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Tempest of Bravoure: Kingdom Ascent

Tempest of Bravoure: Kingdom Ascent by [Valena D'Angelis]

The golden kingdom was a shining hope and a place for uniting races. Now it is under the oppression of dark and deadly forces. Prophecies couldn’t stop this dark prince from striving for power, and now he wants to rule all. Who can stop him? The runaway mage Ahna who is hiding something? The Resistance? Can the soldiers unite and take the kingdom back for good, or will secrets tear everything apart?

Tempest of Bravoure sets up a thrilling adventure novel that is brimming with imaginative characters. I love epic fantasy tales, and I love when people realize that they either need to fight the bad guy or the bad guy will oppress you until you’re all dead anyway. In these types of stories, you see human characters emerge and the power of the human spirit is tested. I thought I was going to like Ahna right away. Her character was written in such a way that even though you know she’s hiding things, in most cases, you would still want to root for her. I found her character slightly annoying sometimes and could understand why some of the other characters would fight with her (like Cedric). Other times I felt for her character and wanted to cry for her. With other characters and their sad fate, I did cry and felt that their ending was too painful, but it compelled me to keep going and finish the book to find out what happened to the rest of the characters. Cedric, in particular, was one character that made me cry because his character teaches you so much, and his story with Ahna was beautiful. This is definitely a story for readers who enjoy intriguing and well developed characters. There’s an interesting plot at the heart of this story, but I felt like the characters were the star of the show.

While I enjoyed the world building and intricate lore embedded in the world, I felt that the story got a bit confusing at times. In rare moments I wasn’t sure who was doing what and for which reasons. I bit more succinct exposition at the right moments would have provided some clarity. Otherwise, this is a fast paced novel that fits well within the epic fantasy genre. Author Valena D’Angelis has written a story that feels like there’s so much more to be explored. Highly recommended to fans of military fantasy novels.

Pages: 284 | ASIN: B08FXWDX3N

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Finnegan Found: Surviving the POW Camps on the Yalu

Finnegan Found: Surviving the POW Camps on the Yalu by [John N. Powers]

The Korean War was fought between communist North Korea supported by the Chinese and the soviets, and South Korea supported by the United States. Known as “the forgotten war” for its lack of media coverage, The Korean War was incredibly bloody; but the main thing the war is known for is its enormous amount of American prisoners of war and the brutal treatment they received while under communist captivity.

Finnegan Found by John N. Powers is a historical fiction novel that follows the story of Paul Larson, also known as “Swede”. A nineteen year-old boy born and raised on a farm in Minnesota, who joined the Army in order to broaden his limited opportunities and save for university. When he is captured as a POW and sent to the war camps along the Yalu River by the North Koreans, Swede must endure terrible death marches under dangerous weather conditions where many soldiers died, physical torture, and eventually go through forced “mental conditioning” which consisted of lessons where soldiers were taught to hate capitalism. His resolve is tested countless times and the reader really gets to feel the emotional stress that he is under. His perseverance is one of the things that was truly amazing and I appreciated how well his character portrays this trait while still feeling authentic even under some stressful situations. This is a character driven story, and one with impacts that we can see today. This novel does a fantastic job of relaying the harsh realities of a dangerous time in a exotic location.

It’s amazing how author John N. Powers managed to collect so many real testimonies from those who lived the war and morphed them to form a single experience that realistically portrays the brutal treatment of POWs in the Yalu prison camps. While the topic approached throughout the novel could make for a very heavy read, with all the context needed beforehand. The author managed to write beautiful descriptions that make the situation understandable for any reader no matter how limited their knowledge on the Korean War. He captures the essence of life as a prisoner of war as described by the survivors who have opened up about their past.

Finnegan Found has incredible descriptions and a thrilling plot. It is highly recommended for historical fiction fans or really anyone interested in learning more about the Korean War or the long battle between communism and capitalism.

Pages: 445 | ASIN: B08BC2F76C

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Keep Forever – Trailer

Now that Paul O’Brien has returned from serving in Vietnam, he wants nothing more than to piece together a meaningful life. But the war-spawned, guilt-driven nightmares won’t stop haunting him. In an era when veterans refuse to speak of their pain and the government denies that thousands of soldiers are coming home irreparably damaged, Paul is left to deal with the challenge of caring for his family amidst his erratic flashback episodes and moods. As his life unravels from the lingering effects of PTSD, Elizabeth is committed to helping him overcome the obstacles in their path. Determined to live in love, they struggle a lifetime with the burden that Paul brought home. However, in spite of the darkness he carries, he still manages to create a legacy of light, compassion, and understanding that Elizabeth and their children will keep forever.

