A briskly entertaining novel with a colorful setting and the right mix of humor and paranormal romance.



An aspiring warlock’s attempt to satisfy a demon’s wager is complicated by zombies and bootleggers in Loebel’s (Keys to the Coven, 2013) new novel.

Clara Woodsen has a major dilemma on her hands. She’s organized a dance contest at the Falstaff Ninepin Fellowship, a witches’ coven that also features a saloon and bowling alley. The contest is part of the festivities celebrating the opening of the Hollywood Grand Hotel, and the main attraction is the actor Beau Beauregard. The promotion attracts some of the most glamorous movie stars of the 1920s, but a disaster threatens to ruin Clara’s plans. While the contest is in full swing, Beau lies in a hotel room on the verge of death from peritonitis. Desperate to save Beau’s life, and the contest, Clara decides to put her family’s supernatural powers to good use. With her cousin Bernard Benjamin as her assistant, she summons a demon named Hans to help save Beau. Hans agrees to help if Bernard teaches his genie, Ruth, to dance well enough to qualify for the contest finals. Beau’s life is spared, but he returns to Clara as a zombie. Can Clara use her powers as a warlock to cater to Beau’s needs and also win her wager with Hans? And will the unexpected arrival of bootleggers derail Clara’s plans? Loebel’s novel offers a frothy paranormal romance anchored by a well-developed setting and a clever narrative structure. Her re-creations of 1920s fashions and high-society parties, complete with references to newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst and actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, are vivid and lively, and the bootlegging subplot blends in seamlessly with the paranormal action. The chapters alternate between the first-person perspectives of Clara and Bernard, and this technique effectively explores the motivations of the lead characters and the consequences of their actions while also introducing a solid supporting cast. Between the zombies and the bootleggers, the action is a bit excessive; however, a robust sense of humor keeps the proceedings from going over the top.

A briskly entertaining novel with a colorful setting and the right mix of humor and paranormal romance.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2014


Page Count: 199

Publisher: Pentachronistic Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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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