Book Review: Midshipman Graham and the Battle of Abukir

Midshipman Graham and the Battle of Abukir
by James Boschert

James Boschert possesses a genius for utilizing great yarns to draw readers into historical and other events and circumstances we previously knew little to nothing about. In this most recent Boschert read, Midshipman Graham and the Battle of Abukir, the author sets his titular character’s adventures within and shortly following the 1799 battle between Revolutionary France and the Ottoman Empire, along with their British allies.

Napoleon has designs on Egypt that stretch all the way to Constantinople and India, even after his catastrophic loss at the Siege of Acre not long before. Commodore Sir Sidney Smith lands his ships at Abukir, on Egypt’s northern coast, with the goal of further demoralizing and defeating French troops, though he underestimates their resolve as well as the Turkish commander’s leadership style, and the battle is every bit as dramatic and horrific as the novel’s cover image hints.

Midshipman Duncan Graham himself, though introduced early on, takes on a greater role only later in the story when the Scot finds himself trapped behind enemy lines. Having reflected on the events that led him not only to this moment, but also this era in his life and lack of money to buy his way to advancement, his path forward is tested sorely as he and a British spy attempt to make their way back to the sea and their squadron.

The point at which Graham finds himself in dire straits marks a turning, whereby Boschert transitions us from backstory and development to the meat of the tale. It takes on a somewhat lighter tone, which is brilliant given the battle we’d just witnessed, one with a grim outcome and lasting visual reminders. He balances Graham’s fears and abilities deftly, and does something similar with his circumstances, which are certainly frightful, but also at times comical.

Boschert has previously established his dexterity with word choice, and in Midshipman Grahamhe utilizes it to forge the continuity of the balance he addresses. For instance, his omnipotent storyteller doesn’t choose sides, commenting frankly on the skills and shortcomings of French, British and Turks alike. Moving into greater nuance, the author also pairs deadly settings with simply lovely descriptive passages, at times signaling the necessity but also fruitlessness of war. We happen upon a “velvety silence” within a city in which the rats are so bold that they take the time to “amble,” rather than, say, scurry, even in the presence of man and canine.

At other moments the natural surroundings personified even act as his enemy, such as when Graham continually blunders into “low bushes, which tried to trip him up or raked his face with their spiteful thorns.” The tall ruins of a cityscape “jutted up over the other buildings looking like rotten teeth.” Boschert has demonstrated the prowess of his word choice before, and we see these are more than merely pleasant-sounding or clever word combinations: they perform a function within his story that do more than set the stage as Graham walks amongst what they represent, how they grow him and the trajectory in which history moves.

To that end Boschert engages in a bit of historical foreshadowing as well, at least in terms familiar to us. A literal bloodbath, following the Battle of Abukir, prompts a British major to cry, “The water is like a sea of poppies all around; I have never seen the like!” When the same officer continues to express his dismay as he sips on wine, Boschert illustrates to us the dual capacity of forgetfulness as well as mental self-preservation.

While this particular battle is unfamiliar to many, especially those not especially schooled in the Napoleonic wars, Boschert remains true to his standard by skillfully engaging us in a narrative, and even when we think we know the outcome, the lead to that moment is the story. Moreover, with him creating a fictional character, rather than simply re-telling the story from a historical figure’s point of view, apart from escaping the multitude of such narrations, sets up the ability to embed commentary on Georgian society and the mores of the time, including character representation of countries within the British union and the changes each were undergoing.

We would add that the novel requires an additional proofreading to benefit its presentation, though as a tale it still is able to convey a marvelous sense of adventure, growth, compassion, daring and drive. Boschert writes that, “We may not be done with this young scamp as yet,” and given Duncan’s affability, enterprise and eagerness to cultivate who and what he is, we certainly hope we aren’t done, as we part ways with his character in a manner that speaks perhaps the most to the potential of what he has before him and the empire of which he is a part.

Bataille d’Aboukir, 25 Juillet 1799, by Louis-François Lejeune (1775-1848) (Collections du Château de Versailles) via Wikimedia Commons

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The author supplied a free copy of

Midshipman Graham and the Battle of Abukir

to facilitate an honest review. 

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Book Review: Blue Gemini

Blue Gemini
by Mike Jenne

Set during the height of the Cold War raging between its superpower players, the United States and the Soviet Union, Blue Gemini is a techno-thriller that takes readers through the early space age and behind the scenes in the rivalry many know today as the Space Race. Seen by both nations as key to national security, the quest for space dominance got its start with the Soviet Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite set into orbit, and continued with Yuri Gagarin’s journey in 1961, making the Russian cosmonaut the first human in outer space.

The road to 1969, when the Americans landed the first man on the moon, however, is paved with intrigue and action of the real-life variety, within which author Mike Jenne sets the tale of Lieutenant Scott Ourecky, a fictional USAF officer who dreams of flight school. He repeatedly falls short, but we do witness the beginnings of Ourecky’s romance with Bea, as a secret Air Force program simultaneously woos him into their mission of destroying suspect Soviet satellites. Recruited only as a fill-in, Ourecky attempts to keep his professional and private lives separate, until greater involvement and danger begins to merge his two worlds, and perhaps Bea’s as well.

One of the great draws to Blue Gemini is not only that many facets of the story are true, but also that the author reveals absolutely no classified information to achieve it. Jenne’s very striking author’s note stresses the “necessity and difficulties of keeping secrets that are larger than ourselves,” a challenge Ourecky faces as we, watching his saga unfold, can sense as we peer through time and space to witness a world we’ve only read about in school. Many readers will have personal recall of this time, still very much in living memory, and the mystique may very well have an even larger impact, given how much closer they were to it all.

Wherever readers are on the time continuum, Jenne’s style touches them as he shifts within several different perspectives, individual and group, American and Soviet, the latter achieved in a manner laid out in the narrative quite cleverly. As the novel progresses, Jenne slowly reveals layers of detail with an eye that misses nothing as it points out to us the unimaginable efforts it took to even conceive of such a program, let alone keep it up and running. While there are some technical bits here and there, it is gorgeously accessible with passages descriptive and intelligent, and ranging from “The room smelled of pine oil cleaner, cigarettes, and chalk dust” to

Henson enjoyed the sounds of nature awakening: swaying trees rustling in the wind, tree frogs chirping in the swamps, and birds rehearsing the opening notes of their morning songs[,]

and much in between and beyond. Jenne is also skilled at merging the institutional with a humanity that continuously illustrates the individuals behind the programs, while at the same time acknowledging their own very small role in the world they inhabit, a nod to the greatness of the space they are attempting to own.

