DESCRIPTION of Columbus and Caonabó: 1493-1498 Retold by Andrew Rowen.
“Columbus and Caonabó: 1493–1498 Retold” dramatizes Columbus’s invasion of Española and the bitter resistance mounted by its Taíno peoples during the period and aftermath of Columbus’s second voyage. Based closely on primary sources, the story is told from both Taíno and European perspectives, including through the eyes of Caonabó—the conflict’s principal Taíno chieftain and leader—and Columbus.”
When you read a Historical Fiction novel you have a certain thought in mind of what to expect. Andrew Rowen gives you more than that, much more. The press release discusses the research he’s done through the years but many do the same. But I haven’t run across anyone who puts the detail of the people into their work as much as Rowen has. Given as much life to a people we know so little about but by the end know so much and gain a fuller picture of a part of the American foundational background. I’ve taken U.S., European, and Latin American studies at the University level and not been given any of the detail given here, nor even heard of the vast majority of the people given in this work.
Being a history person I of course loved the specifics pertaining to the events of the past but even more I enjoyed Rowen’s interpretation of the people involved, especially the Taíno peoples. Also the conflict between the crew of Columbus left behind and moving forward. There was no simple black and white, right and wrong to the story. I suppose overall you would say there is one, but as far as the actions of both peoples the ideas made a lot more sense than what we learn in school.
Rowen shows the use of the Europeans and Taíno forming alliances whether they be real or merely for appearances, the use of Christianity as a subjugation strategy as well as a tool by the Taíno. The Taíno religion is also a major issue in the progress of negotiations and relations. (I don’t want to say too much here.) The actions of Columbus are laid bare, warts and all. Even coming to be questioned by Isabella and Ferdinand. The presence of Spanish settlers in the islands is devastating in more ways than the disease we’ve so often read about.
Ultimately you feel what is happening as it happens. The anguish of the Taíno peoples, the settlers, and even the soldiers who didn’t sign up for what happens. This along with 42 historic and newly drawn maps and illustrations bring life to a part of history glossed over by the victors.
I’m not an anti-Columbus or anti-Western Exploration person. I like history. I am a historian. I want as many of the facts as possible. Unfortunately those who are the victors tend to suppress the ugly parts they played to achieve their victory. “Columbus and Caonabó: 1493–1498 Retold” provides more facts while being entertaining at the same time.
The author includes an interesting final chapter titled Agonies and Fates. We learn about just what the title says, Agonies and Fates. Plus many definitions are given for the Taíno language.
A solid 4 out of 5 Stars. A 4 because of all the great information and the life given to the historical figures. Also a 4 and not a 5 because it is a bit of a heavy read. This is not a read in one or two sittings. You will likely want to do so but take your time so you can absorb everything you’re being given.
I rate using:
Realistic Characters/Character Development based on genre,
Believability based on genre
I would read the previous book, Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold, of which this book is the sequel.
504 pages with the reading portion ending with Agonies and Fates on page 417. The remaining pages are filled with great information for further understanding, including a Glossary.
Andrew Rowen has devoted 10 years to researching the history leading to the first encounters between Europeans and the Caribbean’s Taíno peoples, including visiting sites where Columbus and Taíno chieftains lived, met, and fought. His first novel, “Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold” (released 2017), portrays the life stories of the chieftains and Columbus from youth through their encounters in 1492. Its sequel, “Columbus and Caonabó: 1493–1498 Retold” (to be released November 9, 2021), depicts the same protagonists’ bitter conflict during the period of Columbus’s second voyage. Andrew is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and Harvard Law School and has long been interested in the roots of religious intolerance.
I grew up looking like a very average kid. I lived most of my young life in the suburbs of Rochester, New York. That’s over on the western side of the state along the shores of Lake Ontario for those who aren’t familiar with the state.
My household included my parents, a brother who was about two and a half years older than me, and, of course, me. We almost always had a pet. At least one cat, two for a while, and a dog for a short time.
My parents weren’t rich, but they weren’t poor, either. We never went hungry, but we often didn’t have as many frills as some of my friends. For most of my childhood, my parents shared one car. We all shared a single bathroom with one sink. I don’t think either of those things were all that unusual back then, butseem relatively rare today.
My brother, Bryan, and I spent hours playing basketball at our hoop in the driveway and easily as much time throwing the football around in the backyard. We were closer than most brothers I knew and spent a lot of time challenging each other to be better athletes or just hanging out listening to music and playing games.
On the surface, it all looked very idyllic. If you threw in a white picket fence and a fresh baked pie every night, we would have looked like a typical 1960’s sitcom family.
You know that saying “don’t judge a book by its cover?” Of course you do. It never fit a situation better than it did with my family. The simple smiles flashed to the outside world were nothing more than a front to hide hearts as black as coal. Monsters barren of souls who were masters of covering their tracks to avoid discovery.
You may be thinking those sentiments are too strong. My own wife, Jill, didn’t believe me at first when I began digging up old memories. “Parents don’t do those things to their children,” she would say. “I’ve met your parents, they’re very nice people,” she would mistakenly add. Finally, in 2007, Jill pleaded with my father via email to reach out to me and help me through digesting some terrible memories I was having about my paternal grandfather. He simply ignored the email. That was also a turning point in my relationship with him. After that point, as the years went on and my memories filled in more completely, my father began making up more and more ridiculous lies in an attempt to cover his tracks. Between the 2007 snub and his subsequent backtracking on so many things he had already said, Jill finally began to realize just how evil he really is.
What did my father do that was so egregious? Did he molest Bryan or me? Did he beat us? No. He feared my mother far too much to do those things. Through his actions, things he would say from time to time, and an email he sent me sometime around 2006, it became clear to me that he wantedto. He “abused” his significantly younger siblings when they were growing up. “It’s what I learned” he emailed me. I’m certain he never “unlearned” it. My mother made it extremely clear to him, though, that she would come at him with absolutely everything she had, legally or otherwise, if he so much as looked at Bryan or me again the way he did one day. On that day when I was only about five, he was clearly ramping up to do a lot more than just yell at Bryan and me. She clearly wore the pants in the family, though, and she very well controlled most of his actions and kept him in line to the best of her ability.
What could my father do that was so wrong and so damaging under the iron fist surveillance of my mother? It appears that my father knew my mother’s strength and convictions from the beginning of their relationship. As such, he never told her what kind of person his father was. My father went to great lengths to hide his upbringing from my mother. Not only did he hide what kind of person his father was, he demanded that we spend every Saturday out there with them along with most holidays. When I say we spent the day, we went out there immediately after eating an early breakfast and we stayed out there until midnight or later. My father would typically spend the day alone with his father talking in the back work room or garage. Mind you, my grandfather is a well known violent pedophile who would go as far as threatening to kill my dad and his six siblings whenever they got too out of line. The first red flag: my father enjoyed this violent pedophile’s company and time to an extreme level.
There was more to my father keeping his past secret than wanting to visit with this violent pedophile on a routine basis. When I was still quite young, my father convinced my mother that Bryan and I should be sent to his parent’s place for at least two weeks to “have fun out in the country.” Had she known what my grandfather was all about, she clearly would never have allowed the weekly family visits, let alone leaving Bryan and me alone with this nut job. I have little doubt my father was delivering us to his father so he could live vicariously through his father’s actions. I also have little doubt that he got an earful about what happened during the two weeks we were trapped there on his Saturday visits.
You’re probably wondering now what in the world happened while we were there. It’s not even what you’re likely thinking. To me, it’s a lot worse. In the summer of 1980, I was seven years old. I have had nightmares indicating that my grandfather may have molested me, but I’ve never reconnected to those memories if he had. What I do remember is a lot worse. He abducted an eleven year old girl while I was alone with him. My brother was out of the house all day with my grandmother running errands. I believe the girl lived relatively close by and was a friend of Bryan’s and mine.
He attacked her and forced me to stay in the room with them. As she screamed, the guilt of doing nothing overwhelmed me. I knew helping her would likely end in my death, but I refused to stand there and do nothing. When I awoke from being knocked unconscious, she was gone. I’ve never been able to confirm whether she survived the attack or not, but I think I’ve found her with the help of a private investigator – alive and well today. She won’t respond to my emails or outreaches on Facebook. Presumably she’s not in a place where she wants to pick at that scab.
You at least had your mother to run to, right? Not exactly. My mother always looked out for me in the big things, such as keeping me safe from my father and worrying about why I came home with my face completely swelled up when I was seven. In other matters, though, I was pretty much her verbal punching bag.
My mother almost desperately wanted a daughter. She was convinced I was going to be a daughter. From the moment I was born, she became suicidally depressed. She never was able to move past the disappointment and lambasted me for everything I did. Even when I’d get 100% on a test, she would point out how lazy and stupid I was for only getting 95% the week before. After all, she reasoned, this 100% clearly showed I was capable of being perfect all the time. Talk about setting the bar high!
I knew she would blame me for the little girl’s death if I told her about it, so I kept my mouth shut. That wasn’t easy to do because she wouldn’t stop examining my swollen face for days. She even took me to the doctor to have it examined to see if my father’s excuse that I had been exposed to poison ivy in smoke was realistic.
All this and a lot more is described in much better detail in I’m Supposed to Make a Difference: A Memoir About Overcoming Trauma and Abuse. The book includes excerpts from emails I’ve exchanged with my father, greater details of all the situations described here plus more, and discussions of how this affected my mental health. The discussions on mental health include sections about suicidal feelings I battled from 11th grade through to about 2019. It lays out how I managed to work through the suicidal depression and anxiety with the help of a wonderful psychologist (who wrote a great foreword for the book) and an extremely knowledgeable psychiatrist (who wrote a wonderful afterword for the book). I’m hopeful the book will serve as motivation for others fighting with similar childhood traumas.
You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09C3Z7XC5. Released on Tuesday September 7 in paperback and Kindle. The Audiobook version is being produced and will be available soon!
First, a sincere apology to Samuel for the delay in posting this review. But I got here 🙂
I applaud Samuel’s courage I revisiting this traumatic event and writing his story.
I was expecting “life lessons” neatly packaged from this writing, but it is not to be so. The true lesson, if there is to be one, is gleaned from how Samuel has steadfastly moved on in life bearing the scars, in a society which recoiled from his physical scars. And these scars also ran deep, and we see a man acknowledging the fears and pain he carried, and embodying gratitude.
Samuel’s inspirational story is a simple narrative of a life impacted by events beyond his control. I hesitate to say more of the event in question, other than it being a cautionary tale. This focal point of this story serves to remind the reader that the human spirit can surmount if the will is strong.
A story of trauma, healing and growth worth reading.
Kimberly Hess on Sarah B. Cochran, the Inspiration Behind “A Lesser Mortal”
I grew up with the power of women’s experiences in the stories I heard about female ancestors and relatives. Whether they were politically active, ahead of their time, or overcoming enormous obstacles, each one’s story helped me to understand what I could do. One in particular was Sarah B. Cochran. When my parents and I regularly visited family in southwestern Pennsylvania, I saw artifacts from her life, like the mansion and church she had built, which were being added to the National Register of Historic Places when I was a little girl. I also knew that her decision to put my great-grandmother through college in 1917 still influenced my life many years later.
In that part of the country, it seemed that everybody knew something about her work in the Connellsville coke industry or respected her public and private philanthropy. She was once described to me as the Dolly Parton of the area because of her financially humble origins, generous philanthropy, and humility. As a story, her life struck me as the love child that an Edith Wharton novel might have had with a Nancy Meyers movie: our heroine moves beyond Gilded Age sensibilities and restrictions to inhabit a modern life with purpose, agency, and people who valued her. There is even a fantastic house and a five-minute standing ovation. It was a life that Sarah probably never expected to have and one that historians probably don’t expect to find in its place and time. And, it was a life that I never expected to write about.
Sarah lived from 1857 until 1936 and far exceeded expectations for a woman from that era in southwestern Pennsylvania. But in spite of that, she would be treated as a “lesser mortal” with respect to history; that is, she was left out of the larger historical narrative that featured male contemporaries like Henry Clay Frick or Andrew Carnegie. Born to a poor farming family, she struggled just to have clothes so she could attend school. When she got a job as a maid for Jim Cochran, the pioneer of the Connellsville coke industry, she and Jim’s son fell in love and married. About twenty years into that marriage, her husband and son died prematurely, and Sarah went on to own the coal and coke businesses that had been her husband’s in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee. At the time, it was illegal for women to work in or around Pennsylvania coal mines, and some miners even believed women were an unlucky presence around coal mines. While there was not a clear place for Sarah in an industry that was still male dominated, she didn’t leave it. Newspapers reported that she continued to transact business until she was in her seventies.
She also didn’t retreat to a comfortable life; instead, she engaged with the world by becoming a generous philanthropist for causes that mattered to her. She attributed this to a doctor’s advice to help schools and churches as she mourned the loss of her husband and son. Perhaps the lack of fit in mining also helped to smooth her path into philanthropy, where she would have had greater latitude and where women already had a socially acceptable role. When she died in 1936, her private philanthropy was valued at several hundred thousand dollars and her public philanthropy at $2,000,000 (1936 dollars). From her forties through her sixties, Sarah built college dormitories, endowed department chairs, and was a lifelong benefactor and “mother” of Phi Kappa Psi’s West Virginia Alpha chapter. Her philanthropy at Allegheny College even rivaled that of Andrew Carnegie during a crucial building campaign, and she was the first woman to serve as an Allegheny trustee.
Much of Sarah’s philanthropy went beyond generosity to actually shifting power, and often it seemed to be a tool for improving the lives of future generations. In an era when college degrees were becoming increasingly necessary for higher paying jobs and viewed with suffrage as keys to women’s independence, Sarah quietly paid for local people’s college education. Ahead of Pennsylvania’s 1915 suffrage referendum, she publicly threw her weight behind women’s suffrage by opening her estate to host western Pennsylvania’s largest suffrage fundraiser. Ironically, some might have still viewed the home as a woman’s domain and a refuge from politics. However, Sarah was not afraid to bring politics into the home or to publicly own what differentiated her from business competitors: gender. The following year she opened her home again, this time to host the semi-annual meeting of the world’s all-male Methodist bishops. It was reportedly the first time the meeting had been held in a private home, and it was just sixteen years since women were first allowed to be lay delegates at the church’s quadrennial meetings.
As fascinating as Sarah’s life was, it was a life I expected someone else, namely a historian, to write about. My career was in the corporate world for nearly twenty years, but during that time I was also involved with organizations that forced me to consider issues like investments in women’s education, women’s representation in business school, how women have been left out of the historical narrative, and what people might gain from learning stories about female historic figures. When my husband noticed that he couldn’t find information about Sarah online, I created her Wikipedia entry and moved on to a museum blog post, a National Women’s History Museum biography, and a StoryCorps recording.
I spent two more years researching and writing about Sarah’s life and its context, then supplemented those findings with genealogical research I’d been doing over the course of thirty-six years. Beyond learning more details of her life, I also discovered a woman who became highly productive in the periods we know as midlife and senior years. As a middle-aged woman myself, I thought for the first time about the opportunities and challenges age might have presented to Sarah. I also discovered how difficult it is to find her if you don’t already know she’s there. Sometimes Sarah is portrayed as a coal magnate’s widow, not as an accomplished woman in her own right. She falls through the cracks when writings about the coal and coke region focus on miners’ wives or rely on oral histories from employees of the H.C. Frick Coke Company, one of Sarah’s competitors. Even her occupational information, sometimes portrayed as a blank space or the word “None” on the U.S. Census, wouldn’t suggest any of the responsibilities or influence that she actually had. Because she was involved in organizations and institutions that mattered to her in specific locations – not organizations that would simply help her to self-promote – there are pockets of deep knowledge in unexpected places instead of widespread, general awareness.
This makes her story important to tell for a few different reasons. First, the fact that a woman has remained invisible after her businesses competed with Frick’s and her philanthropy sometimes rivaled Carnegie’s is a good reason to tell her story. I hope this will inspire others to tell stories of the “lesser mortals” who affected their own communities but remained invisible to a wider audience. This might be done through historic sites, books or articles, or it might be the simple act of donating an artifact to a museum or archive. Representation in museums and archives is critical for demonstrating what roles a diverse group of people has played in history and culture, but it also allows researchers from around the world to discover people. Second, despite Sarah’s very specific interests, there is a universality and timelessness to her story. It is a story about using the power we already have, living with purpose, being resilient, championing others, and publicly owning our identities. In some cases she was the first or only person like herself to accomplish certain goals. At times she wasn’t welcome in the broken system where she operated, so she was forced to create her own place in the world. These challenges aren’t going away, and we can benefit from stories about how people have dealt with them. Sometimes we need to tell those stories ourselves if we want people to find them.
KIMBERLY HESS: During her business career of nearly twenty years, Kimberly Hess served in volunteer leadership roles at the global and local levels for Smith College’s Alumnae Association and Office of Admission, and she was a trustee of the Alice Paul Institute and a board member of the Chubb Partnership of Women. Her writing has appeared on the websites of Thrive Global, the National Women’s History Museum and the Forté Foundation, as well as on the blogs of the Women’s Museum of California and the David Library of the American Revolution. She has a B.A. in Economics and International Relations from Smith College, an M.B.A. in Marketing from Rutgers Business School, and a Certificate in Historic Preservation from the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies at Drew University. An avid genealogist and traveler, she lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter.
During the height of the Spanish Inquisition a ruthless inquisitor by the name of Bishop Roberto Promane tortures a fellow priest, Father Sanchez, for information about the whereabouts of a relic known as The Judas Robe. The robe is believed to be the single piece of physical proof of God on Earth. Promane succeeds in uncovering the robe only to lose it to Sanchez’s rescuers, the knights of The Order Of Christ.
Joel Gardiner, a pre-med student, is attacked one night by thugs after leaving a campus pub. A young woman named Sophia rescues him and reveals that Joel’s mother, Natalie, is descended from the Order Of Christ, the faction that has kept the robe hidden for centuries. These thugs are part of a conspiracy group led by a Bishop Newman who seek the robe in order to uncover a secret held for centuries.
A BIT ABOUT WHO IS IN THE STORY
JOEL is a by-the-book pre-med student who comes from a divorced family where his father and brothers leave him with his mother who they believe is crazy for believing in a myth of her heritage. Once he gets to college he meets LISA and they quickly begin a relationship. Joel gets an internship at BIOPHARM, a pharmaceutical company, due to a discovery he made that could change the health of the human race, under the condition he can conduct his own research into a cure a rare that affects only around 7000 people. (This is all already established and explained as the story flows.)
Joel’s discovery as well as the Robe of Judas, the myth Joel’s family doesn’t believe in, are the two targets of BISHOP NEWMAN and his conspiracy group.
Joel is aided by SOPHIA and FATHER SANCHEZ who are all too familiar with the bishop and the robe. The reveals at the end are shocking actors in this play, but a couple are hinted at during moments in the story. All are believable in the context of the story.
LARRY RODNESS creates a fun ride that is engrossing and will keep you turning the pages. As a writer my biggest compliment to give another author is I want these characters to appear in a series of books. It would be an easy thing to do. The characters are all well defined and have distinct voices.
I’ve seen some reference Dan Brown, because it has to do with the hunt for a Jesus associated item. I don’t get that vibe. The book is not that detailed or plodding as are Dan Brown’s famous books. The story has the details it needs as far as the Judas Robe. This keeps the book as a fast paced read. This book is its own story and not a pretender. The search for the robe is not a mystery of solving this puzzle or whatever. The real goal of Joel and Lisa is to survive. And if they can discover the Judas Robe is real and if so keep it out of the hands of the antagonist groups (yes I said groups), find a cure for the medical condition and make Joel’s discovery work for the human race along the way, then all the better.
As with any book I read I’m looking for the relationships and personalities. This one has reality relationships, meaning not perfect. There are strains on Joel and Lisa, Joel and his mother, Sophia and other characters and even some messy moments of bad choices made, or so the characters think. I personally don’t think so. But that’s the great thing about the book. You have villains you like and you want things to work out somehow and heroes you just can’t stand, or at least I can’t. And I think that’s the way it should be.
You come to understand choices made by both sides or all sides, there are multiple sides, but easy to follow.
As much as I like the story there are some plot holes that I think contribute to my attitude toward some characters as well as what I consider a confusing moment between Joel and his mother during a pivotal turn in Joel’s view points about so many things. Perhaps if there is another book it can be explained, but I suppose for now the reader has to come up with their own solutions. This moment doesn’t take away from the story or enjoyment, but the plot holes do pull you out of the world Rodness has created for a brief moment.
The pace of the story is excellent and I think that’s part of why any hiccups aren’t huge problems with enjoyment.
My favorite character is Sophia. A quiet character that seems to just be there and you’re not surprised by it but you should be. I got to the point I was expecting her to be just on the edge watching each scene play out.
I will say there are sexual scenes in the book as well as killing with a bit of gore. Really only the sexual scenes were a little surprise but I think in a way they explain a bit about why the people end up willing to do what they do later on. Just mentioning the scenes wouldn’t have worked.
Summing it up: Not much filler. But as with any book there is a lull between those big moments, but as I said, not much. Great characters. Surprises. Mystery. Some layers and subplots that could play out further in later books but didn’t need to here.
As I’ve said before… I’m not good at comparing authors work although that helps a reader get a feel for what they are getting into. Maybe you can think of a movie or book that is a mystery with a bit of action and rabid cult where you don’t have any fighting skills or clues and you’re told to find the treasure or your loved ones die.
A solid 3.6 out of 5 Stars. The only reason it is not a sold 4 is because of the plot holes.
A note on rating a book: People these days throw 5’s and 4’s around, when they really mean 3’s and 4’s. 3 means the book meets what you expect it to be. 4 is a really good book. A 5 rating should be a rare thing.
The above rating is just shy of a really good book rating because of just a few plot holes.
I rate using:
Realistic Characters/Character Development based on genre,
Believability based on genre
I would read other books by this author. I would say the book would be for maybe 18 and over due to the sexual moments. You may say 16 because of it being a book and not visual. And I get that. I am on the fence.
Click one of the logos below to visit the book site so you can purchase. You can also read the first 3 chapters on Amazon with the Kindle Lookinside feature.
Larry began his professional career as a singer at the age of 19 working with various bands around Toronto. After studying musical theatre Larry worked in summer stock where his love of writing began. From that point on he wrote for dinner theatre, trade shows, and even ice skating shows. To date he has written over 10 screenplays and has had 3 optioned.
I read Anne Goodwin’s “Sugar and Snails” and loved it, as my review below shows :-).
Now you can read it for free! Get your e-copy herebefore 28 Feb 2021, and enjoy!
~ FlorenceT Title: Sugar and Snails Author: Anne Goodwin Publishers: Inspired Quill (23 July 2015) Format: Paperback ISBN-10: 1908600470 ISBN-13: 978-1908600479 Website: http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/ Twitter: @annecdotist Pages: 342 Genre: Contemporary Fiction, LGBT
What’s it about?
This is a story of a woman’s journey of self-discovery.
I am introduced to Diana through the narrative of the life she’s lived, so far filled with insecurities and fears. The story begins in the present day with a confronting scene of Diana self-harming as a result of, so it seems, her partner leaving. The vivid description of her bringing a knife to her arm, after many years of abstinence, caused me to put the book down and almost not returning to it. But I did, because I wanted to know more.
What happened in Cairo? Why is it significant? What is she hiding? Why? What? How? So many more questions asked as I followed Diana Dodsworth’s life journey…from a young kid to a professor of psychology at university. Diana’s story weaves in and out of different pasts as she held the attention of the reader, slowly and steadily divulging the story of her life. Goodwin has written real characters, not just in Diana but with each of the significant figures in Diana’s life – flawed, conflicted. As the reader, I can empathise with each of them. What are the motivations for parental love? How is one changed by childhood events? Is an adolescent capable of deciding her future? What is the value of friendship and love in shaping a life?
As a therapist, I would have loved to get greater insights and explore Diana’s psyche as she slowly comes to the realisation that she has held herself back and living in a time bubble, and that she is indeed alright. Not that it is indeed the case, or is it? I appreciate a psychological study however may not be everyone’s cup of tea. This said, my reading experience was not compromised in any way. There is enough to maintain my attention and interest. After a somewhat slow and for me, perplexing take by Goodwin in ‘jumping’ across time and events, the second half of the book provides resolutions which showed Goodwin’s skill in weaving all the threads into a coherent tapestry.
Goodwin has created an intriguing story of a person’s life, complex and filled with the confusions of a child, the pain of existence, of irrevocable decisions and the effects on the subsequent decades of her life.
Would I recommend it?
Absolutely. Mesmerising, especially the second half of the book, thought-provoking and sensitively written. If you enjoy reading real and flawed characters set in a contemporary background with controversial issues (still!) to boot, this is the book for you (and your book club, if you belong to one).
Realistic Characterization: 3.5/5 Made Me Think: 4/5 Overall enjoyment: 4/5 Readability: 4/5 Recommended: 4/5 Overall Rating: 4/5
DESCRIPTION OF AUNT IVY’S COTTAGE by Kristin Harper
Three generations of the Winslow family gather one Spring as they go through joys, sorrows, and many decisions to find healing in the home that’s been in their family for generations. Add mystery, romance, and a manipulative, self-centered cousin, and you have the makings of a promising series set in the fictional New England village of HOPE HAVEN on DUNE ISLAND. The picture painted by the author of the sunsets, ocean waves, the surf, the smells, and more make the fictional setting come to life.
ZOEY has been staying with her elderly AUNTIVY and Aunt Sylvia after Sylvia developed pneumonia. Out of a job and her savings all but depleted by an ex-boyfriend, Zoey dedicates herself first to nursing Sylvia, until her passing (in the prologue), then to Aunt Ivy while she copes with the loss of her sister-in-law, Sylvia.
Then another bombshell drops when Zoey’s asked to assume responsibility for her niece GABI, the daughter of her sister, JESSICA, who was lost to cancer several years earlier. The girl’s step-mother and father hope Zoey will let her finish the school year wherever Zoey ends up living. With Gabi’s mother gone and now her dad in a rehab program for alcoholics, Zoey says yes.
On top of that, Zoey’s cousin MARK, the next in line to inherit Aunt Ivy’s house, is doing his best to get her to move into a retirement facility so he can renovate the house and lease it out for an income. If this happens, what happens to Zoey?
But there is one light in it all, NICK, the local contractor. Or is his light too bright to be believed?
If you read the blurb/book description on Amazon, it isn’t accurate to the book’s story. I think if I read the book, after reading that description first, I would be disappointed because the suspense and anticipation it promises is not quite what’s delivered. Even some imagery given isn’t what you get in the book. But don’t let that stop you from reading AUNT IVY’S COTTAGE after reading this review. Because I’m just pointing that out in case you read this review and then the Amazon description and wonder what was this book blogger talking about.
If the blurb is not accurate, then what do you get?
A story with more substance, more emotion, and more heart than expected. And I enjoyed it better than I would have if it had been what the blurb described.
KRISTIN HARPER does a great job of painting a wonderful picture of what the Hope Haven area of Dune Island looks like. It’s a nice job of giving the imagery as part of the story and not just throwing it in to fill up the page. Harper really knows what she’s doing. It’s not over the top, just enough to give you what you need. I love it when that happens. And as a writer, I can tell you it’s a balance not easily accomplished.
Each character has their own unique personality and problems. This is something I enjoy in any book, but in this type of book in particular there is a tendency to have too many characters that serve the same purpose and clutter the story. When that happens, you end up wondering which character someone is talking about. Harper nails it with just the right number. One living great-aunt, one aunt in her thirties, and one teen niece. The niece, Gabi, has friends that are unique and fleshes out her character nicely, but they aren’t cluttering the reading. For instance, you read about one boy early on, and the next time you meet him, you have no problem visualizing him again walking with the girl down the hall her first day of school to give her a tour. Honestly, I could see the kid. It surprised me. (Maybe I knew a kid just like him.)
The emotions of the story are not overdone, and they aren’t always about the same things. Yes, the same emotions happen about the same things at times, but I expect that when a story involves grief. If the story didn’t include those moments, it would come across to me as unrealistic.
You have the tears, but they are usually warranted, not filler or lack of a talented writer’s ability to come up with something better to say. They are timed at the right moments in the story where they belong rather than pulling you out of your escape into the sounds of the surf on a New England island in spring. (Zoey’s moments on the beach and in the ocean had me wishing I were there.)
There are laughs as well, which include multi-generational moments that aren’t contrived. Some of those moments include characters that might surprise you but ultimately don’t.
Harper does great with not making any of the characters one-dimensional. I have to say that surprised me. A lot of times in books of this genre one person has a role to play and they stick to that stereotype/trope with no variation. Harper doesn’t do that here. Some of the roles do play to type where they need to but then there is much more to each person. Very nice.
There are only a couple of places in the book I thought could’ve been different, but in no way do they take away from the reading of the book or diminish the enjoyment I had. Nor would they change the story or outcome of the book.
I really like books that have a sweet, emotional family story, be they mysteries, romances, suspense, or whatever. There is no profanity at all in the book. Also, there are no intimate/sexual situations that would keep a teen from reading this book.
Summing it up: It’s a tight story with no fillers and some little learning moments about life, love, and family. You’ll enjoy it, as I did.
I’m horrible at comparing one author to others in this genre. Why, because I pick up a book to read based on the title, cover, description, and reviews. I do like reading the same authors but if the reviews are bad, I’ll skip the book. Plus, when you read over a hundred books a year, you get kind of get lost in your own little world of words.
All I can say is this was a well-plotted and well thought out story. The world-building Harper has done makes for a four-dimensional feel (fourth being the senses included) reading experience.
When you have a book that is put forward as a Clean & Wholesome Romance, you often think of those painfully awkward almost-moments of intimacy the two leads go through until the ‘finally’ moment happens. I am so pleased to say this book does not put you through that. Of course, you have moments, but reasonable and nothing like what I’ve read so many times before. There are very few cliché moments in Aunt Ivy’s Cottage. Nicely done.
I said all of that to tell you how Kristin Harper’s efforts stand out from others.
A solid 4 out of 5 Stars. I would read more in this series. (One other title currently available, Summer at Hope Haven.)
Click one of the logos below to visit the book site so you can purchase.
$.99 for ebook.
About the author
Ever since she was a young girl, there were few things Kristin Harper liked more than creative writing and spending time on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with her family. Eventually (after a succession of jobs that bored her to tears), she found a way to combine those two passions by becoming a women’s fiction author whose stories occur in oceanside settings. While Kristin doesn’t live on the Cape year-round, she escapes to the beach whenever she can.
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We prefer CLEAN stories to publish that represent Christian values. This means stories that do not intentionally set out to create a hostile profile of any religion, ethnic group, or gender. We publish real-world stories which include real-world problems pulled from the headlines of today as well as fantasy, horror, and other genres. If you have a manuscript that fits these criteria, please submit.
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We understand real-world situations may dictate material that is borderline to staying within our preferences but meets the majority of our criteria. Please submit and we will give your story consideration. If we do accept your manuscript on the basis of your submission but then discover material in the body of the MS is much more beyond our understanding of the initial submission, we reserve the right to null and void any contracts and agreements.
Christian & Sweet Romance
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I first discovered my grandfather’s diaries after my mother’s death, hidden behind books. Although it was already late at night, I started to read immediately. My grandfather, Api as I called him, had given me my first stable home after the war, and I had spent the happiest days of my childhood with him. Since my father had been killed in the war, he was both father and grandfather to me. As I opened the first of the two little green notebooks, I noticed that each entry was in the form of a letter to my grandmother, mother, and even me, a baby. We had fled the city in February 1945 while Api had stayed behind to serve as doctor during the final period of round the clock bombing before the fall of Berlin. Starting in April 1945, he recorded his experiences every day:
“Towards evening, the sky to the east is a ghastly sea of smoke. I creep out at ten o’clock at night to the clinic under whistling grenades and bombs, a wilderness of fire and dust, behind it, although already high in sky, the blood-red moon.”
Still reading while the first light broke in the sky, I came upon something that hit me like a punch to the gut: my beloved Api had been a member of the Nazi Party. For a while I sat there with a pounding heart, unable to move, and then I hid the diaries again, just as my mother had done, not even telling my husband Mike.
Two years later, Mike and I were relaxing in a coffee house when suddenly I started to cry, and my secret burst out. To my surprise Mike said that I needed to write about the diaries and show how ordinary people get caught in a totalitarian regime. That thought kept me awake at night, and yet I couldn’t get started. It felt like a betrayal. However, for the first time in my life I began to seek out books about the Nazi period. I was surprised how historians stressed the importance of personal experiences, like the diaries, for our understanding of history. So gradually I got up the courage to write Api’s Berlin Diaries. My Quest to Understand my Grandfather’s NaziPast.
I set out with two goals in mind. I wanted to give the reader a powerful personal perspective of what it was like in Berlin as Hitler’s Reich collapsed. Working to exhaustion in medical cellars, Api could do little for the wounded and dying. Doctors were left with few medications and without even water after the last drops had been drained from the heaters. He records in graphic detail how streets had become unrecognizable beneath the ruins so that he had to find his way over rubble and through cellars of destroyed buildings. The entire city seemed in flames, the smoke making it hard to breathe. He saw starving people cut up a dead horse in the midst of bombardment.
My second goal was to find out why Api had joined the Party in 1933. In Berlin archives, I found out more about his life. Raised in a Prussian town, he obtained a scholarship to a prestigious Berlin academy to become an ophthalmologist. The only stipulation was that for every semester he took, he had to serve a year as military doctor. The moment he graduated in 1914, he was sent to the Eastern front where he suffered a nervous breakdown and for a while was a patient at the Charite Hospital where just before he had been a student. Within a few months, he was back at the front.
After the war Api set up his own practice in Berlin. The city was torn by violence, strikes, even assassinations. Gangs of young Communists fought gangs of young Nazis; shootings were common. The Weimar Republic, Germany’s first democratic government, was unable to prevail. At the same time, the gay twenties turned Berlin into “the Babylon of the new world,” as so many tried to forget the war, the gargantuan inflation immediately after, and abandon themselves to a life of orgies and wildness. Into this world stepped Hitler. He promised to restore law and order; he promised peace and stability, and a return to Christian values. Api, I learned, fit the profile of people who joined in 1933: educated, conservative, veterans of World War I.
In the process of writing, two other themes forced themselves into the book. Finding out more about Api’s life brought up a flood of memories of living with him after the war which I hadn’t thought about for half a century. The other subject that kept pushing itself into my mind was reflections on German guilt, and Api’s in particular. His de-Nazification document categorized him as Exonerated. This was a relief to me, but at the same time I knew that it was too easy and incomplete an answer. Although I do not believe in collective guilt, I do believe that we are accountable for what happens in our countries. The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. who condemned not only the actions of the bad people but the silence of the good kept ringing in my ears.
Api’s Berlin Diaries made me confront a past I had evaded all my life. As I grew up in post-war Germany there was complete silence about the recent past. Our history classes stopped with the end of World War I. Neither I, nor as I remember any of my friends, ever questioned this silence. So now, late in life, I needed to come to terms with my German past. I had always been ashamed of being German for the country’s horrendous history of genocide and war, but I had never dealt with the guilt.
It was hard to face German guilt on such a personal level. I kept asking myself “what would I have done if I had lived in the Third Reich?” What small acts of courage or cowardice would I have committed? Would I have given the Hitler salute or dared to refuse? How far would I have been willing to go to help Jewish neighbors? I doubt that I would have had the courage to risk my life and stand up against the Nazis.
I hope that readers of today will come away with two main feelings. First, an emotional understanding of how the “volcanic eruptions” of history impacted my grandfather’s life who had to serve in two world wars and lost his only son, and how these tremors still reverberate with me in the third generation. Juxtaposed with these are my happy memories of Api who loved me and played with me, who taught me Latin and showed me how to build a kite. These passages I hope may trigger readers’ childhood memories of their own that will continue long after they have finished the book. Above all, I hope readers will feel more strongly how all our lives intersect with history. We all have a past and that past is still with us.
I hope that the ultimate take-away that sticks with my readers is one of empathy, of understanding other people’s behavior and mindset, that we may need now more than ever. This will strengthen our faith in our common humanity, in our capacity for compassion and tolerance. Although much of the diary focuses on the horrors of torture and persecution perpetrated by human beings upon one another, it also shows instances of kindness and love that testify to the power of the human spirit to breach the gulf of hate. As Api wrote even in the depth of his despair: “If love once again dwells in all human hearts then also will the life on God’s wonderful earth again become not only bearable but beautiful.”
Gabrielle tells stories about people that reveal their personal situation within its historical context.
One reason for her fascination with the intersection of the personal and historical stems from her own experience. Born in Berlin in 1942, her father’s fighter plane was shot down in 1943. After her family was bombed out twice, they fled Berlin in 1945.
Luckily, it’s not as tough as it may sound! This article will reveal four evergreen tips and tricks for publishing a book on Amazon. If you want your book to succeed on Amazon, read on.
1. Nail the content (and the cover) of your book
First things first: your book needs to be great in order to sell.
All the Amazon hacks in the world won’t do you any good if the quality of your book isn’t professional. Sure, you might convince an unsuspecting first-time reader to pick up and purchase it. But do you think they would become a repeat customer if they encountered pages upon pages of typos, bad character development, and unsatisfying plot? Chances are, probably not.
So double back and reread your manuscript to get rid of any such mistakes before you publish it. That doesn’t just mean typos; it also means that your characters, theme, and plot should be airtight. Work with a beta reader, or even a professional editor, to make sure that your book is the best possible version of itself and that it’s fit to be read by the wider public.
Perhaps most importantly of all: invest in a standout book cover design! Your cover design is your #1 marketing tool, creating the very first impression that a potential reader will get of your book. Indeed, if you’re spending your money on one thing in the entire publishing process, it should probably be a book cover.
2. Optimize your book description
After your book cover, your book description is going to be the most important factor for converting browsers into buyers. Think about it: once your cover’s gotten the attention of a reader, what are they going to do next? Nine times out of ten, they’ll flip to the back cover (or open the inside flap, or consult the Amazon blurb) to find out the premise of your book.
That means that you’ll need to make your premise as enticing, snappy, and irresistible as possible. Amazon gives you a limited amount of space to write a book blurb, so make sure you do the most with what you get. Take some time to figure out the most intriguing angle of your plot, what makes your characters truly special, and the investment-worthy stakes of your protagonist’s predicament.
And don’t forget to optimize your book description for Amazon specifically! That all starts with your keywords, which Amazon uses to index your book for searches. Don’t keyword-stuff your blurb so that every other word is “thriller,” if, say, your book is a thriller. (Amazon will penalize keyword stuffing.) But do make sure that you repeat your most important keywords in your title and description a few times to make your book more discoverable in the eyes of the Amazon search engine. (If in doubt about which keywords to choose, check out books similar to yours!)
3. Understand Amazon categories
During the process of publishing an eBook on Amazon, you’ll be asked to pick categories for your book as well. Now, there are quite a few Amazon categories — more than 10,000! So you’ll want to make absolutely sure that you select the right ones.
What makes for a perfect category on Amazon? Well, you want a category that isn’t too competitive (then your book would be crowded out), but neither should it be too obscure (then that would mean fewer buyers). The sweet spot in between is what you want to aim for, so be sure to do your research before you pick. If a category is already flooded with bestsellers, it’s probably too competitive; on the other hand, if the pickings are extremely slim, it means there’s no market for that category.
One more thing: Amazon will prompt you to pick two categories when you publish through the KDP dashboard, but you can get up to eight additional categories if you contact Amazon after your book’s been published! Don’t forget to take this step, as it’s definitely worth it. The more discoverable your book is, the more eyeballs — and therefore more sales — you’ll get on it.
4. Decide whether KDP Select is right for you
All authors face a crucial choice when they publish on Amazon: whether or not to enroll in KDP Select, Amazon’s exclusive program for self-publishing authors. Entering the KDP Select program will give you a number of promotional perks for 90 days, including access to:
Kindle Countdown Deals
Kindle Free Promotions
And increased royalties for sales in select countries
The catch? You’ll need to agree to remain exclusive to Amazon — meaning that you can’t “go wide” and sell your book through other retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, or Google Play.
Whether you decide to bite the bullet and go for KDP Select depends on individual factors, especially your book’s genre and your preferred marketing strategy. If, for instance, you notice that there are only a few KU titles in the Bestsellers List for your particular genre, it might not be worth it to join KDP Select and gain exclusive access to KU.
Luckily, KDP Select is only a 90-day program, so it’s not as though you’ll be committing for the rest of your days! Nevertheless, you should definitely be informed before you sign up for it. You can read more about the pros and the cons in this post by David Gaughran Best of luck!
Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories. She tries her best to be funny in writing and very occasionally succeeds.
Lieutenant Cameron Joiner is faced with trying to get home from a mission to a satellite orbiting Mars when disaster strikes and leaves him alone in a crippled ship in…who knows where.
An emotional, psychological story that has a touch of mystery as you go along. Of course, he does want to know what happened, right? The more story you read the more you sense how imperative it is he fix the ship and get home before he’s the next victim of whatever murdered his crewmates.
The descriptive writing pulls you into the scenes and you feel what Joiner feels. You end up caring what happens to him and root for him to win.
