Book Reviews: Memoirs of a Karate Fighter

Memoirs of a Karate Fighter

Novelist and former karate champion Ralph Robb recounts his experiences at one of Europe’s toughest dojos and provides an insight into the philosophy and training methods of a club which produced national, European and world titleholders. In a hard-hitting story, Ralph tells of the fights on and off the mat; his experiences as one of a very few black residents in an area in which racist members of the National Front were very active; and the tragic descent into mental illness and premature death of the training partner who was also his best friend.

BOOK REVIEW

This was an interesting and engaging memoir by Ralph Robb about his life as a member of the Wolverhampton YMCA Karate Club, his championship battles, his struggles against racism, and his fights in and out of competition. He also relates his determination to build a safer and better life for his family, and his beloved cousin’s battle with mental health issues.

Although I do not know very much about karate, I enjoyed reading about the karate competitions and especially the real-world situations in which Robb used karate to protect himself. Robb shares how karate helped him deal with everything from racist skinheads to drunks and mobsters in the real world. The story of his strong relationship with his cousin Clinton and Clinton’s battle with mental health issues is heartrending.

This is not just a book about a karate fighter. This is a book about a youth who comes into his own while dealing with racism and while cultivating a skill that would shape his life. It’s also about karate, its history, its varying styles, and some of the greats who have practiced and taught it. But most importantly it’s about the growth of a young man, from fighter to father, and the lessons he learned from karate.

This is a must read for fans of karate and those who enjoy coming of age stories.

I received a free copy of this book via Rachel’s Random Resources. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

Purchase Links 

AMAZON UK  

AMAZON US

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ralph Robb was born and raised in the industrial town of Wolverhampton, England and now lives in Ontario Canada with his wife, cat and dog. A proud father of four, Robb works as an engineering technician and loves rugby, martial arts and a good book. His world is balanced by quality TV, global events, great outdoors and of course his grand-daughter. 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/RalphRobbBooks

Twitter: @RalphSRobb

Webpage: www.ralphrobb.com

Blog Tour by Rachel’s Random Resources

MY GOODREADS REVIEW

MY AMAZON REVIEW (HELPFUL VOTES APPRECIATED)

Mountain Photo: After A Spring Rain

We had a lot of rain Saturday, and now I can see dark greens everywhere and beautiful clouds resting on the mountains. The remnants of rainclouds still hover above, but it’s a welcome sight to see the calm after the storm. I took this on Sunday morning in Bryson City, NC, at our future retirement property. I can’t wait to be able to look at these mountains every day.

Book Review: A Diamond For Her

When Raymond Blythe first meets The gods of Baseball, he is a little boy, sitting with his father and watching a game. When he meets them again as an adult, they are playing baseball with giant trees and huge boulders as they invent the game, supervised by the Sun. This begins a magical journey, as Raymond almost simultaneously meets the love of his life, Rochelle Christy, puts together a baseball team, the Winasook Iron Horses, and builds a stadium, Rochelle stadium. The story of the beginning of the fictional Winasook Iron Horses is told in 9 innings (which I loved), and then there are some subsequent stories featuring the team and its owners, weaving in important events of the past. This book combines the history of baseball and the history of America as it is intertwined with a fictional baseball team. In the tradition of W.P. Kinsella, Mark W. Sasse brings the magic of baseball to life. This book about the fictional Iron Horses is told from the point of view of Charles “Shoeshine” Henry, who relates these stories as told to him by Raymond Blythe on his deathbed. The main characters and the team are fictional, but they come to life through the pen of Mark W. Sasse and are interwoven with real life figures from the past.

