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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APR
09

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.

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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

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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

Tell Me When It Hurts


Tell Me When It Hurts

Author: Christine M. Whitehead

A minute formal point, detail so insignificant that when brought to bear upon a main issue it is meaningless and should have no weight on the final outcome. This often occurs during a trial when the jury listens to the evidence and the judge decides to throw out a case because of some minor technicality that should have been addressed before bringing the case to light. But, sometimes we don’t know that a particular procedure, although followed correctly, is not and a defense attorney finds a loophole and gets the suspect off. This is the case in the murder of Annie Mackenzie. When the legal system fails, as it did Annie, what do you do? How far would you go to avenge the death of your child? Sometimes the only way to get things done is to do it yourself!

Imagine a piece of fine porcelain or blown glass breaking into millions of pieces when accidentally dropped. These pieces of glass or porcelain that were once whole cannot be restored to their original shape or form. Lives can be shattered and broken into millions of pieces and never restored when a tragedy strikes as Archer Loh found out when learning of her daughter’s death. Those pieces can never be made whole and the original shape forever gone.

Annie Mackenzie went on a school trip and was excited about seeing the sights of Washington DC. Taught not to talk to strangers or go off on her own, Annie left along with her friends and chaperones to embark on her first overnight trip. Then the unthinkable happened. Becoming separated from the other students on her bus, she meets a stranger that offers assistance. But, not the kind any parent would want for her child. Faced with a difficult choice, Annie enlists the help of a stranger to find her classmates and chaperones. Once again she is failed. This time by those in charge of the trip and the school as well. Why didn’t anyone know she was missing? Why didn’t anyone tell Archer and Adam after it happened? Failure is unacceptable and must be handled at any cost!

Who was responsible for the senseless death of this child named Annie? Is it the killer, the chaperones, the teachers in charge or all of these people that were supposed to care for the children on the trip and prevent this from happening?  Managing the safety of your child when they are in the company of friends or other people is difficult and scary for parents. Annie needed to find her bus and placed her trust in the wrong adult. Viewing her as weak, helpless, defenseless, the offender manipulated her to fulfill his needs and the outcome proved tragic for more than just Annie and her parents.

Archer Loh could not handle what happened to her daughter, and although she considered her father her knight in shining armor and hoping he would come to the rescue, no one could. Distraught and unable to handle life, her career as a lawyer and more, she became despondent, depressed and turns to alcohol for comfort. Adam, her husband, supportive at first, realizes their marriage has ended and she moves away with her dog, Hadley to log cabin in the Berkshires. Tell Me When It Hurts: If you asked Archer she might say: It Never Stops! The pain and the guilt are constant and although she is not responsible for her daughter’s death, she eliminates all rationale by blaming herself for her child’s death because when she failed to attend the trip as a chaperone. But, would the events have turned out differently? No one will ever know, certainly not Archer.

A vigilante is someone who decides to take the law into his/her own hands. The person acts as his/her own law enforcement and might form a group or organization of such people to mete out their own form of justice to what they might call worthy offenders. Often these people incorporate themselves or present themselves as a private security firm or a non-profit organization. Righting the wrongs that the justice system failed to prosecute this organization eliminating the problems minus the fanfare, the trial and the notoriety. Do you agree?

Into Archer’s life walks Connor McCall a tall, handsome and distinguished man who slowly enters her life and changes her perspective and outlook on life. He owns 300 acres of land near hers and has a Harvard Business Degree and a sheep ranch. Meeting Archer changes not only her life, but his too.  Learning about his past he tells Archer about his daughter Lauren and why he has no contact with her. Archer convinces him to change that. Archer is an Olympic level rider and had given her daughter a horse named Allegra, which she loved. Archer can’t face losing her daughter and abandoned her family, friends, career, and horses and creates her own timeline, agenda when dealing with her own issues. She even joined a secret group learning training as a skilled assassin for the government. This illusive and secret group of vigilantes, along with Archer, pronounces and performs their own sentence on the criminal in question.

Connor McCall learning her truths and her secrets, tried to help restore her faith in love and herself, until he got too close and she had to choose between him and remaining close to her memories of Annie shattering yet another piece of fine blown glass and two lives. Connor was not devoid of mistakes or guilt. Allowing another man to raise his child Connor thought would be best for nine -year old Lauren. But, not in her mind and was it too late to become part of her life? Both Connor and Archer form their own special bond, but when asked to choose between her life at present and become part of his, Archer regresses back into her own private world of isolation.

Christine Whitehead brings to light many important issues in this novel. The first is the issue of vigilante justice, next abuse, neglect, forgiveness and hope. Forgiveness is hard when you blame yourself. Christine Whitehead allows the reader to understand the pain, the heartache and agony that Archer faces each day in order to find her way back to herself, understanding self compassion and begin to heal. Abuse is unforgiveable whether physical, spousal, verbal, child, or sexual. Through Archer and the Group deals with those who have inflicted that pain on others the reader has to decide whether he/she agrees with how they mete out their own brand of justice.

A father who decides it is best to allow another man to bring up his child for her sake. But, is it? Adoption often brings with it privacy and anonymity for the real parents. But, sometimes a child might want to meet their real parents and then things can get out of control. Children are often more forgiving and hopeful than adults. When Connor meets his daughter Lauren she is so taken with him and of course Alice, his dog and Millie, his horse, an instant bond is formed. Not wanting to create a rift between her adoptive father and her, Connor becomes an integral part of her life as a good friend. With characters whose voices are clearly heard and so brilliantly defined, the author takes the reader on a journey that no parent should have to go on and the end result will surprise you.

Alienation sometimes brings your closer to your end result. Part of The Group, she has agreed to eliminate a man guilt of heinous abuse on his family. Freed due to a minute point of law, Gerald Jerome must pay. But, one simple turn and one wrong move changes the course of events for Archer and the stark reality’s of life find their way back. But, will it be in time?

Each hit or death brings closure to the victim’s family. Some may get a piece of their lives back and feel some sort of redemption. Hiding behind the Group and not counting on God to carry out justice, this group became her salvation and given her the strength to go on. Sent to eliminate a man who committed many counts of abuse and escaped justice, Archer faces more than just a killer. One final hit, one fatal shot, one moment of total illumination will change the course of events for her forever. What does happen you will have to read for yourself. What are the final choices that she makes and will she decides to change it with Connor or continue on as before? Hurt and dejected, will Connor allow her back into his life and work through their losses, fears, and despair and find hope and deliver themselves from sin and seek their own redemption.

When the law fails, should we? Would you join the Group? You decide after reading this outstanding novel.

A child whose memory will never fade. A vision that will bring back her light. A mother who never gave needs to come full circle and accept some decisions that can’t be changed. A book equal to that of any on the N.Y Times bestseller list. Issues that need to be addressed, school that need to be more responsible and children that need to know: NEVER GO OR TALK WITH STRANGERS! I give this book Five Gold Stars in Memory of Annie.

Tell Me When It Hurts: It will never stop hurting but the pain will ease and your life will go on if you let yourself FORGIVE Yourself AND UNDERSTAND!

Fran Lewis: reviewer

Author of Memories are Precious and the Bertha Series of Books

Angels of Interstate 29 by Donald James Parker


The Angels of Interstate 29

Author Donald  James Parker

Life begins at any age and don’t you forget it! Never let retirement slow you down. Retirement is just ending one career and the ability to start another one of your choice. So, seniors watch out, wake up and listen up really careful like and hear the story of Tex Harris and the Angels of Interstate 29 and see what this great man of 70 years young decided to do with his life after he was told he had to retire.

