The repetitive anti-war sentiments become tiresome, but the harsh realities of battle from a young citizen’s perspective...


In Etchison’s novel, a 17-year-old girl faces the ultimate test of survival when her nation goes to war.

Samantha “Sam” Riggleman seems to have a bright future ahead of her. A junior in high school, she’s excited to graduate soon, and she’s thrilled that Brandon, the boy she has long admired, finally asked her out. Brandon is finishing high school and has plans to go to college, but his and Sam’s dreams are dashed when the president of their fictional country declares war. Young men must enlist to help the war effort (the narrative uses clichés like: “Our only hope is our children”); even though Brandon hates the violence, he doesn’t want to be perceived as a coward, so he decides to defend his country. Sam fears for Brandon’s life, especially since a former classmate was killed after he joined the service. Her understandable worries are only intensified when an enemy attack forces her to flee with Brandon’s family instead of her own. Desperately trying to escape the bombing, Sam and her friend Meg run to safety, but Brandon and his parents are killed. Sam witnesses the devastation of war and loss firsthand, but she must leave the bodies behind and continue on if she hopes to have any chance of surviving. At times, the dialogue is unrealistic for a 17-year-old girl. Circumstances cause her to grow up quickly, but the way she talks is improbably stiff, and the prose often comes across as an adult narrator declaring that war is unnecessary, rather than a teenager showing the reader why war is not the answer. Sam is surrounded by fatalities and destruction as she walks miles in search of her family and safety. As she tries to overcome the horrors of war, the smells of death and almost being raped by men from the enemy’s army, she encounters different survivors along the way, including three young children whose parents were killed, whom she takes under her wing. Her maternal instinct toward the children and her commitment to them are admirable, albeit a bit over-the-top for someone of her age. Sam’s fear and desperation are convincing, though the intense subject matter might be overwhelming for younger adolescents. Her journey reaches an unsettling, abrupt conclusion.

The repetitive anti-war sentiments become tiresome, but the harsh realities of battle from a young citizen’s perspective will be eye-opening, especially for young-adult readers.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-1612251097

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Mirror Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 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


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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