A wry account of a family’s travels gone off the rails.

STUMBLING THROUGH THE TULIPS

In the early 1990s, an American engineer moves his family to Holland for an extended stay; chaos ensues.

Debut memoirist Martin takes a job as a computer engineer in Shell Oil’s Amsterdam office, one that will last a good part of the kids’ growing-up years. Off they go—Dan, wife Nazy, and kids Mitra, Darius and Melika—from familiar Hanover, N.H., to Holland, where everything is different, where everything is a challenge, and where everything (in retrospect, at least) is hilarious. They try to learn the new language, cope with the Dutch bureaucracy (whose standard response seems to be “That is not possible”) and deal with the kids’ alternating enthusiasms and despairs. They have a funny, confused interlude when they stumble upon a topless beach. On their various trips around Europe (Darius is a fanatic about collecting passport stamps), they endure wretched hotels and minuscule, underpowered rental cars. Everything that can go wrong does, which is standard fare for a comic memoir. Much of it strains credulity. Mitra, in fact, lets the cat out of the bag when she says, “What can we tell our friends? They expect disaster.We can’t disappoint them.” But they earn some leeway regarding their credibility: The Martins are a study in slapstick. The book is double-voiced, in that the author introduces and comments upon their adventure in italicized passages. This is particularly helpful, serving to summarize their (mis)adventures and warn of those to come. Martin is a good writer for this sort of thing. He likes to make puns and build comic scenes. What really shines through is the wonderful, indomitable Martin clan, each member drawn with distinctive traits (no stereotypes here). They do become completely sympathetic and even endearing. And an afterward provides an update—the kids, now grown, have become real cosmopolitan overachievers scattered all over the world.

A wry account of a family’s travels gone off the rails.    

Pub Date: April 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-1461131748

Page Count: 308

Publisher: CreateSpace

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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