Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog

Re-read 18 years later

I met, Mary Crow Dog, in 1994, at her book signing, in Phoenix, Arizona. I was impressed that Mary took the time to not only sign my book, but she wrote a note and drew a picture. Richard Erdoes accompanied Mary, and he also signed his name under Mary’s.

When I read Lakota Woman in 1994, I enjoyed what I learned about the Lakota Sioux Nation’s people, customs, and history. Re-reading the book in 2012, I read for a different purpose. I’m writing a historical novel, and need to validate any facts I might include in my book.

Lakota Woman is just as fascinating a read in 1994 as it was today. Mary grew up as a Lakota Sioux on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Much like today, Pine Ridge was poverty stricken. Mary described her life, but she included other American Indians in her book.

She was raised in a one room shack, filled with many family members, with no amenities, much like camping. She described the daily life of Sioux women, and Sioux men, differentiating their roles. Ignorance was bliss for Mary, as she thought this was how everyone lived.  She viewed her childhood as happy because she basically had love in her family.  Domestic abuse was rampant in reservations, and there were dysfunctional families, as we call them today.

Indian children were sent to boarding school to ‘become white’, to shed their Indian ways and customs. The students were beaten and punished if they didn’t succeed in the daily attempts to change their traditional values. Mary left and became a street smart Sioux, she drank and shoplifted to survive.

As every teenager looked for something to be a part of, Mary joined the AIM (American Indian Movement). She was empathetic to her people and other Indian’s struggles and was hungry for knowledge. Mary shared the AIM events with her readers. Not all of it is pretty, by any means, but that is what is so fascinating. It’s a first-hand account of what American Indians suffered in the 1970’s.

Mary had a baby during the siege at Wounded Knee. Here she met her husband, Leonard Crow Dog; he was a medicine man and a leader, and also had children of his own. She was a naïve wife and mother, but she learned how to do both well and stood by her husband during his imprisonment and adversities during these tumultuous times.

The book includes sixteen photos that illustrate traditional customs, and put faces to names and places. Whether you read Lakota Woman to learn about the Lakota Sioux in general, or to obtain precise facts for your own research, it is the perfect book.

It is written on a young adult level, so it’s an easy read that any age would enjoy. It’s always fun to learn history through reading a story such as Lakota Woman vs. a textbook.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Treasure Me by Christine Nolfi

Values to Treasure

Her mother, an on the run criminal, her father, in and out of jail, Berdie Kaminski, finds herself on her own, at the age of sixteen. The only way she knows how to survive is to use her skills as a petty thief.

Berdie is aware of a treasure hidden in Liberty, Ohio, since the Civil War. She has a clue from her ancestors that will guarantee she finds the treasure – rubies. Being a thief, Berdie travels to Liberty to steal the treasure.

Lacking formal education, but possessing street smarts, Berdie can handle herself well. Because of her upbringing, she has trust issues, to say the least. Initially, she is guarded with everyone she meets in Liberty. But after living and working there, while searching for the clue that would change her life, she starts to warm up to the town and its people.

Berdie thinks maybe there is hope for her and she can change her ways. Deep inside, she wants to be a respectable person, and relinquish her life of crime. While searching, she discovers information about a freedwoman, named Justice Postell, and Berdie considers her a role model. Postell gives her hope to change her criminal ways.

Treasure Me has the most remarkable characters. The women who work at The Second Chance Grill are eccentric and fun. Christine Nolfi develops each character to relate to Birdie in their own way, making it a pleasure to enjoy the individuality of the characters.

Birdie has a love interest, which she struggles with because of her past, and Hugh is a very complicated man. It’s great fun to follow their relationship.

Treasure Me is an easy read as it flows smoothly from beginning to end. The characters are memorable, especially Theodora, whose character has an unpredictable twist at the end!

What does the title, Treasure Me, signify?  Does Berdie find the rubies and change her life? Does she leave Liberty? Does she learn the value of true friendship and family?

I recommend readers of all ages, who enjoy mysteries, and a bit of romance, to read, Treasure Me, by Christine Nolfi.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Spirit of Lost Angels by Liza Perrat

A history lesson of the French Revolution

The reader will experience The French Revolution, in 1789, reading this historical novel, Spirit of Lost Angels.  The journey started and ended with the life of the protagonist, Victoire Charpentie, a lowly peasant girl, from Lucie-sur-Vionne, France.

