Pride in a Prayer reviewed by fran lewis


Pride in a Prayer

Author Charles Soto

What would happen if all the colors of a rainbow were only one color? What about a paint box or a crayon box? What if the only color was white or black and no other colors existed? Can you imagine the plight of an artist or painter who wants to create a picture or a portrait using colors to express his/her mood, feelings or more? What would happen if colors did not exist and everyone was the same one? What would happen if you looked in the mirror and saw the same image or face as your neighbor, your friend or even your child? What a dull world it would be? Russell Till brook, however, would embrace such a world and be overjoyed? His wife Leah might too. They feel that anyone who is of color or a different race is inferior to them and not worth taking a breath on this planet. Prejudice is a deadly disease that can cause its own destruction and death. Hating people of different races and creeds and using your influence and power to belittle and threaten others that you feel are not worth anything and expressing your feelings in public is wrong. But, not to these people. However, Sarah, his daughter has a whole other perspective on life and her outlook is totally different.
Charles Soto has once again brought to light in his novel Pride in a Prayer an issue that is not just prevalent in the 21st century but goes way back in time. The Egyptian enslaved the Jewish people. Africans were wrongly enslaved. Women and children have been enslaved and sold. But, Sarah Till brook fell in love with Miguel Sanchez and kept it a secret from her parents until that one fateful day when everything in both of their lives changed. One football star, one accident that changed Miguel and Sarah’s lives forever. As the final touchdown is scored something happens and Miguel is seriously injured and no longer move anything but his head. A paraplegic for life he decides to push Sarah and everyone else out of his life, for their own good. Only his parents are allowed to see and be with him.

A chance meeting with a young man named Malcolm Jackson would change things for Sarah and her friend Cass even more. What does happen you will learn as I review Pride in a Prayer by Charles Soto. The author helps the reader understand the prejudices of not just this family but also so many others. Malcolm Jackson’s chance encounter with Sarah would set in a motion a series of events that would spiral and change everything. After speaking with Sarah’s father and finding Miguel’s St. Christopher Medal that she dropped on the field, he goes in search of her to return it and much more. Both characters seem fixed on each other from the start and their memory of the first meeting seems to hold them both together in times of tragedy.

Things begin to change as Gil’s injuries become more pronounced and his life as he knew it would never be the same. Mal is determined to return the medal to Sarah and her family and others are determined to deter him in any way they can cause serious repercussions to him and Sarah thinking that something terrible had happened to him. Her brother Jake returning from Iraq and her only ally in her family, she is able to withstand the ridicule of her parents and forge ahead with her plans to attend the University in Indiana and build a life of her own.

Sometimes life sends us a special present or a wonderful surprise. One chance encounter with one special man and Sarah’s world changed. Two people drawn together like magnets and nothing would stop them from connecting. But, will it last and will anything or anyone stand in their way of happiness?

One special night that would remain imprinted in the mind of Sarah. One night that turned evil, wicked and twisted as an intruder makes his way into her room and her whole world crumbles and comes falling down. Feeling defiled, debased and disembodied in her mind and soul, Sarah reverts into her own mind and spirit and refuses to speak or see anyone but her one true friend, Cass. As she pushes the world outside from her sight and casts Mal aside feeling shamed by what happened and unsure he would understand, she learns of another fate that she will have to endure. With a father who is filled with hate, prejudice who makes her the guilty party instead of an innocent victim of a horrific crime, Sarah withdraws even more and only her faith in God, prayer and hope will get her through.

Second chances are not to be taken lightly and although Sarah knows the consequences of her decisions, she has both the fortitude and courage to go on and create a plan for her that would help her to cope and survive. With the help of one true and loyal friend, the love of strangers in a convent and the understanding and support of her brother, Jake, she is able to finally see the light.

Faith in God will get you through. Just when she thought she completely folds and feel more pain her mother comes and finally realizes that hate, prejudice and the color of your skin do not make a person. The faith, the purity of thought and mind and understanding that the rainbow of beautiful colors that makes up the skin colors of the people of the world is what is so precious and special.

One letter with the right words changes everything. One man who would not give up until he found the answers he so rightly deserved. One young girl whose courage allowed her to survive and whose faith in prayer, pride, God and her willingness to believe in him and one miracle helped Sarah, Malcolm and her parents

A story that brings to light many vital issues that women and young people face today. One issue that is so prevalent in our world that it would take a total leap of faith in God, prayer and humanity to eliminate the hate, racial tension and the discrimination so many unjustly face in our society and all over the world. Once again author Charles Soto writes a novel so poignant, so mind stimulating and so heartfelt that it brought tears to this reviewers eyes, as the author’s ending is revealing, heart wrenching and enlightening.

