A realistic, moving chronicle of the evolving relationship between sisters.


Two sisters travel a rocky path to self-fulfillment—watching some movies along the way—in this reflective debut novel.

Betty and Jamie, red-haired siblings just a year apart in age, don’t exactly share a sisterly bond. In an early scene, 9-year-old Betty wishes her younger sister “would pirouette right through the pane glass window.” Seconds later, Jamie injures herself in a fall, and Betty lets her writhe in pain for several minutes before calling for help. It’s an event that sets the tone for the sisters’ future relationship—there’s love between them, but it’s tempered by misunderstandings, jealousy and failures to connect. A difficult home life doesn’t make things easier: Their father is a frustrated actor turned therapist, their mother an ambitious career woman who leaves her husband for another man as her daughters enter adolescence. These formative experiences leave a deep impression, which is apparent as the sisters grow older and make decisions about motherhood, careers and romance. A complex relationship with their moody, troubled mom haunts them, and neither sibling can forgive her failings. Betty copes by overcompensating, embracing her maternal instinct (she has three children) and designing a line of baby clothes. Jamie’s relationship to motherhood is more complicated. Cancer treatments appear to have left her infertile, and her husband is adamant he doesn’t want children. The novel is episodic and shifts between the recent and more distant past. A different film provides the structure for each chapter to indicate both the era and the circumstances of the sisters’ lives—Little Darlings during their teen years in the early 1980s, Breaking the Waves in the mid-’90s when Betty sacrifices her dreams to support her husband’s career. Some of these references work better than others; readers may be more familiar with The Wizard of Oz or Hitchcock’s Vertigo than the less-memorable 1998 film Primary Colors, and the summary of movie plots occasionally distracts from the larger story. From Betty’s infidelity to a shocking revelation from Jamie’s husband, the sisters have plenty of their own drama without heading to the movies. But they grow wiser as they age, a trajectory that expands the novel’s emotional scope.

A realistic, moving chronicle of the evolving relationship between sisters.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-0983791508

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Ripetta Press

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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