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

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Sheltered Life

A Sheltered Life: Take It To The Streets by Jeremy Reynalds
Take a walk in another man's shoes.

That's what kept rolling around in my mind as I read, A Sheltered Life: Take It To The Streets by Jeremy Reynalds. There is an emotional resonance that filters throughout this autobiographical work of Reynalds. It represents the down-trodden and, oftentimes, anguished part of society that many choose to ignore.

This novel is deeply rooted in Christianity. The author finds his motivation and illumination from his own beliefs. This doesn't mean that he didn't struggle with the acceptance of religion itself. Having agnostic foundations as a child, he found himself climbing a difficult slope.

"I responded by letting my long-suffering instructor know that Christianity was a crutch for old women and the intellectually feeble... I remember scoffing at various religious posters I saw plastered around town. I proudly declared, 'I am not a Christian. I am an agnostic. You can't tell me if there is a God.' "

The turbulent parts of his own life, from a lonely and futile childhood to an intrinsically inspired leap of faith that took him from England all the way across the pond to the United States, displays a salve of inchoate realization.

Though Christianity is his ultimate stimulus for traversing throughout America as a homeless man, the reader is introduced to a transcendental vision. Something highly unlikely, yet incredible in its fruition.

"...this acquisition allowed the shelter ministry a sense of permanence and stability... To me, it also meant an increased hope that however hostile downtown business owners grew toward the homeless, and however large the homeless population grew in Albuquerque, we would be able, with the Lord's help, to be a part of the solution."

While telling his own story, Reynalds engenders throughout the book a growing epidemic around us. It reminds us that each individual has a past that characterizes a desperate attempt at normalcy; the plight of the homeless who, for various reasons, end up in "a deep homeless quagmire". It's appalling to read the injustices committed against people whose only crime is being indigent.

"When you're robbed of the possessions you have and the few dollars you might get for a day's labor, that just adds insult to injury... When our staff first heard about these incidents, we assumed that it was random street violence...happen quite frequently on the streets of downtown Albuquerque, every victim she spoke with said the perpetrator made some comment like 'You're homeless anyway. It's not like you have to pay rent with this money.' "

The author has composed an invaluable and gritty novel that evokes a sense of hope, if not in religion, than in human nature. It is an amazing story that is poignant and moving.

Dr. Jeremy Reynalds was born in England and immigrated to the US in 1978. He founded Joy Junction, now New Mexico's largest homeless shelter. He also writes for the ASSIST News Service and has authored several books.

A Sheltered Life: Take It To The Streets by Jeremy Reynalds, 2013 ISBN 978-1-4497-9020-2

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Nightmarriage by Chad Thomas Johnston
The cover and title of Nightmarriage, by Chad Thomas Johnston, belies the delightful narrative contained within. Though there is a heart in the center of it all, the knives, ax and even the title itself, did give this reader a misleading image akin to a horror-laden story of despair.

That said, upon reading the first few pages, I was imbued with a entirely pleasant, autobiographical tale of the author and his wife, Becki.

Their meeting, courtship, and confusion of a long distance relationship is heartwarming. In recent years, especially with the advent of social media and great leaps in technology, the fundamental ideas of courting and romance have inevitably been changed.

"I began babbling to my friends at church and in my department at school about this woman who lived in Wisconsin. They looked at me as if to say, 'Everyone knows long-distance relationships are doomed to end up in the dating dustbin...' ...While I had attempted to date a few women in Lawrence... none of them were bumblebees in black stockings."

Johnston's recounting of the moments of dating and marriage are ensconced within a humorous voice that is both cleverly unique and earnest.

"I find it fishy, for example, that Becki remembers an eight-syllable word like trimethylaminuria, but forgets where she placed her purse. With the passage of time, I may have developed a hypothesis that may account for Becki's behavior: Maybe-just maybe-my wife is a black hole, incarnate."

There is something quite magnetic in Johnston's entire narration of the early years of marriage and parenthood. It is most certainly not easy to display one's life under a microscope for the world to see, yet each reader will be struck by the stark honesty in Johnston's writing.

Pictures, photographs of art, are distributed strategically before certain chapters, delineating a visual motif for the chapters they precede. Though they are engaging, I do not believe that they enhance the actual writing of this author or the book itself. As a matter of fact, I would have preferred reading the book without pictures and enjoying the art at the end.

The book obviously contains a deep religious theme but does not preach religion. Any person who reads Nightmarriage, Christian or Atheist, single or married, will find an amusing tale, whimsical at times, and completely charming.

Chad Thomas Johnston lives in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife, Rebekah, their daughter Evangeline, and five cats. He is a regular contributor to IMAGE Journal's "Good Letters" blog at Patheos.com. His writings have also appeared in The Baylor Lariat and at CollapseBoard.com.

