Uneven pacing can’t drag down good camaraderie and snappy humor.

MURDER IN ONE TAKE

The shooting of a superstar actor turns out to have all the intrigue of one of Hollywood’s big-budget blockbusters.

When Oscar-winning actor Dev Roberts is shot and killed by his ex-lover and co-star Ali Garland, it seems like an open-and-shut case. Not only was the crime caught on numerous cameras, but two of Los Angeles’ finest—Detective Blake Ervansky and his new partner, the mysterious and beautiful Sgt. Maureen O’Brien—were also on the scene at the time. During their investigation, what Blake and Maureen discover doesn’t look like coldblooded murder at all but rather a horrible accident, an unfortunate meeting of strained nerves and reality-show prank gone awry. This backbending twist is just the first of many, and when Ali is acquitted by the grand jury, Dev’s estranged father uses his money and influence to wrangle O’Brien and Ervansky away from the force to work solely on his son’s closed case. What the now-private investigators uncover suggests that Ali may indeed have fooled them all, and they’ll have to turn to Maureen’s screenwriter father for a show-biz solution to this perfectly crafted Hollywood murder. Kelly (Winged, 2011) and Lyons’ novel peels back the curtain on not one, but two worlds, giving the reader a glimpse into the glamour of show business and the slow grind of down-and-dirty police work, while blending the two domains in clever metatextual ways. The schemes of stars and starlets take on a noirish feel, while the detectives’ dialogue is not unlike an ’80s cop show, with plenty of snappy banter and clenched-jaw exposition. While this does skirt cliché, the novel’s humor keeps it from being bogged down by its own conventions. The narrative suffers some pacing problems; it captures charming intimate moments with ease, but struggles with the story’s bigger conflicts, often blowing past them far too quickly. As a setting, the city shines, as much a character in the story as the rest of the cast. The only character that falters is Ali, whose personality is a touch too mercurial to be believed.

Uneven pacing can’t drag down good camaraderie and snappy humor.

Pub Date: May 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615645339

Page Count: 332

Publisher: Flight Risk Books

Review Posted Online: July 6, 2012

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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

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

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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