Redlined

Redlined, a novel of Boston ISBN: 978097282233Brunswick House Press, copyright and written by Richard W. Wise.

Jedediah Flynt is an ex-Marine with a considerable amount of hand-to-hand combat experience, an ex-wife and two small children for whom he pays support but seldom sees. Presently he is an ‘organizer’ in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts under contract to the Catholic Church for projects helping the poor and downtrodden in their fights against public projects such as a just completed victory against the Boston Building Commissioner. He still is a well-conditioned, attractive, somewhat charismatic individual who believes in what he is doing and has the ability to analyze and truthfully face a situation and manage it. Sandy Morgan is a newly hired young woman who he sends to watch a vacant building that he fears will be next for gutting by explosive arson in a developing pattern that, on the surface makes no sense. Sandy does not follow his orders and is killed by the arsonists. Thus begins a fascinating story that builds to a climax with involvement of: another new young woman replacement being heavily involved through excellent research activity and becoming threatened; a part of a local Chinese ‘tong’ group; a large Chinese Gambling Syndicate and representatives of a mainland Chinese ‘Mafia- like’ group; an immensely wealthy entrepreneur; several groups of local resident organizations; marine corps friends of Jed; and even several levels of the Catholic Church. The story builds to a fascinating climax that is logically thought producing on several levels.

Discussion: A tremendously well-written story with an excellent pace, well-developed characters and a plot that holds the reader enthralled until the end. A highly recommended thriller/mystery provided by an author who seems eminently qualified to produce such a tale.

5* Thriller/mystery highly recommended.

Road to the Breaking

Road to the Breaking ISBN: 9781733107949 published, copyright and written by Christopher Bennett.

Book 1 of historical fiction in an anticipated four book series that by way of explanation opens with a quotation by Billy Creek, an Indian Scout, U.S. Army, 8th Infantry:
“It was a time of such suffering and death, it caused the breaking of all the old ways. Some for the good, and some for the worse. Nothing came through ‘The Breaking’ unchanged, and all that once was, even to the greenness of the earth, was broken during that time, and was never again the same.”

The story opens in March 15, 1860 – South of Fort Davis, Texas. As Captain Nathaniel Chambers leads his troop attempting to find a notorious outlaw. They do and Chambers, angered by the outlaw’s action, viciously reacts. The reaction is understandable and not inappropriate, but distasteful to him as he is concerned with this personal lack of self-control of anger that he has been struggling with for many years. And this trait becomes a persistent feature of the story as it evolves. The tale continues as he is almost revered by those under his command as a fearless leader in battle and an intelligent, empathetic officer. Thus, when his father dies unexpectedly and he is forced to leave the army and its, for him, compatible way of life to return to Virginia, a few of his men resign to accompany him. The return is necessitated by his mother’s inability to handle the affairs of running a huge plantation, replete with slaves, another feature with which the Captain is ‘uncomfortable’. Acceptance of his resignation, outfitting for the trip and the distance to be covered will take several weeks at best and his mother already is experiencing tremendous pressure from the inheriting son of the neighboring plantation. A running feud between the two deceased owners is being re-opened by the young man who is taking ruthless and totally unfair advantage of Nathaniel’s mother. This first book sets the stage for the ensuing series.

Discussion: The author has initiated what appears to be the beginning of an enjoyable tale of the pre-civil war and probably some parts of the ensuing conflict. He has approached a difficult job admirably considering all of the elements required in such an endeavor. He has set the stage by including all of them and imbued the story with tension and anticipation for the next volume. Granted, a certain amount of ‘filler’ has been added that slows the tale’s forward thrust, but generally acceptable and pertinent to character development. An intriguing beginning.

5* Pre-civil war novel with tremendous possibilities.

Cycladic Girls

Cycladic Girls ISBN: 9781735123004 first published by Aegis Press copyright and written by Patrick Garner.

Sub-titled Celebrities, Deities, Love & Power; Greek Gods in the Modern World, this second book in a series (first, The Winnowing) states that the characters are not based on living persons. Rather, only the gods and goddesses are real. An author’s note explains that it is a ‘stand-alone’ volume but readers would find references to events in the first to appear frequently here in the second. For example here, Jackson Night is the story’s narrator and is an individual Lachesis, one of the three Fates who control life spans of mortals and gods alike made him a-mortal; e.g. he, like the gods, will live forever but is not immortal as are the gods, including his wife Danaë, who is a demi-God, daughter of the god of the seas, Poseidon and his human wife. The tale, as related by Jackson, follows the progress of Timessa, a nymph protected by Artemis (Apollo’s sister) who, feeling ‘controlled’ decides to leave and gradually evolves into what they know as ‘The Great One, Ishtar of Babylon and many other names. She preceded all of the other gods by perhaps a millennium and was the most powerful of all. She could bring fertility and she could kill by atomizing and scattering her selection to the winds.

The story follows her life as it emerges from her move as one of Artemis’ nymphs as she moves to the modern world where she attends college and enters a modern day life style. She has a spectacular type of beauty that draws her to modelling where she becomes an almost immediate sensation. As time passes, calls for her from all of the top designers become highly competitive, the fashion magazines pay top dollar for her shoots and she becomes an immensely wealthy worldwide sensation, attracts an almost cult-like following of girls and young women, revives the Ancient sacrifices, relabeling as Observances for pack of followers to be performed at the time of the girls’ period so that the shedding of blood was performed as a tribute to her, a gift they could bestow for those provided by her. The story’s breadth expands as more of the old Greek gods are re-awakened from their more than millennium of sleep and how this, along with Timessa’s discovery of Iole, an obscure French fashion designer, affects Timessa’s need for adulation that had mounted to the level described.

Discussion: The Series author might be thought of as somewhat of a Renaissance man in the breadth of his personal activities. He is a man with several degrees, a poet, playwright who also has established a theater, and author but also is involved as a wetlands scientist and hydrologist. His characters and ancient gods are fascinating and, as described in the author’s notes from the first book in the series, their “Sexual hunger, hubris, infatuation – these emanating combined with divine intellect drive the Winnowing’s key characters” and are carried over into this second in the series. Description of the old gods is supplied to the reader as a most helpful addition. It is suggested that reading the first book in the series will avoid a bit of ‘spinning of one’s wheels’ if beginning this volume.

4* 5* tale; -1 for struggle described if not beginning with the series’ first book.

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.