The two men strolled out of the hangar as the C-130’s engines coughed to life. They walked along the grassy strip adjacent to a taxiway. By now, the sun had all but retired from the sky; the buildings and trees were bathed in the red-hued light of near dusk.

 His repertoire, however, is much larger than that, while also being notable for its almost humorous straightforward nature. “[D]o I have to remind you[,” an official asks one of the flight crew, who has just equated a romantic decision to living dangerously,] “that you’re travelling over seventeen thousand miles per hour in a flimsy metal can built by the lowest bidder?”

That, dear readers, is what we call a dose of reality, and we feel it in the indrawn breaths that accompany the uneasy chuckle. This is one of the many ways Jenne brings us closer to characters and the real-life figures some of them were inspired by.

Readers also meet up with other key players Ourecky comes into contact with, which hints at the nature of the novel as it becomes apparent it is a series story, a wise choice on Jenne’s part, as trimming away enough to contain it to one volume would lose too many events. As it turns out, the author doesn’t tie up all the loose ends in this installment, and readers will find themselves wanting to know more about the mysterious Matt Henson, for example. Resourceful, intelligent, down-to-earth, practical, funny and friendly, Henson is a character we don’t get enough of, though the novel packs so much story into itself we look forward to moving onto the sequel.

At times self-aware, Blue Gemini is part our history, part airman’s journey, blended with intense research and fascinating imagination that leaves readers pulling for Ourecky while also wondering where exactly the lines are blurred and eager to progress beyond just before the moon landing, where the book ends. Tantalizingly detailed without the weight of bogging down readers unfamiliar with space stories, this is a techno-thriller that grew this reader as did the tale itself.

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Spacefest is the event for space enthusiasts of any stripe, and author Mike Jenne will be there, signing books and appearing on a panel on space stations. Spacefest IX happens this week (July 5-8) in Tuscon, Arizona, and tickets are available at the door after midnight on July 2 (that’s tomorrow!). Click here for schedule and above links for more information about the event and what it entails.

The author provided a copy of Blue Gemini
in order to facilitate an honest review

Click here to see a series of amazing technical drawings!

 

Book Review: Britannia’s Gamble

Britannia’s Gamble
The Dawlish Chronicles: March 1884—February 1885
by Antoine Vanner

A Discovered Diamond Review and Book of the Month

Following my previous read of Britannia’s Spartan, Nicholas Darwish returns in Antoine Vanner’s Britannia’s Gamble, sixth in his series chronicling the life and adventures of the Victorian era Royal Navy officer. This time we see him recruited for a mission placing him within grasp of a savage Islamist revolt across the Sudan, his key objective being to reach and rescue General Charles Gordon, who maintains a weakening defensive position within the lone holdout, the city of Khartoum. Plagued by one catastrophe after another, time runs short as Dawlish contemplates and questions his own motives and role in the operation, and their position becomes ever more desperate.

My “discovery” of Antoine Vanner’s novels came quite by chance in that I’d won a copy of Britannia’s Spartan in a contest, and it set me happily back onto the course of nautical adventures. I found Dawlish to be a likeable character who poses authentic questions of ethics and morality to himself and, while he has high expectations of others, is no less demanding of his own conduct. In the pages of Gamble, too, he is courageous, though not without fear.

The felucca edged across, the oars still, now only the current carrying it forward in absolute silence. Dawlish crouched like Shand and the Sussexes in cramped discomfort. He tugged at the lanyard of his holstered pistol—an action that was by now an unconscious habit—and pushed the safety catch forward on his Winchester. The same fear was on him now as he had first experienced as a mud-plastered boy in a ditch in China and he prayed that, as then, it would not master him. Each man around him would be feeling no less. Courage was conquest of fear, not its absence.

 One of the best elements of Vanner’s tales is that they take readers to locales many of us don’t know much about, or recognize in a broader view or modern context. As we progress through the story, the author utilizes documented historical figures or actions—such as Gordon or the Siege of Khartoum—within his plot, its population increasing with fictional characters whose roles are so smoothly matched with history we sometimes think we might look them up to discern who is real and not. All the while their experiences tell us even more of the place at this time: its geography, conditions, influence, challenges, allies and workable military strategy.

I also thoroughly enjoy the manner in which Vanner truly takes readers on board his vessels, immersing us in the naval and shipboard terminology without drowning our senses—a perfect combination of trusting readers without making unreasonable demands on their previous knowledge. Feeling a part of the crew, readers rejoice in their victories and feel their hearts sink when things go wrong.

In Britannia’s Gamble, there are plenty of things that can go south, and they do. Vanner’s expertise in storytelling is such that we follow his narrative and sometimes recognize on oncoming crisis, pulling in our breath along with his characters, in whose journey and mission we have invested. Maps are sprinkled through the novel, so we get a sense and better idea of where the group is as they travel overland or upriver, with even more suspense at such moments as when we know we are close to Khartoum, or dangerous passages, when that internal uh oh occurs.

Another great characteristic of the author’s presentation is that he makes plenty of room for readers to bond with characters apart from Dawlish. He most definitely maintains the spotlight, but true to his character, he gladly gives due recognition. A talented and accomplished naval officer, Dawlish also cares about the dignity of humanity, and this stirs childhood and professional memories as well as gnaws at his ideas of the future, particularly following one incident that will undoubtedly alter the course of his life, and even the nature of his concern for others.

Dawlish himself contemplates his own perspectives by way of his journal, an activity that sets up the possibility that the chronicles are drawn from the diaries as the captain looks back upon his life. We see his immediate musings, which of course reflect upon the kind of person he is. “Night fell, not darkness absolute, but the same vast unfeeling dome of stars that had mocked the pettiness of their aspirations ever since Kurgel.” He often thinks of his wife, Florence, back home, perhaps dreading her response to something he’s done, or feels delight in her presence in his life. The variety and breadth of his meditations even develop the character of the absent Florence, additionally bringing to the novel a female influence other than that of the standard lovable prostitute or sought-after heiress.

These and other angles are what tend to make Dawlish himself more fully developed than many other nautical or historical fiction characters, and Vanner placing him in the various locales, following plotlines drawn from history with plenty of his own life events depicted within, are surely what bring us back time and again. Of course, so far I’ve only read two of The Dawlish Chronicles, but the officer hasn’t seen the last of me, nor I of him.

