Posted in Book Reviews

Book Spotlight: The Vanished Child M. J.Lee

SYNOPSIS:Every childhood lasts a lifetime.
On her deathbed, Freda Duckworth confesses to giving birth to an illegitimate child in 1944 and placing him in a children’s home. Seven years later she went back but he had vanished. What happened to the child? Why did he disappear? Where did he go? Jayne Sinclair, genealogical investigator, is faced with lies, secrets and one of the most shameful episodes in recent British history. Can she find the vanished child?

MY THOUGHTS:This has to be one of the saddest books I’ve read. Just the thought that children actually went through some of the things that are mentioned in the book is heartbreaking and mind-boggling. I understand the desperation that some of the parents faced at this. To let your child go thinking they’re receiving the best of care and they’re receiving the worst possible nightmare of their lives is unbelievable.

Mr. Lee does an incredible job articulating the drama, the mysterious circumstances, and perseverance that folks of this historical era went through. Our main character, Jayne Sinclair, has perhaps her toughest case yet.
Not just from fact-finding perspective, but because of the emotional baggage that comes along with it. We learn a lot more about her family especially her new stepmother as the story unfolds.

Once again it reminded me why I’m such a fan of the series. Mr. Lee has definitely made this series stand out with his choices in Era, historical accuracy, and having a very tough female lead. Of all the books in the series, this one is by far the most dramatic. Make sure you have tissues handy while you’re reading. I have to give it 4 stars and I do recommend it.

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Posted in Book Reviews

Book Spotlight: The American Canidate: M.J. Lee

Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery #3
SYNOPSIS: In her most dangerous case yet, Jayne Sinclair investigates the family background of a potential candidate to be President of the United States of America.

When the politician who commissioned the genealogical research is shot dead in front of her, Jayne is forced to flee for her life. Why was he killed? And who is trying to stop the American Candidate’s family past from being revealed?

Jayne Sinclair is caught in a deadly race against time to discover the truth, armed only with her own wits and ability to research secrets hidden in the past.

The American Candidate is the third gripping mystery in the Jayne Sinclair series, but can be read as a stand-alone novel.

MY THOUGHTS: I’ve become quite a fan of this series. I sincerely hope it continues for a long time. So far, as Book 3, it is the best installment. I’m liking Jayne as a single woman- her husband never seemed right for her. Her character has grown more confident and better at her job. I also enjoyed that her father took a larger role in this book. He is a strong supporting character and he adds a lot to the novels. Having him front and center added an entirely new dynamic.
From a historical perspective, M.J. Lee has again done an immense amount of legwork. His research in order to produce such high quality, historical fiction is evident & admirable. As this one’s back story is in World War 2, there are some sensitive issues touched upon, but Mr. Lee does a great job of balancing the violence so that it isn’t gratuitous and it is, at times, a necessary component.

I will continue reading the series as long as it’s available and this one is a definite 5 star novel.

*Synopsis belongs solely to the author/publisher

Posted in Book Reviews

#Sponsored Book Spotlight: Joe’s Alamo: Unsung: Lewis E. Cook


SYNOPSIS: At the Battle of the Alamo, less than two hundred volunteers battled five thousand trained soldiers for thirteen days, during the Texas Revolution. Lieutenant Colonel William Travis’ slave, Joe, was the only male survivor.

In “Joe’s Alamo: Unsung,” Lewis E. Cook tells Joe’s story in this novel, based on historic facts.

“According to Joe, all races and religions were represented at the Battle of the Alamo,” Cook said. “Yet, their contributions were intentionally dismissed. According to my research, the famous battle cry, ‘Remember the Alamo,’ was probably first said by a woman.”

An attorney and former Texas history teacher, Cook highlights the lesser known heroes of the battle, including women, Muslims, Buddhists, Blacks and other minorities owed recognition for their contributions and sacrifice to the state of Texas and the rest of the country.

“This battle was meant to be symbolic of hopelessness and certain death for anyone who opposed General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s reign of terror,” Cook said. “Instead, it became a slogan for worldwide courage in battle against overwhelming odds.”

“Joe’s Alamo”
By Lewis E. Cook
ISBN: 978-1-5320-2070-4
Available at iUniverse and Amazon

About the author
Lewis Cook practiced civil litigation, probate and criminal law. He worked as an immigration attorney for a former U.S. Immigration Commissioner, as a banking and finance attorney in Dallas and was a Texas assistant attorney general. Always a writer at heart, he was raised in Arkansas and now lives in Houston. To learn more about the author and his book please visit: https://www.iuniverse.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=740803.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Spotlight: The Somme Legacy: M. J. Lee

(Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery #2)
SYNOPSIS: When a young teacher asks genealogical investigator, Jayne Sinclair, to look into the history of his family, the only clues are a medallion with purple, white and green ribbons, and an old photograph. Her quest leads her to a secret buried in the trenches of World War One for over 100 years.

Who was the real heir to the Lappiter millions?

The Somme Legacy is the second book in the Jayne Sinclair genealogical mystery series, but it can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story.

MY THOUGHTS: Once again, M.J. Lee has taken an obscure, albeit important, piece of history and woven it into an intriguing mystery. Although WWI is a popular topic, women of the era are often overlooked. As Jayne delves into the family genealogy, she realizes how much women endured in the fight for their civil rights. Suffragettes are mentioned in other historical fiction novels, but, I haven’t often seen them portrayed as the victims of an oppressive, often cruel, political machine.

Aside from the political aspect, Jayne also encounters the stigma of mental illness (people being put in insane asylums for lack of better psychiatric care) and class discrimination during the era. It serves as a remainder of how far we, first-world countries have advanced in the treatment of others and how far we’ve yet to go. At least, we’re not still putting people ‘away’ because they insist on voicing the truth.

Jayne must do a lot of legwork in this installment and it benefits the reader. We get a huge helping of history along with wondering how in the world Jayne is going to piece this together. While not a mystery in the sense of a whodunit, it is definitely a mind boggle as to the family’s real, fact-based history. It’s wonderfully well-written and I recommend it to fans of history, specifically those who enjoy learning of women’s role in society. Four stars!

*The synopsis belongs solely to the author/publisher.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Spotlight: The Play of Death (Die Henkerstochter #6) :Oliver Pötzsch

SYNOPSIS:
It is 1670 and Simon Fronwieser is in the town of Oberammergau to bring his seven-year-old son to boarding school. As he bids his boy a tearful farewell, news comes of a shocking murder: the man who was to play the part of Christ in the town’s Passion play has been found dead, nailed to the set’s cross. As there is no doctor in town, Simon is brought in to examine the body. The opportunities to spend more time with his son and to investigate the murder quickly convince him to stay.
Soon he is joined by his father-in-law, Jakob Kuisl, the Schongau hangman, and the two begin piecing together the puzzle of the actor’s death. Was he murdered by a jealous rival? Are the recently arrived and unpopular immigrant workers somehow involved? Or is it a punishment from God for the villagers’ arrogance in trying to schedule the play four years earlier than prescribed by ancient custom? Once again it looks like it is up to the Kuisls to unravel the mystery and bring a town’s dark secrets to light.

MY THOUGHTS:
Absolutely loved it! I had thought I’d read the series to completion. I was thrilled to find there was another installment (and another on the way 5/29!).
There is something about the Kuisls that intrigues me. Life in the 1600s isn’t pretty. There’s always some violence in the books and many times I’ve wondered how anyone ever survived the era. However, Mr. Potzsch is such a phenomenal writer that he has taken a would-be villain and made him an endearing hero. Hangmen were never popular. They’re always seen as fearsome figures in black hoods. I’ve never heard of another writer who has portrayed them as they were- humans.
In this book, we have a fictional spin on a real town that really does the Passion reenactment every ten years. I love the history/fiction mix. There are also multiple storylines mixed as is customary for the series. Barbara takes a pivotal role this time. We’ve not read much about her and she’s joined by the Fronwieser children as central characters. It makes for an action-packed plot that never takes a breath.
Although the plot initially appears to be paranormal, it is not and readers will be thrilled once its ‘earthly’ explanations are revealed. In fact, you may, as I did, go back & forth in your head, deciding whether or not you know what is really going on. Fantastic!
It’s not a quick read, but it’s worth every page. I give it 5 stars and hope the series never ends.

