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Winter Games
Winter Games
by John Lacombe
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.22
34 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A promising first novel, April 1, 2009
This review is from: Winter Games (Paperback)
Tim Sutton, 24-year-old owner of a comic book store in a small New Hampshire town, is the central thread in this thriller by first-time novelist John Lacombe. Tim has an older brother, Eric, a brilliant misfit, who has disappeared years before. When an odd, encrypted plea for rescue, seemingly from Eric, appears at Tim's store, it launches Tim on a strange odyssey across the United States, to China, and finally to North Korea, of all places.

Tim is a normal person, but worked into the narrative with him are an assortment of CIA and FBI agents, Army Rangers, drug kingpins, and two almost mythologically adept super-warriors, the kind who can render themselves invisible, are immune to fatigue and environment, and are unexcelled in the use of every weapon known to man, with a familiarity with cutting-edge technology thrown in at no extra charge. As an added plus, the American agent of lethality is a smallish woman with red hair.

The story, at first a basic missing person case, eventually thickens with the agendas of the other characters: interagency rivalries, super-agent vs. super-agent, and the intrigues of the various national entities. This is satisfying. This type of thriller lives on complications and duplicity. The conclusion is not quite the expected one, but satisfying nonetheless. A lover of the genre would have a good time with this book.

Al Past is the author of the popular Distant Cousin series, reviewer for PODBRAM, and member of the Independent Authors Guild. He lives in south Texas. More about his books is at the Distant Cousin website (dot net). They are available here: Distant Cousin: a novel, Distant Cousin: Reincarnation, and Distant Cousin: Reincarnation.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 1, 2009 2:10 PM PDT


In Her Name: Redemption
In Her Name: Redemption
by Michael R. Hicks
Edition: Paperback
Price: $24.23
40 used & new from $4.94

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent entertainment, February 11, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Michael R. Hicks' In Her Name is a monster of a paperback and an absolute steal for the price. (It's also available in Amazon's Kindle edition at a budget price.) I estimate In Her Name to be at least two pounds of solid entertainment.
In Her Name features a galaxy-wide war of vast dimensions between humans and a race of reptilian warrior bipeds who are ferocious and merciless fighters. (Think of Whorf, the Klingon, or the samurai warriors of Japan.) One of these warriors notices a human child survivor during the aftermath of a battle which human forces lose. For reasons that need not be gone into, the warrior remembers this child, and he is later kidnapped from an orphanage and enrolled in warrior training on the alien world (to see if he has a soul, actually). The child thrives after a difficult start, becoming completely acculturated to the alien society. Eventually, however, the child, Reza Gard, cannot stay with the alien race and must return to human society, where he likewise thrives...up to a point. After all, who would trust a person who has gone over to an enemy no one understands?
The galactic war builds to a final conclusion, where Reza finds his fate is to be the culmination of the fate of his people--but which people?
I won't spoil the tale with further details, but what I liked best about the book was the author's complete and convincing rendering of a non-human culture, to the point that the reader comes to understand and respect it, even honor it--even root for it! That is no mean feat of imagination, and it makes what could have been a purple-prose space opera into a delightful recreation.
Another feature that makes the book a great read is the style in which it is written: it is clear, elegant, and serves the story. When one is describing, let's say, the code of an alien warrior race or the feelings of attraction of a human for one of the saurians, it would be easy for the prose to become an overwrought, technicolor mishmash of hyperbole. But Mr. Hicks has a sure hand with this. Even when describing something totally fantastic, it is done so smoothly and gracefully that one accepts it at face value: the willing suspension of disbelief is alive and well in this novel.
A third positive feature that absolutely needs to be mentioned is the immaculate editing. The text reads as cleanly as any you will find, better, in fact, than most traditionally-published efforts.
The bottom line is that In Her Name is highly recommended to those who love the sci-fi/fantasy genres, or are even tempted to try them. There is little profanity but some gore, so perhaps the very young might hold off (though the movies they see are far, far worse).
Al Past, author of the popular Distant Cousin novels, reviews for PODBRAM.


