Friday, September 21, 2018

Barbara Nickless - Dead Stop, Second in New Sydney Parnell Fantastic Series! Personal Favorite for Book and Character!

Continuing on from the audio...excerpt...

Her father loved the trains. That’s where he worked now that he wasn’t a soldier anymore, writing a book about the railroads. 
But the sound of the whistle always opened up something in Lucy that was far away and sad. A silver thread of lightning shot down from the sky. Lucy shivered. Her dad paused in his reading. “The train?” 
“No,” she said, wanting to be brave. “And not the lightning, neither.” She sat on the shiver, squeezed it until it went away. Then she lifted her head and pointed toward the window. “Could we go there?” 
Her father followed her gaze. “Outside? Sure, after dinner. We can go for a walk once the storm has passed.” 
She shook her head. “No. Look. See us in the window?” Her dad sat up, shifting her on his lap, and squinted toward the glass. 
“I do, Lucy.” 
“And you see the trees, too?”
 “I do,” he answered gravely.
He always took her ideas seriously. But she could feel his smile. “It’s a magic place,” she said. “An in-between place. Like the wardrobe.” 
“What would we do there in the window, Lucy Goose?” 
At the use of her nickname, she looked into his face. Her father hadn’t called her Lucy Goose since she started kindergarten. Now she was a big third grader. “We’d find things,” she said. “Special things. Like Lucy did in Narnia.”
“I’d like that, Lucy Goose.” She looked back down, hugged Bobo. 
“Does Mommy have to go?” 
“Only for a few days.” He tilted her chin up. “What’s bothering you?” But Lucy shook her head. She was always seeing things. That’s what her teachers said. “I’m not afraid.” ...
In the midst of all this, the doorbell rang. “One of you kids get that,” her mother said. But now the boys were arguing over who had knocked over the pitcher. Lucy stood and walked out of the kitchen toward the hall. As she rounded the corner, the light from the kitchen fell away and the front door emerged from the darkness. Through the window next to the door, evening light fell soft. The storm was gone, and a single star shone in the sky. Far away, another train blew its whistle. Lucy paused in the hall, one hand pressed flat against the cool texture of the wall, one foot lifted as if afraid to touch down. The doorbell rang again.
“Lucy!” called her mom. “It’s Carla. She needs to borrow the mixer. Can you let her in?” 
The hallway grew longer. Darker. The door loomed, its brass handle gleaming in the dying light. Lucy glanced back into the library where her book and Bobo lay in the chair. Whoever had rung the bell began to knock. “It’s like the wardrobe,” Lucy whispered. “Don’t be afraid. It’s Aslan waiting.” Or the white witch, said a voice from somewhere. Lucy’s hand found the door handle. Don’t open it, said the same voice...

But She did...And before long all of her family was attacked, and she was kidnapped. Her father was taken to the hospital in critical condition; the rest of the family were dead...

Every chance you get, remember: hang on to the living.  
Don’t take up with the dead. 
—Sydney Parnell. Personal journal.

Sydney Parnell seems to have been surrounded by death since she was young. After her father had left her and her mother, her mother was sent to prison for murdering a man...that was the first of the dead...

Sydney was always afraid, but she had taught herself not to be and when she had decided to join the Marines, she signed up for Mortuary Affairs. Her willingness to take on an extremely hard environment in which to serve her country was appreciated by her C/O. But he got more than he ever could have wished for, given Sydney's talent for remembering and recording all the needed details that came with the job...

But she had also taken on the dead in a personal way, and in her mind, she would look at every body and put them back together and then, almost as a blessing, she accepted them into her heart's memory. Now years later, in her personal journal, she would caution to hang on to the living instead...But it was too late for her... Now the dead surrounded her at various places and times. And when she became a cop and killed the enemies, they also followed her, as if waiting, waiting to get back at her for their deaths...

Sydney is not only extremely intelligent, which we discover as she is able to quickly pick up clues and/or add to the picture from others working a case, so that she normally winds up being the one who solves the case. Of course, part of the reason is that, she is also extremely tenacious and when others call it a day, she keeps on thinking, and, once the puzzle is solved, she proceeds out as a loner, not willing to stop until the solution is found...

In this book, an entire family has been attacked at home, but the young girl, Lucy was taken... All the reasons had to be considered--for a ransom, for later torture and sexual abuse, or sold...There were so many reasons that Lucy had to be found as quickly as possible!

Sydney was hit hard when she was called into the case...She already carried a picture of a young boy that she had met during the war and hoped to bring home, only to have him disappear... She was always hunting for him... Now, with Lucy, her picture also carried in her pocket, she vowed to herself that she would not let this child also disappear! Even if she had to find Lucy herself!

Sydney has moved in with her lover, a cop she worked with on cases, beginning in the first book. He has already vowed his love to her, but Sydney, in my opinion, has lost the understanding of love at this point. Just this one love interest is sufficient to bring attention to the book as we hope and pray that this character, sitting in for many with PTSD, is able to find her way back and trust enough to be able to fall in love...

I'm not sure whether this book, with so much violence would be considered in the Christian genre. But I will say that our main character spends a lot of time talking with, negotiating, or being mad at God as she struggles with all that has been placed on her...from the dead...and the living. To me, this story is more the reality of today's world than those books without violence. I am pleased that Nickless has successfully, in my opinion, combined faith in God along with those who constantly fight evil... The series is timely from that perspective... and I've already pre-ordered the next, even if I have to wait 'til next year--I don't want to not continue the series! Love and highly recommend to thriller fans and more!

