fiction

Review of ‘Child of the Dust’

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An inevitable consequence of American military presence abroad has been liaisons between American GIs and local women, resulting in mixed race children who are often not accepted by their mothers’ cultures, and who find it difficult to adjust to life outside that culture. In no conflict has that phenomenon been more glaring than the decades long Vietnam War. In Child of the Dust, Tom Wascoe gives us the story of Rich, an American soldier, who meets and falls in love with Linh, a young Vietnamese woman who works in the military PX. Linh becomes pregnant, Rich is shipped back to the U.S. before they can marry, the communists win the war, and from the story unfolds slowly as Rich and Linh, though still in love with each other, live their separate lives.

 

This is a poignant story, showing in stark terms the anguish on all sides of this issue; the American wracked with guilt who tries to move on; the foreign woman, alone and often shunned by her culture, trying to survive; and most importantly, the ‘child of the dust,’ the children born to these relationships, torn between two cultures, neither of which ever fully accepts them.

 

The author writes with a sense of ‘having been there,’ that will pull you into the story and hold you in its iron grip until the end. The characters, even those who act badly, come across as real people, and the history is, in as far as I can remember that far back, accurately described.

 

It has been said that those who fail to remember the past are condemned to repeat it. While there are parts of the past that will probably always be repeated, this glance backwards might just point out a few things that we could do differently.

 

A great read which I give four stars.

Review of ‘The Awakening of Russell Henderson’

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Russell Henderson grew up on a farm with a dysfunctional family in Iowa, got his MBA from the University of Iowa, married his college sweetheart, and established himself as a wunderkind of the banking world in Chicago. He became so immersed in making money and becoming successful, though, he neglected his wife—until she walked out on him suddenly for another woman. Devastated, Russell returns home, finds it still unsatisfying, moves in with his sister and her family, still at a loss, then buys a van, and, in an uncharacteristic move for him, decides to go on a road trip. During the trip, he encounters a girl hitchhiking who introduces him to a world he never knew existed, leading to tectonic changes in his point of view.

The Awakening of Russell Henderson by Ed Lehner is a sedately paced story of one man’s journey of discovery, not just of a broader and more interesting America than he knew existed, but of himself. The author slips interesting tidbits of history and geography in a compelling story that keeps its main focus on the principal character and his evolution. Despite the sedate, almost leisurely pace of the story, there is nothing boring or mundane about it.

Definitely a book to add to your library.

I give it four-point-seven-five stars, and only because it got a bit confusing after Russell had a confrontation with the hitchhiker, and she faded from view for a few pages. A small glitch in what is otherwise a book that will rival Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Review of ‘The Reunion in Time’

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Rick Bellamy, a 37-year-old FBI agent goes to visit his old school regarding an upcoming class reunion. He steps on a grate, and finds himself transported 20 years into his past; a 37-year-old mind in a 17-year-old body. Think that’s complicated? What if it was a few days before 9/11, and he had problems convincing people that there would soon be a catastrophic terror attack. Then, a famous journalist shows up as a 14-year-old, and Rick’s wife, is not far behind him. The three teen/adult time travelers work to convince people they are not crazy, and discover an even greater threat to their own time, making it essential that they go back-forward to 2021 to prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths.

A Reunion in Time by Russell F. Moran is not your usual time travel story. Well, it is sort of usual, but with some unusual elements. He addresses the questions of time travelers and changed history, the paradox of meeting one’s self, etc., in a most logical manner, does a masterful job of portraying the clumsiness of adult understanding of teenagers, and keeps the reader guessing from page one.

A well-written, well-thought out book. I give it four and a half stars.

Review of ‘Mad Mischief’

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Mad Mischief by Susan St. John is an interesting story; Sarah and her husband decide to go on an African safari, and she convinces him to go with the madcap guide, Max, instead of a more staid, predictable East Africa guided tour. They are already having relationship problems, and the trip does nothing to improve them. This is actually two stories, woven together in a unique way. The longer story tells the reader about the trip and their misadventures, with a shorter version, detailing Sarah’s actions when Max is arrested by Kenyan authorities for not having a work permit.

