Book Review of Gabriel’s Return

Gabriel's Return

This is something new for my blog—A Book Review!

I’ve been fighting flood waters, raging rivers and no internet for the past two weeks. My wife and I also enjoyed a great visit from our oldest son. It was unexpected and it thrilled us both. I also had a chance to read a great book by a friend so please enjoy this review and I hope you’ll give Steve Umstead’s books a try!

I’ve just finished reading Gabriel’s Return by Steve Umstead and found it a great continuation of the Evan Gabriel series. Steve Umstead’s first book, Gabriel’s Redemption, showed me the skill and great storytelling abilities of the author. Gabriel’s Return is no exception.

The story of Evan Gabriel’s return to military action starts a bit slow but the author paints a wonderful descriptive picture of life on Mars and builds to a mission made for Gabriel and his team.

Political elements on Earth plot and put into action steps to gain control and power on free governing planets. Mars is one but the planet Eden is the first step in these power brokers plan.

Eden at first seems to be the perfect world for its inhabitance but a closer look shows it to be a dangerous place to live. Plants and animals there find humans to be just another step in the food chain.

Students from Mars are on Eden to study these creatures but become hostages and used in an attempt to take control of Mars.

Evan Gabriel and his team are called in to put a stop to this power play and are sent to Eden to recover the hostages and bring the planet back under control.

Evan was the only survivor on a previous mission to Eden and the loss of the men and women of his old team still haunts him as he tries to take control of the situation.

Gabriel’s Return is a great Sci-Fi to read and I highly recommend it.

Steve Umstead is a master of showing the reader a world that we might see in the future. You won’t regret reading this series of books. I can’t wait for the conclusion of the Evan Gabriel series, Gabriel’s Revenge.

I have the privilege to know Steve Umstead from his work as a writer and as a friend on the social media. His works are all well written and well edited. I invite you to get to know Steve and his works! Look for Steve on Twitter @SteveUmstead

<p><strong><em>Gabriel’s Return</em></strong> is available as an ebook for <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/Gabriels-Return-Gabriel-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B005HEXAP6” target=”_blank”><strong>Kindle</strong></a> and <a href=”http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/gabriels-return-steve-umstead/1104883916” target=”_blank”><strong>Nook</strong></a>, and is also available on <a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12382916-gabriel-s-return” target=”_blank”><strong>Goodreads</strong></a>.</p>
<p>More information about Steve can be found on his blog here: <a href=”http://www.SteveUmstead.com

http://www.steveumstead.com”><strong>www.SteveUmstead.com</strong></a></p&gt;

The Dragons of Thailand

Dragon of ThailandDragon of Thailand

                                                                                                    Photos by Dannie

I worry that some of what I write about while living in Thailand will give you pause to visit. I do love it here and my wee tales are taken over seven years of living and many visits before. Keep in mind that I am a Southern country boy and roam the fields and forest. I see things most westerners are smart enough not to look for.

If you come here you will not be disappointed in the beauty, magic, food and people of the Land of Smiles.

I chuckle at the title of this post. I was going to name it, Beast of Thailand, but that brings to mind animals –mammals roaming the land. You will see few wild mammals unless you visit the zoo or natural reserves.

Normal life, living in the country, is made up of birds, ants, lizards, snakes and of course dogs and cats. The variety is endless; not all good but all amazing.

We have a small house in Pathum Thani—a suburb of Bangkok and the area is known to have some large water monitor lizards- the likes you thought only lived on the island of Komodo. The good news is they are very shy. The bad news is they are big and look prehistoric.

I was riding my motorcycle along the canals that border the rice fields near my house and two lizards came out onto the road. Of course I stopped and consider turning around but I had never seen anything so big- in the lizard department. At first I thought they might have been crocs (crocodiles) but from 20 feet away I could see they weren’t. Both were longer than the road was wide—at least 9 feet- and they only gave me a glance.  They simply crossed the road and into another canal. Afterwards, I wished I had brought my camera. At the time I was just relieved they took no real notice of me.

