Category Archives: Non-fiction

Book Review: ‘The Long Body That Connects Us’ All by Rich Marcello

Title: The Long Body That Connects Us All

Published: 28th February 2018

Publisher: Langdon Street Press

Author: Rich Marcello

Facebook: www.facebook.com/rich.marcello.3

Twitter: @marcellor

Instagram: www.instagram.com/rich.marcello

 

Blurb:

Provocative and profound, Rich Marcello’s poems are compact but expansive, filled with music as seductive as their ideas, and focused mostly on how to be a good man. This is a collection of deep passion and wisdom for fathers, husbands, and sons, but also for mothers, wives, and daughters, many who began with a longing for the things they were taught to desire by their forefathers, only to later discover a different path, one lit by loss and welcoming of the vulnerable, one made of the long body that connects us all.

 

Review:

Goes down as another off my 2019 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A book under 100 pages. This book is split into 3 parts with around 16 poems per section. So you can dip in and out when the need strikes or plow through in one go.

I find it kind of calming to read some forms of poetry. Letting your mind flow in different directions as you make your own interpretations of what you think they could mean.

There were lots of poems to choose from but here are a few of my favorites from each section of the book and my interpretations on what I thought they were about.

 

Part 1 – In the Coming:

I Do Now – Exploring the light and dark that people can hold and accepting someone’s shadow as much as their light.

Porchwork – About reliving a memory and place in time so much that you want to recreate it forever in other ways so you can hold dear.

Daughters and Sons – About embracing each other, the love we share and how to send it out into the world to heal it and others.

 

Part 2 – Yab Yum:

How We Struggle to Pass Down – Feeling the need to tell those younger than yourself to remember the feelings and dreams they have as they come. To not live with regrets when they get older but in the end learning that all must go through lessons and learn things at their own pace. As you remember you were once that young who thought you knew best.

Stillness – Finding some place still and calm to reboot and recharge in a way so you can find your center and balance to start again.

The Return of Hippies – Remembering a time where everything and everyone was carefree. To go back to a forgotten time where sun, hope, rainbows and love played their parts. Showing a world of possibilities to remember and to push forward with love and kindness.

 

Part 3 – Aether:

Belong to No One – Finding your center and learning to belong to yourself and no other. Feeling happy with who you are and how you see the world and your life around you.

How to Be a Good Man – About embracing new ways to think and act when troubles come your way. If you want to walk away, step closer. Hate then love. To find ways to see things differently and learning to forgive if needed.

The Long Body – Finding ways to see how things and people are connected. Letting love, kindness and memories guide you forward to help with any challenges ahead. As the title suggests it’s about the long body of life that connects us all.

 

Interesting collection of poems that make you stop and think. Some I liked more than others but all intriguing in their own way. It’s a good book to go to as a stopgap book between heavier ones. A break book so to speak that won’t take long to get through. Worth checking out for anyone interested in poetry.

4 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.

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Book Review: ‘Civilianized: A Young Veteran’s Memoir’ by Michael Anthony

Title: Civilianized: A Young Veteran’s Memoir

Published: 27th December 2016

Publisher: Pulp

Author: Michael Anthony

 

Synopsis:

After twelve months of military service in Iraq, Michael Anthony stepped off a plane, seemingly happy to be home – or at least back on US soil. He was twenty-one years old, a bit of a nerd, and carrying a pack of cigarettes that he thought would be his last. Two months later, Michael was stoned on Vicodin, drinking way too much, and picking a fight with a very large Hell’s Angel. At his wit’s end, he came to an agreement with himself: If things didn’t improve in three months, he was going to kill himself. Civilianized is a memoir chronicling Michael’s search for meaning in a suddenly destabilized world.

 

Review:

Review might be late but this still goes down as another off my 2018 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A memoir. A biography memoir bringing to life what can happen when you get back home after war. You might physically be back but mentally and emotionally are two other matters entirely.

Michael was clearly struggling, like so many I’m sure, and this seems to be an almost therapeutic way of putting everything out there for people to see. The darker side of how people cope (or don’t cope) with when they get back. Drinking, smoking, drugs, sex, everything to the excess. It seems to be a way to drown out memories or feelings so you can just get through the day.

