A smart, entertaining take on eternal conundrums.



Celestial gumshoes search for the source of evil in this knotty supernatural allegory.

Recently deceased ex–CIA agent Stewart Willoughby is an Observer, an almost-angel who uses rough tactics in the fight against demonic adversaries. He gets a break when he recruits a new informant, a senior executive at the Company—aka hell—who’s willing to give him information on “The Formula” that demons use to goad humans into sin. (The impish fiends are forever whispering malevolent hints into people’s ears, sometimes in person and sometimes over the phone from infernal call centers.) With his fetching partner and former fiancée, Layla, Stewart embarks on an extended investigation into the nature and causes of evil, from garden-variety manslaughters to horrific genocides. Their sleuthing takes them to some of history’s grisliest crime scenes—and eventually starts to eat away at their souls, as they resort to methods that are uncomfortably similar to the brutalities they want to eradicate. In this installment of his Logic of Demons series, Goodman continues fleshing out his inventive vision of the afterlife as an edgy, inglorious, down-to-earth place, where heaven itself is divided between hostile liberal and fundamentalist factions, and no one is sure that an always-absent God even exists. The devils, as usual, get the best lines; Goodman’s portrait of hell as a dreary corporate bureaucracy is a satiric gem—the chief torments are pointless routine, office gossip and nasty performance evaluations. The novel drags, though, when it focuses on Stewart and Layla’s relationship, which stays blissfully bland even after it takes a satanic turn. But Goodman also probes meaty philosophical themes with sophistication, as his characters wrestle with the problem of evil and the blurry line separating right from wrong. Subversively, he suggests that evil may not be a demonic plot but just another name for human nature. Goodman’s allegorical symbology isn’t too intricate—a farm boy Stewart encounters turns out to be the quite literal embodiment of Time and Chance—and at times the novel’s intellectual debates feel like an undergraduate seminar. Still, Goodman’s cross between a detective novel and The Screwtape Letters makes for a stimulating read.

A smart, entertaining take on eternal conundrums.

Pub Date: May 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1432790790

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc.

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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