A loose sci-fi adventure that often wanders, but always into delightful territory.


In Tumbler’s (The Inlooker, 2014, etc.) middle-grade fantasy novel, a group of teens receives special training from a mysterious race of dwarfs.

Thirteen-year-old English boy Sebastian and his younger brother, Bart, have come to Costa Blanca, Spain, to spend the summer with their grandparents. The rambunctious boys are a handful for Terry and Sandra, even with tennis, swimming and soccer available for the kids’ enjoyment. Terry, a former police detective, decides to occupy Seb with a research project on UFOs and then reveals to his grandson his belief that people less than 5 feet tall are related to space aliens. Seb begins trailing short people and eventually befriends one named Skip, a representative of the secret Sombrella Syndicate. Skip recruits Seb to join a small group of students studying exotic subjects in classes with names such as “Rocking and a’bonding” and “What Goes Around Comes Around.” The teen quickly learns that the Sombrella teachers are telepathic and that his fellow students, including the lovely Maisie, come from all over the world. Their hands-on courses involve flying UFOs, digging a high-speed train tunnel and visiting ancient battlefields. Seb wonders why he’s been chosen for this special education, and Tumbler explores this mystery in this imaginative, heartfelt tale. At one point, Seb cheekily wonders if he and his classmates will be “used as slave labour by Sombrella,” but when the kids use futuristic gizmos such as a gravity-defying phaser, it becomes clear that the children’s education is Sombrella’s top priority. Frequently, Tumbler’s teachers go on historical or technical tangents that younger readers may have trouble following; the Buster Cruster machine, for example, is said to filter rocks’ “pulverised and chemically-separated components into segregated containers.” The author combines such passages with an easygoing plot that has no true central conflict, which makes the narrative feel as if it’s aimed at both adult and middle-grade audiences. Nevertheless, its noble messages of environmentalism and empathy ring loudly throughout its second half.

A loose sci-fi adventure that often wanders, but always into delightful territory.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1909121775

Page Count: 342

Publisher: Palace Park Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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



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


Page Count: 249

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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