Wednesday, October 24, 2007

While Waiting - Interesting Life and Ghost Stories!

While Waiting

By L. Ray Born


ISBN:  1-4259-6034-0

118 Pages


On the back cover of While Waiting by L. Ray Born, I read, “He’s having fun writing these stories and hopes someone, somewhere will find them enjoyable.” Well, this author found that someone with me!  I was smiling while I read the majority of these stories, pausing only once in awhile to decide whether this story or that one was true or not! I admit I’m still not sure about some of them! But I am sure that was part of the fun for the author. While Waiting was “mostly written so that his Grandchildren and/or Great-Grandchildren might have something to remember Grandpa by.” What a wonderful goal for any book!


Most of the stories are short and, as intended by the title, can be read While Waiting—for an appointment with your doctor, while riding the bus, or just, like I did, to stop for a cup of tea and enjoy.  The stories reminded me of those that would be told in my family, about this person or that doing something that was funny or that should be remembered and carried forward for all family members to enjoy.  In fact, I felt like I was hearing the author tell these stories, sitting around a large fire, and roasting the marshmallows, just liked he shared was the best way to do it!


While each of the stories provided a tale to be enjoyed, I especially liked the following ones:


·        Fred and the Summer of ’37. Now the interesting part of this for me was taking us back to a time when two young boys, on bikes, could safely go off on their own, to have an adventure, to visit with relatives. I may not have traveled as far as these  boys, but I remember many days in my youth when I would take off by myself, maybe carrying something for a lunch, and I would go sit by the river nearby, or on a huge rock somewhere amongst the trees...just to glory in God’s beauty and the silence of exploration.  Thanks to this story, I was able to relive some of my own memories!


·        Cliff. Now this was one of the stories I wasn’t sure was true...but I wanted to believe it!  You see Cliff became a hero, I think...  Cliff had been left at home while his family went on a camping trip, much to his disappointment—he needed to be where his family was in order to protect them. Nevertheless, the family went off without him. They were having a wonderful time while camping, until a mountain lion came visiting! As the big cat sprang, mid-air, a reddish-gold flash hit the lion and took it quickly to the ground. Cliff downed that cat, whimpered to ask if the family was all right and then was gone. Was it a dream?  Did he really travel to save the family? You’ll have to decide for yourself!


·        Real Men Don’t Scream. Or do they, if your new house is haunted? Have you ever wondered if someone or something is there, watching you sleep?  I especially liked this one...and, yes, men do scream...sometimes!


·        What a Man Has To Do. And then there was the man--no, this one is very special and you’ll just have to read it!  I’ll give you a couple of hints, model trains, a special love for them and a desire to spend your life driving those engines every day!  Can you even guess?


·        Sunset. Did you ever spend a night—in a cabin that wasn’t there? Or have you had a delicious meal—in a restaurant that had burned down? Now, this one, I thought, was probably a very good ghost story, made up by a wonderful man who wanted to share a story with his family.  I think...


Hey, this neat little book, with a beautiful scenic cover can fit in your pocket or purse and will certainly keep you entertained While Waiting any time you just want to stop, relax, and smile from a memory or a good tale.  And, if you need a good story to tell the kids, pick this one up for a family-oriented ghost story!  You’ll love it!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ruth of Moab - A Special Book!

Ruth of Moab: Triumph of a Daughter’s Love

By Author O. Wright

219 Pages  

After I had read Ruth of Moab: Triumph of a Daughter’s Love, by Author Wright, I pulled out one of my Bibles and found the Book of Ruth.  It was told in three pages. Yes, all of the basics were there; the story was the same. 

However, Wright has provided us with so much more! Clearly Wright has been led in this creative fictional novel based upon the original story!  He states that he has read and studied the Biblical version well over 500 times; however, he has done more than that, in my opinion.  I believe he has traveled into that time in his mind and has actually lived amongst the people there.  His characters are richly drawn, speaking in a language that must have been used then, and he has made them come alive as we read and get to know them.

 During a long and desperate famine in Judah, Elimelech decided to leave his homeland. Naomi, whose faith in God’s promise to provide, quickly tried to persuade her husband not to leave, to depend upon God until the land was once again fruitful.  Elimelech feared for his family, however, and believed that they must travel to another land where he had heard there was food in abundance for everyone. 

I must admit that one of the scenes I especially thought provocative was the attempt by Naomi to dissuade her husband from leaving home. Without raising her voice and in humble supplication, Naomi literally begs her husband to stay in their promised land and depend upon God for their care. But it was to no avail, and with the decision made, Naomi played the role of the submissive wife and followed her husband. 

And so Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons traveled four long days, until they reached the land of Moab. The people there were friendly and welcomed the family and soon they were settled into their new lives. Mahlon and Chilion, especially, found many with whom they could become friends and more and more they began to live the lives of the Moabites.  Indeed, they even grew accustomed to the gods that were worshiped there and found no fault in anything.   

At the same time, Elimelech watched as his sons grew away from their faith, their religion and he realized what he had done. There in the land where he had brought them, there was no place to worship their God; indeed, there were no others that claimed their God as their own. Elimelech admitted his mistake to Naomi.  Soon after, Elimelech fell ill and died, possibly from his sorrow--possibly from shame. 