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The Second Truth

The Second Truth: Korean War by [John Viola HM2]

Everyone has a second truth in their lives. There is always some choice which can be made that will lead to suffering. We often do not know what these choices will lead to until it is too late. There are many people who do not fully understand what is entailed by their choice to protect and serve others, especially the suffering that can easily result from this choice. In the case of the Korean War, many of these sacrifices went forgotten by people back home, with a lack of recognition, this war, and the people who fought it began to fade into obscurity.

The Second Truth written by John Viola is a riveting personal account of his time spent in the military during the Korean War. This intriguing memoir gives incisive and thoughtful insight into what service men and women actually experience during their tours of duty. There is a matter of fact feeling to the book that tells it like it is.

While I enjoyed this memoir immensely, I would’ve like to have had the military terminology explained a little bit more so that readers who have no direct relation to the military could better understand what is being discussed. However, the book had a natural feel to it as well as an integrity to it that I found very satisfying and authentic.

If you are looking for a memoir that provides a candid view of the military during the Korean War then I would highly recommend The Second Truth by John Viola.

Pages: 62 | ASIN: B0794RTL9M

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Fly by Night: A Riveting Spy Thriller

Fly by Night: A Riveting Spy Thriller (Michelle Reagan Book 3) by [Scott Shinberg, Becky Stephens]

Michelle is a CIA agent. She is good at her job, matter-of-fact, and knows when to pull back and avoid becoming emotionally involved in her assignments. Bella, however, changes all of that. When Michelle’s tactical team rescues Bella from an abusive and tortuous situation in Mosul, everything Michelle thought she understood about herself changes. Bella, kidnapped and held for two years by her captors, struggles to acclimate to life outside again, but Michelle, the reluctant chaperone, begins to make great strides in Bella’s reentry into a normal life. On a trip to New York City, Bella is kidnapped again–or is she?

Fly by Night, by Scott Shinberg, is book 3 in the Michelle Reagan spy series. The main character is outspoken, has her own set of quirks, and gets the job done. She is a likable main character whose actions and reactions keeps readers on their toes. Her determination and resolve to find out what has happened to Bella, the woman she had just begun to take under wing, is admirable and enviable.

I am drawn to characters who are richly developed and undergo major changes in levels of empathy. Michelle is a prime example of characters who do a complete turnabout. Though she maintains her rough and ready exterior, she clearly allows a soft spot to grow for the embattled Bella and the incredibly horrific journey she has endured.

Shinberg addresses sexual abuse and kidnapping, which may be triggering for some readers. Bella’s experience is one some readers may find uncomfortable reading about though Shinberg expertly weaves it into the story line and uses it to facilitate character development.

Bella’s kidnapping takes a very unexpected turn and, for me, changed the whole tone of the story to that point. I can’t say it was an unwelcome change, but it was definitely not what I had anticipated. Shinberg’s approach is unique and fits well into the genre.

Though Shinberg’s book is by and large, a fiction work that falls under the spy heading, the author manages to include bits of history and culture along the way. In many ways, Shinberg has made his book all the more believable as readers find themselves hit periodically with references to historical events.

I would recommend Fly by Night to anyone who enjoys the spy genre and is a fan of strong female characters. Michelle Reagan is a stand-out in this genre, and Fly by Night is a must-read.

Pages: 259 | ASIN: B08DLYY5LZ

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An Amalgam of Memories

Alexa Kingaard
Alexa Kingaard Author Interview

Keep Forever follows a Vietnam veteran who struggles with PTSD as he tries to piece together a meaningful life. This is a novel based on a true story. What is the origins of the story?

Anyone who was a teenager in the 60s’ and 70s’ has Vietnam firmly embedded in their history. It’s the story of my generation, and many of my girlfriends married veterans either right out of high school or when the men returned. Women played a part in-country, mostly as nurses and unsung heroines, but overall, it was a war fought by middle and lower class males, those who were not college bound or who were unable to get a deferment. As with every conflict, combat veterans are plagued with mental and physical burdens upon their return home, but none were vilified like the young men and women who fought in Vietnam. It stained their psyches, and many passed it down to their children – the second generation to suffer the effects of the most unpopular war in our country’s history. Wives were kept in the dark, the VA was not established until the late 80s’, and PTSD didn’t have a name. Aftercare was minimal, and many kept their unseen wounds bottled up for decades.

