Gerry B's Book Reviews

One Boy’s Shadow, by Ross A. McCoubrey

A charming, feel-good story, from a first-time Canadian novelist…

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one boys shadow - coverStory blurb: Fifteen-year-old Caleb Mackenzie doesn’t put up a fight when his father announces the family is moving to Stapeton, Nova Scotia. In fact, Caleb looks forward to a fresh start in the scenic little area. Their new home, Wakefield House, sports large rooms, a big barn where Caleb can work on cars, and acres of forested land for privacy. But it also has a troubling past. In 1943, a boy who lived in the home vanished.

Caleb hears the stories about what may have occurred so many years ago, but he passes them off as folklore until one day he’s alone in the woods and hears the faintest whisper. Did someone in the distance just call his name? And what about his discovery in the hayloft? Could there be something to those old stories after all?

The initial need to dismiss everything as coincidence becomes a soul-searching journey into the past where Caleb is determined to uncover the truth about what really happened to the missing boy. And in the process, he learns even more about himself and what’s really important.

About the author: Ross A. McCoubrey was born and raised in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. After finishing college, and beginning his full time job, he bought a home on the Bay of Fundy shore where he continues to reside. When not working he enjoys writing, camping, hiking, target shooting, and working on his truck. One Boy’s Shadow is his first novel.

Ross is using the profits from sales of One Boy’s Shadow to support LGBTQ youth organizations such as The Youth Projectwww.youthproject.ns.ca in his home province of Nova Scotia.

Please visit Ross’ Facebook page for great links and information about his work.www.facebook.com/rossmccoubrey

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Ever on the lookout for Canadian GBLT authors and stories, I pounced on this one the moment I saw ‘Nova Scotia.’ Ross A. Mcoubrey is a native Nova Scotian whose first novel A Boy’s Shadow  [iUniverse, May 24, 2012] is directed toward young adults, and yet it is both mature and charming enough to be enjoyed by adults as well.

The operative word is “charming.” I have often asked the question of why GBLT novels tend to be so dark and angst-driven, so to find one that is universally sweet and charming—even if it is a bit overly so—is somewhat of a treat.

The basic story revolves around the adventures of four teenage boys: 15-y.o Caleb, his brother Blake, and their best friends Shane and Ryley—oh, and a ghost named Toby. Although the plots are different, I couldn’t help equating them to The Hardy boys of yesteryear—that sort of comradeship that arises when boys set out to solve a mystery.

Caleb and Blake are resettled by their parents to a new (small) town and rambling old house with a name: “Wakefield House.” [All slightly scary houses should have a name!] One of the first people Caleb meets in town is a fellow teenager, Shane, who tells him the dark history of Wakefield House, and in particular the mystery surrounding Toby’s disappearance—apparently lost in the deep woods that surround Wakefield. Nonetheless, Toby has made his presence known to several inhabitants in the past, and he does so again with Caleb and the boys.

Love blossoms as well, when Caleb and Shane discover one another, but there is no hand wringing about it. Nor is there any turmoil when Caleb comes out to his brother and parents. Okay, you might ask, could it happen this way even in 2010? Probably not, but this is a story of inspiration and love, so bearing this in mind the reader will likely be inclined to believe it—‘rooting for the boys,’ so-to-speak.

Thereupon, the boys set about solving the mystery with clues being communicated from Toby until the mystery is solved in a happy-ever-after-ending.

I should mention that, while there is intimacy, it is mostly of the sentimental kind, and anything physical is generally left to the imagination.

Having said that, I observe that there is little to identify it as a ‘down-east’ novel unless you know the Nova Scotia people. I’m not all that well acquainted, but I have visited the east coast enough times to pick up on the subtle nuances that show up now and then. It is only an observation, but I would have liked to see more—as in the unique and charming dialect.

My main quibble, however, has to do with the inconsistency of voices. At the beginning we learn that Caleb is fifteen (almost), and so I set my expectations on how a fifteen-year-old might think and speak. Sometimes these were indeed consistent, but at other times it could have been a PhD in English. Nevertheless, this being the author’s first novel, it is a damned fine effort with considerable promise. Four bees for a charming, feel-good story.

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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:  Bill C-150 – Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69: “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation” ~ Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

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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 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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March 31, 2014 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian content, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay mystery, gay young adult, Nova Scotia gay story | Leave a comment

Brothers of the Wild North Sea, by Harper Fox

A good solid read that most fans of historical fiction will enjoy.

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brothers of the wild north sea - coverStory blurb: His deadliest enemy will become his heart’s desire.

Caius doesn’t feel like much of a Christian. He loves his life of learning as a monk in the far-flung stronghold of Fara, but the hot warrior blood of his chieftain father flows in his veins. Heat soothed only in the arms of his sweet-natured friend and lover, Leof.

When Leof is killed during a Viking raid, Cai’s grieving heart thirsts for vengeance—and he has his chance with Fenrir, a wounded young Viking warrior left for dead. But instead of reaching for a weapon, Cai finds himself defying his abbot’s orders and using his healing skills to save Fen’s life.