Tales Of A Texas Boy
Tales Of A Texas Boy
by Marva Dasef
Edition: Paperback
16 used & new from $0.92

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For the young? Not necessarily!, January 28, 2009
This review is from: Tales Of A Texas Boy (Paperback)
Tales of a Texas Boy is a collection of 21 reminiscences of rural life in the Texas panhandle during the Depression, told in the voice of an eleven year old remembering his childhood as an elderly man (modeled after the author's father). Each tale is short and complete in itself, and all add up to a convincing evocation of what life was like during those days in that area of Texas.
The boy, of course, would not dwell on hardship, deprivation, or lack of creature comforts. From his point of view, he had regular chores to perform, a loving, fairly strict family to live with, and various spells of an interesting or exciting nature to experience.
These include adventures with snakes, a man who had a pet bear, a livestock auction, driving his father's Model A pickup truck, a wild jackass, various odd neighbors, going on an old-fashioned cattle drive, dogs, skunks, fishing, chickens, and his little sister, to name a few. Each story is preceded by a few sentences of authorial scene-setting--a nice touch--and a small black and white photograph, not credited or explained, but adding a pleasant visual accent to the pages.
The prose style has a countrified flavor, but not excessively so. Each story is well narrated, with the right details in the right place and usually a satisfying and appropriate conclusion.
Tales of a Texas Boy is intended to be a young adult book, but I see no reason younger children wouldn't enjoy it too, or adults, for that matter. I enjoyed it myself, and I am very far from a young adult. It reminded me of some of the stories J. Frank Dobie, the grand old man of Texas folklore, used to love. In fact, parents who are in the habit of reading bedtime stories to their children (an excellent idea) might find children as young as five would be entertained by them--the length of the stories is about right, and they offer a fine opportunity for parental dramatic reading. Indeed, the point could be impressed upon the child that daily life, however prosaic it might seem now, is worth gathering and writing down for the interest it might have in the future. It's easy to imagine a sleepy child asking why the Texas Boy never watched television. Calling grandpa and grandma!
(Al Past is the author of the popular Distant Cousin series and reviews for PODBRAM.)


Tales Of A Texas Boy: Large Print Edition
Tales Of A Texas Boy: Large Print Edition
by Marva Dasef
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.49
26 used & new from $3.06

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just for the young? Not necessarily!, January 28, 2009
Tales of a Texas Boy is a collection of 21 reminiscences of rural life in the Texas panhandle during the Depression, told in the voice of an eleven year old remembering his childhood as an elderly man (modeled after the author's father). Each tale is short and complete in itself, and all add up to a convincing evocation of what life was like during those days in that area of Texas.
The boy, of course, would not dwell on hardship, deprivation, or lack of creature comforts. From his point of view, he had regular chores to perform, a loving, fairly strict family to live with, and various spells of an interesting or exciting nature to experience.
These include adventures with snakes, a man who had a pet bear, a livestock auction, driving his father's Model A pickup truck, a wild jackass, various odd neighbors, going on an old-fashioned cattle drive, dogs, skunks, fishing, chickens, and his little sister, to name a few. Each story is preceded by a few sentences of authorial scene-setting--a nice touch--and a small black and white photograph, not credited or explained, but adding a pleasant visual accent to the pages.
The prose style has a countrified flavor, but not excessively so. Each story is well narrated, with the right details in the right place and usually a satisfying and appropriate conclusion.
Tales of a Texas Boy is intended to be a young adult book, but I see no reason younger children wouldn't enjoy it too, or adults, for that matter. I enjoyed it myself, and I am very far from a young adult. It reminded me of some of the stories J. Frank Dobie, the grand old man of Texas folklore, used to love. In fact, parents who are in the habit of reading bedtime stories to their children (an excellent idea) might find children as young as five would be entertained by them--the length of the stories is about right, and they offer a fine opportunity for parental dramatic reading. Indeed, the point could be impressed upon the child that daily life, however prosaic it might seem now, is worth gathering and writing down for the interest it might have in the future. It's easy to imagine a sleepy child asking why the Texas Boy never watched television. Calling grandpa and grandma!
(Al Past is the author of the popular Distant Cousin series and reviews for PODBRAM.)


The Saga of Beowulf
The Saga of Beowulf

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, and a great bargain, January 21, 2009
It would be hard to find anyone in the English speaking world who has never heard of Beowulf. Most could tell you he was the hero of "some old poem" who killed "that monster, Grendel." Some younger people might have seen the comic book-like movie flaunting its digitalized special effects, but most of the population will have had to have read parts of it in school, in translation.
Not many will remember why they had to read it in school, but there's a good reason: it's the first identifiable work of literature written in English. The problem is it must be read in translation (unless one is a graduate student in English, perhaps) because it was the language spoken when part of the Germanic languages split off and became modern English. We call that founding language Anglo-Saxon, or Old English. Supposedly, the verses in which the Beowulf story is told constitute very powerful poetry, but very few are able to appreciate it today. It takes work to pick out a single understandable word in two or three lines of verse, and a semester or two of college-level study to get comfortable with.
The story itself, of the hero Beowulf saving a neighboring tribe of Danes from the horrible Grendel, and later from his equally horrible mother, ultimately becoming king of his own tribe, the Geats, and dying while saving them from a ferocious fire dragon, is a dramatic one. But in addition to the language problem, the tale is made even harder to appreciate by virtue of apparently being written down by two different people hundreds of years after Beowulf lived, by the fragments of the manuscript which have disappeared, and by its being compressed possibly for purposes of recitation.
All this is by way of saying that there is a terrific story here, but how to make it accessible to today's typical readers? Author R. Scot Johns has the answer: spend ten years researching the poem and the historical documents of the era, and weave it all into a novel, a novel of 630 pages. The result of this impressive scholarship is a labor of love: an astoundingly readable, satisfyingly meaty historical tale of fierce battles, of intricate clan ties and loyalty, of Norse folklore, and of characters who develop over time to stand as distinct personalities that were only dimly glimpsed in the ancient version.
As to how Mr. Johns managed all this, he has a website (fantasycastlebooks.com) with extensive and interesting author's notes laying out the documents and the manner of stitching them into one continuous narrative. The book itself has glossaries of names and places, and a map of ancient Scandanavia, but these are helpful only when needed and do not intrude on the continuity of the story. There are no footnotes, for example.
One might reasonably ask, "What possible prose style would suit ancient poetry rendered into a modern novel?" Mr. John's solution seems to be rather a hybrid: in places he uses what feels like Old Norse hyperbole, and in others a more sensitively observed, human-scaled style. Since the original story featured heroic deeds of strong, brave men with large swords, chain mail, and horns on their helmets fighting monsters with mythic abilities, exaggeration is only fitting, and faithful to the original. In other places, when warranted, the style eases into a more comfortable, conventional narrative, with few flights of bellicose elaboration. It retains the feel of an ancient story, yet can be enjoyed comfortably and without rescanning the lines.
As a reviewer of books, I'm inclined to want to march right through a text. At the same time, I found myself enjoying the story and wishing to slow down and immerse myself in it. Torn between these two desires, I noted that Grendel and his mother had been dealt with by the halfway point. What, I asked myself, could possibly fill the rest of the pages?
To my surprise, I found I enjoyed the second half even more than the first, with accounts of battles with normal humans (well, ancient Swedes, anyway), an ill-advised raid into Frankish territory, sea voyages, Frankish politics and military maneuvers, the puzzle of Roman ruins, struggles over kingly succession and tribal politics, courtship, and more small doses of mythology: stone-eating trolls, fearsome dwarfs, and, overseeing all, the three Fates of Norse mythology, spinning out the threads of lives, measuring and cutting them when the time comes. It's all cleanly written and edited, a few errant apostrophes notwithstanding.
Mr. Johns' version of Beowulf is a terrific bargain at its current selling price. It should appeal to, and delight, those who like the original poem, those who enjoy the sword and sorcerer/dungeons and dragons type of yarn, lovers of historical fiction, and the many readers who are tired of the same old formulas and wish for something completely different.
Al Past is the author of the popular Distant Cousin series, and writes reviews for PODBRAM.


