Gerry B's Book Reviews

Spadework, by Timothy Findley

A rare bargain…

bee3

 

 

This is a bargain book on Amazon, with prices ranging from .01¢ to $1.00. Bargain books are new but could include a small mark from the publisher and an Amazon.com price sticker identifying them as such. Details

 

click on the above cover to order.

click on the above cover to order.

Story blurb: Lust. Infidelity. Betrayal. Murder. On a summer evening in Stratford, Ontario, the errant thrust of a gardener’s spade slices a telephone cable into instant silence. The resulting disconnection is devastating. With the failure of one call to reach a house, an ambitious young actor becomes the victim of sexual blackmail. The blocking of a second call leads tragically to murder. And when a Bell Canada repairman arrives to mend the broken line, his innocent yet irresistible male beauty has explosive consequences.

In Spadework, Timothy Findley, master storyteller and playwright, has created an electric wordplay of infidelity and morality set on the stage of Canada’s preeminent theater town. In this fictional portrait, intrigue, passion, and ambition are always waiting in the wings. Findley peoples the town with theater folk, artists, writers, and visitors (both welcome and unwelcome), and with lives that are immediately recognizable as “Findley-esque” – the lonely, the dispossessed, and the sexually troubled.

A story that ripples with ever-widening repercussions, a sensual, witty, and completely absorbing novel, Spadework is another Timothy Findley winner.

About the author: Timothy Irving Frederick Findley (October 30, 1930 – June 21, 2002) was a Canadian novelist and playwright. He was also informally known by the nickname “Tiff” or “Tiffy,” an acronym of his initials.

He was raised in the upper class Rosedale district of Toronto, attending boarding school at St. Andrew’s College (although leaving during grade 10 for health reasons). He pursued a career in the arts, studying dance and acting, and had significant success as an actor before turning to writing. He was part of the original Stratford Festival Company in the 1950s, acting alongside Alec Guinness, and appeared in the first production of Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker at the Edinburgh Festival. He also played Peter Pupkin in Sunshine Sketches, the CBC Television adaptation of Stephen Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town.

Findley’s first two novels, The Last of the Crazy People (1967) and The Butterfly Plague (1969), were originally published in Britain and the United States after having been rejected by Canadian publishers. Findley’s third novel, The Wars, was published to great acclaim in 1977 and went on to win the Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction. It was adapted for film in 1981.

Timothy Findley received a Governor General’s Award, the Canadian Authors Association Award, an ACTRA Award, the Order of Ontario, the Ontario Trillium Award, and in 1985 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. He was a founding member and chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada, and a president of the Canadian chapter of PEN International.

logo - gbbr

Review by Gerry Burnie

As you can readily see, I went looking for Canadian content this week, and it doesn’t get any more Canadian than the late and lamented Timothy Findley.

Originally published by Harper Collins in 2001 (a year before Findley’s death), Spadework by Timothy Findley is set in the otherwise quaint little  town of Stratford, Ontario [home of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival], and is primarily told from the point of view of Jane Kincaid, a southerner from Louisiana. She left the south to escape her conservative-minded family, and also adopted an new persona when she met her husband, Griffin Kincaid.

Griffin is a hunk, and also a rising young Shakespearean actor. Otherwise, they lead quite an ordinary, suburban life, with an ordinary house, a kid, a live-in housekeeper/nanny, and a dog named “Rudyard.”

Nevertheless, Griffin’s ‘hunkyness’ is the catalyst that gives rise to a number strange (bizarre) events. Jane begins to suspect other women might be coveting him as well: principally Zoë Walker, his on-stage partner.

Meanwhile, one of Jane’s former boyfriends shows up to jerk off all over her face and dress, and then goes out to be killed in a car accident. In addition, the town is stunned by the shocking rape and murder of two women by an addict, Jesse Quinlan, who (because he cannot reach his support in life, his nephew Luke – the gardener who severed the telephone line) he goes on a drug-fuelled rampage until he takes his own life. And, if all this wasn’t enough, Jane receives a cryptic letter from her mother to say her sister has recently committed suicide.

In some way lack of communication figures into all these events, but the crucial stroke comes when the gardener Luke inadvertently plunges a spade through the main communication line. Thus, his uncle Jesse has his meltdown, but, in addition Griffin cannot reach his director, Johnathon Crawford, with his answer to an ultimatum – the ultimatum being that he either enter into a sexual relationship with Crawford or lose out on a coveted, leading role.

The result is that he loses out, but he agrees when he is offered a second meeting with Crawford.

Meanwhile, a veritable Adonis of a telephone repairman has arrived on Jane’s scene, and in no time has agreed to pose for a nude portrait.

Lack of communication and sexual desires figure prominently in this novel, but in spite of the resulting chaos things do settle down with a return to a happy ever after ending.

My thoughts

Findley’s prestigious awards speak for themselves. He was a brilliant writer, and there are flashes of this in Spadework, but considering that it was published so close to his death I cannot help speculating there might have been other things on his mind.

It’s only a hunch, but this, his last novel, seems rushed to me: As though finishing it was the overriding priority.

Mind you, it is still a good read with all of Findley’s intricate plot twists present, and for the embarrassingly low price of .01¢ you can hardly go wrong. Three bees.

♠♠♠

Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 76,732

♠♠♠

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn 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: The Great Rogers Pass Avalanche – March 4, 1910

Introducing…

swisssh radio - theatre orillia

Theatre Orillia is a community based theatre company located in Orillia, Ontario – the setting of Stephen Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Small Town. As is not usual for community theatres, it could use a helping hand, financially. If you would care to be a theatre ‘angel’, just navigate to the following URL: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/886814721/theatre-orillia-summer-season-2015?ref=email.

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

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 then.

 

March 9, 2015 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian content, Fiction, Gay fiction | Leave a comment

Irresponsible Government: The Decline of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada, by Brent Rathgeber

A must read for those who feel strongly that government should belong to the people.

bee5

 

 

Click on the above cover to purchase a copy. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the above cover to purchase a copy. Also available in Kindle format.

Blurb: Irresponsible Government examines the current state of Canadian democracy in contrast to the founding principles of responsible government established by the Fathers of Confederation in 1867. The book examines the failure of modern elected representatives to perform their constitutionally mandated duty to hold the prime minister and his cabinet to account. It further examines the modern lack of separation between the executive and legislative branches of government and the disregard with which the executive views Parliament. The book seeks to shine light on the current power imbalances that have developed in Canadian government. Through an examination of the foundation principles of our parliamentary system and their subsequent erosion, Irresponsible Government seeks methods through which we can begin to recalibrate and correct these power imbalances and restore electoral accountability.

