Review of Brother’s Keeper, A Short Story, by Jan Sikes

Rain! We finally have rain up here in the Great Dry North. It’s been awhile and I’m getting a bit tired of watering the plants. I do, however, like the fact that I’ve hadn’t had to mow the lawn in a few weeks.

Anyways, I’m not here to bore you with our weather issues, nope, today is another book review. A short thirty-four pager, written by Jan Sikes.

What Amazon Says:

Quentin Marks’ mother can only love one son, and from the day Rowdy was born, she makes Quentin, his little brother’s keeper. She demands that Quentin fix every problem for Rowdy and that he also protect him. The truth is, after a deadly snakebite, Quentin owes his very life to his little brother, a debt that will never be paid in full. Only now a man is dead, and once again, their mother calls on Quentin to make the problem go away and save Rowdy from prison. When is enough enough, and how much of his own life will Quentin Marks have to sacrifice?

My Turn

A poignant tale of favoritism that left me feeling frustrated with, yet sympathetic for, the MC, Quentin Marks. The poor fellow is called upon to make unfathomable sacrifices for his delinquent brother and unloving mother.

There was a sense of Quentin being served up as the Biblical, ‘sacrificial lamb.’ I was incapable of avoiding emotional investment in the story.

More than once, I found myself asking, “Why Quentin?”

He could have simply walked away, but Quentin is a true man of his word and possesses an inner strength that most will never attain.

In my opinion, any story that conjures up such strong emotions, and a cheering on of the limping protagonist, is a tale worth reading. Brother’s Keeper, certainly fits the bill.

A compact story with a great punch!

FOUR STARS!

Meet Jan Sikes:

Jan Sikes is an award-winning Texas author who has been called a wordsmith by her peers. She openly admits that she never set out in life to be an author. But she had a story to tell. Not just any story, but a true story that rivals any fiction creation. You simply can’t make this stuff up. It all happened. She chose to create fictitious characters to tell the story through, and they bring the intricately woven tale to life in an entertaining way. She released a series of music CDs to accompany the four biographical fiction books and then published a book of poetry and art to complete the story circle.

And now that the story is told, this author can’t find a way to put down the pen. She continues to write fiction and has published many short stories with a series of novels waiting in the wings. She is a member of the Authors Marketing Guild, The Writer’s League of Texas, Romance Writers of America, and the Paranormal Romance Guild.

Connect with Jan, and purchase your copy

Website Twitter Facebook Blog

Amazon.com

 

 

 

In my opinion, any story that can conjure strong emotions and a cheering for the limping protagonist, is one that’s worth reading. Brother’s Keeper, certainly fits the bill.

 As I’ve mentioned, it’s a quick read with a great punch.

Four Stars!

Review of Virtually Gone, by Jacquie Biggar

First, I just want to wish my neighbors south of the border a Happy Memorial Day Weekend. I hope you are able to get out and enjoy the holiday, now that things are getting a bit more back to normal.

Today, I’m reviewing Virtually Gone, A Mended Souls Novel, by Jacquie Biggar.  This is number 6 in a series of 8 books written by various U.S.A. Today Best Selling Authors.

What Amazon Says:

From USA Today Bestselling Author, Jacquie Biggar, comes a gripping techno-thriller, part of a multi-author series tied together by an interlocking cast of characters, all centered around the fantastic new promise of high technology and the endless possibilities for crime that technology offers, in a world where getting away with murder can be not only plausible, but easy…if you just know how.

Investigative reporter Julie Crenshaw stumbles upon the case of a lifetime–one that could cost her everything.

When Julie is called on to investigate a string of sexual abuse cases, she doesn’t expect to land in the crosshairs of a serial rapist. Soon she’s in a race to find the facts before a killer makes her the headline.

Detective Matthew Roy is frustrated with his inability to track a rapist terrorizing his city. Added to that, his partner’s reporter girlfriend is dogging his every step and won’t heed his warnings. Time is ticking with the perpetrator escalating his crime to murder. Matt needs to find the killer soon, or chance losing someone he cares for- the question is, how?

My Turn:

The game is afoot in this mountain road twisty, twenty-first century style whodunnit. 

The plot is chock full of red herrings and dead leads that will keep the reader guessing. The technical information is included, but skillfully woven into the plot as to avoid impeding the flow.

Descriptions are equally finessed into the word building with just enough to conjure up the image.

