Saturday, June 21, 2014

Losing St. Christopher: Book Two of the Cherokee Series. (Cherokee Trilogy: Volume Two) by David Michael Harding

Losing St. Christopher: Book Two of the Cherokee Series. (Cherokee Trilogy: Volume Two).  David Michael Harding. Q&CY Books. June 2014. 352 pp.  ISBN#: 9780985728526.

This second book of the Cherokee Series opens with a disturbing premise.  It seems that Albert Speer, a Hitler henchman, got his idea of ethnic cleansing from early white settlers in American history, those who were determined to get rid of the American Indian race no matter what the cost.  It’s not for this reviewer to deny or agree with this horrific reality, but it is for the reader to follow the notion in this novel.  Educated, so-called Christians are eager to have Cherokee men and women become educated, actually take part in the spread of Christianity among the Cherokee nation, but there the positive mission ends!

Chancellor is the son of well-known, respected leaders of the Cherokee nation.  His mother dies tragically but makes Chancellor promise to get an education among the white men.  He does so with much vigor and agrees to go along with all he is asked to do, although he finds it impossible to reconcile Christian principles of the “three in One God” with what he knows of the One Spirit God his Cherokee nation has believed and followed for many, many years.  He is unable to share his skills in medicine, learned at the knees of his mother as they scouted nature to find herbs and plants of curative value, because white men cannot pray to the Spirit as they should while they administer this medicine.  Ironically, it is this medicine that works many times when white doctors’ remedies are fruitless and actually cause harm rather than healing.

Tensions loom large when Cherokee mission students begin to marry and date white women.  Prejudice is large with death threats, tarring and feathering, and other repulsive practices, meant to frighten the young Cherokee men into submission and obedience, which basically means to “stick to your own kind.” Monterey is a young woman with whom Chancellor has fallen in love; however, they must separate for a while.
Meanwhile Totsuhwa, Chancellor’s father, has survived his personal, spiritual crisis and travels to New Ocheta to meet his son. Both have matured with age and knowledge of the white man’s ruses, Chancellor in particular unjustly accused after a maritime altercation.  On and the story goes, with one injustice after another told in a very real way, without drama and yet carrying the weight of slowly increasing defeat, all the way to the momentous last journey.  The spirit of these incredible warriors is stronger than the travesties forced upon them by white men.  Unique to this depiction is the process of how the Cherokee learned to read and write the white man’s language, which inspired them to create their own alphabet based on sounds and eventually allowed them to create a newspaper in which they strengthened the union of their people, a strategy quickly squelched again by the white man.

Losing St. Christopher… is a solid, fascinating read that depicts the degradation of the Cherokee nation, evidenced by the experiences of Totsuhwa, Chancellor and his family, and other notable Cherokee men.  While many are guilty, the author gives credit to those who refused to take part in the extermination of an Indian tribe and gave respect and honor where it was due.

Daniel Michael Harding has crafted a series that deserves to be required reading in classrooms throughout the United States.  Although it is fiction, it is clearly well-researched, carefully written historical fiction of the highest quality, a revelation of truths beyond comprehension that need to be understood and preserved as a permanent part of American history. Finely written, David Michael Harding!

Shaking Out the Dead: A Novel by K. M. Cholewa

Shaking Out the Dead: A Novel.  K. M. Cholewa. The Story Plant. June 2014. 340 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9781661881431.

Paris of Montana is not the cowboy image one would expect from his looks; rather, he’s more like a sage or guru whose presence seems to bring peace to whoever crosses his path. That path lies within a diner where late-night drinker, whores, and other riff-raff settle in for the free soup Paris offers.  He’s made it a place “to belong” for those who are nameless and have no connection to anyone or anywhere.  If one asked Paris what mission he was trying to accomplish, he couldn’t tell – he just did as he saw fit without any fanfare or hope for acclaim! Love is action it appears but is that enough?

Tatum’s definition of love and connection is without definition.  At the beginning of this novel, she’s rushed off to see her dying sister but unfortunately made it too late.  Now all she has is memories and a niece, Rachel, who will be returning to Montana with her as her father says he “needs a break from all this.”  Rachel’s anger is palpable; it feels like fury!  All that emotion makes it hard for Tatum to mourn the loss of her sister, ironic indeed as there was never much outward love between them. Why did they so dislike, even hate, each other?  Tatum reflects that there really isn’t a tangible reason; it’s just the way it was an evolved to an even greater ambivalence!  But now Tatum is to be a temporary mother to a young teen who wants nothing more than to be left alone! Mourning the loss of love turns out to be the gigantic obstacle to receiving or sharing love!

Genevieve is an older, wise woman who has created her own little independent world, a woman seeking balance and peace in a world where chaos and rejection rule the day, or so it seems! At one point, she realizes that history repeats itself not because we don’t remember but because we tortuously repeat the memories and become locked in their destructive, rather than lovely, tendencies. Can she who is such a source of wisdom and peace, albeit starkly expressed, access the same for her own mental and emotional turmoil. But before one stereotypes this woman, beware as she’s one rebel and feisty woman bound to shock readers quite a few times before this memorable story ends.

This is the story of those would need love so desperately, how they move closer and closer toward its fulfillment and how it all evolves and then comes to a dramatic conclusion for everyone involved. Tatum is the most honest as she recognizes the cost of letting go and opening up to what could be hers at any moment.  The others are too locked in the past but will be shocked into the present in a scene full of unintended agony and violence.

