Monday, June 21, 2021

Faces of Courage by Susan K Beatty Blog Tour and Giveaway


About the Book

Book:  Faces of Courage

Author: Susan K. Beatty

Genre: Christian Woman’s Fiction

Release date: May 11, 2021

Fear strangles even the faithful sometimes.

Despite every attempt to be brave, fear has defined Olivia Stanford’s life: with each new foster home, when her adopted parents died leaving her all alone again, trusting and marrying her husband, Frank, and coping with his football injuries and career loss.

Without faith, fear only grows in the face of adversity.

When Frank becomes abusive, Olivia enters a terror-filled life in her upscale Southern California home. Common sense demands she dig deep for the courage to confront him–to demand change. Fear and confusion push back.

And just as courage finally blooms within her comes the terrifying diagnosis: breast cancer.

Some say courage is found at the intersection of faith and grit. How will Olivia manage to summon either in the midst of this new battle?

Click here to get your copy!

My Review 

Beatty has done a good job of exploring the character of a woman who must have courage to deal with serious issues in her life. Olivia's first struggle is with an abusive husband. He is controlling and verbally, emotionally and ultimately physically abusive. Beatty spends over half of the book giving us a very real sense of Olivia's experiences, thoughts and feelings in the face of her husband's behavior. The intensity of the story may be difficult for some to read if they have been in a similar situation.

There are several issues Beatty includes in this novel. One concerns the biblical model for wives. Does a Christian wife stay in an abusive marriage, even to the point of physical harm? Another issue is how events from the past, such as Olivia's abusive father, affect the present. Another issue is the emotional and physical trauma a woman experiences when she is given the diagnosis of breast cancer.

This is an emotionally packed book. Potential readers need to be aware of the spousal abuse and cancer diagnosis contained within. These topics may be difficult for some to read about. Readers will be challenged and inspired to have courage in facing struggles.

Food for thought: “Show the face of courage God has given you.” (1816/4912)

My rating: 4/5 stars. 

 

About the Author

”Courage: The intersection of faith and Grit”

Susan K. Beatty is passionate about finding courage through faith and grit, particularly through the trials of breast cancer. Her daughter is a metastatic breast cancer “thriver” and has been an inspiration for her writing. Susan retired from a full-time job in 2017 and is now pursuing a novel-writing career. Her first novel, “Faces of Courage,” is in revision. Susan is the author of “An Introduction to Home Education” (AKA “California Homeschool Manual”), was the assistant director of the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference and is the president of her local ACFW-OC Chapter. She is a professional writer/journalist. Susan is proof you can begin a fiction writing career after age seventy.

More from Susan

The words “You have breast cancer” can drop you to your knees. What’s worse is when those words are spoken to your thirty-one-year-old daughter. And worse yet when they are spoken to her more than once. My daughter Melanie has had three bouts with breast cancer, the second time classified her with stage IV metastatic breast cancer of which there is no cure. Over an eleven-year period, Melanie has undergone twelve surgeries, one removing two-thirds of her sternum to be replaced by a donor bone with titanium clamps.

Melanie’s courage during these battles inspired me to write about courage at the intersection of faith and grit. True-to-life stories follow characters through cancer and other issues confronting women today.

In Faces of Courage, I wanted to tell a story like Melanie’s but not exactly Melanie’s, a story nevertheless filled with growing courage. Melanie’s journey doesn’t include an abusive husband (Praise God!), but our terrorized heroine Olivia suffers from her husband’s mistreatment, confused by her misunderstanding of how God views her, and challenged by her lack of strong faith. Just as her courage matures and strengthen through these problems, she’s thrown by those knee-buckling words, “You have breast cancer.”

It is necessarily a gritty look at domestic abuse and the realities of dealing with cancer and its various treatments. I wanted to show Olivia’s growth as a wife, how she experienced the cancer, and how, with the help of faith and grit, her courage flourished.

In many ways, this novel is a tribute to women who fight these battles with bravery, even if that valor takes time to develop. I pray the reader, by witnessing another’s journey, is strengthened in her own battles.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, June 21

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, June 22

Texas Book-aholic, June 23

Inklings and notions, June 24

For Him and My Family, June 25

deb's Book Review, June 26

Locks, Hooks and Books, June 27

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, June 28 (Author Interview)

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, June 28

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, June 29

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, June 30

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, July 1

cats in the cradle blog, July 1

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, July 2

Rebecca Tews, July 3

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, July 4

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Susan is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/10dbc/faces-of-courage-celebration-tour-giveaway

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Sunday Van Club by Dot Powell

Powell was a principal at an elementary school in the Fresno Unified School District where many immigrant Hmong families settled. She befriended nine Hmong girls and would take them to church and adventures on Sunday in her van. She shares some background of the Hmong people and the personal stories of the girls.

I appreciate the informative section on the Hmong people. I discovered how they got to the Vietnam and Thailand area, how they were part of the resistance to communism, became refugees living in camps then coming to America. Many settled in the Central Valley of California, the land being similar to their farming homeland. I learned that, while the Hmong lived in several places in Asia, they maintained their own customs and language.

One little Hmong girl befriended the principal of her elementary school. Then more joined her. Powell kept up with the girls, even after she retired. She shares her thoughts and various communications with the young women.

The format of the material contained in the book could have been presented in a way that flowed better and was more cohesive. At times, some of the material seems to be email exchanges, such as “Let's meet at Starbucks.” (1561/3131) Their were memoirs from the girls and Powell's thoughts and advice in return. There were also sections by Powell giving us more information on her experiences. Some sections were in italics and there seemed to be no consistency, at times Powell's comments while at other times a girl's thoughts. I did read a galley and some of the inconsistencies may have been cleared up in the final text.

The stories included in this book are encouraging, seeing young women rising above difficulties to pursue life. It is an example of a book introducing readers to another culture and the challenges it presents in a new country. It is also an example of how one person can influence so many by caring. Retirement was not the end for Powell, she continues providing life lessons for the girls well into her second half of life.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Dot Powell is the author of two previous books. After her retirement as an elementary school principal, she served as the Executive Director of the nonprofit, READFresno, which focused on community-wide literacy. She also served as the co-founder and Executive Director of SALT Fresno, a nonprofit magazine inspiring Christ-believers to go public with their faith. A native of Kentucky, she moves to California in 1970. She spent more than three decades in education with the Fresno Unified School District. You can find out more at https://www.dotjbpowellauthor.com/.

Independently published, 148 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through The Violet Agency. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Reserved for Murder by Victoria Gilbert

This is another enjoyable cozy mystery from Gilbert. I like the setting of a B & B as we get to see the murder suspects in a variety of situations. Much of the investigation Charlotte, our amateur sleuth, does is by listening to conversations. Charlotte is a good investigative heroine too. She's nosy so pays attention to conversations others miss. I like her sidekick, Ellen. Next door neighbor and previous government agent during the cold war, she adds some spice and expertise to the work.

This murder plot revolves around authors and publishing and is quite informative. We learn about fandom and fan fiction. We also learn about the pressure bestselling authors are under to produce the next hot novel. We find out about ghost writers and how they come to an author's rescue when burnout occurs. And then there is the elephant in the room, plagiarism. As we find out in this novel, it can be deadly.

This is a good cozy mystery for readers who like an informative murder plot with engaging characters. It is the second in The Booklover's B&B series but reads very well on its own. You can read my review of the first in this series, Booked for Death, here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Victoria Gilbert, raised in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, turned her early obsession with reading into a dual career as an author and librarian. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers and lives in North Carolina. You can find out more at http://victoriagilbertmysteries.com/.

Crooked Lane Books, 336 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Friday, June 18, 2021

