THE GALAXY BRITAIN BUILT: The British Talent Behind Star Wars
Foreword By Robert Watts: Star Wars Production Supervisor And Producer
Publisher: BearManor Media
Release date: December 11, 2019
David Whiteley's exploration into the behind-the-scenes British talent involved with the Star Wars franchise was first made public in a 1917 60-minute documentary broadcast over BBC television. Google the title The Galaxy Britain Built, and you'll hit on the YouTube and BBC trailers, videos, and interviews conducted by David Whiteley promoting the film throughout 2017 and especially 2018.
If you explore any of Whiteley's online videos or his new BearManor Media book, you'll quickly learn how proud he is to have been born on May 4, 1977, known to fans as Star Wars day. So, in his opinion, he grew up with the franchise and became devoted to investigating how so much Star Wars work took place in Elstree Studios in North London. Why London and not Hollywood? Costs. The studios didn't want to invest too heavily in a science-fiction film as sci-fi hadn't been big box office for them.
As it turned out, the British talent who worked on the films on the smallest of budgets and the tightest of schedules were just what the project needed, especially in terms of costumes, props, and sets. The results were so outstanding that lucas returned to Elstreet again and again, using as much of the original talent as he could retain.
Whiteley's book chronicles to beginnings of the British work in the hot summer of 1976 through undreamed of sequels produced decades later. The stories are built on interviews with participants even the most devoted Star Wars aficionados might not have heard of: These include Robert Watts, Les Dilley, Nick Maley, Roger Christian, Peter Beale, Gareth Edwards, Colin Goudie and Louise Mollo.
All of those involved contribute so many anecdotes about how the Star Wars mythos came to be. For example, Roger Christian tells us, "We called it the laser sword because we were British! I knew the lightsaber was the Excalibur of this film! I
knew it would be the iconic image . . . I went to Brunnings on Great Marlborough Street in London, whom we rented all our film equipment from: photography, anything we needed, and I’d buy equipment there. I just said to the owner, ‘Do you have anything here
that’s unusual, or stuff that might be interesting?’ He pointed me over to the side of the room. He said, ‘There’s a load of boxes under there, I haven’t
looked at those for years, go and have a rummage through.’ And it was the first box, it literally was covered in dust. It hadn’t been out for, I don’t
know, fifteen or twenty years. I pulled it out, opened the lid and there was tissue paper and then when I pulled it open . . . out came a Graflex handle from a 1940s press camera. I just took it and I went ‘There it is! This is the Holy Grail.’"
The Galaxy Britain Built is page-after-page of such nuggets and revelations. I imagine many diehard Star Wars fans will have heard many of these stories before. But I doubt all of them
Without question, you got to be a serious Star Wars fan to one degree or another to want to dive into this book, no matter how much you think you already know about the production history of the saga. It's a fast read as we get one short chunk of one interview, then another, then another, and so on. I definitely had a feeling I was taken behind the sets and scripts and actors to see how a galaxy far away had been built with a deepened sense of just how collaborative moviemaking is. If that sort of stuff is your cuppa tea, then David Whiteley's book is just for you.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Sun. Jan. 12, 2020:
One of the books I really enjoyed reading is a YA paranormal romance/fantasy called The Quest.
You can read my review here.
It's celebrating it's one-year book anniversary and has just one a recommended read silver award from Author Shout.
To celebrate the publisher has reduced the book down to $.0.99 - £0.99 for a limited time only.
It's available everywhere so download now.
The 36 Watchers: Book I: Fall
Dan Bar Hava
Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers LLC
Release date: May 1, 2019
Reviewed by: Dr. Wesley Britton
Dan Bar Hava's first novel is a dense, richly imaginative first book in a projected series of at least three parts. It is an epic that is ruddered by the journey of Jenna Berg, starting with her professional life in New York, then through a series of alternate realities, looks into historical events that might have been different and world-changing, and then takes her into her surprising and unexpected changing identity.
