Monday, March 29, 2010

Review & Giveaway: "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women" by Susan M. Heim & Karen Talcott

Many turn to God in times of trouble. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women hits its stride when it tackles more serious subject matter. Editors Susan M. Heim and Karen Talcott contribute heavily to this volume, but the "My Prayer" sections following each story highlight the significance of their input. A foreword from 9/11 widow Jennifer Sands sets a genuine, heartfelt tone. It delivers an emotional punch that few stories in the collection can match. 

Any time the subject of spirituality is addressed, there is a fine line between preaching and inspiring. Selections that ring true do not tell the reader what to do. They do not end with a happily wrapped-up conclusion. Instead they depict a continuing struggle against life's challenges. Faith is the sustaining factor. These pages contain many personal affirmations that are worth celebrating.

In "Losing a Child," Nancy Purcell reflects on the unexpected death of her 16-year-old daughter. She beautifully compares the fulfilled expectation of spring with the promise of eternal life. 

Twenty-five years later, I still think on her truth, her love of Christ, and her joyfulness as I dig in the earth and plant seeds, expecting a garden of beauties to rise come spring. And they do, just as Christ did that Easter morning. Because of Him, I never think of her as lost; I know where she is.

For anyone who has witnessed a loved one dying, the details in Janice Flood Nichols' "Hands Stretched Out" are spot on. The slow wasting away of an elderly parent or grandparent is difficult to watch. Small moments of hope help to ease the feeling of utter helplessness.

As I watched my mother transition from this life to the next, I came to believe that God, in His infinite love and mercy, had granted our family a glimpse into life's most poignant and final journey - a journey that may well be guided by those who have already crossed over. We were privy to a peaceful, glorious transformation. 

The editors delve through the Bible introducing each story with a perfectly matched verse. For the topic of relationships, an obscure passage - I Peter 3:3-4 - touchingly illustrates the long-lasting impression of inner beauty: "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

The lives of many women are plagued by anxiety - worries about children, financial concerns, job instability, etc. The words of Scripture offer a comforting alternative. The editors wisely include Matthew 6:25-27: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink ... Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

Other highlights include Talcott's "Learning to Love Again" about the integral part a pet has in a household. Heim's "Baby's Breath" is an illuminating reminder to cherish a child's precious moments in times of frustration. Darlene M. Gilbert, an elderly widow, appreciates the selflessness of her neighbor who always makes sure her grass is cut in "More Than a Cup of Sugar." Carrie Ellis goes out of her way to give an elderly woman a ride in the bad part of town in "Waiting for Jesus."

Others fall short in their attempt. Some themes are borrowed from country music songs. Certain endings border on the unbelievable. A few are so simplistic in composition they barely form a complete narrative lacking a beginning, middle and end.

Overall, the book is worth it for the Scripture verses alone.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women by Susan M. Heim and Karen Talcott is available for $14.95 at Amazon.com and SusanHeim.com.

A complimentary review copy was provided by Susan M. Heim.


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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review & Giveaway: "Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family" by Susan M. Heim

Story vignettes are like hors d'oeuvres. They pique your interest, but they're not very filling. The anecdotes found in Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family are palatable because they are taken from real-life families, but due to their brevity they fail to leave a lasting impression. Editor Susan M. Heim does an admirable job sifting through thousands of submissions to arrive at the 101 included entries, but the limitations of the Chicken Soup framework produce superficial, glossy tidbits instead of deeply resonating personal accounts.

The stories while divided into sections such as vacations, holidays and in-laws tend to blend together due to a lack of significant detail. The tales are quickly forgotten since many are based on worn-out cliches - the insufferable mother-in-law, the inept father, the doting grandmother. While some delve into serious issues like abandonment, alcoholism and mental illness, most unwittingly reach a tidy conclusion within two to three pages. These easily portrayed resolutions are likely to create a disconnect for the majority of the book's audience.

Yet there are a few that rise to the occasion of providing substance in a condensed format. In "Right from Wrong," author Michael T. Smith states: "I learned a lot from my dad. I learned how not to treat my wife. I learned to give my children love and attention. Dad didn't teach by example. He taught by making me aware of what is wrong." A mental burden is revealed in Marijoyce Porcelli's "Grandma's Beads:" "Somehow [Grandma] let go of that frigid, bitter persona that was her usual self and talked, really talked. Unfortunately, these pleasant lulls didn't last long." The struggle to reconnect with an estranged son is depicted in Marsha D. Teeling's "A Tiny Piece of Paper:" "Why does [my son] hate me? I see him with his children, and I know that at least he is breaking the cycle because he is a loving, caring father."

Some humorous moments deserve a mention. April Knight's family arrives in the Ozarks only to attend the wrong reunion in "Who Are All These Strange People?" Melanie Adams Hardy learns a whole new vocabulary while riding in "Grandma Lillie's Red Cadillac." Mimi Greenwood Knight deals with a husband whose mouth lacks an off switch in "What Did You Say?" While all the mischievous Ben Kennedy has to say is the key phrase: "That Did It!" to cause his little brother to take off running and screaming.

Overall, this is a book for a location where reading options are limited such as a doctor's waiting room or an airport gift shop. It's a good time killer when there's nothing better to read.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family by Susan M. Heim is available for $14.95 at Amazon.com and SusanHeim.com.

A complimentary review copy was provided by Susan M. Heim.


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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Review & Giveaway: "Explorer X-Alpha" by L.M. Preston

First time novelist L.M. Preston succeeds in writing a book boys will want to read. Not an easy task when 12-year-olds are more captivated by a flashing screen than a stationary page. But Explorer X-Alpha primes its audience for an action-filled look at space camp in the year 2080.

Aadi is the book's title character. His team is comprised of Eirena (his potential love interest), Scott (his new best friend), Raiko (the petite martial artist), Dakota (the weapons expert), Damien (his arch rival), Carter (the tool with inside connections), Tacitus (the indestructible) and Ebu (his pet robot). The sponsor of the camp is the Technical Exploration and Genome Research Corporation (TERG), their parents' employer. Little do they know that their parents willingly provided TERG with their DNA for experimental purposes. With their artificially enhanced births, they became company property. 

Upon arrival at space camp, TERG issues an immunization against the alleged threat of intergalactic disease. However, some cadets fall seriously ill and are hidden in the bowels of the ship. Aadi and his crew uncover the conspiracy, but before they can expose TERG they are sent on a mission to Mars. Things go awry when a black hole unexpectedly appears. The spacecraft piloted by Aadi and Eirena ends up crashing on the distant planet of Shrenas.

Forced to cope in a hostile environment, Aadi and Eirena befriend a native named Jantik who draws them into the midst of a civil war. Their scientifically engineered DNA begins to transform their bodies as they begin to take on the physical characteristics of the planet's inhabitants. Aadi grows a red reptilian skin while Eirena's hair takes on gray and black stripes. As they struggle to hold onto their humanity, their bodies become infused with an innate power that they are able to unleash on command. As they struggle to find a way home, Aadi worries if it is too late for Eirena who becomes enamored with her killing prowess. 

Preston hits the mark in the first half of the book. When the cadets are together at space camp, their different personalities add life and dimension to the story. They are a realistically depicted group of adolescents who get on each other's nerves more than they get along. They jostle to compete in simulated video games, for attention from the opposite sex and to lead the camp's mission to Mars.

The story veers off course when Aadi and Eirena get separated from the others. An entirely new plot line is introduced regarding the internal conflicts on Shrenas. This jars the book's momentum at the halfway point. No mention is made of the other cadets until the final pages. The reader is left wondering what happened to them. It is unsettling to be left without a smoother transition. 

The book is listed as suitable for children age 10 and above, but it is quite violent for those not yet in their teens. For example, to knock another out of simulation training, a cadet must issue a stunning blow to the head. When Eirena is captured on Shrenas, she is tortured quite graphically. Violence is viewed as a solution, and physical strength is relied upon more than ingenuity. Aadi does struggle to hold onto a moral code, but even he is forced to abandon his principles in the book's culminating bloodbath.

Overall, young boys will fly through these pages at a hyper-accelerated speed.

Explorer X-Alpha by L.M. Preston is available for $14.99 at Amazon.com and LMPreston.com.

A complimentary review copy was provided by L.M. Preston.


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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Review & Giveaway: "The Legend of Gwerinatha: Branwen's Garden" by Brad Parnell

Brad Parnell is first and foremost an illustrator. His debut novel, The Legend of Gwerinatha: Branwen's Garden would have better suited a children's picture book or possibly a young adult graphic novel. The plot is too simplistic to stand on its own without intensive visual support.

Robert Moore discovers a key to Gwerinatha, an alternate world where his ancestor is thought to have disappeared over 300 years ago. He enters a dangerous land teeming with poisonous plants and malformed creatures. Animals talk and Robert quickly befriends the young wolf, Louie. 

The two of them set out to rescue the governor's daughter, Branwen. Gwerinatha is currently divided over civil strife. The southern House of Fates has been against the northern Lords of Wisdom since Robert's ancestor, Samuel More, walked away from his flock. Samuel was the first person from the real world to discover Gwerinatha, and he brought a group of English pilgrims with him. He hoped to set up a civilization based on free choice and a lifestyle based on the common good. However, things spiraled out of control culminating with the kidnapping of Branwen by the Southern Guard.

Branwen is a remarkable 16-year-old girl. She is an activist fighting to preserve the natural habitat and the animals who reside in it. Her garden in the midst of wolf headquarters exemplifies her beliefs. Here's how Robert describes her: "It wasn't that she was cute or had a great personality or anything like that, though she was extraordinarily attractive in every manner conceivable. I just couldn't get over how someone so young could stand up to so many authority figures for principles that she believed in so strongly. She was willing to risk her safety and comfort for others."

Along the way, Robert and Louie team up with Branwen's younger sister, Seren; a two-mouthed donkey, Gefell and a guide from the Village of Idiots named Borb. They wander through 19th century-style towns and barren wastelands like the Unfinished Lands where they encounter the self-exiled Samuel. Inspired by young Robert's enthusiasm, the esteemed patriarch agrees to help them rescue Branwen and come back to advise the governance of Gwerinatha. However, a host of monstrous creatures not to mention the Southern Guard stand in their way.

The strength of Parnell's work is in its imagery. The creatures, the landscape, the clothing - all deserve his illustrative touch. Some of the chapters are introduced by a graphic, however the entire story would benefit from extensive full-color illustration. Its scope resembles that of a fairy tale and a younger audience would appreciate a concrete interpretation of Parnell's vision.

Overall, the images issuing from such a creative mind deserve to be fully captured on paper.

The Legend of Gwerinatha: Branwen's Garden by Brad Parnell is available for $11.95 at Amazon.com and BlackWyrm.com.

A complimentary review copy was provided by BlackWyrm Publishing.


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Friday, March 12, 2010

Review & Giveaway: "Baour: Strands of Death" by Dirk Vandereyken

It takes supreme confidence in one's ability to put on the cover: "The book everyone is talking about." Not to mention Dirk Vandereyken is shown sticking out his tongue in his author photo. Does Baour: Strands of Death live up to its own hype? It delivers as a fascinating look at mind manipulation in a sci-fi courtroom setting.

Baour (picture actor Jason Isaacs in all his glory as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter series) is a necromancer, a sorcerer who conjures the dead in order to predict the future. He makes a splash when he enters the tiny hamlet of Barnsby - taking up residence with the local witch, ordering expensive fabrics from the tailor and spending time in the woods with young boys.

Baour is brought to trial when the innkeeper accuses him of communing with a dead man, who was infected with the mysterious disease plaguing the town. Those in authority are the temple priests. They claim to have the Sight - the ability to see and manipulate the strands of power that emanate from an all-knowing spider. The strands encircling those with the disease are thick, black, oily. Baour can see these strands as can his new apprentice, Matthayas.

Matthayas is a 16-year-old local boy whose younger brother, Baour saved from a monster attack. Baour brought back what little life was left in the boy, who was already infected with the disease. This earns him the undying loyalty of Matthayas who discovers under Baour's tutelage that he also has the Sight.

Five witnesses take the stand during the trial - a witch, a tailor, a innkeeper, a priest and Matthayas. The chapters are divided into testimony followed by Baour's cross-examination. This is an excellent way to tell a story and Vandereyken is like the spider weaving all of the threads together to form a powerful conclusion. Like most science fiction writers, he creates an entire society, but he is able to immerse readers without losing them in an avalanche of details. He provides just enough signposts to guide the way into the customs of Barnsby.

Baour is arrogant in his precision at playing a crowd. He knows what buttons to push to elicit the reaction he desires. He is always one step ahead - of the priests, of the witnesses, of his supposed allies. His ultimate goal is to illuminate the fact that while gods exist who hold supreme power, the priests who wield that influence are not beyond reproach.

Overall, the creation of this master manipulator is brought to life through the skill of a truly talented writer.

Baour: Strands of Death by Dirk Vandereyken is available for $11.95 at Amazon.com and BlackWyrm.com.

A complimentary review copy was provided by BlackWyrm Publishing.


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A winner will be chosen on March 31, 2010.

Congratulations to our winner: Tweezie!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"A Man and His Maniac: The Bunkie Story" by Charles Franklin Emery III

Dog stories are meant to tug at the heartstrings. But A Man and His Maniac: The Bunkie Story does so in a down-to-earth way. Charles Franklin Emery III realistically depicts the highs and lows of pet ownership. What emerges is a complete portrait of a yellow Labrador Retriever named Bunkie and the powerful relationship between a man and his dog.

A chance encounter brings the two together. While running errands, Emery happens upon a woman selling puppies. On an impulse, he purchases one for the asking price of $10. As a former Navy man, he names the dog Bunkie, a nickname for a sailor's favored sleeping quarters. 

One thing Bunkie quickly becomes known for is making a mess. Before officially becoming an outside dog, several carpets and pieces of furniture are victims of his bowel movements. Another time while Emery was landscaping the yard, Bunkie got into the manure. Before Emery could stop him, he entered the house and began rolling on the living room floor.

When riding in the car, Bunkie would sit directly behind Emery with his paws on his shoulders. This seating arrangement while humorous turned tragic when the two were involved in a car accident and Bunkie was sent hurtling through the windshield, down the hood of the car and onto the road. Amazingly, he survived and was found barking at oncoming traffic. On another drive, Bunkie chased a squirrel by jumping out of a moving truck bed. Unfortunately, his timing was off and his head connected with a large boulder. Yet once again, he made it through the ordeal.


On another occasion, Bunkie left the safety of his backyard and was missing for over a month. Emery was determined to find him keeping in close contact with the local animal shelters. He received many leads and even had to ID a body. One day while Emery was making a routine visit to a shelter, Bunkie burst through the door with a shipment of new dogs. He had a tire tread mark right between his eyes, but he was finally found.

The two formed a strong bond over a shared love of hunting. Bunkie was a natural. His body would go as stiff as a board when he would hone in on his prey. While on point, he would alert Emery to the presence of a bird and then flush it out. After Emery's successful shot, Bunkie would proudly retrieve the catch for his master. Bunkie's hunting prowess became a tale of legend among Emery's co-workers and fellow hunters. Yet due to loyalty or stubbornness, Bunkie refused to hunt for anyone but Emery.

The most touching part of the story can be found in its final pages. At age 14, Bunkie was blind, deaf and in serious pain. Emery made the heart-wrenching decision to put him down. He died in the vet's office in the arms of his lifelong friend.

Emery makes many significant points about his life with Bunkie that apply to every pet owner.  Here are just a few: 

Owning and caring for an animal is a responsibility. Most of the time that responsibility is a happy, welcome and magnificently enriching experience. It's very fulfilling and usually brings years of enjoyment and countless happy memories. Unfortunately, that responsibility also includes the necessity of making decisions that will prolong or end your charge's life. There is one thing for certain: unless you die first, you are going to have to cope with the fact that you will probably outlive your pet.  
That is the primary reason for the Bunkie chapters: to honor Bunkie's memory and immortalize him; it's the least that I can do for my friend. It would bring me no greater pleasure than to have people read this book and derive enjoyment from the tales of Bunkie's life. 

Then when I found Bunkie in that cardboard box on a Bremerton street corner, I knew that [God was] thinking of me. I saw [God] in his eyes. When Bunkie died, I consigned him [God's] care. I knew [God] would take care of my old buddy and that I would see him again.

Overall, if you're a fan of Marley & Me, you'll fall in love with Bunkie.

A Man and His Maniac: The Bunkie Story by Charles Franklin Emery III is available for $9.99 at Amazon.com and BunkieDog.com.

A complimentary autographed copy was provided by Charles Franklin Emery III as part of contest hosted by the blog, Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

"Tugger's Down" by Tommie Lyn

If only Ouija boards didn't hold such a fascination over teenage girls. If only they knew what truly lurked beneath their sliding fingertips. They would think twice before summoning a power beyond their reckoning. A power with the ability to kill.

In Tommie Lyn's Tugger's Down, Tiffani and Olivia awaken a demonic entity on their grandmother's Ouija board - it kills Olivia while attempting to infiltrate the baby in her womb. The baby, Tugger, survives to be constantly plagued by the demon who continually assaults the boy for control of his soul.

At age three, Tugger is at the point of complete physical deterioration. His emotionally detached grandmother sends him along with his nanny to live with his Aunt Regina and her family in Florida. Escaping from the proximity of the demon's hold, Tugger begins to flourish in his new surroundings especially when he meets Lacey.

Lacey is a struggling college student. Raised in a Christian group home, religious values are an essential part of her character. Now living on her own, she tries to make ends meet working at a jewelry kiosk in the mall. It's not until she meets fellow student Porter O'Brien (who happens to be Regina's brother-in-law) that she begins to let down her guard.

One problem - Porter has a notorious past as a ladies man. When Lacey initially rebuffs his advances, he turns his attention to another classmate, Jennie. This proves to be a major error in Porter's calculations when his interest in Lacey turns into an undeniable attraction. Lacey finds herself falling for Porter when he takes a genuine interest in her - repairing her car, buying her lunch and driving her to work. However, Jennie sews seeds of distrust in Lacey's mind in regards to Porter's fidelity. Just when Lacey begins to rely on Porter, she doesn't know whether to pursue the relationship or withdraw before Porter can hurt her.

