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Boricua63

Opinioned Tannia Ortiz

I am a natural born poet, song writer, amateur stock photographer, and freelancer book reviewer. I was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico and currently lives in Germany with my husband and two sons. Author of the award winning book, The Window To My Soul; My Walk with Jesus (2004 Tate Publishing) and its long-awaited Spanish translation, El Espejo de mi Alma (2011 WinePress). My stock photography portfolio is located at: http://www.bigstockphoto.com/profile/Boricua63/ My photos related gift could be purchased at: http://www.zazzle.com/teolpuertorico

A journey of sin and redemption

The Passion of Mary-Margaret - Lisa Samson

In her book, The Passion of Mary-Margaret, author Lisa Samson tells an entertaining, uplifting, and encouraging story where the gifts of the Spirit are manifested by the main characters as they lead us to a better understanding of Jesus' Divine Mercy.

 

The book cover shows a picture of a lighthouse in the background and a religious sister holding a wooden rosary in her left hand, dressed on a white jacket and skirt set. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and the grass is bright green. These symbols of peace, hope, trust, and faith are key elements in the development of the story.

 

The book begins with Sister Mary-Margaret Fischer writing a letter to her best friend, Sister Angie. She is complaining about Sister Mary-Francis' idea of writing their memoirs for others to benefit learning about their personal trials, tribulations, and blessings. The book gives us a glimpse in the life of religious sisters, including their spiritual needs and temptations.

 

After the death of Mary-Margaret's mother during childbirth, she was raised by her grandmother and her Aunt Elfi. Then at school age, Mary-Margaret moved permanently into the convent school after her family could no longer provide for her. The school was located in a small island of Chesapeake Bay. She was in fourth grade when she met Jude Keller, the lighthouse keeper's son. Every day Mary-Margaret used to look at the lighthouse and see Jude rowing out on the bay. Even at her young age, she was immediately captivated by his rough personality and physical appearance but decided to keep their relationship as friends.

 

During her preparation years and mission work, she goes to Georgia, where she has a close encounter with the KKK that leaves her mentally and emotionally devastated. She then returns to the island to recover from that experience and to prepare for her final vows. To her surprise, Jude also returns to the island defeated, broken hearted, ashamed, and to make things worse, he had also gotten sick with syphilis.

 

Then, one day, Jesus asks for her greatest act of obedience. She is in shock and speechless. How can Jesus ask her to take a detour from their relationship to bring back Jude, the lost sheep, into His flock, now that she is so close to her final vows of complete unity with Him, her beloved. She is the good servant through whom Jesus will change many lives and God's name be glorified.

 

The reader will be amazed at the unforeseen turns of events as Mary-Margaret searches for Jude and the identity of her “rapist seminarian father,” among other places, at the city mission safe house, located in the middle of ''The Block,'' where sex, drugs, and prostitution are the norm of the day. “The mission” is a place of refuge, healing and redemption for those forgotten by society.

 

In her search for answers, Mary-Margaret discovers that there are three sides of her conception's story: her family's, her father's and the truth squeezed in between. Was she conceived in love, lust, or was she the result of a rape?

 

At the end, the truth sets her free, as she reconciles the past with her present and provides for a better future in peace with it all.

 

The Passion of Mary-Margaret is the journey of sin and redemption walking hand-on-hand the path to salvation through one person understanding and expression of God's greatest gift, Love.

 

A captivating apocalyptic tale!

The Last Ark: First Omnibus Edition, Parts I-IV (The Fatima Code) Is The Antichrist Already In The Vatican? - Jack Sky

 

The Last Ark, penned by author Jack Sky, is a twelve-book apocalyptic series based on the Third Secret revealed by the Virgin Mary to the children at Fatima. The books are available as individual volumes or in three omnibus editions, each one containing four books. This review is for books I-IV.

 

The first book, The Vision, begins with a disturbing vision that comes to Marian Pope Petrus Romanus in the form of a dream. Once awake, he prays fervently for guidance. Through the protection and intersession of the Virgin Mary, he and his trusted team get the skilled workers and the funds they need to organize and build the refugee camps known collectively as “Mary's Ark” or, in short, “The Marks.”

 

While Pope Petrus Romanus and his crew are preparing to protect the refugees, an Anti John the Baptist called The General is working on a more sinister project. The General’s job is to pave the way for the Antichrist. He and his team of Exterminans, vicious demons disguised as humans, are supervising the construction of the Drozdov underground cities to protect the world’s ruling elite and their allies and for the stockpiling of nuclear missiles --- all with the goal of causing a global catastrophe that would lead to the reign of the Antichrist. As part of the “Plan” they are charged with implementing, they will assign a demon to each human subject so that the people could easily be enslaved for the benefit of the ruling class.

 

The saga continues with True Devotions, where the forces of evil continue to make arrangements for the fulfillment of prophecies by implementing a new world order with its man-made religion and doctrines. Meanwhile the Catholic Marians are rushing to establish the Marks worldwide before the appointed Blackout day as revealed to Pope Petrus Romanus.

 

In the third book, The Blackout, chaos reigns everywhere in the aftermath of nuclear-missile explosions. The Marks and the Drozdov underground cities are fully operational, and their leaders are receiving the survivors as planned. Worldwide, electronic devices are non-functional, except in Russia, the Operations Center for the Plan.

 

After the blackout, Russia arises as the world's savior with a ruling body comprised of the General with his six subordinate Exterminans, Russians militia, six Chinese oligarchs, and American and European elite.

 

As part of the Plan, Vatican City is fully annihilated while the Cardinals are in a secret conclave to replace Pope Petrus Romanus, who was accused of misconduct. After the proceedings against Pope Petrus are over, he and a trusted group of Cardinals leave the room. At a small chapel, they elect Pope Petrus II. After the election, they go to the Mark located outside Rome to wait for refugees. At a top of a mountain from which he could see Vatican City, Petrus I performs an exorcism. Afterward, he and his loyal and fervent group die as martyrs. That scene is based on the Third Secret revealed to the children of Fatima.

 

The omnibus edition concludes with The Consecration, in which the properly elected Pope Petrus II must fulfill Mary’s wish to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart. In order to succeed, the Marian Catholics will have to face the General and his evil forces, whose goal is to enslave the human race and prevent that consecration. However, the General himself is confronted with a series of unfortunate events that makes him reconsider his strategy --- they come about because now both Heaven and Hell are at war on Earth!

 

Shortly before concluding the story, the author will give the readers a glimpse of Hell, the orchestrated hierarchy and dominion of Heaven and Hell, and, as its culmination, the release of the Beast as prophesied in the Book of Revelations.

 

When I decide to review a book with theology and apocalyptic theme, I do some research to verify and discern truth from fiction. Although I am not an expert on theology, based on my research, I found the core basis for the story to be in agreement with the teachings of the Catholic Church. The author uses Pope Petrus I to relate what happened to Sister Lucia when she was ordered to reveal the Third Secret of Fatima and how the Church reacted to the message.

 

The story is captivating and full of Catholicism. Readers who are not Catholic but who enjoy this kind of book need to have an open mind in order to understand the story and its message. Names and numbers are chosen for their meaning and relevance to the story. For example: Pope Petrus refers to Saint Peter, the first pope, who was appointed by Jesus himself. The first four books of the series entail topics of interest today as well as reliable historical facts and events.

 

I found only two main issues that took some credibility away and made the story, at times, hard to follow. First, the use of military jargon was not always properly or immediately explained. Second, I found the explanation of quantum theology for children of ages 10 through 12 too complex for that age group. That discussion was extremely hard to follow. This book could have highly benefited from a glossary to explain all the jargon and abbreviations.

 

I highly recommend Jack Sky's apocalyptic series, The Last Ark, as an improved version of the Christian series, The Left Behind.

 

Highly recommended - More than just a fictional story!

Rachel's Contrition - Michelle Buckman

Rachel's Contrition is Michelle Buckman's first women's fiction. The award--winning author shares with her readers the story of Rachel's ambition and rebound from a self-destructive lifestyle.

 

Rachel Winters came from a dysfunctional family; raised by a single mother who had numerous partners, she grew up as an only child who never knew the identity of her father. Starved for love and attention, she became sexually active at the age of 14 and continued with her promiscuous behavior up to entering the university. During those teen years, Rachel learned the craft of manipulating, seducing, and satisfying men. Rachel's desire to better herself- leads her to join a sorority at the university. With the goal of marrying a wealthy man, she imitates the mannerisms of the upper--class young women on campus When Rachel meets Dr. Joseph Sinclair Winters, her Cinderella dream seems to come true.

 

Marriage gave Rachel better social status, a loving husband, and two children, Seph and Caroline. However, her perfect family and social status crumble after the tragic death of Caroline. The inability to deal with this great loss- sends Rachel into a path of sadness, despair, and loneliness. It causes her to lose the thing she loves most --- her family.

 

Rachel's inconsolable pain echoes the words of the prophet Jeremiah: 31:15 “Rachel is weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” And just as the character of the Old Testament was comforted by the Lord, this modern Rachel will also be guided by divine help in a variety of unexpected and mysterious ways.

 

Her healing process begins when she starts to interact daily with her disturbed teenage neighbor, Lily, who lost her beloved. As they study the life of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, they find peace and solace from their lives' turmoil. The bond between Rachel and Lily will become therapeutic and healing as they begin to deal with the death of their loved ones. They will learn to trust a higher power to help them face life's hardships with courage and humility.

 

Although I have not experienced Rachel's loss, as a mother of two, I could walk a mile in her shoes and sympathize with her feelings of self-pity, unworthiness, and her climactic self-acceptance.

 

Rachel's Contrition is more than just a fictional story. Even as it weaves topics from today's news into the story, the book reflects upon the effects of life and death upon us and, particularly our abilities to deal and cope with loss. The characters and situations will teaches us not to be judgmental and deceived by appearances. Through Lily’s revelations to Rachel, the author shows us how damaging it could be for families to keep up with appearances in order to maintain social status while hiding from the public eye illegal activities and serious crimes occurring in the household. Rachel's dilemmas could be the story of our next door neighbors, a relative, or ourselves.

 

I highly recommend Rachel's Contrition to readers searching for a book with a strong plot, well-developed characters and situations reflecting the decay of today's society. Although the book deals with some grim topics, readers will not lose hope for a better future.

 

Mathematical and science mystery

Numbers Up - Kevin  Clark

In his book, ''Numbers Up'', first time author Kevin Clark brings to the teens/young adult audience a crime story full of mathematical and science concepts weaved into the storyline.

 

The story begins with the discovery of the renowned mathematician Dr. Michael Townsend's dead body in his office at the Institute for Applied Mathematics. A call is placed to the Metropolitan Police Department and detective Paul Ondracek is chosen to lead the investigation.

 

In the course of the investigation, detective Ondracek uncovers some suspicious activities involving former Dr. Townsend with some well known and established banks, and his financial support of some terrorist groups in Palestine. Detective Ondracek must use his experience, good judgement, and analytical skills to solve this case before it's too late.

 

Meanwhile, the Feds and the NSA (National Security Agency) are monitoring some suspicious activities in the Chechen Republic with the help of one of their undercover agents and his informer. When a fax transmission giving details about the selling of a Joe-2, an old Russian nuclear bomb, to a terrorist group in Palestine is interrupted, then the White House finds itself in a big dilemma: how to prevent the sell of the bomb without causing an international crisis and deteriorating any further their relationship with Moscow.

