Saturday, March 23, 2019

A Short and A Main Feature by Cindy (C.S.) McDonald! Enjoy!

When I was thinking about combining the reviews for two books I had from Cindy McDonald, I thought about how, when we used to go to the movies, we get a short, usually a cartoon, before the main feature! For whatever reason, McDonald writes her Fiona Quinn mystery series under C. S. McDonald. Personally, I find it leads to not being able to find all the books of one author, when they do that...but I digress...
Crystal Clear Confusion, just out, provides a fun short story about Fiona Quinn, the series main character. Actually, if you are interested in interpreting dreams, like I am, and become fairly good at it, you won't need to seek help, like Fiona did... You see, she was having scary dreams about being at work, alone, and discovering some horrible monster after her. Each time, it varied a little, but there was always something about which Fiona was afraid...

So when her neighbor offered to help her, using her new crystal ball that had arrived in the mail, Fiona, thought, why not?

Fiona Quinn’s hurried footfalls echoed through the empty hallway of Westwood Elementary School. The lights were off. Only the shadows of dusk fell through the large windows that lined the corridor. Where is everyone? She thought.  
She peered into the library—it was pitch dark and still. Had the librarian, Julia Bell, gone home for the day? Picking up her pace, she made her way toward the main office to look through the window—it was dim and quiet. Kim Stone, the school secretary, was not sitting at her desk tapping on her computer or fielding phone calls. Principal Britton’s office door hung open, as it always did when he was absent. 
The door to the empty office next to his was open as well—that door had always been closed. Everything appeared to be locked up tight for the night. Only, it wasn’t night—or at least she didn’t think it was so late. If it were night, where were the janitors? Why weren’t they dumping trashcans or mopping the hallways? Why wasn’t the school’s intercom system playing pop music as it always was while the janitors went through their evening tasks? Had she fallen asleep at her desk after she’d put her kindergartners on their buses for home? 
She must’ve slept for hours. She’d never done such a thing—sure, she’d been feeling a bit tired lately, but not weary enough to fall asleep at her desk while doing a little after school paperwork. Wow, she’d better get to bed early this night. 
She heard a noise. She stilled to listen again—it sounded like a growl. She didn’t move, and again, a grumbling growl echoed down the hallway. Trepidation ripped through her. She turned only to see a lion at the other end of the corridor! What? What would a lion be doing in the school? 
No time to wait for the answer—he let out a roar that rumbled the windows, then he leapt into action galloping straight at her! 
Letting out a shriek, Fiona darted down the hallway as fast as she could possibly move! Could she outrun a lion? Somehow, she doubted it! Sliding on the smooth linoleum, she made a quick right down the hall that led to her classroom, only the hallway stretched making her destination farther away. Her heavy breaths boomed inside her head as she dashed toward her room. She could hear the lion’s paws pounding on the floor—he was getting closer, and yet her room was farther and farther away! 
Totally out of breath, she finally arrived at the door of her classroom. She slid inside and slammed the door closed, twisting the lock. 
The lion snarled and roared and clawed at the door, pressing his face against the elongated glass window along the margin of the door. His dark eyes outlined with a thick band of black that extended toward his temples, such as Cleopatra’s. 
Trapped and terrified, Fiona screamed!

Sometimes people don't understand why they are sad, scared, edgy--they think everything is normal and that they can handle just about anything that comes along. But sometimes, that is not the case... You and I, and, as Fiona, discovered, get irritated, upset, and even talk about things that bother us during the day. But we don't admit that these things bother as much as they really do. And that's, sometimes, why we have nightmares...

Actually, the attempt to discover what is wrong via a crystal ball is fun but is unsuccessful. And, sometimes, you just have to finally face those fears, and realize that things were not so bad after all.. But wouldn't it be better to be able to think through issues as they are affecting you? McDonald, gives tweens, teens, and adults a chance to consider whether they can stop and explore what if anything is really bothering you. And, if you have a nightmare, think about what could have caused it...or talk to somebody about it, so that you may be able to better prepare for what comes to you each day...

A fun book, but it's also a teaching one--if you consider all that was going on and how Fiona's nightmares were visions in her mind of what she feared most during her days...  It would be interesting to see if your children understand what is actually being shared in the book... Check it out...I still suffer from flashback dreams once in awhile... When that happens, I always make a point of trying to figure out what caused me to dream those thoughts... If your children have scary dreams, this book can be a great way to talk about how what is happening in your life, affects what happens in your dreams at night!


