Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Improbable Journeys of Billy BattlesThe Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles by Ronald E. Yates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For the Rave Review Book Club

William Fitzroy Raglan Battles lost his wife at the end of Volume I. In despair, he voyages to the Orient to meet an old friend who lives in Saigon. En route, a shady German, who claims to be a Pinkerton’s detective, threatens a recently widowed German baroness. Katherina, who hails from Chicago, killed her husband in defense of her brother, Manfred, as the baron was in the process of beating him to death with a poker. Her well-connected father managed to divert the responsibility from his daughter; however, she felt it prudent to travel to Manila where Manfred operated a hardwood business. The baroness enlists the aid of Battles to protect her from the alleged detective who proves to be an agent for the German government. Through a series of convoluted machinations, Battles and Katherina manage to have their nemesis Shanghaied to Africa. End of phase one.

In phase two, Battles settles in Saigon with his old friend, Signore Difranco, a wealthy pepper planter. While in Viet Nam, known then as Nam Ký, he is determined to find another old friend from his days in the American West, Giang Ba. Unfortunately, Ba has joined the resistance fighting to oust the French occupiers. This leads Battles into a heated battle on the side of the rebels. When Manfred and Katherina visit Saigon, Battles finds that he is increasingly smitten with the lovely baroness. There is another change of scene. The three return to Manila, from where, eventually, Battles accompanies Katherina back to the States, and they part company. During this interlude, the German agent, Oskar Eichel, reemerges and puts Battle’s family in peril. Then there comes the outbreak of the Spanish American War when Katherina urges Battles to travel to Manila to check on her brother’s wellbeing. End of phase two.

Back in Manila, Battles watches as the Americans make short work of the Spanish, but he is dismayed when he realizes that the United States intends to occupy the archipelago. The Filipino resistance wants freedom from occupation and intends to fight. Reluctantly, Battles and Manfred accept brevet commissions as captains attached to the Kansas Volunteer Regiment. During his less than willing military career, Katherina arrives in the Philippines and voices strong objections to the two men in her life being involved with the army, and much more ensues.

Billy Battles is an old Kansas sand cutter who hobnobs with the likes of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. This is the second installment of the Finding Billy Battles trilogy that I have read, and I am still not quite sure what a sand cutter is. Mr. Yates is a master of western jargon. He infuses The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles with a plethora of colorful sayings and expressions that give the characters verisimilitude. This is a 160,000-word story that takes place in numerous exotic settings with ceaseless action. The characters are extremely well developed. The prose is fluid and the dialogue convincing. This reader and reviewer strongly recommends the Finding Billy Battles series to everyone who enjoys historical fiction or just likes to read about sand cutters.

Buy at Amazon $5.99

It's cheaper at Smashwords $1.99

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Guns of NavaroneThe Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A team of world class rock climbers must destroy the lethal guns commanding a strait that is the only access to a thousand British troops trapped on the doomed island of Kheros. New Zealander, Captain Keith Mallory, leads a team that includes a giant Greek and an aging American explosives genius to the German occupied, and seemingly impenetrable, island of Navarone. The danger starts before they approach the island, sailing in an ancient, leaking skiff, they are halted and boarded by a German patrol in a similar vessel, which they sink handily. Next, they shelter from a storm beneath a German watch tower, whose defenders are dispatched by the oversized Greek. When they approach the vertical cliffs of Navarone, they are still in the grip of the storm and are dashed against the rocks. The wall is considered an impossible climb, but it presents no obstacle to Mallory. Unfortunately, there is a German sentry at the top. From this point forward, things really get difficult.

The Guns of Navarone is an iconic war story made famous by a movie of the same name. It is at once a page-turner and an introspective tale. It is unconventional in its nearly complete disregard for viewpoint, with the narration moving freely among the characters. There is, perhaps, a minor weakness in that the characters tend to give speeches and are prone to do so as the Germans are breaking down the door. It is a white-knuckle trip with more close calls and narrow escapes than some readers will easily stomach. Mr. Maclean tells us in the forward that he invented Navarone based on his own military experience in the Mediterranean. He did a fine job.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

RAVE REVIEW BOOK CLUB SPOTLIGHT BLOG TOUR CONTINUES


In the #RRBC Spotlight today Rhani D'Chae 
Author of Shadow of the Drill



Rhani has a slightly different story to tell.