*Synopsis belongs solely to the author/publisher.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Spotlight: The Irish Inheritance: M.J. Lee

SYNOPSIS: June 8, 1921. Ireland.
A British Officer is shot dead on a remote hillside south of Dublin.
November 22, 2015. United Kingdom.
Former police detective, Jayne Sinclair, now working as a genealogical investigator, receives a phone call from an adopted American billionaire asking her to discover the identity of his real father.
How are the two events linked?
Jayne Sinclair has only three clues to help her: a photocopied birth certificate, a stolen book and an old photograph. And it soon becomes apparent somebody else is on the trail of the mystery. A killer who will stop at nothing to prevent Jayne discovering the secret hidden in the past
The Irish Inheritance takes us through the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Irish War of Independence, combining a search for the truth of the past with all the tension of a modern-day thriller.
It is the first in a series of novels featuring Jayne Sinclair, genealogical detective.

MY THOUGHTS:Jayne Sinclair plays our no-nonsense, female lead. She brings her baggage with her. As an ex-cop, she has PTSD and martial problems as a result. When we first meet up with her, she’s just come from her sister-in-law’s funeral. We meet her when she is at her most flawed, needing a major distraction.
Her husband can be approached from both sides. True, he is self-centered and not the understand type. But, it’s also true, that he has stood by Jayne’s side through her partner’s death and a change of career. As to whether the two will come out strong, the reader will have to discover.
The plot was quite intriguing. Not many fictional novels involve the Easter Rising, a pivotal moment in Irish History. In fact, most of what I read was new to me. Our author deserves credit for interweaving the historical components with present day. Had Jayne not had the tech know-how, it would have been impossible for her to even work the case.
It was nice to read about a seldom covered, historically significant event. Her client, a billionaire, isn’t the nicest chap, but in the hearts of readers, you want him to discover his roots. The twists in the ending chapters give the book it’s second wind. It finishes strong.
As a first outing in the series, it’s a 3.5-star novel. I will continue with the series. I look forward to the new history lessons and what will become of our Jayne.
**Synopsis belongs solely to the author/publisher

Posted in Homeschooling, Product Reviews- DVDs

Movie Spotlight: ‘In Search of Liberty’


As Americans, we move day-to-day without giving much thought to what really holds our country together. For many people, the Constitution is the latest buzzword when college campuses are in an uproar or some pundit believes his or her rights have been violated. How often to we look back to what the Founding Fathers gifted to us all?

This is the exact premise for a new, family movie, ‘In Search of Liberty’. We meet a normal, American family. A chance encounter with a certain historical figure named Ben leads the family to see the Constitution as never before. This modernized Ben delivers witty humor, magical visions of the past, and a love for his country. Most importantly, the family gains an understanding of the amendments, what is and isn’t included in the Constitution, and why it’s still wholly relevant today.

Perhaps a good number of people ‘my age’ may remember those projector films we watched in school. A monotone narrator would tell us why history was important. This is the direct opposite of those movies! In fact, one of the first things we noticed was the cinematography. Seemless transitions and professional acting made it enjoyable as well as believable. The small town setting is perfect and could be any community in our country.

Each of the actors chosen are excellent. They definitely gave you the feeling that they believed in what they were doing and were passionate about their portrayals. This most certainly wasn’t a ‘get-it-done’ and marketed film. It has substance and utilized modern film techniques to make the learning fun.

I watched the movie in its entirety along with my husband and 14-year-old son. We each got a little something out of it, but all agreed that the scenes in the ‘FunHouse’ were our favorites. (You’ll have to watch for yourself! No spoilers!) Both my husband and I were pleased that the film was very pro-Constitution without being preachy or pushy. As a family who is also very pro-Constitution were appreciated that it had no subliminal overtones. Everything is present in a more matter-of-fact delivery.

Due to its family friendly nature ( we only spotted two questionable word choices), I’d say it’s a film for late-elementary/early junior high students- say 4th-6th grades. Homeschoolers could add it to Government lessons while still remaining confident that students are learning. Seeing, physically where the Founding Fathers got the idea to write it as well as real-life, scenarios where the Constitution is used, will help students make the connections as to the document’s relevance. This is especially important seeing that many of today’s curriculum’s are ‘glossing’ over its importance.

If viewers are simply history buffs, then they’ll love Ben and his humor. Regardless, I would recommend adding it to your viewing library. It’s an investment that can be used as reference or to have a family movie afternoon as we did.
‘In Search of Liberty’ was released on 8/29/17.

*Pic belongs solely to the film’s makers & authorized persons. We received a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.