Since that encounter I have seen a number of them, but only in the 5 foot range. All either running away or just not noticing. I have never heard of anyone being hurt by these large beast.

The water monitor has two names is Thai—neither make any sense to me. One is the proper name which in translation means, body of money- body of gold. The other is a very vulgar term but when speaking of the lizards it is okay to say. I won’t tell you what it is—it could get you in real trouble if used at the wrong time.

One other quick story about these lizards. I was walking the dogs through the brush and bushes along a narrow cattle trail. We were going to walk the dikes of a nearby rice patty. The dogs were ranging ahead when I heard them bark and then I heard what sounded like a horse or at least something heavy was running and coming my way, fast. I had only my trusty bamboo walking stick and nowhere to run so I prepared to meet whatever was coming down the narrow path.

A large seven foot monitor lizard burst around the corner heading straight at me—woo hoo, says I. Actually those weren’t the exact words that came out of my mouth.

At about ten feet away the lizard saw me and veered off the path—thank goodness. No telling what I would have done to the poor beast if I fell on him in a dead faint. They are quite shy you know.

I will continue my world of Beast of Thailand on another post. Wait until I tell you about the snakes and ants I’ve encountered. I do hope you enjoy these true tales. The life here does give plenty of fodder for writing.

The photos were taken from my upstairs balcony. That monitor lizard was only 4 or five feet long and small of body.

Wild Elephants and the Camera Flash

Road through Khow Yai

                                                                                                                           Photo by Kawpodmd

 

 

Wild Elephants and the Camera Flash

I sometime take the long way—time-wise- to get back to our little farm or return to Bangkok. We travel over the mountains in Khow Yai National Park. The park has 60 kilometers of a winding mountain two lane road that goes from one side of the mountain range to the other side. The view is a tropical jungle of giant smooth barked trees with orchids growing high in their branches, sloping mountains and raging streams. There’s also a stretch that runs along the ridge tops with open glades where any kind of jungle animals can be seen. Deer no bigger than a dog, Red Stags, Great Hornbill’s standing 2 feet tall, more monkeys than anyone wants to see and the mighty elephants.

Elephants are Julee’s and my favorite. It’s hard for me to imagine something so big living free in Thailand. It only happens in the national parks.

We usually travel across the mountains near sunset because that’s when the elephants come out of the jungle to walk the road to move to a new spot. They’re really smart using the roadway—so much easier than crashing through the jungle. But it’s not often that we get to see them.

We were traveling down the mountain near a cascading river and it was almost completely dark. I saw something big ahead and slowed. It was a massive elephant and she was leading the way to a new feeding ground. I stopped and another car behind stopped 50 yards back and we turned our headlights off but left the parking lights on.

My wife loves elephants but is also terrified of them. By now you probably know I’m too dumb to be afraid.

Out of the dark marched a line of giant pachyderms in a slow easy pace. They were only two feet from the truck as they passed by. To my great delight there were two babies in the middle of the line and their trunks reached out inquisitively to sample everything around. The others kept close watch but allowed them to bounce and play as they passed by.

I grabbed my camera and held it up until my beautiful wife threatened me with her knife-like finger. I started to say something, but that too was taboo. So I settled back to enjoy the spectacle without recording it. I watched a giant’s trunk reach out to examine the back of our truck and that’s when I remembered we had a basket of mangoes fresh picked from out farm. The elephant merely passed on by. I didn’t mention the mango part until we were home. Thank goodness.

To be that close- I had rolled down the window and we could hear them breathe, smell them and hear the squeaks from the babies.  To be that close was something akin to a perfect moment for Julee and me. To her it was more than perfect even in her fear. Elephants have a special place in the heart of every Thai. We see trained elephants often but to see them free is very special.

I found out later from a ranger that the camera trick was—in his words—stupid! A number of cars are damaged every year by elephants merely brushing up against them but with babies—Don’t do that! Lesson learned until my next opportunity. We counted eighteen elephants in the herd and the ranger said that was the largest he had heard of. What a privilege to view them.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this little true story. If you like my writing you should try my fictions. You will enjoy them—I’m sure!