Gerry B's Book Reviews

Grass Beyond the Mountains: Discovering the Last Great Cattle Frontier on the North American Continent, by Richmond P. Hobson, Jr.

A true Canadian story that proves once and for all time that Canada has a history  equal to any in the world for colour, drama and interest.

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grass - coverStory blurb: Three cowhands with a dream of owning a cattle ranch make a heroic pioneer trek across uncharted mountain ranges to open up the frontier grasslands in northern British Columbia during the early 1930s.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Considering that my next novel is partially set in the same district of British Columbia as Grass Beyond the Mountains: Discovering the Last Great Cattle Frontier on the North American Continent, by Richmond P. Hobson Jr. [McClelland & Stewart, 1978], I can hardly believe I hadn’t  found it until now.

In my own story (based on an actual cattle drive from Hanceville, B.C. to Teslin, Yukon, in 1898), one of the things I worried about was that people wouldn’t believe 10-foot snowfalls—on the flat—and surviving minus-forty degree temperatures, but those are really rather tame compared to what Hobson and his partner endured in real life.

The first thing to emphasize about this story is that it is true pioneer history–with allowances for the cowboy’s tendency to exaggerate–made at a time when there was still room for a man to shape his destiny with courage, hard work and determination. That is to say, it probably wouldn’t be possible today, given all the emasculating government rules and regulations. For one thing, you’d probably need a building permit to build a simple shelter.

In addition, adventurers like Hobson, Stanley Blum, and ‘Panhandle’ Phillips, are harder to find these days, as is their ability to withstand hardship—the rougher the better. As they say, “They just don’t make them like they used to.”

grass - chilcotin2The basic tale is about Hobson and Panhandle setting out from Wyoming to the wilds of British Columbia to find a goldmine in “Free grass reachin’ north into unknown country. Land— lots of it— untouched— just waitin’ for hungry cows, and some buckaroos that can ride and have guts enough to put her over.”

So with little more than that, they head for Canada in  an obsolete panel delivery Ford, distinguished by large printed letters across its body, “BOLOGNA— BLOATERS— BLOOD SAUSAGES.”

Across the border they followed the “Old Cariboo Trail’ (the ‘ Trail of  ’98’), which:

Wound its way for more than a hundred miles along the face of a cliff, with the Fraser River twisting like a tiny thread through the rocky gorge a thousand feet below. In places small slides blocked the highway, and we shovelled enough rock out of the way to carry on. Once a driver, whom we nearly pushed over the bank, found it necessary to back up a hundred yards to a place in the road where we could squeeze by him. We thanked him.

grass - black wolf2“That’s all right,” he said, “but watch it ahead— the road narrows up.”

That was merely the beginning!

Following that they endured frost bitten feet; warded off giant, killer black wolves circling the camp; survived when the waters under the frozen ice sucked them and their cattle and horses down into the freezing deep hole; stared a Grizzly down; and gambled the horses and cattle could make it across ice encrusted snow 20-feet deep below.

It should also be added that there are no offensive bits to navigate, and so it is appropriate for children—in fact I encourage you to share the history with them. Let them know that Canada has a history equal of any in the world in colour and drama. Five (solid) bees.

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Visitor’s count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 45,653

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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! I’m very excited about this week’s find, and I hope you enjoy it too.

February 25, 2013 Posted by | biography, British Columbia history, Canadian biography, Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Historical period, Homesteading in Canada, Non-fiction, non-GLBT | 4 Comments

Gives Light (Gives Light #1), by Rose Christo

“Sweet.” “Inspirational,” “Heart-warming,” “Thoroughly enjoyable” –

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gives light - coverStory blurb: Sixteen-year-old Skylar is witty, empathetic, sensitive–and mute. Skylar hasn’t uttered a single word since his mother died eleven years ago, a senseless tragedy he’s grateful he doesn’t have to talk about.

When Skylar’s father mysteriously vanishes one summer afternoon, Skylar is placed in the temporary custody of his only remaining relative, an estranged grandmother living on an Indian reservation in the middle of arid Arizona.

