A teenage boy learns valuable lessons in life and love while spending the summer with his aunt at a Pennsylvania opera company in Joseph’s debut YA novel.
As World War II draws to a close, 15-year-old Toby Antoun lives with his parents, Paul and Peg, in a modest Philadelphia suburb. At the beginning of the summer, his aunt approaches his father with an unusual request. Leyla, an aspiring opera singer, has received an offer to sing with the Lake Alsoquim Opera Company in the Poconos, but her husband, Dr. Alfred Nimmer, is uncomfortable with her staying at the resort alone. If Toby’s parents agree to let him stay with her for the summer, she and Alfred will pay for Toby to attend private school. During the course of Toby’s time at the resort, he befriends a group of residents and guests who will shape the course of his life: Ron Finnegan, the son of the resort’s rental agents; Jim Conner, a deaf iceman; and Ursula, the daughter of a local restaurant owner. As the opera schedule intensifies, Toby experiences his first crush (with Ursula) and discovers that real life can be as dramatic as any stage production. Joseph has crafted a richly textured coming-of-age novel that boasts a likable hero, a well-developed setting, and engaging plot twists. Toby is portrayed as an earnest young man trying to develop his skills and figure out his place in the world. His interest in Ursula and the humorous steps he takes to get close to her, including playing the role of her son in one opera, provide some of the novel’s most poignant moments. Leyla is a feisty diva whose unexpected feelings for Jim Conner expose fractures in her marriage to Alfred. They’re surrounded by a lively supporting cast of characters, including Cesare “Chaz” Peccorini, a talented tenor and inveterate womanizer, and Patricia “Trish” Covington, a spoiled rich girl with a talent for trouble. Joseph keeps the action moving at a brisk pace, effectively incorporating many realities of life during the era, including rationing.
An entertaining, often poignant tale of a teen’s unforgettable summer.
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.
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.