The windows were wide open to let the fresh air into the cabin or let the layers of dust escape from all the sweeping Peyton had been doing that morning. He’d been forced outside several times coughing and hacking. He strung rope from several trees to form a clothes line to dry the bedding he’d washed. He was beginning to think it would be far easier to go into Lost Pine and buy new sheets. 
All in all the cabin was starting to look presentable, but the sheets—not so much. As he stood back trying to decide, he noticed the bushes moving. He stilled, slowing his breathing, listening, while watching the tall thicket along the wood line. And there it was again—the wolf, slowly making his way along the trees. Interesting. Wolves are known to be nocturnal creatures. They sleep during the heat of the day, preferring to hunt at dusk. It was only one o’clock—what was the wolf doing out and about? 
Peyton inched his way amongst the sheets hanging on the line, hoping to get a better look from a concealed position. The wolf caught the movement and made haste across the field, disappearing into the trees on the other side. Peyton scrubbed his fingers across the stubble on his chin. This was his second sighting of the wolf—if it was the same wolf, and it looked to be. 
He didn’t have a chance to ask Clancy about the wolf yesterday when he’d arrived in Lost Pine. The main focus was Ben Lorde and his electro-sensitive followers who had taken up residence several miles away. Clancy was convinced that Lorde and his followers were responsible for his brother, Jed’s, death. Jed had gone on a lone fishing trip last year and never returned. His body was never found, and neither was any of his gear. Clancy felt he’d had some kind of altercation with the group and they’d killed him. He had no proof—only a strong gut feeling and the strange goings on among the community. Peyton had a ton of respect for his father’s old friend, Clancy, but he wasn’t sure his suspicions were justified. Anything can happen to a man alone in the Rockies—anything at all. 
Still, if he had an opportunity to check up on the community, he would. Right now, he wanted to check up on the wolf. Taking another look at the sheets and blankets, he decided it was time for new—he would take a drive into town to make the purchases and take the opportunity to ask Clancy about the wolf. Besides, it would give the dust a chance to settle inside the cabin. After washing up a bit, Peyton jumped into his Jeep, buckled up, and set off for town. 
The warm summer air whipped through the open cab blowing his T-shirt against his chiseled chest. He wasn’t more than a mile or so down the road when he came upon a two-seater blue Razor along the side of the road, stuck in a ditch. A tiny slender woman was standing near the vehicle looking rather agitated. She was dressed in a pair of jeans, a pair of sunglasses, and a long lab coat—not the usual attire one would see a person driving a Razor wearing. Razors are all-terrain vehicles that more resemble a pimped-out golf cart than an ATV. Some have two seats, and some have four, while many have short cargo areas behind the seats. 
Peyton’s visit to Lost Pine was becoming more interesting by the day, he couldn’t help thinking as he slowed the Jeep to a stop next to the woman. “What happened?” Peyton asked. 
“Some lunatic in a pickup truck ran me off the road!” the woman said. Her face was flushed with anger. The top button of her blue blouse had come undone revealing droplets of sweat glistening above her cleavage. “I was on my way into town to pick up some packages. He came at me like a bat out of hell. I had to swerve to get out of his way. What’s wrong with people?” 
Peyton jumped out of the Jeep to take a look at the Razor. “It doesn’t appear to be damaged, just stuck. I don’t have a chain with me and I’m not sure I’ve got one at my cabin. I was going into town myself. I’ll give you a ride. I’ll pick up a chain and I can pull you out of the ditch after we finish our business in town. If that’s good with you.” 
Rubbing the nape of her neck, she noticed her open blouse. Letting out a gasp, she quickly buttoned up. “That…that would be very kind of you…mister—” Peyton held out his hand. “I’m Peyton. And you are?” 
She took off her sunglasses to expose her fairy green eyes, then shook his hand. Obviously trying to shrug off the irritation of being forced into a ditch, she smiled brightly. “Naomi…Dr. Naomi Jenkins.”
“Nice to meet you, Dr. Naomi Jenkins, you must live around here if you’re a doctor and you’re driving around a Razor.” 
“I live in the electro-sensitive community. I’m the physician for the community. I have medical supplies waiting for me in town.” 
“Well, we’d best get going.” She hurried to the Razor and grabbed a medical bag sitting on the seat. “I can’t leave this behind. It’s got medication in it.” 
Peyton helped her into the passenger seat and then slid into the driver seat. 
“So you suffer from electro-magnetic-sensitivity?” 
“No, my son does. While we in the medical field don’t recognize EHS, what my son was going through was very real—constant headaches, vomiting, digestive irritation, that was just for starters. At first, I thought he didn’t want to go to school or perhaps his study load was too stressful, but no matter what we tried, his symptoms kept escalating. I didn’t figure it out until I took him on a camping trip with no devices—his symptoms disappeared almost immediately. At that point, I couldn’t deny what his prognosis was—EHS, Electromagnetic hypersensitivity. I’m surprised you know what it is—not many people do...”

