Book Reviews - AVIA I: Thunderstorms & 45’s & AVIA II: Bullets & Betrayal by Stacey Carroll
“AVIA I: Thunderstorms & 45’s” is the debut novel for thriller author Stacey Carroll. “AVIA II: Bullets & Betrayal” is the follow-up. I decided to review both novels together since AVIA I leads directly into AVIA II, although AVIA II can be read as a stand-alone. Personally, I recommend reading AVIA I first, as it will make AVIA II more enjoyable as far as getting to know the main characters and understanding the “why” of events in the second book.
Thunderstorms & 45’s!
In “AVIA I: Thunderstorms & 45’s,” we meet the title character, Avia Conn. We learn pretty much right away that she has a chance to con a rich woman out of fifty million dollars before her vacation to Hawaii. She’s going to need help to do it, though. To do this, she calls in people she calls her “cousins.” Meanwhile, she is still dealing with serious heroin addiction and alcoholism that she’s been battling for many years. Can her protector and love of her life, Benton Docks, help Avia pull of this heist and get the hell out of town before it’s too late?
This heist thriller is a page-turner. It’s fast-paced with many twists and turns. As is the case with many best-laid plans, things don’t go according to plan. You really don’t know where the plot is going next. The unpredictability of AVIA I is a major part of this book’s appeal.
For me, the best part of this book is the two main characters, Avia Conn and Benton Docks. While they definitely have a steamy romance, it’s an extremely complex relationship. Benton has to put up with a lot of nonsense with Avia with alcohol and drug addictions, but he loves her as she is, which isn’t easy.
There’s a lot going on in AVIA I, but it’s deftly handled by the author. It isn’t what you might call a “high-octane” thriller, but it gets you hooked pretty much from the first page. Avia and Benton are very likeable characters, and while there are others, they are certainly the most likeable. This is good, because they are the main characters in AVIA II, as well.
Be forewarned that it does contain a fair amount of sex scenes, but all are important in the development of both the plot and characters. It’s not an erotic romance, but this book definitely has plenty of adult scenes. Then again, in Avia and Benton’s line of work, especially Benton’s as a con man, sex is often a major part of the job. Avia does her fair share of conning, too, of course.
All in all, AVIA I is a solid 4-star debut novel. It has realistic, likeable main characters and an unpredictable ending. All you need to know is that we will be seeing Avia, Benton, and many other of the characters in this book again in AVIA II. I highly recommend this book for anyone who’s tired of the formulaic heist thrillers and is looking for something more original to read.
Bullets & Betrayal!
In “AVIA II: Bullets & Betrayal,” we meet Avia and Benton soon after the events of AVIA I. But, this book is a lot more complex than the first AVIA novel. It involves three different plotlines and switches between being an organized crime family thriller, a more traditional thriller, and a police procedural. This book features not only Avia and Benton, but also a rival organized crime family in the Sanchez, and Detective Greg Locke.
Locke is on a mission to put away both Avia and Benton. After a heist gone bad, Avia and Benton have narrowly escaped jail time. But, they are very much stuck in their life of crime and don’t have any intention of getting out of it. So, will Avia and Benton make it to their Hawaii vacation, or will they end up in jail?
We also meet the leader and the pilot of the Sanchez organized crime family. The war is on between the Company that Avia and Benton belong to and the Sanchez. The Sanchez was introduced briefly in AVIA I, but now we learn the ins and outs in their rivalry with the Company.
Also, we learn more about the workings of the inner workings of the Company. Without giving too much away, it’s clear that both Locke and the Sanchez are working hard to take down the Company. They are clearly for different reasons, but they are both taking steps, some more extreme than others, to get the job done.
Even more action-packed than AVIA I with even more twists and turns than the first book in the series, “AVIA II: Bullets & Betrayal” is a long, much more involved book that develops both the main characters, Avia and Benton, and others that were only glanced over in AVIA I. Like AVIA I, this is not an erotic romance brand of thriller, but it does contain many sex scenes - all of which make sense in character development and moving the plot forward. Just be forewarned if you are sensitive to lots of adult content.
Also, I will warn you that AVIA II has a cliffhanger ending that will have you biting your nails to the nub in anticipation for AVIA III. This book really keeps you on the edge of your chair right up until the end and slams you with dire circumstances that won’t be resolved until the next book. “Bullets and Betrayal” is a 5-star thriller in the eyes of this reviewer.
If either of these books sound like your speed, I invite you to check AVIA I and AVIA II out on Amazon! If you like them, please leave an honest review. The author greatly appreciates it!
** I received review copies of these ebooks in exchange for fair and honest reviews.
by Joshua Packard, General Mental Health Journal
To anyone involved in the mental health or psychology and related fields, or anyone interested in how humanity has attempted to understand the mind, and mental illness and how to respond to issues regarding it, I highly recommend "Masters of the Mind: Exploring the Story of Mental Illness from Ancient Times to the New Millennium" by Dr. Theodore Millon. I won't go heavily into detail of the book. My primary purpose is to just briefly describe what it is about and the information and education the author provides, and to praise this work as worth the effort to read.
Dr. Millon essentially goes through the history of mankind from earliest sources in ancient time up through to the present, giving a very good survey of all the prominent and influential thinkers and authorities and how various persons have understood and tried to respond to mental illness and those who suffer from it. He sets up his work according to seven categorical threads and trends for how mental illness has been understood. These "stories" are in the approaches of philosophy, humanitarianism, neuroscience, psychoanalysis, psychoscience, socioculture, and personology. Practically every major contributor, and a variety of secondary figures in each field is touched upon, laying out each school and each persons critical contribution to the field being mentioned and discussed. What I especially like is the very broad and balanced inclusion of almost every opinion and philosophy, and the inclusion of so many persons, which made me interested in delving further into many of the works of those being introduced.
For anyone wanting a good summary and survey of most of the major figures in the development of psychology and mental illness, this is a good place to start. If you have an interest in the subject, not only will this book help you get a general overview of all aspects of the field, but you will probably be interested in following up and doing more research and reading of the various contributors and their works. There is something in this book for everyone interested in any aspect of mental health or psychology and related disciplines.
You can buy "Masters of the Mind: Exploring the Story of Mental Illness from Ancient Times to the New Millennium" from Amazon.
”Tom and Lovey: Under the Moon Into the Wood” is a paranormal fantasy novel written by G.R. Jerry. Lovey is on a ten-year mission to avenge the death of her man, Bill. He was brutally sacrificed by the local lawman, a devilish fellow who goes by the name of Stargut. The sacrifice is a necessary part of his mission to create the perfect man-beast. Meanwhile, Lovey’s best friend, Patty, seems to be under some type of spell, and abandons her night after night.
In the midst of all of this, a stranger by the name of Tom arrives and moves in next door. He calls himself a preacher of sorts. At first, Lovey has no idea that he is much older than he first appears. He has been following the scent evil for a hundred years.
Now, Tom has arrived in the Village of Wrong, a rural town in the Midwest, to deal with its mutant inhabitants, mere creations of Stargut, known as “friends of the wood.” In the end, Tom, Lovey, and Patty will converge under the moonlight into the wood down by the river at the doorsteps of hell to face none other but the devil himself.
“Tom and Lovey” is a finely-crafted narrative in which the reader is spared no gory details. This book is not for the feint of heart. G.R. Jerry’s imagination is on full display throughout the book. The world building which he does is captivating and colorful. The Village of Wrong seems like it could be a real place that you hope you never pass through.
The characters in this book are definitely memorable. Tom and Lovey are well-written characters, and Tom’s backstory in particular is highly detailed. Every character is interesting and described well enough to see them clearly in your mind. This is definitely a strength of the book. It’s a character-driven story and the backdrop is well-done, as well.
The ending is somewhat predictable by what is written on the back cover. But there are definitely some twists and turns throughout the plot that I didn’t expect. There are a couple of things towards the end of the book that confused me a bit, but being paranormal fantasy, you do have to set aside your disbelief. Things that may have happened might no longer happen if the original cause is erased, for example. I won’t spoil much more than that in this review.
My honest opinion is that there is enough material in this novel to become the basis of a television mini-series or film series. This story deserves that level of treatment, as there is so much to tell in this book that it wouldn’t fit into a single two-hour feature film. I would definitely enjoy watching this story unfold on a television screen.
As for what it is as a book, “Tom and Lovey” is definitely a page-turner. The beauty of it is that it was playing out in my head like a film, and those are the types of books that I love. This is not my first experience with paranormal fantasy as a genre. But, it is the first paranormal fantasy novel that I’ve read from cover to cover. It is well worth the read. The characters keep you interested, and while I could see sort of where the story was going, I closed the book wishing for more. That’s always a good thing.
”Tom and Lovey: Under the Moon Into the Wood” is available in paperback from Amazon.
*I received a free review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review. This review is in no way influenced by any outside sources. No other compensation was received for this review.
The threat of an EMP attack on a major United States city is a real one. Michael Kravitz brings the consequences of an electromagnetic pulse bomb attack to life in his short thriller, Boston Darkens. As the title would suggest, the setting revolves around Boston, Massachusetts and surrounding cities and towns in nearby Rhode Island and Connecticut. The tale is told by Ben, originally from Nebraska, who fortunately knows a thing or two about survival and being self-sufficient.
What's particularly good about Ben’s first person narrative is that it's believable. As someone who is from southern New England myself, I can verify many of the details that Kravitz weaves into Ben's picture of the highly disordered post-EMP attack chaos in the region. The characters he creates are believable and the situations realistic.
Kravitz thought this world out well, clearly depicting just how a world without electricity well could be. Even the electrical components of most vehicles are fried too, leaving the streets and highways an auto graveyard. There is plenty of detail, and it draws you into the new reality of a world thrown into disarray. Even with the detail, the narrative flows well and Ben's own personality is reflected throughout. He is honest and tells the story just as if this was really happening here and now.
Without giving too much away, I can say the greatest strength of Boston Darkens is showing both the good and bad sides of human nature with equal treatment. I have many other good things to say about this short novel. But being as brief as it is, too many spoilers would be given away if I go any more in-depth.
Despite being such a quick read, Boston Darkens is enjoyable and exciting. It’s worth the price of admission. There's plenty of action and drama, with just enough reflection on the state of things to give you a break. I daresay that this story has blockbuster film potential. It's well-told, and while there is a conclusion, it's open-ended. This is intentional, as this book is the first in a series. I look forward to seeing what becomes of Ben, his family, and friends in sequels to Boston Darkens.
You can buy “Boston Darkens” as an ebook, paperback, or hardcover at Amazon.
*I received a free review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review. This review is in no way influenced by any outside sources. No other compensation was received for this review.
I have recently finished reading part one of the Matt Fulton trilogy “Active Measures”. While I will not go into much detail on the plot or characters, I want to try to describe what the experience was like reading the novel. I also want to examine what kind of audience would enjoy this novel and possibly who might not, and also what you might like or dislike about reading it.
Part one of what will eventually become a trilogy under the title “Active Measures” is a fairly large novel of over 600 pages. The content and subject matter is dense and very detailed, intricate and developed. It is a global geopolitical thriller that spans all over the world with many characters. There are many threads of plot that are developed and begin to intersect each other by the time part one of the novel ends.
When you read this novel, be prepared to be transported from one part of the planet to another, whether it be the United States in a meeting between the President, his advisors and intelligence agencies, Russia, the Middle East, or elsewhere. There are many characters, and reading the book requires a lot of concentration and some interest in geopolitics. I personally am not very well educated on the subject matter, so the reading of this novel was somewhat difficult for me. Sometimes I had a hard time remembering who was who amongst the characters, and how they were related to each other and what significance they had to the plot.
There are some interesting dialogues, and the level of dialogue is philosophical as some scenes depict the motivations and ways of thinking of various characters, whether they be intelligence officers in the CIA, members of the Russian government, United States special forces personnel, undercover spies, and even terrorists plotting an attack. Even though some characters were very similar and I wasn't sure who was who, I could in general get the sense of what role or part each played in the story. There is no one single protagonist hero, but a handful of characters whose actions will eventually intertwine, and will most likely intersect more concretely in the second and third installments of the eventual trilogy, which are yet to be published. The novel is very detailed and I would say very well written.
The main question I would like to put forth is what audience of reader would be interested in and enjoy this novel. The author in his acknowledgments cites authors like Tom Clancy and John le Carre as an influence and inspiration to his writing. I personally have only read 2 of Clancy's novels (“Hunt for Red October” and “Rainbow Six”) and am familiar with his other novels and some of le Carre's work, although I have not read any of the latter's novels. So if you like Clancy and le Carre, or other spy or geopolitical novels, you might like this. I personally struggled to get through this novel, with the density of the plot and the plethora of different characters and their yet to be interconnected paths in the story. But by the end I was grateful to have pushed through it, and was surprised to find myself interested in reading the second and third installments whenever they will be finished and actually published. The author has a website, where you can contact him and find info about his writing. If you get to reading this book, visit his site and send him a message letting him know what you think.
I hope this review, although scant in detail, gives you an idea of whether this might be something you would want to give a chance and acquire a copy to read. The author does not dumb down or water down the material and it requires some dedication and concentration to get through and mentally keep track of who is who and what is going on, but if you like these kind of stories, you might enjoy this.
*I received a free review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review. This review is in no way influenced by any outside sources. No other compensation was received for this review.
This is an expanded version of a book review I submitted to Amazon. I will warn you: spoilers follow…
“Unless” is a novel that has received mixed reviews. Some call it boring. Some say the ending is too predictable. I actually have to say I didn’t pick up on it until the last few pages. But I suppose I wasn’t reading the book for the ending.