Capitol in Crisis by Kathy Roy Johnson Blog Tour


About the Book

Book:  Capitol in Crisis

Author: Kathy Roy Johnson

Genre: Thriller/Suspense/Christian Thriller

Release date: September 2020

Simone Perez, Architect of the Capitol, is stunned when a terrible explosion which rocks the Capitol, totally collapsing the tunnel which connects the House and Senate Chambers and trapping several people. Simone promptly assembles an Interagency Committee to help her assess the damage to the Capitol and develop a strategy to rescue survivors. .  She also assumes responsibility for briefing the press, making her job even more daunting.  As the story unfolds, members of the Committee work together to find survivors and bring them to safety. We meet several true-to-life characters like Fire Chief Earl Bentsen who recognizes that time is of the essence and Rob Tate, a skinny maintenance worker who realizes that he can reach the CafĂ© as well as the mechanical room by crawling through an old vent space.  Through several twists and turns, Simone maintains a steady hand, aided by the Speaker of the House, John McIntyre, who finds her very attractive. Although it seems an impossible task, one by one, victims reunite with their families.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This is an informative novel about some aspects of the buildings housing Congress. The plot revolves around getting to people trapped in the Capitol basement when an electrical upgrade goes wrong. The action is slow but methodical. The strength of the novel is the way characters and their actions are portrayed. We see a number of people come together to share their expertise to help rescue those trapped. We also see the struggle to find a balance between a quick rescue and saving the integrity of the historic building. We see how people react differently when in a crisis, both those trapped and those brought in to help. We also see the effect the disaster has on survivors.

Readers who enjoy a novel revolving around people and how they act in crisis will appreciate this novel. You'll also get some insight into some structure of the Capitol and how various agencies work together. You'll also find a little romance and a subtle lesson on faith. It is a good debut effort and I'll be looking for more from this author.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

About the Author

Kathy Roy Johnson worked for a U.S. Senator for three years in the mid 1970’s. Thereafter, she worked as a lobbyist for United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Inc. before joining the Federal government as Congressional Liaison. She retired in 2015 and live in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband, Ed and their beagle/basset hound, Jake.

Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, June 16

The Sacred Line, June 16

lakesidelivingsite, June 17

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, June 18

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, June 18

For Him and My Family, June 19

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, June 20

Blogging With Carol, June 20

Inklings and notions, June 21

Locks, Hooks and Books, June 22

Mary Hake, June 22

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting June 23

Betti Mace, June 23

Older & Smarter?, June 24

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, June 25

Spoken from the Heart, June 25

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, June 26

deb's Book Review, June 27

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, June 27 (Author Interview)

Lights in a Dark World, June 28

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, June 29

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Happy Not Perfect by Poppy Jamie

I appreciate this interesting account of one women finding out her relationship to happiness. She discovered that happiness does not rely on external things but rather who one is inside.

Jamie shares her journey so this is a more personal book than one often finds in the wellness genre. She ended up in the hospital with exhaustion and that set her on a quest to understand why she did what she did, what she was working so hard to acquire. She shares what she learned from reading books and talking to people.

I have read many books in this genre but learned some new ideas from this book. I think I finally came to understood how we arrive at our core beliefs. Jamie explained it in a way I had not seen before. I was surprised to find out about memory, that our brain does not file away every detail but only enough for us to make sense of the event. Jamie encouraged us to reframe memories, not to forget but to be able to make peace with them.

Her technique consists of four steps. We connect with with our body, our feelings. We become curious about our thoughts and actions. We make choices about thoughts and actions. We make a commitment to uphold our values. Jamie has included some very good exercises to explain the steps and how they work.

This is a good book for people who like insights in the context of personal experience. Jamie will help you develop a nurturing and caring approach to reprogramming our minds. One caveat: Jamie uses some foul language that is unnecessary.

Read an excerpt and listen to a sample of the audio here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Poppy Jamie is an entrepreneur, influencer, and rising star in the mental health and mindfulness space. She launched the Not Perfect podcast and the Happy Not Perfect app after four years of aggregating behavioral studies and developing the app with neuroscientists, researchers, and her neurotherapist mom. She has been featured in the New York Times, Wired, Fast Company, Refinery29, Forbes, Vogue, Bustle, Cosmo, E!, NBC News, and MTV.

Rodale Books, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Murder at Madison Square Garden Blog Tour and Giveaway

 


About the Book

Book:  Murder at Madison Square Garden

Author: Linda Shenton Matchett

Genre: Historical Mystery

Release date: July 15, 2020

The dream of a lifetime becomes a nightmare.

Photojournalist Theodora “Teddy” Schafer’s career has hit the skids thanks to rumors of plagiarism. With any luck, a photo spread with Charles Lindbergh at the America First Rally will salvage her reputation. After an attempted assassination of Lindbergh leaves another man dead, Teddy is left holding the gun. Literally. Can she prove her innocence before the police lock her up for a murder she didn’t commit?