I found the author’s descriptions of the geography, customs, and people of East Africa on point, especially the actions of government bureaucrats. As I read those passages, I was reminded of my own encounters with these worthy personages when I lived in southern Africa, and had to travel to Kenya and Tanzania on business.

A delightful story that is hard to put down once you start reading, so make sure you have several uninterrupted hours before you tackle it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

I give St. John four stars for this entertaining read.

Review of ‘Altered Destinies’

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Bain, the bastard son of a lord and a healer, is acknowledged by his father and set up a path to make him the eventual inheritor of his father’s estate. Even though he has no desire to rule in his father’s place, he is determined not to let his father, his mother, or his people down. In the domain of Lord Danza, Bain meets Phaera, Danza’s feisty only child, who is more interested in pursuing her calling as a healer than immersing herself in the inanity of court life. When the two meet, sparks fly, but their mutual interest in healing brings them closer. Phaera’s father has promised her that he will never force her to marry, but when the ambitious and unscrupulous young Mathune, who, in addition to his plans to take over all the kingdoms, sets his eyes on her, Danza feels that he has no choice but to betroth her. From here, the plot thickens. Bain, despite his humble, and questionable, origins, is seen as a s suitable alternative to the cruel Mathune. With the help of a young lord whose sexual preferences are tolerated, but not welcomed in the kingdoms, and the indomitable Phaera, Bain organizes a force to confront Mathune.

 

Altered Destinies by Yvonne Hertzberger is a riveting novel that is hard to assign a genre classification to. Part epic adventure, part dystopian future-earth, it nonetheless will grab your imagination, and keep you entertained for page after exciting page. Hertzberger is a master at creating alternate, but realistic environments and characters that you can love—or hate—with equal measure.

 

Although this is billed as perhaps her final novel, one can only hope she’ll relent and thrill us with further adventures of Bain and Phaera.

 

I received a complimentary advanced review copy of this book, and I give it five stars without hesitation. You’ll be doing yourself a great service by snatching it up as soon as it’s released.

Review of ‘Once Broken’

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Jackie Martin felt abandoned after her father died when she was ten. As she grew older she became attracted to flawed men, leading to a relationship with Tony Salvucci, who abandons her after she become pregnant. She raises her daughter alone, determined to salvage her self-esteem and get revenge against Tony. Once Broken by D. M. Hamblin follows Jackie’s life over forty hears, as she learns the meaning of love and forgiveness, and how to live for the future regardless of the problems of the past.

A moving book that will, in places, move you to tears.  I give it four stars.

Review of ‘El Pombero’

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El Pombero by Jackie Goldman is hard to categorize; it’s kind of a romance novel, kind of a come-to-terms with life story, and kind of an adventure. Heather, the narrator, is talked into going to Venezuela by her friend, Jay, whose brother died there in a freak accident. In addition to visiting the site, Jay wants to meet the Venezuelan woman who alleges that his brother fathered her child. As Heather tells the reader all this, we learn that she, too, has a brother she’s never met.

The story moves at a measured pace as Heather discovers more and more about herself and comes to terms with her life.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Secrets of the Island’

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All families have secrets; some are benign or funny, others not so much. Meg O’Reilly has been keeping a secret from her older children, the twins, Harry and Harriet, which she’d been planning to share with them on their twenty-first birthdays. But, Harry and Harriet, on April 21, 1943, are serving their country in North Africa as the Allies try to push the Nazis off that continent in preparation for the move on Italy. In the meantime, her father, Herbert, discovers another family secret that rocks his world, and at the same time, Harry and Harriet get caught up on an encounter with a Nazi soldier and a British spy that gives the two of them a current secret that shakes up their lives.

In Secrets of Island by Linda Hughes, the reader is taken on a strange and torturous journey through the lives of several families, mainly the O’Reilly’s, as secrets are brought to light, causing each member of the family to reassess his or her place in the grand scheme of things.

