An impressive blend of a largely unseen preternatural being and the palpable horrors of war.

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War Demon

VALLEY OF THE DJINN

Soldiers in Afghanistan believe the demon they’re confronting isn’t metaphorical but a real entity that’s stalking them in this thriller.

Nine months after returning to the United States from Afghanistan, Lt. Matt Slayton identifies the body of soldier Bobby Sweet, dead from an apparent suicide. Other men from Slayton’s platoon have had similar fates, like one injured in a shootout with Texas police, spurred by a road rage incident. The narrative flashes back to Slayton first arriving at Combat Outpost Victor as the replacement lieutenant for Second Platoon, Charlie Company. The soldiers’ duties include protecting locals from the Taliban, but it’s the platoon that locals blame when, following a gunfight with Taliban fighters, village elder Aboud is dead next to a few shell casings. It seems, however, that the platoon’s alleged culpability is more far-reaching: Aboud had been keeping an evil entity trapped in a cave—a shrine—and now that spirit is free. Soon soldiers are plagued with nightmares and unnerving events: Cpl. Dixon mutters in his sleep (“Bad Yoda,” his buddies call it), while Slayton hallucinates a Great Dane-sized camel-spider attack. Occurrences increase in frequency and ferocity (one involving claymores), and side effects from pills (for example, antimalarial) are certainly not the reason. Slayton may have to decide who the worst enemy is: the Taliban or a demon called Balulu. Ryan’s (Night Bird Calling, 2014) novel is wrought with tension, set almost entirely in Afghanistan, with Slayton and his platoon in perpetual danger from baddies human or otherwise. Balulu, though not always tangible, remains an unmistakable threat; even if merely a notion, Slayton and others start attributing incidents to the demon. This gives weight to the Taliban as equally formidable villains, especially with the narrative’s implication that Balulu is merely an agitator triggering an already existing mutual animosity. There’s a bevy of violence and, despite the high body count, several surprising deaths. But this substantial tale has a compassionate side: Slayton doesn’t easily get over his first kill, and interpreter Mehrdad becomes both a friend and sounding board for him. The protagonist, too, has bouts of insight: “Not all wounds are physical,” he aptly puts it.

An impressive blend of a largely unseen preternatural being and the palpable horrors of war.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2016

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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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A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.

SHOW TRIALS

HOW PROPERTY GETS MORE LEGAL PROTECTION THAN PEOPLE IN OUR FAILED IMMIGRATION SYSTEM

A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.

In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.

A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 249

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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