Thursday, May 30, 2019

Once More Unto the Breach: A Novel by Meghan Holloway

Once More Unto the Breach: A Novel. Meghan Holloway. Polis Books. Copyright May 14, 2019, pb, 320 pp.; ISBN: 9781947993600.

Rhys Gravenor is looking for his son in WWII-torn Paris.  He deeply regrets his last conversation with his son, Owain, who declared his “conscientious objector” status and was called a coward by his father.  Now, he carries a letter from his son in his pocket while searching for him. Rhys fought in WWI and knows the horrors of war but is alarmed and horrified by what he observes in cities and towns around Paris.  The cruelty and barbarity displayed by the Germans cannot fail to leave nightmarish scenes etched upon the memory of any and all observers. 

In his search, Rhys is joined by an American nurse and now serving as an ambulance driver, Charlotte Dubois has her own memories and secrets but proves to be formidable, brave and a person of impeccable honesty.  The upshot of this revealing story is that Jewish children are being sought out for destruction, and Owain is part of the Resistance trying to save them by getting them out of the country.  In the midst of it all is a man, Henri, who is also seeking Owain in order to recover missing works of art that Germans are stealing and moving to their own facilities.

In the search by all, hundreds of executed individuals are found slaughtered and left without burial.  Works of art are found hidden and awaiting transport.  Wounded German soldiers are found near death.  Remaining Parisian residents and other town survivors are slow to speak but loyal to those whom they know are honorable people.

Rather than being a factual account of what is mostly already known by most people, Once More Unto the Breach is told starkly with honesty, tenderness and tribute to those who risked and suffered so much to stop the senseless torture and murder being inflicted on France by German soldiers and leaders.  It also includes numerous scenes of the loyal and lovable dog Otto which will warm your heart amidst the chaos. 

This is a thriller novel easily rated as a 5/5.  The author successfully endeavors to show all sides of a war that at one point has no winner but only too many losers.  This is remarkable historical fiction you won’t soon forget.  Watch for more from this skilled author who knows how to craft a great story!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

How Not to Die Alone. Richard Roper. Penguin Publishing Group. Copyright May 28,  2019, pb, 336 pp.; ISBN: 9780525539889.

Andrew is a 42-year-old man who is a bachelor.  He works for the Death Administration Council.  What that basically means is that when a person dies without anyone, Andrew must check out if there are any family, any cash or bank accounts to pay for the funeral, and stay until the body is sent to the morgue.  But Andrew is a good soul, albeit pathetic, who even goes to the funeral of the deceased.  The intriguing part is that as this story begins, he lies through his teeth to his coworkers, saying that he is married, has two children and works in a posh home in an upper-class neighborhood.  One could understand that but he makes it worse by adding to the story frequently to the point where his peers are dying to meet his family and visit his phenomenal home.  The saving grace for a very difficult first few chapters is that Andrew has a ripping, great sense of humor in spite of his pathetic lies.

Two occasions mark the turning point for Andrew.  One is a new co-worker, Peggy, who is married with two daughters.  At first, he is intent on helping her to adjust to her new job which is the same as his job.  Little by little, with some innocent but increasingly revealing conversations, he finds himself realizing he’s falling in love with her.  She has a bad marriage that’s little by little falling apart and he discovers he really cares what happens to her. 

At the same time, he has a strange relationship with his own family, especially his sister who wants him to face his past.  Sally and Andrew had a close but fraught relationship and she blames him for the fact they have grown apart.  A tragedy happens and Sally’s ex-boyfriend is convinced Andrew is responsible because Sally worried so much about him.  What the boyfriend wants is a wake-up call for Andrew.

The plot evolves and doesn’t quite go where everyone expects, but it can be said that Andrew is a new person as a result of the experiences he has with Peggy and Sally.

Hang in reader because this is a story that can’t be quickly forgotten and therein lies its redemptive qualities for both the characters in the story and the reader who is made to question and think about relationships and people.  Interesting, annoying but redeemable contemporary fiction!

Deep Water Blues by Fred Waitzkin

Deep Water Blues. Fred Waitzkin. Illustrated by John Mitchell. Open Road Media. Copyright May 2019. $7.99; pb, 160 pp.; ISBN: 9781504057738.

This is a story about creating beauty and prosperity in the already gorgeous Bahama Island.  On the Island of Rum Cay, Bobby Little uses his popularity to create businesses that offer superb hospitality and atmosphere to welcome rich tourists.  He’s very good at it but unconsciously elicits jealousy from those less successful.  Fisherman are more than welcome here and Bobby often dreams of catching a huge marlin, yes like something out of the book or movie The Old Man and the Sea.

Tragedy strikes when numerous Haitian refugees around found dead after their boat fails and Bobby and his friends have to find and bury more bodies than anyone could imagine.  It changes everything, casting gloom and horror over the whole area.  It certainly changes Bobby who takes off for his annual European visit and returns to find someone else has begun to develop the marina at Rum Cay and elsewhere.  Bobby at first is friendly about it but when the challenge becomes less than friendly, Bobby meets it head-on.  And his nemesis Dennis will come to an untimely demise! 

Fred Waitzkin is a highly skilled writer who knows how to depict beautiful scenery, love of water life, marinas and beach life as well as outstanding character development.  Bobby is a charismatic individual whose magnanimous nature is what attracts people to his marina.  He is never demanding or demeaning and is without grandiose dreams although he could be if financial developer if he chose such a goal.  One reads and picks up the peaceful nature of Bobby’s world but then feels the tension when Dennis enters the scene with his grand plans.  Islands are places of peace, not meant for violence and competition.  Run Cay’s integrity is maintained through the natural development of change and conflict.  Finely crafted, Fred Waitzkin!