 

 

logo - gbbr

Review by Gerry Burnie

The surprising thing about this book is that I was teaching this exact same thing 40 years ago, and so nothing much has improved. However, Brent Rathgeber’s perspective, as set out in Irresponsible Government: The Decline of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada [Dundurn  Press, September 10, 2014] gives us a look at the dysfunction from the inside out – a view not many of us get.

The dysfunction in the Canadian democratic system begins at the most fundamental level of the process: The election.

An illustration of how the 'First Past the Post' electoral system negatively effects people's choices.

An illustration of how the ‘First Past the Post’ electoral system negatively effects people’s choices.

Suppose a constituency has a thousand voters and three candidates to choose from. Now suppose candidate ‘A’ receives 400 votes; candidate ‘B’ receives 350; and candidate ‘C’ receives 250. The way the system operates today, candidate ‘A’ will win with 400 votes, even though 600 voters voted otherwise.

Taking it a step further, once candidate ‘A’ gets to Ottawa or a legislative assembly, however, he or she quickly learns about ‘party-line voting.’ This is the rule whereby everybody votes the party-line whether they like it or not. Otherwise, they risk being ‘uninvited’ from caucus – the one place where they can freely express their views – and also stripped of their party benefits (i.e. office, expenses, campaign funds, etc.) to sit as an independent.

If, perchance, candidate ‘A’ is lucky enough to garner the leader’s favour, and is appointed to the Cabinet, he or she probably knows very little about the portfolio being assumed. Not to worry, however, because the unelected deputy minister does. Therefore, for the first while, and probably throughout ‘A’s’ tenure, the deputy will pull the strings in that ministry. The ultimate consequence of this is that there is a hidden level of ‘government’ that few people know anything about.

The cabinet is a fairly important position, inasmuch as he or she gets to shape policy; however, the extent of that policy depends on the minister’s allotted budget (‘envelope’), which, in turn, is determined by the prime minister (or premier) and his or her ‘inner circle.’ These are the half dozen or so of the PM’s personal favourites who surround him most of the time, and it is these who have the last word in shaping policy that will govern us. Input, therefore, has gone from 308 members (as it was intended) to a handful.

This is just a thumbnail of how the democratic process has been usurped by designing prime ministers, from Diefenbaker to Harper, but the dysfunction goes much deeper. To almost every nook and cranny on Parliament Hill, and this Rathgeber shine some light on in a non-academic way.

It is a must read for those who feel strongly that government should be ‘by and for the people,’ and that deviation from this has dangerous consequences. Five bees for the courage to stand up for the right, and for an interesting insight into the mis-workings of government. Bravo!

♠♠♠

Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 73,392

♠♠♠

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:  Wayne & Shuster : The comedy kings of Canada…

logo - gerry burnie books - couple - croppeed

       

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.

 

October 20, 2014 Posted by | Brent Rathgeber, Canadian author, Canadian content, Canadian government | Leave a comment

One Boy’s Shadow, by Ross A. McCoubrey

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

bee4

 

 

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

♠♠♠

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.

♠♠♠

Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 66,009

♣♣♣

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.

 ♠♠♠

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 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!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

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

Hadrian’s Lover, by Patricia Marie Budd

An interesting and thought-provoking story.

bee3

bee-half

hadrian's lover - coverStory blurb:Hadrian’s Lover is a stunning novel about a dystopian society disguised as a utopian one…it raises difficult questions about right and wrong, government control, and an individual’s right to express himself freely and be accepted for his sexual preference, regardless of what it is.” – Tyler R. Tichelaar, PH.D. and author of the award-winning Narrow Lives What if you lived in a world where homosexuality was the norm and all forms of heterosexual behavior were illegal? In the near future the human population has grown to such excess that the earth is no longer able to sustain humanity’s astronomical numbers. Poverty, starvation, and disease are rampant. Only the country of Hadrian seems able to defend itself against the ravages of overpopulation by restricting its growth and encasing its country behind a defensive wall. Procreation does not happen by chance in Hadrian. There are no unwanted pregnancies. No accidents. All pregnancies occur through in vitro fertilization, and every citizen is responsible for rearing one of Hadrian’s children. Heterosexuality is deemed the ill that has led humanity to the brink. In Hadrian, no one dares to express interest in the opposite sex; to do so would result in exile or re-education. Hadrian’s Lover tells the story of Todd Middleton, a teenage boy struggling to keep the secret of his heterosexuality. Read on, and feel with him as he suffers the indignities of a society determined to “cure” him of his plight.

About the author: Patricia Marie Budd is a high school English teacher living in northern Alberta, Canada. She has been a safe zone for her LGBT students throughout her twenty year career. Hadrian’s Lover is her third novel.

♣♣♣

Review by Gerry Burnie

I must admit that sci-fi, fantasy stories are not my first choice, but occasionally one comes along that peaks my interest, and Hadrian’s Lover by Patricia Marie Budd [New Generation Publishing, September 10, 2013] is one of them.

This is a ‘what if’ story set sometime in the twenty-second century, and supposes a world in which GBLT individuals rule, and heterosexuals have been declared both deviant and illegal in an independent nation, called, ‘Hadrian.’

In the surrounding world the heterosexual population has screwed itself into a crisis with overcrowding, disease, starvation and chaos, but emerging out of this morass is a sort of Shangri La of balance and proportion—albeit micro managed to the nth degree. However, to belong to it one must be homosexual. Reproduction is allowed, but only selectively and by in vitro fertilization.

The main character of the story is Todd Middleton, a young man who has the misfortune to be born *shock* heterosexual. It is with him that the ‘point’ of the story comes to the fore; for Todd at first tries to conceal his sexuality, and then suffers the same sort of bullying harassment that some homosexual men and women continue to experience today. The difference being, of course, that now the majority has become the minority.

Fantasy stories of this nature are fun to write because the sky’s the limit for imagination; however, it seems the publisher’s and editor’s respective ‘skies’ were a lot lower regarding this story. This raises some issues with me, not to mention the hackles on the back of my neck.

Under the Canadian Criminal Code, the definition of child pornography regarding written material is as follows:

163.1 (1) In this section, “child pornography” means

  •  (b) any written material, visual representation or audio recording that advocates or counsels sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act;

  • (c) any written material whose dominant characteristic is the description, for a sexual purpose,* of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act; [Emphasis mine.] *Note the qualification.