Jenna's life story includes her uncle Josh, a man who turns out to be one of the ancient 36 watchers. He's grooming Jenna, and her latent powers, to replace him in the order. Along the way, Jenna and we readers learn quite a bit about global myths as recorded in holy scriptures, especially the Talmud. We see important milestones the watchers set in motion like the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It had to happen to ensure the eventual fall of the Roman empire.
We learn the watchers crossed over millennia ago from a realm that included no matter. They were "energy creatures, swimming in the cosmic ocean. Flickering across time and space, not even that. Maybe non-time or non-space is a better description." Transformed into beings composed of matter, they became mankind's guardian angels to battle the evil that could overtake the world if not for their vigilance.
Bar Hava paints his portrait with considerable detail, bringing his characters to life as well as the descriptions of the changing perspectives Jenna encounters and crosses through as her evolution into becoming a reluctant watcher drives the story forward.
One weakness, for this reviewer, was the confusion I felt when the story shifts gears and not always in a clear, understandable transition. Readers hoping for a lighter kind of sci-fi will find themselves challenged and perhaps unsettled. For me, one future for the United States the Watchers want to ensure doesn't happen is a very frightening possibility that is a horror far different from more typical fictional dystopias.
Readers who like cerebral, intellectual stories will likely fall quickly in love with this novel. Me, I'm looking forward to the sequels.
On Fri. Dec. 13, reviewer Wes Britton participated in an author interview/ review video for Jasveena R Prabhagaran's International Book Promotions. You can meet author Dan Bar Hava and hear the reviews at:
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Sat. Dec, 14, 2019:
Author Karina Kantas is running and giveaway from FaceBook. POP needed.
I have 12 surprise gifts to give out this Christmas.
For a chance to win just pop over to Amazon and treat yourself to one of my books. All 11 books on my Amazon page are valid.
GIFTS THAT CAN BE WON
Jewellery (international shipped)
Signed paperbacks (internationally shipped)
Unique Book Swag (international shipped)
Choose a name for a character
Ebooks (different to the one you buy)
Amazon Gift Card
At the end of the 12th day. Winners and gifts will be announced.
Thanks, enjoy and good luck.
The Reluctant Healer
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Release date: October 8, 2018
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
Andrew Himmel's original debut novel is told with a fresh writing style, an eccentric approach to his subjects and characters, and a dry, wry wit, especially in the descriptions and observations expressed in the viewpoint of the novel's main character, New York attorney Will Alexander.
The main theme of The Reluctant Healer is the collision of Alexander's legalist, rationalist world view which is challenged when he meets the sexy New Ager Erica Wells. When they meet, Erica reveals she's an energy healer who can perceive Alexander has extraordinary abilities as a natural healer. Alexander doesn't accept that judgement but finds himself drawn to the beautiful woman who is an intellectual match for him even if her metaphysical beliefs are the polar opposite of his own.
Very reluctantly, Alexander finds himself being put in situations where his natural energies seem to, in fact, cure all manner of diseases and afflictions. For Erica, natural healers like Alexander are badly needed in a new era where viruses are becoming immune to antibiotics and it's natural energy, energies found in everything, that can be cures when the afflicted are merely in Alexander's presence.
Alexander's journey takes him into all manner of circumstances including long motorcycle rides, theft of an opponent's cell phone, and situations that ultimately place him in legal jeopardy. To say more would be to swerve into the world of spoilers.
Himmel's style and tone are extremely cerebral and the book is not light reading. It's a book with serious intent. In supplementary material at the end of the book, Himmel reveals much of the book's content was inspired by his own journey, very much like Alexander's, as the author' wife Michelle became interested in energy healing and pulled him into her realm of Universal Energy healing. Jumping off from his real-life experiences, Himmel claims his novel was ignited when he mused, "What if the conventional individual, rigid in his beliefs, developed the capability of healing others, even as he distrusted much of the alternative world? His struggle would become poignant and pronounced, because he would be grappling not just with tension in his relationship but also with internal conflict with phenomena that challenged both his sense of self and his worldview."
In a quiz prepared for readers with an academic bent, Himmel says, "The author believes that The Reluctant Healer is a bigger story about how we as human beings get along with and coexist with people who are different from—and sometimes the complete opposite of— us."
It seems to me larger themes also include a modern twist on the conflicts between the rational and the mystical. In other words, The Reluctant Healer is a brain tickler designed to stimulate thought an reflection in Himmel's readers. He offers no answers, no final conclusions, advocates no point-of-view, and leaves the story open for a sequel already in progress.
Not a book for all readers, but certainly one for readers who like to digest what they read and be challenged by above average language choices, imaginative imagery, and be willing to absorb the story slowly. I had to read it in chunks, always eagerly returning quickly to continue the flow.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Nov. 27, 2019 at:
On Sunday, Dec. 1, Wes Britton will be signing books at the Cupboardmaker Bookstore in Enola, PA from 1:00-3:00 at:
157 N Enola Rd, Enola, PA
"Finish off your Black Friday weekend with books from local authors, because signed books make great gifts! Join authors Joel Burcat, Wesley Britton, and C.S. Wachter to kick off the holiday season. All three authors will be signing their books and ready to talk to readers.
Joel Burcat is the author of the thriller Drink to Every Beast. Find out more about Joel and his work at joelburcat.com
Wesley Britton is the author of the Beta Earth Chronicles, a six-book science fiction series. Find out more about Wesley and his books at drwesleybritton.com
C.S. Wachter is the author of The Seven Words, a four-book Christian fantasy series, and its sequel A Weight of Reckoning. Find out more about C.S. and her books at cswachter.com"
See you then!
The Siege of Troy: A novel
Translated from the Swedish edition by Marlaine Delargy
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Other Press (September 10, 2019)
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
It's been decades since I read Homer's The Iliad, so my memory of it is extremely dim. I remember many of the stories, the abduction of Helen, the famous Greek warriors who besieged the city of Troy for 10 years, the use of poetic devices like the opening "Invocation to the Muse," the long descriptions of soldier's armor, etc.
Now, Swedish author Theodor Kallifatides has re-imagined the Iliad for modern readers and I suspect most non-scholars of Greek literature are going to prefer the new version. For one matter, all the poetic devices are stripped away and replaced by a much simpler prose narrative. For another, Kallifatides created a framework for his retelling that has a Greek schoolteacher recounting the story of The Iliad day-by-day to one of her classes during World War II when airstrikes repeatedly forced the class to run to nearby caves for protection.
The 1940s set part of the novel includes an ongoing love triangle as well as interactions between the German occupiers and local citizens. I'll confess, I was drawn into this story as much as the retelling of events in ancient Troy. It's a fresh approach even if the two storylines don't really parallel each other.
In regards to the old, old stories, I had forgotten just how bloody the war was. I was often surprised by the number of combatants. That many warriors, on both sides, dying in droves and droves? Seems historically doubtful, but I could be wrong.
I had also forgotten just how Achilles was a stubborn, selfish, and petulant figure. I didn't know his death by way of an arrow in his heel is not a story in the Iliad and thus not in The Siege of Troy either. The same is true of the Trojan Horse episode which wasn't told until Virgil's Aeneid. I didn't know that either until I did some homework to see why things in Homer's poem weren't in the Kallifatides reworking. Well, Kallifatides turns out to be a very faithful adapter of the ancient stories although he left many things out, mostly descriptions of the various armies and the quarrels between the gods which appear much less frequently in The Siege of Troy.
