Monday, November 17, 2008

Four Paths to Forever An Exciting Adventure!

Four Paths to Forever
By Richard S. Lucas
Eloquent Books
ISBN: 978-1-60693-079-3
255 Pages

What would you do if you had heard that there was a secret gateway into another world? Would you set out to find it? Then this new book is for you! What an adventure! I thoroughly enjoyed Four Paths to Forever by Richard S. Lucas!

When Sandra Adams was just a little girl, she often traveled with her father, one time visiting the ruins in Canyon DeChelly in northern Arizona. There, their guide, Joe Eaglefeather, shared with them the story of the “Sipapu.” At the age of ten, she eagerly asked what it was. And then learned about “the gateway from the Inner World to the Upper World.” A gateway that you could only go through once and never go back! A legend? A story told to delight a young child?

What it did was create a life-long goal for Sandra—to find the Sipapu! Her career choice was in fact selected to help her; and as a professor of archaeology, nearly 25 years later, she was asked to take over and head up a dig that had been found in Kentucky. Her boss, Dr. Julius Weather, who was head of the archaeology department, was quite open with Sandra—this was her last chance to prove herself as a faculty member. Many had heard of her “hunt” for the mythical gateway and considered her an “embarrassment” to the university.

The group was small, two civilian volunteers; but as she worked there in Kentucky, she could not help but notice Tom Bentley—as more than a team member. Indeed, they soon acknowledged their mutual attraction. Tom revealed an important secret about meeting her. In fact, he had once enjoyed meeting Joe Eaglefeather as a guide himself!

As they worked the new site, there were many things that did not fit with their earlier expectations; i.e., that it was once the home of Adena Indians. However, when Sandra needed to present their findings to the University, she was both ridiculed and fired. Her primary opponent was Professor Jerry Sims, who had originally been assigned to the site but had been unable to go. But Tom had already offered her another job—and now she was free to accept!

According to legend, the gateway to the Upper World had first occurred in 2000 BC. At that time a group of individuals, named the Kulato, had come through at the command of their gods. They were to meet the people across this land and share with them their knowledge and teach them how it could be used. The 200 that came through had been divided and sent in four directions, according to maps and instructions that had been provided.

Lucas moves back and forth from the past to the present so that readers are able to see the historical perspective of the story, as well as what happened as Sandra, joined by Tom, and others decide to determine whether the sipapu was real or not. Led by dreams, spirits, and the intelligence of those finally brought together, an adventure of a lifetime begins—to find the gateway—and, yes, if it was real, to go through into the other world!

Lucas has weaved a beautifully crafted story that will speak to the very hearts of readers who look for adventure—seek that buried treasure—or follow their fate! Were they successful in finding a gateway? Is there an inner world that those who are seeking may find?

I, for one, certainly hope that a sequel is already in the works! We want to know the end of this lifetime adventure! In the meantime, I highly recommend that you take your first step—read Four Paths to Forever!

G. A. Bixler
For IP BookReviews

Carolyn Hart Creates New Character! A Ghost!

Ghost at Work
By Carolyn Hart
Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780060874360
290 Pages

Bailey Ruth Raeburn--remember the name! She’s the main character being introduced in Carolyn Hart’s latest novel, Ghost at Work. And I just know that...she’ll be back!

I’ve enjoyed Carolyn Hart’s books in the past, but none were so delightful or fun to read as Ghost at Work. Act-u-ally, Bailey Ruth is an emissary--the proper title, according to Wiggins, the head of the Heavenly Department of Good Intentions, who is giving Bailey Ruth her first opportunity to return to earth to help somebody in need. Of course, there are a number of rules to follow as she takes on this challenge...

And who could be more in need than Kathleen Abbott, a pastor’s wife who has found a dead body on her back porch? And that dead body is a man who just happens to have, among other things, offered Kathleen a gift of a little red teddy the night before he was killed!

You will find that Bailey Ruth tends to act impulsively—she’s trying hard to help Kathleen—so the first thing done was to move in quickly, introduce her presence by responding to Kathleen’s muttered comments to herself, and later suggesting that the body be moved!

