Book Review: Chance’s Way by Nancy M. Bell

Book Review: Chance’s Way, Book Three of The Alberta Adventures by Nancy M. Bell, Publisher: BWL Publishing Inc., Alberta, Canada

Another winner by Canadian author, Nancy M. Bell of Alberta, Chance’s Way is Book 3  in The Alberta Adventures series.

We met the main character, Chance Cullen, in Wild Horse Rescue and Dead Dogs Talk, the first two books of the seriesThey both involve animal rescue, something the author is very familiar with and has been actively involved in for years, but this time our focus is more on the young man who was caught up on the bad side of the above, and is now trying to recover from those traumatic and regrettable events.

Chance is in love with Laurel Rowan, his neighbour—and main heroine of Bell’s Cornwall Adventures—but his demons of alcohol addiction and guilt are threatening to destroy him from within.

Filled with Chance’s young adult emotional struggles, the words of some wise elders around him, and some spectacular rodeo scenes—something the author is well known for—Chance’s Way is once again a winner for Ms. Bell!

***** Five Stars all the Way!

It hits the market September 1st, 2021. You can pre-order it now where all e books are sold!

Book Review: The Boxer Rebellion by Adrian Musgrave

Book Review: The Boxer Rebellion by Adrian Musgrave

On Friday evening, my seventy-five-pound dog decided to go after a rabbit. (No…this has nothing to do with the book; well…sort of) and in the ensuing thrilling moment of potential chase, he almost ripped my left arm out of its socket. So by Saturday I was pretty much drugged-up and lying with a heating pad wrapped around my shoulder trying to quash the pain. It seemed like a good time as any to check my email, and lo-and-behold something led me to twitter, where I saw an announcement about this little book. I immediately hit the link and read the blurb. I also saw that the author had several other books about various actions happening at that time.

My grandfather was alive and a career man in the British army at the time of the Boxer Rebellion. Luckily he didn’t end up over there. He was, however, in the Boer War and various other theatres during the years of his enlistment. He was a Lieutenant Colonel when he retired from the British army.

It wasn’t hard to get right into the story. According to the author, Adrian Musgrave, he is the great-nephew of the man who experienced all this story retells. He used his notes, photos, and diaries to put the short book together. It’s about sixty pages in length, so a fast read. Took me about an hour.

I won’t bother going into the background of the Boxer Rebellion. I will simply give you an amazing link to Wikipedia. Someone did a heckuva job putting the article together on that site. Just fantastic, with everything you could ever want to know, including statistics and photos and art work from the period. Well done!!!
Here’s the link:

Here’s Amazon’s blurb on the book:

Called back from his honeymoon by an urgent telegram from the New York Times, George Clarke Musgrave settled his new wife at her family home in New Jersey, and then left for San Francisco on 9th July 1900, from where he sailed for China. His brief was to travel with the American force that was part of an eight-nation alliance with Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Austro-Hungary, Japan and Russia, mounting what was termed the “China Relief Expedition.” Earlier in the year, hundreds of Chinese Christians and foreign missionaries had been viciously attacked and killed in China’s Northern provinces. This violence and blood-letting came to a head with the murder of the German Minister in Peking, at which time most foreigners and many Chinese converts fled to the foreign legations in the city where they were promptly besieged by a large force that called itself the “Righteous Harmony Fists,” but which the press had labelled the Boxers. The objective of the multi-national force was to rescue the foreign nationals.

There is no material relevant as an introduction for this book. In fact, there is no book to draw from, neither are there any newspaper articles or reports. Instead, we have only a collection of notes, diary entries, photographs, military briefings and despatches covering the four weeks spent in China. For such an experienced, committed and prolific writer, this is something of a surprise, but the clues lie in the tenor of the words that he uses to describe the horror, the brutality and the sheer trauma of his experiences. Horror and brutality were no strangers to our author, who had experienced war in many theatres, but he had seen nothing like this. Describing his entry into Tientsin, he says; “I could have likened it only to walking into the depths of Hades itself. The overpowering stench was more revolting than any I had suffered, and was matched in intensity only by the visual horrors before us. Thousands of people milled aimlessly from ruin to ruin; or squatted, expressionless, like dumb animals unaware that they were about to be slaughtered. Putrid corpses lay rotting in the streets, while women and children ran in terror from the carnage around them or stood huddled, almost comatose, in abject groups.”

The march from Tientsin to Peking and the relief of the Legations is documented in some detail but worse – much worse – was to follow. The closing notes describe the aftermath of the expedition, when military order was replaced by chaos. In the days following the entry of the alliance forces into Peking, there began an orgy of looting, execution, rape, torture and murder, described as “an unfolding kaleidoscope of human behaviour more nightmarish and more brutal than any of us could have believed possible.”

And here lies the reason why our author penned no words for publication. In a note describing his final hours in the city, together with a group of three fellow correspondents, he wrote; “not one of us had ever known such an assault on the senses; not one of us had ever been exposed to such obscene visions of reality. In our hearts we all knew, we had a silent understanding and a shared pledge that there are things we must not write, and that may not be printed for our readers, which show that this Western civilization of ours is merely a veneer over savagery.”

