Gerry B's Book Reviews

Listening to Dust, by Brandon Shire

A thought provoking study of human nature –

Story Burb: Murder touched Stephen Dobbins when he was a young boy and left him living in a void of aching loneliness. A chance meeting with a young American chased away the fear that he would always be alone and brought him the prospect of a new existence.

Dustin Earl joined the military and escaped his small town Southern upbringing with the hope that he could give his mentally challenged brother a better life. But Dustin had never known real love, an honest hug, or a simple kiss. He considered his sexuality a weakness; a threat that had been used against those he cared about.

For eight months their relationship blossomed until Dustin suddenly returned home. He cherished Stephen, but felt his responsibilities to his brother outweighed his own chance at happiness.

Shattered, unable to function and unwilling to accept Dustin’s departure, Stephen flew three thousand miles to get Dustin back and rekindle what they had. But what he would learn when he got there… he could never have imagined.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Listening to Dust” by Brandon Shire [TPG Books, 2012] is not a book to tackle if you’re feeling depressed. It is both raw and uncompromising, and it is sure to evoke a gut response from most readers. Nevertheless, it is a thought provoking read and well worth the investment.

The story focuses on a chance meeting between two men with complex and troubled backgrounds, and who find solace in a similarly complex relationship. There is nothing particularly romantic about this affair, and yet it is entirely credible. Relationships do not run smooth, especially same-sex relationships when the public decides to get involved (directly or indirectly), and particularly if that public happens to be the closed minds of a backwater town.

Shire delves into all these aspects with an unrelenting frankness that defies political correctness, i.e. a “drunk” for a father, a “druggy” for a mother, and a “dummy” brother. Yet any other language would have seemed pale in context.

I liked the character development of Stephen and Dusty, and the unexpected twists in their tenuous relationship. On the other hand, I wasn’t quite convinced with Robbie’s character (his language, I think), and there were a few times when I got lost by the changing narration. But, otherwise this is a well-written exploration of human nature, both the good and the profane. Four bees.

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Visitors’ count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 26,652

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Two announcements regarding my upcoming novel

I announced last week that I would be publishing my new novel as a two-part series. This is because it was starting to get too long for today’s market. I am therefore in the process of rewriting Part 1 to make it a stand-alone story. This is going quite well, and I am roughly a third of the way into it. (Possible finish date – July).

The second announcement has to do with a new title. I have decided that Coming of Age on the Trail, while descriptive, is just too cumbersome. By and large, shorter titles have more impact, and so the new title will reflect this. I will announce it the final decision has been made.

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IntroducingLucas Porter, an exciting new, 21-year-old artist from Nova Scotia, Canada, presently studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

Lucas was recently featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Next” series, part of a high-profile project created by the CBC Radio 2 program In Concert in which promising young classical musicians reveal their artistry.

Click here to listen, and please pass it on.

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If you would like to learn more about any of 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.

       

 Thanks for dropping by! Your visits help promote the writers and books that appear here. 

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

To Wawa With Love, by Tom Douglas

My nomination (if I had one) for the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour –

Story blurb: When Tom Douglas’s father returned home after the Second World War, he was forced to move his family from Sault Ste. Marie north to Wawa, where he was the timekeeper at the Helen Mine. Although his parents were upset by the move, Tom was thrilled. In the forties, Wawa was still a wooden-sidewalked mud wallow of a mining town, and for a city kid, nothing could have been more exciting.

To Wawa with Love is a nostalgic collection of true stories about a time in northern Ontario that still exists only in the author’s imagination. These are light-hearted stories about a town teeming with colourful characters, like Doc MacTavish, Wawa’s veterinarian and part-time dentist; magical places, like the Lions Club Hall, where a quarter could buy a kid an afternoon at the movies; and comical adventures, like the rescue of Rocky Mitchell from the bottom of the school outhouse on a sub-zero January day.

These warm and humorous vignettes about the way life used to be will delight readers of all ages.

Available in paperback only – 156 pages

About the author: 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. He has also worked with The Canadian Press and served as the publisher/owner of a weekly newspaper in Australia.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have long admired Tom Douglas for his writings on the topic of Canadian military history [see my review of Valour at Vimy Ridge: Canadian Heroes of World War I], but I do believe To Wawa With Love, [Lorimer Press, 2012]—a charming, witty and hilarious collection of intimate tales—has to be my favourite for the following reasons:

Apart from the socio-economic impact of the returning troops, and the sudden demand for post-war housing, etc. (mundane topics devoid of any real colour or humanity) there are very few portraits of the men (and women) themselves, or of their families.[1] In this short memoir, Tom Douglas has done his bit to address the oversight, stating: “I have set down these few memories about that time and place in an effort to prevent it all from slipping away, without a trace down a sinkhole of history.” p.8

And what did the families think? Well, in young Thomas Douglas’ case—pumped on gangster movies etc, and not having seen his father in five years—he was convinced he was a murderer who had somehow beguiled his mother and was about to murder them all—except that young Thomas was ‘on to him,’ and ready to spring into action at any given moment.