Naomi grew closer to her two sons as they grieved for their father. She strived to move them back toward their precious God and talked to them of returning to Judah one day so that they could find wives. Neither Mahlon nor Chilion felt they needed to wait; they felt they could find wives there in Moab. Though Naomi continued to promote their waiting until they returned, Mahlon, the oldest, soon looked favorably upon a local woman. Her name was Ruth. Naomi saw that Mahlon was committed to marrying and when she discovered the sweetness and beauty of Ruth, she blessed their marriage.  

And then, happily married to Mahlon, Ruth introduced her best friend to Chilion and he too feel inlove with a Moabite. In the closeness of the family, Naomi came to love both of her daughters-in-law very much, and was especially gratified when they were willing to learn about the God of Judah.  Indeed, both of the women soon became followers of Naomi’s God.  

And then death came again. Both sons and husbands were lost to fever.  

The drama of the story has just begun, though, as Naomi decides that she must now return to her homeland.  Many of us have been drawn to the story of Ruth through the words, “Whither Thou Goest, I will Go...” For Ruth decided to leave her parents, her homeland, and her friends to follow Naomi and her God, into the land of Judah. 

This is a love story like no other, for Ruth had become totally loyal to the God of Judah and as her faith grew, she followed the steps that were placed before her to remarry and become an ancestress mother for the long-awaited Messiah.  

Wright has a sensitivity in his writing that becomes almost poetic as we read.  His love for humanity is clearly projected into his characters and his fervent majesty of praising God is unparalleled in my experience. If you, too, enjoy experiencing the world of God through fictional interpretations, you may find a wonderful “keeper” for your library with Author Wright’s Ruth of Moab: Triumph of a Daughter’s Love. 


Latest Deception Book Best So Far!

 Deception’s Legacy By Jacqueline G. Randolph 

Randolph’s latest book in her “Deception” series, Deception’s Legacy, is a stunning complementary addition!  In fact, in many ways, it surpasses her first two books, Deception’s Guard and Deception’s Fury, in this reviewer’s opinion.  And that is saying something! 

In addition to action-packed adventure, Deception’s Legacy, brings us significant historical information and a major surprise in the life of one of our main characters, Skye, who, even in her 70s is actively involved in her family and in her former career as a DEA agent. Set in two primary time periods—1966 and 2030—the story also takes readers back to the time of the Spanish Inquisition. And there is where I would like to begin in sharing the story. 

Evil people use whatever they can to justify hatred and prejudice.  During the Spanish Inquisition, which was instigated by Queen Isabella and sanctioned by Pope Sixtus IV, in 1483, theft, torture, and murder were routinely committed against all those in Spain whose only crime was that their faith and belief was not sanctioned by the Catholic Church! In Palomares, Spain, these outrages were planned and executed by “Don Cristobal,” which represented both a family as well as the nobility who held the title at any given time.  These men were thrilled to use religion to cover their lusts and they were quite willing to choose Marranos--Jews and Muslims especially--as their victims.  Each generation excitedly considered how to “improve” and “surpass” the atrocities of the previous Don Cristobal. Using this background, Randolph moves between 1966 and 2030, presenting two exciting storylines, separately but ultimately connected in an explosive confrontation that is truly unforgettable! Jim, a training instructor, was commanded to fill a last-minute staffing problem and fly as standby pilot on a nuclear airlift mission—Chrome Dome. In 1966 the last missions were flown which carried nuclear bombs over Palomares, Spain.  This novel recounts the horrific nuclear accident that occurred during the ill-fated mid-air refueling. But there in the midst of tragedy, a wondrous love story began.

Rosita had found Jim after he had parachuted/crashed; using that parachute, she was able to finally pull him into a cave in which she had been hiding.  When Jim finally awoke, dazed, he saw her—she was bruised and bleeding, almost as badly hurt as he was.  His first thought was that one of the nuclear bombs had exploded and it was already too late—she was evidence of what had happened.  Rosita cradled the black man in her arms.  She did not know that Jim was one of the few African-American pilots; all she knew was that he was hurt and she tried to comfort him.  As time passed, a young boy, Rosita’s friend, came to bring food to her.  Finding the stranger, he stayed and when the man awoke, he used what little English he knew to try to communicate. The nuclear bombs had not exploded; Don Cristobal, to whom she belonged, had hurt Rosita.  She was pregnant, her third, for Rosita was a Marrano, and Don Cristobal could not allow another Marrano to be born, so he would beat her until each baby died!  He was looking forward to killing her third child, still joyously following the commands established so long ago.  Rosita had escaped to protect her baby.   

Jim knew, however, that neither he nor Rosita would live if they didn’t get help. Finally, he was able to make Rosita understand that she must go for help; he sent her with evidence of his existence and she looked until she finally found the one other black man who was stationed in Spain, thinking that would be who would help them.   Knowing that Rosita would be killed if he didn’t further help her, Jim claimed that Rosita was his wife and that she was carrying his child.  What appeared to them to be a miracle resulted in Rosita later being on the plane that was carrying Jim back to the States.  Decades passed before how they escaped was revealed—what a story!  

Although Skye had tried to dissuade him, her son Tristan had followed in her footsteps and joined the DEA.  In 2030, Tristan was assigned to Spain and was quickly immersed in a major effort to trace drug smuggling activities.  The assignment required Tristan’s search of the ruling Don Cristobal’s castle.  There he found the hideous evidence of what these men had done, and were still doing, in the name of the Catholic Church.  Unbelievable perversions had been documented--each generation trying to be more heinous than the one before!  Now they were using drugs as one of the latest methods by which Marranos were murdered. Now they were not really too careful whether it was just Marranos that were affected! 

