Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
The Puppy Adventures of Porter & Midge: Out and About~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Book Trailer & Giveaway!
Purchase on Amazon
Monday, May 15, 2023
HALL WAYS REVIEW: The structure and premise of Ghostly Bugles, written by San Antonio author Max L. Knight, are compelling. Readers are introduced to the main character, identified only as “the old man,” and are then immersed and held captive in his thoughts.
“The Alamo was and always would be personal for him.”
The old man has admittedly been fascinated with the Alamo since he was a young boy and has never lost interest, so his vast knowledge is believable and for this Texan, even enviable. Via the old man’s ruminations, we get not only a factual history of the site and restoration of the Alamo, but also a nostalgic history of San Antonio and its bygone days. However, it’s by way of the old man’s dreams that readers are transported into the stories of the people on either side of the walls of the Alamo.
“He intimately sensed the presence of the souls of the deceased; he envisioned the circumstances under which they lived and died, even felt their pain at the moment of their demise. Rather than dispel these ghosts, he reached out to them.”
With the old man’s visions sometimes having him “soaring over” events, the story is able to be told from an omniscient point of view. The chapters alternate between the here & now of the old man’s observations and the then & there of the days leading up to, through, and after the Battle of the Alamo. It’s established early on that whatever’s unfolding on the pages is known to the old man, be it from his book knowledge or from the voices of the dead. But there’s also a layer of added information that goes beyond the characters’ experiences. In Ghostly Bugles, it’s Knight’s next-level attention to detail that engrosses, fascinates, and chills the reader.
I have never professed to be a student of history, and even as a Texan, I only recall the big picture of the Alamo and minimal details learned in school, so many years ago. Reading Ghostly Bugles is eye-opening because it shares not only the stories of the Texians, but also of the Tejanos and Mexicans who fought. One of the things Knight does well is to provide a wider lens, and he puts the battle in a context I hadn’t thought of before: the soldiers of the Mexican Army were fighting for their homeland and trying to put down an insurrection within. *Texan mind blown by the obvious*
“It was cruel psychological warfare.”
The level of detail in Ghostly Bugles is mind-boggling, which is a nod to the author’s research and clear expertise in the subject of soldiering. Specifics of munitions are provided down to the finest detail, but so are the horrible consequences of the trek to the battle lines, living in unhealthy conditions, and of course, the gruesome deaths. To Knight’s credit: he doesn’t glamorize a thing, nor does he downplay the flaws of the leaders on both sides. Travis and Bowie are slave owners; David Crockett struggles with his alter-ego, Davy; Santa Anna is a sexual predator.
Once again, Max Knight educates and entertains his readers through historical fiction, and leaves us with much to consider, not only from the story pages but from his Afterword and even acknowledgments (thank you). Ghostly Bugles feels thoroughly authentic, and I’m glad I read it.
Tuesday, May 9, 2023
“We gotta trust in God and the law.”
This book is all about the setting. As Stephens starts the story, everything seems normal enough. We meet Blue (short for Bluebonnet, of course), who’s trying to navigate life at age fourteen. She’s embarrassed by her drunken father, embarrassed by her poverty, and just embarrassed – because fourteen. But readers soon learn that this is not the teenager’s life we know. For one, the kids have an armory at school where they check-in/out their guns each day before boarding their buses home. People aren’t stopped for carrying their guns in public places, they are stopped for not carrying. And anything that comes from America, not Texas – like orange juice, for example – has a heavy import tax so that only the wealthy can afford to have it. Cell phone and internet reach, naturally, are controlled for most Texans, because the leaders know best. Bless their hearts.
“I swallowed down my own stupidity, but it
stuck in my throat refusing to dissolve.”
I love the words and phrases Stephens chose that immerse the reader even more in the story and setting. Blue “piddled around” or found herself “screwing up the courage,” and of course ordering a tea at a restaurant means it’s delivered as iced, sweet tea. The description of Blessing, Texas, is familiar with its lay-out that could easily be any small-town, suburban Texas city. Since I listened to the audiobook and didn’t read with my eyes, I don’t know if Stephens uses eye dialect, but narrator Ashley Rose Kaplan uses g-dropping to help convey the Texas accent. That touch, along with Kaplan’s slow, soft, and lyrical drawl, perfectly fits with Stephens’s evocative writing.
Stephens doesn’t miss including any of the hot button issues that are plaguing Texas (and beyond) right now. She spins a set of believable, what-if scenarios of how life could be in a terribly wrong, not-so-distant future. Blue Running is a different kind of horror story. It’s especially terrifying for me because I know there are readers that think it’s not dystopian, but utopian Texas.
Reading Blue Running is sometimes super-stressful: the suspense! The danger! But it’s also a massive social commentary on the fine line we are walking right now, and it forces thinking, which may be uncomfortable for some. Stephens wraps up the book with a BANG (literally & figuratively) and in the Epilogue, readers are told what we need to know to be satisfied as we close the cover. But be warned: it also requires us to envision our own ending. There’s that thinking thing again.