Mind you, his younger brother Greg had no problem adjusting, but as the author points out, “My brother Greg sold out for a pair of white boots. He always did come cheap.

There was a slight pause in the pending drama to accommodate the adventure of moving to “Sinterville,” a company dormitory community near Wawa, Ontario. It was little more than a huddle of temporary housing set in close proximity to the mine, where:

The lung-searing sulphur fumes rolled in on the wind. Those who dared venture out of their clapboard shelters tied handkerchiefs over their mouths to prevent a fit of gagging and choking. Tears streaming down their cheeks, the hapless victims of this latest gas attack dashed from one spot to another, hurrying to do whatever had to be done.

“As the sun came up, vaporizing the puddles of overnight rain, the sulphurous air turned steamy and dank, inviting another onslaught of blackflies and mosquitoes that left everyone in their murderous path covered in bleeding sores.

“If the supply train had managed to get through that morning, chances were that the bread was mouldy and the milk sour from sitting in an unrefrigerated boxcar while the crew strained to remove a rock-slide or fallen tree from the railway tracks that provided the lifeline from the civilized south.”

And yet, to young Thomas it was an adventure where he would hone his bargaining skills by talking the local merchant into a 100% increase in his weekly wage (from $1 to $2.00); become a singing sensation at the Christmas concerts; be a white knight for his younger brother (even if he did have to bite the bully’s finger to get the upper “hand,” so to speak); and rescue one of his classmates from the depths of an outhouse hole, e.g.

You’ll never know what being really miserable is until you’ve had to sit in an unheated outhouse in forty-below weather. And I’m talking Fahrenheit, where water freezes at thirty-two degrees about the zero mark.”p.49

I was seated at my desk, staring out my window at the whirling snow and mentally mushing my huskies to the nearest outpost with a bottle of lifesaving medicine in a leather pouch slung over my shoulder. Suddenly, I became aware of Miss Grexton standing there with a slight smile on her face, waiting for my reply.

““I was asking you, my little daydreamer, if you’d mind going to see what’s keeping Rocky,” she repeated. “He’s been gone an awfully long time.”

“After a hazardous five-hour trek, that in reality lasted about thirty seconds, I reached the outpost, having had to shoot and eat all of my sled dogs along the way. Well, okay, I actually polished off the remains of a peanut butter sandwich I’d found in my pocket. I scrabbled the wooden door of the outhouse open with ice-numbed fingers and peered inside the unlit cubical. Where Rocky should have been sitting in frigid misery, there were two empty “thrones.” Too young to realize there was something amiss, I let the spring-loaded door slam back into place and turned to run back to the warmth of the classroom with the news that Rocky wasn’t where he was supposed to be.

“Lucky for him, the perpetually howling wind died down just then, and I heard a faint, eerie call for help from inside the ice palace. Prying  open the door once again, I tentatively called out, “Rocky?” and almost ran for cover when I was answered by a disembodied voice wailing, “Down here!””p.54

“Only in Sinterville,” you say, well there’s even more to read for your amusement and edification in To Wawa With Love.” Do get yourself a copy. You’ll be glad you did. Five bees.

Note: For more colourful Canadian history, go to my reviews at: https://gerrycan.wordpress.com/?s=amazing+stories, or http://www.lorimer.ca/adults/#

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 26,188

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An announcement regarding  Coming of Age on the Trail.

I’ve never thought of myself as being particularly ‘verbose’, but the more I work the new novel, Coming of Age on the Trail, it keeps getting longer. It is now up to 115,248 words, and growing, and so I have decided to publish it as a two-part series.

This is in keeping with the advice that a novel–especially in the western genre–should ideally be in the 90,000-word range. Personally, I don’t know how valid this is [perhaps someone could tell me] but it does make sense in this abbreviated world, where everything is in “tweet” size. Therefore, Part One should be out this summer, and Part Two should follow in the fall (ideally for the Christmas Market.

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Introducing a new author and her new Novel.

Altered-Revelations, by Shawnda Falls-Currie is new on the Kindle market.

Story Blurb: Abandoned by her family, Lacey is sent to a juvenile detention center known as Clear Waters. Her teen years don’t look promising until she is befriended by a mysterious stranger named Taylor, a gorgeous guy whose captivating eyes seem to stare into her soul. Convinced she is in danger at Clear Waters, Lacey joins Taylor in a daring escape. As she meets Taylor’s group of friends, she discovers that they’re more than they seem – they’ve been sent from the future to head off an evil corporate plot that will lead to a world war unless averted. With Lacey as their only hope to prevent a grim future, Taylor shows Lacey how to tap into her psychic abilities known in his time as evolved humans. Travelling with her new friends, she discovers the magic of love while she grows into the powerful warrior chosen to make the difference to the world.

