El Paso: My Review

Winston Groom is perhaps best known for his 1986 novel Forrest Gump, which was later made into the Academy Award winning movie starring Tom Hanks. This blend of characters and events, both real and fictional, made for entertaining history in a whimsical and emotionally absorbing story. Groom uses that same blend of storytelling and period history in El Paso, a sweeping action adventure set during the turbulent Mexican Revolution.

Railroad magnate John Shauhnessy has squandered his fortune in an attempt to be befriended and accepted into Bostonian society. His lavish lifestyle, mansions, yachts, and investments in foreign enterprises have left him cash poor, with the only hope of salvaging his rapidly diminishing wealth and status residing in the livestock on his sprawling Villa del Sol Ranch in Chihuahua, Mexico.

Oblivious to the harsh realities of war, he endangers his family by embarking on an ill-advised scheme to herd his cattle north to the markets in the Southwest city of El Paso. He envisions a romanticized western cattle drive that will not only recoup his financial losses, but at the same time be a grand adventure for his whole family. What he does not realize is that the ranch has already been attacked by the Mexican Revolutionary Pancho Villa who wants to drive out all foreigners from Mexico, especially American capitalists who have cheated his people out of their land by purchasing vast tracts all along the border at pennies on the dollar.

Villa’s henchmen have brutally killed the ranch manager, stolen the cattle to feed their hungry army, and kidnapped the foreman’s wife. Outraged upon hearing of this, Shauhnessy entreats the President of the United States to take action. When Woodrow Wilson refuses, he mounts a search of his own for Villa over inhospitable terrain with no clear idea of what he’s doing or where he’s going, or what he’ll do if he indeed finds him. Along the way, the situation only worsens when Shauhnessy’s own grandchildren are taken prisoner by the revolutionaries under Villa’s command.

Legendary figures from the past – General “Black Jack” Pershing, a young Lieutenant by the name of George Patton, early western movie star Tom Mix, American journalist and communist activist John Reed, Henry O. Flipper (the first African-American to graduate West Point), Mexican revolutionaries Pancho Villa and his arch enemy General Venustiano Carranza, and so many more populate the book’s 474 pages.

This was Winston Groom’s final novel. He passed away from a heart attack September 16, 2020. El Paso is a lasting testament to a writer who mainly dealt in works of non-fiction, but whose novels gave us portraits of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances interacting with larger than life personalities. Like Forrest Gump, El Paso not only provides readers with indelible impressions of crucial moments in our history, but also wraps them up in a darn good yarn.  

Sword Song: My Review

Sword Song Book CoverSet in the year 885, this is the continuing story of Uhtred of Bebbanburg and the Saxon Tales. Like its predecessors this fourth entry into the series offers vivid and dramatic battle scenes, but the violence (while true to this period in history) does not overshadow well drawn characters – both historical and fictional – that add depth and human interest to the origins of modern day England.

Following the defeat of the Viking Guthrum, Alfred the Great is looking to consolidate his rule over all the kingdoms (not just Wessex but Mercia, East Anglia, and Northumbria) and bring Christianity to the whole country. To do so he must protect his borders from further Viking raids and Uhtred is sworn to aid him in this effort.

When Sigefrid and Erik Thurgilson capture and occupy London, Alfred’s control of the Thames River is threatened. Now Uhtred must weigh his oath to Alfred against his own ambitions. A mixture of both Saxon and Dane, Uhtred has divided loyalties that will be tested by predictions that he will be king of Mercia if he allies himself with the Vikings.

Bernard Cornwell engages the reader in the narrative of shifting allegiances and power struggles. Alfred’s treacherous nephew, Aethelwold, covets the throne upon which Alfred sits and schemes with the Danes to lure Uhtred away from his oath to the king. News of a risen dead man foretells Uhtred’s kingship in the kingdom of Mercia. However, the vain and abusive Aethelred, married to Alfred’s eldest daughter, has already been promised the kingdom. His cruelty endangers his wife Ethelflaed, while his vanity and lack of leadership jeopardizes the campaign to recapture London. Uhtred must find a way to protect Ethelflaed from Aethelred, reveal Aetholwold’s treachery, and recapture London to fulfill his pledge to Alfred.

Sword Song is an apt title for the book as Uhtred again wields his sword Serpent-Breath in the battle for London. For anyone unfamiliar with Uhtred’s previous adventures please refer to my reviews of the three earlier books in the series: The Last Kingdom, Dec 7 2018; The Pale Horsemen, Jul 5, 2019; and The Lords of the North, Feb 26, 2020.  

A united England in the ninth century is still just a dream, and there are many more adventures yet to be told. In total, Bernard Cornwell has written twelve books in this ongoing series with more to come! Some readers may find this disconcerting, but whenever I’m in the mood for rousing descriptions of battle and a rich history of the northward expansion that resulted in the realization of Alfred the Great’s dream, I find myself returning to the Saxon Tales.

Next up for me, somewhere down the road… The Burning Land.








Riders of the Purple Sage: My Review

Every so often I like to pick up a book that I read as a young boy growing up. In this instance it was Zane Grey’s classic western Riders of the Purple Sage.Riders of the Purple Sage Book Cover

I remembered very little about the story other than the character known as Lassiter. His iconic image, a dreaded gunman dressed completely in black with two guns holstered at his side, is what stuck in my memory.

I’d totally forgotten that this was a western romance novel set in Utah telling the story of Jane Withersteen, a Mormon landowner who refuses to shun gentiles (non-Mormons) or enter into a loveless marriage with Elder Tull.

Written in 1912, the romantic characterizations and dialogue appear awkward and dated by today’s standards. But there is no denying that Grey’s descriptions of the landscape are stunning. He also captures the majesty, beauty, and might of horses. Some of his more enthralling passages describe them galloping the open range and the horsemanship of their riders.

Lassiter has come to Cottonwoods, Utah in search of his beloved sister’s grave when he happens upon a vigilante gathering of Mormons about to whip Bern Venters, the foreman at Withersteen ranch. Lassiter’s reputation as a deadly gunslinger drives them away, but sets in motion a series of events intended to ruin Jane Withersteen or force her into obeying the Mormon elders and bishop.

When Jane’s cattle herds are rustled, Bern Venters sets out to track down Rustler Oldring and the infamous “masked rider.” The pursuit results in the discovery of a hidden valley and a shootout with some of the rustlers. Bern wounds the masked rider only to discover that she’s only a teenage girl with a mysterious past. While nursing her back to health, the two fall in love.

Over time Lassiter also falls in love with Jane Withersteen, becoming her protector. He almost forswears the vengeance that brought him to Cottonwood, but the kidnapping of a young orphan girl whom both he and Jane have come to love reignites his hatred.

There are unforeseen plot twists before a final resolution of these two story lines, and the climatic ending is the reason why Riders of the Purple Sage remains one of the early westerns that excited a young boy’s imagination.

Does it hold up today? I admit skipping over passages that now seem quaint, but the book is over one hundred years old. My tastes in literature have changed as have those of most readers. Nonetheless, Riders of the Purple Sage is a timeless ode to the western  and to an author that brought the Old West to life.




Einstein’s Compass: Excerpt



Grace Blair & Laren Bright
Genre: Young Adult / Historical / Fantasy / Science Fiction
Certified Lexile Measure: 860L
Publisher: Modern Mystic Media
Publication Date: January 2, 2019
Number of Pages: 394 pages
Coming on Audio, February 2019!SCROLL DOWN FOR THE GIVEAWAY! 

How did Albert Einstein come up with his wondrous theories of light and time? In Einstein’s Compass: A YA Time Traveler Adventure, a young Albert is given a supernatural compass that allows him to travel through time and space and find wisdom in other dimensions, including the lost city of Atlantis. But evil forces seek the power of the compass, including a monstrous, shape-shifting dragon from a different age. Can the compass protect Albert from such villainy?

                                                    ┃ Amazon


“This is an amazing story. Everyone should thoroughly enjoy reading it. I was impressed with how the authors managed to incorporate the known information on the lost continent of Atlantis, Light Workers, souls, reincarnation, time travel and the early years of Albert Einstein before he became famous, into a mesmerizing work of fiction readers will have difficulty putting down. 
–Doug Simpson, Author of We Lived in Atlantis

“I could not stop reading this book. I read at stop lights and in line at the grocery store. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.” –— award winning children’s author, Lisa Reinicke

This is highly recommended for those who enjoy a saga of good vs. evil that spans tens of thousands of years, for readers who devour novels that blend history and fantasy, and for anyone who is simply looking for a unique story that they will not want to put down.

— Author Jacqui Murray, Ask a Tech Teacher blog
The weaving of the story between the religion realm and Albert’s world is a captivating tale that keeps the reader’s attention. The good and evil of the timeless religious realm is like watch a chess match to see who outwits whom … I hope there is a next book somewhere in my future. 
–- Rox Burkey, author of the Enigma Series

Excerpt from “Interlude III” of

Einstein’s Compass
by Grace Blair & Laren Blair

The regal Akhenaten, in a simple knee-length, ivory shendyt, slipped off his sandals. He sat down and crossed his legs. He relaxed into a lotus position under a majestic oak tree outside the Temple of Research. From the sky he heard a trisyllabic oop-oop-oop, and fixated on a hoopoe bird circling above. The bird’s broad and rounded wings swooped down. With wings in a beat, like that of a giant butterfly, flew into a nest box mounted between two branches of the tree.

“Master Aten,” said Koral Kendra, a young neophyte in a natural temple garment. Her chestnut hair wrapped in golden threads cascaded when she walked toward Akhenaten. She possessed the gift of looking through the telegenic portal. The training was difficult because neophytes like her had to go beyond understanding. She lived within a Temple of Seers, all women who made the temple their way of life, a devotion she loved.

“Koral, how good to see you. What can I do for you?” replied Master Aten.

Her face lit up with excitement and seemed to glow. “Do you have a moment to show me how to search through time using your telegenic portal? I have completed my training in the Seer’s Temple. Saint Theresa of Avila directed me to you. I wonder if you could show me how a Traveler sees through time. I learned that Travelers come to bring a special balancing. To help transmute the negativity of the people they serve to each period in history.”

“Of course, I am glad to know you have ascended to the next level in your training. Yes, Koral you are correct in your understanding of role of a Mystical Traveler. I might add that your virtues of keeping one’s word. Personal integrity, unconditional loving as well as holding a consciousness of upliftment. These will give you strength enough to advance to even higher levels of awareness.” Master Aten gestured for her to sit next to him on the carpet of grass.

Koral settled next to Master Aten. She gazed into her teacher’s eyes asked, “May I ask you a few questions before we work with the portal?”

Her curiosity brought a broad smile as he replied, “What would you like to know?”

Koral asked, “How did you become a Mystical Traveler? Where did you come from?”

Master Aten rested back on the tree behind him. He replied, “On earth I ruled the country of Egypt. My name Pharaoh Amenhotep IV. I became driven to be God’s most dedicated prophet. In a dream God asked me to build the city Armana. A place comparable to a ‘New Jerusalem’. Here a universal teaching, that of the knowledge of one God called Aten. A radiant being communicating through light and sound. A spiritual man dedicated to the glory and brightness of the Egyptian Sun. As Aten, I turned Egyptian tradition upside down. The changes were not welcomed by most of my people. Their rejection of my heresy, and my death, was swift and complete. The memory and teachings of light and sound has left a distinct place of reference in history.

Koral wanted to know more about life on Earth “Are there many mystical travelers? How do they help people on Earth?”

Master Aten replied.” Yes, there are many mystical travelers. Some are poets, writers, scientists, philosophers and teachers on Earth. A few have held the keys to soul transcendence. The practice of awareness of yourself. Awareness of your Soul, awareness of God.The inner mysteries of light and sound held secrets for many centuries until the Mystical Traveler Jesus. During his lifetime he made the inner wisdoms available to the masses. Now the spiritual knowledge is available to anyone who awakens to the truth within.”

Master Aten pointed to the telegenic portal. He said, “Let’s begin your lesson on the telegenic portal.”

The telegenic portal was the size of a large, horizontal book. It had the appearance of a mirror of precious stone planed and smooth. Backed with a dark material to hold the light within the surface. For many months the children trained as Seers would gaze within these portals. They would see the colors, and the light and symbols of the spirit world. Their vision would deepen to the vibration and color of the world around them. They would feel, hear and see in their portal, the colors and emanations of the world of spirit. Daily meditations and spiritual inner exercises honed their ability.

Master Aten laid the telegenic portal down in front of them. He waved his hand over the portal to clear the screen.

Reset, the portal projected the holographic sacred geometric pattern of the Flower of Life. The floating flower pulsed energy all around.

Grace Blair is an award-winning self-help and motivational author, and podcast host, who has assisted thousands to find their spiritual wisdom to solve everyday challenges. Throughout her adult life, Grace became a serious student of the spiritual. She found that, often, psychological principles and practices were incomplete, but could be filled out by adding the missing spiritual component. Her approach was always to see practical applications for what she uncovered in the mystical. It was through immersing herself in this field of study and experience that she came up with her idea for her book, Einstein’s Compass. She lives in Lubbock, Texas, with her husband, Dr. John Blair.

║ Website ║ Facebook ║ Twitter ║ Instagram  
 ║ Goodreads  Amazon Author Page  Bublish 

Laren Bright is a three-time Emmy nominated award-winning writer who has written nearly 100 children’s animated cartoon scripts. He has spent the majority of his professional life over the last two decades assisting authors to produce topnotch books with titles and other promotional writing indistinguishable from those of mainstream publishers. During that time, in addition to Einstein’s Compass, he also co-authored a young adult fantasy series and several books for young children about positive values. Laren lives in Los Angeles with his wife, computer, and two grand-dogs.

║ IMDB Amazon Author Page ║ Website 

FIRST PRIZE: eBook + Einstein’s Compass Cap
SECOND PRIZE: eBook + Einstein socks; THIRD PRIZE: eBook + bookmark
JANUARY 2-11, 2019
(eBooks can be sent internationally, swag USA only)


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