Pagoda Dreamer by Judith March Davis


Pagoda Dreamer

Author: Judith March Davis

ISBN: 9781934938904

Publisher: Langdon Street Press

A biography told by the daughter of poet and writer Dorothy Rowe in the author’s and her mother’s own words. Letters written by Dorothy Rowe a woman so enthralled with China and its history from an early age, helped the reader get to know and understand the history of that nation. Living in China and then becoming educated in America her daughter tells an inspiring story of a woman who looked at life with a much different perspective than we would. Understanding and living her life in an Asian country, she learned to understand and embrace the culture and soon became assimilated within it and its culture.

The author painted a picture of China so vividly that you can see the many places that Dorothy visited and lived in. She published her poetry in magazines and was fortunate that McMillan published her four books for children. Each of her letters was so honest and truthful. Reading each one enabled the reader to get to know and understand the writer and her mother’s amazing story.

When her life would settle into mundane routines she became restless and longed for a vacation, shopping spree or a change. Trying to reconcile her differences with her husband and learning to be a parent caused many conflicts for Dorothy within herself.  Dorothy’s emotions and reactions to situations often set the stage for major changes in her life. Moving to different places throughout her marriage she became disconnected from her friends and family except for her sister Lurry. She was able to confide in her sister and they often spent time together in New York and other places in order for Dorothy to regroup and be able to handle her life when she returned.

Benjamin March, her husband, was an expert on Asian Art. He joined the staff of the University of Michigan and once again she moved to another home. This time she moved to Ann Arbor and after his death she joined the staff of the same University in their History of Art Department

A terrible bout with TB and learning that she had diabetes were major setbacks in her life causing her to remain in the hospital and rehabilitation for a very long time. She missed out on much of her daughter’s life. When she became ill and could no longer work she channeled her energies into helping those who were in the same ward with her and encouraged them with her courage, lack of defeat and sense of humor.

Dorothy Rowe March was a person that seemed unfulfilled throughout most of her life. She seemed to long for more and got bored easily with her life and her family responsibilities.

With many more tragedies to withstand and a daughter that endured many of her own, Dorothy’s life was not easy and many adjustments had to be made in order to accommodate the needs of others.

Although Dorothy tried her best to take care of her daughter and make her happy she often became annoyed, disgruntled and gave her the old silent treatment when things did not go her way. She even went as far as trying to make her daughter feel guilty for the hard work she put into making her meals and taking care of her, making herself out to be a martyr when Judith was recovering from her illness.

All of her life Dore needed the approval and acceptance of others and wanted to feel vital at home and in her jobs. Any person that feels that they have outlived their purpose in life often becomes depressed and might do things that would cause themselves harm as she did with her drinking. Dore felt unappreciated, not needed and alone in her later years. Retirement made her feel useless and although she could have reconnected with some of her students or college friends, she did not.

Dorothy Rowe left the world a great legacy in her books, poetry, articles and her articles. But, the best tribute to a parent and legacy is one that Judith March Davis has written and the special toast she made to her mother when she went and fulfilled her dream of going to China. I would love to read her children’s books and it was an honor to review this book.

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The Last Ember by Daniel Levin


The Last Ember by Daniel Levin

The Menorah, the seven-branched lamp stand, which is the prominent symbol in post-Jewish tradition, is at the base of the mystery of this thriller by Daniel Levin. The Menorah, also referred to as the “golden lamp stand” or “candlestick,” stood at the left side of the holy place. The Menorah, as the one at the center of the mystery and intrigue in this book was hammered out of one piece of pure gold. The lamp stand had a central branch from which three branches extended from each side, forming a total of 7 branches. Seven branches holding olive oil and wicks stood on the top of the branches. The priests told to make sure that these lamps burned continuously and that their flame was never extinguished. But, what would happen if the mission or goal of one group of people were to obliterate the lamp and extinguish its flame.

Imagine what would happen if there was someone who had the power to obliterate all of the records, information and history of a group of people. What would happen if everything about these people and contribution to history, culture, economy and more were totally wiped out? What would happen if at the center of this were several different groups each with their own private agenda. One group wants to erase any information or trace of Judaism. One group wants to find out that a specific artifact belongs to: the Italian Government or a local antiquities dealer. Another group wants to discredit the expert witness for the Italian government and return the map to their client.

Beneath the Coliseum in Rome there are many who are excavating the ruins to find a specific artifact. One is a man so dangerous that he would do anything, including murder to get at these ruins and find what he is looking for. Another is a corrupt police officer that is working with the investigating officer to supposedly find out who is doing these illegal excavations beneath the Coliseum and destroying what remains below. One group is very methodical and the other totally destructive. One is lead by a police office that wants answers. The other is lead by a man called Salah-ad-din who will stop at nothing and answers to no one.

The Lord commanded Moses to have the Israelites bring him clear oil of pressed olives in order to light the menorah. Aaron was told to make sure that he the lamp and kept the flame burning. It was a source of light in the Holy Place. Without it the priests would have to live and work in the dark.

This novel and its events take place in one day. The events revert back and forth between Rome and Jerusalem. Jonathan Marcus a former classics scholar and now attorney, has returned to Rome in order to consult on a case regarding an artifact of questionable origin and ownership. At the center of the dispute are two stone fragments that were anonymously donated to the Capitoline Museum. The Italian Cultural Museum does not agree that it should be returned to this donor claiming that it was stolen should be returned to them. But, upon closer inspection of this fragments Jonathan finds a clue on this artifact, which no one else noticed and which his firm tells him to forget he ever found. Facing him in court is his legal opponent and star witness for the museum, Dr. Emili Travia, who wants this artifact returned to the museum and states that she has seen it before and will present evidence as to its proper ownership and origin. But, a skillful attorney in Jonathan’s firm soon helps to discredit her and then the games begin.

Someone is performing illegal excavations in Jerusalem near the Temple Mount. The two fragments of the Forma Urbis the artifact in question are the reason why everyone is searching for one particular thing.

Let’s start at the beginning or in the past and work our way to the present. Flavius Josephus was a Jewish general who defended Jerusalem and was caught by the Romans. He was a member of the aristocracy of the Jews, turned to the side of the Roman Empire in the great Jewish revolt. He then spent the remainder of his life in or near Rome as an advisor and historian to 3 emperors, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. For many centuries his works were widely read in Europe. But, just whose side was he on and what part does he play in our mystery?  Was he a political realist or a murderous traitor?

