An engrossing YA sci-fi sequel, in which ideas share the stage with the cast.

Heart of Mystery

From the Changing Hearts of Ixdahan Daherek series , Vol. 2

The second volume in Laporta’s (Heart of Earth, 2014) YA series about a young alien defending Earth from galactic conquerors.

The summer before her senior year of high school begins, Lena Gabrilowicz is off the southeastern coast of Alaska, studying humpback whales. Professor Cray and his grad student daughter, Jocelyn, help Lena as she indulges her love of marine biology and tries to forget that, last year, an alien race called the Vrukaari invaded Earth (in the series’ previous installment). Luckily, an eight-tentacled Snaldrialooran named Ixdahan Daherek had been posing as her classmate, Derek, and helped thwart the attack. It turned out that he’d downloaded and sold classified files on his home planet and had been sentenced to Earth (and transmogrified into a human body) as punishment. In this book, he’s back on his home world, working for the Snaldrialooran Security Agency, disguised as a Vrukaari on Vrukaar Prime. The aliens there are suspected of possessing armor that could make its fleet invincible. Ixdahan also finds that other aliens resembling the Onkendren are trading with the Vrukaari. The Onkendren allegedly developed “a link to the laws of physics, enabling them to manipulate space, time, energy and matter”; they vanished, but not before burying a series of artifacts on various worlds. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Lena finds that the whales’ singing is invading her mind, as are images of an ancient amphora; can thoughts of her alien friend Derek be far behind? Laporta’s second foray into YA sci-fi is trimmed of the teenage shenanigans that made its predecessor so charming. Lena’s friends Callie Ann and Vance return, but are instead a part of an expanding space opera, which proves to be a feast of intriguing concepts. For example, the Vrukaari evolved from eellike creatures who had the ability to deliver a “simple shock,” and now they possess “an unusually dense electromagnetic field—guided by primitive mental impulses.” Newcomers to the genre and adult fans of classic sci-fi novels, such as David Brin’s Startide Rising (1984), will love hearing whales talk and adventuring in a galaxy where humanoids are rare. Once again, Laporta opts for a dire, high-stakes finale, maximizing the emotional thrust of his narrative.

An engrossing YA sci-fi sequel, in which ideas share the stage with the cast.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-37246-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Chickadee Prince Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

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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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