 

The book moves back and forth between detective Ondracek's criminal investigation and the terrorist group in Palestine pursuing ways to find economical means to purchase the Joe-2 from a former Russian Red Army General. At the end, when all pieces of the case start to fall in place, the murderer escapes from an NSA secured location. This gives the author an opportunity to write a sequel in which he could develop detective Ondracek's character to his full potential. He could be promoted or transfered to another government agency giving him the opportunity to amend his mistakes, capture the murderer and close the case successfully. I like detective Ondracek character very much. He is clever, naïve, fresh, and with a personality that makes the reader able to identify with him and his predicaments.

On the other hand, this book could have greatly benefited from the services of an editor to help the author polish the dialogs and correct the flaws in the storyline. In some instances, it appears that the author is discussing prime numbers and DNA sequences concepts with high school students. The redundance of these topics in several conversations throughout the book makes it very hard at times to follow the story and it also undermines the capabilities of the main character, Detective Ondracek. I encourage the author to continue cultivating and improving his writing skills so the sequel to this book is enjoyable to a wider audience.

I recommend this book for teens/young adults looking for a crime story. This book is not suitable for readers under 16 yrs old since they will not be able to understand it and follow the story. In general, I found the storyline to be original and interesting, considering it was written by an amateur author.

 

Entertaining Historical Fiction

NIGHT PRAYER from the Office of the Dead - Brother Bernard Seif

 

Night Prayer from the Office of the Dead is author Brother Bernard Seif's newest release of the Brother Francis O'Neil's mystery series. In this book, the author will take the main character to China on a dangerous and life-threatening quest.

 

Brother Francis is a clinical psychologist, a doctor of Chinese medicine, and a committed Salesian monk. He has dedicated most of his life to studying the Salesian Order's founders, St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal.

 

Brother Francis' enthusiastic research and his skills as a historian will take him away from the quiet of his monastery in Pennsylvania to visit a friend's relative on a remote village in China. There, he will receive some mysterious ancient parchments which have been passed down from generation to generation. He is fascinated by their content and by the legend of doom surrounding them.

 

Some of the previous keepers of the parchments had met a deadly fate. Will Brother Francis be able to solve the mysterious hunting accidents that befell them without putting his own life at risk?

 

Although this is the sixth installment on this series, I did not have any problems following the story or understanding the character's predicaments. The author did a wonderful job disclosing relevant information without affecting the flow of the narration.

 

The captivating cover illustration transported me to the sixteenth century. Illuminated by a single candle, a religious man sits deep in concentration at a library desk, writing a letter with a quill pen. For me, the image raised interest about the significant relationship between the writer and the recipient of such letter. The expectations of an enigmatic tale and its resolution were fulfilled.

 

I recommend this book to historical fiction readers looking for a short, condense, and intriguing story.

 

Thought-provoking historical fiction

Eugenios: Servant of Kings - Julian Bauer

Julian Bauer's latest release, Eugenios, is a novel based on the evolving relationship of two Jewish families with some key Roman politicians and Jesus' family.

 

The book is divided into two sections. In the first one, the reader will meet the Jewish slave Sphaerus, his wife Kallisto, and their children; Eugenios, Theodoros, and Sarah. The second part describes the lives of their descendants, especially on Eugenios's whose role in Roman politics will affect all their extended families.

 

The story begins in 38 BC during the reigns of Emperor Augustus Octavian, and Herod, governor of Galilee. After Herod invades Joppa, his soldiers murder the family of Kallisto. At the time a young virgin, she is taken as slave and offered as a gift to Octavian. However, Octavian orders Sphaerus to marry her, so as to avert a jealous fit from his wife, Livia; thus Octavian hoped to keep the peace of his household. That night changes Kallisto's fate forever, from a life of comfort as the daughter of a very wealthy Jewish merchant to that of an impoverished housewife of a slave. Nonetheless Sphaerus's love, consideration, and patience win her over and save her from becoming entertainment for Octavian's soldiers.

 

In the first part of the story, the reader will follow Sphaerus and his family through political intrigues, challenges, and the ordeals of Rome and its colonies. However, since Octavian appreciates Sphaerus's loyalty, service, and wise counsel, the slave's family benefit from the protection of the emperor. However, it will also be influenced by the societal and religious that emerge as Jesus' ministry begins to flourish.

 

In the second part of the novel, the Roman Empire is under attack and its enemies are allying against it. Mr. Bauer reveals how the constant political changes in Rome have ripple effects on all its citizens and specifically on Eugenios, Theodoros, and Sarah.

 

In contrast with other books by Mr. Bauer that I have read, this is a well-researched historical-fiction novel emphasizing current topics such as corruption, lack of integrity in government, earnest ambition leading to war, strategic treaties, the decline of social morals, and religious metamorphoses”. The author skillfully weaves the threads of Jesus' life with that of Sphaerus and his family. Their relationship will come together in an unexpected climax at the end.

 

Eugenios is a thought-provoking book that educates and creates awareness of how the choices we make affect our future.

 

For me, it is one of the best books written by Mr. Bauer.

 

I highly recommend Eugenios to readers who enjoy historical fiction novels that interweave universal themes in a refreshing new way!

 

A fascinating pirate's tale with mystical creatures and elements of magic.

The Old World (Lore) (Volume 3) - Chad T. Douglas

The Old World is the last installment of the Lore trilogy by the young and ingenious author, CT Douglas.

 

The trilogy's first book, A Pirate's Charm, introduced the main characters and set the stage for this page-turner, pirate adventure. The story begins in 1780 in the island of Barbados, where gemseeker Molly Bishops is pursued by members of the dangerous cult of vampires, The Black Coats.