I found Detective Matthew Roy to fit a bit snugly into the chalk outline of “the lone wolf, with a traumatic past and a chip on his shoulder,” however, it works for this story.

Overall, I highly recommend this book.

Four Stars ! 

Meet Jacquie:

Jacquie Biggar is a USA Today bestselling author of romance who loves to write about tough, alpha males and strong, contemporary women willing to show their men that true power comes from love. She lives on Vancouver Island with her husband and loves to hear from readers all over the world!
In her own words:
“My name is Jacquie Biggar. When I’m not acting like a total klutz I am a wife, mother of one, grandmother, and a butler to my calico cat.
My guilty pleasures are reality tv shows like Amazing Race and The Voice. I can be found every Monday night in my armchair plastered to the television laughing at Blake’s shenanigans.
I love to hang at the beach with DH (darling hubby) taking pictures or reading romance novels (what else?).
I have a slight Tim Hortons obsession, enjoy gardening, everything pink and talking to my friends.”

Connect with Jacqui and buy your copy:

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Review of Revenge, by Bill Ward @Billward10Bill

Well, sunshine for the 2nd day in a row here, and I’ve just received my 1st COVID vaccination shot, yesterday. Aside from a bit of muscle ache, nothing (yet) to report. I guess we can call that a good day.

Speaking of good, I just finished reading Bill Ward’s book, Revenge.

What Amazon Says:

There is no greater motivator for evil than a huge sense of injustice!

Tom Ashdown, an unlikely hero, owns a betting shop in Brighton and gambles with his life when he stumbles across an attempted kidnapping, which leaves him entangled in a dangerous chain of events involving the IRA, a sister seeking revenge for the death of her brother and an informer in MI5 with a secret in his past.

Revenge is a fast paced thriller, with twists and turns at every step.

In a thrilling and violent climax everyone is intent on some form of revenge.

My Turn:

I really enjoyed this action-packed thriller with the plot of a twisty straw. The mundane meets the larger-than-life in an unusual crisis, and an underdog finds a great new home.

Revenge has the essential ingredient of character development and a maturing of the main characters. I finished this book quickly, as it kept me flipping those pages.

Aside from some punctuation issues and the occasional point of view shift, that had me rereading, it was a fantastic read. I’m giving this one, FOUR STARS.

Meet Bill Ward:

Bill’s love of reading commenced at a very young age. He credits his Gran for encouraging his interest by regularly taking him to the local library after primary school. At boarding school, when the lights went out in his dormitory, he was often encouraged by the other boys to tell stories. English Literature was always his favourite school subject.

A long and successful career in IT saw him live and travel all over the world. With hindsight it was the start of his writing fiction but they were called business proposals in those days!

Having always enjoyed different cultures, the one life lesson Bill has learned is “wherever you go you will find good and bad people. This is not determined by colour, race, religion or country.”

Recently retired from the corporate world, Bill has finally fulfilled his lifelong ambition to become an author and has now written nine thrillers, with the expectation of many more to follow.

Bill lives in Nottingham, UK with his German wife and has seven daughters, a son, a stepson, three horses, a dog, two cats and two rabbits! When he’s not writing he’s probably watching his football team West Brom, who he has now been watching for over fifty years!

Connect with Bill, and purchase your copy:

Amazon.com

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Review of The Donnelly Brothers, by Anthony Gallucci @AuthorGallucci

I’m writing this on a snowy Saturday afternoon, up here, in the Great White North. My preference is early morning, but the kids are busy organizing their rooms, so I thought it would be a great chance to get this one out.

Today I’m reviewing, The Donnelly Brothers, by Anthony Gallucci. Anthony was kind enough to provide me with a paperback novel, in exchange for an honest review.

Here’s what Amazon says:

The Donnelly Brothers is the tale of two brothers growing up in New York City. It portrays the beauty of the city and the struggles of borough living. The city becomes plagued with a corrupt Mayor and the citizens become enraged. A war begins amongst the city’s people and the police. There are riots, looting and even murders. The brother’s can’t stand by and watch their city be destroyed. They make a plan to overthrow the Mayor and to restore justice and tranquility to their home. The Donnelly Brothers is full of love, loss and the pursuit of happiness.

My Turn:

If there was ever a book that adroitly conveys the author’s deep emotional connection to a place, The Donnelly Brothers, easily slips into the upper echelon.

