Thursday, December 11, 2014

Michael J. Bowler - Once Upon a Time in America - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

With Lance leading the way, the Knights of the Round Table have set out to convince the American people that amending the Constitution to protect children is right and just and long overdue. As the team travels from state to state, they are met with acceptance, indifference, and even hostility. But Lance’s popularity and mystique as The Boy Who Came Back, coupled with his innate charm, gradually sway more and more of the populace, not to mention state legislators, to their cause.

The journey becomes a rite of passage that propels the young people into adulthood, and solidifies Lance’s status as an iconic and influential figure.

But he’s uneasy. He knows Arthur is hiding something from him, something that will bring him great sadness. After The Excalibur Incident in Las Vegas, Lance becomes more and more certain that the future is one he won’t like, despite his stunning success at winning over some of the most intractable states.

Then comes the attack, sudden and brutal.

Now the Round Table is in disarray, and Lance must confront a cold-blooded killer who’s luring him into an obvious trap. But if he refuses the challenge, more loved ones will die, and everything he’s fought for will die with them. Surrounded by the diverse young knights who have become his family, Lance sets out to battle his enemy with the knowledge deep in his heart that only one of them will survive. Is this the end of the Round Table?

The Knight Cycle concludes…

My Review

The knights of the Round Table hop aboard a bus and travel across the country in Michael J. Bowler's rip-roaring conclusion to his CHILDREN OF THE KNIGHT series. In ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, they are on a quest to get the Children's Bill of Rights through Congress, but to do that, they're gonna need the backing of three-fourths of the House and Senate. So they hit state capital after state capital from sea to shining sea, and even though the rotundas all start to look the same, the peaceful beauty of nature is what really blows these city boys away.

They leave the smog of L.A. far behind and go where the air is blue and clean during the day and filled with a canopy of stars at night. They're not used to the sound of silence, coming from the hustle and bustle of urban life, but they quickly adjust to the tranquility that surrounds them. After gazing at the Grand Canyon, Ricky teases Lance, "I finally found something more beautiful than you."

But not all of their stops are majestic and awe-inspiring. When they visit the reservations of the Native Knights, Kai and Dakota, they're shocked that the deplorable living conditions are even worse than back home in South Central. These ghetto hardened warriors can't believe the intense poverty that Kai and Dakota's people have to endure. On Dakota's reservation alone, sixty-one percent of children live below poverty level and the life expectancy for men is forty-eight.

A really touching moment occurs here when Dakota goes home to visit his handicapped brother who he's responsible for injuring and confining to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. At the time, Dakota was drunk and didn't know what he was doing, and he's been living with the guilt ever since. His mother basically disowned him after it happened, and it's his first time back after he ran away and joined Arthur's band of knights. His brother is a picture of his forgiveness, but his mom is quick to hold a grudge. For me, this scene was a standout for the layers of emotion that rang true.

But it's not all doom and gloom in the Badlands, as the Native Knights journey via horseback to camp out amid the amazing natural rock formations. It's not until they visit Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota that they're again reminded of the white man's oppressive influence on their lives. But Ricky cuts through the tension, joking to Lance, "What say we petition Congress to put your face up there? At least then one of them would be beautiful."

When the group arrives in Las Vegas, Lance's heart is heavy because it proves to be everything he suspected—"loud, crowded, busy, glitzy, glamorous, and sleazy—everything he hated." Lance has had an aversion to crowds from a young age, believing that everyone who looks at him can see his deepest, darkest secrets, triggering his inner sense of worthlessness. His fame has only increased his aversion to crowds and "big places." So it's not surprising when a feeling of dread overwhelms him when he steps inside the Excalibur Hotel and Casino. Something happens here that changes the course of the entire series. A dramatic event throws their trip into peril, but it's not until the final chapter of the book that the full weight of what happens here is revealed.

Because it turns out that King Arthur's final destination isn't a place found on any map, it's a place where his knights may not be able to follow.


Once Upon a Time in America can be purchased at:
Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Prices/Formats: $4.99 ebook, $14.95 paperback
Pages: 328
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Release: November 12, 2014
Publisher: self-published
ISBN: 9780990871101
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

About the Author

Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author of seven novels––A Boy and His Dragon, A Matter of Time (Silver Medalist from Reader’s Favorite), and The Knight Cycle, comprised of five books: Children of the Knight (Gold Award Winner in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards), Running Through A Dark Place, There Is No Fear, And The Children Shall Lead, and Once Upon A Time In America.

His horror screenplay, “Healer,” was a Semi-Finalist, and his urban fantasy script, “Like A Hero,” was a Finalist in the Shriekfest Film Festival and Screenplay Competition.

He grew up in San Rafael, California, and majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University. He went on to earn a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and another master's in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.

He partnered with two friends as producer, writer, and/or director on several ultra-low-budget horror films, including “Fatal Images,” “Club Dead,” and “Things II,” the reviews of which are much more fun than the actual movies.

He taught high school in Hawthorne, California for twenty-five years, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities, in subjects ranging from English and Strength Training to Algebra, Biology, and Yearbook.

He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to eight different boys with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a thirty-year volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles. He is a passionate advocate for the fair treatment of children and teens in California, something that is sorely lacking in this state.

He has been honored as Probation Volunteer of the Year, YMCA Volunteer of the Year, California Big Brother of the Year, and 2000 National Big Brother of the Year. The “National” honor allowed he and three of his Little Brothers to visit the White House and meet the president in the Oval Office.

He is currently at work on a horror/suspense novel based on his screenplay, “Healer.”

Links to connect with Michael:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

About the Giveaway

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  1. I'm with you. That scene with Dakota and his mom and his brother is riveting. Thanks for the review! :)