 

After escaping her would-be captors, she forms an alliance with the infamous Captain Thomas Crowe, who allows Molly to join his pirate crew. During their voyages, she begins to understand Crowe's unusual crew, the prophetic riddles of an old fortuneteller, and her essential role in the fulfillment of those prophecies.

 

The second book, East and Eight, presages and continues the epic. The narrative begins in Barbados in 1775, with young Thomas then a crewman enslaved by the ruthless pirate Captain Lapuente. Thomas gains his freedom by helping Oi'alli, the chieftess of the Oi'tan tribe, to recover a stolen talisman. As a token of gratitude, Oi'alli allows Thomas to keep the powerful talisman for five years. When Oi'alli comes to collect it and Thomas refuses to give it back as previously agreed, she curses him with a Doppelganger demon whose actions eventually force Thomas to travel to the island of Wallachia to be exorcised by a Helvetti priest.

 

As the story unfolds, Thomas and Molly must form alliances with former adversaries to defeat a treacherous foe known as The Eight, a mysterious group persecuting the vampire and werewolf cults in the name of preserving humanity.

 

The Old World begins with Molly's self-promotion to Captain following Thomas's death after the exorcism. The freedom of Molly and her crew, however, is taken away when Captain Jack Darcy, the vicious Blood Moon werewolf pirate, captures their ship and moves everything to his. He imprisons Molly, and her loyal companions Leon, Geoffrey, Chera, and Ine in separate cells in the lower deck while the rest of the crew is forced to help on the upper deck. Darcy has commandeered the ship to Mombasa, India where he will hand Molly and the other prisoners over to Udbala the Seventh, in exchange for a generous reward of gold coins.

 

Although Molly's advanced pregnancy is affecting her sorceress powers, she still manages to escape from her prison cell. She scouts the ship unnoticed and gathers useful information to prepare an escape plan.

 

In the meantime, Thomas finds himself at the Divine, a place between the worlds of the dead and the living, where he will re-experience all the important events from his past. Curious about where a silver thread attached to his body, leads Thomas follows it. As he travels around, he meets an African warrior and helps him to defeat a soul-eating demon. Later on, Thomas meets the fortuneteller from Barbados who Molly visited at the beginning of A Pirate's Charm. The seer shares with Thomas important information about The Eight and, by way of a riddle, tells him how to exit the Divine. Encouraged and hopeful at being reunited with Molly, he continues searching for the door of death, which leads to the exit. Suddenly he arrives at the place where all silver threads are connected. There he finds the Octopus. After an intense conversation, the Octopus is amazed and surprised that Thomas has not yet solved the riddle, so out of pity, he gives Thomas a hint at the answer.

 

As the story unfolds, Molly, known by others as the “Angel sorcerer,” continually astonishes those who dare to challenge her powers and stand in the way of her freedom. On the other hand, internal turmoil within The Eight is interfering with its plans for global power.

 

Will Thomas be able to find and cross the door of death and be reunited with Molly before it is too late? Will The Eight be able to reach its goals while eliminating the pouches of resistance growing in Europe? Is the dying Old World giving way to a rebirth in the New World of the Americas?

 

Join Molly, her loyal companions, and the other underground resistance groups in their journey for freedom against the forceful, influential, and mysterious foe known as The Eight.

 

The Old World was a tale as engaging as the first two books of the Lore trilogy. The narrative and fighting scenes were powerful and vivid, as expected. Molly's character evolution was surprisingly delightful. However, I found a key mistake that diminished the value of the whole. Nonetheless the unresolved ending leaves the reader wondering if the author is considering another series based on the trilogy narrator, Mr. Geoffrey Mylus.

 

A highly recommended saga for teens, older readers, and for anybody who enjoys a fascinating pirate's tale with mystical creatures and elements of magic. The trilogy has all the elements to emerge as a blockbuster movie!

Meet the author at this year Frankfurt Book Fair

The difference phases of love experienced by Down Syndrome Lily (powerfull)

Life Entwined with Lily's: The Third in a Trilogy (The Lily Trilogy) - Sherry Boas

 

Life Entwined with Lily's is the last installment in the Lily Trilogy penned by experienced fiction author and journalist Sherry Boas.

 

In the first book, Until Lily, Ms. Boas introduces the reader to the trilogy's main character, Lily Eagan, born with Down syndrome. After her mother Jennifer dies, Lily and her siblings are cared for by Beverly Greeley, Jennifer’s only sister. Narrated from Aunt Bev’s point of view, we learn how the lives of the Eagan children and the Greeleys are changed forever.

 

In the second book, Wherever Lily Goes, Lily is living at a group home in Seattle mourning the death of Aunt Bev. Her sister Terry lives in Minnesota with her husband Jake Lovely and their three daughters: Laura, Katie, and Beth, an extremely disturbed and troublesome teenager. Through Terry's narrative, we learn about the Lovelys’ relocation to Seattle to give Lily a family and a home. Terry also recounts Lily's dilemmas, developmental issues, and unique family dynamics, including Lily's special bond with her dad, Pablo.

 

In Life Entwined with Lily's, the trilogy’s masterpiece, we get to know a more grown-up Lily, a young woman who dreams of marriage and motherhood. On her way to visit her dad in California, Lily meets Frank Stillwell and it’s love at first sight. Lily and Frank get married and live in a guest house in the Lovely's backyard. As the story unfolds, the reader will rejoice at Lily's marriage and be pleasantly surprised at her excellent mothering skills. But Lily's life will have its share of trials too.

 

The book is narrated by Beth, whose style is a sweet and sour mix of deep concern toward others and a search for self-worthiness. With this character, the author brings to our attention some of the issues facing adolescents: peer pressure, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, and abortion. It also explores how wrong decisions and actions can affect a teen’s self-esteem.

