Strong story with a capable heroine, an authentic historic setting and real-life personages to boot.


In Durham’s novel, a radio announcer working in Berlin spies for the Allies during World War II.

Irish-American Maggie O’Dea is beautiful, intelligent and resourceful—and she hates the English. In 1938 in Heidelberg, Germany, she falls for handsome Kurt Engel, who wants her to accompany him to Berlin. To remain in Germany, she must work. Due to her language skills, she’s quickly hired by an English language service and is soon preparing radio scripts that sing the praises of the German military while degrading the British. Maggie’s cohort is the obese and often intoxicated Clive Barnes (known on the airwaves as “Lord Lyon”) whose primary battle is fought with a bottle of gin. After Kurt is deployed, Maggie spends more time at work, growing ever closer to co-worker Dieter Schmidt. While recovering from a war wound, American soldier Erich Greinke is approached by war hero Bill Donovan, whose real-life exploits were portrayed in the film The Fighting 69th. One night when Clive is too drunk to go on the air, Maggie steps in, assuming the role of “Betty from Berlin.” Erich sees an opportunity to tap Maggie’s connections to the German inner circle, including her association with Hitler’s minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. Maggie increasingly questions the information being disseminated by radio and coincidentally, is offered the dicey job of transmitting intelligence by code. Quick-thinking Maggie is a fully fleshed character who comes across as an auburn-haired Linda Darnell, with the power to fascinate and influence men on both sides of the Maginot Line. Her credible transformation from full-fledged believer in the German right of conquest to supporter of the Allies is handled with finesse. The author makes good use of characters from history, including Goebbels and also Donovan, who eventually becomes the head of the Office of Strategic Services. There’s chemistry aplenty in the wisecracking banter and the pacing is even. The narrative is well written and offers a lesson in history for those in need of a refresher.

Strong story with a capable heroine, an authentic historic setting and real-life personages to boot.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2012


Page Count: 397

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 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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