A smooth and addicting read, Britannia’s Gamble is fully capable as a standalone or installment in a series one simply cannot get enough of. Realistic action scenes—in which victory is not always assured—and a well-developed plot combine with the strength of the author’s imagination and impressive research to bring a story of great quality and years of re-visitation and the seeking of Dawlish in other volumes in which we will follow him time and again around the world.

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Learn more about and follow Antoine Vanner and his work at his fascinating website, The Dawlish Chronicles, including more about Britannia’s Amazon, also a Discovered Diamond, with Florence Dawlish as protagonist and narrated from a female point of view. Additionally, subscribers to Vanner’s mailing list at intervals receive free short stories that fill in some gaps in Darwish’s life not covered in the novels.

The author provided the blogger with a copy of
Britannia’s Gamble in order to facilitate an honest review.

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This review previously appeared at The Review

 

Book Review: Shopaholic Takes Manhattan

Shopaholic Takes Manhattan
(aka Shopaholic Abroad)
by Sophie Kinsella

About the book: With her shopping excesses (somewhat) in check and her career as a TV financial guru thriving, Becky Bloomwood’s biggest problem seems to be tearing her entrepreneur boyfriend, Luke, away from work for a romantic country weekend. That is, until Luke announces he’s moving to New York for business—and he asks Becky to go with him! Before you can say “Prada sample sale,” Becky has landed in the Big Apple, home of Park Avenue penthouses and luxury department stores.
 
Surely it’s only a matter of time until Becky becomes an American celebrity. She and Luke will be the toast of Gotham society. Nothing can stand in their way, especially with Becky’s bills an ocean away in London. But then an unexpected disaster threatens her career prospects, her relationship with Luke, and her available credit line. Becky may have taken Manhattan—but will she have to return it?

I’m currently binging Shopaholic books, which extends to anything by author Sophie Kinsella—and to be honest intended just to read and enjoy Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, not write any review. Part of Kinsella’s brilliance, however, is that her creation Becky Bloomwood’s world makes you want  to write about the book, telling everybody who will listen what a fun and smashing story it is.

I’d actually also read this second in Kinsella’s Shopaholic series yonks ago and indeed remembered some of the scenes, such as when Bloomwood, the financial journalist, confesses to us readers that she has a bit of an overdraft. I also recall thinking way back when how funny yet poignant—plus addicting—these books are, each one truly a new creation.

The author also has a gift for observing and reporting on human nature—we recognize ourselves in Bloomwood’s excesses, which include not only shopping but also her loveable and occasionally infuriating insecurity, or desire to help others achieve their goals without accurate measure of impracticality. Her dreams are as large as her heart, even if she at times fails to identify the impact she has on others—becoming a shop assistant, for example, and hiding clothes from customers in her on-the-clock shopping quest, even when the situation’s absurdity is evident to all but herself.

But Becky’s at-times inability to single out what she could be saying or reporting to others in a jam, while it can also transform itself into something much larger than it really is, might just have an upside…maybe?

Opening with a return letter from Becky’s bank manager, Kinsella offers us a taste of her protagonist’s personality and foibles:

It is true that we have known each other a long time, and I am pleased that you consider me “more than just a bank manager.” I agree that friendship is important and was glad to hear that you would always lend me money should I need it.

 However, I cannot reciprocate, as you suggest, by wiping £1,000 off your overdraft “accidentally on purpose.” I can assure you, the money would be missed.

 Instead, I am prepared to extend your overdraft limit by another £500, taking it up to £4,000, and suggest that we meet before too long to discuss your ongoing financial needs.

In this way Kinsella introduces Becky’s unselfconscious nature with perfect balance, continually utilizing letters, conversations, character introspection, budgets, situations and more: we as readers recognize her circumstances for what they are while she doesn’t, though the author never overplays her hand. Sure, Becky always has some reason why her casually over-the-top spending is justified—”it’s an investment, really”—but we want to keep reading, as exasperated as we may become with her behavior.

Along the way Becky articulates herself in a manner that resonates, such as by admitting to “a slight dentisty feeling of dread” on the morning of her appointment with important American television reps. Kinsella continues to build Becky’s world and its opportunities without relying on repetition, and as the book progresses we begin to realize she’s tossed in a bit of mystery amidst the already grand humiliation Becky experiences when her world not only is shattered, but done so as well with what seems like the entire world focused on her alone.


“Bex, why did he think you were in the artificial limb unit?”

“I don’t know,” I say evasively. “Maybe he heard something. Or … I may possibly have written him the odd letter…”

“Bex,” interrupts Suze, and her voice is quivering slightly. “You told me you’d taken care of all those bills. You promised!”

“I have taken care of them!” I reach for my hairbrush and begin to brush my hair.

“By telling them your parachute didn’t open in time?” cries Suze. “I mean, honestly, Bex—”

“Look, don’t stress. I’ll sort it all out as soon as I come home.”


Like its predecessor, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Shopaholic Takes Manhattan is told from Becky’s point of view—the only way, really—and in present tense. I mention this because this can be a tricky way to story tell, and many readers are turned off by or completely avoid it. Kinsella, however, is a master of fluidity, with authentic language, perceptions, mannerisms, character observations and descents into the wrong directions, and her narrative transitions from place to place and time to time so naturally it’s next to impossible to put down. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan doesn’t just flow and neither does it merely grip audiences to its tale as they observe Becky’s efforts to reconcile her own mismanagement. With a whole series ahead, readers will want to explore every one of its installments—and its re-readability factor is an easy sale!

Don’t miss my review for Sophie Kinsella’s Can You Keep a Secret?

Book Review: The Freedman (Tales From a Revolution: North-Carolina) (Brand Spanking New Release)

The Freedman (Tales from a Revolution: North-Carolina)
by Lars D.H. Hedbor

Release Date: May 31, 2018

Mark your calendars! Book signing with Lars Hedbor:
June 9, 2018 at Jan’s Paperbacks!

Author Lars D.H. Hedbor has asked himself countless times, “What made the American colonists turn their backs on their king and fight for independence? How were they different from us–and how were their hopes and fears familiar to our own hearts?” Naturally there is no single answer, though he probes history in his series, Tales From a Revolution, searching for the ones that are perhaps most identifiable, common, relatable, recognizable—answers that come from the lives of ordinary people and not just as historically and intellectually written out in the annals of our time as a colony and a nation.

Tales From a Revolution moves through and settles within various regions during an assortment of periods, observing individuals and families as their lives play out within the ebb and flow of fortunes, history, and revolution. In his latest installment, The Freedman, Hedbor takes us to North Carolina, where the slave Calabar is suddenly granted liberty after years of toiling on his late master’s indigo plantation. The man’s son and heir, indifferent to this particular product, turns Calabar off his land, and the formerly bonded man unexpectedly faces the question of what to do with his own freedom.

Grieving at the sudden separation from his wife and baby girl and plunged into a society that struggles within its own bonds, Calabar endeavors to find a balance within the surprising variety of responses to his appearance amongst the townspeople—and his to them. As he repels enemies close to home and a new one appears when revolution draws nearer, the freedman takes steps and makes decisions to determine his own life and the paths he will walk. While his hopes and fears are both recognizable and foreign to those around him, Calabar’s choices will play into the rise or fall of a nation in the making.

With The Freedman, Hedbor not only continues his pattern of producing a quality tale, but also demonstrates his wide imagination with the plots and people he brings to life. Calabar is not the first character to appear outside the bounds of ordinary colonist, but does strike a unique note in the author writing from the point of view of a former slave. It is a daring choice, and Hedbor gives us a win: Calabar is unfamiliar with the ways of the larger society he has until now regarded as a free one, and his intelligence is not naturally paired to its patterns. However, his determination and willingness to admit to himself he doesn’t know something, aid him in making his way, and he begins to understand on a deeper level how alike and different he and the others are, often in ways they do not. Through Calabar’s eyes, we perform a study of our hearts and his, further bringing to bear on our understanding of our own history the questions Hedbor initially asked himself about our ancestors.

This chapter in the Tales is perhaps one of the most subtle Hedbor has yet produced. Woven through the narrative as deeply as Calabar’s indigo on material are passages that often speak to more in the larger picture.

The captain’s face registered a moment of surprise, and then he turned his full attention to Calabar. Under the man’s piercing gaze, Calabar felt as though he were laid bare in both body and soul, the captain’s eyes a physical force as they roved over his face and limbs. He felt acutely self-conscious of the contrast between the rough clothing he still wore while they awaited the tailor’s work, and the hat perched on his head like a shield against the judgement of the world.

 In this, one of Calabar’s transitional moments between his old life and new, we see more than the freeman’s assessment of a former slave: it is a microcosm of the colony itself as it determines its path and the people’s own preparation for it. In this manner the colony is silent partner to Calabar’s more open statement of who he is becoming as both take stock of themselves, both still imprisoned by the measurement of others, both echoing the words once spoken by Calabar’s Affey: “Our hearts are still our own.”

It is nothing short of magnificent that Hedbor writes these characters, with their fantastically diverse backgrounds, as convincingly as he does. It should be noted that the author also distinguishes Calabar’s speech in two ways: one to portray a good faith representation of the English he would have spoken, having begun to speak it at about age ten. Within that, he distinguishes the freedman’s speech between insider and outsider listeners, and the aim is precise, for we “hear” Calabar with the likely accent without it making a negative statement about his intelligence.

While perhaps also one of Hedbor’s most sentimental novels in content, The Freedman avoids falling into the maudlin in practice. It can be both difficult and harrowing to engage in introspection, to recognize how others see us, even if some of those judgements view ways not entirely of our making. The story’s plot in itself conveys that realization, while the author’s dialogue, narrative, imagery and representations carry it out, with a raw sort of beauty whose naked utility leads us all the way to present day. As we look back upon the lovely picked up along the way, sprouting from the hearts of those with hopes and fears, those we know and that we don’t, we begin to recognize why they did it, what they knew of their hearts and ours, despite the differences of circumstance and centuries.

Highly recommended for anyone familiar or not with Hedbor’s previous work, The Freedman is a more than worthy successor with much more to say each time we revisit.

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To see information on each book, click here.

You may also wish to have a peek at my previous reviews for
Tales From a Revolution—

The Prize (Tales From a Revolution: Vermont)

The Light (Tales From a Revolution: New-Jersey)

The Smoke (Tales From a Revolution: New York)

The Break (Tales From a Revolution: Nova-Scotia) 

The Wind (Tales From a Revolution: West-Florida)

The Darkness (Tales From a Revolution: Maine)

The Path (Tales From a Revolution: Rhode-Island)

Get your free e-copy of The Declaration!

About the author ….

What made the American Colonists turn their back on their King, and fight for independence? How were they different from us–and how were their hopes and fears familiar to our own hearts?

These are the sorts of questions that I think are important to ask in examining the American Revolution, and in the pages of my novels, I suggest some possible answers.

My first novel, The Prize, was published in 2011, followed by The Light in 2013, and The Smoke, The Declaration, and The Break in 2014; The Wind was published in 2015, and The Darkness in 2016.

I’ve also written extensively about this era for the Journal of the American Revolution, and have appeared as a featured guest on an Emmy-nominated Discovery Network program, The American Revolution, which premiered nationally on the American Heroes Channel in late 2014. I am also a series expert on America: Fact vs. Fiction for Discovery Networks, and was a panelist at the Historical Novel Society’s 2017 North American Conference.

I am an amateur historian, linguist, brewer, fiddler, astronomer and baker. Professionally, I am a technologist, marketer, writer and father. My love of history drives me to share the excitement of understanding the events of long ago, and how those events touch us still today.

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You can follow and learn more about Lars D.H. Hedbor and his books at his website and blog, Twitter and Facebook. The Freedman may be purchased in paperback* (signed copies available upon request), at Kindle, Nook, iBooks, or Kobo.(Paperbacks also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble links.)

*soon to be added

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Author photo courtesy Lars D.H. Hedbor

The blogger received an advance reader copy of
The Freedman to facilitate an honest review

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Book Review: Four Nails

Four Nails by G.J. Berger

Four Nails is a recipient of the San Diego Book Award for Best Published Historical Fiction (2016-2017) and an indieBRAG Medallion Honoree.

From its striking cover to opening passages beckoning readers into the camp of an elephant trainer in ancient India and the paths that lead him to the battles of the Second Punic War, Four Nails entices readers to an age commonly identified by one name – Hannibal Barca–though nearly as often shrouded in mystery. Author G.J. Berger lifts the veil a bit, bringing us closer to events of the era and the “[e]veryday ordinary people made to survive, to endure, to nurture their children, and love those close to them in times of great hardship[.]” Relating the tale of one man’s odyssey, the storyteller opens to readers a world many of us have had precious little opportunity to explore.

As this prequel to Berger’s first novel, South of Burnt Rocks West of the Moon, opens in 227 B.C., we meet Ashoka and his family’s elephant camp from which he is sold into slavery by his desperate father. After long and weary travel, he is tasked with training elephants for war, then sold into Hannibal’s service, where he once again meets up with Four Nails, the elephant he’d previously forged a special bond with.

