Gerry B's Book Reviews

A Place to Call Their Own, by L. Dean Pace-Frech

A gay pioneer story: Two against the prairie.

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a place of their own - coverStory blurb: Is it possible for two Civil War veterans to find their place in the world on the Kansas Prairie?

When the War Between the States ended in 1865 many Americans emerged from the turmoil energized by their possibilities for the future. Frank Greerson and Gregory Young were no different. After battling southern rebels and preserving the Union, the two men set out to battle the Kansas Prairie and build a life together. Frank yearned for his own farm, away from his family—even at the risk of alienating them. Gregory, an only child, returned home to claim his inheritance to help finance their adventure out west.

Between the difficult work of establishing a farm on the unforgiving Kansas prairie, and the additional obstacles provided by the weather, Native Americans and wild animals, will their love and loyalty be enough to sustain them through the hardships?

About the author: With inspiration from some historical tourism sites, the love of reading, and a desire to write a novel, L. Dean Pace-Frech started crafting his debut novel, A Place to Call Their Own, in 2008. After four years of writing and polishing the manuscript, he submitted it for publication and Musa Publishing offered him a contract in early 2013.

Dean lives in Kansas City, Missouri with his partner, Thomas, and their two cats. They are involved in their church and enjoy watching movies, outdoor activities in the warmer weather and spending time together with friends and family. In addition to writing, Dean enjoys
reading and patio gardening.

Prior to novels, Dean did some technical writing in his career. He has written another complete fiction manuscript and has a third manuscript outlined.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

To me, the American Civil War was a period of great upheaval, but it was also a time of great promise: the conviction that when the war was over, things would be better. That is the sentiment L. Dean Pace-Frech has captured in his debut novel A Place to Call Their Own [Musa Publishing, July 4, 2013].

Frank Greeerson and Gregory Young meet and fall in love in the midst of the conflict, and when the fighting is over they each stake a claim to free land (presumably under the Homestead Act of 1862) in the State of Kansas—the beginning of the American frontier.

vintage CW soldiersThe story begins with Frank Greerson’s father, Paul, trying to talk him out of this adventure, but failing that, Frank and Gregory set out on their journey like two wide-eyed innocents—a little scared, and a whole lot excited.

The author takes us along with them, and that is the charming part of the story as we follow these two neophytes through their first years of homesteading on the vast, unspoiled prairie. He has also given them moments of bliss, and moments of hardship and challenge, but always shared between them.

The supporting cast is quite charming as well, refreshingly supportive as I think most pioneer communities were. They truly were communal in the sense that everyone pitched in to help their neighbours for the good of the community and of themselves.

In this regard it is a story that will appeal to most people: a romance set in an expansive setting, with likable characters and just enough tension to keep it interesting.

My minor quibble is with the vocabulary at times. Without going into chapter and verse on what I mean, here is an example. In the opening pages Frank says to his father, “I’ve considered all the scenarios, pa,” etc. Now, the difficulty I have with this choice of words is that they don’t fit the character of a farm boy, i.e. “scenarios” (formal) doesn’t fit with “pa” (informal). Perhaps a better fit might have been, “I’ve looked at it from all directions, pa,” etc.

However, this is my personal opinion.

Otherwise, there is nothing about this story not to like. Four and one-half stars.

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Views at Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 62, 574

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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 little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Nancy Greene – Canada’s skiing sensation.

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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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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

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January 27, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay pioneers, Gay romance, Historical period | 1 Comment

A Shiny Tin Star, by Jon Wilson

No shoot-em-up, but a darned good story.

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shiny tin star - coverStory blurb: On a scorching summer’s day in 1903 the sheriff of Creek County, Eugene Grey, unexpectedly finds himself partnered with feisty young Federal Marshal Forest O’Rourke. The marshal is hell-bent on capturing a wanted man—a man Eugene knows as nothing but an amiable old geezer living quietly in the hills.

