Book Review 2018 “The Neon Houses” BY LINDA C. MIMS @boom_lyn. #RRBC #RRBC_RWISA #IARTG

BOOK REVIEW COVER THE NEON HOUSES BY LINDA MIMS

WELCOME TO MY BOOK REVIEW of “THE NEON HOUSES” BY LINDA MIMS @boom_lyn.

MEET LINDA MIMS

LINDA MIMS BIO PIC

 

The Author’s Story – @boom_lyn #RRBC #RWISA

A former classroom teacher, Linda Mims has enjoyed careers as a high school administrator, a radio show co-host and announcer, and a public speaker. Finally free to roam, Linda enjoys traveling and storytelling. The only thing she loves more than telling stories is reading them.

Her novel, “THE NEON HOUSES,” available on Amazon for kindle books, was born when she overheard a speaker claim that people had lost interest in reading. He joked that decades from now America would be holding “reading nights” in neighborhood parks for citizens who couldn’t read.

The statement took shape in her mind until it evolved into two contrasting societies—one for people who had nothing and the other for people who had everything. Now, Linda is busy writing the second book in the Kennedy Circle Mystery series and shaping the message she wants to send.

A resident of the small village of Matteson just outside of Chicago, IL, Linda spends her days writing, cooking, gardening, and blogging—sometimes simultaneously. She is married, has two adult daughters, and one bossy bichon-pom, Ms. Alexis.

***

BOOK REVIEW COVER THE NEON HOUSES BY LINDA MIMS

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Murder, mayhem and suspense abound in this action packed page-turner set in 2087 Chicago. Our heroine, Dr. Noel Kennedy hears screams inside her head. They are the screams of her young friend, 20-year-old Zarah Fisher. She’s miles away and screaming for her life!

Noel knows the exact moment Zarah takes her last breath because Noel has a secret that not even her husband, handsome mayoral aide, Richard Kennedy, shares.

As the youngest Deputy Chief of Schools of Gang Territory, Noel has perfected her life. She is a solid, middle-class citizen from New Chicago, Incorporated. New Chicago and Gang Territory have become vastly different societies since the early Urban Wars. Now, year 2087 finds New Chicago’s military-trained police determined to enforce laws that keep “gang people” out.

Harlem Pierce, a New Chicago police detective, has been warned to stay away from Zarah Fisher’s murder investigation and he urges Noel to let it go, too. But a new killing involves Noel’s cousin and her boyfriend and links Noel to it in a startling way.

Who can Noel trust? Should she turn to Warren Simpson—the menacing, treacherous boss of Gang Territory? Or … could he be the killer?

If you like flying cars, robots, androids, dystopia and utopia mixed in with your thriller then this is the story for you!

MY REVIEW:🌟🌟 🌟🌟🌟 A delightful read that any lover of Dystopian & Paranormal fiction is certain to enjoy.

Finding a book that blends the genre’s of Dystopian/Paranormal and Thriller together is rare enough, finding one as well written as this one most assuredly is pure delight for an avid reader such as myself.

Author Linda Mims has woven intricate threads throughout this book, luring the reader down one path and suddenly throwing a curveball that was not anticipated, keeping me relentlessly turning pages right from the first chapter.

Although set in a Chicago of the future time of 2087 this book is highly relevant right now, if we are honest about the monstrous differences our world already permits to exist between those that ‘Have’ and those that ‘Have Not”.

I rate the believability factor into my enjoyment of reading any book. Everything this author has created within these pages it utterly plausible and as such believable.

From protagonist Dr. Noel Kennedy’s strong, resilient, and determined persona, to the convincingly portrayed streets of the ‘Gang Territory’ this talented author weaves a tantalizing scenario.

All the characters portrayed here are multi-dimensional, they are each flawed by the lives they have had no choice but to live.

There are many characters to meet along this journey, but the author has done a remarkable job with each of them, one of my personal favorites is the treacherous Warren Simpson, head of ‘Gang Territory’ his presence is menacing, threatening, and decidedly dangerous.