As Hannibal leads his army through the Alps in his aim to reach and defeat Rome, Ashoka pours his entire existence into the care and consideration of his team, as his memories and other experiences also provide us with glimpses into his love for another and determination to speak truth, even to a power that could easily crush him. We come to understand his view of the differences and similarities between the two armies he has experienced as Ashoka endeavors to survive this war he never asked to serve in and make his way back to India. Simultaneously a love story unwinds, serving to contrast the ravaging of the Italian peninsula and showcasing acts of bravery that won’t make it to the history books.

Having previously experienced this author’s narrative style in the course of another telling of war and defense of one’s personal interests, I was looking forward to Four Nails, especially given the amazing exploits of a military commander bringing an army and trained elephants across a mountain range stretching through the territories of hostile weather, tribes, natural conditions and even one’s own turmoil and conflicts with confederates. Result: lush, descriptive passages and protagonist’s voice not only does not disappoint; it gripped me from start to finish.

A marble bust, reputedly of Hannibal, originally found at the ancient city-state of Capua in Italy, by © 1932 by Phaidon Verlag (Wien-Leipzig) (“Römische Geschichte”, gekürzte Ausgabe (1932)), via Wikimedia Commons

Before reading any of Berger’s works, I was aware of only very basic information about Hannibal, Carthage or the era, and was impressed to find that historical information I researched matched the true events played out in Four Nails. Once engrossed in the tale, it was easy to be drawn in and mesmerized by the author’s ability to wind together several layers and even stories, threads from one Indian boy’s life that meet with those of others, how they inform and affect one another and the places—geographical as well as emotional—to where they lead.

It would seem that in a story of this scope, the narrative details can’t be rushed, and Berger understands this well. Ashoka’s experiences unwind at a pace natural to events and its flow allows Ashoka, and not the war, to be the center. In this manner the novelist doesn’t allow his story to fall into the trap of mere rehashing or history lesson. He does a magnificent job of portraying ancient Indian and Carthaginian cultures: their habits, elements, sensibilities, ethics, worship and more. Immersed in the story as readers become, the characters do not seem so distant as the dates might insinuate. Living, breathing people with affections and fears populate this time and this tale, and the author lets them expand. We truly do get to see them in their moments of great hardship and what they do to endure and to love.

It is some time before we are given to recognize the significance of the beloved elephant’s name; once we reach this point, Berger gifts us with an even larger understanding of Ashoka’s character, which renews the continued reality of the world he holds dear, no matter where fate places him. We urge him on, even as the boy seems to resist our persuasions to make an escape in a way that makes sense to us; he will do it on his own terms. The author’s ability to portray an authentic voice for each of the larger characters is brilliant, and we can feel the angry power, modest timidity, quiet determination, for example, as distinct personalities hold their own.

Hannibal´s route of invasion given by the Department of History, United States Military Academy. There is a mistake in the scale. By Frank Martini, Cartographer, Department of History, United States Military Academy, via Wikimedia Commons

Four Nails speaks to friendship, loyalty, truth and heroism in a time of destruction, cruel conquest and shifting of powers, when all has been lost and the impending new order wants to extract yet more. Insightfully probing into the recesses of history, the author captures the voices of those seemingly lost to their time and those that follow. This is historical fiction that causes us to us reconsider all our previous notions about Carthaginian civilization—and ours.

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Thank you so much to G.J. Berger, who so kindly gifted me a copy of Four Nails with no expectation of a review. I am honored as well as humbled to promote this poignant and fascinating tale, a study and a story that I highly recommend. You can purchase Four Nails at Amazon or Amazon UK. It is the prequel to award-winning South of Burnt Rocks West of the Moon (reviewed here), which can also be purchased at Amazon or Amazon UK

Learn more about G.J. Berger at his website, and
check out my interview with this fantastic writer.

South of Burnt Rocks West of the Moon is also a two-time award winner: This marvelous read has taken home prizes from indieBRAG as well as the San Diego Book Awards.
G.J. Berger has been featured in the San Diego Reader‘s Writers to Watch series and The Huffington Post has called Four Nails a Pack Your Suitcase Read. Definitely an author to keep your eye out for, as we’re sure there will be much more to come!

Book Review: Can You Keep a Secret?

Can You Keep a Secret?
by Sophie Kinsella

Well, can you? OK, here’s my confession: I read chick lit. Sure, it’s considered “fluffy” by some, unthinking, shallow, blah blah blah. I’ve heard it all and—wait, rewind! No, no, I’m not going to say I don’t read in this genre. The reality is that it’s not a secret!

Here’s what many people don’t really know about me (this is not a secret, either): finishing a great book is an accomplishment. I don’t carry on for days about it, or often bring it up, but once I close the back cover, there’s a positive sensation of completion as I think back about the world I’ve just inhabited for a while. I feel like I’ve achieved an understanding, perhaps a valuable observation that takes weight off my mind, rather than adds to everything else I have to carry in there.

As I finished Sophie Kinsella’s Can You Keep a Secret? I was still smiling, thinking about how funny we humans can be, and Kinsella’s skill at tapping into that. There’s the klutzy heroine with her ditzy moments, hunky male, challenging (read: mean) colleagues and sticky situations. But we also see Emma Corrigan’s humanity shine through as her embarrassment peaks, her explanations stumble and she goes home utterly humiliated. Also visible are her intelligence and justified resentment, the determined dignity she insists upon when others’ actions—intended or not—threaten to strip it from her. Within all that, we also see ourselves.

The novel opens to Emma’s daydreaming about her secrets during a Glasgow business meeting she’s flown from London to attend—attendance she’d achieved through a mixture of persuasion and dumb luck—and its grand and devastating conclusion as she inadvertently sprays a Panther Cola spinoff drink all over the client representative her marketing firm has just lost. On the way home her devastation is paired with abject terror as the plane encounters some clear-air turbulence, resulting in minor injuries to some passengers. Already not a fan of flying, she begins to spill all her secrets to an American sitting nearby, who later turns out to be the elusive CEO of the company she works for, Panther Corporation. As her two worlds begin to collide hilarity ensues, as does some serious reckoning.

About midway through the novel I realized Emma was telling her story in present tense, which I don’t have any hard and fast rule against, as do some; my surprise came from the length of time it took to recognize. About a month or two ago I read a work of historical fiction whose clunky present tense contributed to slowdown of an otherwise well-woven tale. Here, however, I found myself practically speeding through the pages as I could barely wait to find out what would happen next.

