An earnest, if somewhat by-the-numbers, tale of a wanderer’s inner awakenings.

The Soul of Uncertainty

A FABLE FOR OUR TIMES

A bildungsroman tells the story of an ordinary man seeking a sense of fulfillment in his life.

Susnow’s (Dancing on the River, 2010) novel stars a young man named Roderick Bartholomew McPherson III, known to everybody as “Buddy,” as he progresses through his life seeking wisdom and direction in the second half of the 20th century on the West Coast. Readers are taken through Buddy's life at a fairly steady, often leisurely, pace: the early death of his father, his experience facing down a bully in military school, his budding interest in music, and so on. Instead of going to college, he and his dog take to the road and begin wandering in Northern California, where Buddy quickly encounters a mysterious older man named Mervin. Mervin is careful to distinguish himself from the mythical Merlin of King Arthur fame, but nevertheless offers to become Buddy’s mentor and teach him to harness the magic he has inside. Although they'll meet again at key intervals throughout the book, their initial encounter is brief, only long enough for some fairly unsurprising gnomic utterances on Mervin’s part—“Universal rules and principles are always true, except when they’re not. Be open to all possibilities”—and other fortune-cookie truisms that mean nothing because they can mean anything. While quoting from business-seminar gurus like Napoleon Hill, Mervin imparts to Buddy an optimism about life’s opportunities, and the young man carries this with him as he embarks on the kind of voyage of self-discovery that was once a mainstay of the hippie counterculture movement in California. During this predictable journey, Buddy strums his guitar at a cafe/bookstore/hangout named Annie’s, meets characters with names like Scorpia and The Blues, and attends a dreamy institution called the University of the Curious, where he meets like-minded seekers and tries to expand his awareness of the human brain’s potential (the often-debunked Uri Geller gets an obligatory mention). Fortunately, Susnow’s narrative picks up both speed and interest once Buddy becomes a lawyer, gets married, begins a career in socially conscious litigation, and undergoes business reversals and personal betrayals in the novel’s latter half. Readers who've stuck around thanks to the author’s easy, inviting prose should find themselves rewarded from the mid-point on.

An earnest, if somewhat by-the-numbers, tale of a wanderer’s inner awakenings.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Inspire Possibility Media

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 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 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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