An unusual and artistically ambitious—but convoluted—account of a New York City gripped by fear.

Psyaint David

A thriller chronicles a metropolis’ descent into moral chaos.

The summer of 1977 was an infamously tumultuous time for New York City. It was plagued by economic malaise, civic unrest, and a crime wave that created a sense that anarchy was overtaking the five boroughs. To make matters worse, a serial killer—the Son of Sam—terrorized residents, his acts of random violence punctuating the city’s downward spiral into lawlessness. In his novel, Lanter (If the Sun Should Ask, 2016) captures the sense of moral decline and trepidation that hung over the city like a storm cloud (“The Big Apple is unsettled, grimacing with a collective angst. The City is besieged by crime. Homicide is advancing at an alarming rate—upwards of four a day—mostly young women”). He focuses on the Son of Sam as a sign of the encroaching darkness. There is some sharp comic relief—the police hire an eccentric clairvoyant to aid their investigation, and her erudite, otherworldly asides are memorable. And Mathias Teivel, a television producer, opportunistically—and often hilariously—tries to figure out how to work the city’s obsession with the Son of Sam into the cop show Kojak. The narrative is experimentally nonlinear, and the authorial perspective leaps from third-person omniscience to the Son of Sam to another killer inspired by him. Or, so it seems—the prose is frenetic and dense, and the maniacally paced story is all but impossible to follow. Characters are bestowed numerous monikers—“Super Sleuth,” “Super Swinging Dick,” “Dynamic Duck,” “The Duke of Death”—so it’s often confusing who is being referred to. In addition, the author’s dense, adjective-laden, and alliteration-addicted style is always challenging and sometimes incoherent: “Sam grins, malocclusion, rotted yellow teeth glinting in the pale of a weak winter-sun metal-halide gas-discharge medium arc-length lamp.” Similarly, the book’s gritty realism is undermined by inexplicably fantastical dialogue. Still, Lanter displays a knack for making the implausible tantalizingly credible—the city’s moral turpitude leads some to believe in an old urban myth that once a certain threshold of collective evil is traversed, Satan himself will appear to direct the self-destruction. But too much intelligibility is sacrificed on the altar of literary novelty, and it’s never clear why Lanter chose such an idiosyncratic style, especially one incongruous with the signature idiom of New York in the ’70s.

An unusual and artistically ambitious—but convoluted—account of a New York City gripped by fear.

Pub Date: May 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9838412-3-4

Page Count: 492

Publisher: Twiss Hill Press

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2016

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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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