Strong characterizations and a fine sense of absurdity make for an enjoyable tour of corporate hell.

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ESCAPE FROM COOLVILLE

For L.J. Davenport, call-center wage slave of Sutherland’s amusing coming-of-age novel, slacking is part of the job.

Young, suspended from college and in the trenches as a phone psychic, L.J. more or less drifts through his days, hoping to get back into school, find a higher paying job that isn’t quite as soul-sucking and—just maybe—find a way into the heart of his sexy new co-worker, Tanha. Too bad fate isn’t ready to let L.J. float away just yet. Between the mysterious campaign that management has taken against him, the presence of an angry lesbian called Chewbacca, the holy grail of weed bags he just can’t find and the arrival of Marpa, the karmic policeman, L.J. will be lucky to keep his job, his sanity and maybe even his life. Sutherland sure-handedly details L.J.’s adventures with a firm grasp on absurdity, capturing the peculiar rhythms of corporate America without too much winking at the audience. L.J. is both pathetic and endearing, and despite the zaniness creeping up to near-ridiculous heights toward the end, the voices of L.J. and his fellow travelers stay constant and believable throughout. Anyone who’s worked in a call center or “cube farm” environment will both chuckle and shudder at how well the author nails the details, including the often inane morale-boosting events and the gallows humor many workers adopt to get through the day. Although the narrative shows signs of exhaustion and strained credibility in the last 50 pages or so—Chewbacca drives a mobile meth lab—the author manages to wrap things up in an ending that’s illuminating and hopeful, without a Pollyanna spin. The sad truth is that a dead-end job can often lead to a dead-end life, but in this brightly colored, skewed universe, there might just be a way out.

Strong characterizations and a fine sense of absurdity make for an enjoyable tour of corporate hell.

Pub Date: June 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0985750107

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Platen Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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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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