Nightmarriage by Chad Thomas Johnston, 2013 ebook

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Deadly Election

Deadly Election by Arthur Crandon
There is a certain amount of perceptible greed within every person. Unfortunately, that greed can become limitless when faced with the possibility of incredible fortune. War is something innate in human beings. When greed and war become fused, the human condition is tested, people will most likely choose the path of fortune built upon a foundation of corpses. Deadly Election by Arthur Crandon, displays the absolute path and, oftentimes, failure of mankind.

A rumor exists within the Philippines. A story told from one generation to the next, giving birth to a fantastic legend. It is one of untold riches hidden away within the Philippine jungle, by Japanese soldiers who had committed shockingly deplorable acts of violence and murder during the war.

"No one dared to live in the remote area for a long time... only the brave dared to venture anywhere near the cursed area."

As more than sixty years pass, the legend suddenly becomes a tangible reality.

"The boys were now only fifteen feet away and they could make out the glinting outline of the coins."

Drawing the attention of a decadent and immoral warlord, Senator Enrique Consuelo, a treacherous plan is hatched; murder any witnesses and steal the treasure. But there is one flaw in this misguided turn of events, the adage of Murphy's Law, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

" ... it was unusual for him to feel confused or uncertain and he didn't like the feelings. He was out of his depth in the dangerous situation he had created. He tried to think straight, soon his survival instincts began to take over... he wouldn't be safe..."

From Manila to Singapore, the reader is sent on an incredible adventure.

Crandon writes with marvelous aplomb and has devised an intricate tale of the cruel veracity of the human soul. From the beginning, the reader will be drawn into a simple and beguiling narrative. Deadly Election has proved to be a powerful story of lust, betrayal, and political deception.

Arthur Crandon was born and raised in the UK and currently lives in Hong Kong.

Deadly Election by Arthur Crandon, 2013 ISBN-13 978-1479236251

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thank You

I would like to take a moment to thank everyone for their incredible support and concern. My son was sick, frequenting the hospital for the past ten days (most certainly the ten longest days of my life). My husband and I appreciate the emails and messages!

I will be back to submitting reviews within the next 48 hours. Thank you all for your kindness and patience.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Great Wild West

The Great Wild West by Jeff Appelquist
Nothing is freer than knowing that the land and sea in front of you continues on as far as the eye can see. There is a primordial feeling of not being able to truly grasp or even contain the world at large; thus, making possibilities seem quite limitless. The Great Wild West by Jeff Appelquist is a fundamental example of that ideal.

The main character, Jedediah Magnus West, grows up in 1950s and 60s America. He has a fairly normal upbringing within the dynamics of his nuclear family. There is a sense of nostalgic homage in Appelquist's engaging description of a simpler time during Jed's upbringing.

"There was a dad who worked in an office, a mom who stayed home with the kids and cooked and cleaned and showed concern, a sister, and two brothers who went to school and played outside... He went back to school in September as brown as a berry. The family ate dinner together in the evenings. They left the back door unlocked... They attended church every Sunday. They were Patriotic."

As the book progresses, the reader is drawn into an intimate portrait of the West family and friends. Beneath the pretty package of normality and the archetypal family life, each character is displayed with a glaring truth of the past, present and future. From the gloomy and dire recesses of past experience to the fruition of status quo, the reader is privy to an eloquent and succinct introduction of these unique, individual lives.

"Bringing up the rear in 1958, Jedediah Magnus West arrived, perhaps a planned baby, perhaps not. His parents never would say definitively one way or the other, which led Jed in later years to think that maybe his proper name should have been Jedediah M. (for Mistake) West."

The story contains a sharp, intuitive and hilarious narrative.

"Jack and Gloria West, like a lot of parents, were a damn sight more observant and sophisticated than any of their children ever gave them credit for... As she moved into adolescence, Jack and Gloria privately discussed the possibility that their daughter might be a lesbian."

Nothing is swept under the rug or ignored. Dealing with such issues as sexuality, race, and religion, the reader is given a realistic view of the many concerns that plagued most family values.

Following Jed's journey and evolution from Midwest schoolboy, to Marine officer, to family man, Appelquist outlines an amazing life that is indefinably American. An amazingly inclusive tale of "pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps", and adhering to a general sense of self-conduct and honor that seems almost a distant memory in this day and age; The Great Wild West is symbolic of what we as a nation seem to have left behind.

The book is heart wrenching, edgy, and beautiful: "Nothing is perfect, nothing is permanent... but anything is possible." The past does not define an individual, nor does the present circumstance stymie the hopes and dreams that one may choose to play out during an entire lifetime. It is most certainly our future choices that guide us, and our own principles that maintain our integrity.

Jeff Appelquist is a former college athlete, Marine officer, practicing attorney, and corporate executive. His first two books, Sacred Ground and Wisdom Is Not Enough, won a dozen literary awards between them, including multiple first-place prizes in the Writer's Digest International, National Indie Excellence, and Midwest Book Awards.

The Great Wild West by Jeff Appelquist, 2013 ISBN 978-1-59298-993-5