It is probably best, therefore, to play it safe by aging your characters 18 years or older, but any publisher or editor (or vendor) who gets squeamish after that, I would personally tell to go pee in their hat. After all, who is writing this novel, you or the publisher, etc.?!

Over all, however, I thought the story was interesting, a bit pedagogical in places (…a occupational habit for teachers), but certainly thought provoking. Three and one-half bees.

♣♣♣

Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 56,871

♣♣♣

great-spirit collage copy

Coming of Age on the TrailI am very happy to announce that I am within ten pages of completing the above manuscript. It has been a long ‘gestation period,’ four and one-half years, but I can say with confidence that it is a unique western genre novel, set in British Columbia, and with a mythological twist. Anticipated release date, March 2013.

♣♣♣

Coming soon – I will be launching a new blog shortly, Authors in Depth, dedicated to introducing new and established authors. This will be a free forum to talk about themselves, their books, and any personal interests and anecdotes they may wish to share. It is open to anyone (and all) with one or more published books to their credit. Authors who are interested can contact me at: gerrybbooks@yahoo.ca 

♣♣♣

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:  Hurricane Hazel – Oct. 15 – 16, 1954. Canada’s perfect storm.

♣♣♣

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.

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Canadian author, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Homoerotic, Male bisexual | Leave a comment

Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad, by Alison Wearing

An engaging and unique memoir that will charm as well as entertain…

bee5

 

 

confessions of a fairy's daughterStory blurb: Alison Wearing led a largely carefree childhood until she learned, at the age of 12, that her family was a little more complex than she had realized. Sure her father had always been unusual compared to the other dads in the neighbourhood: he loved to bake croissants, wear silk pyjamas around the house, and skip down the street singing songs from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. But when he came out of the closet in the 1970s, when homosexuality was still a cardinal taboo, it was a shock to everyone in the quiet community of Peterborough, Ontario—especially to his wife and three children.

Alison’s father was a professor of political science and amateur choral conductor, her mother was an accomplished pianist and marathon runner, and together they had fed the family a steady diet of arts, adventures, mishaps, normal frustrations and inexhaustible laughter. Yet despite these agreeable circumstances, Joe’s internal life was haunted by conflicting desires. As he began to explore and understand the truth about himself, he became determined to find a way to live both as a gay man and also a devoted father, something almost unheard of at the time. Through extraordinary excerpts from his own letters and journals from the years of his coming out, we read of Joe’s private struggle to make sense and beauty of his life, to take inspiration from an evolving society and become part of the vanguard of the gay revolution in Canada.
 
Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter is also the story of “coming out” as the daughter of a gay father. Already wrestling with an adolescent’s search for identity when her father came out of the closet, Alison promptly “went in,” concealing his sexual orientation from her friends and spinning extravagant stories about all of the “great straight things” they did together. Over time, Alison came to see that life with her father was surprisingly interesting and entertaining, even oddly inspiring, and in fact, there was nothing to hide.

About the author: Alison Wearing is the author of the internationally acclaimed travel memoir Honeymoon in Purdah – an Iranian journey and the writer/performer of two award-winning one-woman plays.

♣♣♣

Review by Gerry Burnie

One of the common bug-a-boos run up the flagpole by conservative Christians and other homophobic fear mongers is the so-called ‘risk’ to children that homosexuality and same-sex marriage allegedly represent. Everything from paedophilia to psychological maladjustment. The fact is, as demonstrated by Alison Wearing in her recent memoir-in four-parts, Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad, [Knopf Canada , May 7, 2013], homophobia probably has a greater negative impact on the offspring of a gay parent than the sexual orientation ever could have.

Her engaging memoir is uniquely structured into four perspectives. Her early life in a somewhat avant-garde family, where the mother—a talented musician and marathoner—chose to reasonably follow her personal pursuits, while the father—a professor at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario—was quite happy to pick up the domestic side of things. Nonetheless, young Alison had no problem with this … Except for one rather disastrous birthday party, featuring a birthday fare of “Gruyère soufflé, waxed beans in tarragon butter, and crème brûlée,” which for a seven-year-old speaks for itself.

This part also included her father’s coming out, but because of the prevailing homophobic attitude of the  time (1980s) Alison goes into denial.

The second part is written by the father, and relies on a journal he maintained at the time; plus some newspaper clippings having to do with homosexuality. I personally appreciated this approach because it gave me a deeper insight into a complex situation than I would have gotten from the author’s single POV. It also provided a brief insight into the social mores of the era.

The third part is written by the mother. It is quite short, but charming, and it completes the main character’s perspectives.

Lastly, the fourth part is an update of how things are today.

I like autobiographies, biographies and memoirs, but I particularly like this one. Adding the other two points of view is a unique approach—to me, anyway—and it added so much to my understanding of an otherwise complex situation. Moreover, on a personal level, Peterborough is only a few miles from my original home town, and the 1980s was a transition period for me as well a gay society: from the dark ages of the ‘Bath House Raids’ to more modern liberalism.

For these reasons I recommend it most highly, but as always this is my opinion. Five bees.

♣♣♣

Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 56,184

♣♣♣

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:  John Damien: Too gay for Canadian Racing.

♣♣♣

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 t

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Canadian author, Coming out, Gay non-fiction, Memoir, Semi-autobiographical | Leave a comment

Adagio, by Chris Owen

A heart warming romance in the classic style …

bee4

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.

☻☻☻

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.

☻☻☻

Viewers to Gerry B’s Books reviews –  53,080

☻☻☻

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 people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting books as well. Latest post: Pontiac’s War. Read about the great chief of the Ottawas who very nearly changed the coarse of history.

☻☻☻

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.

      

Thanks for dropping by.  If you’ve enjoyed your visit please ‘Like’ before you leave. Hope to see you again!

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

Billy Bishop: Top Canadian Flying Ace, by Dan McCaffery

Canadian history made interesting…

bee5

billy bishop - coverBilly Bishop was the top Canadian flying ace in the first World War, credited officially with a record breaking 75 victories. He was a highly skilled pilot and an accurate shot. Bishop went from being the most decorated war hero in Canadian history to a crusader for peace, writing the book “Winged Peace,” which supported international control of global air power. While some historians feel that authorities upgraded Bishop’s claims to improve morale, author Dan McCaffery presents the true life and accomplishments of Bishop through information he gathered from interviews and archival sources.

