Where books are chronicled from beginning to end, and never stop being read.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Messiah Matrix

The Messiah Matrix by Kenneth John Atchity
Upon first viewing the title and cover of The Messiah Matrix by Kenneth John Atchity, my curiosity was certainly piqued. My mind instantly ran to a familiar literary bestseller, The Da Vinci Code. Of course, keeping comfortably to that frame of thought would have been quite an injustice.

As the book commences on a wholly vicious murder of a monsignor, the reader is thrown into the inner litany of Father Ryan McKeown's confusion and profound revelation.

" 'The monsignor said,' he gasped, 'Find Father Ryan... memory in the ashes of Jasius...in the Gesu.' Then the man's eyes closed as he breathed his last and made his way to the eternal gates that Ryan's absolution may or may not have opened for him."

"Not only was he wrestling with the shock of dual murders but Ryan's doubts about his faith now consumed his every waking moment and haunted his nights. It was mind versus spirit..."

Enter Emily Scelba, an archaeologist who joins Father Ryan in his quest for answers. From the death of Monsignor Isaac to the strangely evolving discoveries within the gaping questions about religion and faith, there is a certain aura of  determination in the danger laden journey of the main characters.

"He made his way through the labyrinth of shaded arcades and near-hidden passageways, so intent on his destination that nothing else fazed him."

Atchity has woven a brilliant story meshing the divergent lives of various characters within the fabric of this riveting novel. His careful approach in delineating the complex and, oftentimes, turbulent aspects of human nature are indicative of his immense writing skills.

There is nothing leisurely about this book. From the first sentence to the end of the last page, the reader is filled with an intense need to fill the subsequent divide that appears within the vivid narration of the story. The deft skill utilized in displaying the tangible sense of danger, the need for certain knowledge, and the question of faith, evokes the same emotions within the reader.

Kenneth John Atchity was a professor of literature and classics at Occidental College in Los Angeles 1970-87. He also represented writers of both fiction and non-fiction, accounting for numerous bestsellers and movies he produced for both television and big screen. He has drawn on his expert knowledge of Christian history and his classical training to write The Messiah Matrix.

The Messiah Matrix by Kenneth John Atchity, 2012 ISBN 978-095721-890-1

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

If You Were Me And Lived In... Mexico...

If You Were Me And Lived In... Mexico... by Carole P. Roman
A delightful adventure from the author who brought us Captain No Beard - An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life. This time Carole P. Roman takes the reader outside of the fantasy realm into a land of factual sight, language and food in If You Were Me and Lived in... Mexico...

The cover itself is a promising illustration of the fantastic journey ahead. A young boy and girl, who remain nameless throughout the book, introduce a brightly colored, fun filled sampling of Mexican culture. From the ingenious description of Chichen Itza (Mayan temple) to the Descubrimiento de America (discovery of America), Roman weaves history and language into a new and unknown world.

"If you were me and lived in Mexico, your home would be somewhere here, in the southern part of North America."

Identifying Mexico on a map gives the reader a basis. Children learn about counting pesos, exploring tamales, and playing futbol. The book is essentially a developed lesson plan for children Pre-K to 8-years old, triumphantly disguised in a creation of simple discovery.

"When you talk to your Mommy you would call her Mama, and when you speak with your Daddy, you would call him Papa."

There is a bewitching allure to Roman's narration. As I often tend to do with children's books, I used my own small version of a litmus test... My three-year-old son. He enjoyed it immensely, as he has done with other books by this author in the past.

Not only has Roman successfully presented an informative and entertaining book, but always the consummate educator, she includes a Pronunciation page at the end of the story. I highly recommend this charming immersion into Mexico, it is certainly an appealing read for children and parents of all ages.

Carole P. Roman is an award winning author and former Social Studies teacher. Her debut book Captain No Beard - An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life was named to Kirkus Reviews Best of 2012.

If You Were Me And Lived In... Mexico... by Carole P. Roman, 2013 ISBN 1480209627

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Such is Life

Such is Life: Short Stories by Jeri Walker-Bickett
No one raindrop is the same. Even during a deluge, everything is affected within the environment, the atmosphere, the terrain... And though the weather will change, the sun will eventually shine, and there will be nothing noticeably different to the naked eye, something has inexplicably been altered. The same can be said for stories.

Such is Life by Jeri Walker-Bickett is a prime example of such stories. The stories contained within the book are hilarious, rough, heart-wrenching and realistic. It gives rise to an impetus of emotion.

Walker-Bickett allows each character to hold a longstanding voice, raw and powerful, taking center stage within his or her own lament. From a young girl giving way to a careless moment of drugs and sex, to an over-worked, deeply criticized and under appreciated teacher who suddenly rekindles a long forgotten sense of self-worth, the reader is pulled into the fragments of each damaged and unforgettable struggle.

"I wanted to scream in his face that I also loved to drink lots of wine on occasion and that all sorts of premarital screwing around marked my past. I reminded myself I was talking to a man who didn’t drink alcohol or coffee, and who had most certainly remained a virgin until exchanging wedding vows."

Remarkably enough, Shirley Baker struck me as a the most prolific and edifying character. Her story is one like so many middle-class Americans. A wife and mother of two girls, Shirley lives her life with the usual headaches and has a seemingly normal lifestyle. But she is faced with an awful dilemma that divides her mental and emotional stability.

"She opened a bottle of vodka and a container of orange juice. On her way to the living room, she stopped at the gun cabinet, unlocked it, and took Gerald’s pistol from its holster."