Kinsella’s main characters are well developed—with the exception of the handsome stranger and one of Emma’s flatmates, both for very distinctive reasons—and there’s a poignancy within that adds rather than takes away from the plot because the author’s management style knows not only when to restrain an angle or move it into another direction. She also captures nuance with some exclamation point usage that indicates Emma’s own self-awareness, and enough introspection that keeps her persona authentic.

Anyone who has ever experienced any of this author’s other novels will recognize a formula, but what is discussed above is only part of what makes it work—and Kinsella engages that magic repeatedly. She knows how to create charming characters whose actions are believable and relatable, never recycling phrases or mishaps, and brings us back to her themes with subtly and brilliantly woven scenarios.

Though the book is fourteen years old, the angles of aiming for honesty and genuine communication, along with a repeat evaluation of how often any of us fall into a mob-mentality of mean-spirited piling on remain timely— perhaps more so than ever. The author also presents them without lecturing and really gets it right with hilarious blow ups and serious letdowns alike. Her characters are likeable (well, except that horrible Jemima!) and it’s a fun, relaxing and rewarding yarn, and not just as a break in between serious reading. Kinsella scores again with Can You Keep a Secret? and when it comes to great tales, this is one readers should most definitely not keep close to the vest.

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Also recently read and recommend by Sophie Kinsella: My Not So Perfect Life

 

Book Review: Cometh the Hour

Cometh the Hour (Tales of the Iclingas, Book I)
by Annie Whitehead

Cometh the Hour is the proud recipient of an indieBRAG Medallion, Chill with a Book Readers’ Award, Discovering Diamonds Award and was selected as a Discovering Diamonds Book of the Month 

As is the case with many others, it has arisen in my reading universe that certain writers command my attention, and their names on any book guarantee I will read it. This is the case with multiple award-winning author Annie Whitehead who, with her previous work including novels To Be a Queen and Alvar the Kingmaker, has established herself as a solid voice for Anglo-Saxon England.

As the first entry in a new series, Tales of the Iclingas, this third novel by necessity includes a somewhat extensive cast of characters with wide array of perspectives and motives. The author includes a dramatic personae and does an amazing job describing who from which of four kingdoms battles whom and for what, opening with a brutal attack and abduction that spreads the sway of tribal loyalties, setting off generations of internecine warfare and quest for freedom as defined by their respective leaders.

Having twice now read Cometh the Hour, it is next to impossible not to put to writing some musings on the historical and fictional characters Whitehead brings to life while transporting us to seventh-century Mercia and surrounding lands. Here we bear witness to the tangled lives and loyalties of the four kingdoms—Bernicia, Deira, Mercia and East Anglia—its rulers related in blood and marriage, as we follow them through the years of history leading to links within our own time, one in particular a very tangible tie creating sheer excitement upon recognition. The author doesn’t only tell us a fantastic tale we want to hear, but also includes us as part of it.

It perhaps would be more accurate to state that the characters describe all this via their own observations, passions positive and negative, and dialogue so masterfully composed one might believe these are historically documented utterances. While the novel is actually written in third person, its omnipotent narrator transcends mere recitation to unite reader and character in such a way that each almost has a stake in how the other fares, which in a sense, really is so, for Whitehead’s prose fully lives up to the standard she has crafted it to be. Poetic, it draws readers in as they witness characters making their own observations; we are with them as events unfold and hearts thunder at the tension that builds, compelling continued reading and signaling the care we have for what happens to the people in this world, in the immediate as well as long-term future.

At various moments we see Carinna take in scenes including Ænna the rejected younger child, assessments of wealth or reactions to perilous change, oftentimes wondering, as we move through this powerfully written account, what else any parts of them may additionally signal.

Following an instance in which young Ænna, attempting to emulate the warriors by striking a blow to Edwin’s leg with his wooden sword –

Edwin was clearly angry and although he stayed his sword, he lifted up his leg and gave Ænna the full force of his boot, felling the child who lay in the dust and snivelled.

 Carinna spoke quietly. “He was only trying to be like you.”

 “No wonder the youngling is so inept. His sot of a father will never teach him anything and I doubt he’ll ever make much of a man with all these strapping kinsmen around him. Best show him how to weave, since he’ll be more use in the sheds with the women.”

 [Carinna decided s]he would broach the matter later when he had calmed down and in the meantime she was sure that Ænna would forget all about it and would be back playing with the others again tomorrow as if it had never happened.”

 Not long after, Carinna witnesses the wrath of Queen Bertana as it develops:

“[Her] features had constricted into something more fearsome than an ordinary frown and her expression brought to Carinna’s mind the moment when liquid in a cauldron began to seethe with activity before erupting into a boil.”

 Character verbiage is as complex and intricate as that of any involved with the ins and outs of various factions’ plotting, yet the author’s management skills—as always—are so adept that we follow along easily; Whitehead has no need of dense language for the sake of elevation alone.

Subtly woven within the narrative and dialogue are absolute gems readers often detect that characters don’t, and the spark of recognition is great reward indeed. Whether by physical attribute or behavioral trait, for example, we on occasion are one step ahead of certain figures because we were previously acquainted with someone they just met, observed or heard bits and pieces about. Whitehead knows well how to use this and other techniques to generate tension and the aforementioned reluctance to put a book down as she tenders possibilities and creates the perfect riddle of circumstance. This in turn facilitates an electrifying suspense whereby we have at hand clues that inform as well as tease us, as we re-trace our reading pathways and link together previous knowledge with the question of what the future may or may not bring and events continue to usher in a thrilling sense of anticipation.

Like any others, these people also laugh and wonder and exhibit their own personal habits, and the author weaves this within and without narrated passages and dialogue alike, revealing a self-awareness the extent to which we are not always privy, but which awakens within us an understanding of how we are so like them, and that our habit of utilizing humor to blanket serious subjects is yet one in a long line of collective coping instincts.

While discussing an upcoming marriage with Penda, Derwena’s quip about relations—“I wondered if you and he are now kin? Your sister’s husband’s sister is his wife”—mirrors readers’ perceptions of how the family’s history contributes to their ties to friend and foe alike, from where the pathways begin and to where they lead. Penda later addresses this in part in his acerbic response to Derwena’s wearied statement, “I wonder where it will all end,” a return that has its roots in his family’s knotty relationships.

Cometh the Hour and two other novels by Annie Whitehead – highly recommended all. Click titles earlier in this entry for my review of each. Click image to learn more about the author and her works

In making our way through and to at least some of those answers, Whitehead stays true to her history, creating, for example, strong women without falling into the trap of engaging them in anachronistic behavior, as if they could only be “ahead of their time,” that strength, savvy and great intelligence could only come from later eras, and not their own. While a number of historical blanks have been filled in, the novel’s women characters are woven in as tightly as the men, their roles and actions so perfectly aligned with historical realities and fragmentary evidence that, again, one would be forgiven for initially believing that how the book reads is exactly how these figures’ lives played out—although it should be noted that, as Whitehead states in her notes, “There is documentary evidence for almost everything that happens in Cometh the Hour.”

Another skillful way the author has with words is within her presentation of the characters. As mentioned, there are quite a lot—given events in the series’ first, it seems likely there won’t be quite so many in subsequent installments—and Whitehead manages them so skillfully that from one appearance to the next, any given storyline to another, the transitions are nearly seamless. Part of this results from some characters appearing in multiple strands, which benefits the underlying episodes, lending them continuity rather than overcomplicating it all. Moreover, she maintains Penda’s position as the primary character while moving amongst people and perceptions, giving each a chance, so to speak, to present their case to readers. This method does require a more deft hand, to avoid the risk of an over convoluted tale, and Whitehead possesses this gift in spades. Her absolute brilliance in presentation and form keeps it even and simultaneously stunning: we tend to sympathize with Penda, but the remaining kings are not reduced to otherness, and we see clearly how events inform each other with a mixture of fate and free choice. The author wraps all this within a history we don’t realize we are being given, of the lands and their people and how geography plays a role in decisions and results.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Whitehead has released yet another novel of quality, imagination and readability, entwined with a gripping glimpse into our deep past, having patched it together from fragmentary pieces of history. And yet we marvel, perhaps because the events portrayed are so achingly long ago, its players seemingly so lost to us that to be gifted such an extended view to their lives seems as if an impossibility has been achieved. It will then please us to know the author is already hard at work on the sequel.

Cometh the Hour isn’t only for admirers of historical fiction, for within it also is told a tale or two of love—of several different sorts—the fortunes of societies and the motivations of man to demand the rights of work, family and freedom. Thought provoking in its humanity, this is a teller’s tale within which, we can hope, we see ourselves.

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A copy of Cometh the Hour was provided to the
blogger in order to facilitate an honest review. 

 

Book Review: The Captain’s Nephew

The Captain’s Nephew by Philip K. Allan

I was very keen to read Book I, The Captain’s Nephew, in Philip K. Allan’s The Alexander Clay Series. Since early childhood I’ve loved stories on or of the sea, though I’d gone adrift in recent years, and Allan wastes no time from the first page in getting me hooked all over again. His prologue, introducing an unnamed character, serves to mystify visually as well as present a sneak peek to wrap readers up in a narrative not to be cast off. His verbiage from the start maximizes utility while still presenting as fluid and gorgeous, with such realism that we can virtually see the scene as it occurs.

A blast of grapeshot flashed the surface with a fan of white. As the froth of bubbles disappeared, the individual balls fell like slow hailstones all around him.

 The churned surface of the sea was above his head, the ceiling of a lofty room that he stretched for but could not reach. The whole mass [of his uniform] dragged him down, down into the heavy, jade-green water. His movements became leaden as exhaustion slowed him. He was becoming caught like a fly in hardening amber.

As nations move toward a new era, late eighteenth-century naval battles still dominate the world in which Lieutenant Alexander Clay lives and works. Eager to prove himself on his own merit, rather than via the established form of patronage, he is frustrated to find his achievements consistently credited to the nephew of his commanding officer, Captain Percy Follett. As subtle misattribution transforms into deliberate, unmistakable blockage, however, Lieutenant Clay begins to recognize that nepotism may be the least of his problems.

A Sloop of War, second in The Alexander Clay Series, is available now. Click image for more details on both books.

As Clay’s difficulties multiply, he also experiences some pleasant moments in a riveting and smooth chronicle that reminds readers why Britain’s navy made their nation the superpower of the era. A mixture of bold and cunning, daring and courageous, they examine situations and options, take their roles aboard ship seriously and do their duty with aplomb and austerity, occasionally opening to each other about their lives on land. To this end Allan provides bits of backstory for other characters beside the most prominent, a tactic I found to increase the engagement between account and audience, affecting identification of these people as individuals rather than merely a cast of characters whose names blur into each other as the tale progresses. Not all are followed up on, which is appropriate, though the lot of one in particular, whose characterization develops to a slightly more middling level, is left incomplete, which signals another rarity: a draw for the novel’s sequel that does not exasperate readers for its unfinished business. Allan has indeed charted his course wisely in this manner.

I also simply delighted in the naval terminology the author incorporates into his narrative—even wishing for more. Though the protocol for form of address by proxy to the ship’s captain varies slightly from how I understood it to follow, it was nevertheless a thrill to read such shipboard etiquette observed. This would include referring to junior officers as “Mr. So and So” or permissions to board or disembark and so on. It brings readers that much closer to the culture of the nautical without drowning them in jargon.

Indeed, even landlubbers will find something to adore in The Captain’s Nephew—a seafaring adventure that does a fantastic job portraying society of the time, clearly maps out paths to the battles engaged and scenes set off the coast of western Europe and the Caribbean as well as the adventures that carry them from one to the next. Dangerous conditions, mysterious circumstances, ruthless pirates, overcoming obstacles to romance—and all while navigating the personal and professional politics within which Clay must operate, told by a storyteller well-versed in his craft, it is a tale to re-visit time and again as we eagerly await the next.

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For more about author Philip K. Allan and his work, follow him at Twitter, Facebook or his website and blog. You’ll be glad you did!

Book III: On the Lee Shore

Clay returns home from the Caribbean to recover from his wounds, but is soon called on by the Admiralty to take command of a troubled ship. The Titan has mutinied under its previous sadistic captain. Stationed amongst the reefs and rocks of the Brittany coast to watch over the French naval base at Brest, he finds the dangers of this notorious lee shore and its French defenders are the least of his worries. Corrupt officers, determined mutineers and rebellious Irishman all combine to insure that the main threat that he must face comes from within the wooden walls of his ship.

Available May 2018

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A copy of The Captain’s Nephew was provided to the
blogger in order to facilitate an honest review. 

