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‘Breaking The Devil’s Heart’ by H.A. Goodman

THE SYNOPSIS

When Stewart and Layla recruit a demon to spy on the Devil, their decision takes them on whirlwind ride through the afterlife. Journey alongside this young couple in H. A. Goodman’s new novel, Breaking the Devil’s Heart, and join forces with a teenage Angel outcast to bankrupt Satan’s underground Company and save Heaven from civil war. H. A. Goodman’s Breaking the Devil’s Heart is a rollercoaster afterlife experience that tests a young couple’s love, their grasp on reality, and the essence of human nature. What happens when Stewart and Layla tour Hell’s Marketing Department and Stock Exchange? What happens when their relationship is tested by Satan? This book is unlike anything you’ve ever read, or ever thought the afterlife might be like. Breaking the Devil’s Heart is an enlightening look into an alternate world, a new afterlife, and a profound journey inside the human conscience.

-.-

SAY HELLO TO THE AUTHOR

A photograph of author H.A. (Hal) GoodmanH.A. (Hal) Goodman is a former financial advisor for Morgan Stanley and Charles Schwab as well as a former LAUSD history teacher. He has a degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California and has also worked at the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute.

His debut novel, Logic of Demons, has received rave reviews from several book blogs and review sites.

In 2012, Hal combined his love for fantasy and philosophy to create a whirlwind ride through the afterlife in this, his second novel, ‘Breaking the Devil’s Heart’.

The words below are taken from recent interviews which Hal has given on other review sites and reveal something of the essence of the man …

I would say that there’s really nothing that unique about me, other than the fact I’ve been quite fortunate in my life. I enjoy people, learning and respecting other cultures, and discussing philosophical isssues with friends. I like engaging in political debates and expressing my thoughts. I also have an active imagination and I’d like to utilize this ability to write more novels. I enjoy writing late at night, when I’m upset, or when I view something to be hypocritical or dangerous. I grew up loving fantasy and science fiction.

Once a reader begins to feel any emotion at all, I think there’s merit to the story. One thing that I enjoy about reading and writing is the transfer of feeling between the pages and the person. This happens just as much when reading non-fiction as well. A book doesn’t have to be breathtaking, just interesting enough to make a reader think about life or people. If you’ve done that, I think that you’ve succeeded as an author

-.-

WORDS FROM THE BOOK

The horror movie called Human History continues to unfold in a bloody manner and unfortunately, human beings still serve the directors, producers and actors who orchestrate the carnage

There’s no use in imagining these alternative scenario’s because there’s one thing that remains the same in both life and death: You’re stuck with the consequences of your decisions

Manipulating another person’s conscience, against his or her will, even for righteous purposes, is one of the foundations of potential evil.

-.-

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THE BOOK.

‘To say that this book is one of a kind, is an understatement’

‘Breaking The Devil’s Heart’, is such a unique, imaginative and thought provoking premise for a story, that it is difficult to know where to start. There is definitely no formulaic or predictable storyline on offer here!

The action is fast paced, moving at a phenomenal speed, as the two main protagonists, Stewart and Leyla romp around Heaven and Hell, searching for an alternative afterlife, one where Satan has been defeated and Heaven does not have to endure a civil uprising. It is just as well that Hal sticks to a single character narrative and we get the whole story told to us by Stewart, as it would otherwise be all too easy to become lost and confused in this highly energised and exhilarating race against time.

The plot has more twists and turns than enough, as we discover that good and evil are not straightforward concepts, when we are dealing with Heaven and Hell! The lines become very blurred, as Stewart and Leyla discover that, not all bad people are all bad and not all good people are all good!

When a tragic accident sees them depart this human life, we discover that choosing their future direction, becomes as seemingly a difficult decision for them to make, as it had been when they were mortal. Personally, I believe that Stewart and Leyla are the embodiment of any average, living human entity. Trying to be good, ‘do the right thing’ and maintain their belief in the basic goodness and kindness of human nature, whilst all the time vulnerable, having their faith tested to its limits and having to fight the myriad temptations which life and ‘the little devil on their shoulder’ throws at them, on an almost constant basis.

It is therefore not  a surprise that the pair can’t really decide whether they want to become fully paid up angels, or not. The idea of residing in Hell permanently, doesn’t have much real appeal. However, after realising that many of their earthly traits are not so easily left behind or able to be controlled, living forever in Heaven might also have its drawbacks, especially when it seems that there are those who have made it to Utopia, only to be hell-bent on causing trouble and strife from within. The pair begin to feel just as vulnerable in death, as they did in life.