There was an interesting mix of people throughout that Michael met along the way in the first three months after getting back. The dating guru of sorts was funny in his methods, along with the others from the class. Finally going to PTSD and drug addiction meetings was a step in the right direction but maybe not the right kind of meeting with the other people that were there. With the meetings anyway you have to want to be there to see any benefit or else you are just going through the motions and not getting anything back from it.

I feel the abrupt ending worked well because in life nothing is tied up with a happy big bow on it to finish things off. This isn’t the end anyway but more like a true beginning. With fiction you can create the ending you want. With fact it’s real life and nothing in life that’s worth having is easy.

I did feel at times that the timeline jumped around a little. It’s only taking place within three months to begin with but at points days seemed to jump around. There was a good pace throughout though and it does keep you hooked to see how everything plays out.

The struggles shown throughout are hard at times to read but real in a way to show you what can really happen. But also that there is help out there to help you try and find a way back to the other side. Dark and gritty too but that’s needed to show the true perils of dealing with PTSD, depression and addiction. An interesting read all the same though that is worth checking out.

4 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.

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Author Interview: ‘Lance: A Spirit Unbroken’ by Walter Stoffel

About the Book:

Marley meets…Cujo?

A dog down the block is being forced to live outside, at the mercy of abusers, wild animals and brutal weather. The author does nothing—at first. Then, an accidental meeting with Lance, a Border Collie, sets the wheels in motion for a life-saving rescue and a disappointing discovery: Lance turns out to be a semi-feral dog.

During the first twenty-four hours of his liberation, he attacks both the author and his wife, and soon proves to be a threat to anyone he can get his teeth on. His rescuers ask themselves: Do we euthanize the dog we rescued? Making their soul-searching even more difficult is Lance’s alter ego; when not threatening, he’s getting into all kinds of highly entertaining mischief. Among the many “victims” of his hilarious quirkiness are a State Trooper, the local school bus driver, and a neighborhood drug dealer.

This rollicking and—at times—heart-wrenching, true-life account of the unorthodox rescue of an unorthodox dog has been called “riveting,” “spellbinding,” and ”jaw-dropping.” The compelling tale reveals as much about the rescuers as it does the rescued.

Lance: A Spirit Unbroken is a book for any reader looking to have her or his faith in the human race restored.

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

I’m a GED teacher and drug and alcohol counselor in local correctional facilities. Over the years I’ve started and stopped numerous creative writing projects. I completed Lance: A Spirit Unbroken because I was determined to break through a lifelong wall of procrastination, self-doubt, and, frankly, laziness.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

Don’t tell my boss, but I often use time during my day job to write. I carry a pen and paper everywhere I go just to be prepared should I have a creative moment. If I’m a passenger in a car, I’m definitely writing.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

Well, Lance’s story was handed to me on a silver platter. I’m currently about 70,000 words into the story of a young boy growing up on Long Island in the 50s and 60s. This will be presented as fiction although it is rooted in fact. I’m also hoping to write a military man’s memoir concerning a dog rescue that took place in Iraq. I have lots of trepidation about the complexities of writing about someone else’s experience, but the story itself is so good I don’t want to miss this opportunity. If I find the time, I think I have another real-life story about a child abused by the system. So it seems that my “brand” is speaking for the downtrodden.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

With nonfiction, the story is presented to me. My challenge is to write it in a skillful and entertaining manner. The fictional account of a young boy growing up on Long Island that I mentioned is based on facts but there’s plenty of embellishing. I tend to write in a vignette style meaning that many of the chapters could stand alone as short stories. I picture the scene that I am writing about and when I sense the opportunity to create something to heighten the drama, I do it.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

My one published book is a memoir, I hope to soon write two more memoirs, but the Long Island story is a fictional novel.

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

If Lance: A Spirit Unbroken were to be made into a movie, whatever actors made up the cast would be a dream cast for me. Several readers have told me they feel Lance’s story is a natural for the big screen because of his antics. We’ll see.