Jonathan and Emili along with his friend Chandler team up to find the answers to who this artifact belongs to and why there are illegal excavations being done near the Temple Mount and underneath the Colisseum where the arena of the gladiators used to be. Added into the mix is what they are looking for and the inscription that Jonathan found on the fragments: Error Titus: meaning that Titus made some type of mistake and it was somehow related to what they are all searching and looking for which is the Tabernacle Menorah.

Flavius Josephus was a first century figure and denied Titus ordered the burning of the temple in Jerusalem. It was Emperor Vespasian, his father that actually initiated the invasion of Judea, got the throne, and gave Josephus Roman citizenship. He was not only one of the major informants on biblical history, but early Christian history too; He refers to Jesus, John the Baptist and Jesus’ brother James. But, his part was even greater in this mystery. Jonathan finds another piece of evidence and realizes that there is one line that no one has seen or read that will help him find the answer to where this Menorah might be, why it is being sought, and who was the one who really stole it and it present location.

Jonathan, who is the first to see this message since ancient times, becomes determined to solve his own theory and where this artifact might be. Despite being told not to pursue the truth, and that “the truth is not his client,” he will not stop until he unravels this mystery and more.

On the opposite side is a man who is so dangerous that if he finds the Menorah he will destroy it and its eternal flame. Selah-ad-din is digging under the Temple Mount with the help of a professor and the aide of a corrupt police officer, to find the menorah, extinguish its light and obliterate the or erase any information or trace of Judaism and Christianity.

Here is where it gets more complicated and more interesting. Every city that housed this Menorah was burnt to the ground. First, Jerusalem, next Rome and finally Carthage, What does Flavius Josephus have to do with this and why is he at the center of this controversy as to how it was really stolen? The menorah was stolen from Jerusalem, as the author writes, over 2000 years ago. But, Titus thought that he had the real menorah, and the Romans thought that they had the real one when they carried it high on their shoulders to Constantinople. But, it was Flavius Josephus, as Jonathan learned from a message he found, that escaped through a hidden gate in the Colisseum and stole the real Menorah. Significance” the flame was an eternal flame that must never be extinguished. The perpetual fire is part of our modern traditions in our synagogues, churches and many other houses of worship that have flames kept over their sanctuary’s arks lit at all times. If one destroys the menorah than you destroy a people whose lineage will be erased. Abraham’s descendants were promised by having this eternal flame lit that they would multiply in “number like the stars in heaven and the sands on the seashore.” Their bloodline would be eternal like the flame and if extinguished like a match to the last burning ember as in our novel’s title.

Added to this we have a police officer trying to solve a murder related to this theft. A Muslim organization, Waqf Authority, which has been in charge of the Temple Mount and whose goal might be to find the Menorah, but their aim is to erase the ancient history of Israel and destroy the Jewish people.

The author even tells of the strife and conflicts between Israel and the Muslim authorities related to the excavations in the Temple Mount. If the past can be erased so can Israel’s claim to the land and to its existence be questioned and erased too.

Even more complex is a corpse that was found by the police in an abandoned warehouse. Along with the body they found some old manuscripts related to Flavius Josephus. Comandandte Profeta dealt with recovering stolen antiquities. As he looked through the documents or parchments he saw orange, luminescent coils from an old space heater in a dented steel box and realized that something was not right. The documents were doused with a heat source and would explode. Before leaving the warehouse he did manage to get a fingerprint of the hand and a lock of the hair in order to try and identify the body.

Looking at the picture of the body and the warehouse he realizes that Professor Cianari was involved in some way and took the pictures. The location was the gladiator’s barracks, which was where the explosion had taken place.

This novel takes place in the course of one day and reverts back and forth between Emili and Jonathan and Chandler, to the police and of course Salah-ad-din and don’t forget the corrupt police officer who trying to them off the scent.

Illegal excavations, renovations in along the eastern wing of Saint Per’s in Chains church and this novel breathes intrigue, murder, suspense and a lot of history for the reader to understand and follow. What do the Maccabees have to do with this church and the Tabernacle Menorah and how does everything intertwine; you will have to read and find that out for yourself. Plus where does Josephus fit into the Maccabean heritage?

With the help of a Holocaust survivor, a General in the Israelis government, the nuns of Sisters of Convent, and many others, Jonathan and Emili search for answers as to the reasons behind the excavations, the location of the menorah and what is happening and lies below the Temple Mount.

How would they get through the hidden gate? How many lives will be lost? Just what would you consider not only terrorist attacks against people, but what about ancient and sacred places too. Archeological terrorism is just as evil and horrific as killing and threatening the lives of people.

In order to protect the flame and get it out of Jerusalem safely the menorah had to be placed in exile. As the clues come together and the police learn whose body they found in the warehouse and everything will soon come into place. Where do they think this menorah is? Who is Salah-ad-Din and what happens next will surprise you. Who can Jonathan and Emili trust? Not who they think!

One holocaust survivor determined to bring home what belongs to Israel. One woman who would make that come true, but at what cost and how. This menorah’s flame with its golden branches will be lit for all eternity and never be extinguished.

Let’s hope the author brings Jonathan and Emily back in his next novel.

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

The Last Ember by Daniel Levin


The Last Ember by Daniel Levin

The Menorah, the seven-branched lamp stand, which is the prominent symbol in post-Jewish tradition, is at the base of the mystery of this thriller by Daniel Levin. The Menorah, also referred to as the “golden lamp stand” or “candlestick,” stood at the left side of the holy place. The Menorah, as the one at the center of the mystery and intrigue in this book was hammered out of one piece of pure gold. The lamp stand had a central branch from which three branches extended from each side, forming a total of 7 branches. Seven branches holding olive oil and wicks stood on the top of the branches. The priests told to make sure that these lamps burned continuously and that their flame was never extinguished. But, what would happen if the mission or goal of one group of people were to obliterate the lamp and extinguish its flame.

Imagine what would happen if there was someone who had the power to obliterate all of the records, information and history of a group of people. What would happen if everything about these people and contribution to history, culture, economy and more were totally wiped out? What would happen if at the center of this were several different groups each with their own private agenda. One group wants to erase any information or trace of Judaism. One group wants to find out that a specific artifact belongs to: the Italian Government or a local antiquities dealer. Another group wants to discredit the expert witness for the Italian government and return the map to their client.

Beneath the Coliseum in Rome there are many who are excavating the ruins to find a specific artifact. One is a man so dangerous that he would do anything, including murder to get at these ruins and find what he is looking for. Another is a corrupt police officer that is working with the investigating officer to supposedly find out who is doing these illegal excavations beneath the Coliseum and destroying what remains below. One group is very methodical and the other totally destructive. One is lead by a police office that wants answers. The other is lead by a man called Salah-ad-din who will stop at nothing and answers to no one.

