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Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Accidental President Returns

The Accidental President Returns
~ book three of the fable trilogy by Dixie Swanson

I have enjoyed each of the three books in the Accidental President trilogy. This one, The Accidental President Returns, culminates the story of Abigail Adams' unexpected political career, and finds her returning to the call of "Honor. Duty. Country." But this time, she's blending motherhood, family and presidential responsibilities in a wholesome, inspiring way.

The story now spans the ocean on two continents; Abby's husband, movie star and director Michael, owns a villa in Italy that is staffed year round, and Abby envisions herself living out her life between Italy and his California home and her Texas ranch. Her children are her pride and joy, and she wishes nothing more than to live with them and place them in good public schools. But life has other plans, and her sense of duty re-emerges when the president calls and asks her to consider running for another term as president.

But this time, instead of a four year term, the presidency will be for six years ... one of the changes she enacted during her first, accidental presidency. And it will be in a Washington DC no longer populated by lobbyists buying expensive lunches in posh restaurants. More changes have taken place during her six year absence from politics, and her children have become school aged, as have her friends' children. Her careful plans for parenting would be undone, but more opportunities would be open to them all. And so, after careful deliberation, and looking at those who are already campaigning for the presidency, she decides to throw her hat into the ring, turn her ranch into campaign headquarters, hire a teacher for the children and run for president. Will she take this on successfully? And what of her other projects?

After helping Muslim women all over the world by diminishing the Taliban's direct influence on women, she is still connected with her Jewish and Muslim co-coordinators of the Peace project for the middle east. And her efforts at moving the environmental correction plans forward for "the little blue ball" are just beginning to have an effect on American consumers. Can she juggle all of her family connections and parenthood and still have enough energy and cognitive skills to be an effective president? Will the people, now able to elect a president via popular vote rather than through the flawed electoral college process be willing to take her back as their president? All of these changes are the direct result of her accidental presidency in book two. Can she keep it all in hand and moving forward?

You won't be very far into the book when you have the answer to that question, and more. You'll be re-acquainted with Mikey Malloy, Michael's gregarious uncle. You'll hear more about how Duke is doing after law school, and how Poppy is enjoying motherhood. You'll find out what Regina and O.T. have been up to. And you'll get to know Abby and Mike's children, their personalities, their charms and their flaws. And the Five Constitutional Amendments that Abby put forward when she was the accidental president ... have they had time, in six years, to change the demeanor and tone of the American Public?

If wishes and dreams came true, we would have a president like Abby in mind for our next election. I suspect that North Korea would be gentled into a peaceful co-existence with South Korea. And peace in the middle east would be... well, you must read this book. There are so many potential lessons provided. But what you'll get from it depends on what you bring to it as a reader.

Read my reviews of Dixie Swanson's Book 1 and 2 of the political fable trilogy

Book 1: The Accidental Senator
Book 2: The Accidental President

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Murder in the Garden Club by Neal Sanders

Neal Sanders is a local author who incorporates the art work of a local illustrator, Lynne Schulte, in his books. A Murder in the Garden Club is one such book.

Sanders writes of a small suburban town outside the City of Boston. During the boom of larger and larger homes taking over once-revered older homes, the town of Hardington is an example of the rising and falling of the American economy. In the eighties, McMansions of all styles were appearing on former farmland pastures, with little more than an acre to spare, placing oversized colonials shoulder to shoulder with Southwestern red-tiled roofs shadowed by tall European Tudors.  And when the economy slid downward, and tastes became less eclectic, those houses stayed on the buyer's market for long inactive months.

Still, in towns like Hardington, volunteer groups made up of a population of well-funded women with time to spare, who dedicated that time to beautification of their town's intersections and open spaces, continued to advocate for reasonable growth and attractive settings. One such group, the Hardington Garden Club, conducted monthly meetings where assigned tasks such as watering the highway exits' bouquets of blooms (often involving lugging heavy containers of water to such isolated sites) and shopping for, planting, weeding and deadheading those chosen areas were often at the top of the agenda.

When a prominent, retired school teacher and long-time member of the Garden Club is found dead at her home, an apparent accidental death presumably caused by her little dog Chipper, her quarrels with a contractor building another McMansion next door, and her irritation and outbursts of anger toward a cement manufacturing plant in town whose trucks are tearing up the roads and spilling noxious liquids on the roadside gardens, begin to raise speculation that this was not an accidental death.