Tristan encounters include fun impersonations, exciting near-death experiences (when his parents come to his rescue) and, finally, in his finding his own soul mate. Surprise after surprise keeps the reader turning pages, striving to keep up with what is being revealed!  There is NO way I’m going to even hint at what happens at the end!


Needless to say, Randolph gets better and better!  Her third novel in the Deception series is excitingly new and historically significant.  Randolph continues as one of my favorite and MUST-READ authors.  If this book sounds interesting, trust me...get the first two books and start at the beginning of this unique family saga!  

Deception Series by Jacqueline Randolph Great Reads!

Deception’s Guard By Jacqueline G. Randolph 

One of my favorite all-time movies is “The Long Kiss Goodnight.”  It was one of the first action/suspense movies I had seen where the female was the main character.  Geena Davis starred as an assassin for the CIA.  As I met Skye Mathews in Deception’s Guard, the first book in the Deception series by Jacqueline G. Randolph, I was reminded of my delight in having the female as the lead in an action-packed thriller! 

In Deception’s Guard, Skye is a top Drug Enforcement agent working undercover.  She is called back from her primary assignment to become the bodyguard for CEO Rhys Wielde, who has agreed to work with the DEA. Just as with the character played by Geena Davis, readers will quickly come to admire Skye’s courage, strength and commitment, while maintaining an underlying warmth and concern for those she serves and protects.  

Rhys had been shocked when, after extensive research and elimination of his possible involvement, he was contacted by the DEA, regarding his company, Genoreach.  They had determined that his company was responsible for the creation of a genetic receptor, code-named Omega, for all known illegal drugs.  That is, the receptor was designed to annihilate the biological receptors in the brain responsible for addiction and necessary for withdrawal and rehabilitation.  The destroyed receptors would be replaced by artificial receptors incapable of purging drugs, thus ensuring a captive market for drug smugglers!  Rhys had created Genoreach shortly after graduating from MIT. He had considered the small group of employees as his family and felt bitter betrayal and anger that one or more of them had not only turned against the goals of the company, but had worked to create something so monstrous and deadly.  Once he was convinced his company was involved, he agreed to help bring these traitors to justice.  That placed him in immediate danger from those who had first contacted his company representatives. 

While Skye was a long-term, experienced agent, she had learned through that experience that oftentimes men did not accept a woman as a bodyguard.  Instead, it was instinctual for them to try to protect the female in times of trouble.  Skye surmised that Rhys Wielde would follow that role.  So, while she had agreed to become his bodyguard, it was to be done without Rhys ever meeting her.  However, as she and other agents surrounded Rhys in a hideaway cabin, and a car drove slowly by without his knowledge, Skye realized that she would have to be closer if she were actually going to be able to protect him.  Skye’s plan was to meet him in disguise, as Sierra, and have him become interested in her, so that he would invite her to spend time in his company.  The plan worked—very well.  Unfortunately, the plan worked on Skye as well… Their attraction was instant…and real. But Skye is able to maintain control of her passion and, within Rhys’ arms as he kisses her, she plunges a syringe deep into his neck. As arranged, she pulls him into a hiding place; then crawls in, guns in both hands now, to protect him if necessary. She nervously listens, sweat pouring down her face, as those wanting to kill Rhys attack the cabin, and as her team fights against the assassins. 

When Rhys regains consciousness, the battle is over; Sierra is gone! But the first phase of the Omega operation is a success and they arrest the chief biologist and two information system programmers of Genoreach, along with a number of South American mercenaries. Now they must turn their efforts to those who initiated the research.  Just as the mercenaries gave up the Genoreach contacts, Rhys is permitted to shake information out of his former colleagues. He discovers that they were to make contact at an industrial conference in Peru.  Since Rhys had already been scheduled for attendance, he readily agrees to act as the promised systems analyst who would release the data and receive payment from the drug lords.   Although fearful of her own feelings, Skye is again asked to act as his bodyguard and Gabe, her boss and friend, has arranged for her to be disguised as a haggard domestic worker in the capitol mansion.

With various disguises, Skye is able to handle many of the activities necessary to the mission.  However, as the Haggard is called upon to guide him from danger and they must abandon their disguises to escape, Rhys unhappily discovers how the various characters Skye has played have fooled him.  Is the woman for whom he has such attraction, Sierra, Skye, or the domestic worker—or some other woman he has not yet met?  Rhys finally accepts and applauds that Skye is able to guard him. But, by the time they are nearing the end of their mission, and they are under attack, Rhys does exactly what Skye was afraid of—he takes the bullet that she should have taken and is badly injured.  

Deception’s Guard has constant action and twists, setting a pace that keeps the reader interested and involved. Jacqueline Randolph has used knowledge gathered through extensive traveling as well as her excellent writing skills to introduce wonderful characters whom you will quickly come to know and love. Then she takes us through a wonderful and exciting adventure in faraway lands of intrigue.  You might plan on buying the second in her series, Deception’s Fury, at the same time.  I read both books in two days, reading almost around the clock—plan to meet Skye and Rhys on Friday night and have a wonderful, exciting weekend! Trust me!  This author is on the move!  Watch her!  She is a challenge to J. D. Robb and many other well-established writers.  This is definitely a MUST-READ!  

Deception’s Fury By Jacqueline G. Randolph
Those who remember and enjoyed the original series for Mission Impossible will certainly welcome Deception’s Fury, by Jacqueline G. Randolph.  In fact, you will see that this story would have made a great script for that popular show. Fury is an exciting adventure that reveals a world known by few—a world where undercover Americans fight as part of the Drug Enforcement Agency to protect our citizens, demanding of themselves a commitment and loyalty to their mission that can only serve to inspire and amaze us. 

While this story may be fiction, it, nonetheless, elicits a response—a thankful, prayerful elation that there are those among our fellow Americans who work to serve and protect our United States.But, wait!  Before you read further, let me tell you that you will want to start right from the beginning of this series. Check out my review of Deception’s Guard because I believe you’ll want to read about the great love affair and the dangerous adventures of the two main characters before you are submerged into the Fury of the greatest challenge to that love in Randolph’s second book!

Yes, Deception’s Fury continues the story of the love affair between Rhys and Skye Wielde.  Skye has moved from her position as a Drug Enforcement Agent into an advisory position and has become Rhys’ wife and the mother of three beautiful children--a set of twins, and later a young son.  She is also a part-time professor and has established a local air charter business, sometimes working as one of the pilots. 

Rhys is head of Genoreach Technologies which is dedicated to research and development of bioinformatic technologies—the mating of biology and information systems.  A major deception at Genoreach had originally brought Rhys and Skye together (See Deception’s Guard) and nearly ten years of wedded bliss have passed.Until the day that messages were intercepted. Information that referred to their youngest son, who was called “Wolf,” had been discovered on the Internet. There are also references to Omega, the drug that had been created at Genoreach and had been found to be deadly.  Had the drug not totally been stopped?  Or had other scientists duplicated the process?  And what did it mean to have the involved ship, the ship that was known to transport drugs, have the same name as their son, with a captain who was called “Wolf”?

Skye, with her DEA background, extensive knowledge of the earlier mission, as well as having a pilot’s license, is asked to participate actively once again.  Declaring that she would act only as pilot to other DEA operatives, Rhys agrees to her involvement with the caveat specifying that, if she were not back in a month, he would come looking for her. But a month goes by and Skye is not home.  Not only does Rhys begin plans to track her down, but her boss contacts him and asks him to become involved and work with the DEA.  For they had received word that three agents were found dead.  Skye is missing. Soon it is discovered that Skye is alive and held captive although she has been beaten and is near death. A local woman who is an undercover agent has been able to convince the assigned guards that a doctor’s visit is needed. Skye is known to be a master of disguises but now it is Rhys’ turn and he is disguised as an elderly doctor by night while by day he holds a position as an embassy aide. The old woman meets Rhys, as the doctor, and brings him to Skye.  She has been beaten and bruised over her entire body, chunks of her neck and face are gone—eaten by rats.  She is covered and smells of her own excrement.  The horror of seeing her is almost too much for Rhys to bear. But little by little, he is convinced that his wife recognizes him and is able to respond to help his efforts to save her. 

Once Skye is saved and well enough to act on her own, she is once again driven and, against her husband’s wishes to go home, is relentless in her determination to finish the mission. Reluctantly, Rhys agrees to stay and help the team find the ship transporting the drugs.  The trail takes them to Ecuador, Buenos Aries, and finally to the Antarctica, the coldest most uninhabitable place on earth.  There, putting together all of the pieces of information she has gathered, Skye locates the ship--the ship which some claim to be a ghost ship because of its mysterious appearances and disappearances.But there is talk among the DEA team and bosses of Skye’s sanity . . . of her becoming a rogue agent.  Skye knows that in addition to her assigned mission, she has a personal need—to seek revenge on the murderer of her former DEA partner—and she doesn’t mind questions about her sanity as long as she is able to fulfill that quest as well as find the ship.  Rhys is there when she finds the location and is the only witness to a major shift from team plans, which support  the possibility she is indeed a traitor.  He is forced to believe that Skye is no longer the woman that he has known and loved.  Can he allow his wife to return and care for his children?  He will always love her, but his trust has been almost destroyed.  Can their marriage be saved? 

Deception’s Fury is indeed a love story, but that story is just a major underlying theme. The character of Skye is a major force, an individual who, in disguise, easily becomes a person who moves through the underworld of drugs and prostitution--with its many dangers--to overhear, discover and piece together where her target can be found and how to get to it.  Needless to say, the suspense and intrigue is heavy; the methods and actions of the team and undercover agents are frightening. What they must do to stay alive can only be considered monstrous and yet a very necessary part of survival.  With a surprise ending, readers are kept in suspense right to the ending!

Randolph has outdone many major writers in the creation of her two main characters and,  especially, her female lead. Skye will become one of your all-time favorite characters!

The tone and scenes bring readers into a distressing world and forces them to read on until the heroine allows them to leave…at the end of the book. Her writing is superb, the characters will become your heroes, and you will be searching for the next book in the series long before it is available. Trust me!  This author is on the move!  Watch her!  She is a challenge to J. D. Robb, with her husband/wife team, as well as many other well-established writers.  This is definitely a MUST-READ!



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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

More Than Angels!

THE SEQUEL IS OUT - Reread review for the first book and look for the new One!


More Than Angels:
Once Upon a Broken Heart

Ruby Moon-Houldson
E-Book Time
ISBN: 1-59824-151-6
358 Pages

No doubt about it!  I loved this book! 