Here’s the blurb on the real Author, the great uncle of Adrian Musgrave, George Clarke Musgrave:

Born in 1874 George Clarke Musgrave answered the Reaper’s call in 1932 and now lies at rest with his parents at Swanage in the beautiful countryside of Dorset. I did not know him but, for more than a decade now, I have lived with him, walked with him and dreamed with him. The sad reality is that now he has gone, he can no longer recount his life and times to you in person and that task has slipped several branches down the family tree to me. It is with some trepidation, and a keen desire to keep true to his memory, that I have dedicated myself to channelling for you the stories of this fascinating, multi-faceted, complex character.

George Clarke Musgrave’s time in this world carried him through the great challenges and changes of the reigns of Victoria, Edward VII and George V. His life, his travels, his work and his writings, though, were always more closely aligned with the reformers, the heroes, the visionaries and the Empire builders of the 19th century, than with the dour and stifling traditionalists of the 20th. Following service in the British Army, brought to a premature end by injury and subsequent medical discharge, George Clarke became a war correspondent, journalist and author, seeing action with both British and American forces in a number of conflicts across the world. He also wrote a number of books but these are now out of print and genuine editions are rare and expensive. It is my firm belief, though, that his words should be read and, in seeking to bring his library back to life, my intent here is twofold: firstly, to present for you authentic adaptations of our author’s original works, written with a particular focus on preserving the action, the excitement, the drama and the emotion of his original narrative and, secondly, to knit together the diverse and tangled threads of his career which spanned some twenty five years in which he grew from a raw but determined twenty-one-year-old neophyte of the media circus to a seasoned, brilliantly analytical and highly respected observer of war.

So, come with us to the Ashanti territories; to Garcia’s Santiago; to the lands of the Transvaal; the battlefields of France; the brutal hotbed of rebellion in China; and the glorious vastness of America. Share with us the raw brutality, the traumas and the evils of war tempered with an undying admiration for the men and women who have lived and loved, suffered and triumphed in its fighting. Discover in these writings my attempts to chronicle the joys, the tears, the pleasures, the pain and the blessings of a life that George Clarke Musgrave always tried to live well.

I’m not going to include an excerpt from the book. You don’t need one. It’s super cheap on kindle and well worth the read. Great for anyone who is a history buff. I certainly rate it 5 stars*****!

The Evolution of My Remembrance

Natter and Review
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

The Evolution of My Remembrance

Today, I natter…

When I recall the Remembrance Days of my childhood, my most vivid memories are of my mother with a hanky in her hand, and her eyes filled with tears. Remembrance Day was way too painful for her. She told me that eight of her uncles had died during the First and Second World Wars. Some were pilots over Italy where they had been shot down. It pretty much decimated her family.

My dad’s side of the family was most prominently highlighted with tales of my grandfather and his adventures in the British Army. He had joined the cavalry at the age of seventeen and had seen action in the Boer War, Sri Lanka, WWI and many other places where the British Army had been. He was injured from mustard gas in the trenches in WWI. He rejoined the Canadian Armed Forces as a Private during WWII. He had been a Lieutenant Colonel when he left England. After WWII, he became a prison guard at Kingston Penitentiary until the mustard gas finally caught up with him. He died in the late 1940s.

My father joined the tank corps in Oshawa during WWII and was kept in the area because of his job. My mother worked in a factory that had been converted to make ammunition. So, they all did their part. My dad’s cousin Sid was wounded overseas and ended up in a British hospital, where he met his wife, his nurse. He stayed in England, they married and had a couple of children. Who’s to say what would have happened without the war and his being wounded?

I didn’t really think about Remembrance Day when I was young. I guess when we are teenagers or just inexperienced, we don’t dwell on war and death and destruction until we are either faced with those things directly, or we start to get older and realize how important life and peace really are. As I have aged, I’ve had so many things happen, like the loss of my parents and other close family members, the death of dear friends, and health issues which brought me right up close and personal with my own fate. Those things change you.

When I was fresh out of high school, I studied Law Enforcement at college, expecting to go into Police work. I knew everyone and they were hoping I would become the second female officer in our town. Back in those days, you couldn’t wear glasses and unfortunately, I had an issue with contact lenses. The only kind you could get were Boston Lenses, these rock-like pieces of glass. There was no way I could wear them. So my dreams fell apart. Shortly after leaving school, though, I met some questionable characters and found myself in a situation where I ended up working non-professionally with the police to take several of those folks off the street. It was a scary job and my life was threatened more than once. When it was all over, about three years later, every time I heard a sound outside, I started to shake. I didn’t feel secure or safe for years.

It took a long time to get over my fears and conquer my stress, so I can imagine what it would be like to be in territories far away from home, where you don’t know who your enemies are, who might desire to kill both you and themselves, without hesitation, and the fear of roadside bombs just waiting for you to drive by. That would make my stress look like a walk in the park.

