Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Review: 2nd in Trilogy by Brenda Novak Requires a 5+ - Available TODAY!

the new border gateImage by izumiflowers via FlickrBody Heat

By Brenda Novak

Mira Books
ISBN: 9780778328032
441 Pages

Roderick Guerrero had only been 15 when he had fell in love with Sophia St. Claire. They had both lived in Bordertown, but Rod was also the illegitimate son of an important man in town. Though his mother continued to work on his farm and Rod had grown up there, they had experienced the humiliation and hatred from his half-brothers and his father's wife. He never found out why Sophia had stood him up and gone to a school dance with somebody else.

Body HeatNow 15 years later his father had called and asked that he come back to town to help solve a series of murders of undocumented aliens crossing the border into the United States. Rod had left home and had moved into a successful career and now was working with Department 6. But if he went home, it would be on his own time. The FBI had already been called in, but finally, he had decided to help. He didn't know that Sophia was the chief of police now...

Not only did Sophia not want his help, she was even too embarrassed to meet him again, after having treated him as she had done. But much had changed in Sophia's life since she had been so shallow. And she didn't need a reminder of that time!

But there were now 13 murders of unidentified alients, the last two a young married couple who had been hoping for a new life and Rod, once they had got together, made it quite clear that he was sure that contacts could be made to insist that he be permitted to offer help. With the town council already on Sophia to solve the crimes, she decided it wasn't worth the arguments. Besides, she was fairly certain she knew who was behind the murders. Sophia had been selected over a former police officer for the top job and she believed that he was doing everything possible to make her look bad, which indeed he was doing. But there were also a number of border farm owners who were losing money as their crops were ruined and animals stolen by those that crossed their lands.

Sophia is a gutsy lady, but probably heads out on her own too often. She crosses the border into Mexico and, while she succeeds in gathering important information, she almost doesn't make it back. She's following any and all leads and proves to be an effective chief as she follows the twists and trails being left. But when one of Rod's half-brothers is murdered, the pressure grows worse and Sophia is given a month's notice that she was being fired!

Novak keeps adding twists on top of twist until readers are wound up tight in this fantastic whodunit. Before the story ends, not only are the murders solved but much more corruption is discovered and personal connections to both Rod and Sophia are pulled in and part of those investigations. A thriller that keeps the suspense high and the atmosphere hot! Let's just say that the ending is edge of the seat, but the ending is great as, we all knew, Rod gets the girl! Not much romance, just enough to break the tension of the hunt! A very cool book! Best I've read from Novak, so far! At least in my opinion...

Book Provided Via
Net Galley

G. A. Bixler

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Review: Best Alternative History Thriller I've Read So Far!

airport security gate 1Image by emptyhighway via FlickrPoint of Entry

Peter Schechter

ISBN: 9780060843304
323 Pages

I'm not much into politics; however, if our politicians did what was done in Point of Entry by Peter Schechter, I'd be full of praise and involvement. Alternative History is an interesting genre that allows authors to use current or past historical events and create a thriller or suspense novel that reveals either their imagination or, I believe in this case, what the author would have done or what should have occurred by the involved people. I must say that this book was not only the best alternative history book I've read, but I totally agreed with every word--if I were the individual that should be making those decisions! That's saying a lot for me...What would you choose if these events were really happening!?!

The major countries involved are the United States, Columbia, Cuba and Syria...

If something was to be smuggled into a country, anything and everything has been used. One of the methods for drugs has been for women to be the carriers, coming through airport security with bags they have swallowed! Indeed Juan Francisco Abdoul had a whole group of "mules" that routinely took drugs from Columbia into the United States. Abdoul's family had been major players for many years, but Juan had also gotten into politics to gain more power. He had just attempted to have his brother elected as the new president, while he, already, was president of the Senate.

Point of Entry: A Novel
But they had lost the election. A former Miss Universe, Marta Pradilla, who had been able to gain visibility as she toured the world had just won the election as the first female Presidente!

And she was prepared to move quickly! She already had Manual Saldivar, her friend and now chief of staff and press secretary working to figure out how to remove Adboul and other criminals from Columbia. In fact, during her inauguration celebration, she accomplished both goals she had set for herself: to spend private time with the United States president and to speak to him and Castro in one room at one time!

She also maneuvered and succeeded in a one-on-one email connection with U.S. President John Stockman.

John Stockman admitted to himself that he was attracted to Ms. Pradilla, but it was much more than her beauty. It was her open, honest approach to getting what she felt was the right thing. And she was the first major world player who was willing to challenge the president of the United States and make him see how people on the "other side" saw the actions of the United States. It was perhaps the first time that a president was given counsel and advice not based upon the critical evaluation of how it would affect his presidency, but how our actions would affect the world and its people!

And then the United States learned that Syria had been working to obtain materials for a nuclear bomb. The CIA assumed it would be used to prevent the U.S. from taking action against their country. But the CIA was wrong...

And Presidente Pradilla learned what was really going to happen. But to forewarn the United States would put her own life and Columbia in extreme danger!

I loved this book! I'm ready to vote for Peter Schechter as our next president! Look, how many times do we read about our own president making the "right" decisions rather than what is the most politically correct or based upon advice only from his own support staff! If you have a need to see the Unites States in an entirely new and different and...humane role in this world...this book MUST BE A Must-Read!

Book Purchased

G. A. Bixler

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Review: In Writing A Tribute Writer Shares His Own Destiny...