 

Blog Tour Book Review: The Immigrant

The Immigrant: One from My Four Legged Stool
by Alfred Woollacott III

About the book:

A historical saga that covers a winter of 1650-1651 journey of John Law, a young Scotsman captured by the English Lord Cromwell’s forces in seventeenth-century Scotland during the Battle of Dunbar. He survives a death march to Durham, England and is eventually sent to Massachusetts Bay Colony as an indentured servant, arriving aboard the ship Unity that was carrying around 150 prisoners of war from different Scottish clans. Now an outcast, and in the sanctuary of the new colony, John starts over as an immigrant in a Puritan theocracy. He is first indentured to the Saugus Iron Works and then to Concord as a public shepherd in West Concord (now Acton). The young man faces obstacles often beyond his control, and his only ally is his faith. After his indenture is served he struggles a near lifetime to obtain title to his promised land. From start to finish The Immigrant is an intoxicating journey that follows the travails of John, his faith in God, his good wife and growing family.

Paperback: 416 pages
Publication Date: January 1, 2015

My Review and Examination:

“We all have unique four legged stools, each leg an outshoot from our grandparents who contributed to our being.”

So begins author Alfred Woollacott III’s introductory remarks to The Immigrant, historical fiction detailing the life of John Law, an unwilling Scottish immigrant—from the stool leg representing the author’s maternal grandmother—whose time co-incides with such historical figures as Mary Rowlandson of the famous captivity narrative and Metacom of King Philip’s War, though his own life is “too insignificant for the historian’s lens.”

Woollacott’s musings on how we are shaped includes consideration of our forebears, the histories they endured and repetitions that occur through time, pulsing along with biological bonds and ancestral recall, a sort of collective memory inhabiting each of us that we receive and pass down, along with our own additions. This is illustrated in The Immigrant’s opening scenes, wherein Reuben Law’s inner essence carries readers from the American Revolution’s opening salvos at Lexington and Concord (1775) back in time to the Battle of Dunbar (1650), part of the third in a series of English civil wars. Doon Hill is where we meet up with Reuben’s—and the author’s—ancestor, John Law, who is captured, sold into indentured servitude and sent off to the colonies.

From the beginning Law harbors negative attitudes toward the English, as they demonstrate much the same, though he aims high for his future while simultaneously mourning the loss of his mother—who probably thinks he has been killed in battle—and any way to communicate with her.

Central to the larger story, however, is a parcel of land he acquires and names “New Scotland,” and which through time he fights for as key within a gift he is building for his future, that being the time ahead within his own life as well as long after. A sense of place runs through the novel, not only as pertains to New Scotland, but also within Law’s focus forward and the land’s role as conduit in his relationships with those yet to come. On one occasion he stands atop a hill on a peninsula near Charlestown and contemplates a foreboding.

“[The hill] sent chills though John’s back muscles to the nape of his neck. The hill wasn’t a windswept brae, it was nothing like Doon Hill, yet, for some reason, it was. He stepped toward it and saw the future. He sensed soldiers storming the hill, and fear-filled men atop the hill, hiding behind breastworks. John was afraid, and an incomprehensible eeriness captivated him. Perhaps his soul knew a descendant, Reuben Law, years later would be behind the breastworks, atop of what would then be known as Bunker Hill.”

It is a bit of a twist for the sense of history when past figures contemplate those not yet born—not merely for what these figures hope to gift descendants, but also what they might experience and the kinship of emotion that reverberates through time. Periodically Woollacott’s narrative reminds readers of the running memory known to the soul, though not necessarily the individual, solidifying a contemplation of the links between generations infused with an essence that survives death.

On its face, however, The Immigrant is John Law’s story, told mainly through his point of view, though jaunts into others’ perspectives occur as well. We travel through his days and years as he works for independence, marries, has children and the family rise and fall together. Though the book could do with a more vigorous edit, Woollacott quite finely guides us through individual days or longer periods, deftly gifting us experience of the time, with finer details of what it was like to live in an era many of us cover only briefly in our lessons as we pass through a series of disputes, battles and wars between colonists and Natives. Historical figures make appearances, as do those whose lives we know nothing of but for authors such as Woollacott, whose painstaking research maps out for us a greater structure and narrative to better understand what it is we may be remembering in our biological bonds.

The archetypal captivity narrative, Mary Rowlandson’s Sovereignty and Goodness of God details her nearly three-month captivity during King Philip’s War and is often considered to be the first American “bestseller.” John Law may have been familiar with the book, published as it was during his lifetime (1682).

One thing I liked the very best about Woollacott’s style is his ability to tell a simple story that can easily be read as such, while also containing these and other layers and threads of historical reality, contemplation and an almost paranormal tincture that can be explored as little or much as readers wish. He also has a way with foreshadowing that sends little prickles down one’s neck, a response that indicates how much we really are invested not only in the past, but also our past.

Centuries from now, most of us, having occupied the same rungs of society’s ladder John Law did in his own time, will be remembered on various levels, the challenge being the question of which. Woollacott references a quote from British poet and historian Thomas B. Macaulay:

“People who take no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendants.”

A fascinating glimpse into the history of one family, a colony, region and seventeenth-century society, The Immigrant details the differences through time between its Scottish and English settlers with emphasis on how they see their lives, themselves and each other, not how we do, bringing voice to those who too often do not have one.

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About the Author:

Alfred Woollacott III retired after a career spanning 34 years, choosing to reside full time at his summer residence on Martha’s Vineyard. Being “45 minutes from America” and with a 50—60 hour per week void to fill, he began dabbling into his family history. His dabbling grew into an obsession, and he published several genealogical summaries of his ancestors. But certain ones absorbed him such that he could not leave them. So he researched their lives and times further while evolving his writing skills from “just the facts ma’am” to a fascinating narrative style. Thus with imagination anchored in fact and tempered with plausibility, a remote ancestor can achieve a robust life as envisioned by a writer with a few drops of his ancestor’s blood in his veins.

When not writing, Al serves on several boards and keeps physically active with golf, tennis, and hockey. He and his wife of 44 years, Jill, have four children and ten grandchildren.

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To learn more about Woollacott and his work, please visit his website, and see him also at AmazonFacebook and Twitter.

Tour Schedule: Blog Stops

April 16th

Book Review – Locks, Hooks and Book

April 17th

Book Review– before the second sleep

Book Excerpt – A Bookaholic Swede

April 18th

Guest Post – A Literary Vacation

 Special Spotlight at Layered Pages

The author provided a copy of The Immigrant 
in order to facilitate an honest review

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It has been a pleasure to co-ordinate with Novel Expressions Blog Tours

and I look forward to more great reading and recommendations!

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This blog entry has been updated to reflect a
correction within the list of blog stop dates.