There is an intensely quiet scene as Shirley sits getting sloshed with her dog sitting next to her, all the while watching morning cartoons: "Marty raised his head and flicked his ears in her direction. He cocked his head to the side and watched Shirley cry. Gail and Dawn were awake now, cuddling beneath an afghan with Marty at the foot of Shirley’s rocker." That one moment struck a chord. The depth of the attachment was hauntingly morbid and heartbreaking.

There is a confession of the soul that abounds from the vastly different stories contained within this book. Walker-Bickett's writing is stark and vivid, inspiring a certain honesty that draws the reader into a nearly palpable fascination.

I will admit that upon viewing the cover of Such is Life, I assumed the stories would either be entertaining or strange. I was never more mistaken for thinking in such a circumscribed manner. I was shocked at the incredible narration and unique writing style that the author possesses. It was beyond entertaining. The stories were addictive.

It takes a special talent to be able to keep writing simple and witty, yet tell volumes within the same words. Walker-Bickett has achieved both. I certainly hope to read more books by this author in the future.

Jeri Walker-Bickett is an author, editor, and teacher. She primarily writes contemporary literary fiction and psychological suspense.

Such is Life by Jeri Walker-Bickett, 2013 ebook

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Yankee Gold

Yankee Gold by Elizabeth Rogers

This is an impressive novel by Elizabeth Rogers, which takes place within the backdrop of the worst war on American soil. It is a historically accurate narrative that achieves forward motion in its intriguing plot line. Rogers successfully exhibits a difficult conflict within a gradually remorseful climate.

"Fire and smoke concealed the movement of people in the street. It was unclear whether the moving bodies were civilians, enemy, or allies. Occasionally, there would be a clearing."

Steve Elkins begins to blur the lines of societal acceptance. He is an abolitionist attorney in a less than tolerant territory. Though he is brave enough to stand up for his beliefs and politics, it also causes a major hindrance in his personal life.

"'Or they steal from the public coffers'... 'Or take bribes'..."

"He must prove fraud, forgery, bribery, and perjury. Additionally, it appeared he must take on the chief judge of the Supreme Court to force a resignation."

There is a definitive coyness when delving into the incredibly intricate story line. It prevents the reader from understanding the true focus of the ultimate ending. Yet, gradually, as the characters play into the metaphorically sanctioned subplot, Steve Elkins must decide where his loyalties lie.

An interesting character that snagged my attention was Editor Sullivan. As Steve says in a most succinct way: "...he professes in his columns, that he is against peonage, but antagonistic to Radicals. Of course, that's a contradiction in itself." Sullivan plays a thin line and personifies an image of what I would call a troubling epidemic, symbolic in this day and age.

Rogers vividly conveys an empowered and credible narrative. Though Yankee Gold had a slow beginning for this reader, including heavily laden moments of minutiae, the ultimate story is moving and intriguing. It is a unique story that gives every reader an idea of the old politics that our forefathers ventured and braved in a frighteningly new world.

Elizabeth Wall Rogers has been published in the New Mexico Historical Review. She is a member of the Virginia Historical Society and is active in several Virginia writers' clubs.

Yankee Gold by Elizabeth Wall Rogers, 2012 ISBN 978-0-9836058-6-7

Sunday, June 2, 2013

God's Magnificent Beanfield

God's Magnificent Beanfield by Don Bowlin
Have a little faith. Those four words have traveled across time and space into conscious beings for far longer than anyone can recall. Faith exists within every variegated human species. To some, it is religion. To the consummate atheist, it is belief in mortal ability. Regardless of the terminology, every person encounters that delightful and somewhat exasperating belief.

God's Magnificent Beanfield, by Don Bowlin gives a view of one family's experience with having faith and realizing a miracle. John Kelly runs a farm north of Danaville, Florida. He is a descendant of Frank Kelly, the founder, a man who has spent his life building up the Kelly farm to what it would later become. The book contains the fruitful efforts put forth by several generations of the Kelly family, their love, faith, and power of religion that has given the story an idealistic, seemingly puritanical feel.

"When the storm moved north and started breaking up, a large rainbow with an odd shape appeared, just like it had last year. It was brighter and was pointing downward in the center of the fields, just like the first one. It faded within ten minutes or so... It was more than likely that everyone didn't sleep very well as they anticipated the next day. Each person had his or her own perspective on how the family affected by what had happened and what it meant, but they all knew it was God's work."

Bowlin weaves a solid, structured novel that reflects on a lifetime of hard work. The story is told with a single-minded clarity, deeply ensconced in Christianity and coming together in a rewarding manner towards the end.

"An unusual feeling had come over him. He knew without question the Lord was in the process of sending a powerful message to the United States and the world, not from the Middle East in general or the Holy Land but from a farm near a small town in northwest Florida ...further proof that God ruled the earth and at any time could use any part of it for his purposes."

A miracle occurs that speaks to every individual. Some will find religious significance, being the most obvious, since the book is rooted in religion. But in keeping an open mind, others will find a touching story richly detailed in the importance of family and maintaining ones beliefs.

Despite a slow beginning, the characters begin to share their own life burdens and mistakes that allows the reader to empathize and commiserate. Ultimately, the writing sprawls over various lives and creates an enticing and incandescent narrative.

With skillful grace, Bowlin has created a novel that contains a deeply compassionate soul. Every reader will walk away with something gained.

Don Bowlin grew up in a small northwest Florida farm town. He has spent many years in communications as a graphic designer, creative director, fine artist, and corporate advertising and public relations director. He is an Alumnus of Florida State University. He and his wife, Susan, live in Cypress, Texas.

God's Magnificent Beanfield by Don Bowlin, 2012 ISBN 978-1-4497-5192