Purple Heart Broken Heart by Carol Huff

Purple Heart Broken Heart

Author Carol Huff

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

Decisions that we make will often change the course of events in our lives. In Purple Heart Broken Heart the author relates the story of her uncle Harold Huff whose decisions changed not only the course of events in his life but that of others too. Fighting for our freedom during WWII and deciding on his personal fate thereof, Harold Huff is not only a true American Hero but also a man of integrity. Our young adults today need to embrace the freedoms that are so readily afforded to them and the education they are afforded here in America. Read the story of Harold Huff and learn the meaning of family, patriotism and much more. I dedicate this review to the family of Harold Huff, his memory, his life and to our freedoms. I am proud to have been asked to review this book and I hope my review will honor his memory.

As a soldier if you are wounded the military often awards you a Purple Heart for being injured in action. But, Purple Hearts are not the only ones that people receive when hurt, broken ones can often be just as painful and leave the same everlasting scars as the wounds inflicted by an enemy. In this riveting novel based on many true events, author Carol Huff brings to light the effects that a war has on a country, families, people and the world as one man’s story is told and others that follow into a war that took many lives, but made one man stronger in both mind and spirit as Sergeant Ross Huphrine takes us into the trenches with the 79th division, its men, its officers and with Ross. This is his story: Purple Heart Broken Heart by author Carol Huff.

Each day as we open the newspapers we read about many young men who are killed on the battlefields of foreign countries helping to fight for the rights and freedoms of those that live in these far off places. Whether they are in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else, American soldiers, hold their heads up high and fight with pride and dignity.  The attack on Pearl Harbor pulled America into the war. The Japanese thought that they would win the war and leave us to lick our wounds. But, this is America and we are Americans and the soldiers that went overseas to fight against the many enemies that allied themselves with Japan soon learned just what American soldiers were made of and never to underestimate them or our leaders.

In a tribute to her uncle Ross, author Carol Huff takes the reader and the world back to a time when America had to fight for her freedom, where many young men left their wives, families and loved ones to fight for their country knowing full well they might never return. Ross Huphrine was one such brave man who enlisted in the army and fought his hardest to protect and defend his country and his fellow soldiers.

Author Carol Huff brings the reader right up to the front lines vividly describes each battle, the fate of those fighting and the fears within the hearts and minds of the men in the trenches and foxholes as one day ends and another begins.  Each battle, each battalion made up of young soldiers and a wonderful Captain that befriended Ross and respected his men, the reader becomes enmeshed and immersed in each battle, each setback, each victory and becomes endeared to each of the characters so brilliantly portrayed in this novel.

The research, the journals and stories and the events that are depicted bring back a time in history that students today need to remember and fully understand. As each battle is described the reader enters the pulse of the war and can visualize each regiment as they push forward to fight the enemy and suffer the losses and experience the victories bringing the war to an end. Reading the accounts of the battles reminds us of the newsreels and short documentaries that would precede the many movies we saw when we were younger.  My mom would tell me that instead of coming attractions there would be newsreels showing the war, the leaders, the President and the horrors faced by our soldiers. These descriptions and these accounts will help keep the memories of the war alive in the minds of all Americans and hopefully work to remind us that we are still at war and need to find an end to the fighting overseas.

Added to this is a wonderful love story between Ross and Freda. As Ross enters the war within six days he is injured and can no longer hold a gun. His right thumb is severely hurt and he requires many months of therapy and several surgeries to repair the damage. It is in the hospital in England that he meets Nedra and her husband as well as her best friend Freda. But, wars tear people apart. Ross delivers many messages of hope and doom when writing home to his family. Knowing that they are safe and keeps him inspired to move ahead. But, as with war there are many other casualties and his romance with Freda might just be another one.

Freda’s father would not allow her to marry him and move to America for personal reasons. Ross, loyal to his family, his country and this war, would not abandon either and went right back onto the battlefield to finish what he started. Ross and his division push to cross the Rhine. They invade Germany and conquer and question the Nazi enemy and more. As the war draws to a close and the men of the 79th, 314th, 313th and other divisions are about to go home, Ross and his men set up camps for the prisoners, detention centers for displaced people and interrogate the Germans and glad to have finally brought down that mad man Hitler and awaiting for a Japanese surrender so that everyone can return home.

As the war comes to a close and friendships change and others remain Ross returns home to his family with a broken and heavy heart. What will happen to his life now that he is home? Will the bonds and friendships he made during the war remain? A man that fostered allegiance to his country and would not stop until his unit won that final battle, helped create humane conditions for the prisoners and displaced people and knew that the time was right to start over, Ross Huphrine made his family, the world and his battalion proud.

With a family that embraces his return, but an empty hole in his heart that seems to forever fester with pain, Ross embarks on a life as a bachelor, son, brother, uncle and more in order to come to grips with the nightmares of the war and the split in his heart from leaving Freda behind.

Life does not always give you what you want. Ross lived his life wanting someone he knew he could never really have. With a closely-knit family and a love of the land, he passed on much of what he was taught to his nieces and nephews. What you have to admire is his loyalty to his friends and family. With friendships that would be lifelong, author Carol Huff brings the story of her uncle Harold Huff’s life full circle as the ending will surprise the reader and the realization of his past comes to light. What will Ross find when he returns to England with his army friends for a two week tour? What will finally give him the peace he so rightly deserves? Read this book and take the journey along with Ross, Freda, Nedra, his family and his army family to understand that some bonds will never be broken and the horrors of war never die in the minds of those that live it.

I can feel the tension, the fear of the men as they embark on each battle and I really can’t wait to see what happens next. My uncle fought in WWII and my dad was in the merchant marines. I understand the anguish and the heartache that families go through and feel until their loved one comes home. My nephew is fighting in Afghanistan and I worry every day. This book is a great tribute to Carol’s uncle and a reminder of what we went through as a nation during WWII.