Every person’s life is a struggle against a world filled with resistance. That resistance may defeat us or warp us or crush us. 
But sometimes, we find a strength we didn’t know we had. And with that newly recognized strength, we move past the hard times. And we become a little stronger for the next round. 
—Sydney Parnell. Personal journal.



Loved getting to know a little more about my new favorite character, Sydney:

Special Agent Sydney Parnell’s Reading List

Author Barbara Nickless interviews her main character about the books on her bedside table. Read more at 

Here's an interesting story that writers will enjoy and learn from maybe!

How Far Will You Go … to Get Your Story Right?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Outstanding Debut Series by Barbara Nickless Begins With Blood on the Tracks! With a New Amazing Lead!

Awards: The Colorado Book Award, presented by Colorado Humanities & the Center for the Book; the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence for mainstream mystery; the Colorado Authors’ League Writing Award for genre fiction. A Suspense Magazine Best Book of 2016.

Barbara Nickless wanted to write a series about a railroad police officer...I wanted to know more about what that entailed...Check it out if interested...

Our job, the duty of the Marines of Mortuary Affairs, was to go in after the fact. Once the grunts and the gunners and the insurgents had done their job or died trying, we went in to pick up the HR—the human remains. We cleaned up after the IEDs and the armor-piercing ammo and the 81-millimeter mortar rounds. We used gloves and tarps and scrapers. Sometimes just our hands, scooping up flesh and pouring it into body bags that sloshed as we carried them to the reefer. 
—Corporal Sydney Rose Parnell. Denver Post. January 13, 2010.

The camp was silent as we approached, everyone still rolled in their blankets, sleeping off the night’s drunk or trying to find the last slender shred of warmth. The fire in the middle of the camp had gone to ashes. I stopped outside Trash Can’s tarp roof and looked at the army blanket he’d hung over a low branch and duct-taped to the tarp for privacy. “What are you doing back, Trash Can?” 
A rustle from the other side of the blanket and a string of curses. “You know I’m supposed to roust you guys,” I went on. “Why you still here? You got a hate on me?”
“Agent Parnell,” Trash Can said, relief in his voice.
“Your pancakes are getting cold.” 
The camp stirred to life, tent flaps lifting as worn, ragged forms emerged, blinking in the light and scuffing toward me across the dirt and weeds like extras in a zombie movie. I set the bags on the picnic table and laid out Styrofoam plates and plastic forks. The other police—those who knew about my weekly visits, anyway, Nik and the captain—thought I was crazy. But I had taken on debt in the war and had very little coin with which to pay it back. 
Most everyone nodded in my direction, and all of them gave Clyde a respectful clearance. Everyone seemed twitchy today, eating fast and keeping their heads up. I saw Melody Weber, thought shit, and searched for her daughter, found the eight-year-old huddled under a blanket nearby. Melody had a three-inch cut across her chin. I settled on a tree stump and waited. When Melody finished eating, I waved her over and studied the cut with a clinical eye. “Again?” I asked. 
She shrugged, her plump shoulders shivering under a dirty red sweatshirt. She held out her fingers toward Clyde, who sniffed them and allowed her to scratch behind his ears. Clyde didn’t care for strangers, but he’d gotten used to our weekly visit to the camps, and he tolerated the touch of Melody and a few others. 
“The world does enough to you without you staying with him,” I said. “What about Liz?”
 “He wouldn’t never hurt her.” Melody stared me down, defiant. “He loves that girl like she was his own.” 
“She’ll grow up thinking it’s normal for a man to beat the shit out of his girlfriend. You want that for her?”
“I teach her better than that. She knows.” She was shivering hard enough her teeth chattered. “Where’s your coat?” I asked. “I got it. Don’t worry. I didn’t lose it.” 
“Can’t keep you warm, you don’t wear it.” 
She glared, daring me to question her. “It’s in the tent. Liz got cold.” I held my sigh. “I’m going to call a friend at Human Services. She’ll pick you up, take both of you to the women’s shelter.” 
“It’s the ones who love us, hurt us the most, you know.” 
“What he does to you isn’t love.” 
Melody shrugged. “You don’t know everything.” 
“Dammit, Melody, you aren’t helpless.” 
“Easy for you to say, being a cop and all.” She dug a wad of fast-food napkins out of her jeans pocket and blew her nose. “What do you know about being trapped someplace and you can’t get out?” 
I flashed to our base in Iraq—the mortars, the gunfire. “Not much, I guess.” After I’d phoned and made arrangements with my contact at Human Services, I gestured for Melody to sit on the stump. “You want me to fix up that cut?” I asked. 
She nodded. “Wait here.” Clyde followed me to the Explorer. 
As I came up the hill, I saw a short, skinny man standing near my truck, leaning over the hood and peering through the glass. “Help you with something?” I asked. He startled and glanced my way. Blue eyes gleamed within the shadow of his hoodie amid a tracing of tattoos. Chronologically, he was a teenager, just getting started down the road of his life. But the flat expression in those blue eyes was miles older. He must have hit some pretty deep ruts already. He flipped me the bird. “There’s food down at the table if you’re hungry,” I told him. “But I need you to move away from the car. Dog’s pretty possessive.” His gaze flicked to Clyde. 
Wordlessly, he spun on his heel and headed toward the road. I watched him until he was well away before unlocking the truck. Hard world sometimes, turning kids into jerks before they had time to do the job themselves. Back at the camp with my first aid kit, I knelt on the frozen ground and donned a pair of latex gloves. Everyone had finished eating and most were heading out, moving fast and with glances all around. “It just me, or is everyone skittish today?” I asked. 
“Some, maybe.” Melody gathered her dishwater-blond hair in a fist and pulled it back while I worked. Her daughter watched blankly from the picnic table. Usually the little girl was all over Clyde, but today she had drawn into herself, knees pulled to her chest, chin tucked, a tight ball of heartbreak. I poured hydrogen peroxide onto a cotton ball.
 “What’s got everyone spooked?”
“The Burned Man’s back,” she said. 
“He here now?” 
“Not so’s I know. Saw him early this morning when the train come through, but he didn’t stay.” 
The Burned Man. A former Marine I’d seen once before. Never got a chance to talk to him. When I saw him, I thought, Poor bastard. I’d seen enough of his kind of injuries to wonder if he would have been better off dying. Then again, I’d spent enough sleepless nights with the dead to be sure I had no right to ask.