I fell in love with a Vietnam veteran in 1969, nine months after he came home. This guy, and many like him, were just kids. Surfing and attending community college one day, picking up a machine gun and participating in a bloody fight for their lives the next. We married almost a decade later, had two children, and divorced after eleven years. But there was always that link that never faded and a lot of guilt that I carried because I didn’t have the insight to deal with or understand PTSD at the time.

September 27, 2011 – My veteran and I had become close again and spent almost all our free time together. His health was failing, he suffered from depression, but it had become less intense and on this day he was at the top of his game. We were returning from a coffee date in the Village about a mile away from his home. As I waited at the bottom of the hill to make a left turn a half a block away from our destination, we were rear-ended by a vehicle twice as heavy as mine, going 45 miles an hour. Physically, we were not hurt. My car sustained $6,000 worth of damage. The impact of the collision triggered a PTSD episode in my veteran. Seventeen days later, on October 13th, he committed suicide.

The only way I found to cope with mine and our children’s grief was to write about the oppressive, lifelong burden he brought home and the collateral damage he left in his wake. At sixty-eight years old, I became a writer, but it was not a vanity project. Rather, it was an inspiration to share my story and honor all Vietnam veterans with a love story based on fact. I am not the only wife, and our children are not the only youngsters that live daily with the unseen wounds of a family member who suffers a lifetime with the memories and guilt of their participation in war. The other day, I saw a very potent cartoon on Facebook, posted by a Vietnam veteran. A soldier, rifle slung over his shoulder, head down and staring at the Vietnam Wall. At the top of the page, the caption read, “When was the last time you were in Vietnam?” At the bottom of the page, the caption read “Last night……”

What were some aspects of the novel that you fictionalized and what were some aspects you stuck close to the facts?

When I started stringing the beginning, middle and end together in my head, I knew I had to place the two main characters, Paul and Elizabeth, in a position that would make their love story believable. I had never written or published anything prior to this endeavor, so I drafted it in my head before I ever put pen to paper. While the story was inspired by the life I shared with my veteran and our children, it became my mea culpa, my deepest apology for not understanding the gravity of PTSD and making choices that were unwise over the course of our history. The childhood years of Paul and Elizabeth are pure fiction compared to mine and my Veteran, but I felt the need to structure their early losses, weave them into the storyline and create a common thread for making their attraction to one another a natural evolution of their friendship.

I did create the character and personality of Paul in the image of my Veteran, but Elizabeth, I have to admit, was created from the perspective of what I learned and dealt with after my veteran took his life. She was a better version of me, but also a reflection of most wives who live with and love Vietnam veterans.

The anguish depicted in difficult, heartbreaking scenes was real, even though some were embellished for better or worse. My veteran was kind and funny, never a harsh word for anyone, but was also a hoarder. He truly did resemble Santa Claus at the end of his life, with an extra fifty pounds that added a cumbersome gait to his 5’8″ frame, thick white hair grown to shoulder length, and a long beard he rarely trimmed. He carried a duffle bag with him just to get coffee or go to a movie, adored our children, and had a host of idiosyncrasies that were as endearing as they were frustrating. Both my Veteran and the character, Paul, received purple hearts and suffered from PTSD. The suicide attempt and subsequent hospitalization were factual, along with many other descriptions of their home, and surroundings. Truth and fiction were interwoven throughout the second half of the novel, although out of context in some instances. The most important reality to me was the ice cream cone with Elizabeth’s name…yes, there really was an ice cream cone with my name on it, which I still have in a Tupperware container after thirty years. My veteran, I discovered when I sifted through his accumulation of inanimate objects, had never thrown it out. That one item was the inspiration for the title, KEEP FOREVER, as we are an amalgam of memories, good and bad, that linger, remind, soothe and terrify all of us throughout our lives. As in the book, my Veteran scrawled the words, “Keep 4Ever” on everything from taxes and bank statements, to Christmas cards and shopping lists. Nothing was ever thrown out…certainly not his memories.

Paul’s death was the most important chapter that I wrote. It was difficult to re-live, but it purged my soul because I got to change history. It was my novel, my story, and I could make any ending I wanted, so I strayed from the truth in the manner in which he died; however, I drew on the experience of my Veteran’s funeral to describe the pomp and circumstance and the emotional good-bye to a member of a military family that is laid to rest in a National cemetery. I hope this bittersweet story helps to convey the sacrifices of all our veterans, especially those who served in Vietnam, and reminds readers that not all wounds are visible.

I thought this book was an emotional story. What were some themes that were important for you to focus on?

In my mind, and in speaking with many Vietnam veterans that I know personally, collateral damage to wives and children was a topic that had not been explored in a historical, Vietnam-era story. Most are memoirs of service members in battle, and written from the point of view of one person. I tried to capture the roller-coaster that exists with all family members, from birth through adulthood, in an effort to highlight how the internal battle of a veteran affects the entire family unit. I also wanted to make the point that most veterans refuse to speak of their pain, and what they keep bottled up inside is the most damaging to themselves and their loved ones.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

This is the 2nd edition of KEEP FOREVER, and a deeper version than my first that was self-published in Feburuary, 2018. In between then and the re-release in March, 2020, I wrote and published MY NAME IS ROSE, another nostalgic story, about a young girl raised in a commune during the 1970s’. It has become an Amazon #1 Best Seller, as well as a first-place winner in an International Book Competition in 2019. KEEP FOREVER also topped the Amazon Charts soon after the second release, with #1 spots in New Releases, Vietnam War History, 1960s’ History of the US, and 1960s’ American History.

During my first nine weeks of quarantine, I completed the first draft of my third novel, MIRACLE. And yes, another piece of nostalgia, which seems to be what I am drawn to. The story revolves around two young women in the 1950s’. One lives in Southern California and must come to terms with the fact that four unsuccessful pregnancies leaves adoption as the only option for herself and her husband. The inability to qualify with the adoption agency due to their advancing age – almost thirty was old in the 50s’ – steers them towards an alternative solution of adopting a child outside the United States. During this time, the Canadian government created maternity homes for young women who were without a spouse or family assistance. After giving birth, it was understood that they would leave their baby behind for adoption by a suitable couple. The second young lady finds herself in a position that demands she reside in one of these homes for the last part of her pregnancy as she agonizes about the ultimate sacrifice she is being forced to make. Ultimately, these two women are destined to connect, but the ending is not as one might suspect. I hope to have MIRACLE ready for publication by mid-2021.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Now that Paul O’Brien has returned from serving in Vietnam, he wants nothing more than to piece together a meaningful life. But the war-spawned, guilt-driven nightmares won’t stop haunting him. In an era when veterans refuse to speak of their pain and the government denies that thousands of soldiers are coming home irreparably damaged, Paul is left to deal with the challenge of caring for his family amidst his erratic flashback episodes and moods. As his life unravels from the lingering effects of PTSD, Elizabeth is committed to helping him overcome the obstacles in their path. Determined to live in love, they struggle a lifetime with the burden that Paul brought home. However, in spite of the darkness he carries, he still manages to create a legacy of light, compassion, and understanding that Elizabeth and their children will keep forever.

Old Sins Never Die: An Emmeline Kirby & Gregory Longdon Mystery – Trailer

While in the Lake District, journalist Emmeline Kirby and jewel thief/insurance investigator Gregory Longdon overhear a man attempting to hire international assassin Hugh Carstairs, a MI5 agent who went rogue. They race back to London to warn Philip Acheson of the Foreign Office and Superintendent Oliver Burnell. But it’s a devil of problem to prevent a vicious killing, if the target is a mystery.

More trouble brews as Emmeline pursues a story about shipping magnate Noel Rallis, who is on trial for murder. Rallis is desperate to keep the negative publicity from exposing his illicit schemes, especially something sinister called Poseidon. Lord Desmond Starrett, whose dark past made him easy prey for blackmail, is getting cold feet about their dubious partnership. Hovering in the shadows of this ugly secret world is a Russian mole buried inside MI5. Scorned prima ballerina Anastasia Tarasova makes the fatal mistake of threatening to reveal all she knows. The hunt for the answers takes Emmeline and Gregory up to Scotland, where they learn that the truth has lethal consequences.

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The Vatican Knights – Trailer

While on a visit to the United States, Pope Pius XIII is kidnapped by a terrorist cell calling itself the Soldiers of Islam. If the United States and its allies do not meet their demands, they will execute the pope. So when FBI Specialist Shari Cohen is called to duty to track down the terrorist cell responsible, she learns that she is not alone. Deep behind the Vatican walls a secret order dispatches a clandestine op group of elite commandos known as the Vatican Knights. Their mission: bring the pope back alive. As Cohen and the Knights work in tandem they uncover a White House conspiracy involving high-ranking members on Capitol Hill. When she begins to get too close to the truth about the pope’s kidnapping, she becomes the target of indigenous forces trying to keep the conspiracy safe. However, in order to get to her they must go through the Vatican Knights.

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