Perhaps the way in which you read this book is most important. Some might say that it doesn’t have enough action, and that there isn’t a coherent storyline. Some complain that the book is about a writer writing about writing a book about a woman writer. There are complaints that the book is extremely feminist; that is something I have no problem with. All the points Shields makes in the book are perfectly valid.
I think that this book is about how to deal with an extremely difficult situation: someone you love dearly has suddenly fallen out of life. As we find out, this actually is not as crazy as it first appears. Life does not stop while you are dealing with a situation; you have to learn to cope.
There are a lot of undertones about how women are made to feel powerless in our society; this does seem to be a major theme in contemporary Canadian literature and I think this ruins the book for some people. But when you take it from the perspective of the character of Reta, an extremely well-written first-person narrative, it’s actually pretty easy to get caught up into thinking these words could be taken from a real woman’s diary. In fact, I actually found myself wondering about the actuality of certain aspects of the plot. I will refrain from giving away too many spoilers, but I really felt after reading this book that there were real people involved in the story of this book. I felt these were real people being written about.
Reta, our protagonist, is a writer, but mainly has been the personal translator for a legendary French/Canadian author Danielle Westerman. This character of Westerman was so interesting to me that I actually turned to Almighty Google to see what I could dig up. I found a musician, quite a lovely musician/model at that, and a link to an interview with Carol Shields, which basically said that Westerman was totally made up and not based on anyone in particular – this to me makes the character even more fascinating.
Danielle Westerman, at the telling of this story, is eighty-five going on eighty-six years old. She is a major feminist writer who lived through the Holocaust, who’s always written in French. Reta has translated three out of five volumes of Westerman’s memoirs, and she has received great praise from them all. Shields makes this woman so interesting that I wanted to read these memoirs for myself. They obviously, alas, do not exist for our enjoyment.
But now, Reta has taken a shot at novel writing. Her first was a modest success, so naturally, she is now pursuing her second. Being a writer of sorts, I found this sort-of “inside analysis” of the writing process of her novel most interesting; I think a lot of people were not too entertained by this aspect of the story. I must say that I’m not fond of the sort of “light fiction” she was working on, or the very annoying editor character introduced towards the end, but what she writes about character development was very interesting.
Shields makes Reta a very thoughtful and observant person. People may say this detracts from the story-telling, but I think Shields wrote this book exactly this way for a reason; she’s a writer writing about a writer and how she writes. It does seem to me, however, that someone as eloquent in her letters and her diary/journal entries would be much better served publishing such musings rather than some contrived silly work of “light” fiction.
Apologies for this being a major spoiler, but I understand exactly why Reta’s daughter, Norah, falls out in the way that she does. There’s actually quite a traumatic event, as you may infer is the case from something noted earlier in the book, involved in Norah’s sudden abandonment of her “normal life.” This concept of “goodness” I must say, that Norah becomes a silent spokesman for on a Toronto street corner, is never really dealt with in the pages of the book as I sort of hoped it would be. It is actually an act of “goodness” that has Norah end up in this apparently catatonic state, an act of goodness that does not go unpunished; she is scarred in more ways than one. I honestly can’t blame her. But all the while everyone is trying to psychologically deconstruct her; “what the hell went wrong?” people ask. I am relieved that in the end there was a perfectly understandable reason behind it. But it seems what Shields was trying to do here was make people ask themselves, what is “goodness” really? This was a book designed to make you think.
Unfortunately, for as much as I liked this book, I felt it lacked something. But for me, that something it was missing was made up for by my own experience. But again, maybe that was the point. This book is written from quite a feminist perspective, yes, and those “underpinnings” are not at all subtle; so it would be improper to refer to these obvious messages as underpinnings, then.
It's true that women are extremely under-represented in many areas of society. As I'll say again, it seems to be still an extremely polarizing issue in Canada. Also, the marginalization of women in literature also becomes a major theme in the book. This is something that I think greatly distracts from the main plot with Norah. That is one major criticism I have with the book – even though it is one thing Norah does make clear she was rather displeased with a certain college literature professor about.
But this story is about a lot more than that. What touched me so much about this book is that it is about a mother doing everything possible to continue living a “normal” life while her daughter has totally abandoned any sort of “normality.” One of these coping mechanisms is writing the “light” fiction novel I mentioned before.
But that is only one such mechanism: reading, “club” meetings, daily routines, etc. This novel is about a “real” person coping with harsh “reality” by immersing herself in something “light.” So while people may think this is a weakness of the book, I feel it is a strength. I really “got to know” Reta. I want to have tea with her. I want to help Norah in trying to get her life back together.
Not being one for reading novels, honestly, I found this book to be a fantastic read. I read it in an evening, actually, and I couldn’t put it down. It made me reflect on the concept of “goodness” and how Reta’s daughter’s sudden falling out of “normal” life, trying to understand things that you just can’t explain, and having that overwhelm you to the point where “normality” seems irrelevant – that aspect of the story to me was very moving. Whether this is Carol Shields’ greatest work I cannot say, for it’s the only work of hers, so far, I’ve read. But I will say that it is a tremendous bookend to a marvelous literary career.
“The Imaginarium Machine” by John Adrian Tomlin is set in the future where the technology behind gaming systems has reached its peak. A new gaming technology by Sony is being launched, which taps into your brain functions. The sensations within the game environment are input directly into your mind and your senses, so that it feels as if you are really in the game environment.
The events of this short novel are described in present tense. Some of the action could've used a little more elaboration. But then again, you might like it that way. Narration of events is quick, to the point, and abrupt. There is not much embellishment. The author simply states what is said, what the characters do and what happens.
What I did like about this story is that in part because of the abrupt, very quick and direct description of the activity in the plot, there are some ridiculously hilarious chapters. One of the games included on the Imaginarium Machine's roster is just laugh out loud hysterical. The brevity with which it is described makes it even more so. I laughed for quite a while reading one of the chapters. Also, some of the more intimate encounters in the novel are described so quickly that I let out a chuckle.
Once the Imaginarium Machine is actually released and after the reader has been given a treatment of how it works and what it can do, and the main characters have already begun to use it, the actual dramatic parts of the story begin. The main characters are brothers whose father is in a coma. He was working with the FBI and protecting a person when he was in a car accident and went into a coma. The brothers try to use the machine to re-awaken their comatose father. But something sinister is being planned with the new device. It turns out their father will have to get to the bottom of it in order to save most of the United States from being taken hostage by a sick genius. He wants to exploit the mind bending capabilities of the Imaginarium Machine for his own purposes.
Will you enjoy reading “The Imaginarium Machine”? It depends. It deals with a topic of technology that is unique. While the writing doesn't go too much into the deeper implications of the subject matter, it might inspire you to think about where technology can go and what might happen when it is in the wrong hands. If you just want a story, and not a lot of extraneous description, you might like this book.
