An enjoyable investigation with an admirable, down-to-earth heroine.


An insurance investigator and cancer survivor becomes a suspect in the death of her former nurse.

At 30, ex-cop Lauren Beck is beginning a new career as an insurance investigator now that she’s been cancer-free for four years. She’s been living with Corinne, a family friend who nursed her and gave her a place to live. At one time, she thought her father and Corinne would marry. But now Corinne is dead, also of cancer; Corinne’s daughter Nina wants Lauren out; and worse—she’s accused Lauren of murdering her mother. Meanwhile, a mysterious truck is following Lauren around. Someone has opened her mail, closed her bank account, trashed her credit and slashed her tires. Is it Nina? Someone she’s investigating for insurance fraud? A work rival? Brave and determined, humorous despite it all, Lauren digs for the truth even when she gets locked up. Murray (No Bones About It, 2012, etc.) has a very appealing heroine in Lauren. She’s tough-minded, self-reliant, with an eye for a good-looking man and thirst for a good drink. Not a shred of self-pity; no pink ribbons. But Lauren’s not hard-boiled, either. She loved the motherly Corinne and mourns her loss. Imagining family holidays that might have been, she pictures her brother’s kids running around, her father and Corinne together: “Corinne would bake ziti and buy pumpkin pies and Dad would serve his disgusting mulled wine. I wanted a whole family, especially since chemo had ruined any chance of creating one for myself.” Authentic details from the book’s Pennsylvania/Maryland setting add interest—for example, the issue of farmland being sold off for development. Murray is an able, engaging writer, though the book has some flaws. At times, Lauren doesn’t seem to act much like an ex-cop; something like slit-open mail ought to have raised red flags immediately. And it doesn’t make sense that she wouldn’t simply call the cops to investigate. Making sense of the timeline, too, can be overly difficult; date headings would have helped greatly. The clues to Corinne’s death are a little too obvious, with only one real medical thread to follow. Still, Murray adds enough complications to keep things interesting, Lauren is good company and the ending (which sets the stage for future volumes) satisfies.

An enjoyable investigation with an admirable, down-to-earth heroine.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0985688042

Page Count: 262

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2012

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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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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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