Review of, The Sons and Daughters of Toussaint, by Keith Madsen

First off I want to start out by saying we had crazy weather last evening. I’m talking a major snowstorm and a thunderstorm at the same time! It’s called ‘Thundersnow’ and this is the first time I’ve personally witnessed it. Nothing like the sight of a blizzard backdropped by flashes of lightning, let me tell you.

But now I’m moving on to discuss a place that never sees snow, and a story that will nest in your heart forever.

Interested? Please read on!

Here’s the Gist:

In this commercial fiction novel with an historical backdrop, The Sons and Daughters of Toussaint, Isaac Breda seeks to renew the revolution of his famous forefather, Toussaint Louverture. He is depressed that a revolution which had so much potential, and which had cost so much, seemed to have so little to show for it. He resolves to start a non-violent revolution to make their freedom real. In the first half of the novel, the story is told by alternating chapters between historical sections, telling the story of Toussaint and his compatriots, and contemporary sections, where Isaac seeks to renew Toussaint’s spirit in his people. Isaac’s story intersects with that of his best friend’s beautiful sister, Marie-Noëlle. At first she is mainly focused on moving to the United States and making her fame and fortune in modeling. But her character develops into a powerful agent of change herself. When Isaac dies at the hands of entrenched interests in Haiti, the revolution falls on her shoulders. The immense challenge transforms both her and her country.

My Thoughts:

When I was a kid, my dad went to Haiti several times to help with a number of construction projects. While he often told me stories about his experiences, two things stick out in my memory. The photos of treeless and eroding mountainsides, with small shanties built at their bases, and the resilience of the people.

This is exactly what I found on the pages of this inspiring novel. A nation that has struggled to gain a foothold in the climb towards democracy, despite being under constant assault by dictators, gangs, and natural disasters.

Madsen paints a vivid and accurate picture of the trials and triumphs of a land under constant pressure, and it starts with the historical revolution led by Toussaint Louverture. As a student of history, I appreciated the switching perspectives between Toussaint’s day and the twenty-first century revolution led by Isaac. Bravery in the face of tremendous danger is realistically tempered with the protagonist’s bouts of self doubt and discouragement.

Buoyed by the courageous support of the people, his closest allies, and the love of his life, Marie-Noelle, Isaac finds the strength to face the monsters. With an eye towards changing the national political landscape and Haiti’s global reputation, Isaac learns to savour the smaller victories. One scene depicts him standing beside a litter free river that had once been choked with garbage. The locals had banded together for the clean up. He smiles even though his ultimate goal remains distant.

But this is about more than just one man, and the hearts of the people continue to beat strongly long after he’s gone. Marie continues what Isaac began as she lives up to the bold statement, “Nou pa pè!”

Meet Keith:

I am a retired minister, living in East Wenatchee, Wa., who teaches chess to children, works for AmeriCorps, teaching about the Opioid Pandemic, AND writing fiction!

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Review of, More than Coffee: Memories in Verse and Prose, by Lauren Scott

It’s pretty green outside these days, every flake of the white stuff has melted back into H20. But no matter what Nature’s decided, we’ve been coasting into the Holiday Spirit here.

The tree’s up, it’s branches adorned with bulbs and baubles for the exclusive swatting pleasure of our two felines. Outside, soft white lights are strung across the lilac bush and a spotlight highlights the Nativity.

But I’m not here to discuss Christmas, well, unless you’re looking for the perfect gift for that book lover.  

So, without further ado, let’s raise a glass and toast a great read!

What’s it about?

From the early woes of childhood and teen years, this collection of stories and poems paints a picture of young dreams and fears. But as adulthood sets in, these dreams and fears change. More than Coffee touches on love and loss, nature and endurance, marriage, and parenting. In these memories, humor diffuses fear and taking risks proves to be a powerful method in boosting self-confidence. Through it all, whether in the wilderness near a sparkling lake or in the comfort of home, there’s nothing like a good cup of coffee. A poignant and reflective collection of verse and prose that is best enjoyed sipping your favorite coffee roast.

My Thoughts:

The title gets it right. This book is about far more than coffee, more than a journal; it’s a love letter to Life. An exquisite and heartfelt testament to a life well lived.

