May appeal to readers who are interested in Latin American culture in the U.S. or those who like a good, quick story about...

The baddest gangster in Miami needs a simple auto shop owner’s help in Goyanes’ debut.

Jose Castillo restores old cars and moonlights as a private eye, solving mostly personal injury and divorce cases, nothing that should call too much attention to himself. So when the wife of the city’s biggest drug dealer walks through his door and tells him her husband needs his expertise, Jose anticipates trouble, as does the reader. As it turns out, Jose has a personal connection to their problem: The gangster, Frank Santana, needs the Castillo family’s signatures on papers to purchase a plot of land, and he could also use Jose’s discretion with a more scandalous issue. Someone is threatening to post nude pictures of Frank’s wife online. Jose agrees to help but not before he learns that he must either tangle with his own estranged uncle, Col. Milton Castillo, or cross one of the most dangerous and influential men in Miami. He opts to help the gangster and launches an investigation of the Santanas, his uncle, his former junkie cousin and others. His search reveals a network of people, stories and Cuban-American cultural themes. Goyanes’ writing is energetic and full of creative descriptions. The author allows his characters the room to interact naturally, to joke around with one another. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s easy to admire the spirit and humor of the book, even when the writing is overdone. The author skillfully fits together his plot points, although occasionally he introduces important details too late. For example, the reader soon understands that Jose can interpret subtle changes in body language, but not until the end of the book do we learn that Jose studied psychology in college. It’s a minor point, but this delayed delivery of information applies to many scenes.

May appeal to readers who are interested in Latin American culture in the U.S. or those who like a good, quick story about wild women (good and bad) and the men who love them.

Pub Date: April 16, 2002

ISBN: 978-1622070015

Page Count: 130

Publisher: Ampersand Editions

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2012

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In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.

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A fifth-grade New Orleans girl discovers a mysterious chrysalis containing an unexpected creature in this middle-grade novel.

Jacquelyn Marie Johnson, called Jackie, is a 10-year-old African-American girl, the second oldest and the only girl of six siblings. She’s responsible, smart, and enjoys being in charge; she likes “paper dolls and long division and imagining things she had never seen.” Normally, Jackie has no trouble obeying her strict but loving parents. But when her potted snapdragon acquires a peculiar egg or maybe a chrysalis (she dubs it a chrysalegg), Jackie’s strong desire to protect it runs up against her mother’s rule against plants in the house. Jackie doesn’t exactly mean to lie, but she tells her mother she needs to keep the snapdragon in her room for a science project and gets permission. Jackie draws the chrysalegg daily, waiting for something to happen as it gets larger. When the amazing creature inside breaks free, Jackie is more determined than ever to protect it, but this leads her further into secrets and lies. The results when her parents find out are painful, and resolving the problem will take courage, honesty, and trust. Dumas (Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest: Episode 5, 2017, etc.) presents a very likable character in Jackie. At 10, she’s young enough to enjoy playing with paper dolls but has a maturity that even older kids can lack. She’s resourceful, as when she wants to measure a red spot on the chrysalegg; lacking calipers, she fashions one from her hairpin. Jackie’s inward struggle about what to obey—her dearest wishes or the parents she loves—is one many readers will understand. The book complicates this question by making Jackie’s parents, especially her mother, strict (as one might expect to keep order in a large family) but undeniably loving and protective as well—it’s not just a question of outwitting clueless adults. Jackie’s feelings about the creature (tender and responsible but also more than a little obsessive) are similarly shaded rather than black-and-white. The ending suggests that an intriguing sequel is to come.

In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943169-32-0

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Plum Street Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018



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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