♠♠♠

Review by Gerry Burnie

Billy_Bishop_VCAsk any Canadian of a certain age to name an air ace, and they’re likely to name Billy Bishop: Top Canadian Flying Ace, by Dan McCaffery [Lorimer, 2002].

William Avery “Billy” Bishop wasn’t so much destined for glory as he was drawn into it with his idiosyncratic skills; namely a keen eye and adventurous spirit that seemed to be going the same way.

Born in the rural municipality of Owen Sound, Ontario, he retained that rural small town self-sufficiency through most of his life. Not given to team sports, he preferred individual pursuits such as swwimming, horse back riding, and shooting—in which he exceeded rather phenomenally. One story goes that he struck a target so far away that to the others it was just a dot.

billy bishop - planeAnother example of his small town, pragmatic thinking, was his decision to join the air corp in the first place, because “…it’s clean up there! I’ll bet you don’t get any mud or horse shit on you up there.”

His first solo, combat patrol was less than stellar as he had trouble controlling his air plane, was nearly shot down, and got separated from his squadron. Nonetheless, he went on to be the highest scoring Canadian ace in WWI.

About the only way one can rate a biography is on how well it is researched, and how well it is written. To this list I will also add a third: Did I learn something I didn’t know before? To all three I can “Yes.” Although I have never encountered any of McCaffrey’s books previously, I am impressed by the way he has fleshed out a larger-than-life character—both personally and militarily—in a way that is both interesting and readable.

Educators take note. Five bees.

♠♠♠

Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews to date – 51,681

♠♠♠

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: Fire on the water: The burning of the SS Noronic.

♠♠♠

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.

      

June 24, 2013 Posted by | Billy Bishop, biography, Canadian author, Canadian biography, Canadian content, Canadian historical content, non GBLT, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

Jimmy Simpson: Legend of the Rockies, by E. J. Hart

This is the way history should be taught … With joie de vivre! Bravo E. J. Hart!!

bee5

jimmy simpson - coverStory blurb: The Stoney Indians called him Nashan-esen meaning “wolverine-go-quick” because of his speed in travelling on snowshoes over the rugged landscape of the Canadian Rockies. This book is the story of Jimmy Simpson’s 80-year epic as one of the most important guides, outfitters, lodge operators, hunters, naturalists and artists in the Canadian Rockies. The story takes him from blazing the trails in the valley bottoms to ascending some of the highest peaks in the range, from leading scientists, mountaineers, big-game hunters and world-famous artists through some of the most unimaginable scenery on earth to entertaining thousands of visitors at his famous lodge at Bow Lake with his tales-both true and tall-of the pioneer days.

jimmy simpson - E. J. HartAbout the author: E.J. “Ted” Hart is the director of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff and the author of numerous popular and bestselling books on the Canadian Rockies.



Review by Gerry Burnie

A while ago some government official, I can’t remember who, was ruminating over the best way to teach kids about Canadian history. Simple: Make it interesting.

When I was going to school, and from what I’ve seen since, [see: Canadian History Made Boring], it is as if educators have gone out of their way to make history as unpalatable as possible. The fact is that Canada has a history as colourful and entertaining as any in the world, and it only remains for kids and adults alike to discover this.

We have real Sergeant Prestons who patrolled the Yukon, cattle drives undertaken though 1,500 hundred miles of primeval wilderness, pioneers who transported several stallions and breeding cattle 800 miles by canoe, great train robberies and gunfights that would make O.K. Corral look like an afternoon social, and yet very few people know about it. Fortunately, we also have people like E. J. Hart to write marvelous books like Jimmy Simpson: Legend of the Rockies [Rocky Mountain Books, First Edition, October 2009].

jimmy_simpson - portraitNow if this were being taught in school, we would dutifully learn that Jimmy Simpson (1877 – 1972) emigrated from England, arriving in Winnipeg in 1896. There he farmed for a while until he decided to go West [psst, after drinking up all his money]. He therefore pawned his gold watch and chain, and took a train to Calgary. Hearing of work on the railway he stowed away on a westbound train, but when he was discovered and kicked off he walked the 20-or-so-miles to Laggan (just below Lake Louise).

Being adventurous, Simpson signed on as cook with legendary outfitter, Tom Wilson, and began learning the outfitting business from “Wild” Bill Peyto—another legendary Rocky Mountain adventurer.

jimmy simpson - bow lake glaciersIn 1898, while working for Wilson, Simpson happened upon Bow Lake with the ice field and two magnificent glaciers above. He and his companions camped by the northern end of the lake, and it was there the he made his now famous proclamation: “I’ll build a shack here sometime,” he said.

Eventually Simpson left Wilson to strike out on his own, supplementing his guiding and outfitting business with trapping. To get around he took up snow shoeing, becoming so proficient at it that the local Indians gave him the honorary title of “Nashan-esen” (meaning “wolverine-go-quickly”).

jimmy simpson - num ti jahIn 1922 he returned to Bow Lake to build his log shack—as he had vowed to do—and when the Banff-Jasper Highway was built, bringing automobile traffic to the area in 1937, he built a small lodge to accommodate them. He called this lodge “Num-te-jah,” the Indian word for pine marten.

Business grew, and in the 1940s a major expansion to the lodge was undertaken to bring its capacity to sixteen rooms.

The original lodge became Simpson’s personal residence where he died in 1972, at the age of 95.

Interesting enough, I suppose, but as E. J. Hart has so masterfully demonstrated by way of Simpson`s own anecdotes, it says nothing about the man or his remarkable wit. For example:

[Fred Ballard was a partner in the trapping business for a (short) while.]

Ballard had been teasing me about a new suit of underwear that had been in the cabin all winter and as to how nice it was going to feel inside it when he got to it. When we arrived he got to it all right but the cabin had leaked and it was sopping wet inside so we built a bit fire outside and made camp. Fred squeezed the water out of it and spread it out in front of the fire carefully while I cooked up what flour was there and made a small bannock, and it was small. When cooked I halved it and his half past his tonsils as fast as a cable [trans-Atlantic telegraph] going over to the old country for more money while I sat on a log and ate mine slowly. That was too much for Fred. Pretty soon he snapped, “If there is anything I hate it’s to see is a man chawing on a piece of bread that I could swallow in two bites, especially when he has only one good eye to chaw with.” [Simpson had a temporary snow blindness in one eye]. I understood.