The Saga of Beowulf
The Saga of Beowulf
by R. Scot Johns
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.99
31 used & new from $11.00

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great entertainment at a great price, January 19, 2009
This review is from: The Saga of Beowulf (Paperback)
It would be hard to find anyone in the English speaking world who has never heard of Beowulf. Most could tell you he was the hero of "some old poem" who killed "that monster, Grendel." Some younger people might have seen the comic book-like movie flaunting its digitalized special effects, but most of the population will have had to have read parts of it in school, in translation.
Not many will remember why they had to read it in school, but there's a good reason: it's the first identifiable work of literature written in English. The problem is it must be read in translation (unless one is a graduate student in English, perhaps) because it was the language spoken when part of the Germanic languages split off and became modern English. We call that founding language Anglo-Saxon, or Old English. Supposedly, the verses in which the Beowulf story is told constitute very powerful poetry, but very few are able to appreciate it today. It takes work to pick out a single understandable word in two or three lines of verse, and a semester or two of college-level study to get comfortable with.
The story itself, of the hero Beowulf saving a neighboring tribe of Danes from the horrible Grendel, and later from his equally horrible mother, ultimately becoming king of his own tribe, the Geats, and dying while saving them from a ferocious fire dragon, is a dramatic one. But in addition to the language problem, the tale is made even harder to appreciate by virtue of apparently being written down by two different people hundreds of years after Beowulf lived, by the fragments of the manuscript which have disappeared, and by its being compressed possibly for purposes of recitation.
All this is by way of saying that there is a terrific story here, but how to make it accessible to today's typical readers? Author R. Scot Johns has the answer: spend ten years researching the poem and the historical documents of the era, and weave it all into a novel, a novel of 630 pages. The result of this impressive scholarship is a labor of love: an astoundingly readable, satisfyingly meaty historical tale of fierce battles, of intricate clan ties and loyalty, of Norse folklore, and of characters who develop over time to stand as distinct personalities that were only dimly glimpsed in the ancient version.
As to how Mr. Johns managed all this, he has a website (fantasycastlebooks) with extensive and interesting author's notes laying out the documents and the manner of stitching them into one continuous narrative. The book itself has glossaries of names and places, and a map of ancient Scandanavia, but these are helpful only when needed and do not intrude on the continuity of the story. There are no footnotes, for example.
One might reasonably ask, "What possible prose style would suit ancient poetry rendered into a modern novel?" Mr. John's solution seems to be rather a hybrid: in places he uses what feels like Old Norse hyperbole, and in others a more sensitively observed, human-scaled style. Since the original story featured heroic deeds of strong, brave men with large swords, chain mail, and horns on their helmets fighting monsters with mythic abilities, exaggeration is only fitting, and faithful to the original. In other places, when warranted, the style eases into a more comfortable, conventional narrative, with few flights of bellicose elaboration. It retains the feel of an ancient story, yet can be enjoyed comfortably and without rescanning the lines.
As a reviewer of books, I'm inclined to want to march right through a text. At the same time, I found myself enjoying the story and wishing to slow down and immerse myself in it. Torn between these two desires, I noted that Grendel and his mother had been dealt with by the halfway point. What, I asked myself, could possibly fill the rest of the pages?
To my surprise, I found I enjoyed the second half even more than the first, with accounts of battles with normal humans (well, ancient Swedes, anyway), an ill-advised raid into Frankish territory, sea voyages, Frankish politics and military maneuvers, the puzzle of Roman ruins, struggles over kingly succession and tribal politics, courtship, and more small doses of mythology: stone-eating trolls, fearsome dwarfs, and, overseeing all, the three Fates of Norse mythology, spinning out the threads of lives, measuring and cutting them when the time comes. It's all cleanly written and edited, a few errant apostrophes notwithstanding.
Mr. Johns' version of Beowulf is a terrific bargain at its current selling price. It should appeal to, and delight, those who like the original poem, those who enjoy the sword and sorcerer/dungeons and dragons type of yarn, lovers of historical fiction, and the many readers who are tired of the same old formulas and wish for something completely different.
(Al Past is the author of the popular Distant Cousin series and writes reviews for PODBRAM.)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 17, 2009 6:39 PM PDT


