Gerry B's Book Reviews

Valour At Vimy Ridge: Canadian Heroes of World War I, by Tom Douglas

They said that it couldn’t be done…

Non-fiction works of this kind are not star-rated

A defining moment in Canadian military history. A much-needed Allied victory. A show of valour and heroism. The battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917 saw Canadian troops storm a strategic 14-kilometre long escarpment that was believed to be impregnable. This was the first time in the nation’s history that a corps-sized formation fought together as a unit under its own meticulous planning. Canadian troops persevered under heavy fire to take the ridge, demonstrating incredible discipline and bravery. The battle became a symbol of sacrifice for the young nation and a turning point in its role in the global theatre of war.

Amazing Stories Series–Altitude Press, 2007

Tom Douglas, an award-winning journalist and author, lives in Oakville, Ontario with his wife Gail, also an author in the Amazing Stories series. Tom’s father, Sgt. H.M. (Mel) Douglas, was part of the Invasion Force that stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Tom is a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, worked as a Communications Advisor for Veterans Affairs Canada, and has written speeches for the Minister of National Defence. Recently, he self-published a book, Some Sunny Day about his family’s experiences in Northern Ontario following his father’s return from World War II.

Review by Gerry Burnie

They said it couldn’t be done, and thousands of French and English had tried it, but four battalions of Canadians succeeded; not without 10,602 Canadian casualties, including 3,598 fatalities, however.

It was known as the “Great War,” and “The war to end all wars,” but history has proven that World War I was not the war that ended all wars. What it was, was a bitter, bloody conflict with over 15 million (combatants and civilians) killed, and 22 million wounded between July 28, 1914 and November 11, 1918.

This conflagration started with the assassination of an obscure prince, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, which led to posturing between two, now forgotten states—Austro-Hungary and Serbia. Serbia’s ally, Russia, then began to assemble troops, which brought in Germany as ally to Austro-Hungary. England and France then came to the aid of Russia, and this automatically brought Canada—as a dominion of England—into the fray.

Nevertheless, a nationalist fervour gripped Canada to aid the “Mother Land,” even though the militia numbered just over 3,000—and volunteers poured into recruiting stations so that by September of 1914, more than 30,000 set sail for England; making it the largest convoy to cross the Atlantic.

However, these patriotic young men who had dreamed of glory in a far off land soon learned that they had been sold a bill of goods, and that there was nothing glorious about existing like an animal in filthy, disease-ridden trenches that scarred the landscape, or seeing your friend—or lover—blown to bits by an enemy mortar shell.

Indeed, the recruiting posters showing clean-cut lads in freshly pressed uniforms sipping wine at outdoor cafés in Paris didn’t contain any scenes of a corpse-strewn no-man’s land—that stretch of barren ground that separated the trenches between the two opposing sides. “Nor were there any close-ups of a diseased rat crawling over your face as you tried to grab a few hours’ sleep before having to go “over the top” to raid the enemy trench just a few metres away from yours.”

“No mention of German snipers waiting for you to emerge from the relative safety of a muddy shell hole so that he could blow your head off. No depiction of life in the trenches, where foot rot, lice, and the stench of death were your constant companions,”

Vimy Ridge was a promontory near the River Aisne where, after a failed attempt to take Paris, the Germans were ordered to dig in to protect themselves. When the allies realized that the German trenches were a formidable obstacle, they dug in as well.

“After a few months the opposing trenches stretched from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier. For the next three years, neither side was able to advance more than a few kilometres along the line that came to be known as the Western Front. But living conditions in what amounted to little more than deep ditches wasn’t anything like the cozy bungalows or college dorms or rural family homesteads the young Canadians had left behind.”

Life in the Trenches

As part of this introduction to the battle, Author Tom Douglas describes the conditions:

“[N]o story about World War I—and in particular the magnificent achievement of the Canadians at Vimy Ridge—would be complete without a basic understanding of these inhuman and seemingly insurmountable obstacles that had to be overcome on the road to victory.

“The excavations along the Western Front were built in threes—the front line, support, and reserve trenches. This trio of long, snake-like ditches covered between 220 and 550 metres of ground from front to back and could wind for several kilometres across the terrain parallel to the enemy fortifications.”

“Running perpendicular to these channels were communication trenches for fresh troops, equipment, and supplies to move up the line and wounded soldiers to be taken to the rear.”

The trench was too deep to allow its occupants to be seen over the top, so a small ledge called a fire-step was added. The soldiers would crouch down on this protrusion, then pop up to take potshots at the enemy before ducking down quickly to avoid having their heads blown off by a camouflaged sniper who’d been lying motionless for hours in no man’s land.”

“The front-line trenches were protected by gigantic bales of barbed wire placed far enough forward to prevent the enemy from getting within grenade-lobbing distance. So impenetrable and tangled were these obstacles that they acted like the steel web of a monstrous spider, impaling any hapless soldier who came close enough to get tangled in the trap. Before a battle troops would be sent out with wire cutters to chop a path through the razor-sharp wire. It was one of the more hazardous duties to perform because of those ever-present snipers.”

 To make matters more difficult the Germans occupied the high ground, forcing the attacking allies to charge uphill while loaded down with weapons and equipment. Moreover, the allies—French, British and Canadians—were only a few feet above sea level, and would frequently find themselves standing ankle deep in water.

“Waterlogged trenches meant wet feet for days and weeks on end—and wet feetled to frostbite or the dreaded trench foot that, if left untreated, could result in amputation.”

“Dysentery was another killer that accounted for thousands of death in the trenches. Needless to say, sanitary conditions in these waterlogged ditches were appalling. Latrines were dug behind the lines, but these soon filled up and spilled into the trenches. In addition, many of those excavations had been dug in areas were corpses from earlier battles had been hastily buried, and the decaying bodies were another source of deadly germs.”

“A steady diet of canned beef, mouldy biscuits, boiled sweets, and coffee made from ground turnips left the men susceptible to boils, scabies, and other skin eruptions.”

As the author points out, a great number of soldiers suffered from mental illness after weeks and months of living under such conditions. The term “shell shock” was coined to describe this condition, but many officers and even doctors refused this as a reason to remove the victims from the battle front.

“The rallying cry “for king and country” soon took on a cynical overtone.”

The Author then goes on to document the charge up Vimy Ridge from the personal perspective of the soldiers and officers who took part; many of them being awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery—some posthumously.

At this time of remembrance, this is Canadian history that should not—cannot be forgotten. If a country’s history forms its heritage, then this is what we are all about.

April 8, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘Two Irish Lads: Second Edition’ Announcement…

COMING – MARCH 1ST, 2016

(In time for St. Patrick’s Day reading, and as a gift)

Two Irish Lads: Second Edition

by Gerry Burnie

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Available on Amazon in Print. Kindle, and Nook formats

WATCH FOR IT!

What happens when Two Irish Lads set off for an adventure of a lifetime in the wildness of Upper Canada?

Adventure, discovery, comedy, and pathos!

From the time Cousins Sean and Patrick McConaghy board the Lovely Nelly in Ireland, travel up the Mighty St. Lawrence by voyageur canoe, and find themselves surrounded by primeval forest in Upper Canada, it is adventure and discovery on every +page.

Then, just as they are about to despair at the seemingly impossible task ahead, a champion appears in the person of a calculating squire with two unmarried daughters on hand. The problem is that Sean and Patrick are already in love – with one another. The scene is then set for an adventure of different kind.

Also appearing are a gossipy storekeeper; a hard-drinking blacksmith who befriends them; a talented but misunderstood schoolboy; a draconian priest; a sinister claim jumper who haunts the vicinity; and a loveable wolf cub by the name of “Canada.”

Adventure awaits at every turn in Two Irish Lads: Second Edition, so come along for the fun of it!

February 11, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thunderhead, Book One: Tales of Love, Honor, and Vengeance in the Historic American West by B A Braxton

A captivating read in the classic western style.

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click on cover to order.

click on cover to order.

Story blurb: The American West, especially between 1865 and the turn of the century, was an unforgiving and brutal place to be. Tempers flared as men continued to fight the Civil War on their own terms long after it had been decided. Meanwhile, natives, such as the Lakota Sioux, continued to resist being dispelled from their homelands. The Thunderhead trilogy is a historically accurate approach to the western genre. It is mixed with real and imaginary characters and takes place in the Dakota and Wyoming Territories between 1876 and 1877. Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Jack McCall, Colorado Charlie Utter, California Joe Milner, Tim Brady, Wyatt Earp, and other figures are alive and well amid three fictional protagonists. Al Franklin, a photograph artist, befriends Hickok during his last days. “Spittoon” Nicky, a sporting girl, falls for an outlaw and follows him and his cohorts from mining town to mining town. Harvey McCafferty, a bounty hunter, relentlessly endeavors to collect the reward on those traveling with Nicky. Nicky’s companions are a gang of road agents lead by the bloodthirsty Quick Maggie DeMarco, a formerly-abused young woman hellbent on finding and killing the man who murdered her family fourteen years ago. When Maggie DeMarco finally meets up with Maguire in Book Three, will she seek the revenge that has eluded her, or will she be content to walk away?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I received a call to review this book sometime ago, but regretfully it is only now that I have had a chance to read it. I say ‘regretfully’ because Thunderhead, Book One: Tales of Love, Honor, and Vengeance in the Historic American West by B A Braxton is such rich and luscious reading that I am surprised it hasn’t attracted more attention.

The story is an amalgam of fiction and history, with a slight bias toward history – especially the three primary characters: Al Franklin, a photograph artist, “Spittoon” Nicky, a sporting girl, and Harvey M. McCafferty, a bounty hunter.

What jumps out at you right from the beginning is the due research Ms Braxtion has compiled behind the scenes. It is evident in every character, and frequently in the background scenes as well. This may have intimidated others, but it is very much my cup of tea.

Al Franklin is a hard-working 20-year-old who has made his way from Boston to Deadwood, South Dakota, during the summer of 1876. Al is a talented ambrotype photographer, and is met with all types people, outlaws as well, eager to have their likenesses taken. When Wild Bill Hickok comes to town at the same time as Calamity Jane and Colorado Charlie Utter, Al devises a money-making scheme with Bill to put his picture on cabinet cards to sell to the eager citizens in town. Because of Wild Bill’s reputation as a shootist, a law officer, and one of the stars of Buffalo Bill Cody’s show, the cabinet cards sell very well. And thus a friendship is established between them during Wild Bill’s final days.

“Spittoon” Nicky is a sporting girl who plies her trade out of a saloon called Hootie’s Lager House. Nicky meets up with an outlaw named Chad DeMarco and they fall in love. However, when things get too dangerous for him in Deadwood, Chad asks Nicky to travel with him and his cohorts so they can stay together. The most brutal and bloodthirsty of Chad’s companions is his sister Maggie who seems to live just to find the man who murdered her mother and father when she was very young.

Harvey McCafferty is a former Confederate soldier, now a bounty hunter, whose driving force in life is to get rich as quick. He therefor sets his sights on tracking down the DeMarco gang for the considerable bounty on their heads: Chad, Luke, Ray, and Otto, and in Harvey’s mind, dead or alive usually means dead.

Written in a colourful vernacular that matches the rustic time and setting, it is an enthralling story in the classic western style. Four and a half bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 78,678

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes ba ibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Keish (“Kaysh”): “Skookum Jim” Mason: co-discoverer of the Klondike gold. 

 

 

June 23, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Maurice, by E.M. Forster

A timeless classic.

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Click on cover to order.

Click on cover to order.

Set in the elegant Edwardian world of Cambridge undergraduate life, this story by a master novelist introduces us to Maurice Hall when he is fourteen. We follow him through public school and Cambridge, and on into his father’s firm, Hill and Hall, Stock Brokers. In a highly structured society, Maurice is a conventional young man in almost every way, “stepping into the niche that England had prepared for him”: except that his is homosexual.

Written during 1913 and 1914, after an interlude of writer’s block following the publication of Howards End, and not published until 1971, Maurice was ahead of its time in its theme and in its affirmation that love between men can be happy. “Happiness,” Forster wrote, “is its keynote….In Maurice I tried to create a character who was completely unlike myself or what I supposed myself to be: someone handsome, healthy, bodily attractive, mentally torpid, not a bad businessman and rather a snob. Into this mixture I dropped an ingredient that puzzles him, wakes him up, torments him and finally saves him.”

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I chose this timeless classic to emphasize that a story does not lose its enjoyment factor with old age. Moreover, it does not lose its genuine respect or literary value because it deals with adolescent youth; at least to start.

Maurice, by E.M. Forster [W. W. Norton & Company, 2005 (first published 1971)] has been reviewed from every angle imaginable, and yet one can still find interesting things to say about it: The adherence to time and place (Edwardian England), the depth of the characters, the subtle genius of the plot, and the smoothness of line and phrase. It is all there like a textbook for the young –or old- author to follow.

Regarding the time and place, it is very Edwardian: Stolid, staid, regimented, and a bit pompous – A place for everyone, and everyone in their place.

This describes Maurice as well. He’s conservative, a bit of a snob, not very interested in the muses and rather dull. Indeed, he’s ‘every man’ except that he’s living with a secret that affects his entire life. And the story is how he deals with it in his secretive relationship with his Cambridge friend Clive Durham.

That relationship stalls at intimacy – a wall that says “no further.” Instead, Clive chooses a ‘respectable’ marriage – albeit, somewhat loveless – leaving Maurice even more confused regarding the secret he harbours inside him.

It is perhaps for this reason that he finds himself in the arms of Scudder, the gamekeeper. A crossing of social class lines, for certain, but Scudder’s simple acceptance of his homosexuality is a revelation to Maurice – one he needs to experience – but before he can reach that point he goes through a personal hell, looking at his sexual orientation as an abomination, a disease that has no cure. This would be all quite normal for the day and age, including the angst of class difference, but Forester ingeniously works the plot around to achieve a happy ending.

This was a book written well before its time. The style of English is so refreshing: A style and mastery that has been long since forgotten. It flows and melts coming from an era where every word was carefully picked and every sentence construction built with precision.

There are, of course, no explicit sex scenes, but the artistry of words more than makes up for it. Highly recommended: Five bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 78,507

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Keish (“Kaysh”): “Skookum Jim” Mason: co-discoverer of the Klondike gold. 

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

 

June 8, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature | Leave a comment

Finding Our Way (Finding Our Way #1) by Jayson James

 

A heart warming story of friends to lovers.

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Click on the cover to order.

Click on the cover to order.

Justin Parker and Derrick Wilson have been best friends since meeting back in middle school. Currently they are in their junior year at Chandler High School, and living the good life as teenagers. They have great girlfriends, plenty of close friends, their own cars, and parents who are well off. As nice as things might look to an outsider, something is missing from each of their lives.
Justin has become the invisible son in the midst of his parents failing marriage. In an effort to get his parent’s attention, Justin keeps getting into trouble. So far he has been able to get away with anything without facing any repercussions, while Derrick is feeling distant and tired of what he feels is a too “perfect family”. He just wants to have a normal social life and spend time with his friends without the pressures from his family to spend time with them. With blurring the lines of friendship in the process to realizing what was missing and discovering who they really are.

Justin and Derrick take turns narrating the story of their junior year in high school and all of the events that take place in their lives. Being a teenager can be tough. Being gay can be tougher. For Derrick and Justin they are both, and life cannot get any more complicated.

What happens when two best friends cross the boundaries of friendship? Will they be able to be happy together? Will they keep their secret?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Ah, the sweet adventures of youth.

That about sums up –in a positive way – Jayson James’ debut novel, Finding Our Way (Finding Our Way #1) [Published February 25th 2013 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform].

There is little in the way of uniqueness about the plot – the theme of burgeoning love has been worked and reworked from every imaginable angle; however, it is James’ ability to capture the wonderment of it, as seen from the perspective of two boys, that makes it appealing.

The devices he uses are quite effective: A tentative, step-by-step-pace; shifting narrative voices; and the ultimate realization of what they have created, all work to keep the plot credible. I also liked the way he muted the angst to a believable level.

From a personal perspective, I liked the scene where they made out in the back seat of a car: Many happy memories there.

There are a few editing problems, but nothing major. Four stars.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 78,417

♠♠♠

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Keish (“Kaysh”): “Skookum Jim” Mason: co-discoverer of the Klondike gold. 

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

June 1, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Gay fiction, Young adult | Leave a comment

Clockwork Romance by Skye Dragen

  A bemusing story.

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Clockmaker by day and thief by night, Arthur Winfield is used to charming his way into the homes and pocket books of London’s wealthiest patrons. He robs the rich to fund projects designed to help those in need and uses the nobility of his goal as an excuse for the continuation of his thieving. Little does he know that his latest mark may well be his last.
Lord Percival Brien’s wealth has acquired him a reputation for being one of the richest men in London. Solicited to ferret out the thief who robbed his uncle, he walks into Arthur’s shop with one purpose: divining whether or not the man he is looking for is the pretty-faced clockmaker in front of him. As he builds a friendship with Arthur, he may find that their tastes run to more intimate tracks than steam trolleys and airships.

817 kb, 47 pages.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

What in hell is ’streampunk?’

Anyway, whatever it is, Clockwork Romance by Skye Dragen [Starving Artists Ink; 2 edition, May 10, 2015] apparently is an example.

Not being conversant ith these trendy labels, and even less of an adherent, I simply found it a short read – which suited my hectic schedule this week – and reasonably creative.

Arthur Winfield is a clever clockmaker, which talent he uses to bemuse wealthy patrons sometime in the 19th century. Once inside their defences, he then pilfers a bauble or two for the benefit of the poor (a sort of Edwardian Robin Hood.)

Meanwhile, along comes Lord Percival Brien, an amateur sleuth, who is on the trail of a thief who robbed his uncle. Needless to say, Arthur and Lord Percival develop an attraction for one another, but the stumbling block is set in place when Arthur’s sideline is revealed. The story then becomes one of finding a compromise that the two men can live happily ever after with.

It is a bemusing little story. The writing is smooth, and the clockmaker’s trade is one that hasn’t been used before in my experience. Four bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 78,278

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: A Tribute to the Husky Dog… An educational film made by the Province of Ontario in 1925.

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

       

Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

May 25, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

To Touch the Sky (Leap of Faith #2) by M.A. Church

An M/M romance with a Native American twist…

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He can run, but he can’t hide…

click on cover to order

click on cover to order

Centuries ago, Hawk made a terrible mistake which has haunted him since. Fear of responsibility and feelings of unworthiness leads him to denying the mate Wha-tay showed him in a vision. So now Hawk runs his bar, has casual sex, and never, ever dates men with blond hair and brown eyes. But then Simon walks into his bar, and the future he’s feared is about to end up in a brawl if Hawk doesn’t do something—fast.

Simon Carter has a smart mouth and a bulldog temperament. So when Hawk runs, Simon pursues the sexy man, only to be rejected. Just as Simon decides to give up, someone—or something—visits him to change his mind… and scares him to death. Now Simon is backpedaling, and Hawk is in pursuit.

Desperate to reassure Simon and keep him safe, Hawk is forced to reveal his secrets before he’s ready. Can Simon learn to accept things aren’t always as they seem? Is the connection between them strong enough to help Hawk overcome centuries of pain? The only way the two men will move beyond Hawk’s past is for both of them to take a leap of faith.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I am always intrigued by Native American stories, particularly if they include some of the fascinating mythology that has been handed down for centuries. To Touch the Sky (Leap of Faith #2) by M.A. Church is one such a story.

The story opens in a time before the Europeans came to the land, and so the old ways prevailed. Hawk, or Chetan as he was called, was a hawk shifter – meaning he could transform himself into a hawk at will. However, he was also human, and that is where things went wrong when he spurned his mate Wha-tay, a blonde-haired, brown-eyed beauty.

Through the centuries Hawk has had time to regret his weakness, and so he has adopted a set of self-punishing standards that include not dating a blonde haired man with brown eyes.

That is … Until blonde-haired, brown-eyed Simon walked into his bar and his life. Simon is somewhat the opposite of Hawk inasmuch as he is a free spirit (few rules) and rejects the idea of being dominated.

Nonetheless, they gradually form a bond: First, by sharing men’s pursuits, and then by sex.

It is a gentle story with very little angst, and it moves along at a quiet pace. I would have liked to see more mythology – particularly as it applied to Hawk’s shifter abilities and his shifter clan – but that sort of thing may have in the author’s previous book. Four bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 78,162

♠♠♠

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: A Tribute to the Husky Dog… An educational film made by the Province of Ontario in 1925.

       

 Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

May 18, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Gay fiction, Gay Native American | Leave a comment

Lake on the Mountain: A Dan Sharp Mystery (Dan Sharp Mystery #1) by Jeffrey Round

Interesting Characters and engaging story

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Click on cover to order.

Click on cover to order.

Story Blurb: Dan Sharp, a gay father and missing persons investigator, accepts an invitation to a wedding on a yacht in Ontario’s Prince Edward County. It seems just the thing to bring Dan closer to his noncommittal partner, Bill, a respected medical professional with a penchant for sleazy after-hours clubs, cheap drugs, and rough sex. But the event doesn’t go exactly as planned.

When a member of the wedding party is swept overboard, a case of mistaken identity leads to confusion as the wrong person is reported missing. The hunt for a possible killer leads Dan deeper into the troubled waters and private lives of a family of rich WASPs and their secret world of privilege.

No sooner is that case resolved when a second one ends up on Dan’s desk. Dan is hired by an anonymous source to investigate the disappearance, twenty years earlier, of the groom’s father. The only clues are a missing bicycle and six horses mysteriously poisoned.

About the author: Jeffrey Round’s first Dan Sharp mystery, Lake on the Mountain, won the Lambda Literary Award in 2013. It was followed by Pumpkin Eater in 2014 and The Jade Butterfly in 2015. Jeffrey’s first two novels, A Cage of Bones and The P’town Murders, were listed on AfterElton’s Top 100 Gay Books. Jeffrey is also author of the Bradford Fairfax comic mysteries and a book of poetry, In the Museum of Leonardo da Vinci. His blog, A Writer’s Half-Life, has been syndicated online. He lives in Toronto.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As you are probably aware, I am a great promoter of Canadian books and authors, and so when I saw that Lake on the Mountain: A Dan Sharp Mystery (Dan Sharp Mystery #1) by Jeffrey Round [Dundurn, February 21, 2012] was set in Ontario, I naturally had to read it.

prince edward countyFor those of you not familiar with Prince Edward County, it is an almost island community located on the north shore of Lake Ontario near Bellleville, Ontario. It dates back to the American War of Independence when The United Empire Loyalists fled north to receive land from the British government. It is a jewel of a community featuring wine and history in equal portions.

The story is told from the point of view of Dan Sharp, a private investigator specializing in missing persons, and a gay, single father to a teenage son, Ked.

What I like about Dan is that he is a good man with flaws, and that makes him credible in my mind – especially since many of his flaws are understandable. He is a former graduate of the school of hard knocks, growing up gay in Sudbury, to un-approving parents, and then escaping to the streets of Toronto. Therefore, one can forgive him for his edginess and over-indulgence at times.

His love life isn’t so hot, either. He has been dating a doctor for about a year, but the medic is a bit of a tramp with a taste for raunchy clubs and after-hours hangouts.

Through it all, Dan maintains his decency and his duty to Ked; even though Ked returns his support to his father as well.

The plot takes place during on a wedding cruise on Lake Ontario, when one of the guests disappears overboard, and Dan is called upon to investigate a suspected murder. Nonetheless, the murder mystery is really secondary to Dan’s coming to grips with his personal ‘demons,’ which he inevitably does.

Mention should be made as well of the interesting characters one meets along the way. Jeffrey Round has a talent for developing notable characters, and this is no exception. Four bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 78,065

♠♠♠

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Marie-Anne Lagimodière (née Gaboury)Grandmother of Louis Riel

        

Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

May 11, 2015 Posted by | Canadian content, Gay fiction, Gay mystery, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

Wizard’s Moon by Josh Lanyon

A short story that is ahead of its time

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wizards moon - coverStory blurb: A warrior from the Northlands purchases a young man for purposes both secret and perhaps sinister.

About the author: A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist.

Author’s note: Once upon a time, a long time ago, I really, really wanted to write fantasy and speculative fiction. This dusty little story was my first published attempt. I believe I had plans to follow Faro’s adventures in the Northlands over the course of several stories, but I think at this point we will just have to take it for granted that everything eventually worked out.

“Wizard’s Moon” is old school fantasy and certainly not what I would write these days, but I think it’s still sort of fun and I hope you enjoyed it.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Quite a while ago (June 2013) I reviewed Josh Lanyon’s Cards on The Table, and commented that it was, “Not too long, not too short, but just right!” Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about Wizard’s Moon [JustJoshin Publishing, Inc., March 8, 2015]. At 44-pages, for a story like this, it is just too short. In fact it is just too everything: Too dark, too angst-driven, too under-develop, and too sketchy.