We lay down to sleep before the fire but in the middle of the night I was awakened by bad language in time to see Ballard holding up a piece of underwear with five button holes on it. A piece of charcoal had got to it while he was asleep so I thought condolences were due. “That’s not too bad,” I said, “All it needs is new arms and legs and a piece on the back to fold over the chest, those five button holes still look quite good.” The air was blue.

Another example of Simpson’s wit relates to an exploration trip he and “Wild” Bill Peyto took one winter. They had stopped for a smoke beside a huge dead spruce and Jimmy drove his axe into it. From inside came a sound like falling debris, so he hit it again with the back of the axe. He was about to do it again when, to his astonishment, it opened up and the head of a two-year old grizzly poked through. This is how he described what happened next:

Nine foot five is my record standing jump and I made it backwards. turning in mid air, and then I started showing squirrels how to climb a tree. I measured that jump next day with a copy of“Tid-Bits”that sported a foot rule on the cover. When I made the top I looked back. There was Bill cussing a blue streak and kicking that bear’s head back every time it poked its nose through. It had gone into hibernation and was in a semi comatose condition but it was fast in waking up. Bill called to me, I dropped out of the blue like dose of measles and we lit out for the camp. Next day we gathered it in.

This is how history should be taught. With some life in it. Sadly these people have passed on, but their way of life, their wit and humour, should not be buried with them.

For people, like me, who enjoy a history lesson that reads like a novel; that allows the reader to appreciate the times through the eyes of colourful characters like Simpson; and that is valid history at the same time, then I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Thank you E. J. Hart. Five bees.



Number of visitor’s views to date – 49,917



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!



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 will be looking forward to seeing you next week.

May 21, 2013 Posted by | Alberta history, biography, Canadian author, Canadian biography, Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Canadian historical content, non GBLT, Non-fiction, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Dos Equis (A Russel Quant Mystery, #8) by Anthony Bidulka

A Canadian gem, set in Saskatoon –

bee5

dos equis - coverStory blurb: After a year-long, self-imposed exile, ten whispered words in a cryptic telephone message change everything for Russell Quant: “Quant, you are the only one who can help me.” Returning to his life as a prairie private eye, he comes face to face with the greatest horror of his career. When an old rival is found dead, Quant is thrust into his most personal and dangerous case yet. Up against a cold, calculating villain, Russell risks everything, including the lives of those he loves. Fighting to right a wrong, Russell recruits his entire entourage of family and friends in an unforgettable caper that races from the frigid winterscapes of Saskatchewan to the pristine beaches of Mexico’s Costa Grande, in a tale of love, loss, lies, and coming home.

Available in ebook format – 431 KB

About this author: Anthony Bidulka has enjoyed time well-spent and misspent in the worlds of academia, accounting, footwear, food services and farming. In 1999 Anthony Bidulka, BA, BEd, BComm, CA, left a decade long career as a Chartered Accountant to pursue writing.

Anthony Bidulka’s Russell Quant mystery series tells the story of a half-Ukrainian, half-Irish, gay, ex-farm boy, ex-cop, Canadian private detective living a big life in a small city. The series has made Bidulka a multi award nominee — including a nomination for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award — and the second book in the series, Flight of Aquavit, was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Men’s Mystery.

♠♠♠

Review by Gerry Burnie

Although Dos Equis  (A Russell Quant Mystery, #8) by Anthony Bidulka [Insomniac Press, 2012] is the eighth in the series, it is the first I have read. Nevertheless, I was able to get into the story and engage with the characters without any difficulty whatsoever.

To begin, I was fascinated by fellow-Canadian Anthony Bidulka’s background (which is slightly similar to mine in diversity), and conclude that this is what contributes to his broad range of knowledge on several topics. Travel being one of them.

The story opens in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, but after he receives a mysterious message from a fellow private investigator he returns to his native town of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.[I love the setting—the first for Saskatoon, I believe.] There, he is shocked to find her murdered, but using her files he discovers she was working on a case involving the deliberate food poisoning of a wealthy old lady. However, it was done in such a way (using botulism) that it is difficult, if not impossible, to prove.

To go about this the author very cleverly brings in a gang of characters from his previous seven books, Anthony Gatt, Jared Lowe, Sereena Orion Smith, and Errall Strane, and police contact Darren Kirsch, and well as his Ukrainian mother, Kate (a delightful personality.)

Along the way he finds romance, although this aspect is far from being homoerotic by any means.

Although the culprit is known fairly early, the ending is still clever and suspenseful.

Mr. Bidulka is a multi-award winning novelist and this is certainly evident in his style, character development and plot construction. The whole novel 388 pages (431 KB) reads as smoothly as satin, with flashes of wit that delighted the senses too. Five bees.

♠♠♠

 Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 42,278

♠♠♠

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!

♠♠♠

Mission statement for Gerry Burnie Books

I have reworked several parts of my main website, http://gerryburniebooks.ca, including my mission statement pertaining to all my book, published and to come.

canada collage draft copy

♠♠♠

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. We had several 100+ daily views this week, so on behalf of the writers and myself a hearty thank you!!

January 7, 2013 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian content, Fiction, Gay fiction | 2 Comments

To Every Thing There Is a Season: A Cape Breton Christmas Story, by Alistair MacLeod

Bookshelf copy

A short story you’ll want to make part of your Christmas – 

bee5

to every thing - coverStory blurb: The story is simple, seen through the eyes of an 11-year-old boy. As an adult he remembers the way things were back home on the farm on the west coast of Cape Breton. The time was the 1940s, but the hens and the cows and the pigs and the sheep and the horse made it seem ancient. The family of six children excitedly waits for Christmas and two-year-old Kenneth, who liked Halloween a lot, asks, “Who are you going to dress up as at Christmas? I think I’ll be a snowman.” They wait especially for their oldest brother, Neil, working on “the Lake boats” in Ontario, who sends intriguing packages of “clothes” back for Christmas. On Christmas Eve he arrives, to the delight of his young siblings, and shoes the horse before taking them by sleigh through the woods to the nearby church. The adults, including the narrator for the first time, sit up late to play the gift-wrapping role of Santa Claus.

The story is simple, short and sweet, but with a foretaste of sorrow. Not a word is out of place. Matching and enhancing the text are black and white illustrations by Peter Rankin, making this book a perfect little gift.

Available in e-book – 287 KB, 48 pages.

to every thing - macleodAlistair MacLeod was born in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, and raised among an extended family in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. He has published two internationally acclaimed collections of short stories: The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (1976) and As Birds Bring Forth the Sun (1986). In 2000, these two books, accompanied by two new stories, were published in a single-volume edition entitled Island: The Collected Stories of Alistair MacLeod. In 1999, MacLeod’s first novel, No Great Mischief, was published to great critical acclaim, and was on national bestseller lists for more than a year. The novel won many awards, including the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Alistair MacLeod and his wife, Anita, have six children. They live in Windsor, Ontario.

Peter Rankin was born in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. He specializes in illustrating the traditional way of life there. A fisherman as well as an artist, in 2004 he illustrated Making Room, a children’s book by Joanne Taylor that was published by Tundra Books, for which he won the 2004 Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration. He lives in Mabou Coal Mines with his wife and their five children.

♥♥♥

Review by Gerry Burnie

To those who might not be familiar with Cape Breton Island, here is a brief orientation via Wikipedia:

cCape Breton Island is part of the province of Nova Scotia, Canada. The 10,311 km2 (3,981 sq mi) island accounts for 18.7% of the total area of Nova Scotia. Although physically separated from the Nova Scotia peninsula by the Strait of Canso, it is artificially connected to mainland Nova Scotia by the 1,385 m (4,544 ft) long rock-fill Canso Causeway. The island is located east-northeast of the mainland with its northern and western coasts fronting on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence; its western coast also forming the eastern limits of the Northumberland Strait. The eastern and southern coasts front the Atlantic Ocean; its eastern coast also forming the western limits of the Cabot Strait.[1] Its landmass slopes upward from south to north, culminating in the highlands of its northern cape. One of the world’s larger salt water lakes, Bras d’Or (“Arm of Gold” in French), dominates the centre of the island.[2]

to every thing - landscapeTo Everything Thing There Is a Season: A Cape Breton Christmas Story, by Alistair MacLeod [McClelland & Stewart, 2012] harkens back to the 1940s, but like most rural communities, including the Ontario one in which I grew up, its roots go back to a much earlier time. Indeed, in Cape Breton, its roots go back to a time when:

“…the English set out to destroy the clans of Scotland, [and] the most independent of the Highlanders left their homes with the pipes playing laments on the decks of their ships. They crossed the ocean and the pipes played again when they waded ashore on the rocky coast of Cape Breton Island.”– Hugh Mclennan

In the 1940s, rural communities were predominantly ‘closed’ communities with a proud, self-sufficient way of life, i.e.

“Most of the families, if they did not live in the town or work in the mines, would have a small farm where cows and sheep and pigs and hens and a small garden provided a living. Things would be easier with the help of the wages of a husband or son who worked on the fishing boats or in the woods or, like young Neil in the story, on “the lake boats” in Ontario.”

to every thing there is a season - lobster treeThere were few indulgences, therefore, except for Hallowe’en and Christmas, and MacLeod—in his flawless and evocative style—has captured this anticipation in the voice of an eleven-year-old boy.

“We have been waiting now, it seems, forever. Actually, it has been most intense since Hallowe’en when the first snow fell upon us as we moved like muffled mummers upon darkened country roads.”

Indeed, this entire story is a collection of evocative memories, seemingly random at times, but always moving the story forward at the same time.

“The ocean is flat and calm and along the coast, in the scooped-out coves, has turned to an icy slush. The brook that flows past our house is almost totally frozen and there is only a small channel of rushing water that flows openly at its very centre. When we let the cattle out to drink, we chop holes with the axe at the brook’s edge so that they can drink without venturing onto the ice.

“The sheep move in and out of their lean-to shelter, restlessly stamping their feet or huddling together in tightly packed groups. A conspiracy of wool against the cold. The hens perch high on their roosts with their feathers fluffed out about them, hardly feeling it worthwhile to descend to the floor for their few scant kernels of grain. The pig, who has little time before his butchering,  squeals his displeasure to the cold and with his snout tosses his wooden trough high in the icy air. The splendid young horse paws the planking of his stall and gnaws the wooden cribwork of his manger.”

For those of us who grew up on a family farm, one can almost hear, feel and smell these scenes, and for those who didn’t it is a wonderful glimpse of a simpler way of life when people had time to notice such things.

And to put the topping on it, it is  illustrated throughout with the marvellous sketches of Peter Rankin—of the same Rankin clan as the world-renowned “Rankin Family” musicians.

This is a short story (only 47 pages long) that you will want to make part of your Christmas tradition. Five bees.

♥♥♥

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 40, 290

♥♥♥

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!

 ♥♥♥

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. At this time of year, may I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and much happiness and prosperity. Regards, Gerry B.


[1] Named in commemoration of explorer and navigator, John Cabot, who landed on the coast of Cape Breton Island in 1497.

[2] Bras d’Or Lake is where Alexander Graham Bell had his summer home at Baddeck. It is also where his design of a heavier-than-air-aircraft (the “Dart”) was the first to fly in the British Empire (which included Canada), in 1917. The pilot was J.A.D. McCurdy, who would later be named Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Nova Scotia).

December 17, 2012 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian content, fiction/autobiographical, non-GLBT | Leave a comment

Shirts and Skins, by Jeffrey Luscombe

 raw, funny, pathetic and inspiring

bee5

shirts and skins - coverA remarkable debut novel from Jeffrey Luscombe-a compelling series of linked stories of a young man’s coming-out, coming-of-age, and coming-to-terms with his family and fate. Josh Moore lives with his family on the ‘wrong side’ of Hamilton, a gritty industrial city in southwestern Ontario. As a young boy, Josh plots an escape for a better life far from the steel mills that lined the bay. But fate has other plans and Josh discovers his adult life in Toronto is just as fraught with as many insecurities and missteps as his youth and he soon learns that no matter how far away he might run, he will never be able to leave his hometown behind.

Front cover design: Seth Ruggles Hiler

shirts and skins - authorAbout the author: Jeffrey Luscombe was born in Hamilton, Ontario Canada. He holds a BA and MA in English from the University of Toronto. He attended The Humber College School for Writers where he was mentored by writers Nino Ricci and Lauren B. Davis. He has had fiction published in Tupperware Sandpiper, Zeugma Literary Journal, and filling Station Magazine. In 2010 he was shortlisted for the Prism International Fiction Prize and was a contributor to the anthology Truth or Dare (Slash Books Inc. 2011). He lives in Toronto with his husband Sean.

Available in Kindle and paperback – 349 KB, 230 pgs.

