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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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

LuLu.com

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

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?

Awe . . . the pitter-patter!

Just sitting here this fine morning remembering some shenanigans, yes, shenanigans . . . wait, am I on Facebook? Never mind, I’ll keep the word. As I was saying, thinking way back yonder to some of the crazy things the kiddos did.

This particular incident happened during the month of, “Brrrr!!”

That’s what some of us Canadians (or maybe it’s just me), call February because it’s easier to pronounce with chattering teeth.

“Brrrr!,” typically has temperatures somewhere north of -30 degrees Celsius, that’s about -22 Fahrenheit for our southern neighbors.

Now, the exact transgression of Isabel, our youngest, escapes me. Perhaps she’d zigzagged a pen across big sister, Amanda’s, latest fridge art, or Picasso’d her sibling’s prized teddy bear with a Sharpie and had coerced our cat, Marble, into upholding the Law of Omerta.

Being the sole adult in the domicile that evening, I sentenced her to a ‘time out’ in The Corner.  No doubt, in that cozy little triangle of contemplation, she reflected with great remorse on the “heinous” doings.

The Kleenex budget was yanked into the red, by the fistful. The boxes emptied, Big Sis’ dabbed the last raindrops from her cheeks and glared at the condemned before stomping to her upstairs bedroom.   

Isabel was paroled after three minutes, one minute per year of age . . . that seemed to be the accepted formula back then. She boldly stepped across the perimeter of the invisible box and wonder of wonders! Knew that formula worked! Never a doubt.

“I’m a changed girl. Sorry for what I’d done. Yessir. Nope, never lift a pinky against Amanda again . . . except to love her to pieces.”

 A hug of reconciliation? Oh, okay . . . I suppose since you both just stuck out your tongues at the same time we’ll just call it a draw. Yes, head on back to your bedroom wall finger painting, Amanda. I’m glad to see that you’ve chosen oil based.   

Satisfied for the skirmish was over, I elected to empty the garbage can and bring the bag to the lidded garbage bin in the garage. We don’t have trash pickup in these here parts, so we keep it in there until I can drive it to the dump.

I had to sidestep little Miss Golden Hair Ringlets, as I descended the two steps into the coat room that opened to the garage.

The garage had no working vehicle door at that time, so every cubic square of air was jam packed with icicle-toothed no-see-um’s, that surged in via that gaping maw from the tar black country night. Even the moon and the stars had fled these lands, and the overhead fluorescent lights, forcibly confined, had chosen hibernation.

The garbage bin was just outside the coatroom door, so I slipped on my crocs, left the coat to rest on the hook . . . my pj’s would suffice for the short trip. Great move, right, professor?

The last thing I saw, just before closing the door, was the cherub faced shenaniger (repurposed for this post). Those beautiful, blonde, curly cues framed an adorable smile as she waved to me from the upper step. “Good luck.”

You bet, another brilliant move, Holmes.

I stepped into the garage and quickly shut the door behind me to keep out Jack Frost’s invisible minions. Good Luck?

I shall never forget the heart melting pitter-patter of little feet across the coat room floor, seconds before the click of the lock being engaged.

Yes, Mary, here, let me pour you another glass of Perrier and imagine how splendid it will always be! Is the baby kicking? Hmmm . . . maybe she’s trying to tell us something?

Sorry, back to the story. Faced with becoming an ice sculpture, I diplomatically begged, nay, cried, for the young lady to open the door. Awe, there’s that adorable giggle.

Mind you, there was a spare key, but that would mean crawling over piles of half finished projects, just waiting for the chance to maim. Pay back for being relegated to the land of misfits.   

I yelled for Amanda, who was, by that time, probably in the bathroom using the ‘good towels’ to clean the paint off her fingers.

Welp, nothing for it but to go cross country. Thankfully the wall to my left was clear of debris, so I followed it and ran for the front lawn. The front door was unlocked, I remembered that much. Now, if I was a snow hare, the trip would have been quick and painless.

But people aren’t snow hares, and when crocs hit the crunchy top layer of “Brrr!” snow, well, they crash the party until they hit rock bottom. About knee deep in this case. The ice moles were less than pleased, but the no-see-um’s had a banquet.

Yep, every step was like slogging through a freshly poured slushy, sans the sweetness and color. Well, maybe the color, because we owned a dog.

The worst part was passing the bay window, just after both of my crocs abandoned me. I witnessed a mass of golden ringlets flying past the windowsill, headed straight for the front door.

Oh, Mary, listen! Is it my imagination, or can you also hear the pitter-patter and the giggles?

Oh no, you don’t! She did. Click!

If you’ve ever seen Fred Flintstone pounding on the door after Dino locked him outside, you’ll get the idea of what happened next.

No giggling now . . . just a thumb in that grinning mouth. The other hand was busy with the necessary work of twirling those ringlets into coils.

When telling this story, someone once commented that I should be embarrassed at being outrun by a three year old. Um, beg pardon? You do realize that those suckers can move with the speed of a velociraptor over open ground, right buddy? I swear they make the same noises, too. At least when they’re racing for a prized toy . . . you know the sound, that guttural squeal, “Miiiinnnneeee!” Or maybe it’s more like Chewbacca?

I owe my digits to Amanda for coming to the rescue, though I only use one on each hand to type.

She moved in like a gift shop sized King Kong! Nothing violent, just blocked her sister and opened the door.

That was a decade ago, and it’s a funny tale now, but not so much at the time. Don’t get me wrong, both my daughters are loving and kind.

I really don’t think a three-year-old can conceive of the dangers of locking someone outside mid-winter. But nonetheless, I now always wear my winter coat and boots when taking out the trash. 😊