Gold of the Jaguar: Now Available!

“Through jungles, across the ocean, and in an ancient city forgotten by time, Ethan’s loyalty to family and his code of honor will be pushed to the limit, setting him on a collision course with an old accomplice.

Are you ready for another globe-trotting adventure with Ethan Chase? Yes, he’s back in Gold of the Jaguar! Now available to download wherever you get your ebooks, and with paperbacks coming soon! The Amazon link is here, or you can go to the book’s official page on Evolved Publishing and right here and find links to other book sites.

This book was a bit of a challenge to write, even more than its predecessors, but it was also a delight to once again be at Ethan’s side, dodging bullets and dashing through jungles, all while on the trail of a legendary treasure lost to time. All in all I enjoyed writing this one and I hope you enjoy reading it.

And if you do enjoy reading it, please leave a rating on Amazon! Apart from actually buying an author’s work, giving it a star-rating on Amazon (or whichever site you get it from) is the most helpful thing you can do for an author.


Book Review: ‘The Saxon Stories’ by Bernard Cornwell

I finally did it. I read all thirteen books in The Saxon Stories, and I’m ready to say my final word about the story as a whole.

First off for those who don’t know, The Saxon Stories is a work of historical fiction, telling the epic tale of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (allegedly the distant ancestor of the author). His story spans the reigns of King Alfred the Great of Wessex, King Edward the Elder, and King Athelstan, the first true King of the English.

As a boy, Uhtred’s family is slain in battle by Danish invaders. His uncle claims lordship of the castle of Bebbanburg despite it legally falling to Uhtred, and then he is kidnapped by a Danish warlord and raised like his son. Throughout his life, Uhtred’s singular goal stays the same: reclaim what is his and kill the usurper, his uncle.

Cornwell is an incredible author. He writes with authenticity and emotion, bringing characters to life. You can almost hear the clashing of swords and the screams of dying men, see the flapping banners of kings and chieftains, in his battle scenes. The tension is palpable in scenes in which the pagan Uhtred stands before a Christian king or lord, his fate laying in their hands as they are told by some to exile or execute him for his sins. All in all I really enjoyed his books.

My only real complaint comes from the length of the series. Thirteen books is a lot to read, and eventually minor characters and places start to blend together. In the last couple of books, some characters die whose names I remember, but I can’t exactly remember their relationship to Uhtred so the emotional punch falls flatter than it might. As Uhtred meets younger warriors who tell him how they fought beside him at this or that battle, I struggle to remember which battle it was.

***Spoiler alert in the next paragraph***

And my biggest complaint has to be how Uhtred manages to recapture Bebbanburg before the series actually ends, at the end of book ten. As a result, the last three books didn’t have anywhere near the tension of the first ten because, well, the overarching storyline was already complete. Uhtred was lord of Bebbanburg again! He’d finally done it! Throughout the first ten books, as it seemed that Uhtred was about to die, I’d think, Oh no, and he never got to reclaim his lands! After that, as death approached Uhtred, I met it with more of a shrug. Meh, at least he got to rule Bebbanburg again.

I’m just not a fan of these extended stories, series that are ten, thirteen, fifteen books long. I just don’t think any story needs to be that long. I can think of four or five of these books that could have been cut and you’d still have an epic tale.

But as I said above, this was overall an excellent work of historical fiction that I enjoyed tremendously. I highly recommend it to fans of the genre. For others, maybe give Book 1 a try. I will say the writing style is told in first person from the point of view of a 9th century Saxon, and the writing can feel a bit… blunt at times. It’s kind of hard to describe, but it’s noticeably different from other books. At least, I felt it was.

There’s also the Netflix series available to watch, which is a fine show but I much prefer the books.

Movie Review: ‘M3GAN’

One thing you may not know about me: I’m a bit of a horror movie connoisseur. I’ve enjoyed them my entire adult life and have watched many a terrible, laughable one just to find one diamond in the rough.

So when M3GAN became available on Peacock, I had to give it a try.

M3GAN is about a girl whose parents are killed in a car accident, so she’s sent to live with her aunt, someone who is absolutely not ready to be a mother. She’s something of a genius inventor and has just created a life-sized, autonomous doll that is designed to be a child’s best friend. Before putting the doll, M3GAN, out to market, she decides to do a beta test on it with her niece.

You can probably guess how the movie progresses: M3GAN, given the ability to ‘learn’, learns too much and decides she’s in charge and kills quite a few people before the end.