Adelsverein: The Harvesting - Book Three of the Adelsverein Trilogy
Adelsverein: The Harvesting - Book Three of the Adelsverein Trilogy
by Celia D. Hayes
Edition: Paperback
13 used & new from $10.66

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Third of an Outstanding Historical Trilogy, December 12, 2008
Is there anything better than a good book? Better than a book that tells an absorbing story, that's peopled with characters you care about, living through exciting times, set among real events, and that leaves you with a better understanding as well as thoroughly entertained?
Of course there is something better: two books like that. And even better still, three. The Adelsverein Trilogy, by Celia Hayes, is such a trilogy. What The Leopard does for Italy and Gone With the Wind does for the American South, The Adelsverein Trilogy does for Texas, and does it in style.
Briefly, book one, The Gathering, recounts the adventures of the Steinmetz family as they and several other families emigrate from Germany in the 1840s to the wilds of Texas. The narrative generally follows one of the daughters, Magda Vogel, a spunky, engaging young woman, as the families endure an arduous sea voyage only to find themselves put ashore at a desolate spot on the Texas coast, to be led to an unprepared, disorganized, and underfunded German settlement area in the hill country (the "Adelsverein" of the title). On the way they happen upon a company of men under Jack Hays (later a renowned Texas Ranger), on their way to the Mexican War. Magda briefly meets one of his men, Carl "Dutch" Becker, one of the few survivors of the Goliad massacre, before her family resumes its trek to to New Braunfels. From there they travel to Friedrichsburg (modern-day Fredericksburg), and struggle to find shelter and make lives for themselves. Not to spoil things, let it simply be said that the rest of The Gathering brings the return of the wounded Carl Becker, the beginning of a business and farm for the Vogel/Steinmetz family, the wooing of Maggie by several appealing suitors, her eventual marriage, a cholera epidemic, and much more.
Book two, The Sowing, takes the family, friends, and community through the period leading up to the Civil War, then through the trying war years, to their painful conclusion.
Book three, The Harvesting, sees the once-struggling settlements becoming towns and beginning to prosper. The extended Steinmetz family moves into a number of business ventures, enjoying successes despite the occasional disaster.
Taken all together, The Adelsverein Trilogy provides a terrifically enjoyable and satisfying read. The characters come alive immediately, and as the pages fly by we get to see them grow, mature, and deal with the joys and tribulations of life. We are left with a wonderfully complete picture of an era, and unforgettable memories of the engaging and sturdy families whose type formed the backbone of this nation.
Any person who's had history in school, (and paid attention) will know the basic events of the era, but probably not how those events were received in the Texas German hill country. The great strength of the trilogy is that we experience those events not on the battlefield or in distant places, but on the home front. We all read in class of generals, strategies, marching armies and blockades and battles and dates and so forth, but it's so much more compelling to live the events through the eyes of people we like, in person. However much we know today about the Civil War, to the Steinmetz family the news was minimal and late, and there were no guarantees of anything: disaster was an ever-present possibility. Random events could (and did) upset everything at any time. No matter what, the housework had to be done; the animals and crops had to be tended, and the family had to be raised. Such is life, and such is the power of literature.
This is not to say that larger events are overlooked. The story gracefully works in encounters with Sam Houston, Jack Hays, early San Antonio, Austin, New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Comanche raids, truce negotiations, agriculture, cattle drives, illnesses, 19th century medicine, the handling of firearms, race relations, business practices--the full context of daily life at the time. The author's historical accuracy is meticulous, her writing clean and true: she brings an entire era to marvelous life. If you don't know the Texas hill country, you will after you read The Adelsverein Trilogy. I thought I knew it, but the Texas hill country will never look the same to me now.

Al Past is the author of the Distant Cousin series. He is a member of the Independent Authors Guild and also writes reviews for PODBRAM.


Adelsverein: The Sowing - Book Two of the Adelsverein Trilogy
Adelsverein: The Sowing - Book Two of the Adelsverein Trilogy
by Celia D. Hayes
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from $1.33

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Second of an Outstanding Historical Series, December 12, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Is there anything better than a good book? Better than a book that tells an absorbing story, that's peopled with characters you care about, living through exciting times, set among real events, and that leaves you with a better understanding as well as thoroughly entertained?
Of course there is something better: two books like that. And even better still, three. The Adelsverein Trilogy, by Celia Hayes, is such a trilogy. What The Leopard does for Italy and Gone With the Wind does for the American South, The Adelsverein Trilogy does for Texas, and does it in style.
Briefly, book one, The Gathering, recounts the adventures of the Steinmetz family as they and several other families emigrate from Germany in the 1840s to the wilds of Texas. The narrative generally follows one of the daughters, Magda Vogel, a spunky, engaging young woman, as the families endure an arduous sea voyage only to find themselves put ashore at a desolate spot on the Texas coast, to be led to an unprepared, disorganized, and underfunded German settlement area in the hill country (the "Adelsverein" of the title). On the way they happen upon a company of men under Jack Hays (later a renowned Texas Ranger), on their way to the Mexican War. Magda briefly meets one of his men, Carl "Dutch" Becker, one of the few survivors of the Goliad massacre, before her family resumes its trek to to New Braunfels. From there they travel to Friedrichsburg (modern-day Fredericksburg), and struggle to find shelter and make lives for themselves. Not to spoil things, let it simply be said that the rest of The Gathering brings the return of the wounded Carl Becker, the beginning of a business and farm for the Vogel/Steinmetz family, the wooing of Maggie by several appealing suitors, her eventual marriage, a cholera epidemic, and much more.
Book two, The Sowing, takes the family, friends, and community through the period leading up to the Civil War, then through the trying war years, to their painful conclusion.
Book three, The Harvesting, sees the once-struggling settlements becoming towns and beginning to prosper. The extended Steinmetz family moves into a number of business ventures, enjoying successes despite the occasional disaster.
Taken all together, The Adelsverein Trilogy provides a terrifically enjoyable and satisfying read. The characters come alive immediately, and as the pages fly by we get to see them grow, mature, and deal with the joys and tribulations of life. We are left with a wonderfully complete picture of an era, and unforgettable memories of the engaging and sturdy families whose type formed the backbone of this nation.
Any person who's had history in school, (and paid attention) will know the basic events of the era, but probably not how those events were received in the Texas German hill country. The great strength of the trilogy is that we experience those events not on the battlefield or in distant places, but on the home front. We all read in class of generals, strategies, marching armies and blockades and battles and dates and so forth, but it's so much more compelling to live the events through the eyes of people we like, in person. However much we know today about the Civil War, to the Steinmetz family the news was minimal and late, and there were no guarantees of anything: disaster was an ever-present possibility. Random events could (and did) upset everything at any time. No matter what, the housework had to be done; the animals and crops had to be tended, and the family had to be raised. Such is life, and such is the power of literature.
This is not to say that larger events are overlooked. The story gracefully works in encounters with Sam Houston, Jack Hays, early San Antonio, Austin, New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Comanche raids, truce negotiations, agriculture, cattle drives, illnesses, 19th century medicine, the handling of firearms, race relations, business practices--the full context of daily life at the time. The author's historical accuracy is meticulous, her writing clean and true: she brings an entire era to marvelous life. If you don't know the Texas hill country, you will after you read The Adelsverein Trilogy. I thought I knew it, but the Texas hill country will never look the same to me now.

Al Past is the author of the Distant Cousin series. He is a member of the Independent Authors Guild and also writes reviews for PODBRAM.


