A flawed novel that still thrills.


An exciting novel about terrorists, movie stars, billionaires and wild animals.

Jeremy Bates’ second novel zooms from continent to continent, amid explosions, murders, kidnappings and terrorist training camps. Scarlett Cox, one of the world’s most famous actresses, and Sal Brazza, her hotel-magnate husband, try to salvage their fraying marriage by embarking on an African photo safari. Scarlett suffers from migraines and the inability to trust her philandering, arrogant husband. Sal’s concerns have more to do with the mysterious fire in his new Dubai luxury hotel, most likely an attempt on his life. Damien Fitzgerald, an aging Irish assassin targeting Sal, follows the couple to Africa; he’s enthusiastically leaving a trail of bodies behind him. After Scarlett and Sal are robbed in a random crime, they visit the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam at the same time that Al Qaeda—specifically, the British-born Jahja al-Ahmad—bombs the embassy and takes a group of hostages, including Scarlett, Sal and Thunder, the friendly Australian whom Scarlett has a crush on. Thankfully, Bates adeptly manages the different threads of this potentially confusing story. Unfortunately, though, the characters are razor thin, only serving the purpose of moving the complex story forward. Before the attack and kidnapping, Scarlett’s thoughts seem to revolve around her husband and some fine lines around her eyes. She never ponders her career, family—anything remotely personal. Sal becomes a stock evil billionaire ready to torture an old man for information and start a fistfight with a dying fellow hostage. Long stretches of back story and exposition are awkwardly inserted into the text, and Bates is often too obvious about some of his characters’ concerns. For example, after Scarlett is kidnapped, she ruminates, “You never in a thousand years thought it would happen to you.…It was part of a different world. Even now that she had been thrown headfirst into that different world and was experiencing it all first hand, she still had a difficult time internalizing it.” When Bates stays away from unnecessary exposition, the exciting narrative can be very satisfying—until the ending, which features an unlikely, overwhelming maelstrom of blood, violence, leopards, rebels, machetes and a nearly comic chain of bloody misfortune.

A flawed novel that still thrills.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-1937178192

Page Count: 258

Publisher: WiDo Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?