I guess because of the military background of various family members, and the stories I heard when growing up, soldiering was tucked away, just beneath the surface, in the back of my mind. So when I woke up from a particularly devastating and very disfiguring surgery, to find myself in agonizing pain, my first thoughts went to soldiers wounded on a battlefield, with no one there to help them or relieve their pain. I laid there in recovery and all I could think about was wounded soldiers. I forgot what I was going through and just fixated on them. The thoughts wouldn’t go away. They still haunt me, and are never far from my mind.

As a result of my early time working with the police, and then the surgeries and and all the extras that went along with that, I have suffered from PTSD for several years. Every time the phone rings and a doctor calls, my blood pressure can go up and I’ll have a full blown panic attack.

For a long time I kept my fears to myself, but after my blood pressure checks kept going up every time I had to see a doctor or go anywhere new, where I felt I was not safe, or just out of my comfort zone, I finally spilled my guts and told my husband. Now when a doctor’s visit is involved, he takes my blood pressure daily for a few days before the event and just gives the doctor the results. (The hubby was a paramedic.) It has saved me a lot of stress. And stopped the doctors from thinking I’m dying from high blood pressure. And I’m getting better. It’s been a slow process. But it’s progress.

Now when Remembrance Day comes up, my heart goes out to all the soldiers serving and all those veterans wounded and suffering with their wounds, both physical, mental and emotional, as well as the spiritual sides. It’s been common practise for only physical wounds to have been acknowledged as important. Recognition of the other levels of injury are slowly evolving. PTSD is not an easy thing. Telling someone to “get over it” or “suck it up” doesn’t help. It only makes things worse and adds a level of frustration, and sometimes anger, which can be compounded with depression.

So Remembrance Day has evolved for me. Now I find myself with a hanky in my hand and tears in my eyes, thinking about the eight great-uncles who never had a chance to grow old, a grandfather I never got to meet, and all the families who have lost loved ones because of war. I cry when I see the pictures of old. I can rattle off “In Flanders Fields” as if it was yesterday that we had to memorize it in public school. It’s always there.

We as a nation, must never forget our wounded warriors, nor can we ever forget those who currently serve. It is our duty to support them no matter where they are.

Please encourage your politicians and our present government to increase veteran support and keep the wages of active soldiers high enough that they never have to struggle monetarily. They should have free medical coverage for the rest of their lives and be able to get discounted mortgages when they desire to get a home. They should be able to get jobs and any psychological help they desire. And none of them, should ever be homeless. That is a travesty. Please support them and the charities that assist them.

Here are several links to charities, government sites and others. Please check them out and do what you can.

Thank you.

Book Review: Day of the Dead by J. A. Jance

Book Review: Day of the Dead by J. A. Jance

I picked this book up from the library of our townhouse complex. I’ve been a Jance fan for a long time and this proved to be a typical action thriller with her usual depth of character and complicated plots. However, it might have been a bit too complicated to fully absorb and follow.

I have to be honest and say that I had to pop back and forth to keep track of everyone and what they were doing. I kept forgetting who was who and what they were up to when we last touched on them in the storyline, so that was a bit of a drag. It also seemed to proceed a bit slowly in the beginning and took awhile to kick in gear. Once it got going it maintained the pace.

Another issue I had was with the inserted ancient stories of the Tohono O’odham people, (which were, according to the author, originally recorded by Harold Bell Wright in the early 1900s). There seemed to be three different ones, staggered in sequence at the beginning of what appeared to be randomly chosen chapters throughout the novel. I reread them a few minutes ago by themselves and I still, for the life of me, don’t have any idea what they have to do with the modern plot. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m thick. But it should have been really obvious. I don’t have time to reread the book to figure them out, nor do I desire to.

It was exceedingly gory almost from the beginning, and while I can handle gore, I just felt sad that the author felt she needed to put it all in. I think there are ways to allude to a violent death, just as one can allude to raunchy sex, without actually spelling it out. I’m just not into it. I like the thrill but not the nausea.

The storyline proposed something that I hope is not actually going on anywhere. I’m not sure with the way the U.S. border is patrolled these days that the events of the story could happen. At least I hope not. But once again, the author chose to offer a potential blueprint for a serial killer. At one of the workshops I attended, sometime over the last few years at the Surrey International Writers Conference just up the road, we discussed moral responsibility of writers in regard to their work. Of course, many felt you should write whatever the heck you want and just fling it out there for all to see, but I am not a believer in that behaviour. I think writers need to be morally responsible to hold back some of the gory details or potential blueprints for crime, including murder and kidnapping, in case some wacko decides to copy your ideas.

There’s so much violence online, on the TV and at the movies, that I think it’s time we held ourselves back a little and used some discretion. Of course this novel was written in about 2004, and a lot has happened since then, so Jance probably did not foresee the coming of the no-holds-barred world of the present.

It is a good story, of course, by a very famous and extremely prolific and well-read author. Just not my favourite of her work. So I’m going to give it 3 stars *** out of 5 for all the reasons I’ve stated above.

Back Cover:
Thirty years ago, the butchered body of a local Papago girl was found stuffed into a large cooler on the side of Highway 86. No one was ever charged for the crime. Few even cared.

And no one suspected it was just the beginning.
Retired Pima County Sheriff Brandon Walker’s work with The Last Chance—an exclusive, nationwide fraternity of former lawmen investigating unsolved homicides—has brought new purpose to his life. But a gruesome, three-decades-old cold case is leading him into a strange world at the unlikely border between forensic science and tribal mysticism—a place where evil hides behind a perfect façade. A long-forgotten murder in the Arizona desert now threatens to bring home a new horror for Walker and his family, who have already survived the dark hunger of two human monsters. And suddenly the relentless ex-cop is the only person who can still unravel a blood knot of terror and obsession before the innocent die again.

Overview from Jance’s Website
Cut loose from a job he loved, retired sheriff Brandon Walker is adrift in retirement until attorney Ralph Ames offers him a lifeline. The Last Chance, a volunteer organization made up of retired law enforcement and forensics experts, devotes its efforts to solving cases long gone cold. Brandon’s good friend, a Tohono O’odham medicine man named Fat Crack Ortiz, brings just such a case to Brandon’s attention–the thirty year-old unsolved murder of a young Indian girl.

In a case that crosses cultural lines, Brandon brings to bear the modern tools of DNA identification as well as the ancient wisdom of the Desert People as he pits himself against a pair of remorseless killers who have sown decades of death across the Arizona desert.



From the Author:

Mysteries are primarily puzzles. Thrillers lend themselves to the examination of good and evil.
In “Day of the Dead” good is represented by Brandon Walker, his family, and friends. A dying medicine man, Fat Crack Ortiz, is willing to trust his Anglo friend, a retired Pima county sheriff, with a long neglected murder, despite the fact that reopening the case goes against the grain of tribal tradition and taboos. Brian Fellows, Brandon’s not-quite foster son, has followed in Brandon’s law enforcement footsteps and helps from inside the department Brandon no longer heads. Lani Walker, Brandon’s adopted Indian daughter, a medicine woman in her own right, sees inexplicable images in the sacred crystals given to her by her beloved godfather and mentor, Fat Crack.

These were all characters I had met before–in “Hour of the Hunter” and “Kiss of the Bees”, and they wouldn’t let me loose. They stuck with me, nagging me, requiring that I write another book to find out what had been happening in their lives in the years since I had last written about them.

Evil is represented by Gayle and Dr. Lawrence Stryker. Operating without restraint or conscience, these are people for whom boundaries are made to be crossed and rules to be broken. They kill and torture helpless young women simply because they can. They operate with impunity behind an unblemished facade that portrays them as do-gooding pillars of the community.


Book Review: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline



Book Review: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

This was one of those weekends when the sun poured in the bedroom window, providing enough light and warmth, on a pair of particularly cool and breezy days, to make stretching out on the bed and relaxing, surrounded by two dogs and a cat, the perfect way to spend some off time.

I normally don’t take time off. My mother was one of those “idle hands are the devil’s playground” types of people, though she never worded her opinion like that. It went more like: “Don’t you have anything better to do?” So usually I feel tremendous guilt when I just sit and read. My Hawaiian-born husband is always reminding me that I’m nuts and need to chill. So I’m working on it. This weekend I did what he would have liked to do.

I actually don’t remember where or when I got this book—though it did have a Costco price tag on it, so maybe there—but when I finally finished the last novel, which I’ve yet to write about, I was feeling in a certain kind of mood: real world but soul touching. So I scanned the many many many tomes on our shelves and this one jumped out at me. Wow, what a good choice it turned out to be.



This is the story of an orphan train, a piece of history about which I and the author ( until she wrote this book) had absolutely no knowledge. It is also the story of two people, one very elderly lady who lived through the orphan train personally, and a seventeen-year-old First Nations foster girl, who is struggling to survive the Foster Child world and its nightmares. It bounces back and forth in time from the 1920s and ’30s in the Midwest of America, to 2011 in Maine.

Most is written in the present tense, and part in first person. It took me a little while to get used to the feel of present tense with the 2011 story. It seemed to settle better into place with the 1920s tale which was recounted in first person. But once I finished the book, I realized it was the best way to tell the story. It made it so much more deep and heart-wrenching than a distant and more observational voice might have. In first person and present tense, we feel the pain of the main characters deep in our own hearts and can really relate to all their troubles and the obstacles to their survival.

Although it’s a hard plot to wade through because of the story itself, there are tremendously uplifting sections as well. It makes one remember that even in the most horrific times, people come through and change lives for the better, even when we are sure there isn’t a chance for anything good to come out of what so far has been a series of tough situations. I felt the modern tale of Molly, the girl in foster care, was right on the money, having been indirectly involved in the foster care system and it’s potential insanities a few years ago. I saw what can happen when so-called foster parents take on many children, essentially just for the money this choice can provide, and the damage both short and long term that this can do to the children. And the 1920s tale was consistent with stories my mother and dad had related of their growing up in that time.

I would definitely describe the book as a five-star ***** read. It’s absolutely wonderful, soul moving, and drives you forward, wanting more. I highly recommend it.

The book is available darn near everywhere, especially on amazon.



From the Back Cover
Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?

As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community-service position helping an elderly widow clean out her attic is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past.

Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train is a powerful tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship.



The #1 New York Times Bestseller. From

Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train is an unforgettable story of friendship and second chances that highlights a little-known but historically significant movement in America’s past—and it includes a special PS section for book clubs featuring insights, interviews, and more.

Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse…

As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life—answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.




About The Author from her website: 

A #1 New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, Christina Baker Kline is published in 40 countries. Her latest novel, A Piece of the World, explores the real-life relationship between the artist Andrew Wyeth and the subject of his masterpiece Christina’s World. An instant New York Times bestseller, A Piece of the World was awarded the 2018 New England Prize for Fiction and the Maine Literary Award, among other prizes. Kline’s 2013 novel Orphan Train, about a little-known but significant piece of American history, spent more than two years on the NYT bestseller list. Hundreds of communities, schools, and universities have chosen it as a “One Book, One Read” selection. Both novels have been optioned for film. Kline has written five other novels — Orphan Train Girl, The Way Life Should Be, Sweet Water, Bird in Hand, and Desire Lines. A resident of New York City and Southwest Harbor, Maine, Kline serves on the NYC Center for Fiction, the Bar Harbor Jesup Library, and the Roots & Wings (NJ) advisory boards and on the gala committees of the Authors Guild and Friends of Acadia. Her new novel, about Australia’s complicated convict history, will be published in 2020.

In addition to her novels, Kline has commissioned and edited two widely praised collections of original essays on the first year of parenthood and raising young children, Child of Mine and Room to Grow, and edited a book on grieving, Always Too Soon. She is coeditor, with Anne Burt, of a collection of personal essays called About Face: Women Write About What They See When They Look in the Mirror, and is co-author, with her mother, Christina Looper Baker, of a book on feminist mothers and daughters, The Conversation Begins. Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Money, More, Salon, and Psychology Today, among other places.

Kline was born in Cambridge, England, and raised there as well as in the American South and Maine. She is a graduate of Yale, Cambridge, and the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns Fellow in Fiction Writing. She has taught fiction and nonfiction writing, poetry, English literature, literary theory, and women’s studies at Yale, NYU, and the University of Virginia, and served as Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University for four years. She is a recipient of several Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Fellowships and Writer-in-Residence Fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She is on the advisory board of Roots & Wings, a foster-care organization in NJ; The Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor, ME; the Montclair Literary Festival in Montclair, NJ; the Jesup Library Honorary Campaign Committee in Bar Harbor, ME; and the Montclair Animal Shelter, and supports a number of libraries and other associations.

Kline lives in New York City with her husband, David Kline. They are the parents of three sons, Hayden, Will, and Eli. Kline spends as much time as possible in Southwest Harbor, Maine.

Links for more info on the orphan trains:

Orphan Trains





Remember me with the dawn’s first light,
Remember me throughout the day.
Remember the songs we used to sing,
And all the things that we’d say.

Remember me every evening,
When your head touches down, soft and low.
Remember the joys and sorrows we shared,
Remember our songs long ago.

For like it or not, I share your life.
I share your hopes and your dreams.
You and I, are part of a song,
You and I share the same theme.

Remember the evenings we cried together,
Remember the mornings we laughed.
Remember the times that we hugged and sang,
Remember the nights that we talked.

As you journey this day, far far away,
Off on a new path and dream.
Remember the ones whom you left behind,
The ones who still whisper your name.

For we are your family, both your friends and your foes,
We are a part of your life.
Always together, though separate in space,
Our hearts will never let go.

So sing out our memory, the songs of our lives,
Sing of the joys we have shared,
Never forget us, the ones left behind.
For we are the hearts of your soul.

© V.L. Murray August 29, 2017


Book Review: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

Book Review: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

Wow, what an amazing book. I have been intrigued by stories about women and their lives in Afghanistan and the Middle East for years. This one was a mix of an incredible story, or shall I say two stories of parallel lives a century apart, and the nightmare which is the life of many women in that nation. When I read these stories, I am incredibly grateful that I was born into the nation of Canada where women are treated as equals and have the same rights as men.

Can you imagine a life where you are completely under the rule of the male of the household? Can you imagine a life where you are not allowed to go out even to shop for food without a male companion? And what do you do if there are no men in your life? Well, you can starve to death. Can you imagine a life where if you violate laws you will be executed, stoned to death? Take a moment and imagine yourself in that situation. They are throwing rocks at you, hitting you and inflicting incredible pain upon your body, over and over until you are finally knocked out and killed. Good grief! What kind of world is that?