Private Investigator Ric Bogart wants nothing to do with women after his wife cleaned out their bank account and left him for another man, but he can’t ignore the feeling he’s supposed to help the scrappy, female reporter who is arrested for murder at the America First rally. Can he believe her claims of innocence and find the real killer without letting Teddy steal his heart?
Click here to get your copy!

My Review 

This is a fun historical mystery. It takes place between WW I and WW II, a time when there was much controversy over whether the U.S. should join Europe in opposing Hitler or remain isolated. Matchett has done a good job with this setting, really giving us the flavor of the time. She has added many details with the songs popular at the time as well as buildings and cars and movies and clothing.

There is a good mystery and some suspense woven into the plot. The characters are engaging with Teddy as a good heroine, assisted by PI Ric. The investigation they do is a bit complex as there are many suspects involved with a variety of attitudes towards war. A budding romance is a possibility if Ric and Teddy can get beyond their bickering and misunderstandings.

The strength of this novel is the strong Christian message it contains. It is a good mystery for readers who like one with an informative historical setting.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author

Bestselling author of over twenty books, Linda Shenton Matchett writes about ordinary people who did extraordinary things in days gone by. A volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII, Linda is currently working with the curator to create her first exhibit, Shaped by Conflict that will be on display from May 1 to June 15, 2021. She is a native of Baltimore, Maryland, and was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry. Linda has lived in historical places all her life and is now located in central New Hampshire where her favorite activities include exploring historic sites and immersing herself in the imaginary worlds created by other authors.

More from Linda

Dear readers:

I grew up in New Jersey and often went into New York City for school field trips and family visits. One of my favorite places to go was Madison Square Garden. I have lots of happy memories, so I wondered if I could possibly set a book there. I spent a lovely afternoon digging into the building’s past and learning about the important, historic events that took place there. When I discovered that aviator Charles Lindbergh spoke at the Garden about the controversial topic of U.S. isolationism prior to America’s entry into WWII, I knew I had the beginning of a story.

My protagonist came about during one of my shifts as a volunteer docent at the Wright Museum of WWII. While talking to one of our guests about our wartime print and broadcast journalism display, the conversation turned to the role that women played. Therese Bonney was a one of the photojournalists highlighted in the exhibit. As I studied her picture, I was struck by her determination in the set of her jaw and look in her eyes. My protagonist Theodora “Teddy” Schafer was born.

I enjoyed my trip down Memory Lane at the Garden during my research and had fun subjecting Teddy to uncomfortable situations as she tried to prove her innocence. But most of all, I hope her story honors the men and women who served in countless ways during this difficult time in history.

Enjoy Murder at Madison Square Garden.

Linda

Blog Stops

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, June 15

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, June 16

The Avid Reader, June 16

Daysong Reflections, June 17

Texas Book-aholic, June 18

Vicky Sluiter, June 18

Inklings and notions, June 19

For Him and My Family, June 20

Blossoms and Blessings, June 20

Betti Mace, June 21

deb's Book Review, June 22

Blogging With Carol, June 22

Locks, Hooks and Books, June 23

Connie's History Classroom, June 24

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, June 25 (Author Interview)

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, June 25

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, June 26

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, June 26

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, June 27

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, June 28

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Linda is giving away the grand prize of a $50 Visa Gift Card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/10d57/murder-at-madison-square-garden-celebration-tour-giveaway


I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Powerful Thinking by Joyce Meyer

Do you want to change your life? The key to changing your life, Meyer says, is changing your thinking. The mind is the spiritual battlefield and it must be renewed to think thoughts in line with the Word.

Meyer draws from two of her previous books, Battlefield of the Mind and Power Thoughts, to create this one. She encourages us to realize the power we have, the ability to control our thoughts. Then she gives us the challenge, to actually do so, change our thinking.

Meyer highlights twelve mindsets for us to develop. She suggests the book could be used as a twelve week study or as a whole year project, concentrating on one mindset each month. She includes practical suggestions to think about and ones to act upon at the end of each of the twelve chapters describing the mindsets.

Meyer writes about fear, being difficult to offend, being present, not worrying, being at peace, and much more. My favorite chapter was Because I am in Christ I am Content and Emotionally Stable. What an encouragement to be satisfied with who God made me to be.