After Harry Jack's stroke, he asked his "nephew" Manny to pour the water in the sweat lodge

The Elder: 
A Tribute

By Monolin "Manny" Moreno

I was honored to have had the opportunity to read The Elder by Monolin Moreno with Lillian Vallee, a renowned literary professor and translator, providing the Introduction. How many of us show the love we have for another through the creation of a statement of memoriam to that individual (and other elders)?

Indeed, The Elder is so much more than that, for in showing his love and respect for the elders in this book, Manny Moreno has also shown us an important part of his life and the lives and rich culture of his people. I have read many fictional books that are based upon our Native Americans Indian culture and learned much, but none of them have given me the opportunity to love their characters as I did in Manny's book. For it is these individuals who have and are still trying to retain the ceremonial and prayer heritage that was once so much a part of their lives. I am grateful for that experience!

The Elder begins as the funeral is conducted for Harry Jack and Manny comes and says a prayer to Grandfather to receive Harry Jack's spirit. But soon, Manny is enclosed within a blanket. Harry had sponsored Manny and he would be received today into the Black Wolf Gourd Clan and participate as part of that clan as honor is given to Harry Jack. It is as they dance and wept that Harry began to look back as to how and when Manny and Harry had crossed paths.

It had been in the 1980's at a powwow, when there was a dance contest. All of the young were dressed in full ceremonial garb except Harry came with just one feather. As if ordained, Harry won the contest, dancing as he had always danced so many years before... At that event, Manny stumbled literally into Harry and though he immediately apologized. Harry scolded him. This was to be the relationship that seemed to occur over and over for many years, though Manny continued to treat his elder with the respect due.

Manny begins to tell his own story at this point, sharing that his life was essentially one long drunk until one night at an AA meeting he met Chili Willie Burns and Beaver. They encouraged him to go to the Three Rivers Indian Lodge, an alcohol and substance recovery center for Native Americans. Harry Jack was there...

And Manny was for the first time to enter the sweat lodge. While Harry talked about Indian ways, about sobriety, Manny began to feel good and at peace. But then it got hotter and hotter; that first time Manny ran out of the lodge. Harry called him crazy. Beaver came to help him back to his place.

But Manny came back to the Lodge and he stayed...

Both Harry Jack and Manny were stubborn men and they had many "run-ins" over the next decades. However, slowly the love and respect were what held them together until Harry Jack, when he had a stroke, chose Manny as his "nephew" to pour the water for him...

Manny and I are in the same situation now. We are now "the elders" of our respective families. One of the main issues that you cannot fail to miss in Manny's book, is the need to consider and reconsider the treatment of our older family members. As Lillian Vallee states, "his book is a plea for the reintegration of elders into the fabric of our culture." Now, Manny is the elder and he is called upon to give the prayers, to pour the water, to pray over a new-born... He does this while working as a laborer and living with others as possible...

Manny Moreno has his manuscript totally prepared and ready to be published. He is looking for a publisher and I believe The Elder must be placed on the shelves of many. To this end, this reviewer is committing $500 to help with the costs to publish this book. Will YOU help? I am sure Manny will share more about his book with you. Pain of Forgiving is also in manuscript ready for publishing.

The Bridge is Gone was Manny's first book and is available at Amazon or Back40 Publishing (click on article title to go there).

Friday, August 20, 2010

Brenda Novak Shares Answers to Questions From Fans...

Body Heat
Coming August 31st

Did you know that Brenda has a Fan Club? You can check it out on her web site by clicking the title of this article. There are certain questions that fans ask a lot, so we're sharing the most frequent...

Q. How long does it take you to write a book?

A: The longer romantic suspense novels generally take me four months. Superromances take two-three.

Q: What is the typical writing day like for you?

A: I write five days a week and start as soon as I get my kids off to school (they range in age from junior high to college). I try to produce ten pages a day, or I write until the afternoon carpools start.

Q: Does your schedule change when a deadline approaches?

A: Not usually. With five children, I have to budget my time very wisely and pace myself. Also, I don’t write well under pressure. I have to get in my “groove” and stay there.

Q: Where do you get ideas from?

A: My ideas come from everywhere--things I read, things I see, things I hear, things I remember. For instance, the idea for TAKING THE HEAT came from hearing the experience of a good friend of mine. She said her husband was whisked away from his office on a Friday afternoon and taken to a federal penitentiary for “Tampering With a Federal Witness”--something he didn’t even know he had done. This is a man with no record or criminal intent. Hearing how frightened he was, mixing with thieves and murderers and rapists, got me to thinking about what it must be like for an innocent man in prison. What if he had no hope of getting out? How would he learn to cope? How would he deal with the disillusionment? I thought he’d have to learn to fight, and he’d have to remain mentally tough. My hero, Randall Tucker, is the character I created as a result of pondering this situation.

Q: How do you interact with your characters?

A: Sometimes I know my characters well before I ever start writing; sometimes they reveal themselves to me as I go along and I have to go back and make sure they’ve been consistent (that I haven’t forced them to do something they would never do).

Q: What is your writing process like?

A: I know it sounds strange to some, but I don’t really feel as though I “create” a story or its characters. My
process is more like sculpting--I chip away until the true form is revealed.

Q: What made you decide to write?

A: I never dreamed I’d be a writer, never aspired to it. I majored in business and thought I’d always be involved in the business sector. But then I caught my daycare provider drugging my children with cough syrup and Tylenol to get them to sleep while I worked as a loan offi cer. After that I couldn’t trust anyone with my children. I quit my job to stay home with them, but still needed to help out fi nancially. I decided to start writing because it was something I could do from home. Little did I know where that decision would lead me…but I’m grateful I was forced into it. I love what I do, and now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Q: What do you like most about writing?

