Tender characters and exciting plot twists create an enjoyable romp through one girl’s newfound Southern roots.

BUYING THE FARM

Family secrets give way to family love in this likable portrait of Southerners helping their unexpected kin.

Clumsy Missi Jennings awakens on her 33rd birthday to find her dismal life as disappointing as ever. She’s saddled with a loathsome paralegal job, a sleazy boss, a subpar apartment and an ice queen mother who wants to take her out for an esteem-crushing lunch. Just when her catalog of misfortunes seems overwhelming, an abrupt accident changes everything. In the wake of the tragedy, Missi suddenly finds herself the owner of a pristine townhouse, a multimillionaire and the granddaughter of the grandfather she never thought she had. Instilled with confidence by her only friend, the homely misfit Maggie, Missi buys a one-way ticket to Mississippi in hopes of finding her grandfather. Once in the hospitable South, a host of colorful Southern women—from Dolly, the spit-talking gas station owner, to Melba, the matron of the Grits-n-Greens diner, who spoons love out as fast as she does banana pudding—show Missi the family she always dreamed of having. Family secrets are turned on their heads, and while the grandfather she came to see has no interest in Missi at first, the rest of her unexpected family quickly welcomes her into their flock. When tragedy strikes the family, Missi proves to have just as generous a heart as others have shown her. She reluctantly returns to her previous life in hopes of finding herself in volunteer work but decides that she and her fortune can do more in Mississippi than anyone would expect. Despite her radical new life and the ups and downs it comes with, Missi sails through it all with little internal conflict, alternately laughing or weeping on cue but never deepening as a character. Expected challenges that come with family, just discovered or long suffered, never surface for Missi, who accepts everything without pause. The other characters, while not original portraits of Southerners, are extremely likable. Aunt Melba Little and her brood shine, showering Missi with hugs, biscuits and affectionate nicknames. Sandra, an adult daughter with Down syndrome, glows as a full character defined by more than her disability. Deliciously described home cooking is mouthwatering.

Tender characters and exciting plot twists create an enjoyable romp through one girl’s newfound Southern roots.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 318

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 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 YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

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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