 

After reading the trilogy, Beth became my favorite character. The author discloses Beth's darkest secret, haunting remorse, and how her tormented soul finally found peace. She emerges as a strong and notably caring young woman.

 

Writing a trilogy is an enormous amount of work and a great challenge for an author. It requires a skillful hand to maintain each character's uniqueness throughout the story. Ms. Boas takes it a step further with the Lily Trilogy, the chronological story of Lily and her significant influence on others. She writes from three completely different points of view without distorting her characters’ idiosyncrasies.

 

Although they were written as part of a trilogy, each book could be read individually. However, to fully appreciate Lily's transformation, the trilogy should be read in its entirety.

 

I highly recommend the Lily Trilogy to readers who delight themselves in fiction based on real-life events and Catholic values. It not only tells a good story, but it could also bring hope to people dealing with a shameful past by demonstrating that all wounds are healed through God's redeeming love.

Down Syndrome Lily keeps influencing those around her

Wherever Lily Goes - Sherry Boas

 

Wherever Lily Goes is the second installment in the Lily Trilogy, penned by experienced journalist and fiction author Sherry Boas.

 

In the first book, Until Lily, Ms. Boas introduces the reader to the trilogy's main character, Lily Eagan, born out of wedlock with Down syndrome. She and her two adopted siblings, brother Jimmy and sister Terry, are sent to live with Aunt Bev and Uncle Jack Greeley after the death of their mother Jennifer. Narrated from Aunt Bev’s point of view, we learn how the Eagan children’s and the Greeley’s lives are changed forever.

 

In Wherever Lily Goes, Lily is living at a group home in Seattle mourning the death of Aunt Bev. Her sister Terry is married to Jake Lovely and lives in Minnesota with their three daughters: Laura, Katie, and Beth, an extremely disturbed, troublesome teenager.

 

One night during dinner Terry expresses her concern about Lily, and Jake suggests that the family relocate to Seattle hoping to solve two family issues: Lily's loneliness and Beth's self-destructive behavior and bad companions.

 

The Lovely family gets a new beginning, and both Beth's relationship with her family and her academic performance improve. Lily moves in with them and has a positive effect on the family--- to the extent of inspiring Terry and Jake to pursue having another baby.

 

As the story unfolds, the reader will enjoy the development of a tender and deep relationship between Lily and her Mexican dad, who she met after Aunt Bev's death.

 

My admiration for the author's storytelling skills continues to grow. In Until Lily, Aunt Bev's tone changes from antipathy to unconditional love toward Lily. In the sequel, Terry's humane narration speaks about Lily's dilemmas, developmental issues, and unique family dynamics.

 

This book will keep the reader engaged and motivated to get to know Lily better and learn about the life-changing effects she has on others.

 

I highly recommend this book to readers looking for an inspirational story on how to cope with the many challenges associated with raising a family while dealing with the needs of a loved one who has Down syndrome.

A powerful story about a Down Syndrome girl named Lily!

Until Lily: The First in a Trilogy - Sherry Boas

 

Until Lily is the first installment of the Lily Trilogy, penned by professional journalist and fiction author Sherry Boas.

 

Apostates Beverly and Jack Greeley enjoy their childless, healthy, and wealthy life. Bev's sister, Jennifer Eagan, is a devout Catholic, hard-working, single mom with three kids; Jimmy and Terry, who were adopted, and Lily, born out of wedlock with Down Syndrome. After Jen loses her battle to cancer, her children go to live with Uncle Jack and Aunt Bev, their court appointed legal guardians. Jack, however, finds the new and burdensome responsibility of caring for the children to be unbearable and abandons the family. Nevertheless, as the story unfolds, Bev's attitude toward Lily changes completely as she discovers that caring for her “daughter” was the most rewarding experience of her life!

 

Although at first I thought to write only one review highlighting the best of the trilogy, I decided to focus on each book's uniqueness based on the situations and thematic surrounding Lily.

 

While reading the trilogy, I was amazed at the author's competence to narrate Lily's story from three completely different points of view without losing each character's individuality and emphasizing pivoting events related to their interaction with Lily.

 

Until Lily tells Lily's story from Aunt Bev's point of view, from unfit and resentful aunt to appreciative and thankful „mother.“ Suffering from advanced Parkinson, she reflects upon her life before Lily and how different her senior years could have been if it wasn't for Lily's humanitarian personality. The reader will witness Lily's transformation from a small, strong-willed child to a grown, loving and compassionate woman caring for her mother.

 

I highly recommend this book to parents dealing with the challenges of raising children with Down Syndrome and to those considering ending a pregnancy as they question their ability to take on such a huge responsibility. The first installment creates awareness about Down Syndrome and shows the blessing of caring for these children.

 

 

Warning: You will need several boxes of tissues to carry you through the entire trilogy!

Two powerful stories of faith, discovering, and growth

The Lawyer's Relic and a Grandfather's Dilemma - Julian Bauer

THE LAWYER'S RELIC

 

 

The Lawyer's Relic, penned by Julian Bauer, is an entertaining and educational novella about an agnostic lawyer, Mr. Antonio Mendoza and his bizarre experiences with a relic.

 

The story begins with the mysterious appearance of a Christmas gift at Mr. Mendoza's office. The package was wrapped with a bloody napkin and had no sender's name or return address. Inside, he found a bloodstained linen napkin and an index card citing John 20:7 “and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.”

 

At first he thought someone had sent him evidence from a criminal case. However, when he saw that people experienced life transformations after coming in contact with the napkin, he started to wonder about its origin.

 

His quest for answers led him to the Catholic Monsignor who, after noticing Mendoza's skepticism, referred him to the local Rabbi to inquire about Jewish burial customs in Jesus' time. Not fully satisfied with their explanations, Mr. Mendoza ordered a DNA test on the napkin. His quest for convincing evidence about the authenticity and origin of the relic would ultimately take him to the Vatican.