Finding a book from which I learn something new is what I consider an added bonus. I learned all about Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity in one of the books I had missed from The First Force Series. Had you heard of it? Well, I've added a couple of the shorter videos to share, but there are many more that reveals that this is Fact...not Fiction. In sharing this information, as a teaching and warning for many of us, McDonald has done a great service since most of the victims of this syndrome are not aware of what is wrong with them...and many doctors also might not know...

In telling about this issue, McDonald brings together two lovers. One in First Force and one in private security. Peyton Mattock was home from Russia, where he works for Hawke International Security Firm.  He's planning to meet up with Casey Rhodes, a First Force Operative, to spend some quality time at his cabin. Peyton has gone in advance, to clean the cabin a little, gather supplies, and ensure everything is perfect for Casey's arrival.

Only to find some really strange things happening in the little town with the only supply store around. One of the first things he noticed was a telephone booth in front of the story. Ok, that probably means that cell phones would be a problem in some areas...

Actually, it meant that there was no longer any electronic equipment in the entire area! No cell phones, television, music, computers, wifi and more--a wave-free existence! Clancy McCade would know what was going on--he'd been there in town since long before they had their cabin and Clancy took care of checking things out in Peyton's absence.  What he learned was far more than expected... Especially, that Clancy's brother was dead and he was blaming his death on a new settlement that had been created, where no type of electronics were permitted--by government approval... A very rich individual had developed a community where individuals with the syndrome, including himself, could live without problems, at least until a cure was found...

But this particular rich man was, unfortunately, not totally interested in saving many lives--just his own! And that's when outside help from First Force was called in (figuratively!). This is not the usual thriller, however, since most of the community were there to ensure a family member was able to live regularly, along with family members who cared enough to enter into this wave-free environment. Did the occupants need help, or were they part of a conspiracy underlying all that was really happening there, without any way to reach out beyond the community? Because of the unusual storyline...I'll let you discover more in the book itself!

The entire First Force is a great group of characters that, in each book, has a spotlight case handled by one or more members. In this book, we also have a personal touchstone as one of the members is about to have a child... While, by the ending, the need for a new member is gratefully welcomed. I'm hoping this series continues. The direction of First Force is uniquely flexible to respond to those needing help or in danger. They are prepared, yes, but there is always a personal element to team members that includes a touch of love moving it into a delightful pairing of romance and suspense.

I loved the side story of a gray wolf that entered the story as a scavenger looking for food near Peyton's cabin...and how...and who...was able to befriend him!

This was my first introduction to Casey Rhodes--a very cool lady who I would like to see more of in the future! Hint to the author... The First Force Series are always recommended... I'm now caught up and looking for a new addition! In the meantime, the entire series is highly recommended.


For 26 years Cindy's life whirled around a song and a dance--she was a professional choreographer. She taught ballet, jazz, and tap. During that time she choreographed many musicals and an opera for the Pittsburgh Savoyards. Most recently, she has retired to write her novels. She resides with her husband and Cocker Spaniel, Allister, on their Thoroughbred farm known as Fly By Night Stables near Pittsburgh. To learn more about all of Ms. McDonald's book series and to read excerpts from her upcoming books, please visit her website: 
You can also find out about her cozy mystery series, Fiona Quinn Mysteries, and her children's books under her pen name, C.S. McDonald. Here's that website: Check it out!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Exclusive First Read of...The Root of Award-Winning Lauren Carr! Pre-Order for March 25 Availability!

They found the bridal shop’s manager shaking her head at Poppy, who looked dejected. “They don’t have her gown,” Izzy told Cameron and Tracy with a frown. 
Taking note of the wall to wall dresses and gowns around them, Cameron said, “Have they looked?” 
“She should have ordered it two months ago for a March wedding,” the manager said. “Did you just get engaged?”
“What do you have?” Cameron asked. “Nothing with gold lace,” the manager snapped. “Nothing like what she is describing.” 
“Gold lace?” Cameron turned to Poppy. 
“It’s a mermaid gown, but has a huge detachable train,” Poppy said. “It’s my dream gown.” 
“Every woman has a dream gown,” the manager said. “The thing is, when it comes to ordering their gown, they have to come back to reality.” 
“No.” Poppy shook her head. “Ever since J.J. and I have gotten engaged I’ve been dreaming about my wedding. I can see everything like I’m there. It’s always the same gown— one of a kind.” 
“Custom designed.” The manager folded her arms across her chest. “That’s impossible.” 
“Don’t you have some puppies you need to go kick?” Cameron asked. 
With a huff, the manager stormed away to find a more reasonable bride-to-be to deal with. 
“Is it always the same gown that you dream about?” Izzy asked. 
“Always,” Poppy said. “Look, I’m not a big dream person, but this dream is so real. It’s like I’m there. And before I go down the aisle, I look in the mirror— and I’ve never felt so beautiful before— I feel like a princess— there’s this woman behind me in the mirror. In my dream, I know her. And I feel …” Tears came to her eyes. “I feel like she’s my mother.” She wiped a tear away. “But she’s not. No way.” 
Cameron felt her heart skip. They were Poppy’s family. Before the Thorntons, Poppy had no one— except her Appaloosa horse Gulliver. Poppy’s father had gone missing when she was a child and was presumed dead. Her mother had gotten remarried to a man who had raped Poppy when she was a teenager. After Poppy had killed her stepfather in self-defense, her mother disowned her. Since then, Poppy had been on her own— traveling across the country— just her and Gulliver— until she happened onto Russell Ridge Farms, where J.J. hired her to breed and train his champion Quarter Horses. 
“What does this woman look like?” Cameron asked. 
“Long blond hair,” Poppy said. “Blue eyes. Very pretty. She blows me a kiss before I go down the aisle … to marry J.J.” 
“Well, if that’s the gown you’re meant to wear, then we’re going to keep on looking until we find it.” Izzy pushed herself out of her seat...
Maybe you saw it in a magazine—” 
Poppy was shaking her head. “No, I dreamed about it before I even looked at any bridal magazines.” She clinched her fists. “I have to find it. It’s important that I wear that gown.” 
“Then let’s keep looking,” Izzy said. “There’s more than one bridal shop around. You’re only getting married once and if that gown is the one you’re meant to wear, darn tootin’ we’re gonna find it...

“What’s your song?” 
Unarmed with that information, J.J. paused while Poppy answered promptly, “We want to do the Viennese Waltz to ‘Endless Love.’” 
Madison took a step back. Slowly, she looked at Poppy, dressed in jeans, riding boots, and a western hat in hand, up and down. “The Viennese Waltz?” Her lip curled up. “That’s not exactly for newbies. I’m sure J.J. could handle it but—” 
“I danced in the children’s company of the Rocky Mountain Ballet Theater for five years.” Poppy put on her hat and cocked her head to look at Madison out of the corner of her eye. “I can handle anything you throw at me.” 
Madison let out a sigh. “I’m sorry. I misjudged—” 
“That’s okay.” Poppy winked at her. “You’re not the first one to underestimate me.” 
“Being underestimated is Poppy’s superpower,” J.J. said...

The Root of Murder
Lovers in Crime Mystery

By Lauren Carr

As I finished the latest book by international best-selling Lauren Carr, I found myself thinking back over the entire book, and found that, for me, one of the most impressive, and, therefore, important, parts of Carr's book is that she never stops with just the meat of the book. She serves an appetizer, a main course, and then a delightfully delicious dessert for her readers. This time, throughout the book, a couple, Poppy and J.J. are preparing for their wedding, and have merged it with the opening of their new Bed and Breakfast! I'll leave the details of that latest adventure, with Tracy, J.J., sister, as a partner, out; however, the simple pleasure and enjoyment of being involved with all the family activities, concerns, and fears, especially about finding Poppy's dream wedding dress, is a special bonus that Carr always provides in addition to a fantastic, impossible to solve, murder mystery... And, the added bit of ghostly attendance to these arrangements was simply...adorable!

The lead-in to the murder mystery disrupts a joyous touch of intimacy between Cameron Gates, a homicide lieutenant with the PA State Police and her husband, Joshua Thornton, the County Prosecuting Attorney, one of the first set of lovers to be introduced in this fascinating series. As an admirer of a strong female leading character, I've an avid fan of Cameron. In basic police case management, she reminds me of another favorite cop, J.D. Robb's, Eve Dallas.  