Every anecdote and poem is a window to a different season that is relatable to anyone who’s been on this journey for more than a decade. The stories and poems are thoughtfully crafted and wonderfully penned. They complement each other nicely and capture the intense emotions of those moments and milestones.

I smiled at the tales about her bouts with arachnophobia, but not because I’d wish that on anyone. It reminds me of my own, ‘tour of duty’ in the defense against spiders when I had to “save”  my youngest daughter. Then again, I feel the same way about snakes.      

I highly recommend this book for those who savor each day!

Meet Lauren and grab your copy in time for Christmas!

Lauren writies poetry, memoir, and fiction short stories who lives in California with her husband of thirty-three years and their chocolate lab; they have two grown children. She has authored two collections of poetry: New Day, New Dreams (2013) and Finding a Balance (2015). Her latest book, More than Coffee: Memories in Verse and Prose was published in 2021. And in 2022, she contributed four poems to the anthology: Poetry Treasures 2: Relationships. Lauren writes about family, experiencing loss, finding joy in the smallest things, and nature from her many backpacking and camping adventures.

Parallel to her passion for writing is her love for reading. Whether it is a gripping thriller or a heartwarming romance, she enjoys exploring different worlds and meeting diverse characters, drawing similarities to reality that translate into her own writing. Her writing projects are sometimes serious – drawn from painful subjects and raw emotions – or they spotlight her silly side – pulled from humorous moments captured in photographs.

Lauren is inspired to write from her love of nature and the marvelous wild world that surrounds her: the smell of the woods, the sound of a babbling brook, and the chorus of birds singing. Recent backpacking trips with her husband along the California coast and Sierra Nevada mountains have stirred up thoughts to pen about love, lost friendship, family, and the possibility that anything can happen. Hikes along the Paper Mill Creek remind her that life is fragile. From trout hatchlings to swallowtail butterflies, Lauren marvels at how the world is interconnected and that every living thing matters. She hopes her readers will find a little nugget of delight, comfort, or understanding in her poetry and stories – some detail that resonates with them beyond her words.

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Photos With Captions To Make You Smile And Think

I’m back with another round of photos from daily life. My, things have changed both inside and outside since my last post. Outside, we’ve acquired some white groundcover, love or hate it, winter’s here. Personally, I’ve got mixed feelings about winter; I hate the shorter days, but love skiing and the fact that the cold kills off a lot of nasty bugs. Meanwhile, indoors, it’s looking a lot like Christmas, and much earlier than usual this year.

Let’s get this picture show in the air! Onwards Rudolph, Dasher, Blitzen, Prancer, Crasher, Comet, Vixen, Cupid, Dancer, and Donner! Did you spot the extra reindeer?

“Can’t say for sure, Jeb, but I’m sensing a pattern.”

When you answer, “Sure.” to, “Can I borrow your camera, Dad?”

Not even the pouring rain could snuff their evil glow!

My prayer for you, today.

Celk

We live in the country, on a back road that the township forgot but is Grand Central to an abundance of wildlife. We’re talking everything from cocky chipmunks that used to torment our yellow lab, to black bears, wolves, and even a moose that wandered from up North. Yup, there’s still plenty of ‘North’ in the tundra above our toques.

If I compiled a file of soundbites, I’d bet most of you would be surprised at which woodland creature is letting you know they’re around.

The title of most terrifying belongs, hands down, to our warm and fuzzy friend, the Fisher. A couple of notes into that murderous cry is enough to flash freeze the blood of even the most stout-hearted.

 Now, while the Fisher is downright spooky, what I heard during a twilight walk with Tanya, can be classified as Area 51. Truth is, it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it.   

A week prior, I was awakened at that three am timeline, when the weird stuff is supposed to happen, by a hybrid howl. Each call began as a coyote howl but rose in pitch, transforming into what I can only describe as an elk call. You know that shrill sound they make, just before they stomp you? Kinda’ like that scene from Polar Express, where the Caribou cause the train to make an unscheduled stop. Yes, I know the two are different and live in different regions, but that’s what pops into the pumpkin.  

The poor thing seemed to be a crossroads, unsure of what category of species it fit into. “Hooves or paws? Do I like the taste of rabbits or wheatgrass? Hmmm . . . dunno, but I can make this sound. Watch me go!”

 I did a bit of research and discovered there was more Wile E., than Rudolph, in the DNA batter. Bang the pan lids together! Mind blown! I’ve lived rural for most of my existence, and I’ve never heard anything make that sound.