Parnell had begun her usual work day, heading to the hobo camp that sat near the tracks... She'd brought breakfast, and looked around to see if anybody needed medical help or just let them know that pancakes were getting cold... That day, as she worked with a mother and daughter, to call in for a location where they could stay, having been beaten by her lover the previous night. No, helping the homeless was not part of her job, but Parnell carried a big guilt for all that she'd seen and done while a Marine. She needed to pay back somehow...

It was from Melody that she learned that the Burned Man was back. She had seen him but had never talked to him, but learned that he had endured one surgery after another with little change to bring his face back. And then he'd walked out, knowing it was an impossible task. And they had given him an dishonorable discharge because he'd walked out, gone AWOL, for not wanting to endure further, futile pain... Crazy world...

The Burn Man had come back because he'd received a call from the woman he had loved before being in the service. He had been unable to accept that she had still loved him. But she had called him and asked him to come back, that she missed and loved him, no matter what. That was all he needed and he had set off for home...

Only to arrive at her home and find her dead...horribly murdered. His flashbacks started immediately, blood, body parts...he'd lost memory of what he was doing but finally had fled, rushed back to the camp, and took to the tracks for the next train out...

Eve Dallas, the main character in J.D. Robb's In Death series has been my top favorite female character for years...but I think Sydney Rose Parnell may be a strong contender or maybe even a replacement for that honor, for me...

She's is quite simply, unbelievable. She's not gotten over her childhood trauma as Eve has, but Parnell has been fighting the world ever since her father left, and her mother finally went to jail for murder. Becoming a Marine was a courageous step, but then she took on the job of caring for the dead as a member of Mortuary Affairs! The thing is, most of the dead stayed around afterwards...

Automatically, because cleaning up the dead had been my job for fourteen months, I made her beautiful once more. In my mind, I closed her wounds, washed away her blood. I shampooed her hair and combed it, arranged her slashed hands upon her breast. Then I did what no mortician could. I rebuilt her shattered face and restored the flush to her cheeks, the pulse to her throat. I made her smile. In my mind, I made her whole. “I’ll hold you here,” I whispered, touching my hand to my heart. It was what I said to all the dead...

At this point, readers do not know whether the ghosts stay because she makes them whole again, make them a part of her memories, or whether they really are ghosts that have not moved on...But what we do discover is that, often, when she feels totally alone and on the hunt, it is "Sir," her Marine leader, who comes to spark the energy needed to go on...

Part of Parnell's past includes having her lover killed. And, with his death, because he had been a K9 handler, she was able to claim Clyde, his partner, who now worked as her partner as a Special Agent for the RailRoad. They are so wonderfully paired that, once you see them together, you cannot even think of Parnell without including Clyde in your thoughts...

And so it was, that once the body had been found, Parnell and Clyde became part of the team who would be working to find who had so viciously murdered Elise Hensley. Hensley had also been involved with the hobo community and had the cat sign in her window that meant "Kind Lady Lives Here." She would invite the hungry in, knowing that this was what God had given to her as a mission to help...

Now that same sign had been scrawled on the wall where she had been murdered, and Parnell shared what it meant, as well as other information about the community and possible members who could have turned against Hensley. Of course, with The Burn Man back, he was the obvious killer...Parnell and Clyde immediately went back to the camp, where she inspected what had been left of his personal area... the evidence showed that he had tried to bury/burn his uniform which was covered with Elise's blood. Parnell was not convinced...

Of course, Parnell is the lead character; however, the author's skill in creating the scenes and actions for Parnell is amazing in a debut novel. She covers a variety of issues--PTSD, the homeless, railroads and indepth information about what happens in an emergency. When Nickless decided to write about a railroad cop, after being in the Marines, she has given us a sensational hero who doesn't know she's a hero... She's given us a caring, vulnerable, and scared little girl that talks herself into being a brave woman who obsessively works her job to bring justice to the dead... While dealing with her own PTSD issues that involved a secret pact...that turned out to involve...The Burn Man...

The characters and the storyline are unique, undeniably exciting, yet, a major contribution to what happens to those who serve in the military...and are then expected to return home to their own lives. Many do; but sadly, many don't. They become wanderers like The Burn Man who believes he can no longer live a normal life, but still hopes and looks for love... Or they stay in a position where their major skills are used to continue the fight of good versus evil. One of the special highlights for me was that each chapter starts with what is, supposedly, personal writing from Parnell--we are able to learn so much about her just in that small but important addition to the book series. Deserves Extra Kudos!

