Only the most hardened Scrooge could completely resist this collection of yuletide confections.

AN AVALON CHRISTMAS

Gee (The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society, 2013, etc.) returns to Avalon, Ill., population 4,000, for a dozen stories about holiday spirit and random acts of kindness.

These 12 relentlessly cheery tales create a portrait of a small town where good deeds are contagious, food is the bearer of cozy memories, and no one is reclusive or estranged for long. In “Lemon Creams,” Melvin O’Malley, a crotchety senior at Harmony Homes, resists the idea of Christmas until his neighbor suffers a fall. Then he suddenly realizes that, like his favorite childhood lemon creams, life may be bittersweet, but he can make it sweeter for others. In what becomes a recurring theme in these stories, a cynical Scrooge figure transforms into a jolly Santa. In “Gift Wrapped,” an undercover reporter finds that “the spirit of giving that crosses all faiths and customs” is thriving, even amid the town’s bustling, competitive consumerism. Townspeople abandon their grudges and petty squabbles and instead come together to make Avalon better. In “Room at the Tea Salon,” a newcomer proposes a crowdfunding solution to the independent bookstore’s financial woes. In these stories, nothing impedes a heartwarming conclusion—not poverty, loneliness, cancer, a sick child or a father serving overseas. As a result, many of the tidy, change-of-heart endings seem a bit sudden; could a bulimic really get over her food issues within a week? The collection seems to prioritize breadth over depth; characterization is particularly shallow, perhaps assuming that readers are already familiar with Avalon’s residents from previous books. Every wintry cliché is here: sledding, cocoa, carolers, ribbon-wrapped cookie stacks (like those featured in the impeccable cover image), the last line of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” and even a character named Virginia who stubbornly believes in Christmas miracles. Yet the Dickensian echoes are subtle and pleasant, including an unexpected inheritance and anonymous benefactors donating free turkeys and a year’s worth of mortgage payments. Fans of women’s food-and-crafting fiction will relish these stories. After all, their “pay it forward” message is appropriate any time of year. (Two more seasonal offerings are planned: An Avalon Valentine and An Avalon Summer.)

Only the most hardened Scrooge could completely resist this collection of yuletide confections.

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 149

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 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

ISBN: 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.

SHOW TRIALS

HOW PROPERTY GETS MORE LEGAL PROTECTION THAN PEOPLE IN OUR FAILED IMMIGRATION SYSTEM

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

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 249

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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