Review of Walks Alone by Sandi Rog

By Nike Chillemi –

WALKS ALONE captivated and mesmerized me at times. No wonder it won in the Grace Award 2012 Action-Adventure/Western/Epic Fiction category.

This is a well-written epic novel beginning in Holland and ending in the old west. I loved the way it opened with the tenderness of Anna’s widowed father aboard ship. It was hard not to get involved in the father’s dream of traveling to Denver City with seven-year-old Anna to start a new life. Unfortunately, Anna’s father falls ill in New York City and passes away. She is left in the care her father’s brother for six terrible years.

The scenes with Anna’s abusive uncle were brutal and fully engaging. After Anna escapes from her uncle, she travels westward by train, and finally joins a wagon train where she’s not well treated. There is a fascinating, though not explicit, bathing scene in a river, where an exhausted Anna allows herself to relax and find relief from the intense and life-threatening heat of the prairie. When half-breed Jean-Marc comes upon her with a small band of angry-braves, the reader is hooked between instant knowledge of the hero’s strong attraction to her and the extreme danger she’s in. Anna is taken by this brave’s strange blue-green eyes and can’t help wondering how it is that he speaks English better than she does.

Ms. Rog understands Native American life in that era quite well. I appreciated her attention to the details of Cheyenne tribal life. She did an excellent job of showing the anger and murderous rage of the braves as well as the prejudice of the settlers and their inability to see Native Americans as people, which led to Indian massacres.

Both Anna/Walks Alone and Jean Marc/White Eagle are flawed and well written. White Eagle’s poetic declaration of how his love is so large and encompassing that he sees and hears Walks Alone everywhere, even in the wind, was superb. He tells her of his pain at having caught her engaging in conversation with his sworn enemy, the man who led the deadly raid against his tribe. Through this, the author conveys how painful it is for Father God to witness His children engaging with idols. Beautifully done. Touches the reader at a deep spiritual level.

My only problem was with Anna’s continued insistence on finding herself and her pulling away from White Eagle after their Native American marriage is consummated and then again after his poetic declaration of love. I’m not sure such personal enlightenment was high on the list in those days. However, the author did manage to sweep me back into the story. Then the story would move on and carry me through thrilling bandit attacks, chilling raids on White Eagle’s tribe by a rogue Cheyenne warrior and his band of braves. A fantastic read, which I highly recommend.

River Rising by Athol Dickson

Review By Nike Chillemi –

Dickson writes with poetical grace, using the historical flood on the Mississippi River of 1927 as a backdrop. I delighted in reading this work with language that flowed like literary fiction while leading me into a complex mystery story. Significant issues are raised, questions asked.

Reverend Hale Poser, a black man with piercing blue eyes, leaves a high paying and respected position as chaplain in a New Orleans orphanage and travels to Pilotville, LA, where he takes a job as janitor in the Negro infirmary. Poser was an orphan and has reason to believe he will find out about his ancestry in Pilotville. His arrival makes a few in the town suspicious, including Dorothy Truett, a nurse in the infirmary, who it also attracted to him.

Under the wing of Papa DeGroot, a rich white businessman who built the infirmary, the Negro community has felt secure and largely untouched by the Jim Crow atmosphere pervading the south at that time. At the infirmary, Rosa Lamont agonizes with a breech birth until Hale Poser massages her protruding belly, turning the baby around. Baby Hannah is born. Some in the town see this as a miracle. Others fear the janitor is a flimflam man. Her parents rejoice and then the unthinkable happens. The baby vanishes. Both white and colored residents of Pilotville search the swamp and Hale Poser learns this is not the first baby to disappear. Baby disappearances have been going on for years. Reluctantly, Dorothy Truett takes Poser to the grave of a woman whose baby was stolen long ago.

Jean Tibbets, harbormaster of sorts, thought the troubles were over. Then this strange colored preacher came to town. Tibbets saw the janitor praying with arms outstretched near the white church, which made him uneasy. Now another colored baby has vanished. Was that coincidence? There are those in Pilotville who think this Hale Poser asks too many questions about the infants who went missing long ago. Some fear he’s stirring up all kinds of trouble. He asks why the whites and colored folk never worship together. Both the Negro and white preachers put him off, but he doesn’t quit asking. This reveals festering antagonism and resentment that is seldom voiced in Pilotville.

When all others except the baby’s father have given up the search for Baby Hannah, Hale Poser continues in his efforts to find the infant. As if baby snatching weren’t bad enough, then there’s a real nasty turn in the plot. As horrid as events become, Hale Poser’s spirituality and determination to serve God shine through. Was he a miracle worker? A prophet?

This novel got to me. As Hale Poser questions his own spiritual motivations, I had no choice but to look at mine. Athol Dickson has a unique and beautiful voice. The second edition of this novel has just come out and it is well worth the read.

Deception by Lillian Duncan

Reviewed By Nike Chillemi –

Patti Jakowski’s life is super boring, until she gets a phone call from a terrified four-year-old claiming to be her niece. Although Patti feels for the little girl, she believes the claim is preposterous. She hasn’t seen her twin sister in years, but even so, she feels that if she had a niece she would’ve known about it. So, the child must be mistaken. The author’s skill comes through at the outset, as this phone call between Patti and the frightened child is both tender and heartwarming, but also heart wrenching.

This single phone call changes the direction of Patti’s life, as she determines she must go to the child to find out for herself what is going on. She learns that indeed, little Sabrina is her niece and that her identical twin sister Jamie is missing. When Sabrina’s nanny gives Patti the guided tour of Jamie’s house, which in reality is more like a mansion, Patti realizes her sister is a very wealthy woman. Patti remembers Jamie as the flighty and irresponsible, always getting into one scrape or another while growing up and living in New York City in an apartment with roaches. She can’t help but wonder if Jamie came by all this wealth illegally. When she finds her sister’s purse, she knows Jamie didn’t leave the house willingly. A woman doesn’t leave of her own accord without taking her handbag.

It’s not long before a handsome sergeant from the local police force is involved in the case. Sgt. Carter Caldwell is initially skeptical. Jamie’s job takes her out of town frequently and he’s sure she’ll turn up on her own sooner or later…though he’s got this niggling feeling in his gut that something’s amiss somewhere. Initially Pattie is furious with the police sergeant and doesn’t understand why he can’t see what’s as plain as the nose on his face…her sister is in big trouble.

In short order, an FBI agent friend of Jamie’s gets involved and Patti learns Jamie has been doing dangerous undercover work for the federal agency…thus explaining the title DECEPTION. As it turns out Sabrina’s father is involved with a terrorist cell and Jamie volunteered to help implicate him in terrorist activities. The FBI wants to find Jamie just as much as Patti does.

Pattie is nearly accosted by a jogger on the beach near Jamie’s house. Pattie finds her sister’s Bible and realizes Jamie is a believer. Pattie falls asleep that night reading her twin’s Bible. When the jogger assaults the nanny and tries to kidnap Sabrina, a full court press is on by both the FBI and Sgt. Caldwell to find Jamie. Of course, Patti insists on becoming part of the investigation. The plot takes quite a few twists and turns. The bad guys turn out to be very bad indeed, something I like in a suspense novel.

The main characters and a few of the important subordinate characters are Christians. As the story goes forward and Patti and Carter grow closer, beginning a romance, their faith also deepens. Ultimately, it is a story about the importance of strong family relationships and also about never giving up on the people you love.

This is the second novel by Lillian Duncan I’ve read in the romantic suspense genre. The first was PURSUED. I recommend both of them. This is a very talented writer.

No Safe Haven by Kimberly and Kayla R. Woodhouse

Review By Nike Chillemi

This debut novel by a mother and teen-age daughter team portends of good things to come. This is a terrific action-adventure novel with no mere romance, but a wonderful love story. The novel is based on real life, as co-author Kayla, the teenage daughter, has a rare nerve disorder preventing her from regulating her body temperature or feeling pain. They have created a mother-daughter team (Jenna Tikaani-Gray and teenage Andie) whereby the fictional teenage daughter has the same disorder.

The story opens one year after Jenna’s husband and Andie’s dad died in a car crash. Mother and daughter are flying in their private plane back to their home in Alaska and have agreed to give a lift to a man named Cole. When Cole begins struggling in the cockpit area with their pilot Hank they become more than concerned, they’re terrified. And that’s just the beginning of their problems. It’s going to get a lot worse.

It turns out Hank has sabotaged their plane and they’re about to crash into Sultana, perhaps the most remote and dangerous peaks in Alaska. The crash leaves Jenna with a horrid gash in her leg and tremendous loss of blood. Bad men are chasing them and the ladies don’t know why. It seems Cole might know more than he’s letting on But Jenna isn’t sure she can trust him. Her only thought is the protection and care of her daughter. She knows she must keep Andie safe from the bad men who are chasing them, and she fears she might have to protect her daughter from Cole as well. All logic says they should get off the mountain as fast as possible, but Cole insists they hike further up its brutal slopes. His thinking is if they go higher and hide in ice caves cut out of the packed snow, the bad men will not see them going down the mountain and will think they’ve perished in the crash.

Jenna struggles to understand why their pilot, a family friend, betrayed them. Cole finally reveals what he knows about her deceased husband. Jenna is devastated to find out her husband was involved in nefarious and corrupt activities bordering on treason. She begins to allow herself to trust Cole and grows to love him. Cole’s heart has been in a deep-freeze since the death of his wife and daughter, but it’s beginning to thaw as he allows himself to experience intimate emotions he hasn’t felt in years. I was deeply touched by the way Andie’s simple and beautiful faith was presented. I think that will be a breath of fresh air to long time Christians and will explain the faith to any non-Christians reading the novel.

I enjoyed the different points of view and thought that was handled well. The way they did it enabled me to get to know many of the characters in a deeper way. If I have one bone to pick it’s that the brave and stoic Jenna, who confronts every challenge on the mountain head on, turns into a whiny, weepy female as soon as she gets to safety. I would’ve liked her character to retain her strength. That aside the novel is a page turner. Action-adventure lovers will enjoy this novel, I’m sure.

FALLEN ANGEL by Major Jeff Struecker and Alton Gansky

Review By Nike Chillemi –

This is one of the best, if not the best novel I’ve read this year.

A United States spy satellite, Angel 12, has dropped from space and is headed for the interior of China. However, when Space Command at the Offut Air Force Base in Nebraska takes a second look, they realize the Chinese have deliberately knocked the satellite out of orbit, intending for it to fall on their soil.

Space Command manages to make some adjustments to the orbit just in time and the satellite crashes in Siberia not far from the sea, which is a much more accessible location. Now it’s up to Sgt. Major Eric Moyer and his elite Special Ops team to find the satellite and retrieve it’s technologically advanced nuclear jet fuel that cannot be allowed to fall into the hands of the Chinese or the Russians. And both nations are on the hunt for it.

From the beginning the team has an uphill battle. First of all their mission puts them on Russian soil, a hostile nation they have no permission to be in. Second of all, since the breakup of the USSR, this particular part of Siberia is controlled by insurgents. These insurgents have already captured one US team and are torturing them.

As I turned the pages, there was always a silent clock ticking. Would our special ops team find Angel 12 in time? That was often in doubt. At one point it seemed as if both the Russians and the Chinese were ahead of Major Moyer’s team.

I thoroughly enjoyed the sub-storyline showing the difficulty of Army special ops families who get little to no notice that their husbands and fathers are shipping out to parts unknown. All they know is the mission is super dangerous. In this novel the team doesn’t even get to say goodbye to their families face-to-face, but is only allowed to make a few quick phone calls before they ship out. When a family member is kidnapped, that means there is an intelligence leak somewhere in the military chain of command on this operation…perhaps even treason.

I had no trouble understanding the military jargon. I enjoyed the competitive banter the members of the special ops team constantly threw back and forth – up to a point. But eventually it put strain on the suspension of my disbelief. I thought, it’s not like this on an actual military special ops mission. There would be at least a few off color remarks. For my part, I would’ve liked a tad less jocular banter and would not have minded a few, only a few, mild “bad words.”

This is a must read for anyone who is a fan of military action-adventure stories. Suspense fans will also greatly enjoy this story. There’s no romance in the usual sense of the word when we speak of the different genres. But these special ops soldiers and their wives share deep love stories which the authors depict in a multi-facetted way. Not to mention the love they bear for their children. It becomes obvious what type of sacrifice this type of soldier makes to keep the American public safe and secure.

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