Hello, I’d like to thank Divine Magazine for allowing me here to promote my new book, Finding his Feet. I’m Sandra Bard and I’m going to write a little about growing up in the midst of a civil war.
Once you’ve heard a bomb blast? You never forget it. It starts with one large boom but then there are echoes, or smaller reverberations that go on and on. Of course, if you’re in a building close by (but not too close), you feel everything rattle, the window panes, the doors, the walls themselves. Windows usually break, the glass shatters and…afterwards, at least for me, it was the three second silence before everything just snaps into place. For the next ten minutes, everyone wonders what blew up, while listening for the around of sirens and try to call loved ones if they are out. But others, it’s life as usual.
I was very, very lucky. I grew up in a country where there was a civil war but I did not grow up in the war zone. I lived in the middle of the country, away from everything (relatively) and had a normal life… or so I thought.
It wasn’t until I went aboard the spoke with some of my friends that I realized how different normal was for them. I had accepted a lot of things as how it should be, when other people did not have such problems. I accepted that school would be closed from time to time when there were bomb threats, I accepted that we would have power cuts and would have to cook using paraffin stoves and that we could not go out at night past a certain time. I thought it was pretty commonplace to get on a bus and check under the seat for a bomb.
I realize now that while my country has finally gotten over it (to some extent, you never really recover from it completely), some places in the world where people still have to live like that. And that is wrong. But unless you knew anything different, it is very difficult to compare your life to others.
In Finding his Feet, my main character Kaden is a solider who’s been at it for a long, long time. He was recruited into the army when he was teenager and he grew up in a country where there was a war. He doesn’t know any other life. To imagine for a life beyond that would mean hope and he lives in a world where there’s very little of it.
Shun, on the other hand is also a product of the war but he is a person who tries to act instead of react. He is the optimistic, peace loving odd ball who wants to try and change everything. It’s not to say that Shun hasn’t suffered or is oblivious to the world he lives in, but he tries hard not to let it affect him.
The relationship between the two is not just about opposites attracting, it is also about breaking the mould. Kaden needs to realize that there is more to life than what he is and he needs to find out how he fits into it. Finding his Feet is about fitting in, re-discovering life and moving on after tragedy and finding new friends… and family.
Kaden Pace, a soldier injured while on a mission, hides the extent of his damage by wearing his high-tech armor, desperate to prove his worth to his administrators and make himself useful in order to hold on to his independence. But during a simple assignment to escort two cadets across the country to retrieve the armor of a dead warrior, things start to fall apart.
They meet Shun, a young man with a secret, who steals the armor they were supposed to recover. Chasing Shun brings them to an abandoned beach town, where they encounter even more trouble. Stranded in the deserted city, Kaden finds himself relying more and more on Shun, the person he’d come to capture, while fighting off an invasion from the neighboring country.
But even when he returns to his camp, Kaden’s problems are not over. Now he has to find a way to save Shun, whom he’s growing to care for, and keep his team alive as they make one last-ditch attempt to get back the armor Shun stole. Armor that is now in enemy hands, on an island in the middle of the sea, at ground zero where it all began.
Cover artist: Stef Masciandaro.
Release date : July 18th
All Romance E-books: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-findinghisfeet-2061351-145.html
He was surprised by how quickly Shun had integrated himself into their group. He didn’t seem to be in awe of them but had tried hard to talk to them and fit into their midst. Most people fell into three groups: those who worshiped the armored warriors from afar, those who were afraid of them, and the third group, who regarded them as celebrities, real-life superheroes who saved the day and had extra abilities, whom they stalked as much as possible given the military restrictions. They were said to have fan bases, where people fantasized about having sex with armored warriors, not very selective of who it was. Kaden didn’t think most people even realized there were two types of armor in operation.
He toyed with the idea of asking Shun if he was willing to have a quick grope in the bathroom—then remembered his last experience in a train washroom, which hadn’t gone too well. Still, if Shun was amenable to a hook-up, there were ways and places. If Shun was even interested in him, or men in general, of course—
Wayland asked, “What do you think—?”
The entire carriage jerked. The brakes screeched loudly, and Kaden balanced himself, flinging out his free arm so Shun wouldn’t go flying off to the other side.
“What was that?” Wayland asked, jumping to her feet.
Kaden continued to sit as Shun stirred on his shoulder. He didn’t remove his arm as Shun sat up groggily and looked around. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sleep on you.”
“It’s fine,” Kaden said shortly as the train gave another lurch and came to a complete stop.
“Which station are we at?” Shun sat up straighter and reached for his bag. “How long was I sleeping?”
“Not long, and we haven’t reached a station yet. Must be something in the middle of the track—” Kaden tried to remember if they were near anything that required the train to stop. “Construction, repairs, or perhaps some military convoy.”
There were always impromptu railway repairs, and the military was prone to secret maneuvers that people on unimportant missions—people such as them—never heard of. He sometimes wondered if the Harians were equally disorganized when it came to their war effort.
Shun didn’t seem convinced. “I hope so,” he said, looking around with a worried expression. “There’s been stories.”
“Of what?” Wayland demanded hurriedly. Her eyes were wide with excitement, and Kaden could see her impatience for something to happen.
“Of train raiders,” Shun told them. “You must have seen it on the news.”
Review by Elaine White
Book – Finding His Feet
Author – Sandra Bard
Star rating – ★★★☆☆
No. of Pages – 306
Cover – Nice.
POV – 3rd person, 1 character POV
Would I read it again – Probably Not
Genre – LGBT, Science-Fiction, MM, Romance, Alternative Future, Military, Disability
*WARNING: There will be spoilers ahead. It’s impossible not to include them.*
*Trigger Warnings: child by rape, disability, ableism amputation, military situations, suicidal thoughts, and attempts.*
I was of two minds about this book. One part of me said to give it 2 stars, for the prevalence of certain aspects, but another said that was too harsh and I should give it a 4, thanks to other aspects. I decided to go with my gut and settle in the middle, with a 3. This is neither good nor bad, but in that limbo place in between. Deciding how to explain the why is the tough part.
Hmm, let’s first talk about that title, shall we? I get that it’s a play on words, but it just feels really insensitive, as do quite a few other things in the story. Namely, being a disabled person in a wheelchair myself, with limited mobility, I thought I would really connect with Kaden. And, at times, I did. But I also found it quite insulting the way he acted.
So – warning – I’m going to admit that I know that often what the author thinks and what a character says aren’t the same thing. I’m going to choose to believe that’s the case here and the flagrant Ableism and trans-phobia displayed by the main character, Kaden, is all his own. Because, yes, those are real issues.
But, let’s go back to the beginning. In an unexpected Author’s Note (unlabelled, surprisingly but following the Dedication, which is also unlabelled as such) the author tells us of their travels and a life growing up in a warzone. Now, they don’t mention having a disability – due to the war zone or any other reason – so I’m going to take a guess that they don’t have one. I say that because they write about Kaden’s disability with the same mentality that I’ve seen on TV shows and other books, where writers try to explain the thought process and the physical reality of a disability they haven’t experienced. Their first reaction is that the person should be angry, furious, not want to live, thinks their life is over and worse.
All those things apply here, except that, as someone who has a disability, I’ll say from personal experience that it’s not true. There are plenty of military personnel, as well as civilians, who end up disabled or impaired in some way, only to suck it up and get on with life, without ever once feeling suicidal. Yes, there are those who do consider suicide, feel that their life is over and can’t accept it, but they’re actually fewer than you’d think.
For once, I would have liked to see this attitude displayed, by a competent, still physically able soldier (thanks to his suit). However, Kaden is aggressive, dismissive and rude to anyone who attempts to help him with his disability or offer advice about it. He ignores all the medical help and advice, choosing to wallow in self-pity and believe that he can’t live without his armor, which makes him feel “normal” again. See that? Yep, that’s what I meant earlier when I said it was insulting.