A: I love the creative process. I love building and shaping a story--revealing it. Because every story is different, I’m always thinking ahead to what will come next and feeling that eager anticipation. The challenge keeps it interesting, as well. I’m always searching for ways to write the best story I can.

Q: How did you get started writing?

A: I read Jane Eyre as a child and LOVED it. It so thoroughly captured my imagination that I set out to write historicals. OF NOBLE BIRTH was 800 pages long when I first finished it, and it was a straight historical. Then someone told me about Romance Writers of America. I showed up at their yearly conference (in Houston that year), fi ve months pregnant with my last child and not knowing a soul. The women at the conference welcomed me and included me and I learned everything I needed to know to become published. I went home from that conference so excited I couldn’t relax for weeks. I felt as though I had just tapped into the motherlode of publishing information! LOL

Q: How did you sell your first book?

A: I finished OF NOBLE BIRTH (and rewrote it at least three times), then I entered it in contests for the unpublished before submitting it to any publishers. I needed something to set me apart, to lend me credibility as a writer; otherwise, I felt as though I’d languish indefinitely in the slush pile. Fortunately, that credibility came by way of contest success. After I’d finaled in RWA’s Golden Heart twice, I found an agent who subsequently sold my first book to HarperCollins.

Q: What is the most interesting research you’ve done?

A: My visit to Florence Prison, which is the Old Territorial Prison, was probably the most fascinating research I’ve done. I found the town of Florence to be unique. Its economy is based largely on its seven prisons (seven!), and it has such a great “Old West” history (hasn’t really changed much--LOL). Also, I found my research into polygamy for SANCTUARY to be particularly interesting. I visited Colorado City, the polygamist community that has been in the news so often.

Q: What advice do you have for writers seeking to publish?

A: One word: Believe.

Q: What do you like to read?

A: I’m an eclectic reader. I like the classics, romance, mystery and suspense. I’m not a big science fiction fan.

Q: What made you decide to start writing romantic suspense?

A: I like a strong plot with the emotion of a good romance. Also, I watch so many true-crime shows that stories just started popping into my head.

Q: What do you like most about writing romance?

A: To me, romance affirms my core belief--that love conquers all. And male/female relationships are very intriguing. Men and women are so different from each other and both so integral to family. I love exploring the differences and the similarities between the sexes and how we learn to live together and get along.

Q: What’s the best/worst thing about writing for a living?

A: The best thing: I get to create something that others enjoy and get paid for it. The worst thing: It’s pretty tough to budget when you get paid (for the most part) only -twice a year.

Q: How has your life changed since you’ve been published?

A: I often speak in public or give writing workshops, which was an aspect of this business I never anticipated--that you have to be a good speaker and promoter as well as a good writer. Also, I attend several conferences a year, which is a wonderful experience for me. It’s a time to get away and enjoy a new city and my writing friends--and stop being “mom” for a few days.

Q: What is one thing everyone assumes about a writing career that isn’t true?

A: Most people think authors have an unlimited supply of their own books and that they get them for free.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

A: Determined to see a cure for diabetes before my son turns 25, I spend my extra time gathering donations, advertising and administrating an annual fundraiser--an online auction for diabetes research at www.brendanovak.com that runs May 1 through May 31st every year. Not only is this a fun “coming together” of authors, publishers, readers, friends, family, and diabetes advocates--it’s starting to bring in a very significant amount. I truly believe we can beat this disease!

Other than philanthropy work, I mountain bike, read, watch Kings Basketball, shop--and hang out with my husband and kids, who are always involved in some sporting event or school activity.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What Do YOU See? I see what I see that I see all the time...

A Long Haired ManxImage by Vicki & Chuck Rogers via Flickr


A fluff of fur when he came home with me
I kept him inside, letting him get to know
That he was a special addition to the other three
Who lived in the cabin, never alone

It was a special kindred that we developed
He went with me everywhere inside
Even when the females hissed and yelped
It was always with me he did abide

But with the weather turning warm
It was time to allow monitored outdoor time
20 or so cats outside, door opened; they swarmed
Sometimes to a new guy, they were not too kind

Several days went by, he stayed out more and more
Then it looked like rain, so I called his name
"Rascal, Rascal, come on now indoors"
Afraid he had left, I went out to see, hoping he came

I see what I see every day that I see
A cat came from here, A cat called from the roof
They wanted to be petted, spend time with me
I called for Rascal, but he was not afoot...

Fearing he'd left,  worried for him
I went back inside, stood at my door
Then I happened to look up, and there on a limb
He was gazing right at me, laughing for sure!

By the time I got to the side of that tree
He had moved from the limb to the Y and waited
No way could I climb to get him free
So I called and called, "Come on Rascal!" I said

Rascal scrambled down the trunk of that tree
Scrambled up, flipped over as if my arms were his bed
I took him inside, but he only snuggled to me
It was fun in the tree--but "inside," he said, "instead!"

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My response to writing discussion. Click over right now to join us by clicking title of this story!

Review: Another Dirty Business...Dead Head!

Lamiastrum galeobdolon 'Herman's Pride' False ...Image by KingsbraeGarden via FlickrDead Head:
A Dirty Business Mystery

By Rosemary Harris

Minotaur Books
ISBN: 9780312569945
245 Pages

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Dead Head: A Dirty Business Mystery (Dirty Business Mysteries)Caroline Sturgis was one of Paula Holliday's clients--in fact, she was one of her most important clients who had also become a friend. She had been working with her for three years and had slowly been able to move Caroline's interests from impatiens, marigold and red salvia, into doing some interesting additional plantings. Now, as her children are getting older and Caroline has little to do, she was trying to talk Paula into a business partnership--she providing the money to buy Guido Chiaramonte's nursery, and Paula being the owner and front person. Dead Head by Rosemary Harris is the third Dirty Business Mystery and this time, Paula is even hired to be a private detective! You won't want to miss this one!