The Lord commanded Moses to have the Israelites bring him clear oil of pressed olives in order to light the menorah. Aaron was told to make sure that he the lamp and kept the flame burning. It was a source of light in the Holy Place. Without it the priests would have to live and work in the dark.

This novel and its events take place in one day. The events revert back and forth between Rome and Jerusalem. Jonathan Marcus a former classics scholar and now attorney, has returned to Rome in order to consult on a case regarding an artifact of questionable origin and ownership. At the center of the dispute are two stone fragments that were anonymously donated to the Capitoline Museum. The Italian Cultural Museum does not agree that it should be returned to this donor claiming that it was stolen should be returned to them. But, upon closer inspection of this fragments Jonathan finds a clue on this artifact, which no one else noticed and which his firm tells him to forget he ever found. Facing him in court is his legal opponent and star witness for the museum, Dr. Emili Travia, who wants this artifact returned to the museum and states that she has seen it before and will present evidence as to its proper ownership and origin. But, a skillful attorney in Jonathan’s firm soon helps to discredit her and then the games begin.

Someone is performing illegal excavations in Jerusalem near the Temple Mount. The two fragments of the Forma Urbis the artifact in question are the reason why everyone is searching for one particular thing.

Let’s start at the beginning or in the past and work our way to the present. Flavius Josephus was a Jewish general who defended Jerusalem and was caught by the Romans. He was a member of the aristocracy of the Jews, turned to the side of the Roman Empire in the great Jewish revolt. He then spent the remainder of his life in or near Rome as an advisor and historian to 3 emperors, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. For many centuries his works were widely read in Europe. But, just whose side was he on and what part does he play in our mystery?  Was he a political realist or a murderous traitor?

Jonathan and Emili along with his friend Chandler team up to find the answers to who this artifact belongs to and why there are illegal excavations being done near the Temple Mount and underneath the Colisseum where the arena of the gladiators used to be. Added into the mix is what they are looking for and the inscription that Jonathan found on the fragments: Error Titus: meaning that Titus made some type of mistake and it was somehow related to what they are all searching and looking for which is the Tabernacle Menorah.

Flavius Josephus was a first century figure and denied Titus ordered the burning of the temple in Jerusalem. It was Emperor Vespasian, his father that actually initiated the invasion of Judea, got the throne, and gave Josephus Roman citizenship. He was not only one of the major informants on biblical history, but early Christian history too; He refers to Jesus, John the Baptist and Jesus’ brother James. But, his part was even greater in this mystery. Jonathan finds another piece of evidence and realizes that there is one line that no one has seen or read that will help him find the answer to where this Menorah might be, why it is being sought, and who was the one who really stole it and it present location.

Jonathan, who is the first to see this message since ancient times, becomes determined to solve his own theory and where this artifact might be. Despite being told not to pursue the truth, and that “the truth is not his client,” he will not stop until he unravels this mystery and more.

On the opposite side is a man who is so dangerous that if he finds the Menorah he will destroy it and its eternal flame. Selah-ad-din is digging under the Temple Mount with the help of a professor and the aide of a corrupt police officer, to find the menorah, extinguish its light and obliterate the or erase any information or trace of Judaism and Christianity.

Here is where it gets more complicated and more interesting. Every city that housed this Menorah was burnt to the ground. First, Jerusalem, next Rome and finally Carthage, What does Flavius Josephus have to do with this and why is he at the center of this controversy as to how it was really stolen? The menorah was stolen from Jerusalem, as the author writes, over 2000 years ago. But, Titus thought that he had the real menorah, and the Romans thought that they had the real one when they carried it high on their shoulders to Constantinople. But, it was Flavius Josephus, as Jonathan learned from a message he found, that escaped through a hidden gate in the Colisseum and stole the real Menorah. Significance” the flame was an eternal flame that must never be extinguished. The perpetual fire is part of our modern traditions in our synagogues, churches and many other houses of worship that have flames kept over their sanctuary’s arks lit at all times. If one destroys the menorah than you destroy a people whose lineage will be erased. Abraham’s descendants were promised by having this eternal flame lit that they would multiply in “number like the stars in heaven and the sands on the seashore.” Their bloodline would be eternal like the flame and if extinguished like a match to the last burning ember as in our novel’s title.

Added to this we have a police officer trying to solve a murder related to this theft. A Muslim organization, Waqf Authority, which has been in charge of the Temple Mount and whose goal might be to find the Menorah, but their aim is to erase the ancient history of Israel and destroy the Jewish people.

The author even tells of the strife and conflicts between Israel and the Muslim authorities related to the excavations in the Temple Mount. If the past can be erased so can Israel’s claim to the land and to its existence be questioned and erased too.

Even more complex is a corpse that was found by the police in an abandoned warehouse. Along with the body they found some old manuscripts related to Flavius Josephus. Comandandte Profeta dealt with recovering stolen antiquities. As he looked through the documents or parchments he saw orange, luminescent coils from an old space heater in a dented steel box and realized that something was not right. The documents were doused with a heat source and would explode. Before leaving the warehouse he did manage to get a fingerprint of the hand and a lock of the hair in order to try and identify the body.

Looking at the picture of the body and the warehouse he realizes that Professor Cianari was involved in some way and took the pictures. The location was the gladiator’s barracks, which was where the explosion had taken place.

This novel takes place in the course of one day and reverts back and forth between Emili and Jonathan and Chandler, to the police and of course Salah-ad-din and don’t forget the corrupt police officer who trying to them off the scent.

Illegal excavations, renovations in along the eastern wing of Saint Per’s in Chains church and this novel breathes intrigue, murder, suspense and a lot of history for the reader to understand and follow. What do the Maccabees have to do with this church and the Tabernacle Menorah and how does everything intertwine; you will have to read and find that out for yourself. Plus where does Josephus fit into the Maccabean heritage?

With the help of a Holocaust survivor, a General in the Israelis government, the nuns of Sisters of Convent, and many others, Jonathan and Emili search for answers as to the reasons behind the excavations, the location of the menorah and what is happening and lies below the Temple Mount.

How would they get through the hidden gate? How many lives will be lost? Just what would you consider not only terrorist attacks against people, but what about ancient and sacred places too. Archeological terrorism is just as evil and horrific as killing and threatening the lives of people.