One young girl who wanted to bring joy and happiness to others and the world. One young man whose secret might set them free and bring them happiness. Read Pride and Prayer by Charles Soto and meet Mal, Sarah, Cass, Jake and come to understand Russell, Leah and Serena and so many more and realize there is something special in believing in Pride and especially Prayer.

Fran Lewis: reviewer

I dedicate this review to everyone that believes that people are special and that outward appearances does not make the person: Your kind and pure heart and understanding of our differences and embracing them makes you part of who you are.

. Rainbows are beautiful to look at and crayon and paintboxes should be filled with unlimited colors.

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Interview with author Phil Nork


Interview with Fran Lewis

In writing this book you wanted to find your own voice and your own identity? What made you take the first step to writing this book and trying to reveal who you really are to everyone?

A few years back I moved my family from the Midwest to Nevada. Shortly after moving into our new house, I started having dreams—very vivid dreams—of my past. They were so lifelike and real it felt like I was being transported back in time. On business trips I couldn’t sleep, so I started keeping a journal of these dreams. As I awoke and wrote down the things and people I dreamt about, I realized there must be a reason why this kept happening. After I got all the “lessons” written down, the dreams stopped. I knew I was on the right path. I believe this was closure for me for the things I had experienced in the past. And once all my feelings were written down I felt much more comfortable with myself. I believe the move ended my one life, but began a new one. Hence, “There are no endings, just new beginnings.”

What are some of main lessons that you hope readers take away from reading your insightful novel?

That the little things you do in life always affect someone—whether you know it or not. We are really all the same inside, we want to be accepted for who we are and we want to be happy (whatever that means to each individual). But along the way, the people who you encounter can influence you to go against your better judgment sometimes. Even if you do, the God you choose to follow understands. That God never leaves you, although you may think differently. Look for the good in people and trust in them…in the long run it does work out.

As I read your book I realized that there were many different voices that came through of many people that entered and left your life? Which voices were the strongest and made lasting impressions on you and why?

In the early part of my life my mother and great-grandmother (Nana) became my heroes. My mom in particular could have just stopped living after the divorce, but she kept going, no matter how hard it was. She wanted me to have a normal childhood. Later, the most influential person I met was “Joyce”. She was a lesbian who trusted her secret with me. I learned from her, and her friends, that we are all the same, just in different packages. She allowed my inner confidence to blossom. I don’t know where I’d be without meeting her.

What was your relationship with Nana that tied you to her so much? What was it about her that helped to center you and bring about your many positive changes?

I think that she understood my feelings the best. I was able to talk to her so freely. She respected who I was and wanted me to know that she and God were there for me. She knew the divorce had changed my outward appearance from one of fun-loving to one of feeling lost and alone, but buried deep down the “old” me was still there. It was a long time before I was able to see that.

Which one of the many girls that you met helped you to realize who you really are?

I don’t think that any of them did at the time. Each one brought something new to the table and made me feel alive while I knew them. I believe that all of them came into my life just when they did to help me grow as a person. When you add all of those components together, that’s what made me the person I am today.

Why did you agree to go along with “Kayla” and her plan?

At the time, I was enjoying what I did and really thought I was helping them out. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have followed her lead.

Have you kept in touch with any of these girls/ women along the way? If so which one/ones and why?

The characters in the book are all based on real females I knew. All the names were changed “to protect the innocent” (if there were any). I do still know and talk to some of them. “Lisa” and I are still friends after 40 some years. Others, (most of them) were just passing through on their own journey of self-discovery. In fact, Facebook has reunited me with some of these ladies.

What was your relationship with your mother and your siblings? You mother must have had her own thoughts about what you were doing. Did she know what you really did each day? What did she really feel or think?

My mom was so busy trying to make ends meet, that she had no idea what I did. She saw the lonely kid at home staying to himself being absorbed into music and books. So when I did start going out and found a “second home” at the skating rink, she was just happy I did. She never knew what I was going through until she read the manuscript of this book a few years back. It opened some new doors and some new conversations which just further developed our relationship. My brother and sister were too young to know any better.

“Joyce” made a real impact in your life. Why were you able to open up to her?

She actually broached the whole relationship. She saw I was hurting and having those same feelings reached out to me. When she told me about being a lesbian, she was taking a great risk. When I didn’t tell anyone she realized I was trustworthy and as we worked more together we became great friends. After meeting her friends and accepting them for who they were, our friendship continued to grow. She was the one who taught me “we all can get along.”

What was the real turning point when you realized that it was time to make yourself happy and not just everyone else?

It was after meeting “Cheryl.” I wanted so much to find one girl and have a meaningful relationship, but never could because of these expectations that I thought the girls had in me. Meeting her, and the situation which arose, made me realize that the things that I did wasn’t helping my cause at all. She made me think hard about what I was doing.

Why is it that every time you decided to stop going out at night and not continue on with what you were doing you gave in to someone who called or saw you and approached you to “Make them feel good or happy?”

As any adolescent will tell you, “I loved the attention.”

At any time did you feel that you were being used and you were using them?

Not until after it was all said and done. During this growing up phase all I thought about was how fun it was to be “popular.” As I grew older, and quite possibly not until the dreams started in Nevada, did I realize that these little trysts of my past may not have been as innocent as I thought.

Why do you feel or how do you feel young adults and teens can learn some positive lessons from reading your book and the many messages you teach your readers?

We all have self doubt growing up. We do what we think is right or what others want us to do to fit in (peer pressure). I believe if you have a good foundation that good is the only thing that can emerge. I know other kids of divorce feel depressed and alone. I know that when you’re the “new kid on the block” or you feel different from the norm that you try your best to ignore those feelings or do things against your will that allow you be accepted. What I’m saying is that whoever you are, whatever you believe in and whatever you do, you are special just being you. Although you may not feel that way when you’re young reconnecting with old friends on Facebook has allowed all of us to see that we all felt the same way—we all felt different, we all felt afraid and we all had self-doubt. Hence the saying, “I wish I knew then, what I know now.” Sometimes life does give you a second chance.

One important lesson that I feel should, and must be imparted to everyone. is that outer appearances only help people to tell the difference between you and everyone else. It is your outer shell and not who you really are as a person. Why do you think that people judge others by how handsome/pretty they are or if they are overweight/thin or a perfect TEN? What do you think are the real attributes that make you unique and who you really are?

I’m nothing special and I’m no expert in relationships or why people do what they do. What I can say is that society puts unnecessary burdens on everyone—none more than the young. TV and movies dictate what you look like, what you should do and who you should be seen around. In my mind, success is not what you do for living, what kind of car you have parked in your driveway, or how many “toys” you have. Real success comes from learning, sharing and helping. Life is an on-going journey. You must learn something new everyday, share that with those around you and help those who can’t help themselves. When you do this, regardless of how you get to that point, you have succeeded in life.

The Trophy Bride’s Tale reviewed by fran lewis


The Trophy Bride’s Tale

Author: Cyrillia Barr

ISBN:

Publisher: Bascom Publishing

Abuse of any kind is wrong. Author Cyrillia Barr brings to light an issue that is not indicative of just the 16th century but the 21st as well. Too often men feel that they can hit, beat, berate and abuse a spouse without just cause making the person feel inferior or dejected. In “The Trophy Bride’s Tale,” Prudenza Beltramonto finds herself in a marital nightmare and her final actions might cost Prudenza her life.

Imagine being the bargaining chip in a business deal. Alfonso Beltramonto creates dyes for fabrics that are quite unique. But, without alum, the element needed to create these dyes his business would fail. His funds are depleted and the quality of the dyes and the alum received are inferior. In walks Matteo Cecchi and things are about to change. Forming an unholy alliance with smugglers he enlists the help of these men in order to gain the needed alum and hopefully win an even bigger prize: Prudenza. Formulating a diabolical plan in his mind he convinces her father that he will attain the necessary alum and the payment needed would be sufficient if he gives him his daughter’s hand in marriage. The money tucked away for her dowry to provide her with a safe haven for the future would be used to pay for the alum and she would be the final prize. Prudenza is truly a victim of poor circumstances and winds up in a no win situation.

Matteo Cecchi is a devious and clever man who uses his father’s name and friend with Alfonso, Prudenza’s father to bait him and convince him that he truly wants to marry her for the right reasons even though it is apparent that all he wants is the sum necessary to pay the brigands and his new band of smugglers the money needed for the alum so that he might profit. This will prove to be disastrous for Prudenza who is the pawn that is sacrificed in this plot. Pawns play a specific part in a game of chess and poor Prudenza in trying to please her parents and not disappoint them is naïve enough to think her choice will be right and is sacrificed in more ways than one as the reader will find out as the plot unfolds.

As Prudenza learns the terms of the marriage contract and she weds Matteo, she begins to sense a change in his real demeanor as she overhears him dealing with the men on the ship when traveling to Florence. But, with her companion Aunt Teresina, a wise woman, they journey into a whole new world the end is one you will not want to miss reading.

Trophies are given to the victor of a contest you when one wins a specific prize. Matteo Cecchi thought of Prudenza as nothing more than just that: a prize he won and a gift given to him as a result of a pact or contract made with her father in order to save his business. She was the price he paid for success. As the she learns more about him and observes his behavior Prudenza sees a different side of Matteo and realizes he is anything but kind. Becoming moody, jealous, belligerent and abusive to those that defy him, owe him a debt or get more attention than him his life takes on a new turn and hers becomes walking nightmare. He is truly what one might call in this day and age Bi Polar and has behavior changes that are totally erratic.