Then Kathleen remembers that Daryl Murdoch, the dead man, had taken a picture of her when she was opening the “teddy” and on retrieving the phone from his pocket, Kathleen and Bailey find other pictures of individuals they recognize—in unusual poses. It seems Daryl took pictures of people who now could be considered suspects!

Though Bailey Ruth tries hard to “follow the rules,” there are some things that just cannot be accomplished—like remaining invisible while carrying a cell phone! Or the murder weapon!

Soon there are reports all over town of strange happenings as Bailey follows the trail and tries to find the person who murdered Daryl and tried to frame Kathleen. This is especially important because Kathleen in fear of her involvement has destroyed evidence, such as the cell phone...and gains Bailey’s help in burning the “teddy.” Bailey does feel bad for creating a false trail for the police to follow, but her role as “emissary” on behalf of Kathleen is paramount, especially, when she realizes that Kathleen daughter, nicknamed Bayroo, can see her and they all realize that Bailey Ruth is an ancester!

Bailey Ruth’s story might well be considered an “alternative future” story rather than an alternative historical fiction...for she certainly does provide us lots of information about our lives after we, too, leave this earth! But, it was even more fun watching her catch up here on earth as she learns about the technological upgrades, such as computers, and decides to “dress” in today’s fashions! Her interaction with Wiggins, her boss, is truly genius as she inveigles to remain on earth, even though violating rule after rule, all in a good cause, of course!

Hart has made me a permanent fan of Bailey Ruth! I certainly hope and recommend she continue this character into a major series...hopefully with Bayroo helping! Needless to say, for lovers of cozies, comedy and charming characters...Ghost at Work must be considered a must-read!

G. A. Bixler
For Amazon vine

Songha - The Savannah Cat!

The Adventures of Songha:
The Amazing Savannah Cat
By Linda R. Caterine
ISBN: 978-1-4343-8361-7
66 Pages

Cat-Lover Alert! Check out The Adventures of Songha by Linda R. Caterine and bow to the beauty of “The African Queen!”

With a beautiful cover featuring Songha by Robert Knight and fascinating sketches by William Dye throughout the book, Linda Caterine has created both an informative and exciting children’s book. If you are a cat lover, like I am—you’ll love it, no matter what age!

Songha is a Savannah cat, who comes from Kalahari, an African desert. Her father, Rafu Dubwana, who, now lives in America, is an African Serval Leopard. Once breeded, his daughter, Songha became “one of a kind.” This is her story!

If this story is not totally true, it is this reviewer’s guess that it is “almost” true and based upon the antics of Songha. You see, there is one important thing that differentiates Songha. She is half-wild and even though her mother was domesticated, her “wild side” just has to come out some time!

So, although she is greatly loved by her human family and by her companion, Simba, who also has a leopard ancestry, Songha has one great desire—to run free and learn about her kingdom! And, indeed, on every occasion possible, she has managed to escape her home!

First, she had to meet George, a long-haired gray Persian, who wanted nothing to do with Songha—not that Songha cared much, except she had seen that the Persian was able to go in and out of the house through a small door! Songha planned on going through that door as well! In fact, she had been quite perturbed to know that George was able to go out, while, she the Queen, was not!

At last Songha made it through the door! But then she was caught by a shape-shifter! The next time, she met Jacques Cousteau and with his guidance, she met everybody in the neighborhood, who later became her friends...and subjects of her kingdom...

Why? Because they saw or heard about her amazing skills—she could do things that none of them could do! And, because she had saved them from “El Diablo!”

Caterine entertains us with poetry and prose as she shares the adventures of Songha:

...No one has seen him to this day
And no one knows his fate,
And now my little Kingdom’s safe
There are no more complaints
El Diablo is a “Legend”
And my friends think I’m a “Saint...”

This rare exotic cat will win your heart! She may retain some of that wildness, but who among us does not admire and rejoice in seeing the great cat beasts of the world. This one of a kind cat, now “somewhat” domesticated has much to give to human families.