This book is a must read for everyone that has someone fighting in the wars today or that wants to be reminded of what a great country we live in and how so many gave their lives and much more to protect our freedoms. We need more Harold Huff’s today to remind our young people how lucky they are to live in America,






The Science of Acting by Sam Kogan

The Science of Acting

By Sam Kogan

I never really want to become an actress nor do I want to get up on stage and perform. However, I am a radio show talk host and a writer and many of the lessons, ideas and strategies in The Science of Acting by author Sam Kogan can help anyone enhance not only their acting skills but writing too. I am going to review this book based on what areas I found helpful, insightful and useful to make me a better writer, author and to create the kind of characters and plot that would be great if someone decided to make my books into a movie.

The Science of Acting is a great resource for anyone who wants to learn the craft and become an actor/actress in the theater, television or movies. The author Sam Kogan puts much of himself into this book by taking the student or reader on his own journey through acting schools, tryouts for parts and teaching experiences that helped his students and him learn the craft in an interesting and meaningful manner.  The fourteen chapters focus on many aspects that not only can be applied to acting but to becoming a better writer, playwright or screenwriter. This book will help anyone in real life who needs to build confidence when going for an interview, speaking in front of large audiences and as I do, host a regular radio show.

The book is divided into three sections. The first is foundations which helps the reader and the learner understand the building blocks and how they work in order to become a better actor/actress or in my case writer. This section or part includes vital information on what are complexes, awareness and events. These are just some of the areas that the author touches on in this part. However, awareness seems to be the one that intertwines the other two and each one builds on the precious until you get to the meat of the book or the Qualities of a Good Actor, or part 2. The final section is devoted to Working on the Script which provides a truly hands on experience for the writer, actor or reviewer to apply all of the skills and building blocks into creating a better script, book or screenplay.

I did mention awareness, which the author states, is the ability to see one’s own thinking. I think this term says it all. If you can understand what your thoughts are and see both your visible and invisible thoughts and how they are unique and special to the character. As I read this chapter I began to formulate in my mind how I might improve the characters in my children’s books and start thinking about what their visible and invisible thoughts would be and if they were portrayed on a television show what their thoughts would be that should belong to them and not the writer. Continuing in that same chapter is the model of awareness that helps the writer create the character. Chronologically, what follows is the chapter titled Events which would help the character enact his/her thoughts and better understand exactly what an event really is. Events are anything that intensifies our thinking. An event does is not something in the physical world it is intensified by the happening which is a change in the physical world. There are many ways to understand events, awareness and character development that are discussed in this book along with numerous short stories and examples to better illustrate how these elements work. The chapter that I am going to use as resource is the one entitled Mindprint which really helps the actor or writer learn how to help develop a better character and make that character come alive for on paper and in the theater.

Part Two of the book discusses the Qualities of an Actor and the Third takes the actor and the writer through the crucial steps to actually creating, writing and performing a script. All of the qualities discussed that the author feels make up a good and talented actor intertwine into one in order to come out with the right formula. Imagination is one of the main tools for creating a believable and good character. Imagine being able to create a character’s past, present and future and placing yourself imagining yourself within and one and the same with this character. The author discusses many elements of a talented actor that can not only be incorporated in a play, or show but when a person needs to build confidence when going for a new job, you play the role, sit and think about the questions you might be asked to answer and hopefully predict or be ready for the unknown ones that might come. Finally, the last part of the book as I stated pulls it all together and helps the writer, author, screenwriter or journalist create a better and better script. To understand how the Science of Acting works and how you can use it in your writing and everyday life you need to read this book and use it as a resource, to create your perfect script. I would say that you should read each chapter starting with complexes and until you reach the final section and create your own examples of each and see how they measure up to those in the book. Do not read the entire book once. Give yourself a chance to incorporate and understand each of the chapters and how they will help you in your writing. Finally, use the glossary of terms in the back as a reference to help you remember the different meanings of the word actions, the ten steps that are summarized on pages 245-246 and the glossary of definitions that defines the important elements in each chapter.

Using this book I hope to create better characters for my next two children’s books and for the non-fiction book I plan to write based on a true story. Well written, great examples, interesting stories that provide true to life experiences for the reader to understand, Sam Kogan’s voice if truly heard in every story he relates about his own experiences, his examples and more.

I recommend that anyone who is thinking about a career in acting, writing or even public speaking read this book and learn the true Science of Acting from a great actor and writer.

Fran Lewis: reviewer

Papal Rogues reviewed by author Fran Lewis

Papal Rogues

Author: Ron Wilk


Publisher: Langdon Street Press

Reviewed by Fran Lewis

Would you risk your life to find out who killed someone you never met? Michael Squire and Calder McMonagle never met in person. Both were super-hackers whose skills were employed by Recton Industries for one purpose: to create computer viruses. Using emails that were encrypted these two men communicated daily in order to provide Recton Industries the viruses. Why? For profit, what else! Recton Industries manufactured a problem and miraculously created its solution, which is why Michael and Calder were hired as independent programmers by Arthur Grove the CEO of Recton and Morgan Fiske his partner. But, when Michael hacked into a location and a specific website that he was not supposed to see, the incriminating data would cost those involved too much and the need for his elimination became apparent. So, why does Calder risk everything and come to the U.S. in order to get learn the fate of his hacking partner? Calder considers him a friend. Creating a problem along with its solution was brilliant and productive but for how long? Tightening the distance between legal and illegal, right from wrong these two men entered into a dangerous alliance that would cost them and many others dearly.

Added into this web of intrigue, and manipulation is Aspen Aerospace a government funded organization parading as a public company run by Gavin McCloud, the CEO of the company. What is their real purpose? What is the government funding? What are metamaterials and why would this company want to create a way to make objects invisible to the naked eye? This project is classified and a secret, but before all is said and done, lives will be lost, deceptions will unfold and careers will be ruined. The maze of deceit, deception and lies has just begun.

As the head of Aspen Space, Gavin Mcloud and General Fogg form an unholy bond in order to carry out their plan before the walls come tumbling down on them. Just think of the ramifications of such a project and what will happen if they succeed? Four powerful men collectively known as the Colloquium, joined forces to make sure that success is imminent at all costs. Howard Barker, Renato Ottani, Gavin McCloud and Abraham Gaudet, each powerful in his own right, but one more deadly than the rest. But, which one? Added to this someone penetrated into their non-classified computer files compromising them causing grave concern and adding more pressure on McCloud and his partner General Fogg to find a solution, someone to blame for the breach of security and deal with it.

