Gerry B's Book Reviews

Adagio, by Chris Owen

A heart warming romance in the classic style …

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adagio - coverStory blurb: Love Is What Happens When You’re Making Other Plans…

Five years after arriving in Australia, Jason Stuart is finally embarking on the dream that brought him Down Under: going on “walkabout” in the Australian Outback. But Jason is not that fresh-faced and untried boy from Canada anymore. Jason is a man with half a decade of bad memories and worse nightmares. His friends think he’s crazy, or possibly just plain stupid, but Jason needs to make his dream real in order to face his past.

Everything changes when Jason picks up an unexpected travel companion. Suddenly, it’s not his past that Jason needs to confront, it’s his future.

Part coming-of-age tale, part romance, part travel yarn, Adagio paints a heart warming picture of a fledgling relationship between two very different men against the lush backdrop of Australia’s natural wonders.

About the author: I live and write in eastern Canada, where the winds blow cool and calm on the good days, wicked and fast on the bad. There’s rain and sun, and in the winter there’s snow… a lot of snow. A nice fire to keep warm, a nice pen with good flow, and a decent notebook are all that I really require. Which is not to say that the MacBook Air isn’t the best thing eve.. I went to a bunch of schools, learned a lot of things, and now make stuff up because not to do so is unthinkable.

I’m inspired by the day to day minutia of life, and find beauty in the way words go together. I like texture and richness of experience. I’m not shy. I’m happy, I’m learning, I’m living.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

In my choice of Adagio by Chris Owen [Casperian Books LLC, September 21, 2012] as my featured novel this week, three things caught my notice. First, it is about two Canadian boys, written by a Canadian author, and set in Australia.

I don’t know why I like Australia as I do (I love the accents), but for whatever reason it has a certain romance to it. Therefore, it is the perfect setting for a romance of this nature.

There is very little about Canada, or even Canadian content in this story, but that’s alright. The Australian outback makes up for it, and I think that the author has done a credible job of making it part of the story. Certainly I felt it’s vastness, and what better way to cleanse the soul than by a ‘walkabout.’

I liked the two main characters, the scarred but compassionate Jason, and the wide-eyed Ryan. They both compliment and contrast one another to produce a nice balance. I think one is more drawn to Ryan as the ingénue, but Jason is also travelling a road of discovery.

I also like the unhurried pace that allowed the two boys to get to know one another before their first sexual experience. The sex scenes were also well handled—which is ironic for me to say because  I once criticized Ms Owen’s work for being a bit too ‘generous’ with her couplings. Therefore, I am happy to take that criticism back with this novel.

The quibbles I have are few. A few loose threads (meaning plot lines that either disappear or aren’t fully exploited later on). I, for one, like to see unexpected references to previous events, even if they are minor, because they are like grace notes that add a touch of brilliance to a story. It is the little touches like this that can make a good story outstanding.

Altogether, it is a heart warming romance in the classic style, nicely written, and set in a equally romantic locale. Four  bees.

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July 29, 2013 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian content, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, M/M love and adventure | 1 Comment

A World Ago: A Navy Man’s Letters Home (1954-1956)

“It’s not often one has the chance to become 20 again…”

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A world ago - coverStory blurb: A World Ago chronicles, through one young man’s journal and vivid letters to his parents, his life, adventures, and experiences at a magical time. It follows him from being a Naval Aviation Cadet to becoming a “regular” sailor aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga on an eight-month tour of duty in the politically tense Mediterranean Sea.

Learn to fly a plane, to soar, alone, through a valley of clouds, experience a narrow escape from death on a night training flight, and receive the continent of Europe as a 21st birthday gift. Climb down into the crater of Mt. Vesuvius, visit Paris, Cannes, Athens, Beirut, Valencia, Istanbul and places in-between; wander the streets of Pompeii, have your picture taken on a fallen column on the Acropolis, ride bicycles on the Island of Rhodes, experience daily life aboard an aircraft carrier during the height of the cold war—all in the company and through the eyes of a young will-be-writer coming of age with the help of the United States Navy.

A World Ago is a rare glimpse into the personal and private world of a young man on the verge of experiencing everything the world has to offer—and discovering a lot about himself in the process.

About Dirien Grey: Born Roger Margason in Rockford, Illinois, far too many years ago, Dorien emerged, like Athena from the sea, full-blown with the first book in the Dick Hardesty Mystery series in 2000. Roger, a lifelong book and magazine editor, is in charge of all the details of day-to-day living, allowing Dorien full freedom to write books and blogs. The Dick Hardesty series was followed by the Elliott Smith Mystery series, which now alternates with the Dick Hardesty series.

Dorien emerged partly because Roger has always resented reality. It is far too capricious and too often unkind and unfair. Roger avoids reflective surfaces whenever possible. Having Dorien as an alter ego allows the “duo” to create their own reality, and worlds over which they have some degree of control.

Both are incurable romantics, believing strongly in things which reality views too often with contempt, such as happy endings, true love, and the baic goodness of people.

As the real-life spokesman for the pair and using “I” for both, the one personal characteristic in which I take great pride, and which has been my rock throughout life is that I never, ever, takes myself too seriously. If one has a choice between positive and negative, why would anyone (though too many people do) opt for the negative? Life is not always kind, but it is a gift beyond measure, and one which must all too soon be given back. I really try to enjoy and be thankful for ever single day allotted to me.

For most people, children are their posterity. For me, as a gay man, it is my words which will, I hope, stand as evidence that I was here (albeit, no matter how long I may live, never long enough to suit me).

And because written words are nothing unless someone reads them, I am heavily reliant on my readers, who I sincerely consider to be partners and traveling companions on every journey my writing embarks on.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

There isn’t a great deal of critical comment one can make about a book like A World Ago: A Navy Man’s Letters Home (1954-1956) by Dorien Grey [Untreed Reads Publishing, April 8, 2013]. It is a charming look into one man’s life at an interesting age and time I would say; although, the older Roger Margason, a.k.a. Dorien Grey has the depth of character I prefer. Therefore, I will limit my remarks to some personal observations.

I am a great advocate of journal keeping for very selfish reasons. They are absolutely invaluable when it comes to recreating someone’s life and times. Therefore, I am utterly amazed that he had the foresight to save these epistles intact. Otherwise the memories they contain might have been lost forever. Moreover, for informal writings, they are remarkably literate and easy to read.

At the time the letters where written, 1954 – 1956, Dorien was between ‘grass and straw’—as the old cowpokes would say, i.e. past puberty but not quite matured. Interestingly the letters show this, for there is a perceptible maturing as they progress in time.

One is also struck by the candid nature as well. They may have been edited for journalistic reasons, but one does not get the impression they have been altered in the process.

His powers of observation regarding the exotic places he visits, i.e. Paris, Cannes, Athens, Beirut, Valencia, Istanbul, etc. is like reading a travelogue of the time, and as an amateur historian I found this intriguing.

Altogether, therefore, this is a fascinating insight into a personality and the times, and not once did I feel it lost my interest on account of self-ndulgence. A truly interesting read. Five bees.

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Update:

CoA6edit3 - medI thought I would take this opportunity to update the news regarding my work-in-progress novel, Coming of Age on the Trail. The rewrites are coming along well, and it looks like it will be published in time for the Christmas market.

I also plan to publish  it as a two part series. Already the manuscript is up to 140,000 words (387 pages in book form), and that is far too long for a novel of this type. Part One will therefore contain the introduction, while Part Two (scheduled for the spring of 2014) will contain the conclusion.

I will update you again as the work progresses.