Joiner goes through emotional highs to center of the her lows. Your heart gets ripped out one minute and the next you have hope.
The tension starts from the very first page and doesn’t stop until the end.
The story is about 10,000 words and is 43 pages with an 8-page preview of another story at the back. It’s a One Hour read that can be read in way less time, depending on your preference.
This is a standalone short and it could have a sequel if the author wants to do one, but doesn’t need one.
I recommend it to fans of science fiction, psychological horror, horror, Star Trek, and (James Cameron’s ‘Alien’ to Some Extent) and as the author mentions The Twilight Zone.
If you can’t write a review on Amazon make sure to do so on GoodReads or somewhere. Authors have a better chance of survival with reviews. They also use them to know what they got right or what they got wrong, which of course never happens.
TALKS ABOUT HER FIRST NOVEL: BETRAYAL ON THE BAYOU
I want to welcome author Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte who has graciously agreed to a FOUR question interview. And I have to say this is one of the best and most timely answers to questions I’ve experienced.
Sheryl is a Pushcart Prize nominee and an Oakland, California-based multidisciplinary writer. Her autobiographical and fictional short story collections, along with her lyrical and stunning poetry have been described as “rich in vivid imagery,” “incredible,” and “great contributions to literature.” She is also a popular literary reader, presenter, storyteller, curator, and emcee for local events. Her first novel, “Betrayal on the Bayou,” was published in June 2020.
As a Southern white man, born in Florida, but raised in Mississippi, then living my entire adult life in Georgia, I am looking forward to reading Shery’s book Betrayal on the Bayou. Her descriptions in the following give one a different way of looking at the issue of “…the killing abuses of power, racism, incest, sexism, classism…”
R: Thank you for this interview, Sheryl.
S: Thank you, Ronovan, for inviting me.
R: Let’s get right into it. What was your research/inspiration for the Betrayal on the Bayou?
S: Well, Betrayal on the Bayou is a work of historical fiction, so my research was a combination of known family history heavily sprinkled with factual events from the time period I chose, along with more than a bit of my ever-active imagination. My inspiration came from my desire to tell pieces of my family history while trying to capture, even if infinitesimally, the relentlessness of racism and colorism and how it affected the everyday lives of people depicted in the book and how that is still the case today. After a recent coffee meeting with a White female writing club president, and her fervent use of the false equivalency of her blonde hair to indicate her deep understanding of segregation and bias, writing Betrayal on the Bayou, became even more urgent for me. In the book, I use strong, graphically described examples to depict the scourge and impacts of separation, colorism and racism.
R: How can today’s readers take lessons from the book and use them for today?
S: First of all, I do believe that reading promotes empathy and understanding and that those two things can lead to the promotion and hopefully implementation of change and correction of ill treatment and marginalization of Black people and people of color. It is important that people of today realize this is not a new phenomenon. That it did not just crop up when George Floyd was murdered, and more White people decided to pay some attention to it. People need to know how baked-in these beliefs are; how much work was put into separation in every facet of life; and, how there have always been Black people who lived in very different ways. We are not a monolithic people, and we all suffer some deep form of discrimination on a daily basis even to this day. I also tackle the impacts and outcomes of gender bias, economics, and other areas of everyday living in the early 1850’ s ripe for betrayal in a closed society where almost anything can happen, and let readers know that many things they may think are new, are not.
R: What else would you like readers to know about Betrayal on the Bayou?
S: That it is not the usual historical fiction fare with the characters one may look for from the 1800’s Southern U.S. Oh, they are there of course, because they are fundamental to the place and time, but they are not the center of the story. Readers will be intrigued while trying to determine what is fact and what is fiction within a dystopian yet very possibly real, isolated town. I want readers to know that the setting and the people are unusual, that the things that happen are stark and substantive, and that betrayals as well as the inhumanity and humanity will stay on your mind long after you have read the epilogue.
R: I encourage everyone to read Betrayal on the Bayou. I found it to be… It is available at Amazon, and other vendors. For a full list of the booksellers and their links for Betrayal on the Bayou, visit Goodreads. For more information on Sheryl and her writing, please go to www.sheryljbize-boutte.com. Thank you so much, Sheryl.
“Kristina Pérez is a halfArgentine/half-Norwegian native New Yorker who has spent the past two decades living in Europe and Asia. Before joining the Zeno Literary Agencyin London at the end of 2019, she worked as a journalist, academic, and author. This breadth of experience enables her to serve her clients in a variety of fields and she is a very editorial agent.” WritersDigest.com Click HERE. for the full length and informative post.
How Blood and Silver Came to Be
Guest Post by Author
My name is Vali Benson and I am a published author. That still feels funny to say. Sometimes I still don’t believe it, but I just published my first novel. It has been a work in progress for over fifty years. Ever since I can remember, I have had a book in my hand. As a lifelong reader, I often thought, “I could do better than that”. So I decided to do something about it. People have asked me to explain the writing process but I can’t. I don’t think there is a right way or wrong way to write a book. As Doris Lessing once stated that “There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be”. But I do know what works for me.
The first step is to come up with an idea. It must be something that interests you, or that you feel strongly about. No point in picking a subject that you know nothing about. You would have to do far too much research and it still would not sound like you know your subject.
Once when I had severe writer’s block, a great teacher told me, “Write about what’s in your own backyard.” Before I forget, my advice regarding writer’s block is: don’t take it personally. Anyway, I took my teacher’s advice and turned in an award-winning essay. That was the inspiration in writing my book; a young adult historical fiction novel called Blood and Silver. The story takes place in Tombstone, Arizona. For thirty years, I have lived in Tucson, Arizona. Tombstone is only forty-five minutes down the road, practically in my backyard.
I have been to Tombstone countless times. People are fascinated with Tombstone (not so much after they visit!). Tombstone is not like other “Wild West” tourist towns, like Deadwood or Dodge City. Tombstone has only two blocks of “downtown”. People walk on the original boardwalk (with some repairs) along the main thoroughfare, Allen Street, which was, until recently, a dirt road.
The population of Tombstone today sits at about thirteen hundred. On the weekends, many of the residents dress up in western garb – as cowboys, sheriffs, frontier gamblers, proper matrons and saloon girls. At first glance, it seems as though this may be a retirement community designated for extras of John Ford films.
However, Tombstone does have one enduring claim to fame – the shoot out at the O.K. Corral. It is called “the most famous thirty seconds in the history of the American west”. The legendary incident is a gunfight that occurred in 1881. The shoot out involved Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp and two Earp brothers against a gang of outlaws called the Cowboys. Three men were killed, all of them Cowboys. The Earps and Doc Holiday were already famous in the old west. The gunfight made them infamous.
The real reason people remember Tombstone is because of its enduring place in pop culture due to the twenty or so movies made about the fight. People show up from far and wide and pay a $10 admission fee to look at a dusty, dirty lot behind a run-down barn. At the actual site, people look at mannequins standing where their real-life versions stood during that fateful afternoon 139 years ago.
Once I knew the reality of Tombstone today, I wondered how it could have become so famous. I knew about the silver mines, of course, but I had no idea how massive the output was. The profits were mind-boggling. Millionaires were made overnight. The silver created civilization where there was none. At the end of 1877, one hundred inhabitants had found their way to the mines of Tombstone. In 1884, it was a bustling city of fourteen thousand residents. The term “boomtown” was never so appropriate.
Tombstone was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco in 1884, with over 150 businesses, including 100 saloons, and a thriving red-light district. Apparently this arid little tourist trap, only forty-five miles from my hometown, was more important than I thought! This information began to spin my inquisitive wheels. I began to wonder what it would have been like to live in this obscure place in 1880. The first step was complete; I had a premise that sparked my interest. Now, it was time for the part of the writing process that gives life to the story, research.
It is all about the research. One needs to look in unusual places, not just the top three Google hits. I love sourcing museums, libraries, newspaper archives, and even historical homes. Don’t rely on your computer only. Everyone can get that information. Not only is it not original, it is not interesting. One tip that I would like to emphasize to a burgeoning writer of historical fiction is to seek out the primary sources whenever possible. If you can work from the original source, it falls on you to interpret the story. This allows you to not have to depend on someone else’s version of the truth.
As I began to delve deeper into the true story of Tombstone, I also uncovered unexpected angles. The most prominent of which was the effect of the Chinese population. The result of this research led me to a real person whom I could never had made up, a woman named “China Mary”. This woman lived in Tombstone from 1879 – 1906 and essentially ran the town. In addition to operating a gambling hall behind her general store, she was also the preeminent broker for opium, laudanum and Chinese prostitutes. After I discovered the real-life splendor of China Mary, I made her one of my central characters and twisted my fictional story around her actual exploits. None of that could have been possible without an extensive research period.
As a writer of historical fiction, historical accuracy is the most important component of the piece to me. It is even more pivotal than the narrative. I cannot tell you how many times I have quit reading a book that claims to be factual because the information and events are incorrect. It really annoys me! It is also important to realize that research is never-ending because you can’t ever learn everything there is to know. At some point, you just have to make up your mind that you have enough to craft the story you want to write. Then start writing! I begin writing using my research as a reference and don’t worry if I have a fully formed concept. I believe in the Jodi Picoult approach, “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page”.
Many writers believe in outlines as a method of organizing and categorizing their research. Outlines don’t work for me. I tend to be too specific. I end up writing the whole story in my outline. What works best for me is to simply write. Just start, and see where it takes you. I flesh out the characters first and I let them take me where they want to go. I often go back and change them, but that’s the beauty of writing. You can do whatever you want with your people, just be sure you wind it up so that it makes sense.
This is why research is so important, because if I can understand the times in which my characters live, I will shape their circumstances and attitudes into the narrative.
As far as my writing habits are concerned, I don’t have many. I just do it. I know that many professional writers say the best method is to treat writing like a regular job with set start and stop times. I’ve tried this and it never feels right. For one thing, when I get on a creative roll, it is nearly impossible for me to stop. Conversely, I cannot force an idea. When I don’t feel like it’s happening, I walk away. I commit a lot of time thinking about my characters. When inspiration strikes, I will sit down with my glass of sweet iced tea and see how my characters handle the new twist. I know that strong coffee is the traditional nectar of the working writer, but I need my sweet tea. The sweeter the better I say!
When your story is finished, it is time for my least favorite part of the writing process, editing. Editing is obviously extremely important but I find it terribly frustrating. Aside from the occasional grammatical error, most of my editing is about subtracting rather than addition. I choose to refer to my editing time as a tightening up period. This is when I can really focus on making my narrative flow the way that I want and make sure the story is always kept in perspective; the story that I want to tell. When is your story finished? It is finished when you think it is. Before you begin, you will know where you will end up. If you don’t, don’t start. You need to have an idea where you are going. Trust your characters to get you there.
WithBlood and Silver, I put my characters through a lot and felt I told the story that I wanted to tell. After all, I need them to rest up for the sequel. valibenson.com
The Joy of Botanical Gardening
A Step-by-Step Guide to
Drawing and Painting Flowers,
Leaves, Fruit, and More
The reviewer received this book for an honest review.
I’ve taken art classes and have books on how to draw various subject matter. Some of those books are good, and others…not so much. Amazingly, I’ve found one may use this book, it’s techniques, tools, instructions and examples across the drawing genre spectrum. Although, that’s not it’s specific intent.
I love art, I love drawing, but the years have not been kind to my hands. So, when given the opportunity to review and share this book, I gladly and hopefully accepted, with the hope of enjoying a moment to immerse back into the world of art. I have not been disappointed.
Wendy Hollender gives a brief story of what draws her to her craft and subjects, giving us permission to enjoy and delve into the same world she loves so much. I learned how to combine different tools to create these beautiful works. Hers have appeared in The New York Times, Real Simple, O, The Oprah Magazine, and others. The way Hollender approaches the drawing of flowers is excellent and something I hadn’t thought of but applies to any subject.
With each section, each flora, you learn how to take what’s learned through each section so far and add it to the next section for greater results, not only from the perspective of the details of the object but also with the use of the various kinds of pencils to use.
Even after you learn how to draw in this style you will be using this as a reference guide and refresher course, over the years.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes the art of drawing, wants to learn, or refine your craft in the botanical art world. Also, if you like botanicals in general, I think you would enjoy this book for a further appreciation of the world of flowers, fruits, vegetables, and all that go along with them.
As for a rating, I believe the book achieves what the reader expects. There is an added layer of a bit more detail than I expected, a surprise if you will in the design of flora.
With the above in mind I will give this a 4 out of 5. 4 being better than what I would expect from a book with this heading and even
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wendy Hollender is a botanical artist, author, and instructor. Hollender’s illustrations have been published in The New York Times, “O,” The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple and The Observer (UK). Her work has been exhibited in natural history museums and botanical institutes, including a solo exhibit at the US Botanic Garden. She is the author of three books on Botanical Drawing and co-published and illustrated Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by Dina Falconi.
She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1976 and began a career in botanical illustration after completing a certificate at the New York Botanical Garden in 1998.
Wendy is an instructor of Botanical Art and Illustration at the New York Botanical Garden and leads workshops in exotic locations such as Hawaii, many nature preserves, botanical gardens, arts centers and colleges around the country.
Visit the authors Amazon Author Page for this book and more by clicking HERE.
I recently read and reviewed Samuel Marquis’ most recent book in his WWII Historical Fiction series. I’ve read them all, and this one has more battle details than I’ve seen in any of the others. Which I think is warranted and deserving of the titular subjects of the book. You can check out the book review by clicking HERE. – Ronovan
Soldiers of Freedom: Why Patton’s 761st “Black Panther” Tank Battalion and Other African-American Units Fought Despite Racism in WWII
By Samuel Marquis
In Soldiers of Freedom: The WWII Story of Patton’s Panthers and the Edelweiss Pirates, Book 5 of his WWII Series, historical fiction author Samuel Marquis tells the story of Sergeant William McBurney and the 761st Tank Battalion, the first African-American armored unit in U.S. history.Fighting under legendary General George S Patton, Jr. in the grueling Lorraine campaign in France, the Battle of the Bulge, the Rhineland, and in the final conquest of Nazi Germany, Sherman tank gunner McBurney and his fellow Black Panthers had to fight two wars at once: one against the German Army, the other against the racism of their fellow white soldiers. In their fight on behalf of freedom, they changed the makeup of the modern U.S. Army and paved the way for the civil rights movement.
After the battle for Tillet—one of the many small Belgian towns U.S. forces had to liberate to eventually win the legendary Battle of the Bulge—a German prisoner took one look at the troopers from the all-black 761st Tank Battalion that had just vanquished him and was stunned to see colored men in uniform. “What are you doing here?” he asked one of the tankers in English. “This is a white man’s war.”
Grinning and offering the German soldier a cigarette, the Negro tanker replied, “You ain’t got no black or white when you’re over here and the nation is in trouble. You only got Americans.”
In a nutshell, the exchange explains why African-American soldiers were willing to risk their lives to fight in WWII, despite suffering from pervasive discrimination from their own white troops and American civilians during their training. They simply wanted to do the right thing in the name of freedom and democracy and make a difference in the world—the same as their white counterparts. But in the process, they also hoped to advance their own freedom. They longed to move themselves forward onto an equal footing, or at least a more equal footing, with whites they would soon learn from the hard experience of war were certainly no better than them.
In late 1945 and early 1946, the 761st Tank Battalion—the first African-American armored unit in U.S. history to see combat—returned home from WWII along with 1.2 million other black veterans. They had been handpicked by General George S. Patton, Jr. himself, fought in his vaunted U.S. Third Army until the German capitulation, and were damn proud of that fact. Patton’s veteran Black Panthers, whose motto was “Come Out Fighting” in tribute to boxing legend Joe Louis, should have returned as conquering heroes. Instead, while their white brethren in the armed forces enjoyed great fanfare, ticker-tape parades, and a plethora of newspaper ink, the Black Panthers, Tuskegee Airmen, and other black outfits that had put Nazism down like a rabid dog were largely ignored. They had no choice but to quietly resume their daily lives in a country that cared little about their contributions and sacrifices overseas.
They had gone to Europe and the Pacific to perform their duty on behalf of their country, hoping that by fighting on behalf of freedom they would become free themselves. But upon their return, the painful truth was they had not changed a nation. In fact, they found themselves in many ways more at the beginning of a civil-rights struggle than at the end as returning African-American soldiers. Having served their country with distinction during the largest and most violent conflagration in human history, they returned to second-class status and with expectations that were deemed unacceptable to those of many of their white compatriots. Most of them still could not vote, use public facilities, sit beside whites in buses or at lunch counters, or find work at anything but the most menial of jobs.
For the returning members of the 761st and other black units in the U.S. Army and Air Corps, it was apparent that America had never really cared for them and now had mostly forgotten them. Most people did not even know of African-American service on the battlefields of Europe. In the roar of postwar America, the battalion’s service might as well not have happened, so few people knew or even cared. What the 1.2 million black servicemen had done on behalf of their country was not acknowledged or even believed. But even more upsetting to the returning colored soldiers was that white America expected life in the U.S.—with its racial castes and customs—to go on as if the war had never happened. The majority of whites were still unwilling to look at them in the new light that black leaders had originally sought by insisting that colored men receive the right to fight. They experienced lynchings, beatings, and employment discrimination despite their veteran status, and they couldn’t help but feel excluded from the postwar economic prosperity they could see all around them.
The returning black troopers found all this perplexing, especially considering how well they had been treated by not only the French, Belgians, and Dutch they liberated, but by the German civilians who only days and weeks before had been their enemies. Sergeant William McBurney, Sherman tank main gunner and the protagonist of my book Soldiers of Freedom, had fond memories of Holland from his stay there in February 1945, recuperating and refitting after the brutal Battle of the Bulge. So did the other members of the 761st Tank Battalion. To them, the best thing about Holland was the people. The Dutch citizens spoke English fluently and treated them with genuine respect and warmth. They welcomed them not as black men but as Americans, honoring them as liberators from the German occupation forces. McBurney found the simple and sincere kindness of the Dutch people a welcome and pleasant surprise after the treatment he had experienced at the hands of many of the American soldiers, particularly those from the 87th Infantry, a Southern unit the 761st had fought alongside.
The French, Belgian, and Dutch people were right to treat the members of the 761st as heroes and liberators: Patton’s Panthers had truly earned their reputation as a crack fighting unit. From the time that the battalion was committed to combat on November 7, 1944 through May 6, 1945, it had spent 183 days in action, its only pauses accounted for by the time needed to move from one mission to another. During its combat actions, the battalion destroyed or captured 331 enemy machine-gun nests, 58 pillboxes, and 461 wheeled vehicles; killed 6,246 enemy combatants; and captured more than 15,818 enemy soldiers. Not bad for an outfit that rarely numbered over a thousand men, including maintenance and supply. McBurney and his buddies also liberated the Gunskirchen concentration camp in Austria in the final days of the war. Since the war, battalion members have visited Jewish organizations and school groups throughout the country to share these memories and to testify to the horrors they witnessed during the camp’s liberation.
The Black Panthers paid a heavy price in the name of freedom. The unit suffered thirty-six men killed in action, including three officers. Thirty-nine officers and 221 enlisted men fell wounded in action. Nonbattle casualties stood at nine officers and 192 men, mostly trench foot cases. Total casualties pressed towards 50 percent, a disproportionately high number for a comparatively small outfit that fought alongside manpower and equipment behemoths like the 26th Infantry Division and the 4th Armored Division. The battalion lost a whopping 71 tanks in battle, more than one and a half times its original allotment.
The men themselves never thought of themselves as particularly heroic. All the members of the 761st had ever wanted was simple human dignity, to be recognized for their abilities as soldiers without being judged by the color of their skin. By taking up arms in the struggle against Tojo and Hitler, they had hoped to heal the old wounds of racial prejudice inflicted upon them by their white counterparts in the U.S. armed forces and by the bigoted white civilians at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, and Camp Hood, Texas, where they had undergone their training. But as fate would have it, the men of the 761st and other segregated African-American combat units like the 92nd Infantry Division and the famous Tuskegee Airmen received a less than warm welcome upon their return home. The continued discrimination towards the black soldiers after willingly giving their lives on the killing grounds of Europe and the Pacific was a source of significant disappointment and discouragement for the returning men, as well as their embittered families.
As Platoon Sergeant Johnnie Stevens of the 761st said: “We were treated better by the civilian German population than we were treated in America. See, in our own country, we could not buy a hot dog when we were in uniform, had to ride in the back of the bus when we were in uniform…. But over there, you were treated like a king. We ate together, slept together. After the war was over and the Germans had dances again, we were invited. That’s why a lot of black GIs took their discharges in Europe. They said, ‘Look, ain’t nothing in America for me. I can’t get a decent job when I go back, I know that. I’m not gonna have any privileges. I can’t even vote. So what the hell do I want to go back there for?”
