For a novel about whiskey, this thriller doesn’t go down easily.

SENATE PROOF

The double crossings and plot twists are dizzying in this thriller, Snyder’s first novel.

University of Virginia law student Jackson Cole spent last summer boozing and flirting at a prestigious D.C. firm. His prior career as an entrepreneur making millions off of smartphone applications isn’t enough to get him invited back to the firm for his second law school summer, and he just discovered that his longtime girlfriend appears to have found a new guy. At loose ends, Jackson replies to a mysterious advertisement in the law school newsletter seeking candidates for a “non-traditional legal opportunity” for someone with “problem solving skills and the ability to handle confidential information.” But when Jackson appears for an interview, the private investigator that placed the ad has been killed by a gunshot to the head. While mulling over the shooting at a bar, Jackson meets Caroline Mills, a former Wall Street big shot now mucking out stables for John McAllister, a wealthy landowner who also runs a secret distillery. Instantly attracted to one another, Jackson and Caroline are quickly plunged into a dangerous power play between McAllister and other members of his organization for control of the distillery, which harbors other illegal activities as well. And the organization isn’t a bunch of backwoods criminals; it includes a U.S. senator, members of the FBI, and the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. No one knows who to trust as the characters all try to assess others’ motives and allegiances while the bullets fly. It’s difficult to worry about the possible impact of the scandal and battle for power when the main characters are little more than pretty magazine cutouts. When Snyder does try to flesh out his characters, the language is often maddeningly vague. At one point, John McAllister is described as having a “non-worrisome demeanor.” Overly formal language also slows down the action—a waitress does not bring Jackson a drink, she “obliges his request” for one; characters do not talk when they can “converse”; and to stop talking, they “cease the conversation.”

For a novel about whiskey, this thriller doesn’t go down easily.

Pub Date: May 11, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 321

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2012

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

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

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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