Bobby and Dominic Donnelly, born and raised in New York City, have more than their fingers on the pulse of their beloved Big Apple. Indeed, they are, in their very essence, a part of its heart.

This story is far more than action and heroics. Anthony does a fantastic job of creating characters that are realistically imperfect, yet courageous and loyal to the end. A band of brothers, and sisters, so to speak, of unlikely defenders against a greater evil. All in service to the greater community.

I have recently found myself using the expression, “You cannot judge a book by its cover (though this cover is well done), but you can judge it by the characters.”  

The Donnelly Brothers, achieves this standard, with precision.

The action is swift and well executed, but what really impressed me was how easily I could connect and empathize with the characters. There was the necessary ingredient of growth through personal challenges, and the constant variable of change that occurs in real life.

In addition, I would encourage the reading of the Epilogue. A nice touch to the finish.

Overall, I must say, well done! FIVE STARS!

Meet Anthony Gallucci:

I am a small town boy that moved away from his little cedar cabin when I turned 17. I went on many adventures all over the United States and it has been amazing. I decided that it was time to start writing about the stories I heard throughout my adventures so that I could share them with others. It’s unfair to keep the amazing stories I have in my head and not be able to share them. Cascade, was my first try at writing one of these stories and bringing it into existence. Now available is my second book The Donnelly Brothers!

Connect with Anthony and purchase your copy:

Website Blog Bookstore Amazon.com The American Adventure Channel

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The Whole Story Behind my book, Vanished

Last night, I was reading over some of the newer reviews and comments of my novel Vanished. I noticed some understandable trepidation among a few of those who hadn’t read the book. In response, I’ve decided to write this post, explaining the origins of the book, and why I wrote it.

First, though, I wish to thank all of those who took a chance on me, readers who cracked the pages, in spite of the subject matter. I really appreciate you, and I know it couldn’t have been easy to start.

I want to clarify what is NOT in this book; rape, gore, excessive violence (yes, there is violence, but no more than any other action/thriller), injury or death to animals, pedophilia. You only need to ask someone who’s read the book, I’m confident they will attest to this.

If you asked me, ten years ago, to write a book about human trafficking, I would have declared you insane. Times, and people, change.

The truth is, initially, there was no intention of broaching the subject. I wanted to write about Haiti.

You see, my father, upon whom one of the main characters, John Webster, is loosely based, would volunteer to help build homes, churches, and other projects. I remember well, the photos showing the difficult living conditions. There were also the stories, none of which included human trafficking. There are bits and pieces in the novel that were gleaned from his experiences.

The second main character, Tyler Montgomery,  is loosely based on my brother-in-law. The pair actually did make a trip to post-earthquake Haiti, back in October of 2010. I asked if they’d be willing to make a journal of their experiences.

So, here we come to the reasons behind Vanished. Over the years, I’ve been understandably and justifiably questioned as to my choice of topic. In the early days, I always delivered a simple and pat answer about a desire promote awareness. If a problem is ignored, what hope is there to solve it?  At the time, I truly believed my answer to be complete. Cut and dried, no further explanation needed.  

I often mention that 50% of the proceeds are donated to help victims of human trafficking, which they are, and I hope I don’t sound like I’m touting my own horn. That is not my intent.

Yes, all of this is true. However, and this may sound strange, I’ve only recently come to realize it’s not the whole truth. Please let me explain.

Those who are familiar with me, know that I’ve spent the last twenty plus years working as a Correctional Officer in maximum and medium, security prisons.

The last max. was Kingston Penitentiary which opened in 1835 and closed in 2013. It’s now a tourist attraction. I was one of the last to work there. Shortly afterwards, I was transferred to a medium level prison.  

This blog is not evolving into a prison tale. My career was mentioned  because I want to help you understand where I’m coming from.  I also want to emphasize, that Hollywood, and the news, are entities that thrive on sensationalism, because it sells.  

I’ve encountered many traumatic experiences and looked into the midnight eyes of those who looked through, rather than at you. We called them dead eyes.

Fortunately, these are not the majority of inmates. There are some who’ve lead normal lives until something triggered them to act in uncharacteristic ways. What you also had, were many cases of psychological and drug addiction issues.  Oh, and yes, plenty of the inhabitants  had committed unspeakable acts of evil. I’ll spare you the details.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. I’ve worked with some great staff and have had my share of laughs. I appreciated the strong bonds that developed between my peers. It’s inevitable when you place your life in someone’s hands, and they put theirs in yours.

