Frequently silly and violent though occasionally insightful, the plot can be difficult to follow though by no means...



Luce’s zany, near-future adventure (Chasing Davis, 2012).

The year is 2017, and the United States is in turmoil. After a devastating terrorist attack on San Diego, the country devolves into civil war. Various rebel forces form, and the government has passed the Espionage Act, allowing for all kinds of powers that reach beyond the Constitution. At the helm of this tumultuous nation is President Meryl Montessori. Though Washington, D.C., is one of the more stable places in America, Montessori wakes up one morning to find her female lover dead. The president assembles a team of sorts to make sense of the impossible murder, sending them down a bizarre path that leads everywhere from the war zones of America to the gravesite of George Orwell. As the plot progresses, it drifts ever further from the initial murder and into more abstract realms, such as the fragile nature of human history and the universe itself. Fortunately, the president’s confidants are prepared. Team members range from the stovepipe-hat wearing science advisor Dr. Frank N. Stein to the beautiful NYPD Officer Rachel Rothberg, who, though a savvy and daring police officer, can never bring herself to lie to her mother. This wacky cast of characters only gets wackier as they try to sort out a series of clues and survive various active hostilities around the world. Though the humor of this zany gang greatly depends on the reader’s tolerance for puns and other simple word play, the team also has its sophisticated moments. Allusions to Kazimierz Pulaski, Emperor Haile Selassie, and others provide a welcome infusion of world history, however, these references show the heroes may too easily outwit villains who can’t think beyond racial slurs and coarse grammar. One main scoundrel, for example, is apparently so dumb it took him six years to graduate from the University of Tennessee. If this is the best the world can put against them, how can Montessori’s team fail?

Frequently silly and violent though occasionally insightful, the plot can be difficult to follow though by no means impossible. Rooting for characters who, for instance, respond to an “air-head” driver by saying “Yah…and she’s obviously got air-brakes too” proves much more difficult.

Pub Date: June 13, 2012


Page Count: 496

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 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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