Under the guise of needing a job, Calder infiltrates Recton, with the aide of an unlikely accomplice, to learn who is behind the conspiracy and murder. Asked to hack into the World Bank as a test of his skills, Calder and his accomplice, Brenda, Michael’s wacky girlfriend, learn more than they bargain for when they find a code linking the Vatican and a powerful man to the cover-up and more. Why would the Vatican need Recton’s services? Why would they want to hack into the World’s Computers? What is really behind the motives of the man in charge? The maze is still unfinished and all of the dots have not been connected.

When Calder and Brenda get too close they become captives of General Fogg and the military witnessing some unspeakable methods used to find out the answers to their questions and preventing one man from telling anyone about the invisibility design project. Brenda’s outstanding hacking skills combined with Calder’s will hopefully help them learn the real purpose behind Fogg’s involvement, the invisibility project, and who killed Michael their freedom.

When Renato Ottani receives a visit from his connection in the Vatican he realizes that the information hidden behind the wall of the warehouse of his company must be protected regardless of who or what has to be sacrificed. With distrust brewing among the members of the Colloquium, the spotlight is shined on Renato and what is his real connection to al of this and can he be stopped before more is revealed? But, panic sets in and Renato rushes over to his company’s warehouse to secure the information hidden behind a brick wall that would cause a major upheaval in the stature of the Holy See and more if it came to light.

A cast of characters so clearly defined in their roles of deception and deceit and a plot filled with twists, turns and surprises, keeps the reader on edge until the end. With nowhere to turn and their faith in each other, Calder and Brenda learn the naked truth, but will that keep them safe from harm in the future? Ron Wilk definitely has written a great thriller that will give the reader pause for much thought and hoping for more.

Hostage of Lies

Hostage of Lies

By Dr. Maxine Thompson

Throughout our lives we make choices that mold our futures and sometimes affect us in both positive and negative ways. Spouses, boyfriends, first loves and career decisions affect our futures and often reflect on the way others treat us. Unfortunately, mistakes and digressions into paths we should not follow, often cloud our judgment reflect poorly on the way others act toward us in our presence. The characters in Hostage of Lies, all harbor secrets that they do not want uncovered. Some secrets more harmful and destructive than others. Those that pass judgment should not cast the first stone on others since their records are not pure. This brings me to my review of Hostage of Lies a novel that brings to light many relevant issues of the present and comes full circle with some from the past.

Nefertiti is a proud African American woman who has reverted back to her African American roots. Changing her appearance and wearing the clothing indignant of her heritage, she returns to her home after being castigated and banished by her father, she reenters his life and others in Shallow Falls to find the answers to many questions that have been harbored within her soul and mind for too long. Married to Isaac Thorn for 12 years and having two children with him, her bond to this small town is still quite clear, but how strong remains to be seen. Pharaoh, Isaac’s half brother was the first man that she was intimate with and these two men have been reliving, reviving and rekindling in their own minds the feelings for her, their animosity for each other and their own brand of anger that spews from their lips when together.

Nefertiti returns to her parent’s home for her father’s 75th birthday with one important goal in mind. She intends to find the child she gave birth to 23 years ago and will stop at nothing until she does. Hidden beneath her frustration is anger so deep that nothing will ever remove the pain, degradation, the abuse and the scorn festered upon her by her father. Exiled, banished and forced out of her family’s nest, she is deemed a disgrace, harlot, and embarrassment in the eyes of her father, family and church for one mistake.

There is much more to this story than Nefertiti’s. Calissa, Miss Maggs, Isaac, Tiger and many others harbor secrets that should they be revealed would change the complexion or way people few them even more. Calissa too was banished and cast aside by her husband and diminished in the eyes of her children by their father for one mistake.

This is a story about mistakes of the heart, abuse more heinous than just by inflicting pain on her person physically, and about reopening your heart to others and allowing the hate, the cruelty to finally melt away and allowing forgiveness in. Take an ice sculpture so frozen solid that it looks like it will never melt and will stand the test of the hot burning sun or a burning flame. Nefertiti, Calissa, Ms. Maggs and many others have felt the scorching flames as the ice that formed in the heart of the abuser was inflicted so hard that they formed their own private shield in the outside, but on the inside the ice water turned boiling hot and the scars caused by the heat and the flames could no longer be withstood and their self esteems and their courage dripped away.

Power is what controls who and what you are in Shallow Falls in the eyes of Reverend Godbolt and Reverend Deacon. Both are powerful men who lived their lives ruling their families with iron hands and their wives with iron fists and strong words. Power is a funny thing, it cannot always bring you happiness but it can bring you false respect of others and the ability to control many outcomes because of how much you and wield on others. But, for how long before the same people finally take it no more and don’t care about your power and develop a thick skin of their and fight back in their own time and way. This story is all about power and control and who has it. Will the reigns change by the end? Will the secrets of each be unfolded and will the eyes of the town and their opinions unfurl and change on those that are now in power? Wait and see.

While each character reflects on the past and the hidden secrets, family ties and relationships that embrace and brought them to the present, the author eloquently and brilliantly weaves each character’s lines and stories so intricately intertwining and forever taking sealing their lies, truths and deceits in a tightly sealed airless vault waiting for the seal to break and the air to set them free.

As the lies become unsealed and Nefertiti questions her parentage, heritage and confronts her father for the truth, many other lies will be uncovered, a father’s secret will be revealed and many others will never be the same. Ms. Maggs, Bertha, Nefertiti, Sweets and the women of Shallow Corner have all been victims of abuse, remained in the background and never hold their tongues. But, not Nefertiti she was a bold, bright and educated who decided to live her life and finally make the right choices on her own when being forced to give her child up for adoption by her parents.

One man, Pharaoh, plagued by his dreams and the horrors he faced fighting in Vietnam. Isaac haunted by a woman he so wrongly lost, and Reverend Deacon and Godbolt, so righteous in their thinking and their thoughts cast aside those that truly loved them and filled their lives and the town of Shallow Corner with nothing but hostages held prisoners by their lies.

Who will finally be set free? Who will the final victims be? Read this heartbreaking and heartfelt novel so well written and crafted that the reader will be not only enveloped but totally immersed in a plot so tangled that only a jeweler with the right tools can untangle the knots. With an ending so riveting and a conclusion so unexpected Hostage of Lies will keep you in suspense until the very last page where the final lie is revealed. A must read for anyone that has ever been a victim of abuse, prejudice and deceit. A book that lets the reader know that we have come so far in our thoughts and thinking but we are not there yet. Choices are difficult and we have to live with the outcome. Will she find her daughter? Read this outstanding novel and find out.

This book gets Five Stars

Fran Lewis: Reviewer and author of the Bertha Series of Books and Memories are Precious

Britney Spears: Little Girl Lost

Title: Britney Spears: Little Girl Lost

Author: Christopher Heard


Publisher: Transit Publishing

The media can be cruel when reporting about a singer, movie star or even an athlete. Movie critics, book reviewers and photographers tend to invade the lives of the actors, authors and famous figures when they appear in public, or review their movies or books. Britney Spears has been under the microscope since the day she was born. Primed to become a singer and a star, encouraged by her mother, Lynne, Britney Spears life was never really private. There was always someone there to photograph her, rate her performance, compete against her or encourage her to continue being the perfectionist she has always was and still is. This brings me to my review of Britney Spears: Little Girl Lost by Christopher Heard. What a perfect title. To anyone that really has a heart and understands that people deserve second chances and should not be judged on past mistakes, the title fits, as I feel she never had a chance to really be a little girl and do the things little kids did.

From the minute she could get up and dance or sing, she performed in public and entered every competition and contest that her mother would bring her to. She won most everyone that she entered and competed in before the age of 8. Britney loved gymnastics too and was given every form of equipment to practice on in her home. Piano lessons, singing lessons and dancing lessons were her life early on, causing her to miss school and socializing with other children her own age.

Britney Spears’s mother had goals that she set for her and expected her to reach them. With a father that was finding it hard to find work, the family began depending on her to support them. Becoming part of the Mickey Mouse Club, she became friends with many stars and her rise to stardom she hoped would not be far away. With the shows short-lived life and cancellation, she returned home to Kentwood to resume her life as a normal teenager. But, would her mother allow her to and what would her next career move be? Even forming a relationship with a friend of her brother, she dove into it with the same vigor as two adults starting a relationship. The relationship became too intense and when Reg went off to college and met other girls, Britney retaliated by dating other boys and making sure that he knew it

Britney did not handle rejection or disappointment very well. When she did not get a part or come on top she started analyzing what she did wrong and consider what her failings were instead of working on the many positive attributes that she had. Throughout the this biography I have not heard her parents use terms of love or endearment to her or ever say they were proud of her for all that she accomplished and might in the future.

Author Christopher Heard helps the reader to better understand the torment, turbulent relationships, the highs and lows of the career of a young woman who many counted on to make them rich and bring in the gold. Her relationship with Justin Timberlake, her mother’s goals for her and constant push to rise to the top, and the endless tours she went on, often left her drained and feeling alone. Commercials, movies, awards, endorsements, videos and numerous albums and yet she never really found Brittany, the real person. A heart of gold and blaming herself for her parent’s debts, she paid them back and then some but not just with money but also by driving herself and pushing herself to meet what she thought she wanted and others expected of her. She became less of a human being and more of a marketable product.

Her life is like looking into a distorted mirror with all of the images out of place. Her relationship and marriage to Kevin Federline, her poor public image due to allegedly being accused of alcohol and drug abuse, her stint in rehab and more drove the public, the media and her support group to withdraw from her. Temper tantrums in public, hospitalizations, losing custody of her children and no one really understood why. Even her parents and doctors did stop and think about why her total personality was so erratic. As the author so aptly states,” too many in Britney’s inner and outer circles were content to overlook her suffering and obvious cries for help.” This book is a must read for anyone that wants to learn more about what happens when stardom comes too fast, people take advantage of a young girl who just wanted to become a star.

Brittany needs to fix that mirror and create a clearer picture. You don’t have to please the world, you need to be who you are and that is just fine and deserve a big hug and congrats for your comeback.

The Find

The Find

Author: Marilyn Jax

The past often comes back and haunts you in the present. What is buried can unsurface and recreate the present in a different way than you planned. Two brothers separated by circumstances beyond their control- one horrific war, one Holocaust that we must never forget happened- lives lost due to hatred, torture and injustices inflicted on so many people. Two men whose worlds were obliterated with the flick of an ash and the fires that burned and incinerated so many, but would be bound forever by something that no one could ever destroy: Love and Trust for each other

Human remains were left after the Nazi’s burned and incinerated their victims. Human remains were found at the bottom of a dig site during an environmental clean-up project. What do these incidents have in common? They will be forever enmeshed and intertwined when you read my review of Marilyn Jax’s debut novel The Find.

Claire Caswell a fraud investigator in Florida and Gaston Lombard the State Attorney for Miami-Dade Florida have gone to the Cayman Islands to celebrate and bring in the New Year together. While exploring the island they uncover a cave filled with a hidden artifact that leads them into a deadly investigation into a 40 year old murder and a hunt for a killer that might still be at large.

At the root the investigation is the identification of the man that was murdered and learning his identity and the significance of the necklace and the coin hanging from it.

The necklace around the remains was of a Greek coin called a lepton dating back to ancient Greece and possibly finding its way to Israel. A copper coin of nominal value yet placed on an 18 carot gold chain. Dating back to 1935 and Palestine this coin will have a strong connection to the brothers and hopefully be instrumental in solving the murder.

Added to these findings the medical examiner reports the victim is a male murdered about 40 years ago. Add both written and phone threats to thwart Claire’s endeavors in solving this case that most of her colleagues feel is unsolvable and you have a mystery/thriller filled with suspense, intrigue, history and greed.