In the meantime, the demon continues to pursue Tugger. When Tiffani and her sister, Heather, once again use the Ouija board, the demon takes over Heather's body and kills Tiffani. Traveling to Regina's home in Florida, a final showdown occurs. Only Lacey and Porter stand between Tugger and the demon's wrath.

Tommie Lyn is a master at creating realistic characters. Characters that readers care about. Her talent is apparent in fleshing out their personalities with believable details. Tugger's internal struggle with the demon is depicted by his nanny having to relax his clenched toes in order to put on his socks. Porter's issues with the harsh Navy discipline of his father illustrate the root cause of his teenage rebellion. Lacey's abandonment by her mother taught her to push people away instead of allowing anyone to get close enough to hurt her. The emotional detachment of Tugger's grandmother derives from her familial connection to a woman convicted in the Salem witch trials. The characters are multi-dimensional with relationships that are imperfect yet real.

Overall, this is a supernatural thriller with a whole lot of heart.

Tugger's Down by Tommie Lyn is available for $12.99 at Amazon.com and TommieLynn.com.

A complimentary review copy was provided by Tommie Lyn.
 
Also by Tommie Lyn: And Night Falls, On Berryhill Road and Scribbles.

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A winner will be chosen on March 31, 2010.

Congratulations to our winner: Katie Hines!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"Thaw" by Fiona Robyn

Ruth's diary is from the new novel by Fiona Robyn, called Thaw. She has decided to blog the novel in its entirety over the next few months, so you can read it for free.

Ruth's first entry is below, and you can continue reading here.

These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It’s a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we’re being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides.

The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they’re stuck to the outside of her hands. They’re a colour that’s difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.

I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I’m giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether it’s all worth it. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I’ve heard the weary grief in my dad’s voice.

So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I’m Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I’m sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?

Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat — books you have to take in both hands to lift. I’ve had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I’ve still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.

Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about — princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad’s snoring was.

I’ve always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I’ll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say, ‘It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for,’ before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It’ll all be here. I’m using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I’m striping the paper. I’m near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I’m allowed to make my decision. That’s it for today. It’s begun.

Continue reading here.

You can purchased Thaw from Amazon UK or The Book Despository.

Taken from Cheryl Malandrinos' blog, The Book Connection

"Voices of the Children: A Poetic Exposé" by Lenora Trice

Child abuse is an uncomfortable topic. It happens behind closed doors, yet becomes visible through a bruised arm or a cigarette-burned back. Sometimes it is brought to a mandated end in a hospital or courtroom. Otherwise, finality is often reached at the grave.

Most poetry celebrates the romantic experience of love, or it takes a philosophical bent pondering the meaning of existence. What inspired the verses of poet Lenora Trice is the violence afflicted upon the youngest members of society in Voices of the Children: A Poetic Exposé. The poems are not based on actual abuse cases, but the details are so true to life they can likely be found in the headlines of any newspaper across the country.

Trice describes her writing process as a empathetic catharsis. She delves deep to her emotional core in order to connect with the victims' pain. A mother employs her daughter as a prostitute to pay for her drug habit. Parents starve their child to death. A babysitter smothers the baby in her care. A girl is lured to a secluded spot by a molester. The situations are imagined, but the gut reaction Trice causes the reader to experience is real.  Horror. Shock. Pity. Disgust. Sympathy. Anger. The intensity of feeling is inescapable.

A mother beats her daughter to death. 

When I began to cry, she hit me hard once more
With her pointed toe shoes, she kicked me several times
- "A Matter of Time"

A mother ignores the sexual abuse committed by her husband. 

There is one thing, mommy
That I don't understand
Why didn't you notice the blood
On my panties and even in my bed?
If you did notice, mommy, why was nothing ever said?
- "Mommy, Why?"

A father slams the head of his screaming infant into the wall. 

You see, my face was unrecognizable
Because much of it was forced back into my head
- "He Didn't Love Me"

Why does Trice write of such unspeakable horrors? The answer is found in the opening lines of her poem "Nobody Listened:"

It's too late for me, but maybe not for you.

Overall, this is a poetry collection that addresses the societal taboo of child abuse in order to raise awareness on how it can be prevented.

Voices of the Children: A Poetic Exposé by Lenora Trice is available for $19.95 at Amazon.com.

A complimentary review copy was provided by Lenora Trice.

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A winner will be chosen on March 15, 2010.

Congratulations to our winner: Christine!