The French Orphan

The French Orphan, first published 2012, 2nd Edition 2013, e-book assumed published, copyright and written by Michael Stole.

The plot centers around a young, penniless orphan enrolled in a theological school in Reims whose mission was to indoctrinate sons of nobles into the ways of the church. For some unapparent reason he becomes close friends with Armand, a handsome popular fellow student. As time evolves, the reader discovers that Pierre actually is the son of a man who had been the Marquis de Beauvoir, but confusion existed because he had married an Englishwoman who was not catholic (at this time of extreme religious animosity). Further complications evolved from the fact that Pierre’s father’s older brother who was dominated by his son Henri, was deeply in debt and jeopardized most of his remaining estates by taking one heavier loan to pay his pressing debts. Cardinal Richelieu was involved in his usual clandestine manner to attempt to gain all of these properties. Henri, a vicious person to whom life meant nothing if the individual stood in his way, wanted the Marquis title with the monies and estates attached. As the action unfolds, the reader learns that Armand’s father had been a dear friend of Pierre’s father and actually had enrolled him in the school hoping the two boys would become friends. As may be determined from these few sentences, the plot is quite as complicated as the old manner in which English and French Family titles were held and dealt with by reigning Kings and the impossibly powerful Cardinal Richelieu of France. The situation was further roiled by the fact that the French King was particularly more attracted to young males than to members of the distaff side, but also was still much attached to his sister who was the reigning Queen of England. Pierre and Armand sneak away from the school and the resulting action intensifies. It is replete with espionage, betrayal, distrust, deceit, feats of bravery and love interests by characters acting the appropriate parts, all leading to only a degree of closure that requires the now involved reader to await the next volume to ascertain further knowledge of whether all will end satisfactorily for Pierre and his lovely amour.

Discussion: This is an interesting tale that is nicely paced and peopled by characters who should appeal to readers who have a tendency to enjoy a plot embracing a protagonist whose serendipity overcomes all odds so that seemingly he eventually will accomplish his goals and live happily with his true love. The author seems well-versed in the muddled history of the period, and aware of the ill-fated Knights Templar and the long standing rumors about their ultimate ending. If the prospective reader is a historical fiction aficionado, is one who enjoys the type of story described, and doesn’t mind having to wait for the action to continue, this book definitely is for you.

3* 5* Well-plotted/written/characterized historical tale; -2 as described.

SLAM DUNK

SLAM DUNK The true Story of Basketball’s First Olympic Gold Medal Team assumed published, copyright and written by Beth Fortenberry,

The book’s format is a bit unusual in that directly upon opening it, the reader is presented with a note from Carter DeHaven, producer of ‘Hoosiers’, stating “Soon to be a major motion picture”; then the book title/author pages; a picture of Joe Fortenberry, the Slam Dunk originator, finishing such a shot in the 1936 Olympics; a dedication page; Table of Contents; Praise of Slam Dunk by DeHaven; acknowledgements; and ultimately a prologue followed with 32 chapters and abundant reference material. The narrative describes and follows the life of James Naismith, the husky young Canadian-American graduate theologian, who invented the game while attempting to devise a game to keep athletes fit while in the employ of Dr. Luther Gulick who was charged with preparing teachers-in-training so they could be instructors and coaches in the Y.M.C.A.’s throughout the world. From this simple beginning in the late 1800’s the story unfolds the early beginnings of this game, the people who played and developed it, and how it was brought into the 1936 Olympics. Here, the group that included some prominent Jewish team members, along with the thrilling field athletics’ black Jesse Owens, walked off with their respective golds to effectively destroy Adolf Hitler’s desire to demonstrate to the world the supremacy of the Aryan race.

Discussion: The author has provided a gold mine for readers interested in the historical background of sports. Not only has she disclosed little known facts about the origin of basketball and details of the players involved in these early endeavors – Fortenberry, “Tex” Gibbons, ball hawk Francis Johnson, Sam Balter, the first of the Jews on the Olympic team and others, but has included largely unknown or often overlooked features of prominent people associated with the Olympics and other sports; e.g. coach Jimmy Needles, Phog Allen, Gene Johnson, the mercurial Olympic politician Avery Brundage, Maude Sherman Naismith organizer of the first women’s basketball team as well as earlier having devised the first usable football helmet noted by Amos Alonzo Stagg (the legendary football player/coach long association with the Y.M.C.A.). The descriptions of Hitler and Goebbels activities and that of the German people of the era are most appropriately portrayed. In all, this is an interesting book and must read for sports aficionados.

5* Interesting for all; a must read for sports enthusiasts.

A Spell of Murder

A spell of Murder ISBN: 9781838880958 Bookouture, London copyright and written by Kennedy Kerr.

The story follows the activities of two local but very modern witches as they attempt to solve a murder that appears to involve some manner of witchcraft. Their home belonged to their parents in the small town of  Lost Maiden’s Loch, named for the small lake in Scotland which had gained its name from  a young maiden who mysteriously had drowned in its waters. The sisters’ parents had been quite knowledgeable of the dark arts, even purportedly have taught the subject. The two young presumed witches are thirty-year-old Temerity Love, owner and proprietress of Love’s Curiosities and her 2-year-older sister Tilda, each quite accomplished in different most unusual subjects. Temerity was the proprietress of a small antique shop, Love’s Curiosities, in their home, but more importantly was a world renowned clairvoyant who had the gift of psychometry or psychic provenance that allowed her to gain extensive history of an item merely by touching and/or holding it – a talent of immeasurable importance in the antique and collectors’ world. Tilda was an authority, verifier and dealer in rare books as well as an Herbalist. Thus, their designation. The plot involves a number of prominent characters living in the town as well as the Laird, his home, wife and former wives, his sons, two of his old mansion’s remaining staff members, the town’s police officer, his quite newly arrived replacement along with Temerity and Tilda and their unusual knowledge as they attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of a relatively newly arrived school teacher.

Discussion: As aptly explained by the author, this is a tale about “a little Scottish village alongside one of those strange, sometimes enormous lochs. A gossipy, cozy village where, sometimes, strange things happen and two local witches are on hand to investigate…” This reader found the description basically to be quite accurate and, for the most part, the story enjoyable. The only detracting features were insertion of ‘Americanisms’ in an otherwise Scottish tale and a sense that the charming picture developed in the book’s earlier chapters would have continued unabated if a little more judicious editing had been employed in the last third of the volume.

3* Charming mystery tale with slight caveat.

The Changemaker

The Changemaker ISBN 9781946633736 Forbes Media copyright and written by Deke Copenhaver.

Sub-titled “The art of building better leaders” opens with several statements of praise for the book and its author followed by publication details; a forward; acknowledgements; about the author; timeline; introduction; nine chapters; “a parting word”, Passing the Baton to the Next Changemakers”; and more about deke”. The author admonishes that a Changemaker is “somebody who’s not afraid to do something different in the service of a good cause” and describes 7 attributes of such individuals; asks “What kind of Leader are you? Stresses the importance of creativity; Courage to Weather the Storm; importance of Coming Together; need to listen so you can learn from others; the requirement of transparency in all activities; dire need to remain calm, composed and lead on during times of trouble; and perhaps the most essential requirement, to follow your moral compass. Each chapter expands upon its subject matter and provides a helpful list of activities apropos to the subject in hand.

Discussion: This is a well-written book by an intelligent non-politician who had the temerity to run, and serve, for 3 terms (2005-2014) as Mayor of Augusta, Georgia. He was eminently successful by travelling a path quite different from the usual track espoused by career politicians. The individual chapters tell how it was accomplished and provides the reader with step by step directions how to become such a leader. Although containing some redundancy, an unfortunate feature of written material presented by anyone accustomed to speaking engagements, this is a well-written blueprint for any person desirous of attaining a high level of expertise in leadership.

5* Worthwhile read for any aspiring leader.

Strategic Entanglements

Strategic Entanglements assumed published, copyright and written by D. K. Knightley.

The author has set forth this initial book in the planned Kendra Veiss series that introduces her and other characters in another world in the year 2977. This world is composed of the dominant empire of Basur who had defeated and literally destroyed Askar, a medium-sized militant nation and left in this state although it’s ideological enemy. Askar gradually had climbed out of its devastated position and was again proving problematical. Both nations retained Counterintelligence agencies including Clandestine Operations, State Security and similar branches. The plot centers in Kendra’s position as an operative in Basur’s clandestine operations and her hot/cold sexual attraction to Aran Reiner, her Askar counterpart, especially after having been abducted by his operatives and submitted to torture. Kai Ansurian, an apparently good friend of Aran but seemingly a Basur-Askar Double agent, presents a somewhat similar problem after sexually attacking her not un-pleasurably during her torture sessions. Additionally, he also was helpful in her survival before release. A number of other supportive characters also are introduced and the story provides no ending per se, but rather serves as an introduction to the next volume in the series scheduled to appear in the near future.

Discussion: The author is described as presenting “A red-hot battle of the sexes designed for sophisticated readers looking for something original and out of the ordinary.” From what this reader seems to have been able to assemble from relatively diverse social intercourse, she has provided a vehicle that should have great appeal for these individuals. If the potential reader has not attained the more advanced levels of this mental state, however, the following notes may be helpful. Kendra’s at times almost hostile verbalization and actions with respect to attitudes of male dominance certainly are understandable after the horrible results of such activity she encountered within her own home. Similarly, such chauvinistic attitudes, even without her life experiences, are totally understandable and justified. It is only in the manner in which she often uses them that is difficult to accept. It would appear that she held almost a ‘death wish’ associated with some latent desire to be dominated as demonstrated by her totally unrealistic actions that repeatedly placed her in a dangerous, even untenable, position from which some dominant male’s activity was required to extract her. Additionally, the basic direction of the tale was a little difficult to discern. Besides depicting a highly intelligent and totally modern, courageous young woman fighting male chauvinism, an underlying tone of hesitant titillation seems prominent. For example, a rather extended scene seemingly slanted toward raising the expected titillation, proceeded during the torture period but was followed by quite clinically explicit descriptions that, perhaps purposely, nullified its apparent direction. Another feature of this volume that readers who prefer at least partial closure to parts of a story, may find the tale a little annoying in that it’s serial nature dictates that one must wait with baited breath until the author has been able to furnish the next episode.

Summary: If the prospective reader is not deterred by the above listed features, they will discover a well-written tale incorporating tension and sexual, as well as other, intrigue between attractive characters in a foreign land of the future. A good first novel.

3* 5* “…battle of the sexes …for sophisticated readers”       -2* for some as described.

Gritty Tales

Gritty Tales ISBN: 9781732544109 an anthology assumed published, copyright and written by Tyler M. Mathis.

The author states that this book contains “13 stories of Crime, Mayhem and Terror”. A forward, although purported to be brief, contains adequate length to provide an overview of the contents with a few directions on suggested approach. He also defines “Gritty tale” as “a story of harsh and uncompromising realism” and lists three definitions of gritty – “courageous, course and abrasive and characters driven by their very basest motives” – as applicable to his content. He also admonishes that “vulgar language, graphic content and unhappy endings” are abundant. He also advises that 6 of the stories previously have been published and all are “straight-up crime, horror of supernatural bent, and most are cross-genre works.” Each individual tale is initiated by its own brief forward providing a hint of what the reader will discover in the following prose.

Discussion: The collection of stories offered are replete with characters who are losers, contain sick minds and/or are basically evil or are in an evil position as a result of one or another factor. Each story is independent of the others and can be randomly selected to read, except for 4 designated as closely related and to be read as such. Thus, the volume provides an excellent read for the busy person who finds only short spaces of time for such activity. The book perhaps is a more fitting read for those who enjoy stories on the dark side.

4* for readers who enjoy dark tales often involving course characters and language