A quick, exciting read that makes a bold statement on failed U.S. policies, but there’s too much going on in too few pages.

WITHOUT SIN

A hopeless ex–Navy SEAL finds himself in the uniform of a U.S. border patrol agent, questioning his life purpose, until he stumbles across an unlikely answer in a brothel in Tecate, Mexico.

Garrett Harrison isn’t like the rest of the border patrol agents. He may say “ain’t” just as frequently and he’s happy to joke around with them, but he has a unique sympathy and understanding for the immigrants and migrants he works to police and arrest. Part of this compassion comes from his ability, thanks to his late Cuban mother, to “speak Mexican,” which proves to be a good and a bad thing on the job. One day, Garrett and his colleague Brophy are called to a scene of slaughter: A drug-smuggling deal went wrong, and two women were disemboweled for cocaine they had swallowed. Apparently, “El Cacique” was responsible for the mutilated women and for everything awful that’s to come. Just as the story appears ready to focus on immigration issues, the drug war and failed U.S. border policies, it instead takes an unexpected turn into a brothel. Brophy and Parker, the pranksters on the patrol squad, drag Garrett to “Casa de Diana” to celebrate his promotion. While Brophy and Parker pay their way for a few minutes of pleasure, Garrett encounters Angelina, a young, beautiful prostitute forced into prostitution by El Cacique. Garrett falls desperately in love with her, even as several side stories describe the murderous, corrupt web El Cacique has weaved in the town. Can lovesick Garrett free his young love from the grip of a demented drug lord? Drug smuggling, sex trafficking, murder by hay hook, a reverend pedophile, an outdoor brothel, all amid an unlikely love story—it’s chaotic. The author’s intention to bring to light some of the unspeakable, real crimes being committed by Mexican drug cartels is somewhat admirable, but the story gets too busy for its own good.

A quick, exciting read that makes a bold statement on failed U.S. policies, but there’s too much going on in too few pages.

Pub Date: April 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-0865348783

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Sunstone Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2012

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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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