Greed shows its nasty hand in many other places in this novel. After having been reimbursed at two clean up sites this third site sends up a big red flag when Claire meets with Lawson and his consultant, in order to inspect the site where the remains were found. Seeing a gasoline can at the site and noting that at the first two the soil samples were contaminated and this third site had two sets that were not, she cleverly states to both men that she knows this site will prove to be different. But, they have other ideas in mind and will stop at nothing to get what they want.

Claire and Gaston bring back the artifact that they uncovered with some coins from the cave and ask a reputable dealer to appraise it. The statue dates back to the three stolen artifacts taken from a museum. The thieves stuffed the relics with raw and uncut emeralds. The eyes of the statue, as the one they brought back, were made of jade. But, when the statue was returned the dealer claimed it had a nominal value and the jade eyes were replaced. The emeralds were packed within the bottom of each of the three statues that were stolen hoping to never be discovered where hidden and make its way through customs. But, the best-laid plans are sometimes foiled, as you will learn.

With the help of retired Detective Penwright and the dying man, they uncover the letters written by the victim and the name and reason for the murder is revealed, but not solved. The murdered has yet to be named and all of the pieces of this intrigue puzzle need to be neatly placed within its frame before Claire and Gaston rest. But, what they uncover will surprise the reader, break their hearts and give you the true meaning of friendship, loyalty, deceit and greed in ways you never would have imagined.

Who can you trust if not an old friend? Who is behind the murder? Who is behind the threats to Claire’s life? Will they find the truth and will they be able to deal with the answers to their questions?

The story that unfolds and that is told by the author about the Holocaust, the reasons behind the murder and the well crafted way she leads the reader to understand the investigative process, enveloped the reviewer from the start to finish in this outstanding novel. After reading her second novel, The Road to Omalos and reviewing it, I had to see where it all began and how Claire and Gaston became a team. Characters are clearly defined. A plot that grabs the reader from page one and keeps you on edge until the very end, hoping for more. I can’t wait to read her third novel and learn more about Claire and Gaston.

This novel deserves five gold stars.

Fran Lewis: Reviewer and author of Memories are Precious and the Bertha Series of Children’s Books



Big Bobby Boom and the Marble Mayhem

Title: Big Bobby Boom and the Marble Mayhem

Author: Gregg Seeley

ISBN: 978-1-894650-75-5

Publisher: Moose Enterprise

Welcome to the town of Bunsel. This is one town I would never want to visit. This is a town that is run by one family the Bunsels. The mayor of the town treats everyone as his servant and his children and family are allowed to create havoc, disorder and mayhem wherever that want and whenever they choose. I thought we lived in a democratic society. I guess someone forgot to tell that to Mayor Boolacheck who declared himself not only King of the roads but dictator of the town too. This brings me to my review of The Big Bobby Boom and the Marble Mayhem by author Gregg Seeley.

There are many kids that go to school and are frightened, hurt, insulted and bullied by other kids that play on their vulnerability. Author, Gregg Seeley in this humorous, clever account of a town and its founders that needed to be taught a big lesson, brings to light this serious issue that many children have to deal with on a daily basis. Big Bobby Boom, his two goon cousins go around bullying, playing practical jokes and harassing anyone and everyone just for the sport of torturing them. Elliot Blue the son of the new sheriff, fears his first day of school and the awful treatment he knows he cannot avoid. But, not to worry Elliot. Someone is about to come to your rescue and the town of Bunsel, the Boolacheck family and more will never be the same. You see, sometimes it takes another kid to put the bullies in their place. But, will the Boolacheck boys ever learn that what they are doing is wrong? How can they when their parents, the Mayor and their entire family endorse and encourage their behavior and feel because everyone in town works for them, they have to follow their rules.

Imagine being told when you are to be at an event and that your children are required to play hockey, baseball and other sports just to be pawns and puppets falling prey to the whims and pranks of these other boys

But, fear not, Elliot Blue you are no longer alone. Enter, cousin Jimmy the Slick the king of real practical jokes who would make sure that the town of Bunsel not only knew he had arrived, but would never mess with him or you again.

Throughout the novel we learn that the grownups in this town are just as much to blame as the youngsters. This is an example of how much this town could use Nanny 911 to help teach them proper parenting skills. Imagine the Mayor and his wife throwing a party for their son that every child in the town is required to attend and allowing their son and their cousins to do mean things to the other kids and watch without trying to stop them. With parents that encourage this behavior and town of grownups who fear for their jobs and more, whom can these children learn from?  Certainly not the adults.

Author Gregg Seeley created the character of Jimmy the Slick, who is so resourceful, so clever and often comes up with ingenious plans to teach the Boolacheck boys lessons he hopes they will never forget. But, do they you will have to decide for yourself. From putting super glue on the baseball bats that cause not only Bobby’s hands but others to become permanently glued, to the slime he puts in their swimming pool during a birthday party, the author creates situations that are so funny and hilarious you actually route for Jimmy and Elliot.

But, when Jimmy and Elliot are banned from the town parade, Jimmy decides to teach not only the Mayor and his sons a lesson, but hopefully the entire town too. Every family works for the Mayor except the new Sheriff who stands up to him and does not back down.  Even the Mayor and his sons never act alone. Ever notice that bullies need backup when they strike. Wonder what would happen if they got Bobby alone!

With an ending so hilarious and so funny you will not believe what 10,000 marbles and a cow suit can do to stop a parade and much more. Just what happens and how do Jimmy and Elliot become the town heroes as a result of their stunt to unleash these marbles on the town during the parade. Just what happens to Jimmy and Elliot as a result of their stunt you won’t belief, nor will you belief the ending?

A definite must read for all kids that have ever been the victim of a bully. As someone that went through what Elliot did, I can totally identify with him and think that this book should be in all schools for teachers to use as model as part of their of their character education curriculum. Guidance counselors and librarians could use this as a way of helping kids understand how to deal with bullies.

Fran Lewis: reviewer and author of the Bertha Series of Books and Memories are Precious

I give this book: Five Stars

The Next Chapter by Melanie Young

The Next Chapter

Author: Melanie Young

In a flash of a second or even a nanosecond, your life can take on a different direction. Each day brings with it many unexpected events that can alter the way we think, act or live the rest of our lives. As we turn the pages of a book and begin each new chapter, the author introduces more information about the characters, develops the plot and excites the reader to continue reading using vivid descriptions of the scenery, the actions of the characters and enveloping the reader and wrapping them so tightly within the pages of the book until the very last word on the last page. This brings me to my review of The Next Chapter by author Melanie Young.

