giovedì 8 febbraio 2018

Book Tour: Twenty-One Steps of Courage by Sarah Bates

In 2006, with wars in the Middle East raging, Rod Strong enlists in the Army to seek the goal his father did not achieve when he tragically died in the Gulf War. His objective: The Old Guard regiment, the elite Soldiers who stand as Sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington Cemetery. He overcomes the setbacks that litter his path until an unexpected firefight in Afghanistan changes his life forever.

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Guest Review by Betty G.
Rod Strong has big dreams. He wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and achieve something his father was unable to do, join the Old Guard regiment. The elite regiment that stands guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. His father dies in the Gulf War, before he was able to achieve the goal. Rod was just a child when his father dies but remembers the stories his father told him about his service and goals.

When Rod turns 18 he goes to the enlistment office and joins the army, much to his mother’s, Donna, dismay. Her other son, Mike is already in the army, fighting in Afghanistan. Rod’s girlfriend, Beth, it a little more supportive but does worry about Rod and what it may do to their relationship.

Rod has many goals to accomplish in the army. He wants to undergo and graduate from all of the same training his father did before he goes for his biggest goal. He will face great obstacles, some he because unsure he will be able to overcome.

It was hard to tell if this book was for me just from reading the description but I am so glad I read it! It is fast-paced and hooked me from page one. I even enjoyed the acknowledgments and preface because I learned about the research that went into writing this book. I was so intrigued that I read more about it on the internet. Sarah Bates clearly poured her heart and soul into this book and it paid off.

This book is military fiction but so much more. It is about a boy with big dreams and how he sets out to accomplish them one hurdle at a time. It is a great story that I did not want to end. I wish there was a sequel! I would love to know what happens later! This book is a must read for military fiction lovers and literary fiction lovers! I give it 5 stars!

When his platoon began endurance training he watched Jones and Wilson falter time and time again. It was never so obvious as the day the platoon faced the obstacles on the 900-meter course that meant nonstop physical movement in complete battle gear. Ninety-degree temperatures and the humidity from recent rains slicked their faces and drew mosquitoes from the ponds and marshes to buzz around their ears.

As Garcia took off, Rod stood fourth in line, his boots sucking at the clay. Blisters had formed on his heels and tops of his toes and he clamped down on his jaw to push the irritating pain away.

Sergeant Badger and the drill sergeants for other platoons in line ran beside the soldiers, keeping up a volley of encouragement.

You sons of bitches better hurry up there, the God-damned enemy can't wait to shoot your ass off! Badger shouted, his face angry and red.

Don't look at him, don't! Rod's brain warned. He shuffled his feet in place, watching for a gap, counting out the steps he needed to take to stay focused. Jones and Wilson fell in line behind him.

Careful Hotrod, you might break something, Jones said softly.

Wilson sniggered loudly, Like your delicate ankle, heh, heh!

Wouldn't want anything to happen to our fancy little Hotrod, now would we? Jones added, letting the remark slide into a hoarse laugh.

Rod glanced over his shoulder, then turned back quickly as Sergeant Badger came alongside.

Go! Badger yelled, hitting his shoulder.

Rod stumbled forward, vaulted over the three-foot wall, wincing when the rough surface of its cement blocks cut into his hands. He hunched down to race through the lane guide then dropped to his belly onto the rope ladder suspended over the ground. He took the rungs two at a time. With each move through the wet course his feet churned the red clay mud onto his ACUs, his face, and hands. When he reached the low wire crawl, he spotted Garcia on his stomach ahead of him thrashing helplessly. The poncho that covered his ruck had snagged on a barb.

Garcia! Hold on man, I'm coming, Rod yelled, then flipped onto his back and began to crawl, pushing the low wire up with his M-16 and using his elbows and feet to propel him forward. 

The effort left long wet tracks in the mud. Overhead, M-60 machine guns blasted inches from his head, some sounding closer than blanks should be.

