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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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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Liberty

Jeff tripped on a rock, stubbing his toe, and almost dropping Liberty.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got you,” he promised the Bold. “I’m sorry but it’s time for you to go. The fog’s rolled in and that will help you escape Crusher. Please don’t cry, don’t be afraid. Liberty will take you far away. She’s a great ship. My Grandpa and I made her.”

The lump in Jeff’s throat felt bigger than a jawbreaker candy. He should know because he almost swallowed one, once. It was one of the scariest things in his life, almost as scary as Crusher.

Jeff reached the edge of Pine Grove Bay, and gently slipped the driftwood ship into the still water. He took the yellow nylon rope and watched as a gentle breeze pushed against the cloth sails, carrying the good people towards the bigger waters of Gull Lake. He smiled and waved, hoping that it would calm them down, as they begged him not to let go of the rope.

Wherever they ended up, it would be better than here. Better than the everyday meanness from Crusher. That monster loved to torment the Bold. He hated their art, said it was just as ugly as they were, just before he would wreck it. He took their money so they couldn’t buy food and threatened a beating should they tell anyone. Jeff had to make sure that he’d never let the beast see Liberty.

Jeff knew what the word ‘bold’ meant, but he was too afraid to stand up against Crusher, who was a lot bigger than him. He’d felt ashamed and after a while, he’d gone to the King and Queen to plead for help for the Bold.

But the King said that The Crusher was really just a coward and that it was up to Jeff to fight him off. The Queen said that sometimes there are just monsters, and they build something called character.

Jeff didn’t see it that way. He let the rope go and plugged his ears against the cries of the Bold. His eyes blurred with tears as he watched them go. One of the Bold jumped overboard, he was splashing in the water . . . no, drowning!

Jeff ran into the cold water, not worried about getting his clothes soaked. He scooped up the little man who immediately yelled, “What about Princess Carlan? She’ll help! She believes in us!”

“Um, I don’t know—”

“Yes! Princess Carlan! Take us back, Jeff! We don’t want to go!” The Bolds on the ship yelled.

Jeff was frightened but he thought that this might be the right thing to do, so he grabbed the rope and brought Liberty back to shore. Everyone cheered!

Jeff went back to the palace. The Queen wasn’t happy to see him soaking wet. She told him that he’d be late for school and that Miss Carlan would not want such a mess in her classroom.

Jeff quickly changed and set Liberty back on his dresser. He grabbed his backpack while his stomach twisted into knots.

He hurried down the sidewalk, his legs feeling evermore like cooked spaghetti with each step. But Princess Carlan was so nice. She’d always said he was smart, a good artist, and that his stories took her places, whatever that meant. She would help, he had to believe that.

The open doors to Gull Lake Elementary were bigger than a Blue Whale’s mouth, but at least there was no sign of Crusher.

Jeff closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It was time to be brave; it was time to ask his teacher help.

Review of, The Prince And The Prodigal, by Jill Eileen Smith

As I look out the window, all I can see is brown . . . but that’s a good thing! Yesterday the ground was being struck by hail and sleet and today there’s nothing but clear skies. 🙂

Please let me steal you away to a place where snow never falls, and the earth bakes to a crisp under a hot desert sun. I’m talking about ancient Egypt.

The Details:

Joseph is the pampered favorite son of the patriarch Jacob. His older brothers, deeply resentful of his status in the family, take advantage of the chance to get rid of him, selling him to slave traders and deceiving their father about his fate. It seems like their troubles are over. But for Joseph and older brother Judah, they are just beginning.

While Joseph is accused of rape and imprisoned, Judah attempts to flee the memory of his complicity in the betrayal of his younger brother. After decades apart, the brothers will come face-to-face in a stunning role reversal that sees Joseph in a position of great power while Judah begs for mercy. Will forgiveness or vengeance win the day?

Bestselling and award-winning author Jill Eileen Smith brings her considerable research and imaginative skills to bear in this vivid retelling of one of the most popular stories found in Scripture–a story of jealousy, betrayal, and a reconciliation that only God could bring about.

My Thoughts:

I am extremely familiar with the Biblical account of Joseph’s life, so I was excited to read this book. Let me tell you, I’m glad I did.

This was an excellent ‘behind the scenes’ story of what must have been the dramatic, and traumatic, lives of Joseph and his family. Jill cleverly weaves scenes throughout the story that bring these historical figures to life and through her words, those Sunday School lessons leapt from the pages to become three dimensional.

The book sticks to the main facts but allows the reader an insight into the possible mindset of people who lived thousands of years ago.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Bible, history, the supernatural, adventure, or stories with great outcomes.

I’m giving this one Five Stars!

Meet Jill:

Jill Eileen Smith is the bestselling, award-winning author of the Wives of King David series, Wives of the Patriarchs, Daughters of the Promised Land, The Heart of a King, Star of Persia, Miriam’s Song, and the nonfiction When Life Doesn’t Match Your Dreams, and She Walked Before Us. Her research has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times.

When she isn’t writing, she loves to spend time with her family and friends, read stories that take her away, ride her bike to the park, snag date nights with her hubby, try out new restaurants, or play with her lovable, “helpful” cat Tiger. Jill lives with her family in southeast Michigan.

Grab a copy of one of her works and connect with her:

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