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Archive for October, 2010

Exit – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh Repeat

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is a beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is costly, care for it.
Life is wealth, keep it.
Life is love, enjoy it.
Life is mystery, know it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.” (Mother Theresa)

If death came knocking at your door today, would you feel your life had been worthwhile and complete?  Would there be accomplishments that need to be fulfilled?  In Exit, Ondine Duquesne-Schmidt finds herself facing both of these questions and more.  She has spent most of her life doing exactly what was expected of her.  She followed the routine of being a good daughter, a good wife and a good mother.  But at what expense to her own self and her own dreams?  You see, Ondine has been diagnosed with 1st stage lymphocytic leukemia.  Her time is limited and there is so much she has not done and needs to do.
Patients with incurable diseases normally pass through several stages:  rage, anger, bargaining with God, depression, denial and finally acceptance.  Ondine skipped the first stages and went straight to depression.  And with the depression came the attitude of doing whatever felt good.

These feelings take Ondine from her home in Paris to America to Mexico and then back home again.  But along the way she will recognize those things and people who have true meanings to her and her life. Awakening.  Allowing her to fulfill her dearest youth dream, “a dream covered by dust.”  Becoming the woman she was meant to be.  Becoming a writer.  A rebirth through the illness.

Following Ondine as she finds herself has opened me up to feelings that I’m sure are felt by those sentenced to death but not knowing exactly when their sentence will be carried out.  One statement Author Liliana Badd makes in Exit has really stuck with me.  It is “My time is different from that of other people.  My years are being compressed into weeks, my days into minutes.”  I don’t believe any truer words could be used to describe the time left for those diagnosed with a terminal illness.  Exit has given me a new outlook on people around me, both ill and well.  It’s also made me take a look at my own life, looking for changes that I personally might need to make before my time comes.

Exit

2010
Trafford Publishing
340 pages
ISBN# 978-1-4269-3587-9

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Reticence of Ravens – Review by Martha A Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh Repeat


‘Her hands were in her lap, clasped tight, as if she were a child being forced to sit quietly in church.  Her yellow cotton sundress, styled to recall a much different era with its puffed sleeves and ribbon sash, was covered in blood – and even in the muted light of Hugh’s living room, the now dry blood was a vulgar brownish-red and painful to look at.  “The nuns at Holy Trinity believe all good Catholics go to heaven when they die,” LoraLee said, her voice low, soft, and accepting.  “Their souls live forever.  Eternal.”  She smiled.
“The nuns also said pretty much everyone has to go to purgatory first.”  Then she fell silent; and Hugh let her be.’

LoraLee Turner’s father has been killed and she is the best, and only, suspect. So why is she sitting in Hubert James Champion, III’s living room?  That is a question he too needs answered.  Apparently, LoraLee’s housekeeper, Marsha Portson, was present when the murder was committed and felt that Hugh was the only person she could trust to help this woman/child that she had taken care of for years and had grown to love as her own.  And Mojave County Assistant Sheriff – Audrey Boyes, didn’t seem to mind Marsha’s vote of confidence for this man she had known for just over a year but would like to know a little better.  Actually,
everyone wanted to know a little more about Hugh.  Starting with, why would a psychologist from Chicago move to the Mojave to become a desert rat?

Hugh does have a past that he plans to keep to himself, but when he looks into LoraLee’s eyes, he knows he can’t just walk away.  He moved to this god forsaken place to get away from life and it’s everyday problems only to find you can’t run away.  There’s always someone out there that will find you and bring your problems back to you.  And that’s what his cousin Della’s ex-husband does when he decides to open an antique store in a neighboring town.  And then there is Audrey’s deputy Neil Knight who feels he should have been made Assistant Sheriff.  Neil is determined to make both Audrey and Hugh look bad, stepping him into not only the Assistant position but also into politics higher up.  If that isn’t enough, Audrey’s brother Ted is an FBI agent who transferred to California and is searching for a group of robbers that he feels have connections in the area.