Shaking Out the Dead: A Novel is a meditative work of dramatic fiction, often compared to the work of Alice Munro (and rightly so), that will remain in readers’ hearts long after the last tear-stained page is turned!  Cholewa is a writer to watch and relish very carefully now and in the future! This reviewer believes Cholewa stands in a unique place as a contemporary fiction author! Highly recommended!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Gracie (Women and War Book 1) by Ellie Keaton

Gracie (Women and War Book 1).  Ellie Keaton. Amazon Digital. 2014. 183 pp.  ASIN#: B00JOWF2GW.

Grace is a strong woman determined to support her family and friends during the shocking days of WWII.  At first the preparation for the war seems like a block party, but that quickly changes to trying to shore each other up when the bombs begin to fall. 

The men in Grace’s world are all aflutter in their desire to join in the war effort, including Charlie, a man who is determined to marry Grace.  Her parents, however, know what war is and force the young couple to wait a year. In that time span, the war changes everything.  Charlie’s passion for flying turns into serving with the Royal Air Force, and his service makes the realities of war all too harsh as young men begin dying and leaving behind so many grieving families and lovers.

To say more would be a spoiler and we can’t have that.  Suffice to say Grace will get more involved in the war effort.  Gracie is a nice read that repeats the story told so often, especially more so in the last few years in novel form.  One never gets tired of hearing about young love enhanced by separation and the fear of final partings, and Gracie fills that form quite nicely.

The unique qualities of this particular novel include many descriptions of what these young pilots experienced as they got to engage in their great love of flying but also what they faced as they were attacked and watched friends shot down or disappear to who knows what end in death or the unknown world of prisoners of war.  Gracie’s parents know what war is like, and their fears are palatable and wise as they wish Gracie and Charlie to avoid unnecessary sorrow in the future.

Nicely done, Ellie Keaton – a quick and engaging work of romance and historical fiction!

Leaving the Pack: Silver Nights Trilogy - Book One by David J. O'Brien

Leaving the Pack (Silver Nights Trilogy – Book One).  David O’Brien. Tirgearr Publishing.  May 2014. 257 pp., 1391 KB. ASIN No.: B00KCYJA78.

The story opens with Paul waking up by the knowledge that today is the day he will meet the woman with whom he’ll spend the rest of his life. It’s a day he awaits with great joy and mind-numbing fear!

For Paul McHew, lawyer by day and werewolf by night, is the leader of a werewolf pack that runs the local city streets during the three nights of every full moon cycle each month.   During that time the pack seeks to drink their fill and enjoy as many women as they can have; they’re full of an extraordinary energy and lust for life during this lunar time.  However, they will die out unless they marry outside of their pack and what human would marry a werewolf?

Susan is a feisty gal who actually makes the first move when she spots Paul in a local bar. For the first few minutes it even seems as if they clash so much, there isn’t a chance they will wind up on a date let alone fall in love.  However, that spark has been lit for sure and they do begin to have some wildly hot romantic nights, spend many an evening sharing drinks, and even get to the point when Paul tells Sara he has to be with his buddies at the time of the full moon.  Susan is amused for the first few months but then begins to wonder at this obsession Paul must fulfill each month!

Meeting Paul’s family and planning for the holidays delights Susan, yet Paul is unhappier within himself as time passes for he must tell her about the secret his family has held for centuries.  Humans have been told some truths, some lies, some fantastical stories and more about the true identity of werewolves, with the result being that all humans associate with the word werewolf is absolute, unmitigated horror!

Some scenes in the book carry just enough violence to confirm the association, but the reader must decide how much of reason and animal behavior accounts for what happens in each scene.

This is the story of a huge romance that must unfold with the reality of horror diluted by the truth.  David O’Brien paces the conflict perfectly and it all reads like a light-hearted, passionate romance tinged with some darkness.  It seems like a wonderful beginning to this horror-romance trilogy and it has just the right amount of passion and intrigue to keep the reader avidly flipping the pages!  Nicely done, David O’Brien – looking forward to the next novel!

The Art of Arranging Flowers: A Novel by Lynne Branard

The Art of Arranging Flowers: A Novel.  Lynne Branard. Penguin Group (USA). June 2014. 320 pp.  ISBN#: 9780425272718.

Ruby Jewell has a heart of gold!  She’s a talented florist with her own business, a job that keeps her from the terrible grief of losing her sister.  She knows all of the residents of her town and their requests for the perfect arrangement for that special person, standard occasion or unique event make her a well-loved and respected friend to all.

Now Ruby begins to meet certain people whose lives she changes and vice versa. Readers will meet an astronaut, a real estate agent, a veterinarian, a man courting a local librarian, a woman seeking a cure for her cancer and a little boy who carries a question that is heart-rending!  While there are scenes of illness and death as well as love and communication about caring, the scenes remain light and are never maudlin!

This reviewer doesn’t know flowers so much and yet I could see how beautiful Ruby’s arrangements are.  She also knows the emotional qualities of each flower’s essence and so each is sent with a special quality for each receiver.  Clementine, her beloved dog, and Nora, who seems to have a psychic sense of what is happening behind each arrangement and recipient, make for a fascinating read. 

Ruby, however, who is so perceptive about others is gradually led by the other characters to realize she also has an unmet need, and the reader will be more than surprised to see how it is fulfilled.

The Art of Arranging Flowers: A Novel is a beautiful, special read in which characters bloom through sharing their lives much as the artfully arrange flowers bloom and glow through tender love and care! Delightful story!