A wonderfully crafted balance of Roman-era drama and the fierceness of battle.

SOUTH OF BURNT ROCKS WEST OF THE MOON

In Berger’s captivating debut historical fiction, a young Iberian-Celtic she-warrior makes a stand against the invading Roman army.

In Hispania, 184 B.C., 11-year-old Lavena, daughter of the village leader, witnesses the brutal murder of an old farmer by a Roman soldier. The villagers’ worst fears are confirmed: Hungry for gold, mighty Rome has broken the peace treaty and is preparing to invade and conquer. A proud, determined people, Lavena’s clan decides to train and fight against the overwhelming invaders. Lavena, now 15, has learned the ways of the she-warrior—women who use their strength and intelligence to outwit and kill their male counterparts. When the village is consumed by the crushing army, Lavena’s father urges her to take the family gold and escape; his dying wish is for her to warn surrounding villages and unify the people to take a stand against Rome. Smartly written, the novel moves quickly, building prose with quiet strength unencumbered by the heavy style. Its bare-bones flow seems to fit the time period. The simple yet powerful narrative relies on a commanding cast of characters, many of whom are indeed women, celebrated for their resiliency and constitution. These women are the leaders of the resistance and they rely on no man for guidance. Berger beautifully crafts them as more than one-dimensional warriors bent on revenge. They’re strong yet vulnerable, desperate to protect their land and people. Berger also builds an elaborate world full of small details that add depth and historical context. However, with so much attention to detail and a great deal of buildup, the novel concludes perhaps too quickly, which may leave readers slightly disappointed.

A wonderfully crafted balance of Roman-era drama and the fierceness of battle.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 367

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

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

Did you like this book?

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

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

more