A thoroughly animated fantasy, and a commendable series introduction.


Butler’s debut YA fantasy offers the tale of a young boy who becomes the unwitting guardian of a precious artifact that all sorts of creatures desire.

Fifteen-year-old Tyler Finch is an orphan, but he has an extended family who cares for him in the village of Elliun. This changes when beastly men called ghatu attack the villagers. In the midst of the onslaught, Hargill, the loquacious town senior, bequeaths a spider-rock to the boy and declares him to be the “Avalon-Qwa,” both of which Tyler doesn’t comprehend. The wounded Hargill further demands that Varkon, a recently captured ghatu, take a sacred oath to protect Tyler. The new, reluctant companions journey to the city of Ithrim to seek answers from a man named Haranio. Tyler, however, starts having troubling dreams that he believes are premonitions. One dream in particular leads him to suspect that a man wants to murder him. Overall, this is a brisk, appealing story teeming with action and suspense. The narrative momentum is impressive and striking, as the trio travels for much of the book, on the run from ghatu and engaged in conflict with numerous creatures on land and at sea. Distrust is also a major theme: Tyler isn’t sure whether he can rely on Varkon or Haranio, and later, a ship’s crew blames Tyler for leading the murderous ghatu to their village. No fantasy is complete without mythical beasts, and Butler doesn’t disappoint, as the group faces a shape-shifter, kidnapping imps, and a giant, wormlike myloth. The villains, too, are suitably menacing; the spiked, iron-masked Dhimori commands the ghatu’s assault, while the baddies’ leader, known only as “She,” is terrifying despite never making an appearance. There are abundant mysteries throughout, including the reason why the ghatu are pursuing the group (and specifically Tyler), as well as the significance of the spider-stone, the spider tattoos that suddenly materialize on Tyler’s skin, and his recurring dreams. These are all answered in a closing explanation that goes on for a bit too long, but it does adequately set the stage for a planned second book.

A thoroughly animated fantasy, and a commendable series introduction.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1483424132

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2015

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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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