I did wonder why the ‘genius inventor’ thought it necessary to give a child’s toy the strength of at least one power lifter, or why a simple ‘do no harm’ command wasn’t included in the doll’s code. Seems like a pretty glaring flaw in the design to me, but I guess they needed it to make the movie go.

At times, it felt like watching a 21st century Chucky movie, only it was slightly less campy and better acted. The acting in M3GAN is actually really well done and probably what made the film bearable. The was swearing, of course, and violence but none that was over the top. You see a guy get stabbed, a boy get his ear pulled off (with some pretty bad CGI), but nothing too awful.

I ended up enjoying it, but folks who don’t regularly endure some of the worst of its genre may not have the same appreciation. If you already have a Peacock streaming subscription, I’d say it’s worth a view!

New Job!

Some personal news today, but this week I started a new job at work! It’s a step forward in my career path and also something totally different from what I was doing before. For the next three weeks I’ll be in training, learning how to handle the position and its responsibilities. Which of course means I’m going to be feeling pretty dumb until I start to master the role.

I do apologize for the extended hiatus from blogging, it’s been a couple of weeks. There’s been quite a bit going on in the Martuneac household, from the new job to kids now playing in sports leagues. We’re also getting new flooring installed in half the house, so things have been a little hectic!

Gold of the Jaguar, the third Ethan Chase book, is still in edits. When it gets closer to completion I’ll be able to give y’all a tentative date on when you can expect to see it available. Just know that it is coming and I’m really excited for the completed version!

I also haven’t done any book reviews because I’m powering through the rest of Bernard Cornwall’s The Saxon Stories series. I have three or four more books to go and once I’m finished I’ll review the entire series as a whole. I’m aware that there’s also a feature film based on the books coming to Netflix soon, one that will tie up all the loose ends from the conclusion of the Last Kingdom series, and I’ll probably review that one as well.

Lastly, in an update on vanity, Mandate of Heaven is up to four reviews on Amazon, and all are for five stars! If you’ve read that one or Solomon’s Fortune, please consider giving it a rating on Amazon. My fellow authors and reviewers know this, but it truly is so helpful to get reviews and ratings there, even a negative one.

That’s about all I have for you today. Again, I apologize for not blogging much recently but I have tried to keep up with all of your blogs in the meantime! As always, a big ‘thank you’ to all of you reading this!

Book Review: “Six Frigates” by Ian W. Toll

Living in the year 2023 AD, it’s hard to believe that, once upon a time, the American military was the laughingstock of the world. There was a time when the United States couldn’t even defend their own coastline, let alone project military power to another region of the world.

It was the turn of the 19th century. The 1700’s were coming to a close and a new nation entered the 1800’s with nothing but hope for the future. The mighty Atlantic Ocean kept America safe from Napoleon’s bloodthirsty wars of expansion, wars that in turn put goods from the neutral Americans in high demand. Money from its lucrative trade deals flowed into the infant nation and the good times rolled.

But war with Europe was on the horizon, and Moroccan pirates patrolled the Mediterranean, plundering American ships without fear of reprisal. Though many Americans objected, a certain few statesmen realized a basic truth: to survive, the United States needed a Navy.

Six Frigates is a fantastic historic account of the beginnings of the United States Navy, a force that began with six unique frigates, one of which is still in service today. These frigates were bigger than their European equivalents, but faster and more maneuverable, too. They carried more cannons and were made with some of the strongest wood in the world. This wood came from the Southern Live Oak, a species of tree that grows only in the Deep South of America and contributed to one of the six frigates, the USS Constitution earning the nickname ‘Old Ironsides’.

As a matter of fact, the United States Navy to this day maintains its own forest of these trees so as to be able to continuously repair the USS Constitution with its original wood.

The other five of the original frigates were named the Chesapeake, President, United States, Congress, and Constellation. These names were chosen off a list of ten names presented to then-president George Washington. However, his interest in a Navy was minimal, so his method of selecting the names was picking the first six on the list.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book and its historical account of the origins of the United States Navy. The author pumped it full of good information and also included some sardonic humor here and there, such as the below passage:

As Rodgers came up over the side to take possession of the captured ship, he was privately thrilled by the sight of the carnage the enemy had suffered. “Although I would not have you think me bloody minded,” the bloody-minded lieutenant wrote Stoddert, “yet I must confess the most gratifying sight my eyes ever held.”

I highly recommend this one to those of you with an interest in US history, and it’s available for free on the Internet Archive!