The ending of this novel has me wondering what happens in the aftermath. The good news is that the author has written a sequel called “The Imaginarium World”. I am considering getting my hands on a copy of that to find out where the author brings this story.
by John Grgurich
When I first heard about Lucasfilm moving over to Disney, I couldn’t help but have mixed feelings. I thought it would be a good business move for the man who created it. But as a fan, I thought it would the end of an era – that the Star Wars I had grown to love would be gone forever. So, when I first heard they were making a new film, I was far from excited. And I was so focused on pursuing other interests that I didn’t even bat an eye.
That was until I saw the trailer for The Force Awakens – a movie I vowed I would never see. I was beginning to think that it might be worth watching, and I was surprised to find out that it was. It rekindled my love for a story that had influenced much of my childhood, and it was a passion that stuck with me as an adult. So, I decided to read the new books, and Dark Disciple was the first one.
It took me by surprise in the same way as Episode VII.
I read some of the books from the Expanded Universe (which are no longer part of the official Star Wars storyline), and some of them were pretty good. Of course, there were others that were mediocre at best. Then again, that’s the way it is with any literature related to some part of Pop Culture. With that being said, Dark Disciple is one of the best Star Wars books I’ve ever read. And I don’t say that lightly.
The book features some of the more popular characters from the Clone Wars series, including Quinlan Vos and Asajj Ventress. And the relationship between these two characters is something you would not expect. They join forces in a plot to kill Count Dooku, and it’s completely sanctioned by the Jedi Council. In fact, Obi-Wan shows up on a periodic basis to meet with Vos, who has to keep his identity as a Jedi a secret. But his subterfuge ends in failure, because Ventress is able to figure it out. She discovers the real reason for their partnership, and she knows that Quinlan won’t succeed unless he flirts with the Dark Side. However, the temptation of crossing over is too much to bear.
Dark Disciple is full of plot twists that leave you in doubt until the very end, and you wonder if Quinlan has really turned to the Dark Side. Believe it or not, Asajj Ventress plays a major role in his redemption. And conversely, it was Asajj’s love for Quinlan that plays a role in hers. That’s what made this book so exciting. You see a gradual change in a character who is supposed to be the hero of the story, which is why you’re left with such doubt.
One interesting fact is that Quinlan Vos has the gift of psychometry, which gives him the ability to see images of the past by making contact with an object that’s related to a specific event. And he discovers a terrible secret that pushes him over the edge. When the Jedi finally rescue him from Count Dooku, there is a question of whether he has really fallen to the Dark Side. And they suspect that he may be trying to sabotage their effort to kill him. This is what makes the story so riveting. It leaves you wondering who Quinlan is really working for.
Dark Disciple is one of the best Star Wars books I’ve read in a long time, and it was hard for me to put it down. Every part of the plot left me wanting to find out more, so I was able to savor every part of the experience. Was Quinlan Vos a double agent, or was he just faking it to get close to Count Dooku? Read the book if you want to find out!
By Crystal S. Kauffman, Contributing Writer
The author Sojourner McConnell wrote a fantastic story about a girl named Melonie Easton. Throughout the story the author gives you a deeper glimpse into the child’s life. The child was a lonely child, who felt unloved and unwanted. As Melonie got older she began drowning herself into learning new things at school and through reading. As she becomes a teen, her life begins to change in many different ways. She makes a friend and they become close, during a period of new beginnings and tragic loss.
This story is well written and provokes deep emotions that allow you to connect with each of the characters in the story. This author has brought the story and its characters to life in this book. Ms. McConnell has done a fantastic job in making her characters memorable. I actually look forward to reading more books that are written by this author.
Take a moment to read this book yourself, because you won't be disappointed!
A Review of "Angels and Idols: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of a Would-Be Pop Star" by Regie Hamm
by Alicia Bodine, Contributing Writer
I clicked over to see who this Regie Hamm was. Turns out I had already sent him a friend request that he accepted without even knowing who he was (although I knew he was the parent of an Angel). I read that he had just released a book called "Angels and Idols." I was immediately curious and ordered the book over at Amazon.com.
Singer, songwriter, producer, and author Regie Hamm has a unique story that he shares in his book. Regie experienced a great deal of success rather early in his life with too many number one hits to count, several songwriter of the year awards, and even multiple Grammy and Dove Award nominations. Appearances would make it seemed like there wasn't anything Regie couldn't touch that didn't turn to gold. Unfortunately, things were about to take a turn for the worse.
Regie and his wife Yolanda got a call that a little 8 month old girl in China needed a home. They named this little girl Isabella "Bella." Bella was clearly sick from the moment the Hamm's brought her home from China. She had trouble with feeding, a severe sleep disorder, and was missing all of her milestones. Eventually she began to have severe seizures. I identified with this part of the book the most because my daughter had all of the same issues. I kept thinking in my head, "Hey, they are talking about my Noel!"
Bella required constant full-time care and supervision which meant the Hamms were living on little to no sleep. Regie's CD American Dreams was dropped, and the health insurance company refused to cover Bella because of a pre-existing condition that the insurance company wouldn't disclose. Bella wasn't officially diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome until 2007.
Regie's journey begins to take a turn for the better when his wife Yolanda encourages him to enter the 2008 American Idol Songwriter contest. Regie won, and at the end of the season millions of people could hear David Cook singing Regie's song "Time of My Life."
I was captivated by this book from the very first page. Regie recounts the story of how his grandfather switched foxholes with a fellow soldier at Iwo Jima. Seconds later the soldier was killed in that very spot. If Regie's grandfather had been in that hole, Regie never would have been born.
Regie's book takes you full circle as Regie begins to live the words to the song "I Surrender All" that he co-penned with David Moffitt. This song was sung beautifully by Clay Crosse. The book also goes along with Regie Hamm's CD "Set it on Fire."
I highly recommend this book as I could not put it down. Not only will you go through the ups and downs with Regie and his family, but you will come out with a better understanding of Angelman Syndrome and all that parents of special needs children go through.
I previously published this article on the Yahoo Contributor Network. My daughter, Noel, is now 14 years old. There is a lot of working being done to fund a cure for Angelman Syndrome, which will happen during our lifetime. To learn more about the current research, or to donate for a cure visit Cureangelman.net.
Regie also has a new project on Kickstarter that you really should check out. On an Island by Regie Hamm
Dan Brown's very controversial mystery thriller novel "The Da Vinci Code" is one which at points in my life I refused to read. Having watched the movie version, I had a general idea of what it was about. So I felt no need to read the book itself to decide whether it had any merit or not.
Essentially, the story follows the actions of protagonist Robert Langdon, a symbologist who studies religious symbols and their meanings. He is framed for the murder of the curator at the Louvre museum in France. This is where many famous works of art, including the "Mona Lise" of Leonardo da Vinci, are on display. The murdered man leaves clues as to who the murderer is. His granddaughter, a very intelligent cryptographer and code breaker, is brought in to assist in solving the mystery.