It had all started at Babe Chinnery's diner where Paula and she were discussing the use of false lamium in the planters in front, with Paula guaranteeing that a beautiful yellow would be added when the plant flowered. Paula spent a lot of time there and so it was not surprising that when Caroline, along with a number of other friends, stopped by and saw Paula was there, she came in to talk more about the purchase of the nursery.

But when Caroline was leaving, a deadheaded trucker driving back home stopped her and asked if he knew her. Caroline immediately left; she disappeared for days.

And then it was announced she had been arrested and taken to Michigan. The newspapers called her The Fugitive Mom!" And Caroline was not her name...

Caroline's husband is devastated and, seeks out Paula's help to try to find out what the truth was. She argued that she was not a private detective, but when he mentioned how much he would pay her, and knowing that Caroline wanted and needed her help, she agreed.

Starting with the basics, she found out what Caroline's real name was and then began to trace her teenage life. Because it had been as a teenager that she had been accused and found guilty of running a drug operation!" She was a high school senior cheerleader at the time; they gave her 20 years! And during a work release program, she had walked away and...had built a new life, a place in the community and many who couldn't believe the original charges were true!

But somebody was certainly on the trail and Paula was getting in the way as she tracked down the original trucker who had talked to Carolyn and went on from there to hopefully clear her friend's name as well as preventing her from going back to jail!

I must say that Paula does indeed make a great detective and she's even considering a change in career. But then again, she does seem to get into quite a bit of trouble and Babe and Lucy can't always be around to help! This whodunit has everybody under scrutiny, including a new priest to the community! One of the main characteristics in the books by Rosemary Harris, is the subtle throw-ins and one-liners that spark a smile or an outright chuckle in the middle of a serious scene. The overall package of these novels continuously results in a great read, and admiration for Paula, Babe and Lucy just keeps growing! I love these characters!

Book Received Via
BRH from Author

G. A. Bixler

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review: Another Dirty Business...The Big Dirt Nap!

Amorphophallus titanum in Wilhelma Botanical a...Image via WikipediaThe Big Dirt Nap:

A Dirty Business Mystery

By Rosemary Harris

Minotaur Books
ISBN:  9780312369682
246 Pages

There is only one flower in the second novel, The Big Dirt Nap, by Rosemary Harris--a corpse flower! It had gotten the name by its smell... When the police find Paula Holliday's business card in the pocket of a corpse and she explains that she is just here to do an article on the titan arum on display at the hotel, Detective Winters quips, "This should be right up your alley. You're in a dirty business and he's taking the big dirt nap." (p.16)

The Big Dirt Nap: A Dirty Business Mystery (Dirty Business Mysteries)Paula Holliday was retching at the time...

Nick Vigoriti maybe, sorta, kinda was hitting on Paula she had thought earlier in the bar. But when she had given him her card and explained about the flower, he realized that she wasn't the woman he was scheduled to meet. But he did provide information about the Titans Hotel owners when Paula mentioned that she may have a buyer for the Titan.

Paula's friend, Lucy Cavanaugh was that individual, but neither Nick or Paula knew that at the time. Nick had been killed--execution style. And soon Paula realized that Lucy was not coming to spend the long weekend with her as they had planned. The article gig had been added by Paula to help pay the incidental expenses, since this was supposed to be an all-expense trip!

Paula didn't know whether to be angry or worried about Lucy. She had been known to take little side trips if she had met somebody, male, that is, interesting along the way. But when Paula began to receive text messages about 2 men, duct tape... Paula was at least nervous enough to start asking questions. 

Soon all the employees knew Paula and she met the young student who was daily taking care of the corpse flower, so was able to learn details of the pollination for her article. Soon she had learned that the hotel owners were looking for a new partner to help get back on sound financial ground and that a Chinese investor was looking over the place. Obviously having a murder occur was not something that anybody was willing to talk about.

They were, however, quite willing to discuss what was happening in the background, between several groups who were trying to get authorization to open an Indian-owned casino! Was Nick Vigoriti killed because he was involved with those dealings?

As Paula interviewed and gathered clues to find out about Lucy, she received another text and was able to find her--only to be followed by several men who had earlier been following Paula!

This cozy is much more a whodunit with mystery that keeps readers involved as Paula, Babe and Lucy get in and out of trouble or save each other!  Babe is the owner or a bar back in their home town, but she comes racing to the rescue when Paula calls! I'm trying to decide whether I like the cozy atmosphere or the whodunit better...so I think I'll go on reading to see what her next book presents! Dead Head is next, but, in my opinion, I still recommend you start with Pushing Up Daisies and The Big Dirt Nap--you can't go wrong reading this series!

Book Received Via
BRH from Author

G. A. Bixler

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Review: A Dirty Business...

Maze at Missouri Botanical Garden in St. LouisImage via WikipediaPushing Up Daisies:
A Dirty Business Mystery

By Rosemary Harris

Pushing Up Daisies: A Dirty Business Mystery (Dirty Business Mysteries)There are few cozy mystery series that I do not thoroughly enjoy. When you add a bit of humor, it is even more fun to read. If you agree with me, then I highly recommend you check out Rosemary Harris' Dirty Business Mysteries. I started right from the beginning with Pushing Up Daisies and quickly decided that I liked the main character, Paula Holliday, who owns her own small landscaping company.

