I’m writing this on a snowy Saturday afternoon, up here, in the Great White North. My preference is early morning, but the kids are busy organizing their rooms, so I thought it would be a great chance to get this one out.
Today I’m reviewing, The Donnelly Brothers, by Anthony Gallucci. Anthony was kind enough to provide me with a paperback novel, in exchange for an honest review.
Here’s what Amazon says:
The Donnelly Brothers is the tale of two brothers growing up in New York City. It portrays the beauty of the city and the struggles of borough living. The city becomes plagued with a corrupt Mayor and the citizens become enraged. A war begins amongst the city’s people and the police. There are riots, looting and even murders. The brother’s can’t stand by and watch their city be destroyed. They make a plan to overthrow the Mayor and to restore justice and tranquility to their home. The Donnelly Brothers is full of love, loss and the pursuit of happiness.
If there was ever a book that adroitly conveys the author’s deep emotional connection to a place, The Donnelly Brothers, easily slips into the upper echelon.
Bobby and Dominic Donnelly, born and raised in New York City, have more than their fingers on the pulse of their beloved Big Apple. Indeed, they are, in their very essence, a part of its heart.
This story is far more than action and heroics. Anthony does a fantastic job of creating characters that are realistically imperfect, yet courageous and loyal to the end. A band of brothers, and sisters, so to speak, of unlikely defenders against a greater evil. All in service to the greater community.
I have recently found myself using the expression, “You cannot judge a book by its cover (though this cover is well done), but you can judge it by the characters.”
The Donnelly Brothers, achieves this standard, with precision.
The action is swift and well executed, but what really impressed me was how easily I could connect and empathize with the characters. There was the necessary ingredient of growth through personal challenges, and the constant variable of change that occurs in real life.
In addition, I would encourage the reading of the Epilogue. A nice touch to the finish.
Overall, I must say, well done! FIVE STARS!
Meet Anthony Gallucci:
I am a small town boy that moved away from his little cedar cabin when I turned 17. I went on many adventures all over the United States and it has been amazing. I decided that it was time to start writing about the stories I heard throughout my adventures so that I could share them with others. It’s unfair to keep the amazing stories I have in my head and not be able to share them. Cascade, was my first try at writing one of these stories and bringing it into existence. Now available is my second book The Donnelly Brothers!
Last night, I was reading over some of the newer reviews and comments of my novel Vanished. I noticed some understandable trepidation among a few of those who hadn’t read the book. In response, I’ve decided to write this post, explaining the origins of the book, and why I wrote it.
First, though, I wish to thank all of those who took a chance on me, readers who cracked the pages, in spite of the subject matter. I really appreciate you, and I know it couldn’t have been easy to start.
I want to clarify what is NOT in this book; rape, gore, excessive violence (yes, there is violence, but no more than any other action/thriller), injury or death to animals, pedophilia. You only need to ask someone who’s read the book, I’m confident they will attest to this.
If you asked me, ten years ago, to write a book about human trafficking, I would have declared you insane. Times, and people, change.
The truth is, initially, there was no intention of broaching the subject. I wanted to write about Haiti.
You see, my father, upon whom one of the main characters, John Webster, is loosely based, would volunteer to help build homes, churches, and other projects. I remember well, the photos showing the difficult living conditions. There were also the stories, none of which included human trafficking. There are bits and pieces in the novel that were gleaned from his experiences.
The second main character, Tyler Montgomery, is loosely based on my brother-in-law. The pair actually did make a trip to post-earthquake Haiti, back in October of 2010. I asked if they’d be willing to make a journal of their experiences.
So, here we come to the reasons behind Vanished. Over the years, I’ve been understandably and justifiably questioned as to my choice of topic. In the early days, I always delivered a simple and pat answer about a desire promote awareness. If a problem is ignored, what hope is there to solve it? At the time, I truly believed my answer to be complete. Cut and dried, no further explanation needed.
I often mention that 50% of the proceeds are donated to help victims of human trafficking, which they are, and I hope I don’t sound like I’m touting my own horn. That is not my intent.
Yes, all of this is true. However, and this may sound strange, I’ve only recently come to realize it’s not the whole truth. Please let me explain.
Those who are familiar with me, know that I’ve spent the last twenty plus years working as a Correctional Officer in maximum and medium, security prisons.
The last max. was Kingston Penitentiary which opened in 1835 and closed in 2013. It’s now a tourist attraction. I was one of the last to work there. Shortly afterwards, I was transferred to a medium level prison.
This blog is not evolving into a prison tale. My career was mentioned because I want to help you understand where I’m coming from. I also want to emphasize, that Hollywood, and the news, are entities that thrive on sensationalism, because it sells.
I’ve encountered many traumatic experiences and looked into the midnight eyes of those who looked through, rather than at you. We called them dead eyes.
