Like an unholy union between Garrison Keillor and Stephen King, this book mixes small-town Americana with horror in ways...


A young man with an abusive childhood discovers he’s the son of Satan and becomes a prince of hell.

In tiny Riverton, Minn., George Carlson grows up in a large, chaotic family where he bears the brunt of his mother’s and half brother’s cruelty. Forced to defend himself at an early age, he becomes skilled at fighting, escaping and surviving in the surrounding wilderness. At 18 and on the brink of joining the Army, George is framed for murder by Rick, his half brother, and finds himself in hell. There, he discovers he’s the son of Satan and that it’s time for him to fulfill his destiny: Become a devil and rule the underworld. No quick summary can capture this book’s strangeness: an odd assortment of childhood abuse, small-town memories and (in the second half) fantasy horror/humor. Whether it’s camping trips and toboggan rides, a battle in hell or fratricide, Anderson recounts it all in a remote, deadpan that varies only when verging into black humor. Riverton is a demented Lake Wobegon where local characters include Smiling Jack, “mute, glassy-eyed and with a Joker-like grimace from a WWI gas attack,” who likes “to get drunk on banana extract” and the Watsons, “Riverton’s hillbillies”; when a new fridge gets wedged in the doorway, “they kicked a hole through the wall and walked around it.” Anderson is not a polished writer. His anecdotes, for example, aren’t always tied together, but he has a gift for description, particularly authentic details of life and work in the Minnesota north woods. Nevertheless, the many descriptions of base ignorance and cruelty make much of this book unpleasant to read—and that’s before we get to hell. That section (often rather funny and comprising half the book) is interesting less for the events it describes than for how it turns a dark mirror on George’s childhood. Perhaps hell is identifying with your abusers. The ending provides the tiniest glimpse of a life that might be different for George, as does the book’s closely guarded sense of compassion.

Like an unholy union between Garrison Keillor and Stephen King, this book mixes small-town Americana with horror in ways that can be odd, off-putting and sometimes compelling.

Pub Date: June 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475147612

Page Count: 184

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 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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