Review of Jewel, written by Jan Sikes

The Blurb:

For almost eighteen years, Jewel has known little beyond hopelessness and hunger. Barely existing in a ramshackle cabin, on the edge of a Louisiana swamp with her little sister and their mother, she sees no way to stop the downward spiral. When her mother falls gravely ill, Jewel learns that her life is about to take a drastic turn. But will it lead to joy or more devastation?
Take a heart-warming journey with Jewel as she struggles to rise from the clutches of poverty and shame.

My Thoughts: 

A poignant tale that has, without a doubt, played out too many times in reality. An impoverished family that consists of a sickly mother and her two daughters, must come to terms with their reality.

In those days, before the safety net of social assistance, the painful choice was made by Jewel’s mother to send her daughters away, in hopes of a better life.

Jewel was ushered into an alien world of lavish parties and magnificent homes, but everything comes at a price. It’s impossible not to sympathize with this young woman because of her tragic circumstances, and youthful innocence.

An emotional connection with characters is the mark of an excellent book. No issues with that in Jewel. It’s a quick read that wraps up neatly, though it left me with the desire to learn one unanswered question.

I recommend Jewel for the reader who enjoys a short tale of dire straits, desperate measures, and uncertain endings.

Five Stars!

Jewel by Jan Sikes

Meet Jan: 

Jansikesround

Multi-Award winning author, Jan Sikes, has been called a wordsmith by her peers.

She published four biographical fiction books about the journey of two people moving through adversity in order to grow and learn to become better humans. She believes with all her heart there is something worthy of sharing in these stories. Bits and pieces of wisdom, hard-learned lessons and above and beyond all, love…True love that you read about in fiction stories and yet this is truth. The old saying that truth is stranger than fiction fits these stories.

She also releases a music CD of original songs along with each book that fits the time period of the story. Why? Because the stories revolve and evolve around a passion for music.

She has published a book of poetry and art and nine short stories.

She is widowed, lives in North Texas, volunteers at music festivals, has five incredible grandchildren and serves on the Board of Directors for the Texas Authors Institute of History, and the Executive Council at Rave Writers’ Int’l Society of Authors. She is also a member of the Writer’s League of Texas and Authors Marketing Guild.

Connect with Jan and purchase her books: 

Amazon.com

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Blog

She is also a member of Rave Reviews Book Club

 

Review of Strange Highway, by Beem Weeks

The Blurb:

If you ever find yourself on the Strange Hwy–don’t turn around. Don’t panic. Just. Keep. Going. You never know what you’ll find.

You’ll see magic at the fingertips of an autistic young man,

  • A teen girl’s afternoon, lifetime of loss.
  • A winged man, an angel? Demon–?
  • Mother’s recognition, peace to daughter.
  • Danny’s death, stifled secrets.
  • Black man’s music, guitar transforms boy.
  • Dead brother, open confession.
  • First love, supernatural?–family becomes whole!

You can exit the Strange Hwy  and come back any time you want.

See, now you know the way in, don’t be a stranger.

My thoughts:

I won this wonderful collection of short stories some time ago, but only recently had the time to crack it open.

Strange Hwy is comprised of nineteen stories that range from the supernatural, to the earthly. Some ended in tragedy, while others made me smile, happy for the outcome.

There were copious servings of poignancy, situations that seemed all too real, but that’s a sign of great writing. One in particular, had me scratching my head as to what really happened to a young girl.

Each tale is unique and there’s no distinguishable pattern that I could detect, for me, that’s a good thing.

I’d highly recommend taking a journey down this highway.

Five Stars for Strange Hwy!

About Beem:

BeemWeeks2

An Interview with Musician Thomas Mastin; A Tale of Trials, Resilience, and Faith

Today I’m privileged to host, once again, nineteen-year-old singer/song writer Thomas Mastin. Some of you may recognize the name from a previous interview we did back in December of 2018. Please click on the link, if you want to read that one. Please note, that some of the links on that post are no longer available or relevant.  His current social links and some videos can be found at the end of this short interview.

Interview With Up And Coming Musician, Thomas Mastin

Thomas and I go a few years back, I remember a time when he needed two hands to swing one drumstick. Ok, maybe not that long, but it’s been a pleasure watching him grow from a young kid playing his heart out at church, into the talented musician he is today.