My mother doesn't really know me

I was raised in a middle class home, the youngest child of devout Christian parents who met as kids, and married in their late teens. We didn't have much money, but I never wanted for the necessities of life. I was surrounded by love, and a strong sense of family. It was a good childhood, and I had no reason to wish for anything more, but…I did.

Like many young girls, I had dreams of finding fame and fortune in my life. I dreamed of being an actress, and just knew that all I had to do was get down to California, and my future would be assured. I left home the first time when I was fourteen, but things didn't go the way that I'd planned. I did find fame, of sorts, in adult films, but they sure weren't the kind of films I could brag to my family about. I also began dancing in topless/nude clubs, and I enjoyed that line of work enough to use it as a fill-in job when I wasn't doing something else, or if I just needed some quick and easy cash. I remember that my mother once found a visor that had the name of a local topless club emblazoned over the stage name that I was currently using. She was horrified, so I told her that it belonged to a friend, and she was more than willing to accept that as the truth. From that point on, whenever she asked about if or where I was working, I gave her an answer that she would be okay with. Something "respectable," that she could tell her friends and sisters when they asked for family updates. Basically, I lied.

Since then, I've done a lot of things for fun and enjoyment that my mother would most definitely not approve of. I've always had a thing for the bad boys, and dated several men that would have made her skin crawl. So I decided that there was no reason to add that kind of stress to her life, until such a time as I was getting ready to walk down the aisle. End result – she never heard about any of them. For years, I've been involved with a fundraising group that held its events in bars, or other places where alcohol is served. Again, not something that I told mom about. I went through my drug phase, my alcohol years, and a revolving door of lovers; none of which I ever mentioned to her. She and dad didn't even know that I was pregnant until my son was almost four months old. I knew how she felt about pregnancy out of wedlock, and I didn't want to cause her that kind of disappointed sadness until I absolutely had to. I wish that things between mom and I had been different, that I could have shared more of my life with her. But her vision of the world was so tightly wrapped up in what her Bible, and what her personal sense of morality said was right and wrong, that such conversations would have only caused her to be more disappointed in me than she already was. She would have felt like a failure for not raising a daughter who shared her desire for a morally upstanding and religiously grounded life, even though her definition of those things had not changed since the early 1930's. To this day, I'm amazed by how different the actual world is from the one that she lives in. But, she has no desire to open her eyes, or change an opinion at her age, so that's another conversation that we don't have.

Cancer took dad ten years ago, so I've spent a lot more time talking with mom. During my visits and phone calls, we've covered an assortment of topics such as our respective health issues, how my son is doing, what's going on with my sister's family, and should mom sell her house or stay. We've talked about a few things of interest on the voting ballots, such as Tacoma's ban on casinos, and the legalization of marijuana. We've also discussed a few of the Presidential elections, and the Trump/Clinton showdown fueled several interesting discussions. We've talked about Christ's return; she thinks it will happen in her lifetime, but I don't agree. I showed her my newest book cover, and she told me that she didn't like the blood, though it did add much-needed color. But she didn't ask about the book's plot, or how my writing is going. She doesn't ask if I’m seeing anyone, or what I do with my free time. I think she's afraid I'll tell her, and she'd rather not know. She never wanted to know. And because causing her pain is something that I have always tried to avoid, I did – and do – allow her to live in ignorance where I'm concerned.

So now, after decades as her daughter, my mom doesn't really know me, and probably never will. But she does know that I love her, and at the end of the day, that's what counts.


***


BOOK BLURB:
A brutal experience transforms an unproven young tough into a ruthless killing machine. For 15 years he waited, building his body into an unstoppable weapon so that vengeance would be had through the strength of his will and the power of his hands.


***


AUTHOR BIO:
Rhani D'Chae is a visually impaired writer, reader, and lover of cats. She is currently working on the second book in the Drill series, about an unrepentant enforcer and the violent life that he leads.

