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Beware Of Greeks Bearing Gifts.

The Siege of Troy: A novel

Theodor Kallifatides

Translated from the Swedish edition by Marlaine Delargy

Paperback: 208 pages

Publisher: Other Press (September 10, 2019)  

ISBN-10: 159051971X

ISBN-13: 978-1590519714



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....

There There: A Novel

Tommy Orange

Hardcover: 304 pages

Publisher: Knopf; First Edition (June 5, 2018)

ISBN-10: 0525520376

ISBN-13: 978-0525520375



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:



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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.
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Nostalgia City Mysteries


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

Sonia Purnell  

Hardcover: 368 pages

Publisher: Viking (April 9, 2019)

ISBN-10: 073522529X

ISBN-13: 978-0735225299     



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.

Must watch!


Excerpt from episode one: A Hole In The Sky by DW Brownlaw



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.

“Aye, Da.”

“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.


Douglas Brown 

Pen name: DW Brownlaw 

Author of the science fantasy series: The Metaverse on https://www.dwbrownlaw.net

Email: dwbrownlaw@gmail.com

Follow me on Facebook: @DWBrownlaw, or https://facebook.com/DWBrownlaw 

THE HUNTED -sci-fan YA


Dragon Knight Chronicles Book 3: The Hunted

Andrew Wichland

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! - self-help book




Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Brené Brown

Paperback: 352 pages

Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 4, 2017)

ISBN-10: 081298580X

ISBN-13: 978-0812985801




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:



Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler

Lynne Olson

Hardcover:464 pages

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:



Latest release for Wesley Britton

Alien Vision is proud to present Wesley latest story, The Alien Who Never Was. It's an exciting military/spy sci-fi with some awesome twists.

Check it out for just 0.99






If you know where your enemy is going to attack from, that is a great advantage to you, is it not?"

"An immense advantage."

But what if that advantage is a clever ruse dreamed up by a half-alien using a trick he learned from the history of his father's home planet? Throw in a diverting sexy spy to spice up the action and you get "The Alien Who Never Was," the latest exciting episode in the Beta-Earth Chronicles.



New feature: Sneak Peek



Here is an extract from the middle of the first episode of Douglas Brown's serialise novella, "The Orison".


The full episode ("A Hole in the Sky") can be found at



As Da had said, Yona had better be quick, because the Eye of Heaven would soon shine its light on those who preferred the shadows. The Eye’s light was so bright, people were able to read by it, with only slight eye-strain; thieves would be easy to spot.

Gouta glanced both ways along the deserted avenue and thought about the Eye. She allowed herself a smug smile for being, as everyone said of her, “especially smart”. Though only six, she had worked out that the Eye was not an actual eyeball. It did not have an iris, nor a pupil, nor even any eyelashes; it was nothing like an eye.

She had once sprinkled a handful of sand onto the corner of her cloak, pretending that the grains were stars and the near-black oilskin was the night sky. She was pleased to see how the grains spread around in the same sorts of patterns as the stars in the night sky. But then Yona nudged her deliberately, making her drop the remaining sand to form a small pile off to one side of her star field. Yona had gone away laughing, but Gouta noticed how the mound of grains was more-or-less round, had a fuzzy edge and completely hid the dark cloth underneath. Exactly like the Eye of Heaven. From that moment she knew that the Eye was just a part of the sky where the stars piled up so much they completely covered that part of the blackness in a dazzling mound of stars, wider than two of her Da's hand-spans at arm’s length.

So, why call it an eye?

Grown-ups were stupid sometimes.


Douglas Brown 

Pen name: DW Brownlaw 

Author of the science fantasy series: The Metaverse on https://www.dwbrownlaw.net

Email: dwbrownlaw@gmail.com

Follow me on Facebook: @DWBrownlaw, or https://facebook.com/DWBrownlaw 

Blind Gambit: A GameLit novel



Blind Gambit: A GameLit novel

Jon Cronshaw

Print Length: 275 pages

Publisher: No World Press (May 5, 2018)

Publication Date: May 5, 2018

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC





Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton


On one hand, Jon Cronshaw is a younger author than I am and he's far more familiar with the world of gaming than I will ever be.  So if you too are into video games and "game lit," than you're a prime target reader for Blind Gambit.


From a different perspective, I too carry the retinitis pigmentosa gene that results in blindness just like the main character of Brian in Cronshaw's novel. So does the author himself.  While I was older and no longer living at home when the onset kicked in for me, from the very beginning of the story, I recognized many events in Brian's personal life as well as many of his reactions to what is happening to him as his sight erodes in the physical world. I remember so many events and conversations in my life that mirrors what Brian goes through as he tries to maintain independence, downplay his disability as much as he can, and find the ways to interact with friends and family as his personal identity changes during the process of going blind. As he admits in his afterword, much of the book can be called a fictionalized memoir.


In fact, we have two themes traveling on parallel lines through the book. One is in virtual reality where Brian can see what's going on in the game of Gambit because he has a chip that allows his avatar, Neuro, to watch what his three teammates, FragQueen, Harley, and Socko are doing on the battlefields against zombies while he proves to be the worst sniper in game world. At the same time, a hacker is going through Gambit destroying every team and game he, she, or it can for unknown reasons.  Brian, however, is immune to the hacker's weapons due to that chip. So, on the outside, he's being trained in independent living and how to have a relationship with a girl. A real one.  In VR, he is trained in how to combat the hacker by learning strategy, create unique weapons out of ordinary items, and learn how to uncover the hacker's true identity.


I admit, for a long time I wondered why I should care about the destruction of virtual avatars. Not exactly the sort of carnage living beings should worry about. So are there any consequences of the hacker's killing spree in the real world beyond headaches players suffer after leaving the game? At the same time, when Brian isn't hooked up to VR, his often over protective mother talks him into working with blind support groups so he can learn how to live with his disability. Stubborn and resisting most such efforts, Brian isn't a quick study in any of his quests. In the real world, he ends up being bruised and wounded as he tries out a number of activities other blind folks can do. Along the way,


Without question, the primary readership for Blind Gambit will be YA readers who are into gaming. But I really hope a wider audience will include those who might gain some sensitivity and insight not just regarding the disability of blindness, but some understanding of the emotional turmoils the disabled go through as, in this case, we lose the sense of sight.


As with pretty much every e-book published these days, readers can find out more about Jon Cronshaw's worlds by reading his afterword and signing up for his newsletter.  The adventures don't have to end when you finish Blind Gambit.



This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on July 1, 2019:



It's all about the D-Day Girls

— feeling amazing



D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II

Sarah Rose

Hardcover: 400 pages

Publisher: Crown; 1st Edition (April 23, 2019)

ISBN-10: 045149508X

ISBN-13: 978-0451495082




Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton


With D-Day Girls,  Sarah Rose has provided us with a valuable service not only in terms of setting the historical record straight for the women of the S.O.E. (Special Operations Executive), but for the history of the treatment of women in general even when they gave their countries the very finest in the way of self-sacrifice, courage, and heroism.


The stories of three women saboteurs , in particular, demonstrate just what skilled and brave women contributed during the occupation of France by the Nazis from 1939 to 1945.  We are told about scrappy Andrée Borrel, a demolitions expert  eluding the Gestapo while blowing up the infrastructure the occupying German army relied on. The "Queen" of the S.O.E. was Lise de Baissac, a fiercely independent Parisian who lost everything due to her wartime service. And there was my favorite heroine of the bunch, Odette Sansom, who saw S.O.E. service as a means to lead a more meaningful life away from an unhappy marriage. While she finds love with a fellow agent named Peter Churchill, she ended up being a two year prisoner, horribly tortured by the Germans.   These women, along with their compatriots both male and female, helped lay the groundwork for D-Day by innumerable acts of sabotage, orchestrated prison breaks,  and the gathering of intelligence for the allied war effort.


But D-Day Girls  has a much deeper and wider canvas that three biographies. The stories of the three spies are painted against a detailed backdrop that includes the policy-making of the Allies leadership, how the chiefs of the S.O.E. came to involve women in their behind-the-lines operations, and how the changes in the war effort shaped what the various operatives were and were unable to accomplish. We learn about their training, the reactions of male superiors to the use of women at all, the bungles as well as the successes, the very human dramas the women became involved in,  the competition between the various intelligence agencies, how the spy networks were unraveled by the successful Nazi infiltration, and the very vivid settings from which the women operated. We learn about the costly mistakes some operatives performed, the lack of following the procedures they were taught, and the process of getting the materials and new agents parachuted in from RAF planes.