Though the 761st’s vets were disappointed to return home to the same old prejudices, they soon began to put their lives together, start careers, marry, raise children, and lead in countless quiet but nonetheless significant ways. Though some struggled, the bloody battlefields of Europe had trained them to be disciplined, responsible American citizens who understood the true cost of freedom. But they would have an even greater impact in the future.
The brave actions of the 761st on the battlefields of Europe would eventually garner the men the recognition they deserved, pave the way for an integrated U.S. Army, and lay the foundation for the post-war civil rights movement. At the end of WWII, the distinguished service of the 761st Tank Battalion, Tuskegee Airmen, and other African-American combat units helped convince President Harry S. Truman and other high-ranking government officials to desegregate the U.S. Armed Forces in 1948. And then, after thirty-three years of intense lobbying by the unit’s veterans, the battalion was belatedly awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for “Extraordinary Heroism” by President Jimmy Carter on January 24, 1978. The award became official on April 10, 1978 by the Department of the Army under General Orders Number 5. The final award stood as a single citation for all the 761st’s actions from October 31, 1944, to May 6, 1945. Most importantly, the government finally acknowledged that “racial discrimination and inadvertent neglect on the part of those in authority” had played a role in the previous disapprovals and that “the climate created by the Army commanders could only have made it difficult to provide proper recognition for a ‘Negro’ unit during the period 1944-1947.”
Though the citation should have come thirty-three years earlier, it was ultimately the struggles of Patton’s Black Panthers—at home and abroad, within the armed forces and outside it—that led to the construction of a stronger U.S. Army and a greater nation. Since the new millennium, African-Americans make up around 20% of the U.S. armed forces (and no longer are they merely cooks, stevedores, and drivers), and black officers in the services stand at 5%-7% in the Navy, Air Force and Marines and 10%-15% in the Army.
That is the ultimate legacy of Patton’s Panthers.
The ninth great-grandson of legendary privateer Captain William Kidd, Samuel Marquis is the bestselling, award-winning author of a World War Two Series, the Nick Lassiter-Skyler International Espionage Series, and American historical fiction. His novels have been #1 Denver Post bestsellers, received multiple national book awards (Kirkus Reviews and Foreword Reviews Book of the Year, American Book Fest and USA Best Book, IPPY, Readers’ Favorite, Beverly Hills, Next Generation Indie, and Colorado Book Awards), and garnered glowing reviews from #1 bestseller James Patterson, Kirkus, and Foreword Reviews (5 Stars). Book reviewers have compared Marquis’s WWII thrillers to the epic historical novels of Tom Clancy, John le Carré, Ken Follett, Herman Wouk, Daniel Silva, and Alan Furst. His website is samuelmarquisbooks.com and for publicity inquiries, please contact Books Forward at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The author provided a copy of the book for an honest opinion.
When you read the book, you realize a great deal of research and analysis went into its making. There are a few good stories about players, as the title indicates, but there is an overwhelming amount of stats packed into the few chapters. I think that’s an overwhelming amount for me. For a baseball fanatic, and I use that word in a positive manner, this would be right up their alley.
The stories and stats included are from the early 1900s, until the new millennium. There are names I’ve never heard of and I’m surprised, considering names and situations they’re attached to.
I’m not going to give away the stories and the statistics, unlike some other reviews. There are comparisons between players as well as times. And even I could understand the significance. I’m not a baseball novice by any means, I’m just not an avid fan these days. That’s why I say this is more for someone looking to get the details they might not find elsewhere. Because the more you read, the more you know.
A great thing to know. This leads to a great source for all who want to get into the Kindle Universe. KU. See what I did there. KU, Kindle Unlimited. I turned it into Kindle Universe. I am so funny I died three times last week.
A question many authors have is how many words are on the average page when it comes to books and ebooks on Amazon.
This information helps you calculate how long your novel or nonfiction work has to be to hit a certain page count on Amazon, which is important if you’re applying for promotions that require you to be above a certain number of pages to qualify.
The info also helps you figure out how many total words you need to write to create a book that meets reader expectations in your genre. Since you can view the Amazon page counts of the books that are currently ranking well, you simply multiply by the average number of words per page, and presto.
So, what’s the right answer? What is the average number of words per page on Amazon?
I’ll tell you upfront, this question is more complicated than…
Fiction: WWII Historical Fiction/German Historical Fiction/Military Historical Fiction/Biographies of World War II. 646 Pages Print. Mount Sopris Publishing (March 31, 2020)
The ninth great-grandson of legendary privateer Captain William Kidd, Samuel Marquis is the bestselling, award-winning author of a WWII Series, the Nick Lassiter-Skyler International Espionage Series, The Joe Higheagle Environmental Sleuth Series, and a historical fiction novel centered on the infamous pirate, Blackbeard. His novels have been #1 Denver Post bestsellers, received multiple national book awards (Foreword INDIES, American Book Fest’s Best Book Awards, Beverly Hills Book Awards, IPPY, Next Generation Indie Awards, Colorado Book Awards), and garnered glowing reviews from #1 bestseller James Patterson, Kirkus, and Foreword Reviews. Book reviewers have compared Marquis’s WWII thrillers “Bodyguard of Deception,” “Altar of Resistance,” and “Spies of the Midnight Sun” to the epic historical novels of Tom Clancy, John le Carré, Ken Follett, Herman Wouk, Daniel Silva, Len Deighton, and Alan Furst. (Emphasis by Ronovan.)
In addition Sam has been the Kirkus Reviews Book of the Year Winner. Kirkus Reviews, founded in 1933 it has been considered one of the big two along with Publishers Weekly. To be selected for review is a sense of worth for an author. To be selected as a book of the year? I can’t imagine but can dream. (Kirkus Reviews is owned by Nielsen Holdings, 2010.)
In Soldiers of Freedom: The true story WWII Story of Patton’s Panthers and the Edelweiss Pirates, Samuel Marquis mixes his ability to capture authentic dialogue with his massive amounts of research to give societal issues and the human condition during the time not only by the obvious racial aspect but by nation and society ruled by a dictator and his self-important official and citizen followers. Marquis gives the experiences of the soldier as a person with thoughts and feelings beyond being in a war simply to be following orders and killing the enemy, but the rest of his life the experiences of war touches. This carries over to the military command level as well as citizens in the home nation of the Nazi regime.
With a book set in WWII Europe and involving the 761st Tank Battalion, there must be sensory loaded descriptions of battles; the roar of guns, the smoke, the smells, the confinement, but more than that, I am given the emotional mindset of a tank gunner, and his comrades-in-arms as they fight against the Nazi regime. Marquis does not stop there, he gives a taste of what it’s like to be a Black man in the 1940s and how that translates to being a soldier at war, while at the same time often outranking white soldiers who show disrespect, disregard, and disdain for them.
Getting flipped on its head, I then read about the physical and emotional state of a teenage German girl, who is resistance fighter with the Gestapo dogging her every step, a situation more treacherous than any man would face. She shows me not every German in WWII is either a Nazi, a Nazi supporter, or innocent of having blood on their hands.
The dialogue and action of the military and resistance fighters draw you in and give you a sense of being a part of a war environment, not just the battlefield of soldiers, but the battlefield of citizens fighting their own government. Marquis uses his research materials of government documents, biographies, interviews, and personal letters to great dramatic effect.
Soldiers of Freedom is told through the voices of three people; SARGENT WILLIAM H. BURNEY, a Black man from Harlem on Manhattan Island, New York who is a part of the 761st, GENERAL GEORGE S. PATTON Jr, commander of the US THIRD ARMY, and 16/17-year-old ANGELA LANGE, daughter of a German Colonel, and member of the EDELWEISS PIRATES, a real German resistance group in Cologne, Germany.
While reading I can’t help but feel the frustration of the young Black soldiers not just during the war, but from the moment of sitting down with a recruiter and being told that you aren’t allowed to so much as try for what you dreamed of doing in the military and for your country, that you would have to take another route. I am surprised by the honesty of the recruiter considering the times. Frustrations continue wherever McBurney goes, from one camp to another, all in the name of training. The use of the JACKIE ROBINSON’s court-martial hearing is perfect to put an exclamation point on the 761st time in the US.
Samuel Marquis gives facts of history not taught to me even in my higher-level History courses at university, and that was as a History Education major. For example, the existence of the 761st TANK BATTALION, the reason for their formation, how they end up in Europe, and the impact they make on the war, which is huge. They are a large part of important moments. There are times in McBurney’s journey I want to punch so many people, run over them with my tank, or shot them with my big 76mm gun, preferably with a round of HE. I get to see the reaction of the German soldiers, and German citizens as well, misrepresented in every level from middle school through university. I learned what a HE was, as well as what a 76mm was and what it could do.
“But it struck him as ironic that he and his fellow Negro tankers were about to cross the same ocean their African ancestors had crossed in chains; and that, in taking part in the struggle against Nazism, they were about to fight a war in the name of freedoms neither the men of the 761st nor their forbearers had ever enjoyed.”—Sergeant William H. McBurney, Tank Main Gunner, U.S 761st “Black Panthers”
What I enjoy a lot is the sharing of the experience the tankers both in battle and in the everyday life of a soldier. The difficulty the drivers and gunners have using these machines is incredible. How although the tanks can be lions, they can also quickly turn into lambs. I haven’t come across another book, of any kind, describing with such honesty what a soldier goes through in the confines of a war machine, regardless of the genre. I don’t know how they did it. I’d still be shaking, rattling, and my eyes would be bopping all around to this day. Then there is what McBurney reveals about German towns and the citizens they come upon. I have never given much thought to that part of the story, at least not down to that level. One reason for not knowing is, history books don’t teach about the Black soldiers of WWI and what they did in Germany. You must read to believe.
“Lord help us,” [Patton] said, pulling out a fresh cigar. “And Lord help me when this war is over.”
“Why’s that, sir? I would think you would celebrate.”
“No, Codman. With nothing to do, I’m going to be a [***]damn wreck and an absolute nuisance to my wife.” – Major Charles Codman and General George S. Patton Jr, Freedom Soldiers
That sampling of dialogue is just a little taste to help you get in the spirit of General George S. Patton Jr.
Patton is as flamboyant and audacious as I thought. Using diaries and letters, Marquis gives me the colorful language and stories Patton liked to tell, but more importantly, his feelings about soldiers under his command, as well as the Generals and commanders he must work with. Those feelings are quite surprising, not only for the tough-as-nails Patton but from a field general at all. I laughed, yes laughed, reading old Blood and Guts Patton’s
exchanges with GENERAL DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, as well as other generals, and his thoughts on the BRITISH FIELD MARSHAL BERNARD MONTGOMERY. And the honest opinions of Eisenhower, at least through research are eye-opening. What is revealed about the politics, perceptions, and egos of war and how they play out on the battlefield is not necessarily surprising, but are brutal when laid in front of you and you can’t help but see it and think about the outcomes.
The resulting command structure and atmosphere of the European Theater following Patton’s removal for slapping two shell-shocked soldiers in Sicily are painful to watch with Patton demoted then later given command of the US Third Army. How the war would have been different if not for his believing the soldiers were just trying to avoid fighting. No one had heard of PTSD in the 1940s. The press had a field day, but Patton had a powerful fan and ally waiting in the wings to help get him back in the war.
For the ugly truth was that every German was ultimately guilty for allowing Hitler and the Nazis to rise to power and hiding their head in the sand and turning their backs when the regime began singling out Communists, Jews, clergymen, and other racial, political, and social enemies of the Reich. – Angela Lange, Freedom Soldiers
Angela Lange is loosely based on real-life Edelweiss Pirate of Cologne, GERTRUD KOCH, but with elements drawn from events experienced by her comrades. I learn through Angela’s authentic filled voice and view, just how naïve and young these Edelweiss Pirates, who called themselves Navajos out of admiration for the Native American tribe, are in the beginning, but also how fast they grow up. Their main target is the Hitler Youth that patrols the town and enacts harsh punishment on those they deem conducting criminal or disloyal acts. The demented CRIMINAL COMMISSIONER FERDINAND KÜTTER of the Cologne Gestapo along with his interrogators are nothing but sadistic, rabid dogs who enjoy nothing more than torturing Germans and enemies alike until they get confessions, information, or death. Marquis settles into a groove with Angela’s story as the book continues. I witness the innocence, naivete, love, pain, tragedy, hope, despair, spirit, and determination throughout this young woman’s story and all while battling with the Gestapo. And not just any Gestapo, but some of the most factually brutal in the Nazi Regime, that were historical figures in Cologne.
As important as Patton’s story is, the 761st story is bigger and as big as their story is Angela’s story is the one that delivers a reality punch. We don’t think much about resistance within Germany unless we think of the Jews who hid from death and helped others escape it. Here we see German citizens fighting against the Nazis, not to help the Allies, but to take back the Germany they once knew.
WHAT I LIKED:
facts about unheard of people
a sensory experience from each view of the war
the action of the tank soldiers
how the 761st put aside bigotry for country
revealing details of the German citizens’ attitudes and the towns the 761st encounter
Patton’s loyalty and love for his men
the camaraderie among the US Generals in Europe
learning of and about the Edelweiss Pirates
continuing to learn about the types of Nazis through Marquis’ books (They aren’t cookie-cutter and all fall-in-line Nazis.)
the afterword information and further details of what happened next for these people
WHAT I LIKED LESS:
There are a few moments in Angela Lange’s story that don’t ring as emotionally engaging or authentic as they should be. I don’t mean the events don’t occur historically. What I mean is the telling of certain scenes are not as detailed or as emotional as they should be. Those parts that don’t capture the emotion of the scene do not take away from Angela’s experience, they lessen the impact in those specific scenes. It might be the nature of situations that gives hesitation to going deeper.
The book isn’t quite as smooth as I am accustomed to with Sam’s books, (I’ve read all the WWII series books, amazing series.) I put this down to the massive amount of action that takes place during this important period covered. Transitions within the three views sometimes take a moment to become clear as to who is speaking. I know the setting because that is clear at the beginning of each chapter. I just at times don’t know the individual speaking or spoken to. That could be me.
There are one or two, what I will rudely call minor, battles that I could do without the description of the battle, just given the information that the 761st wins and why it is important. This happens with several battles after the war turns heavily into the Allies’ favor. I always want the wins, losses, and strategic information. There are simply a few scenes where I feel like I’m reading the same scene from earlier, with minimal differences. Tanks do what tanks do, and similar battles occur, but at times there is a battle, though important, as every battle in WWII is, that can be told with just the telling of its victory and its strategic importance. Sam gives a few hugely important battles brief mentions, but we see their importance. In these cases, if Marquis went into detail, we would have more books to read.
Others have compared Samuel Marquis’ writing style to New York Times #1 Bestselling author, Ken Follett who has seen some of his books turned into movies and TV series. Also, another name mentioned is Adam Makos, another New York Times Best Sellers list author.
As for me, there is an author who wrote many historical fiction novels, the late British author John Gardner, an ex-Royal Marine commando, and Anglican Priest before losing his faith. I’ve read over 20 of his books, perhaps that is one reason I enjoy Sam’s books so much. Gardner’s historical fiction work includes the five-book Herbie Kruger Series of action encompassing WWII, the Cold War as well as subsequent events inspired by the two, and there is also the three-book Railton Family Series, which has ties to the Kruger books. If you are a James Bond fan, he wrote 15 novels, beginning in 1981 with License Renewed and ending in 1996 with Cold/Cold Fall. All of us know him for the 007 book GoldenEye, in who’s film adaptation Pierce Brosnan made his Bond debut. I’ve read most of them.
As one review states:
“Marquis is a student of history, always creative, [and] never boring…A good comparison might be Tom Clancy.”—Military.com
Obviously for fans of the authors mentioned above.
Those who enjoy digging into the personal details of historical figures.
Those who are interested in untold stories of African American History.
People who want to understand a little more about the imagery of war in ways not normally described in books or shown on film.
For those who like to understand the citizens of war, their struggles, fears, tragedies, and sometimes why they participate in a war.
Genre/s: Urban Superhero Fiction (With a lot of mystery.)
Price: Kindle ($5.99) Paperback ($12.99)
In Elle Boca’s latest stand-alone book An American Weeia in Paris , the fourth entry in her The Weeia Marshals series, I was treated to a tale of mystery, suspense, surprise, intrigue, friendship, science fiction and urban fantasy all rolled into one so smoothly that I didn’t realize all of that until I started writing this review. There are at least five subplots going and all are clear, and I still didn’t think about there being that many until now. An American Weeia in Paris is simply put, a great read I got caught up in and read in one day. I could not put it down.
Marshal Danielle ‘Danni’ Metreaux, now the acting Head of the Paris branch of the Weeia Marshals, is tasked with the job of watching over a Texas Weeia Elder and his family. The book starts at the Eiffel Tower where the group is having dinner in one of the famed Eiffel Tower restaurants when a terrorist attack occurs. That’s when the mysteries begin. While I watch some suspenseful and thrilling moments in the tower above, a Weeia takes action against the terrorist on the ground, with the scene captured on social media threatening to reveal the existence of Weeia to Humans, who are not aware they have a gifted race living among them. Who is this good Samaritan the media dubs MGV? But that’s not the only mystery. Stalkers? Mystery Weeia? And there is a life changing shock I never saw coming.
I am enjoying seeing the continued development of the main protagonist in the series, Marshal Danni Metreaux. She is no longer the unsure, self-conscious girl, who grew up on her aunt and uncles farm. Now she is comfortable enough in her position as acting head of the Paris branch of Marshals, to face off against elitist members of the Marshals. She traverses the streets of Paris, both the good and bad more and more like a native, which is a wonder considering the maze that is Paris. Her personal skills with others improves to a surprising degree, but she’s still the same plain speaking Danni.
There is more of Danni’s oldest friends from her Marshals Academy in Portland, Maine, with tech gifted Ernie Satuan and best friend Marla than in the recent books. Both have surprises in store for her. And then there is Danni’s friend Ceri…the Poodle, a match that could only be made in Paris.
I learn about Paris through Danni’s adventures as Elle Boca gives life to Paris by giving us Danni’s thoughts as she negotiates through the streets of Paris, following the street names and historic landmarks she sees. Bits of history only the Parisians know is shared. For this former History teacher and Historical Fiction author, through the words of Elle and the eyes of Danni, I can see vividly what it must have been like centuries ago and learn how the early intentional forward progress of Parisian society was formed. This is not done in a scholarly or boring fashion.
The supporting cast and fringe figures are well developed and as the series moves from one book to the next, I know the feelings each one brings to Danni. Plus, I remember the characters, as opposed to looking back to previous books to find out who they are. Great job!
Elle Boca has created a world where Weeia and Humans can co-exist, with the help of Marshal Danni Metreaux and her friends. Weeia, who Humans don’t know exist, are people gifted with abilities and can cloak or mask themselves to the eyes of others, make people ‘like’ you or seem charming, or even teleport across an entire continent and ocean with a friend in tow. Some might say Weeia have superpowers, but don’t think costumes, superhero names, or robot armor. Think more like Charles Xavier, who appears as normal as anyone else but just happens to have an incredible ability he uses when among Humans only when necessary.
What I liked about this book:
I enjoyed the overall easy flow of the book, making reading enjoyable.
There is a good balance of surprises with new characters and moments with recurring cast members that keep the protagonist grounded and happy.
I really liked the parts with the Poodle, Ceri, though simple for the most part, they showed some emotional development in Danni.
I think the handling of the supporting cast is well done, especially how they fit into the everyday life of Danni.
There are things/words used in the Weeia world that I had no problem with understanding. The author does well with her choices when it comes to language. Anyone can read this book and the previous three in the series with relative ease.
What I liked a little less bout this book:
There are a few scenes and a minor subplot that I stumbled over a bit and took me out of the story, but I can see how the author would have thought it helped show consistency in how a certain element in the Weeia world view her.
Staying with the scenes above, the editing during those particular areas broke up the flow.
What book/author would I compare this book to:
I liken this book to a less dark urban fantasy than say a Jim Butcher Dresden Files offering. I love Jim Butcher, but his books can be a tad intense at times. With Elle Boca’s The Weeia Marshals series does have the occasional dark moment, and twisted character, they are used in just the right amounts, so as not to desensitize the reader to dark themes, then you are truly disturbed by the rare moments and thus concerned for those involved.
You could also say with the secretive nature of the Weeia in the series, that J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter shares some similarities, but not in the YA manner or in that magic sort of way. This series can be read by most any age.
I recommend this book to those who love Urban Fantasy, Mystery, Adventure, and a bit of Travel. And of course those who love learning more about Paris than you might have known was out there. For those expecting a superhero book in the vein of the Avengers or Watchmen, that’s not happening.
This is a 4.25 Stars Review.
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