The cool concept drowns amid an overcrowded, divergent story.

The Awakening

Skilled secret agents attempt to save the world in Puhala’s futuristic thriller.

During a break-in of her neighbor Ivory’s apartment in Pittsburgh, Violet Kromer calls 911 as other tenants look on. Unbeknownst to Violet, Ivory is the leader of a secret organization called “The Group,” which was founded to “promote the free exchange of information and new technologies to improve everyone’s quality of life.” Due to Violet’s good deed and special DNA—evidenced in her saliva—she’s offered the chance to become a secret agent, one of 10 people trained for a group called “Ten,” whose mission is “to stop the space colonization project that is using up the best brains and the planet’s resources so that the chosen thousand of Earth’s rulers can escape to pollute a fresh, new world.” In addition to a complete personal makeover and learning self-defense, Violet will be provided with the right diet to “awaken” her psychic gifts. However, she’ll have to cut off all ties with her old life and take on a whole new identity. Meanwhile, in Salt Lake City, Samuel Simmons is completing his online master’s degree in homeland security. When Violet’s and Samuel’s paths finally cross, it’ll be up to them to save the planet. Sixty chapters in just over 300 pages indicate the amount of jumping around the story does with both characters and locations; despite all the action, however, the storyline remains rather directionless. Stilted writing and an indiscernible voice ramble through the cobbled-together plot, as an array of arbitrary events and characters appear without much preamble, solid foundation or consistency. At 567 pounds, Sam Simmons gets Lap-Band surgery to facilitate his employability with Homeland Security, but more so to help him “get laid.” While not working in the airport security detail, Sam can be found providing “stud services” to rich, skeletal old women. Frequently on-the-nose dialogue, featuring “giggling” doctors, “gushing” crime fighters and patients getting surgeries “on sale” at the hospital, detracts from the intrigue.

The cool concept drowns amid an overcrowded, divergent story.

Pub Date: July 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1478284505

Page Count: 376

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2012

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.



In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 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


Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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