Oh, back to our walk. So here we are, sundown, reflector vest on and flashlight at the ready to protect us from those really dangerous animals; the ones with four rubber feet and that feast on long extinct flora and fauna alike, when my friend, I’ve named him Celk, starts saying, “Hello!”

Celk was off in the brush to our left, and he was calling out to his crew that were having a party in the brush to our right. What happened next was that the dudes he thought were his crew went silent. Rude! Maybe this is nature’s version of ghosting? I mean, the poor bugger went on for another five minutes and no one answered.

We reached our turnaround point and started for home. Celk must have crossed the road to see what’s up with his boys, because now he was over there calling around. For some reason, I’m picturing them crouching beneath some juniper bush, holding their breaths, and willing themselves not to fart. They were having no part of Celk, who’s invitation must surely have gotten lost in the mail. Or maybe someone blew up his mailbox with an ACME bomb.

My heart went out to poor Celk, who was still giving a shout out to his “pals” ten minutes later. I even voiced my opinion for any and all pointy ears in the vicinity that he’d most certainly find a pack that appreciated  him for the unique fellow he is.

The next night, I listened for Celk, but there was nary a yip nor howl, from anyone. I think there’s a slight possibility I may have offended the ghosting Canis latrans and they’d shoved off. I don’t care if I hurt their feelings, they had it coming.

Not sure what happened to Celk, but I like to imagine he’s found his peeps and is joined paw in paw around an old oak somewhere, belting out his special tune.

Could this be Celk?

Review of, Veteran (Book Two of City Streets Trilogy), by Susanne Perry

As Fall settles in and with it, the cooler weather, I can’t help but think of those who lack the basic need of shelter. The book I’m reviewing today, though a work of fiction, touches on this wide-spread issue.

What’s the gist?

A Gulf War veteran haunted by his past and living on the street, is accused of a vicious crime. Although the evidence points in his direction, he claims to be innocent. Why does he refuse to aid in his own defense? Lieutenant Liz Jordan and Officer Kyle Connors want to believe him, but their hands are tied. Horrors from the past, social injustice, and political conspiracy come into play as the police try to vindicate a former soldier who remains true to his code of honor. Veteran is the second novel in the City Streets Trilogy.

Here’s My Take:

Book number two of the City Streets Trilogy, I highly recommend reading, Runaway, the first of the series. Veteran, has the same main cast of characters, all proficiently crafted with a fitting balance of flaws, quirks, and redeeming qualities.

While I appreciated the murder/mystery aspect of this tale, what stuck with me are the choice of salves that each character chose to apply, in response to the fires they walked through. While some chose to anoint their wounds with kindness, working tirelessly to make life better for the most vulnerable, others chose a toxic topical that they smeared liberally for their own gain. As in the everyday world, consequences or rewards were there to greet all in the end.  

Here’s an excerpt that sums it up. The guilty is being counselled by the detective after the arrest. Quinn and the guilty grew up on the street together. “Quinn had a lot to say about the hell that some street kids go through, how they have often been abandoned before they end up on the street. The street becomes a refuge for them. She talked about blame, blame and anger. How reactions can destroy a person. That’s why she does what she does with kids; she doesn’t want any kid to blame themselves for what the adults in their lives do to them. It’s not their fault. She’s doing great, by the way. And she wanted to let you know that we spoke. She’s not averse to talking with you, if you should want that.”

Veteran is more than a ‘who-dun-it.’ It’s a statement about rising from the ashes and channeling your emotions into a positive outlet that can benefit so many. Yes, even for the lost, there can be redemption.

I recommend this book for those who are concerned with social issues and enjoy a well-choreographed plot guided by characters who will leave a lasting impression.  

Here is a link to my review of, Runaway, the first of this series. Review of Runaway

Meet Susanne and grab your copy:

 Perry is the author of The City Streets Series–three mysteries set within the street community of the Pacific Northwest. An avid reader of mysteries, Perry chose to write in that genre, combining love of “who-dun-its” with experience working with people. Runaway, Veteran and Gutter Punk, the three titles in the series, include references to history, places, and culture specific to their Pacific Northwest settings. Perry is a native of Washington state and worked for a variety of non-profit programs serving children and families. Perry resides with her husband in Arizona.

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