At first I thought it was a self-help book.  There are many individuals who have shared their story about abuse during their childhood. The words are not easy to write and not easy to share; however, there is always something there that lifts my spirit and provides a measure of strength to move forward.  Ruby Moon-Houldson has indeed shared a very personal story in More Than Angels: Once Upon a Broken Heart!

Ah, but that is where this book moves from the traditional and into a unique odyssey of discovery that gives us action, romance and a heroine like no other!  Let me tell you about a woman who I have come to admire.  Thia may be fictional, but there is enough shining through her story that makes me want to have her as a friend, a confidant.  She is a strong woman, one you would want to have as a role model for the teenagers of today.  Thia could relate to most problems that they might face and could provide insight by which they might achieve the self-confidence and determination that is so important for today’s youth to find and emulate.  This book definitely is one that you can comfortably share with your daughters and her friends!<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

More Than Angels begins with a flashback to a scene in Thia’s childhood.  Her father is holding a heavy wooden cane above her mother’s head.  Thia stretches out a hand, in a vain attempt to ward off the second blow.  Grabbing on and hanging to one of her father’s legs, she attempts to keep him occupied.  Even if she is bruised or hurt, she feels it is a small price to pay to protect her mother…and her sister and brother.  Throughout the book, Thia dreams of the abuse from her father, as well as from those with whom she went to school.  Thia was alone in her struggles; there was no help from her mother, her siblings, her teachers or neighbors.  While her mother went to church, there was nobody from that source that made any effort to help the family.  She might have heard the words—God, Jesus, angels, guardian angels, but none of them seemed to be there to help little Thia in her fight against the evil surrounding her.


And then one day she was able to watch television. And she discovered the show Beyond Earth and especially one of the lead characters, Basalt.  This being from another planet faced every situation with logic, courage, and intelligence.  There was never a time, never a situation that he was unable to anticipate and for which he could not provide a solution.  And so, Basalt, a fictional character in a television show, became the hero, the guardian, the source of intelligence, expertise, and experience by which a little girl named Thia learned to face the cruel world in which she lived.  She did what it took to hide her watching the program from her father and, in secret, absorbed and grew stronger as she learned more and more from Basalt. 

Quite aside from the story itself, I have always been a Trekkie and I was thrilled to correlate Thia’s words to ones I always enjoyed from Spock, Data and other characters in “Star Trek” who used logic as their primary emotion. So, if you too are a Trekkie, you’ll want to read this book!


Needless to say, Thia became a formidable woman.  As a practicing psychologist as well as an FBI agent, she gained a reputation as a top investigator.  Readers are quickly pulled into exciting cases, one of which places her in a covert operation to stop a group of drug runners and suppliers.  While undercover, she pulls her investigative skills together with a “dumb blond” act and is in exactly the right position to handle a kidnapping case—a case involving another lead character from her favorite TV show, Beyond Earth.


In order to prepare for handling the kidnapping, she contacts the father of the young man, and as they discuss the situation and how Thia may be able to rescue his son, Vance Gordon begins to fall in love with Thia.  But there is a problem; Thia had long ago committed her heart to Colin Manning, the man who had played Basalt so many years before. And Colin Manning and Vance Gordon are best friends. 


In the midst of exciting actions of Thia, other FBI members, and the two stars who are trying to rescue Gordon’s son, Thia finds herself once more reliving and dreaming about her terrible childhood and how these two fictional characters had come to mean so much to her.  But now the formidable, intelligent, and logical woman she had become, due to their onscreen influence, is being tormented with new emotions of love, need, and attraction for the men who played her favorite characters.


The surprise developments and end to this story cannot have been anticipated. It is real; it is a situation in which every woman could see herself. It is a love story of conflict, trust and bonding that every male can understand. 

This romantic thriller will catch you off-guard and offer more than you expected. You'll find a real-life heroine who will haunt you for her childhood pain and suffering, at the same time you're longing to hear more about her present work to serve and save lives. Thia had more than guardian angels helping...she had her own personal unseen hero who was always beside her. I declare this and the sequel truly "must-reads!" for all those looking for a hero or two to enter their lives! And who among us can deny that we are?

G. A. Bixler


Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Trilogy From Robert Noonan

I wanted to share all three reviews for this trilogy at once. Although the last book won't be out for a few months, I believe that each reader will want to acquire all three of these great Americana books for their home library!  Family oriented...they are really Wonderful!

