A well-structured, enjoyable tale about growing up and letting go.

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THE LAST GOOD HALLOWEEN

Cromley’s debut coming-of-age novel follows a 15-year-old high schooler as he comes to terms with his parents’ split and the confusion of adolescence.

Kirby is your typical teen: mouthy, distrustful of authority and highly aware of his raging libido. But he’s also concerned about the stability of his small family unit. During his short life, he endured a seemingly endless parade of his mother’s suitors, until his stepfather, Bradley, became a more stable presence five years ago. Recently, however, Bradley hasn’t been around the house. He’s disappeared for short periods before—Kirby measures his sabbaticals by an “informal indicator” called “Bradley-Returns Index”—but he’s always come home. When Kirby returns from a torturous stint at computer camp, he finds his mother in a relationship with their neighbor Uncle Harley, or, as Kirby calls him, “the insurgent.” Kirby fears that this development could wipe out the BRI entirely, so he becomes determined to restore order. He enlists the help of his only friends—the meek, sometimes-frustrating Julian, and a troubled girl named Izzy, who’s the object of Kirby’s fantasies—to track down his missing stepfather. The trio “borrows” Julian’s dad’s classic 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner and sets off across Montana on a road trip, and hijinks and adventures ensue. Ultimately, Kirby must confront Bradley and the reasons why the BRI may be permanently at zero. The present-tense, first-person narration works well for recounting these youthful escapades; Kirby is simultaneously reflective and impulsive, making decisions in real time and almost immediately experiencing their consequences. The prose, especially the dialogue, is strong but may be a bit mature for young readers (“You look like a fetus,” is a compelling but perhaps age-specific insult; there are also frequent references to masturbation). Although set in the 1980s, the story and tone have a timeless feel, and Kirby’s struggles with self-exploration are very relatable. Overall, the novel’s strength lies in its evocation of how it feels to live in a sometimes-disappointing world.

A well-structured, enjoyable tale about growing up and letting go.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0615872759

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Tortoise Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.

SHOW TRIALS

HOW PROPERTY GETS MORE LEGAL PROTECTION THAN PEOPLE IN OUR FAILED IMMIGRATION SYSTEM

A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.

In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.

A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 249

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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