I'll let you read how she left New York for a small town in Connecticut--and her best friend Lucy who is still there but visits often. Paula is still finding her place but was able to talk the president of the Historical Society into giving her the job of restoring Halcyon's Garden, which had just been endowed to them upon the death of the owner of a magnificent estate. Both of the last residents had been very old and had not been able to attend to the garden so extensive cleanup would be first, but there were garden rooms, a maze, a greenhouse and even a Herb Cottage that could once again be a beautiful center for the small town.

Winning the job was a tremendous opportunity for Paula, although it would not be a profitable one. Hopefully, it would lead to other jobs once the Garden would showcase her work. Not wanting to wait, she quickly drove out to the Garden and started to tour, making notes on what needed to be done, what Hugo, her assistant could do and what should be started first. By the time she had seen most of everything, she found herself in The White Garden and there she couldn't wait any longer, she started to dig! Was it fate that had her dig exactly there? For before very long, Paula had hit something hard. Discovering a box, she lifted it up and found a small object completely covered in cloths--but a tiny head dropped out and rolled across the garden, leaving Paula screaming and sitting on the ground.

Fortunately, there had been nobody to hear her; however, she knew what she had to do. Calling in the police and learning that the body had been a baby was "not" something that brightened her first day on a new job! One of the enjoyable relationships for cozy mysteries is the love-hate relationship between the amateur sleuth and the local police. So it wasn't surprising that Sgt. Michael O'Malley was prepared to either arrest her or send her packing away from the crime scene. But not before Paula got a few digs in about Springfield police comparing to that of Mayberry.

Everybody immediately assumed that the baby had belonged to one of the sisters who had owned the garden. So amidst the work taking place to restore the Halcyon's Garden, Paula began looking around and asking questions. When one of her competitor's is killed and her assistant Hugo is the prime suspect, Paula immediately goes into high gear to save her friend!

I had to laugh when Paula discovers that Anna, who is an unpaid office assistant, is also in love with Hugo! Kind of puts our amateur sleuth on the spot, doesn't it, missing what is there right under her nose...but it was fun to watch and even have the wedding as part of the book! I loved the characters and enjoy the relationships that are developing in the series...Now I'm on to second in the series, The Big Dirt Nap! But do start with Pushing Up Daisies--start at the beginning of this great series!

St. Martin's Minotaur
ISBN: 97803123696675
291 Pages

Book Provided Via
BRH Blog by author

G. A. Bixler


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Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: Summer Time...and The Living is Easy...Come in...and be captivated!

Cover of "Under the Tuscan Sun"Cover of Under the Tuscan SunThe Write Place At the Write Time


Editor-in-Chief/Founder: Nicole M. Bouchard
Assistant Editor: Denise Bouchard
2 Year Anniversary Issue
Summer, 2010

I must admit that I felt right at home when I stopped at The Write Place At the Write Time. Immediately I was offered a comfortable chair and given a cup of tea--artificial sweetener please... “I know, I know...,” as the waitress smiled at me conspiratorially, as she also was overweight... "but taking the sweetener makes me feel better!”

OK, so there wasn’t a waitress there, but I was encouraged to step into another world, so I did! The first thing I always notice are my surroundings, the space in which I’ll be visiting. The artwork and the beautiful “Peace” right at the doorway definitely pulled my eyes, so I spent some time studying this painting and others throughout the Place. I had been invited to create a review of the site, so I would be visiting often. I quickly added the location to memory (or the electronic version of it) planning to stop by whenever I had a little time or the need for a cup of tea! One of the wonderful things about this site is that you can do just that—there is so much to read and experience, yet there is the ability to leave when you must, knowing that you can return when it fits your schedule.

Some sites make you very welcome and you want to visit! On the two-year anniversary issue commentary/reflections page, Editor-in-Chief Nicole M. Bouchard writes, "I envisioned something, a safe harbor, a warm, alive, freely accessible artistic venue that would combine high professional standards with heart; personal touches on every single aspect, including design." The Write Place at the Write Time certainly fits into that category. Frankly, I have been known to leave a site immediately if I cannot easily find my own way! Having worked with computers for nearly 50 years, I know the potential and what is possible!

I have three important issues I consider when I’m asked to provide a site review: Here’s my overall personal opinion for The Write Place at the Write Time:

Ease of Use Excellent
Content Excellent
Overall Appearance Excellent

As I earlier mentioned, the Introductory welcome to the site and beautiful art work set the tone of my visit. I could plan to visit often and enjoy myself! And I had so much to enjoy!

The site provides a literary magazine within a quarterly publication. But you can also easily access all of the archives, which in my opinion, is very important since we are all so busy and must squeeze out time of our own when we can!

At first, I started to visit as guided, so I met Frances Mayes. But even before I was introduced to her, I stopped to once again enjoy “The Farm” by Hermes Hernandez, which certainly added the right touch of imagery for Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany and A Year in the World. Fortunately, I was not a participant in the interview, so I sat back and enjoyed listening to everything. Indeed, Mayes almost speaks poetically as she talks about the home, “where we cook, eat, and talk.” Listen to just one more thing and you’ll know how the whole interview went, “My reader, I hope, is like a friend who comes to visit...” And you, yes, you may meet Ms. Mayes anytime you want just by visiting! Check around the archives and find out what other writing greats you'll run into there...

