Though it bathes the past in a rose-colored light, this novel delivers a lively glimpse of supposedly simpler times.

Sharley's Lessons

Vetter (Poo Skadoo, 2015, etc.) offers a nostalgic look at two Iowa friends in her latest work of YA historical fiction.

Tomboy Kate experiences a childhood that is now the stuff of memory or legend. Spending her formative years in rural Iowa in the 1950s, Kate possesses freedoms and responsibilities few children can understand today. She braves the chicken coop to collect eggs, hauls drinking water to school, and helps to milk cows (“At our farm, milking was a family activity. We all walked the quarter mile to the barn, and we all had supporting roles: hay to throw, corn to carry, cows to chain, cats and flies to shoo, tails to hold, udders to empty”). Kate and her friend Sharley walk barefoot in the summer, spin on tire swings, agonize over penny candy, and play horseshoes. Kate’s world is small, comfortable, and enchanting. Sharley, an adventurous child, revels in spontaneity. She pushes Kate, serving as both a partner and a foil in her quest to live life to the fullest. But childhood does not ensure immunity against pain and fear. Sharley becomes ill and dies young, leaving a sense of sorrow at a life unfinished. Vetter’s short tale is a work of fiction, though she states early on that many parts of the story are largely “grounded in the truth.” Her folksy anecdotes are delightfully nuanced, bringing to life the culture of a ’50s Midwestern family. Some scenes read like a screenplay; farm wives hop in parked cars on trips to town, delighted to catch up on gossip, while children race in and out of the dime store blowing bubbles and men trade stories over beer. Yet Vetter’s wonderfully descriptive vignettes lack a connecting thread, tension, or narrative direction to tie all the sweet, and often funny, stories together. Sharley’s fate is not a surprise; it is mentioned on the book’s first page. But her sickness comes on abruptly in the volume’s final pages, without the foreshadowing that would have lent a bittersweet quality and depth to the glimpses of daily life the reader has seen. Sharley’s death remains a tragedy, and fully fleshing out its impact would have strengthened the story.

Though it bathes the past in a rose-colored light, this novel delivers a lively glimpse of supposedly simpler times. 

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5043-4979-6

Page Count: 108

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: April 29, 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 persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.

SHOW TRIALS

HOW PROPERTY GETS MORE LEGAL PROTECTION THAN PEOPLE IN OUR FAILED IMMIGRATION SYSTEM

A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.

In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.

A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 249

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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