Author Theodor Kallifatides is actually Greek but immigrated to Sweden where his works are first published in Swedish. The Siege of Troy is his second work Translated by Marlaine Delargy, the first being the 2018 Another Life. Sounds like a book I would like to explore as The Siege of Troy was one of my favorite readings of 2019. Hopefully, for you too.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Sept. 25, 2019:
There There: A Novel
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Knopf; First Edition (June 5, 2018)
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
There There was a novel assigned to the members of a local book club I belong to. The book inspired a lot of discussion at our last meeting, and the responses ran the range.
I was among the members who really liked the book, but I easily understood the reactions of others with less positive feedback. Some were confused by the structure of the book as Orange has 12 characters telling their stories interwoven together, introducing us to one of the urbanized Native Americans living in Oakland, then the next, and so on, then back around the circle again. Other readers didn't like the book as it is rather dark and depressing in many sections. I have one friend who gave up reading the novel for that reason.
Much of the club's discussion didn't focus on the book itself, but rather the situations of identity in the modern Native Americans. Many of the characters not only wrestled with both pride and deep regret about the distant past when their cultures were devastated; some of the characters know very little about their heritage but still have strong opinions about it; and others know little about their personal bloodlines including any knowledge of who their birth parents are. All these threads are pulled together at a pow-wow in Oakland where all the book's characters congregate for a variety of reasons and mixed motives.
The cast includes Jacquie Red Feather, an alcoholic with a tortured past who meets her daughter Blue, for the first time. In turn, we meet the trio of Jacquie's grandsons like Orvil who adds a touch of magic realism to the story by continually pulling spider legs out of a wound on his own leg.
We also meet Danny who creates plastic guns on a 3D printer, one of the characters who infuses modern technology into a realm where most everyone has mixed feelings about their Native American past. Some characters plan on robbing the pow wow and come armed with Danny's guns as plastic can slip past metal detectors. But to describe the admittedly confusing pow wow falls into the realm of spoilers, so I won't say anything more about it.
Some readers in my book club didn't care for Orange's terse, spare writing style but I thought he was trying to allow many of his characters to speak in their own voices. yes, the book is dark and can be a downer, but that's offset, in my opinion, by the education we get into the circumstances of modern, urbanized Native Americans so far removed from their more agrarian forefathers and foremothers. Few of these stories are pretty; all of them seem all too real.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Sept. 25, 2019:
A Flash Of Horror is prolific author Karina Kantas's latest release.
12 chilling and thought-provoking tales that will stay with you for nights to come.
Are you ready to delve into the dark side?
Available only as an Ebook.
Download A Flash Of Horror for just $1
The Marijuana Murders: A Nostalgia City Mystery #3 (Nostalgia City Mysteries)
Mark S. Bacon
Publisher: Archer & Clark Publishing (June 17, 2019)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
It doesn't happen to me very often--in the first pages of The Marijuana Murders, I knew I was going to enjoy the ride. I was glad I stuck with it.
For one thing, much of the story is set in Nostalgia City--no, not the real museum in Myrtle Beach--but a fictional theme park in Arizona where everything is maintained in the state it was in the 1970s. Especially cars.
For another thing, the backdrop to the story is the competing interests of two movements wanting to legalize pot in Arizona; one wants to impose corporate control over pot sales and the other wants a looser, grow-your-own approach. Do their conflicting interests set the stage for murders in Nostalgia City? Toss in those opposed to legalizing pot at all and we get a number of competing perspectives. Everything is happening with major touches of the '70s mixed in with contemporary issues.
And right from the get-go, we are introduced to a stellar cast of characters revolving around the pivotal pair of Kate Sorenson, the Vice President of Public Relations for Nostalgia City walking around on alluring long legs, and Lyle Deming, former cop and now cab driver for visitors to the immense theme park. They assist official law enforcement when employees start dying in a refurbishing garage which turns out to be the center of a large-scale drug ring.
Mark S. Bacon unwinds his mystery with a light tone and often humorous touches as parallel investigations get underway as various potential criminals are checked out, ruled out, pulled to the top of the suspect lists, and put Kate, Lyle, and Arizona police in deadly danger for unclear and unknown motives. Through it all, Mark Bacon keeps the pace fast-moving, the descriptions vivid, the setting unusual, the lead players interesting, the plot intriguing, and the surprises coming. You want more in a murder mystery?
I admit, after completing the third volume in the Nostalgia City yarns, I plan on going back and diving into volumes one and two and hoping for another round down the road.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Sept. 11, 2019:
A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Viking (April 9, 2019)
This summer turned out to be my unexpected exploration into female participants in the French resistance during World War II. It began when I read D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II by Sarah Rose as well as Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler by Lynne Olson. Now, I've read a long-overdue, in-depth biography of American spy Virginia Hall by Sonia Purnell. I must concur with all the other complimentary reviewers who gave this history five star reviews.
I first read a short but very complimentary biography of Virginia Hall in Emily Yellen'sOur Mother's War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II (2004). In fact, Hall was the premiere lady spy in Yellen's overview that only glancingly looked at behind-the-lines operatives in France. Of course, Purnell's tome reaches far beyond the sort of general information Yellen had access to.
Purnell's years of research is an impressive achievement considering the gaps in available files and the likelihood many of Hall's exploits were never recorded by anyone. Part of this oversight is likely based on the reality Hall's labors were so clandestine there was every reason not to keep files on her work. Equally important is the fact female agents were not the norm and there was a widespread prejudice against women being involved in the war at all except as support staff, code-breakers, ambulance-drivers, the like.
In the case of Hall, her persistence in breaking through the glass ceiling is even more impressive when you realize she was raised and groomed for a life as well-off--and married--woman in high society, not a rough-and-tumble agent living on the lam and in often dire circumstances. Add to that that the lower half of her left leg had been amputated leaving Hall a woman with a disability that could have dimmed her prospects--if not for that determined, iron will of hers.
Because of that leg and her age, Hall wasn't the most likely covert agent for the Gestapo to hunt. She was versatile in her use of disguises, using her disability as a way to throw the hounds off her trail. All she really couldn't do was run. But she could hike across a treacherous mountain trail in the snowy Pyrenees. And that was just one exploit to admire in Hall's many-faceted career.
Another woman to admire is biographer Sonia Purnell who not only keeps a fast-paced, detailed story going, but she keeps reader interest with her scattered indications of what is to come, especially the consequences of certain events. It becomes very clear Virginia Hall was a stand-out officer during World War II and could have become a valuable asset in the CIA had the agency not been populated by the Father Knows Best mentality of the Cold War years.
So readers learn much more than the day-to-day operations of Hall's covert actions and I often wondered where Purnell found so many minute details of conversations, movements, relationships, etc. As with the other books I've read this summer, I ended up feeling a sense of shame that there was a time when women, no matter how talented, Creative, motivated or successful, just didn't get their due and rightful recognition. Until now.
My July 1, 2019 review of D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II by Sarah Rose first appeared at BookPleasures.com:
My July 25th review of Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler by Lynne Olson first appeared at BookPleasures.com:
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Aug. 26 at BookPleasures.com:
Short 4 minute documentary on Wesley Britton.
The full episode ("A Hole in the Sky") can be found at
Gouta Ricci, six years old, knew how to pout. “S’not fair, Da! Yer never let me do what Yona does.”
She stood with her father Da and older sister Yona on the Master Burgher Adeyemi Avenue, their worn cloaks and britches at odds with the flawless, cobbled street. It was past midnight and they stood with their backs to a flint wall in the dark space between pools of street lighting. Da had been particular about staying out of sight of the Watch Tower so they had kept close to walls on this side all the way up the avenue to where they now stopped.
Gouta tried to concentrate on her Da's reply, but Yona was pulling faces at her from behind his back, trying to distract her and get her in trouble. It was not fair But then, Yona was never fair to Gouta.
“Keep yer voice down Gouta, or yer’ll wake all the Nobs in the avenue”, her father breathed. “I told yer: Yona gets to climb tonight ’cos yer sister is a big girl”.
And that was the nub of it. Gouta did not understand why Yona was allowed to enjoy a more exciting life just because of a few years’ age difference. Why did Yona get all the good things in life? And why, with these advantages, was Yona still so mean to her?
She tried again. “But, Da…”
“Nah. Listen. Yona ’ad to wait ’til today, when she is ten, to do a job. Yer’s lucky, coming wiv us when yer’s only six.”
Her Da's face adopted a look that Gouta hated; the one that meant that she was about to lose the argument.
“Anyway, d’yer remember? I promised yer a purse of pennies after dis job, right? An’ what did yer say yer want ta buy wiv it?”
Yona poked out her tongue at Gouta from behind Da's back. Gouta wanted to yell at her but knew she dare not lose her focus on what Da was saying; he did not like that. She brought to mind the market stall, remembering the finished figures lying in rows on the table and, standing behind, the owner painting an infant’s face on an egg-shaped piece of wood.
“A dolly, Da.”
“Dat’s right. But if we ’ave to go ’ome ’cos yer can’t do yer part of the job, dere won’t be a purse an’ yer can’t buy dat dolly. So, as yer’s such a smart kid, tell me: is yer in or out?”
The familiar feeling of unfairness welled up inside her, but she wanted the dolly more. She clenched her teeth but a despairing moan still escaped. “Oh!”
Yona gave a wicked grin at Gouta’s agony then pulled a silly face, crossing her eyes and stretching her cheeks with her fingers.
Gouta was outnumbered. Da was being clever and Yona was being distracting. It was hopeless; she knew she had lost and hung her head.
“Good girl, Blackie. Said yer was smart. Now get in, do what yer practised an’ yer’ll be da best lookout da Thieves Guild ’as ever seen.”
He gestured at a pair of large night-soil barrels nearby, set against the wall. She remembered from one of Da’s lessons for Yona that a good burglar could climb up night-soil drain pipes to reach unlocked windows, and the pipes would never rattle thanks to being clamped to the barrel tops with tight leather seals. But tonight, her Da was not interested in the building above them. Instead, he would use these barrels and the avenue’s nearby star lamp for a hidden lookout post.
Gouta hesitated as she approached the barrels, fearing their stench, but found it was nowhere near as bad as the reeking cesspit below their alley’s communal privy back home in Dockside. For her whole life, no one had ever paid to have it emptied. She wished their privy smelled as little as these barrels and thought it must be nice to afford someone to collect them and take the poop away while it was still fresh and not so smelly. Da had also taught that Nobs used night-soil barrels because they were “the last word in hygiene” and, knowing Nobs, perhaps because they were so expensive.
Gouta squeezed between the barrels and Da crouched down to help her disappear into the shadows behind. Once settled, she checked that she could peep out both ways along the avenue from her place behind them.
“Oh dat’s good, Blackie. I can ’ardly see yer in dere, an’ I know where ta look. Night time, dark shadows, an’ a black-as-black lookout; it don’t get no better.”
Gouta smiled up at him. Maybe Yona did get all the good things in life, but it was nice to get some praise for doing well.
Da sucked his teeth in appreciation. “I dunno why yer was born black ‘cos it weren’t from me or yer Ma. But it’ll ’elp yer a lot on night jobs. When yer grow up yer’ll be better’n me an’ Yona ’cos of it.”
Yona’s raised fist showed Gouta what she thought about that.
“Right, Blackie. Got yer whistle?”
Gouta pulled a polished wooden whistle out of her pocket and wrapped her hand around the small gemstone halfway along the shaft.
“Dat’s my smart Blackie. We don’t want dat ta sparkle an’ draw attention, do we?”
He straightened, ready to leave, and inserted a matching wooden item, gem first, into his ear. With its gem hidden in his ear canal and its wooden body almost the same shade of dark brown as his ear, it was no longer possible to see it by starlight.
“Blow good an’ ’ard, Blackie. An’ remember yer signals.”
He pointed up the avenue and away from the city centre.
“Just as a game, pretend yer see a Watch patrol coming right now from way up dere. Quick! Blow me da signal for it.”
A test! She liked to show Da how smart she was. Still behind him, Yona was making another attempt to distract her by poking a hand out between Da’s legs, bunching her fist and letting the limp middle finger hang down.
Drawing his attention to what Yona was doing would only be a waste of effort; easily denied by Yona. Instead, Gouta grinned. The contest was on and she was going to beat her sister in this silly game.
She glanced to her left and imagined a patrol squad marching round the distant corner, on their way back to their city-centre station. With the correct patterns of short twits, long woos and pauses, she blew a barrage of silent twit-woo signals for:
The enthusiastic force of it made Da raise a hand to his ear.
“Aye! Dat’s loud enough,” he said with a smile which was in part from pleasure, part from pain. “I reckon yer ready for dis. Just don’t blow like dat while I’m climbing, aye? Or yer’ll make me fall off in surprise.”
I hope you find this extract / episode of interest.
Pen name: DW Brownlaw
Author of the science fantasy series: The Metaverse on https://www.dwbrownlaw.net
Follow me on Facebook: @DWBrownlaw, or https://facebook.com/DWBrownlaw
Dragon Knight Chronicles Book 3: The Hunted
Publication Date: July 14, 2019
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
There's a certain breed of science-fiction/ fantasy that's mostly non-stop action-adventure set out in a galaxy far, far away with the intent of entertaining readers with none of the warnings or alarms in so many dystopian futures.
In his Dragon Knight Chronicles, Andrew Wichland shows he's got as good a handle on this sub-genre as anyone. Throughout The Hunted, book 3 of this series, Wichland juggles many of the familiar formulas and tropes of such yarns like inexplicable instant armor that can grow on a Dragon Knight's body in but a moment. Dragon Knights can suddenly be armed with arsenals of weapons that can take out fleets of pursuers in seemingly overwhelmingly powerful starships. In this case, there's an occasional nod to fantasy with Knights wearing bracelets that can tap into mystical powers when the occasion calls for them. Along the way, dwarves and minotars help populate the conversations.
When stories zip along like The Hunted, there's not much character development and it seems obvious reading the previous two volumes might fill in many of the unanswered or under-explained elements of The Hunted. For example, plot-twisting characters pop in and then quickly disappear. Some have apparently played key roles in the saga in previous stories. Some of them were very intrigueing, enigmatic, and quickly gone. Never to be seen again? The ending of the tale is one of those open-ended episodes setting the stage for volume 4. Perhaps some of those characters will make return engagements?
It seemed clear Wichland wanted readers to associate his main protagonist, Robin, with earth's Robin Hood, but that connection seemed very thin to me beyond some character names--Little John, Tuck, the like. This Robin Hood is on a quest to protect members of his people, track down a missing brother after finding a long-lost sister, and I'm not clear what else. We don't see much of the forces of the Black Dragon whose evil empire dominates the galaxy.
The Hunted is light, very fast reading that will send you out into outer space for a summer evening or two. It's not meant to seriously engage your mental engines but rather to get your blood racing and your eyes popping. And what's wrong with that?
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com On Aug. 9, 2019:
Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 4, 2017)
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
I was assigned this title as a monthly reading for a book club I belong to for widows and widowers going through the grief process. Is this a book helpful for readers like us? At first glance, no, not really. Brown's focus is how to get off the ground after you've fallen face down and need to admit your own vulnerability and shame to work through your recovery. Well, those going through the grief process already know about vulnerability and shame rarely applies to that situation.
I admit I felt like I should have liked the book much better after reading some glowing reviews at Amazon and Goodreads. So clearly there is a very responsive audience for Brown's very academic and formulaic approach for working through the hard situations in life. I started to tune out a bit when Chapter Two kicked in and Brown talked about a pivotal moment in her marriage. During an unhappy swim, her husband didn't respond the way she wanted in a brief conversation. Not exactly a turning point for most people. It seemed like the sort of missed communication you can have countless times in a day. That was the first of such small moments that inspired chapter after chapter where Brown, her colleagues, family and friends worked through usually rather small-scale crises. Well, not small-scale to them, of course.
Whatever setback or crisis you face, Brown has a three-part formula for you: The reckoning where you tell your story so you can understand it; the rumble where you face your challenge and take ownership of it; the revolution where you have a transformative experience and move on. Put another way, fall. Get Up. Try again.
Other teachings in the book include: Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.
Hmm, now that I've written all this down, I think I need to rethink my introduction. I still don't think the book is especially helpful for that suffering grief. The section on broken hearts is rather short and did disappoint me. That's what I most needed to explore. But the lessons do seem quite helpful in human and business relationships if you're willing to look at things in ways you hadn't before. For example, if you're willing to accept that most people are doing the best that they can.
So, while Rising Strong might not be the first self-help book you might want to pick up this year, or even the first Brené Brown title to read judging from descriptions of her earlier titles, it's still a tome full of nuggets and insights well worth the price of admission. It could very well be a transformative book in your life.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Aug. 5:
Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler
Publisher: Random House (March 5, 2019)
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
I picked up my copy of Madame Fourcade's Secret War at the same time I read Sarah Rose's D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II. After all, both books were published only a month apart, perfectly timed to reach readers interested in this summer's 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. I admit a unique motive. I wanted to troll for details I could use in a spy story I'm working on set on a different planet dominated by women engaged in a brutal war.
I easily got my money's worth from both titles. For readers with more normal inclinations, I can recommend Madame Fourcade's Secret War just as enthusiastically as I did D-Day Girls earlier this month.
While there's obvious overlap in context and setting, these two explorations of women spies travel very different roads. D-Day Girls focuses on female members of the S.O.E., the Special Operations Executive. Madame Fourcade didn't work for the S.O.E. but instead headed an independent network called "Alliance" that reported to England's MI6. Sabotage wasn't Fourcade's main purpose, gathering intelligence was.
Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was a complex woman battling her way through a man's world. She built up the Alliance network, especially clandestine radio operators and couriers, then rebuilt it again after the Gestapo gutted Alliance operations and rebuilt it again and again after dangerous duels with the Gestapo. Much of her time, Fourcade lived like a fugitive on the run using various aliases and disguises. Some of her most interesting adventures included harrowing escapes from German prisons.
Some readers are likely going to turn a sour eye on Fourcade due to her very non-maternal treatment of her children. At the onset of the war, she had two youngsters who she quickly had flee to Switzerland without her. During the war, she bore another baby she entrusted to caretakers and went years at a time without seeing any of them. According to Olson, Fourcade had little to say on this in her 1972 memoir, Noah's Ark, but expressed grief for many of the agents she worked with or recruited who didn't survive the war. Her post-war children would later say their mother was never especially maternal. Instead, her Alliance members would be her family until her death in 1989.
It's important to know the Allies learned about the V2 rocket due to the Alliance network and the Normandy invasion was greatly facilitated due to their intelligence. Alliance was the longest lasting and most successful resistance network in France even if Fourcade wasn't destined to earn all the credit she deserved, thanks largely to murky French politics and good ole sexism.
If you're interested in French-set World War II stories, spy stories, or women's studies, like D-Day Girls, this biography is well worth your time. It centers on the legacy of one woman but it also includes the tales of some of the more important Alliance leaders, the ways of espionage in the era, as well as painting what life was like in occupied France.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on July 25, 2019:
My review of Sarah Rose's D-Day Girls was first published at BookPleasures.com on July 1, 2019: