Archive for July, 2012

The Mafia Funeral and Other Short Stories – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

The procession of forty black limos and one flashy yellow convertible made its way along the thirty-five mile route from downtown Los Angeles to the cemetery in Tustin, flanked by at least fifteen officers on motorcycles. The heads of drivers in nearby cars whirled to take in the sight, probably wondering which dignitary had died.

In The Mafia Funeral the dignitary that died turned out to be a family member of the mafia. Eliot’s wife is mistaken for the daughter of a Mafia Don and has a time convincing the ‘Uncle Johnnie’ that she isn’t. This story has a sadness, a touch of humor and a bit of oh my.

Rip Off takes Stephen Rollins from a bad life to a good life and back to the ultimate of bad.

Saying Goodbye to Miss Molly is a story that brought tears to my eyes.

Morgan St. James has written a garden of stories with some of them being as beautiful as the daisy, some with the beauty of the rose but will stick you with their thorns and some that are as threatening as a weed. The Mafia Funeral is a collection of short stories, some true, some fiction but all well worth reading.

Now I’m impatiently waiting on her next book Confessions of a Cougar that is due out in late 2012.

Review Stir, Laugh, Repeat at Amazon.com


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Lost In The Shadows – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

“Laura. Laura, I need you.” It was Jimmy’s voice, deep and full of mischief. He stood in the midst of the little vegetable garden in the back of the yard beyond the flowers and expanse of green lawn. The plants in the garden were enclosed by a short white picket fence and Jimmy’s stocky frame loomed above it. He was dressed in the coveralls he always wore when he tended his beloved garden. Even from this distance, Laura could see the handsome face that blended the best features of Jimmy’s golden haired Anglo mother and dark-skinned Hispanic father. Jimmy waved and beckoned to Laura to join him in the garden. Her heart pounded in her chest as the old longing took hold of her. She remembered his touch, his strength and ached to be in his arms once more. Laura grabbed hold of the latch that held the door and struggled to release it, but it remained stubbornly set. She banged her fist against the glass and called out to Jimmy. “The door won’t open. Help me, Jimmy.” She watched as Jimmy effortlessly stepped over the short fence and walked across the lawn towards the house. Laura cried now with joy and anticipation. Then, as Jimmy continued to move towards her, she saw his hand reach up to tug at the metal fastener of his overalls. The snap yielded to his touch and triggered an explosion. The coveralls burst into flames.

Laura Martinez is the widow. Her husband Jimmy was killed when his car went off the road and burst into flames killing and burning him beyond recognition. After spending a few weeks morning his death, it’s now time for Laura to pull herself back together. She would start by putting their home in an exclusive neighborhood on the market and while she made her move to return to work. Work for her was Myers Aircraft Company where she worked in bookkeeping. Jimmy had worked there too which made it even harder for her to face the surroundings which had been a big part of her memories of him.

First day back and Laura is summoned to the head of security’s office. There she meets FBI Agent Keith Spencer. Some of the 1st words out of Keith’s mouth are to ask her where she has hidden the plans to the new Air Force HT-14. Laura is dumbfounded. She is one of the most honest, trusting people you would find and she is being accused of not only theft but also of deceiving her own country. Then Keith hits her with another bombshell. Jimmy’s death wasn’t an accident, he was murdered.

Following Laura as she tries to prove her innocence, as she too is targeted and almost killed and as she does her best to convince Keith that she had nothing to do with the theft, takes you on a ride from Arizona to Mexico and then into the courtroom. But if Laura had nothing to do with the theft, how were the plans removed from the premises? Who is trying to kill her and why? And who is really behind the attempts on not only her life but Keith’s as well?

I’ve yet to read a Carol Costa that didn’t keep me on the edge of my seat and this one is no exception. Well written and exciting!

Review Stir, Laugh, Repeat at Amazon.com

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Magic in the Storm – Review by Martha A. Cheves – Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

Jack took a few steps back while he was thinking and leaned himself against the wall. “Hmmm. That’s a tricky one, ain’t it? Never heard o’anythin’ like that happenin’, not that I know a lot of Vallen, mind ye.” He thought for a moment, then said, “I’ve always thought the power came from within. There must be somethin’ changin’ within ye. What is it, inside of ye, that’s changin’?” Morgan shook his head, thinking hard. “I don’t know.” “Well, when ye figure that one out, then you’ll know where the power’s comin’ from.” What was changing within him? Morgan stood back and began to think about this. So many things had changed within him recently. It could be his self-confidence, it could be Adriana, it could be his determination not to wait for his destiny to come to him, but to go and seek it out on his own, it could be so many different things.