I highly recommend this book. How we think is the basis for what we say and do and how we feel. Meyer gives us the information and tools we need to have our thoughts align with God's truth.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Joyce Meyer is one of the world's leading practical Bible teachers. She is a New York Times bestselling author. Her program, Enjoying Everyday Life, airs around the world on television, radio, and the Internet. She has authored more than 130 books and speaks at conferences around the world. The mission arm of her ministry, Hands of Hope, helps people worldwide in their physical and spiritual needs. She lives in St. Louis, MO. You can find out more at https://joycemeyer.org/.

FaithWords, 176 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Redemption by C L Tolbert Blog Tour and Giveaway


The Redemption

by C.L. Tolbert

June 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Emma Thornton is back in The Redemption, C.L. Tolbert’s second novel in the Thornton Mystery Series.

When two men are murdered one muggy September night in a New Orleans housing project, an eye witness identifies only one suspect - Louis Bishop- a homeless sixteen-year old. Louis is arrested the next day and thrown into Orleans Parish Prison. Emma Thornton, a law professor and director of the Homeless Law Clinic at St. Stanislaus Law School in the city agrees to represent him.

When they take on the case, Emma and her students discover a tangle of corruption, intrigue, and more violence than they would have thought possible, even in New Orleans. They uncover secrets about the night of the murders, and illegal dealings in the city, and within Louis’s family. As the case progresses, Emma and her family are thrown into a series of life-threating situations. But in the end, Emma gains Louis’s trust, which allows him to reveal his last, and most vital secret.

Book Praise:

“With The Redemption, Cynthia Tolbert delivers another beautifully written and compelling read in her Thornton Mystery series, as law professor Emma Thornton’s fight to save a teen wrongly accused of murder endangers her own life in this gripping tale of corruption and crime in the 1990s Big Easy.”
Ellen Byron, Agatha Award Winning Author of the Cajun Country Mysteries

My Review:

This is one of the better legal thrillers I have read. It is a good combination of engaging characters, informative plot, and interesting setting. Emma, law school professor, is a good heroine. She cares about a young man accused of murder. I appreciate her convincing the dean to allow her and some of her students to be involved in the defense.

That a law professor is involved in defending an accused murderer is what makes the novel so informative. Emma uses the case as a teaching opportunity and we get to learn about procedure right along with her law school students. I found it very interesting to see how evidence is gathered and how accurate information is pried out of reluctant witnesses.

Tolbert introduced me to an area of New Orleans plagued with crime and crooked police. Much of the crime involved teens and it was interesting to read about brain development in teens and how they can be manipulated by powerful but evil people.

I have a pet peeve about heroines getting into suspenseful situations because of making thoughtless decisions. That happened here when Emma went to an isolated wharf by herself after her apartment had been ransacked and her life endangered. Of course, there by herself, suspense ensued.

This is an entertaining and informative legal thriller. It really gives the flavor of a community in need of a woman committed to helping defend those wrongly accused. I'm glad Emma was on the job.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

 

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: February 9th 2021
Number of Pages: 286
ISBN: 978-1-947915-43-5
Series:Thornton Mysteries, Book 2 || Each is a Stand Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

September 9, 1994


8:05 p.m.

Just before dark on the night of his death, Brother Reginald Antoine stepped out of the cottage where he lived. He slammed the door shut to prevent the soggy heat of the late summer evening from invading the front room. Except for occasional river breezes, the New Orleans climate was swamp-like until late October. His exits had become swift and cat-like to avoid escalating power bills and a strain on the house’s only window-unit air conditioner.

He stood on the front porch for a moment, staring at the entrance to the Redemption housing project. All was quiet. No one was in sight.

He was looking forward to the evening. He’d promised to help Alicia Bishop complete forms for a scholarship to Our Lady of Fatima, the top girls’ school in the city. He found himself singing under his breath as he locked the front door.

Most of the kids Brother Antoine worked with never finished school, and he was painfully aware that he’d failed far more than he’d helped. But Alicia’s story would be different. Her graduation would be her family’s first. Clear-headed and determined, much like her Aunt Juanita, the woman who had raised her, she was destined to earn far more than a high school diploma. He believed she was destined for great things.

Brother Antoine surveyed the street familiar to him from childhood. Alicia and her Aunt Juanita lived in an apartment was only a few blocks over, but well within the Redemption housing project. Driving such a short distance would be silly, plus he felt like a little exercise. It was a good evening for a walk, even though no one felt completely safe walking around any neighborhood in the city at night. At least one person had been killed in New Orleans every day that year, so far. Sometimes more. Too many drugs were on the streets. But he didn’t worry about any of that.

He tucked the bundle of papers he’d pulled for the meeting under his arm and headed out. When he was a kid he’d found the Redemption overwhelming - so vast it couldn’t be taken in, visually, from his porch or from any single location. A crowded jumble of russet brick, broken down porches, and peeling army-drab paint, it stretched across the lower garden district from Magazine Street to the Mississippi River. When he was about six he tried to count the buildings, but gave up when he got lost. Everything looked the same to him back then. When he returned to live at the mission house he realized he’d been wrong. Each place was unique. Every apartment, every stoop, every front door was distinct, because everything inside was different. Every place had its own family, its own problems, its own joys. Every place had its own family, its own problems, and joys. He didn’t realize how much he’d missed it until his return.

He passed the community garden planted around the corner from the mission house with its patches of brave sprouts pushing out of the ground. He was proud of that little spot, and equally excited for the people who were involved, especially those few who returned week after week to dig, and prod, and encourage the seedlings to grow. Some of the plants even promised to bear fruit, which was reason enough to celebrate.

As he walked he could smell urine from the street gutters where drunken men or stoned boys had relieved themselves. A recent rain only added a steamy intensity to the mix, creating a cauldron of odors which would vanish only when the next day’s sunlight parched the streets.

The Redemption was teeming with human spirit, poverty, and crime. It was home to many, but with rare exception, no one chose to live there. And everyone who did, even the very young, understood how fragile life could be.

He walked up the steps to Juanita Bishop’s apartment and rapped on the front door.

***

9:00 p.m.

Sam Maureau pulled his car into the Redemption and parked at a curb at the end of Felicity Street. He was alone. Jackson, his partner, couldn’t come. But Sam wasn’t worried. He checked his watch. He was right on time. Things were under control.

He turned off his lights and, except for the murky glow of the half-obscured moon, was surrounded by a blanket of darkness. It took several seconds for his eyes to adjust, but even after he waited, he still strained to see. Most of the streetlights on that block had been shot out, and several apartment windows had been boarded over. He peered in between the last two buildings on the corner for any sign of movement.

Sam kicked aside a beer can as he stepped out of his car. He didn’t expect any trouble that night. Marcus, a dealer who ran the Gangsta B’s, the largest gang in the city, had asked for a meeting to discuss ‘some business’, but they’d never had problems before. Their businesses had always co-existed, side-by-side. Sam had begun selling crack in small quantities ten years earlier, when he was twenty-five, and had remained one of the smaller distributers in the city. He figured that Marcus, who was younger by at least ten years, either wanted to bring him and his territory into the Gangsta B’s, or he wanted to buy him out. He didn’t see the need to change anything right now, unless the price was right. He was making pretty good money. His clients were happy with him. But he didn’t mind talking with Marcus.

Sam patted his jacket pocket. The gun was still there. It never hurt to be careful. He locked his car, checking to make certain nothing was in the back seat. Marcus had asked him to meet around the corner.

Sam made his way across the grassy common area, dodging the few mud puddles he could see reflected in the wan moonlight, to an old iron bench across from Marcus’s grandmother’s apartment where they had met once before. He sat down to wait. The bench hadn’t quite cooled from the daytime heat. The faint breeze from the river ruffled what scant remnants remained of his once luxurious surfer-boy hair and sent greasy paper bags, discarded whiskey bottles, and random debris scurrying across the sidewalk. He absent-mindedly patted his bald spot to make certain it was covered.

He couldn’t see them, but their chatter floated over to his bench. Even though the words were indecipherable, Sam heard three distinct voices. Then he heard Marcus speak.

“Go get Louis.”

Out of habit, Sam felt his jacket pocket again, reassuring himself that his piece was still there. Marcus and one other young man came into view. Sam nodded as they approached.

