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!

Grab your copy:

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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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Reviews of Vanished

Happy Friday! I hope everyone’s week has gone well, but if it’s been a long one, may your weekend be longer, and way more fun!

Today I just wanted to post a couple of reviews for, Vanished. For those of you who have already read and reviewed it, my most heartfelt, “Thank you!”

I hope some of you will consider grabbing your copy . . . purchase links are posted below (available in paperback and ebook). Fifty percent of the proceeds from the sales of my book are donated to help victims of human trafficking.

So what’s it about, Bierman?

How about a quick teaser?

Tragedy… heartache… how much more can Tyler Montgomery and John Webster take? This missions trip, the “healing” one, has only added fresh layers of pain. Construction of an orphanage in Haiti’s northwest… yes. But a doomed rescue operation, human traffickers, human anomalies, extreme personal danger… risk of death? They hadn’t signed up for those. Turning their backs on the crisis, however, is unthinkable, it’s just not who they are.

Thank you so much, LaShane Arnett  , Lauren Scott , and Itssandrini for these great reviews!

5.0 out of 5 stars What Kind of Hero Would You Be? – LaShane Arnett

It would seem that on the most basic level of humanity children should be protected, nurtured and loved. It’s a concept most find little to no argument with. But this isn’t always the case. Vanished a debut novel by Mark Bierman is the story of John and Tyler (father and son-in-law) who travel to Haiti to help build an orphanage, and in turn find solace after the recent loss of their wife/daughter.

Things take a turn when the daughter of a friend is kidnapped. The two missionaries from America find themselves quickly learning a harsh reality, children in this poverty stricken part of the world are not safe. Child trafficking is a huge issue. One in which, sadly, the local authorities seem indifferent to. Despite the obvious disadvantages of being in a foreign country and a language barrier, John and Tyler take it upon themselves to find her. They embark on a very exasperating journey with great opposition.

Mark Bierman is very good at creating multiple storylines which read as separate but come together to tell a very well crafted story. One which delves into the scourge of humanity from all angles. I was instantly drawn in (especially with the plight of Janjak). Vanished is fast paced, and heart-wrenching. A very well written journey into the lengths mankind will take to preserve what is right and good in the world, against those who fight just as hard to maintain the evil.

I really love this book, it is an eye opener. It makes one contemplate what they would be willing to do in order to keep their loved ones and society safe. I highly recommend it.

An edge-of-your-seat read! – Lauren Scott

Mark Bierman’s Vanished is a work of fiction, but the story propels us to the scene of the violent 2010 earthquake in Haiti. John, and his son-in-law, Tyler, volunteer to assist with an orphanage months later following the devastation. Their relationship is strongly convincing as they cope with the passing of Tyler’s wife, Joy (John’s daughter). They hope to channel their grief by aiding others, which will help them through the various stages.

Little do they know what lies ahead on their journey. When a little girl disappears out of the blue, John and Tyler are transported into the horrific world of human trafficking and child slavery. Her mother spirals into a frenzy of fear, imagining her daughter’s possible impending plight. These appalling crimes are so common, though, that no effort is enforced to finding this little girl, but morally, John and Tyler can’t just look the other way. They embark on a quest riddled with danger lurking around each corner.

In addition to John and Tyler, supporting characters seize the spotlight, and their stories and struggles are just as intense and page-turning. I was really impressed with the manner in which Mark’s clever writing intertwines all roles. Sympathizing with the abused while loathing the abusers comes effortlessly. Most importantly, holding onto hope with a strong grip is significant as the rescue mission continues. At first, I was reluctant to read this book because of the unthinkable topics. Mark’s novel may be a work of fiction, but the subject matter is not only horrifying and heartbreaking, it’s very real. There are moments in the book where I held my breath, and one scene especially had me feeling a little claustrophobic. Regardless, I couldn’t put this book down because of Mark’s excellent writing and delivery. The story is fast-paced and gripping, an edge-of-your-seat read. I give this book 5 stars. Highly recommended!