Come, learn of the Savannah cat—in The Adventures of Songha by Linda Caterine. This would be a wonderful holiday gift for your children...and plan on reading it for your own enjoyment! I know I did!

G. A. Bixler

De Marco Empire - Melodrama on every page...

De Marco Empire
By J. Lou McCartney
Pegasus Publishers
ISBN: 9781843864394
345 Pages

Do you enjoy following the lives of the rich and famous? Are you a fan of soap opera dramas with the many characters sharing slices of their everyday life? Then De Marco Empire by J. Lou McCartney is presented for your reading enjoyment!

Katie Saunders, together with best friend, Lucy, were heading out to celebrate Lucy's birthday. When they couldn't get into the new and prestigious Club La Pregheira, Lucy pulls Katie through the long line, explaining that they were there to work. Once inside, they were caught in her lie and decided to go ahead and ask about employment. Both were beautiful women and were hired, but they were given that first evening to enjoy the place and get to know how things were done.

It was that night that Katie and Antonio De Marco briefly met. But it was to be a perfect match--though their relationship was to be riddled with the melodrama typifying the life of a successful businessman with a gangster background and drug and criminal connections.

Soon both Katie and Lucy were working and happy in their new positions as waitresses. Both were personable and were bringing in good tips. Katie was involved with Matt, Lucy's brother, but as is often the case, Katie was not as committed as Matt, so that when Antonio started his seduction, it didn't take much to persuade her! Of course, she was unaware that Matt had been threatened a number of times to "stay away."

Worried about Katie, he had no choice but to do as he was told--he feared for their lives!

Of course, his decision was good, even though he knew nothing about the reality that routinely occurred when somebody crossed the De Marco brothers. For instance, there was the manager of one of their nightclubs that had been caught involved with drugs and local drug lords--he was now dead, and the woman who had "snitched" was now supervising the waitresses at La Pregheira, much to the chagrin of everybody else who worked there!

Even Veronica who managed La Pregheira could not understand why Gianni, Anthony's brother and partner, had insisted she be placed in this important position. But Veronica had her own secrets--she was allowing the waitresses to develop a little "side action" for which they were all being well compensated. Veronica was well on her way to saving a nice nest egg until Gianni found out--even though he didn't shut her down, rather he just took part of her share!

Gianni was into just about anything that came along, including as many women as he could seduce--at least until he was officially married. He truly loved his fiancée and had every intention of being faithful. He was happy to see that Antonio and Katie were also becoming more involved and they often joined as a foursome at the club...

Until his fiancée was murdered... And more and more deaths follow!

Until years later, Anthony and Katie have finally decided to proceed with their wedding, only to be stopped once again, by murder!

As can be expected, there are many suspects, many individuals who could have been responsible, not to mention all the others who meet the same fate during the day-to-day events surrounding the De Marco brothers!

Readers will follow the trail of each vignette of the many characters within the Empire, trying to work out exactly what has happened! Afterwards, why not take your copy of McCartney's De Marco Empire as your pass, and stop by at La Pregheira--everybody's dying to get to know you!


G. A. Bixler
For IP Book Reviews

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mansfield Discusses Faith of Obama...

The Faith of Barack Obama
By Stephen Mansfield
Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 978-1-59555-250-1
164 Pages

"This book is...written in the belief that if a man’s faith is sincere, it is the most important things about him, is impossible to understand who he is and how he will lead without first understanding the religious vision that informs his life..." –Stephen Mansfield

I think reading The Faith of Barack Obama by Stephen Mansfield after the 2008 election is over has allowed me to better absorb the wealth of understanding this book provides. Mansfield, who has also written of Churchill, Booker T. Washington, George W. Bush, et. al. has a gift for honing in on, and creating a well-documented text that speaks directly to and clearly presents the defining points of the person about whom he has written.