The story turns into a search for the missing Holy Grail. Supposedly, it has been kept hidden by the Catholic Church, for fear it would overturn all that the Church teaches as true. The secret is supposed to be that instead of having been crucified a bachelor, Jesus Christ had actually married Mary Magdalene. It's also said that he had children, leaving a bloodline that lives on to this day.
It is claimed that the Church has slandered Magdalene as a prostitute, doing everything it can to hide this secret that she was really the wife of Jesus and mother to His children. There is a lot of dialogue regarding this. Also, there is talk of the Gnostic gospels and other literature proposed for the Bible, but rejected by the Church as having been inauthentic. Essentially, it was not written by the authors they are claimed to be written by.
There is also the claim that it wasn't until the 4th century that Jesus was only believed to be divine. This was many centuries after His death, around the time of the rule of Constantine and the Nicene Council. Before then, all His followers believed He was merely a mortal man, and not an immortal incarnation of God. There are also claims by the characters that the Bible had been altered, mistranslated, and ultimately tampered. Over time, this was done to obscure and falsify the "truth" about Jesus, especially about His relationship to Mary Magdalene.
While these ideas are interesting and make for an intriguing story, I find them unconvincing. Having studied the Bible and Church teaching, I can assert that the author has not really studied Catholic theology very much. He is trying to promote an idea of "the sacred feminine" and claims the Church regards females and sexuality as dirty and inferior. He tries to turn Jesus into a mere mortal man, and Mary Magdalene into a divine God. He does not pay attention to the reverence given to women by the uplifting of Mary as Mother of God. The book talks about Eve bringing humanity into its downfall. But it says nothing of the ascension brought to humanity through the Blessed Virgin Mary and her cooperation with the salvific plan of God.
Having studied a lot of the issues that are touched on in "The Da Vinci Code," the alternate theory of Jesus and His supposed descendants, the novel did nothing to alter my beliefs in the orthodox teachings of Christianity. The release of this book spurned a huge reaction from Christians of all denominations. This lead to all kind of books debunking the claims made in Brown's novel, such as "The Da Vinci Hoax", "Debunking the Da Vinci Code", "The Da Vinci Fraud", etc. I think the dialogue is a good one, and I will suggest that you do take the time to read Dan Brown's novel. You also should look into some of the opposing claims made in books that criticize and argue against the main premise of the Code.
At the very least, reading books like this can demonstrate how wild alternate versions of history can be concocted and developed. There are stories that can convince lots of people of something that just isn't true or never happened. Brown says Jesus was married to Magdalene and had children. I say someone made it up. Even in the study of history, it is important to know that lies or fabrications can be made up. These lies can be meant either to tear down ideas one does not like, or to promote and build up ideas that one wants to become fact.
You can purchase "The Da Vinci Code" on Amazon here.
It has taken me a while to get to actually reading any of Dan Brown's widely read novels. Tonight I just finished reading "Angels & Demons", which I will follow up with the more well known "The Da Vinci Code".
Angels and Demons is a book I find myself having difficulty reviewing. The story is very compelling, interesting and exciting in the action and fast paced puzzle solving required of the main character, religious symbologist, Robert Langdon. The story is laid on a backdrop of a debate about the supposed harmony, or incompatibility, of religion and faith with science and reason. Basically, the story is about a scientist, who is also a Catholic priest, who discovers a way to create antimatter, and supposedly proving that the act of creation of something out of nothing is possible, therefore proving the existence of a Creator God. But apparently someone has taken this antimatter and hidden it somewhere in the Vatican, where all of the world's Catholic cardinals have congregated to elect a new Pope, the most recent Pope having died of a sudden stroke 15 days previously. Robert Langdon is called in to help solve the murder of the priest scientist who created the antimatter and he must solve the riddles left behind by members of the secret society and enemy of the Catholic Church, the Illuminati.
A lot of the characters in the story represent different views on the relationship of religion with science, of faith with reason. Some characters believe they are harmonious and complementary, while others belief they are contradictory and at odds, the worst of enemies to each other, with one being better than the other. The novel contains a lot of interesting historical information and interpretation. I don't know how much of it it true, and how much either concocted or embellished to create a more compelling and dramatic story, but I think the historical tidbits make it more interesting, regardless of how historically accurate they are. The action of the novel is fast paced and exciting. The dialogue is usually interesting. I found the book to be hard to put down.
Overall, and interesting and fun book to read. Being Catholic myself, some of the jabs to my Church were a little annoying, but I can take a punch, and so can the Church. I probably don't agree with a lot of the author's own opinions and beliefs, but that is ok. I still think I could get something out of this book. I plan to read "The Da Vinci Code" next, which, having seen the film version, I know there will be a lot which I will find inaccurate and untrue. But I will read it, so that I have a better idea of what I am critical of.
While you can probably find an inexpensive copy of this book in your local thrift store, if you want to buy it online, you can find it at Amazon here.
I just finished reading Book 7 of the "Harry Potter" series by British author J. K. Rowling. Overall, I think I would describe the stories as tedious and long winded, but ultimately delightful and satisfying. The series of very long child and young adult friendly novels is about the secret world of magic, wizards and witches, and the years they spend studying their magical craft and talents in the schools of wizardry and witchcraft, under the noses of the largely non-magical "Muggles", who are unaware of their existence for the most part.
Rowling's story is mostly set in the British magical school called Hogwart's. It begins with title character Harry Potter being put under the beastly care of his vicious aunt and uncle in law, after his parents are murdered by the evil and power hungry sorcerer Lord Voldemort, constantly referred to as He Who Must Not Be Named. Potter is notified that he is a wizard and will be attending the school of Hogwart's, which is under the management of noble wizard Dumbledore. Each of the novels describes the events of one year of time at the school, as various professors and fellow students are introduced and the progress of their education in the magical arts is elaborated.
As the books progress, there is unfolded a plot of very sinister plans of the attempted return of the evil Lord Voldemort, and his scheme to create a world of Pure blood wizards and witches and the subjugation, eradication, and extermination of all non magical Mudblood and Muggle humans. The story essentially lays out a plot similar to the history of Eugenics, racial "cleansing", and other genocidal movements in the real life history of Earth. It turns out that Harry Potter is the one destined to end the evil plans of Voldemort once and for all. Helped by his friends, especially Ron and Muggle born Hermione, he seeks to understand the forces at work in this epic battle between the powers of evil and good, and figure out how to end the oppression that is taking grip over the world.
There are many characters, and they are believable and interesting. I particularly like the character of Hermione, who although born of non magical human parents, is very talented in the magical arts and very astute. She loves to study, learn, read, and gain knowledge, and plays a very important role in the story and her intelligence and wisdom are very necessary to the success of Potter and his friends and allies.
There is a great deal of mischief and elucidation of the various spells, jinxes, hexes, curses, and other magical objects and works that are available to the wizarding world. There is humor and silliness in abundance throughout, even as the plot begins to thicken and the story becomes more and more dark and the situation becomes very dire and dangerous in the later volumes of the series.
The books are very long, some volumes extending to over 700 or even 800 pages, and, to be honest, at some points it is tedious and boring. I would say that the plot starts to become more interesting around the end of Book 4 (Goblet of Fire) and the beginning of Book 5 (Order of the Phoenix), but there is a lot of development of various characters, magical spells and lore, and there is a lot of dawdling and elucidation of typical nonchalant casual events and dialogue. I won't say it is unnecessary to the story. I think it helps to change the pace of the story so that when it gets interesting, you are rapt with attention, and as I got into the later books, I really wanted to know what sort of twists and surprises were in store. There are a lot of secrets to uncover, quests to conquer, and mysteries to solve, and by the end, the tapestry of all this mystery and adventuring is brought to what I consider a fairly satisfying conclusion and wrap up.
When I began to read these stories, I only did so because they were extremely popular, especially amongst young children and adolescents, and I wanted to see what the big deal was. For the first few books, I felt like I was wasting my time, but as I delved further into the series, lent to me by a long time friend of mine, I began to notice that the story was more compelling and the theme more epic than I could have expected. Although I do not think the Potter series rises to the level of other fantasy stories written by British authors such as "Lord of the Rings" by Tolkien, and "Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis, the Potter story was very intelligent and compelling. It is not just a popular story. It has been woven into the fabric of English literature and world culture, having been translated into many languages. It is a good demonstration of the power of universal love and critique of the evils of Eugenics ideologies and the philosophy and theology of genocide and racism. If you do decide to start reading, I hope you don't get bogged down in some of the sections where the action drags on. It is worth it to slog through the slow parts and ultimately read it to its dramatic conclusion.
At the time of this writing, I have only seen the first four films. I might update this after watching the rest. The only big criticism I have of the movies so far is that there can seem to be a tendency on the part of many of the actors, particularly the extras and minor characters, to overact their parts. But it is OK, I think. The story, while serious in many ways, has its elements and threads of comedy and silliness, which probably anyone acting in would have the tendency to overdo. I expect that the rest of the films are even better, and become more interesting as much as the books progress in their intrigue and ability to grab the attention of the reader. Also, the films have great special effects and visual profundity and beauty and imagination-inspired. The visual effects bring the text to life in a wonderful way. And the sound and music is well composed.
If you decide to read the books or watch the films, and I recommend both, as a result of reading this review, I hope that by the end you do not regret having done so.
You can find the complete series of Harry Potter books, as well as the Harry Potter movies on Amazon.
I recently watched the final movie installment of the "Hunger Games" trilogy, after having read all three books and watched the first three movies. I think I read the first book, then watched the first movie, and then I read the second ("Catching Fire") and final ("Mockingjay") before watching the last three movies. At the time, I believe that the books were free to borrow on Kindle to Amazon Prime members.
First off, I will say that I believe the books are much better, much more interesting, than the movie versions. But also, I do not think these stories are very great. They are somewhat mediocre, and I had the hope for something more that was not satisfied. This is one of those works of fiction that I can't really seem to put into words what it was I didn't really like about it. It is not horrible, but just leaves me feeling like I didn't get much out of it. I thought it was worth reading, although I probably would've been better off not watching all the movies. This is one of those books/movies that I watch simply because it is popular and I want to know what the big deal about it is. At least I can say I gave it a shot and wasn't impressed.
The story is of a dystopian future, where the citizens of Panem, are split into districts and are forced to send their children into an arena like competition where they have to kill each other off, to win the prize of food for their district. It's a pretty gruesome concept, but I suspect that people like the books and films because they enjoy the gruesome violence instead of abhorring it. It's cool to put a bunch of kids in an arena and have them kill each other off, and in different and exciting ways as well. At least, that is the feeling I get out of it. It reminds me of the game Mortal Kombat, where the best part of the game is to watch characters perform bloody vicious Fatalities where they rip off their limbs or cut them in half or crush their skulls or or set them on fire or whatnot. Perhaps Hunger Games is criticizing violent competitions such as this, but I just have the suspicion that part of the fun and popularity of the series stems from the excitement of watching people killed in different ways. I do hope that we never actually come to a point where games and competitions such as this are tolerated and enacted. Let the Hunger Games serve as a warning to us and future generations such that we never actually enter an era where games such as the Hunger Games are thought to be fun or cool or entertaining.
Overall, it is worth reading. It is less worth watching, except for the ability to have a visual presentation of the events. I think all the actors in the film versions do a good job, and the effects and everything can bring a little life to the story as it is translated from written novel to full blown motion picture. Read it, watch it. Let me know what you think of it, what it is about, and if you agree of disagree with some of my hypotheses about the usage of the violence in the story. These kinds of stories are becoming very popular today, with franchises such as "Divergent", and "The Maze Runner" and I am sure there are more and will be more of these dystopian survival stories in the future. Let me know if you are aware of any similar stories, especially if they are better than Hunger Games or other such stories. I would love to read different takes on this kind of theme.
The Hunger Games trilogy in book form can be purchased here.
This is the first of a regular column I intend to write called "Psyched". The entries will deal with books and other media having to do with psychology, psychiatry, mental health and illness, neurology, and basically anything having to do with the mind and what makes it work healthy or fail to work. I am considering going back to school to study Psychology, because I want to do something that contributes to the improving and well being of those who suffer from mental illness and those who care for them. Let me know if there are any books or other media which you think I should read and possibly review here. With that said, here is the first entry to my "Psyched" column.
I want to recommend that anyone in the area of psychology, psychiatry, therapy, neurology or any other field dealing with the brain and mental health read the book "Change Your Brain, Change Your Life" by Dr. Daniel Amen. I will just get straight to the point about why this book is a must read for anyone who may be diagnosed with a mental condition or seeking to improve the mental conditions of their lives. Dr. Amen does not just focus on cataloging symptoms and attempting to make a diagnosis that fits the criteria compiled in a non brain connected guidebook such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Dr. Amen makes use of brain scans called SPECT in identifying what kind of brain activity (or lack of it) is going on in patients who are referred to him. Dr. Amen makes the connection between the brain and mental illnesses or disorders or behavior problems. His use of brain scans, while not the only factor in diagnosing and treating various conditions, makes psychiatry into an actual physical science of the brain. It is no longer subjective guessing game where the only evidence used to identify what is going wrong is through external behavior. Dr. Amen can show a patient the difference between normal brain activity and the abnormal activity, or hyperactivity, of various parts of the brain involved in different kinds of mental and emotional and physical behavior and health.