The author provides an in-depth history of the Great Lake area of Michigan, and interesting insights into life during the turn of the century. At times, the author does a bit too much telling, but, thankfully, it does not disrupt too much—and, every tidbit is fascinating. I did take issue with the author’s use of the word ‘dray’ to describe a horse rather than the open sided carriage used for transport—as a writer of westerns, such things pop out at me. But, this one small mistake can be forgiven since the story was, on the whole, absorbing.

I received a complimentary copy of this book, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Myth of Love’

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If you’re a fan of 1940s style pulp fiction you’ll like The Myth of Love. If you’re the type who like reading about Eastern mythic stories, you’ll be into The Myth of Love. Despite being a bit discombobulated by some of the formatting issues in the book, I was sucked into the story, only stopping when it got so late I had to quit and get some shut-eye.

The Myth of Love by Randy Neiderman is a fusion of noir mystery and eastern mythology that follows the adventures of two gods who sacrifice their immortality to experience human love. Reincarnated as an alcoholic PI and a Russian dominatrix, Jimmy and Sasha (One and the Second in their pantheon of gods) must find each other and fall in love in order to fulfill the Myth. Their quest sets off a conflict between opposing forces in the pantheon, with one side trying to kill them in order to restore the status quo in the universe and the other making the supreme sacrifice in order to protect them.

One thing I can say with absolute certainty is, regardless of your genre preference, once you start reading this book, you won’t be able to stop until you see how it ends.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Sensual Retiree’

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Just about a year into his retirement, at age 65, Joan Thompson’s husband, Phil, suffered a massive heart attack and died. Alone now, Joan sells her house and moves into a seaside retirement village, where she discovers that life, and sex, don’t come to an end after 60.

The Sensual Retiree by Gordon Smith is a delightful story of aging and how to do it gracefully. I couldn’t put it down.

Review of ‘Love Letters Home’

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Love Letters Home: Love in a Time of War by Chapman Deering is a tale of love and separation during World War II, based upon a trove of actual letters the author found from a USAAF soldier to his fiancée during the period 1942 to 1945.

Ruth LeBlanc’s life as a freelance commercial artist becomes turbulent when her fiancé enlists in the army air corps as an engineer. They had only been seriously dating for a few months at the time of his enlistment, and with him about to be shipped overseas, they become engaged. During three years of separation, they begin to experience the inevitable changes that occur when one goes off to war and the only bridge connecting them is the letters they exchange. Ruth experiences the same angst that lovers have experienced in war-time as she realizes that both are being changed.

Through their exchanges of letters, the reader is taken inside the ups and downs of their relationship as Ruth must decide between following her heart or sticking to her ideals.

A nicely done first novel that explores the human cost of war from an intensely personal perspective.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Undiscovered Country’

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When he buried his abusive father, did his time after being convicted for a crime he didn’t commit, divorced his evil second wife, and made plans to remarry his first, Jack Randle thought he had his family business in order. Then, he gets word that his mother, who had recently communicated an urgent desire to see him, is hospitalized and not expected to live. He’s plunged right back into the muddy pond of a dysfunctional family that he’d really rather not have to deal with—but circumstances leave him on choice.

The Undiscovered Country by Mike Nemeth is an engrossing story of one man’s efforts to set his life on a successful path, despite the efforts of others to divert him. It started a bit slow, as languid as a deep stream, and as soft as a southern summer evening, but picked up the pace when it was obvious that something bad happened or was happening.

This author knows how to hook you and keep your attention. I received a free review copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘RoboDocs’

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Dr. T. ‘Gus’ Gustafson’s RoboDocs is a fictionalized take on the use of computers and AI in delivering medical care. The story of a young boy who, after his father dies because of lack of available medical care, decides to become a doctor, it is a futuristic look at medical care. While it attempts to show how AI and technology can improve some delivery, it inadvertently shows how medical care is becoming increasingly impersonal. Depending upon your point of view, this book will either be reassuring or disturbing.

Filled with statistics and technical information, it is an interesting read, though not quite as compelling as it could’ve been. By skipping the many charts and tables, I was able to finish it in one sitting.