I agree with one other reviewer who observed that perhaps this story shouldn’t have been released in its present form. You are as good as your last book, and for anyone but an established writer like Layon it could have been career damaging.

That said, the author did move the story along at a good pace, which kept the pages turning, and the promise of a good story was there with a bit more development, but it just wasn’t enough to fully satisfy.

To fill you in on the plot: Faro is a young slave working at a brothel as a servant and bookkeeper, but not one of the interns. He does have a casual affair with the keeper until he is sold to the Jaxom – a warrior from ‘The Northlands.’

The high king has died, and now the kingdom has been divided into a number of mini-kingdoms, and from the time of his arrival Faro is thrust into an atmosphere of murder and intrigue.

Things resolve by the ending of the story, but it leaves the reader wanting. Two and one-half bees, which I will round up to three because it is Lanyon.

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May 3, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Fantasy, Gay fiction | Leave a comment

The Ghost Slept Over, by Marshall Thornton

 Brilliantly written, and a barrel of laughs!

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click  on cover to order.

click on cover to order.

Story blurb: When failed actor Cal Parsons travels to rural New York to claim the estate of his famous and estranged ex-partner he discovers something he wasn’t expecting…the ghost of his ex! And, worse, his ex invites Cal to join him for all eternity. Now. As Cal attempts to rid himself of the ghost by any means he begins to fall for the attractive attorney representing the estate. Will Cal be able to begin a new relationship or will he be seduced into the ever after?

About the author: Marshall Thornton is an award-winning novelist, playwright and screenwriter living in Long Beach, California. He is best known for the Boystown detective series, which has been short listed for a Rainbow Award three times and has been a finalist for the Lambda Award for gay mystery twice. Other novels include the erotic comedy The Perils of Praline, or the Amorous Adventures of a Southern Gentleman in Hollywood, The Ghost Slept Over and Full Release. Marshall has an MFA in screenwriting from UCLA, where he received the Carl David Memorial Fellowship and was recognized in the Samuel Goldwyn Writing awards. He has also had plays produced in both Chicago and Los Angeles and stories published in The James White Review and Frontier Magazine.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Those of you who follow this blog will know that I have been ruminating (ad nauseam) about the general lack of humour in GBLT literature, and then, lo-and-behold, along comes The Ghost Slept Over a romantic comedy by Marshall Thornton [Createspace, January 8, 2015]

Indeed, there is hardly any angst in it, whatsoever, but what there is n abundance is slightly farcical humour; loads of witty dialogue; and a zany cast of characters – including a B-rated actor, a self-centred ghost, and a small town lawyer.

The storyline revolves around Cal Parsons, the actor, but it is also shared with the other characters by giving them each a chapter.

Cal’s relationship with his ex, successful playwright McCormack Williams, broke up years ago when McCormack dumped him for a career in New York, so it is somewhat of a surprise when Cal learns that he in the sole beneficiary of MCormack’s estate.

The catch is that McCormack hasn’t quite moved out – not in the ordinary sense – and is still sort of hanging around, so-to-speak. Moreover, he wants Cal to join him in the hereafter.

Handling the estate is a small town lawyer, Dewey, who at first comes across as a bit staid; however, as the story progresses he gets with the programme – especially where Cal is concerned.

There is nothing particularly new about this plot line: The deceased lover who comes back to watch over their ex has been used several times before, but what makes this story fresh is the brilliantly written, witty dialogue. Not to mention the madcap mayhem that prevails throughout.

On the quibble side, the pace is somewhat uneven: Especially in the opening chapters; however, as the story progresses it picks up to a rollicking tempo.

I am also not a great fan of changing points of view or flashbacks, although I must say that in this case they almost work.

A great story, though, brilliantly written and a barrel of laughs. Four bees.

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April 27, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Romantic comedy | Leave a comment

The Archer: A novel of medieval England (The Archers #1) by Martin Archer

A credible rendering of a fascinating period in history.

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archer - coverStory blurb: Martin Archer’s “The Archers” saga is set in rough and dangerous medieval Britain. It’s a dull and brutal place which forces many Englishmen to go abroad and join the crusades to escape their fates and seek their fortunes. It is based upon the tales and histories in the newly discovered parchments found under some rubble in the basement of the Bodleian Library.

The action packed books in “The English Archer” saga begin with “The Archer’s Quest.” It follows young man who joins a company of English archers when his older brother Thomas leaves the monastery to take him crusading with King Richard. Years later William himself is leading the company’s handful of survivors as they attempt to fight their way home past corrupt church officials and slave-taking Moslem pirates in a desperate effort to return to England.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

While The Archer: A novel of medieval England (The Archers #1) by Martin Archer is listed under ‘gay adventure’ on Amazon, it must be working with a different definition of ‘gay’ than I am. Nonetheless, I was drawn by the fact that it is primarily a male adventure set in the medieval era around the time of crusades (1095 – 1291), one of my favourite periods in history, and also features a company of yeoman archers – one of my favourite set of characters as well.

The story takes the guise of a recently discovered chronicle that recalls the adventures of William, Captain of the English archers, as recorded by his friend and scribe Yoram of Damascus.

The tales are many, but for the most part they capture the essence of the time fairly well. The crusades were an ill conceived, poorly organized, avaricious campaign that had little to do with Christ, and more to do with wealth and plunder. Nonetheless, as the author emphasizes, they were a relief from the drudgery of toiling thanklessly for the divine right of kings, noblemen and clergy.

The fact that they were also a complete and utter disaster only adds to the literary possibilities.

My comments

As far as I can tell, the author has done his homework regarding the grottiness of the period, and I am glad to see he didn’t try to gloss it over in Hollywood style. Life was truly nasty, brutish, and short for the burdened classes, and the avarice of the upper classes didn’t help alleviate the situation.

That said, there are some editing issues, and at times the dialogue doesn’t fit the character – i.e. where the kid says “…My arse is sore.” Considering it is said in the presence of his uncle, a monk, the expression seems questionable.

Ancillary items

Product descriptions: Something I found off-putting about this book had nothing to do with the story itself; rather, it had to do with the business surrounding it. In my opinion, product descriptions (i.e. ‘blurbs’) should describe what readers can expect from the novel at hand – not all the other novels in an author’s repertoire.

And while we’re on the topic, generally, I’ll decide if a novel is ‘exciting’ or ‘action-packed,’ so hyperbole is utterly wasted on me until I have read the story.

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April 20, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Twisted (Lucky Jeff Ranch #2) by Jake Mactire

A good read and well recommended.

 

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Sequel to “Two Sides of the Same Coin.”

twisted - coverDespite the celebrity their recent cracking of a cattle rustling ring has brought, Jeff Connelly and his partner, Mike Guidry, are ready to settle down and start the dude ranch they’ve always dreamed of. Following your dreams isn’t always easy, though-between a troubled new ranch hand who propositions Jeff and Mike’s past suddenly confronting him, emotions are already running high.

Then a sadistic serial killer nicknamed the West Coat Cutter starts slicing a trail though Jeff and Mike’s territory. As the body count rises, they begin to suspect that the killer may in fact be someone they know-a suspicion that is only strengthened by a sudden rash of threatening notes addressed to Jeff. Can they escape the West Coast Cutter before the worst happens?

 

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I gave in to my love for western-genre novels this week, even though it is a contemporary version. Twisted (Lucky Jeff Ranch #2) by Jake Mactire [Dreamspinner Press; 1 edition, July 24, 2011] is a continuation of Mactire’s “Lucky Jeff Ranch” series, and, although I haven’t read Two Sides of the Same Coin, this sequel stood alone fairly well.

Jeff Donnelly became the proprietor of ‘Lucky Jeff Ranch’ upon the untimely death of his father in a car accident. Mike Guidry was one of the ranch hands who came with it, but eventually – after a number of adventures together – they became loving partners, and now they have plans afoot to convert ‘Lucky Jeff’ into a dude ranch.

Thus begins the adventures in Twisted.

To thicken the plot, a ranch hand by the name of Smitty asks if his younger brother (Jason) can come work with them. Gay and troubled, his brother wants to make a new start in a fresh environment, and Smitty feels that Jeff and Mike would make positive role models. Moreover, there is a recent threat that is stalking the gay community in town: A serial killer dubbed the ‘West Coast Cutter’ who is preying on gay men like Jason.

Then, unexpectedly, Mike’s father appears on the scene contritely making apologies for rejecting his son when he was sixteen. Jeff views this with a certain amount of scepticism, but for Mike’s sake he stands aside to allow him to reconnect with his estranged mother, brother and sister.

However, when a body is discovered nearby, there is no question the ‘West Coast Cutter’ is close at hand.

My comments

It is well written and easy to read: A good start.

The plot features some clever twists and turns (another plus), but for me it is clichéic. I think this is because it is angst driven – the gay but troubled brother; Mike’s expulsion from the family circle; the homophobic but contrite father – have all been done before.

I hasten to add that it is not a major issue, and it is subjective, but for someone who has read and analyzed over three hundred books for this blog, I thirst for something original – like comedy.

Nonetheless, it is a good read and well recommended. Four bees.

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April 13, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Full Circle by Michael Thomas Ford

A thoroughly engaging story…

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Click on cover to order

Click on cover to order

Story blurb: History professor Ned Brummel is living happily with his partner of twelve years in small-town Maine when he receives a phone call from his estranged friend–Jack–telling him that another friend–Andy–is very ill and possibly near death. It is news that shatters the peace of his world for many reasons. And as Ned boards a plane to Chicago on his way to his friend’s bedside, he embarks on a another journey into memory, examining the major events and small moments that have shaped his world and his relationships with two very different, very important men.

About the author: Michael Thomas Ford is the author of more than fifty books, for both young readers and adults, in genres ranging from humor to horror, literary fiction to nonfiction. As a writer for young adults he is the author of the popular “Circle of Three” series (writing as Isobel Bird); nonfiction books about spirituality (Paths of Faith), the AIDS crisis (Voices of AIDS), and the gay community (The World Out There and Speaking Out); and the novels Suicide Notes and Z (forthcoming in 2010).

His work for adult readers includes the best-selling novels Last Summer, Looking for It, Full Circle, Changing Tides, and What We Remember, and Jane Bites Back. His work has been nominated for 12 Lambda Literary Awards, twice winning for Best Humor Book, twice for Best Romance Novel, and most recently for Gay Men’s Mystery. He was also nominated for a Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award (for his novel The Dollhouse That Time Forgot) and a Gaylactic Spectrum Award (for his short story “Night of the Werepuss”).

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I hadn’t read any previous novels by Michael Thomas Ford until I came across Full Circle [Kensington, August 1, 2007]. His credentials are certainly impressive, but what appealed to me is the era – the liberation movement of the sixties, to the AIDS epidemic of the 80s and 90s. My era exactly, so it was like a walk down memory lane.

It is told from the perspective of two men, involving a third, and through their eyes we experience the assassination of JFK; protests surrounding the Vietnam War, the Stonewall Riots, and the identification of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Probably one of the most eventful chapters in gay-American life in the 20th century.

The writing is professional through-and-through, as one would expect from a 50-time published author, but what impressed me most was his seemingly effortless ability to balance the viewpoints (memories) of the three main characters – like a Troika – while remaining focussed on the events surrounding them.

It is truly a textbook example of in-control writing.

For those of you who were born in a later time, you are bound to find Ned and Jack’s reminiscences engaging, as are their personalities, and if you are students of history (as we all are, whether we like it or not) this is a history lesson I think you will enjoy. Five bees.

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April 6, 2015 Posted by | a love story, AIDS, Gay American History, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction | Leave a comment

Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son: A Memoir by Kevin Jennings

One man’s story of hope and inspiration

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Click on ghd cover to order

Click on ghd cover to order

Story blurb: Growing up poor in the South, Kevin Jennings learned a lot of things, especially about how to be a real man. When his father, a fundamentalist preacher, dropped dead at his son’s eighth birthday party, Kevin already knew he wasn’t supposed to cry.

He also knew there was no salvation for homosexuals, who weren’t “real men” – or Christians, for that matter. But Jennings found his salvation in school, inspired by his mother. Self-taught, from Appalachia, her formal education had ended in sixth grade, but she was determined that her son would be the first member of their extended family to go to college, even if it meant going North. Kevin, propelled by her dream, found a world beyond poverty. He earned a scholarship to Harvard and there learned not only about history and literature, but also that it was possible to live openly as a gay man.

But when Jennings discovered his vocation as a teacher and returned to high school to teach, he was forced back into the closet. He saw countless teachers and students struggling with their sexual orientation and desperately trying to hide their identity. For Jennings, coming out the second time was more complicated and much more important than the first–because this time he was leading a movement for justice.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I’m a bit late tonight, folks. I Had an unexpected but important project pop up earlier in the day, so this review will be brief.

Kevin Jenning’s life, as fascinatingly retold in Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son: A Memoir [Beacon Press, May 15, 2007], is a slice everyone’s life who grew up poor – and conscious of it: The clean but threadbare clothes; the avoidance of bringing your friends home; the white lies about how prosperous your father was; and the constant feeling of being ‘second-class’.

Jennings shares all of this for us to share, but throughout there is an ever-present love, and hope, and inspiration. His mother’s love and sacrifice, for example.

The other phenomenon that spoke to me is the drive to succeed that is so often manifested in poorer children: The will to be not only better, but to be the best at whatever they do. This was demonstrated by Jennings drive to win his scholarship to Harvard, and then to become a leader in the gay rights movement.

On the quibble side, I found it just a trifle self-indulgent in places. Not an unusual shortcoming in autobiographies. Four bees.

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March 30, 2015 Posted by | Autobiographical, Gay autobiography, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

Harry’s Great Trek (The Empire Series #3) by Roger Kean

A history lesson in novel form … And a great read…

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To order, click on the above cover.

To order, click on the above cover.

What do you do when the person you have loved in secret since your schooldays finds happiness with another, leaving your heart bereft and your future a bleak, lonely prospect?

For Harry Smythe-Vane, junior officer serving in the British army at the end of the failed campaign to rescue Gordon of Khartoum from the Mahdist siege of 1885, finding childhood friends Richard and Edward united in love spells the end of a dream he knows was doomed from the start—more so, a dream condemned by society at large: the love of two men for each other.

Harry must now pluck up the courage to pursue an uncertain quest for an elusive new soulmate—his great trek to attain fulfillment.

From dangerous missions on India’s wild North-West Frontier to the deserts of Sudan, Harry forges a career and experiences fleeting friendships, but when a spell of leave takes him to London his heart is struck. He meets his almost-forgotten godson Jolyon Langrish-Smith, a troubled teenager in Oscar Wilde’s louche circle. It’s an encounter that pitches Harry headlong on a turbulent journey of emotional involvement, of hurt and joy.

Painting a vivid panorama of the British Empire at its height, with its multi-faceted but rigid society hovering on the brink of change, Harry’s Great Trek is an epic saga of love and war—alive with an engaging cast of the humble and the famous, the honorable and the scoundrels—which climaxes in 1900 amid the carnage of the Boer War. There Harry’s future is decided as one quest ends and a new journey begins…

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Review by Gerry Burnie

One of the most grievously overlooked genres in GBLT fiction is ‘the gay adventure story’. That is not to say there are none. There are – and good ones, too – but they are few and far between.

One of the best writers in this genre is Roger Kean, and his latest offering Harry’s Great Trek (The Empire Series #3) [Reckless Books, February 1st 2015] is proof positive of this estimation.

His Empire Series has taken us through the hot spots of Imperial Britain’s golden age of domination and plunder (always for ‘their’ own good, of course.) Nevertheless, it remains one of my favourite eras for an overall commitment to ‘God and Empire’. It is probably the last example of a people willingly committed to a state that was ‘politely’ corrupt and exploitive, through-and through.

The blurb provides as good a synopsis of the story as I could write; therefore, I will contain my comments to some of the highlights as I see them.

First of all, I like the cover art and design by Oliver Frey. It has a rugged, masculine look about it that suits this type of novel. With a few notable eceptions, adventure novels tend to be written by male authors, and so anything less rugged wouldn’t have met my expectations.

I also love Kean’s choice of names, i.e. Harry Smythe-Vane, and Jolyon Langrish-Smith. How delicious zany! I have often observed that authors don’t give enough attention to names – especially historical names – but these certainly do add a ‘stuffiness’ to the era that fits.

The introduction of certain celebrities of the day – especially young Winston Churchill – added a whole new dimension to the already interesting historical events. There are also some who also say that Baden-Powell had an interest in boys beyond scouting, and so these characters can add wonderful fodder to a story.

The writing is, of course, top notch (if, perhaps, a bit over-expansive), and so I am going to award this novel with a five-bee rating.

♠♠♠

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March 23, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Afghanistan, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military, Historical period | Leave a comment

Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity, by Robert Beachy

The veritable ‘golden age’ of gay, self-identity…

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Click on cover to order

Click on cover to order

Synopsis: An unprecedented examination of the ways in which the uninhibited urban sexuality, sexual experimentation, and medical advances of pre-Weimar Berlin created and molded our modern understanding of sexual orientation and gay identity.

Known already in the 1850s for the friendly company of its “warm brothers” (German slang for men who love other men), Berlin, before the turn of the twentieth century, became a place where scholars, activists, and medical professionals could explore and begin to educate both themselves and Europe about new and emerging sexual identities. From Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, a German activist described by some as the first openly gay man, to the world of Berlin’s vast homosexual subcultures, to a major sex scandal that enraptured the daily newspapers and shook the court of Emperor William II—and on through some of the very first sex reassignment surgeries—Robert Beachy uncovers the long-forgotten events and characters that continue to shape and influence the way we think of sexuality today.

Chapter by chapter Beachy’s scholarship illuminates forgotten firsts, including the life and work of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, first to claim (in 1896) that same-sex desire is an immutable, biologically determined characteristic, and founder of the Institute for Sexual Science. Though raided and closed down by the Nazis in 1933, the institute served as, among other things, “a veritable incubator for the science of tran-sexuality,” scene of one of the world’s first sex reassignment surgeries. Fascinating, surprising, and informative—Gay Berlin is certain to be counted as a foundational cultural examination of human sexuality.

About the author: Robert Beachy (born January 5, 1965, Aibonito, Puerto Rico) is associate professor of history at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1998. Beachy specializes in the intellectual and cultural history of Germany and Europe, and is known for his work on the history of sexuality in the Weimar Republic, under the Nazis, and in Germany after the Second World War. ~ Wikipedia.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

While many think that ‘gay openness’ had its naissance with Oscar Wilde, or perhaps “Stonewall” or the “Bathhouse Raids” in Toronto, Canada, but Robert Beachy makes the very convincing case in Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity [Knopf; 1st edition, November 18, 2014] that it actually started in Prussia as early as the 1860s.

Along the way he reveals a fascinating history of pre-Weimar Germany, refuge for notables like Christopher Isherwood, etc. Indeed, the first spokesman for gay rights was almost unquestionably a lawyer by the name of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. In a speech before Sixth Congress of German Jurists, he urged the repeal of laws forbidding sex between men.

Outrage followed, but not to the degree that one might have expected, and so the wedge of liberation had been introduced.

What followed was quite extraordinary (for the time), and has been admirably synopsized by Alex Ross of the The New Yorker magazine, January 26, 2015:

In 1869, an Austrian littérateur named Karl Maria Kertbeny, who was also opposed to sodomy laws, coined the term “homosexuality.” In the eighteen-eighties, a Berlin police commissioner gave up prosecuting gay bars and instead instituted a policy of bemused tolerance, going so far as to lead tours of a growing demimonde. In 1896, Der Eigene (“The Self-Owning”), the first gay magazine, began publication. The next year, the physician Magnus Hirschfeld founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, the first gay-rights organization. By the beginning of the twentieth century, a canon of gay literature had emerged (one early advocate used the phrase “Staying silent is death,” nearly a century before AIDS activists coined the slogan “Silence = Death”); activists were bemoaning negative depictions of homosexuality (Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” was one target); there were debates over the ethics of outing; and a schism opened between an inclusive, mainstream faction and a more riotous, anarchistic wing. In the nineteen-twenties, with gay films and pop songs in circulation, a mass movement seemed at hand. In 1929, the Reichstag moved toward the decriminalization of homosexuality, although the chaos caused by that fall’s stock-market crash prevented a final vote.

Magnus Hirschfeld and two cross-dressers, outside the Institute for Sexual Science.

Magnus Hirschfeld and two cross-dressers, outside the Institute for Sexual Science.

High praise is reserved by Beachy for the aforementioned Magnus Hirschfeld. A year before his founding of the  Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, Hirschfield able disappear. “Through Science to Justice” was his group’s motto.

During the arguably ‘golden years’ preceding 1933, when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor, gays and lesbians achieved an almost unprecedented level of visibility not seen since Grecian era. in popular culture. They could see themselves onscreen in films like “Different from the Others”—a tale of a gay violinist driven to suicide, with Hirschfeld featured in the supporting role of a wise sexologist.

Pejorative representations of gay life were not only lamented but also protested; Beachy points out that when a 1927 Komische Oper revue called “Strictly Forbidden” mocked gay men as effeminate, a demonstration at the theatre prompted the Komische Oper to remove the offending skit.

Altogether, it is a most fascinating and informative read. Five bees.

♠♠♠

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March 16, 2015 Posted by | Academic study, Gay non-fiction | Leave a comment

Spadework, by Timothy Findley

A rare bargain…

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This is a bargain book on Amazon, with prices ranging from .01¢ to $1.00. Bargain books are new but could include a small mark from the publisher and an Amazon.com price sticker identifying them as such. Details

 

click on the above cover to order.

click on the above cover to order.

Story blurb: Lust. Infidelity. Betrayal. Murder. On a summer evening in Stratford, Ontario, the errant thrust of a gardener’s spade slices a telephone cable into instant silence. The resulting disconnection is devastating. With the failure of one call to reach a house, an ambitious young actor becomes the victim of sexual blackmail. The blocking of a second call leads tragically to murder. And when a Bell Canada repairman arrives to mend the broken line, his innocent yet irresistible male beauty has explosive consequences.

In Spadework, Timothy Findley, master storyteller and playwright, has created an electric wordplay of infidelity and morality set on the stage of Canada’s preeminent theater town. In this fictional portrait, intrigue, passion, and ambition are always waiting in the wings. Findley peoples the town with theater folk, artists, writers, and visitors (both welcome and unwelcome), and with lives that are immediately recognizable as “Findley-esque” – the lonely, the dispossessed, and the sexually troubled.

A story that ripples with ever-widening repercussions, a sensual, witty, and completely absorbing novel, Spadework is another Timothy Findley winner.

About the author: Timothy Irving Frederick Findley (October 30, 1930 – June 21, 2002) was a Canadian novelist and playwright. He was also informally known by the nickname “Tiff” or “Tiffy,” an acronym of his initials.

He was raised in the upper class Rosedale district of Toronto, attending boarding school at St. Andrew’s College (although leaving during grade 10 for health reasons). He pursued a career in the arts, studying dance and acting, and had significant success as an actor before turning to writing. He was part of the original Stratford Festival Company in the 1950s, acting alongside Alec Guinness, and appeared in the first production of Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker at the Edinburgh Festival. He also played Peter Pupkin in Sunshine Sketches, the CBC Television adaptation of Stephen Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town.

Findley’s first two novels, The Last of the Crazy People (1967) and The Butterfly Plague (1969), were originally published in Britain and the United States after having been rejected by Canadian publishers. Findley’s third novel, The Wars, was published to great acclaim in 1977 and went on to win the Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction. It was adapted for film in 1981.

Timothy Findley received a Governor General’s Award, the Canadian Authors Association Award, an ACTRA Award, the Order of Ontario, the Ontario Trillium Award, and in 1985 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. He was a founding member and chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada, and a president of the Canadian chapter of PEN International.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As you can readily see, I went looking for Canadian content this week, and it doesn’t get any more Canadian than the late and lamented Timothy Findley.

Originally published by Harper Collins in 2001 (a year before Findley’s death), Spadework by Timothy Findley is set in the otherwise quaint little  town of Stratford, Ontario [home of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival], and is primarily told from the point of view of Jane Kincaid, a southerner from Louisiana. She left the south to escape her conservative-minded family, and also adopted an new persona when she met her husband, Griffin Kincaid.

Griffin is a hunk, and also a rising young Shakespearean actor. Otherwise, they lead quite an ordinary, suburban life, with an ordinary house, a kid, a live-in housekeeper/nanny, and a dog named “Rudyard.”