Twitter - @rhanidchae
Website - rhanidchae.com

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Book Thief

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Liesel Meminger and her brother were put into foster care at the start of the Second World War, but Werner died on the train taking them to 33 Himmel Strasse in Molching, near Munich. Hans Hubermann is a kind, patient man who works infrequently as a painter and plays the accordion at night in bars. Rosa Hubermann is a foul-mouthed disciplinarian who beats Liesel with a wooden spoon. Hans taught Liesel to read but the only book she has is The Gravedigger’s Manual, which she found in the snow at her brother’s funeral. Over time, she acquires more books, rescuing one from the ashes of a book burning, finding one floating down the river and stealing them from the mayor’s library, although the mayor’s wife told her to help herself. Max is a Jew trying to stay out of the hands of the Gestapo. He happens to be the son of a friend of Hans who died in the first war and was the source of Hans’ accordion. Max finds his way to 33 Himmel Strasse and hides in the basement putting the family in deadly peril.

The Book Thief is narrated by the Angel of Death, who, as one might expect, has a wicked sense of humor. He also has an outlandish manner of speaking. Mr. Zusak put words into the Grim Reaper’s mouth that should never be juxtaposed. “His skin widened.”; “His face tripped over itself.”; “Her teeth elbowed each other...”; “If they killed him tonight, at least he would die alive.” are some examples that this reader simply didn’t take seriously. The author is also much too fond of sentence fragments that litter the text seemingly at random. The plot is an all too familiar one. The strength of The Book Thief is the characters. They are well developed if somewhat guilty of doing uninteresting things. There is little tension or drama, in fact, the narrator tells us what is going to happen and then takes forever to make it come to pass. The greatest fault in this book is the pace. It is leaden.

It is overly long.
Price $8.99

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

"SPOTLIGHT" Author Blog Tour!! of The Rave Review Book Club


The RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB is a proactive group
of readers and writers, that I strongly recommend 
all might consider joining

Today I am participating in their
"SPOTLIGHT" Author Blog Tour!!

Spotlighting author 
Suzanne Burke
Australian author of
Acts of Betrayal
and many other titles






Suzanne is going to share some intimate insight into herself and her writing.


SPOTLIGHT BLOG #1

Hi, and thank you so much for joining me here today on the first stop of my Rave Reviews Book Club 'Spotlight Author Tour'. Please join me in thanking my awesome host.
Today I want to share with you a part of the reason I write.

The Hopes and Dreams scattered amongst the Cracks and Crevices that are me.


It's a strange title for a post, isn't it? But that is what I'm compiled of. A mass of hopes and barely explored dreams, all vying for attention and hoping like hell not to slip through one of those cracks, or become wedged and immovable from the depth of the crevices.

At times a seething snakelike coil of unexpressed frustration and anger surfaces to be plunged back firmly beneath the veneer of acceptability we all need to possess in order to survive.

Can we survive without compromise? Oh, yes, we can survive, but in refusing to compromise, we can restrict our ability to truly live the time that fate grants us. I have needed to compromise my hopes by reducing my expectations, until, over time; the hopes have resurfaced, but in modified form. Because I had made them more attainable, and by extension less likely to show me the bitter disappointment of my failure to live up to my own versions of, Can do, Must do, Will do, and Try but can't do.

BUT NOT IN MY WRITING.

Here I can be free of all the bondages of remembered pain and disillusionment, or the freedom-hampering legacy of disability. I let them escape into the safety of a character yet to be written.
Ah, yes ... my creations; I can admonish and astonish them, move them, and flay them raw with emotion.

I can let them retaliate, fully aware, prepared for, and willing to accept, any consequence that their retaliation may bring in its' wake.

I can permit them to feel the shattering soul changing taste of new love; I give them over freely to explore and bathe in its wonder, and to lay stunned and barely breathing, whilst awaiting its slowly evolving demise.

They can laugh too loud and too long, or in some cases not at all.

They can find their own sad movie to cry over and recall with a smile, and a shake of their head. They take on with gusto the life I have granted them, they live it and see it, taste it and smell it, and they die, or they grow.

