An intriguing, if overwhelming, look at African culture that may appeal to students of mythology and fantasy.

Mysterious Depths

AN AFRICAN ADVENTURE

This surreal African fantasy follows the trials and tribulations of an innocent girl whose errand for her pregnant sister turns into a quest involving magic, human sacrifice, love and war.

Agwarota employs a variety of fairy-tale elements in her debut novel, with the main character, Mamuke, overcoming trials, reuniting with her lost parents and encountering startling revelations. While lost on an errand, she wanders into the home of Prince Uwami, a man whom she’s destined to marry. There, she inadvertently witnesses a secret ceremony, causing Uwami to be trapped between the mortal and spirit planes. To free him, she must undergo a number of trials. The plot deepens when Uwami’s enemy, Chief Shumatu, gets wind of these events, leading to more serious difficulties for Mamuke, including a kidnapping and a battle involving thousands. To save them all, she faces yet more trials and rituals, and along the way, she learns the identities of her parents, finds love and brings about cultural change. The prose is simple, with some very nice, almost childlike imagery: “[B]irds on nearby trees chirruped happily to each other as the fog slowly lifted. The smell of fresh earth filled the air.” It’s a style that works well for the book’s first half, but as the story evolves from the tale of a young girl into an elaborate interplay of personalities, grievances and tribal war, it loses readers in a maze of characters and a pantheon of fickle gods. Even with a glossary of terms, the multitude of intricate ceremonies and rituals and the baffling hierarchy of priests, wise men and shamans can be confounding. Overall, it’s a solid story with a good feel for its own magical realm, but it bogs down in minutiae and expands into an epic that engulfs the original narrative.

An intriguing, if overwhelming, look at African culture that may appeal to students of mythology and fantasy.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 265

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2014

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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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