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If you would like to learn more about any of 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.

        

 Thank you for dropping by! Your participation is appreciated.

    

 


[1] I have long complained about this aspect of Canadian recorded history, for it leaves the impression that Canada has no history worth bothering with.

May 20, 2012 Posted by | biography, Canadian biography, Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Non-fiction, non-GLBT | Leave a comment

Dreaming of the Dead: Personal Stories of Comfort and Hope, by Marilou Trask-Curtain

Despite its name, Dreaming of the Dead by Marilou Trask-Curtain [Llewellyn Publications, 2012] is a warm and embracing biography, very nearly a ‘love story’ in nature –

Story blurb: From the age of three, when a near-death experience brought an angel’s healing touch, Marilou Trask-Curtin has been able to communicate with spirits, primarily in unusually vivid and realistic dreams. Over the years she has interacted with the ghostly forms of several spirits and experienced dream visitations from many others such as her first true love, her beloved grandfather, and even British actor Jeremy Brett, with whom she’d grown close through years of correspondence.

Marilou touchingly recounts her visitations with spirits who have come to offer advice, reassurance, or to let her know they have died or are about to pass on. This includes her companion animals who return to show they’re as full of health and joy as their human counterparts in spirit. The author also tells of dream visits from historical “mentor” figures such as Samuel L. Clemens and Harriet Beecher Stowe, as well as many others.

Dreaming of the Dead will take you on a compelling and beautifully comforting journey—with a glimpse of what awaits us on the other side of life’s doorway.

Book design by Donna Burch

Available in e-book format – 1323 KB

About the author: Marilou Trask-Curtin (Oneonta, NY) is an author, playwright and screenwriter. Marilou and her husband still live in her childhood home where many of her spirit encounters occurred—and still do to this day.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have had only one time-of-death encounter, when my little dog came to me at the time of her death by a road accident, but I can swear that it was very real. So much so that I could feel her lick my hand as usual when she came to my bed. Beyond that I cannot comment on the phenomenon one way or another. What I can do, however, is to cite Ms Trask-Curtain’s biographical work as an engrossing and even inspirational story.

Conscious that paranormal visitations are not common to most people, she devotes the first couple of chapters to defining the difference between ordinary dreams and visitations.

Perhaps the dead choose to come in dreams because that is when our defenses are at their lowest ebb or do not exist at all. We are more vulnerable when we are deeply sleeping, and that creates a portal through which all manner of dreamtime communications can occur.

This also explains the ability to remember these encounters with remarkable detail—sights, sounds, smells, emotions and touch.

Of equal descriptive detail are the vivid portraits she creates of her beloved grandparents, Edward and Myrtle McNally; her “first true love”, Butch; and of her soul mate, the British actor Jeremy Brett, etc. In fact, using Ms Trask-Curtain’s descriptions I am sure I could pick these individuals out in a crowded room. Moreover, for many of us they evoke memories of our own grandparents, parents and friends.

Another aspect that stood out for me was that, although certainly poignant at times, her various encounters were positive (except for one crone), and the subjects all seemed to be quite content with their lot. I think this should be comforting for anyone thinking about their departed loved ones.

Altogether this is a fascinating read, superbly written and totally engaging. Highly recommended. Five bees.

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Addendum

Dream Journeys: As an aside, I was struck by the similarities between Ms Trask-Curtain’s “dream journey” experiences and the beliefs of the Dene Thaˊ First Nations peoples of the Pacific Northwest. According to anthropologist Jean-Guy Goulet, the Dene Thaˊ all believe (‘know’) that dreams are journeys of the soul in which it communicates with inhabitants of the “other land” and/or sees things unfolding in our land. Indeed, there are many accounts of visits by relatives to their deceased in the other land.

Two Spirit Connection: Following death, individuals seek a woman’s womb to be born again. This view is central to the Dene apprehension of themselves. Although the reborn child is addressed in his/her previous kinship terms and is teased with reminiscences of past lives, (s)he is expected to behave and lead the life of her/his present sex. That means to eventually marry with an opposite-sex partner and have children. In a rare case when a reincarnate wanted to retain his perceived previous (female) sex, social pressure was applied to trigger his transformation into a heterosexual male with a complete personal identity

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 25,774

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Introducing the characters, settings etc., from my forthcoming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail.

Yamanhdeya is the traditional Great Spirit of the Dene Thaˊ. They have also adopted the Christian god, whom they call Ndatwotá, but he is a secondary entity in their hierarchy.

Yamanhdeya made it possible for humans to inhabit the earth by killing off the monsters that devoured them, and in my story he rules over both the animals the land—especially in British Columbia—and all other gods (such as Apollo) must acknowledge him if they enter his territory.