Adapting to a brand new culture is the least of Skylar’s qualms. Because Skylar’s mother did not die a peaceful death. Skylar’s mother was murdered eleven years ago on the Nettlebush Reserve. And her murderer left behind a son.

And he is like nothing Skylar has ever known.

Available in e-book format – 372 KB

About the author: “I am Plains Cree and Lenni Lenape. My best friend is Shoshone-Bannock. I mostly blog about the crap going on in Indian Country today. We may not be on your local news network, but trust me, there’s a LOT going on in Indian Country today. Some of which you’d probably be shocked to learn.

My grandpa was Saline Shoshone. He was the coolest old guy you’d ever meet. That’s probably why the kids in Gives Light are all Shoshone, too.

Few things bother me more than racism. If somebody tells you “Please stop mocking / stereotyping / inaccurately portraying my culture, it really hurts my feelings,” but you’re more concerned about your freedom of expression, then guess what? You’re a racist.

Right now I am writing a story called The Place Where They Cried. After this I’m going to write another contemporary YA story. No title yet but I’ve got the outline.

Munito sakehewawinewe—“God is Love.”

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I am always on the lookout for unique stories,  or at least stories that have a unique aspect to them, so when I read the intriguing blurb to Gives Light (Gives Light Series#1)  by Rose Christo [self-published by Rose Christo, July 2012], I knew I was onto something quite unique.

Gives Light is the first of a trilogy by that name, and although I haven’t read the other two editions, I think it might be best to start the series with this particular volume. It is described as containing 353 pages (estimated) but when the spaces are deducted—between the block-style paragraphs—it is probably half that number.

If a story can be summed up in one word, then the word that applies to this story is “sweet.” There is not a lot of tension or angst, and even the sexual content is limited to kissing and a bit of petting, so unless the standard is particularly puritanical it would be quite appropriate for young adults.

The story is told from the point of view of Skylar St. Clair, a 16 y.o. Shoshone Native who has been mute since his throat was slashed during the murder of his mother some five years previous. From that time he had been living with his father until his father mysteriously disappears as well.

He is then put into the custody of his estranged grandmother who resides on the Nettlebush Reserve, and from then on it is the story of adjusting to reservation life; including learning the traditions, and getting to know its cast of characters.

For the most part these are all quite charming, typical teenagers, who readily welcome Skylar into their midst; all except for the enigmatic Rafael, son of murderer who slay Skylar’s mother.  Yet, the two of them are gradually drawn together by both their commonalities and differences, and when they do finally unite it is like a blossom that blooms in the shadow of the forest; pure and fragile.

I found very few quibbles to mention: The writing is strong; the characters engaging; and both the plot and pace kept me involved. However, there were a few minor disparities that left me wondering. For example, it was never really explained how Annie Little Hawk learned to sign. ASL training is not universally available, and I would think less so on a remote reservation. Moreover, I occasionally thought Skylar’s language was a bit sophisticated for his background. One phrase that comes to mind is, “…Regardless of his administrations.” Grammatically it is quite correct, but not the sort of language a 16 y.o. would be likely to use.

I have already used the term “sweet,’ and now I’ll also add the terms “inspirational,” “heart-warming,” and “thoroughly enjoyable.” Four and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Review – 45, 272

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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.

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Note: Because of Amazon’s practice of arbitrarily deleting customers’ reviews from its catalogue, Gerry B’s Book Reviews does not post its reviews to Amazon.com or Amazon.ca. Instead, I post to Barnes and Noble and Goodreads.com.

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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! I look forward to seeing you next week.

February 18, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Native American, Gay romance | 2 Comments

Greenwode by J Tullos Hennig

A gutsy twist on a major classic that works –

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Greenwode - coverWhen an old druid foresees this harbinger of chaos, he also sees whom it will claim: young Rob of Loxley. Rob’s mother and father, a yeoman forester and a wisewoman, have raised Rob and his sister, Marion, under a solemn duty: to take their parents’ places in the Old Religion as the manifestations of the Horned Lord and the Lady Huntress.