So, as pieces start fitting together and parts of Hugh’s past are revealed, I come to the conclusion that I have this story pegged, only to find a new curve in the road.  This story really kept me on my toes.  I knew there had to be a connection to the murders that end up taking place but M. M. Gornell kept it just out of my touch throughout the whole book.  Great job!  This was a very enjoyable twister!

This is the second book I’ve ready by M. M. Gornell.  The first one  was Death of the Perfect Man and I’m impatiently waiting on her next.

Review Stir, Laugh, Repeat at Amazon.com Stir, Laugh, Repeat

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Talented Horsewoman – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat

‘I turned to follow Tinker’s movement, hoping she wouldn’t head back toward Millie.  As I tracked the galloping form past the barn, a bundle of rags on the ground hardly merited my attention – until an instant later when I realized the bundle wasn’t rages.  With a jolt somewhere in the center of my chest, I forgot all about the horse and stumbled forward a few steps.  “Oh, my God, it’s Rita,” Millie sang out, echoing my thoughts.  She scurried over to grab my arm, her fingers digging in like pinchers until I peeled her loose.  I glanced sideways and noted her complexion was the color of an undercooked biscuit.’

After her divorce, Leigh McRae and her daughter lived on the horse ranch that they had once lived in as a family.  Both enjoyed raising and showing horses and had won their share of ribbons.  But the best shows were to come after Leigh bought Sonny Joe from Rita Cameron.  But now their horse days are being threatened.  After the death of Rita, Leigh’s ex-husband Kenneth has decided that horses are simply too dangerous for his daughter to be around.  He and his soon to be wife have decided that ballet was a more suited hobby.  And to push his point, he reminds Leigh that the ranch is half his as well as the horse Sonny Joe.  The ranch and the horses are to be sold and sold soon.

So, with this situation facing Leigh, the last thing she needed was to convenience herself that Rita’s death wasn’t an accident but that it was murder.  Biggest problem is to convenience the police.  To do this, she must find enough evidence to make them keep the case open and not rule it as an accident.

Rita was very well off.  She had inherited property and money from her grandparents and increased her value through smart investing.  Knowing this, Leigh makes a list of her suspects.  First on the list is Rita’s sister Maggie who was cut off by the grandparents and always in need of help and money.  Then Rita’s investment agent Parker Fielding shows up claiming that she had changed her will, writing Maggie completely out and writing him in due to the fact that they were in love and were to be married.  This was new to everyone that knew Rita and this story was pushed aside when her godchild Angie shows up claiming that she was to inherit the estate.

So, who killed Rita Cameron?  They all have motive – money.  As Leigh starts finding out, they all have alibis.  Is someone lying?  And how will she save her own ranch and horses?

L. C. Evans has done it again with her story of horsewoman Leigh McRae.  I simply love her light drama style of writing.  Evans keeps me in suspense without stressing me out as I try to decide who will end up being the murderer.  And Talented Horsewoman kept me guessing until the last few pages.

This story was especially interesting to me due to the setting/location.  I had the pleasure of living in Florida and the story takes place near and around the town I lived in.

2008
Draumr Publishing, LLC
251 Pages
ISBN# 978-1-933157-25-9

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Song of George – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat

‘Within the same week he is released by the hospital and received by the Hennington County Jail, where he is to be held until his trial.  That turns out to be a period of eleven months.  He learns from his court appointed lawyer that he apparently broke through the glass doors of a Federal Building and vandalized an office there, miraculously avoiding the law enforcement units that arrived within five minutes of the building’s alarm call.  To top that off, when he fell into the street the morning following the break in, there was a four-car collision directly related to his fall.   At his trial the judge makes it clear to him that although he has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, further complicated with symptoms of severe manic depression, aka bipolar disease (all of which is surprising news to him, he was not aware of having undergone any psychiatric evaluation) he, being a danger to society as well as to himself, and for the multiple and habitual crime of reckless endangerment, as well as destruction of federal property, will be confined to the Wade Federal Correctional Institute; specifically to the mental ward of that institution for a period of five years, the sentence to be evaluated annually after the completion of the first two years.’

You’ve just met George, the prison’s preacher.  George as a preacher, preaching to those willing to listen as he attempts to open our eyes and make us understand that we are all living in a material world prison.  And there is only one way out, which is through divine intervention.  Not everyone agrees that the world is, in fact, a prison, or that there is even much wrong with the world, but it is just the age old conflict of matters of the world vs. matters of the spirit. But George does.

George gets the attention of most of the inmates as he shifts the book back and forth between his hands, sometimes shaking it in a gesture reminiscent of the puritan preachers of old.  But they love him and they listen to him.  These are facts that Ansel, Jeff and Ozwald learn as they conduct interviews with the inmates on the psych floors of the Wade Federal Correctional Institution.

They are conducting a study hoping to see what care is really being given to the men and women that are declared criminally and mentally incapable of living in society as free people.  From my readings of the Song of George, these people are kept mainly in a controlled state of mind which will most likely continue throughout their lives.  If and when they are released, they usually reenter the same or another facility of the same design.  But, if you look at the incarnation of these men as George does, isn’t that what happens to all of us on the outside too.  Are we kept under control by those who govern our lives?  I believe George sees every move from one job to another, one home to another and even one car to another as moving from one prison to another.  Could he actually be right?

2010
All Things That Matter Press
235 pages
ISBN# 978-0-9846154-1-4

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The Secret Life of Walter Mott – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat

“Men, the company is faced with a crisis; a serious threat to the well-being of every employee and every employee’s family.  But before I reveal the nature of this crisis, I must remind you that this is a top secret matter; a matter of the utmost delicacy, which, if ever made public, could besmirch the good name and future of the company.”  “Men,” he boomed again, “at some unascertained time in the recent past, someone in this building became infested with a certain species of body louse, more commonly known as … crabs!”  “Men, I assume this happened because some individual – presumably one of the company’s employees – although I find it difficult to believe – became infested.  I also haven’t discounted the possibility that some subversive elements in our society, possibly in cahoots with the Soviet Union, are responsible, in order to demean and discredit our democracy and our free enterprise system.  It seems a strange coincidence – very strange – that this crisis should befall us, just at a time when the Soviets have launched the first missile to reach the moon.”  “Either way, this thing is catching and very prolific…. This morning, after visual reconnaissance, I would estimate that perhaps twenty-five percent of our five thousand, eight hundred and thirty-five employees are casualties, and it could jump much higher in the next few days.”

To quote an old saying from a TV show… “Did I Do That?”  In the past 10 years Walter Mott has lived secretly in his office, had an ongoing friendship with a woman named Stormy, who actually started this 6 legged infestation allowing him to infest hundreds of his coworkers, infested the money he has saved by not having to pay rent and utilities and ended up acquiring himself a small fortune.  Oh yeah, he has also met a young lady named Scarlett, named after the character in Gone With the Wind.

The Secret Life of Walter Mott is set in the fifties, while Eisenhower is president and Castro is still just a young Cuban rebel leader.  Drive-ins are a thing of the day, or should I say night, and the biggest fantasy in life is to work hard so that one day you can retire.  But Walter Mott has decided to speed this process up and retire at 40.  To take his fortune and see the world.  To never have to work another day for the “man” but enjoy life while he’s still young.  But as with all plans, there are pitfalls.  Walter’s biggest will come when he meets Scarlett.

While reading The Secret Life of Walter Mott I found myself laughing so hard at times that I actually had tears in my eyes.  Kal Wagenheim has written a very imaginative, humorous book that I simply loved.

2010
All Things That Matter Press
181 Pages
ISBN# 9780984615421

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Memoirs From the Asylum – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat

‘I was scared of trying things that I couldn’t do.  I’m one of those people who rehearses for getting up in the morning.  I go through the sequence: what I’m going to wear, which tasks I’m going to complete, even what I’m going to think about.  If something seems too difficult, screw it.  If there’s a bunch of too difficult things on the roster, well, screw the whole day; I stay in my bed – my safe, unchallenging bed  With my face turned to the wall and my knees hugged securely to my breast, I journey inward – to the safety of my within.’