I apologize if I’m rambling, but it was necessary to give some background into what made my brain tick, when I wrote this book.

It took a diagnosis of PTSD, months of treatment, support, and deep reflection, to unravel the ‘other’ reasons for the birth of Vanished.

I have come to grasp the fact that it was also a product of a mind that sought to survive and heal. To find a state of homeostasis and make sense of the tragic and unfathomable.

The famous line from the movie, Saving Private Ryan, often comes to mind. Captain Millar and the Sergeant are discussing the personal cost of getting Ryan home. One of them says: “Someday, we might look back on this, and decide that saving Private Ryan was the once decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole Godawful, shitty mess.”

I’m not comparing myself to these brave warriors, but these are my sentiments, exactly.

The brain is extremely powerful, and I believe that it sensed something was wrong all those years ago, though my conscious mind was oblivious. It’s the frog in a boiling pot analogy. I was being cooked alive, and I didn’t even realize.               

The characters do represent, superficially, my family members. At a deeper level, they are avatars of my hope. Hope for something better, for this world, myself, and my loved ones.

Spoiler alert, Tyler struggles with mental health issues. The issue was  approached from a Stephen King angle because I grew up reading his work.

At the time, I thought it was just a nod to the famous writer, but it’s become clear that my subconscious had put out a 911 call for help. In some ways, I’m Tyler.

Right now, more than ever, the world is hurting. I don’t know your personal stories, but I can sense from many of the comments, that anxiety and a sense of hopelessness rule the day.

Let me tell, there is always hope. I want to assure you that you are not alone. I, along with many others, have been where you are. I’m on the mend, and my family is getting there, too. I cannot reiterate this enough: there is always hope.

Whenever a crisis arises, there are always those who step up and perform selfless acts. I refer to those as helpers, look around, you’ll find them, everywhere. You know what? Look in the mirror and you’ll see one up close.          

Don’t believe me? Listen, if you’ve ever retweeted a post, shared a kind word on a blog, shared a blog, hosted, bought a book, read, and reviewed, made someone laugh or provided information, beta read . . . you get the picture, then you are a helper.  

Yes, those dedicated people who work in the healthcare industry certainly fall into this category. There are so many others, unsung, and unnoticed. They go about the business of helping.

John and Tyler are much more than characters in a book, and the plot is deeper and broader than human trafficking. There is an ugly side to it, just as there is in life, but there is also a positive message. It’s about becoming a helper, doing whatever is within your capacity to  make a positive impact, even if it’s just one person.

This is the true spirit of Vanished.

At the bottom of this post, you will find two links to interviews I conducted with a couple of wonderful helpers, who stood with victims of human trafficking.

On a side note:

I am not downplaying the recent events with law enforcement that have occurred, nor am I saying that problems with racism do not exist, as they do in every environment.

I wish to point out that there are a few rotten apples among the ranks; you’ll find them in every profession; and they should be dealt with accordingly. However, it is very distressing, unfair, and illogical to paint an entire profession based on the actions of a few. Most people involved in law enforcement are decent and ordinary people. They have families and emotions, too.

I was saddened and angered, when I discovered that a certain retailer was selling tee-shirts with the detestable slogan, Blue Lives Murder. Ouch!!  

This is not only disrespectful and generally untrue, but downright inflammatory. These are the things that contribute to PTSD and suicides.

I give my readers the benefit of the doubt, as I am sure that most of you realize this. I still feel compelled to say the following: Amidst all the cries for defunding the police, please try to imagine a world where the dead eyed roam free and amok.

Sends shivers up my spine.

More about me:

Born and raised on a farm near Brockville, Ontario, Mark Bierman’s childhood consisted of chores, riding horses, snowmobile races across open fields, fishing trips to a local lake, and many other outdoor adventures. He was also an avid reader of both fiction and non.

Transitioning towards adulthood also meant moving from the farm and into large urban areas that introduced this “country boy” to life in the big cities.

Drawing on his many experiences as a private investigator and later a Correctional Officer, Mark combines his unique experiences and imagination to create his stories and characters.

Purchase:

Amazon.ca Amazon.com LuLu.com iBooks

I’d love to connect with you:

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Interview Links:

A Call To Mission Work. An Interview With Madison Wicklam.

They Fight For Freedom