But a body set on fire in the woods of a small farm in Hookstown discovered by the elderly couple who live there, has Cameron moving fast to get to the new scene.  That couple happens to be the grandparents of Madison, one of J.J.'s old girlfriends. Let's just say that J.J. has had many girls fall for him in the past. He thought he could play the field by telling the truth--that he was not interested in a long-term relationship at the time. Of course, we all know that doesn't stop a girl from...hoping... In fact, two of those young women had become enemies during the period when J.J. played the field...

And one of them was the daughter of the man who'd been tossed and set on fire.

Ironically, the wife and the daughter, the other of J.J.'s girlfriends, reported that their husband/father had not returned from his last trip as a trucker hauling cargo...

Carr successfully dangles potential crime solutions for readers, then yanks them away to move on to another option--leaving us, her readers, trying to deal and, hopefully follow the many options she's presented. And, in the meantime, bring in most of the Thornton legal family officials,  much to the chagrin of a new State police officer who has been assigned to work for...not with, Cameron Gates. Like many readers, I would imagine, I have come to trust that Carr will bring to her readers the best possible and most complicated mystery for us to struggle with. Me, by now, I just sit back and enjoy each twist or turn that she is so rich in developing.

Of course, there are many animal characters complementing the story, but there is one surprise attendee for the wedding ceremony that is both heartwarming...and hilarious! Carr is one of the best mystery writers around. With a family orientation that is based upon love, extended family, and concern for others, well, you just cannot go wrong in picking up any of her books. This one, especially, should be considered. A ghost, a wedding, and a murder mystery or two, with so many more surprises! You can't pass this one by!


This is the trailer of the first book in series. Check out the various
multiple acts being investigated...Put in all the family issues and you got
Lovers in Crime Mysteries!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Unusual Death; Wrong Wine - Death in Paris by Emilia Bernhard

Death in Paris

The start of a delightful new cozy mystery series in which two American women are drawn into solving a series of crimes set in each Parisian arrondissement.

Edgar Bowen is dead, drowned in a bowl of soup. His former girlfriend, Rachel Levis, is surprised: how many people drown in a nice vichyssoise? Then she overhears a mourner at the funeral describe the circumstances of Edgar's death: when he was found, an open bottle of rosé wine was on the table next to him. But Rachel knows Edgar loathed rosé. If he wasn't drinking it, who was?

The police won't listen to the suspicions of a woman who has nothing more than an inappropriate bottle of wine on her side, so Rachel knows she, and her best friend Magda, will have to solve the mystery on their own. As the two women investigate, the list of suspects grows. Could it have been Edgar's son, who stands to inherit his money and lavish apartment? His icy ex-wife? His spendthrift new girlfriend? It seems like everyone close to Edgar had a reason to want him dead.

But then the suspects start dying, and Rachel and Magda realize the murderer is one step ahead of them, with no intention of slowing down. It's up to the two amateur sleuths to solve their first case, before someone gets away with murder…

Death in Paris

By Emilia Bernhard

"Edgar Bowen died in his soup." Rachel Levis said to her husband, looking up from her newspaper. They were just finishing breakfast, and the table was crowded with jams and mugs and the bag that had held the morning's croissants, now flattened in the center with some buttery crumbs still resting on it..."

Of course, telling her husband about the oddity of somebody dying in their soup, literally,  was common breakfast discussion over reading the newspaper. That it was unusual, was, needless to say, true. After all, drowning in a bowl of soup, sitting in front of you on your dining table, was just not the way to go!

But that wasn't what bothered Rachel Levis so much... She did not share that Edgar Bowen had once been her lover many years ago, when she had first come to Paris. No, for that discussion, she needed her best friend Magda... Having been friends for about 20 years, Magda knew just about everything, including the time she had lived with Edgar... For Rachel, it had been her first adult love affair. Now, with Magda, Rachel could mourn and look back on her lost love, with love, regret and nostalgia of her youth.

And when Rachel wanted to attend the funeral, of course, Magda went with her. It was her only time to say a last goodbye...

So, Rachel was not totally surprised to be called to the reading of his will, realizing that, as they had greeted each other over the years when they met, that he had, like her, considered the other a good friend... Rachel shared to Magda that "he was a good man." And then wondered what his son was like, now, as an adult, knowing that she had once tied his shoelaces and helped him through the day...