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If you would like to learn more about my other 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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July 22, 2013 Posted by | Historical period, Military history, Naval historical fiction, Non-fiction, Semi-autobiographical, Twentieth century historical | | 1 Comment

Houseboat on the Nile (Spy vs. Spook #1) by Tinnean

A few leaks, but worth a look…

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houseboat on the nile - coverMark Vincent is WBIS—Washington Bureau of Intelligence and Security. Quinton Mann is staunchly CIA. Mark thinks the CIA is full of dilettantes who leave him and the rest of the WBIS to clean up their messes. Quinn thinks most WBIS agents are sociopathic loose cannons. So they don’t exactly get along.

Of course, just because they don’t like each other doesn’t mean they can’t play mind games on each other. Or sleep together. But when an explosion at Mark’s apartment sends Quinn to the morgue to ID a body, he has to reevaluate his position on denial.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

When the term “Nile” appears in the title of a book, as it does in Houseboat on Nile, by Tinnean [Dreamspinner Press, 2012], one immediately thinks of exotic places à-la-Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot, etc. That was the first query I encountered with this story. It actually doesn’t have anything to do with the Nile. But, then again, the story blurb never said it did.

It’s a cloak-and-dagger-type mystery, written in a style that is reminiscent of Mickey Spillane—take away the 21st-century swearing. The characters are interesting, fairly well developed I’d say from the perspective of being distinct from one another, and the dialogue (although made repetitious more times than enough) is crisp and effective.

The basic plot has two men who dislike each other professionally, romantically drawn to one another in spite of their differences. It doesn’t help that they each refuse to give up their ingrained biases by playing head games until they are forced by romance and circumstances to join forces.

This is a fertile scenario for lots of twists and turns, and there are some good ones, but the waters are definitely muddied by a constantly shifting point of view regarding the exact same scene.

Now, I have read stories where a shifting POV works (reasonably well), but never as a refocus of the same scene. As an experiment I give the writer full marks for temerity, but as a reader I found it distracting to the point of frustration. Nonetheless, this is my opinion (as are all my reviews), for I have read others who found it a plus.

My rating – three bees.

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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.

      

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July 15, 2013 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay mystery, Gay romance, M/M love and adventure | 1 Comment

Shy, by John Inman

Love and mayhem down on the farm…

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shy - coverStory blurb: Dating is hard enough. Throw in an incontinent Chihuahua, an unrequited love affair, a severe case of social anxiety disorder, a dying father, and a man-eating hog and it becomes darned near impossible. Still, it takes two to tango—and when Tom Morgan, a mild-mannered assistant bank manager with a debilitating case of shyness, meets Frank Wells, who is straight off the farm and even shyer than he is, sparks start flying.

Just when Tom and Frank’s burgeoning love affair is rolling along nicely, Frank must return to Indiana to oversee the farm while his father battles cancer. Tom tags along to help Frank out and finds himself slopping hogs and milking cows and wondering what the hell happened to his orderly citified existence. And what’s with all the chickens? Tom hates chickens!

With Frank’s help, Tom grits his teeth and muddles through. Funny what a couple of guys can accomplish when they’re crazy about each other. Not even nine hundred chickens can stand in the way of true love.

About the author: John has been writing fiction for as long as he can remember. Born on a small farm in Indiana, he now resides in San Diego, California where he spends his time gardening, hiking and biking the trails and canyons of San Diego, and of course, writing. He and his partner share a passion for theater, books, film, and their chihuahua, Sophie, who firmly believes the world owes her a comfortable existence and is in no way shy about collecting.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have long lamented (grumbled) about the fact that many GBLT books tend to lean toward the depressing side of life with a standard fare of angst and self-doubt regarding one’s sexuality. Admittedly, these have been, and still are, a regrettable part of GBLT life, but from my experience there have been many more humorous moments than sad. So when I saw the cooky cover of Shy, by John Inman [Dreamspinner Press, 2012], I felt it was time for a little humour.

The basic story has Tom Morgan, a SAD sufferer (“Social Anxiety Disorder” – not to be confused with “Seasonal Affective Disorder”), going to a party hosted by his ex-boyfriend and hisnew boyfriend—a real nogoodnic-cad named Stanley.

At this party he meet’s Frank Wells, a displaced farm boy, who also happens to be Stanley-the-cad’s brother. By coincidence Frank also suffers from a social anxiety complex, and so the two find comfort in one another’s limitations.

As it happens Frank’s father is critically ill back on the farm, and so Frank is called back to keep things going, taking Tom (an urbane New Yorker) with him.

Also playing the comic relief role is a loose-bowelled chihuahaua by the name of “Pedro,” a razorback hog, and a flock of chickens the size of Galapagos Islands. Therefore, there is no shortage of comedic circumstances, and Inman delivers on most of them.

I connected with this story in a number of ways. I too was a farm boy, and as such I took a sort of perverse pleasure from watching my urban cousins trying to steer themselves around chicken dropping, which are like trying to sidestep snowflakes. So I got a good chuckle from some of Tom’s fastidious antics.

I liked the banter as well, but here I thought it was perhaps a bit overdone. In other words, I sometimes felt that what was meant as repartee was merely bitchy, and made Tom look like a GECQ (“grand eighteenth-century queen”.)

I also join others in thinking that Stanley’s ‘no-good-ness’ was a bit overdone, but I defend the author’s choice regarding his fate. It’s his license. He created the characters, and so he can dispose of them the way he wishes. Therein lies the ‘author-as-god’ syndrome. 🙂

Altogether I thought it was a fun read with a few limitations. Three and one-half bees.

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Editorial comment: For some inexplicable reason, four of the last six or seven novels I have read have all had similar themes; i.e. the main character (or in this case, one of the MCs) grows up on a farm or ranch, and is called back because of an illness or other emergency. In the other novels, the returning boy meets a former admirer or heart throb, and after a bit of business they fall in love and live happily ever after

I’m sure this is merely a coincidence, but is there a back-to-the-land movement I’m not aware of?

I mention this because you may be plotting a new story just now, and if so the boy returning to the farm has been done before!

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to see more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

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July 8, 2013 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay romance | 2 Comments

Shadow of the Wind, by Mackey Hedges (Author), Robert Sigman (Compiler), Joelle Smith (Cover Design)

The Real Deal….

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shadow of the wind - coverStory blurb: Shadow Of The Wind, while a fictional novel by definition, is based on true-to-life individuals. It is the long anticipated installment to Mac Hedges’ award winning Western novel, Last Buckaroo. In Shadow, Mac brings important generational back-ground to the colorful characters created in the earlier novel while providing readers with rich and authentic descriptions of Western culture and heritage.

Cover illustration: “Old Friends” by the late western artist, Joelle Smith

About the athor: Mackey Hedges was born in 1942. His 90 year old mother says that she can never remember a time when he wanted to be anything other than a cowboy. “He and his younger sister would play by the hour pretending that they had a big ranch where he was in charge of the cattle and she was the ranch nurse or cook. We got him his first horse when he was six and he has been riding ever since.”

When asked about his lifestyle Mackey says, “I use to dream about having my boys with me when I got old but the life that I grew up with is pretty well gone. I wouldn’t wish what’s left of this onto them. Low wages and the constant battle with the environmentalist and the Bureau of Land Management have taken a lot of the enjoyment out of being a Nevada rancher. It’s a good-enough life for a few old drifters like me but it’s sure no life for a young man with a family.”

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Review by Gerry Burnie

shadow of the wind - adam jahielAs you may have noticed, I am a great fan of western-style tales, especially if they are reasonably true to the true cowboy lifestyle—which was by no means glamorous, or filled with gratuitous sex. This interest led to my discovery of Nevada’s “Great Basin” through the incredible photography of Adam Jahiel (see: “Search for the Last Cowboy”), so when I saw that Shadow of the Wind by Mackey Hedges [CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2010] was not only written by an actual cowhand, but also set in the Basin, I had to read it.

The extensive blurb for this book covers the plot every bit as well as I could, so I will simply quote it here:

Dean McCuen is a young man fresh out of the Army. The son of a widowed father who owns a large and long established cattle ranch in Nevada. Dean tells in “first person” of his family’s’ rags to riches heritage; being brought up by wealthy “Eastern” relatives, and the life experiences that have shaped his character. After being discharged from the Military, Dean decides to go out on his own and gain some first hand experience before seeking his place in the family business.

Tap McCoy, a 60 year old who is a cowboy for life, is recovering from a very debauchedshadow of the wind - last cowboy and regretful week. On the outskirts of town, Dean picks up a very dazed Tap with only his most important possessions – his bedroll and saddle. And so, the destinies of Dean and Tap become entwined. For Dean, it is a chance to learn from “experience;” for Tap, it is a quick “getaway” out of town.

Readers are introduced to many characters including, a grumpy old ranch owner that hates everyone, an attractive, flirtatious girl that enjoys having men fight over her, alcoholic cowboys that spend all their hard earned money on week long drunks, prejudice that includes Indians, Whites and Blacks and an eccentric desert hermit as well as a host of other interesting characters.

There is nothing fictional about this story other than the plot. The characters are real, the adventures actually happened and the country and ranches exist. Every fight, bucking horse ride and wild wreck actually took place. It is a factual description of the working lives of the Great Basin buckaroos during the mid 1900’s. Like Last Buckaroo, it captures a time period that has all but come to an end.

Each chapter is episodic – a story within itself. Shadow Of the Wind is steeped in history with adventure, friendship, romance and a slight degree of mystery. This “buddy story” is fast moving, written with colorful descriptive language to give the reader an accurate idea of the location and view of the country without distracting from the action.

Shadow of The Wind is a “must read” for anyone interested in the everyday lives of the people that live and work on the ranches of he west.

And, as far as a plot is concerned, the author has covered this as well.

This is not a western shoot ‘em up type of cowboy story; in fact it really doesn’t have much of a plot. It is a story I wrote for my own enjoyment while I was healing up from a broken leg.

shadow of the wind - RebThe way cattle are being run in the west is changing so fast that a lot of the old ways are being forgotten as well as the way people talk and think. I wanted to try and capture a little of this for future generations.

I make no claims to being an author. I am a buckaroo (high desert cowboy) that enjoys putting his thoughts down on paper. Because I have no formal training or education in the literary field my style drives professionals crazy. In fact when the editor got hold of what I had written he almost had a fit. He had more than a small amount of difficulty finding the correct spelling for many of the western slang terms that are used. However, the thing that came closest to driving him nuts was the fact that, as he said, “It is nothing more than a series of short stories strung together by a thin thread of unrelated facts!”

My answer to that was, “SO WHAT? It’s not supposed to be a novel. It’s a little bunkhouse tale about the lives of a couple of high desert buckaroos. It was written with the intent and hope of passing on information in an enjoyable manner.”

shadow of the wind - horse shadowI guess what I am trying to say is that if you are starting out to read this with the objective to criticize you are going to find plenty to work with. On the other hand if you want to get a first hand view of real western life ranging from boring to thrilling I think you will find it in these pages, at least I hope so.

Like my first book, all of the fights, brawls and bucking horse rides are real. The characters, although fictional are in part based on the lives of actual people. Even the ranches in this story are distinctively similar to actual cattle operations I have worked on or visited. In other words “ This is the real deal” even if the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

And that, dear friends about says it all. It reads like an authentic western because it is, and that means it is more entertaining and informative than perfect. Highly recommended for true “buckaroos.” Five bees.

Note: All photographs by Adam Jahiel.

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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!

●●●

Interested in Canadian history? Want to see more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known facts and events in Canadian history, and a bibliography of interesting books I have collected to date. Latest post: Overlanders of 1862.

♠♠♠

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. Happy Canada Day to all.

July 1, 2013 Posted by | fiction/autobiographical, non-GLBT, The great basin, Traditional Western | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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