Carol Davidson, wife, mother and wedding photographer’s life is shattered in one brief moment. After speaking with her husband, Jim, not one hour before about their upcoming cruise for their 26th anniversary, the excitement, the happiness and the anticipation of spending this momentous occasion together will forever fade in her mind as the doorbell rings and an officer tells her of her husband’s fate in a deadly car accident. Like many people who lose their spouse, Carol created her own envelope or bubble that completely surrounded her and withdrew into her own world leaving many outside to fend for themselves. With a thriving business, a great next door neighbor and wonderful assistant, she devoted her time to Enchantments, her business and left her daughter and son-in-law outside the parameters of this bubble keeping others just within the walls but not too close.

After four years of mourning Jim, her daughter Andrea and husband Jason visit her with exciting news and want her to come and live with them in Florida. Debating her choices and whether she wanted to give up her home, her tangible memories of Jim and her business, Carol faces some really hard choices and must decide whether a house and material things matter more than her daughter who wants to know her mother and lost the chance with her father due to the accident. What choice does she make? What does her daughter say to her when confronted that finally pushes her to decide?

Visiting Andrea and Jason she meets Andrew a divorced father who Andrea and Jason buy their home and auto insurance from. Immediately taken with Carol he becomes an ardent fan of her moving to Florida. But, that decision is hers and although they seem to bond, Carol is still not ready for a real relationship and Andrew hopes to change that.

As Carol is sorting through and cleaning Jim’s office she comes across a letter that he wrote to her that will forever change her life, her mindset and cement her decision. A sincere, heartfelt, and beautiful letter from Jim to Carol, allows the reader to enter their lives, even for a moment to help understand the strength of their relationship and how strong that bubble that envelopes her formed as a shield to prevent anyone from getting too close and breaking the barriers for fear of being disloyal to Jim. But, after reading his words in his own hand, things will change for Carol, Andrea and her soon to be business partner in Enchantments, Sarah

Andrew the auto and home insurance salesman soon encounters his competition in Eddie the car salesman who definitely resembles Jim. The author takes us on a journey along with Carol with a woman who makes many life changing decisions, including where she will live, whether to have Sarah her assistant buy into her business as a partner, and learning to live life to its fullest. What does happen between Carol and Andrew remains to be seen. Will she prefer the man who looks like Jim? Andrea, Jason, Carol, Andrew, and her new granddaughter Jamie Grace will spend their lives on this exciting journey called life. With  her best friend Joan’s sage and wise dating advice, which sounds like what my mother told me, and the support of her family, only time will tell when and if the next chapter in Carol’s life will be written. Dating does mean getting to know someone better to see if you really want to know them, as Joan states so brilliantly. My mother would add, the only thing a man is entitled to is the pleasure of your company and no fringe benefits. A date means going out and having conversation and that’s all. Relationships form over time and require trust, respect and understanding as you learn through Carol and Andrew. Good old fashion values definitely come through in this novel.

Author Melanie Young brings to light the many issues that women deal with when they lose a spouse. Understanding how Carol reacted and feels reminds me of my mom after losing my Dad. She enveloped herself and isolated herself too and did not want to break the walls of that bubble and let the world and the sun back in. But, she did in her own way and now will Carol pop some holes in that bubble and allow it to burst, or will she forever not write the Next Chapter. Well written, with characters whose personalities are clearly defined and the many journeys that Carol takes, the reader hopes that her future will have many Next Chapters with happy endings. Let’s hope she lets the sun shine and back into her life.

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

Author of the Bertha Series of Books and Memories are Precious

I give this book a beautifully photographed picture of

Five People: Carol, Andrea, Jason, Jamie Grace and you decide who gets the final spot.




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Winners of the Visual Arts Junction “Bedtime Story” Writer’s Contest

By Aggie Villanueva

Bedtime Story by Aggie Villanueva

We have two wonderful winning entries for you.

Salvatore Butacci won the Professional Category with Donny’s Friend.

Lubna Kably won the Amateur Category with Paint my Dreams.

The Wining Writers Receive all These Great Prizes

  • You will be interviewed by Nanci Arvizu on her live internet radio show Page Readers. Pleasecontact Nanci to set up your date through the Send Message link on her show page.
  • The paperbook mystery, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, by New Mexico’s premier author Michael Orenduff. The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras recently won the Eppie Award as the Mystery eBook of the Year. Michael even has the Governor of NM commenting on his Pot Thief murder mystery seriesThis Prize available worldwide. The book will be shipped where ever the winner livesPlease email the author to give him your shipping details.
  • A downloadable version of Aggie Villanueva’s critically acclaimed Biblical novel, Rightfully MineAggie will email you the code for the free download, available in 10 formats for viewing on almost any e-reader.
  • One 8X10 Silk print of the photo art that inspired contest winner, Bedtime Story by Aggie Villanueva, known as the Grandma Moses of the American Southwest and respresented in Gallery across the nation, including Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. (shipped within the USA only.Please email Aggie with your shipping address.
  • The winner gains double exposure on Aggie Villanueva’s two sites, and a post on the blogs ofour prestigious panel of judges. Plus, and this is a huge plus, every one of our contest supporters (and this list is constantly growing. (See below) will also post your winning entry. See our sponsor list below. You’ll be read by thousands.
  • Winners receive two comments from each judge, what they like about your entry, and what could be improved. Please see the fine print at the bottom of this post.


Professional Category: Donny’s Friend by Salvatore Butacci

Salvatore Butacci

If Donny could’ve somehow unraveled the wires in his brain so that thinking came easily, he would have eventually forgiven them.

All those barren years they had prayed for a child, until finally in disgust Donny’s father had decided, “No more prayers.  What’s meant to be will be. No more knocking at Heaven’s door.” If Donny could have, he would have taken pity on the two of them: his proud, exasperated father and his brokenhearted mother.

“Keep this up, Tina, and I’ll get on the horn and call the ones in the long white coats and let them haul your skinny ass out of here!”  Then, realizing his cruelty, waved his hand as if to erase the threat, and said, “I’m sorry, Tina, but you’ve got to pull your pretty self together.  No kid?  Okay, we live with it.  We still have you and me, right?”

And Tina smiled at Milt, but they both knew it was insincere.

Autism.  Donny at three. The pediatrician explaining how it wasn’t the end of the world, but the diagnosis fell on Donny’s parents like a ton of lost dreams.

Donny sat still on the white table. When Tina walked over to the table and affectionately squeezed him, he did not react. His brown eyes scanned the room, jumping from the desk to the ceiling to the doctor to his parents to the white walls hardly visible behind the twenty or so framed degrees and awards that told the story of Dr. Peterson’s career. What those eyes saw never made it back to Donny’s tangled-up brain.

Dr. Peterson explained autism to them, but neither was listening.   All those years waiting.  Then this. It wasn’t fair. But what was even less fair came later. Milt and Tina gave Donny hardly any attention. He could not speak except for grunting whatever he was feeling but could not communicate. It especially unnerved his father while his mother would try to speak over those sounds till it got so that Milt did more and more overtime at work, not for extra money but for some quiet peace.

Most of Donny’s grunts were responses to the stuffed bunny Donny’s Aunt Meg had brought him, the one that suddenly one day had come to life.  “A troll in the woods knew some magic, so I asked him to change my cotton stuffings to flesh and organs, let blood run through my veins. You know, be alive!  And that little man made me real.”

Bunny paused and said, “Hey, care to be my friend?” Donny grunted, then held the white bunny against his chest, and grunted some more. “Yeah, kid, I know what you mean. Humans ain’t big on listening.  Things turn sour, they give up. But you and me, we got each other now.”

Without knowing why his eyes were filling up with wetness, Donny brushed the beads away and grunted. “Oh, that?” said his only friend.  “They call them ‘tears.’  It just means you’re one happy little boy!”

Salvatore Buttaci is an obsessive-compulsive writer who plies his craft everyday. His work has appeared widely.  He was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award. His collection of 164 short-fiction stories, Flashing My Shorts, is available from All That Matters Press or from Amazon.com. He lives with his wife, Sharon, in West Virginia.

Judge Lillie Ammann
What I like about your entry:
The ending is a great twist and evokes emotion.

What could be improved: The first part of the story might be improved by changing some passive sentences to active.

Judge Aggie Villanueva
What I like about your entry: Excellent opening line. I enjoyed how Donny’s life parralelled that of The Velveteen Rabbit story. Loved your twist of clichés, to bring back reader attention, such as: fell on Donny’s parents like a ton of lost dreams.

What could be improved: Could eliminate the paragraph of Donny sitting on the doctors table looking around, in order to use those words to go more into Donny’s salvation: the velveteen rabbit.

Judge Cindy Bauer
What I like about your entry: I really liked how the stuffed animal was able to capture the attention of the boy with autism, though nothing else could reach him. It shows that while the disease is usually dibilitating, the cause and treatments are still left with much to discover as it shows the brain does function in some degree at a somewhat normal capacity and that perhaps, if explored more, each particular case could be treated focusing on the particulars that seem to reach out and touch that particular child, thus opening many new doors for both the child and the parents.

What could be improved: I was confused about the conversation the stuffed animal was having with the young boy. Was the animal speaking to him when no one else was around or was it within the realm of the boy’s mind, showing potential for imagination. I would’ve liked to have seen a different approach to that segment of the story so the reader is clear.

Judge Nanci Arvizu
What I like about your entry: I’m a big fan of stories that are similar to the classics, but instead take us down a different path. This is similar to the story of The Velveteen Rabbit (although it’s been awhile since I’ve read it), yet with its modern tale with autism.

What could be improved: Add in a little more about Donny and his new friends relationship


Amateur Category: Paint my Dreams by Lubna Kably

Lubna Kably

Ann’s eyes sparkled when she saw this book lying on a corner table in the attic. What was next to it? It looked like a magic lamp. A few other interesting bric-a-bracs lay scattered around.

Ann inched closer towards the table. Her grandmother had recently expired and she had accompanied her mother to this rambling old house. The assets were to be divided and the house sold.

She could hear Uncle Neil and Mama arguing again. Ignoring the shrill voices emanating from the living room downstairs, she looked closely at the book cover. “The Velveteen Rabbit”, it read. Ann always wanted a pet rabbit, but they lived in a tiny cramped flat in a crowded city.  A rabbit will not be happy in a tiny cage, her mother had patiently explained, over and over again. Yet, whenever she passed a pet shop, Ann could not help halting, even if, to just peer through the windows.

Ann dusted the book and opened it. The childish scrawl on the front page was faint with age, perhaps it said: Hazel. “Oh, this is Granny’s book”, said Ann to no one in particular. Hugging the book tightly to her chest, she ran downstairs. “Mama, Mama, I want to keep this book”, she pleaded. Uncle Neil roughly pulled the book from her, flipped open the pages, said it was a worthless piece of junk and that she could have it.  Mama had smiled and told her to run out and play.

Back home, tucked in bed, Ann began to read the book. It was about a toy rabbit who wanted to be a real rabbit and whose wish came true. “I wish my wish would come true, Mama”, she said, as her mother kissed her goodnight and switched off the lights.

Ann was lonely. Her mother caught up in her work and household chores was never around.  She used to meet her father over weekends, but now he had moved away to another city. Phone calls from him were getting less frequent. A silent tear rolled down Ann’s cheek as she fell asleep.

The days rolled on, the book lay on a shelf, quite forgotten. Till one day, Mama told her that they were moving to a large house in the suburbs. Some art which Granny had in her house had fetched a good price. Ann didn’t then know what art was, she didn’t care. She was so excited about the move.

She remembered that she had rubbed hard on the magic lamp in the attic and had made a wish – for a fluffy white rabbit.  Her pet rabbit – Velveteen and she would now play in the front yard of their new home.

