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Park Street Angels: A Chronicle of Hope
By: Christina Nordstrom
Publication Date: May 2017
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: October 20, 2017
Author Christina Nordstrom shares an inspiring story of befriending a homeless man in her debut memoir, Park Street Angels.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for, by doing that,
some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
It is Spring 2006. Christina (Chris) Nordstrom notices a homeless man on her way to a new job. Having experienced “half an inkling” of poverty over the course of several months of unemployment, Chris should feel a bit of commonality with him and find it easy to engage in small talk, but she doesn’t. Although his first sign, “SMILE: It’s the Law!” lights up her face, it’s not until she notices the sign next to him, “Homeless by Fire,” that she feels “invested.” She decides that it’s time to get to know the person who she earmarks to be her neighbor.
Visits later, Chris learns that the gentleman’s name is Bob Wright and that he was a copper and slate roofer. His livelihood consumed by fire, Bob turned to a social worker for help. The encounter, which was highly discouraging, leaves him to fend for himself for the next twelve years. It is in his thirteenth year that he and Chris meet. At this point in his life, Bob battles with diabetes.
Chris is determined to help Bob one way or another. Fortunately, she is not alone; a small contingent supply his various needs—clothing, food, gift cards, cell phones, and the list goes on. Amid the help, Bob is in need of housing since his landlord has notified the tenants that the building will be demolished. The small contingent work together to find a new dwelling that is safe and secure.
Ironically, Bob doesn’t feel either safe or secure in his new environs. Having lived a life riddled with abuse and bounced around from one foster home to another, Bob has difficulty feeling “at home.” It doesn’t help that his health continues to deteriorate. A recent checkup indicates that his kidneys are shot; the doctor recommends dialysis. A short time later, Chris learns that Bob—at the age of fifty-nine—died in his sleep. While a sobering close to this homeless man’s short existence, Chris has no idea that more of this man’s life will unfold in the years to come.
Nordstrom divides her memoir into two parts. Part one provides a brief history about her unemployment prior to a job that leads her to Bob. Tagging that period as a “patchwork time,” Chris vows that she will never forget the experience, “or about all the people who are still piecing their lives together.” She then delves into the meat of her story, set primarily but not exclusively near her new job and where she meets Bob: the historic Park Street section of Boston.
The bulk of Nordstrom’s narrative is designed as journal entries that chronicle her interactions with Bob. At the same time, Nordstrom weaves in an interesting parallel to homelessness by giving her audience a flavor of what she experienced on the train while en route to the Park Street sector. A daily routine of life on the trains makes for fascinating psychological research. Laced with greed and selfishness, the theatrics Nordstrom describes on one hand are hilarious. On the other hand and in light of the homelessness that surrounds the Park Street stop, the detailed depictions should send a wake-up call to every reader as to the importance and value of life.
That said, everything Nordstrom witnesses—both on the trains and with Bob—she internalizes. These times are times of deep introspection, which comes out in the form of song lyrics and poetry she creates. Obviously, her narrative isn’t all about Bob; it is also the deep effect Bob has on her life.
Part two focuses on the last year or so of Bob’s life, his funeral, memorial, legacy, and a section, including a website, dedicated to the crisis of elder homelessness. She closes with these moving words:
“For the unenlightened who passed him by each work day on the corner of Park and Tremont Streets in Boston, he was invisible; he was just another guy looking for a handout, living among society’s forgotten. But, to those lives he touched with his kindness and hard-earned wisdom, he left an unforgettable legacy, not the least of which included his admonition: ‘SMILE: It’s the Law!”
Quill says: Park Street Angels: A Chronicle of Hope is a must-read for those who desire to address poverty, but are apprehensive.
SPOTS: A Tale of Star-Struck Misfame and Misfortune
By: Simon Plaster
Publisher: Mossik Press
Publication Date: September 2017
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: October 13, 2017
The satirical master who last brought you the mystery OPRY has done it once again. He has written a great mystery, while also reaching the apex of great satire...which is a tough mountain to climb. Henrietta is our lead; a fantastic character who has starred in Simon Plaster books before, and one that readers need to get to know because she’s one of the best in literature to-date.