Marcus was a commanding presence. Tall, and athletic, intricate tattoos of black ink woe across his dark skin, tracing his biceps, and emphasizing his ropy, muscular arms and powerful shoulders. His long hair, pulled back into a pony-tail, flowed down his back. No one questioned his authority.

“We’re gonna wait a minute for Louis,” Marcus pulled out a cigarette from his back pocket and lit it, blowing billowy clouds into the night air.

“Yeah, sure. But what’s this all about?” Marcus ignored Sam’s question and pulled hungrily on his cigarette, blowing smoke rings, refusing to make eye contact with Sam.

Several minutes later a tall young man and a boy who couldn’t have been over sixteen joined them.

“You and your people gotta go. You’re right in the middle of my territory. I’m claiming it, and I’m taking it – now. Ain’t nothing you can do about it.” Marcus threw down his cigarette and stomped it into the grass.

Sam stood up to face Marcus. “Fuck you, Marcus. You don’t need my three blocks. I’ve had it for years, and its outside your territory anyway. You can’t just take it.” Sam clenched the fist of his left hand and shoved his right hand in his jacket pocket where the gun was hidden.

“That’s where you’re wrong, mother fucker.” Marcus grabbed another cigarette and rammed it three times against the pack. “I got business coming to me from uptown all the time now. It’s time for you to give it up.” Marcus nodded to the three boys, who formed a circle around Sam and Marcus.

“No way, bro’!” Sam’s hand instinctively tightened around the gun.

Surrounded by the group of young men, Sam saw an opening, turned, and simultaneously pulled the gun from his jacket. As he stepped toward his escape, he saw something moving along the sidewalk next to the street. It appeared to be a man dressed in dark clothes, but it was impossible to be certain. Sam heard one shot, and felt it whizz by him. The distant figure dropped. Sam twisted around, and aimed his weapon toward the sound of the gun fire. Then he heard another shot.

Feeling something hot in his chest, he crumbled to the ground. The last thing he saw was the young kid, the one they called Louis, running toward the river.

***

Brother Antoine said good night to Alicia on the front porch of her aunt’s apartment and started his walk back home. He was feeling good, lighthearted. He and Alicia had completed her application and she had nearly finished her essay. He was certain she was a shoo-in for the scholarship. He’d only traveled a few feet down the sidewalk when he saw a group of men and a few boys gathered together in the grassy area next to one of the buildings. The cloud-covered moon offered enough reflection to allow him to make out the scant silhouette of the tallest member of the group. There was no doubt. His swagger and perpetual cigarette were unmistakable. Marcus Bishop. They had to be up to no good.

Brother Antoine followed the curve of the sidewalk, which brought him a little closer to the group. He noticed there was movement, perhaps a scuffle. He heard a shot, then felt a searing pain in his chest. He placed his hand on his shirt where he felt dampness, and, struggling to breathe, fell to the ground. He grabbed the scapular around his neck, praying, as he lay there, someone would come administer the last rites.

***

Excerpt from The Redemption by Cynthia Tolbert. Copyright 2021 by Cynthia Tolbert. Reproduced with permission from Cynthia Tolbert. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

In 2010, Cynthia Tolbert won the Georgia Bar Journal’s fiction contest for the short story version of OUT FROM SILENCE. Cynthia developed that story into the first full-length novel of the Thornton Mystery Series by the same name, which was published by Level Best Books in December of 2019. Her second book in this same series, entitled THE REDEMPTION, was released in February of 2021.

Cynthia has a Master’s in Special Education and taught children with learning disabilities for ten years before moving on to law school. She spent most of her legal career working as defense counsel to large corporations and traveled throughout the country as regional and national counsel. She also had the unique opportunity of teaching third-year law students in a clinical program at a law school in New Orleans where she ran the Homeless Law Clinic and learned, first hand, about poverty in that city. She retired after more than thirty years of practicing law. The experiences and impressions she has collected from the past forty years contribute to the stories she writes today. Cynthia has four children, and three grandchildren, and lives in Atlanta with her husband and schnauzer.

Catch Up With Cynthia:
CLTolbert.com
Goodreads
Instagram - @cltolbertwrites
Twitter - @cltolbertwrites
Facebook - @cltolbertwriter

 

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I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. 

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)