Da Vinci Code fans will be mildly intrigued.

THE SIDON INCIDENT

A globe-trotting, perspective-shifting thriller filled with conspiracy theories and secret societies.

When the novel opens, the daughter of noted neurosurgeon Maurice Bergman is in a coma: She was poisoned at an archaeological dig site near Sidon, Lebanon, where Joseph, the father of Jesus, purportedly rests. Her father must take her to Rome in order to cure her. Once there, she’s given a drug that magically wakes her, and she’s able to explain to her father what occurred: She stumbled on the bones of St. Joseph, and an angel appeared to her in the guise of her dead mother to give her some kind of a fertility doll. Elsewhere, two men who were hired to fetch the statue of the Virgin are now explaining themselves not to the priest who hired them, but to a third party; the exact mechanics of their criminal endeavors remain murky throughout the novel. Also involved are an Austrian professor of Egyptian antiquities named Ernst Von Biden and an American investigative reporter, Marvin Challet, who seem to be representing the interests of the Catholic Church. Narrative focus switches between these groups from chapter to chapter, further complicating an already bewildering story. Inconsistencies and questions abound, even beside the credulity-straining Gnostic plot. For example, if this girl is so ill, why is she in her father’s house and not in the hospital? Even the best neurosurgeons don’t have access to the necessary level of machinery and medication at home. Furthermore, it’s difficult to swallow that a father fearing for his daughter’s life would automatically take the word of a stranger who calls to inform him about his daughter’s poisoning and who further insists that the treatment for this condition is available only in Rome. Even if that were true, logic dictates that it’s much easier to send medication than to bring a girl in a coma overseas. Indeed, none of the medical aspects of the novel can be looked at too closely. Punctuation errors, usually involving commas, pop up on nearly every page, as does an overreliance on ellipses to indicate speech patterns.  Frequently, clunky phrasing and poor diction submerge the narrative—i.e., “laughed belly laughs.” The author also often ignores that old standby of writerly advice: Show, don’t tell. Sometimes, even the dialogue is painfully expository: “You must be weary having just arrived from Lebanon,” a man helpfully explains to his guests.

Da Vinci Code fans will be mildly intrigued. 

Pub Date: July 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-1451518559

Page Count: 262

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2013

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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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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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