In order to protect the flame and get it out of Jerusalem safely the menorah had to be placed in exile. As the clues come together and the police learn whose body they found in the warehouse and everything will soon come into place. Where do they think this menorah is? Who is Salah-ad-Din and what happens next will surprise you. Who can Jonathan and Emili trust? Not who they think!

One holocaust survivor determined to bring home what belongs to Israel. One woman who would make that come true, but at what cost and how. This menorah’s flame with its golden branches will be lit for all eternity and never be extinguished.

Let’s hope the author brings Jonathan and Emily back in his next novel.

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

Flying at Your Own Risk: Freight Dogs How Brave!


Fly the Unfriendly Skies,

“Hauling Checks” by Alex Stone is a humorous, yet very enlightening novel that brings to light a profession that so many people have probably never heard of, or would ever be brave enough to try.  The occupation of Freight Dogs is unique and dangerous.  Flying small airplanes in storms, fog, lightning, ice, and snow; Freight Dogs transport their cargo wherever and whenever, no matter what the conditions may be.  This interesting and humorous novel kept my attention from the start.

In “Hauling Checks” the pilots of Checkflight Airlines persevere, risking life and limb every minute they are in the air, carrying canceled checks that have to be delivered to banks.  Their boss (The Chief) does not care about the lives of his pilots, only the money he needs to keep his business afloat.  The fact that the engine might be on fire, the wings might be so iced up that the plane may not make it off the ground, or the fog so dense that the pilots cannot see does not seem to faze him, nor does he care.

Resorting to unethical and shady business practices, The Chief is thoughtless, unfeeling, and mercenary.  He cuts costs, salaries, pilots, and more in his final resort to save Checkflight when it becomes apparent that his airline might go under.  In order to compensate for his lack of management skills, he decides to resort to some unsavory business practices such as having his pilots make drug runs, money laundering flights, and transporting people who he claims can sit on the floor of the plane without seatbelts or a seat, just a rope to tie around them to keep them from falling out of the plane.  The situations will make you laugh, and keep you on the edge of your seat dying to see what happens next.

With a cast of characters so ill suited to their profession, the pilots create havoc wherever they go, and rarely make their destinations on schedule.  This novel really keeps you laughing and yet it’s a little frightening to think that these things could really happen.  The narrator flies with one co-pilot that is always plastered and another who is depressed over two failed marriages and is just a drop delusional, which makes flying with him quite an experience.

These underpaid, unappreciated pilots of Checkflight Airlines clock an insurmountable number of hours flying for a company that gives them no perks, no bonuses, and certainly no help when trouble arises in the air.  On one run they leave a door open and the checks fall out of the plane.  Before you know it reporters are televising pictures of these bank checks raining all over downtown Cleveland.  It is like an Abbot and Costello movie but even funnier.

Also part of the mix are Checkflight’s two dispatchers, who are totally unfit for their positions, and have no clue as to what they are supposed to be doing.   One of the dispatchers is senile, and barely remembers where she is, or her own name, and the other lives in her own imaginary world.  You never know what is going to happen, and yet the situations that are described are so far out, you just have to laugh or stop and say: “You have to be kidding.”

The pilots fly planes that are poorly maintained and in terrible disrepair.  Fixing and repairing planes is out of the question.  Mechanical failures arise constantly and the people who own Checkflight airlines do not care.  The safety of the pilots is not their concern, only the timely delivery of the cargo.  I would not exactly call them Checkflight airlines, maybe No Budget Airlines or High Jinks Airlines.  But, whatever you call them, this book is great.

For those men out there who are Freight Dogs, you deserve a lot of credit.  This book, although humorous, shows the seedier side of flying.  As a pilot who has experienced a lot of situations in the air, and as someone who was a Freight Dog, the author writes from experience making the novel more realistic to the reader.  “Hauling Checks” is so funny that I could not put it down.  The stories, the incidents, and the characters will keep the reader astounded until the very end.

I never give stars for a book.  I give this book FIVE NEW PLANES IN PERFECT WORKING CONDITION, FIVE NEW DISPATCHERS THAT CAN REMEMBER WHAT THEY ARE DOING, and ONE MECHANIC THAT CAN HANDLE THE REPAIRS.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNERS


Valle Pintado Writing Contest is a Tie

Our First Visual Arts Junction

Writing Contest is a Tie.

Contgratulations

Ed Leonard & Jacki Donnelly

A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say, and that was your assignment. Well, more accurately, 500 — 600 words. And writing about the above photo art, Valle Pintado by Aggie Villanueva, was the subject.

Our six judges returned a split decision, so without further ado Visual Arts Junction, and our many contest sponsors, take pride in introducing you to our two winners, and their winning entries. Click on the links below to see the entries on sponsors’ sites.

Life in the Valle Pintado

by Ed Leonard (Papa Ed)

Ankles tucked and breathing slowed, I feel the tree dance, my wood platform sways and rocks in the hot southern trade winds. My sad, burnt, drought-stunted valley stretches before me. My humble ranch home swelters in a dry, coarse bunchweed field surrounded by stunted agreste woods that threaten to become caatinga.

Death menaces life like a Samhain specter. Gnarled stick trees grasp each other for desperate support. Their life juices drawn deep to survive the uncommon warm, dry winter. Earth spirits have driven the Numida fowl and the high plains antelope down the Tocantins to richer lands. The loss of precious water and the increased heat are taking a horrendous toll on animal and plant habitats in the Valle Pintado.

I have barely survived another winter. Spring has arrived with little promise, and my energy and will are suffering. I call out to the spirits of the jaguar and of the ocelot who once roamed here. But, they do not hear me.

I close my eyes, intent on escape. I release my saddened spirit. Hawk spirit enfolds me and I soar to a better time. I stroke the heavens and relish a gentle wind with a smooth glide. I alight to proudly perch atop a tall post and search the autumn grass for my choice of scampering breakfast.

The Valle Pintado proudly displays a dappled Autumn abstract quilt with primary colors blended and fused like fresh oils on nature’s canvas. My well-tended red adobe brick home blends quietly and comfortably before a large sugary wave of Palo Verde, Box Elder, and Hop Trees in full glory. My harvested corn patch glows golden yellow and my second growth wheat field rusty red.

A warm wind whispers, flicks leaves loose to float and flip their way to rich soil, and bathes my feathers in ripples. A hazy gray cooking fire screen rises among the trees with the rich smell of mesquite fired meat.

Two distant sandstone buttes, glimmer and flash with life, shrouded in milky early morning light. My world is balanced, healthy, and harmonious. I know now that the natural cycle of seasons will return my ranch to glorious life.