5.0 out of 5 stars
 Tense heart rending thought provoking thriller! – Itssandrini

Wow!! Edge of your seat dramatically exciting dark read.
While the book is completely fiction the subject matter of human trafficking is a very real occurrence.
He really brings the plight of these unfortunate people of which most are children to light.
Quite a challenging read as he tells the story of children being snatched up from the streets never to be seen again.
The author takes us to the underbelly of Haiti in The Dominican Republic.
This complex plot takes us on a roller coaster of a ride as the story progresses.
Tyler & John have gone on a mission trip, to Haiti, to help with construction work, on a children’s orphanage.
They put themselves in extreme danger as they get embroiled in a rescue operation for one of the children.
They have no idea what they have got themselves into as they face violence & danger on a whole new other level.
They are principled men & cannot walk away no matter how hard it gets.
This fast paced thrilling read although upsetting & heart rending is a real page turner.
A thought provoking read. 📖
The author also donates 50% of his sales from the book to help agencies that help the victims of human trafficking.

Have I caught your interest?

Website – Read a few sample chapters and grab one!

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iBooks

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I’d love to connect with you!

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Review of, They Call Me Mom: Making a Difference as an Elementary School Teacher, by Pete Springer

It’s Monday morning, and as night slowly emerges into day, I’m thinking back to a great weekend. Great because I was able to have an in person visit with some family members for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

As no doubt you’ve “guessed” from the title, I’m starting off the week with a book review. I hope you have a great day!

What’s it about?

Here’s the first paragraph from the book that sums it up nicely:

How did I get here? It seems like an odd question. I’m not just learning about the birds and the bees as I approach age sixty. It is more of a question of reflection as I look back at an incredible thirty-one-year career in education. The staff I worked with are some of the best people I know in the world. The students I taught motivated me to want to be a better teacher and person. I have a lifetime of happy memories to draw on that have inspired me.

My Thoughts:

I have to be honest, when I first picked up this book, I was expecting the pages to be filled with anecdotes. Please don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of these within the pages that complement the overall theme of the book. I’m not sure why I had originally come to this conclusion, when the very title suggests otherwise.

I want to stress that I was NOT disappointed by this realization. Not by a long shot. Pete does an excellent job of sharing wisdom, insight, and common-sense approaches to the struggles and rewards of this noble profession. It was an eye opener for me, and I’ve come to possess a new appreciation for those who work in the education field. It is very apparent that Pete was and remains, very dedicated and passionate about his calling as a teacher.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who works, or is thinking about a career, in the education field. As a parent, it was certainly a behind the curtain peek at an often misunderstood and underappreciated profession.  

Meet Pete Springer and grab your copy:

I’m a retired elementary teacher (31 years) who will always be a strong advocate for children, education, and teachers. My favorite thing to do as a teacher was to read to my students, and now I’m following my heart and writing children’s books for middle grades.

Amazon.com

Please Welcome Author Susanne Perry

Happy Hump-Day! We’re halfway through the week and plowing through November. I don’t know about your area, but here, our stores have been lined with Christmas Decorations, including those, “Try Me,” noisy, animated things, that must have the store staff pulling their hair out by now.

Today I have the pleasure of hosting Susanne Perry, she’s the author of, The City Streets Series, a great series that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. In fact, I’ve included a review of, Gutterpunk, along with links to my reviews of Runaway, and Veteran.

But first I’ll start by welcoming her to my post and give her the floor. She’s discussing the questions I think most of us have been asked at some point. “Why do you write? What’s your motivation?”

Please take it away, Susanne!

Indie authors are often asked, “Why do you write? What’s your motivation?”  The same questions are probably posed to all authors and writers, published or not. I can only speak as an indie at this point in my writing journey, but one thing I know for sure is that I don’t do it for fame, riches, or a desire for an easy, stress-free life. 