When I finished this first book, I immediately went out to see if the second book was available... Look for my review soon. This first book has a more complex, diverse set of issues, while the second moves into a specific case(s). There is no doubt, however, that this will be a major series and I highly recommend you start with this debut! You'll be missing one of the best I've read in a long time and, of course, it became a personal favorite for 2018. Whew! Can't say enough about this great book. Check it out!


Barbara Nickless promised her mother she'd be a novelist when she grew up. What could be safer than sitting at a desk all day? But an English degree and a sense of adventure took her down other paths--technical writer, raptor rehabilitator, astronomy instructor, sword fighter, piano teacher and journalist. Now an award-winning author, she spends her free time snowshoeing, caving and hiking the Colorado Rockies. Connect with her at

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Alexa's Gold - Great Suspenseful Family Drama by Donan Berg

Lost a lot of sleep on this book as, after a busy day, I would read far into the early morning hours twice, to keep following the suspense until the book ended. Whew, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It starts with a simple inheritance from a grandmother to a granddaughter. But as soon as the word is out--Trouble! Especially from Alexa's mother, sad to say... who felt the property should have gone to her.

Aside from the fact that her grandmother had wanted to make sure her inheritance did not get into the hands of the latest husband or her daughter, Alexa had always been close to her and had kept in touch even when she had begun to work. Now she had received the entire inheritance, with her grandmother leaving $1 to several others so that it would show that she was making the choices she wanted made...of sound mind...

“Rich men don’t date exhausted women.” Grandma’s oft-repeated admonition ebbed into the minutiae of Alexa Hovey’s grief. She squeezed the steering wheel of her battered F-150 pickup. The tension that distended the light-blue veins on the backs of her slim hands reverberated to grip her fragile heart. A squeal from Alexa’s two-year-old son, Samuel, shredded her veil of invisible melancholy. 
After the rural Iowa county gravel road ruts jiggled Samuel’s Popsicle, orange melted-ice drips stained his Chicago Cubs bib. Alexa welcomed her son’s distraction. He reigned as her life’s never-ending joy. His throne a child seat belted onto a faded-gray fabric bench seat. When Alexa’s rust-pocked red pickup crested a pointed hill, he laughed. She swallowed a sharp inhale when her vehicle’s front suspension hung in midair, momentarily weightlessness, until the spongy, in-need-of-repair-shocks bounced her and Samuel. Alexa’s strained seatbelt stretched without a tear. 
“Whee, Samuel,” Alexa shouted as her butt thumped her seat a second time. Buoyed by the exuberance of Samuel’s giggling, she vowed to protect him without the need for a father figure. Alexa’s peppermint Lifesaver stuck like a barnacle to the roof of her mouth. She lowered the driver’s window and, without guilt, spit the half-dissolved disk into the dust-filled afternoon air. She doubted the suspicious neighbors Grandma decried in their long distance conversations would see the disk, or the airborne saliva, fly. And, if one or two did, so what? Samuel’s glee a full pivot from his whining and chair-kicking in the office of Grandma’s estate attorney, their last stop. 
The black-haired, angular faced Attorney Brad Haberkorn had tried to calm Samuel without success. Samuel’s tantrum disturbed Alexa less than her mother’s telephone shrieks last week that culminated in Mother’s threat: “If you don’t share, you’ll get nothing, not one red inheritance cent.” 
Alexa bit her tongue when her mother’s rage rambled on to Mother’s speculation about Grandpa’s hidden treasure. Alexa honored her sworn promise to Grandma not to verify Mother’s theory one of Grandma’s recipes held the clue to buried gold coins. 
After two coughs she raised the driver’s window to within a half inch of full closure to shut out the road’s dust. Alexa harbored no doubt her hoarseness would heal and the sale of Grandma’s farm would guarantee Samuel a safe home, fund his college nest egg, and buy her a SUV. She never spoke of her SUV desire, which would be her first new car of her twenty-eight years. Similar to Samuel’s bedtime teddy bear, Alexa was adamant in her belief that material possessions brought comfort without reciprocal love. 
The glass-encased church bulletin she passed announced the 2010 Easter week services. Alexa’s anticipation rose since Mr. Haberkorn said Grandma’s farm was two-to-three miles west of the church. Alexa’s purse carried Grandma Anderson’s last mailed postcard, which she had cherished since its receipt the week before Christmas. With words few and letters scribbled large and wavy, Grandma’s mailed expression of her love for Alexa and Samuel infinite. Also in Alexa’s purse, a copy of Grandma’s will that gave Alexa the farm and all associated assets except for $1.00 individual bequests given to each of twelve relatives. The first named relative was Alexa’s mother.
...Sagged wood-slatted snow fences a sad reminder of December’s snowy blizzard that had prevented Alexa’s four-hour journey from her Chicago apartment to attend Grandma’s funeral. Alexa longed to show Samuel his great-grandmother’s farm and drive herself into the farmyard of her childhood’s greatest memories. Alexa remembered her yellow-flowered sundress and dashes across Grandma’s lawn to chase the buoyant dandelion seed parachute. The tug-of-war between wind and gravity upon the dandelion fluff ball scrolled in slow motion beneath Alexa’s raised eyelids. Her fantasy staved off the nebulous fear tremors that her mother would be at the farm with tools to install new locks. 
Her glances to Samuel and her desire not to drive past the entrance to Grandma’s farm distracted Alexa from the Iowa landscape undulation peppered with bright red barns and picturesque square white houses. Grandma hadn’t divulged why she blessed Alexa with the farm and not Alexa’s divorced and remarried mother who lived in Ohio. Alexa doubted her opinionated Grandma’s dislike of divorce severed a mother/daughter biological bond. 
“That’s your unpredictable grandmother,” Mother had said in a conciliatory tone that evaporated evaporated after Alexa refused to sign a legal paper that renounced her will beneficiary status...
Alexa swiveled her head left. Joyful moisture welled behind her eyes, a throat lump formed, and then she gasped. The large oak that shaded Alexa’s dandelion chases now sawed to a three-foot wide stump. The two-level front porch roof of Grandma’s log-cabin-styled house sagged in multiple places. One broken windowpane allowed a tattered inside lace curtain to flutter. Plywood nailed over a far window. Wood stain blistered. Caulk between logs cracked or missing. And then . . . and then . . . her gaze bumped across three rows of evenly spaced stewed mounds of black dirt, clay clogs, and white clover blossoms next to holes dug in the front lawn. Alexa tallied twelve piles before she quit her count in disgust. Who else sought Grandpa’s buried treasure? His stashed gold. She had to find Grandma’s apple cake recipe. Alexa’s right hand re-crossed her heart as she mumbled last summer’s pledge to Grandma not to reveal the recipe clue Grandma hadn’t fully explained.