It is not the first time Mansfield has written about the faith of men. It perhaps, though, is the first time that his book is published immediately before the election of that man as president elect. Obviously, the biography may well become a must-read for all Americans, as we look toward the time of change that Obama has promised. I believe the book covers essentially all of the issues that drove this year’s election and helps lay a foundation that will guide our understanding of the future.

One of the major highlights of the book was a comprehensive, comparative analysis of the “Four Faces of Faith” for those individuals who were the primary participants in the 2008 election: George W. Bush as the individual who was leaving the office and then Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain as the leading candidates. Each of these individuals has openly discussed their faith during the election. Reading the comparison however, clearly focuses on how the candidates’ profession of faith may have been perceived by citizens.

Mansfield begins his book, naturally, with a look at Obama’s early life. Considering the diversity of influences from his major role models—his parents, grandparents, and his stepfather¾it is somewhat amazing that he was able to intellectually work through the breadth of his experience and arrive at a point where he chose to follow Christ. Then, as various political campaigns were undertaken, Obama was constantly attacked from a faith standpoint; however, being under fire, actually worked to forge his beliefs into both rhetoric as well as actions that in turn fired his growing numbers of followers.

“We worship an awesome God in the Blue States,” declared Obama at the 2004 Democratic Party Convention speech. Quite willing to claim that democrats were Christians too, Obama has in essence “founded” a Religious Left that has met the needs of the millions who soundly rejected that only the Religious Right were true Christians. “We, too, have faith...Those of us who believe in a woman’s right to choose an abortion, who defend the rights of gays and who care for the poor... It was a conscious attempt to reclaim the voice of the American political Left.”

Mansfield clarifies issues regarding Obama’s early teachings in Islam, and his relationship with Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., as well as a discussion of the black church experience, which historically has provided a method for hearing the news, dealing with issues and planning for the good of the community. His inclusion of a perhaps little-known issue, of the “Tuskegee Syphilis Study,” lends credibility to his discussion and forces us to better understand the fear and anger of a large part of our population!

In closing, Mansfield highlights a number of healers—those who are able to bring about change for the good. Will Obama be such a healer? Mansfield seems to imply that he just might be. He has been forced to share and has willingly stood on what he believes, while at the same time, admitting, for instance, when he is unsure of his position on abortion, that “I don’t believe such doubts make me a bad Christian. I believe they make me human, limited in my understandings of God’s purpose and therefore prone to sin.” (From The Audacity of Hope) May this reviewer add her personal “Amen” to that!

Needless to say, I highly recommend The Faith of Barack Obama by Stephen Mansfield!

"No matter how religious they may or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool of attack. They don’t want faith used to belittle or to divide...Because in the end, that’s not how they think about faith in their own lives." --Barack Obama

Respectfully submitted,

G. A. Bixler

Monday, November 3, 2008

Vietnam: No Regrets - Personal Story!

Vietnam: No Regrets
One Soldier’s Tour of Duty
By J. Richard Watkins
Aventine Press
ISBN: 1593303033
193 Pages

Goo-oood Morning Vietnam! In an almost journalistic, diary style, J. Richard Watkins presents his own story in Vietnam: No Regrets – One Soldier’s Tour of Duty.

When a boy becomes a man in Vietnam, we cry with him. We feel his fear. We hear his prayers. And we rejoice when, after it is over, it is to his mother’s arms he first goes. For by now, his greatest fear is whether or not the unconditional love will still be there for him. Or will his parents be able to see right away how he has changed, what he has done? And will they turn away in disgust from this man that is still their son? As I read the Epilogue of the most comprehensive coverage I have thus far read from a soldier’s viewpoint, only then did my tears run. For after all that he’d been through, this soldier’s greatest fear was indeed whether he would or could go back within the warmth and comfort of his family and friends without their seeing, somehow, what he had done. There¾in the jungles of Vietnam and Cambodia.

For the majority of time, Watkins was a radio transmission operator whose duty was to communicate with the artillery batteries to call for artillery support when needed. That meant that he was always with the commander of the unit…and he was always right at the front! Watkins’ non-fiction narrative is packed with memories, fresh in his mind, though he left Vietnam in 1970. If I were reading it without knowing the date of its being published, I would have thought he was there, writing for a newspaper, or in a journal. His message is frank, open, and honest. His views are his own, but he’s willing to share them. These are the facts, as he knows them, and he’s willing to state them loudly and clearly!