They have faults and fantasies, often combined. Good and bad coexist hand in hand within the body I have borrowed to house them. They can be unconventional, patriotic and proud, losers and winners, or simply disappear without color into the crowd. They are resourceful and brave, or broken and bent, damaged or soulless ... or simply exhausted and spent.

I have granted them existence so I can survive.

By doing so, I have resuscitated my hope, and given form to some of my dreams.

It's all a question of balance between the reality of the one and the unfettered joy of the other.
How glad I am that I do this crazy, exhilarating, terrifyingly glorious thing. This freeing, dominating, amazing thing, we call writing.

Thank you for being here to undertake a part of this journey with me.

Suzanne Burke lives, laughs, writes and enjoys her life in the beautiful harbor-side city of Sydney Australia.

She is a mother and grandmother, now in her sixties, and considers every moment of every day as a precious treasure to be valued and explored, and not simply endured.

Her non-fiction works are written under the pen-name of Stacey Danson.

They are both challenging and thought provoking works covering the earliest years of her life, the topic of child abuse and the PTSD that accompanied her into her later years  are not, by virtue of their subject matter an easy or comfortable read, yet so many have read them. She will be forever grateful that her readers have assisted in raising the awareness into this painful and enduring evil.
An awareness that is vital in any efforts to stem this tide of inhuman acts perpetrated on the most innocent of us all … the children.

She escapes into the world of fiction in her thriller and suspense novels, continually exploring other genres such as paranormal and dystopian, and always delighting in the magical escapism offered in the written word.

She is an avid reader and reviewer who enjoys sharing the works she explores.

Follow Suzanne online:
Twitter handle - @pursoot

Website - https://sooozburkeauthor.wordpress.com/

Friday, January 27, 2017

Sick to DeathSick to Death by Greg Levin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Gage had stage three pancreatic cancer. After despair came anger and a self-righteous urge to flex his “nothing to lose” muscles. He satisfied his murderous urges by dropping lethal amounts of cyanide into the cocktails of known pedophiles and rapists. Soon he coaxed two members of his support group to join him. Ellison succumbed to his cancer after only a couple of hits but Jenna had found her calling. What was Gage to do with the monster he created?

Greg Levin is a darkly funny guy. Sick to Death is loaded with gallows humor and irony. The characters are fairly well developed but this is a story that is mostly told as opposed to shown. For the ominously breezy tale that it is, it moves a little slowly. Mr. Levin also lets his political agenda shine through the pages for which I do not begrudge him however much I may be in opposition. Nonetheless, Sick to Death is a clever story that is good for a laugh.


Only available at Amazon

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

American Government, Inc.

This is an unconventional book, so I will write an unconventional review. I opted to read it because the description sounded like my own book, Capital Blues. The similarity ended there. First of all, George Abraham Lyndon is a pseudonym. The author tells us in the afterward that he chose the given names of the three presidents he admires most. One must worry about anyone who claims to admire Lyndon Johnson, the founder of the Great Society that still burdens us sixty years later. American Government, Inc. is a parody of a hypothetical Donald Trump presidency as viewed by a denizen of left. The story is told as pure narration by a researcher 130 years in the future, therefore, there is no dialogue nor developed characters. The characters are merely names that the narrator continually pummels. The only good guy is, not surprisingly, named Lincoln. The hypothetical president is named Powers and he runs a mega corporation that he uses to build all the projects he proposed in his campaign promises, such as the southern border wall and a myriad of infrastructure projects. Paradoxically, the infrastructure projects create plenty of jobs but the unemployment rate still rises. Naturally, Powers prospers personally from all this. On the first day of his presidency, he signs something 250 executive orders that the reader is expected to digest. This book was made for skimming. Of course they are all Donald Trump’s ideas and they are put forth with the implication that they lead to catastrophe. The catastrophe they incite is no less than civil war. American Government, Inc. is a short book and I guess the best thing I can say about it is that it’s priced right. It’s free.

I only found it at Smashwords. Here's the link if you're brave or foolish.