Arriving at the farm was demoralizing--obviously the legend of her grandfather's gold had lived on as she saw that many holes had been dug on the property. Most of all, though, she was shocked as to how much the home had fallen into decay. Her memories, via one picture when she was about 7, had shown a white beautiful farmhouse, where her grandmother had stood beside her one lovely day. Now her adored grandmother was gone, with the farm showing the same evidence of age as her grandmother had...

Most shocking, however, was that there was a big full-size trailer sitting in front of the farmhouse!

First, she found the backdoor open, and it appeared that somebody had searched the house, perhaps for the cake recipe. Soon she was realizing that everybody in town wanted a copy of that apple cake recipe... Was it that good or did others know that there was something special about the recipe itself? Almost instinctively, Alexa immediately started looking for it, starting in the pantry... Which turned out to be not a good idea, since she and Samuel were soon stuck inside the room!

And that's how she met her new neighbor, Joe, the son of the farmer who was renting land from her Grandmother... This character later added a love interest. But Brad, her lawyer, had also shown immediate interest as well. We watch Alexa as she weighs options, always thinking first of how a possible individual would fit in as a possible father to Samuel, her son.

Who had set the fire?! Yes, the mobile home was found blazing and was proven to have been arson. Also, constant activity began almost immediately as two competing realtors courted Alexa to handle the sale of her new property. While her lawyer seemed to be taking his time in getting the will settled and the deed transferred. Of course, part of the reason was that her mother had formally had her lawyer file suit on her behalf! While the next-door neighbor seemed to be in and out of the property, which concerned her until she realized that he had access to the out buildings because he was renting farm land. And women in town kept asking about her grandmother's award-winning recipes.

Alexa is a wonderful character who works as a probation officer. She and her best friend Belinda, with whom Alexa shared everything, including how and where Samuel was born, was soon going over all that had occurred since Alexa had gone to the farm...Belinda, although engaged, immediately snatched on to the fact that there were two hunks involved in all that was happening... Matchmaking!

Belinda was soon visiting. But instead of happy times with hunks, they both worked hard to clean her grandmother's house and start searching for either the gold or her recipes... But soon other people were also searching and danger started. And news of curses started being spread.

Emotions fly high and often and Alexa has a hard time keeping her cool and trying to deal with all that her new inheritance has brought into her life. She never would have come if she'd known that Belinda, Samuel's and her own lives would soon be in jeopardy, including kidnapping, fire, and more!

The treasure hunt is fun, if somewhat confusing since Grandma did everything she could to keep her secrets safe before Alexa came. And with all that is happening, the possible villains are too difficult to determine! Cool, right?! But don't worry, though complex, all is finally solved and there's somebody living in that once-empty farmhouse at the end... Great family drama! Check it out!


Met Donan through his Book, A body to Bones! Check my Review!

Donan Berg's romance novel "One Paper Heart" won the Feathered Quill First Place Gold Award. "Alexa's Gold," a mystery, romance thriller adds greater intrigue to his award-winning writing. Both are in e-book and trade paperback formats.
His entertaining mystery, heartwarming romance accolades include seven times in the winner's circle at the Dixie Kane Memorial Writing Contest.
A native of Ireland, he grew up in the United States Heartland where his life's journey has been as a print journalist, corporate executive, and lawyer. His U.S. Army service includes first-hand reports on the Korean Panmunjom truce talks while stationed with the United Nations Command.
While he'll never volunteer that he owns five pairs of well-used ballroom dancing shoes, he will happily trade apple tree stories. He provides book clubs and his mysteries intrigue readers with memorable characters and storyline twists sprung with gusto.
He believes imagination accents positive desires and, if nurtured, can fulfill the secret dreams living inside all of us.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Coulda Been the President...What Difference Would It Have Made? Two Paths: America Divided or United by John Kasich