Today, twenty odd years later, as a struggling artist, holding a temporary part time job to make ends meet, Ann looks back on the day she walked into the dusty attic. She knows there is no place for pessimistic disbelief in her life.

“You need to tread on the path of wonder, joy and trust and you don’t need a magic lamp to achieve your dreams”, she tells her friends.  She knows that someday soon she will be a success and she heads back to her tiny studio to paint her dreams.

Lubna Kably is based in the busy city of Mumbai, India. While she is a number cruncher by profession, she loves writing – especially travelogues which appear occasionally on various portals. One of her submissions was accepted by Traveler’s Tales in their compilation of funny gut-busting misadventures: The Thong Also Rises. She is currently experimenting with Haiku and this is her first attempt at writing something unrelated to travel or taxes.

Judge Lillie Ammann
What I like about your entry: Great storyline that entertains and inspires.

What could be improved: The story could be improved by using more conversational wording and avoiding stilted phrases such as “recently expired.”

Judge Aggie Villanueva
What I like about your entry: I like the symmetry of the story’s tie-in of the title and opening with the closing. A big chunk of the Ann’s life is revealed in very few words, her dreams, the divorce, her greedy uncle, going from poverty to comfortable middle class. Good use of the economy of words.

What could be improved: Don’t repeat information for the reader. Such as, “She could hear Uncle Neil and Mama arguing again. Ignoring the shrill voices emanating from the living room downstairs…” You could eliminate the first sentence and readers would still know there was an argument over money going on between the adults. Tie up the loose end of what happened with her dad and how that ties into her optimism 20 years later.

Judge Cindy Bauer
What I like about your entry:
Shows much potential; suits the picture used for the contest; would like to read more – grabbed me right away and that’s difficult to do in a short story!

What could be improved: Dislike the use of the word “expired”, though I know it is commonly used in the health field. Prefer “gone to live with our Lord” or something along those lines. Passed away would be okay, too.

Judge Nanci Arvizu
What I like about your entry: As a believer in the power of positive thinking and dreaming big, the author is obviously writing from her heart.

What could be improved: The writer is so talented, I think the word count is what held her back from telling more of her story. I’m betting she could turn this story into a novella! .

The Fine Print: You must respond within 5 days of the date on your winning email announcement. If you do not reply to your winning email announcement within that time limit, your prizes will be assigned to the second place entrantThe judges’ critiques are confined to short comments; no in depth critique/editing. No editing has been done to the entries. Entrants will be automatically added to the Visual Arts Junction newsletter. You many unsubscribe at any time. All rights to the Bedtime Story image remain with the creator, Aggie Villanueva.


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Every Natural Fact Five Seasons of Air Parenting

Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Air Parenting

By Amy Lou Jenkins

Nature and the wild is so beautiful and when experienced can bring about a true understanding of the world and all of its beauty. When people deface the trees, burn them, or abuse the beautiful land we live in, measures need to be taken to protect our forests, parks, land and greenery. Amy Lou Jenkins in her book has brought to light many issues that are not only faced by humans when exploring the forests, the oceans and natural resources, but she teaches the reader a lot of animals, ecology, the environment and enjoying nature with her son, DJ. DJ and Amy spend many long weekends, days and more hiking throughout the state of Wisconsin and share with the reader their exciting experiences, the history of many of the parks, forests and places they visit and her family. Throughout the book, the author tells the reader about many of her family members that visited the areas she and DJ are seeing for the first time and of the wonderful memories that she will never forget.

I enjoyed reading about the cranes and how she was determined to see a White one and the history of that crane and how some are endangered really enlightens the reader and helps you understand why it is important to have sanctuaries and safe places for these and other birds, and animals to thrive. Sharing with the reader how one man was able to teach these cranes how to migrate for one season and come back for another was truly amazing and exciting to read. Of course my favorite, was her Grandma Bertha who definitely reminds me of my Grandmother who was also Bertha and my Aunt Lil that resembles hers in so many ways.

Bonding with a young child is difficult when they start middle school and are beginning to form different friendships and relationships. Teenagers and preteens would rather spend time with their friends, watching football and enjoying activities whether indoors or outdoors with people their own age. The fact that DJ was willing to go on these adventures with his mother is truly remarkable and quite commendable. I really liked when he asked Amber to come on one trip and how she was treated as one of the family and asked to be the navigator on the journey. DJ’s polite ways and respect for both adults and other kids and his sensitivity to Amber and how the people they met seemed to treat her, is a tribute to the author and how well brought up and mannered DJ is. Amber sounds like a wonderful young lady who could use some extra help in school and needs to feel special in her own right.

Each essay enlightens the reader about the wonders of nature and the remembrances that they trigger in the mind of the author from her past. Some are good and others evoke thoughts that she shares with her son and the reader about her childhood, her parents and the many events in their lives that helped create who she is now and was then.

From her experiences the reader learns about the many seasons of nature that she shared her experiences with not only with DJ but her family too. I really enjoyed reading about the Audubon Center and its history. Her son’s excitement going bird watching and seeking the landscape through his own camera and eyes was exciting. Describing her father and her relationship with him as child, pretending to be part of the crowd during one of their parties and understanding her limitations and sharing her love of nature with her son. I love watching birds, so the descriptions of the red cardinal and the woodpecker interested me as well as the excitement of their trip to Lake Superior.

Living in the city you rarely see the changes in the seasons and nature that someone living in a rural area sees. Learning to sit upon her throne of silence the author learned the comfort and wonders found in stillness. How many people look out of their windows and marvel at the beauty of the landscape, the trees that and changes throughout the seasons, the animals that appear and migrate, or take walks to jus to appreciate each other? Each season that is described, each journey that she and DJ takes brings the reader to a closer understanding of the bond that she has with him and the relationship with her son that is firm and solid.

The history, the stories, her love of nature and her family come through in these wonderful essays. Which ones did I really love the best, try all of them. I especially loved Valley of the Snake and County of Origin. Read these essays and learn why DJ and Amy Lou loved their time together and really became one with nature.

I give this book five more perfect seasons for Amy and DJ explore the world of nature.

Fran Lewis