Before writing my first three novels, a mystery series set in the homeless community, I worked in social services. Most of my career was spent with public programs serving young children and their families in one capacity or another, in positions ranging from advocate to educator to program manager. I learned two things, above all else, over those years:  that we ARE, indeed, our brother’s — and sister’s — keepers and that it DOES take a village to raise a child.

For better or worse, my beliefs are infused into the novels I’ve written. I often describe the series as novels steeped in social justice. Will everyone like what I write? Of course not. Might my novels make people uncomfortable? I hope so. Could my novels engage readers in conversations about social issues and suggest avenues for change? I can only hope and pray it might happen.

First and foremost, I strive to write “page turners” those stories that propel the reader on to the next page until the end is reached, the mystery solved. But after writing three novels about neighbors in our communities living in abject poverty and ignored by most the people who encounter them daily, I’ve moved on to other situations and topics. I had to let it go, at least in my writing journey if not in my hopes for a more compassionate society. A reader buying one of my books once asked me how I could stand to write about the homeless because it was such a depressing topic. My response was a bit off-the-cuff, but I don’t regret it. I answered that yes, being homeless is depressing — especially if you’re the one experiencing homelessness. If I ever revisit the topic, I’ll write a short prequel, a novella, to broaden the story of Leah, the runaway girl referred to in the title of the first in the series.

My current project is nearly complete, and I hope to publish soon. The story is not about housing insecurity but involves a sad, depressing state of being, nonetheless. The title is “Swan Song.” The story is about a woman confronted with her own mortality. Not only must she accept it, but she learns that her fate did not need to be. She decides that she is not interested in restitution in the time she has left – Instead, she wants revenge on those responsible for her demise.

What Amazon says:

Gutter Punk: a suspect out of police Lieutenant Liz Jordan’s past threatens to expose a devastating secret. When he demands that Liz find his daughter who is missing among the street kids, known as gutter punks, Liz knows that to refuse could be the end of her career. Enlisting help from Youth Advocate Quinn Hadley, a former gutter punk, Liz is thrown into a world where survival depends on keeping your head down, never trusting adults, and hiding your true identity—even from your friends. Gutter Punk is the third novel in the City Streets Trilogy.

My Take:

Liz Jordan’s years on the force have given her plenty of insight into the criminal world. This time, however, she becomes completely indoctrinated into the world of homeless kids, or Gutterpunks, as they are known in the lingo. She’s been on the force many years, and by this point, has even made Lieutenant in the Homicide Division. In spite of her extensive knowledge, she soon discovers how little she understands about this secretive world.

Fortunately, she has friends on the inside, both new and old. The final book of the series, Gutterpunk is a smooth continuity of the series, with all the essential ingredients I’ve come to expect of her books. The staple characters remain, but are seasoned, in a good way, by life experiences.

Liz is forced to reconcile with the ghosts of her past when an old nemesis makes a demand that, on moral grounds, she cannot refuse. What transpires is mystery, action, but no quick fixes. And that’s what I enjoy most about her writing; there’s no, slap-bang, all is fixed.

Susanne’s background in working for non-profit programs serving children and families is well voiced in her writing. There’s something authentic about books written by those with real world experience.

I highly recommend this entire series to everyone!

Meet Susanne:   

About the Author: Susanne Perry is the author of the City Streets series of mysteries — Runaway, Veteran and Gutter Punk—set within the street community of the Pacific Northwest. Her short story, Prep Work was chosen by Riversong Books to be included in their volume of Best Short Stories of 2022.  Swan Song is set in Arizona and is her fourth novel. 

For more about my writing, info on live events or future projects, follow my blog page at http://susanneperrybooks.com or find me on LinkedIn and Instagram. Please remember that reviews are an indie author’s best friend. My sincere thanks go to Mark Bierman for this opportunity and for being such a basically excellent dude. 

Here are the links to my reviews of Runaway and Veteran.