At first, Fen repays Cai’s kindness by attacking every Christian within reach. But as time passes, Cai’s persistent goodness touches his heart. And Cai, who had thought he would never love again, feels the stirring of a profound new attraction.

Yet old loyalties call Fen back to his tribe and a relentless quest to find the ancient secret of Fara—a powerful talisman that could render the Vikings indestructible, and tear the two lovers’ bonds beyond healing.

Warning: contains battles, bloodshed, explicit M/M sex, and the proper Latin term for what lies beneath those cassocks.

About the author: Harper Fox is an M/M author with a mission. She’s produced six critically acclaimed novels in a year and is trying to dispel rumours that she has a clone/twin sister locked away in a study in her basement. In fact she simply continues working on what she loves best– creating worlds and stories for the huge cast of lovely gay men queuing up inside her head. She lives in rural Northumberland in northern England and does most of her writing at a pensioned-off kitchen table in her back garden, often with blanket and hot water bottle.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Although the author’s bio states that Harper Fox has produced six books in one year, my only experience with her writing has been Scrap Metal [https://gerrycan.wordpress.com/?s=scrap+metal], which I enjoyed; however, Brothers of the Wild North Sea [Samhain Publishing, Ltd., June 11, 2013] is quite a different story in many respects.

For one thing, it is set in the 7th century, a time of emerging beliefs; it has a strong religious bent—although not a religious story; and it includes some violence in connection with Viking raids and wars. Therefore, it is well removed from pastoral settings and sheep herding.

The basic story revolves around Caius, an enlightened son of a warrior chieftain, who has been converted to Christianity and joins an order of monks in order to continue his enlightenment. He is quite content with this life and his lover Leof, but when Leof is killed during a Viking raid, Caius thirsts for revenge.

Enter Fenrir, a wounded Viking raider, but rather than take his life Caius nurses him back to health. However, taming Fenrir’s fierce side takes time and patience, and in the meantime Caius falls for this erstwhile enemy who is drawn back to his own in search of a talisman with invincible powers.

In the end, however, all works out and true love prevails.

It’s a good story, competently written with some really interesting elements. As in Scrap Metal Harper Fox demonstrates an ability to draw the reader into her sometimes austere settings, and in this case a unique time period. Certainly it is one that I have not encountered before.

Having said that, however, it reads a bit slow until all the elements are put together, but then it moves along at a more agreeable pace. Also—and this is something I have to guard against in my own writing—Fenrir’s change of allegiance seems just a bit too ‘convenient’ for the short time allowed.  Yes, we’re all rooting for them, but to logically go from enemies to lovers takes a couple of transitions that seemed to be passed over.

Overall, however, this is a good solid read that most fans of historical fiction will enjoy. Four bees.

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Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 65,679

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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: Today’s history curriculum is “bound for boredom” ~ Bill Bigelow

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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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March 24, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America, by Don Jordan, Michael Walsh

The ‘lost slaves’ of history brought to the fore by two distinguished journalists. A truly fascinating read.

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white cargo - coverStory blurb: White Cargo is the forgotten story of the thousands of Britons who lived and died in bondage in Britain’s American colonies.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, more than 300,000 white people were shipped to America as slaves. Urchins were swept up from London’s streets to labor in the tobacco fields, where life expectancy was no more than two years. Brothels were raided to provide “breeders” for Virginia. Hopeful migrants were duped into signing as indentured servants, unaware they would become personal property who could be bought, sold, and even gambled away. Transported convicts were paraded for sale like livestock.

Drawing on letters crying for help, diaries, and court and government archives, Don Jordan and Michael Walsh demonstrate that the brutalities usually associated with black slavery alone were perpetrated on whites throughout British rule. The trade ended with American independence, but the British still tried to sell convicts in their former colonies, which prompted one of the most audacious plots in Anglo-American history.

This is a saga of exploration and cruelty spanning 170 years that has been submerged under the overwhelming memory of black slavery. White Cargo brings the brutal, uncomfortable story to the surface.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Yes, I know, today is St. Patrick’s Day: a day when we celebrate an Irish saint who was born in Rome, who wore blue (not green), and who didn’t really drive all the snakes out of Ireland because there weren’t any to begin with. However, green beer and silliness aside, the history of Ireland and its people has been (unfortunately) far from celebratory, and Don Jordan and Michael Walsh (two distinguished journalists) have brought yet another dark chapter to light in their  extensively-researched book, White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America [NYU Press, March 8, 2008].

white cargo - prisonersI first became aware of “white slavery” when I was reviewing The Naked Quaker: True Crimes and Controversies from the Courts of Colonial New England, by Diane Rapaport, and in it she cited the case of two Irish lads (11 and perhaps 14) who were kidnapped from their beds and brought to Massachusetts as indentured “servants.”  They were sold to a magistrate to work on his estate, and some years later they appealed to the court (on which their master sat) for relief from their servitude. They lost.

Thereafter, I mentioned this case to several people who were utterly shocked that such a thing could happen.