♣♣♣

Review by Gerry Burnie

shirts and skins - hamiltonI spent three years in Hamilton, Ontario, in the early 1960s, having been transferred there as assistant manager of the Odeon Palace Theatre—a former vaudeville house with an original Wurlitzer theatre organ. It was grand (the theatre), but life in the rest of the city was like living on the far side of the moon; drab, utilitarian, and closeted. So when I came across Jeffrey Luscombe’s novel, Shirts and Skins [Chelsea Station Editions, 2012], set in Hamilton in the 1980s and 90s, I just had to read it.

The book is organized (quite cleverly, I think) into a chronology of short stories, starting with the main character’s formative years in Hamilton. Josh Moore is the son of a dysfunctional, working class family. His long-suffering mother is a factory worker, and his alcoholic father—also addicted to gambling—works sporadically at menial jobs.

Josh’s schooling is no more inspiring, being plagued by boredom, bullying, and poor grades. However, as he grows older he becomes a bit of a bully himself, emulating what he basically despises.

Likewise, he dreams of escaping “Steel Town” for far away places, but each time the reality of earning a living (in a steel mill) and the comfortable routine of living anchor him deeper in the town and society he abhors.

In every life there comes a turning point, however, and provided we have the courage to grasp it, it can make the difference between happiness and continued despair. In Josh’s case he was jarred into it by an industrial accident, but during his recuperative period he also found an opportunity to re-evaluate his life. Finding it wanting, he then begins the process of finding himself—his inner core—and to pull himself up by the bootstraps

This is fiction emulating non-fiction (which I suspect it might be, in part), for every part of this story reads like a biography: The setting; the working class culture and mores; Josh as a troubled youngster and adolescent; and Josh as an adult in Toronto. It is raw, funny, pathetic and inspiring. Five bees.

♣♣♣

40,000!

As of December 14, 2012, the visitor count to Gerry B’s Book reviews is 40,025.

♣♣♣

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!

 

♣♣♣

broken afflictions - coverShawnda Currie: Broken  – Afflictions of the Evolved Free Download
In celebration of the release of book two of The Evolved Trilogy, there will be a free download on amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/Broken-Afflictions-Evolved-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00AJB5FQE on Saturday, 15 December 2012.
If you don’t have a kindle, you can download a free application to your computer or phone!
It would be greatly appreciated if you could follow up with a review as this is very helpful to authors…….:)

 ♣♣♣

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. By this time next week we should have reached 40,000 visitors. Drop by and see.

December 10, 2012 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian content, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature | 3 Comments

Bonds of Earth, by G.N. Chevalier

A great debut novel. Enthusiastically recommended.

Story blurb: In 1918, Michael McCready returned from the war with one goal: to lose himself in the pursuit of pleasure. Once a promising young medical student, Michael buried his dreams alongside the broken bodies of the men he could not save. After fleeing New York to preserve the one relationship he still values, he takes a position as a gardener on a country estate, but he soon discovers that the house hides secrets and sorrows of its own. While Michael nurses the estate’s neglected gardens, his reclusive employer dredges up reminders of the past Michael is desperate to forget.

John Seward’s body was broken by the war, along with his will to recover until a family crisis convinces him to pursue treatment. As John’s health and outlook improve under Michael’s care, animosity yields to understanding. He and John find their battle of wills turning into something stronger, but fear may keep them from finding hope and healing in each other.

Available in ebook format – 240 pages

About the author: G N Chevalier has lived in Ottawa, Toronto, Québec City, and Montréal, but currently resides in Nova Scotia with her partner of many years. A long-time student of history, she is particularly interested in helping to tell the hidden stories that are only now being rediscovered. Some of her hobbies include playing music, video remixing, and photography.

♠♠♠

Review by Gerry Burnie

Although I have conducted an active search to find Canadian writers of GLBT fiction, it was only this week that Bonds of Earth, by GN Chevalier [Dreamspinner Press, 2012] came to my attention. Perhaps, this is because it is her debut novel, or perhaps it is because the Canadian connection just never made it to the surface.

Bonds of Earth is a historical fiction set in the period directly following WWI. The “Great War”, or the “War to end all wars,” was by all accounts a horrendous experience for those who participated. “Trench warfare” meant months of standing in muddy ditches, with “trench foot” attacking your feet, and the sounds of enemy artillery shells passing overhead for hours on end. It also meant all-out charges through and over ‘razor wire’ while being shot at by machine guns and sniper rifles.

Out of this hell came two men, Michael McCready, the son of poor Irish immigrant and a brilliant medical student, and John Seward, a wealthy recluse, both indelibly scarred by the experience.

Their coming together is fateful, which is the way fate often works, when Michael is coerced into taking a rural job as a gardener, and ends up on John’s estate (actually belonging to an aunt). The fact that Michael is the equivalent of a massage therapist, and that John is handicapped is serendipitous as well.

If that was it (the plot) it would be a “so-so” book at best, but Chevalier (a name tailor-made for a writer) shows great insight by pitting them together as antagonists to start. This bit of angst greatly contributes to the characterization of the two protagonists, and leads inevitably to the resolution.

I also liked the way she gave character to the supporting cast; each one serving a secondary role but interesting in their own way.

The tenor of the times is captured nicely, as well, and the pace is good … right up until (as it has been mentioned at least a dozen times) the epilogue. It’s not a fatal flaw. In fact I wouldn’t even call it a serious flaw, but being anticlimactical it detracts from the overall enjoyment like one-too-many desserts.

Enthusiastically recommended. Four bees.

♠♠♠

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 28,937

♠♠♠

What’s your opinion of cross-genre themes?

Lately there has been a surge of so-called “crossover” themes, i.e. cowboys and aliens, vampire-romance themes, etc.

  1. Have you written a crossover theme story?
  2. Have you considered writing one?
  3. Would a cowboy/Theban warrior theme interest you?

Share your comments below.

Notice to all those who have requested book reviews

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!

 

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. We are now approaching 30,000 visitors, and your continued visits will get us there. Drop back often.

July 8, 2012 Posted by | Canadian author, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction | Leave a comment

Two Irish Lads , by Gerry Burnie

Note: A tribute to St. Patrick’s Day. This review by Mark Probst originally appeared in Speak its Name, April 15, 2009.

 

 

two irish lads - final - medStory blurb: Two Irish Lads is a pioneer story with a difference. It is at once a carefully-researched depiction of pioneer life in the early part of the nineteenth century, and also a love story of two men who might have lived during such a challenging time.