The many plot threads are handled well and the book is not difficult to follow. I loved being constantly surprised by a character’s actions.

A delightful read that any lover of Dystopian & Paranormal fiction is certain to enjoy.

***

CONTACT DETAILS:

Contact via:

Twitter

Facebook

Blog/Website:

Linda Mims

Title:

“THE NEON HOUSES”

***

 

 

 

 

Book Review Jan 2018 “Red Ground: The Forgotten Conflict” by Ken Fry @KenFry10 @EevaLancaster #IARTG #Thriller

BOOK REVIEW COVER RED GROUND BY KEN FRY

ABOUT THE AUTHOR.

BOOK REVIEW BIO PIC KEN FRY

Bestselling, and multi-award-winning British author, Ken Fry, holds a university Master’s Degree in Literature and has extensively traveled around the world. The places and events are reflected in his stories and most of his tales are based on his own experiences.

He was a former publisher before deciding to retire and devote his full time to writing. He lives in the UK and shares his home with ‘Dickens’ his Shetland Sheepdog.

Fry has published 9 mystery suspense thrillers to date: The Chronicles of Aveline, Disjointed Tales: A Collection of Eccentric Short Stories, The Patmos Enigma, Red Ground, The Lazarus Succession, Suicide Seeds, The Brodsky Affair, and 2 short stories, Check Mate, and Is That You, Jim? (Free)

The Patmos Enigma and The Lazarus Succession are #1 Bestsellers in Christian Fantasy, Religious Mystery, Religious Fiction and Biblical Fiction on Amazon UK.

Awards:

#1 Best Indie Book 2017 by Read Free.ly (The Lazarus Succession)
Official Selection in Historical Fiction, 2017 New Apple Summer eBook Awards (The Lazarus Succession)
2017 IAN Book of the Year Awards WINNER in Christian/Religious Fiction (The Lazarus Succession)
2017 UK International Novel Writing Competition, Runner-Up (The Brodsky Affair)

Join Ken Fry’s Circle of Readers and get free books and discounts:
http://www.booksbykenfry.com

BOOK REVIEW COVER RED GROUND BY KEN FRYRed Ground: The Forgotten Conflict: A Blood Diamonds Thriller

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Vast deposits of diamonds and oil are found in land overlapping both Sierra Leone and Liberia. A scramble ensues to secure the mining and drilling rights of both commodities. Leading the race is the Mining Earth & Ocean Corp.

To amass and control this wealth, the creation of an illegal state called Salonga is proposed. The nominated ruler, backed and supported by the MEO, is a former RUF commander – General Icechi Walker, known as ‘Body Chop’ – a suspected mass murderer involved in countless atrocities.

To secure power, Body Chop, with the help of the MEO, engages the protection of a private mercenary army.

Disgraced, virtually bankrupt, ex-Sgt. Alex Dalloway is hired to join the mercenary brigade tasked to protect the newly elected President of Salonga. He has a personal quest to locate the Army officer who tortured him and killed his men years ago in the jungles of Sierra Leone. He begins to suspect the former RUF commander’s involvement.

With the promise of diamonds upon the completion of their contract, Dalloway and the rest of the mercenaries must decide if they will close their eyes to the atrocities, or fight to stop Body Chop’s rule of terror.

MY REVIEW: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Uncompromisingly brutal and utterly riveting.

This is the first book by author Ken Fry that I have read.

It won’t be the last.

Make no mistake, this work is uncompromisingly brutal, because it needs to be. The devastating pages of the dark history of Sierra Leone don’t allow for compromise.

The characterizations are brilliant and shattering, this author has a deep empathy and an understanding of the dark motives that drive the most inhuman of our species.

This is not pristine matter prettied up for mass consumption, these people are at times horrendously real, and horrifically brutal. Author Fry explores the deepest of emotions and he does it in a way that will alternatively shatter you, and have you moved to tears with its poignancy.

This book is a journey into the darkest of man’s motives and is unforgiving in its depiction of greed, the lust for power, and the driving thirst for vengeance.

It is bloody and brutal and brilliant. Take the journey. You won’t forget it anytime soon.

I’m off to grab another of Ken Fry’s works.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR

Ken Fry on TWITTER

Purchase Red Ground on AMAZON.com

Amazon Author Page for Ken Fry

Join Ken Fry’s Circle of Readers and get free books and discounts:

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: “This Second Chance” by D.L Finn. @dlfinnauthor #RRBC #RWISA #IARTG #Romance #Paranormal

BOOK REVIEW COVER THIS SECOND CHANCE BY D.L FINN

BOOK REVIEW: THIS SECOND CHANCE BY D.L FINN

Meet Author D.L Finn

BOOK REVIEW BIO PIC D.L FINN

D.L. Finn is an independent California local, who encourages everyone to embrace their inner child. She was born and raised in the foggy Bay Area, but in 1990 relocated with her husband, kids, dogs and cats to the Sierra foothills in Nevada City, CA. She immersed herself in reading all types of books, but especially loved romance, horror and fantasy. She always treasured creating her own reality on paper. Finally, being surrounded by towering pines, oaks and cedars, her creativity was cradled until it bloomed. Her creations vary from children’s books, young adult fantasy, adult paranormal romance to an autobiography with poetry. She continues on her adventure with an open invitation to her readers to join her.

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Newly married Rachael Battaglia finally had it all. The only detail that stained Rachael’s perfect wedding was a gift she received. It was the exact present that her late ex-husband had given her on their wedding day — a snow globe. That marriage was not what she had envisioned, and she endured years of his abuse and charm until one night she escaped with two kids and one on the way. Now Rachael was headed to Hawaii with an amazing man and her chance at happiness. Unbeknownst to Rachael, she had an Angel on her side, although this Angel might not be able to save Rachael and her family from the evil that surrounded them. This is a tale of love, past relationships, things unseen, and redemption. Will Rachael find her happy ending, or will this evil thing get its way?

MY REVIEW: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A Great read for all those who enjoy romance with a supernatural element.

Life doesn’t always offer us second chances to get it right. When it does we treasure and hold on to it with both hands. That is the premise on which this well-written book is built.

Author D.L. Finn takes us on an intricately woven journey. The characterizations of both Rachel and new husband Tony are beautifully depicted, so much so that we as readers care about them and want their future to grant them the happiness they have thus far been denied.

This author has that marvelous gift of bringing our emotions to the forefront of the reading experience.

Rachel’s first marriage was a tormented and violent nightmare which ended as her then-husband died in an alcohol-fueled car crash.

She has finally learned to trust again with the love and support of her new husband, but the package she receives on her wedding day threatens the very fabric of their new found love as she is catapulted back in the nightmarish memories of the violence that characterized her first marriage.

Forces unseen are waging a battle, the eternal joust between good and evil plays out its hand as Rachel’s eldest child Eddie, fathered by her first husband, heads down the same violent destructive path that his father once walked.

The author caught and held me captive as the paranormal elements of this book were woven so cleverly into the story. The plot twists were both unexpected, continuously engaging and introduced with an assured hand.

If you enjoy a love story with depth, the chance of redemption and hope for the future happiness of the characters you have come to care about this book is for you.

I recommend it for all those who enjoy a great read with a supernatural element.

CONTACT DETAILS.

Contact via:

Twitter:  @dlfinnauthor

Blog/Website:

Embrace Your Inner Child

Titles:

“NO FAIRY TALE”

“ELIZABETH’S WAR” 

This Second Chance on Amazon.com

 

Book Review “The Convict and the Rose” By author Jan Sikes. #RRBC @rijanjks #RWISA #Inspirational Biographical Fiction.

Welcome to my second Book Review of 2018.

The Convict and the Rose by Jan Sikes.

Please meet Jan Sikes!

BIO PIC JAN SIKES

From the Author

Writing this book was a challenge since I wasn’t personally present in prison. However, I researched endlessly to come with accurate information and details to write each scene.

Since this is a true story, it is super important to me that the facts be correct. I enjoyed doing the research, because that meant digging through boxes of letters, volumes of writings and remembering stories I was told.

During this research, I ran across some song lyrics that I’d never seen before. I’d never heard Rick Sikes sing them or mention them, but they were so powerful, I knew I had to get someone to put music to them. That person turned out to be Jamie Richards and the day we went into the studio was pure magic. He completely captured the emotion in the song, Forty Foot High.

This book is the sequel to my first book, Flowers and Stone.

The 3rd Book “Home at Last” is now available.

 

BOOK COVER THE CONVICT AND THE ROSE JAN SIKES

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Award winning Biographical/Fiction sequel to Flowers and Stone. Luke and Darlina find their love severely tested as they struggle to overcome enormous odds.

When Texas veteran musician, Luke Stone, finds himself behind bars with a seventy-five-year sentence, he is filled with hate, anger, and rebelliousness. He’s lost everything that he treasures, including the woman who holds his heart.

How has it come down to this? He’s spent his entire life writing songs and making music, filling dance halls and bars from Texas to California. But, when he refuses to tell the FBI what he knows about certain bank robberies that he possesses knowledge of, they make sure he pays dearly.

Broken and alone, in a prison of her own, Darlina Flowers struggles to find a way to live without the man she loves so completely.

Over the next sixteen years, Luke and Darlina each search for ways to somehow survive the fate life has hurled them into.

In an effort to dull the pain of living with only half a heart, Darlina gets involved in drugs, then follows a guru and tries different relationships, but nothing fills the void.
Several years pass before Luke makes up his mind that prison will not break him. He crawls up from the bottom one tiny step at a time, determined to be and do something worthwhile and discovers artistic talents he never realized he had.

The Convict and the Rose inspires hope and shows how anyone can turn a negative dark situation into a positive one. But more importantly, the story portrays a love that goes beyond earthly confines and proves how persistence and faith come with their own sweet reward.
Join Luke and Darlina as they continue their epic journey with love as their constant North Star and freedom as the driving force.

MY REVIEW: Some books reach in and take your soul into their keeping. This book is one of them.

I have read and reviewed Flowers and Stone and was delighted to do both. The book lingered in my memory long after I completed reading.

Some books reach in and take your soul into their keeping. Flowers and Stone was one … and The Convict and The Rose has captured me again.

This journey towards growth and a deeper understanding is one very special reading experience.

The anguished struggle of two-fallible, and all too human people as life hands out its own deranged sense of justice is at times painful to read.

This book provoked anger, sadness and a deep sense of empathy in me. It in turn delighted me, and made me cry, and then continued to invade my senses long after the ending.

There is a depth of love between these two damaged souls that defies the limitations of time.

The drug abuse is a road many of us have taken in times of the darkest despair, the struggle to overcome it and move clearly distant is an epic one, as is the final understanding of the violent reactions of Luke to his imprisonment.

Life knocked these valiant people to the ground again and again.  BUT they didn’t stay down for the count.

It takes guts to do that … and to keep right on doing it …

We are permitted to glimpse inside their darkness and anguish …and grow with them as the love and faith that they share takes them from that darkness and into the warmth and the light.

A wonderful, moving and intensely memorable story of love!

The Convict and The Rose on Amazon.com

Book 1. Flowers and Stone on Amazon.com

Book 3. Home at Last on Amazon.com

Contact via:

Email:  rijan21@gmail.com

Twitter:  @rijanjks

Facebook:  Author Jan Sikes Books

Blog/Websites:

Award Winning Author Jan Sikes

Writing & Music

Make 2018 YOUR year to DREAM. Are your dreams EMOTIONALLY MALNOURISHED? Then FEED them!

 

BLOG 2018 ENABLE THE DREAM.jpg

Make 2018 YOUR year to DREAM! Are your dreams emotionally malnourished?

How did 2017 treat you? Are you pumping your fist in the air with Jubilation and excitedly waiting for 2018 to begin? I hope so.

Or are you weary, depleted and ready to capitulate? Exhausted by the battle to simply survive?

We all dream. Not all of us live to see our dreams come to fruition. Those of us that do don’t cease our dreaming because we have succeeded in having one dream being activated and lived.

Dreaming is as necessary to our well being as breathing. Many things live outside our control, that’s a given. We accept that the circumstances of simply living each day in our turbulent world will confront us. It’s what to DO with those circumstances that is important.

We can choose to become angry, venting our frustration and rage on anyone in our immediate vicinity … We can choose to close our emotional doors and enforce an impenetrable barrier, so that life and it’s living doesn’t harm us again.

We can allow our dreams to die of EMOTIONAL MALNUTRITION. Unnourished, unsheltered and weak, until eventually they die.

Or …

We can examine what we did to bring our dreams to realization.  Was it enough? Did we open doors to our hopes and desires and permit them to have a delineated shape and presence?

OR ... Did we shrug in denial. Feeling the emptiness of recognizing that another 365 days had passed … and we had achieved little or perhaps, sadly, nothing at all.

Let me share an expression I heard a lifetime ago, I don’t know where I first read it or heard it … but I repeat it to myself again … and again.

“If You Always Do … What You Have Always Done …

You Will Always Get What You’ve Always Got”

That expression has caused me to honestly and at times brutally question my actions. I have made the time that it takes in my life to comprehend where those reactions sprung from.

I have then made a conscious decision to CHANGE the way I react.

If I failed to accomplish what I set out to do, I look at the WHY of it. I accept the conditions I had no control over, and then focus exclusively on those things that I dd … that failed to take me on the road I wished to travel.

Then I learned how to change. I learned how to explore alternative possibilties. Some through research, and others by gut instincts that I may have ignored. I reached out for something different to the previous journey. I have learned by constant trial and error newer and hopefully better ways of feeding my dreams, keeping them well nourished and always accessible.

We can shake the debris off those remnants of dreams that can and should be resurrected.

We can with hard work and courage breathe life back into them once more.

We can acknowledge our fear … and move through and beyond it.

Will it be simple? Not one chance in hell! For we cannot control exterior forces …

All of us fail at times. The simple failures that can mount up to make dreaming again a less desirable option. Or those monumental failures that we allow to define who we are and what we’ll become.

Don’t fear your dreams.

Fear is the deadliest weapon life has to throw at your dreams.

With our increasingly violent, nerve-stretched, and at times desperate world, it’s all too easy to cave in, to give up, to hide away … all too easy and completely understandable.

I readily acknowledge my own fears. They are many. Do I fear what the future has in store for me? NO. Do I fear what the future may hold for my child and her child? Hell yes!

Will I allow those dark fears to dominate my sunrises and sunsets?

No … I refuse to do that.

Stand up tall, focus on your inner strength, seek comfort in the presence of loved ones, or seek it from your system of belief.

Dare to DREAM … then strut proudly towards it, discover what you need to do to make it come to fruition … You have another chance with each sunrise, so take it.

This my friends is my Wish for you all in 2018. Take hold of your dreams,  … shake them, and shape them …  and MAKE IT YOUR YEAR TO ENABLE YOUR DREAMS!

MAKE 2018 YOUR YEAR TO ACTIVATE YOUR DREAM.

 

 

Book Review: “Finding Billy Battles” by Ron Yates. #RRBC #IARTG @jhawker69 The final review for 2017.

Please join me as I share my final review of 2017. “Finding Billy Battles” by Ron Yates.

RON YATES AUTHOR PIC

About the Author

Ronald E. Yates is an author of historical fiction and action/adventure novels, including the popular and highly-acclaimed Finding Billy Battles trilogy. His extraordinarily accurate books have captivated fans from around the world who applaud his ability to blend fact and fiction.

Ron is a former foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and Professor Emeritus of Journalism at the University of Illinois where he was also the Dean of theCollege of Media.
His book, “The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles,” is the second in his Finding Billy Battles trilogy of novels and was published in June 2016. The first book in the trilogy, “Finding Billy Battles,” was published in 2014. He is currently working on Book #3 of the trilogy with an intended publication date in spring or early summer 2017.

Ron has been a presenting author at the Kansas Book Festival and the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, among other venues. He is also the author of The Kikkoman Chronicles: AGlobal Company with A Japanese Soul, published by McGraw-Hill.

Before leaving the world of professional journalism where he toiled 25 years, Ron lived and worked in Japan, Southeast Asia, and bothCentral and South America where he covered several history-making events including the fall of South Vietnam and Cambodia; the Tiananmen Square massacre inBeijing; and wars and revolutions in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Nicaragua,El Salvador and Guatemala, among other places.

His work as a war correspondent resulted in several awards, including the Inter-American Press Association’s Tom Wallace Award for coverage ofCentral and South America; the Peter Lisagor Award from the Society ofProfessional Journalists; three Edward Scott Beck Awards for InternationalReporting, and three Pulitzer nominations.

Ron is a proud graduate of the William Allen White School ofJournalism at the University of Kansas and a veteran of the U.S. Army where he served in the Army Security Agency.

BOOK COVER

Cover Billy Battles by Ron Yates

 

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When a great-grandson inherits two aging trunks and a stack of meticulously detailed journals penned by his great-grandfather, he sets out to fulfill his great-grandfather’s last request: to tell the story of an incredible life replete with adventure, violence, and tragedy. The great-grandfather’s name is Billy Battles–a man often trapped and overwhelmed by circumstances beyond his control.
For much of his 100-year-long life Billy is a man missing and largely unknown to his descendants. His great-grandson is about to change that. As he works his way through the aging journals and the other possessions he finds in the battered trunks he uncovers the truth about his mysterious great-grandfather–a man whose deeds and misdeeds propelled him on an extraordinary and perilous journey from the untamed American West to the inscrutable Far East, Latin America and Europe.
As he flips through the pages of the handwritten journals he learns of Billy’s surprising connections to the Spanish-American War, French Indochina, and revolutions in Mexico and other Latin American countries. But most of all he learns that in finding Billy Battles he has also found a long lost and astonishing link to the past.

My REVIEW of “Finding Billy Battles.”

on December 5, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A book to be treasured and read over-and-over again.

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

This book has earned some outstanding reviews and is deserving of every one of them. Finding Billy Battles is an engaging and believable journey through time as told by an aged Billy Battles in the pages of journals that span his existence from 1860 to 1960.

This talented author has crafted characters that engage the reader immediately, we are willingly taken into each scene, we see the characters there, all breathing, moving … and sounding a particular way, the visualizations in this book are superb.

Character depth connects us immediately to the roguish and beautifully layered persona of Billy Battles. The man is revealed with great skill throughout the book. Peel back those layers and recognize the man that dwelt beneath that skin.

I thoroughly enjoyed the journey into the old west and those well-known characters that greeted me there.

This marvelous blend of fact and fiction is a book to be treasured and read, over-and-over again.

What a stunning read to end 2017 with. Top notch.

I will be reading the other books in this trilogy.

 

Find Books by Ron Yates here.

Finding Billy Battles on AMAZON.COM

Ron Yates on TWITTER

Christmas on the streets. The truest meaning of Christmas. Christmas morning 1966: 2:00 A.M. #RRBC #IARTG #IAN1

BEAUTIFUL BABY DOLL FOR BLOG CHRISTMAS 2017

Thank you for joining me. Whenever the darkness of our crazy old world threatens to overwhelm me I remember the times when the wonderful spirits of good people who saught only to give joy with no expectation of return enriched my life. I share this precious miracle with you each year that I am able. My Christmas gift to all those that may despair or have lost faith in the belief that most human beings are intrinsically good.

CHRISTMAS MORNING 1966: 2:00 AM.

The Christmas season is the harshest of all when you live on the streets.

On ANY streets … In ANY town.

A miracle happened in our small dark world that hot and steamy Christmas morning all those long years ago.

It was not a ‘miracle’ of biblical proportions, yet for us, it was a miracle that we would hold in our memories forever, to be taken out and looked at whenever life grew harsher.

I have taken the chapter from my memoir, and I am sharing it with you here.

I hope that it makes you nod in understanding.

I am smiling through my tears as I remember…..

 “Faint Echoes of Laughter” Book 2 of the “Standing Tall & Fighting Back.” Series. Non-Fiction. Memoir.

Chapter 7

Christmas was barely a week or so away, and the mood wasn’t good.

Christmas out here meant different things to each of us I guess.

My memories of Christmas’s past were all bad. Even last year when I’d been on the streets alone for barely a month had bad stuff attached to it, yet it hadn’t been nearly as bad as the ones I had lived with back in the home I called ‘hell central’.

I asked Baby Jenny to come for a walk with me down to see Big Mike. I wanted to ask him if he could scrounge up some leftover decorations to put up in the ‘palace’ to lighten the mood up a little.

He gave me a thoughtful nod, and said he’d “see what he could do.”

He spoke to Jenny…”I swear you get prettier every day, Jenny. Don’t let Sassy here teach you any bad habits.”

Jenny grinned at him too shy to respond.

I kept my mouth shut except for a “Gee thanks … Big Mike”

He smiled and wandered off, and we headed back up to the palace. We spent a lot of time outdoors during the heat of the summer. The cooler breezes from the water were good. The heat inside our metal home was dreadful.

When a week had passed and we hadn’t seen Big Mike we figured that he had forgotten. It was disappointing, but he didn’t owe us anything; and after all, he had helped us out with Momma and other stuff like wood for the fire in winter, so we didn’t really expect the decorations, we just hoped for them.

Jenny was extra quiet. I wondered if she would ever be able to talk about why she was here. I didn’t ask her. I hadn’t discussed my background with any of them, even Jamie. So I understood that it was not open for general discussion.

Christmas Eve dawned fiery red. It was going to be a very, very, hot day according to the radio forecasts, with a cool southerly change expected later in the evening.

We all headed up to Hyde Park very early and took a Christmas bath in our favorite fountain. At least the palace wouldn’t stink quite so badly for Christmas day.

It was tempting to just jump in the ocean so close to the Palace, but Big Mike had warned us all about the sharks, so we didn’t dare.

Sydney Harbor wasn’t the safest place to swim. We planned on heading down to the Botanical Gardens for a swim in the lake that evening. We figured there wouldn’t be many people around because it was Christmas Eve.

The sky began to look dark and threatening early in the afternoon. The southerly buster was heading up the coast rapidly. We were all unusually quiet and sitting around outside in the shade of the container when we heard the sound of vehicles heading toward the Palace.

We headed around the front to see who had arrived and watched in stunned amazement as Big Mike and two of the other guys whose names I can’t recall, began unloading boxes of stuff from their cars and placing it in the shaded opening of our tin home.

Big Mike looked uncomfortable; if possible, he was even gruffer than usual. “You lot need feeding up, so we brought you some stuff.”

We were all too stunned to say much at all, these hard men were all smiling and a little red-faced. I swear if they could have, that they would have scuffed their shoes in the dirt like little kids with embarrassment.

Big Mike shook Jamie’s hand and accepted the ‘thank you’ from him.

I was speechless which wasn’t a common occurrence, I just grinned like mad and gave the guys a hurried “Thanks.”

They were the unlikeliest Angels you would ever see, sweaty and dirty after a long hot day’s work, the sight of them unloading the Christmas goodies and punching one another in the arm in a gesture common amongst males remains etched starkly in my memory.

Big Mike reached into the front seat of his car and pulled out a parcel that was wrapped up in Christmas paper, with bright ribbons attached. He walked over and handed it to Baby Jenny.

She looked confused and wasn’t sure what to do with it.

“The women picked this out for ya, little one.” Big Mike said.

Jenny still wasn’t sure what to do.

“Go ahead and open it, Jenny,” Jamie said.

“Um, later. Later. Okay?” she replied looking very unsure of herself.

She looked at the men, and gave them one of her sweet smiles, “Don’t matter what it is. I never had a present before, so…Um…Yeah, thanks, thanks a lot.”

The men seemed to understand that she needed to be alone when she opened it.

As for the rest of us, we tore into those presents and boxes like there was no tomorrow…squealing in delighted surprise with everything we found.

There was more food than any of us had ever seen.

Tinned Hams, fresh pineapples, cherries, and plums. Cooked Turkey and Cranberry sauce …with all the trimmings. Fifteen red t-shirts all large sizes. Paper plates, and plastic knives and forks, a can-opener. A Cooler packed with ice, a radio, and spare batteries. A big crate of beer and bottles of Coke.

That night, we all huddled around the new radio; it was bigger and put out a better sound than the small transistor we had been using, we sat drinking the beer and singing our version of Christmas carols, none of them repeatable. Trust me.

Jenny sat on her sleeping place; she was a little tipsy as well having been allowed one-half of a small bottle of beer. We glanced at her as she picked up her present and watched the look on her face as she unwrapped it.

It was a baby doll, all soft and dressed in bonnet and booties with a pretty pink knitted dress. “Just what we needed, another fuckin’ mouth to feed,” she said…but the smile on her face could have lit up the entire city.

We were fed, content, and a little overwhelmed and unsure at the kindness of these people.

Typically, we questioned the motive behind it. We all wanted to believe that maybe, just maybe, they had done it for no motive other than the wish to make this Christmas a good place for us to be. It was an alien experience but a welcome one.

We had only sampled a little of the huge amount of food, deciding to save the rest for Christmas Day

That night we were all tipsy. Strangely quiet as we bedded down for the night. I think we were all a little overwhelmed by the generosity of these men.

It was around 2.00 am Christmas morning I guess when I felt something was wrong. Whatever the something was, it wouldn’t let me sleep. I couldn’t place it immediately. It was a strange sense of something missing, and it troubled me.

Jamie was on watch; I climbed over the others and hunkered down next to him. Jamie smiled at me and said, “You too hey, Sassy?”

“Yeah, I guess–what is it? Something’s different.”

We sat a while just listening. Then Jamie said, “Oh shit! It’s Jenny, she’s not crying!”

My heart was in my mouth. Jamie grabbed the torch and we played it across the others, several of them were already awake, and wondering what the hell was happening. Jenny had cried herself to sleep every night since she’d come to this place. It was a sound we all tried not to hear. She couldn’t be comforted, we weren’t permitted that close. She’d been here for two years now. Jenny was around eight-years-old.

Jenny lay on her side, sound asleep with both arms wrapped around that doll so tight there was no space between them.

That was the first time I had cried in a very, very, long time. I glanced at the others, without exception we were all affected the same way. No one wanted to look at anyone else, shit we were supposed to be the toughest kids on the block! Hell, we were the only kids on the block. That Christmas was the first real day of Jenny’s childhood. From then on, Christmas became Jenny’s birthday.

I’d like to tell you that a miraculous change came over her. That she was instantly transformed. In a make-believe world, she’d be outside singing all the hits from ‘The Sound of Music’ and wearing a pretty new dress and shoes.  But this is the real world, and the changes took place over time.

Jenny named her doll, Francine.

The greatest change of all; was that, from that night, for all the years that Baby Jenny remained in our world, she never cried herself to sleep again.

***

Many years have passed since that long ago Christmas Eve. My darling Jenny has gone.

So many of my Christmas Eves’ over time have been special ones. But the one I recall with tears of happiness on my face, and a smile in my heart … is this one.

Jenny lost her battle with life in September of 2008.

The doll Francine was buried with her.

Thank you for being here. I wish each and every one of you a peaceful, serene and joyous Christmas, no matter where on this planet you’re from.

Faint Echoes of Laughter here on Amazon.com

KOALA CHRISTMAS