Imaginative and touching; like India, a sparkling jewel in the crown.

ISABELLA ROCKWELL'S WAR

In Parry’s debut novel, a 12-year-old orphan finds herself embroiled in a royal mystery.

Having lost her mother in a monsoon shortly after birth, Isabella Rockwell was raised in India by her devoted father, a sergeant in the English army, and Abhaya, their loving housekeeper. A secret mission pulls her father away, but when he vanishes and is presumed dead, Isabella undertakes a futile search for him. Shortly after, she’s sent from the only country she’s ever known to a London household. She’s meant to learn a trade, but indentured servitude doesn’t suit her headstrong, independent nature, so she quietly slips out onto London’s filthy streets in a bitter winter. She finds herself, à la Oliver Twist, adopted by a group of endearing orphans who scrabble for food and artfully steal to get by. In an opportune moment, Isabella heroically saves the life of a well-dressed young girl on a runaway horse, injuring herself in the rescue. She wakes to find herself in Kensington Palace, the home of Princess Alixandrina Hanover, the girl she saved. During her convalescence, the two girls establish a sisterly relationship, and the irony of their contrasting situations becomes a driving force in the story’s narrative: Isabella is an impoverished orphan now freed from the bonds of parental authority, yet once cherished by her father and housekeeper; Princess Alix, virtually a prisoner of the palace, feels desperately unloved by her family. Meanwhile, suspicious, near-fatal accidents continue to befall Alix, and Isabella secretly begins to investigate. Are the accidents merely coincidental, or is someone in the royal family trying to kill the princess? All the while, Isabella continues to dream about returning to her beloved India. Will she betray Alix and steal from the palace to pay for her passage? Parry’s descriptions are as varied as they are rich, from the scents of Abhaya’s Indian healing herbs to the sounds of London’s bustling streets and the opulence in the British royalty. A sizable cast of beautifully developed, memorable characters makes solving the mystery even more deliciously puzzling, and readers will be guessing to the surprising end. The well-written dialogue is full of charming colloquialisms, and much of Parry’s descriptions border on the poetic: “The Duchess’ voice was light and insubstantial, like the bubble on top of milk just arrived in the pail.”

Imaginative and touching; like India, a sparkling jewel in the crown.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0957332102

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Nielsen Book

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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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

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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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