A buoyant but overly earnest story of one man’s willingness to sacrifice everything in the name of self-discovery.


A disgraced teacher embarks on a bacchanalian journey to find himself.

On the surface, Brad Shepard’s life appears quite successful and fulfilling. He has a challenging, rewarding job teaching math to middle school kids; he also has his youth, a strong relationship with his parents and some caring friends. But when a tragedy befalls his classroom, Brad loses more than his job; he loses his sense of self. Rudderless for the first time in his life, he accepts an invitation to spend the summer in the Lake Erie island resort town of Put-in-Bay, Ohio. There, he quickly falls in with an eclectic cast of characters united by a singular desire to party. What follows is a booze- and drug-fueled odyssey during which Brad attempts to discover—or perhaps rediscover—his most authentic self. Although it’s tempting to read Brad’s angst as little more than bourgeois despair over a loss of respectability, Cooper’s earnest, often humorous prose keeps Brad’s quest light without sacrificing its poignancy. Still, readers may cringe at some of the more treacly passages; for example, after Brad repeatedly fails to convince others (and himself) that his time in Put-In-Bay is simply an opportunity to regroup, his realization coalesces a bit too neatly: “Maybe I had to become who I’m not to understand who I truly am.” His meandering summer near the site of the Battle of Lake Erie, which established the present-day borders of the United States and Canada, serves as a tidy background for his contentious but ultimately hopeful personal struggle. The stakes, like Brad, may be high, but they fail to galvanize a sense of anxiety in the text. Instead, readers are left with a lingering tedium, as the cycle of booze, drugs and sex repeats ad nauseam. A second tragedy serves to finally bring Brad back from the brink of despair, but for Brad, and readers, salvation arrives just in the nick of time.

A buoyant but overly earnest story of one man’s willingness to sacrifice everything in the name of self-discovery.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-1626340046

Page Count: 253

Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 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


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.



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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