A thoughtful story about a boy who must save the world, with important lessons about empathy and understanding.

The Mysterious Kingdom of the Arroyo


A young boy is whisked into a magical world and given the daunting task of saving the world.

Ten-year-old Astor is spending time reading outdoors with his mother, Sarah, when a very large rabbit suddenly starts talking to him. Blanca, the cottontail rabbit, takes Astor on a walk through the arroyo, an area filled with flora and fauna, and they enter a portal to a magical world, the Palace of the Serene Soul, where animals talk to each other and goblets automatically refill themselves with nectar. There, Astor meets many characters, including a makeup-bedecked tortoise who can solve riddles, a pink mouse who serves as the palace nurse, and a human-sized owl named Professor Hoot-Hooty, the Seeker of Knowledge. Astor learns that he’s been summoned to the palace to undergo a test with the professor, who determines that he has a pure white soul, which is necessary to be a healer. Astor is then informed that Lady Irena—Guardian of World Peace, aka Mistress of Singing Waters, and the wife of Lord Iridio, Master of the Rainbow and Protector of the Arroyo—is gravely ill. With no one to protect world peace, her death would threaten the world’s peace. As a healer, Astor is tasked with healing her with his special talent: music. The story travels back and forth between the magical world and Astor’s other life, where his mother is suffering from depression after the death of his father in a car crash. Astor doesn’t realize it, but his special talent has the ability to heal people in both of his worlds. This engaging, well-written story features a memorable main character who, much wiser than his 10 years, shows empathy for all his fellow creatures. The supporting cast is equally well-fleshed-out, and readers will come to worry about what happens to them. The story also evokes both Greek and Native American myths, so it could supplement those topics in school. Additionally, the book tackles the issue of depression with grace and helps readers better understand the difficulties that people with depression face and the importance of treating them with compassion.

A thoughtful story about a boy who must save the world, with important lessons about empathy and understanding.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1484109762

Page Count: 90

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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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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A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.



A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.

In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.

A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.

Pub Date: May 1, 2012


Page Count: 249

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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