We live in a post-truth environment. That’s a term I heard throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, long before anyone was talking about “alternative facts,” and it set me off. 
One of the reasons it bothered me, I think, was because it’s true. And I have to think that one of the reasons the expression has caught on the way it has—the Oxford English Dictionary named “post-truth” the “international word of the year”—is because it points out a fault in our culture. It suggests that in politics, in government, in our national dialogue, the truth is no longer relevant. These days, the space between truth and half-truths and utter falsehoods is almost unrecognizable. 
What’s most concerning is the way these post-truths have seeped into the back-and-forth that now passes for political discourse. Too many of our politicians and elected officials have taken to saying whatever they want to in order to make their point, and it doesn’t seem to matter if what they’re saying is even close to true. What matters, apparently, is how such false or misleading statements make American voters feel, and how so-called or would-be leaders can fool us into believing that they themselves stand a little taller than they actually do. 
What people believe prevails over the truth. That’s a line from Sophocles, and he was on to something, I guess. In matters of the heart, or faith, or personal relationships, I suppose there’s value in this view. We’re human beings, after all. We’re wired in an emotional way. We tend to respond to certain situations with our guts instead of our heads. I get that. The ancient Greeks, they got that, too. But in a political campaign, I believe we should place the truth above all else. I don’t care what party you belong to or what office you’re seeking—you owe it to your constituents, to the people you’re looking to serve, to get it right. If you say something is so, then it ought to be so. 
You know, before I was elected to the Ohio Senate, there was a push to build a bridge in my district. My constituents were all for it, and wanted some assurances from me that this was something I could get done after I was elected. So, I went to then-Governor Jim Rhodes and asked him about it. I said, “Is this something we’re going to be able to do for these people?” 
He said, “Just tell them you’ll get it for them, and we’ll see what happens.” 
That was the way of things in politics, I was learning, and I didn’t like it. So, I stood against it. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now. From the very beginning, when I gave people my word, I meant to keep it. This disconnect reminds me of the guy in that great Beatles song, “Nowhere Man,” who just sees what he wants to see. 
I guess Lennon and McCartney McCartney were on to something as well, recognizing that at times we can all turn a blind eye to what troubles or confuses us. This, too, is our nature. But in a presidential election cycle, I don’t think we have that luxury. Wishful thinking doesn’t cut it. We can’t pick and choose among half-truths and utter falsehoods and grab only at the ones that reinforce our preconceived notions or stoke our shared fears. We can’t live in our own reality—not if we hope to come together and attempt to solve the very real problems facing this great country. We owe it to ourselves, and to each other, to understand the world as it appears before us, not as we might remember it or hope it will be again. 
There’s a disconnect in America now, and it troubles me. Perhaps it troubles you. Maybe that’s one of the reasons you picked up this book—because, like me, you’ve become frustrated at the tone of our national conversation. How did this happen? When did this happen? And what are we going to do about it? We’ve got to do something, because it’s a worrisome and dangerous thing when we allow the post-truths that marked the 2016 presidential campaign to permeate our culture and (mis)inform our shared thinking, when we allow the truth to become beside the point. 
The truth shall set you free. Ah, now that’s a line from John 8:32, and I have to think he was on to something most of all, something we would all do well to keep in mind as we move forward. I think most of us can understand the impulse to hide our heads in the sand and look away from looming trouble. But our leaders shouldn’t prey on that impulse. In fact, they should help us recognize it, overcome it, and confront our troubles head-on. Because the truth, even a painful truth, is absolute. There is no path forward without it.

Two Paths:
America Divided or United

By John Kasich

Two Paths, a title that struck me as exactly where we are in today's world. In addition, each of us also has a choice of two paths--working for evil or good. I bought this book because I had heard this man on the news several times, since the election. As some of you know, when I decide to read a nonfiction book, I want to know, first, about the author. Of course, in this instance, most will already know he is governor of Ohio. Whenever somebody talks about who should run for President, it was my own opinion, that he should have extensive experience in the administration of or participation in governmental positions.  But, as the author says in this book, I, and most of America didn't readily recognize his name or know much about him. I now wanted to know more. Even if the election was over...

As we wake up to the reality that we live in a polarized nation, with a deeply divided electorate and a new president who seemed at times during the campaign to embrace that polarization—who against all odds and prognostications found a way to cross that deep divide and win the White House, who took the time from his presumably busy schedule to tweak his “enemies” with a “Happy New Year” message on Twitter—we must pause to reflect. It’s time to consider how the post-truth environment we live in might have created the extraordinary circumstances that set in motion one of the most extraordinary elections in our history—and to understand what we can do to restore reason and decency and calm to our national conversation.

I read a few of the low-ranking reviews on Amazon. One seemed to sum up the thoughts for me--it was boring...

Now I have to say right from the beginning, that, in my opinion, working to run a major body, to establish and follow guiding principles and do what needs to be done, is often...boring... Taking it a step further, I would say that, even more so, it should not be seen as entertainment or something that incites emotions to such an extent that what needs to be done does not get done...

Frankly, in my opinion, this is where we are...

When I say that, I mean the work of America, not the world... We have a nation that depends on the government to handle things in response to our paying taxes. We expect that money to be spent for our basic needs: food, a job with a living wage, adequate housing, care of our infrastructure (roads, facilities, etc.), public education with all major issues handled to ensure our children learn and advance, and health and basic needs met so that choices between food and medicine is not a factor in choosing how to spend limited income. These are unalienable rights... Only then should we move forward in world affairs. No matter what political party is in office, this has not happened at the national level. Yet there are claims that a great America has been achieved.

Did you know that Kasich was one of the two candidates left for running for President? Did you know that Don Trump Jr., though he has denied it, called Kasich to determine Kasich's interest in running for vice-president. During this, he outlined, more or less, that he would be doing what the President normally does... Kasich asked him what the President would be doing... Obviously to Kasich and to me, who has been in a similar situation, it was planned by Trump to have the VP do all the daily work while the President did...the showboating?? Trump later called Kasich and again asked him to consider the vice-presidency...