Throughout the novel the author reveals many aspects of Matteo’s personality that trigger his violence, bringing his insecurities to light and his malicious and malcontent behavior toward his workers, his wife and household. As Prudenza becomes more ensconced in her new family’s daily life and takes on the role of mistress of the house, she learns that her new mother-in-law will dominate much of what she would like to control and must acquiesce to her wishes including what she might think is best for her new born son. Living under this roof proves difficult and even more frightening as time goes on even though she has the loyalty of Gina her maid and friend, and learns about the loss of her best friend Coletta.

Matteo reveals his violent and abuse side as the truth about his pact with Alfonso is revealed to his father and once again he falters in his eyes behind that of his brother. Jealousies resurface, retaliations are made and Matteo’s true colors come forth as Prudenza fears for her life and that of her children.

The destruction of her lute, which brought her comfort and solace, the embarrassment in public and the abuse her children endured as his temper flared for no reason or he felt ignored and isolated added to the many reasons Prudenza cherished the friendship of Gina, the comfort of her mother’s understanding and a mother-in-law who tried to handle her son, but could not. With the death of Zenobi, her father-in-law Matteo’s lack of ability to handle the business and deal with his daily life came into play as his mood swings and personality deteriorated the detriment of everyone.

Prudenza withstood too much in her young life. With her faithful maid, Gina at her side guiding and helping her, she came to a forgone conclusion which would change the course of her life and her loved ones forever. How far would a mother go to protect the lives of her children and even more the rest of her family? Guided by her old friend Father Tommaso and the loyalty of so many others, her fate is sealed.

Read the events that took place prior to Matteo’s demise. Decide for yourself whether Prudenza’s actions were justified or not. Read the Lament written by her before she was taken to justice. Hear her words and read her thoughts in her own hand as she awaits the verdict of the judges.

Author Cyrillia Barr brings to light an issue that is quite prevalent in the 21st century, abuse. An arranged marriage by her father that went wrong. A man who hated the world for his shortcomings and could not take pleasure in the joys of others unless the center of attention and worked his way out of the hearts of everyone. Lacking the respect he thought he deserved, debasing his wife and children in public, Matteo Cecchi got what he deserved. You decide from the facts the author relates whether Prudenza’s fate was justified or not. A story of betrayal, loyalty, trust, friendship, hate, deceit and courage, this is one tale whose longevity will prevail. Characters that are clearly defined and whose roles are quite specific and clear- cut to the reader. Places and events whose descriptions are so vivid you can picture them in your mind and a woman whose emotional torment you feel every step of the way. Read the trial. Hear the words of the witnesses and feel the emotional pain that one young woman endured at the hands of a man who could not deal with success, life, family and accept love from those who truly cared for him.

The longevity of this tale will live on for quite some time. Abuse is wrong no matter what. To what lengths would you go to protect yourself and your loved ones from what Prudenza endured? Who was the real villian: Prudenza, Matteo or society not allowing a woman to stand up for herself against a man like Matteo?

A definite must read and a five star book.

Matteo de Cecchi: Victim or Victor: You Decide!

Fran Lewis: reviewer

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A Must Read for Young Adults and Parents


Sensitivity 101 for the Heterosexual Male

Author Philip Nork

Everyone wants to fit in with others their own age. Understanding the shortcomings and differences among people your own age and being accepted for who you are even if you are not the most handsome or beautiful person on this planet, is difficult for any adolescent to handle.

As the author recounts and relates to the reader the story of his life and coming of age, we not only learn much about this interesting man but ourselves too. Entering the life and taking the journey along with Phil back in time everyone can learn the many lessons his grandmother taught him about people in general. Learning to handle simple situations, extending a hand of friendship and understanding and embracing the differences in people are just part of what our author wants to impart to the reader. Just being nice to someone new in your class or sharing a common interest or just saying hello, small gestures, kind words are often much more meaningful than you know. If everyone took heed of what is written in this thought provoking, mind stimulating and unique novel, we would have a definite recipe for world peace and understanding. Just think what would happen if everyone really heard and listen to the viewpoints of others and understood different points of view. What would happen if instead of poking fun at a new person in your class or someone that is different and does not dress the same as you, you went out of your way to compliment them on something they said or did, wouldn’t that be great?

Phillip Nork saw life in a different way growing up. Close to his great-grandmother and losing her at a young age, he reverted back into himself and felt life and God had dealt him a bad hand. Teaching him to be sensitive and understanding of others and responding positively to their needs, desires and wishes would endear you to people and help you to develop lifelong friendships. Making it even more difficult was his parent’s divorce and becoming man of the house at eight years of age. This would make anyone grow up too fast. The bond and connection he had with her truly helped to set the tone for the many relationships he would have with girls, women and people in the future. What I really love is the list that he developed over the years through each of his relationships that would help build his character, his strength and his ability to handle many situations as he grew to maturity. Respecting and understanding people and being sincere are the first things that his great-grandmother instilled in him. The person that I was closest to growing up was my grandmother. She truly understood me and tried to make me feel special. Being overweight, not very pretty and shy, I stood in the background a lot at parties, family events and in school. I was smart and always got good grades but never felt comfortable answering questions and fostering friendships with people that I did not know. She taught me to accept myself for the kind and caring person that I was and hope I still am and that eventually everyone will learn to judge me not just for my outer appearance. Every story that he tells about his early life and his encounters with girls endears you to him even more. The way each girl entered his life and taught him an important life lesson is heartwarming and enlightening. This book would make a great handbook or guide for every young person who feels out of place and not like everyone else. I could have used this book growing up.

Each girl offered him many life lessons in how to deal with his awkward appearance, being introverted and allowing his emotions to come forth. Phil learned a lot from so many and appreciated each and every friend that he made. While photographing the cheerleading team he enlisted the trust of these beautiful girls and was able to create pictures that told a story. How special! Creating a list of all the things he learned from his Nana and these girls provides a valuable resource for anyone who wants to begin changing their outlook on life and learning to assimilate better with their peers. It’s the small things that people do and the kind words that definitely make a difference.

Phil developed more than one personality. He was shy and introverted in school and felt that he could disappear into his own skin and not be seen. At night or with friends such as Joyce, Cece and others he went to the skating rink with a group of lesbian girls and was treated in a unique and special way and his outer most personality came forth. Always concerned about making girls and others feel special I began to feel that Phil was losing sight of himself and what would make him truly happy. Listening to others, caring for them and helping them to feel good is what these girls wanted from him a long, as there were no long lasting attachments. But, what did Phil need and what would Nana truly want for him? Would this life of experiencing intimacy with so many girls without any feelings for them be the right course or would she want something else. You would have to read the many chapters where you hear not only his words but also the inner most thoughts and desires of these girls to decide for yourself whether Phil was really himself or someone else all the time. Who was this mild mannered great guy who treated woman special and made them feel whole? What about him?

One girl named Mary who set the train in motion. One girl named Kayla who accelerated it even more. One young man named Phil who spread himself quite thin to please so many girls because he thought they would feel special. A giant at the rink, at work and now becoming more known at school, but for what reasons to please others and give them pleasure. Sometimes when we try to get noticed by others and do we lose sight of what our real purpose is in doing so.

As his story draws to a close the reader might wonder what would have happened if Nana did not die? What would have happened if so many of those he cared about remained in his life? What would have happened if his father were a constant in his life while growing up? What would things have happened differently or would he have remained an introverted and stay to himself young man with a soft heart, kind face and wonderful personality. Roses make you feel special when given for the right reasons. Yellow means friendship and white means respect and much more. Never give a red rose unless you are sure you will only give it to the one person who rocks your world is will be with you forever.

Phil experiences many turning points in both his family and social lives. He comes full circle with many issues that young people are still facing today. Making a career of helping women to feel good and profiting from it did not turn him into the person he hoped to become. Many used him for their own self- gratification. Others pretended to befriend him for other reasons. Read this book and learn the lessons that Phil finally came to grasp at the end. Take the journey through life with him as he comes full circle from start to finish in his own search for his true identity.

As he drifts off to sleep and hears the voice of his Nana he is reminded of the joy, happiness and goodness he brought to others by being sensitive to their needs and wants even if it was in an unorthodox manner. Keeping his faith in God, understanding and hearing his voice and remembering as he so aptly states: “ there is no such thing as an ending, only new beginnings.”  Author Phil Nork presents a straightforward, insightful, and heartwarming story of a young man who finally found finally got it. Unselfish, caring and always putting the needs of others before his, Phil travels in a fast world of women seeking their own pleasures at the exclusion of his. As his Nana reminds him: Love, Respect and building a relationship with God has always been there for him. This is a well written and informative novel  will help adults, young teens and young adults learn the answers to many questions concerning these issues. Read the ending, hear his voice and read the last chapter as author Phil Nork lists his lessons in life that we can all learn and apply not just to relationships with the opposite sex, but in other real life situations too.

I never give stars when rating a book:

I give this book FIVE YELLOW ROSES SYMBOLIZING FRIENDSHIP and one more just from me. I would be honored to be your friend.

Fran Lewis Reviewer

Tie them together and let them go and remember the meaning of the balloons as you make a wish. fran

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Crossing Oceans reviewed by fran lewis


Crossing Oceans

Author Gina Holmes

Life dealt Jenny a bad hand. Returning home with her five-year-old daughter, she is greeted by a father who is about to meet his granddaughter for the first time. Knowing that time is of the essence and major decisions have to be made, Jenny needs to choose a caregiver for her daughter before it is too late.

A bright and shining star, Isabella enters a world that will forever change her life including her natural father. Knowing that the decision she makes now is too precious to take lightly and make quickly, Jenny leads Isabella into the arms of her father, her Mama Peg and David, her father. A mother and daughter relationship is special and the bond between Jenny and Isabella is strong. But, Jenny has to face her fate and her father’s anger with the death of her mother and his feelings for her. Hard choices are made and new friendships will be born in this heart-rending novel by Gina Holmes, “Crossing Ocean.”

Facing her fears about her own morality, embracing the love of her estranged family, Jenny and Isabella remind the reader of how special their bond is and how fragile life’s path. As the ice melts on a warm day and it melts and finally evaporates, so does Jenny’s life. Learning about herself, coming to terms with the fact that David, Isabella’s father would not accept her and dealing with a fatal illness, Jenny learns to set her differences aside for Isabella.

Choices are hard to make. A child’s nurturing and care is not something any parent should take lightly. But, when it comes between a new love, a child’s father and two elderly grandparents, whom will she choose, why and how does one make this decision.

A circle has no beginning and no end. Life does not work that way. We start at one end of the spectrum and work our way slowly to what we hope will be a good life, making the right choices and ending with fulfillment and joy. Jenny worked hard to create a circle of life for Bella each part of the circle filled with goodness, kindness and caring people to fill in al the spaces on the never ending ring of life. Returning to Tullytown took courage and wisdom on Jenny’s part. The outcome will take more.

As Jenny and Craig get closer and David becomes more involved in Bella’s life more decisions have to be made. The rift between Jenny and her dad closes and the love that they share now will never die.

As David tries to get closer to Bella along with his wife Lindsey the reader begins to realize that he is treating Bella more like a possession of a prize that is to be one and not as the precious child she is. Parents that are divorced fight over custody but Jenny’s decision as to where Bella will live and who will bring her up after she is gone is a grave and serious one that she does not take lightly.

Relationships grow, family ties become stronger and one little girl is the link to bond them all and bring them closer together. Told in the first person with flashbacks to help the reader understand what caused the anger between Jenny’s family and David’s, this heartbreaking story brings to light many issues that we all do not want to face.

As I have just lost my sister not three days ago, this book tells a story of how sad and difficult it is when someone you love has their life shortened way too soon. There is no easy way to cope with a loss and Jenny allows the reader into the mind of someone who knows that there is no cure what her illness and no doctors that can fix it. My sister lost oxygen to her brain and no one could bring her back leaving an empty hole in my heart and in my family’s. This book helps the reader understand what a family goes through when this happens.

A mother’s love for her child is undying and a young child who learned the truth. As Jenny describes her upcoming journey to cross an ocean to the other side, Bella decides her own fate when she learns her life was going to change. Children are resilient in many respects but in handling this situation there is no right or wrong way to ease a child into it.

Author Gina Holmes allows the reader to take this journey along with Jenny and her family as life comes full circle for Jenny. Flashing back between the past and the present we learn how Jenny coped with the death of her mother and how she would allow her daughter to deal with her future. Forgiveness is often hard when misconceptions fester and the truth is not told. But, when Isabella is in trouble the two families, Preston’s and Lucas’s come together as one.

With an ending that will bring tears to your eyes and a little girl who will endear you, Crossing Oceans is an outstanding novel written by author Gina Holmes. Life comes full circle and then it begins again.

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

I dedicate this review to the memory of my sister Marcia Wallach and anyone whose life was cut short too soon.

Into the Wilderness reviewed by fran lewis


Into the Wilderness

Author: Deborah Lee Luskin

Reviewed by Fran Lewis

Rose is a feisty woman of 64 who has not given up on life. After all life does begin at any age and as long as you have tons of kick in you, go for it. Rose loses her second husband and her family wants to transport her from Florida to visit in a rustic, Vermont country house. Lacking all the comforts of home, Rose feels like a fish out of water and has to learn to adapt to an entirely new way of life.  Author Deborah Lee Luskin brings to light in her novel “ In the Wilderness,” many issues that people have to face when losing a spouse or loved one. Added to that are the fantastic Yiddish phrases and words that my mother and grandmother taught me growing up and you have a novel that warms this reader’s heart.

Rose Mayer and Percy Mendell are both 64- year years old. Rose married and widowed twice, Percy, never married. Percy’s love of music and Rose’s love of life mix well together in the story and will make you both laugh and cry. Rose learned at an early age to sew and could create designs in her mind for a hat or garment without a blueprint. She loved listening to music and dancing when she joined the Settlement House with some friends as a young girl. As the author allows the reader to flashback to Rose’s childhood and upbringing we come face to face with the many obstacles and barriers her father placed in front of her.

As an adult she is opinionated and expresses herself in all areas from politics, to gardening homegrown vegetables to her granddaughter eating candy thrown on the street. She is one interesting woman at age 64 but so is Percy one opinionated and interesting man. Without realizing it they have so many interests in common and allowing nature to work its magic the author engulfs the reader into the lives of these two people.

Rose becomes involved with other women in a Stitch and Bitch group which in Jewish means( Kvetch and Krechtz) to complain and sigh if translated correctly. Everyone is allowed to complain and state their opinions about anything and no compliments of any kind for men. How much fun is that! Whether 1964 right after Kennedy was assassinated or 2010, people really never change. Both Percy and Rose love classical music but from their own perspectives. Going to concerts one listening from the outside and the other venturing inside the hall, the character’s true feelings are revealed as the author allows each one to flashback to the past and reflect on the present.

With divergent viewpoints from politics, to music to their polar opposite personalities, Rose and Percy take the reader on journey into the lives of two people who in my opinion are young at heart.

As concert pianist and violinist growing up I loved reading about the composers, their work, the history behind their compositions and the character’s interpretations of the music. Music is soothing, relaxing, uplifting and brings a smile to your face and can make the impossible seem so much easier to handle as it engulfs you into the sounds of the instruments and the voices that you hear when you are listening.

Growing up with grandparents that kept a kosher home with two sinks, two sets of soap and following the dietary laws described by Rose in this novel, I felt that I was reliving part of my childhood. But, my grandmother did not take the word of the kosher butcher that the meat was Glot Kosher when he finished koshering it. To explain the taste of too much salt, I remember that she rekoshered the meat when she got home for another three or four hours using Kosher Salt.

As the author recounts the events of Rose’s past and the divergent opinions that alienated her and her father, she tells a sad story of a young girl who never really fit in. Now, living alone in Vermont and trying to find her own roots and a place she could call home, Rose comes full circle with the help of one special man, Percy.

Added to the mix you will meet Sally, Irma and the wonderful people of Orton, Vermont who you will come to know and love. From canning, to quilting to just plain straight talk, Rose begins a new phase in her life as Percy does when he finally lets go the heartache from his past and begins anew in the present. I had to learn the Hannon’s scales and transpose them into every key both major and minor. As Percy struggled with many Beethoven’s Inventions and learning to play the scales at 90 using the metronome, I smiled as I heard my mom’s voice, telling me to practice my piano and violin after doing my homework.

The story told from two points of view Rose and then Percy the author goes back and forth allowing the reader to understand why each came to make the choices in their lives in the past and now in the present. If they come together you will have to read for yourself. Roses relationship with her family now and in the past you will understand after you read it.  Rose tells you in her own words about her father, his rules and her life and Percy relates his life with his sister Addie and losing Lila, his first love.  But, let’s not forget Wilson Nye who is ever the Don Juan, the politician and a crooked businessman that tries to befriend Rose and eliminate Percy as competition.

With an ending that will surprise you and two people that will totally amaze you, let it be known from this point on that life begins at any age and no one is ever too old to find happiness. Will Rose and Percy ever find a common ground? Will Rose decide to leave and live with Manny and his wife or go back to Florida? This is a story about new friendships that will last a lifetime, woman who is trying to make her own roots, and a town filled with people that you will love. Many might call Vermont and their way of life The Wilderness. No public transportation, walking great distances to get what you need and people that even make their own home made bread and can their own vegetables, this is a town that everyone needs to visit to understand the true meaning of friendship and more. Will Rose and Percy find the naches, mazel and glik they deserve? Rose is a smart woman with a strong Yiddishe Kup! Filled with Yiddish expressions and tons of Yiddishkeit in the mix, this novel brings two worlds together teaching strong lessons in how people of different faiths and beliefs can come together as one. Rose and Percy will take the reader on a backward journey into the 60’s and hopefully fast forward these lessons into the present.

Thank you for giving me the honor of reviewing this heartwarming and wonderful novel.

Fran Lewis: reviewer

Let the Truth Be Told: Herb Trader reviewed by fran lewis


Herb Trader

Author: Arthur Torsone

Imprisoned and left to die by your own government. Denied every human dignity. Not even afforded medication, food, water or clothing. Everything you believed in washed away. One man’s story that everyone needs to read. Arthur Torsone was fascinated with the golden weed, marijuana. He smoked it, sold it and even grew it on his farm. With the help of two twin brothers, a man named Daniel and many others he developed a lucrative business. But, at what cost and why?

Enter the world of Arthur Torsone and learn what happens when you go too far and your risk too much just for that next operation and that next deal. Herb trader is about the sale and trading of the Golden Herb called Marijuana. Throughout the book we meet many drug dealers, sellers and traitors/traders who lead both Arthur and many of his friends astray. From Jamaica, to Bangkok to many other cites around the world, Arthur Torsone searches for the right Herb to sell in order to make the right score and live the life of luxury that he desires even if it means risking his relationship with his wife and daughters.

Throughout the novel the author describes the risks he took to complete the missions to sell the herb and to provide for his family even though he was not present most of the time. With the help of many authorities, different partners and various crews, Max/Arthur risked his life, his safety and freedom at any cost.

Max and his crew go around the world and allow the reader to enter the dangerous world filled with deceit, intrigue and political treachery. The rescue mission off the coast of Saipan was so clearly and vividly described that the reader could feel the heavy waves and experience the tropical storm along the Max, Captain Kirk, Captain Jimmy and the rest of their crew. As Max became more embroiled in his missions he lost precious time with his daughters.

Then there is Minh who risked her life for Max. Her total loyalty, bravery, and undying love for him proved valuable in times of extreme danger and peril. But, there is much more. As Khmer a warlord, CIA operatives, D.E.A. informants and double agents, the U.S. ambassador and so many more, Max learns more than a hard lesson as he is betrayed by those he thought he could trust.

As he becomes more involved in a deal with the Ubel brothers and those in Cambodia the author will learn the true meaning behind the word trust. The conspiracy to import more than 12 tons of marijuana from Southeast Asia is foiled by federal agents. Other arrests are made in June in Cambodia and where he and many others wind up is worse than the conditions of any prison you can possibly imagine.

On August 21 of 1998, inside of his prison cell Max learns the truth about who was behind the seizure of the Oktedy and his capture in Cambodia. The worst has yet to come as he spends time in T3 prison lacking, medicine, food, and government help. Allowing the Ubel’s to alter the election in Cambodia and its outcome, Max, his friend Mike (Bird) and others take the fall for these ruthless men. Ridden with bites, emaciated and enraged, Max needed to find a way to survive. Uncovering the truth behind the actions of the Ubels and the part they played with the DEA agents in fixing the election in Cambodia, was quite sobering to say the least.

The real con began as Max and his crew went back to Southeast Asia to do another operation without realizing that this would be their downfall. Unraveling the mystery behind Hun Sen’s change of heart, denouncing Max and his men to the media and learning that the U.S. was lining his pockets with American dollars helps you lose faith in more than just the system. Hun Sen won the election in Cambodia by a small margin. The U.S. government wanted to entice him back into the operation allowing them time to set up the sting that would bring down Max.

. Why he is imprisoned is dishearten your faith in our government, many agencies and much more. Kidnapped by Khmer soldiers, left to rot in T3 prison in Phnom Penh, and kidnapped after being released by the CIA in front of the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh, you would think nothing more could happen. What happened in the past will not prepare you for what happens next. Finally released and going to the U.S. Embassy to get his new passport and begin a new life, he is taken into custody and locked up again. Who is behind this you won’t want to believe? The red tape and the entanglements that prolong his freedom will dishearten the reader.

Truths will be revealed at the end. Conspiracies, cover-ups within the U.S. government, high officials in all governments involved and innocent victims left in the aftermath. What finally happens will  enrage you. Writing three tell all letters to the judge who would finally decide his fate, author Arthur Torsone, allows the reader to learn the truths behind what really happened, who was behind it and to what extent those behind the conspiracy went to use him as a pawn in a deadly and dangerous game of chess.  The story tells of the methods used by our government to promote our foreign policies in poor and undeveloped countries in order to inflate their invisible economy with American dollars.

“I may have been wrong…..but not quite as wrong as they were,” in the author’s own words.

Written in the first person with descriptions of the events that allow the reader to visualize what the author went through, Arthur Torsone’s novel Herb Trader presents an inside look into the treachery, deceit and conspiracies that most people read about in the news but refuse to believe. As I read this novel I could feel the pain in Ahm’s heart, the fear in his daughter’s voices as they spoke on the phone and the disloyalty of those close to him and to whom he trusted his faith.

Author Arthur Torsone allows his family and the reader into his mind, his heart and his soul to tell a story that everyone needs to read. Lied to, left to die in a prison and trying to take his own life this thought provoking, heartbreaking true story will shake your inner core and forever change your vision and meaning of the word truth.

If you want to understand the world of marijuana distribution and journey into the underworld of moving tons of that herbal plant from one end of the globe to the other, you need to read this personal memoir filled with danger, intricate plots that are foiled and some successful and dangers that many would not survive. Why did this intelligent and smart man decide to become involved in selling the herb: to provide for his family. Why did he feel that this was his only route to success? Many people feel that success is measured by number of zeros in your bank account. I don’t think that is the only reason why the author really embarked in this business. There is much more that the reader does not really know. The truth will haunt you as you enter the prisons along with Max and Bird hoping they finally get the justice they both deserve.  How far would you go to provide for your family and give them a better life? A country that is supposed to afford us our freedoms and protect our rights and liberty, Arthur Torsone’s novel paints a very different picture.

Well spoken, well liked, admired by the traders, politicians, lawyers and judges that he encountered, our author brings the reader into a world so corrupt, so devious taking you back and forth along with him on this journey to find himself and a place he can call home. I truly hope you found not only a home but happiness and true love too. Down to earth and well written this novel is a definite must read.

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

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