Not bad for a first novel. I received a complimentary review copy of this book, and I give it three and a half stars.

How Grump Stole Yuletime

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A little holiday-themed short story that I hope readers will enjoy.

1.

 

Daxon Grump was angry. This was nothing new. He was always angry about something. But, on this occasion, he was angrier than he’d been in a long time. He didn’t like not getting his way, and the dunderheads—his word for them—in his parliament had committed the cardinal sin; they’d refused to give him something he’d wanted from the day he put on the crown of Washuptown.

Formerly the owner and star performer in the Grump Circus of the Stars, Daxon Grump had ascended the throne of Washuptown by happenstance and accident, but after a few days there had accepted it as his due. In other words, he’d become royal, regal, and kingly in all the ways those words are thought of as negative, alienating his parliament, and causing him to doubt the efficacy of a parliamentary monarchy, where he had to share power with a bunch of former tradesmen or royals who hadn’t been high enough in the bloodline to lay claim to the throne.

Because of this unfortunate—fortunate for him—the parliament had thrown the succession open to any citizen who could convince the people he was fit to lead. He, with his many years of experience parting suckers from their coin to see the acts in his circus, had campaigned throughout the kingdom of Washuptown, promising the world, and enthralling the crowds of peasants and merchants who had long labored under the often heavy and uncaring hands of the royals. In the end, he had prevailed. His victory against the other contenders had been narrow, but it was just enough to push him to the head of the list. That some of the votes for him had been purchased with the horde of gold he’d amassed over the years was something he gave little thought to, just hoping that it would never be known.

Two days after the coronation, he’d met with Michel Orwell, speaker of parliament, and one of the people who had seen the direction in which the wind of change was blowing and supported him early, and each time he recalled that meeting, his blood boiled, his nostrils flared, and he felt like throwing things.

“But, your majesty,” Orwell had said after he’d presented him with what he felt was a brilliant idea. “I think your desire to protect the kingdom from outsiders is admirable, but the method you propose to accomplish it is not within the ability of the royal treasury to achieve.”

“What?” He reacted in shock and anger, the same way he’d always done whenever one of his circus minions had had the temerity to disagree with one of his ideas. “How much could it cost to build a simple wall around the kingdom? All the gold the royal family amassed during King Odan’s reign has to be sufficient to do that.”

“Hardly, your majesty. We have . . . expenses and obligations that must be met. A wall would deplete the treasury to an extent that we would not be able to do so. Worse, Yuletime is fast approaching, and we must be able to pay the holiday bonuses. It is expected.”

Grump was furious. He was livid. Obligations my foot, he thought. We’re paying hundreds of scribes and counselors to sit around creating mountains of paper that never go anywhere, and that less than half the kingdom could read, and the other half couldn’t understand. And, there were the princely salaries each of the members of the parliament received each month.

This was unacceptable. He would find a way.

“Very well, Speaker Orwell,” he said in a tight voice. “You are dismissed. I will consider this, and when I’ve made a decision, I will get back to you.”

As the obese speaker, his loose jowls flapping bowed and backed out, Grump was having the beginnings of another brilliant idea.

 

2.

 

He thought about it for a full two days. Well, actually, he didn’t do much thinking, for he’d already made up his mind before he’d even dismissed that toady Orwell. Mostly, he sat around two days stewing and doodling on a loose sheet of foolscap. He’d waited for the dramatic effect. His years in the circus had taught him the importance of timing and pacing.

On the third day he was ready.

He had a page summon Orwell.

The fat fool came rushing in twenty minutes later, sweating like a peasant fresh in from the fields. He stopped in front of Grump and bowed deeply.

“You wished to see me, your majesty?”

“I do,” Grump said. “Did you get a chance to read the proposal I sent to your office yesterday?”

Orwell’s head bobbed up and down.

“I did, your majesty, and may I say it is an elegant design, elegant, while at the same time appearing quite sturdy.”

Grump didn’t smile, because, despite the toadying words, he sensed a ‘but’ in there somewhere. That ‘but’ wasn’t long in coming.

“But there is, your majesty, a problem, and I’m unable to get my fellow parliamentarians to agree to supporting it.”

“They refuse to support it,” Grump sputtered. “Do they not know that this is my signature project, that it will be my legacy?”

“Uh, they know all this, but the, ah, problem, you see, is that there is not enough in the treasury to pay for it.”

Grump smiled now, for he’d anticipated that objection.

“I have a plan for dealing with that little problem,” he said. “All we have to do is not pay all the useless hangers-on, like scribes and counselors for, oh, say six months, and there will be more than enough in the treasury to build my wall.”

Orwell, though, was an experienced bureaucrat and a savvy politician. He was not to be outdone.

“That will pay for the materials, sire, but what of the laborers who must build it? That will not be a small expense.”

Again, Grump smiled, which caused Orwell to shudder.

“Ah, the laborers,” Grump said. “I suppose we will have to pay for supervisors. I was thinking I could use the salary paid to you almost-useless parliamentarians for that. As for the common labor, I believe if I ask, enough citizens of Washuptown will volunteer their labor. After all, Washuptonians love me, do they not?”

Orwell knew that was a dangerous question to answer incorrectly, for he’d learned very early that Grump was a man who valued what others thought of him above all but increasing his wealth—as long as they thought well of him. On the other hand, he knew that the citizens looked forward to Yuletime, that week in the spring of each year when they paid homage to the Yule tree, the source of heat, building materials, perfume, tools, and many other necessary items in their daily lives. It was a time they exchanged gifts, planted new Yule trees, and held long parties at which a potent liquor made from the sap of the tree was consumed. What they would definitely not want to do would be spending many, many months constructing a wall around the kingdom which would complicate trade with neighboring kingdoms, and interfere with Yuletime festivities.

“Of course, the people love you, your majesty,” Orwell said. “But you must remember that Yuletime approaches, and the people might not like anything to interfere with observance of this sacred holiday. Oh, and that reminds me, there is one other expense that the treasury must provide for; each year the palace throws a huge Yuletime feast for the populace. It’s somewhat expensive, but well worth it in the goodwill it generates.

“Oh, did I now tell you, Orwell,” Grump said. “In order to ensure the health of the treasury, so that my wall can be adequately funded, I’ve decided to cancel Yuletime this year.”

Orwell’s eyes went wide. When Grump held up a royal edict written in his own crabby handwriting, that said, ‘Yooltime is cansuled until I get MY wall.  Grump Res,’ followed by the royal seal of Washuptown, his blood ran cold.

This would not go over or down well with the citizens. Never in the history of the kingdom had the holiday been tampered with. He did not know how the people would react.

“Don’t you think that’s bit extreme, sire?”

“Of course not. My people love me. You’ll see. I’m having the population summoned this very afternoon in the forecourt of the palace, where I will announce my great plans. You and your parliamentarian colleagues will be there.”

Orwell shuddered and swallowed hard. He had no choice. He would have to be there, but he had a sinking feeling that bad things were about to happen.

Worse, he thought, the simpleton misspelled ‘Yuletime’ and ‘cancel.’ The people will forgive him the second, as most of them probably can’t spell it either, but as for the first . . . well, that was sacrilege. Oh yes, he thought, bad things are about to happen.

 

3

.

Just before the midday meal hour—not, in Orwell’s opinion a good time to assemble people to listen to a speech, even if the speech was for good news, which this one was not to be—most of Washuptown’s population had assembled in the castle’s forecourt. There were puzzled looks on many faces as people wondered why their new king wanted to speak with them. Some smiled, for they figured, if it was important enough for the king to call the whole kingdom together for it, it would be a great thing to participate in. Orwell and his fellow parliamentarians, though, were most definitely not happy to be there, for they knew that when the king announced his grand plan, there was no telling how the people might react—Orwell had shared Grump’s plan with the others, and it’s safe to say that each and every one of them was quaking in his boots.

After making the people wait for half an hour—Grump had read somewhere that this was a sign of royalty, and showed his importance—Grump appeared on the balcony, beaming down at the crowd and waving his hands. Somewhat nearsighted, he didn’t notice the frowns on some of the faces in the crowd. Not everyone was happy at being made to stand so long in the hot sun, and be force to miss the midday meal.