If I had not read this book, I would not have known this and much more that happened during the election. To many of us, the whole thing was a sham and did not in any way represent, in my mind, how an election should be held.

Kasich agreed. You see he had the experience in having worked to reduce the national debt while he was in Congress...and he also took over a state that had major financial issues, and again solved them. Note: I consider these true facts based upon the book...Few authors will choose to not tell the truth when they open on the concern...for...Truth... What did that tell me? Two Things:

1. Kasich was prepared through experience to handle the job and had survived in the process to be one of the last two.

2. Kasich had stood by his basic principles and morality through the entire process and chose not to fight against Trump's brand of destruction in inciting hate, bigotry as well as bully tactics toward any opposition. And, again, he stood by his principles when he refused to endorse Trump for a position he was not qualified for, in my opinion as well as many others.

Whether or not you believe he did the right thing, which, in my opinion, he did, does not discount what a man, who was qualified, as well as principled, was willing to do to win an election. He ran Town Halls for instance, that began to receive national attention through word-of-mouth. Apparently sufficient enough to maintain a high rank in polls. 
But many would have not known this, because his style was not exciting enough to have the news media follow him nationally...Yes, he and his staff tried to gain coverage, but he was not participating in the rampage of candidate against candidate that occurred within the republican party. He...was...too...boring...apparently.

It is difficult to write a review for this book which I would gladly recommend, without pointing out that, if the election had been handled differently, and the shenanigans had not, in essence, divided the country at that critical election time, Kasich would have been the candidate to run against Clinton.

This book speaks directly to the issue we are facing. Do you want America to be divided or united? Further, do you want a leader that has the experience, and outcomes needed from his work, to have been selected based on merit, rather than theatrics and playing to the fears of individuals, then the reason I recommend this book is because there was everything there in this book, that I needed to know about the candidate that had run for our president, who had bowed out because he wasn't willing to be part of the gamesmanship offered by the opponent. Personally, I think you owe it to yourself to think about how this individual (and other similar individuals) would have taken on the leadership role as president of America. No, it is not the choice of the greatest entertainer. Rather the choice of who could represent the country, more effectively, and handle the administration of the country more efficiently, through proven accomplishments in this important part of the job. Do you want America to be continued to be divided, in other words. Because John Kasich apparently has tried to show he doesn't work that way...

Your choice, what do you want for America. Kasich offers one path only. United. This, for me, is not about John Kasich. Rather, John Kasich has written a book that responds to my needs and hopes for America. As you consider the election coming up in the near future, as well as the next president election, I think this book will help you consider what it is you want in your candidates. Kasich's book has helped me clarify what I want and what to look for in all candidates, no matter to which political party they belong. Only you can decide whether a fresh look at the last presidential election can be of value to you. It was for me.


Saturday, September 8, 2018

Guy Graybill Presents Intoxication Nation: Age-Old Problem Receives Contemporary New Examination...

I was honored to have the opportunity to read this new book before it was published. As I considered the early historical pictures, it came to me how this age-old problem still cries out for attention and action. That is exactly what the author is seeking!

About the time I was reading the manuscript, I was struck by the news covering the case of a young man, in a hazing case, who was killed because of excess alcohol consumption. Sadly, this is not a unique situation on college campuses, nor is it only through hazing that it occurs. A young teen now hosts a blog alerting readers about her willingness to binge and in doing so, almost died, or could have been brain-dead.

Graybill writes in his chapter, Frats, Vats and Stats, that drinking and its results make this environment one of the most dangerous places for young adults, noting, Colleges make college towns unique. Alcohol makes them colorful...and sometimes deadly. The author then proceeds to provide actual, researched, stories to support each situation. Quoting Carla Johnson of the Associated Press, it was explained that underage college students who have never tried alcohol before college are more likely to have it for the first time when they arrive. Finding that about 1200 underage students per day first drink alcohol, even acquiring the skills to create fake IDs to do so...


Regarding an Innocent term: alcohol

When considering a title for this polemic, the author considered the similarity between the term for an international Arab terrorist organization--al Qaeda--and alcohol, the term for the many strong drinks that Americans consume in such staggering quantities, for this work. I considered taking the liberty to change the spelling of the damnable potion to Al Qohol, to remind readers of the deadliness of the liquid that kills thousands of Americans every single year...before 2001 and since Readers may be surprised to find that the very word, aocohol, is from the Arab, al-coh'l. How fortuitous! That makes the author's intended use of the slight corruption, Al Qohol, to be a reasonable intention.

However, the use of the variant, Al Qohol, has been abandoned, to be certain that we are not insulting innocent members of the Arab world, many of whom have been very highly regarded for their moral, cultural and academic leadership. The author proclaims profound admiration for members of every culture in the univeerse, just as he reviles all the jackasses--fanatic or faithless, Occidental or Oriental, drunken or sober--who abuse their fellow humans. Further, if this year is like other years, the world will witness--through bloodshot eyes--about two million alcohol-related deaths!  

May the catalog of horrors begin...

Graybill has a keen interest in various issues. You may recall his books Bravo!
and Whimsy and Wry, both of which I've enjoyed and shared selections from in this blog. But he has also written two books about prohibition and other nonfiction books. It is common for him to insert interesting reader-provoking sidebars such as he has done with his "Sober Slogan" boxes found throughout the narrative such as: #1 Our two alcohol problems: A. Underage drinking and B. Overage drinking... Even providing case after case of horrendous actions, he writes with a witty sarcasm that will grab you and chastise anyone who dares to disagree with the reality of what alcohol consumption has done to our nation.