For the average person back in the States, I never knew, for instance, that the Infantry was the man on the line. “The army’s rule of thumb was that out of every ten soldiers in-country, nine of the ten would be giving support to the ones that were actually in a real combat situation.” (p.69) What that means in actual numbers was that it was only about 40-50,000 men who actually fought on the front lines—it was “the Infantry and then there was everyone else.” Those are the men who trudged through the jungles hunting the enemy. They are the men who stood duty during the monsoon rains through which they could not see the man next to them. They were the men who risked their lives—the “same” men moving from place to place. Now there was a turnover within the Infantry. Most had tours of three months. Watkins, for an unknown reason, was there six months before he got his first R&R. He had gone over his immediate superior’s head to ensure he was able to leave.

It was not the first time I had learned that many men died in this war due to actions by their superiors. One of the most incredible stories shared by Watkins was when a new officer volunteered for them to immediately leave on a rescue mission to try to save a group of Green Berets, even though they had just returned from an extensive patrol. Once there and in the midst of battle, the reality of this officer’s decision became apparent even to him as they ran out of water, food and other necessities and he had to send for emergency support. The new officer had acted without regard to the safety and needs of his own men! And everybody knew it long before he did!

A major contribution toward the value of Vietnam: No Regrets is inclusion of pictures. Additionally, his almost-journalistic approach to reporting on the beauty of Vietnam from the air, as well as actually riding in the helicopters, and in his openness on sharing his times away from base—both in the jungles and out, make for a more informative reading. I think I enjoyed most his quick decision to “find” his way to see his best friend who was in the Marines and how he hopped rides to get there and back. I could almost envision the look of surprise, shock and pleasure when they stood looking at each other once Watkins had found him! Finally, his open inclusion of the heartache caused by a “Dear John” letter should make any woman who ever considered writing one to a serviceman immediately change her mind!

Watkins shares that he quickly learned “tomorrow was promised to no one.” (p. 79) He shares that when you are in the midst of battle, you want to be gone; but once you are out, you miss the adrenaline and want to be back. It works for the time period in which you do battle. But his greatest advice, received almost as soon as he was there, was to be sure to leave everything behind when he left. Watkins remembered that advice, and as his tour ended, he worked hard to ensure that he was able to do that!

Perhaps this book illustrates that those men will never be able to truly forget their time in Vietnam. Vietnam: No Regrets is graphic in its violence, the need to seek out and destroy the enemy while ensuring that their own men were not hurt. It includes mistakes made, but it includes prayers lifted up in both supplication and gratefulness. Watkins made it through Vietnam and has shared a major part of his life as a member of Alpha Company 1/27 Wolfhounds, Twenty-fifth Infantry Division. Thank you!

It seems to me that young men leaving for the service, going into war, would benefit from this book. But would it be preparation? According to Watkins, probably not, because what was experienced in battle must be experienced to understand it! Still, Watkins presents an effective balance in his book and, in my opinion, has presented a major contribution to the story of Vietnam. For those who are searching for answers about a war that many will not even talk about, this is a Must-Read.

G. A. Bixler
IP Book Reviewer

Peaceful Endings - A Nanotechnology Thriller!

Peaceful Endings:
The Noposam Project
By Michael K. Tucker
Outskirts Press, Inc.
ISBN: 9781432727390
333 Pages

Michael K. Tucker's first novel, Peaceful Endings: The Noposam Project hits us exactly where it hurts! He explores our own lives and presents us with a powerful "what-if" novel that will leave you, if not frightened, then a much-more cautious person! For readers, he presents an exciting suspenseful medical thriller that will keep you on edge from the first page `til the last!