 

Is the bloodstained napkin truly a relic? Are the alleged miracles authentic? What series of events will bring Mr. Mendoza to his knees with a humble heart toward God? All these questions will be answered as the story unfolds, leading to an unexpected end.

 

Since I mainly write book reviews for Catholic publishers and authors, the repetitive arguments and clichés about conviction and conversions are sometimes extremely boring for me. Mr. Bauer cleverly and convincingly uses characters' conversations to make his points without resorting to the “preaching tone” that non believers can find off-putting.

 

It was refreshing to read the courtship scenes between the agnostic lawyer and his deeply devout Catholic fiancé, Pam. They are miles apart in personalities and world views, but those differences make their love unique and stronger as they join forces and resources to solve the mystery at hand.

 

The Lawyer's Relic is a short, easy-to-read novella that might cause a revitalization of your faith.

 

 

 

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A GRANDFATHER'S DILEMMA

 

 

After the success of his first historical novella, The Scholar's Challenge, author Julian Bauer shares two short novellas in one book, The Lawyer's Relic and A Grandfather's Dilemma. The first novella recounts the story of an agnostic lawyer, an alleged relic, and the life-changing experiences that it causes to those who came in contact with it.

 

The second novella, A Grandfather's Dilemma, is the story of Tom Rider, the spoiled, sole heir of Rider Distilleries. The story begins with an unexpected visit from Ms. Sara Rider and her son, Tom, to Mr. Larry Dexter, author of the successful book, Developing Character. Based on what Ms. Rider has read she is absolutely convienced that only Mr. Dexter could help Tom become a wise, objective, ethical individual and a outstanding CEO.

 

At first Mr. Dexter refuses to help Tom. However, after some persistence from Ms. Rider, he accepts the challenge under some tough conditions for Tom who is used to getting his way.

 

As the story unfolds, the reader will be engaged into their character developing struggles, steep learning curve, and gratifying moments. Mr. Dexter's system is a mix of tough love, establishing clear rules and the consequences for breaking them, persistency, study of the Word of God and leading by example.The author shows why one should never underestimate the power of prayers, the wisdom that comes with age, and mercy. The end of the book, although dramatic, fits the novella's overall theme--compassion!

 

I recommend A Grandfather's Dilemma, to parents of teens and young adults who are looking for an astute method to raise a man of integrity.

 

 

A mis-constructed tale

The Foxhole Angel - J.D. Kamps

 

This publication is a combination of two books, "Always a Soldier" and "The Foxhole Angel." Each chapter's theme is introduced by citing a famous quote. These quotes are on both books. On the first book, the author takes us back to Rome, the governing of Pontius Pilate, and Jesus' ministry. This book is divided in five chapters. On the first chapter, we meet Antonius, a Roman soldier assigned to oversee a wedding in the city of Cana. Antonius is vigilant on his duty and self-aware of the negative feelings the Jews have toward him and Rome. There he witnesses Jesus' miracle of converting water into an exquisite wine and the cure of a cripple boy. On the other four chapters, Antonius shares with us his impressions of Jesus' ministry until His crucifixion. Antonius will later on become a character on the second book, "The Foxhole Angel."

 

On the second book, "The Foxhole Angel," the author takes us to Germany and Japan during World War II. This book has twenty-nine chapters. On the first four chapters, the author introduces the three main characters; Jimmy Donovan, Will Jackson, and Pete Calvert. All of them come from three different upbringings and ethnic backgrounds. On chapters five and six the author introduces the topic of prejudicism in a very eloquent manner as it's described to us as seen by Will Jackson. When this young and naive black Parisian travels from France to Central Montana, USA, to report to work at an all-white mining company, he gets a bitter taste of the segregation practices of the time. He is in shock and in a state of disbelief. After this and other discrimination experiences and many failed attempts to make a decent living, he is drafted into the US Army into an all black-batallion. On chapter seven, Jimmy Donovan d Pete Calvert meet on ''Boot Camp'' and start developing a strong friendship. On chapter nine, the author introduces the first guardian angel who will be with the reader for most of the story. Chapters 10 through 21 take us to the thick of the war in Nazi Germany. During those chapters more soldiers are introduced, which will accompany Jimmy and Pete on their Germany tour and to the end of the war. On chapters 22 and 23, Jimmy, Pete, and other soldiers are transferred from Germany to Pearl Harbor, Japan, where they meet Will Jackson. Pete's dislikes of Will escalate to a violent fight, which caused both soldiers to be scolded by their superior. The chapter ends with a war scene. On chapters 24 through 26, the author takes us to the world of the afterlife where he shares with us Jimmy, Will, and Pete's experiences with us. On chapters 27 and 28, the author gives us some historical background of the whereabouts of those soldiers fallen on Pearl Harbor and the return home of their remains; but with more emphasis on the Donovan family. On chapter 29, the author once again reunites Jimmy, Will, and Pete on their newly appointed duties. The author finishes the book with an Epilogue.

 

The book's cover is olive green and shows a picture of a man with a soldier hair cut with a hallow and a soldier siluette with his helmet on the background. This is indicative of the guardian angel protecting the soldier. The olive green color of the cover is similar to one of the green colors used on the US military soldiers camouflage uniform. The book title hinted the military and divine nature of this book. A foxhole is a hole in the ground used by troops as shelter against enemy fire or as a firing point. The hole usually is to be occupied by no more than two soldiers due to its small size; however, it has the capacity of accomodating a maximum of four soldiers. The military Basic Training, which the author refers to as ''Boot Camp,'' and the war scenes are fully detailed and colorful. The scenes of the German war coincide with many of the war stories I have heard from the locals in the German city where I live.