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

I have been primarily a nonfiction reader all my life. Everyone else in my critiquing group writes fiction and they are constantly commenting on the latest nonfiction book they’re reading. Over the past two years, I have dedicated myself to reading fiction on a regular basis primarily because I feel the stylish writing of fictional authors can help me write both more compelling fiction—and nonfiction.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

I’m reading The Terranauts by T.C. Boyle and The Davinci Code by Dan Brown.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

I don’t have a single favorite book, just as I don’t have a single favorite piece of music by Mozart. Recently I read The Hit, a book by David Baldacci. The story didn’t grab me but I liked Baldacci’s style. At the same time, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, which I read decades ago and was written two centuries ago, still resonates because of the quality of the characters in the story. These days I read anything I can get my hands, or ears, on.

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

That’s an easy question to answer. Stop thinking and start writing. My only regret is that I didn’t get off my duff sooner. Just put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. The next most important thing would be to put your ego on the shelf and join a critiquing group. Lance: A Spirit Unbroken would not be the book it is had I never joined a critiquing group.

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?  

You can go to www.lanceaspiritunbroken.com to read Chapter 1 for free.

Lance also has a page on Facebook (Lance: A Spirit Unbroken) and a Twitter account (@lanceunbroken).

About the Author:

Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch really bad movies. Major accomplishment: He entered a 26.2 mile marathon race following hip replacement surgery and finished–dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog, Buddy (another rescue) and cat, Winky (yet another rescue)

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Book Review: ‘Tudor Wales’ by Nathen Amin

Title: Tudor Wales: Full-colour guide to the many places in Wales associated with this famous dynasty

Published: 15th March 2014

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Author: Nathen Amin

Facebook: www.facebook.com/HenryTudorSociety

Twitter: @nathenamin

 

Synopsis:

The Tudors are one of history’s most infamous families and the era over which they reigned still captures the public’s interest without rival. ‘Tudor England’ in itself has become a well-known phrase that covers many aspects of the era, particularly architecture, arts and the lifestyle. What is often overlooked however is that the Tudors, whilst coming to encompass all that is considered great about England, were a Welsh dynasty with their roots firmly entrenched in the hills across Offa’s Dyke. This guide will take you on a journey throughout the beautiful country of Wales and expose the reader to the hidden gems of the Tudor era, from Harlech Castle in the north to Pembroke Castle in the west, and from the holy Bishop’s Palace at Lamphey to the sacred Cathedral at St David’s. From Dale, Carew and Penmynydd to Raglan, Conwy and Denbigh, every part of W ales has Tudor links, both to the royal Tudors and their more obscure Welsh ancestors. This guide will put you on the path to a true Tudor experience in the Land of their Fathers.

 

Review:

Goes down as another off my 2017 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A book about the Tudors.

Well this is a great guide of Tudor places to visit in Wales and I found quite a few that would be on my list to check out. You get snippets of history about the areas links to the Tudors and those who may have used or lived in the buildings, castles, manor houses etc, thrown in with beautiful photographs of the areas and places themselves. You have a handy key at the front so you could easily plan out a visit to some of the areas within. You also get a family tree and timeline of key events to give you an idea of what was happening at the time these places came to be.

The main places I think that would be on my list are: Carew Castle, Pembroke Castle, Tenby Tudor Merchant’s House, Raglan Castle, St Fagans National History Museum, Beaumaris Castle and Gwydir Castle (though to me this looks more like a large manor house). I think you can see a bit of a theme here with the places I picked, in that I really like castles. Whether they are still standing strong or have been slowly taken by the hands of time they have so much history within them that you can’t help but be in ore with the designs and how they would have been made.

Many of these castles designs were ahead of the time with adding the likes of hexagonal towers to fifteenth century designs – like with Raglan Castle. From high turrets and keeps, to moots and enforced doors and walls six feet thick, each castle had its own way of protecting itself from the siege of others. Many would change hands a few times over throughout the time of change from the Wars of the Roses to the Tudors reign. With many seeing improvements made by those who would then be the protector of it.

If a building could talk imagine the tales it could tell. If any of these buildings, castles or manor houses could talk I think you would be in for a historical treat with the battles that took place, literally and figuratively when with more of a verbal match. Great little guide through the lives of the Tudors, how they linked back to their Welsh roots and the fabulous places still around today for us to go and see.

4 out of 5 stars

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Book Review: ‘Henrietta Maria’ by Dominic Pearce

Title: Henrietta Maria

Published: 15th November 2015

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Author: Dominic Pearce

 

Synopsis:

At the heart of the English Civil War stands the wife of Charles I, Henrietta Maria. She came to England in 1625 at the age of fifteen, undermined by her greedy French entourage, blocked by the forceful Duke of Buckingham and weighed down by instructions from the Pope to protect the Catholics of England. She was only a girl, and she had hardly a winning card in her hand; yet fifteen years later she was the terror of Parliament.

We see Henrietta Maria in the portraits of van Dyck, and hear her voice in the letters which she wrote to her husband and many others. She is a historic queen who inherited from her father, the great French statesman Henri IV, undying convictions about royal and divine authority and about just governance. There was always brutal violence in the background of her life from the early moments (her father was assassinated when she was six months old); she lived through civil war both in England and in France (the Fronde); she was tortured by the fate of Charles I; but her spirit – and her family – prevailed. Two of her children sat on the throne of England (Charles II and James II) and three of her grandchildren followed them (William III, Mary II and Anne). Her life is a story of elegance, courage, wit, energy and family devotion on a grand scale.

 

Review:

Goes down as another off my 2017 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A History book.

A new and enticing biography of a Queen who has stayed in the background through many discussions on Charles I, their son Charles II and the English Civil war. Dominic takes the reader on a journey through her younger life before she became a player in a much more dangerous royal game in England.

From the start Henrietta Marie’s life was going to be a controversial one with religion and political gain always playing a part in the path she was being led down. At the age of fifteen she was a pawn placed in a high position when she became the wife of Charles I, then Charles, Prince of Wales. The marriage had its set backs from the very beginning with religion being the key player. She was Catholic and he Protestant. Part of her dowry always stated that this was never going to change and this is what sent fear into many a political mind. Their marriage, after a few set backs to being with, well she was just a child and couldn’t speak a word of English, seemed to be a happy one after the birth of their children. She was a very loyal woman and fiercely protective of her children and her husband.

When her husband became king you would think that they would be safe from persecution but the fear many had over her control of the king was great. It wouldn’t take long for whispers of dislike to get louder and have more of a political backing, mainly when they tried to impeach her. Which would soon bring about the start of a civil war. It was at these most difficult times that many would think she would cower and hide but she just stepped forward to help her husband take back control of the country they were losing. She was condemned and attacked at every turn but still carried on to see things through. Having the means to help where she could with other countries. She was a daughter of France so they were always there to help her, just not always as much for her husband. An interesting view on the English Civil War and the part the she played in it, from close up and a distance.

The war would end and the lose was great with the death of her husband but she knew she still had work to do to help her son claim back what was rightfully his. The Scots may have taken him as their King but the rest of the land was something else entirely. No matter the set back she always seemed to have a plan up her sleeve, not always taken though as soon it became clear that her children, most of whom she had not seen in years, were coming into their own and not needing her or her opinions. It was probably why she felt so strongly for her youngest Henrietta Anne, as she was the last one to mould in her own image.

Throughout her life she had many a friend who stayed close no matter the danger, though not all could be saved from it. She outlived most of her children and saw the fall and rise of the English royal reign when her son Charles II took back control. Her cultural influence can be seen today through the architecture designed by her protégé Inigo Jones and the art that was a love of hers. She was a creative creature from the start and seemed to want to please others, though I’d say only when deserved. This was a very interesting insight into a hidden figure of history.

From not knowing anything about her before reading the book I will admit to going back to the family trees at the front of the book from time to time just to remind myself who people were and how they were connected. Can get a little confusing when they all have the same name but that was just something they liked to do at the time so you have to just go with it.

5 out of 5 stars

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