Nevertheless, Griffin’s ‘hunkyness’ is the catalyst that gives rise to a number strange (bizarre) events. Jane begins to suspect other women might be coveting him as well: principally Zoë Walker, his on-stage partner.

Meanwhile, one of Jane’s former boyfriends shows up to jerk off all over her face and dress, and then goes out to be killed in a car accident. In addition, the town is stunned by the shocking rape and murder of two women by an addict, Jesse Quinlan, who (because he cannot reach his support in life, his nephew Luke – the gardener who severed the telephone line) he goes on a drug-fuelled rampage until he takes his own life. And, if all this wasn’t enough, Jane receives a cryptic letter from her mother to say her sister has recently committed suicide.

In some way lack of communication figures into all these events, but the crucial stroke comes when the gardener Luke inadvertently plunges a spade through the main communication line. Thus, his uncle Jesse has his meltdown, but, in addition Griffin cannot reach his director, Johnathon Crawford, with his answer to an ultimatum – the ultimatum being that he either enter into a sexual relationship with Crawford or lose out on a coveted, leading role.

The result is that he loses out, but he agrees when he is offered a second meeting with Crawford.

Meanwhile, a veritable Adonis of a telephone repairman has arrived on Jane’s scene, and in no time has agreed to pose for a nude portrait.

Lack of communication and sexual desires figure prominently in this novel, but in spite of the resulting chaos things do settle down with a return to a happy ever after ending.

My thoughts

Findley’s prestigious awards speak for themselves. He was a brilliant writer, and there are flashes of this in Spadework, but considering that it was published so close to his death I cannot help speculating there might have been other things on his mind.

It’s only a hunch, but this, his last novel, seems rushed to me: As though finishing it was the overriding priority.

Mind you, it is still a good read with all of Findley’s intricate plot twists present, and for the embarrassingly low price of .01¢ you can hardly go wrong. Three bees.

♠♠♠

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Introducing…

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Theatre Orillia is a community based theatre company located in Orillia, Ontario – the setting of Stephen Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Small Town. As is not usual for community theatres, it could use a helping hand, financially. If you would care to be a theatre ‘angel’, just navigate to the following URL: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/886814721/theatre-orillia-summer-season-2015?ref=email.

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March 9, 2015 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian content, Fiction, Gay fiction | Leave a comment

Behind Locked Doors, by Nicholas Kinsley

A BDSM novel that leaves that ‘other’ one in the dust.

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click on the above cover to purchase.

click on the above cover to purchase.

Story blurb: Edward Taylor is a man torn between his honourable façade and his forbidden carnal desires. Outwardly a proper Victorian family man, Edward secretly craves pain and lusts after men. Isaac Sinclair is a struggling writer forced by poverty to supplement his income with less savory pursuits, including discreetly inflicting “professional punishments” upon wealthy gentlemen. When Edward catches Isaac in an act of petty theft, the chance meeting seems to offer an ideal opportunity for both men. Neither man, however, is prepared for the escalation of social and personal risk occasioned by falling in love.

About the author: Nick Kinsley has been writing since a very young age. After going through school focused on computer science, he discovered that he would rather be a professional author. He grew up with few friends and a love of books, and hopes to create worlds in which others can find enjoyment. Kinsley currently attends community college in Maryland and plans to study abroad and major in Literature. He also plays guitar, and loves music.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Bondage, Domination, Submission and Masochism (BDSM), seems to be quite popular these days – due to the release of a movie based on that other BDSM book (which I read, but chose not to review), so I decided to offer one that is a superior story in many ways.

Behind Locked Doors by Nicholas Kinsley [Fantastic Fiction Publishing, February 17, 2015] is Kinsley’s debut novel, and a worthy effort it is, too. I would also add that I classify it as “sexy” as apposed to “hard-core” S&M.

Edward Taylor is a respected Edwardian, upper-middle class gentlemen, although he was born a bastard. However, because his biological father did the right thing, he is now a prosperous factory owner with money enough for dalliances – like Isaac Sinclair, a struggling writer who supports his ‘addiction’ by servicing gentlemen with special, exotic pleasures – i.e. BDSM.

His chance encounter with Sinclair comes about when he witnesses the latter stealing bread, and in a rather mutually agreed arrangement he coerces Sinclair into partaking of his services.

This continues, commercially at first, but as time goes by it becomes deeper – emotionally – until they are both inextricably in love.

Complicating matters is the fact that Taylor is married with a son. It is a rather odd arrangement whereby he married a French girl on a fling in Paris, thinking he would have to marry eventually – for appearances sake as much as anything else – and out of it came a somewhat estranged son.

The son is a sub-plot, for in loving Sinclair he also learns to love his son.

Overall, it is an engrossing story with strong main characters. Both Taylor and Sinclair are credible, and the story is plot-driven as apposed to sliding along on a stream of sperm. Likewise, the S&M is judiciously used as a piquant, rather than a gratuitous kink.

The insights into 19th-century mores are also well created, which suggests some research.

On the quibble side, flashbacks (retro-views) are tricky. I’ve read dozens of books that have used them, but only a few have done it well. I can’t say don’t use them, because it depends on how necessary the past is to explain the present, but otherwise use some other device, like a prologue.

Another quibble is the ‘fee’ Sinclair apparently charged for his services. Fifty pounds in the 19th century was a significant amount of money. For example, a skilled engineer might earn £110 per year if fully employed.

Which, I suppose is the other lesson this review might bring: Write about flying monsters and horned aliens with impunity, but miss a fact by a day or an inch and someone is bound to catch you up on it.

A solid read. Four bees.

♠♠♠

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March 2, 2015 Posted by | a love story, BDSM novel, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

The Butcher’s Son (A Dick Hardesty Mystery #1) by Dorien Grey

In the style of Mickey Spillane –

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Click on  the above cover to purchse.

Click on the above cover to purchse.

Story blurb: Dick Hardesty is pressed into service when someone starts burning down gay bars all over town and the police chief (nicknamed ‘the butcher’) shrugs the whole thing off. Then drag queens and female impersonators get into the act and Dick is required to sleuth out who is hot and who is not.

Also available in audio-book format.

About the author: If it is possible to have a split personality without being schizophrenic, Dorien Grey qualifies. When long-time book and magazine editor Roger Margason chose the pseudonym “Dorien Grey” for his first book, it set off a chain of circumstances which has led to the comfortable division of labor and responsibility. Roger has charge of day-to-day existence, freeing Dorien—with the help of Roger’s fingers—to write. It has reached the point where Roger merely sits back and reads the stories Dorien brings forth on the computer screen.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I’m feeling lazy this week, so it’s time to dip into my reserve pile of authors and books that ‘go without saying.’

Dorien Grey is one such author, and the introduction to his Dick Hardesty series, The Butcher’s Son [Untreed Reads, January 20, 2015], is the novel I have chosen.

As I have implied above, you really can’t go wrong with a Dorien Grey novel. The plot is generally clever, with well-conceived twists and turns, and his insightful witticisms are scattered like pearls along the way, i.e. “The voice was warm, sincere, and confident – the kind of voice that makes me want to check and see if my wallet’s still there.” For those of you who share my vintage, this line could be right out of the style of Mickey Spillane.

High praise indeed, for in my opinion the really good, popular mystery-writer’s craft, ended with him.

In this story, Hardesty is hired by a rather pretentious PR firm to ‘package’ a homophobic cop seeking election to the governor’s mansion. Quite a package, since this cop’s background includes a gay son who was murdered for his gayness, and another son who is a hell-fire-and-brimstone preacher dead set against homosexuals.

The ‘hell fire’ in this case starts seeping out to burn some of the most popular gay bars in town, and so Hardesty is drawn in to investigating these occurrences as well.

Not surprisingly, the cop and his son are prima facie suspects, and so the juxtaposition of Hardesty the PR person, and Hardesty the sleuth, forms an interesting twist to the story.

Masterfully written, as one might expect, I rate it as four and one-half bees.

♠♠♠

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February 23, 2015 Posted by | Dick Hardesty Series, Dorien Grey, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay mystery | 3 Comments

The Academician (Southern Swallow #1) by Edward C. Patterson

A credible plunge backward in time to an intriguing realm –

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Click on the above cover to purchase.

Click on the above cover to purchase.

“A bigger fool the world has never known than I – a coarse fellow with no business to clutch a brush and scribble. I only know the scrawl, because my master took pleasure in teaching me between my chores. Not many men are so cursed . . .” Thus begins the tale of Li K’ai-men as told by his faithful, but mischievous servant, K’u Ko-ling – a tale of 12th Century China, where state service meant a life long journey across a landscape of turmoil and bliss. A tale of sacrifice, love, war and duty – a fragile balance between rituals and passions. Here begins the legacy of the Jade Owl and its custodian as he holds true to his warrants. The Academician is the first of four books in the Southern Swallow series, capturing the turbulence of the Sung Dynasty in transition. Spanning the silvery days under the Emperor Hui to the disasters that followed, The Academician is a slice of world events that should never have been forgotten.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I am always in the search of a unique story, that is a story or setting that is off the beaten path, and The Academician (Southern Swallow #1) by Edward C. Patterson has both.

Set in 12th century China, which in itself is unique enough, The Academician is also chock full of unique characters who, in their variety, resemble a Chinois tapestry of the same period.

The story of Li K’ai-men begins as a brilliant student, top of his class, who is challenged by his renowned master, Han Lin, to fulfill a number of missions. This he does successfully, and as a result he is elevated to the position of superintendent of Su Chou. Again, he proves his metal by restoring this neglected province to its former prosperity, which in turn catches the attention of the emperor himself. Li then finds himself tutor to the emperor’s son and prince of the realm.

Of course, the history of Imperial China is fraught with wars and political unrest, and in the midst of this Li K’ai-men must protect his young protégé, the prince, and also the secrets surround the legendary Jade Owl relics.

Told from the point of view of K’u Ko-ling, Li’s faithful servant, this is a credible plunge backward in time to encompass 12th-century China with remarkable detail.

The writing is first rate, of course, but what really stands out for me is the strong character development that captures the essence of the time.

Highly recommended. Five bees.

♠♠♠

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February 16, 2015 Posted by | China, Fiction, fiction/autobiographical, Gay fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Wounded, by Percival Everett

A story of ‘fight or flight,’ and how one man chose to deal with it.

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click on the above cover to purchase.

click on the above cover to purchase.

Training horses is dangerous–a head-to-head confrontation with a 1,000 pounds of muscle and little sense takes courage, but more importantly patience and smarts. It is these same qualities that allow John and his uncle Gus to live in the beautiful high desert of Wyoming. A black horse trainer is a curiosity, at the very least, but a familiar curiosity in these parts. It is the brutal murder of a young gay man, however, that pushes this small community to the teetering edge of fear and tolerance.

As the first blizzard of the season gains momentum, John is forced to reckon not only with the daily burden of unruly horses, a three-legged coyote pup, an escape-artist mule, and too many people, but also a father-son war over homosexuality, random hate-crimes, and—perhaps most frightening of all–a chance for love.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

What is our responsibility toward those around us? That is the thought provoking question asked by Wounded, by Percival Everett [Graywolf Press; 2 edition, September 13, 2011].

Set in the ‘high desert’ region of Wyoming, and narrated by the principal character, John Hunt, this is a book of many colours: Western genre, racial and sexual intolerance, inner reflection, and social injustice.

Hunt is a Black, Berkley graduate, with an appreciation for modern art, and subsequent to the accidental death of his wife, six years previous, he has taken up the training of horses with his acerbic Uncle Gus. As such, the colour of his skin is of little consequence until other issues arise alongside of it.

A young man he has hired becomes accused of a Mathew-Sheppard-like murder of a gay man, and at first Hunt withdraws in fear of a prejudicial backlash. Nevertheless, when the accused man eventually hangs himself inside the jail cell, Hunt has reason to question his conscience.

Matters become more complex when the gay son of an old friend arrives on the scene with his lover – a gay activist intent on protesting the senseless murder.

Caught somewhat in the middle, Hunt can no longer step aside, and is therefore forced to confront some difficult questions regarding himself and the rising question his sexuality.

Returning to the opening question, this is a story of ‘fight or flight,’ and how one man chose to deal with it. The racial element was a refreshing perspective, but I am gratified that Everett did not dwell on it as the main theme. Like the angst in homosexuality, it is an aspect that has been work to the limit.

Altogether, an interesting read with strong characters and some unique plot elements. Four bees.

♠♠♠

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February 9, 2015 Posted by | Contemporary western, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay western | Leave a comment

A Day of Fire: a novel of Pompeii by Stephanie Dray

A remarkably clever and well-crafted idea.

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Click on the cover to purchase.

Click on the cover to purchase.

Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain’s wrath . . . and these are their stories:

A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii’s flourishing streets.
An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.
An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.
A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.
A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.
A priestess and a whore seek redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.

Six authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others’ path during Pompeii’s fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have always been fascinated with Pompeii. I mean, to have a whole city and its populace frozen in time, to be discovered two thousand years later, is intriguing stuff! Likewise, to speculate on the lives of some of its citizens just before Vesuvius sealed their fates forever is equally tantalizing.

 A Day of Fire: a novel of Pompeii an anthology by Stephanie Dray [Knight Media, LLC, November 4, 2014] sets out to do just that. Six historical fiction authors, with unique but similar styles, collaborate to create the lives of six fairly representative citizens as they approach the fateful day.

The story’s synopsis is laid out in the blurb, but going beyond that it is an admirable idea that was waiting to happen – combining fiction and fact surrounding 78 A.D. In addition, the six Pompeiian characters couldn’t be more different or more interesting – Rich, poor, young and old.

What I found gratifying was that, although the stories were individually authored there was a consistency about them – a thread that connected them together while on their way to calamity. It was such that the reader knew what was about to happen while the characters didn’t, and so it was all the more credible.

A very clever and well-crafted story in six parts. Five bees.

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: “Camp X” – the unofficial name of a Second World War paramilitary and commando training installation, on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario between Whitby and Oshawa in Ontario, Canada. 

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February 2, 2015 Posted by | Historical Fiction, Non-gay fiction | Leave a comment

The Pretty Gentleman by Max Fincher

Love, betrayal, deception and vengeance in Regency London.

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pretty gentleman - coverErotic sketches, a blackmail letter, a closeted aristocrat, his ambitious lover, and a sacrificial murder. Love, betrayal, deception and vengeance in Regency London. George Rowlands, an aspiring young painter meets the charismatic Sir Henry Wallace who invites him to draw his sculpture collection and his handsome valet Gregorio Franchese. Patronised by Wallace to study at the Royal Academy, George is befriended by the aloof John McCarther, assistant to the eccentric Gothic painter, Henry Fuseli. Meanwhile, Lady Arabella Wallace becomes increasingly suspicious of her husband’s enthusiasm for his new protégé. When a male brothel, the White Swan, is exposed, Henry Wallace receives a letter of extortion in George’s handwriting. After Gregorio Franchese is found murdered, George is suspected when erotic drawings of Gregorio are discovered in his possession. Will he face the gallows? Or will self-sacrifice and truth save his fate?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

The era is Regency England, 1810, and a young painter awaits his fate for the alleged murder of Gregorio Franchese, valet to aristocrat Sir Henry Wallace. Yes, The Pretty Gentleman by Max Fincher [Max Fincher, March 8, 2013], is chalk full of intrigue; the way a good Regency novel should be.

While he prepares for his demise, he reflects back on how it began: when, as a youth, he had been indulging in his favourite pastime of sketching, when he happened to capture the attention of the charismatic Sir Henry Wallace. How proud he had been when the nobleman invited him to sketch his sculptures, as well as his handsome valet, Franchese.

From there, Rowland is sent off to study at the Royal Academy about the same time as the relationship between him and Sir Henry bursts into a full and furtive affair – beyond the eyes of Lady Wallace, who, in spite of this, is becoming increasingly suspicious of its nature.

Things are brought to a head when Franchese is found dead, and a number of erotic drawings of him are found in Rowland’s possession. Rowland professes his innocence, of course, and quite legitimately, but to go beyond this would irrevocably compromise his lover’s reputation.

The resolution of this dilemma brings about the climax of the story in quite a satisfactory manner.

It is a captivating plot, and reasonably well written – if you overlook the editing issues. It doesn’t bode well for a story when there is a spelling error within the first three or four pages. However, these are to an extent offset by some beautifully descriptive passages of the grotty and quaint sides of Regency England, as well as the manners and mannerisms that prevailed. Three and one-half bees.

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: “Camp X” – the unofficial name of a Second World War paramilitary and commando training installation, on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario between Whitby and Oshawa in Ontario, Canada. 

 

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

 

Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

 

 

January 26, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon by Tom Spanbauer

A zany, over the top novel, and a delightful read.

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click on the above cover to purchase.

click on the above cover to purchase.

Story blurb: Set against the harsh reality of an unforgiving landscape and culture, The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon provides a vision of the Old West unlike anything seen before. The narrator, Shed, is one of the most memorable characters in contemporary fiction: a half-Indian bisexual boy who lives and works at the Indian Head Hotel in the tiny town of Excellent, Idaho. It’s the turn of the century, and the hotel carries on a prosperous business as the town’s brothel. The eccentric characters working in the hotel provide Shed with a surrogate family, yet he finds in himself a growing need to learn the meaning of his Indian name, Duivichi-un-Dua, given to him by his mother, who was murdered when he was twelve. Setting off alone across the haunting plains, Shed goes in search of an identity among his true people, encountering a rich pageant of extraordinary characters along the way. Although he learns a great deal about the mysteries and traditions of his Indian heritage, it is not until Shed returns to Excellent and witnesses a series of brutal tragedies that he attains the wisdom that infuses this exceptional and captivating book.

 

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Although published in 2000, I first read The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon by Tom Spanbauer [Grove Press; Reprint edition (January 6, 2000)] some five years ago – which attest to my theory that because a novel is dated, it doesn’t render it any less enjoyable.

Indeed, like a fine wine, many novels grow into currency as the society matures enough to appreciate them.

The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon is a zany novel, reminiscent of the 1960s “Hippy” culture when no subject was taboo, and “far out” meant exactly that.

It is told from the first-person perspective of Shed (short for ‘Out-in-The-Shed’), a half-blood, orphaned boy, whose birth under the front porch of a whorehouse in Excellent, Idaho, sets off a journey of self-discovery over  time and across two nations – Indian and white.

The town’s characters make up a good part of the story, from Ida Richilieu – the presiding madam at the Indian Head Hotel; to the blacksmith who wore Vaseline filled gloves to keep his hands soft; to ‘something-or-other’ Dave, the town’s mentally-challenged character, who pissed himself every time he became excited.

Nonetheless, there is a compelling quest that keeps the story moving, both parenthetically and literally, when Shed goes looking for his mother’s Bannock-Indian heritage.

Not surprising, it is not what he expects to find – not ideally anyway – but the adventure answers at least part of it.

However, it is not until he returns to Excellent that the rest is revealed, and his quest is set to rest. Four bees.

A word about political correctness

A number of people have assessed this book on the basis of its non-politically-correct references to Indians and Mormons. In this regard, I found nothing that could be considered offensive to either.

In my opinion, political correctness is the antithesis of creative writing. Political correctness was an artificial construct dreamt up by a gaggle of cocktail-sipping matrons who wanted to offer ‘gentility’ to the oppressed classes. Thereby, they introduced a tyranny titles that far surpassed anything that had been in place before. Moreover, since then, it has lost any minimal relevance it may have had to become a source of division and discord.

This review does not practice political correctness, never has and never will, and will never assess creativity by any such narrow-minded constrict.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 75,351

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: The Great Snow Fight!: Toronto 1881

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

 

Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

 

January 19, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay western, Male bisexual, Mixed race | Leave a comment

Certainty by Victor Bevine

A superbly written fiction wrapped around an historical event.

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Click on the cover to purchase.

Click on the cover to purchase.

When you’re fighting an injustice, can it be wrong to do what’s right?

Inspired by the scandalous true story that shocked a nation at the close of WWI.

With America’s entry into World War I, the population of Newport, Rhode Island, seems to double overnight as twenty-five thousand rowdy recruits descend on the Naval Training Station. Drinking, prostitution, and other depravities follow the sailors, transforming the upscale town into what many residents—including young lawyer William Bartlett, whose genteel family has lived in Newport for generations—consider to be a moral cesspool.

When sailors accuse a beloved local clergyman of sexual impropriety, William feels compelled to fight back. He agrees to defend the minister against the shocking allegations, in the face of dire personal and professional consequences. But when the trial grows increasingly sensational, and when outrageous revelations echo all the way from Newport to the federal government, William must confront more than just the truth—he must confront the very nature of good and evil.

Certainty recalls a war-torn era when the line between right and wrong became dangerously blurred.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Certainty, by Victor Bevine [Lake Union Publishing, October 21, 2014] is at once a war story, a discourse on morals and morality, and a courtroom drama rolled into one beautifully written novel.

It is based on the “Newport Navy Vice Scandal of 1919,” a 20th-century witch hunt that made headlines for its use of ‘sexual moles’ to identify and root out practicing homosexuals: i.e. Sailors would either be recruited or coerced into participating informants to entrap friends, colleagues, and civilians in homosexual activity.

Personally, I love this type of fiction that is wrapped around an actual event. Well done, it can add flesh and blood to the characters, as well as speculative dimensions not allowed in formal biographies.

In this regard, Bevine has done a masterful job of character development, from the Reverent Samuel Neal Kent to attorney William Bartlett, so that the mindset of both are readily understandable. Likewise, the mindset of the times has, I think, been properly represented.

Another note to his credit is that Bevine never attempts to moralize. Rather, he is content to tell the story as it is, and let the reader add his/her moral adjudication.

Having found nothing but plusses on the side of Certainty, I award it a full five bees on the bee’s scale. A superb read.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 75,187

♠♠♠

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: The Great Snow Fight!: Toronto 1881

 

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

 

Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

 

 

 

January 12, 2015 Posted by | Fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military, M/M love and adventure, Semi-biographical | Leave a comment

Coming Out to Play by Robbie Rogers, Eric Marcus (Contributor)

A coming out story to some, an inspiration to others.

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Click on the cover to purchase

Click on the cover to purchase

Robbie Rogers knows better than most that keeping secrets can crush you. But for much of his life Robbie lived in paralyzing fear that sharing his big secret would cost him the love of his family and his career as a professional soccer player. So he never told anyone what was destroying his soul, both on and off the field.

While the world around Robbie was changing with breathtaking speed, he knew that for a gay man playing a professional team sport it might as well be 1958. He could be a professional soccer player.  Or he could be an out gay man. He couldn’t do both.

Then last year, at the age of twenty-five and after nearly stepping away from a brilliant career—one that included an NCAA Championship, winning the MLS Cup, and competing in the Olympics—he chose to tell the truth. But instead of facing the rejection he feared, he was embraced—by his family, by his teammates, and his fans.

In Coming Out to Play, Robbie takes readers on his incredible journey from terrified teenager to a trailblazing out and proud professional soccer player for the L.A. Galaxy, who has embraced his new identity as a role model and champion for those still struggling with the secrets that keep them from living their dreams.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

At this stage in social history, when it is somewhat common for a professional athlete to declare his or her sexual preference, it is easy enough to dismiss this autobiography as just another coming out story. Indeed, some other reviewers have said as much. However, I believe this viewpoint ignores the uniqueness of a human drama, as well as an epoch in history that should not be forgotten.

Coming Out to Play by Robbie Rogers [Penguin Books, November 2014] tells an all too familiar story of a teenager caught in the dilemma of being ‘different’ in a world of sameness – called ‘normal.’ Nonetheless, in spite of this, and carrying the burden like a hundred-weight, he climbs the ladder of success to achieve a pinnacle of success among the demi-gods of athleticism – professional sport.

coming out to play - rogersCan you imagine the fortitude, inner-strength, and yes, Gaul, it takes to achieve stardom under such circumstances? That’s what this story is all about. The message here, to both gay and straight youths struggling for an identity is, ‘stay the course.’ It is one thing to be intimidated by others, but it is a worse to be intimidated by oneself.

Coming from a mainstream press like Penguin Books, you can be guaranteed it has been made readable. Depending on your taste, therefore, it is both an interesting and inspiring story. Four and one-half bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 75,065

♠♠♠

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Pioneer Christmases… Before commercialism spoiled them.

 

Click on the logo to view my books to datre

Click on the logo to view my books to datre

Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

 

January 5, 2015 Posted by | Autobiography, Coming out, Gay Jock, Gay non-fiction, Robbie Rogers | Leave a comment

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 29, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Third You Die (Kevin Connor Mysteries #3) by Scott Sherman

A good read: currently on sale at one of the major online retailers.

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three you die - coverFinally settling down with his hunky cop boyfriend, former callboy Kevin Connor is giving up the “oldest profession” for a new career: producing his mom’s TV talk show, “Sophie’s Voice.” But when their latest guest–gay porn sensation Brent Havens–ends up floating in the East River after vowing to blow the lid off the adult film industry, Kevin returns to the world of high-stakes sex to find out: Who killed the twink who had everything?

Was it the X-rated director who exploited his star–for his own desires? The bartender boyfriend who hustled more than just cocktails? Or the eye-candy co-star who left the sweet actor for a sugar daddy?

Either way, Kevin is zooming in on one twisted plot with no shortage of drama queens. But is he ready for his close-up. . .with a killer?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Unbeknownst to myself, I settled on the 3rd in the three-part series, Third You Die (Kevin Connor Mysteries #3) by Scott Sherman. It stands alone quite well, however, but in reading the reviews of others I think it would be best if you read the series in sequence.

The blurb pretty well synopsizes the story, and not having reads books 1 and 2 of the series, I will focus on what I like and didn’t like about the story.

The plot line is good, nicely set up, and – except for the ending – it is quite well paced. It starts out as a domestic scene; Keven, the main character, has retired from his call-boy profession, and is now producing his mother’s television show. In turn, this sets up a murder connection when one of the guests is found murdered, and the rest is a who-done-it with Kevin trying to track done the killer.

The character are well drawn, both main and supporting characters, but in the relationship with Tony (Keven’s cop boyfriend) Kevin comes off as a bit of a wimp – which is not good for the main character.

The mystery I thought was quite well done, but it could have been tightened in places to make it more fast-paced.

On the other hand, the ending could have used some build up. It, as others have observed, came out of the blue.

Altogether a fairly good read. Presently on sale at amazon. Four bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 74,903

♠♠♠

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Pioneer Christmases… Before commercialism spoiled them.

Click on the logo to view my books to datre

Click on the logo to view my books to datre

 

Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

December 29, 2014 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay mystery, M/M adventure | Leave a comment

Christmasing With You by William Neale

christmas spirit copy

Perfect for curling up with a Baillie’s in hand…

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Click on cover to purchase. also available in Kindle format.

Click on cover to purchase. also available in Kindle format.

Story blurb: Andrew Bastion lost his partner to a violent and senseless criminal act. Devastated and all alone, he questioned how he would ever get through his first Christmas season without the husband he so loved. But when Drew’s best friend convinces him to “find people who need help and help them,” he finally begins to focus on something other than his own grief. And to his great surprise, he meets the one man with the ability to help heal his broken heart. Christmasing With You is a shamelessly heartwarming, upbeat holiday story that will require tissues, smiles, a box of good chocolates, and the willingness to believe that Christmas miracles really happen.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Christmas is a time for warm, fuzzy feelings, morality tales, and schmaltz – at least that’s how it appears to me. I went looking early for a representative Christmas tale, and after reading and rejecting several I finally settled on this little chestnut. Crhistmasing With You by William Neale [MLR Press, LLC, November, 2011] is a written-to-please story that neither rises to the heights nor sinks below the surface.

Andrew Bastion is a corporate lawyer who loses his partner in a tragic manner, and is now faced with spending Christmas alone with nothing but his memories to keep him company.

A good and wise friend suggests he find solace in helping others who are likewise afflicted, and this leads to a meeting with a ‘Nordic god-type,’ soup-kitchen operator, who is incidentally being sued by a pair of unscrupulous shysters.

Needless to say, Andrew puts them to route in white knight fashion, and that pretty much leads to a happy-ever-after ending.

Okay, the storyline is a bit corny, but it’s just perfect for curling up with sore feet from shopping, and a Baillie’s in hand, to just veg in the never-never-land of fantasy fiction. Three and one-half bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 74,753

♠♠♠

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Pioneer Christmases… Before commercialism spoiled them.

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If you would care to purchase any of my e-books for yourself or as a gift to others, there still is time. Here are two to choose from — Two Irish Lads has a lovely, Irish Christmas scene in the wilderness. Click on the cover to order.

christmas promo - TIL yellowchristmas promo - NATT

Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

 

 

December 22, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Gay fiction, Gay western | Leave a comment

Favorite Son by Will Freshwater

Well written, unique plot, and an entertaining read

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click on the cover to purchase.

click on the cover to purchase.

Born into a blue-collar family, John Wells beat the odds and came out a winner. As chief of staff to Patrick Donovan, a US senator and aspiring presidential candidate, he enjoys all the power and privilege of a DC insider. But while riding high on a wave of success, he’s blindsided by a series of betrayals from the people he trusts the most. In the space of a single day, John’s perfect life unexpectedly unravels when his career falters and his marriage implodes. Following a final, devastating blow, John assumes a new identity as “Peter” and flees to Provincetown, where a tight-knit community of eclectic characters slowly transforms him.

Peter finds himself drawn to Danny Cavanaugh, an enigmatic carpenter who is struggling to come to terms with his own troubled past. As they work together to renovate a local landmark, the two men forge an unlikely friendship that blossoms into love and becomes the foundation for a new life they hope to build together. But when a reversal of fortune pulls John back to DC, the treacherous world of politics he thought he’d left behind threatens to destroy his chance at true happiness.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Favorite Son [Dreamspinner, June 2014] is Will Freshwater’s debut novel, and a sterling effort it is. It reminds me of my second novel (Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky) which features a young politician at the zenith of his career, only to be brought down by scandal.

As in my novel, Freshwater’s John Wells rises from humble beginnings to ascend the towers of Washington’s Babylonic society as the assistant to a long-standing senator. Then, in a thrice, the bottom falls out of his glamourous career, his lifestyle and his personal life.

On a whim (some might say divine guidance) he sees a ferry leaving for Provincetown, and with only an overnight bag-full of belongings, he boards it.

Moreover, he assumes a new identity as “Peter”, a transient living in a cheap accommodation. Eventually, he forms friendships with several of the locals – a colourful lot of characters with colourful characteristics – and one Danny Cavanagh, an enigmatic carpenter who is currently restoring a country chapel in the area. To occupy his time, and to get to know Danny a little further, John – now Peter – volunteers to help with the restoration.

Inevitably, they fall in love; however, this is a credibly drawn out process that suits both the characters and reality.

Having said that, Freshwater makes a comment in the book about the lack of a male point of view in GBLT novels, and I tend to agree. By a ‘male point of view’ I mean that men do things in a certain male-exclusive way, and a tentative approach to M/M relationships – not connections – is one of them. Therefore, he gets full marks from me on that point.

This novel plays out on several levels. It is at once a commentary on ‘be-careful-what-you-wish-for…’ by juxtaposing John’s chaotic life in Washington with Peter’s more idyllic life in Provincetown, and it is also a morality play on choosing the important and meaningful things in life.

The angst comes when the Washington life tries to suck him back to his former lifestyle, and so John has to make ‘la choice’.

Well written, unique plot, and an entertaining read: Five bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 74,638

♠♠♠

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Oak Island, Nova Scotia … Island of Mystery

Click on the logo to view my books to datre

Click on the logo to view my books to datre

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Save the Bala Falls!

Save Bala Falls! Click on the cover to sign the petition.

Save Bala Falls! Click on the cover to sign the petition.

The Bala falls is the one and only iconic heritage of the charming, historic town of Bala, Ontario. It has been used as a portage by Native voyagers on their way to Lake Couchiching and back, as well as fur traders, and explorers. Its significance lies in its connection to both the past and present, and once gone it cannot be replicated or replaced.

However, now the province of Ontario, together with a ‘for-profit’ outfit, is pushing through a plan to destroy Bala Falls as we know it. Why? For the purpose of making more money.

So how much is heritage worth? To a cynical, uncaring, avaricious government, apparently not much. But to the people of Bala it is priceless.

Please sign this petition and pass it on. Thank You.

Click here to sign the petition to save Bala Falls

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

December 15, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

Taboo For You by Anyta Sunday

As lighthearted twist on ‘love thy neighbour.’

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Click on the cover to purchase.

Click on the cover to purchase.

Sam’s freaking out. He’s 30 in three weeks. And what has he done in his twenties? It’s pretty simple math: nothing exciting at all. But hey, he has three weeks right? Maybe that’s just enough time to tick his way through a 20s Must Do List . . . 

Luke’s freaking screwed. He’s come out to his family, and his friends. Except there’s a certain someone who doesn’t know yet: his neighbor of 7 years. Who also happens to be his best friend. Who Luke needs to tell the truth, but he just . . . can’t . . . seem to . . .

Jeremy’s freaking over-the-moon. It’s the countdown to his 15th birthday, and his goal is simple. No matter what, he’s going to spend heaps of time with saucy Suzy. But first he needs to get his over-protective, no-girlfriend-’cause-you’ll-get-her-pregnant parents off his back. And what better way than pretending he’s gay?

Sam, Luke, and Jeremy. Three guys who have a lot of history together, and a lot of future too—

—well, if they can sort out their issues, that is.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have often ruminated on the fact that GBLT stories, by and large tend to be depressingly angst-driven, and a little levity would be a pleasant change. Well, Anyta Sunday must have heard my words, for Taboo For You [Smashwords, June 2013] is as lighthearted as a walk in the park on a sunny day. In fact, the only thing remotely dark about this novel is the title. Indeed, there is no ‘taboo’ that I could see.

Sam, the main character, became a teenage father to his son Jeremy before his age of reason. Nonetheless, he has taken his responsibility of single parenthood seriously, and so now is fifteen years later.

However, as Sam approaches ‘the big three-o’ he is beginning to feel his age; that is to say the good times he has missed, and so he creates a list of things to be experienced before the clock strikes twelve.

One of these is to experience ‘kinky’ sex, and it just so happens that his best friend and neighbour – also secret admirer, Luke – is gay. Therefore, the ‘angsty’ part is how to get them from friends and neighbours to lovers?

‘Cleverly,’ that’s the answer, and the author is up to the challenge. Along the way, however, are some very wholesome ‘family’ scenes among the three of them that are bound to give you a case of the warm-fuzzies.

It’s a great story, not perfect mind you, but a great read. Four and one-half bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 74,508

♠♠♠

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Thalidomide! Canada’ tragedy.

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

December 8, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction | Leave a comment

A Royal Affair by John Wiltshire

Interesting Story line, colourful characters, and intriguing setting.

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Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Doctor Nikolai Hartmann represents himself as a learned man of science who believes wholly in the rational and scientific above all else. In reality, he is a man haunted by an unusual past and running from his own nature. While the Reformation transforms much of Europe, it has yet to touch Hesse-Davia; this is a land mired in superstition with cruel punishments for crimes such as witchcraft and sodomy.

While traveling to the dying king’s bedside to offer his medical expertise, Nikolai is set upon by a bandit. Reaching the king’s ancient stronghold, he discovers his mysterious brigand is the beautiful, arrogant Prince Aleksey. Aleksey is everything Nikolai is not: unguarded, passionate and willful. Despite their differences, Nikolai feels an irresistible desire for the young royal that keeps him in Aleksey’s thrall.

But Hesse-Davia is a dangerous world for a newly crowned king who wants to reform his country—and for the man who loves him.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I had difficulty deciding on what book to read this week. All the titles seemed remarkably the same, and so I finally decided on one with a hum-drum title but an interesting time and setting. A Royal Affair by John Wiltshire [Dreamspinner Press, September 2014] is set in a remote kingdom during the Reformation, with all the mix of intrigue and enlightenment that involved.

The main character, Nikolai Hartmann, is a man of science. In addition he has travelled extensively, adding to his reputation as a doctor, and so he is summoned to tend the monarch of a tiny kingdom in Mediaeval.

It is here he meets the precocious twenty-three-year-old crown prince, Aleksey. At this point Nikolai is 37, and so there is the usual conflict of ages and outlooks between them.

The banter that arises from this is quite delightful, as they thrust and parry their way into each other’s hearts – love arises out of conflict in a most natural and masculine way.

The real angst arises when the old king dies and Aleksey assumes the throne. Not surprisingly he is a young turk intent on reform, but Hesse-Davia has be isolated for centuries, with deep-rooted superstitions, phobias (particularly against sodomy), and intrigue. Therefore, the task for Aleksey, and now Nikolai, promises to be a difficult one.

This is a well-written book, with colourful characters and an interesting story line that holds the attention with clever bits of business. However, for me, the language was a bit modern, and the continuity of thought wavered from one part to another. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable read, and well worth the money. Four bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 74,410

♠♠♠

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Thalidomide! Canada’ tragedy.

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

December 1, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay western | Leave a comment

Harry’s Last Stand: How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save It, by Harry Leslie Smith

Need a reality check? Then this is the non-accusatory read for you! 

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As ‘Black Friday’ quickly approaches, with people already camped out to get first dibs on the latest bauble or gadget, I thought you might enjoy this perspective on life until you pick up your credit card bills next month. J
Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

‘As one of the last remaining survivors of the Great Depression and the Second World War, I will not go gently into that good night. I want to tell you what the world looks like through my eyes, so that you can help change it…’ ~ Harry Leslie Smith
In November 2013, 91-year-old Yorkshireman, RAF veteran and ex-carpet salesman Harry Leslie Smith’s Guardian article – ‘This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time’ – was shared almost 60,000 times on Facebook and started a huge debate about the state of society.

Now he brings his unique perspective to bear on NHS* cutbacks, benefits policy, political corruption, food poverty, the cost of education – and much more. From the deprivation of 1930s Barnsley and the terror of war to the creation of our welfare state, Harry has experienced how a great civilisation can rise from the rubble. But at the end of his life, he fears how easily it is being eroded.

Harry’s Last Stand is a lyrical, searing modern invective that shows what the past can teach us, and how the future is ours for the taking.

Harry Leslie Smith is a survivor of the Great Depression, a second world war RAF veteran and, at 91, an activist for the poor and for the preservation of social democracy. His Guardian articles have been shared over 60,000 times on Facebook and have attracted huge comment and debate. He has authored numerous books about Britain during the Great Depression, the second world war and postwar austerity. He lives outside Toronto, Canada and in Yorkshire.

*Note to copy writers: While your trendiness is noted – converting most everything into a mnemonic – the problem being that only you and a handful of others know what the hell you are talking about. Communication is still a two-way process.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it, and Harry Leslie Smith represents nearly 100 years of history in his seminal book, Harry’s Last Stand: How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save It [Icon Books, June 5th 2014].

Browsing some of the reviews already published, I notice that the majority of them make some reference to disregarding the opinions of seniors as being outdated.

Overlooking the other issues with this way of thinking (e.g. stereotyping), it is also illogical. Who best to ask other than someone who has ‘bin der, and done dat’?

This is Leslie Smith’s point as well, and so, in a non-proselytizing way he sets out to tell you his story: from first fighting a war against tyranny, and subsequently the battles to win old age retirement benefits, social assistance for the poor, and universal health coverage, to name a few. No sooner had these been achieved, in whole or part, when the entire scenario changed with the social revolution of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Old, tried and true standards, were tossed in favour of mass consumerism that the corporations quickly embraced with an array of slick new gadgets to addlepate the public even more – a world of never-ending bliss with the newest model of automobile, TV, or smart phone.

Individuals like Leslie Smith, having been raised according to stricter standards, could see the banality of all this, of course, but as the other reviewers have already noted, his opinion (and others) were considered outdated and irrelevant in the face of such wonderful entertainments and gadgets.

To his credit, Leslie Smith does not assign blame to any one or group; rather he lays out his observations for everyone to see, in terms everyone can understand, together with his manifesto for the future.

This is inspirational reading. It is like sitting down with ‘the old man of the mountain’ for a chat about the real realities of life that seemingly are lost on modern society. Highly therapeutic and recommended. Five bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 74,312

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Thalidomide! Canada’ tragedy.

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Autobiography, Military history, non GBLT, non-GLBT, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Lover’s Knot by Donald Hardy

A masterfully crafted and delivered story.

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Click on the cover to purchase.  Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Story blurb: Jonathan Williams has inherited Trevaglan Farm from a distant relative. With his best friend, Alayne, in tow, Jonathan returns to the estate to take possession, meet the current staff, and generally learn what it’s like to live as the landed gentry now. He’d only been there once before, fourteen years earlier. But that was a different time, he’s a different person now, determined to put that experience out of his mind and his heart….The locals agree that Jonathan is indeed different from the lost young man he was that long ago summer, when he arrived at the farm for a stay after his mother died. Back then the hot summer days were filled with sunshine, the nearby ocean, and a new friend, Nat. Jonathan and the farmhand had quickly grown close, Jonathan needing comfort in the wake of his grief, and Nat basking in the peace and love he didn’t have at home.

But that was also a summer of rumors and strange happenings in the surrounding countryside, romantic triangles and wronged lovers. Tempers would flare like a summer lightning storm, and ebb just as quickly. By the summer’s end, one young man was dead, and another haunted for life.

Now Jonathan is determined to start anew. Until he starts seeing the ghost of his former friend everywhere he looks. Until mementos of that summer idyll reappear. Until Alayne’s life is in danger. Until the town’s resident witch tells Jonathan that ghosts are real. And this one is tied to Jonathan unto death.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have a special place in my reader’s heart for an English country novel set in a small, rural town, with history dripping from every greensward. Somehow they are made for one another. So, when I read the lead-up to Lover’s Knot by Donald Hardy [Running Press, December 22nd 2009], I was hooked.

Donald Hardy’s bio (… no relation to the ‘Hardy Boys’) says he lives in California, but his writing style (particularly in his description of Cornwall’s ancient countryside) is British to a ‘T’.

The characters are well developed and credible, as well, from the reasonably well-adjusted Jonathon to the troubled Nat, his shrewish girlfriend, Rose, and Jonathon’s faithful (and ever-so-patient) friend, Langsford-Knight.

Briefly, Jonathon is sent to spend a summer at a cousin’s farm where he encounters Nat, a young farmhand. Being of more-or-less similar ages, a friendship if struck that grows more intimate until it culminates in sex. However, Nat is already involved with a harpy girlfriend who is a study in shrewishness, and as things deteriorate Nat is written out of the story by falling off a cliff.

Fourteen years later, Jonathon returns to Trevaglan Farm as owner, with Langsford-Knight for company. During the interim, Jonathon and Langsford have maintained a friendship that all but verges on romance. Albeit, neither have had the nerve to say so, or take it to the next step.

Once at the farm, however, strange things begin happening to Langsford until it appears his life might be in danger. This leads to the ferreting out the sinister mystery that ultimately resolves the story.

From personal experience, I can say that juggling a supernatural element with more conventional aspects of a story is no mean fete, and so I give Mr. Hardy for a job well done. Four and on-half bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 74,129

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Sir Isaac Brock – Canada’s Hero

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

November 17, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Raising Cade (Cade & Alan #1) by Jonathan Penn

We shall remember. From Gerry B Books

We shall remember. From Gerry B Books

 

A tender story of coming together and recuperation.

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raising cade - front coverCade Bishop is a 22-year-old sophomore at Duke University. He has a brilliant mind, but he’s behind his peers due to a horrific incident that happened on the night of his high school senior prom. It took him two years to recover.

Alan Troxler joined the Marines right after Nine-Eleven and served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, until an IED abruptly ended his military career. “Retired” at age 30, Alan has come home to North Carolina to start a new life.

These two are an unlikely couple at best—each is determined to make it on his own, and neither wants to be coddled. Together, they put their own unique stamp on a classic Hurt/Comfort tale. Life can get complicated, and sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s hurt, and who’s giving comfort…

 

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I fear my comments are brief, this evening. I am in the middle of preparing for my annual migration south, tomorrow, and I still have a myriad of things to do. However, I did want to commemorate Remembrance Day with a novel that did it justice, and I think I have found just the thing.

I chose Raising Cade, by Brett Jones [Jonathan Penn, 1 edition, November 4, 2014] because it was about the aftermath of ward, and the coming together of two ‘wounded’ people: even though one of them had never been to war.

It spoke of tenderness, and the fulfilling of a need that both men sought in different ways.

The writing is solid, and the character development is progressive and credible. Both very well done.

There are a few things that I would like to have seen done differently, but it is otherwise are tender story of coming together and recuperation. Four bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 73,927

***

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Sir Isaac Brock – Canada’s Hero

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

November 10, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Afghanistan, Gay fiction, Gay military | Leave a comment

Bad Boy: Naughty at Night (Bad Boy: Naughty at Night #1) by Jamie Lake

Well worth a read.

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bad boy - coverKindergarten teacher by day, sensual masseuse by night, Peter Davidson never thought things would get so tough that he’d need to give out sensual massages in secret in order to make ends meet. But when the school slashes his hours in half and with no other jobs available in town, he stumbles across the opportunity when fiddling around on an online dating site and a rather handsome older gentleman offers him money.

What he thinks will be a onetime thing turns into a booming business at night, and Peter promises himself he’ll only do it long enough just until he gets caught up. He has nothing else going on in his life, after all.

Handsome, classy and educated as he is, Peter still hasn’t met The One. Until, that is, he meets Chip – the parent of a new student, who turns out to be more man than he’s ever dreamed of.

What will Chip say if he finds out what Peter is doing on the side? And, what’s worse, what will the school say when they find out this teacher has been a very bad boy?

Length: Approximately 65 pages.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I started with #1 of this series, Bad Boy: Naughty at Night (Bad Boy: Naughty at Night [ Jamie Lake, June 25, 2014] by Jamie Lake, because the caveat said the series ended in cliff-hangers. It does, so be advised.

Jamie Lake is a prolific writer, with more than a dozen books to his credit, but this is the first read for me. The plot is good, but not a barn-burner when it comes to originality. Peter Davidson is a kindergarten teacher by day and a masseuse/callboy by night. He is handsome, well-educated and entertaining, but in spite of these attributes he still hasn’t found ‘Mr. Right.’

Then, along comes Chip, a detective, single father, and all-round nice guy, and inevitably Peter falls for Chip and vice versa.

Now, the problem arises as to how to hide the extracurricular activity from Chip and the school: A sort of man-out-but-job-in-closet scenario.

There is also a good deal of sex, but it never takes over the story – A big plus for me.

Although there are a few editing issues, the story-line flowed with enough interest and momentum to keep most readers engaged. In addition, there are quite a few laughs along the way – the banter between Peter and Chip is clever and crisp – so, altogether, it has something for everyone. Well worth the money. Four bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 73,729

***

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  John Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll … Canada’s gay governor general?

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

 

 

November 3, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction | Leave a comment

Captive, by David Ellis

If you’re into BDSM, or if you like a book that strays off the beaten path, then you’ll like Captive by David Ellis. 

 

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Click on the cover to order. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the cover to order. Also available in Kindle format.

Story Blurb: Just a few days away from their civil ceremony, Hugo and Ben’s lives couldn’t be more perfect. Hugo is a talented assistant curator at a local art museum, while Ben is a successful advertising executive. Everyone views them as the ‘dream couple’ – with the exception of Ben’s snooty, disapproving mother.

Their long awaited honeymoon vacation to South Africa had finally arrived and it had become everything they’d hoped for. Then on their last day, the two handsome men find themselves lured by adventurous sexual fantasies – surrendering to the temptation of extramarital affairs. Unfortunately for Ben, it costs him his freedom.

Torn apart by a kidnapping, an abductor that wants payment beyond the usual monetary ransom, Hugo’s world is turned upside down as he tries all he can to locate his man.

Slowly, he becomes exposed to a world of crime and BDSM tucked beneath the murky shadows of beautiful Cape Town. But with the help of new friends, Hugo has the strength to remain hopeful and optimistic that he’ll soon see Ben again.

The story of Hugo and Ben will have you continuously guessing as it takes you down the most unexpected paths. This book is a journey of love and heartbreak, with a twist that will literally take your breath away. Be prepared to become ensnared in a mysterious web of intrigue as one man’s search for his husband leads to self-discovery and tragedy.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have always maintained to anyone who cares to ask that Gerry B’s Book Reviews is an eclectic assortment with something for every taste, and I think Captive, by David Ellis [Tenth Street Press, December 6, 2013] bears this out.

To begin, it is a BDSM story (fairly extreme, I think from my limited perspective), and not my favorite genre; however, that is immaterial to the merits of the book.

The story begins in the sunshine with the ‘Gentlemen’s Quarterly’ couple of Ben and Hugo heading to South Africa for their long awaited honeymoon. Ah, bliss.

However, once there the clouds start rolling in as the story takes a twist to the dark (also somewhat surrealistic) side. In an extra-marital experiment, Ben becomes involved with a cult-like group deeply into hard-core BDSM, and is kidnapped by one of them.

The story then dwells on the erotica that follows while keeping Hugo in the picture as he tries to rescue Ben. Nonetheless, while doing so he finds solace in someone else’s bed.

As I have previously mentioned, BDSM is not my best genre, and so I concentrated on the technical aspects of the story – character development, plot development and delivery, and author’s intent.

Starting with the latter, it appears the author set out to write a ‘shocker’ by taking a very respectable ad exec and throwing him to the ‘wolves’ of a BDSM parlour. In addition, it also appears he set out to please an audience who like homo-erotica generous and raw.

No problem with either.

However, in doing so the BDSM tended to be a bit clinical, and the homo-erotica was a bit overdone. Moreover, I am still wondering what his motive was to create an extra-marital situation so soon after their nuptials. Was this another ‘shock’ element?

The way I read it was as two stories: One intended as shock and awe, and the other to challenge convention. I like stories that are out of the box, but I didn’t think either reached their full potential.

That said, the plot twists are interesting enough to hold your interest.

If you’re into BDSM, or if you like a book that strays off the beaten path, then you’ll like Captive by David Ellis. Three bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 73,554

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  John Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll … Canada’s gay governor general?

Interview With Award Winning Gay Romance Author And Blogger Gerry Burnie

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Recently, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Jamie Lake, author and blogger, on the Jamie Lake Books Blog. Drop around to see what Jamie and I had to discuss, and learn about his books. Click on the above photo to move.

       

 

Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

 

 

October 27, 2014 Posted by | BDSM novel, Extra marital relationship, Fiction, Gay fiction | Leave a comment

Irresponsible Government: The Decline of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada, by Brent Rathgeber

A must read for those who feel strongly that government should belong to the people.

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Click on the above cover to purchase a copy. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the above cover to purchase a copy. Also available in Kindle format.

Blurb: Irresponsible Government examines the current state of Canadian democracy in contrast to the founding principles of responsible government established by the Fathers of Confederation in 1867. The book examines the failure of modern elected representatives to perform their constitutionally mandated duty to hold the prime minister and his cabinet to account. It further examines the modern lack of separation between the executive and legislative branches of government and the disregard with which the executive views Parliament. The book seeks to shine light on the current power imbalances that have developed in Canadian government. Through an examination of the foundation principles of our parliamentary system and their subsequent erosion, Irresponsible Government seeks methods through which we can begin to recalibrate and correct these power imbalances and restore electoral accountability.

 

 

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Review by Gerry Burnie

The surprising thing about this book is that I was teaching this exact same thing 40 years ago, and so nothing much has improved. However, Brent Rathgeber’s perspective, as set out in Irresponsible Government: The Decline of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada [Dundurn  Press, September 10, 2014] gives us a look at the dysfunction from the inside out – a view not many of us get.

The dysfunction in the Canadian democratic system begins at the most fundamental level of the process: The election.

An illustration of how the 'First Past the Post' electoral system negatively effects people's choices.

An illustration of how the ‘First Past the Post’ electoral system negatively effects people’s choices.

Suppose a constituency has a thousand voters and three candidates to choose from. Now suppose candidate ‘A’ receives 400 votes; candidate ‘B’ receives 350; and candidate ‘C’ receives 250. The way the system operates today, candidate ‘A’ will win with 400 votes, even though 600 voters voted otherwise.

Taking it a step further, once candidate ‘A’ gets to Ottawa or a legislative assembly, however, he or she quickly learns about ‘party-line voting.’ This is the rule whereby everybody votes the party-line whether they like it or not. Otherwise, they risk being ‘uninvited’ from caucus – the one place where they can freely express their views – and also stripped of their party benefits (i.e. office, expenses, campaign funds, etc.) to sit as an independent.

If, perchance, candidate ‘A’ is lucky enough to garner the leader’s favour, and is appointed to the Cabinet, he or she probably knows very little about the portfolio being assumed. Not to worry, however, because the unelected deputy minister does. Therefore, for the first while, and probably throughout ‘A’s’ tenure, the deputy will pull the strings in that ministry. The ultimate consequence of this is that there is a hidden level of ‘government’ that few people know anything about.

The cabinet is a fairly important position, inasmuch as he or she gets to shape policy; however, the extent of that policy depends on the minister’s allotted budget (‘envelope’), which, in turn, is determined by the prime minister (or premier) and his or her ‘inner circle.’ These are the half dozen or so of the PM’s personal favourites who surround him most of the time, and it is these who have the last word in shaping policy that will govern us. Input, therefore, has gone from 308 members (as it was intended) to a handful.

This is just a thumbnail of how the democratic process has been usurped by designing prime ministers, from Diefenbaker to Harper, but the dysfunction goes much deeper. To almost every nook and cranny on Parliament Hill, and this Rathgeber shine some light on in a non-academic way.

It is a must read for those who feel strongly that government should be ‘by and for the people,’ and that deviation from this has dangerous consequences. Five bees for the courage to stand up for the right, and for an interesting insight into the mis-workings of government. Bravo!

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 73,392

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Wayne & Shuster : The comedy kings of Canada…

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

October 20, 2014 Posted by | Brent Rathgeber, Canadian author, Canadian content, Canadian government | Leave a comment

Dominus, by JP Kenwood

A lusty romp through Ancient Rome.

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dominus -coverIn AD 107, after a grueling campaign against Rome’s fierce enemy, the kingdom of Dacia, Gaius Fabius returns home in triumph. With the bloody battles over, the commander of the Lucky IV Legion now craves life’s simple pleasures: leisurely soaks in fragrant baths, over-flowing cups of wine, and a long holiday at his seaside villa to savor his pleasure slaves. On a whim, he purchases a spirited young Dacian captive and unwittingly sparks a fresh outbreak of the Dacian war; an intimate struggle between two sworn enemies with love and honor at stake.

Allerix survived the wars against Rome, but now he is a slave rather than a victor. Worse, the handsome general who led the destruction of his people now commands his body. When escape appears impossible, Alle struggles to find a way to preserve his dignity and exact vengeance upon the savage Romans. Revenge will be his, that is, if he doesn’t lose his heart to his lusty Roman master.

Dominus is a plot-packed erotic fantasy that transports readers back to ancient Rome during the reign of the Emperor Trajan. This is the first book in an alternate history series—a tumultuous journey filled with forbidden love, humor, sex, friendship, political intrigue, deception and murder.

Front cover design: Fiona Fu

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Review by Gerry Burnie

One of the genres I enjoy now and then is a well-written recounting of Ancient Roman society. By all reports they were lusty, hedonistic society, and over-the-top in just about everything they did. That’s one thing that drew me to Dominus by JP Kenwood [JPK Publishing , April 21, 2014] – That and the beautifully illustrated cover.

There is some quite clever writing here, and some not.

I like the opening business, whereby a group of modern archaeologists discover an anomaly during an Italian dig, and pursuing it they then find a full mystery – two undisturbed skeletons and a dagger.

Now, to me a modern-day find is only half the story. The larger part of it is the ‘who,’ ‘when,’ and ‘why?’ So an opening of this kind is bound to grab people’s interest.

Dacia map cf. Ptolemy (2nd century AD)

Dacia map cf. Ptolemy (2nd century AD)

The story then flashes back to 107 AD with an introduction to Dominus (keeper of the pleasure slaves of Gaius Fabius Rufus) and Maximus (a former pleasure slave, but now a freedman), and of course, Gaius himself (celebrated conqueror of Dracia – a branch of Thracians north of the Haemus range, later Romania.)

The next nice bit of business is the purchase by Gaius Fabius of Allerix, a Dracian slave. One could almost see where this was going, but the tension created by pitting enemies together in one bed is well worth it. Moreover, it is a builder that works right up to the climax (…of the story).

I also admired how she worked the settings and juggled a large cast of characters without losing their identities. All very nicely done.

On the other hand, the gratuitous use of expletives – particular since they were mostly of modern derivation – detracted from the credibility of time and setting. Likewise, there were several other examples of modern terminology that just didn’t belong in the 1st century AD.

I got lost a couple of times as well, where I had to turn back and find out who was speaking. Now granted, I speed read. I must to get all the novels in that I choose to review, but since others have mentioned this same point, I am not alone in pointed it out.

A good effort, and shortcomings aside this has a good story line and interesting characters. Three and one-half bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 73,220

♠♠♠

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  The McMichael Art Collection, Kleinberg, OntarioThe collection that love put together.

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

 

 

October 13, 2014 Posted by | Ancient Rome, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period, M/M adventure, Male bisexual | Leave a comment

Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life, by James Daschuk

A must-read for students, and a should-read for others.

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Click on the cover to purchase.

Click on the cover to purchase.

Story blurb: In arresting, but harrowing, prose, James Daschuk examines the roles that Old World diseases, climate, and, most disturbingly, Canadian politics—the politics of ethnocide—played in the deaths and subjugation of thousands of aboriginal people in the realization of Sir John A. Macdonald’s “National Dream.”

It was a dream that came at great expense: the present disparity in health and economic well-being between First Nations and non-Native populations, and the lingering racism and misunderstanding that permeates the national consciousness to this day.

About the author: My research focus is on the impact of environmental change on the health of indigenous people. My historical work investigates the role of disease, changes to subsistence practices and climate change in the historical development of western Canada. My current research projects include the impact of introduced species, horses and domestic cattle, on the well-being of First Nations.

Recent Publications

James Daschuk, Paul Hackett and Scott D. MacNeil, “Treaties and Tuberculosis: First Nations People in Late 19th Century Western Canada, A Political and Economic Transformation.” Canadian Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 23 (2006): 307-330.

James Daschuk, “An Examination of Common and Contested Ground: A Human and Environmental History of the Northwestern Plains.” In G.P Marchildon, ed., The Early Northwest: History of the Prairie West Series. Volume 1. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 2008. 35-47

James Daschuk, “A Dry Oasis: The Northern Great Plains in Late Prehistory,” Prairie Forum 34(Spring 2009).

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As most everyone knows, my passions are 1) Canada, 2) Canadian history, 3) history, and 4) everything else. When I was going to school, right through my university days, Canadian history was colonial history, i.e., a sub-category of English history, populated by kings and generals and dry as chalk.

Unfortunately, with the exception of people like James Dashuk  and a few others, Pierre Burton comes to mind, very little has changed. However, now the focus is on multicultural history, and once again Canadian heritage history is being brushed aside.

It is not to say Canadian history hasn’t been without its dark side, which James Dashuk so capably points out in Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal life [University of Regina Press, August 1, 2014].

An actual pile of buffalo skulls. Slaughtering the buffalo was part of a plan to starve the Natives off the land.

An actual pile of buffalo skulls. Slaughtering the buffalo was part of a plan to starve the Natives off the land.

In it, Dashuk presents an indictment of meticulously researched evidence to show that the catastrophes visited on many of the Native People were state sanctioned. That is to say that John A. MacDonald, his government, speculators, and lobbyists like the Canadian Pacific Railway, indulged in systematic starvation, as well as the spread of infectious diseases to eradicate ‘the Native problem’ on the western prairies.

I will not take any examples out of context, for they are best read along with the supporting evidence; however, suffice to say that Dashuk presents a very compelling case with scalpel-like precision.

A word must be said for the writing style, as well. This is an academic treatise, to be sure, and yet it is readily readable by the average person with an average vocabulary. Indeed, the author’s prose is as precise as his topics he presents.

However, I will also add a caveat to those who would attempt to apply these ‘atrocities’ to the Canada of today, or to Canadians of the assign blame to future generations – As Stephen Harper did regarding the poll tax of the 1880s (imposed by John A. MacDonald, by the way)

We can justifiably accuse the governments and people who participated, now dead, but the crimes of our ‘forefathers’ do not appropriately apply to the seventh generation.

This is a great book: A must read for students, and a should-read for others. Five bees in the nonfiction category.

***

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♠♠♠

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

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October 6, 2014 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Canadian historical content, Native history, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

Collide, by J.R. Lenk

A young writer scores with a mature story of high school love.

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Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Story blurb: Being bisexual is cool now—unless you’re a boy. Or so it seems to invisible fifteen-year-old Hazard James. But when he falls in with bad apple Jesse Wesley, Hazard is suddenly shoved into the spotlight. Jesse and his friends introduce him to the underworld of teenage life: house parties, hangovers, the advantages of empty homes, and reputation by association. So what if his old friends don’t get it? So what if some people love to hate him? Screw gossip and high school’s secret rules. There’s just something about walking into a room and having all eyes on him when just last year nobody noticed him at all.

For a while Hazard basks in the attention, and before he realizes the depth of the waters he’s wading, he and Jesse strike up a “friends with benefits” routine. It could be something more, but what self-respecting teenage boy would admit it? Not Jesse—and so not Hazard, either. Not until it’s too late. Hazard and Jesse have collided, and Hazard’s life will never be the same.

About the author:If E. L. Doctorow was on point when he said, “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia,” at just nineteen J. R. Lenk is a self-confessed pretty boy severely in need of a psychological once-over. He’s a sucker for overcast skies and the smell of books, and enjoys a lot of things from movies about castrati to classy sweaters and wayward glances, to successful sex hair and hobo chic.

J. R. Lenk has been writing as a passion since a very young age, with a love for horror, ghost stories, and dark edgy contemporaries. He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

you are the master of your own genius.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

High school genres are not my favourite. However, when Collide by J. R. Lenk [Harmony Ink Press, April 15, 2012] was recommended to me with high praise, I decided to give it a read.

One of the things said about this book was the amazing fact that the writer is still in his teens. Remarkable. Oh, there is the odd misstep – like a long, disconcerting flashback in the middle of the story – but otherwise the plot and character development, as well as the writing in general, are all at an advanced level.

The story is primarily told from the perspective of Hazard Oscar James, a Cinderella-like character at first, until he ‘collides’ – literally –with Jesse Logan Wesley: a rich-kid-BMC (‘ Big Man on Campus’ ) who is Hazard’s flawed Prince Charming.

Theirs is set against a backdrop of high school, juvenile intensity (likes, dislikes, jealousies, wild parties and booze, etc.), somewhat reminiscent of the high school flicks of the 60s. Nonetheless, it is all presented very convincingly – at least I think it is. Mind you, I haven’t been inside a high school for 62 years, so I’m a bit outdated.

Where the novel really shines, however, is in the rocky road to romance experienced by Hazard and Jesse. It is one of the best work-ups I have read. No ‘insta-love’ here. Their romance is like climbing a staircase, one step forward and two steps back, but inevitably it blossoms into a mature bonding. It is beautifully developed and written, with all of the nuances of boy-meets-boy love intact.

This is a really good story for any age, and well worth the money. Four Bees.

♠♠♠

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September 29, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, MM high school romance | Leave a comment

The Trouble With Tony (Sex in Seattle #1), by Eli Easton

Playing doctor can be fun…

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Click on the above cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle formet.

Click on the above cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

As part of the investigation into the murder of a young woman, Seattle P.I. Tony DeMarco poses as a patient of Dr. Jack Halloran, the therapist who treated the victim at a Seattle sex clinic. This isn’t the first time Tony has gone undercover, but it’s the first time he’s wanted to go under cover with one of his suspects. He can’t help it—Jack Halloran is just the kind of steely-eyed hero Tony goes for. But he’ll have to prove Halloran’s innocence and keep the doctor from finding out about his ruse before he can play Romeo.

Dr. Halloran has his own issues, including a damaged right arm sustained in the line of duty as a combat surgeon in Iraq and the PTSD that followed. He’s confused to find himself attracted to a new patient, the big, funny Italian with the puppy-dog eyes, and Tony’s humor slips right past Jack’s defenses, making him feel things he thought long buried. But can the doctor and the P.I. find a path to romance despite the secrets between them?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As I have said many times, I enjoy a light, well-written, witty comedy, and The Trouble With Tony (Sex in Seattle #1) by Eli Easton comes close on most categories. It is light, well-written and a comedy, but to my taste it doesn’t quite have witty edge that I prefer.

During the course of a murder investigation, in which Doctor Jack Halloran – Intern at a sex clinic – is a suspect, Tony DeMarco P.I. decides to go underground by becoming Halloran’s patient. The guise is quickly recognized, and so Toni takes the opportunity to consult the doctor regarding his uncertain sexuality.

Thereafter, one thing leads to another. It quickly becomes evident that Jack is not involved in the murder, but in the meantime a mutual attraction has developed between the two of them. However, it is complicated by the rule governing doctor-client-relationship, i.e. ‘no playing doctor outside of office hours’—a stupid rule which I have never been able to quite understand.

A good deal of the story deals with Jack’s war wounds and resulting PTSD, which is a fresh touch, but it is never allowed to draw the story down or interfere with the humour.

Altogether it was a refreshing, light read, which I can recommend. However, as I have said, the humour lacked the sparkle that would have put it over the top for me. Three and one-half bees.

♠♠♠

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Interested in Canadian history?

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September 22, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance | 1 Comment

Lovers in Arms, by Osiris Brackhaus

The Nuremburg Trials from an GBLT perspective –

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Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

The year is 1946, World War II is over, and the Nuremberg trials are underway. US Army Captain Frank Hawthorne is returning to Germany to testify in the military tribunal of former Nazi Officer Johann von Biehn. Despite explicit orders to the contrary, Frank is trying to save Johann’s life.

Three years ago, at the height of the war, Frank had been sent to kill the very man he is now defending. Much to his surprise, instead of the Nazi monster he was sent to kill, Frank found a compassionate dissenter. Johann considered the handsome young American officer the answer to his desperate prayers to save his beloved Germany from the cancerous infection of Nazi rule. What really happened between the two men during those long summer days in von Biehn’s Spreewald mansion must be kept secret at any cost.

With his own government forbidding Frank to reveal anything political that happened during the war, and society forcing him to conceal their personal relationship, Frank will have to find something truly unexpected to prevent Johann’s all-but-certain death sentence.

 

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Lovers in Arms by Osiris Brackhaus [Fantastic Fiction Publishing, November 10, 2013] (despite its rather Victor Herbertian title) struck me as a rather interesting take on the so-called ‘Nuremburg Trials.’ Certainly not one that I had yet to come across, and the GBLT angle clinched it.

I was particularly struck by one of the lines that summarized the story quite dramatically. i.e. “Maybe one day you’ll learn that not all Germans are monsters and not all Americans are heroes.” For me it meant that people are people, and would probably live their lives quite a differently – and happily – if it weren’t for the interference of governments and society.

To begin, in 1943 US Army Captain Frank Hawthorne is sent on a top secret mission to assassinate high-ranking Nazi officers, of which Johann von Biehn is one. Through a twist of fate, however, the two men meet and fall in love. There is little ‘instalove’ here, but it is a choice between slowing the plot unnecessarily or getting on with it, and so I think the author made the right decision.

In this regard, there is a very poignant scene when Frank and Johann must part, and Frank is smuggled out of country with his lover’s help.

A view of the courtroom (International Military Tribunal), the so-called 'Nuremburg Trail'

A view of the courtroom (International Military Tribunal), the so-called ‘Nuremburg Trail’

Moving along to the destruction of Naziism in 1945, and the convening of the International Military Tribunal between November 1945 and October 1946, and as a former Nazi officer Johann is somehow part of it. I say ‘somehow’ because the first trial (the so-called ‘Nuremburg Trails’, 1945 -1946) were for the most notorious of Hitler’s henchmen — Martin Bormann. Karl Doenitz. Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, Albert Speer, etc. The others were tried between 1946 and 1949 by Control Council Law No. 10.

Nonetheless, there is a nice bit of courtroom drama here, including a Jewish lawyer who escaped the prison camps before being asked to defend von Biehn.

Altogether it is a very good story with a somewhat unique setting. The writing is top grade, and the characters are interesting and credible. Four bees.

♠♠♠

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September 15, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay military | Leave a comment

Red Dirt Heart (Red Dirt #1), by N.R. Walker

Well worth the money…

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Click on the above cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the above cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Welcome to Sutton Station: One of the world’s largest working farms in the middle of Australia – where if the animals and heat don’t kill you first, your heart just might. 

Charlie Sutton runs Sutton Station the only way he knows how; the way his father did before him. Determined to keep his head down and his heart in check, Charlie swears the red dirt that surrounds him – isolates him – runs through his veins.

American agronomy student Travis Craig arrives at Sutton Station to see how farmers make a living from one of the harshest environments on earth. But it’s not the barren, brutal and totally beautiful landscapes that capture him so completely, it’s the man with the red dirt heart.

 

 

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have a thing about Australia – the wide open spaces, the magnificent and rugged scenery, and the equally rugged men, evoke a certain romance that appeals to my love of all things unpretentious and masculine. All of these things are captured quite authentically by N.R. Walker in her latest novel, Red Dirt Heart [N.R. Walker, Feb. 20 2014].

Charlie Sutton is the young owner and operator of Sutton Station in the “ute back” near Alice Springs, Australia. He has learned the business and his self-reliance from his rancher father, who, although dead, still exerts considerable influence over his son.

Charlie is also a closeted gay, once again reflecting his father’s influence, which was unquestionably homophobic.  Therefore, Charlie keeps his orientation well to himself.

Travis Craig is a young agronomist from Johnston City, Texas … Oh, and a hunk. He has come to Australia to study farming methods, and as usual fate is about to change things for both of them.

As well, there are some charming side-characters: George, the lead hand, and his wife, Ma,  who second as Charlie’s family.

Altogether, there is a lay-back feel to this novel, sort of folksy in the way you would expect an out-back story be. Time and life move at the pace of the seasons, and slow-and-steady is the way things get done. Nonetheless, everything has to be accomplished in the four weeks that Travis will be visiting.

In this respect, it does – while leaving room for a sequel (which, I believe, is already on the market).

You cannot not like this story. The main characters are solidly masculine, and their coming together (even in the four short weeks) seems both inevitable and natural. The sex is also manly; although, I generally skim over these. When you’ve read one sex scene you’ve generally read them all.

Well worth the money. Four and one-half bees.

♠♠♠

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September 8, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Australia Out-back, Gay fiction, M/M adventure | Leave a comment

Everything I Have Is Blue: Short Fiction by Working-Class Men About More-or-Less Gay Life, by Wendell Ricketts

Blue on blue

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click on the above cover to purchase.

click on the above cover to purchase.

Story Blub: In this age of Will & Grace and gentrification, the “dream market” and gay investment advisors, you don’t hear much about working-class queers. In fact, some would even consider the idea a contradiction in terms. But the contributors to Everything I Have Is Blue: Short Fiction by Working-Class Men About More-or-Less Gay Life would beg to differ. The first collection of short stories by working-class queer, gay, and bisexual men, Everything I Have Is Blue is a rich and long-overdue contribution both to the burgeoning field of working-class studies and to LGBTIQ fiction. The international writers include a professional trucker, a Texas prisoner, a librarian, a poet, an activist, a retired English professor, and a street mime, to name a few, but what makes their voices powerful and unique isn’t their professions, it’s their ability to straddle ideological and cultural divides that would give Paul Bunyan pause. In Everything I Have Is Blue are love stories and stories of lives gone wrong; narratives of hope and songs of despair; tales of revenge and chronicles of redemption. In short, Everything I Have Is Blue showcases a literature of depth and complexity that brings much-needed color to the palate of queer cultural and literary identity. Contributors include Timothy Anderson, Rane Arroyo, Keith Banner, James Barr, C. Bard Cole, CAConrad, Marcel Devon, Dean Durber, Rick Laurent Feely, John Gilgun, Rigoberto González, Jim Grimsley, Ryan Kamstra, Christopher Lord, Alfredo Ronci, Jan-Mitchell Sherrill, and Royston Tester.

About the author: Wendell Ricketts holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico. He is senior editor of the anthology Intimate Relationships: Some Social Work Perspectives on Love and the author of Lesbians and Gay Men as Foster Parents.

everything is blue - const worker

Review by Gerry Burnie

Being Labour Day, I set about finding a GBLT book thst dealt predominantly with labour and/or work, and happily I came up with Wendell Ricketts’ collection of short stories, called Everything I Have Is Blue: Short Fiction by Working-Class Men About More-or-Less Gay Life [Suspect Thoughts Press, July 29, 2005].

Unfortunately, it’s not available in Nook or Kindle formats, but there are copies available through both the Barnes and Noble and Amazon’s open market place.

The stories are set in a variety of locales, Portland, Baltimore, Toronto, New Orleans, Boston, New York and Philadelphia, and from a number of perspectives: urban migrants, college students, newly employed, or, like Timothy Anderson’s trucker in Hooters, Tooters and the Big Dog, someplace in between.

As a long ago migrant, myself, I could readily identify with the majority of protagonists, i.e. anxiously trying to shed our rural roots and blend in to a more ‘sophisticated’ urban society. However, being a physical outsider is one thing, while being a social (psychological) outsider is quite another, and it is this latter theme that adds an interesting edge to most of the stories, e.g. Ricketts’ Raspberry Pie, John Gilgun’s Cream, Rick Laurent Feely’s Skins, and Christopher Lord’s  My Special Friend. It is one of envy mixed with contempt, and frustration coupled with admiration.

While ‘more-or-less’ gay, these men each make an effort to avoid the stereotypes that have been assigned to them by the media – the fashion plates, the literary effete, and so on. They are ‘blue through and through, and proud of it.

This is the image and message that makes this anthology of working-class gay stories such a worthwhile read.

Nice to hear from a side of gay society that doesn’t often get heard from. Four and one-half bees.

An update: 

Click on the above cover to purchase.

Click on the above cover to purchase.

Blue, Too: More Writing by (for or about) Working-Class Queers includes work by twenty writers (Rigoberto González, Timothy Anderson, Tara Hardy, Judy Grahn, Keith Banner, Carter Sickels, and Renny Christopher, to name a few) who speak meaningfully—in short fiction, memoir, performance pieces, and prose poems—about queers in and from the working class.

Intended for discerning readers and ideal for both reading groups and college-level classes, Blue, Tooexplores some of the realities of the group that makes up the majority of the LGBTQ “community.”
As a sourcebook for working-class and queer studies, Blue, Too also contains these special features: “A Blue Study: The Reader’s, Writer’s, and Scholar’s Guide” to using Blue, Too to examine the interlocking issues of queerness and social class, including discussion questions and prompts for writing and mini-research projects that connect the reader with working-class and LGBT scholarship; “Reading Blue,” an extensive annotated bibliography that represents the first-ever attempt to create an exhaustive listing of materials related to queers and class; and “Class/Mates: Further Outings in the Literatures and Cultures of the Ga(y)ted Community,” an expanded theoretical and critical essay that reviews the history and present of working-class queers in literature, media, and pop culture.

♠♠♠

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September 1, 2014 Posted by | Canadian content, Fiction, gay Blue collar workers, Gay fiction, Wendell Ricketts | Leave a comment

Vamp, by Rob Rosen

It is spritely, it is zany, and it is even over-the-top at times, but most of all it is fun.

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Click on the above cover to purchase.

Click on the above cover to purchase.

Story blurb: Fine, the coffin in the basement was a little unusual. Certainly no more so than the mansion itself, though, or, for that matter, the humpbacked manservant that came with it, or the mysterious death of its former owner. In fact, so starts a long list of all things unusual for our unlikely hero, Jack, and his newfound and strange family, his werewolf boyfriend, the pack eager to help him, and the ancient clan that wants him dead at all costs. Know this, however, in the end, this misfit group of characters will leave you howling in the crypt aisles!

About the author: Rob Rosen is the author of the critically acclaimed novels, “Sparkle: The Queerest Book You’ll Ever Love”, the Lambda Literary Award Nominated “Divas Las Vegas”, which was the winner of the 2010 TLA Gaybies for Best Gay Fiction, “Hot Lava”, “Southern Fried”, the Lambda Literary Award Nominated “Queerwolf”, “Vamp”, and “Queens of the Apocalypse”. His short stories have appeared in more than 200 anthologies. You can find 20 of them in his erotic romance anthology, “Good & Hot”. He is also the editor of “Lust in Time: Erotic Romance Through the Ages” and “Men of the Manor: Erotic Encounters between Upstairs Lords and Downstairs Lads”.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have frequently ruminated about the general lack of humour in GBLT novels; well, Vamp by Rob Rosen certainly turned that around – in spades!

I don’t generally read vampire stories, nor do I understand the populist love affair with them, but Rob Rosen’s take on the genre is not only appropriate (… they are fictional, after all), but hilariously funny, almost slapstick, at the same time.

Jack Jackowski is just an ordinary bloke until he receives word that he has somehow inherited a fabulous fortune from an erstwhile unknown cousin, Boris Jackowski – You just have to love these corn-ball names!

If that wasn’t odd enough for Jack, things really start to get bizarre when he goes to inspect his new inheritance. It seems he has also inherited a man servant by the name of ‘Igor’, (yes, hunchbacked too), and in the basement of the Gothic mansion are two coffins with a note from Cousin Boris informing him that he is really a vampire.

Jack accepts and after he undergoes the transition he heads outside to test his powers. It is then he detects an intriguing odour, and following it up he meets Steven; the alpha-male in a pack of werewolves. Not surprisingly, having other-worldly powers in common, they have a mating of spirts and flesh, until some spoilsport starts heaving spears at them.

No, it’s not Pat Robertson or a member if the Westboro goons, but just who it is I’ll leave to you to find out. J

About the book

This is the first of Rob Rosen’s stories I have read. He writes with an almost tongue-in-cheek style that invites the reader to come along on a fantastical journey, almost like a Hallowe’en adventure. Everyone knows it is make-believe, but at the same time it is so much fun that nobody cares. It is spritely, it is zany, and it is even over-the-top at times, but most of all it is fun. Five bees for entertainment.

♠♠♠

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Notice to all those who have requested a book reviewThank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.Thanks again!

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August 25, 2014 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction | , | Leave a comment

The One for Me, by Hollis Shiloh

A nice, feel-good story*

(*A free dowload I believe on Amazon.com, I paid $3.11 CAD on Amazon.cca)

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hollis shiloh - coverStory blurb: Two boys bond, sharing geeky things and fast food. And falling in love.

When Luke’s parents take in a foster kid named Randall, Luke is immediately taken with him, although he doesn’t want to admit to himself why. He wasn’t planning to be gay. He wasn’t planning to fall in love with another boy. But then he met Ran….

I remember when I first met Ran. He was absolutely unprepossessing, all skinny white boy wearing his insecurities on his sleeves, which were tattered and faded on a too-big flannel shirt. He wore jeans that didn’t quite fit him, cheap tennis shoes that had once been white, and glasses that made his eyes look too big in his scrawny, pale face.

And he was holding a trash bag and standing in the middle of my bedroom looking miserable…

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I was feeling a bit lazy this week, perhaps because of the lousy weather in this part of North America, so I delved into my pile of recommended books to come up with a 76-page novella that fit the bill quite nicely. The One For Me, by Hollis Shiloh [Spare Words Press; 2 edition, July 11, 2013] is a charming, feel-good story, that is bound to please most people who just want a nice, uncomplicated story.

The story commences when Ran (Randall) arrives at Luke’s parent’s home as a ward of the foster care system. This is handled quite nicely with homey bits (macaroni and cheese, etc.), and the author wastes no time in bringing the two boys closer together by some rather clever business involving a video blog and arm-around-the-shoulder, buddy-buddy stuff.

As the story progresses we learn that Rand is a closely-guarded, closet gay, (of necessity), and Luke is just discovering his sexual preference; however, it is all handled in an angst-free way, which I believe is so in most cases.

The sex is minimal and discreetly handled, and altogether it is a charming read when you just want to relax without complications. Four bees.

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Interested in Canadian history?of

Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Walter “Turk” Broda – “Mr. Maple Leaf.”

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August 18, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Brothers in love, Gay fiction | 2 Comments

What About Me?: The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society, by Paul Verhaeghe

So, You’re a deviant? Congratulations!

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what about me - coverBlurb: According to current thinking, anyone who fails to succeed must have something wrong with them. The pressure to achieve and be happy is taking a heavy toll, resulting in a warped view of the self, disorientation, and despair. People are lonelier than ever before. Today’s pay-for-performance mentality is turning institutions such as schools, universities, and hospitals into businesses – even individuals are being made to think of themselves as one-person enterprises. Love is increasingly hard to find, and we struggle to lead meaningful lives. In “What about Me?”, Paul Verhaeghe’s main concern is how social change has led to this psychic crisis and altered the way we think about ourselves. He investigates the effects of 30 years of neoliberalism, free-market forces, privatisation, and the relationship between our engineered society and individual identity. It turns out that who we are is, as always, determined by the context in which we live. From his clinical experience as a psychotherapist, Verhaeghe shows the profound impact that social change is having on mental health, even affecting the nature of the disorders from which we suffer. But his book ends on a note of cautious optimism. Can we once again become masters of our fate?

About the author: Paul Verhaeghe (November 5, 1955) is a trained clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst. His first doctorate (1985) dealt with hysteria, his second (1992) on psychological assessment. He works as a professor at the University of Ghent. Since 2000, his main interest lies in the impact of social change on psychological and psychiatric difficulties.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

To be at peace with a troubled world is not feasible unless one disavows almost everything that surrounds us. However, to be at peace with yourself within a troubled world, while not easy, can be achieved through self-reliance. That is the basic analysis put forward by psychologist and psychoanalyst Paul Verhaeghe, in What About Me?: The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society [Scribe Publications, August, 2014].

Being social animals, our personalities are unavoidably shaped by the norms and values of the society to which we subscribe. Moreover, the dominant values of that society are almost always shaped by the leading players – i.e. the resident elites: economic, political, and cultural.

Today, in western societies in particularly, the predominant value is market fundamentalism, a.k.a. ‘neoliberalism.’ The tenets of which teach that the marketplace can solve almost all the ills of society, social, economic and political, so long as it is not burdened by government regulations and taxes. Moreover, anyone who disagrees with this precept risks being labeled a “socialist” (a word that is bantered around even by those who don’t understand the meaning of the term) or “deviant.”

Verhaeghe points out that neoliberalism draws on Ancient Greek – more recently Hobbsian – idea that man is inherently selfish and grasping in nature, but neoliberalists are quite content with these shortcomings. In fact, they encourage them on the basis that unrestricted competition and self-interest foster innovation and economic growth.

The reality, of course, is something different. The playing field is far from even, and more often than not innovation is discouraged, and economic growth is achieved through mergers and acquisitions (takeovers), resulting in the monopolization of available resources.

All this is ignored by the major players in the market economy (including law makers, governments and bureaucrats). These elites continue to ascribe success and failure to the individual; the rich are the paragons, and the poor are the social parasites.

To assure these new deviants don’t get more than they deserve, the neoliberalist workplace has become a centre for assessments, monitoring, surveillance and audits designed to reward the winners and punish the losers.

Likewise, the unemployed contend with a whole new level of monitoring and snooping.

It must be said, as well, that the majority of major political parties either ascribe to these methods, or look the other way from them, and so in the cause of autonomy we have become controlled by a nit-picking, faceless bureaucracy.

To put all this into a psychoanalytic context, Verhaeghe writes that these outcomes have resulted in a significant increase in certain psychiatric conditions, including eating disorders, depression and personality disorders.

Associated with the latter, the most common are performance anxiety, social phobias, depression and loneliness.

Therefore, if you feel at odds with the world, or that you somehow don’t fit in, congratulations: You’re still human!

About the book

Admittedly, this is not a book for everyone, but it is surprisingly easy to read. Verhaegue writes with a journalistic (as apposed to academic) style, and his examples and anecdotes are ones to which the reader can easily relate.

However, the biggest benefit is Verhaegue’s insight and clarity in ‘psychoanalyzing’ an undoubtedly screwed-up world. He may not have all the answers, but he nonetheless prompts us to examine the questions. Five bees.

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August 11, 2014 Posted by | Academic study, non GBLT, Non-fiction | | Leave a comment

The Way of Men, by Jack Donovan

The difference between a ‘good’ man, and good at being a ‘man.’

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Click on thr cover to purchase

Click on thr cover to purchase

Blurb: The so-called experts give the answers that suit their masters. They tell just-so stories to protect their ideology, their religion, their way of life. They look to women for a nod of approval before speaking. They give socially acceptable answers and half-truths.

If what they have to say resonates with men, it is only because they manage to hint at the real answer.

The real answer is that The Way of Men is The Way of The Gang.

Manliness — being good at being a man — isn’t about impressing women. That’s a side effect of manliness.

Manliness isn’t about being a good man. There are plenty of bad guys – real jerks –who are manlier than you are, and you know it.

Manliness is about demonstrating to other men that you have what it takes to survive tough times.

Manliness is about our primal nature. It’s about what men have always needed from each other if they wanted to win struggles against nature, and against other men.

The Way of Men describes the four tactical virtues of the survival gang.

The Way of Men explains what men want, and why they are rapidly disengaging from our child-proofed modern world.

The Way of Men examines the alternatives, and sketches a path out of our “bonobo masturbation society” through a new Dark Age.

About the author: Jack Donovan is an American author known for his writing on masculinity and for his criticisms of feminism and gay culture.

Donovan is currently a contributor to AlternativeRight.com, Counter-Currents, and anti-feminist, men’s rights blog The Spearhead.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

When I first saw the title The Way of Men, by Jack Donovan [Dissonant Hum, April 10, 2012], I thought, “Oh dear … This is a mine field if ever I saw one,” for a topic like this can either be a rehashing of grievances against feminists, or brilliantly insightful, or someplace in between. In this case it’s a bit of all three.

Donovan’s thesis proposes that there is a (gaping) difference between being a ‘man’ and being a ‘masculine man,’ i.e. “A man who is more concerned with being a good man than being good at being a man makes a very well behaved slave.”

As a paradigm he goes back to the roots of masculine culture, whereby men travelled in well-defined cohorts for friendship, protection, and hunting, and although these proclivities have been discouraged in favour of domestication and gender-blurring, some traces still survive.

The bottom line is that innate gender differences do exist, have existed, and in spite of unprecedented and frequently insidious emasculation and feminization, will always exist.

The wider state does not escape Donovan’s looking glass, either. For, apart from times of war, it has a stake in maintaining the “well behaved slave.” Bonobo men are not inclined to fit comfortably into ‘le system’ or to give socially acceptable answers and half-truths, and so they are shunned as renegades and/or shit-disturbers.

If any of this rings a bell with you, you might want to grab a copy of Jack Donovan’s thought-provoking dissertation. Four bees.

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August 4, 2014 Posted by | Academic study, Non-fiction, non-GLBT | | Leave a comment

Stanley Park: A Novel, by Timothy Taylor

A fun, slightly tongue in cheek, read that scores more times than misses.

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Click on the above cover to purchase.

Click on the above cover to purchase.

Story blurb: Jeremy Papier is a Vancouver chef and restaurateur who owns a bistro called The Monkey’s Paw. The novel uses a “Bloods vs. Crips” metaphor for the philosophical conflict between chefs such as Papier, who favour local ingredients and menus, and those such as his nemesis Dante Beale, who favour a hip, globalized, “post-national” fusion cuisine.

Papier also endures conflict with his father, an anthropologist studying homelessness in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, who draws him into investigating the death of two children in the park.

About the author: Timothy Taylor is a Canadian novelist and short story writer. Born in Venezuela, he was raised in West Vancouver, British Columbia and Edmonton, Alberta. Taylor attended the University of Alberta and Queen’s University, and lived for some years in Toronto, Ontario. In 1987 he returned to British Columbia. Taylor currently resides in Vancouver.

Taylor’s short story “Doves of Townsend” won the Journey Prize in 2000. He had two other stories on the competition’s final shortlist that year, and is to date the only writer ever to have three short stories compete for the prize in the same year. He subsequently served as a judge for the 2003 award.

His debut novel, Stanley Park, nominated for the Giller Prize and chosen to be the 2004 One Book, One Vancouver, was followed by Silent Cruise, a collection of eight stories and one novella.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia. Ranked among the worlds most  outstanding parks

Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia. Ranked among the worlds most outstanding parks

Two things attracted me to Stanley Park: A Novel by Timothy Taylor [Counterpoint; Reprint edition, September 25, 2003]: It’s Canadian through and through, and it’s about food.

I’m a self-confessed—and self-described, ‘foodie.’ Not the faddy fusion foods, or the trendy I-eat-it-because-it’s-the-thing-to-do dishes, but good, well-prepared standard fare. I think I may be a ‘Blood’ too (as apposed to a ‘Crip’), but I must confess I have no idea what these two terms mean, let alone their derivation.

Taylor’s novel has three lines of focus: Food, Stanley Park, and corporate domination. Regarding food, his attention to, and reverence for, the preparation of imaginative dishes may be a bit slow reading for non-foodies, but otherwise it’s entirely in keeping with the theme. It is also, in some ways, a metaphor for dedication and loyalty to a conviction in spite of forces to the contrary.

'Gastown'. Vancouver, British Columbia. One of the best known downtown neighbourhoods.

‘Gastown’. Vancouver, British Columbia. One of the best known downtown neighbourhoods.

Regarding Stanley Park, one can hardly discuss Vancouver without including ‘Gastown’ or Stanley Park. To Vancouver it is what High Park is to New York, so it is quite natural that the author would lavish it with detail—to put it on the map, so-to-speak. And what other way is more appropriate, or imaginative, than to have the main character Jeremy Papier’s father live there studying the homeless.

The imaginative choice of names is clever, too—i.e. Jeremy Papier (“Jeremy Paper”) and Dante Beale (owner of “Dante’s Inferno”). I have long maintained that authors don’t give quite enough consideration to names. In my opinion, they are as important as choosing just the right descriptor for anything else. In any event, Beale is corporate-lowest-common-denominator-mentality personified, and Taylor has a great deal of fun tweaking this concept (while take a well-deserved pop-shot at Starbucks.)

Whether these three somewhat disparate themes stitch together effectively is a matter of opinion. They worked reasonably well for me, although I must admit some disorientation at times. Nonetheless, there have been comments expressed on both sides of the discussion.

What I found didn’t work—although I understand the author’s wish to include it as a bit of local lore—is the unsolved discovery of the two skeletons in the park. It is a sub-plot that just didn’t fit, and left this reader looking for a resolution that didn’t come.

Altogether, it’s a fun, slightly tongue in cheek, read that scores more times than misses. Four bees.

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July 28, 2014 Posted by | Canadian content, Fiction, non-GLBT | , , , | Leave a comment

Native: A Novel, by William Haywood Henderson

A coming out and coming of age in a ruggedly contemporary, Western setting, with ancient berdache undertones.

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Click pn the above cover to purchase.

Click pn the above cover to purchase.

Story Blurb: Four years before Annie Proulx’s story “Brokeback Mountain” appeared in the New Yorker, William Haywood Henderson published Native, the tale of three gay men ensnared in the politics and prejudices of an isolated ranching town in Wyoming’s Wind River Valley. Blue Parker, a careful twenty-three-year-old ranch foreman, in love with the West and his home in the mountains, finds himself drawn to his new ranch hand, Sam. For the first time in his life, Blue feels the possibility of a romantic connection, and he makes tentative plans to secret himself and Sam away in an idyllic camp high in the mountains. But the arrival in town of Gilbert, a Native American from the Wind River Indian Reservation, a man who fancies himself a modern-day berdache (or Two-Spirit), pushes Blue and Sam in unexpected, dangerous directions. Gilbert attempts to recreate the ancient traditions of his people, but the world has changed. Ultimately, Gilbert must try to find a new place for himself in society, and Blue must choose between his home and protecting the man he loves.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

When you read as many GBLT books as I do, you begin to notice a similarity that runs from one book to another. It is almost as though there was some sort of ‘Harlequin Romance’ formula being followed. So, when a slightly different story pops up, even though some of the elements have been explored before, I generally go for it. Such is the case with Native: A Novel, by William Haywood Henderso [Bison Books; First Paperback Printing edition, May 1, 2010]

Blue Parker is the surprisingly young foreman of a Wyoming ranch, and gay, and as such he is infatuated with Sam—a boyishly handsome hired hand. Blue has plans to assign Sam to a line-camp high up in the mountains; a veritable Eden where they will be able to meet in seclusion and relative safety.

Enter Gilbert, a two-spirit ‘berdache’ who possesses special powers, and who goads Sam into a raunchy Apache-type dance at the small town’s honky-tonk bar.

Blue is embarrassed and confused, and so he stomps out, leaving Sam to the mercy of the red neck cowhands. Consequently, Sam is severely beaten for his naïveté, but now, moved by love and compassion, Blue moves him into his own Cabin. This has its own falling-dominos-effect as the story winds down to an uncertain climax.

As I mentioned, previously, this story has an interesting and somewhat unique theme to it—a coming out and coming of age in a ruggedly contemporary, Western setting, with ancient berdache overtones. That’s good.

It is also written in a lyrical style, with much time given to painting a word picture of the breathtaking Wyoming landscape. That’s good, too.

However, it presents its own challenges as well. In many way it reads like a stage coach ride as it lurches along, often with the driver meandering on and off the trail. Indeed, it boldly goes where every novelist is cautioned not to tread. In other words, it changes points of view from one character to another, not only flashes backward, but also forward and to the present as well. Still, there are twists and passages that are brilliant in both concept and delivery.

I’m going to give it three bees, and beyond that you can decide for yourself.

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July 21, 2014 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Native American, Gay romance, Gay western, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, by Paul Monette

A fascinating story of one man’s half-a-life, articulately written, and unapologetically candid.

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Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Book description: Paul Monette grew up all-American, Catholic, overachieving . . . and closeted. As a child of the 1950s, a time when a kid suspected of being a “homo” would routinely be beaten up, Monette kept his secret throughout his adolescence. He wrestled with his sexuality for the first thirty years of his life, priding himself on his ability to “pass” for straight. The story of his journey to adulthood and to self-acceptance with grace and honesty, this intimate portrait of a young man’s struggle with his own desires is witty, humorous, and deeply felt.

About the author: In novels, poetry, and a memoir, Paul Monette wrote about gay men striving to fashion personal identities and, later, coping with the loss of a lover to AIDS.

Monette was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1945. He was educated at prestigious schools in New England: Phillips Andover Academy and Yale University, where he received his B.A. in 1967. He began his prolific writing career soon after graduating from Yale. For eight years, he wrote poetry exclusively.

After coming out in his late twenties, he met Roger Horwitz, who was to be his lover for over twenty years. Also during his late twenties, he grew disillusioned with poetry and shifted his interest to the novel, not to return to poetry until the 1980s.

In 1977, Monette and Horwitz moved to Los Angeles. Once in Hollywood, Monette wrote a number of screenplays that, though never produced, provided him the means to be a writer. Monette published four novels between 1978 and 1982. These novels were enormously successful and established his career as a writer of popular fiction. He also wrote several novelizations of films.

Monette’s life changed dramatically when Roger Horwitz was diagnosed with AIDS in the early 1980s. After Horwitz’s death in 1986, Monette wrote extensively about the years of their battles with AIDS (Borrowed Time, 1988) and how he himself coped with losing a lover to AIDS (Love Alone, 1988). These works are two of the most powerful accounts written about AIDS thus far.

Their publication catapulted Monette into the national arena as a spokesperson for AIDS. Along with fellow writer Larry Kramer, he emerged as one of the most familiar and outspoken AIDS activists of our time. Since very few out gay men have had the opportunity to address national issues in mainstream venues at any previous time in U.S. history, Monette’s high-visibility profile was one of his most significant achievements. He went on to write two important novels about AIDS, Afterlife (1990) and Halfway Home (1991). He himself died of AIDS-related complications in 1995.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I was in the mood for a gay non-fiction story this week, and so I went looking. One would think that with all that is currently happening, there would be a dearth of non-fiction stories, but no. However, I did come across Paul Monette’s perennial Becoming a Man: Half a Life [Open Road Media, March 25, 2014]. It is a re-release of an earlier 1992 version, but since it is set in the 1950s and 60s—and biographical—it is still a relevant read.

Almost all gay men can relate to Monette’s story, as witness the number of reviews (the majority by men) that start out: “I could identify with so much of Monette’s feelings…” or “Coming of age in the fifties, Paul Monette lived a life that, in a sense, paralleled my own as I too am a child of the fifties.”

To these reminiscences I can add my own, for I too came out in the 1950s. Moreover, I too lucked out by having an older, well-established and highly-regarded man take me under his wing, to teach me that if you aim for the chimney pots you will reach the window sills, but if you aim for the stars you will reach the chimney pots.

I must say, however, that my life was not quite so unapologetically dramatic as Monette’s. Yes, like Monette, I instinctively realized that I had an attraction to men before I knew what sex was about, and yes, I quickly learned it was wrong; but only because the Church and my mother said so.

I also learned to keep it to myself at high school, and I was sometimes teased on account of ‘being different,’ but it never got worse than that. In fact, I was more likely to quietly sought out than bullied.

Nonetheless, I do parallel him again as soon as I got out into the working world, where keeping your mouth shut about your sexuality was part of keeping your job. Likewise, ‘playin la game’ (i.e. dating, and living the straight life) was expected—not so much for yourself as others.

Monette is brutally candid when it comes to this aspect, as well as other aspects of his life. Nothing, including an incident of pedophilia, is held back; however, not once did I get the impression he was looking for forgiveness or sensationalism. It was just as it had happened with nothing held back.