Though the prologue lets us know that the government is going to be involved, I was nevertheless caught when the story begins in the life of Doug Talbot, a news videographer at WJAM TV-16 and Dr. Marilynn Harwell from Coventry General Hospital who accidentally sit together to eat lunch due to the lack of seating. Later they are identified as terrorists; simply because of that chance lunch--of course, Talbot's random filming of a covert conversation may have identified him as a problem as well!

Unfortunately, Doug Talbot again met Marilynn Harwell when he carried his young, very sick daughter into Coventry General for emergency treatment. She was just one of hundreds who had become ill and/or already died. The strange thing was that the involved individuals had been fine until a small accident had occurred--for instance, a hairbrush falling on a girl's toe had led to her death!

As Dr. Harwell faced the emergency situation, she sought help from the medical examiner who was being inundated by the many bodies of individuals who had been found already dead. But he had not yet been able to determine if there was any consistent reason for the deaths.

Until Dr. Harwell had him check at a specific place on their bodies...

There were a number of individuals who knew what had really happened. But when General Thomas Uxbridge, head of the SIA, was called on to advise the president, he told him that terrorists had freed a B-Thrax virus into the United States. Talbot and Harwell appeared to be the leaders!

The amazing and frightening thing was that the evidence developed by Uxbridge against the two was so convincing that nobody even questioned him!

Talbot and Harwell really had no choice. They were forced to verify that Dr. Harwell's discovery was correct and to trace how and what could be done to stop the ongoing deaths. But when the medical examiner, while on the phone with Dr. Harwell, was killed, they knew they were running for their lives!

If you don't know what nanotechnology is--you might want to check it out! It's being used today in many scientific fields. Michael Tucker has taken us to the dark side of this technology--shown us what is possible when evil men gain control over something that is created to help mankind. In doing so, he has created an exciting, suspense-packed medical thriller!

Read it--if you dare...

G. A. Bixler

Written in Blood - Second in Series Even Better!

Written in Blood: A
Forensic Handwriting Mystery
By Sheila Lowe
306 Pages

Wow! Having just finished Poison Pen, a great whodunit, I wasn’t totally prepared to declare Written in Blood by Sheila Lowe even better—but it was! This book included much more descriptive information about analyzing handwriting, which is fun and quite interesting. However, even more so, the pace, characters and suspense created an exciting read from first to last page!

By now, readers will know one thing about our main character, Claudia Rose—she’s a woman who gets totally involved in her work, and if that involves solving a mystery, then she’s going to do just that! Her client, Paige Sorensen, has asked her to authenticate the signature of her late husband—on a will that leaves the majority of his assets to her, much to the horror of his own children.

To many, Paige might be seen to be a trophy wife, since she is much younger than all three of her “step-children.” But the key reason her husband changed his will was that he had learned that his children were not planning to continue Sorensen—a school that had been built and continued in the family for several generations. In fact, her husband had placed Paige as the headmistress of the school, ousting his daughter from the position.

Once Claudia worked with Paige on the authentication of the Will, she was somewhat surprised and then interested when Paige visited, seeking friendship. Claudia had been attracted to the multifaceted woman and readily agreed when Paige invited her to visit Sorensen and perhaps speak to the students on handwriting analysis.

Sorensen was a private school with about 50 girls, whose parents were involved in the film industry and sometimes were children with emotional problems. Paige shared with Claudia that one girl, in particular, Annabelle, was having serious issues. Claudia suggested a program called grapho-therapy—handwriting movement exercises done to a special kind of music—could possibly help her. And through this program Claudia and Annabelle struggled to trust and relate to one another.

When Paige and Annabelle were later kidnapped, Claudia was caught by her love and concern for her new friends...and risked her own life to find them!

Lowe has a way of bringing in twists and turns that not only add to the mystery, but are significant events in the lives of her characters. And, for those of you who enjoy ongoing series, like I do, it appears that a group of wonderful characters will be greeting us in each new book! I’ve added Sheila Lowe as a favorite author—how about you?

I recommend you get both Poison Pen and Written in Blood at the same time too. And have a wonderful weekend reading!

G. A. Bixler