The characters are all complex, seemingly confused by their individual roles in the bigger picture and all posturing for position in the hierarchy of their respective domains. I didn’t find that any of them were particularly likeable individuals, even though I could visualise them all only too clearly, so Hal has done a great job on the descriptive writing here.

There is great maturity, passion and perceptiveness in Hal’s writing and he freely uses historical, religious and philosophical references to illustrate a point. The book is particularly rich with words, with Hal paying meticulous attention to detail when forming sentences and paragraphs, every one of them having a distinct and definite message, which comes across very strongly in the reading. However, there were a couple of occasions when I felt that he wasn’t really connecting with me personally, the reader, in a very fluid or conversational way. Despite the interesting analogies, it began to feel more like a history or philosophy lesson, as the examples of referential material seemed to take over the narrative exponentially and almost became too intellectual for my poor little brain to cope with! Overall, I felt that the reliving of some of the darkest moments of humanity’s flawed history and of our seeming ineptitude at not making the same mistakes over and over again, could have been a little more succinctly illustrated.

The humour is there .. heavy and dark, satirical and brooding, yet often just downright funny! …. The concept that Stewart and Leyla are ‘naughty Angels’, is one that I loved and could easily relate to …. The premise that Hell is known as ‘The Company’, with the CEO represented by Satan, who just happens to be female, is thought provoking and quite satirical …. The notion that ‘The Company’ is basically just one huge Stock Market, although the only commodity being traded, is that of the human soul, is downright dark and and full of foreboding. More especially so, when you consider that ‘The Company’ doesn’t always need to influence humans about which way to choose to live in the afterlife, as greed and self-preservation is already lending a helping hand in the decision making process right here and now, in real-life time.

Given recent world events and the negative and catastrophic impact which has been wreaked upon ordinary individuals by the institutions so clearly implicated and designated as ‘Hell’ in this story, I can quite see that the trade in human souls would be a very lucrative market indeed, although the question which then arises, is one of  … Can we really blame others for our situation, or is it time to start taking personal responsibility?… If we carry on down this same pathway, what is the future for humanity? and if we were all forced to see the means and consequences of our own demise and passing, would we live our lives any differently? … There is plenty of pause for thought!

I came away with the distinct impression that Hal was using the book to express some of  his own personal frustrations with the Hell that he sees as life here on Earth and the messages that I took away from the experience were:

  • Man’s unceasing and unrelenting inhumanity towards his fellow man
  • You should choose your friends with care
  • Hell is possibly what we are living right now, here on Earth
  • We should stop trying to atone for the past and try to change the future for the better

The book has great potential for a discussion document and would be ideally suited to a group read.

This was compelling and compulsive reading, even for someone like myself, who reads from the fantasy genre sporadically and infrequently. For a fantasy enthusiast, be prepared to be blown away by this story and to have all your preconceived ideas about Heaven, Hell and the afterlife shattered. All other superlatives, such as; honour, respect, determination and even compassion, are all irrelevant and are by far outstripped by that one little word that really matters and can defeat Satan every time …. CONSCIENCE!

Conscience saves you from regret

… and now it was time to create a silver bullet – made from the foundation of the human conscience – that could destroy evil forever

-.-

This book was a Kindle review copy, sent to me by the author, H.A. Goodman and as such, was free of charge.

This in no way influenced any comments I may have expressed about the book, in any blog article I have posted. Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article.

-.-

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a 4 out of 5.

-.-


Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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8 comments
  • Dear Yvonne,

    Thank you so much for your beautiful review of my novel, Breaking the Devil’s Heart. I am touched by the eloquence of your thoughts as well as the depth and analysis of your review.

    I wanted to write something that isn’t out there today, a story that combines history and fantasy into a wild ride through the afterlife. As a former financial for Wall Street firms and former history teacher, I tried to utilize my various life experiences and create a kind of “afterlife dystopia.” Ultimately, the story is my take on human nature and why the history of the world is unfortunately so bloody. It is also a testament to my belief that the human conscience is basically the only thing powerful enough to stop evil.

    It is my pleasure to discuss my thoughts or answer any questions posed to me by your readers.

    Thanks again, I will always cherish your amazing review of Breaking the Devil’s Heart. Also, I think you’ve created a truly spectacular blog.