I’m usually one who will wander off to see what is there on my own, so I chose to visit the Fiction section next. There, I found my favorite painting for this quarter, “Wave and Sand” by Jim Fuess. Actually, I wished I had brought my tea just so I could sit in front of Fuess’ work and fill my eyes for as long as I wanted, which, of course, I did do, but without the tea!

“Land Underneath” was the first featured story. Written by Jackie Dawn, it seems as though it must surely have been based upon a personal experience of loss, because you could not help but feel the anguish of the mother and father who had lost their child. I must admit it was so realistic and beautifully shared that I left for that day to ponder the story...

Later, I visited again and read “The House of Stone Light” by Denise M. Bouchard. It is wonderfully mystical and full of possibilities... It was my favorite! Read it for yourself and you will know why I loved the story! But then I went on to read “Killing the Writer's Block” by Mayra Calvani and found myself laughing at the intriguing possibilities presented!

I came another day to read “Our Stories” which were nonfiction memoirs from various people. As is natural, I was soon remembering my own family as pictures of “Evening in Paris” perfume was mentioned and I’d envision the small blue bottle on my older sister’s dresser and how I would sneak in to just smell and enjoy what I would be able to wear in years to come. My favorite there was “Confessions of a Writer” by SuzAnne C. Cole. The account of her passion for writing is told through an imagined circumstance where SuzAnne’s family performs an 'intervention' and she is sharing at a local “Writers Anonymous” group. I’m afraid though I laughed through this story, I won’t be talking about it with my family and friends. After all, I’ve already joined a group and admitted I’m a Book Addict!

Coming back again, I went to check out my first love, so I clicked for the latest book that had been reviewed. It was Losing Camille by Paul Kilgore, one I had not read. Great! I liked the format, a short bio and a short excerpt along with the review. Alas, the book didn’t sound too interesting and I wondered if I was interpreting the review more than the book...Still it’s fun to read somebody else’s thoughts about books, don’t you think?

I stopped by briefly at the Writer’s Contest, but didn’t stay. I tend to remember concepts from one book or another, so it really must be intriguing to get me to write responsively—I’d just rather read what the writers’ wrote!

Next I stopped by the Writers’ Craft Box! Ah, I was told to have fun, so I thought I would poke around in the big chest that was highlighting the corner... Here’s what I pulled to write about: a very old music box that plays Fur Elise, a small stuffed kitten that was clearly someone’s favorite...and a tiny crystal swan. What would you pull from the Box? This was cool... I’ll be back here often!

I briefly visited “Exploration of Theme,” saw a fascinating painting and a discussion of The Phantom of the Opera and knew I’d need to spend much more time visiting here! But could I write and express my feelings about The Phantom? Yes; it's part of the invitation. Actually, I have two books I’ll be reading soon...but...what would you say?

Visiting Poetry last was intentional. I love to read poetry but words in some poems do not speak to me. I know I don’t have training in its appreciation, so I tend to read literally. I skimmed the titles and chose the first to read by that process. As with the fiction stories, there were many to choose from. Denise Bouchard’s, “In the Land of Dementia,” seemed to express my thoughts:

“I try to understand the language there...”

But then, I really did understand her words... and the love felt as she watched what dementia does to precious family members. I’ll go away again right now, this one has saddened me, made me think of my mother and how my own memory doesn’t seem as good as it used to be.

But I’ll be back, Denise and Nicole, to The Write Place at the Write Time, because there is fun and happiness to be found here as well as sadness. This certainly is the right place to be...when it is the right time to stop for a cup of tea—and more! Readers, it’s all here in one spot! Bookmark it and visit often...let me know when you’re there and we’ll talk over a cup!

G. A. Bixler

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Review: Modern Day Prodigal Son Story Creates Heartwarming Novel!

Return of the prodigal sonImage via WikipediaFrom The Dead

By John Herrick

Segue Blue
ISBN: 9780982147016
376 Pages

Finalist – 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards

"That's what faith is: believing before you see it, knowing in your heart it's there, even if it's not evident to your eyes." (P.284)

From The DeadJesse Barlow was just 18 when he left his Ohio home to become an actor in California. He found his way there and did get a few walkon parts through the years. He worked in a photo shop and had become quite a good photographer--enough to get a few jobs taking pictures. But, his girlfriend continued to bring in more money than he did; in fact, he was living in "her" apartment.

But Jesse had become restless; he had lived with Jada for years and yet they had never grown closer. They had agreed at the start of the relationship that there would be no marriage, no children. It was no longer enough for Jesse. Perhaps it was because his career had never taken off and, in fact, his agent had withdrawn from representing him.

There was only one offer left for him to consider to get a part in a movie; he finally took it, only to have it backfire. Then he learned that Jada was seeing somebody else and asked him to leave. Nobody knew that he had also failed at suicide...

Jesse had kept in touch with his sister, so when he had no place else to go except back to Ohio, he went first to see Eden. Their father was a minister; while there had been some telephone contact between he and Jesse, they had not seen each other for eleven years. When Eden offered her spare bedroom, Jesse gladly accepted. However, he did go visit with his father and even asked him for a job. He was given a job in the maintenance of the church. For Jesse, though, who had begun to feel the peace of being home again, even cleaning a row of toilets was something that worked to help clear his mind.

Eden had immediately encouraged Jesse to contact his old girlfriend, Caitlin. Finally, he felt ready to see her, but then was totally blown away when he learned that she had never aborted their child as they had agreed, before he left home. Jesse, who had been thinking about having children, was to meet his ten year old son, Drew.

So many secrets had been kept. None of Jesse's family had known about Drew. Caitlin's family had forced her to leave when she wanted to keep the baby, and had raised Drew completely on her own. Now she was being very careful--she wasn't willing to trust Jesse in the role of father...

