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Friday, February 16, 2018

Twenty-One Steps Of Courage by Sarah Bates (VBT: Book Review)

In association with Virtual Author Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Twenty-One Steps Of Courage by Sarah Bates!

Book Review

Twenty-One Steps Of Courage by Sarah Bates
Publication Date: March 31, 2012
Book Format: Paperback - 280 pages
                         Audiobook - 7 Hours 23 minutes
                         Kindle - 550 KB
                         Nook - 664 KB
ISBN: 978-1614349570
ASIN: B007V98EU6
BNID: 2940014524605
Genre: Literary Fiction / Military Fiction

Buy The Book:

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 Virtual Author Book Tours.

Book Description:

In 2006, with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan raging, Rod Strong enlists in the Army to achieve the goal his father sought before he tragically died in the Gulf War. His objective: The Old Guard regiment, the elite Soldiers who stand as Sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington National Cemetery. Rod overcomes the obstacles that litter his path until an unexpected firefight in Afghanistan changes his life forever.

Praise Twenty-One Steps of Courage by Sarah Bates

“Sarah Bates professes not to know much about the military yet she tells an inspiring story that captures the true essence of what the military is all about — love of country — unit esprit de corps — family values — personal courage. Every high school student, every parent and all of the politicians in this country should read this book.”- Lloyd N. Cosby, retired Tomb Guard (Alexandria, VA, US)

“I…read the book and I cried A LOT–it was very heartwarming and extremely interesting. When you described the part about him fighting and saving his brother–I felt I was there–a sure movie deal I hope.”- Detra Hoffman (Los Angeles, CA)

“The book covers a lot: what to expect in boot camp and after, the amount of control that the military has over your life once you join, and the responsiblities and hardships that your decision to join places on your loved ones. It also explores camaraderie between soldiers, the pride that attends possessing a strong sense of duty and of self, and the rewards of follow-through. Twenty-One Steps of Courage is a well balanced story about military life. Not too left or right, it’s a good read, one that I would recommend to anyone.”- Caradae Linore (San Diego, CA)

“The author did a wonderful job portraying the feelings of an 18-year-old man. Although I’ve seen the soldiers marching at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I was unfamiliar with the training and precision involved. I didn’t understand a lot of the military acronyms but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this story.”-Midnight Reader, Amazon Review

Book Excerpt:

The moon was high when they reached the site of the accident. The Humvee lay on its side across the road. Rod approached it cautiously, tracing the burned out carcass with the small mag light he carried. Every bit of debris from the blast had been picked clean.

"Listen!" Murphy said, holding up his hand.

The two men ducked into the protection of the blackened metal, their ears tuning out the sounds of the earth settling. Faint voices were coming from the hills beyond.

"Someone's laughing," Rod whispered. "Taliban or ANP?" he asked.

"Wanna find out?" Murphy asked then took a long swig of water from his canteen.

Rod nodded. The two men were almost totally visible in the light of the full moon, their shadows disappearing into the wreck. It had grown cooler, and Rod pulled his handkerchief up over his mouth to keep warm.

Rod and Murphy started in the direction of the sounds drifting from a copse of low trees nestled against the mountainside, carefully picking their way around the boulders and scrub that dotted the landscape. Soon the sounds of voices became louder, and the smell of horses wafted toward them. Beyond a low hill, the light of a small bonfire flickered, throwing shadows of many men against a wall of rock protecting their encampment. Murphy motioned for Rod to drop down, then waved him forward to crawl nearer on their bellies.

Standing close to a group of ten or so people in Afghan robes and baggy pants, a tall bearded man with his head wrapped in a black turban hectored loudly. Murphy frowned.

"Taliban?" Rod murmured.

"Think so." Murphy nodded.

Rod pulled out his binoculars and inched closer to get a better look. Off to the side, near a group of horses tethered to a stake, a soldier sprawled, his head down. A dirty bandana wrapped around his face hid his eyes but the top of his head glowed copper-bright in the light of the fire. The man's filthy Army uniform appeared torn, as if he'd been dragged.

With a shock Rod recognized the soldier.

He turned and motioned frantically for Murphy.

"My brother!" he whispered.

Murphy's mouth gaped.

"We gotta get help," he murmured.

Rod nodded, then looked again. Mike hadn't moved.

The two men scrambled back toward the road, keeping low to the ground, moving as silently as possible. They reached the wreckage of the Humvee in a crouched run, and then stopped to lean against it, their chests heaving from the effort.

"I'm going to call in," Rod said, grabbing his radio.

"Wait!" Murphy warned. "Who you gonna get? We're not supposed to be here."

"Sarn't Morgan. I trust her. She'll know how to contact the 82nd patrol. They may be near," Rod replied.

He began to speak into the radio, muffling the sound of his voice with his sleeve.

Before he got a response, Murphy grabbed his shoulder, spinning him around.

"Look!" He pointed in the direction of the road they'd just traveled.

Moonlight shimmering on a line of darkened vehicles indicated a convoy moving in their direction.

Rod punched the radio OFF and the two men knelt down in the shadows. Murphy flipped down his night vision goggles and motioned Rod to do the same.

Slowly the convoy rumbled closer. When the front end of the lead vehicle reached the Humvee, it stopped. Two men exited the vehicle, popped open a cyalume stick and held the infa-red light close to a map.

"Patrol. Maybe the 82nd," Rod whispered.

"Yeah, and if we can see them, Hajji can too," Murphy said, heading out of the shadows toward the convoy.

Rod followed. Behind the up-armored armament carrier Humvee in the front, three more of the 13,000-pound vehicles emerged.

Murphy nudged Rod.

"Lookee there, lots a fire power."

Rod stared hard to make out the silhouettes of the big machine guns. Looming low against the banked sides of the road, the battered camouflaged vehicles resembled craggy elephants on their knees. From a distance they could easily be mistaken for rock outcroppings.

"Who goes there?" Rod heard first, then the click of an M-16 safety latch releasing.

"Murphy and Strong, 25th MPs," Murphy called out.

When they reached the two men standing in front of the vehicle, Rod recognized their Airborne insignias.

"You looking for a missing soldier?" Rod asked.

"Affirmative. And why are you here?" The man who spoke moved closer. "Sarn't Devore. Corporal Emerson, my RTO," he continued, gesturing to the radiotelephone operator who stood beside him.

"The man you're looking for is my brother, Sarn't," Rod said. "We know where he is."

"I asked why you're out here," Devore repeated.

"Looking for him too," Rod admitted.

"Your Sarn't know where you are?"

Murphy broke in. "We're sort of on our own."

"I see," the sergeant said, shaking his head.

Murphy pulled the crumpled trip ticket from his sleeve pocket and flashed it quickly in front of Devore's face.

"Damn!" the sergeant said, and then turned to Rod. "You know where he is, huh?

"Over there," Rod said pointing in the direction of the rock outcropping. "Hajji's got him." Rod glanced quickly at Murphy.

Devore motioned Rod and Murphy into the shadows beside him and told the driver to kill the cyalume. At once the string of vehicles and men seemed to blend into the landscape.

In a hushed tone the sergeant questioned Rod and Murphy, focusing on specific details.

"Let me show you," Rod said, kneeling.

He pulled out his knife and drew a map in the soft dirt. In the moonlight, the rough lines cast shadows in sharp relief against the pale sand.

"Twenty minutes ago, tops," Murphy said. 

"Weapons?" Devore asked.

"AK-47s, a few 74s that I could see," Rod said.

"Everyone had a weapon," Murphy added.

"There's probably a watcher keeping tabs on the camp," Devore said. "You see anyone near the trail?"

Murphy shook his head.

The ambient light surrounding the convoy grew brighter and Devore looked up at the moon with its bright halo and frowned.

He turned to the RTO standing by his side waiting for orders. "Radio the 25th MPs at FOB Miracle and let 'em know we've got their two weekend visitors here. Tell 'em we're short and we're going to keep them."

"You two stay up here with me," Devore said. "You'll scout." He turned his head and muttered into his radio. Within seconds two soldiers joined their small circle.

"Corporal Ruiz, Corporal LaRussa, team leaders", Devore explained. 

Devore turned his binoculars toward the clutch of mountains where the Taliban hid.

"They've likely seen us," he said. "If they haven't scattered, we'll have to move fast."

Devore and the team leaders squatted to look at Rod's crude map.

"Alpha team," Devore said, pointing right, then "Bravo, there," he said, indicating his left.

Ruiz and LaRussa disappeared into the shadows. The whisper of desert boots rose as gunners scuffled to security positions at the trucks. The rest of the two squads, bristling with weapons, vanished in a tumble of activity. SAW Gunners and riflemen along with grenadiers shouldering M-4s with 40mm grenade launchers scattered into position.

"Move out," Devore said, motioning Rod and Murphy forward along with the radioman, like ducks in a row.

The troops advanced along the rocky terrain, crouched, keeping low, blending with the brush and scrub.

Rod's heart raced as he ran, open mouthed, gulping air.

The four men rolled onto their stomachs at the ridgeline where Rod and Murphy first saw Mike's captors.

Rod rested his chin in the soft dirt then pushed his helmet back to get a closer look. 

"Some of the men and horses are gone, Sarn't," Rod said. Alarm tinged his voice. He swallowed hard. In the shadows he spotted Mike's crumpled form.

Devore leveled his binoculars and scanned the scene below, then motioned for the men to deploy their night vision goggles. Once again the landscape took on an eerie green glow.

Just then Rod spotted a glint against the rocky cliff above the campground.

"Look!" he pointed.

"Guard!" Devore murmured, nodding to the men behind him in the direction where Rod had seen a reflection off the barrel of a weapon in the green luminescence.

"Pull back," Devore whispered, then summoned his team leaders.

Rod scrambled back down the slope to find the two soldiers waiting. 

"Okay, here's what we're doin'," Devore said. "Ruiz, put your Alpha SAW gunners beside LaRussa's at the south. LaRussa, you take your medic and one of the grenadiers, secure the rear. Keep your radio open. You're going to control the SAWS. I'll take six of your men with me; we'll sweep the camp from the west and go get our guy."

Ruiz and LaRussa nodded, then melted into the night.

A bullet screamed past them and ricocheted off a boulder behind Devore, followed by a loud crack.

Rod hit the ground, his helmet smacking a rocky outcropping.

"Shit!" he said, dragging his weapon up to his shoulder.

To his right, Murphy flattened against the ground, weapon poised.

"They see us! CONTACT! 100 METERS 12 O'CLOCK!" Devore yelled.

My Book Review:

In Twenty-One Steps Of Courageauthor Sarah Bates weaves a riveting military story that follows Rod Strong's journey as he follows in his late father's footsteps and enlists in the Army with the intention to achieve his father's goal to become a Sentinel of the Old Guard.

The author's thorough, realistic and authentic research into the Army process from enlistment to the elite Old Guard Regiment that guards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, provides the reader with a captivating story about one man's vow to uphold his deceased father's legacy by achieving the commission as a Sentinel of the Old Guard.

Rod is a driven young man determined to achieve his lofty military goals. From enlisting on his eighteenth birthday through basic, Infantry, Ranger and Old Guard training, the reader can't help but cheer on Rod as he embarks on a personal journey full of courage, determination, pride, and a sense of duty.

Twenty-One Steps Of Courage is a well-written story that flows smoothly from the beginning; it is realistic and full of riveting suspenseful twists and turns that easily draws the reader into Rod's admirable and courageous military journey. I would highly recommend this book for those readers interested in the military literature genre.


About The Author

Award winning author, Sarah Bates’ fiction has appeared in the Greenwich Village Literary Review, the San Diego North County Times (now the Union-Tribune) and the literary magazine Bravura.

She is the author of ‘The Lost Diaries of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’, published in 2016, and co-author of the 2005 short story collection, ‘Out of Our Minds, Wild Stories’ by Wild Women. Bates was an English Department writing tutor at Palomar College in California for ten years. She privately tutors academic and creative writing students and is writing a new novel.

She is a Military Category Finalist for ‘Twenty-One Steps of Courage’, Next Generation Indie Book Awards, (2013) and 2nd Place Finalist, for ‘The Lost Diaries of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’, Unpublished Novel-Category, San Diego Book Awards (2015). It has since been published.

Sarah Bates lives in Fallbrook, California.

Virtual Book Tour

Tour Schedule:

Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Feb 2 Review & Giveaway

Chris Amazon Review Feb 5 Review

Beverly’s Book Blog Feb 6 Review, Interview, & Giveaway

Beppe La libreria di Beppe Feb 8 Guest Review by Betty & Excerpt

Jas International Book Reviews Feb 9 Review

Darlene Amazon Review Feb 13 Review

Katy Amazon Review Feb 15 Review

Kathleen Jersey Girl Book Reviews Feb 16 Review & Excerpt

Indie Authors Behind the Scenes WebTV Feb 20 1 pm est Video Interview

Dawn Bound 4 Escape Feb 20 Guest Review by Kate

Dawn Bound 2 Escape  Feb 20 Excerpt

Donna M My Life. One Story at a Time Feb 21 Review, Excerpt,  & Giveaway

Donna H. Girl Who Reads Feb 22 Guest Review by Sal &  Guest Post

Raymond Amazon Review Feb 23 Review

Elisha Rainy Day Reviews Feb 28 Review, Interview, & Giveaway

Sherry The Journey Back Mar 19 Review & Excerpt

Leslie StoreyBook Reviews Mar 21 Guest Review by Laura & Ex

Robert Amazon Review Mar 26 Review

Lori Amazon Review Mar 29 Review

Chuck Amazon Review Mar 30 Review

Charles Ray’s Ramblings Mar 30 Review 


  1. Replies
    1. Hi Sherry! Thank you for stopping by my blog, I appreciate it. :) This was a fascinating book, the author really did a great job of describing Rod's military journey. :)

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed 'Twenty-One Steps of Courage'! I started out reading it in the bathtub and the water went ice cold before I remembered where I was. I caught a really bad cold. LOL!

    1. Hi Teddy! Thank you for the opportunity to read and feature the book on my blog. I really did find this book to be a fascinating read. :)