Give this one to kids struggling with a new school or to anyone interested in animal rescue.

MADISON MORGAN

WHEN DOGS BLOG

Starting middle school can be tough, so Madison Morgan doesn’t think she can handle it without a dog, but her stepfather has other ideas.

For Madison Morgan, middle school doesn’t look promising. Her best friend has more interest in boys and fashion than in spending time with her, and her stepfather’s system for maintaining an orderly household is beginning to bristle. Morgan feels pretty sure she won’t make it through the year without a dog of her own, but her stepfather says no. When he gives in halfway and brings home Lilly, a shelter dog Madison can foster temporarily, she’s angry—she thinks he doesn’t understand her needs, and he didn’t bother to check with her. However, she can’t stay upset for long. Lilly is a great dog, and having her around helps to unlock a power Madison didn’t know she had: She can feel what dogs are feeling and understand them. The power is largely extraneous to the story. While it allows her to bond to animals and feel closer to her late mother, it adds nothing to the book that is not already established by good character development. Madison is a great character: She’s likable and realistic, and readers are likely to relate to her difficulties finding her place in a new world. It’s clear that Madison has always been interested in helping animals, and her dual roles as a foster dog owner and class blogger are more than enough to spark action. After Lilly arrives, Madison becomes more involved in helping dogs. She and a new friend, Cooper, help out at an animal shelter owned by a family friend and post about it on the class blog. Her interest also leads logically to the main conflict of the story: When Madison discovers that something dangerous is happening in her neighborhood, she has to draw on her knowledge, and her family and friends, for help. Animal rescue is an important topic in this book, and resources listed at the end provide options for readers who want to get involved.

Give this one to kids struggling with a new school or to anyone interested in animal rescue. 

Pub Date: July 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615610955

Page Count: 166

Publisher: Legacy Media Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2012

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Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.

NO REMORSE

Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.

Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.

Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0980806601

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Marq Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2012

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With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the...

OUT OF THE SHADOWS

Tragedy turns into triumph in Carlson’s debut novel about a young woman who regains her self-confidence after multiple losses and years of dejection.

Before readers meet 28-year-old Jamie Shire, she has already hit rock bottom. Jobless, she drinks away her days on her best friend’s couch as she wallows in loneliness. Among Jamie’s troubles: Her mother died when she was a child, the only man she ever loved wouldn’t reciprocate, her unborn daughter died, and she continuously feels rejected by her father and brother. After a chance encounter with a wealthy woman at a coffee shop, Jamie accepts a live-in job researching philanthropic causes at Fallow Springs Estate. Reaching out to the house staff and eventually working with Darfur refugees afford Jamie some valuable context for her own pain; she’s able to gain confidence as she learns to stop fearing rejection and start pursuing her dreams. Throughout the novel, the author skillfully creates mood. In the beginning, when Jamie borders on depression, her emotional touchiness and oversensitivity will create an uneasy feeling in readers. But as Jamie slowly regains confidence, readers will also feel increasingly optimistic. Alongside the main character’s emotional struggle is the struggle faced by Darfur refugees, although this plotline doesn’t advance too far; yet details from Jamie’s trip to the refugee camp in Chad—the types of beer served at the aid workers’ bar or a depiction of a young refugee sitting blank-faced and tied to a pole because he might run away—effectively transport readers to faraway places. Jamie’s story will interest readers, but, with a weak ending, the story leaves many unanswered questions. Who is Jamie’s wealthy employer? Does Jamie’s work in Chad help anyone but herself? And what of the conflict Jamie feels between herself and the refugees, between the haves and the have-nots?

With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the destination.

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0984991808

Page Count: 389

Publisher: First Snow Publishing House

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2012

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