Morgan Vallentyn is a Vallen. Most people compare them to and even mistaken them for witches but their powers are real and true with each having a different specialty. Morgan was born the 7th child of the 7th generation Vallen. His mother Lady Vallentyne should have been happy but when she discovered that Morgan was a male child what would have been a strong mother’s love turned to hate. No Vallen leader had ever been a male and had it not been for her husband, Morgan’s father, she would have killed the child just after birth. Instead, Morgan was banished to the forest where his mother cast a spell that would imprison him for life.

Adriana Hayden was an orphan who had been entrusted into the care of a distant relative, Lord Devaux. Devaux had one desire in life and that was to climb the ladder of Parliament. To do this he needed influential people and money. He found both in Lady Vallentyne. Her oldest child and son, Jonathan, the sixth Viscount Vallentyne would be the perfect husband for Adriana. Jonathan wanted nothing more than to run the Estate but his mother had higher expectations for her son. He was to enter politics and with he and Devaux combining their minds and skills, Jonathan would be quite successful. She would see to this marriage even if it meant using her powers and with her being the highest priestess within the clan, no one could refuse her. So she thought.

The last thing Adriana wanted was to marry, especially without love. Her heart’s desire was to paint. Nothing mattered more to her than her paintings. Unfortunately, Devaux knew of this love and used it to blackmail her into agreeing to marry Jonathan. While visiting the Vallentyne Estate, Adriana had ventured into the woods that acted as Morgan’s prison. Not knowing the history of his being an outcast, she made the mistake of mentioning him to Lady Vallentyne. This brought more injustice to be inflicted on Morgan by his mother.

Morgan is nearing his 21st birthday and knows that he must reach his full capacity of powers before that day or lose all powers. Through his experimenting he finds his powers have increased but has no idea why. All Vallen are born with their powers which are revealed at an early age. His powers growing as he nears his birthday is unheard of. Something is different and something is causing this to happen. But he’s running out of time and has no idea as to how he will find his full potential, especially while being encased within the forest. He must find a way to break his mother’s spell and escape.

Magic In The Storm was an edge of the seat read. I kept hoping that Morgan’s mother would change and give in to him allowing him to find his own strength and powers. When he finally made it out of the forest I knew she would see that he was truly the 7th of the 7th generation and accept him even though he was a male, not a female. Did she? I’ll never tell. I will say that a lot happens as his powers increase but does he ever become more powerful than his mother? If so, does she help him in his endeavor? I’ll only tell you that Magic In The Storm was a very enjoyable book.

Review Stir, Laugh, Repeat at Amazon.com

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Whispering Cypress – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

“Breaking news, just in. A young woman was found beaten near Whispering Cypress Campground early this morning. She’s listed in critical condition in Pines Lake Hospital. Details are pending notification of the family, but we’ll have more at noon.” Hackett’s mouth fell wide open, and he dropped the spatula he used to flip the pancakes. “I think I just lost my appetite.” Spring gasped. “Oh no, you don’t think it was Logan, do you? She wouldn’t have committed suicide would she?” Before he could answer, she rasped, “Near Whispering Cypress Campground. That’s all we need for new business.” “That’s all I need is for it to be her.” His eyes met hers and his face was chalk white. “I don’t think she would’ve killed herself, though she was afraid to tell her daddy and the father of the baby.” She ran her palm over her heart. “This can’t be happening. Of all things. Not now. Not this.” Her mind spun and froze on a point. “What about the baby? Do you think it’s dead?”

After ten years away from the place and the person she loves most in the world, Spring Showers has returned to Whispering Cypress Campground as its new owner. A decade earlier she had left the love of her life Hackett Woods without even saying goodbye. She had left the campgrounds the two had spent many days loving each other and enjoying the beauty created by God. But he had left her first while trying to fit in with his friends. After a night of drinking and a morning hangover, Hackett discovered his friends weren’t what he really wanted. It was Spring, not them.

Now she’s back, just as God had planned it. They would be given a second chance to make up for their lost years and to unite in their love for each other. Or would they? Someone is trying to, if not run her off, at least persuade Spring to stay away from Hackett. Could it be Logan who claims to be pregnant with Hackett’s baby? Or is it Barrett, a friend of Springs who has come down for a visit and hopes to talk her into returning to the city with him? When she refuses to leave he does become an enemy out for revenge. Or could it be someone that wants the camp for themself?