Rose is able to avoid a dry retelling of all these events with almost a novelist's descriptive eye. For example, she doesn't merely tell us about an explosion resulting from a well-place bomb--she gives us a sensory breakdown of what happened moment by moment, second by second in color, smell, and sound. She doesn't merely tell us about the black parachute drops,  but how they took place out in the quiet French countryside.


It's difficult to lay this book down as we revisit often forgotten corners of World War II history with often fresh perspectives. Many revelations are only possible now that many formerly classified documents have been brought to light and many misogynist points-of-view have been replaced by what actually happened.


In many ways, the tales of what happened to these women after the war ended are the saddest passages in the book. Because they were not part of any official military service, they were denied the full recognition and appreciation they deserved.  Even though they had been indispensable during the war, after VE day they were relegated to the second-class status of women everywhere. There's more than one lesson in all that.



So readers who love spy stories, those interested in World War II,  devotees of women's studies, and those focused on D-Day celebrations this year shouldn't be the only audience D-Day Girls should enjoy. It's a wonderfully vivid and descriptive multi-layered account that should engage any reader who likes well-written non-fiction.



Note: I'm aware that this year, a related book, Madame Foucade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Larges Spy Network Against Hitler by Lynne Olson was also published. It's on my summer reading list as well. Spy buffs, stay tuned--



This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on July 1, 2019:



Please vote!



The Quest is an extraordinary fantasy PNR with no typical fantasy stereotyping.

I reviewed Mrs Kantas's book and really enjoyed it.

So please take a moment to vote for The Quest which has been nominated for best fantasy in The Readers Choice Awards.

Click through to page number 8 FANTASY and then scroll down to the bottom of the voting to vote for The Quest.


Thank you, everyone,





Dinner With Edward: The Story of an Unexpected Friendship

Isabel Vincent

                Paperback: 240 pages

Publisher: Algonquin Books; Reprint edition (June 13, 2017)

ISBN-10: 1616206942

ISBN-13: 978-1616206949



Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton


Dinner With Edward isn't the sort of novel I would normally pick up for summer reading. I don't read "food books." But as it was this month's assignment for a book club I belong to,  I started reading with few preconceived ideas about it. It didn't take long for me to be glad I did.


From first to last, Dinner With Edward just hums with life and gains affirming energy as it goes along. The premise is simple enough: Edward is a nonagenarian widower grieving over the death of his wife, strongly wanting to follow her to the grave. He's a talented man with his hands, especially with cooking exceptional dinners in his New York apartment.


Isabel is a "middle-aged" reporter who Edward invites to come to weekly dinners at the request of one of Edward's daughters who hopes isabel can keep an eye on her father. Isabel's marriage is disintegrating and these private dinners become highlights of her life, along with the wisdom Edward offers as their friendship deepens. Their backstories are revealed in fragments and chunks as Vincent recounts just how this friendship blossomed in chapters headed by the short menus of one dinner after another.  It's quickly obvious the nourishment the two share goes far beyond well-prepared dinners and conversations that are wide-ranging in scope and topics.


Among the lessons Isabel learns is to slow down and appreciate her life, dissecting who she is and facing things she'd rather put aside or ignore. Edward is described as a Henry Higgins figure helping his Eliza Doolittle protegee enhance her feminine aspects which she tends to downplay. Of course, she learns a lot about preparing food and allowing herself to find love again.


One of the many aphorisms sprinkled throughout the memoir is a quote by M. F. K. Fisher, that simple dinners with a friend can "sustain us against the hungers of the world." In other words, Edward's lessons for Isabel should reach out far beyond their relationship and enrich the lives of the book's readers. I often paused to jot down a note or two when a clear, clean insight tripped my trigger. I will have many good things to say about Dinner With Edward when the book club meets and eagerly await the responses of the other members.



This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on June 25, 2019: