Friday, December 12, 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

Lance steps over the divide between childhood and all that lay beyond in the concluding chapter of Michael J. Bowler's five-part young adult series, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. Yes, Lance turns eighteen and legally becomes an adult, but it's the lessons he's learned along the way that have truly made him into the person he is at the conclusion of the story.


"A hero is someone who rises above those who try to break him, and proves to the world that he's better than the worst thing he ever did, or the worst thing ever done to him."

Now Lance understands that he can't have everything he wants. Sometimes it takes tremendous pain and loss to bring about change. Life is filled with things he doesn't like, but he has gained the maturity to deal with both the good and the bad. He doesn't turn away from what's uncomfortable or difficult. He's able to inspire others by just being himself.

America's Son.

"Lance wanted to scream and shout and pound the walls. Like a little boy. Except he wasn't a little boy anymore."

The President of the United States bestows this special title upon Lance, showing just how important he's become to those in power and the people he serves. Yet at times, his head gets a little too big, and he lets his ego get in the way of all the good he's trying to accomplish. He calls the Children's Bill of Rights—an amendment to the Constitution that everyone in New Camelot is crisscrossing the country for Congress to ratify—"my CBOR." It's only when the people who've been with him since the beginning bring him down to size that he's able to get back on track. Lance is a master at forming coalitions among those of differing economic backgrounds and ethnicities, but he's at his ultimate best when he acts in everyone's best interests and not just his own.


"I got you. For now and always."

As the caravan of knights journeys across the country, Lance comes to visit Jack's hometown of Pocatello, Idaho. His mother welcomes Lance with open arms and invites him to spend some time alone among Jack's things, looking through his personal photos and holding his favorite, mud-encrusted football. It's a turning point for Lance because he's finally able to fully grieve for his first love and let him go. In Lance's mind, Jack was such a "badass," all muscles and strength, that he taught him that it was okay to be gay. Without this transformative relationship, Lance never would've been able to be openly in love with Ricky, his true soulmate and the one he was meant to be with. He would've forced himself to be straight in order to make the wrong people happy, instead of the one that matters the most to him. With Jack's early passing, Lance is well aware of the myth that young people have their whole lives ahead of them, and he intends to seize the moment when it comes to loving Ricky.


"Uneasy the head that wears the crown."

When the series started all Lance wanted to do was win the X Games, and now he's on the verge of becoming King Arthur's successor as the heir to the throne. Lance knows that even a few short years ago, he didn't have the patience to remain calm, cool and collected when leading his knights into dangerous situations. Now he's let go of that youthful impetuousness, and he's able to take the hits for the team, fully realizing that those kinds of sacrifices are a part of a leader's job. Lance feels his whole world shift when he lifts Excalibur aloft when coming to Arthur's rescue and he has a premonition that it will never shift back. He's no longer a kid who acts on pure emotion, he's grown up, and as much as he doesn't want to yield to fate, he knows what has to be done, and he's determined to see it through.

At the end of the journey, Arthur sums up Lance's character best when he tells his adopted son, "Everything you are, Lance, you were from the moment I met you. I merely helped you realize that."


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. Connie, this review got me choked up. For real. It is the most amazing review I've ever read for anything. Thank you so much for supporting me and this series and for sharing your thoughts in such a passionate and articulate way. You're awesome.

  2. I love how you broke down Lance's character. He really is a YA hero for the ages! Thanks for the review :)