Wildflowers: First in A Trilogy
By Robert Noonan

Wildflowers by Robert Noonan is a novel I have come to love.  It is the first book in a historical trilogy and carries an underlying story about the “orphan trains” that moved across the country from 1854 to 1929. Reverend Charles Loring Brace was shocked in 1850 when he learned of and saw 10,000 homeless children prowling the streets of New York City. He founded a Society through which many of these desperate children were sent west to begin new lives.  
In a small mill town there are no laughing children playing and running.  Those that are of the right age are already called upon to work to help support their families.  Many of them work at Alton Mill, where they stand for long hours at machines that can maim, to create the different garments that are on order at any given time.  
Noonan begins his story on Friday, September 16, 1898, as Hillary Cook, whose story will flow through all three books, walked to work at Alton Mill.  She is eleven years old. Her mother is widowed and both must work to have food and shelter.  Kate Moran, best friend of her mother and one of the friendly faces at the mill, smiled as Hillary hurried to her workstation.  Work began at six a.m.  Kate had come to love Hillary as her own and, indeed, had already promised her mother, Laura, that she would take Hillary as her child if something should happen to her mother. The mill was open for long hours Monday through Saturday and there was school on Sunday afternoons, so the only time for play and just being children was very short and much valued.  Hillary and her girlfriends would roam the countryside, searching for flowers, seeking places to play pretend, to be just a little bit silly or to try some new brave adventure…and that is how they came to call themselves the Wildflowers.  For those few precious hours, they were able to run wild and feel the joy and freedom of being just what they were--children. Often, they would run and watch and wave at the children going by on an orphan train.  They prayed they would never have to be loaded and shipped away like they had seen happen to one of the little girls at the Mill. 
But just as in the fairy tales of our youth, here too lived a wolf, who watched all of the flowers, the children he saw every day but who played in the woods so rarely.  He was the owner of Alton Mill.  Whenever he chose, he picked a young girl from behind the large machines and had them sent to his office.  They were there for whatever he pleased, and he took the most precious thing they owned. Even now, though she was only eleven, he watched and waited for the young, pretty Hillary.  
And then in the midst of their daily lives, a stranger came to town.  But he wasn’t a stranger to Kate Moran’s fiancĂ©, John, who had secretly been hiding because he had once been falsely accused of killing a man.  The stranger was the dead man’s brother! John was forced to once again run since there was no hope of proving his innocence.  But John was now financially able to relocate west and find the place where he and Kate would later settle. So they planned and looked forward to that time. 
And then Hillary’s secret fear came true. Her mother became gravely ill.  Hillary stayed by her side day and night but she was getting no better.  And that was the time that Frank Dragus, her boss, moved to take his advantage.  In exchange for financial support for food, lodging and doctors, he bargained for what he wanted from Hillary. Hillary gave her all but there was no cure for her mother’s illness.  She became the orphan, as she had always feared.  In Kate’s arms, though, she found that she would not be alone, that she would be leaving town with her.  And Kate had already made her first maternal commitment as she repaid Dragus for what he had forced upon Hillary. 
Noonan’s has placed us back into the late 1890’s with a tale that is well written and historically significant. When I received the manuscript for review, I was told by the author, “Follow the Children.”  Indeed, you not only will follow them, but you will become involved and concerned about their lives.  Robert Noonan, as a first-time author, has presented us with a gift. We may not enjoy reading about some of the challenges they faced, but it is important that we learn of them. We should also be reminded that there are always good people who move in to assist and love those in need. 
Look for this must-read as a keeper for your historical fiction library! 
Bridie’s Daughter: Second in A Trilogy
Robert Noonan’s second book in his trilogy has just been released!  Bridie’s Daughter follows Wildflowers and if you haven’t yet read it, I highly recommend it to you. These books are a taste of Americana that you don’t want to miss! 
The “orphan trains” moved across the country from 1854 to 1929. Reverend Charles Loring Brace was shocked in 1850 when he learned of and saw 10,000 homeless children prowling the streets of New York City. He founded a Society through which many of these desperate children were sent west to begin new lives.  
And so another trip was planned; the orphan train would carry 37 children under the age of 15. They were optimistic that all of the children might find homes this time since other trips had carried as many as 150 orphans.  The children came from many different places but they were able to meet and make new friends during the train trip. They would ride two days to their first destination in Illinois. Two of the older children were immediately attracted to each other; Catherine and Brian easily found a way to meet and shared many hours together during their trip.  Monica and Jason were their respective friends and they all speculated about what kind of homes they might find.  Brian and Jason had been living on the streets, but Brian shared that he had dreams of becoming an engineer if he ever had a chance to go to school.  In each seat on the train, whispers and dreams and fears were shared as children turned to others who could share their feelings. 
Bridie McDonald was already waiting at the Newberry, Illinois train station as it rolled in.  Her dear friends, Margaret and Tom Holmgren, who were hoping to find a boy to call their son, soon joined her.  Bridie wanted a daughter and she would know her when she saw her.  Indeed, that is exactly what happened and she moved quickly toward the young girl, Catherine, who was already deep in conversation with a couple.  Deciding it was only fair to let the young girl choose, the couple and then Bridie quickly shared with Catherine why they would like to have her come lives with them.  But Birdie had inside information—she had noticed the apparent relationship between Catherine and Brian and quickly highlighted that her good friends had asked Brian to come to live with them and that they lived only two streets away. How could Catherine fail to choose Bridie as she stood there with twinkling eyes? 
The heartwarming stories of these new families will pull readers into each life—those of the children and those of the new parents.  However, there in Newberry, one of the orphans, Monica, Catherine’s friend, did not find the happiness found by others.  Her story is one that also occasionally happened to those riding the trains. She was finally forced to leave the family that had adopted her, but she was smart enough and brave enough to find another life for herself; her story just might be the most gripping tale you’ll read!  You’ll also meet Pina, a young girl who had worked in the Alton Mill and had been a friend of Hillary in Wildflowers.  Finally, you’ll also find out what has happened to Hillary during the last year! 
The orphans’ saga leading to new lives with new families is one that you will always remember.  I’ve found the stories very similar to the series “Little House on the Prairie,” based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder that were set in the 1870-80s.  So if you’ve enjoyed this family-oriented program centered on the Ingalls children or Wilder’s books, you will indeed agree with me that Noonan’s Trilogy is a Must-Read!   

