The Batter’s Box

The Batter’s Box ISBN: 9781944353230 Warriors Publishing Group Copyright and written by Andy Kutler.

This is a historical novel described by the author as “A novel of baseball, war and love”. The story portrays the life of a young Midwesterner who attains star status as a major league baseball player who, at the top of his game, enlists in WWII shortly after the U.S. entered the war. It follows his experiences as he participates in some of the most vicious hand-to-hand combat in the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ that took place in defense of Bastogne and returned to regain his former baseball status only to be plagued by mental problems that only now many years later finally have been properly titled PTSD. During his baseball days he had met and retained a most unusual relationship with a beautiful young woman married to an abusive husband. Their meetings were intermittent because although immensely attracted, he would not admit he had met someone he truly could love deeply. However, during dark periods during lulls between vicious bouts of bloody hand-to-hand fighting, memories of her were the only thing that kept him wanting to survive. He does survive and returns to again attain his position of prominence in baseball, although greatly changed from the ‘nice’ person he had been. Plagued by nightmares and with his new confrontational attitude so prominent, his manager insists upon his seeing a psychiatrist. Unwillingly he does and receives advice that he ignores until once again he meets the woman whose thoughts kept him alive during some of his most desperate periods of combat and the tale progresses through confusing months for the two actual soul-mates as they attempt to reach some ultimate mutually rewarding goal.

Discussion: The author has set forth one of the finest books on the features leading up to development of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) this reviewer ever has read. Descriptions so graphically depicted that it may cause unwanted thoughts/images to recur in veterans with similar experiences. The baseball details will bring back many remembrances for those readers old enough to have known these days and provide many details about the game and those playing it at the time for younger readers. The love story is most thoughtfully included and poignant at times.

5* Must read for anyone interested in “baseball, war and/or love”.

Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives

The Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives ISBN: 9780228834380 Tellwell Talent, a novel copyright and written by Tim Darcy Ellis.

This is a novel based on the history of the early Renaissance when Europe began stumbling out of the Dark Ages. It is an era replete with numerous contributions to different areas of science, art, architecture, religions and to a more humanistic approach to the persons living within it. It is a period that elevates to the highest level the scholar, the man of letters and Classical learning. The protagonist is Juan Luis Vives, a Jew of Valencia, Spain, whose family had converted to Catholicism to avoid the Inquisition but still for many generations secretly maintained their Jewish faith and rituals. Pressure on the family increases that his father ignores because he still remained a man of the golden age of Muslim-Christian-Jewish concord and the fact that Jewish money kept the monarchy in power. Juan Luis, with a growing reputation as a scholarly teacher and writer, decides to escape to Flanders where his reputation continues to grow, Regrettably in Flanders, the Duke of Alba and Louis de Praet also are Jew hunters, and with aid from one of Juan’s brilliant students, constantly are attempting to trap Juan Luis. However, he meets Álvaro de Castro, with secrets of his own, but is responsible, through a special relationship with the Cardinal in charge of the Catholic Faith in England to meet. The reason, Álvaro is responsible for introducing him to Sir Thomas More who in turn, has been sent to discover any reason why he should not be appointed the teacher of Henry VIII and Catherine de Aragon’s only daughter, The story gradually unfolds as the reader follows Juan through what seem to be excerpts from discovery of a secret Diary by an electrician making repairs in an old building in Bruges built years before the Nazi occupation. He shows the box to Linguist Professor Benitez. He swears Jacques, the electrician, to secrecy and spends the next 2 months in isolation at the Museum Brugge. The box contains a manuscript, a sketch and a ring He studied the work, much requiring a magnifying glass and it was written in code as well as some in Spanish, Latin, Arabic, and Greek with the last part almost all in poor English. After 2 months he realized he was examining the secret writings of one of Bruges’s great men. It details his life among the literati and important people of the time, including the Boleyn sisters in the Court of King Henry VIII – his life, loves, his family and his attempts to please both the King, who is leaning away from Catholicism and Catherine of Aragon, the double action leads to his apparent unmasking.

The book is presented in four parts. Part One’s opening chapter “The Eyes and Ears of the King of Spain that explains that Bruges, Flanders is in the hands of the Catholic King of Spain but Martin Luther, with the peasant rebels would change all of that” with Parts Two and Three continuing with the body of the story and Part Four, End of Days where one of his worst enemies throughout the story, Louis de Praet, barges into his home in Bruges and tells him since they’re both exiles – Cardinal Wolsey kicked him out just as the King had done to Vives –  they should be able to help each other. He already had built a hospital so maybe the poor-boy school could be next. Thus he could get the credit and Vives would be the silent voice that steered that change and Juan’s initial desire to help humanity in general was within sight, as well as a closure to his family situation.

Discussion: The author has provided a fascinating hint of what this period of turmoil must have been like as well as the never-ending persecution of the Spanish Jews in particular. With respect to Juan Luis, it is difficult to envision a clear picture. He is described as having a spinal problem and a petit mal seizure and others of greater intensity, although the symptoms described appear to be associated with reactions to emotional problems or inability to cope with a situation more in line with psycho-physiologic reactions. The reader may find other relationships with which it is difficult to equate. In mentioning these problems this reviewer is aware that the manuscript discovered is difficult in the extreme to decipher. However, as a novel, it would seem that a little more descriptive material might have provided an even more enjoyable tale.

4* 5* -1* for reasons described.

AMORA

AMORA ISBN: 9780982150338 (paperback) Cleardtone Publishing, copyright and written by Grant J. Hallstrom.

Amore is a Roman aristocrat who at 17 years of age marries a somewhat older member of the same class who, as a result of having been sent to settle a problem in Egypt, has developed a significant business that he runs with his Roman Senator partners. The marriage is a happy one with the birth of a daughter greatly loved by both parents. Later, she gives birth to a boy who has a deformed leg, something that the unwritten rules of their society almost demand the child’s abondement. She persuades Leo to allow her to keep the child in spite of the act reflecting badly on his position. A position that includes not only his business partners, but his personal friend the philosopher Marcus Aurelius who becomes the Emperor. On the daughter’s 12th birthday, she is kidnapped, raped and killed. Both Leo and Amora are devastated, but instead of consoling each other, they begin the blame game. He finds more and more time to spend travelling and she finds herself completely alone. Gradually she becomes acquainted with increasing numbers of Christians, finally is caught with a group, and is sentenced to die in the Arena. Leo has been one of the men pushing for eliminations of all Christians and witnesses her destruction, as well as that of her faithful maid by wild Lions. The story continues with his gradual descent into debauchery and increasing drunkenness where he is betrayed by one of his partners. He is discovered badly beaten and barely alive by the son he has not seen in a long time and nursed back to health by him and his Christian friends. The tale continues with several interesting twists, well-described bits of gladiator combative techniques, captivating descriptions of Roman centurion battle procedures and a considerable amount of well- done proselytizing. All in all, a quite fascinating read as it wends its way to a conclusion not only as a novel but one containing most pertinent historical factual material and stimulating proselytization.

Discussion: A Preface explains the background material for this book. The author’s younger brother, Calvin, “despite some mental and emotional instabilities emotional problems”, married, worked three low-pay jobs to buy a home for his wife and three children. Unfortunately, the combination caused him to be difficult to live with, so while on a trip to California, his wife changed the locks and filed for divorce. Shortly thereafter, the eldest son moved out. The middle child came out as transgender. The youngest became socially anxious and spent most of his time playing video games in the basement. A few years later the transgender child committed suicide. Calvin’s ex-wife barred everyone from even knowing where the child was being buried. Calvin, through all of this heartbreak refused to let anyone speak negatively about anything concerning his family. Six months later he was ecstatic when his youngest son wanted to reconcile. He joined him, they embraced and the boy stabbed Calvin to death. His story of failing to blame or discredit anyone, is the basis for this story.

Summary: As described above, a fascinating tale on several levels, “Amora is a historical novel based on the true story of the noblewoman who inspired Justin Martyr’s petition to the Roman Senate” on behalf of Christians. It was denied and he, along with several others, was beheaded after refusing to deny their faith. Other important figures of the day – Marcus Aurelius, Crescens, the aristocratic woman’s husband Leo, who is a central figure in the book, and other non-fictional as well as fictional characters play significant parts in this appealing story. Thus, as stated above – a quite fascinating read as it wends its way to a conclusion not only as a novel but one containing most pertinent historical factual material and stimulating proselytization.

5* fascinating novel; pertinent historical facts; stimulating proselytization.

 

The Guardians of Erum

The Guardians of Erum publishing permitted by UAE’s National Media Council. Permit # MC-01-01-9623856. Book age group: +17 copyright ISBN: 97899483445, and written by “Self-Publisher” A. Ali Hasan, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Sub-titled, ‘and The Calamitous Child of Socotra’, the story’s setting is one of “Arabia’s pre-Islamic history, traditions, religious beliefs, and local culture and folklore” with abundant activity by jinn. Most locations exist in modern-day Oman or Yemen, but Wadi Erum, in which Part One is centered, is a magnificent city which now is believed to be buried under the sand dunes of Rub’ Al Khali Desert. The story line follows a young farmer and his wife who have a male child born under a particular star which indicated he would ruin Wadi Erum and bring other disastrous results to the world. This all set forth by “Behas the saher, deceiver of all weak minds, master of all sorcery. Necromancer and conjurer, alchemist, and lord of the jinnic realm, and widely known as the worst of mankind.” This jinn Master, or master sorcerer, was at one time acclaimed as a hero by saving Wadi Erum, but has fallen into a less credible position with the gigantic rulers of the city and country itself. Thus, his word still is believed by many and he entreats one of his jinn to kill the baby. The jinn is interrupted and killed by a member of another of an opposing group but cannot stop the baby from being kidnapped. The story continues as a desperate concerted effort is initiated by the baby’s father aided by the rulers and guardians of Erum plus others supporting the powerful Gray Mountain Queen who also wants to find the child for her own reasons. Fundamentally, the story becomes a chase provided in three parts. The first covers the area of Wadi Erum and its surroundings. The second moves the action to the coastal area of Salalah. The third continues onto the island of Socotura where a huge battle takes place, and gradually returns to the Wadi Erum area with a finalization of this section of the tale.

Discussion: This is an interesting historical fantasy involving a chase by the father to regain his son kidnapped by a jinn Master who is fundamentally wicked, but controversially considered good by many for an earlier deed that saved the city. There are numerous characters important to the story and they diligently maintain their parts. All maters considered, a book of fantasy, full of the occult that should greatly appeal to the younger members of the YA group. The author’s fascination with the historic folklore of pre-Islamic Arabia is evident and a thread to which he strongly adheres. From this reader’s perspective a cautionary note must be entered, however. With the level of sophistication existent in today’s youth, at least within the United States, it would seem that the level of 17 + or – suggested as the best reading level may be lowered a little for greatest reader enjoyment.

5* For lower level YA readers with suggested caveat reason set forth.

The Apricot Outlook

The Apricot OUTLOOK of Katherine Koon Hung Wong ISBN: 9781734824018 Clever Clock Press copyright and written by Dennis W. C. Wong.

This is an unusual genealogical investigative book that opens with several illustrations, acknowledgements, and an introduction that leads to The Apricot Outlook which is a short recital of Katherine’s life in her own words. In turn, Beyond the Apricot Outlook recites the almost monumental task of attempting to discover the background of her and the author’s roots. An endeavor almost impossible to accomplish for Chinese natives who had immigrated to Hawaii at or around the turn of the 19th – 20th century. A huge part of the problem is that many came from small enclaves of several small villages within an overall larger collection within areas of this huge country and especially when one considers how children were named and the fact that Chinese men routinely could have as many as 7 different names.

The story is simplistically told and, although somewhat difficult to follow, must be a treasure trove of material for a sizeable number of people. It is most difficult to rate the reading interest/enjoyment for general readership.

5* for specific individuals and research accomplished; – ? * for other readers.

The Trail of Tears

The Trail of Tears published, copyright and written by the History Titans.

Sub-titled The 19th Century Forced Migration of Native Americans, this book is not to be confused with other books with the same title that were published over a considerable number of years. This volume is a relatively complete listing of substantiated facts and features of the removal of a large number of Indian Nations featuring particularly the well-developed civilization of those inhabiting the East Coast of the budding United States; viz. Choctaws, Seminoles, Cherokee, Creeks (also referred to a Muskogee), Chiricawas, and Chickasaws. Others are included in part from other areas as pertinent. The material is provided with a disclaimer, an Introduction, 6 Chapters and a Conclusion. The first chapter is informative with respect to Native American Lifestyle and Culture and the influence of Colonization first by Spanish Settlers followed by that of the English. The second discusses issues with Native Americans as complicated with the changes taking place as a result of British vs. the developing independent new government of the United States. The third discusses the early influence of some American Leaders; Chapter 4, The Indian Removal Act with emphasis on John C. Calhoun and Andrew Jackson; the fifth describes The Trail of Tears with tribal emphasis; the sixth, Repercussions and Current Scenario; a Conclusion provides an overview of the tremendous loss of individual nations culture and way of life and the burgeoning problems facing what is left of these once proud and well-developed nations.

Discussion: This is a book that provides exactly what has been intended. It presents history as it exists. Pertinent documents that fill some of the areas that previously appeared to be empty with respect to this distasteful action set in motion to satisfy the greed of the inhabitants of a newly formed government. One that provided a death sentence not only for several thousand members of these smaller nations that were willing, initially for the most part, to make attempts to find a solution to communal living, but an action that additionally sentenced the survivors and their descendants to poverty, disease and stress on all levels. This relatively well-set-forth listing of historical facts include probable reasons for Jackson’s finally agreeing to proceed with removal of the Creek Nation in spite of his interesting wartime relationship with the Muscogee Chief and the statements made to him – an action difficult for nostalgic followers of American Indian History to understand. And incidentally, a simple phrase or expression coined during the period still occasionally is heard today, although usually in an amusingly misunderstood connotation. “God willin’ an’ the Creek don’t rise” refers to a Creek Indian uprising, rather than a usually assumed intervening stream of water.

4* Historically presented disgraceful actions by the newly formed United States.