Plenty of storytelling magic, although the story’s not yet finished.

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Piper Houdini: Apprentice of Coney Island

Harry Houdini’s niece discovers a talent for real magic in this 1926-set YA novel.

Until age 12, Piper Weiss lives in an orphanage and a series of foster homes that never quite work out, mainly because bizarre things always seem to happen around her. Then Piper’s father—gaunt and pale, with cavernous eyes—arrives, taking her to live with her uncle Ehrich Weiss, who is better known to the world by his stage name: Harry Houdini. He and his wife, Bess, are childless, and they welcome Piper, who enjoys her new life of good food, silk sheets, and a backstage view of Houdini’s performances. Although Houdini is dedicated to exposing fraudulent mediums, Piper has unsettling encounters with the genuinely supernatural (including, for example, zombies). She learns to walk through mirrors and also discovers nefarious plans to reanimate freak-show corpses and create a demonic army. Meanwhile, in London, the 13-year-old daughter of Arthur Conan Doyle has an urgent message for Houdini from the spirit world: “For the human race to survive, the girl must survive. But for the girl to survive, the magician must die.” It seems the end times are coming, and Piper has a role to play—but first she’ll have to escape a black magician’s minion called Flapper, the vampire vamp. Herdling (Fantastic Four/Inhumans: Atlantis Rising, 2014, etc.) offers a wildly entertaining story. Barring a few anachronisms, he uses his Roaring ’20s backdrop to great advantage. The slang-slinging Flapper is a particularly successful creation; like other minor characters, she’s well-rounded and not unsympathetic, which manages to make her even more chilling. Piper is an appealing heroine: a scrappy Annie-like orphan who stands up for her friends with courage and wit. Her rise from orphan to pampered niece is irresistible fantasy, but Herdling seldom takes his story to expected places. He lucidly explains complicated matters, from how to escape a straitjacket to Egyptian theories of the soul. Disappointingly, though, the book leaves readers waiting for resolution with few storylines resolved; however, a sequel is planned.

Plenty of storytelling magic, although the story’s not yet finished.

Pub Date: July 3, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 269

Publisher: Wise Herd Enterprises

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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