A quiet meditation on life, death, darkness and spirituality, sprinkled with humor, tenderness and stunning landscapes.

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LUNCH WITH BUDDHA

In this engaging follow-up novel (Breakfast With Buddha, 2008), Merullo takes readers on a spiritual road trip through the American West.

Otto Ringling is a successful New York City editor who has built a happy, comfortable life with his family in the suburbs. But when his wife, Jeannie, dies, Otto’s entire orbit is suddenly thrown off course. Along with his two college-aged children, his New-Age sister Cecelia, her eccentric, sort-of Buddhist husband and guru, Volya Rinpoche, and their enlightened 6-year-old daughter, Otto finds himself in the forests of Washington to spread his wife’s ashes. On the way back to the family farm in North Dakota, Otto rides alone with Volya—a reprise of the trip the two took in Breakfast With Buddha—in a beat-up pickup truck. Together, they traverse the mountainous West, Otto teaches Volya about American culture—including food, water parks, marijuana and transvestites—and Volya teaches Otto how to let go. Otto is frustrated and often angry. While he has embraced some of Volya’s teachings—and has even tried his hand at meditation and yoga—his wife’s death has left him bitter, skeptical and confused. But he does his best to keep an open mind: He listens to Volya, even when his sweet, wise and goofy companion says little; he asks questions, even when he knows that the answers will most likely elude him. In Otto Ringling, Merullo offers readers a hero that’s a bit jaded but loving; a little lost but searching. One can’t help but root for Otto, despite—or perhaps because of—his curmudgeonly tendencies, and hope that he finds the inner peace that, even if he doesn’t quite know it, he desperately seeks. While there are a few flat notes—a handful of too-convenient circumstances to help Otto along his path to clearer consciousness and some distracting references to too-current events (the Obama/Biden campaign, tumult in Syria) that pluck the narrative from its otherwise timeless path—Merullo’s is a beautifully written and compelling story about a man’s search for meaning that earnestly and accessibly tackles some well-trodden but universal questions.

A quiet meditation on life, death, darkness and spirituality, sprinkled with humor, tenderness and stunning landscapes.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0984834556

Page Count: 392

Publisher: AJAR Contemporaries

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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

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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