Fortunately, these are not the majority of inmates. There are some who’ve lead normal lives until something triggered them to act in uncharacteristic ways. What you also had, were many cases of psychological and drug addiction issues. Oh, and yes, plenty of the inhabitants had committed unspeakable acts of evil. I’ll spare you the details.
Of course, it wasn’t all bad. I’ve worked with some great staff and have had my share of laughs. I appreciated the strong bonds that developed between my peers. It’s inevitable when you place your life in someone’s hands, and they put theirs in yours.
I apologize if I’m rambling, but it was necessary to give some background into what made my brain tick, when I wrote this book.
It took a diagnosis of PTSD, months of treatment, support, and deep reflection, to unravel the ‘other’ reasons for the birth of Vanished.
I have come to grasp the fact that it was also a product of a mind that sought to survive and heal. To find a state of homeostasis and make sense of the tragic and unfathomable.
The famous line from the movie, Saving Private Ryan, often comes to mind. Captain Millar and the Sergeant are discussing the personal cost of getting Ryan home. One of them says: “Someday, we might look back on this, and decide that saving Private Ryan was the once decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole Godawful, shitty mess.”
I’m not comparing myself to these brave warriors, but these are my sentiments, exactly.
The brain is extremely powerful, and I believe that it sensed something was wrong all those years ago, though my conscious mind was oblivious. It’s the frog in a boiling pot analogy. I was being cooked alive, and I didn’t even realize.
The characters do represent, superficially, my family members. At a deeper level, they are avatars of my hope. Hope for something better, for this world, myself, and my loved ones.
Spoiler alert, Tyler struggles with mental health issues. The issue was approached from a Stephen King angle because I grew up reading his work.
At the time, I thought it was just a nod to the famous writer, but it’s become clear that my subconscious had put out a 911 call for help. In some ways, I’m Tyler.
Right now, more than ever, the world is hurting. I don’t know your personal stories, but I can sense from many of the comments, that anxiety and a sense of hopelessness rule the day.
Let me tell, there is always hope. I want to assure you that you are not alone. I, along with many others, have been where you are. I’m on the mend, and my family is getting there, too. I cannot reiterate this enough: there is always hope.
Whenever a crisis arises, there are always those who step up and perform selfless acts. I refer to those as helpers, look around, you’ll find them, everywhere. You know what? Look in the mirror and you’ll see one up close.
Don’t believe me? Listen, if you’ve ever retweeted a post, shared a kind word on a blog, shared a blog, hosted, bought a book, read, and reviewed, made someone laugh or provided information, beta read . . . you get the picture, then you are a helper.
Yes, those dedicated people who work in the healthcare industry certainly fall into this category. There are so many others, unsung, and unnoticed. They go about the business of helping.
John and Tyler are much more than characters in a book, and the plot is deeper and broader than human trafficking. There is an ugly side to it, just as there is in life, but there is also a positive message. It’s about becoming a helper, doing whatever is within your capacity to make a positive impact, even if it’s just one person.
This is the true spirit of Vanished.
At the bottom of this post, you will find two links to interviews I conducted with a couple of wonderful helpers, who stood with victims of human trafficking.
On a side note:
I am not downplaying the recent events with law enforcement that have occurred, nor am I saying that problems with racism do not exist, as they do in every environment.
I wish to point out that there are a few rotten apples among the ranks; you’ll find them in every profession; and they should be dealt with accordingly. However, it is very distressing, unfair, and illogical to paint an entire profession based on the actions of a few. Most people involved in law enforcement are decent and ordinary people. They have families and emotions, too.
I was saddened and angered, when I discovered that a certain retailer was selling tee-shirts with the detestable slogan, Blue Lives Murder. Ouch!!
This is not only disrespectful and generally untrue, but downright inflammatory. These are the things that contribute to PTSD and suicides.
I give my readers the benefit of the doubt, as I am sure that most of you realize this. I still feel compelled to say the following: Amidst all the cries for defunding the police, please try to imagine a world where the dead eyed roam free and amok.
Sends shivers up my spine.
More about me:
Born and raised on a farm near Brockville, Ontario, Mark Bierman’s childhood consisted of chores, riding horses, snowmobile races across open fields, fishing trips to a local lake, and many other outdoor adventures. He was also an avid reader of both fiction and non.
Transitioning towards adulthood also meant moving from the farm and into large urban areas that introduced this “country boy” to life in the big cities.
Drawing on his many experiences as a private investigator and later a Correctional Officer, Mark combines his unique experiences and imagination to create his stories and characters.
Well, the sun has sunk its fiery head below the horizon to close a wintry Sunday. The weekend is almost history, but I want to spin the time dial back into this past weekend, for a moment.
i want to talk about an excellent book I had the opportunity to read these last few days. As you’ve “guessed” from the title, the book in question is Victoria’s War, by Catherine A. Hamilton.
Here’s what Amazon says:
In Victoria’s War, Hamilton gives voice to the courageous Polish women who were kidnapped into the real-life Nazi slave labor operation during WWII. Inspired by true stories, this lost chapter of history won’t soon be forgotten.POLAND, 1939: Nineteen-year-old Victoria Darski is eager to move away to college: her bags are packed and her train ticket is in hand. But instead of boarding a train to the University of Warsaw, she finds her world turned upside down when World War II breaks out. Victoria’s father is sent to a raging battlefront, and the Darski women face the cruelty of the invaders alone. After the unthinkable happens, Victoria is ordered to work in a Nazi sewing factory. When she decides to go to a resistance meeting with her best friend, Sylvia, they are captured by human traffickers targeting Polish teenagers. Sylvia is singled out and sent to work in brothels, and Victoria is transported in a cattle car to Berlin, where she is auctioned off as a slave.GERMANY, 1941: Twenty-year-old Etta Tod is at Mercy Hospital, where she’s about to undergo involuntary sterilization because of the Fuhrer’s mandate to eliminate hereditary deafness. Etta, an artist, silently critiques the propaganda poster on the waiting room wall while her mother tries to convince her she should be glad to get rid of her monthlies. Etta is the daughter of the German shopkeepers who buy Victoria at auction in Berlin.The stories of Victoria and Etta intertwine in the bakery’s attic where Victoria is held the same place where Etta has hidden her anti-Nazi paintings. The two women form a quick and enduring bond. But when they’re caught stealing bread from the bakery and smuggling it to a nearby work camp, everything changes.
Now, I have to admit, I like reading just about everything WWII, but this book was so well crafted and researched, that it had my full attention and left a lasting impression.
Catherine does a fantastic job of creating realistic characters and scenarios. I couldn’t help but feel a range of emotions towards both the prisoners, and some of the helpful Germans, alike. The fate of one character, I won’t spoil it, caused a lump in my throat.
This is not a shoot-em-up, we’re the greatest heroes ever, type of story. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of suspense and action, too.
Victoria’s War is exactly what the title suggests. It’s about the tragic experiences of a young and innocent woman who was forced to grow in self-confidence and courage. I believe that Victoria represents so many that went through those horrific trials.
If you’re queasy, rest easy. The descriptions of the prisoner camps and victims is sprinkled throughout, but just enough to give you an impression of the conditions. There are no excessively gory details.
What I came away with is a new respect for the courage and resilience of the brave men and women who fought against tyranny, in the face of extreme danger and nearly insurmountable odds. Many selfless and self-sacrificing acts of kindness are carried out and warm the heart against the chill of the Nazi regime.
So, Monday morning it is, and it’s review day here at Adventures in Writing. This book comes to you courtesy of Thriller author, Victoria Ray.
In my last review I paired the novel with a wine and there were several requests that I do it again. So, after Googles of extensive research, the best pairing I could deduce was a Cabernet Franc. Sound about right?
What Amazon Says:
“Sophia von X” is a 2020 Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal Winner in the Fiction – Religious Theme genre!
It was supposed to be a vacation, the trip to a newly discovered tomb of Jesus…
When Sabina Ferrara was driving to Bingerbruck, Germany, she was hoping to put a painful marriage behind her. Certain unforeseen events turned against her and during a visit to Christ’s tomb, she is meeting Thomas von Essen – a dangerous thief, who is hiding behind the name of a decent family, pretending that he is a famous archaeologist. Against her will, Sabina is dragged into the middle of the stealing of biblical artifacts, killings, and shootings. She ended up attracting the attention of an unknown enemy from Jerusalem, a wicked man called Papa Zen. A powerful mogul who knows too much about Sabina and her mysterious birthmark. She is the one he was looking for so long…
12 lost pages from the Bible Car chasing, guns, and fights Yakuza and Ndrangheta families Palermo, Istanbul, Jerusalem Deaths, tears, broken hearts
Sophia von X is a story of violence and obsession, secrets and tragedy, lies, hate, and love.
Sophia Von X is a fast-paced, hard hitting, down a crazy class six rapids, river ride, that you don’t have to don a life preserver for. There’s plenty of thrills and deadly encounters to keep the adrenaline junkie glued to those pages!
The main protagonist experiences a tremendous lifestyle and personality change, that is sparked by a series of tragic events. She grows in confidence and maturity as she struggles to hold on to her religious beliefs and reconcile them with the evil she encounters. The plot was solid but required a bit more proofreading for spelling, though it was usually the occasional missing ‘s’ at the end of a plural, rather than outright misspelling. The style does occasionally morph into a movie script style of writing, so just be aware of that.
Overall, an entertaining and well-crafted story. I’ll give Sophia Von X, Four Stars!
Meet Victoria Ray:
Victoria Ray NB lives in Sweden with her family and two dogs: Daisy and Sky. She holds a PhD in Classic Russian Literature.
She is working in genres: – surreal humor and comedy, – satire, – Ero Guro (erotica + grotesque), – absurdist science-fiction/fantasy, – thriller.
This is not an easy blog for me to write, but I’m feeling called to expose my secret for the sake of those who may be suffering in silence.
I have been diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that has been linked to my career as a Correctional Officer. Think of me as you will, I am no longer concerned with stigmas and shaming. Believe me, this condition is as real as any physical disorder and just as devastating.
No, I’m not looking for sympathy. I want to reach out to those who are ‘there’ and feel that they have nowhere to turn. I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m yelling the words below, however, these are from personal experience and cannot be stressed enough.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
YOU ARE NOT WEAK.
YOU ARE NOT A BURDEN TO YOUR FAMILY OR ANYONE ELSE.
PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE AND GET HELP.
IF YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE FOOLING THOSE WHO KNOW YOU BEST INTO BELIEVING NOTHING IS WRONG, YOU ARE ONLY FOOLING YOURSELF. THEY NOTICE, TRUST ME.
YOUR LOVED ONES MAY NOT ‘GET YOU’ BUT THEY WANT TO HELP.
YOUR FAMILY MAY NEED TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP AS WELL, BECAUSE PTSD IS TRAUMATIZING TO THOSE WHO LOVE YOU. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT THAT YOU HAVE PTSD, BUT IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO SEEK HELP AND WORK AT RECOVERING.
SUICIDE OR NUMBING WITH DRUGS, ALCOHOL, OR WHATEVER POISONOUS “COPING” MECHANISM YOU MAY CHOOSE, IS NOT THE ANSWER.
My pride got in the way and I waited too long. In fact, if you want to talk, I am available at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise confidentiality and lay no claim to being a professional counsellor, but I will do my best to give support and listen. I want you to know that you are not being intrusive if you email me to talk. I have friends who are dealing with PTSD and it is therapeutic to share with others who ‘get it’.
I’ll spare you the gruesome details of how I came to this point, that’s not what this blog is about. I’m currently off on disability for my condition and receiving professional help. I will say one fact that came as a surprise to me. In spite of all the violence, death, and life-threatening situations that I have endured, the biggest contributor was the feeling of betrayal at the hands of those who were supposed to protect me and my coworkers. They were negligent. There is a geographical and bureaucratic detachment, combined with ignorance of the realities of our job. In addition, there is also, what seems to me, an apparent lack of concern because we are deemed unimportant. I will stop there, because I become angry just thinking about it.
PTSD can be caused by a single traumatic event, or, in my case, cumulative events. It is not just an issue for first responders, anyone can be afflicted.
No one has the right to tell you to, “Suck it up, it’s all in your head.”
That’s complete bulls**t!
I’ve lost six coworkers to suicide over the years and there are more that I did not know personally. I have also seen too many drink themselves to death, all to numb the pain. If that is what “sucking it” up means, count me out!
If you need immediate help because of suicidal thoughts, please contact a help line or the police. You can get better, there is hope and help in the darkness.
Here is a poem I wrote sometime ago that sheds a bit of light on what living with this issue can feel like. I composed this at my worst. I am glad to say that I no longer feel this way most of the time.
What Haunts Me.
Morning light through window shines, but I wish for darkness to remain,
For with the light, come the demands of life, far too much
“Take your meds!” they preach. “They will help to reduce the pain.”
I swallow them down to banish the ghosts, yet never escape their clutch
What happened to the man I used to be? Full of life and no dark stain,
He’s but gone, a phantom from another time, never to return again.
We are all different, and I know we have different values, beliefs and situations, but here are a few things that have helped me on the road to recovery.
My belief in God.
My wonderful and supportive friends and family.
Prescribed and monitored medication.
Leaving the situation (work).
An attitude of gratitude, yes, concentrating and giving thanks for the blessings in my life.
Regular physical exercise.
Volunteering as much as I can in these strange days of COVID.
Good nutrition and sleep (not always easy but it will come with time).
Being outdoors, especially enjoying nature.
Avoiding the news and social media, at times.
Your thoughts control your emotions, so I’ve been taught to practice a technique called CATCH, CHECK, CHANGE: If you have a bad thought capture it, check the rationale behind it, change it to something positive. This one takes some work.
This list is not exhaustive, and you will discover your own path to healing.
Just one more thing before I close. I want you to know, especially the wonderful friends I’ve made at Rave Reviews Book Club , that if I don’t respond to comments in a proper time frame, participate in supportive activities, blog, or retweet, I’m probably having a rough day and cannot focus. It’s nothing personal. It’s taking me forever to write my second book because of this.
I’m on the mend and fighting back, and someday I’ll finish that book. 🙂
Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. You deserve a great life and there is always hope.