The praise I give this book is simple. If my experience with the psychiatric and mental health fields had involved brain scans such as Dr. Amen does, and connected the brain difficulties and mental symptoms I have to something physical in the brain, I would not have been so resistant to getting involved with psychiatrists, therapists, and psychiatric medication. Today's psychiatrists claim that mental illness is a condition of the brain, but do not use any kind of scan or test or brain imaging to help identify what exactly is going wrong with the brain, what areas of the brain are overactive, or not active at all. Psychiatrists should look into Dr. Amen's work, and try to incorporate brain scans into their diagnostic considerations and also in determining what treatments, and medications are best to promote optimal brain health for their patients. I would not have been so resistant to taking medications if the criteria and methods used for determining my diagnoses and what regimen of treatments and medicine were based on brain science and actual evidence of what is wrong with my brain. Today's psychiatrists don't do that. They base everything on externals, such as behavior or symptoms, and do not actually look at what is actual going on, or not going on, in the brain.
If you work in the psychiatric or mental health field, read this book. If you or someone you know has a mental illness, and especially are resistant to working with psychiatrists, therapists, or taking medication, read this book. This is a book anyone concerned with having a healthy brain should read and recommend to the other people in their lives to read. Get a copy, get 10 copies, and give them to your doctors, therapists, friends, family, church leaders, etc. I can't recommend this book any more highly than I do. I plan to read Dr. Daniel Amen's other books as well. Hopefully, I will be able to write reviews for them, as well.
Finally, I have finished reading the original Sword of Shannara Trilogy and the followup quadrilogy, “The Heritage of Shannara”. There is a story behind how I was introduced to these novels by Terry Brooks. When I was in 4th grade or so, I was really into the Goosebumps books. I would read really fast, often reading a whole book in a single night. My aunt noticed I read really fast and recommended I read the Shannara books, of which she had the first 7 volumes. At this time, these were the largest books I had ever tried to read, with the first book “The Sword of Shannara” being over 700 pages. It took me a long time to read the first book, and I found that I often would read 20 pages and not remember anything that had happened in them, and have to backtrack to concentrate on them. My reading comprehension skills were very poor for a long time. But these books challenged me, excited, and inspired me. I read the first three books, doing a book report on the second one, and my favorite of the series, “The Elfstones of Shannara” for an 8th grade English paper. Years later, about a few years ago, I decided to read them again and try to break into the followup four book series “The Heritage of Shannara”. I got into the second volume of this series “The Druid of Shannara” and put it down, having lots of other reading to do. Once again, a year or so later, I picked them back up, rereading from the beginning and finally tonight, finishing the last book of those I am reviewing here.
The Shannara series is a fantasy series, being something like Tolkien's “Lord of the Rings”, including elves, dwarves, magic, demons, and sword-fighting. While I enjoy Terry Brooks fantasy world, I find that Tolkien is far better. But Brooks is very good to read, in my view. I know some people who do not like his writing, but I enjoy it. The plot is essentially about the powers of magic, and the use or misuse of magic. That is the theme that runs throughout the series. Essentially, an order of Druids who practice and develop magical powers, is split, where one druid seeks to much power and is corrupted with the power they use and try to destroy the world and rule it. It is somewhat like the Darth Vader and Sith storyline from Star Wars, but this is not an interstellar galactic empire, but a world-bound army where there is no advanced technology, mostly medieval level society and there is magic.
But the series follows the adventures of members of a certain family, the Ohmsfords, who are partially descended from the race of Elves which has power of magic. Each volume find the Four Lands of Shannara threatened by some kind of evil, demonic, destructive force or character, and the druid Allanon charges a certain descendant of the Ohmsford, to go on a quest to stop this danger. Often the characters bounce all over the world, of which there is a map at the beginning of each novel, kind of like Lord of the Rings, but totally new, seeking out magical items and weapons and recruiting help along the way as the ever doubtful protagonists seek to bring peace and harmony back into the threatened land of Shannara.
Terry Brooks is someone whom I find to be very eloquent in his descriptions of setting, characters, and action. Especially in “The Elfstones of Shannara”, his portrayal and descriptions of battle scenes are very exciting, fast paced and visually imaginative. Whenever he described the setting or scenery or action sequences, I have a very vivid idea in my mind of what the scene looks like, what the characters are doing, and the psychological state of the characters are. The characters are all believable. There is a great variety of characters, and they are easily recognizable and distinguishable. Many of the characters are very likable, and there were feelings of devastation in my soul when certain very important characters are suddenly slain or die, sacrificing themselves to save others and keep the quest going until it is finished. There are some interesting plot twists, and the lore and background story behind the state of the world and the battle between the good magic and lust for power through destructive magic is intriguing.
One thing I would like to gladly note is that there is a “Shannara” TV series in production, which will be aired on MTV. The first season is going to cover the second book “The Elfstones of Shannara”, which I mentioned before, is my favorite in the series. I expect this will be very good, and I hope you obtain copies of these books, and enjoy them very much. I liked it, and I hope you like it as much as I did. You might not, but at least give the first book a try, and you'll get a good idea soon of whether you like the book or the author or not. The list below this review is the order in which the books should be read, just so you know.
“The Sword of Shannara”
“The Elfstones of Shannara”
“The Wishsong of Shannara”
The Heritage of Shannara:
“The Scions of Shannara”
“The Druid of Shannara”
“The Elf Queen of Shannara”
“The Talismans of Shannara”
I finished reading “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain for the first time in my 30 years of life. Twain called this novel his “hymn to boyhood” and it is refreshing to read about the carefree, adventuresome antics of the mischievous Tom Sawyer and his friends.
This novel reminds one of the days before computers, and Nintendos, iPods and Playstations, when all we as kids needed was an imagination and a story to play out, whether it was pirates, or treasure hunters, or whatever fantasy would be fun to us. These were the days when treasure hunts were real, and going out to the woods and living off the land was a grand adventure.
I think just the ability to look back to the way our childhoods were without all the electronics and gadgets and noises and beeps and whistles, makes this novel worth reading just in itself. I could describe the plot and the adventures in this book. But my main goal is to recommend you get a copy, read this, enjoy it heartily and bask in the nostalgia to when you didn't need advanced technology and remote controls and hi-speed Internet to enjoy yourself with friends.
Recently, I finished reading a nonfiction book called “The Philosophy of Tolkien” by Dr. Peter Kreeft. I highly recommend reading this book for anyone who is interested in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and other Middle-Earth novels and stories. Kreeft digs through the writings and letters of J.R.R. Tolkien and correspondence between him and his good friend C.S. Lewis of “Chronicles of Narnia” fame to demonstrate the very rich worldview and philosophy that fueled the creation of Middle-Earth and his fantasy stories. Kreeft discusses such questions as to God's existence, the existence and nature of angels, what is beauty, the meaning of death, romance and love, knowledge, history, language, politics, and ethics.
