Plenty of potential but lacking in character development.


A young man afflicted with a debilitating disease goes on a road trip with his estranged father.

It’s 1989 and 23-year-old Doopers Lanza has spent three years wasting away in a farmhouse outside of Detroit with his bitter, divorced mother. He suffers from colitis, a colon condition that causes anxiety and abdominal pain. The only consolations in Doopers’ lonely, afflicted life are the love letters he receives from his wholesome Catholic girlfriend, Maricela, who lives in Texas near the Mexican border, where the two met years earlier. It took only three weeks for Maricela to declare her intention to marry Doopers, despite their mismatched values (at the time he was regularly bedding her cousin). Now, Doopers’ mother is tired of caring for her ill son, so she calls her ex-husband, a famous and wealthy cartoonist, who swoops in to rescue the son he hasn’t seen in years. They leave in a well-equipped RV with plans to drive to Texas, where Doopers will propose to Maricela. Suddenly, Doopers is living the good life: golfing every day, going to sporting events, dining at fancy restaurants and otherwise bonding with his father through manly recreation. Maccagnone (St. John of the Midfield, 2010) writes with a relaxed, appealing voice, but women may have trouble accepting this story due to the author’s reliance on offensive female stereotypes. According to Doopers and his father, “all girls” dress in scanty clothing, they ruthlessly compete over men, and, once married, they exploit their husbands’ weaknesses. When his mother brings a man home, Doopers calls her a “drunken sex fiend” and a “full-fledged skank,” forgetting both his newfound Christian compassion and his own promiscuous past. His ever-righteous father, however, can do no wrong. Readers will wait for a conversation between father and son about the many years of lost contact, but it never comes. Action moves swiftly, yet crude humor, mundane details and a few typos blemish the final product.

Plenty of potential but lacking in character development.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1466363267

Page Count: 204

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 3, 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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