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PRESIDENTIAL INTENTIONS

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

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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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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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