    Sincerely,

    Hal
    http://www.hagoodman.com

    • Hello Hal,

      Thank you so much for those lovely words, they are very much appreciated and I am so pleased that my ‘take’ on the book, wasn’t so far removed from the experience which you had anticipated your readers enjoying.

      Unfortunately, I really do believe that human consience is, as yet, nowhere near the level needed to secure any likely cessation of the unprecedented evil and hatred which exists in the world today and sadly, I am also certain that this change in basic human nature, isn’t going to happen any time soon, if at all!!

      Perhaps we humans are born with an inbuilt ‘self destruct’ button, rather than the hitherto held belief by many, that behaviour and attitude are part genetics and part discipline which is learned through life’s experiences?

  • I agree with you and think your analogy is wonderful. In my view, the inbuilt “self destruct” button, a great way to describe how human beings constantly shoot ourselves in the foot, is our collective affinity for tribalism. Culture, religion, nationality, and even one’s favorite football team gives a sense of self worth and belonging, things that are essential to the lives of most people. But, like too much chocolate can cause diabetes, too much of a focus on one’s particular identity breeds xenophobia, arrogance, and blinds people.

    So, whether it’s an American football fan or a European football fan punching his rival in the stadium, or two ethnic groups waging war against one another, our allegiance to identity serves as fuel for the fire that burns at the human conscience.

    If I’ve done anything at all with my humble attempt at a fantasy novel, I’d like people to come away with the understanding that human history is almost like the same movie on continual loop. What we see today in the news isn’t really that different from the wars and conflicts of ancient times. That’s because human beings, what makes us human, really hasn’t changed. We all have a longing to be a part of something that has a greater history than our own lives.

    Throw in religion and divisions within those religions and you get an even more complicated and tangled web of identity, and an even greater flame burning at the human conscience.

    But, with all that said, I can’t wait for Christmas time, the Superbowl, New Years, and for my beloved USC Trojan football team to win our national title in football.

    Hal

  • I read and reviewed this earlier in the year and agree with you 100% that it is indeed a unique story, quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before, I loved the comparisons made between hell and an advertising agency.

    • Hi Tracy,

      I was a little sceptical about taking this book on for review, as I am not a lover of ‘fantasy’. However I wouldn’t really describe this as a traditional fantasy read, would you?

      It is more a reflection of Hal’s background and obvious interest in history and psychology, reflecting the traits and failings of human nature, which we have been repeating on an all too regular, cyclical trend, almost since time imemorial.

      The harsh realities are tempered by Hal introducing some humorous exchanges between Stewart and various other characters in the story and like yourself, I loved the analogy of hell being the stock exchange which never sleeps! I especially laughed at the prospect of Satan being a woman, I wonder where he got that idea from!! Mind you, with a weasel like Franklin on the staff, there would need to be a woman to keep him under control LOL!

      Thanks for taking the time to read my review, I did pop across and took a look at your own review, way back before I started reading the book. This is definitely the most unusual read of the year for me.

      Your comments are always appreciated.

  • This book sounds unique Yvonne and like one that would make for some interesting discussions. Many do believe that we are living a Hell on Earth, then pass on to Heaven eventually.
    Books like this work for me as long as they are not preachy, and this one doesn’t sound like it is. I like this line “Conscience saves you from regret”.
    Excellent review!

    • Hi Naida,

      This is definitely voted as my ‘book with a difference’ this year and is completely unique as a one-off reading experience.

      I have to admit that I am not a religious person at all, so any references to Heaven and Hell, won’t typically have any impact on me one way or the other. The only thing which seems pretty clear to me, is that if there is a Hell, then we are surely living that right now, here on Earth!

      The particular line you quote, has to be the most powerful message that the book expounds and it is just such a shame that conscience is the one thing that is lacking in so many people. Until that one small thought and word can be instilled in more of the people at both the top and bottom of society, I fear that little will change, as most of those without a conscience, have no regret for the consequences of their actions either.

      Thanks so much for taking part in the discussion, your comments are always valued and appreciated.

  • Yes, I agree and I tried my best not to be preachy in any way with this novel. To be clear, I actually believe that we have the power to make life heavenly or hellish, it’s just whatever we decide to do that day with our actions. Thanks so much for your thoughts and I’m so happy you enjoyed the line and my views on conscience.

    I also agree Yvonne wrote an excellent review!

    Hal

Written by Yvonne

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