But Jesse had kept his secrets as well. Nobody would ever know about the suicide attempt or about some health issues that had begun while he was still in California. And now that secret could very well cost him his life. And he had figured out how to handle things to move toward his death...

The drama of the Prodigal Son has always captured many of us in its simplicity, but yet the strong emotional response it brings about. When Jesse Barlow becomes the Prodigal Son and is wonderfully accepted and loved once again, how much more he must do for the Prodigal Son's Son. John Herrick has created a modern-day story that readers will find as a thrilling reminder of a father's love. A joyful reunion, fear, forgiveness and divine love creates a memorable, heartwarming experience that I highly recommend to all! Don't miss the opportunity to read From the Dead by John Herrick.

Book Received Via
Facebook Reviewers Roundup

G. A. Bixler

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Review: Important Novel by Martin Bartloff Based Upon Real-Life Experiences...

Torn from NormalTorn From Normal

By Martin Bartloff

A Snowflake Book
ISBN: 9780615310725
278 Pages

"Happiness is a disease happy people suffer; I suffer my own diseases, but happiness isn't one of them."

Sometimes books are not an escape--rather they are an incredibly real story that makes a long-term impression on those who read it. But how do you work to ensure that the book is placed into the hands of those who may benefit from it, but do not yet know it? Because, many times, being Torn From Normal may happen in the blink of an eye...

Many of those who face this are teenagers who find themselves in foster homes or on the streets. Martin Bartloff, the author, has been a foster parent and has written his first novel based upon actual events...

Andy was his name...

He was twelve when his father died. He had been a long-haul trucker who was not home often, so Andy had been waiting until he was old enough to be taken "on the road" so he could spend more time with his dad. With his father gone so often, Andy was very close to his mother and perhaps protected too much. For whatever reasons, he was 17 but had little experience in being independent. In fact, he spent much of his time in fantasy of doing things--traveling, driving his own car and living in dreams of worlds he had yet to explore.

Andy had been invited to go on vacation with his friend and his family; and it was the first time he would be away from his home, his mother. Excited, he had been looking forward to it until he learned that his mother was also going to be leaving home, with a friend of his father's who he had never liked! Especially around his mother! They had argued about her trip and Andy had hesitated about leaving on his vacation.

While on vacation, Andy learned that his mother had been in a car accident; he was immediately put on a plane, but by the time he got home, his mother had died. What would happen to him? He knew only one thing; he was not staying around to find out!

It's easy for young kids to hook up on the streets--all too easy. The first ride he got was with a group that was heading for a concert. One of the girls even gave him a sweat shirt to change into since he had been soaked by the rain. But he had no money to buy a ticket for the concert and he started out on his own again. The next group he joined was into some bad things...

It was through the actions of this group, who stole a wallet, that Andy met Danny and his father. Before that day was over, they had saved him from a beating or possibly death! Danny's Dad had been taking in foster kids for many years, but this time it was Danny who found himself responding to the boy who was probably the same age, but who looked and acted like a frightened, beaten puppy.

Torn From Normal by Martin Bartloff is a book that should sit on the shelf of every social worker, counselor or foster care employee. It should be available to pull each time it is important to help an orphan, a teen know that there are still possibilities for them--that there will be people who will love and help them through life after being torn from their home or the life that they had once enjoyed. It should be available for them to read during time spent in group homes and even in juvenile homes... How can it get there? Possibly by having parents read the book and then deciding to donate copies to local agencies?

Let's face it, we'll never know when someone--perhaps your children--will be Torn from Normal. This book is a remarkable, real-to-life story that could possibly save a child, a teenager...You decide how to make that happen. Read this book! It contains important telephone and site information about suicide.

Book Received Via
Facebook Reviewers Roundup

G. A. Bixler

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Book Declared Scam! Lies!. Publisher Pulls Book!

The AngelImage via Wikipedia
Christian publisher Tyndale House will stop selling The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Alex Malarkey and his father, Kevin Malarkey, after the co-author recanted his story.

See News Release continue...

The boy who came back from heaven: A remarkable account of miracles, angels and life beyond this world      A True Story

By Kevin and Alex Malarkey

Tyndale House Publishers
ISBN: 978-1-4143-3606-0
158 Pages

The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life beyond This World
A Must-Read

I am purposely slanting my review of this book...I am not going to share anything that was written by Alex! Fair to my readers, maybe not...but I consider this book a must-read for anybody who will listen to me! And, you the readers, must directly read those stories that Alex will share.

Although Alex is quick to point out that there is nothing special about him and this story is not about him, but about Jesus, God, and Heaven...I'm cool with that. I totally agree...but I'm still not telling you what he has shared! My review is still going to "Wow" you...

The majority of the book has been written by Kevin. Interestingly, there is little reference to his own story of being rescued by angels during the same crash in which Alex was seriously hurt, and, in fact, died. Kevin was and has been completely concerned about his son, Alex, so I believe you can understand his overlooking himself... Still...excuse me, but how many of us are able to say, "Oh, yea, I was taken from the car crash by angels and I was also seen in Heaven by my son...but I don't remember any of that..."

The car crash that occurred was in 2004, in Ohio, a neighboring state of mine and where my brother lives. He nor I had ever heard about this story. Please note that you can find the site PrayforAlex.com right now and start learning about the miracles that started that day in November. There were many news releases about the accident, many of the reporters included comments about angels, healing, and maybe even God and the name, Jesus. All of them were removed before released. Miracles had begun 6 years ago in Ohio and very few people knew...