I spot a striped field mouse and launch, flapping lightly, then diving fast to my target. I dive and dive, but my prey remains distant. I linger, but the inevitable change reaches me. My spirit snaps back to my earth-bound body. Hawk has brought me hope and reminded me of the potential of my life in the Valle Pintado.

I resolve to exercise patience, to go back and seal my roof against the rain that must come again, to mend my fence against the predators that will return, to plant my corn and wheat knowing they will be nourished and watered. I resolve to hike to the top of the distant butte blessing all earth along the way. I resolve to come often to my tree platform and to meditate with the spirit of my totem animal, the hawk.

My sadness is gone.

Ed Leonard: My online name is papaed. I’ve been a compulsive reader and writer for nearly 50 years. I prefer poetry and have over 100 poems posted online. I’ve never tried to publish a book or articles in a magazine although I’ve done journalistic reporting freelance for several newspapers. I chose to place the Valle Pintado in the Tocantins watershed of Brazil and researched the habitat, geography, watershed, language, and native animals so that my 500 word piece reflects a possible mystical scenario there. I advocate meditation and peace issues in many of my writings and found your picture inspirational along those lines.

http://www.writerscafe.org/writers/edleonard/
http://papaed.multiply.com/
http://www.ipeace.me/profile/papaed
http://coldcoffee.ning.com/profile/papaed
http://nolan-ruizbooks.ning.com/profile/papaed

Judges Comments for Ed’s Entry

What I liked: You made the what and why of your transformations clear without actually saying it. I liked that you didn’t insult our intelligence as readers. That’s good storytelling. I empathized with your transformations; physical, spiritual and emotional, that produced a trust in, and ultimately a submission to, the Great Spirit through nature – a trust that transforms despair into hope restored, and then finally seeing things as they really are.

What could be improved: I know you had a word limit, but I’d like to see it more developed.

What I liked: What an intriguing story of hope. Beautifully painted images; excellent use of the first person POV. Thank you for your contribution to the contest and good luck with your writing career.

What could be improved: My only criticism pertains to the structure of one sentence: Two distant sandstone buttes, glimmer and flash with life, shrouded in milky early morning light. I don’t understand the comma after buttes or the switch from present to past tense (glimmer, flash, shrouded). I wish my own writing problems were so small.

What I liked: The imagery of the story is good and the writer’s effort to paint a story with apt descriptions works well.

What could be improved: The story reads like a synopsis for a much longer story. The grammar needs a little attention — split infinitives and occasional change of verb tense.

d

A Painted Mountain Life

by Jacki Donnelly

It was almost a month since I resigned as Editor in Chief of New York’s most popular fashion magazine “Moda”, but my mental alarm clock was still sounding off promptly at 6 a.m. For the past 29 days this annoyed me, but today was different. Today I started my new life- I left my upscale life and the chaos in NYC. I traded it all in for what I hoped would be a more peaceful and meaningful life.

***

My dearest friend lost a life long battle with cancer. During her last few months I didn’t spend as much time with her as I should have. I didn’t have the time, you know, with being successful and all. Luckily I made it to her before she died. She reminded me to enjoy the life’s little things, and not always focus on money and work. “You are only what you let yourself become.” she gently whispered. And with that I gently embraced her frail hand for the last time.

I finally understood the meaning behind her unsolicited suggestions. She always wanted me to take time off work, to go on a date or read a book, which I refused. I always justified my disregard by her not having or wanting the lavish lifestyle I was accustomed to. I was wrong. Now I sat humbled and dissatisfied.

At that moment I decided to change. I resigned from my job, sold my apartment and packed only the necessities, which included a book I had been working on for over twenty years. I searched the internet for a cabin to retreat to in the mountains. Finally I found a quaint cabin rental nestled in the Apache-Sitgreaves Forest. After a short telephone call with the owner I packed up my car and headed west.

***

I slowly got out of bed letting my feet touch the cold wooden floor. The sunrise was creeping over the mountains and into the cabins’ windows. The fall air had a slight chill with a sweet smell to it. I managed a fire in the ancient woodstove, the only heat source for the small cabin. I walked to the kitchen and poured me a cup of coffee in my only mug. I grabbed a sweater from the pile of clothes on the floor and wrote a few items on a box lid I needed from the market. My chores today were to unpack, set up a space to begin writing again, and groceries.

That would have to wait I wanted to enjoy my first cup of coffee of my new life. I walked out onto the porch and sat down in a rickety, wooden rocking chair. The warmth of my coffee felt good as it trickled down my throat to the pit of my stomach. The scenery took my breath away.

I was overwhelmed with a feeling of awe and tranquility, foreign feelings to me. Such beauty greeted me with open arms on that porch. I listened to the sweet melody of the Mountain Chickadees’ and the Western Meadowlarks’ coming from the forest that surrounded me. The wind was swooshing gently through the Locoweed and Indian Paintbrush wildflowers that outlined the small wooden cabins land. The trees adorning the mountains were reflecting shades of crimson, wheat and amber down to me.

I sat captivated. At that moment, with that warm cup of coffee in my hands, I knew I had made the right choice. Today would mark the day I started to “live” life. A Painted Mountain Life – one I could only dream.

Jacki Donnelly: I currently live in the tropical state of Florida. I am new to writing and am currently discovering my talents. Any commentary on the attached piece would be greatly appreciated. This will be my first piece entered for review! I am very excited and look forward to continuing my path of writing. I am 30 years old, married to a wonderful husband and have a wonderful Boxer puppy named Baxter.

This picture reminded me of a trip we took recently to the Appalachian mountains – Life is so much different in a quiet country setting. I have recently returned to college in pursuit of a degree in English with a Creative Writing emphasis, and so far I am loving every minute of it. I hope to one day become an editor for a small press!

Judges Comments for Jacki’s Entry

What I liked: I thought the story was well written and had a great story line. If the Author wished she could make this into a novel.

What could be improved: The one thing I would change would be to describe the picture more in depth.

What I liked: BROUGHT TEARS to my eyes. She obviously was drawn into the picture and let the emotions of it be real in her story.

What could be improved:

What I liked: I chose Jacki’s story because of the creativeness of her story and how well it went with the picture. It showed a lot of imagination. That’s a good thing! Keep up the good work!

What could be improved: The one thing I would’ve changed in the story, was that it was told in the first person, a pet peeve of mine. First person should be left for non-fiction stories, in my opinion, such as the author’s biography in his/her own words or a memoir. Otherwise, it was great!

The Fine Print: Entries are judged on storytelling quality only. We do not judge on editing, manuscript prep, etc. Congratulations winners.