He dwells in the “other land” (paradise), which lies on the other side of the “crossing over place,” and when it is time to cross over Yamanhdeya sends a message to that individual via a Sasquatch.

Admittedly, it is a blending of Native beliefs, but otherwise is quite authentic.

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An exciting new, 21-year-old artist from Nova Scotia, Canada, presently studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

Lucas was recently featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Next” series, part of a high-profile project created by the CBC Radio 2 program In Concert in which promising young classical musicians reveal their artistry.

Click here to listen, and please pass it on.

 ♥♥♥

If you would like to learn more about any of 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.

       

Thanks for dropping by! This is the ‘little blog’ that grew with your help. Please drop in often.

May 13, 2012 Posted by | Non-fiction, non-GLBT | Leave a comment

On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch, by Shelter Somerset

A classic-style western that touches all the right bases –

Story Blurb: It’s 1886, and Chicago is booming, but for nineteen-year-old Torsten Pilkvist, American-born son of Swedish immigrants, it’s not big enough. After tragically losing a rare love, Tory immerses himself in the pages of a Wild West mail-order bride magazine, where he stumbles on the advertisement of frontiersman and Civil War veteran Franklin Ausmus. Torsten and Franklin begin an innocent correspondence—or as innocent as it can be, considering Torsten keeps his true gender hidden. But when his parents discover the letters, Tory is forced out on his own. With nowhere else to go, he boards a train for the Black Hills and Franklin’s homestead, Moonlight Gulch.

Franklin figures Tory for a drifter, but he’s lonely after ten years of living in the backcountry alone, and his “girl” in Chicago has mysteriously stopped writing, so he hires Tory on as his ranch hand. Franklin and Tory grow closer while defending the land from outlaws who want the untapped gold in Franklin’s creek, but then Franklin learns Tory’s true identity and banishes Tory from his sight. Will their lives be forever tattered, or will Torsten—overhearing a desperate last-ditch scheme to snatch Franklin’s gold—be able to save Moonlight Gulch and his final shot at love?

Front cover design by Mara KcKennen

Available in e-book format – 1024 KB

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Review by Gerry Burnie
I’m a great fan of classic western tales, especially if they are accurately portrayed regarding setting and lifestyle, and in my opinion On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch, by Shelter Somerset [Dreamspinner Press, 2012] touches most of the  right bases.

The story is about a lonely, tenderfoot Easterner, Torsten Pilkvist [I love the names], who naively starts a lovelorn correspondence, as a woman, with an equally lonely rancher, Franklin Ausmus, and when Torsten is forced to leave home he impetuously makes his way west to find him.

As improbable as this may seem, it nonetheless works because Somerset has done a superb job of bringing the loneliness of these two characters to life, and since we’ve all “been there,” so to speak, it is easy for us to empathize with them—i.e. the litmus test of a good writer.

Thinking Torsten is a drifter, Ausmus takes him on as a ranch hand, but Thorsten chickens out on telling Frank he is the ‘gal’ he has been writing to—setting up a conflict of significant proportions later on.

Of course, no good western would be complete without villains, and there are a whole cast of them in this story. The ring leader is a French Canadian by the name of Henri Bilodeaux who, along with others, covets the gold that still remains on Ausmus’ property.

What I liked

The writing is solid from start to finish, and the descriptions are not only vivid but also informative at times. Somerset has done his research well, and it shows.

For the most part the characterization is also done well. The good guys are principled but ‘human,’ which makes them all the more credible, and the bad guys are definitely bad. The author has also given Torsten a reasonable period of adjustment to fit into the role of ranch hand, rather than thrusting him into it as many writers do.

The other supporting characters, Wicasha the Indian and Madame Lafourchette, are a bit formulaic but nonetheless charming—almost de rigueur in a classic-style western of this sort.

Altogether, this is a delightful read for all those who like their westerns ‘classic.’ Four solid bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 25,328

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Introducing the characters, settings etc., from my forthcoming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail.

It might seem odd for a western-themed story to have a mythological element to it, but in addition to the appearance of the Sasquatch, it also has an underlying role for the Greek God Apollo, god of light and the sun, truth and prophecy, healing, plague, music, poetry, and more.

His involvement comes by way of a prophecy given to two young lovers who died with the legendary, Sacred Band of Thebes at Chaeronae, in 338 B.C. It seems their spirits somehow became separated, but in the prophecy Apollo has promised to guide them back together “for all eternity.”

      • Your devoted love will span the millennia,
      • Though cast apart in unknown lands,
      • Yet will Apollo guide your steps across time
      • Until you be united again for all eternity.
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If you would like to learn more about any of 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.

       

Thanks for dropping by! Your participation is what I work for.    

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

   

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