One aspect that I could have been happy with a little less of was his self-analysis; particularly of his younger years. Perhaps this is because I try to never analyze myself at any stage, and in this regard I think he should have stuck more to the facts. After all, many of the things he dwelt on carried their own explanation.

This is a fascinating story of one man’s life (half life), articulately written, and unapologetically candid. Recommended, four bees.

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July 14, 2014 Posted by | AIDS, biography, Gay non-fiction, Memoir, Non-fiction, Paul Monette | Leave a comment

The Medici Boy, by by John L’Heureux

Love, lust, jealousy, murder, power and intrigue — Just the way a 15th century novel should read.

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Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in kindle format.

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in kindle format.

Story blurb: The worlds of art, politics and passion collide in John L’Heureux’s masterful new novel, The Medici Boy. With rich composition, L’Heureux ingeniously transports the reader to Donatello’s Renaissance Italy—directly into his bottega, (workshop), as witnessed through the eyes of Luca Mattei, a devoted assistant. While creating his famous bronze of David and Goliath, Donatello’s passion for his enormously beautiful model and part time rent boy, Agnolo, ignites a dangerous jealousy that ultimately leads to Agnolo’s brutal murder. Luca, the complex and conflicted assistant, will sacrifice all to save the life of Donatello, even if it means the life of the master sculptor’s friend and great patron of art, Cosimo de’ Medici.

About the author: John L’Heureux has served on both sides of the writing desk: as staff editor and contributing editor for The Atlantic and as the author of sixteen books of poetry and fiction. His stories have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and have frequently been anthologized in Best American Stories and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. His experiences as editor and writer inform and direct his teaching of writing. Since 1973, he has taught fiction writing, the short story, and dramatic literature at Stanford. In 1981, he received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and again in 1998. His recent publications include a collection of stories, Comedians, and the novels, The Handmaid of Desire (1996), Having Everything (1999), and The Miracle (2002).

 

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Review by Gerry Burnie

When I think of 15th century Italy and the Medicis, I think of people dressed in cloaks, skulking about on nefarious errands, as well as Roman-nosed clergy and medieval nobility indulging themselves on sumptuous living, intrigue and lust. Happily, John L’Heureux captures all this in his latest book, Medici Boy [Astor + Blue Editions, LLC.; 1 edition, April 7, 2014].

Donatello's "David and Goliath" located in the  Bargello, Florence.

Donatello’s “David and Goliath” located in the Bargello, Florence.

It is told from the point of view of Luca Mettei, Donato Donatello’s fictional assistant. Most everyone will recognize that Donatello (c. 1386 – December 13, 1466) was the Florentine sculptor who created, among other masterpieces, the first free-standing nude sculpture since the Classical Greek era—the beautiful and enigmatic David and Goliath.

What makes the story intriguing is that L’Heureux has went behind the bronze to give it a personality; that of the radiantly beautiful and nymph-like model, Agnolo. Indeed, when you compare L’Heureux’s creation to the perceived personality of the statue, the similarity is remarkable. There is the same Narcissistic and self-centred beauty that could very well attract the unwary to their doom, and in this case, Agnolo himself..

Other notable characters add a measure of intrigue, as well. For example, Cosimo de Medici, the inspiration for Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince, was banker to the Vatican, enormously wealthy, a political manipulator extraordinaire, and patron of the arts. It was he who commissioned Donatello’s David for his garden.

Beside all this cloak-and-dagger intrigue, honour and loyalty also exist—as in Mattei’s loyalty to his master, Donatello. In this story Mattei is heterosexual, but in an age where the lines were sometimes blurred, on can image an affectionate love (at least) between the two.

Indeed, it has all the ingredients of a Florentine caper, i.e. love, lust, jealousy, murder, power and intrigue. Four and one-half stars.

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July 7, 2014 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Medieval prtiof, Historical period | Leave a comment

Canadian Hook-Up: Gay Erotica, by Dick Parker

HAPPY CANADA DAY!

FROM

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Well, it’s sort of Canadian…

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Click on cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle edition.

Click on cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle edition.

Story blub: I don’t want to hurt Gramps. I don’t want him to find out I’m not exactly an ‘All-American’ boy… Caleb is a gay virgin whose only experience is jacking off with his buddies. But all that changes during a fishing trip to Canada. His Grandpa Fred and Fred’s buddies, Herb and Lenny, are doing their annual fly-in fishing trip and Caleb is invited to take the place of one of their late friends, Charlie. If Caleb had any choice, he’d have gone somewhere else with his own group of friends. But the trip turns out to be a wonderful journey, especially with three old farts who liven up each second on the road with their dirty jokes. Besides, Caleb quickly stops regretting the trip when he meets their young pilot, Aidan. Aside from flying them to the lodge, Aidan is also the dock-boy preparing their boats for fishing. Caleb and Aiden see each other frequently and they check each other out, neither of them ashamed to do so. Things come to a head when they surrender to one kiss, which soon leads to more. Aidan is irresistible, but Caleb is also afraid of anyone finding out about their relationship, especially his Grandpa, who will be hurt if he knew he had a gay grandson… *A gay romance for mature audiences. SAMPLE: I stepped up to Aidan and we wrapped our arms around each other and began making out. His cock was pressing into mine and they both felt wet. I leaned down and sucked on his left nipple and he moaned. “Oh yeah,” he said. I worked my way down his belly, licking his flat belly and then I took his cock into my mouth and began sucking him. He held my head and I took his cock deeply into my mouth and throat. I had gotten over the gag reflex and could take nearly the whole damn thing now. “I want to suck you,” he said. I stood up and he sucked my nipple and then he bit it. I gasped when he did it but it was so sexual all it did was make me hornier. He took my cock in his mouth and did a hell of a job getting most of it into his throat. He licked my balls and then went back on my cock. “Caleb, I want you to fuck me,” he said.

About the author: Dick Parker is an outdoorsman and has lived in the mid-west all of his life. His favorite activities are fishing, hunting and sex with other guys. He found out at a young age that he was gay and has had many outdoor adventures with friends that turned into more than just a fishing trip.

He began writing outdoor stories for sporting magazines and then delved into erotic stories. A lot of the situations in the stories are from personal experiences. He writes full time and is always willing to do research for a new story idea.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Tomorrow being Canada Day, I went looking for a gay Canadian story—not an easy quest considering that Amazon lists The Best American Short Stories at the top of the list. I shall have to write Jeffy Bezos and tell him all about the War of 1812. Moreover, the whole ‘Canadian gay story section covers only 5 pages. [P.S. You can find more than that by searching this blog.]

Nonetheless, I eventually spied Canadian Hook-Up: Gay Erotica by Dick Parker [4Fun Publishing, February 20, 2014]. I don’t usually read or review erotica per se, but being somewhat desperate for anything Canadian, I ordered a copy from Barnes and Noble. It was only then that I discovered that Canadian Hook-up is Canadian in content only, and that Dick Parker is an American living in the Mid-West.

Nonetheless, it is sort of Canadian.

The blurb (one of the most extensive I’ve come across) pretty well synopsizes the story, so there is nothing I can add that would make any difference. I suppose I should have added a disclaimer regarding ‘mature language’ at the top, but I don’t believe in disclaimers of that nature. We are our own censors when it comes to language, so far be it from me to tell you what you should or should not read. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Simple as that.

Now, regarding Dick Parker’s writing. The story is really a novella. The advertising states 120± pages, but this includes double spacing both before and after dialogue and paragraphs’; therefore, there are probably far fewer.

The writing style is passable, although I would have liked to have seen more detail regarding Canada—i.e. is it set in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, etc.—and a wilderness fishing camp could certainly benefitted from more description of placid lakes and misty mornings.

Albeit, if you take the “gay erotica” caveat (in the title) at face value, sylvan descriptions are not intended to be the long suit. Indeed, I have seldom found an erotic novel that balanced style and substance with tips to the sack.

What I liked about this story.

I thought the author did quite a nice job of balancing age types—i.e. seniors versus young adults. Indeed, looking at it from Caleb’s point of view, I felt comfortable with the way he fit in to the older circle while maintaining his own place.

In addition, I thought he captured the banter of a ‘boy’s trip out’ quite well.

Beyond this, it was erotica as usual, with some quite noticeable grammar problems—i.e. commas that are sprinkled throughout like random dewdrops.

Canadian Hook-up isn’t Canadian, but for those who enjoy erotica it is a passable read. Three bees.

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  The legend of “Fireaway” – the ‘voyageur’ horse

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If you would like to learn more about my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

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June 30, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Canadian content, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction | Leave a comment

One Man Guy, by Michael Barakiva

A charming young adult, boy-meets-boy story.

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Click on cover to purchase from Barnes abd Noble. Also available in Kindle.

Click on cover to purchase from Barnes abd Noble. Also available in Kindle.

Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshman year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.
Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. He can’t believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again.

About the author: Michael Barakiva is an Armenian/Israeli theater director and writer who lives in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan with his husband, Rafael. He was born in Haifa, Israel and grew up in the suburbs of Central New Jersey, which were much scarier. He attended Vassar College, where he double majored in Drama and English, after which he attended the Juilliard School’s Drama Division as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Directing. He has been living in New York City since.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

A few things made me choose One Man Guy, by Michael Barakiva [Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), May 27, 2014]: The ‘folksy’ cover; the light-hearted presentation, and the Armenian sub-plot.

For those who might not know much about Armenia (including me), it is a former Soviet Russian satellite, located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, and is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran and Nakhchivan to the south.

Culturally it is known for a number of things; particularly music and dance which are both demonstrated by Aram Khatchaturian’s  spirited Sabre Dance from his ballet “Gayane.”

Central to this story, United States has a large Armenian diaspora of approximately 9 million people.

The Armenian theme plays quite a prominent role in this story, and effectively so. It adds an element of uniqueness I have not encountered before. I think a good story, whether fiction of not, should have an educational component to it. Moreover, the author worked this in seamlessly, which is the other part of it.

Alek is a 14 year old boy of Armenian descent, and like most Eastern Europeans, his parents have high expectations for their oldest son. Moreover, unlike North American parents, they know that hard work and effort is the only way to achieve it. There is, as they have said for centuries, no royal road to learning.

Therefore, Alek is sent off to summer school to improve his marks. Alek is not thrilled by this idea, but to his credit he sees his parent’s logic and agrees.

Not surprisingly—otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a story—boy-meets-boy in the person of Ethan; a more typical North American adolescent—precocious, cocky, and not just a little self-centred. Nonetheless, the two hit it off famously, and eventually take the second step.

A tertiary character is also along for the ride; Alek’s friend Becky. I suspect she is there for a number of reasons. As a literary device she provides a change of voice that both Alek and Ethan can play off (it would be slightly tedious if only the viewpoint of the two boys was presented.) Secondly, as a young adult story, the unsuccessful attempt at heterosexual sex on Alek’s part says it’s no big deal. Nature has other ideas.

To that extent, it’s a thoughtful, well-constructed, and enjoyable read.

My reservations are somewhat subjective, and the subject of a debate among writers of GBLT fiction. How much acceptance should there be in the coming out process, and how much angst. All I can suggest is that is a delicate balance, for too much of one or the other can shade the novel from gleam to gloom.

In this novel I thought there was a disconnect between Alek’s highly traditional parents and their unquestioning acceptance of his homosexuality. Not disagreeably, I hasten to add, but slightly incredibly. For this reason I’m going to give it four bees, meaning it’s almost there but not quite.

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Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 70,562

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  John (Giovanni) Cabot: Discovery Day, Newfoundland and Labrador, June 24th, 1497

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If you would like to learn more about my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

 

Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

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June 23, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction | Leave a comment

Justice in an Age of Metal and Men, by Anthony W. Eichenlaub

A futuristic story with its roots in the “Old” West…

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To purchase, click on the cover above.

To purchase, click on the cover above.

Story blurb: Small town sheriff Jasper Davis Crow has an arm forged of Texas Army-issued black metal, chews snuff manufactured from real tobacco extract, and wields a six shooter made before neural implants were even a thing. In an age when Texan independence, neglect, and technology have ushered in a new age of lawlessness, J.D. holds strong the line of justice in the town of Dead Oak.

Longhorns trample a rancher in what appears to be a brutal accident. The new deputy from Austin is convinced that it’s murder and J.D. is inclined to agree when their investigation uncovers a bizarre conspiracy. With a megastorm brewing and a mysterious stranger tracking their every move, they need to work fast before time runs out and the storm wipes everything clean.

Can J.D. unravel the conspiracy? Will he be able to bring a sense of closure to the rancher’s wife and kids? Will there be Justice in an Age of Metal and Men?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Recently, the State of Texas has been in the news for, among other things, its open-carrying gun policy—a bunch of contemporary, pseudo-patriots walking about with AK-47s strapped to their backs. Nonetheless, Texas has always marched to its own drummer, and Anthony W. Eichenlaub has taken full advantage of this in his second novel, Justice in an Age of Metal and Men [CreateSpace, March 5, 2014].

In this futuristic tale, sheriff Jasper Davis Crow is a man of his times as well as an anachronism in his cowboy garb and anti-social addiction to chewing tobacco. He also sports a machismo prosthesis made of “Texas Army-issued black metal.” (Very butch!)

In other words, he’s a futuristic guy right out of “Gunsmoke” or “The Rifleman.”

I liked that.

Within these parameters, the author has created a character that is at once traditional and slightly quirky at the same time. This is a masterful touch on Eichenlaub’s part, for either one on their own would not have reached the level of interest Jasper Crow achieved. He is principled, old-fashioned, at home in the future, and coincidentally gay.

I say ‘coincidentally’ because sex doesn’t play a large role in this story. This may be a disappointment for those who prefer erotica, but it didn’t find it at all discomfiting. My preference is for plot-driven or character-driven stories that offer more depth and variety, and this story proves my point.

It is difficult to decide on one strong point in this novel, but I think I would have to say character development. In this regard, I was grateful the author resisted making Crow too perfect. Indeed, his flaws only contribute to his credibility.

My only reservation is probably my own from not reading fantasy novels enough to develop a taste for them; however, I can genuinely say I enjoyed this one for all the other dimensions. Four and one-half bees.

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Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews 70, 235

(Did you happen to notice that Gerry B’s Book Reviews reached a new milestone this past week – i.e. its 70,000th viewer! Thank you for your interest. It makes it all worthwhile.

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Francis Pegahmagabow, MM-two bar. The most highly decorated Canadian Native in the First World War.

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If you would like to learn more about my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again! Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

June 16, 2014 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay western | Leave a comment

Rangers, by Nate Tanner

An imaginative adventure reminiscent of Lord of the Rings meets Harry Potter…

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 rangers - coverStory blurb: When the notorious ranger Kjartan Torncloak turns up wounded on the doorstep, Skinker betrays his hated master and helps him escape. Before the ex-slave knows it, he and the ranger are on the run together. Now, Skinker’s only hope of survival lies in a man with a thousand dark secrets — and a thousand kinds of bad luck.
Skinker soon finds himself desperately attracted to the older man. But how can a shy, useless ex-slave impress a cold, stern hero who only respects strength? And what about the mysterious, undead evil that hounds Kjartan’s footsteps, plotting its cruel revenge…?

A grim, haunted wanderer. An ex-slave struggling to believe in himself. To win their desperate battle against darkness, these two men — one proud, one humble — must learn to fall in love as equals.

About the Author: Nate Tanner was born in Iowa in 1980. His Zodiac sign is Gemini. He realized he was gay on the day he turned 18.

After living a freewheeling lifestyle in his 20s, Nate decided to share his experiences with the world by becoming an erotic fiction author. He writes in spare moments at his day job, while by night he can be found prowling the Midwest for cute boys.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I was in the mood for a gay adventure story this week (not an easy genre to find) when I came across Rangers, by Nate Tanner [Nate Turner, 2013]. Now, to begin, I don’t generally read fantasy novels, but there was something about this novel that caught my eye. Perhaps it was the zany names, like “Kjartan Torncloak” or “Skinker,”—I find authors don’t tend to give enough attention to the names of their characters; or maybe it was the adventure element of being on the run through a mystical land with a handsome, rakish outlaw, but once I read the story blurb I was in.

I mean, who wouldn’t be?

I am also happy to say that I was not disappointed. Once the character of Skinker was established—that of a defeated slave in the hands of a villainous master—his unexpected meeting with the roguish Norse ranger seems almost heaven sent. It is likewise where the novel is concerned, too, for it is this their meeting that begins an adventure reminiscent of Lord of the Rings meets Harry Potter.

In this regard the authors certainly doesn’t lack imagination, for along the way they encounter all manner of elves, dwarves, talking squirrels, ghosts, etc.—haute fantasy with a touch of dark side.

The romance between Skinker and Torncloak is charming enough, though, for it is this that helps Skinker emerge from his shell to become a mature and independent individual.

Altogether, this is a well crafted novel with loads of imagination, albeit bizarre at times, but to the author’s credit he holds it to pieces together remarkably well.

On the minus side, there is some ambiguity regarding whether it is intended to be a young adult or adult novel. Certainly, there are elements that would make it a superb young adult tale, apart from the sexual content; however, if is the latter that places it well within the adult classification.

Otherwise it is a great read, and just the right length to keep the pace crisp. Four solid bees.

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Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 69,882

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Francis Pegahmagabow, MM-two bar. The most highly decorated Canadian Native in the First World War.

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If you would like to learn more about my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

Notice to all those who have requested a book reviewThank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

 

June 9, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction | Leave a comment

River of the Brokenhearted, by David Adams Richards

A dynastic novel as Canadian as maple syrup…

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Click to purchase at Barnes and Noble. Also available in Kindle format.

Click to purchase at Barnes and Noble. Also available in Kindle format.

(Non-GBLT)

Publisher’s Story blurb: In the 1920s, Janie McLeary and George King run one of the first movie theatres in the Maritimes. The marriage of the young Irish Catholic woman to an older English man is thought scandalous, but they work happily together, playing music to accompany the films. When George succumbs to illness and dies, leaving Janie with one young child and another on the way, the unscrupulous Joey Elias tries to take over the business. But Janie guards the theatre with a shotgun, and still in mourning, re-opens it herself. “If there was no real bliss in Janie’s life,” recounts her grandson, “there were moments of triumph.”

One night, deceived by the bank manager and Elias into believing she will lose her mortgage, Janie resolves to go and ask for money from the Catholic houses. Elias has sent out men to stop her, so she leaps out the back window and with a broken rib she swims in the dark across the icy Miramichi River, doubting her own sanity. Yet, seeing these people swayed into immoral actions because of their desire to please others and their fear of being outcast, she thinks to herself that “…all her life she had been forced to act in a way uncommon with others… Was sanity doing what they did? And if it was, was it moral or justified to be sane?”

Astonishingly, she finds herself face to face that night with influential Lord Beaverbrook, who sees in her tremendous character and saves her business. Not only does she survive, she prospers; she becomes wealthy, but ostracized. Even her own father helps Elias plot against her. Yet Janie McLeary King thwarts them and brings first-run talking pictures to the town.

Meanwhile, she employs Rebecca from the rival Druken family to look after her children. Jealous, and a protégé of Elias, Rebecca mistreats her young charges. The boy Miles longs to be a performer, but Rebecca convinces him he is hated, and he inherits his mother’s enemies. The only person who truly loves her, he is kept under his mother’s influence until, eventually, he takes a job as the theatre’s projectionist. He drinks heavily all his life, tends his flowers, and talks of things no-one believes, until the mystery at the heart of the novel finally unravels.

“At six I began to realize that my father was somewhat different,” says Miles King’s son Wendell, who narrates the saga in an attempt to find answers in the past and understand “how I was damned.” It is a many-layered epic of rivalries, misunderstandings, rumours; the abuse of power, what weak people will do for love, and the true power of doing right; of a pioneer and her legacy in the lives of her son and grandchildren.

About the author: David Adams Richards (born 17 October 1950) is a Canadian novelist, essayist, screenwriter and poet.

Born in Newcastle, New Brunswick, Richards left St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, one course shy of completing a B.A. Richards has been a writer-in-residence at various universities and colleges across Canada, including the University of New Brunswick.

Richards has received numerous awards including 2 Gemini Awards for scriptwriting for Small Gifts and “For Those Who Hunt The Wounded Down”, the Alden Nowlan Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the Canadian Authors Association Award for his novel Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace. Richards is one of only three writers to have won in both the fiction and non-fiction categories of the Governor General’s Award. He won the 1988 fiction award for Nights Below Station Street and the 1998 non-fiction award for Lines on the Water: A Fisherman’s Life on the Miramichi. He was also a co-winner of the 2000 Giller Prize for Mercy Among the Children.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

The present day City of Miramichi, on the river from which it derives its name.

The present day City of Miramichi, on the river from which it derives its name.

I must admit that I have been working on this novel, River of the Brokenhearted by David Adams Richards [Arcade Publishing, January 12, 2012] (450 pags.) for a while, but like a glass of mellow wine it never suffered from age.

The people of Canada’s maritime region are great story tellers, as witness Alistair MacLeod, Linden MacIntyre, and now David Adams Richards, the latter two being both Giller Prize winters. Part of this remarkable ability may come the maritime provinces themselves, which, like most seafaring cultures, seem to have an uncommonly large population of characters just waiting to be written about.

This, coupled with David Richards’ keen ability to capitalize on every nuance of a character’s personality, makes this pithy read from that point of view, alone.

Plot wise it covers four generation, and so the pace is understandably slow in places, but never tedious. The topic of generational feuds on Canadian soil could, I think, only ring true in the Maritimes with its large population of Scots and Irish, as could the iron-willed resilience of Janie McLeary, but both are rich fodder and credible in every way.

One of the interesting touches was the inclusion of Nova Scotian, Max Aitkin (“Lord Beaverbrook”), for no story about Nova Scotia for the time would be complete without him.

I am unimpressed by the both the Giller and the GG awards, but in this case I believe they are well placed. Five bees.

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Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 69548

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Frank Augustyn, OC, Canada’s ‘Principal’ Principal Dancer…

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If you would like to learn more about my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

Notice to all those who have requested a book reviewThank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

June 2, 2014 Posted by | Canadian content, Fiction, Historical period, non GBLT, Nova Scotia Setting, Twentieth century historical | Leave a comment

Real Good Man (Canadian Heroes #2) by Elise Whyles

You can’t win ‘em all…

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Click on the cover to purchase from Barnes & Noble

Click on the cover to purchase from Barnes & Noble

Story blurb: In Book 2 of the Canadian Heroes series you’ll discover love can grow in the most unlikely places. Set in the rugged beauty of Banff, two men will find romance. But will love be reason enough to let go of the past and their fears, or like winter snow on blades of grass, will self-doubt and suspicion destroy their passion?

Sean Tisman lives in fear of his father’s prejudice. When he’s stationed in Banff he’s determined to live life on his terms. When he meets his counterpart, Sean’s world is thrown into further upheaval.

Luke Marshall is a man licking his wounds. After a bad break with his ex, he’s relieved to be given his old post; that is until he meets the man of his dreams in the young game warden assigned to Banff. Can their love survive the secrets and danger that lie in wait for them?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I’m always ready to pick up anything with ‘Canadian’ in the title, and Real Good Man (Canadian Heroes #2)by Elise Whyles [Liquid Silver Books, February 17, 2013] had all the right words.

Set in the breathtakingly beautiful Banff region of northern Alberta, the story involves Luke, a jilted lover of a heartless cad who had the gall to bring his cuckold home to his lover’s house and bed.

Traumatized by this unexpected turn of events, Luke immerses himself in work with a determined not to make the same mistake again; to which we can all identify. However, as we all know equally well, fate has a way of challenging our resolve.

Enter Sean — of the perfect body and green eyes. He is escaping an abusive father who is just a little right of Attila the Hun, and for this purpose the wilderness of northern Alberta seems like the perfect solution.

However, here is where fate turns up the heat as well, for these two ‘wounded’ individuals are thrown together in a combination of need and lust.

The difficulty is that neither knows where the other stand—sexually speaking—and so they circle on another waiting for the other to make the first move. Needless to say, this creates a certain amount of frustration until in a minor explosion they both discover the other is gay, and that each is attracted to the other.

Nonetheless, things are ‘not happy ever after’ just yet. There are spectres from the past that must be dealt with, both literally and figuratively, before this can happen.

Review:-

Although she has several novels to her credit, this is the first work from this author I have read, and the impression I got is that it may have been rushed into publication. There is an ‘unfinished’ quality about it, not to mention some continuity issues. As one reviewer has already pointed out, in one sex scene the characters starts off by donning a condom, but results in sperm being smeared over the other character’s body. So what happened in between?