Demolition charges in nearby pits exploded at intervals and with each explosion he saw Garcia flinch and duck his head. By the time he reached him, his battle buddy's eyes were wide and each time he moved to free himself, he sunk deeper into the mud. The deafening noise obliterated the screaming voices of the drill sergeants.

Stop! Rod yelled, slapping the top of Garcia's helmet to get his attention.

He reached up to pull the fabric of the man's poncho off the barbed wire freeing him and the sharp point of the barb bite into his hand.

Now, go! Rod shouted, turning him over and pushing hard against Garcia's butt.

Garcia looked back. Thanks, man, he mouthed.

By the time he reached the hurdles, gasping for breath under the weight of his gear, Garcia started to falter. Private Eric Garcia's weight had ballooned in the preceding weeks as his ravenous appetite kept apace with his exercise. While the rest of the guys like Rod lost weight by pushing up their PT scores through exercising, Garcia kept gaining. When Rod saw his friend slow down and hesitate, he sprinted forward and boosted him up, losing his footing and taking the full weight of Garcia's lunge as his boot bore down onto his shoulder.

Oh, shit, Garcia puffed, the exertion straining his voice as he plummeted over the last hurdle with a thud and fell into the final trench sending up a flume of murky water over his head.

Rod helped him struggle to his feet, threw his own body over the window wall and finally, its 40-inch barricade beyond. By the time Garcia hit the five-foot jump, Rod stopped with his hands on his knees gulping for air. Before he cleared the course he felt the wet sticky sensation of raw skin in his boots.

When the platoon finished and collapsed on the ground, muddy and groaning, Sgt. Badger's voice barked orders over their heads.

What the fuck do you think you're doing? Get up! Badger shouted, leaning down to peer into Wilson's face.

When the man looked up, Badger yanked him to his feet by his harness, his mouth close to Wilson's ear. I said GET UP! And that goes for all you assholes, he said, turning to face the rest of the platoon.

At once the men heaved themselves off the ground, staggering to their feet.

Squad leaders, form up your men, Badger ordered, then watched each man with interest as the platoon slowly lined up in marching formation.

A hard steady rain began to fall, drenching the line of men dragging themselves back along Moye Road. Ahead of Rod, Wilson and Jones lurched under the weight of their sodden rucks. Jones limped along handing off his clips of canteens to Wilson who awkwardly tried to hook them onto his harness.

Keep your fucking hands to yourself, Sgt. Badger yelled coming along side Wilson when he saw him humping part of Jones' gear. You fucking pervert.

Wilson shook his head dismally then handed the gear back to Jones who wrenched it from his grasp.

Candy-ass, Garcia whispered over his shoulder to Rod, nodding at Jones.

Rod poked his friend in the back with the butt of his rifle.

Shut up, Garcia. Leave 'em alone, he said, fatigue slowing his words. Don't get in that mess again.

Water poured off the lip of his helmet and as the energy of the day drained from his body, he marched, legs heavy, slowly counting each step, placing one foot in front of the other, feeling the weight of the dripping gear on his hips, the eight pound M-16 and ammo belt stuffed with magazines straining his arms, the sleeping bag strapped to his shoulders, the ruck with his MREs and canteens of water thumping against his back and the constant buzz of mosquitoes swarming his face. A dark thought bubbled up. Is this worth it? Rod shook off the question and kept walking.

Award winning author, Sarah Bates’ fiction has appeared in the Greenwich Village Literary Review, the San Diego North County Times (now the Union-Tribune) and the literary magazine Bravura.

She is the author of The Lost Diaries of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, published in 2016, and co-author of the 2005 short story collection, Out of Our Minds, Wild Stories by Wild Women. Bates was an English Department writing tutor at Palomar College in California for ten years. She privately tutors academic and creative writing students and is writing a new novel.

She is a Military Category Finalist for Twenty-One Steps of Courage, Next Generation Indie Book Awards, (2013) and 2nd Place Finalist, for The Lost Diaries of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Unpublished Novel-Category, San Diego Book Awards (2015). It has since been published.

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