Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Demons of Plainville by Daniel R. Mathews (Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for The Demons of Plainville by author Daniel R. Mathews!






Book Review




The Demons of Plainville: A Survivor's Story of Storms and Reconstruction by Daniel R. Mathews
Publisher: Lost Legacy Press
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Format: Paperback - 292 pages
               Kindle - 1218 KB
ISBN: 978-0990710745
ASIN: B00XYWRZUY
Genre: Autobiography / Memoir / LGBT / Non Fiction


Buy The Book:
Amazon
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Goodreads


Book Trailer:  http://www.daniel-mathews.com/site-news/tdop-book-trailer-released/ 

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE


Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book.


Book Description:

Some true stories read like fiction, but for those who have to personally live through the experiences, the nightmare is vividly real. Daniel R. Mathews digs into the darkness of his past with his haunting memoir, The Demons of Plainville.

As a child, Daniel struggles to find his footing in an upside-down world. His mother is mentally ill and addicted to drugs; she performs black masses to summon demons, is physically abusive, and plays brutal mind games that make him doubt his sanity and despair of ever making sense of life or himself. Even his father beats Daniel after “rescuing” him from his mother. Thanks to a few unexpected friends, Daniel survives his devastating youth and emerges stronger for it.

But Daniel’s battles aren’t over. Finally free of his abusive parents, he now must face himself and wrestle with his sexual identity in a community that sees nothing wrong with homophobia.

Candid and compelling, this is a triumphant tale of a young man who walked through the darkness, bravely faced his demons, and against all odds carried the faint light of hope with him every step of the way.


Book Excerpt:


Chapter 1: Telling The Truth

Accusations. This is how it always begins. S Screaming follows when my answers prove inadequate. Then come the threats, and finally the misery of surrender.

I was about eight at the time, living in a small red brick apartment building
in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Our apartment was on the basement floor, so
there was not a good view outside, only a few small quarter windows allowing
in some daylight. The building stood on a grassy hill that overlooked Myles
Standish State Forest. Some days I would just curl up on the sun-warmed
grass, staring down into the forest below me and imagining that I was a bird
darting between the trees.

My anger grew as we went through the same cycle day after day. I stood
in our tiny living room facing the yellow sofa with my mother giving me that
disdainful stare that made me feel ashamed. I’d look towards the light tan
carpet, afraid to make eye contact with her. The details of the accusation did
not matter, as I seldom had any idea what she was talking about. Whether
there was a quarter missing from her bureau or the bathroom light being left
on at night, there was no end to the possibilities of accusations. Each day the
school bus dropped me off at the bottom of the hill, I paused at the bus-stop
to gather whatever courage I could muster. I knew that a new accusation

would be awaiting me, starting the cycle anew.

“Stand up straight when I’m talking to you!” She barks at me. “And stop looking
down at your feet. Where is it, what did you do with it?” she screams, finger
pointed towards me.

“I don’t know,” I say defensively, shrugging my shoulders.

“You little fucking liar,” she says, standing up from the couch and slapping my
face. “Now get in your room!”

I would rush into my small room in our apartment, slamming the white door
shut before ripping clumps of my own short blond hair out. I hid the hair
under my giant stuffed bear, which stood up to my waist in height. The bear
was a gift from my maternal grandparents, ever standing ready to accept my
love. I clung to the bear; its soft white and gray fur brought me comfort during
times of sadness or anger.

My mother grew suspicious of the growing bald spot on the top of my
head and one afternoon decided to tear the room apart. Eventually, she found
the tangled lump of blond hair hidden under the bear and challenged me for
answers, answers I did not have. I could not explain the anger inside me, at
least not an explanation I dared speak in front of her. I had begun craving
independence and the seeds of rebellion sprouted forth. She pushed me at
every opportunity, accused and cursed me for anything ranging from theft to
family misfortune. I just did not understand.

My only outlet was to punish myself through self-inflicted pain, just to
release the frustration. My mother took an attitude of open hostility against
me, one that persisted throughout my childhood.

“I’m going to send you to a mental institution!” she screamed at me, her long
dirty blond hair swinging between her shoulder blades as she frantically shook
her head. She wiped the sweat from her flushed brow then paused for a moment
and looked down at me with great disgust waving the fist full of my hair
she found at me. I clung to my stuffed bear, looking up at her.

“If you do not learn to behave, I’m going to send you to a reform school
for boys.” She had hesitated for just a moment longer before her voice shifted
into a menacing tone. “They just love cute little white boys at the reform
school. They will take care of you real good.” Turning her back on me, she
stormed out of the room, leaving me weeping into my bear’s fur while I continued
to hug it with all my strength.

I’d heard of reform school before I was in second grade. However, I was
left pondering the nature of how they would take care of me. Strange feelings
overtook me. At first, heat surged through my body, then excitement.
My heart began to beat faster, and for the first time that day I smiled. The
words take care of you echoed in my mind over and over. Other boys at this reform
school were going to take care of me. My mind reinterpreted her hidden
threat; other boys were going to be touching me. I did not understand what
this might mean, but I wanted desperately to find out. These strange longings
would grow and expand in time. The seed long within me had sprouted. Yet,
it did not grow for a while.

We eventually moved from the basement apartment to my grandparents’
house in the same town. The small ranch style house was nestled in small
groves of pine and oak trees. There were numerous cranberry bogs in the
area and a large waterfront district a few miles east of the house. Small single
engine airplanes frequently flew overhead, taking off and landing at the local
airport just to the north.

The yard was ideal for play, with a large back yard that sloped down into
a small grove of pines and blueberry bushes. The neighbors behind the house
owned a pair of horses that I visited every day. The house had three small
bedrooms. My room was adjacent to the living room, just wide enough to fit
my bed and a small dresser. When in the house I spent most of my time looking
out the large living room bay window watching the cars and trucks drive
by. Otherwise, I sat on the back deck with my grandmother. We would try
to identify the particular birds visiting the feeder using a small field guide to
birds. I went down the stairs and tossed a ball around with my grandfather on
the lawn or helped him weed his small garden.

Because of the influence and presence of my grandparents (my mother’s
parents), my problems decreased. More often than not, my mother would
go off with her cousin Alice, leaving me behind. Alice’s arrival frequently
corresponded with noticeable changes in my mother’s behavior. Alice was
stern yet generally pleasant towards me. However, when they left together,
they would return in a giggly or light-hearted mood, which would come
crashing down a few hours later. I found the sudden mood shifts to be the
most troubling occurrence because it added uncertainty and fear to my already
besieged mind. One afternoon, though, while my grandparents were
out for the day, my mother and her cousin called me into the small bedroom
my mother was staying in at the end of the house.

Mother closes the curtains and shades, leaving just a shaft of sunlight entering the
room. She held a large red case, almost like a toolbox of some sort. She opened
the case and took out some items, including candles, a bell, incense, goblet,
matches, and a book. The book was entitled The Satanic Bible. She placed the
black and red candles around in a pattern that she refers to as a pentagram
with a circle around it. She ordered me into the imaginary circle and told me
to remain silent and not leave the center of the circle for any reason,” or else.”

She and Alice joined me in the circle while they lit a burner and then some
incense. The snaking trail of smoke climbed towards the ceiling. The ritual
was both exciting and frightening. She picked up the book and looked over at
me, smiling. She told me that she would pray to Satan and summon demons,
but the demons were not allowed to enter the circle. As long as I remained
calm, I would be protected.

She began the mass by ringing the bells; she used the book to speak words
I’d never heard before. The ringing echoed faintly in the room, combining
with the sweet smell of the incense. I felt almost dizzy, overcome by a giddy
feeling of excitement.

She proceeded to cut herself with a silver knife with an ornate looking
pearl handle, just enough to draw a steady trickle of blood from her finger, allowing
it to flow into a tarnished bronze colored chalice. Alice took the knife
and sliced her own finger, allowing drops of blood to fall into the chalice. My
mother held the chalice upwards as an offering and mumbled a few words.
After placing it back on the ground, she took a long slender writing instrument
and dipped it into the blood. The blood served as the ink, allowing her
to write on a small blank piece of white paper. I couldn’t see the writing, but
she told me it was an offering for our luck and fortune. She ripped the paper
into small pieces and set it ablaze. The mass finished with a final ringing of
the bells, driving away the demons.

I couldn’t see these creatures, but the air was laden with smoke and darkness.
I was sure the demons were there.

That afternoon was my first introduction to the “Lucifer,” originally the chosen
angel. The year was 1976 but on this otherwise bright summer afternoon,
it might have been 1692. Witchcraft was alive and well in the suburbs of
Massachusetts.

Mother and Alice repeated this scene several times during the summer,
always when my grandparents were out of the house. Since these rituals were
never performed in their presence, I always wondered what the ramifications
would be if they found out. As strange as it sounds, these were the few times I
felt emotionally close and accepted by my mother, so I was grateful for them.

As October approached, we were on the road once again. My mother,
Alice and I settled down one town over into a small cottage in the woods
of Carver. The cottage was just a ten minutes’ drive from my grandparents’
home, nestled amid lush green pines and small evergreen trees. Alice worked
for the state in Boston and money my mother received from welfare covered
the cottage’s rent. The commute from Carver to Boston was long, so Alice left
early in the morning before I got the bus and did not return home until the
sun had set. My mother spent a great deal of time sleeping during these times,
taking various prescriptions that generally left her tired and moody.

Loving the outdoors and the woods, I approved of our new home’s location.
Surrounded by miles of forest and a large lake that reflected the sunlight
in shimmering ripples of yellow, it was almost a boy’s dream come true. The
dream didn’t last long though.

I started the third grade at age nine that autumn. School became an issue
for me almost immediately. The first day I climbed into the bus, the driver
assumed I was a girl, as did the kids on the bus.

“Who are you?” the bus driver inquired, searching his list.

Before I could answer, he said, “Oh, there must be a mistake. Your name
is Danielle, right?”

I looked at him in surprise, “No, it’s Daniel!” I snapped back. The kids
in the front seat immediately giggled and pointed at me. I looked down and
began blushing.

The bus driver cleared his throat. “Well, Danielle is French for Daniel. So
climb on in, let’s go.”

This led to the unavoidable teasing and taunting one would naturally
expect from such a mistake. I could barely contain the tears of shame though
I did a reasonable job of keeping some composure for the trip to school. My
natural femininity provided a constant source of irritation throughout the
first semester, though eventually the kids forgot about it. Perhaps subconsciously,
I began to isolate myself.

Yet school was only a passing nuisance because my mother’s attitude towards
me changed quickly. She resented my growing desire for privacy and
independence. Away from the influence of my grandparents, my mother’s disposition
soured. The cycle of accusations and threats began to accelerate, taking
on a more menacing tone.


My Book Review:

In his haunting memoir, The Demons of Plainville, author Daniel R. Mathews takes the reader along on his heart wrenching but truly inspirational personal journey of survival and self discovery.

This is a well-written and compelling coming of age story about the author's traumatic childhood filled with unspeakable physical, mental, and emotional abuse by his family, and how he was able to overcome the darkness of his childhood and the daunting challenges from within his community, to face his demons and embrace his true identity.

This was definitely not an easy story to read, but the author's inspirational message of how he survived and emerged stronger and able to identify and embrace his true self is a powerful statement that needed to be shared. Hopefully from the author's story, the world can learn to feel compassion, accept, embrace, and celebrate their fellow human beings for their individuality no matter of race, creed, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

The Demons of Plainville is a candid, relevant, and thought provoking memoir that will stir the soul and stay with the reader for quite some time.


RATING: 5 STARS




    About The Author


An avid reader of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, Daniel R. Mathews is a novelist and nonfiction writer whose books feature LGBT youth braving danger with honor and dignity, including his personal memoir, The Demons of Plainville, and debut horror novel, The Unseen Kingdom. For the past two decades, Mathews has worked as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified ground instructor, meteorologist, and a member of the web development and Internet technical support community. He currently lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.   


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 Virtual Book Tour Page

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Summer at Sea by Beth Labonte (Book Review)



Summer at Sea by Beth Labonte
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: April 24, 2015
Format: eBook - 239 pages
               Kindle - 2973 KB
ASIN: B00WNR92RU
Genre: Chick Lit / Romantic Comedy / Women's Fiction


Buy The Book:
Amazon
Goodreads


Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a book review program hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.


Book Description:

Four jackets of varying weights, enough socks for the entire Confederate Army, three umbrellas, most of the antacid aisle from the local pharmacy, and six pairs of old people sneakers that all look exactly the same. 

Have you ever helped your parents pack for a weeklong cruise? 

No? I didn't think so. So shut it. 

So begins vacation for Summer Hartwell - twenty-six years old, living with her anxiety-ridden parents, and unwillingly booked by her brother on a weeklong cruise to Bermuda. Despite the nightmare of being trapped aboard a cruise ship with Mom and Dad, Summer sees a rare opportunity to fulfill The Prophecy – her mother’s declaration that she will live at home until she gets married. With two thousand passengers onboard, at least one of them must be husband material, right?

The only problem is Graham Blenderman – her brother’s best friend who is joining them for the week, in all of his tall, blonde, extroverted glory. Graham doesn’t believe Summer needs a husband in order to break free from her parents. He thinks she just needs a little bit of nerve. And to Summer’s introverted horror, he’s willing to spend the entire week proving that he’s right.


My Book Review:

If you are looking for a thoroughly entertaining chick lit / romantic comedy to read during the waning days of summer, than look no further, author Beth Labonte's Summer at Sea will keep you in stitches!

Follow twenty-six year old Summer Hartwell as she embarks on a week long cruise adventure to Bermuda with her family. Summer's plans for the cruise include seeking fun adventures, independence, and romance ... but she doesn't expect to find romance with her brother Eric's best friend Graham Blenderman, who joins them on the cruise!

Summer at Sea is a sassy tale that has a wonderful mixture of romance and comedy. The reader is easily drawn into Summer's crazy adventures as she pursues her mission to gain independence from her parents and find romance while on the cruise. This is a well-written and fast paced fun tale that is full of memorable characters and laugh-out-loud moments. I loved the wickedly humorous and witty banter, sarcasm, snarkiness, and sweet romance that is interwoven throughout the story. As the reader follows Summer's hilarious relationship with her parents, to the crazy drama and mishaps, to the unrequited desire for Graham that unexpectedly blossoms into a romance, you know that Summer is in for one heck of a memorable cruise. Reading this entertaining story made me want to go on a cruise!

Summer at Sea is a delightful romantic comedy that will leave the reader wanting more!


RATING: 5 STARS 






About The Author



Author Beth Labonte
received a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Currently working as an Administrative Assistant, she has taken to writing as her creative outlet in an excruciatingly mundane corporate world. Beth resides in Massachusetts with her husband, son, and two cats.


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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Getting It Right The Second Time Around by Jennifer Frank (Book Review)



Getting It Right The Second Time Around by Jennifer Frank
Publisher: Clean Reads / Astrae Press
Publication Date: April 6, 2015
Format: eBook - 329 pages
               Kindle - 869 KB
               Nook - 1 MB
ISBN: 978-1621354093
ASIN:  B00VR67K7W
BNID:  B00VR67K7W
Genre:  Chick Lit / Contemporary Romance / Women's Fiction


Buy The Book:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Smashwords
Goodreads


Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a book review program hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.


Book Description:

If you had a chance to do over your biggest regret, would you take it? When Alison learns the terms of her aunt’s will require that she reverse her life and take the road she rejected six years ago, she has to determine if she can trust herself to make the right decision or if she will be pressured once again to allow someone else to choose for her.

Alison lives a comfortable, safe, life advocating for women at the domestic violence shelter where she works and being bossed around by her cat. When her dynamic Aunt Elinor decides to tie Alison’s inheritance to successfully completing law school, Alison confronts the past that led her to choose love over the law – and lose at both.

As Alison battles through law school admissions, the challenges mount both personally and professionally. Will she sacrifice her dreams again to satisfy her new love, Ryan, and her Aunt Elinor?


My Book Review:

If you had a second chance to redo your life choices, would you take it?

In her debut novel, Getting It Right The Second Time Around, author Jennifer Frank weaves a compelling tale that follows twenty-eight year old Alison on a personal journey of self-discovery as her life is unexpectedly given a second chance at following her dreams. Alison is surprised when her late Aunt Elinor leaves her a two million dollar inheritance, but the inheritance has a stipulation: that Alison re-enter and graduate from law school, and fulfill her dream that she had let go of six years ago for a relationship that didn't work out.

Set in Boston, Alison's story alternates with flashbacks to the past interwoven with the present. You can't help but get drawn into this feel good story as Alison's late Aunt Elinor challenges her to change the direction of her life, and grasp the second chance at achieving the dream she had wanted not so long ago. But considering the new choices and changes doesn't come easy for Alison, she enjoys her position as an advocate for women at a domestic violence shelter, and she has a blossoming new romance with a man named Ryan. So come along for the ride as Alison embarks on a personal journey with a little prompting from heaven (Aunt Elinor) to push past her comfort zone and decide what life choices and path to follow. This is a thought provoking story that makes the reader sit back and ponder what they would do if given the opportunity of a second chance at making life choices and decisions.

Getting It Right The Second Time Around is a delightfully lighthearted and uplifting contemporary romantic / women's fiction tale that will leave a smile on your face.


RATING: 4 STARS 





About The Author




Author Jennifer Frank: Physician by Day...Writer by Night. My love of writing grew out of the many meaningful moments I've shared with patients - some joyful, often emotional, always special. My initial essays, appearing in medical journals and literary magazines, allowed me to work through the ups and downs of a medical life.

As an avid reader, I adore a great story. Eventually, I decided to create my own. Not a planful writer, instead my story develops as I write, so I am often as engrossed with what will happen next as if I was reading a book created by someone else. My characters are my favorite part of any story I write. Too bad I will never meet them in real life!

When I'm not stamping out disease or coaxing patients to eat their veggies and not composing the next scene, I am kept busy with my four crazy nutballs - my children and my wonderful and supportive husband.


Author Website
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Vows To The Fallen by Larry Laswell (Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Vows To The Fallen by author Larry Laswell!


Vows To The Fallen Banner




      Book Review

   Vows To The Fallen   


Vows to the Fallen by Larry Laswell
Book 2: The Marathon Series
Publisher: Marshell Publishing
Publication Date: August 14, 2015
Format: Paperback - 277 pages 
               Kindle - 528 KB
ISBN: 978-0986385322
ASIN: B0106PWBNC
Genre: Historical Fiction / Military / Sea Story


Buy The Book: 


Buy The Series: The Marathon Series
Book 1: The Marathon Watch
Book 2: Vows To The Fallen
Amazon
Goodreads


Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book.


Book Description:



Vows to the Fallen
An Officer’s Journey Through Guilt and Grief
Another techno-thriller from the author of The Marathon Watch

August 9, 1942, 01:42 hours
USS Green on patrol off Red Beach, Guadalcanal
Bridge Officer: Lieutenant Patrick O’Toole

Lieutenant O’Toole’s goal is simple: someday he wants to become an admiral. But in a few moments, his life will change . . . forever. Yesterday, the marines stormed the beaches of Guadalcanal. Today, the Japanese Navy will strike back. The sudden and horrific carnage scars O’Toole for life and throws him into the abyss of survivor’s guilt and posttraumatic stress.

The Pacific War does not wait for O’Toole to heal. Duty calls, each new assignment brings more responsibility, and the roll call of the fallen grows. At the Battle of Mujatto Gulf, O’Toole faces a superior battle-hardened Japanese fleet and discovers the strength within him to climb from the abyss and find his true life’s mission. To the fallen, he vows never to abandon that mission no matter how high the cost.
 

Book Excerpt:


 Chapter 1

August 8, 1942, 2346 Hours
USS Green; 45 nautical miles northwest of Red Beach, Guadalcanal

Lieutenant Patrick O’Toole considered himself a career naval officer, and someday he hoped to be promoted to admiral. At Annapolis, his teachers had taught him the horrors of war, but he had never experienced combat. That was about to change and it would change him forever.

The steel ladder rattled as he clambered to the wheelhouse deck to assume the midwatch. On the wheelhouse deck, the port fifty-caliber gunner slouched with his back to the sea and chatted with the lookout on the flying bridge one level above. The helmsman faced the starboard bridge wing and had but one hand on the wheel. Dim red lights above the chart table and the polished brass compass binnacle added little illumination to the wheelhouse, and the men, gray smudges in the dark, seemed unconcerned. O’Toole’s concern bordered on anger, but he remained silent.

Find out what’s going on then fix it.

A man on the flying bridge lit a cigarette. This was way out of bounds. “Snuff your butt. The enemy can see that for miles,” O’Toole said, hoping his voice had a bark to it.

O’Toole had seen this before. Captain Levitte ran a relaxed ship, but this wasn’t peacetime. They were at war in enemy waters. O’Toole read the message dispatches, the captain’s night orders, and the chart. None of it good news, especially the report of a Japanese battlegroup headed south.

He located Lieutenant Karl, the officer of the deck on the port bridge wing. Karl’s life jacket vest was open, revealing a sweat-soaked khaki shirt, and sweat beaded on his brow.

Karl slouched on the bridge railing as O’Toole approached “What’s your status?” O’Toole asked.


Karl rubbed his day-old stubble. “At Condition III. Fire in all four boilers. Superheat lit, and the plant is cross-connected. Starboard steering motor, port steering engine” Karl droned as he went through the standard litany of the watch change. “On course zero-seven-zero at ten knots. Straight line patrol between points Able and Baker on the chart as per the captain. You have about ten minutes before you turn around and head back to point Baker. Received a report of Japanese ships headed south five hours ago. Told the captain, and he said Intel couldn’t tell the difference between a cruiser and a sampan. Besides, nothing will happen before dawn. Aircraft overhead, told the captain, he says they’re from our carriers. That, and the captain said to cut the crew some slack; they’re tired. I just ordered the cooks to make a fresh batch of coffee; you’re gonna need it. That’s about it.”
“Why aren’t we zigzagging?”

“Captain’s orders. Straight line patrol between points Able and Baker is what he wanted.”

“With an enemy force headed south we should be at Condition II at least.”

“I don’t know about that, but the captain wants to give the crew some rest.”

“Do we have star shells loaded or at the ready?”

“No.”

“Which gun mounts are manned?”

“Mounts 51 and 55.”

“Only two?”

“Yes, and before you ask, one-third of the anti-aircraft batteries are manned, and I told those gun crews they could sleep at their stations.”

“Are the crews in Mounts 51 and 55 asleep?”

“Probably.”

Out of professional courtesy, O’Toole didn’t challenge Karl, even though he would have been justified in refusing to relieve Karl of the watch until Karl corrected the battle readiness of the ship.

O’Toole saluted Lieutenant Karl and said, “I relieve you, sir.”

Karl nodded. “This is Mister Karl, Mister O’Toole has the deck and the conn,” Karl said to the bridge crew.

“This is Mister O’Toole, I have the deck and the conn,” O’Toole replied.

Karl handed O’Toole his life jacket, helmet, and gun belt and walked to the small chart table in the forward port section of the wheelhouse to complete his log entries. O’Toole brushed back his flaming red hair and put on the helmet, life jacket, and gun making sure all straps were cinched tight.

“Boats, over here,” O’Toole said to the boatswain mate of the watch as he headed to the starboard bridge wing. It was a lazy night: clear sky, high overhead clouds, calm sea, a slight breeze, and the ship plodding forward at ten knots. A night like this could dull the senses of the best of men. He couldn’t let that happen.

“Boats, square your watch away. We are in enemy waters, and there are reports of a column of Jap cruisers headed our way. I want everyone on their toes.”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

“Messenger, over here,” O’Toole said, beckoning the watch messenger.

“Go below and wake up the chiefs and tell them there are enemy ships in the area. I want them to make sure their watches are alert and ready. Tell the gunnery chief I want him on the bridge.”

“Yes, sir,” the messenger said and headed for the ladder.

A few minutes later, the gunnery chief appeared barefooted and in a white T-shirt. “Yes, sir, you wanted to see me?”

“Jap ships are headed our way. Check your gun crews; I want them alert with their eyes to the sea. Bring six star shells to the ready with one round in the mount. If we come under fire, I want Mount 51 to fire three star shells in a 180-degree spread without orders from the bridge.”

“What’s up, sir?”

“Not sure, chief, except we are in dangerous waters and the crew is asleep.”

“Will do, sir. Should I stay with the gun crews?”

“Wouldn’t be a bad idea, chief. Do what you think is best, but be aware things might get worse at dawn.”

“Yes, sir.” The chief trotted to the ladder and disappeared.

Lieutenant Karl finished his log entries and left the bridge. O’Toole stood next to the quartermaster at the chart table in the forward port section of the wheelhouse. He retrieved the sighting report. Five Japanese cruisers and four destroyers headed south at thirty knots. O’Toole plotted the ten-hour-old sighting location on the chart and walked the dividers across the chart to estimate the current location of Japanese forces. They would have passed the Green an hour ago and would now be on top of the northern defense line around Red Beach.

The receding drone of an aircraft off the port bow caught his ear. They were too far from the Japanese airbase at Rabaul for them to have planes this far south at night. It didn’t make sense: he didn’t think the carrier aircraft could operate at night, but spotter planes from a cruiser could.

Nothing had happened. Maybe the Japanese column had slowed or diverted. Naval doctrine taught officers to avoid night attacks since it complicated the battle, and everyone knew you couldn’t shoot at an enemy hiding in the darkness. Still, everything added up to a night counterattack against the Guadalcanal invasion force.

“Get the captain up here on the double. I’ll be on the flying bridge,” O’Toole said the watch messenger.

He felt better on the flying bridge where he had an unobstructed view of the sea and sky. He swept the horizon with his binoculars: nothing but a black night.

The crew was exhausted from the invasion of Guadalcanal the prior morning. The shirtless bodies of a hundred sleeping men escaping the oppressive heat and humidity of their berthing spaces lay on the dark main deck. Not regular navy, O’Toole thought, but he couldn’t object because the crew needed the sleep.

“What’s up, Pat?” Captain Levitte asked as soon as his head popped above the flying bridge deck level.

“I think we have trouble, Captain. The Japanese column sighted in the intelligence report should be on top of the northern defense line right about now. We should be at general quarters or at least Condition II and be zigzagging. There could be subs in the area.”

Levitte rubbed the back of his neck, then put his hands in his pockets, and walked in a tight circle with his eyes on the deck. “Look, the Japs aren’t that smart, and you should know not even the Japs are dumb enough to attack at night. Nothing will happen until the sun comes up. In the meantime, cut the crew some slack; they’re tired and need their sleep.”

“I’m sorry, Captain, but that doesn’t make sense. The sighting said the Japs were at thirty knots. They wouldn’t do that and then slow down to wait for the sun to come up.”

“No matter what happens we’ll kick their ass,” Levitte began. “We kicked their ass in the Coral Sea and Midway. Now we’re kicking their ass off Guadalcanal. The marines ran the Jap garrison into the jungle before lunch. They can’t stand up to us no matter what, so there’s no reason to get worked up about it.”

“To be safe, let me take the ship to Condition II and zigzag. It won’t hurt anything.”

“No, lieutenant. My night orders said to cut the crew some slack, and there is no need to waste fuel zigzagging. You read my night orders, didn’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Follow them, and let me get some sleep.”

The shirtless lookout stiffened. “Sir, light flashes, port beam.”

Both men turned. Staccato bursts of light above the southern horizon illuminated the sky.

Another voice called out, “Flares off the port beam.”

The night erupted. White-golden flashes close to port blinded O’Toole. Captain Levitte’s chest exploded into a mist of blood. Shells exploded against the mast, and men dove to the deck.

On his stomach, O’Toole fought his life jacket as he rolled to the starboard edge of the deck. Crawling under the railing, he let himself over the side. He was about to let himself drop the last three feet when a jolt catapulted him to the deck below. His head hit the deck, and despite his cinched helmet, the blow stunned him to the precipice of unconsciousness. O’Toole fought to bring himself back to the present as he wobbled to a crouched position.

Concussions from explosions aft the wheelhouse punched at his chest and abdomen. He had to go through the wheelhouse to the port side to see the enemy ship. In the wheelhouse, only the quartermaster was up, crouching in the corner by the chart table. Sparks and flashes of incoming fire covered the aft bulkhead and enveloped the wheelhouse in smoke, shrapnel, and debris. Broken, screaming bodies littered the deck.

He fought his way through the wheelhouse across shattered glass that slid like ice across the blood-drenched deck. The Green’s guns hadn’t returned fire.

He turned to find the phone talker. A flash memory of the phone talker’s body falling next to the captain made him stop. The phone talker was dead along with most of the bridge crew. He was alone; he had no bridge crew, and there was no one left to command. To anyone who could hear, he yelled, “Tell the gun crews to return fire.”

On the port bridge wing, he peered over the railing. A thousand yards away, two searchlights blinded him, and a torrent of tracer fire arched toward the Green. Muzzle flashes from the enemy ship’s heavy guns ripped at the darkness, and spasmodic explosions on the Green followed each flash.

On his stomach looking aft, he tried to understand the hell erupting around him. Black smoke spewed from golden fires, and smoke boiled across the fantail near the depth charge racks. Antiaircraft rounds raked the Green’s main deck, tearing men apart; the lucky ones leapt overboard.

In the forward boiler room, the port bulkhead ruptured three feet below the waterline in a flash of light, wrenching the keel. Shrapnel pierced the two Babcock & Wilcox boilers, which exploded upward, shredding the main deck overhead. A half-second later, a second explosion severed the keel, and a third tore the shattered hull of the Green in two.

Sheets of water vaulted into the air, and the explosions pushed the Green hard to starboard and lifted it upward in a death spasm.

Torpedoes. The word lingered in O’Toole’s mind until he understood, then it vanished. He pulled himself to his feet. Ruptured boilers roared beneath clouds of steam.

The Green hinged aft the deckhouse. The stern rose and began its slide beneath the surface. When the cool seawater reached the aft boilers they blew a ten-foot mound of white water to the surface. The mound collapsed into a steam haze low above the water. As the first wisps of steam dissipated, they dragged O’Toole from his stupor.

The gunfire stopped. The searchlights were gone. Screams, moans, and the sound of rushing water welled up to fill the silence. He strained his eyes for an enemy invisible in the night. They had vanished. The battle was over.

There was no time for thinking or words; the conclusions flashed through his mind fully formed.
When the armed depth charges on the sinking fantail detonated, anyone in the water would suffer intestinal hemorrhaging and a slow, excruciating death.

To the men below he yelled, “Stay with the ship! Don’t go in the water; depth charges! Get everyone in the water back aboard!”

O’Toole took inventory. The forward part of the ship, though sinking, seemed stable. The wheelhouse was a confusing mass of shadows cut against golden fires, and the smell of blood and noxious nitrate gasses filled his head.

He entered the wheelhouse and stumbled. His knee landed on something soft. He looked down at the chest of a headless body. O’Toole’s stomach wrenched.

A figure appeared. “Sir, we took three torpedoes. No water pressure to fight the fires, no power, and we are flooding forward.”

One by one the sinking depth charges designed to sink submarines began to detonate, sending tremors from each concussive blow through the ship. When the explosions stopped, O’Toole took a deep breath, and the acid-laced air burned his lungs. “Get below. Pass the word to abandon ship.”

O’Toole turned his attention to the main deck, and released the one remaining life raft stored just below the bridge railing. Not waiting for orders, shirtless survivors leapt overboard. It seemed to take hours, but soon the decks were empty and the survivors were off the ship. With nothing left to do, he wondered if radio managed to send a message. He doubted it. He turned to the quartermaster and said, “Let’s go.”

The quartermaster collected the ship’s logs and joined O’Toole.

As he prepared to jump the last ten feet into the ocean, the quartermaster yelled, “Stop! Your helmet, sir.”

O’Toole had forgotten he was wearing it. Going overboard with a cinched helmet would break your neck. He tore it off, and they jumped together.

There was no past and no future, only the immediate need to survive. O’Toole swam from the sinking bow section, demanding his muscles move faster before her sinking hulk sucked him under. His muscles grew tired from the frenzied effort until a voice yelled, “She’s going down.”

He stopped and turned to what remained of the Green. Out of breath, he bobbed in the one-foot swells and coughed to clear the salt water from his lungs. The Green’s prow swung skyward while the hulk of the remaining bow section backed into the depths. The sea extinguished the fires as she slid under.

She died a silent death. After the tip of the bow disappeared, his eyes lost focus and he stared at the empty sea for several seconds, unable to grasp the meaning of this moment.

He linked up with a small group of survivors, and they linked up with other groups. They located two floater nets, lashed them together, and placed the injured in them. They found several of the watertight powder canisters used to protect the five-inch brass powder casings while in the magazines. The crew used empty canisters to stow stable dry food and water with the floater nets. He ordered several men to attract scattered survivors by yelling into the night.

At first, groups of four would swim toward them. Now an occasional lone survivor would show up. O’Toole gathered the surviving officers and chief petty officers. The group of seven rolled with the lazy sea, clutching the floater net to stay together. Three wore life jackets; the other four relied on the floater net.

“Someone said there is another group with a floater net south of us.” Pointing to Ensigns Carter and Fitch, O’Toole said, “Swim to the south floater net, if there is one, take a count, and tell them to swim their way to us and lash-in. While you’re at it, round up volunteers to scavenge for debris we can use. The men should also collect all the powder canisters and bring them here.”

Turning to Chief Brandon, he said, “Make sure the injured are wearing life jackets, and get those with serious wounds in the floater nets.” Brandon swam off.

To Ensigns Parker and Adbury, he said, “You two make the rounds and get a head count of the healthy, injured, and critically wounded. After you report back, take charge of the injured. Collect the morphine ampules from the crew.” O’Toole reached into his trouser pocket and handed over two morphine ampules. “Bring the wounded together, especially those with bleeding wounds. Get them in the floater nets and get the bleeding stopped; the sharks will show up soon enough.”

To Chief Zies, O’Toole said, “Chief, make the rounds, talk to everyone, and make sure their heads are on straight. Find anyone who might lose it and buddy them up with someone. We don’t want panic or men going nuts.”

Chief Zies swam off, and O’Toole reached underwater to remove his shoes. He tied the laces together and draped them over his neck.

Chief Zies made his rounds and returned to O’Toole’s position.

“You get a head count yet?” O’Toole asked.

“My count is fifty-seven, including you.”

“Just fifty-seven?”

“Lieutenant, the aft two-thirds of the ship sank like a rock. From the time the Japs attacked to the time the stern sank wasn’t more than a minute. I’m surprised we have this many left.”

O’Toole’s chest went hollow, and his mind went blank. Visions of shattered bodies and blood-soaked decks, the sound of dying men flashed through his mind. His gut radiated the hollowness of failure.
The dark corners of his mind whispered, “You’ll never be the same.”

“Three-fourths of the crew is missing,” O’Toole said.

“There has to be more out there,” Zies said.

“Yeah, there has to more out there,” O’Toole said.

As the deck officer, he was responsible for the safety of the ship and crew.

He had scanned the horizon, and he had jacked up the lookouts and the bridge crew. It hadn’t been enough. Either way it was his responsibility. It takes three minutes to get a torpedo firing solution, and one zigzag might have destroyed their firing solution and saved the ship. He hadn’t seen his options; the wall had blocked him again. His grandfather’s words stabbed at him.

You’re not adequate.

It was the story of his life; he always fell short of adequacy. There was always one more thing he might have done, but he could never see it until it was too late. The wall was always there to stop him and hide the solution. His wall had damned him to failure again. The wall was always there blocking his way a single step short of success.

Ensign Parker swam over to him. “Got the head count. Fifty-seven men. Twenty-one wounded. Six critical. That includes the south floater net we got lashed-in.”

“We’ll wait till dawn to find the others,” Zies said. “What the heck happened, sir?”

“Wish I knew,” O’Toole began. “A column of Jap ships were headed to Guadalcanal to counterattack. I suspect they left a destroyer behind to ambush us once the fight off Guadalcanal started.”

“That means they spotted us, but how did that happen without us seeing them?” Zies asked.

“That part is easy. We weren’t looking, but I still can’t figure out how we missed them once we did start looking. I should have zigzagged despite the captain’s orders.”

Zies looked at O’Toole for a long minute. “You’re not blaming yourself for this, are you?”

O’Toole didn’t answer.

“Are you?”

The question tore at O’Toole, but he had to look forward, and swore the wall would not stop him. “For now, we’re not losing any more men, Chief. Keep the men together. They’ll start looking for survivors tomorrow; they’ll find us.” O’Toole said.

Voices shouted. Zies turned. A searchlight from an approaching ship probed the surrounding sea. When it reached the far end of the floater nets, gunfire erupted. Spikes of water shot up around the Green’s survivors.

Both O’Toole and Zies screamed, “Everyone down!”

O’Toole shed his life jacket, took a deep breath, and dove. He figured five feet would be enough. He pivoted his feet beneath him and tried to maintain his depth. When the burning in his lungs became unbearable, he kicked hard to reach the surface. When his head cleared the water, he sucked in a chest of air, preparing to dive again, but the gunfire stopped.

The searchlight now centered itself on his small group, and a Japanese heavy cruiser loomed over them. With his hand, he blocked the searchlight so he could see the bridge. He studied the bridge and a man with a patch over his left eye. By his position on the bridge wing, his carriage, and the separation between him and the other officers, O’Toole guessed he was the captain.

They locked eyes. Neither man flinched. After several seconds, the Japanese captain walked away. The cruiser picked up speed and disappeared into the night.

Zies asked O’Toole, “What was going on between you and the guy with the eye patch?”

“I wanted the bastard to know we weren’t defeated,” O’Toole began. “The Japs won this battle not with equipment but with smarter officers and sharper training. How they pulled it off was brilliant: at night, torpedoes first, guns second, no star shells. They mauled us with their guns, but knew that wouldn’t sink us. Once the Jap ship saw the torpedoes hit, there was no need to continue a gun battle and endanger their ship; they knew they had sunk us, so they vanished into the night.”

O’Toole shook his head; he would have to figure out what happened later; he put it out of his mind.
“Okay, Chief, have the men with life jackets chain up. Make sure they lash in each chain to a floater net. As you make the rounds, make sure everyone is secure for the night. By God, we’re not losing any more men.”

“Aye, sir.” Zies swam away, yelling, “Everyone chain up and lash in!”

Men formed spiral chains. One man would loop his arm through the hole below the high collar of the next man’s life jacket, burying the arm to the shoulder. The chains provided security, extra buoyancy, and a way to sleep without drifting away.


My Book Review:

In Vows To The Fallen, author Larry Laswell weaves a thrilling World War II historical military sea story that follows Lieutenant Patrick "Terror" O'Toole's tour of duty in the Pacific theater.

The author utilizes his extensive military experience to weave a compelling tale that captivates the reader from the beginning by transporting them into the middle of the war with Lt. O'Toole and his crew. The reader can't help but get caught up in this story, the richly descriptive settings in the Pacific in addition to the vivid war time details puts them on the edge of their seats and turning the pages.

The author provides factual historical data from World War II and interweaves it with a captivating story about one man's vow to uphold his responsibility for each assignment given and complete the mission to defeat the Japanese for his comrades who have fallen.

Lt. O'Toole is a driven man determined to make admiral, but the demons that haunts him from the words of his grandfather: always a failure and not adequate, it shakes him to his very core, making him question his ability to prove himself, and surrounds him in doubt. But when a Japanese cruiser ambushes the USS Green off the Guadalcanal coast, he and his surviving crew must push on and face new missions, for the war waits for no man. Lt. O'Toole rises from the abyss of the PTSD that has a hold of him and vows to complete every mission for those who have fallen. You can't help but cheer on Lt. O'Toole and his crew as they embark on each harrowing mission to defeat the Japanese.

This is a well-written story that flows smoothly from the beginning; with realistic characters and witty dialogue; to the various war settings and suspenseful twists and turns; author Larry Laswell pulls the reader into the midst of the wartime action in the Pacific, and doesn't let go until the climatic ending.

Vows To The Fallen is an intriguing and action packed World War II historical military sea tale that will take the reader on one hell of a thrill ride.


RATING: 5 STARS 




About The Author

    Larry Laswell    



Larry Laswell served in the US Navy for eight years. In navy parlance, he was a mustang, someone who rose from the enlisted ranks to receive an officer’s commission. While enlisted, he was assigned to the USS John Marshall SSBN-611 (Gold Crew). After earning his commission, he served as main engines officer aboard the USS Intrepid CV-11. His last assignment was as a submarine warfare officer aboard the USS William M. Wood DD-715 while she was home ported in Elefsis, Greece.

In addition to writing, Larry, a retired CEO fills his spare time with woodworking and furniture design. He continues to work on The Marathon Watch series, an upcoming science fiction series titled The Ethosians, and an anthology of over eighty humorous sea stories titled A Ship-load of Sea Stories & 1 Fairy Tale.

You can visit Larry Laswell’s website at www.larrylaswell.com


Connect with Larry Laswell: 

     


Poetry Contest

Win a dinner for two, a night on the town, or whatever you want to do with $250!

Enter Larry Laswell’s Vows to the Fallen Poetry Contest!

Pre-release sales of Vows to the Fallen will begin on July 1, 2015 for release on August 14th. One of the characters in the book has a habit of reciting excerpts from classic poems. If you are the first to correctly name all of the poems you win! $150 for second place and $100 for third place.

Here are the rules:
1. Order Vows to the Fallen in Amazon’s Kindle store.
2. At midnight (EST) download Vows to the Fallen and read it to find the poetry excerpts.
3. Leave a review on Amazon (How you rate the book has no bearing on your eligibility to win.)
3. Go to http://larrylaswell.com and click on “Contest.” In the form tell Larry under what name you left the review, and then list the poems by name and author. (Watch your spelling – it must be exact!) 4. The first correct entrant who left a review wins a dinner for two, a night on the town, or whatever they want to do with $250!
5. If Larry cannot identify the entrant’s review they will be disqualified (don’t use an anonymous name!)
6. If Larry receives more than one entry at the same time stamp, Larry will hold a drawing to determine the winners.
7. Any organization, or individual who received an advance review copy, their employees or family are ineligible.
8. Larry is the contest judge, and his judgement is final.
9. Larry is not responsible for delivery delays in the Amazon Kindle system.
10. Larry will post the winners on his website at 8AM EST on September 1, 2015.

Pre-order Vows to the Fallen today!  





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Monday, August 24, 2015

Out Of Your Mind: Daisy's Choice by Diane Hernandez (Book Promo Tour / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the book promo tour for Out Of Your Mind: Daisy's Choice by author Diane Hernandez!






About The Book



Out of Your Mind: Daisy's Choice by Diane Hernandez
Publisher: Erotic Romance Book Cafe
Publication Date: June 21, 2015
Format: eBook - 208 pages
               Kindle - 1054 KB
ASIN:  B01069YWJY
Genre: Contemporary Romance


Buy The Book:

Out of Your Mind: Daisy's Choice FREE download during tour! 

Link to Daisy's Choice FREE ON TOUR- http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01069YWJY 
Link to Garret's Control to be released August 24th- http://www.amazon.com/dp/B011QPECVU
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Book Description:

Though happy and carefree by nature, Daisy Fields is in a fragile state looking for stability and friendship when she moves to Solvang, California, hoping to find a fresh start. Instead, she finds herself in the midst of an intoxicating physical attraction to her sexy new boss, the famous reclusive artist Garret Brinkley. Daisy tries hard to resist the magnetic pull she feels toward the mercurial artist because she knows his desires are purely sexual and he isn’t capable of a romantic loving relationship, but the explosive chemistry between them is too strong to ignore. Still, Daisy must resist, and luckily finds companionship from Garret’s dog. The German shepherd, rapidly becomes Daisy’s new best friend, offering love and comfort to the lonesome girl since Garret is incapable of either. When another man enters Daisy’s life, she finally feels a romantic connection and hope for her future, only to discover Garret’s feelings go beyond physical need. It’s a tragic turn of events that forces Daisy to choose between the two men. However, her depression has darkened her spirit and joyful disposition to such lengths that she feels her choice isn’t which man to be with, but rather, if she should be at all. Diane Hernandez’s latest novel gives readers a glimpse at true love, growing through a foundation of anxiety and despair. 




About The Author


diane hernandez


Author Diane Hernandez was always aware of the voices in her head. But, it wasn't until her nest emptied, and the harried frenzy of being a wife, mother and chef was replaced with a quiet calm, did she listen to them. Once she realized those voices were telling her tales of love, desire and sometimes pain, she started writing them down. Those manuscripts have been turned into provocative novels she has decided to release for your enjoyment. When Diane is not busy taking dictation from her subconscious, she works as a culinary arts instructor at an Arizona community college. She enjoys creating new recipes, reading women's literature, gardening, watching Project Runway, and shopping online for shoes. TALL GIRLS NEED SIZE 12--just sayin'. 


Author's Website 
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Virtual Book Promo Tour



Tour Schedule:

August 24 - Jersey Girl Book Reviews
August 24 - Nerdy Dirty and Flirty
August 24 - Sinfully Good Reads
August 25 - Fiction Dreams
August 26 - The Book Bag
August 26 - Book Lover in Florida
August 26 - Granny Loves To Read
August 27 - Charline’s Blog & More
August 27 - Sweet N Sassy Bookaholics
August 28 - Chick Lit Plus