In order to understand this book, you need not necessarily know all the rules of baseball, but you do need to feel the magic behind it. I have an advantage, as I was 11 years old, growing up in Cincinnati in 1975 when The Big Red Machine won the first of two back-to-back World Series titles. I watched as Pete Rose, who began his career with average talent but almost supernatural determination, hustled to first on fly balls and slid headfirst into second. Through him, the little kids of Cincinnati learned about the rewards of hard work and the magic of determination. Before I digress into an essay about whether or not Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame (he should), let me get back to the task at hand. Mark W. Sasse has created a book that is captivating, remarkable, and full of the American spirit. Rich and carefree, Raymond Blythe is determined to accomplish his goal of creating a baseball team, no matter how crazy he might look. He is also quite mad about his future wife, Rochelle, and that combination of madly in love, determined, and crazy creates magic. The first “nine innings” that feature the creation of baseball, the stadium, Raymond’s marriage, and the team were my favorite. However, subsequent stories take us on further adventures with Raymond, Rochelle, the baseball gods, and the Winasook Iron Horses. Real life baseball heroes Satchell Paige and Jackie Robinson are also featured, along with many other real heroes of the past. 

Mark W. Sasse fittingly tips his hat to W.P. Kinsella at the end, as this book, while unique and creative, does bring to mind the late Kinsella’s enchanting novel, Shoeless Joe, which was made into the movie Field of Dreams.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksirens. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark W Sasse is a novelist and award-winning playwright and director. He vacillates on a daily basis between which genre of writing he enjoys the most. Luckily, he doesn’t have to choose! Sasse’s novels have been featured on curated sites such as Bookbub and EReaderNewsToday, and his plays have been produced in New York, Penang, Columbus, Kuala Lumpur, and Sydney, Australia, among other places. His play “The Last Bastion” earned him the 2018 Greywood Arts Winter Writing Residency in Ireland. He is also a three-time winner of the Best Script Award at the Penang Short & Sweet Theatre Festival. His plays have won multiple other awards such as Best Overall Performance and Audience Choice Award. He won the Festival Director’s Award at the 2019 and 2016 festivals.

Sasse’s interests cast a wide net – from politics to literature – from culture and language to history and religion, making his writing infused with the unexpected as he seeks to tell authentic and engaging stories about people from all walks of life. His writing is straightforward and accessible to all, especially those who enjoy a page-turning good story injected with doses of history, adventure, Asian culture, and unexpected humor. 

Currently, he teaches drama in Saudi Arabia and spends his summers writing in Jamestown, NY. 

VISIT MARK W. SASSE’S WEBSITE

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Book Review: The Siege of An Loc

The Siege of An Loc is the story of the defense of An Loc in 1972 during the Vietnam War. It is also a love story between a South Vietnamese soldier, Trung, and Ly, a student, daughter of a rubber plantation owner. As Trung struggles to defend his country, he finds himself falling for the beautiful Ly, but do they have a chance for happiness in the midst of war? We also see the evil of communism especially personified in one of the characters, and two brothers are reunited, one from North Vietnam and one from South Vietnam.

I learned so much about the Vietnam War from this book. When I was in grade school and high school in the U.S. in the 70s and 80s, they didn’t teach us much about it. I just knew my uncle died in this war at the age of 20, and I really didn’t even know why he was there. When we would ask in the mid-70s, we were told nobody liked to talk about it. But now the author, Nguyen Trong Hien, has answered a lot of the questions. I love the fact that we see inside the war from the perspective of a South Vietnamese soldier instead of the American perspective. And we learn of the atrocities of Communism and how it takes over and annihilates a culture.

Some small constructive criticism: This is both a romance and a history book, and sometimes it felt as if we left the romance and entered a very detailed history book with little transition. However, the history is important for the reader to know, and the characters were interesting and well developed. The ending of the book was left open for our characters, and I wasn’t sure what happened to them after South Vietnam fell. I hope there will be a sequel.

I received a free paperback copy of this book from the author. I also downloaded a digital copy on Kindle Unlimited, where members can read books at no additional cost. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

Link to The Siege of An Loc on Amazon

Link to Nguyen Trong Hien’s Amazing Blog.

Link to my Goodreads Review

Link to my review on Amazon

New Rating System

I’ve decided to add a half star to my ratings system. There have been too many times when I was torn between a three and a four, or a four and a five, so something needed to be done. I am also going to repost a few reviews I feel needed an extra half star. I just wish Amazon had the option.

Let me know in the comments below what you think of the new half star, and ratings systems altogether. Goodreads, Amazon and others use the star ratings system. What do you think of it? I have seen one star reviews from readers because Amazon messed up their order. The review had nothing to do with the actual book. The other day I saw a raving and very complimentary review that had one star assigned to it so I can only imagine the reviewer made a mistake. One reviewer on Amazon gave a very good book two stars because it was self published! I could go on and on.

What do you think?

Book Review: The Queen’s Dressmaker

BOOK REVIEW–BONNIE READS AND WRITES

Giselle is a wardrobe assistant in the palace in Versailles attending the glamorous but troubled Marie Antoinette. This book follows the last few years of Marie Antoinette’s life and the events leading up to her death. Through Giselle and her beau Leon, we see the politics and violence as the French Revolution begins. As much as she believes in more rights for the people, Giselle also feels empathy for the Royal Family. Will those conflicting sympathies place her in danger?

The first half of this book moved a little slowly for me as I struggled to connect with the main character, Giselle. At the same time the description of Marie Antoinette as she tried to cope with the escalating events was fascinating. About halfway through the book, the story picked up and I finally became interested in Giselle and Leon as well. The second half of the book was filled with danger, intrigue, and romance as events escalated and Giselle’s two worlds collided. The book ended with the possibility of a sequel, because Giselle’s adventure is still continuing. Despite the slow start, I would give this three and a half stars, rounded up to four.

I received a free copy of this book from Bookouture via Netgalley . My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meghan Masterson graduated from the University of Calgary with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Communications Studies, and has worked several unrelated jobs while writing on the side. When not writing, Meghan can often be found reading at all hours (even at breakfast), practicing archery and roaming through the woods with her dog.

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THIS WAS PART OF A BOOKOUTURE BOOK TOUR

Once Upon a Rhyme

Dylan or “Oskie” has experienced great loss even prior to the recent passing of his father, Hollis, who was also his long-time coach.  This loss has made him hesitate to move forward, especially in love.  While cleaning out his father’s belongings, Oskie finds a book of poems written by his father.  As he begins to read them, memories come flooding back and he truly sees the importance of his father’s words.   Linda, his best friend’s Mom, also figures in the story and gives him a great example to follow. As a remarkable week passes and Dylan studies his father’s words, he learns three lessons that help him make sense of it all.

This is a heart-touching story about memories shared, lives lost, and the love that remains afterwards. It reminds us that memories can be so good that they hurt, and that it’s better to feel the hurt than shut out the memories.  I really connected with the character Linda, who lost her son to suicide.   She makes me think of a woman I personally know who lost her entire family, including her children, and yet she just radiates love, because she knows the secret.  Love is it.  It’s the only thing we take with us and the only thing that keeps growing after we die.

There are also two great adoptions in this story. Dylan’s son “Turbo” has already been adopted, and another adoption story begins to unfold. Coaching and sports figure heavily in this story as well. Dylan has followed in his father’s footsteps as a coach.

My only criticism is, in my opinion, there were too many nicknames for a fairly short story and I wasn’t fond of some of the nicknames.  I would advise readers to check the glossary of nicknames in the front of the book in order to avoid confusion.  However, that being said, this is a heartfelt story of love, loss, and lessons learned.   I would recommend it to all.  You can buy this story on Amazon for only 99 cents.  

I received a free gift copy from the author.  My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.  

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CHECK OUT THE AVERAGE MAN’S ADVENTURE PODCAST BY THE AUTHOR TONY SARAGAS

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Surviving Savannah

Diamond Level Read

Sometimes when I don’t think five stars is enough, I add a diamond on this blog so people will know how special it was. This is one of those books.

In 1838, The Steamship Pulaski set sail from Savannah to Baltimore, loaded with wealthy passengers, their extravagant belongings, and also their enslaved people. Lilly Forsyth, her nursemaid, the enslaved Priscilla, and Lilly’s daughter Madeleine board along with Lilly’s cousins, the wealthy and famous Longstreets. Lilly is also accompanied by her arrogant, cruel, and abusive husband, Adam. Dripping with wealth and carrying all the comforts of home, the Pulaski sets sail for a one-night voyage to Baltimore so the rich can escape the Southern heat. A horrific explosion and fire occur during the night, causing the sinking of the ship and great loss of life. Lilly, Priscilla, and Madeleine begin their desperate attempt to survive in more ways than one.

In present day, Everly has suffered a great personal loss after the death of her best friend Mora. She is approached by Oliver, who was engaged to Mora when she died. Oliver is part of a team which has discovered the remains of the Pulaski after more than 180 years and is beginning the recovery.. He asks Everly to curate the artifacts and help arrange an exhibit. Everly has been living a reclusive life since the death of Mora in a horrible hit-and-run accident that Everly survived. She is going through the motions and is obsessed with finding the hit -and-run driver, who is still unidentified. Can she commit to a project such as the Pulaski?

This captivating and exquisitely written story looks at the many different sides of survival. There is survival of a tragedy, such as the sinking of the Pulaski, there is survival of slavery and horrific abuse, and survival of an accident that turned to murder. Then the author looks at different reactions of the survivors. This takes a fascinating turn, as different characters have very different reactions to the same tragedy. Some embrace life, knowing that it is fleeting, some cower in fear, and others blaze with hate and anger. The characters, especially Lilly, Priscilla, and Everly, are well developed and engaging. The story is an intriguing mix of fact and fiction. Patti Callahan takes a real event, the sinking of the Pulaski, and combines it with both real and fictional characters to create a story that is fascinating and hard to put down. I would recommend it for any fans of historical fiction or maritime fiction.

I received a free copy of this book from Berkley Publishing. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Patti Callahan Henry

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of sixteen novels and podcast host. She writes as both Patti Callahan and Patti Callahan Henry. She is the recipient of The Christy Award — A 2019 Winner “Book of the Year”; The Harper Lee Distinguished Writer of the Year for 2020 and the Alabama Library Association Book of the Year for 2019. She is the co-host and co-creator of the popular weekly online Friends and Fiction live web show and podcast. A full-time author and mother of three children, she now resides in both Mountain Brook, Alabama, and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE

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Historical Fiction

I’ve been busily reading novels for the May edition of Historical Novels Review, so I haven’t been posting as much. However, I’m finally all done and I wanted to share the names and covers of some of the novels I’ve reviewed. The reviews will be posted in May. Also I found this cool photo of a steampunk lady I had to share above. For those who don’t know, Steampunk combines history or alternative history, science fiction, and 19th Century steam engine technology. It makes for some cool fiction (and cool pictures). There are some who say Steampunk is not historical fiction, but I say the 19th century steam technology and often the Victorian or Wild West setting make it a subgenre of Historical Fiction. Others say it’s Science Fiction. I say it’s a cool combination. What do you think?

But today I’m sharing some of the books I’ve reviewed, just covers and descriptions because I can’t post the reviews yet. (None of them are Steampunk. I just thought the picture above was awesome.)

Here are the three novels that I liked the best, along with their Amazon book descriptions:

OPHIE’S GHOSTS: Historical Fiction/Magical Realism

Ophelia Harrison used to live in a small house in the Georgia countryside. But that was before the night in November 1922, and the cruel act that took her home and her father from her. Which was the same night that Ophie learned she can see ghosts. 

Now Ophie and her mother are living in Pittsburgh with relatives they barely know. In the hopes of earning enough money to get their own place, Mama has gotten Ophie a job as a maid in the same old manor house where she works. 

Daffodil Manor, like the wealthy Caruthers family who owns it, is haunted by memories and prejudices of the past—and, as Ophie discovers, ghosts as well. Ghosts who have their own loves and hatreds and desires, ghosts who have wronged others and ghosts who have themselves been wronged. And as Ophie forms a friendship with one spirit whose life ended suddenly and unjustly, she wonders if she might be able to help—even as she comes to realize that Daffodil Manor may hold more secrets than she bargained for.

THE FAR AWAY GIRL: Coming of Age Historical Fiction

Georgetown, Guyana 1970. Seven-year-old Rita has always known she was responsible for the death of her beautiful mother Cassie. Her absent-minded father allows her to run wild in her ramshackle white wooden house by the sea, and surrounded by her army of stray pets, most of the time she can banish her mother’s death to the back of her mind.

But then her new stepmother Chandra arrives and the house empties of love and laughter. Rita’s pets are removed, her freedom curtailed, and before long, there’s a new baby sister on the way. There’s no room for Rita anymore.

Desperate to fill up the emptiness inside her, Rita begins to talk to the only photo she has of her dead mother, a poor farmer’s daughter from the remote Guyanese rainforest. Determined to find the truth about her mother, Rita travels to find her mother’s family in an unfamiliar land of shimmering creeks and towering vines. She finds comfort in the loving arms of her grandmother among the flowering shrubs and trees groaning with fruit. But when she discovers the terrible bruising secret that her father kept hidden from her, will she ever be able to feel happiness again?

SHADOWS OF LIONS: Historical Fiction/Psychological Thriller

Catherine Kensington is in the midst of high society Regency era. She is an unmarried heiress with accomplishment, wit, and grace. But very few are aware she has recently returned from Africa in a desperate attempt to escape her murderous mother who sits far too close on the chaise. No one suspects Lady Kensington of violence, however, not even Catherine’s soul mate Captain Ashmore. Sarah Hope also sits among them dizzily longing for intrigue and adventure but is soon overwhelmed when she unwittingly throws herself into the midst of the Kensington’s trouble. And Mebalwe stands alert in the corner, but he is no ordinary serving man, he is an African warrior, sent to protect Catherine from all that threatens to kill her.

If any of the above books look interesting to you, check them out. I’m back to my normal reading schedule and will be posting again soon. Sorry for the delay.

The Choice I Made

REVIEW–BONNIE READS AND WRITES

Julie’s mother has had a stroke, and for weeks her father has said she is doing fine, but when Julie arrives for a weekend at their family’s Wisconsin resort, Wood Violet, she finds that her mother is not doing well and is not mobile. Despite the objections of her husband Tristan, Julie decides to stay and help out with her mother and the business for the summer. When she meets teenage Margaret, who is staying in an abandoned cabin and searching for her biological mother, Julie develops a connection with her. She also reconnects with her old friends, including her ex-boyfriend Chase. But secrets and lies come to the surface. Will it break them all apart?

This is was nice family story about supporting each other in the hard times and what happens when you don’t. Margaret’s search for her mother with Julie’s help is interesting. Julie’s connection to the woods, the cabins, and the area are heartfelt and believable, as is her strong desire to protect her family. However, the character Tristan is quite over the top. There were surprises that were not all that hard to figure out, but all in all this was an enjoyable family story with a touch of mystery and romance. Three and a half stars, rounded up to four.

I received a free copy of this book from Bookouture via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cynthia Ellingsen

Cynthia Ellingsen is an Amazon Charts bestselling author of contemporary women’s fiction. Her books feature heartwarming characters and strong family connections, often with a touch of mystery. The Starlight Cove series, her best-known work, is available on audio and has been translated into several languages.

Cynthia began her writing career as a screenwriter in Los Angeles and now lives in Kentucky with her family.

https://www.cynthiaellingsen.com/

https://www.facebook.com/cynthiaellingsen

https://twitter.com/CynEllingsen

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