I will give a hint and say that things always work out the way God has planned them, even if it takes a few years to happen. He always has a reason for events and happenings, even though we may not understand or even know his reasons. What we may see as a tragedy happens for a reason known only to Him. But in the end, it always comes together and we find understanding and comfort in His superior ways. This all made sense to me as I read Whispering Cypress. As I followed each event/tragedy as it unfolded, at first I didn’t understand why God would allow some of them to happen, then the reason came and it all made sense. Good people have bad times but instead of making them weaker, if they believe in God, it will make them stronger in their beliefs and bring them more joy than they could ever imagine money or good times bringing. Whispering Cypress is a very warming story of true faith. I love it.

Review Stir, Laugh, Repeat at Amazon.com

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Coma Sins – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

From next door a woman shrieked. Anger, white, blazing fury came over him. Was that damn Mary screaming again? “Kill her. Kill Mary. Kill Janklaw. Kill Sims,” the voices urged him. The nearest lamp’s light was so harsh it was blinding him. He grabbed it by the stem and smashed it into Mary’s door. The noises stopped. The room was in pleasant darkness now but the dim lights from the street made strange, infuriating shadows across the window panes. And then the telephone rang and it continued ringing deafening him. He grabbed the apparatus and threw it on the floor. The ringing topped. “Use the lighter on the drapes. Start a fire. Let everything and the hotel go up in blazing hell,” the voices suggested. That seemed reasonable. He heard a knocking at the door. A strange baritone voice was asking some nonsense. “Is everything okay, Sir?” “Damn you!” he shouted in response. “Jump from that window! Go, open it and jump!” the voices encouraged. “End the misery on the pavement” Then, a dead quiet… Oblivion.

If a person is mentally ill and commits a crime, even a deadly one, is he responsible for his actions? Apparently the law says no. They are sentenced if found guilty but to an institution or hospital, not prison. And if they are ‘cured’ they can be released to start it all over again.

Ben Bluman may not have been sentenced for his crimes but he did have himself hospitalized to prevent himself from committing more. He even agreed to experimental treatments provided by the government but did they help or make him worse? His only choice was to escape their hold on him, change his name and continue his life. Did this work? Apparently not since people continued to die. But is Ben really committing them? As he sleeps he ‘dreams’ of events leading up to their deaths so did he actually commit them or are they simply dreams?

Coma Sins is a deep story of a man who did and didn’t commit the crimes that he will eventually be blamed for. How do you commit yet not commit a crime? You can be insane or you can dream them. Question is, which did Ben do or did he do both?

Review Stir, Laugh, Repeat at Amazon.com

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Amongst My Enemies – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; A Book and A Dish; Think With Your Taste Buds

Four months ago, their B-17 took off into a clear, Italian sky for the long leg north to Berlin. They hit their marks and dropped their bombs, but before they could make the big turn west, the German flank guns found them. A B-17 is a tough bird and Lieutenant Jensen, their pilot, fought hard to keep it in the air as they lumbered north and east, out of control. The smoke and flames got worse and worse inside, until the plan went into a steep dive. Mike and Eddie clawed their way to a side door and bailed out, but they were the only ones who made it. They came down in a muddy wheat field somewhere in East Prussia. Long columns of refugees choked the roads heading west, desperate to stay ahead of the Russians. Discarded furniture, mattresses, pianos, steamer trunks, and suitcases lay strewn along the roadside. He and Eddie found some civilian clothes and it was easy for them to blend in – not that it mattered. Two days later, they were stopped by a German Military Police roadblock, and the joke was on them. The Germans weren’t looking for American airmen. They were looking for strong backs to dig tank traps and clear rubble. Instead of a POW camp or being thrown against the closest wall and shot as spies, they were dragooned into a forced labor battalion headed north to Konigsberg.

It’s 1945 and the world is at war. Michael Randall and Eddie Hodge were Americans who found themselves in a world of trouble as they and their fellow prisoners were huddled together in an old truck bed trying to keep from freezing. Michael knew it was just a matter of time before their German watchdog Stolz would demand they leave the truck to start the day’s work. As Michael looked at Eddie he knew it would just be a matter of time before his life would be ended one way or another. He would either die due to the gangrene that had started eating away at his feet and legs or be shot by Stolz for not carrying his load of the work. Eddie’s solution was for Michael to find a way to put him out of his misery, which with a heavy heart, he did. Now he had to live with his guilt and his promise to not let those responsible get away with what they had done. This promise became the heart of Michael’s existence. He would make them pay and pay dearly.