‘Safety is a relative thing.  In the bigger picture, my life went from bad to worse.  But, I wasn’t in ‘Nam.  I wasn’t failing at a job.  I wasn’t getting into trouble with people.  I was simply being schizophrenic.  Disabilitied, Social Securitied, and indulged by parents hiding their loathing and frustration.  Being schizophrenic isn’t so bad – at least not until they, the great unspecified they that is society, say screw it, screw you, and lock you away in the warehouse of unloving dementia.’

Have you ever wondered what goes through the minds of those diagnosed  with being “manic depressives”, “obsessive-compulsives”, “schizophrenics” or any other mental disorder that would require them to be placed into an asylum?    Actually, I’ve never given it much thought until I started reading Memoirs From the Asylum.  I’m sure that’s probably the case with most of us unless we have had to deal first hand with someone in one of these mental incapacities.

The more I read of Memoirs From the Asylum, the more I understood how these people deal with their fears of life.  How they are able to withdraw into themselves.  Making a safe haven that allows admittance only to those that they invite.

After entering their own personal world, is there ever the possibility of  coming back?  Maybe partially?  And if they do come back into the real world, can the cope with a normal life?  Do they really want to?  Reading Memoirs From the Asylum gave me the answers to these questions, but then it didn’t, making this one thought binding book.  Kenneth Weene has so much insight into the minds of these people, leaving me with a feeling of “wish” and “dread”…. Wishing I could sometimes slip into my own little world that would allow me to forget all of my problems but Dread because to go there requires you to relinquish control of so many things we are accustomed to.  This was one very intense book that I have to admit that I found quite interesting and quite enjoyable.

2010
All Things That Matter Press
189 Pages
ISBN# 978-0-9844219-5-4

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The Panamerican – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat

‘We hitchhiked down California’s scenic route 1 which skirts the coast, and spent the first night out camping off Big Sur.  The first time in what was to be our new home, our green nylon tent.  The next day we were right away given a lift by a lawyer from L.A. who put us up for the night and the next morning dropped us off at the bus station where we bought tickets for Tijuana.  We went as loaded down with preconceptions as we did with equipment.  Having prepared so much for this trip we had of course unearthed a million and one horror stories about Mexico’s thieves, police, germs, dogs, etc.  When we got off the bus in Tijuana and looked around us at all that confusion of travelers, loiterers, vendors and colors, paranoia set in and we panicked.  As if pursued we drag/hauled our way through the terminal and right away caught another buss to Mexicali where the Mexican train line begins.’

Genie Bermudez was born in Cuba in 1954, moved to the US at age 7 and ended up attending Boston University.  After her marriage to her husband John, they both decided to take a sabbatical.  They would start in San Francisco, California; travel through Mexico and into South America, ending up in Quito, Ecuador.  They mapped out their travel plans by way of the Pan-American Highway.   So, with their plans made, the couple set out in 1979 with $2,000.00 to their name and back packs that were filled beyond the brim.

As a teenager I grew up during the hippie years.  During that time I met people that seemed to be unafraid of anything.  They did what “felt” right to and for themselves.  Many times I wished I had their courage but lived in such a structured life that it simply wasn’t possible to develop that feel of freedom.  After reading The Panamerican I’ve come to the conclusion that Genie and John are two people that started out a bit late for the hippie generation but still had the bravery to follow their dreams by way of being “free spirits” to the end.  The obstacles that they were faced with and overcame would have scared most of us enough to turn us around and head us back into the direction we came from.

I have to admit that I don’t normally read personal travel memoires, but The Panamerican was one book that I simply had to keep turning the pages just to see what Genie and John would encounter next.  I say to both of you… you were two brave young adults to take on such a trip.

2004
Trafford Publishing
241 Pages
ISBN# 9781412025881

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