Sean and Patrick McConaghy are two young cousins who set sail from Ireland one St. Patrick’s Day in 1820, and after a long and eventful crossing of the Atlantic, they tackle the mighty St. Lawrence River with a band of rugged voyageurs to eventually settle in the wilderness of Upper Canada.

Here they are not only confronted by the daunting task of carving a homestead out of the vast primeval forest, but also the ever-present danger of living as a devoted couple in a world where the possibilities of humiliation and death stalked them at every turn if their secret should ever be discovered.

It is a tale that also encompasses mystery, tragedy, brawling, humour and pathos, and altogether it will have you turning pages to discover what is about to happen next.

About the author: Gerry Burnie is a dedicated Canadian author, best known for his historical fictions, Two Irish Ladsand Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big SkyNow retired, he has had a long and varied career. For twenty-five years prior to his retirement, he lectured on the topics of political science and law, and then turned his interest to history for a further five years. In addition, he has been an actor, singer, dancer, artist and a municipal politician at various times in his life.

♣♣♣

Review by Mark Probst – Author of “The Filly

Gerry Burnie’s Two Irish Lads is a quaint tale of second cousins Sean and Patrick McConaghy who migrate to Canada from their homeland of Ireland in the year 1820. With their life’s savings they intended to buy some land in “upper Canada” (the area now known as Ontario) and make a good life as farmers with the hope of prosperity.

Once they arrive they visit the land office and select a choice piece of property. With a few supplies and a tent, they take on the task of clearing the land, hoping to build a shelter before winter. The two lads eventually realize they are in love. One of the settlement’s wealthy leaders, Nealon, takes them under his wing, giving them advice, arranging a cabin-raising for them, and even getting Sean a job as a schoolmaster. It is soon revealed that he has an ulterior motive in that he hopes they might marry his two daughters.

There are a few harsh realities through which they must persevere, before all the dust settles, but I won’t spoil it by revealing any more.

The story is written in the style of Sean’s daily journal. While the first few chapters do indeed read like an authentic journal, thankfully Burnie then shifts to more of a first-person narrative than how a real journal would read, but that is simply to accommodate the storytelling process.

Burnie’s knowledge and research shine through in that the story beautifully describes 19th century Irish customs and decorum. He even uses a few Gaelic phrases, always with translation, and the dialog sounds so right you can practically hear the Irish brogue.

I thought the characters were well-developed and exuded a great deal of charm. Sean was the leader and sensible one, whereas the younger Patrick was more carefree and daring. While he yearned to be able to be open and proclaim his “secret love” to the world, he deferred to Sean’s wisdom and together they balanced each other out. The details of frontier life were also well researched, and the descriptions were vivid enough to give us a good picture of the landscapes and the settlements.

My quibbles are minor – I’d have liked to see more of Sean actually teaching the children, and I felt there were a few times some of the characters were just a little too perky for my taste.

I really enjoyed Two Irish Lads. It suits my personal taste of an upbeat depiction of frontier life, and I especially like stories where people come together to help each other and fight against the evils that threaten them. I look forward to reading more from this gifted author.

♣♣♣

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.

                

 

March 12, 2011 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Canadian historical content, Canadian Irish tradition, Coming out, Fiction, gay cousins, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, gay pioneer christmas, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Homesteading in Canada, Irish, Irish pioneers in Canada, Irish romance, M/M love and adventure, Sea voyage from Ireland | 1 Comment

Klondike Cattle Drive – Norman Lee

An absolute-must addition to your bookshelf. It would make a great gift for the kids as well!

 

 

Story outline: The latest addition to TouchWood Editions’ “Classics West Collection”, this is the colourful tale of a formidable trek undertaken by legendary Cariboo rancher Norman Lee. In 1898, Lee set out to drive 200 head of cattle from his home in the Chilcotin area of BC to the Klondike goldfields – a distance of 1,500 miles. He was gambling both his cattle and his life. This is his story, derived from the journal he kept, his letters and the loyal men who accompanied him. Throughout the daunting weeks of coping with mud, cold and sheer bad luck, Lee kept his sense of humour. When he returned from his Yukon trek, he rewrote the notes from his journal, illustrating his story with his own cartoons and sketches. He completed his manuscript around the turn of the century, but it sat untouched until 1960, when it was published by Howard Mitchell of Mitchell Press, Vancouver.

_____________________

Review by Gerry Burnie

In terms of “Canadiana,” it just doesn’t get any more so than “Klondike Cattle Drive,” Norman Lee (Touchwood Editions. 2005). In fact, this sixty-four- page, absolute nugget of a story virtually epitomizes the Canadian pioneering spirit as it once was. That is why it should be made required reading for every history course taught in this country.

In 1898 Norman Lee, a dapper five-foot-eight rancher from the Cariboo District, British Columbia, undertook a 1500-mile cattle drive ‘north’ to Dawson City, Yukon Territory. This in itself was unusual, for most cattle drives at the time were headed south. Moreover, the route north passed through some of the most formidable wilderness imaginable; from pastureless forests to muskeg and belly-scraping swamps.

Just about every type of weather condition was encountered, as well; riding night watches in discomforting drizzle, getting lost in disorienting fog, and braving minus-forty-degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures on the way home.

Remembering that there was no how-to book on how this should be done, and that Norman Lee’s background was as an architect in England, he had to constantly improvise as the trail presented challenge after challenge. Mud, charlatans, lack of supplies, spent animals, all had to be overcome to achieve his goal. Nevertheless, he took it all in stride with humour and stoicism. That is another quintessential characteristic of the pioneer spirit that built this country and nation, and is now in real danger of being forgotten.

As a writer of Canadian, historical fiction I can say with authority that there are precious few published journals to be found. Therefore, it was with considerable rejoicing that I came across Norman Lee’s journal in connection with a Canadian western I was considering. I can also add that when I did find it, it became the inspiration for my forthcoming novel, “Coming of Age on the Trail,” scheduled for release in March 2010. A M/M romance built around a closely similar cattle drive.

In closing I will add that “Klondike Cattle Drive” is an intrinsically enjoyable read for any reason. However, for those who appreciate the rarity of a find like this, and the unquestionable authenticity it adds to the 19th-century pioneer experience, it is an absolute-must addition to your bookshelf. It would make a great gift for the kids as well!

January 26, 2010 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian autobiography, Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Canadian historical content, Homesteading in Canada, Non-fiction | 1 Comment

   

%d bloggers like this: