When Life Doesn’t Turn Out the Way we Hoped it Would

     When Life doesn’t turn Out the Way We’d Hoped it would ISBN: 0791973719830 Create Space Independent Publishing Copyright and written by Tom Wick.

In this 3rd book the author details his tour of duty as a young enlisted sailor aboard the USS Gridley CG-21 (West Pac 81-82 Cruise Book) that took him into the Indian Ocean during the Iran Conflict and beyond. It first presents the frequently repulsive antics engaged in by ‘old salts’ indoctrinating pollywogs into Shellback status as they “Cross the Line” (Equator) for the first time. He also describes levels of Shellbacks awards for particular crossings and certain ‘Fraternities’ for other types of crossings; e.g. crossing the Arctic Circle, Antarctic Circle, International Dateline, etc. After this test, he was awarded ‘Ship’s Liberty’ in their first port to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Pattaya Beach, Thailand in 1982. Next he describes Thailand in general, its travelogue features and those of its capital Bangkok. Numerous pictures are provided here as well as in the pages following. In the beach area, Kickboxing shows are offered at several beer bars. Go-go bars, nightclubs, and discotheques are in abundance. Sexual, as well as authentic, massage parlors also are numerous and he describes World-famous Walking Street as the center of night life, although seemingly the rest of the area was well supplied. Additionally, the reader is informed that Pattaya Beach had the second largest concentration of gay oriented enterprises in Thailand with Bangkok the largest. Besides Tuk-Tuk busses (pictures included), there was cheap public passenger pickups called songthaews or baht-busses because Thai currency is the baht and they’re cheap. Repeated accounts of his amorous escapades with his 3 lovely Thai prostitutes are provided as well as other similar escapades in the other ports covered. These other ports are Hong Kong with description of weather, demographics and points of interest as well as nearby Kowloon. Sasebo, Japan, again a complete general description and year’s weather report as well as an overview of Sasebo with a post-WWII note preceded by brief historical notes on beginnings of WWII. Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is next where travelogue descriptions again are set forth. The final port of San Diego ultimately is reached and he is met by family. The descriptions of his sexual and drug/alcohol activity, of his shipboard tasks, how the USS Gridley was named and lessons on the Geographic Coordinate System are so prominently and repeatedly described it becomes a bit annoying.

Discussion: In my review of the first book by this author (June, 2020) I wrote: “The material covered in this first book in the series presents, in quite explicit detail, quite lengthy descriptions of the repetitiously indulgent activities of the author, his family, friends and acquaintances as he moves among several locations. However, there is an overlying tone of a man somehow repentant of much of his activity and, as a result of some unnamed factor, ultimately realizing the ‘error of his ways and being ‘born again’ as a Christian. Although the causative factor is not mentioned per se, when he failed 1st grade a psychiatrist diagnosed him as having ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). This long-standing dysfunction, in combination with being brutally beaten, raped and suffering a degree of PTSD could have left him totally repentant for the meaningless sex, constant drug and alcohol abuse and the rest that caused him intense feelings of alienation, isolation, and loneliness.”

The author again has presented a book that presents a maximum amount of thought. Here he still participates in abundant sexual and drug activity “we shot some heroin, smoked some pot, and made love again.” “After our shower, we smoked some pot, got dressed and had some breakfast.” And similar phrases and sentences repetitiously are supplied, but in this volume he does not exhibit any of the repentance shown in the first book. However, the fact that a young man just barely out of his teens and with the background of family psychotic behavior, dysfunctional acquaintances from childhood, and personal problems he has encountered from a very early age, should have the tenacity of purpose to attempt to write a series of books is, at least to this reviewer, amazing. It is most unfortunate that he has not encountered an editor or other sympathetic person who would have been able to aid in his endeavors. His attempts really show promise.

3* Extremely difficult to rate; 2*- 4* dependent upon degree of analysis.

Blood and Water

Blood and Water, A Paranormal Mystery assumed published copyright and written by Caroline Ann Davis.