This story has all of it in it. The stoning, the fears, the loss of freedom, the beatings, the hopes and desires for something better. All mixed in together and covering more than just one woman’s life. The year is 2007 and the place is Kabul under the Taliban. Rahima is a young girl whose family is ruled by a drug-addicted father. The girls of the family rarely get to go out or to school. So they resort to an age-old tradition which personally, I had no idea existed. They dress Rahima up as a boy and send her out into the world as a male member of the family. The tradition is called bacha posh. But because Rahima learns all about the freedoms of men, she is almost ruined when she goes through puberty and suddenly finds herself married to a much older rebel fighter, a warrior who has successfully defeated Taliban. Her life descends into a living hell.

This is one of the best books I have ever read, especially one which outlines the day-to-day life of the average Afghanistan woman and their cultures and thought processes. It’s almost an ethnological study of their world. If you want to know what’s really going on in Afghanistan from a guts level, this is the book for you.

And, bottom line, this was extremely well written. Nice job for a first time author. Well written, well developed. Nice timing and flow. As an editor and crazed literary reader, I give it a five star rating. I couldn’t give it any less. ***** This isn’t just a story, it’s the kind of book which should be studied in school. I remember those kind. They were often life changing. This is one of those books. I plan to read her others. Blurb:

“Afghan-American Nadia Hashimi’s literary debut novel is a searing tale of powerlessness, fate, and the freedom to control one’s own fate that combines the cultural flavour and emotional resonance of the works of Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Lisa See.
In Kabul, 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age. As a son, she can attend school, go to the market, and chaperone her older sisters.
But Rahima is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom. A century earlier, her great-great grandmother, Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way.

Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl the Broke Its Shell interweaves the tales of these two women separated by a century who share similar destinies. But what will happen once Rahima is of marriageable age? Will Shekiba always live as a man? And if Rahima cannot adapt to life as a bride, how will she survive?”

I hope you will seek out a copy and read this. You won’t be sorry.


Book Review: Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah

Book Review: Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah

This is one of those books that you can’t put down. I think it took me two days to read it and I only came up for air a couple of times. Thankfully the hubby fed the critters as I was just able to mumble incoherently every once in a while.

There are three plots within the book: 1) The nightmare of Doctor Julia Cates, a psychiatrist going through a lawsuit because of a patient’s behaviour which has cost the lives of several young people. 2)A wild child, a lost little girl, who finds her way into a small town seeking food and survival, and is taken into protective custody by the local sheriff, who just happens to be the psychiatrist’s sister. She must find her way forward through the nightmare of her past into a world she barely remembers. 3) Two broken women, sisters, face all the things which have kept them apart and kept them from fulfilling their lives through loving relationships.

It’s a mitt-full, but done so very well. I love the study of the human mind. Every since my Law Enforcement studies days when we got to dig into cases and study the psychology of the abnormal mind, I have been totally addicted.

What makes us tick? What causes us to arrive where we end up? What makes one human do inhumane things to anyone and anything? I think that’s the reason I am a writer, as well. It’s a chance to do what actors do, to live another life. But this time you get to experiment and search another’s soul to find out what motivates them.

It is not apparent at first, what has made this wild child wild, or even where she came from. It takes a while to delve into her consciousness, because first, she must learn to communicate. I’m an animal lover. My dog grew up wild, with no human contact except for gunfire and cruelty during his first year of life. As a result, when he came to us, he didn’t understand human language. Now, I’d had three other dogs but because they grew up with people they all understood English. So I had to communicate with him as a mother dog would with growls and barks, shaking of his withers and affection. I would wash his face with a washcloth mimicking his dog-mother’s tongue. That can still put him to sleep. Gradually he understood what I meant but it was a challenge at times.

So what do you do when the creature is a human with no communication skills? In some ways the book reminded me of the Helen Keller story. There were a lot of similarities in the methods used to reach the child and teach her to understand. Every success felt like it deserved an Oscar.

The other story within the story, the two sisters learning who they each were and why and what had been the good and bad dynamics of their relationship is just as important to this whole thing. Their history has brought them to the place where they can do something for this child and they are willing to sacrifice almost everything to keep her safe.

It’s a heartwarming story of perseverance, love, self-discovery and success. But it’s also one heckuva mystery which had to be solved. In the solving, the nightmare could be put to rest or begun again.

A worthy read. Be prepared with hankies and food. You won’t want to put it down.
Five stars all the way. *****

“Deep in the Pacific Northwest lies the Olympic National Forest—nearly one million acres of impenetrable darkness and impossible beauty. Even in this modern age, much of it remains undiscovered and uncharted. From the heart of this old forest, a six-year-old girl appears. Speechless and alone, she can give no clue as to her identity, no hint of her past…
Until recently, Dr. Julia Cates was one of the preeminent child psychiatrists in the country, but a scandal shattered her confidence, ruined her career, and made her a media target. When she gets a desperate call from her estranged sister, Ellie, a police chief in their small western Washington hometown, she jumps at the chance to escape.
In Rain Valley, nothing much ever happens—until a girl emerges from the deep woods and walks into town. She is a victim unlike any Julia has ever seen: a child locked in a world of unimaginable fear and isolation.
When word spreads of the “wild child” and the infamous doctor who is treating her, the media descend on Julia and once again her competence is challenged. State and federal authorities want to lock the girl away in an institution until an identification can be made.
But to Julia, who has come to doubt her own ability, nothing is more important than saving the girl she now calls Alice. To heal this child, Julia will have to understand that she cannot work alone and must look to others—the people in the town she left long ago, the sister she barely knows, and Dr. Max Cerrasin, a handsome, private man with secrets of his own.
Then a shocking revelation forces Julia to risk everything to discover the truth about Alice. The ordeal that follows will test the limits of Julia’s faith, forgiveness, and love, as she struggles to ascertain where Alice ultimately belongs.
In her most ambitious novel to date, Kristin Hannah delivers an incandescent story about the resilience of the human spirit, the triumph of hope, and the mysterious places in the heart where love lies waiting.”





Book Review: Come Hell or High Water by Nancy M. Bell

Book Review: Come Hell or High Water by Nancy M. Bell

Come Hell or High Water is book 2 in the “Longview Romance Series” from author Nancy M. Bell. It’s published by Books We Love, out of Calgary, Alberta.

This is a super interesting story with lots of excitement and thrills and spills. The action scenes in the chuckwagon races alone make it worth reading. You get the feeling, reading this series, that Ms. Bell knows something about farms and horses and such. And you would be correct.

She started out in Ontario and not only rode and competed in horse competitions but also taught riding. She continued most of her horse related activities when she moved to Alberta many years ago and still has lots of critters around her on the little farm which she and her hubby occupy. These days, besides writing, she does animal rescue work with various groups in the greater Calgary area.

Come Hell or High Water continues the romance between Michelle Wilson and new-to-the-area vet, Cale Benjamin, whom she is now living with. Michelle rescued Storm the dog in the first book of the series and now has her and her pup. There’s lots of dissension in the air between her ex, her brother and his new girlfriend, and Michelle. She’s a bit ornery at times and hot headed. She’s also big on rodeos, and so if you are a fan, this is the book for you.

As I said at the beginning, the chuckwagon race scenes are riveting and incredibly well described. I was on the edge of my seat and it was just like being at the movies. Pretty exciting. And, just when you think the thrills are over, Ms. Bell throws in snowstorms, truck and trailer accidents and then a flood.

The only thing bothering me in the book was the misprints and slips. I think it needed one more read through by the editor.

Here’s the description from Amazon:

Michelle Wilson has the world by the tail. Cale loves her and she loves him. Storm is happy and healthy. To top it off, Michelle has qualified for the Calgary Stampede. She can’t wait to barrel race for a chance at $100,000 on Showdown Sunday. All her dreams are coming true; nothing could possibly spoil her happiness. Could it? Shelly, her brother’s new girlfriend seems a tad too interested in her old friend Cale Benjamin. And what’s with Michelle’s ex-fiancé Rob who keeps popping up in the most unexpected places. Why can’t his brand new wife Kayla keep a tighter rein on that cowboy?

Here’s an excerpt:

“Toad quivered under her, twitching at the huge pieces of flotsam that rushed past just a few feet away. Once the other horse was far enough ahead, Michelle gave Toad his head. Her stomach clenched and flipped as his hind end dropped out from under her. The bank they were standing on collapsed into the river. The buckskin threw himself forward and clawed back onto semi-solid ground. Between the pain in her head and with the use of only one hand, Michelle slid out of the saddle. The rain blurred her vision and her head spun. There was no way she was going to get back on the horse. Stacey was a quarter of the way up the coulee, obviously unaware Michelle was in danger. Another old cottonwood uprooted by the river bobbed by, its branches scraping along the ragged bank.

Toad nudged her with his nose, eyes showing white around the edges. He wouldn’t leave her until she gave him permission. She looped the dragging reins around the horn and swatted him on the ass. “Go on git!” Tears of frustration mingled with the rain on her face. “

Okay, I’m stopping there. Just go buy the book! You can get a physical copy at most Chapters stores in Canada. Or you can order it online from anywhere that sells books.

Here’s the link!

And the link to Nancy’s website.

Happy reading!


Book Review: Storm’s Refuge by Nancy M. Bell

Book Review: Storm’s Refuge by Nancy M. Bell

I’ve been a fan of Ms. Bell’s writing for quite awhile now; both her poetry and fiction work. She is one of the best writer’s in Canada. When she gets rolling, her descriptions of the land, sea or sky are incredible and just take you right into the scenery. Her dialogue is natural, full of humour and life. Her characters are real. Nothing seems forced. Her books are always easy to read and never tick me off as an editor. And believe me, that happens.