We have to go," Rachel hissed. "We have to go now." She smiled apologetically...
"God, what are you doing? What are you doing? Magda struggled to free her arm, Ow! What's the hurry?"
"I heard something."
"What do you mean, you heard something?"
"Wait." Rachel handed their tokens to the coat-check girl. She didn't speak again until they were out on the sidewalk...I'm sorry. But I didn't want to say anything until we were a safe distance away."
"Away from what? What is it?
"It's just...well, I was listening to some people on the other side of the room from you, and a woman said Edgar had been drinking rose' with the vichyssoise he drowned in."
"Rose' with vichyssoise?" Magda's tone made it plain that she had no idea what was going on. "Well, it wouldn't be my choice, but I don't see what it's alarming."
"No!" Rachel spoke through gritted teeth. "You don't understand. Edgar never drank rose'."
"Oh come on, Never?"
Rachel shook her head. 
"He wouldn't even have settled for it if there was nothing better in the house?"
"He always had something better in the house," Rachel's tone was explanatory. "He hated rose', He said it was a good white spoiled."
..."The point is, something is wrong here."
"Where?" Magda was lost.
"Here. With Edgar's death."
"Okay," Magda held up a hand. "Calm down. What is wrong?"
Rachel thought for a long minute. "I don't know," She thought again. "I don't know." Then her voice firmed. "But something is. Something feels strange..."

Thinking through all that had occurred, it was soon reasoned by Rachel that Edward had been murdered. And she was going to find out what happened. Of course, Magda was totally ready to participate. 

It turned out to be quite easy because, in his will, Edgar had asked Rachel to inventory and deal with his library and, in return, she could pick out the one book that she wanted in payment. Of course, many would think that wasn't much of a remembrance, but Rachel and Edgar had spent many hours enjoying books in their lives and she would be quite happy to have one last memory of that precious time...

But, working in the library would also help! She would be right there where she could try to find out more information about Edgar's heirs, especially since they had ruled it as an accidental death--drowning...

Readers are right in the midst of discovering and discussing every single clue as their investigation began. There were four other heirs, including the majority going to Edgar's son. The other three were women--his former wife, a present lover, and a young woman who was going to school and helping Edgar with his work... And all of them became suspects, since they were each given a sum of money that confused everybody as to the amounts... Why did this person get that amount, and so on.

The heirs were all suspects, especially the women... They all enjoyed drinking rose'. And, the wine had obviously been there for their pleasure...

The plot thickens, as it is said, quickly and effectively, as one by one each individual's lives was explored, only to have something else occur that pointed to another...I admit it, I was totally caught off-guard! Cool, right? I love it when I don't even think of whodunit! Bernhard writes with complex twists and turns, leading us through a labyrinth of possibilities. And the various, intriguing characters all lead the story forward without one single clue...

Until we are moving into the climax. Rachel realizes...And she is in danger...
A great, solid mystery--more complex than the normal cozy and an excellent debut to this new series. Highly recommended. By the way, a French glossary is included for reader assistance.


Emilia Bernhard was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1968. She got a B.A. from the University of Iowa, an M.A. from Boston University, and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University. A keen mover, she has lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Iowa City, Iowa; London, England; Boston, Massachusetts; Fayetteville, Arkansas, Cambridge, England, and Exeter, England. She is a passionate lover of baked goods and cats.

Although she has been writing all her life, _Death in Paris_ is Bernhard's first published novel, and the first in the continuing Death in Paris series. The series' two detectives, Rachel Levis and Magda Stevens, are based in part on her and her best friend.

In her other capacity, she works at the University of Exeter in Exeter, England, teaching Nineteenth-Century British Literature and Academic Writing.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Tears in a Bottle - A Memorable Novel by Sylvia Bambola