Then there is my old complaint about angst-driven gay stories. Yes, persecution has been very much part of the GBLT story, but it isn’t the whole story. Nonetheless, a good 80 – 90 percent of GBLT stories I read and review are angst-driven: ‘The great blight of sameness.’

Three bees.

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Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 69,223

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

 

It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Molly Lamb-Bobak, CM, ONB: Canada’s first Official Woman War Artist.

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If you would like to learn more about my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

 

Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

May 26, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Canadian content, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction | Leave a comment

Trails Plowed Under by Charles M. Russell

I am adding a new, all-time favourite to my list…

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trails plowed under - cover twoPublisher’s blurb: Excerpts from Introduction: I have many friends among cowmen and cowpunchers. I have always been what is called a good mixer I had friends when I had nothing else. My friends were not always within the law, but I haven’t said how law-abiding I was myself. I haven’t been too bad nor too good to get along with. Life has never been too serious with me I lived to play and I’m playing yet. Laughs and good judgment have saved me many a black eye, but I don’t laugh at other’s tears. I was a wild young man, but age has made me gentle. I drank, but never alone, and when I drank it was no secret. I am still friendly with drinking men…

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Although I have personally reviewed over two hundred fiction and non-fiction books, I admit I have my favourites. Blazing the Old Cattle Trail by Canadian Grant MacEwan; We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a cowpuncher  by E.C. “Teddy Blue” Abbott and Helena Huntington Smith; and Klondike Cattle Drive by Norman Lee are three that I can think of off-hand, but now I can add another: Trails Plowed Under by Charles Marion Russell [Bison Books, July 28, 1996.] with forward by Will Rogers.

'The West that's passed' "When the land belonged to God"

‘The West that’s passed’
“When the land belonged to God”

Most people know Charles Russell as an internationally acclaimed artist, illustrator and painter of “The West that’s passed,” (his own words), but fewer know that he was a gifted writer of tall tales as well. “Betwine the pen and the brush there is little diffornce but I belive the man that makes word pictures is the greater.” ~ Charles M. Russell letter to Ralph S. Kendall, November 26, 1919.

Like most great writers, Russell knew his material first-hand. He was born March 19, 1864, in St. Louis, Missouri, on the edge of the burgeoning western frontier. As a boy, he crafted his own expectations of the American West by filling his schoolbooks with drawings of cowboys and Indians. Shortly before turning 16, he arrived in Montana, where he spent eleven years working various ranching jobs. He sketched in his free time and soon gained a local reputation as an artist. His firsthand experience as a ranch hand.

trails plowed under - cm russell portraitCharlie Russell became the personification of the West itself. He wanted little to do with the present and nothing to do with the future, and chose to celebrate and romanticize only the traditions and virtues of the West as he envisioned it. He wanted it known that he had taken part in the Old West, and was a better man for it. Even as an internationally-known western artist, Russell cherished—far more than his skills—his friendships and his place as a peer among common people.

Although he produced over 4,000 works of art and 27 books to internation acclaim, with fame went modesty. Charles Russell often said that God had given him his talent, that nature provided the schooling, and that therefore he had no cause to boast about the results. The talent was undeniable. He could model figures out of beeswax or clay without looking at his hands. From memory, he could paint men and horses he had known decades before, in action and with features which old-timers could identify, And he could accurately record in writing the speech patterns of wranglers, nighthawks, and rawhides long since vanished.

Russell was not so good a writer as he was a painter, illustrator, or sculptor. But that undeniable fact should blind no one to the rich excellences of his short stories, semiautobiographical anecdotes, and essays. At their best, they have the twang and tang of Mark Twain, Bret Harte, and Will Rogers. The main virtues of Russell’s writings are the same as those which distinguish his best art work: authenticity, detail, suspense, and humor.

But rather than try to explain the rustic charm of his stories, here is an example from Trails Plowed Under:

Gift Horse

trails plowed under - 'gift horse'Charley Furiman tells me about a hoss he owns and if you’re able to stay on him he’ll take you to the end of the trail. The gent Charley got him from says he’s, “Gentle. He’s a pet.” (This man hates to part with him.) “He’s a lady’s hoss. You can catch him anywhere with a biscuit.

“Next day Charley finds out he’s a lady’s hoss, all right, but he don’t like men. Furiman ain’t a mile from his corral when he slips the pack. Charley crawls him again kinder careful and rides him sixty miles an’ he don’t turn a hair. Next day he saddles him he acts like he’s harmless but he’s looking for something. He’s out about ten mile. Charley notices he travels with one ear down. This ain’t a good sign, but Charley gets careless and about noon he comes to a dry creek bed where there’s lots of boulders. That’s what this cayuse is looking for ’cause right in the middle of the boulder-strewn flat is where he breaks in two and unloads. Charley tells me, “I don’t miss none of them boulders an’ where I light there’s nothing gives but different parts of me. For a while I wonder where I’m at and when things do clear up it comes to me right quick. I forgot to bring the biscuits. How am I going to catch him? If I had a Winchester, I’d catch him just over the eye.

“To make a long story short, I followed him back to the ranch afoot. Walking ain’t my strong holt an’ these boulder bumps don’t help me none. Next morning after a good night’s sleep, I feel better. Going out to the corral, I offer this cayuse a biscuit, thinkin’ I’ll start off friendly. He strikes at me and knocks my hat off. My pardner tries to square it by telling me I ain’t got the right kind. ‘That’s a lady’s hoss,’ says he, ‘and being a pet, he wants them little lady’s biscuits; it’s enough to make him sore, handing him them sour doughs.’

“While I’m getting my hat, I happen to think of a friend of mine that’s got married and I ain’t give him no wedding present. This friend of mine is a bronk rider named Con Price. So while my heart’s good, I saddle a gentle hoss and lead this man-hater over and presents him to Price with my best wishes. “I don’t meet Con till next fall on the beef roundup. He ain’t too friendly. Next morning when we’re roping hosses, he steps up to me and says, kinder low, holdin’ out his hand to shake, ‘Charley, I’m letting bygones be bygones, but if I get married again anywhere in your neighborhood, don’t give me no wedding presents. If you do you’ll get lots of flowers.”

For anyone who enjoys Western yarns, told be someone who experienced the West first hand, and can spin a yarn the way it was told, this collection is for you. Five bees.

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Some examples of Charlie Russell’s Paintings that appeal to me:

"When Law Dulls The Edge of Chance"

“When Law Dulls The Edge of Chance”

"Meats Not Meat Til It's In The Pan"

“Meats Not Meat Til It’s In The Pan”

"Bronc to Breakfast"

“Bronc to Breakfast”

"Wild Horse Hunters"

“Wild Horse Hunters”

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May 19, 2014 Posted by | Charles Marion Russell, Real Western Tales, Semi-biographical, Western Vernacular | Leave a comment

The Reluctant Berserker, by Alex Beecroft

Altogether, a masterful piece of fiction.

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reluctant berserker - coverStory blurb: Manhood is about more than who’s on top.

Wulfstan, a noble and fearsome Saxon warrior, has spent most of his life hiding the fact that he would love to be cherished by someone stronger than himself. Not some slight, beautiful nobody of a harper who pushes him up against a wall and kisses him.

In the aftermath, Wulfstan isn’t sure what he regrets most—that he only punched the churl in the face, or that he really wanted to give in.

Leofgar is determined to prove he’s as much of a man as any Saxon. But now he’s got a bigger problem than a bloody nose. The lord who’s given him shelter from the killing cold is eyeing him like a wolf eyes a wounded hare.

When Wulfstan accidentally kills a friend who is about to blurt his secret, he flees in panic and meets Leofgar, who is on the run from his lord’s lust. Together, pursued by a mother’s curse, they battle guilt, outlaws, and the powers of the underworld, armed only with music…and love that must overcome murderous shame to survive.

Warning: Contains accurate depictions of Vikings, Dark Ages magic, kickass musicians, trope subversions and men who don’t know their place.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I like the late Saxon era for the pivotal role it played between the old and new beliefs, both socially and religiously, and for the strong masculine values it harboured. However, I must say the title The Reluctant Berserker [Samhain Publishing, Ltd., February 25, 2014] threw me off at first. Nevertheless, the well-acclaimed reputation of Alex Beecroft as an historical fiction writer held my interest.

If there is one word that sums up both the writing and the plot, it is ‘balance.’ The writing is a balance between lean narrative and poetic description, and the plot is a balance between romance and adventure, as well as love and adversity. Even the language is a balance between modern and old English. i.e. ‘Scop’ meaning musician, and ‘Wycce’ meaning witch or witchcraft, etc.

Wufstan is a Anglo-Saxon soldier in the service of Lord Ecgbert, and as such he is expected to be the epitome of masculinity. However, Wufstan has a covert desire that he dare not reveal, and this is brought into conflict when Leofgar corners him for a passionate kiss. Uncertain how to react, he rebuffs Leofgar somewhat violently; nonetheless, the spark has been ignited.

Leofgar and his maser, Anna, are then exiled from the village to wander, and as winter approaches the beseech a rather lecherous lord to be allowed to occupy a place in his forest. It is here that the aging Anna dies, and when the lord comes to collect his ‘favour’ Leofgar flees.

Meanwhile, Wufstan unintentionally kills his best friend Cenred (who is about to reveal Wufstan’s secret), and consumed by guilt he leaves the village as well. Before he leaves, however, Cenred’s mother—a Wycce—curses him with one of her spells and then follows him to see it work.

Now that Wufstan and Leofgar are both outcasts, fate arranges a chance meeting of the two, and from that point on they give in to their feelings to fight the forces that would destroy them; both physically and as a couple.

“Better to accept fate joyfully than to fight it, for it will win no matter what we do.”

There is little that one could criticise about this story, for every minor shortcoming—like an overly convenient plot twist—was balanced by flawless writing and evocative settings. Altogether a masterful depiction of time and place. Four and one-half bees.

 

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 Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

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May 12, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

While England Sleeps, by David Leavitt

A historical novel that lives up to its name.

 

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while england sleeps - coverSet against the rise of fascism in 1930s Europe, While England Sleeps tells the story of a love affair between Brian Botsford, an upper-class young English writer, and Edward Phelan, an idealistic employee of the London Underground and member of the Communist Party. Though far better educated than Edward, Brian is also far more callow, convinced that his homosexuality is something he will outgrow. Edward, on the other hand, possesses “an unproblematic capacity to accept” both Brian and the unorthodox nature of their love for each other—until one day, at the urging of his wealthy aunt Constance, Brian agrees to be set up with a “suitable” young woman named Philippa Archibald . . . Pushed to the point of crisis, Edward flees, volunteering to fight Franco in Spain, where he ends up in prison. And Brian, feeling responsible for Edward’s plight, must pursue him across Europe, and into the chaos of war.

About the author: David Leavitt is a graduate of Yale University and a professor at the University of Florida, where he is the co-director of the creative writing program. He is also the editor of Subtropics magazine, The University of Florida’s literary review. 

Leavitt, who is openly gay, has frequently explored gay issues in his work. He divides his time between Florida and Tuscany, Italy.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I was looking for a good adventure story this week, and with luck While England Sleeps, by  David Leavitt [Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition, June 3, 2014] came into view.

The story is set in 1930s England, the years leading up to WWII, and features a young aristocrat (dilettante) named Brian Botsford, an amateur playwrite and narrator, and his opposite, Edward Phelan, an idealist and Marxist-labourer.

From this perspective, one might assume that this is a story about class—and it is to a certain extent, but it is also a story about different ideals and approaches to life.

Brian is in a word “spoiled,” with little ambition beyond floating on the surface with the largesse of an aunt. Edward, on the other hand, is self-educated and ambitious to ‘work his way up’ to a better life.

In fact, Brian is not a very likable person, an ‘anti-hero’ and purposely so. Now, from a writer’s point of view this is a risky proposition—to invite your audience to dislike your main character—but with an ounce of redemption Leavitt pulls it off quite admirably.

It all comes together when Edward makes an attempt to rescue friends from the growing storm in Europe, but to get into the part of the plot would definitely be a spoiler, and so I will leave it for the readers to discover.

One of the things I like about this story is the subtle way the author draws the reader into the tenor of the times. In spite of the fact that the dialogue tends to slip into a more modern vernacular from time to time, the reader is nonetheless persuaded that they are experiencing 1930s England or Europe, as the case may be.

Likewise, the mock prologue and epilogue add a sense of time and place, as well.

However, if you are the type that prefers a happy-ever-after ending, this might not be the story for you. Four and one-half bees.

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May 5, 2014 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period | Leave a comment

Island: The Complete Stories, by Alistair MacLeod

This review is in commemoration of Alistair MacLeod (July 20, 1936 – April 20, 2014), the “bard of Cape Breton,” whose voice has been silenced in life, but his meticulously crafted stories will live on as long as people enjoy outstanding literature.

 

Island - allistair mcleod

“The genius of his stories is to render his fictional world as timeless.” —Colm Tóibín

 

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island - coverA thumbnail synopsis:  The sixteen exquisitely crafted stories in Island prove Alistair MacLeod to be a master. Quietly, precisely, he has created a body of work that is among the greatest to appear in English in the last fifty years.

A book-besotted patriarch releases his only son from the obligations of the sea. A father provokes his young son to violence when he reluctantly sells the family horse. A passionate girl who grows up on a nearly deserted island turns into an ever-wistful woman when her one true love is felled by a logging accident. A dying young man listens to his grandmother play the old Gaelic songs on her ancient violin as they both fend off the inevitable. The events that propel MacLeod’s stories convince us of the importance of tradition, the beauty of the landscape, and the necessity of memory.

 

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Alistair MacLeod reciving the Order of Canada from Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean, 27th Governor General of Canada.

Alistair MacLeod reciving the Order of Canada from Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean, 27th Governor General of Canada.

About the author: When MacLeod was ten his family moved to a farm in Dunvegan, Inverness County on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. After completing high school, MacLeod attended teacher’s college in Truro and then taught school. He studied at St. Francis Xavier University between 1957 and 1960 and graduated with a BA and B.Ed. He then went on to receive his MA in 1961 from the University of New Brunswick and his PhD in 1968 from the University of Notre Dame. A specialist in British literature of the nineteenth century, MacLeod taught English for three years at Indiana University before accepting a post in 1969 at the University of Windsor as professor of English and creative writing. During the summer, his family resided in Cape Breton, where he spent part of his time “writing in a cliff-top cabin looking west towards Prince Edward Island.” ~ Wikipedia

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Review by Gerry Burnie

There are only two ways one can go with a review of Alistair MacLeod’s works, i.e. short or long. While not a prolific writer—his one novel, “No Great Mischief” is his only lengthy work—his sixteen short stories, ranging from 1968 to 1999, are nuggets of the writer’s craft. Brought together in a single collection with a simple, but oh-so-appropriate-name of Island: The Complete Stories [Emblem Editions, December 3, 2010] they represent his evolution from an academic style of writing—i.e. tight, and word-perfect—to a more open form without loosing any of the precision.

I think what stands out about Macleod’s stories is the indisputable fact that he understood his characters. The same thing applies to his beloved Cape Breton setting, which is a continuing theme in all his stories, and which both challenges and shapes the people who cling to it.

Nonetheless, set against this rugged background is a quiet sort of love (of both people and loyal animals) that prevails in spite of the challenges. Like the wife who keeps an anxious vigil for her overdue husband until the trees seem to take on human forms to move in her direction.

There are also tales of family, like the miner who laments that his sons will probably leave the island to pursue an easier life ‘down the road’, and of the pull of ancestry versus fading memories and evolving attitudes.

There is something for everyone in the collected works of Alistair MacLeod, but most of all it is a celebration of excellence in short story genre. Five bees.

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 Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

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April 28, 2014 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian Irish tradition, Fiction, non GBLT, Nova Scotia Setting | Leave a comment

The Forgotten Founders: Rethinking The History Of The Old West, by Stewart L. Udall (Author), David Emmons (Foreword)

“ The real story of the settlement of the West was work, not conquest” ~ Stewart Udall.

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forgotten founders - coverStory blurb: This book by distinguished author, Stewart Udall, takes on what he calls “the harmful myths about western U.S. history,” myths that put the wrong people (fur traders and gold miners) and the wrong subjects (“Manifest Destiny” and armed violence) at the center of the history of the Old West. With a lively and sometimes personal take, he wants us to replace old folk tales with “reality”-with the known stories of a greater diversity of men and women, natives and newcomers, who gave the West its distinctive character. Udall is particularly compelling when writing of his own and his wife’s great-grandparents, among whom was the Mormon who led the infamous Mountain Meadow Massacre of 1857. Unfortunately, this only tends to replace one set of “heroes” with another, “the forgotten founders” who take center stage here only as strong, religious, fearless, hard-working folk without shortcomings. The trappers, miners and politicians who did in fact play a role in the West are elbowed almost totally out of the picture. Nevertheless, Udall’s version of the West’s past fits well with recent scholarly views, and many who read this book because of its author’s renown will gain solid knowledge and much pleasure. Maps, photos. ~ Legends of America.

About the author: Stewart Lee Udall (January 31, 1920 – March 20, 2010)[1][2] was an American politician and later, a federal government official. After serving three terms as a congressman from Arizona, he served as Secretary of the Interior from 1961 to 1969, under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

His previous books include: The Quiet Crisis, 1963; 1976: Agenda for Tomorrow, 1968; America’s Natural Treasures: National Nature Monuments and Seashores, 1971; To the Inland Empire: Coronado and our Spanish Legacy, 1987; The Quiet Crisis and the Next Generation, 1988; In Coronado’s Footsteps, 1991; The Myths of August:–A Personal Exploration of Our tragic Cold War Affair with the Atom, 1994; Majestic Journey, 1995.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Although published in 2002, I chose Forgotten Founders: Rethinking the History of the Old West by Stewart Udall [Island Press; 1 edition, September 1, 2002] because it so closely parallels my own thinking regarding the settlement of both U.S.A. and Canada. Indeed, Udall could be speaking for me when he writes:

“A shortcoming of histories that concentrate on broad outlines of events is the absence of human faces and stories of ordinary folk that would reveal what animated individuals and families and indicate the experiences they had. Yet only by considering individual human experience can we begin to develop a sense of what these men and women faced and an idea of the magnitude of their achievements.” p. 37.

And again at page 135 where he quotes Thomas Jefferson, probably one of the great populists of all time, i.e.

“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country, and wedded to its liberty and interests, by the most lasting bonds.”

He also credits religion as being one of the founding forces, a point on which I have some misgivings, but nonetheless it cannot be denied that in the 19th century it formed the spiritual heart of most communities, and in many cases the vanguard as well.

Most particularly, however, Udall downplays such historical stereotypes as Lewis and Clark and the fur traders, as well as the 49ers as having little enduring impact on frontier development. He also downplays the importance of mining, ranching and other large-scale activities after the needs of the Civil War were met. Moreover, he is critical of the U.S. Military’s campaign to “pacifying” the Indians, pointing repeatedly to their unjust and callous treatment, as well as that of Chinese immigrants in the early history of the West. He also dismisses dime novel and Hollywood-created legends, such as “Butch” Cassidy and Billy the Kid, as “transitive outliers.”

Udall’s point is that we have replaced the true heroes of the West with straw men, the romanticized creations of pulp novels and Saturday-afternoon movies, and that this is what has prevailed to the detriment of those who might have benefited from emulating the pioneer work ethic.

All of this I agree with almost uncategorically. However, Udall’s thesis is not without its overreaching assumptions and journalistic hyperbole. For example, the 49ers may have been an influx of opportunists flocking to the most “hare-brained ventures” in history (132), but of these many stayed to homestead in California and elsewhere. Likewise, miners lured to the prosperous discoveries went on to establish towns and cities that exist today. Therefore, they too form part of the faceless heroes who collectively settled the West.

Nonetheless, it is one of those books that needs to be read to truly understand the ying and yang of North American settlement. Four bees.

*Available from Legends of America Bookstore for $6.47 (basic).

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April 20, 2014 Posted by | Academic study, American History, Non-fiction, non-GLBT | Leave a comment

Vivaldi in the Dark (Vivaldi in the Dark #1) by Matthew J. Metzger

A story that goes beyond its entertainment value as a young adult romance and coming out tale…

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vivaldi in the dark - coverStory blurb: Out-and-regretting-it comprehensive attendee Jayden Phillips turns his cast-iron plans for life upside-down by falling in love with private-school violinist Darren Peace, a sardonic boy with the craziest hair Jayden’s ever seen.

But all is not what it seems, and Jayden’s bullying problem becomes meaningless when he is confronted with what the music does to Darren. How do you stop a dangerous depression rooted in the same thing that makes someone what they are? Dark moods, blank apathy, and the undertow of self-loathing all simmer beneath Darren’s dry and beautiful veneer, and Jayden feels powerless to stop them.

Then a mugging gone wrong takes the music forcibly away, and Jayden is finally given the chance to change Darren’s life — and, quite literally, his mind.

About the aurthar: Matthew J. Metzger is an author of primarily gay romance novels, both adult and young adult. He is looking to branch out into mainstream fiction, other non-traditional sexualities, and fantasy.

Matthew had two novels published in 2013, and so far has three contracted for 2014 release. He doesn’t even want to think about 2015.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Although it has been longer than forever since I was a teenager, Vivaldi in the Dark (Vivaldi in the Dark #1) by Matthew J. Metzger [Queerteen Press, December 8, 2013] resurrected many memories of days gone by: the naïveté, the wonder, the uncertainty and the vulnerability, are all there, and the author has done a remarkably fine job of portraying them.

Jayden Phillips is a quiet sixteen-year-old, sort or out [I rather disagree with the story blurb that suggests he’s “Out-and-regretting-it,” because he’s only truly out to his girl friend “Charley], and although bullied at the school he attends, he has a fairly realistic grasp on life. Darren Pearce is roughly the same age, living the life his middle-class parents have set for him—including becoming a virtuoso violinist—but to cover his unhappiness he has developed an outer shell of cavalier artificiality.

However, along the lines of ‘opposites attract,’ each having negative and positive polarities, they meet and are immediately attracted to one another. Jayden is drawn to Darren’s swagger, and Darren is drawn to Jayden’s simple devotion. It is then that we start to see below the surface to discover that Darren is suffering from an undiagnosed form of depression. Nonetheless, Jayden’s devotion never waivers, and even though it is sometimes challenged by the ups-and-downs of depression and the ordinary vicissitudes of life and a relationships, together they persevere to a happy-for-now resolution.

The basic structure of the plot is somewhat formulaic—boy meets boy in a coming-out scenario with complications—but what raises this particular story above the ordinary is the author’s apparent insight and sensitive exploration of youth-oriented depression that frequently goes undiagnosed and untreated. Since this story is also oriented toward young adult readers, it should serve as a positive resource beyond its entertainment value. Four bees.

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April 14, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance, Young adult | Leave a comment

Well Traveled (Gideon and Jedediah #1) by Margaret Mills, Tedy Ward

Altogether, a very enjoyable story

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well traveled - coverStory blurb: Gideon Makepeace, a young man of twenty, knows who he is and what he likes: decency, men and women too, horse training, and fun… and in Livingston, Montana, in the lush autumn of 1895, he finds he likes a Lakota Sioux Indian better than he might ought to.

Jedediah Buffalo Bird is seriously wounded and seeking medical care, and Gideon helps Jed when some bigoted townsfolk might have done otherwise. Jed, who knows the wild far better than Gideon and feels indebted to him, agrees to repay him by being his guide to San Francisco.

Their trip takes them across thousands of wild miles, through the mountains men mine and the Indian reservations dotting the plains. Facing a majestic West, they learn from each other about white folks and Indians alike. Gideon’s interest in Jed is clear from the start, but will Jed give up the life he knows for a young, brash white man he has perhaps come to love? Or will he push Gideon away in favor of the peace of nature and the personal freedom of having nothing to lose?

About the author: Margaret Mills is a professional technical writer and editor; branching into narrative fiction seemed like a natural extension of the pleasure that writing has always been for her. A California resident, Maggie enjoys hiking in the nearby hills, reading, walking the dog on the beach, and writing with her co-author, Tedi Ward. Maggie met Tedi in a writers’ group, and their personalities mix almost as well as their characters’ do; they enjoy writing the kinds of stories they love to read.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I was in the mood for a male adventure story this week—for which there are suprising few—when this one came into view. Well Traveled (Gideon and Jedediah #1) co-authored by Margaret Mills and Tedy Ward [Dreamspinner Press, October 18, 2010], is a somewhat epic journey undertaken by two boys of different racial backgrounds in 1895.

Gideon Makepeace is white, twenty years old, working in Livington, Montana f