A passionate, informed take on a distinctive genre.



Musings on heavy metal and hard rock, Metallica to Poison, from a die-hard fan.

Jensen was an 8-year-old living in a small Ontario town when he first discovered KISS. The band, with its shock-rock imagery and over-the-top theatrics, was perfectly crafted to capture the attention of boys like Jensen, bridging the gap between his “interest in comic book superheroes and [his] developing interest in music.” For Jensen, KISS was like “headbanger kindergarten,” forming the foundation for a life-long obsession with heavy metal and its various musical relatives. As Jensen grew older, bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden took over his turntable, offering an escape from his boring small-town life. Jensen faithfully chronicles his evolving fandom, from more accessible bands like Mötley Crüe and gradually moving on to abrasive thrash metal from the likes of Metallica and Slayer. But Jensen doesn’t just focus on the big, MTV-friendly names. Like a true fan, he revels in showing off his knowledge of more obscure bands, such as Raven and Underdog. While the names may not always be familiar, any music fan who was around in the pre-Internet era will relate to Jensen’s anecdotes about digging through record store bins in search of the latest new releases and faithfully reading magazines (in Jensen’s case, British publication Kerrang!) to find out about up-and-coming bands. His analysis is so thorough that he even takes time to explain why he never really got into certain groups, such as Motörhead, Megadeth and Tesla. While Jensen’s passion for the music is undeniable, nonfans may be bewildered by the pages spent evaluating Black Sabbath’s extensive catalog or the subtle distinctions between hard rock and heavy metal. (Mötley Crüe, for those keeping score, falls into the former category.) Also, Jensen too often veers into pseudo-academic philosophizing, which can detract from the music-loving pulse at the heart of the book. Jensen is much more successful, however, in his considered evaluation of Canadian heavy metal band Anvil, the influential group that seemed poised to make it big but never quite broke through, and his thoughtful observations on Guns N’ Roses’ strange career arc. While the book occasionally meanders, anyone considering him or herself a metalhead will find plenty to enjoy—and argue with—here.

A passionate, informed take on a distinctive genre.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0987715906

Page Count: 262

Publisher: No Sleep 'Til Sudbury

Review Posted Online: June 19, 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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