But when Gamelyn Boundys, son of a powerful nobleman, is injured in the forest, he and Rob begin a friendship that challenges both duty and ideology: Gamelyn is a devout follower of the Catholic Church. Rob understands the divide between peasant and noble all too well. And the old druid has foreseen that Gamelyn is destined to be Rob’s sworn enemy—to fight in a blood sacrifice for the greenwode’s Maiden.

In a risky bid for happiness, Rob dares the Horned Lord to reinterpret the ancient rites—to allow Rob to take Gamelyn as a lover instead of a rival. But in the eyes of Gamelyn’s church, lust is a sin—and sodomy is unthinkable.

Cover art by Shobana Appavu

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Review by Gerry Burnie

greenwode - druidsTo me 12th-century England was a fascinating time, filled with knights, squires, wizards, and wonderfully mystical religions, all functioning in and around vast, primeval forests where Druids practiced their ancient rites. Of these, the Greenwode, by J Tullos Hennig [Dreamspinner Press, January 18, 2013] is probably best known, i.e. all one has to do is add Rob of Loxley (or “Robin Hood”) to comprehend why.

As such, it is somewhat difficult to categorize this genre. It is mostly fantasy/fiction I suppose, since Robin Hood has never been proven, but otherwise it might be alternative history. Certainly Greenwood Forest and Druids existed, as did priories, convents, and the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church.

The problem I have with previous versions of Robin Hood, mostly created by Hollywood, is their ‘prettification’ of 12th-century England, with turreted castles (15th-century or later), impeccable clothes, and as one Hollywood Robin Hood put it, “Unlike other Robin Hoods, I speak with an English accent,”[1]—albeit, a modern one.

Fortunately, this author has captured a good part of the dark and primitive atmosphere, which was circa-Crusade England, as well as the mix of old and new religions that existed at the time, and this scores well with me. After all, a period novel should be first and foremost true to the period.

I also like the plot, once again because it is consistent with the period. Rob is the son of a respected (yeoman) forester, but at the same time he is more than that. He is, in fact, a ‘crown prince” in the Druid religion—a future manifestation of the ‘Horned God.’

Gamelyn, his unlikely love interest, is the minor son of an earl, and a hidebound Catholic, but it is Rob’s simple nobility that eventually evens the playing field between them. Moreover, it is Rob who has the courage to question the horned god’s interpretation of the future.

This is a gutsy twist on a major classic that works. Not only that, but because of the realism, I believe it a step forward. A special mention as well for the absolutely stunning cover art. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 44,925

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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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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. 


[1] “Robin Hood, Men in Tights.”

February 11, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

A Heart Divided, by J.M. Snyder

A true romance with an authentic core –

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a heart divided - coverStory blurb: Confederate Lieutenant Anderson Blanks has grown weary of the War Between the States. He is all too aware of the tenuous thread that ties him to this earth—as he writes a letter home to his sister, he realizes he may be among the dead by the time she receives the missive. His melancholy mood is shared by other soldiers in the campsite; in the cool Virginia night, the pickets claim to hear ghosts in the woods, and their own talk spooks them.

Andy knows the “ghost” is nothing more than a wounded soldier left on the battlefield, dying in the darkness. With compassion, Andy takes the picket’s lantern and canteen in the hopes of easing the soldier’s pain. After a tense confrontation with the soldier, Andy is shocked to discover none other than Samuel Talley, a young man Andy’s father had chased from their plantation when the romantic relationship between the two boys came to light. The last time the two had seen each other, Sam had been heading west to seek his fortune, and had promised to send for Andy when he could.

Then the war broke out, and Andy had enlisted in the Confederate Army to help ease the financial burden at home. Apparently Sam had similar ideas—he now wears the blue coat of a Union solider.

Sam is severely wounded and infection has begun to set in. Andy can’t sneak him into his own camp for treatment because all Union soldiers are taken prisoner. But Andy’s Confederate uniform prevents him from seeking help from the nearby Union camp, as well. It’s up to Andy to tend his lover’s wound and get Sam the help he needs before it’s too late…and before Andy’s compatriots discover Sam’s presence…

About the author: An author of gay erotic/romantic fiction, J.M. Snyder began in self-publishing and worked with Amber Allure, Aspen Mountain, eXcessica, and Torquere Presses.

Snyder’s highly erotic short gay fiction has been published online at Amazon Shorts, Eros Monthly, Ruthie’s Club, and Tit-Elation, as well as in anthologies by Alyson Books, Aspen Mountain, Cleis Press, eXcessica Publishing, Lethe Press, and Ravenous Romance.

In 2010, Snyder founded JMS Books LLC, a royalty-paying queer small press that publishes in both electronic and print format. For more information on newest releases and submission guidelines, please visit JMS Books LLC online.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

One of my favourite genre settings is the American Civil War. In reality it was a brutal conflict with unimaginable bloodshed and death, but it also had a strong element of gallantry and romance as represented by the young men, the ‘flower of manhood,’ who participated in it because of principles they were willing to die for. This is the sense I found in J.M. Synder’s period novel A Heart Divided [CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, July 27, 2011].

The story begins in March, 1865,just  one month before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9th, 1865, and at the opening we find Confederate Lieutenant Anderson Blanks writing to his sister with the pathetic notion that he could well be de dead by the time she receives his letter. It is a powerful opening, and true, for death was always just one breath away in this conflict.

Snyder also does quite a fine job of capturing the tense environment of the encampment, frequently in sight of the enemies picket fires, and surrounded by the yet-to-be-retrieved wounded and dead. His men fear the voices of ghosts when they hear an enemy soldier crying out for water, but Blanks recognizes it as such and takes a lantern and a canteen in search of him.

This scenario struck a familiar chord, for I remembered reading about Sergeant Richard Rowland Kirkland, the so-called “Angel of Marye’s Heights,” and his heroic deeds.

a heart divided - richard kirland paintingThe story goes that on hearing the cries of wounded Union soldiers: “Kirkland gathered all the canteens he could carry, filled them with water, then ventured out onto the battlefield. He ventured back and forth several times, giving the wounded Union soldiers water, warm clothing, and blankets. Soldiers from both the Union and Confederate armies watched as he performed his task, but no one fired a shot. General [Joseph B.] Kershaw later stated that he observed Kirkland for more than an hour and a half. At first, it was thought that the Union would open fire, which would result in the Confederacy returning fire, resulting in Kirkland being caught in a crossfire. However, within a very short time, it became obvious to both sides as to what Kirkland was doing, and according to Kershaw cries for water erupted all over the battlefield from wounded soldiers. Kirkland did not stop until he had helped every wounded soldier (Confederate and Federal) on the Confederate end of the battlefield. Sergeant Kirkland’s actions remain a legend in Fredericksburg to this day.” Wikipedia.

Whether or not Snyder was aware of this story is immaterial. What is relevant is that it makes a most powerful device by which to reunite Blanks with his tragically lost love, Samuel Talley.

The rest of the story pits the two of them against the ideological divisions of “north” and “south,” and the severity of Samuel’s wound. I won’t elaborate beyond saying that the tension is balanced with romance, and the writing is strong.

My quibbles are almost too trivial to mention, but at times I felt the coincidences were just a bit convenient.

Altogether, it is a true romance with an authentic core. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 44,529

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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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Sometimes a single letter can make all the difference. That’s how I felt when this missive arrived:

Dear Mr. Burnie,

After I finished Two Irish Lads I immediately ordered Journey to the Big Sky.  Both books are fantastic… I’ve just found another favorite author.  Thanks so much for such fantastic reading.  Your words make the characters come alive and become someone we care about, and to me that is what makes a great author.   Thanks ever so much for you dedication to these books, their research, etc.  However and FWIW, I really was disappointed in the cover of Big Sky though – IMO Sheldon doesn’t have the looks that your Sheldon has to command the attention, etc..  But I did thoroughly enjoy both books; now the big question… when can I get Coming of Age, I can’t find it available anywhere?  Also, I really appreciate the fact that you’re making them available in e-books.  Thanks ever so much again.

Best,
Rock H

Definitely inspirational … And humbling.

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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 are inspirational and humbling as well. See you next week

February 4, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

   

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