Amongst My Enemies takes you on a tour of the world as Michael is put into a position that provides for his rescue from his capturers just before their vessel is attacked in Swedish waters. Before dying Eddie had also made Michael promise to visit his father and sister in South Carolina to explain to them what really happened and why. But his real promise came into place when a Charleston newspaper stated that Admiral Eric Bruckner was coming to New York. That simply wasn’t possible. Admiral Bruckner was the one who put Michael in a life boat before taking his U-boat back out into deep waters. He was also on board the U-boat when it was attacked and sunk. Proving this became Michael’s beginning of self-recovery and keeping his promise to Eddie. He just didn’t know what trouble he was about to step into.

Michael’s travels take him back to the coast of Sweden as he and a small group search for the sunken U-boat expose the imposter. This will bring the Russians in as they try to destroy the find preventing the world from knowing about their infiltration into other countries defense systems. It will bring in the Germans who had stripped the U-boat and loaded it with gold, jewels and art work that had been collected throughout the war. Will Michael be strong and smart enough to succeed? Will the Germans recover the loot inside the boat? Or will the Russians blow it all to keep their ruse running?

I’m not a fan of war stories and seriously thought about having my friend who sometimes helps me read this book and do the review. Glad I didn’t. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. It held my attention to the very end. Great book!

Review Stir, Laugh, Repeat at Amazon.com

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The Stovepipe – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; A Book and A Dish; Think With Your Taste Buds

…we saw a large, black automobile drive into our lane. It pulled slowly into the backyard and stopped beside the house where we were playing. We all stood frozen. In a poor rural area, it was rare to see an automobile on the road, let alone have one pull into our own yard. Muggs must have know it meant trouble, for she quickly opened the cellar door and herded us all inside. But it was too late, for she had been spotted. No sooner had the door been slammed shut than it was flung open, exposing my sisters and me as we huddled fearfully inside. “Come out,” a man said as he tugged on our arms, pulling us out one by one. As we hurried to Muggs’ side, the man said, “We’d like to speak with your mother.” Muggs shook her head. “I’m sorry, but she ain’t home right now.” At that, without saying another word, he and a woman who had come with him grabbed my sisters and me and pushed us, kicking and screaming, into the backseat of the car. They then rounded up Bobby and shoved him in beside us.

Bonnie Virag was one of 2 sets of twins birthed by her mother Flossie Bell Mudford. Flossie Bell had a total of 18 children of which Bonnie can remembered 14 counting herself. By the time Bonnie and her twin sister Betty, her twin sisters Jean and Joan and her brother Bobby were taken from the home 6 of the older children had already left. Most of the girls’ care was provided by one of her older sisters, Margaret which they fondly called Muggs. But due to Muggs being a child herself, Children’s Service felt they had no choice but to take the younger ones from the home, leaving them all feeling lost and alone.

When I started reading The Stovepipe, I had just finished another autobiography by a lady who, along with her siblings, had been placed in an orphanage. The trials and mistreatment they went through was heartbreaking. I truly thought that children placed in foster homes had to be better. That isn’t necessarily true. Bonnie and her siblings ended up on a Tobacco farm and put to work as if they were mere slaves. They were housed in the attic and not allowed to come into the house except to go to their rooms. Meals were served after the family had finished eating and heating in their attic rooms consisted of The Stovepipe that ran up through the ceiling. Their living conditions, mistreatment by the family members, their lack of love and even their simplest needs were non-existing. It really took some strong willed individuals to survive what these children were forced to suffer through.

As I read The Stovepipe, I grew to admire Bonnie and her siblings. She is a woman I would love to sit down with and simply listen to as she tells stories of her childhood. Some of the stories within her autobiography would have been funny had the consequences for their actions not been so severe. I couldn’t help but laugh when I read about the yard being covered with paper the girls had hidden within the rafters and uncovered when the roofers started work. But I wanted to cry when the foster family punished them for their innocent deed.

I can only hope and pray that things have changed since Bonnie and her siblings were brought up in the system of foster care. No child should ever be inflicted with excessive pain and sorrow, especially after the a child has already been hurt by the loss of their own family or the lack of ever knowing one. These children should be treated as the special people they really are.

The Stovepipe is a book that EVERY parent should read and hopefully stress to their own children, the heartbreak of being in the system. Bonnie and her sisters should be very proud of themselves for being survivors and not allowing their experiences to weaken them but to make them stronger and better people.
Review Stir, Laugh, Repeat at Amazon.com

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