But, of course, all is not as it seems. As the manhunt progresses, Eugene slowly works out the true nature of the marshal’s relationship to the old man. And something Eugene has long kept hidden begins to stir inside him. He finds it impossible to deny the desire he feels toward the determined young marshal.

Death and fiery destruction follow, but also passion and stolen moments of joy. Eugene’s journey takes him from his small town of Canyon Creek, Colorado, to the stately homes of Atlanta and Philadelphia. But it also pits him against the very laws he has sworn to uphold. He finds himself risking prison or even death—all in the name of love.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As most people who visit this page know, I have a fondness for westerns. I think this is because they recreate a life and times that were basic. Not ‘basic’ in the sense of being crude, as they are often portrayed today, but a simpler life in terms of common sense and the ‘golden rule.’ For the most part, I think that Jon Wilson has captured this simplicity in his novel A Shiny Tin Star, [Cheyenne Publishing, November 19, 2012]. Certainly he has captured the laid-back cadence of the narrator, Eugene Grey.

Eugene Grey is a down-home country sheriff, confidant in what he knows from having lived it, seen it, or done it, and sceptical of anyone who hasn’t—especially those who think they know better. That includes Marshall Forrest O’Rourke.

O’Rourke is a cocky Federal Marshall, and worse still, an Easterner. That pretty well sets the tone of the first eight or ten chapters. [I particularly liked the knock-down-drag-em-out fight between O’Rourke and Rawley Scoggins.]

In a somewhat surprising turn, the story shifts east to the cultured life of Atlanta and Philadelphia, taking Eugene out of his rustic element and into Forrest’s element. It also takes them into a climate of artifice and bigotry, which threatens to destroy their simple relationship.

In the end, however, love prevails.

The story is cleverly written, with a keen grasp (however gotten) of the laid-back, country vernacular of the narrator. That was a strong point for me.

The eastern segment was well done, and I can understand why a shift in setting was introduced to add tension, but for me it was a disconnect from the western roots. Having said that, however, I don’t know how else it could have been written.

Altogether, though, I thought it was a good story, well written, and with enough unexpected twists to make it unique. Four and one-half stars.

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Views at Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 62,129

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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 little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Jacques Cartier, Explorer: The “Discoverer of Canada” (…Not that it was ever lost.)

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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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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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January 20, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Gay western, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man’s Prison, by T.J. Parsell

A fascinating read…

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fish - coverStory blurb: When seventeen-year-old T.J. Parsell held up the local Photo Mat with a toy gun, he was sentenced to four and a half to fifteen years in prison. The first night of his term, four older inmates drugged Parsell and took turns raping him. When they were through, they flipped a coin to decide who would “own” him. Forced to remain silent about his rape by a convict code among inmates (one in which informers are murdered), Parsell’s experience that first night haunted him throughout the rest of his sentence.

In an effort to silence the guilt and pain of its victims, the issue of prisoner rape is a story that has not been told. For the first time Parsell, one of America’s leading spokespeople for prison reform, shares the story of his coming of age behind bars. He gives voice to countless others who have been exposed to an incarceration system that turns a blind eye to the abuse of the prisoners in its charge. Since life behind bars is so often exploited by television and movie re-enactments, the real story has yet to be told. Fish is the first breakout story to do that.

About the author: T.J. Parsell is a writer and human rights activist dedicated to ending sexual abuse against men, women and children in all forms of detention. He is currently President-elect of Stop Prisoner Rape and serves as a consultant to the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. Parsell has testified before numerous government bodies and was instrumental in passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, the first ever federal legislation to address this issue. He lives in Amagansett, NY.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Non-fiction books seem popular among the viewers, and so this week I have chosen one that is somewhat different. Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man’s Prison by T.J. Parsell [Da Capo Press, November 2, 2006], is described as a memoir, but for the most part it reads like a coming out story.

It is not a pleasant recollection at times, although here, once again, there is a dichotomy. While prison life is brutal, the rape scenes especially, at times there seems to be a measure of relish involved.

The memoir part describes how the author as a 17 y.o entered the prison system, and what he encountered on the first night and onward. Raped by five men, and then ‘won’ in a lottery by one of them, it is a brutally frank story that pulls no punches. Indeed, the raw sexual activity, graphically described, dominates the first two-thirds of the book. [See my discussion on this point, below.]

The coming out part involves the discovery of his own sexuality, and the evolution of a romantic side to all the sex. It also leads, ultimately, to a happy ending.

Critically speaking, the overall story is both intriguing and revealing; however, the sexual activity in the first part is somewhat overwhelming—almost to the point of being super-saturating. Of course, one can argue that this is the way it happened, and you can’t second guess fact; nevertheless, a little less graphic description might have alleviated the super-saturation.

Which brings us around to editing. Oh, my! One reviewer speculated that an unedited version might have somehow made it to the printer, and if this is the case it would explain the inordinate number of typos, malapropisms, and otherwise obvious faux pas.

Taking all this into consideration, I still think it is a fascinating read. Three and one-half bees.

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Views at Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 61,716

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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 little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Tom Longboat: A Canadian long distance running sensation.

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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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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 13, 2014 Posted by | by T.J. Parsell, male rape, Non-fiction, prison story | Leave a comment

A Handful of Blossoms, by Lara Biyuts

A unique story in time and place, and superbly written –

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handful of blossoms - coverBook blurb: Written in the form of a diary, which genre was so popular in the 18th century and which sounds so comprehensible in our time of blogging/webdiaries/webjournals, the novella may be called a love story. A story of a sixteen-year-old damsel and her weird marriage. Time: 1764, a year after the Seven Years War. Europe.

[A novella – 134 pages, 818 KB]

About the author (in her own words): A middle-aged translator and an agent seeking writer, author of 7 books of fiction, essays, notes, and poems. Un poete maudit. Gay-admirer. Straight fetishist. Author of her own photies. Her given name has several derivatives and diminutives that she uses as a part of her pen-names. A big fan of history, English language and linguistic in general, who is always in online search, placing reliance on Facebook, the busy place like no other. “I believe in yesterday, loving the steep turns & junctions of times, besides, your own past is the only thing that nobody can take away.”

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Larisa Biyuts is a Facebook ‘friend,’ and as I was reading her novella A Handful of Blossoms, [Lara Biyuts; 2 edition, January 2, 2014] I could vision many of the interests that Larisa holds dear—history, fine art, classic times, etc—and which are reflected in her writing.

A Handful of Blossoms is set at the height of the Empire Period (1764), just a couple of decades before the French Revolution. Constance Otilia Alexandrine is a minor princess (which is to say, she is a ‘pawn’ in the imperial scheme of things), arranged in marriage to Constantine Leopold, Prince of Askanier-Hortz. Prince Constantine is himself a pawn of sorts, for tradition decrees that he marry and produce an heir, when, in fact, he prefers men—and makes no bones about it to his newly acquired wife.

This perplexes her, but it also gives her time to explore the lush countryside, and the rich folklore of Transylvania, while fulfilling (…at the prince’s suggestion) her ‘womanly needs’ with the prince’s steward.

This is where the story really takes off in a tapestry of colourful folktales and fantasies, masterfully presented in a vivid, and at times, poetic prose reminiscent of the times. It will be a delight to those who enjoy a period novel written in a period style.

My one small quibble is that, here and there, there are minor idiomatic differences in the translation, i.e. “Milord might talk to me.” might have been better stated as “Might m’lord speak to me?” However, when you remember that English is not the author’s first language, these are easily passed over.

Overall it is unique, both in time and location; different, inasmuch as it is a woman-character’s point of view of a gay situation; and, with the exception of the above, it is masterfully written. Four and one-half bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 61,221

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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 little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Bedaux Canadian Sub-arctic Epedition: A truly fantastic adventure by an equally larger-than-life character

♥♥♥

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.

                      

♥♥♥

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 6, 2014 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature | 2 Comments

   

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