Sponsors

Your winning entry will also appear
at each of the sites below

Aggie Villanueva Visual Arts Junction: http://www.visualartsjunction.com
Rightfully Mine http://www.aggiev.org/rightfullymine/

Carol Langstroth The Frontpage http://www.carollangstroth.com
Author Meeting Place http://www.authormeetingplace.com/mindfogreviews.html

Linda Yezak 777 Peppermint Place http://lindayezak.wordpress.com/
AuthorCulture http://authorculture.blogspot.com/

Cindy Bauer Cindy Bauer Bookshttp://www.cindybauerbooks.com/
Reviews by Cindy http://reviewsbycindy.blogspot.com/

Nanci Arvizu Page Readers http://pagereaders.com/
Nanci’s Thoughts http://www.nanciarvizu.com

Shelagh Watkins http://shelaghs.blogspot.com
http://shelaghwatkins.wordpress.com

Kim McDougall Blazing Trailers Blazing Trailers http://www.blazingtrailers.com/

Melinda Elmore Melinda’s Blog Spot: Pen to Paper  http://www.melinda.essentialwriters.com

Fran Lewis Fran’s Website http://www.gabina.49.webs.com
Fran’s Blog http://www.gabina49@wordpress.com
Bertha 160 xanga.com bookmarketing.ning.com/profile/FranLewis
http://www.myspace.com/hotauntiebertha
http://www.franifashionista.blogspot.com
http://writing4all.ning.com/profile/FranLewis
http://thewritespot.ning.com/profile/FranLewis

Amber Rigby Grosjean Amber Rigby Grosjean blog http://amberrigbygrosjean.blogspot.com/

D.K. Christi D.K. Christi , Consultant and Author http://www.dkchristi.com

Jhonny Thermidor Unexplored Oceans of Wisdom http://www.JhonnyT.wordpress.com
Johnny Thermidor http://www.JhonnyThermidor.webs.com

Robert Appleton Mercurial Times http://robertbappleton.blogspot.com/

Chelle Cordero Chelle Cordero’s Promo Page http://cce613.xanga.com/

Abe F. March Abe F. March http://www.abemarch.com/apps/blog/

Paidra Delayno Paidra’s Pen http://paidraspen.blogspot.com/

Sandra Kay Sandra Kay’s Musings http://www.sandrakayauthor.blogspot.com/

Jo Fulkerson Writer’s Life http://www.freewebs.com/thedesertwriter/

Elena Dorothy Bowman Elena Dorothy Bowman’s Book Blog http://elenadorothybowmansbooks.blogspot.com/

Hank Quense Blog, the writing blog of Hank Quense http://hankquense.com/blog/

Mark Stephen Levy Overland http://authormarklevy.blogspot.com/

Jay Heinlein Publishing Professional http://heinleinpubservices.blogspot.com

J. Michael Orenduff author of the Pot Thief series http://www.ThePotThief.blogspot.com

Yolanthaiti Harrison-Pace YOLANTHAITI yolanthaiti.blogspot.com

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNERS


Valle Pintado Writing Contest is a Tie

Our First Visual Arts Junction

Writing Contest is a Tie.

Contgratulations

Ed Leonard & Jacki Donnelly

A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say, and that was your assignment. Well, more accurately, 500 — 600 words. And writing about the above photo art, Valle Pintado by Aggie Villanueva, was the subject.

Our six judges returned a split decision, so without further ado Visual Arts Junction, and our many contest sponsors, take pride in introducing you to our two winners, and their winning entries. Click on the links below to see the entries on sponsors’ sites.

Life in the Valle Pintado

by Ed Leonard (Papa Ed)

Ankles tucked and breathing slowed, I feel the tree dance, my wood platform sways and rocks in the hot southern trade winds. My sad, burnt, drought-stunted valley stretches before me. My humble ranch home swelters in a dry, coarse bunchweed field surrounded by stunted agreste woods that threaten to become caatinga.

Death menaces life like a Samhain specter. Gnarled stick trees grasp each other for desperate support. Their life juices drawn deep to survive the uncommon warm, dry winter. Earth spirits have driven the Numida fowl and the high plains antelope down the Tocantins to richer lands. The loss of precious water and the increased heat are taking a horrendous toll on animal and plant habitats in the Valle Pintado.

I have barely survived another winter. Spring has arrived with little promise, and my energy and will are suffering. I call out to the spirits of the jaguar and of the ocelot who once roamed here. But, they do not hear me.

I close my eyes, intent on escape. I release my saddened spirit. Hawk spirit enfolds me and I soar to a better time. I stroke the heavens and relish a gentle wind with a smooth glide. I alight to proudly perch atop a tall post and search the autumn grass for my choice of scampering breakfast.

The Valle Pintado proudly displays a dappled Autumn abstract quilt with primary colors blended and fused like fresh oils on nature’s canvas. My well-tended red adobe brick home blends quietly and comfortably before a large sugary wave of Palo Verde, Box Elder, and Hop Trees in full glory. My harvested corn patch glows golden yellow and my second growth wheat field rusty red.

A warm wind whispers, flicks leaves loose to float and flip their way to rich soil, and bathes my feathers in ripples. A hazy gray cooking fire screen rises among the trees with the rich smell of mesquite fired meat.

Two distant sandstone buttes, glimmer and flash with life, shrouded in milky early morning light. My world is balanced, healthy, and harmonious. I know now that the natural cycle of seasons will return my ranch to glorious life.

I spot a striped field mouse and launch, flapping lightly, then diving fast to my target. I dive and dive, but my prey remains distant. I linger, but the inevitable change reaches me. My spirit snaps back to my earth-bound body. Hawk has brought me hope and reminded me of the potential of my life in the Valle Pintado.

I resolve to exercise patience, to go back and seal my roof against the rain that must come again, to mend my fence against the predators that will return, to plant my corn and wheat knowing they will be nourished and watered. I resolve to hike to the top of the distant butte blessing all earth along the way. I resolve to come often to my tree platform and to meditate with the spirit of my totem animal, the hawk.

My sadness is gone.