We begin by sitting beside Henrietta, one of the reporters for the OKC SCENE News Group. She is a reporter who wants more than anything to “get that story” and win herself a Pulitzer. Unfortunately, even with all the great work she just did by unwinding a mystery involving a beer joint named Honky Tonk, Henrietta finds herself outside her boss’s office waiting to be fired. Instead, she’s given a job to cover the “Academy of Television Commercials Arts and Sciences” awards for the year’s best in TV commercials. It also seems that anonymous death threats have been made against (no one really knows who) people who end up attending these festivities.
Deano DeBoffo, famous Hollywood director/producer, arrives in the city on a mission to get his own career back on track. He wants to make friends with the right people and put together a TV docudrama called, “What’s in Your Wallet?” He runs into a pair that may just help him out. Flo, the famous star of those Progressive commercials has an estranged sister named Chloe or “Clo.” The sister does a lot of work, yet Flo has a better career. But Deano may just get Clo as the female lead for his docudrama. And if he generates some gossip at the event about Clo, he may just bring in a few more money men to help with his project. As you know, bad publicity is still publicity!
There’s an actor named Jimmy who attends; he ends up falling to his death from the hotel where the event is being held. A moment that Henrietta just happens to see. However, Jimmy also appears in new ads after he has supposedly died. There’s also a woman named Shirley who loves her Harley, but is having a mid-life crisis that makes it look like she could be the person who has delivered those anonymous threats.
We meet up with those famous boys who appear in all the SONIC commercials; the Mayor of OKC is worried about the fate of one of these guys...but not the other. We even meet the woman who has fallen down and hasn’t been able to get up for years when she’s apparently poisoned by Alka-Seltzer.
It must be said: When it comes to this author and his ideas, he would definitely get my vote for being “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” So, pick up a bottle of Dos Equis, sit down in a leisurely spot, and read this book!
Quill says: This is most definitely an author who needs to have 9-Lives (get it?) so that readers can enjoy his words for the next thousand years!
For more information on SPOTS: A Tale of Star-Struck Misfame and Misfortune, please visit the book's Goodreads page.
The 18th Rune: (The Aesir Kids, Volume 2)
By: James Grant Goldin & Charlotte Goldin
Illustrated by: Treehouse
Publisher: Basiliak Books
Publication Date: June 2017
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: October 7, 2017
The children of the Norse gods have done well in all of their training in their home city of Asgard, but now they face an even greater challenge. They will travel to Vanaheim and attend a camp where they can work on strengthening their skills. There is one catch to this adventure, the gods of Vanaheim and the gods of Asgard have had disagreements in the past and do not get along well. Many times those disagreements have turned into destruction and war, so it is not surprising that the Aesir children are feeling a bit apprehensive about their trip.
Among the children going on this trip are Thrud, daughter of Thor, her brothers Magni and Modi, Fire, who has amazing abilities with flame, Ull, who is an expert with skis, and Forseti, an expert archer. There are also two mortals that serve Thor who are allowed to go as well, Tjalfi, who has the ability to run at amazing speeds, and his sister Roskva, who has the ability to hear even the faintest sound. Even though this is usually a camp strictly for children of gods, both Tjalfi and Roskva are thrilled with being allowed to go. However, it does not take long for trouble to start...
When the children reach camp in Vanaheim they are greeted by the head camp counselor, Skogurvegg, and his assistant Tryggvin. From the beginning, all of the Aesir children could tell that something was wrong about the way Skogurvegg treated them while getting settled into camp. The first thing he has them do is play a game with the Vanir campers and it did not take long for the game to become violent. For starters, it seemed as if the entire forest, including the grass, trees, and roots, were working against the Aesir team as they used all of their skills to try and win. However, what started out as a simple game became terrifying when Roskva got pulled into a lake by a vicious looking vine and nearly drowned before being saved in the nick of time by Thrud. Utterly surprised that the camp counselors were not more concerned with this attack against their teammate, all the Aesir children agree that everyone should be on guard while they are at the camp.
Unbeknownst to all of them, the playing of a game will be the least of their worries, as a dark evil resides under the land of Vanaheim and it is waiting for its chance to escape. With all of their strengths working together, will the Aesir children be courageous enough to defeat this evil or will it be too much for them to handle this time?
This is a book that will thrill any adventure or fantasy enthusiast, as I could not put it down after I started. Every chapter had suspense and action in it that had me turning pages as quickly as I could. The authors do a great job of developing each of the characters as well, and that creates a bond between those characters and the reader. I will definitely be looking for the next book to come out and will snatch it up when it does!
Quill says: Loved this book from the beginning, and could not ask for a better adventure story!