Grump waited until the murmuring, which he interpreted as murmuring of affection for his royal self, to die down, and then he held up his proclamation, and began explaining why he was doing it.

As those in the front rows read the proclamation, stopping on Yooltime, and being shocked and passing this bit of heresy on to those behind them, the murmuring took up again.

Thus, only the guards on the balcony heard the part about government workers not getting paid for six months. The sergeant of the guard sent one of the guards to carry that message through the castle.

Orwell’s colleagues gasped when they realized that parliamentarians’ salaries were included in the things Grump was not going to pay.

The crowd didn’t hear Grump’s call for free volunteer labor to build his wall. They were so steamed that the king butchered the name of their most sacred holiday, they’d stopped listening to his speech, and were talking among themselves.

It was only the rising volume of his voice that caught their attention.

“Citizens of Washuptown, what say you to my proposal?”

 

4.

 

There was a moment of stunned silence.

Then, from the middle of the crowd, someone shouted, “Off with his head!”

“No, no,” someone else shouted. “That’s too good for him. Let’s boil him alive.”

Grump could not believe at first what he was hearing. This couldn’t be happening. The people loved him, they would not be turning on him like this. Something was amiss. He turned and looked at Orwell.

“What are they saying, Orwell? Why are they not happy?”

The pudgy parliamentarian bowed, keeping his eyes averted from the confused king.

“They are angry, your majesty. I warned you that it would be a mistake to muck with Yuletime.”

“But they should be happy that I’m bringing security and safety to the kingdom. When I made speeches about it before I won the crown, they cheered wildly. Why have they changed?”

      “Well, your majesty, it’s like this. They did not feel insecure until you started making speeches about it. They still do not really insecure. Washuptonians simply like good speeches, and you are adept at giving them what they like. Now, though, you have given them something they do not like, or rather, you are threatening to take something they like away from them. I fear that you have pushed them to anger, and I cannot say what they might do.”

“They’re threatening to boil me alive. They can’t do that to their king. They should love me.”

“Sire, they loved you when you were making speeches. If you had left it at that, they might’ve continued to love you. Now you are proposing to do things they do not like or want to do. If I might be so bold as to venture an opinion, I think they just might boil you alive.”

Grump’s ruddy complexion turned gray.

“No, that cannot be allowed.” He turned to the captain of the guard. “Captain, have your men drive these people away from here. Any who resist, throw them into the dungeons.”

The guard captain didn’t move.

“Captain, did you hear me?”

“Aye, your majesty. I heard you. But you just announced that royal employees are not being paid. We guards are royal employees. If we are not being paid, we cannot work. It’s in our contracts. We are not allowed to work for free.”

Grump looked confused. He turned to Orwell.

“Is that true?”

“Yes, your majesty. Employees such as guards have an iron-clad contract. No pay, no work.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll pay you from my personal funds. Now, move those people.”

“Uh, I’m afraid they are not allowed to accept pay other than from the royal treasury, your majesty,” Orwell said. “That is to ensure their loyalty.”

Grump had a sudden revelation. His own petard, his explosive idea that would bind everyone in the kingdom to him and have them bend to his will forever, was now affixed firmly to his nether regions. He had painted himself into a corner on a precipice, with no handholds, and was about to be pushed into the abyss. Being king was suddenly not such a glorious prospect. He wished he’d stayed in his circus.

“W-what am I to do, Orwell. I do not wish to be boiled, dead or alive.”

“Well, your majesty, there is one thing that you might consider. I cannot guarantee that it will work, but it just might placate them, and they just might spare you.”

To a man in a hole, a rope is preferred, but if a string is all that is dropped down, he will grasp it.

“Anything, Orwell, I’m willing to do anything to stay alive.”

“If you publicly relinquish the crown, and put the power in the hands of the parliament, temporarily, mind you, until we can select another to be king. I am confident that the people will be merciful.”

Grump thought about it for all of ten seconds. He’d wanted to be king, but most of all he just wanted to continue to be. Running a circus wasn’t all that bad. At least, he had total control over the clowns, acrobats, and other performers.

“Very well then, I resign effective immediately.”

“Repeat so the people hear, your majesty.”

Grump walked to the railing and leaned forward. “I, King Grump, do hereby relinquish the throne. I am no longer your king. Yuletime is still on.”

The murmuring stopped. People stared up at him.

“You really gonna quit?” some asked.

“Yes, I quit.”

Orwell stepped forward.

“The king has abdicated. The parliament is now in control, and Yuletime is not cancelled. Oh, and there will be no wall built, and all royal employees are to report to work immediately. Yuletime bonuses will be paid on the morrow.”  He turned to the captain of the guard. “Captain, please escort Daxon Grump to the gate and see that he leaves the royal premises.” He then turned back to Grump and not so gently removed the crown from his head.

With a broad smile on face, the captain ordered two guards to seize the commoner. The two burly young men grabbed Grump by his arms and unceremoniously lifted him so that his toes dragged across the cobblestones. At the gate, they heaved him through the opening like a sack of waste and slammed the gate shut.

He picked himself up, dusted himself off, looked around to see if anyone had seen what had happened. Elated to see that his humiliation was unwitnessed by any but the perpetrators, he walked away, whistling.

5.

 

That should have been the end of it for Daxon Grump. Unfortunately, his stars were not so aligned. Some of the people he’d paid to vote for him were heard complaining in a local inn that the coins he’d used to pay them were iron, painted to look like gold sovereigns, and when they’d tried using them to buy things, they’d had them flung back in their faces and themselves flung from the establishments.

When word of this reached Orwell at the parliament, he and his colleagues conferred and came to the decision that such malfeasance could not go unpunished. An example had to be made so that in the upcoming elections the candidates would be motivated to campaign honestly.

A guard was dispatched to Grump’s circus, and he was again unceremoniously hosted between two guards, and thrown into an iron-barred cage and transported to the castle dungeon. The parliament held a speedy trial at which those who had received his counterfeit coins confessed that they’d sold their votes to one Daxon Grump. Each of them received a token two lashes on the back and warned never to commit such a grave offense again. Grump, found guilty of fraud and counterfeiting, was spared the lash. He was sentenced to ten years in the dungeon, allowed to leave his cell once a day only to clean the castle stables and pig sty.

No one would speak to him, and it was forbidden to utter his name. Only the pigs, grunting when he fed them scraps from the castle kitchen, not unlike the swill he received each morning and evening in his cell, seemed to call his name, uttering, ‘grump, grump’ continuously as the plunged their snouts into the gray, mushy mess he fed them.

Grump had always dreamed of a captive audience shouting his name over and over, and adoring him. He finally had realized his dream, and they were his to rule over for ten years.

Review of ‘Zo (Saint Zoya’s Dance)’

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Andrew Chornavka became a Trappist monk in a secluded monastery in America to put his tortured past behind him, but his past catches up. His late-sister, Zoya, is being considered for sainthood, and the archbishop insists that Andrew tell her story.

In Zo (Saint Zoya’s Dance) by Murray Pura, the narrator recounts his family’s past, the story of a family that tries hard to stay together. His story, a compelling narrative of war and loss, is hardly the story of God and a girl who walked with angels that the archbishop desires.

Weaving the present with the past, the author takes you on a journey of memory and the quest to remake the past that will leave an indelible mark on your soul.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give the author four stars for a well-told tale.

Review of ‘Emergence’

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An ordinary 15-year old, Ricky’s life is turned upside down when his parents disappear, leaving him to pick up his life without them. Emergence by Emilia Evans is a strange story, part coming of age, part metaphysical journey. Interesting for the most part, but the author overuses speech tags that in some cases border on the fantastical and unlikely.

A story that has potential that could be vastly improved with more judicious editing. In addition, the cliché ending could be improved upon. I won’t spoil it for future readers by detailing what it is about it that falls short.