Becky Taylor tried to fly past her father when she heard the car beep. “See you.” 
“Not so fast, young lady! Where’re you going?” 
“Dad, I’m late. The guys are waiting.” Becky cringed. Wrong word. 
“What guys?” “Paula, Katie, the crowd.”
Jim Taylor turned in his chair to peek out the window at Paula Manning’s red Nissan. 
“They aren’t guys, Becky.” She let out an exasperated sigh, and her father turned from the window and looked at her. “Becky Taylor, what’s that purple all over your lips!” 
Becky planted her hands on her hips. She had been planting her hands on her hips like that since she was two years old. As she did, her little cotton top rode up and exposed her navel. She quickly dropped her arms. “If you think you’re going out half dressed, think again. I’ll not have a daughter of mine prancing around the neighborhood with her…with her belly sticking out!”
The teen’s hands were back on her hips. “My belly’s not sticking out.” 
“Upstairs and change. And wipe that goo off your face!” 
“Mom.” The car honked again. “Mom!” Nancy Taylor came from the kitchen drying her hands on a towel. “Mom, what’s wrong with this outfit? Daddy’s never happy unless I look like a geek.” 
Becky watched her mother’s eyes seek out her father’s. “Go change,” her mother said softly. 
“Go change!” Becky gave her mother a hurt look, then stomped upstairs, but not too loudly. 
When she got to her room, she tore off her top, threw it on the floor, and ransacked her drawers. She took out the green tank she had previously borrowed from Paula and pulled it over her head, then went to the mirror. “Hi Raggedy,” she said, pushing her doll aside to find her comb. “Boy are you lucky you don’t have parents to boss you around all the time.” The doll slumped over and Becky readjusted it so it sat upright against the corner of the mirror. The doll was old and worn, with a tear above one eye. Still, it was the only doll she hadn’t either thrown away or given to the Children’s Hospital in town. Paula said it was because Becky was still a child at heart. Becky giggled. What would Paula think now, if she heard Becky talking to it?
She heard the car honk again and quickly combed her hair. At once, Becky’s eyes went to her mouth. They always did. She wished her lips weren’t so big, so clown-like. Sometimes she’d look at herself and think of a circus. Her mother said she was pretty, but mothers couldn’t be trusted. They always said dumb things like that, as though it was their job or something. She once heard Mary Lou Potter’s mom tell Mary Lou she had the prettiest face of all the girls in her class. Mary Lou Potter? The girl had to be at least a hundred pounds overweight. Just proved her point. Mothers lie. 
So why did Becky believe Skip when he told her she was pretty? Because Skip wasn’t her mom, and guys don’t lie about a girl’s looks…unless.… But that was another matter. 
From the top of the stairs, Becky could see the back of her father’s chair. She thought of bolting down the steps and straight out the door, but stopped herself when she heard her mother’s voice. “She’s seventeen,” Becky heard her mother say. “You need to give her some slack.” Becky heard the snap of her father’s Gazette. 
“She’s pretty like you, Nance, and pretty’s not an asset. Becky’ll find that out. Flowers attract bees and bees are only interested in gathering pollen for their own use.” Becky backed away from the stairs and pressed herself against the wall. 
“No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to be able to stop her from growing up. You have to start letting go. She’s seventeen.” 
“You were only eighteen, remember?” 
“We’re talking about Becky.” 
“You want your daughter going out looking like a trollop?” 
“She wants to fit in. All the kids dress like that.” 
“Like hookers?” Becky bit into her lip. 
“Oh for heaven’s sake, Jim.” 
“I don’t think we should be reminding heaven, do you? An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Nance.” 
“Becky’s not me.” 
“No. Becky’s going to college.” 
Becky remained pressed against the wall for several minutes after the conversation ended. Only when she heard the noise of pots and pans banging in the kitchen did she slink down the stairs and out the door.

Tears in a Bottle
You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book. 

By Sylvia Bambola

When I saw the title of this book, Tears in a Bottle, on the wall at Reviewers Roundup, I was intrigued--enough to go out and buy it to learn more...

Of course, much is written about abortion, but I had not read a book from the standpoint of the individual--the one who had actually had one... 

Dear Diary, Today I became a real woman. Funny thing is, I don’t feel more grown up. I feel…betrayed. It was nothing like the movies make it out to be. It was awkward and embarrassing and…painful. It’s not supposed to be like this, is it? Maybe it was my fault. Maybe it’s me. I’m beginning to think there’s something seriously wrong with me. I thought I loved Skip desperately, madly. But something wasn’t right. I tried to fake it. I told Skip it was wonderful for me. I don’t think he believed me. I could tell by the caring way he spoke to me afterwards, telling me it would be better next time, that it usually gets better and better. But what he said didn’t comfort me at all. The only words
that kept ringing in my ears and that filled me with dread were “next time.” Because suddenly I knew there was going to be a next time, and a next time, and a next time. As long as I keep going out with Skip, there could be a thousand “next times.” Because now, how could I ever say “no” to him again? So, Diary, you want to know how it feels to be a woman? It feels sad. It feels very very sad.

“Every day in this country, forty to fifty women are either critically injured or killed by abortion and—” 
“Maybe neither you nor your people went into that building and pulled that trigger, but you had a hand in it. You have to be held accountable.” 
“Every day, 416 additional women are added to the list of those suffering from post abortion syndrome.” 
Jim Taylor wiped his hands on his handkerchief. “I’ll spare you more statistics, Mr. Taylor, but believe me, there are a lot of hurting, damaged women walking around, hurt and damaged by their abortions. 
The more pressured a girl is to have an abortion, the more severe her post abortion syndrome.”

This is the story of Becky, in those teen years where peer relationships mean more than her parents goals for her life. Becky and Skip had been dating and were in love. But did that next step really have to come. Her female friends thought nothing of it, so encouraged her to just go ahead and do it...

She did...and the very night that she had sex with Skip, she regretted it. Even his words of love could not take away her sadness--she knew it was wrong...

And when she became pregnant, Becky panicked...

The author has created a provocative, yet somewhat over-dramatized story of the clinic at which Becky and others had sought an abortion. Extensive drama surrounds this portion of the book--necessary perhaps, but still very hard to read... The chance of having multiple issues about the clinic, related to criminal activities may not be fair; however, the way it is written, allows readers to consider the various potential crimes which may surround the used of abortion for profitable gain... Something quite different than the debate normally seen.

The bright spot of the book is Maggie Singer, leader of the Community Life Center. While she was not politically involved, she was placed in the midst of things because of her job. Many against abortion would seek her help in some way or another, so that she often spoke to the representative to the Assembly.

He was pointing out to her again that abortion was legal and it didn't help his job to have clinics picketed. Maggie quickly asked whether it was legal to have the abortion performed by a drunken doctor--and further, was it legal for the doctor to carve his initials into the stomach of his patient?! And, further, was it appropriate for him to also rape his patient?

No, it was clear that something was very wrong at the largest and most successful clinic in the surrounding area... Many were trying to get solid documentation on what was happening. In the meantime, Maggie would bring information she learned about, trying to help the investigation that was underway.

But Maggie's real concern was always for the girls themselves. Those who came to the Life Center when there was nowhere they could go... But she could not seek their help while they suffered still...

“A room full of them, Kirt. Broken, hurt, damaged. I see them every day. I have to look into their eyes, watch them fight the tears, the self-hatred. It will take years before these girls are whole again.” 
“Will any of them testify?”
“Come on, you know better than that.” 
“So what can I do?”
 “Make the State Health Department do regular inspections. They’re supposed to anyway, but don’t. If it were anything other than an abortion clinic, the Health Department would be all over them. When are they going to stop protecting this industry?”

When Becky realized that she was pregnant, Skip immediately started talking about getting an abortion. Skip had suggested that they attend a seminar which was approved by the principal and others, but when she and Skip attended, and she saw some of the material, she was disgusted, wondering if she was wrong about things... but went through with the abortion... because her father told her to...

Maggie led a group of 10, called the Project Rachel. They had all had abortions and had come to regret it. The symbolism of the final weeks of class ceremony was conceptually one of the most significant parts of the book for me...

And Becky was just about to begin the next group of Project Rachel... She had seen how Skip treated her after the abortion and knew it would never be the same for them...But now she had to deal with her own life...I found empathy for those girls and women who had gotten into trouble, but did not want to be pressured to abort the child.

Maggie spends many hours talking to the women who come to her Center... Perhaps that is the most important part of the book and which I highly recommend... For we learn that God collects the tears of those women, and helps use those tears to heal and feel His love...

But, at the same time, Maggie started to receive threats--to her work, her job, and possibly to her life... Praying first, Kirt, who loved Maggie, and her went to report everything that had been happening to the police...

Abortion is still legal at the time of your reading this book. Perhaps there will always be strong disagreement about the issue. But, for me, learning about those women who have been pressured to abort, with resulting trauma and a strong sense of guilt, has put a different view into that ongoing discussion...

Maggie spends many hours talking to the women who come to her Center... Perhaps that is the most important part of the book and which I highly recommend... For we learn that God collects the tears of those women, and helps use those tears to heal and feel His love... And be renewed...


Born in Romania, Sylvia Bambola lived her early years in Germany. At seven she relocated with her adopted family and saw the Statue of Liberty and America for the first time. But the memory of those years in Germany inspired her to write Refiner's Fire, which won a Silver Angel Award, and was a Christy Finalist. Her frequent moves as an "army brat" gave her an opportunity to see America and fall in love with her new country. Bambola has authored eight novels, has two grown children and teaches women's Bible studies.