One simple, but effective way is that he calls public drunkards-cum terrorists as he reports on the various terroristic deaths via DUIs. How apropos that we immediately see a terrorist as he attacks school children or concert goes with guns...but daily watch death on the roadways via drunkards with little or no thought to act...

Of the deadliest are those who drink while driving!

According to a Time website (by the way all references of research are provided within the narrative as well as a complete index.) a Texas teen, Ethan Couch, is from a very affluent family. In 2013, he and several friends stole some beer. He jumped into his Ford F150 pickup truck and took off, with a couple of his friends in the bed of the truck. When he smashed his truck into a woman whose vehicle was broken down on the roadway, the woman and three others at the scene were killed! Also, two of his buddies were critically injured, with one, Sergio Molina, unable to speak or move. The teen admitted to driving drunk and to losing control of his machine. Did this liquored teen bring deadly terror to a Texas roadway?
Some people must learn the hard way, but what did this teen learn? He learned that if he steals beer and drives while intoxicated, and causes friends to be horribly injured and four strangers killed, he needs a skilled attorney and an injudicious judge. How somber was the music he faced? The trial became a nationally celebrated court case when the deadly teen's attorney told the court that the youth came from a wealthy family and, therefore, had no sense of right or wrong... and it goes on!

Another unfortunate abuse area is domestic violence, including date rape, and other types of subterfuge where victims have no opportunity to prevent their abusive attacks! Not all may be associated with alcohol but many are!

After a thorough exploration of where we have come in America, Graybill turns our minds and heart to the Constitution. How often we are speaking of what the Constitution provides for us in these chaotic days! And the author starts right at the beginning:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.

Once again...focus! Did  you notice that our government leaders have all been derelict? They have given no notice to the highlighted passages of our national Constitution's Preamble.

The fact is that a small percentage of Americans--who drink excessively--are responsible for violating the constitutional rights due to all of us! Daily, not every once in a while, but daily, drunkenness definitely destroys the domestic tranquility that we all have the right to. The sad part is that, just as drugs have now become deadly to Americans, those responsible for nation-wide control have failed. Given the opioid crisis that is now publicized in today's news, this, too, will become part of the alcohol addictive crisis that has already become deadly and statistically kills more Americans than those in military war activities.

Why should the few continue to act as terrorists on the streets and in the homes of American families, while nothing is done to protect those who become the victims of these few individuals who routinely cause the death of thousands and millions?

This is not the first cry against alcoholism. But this book, coming out now when more individuals are speaking out about sexual abuse, drug addictions of opioids, we cannot afford to not also spotlight the terrorists who daily drive our streets, or drink and abuse their families or friends...or strangers. If alcohol is part of your household, I highly recommend you read this book and consider how the use of alcohol is being used in your home. If it has become excessive, now is the time to start speaking out. The book has an extensive bibliography to provide additional information beyond this book, which the publisher has declared The Best Temperance Book Ever Written.

My own blurb on the back cover shares my first and immediate reaction to reading the numerous terrifying stories: How many ways can Alcohol Kill?" might well be the subtitle of Guy Graybill's latest book, Intoxication Nation! The author takes readers through researched specific case results of deaths, sexual assaults, and more. Reading like an actual news special investigative study, Graybill shares horrific details, at the same time adding witty sarcasm--urging personal and political action! GAB 

Now, I highly recommend it to those who seek a better and safer America that can be found when those who "choose" to drink also "choose" to act out in criminal ways are required to be penalized. This takes political action... Consider this an important topic as you decide who you vote for in the upcoming and future elections!


Guy attended rural Pennsylvania schools and graduated from Gettysburg College with a degree in History.
Guy Graybill worked in a Pennsylvania state capital mail room, in a brick plant, in the Geisinger Medical Center (Danville, PA) and in schools in Aguilar, Colorado (one year) and Loganton, Pennsylvania (two years). His career position was three decades in Middleburg, PA as a secondary History teacher. After retiring from Middleburg, he was elected to a four-year term as chairman of the board of commissioners of Snyder County.
Guy Graybill is proud of the support he has received from individuals who wrote the forewords to his books. They include a man who is now Budget Secretary to the governor of Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia opera singer, and a former speechwriter to five U.S. presidents.
Other than writing, Guy Graybill's hobbies include travel, amateur archaeology and photography. Guy has traveled in more than 40 of the U.S. states, as well as Japan, Okinawa, Canada and Guatemala. He conducted one local archaelogy project for the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial observance and his photographs have appeared on greetings, postal cards, and more than 100 covers of small magazines. 

Two samples of rhymes from Whimsy and Wry follow:

The following title comes from 
the word, 'century' that Nostradamus 
used to identify a group of his verses.
It seems especially appropriate following
the Mayan Doomsday silliness.


The fabled Nostradamus
Fooled simple-minded hacks,
With riddles that were riddled
With trash instead of facts.

Yet, ev'ry generation
Construes his mutant rhymes
In ways that fit their motives
And SEEM to match the times.

The truly thoughtful person
Will always be content,
To save each grand prediction
'Til AFTER the event.

]]] [[[


Her smile is a rebel smile.
She knows the disarming art.
Her lips bring to light her guile:
A threat to my sov'reign heart.

Before my defiance slips,
I'll show that her threat is known.
I'll siege those rebellious lips,
To crush them beneath my own!

]]] [[[ 

Copyright, Guy Graybill