This is an author with a fertile mind who just needs a bit more time at the keyboard to make a mark on the fiction world. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased and honest review. To be brutally honest, I can only give it three stars.

Review of ‘Louisiana Catch’

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A wealthy New Delhi socialite, Ahana has just gotten out of an abusive marriage, and on the eve of a planned trip to the U.S. has to deal with the sudden death of her mother. In an effort to get away from it all, she accepts the assignment to go to New Orleans to coordinate a major international conference on women, where she must work with a PR man, Rohan Brady, who, based upon his on-line persona, she’s convinced is an irredeemable womanizer. For comfort, she turns to Jay, a participant in her on-line support group for people who have lost loved ones, who also claims to have recently lost his mother. As her relationships deepen, she begins to learn that things are not always as they seem.

Louisiana Catch by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a compelling novel about dealing with abuse and self-image, and how one person, through perseverance and the help of true friends is able to overcome a horrible past and forge a brighter path to the future. The author makes the innermost feelings of an eclectic cast of characters come alive as she walks the reader patiently through the trauma and turmoil of dealing with physical and emotional abuse.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I found the subject disturbing, but instructive, and the portrayal of various personalities most enlightening. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Men and the Medium’

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Lily Bancroft was a woman born way ahead of her time. Head strong and intellectually curious, she also has the psychic powers of communication with the spirits of the dead and the ability to heal. But, she lives in a time when women are only expected to marry and make a home for her husband and children.

Unbeknownst to her over-protective and domineering father, she takes part in seances at the home of Leslie, a budding inventor who allows a medium to use his home. Leslie, though unable to express his feelings, has loved her since he first laid eyes on her, but then, Percy, clerk in a brokerage house, sees her on the street, and he, too, immediately falls in love with her. The problem for Leslie is that Lily, at the first sight of Percy, falls for him.

It is at this point that the story really begins, leading to a series of failed relationships, betrayals, and deaths that shake Lily’s world to its foundations.

The Men and the Medium by Lyn Behan follows Lily’s tumultuous life through the backdrop of two world wars, the social and political transformation of post-Victorian England, and the turmoil of individual and family lives caught up in a whirl wind of social change.

The author does an excellent job of presenting the arc of Lily’s life as she drifts, often aimlessly, from one disaster to another. A well-thought-out narrative of turn of the century England and the impact that the drastic economic, social, and political changes had on individual lives.

I give the author five stars for a well-crafted first novel.

Review of ‘The Whisperer’

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Meredith Potts wants to end her life, so she jumps in front of Stan’s train. But, rather than ending things, she finds that for her, life has just begun. Her spirit leaves her broken body and meets the enigmatic Michael who tells her she has become a whisperer in training, a spirit whose role is to gently and subconsciously nudge the living to keep them on the proper path. Meredith finally has the opportunity to take some of the kinks out of the path of life for some who have survived; but is she up to it?

The Whisperer by A. Ireland King is a hard book to categorize. It has elements of the supernatural but is primarily a story about a distressed woman coming to terms with the path her life took, and unravelling knots of her past. A bit slow in places, it is nevertheless entertaining.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Chasing Hindy’

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Addeline ‘Addy’ Verges is an up and coming patent attorney who dreams of bringing a groundbreaking energy technology to the world. She has just become the youngest partner at her prestigious patent law firm, when the wheels start to come off her world. First, she and her hydrogen-powered Mustang, Hindy, are attacked as she’s towing a hydrogen balloon advertising her firm and highlighting her commitment to green technology, and then she’s sent by her firm to Vietnam where she meets Quinn Moon, a Korean scientist who claims to have invented a new technology that allows cars to be powered by water.

There are many who wish to see that Quinn’s technology is never realized and are prepared to do anything to achieve their desires, including killing Addy and Quinn if necessary. Chasing Hindy by Darin Gibby is an ambitious novel that explores the lengths to which governments and other organizations will go to protect their privileged positions, and the power of dedicated individuals to stand against them. A pulse-pounding story, it sucks the reader in from the first page, and never lets up until the stunning climax.

I give it four stars.