        Jan Martínek is a vampire, unwillingly converted by his uncle Otakar, and although married to vampire Darja who still would like to be with him, but because of their constantly occurring inter personal problems has caused them to separate for a time. Her brother Petr hates Jan and didn’t want her to marry him in the first place and wants her to return to Prague. She is in a quandary because she loves her brother as much as Jan. Right now, Jan is more or less assigned a job in America looking for Otakar and Magda who have disappeared. The pressure to find them is strong because the latter gradually has evolved to almost legendary status in vampire circles. The reader next is introduced to Kristina Benson who with her brother Kyle, live with her grandfather in the apartment over his old fashioned bookstore. The store is close to an old relic of a hotel/hospital that recently has burned to the ground. Her brother and a close friend are ‘Ghostbusters’ and went there to record ghosts reportedly living in the place and perished in the fire. Kristina has inherited psychic abilities that she refuses to follow even though she is a distant relative of Hanna Gerlach, a psychic and one of the most famous ghosts that lived there. But in spite of her reluctance, she feels a strong need to attempt to contact Kyle, wherever he is. Russell Hodges, a professor at the local college who, through his prominent position as head of the American Society for Psychical Research, had given a lecture at the bookstore some time ago and is attracted to her when again meeting and becoming aware of  her desire to contact the dead Kyle. Hodges is related vaguely to Dr. Clifford, the former owner of the destroyed hotel which also had been part of his clinical program. He arranges a séance with her, her grandfather and himself in attendance. The session is dominated by the harsh voice of the doctor as Kristina acts as the séance performer and Clifford is ranting that he wants Hanna back, and that he knows he has taken her. They are not aware that Jan has snuck in and is listening and he knows Clifford had taken the locket he, Jan, had given her and should remember destroying her body. It seems Jan had tried to convert her to eternal life as a vampire, but was too late as she was too far advanced with T.B.

      Kristina collapses into a coma-like condition that takes time to dissipate and scares her grandfather severely. She recovers soon, but still is insistent upon contacting her brother so Russell introduces her to Gwen Crowley, a well-known medium to help her. Meanwhile, Jan, posing as a writer interested in the burned out hotel/clinic offers to help her with another séance and the tale continues as Jan becomes increasingly attracted to Kristina who looks startlingly like Hanna, Russell similarly becomes enamored, Otakar and Magda are rediscovered as well as more about them unfolds, Darja becomes actively involved and Kristina’s grandfather plays a surprising role, all leading to an interestingly different climax.

Discussion: The author has provided an interesting plot that is much more involved than those previously read in this genre by this reviewer. My only, no doubt irrelevant aside, is that I do wish this author, as well as many others, would please become a little more knowledgeable about firearms when their characters are going to use them. Nonetheless, this is a vampire story that it would seem aficionados especially will thoroughly enjoy.

5* Interestingly ‘different’ vampire tale devotees should thoroughly enjoy.

 

Diary of a Time Travelling Alien

Diary of a Time Travelling Alien ISBN: 9781234567890 assumed published, copyright and written by Yaakov C Lui-Hyden.

The story is of a fictitious Alien who begins with: “dear reader, be this a tale of woe and hope; two things you love above all else. It is difficult to write. To collect my thoughts of a millennium and my motives for doing so I’m not even sure of. Perhaps simply because I can.” He then continues to describe how he belonged to a race that destroyed itself in wars, not foolishly fought on their own territory, but that of others, until they were the conquerors. Further, this was the cause of the wars, they fought for ‘souls’ which their technology had developed technics to move from one body to another. With shortages as a result of the wars (with technical advancements again allowing the bodies to be maintained [rather than killing]. Their fantastically advanced society, once arriving at their conqueror state, led to complete destruction ultimately through infighting among themselves. He had been a soldier and his last days on his planet he was dead, or as he explains: “Not dead because we had gone far beyond that”, but his consciousness was dormant. He now, and for some millennia, was destined to travel the universe as a bodiless wraith that, if desired could again enter another’s body. The story is of his attempt to do so and the disastrous consequences of his action.

Discussion: The author has generated a fast moving tale that offers a unique and distinctly different plot. It is one that lives up to providing suggested insights into the human condition with sarcasm and wit. Most unfortunately, these insights are mostly momentary statements. The opportunity and desire for expansion not only is there, but looked forward to by this reader with thwarted anticipation. Certain episodes also, such as with the dinosaurs, is too extensive for the material offered, as are occasional others. There also is a certain amount of confusion in following the action, part of which is handling of the unusual subject matter. Judicious editing would have helped tremendously. It is my understanding that this is the author’s first novel and as such problems encountered are no more than can be expected. However, this book demonstrates the advent of an author with a tremendous amount of promise.

3* fine effort from a new author demonstrating 5* uniqueness in plot design.

Getting Unstuck

Getting Unstuck assumed published, copyright and written by Cara Stein.

This is a book similar to a growing number of others published with suggestions on how to be happy with your life and life’s work. The difference in large part is the author’s approach. It is bubbly, as seemingly is the author, and her modus operandi is to ignore the one common thread that appears to ‘hold back’ most persons from moving forward – fear of failure or making mistakes. One must remember mistakes are human, everybody makes them. The answer is to learn from them and not worry about any past faults. In other words, don’t be too hard on yourself. Start with a good session of introspection and follow up with more to find your strengths opposed to your weaknesses. She then attacks a large number of common faults that keep individuals in an unhappy and often most confused state. Too many blow things out of proportion. Some keep avoiding something that must be done, an action that just makes the task that much worse. Other persons stay detached to “avoid being hurt”. Often persons get upset by matters not under their control. Do you have a lot to do? Make a list – don’t try to remember it all. She admonishes the reader to avoid and/or get rid of these faults and provides suggestions on how to accomplish this goal. She suggests, among other moves, making a list of tasks you don’t want to do and then begin doing just that, stop doing them. Start with the little ones and gradually move further up the list. The author’s suggestions are accompanied by a list of 40 references at the conclusion of the book.

Discussion: The author appears to be amply qualified to write this book. She has dabbled in a large number of tasks including obtaining a PhD while “overcoming fears had been my chief occupations for a few years, between career change and completely remodeling my life.” She quit her well-paying job and started her own business. Then “When she experienced how much easier it all is than it looks, I realized I had to spread the word.” Thus, “Whether you’re stuck, lost, or just looking to enjoy your life more, I’ve been there! I can provide advice, guidance, and vision. I’m a big believer in self-reinvention and sculpting your life into what you want it to be. I love guiding people to do the same.”

5* Much material similar to others, but refreshingly different.

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.

Lies behind the Woods

Lies behind the Woods ISBN: 9780578593616 assumed published, copyright and written by Bradley Cornish.

A 25 year old tenured college professor is bored and moves for the summer into a cottage in the small town of White Pine in the Adirondack Mountains. He always went there for the summer because he somehow associates it with better times before his father left without saying a word to him when he was very young. He still hoped to find some connection. He is a serious distance runner and while on a morning run he sees what appears to be a possible kidnapping of a young woman. He rationalizes that it could have been any of several different scenarios and does not report it to the police until he sees the local paper and recognizes the reported missing girl as the one he had seen in the car. From this point on the story evolves into a search for the missing girl, her discovery, jailing of her kidnapper, his escape and her part in helping him capture the professor and an FBI associate for whom he has developed some love interest. The story also leads him to discovery of the long missing father and continues until the reader is offered a forthcoming follow-up story.

Discussion: This is a story supposedly based upon the Stockholm syndrome wherein hostages develop a psychological alliance with their captors during captivity. The story’s plot is somewhat thinly aligned with the syndrome, but more specifically it is a tale split in two halves loosely tied with his search for his missing father to bring closure to a part of his life. The first part dwells on the young professor’s repetitive, graphically described sexual encounters with the aside that he, like all of the characters, has been abused heavily during his early life. The second portion is a well-paced mystery/thriller chase through sections of the densely wooded area of the mountains. Overall there are many interesting twists to the story but a time line and seemingly missing sections of action that make the tale a little annoying if not difficult to follow.

Summary: An erotically tilted mystery/thriller/romance this reader found to be interesting but replete with problems of presentation. Probably a tale enjoyable for many. Regrettably, this reviewer was quite unimpressed with what provided only flashes of a good tale.

3* 4* for certain readers; considerably less for others.