 

This book could have greatly benefited from an editor to help the author stay focused on the storyline, characters, and to keep the situations accurate and smoothly connected; in addition to prevent misspelling of German words, format and layout inconsistencies.

 

Storyline, characters, and situations deficiency: On chapter two of the first book, "Always a Soldier," we read Antonius is given 20 lashes and starves in chain for two weeks, receiving only one cup of water daily and when released, he stands and only rubs his wrists. This scene is hard to believe if we consider the imprisonment conditions and torture practices of the Romans. We can find another example of a similar problem on chapter 17 of the second book, "The Foxhole Angel," in which we read how Corporal Sid Cantor's hands are sent in all directions after a grenade explodes near the woodpile where he takes refuge. However, later on, the author describes him as a ''handless'' man who on chapter 19 has blisters on his hands as a result of chooping wood all night! There seems to be an inconsistency on the condition of Sid's hands and on his rank, too. First, Sid is introduced on the story as ''Corporal Cantor'' and later on the author refers to him as ''Private Cantor.'' A ''Corporal'' and a ''Private'' are two different lower ranks in the military. The ''Corporal'' is a higher rank than the ''Private.'' That same inconsistency shows in the name of the German woman who attended Sid's injuries. First she is addressed by her German title, ''Frau Geisens'' and then by the English counterpart, ''Mrs. Geisens.''

 

Misspelled and incorrect use of German words: Since a great part of the story events occurred in Gemany, the author also mentions some German words and phrases. It would have been beneficial for the reader if the author would have double checked the proper spelling of the words, in addition to adding its meanings as a footnote. On chapter 17, page 279, Sid greats a German girl in English and she returns the greeting in German by saying, ''Hallo, wie gent's?'' The proper spelling of the word ''gent'' is ''geht'' from the verb ''gehen,'' which means ''going;'' however, on this phrase translates as ''How are you?'' On chapter 18, page 296, the German word for water is ''wasser'' not ''vasser,'' as mispelled by the author. The proper spelling in German of the entire phrase ''More water?'' would be ''Mehr wasser?,'' otherwise is considered Germish, a term used to describe expressions resulting from the combination of German and English words and/or phrases. On chapter 19, in the last paragraph on page 302, the author wrote ''...any good Deutsch mother...'' It should be ''any good German mother..'' or the following alternatives ''...any good Deutsche Mutter...'' or ''...any good Deutsche mother...''

 

Format and Layout Inconsistencies: The quotes used at the beggining of each chapter to introduce a theme have different fonts sizes and format discrepancies. This problem is found on both books on chapter one, where there is no space between the chapter title and the cited quote undearneath it. However, on the other chapters, there were three spaces separating them. The quotes source format and font size are also not kept consistently throughout the book. Most of the quotes' originator is listed on the right side underneath the quote; however, some of them were centered following the format of the quote. An editor would have suggested a more friendly font size for the quotes and the overall formatting of the book.

 

Main Storyline Lost: I felt the first book, "Always a Soldier" was completely irrelevant to the main storyline as stated on the book back cover. It appears that story was written to stand alone and somehow tossed into the story as a last minute decision. Equally irrelevant to the overrall story was chapter 25 on the second book, "The Foxhole Angel," where we read about the encounter and theological exchange between Jimmy Donovan and Martin Luther. An editor would have suggested to the author the deletion of these two stories without affecting the overall outcome of the book.

 

Identity Crisis- It would have been beneficial to the reader and honoring to those soldiers who lost their lives fighting in World War II if the author had identified properly the ''9th'' mentioned on chapters 27 and 28. Were they the 19th Brigade?; the 19th Batallion?, ?????

 

The book is full of themes such as faith, beliefs, prejudicism, redemption, rebirth, spiritual awakening, guardian angels, spiritual battles and human conditions. These themes and the situations surrounding them are not always properly introduced to the reader. I found myself more than once going back to a previous chapter or chapters to verify some facts before fully understanding the situation on the chapter I was reading. At times, the elements of fantasy took away the value of a good scene.

 

The storyline has potential but it was not properly conveyed to the reader. All the weakness in this book could have been avoided if the author had taken more time in his revision, editing, layout, and formating of the book; in adition of choosing a reputable editor and publisher. This book has all the flaws of a self-published vanity press publication.

 

This book is written for adults, since some of the scenes are not suitable for younger readers.

A story of courage

Flit and the Avian Flock - Kyle Metzger

 

With his book, Flit and the Avian Flock, author Kyle Metzger shares with his readers the story of the brave and determined hummingbird, Flit.

 

It is the time of the year when the Avian Flock meet for their annual Migratory Council at The Grand Aviary and report their findings concerning the Bird Kingdom, including the tragic death of two members, to General Rightwings. After the reports are given,Maka, Rightwings’s trusted assistant, announces a three-day competition among all birds to replace Albert and Sable.

 

Flit had always dreamed of becoming one of the hundred birds of the elite and honored Avian Flock, protectors of the Bird Kingdom. Once the official rules were posted, Flit knew that he would master the first two events but would need cleverness and determination to successfully complete the last one. Flit's attitude and commitment inspired other small birds to register and prepare for the competition, too.

 

Flit studied and trained hard. The first two days were exhausting but Flit was still holding on. On the third day only five birds remained, all of them aiming to have their plumage painted gold, an indication of their honorable membership in the Kingdom's elite.

 

I highly recommend Flit and the Avian Flock to families looking for an entertaining tale, that can be enjoyed by all and that weaves values and morals into the storyline. Old and young will be engaged as they follow Flit, the small hummingbird, overcoming challenges and obstacles and remaining focused on his goal---to become a member of the Avian Flock.

 

The end of the book brought tears to my eyes with its message that endurance, commitment, and humility make the impossible a reality for those who believe!