Ed Leonard: My online name is papaed. I’ve been a compulsive reader and writer for nearly 50 years. I prefer poetry and have over 100 poems posted online. I’ve never tried to publish a book or articles in a magazine although I’ve done journalistic reporting freelance for several newspapers. I chose to place the Valle Pintado in the Tocantins watershed of Brazil and researched the habitat, geography, watershed, language, and native animals so that my 500 word piece reflects a possible mystical scenario there. I advocate meditation and peace issues in many of my writings and found your picture inspirational along those lines.

http://www.writerscafe.org/writers/edleonard/
http://papaed.multiply.com/
http://www.ipeace.me/profile/papaed
http://coldcoffee.ning.com/profile/papaed
http://nolan-ruizbooks.ning.com/profile/papaed

Judges Comments for Ed’s Entry

What I liked: You made the what and why of your transformations clear without actually saying it. I liked that you didn’t insult our intelligence as readers. That’s good storytelling. I empathized with your transformations; physical, spiritual and emotional, that produced a trust in, and ultimately a submission to, the Great Spirit through nature – a trust that transforms despair into hope restored, and then finally seeing things as they really are.

What could be improved: I know you had a word limit, but I’d like to see it more developed.

What I liked: What an intriguing story of hope. Beautifully painted images; excellent use of the first person POV. Thank you for your contribution to the contest and good luck with your writing career.

What could be improved: My only criticism pertains to the structure of one sentence: Two distant sandstone buttes, glimmer and flash with life, shrouded in milky early morning light. I don’t understand the comma after buttes or the switch from present to past tense (glimmer, flash, shrouded). I wish my own writing problems were so small.

What I liked: The imagery of the story is good and the writer’s effort to paint a story with apt descriptions works well.

What could be improved: The story reads like a synopsis for a much longer story. The grammar needs a little attention — split infinitives and occasional change of verb tense.

d

A Painted Mountain Life

by Jacki Donnelly

It was almost a month since I resigned as Editor in Chief of New York’s most popular fashion magazine “Moda”, but my mental alarm clock was still sounding off promptly at 6 a.m. For the past 29 days this annoyed me, but today was different. Today I started my new life- I left my upscale life and the chaos in NYC. I traded it all in for what I hoped would be a more peaceful and meaningful life.

***

My dearest friend lost a life long battle with cancer. During her last few months I didn’t spend as much time with her as I should have. I didn’t have the time, you know, with being successful and all. Luckily I made it to her before she died. She reminded me to enjoy the life’s little things, and not always focus on money and work. “You are only what you let yourself become.” she gently whispered. And with that I gently embraced her frail hand for the last time.

I finally understood the meaning behind her unsolicited suggestions. She always wanted me to take time off work, to go on a date or read a book, which I refused. I always justified my disregard by her not having or wanting the lavish lifestyle I was accustomed to. I was wrong. Now I sat humbled and dissatisfied.

At that moment I decided to change. I resigned from my job, sold my apartment and packed only the necessities, which included a book I had been working on for over twenty years. I searched the internet for a cabin to retreat to in the mountains. Finally I found a quaint cabin rental nestled in the Apache-Sitgreaves Forest. After a short telephone call with the owner I packed up my car and headed west.

***

I slowly got out of bed letting my feet touch the cold wooden floor. The sunrise was creeping over the mountains and into the cabins’ windows. The fall air had a slight chill with a sweet smell to it. I managed a fire in the ancient woodstove, the only heat source for the small cabin. I walked to the kitchen and poured me a cup of coffee in my only mug. I grabbed a sweater from the pile of clothes on the floor and wrote a few items on a box lid I needed from the market. My chores today were to unpack, set up a space to begin writing again, and groceries.

That would have to wait I wanted to enjoy my first cup of coffee of my new life. I walked out onto the porch and sat down in a rickety, wooden rocking chair. The warmth of my coffee felt good as it trickled down my throat to the pit of my stomach. The scenery took my breath away.

I was overwhelmed with a feeling of awe and tranquility, foreign feelings to me. Such beauty greeted me with open arms on that porch. I listened to the sweet melody of the Mountain Chickadees’ and the Western Meadowlarks’ coming from the forest that surrounded me. The wind was swooshing gently through the Locoweed and Indian Paintbrush wildflowers that outlined the small wooden cabins land. The trees adorning the mountains were reflecting shades of crimson, wheat and amber down to me.

I sat captivated. At that moment, with that warm cup of coffee in my hands, I knew I had made the right choice. Today would mark the day I started to “live” life. A Painted Mountain Life – one I could only dream.

Jacki Donnelly: I currently live in the tropical state of Florida. I am new to writing and am currently discovering my talents. Any commentary on the attached piece would be greatly appreciated. This will be my first piece entered for review! I am very excited and look forward to continuing my path of writing. I am 30 years old, married to a wonderful husband and have a wonderful Boxer puppy named Baxter.

This picture reminded me of a trip we took recently to the Appalachian mountains – Life is so much different in a quiet country setting. I have recently returned to college in pursuit of a degree in English with a Creative Writing emphasis, and so far I am loving every minute of it. I hope to one day become an editor for a small press!

Judges Comments for Jacki’s Entry

What I liked: I thought the story was well written and had a great story line. If the Author wished she could make this into a novel.

What could be improved: The one thing I would change would be to describe the picture more in depth.

What I liked: BROUGHT TEARS to my eyes. She obviously was drawn into the picture and let the emotions of it be real in her story.

What could be improved:

What I liked: I chose Jacki’s story because of the creativeness of her story and how well it went with the picture. It showed a lot of imagination. That’s a good thing! Keep up the good work!

What could be improved: The one thing I would’ve changed in the story, was that it was told in the first person, a pet peeve of mine. First person should be left for non-fiction stories, in my opinion, such as the author’s biography in his/her own words or a memoir. Otherwise, it was great!

The Fine Print: Entries are judged on storytelling quality only. We do not judge on editing, manuscript prep, etc. Congratulations winners.

Sponsors

Your winning entry will also appear
at each of the sites below

Aggie Villanueva Visual Arts Junction: http://www.visualartsjunction.com
Rightfully Mine http://www.aggiev.org/rightfullymine/

Carol Langstroth The Frontpage http://www.carollangstroth.com
Author Meeting Place http://www.authormeetingplace.com/mindfogreviews.html

Linda Yezak 777 Peppermint Place http://lindayezak.wordpress.com/
AuthorCulture http://authorculture.blogspot.com/

Cindy Bauer Cindy Bauer Bookshttp://www.cindybauerbooks.com/
Reviews by Cindy http://reviewsbycindy.blogspot.com/

Nanci Arvizu Page Readers http://pagereaders.com/
Nanci’s Thoughts http://www.nanciarvizu.com

Shelagh Watkins http://shelaghs.blogspot.com
http://shelaghwatkins.wordpress.com

Kim McDougall Blazing Trailers Blazing Trailers http://www.blazingtrailers.com/

Melinda Elmore Melinda’s Blog Spot: Pen to Paper  http://www.melinda.essentialwriters.com

Fran Lewis Fran’s Website http://www.gabina.49.webs.com
Fran’s Blog http://www.gabina49@wordpress.com
Bertha 160 xanga.com bookmarketing.ning.com/profile/FranLewis
http://www.myspace.com/hotauntiebertha
http://www.franifashionista.blogspot.com
http://writing4all.ning.com/profile/FranLewis
http://thewritespot.ning.com/profile/FranLewis

Amber Rigby Grosjean Amber Rigby Grosjean blog http://amberrigbygrosjean.blogspot.com/

D.K. Christi D.K. Christi , Consultant and Author http://www.dkchristi.com

Jhonny Thermidor Unexplored Oceans of Wisdom http://www.JhonnyT.wordpress.com
Johnny Thermidor http://www.JhonnyThermidor.webs.com

Robert Appleton Mercurial Times http://robertbappleton.blogspot.com/

Chelle Cordero Chelle Cordero’s Promo Page http://cce613.xanga.com/

Abe F. March Abe F. March http://www.abemarch.com/apps/blog/

Paidra Delayno Paidra’s Pen http://paidraspen.blogspot.com/

Sandra Kay Sandra Kay’s Musings http://www.sandrakayauthor.blogspot.com/

Jo Fulkerson Writer’s Life http://www.freewebs.com/thedesertwriter/

Elena Dorothy Bowman Elena Dorothy Bowman’s Book Blog http://elenadorothybowmansbooks.blogspot.com/

Hank Quense Blog, the writing blog of Hank Quense http://hankquense.com/blog/

Mark Stephen Levy Overland http://authormarklevy.blogspot.com/

Jay Heinlein Publishing Professional http://heinleinpubservices.blogspot.com

J. Michael Orenduff author of the Pot Thief series http://www.ThePotThief.blogspot.com

Yolanthaiti Harrison-Pace YOLANTHAITI yolanthaiti.blogspot.com

Runt: Memories of a Dyslexic Bastard by Ray Shoop


Runt: Memories of a Dyslexic Bastard

Author: Ray Shoop

This is a powerful novel that brings to light many important and vital areas that were prevalent back in the 1940’s when this novel takes place and even now in 2009. Children emulate their parents. They revere them and want their acceptance when they do something right and their understanding and guidance when they do something wrong. But, when verbal and physical abuse is the main forms of teaching a child right from wrong, you have the parents and family of George Woodrum or the Runt. With a father that belittled him every step of the way and brothers that enjoyed making him feel slow and dumb, George had no chance of success and little feelings of self-worth.

Trying to complete the tasks his father wanted him to do and trying to not get in trouble, he often faltered and if not for his niece Bee, his closest ally and friend he would have had no one in his life to confide in and make him feel special. With a close bond, closer than two children should have, they managed to withstand the abuse, neglect and beatings that George became accustomed to on an almost a daily basis.

Added to this George had even more obstacles to overcome. He had difficulty in school and learning to read was something that he never learned to do. Being dyslexic does not mean you cannot learn nor does it mean that you are smart. It just means that when you see words and letters you do not see them the same way that others do and many people that are brilliant and smart struggle with dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning problem that both adults and children have making it difficult to read and spell.

Children and adults with dyslexia need special reading specialists to work, assess and plan a special program to help them learn to read. Often feeling angry, frustrated and sad because they are having such difficulty is normal, but in this case, George’s situation was left undiagnosed and not addressed by his teacher, Ms. Ellenwood or his parents who really did not seem to care. Whether he went to school or not or behaved or did not, he received nothing but ridicule and beatings for his lack of success or poor performance or behaviors both in school and at home. Who would want to go to school to be made to feel stupid, unwanted and not worth the help of the person who is there to address the needs of all of the students in the class. Added to the mix is a family that is totally dysfunctional with family members that had their own issues and private grievances.

With two older sisters with failed marriages and husbands that either cheated on them, or wound up out of work or worse, they came to live under the same roof as The Old Man and Beth as his father was referred to and his mother. However, if the abuse that he encountered from his family was not bad enough, he had the stigma of being referred to as a Bastard. When a woman has a child out of wedlock and does not marry the father, the child is referred to as a bastard. How, awful is that. All of his life Runt or George was referred to by that name and only when he got older did he realize what it really meant. Not only that, but his sister was not that innocent and his niece Bee was considered one too. How horrific and how wrong is to take out the transgressions of an adult on an innocent child who was not responsible for how he/she was conceived and who his/her parents were. Added to that the truth about his father’s birth and more will enlighten the reader.

Throughout his young life and those of his family members, George Woodrum felt like an outsider in his family. Only wanting to contribute his share and be included when jobs were given out and not reduced to the demeaning job of washing and scratching his father’s feet and bringing him beers, helps the reader feel warmth and compassion for this really kind, understanding and compassionate young man.

What the end result is will surprise the reader. When The Old Man squanders his pension money and does not pay his bills for his home, the family loses everything and is forced to move into cramped quarters and everyone has to pitch in and work. But, school never gets better for him and a one-room schoolhouse, which is where he went for most of his time in school, made it more difficult for him and other students to learn. Teachers are trained to work with all of their pupils. Back then, many had no idea how to work with those with learning disabilities and these children fell by the wayside or just dropped out and got menial jobs. What does happen to give his family a wakeup call will bring tears to your eyes. What does happen at the end to his family and to him will let you know that the apple does not fall far from the tree and children of abused families and who are abused are often abusive parents too.

The sad part is that he never got a hug or a kiss from his mother or father. Even sadder is the ending and how he feels or does not feel when his parents are gone. What does happen to him and his niece you will have to read for yourself. As an educator I became angry at the way he and other students were treated by all of the teachers. No one bothered to address his learning needs and I bet if taught with the proper methods and instruction that are geared to dyslexics he would have learned to read and excelled.

This is strong novel that brings to light how important it is for parents to be mindful of their children’s feelings and needs. It is novel that focuses on a family that was anything but a unit and whose members fought for their own personal survival. A brother who went off to war and kept coming home with another girlfriend and his own illegitimate child. Two sisters who had troubles in their own lives and marriages. The word Bastard has many definitions. You decide whether the meaning should just refer to a child born out of wedlock, or the person who mistreats an innocent child just because he is different. Just how many characters in this story fit either definition?

I do not give stars when I review a book. I give George Five Hugs and Five Words: Special, Kindhearted, Loving, Smart and Understanding. They truly are who you are and more.

Fran Lewis; reviewer