Alex had been in a safety restraint; however, they were hit on the side. Essentually, although the skin remained intact and held together, Alex had been internally beheaded... With many other injuries as well.

One of the questions that will come to mind is, "why this family?" The book doesn't get into that. It was a Christian family and, although only 6, Alex had already accepted Jesus Christ into his life. Perhaps that was part of it--we'll probably never know. However, what we do know is that the Malarkey church members immediately gathered support and prayer around the family and the type of daily miracles that Christians routinely do began. There was immediate 24/7 prayer activity in the hospital, for instance, not just by family members, but by large groups of people! A web site was created, family bills were paid... and on and on. When a "major crisis" came in the form of a tree falling on the roof of their home, it became minor in light of Alex and because it was immediately addressed by friends and neighbors.

One of the most important miracles came when people came from homes to the crash and started praying for Alex. Then one of the ambulance crew was given the message that he would be healed and told the family. Kevin admitted that his faith faltered often, but Beth, his wife,  had faith that remained fairly stable, based upon that first word of knowledge that had been given. The book talks of how daily living did put a strain on their marriage and with trying to be responsive to their other two children; but, overall, amazing things continued to happen.

You'll be reading of accounts when angels visited Alex, unknown to anybody but Alex and then you'll be reading about what the doctors found healed after those visits. Healing did not and has not occurred all at once. But then, perhaps that was not the plan to begin with--you'll have to decide that.

Recently for some reason, I was wondering what God looked like. My best friend told me that He looked like us...but that didn't seem to me to be true for some reason... Anyway, Alex answered the question for me based upon his visit. Maybe you've had questions about Heaven or God...Perhaps Alex will have an answer for you as well?

All I can tell you is that I totally believe this entire story! Yes, I am a Christian and was "ready" to believe. So I challenge you...If you are not a Christian, read it and decide yourself. It's only a book. If miracles are not happening in today's world and you know that for a fact, I challenge you to read this book. Who knows,  you may hear something important from Alex, The boy who came back from heaven by Kevin and Alex Malarkey. A true story that MUST be read!

Book Provided by
Tyndale House Publishers
Via SheBlogs/
D. J. Jacobson & Associates

G. A. Bixler

It's a shame that we can no longer really trust anybody, isn't it?

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Review: Attention Historians--A Travel in Time to Grand Pre May be YOUR Must-Read!

Grand Pré memorial church and statue of Évange...Image via Wikipedia
A Travel in Time
to Grand Pre

By Michele Doucette

St. Clair Publications
ISBN: 9780980170467
238 Pages

A Travel in Time to Grand Pre by Michele Doucette was not in the least what I was expecting. Instead, it is a unique, fascinating plunge into history! It also explores genealogy, Biblical archaeology, metaphysics, and, most importantly, the French Acadians. I can guarantee that, for millions of people who may read this book, there will be information never heard before! Perhaps disturbing information; readers may automatically discount it or may willingly explore the extensively researched documentation. For this book is not just a novel, it is an exploration of the past sometimes dating back as early as 400 AD.

There is also mention of current DNA testing as it is used to prove and rewrite history... Do we dare to explore the possibilities of changing well-known beliefs? If you are willing, then this book should be considered a must-read.

It is rare for a reviewer to be able to say, "now where does the story really begin?" But that must be said! Can you go directly to the story without having been "set" into the historical significance of the story as has been done? Could I start on page 48 where there is a Special Message from Madeline Sinclair. Yes, after reading the earlier pages, perhaps I should begin there, for it is when Madeline Sinclair pays a visit to the statue of Longfellow's Evangeline, on August 15, 2005, after she had eaten traditional Acadian dishes in keeping with the Acadian Day celebration. It was also the day before Madeline would celebrate her 26th birthday, and began crying, not knowing why.

Was it the Dandelion wine? Whatever it was, she became afraid, there at the base of the statue, as she fought her dizziness and nausea...

Madeline opened her eyes on her birthday on August 16, 1754. The statue of Evangeline was gone as was everything else that had surrounded her at the Acadian celebration. It was in an ancient church that she met Madame Peche, another time traveler...

And so it began, Madeline had not left Grand Pre, except in time... It was her destiny; she had been brought to that place at that time for a specific reason. Madeline was astonished as Madame Peche told her all about herself, even to the point of knowing that she had a birthmark. It looked like a Templar cross. Madame Peche explained that "that, in and of itself, makes you the one."

And so it was that Madeline began the life of those living during the year 1754. They hid her backpack which had come across time with her and Madeline began to learn about everything that was happening.

She also soon met Michel. Fortunately she found him to her liking, because he was to become her husband, and there was much to learn and do...  Before they both returned...

Dare you learn what it is they brought back to the 21st century?

Michele Doucette has weaved an amazing tale. Perhaps you have read or heard of similar stories where two individuals meet from different times and fall in love. It is indeed somewhat of a simple love story...except...

You will also learn about the tragedy of the Acadian people when they refused to change their allegiance... and of so much more! I think one of the key issues of the book is that there is so much historical documentation provided in support of the story. Is it an alternative historical tale, perhaps fantasy based upon history, or the work of a research historian who has merged all of her research to arrive at a potential "new truth"?

No matter your final conclusion, A Travel in Time to Grande Pre by Michele Doucette is unlike anything I've ever read. And, in that, she has forced me to remember and to dwell upon her words often. Very unique; I've said before...I like unique...I hope my review helps you decide to read the book and decide for yourself!

Book Provided
By Author

G. A. Bixler

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