An engaging, essential novel for readers who feel disenfranchised by the political process.


A promising young woman is undone by her political aspirations in Wood’s (Please Be Ad-Vised, 2013) latest novel.

The author returns with a potent tale about the corrupting influence of power and its tragic consequences for one family. The story follows Samantha Harrison as she gets an MBA and law degree, marries one of her former professors, distinguishes herself as a prosecutor and eventually runs for public office. When the story opens in 2016, she’s the Republican presidential candidate running against Hillary Clinton in what promises to be a historic election. Wood tells Harrison’s story using three methods: lengthy quotes from her campaign speeches that illustrate her worldview, italicized text that offers readers a glimpse into her thought processes (“Jesus, if the president of the United States can’t affect markets, who controls America: the people or the boardrooms?”), and the chronological story of her life. The author juggles these angles with impressive formal control, and they ultimately provide a deeper portrait of Harrison than a traditional narrative would. By contrasting her wishy-washy and sometimes-laughable political pronouncements with her consistently nasty and dismissive internal commentary, readers can see the candidate as someone who believes in nothing more than her own advancement. The overall story confirms this assessment: Harrison alienates her Washington-hating husband, becomes estranged from her resentful daughter, and contributes directly to her son’s death in a bizarre section which reads like a military thriller. Even as she and those around her claim to be disgusted by Washington’s hypocrisies and shallow machinations, she skips happily up the political ladder; apparently, she’s so deft at playing the political game that she runs essentially unchallenged until the presidential election. A late chance at redemption offers a glimmer of hope, but ultimately, it shows Harrison as a cynical master of petty calculation. Wood’s unflinching look at what it takes to get ahead in Washington is bleak but feels authentic. Readers may find themselves deflated by the novel’s cynical take on politics, but they may also find satisfaction in the way it eviscerates its deeply unlikable main character. Harrison never quite gets her just deserts, but by the end of the novel, it’s very clear how far she has fallen.

An engaging, essential novel for readers who feel disenfranchised by the political process.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4849-2652-9

Page Count: 294

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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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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