But happen it did, and in great numbers. It began when James I sold 30,000 prisoners to the American colonies as slaves, and in 1625 he proclaimed that Irish political prisoners were to be transported to the West Indies. Therefore, by the mid 1600s Irish slaves amounted to 70% of the population of Montserrat. Moreover, in the early days of slavery in the New England colonies, the majority of slaves were actually white.

white cargo - slave adIreland was the main source. In the decade following the failed Irish Rebellion of 1641, it is estimated that 300,000 Irish rebels were sold as slaves, and thereafter 100,000 children between the ages of 10 to 14 were taken from their parents, 52,000 (mostly women and children) were sold, and 32,000 men and boys went to the highest bidder in slave market from the West Indies, to Virginia and New England.

The African slave trade was just beginning during this period, and African slaves were therefore more expensive, i.e. £50 sterling (compared to £5 sterling), and so white slaves were often treated more harshly than the other. Moreover, it was quite legal for Blacks and Indians to own white slaves. In fact, the practice became so prevalent that the Virginia Assembly passed a law prohibiting it, i.e. “It is enacted that noe negro or Indian though baptized and enjoyned their owne freedome shall be capable of any such purchase of christians…” ~ Statutes of the Virginia Assembly, Vol. 2, pp. 280-81.

This is a fascinating read with enough research to make it reliable, but written in a journalist’s easy-to-read fashion. Highly recommended. Five bees.

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Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 65,303

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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: Today’s history curriculum is “bound for boredom” ~ Bill Bigelow

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two irish lads st copy

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.

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March 17, 2014 Posted by | American History, Historical period, Non-fiction, non-GLBT | Leave a comment

King of the Celts, by Rose Christo

Many admirable things to be said about this story, but…

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king of the celts - coverStory blurb: In 58 BC, Julius Caesar tried to conquer the Celtic world. One man stopped him.

550 pages

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

The King of the Celts, by Rose Christo [publisher not listed, Sept., 2013] is the second of Christo’s novels I have reviewed—the other being Gives Light https://gerrycan.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/gives-light-gives-light-1-by-rose-christo/—and two more different stories I cannot imagine: the latter being shorter, more controlled, and the former  being an epic-length adventure that at times rambles somewhat uncontrollably.

The basic story tells of how the main character loses his whole family to Julius Caesar’s invasion of Gaul during the latter half of the first century, B.C., but then rallies the Gaulish Tribes to form a resistance, similar to Ambiorix in 54-53 B.C.

It is a fascinating period in history, populated by a fierce, primitive people, pit against the forces of Rome at the zenith of its power. A David-and-Goliath story that has all the elements to appeal to a variety of readers. So why was I basically disappointed?

I suppose it was because I have seen better from this writer. I loved Gives Light. There was an intimacy between the author and the main character, Skylar, that one could sense, and so the events of the story orbited around this strength. It was solid story telling based on a solid understanding of the characters and setting. I didn’t get the same sense here. My impression was that this is almost an academic exercise based on bits and pieces of research, cobbled together to form a story.

Nonetheless, there are some quite admirable things one can say about it. For the most part the journalism is beautifully executed, with a poetic flair that enhances every scene to the max, and the story line is good—even heroic at times. Moreover, the shear effort required to write a novel of this length is equally remarkable. Overall, I would say it is worth the price of admission, and based on her past writing I would invest in this author again. Three bees.

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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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March 11, 2014 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military | Leave a comment

The Serpent’s Tongue, by Dorien Grey

 An entertaining tale, written by a seasoned author, and bound to give you several hours of enjoyment.

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the serpent's tongue - coverStory blurb: When Dick Hardesty is hired to look into threats against former priest Dan Stabile, possibly from someone whose confession Dan heard while still in the priesthood, it’s just another case. Then, on a stormy Sunday, on a rain-slick road, Dan is killed, Dick’s partner Jonathan is severely injured, and suddenly, it’s personal. Was the accident really an accident…or murder? Dick learns Dan’s secret could involve a child murderer, and now it seems the man is stalking Joshua and tormenting Jonathan. The objectivity so vital to Dick’s role as a private investigator goes out the window as he pursues one lead after another, and it begins to look like Dan wasn’t the target after all.

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

Reviewing a mystery novel is always a tricky business, especially one that has been so intricately constructed with plot and plot twists, etc. One is always afraid of giving out more than one should.

That is the case with Dorien Grey’s latest addition (#14, I believe) to the Dick Hardesty series, i.e., The Serpent’s Tongue [Zumaya Boundless, February 1, 2014]. Therefore, I will say in a general way that this is a good, solid mystery, superbly written (as are all of Grey’s stories), and clever enough to satisfy most mystery aficionados.

For those who are discovering the Dick Hardesty stories for the first time, this is a stand alone story that can be enjoyed on its own merits, and for those returning readers to the series, there are some character progressions that enhance what is previously known.

Bottom line: I found very little I could criticize about this story. It is an entertaining tale, written by a seasoned author, and bound to give you several hours of enjoyment. Five 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: Foster Hewitt, Hockey Night in Canada: “He shoots, he Scores.

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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.

 

March 3, 2014 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay mystery | Leave a comment

   

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