Liz is her friend, and co-gardener, and wants to learn the truth of Sally's death. She begins reluctantly, and then enthusiastically, working with the recently-hired detective in town. John Flynn took early retirement from the City of Boston Police Department, and is finding his new job in Hardington quite different from the well-provisioned and connected resources available in Suffolk County (Boston.) Here in Hardington, with a small town Chief of Police whose name is the source of the town's own name, where murder doesn't happen more than one in a decade, if that often, things are done slowly, calmly, so as not to upset the citizens. His frustration with that is complicated further by his own marital stresses, and he begins to see Liz as more than just a helpful local volunteer.

Liz's own marriage is depicted as happier, but lonelier, as her husband is often on the road, in other states, saving companies which have been hit hard by the economy. Her own child is grown and gone, and she is left alone to care for her extensive gardens and larger-than-now-necessary home. Liz dedicates her time to helping John Flynn understand the social dynamics of the town.

Neal Sanders' characters come quickly to life in recognizable settings. He has more books that either follow or precede this one, and I look forward to reading those, too. And Lynne Schulte's artwork makes for delightful covers of Sanders' books. Click here to find more of Neal's books at Amazon, and click here to see more of Lynne's art:
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Accidental President (The Accidental President Trilogy: A Political Fable for Our Time) by Dixie Swanson

Book Two in the trilogy, The Accidental President, adds romance to the Senator's life. Through three freak accidents, Abby Adams finds herself in the position of interim President of the United States. Rather than just keeping the seat warm until the election, Abby decides to fix some of what she sees as wrong in Washington, DC. Her goal is to restore the power to "We, the People" and rid the city of lobbyists. She sets about gathering her inner circle, and adding a few more pertinent positions.

Her first order of business is to nominate an interim Vice President; the one she would have, highly recommended by previous presidents, has a wife with a chronic illness that limits stamina. Knowing that she'll have to garner the goose to secure the gander, she begins by talking to the wife, and in the process gains a new friend and ally.

In order to rid DC of the vermin, lobbyists, she enlists the aide of another strong male figure, highly respected and not a politician.

And her adviser, Mikey, fixes her up for a State Dinner with his nephew, without telling Abby that the nephew has just been named "The Most Sexy Man..." She meets him formally, tries to keep her distance, but is in fact swept of her feet when they dance the first dance at the dinner.

The story continues to add depth when Abby's plan for liberating the women married to the Taliban begins to take form and function. Her sister's "Infants First" program is thriving as well, and the country is enamored with the president's proposal of Five Amendments designed to fix the Constitution.

To add to the happiness, by the end of the book their are babies in the White House for dinner. Whose babies? I'll leave that for you to discover.

Readers who enjoy these 'fables' will also enjoy the author's website:, where witty, acerbic commentary on today's politics will keep them entertained between books. It has been easy to give both of Swanson's books five stars; now, on to the third!
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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Confessions of a Sunday School Psychic--The Metaphysical, the Paranormal, Spiritual Healings, Ghosts and More

by Linda Stirling

I read the kindle edition of this book, and found it a very soothing read. Linda Stirling has re-opened my mind to the possibilities of psychic perception. She has also re-opened the conversation about religions' rejection of psychic abilities, a sad reality that closes the minds of some who might otherwise use these skills to help themselves and others.

In her story, she tells of the people who came to her for help with physical symptoms that she was able to heal with gentleness and patience. Her description of how she has regressed to former lives and then progressed to future existence was totally engaging.

Her comfortable relationship with her guides, and with her Creator, is clearly inviting to the rest of us ... an invitation to be still, and to listen, and feel the connections we have with our own guides, and our own Creator. Some of her expressions reminded me of the term "Namaste" ~ a term I learned and understood as I studied Ancient India in preparation to teach it to sixth graders. The belief that we are all one, interconnected not only with each other but also with our guides (I think of them as my angels) and our Creator is the basis of the Hindu teachings, and so we recognize our Creator in every one that we encounter. It is such a warming thought to share, and so important in my own career as a teacher. Teachers are healers in so many ways.

I felt more comfortable with my own psychic sense while reading this book. It's not something I've shared openly, but something that empowered me as a school teacher. I loved each of my students, and treated each as my own. I asked them always to treat each other as they would treat a favorite friend. Many did that, and many parents noticed a difference.

Please take the time to find this book, and read Linda Sterling's work. It will bring peace and understanding, and perhaps a recognition of empowerment, to you.
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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Dixie Swanson's Political Fable Begins

The Accidental Senator by Dixie Swanson

This book is the beginning of a series of books, collectively called A Political Fable. The author, Dixie Swanson, writes regularly in her blog, using an a-partisan style. Siding neither with the ruling party nor with the underdog, Dixie sides with "we, the people." As a former history teacher I strove daily to bring my lesson  back to a reference point, back to the present, and to we, the people who are living in this twenty-first century. And so, when I first began reading Dixie's blog, I felt an immediate kinship with her. When I learned that she was a pediatrician who retired from her practice due to an incurable neurological condition, that bond between us was sealed.  I responded often to her writing via comments on her blog's posts, and when she offered a contest with a prize of one of her books, I entered and was soon the delighted recipient of not one but three of her titles. Here, then, is the first book's review:
               *          *           *           *           *           *
Abby was not a politician. She was not her sister. The two girls were orphaned at a young age, and were taken into the custody of their family housekeeper, a strong woman who had been with the family for years, and with whom the girls had a loving, safe relationship. Priscilla Adams Logan, the older of the two girls, became a politician following her failed marriage and a financially-advantageous settlement; Abigail Adams, the younger sister, became an emergency-room pediatrician. Pris lived in both Texas and Washington, DC; Abby practiced medicine in a local hospital in Texas - until her sister was weakened first by cancer and then by the treatments for her condition. Abby left her role as physician to move to DC for Pris's last year of life.The evenings of care and the emotions of loss are exquisitely described by Swanson in this brief portion of her fable.

Reege, or Regina to those who didn't know her well, had brought both girls up with a guiding hand and encouraging beliefs. Regina also had a nephew, and when his mother died giving birth to him, she brought him to live with her and the sisters. Two white girls, their black guardian Regina and her black nephew, Duke, were to become known as The Patchwork Family. When Pris passed away in the middle of her senatorial term, her request was that her sister Abby take her seat in Congress as the Senior Senator from Texas. Abby, wanting to fulfill her sister's wish, agreed and accepted the help and guidance of Poppy, her sister's chief of staff, and Mikey, a retired political advisor who was a virtual walking encyclopedia of politics and protocol.

This first volume of the political fable featuring our heroine, Abby, poses many challenges and championships that she must sort her way through. She finds herself sitting at the same desk that a Texan's hero, Sam Houston, occupied when he held a seat in Congress. Filling her sister's seat involved chairing some powerful committees and required some diligent study of issues and people. At times she cries herself to sleep, overwhelmed with what she has agreed to do; at other times, she pinches herself to ascertain that she is in fact a Senator among Senators, one of many "...standing on the shoulders of giants."

Dixie Swanson has provided her readers with a strong, smart, confident and appreciative young woman named after one of the strongest Founding Mothers of our country. She deftly shades in the humanity of Congress, the heroes and villains, the problems requiring compromise and the issues deserving a voice and an advocate. As expected, the fable's heroine will fullfill the role of advocate for the Children's Health Bill her sister had written, and the Governor of Texas will honor Pris's request of him to sign that bill and support funding for it.

There is only so much a heroine can do in a partial term; a Senator will be elected in the fall, and Abby can then return to her medical position at the hospital in Texas. But having inherited the bulk of  her sister's estate she is now independently wealthy, and so can choose whether to do that, or work instead to promote those solutions for children's health worldwide.

There is more to tell in this first volume, and I encourage you to read it before moving on to the next volume, The Accidental President. No spoiler alerts here ... but another review to come, soon.
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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Intelligent Seniors Living Life to its Fullest

A Fair to Die For

 by Radine Trees Nehring

The seventh in her series, (Something to Die For,) Radine's latest can be read as a stand-alone story that will move you to sit down in a comfy chair, feet up, wood stove or fireplace lit and read about second-chance love, family relationships, friendship and intrigue.

That it is set in a small town, includes a good amount of time set at the craft fair, describes not only the creative items made and sold there, involves both down home cooking and recipes from a famed chef - all of these elements combine together to widen the audience for Radine's story-telling.

A murder, a disappearance, a legend of old papers ... a retired law enforcement officer, a current drug dealer, a suspicion more than forty years old, and an unexpected set of relatives ... the story begins calmly, introduces characters easily and without laborious details, and opens the mystery and questions early enough to guarantee the readers' continued attention.

The area of the Ozarks offers this New England reader a delightful experience, and memories of reading another book ( Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls) set in that part of the country with my sixth grade students years ago. And the real-life tourist locations such as the War Eagle mill and its ground products and recipes add to the flavor of this story.

I look forward to reading the earlier books in this engaging series. It is nice to read about senior citizens who are living life to its fullest, and Radine Trees Nehring knows that of which she writes.  I give this book five stars, and am happy to have read and shared this title here.
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