There are many people who enjoy the activities provided in Senior Centers. There are card games, discussion groups, shopping trips and more. But, as our main character Tex notes, is that it! Is the rest of your life sitting on your duff and watching television, playing games and shooting horseshoes? That tends to wear off after a while. I know that I could not do that all day. I need something to make me feel alive and stimulated. Well, Tex Harris was driving along the interstate when he stopped to help someone in distress. Not only did he help this woman but also he loaned her his new truck to take her young child to get medical care at the nearest hospital. Now, would you do that, give your car or truck to a complete stranger without giving any thought to how you were going to get anywhere? It gets better. While waiting for help to come and rescue him, he is held up by some thugs and a police officer botches up the entire scene when Tex gets the drop on them and they get away. Shows you how much the police need to learn and think before they spark into action.

When all of the excitement was finally under control, Tex goes to his senior center and meets his best friend Parnelli and relates the events of the day with a flair for language you will not believe. Enter in one hot woman named Lizzy and watch three men act like teenagers in heat. We have Tex and his friend Parnelli, a man they call the Professor and of course the lady in questions Lizzy. As Tex and his friend are about the regain possession of his truck from the damsel in distress and fix the starter in her car, enters Lizzy only to be whisked away by a man they dubbed the Professor because of his austere appearance and Harvard like speech that immediately puts him in a poor light with Tex and his friend.
After helping Martha and getting his truck returned Tex realizes what a rush and gratifying feeling he had knowing that he had helped save someone’s life. An idea formulates in his head and when presented to the members of the Senior Center many ward off his idea and do not want to participate leaving just a select few to hear his thoughts. Tex wants to create an organization to assist and help those in distress along Interstate 29 calling each participate an Angel a name that fits when someone comes out of nowhere to help you, like an Angel from heaven. Although his idea is great it is going to take teamwork, help, websites, more volunteers and great energy to bring it into fruition.  But, first, let the competition begin.

Just picture three men going after one woman. Tex, Parnelli, the Professor and Lizzy join forces to create their organization to aide people in distress on Interstate 29 but not before the author relates some comical scenes that will make you laugh, smile and relate to in your daily life. Their bantering back and forth, the first time they decided to work out as a foursome, the sermon in Church that was really great and lets the reader understand how important humor is in life and creating a proper balance and visiting an assisted living facility, allows the reader to really understand and get to know and love these characters. I really think that Lizzy reminds me of my mom in so many ways. She never permitted us or would stand for temper tantrums, inappropriate language or gossiping about people. We were told that if you had nothing nice to say about something or someone, say nothing. Always have a positive attitude and maybe you won’t get that awful headache from worrying about nothing. Helping others was her first and primary speech imparted each day. If there was someone less fortunate or who needed help with homework or anything else, we were instructed to assist without discussion. We did.

This book teaches old -fashioned values and respect for woman that is so long gone and so needed. Just because Lizzy is a senior does not mean she is going to let these three men treat her with anything but the proper respect she so rightly deserves. Teaching them how to use a computer, hearing them vie for her attention, is so refreshing and so uplifting when reading the scenes, although humorous the messages do come through.

From exercising to create their new body makeovers, to camping trips, to watching the Senior Olympics, these four seniors and many others too give a new meaning to the words 70 years young, going strong and alive. Just how successful was their endeavor to create this organization to help others you will be impressed at the ingenuity of these seniors.

As we learn more about each of these remarkable characters one theme runs through and that is their different beliefs and faith in God. With the help and understanding of Lizzy, Tex comes face to face with his past and learns the true meaning of the word forgiveness. Just how and what revelations cause him and others to realize that you will have to read for yourself. Lives intertwine; people learn the true meanings of love, understanding, honesty, loyalty and friendship in this inspirational novel written by author Donald James Parker.

I give this book Five More Angels to help on I29 and Five More Tex’s with Five Stetsons.

Fran Lewis: Reviewer and author of Memories are Precious and the Bertha Series of Books as well as book reviewer for authors upon request.

Papal Rogues


Papal Rogues

Author: Ron Wilk

ISBN:9781936183029

Publisher: Langdon Street Press

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.