 

Mathew 23:12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

A tale of Christendom masterfully written - Extraordinary

Crown of the World--Book 1: Knight of the Temple - Nathan Sadasivan

 

The Knight of the Temple is the debut novel of The Crown of the World trilogy written by young author Nathan Sadasivan.

 

The book cover shows Christ's crown of thorns above a battle scene where the main character, Godfrey de Montferrat, a bold and brave Temple Knight, is engaged on a battle. The author takes the reader into a tale of Christendom with emphasis on Godfrey's dilemmas about faith, loyalty, love, war, and his purposes in life.

 

The book begins with Godfrey de Montferrat and his companion, Jacques de Maille, riding their horses through the desert of Egypt searching for a Frankish camp. Due to the intense heat of the sun, both horsemen are extremely tired, thirsty, and have had hardly any sleep. They find an oasis where they refresh themselves and their horses can drink water to replenish their energy. Not far from them, Yusef, an arab leader well-known for his battle and commanding skills, and his warriors discovered the hoofprints of the Temple Knight's horses. Yusef, allows Malik to go and investigate the matter and report back to him. Malik, a young warrior thirsty for Frankish's blood and with battle fever, reports his findings to Yusef and suggests a surprise attack on the knights. But things don't go as smooth as Malik expects. The knights fight back but get separated during the battle. This separation leaves Godfrey defending his life fiercely against Malik's violent attacks.

 

The outcome of his encounter with Malik marks the beginning of Godfrey's personal quest to find the answer to his many questions. The encounter with Yusef and his warriors at the desert is just the beginning of the many clashes between the Saracen (Muslims) and the Frankish Knights. The author will take the reader to a world of betrayal, espionage, love, prayer, and political power struggles, where the most ambitious and wicked one of them all will stop at nothing to reach his goal.

 

I admire the author's attention to details. With the skills of a masterful painter, he portrays the battle scenes and enfold the reader into a mystical tale of a world already forgotten, and a time where not everything is was what is seems to be.

 

At the end of the book Godfrey finds himself in front of the Tabernacle demanding to know:Why??? The answer to his question will open up the road of healing for his broken spirit and will leave the reader contemplating on its meaning, too.

 

I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy books about Christendom and are willing to follow Godfrey de Montferrat and his companions through this trilogy.

Page-turner ancient Rome novel

Centurion's Daughter - Justin Swanton

With his historical novel, Centurion's Daughter, author and illustrator Justin Swanton takes the reader to the decline of Rome the great, and the rise of the Frankish Empire.

 

Seventeen-year-old Aemelia and her Frankish mother have lived in Reims all their lives. After her mother's death, Aemelia travels to Roman Gaul searching for her Roman father, Centurion Tarunculus, a man she has never seen and only knows through family lore. As Aemelia reaches Gaul, she sees a crowd making fun of a man giving a patriotic discourse about Rome's greatness. After inquiring about the whereabouts of Tarunculus, she is shocked to discover that the town's eccentric is, indeed, her father. Their first encounter is very heartbreaking to Aemelia because she is rejected by her only living relative. Since Taranculus has no knowledge of her, he thinks she is an impostor or a beggar and dismisses her. Despite this brusque first encounter, Aemelia finds herself a home and a family with him at Gaul.

 

The first two chapters were slow to my liking. However, the author cleverly used conversations between Aemelia, her father, and other characters to reveal crucial information about her life in Reims. After these get-to-know-me-better chapters, the reader will be totally engaged following Aemelia and her father through their daily routine in town.

 

 

It was interesting how the author created tension in the story by means of personality conflicts between Aemelia and her father. Aemelia is shy, prudent, obedient, and a devout Catholic. By contrast, her father is egocentric, dominant, bellicose, and agnostic; his only goal is restoring Rome's greatness. Their disparity in temperament will keep the reader captivated until the story's surprising end.

 

As the story unfolds, Aemelia's ability to speak, read, and write in Frankish and Latin is revealed to be a double-edged sword of critical importance. On the one hand, as news spreads that the Franks are about to attack Gaul, an ambitious member of the ruling class uses Aemelia's bilingual skills to arrange a secret meeting with Chlodovech, leader of the Salian Franks. The agreement they reach will have a pivotal effect on the Battle of Soissons, where Lord Syagrius is defeated, leading to the rise of the Franks over the Romans. On the other hand, once Gaul is conquered, Aemelia's ability will secure her family a steady income.

 

Because I do not have much experience reviewing historical novels, I found it extremely useful that the book included a glossary with brief explanations of the historical figures in the novel. It helped me to sort out the fictional and reality-inspired characters, as well as to verify the accuracy of facts mentioned in this page-turner of a story.

 

Including a foreign language in a book is challenging for an author since its use has to be limited so as not disrupt the narrative's momentum. Mr. Swanton skillfully utilizes the language only in those scenes were it is crucial to keep the story's authenticity. In those days, Latin was the language of the Church and the Roman Empire. Frankish was the dialect of the West Germanic tribes. Readers with a knowledge of Dutch or German will be able to fully understand it. Readers who cannot speak those languages will identify themselves with the Romans of Gaul who did not speak Frankish. If that was the intention of the author, kudos to him.

 

The story has all the elements of a great novel about Rome: betrayal, intrigue, clashes of the political and social classes and even a power struggle among the aristocracy, slavery, conquest, and an amazing battle. The few illustrations in the book help the reader to understand some crucial scenes. The elements of Catholicism depicted in the story offer a glimpse at the Church's importance during those times and its influence on politics and daily affairs. The author also mentions, through his characters' conversations, key saints whose diplomacy aided in the unification of the Germanic tribes and the beginning of a new era.

 

I highly recommend Centurion's Daughter to readers who fancy novels about ancient Rome.