Whether the author intended it or not, the degree of total ignorance that Kaden displays towards his own disability is staggering. He is rude, obnoxious and ableist towards his own disability. He sees himself as somehow less than and useless to the world and his friends, because of his disability, instead of gritting his teeth, facing reality and moving on to a happy life. Unfortunately, even by the end of the novel, Kaden sees no hope in medical care, proper hygienic care, prosthetics or any other things that could help him on his way to recovery and a full, happy life. The only hope he sees comes from more tech, more machinery enabling him to walk about like he used to. Even when he encounters others with disabilities – since it is a war zone – he’s rude, ignorant of their pain and self-centered, as though he’s the only one to have ever suffered. He even can’t bear to look at another man, who has prosthetics, because he finds them abhorrent.
A small saving grace to this increasingly frustrating and disgusting attitude is Shun. A surprise package from the moment he enters the picture, he supports Kaden and doesn’t shy away from accepting or learning about his amputations or limitations, constantly offering support and encouragement for Kaden to wake up. However, due to the intensity of Kaden’s hatred for himself and his disability, Shun is only a very small light in that darkness and that side of him isn’t shown anywhere near equally to the hatred Kaden harbors for his amputated legs.
“In armor, he was a fully functional person, but out of it, he was as good as dead.”
I began reading Kaden’s POV thinking that I was going to sympathize with him, suspecting what his big secret was and knowing how hard that was to deal with, emotionally as well as physically. I enjoyed the early scenes, where we didn’t know what his secret was and then the reveal. I enjoyed the detail and honesty of the thoughts about how unfair it had been, how hard it was to adjust and the embarrassment and shame that came with being looked after. But that was where my sympathy and compassion for him ended. After that, I wanted to slap him and tell him how good he had it, because his suit allowed him to function like the “normal” human being he wanted to be, while there are those with disabilities who don’t get that privilege.
There are perfectly happy disabled people in the world, living productive lives, working hard and doing the things they love, with a positive attitude. The perpetuation of disability being depressive and causing suicidal tendencies is infuriating and sends the wrong message! I can’t imagine how many people will read this and might, one day, end up in a situation where their mind will jump back to this book and think “right, now that I’m disabled myself, my life must be over”. It’s NOT!
“He wasn’t going to subject himself to that, of walking awkwardly on things that resembled badly formed stilts. To settle for that was admitting his armor days were over, that he was resigned to the life of a disabled soldier, only good for living off charity.”
It quite honestly made me angry, after a while. To see this guy with the tech that made his life easier, like any other able-bodied person and let him pretend things were still fine; it made me furious that he still wasn’t happy. He still complained. He still wanted more. Yet, he had more than I can ever have. I really hoped that the end would have Shun talking sense into him, having him accepting his disability and how lucky he was to be alive, healthy and with people he loved. Instead, he was even more obsessed about getting the kind of prosthetic that meant he had the benefits of his suit all the time. It wasn’t a solution, but replacing one crutch with another and allowing him to ignore the issue even more. Never once did Kaden or anyone else try to get him psychological help to deal with the emotional side of his disability.
To make it worse, there was even a time in the book where he had the conscious and clear thought that if people lost a few limbs, they’d be lighter and more capable of working the tech-suits, as well as more capable of bonding mentally with the suits. Don’t even get me started on how that made me feel. I might not have an amputation, but I have loss of sensation and an inability to walk more than a few feet. This kind of thing made me feel pretty sick, to be honest. It wasn’t much better to suffer through the humiliation, with Kaden, of having him dragged around in a kiddy’s cart. Which, yes, actually happened. But I’m getting all riled up about it, so…moving on.
Sadly, there was also an instant – very briefly – of trans-phobia. At first, I thought (1) was about to give us a positive trans character, who had done this amazing thing for the world and the Army. However, by the time (2) came about, that began to feel more and more dismissive and put a whole new light on (1). Not only is everything in bold, or really just everything, in (2) horrifyingly transphobic, but it’s also anti-female, in a strange way. Very odd, considering the author is female.
In fact, it made (1) read much more like a trans character had been thrown in, for no rhyme or reason, just for the sake of it, as well as implying that, despite all of the great things he did, he was even more incredible for having been born a woman. As though women are somehow secondary or unintelligent. While (2) very clearly implies that a mercenary or gang member shouldn’t be female, or is somehow less female than other women. While also throwing in those horribly discriminating phrases, that imply anyone not clearly male or female is somehow abhorrent.
- He had been well received by most. At universities, he gave speeches, which many attended but few really understood. He also worked part-time at the local university, where his courses were only popular with those who wanted to develop neural networks and understood complex five-dimensional mathematics. No one mentioned he had been born a woman.
- They were all of them young, all of them male, and something about the way they looked at him said they weren’t going to walk away.
[…] “Where’s the friend?” one of the group spoke, and Kaden reassessed their genders. At least one of them was female – or something thereof.
[…] Next, he systematically took out the former owner of the chain and the knife-wielding woman-man-person by breaking their knees and tossing her aside.
One last downside? The editing. It was an ARC, so I’m hoping that maybe my insight might help the author. There were a lot of mistakes – missing words (realized it was last skirmish), a sentence cut in half (as he t. He), words melted together when one should be cut (Bradley reiteratedretorted in an), repeats (giving Kaden a smooth portion of the outer hull to Kaden), continuity (MacCrave, become McCrave and Shun becoming Sun) and misplaced punctuation (“. How’s).
I think it’s time we looked at some positives, right?
Okay, so I really liked Shun. I think he was, by far, the best character of the book, though we didn’t get to see nearly enough of him. Kaden was secondary, for all those moments he wasn’t thinking about his legs or himself.
To be honest, Bradley and Wayland were surplus for me. Neither were likable or all that interesting, though they served their purpose throughout the story. Vorani was very similar, that way. She served a purpose but wasn’t exactly someone I thought about a lot while reading or after it.
The bones of the story – the mission and the relationship blossoming between Shun and Kaden – was the real star, that made me enjoy this book as I was reading it. And, I did. I know it doesn’t sound like it so far, but I enjoyed the story as it progressed, even though things became increasingly frustrating in other departments. I liked the attention to detail, the fight scenes, the science behind the advancements and how they were possible. I even loved the slow progress of the relationship and how Kaden and Shun weren’t loved up right from the start and didn’t always agree with each other. They fought, Kaden took care of business even if that meant knocking Shun out and Shun did what he could to get what he wanted/needed. None of that was shiny-bright insta-love.
The story was exciting. There was always something going on, always something around the next corner and always a new revelation on the horizon.
Overall, you can probably see what I thought. One-half of me was thrilled by the adventure, science-fiction story and the romance weaved within it. The other half was furious and riled up to screaming point by the disability issue.
While the bones of this story were great and very much deserved a 4 star from me, I couldn’t in good conscious let the disability issue slide. Even if I took the transphobia as me reading the situation wrong (though I doubt it, with the use of those terms) I can’t forgive the flagrant use of a disability being used to make Kaden the sourest, most confusing MC I’ve read in a while. He had everything going for him, but he just wasn’t a positive disabled character for anyone to look up to and it actually pained me to be inside his head at times, because even in the darkest times I have never known a disabled person to hate themselves this much.
Meet Sandra Bard
Sandra Bard started writing when she was quite young because there was always a story inside her head, but never thought of writing for an audience until recently. She only decided to try her hand at writing for the sake of being published after a series of events left her with some free time and in between jobs. Now she has three jobs but writing is still her most favorite thing to do. Sandra grew up travelling the world from Africa to Asia and, though she now lectures full time at a university, dreams of having a job that wouldn’t tie her down to one place. She enjoys reading books, watching anime and, occasionally, visiting a fan-fiction site. She also dabbles in tai chi and yoga in the hope they would keep her flexible and help lose weight. She lives with her pets (fish, cats, and dogs) and has been a volunteer for an organization that takes care of stray dogs (there are many, where she lives) for over ten years.