I’m offering you a brief glimpse into his journey. A tale of struggles, perseverance, Faith, life detours, and lessons. Thomas’s ‘can do’ spirit is an inspiration!

Me: You’re not a shiny penny to the music industry. You’re young, but you’ve already had a significant amount of experiences. Can you share some of those?

Thomas: Two summers ago, I was a drummer in a band called Arbour Season. We played a lot of venues in Florida including Busch Gardens, Splitsville in Disney Springs, and Mother’s Restaurant in Tampa. We’ve also done House Shows, which are exactly what they sound like. The band would do their gig at a residence either indoors or out.

Me: There’s been some ‘bumps in the road’ since those sunny Florida days. Can you share what’s happened and how the course of your career has changed?

Thomas: Well, as things go, we parted ways and I charted a course for a solo career, however, I’m a social guy and decided it wasn’t for me. I met Nathan Hardy, an amazing guitar player and fellow song writer. We formed Hello July. The name came to us one day, when we were in Nashville. I saw a poster for a band called Goodbye June. I jokingly mentioned Hello July. The agency that signed us, Brave Enough Agencies, supported it.

We began singing Blues, but our genre has evolved into a mixed style of rock and pop. It almost sounds a bit like Cold Play, and U2.

ThomasandNathan1

Thomas Mastin & Nathan Hardy

I’ve gone through an issue with my voice. As it turns out, I was straining my vocals, making them inflamed and they bled at times. Someone who knows more about singing than me, said to be careful, or there could be permanent damage. I’m taking some lessons and going a bit easier. I’m also learning certain diets that can help or harm your voice.

Me: I hope coffee’s okay!

Thomas: (laughs) “Oh yeah. I couldn’t do without it. I also couldn’t do without the ton of people reaching out to me right now. I didn’t expect that. It’s incredible! People have offered free lessons, I’ll have to choose which offer to take.

Pastor Dusty (Parkway Church, Amherstview, Ontario) has also been a huge inspiration. When I was eight, he told me, “If you can’t sing for five people, you can’t sing for 5,000.”

I’ve never forgotten that saying, even put it in the notebook that I use to write music. Those words remind me to be humble and with the trials of the past year, I’ve lost an arrogance. I’m no longer that high schooler who expects everything to fall into place.

Me: I think people can relate to struggles. We all have them and there’s an appreciation for an artist who is open about their challenges. They realize they’re not alone. Listening to music is often an emotional experience for most people. It can soothe, recall distant memories, and bring joy. You’ve been given a special gift.

Thomas: Yes, and now I’m in a place where people can relate to me better. This past year has taught me who I really am and that I sing, not for fame, but for God and to inspire listeners. It’s been hard for some to wrap their heads around the fact that I’m not pursuing a Christian music career, exclusively. I understand that, really, because when you grow up in the church and you say that you’re pursuing a music career, they expect Christian only. But I want to reach those who are struggling, both Christian and non. The band, NeedToBreathe, does this. They play worship songs on Sunday mornings, but festivals throughout the week.

We are planning a tour of Canada first, before eventually heading to America. We’re hoping to start with a few local House Shows. I’m willing to travel to the Toronto to Ottawa areas, and beyond. We have one booked, a couple from our church, they want to be the first.

Thomassinging

Thomas in action!

Me: Does Hello July have any videos?

Thomas: We’ve made four. Speaking of a humbling experience, one day I was in a line-up at the grocery store and a woman behind me recognized me from a video. I asked her how she liked it, expecting a positive answer.

“It’s a good thing you’re pretty!” she said.

(laughs) I was surprised but answered, “Well, I’m glad I’m pretty, at least.”

Me: We all get those. They’re great reminders that not everyone appreciates your work. Most of the time it’s a matter of personal tastes. Personally, I don’t pay much attention unless a particular issue is mentioned by several different people.

Check out Hello July singing Coldplay’s  song, Yellow.

 

 

Hello July on YouTube

My name is Thomas Mastin, I’m a 19 year old singer song-writer from Roblin, Ontario! Here are some links to my social media and one of the videos my bandmate Nathan and I have put out.

Find out more about Thomas and Hello July 

Hello July on Facebook 

Hello July on Instagram

Thomas Mastin on Facebook

Thomas Mastin on Instagram

 

 

Welcome To The WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! Day 5.

Watch Write Showcase Tour

Gwen Plano

Welcome back! I hope you’ve been enjoying the blog tour. If you haven’t done so, please feel free to check out the last four days, it’s well worth the read. Today I have the privilege of hosting RWISA Author, Gwen Plano. If you like her writing style, just click on the link at the bottom of this page to find out more.

THE ROSARY

by Gwen M. Plano

Young or old, we are all children at heart. This truth became apparent to me last December when I had neurosurgery.

Prior to the operation, a clerk handed me a stack of documents to sign—billing forms for the hospital and the doctors and several medical release forms that included a list of potential risks. My apprehension grew as I fingered through the papers and provided my signature. It was then that I wished that my mom could be with me. Like any child, I thought she could make it all better. But sadly, she had passed away nine months prior.

My mom was a person of prayer, and when I was young, she’d gather her seven children, tell us to get on our knees, and then proceed to pray. We’d follow her lead—usually protesting—and pray for family members, friends, and the unknown masses. Often, she led us in saying the rosary. Prayer was my mom’s response to any challenge or difficulty, and we had plenty of both on our farm.

Mom’s most common expression was, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” While some of us might curse or yell in frustration, Mom would say this phrase instead.  So, when one of my brothers sent a golf ball through the picture window, Mom called out “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” before scolding him. When we siblings squabbled with one another, Mom would mutter, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” before sending us to our bedrooms. Without exception, we grew up knowing that when Mom said “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” we were in trouble.

I can’t remember a time when Mom wasn’t praying. Whether washing the dishes, hanging the wash on the clothesline, working in the garden, or driving us to a sporting event or a 4-H meeting, Mom quietly prayed. I asked her about this once, and her response left an indelible impression.

“Life is short,” she began, “and we must use every moment to the fullest. People need our prayers, and some don’t have a family to pray for them like we do.”

I didn’t understand her comment about using every moment to the fullest until I grew older. But her explanation helped me grasp why she rarely watched television and why she rushed from one room to another throughout the day.

When Mom passed at ninety-two years of age, she left a legacy of beliefs and practices that had found a place in the heart of each of her children. We may have complained about kneeling on the hard floor, but even as little tykes, prayer became part of our lives because of our mother.

At her passing, we were bereft. Mom was our strength, our compass. She was the one we called about concerns, both large and small; she was the one we talked with about our hopes and dreams. Her passing left a huge emptiness that still echoes in our memories. When we sorted through her belongings, not so surprisingly, we discovered she had a dozen or so rosaries. I received two of them.

When I checked into Cedars Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, I took my mom’s wooden rosary with me. I felt her near when I held it, and this sensation gave me comfort.  I held the beads tightly and imagined Mom with me.

After the surgery, I was rolled into a room on the Pain Floor where all neurosurgery patients were housed. Next to me was an adjustable overbed table, and when I awakened, I realized that my mom’s rosary rested on it.

My nurse, Lucy, regularly came in to check on me, and each time she walked through the door, she sang a refrain which included the words, our lady of the rosary. I was surprised by this, because Cedars Sinai is a Jewish hospital. After Lucy left, an aide visited, and she explained that her sister was a nun, and my rosary reminded her of this sister. Later, the night nurse came in and told me about immigrating to the US and how she loved the rosary.

During my hospital stay, one staff person after another visited me and shared family stories and photos—all evoked by the rosary that rested on the overbed table. As I was preparing to leave, Lucy came in to say her goodbyes. She pulled a photo from her pocket.

“This is my mom,” she proudly stated. “I thought you’d like to see her.”

The image was of a petite woman, hunched over by time, smiling broadly at the camera. She stood next to her much-larger daughter, Lucy. I was stunned; she looked like my mom.

As the hospital staff came to say goodbye and wish me well, I suddenly realized that Mom had been with me the whole while. I had been loved and cared for by many at the hospital, but it was Mom who drew them near with her rosary.

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:  Gwen Plano

Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

Welcome! Today I have the privilege of hosting RWISA Author, Gwen Plano!

She is a talented writer and supportive member of Rave Reviews Book Club, or RRBC.

Blog Tour Banners

portrait-photo-of-gwen1

Please feel free to comment or share.

MOM’S FINAL WORDS

By Gwen M. Plano

Worn out by time, mom lay motionless on the sheets. Life lingered but imperceptibly. At ninety-one, she had experienced the full range of life’s challenges. And, now, she rested her aged shell of a body and waited.

A farmer’s daughter and wife, her life was marked by practicalities and hard work. Always up before daybreak, she prepared the meals, washed the clothes and hung them on the clothesline, and otherwise attended to the needs of the household.

Her garden was a cornucopia of tomatoes and corn, of squash and lettuces. And the refrigerator always had freshly gathered eggs and newly churned butter.

Mom rarely paused, to catch her breath, to offer a hug, or to sit calmly. Time is not to be wasted, she taught. And so, she was always busy.

Over the years, there were multiple times that she almost died. But, with each surgery or ailment, she emerged from death’s clutches more determined than before – to surmount her difficulties, to forge a path, to care for her family. “Life is a gift,” she would say to us.

Mom knew poverty and uncertainty. Ration coupons from the war lay on her dresser, a reminder of harsh realities. Nothing ever went to waste in our household, not food, not water, not clothing. “Many have less than us,” she claimed. She would then insist we be conservative and share.

She knew sorrow well, having lost her parents when she was young, and then two of her nine children. As the years passed, she also lost her sisters and many of her friends.

Mom was a woman of faith. Throughout the day, you could hear her quiet entreaties. Prayer was always on her lips. When mom walked from one room to the next, she prayed – for this person or that friend or for our country. She’d stand at the sink washing dishes and invoke help, from the angels, from Mary the mother of our God, and from the Holy Spirit. “Pray always,” she’d remind us.

This busy mother fought death to the end, but when the doctor finally said that nothing more could be done, she simply responded, “I am ready.”

It was then that she met with each of her seven children. Barely managing each breath, she whispered her I love you and offered a few words of guidance.

When I was at mom’s bedside, she told me she loved me, mentioned a few family concerns, and then in a barely audible voice she said, “I don’t know what to expect.”

This precious little woman, who had spent her life busy with raising a family and helping with the farm, now was unsure of what would happen next. I was surprised by the words.

She taught me to pray when I was quite tiny. “Get on your knees,” she would instruct. “Offer up your pain for the poor souls in purgatory,” she’d suggest. Then, she’d lead us in the Lord’s Prayer. Mom had us pray for family and friends, for anyone suffering, and always for our country. She’d share stories of angels and saints, of miracles and wonders, of midnight visitations and afternoon impressions. This fragile diminutive woman had instructed my siblings and me of the invisible eternal. And, I lived with those images as a child until they became as real to me as the world we see.

Yes, I was surprised by mom’s words to me. “I don’t know what to expect.” But then I wondered, did she know? Did she know that I had studied near-death experiences? That I had written of the dying process? Had I ever told her?

I don’t know what to expect. Simple words, but a storm of thoughts followed. I held back my tears and took her hands in mine.

“Mom, I will tell you what friends have said and what the research has shown. The angels are coming soon, mom. You will see them in the light. Just follow their lead. Your sisters will join you, as will your mom and dad and your babies. Your whole family is waiting for you. It will be a wonderful reunion. There will be much joy.”

Her breaths grew slower.

I told her of Charles, a friend I met in my prayer group. He had died twice and because of that, he had no fear of his final death. Through his experiences, he saw that life continues. He spoke of celestial beings, of extraordinary love, of boundless joy. And, he told the prayer group that he looked forward to death.

I shared these things and more. And, as I spoke, her eyes closed, and her breathing slowed. She had fallen back to sleep, to the middle ground between this world and the next. And I wondered, did she really need to know what to expect or did she want me to remember that life never ends?

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

 

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Gwen Plano

How would you like to become a RWISA Member so that you’re able to receive this same awesome FREE support? Simply click  HERE to make your application!