WITHOUT SIN

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.

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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JUPITER STORM

In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.

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A fifth-grade New Orleans girl discovers a mysterious chrysalis containing an unexpected creature in this middle-grade novel.

Jacquelyn Marie Johnson, called Jackie, is a 10-year-old African-American girl, the second oldest and the only girl of six siblings. She’s responsible, smart, and enjoys being in charge; she likes “paper dolls and long division and imagining things she had never seen.” Normally, Jackie has no trouble obeying her strict but loving parents. But when her potted snapdragon acquires a peculiar egg or maybe a chrysalis (she dubs it a chrysalegg), Jackie’s strong desire to protect it runs up against her mother’s rule against plants in the house. Jackie doesn’t exactly mean to lie, but she tells her mother she needs to keep the snapdragon in her room for a science project and gets permission. Jackie draws the chrysalegg daily, waiting for something to happen as it gets larger. When the amazing creature inside breaks free, Jackie is more determined than ever to protect it, but this leads her further into secrets and lies. The results when her parents find out are painful, and resolving the problem will take courage, honesty, and trust. Dumas (Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest: Episode 5, 2017, etc.) presents a very likable character in Jackie. At 10, she’s young enough to enjoy playing with paper dolls but has a maturity that even older kids can lack. She’s resourceful, as when she wants to measure a red spot on the chrysalegg; lacking calipers, she fashions one from her hairpin. Jackie’s inward struggle about what to obey—her dearest wishes or the parents she loves—is one many readers will understand. The book complicates this question by making Jackie’s parents, especially her mother, strict (as one might expect to keep order in a large family) but undeniably loving and protective as well—it’s not just a question of outwitting clueless adults. Jackie’s feelings about the creature (tender and responsible but also more than a little obsessive) are similarly shaded rather than black-and-white. The ending suggests that an intriguing sequel is to come.

In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943169-32-0

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Plum Street Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

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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