish—who’s a proponent of women’s suffrage. Soon, Brandon (who’s African-American) goes back to 1906 Snipesville, where racial segregation exists as a system of printed signs and unspoken rules. Alex follows and works his way through the socially tormented land to meet up with Brandon, who’s trying to help establish a school for African-Americans. In this fourth Snipesville Chronicles novel, Laing crafts an informative, if loosely structured, tale for both adult and YA readers. Early on, for example, professor Harrower asks questions that readers might not hear addressed in a classroom, such as “Why did so many white southerners fight for the Confederacy when three fourths of them did not own slaves?” Laing’s command of historical details is formidable throughout; for instance, Brandon isn’t allowed to borrow library books in 1906, and Hannah mistakenly goes through the Hughes home’s front door instead of the servants’ entrance. These instances and others show how daunting 20th-century life was for those who weren’t white, male, and moneyed. Harrower’s advice to Hannah that someday “we all have to stop...looking for the approval of others, and start having confidence in ourselves” is excellent, no matter the era or the circumstances. Longtime readers of the series will also be pleasantly surprised by the endearing finale.

A sometimes-wandering but consistently challenging entry in the Snipesville Chronicles.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9848101-1-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: Confusion Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.



In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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