I decided to reread all her work, starting with the Longview Romance series. When I first read Storm’s Refuge, Nancy was still working with MuseItUp. I notice there are some new things in it since the rewrite, either that or my memory is pretty lousy. (That could be true, too.) I like the new version, though as an editor there are a few typos needing to be fixed. (Sorry, I’m super anal about those things.)

The story is based in Alberta and involves a young lady who’s had a rough breakup the year before. She is an animal lover, horses, dogs, probably anything else needing a home, and finds a stray, very pregnant and injured dog under her porch during a wild and crazy winter storm; hence the name of the dog and the title of the book.
Storm, the dog, becomes her new housemate and there are lots of concerns around her and the about-to-arrive puppies, some of which involve the need for a vet. So, in walks Cale, the new city-slicker vet, or at least that’s what our feisty, the last guy-done-me-wrong-so -I-don’t-trust-any-man heroine, Michelle, thinks he is, and her world turns upside down. His description would turn any girl’s life upside down. I remember my farm days. There were some really cute horse vets out there, and blacksmiths, and cowboys. Sigh. But I digress.

So various things happen and Cale and Michelle enter into a kind of war dance of courting. There’s some stress with the dog, who is sick and needs a leg amputated—don’t worry things work out. Nancy would never kill the dog off—and the rotten ex-fiancé arrives, and there’s a blonde chick who Michelle wants to thump out for looking at Cale, plus a brother who has been a jerk; everything is in there to keep you wanting to read and turn the pages, fast. Once again, I ripped through it in a weekend, unwilling to stop and get a decent sleep two nights in a row. It was like I’d never read it before, although I knew the basics. I’d read it again tomorrow if it wasn’t for the fact I have the second in the series sitting right over there waiting for me to crack it open. Yay!!!

Do I recommend it? Hell, yes! This is five stars all the way!

Here’s the back cover:
“All Michelle wants is peace of mind. The only thing bigger than the storm in her heart is the blizzard raging across the Alberta prairie outside her window. Finding an injured stray dog is the last thing she needs. Add to the mix the handsome new vet who is taking over her beloved Doc’s practice and peace of mind is not in the picture.
Cale Benjamin is too nice to be for real. Michelle is still smarting from being jilted by her highschool sweetheart fiancé and not in the mood to trust any man, let alone one as drop dead gorgeous as Dr. Cale Benjamin DVM. The injured stray, Storm, keeps putting Michelle in Cale’s path whether she likes it or not. She is distressed to find that the handsome young vet is sliding past her carefully erected defences and into her heart. A few well-placed nudges from Doc’s matchmaker wife, Mary, help the young doctor’s cause, but will it be enough to make the lady rancher allow him into her life?”

Now here’s some of those descriptions I was telling you about.

From Chapter Fifteen:
“The morning star paled against the brightening blue of the sky; the sun swung free, climbing the heavens on chains of gold. Long red-gold rays slanted over the undulating landscape, throwing the small depressions into bluish shadows and touching the rolling land with a blush of rose. A high whinny broke the stillness and shook her from the contemplation of the winter sunrise.”

Man, I’d kill to be able to write that. Takes you back to the days of waking up in the country, the sun barely up in the sky, frost and snow everywhere, then going out into the barn, greeting the critters and them greeting you back; horses kicking the stall doors wanting their breakfasts right then! And listening to the sound of munching and nickering as everyone chows down. This whole book really brought back the memories of my country days. I sure miss it. Not getting up with the dawn, no, but all the rest, for sure.

Storm’s Refuge is in hard copy and available at Chapters and also in ebook format, so you can pick it up wherever you like to buy your books from. Personally I like the hard copy. Even though I have a kindle— with more books on it that I could humanly ever read in several lifetimes—plus an I Pad chock full, I still like to hold a real book in my hand.

Nancy is usually at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference every year in October, and I assume this year will be no different. So if you buy her book, you can get it autographed at the Saturday meet and greet the authors. She will also be out in British Columbia sometime in September, I believe, for a event involving a launch of the “Canadian Historical Bride’s” series with Books We Love. I will keep you posted. I’ll be writing a review on her book His Brother’s Bride which is so beautiful and made me cry several times. I look forward to rereading it.

Nancy M. Bell

Nancy M Bell is a proud Canadian and lives near Balzac, Alberta with her husband and various critters. She is a member of The Writers Union of Canada and the Writers Guild of Alberta. Nancy had numerous writing credits to her name and her work has been recognized and honoured with various awards. Nancy has presented at the Surrey International Writers Conference and the Writers Guild of Alberta Conference. Her publishing credits include poetry, fiction and non-fiction.

Product details
• Paperback: 276 pages
• Publisher: Books We Love and Ebound Canada (Sept. 1 2015)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1771454407
• ISBN-13: 978-1771454407

o #8568 in Books > Romance > New Adult & College
o #88012 in Books > Romance > Contemporary
Five ***** stars all the way!