Adelsverein: The Gathering (Book One of the Adelsverein Trilogy)
Adelsverein: The Gathering (Book One of the Adelsverein Trilogy)
by Celia D. Hayes
Edition: Paperback
20 used & new from $1.95

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding set of historical novels, December 12, 2008
Is there anything better than a good book? Better than a book that tells an absorbing story, that's peopled with characters you care about, living through exciting times, set among real events, and that leaves you with a better understanding as well as thoroughly entertained?
Of course there is something better: two books like that. And even better still, three. The Adelsverein Trilogy, by Celia Hayes, is such a trilogy. What The Leopard does for Italy and Gone With the Wind does for the American South, The Adelsverein Trilogy does for Texas, and does it in style.
Briefly, book one, The Gathering, recounts the adventures of the Steinmetz family as they and several other families emigrate from Germany in the 1840s to the wilds of Texas. The narrative generally follows one of the daughters, Magda Vogel, a spunky, engaging young woman, as the families endure an arduous sea voyage only to find themselves put ashore at a desolate spot on the Texas coast, to be led to an unprepared, disorganized, and underfunded German settlement area in the hill country (the "Adelsverein" of the title). On the way they happen upon a company of men under Jack Hays (later a renowned Texas Ranger), on their way to the Mexican War. Magda briefly meets one of his men, Carl "Dutch" Becker, one of the few survivors of the Goliad massacre, before her family resumes its trek to to New Braunfels. From there they travel to Friedrichsburg (modern-day Fredericksburg), and struggle to find shelter and make lives for themselves. Not to spoil things, let it simply be said that the rest of The Gathering brings the return of the wounded Carl Becker, the beginning of a business and farm for the Vogel/Steinmetz family, the wooing of Maggie by several appealing suitors, her eventual marriage, a cholera epidemic, and much more.
Book two, The Sowing, takes the family, friends, and community through the period leading up to the Civil War, then through the trying war years, to their painful conclusion.
Book three, The Harvesting, sees the once-struggling settlements becoming towns and beginning to prosper. The extended Steinmetz family moves into a number of business ventures, enjoying successes despite the occasional disaster.
Taken all together, The Adelsverein Trilogy provides a terrifically enjoyable and satisfying read. The characters come alive immediately, and as the pages fly by we get to see them grow, mature, and deal with the joys and tribulations of life. We are left with a wonderfully complete picture of an era, and unforgettable memories of the engaging and sturdy families whose type formed the backbone of this nation.
Any person who's had history in school, (and paid attention) will know the basic events of the era, but probably not how those events were received in the Texas German hill country. The great strength of the trilogy is that we experience those events not on the battlefield or in distant places, but on the home front. We all read in class of generals, strategies, marching armies and blockades and battles and dates and so forth, but it's so much more compelling to live the events through the eyes of people we like, in person. However much we know today about the Civil War, to the Steinmetz family the news was minimal and late, and there were no guarantees of anything: disaster was an ever-present possibility. Random events could (and did) upset everything at any time. No matter what, the housework had to be done; the animals and crops had to be tended, and the family had to be raised. Such is life, and such is the power of literature.
This is not to say that larger events are overlooked. The story gracefully works in encounters with Sam Houston, Jack Hays, early San Antonio, Austin, New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Comanche raids, truce negotiations, agriculture, cattle drives, illnesses, 19th century medicine, the handling of firearms, race relations, business practices--the full context of daily life at the time. The author's historical accuracy is meticulous, her writing clean and true: she brings an entire era to marvelous life. If you don't know the Texas hill country, you will after you read The Adelsverein Trilogy. I thought I knew it, but the Texas hill country will never look the same to me now.

Al Past is the author of the Distant Cousin series. He is a member of the Independent Authors Guild and also writes reviews for PODBRAM.


Discos Fuentes All Stars: Biblia De La Cumbia
Discos Fuentes All Stars: Biblia De La Cumbia
6 used & new from $19.93

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Discos Fuentes: Andale!, November 23, 2008
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This is an enjoyable disk, especially for those who want some lively music to bolster their "bailable" collection. On the other hand, if one already has a large collection of that kind of music (as I do), one will find many repeats here. The Colombianos are terrifically musical, though, and for the money this disk and its companion (with the same title) are worth having. The best one, though, is the Discos Fuentes collection titled "Colombia!" That one is essental.


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