Dire circumstances dictated that Victoire leave her home of Lucie to become a scullery maid for a Paris, France nobleman. Her boss was anything but noble, and Victoire suffered at his filthy hands. Realizing the nobles took advantage of all lower class people, Victoire vowed to change this injustice.

More unfortunate dire circumstances placed Victoire in an asylum. It is here she met her match for obtaining justice. The two women were a force to be reckoned with. Her new partner in crime taught her the aristocratic ways of a woman, so she could be successful when they parted.

Victoire was a fast learner, and applied her new life skills to benefit her during the revolution, to overthrow laws regarding the treatment of common citizens, and women, in particular. She wanted revenge desperately for the nobleman’s class.

Whenever I have read a well written, well researched, historical novel, I’m amazed at the amount of history I have learned from reading a book. Liza Perrat captivated me with quite a history lesson of the French Revolution.

Well-developed characters kept my interest throughout the entire book. I could visualize each character in the beautifully written settings, pleasant or otherwise, revealed before me in, Spirit of Lost Angels. Combined with the hell of the era, Liza Perrat managed to teach lessons of love, hope, and adversity.

I recommend, Spirit of Lost Angels, by Liza Perrat, to readers of all ages. It’s an extraordinary way to learn about France in the 1700’s.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Popular Television by A. Jarrell Hayes

The Dark Side

Seventeen diverse short stories are compiled in this 138 page book. Hayes includes all the genres in his collection, from humor to horror.

The title refers to the fact that the stories are not suitable for TV. Too violent and upsetting to visualize, for the most part, yet digestible through words, is Popular Television.

I recommend Popular Television by A. Jarrell Hayes for readers who enjoy the dark side of humanity.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

An Illegal President by Pat Lawrence

Whom can you trust?

Talk about a page turner, I read the book from cover to cover without putting it down. Great political suspense!

A United States Congressman, Paul Garrett, is kidnapped. Unfortunately he had his two children with him, which made the sinister plan become complicated.

A conspiracy lurked behind the kidnapping, offering Garrett the nomination for President of the U.S. He thought he had a chance to beat an incumbent President and be the most powerful man in the country, maybe the world.

His wife, Wendy, hated politics, and his children, Jack and Denise, are put through hell. Garrett learned a difficult lesson about trust during his near run for president. All these factors weighed in on Garrett’s decisions and how he would live his life.

Pat Lawrence’s writing style kept me captivated on every page. I recommend, An Illegal President, to readers of any age.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Into the light (The Portal) by Luke Meier with Joe Meier

A clever, sci-fi story, written by an eight year old boy! Way to go Luke! 

Into the light, is a story about a boy named Leo, and his dog, Bucky. Leo thought it would be okay, just for a minute, to look for Bucky’s short red leash, in his Dad’s forbidden basement. Bucky enters a portal he found, and Leo soon followed, only to end up in another universe.

Lots of adventures occurred in their quest to get back home. Don’t miss any of the action packed suspense, in Luke Meier’s, forty-eight page debut novel, Into the light (The Portal).

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Changing the Future by Paula Martin

Happily Ever After

Changing the Future was a very nice romance novel. It was a love story with down to earth characters. When Lisa and Paul’s relationship ended, it wasn’t a bed of roses for either of them. Miscommunication and trust issues broke them apart.  Five years flew by when they unexpectedly ran in to each other at Lisa’s college where she worked as a professor.

Old feelings surfaced and conflicts arose. They both felt guilty about how things ended. Lisa kept an unforgivable secret from Paul, and Paul harbored unjustifiable feelings of jealousy towards a male friend of Lisa’s.

Toward the middle of the story it became repetitive. Conflict lagged at this point and I thought it wouldn’t redeem itself. But it came back to life with Paul’s close call and it ended happily ever after.

Changing the Future was predictable, which is always a disappointment, no matter what the genre.

Paula Martin wrote beautifully written dialogue, and her characters were well developed. Lisa’s son was a bit too perfect; especially with the curve ball he was thrown. But he was as lovable as Paula’s other characters.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Mormonizing of America by Stephen Mansfield

Eye-opening moments

This was my first book read about Mormons and my first book read by author, Stephen Mansfield. With the current political situation in America, I was intrigued when the publisher asked me to read and review, The Mormonizing of America.

Skeptical, I approached the book with doubts, thinking it would be filled with the authors biased opinions and his version of facts.  Completing the book, I was pleasantly surprised that the opposite was true.  I’m not claiming to believe everything I read as absolute fact; however, it became clear immediately that Mansfield wrote, The Mormonizing of America, to enlighten not to preach to his readers.

I’m embarrassed to admit the amount of previous knowledge I had acquired in my lifetime about the Mormon religion.  I knew the basics and never desired to expand my education.

The Mormonizing of America, being filled with information and presented in a clear and concise writing style, enabled me to be receptive; hence I enjoyed the book considerably.

The history was fascinating. What scant knowledge I earlier possessed and anything I had questioned about the Mormons, the religion, the church, and the leaders, was answered beautifully by Mansfield. I didn’t feel he was being condescending, yet quite the opposite as I continued reading. I noted passages throughout the book and enjoyed my eye-opening moments.

The Chronology from 600 BC to 1904 was an asset, also the Beliefs in Plain Language. The Appendix A, stating Joseph Smith’s Articles of Faith, and Appendix B, noting the Surprising Quotes from Mormon Leaders were appreciated.

Given all the information, this was just the tip of the iceberg regarding the subject of the Mormon religion. The purpose of, The Mormonizing of America, was timely, being we currently have a Mormon who is running for the presidency. This is the perfect book for readers to get a feel for the Mormon life and beliefs of Mitt Romney.

I filled in so many blanks, from Joseph Smith and the Golden Plates, to why the Mormons are so successful today. It’s amazing to go from being persecuted to running for the office of president of the U.S.

Mansfield explained that Mormons have outstripped their leaders and their extreme doctrines. As long as they fulfill the conditions of their faith, they will ascend in American society.

I recommend The Mormonizing of America, by Stephen Mansfield, for readers of all ages who are curious about the Mormon history and the life of Mormons.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge by Christine Nolfi

Small town secrets revealed

Small towns are havens for buried secrets and forbidden passions.  A town in Ohio was no different for the prominent and wealthy Fagan family. Living in a mansion on a thousand-acre estate, Fagan’s Orchard shipped produce and condiments across the Midwest, and was the main setting for The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge. Located on the estate was an oak tree, referred to locals as The Great Oak Tree. If the tree could talk, what secrets it would tell.

The Fagan’s were renovating the mansion to accommodate their pregnant daughter. Troy Fagan was the head of operations on site and the person who did the hiring. Ourania D’Andre was an independent contractor who submitted a bid for the job. There was major conflict between the two, because Troy’s brother had been murdered. They both blamed themselves. The relationship strengthened as they worked through the guilt they harbored.

Troy and Ourania kept the story intrigue alive. Childhood bullying festered into adulthood. Both holding secrets, it took unpredictable circumstances to finally forge a healthy relationship.

Leading separate lives, Ourania became a foster mother to two bi-racial children, as she continued her career as an electrical contractor. Troy was the black sheep of the family choosing to work in construction instead of Fagan Orchards. He reluctantly accepted Ourania’s bid for the electrical work on the mansion, because his sister, Dianne, liked the beautiful and successful Ourania.

Working together, secrets were exposed, and forbidden passions surfaced. The Great Oak Tree revealed countless secrets, some beyond comprehension. To mention them, in my review, would spoil the story for readers.

The Great Oak Tree served as a symbol for hope and redemption.  Christine Nolfi did an extraordinary job writing The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge with this in mind. It also served as a subtle way to teach lessons in forgiveness.

Events in the story are brilliantly written with compassion and understanding. The subject matters are as diverse as the characters. The good vs. the bad, the beautiful vs. those lacking physical attributes, adoption, domestic violence, multi-cultural families, fighting the system, hate, love, trust, death, rape, and lies. Christine Nolfi proved to master her skill by describing the human elements factor in depth in The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge.

I recommend The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge, by Christine Nolfi, to readers who enjoy stories about real life situations. We can use the opportunity to reflect on our own life.