Secrets: Third of A Trilogy

You won’t want to miss the final book in the orphan train trilogy by Robert Noonan! 
Haunted by the Secrets of their past, Kate, John and Hillary Hanley had joined together as a family and established their home in Newberry, Illinois.  Each of them had secrets from their past that continued to plague them even as their happiness and love grew each day. 
For John who had been accused of a murder he did not commit, he knew the law could arrest him because the victim’s brother was a wealthy influential man. The real murderer had manufactured evidence against him, but revenge could be satisfied whether guilt was real.  John had left Alton, Delaware, to move west and hopefully outrun his accusers. Kate loved him and would follow him anywhere to be his bride.
But Kate had a secret, known only to her, that also caused her to leave Alton.  Having her own revenge against her former boss, who had caused so much pain to her beloved Hillary, she had found Frank Dragus guilty and punishable by death. Would they some day come for her as well as John? 
Hillary had a secret as well. 
These Secrets carried into the final book in Noonan’s trilogy are woven into the lives of other orphans that rode the trains to the west.  And the trains also carried the families for visits from one home to another.  Bridie’s daughter becomes a close friend to Hillary, but Bridie has also found a reason to visit the homestead because Biff, Hillary’s adopted Uncle had caught Birdie’s attention.  But before she could ever consider entering into a loving relationship, she was forced to deal with the secret from her past—and He was there at her home every day to remind her!! 
There is just enough drama and suspense to move this heartwarming story forward. Noonan takes the time to “create” the period into which we may fall, enjoying fairs, home-made cider, dressing up as squaws to get pictures taken . . .
By now, each of Noonan’s characters had become familiar and I wanted to be sure that all would be well with each of them.  Thankfully, that did happen! I’ve likened The Orphan Train Trilogy to the television series and books, Little House on the Prairie.  I think you will agree.  Robert Noonan wanted to bring out a long-forgotten part of our heritage and he has indeed handled that responsibility well. His books are meticulously presented; his writing sensitive and understanding as he shares the plight of the children who were orphaned, oftentimes by tragedy or pain.   
Many of you may realize that Robert Noonan came to our site for a review of his books.  He and I later worked to proofread, edit and finalize the books prior to publishing.  I was honored to have this little part in bringing these Americana stories to readers. My only wish?  That the trilogy had really had one more book--Hillary, so we would know that Hillary had indeed had a wonderful life and had successfully dealt with her own tragic secret.  How about it Mr. Noonan?  I’ve added it to my “wish list” at all the online bookstores! Will I get my wish?  Hillary is a must-must read for me because I consider the first three books as Must-Reads! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Latest Reads!

I keep my professional reading to just part of the day (unless I'm thoroughly involved with the book, which oftentimes happens!), so, for enjoyment, I've been reading:

Night Over Water by Ken Follett
Murder Offscreen by Denise Osborne
Phantom Nights (a great ghost story!) by John Farris
Ascent into Hell by Andrew M. Greeley
Secrets (a series) by Kristen Heitzmann

All Great Reads!

On the professional side:

Priest to Mafia Don 

By Father Patrick Bascio


ISBN:  10: 0-8283-2157-4

288 Pages


I may have just read an upcoming best seller! Priest to Mafia Don by Father Patrick Bascio, published just recently, is a love story like no other! Caught between love for family, God, a woman, and his own destiny, Carlo Albanese was forced by heritage to make choices that have been faced by few others, if any. Priest to Mafia Don “is a work of fiction based on reality. It is the story of a priest, Carlo Albanese, nephew of the famous Godfather, Julio Albanese...”(p. 6)


As the life of Maria Amaretto’s mother faded away, Maria sought out some way to send her mother from her small Sicilian town of Trapani to either the United States or England for the surgery that could save her life. After contacting everybody she knew that could possibly provide funds for the trip, Maria finally went to see Don Luigi Navarro, the local Mafia chief, who also refused to help her. Frustrated and angered, Maria realized that it had been evil to turn to a murderer—that she had betrayed God by depending on a bad man and sought her Lord’s forgiveness.


Maria spent the next fourteen days in Novena prayers imploring the Blessed Mother for a cure. “On the morning of the fourteenth day, the doctors...announced: “Against the greatest odds and possibly miraculously, Philomena Amaretto is responding favorably...” The local priest declared, “A miracle...” In response to answered prayer, Maria made the traditional “Promise” to offer her first-born son to the Church. (p. 12) Thereafter, she went to Tony Albanese, who had loved her since their days in secondary school, and sought his support of her promise. His response was, “I would be honored to be betrothed to a woman who, God willing, shall one day provide His church with a priest.” (p. 13). Tony was Julio Albanese’s brother.


And so the male child, Carlo, was born and learned early that he had been dedicated to the priesthood. His entire childhood was centered on his future and he rejoiced in his destiny. On his First Communion, his parents “bought a Missal that opened in the middle, releasing a thin cardboard replica of an altar prepared for Mass...Before leaving for school, Carlo would say a “Mass.” (p. 21)


Totally committed to become a priest, yet, reading his story, there were signs, early in his life, that Carlo perhaps lacked the love and joy of being a servant to God and man.


Julio Albanese was chosen unanimously as the godfather upon the death of Vito Massaro. Newspapers suggested “he will bring a new and more progressive style to the organization.” (p. 35) Julio soon sought to have members of his family with him and so Tony moved his family to the United States. Thus Carlo grew with two major influences—his dedication to God and the priesthood and his commitment to his family.

And while Carlo grew, Julio became the most powerful Don in New York.


While Carlo studied and finally became a priest, Julio grew older and ill. In fact, he was forced to resign as Don due to his limited life expectancy. Carlo’s father was expected to move into Julio’s position as Don. He was murdered!  Julio’s second brother became Don; he was murdered...  In order to not give too much of this story away, I move to the point where Carlo as asked to take leave from the church and fill in as Don to get his family’s businesses back to top performance.


And that is when he discovered that his brother’s wife was seeking help to divorce his brother!  And they became close...


Father Bascio includes an interesting little story in the Introduction about how this Sicilian organization was formed and named.  Both Julio and Carlo dreamed of moving the Mafia back to its original goals and to legitimize the businesses of the Mafia.  Carlo’s struggles within the Church, with his awakening sexuality and interest in his own brother’s wife, together with the cries of his family to help them during the crisis that followed Julio’s resignation placed tremendous pressure upon Carlo. And, that is why the book becomes a page-turner! For Carlo’s response resulted in a maturity of a man like no other...a man who finally left the priesthood to become Don of the Mafia!


Written as a novel, the author has allowed us to see into the hearts and the minds of the characters that were patterned after a real family.  Watching the jealousy between family members, seeing the good and bad within them makes this an exciting read. However, I watched closely as Carlo struggled with the pain, the frustration, the anger, and, yes, the love he experienced as he matured and was forced to make the greatest decision in his life!


Surely Father Bascio has given us a best seller, at least in my’s a MUST-READ!



G. A. Bixler IP Book Reviewer


Sunday, October 7, 2007

New Methodology

Hi, we are testing out a change to our that the site will be the main place to submit a request for a review, but we will be posting more broadly, to at least 5 sites, in the, if you have any thoughts on this upcoming change, let me know!  Here's one of my former reviews as I begin to expand!


Having read several different novels surrounding the Vietnam War, I found Bullets and Bandages by Robert Saniscalchi, to be the most realistic, indeed, horribly so. It is quite simply a fictional account of a young man’s tour of duty in Vietnam, based upon true events as told to him by his brother. Because the author did not hold back on either his own fear or the actual events he learned of, the novel becomes very realistic, and the characters are those that you would expect to find in a war that nobody wanted.  

The book opens and closes in an unforgettable scene as Rob Marrino, our main character, sits with the father of Sergeant Green, who had become his best friend, and who had been killed just a few weeks before he was to leave the service and come home. Green’s father asks Rob to tell him about his son and to tell him what they have been involved in so that he might remember his last few years of life.  

So Rob starts to talk . . .  

When there is a war going on, if you are the right age, all of your friends are talking about whether to “join up.” Or so it was at the time of the Vietnam War. Rob Marrino’s friends were joining; he needed only the courage to talk with his parents about it. His father took it the best and told him that he would be proud to have his son serve his country, as he had, adding that he hoped that it would be the army that he joined.  

During basic training, they were given an option to move on for more training as a medic, and Rob decided that sounded like something he wanted to do. What that decision resulted in was that he became “special” to his unit. Everybody knew that it was important to make sure “Doc” was ok, because their own lives could actually be in his hands. But Rob was not only a medic, he was an active participant in that war. Rob felt he was under a man with experience and knowledge—Sergeant Jakes. And soon he met Corporal Clarence Green. The three of them slowly became close friends.  

Rob Marrino was a praying man. Or maybe he became one once he was in the throes of war. The readers don’t know. What we do know is that he prayed continuously. He prayed for the courage and strength to ignore his shaking hands and get on with wiping the blood from a soldier’s wound to see how bad it was, to give him a quick shot of morphine to ease the pain. He prayed for each soldier he helped and for those who didn’t make it. He prayed when getting ready to enter a battle. He prayed in thanks for each time they made it through. Rob Marrino had never been as afraid in his life as he was during his tour in Vietnam. His prayers calmed him and many were grateful for his calm reassurance as he took care of their wounds.  

It was the lack of honesty, the innate evil of the enemy that was hard for many of our soldiers to accept. Rob, by now, used to that evil, finally came back to the primary camp and saw a Vietnam man snapping pictures of the compound. There were several individuals with him, pretending that they were being photographed, but what was being photographed was the placement of where everything was located. This was all occurring while guards were on duty. They later explained that the man was a local farmer and had been around there for about five years. Combat officers quickly saw the dangers and were constantly alert. Even in the camp, guards did not fully understand the horrors of what was happening in the bush.  

There is a touch of happiness for Rob when he is wounded. He meets a young nurse from his home state, and they fall in love. Somehow you feel that there in the midst of so many bullets and bandages, God must have brought her to care for him, to provide, through her, just a bit of His love to a weary soldier.  

This book is very graphic in the war scenes¾parental guidance material! On the whole, however, the story is one in which Americans can take pride. These are the true soldiers of our country, those in the lower ranks that fought for every inch that was won. Here was this man who made it through many brave tours, only to die from snakebite! There was that man who gave it his all, and then was killed during a training accident weeks before leaving for home. This story is about the men who prayed their way through the Vietnam War. I am proud to have had an opportunity to read this unforgettable story.  

A Must-Read for those who pray for our American soldiers!

G. A. Bixler