I started reading this book over a year ago and got bored for some reason. I picked it back up a couple of weeks ago and couldn't put it down. Perhaps this is because I left off on the parts where Kreeft discussed two of my favorite ideas: Predestination and Providence. I recommend especially the chapter in which Kreeft discusses Tolkien's take on ethics, especially the battle between good and evil which Tolkien dramatized in his novels. I want to highly recommend this book, though I feel inadequate to the task of doing the book justice in this review. But I want to insert here a quote about the battle between good and evil which I thought highly uplifting and inspiring:
“Good and evil are not equally powerful, because they are not equally real—even though evil appears not only equal to good but even stronger than good (“I am Gandalf, Gandalf the White, but Black is mightier still”). But appearance and reality do not coincide here, and in the end evil will always reveal its inevitable self-destruction (although often after a terrible price is paid: e.g. Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin). The self-destruction of evil is not just something to believe in and hope for, but to be certain of. It is metaphysically necessary, necessary because the very kind of being evil has by its unchangeable essence. For evil can only be a parasite on good. It depends on a good host for it to pervert. “Nothing is evil in the beginning” or by nature. Morgoth was one of the Ainur, Sauron was a Maia, Saruman was the head of Gandalf's order of Wizards, the Orcs were Elves, the Ringwraiths were great Men, and Gollum was a Hobbit. And whenever a parasite succeeds in killing its host, it also kills itself. So if evil succeeds, it fails; it commits suicide.”
I recommend this book highly. There are so many gems in the form of quotes from Tolkien's letters and correspondence with others such as C.S. Lewis, and I hope you will find more enjoyment in Tolkien's epic saga the Lord of the Rings after reading this book.
"The Philosophy of Tolkien" can be purchased on Amazon here.
I just finished reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, which was a gift from my brother for Christmas. Most of all, I enjoyed reading it. It is about a shepherd boy, seeking out his destiny, or his “Personal Legend”, trying to find what he is meant to do in life. The book is about trusting one's instincts and paying attention to the omens that life provides us to guide us towards our calling.
It is a very simple story, and very short and quick to read, but very insightful, It demonstrates in a story form the idea that when we are meant to do something, and when we want something with all our hearts, the universe and God conspire to lead us to the realization of our deepest and most true longings. This is an excellent, readable, and inspiring story, which is well loved and read by millions since it first was published. Go out and get a copy and enjoy reading this novel at your earliest convenience. You won't regret reading it.
“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho can be purchased here on Amazon.
I cannot recommend enough the reading of the Old English heroic epic tale of “Beowulf”. When I was very young, my Uncle Nathaniel told a paraphrased version to myself and my brother of this epic poem. Sometimes, I think he gave me the best version, even though later in high school, and again a few weeks ago, I read the superb Seamus Heaney verse translation. “Beowulf” is possibly the oldest surviving English story that we have today. It fills the need we have as human beings to long for virtuous and strong heroes who put their own safety and survival on the line to save and protect the innocent and vulnerable.
The epic poem is really in three parts, where the hero Beowulf fights against three monsters who prey on the people in the party hall called the Hall of Hearts. Beowulf fights grotesque monsters and is rewarded greatly. I cannot do very much justice to the quality of the writing, but I recommend everyone at least read this once, if not for enjoyment than at least for historical literacy, as this is a very crucial piece of literature and has a very heroic and exciting tale to tell.
Seamus Heaney's translation can be purchased at Amazon here.
“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is a fairly short story of Sir Gawain of Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. In it, the Knights are having a party or banquet, and in barges a large green knight with his all green horse. The Green Knight is gigantic, and all his skin and hair is green. He makes a challenge to anyone in the hall to strike him a blow to his neck and then that whoever does so will seek him out in his Green Chapel to have the Green Knight strike at his neck also. Sir Gawain takes the challenge, and cuts the Green Knight's head clean off.
Strangely, the Green Knight leaves, with the agreement that Gawain will seek him out and take a blow from the Green Knight's axe next New Year. On the way to find him that next year, he meets a king and queen and is tempted. He faces temptations to his chastity and continues on his journey to meet the Green Knight. I will not give any spoilers, but hopefully you will take time to read this story someday. One impressive thing to note is that there is a lot of alliteration in the verse. I am impressed with the translator's ability to retain the amount of alliteration from the original Old/Middle English.
Simon Armitage's translation can be found here on Amazon.
A translation by J.R.R. Tolkien can be purchased here on Amazon.
I just finished reading the young adult pirate adventure novel “Pirates of Lobster Cove” written by local author S.E. Toon. Overall, it was very enjoyable to read. The story is about a group of young teens who come across a curiosity shop manager in an old ship, and learn that he is actually in fact a pirate.
They find a Manifest which contains the exploits of this and other pirates. The main character Ty, in a creative spurt, decides to erase some of the contents of the manifest and rewrite them. What him and his loyal friends come to learn is that when someone changes the story in the manifest, changes reality.
Eventually, the whole town is in trouble when the changes to the Manifest summon a whole legion of undead pirates and other nasty creatures. Ty's girlfriend is kidnapped by the undead pirate LeBouche, and Ty and his still free friends, must enlist the help of Billybones the Pirate and other crew to rescue her and turn the town back to its normal self.
This book is volume one of a projected 5 part series. It definitely is geared towards a young adult crowd, but adults can enjoy it too. I personally enjoyed the plot as it developed and the characters as they interacted with and helped each other in many haphazard and deadly situations. It is essentially an adventure novel, with lots of action and swashbuckling scenes, as the “good” pirates, face off with the evil creatures of piratedom.
I would recommend the book to anyone who enjoys adventures and pirate stories.
“Pirates of Lobster Cove” can be purchased on Amazon.com here.
I just finished reading Charles Dickens' famous work “Great Expectations” and am going to make an attempt to write a decent review of it. Being new to writing reviews, I am going to try to write whether, and for what reasons I would recommend or discourage yourself from reading this novel.
As for whether I think this book was worth the read, I affirm the case in the positive. I enjoyed the novel and consider the time spent reading it well worth it. I am going to try to explain why without giving away any spoilers.
This book I consider to be a book of persons, a book about persons, and their characters and relationships and the fruit of their virtues and vices. This being the first novel by Dickens I have read, since reading “A Christmas Carol” in the 6th grade, I was most struck by the characters.
Dickens goes to great lengths to share with you the nature of his characters. And I found that he did so, more by the actions of characters, than by their words or dialogue. There is a lot of good dialogue, but characters are known more by their actions in this book than by their words.
This book demonstrates the fallacies we can have in trying to judge the true nature of persons. Some characters are misjudged as being bad persons, when in actuality, they are better natured and charitable than those with clean reputations.
I am not really going to reveal anything here, because I want you to take the opportunity to read the novel yourself, but I will just say that Dickens does a good job of describing his characters and putting them in promising or perilous situations. Some fulfill their “great expectations”, while others find themselves in ruin at the end. Some people are not as they seem, some being the opposite of what popular opinion would have of them.
But in the end, I recommend reading this novel, and would like to hear what you think of it.
(Warning: Spoilers Ahead!)
Out of the Silent Planet was written by C.S Lewis in 1943. Most of the story takes place on the planet Malacandra. The protagonist, Dr. Ransom, is a complex character who commits both dishonorable and good deeds. He is led into a trap by Weston and Devine, who he believes are scientists. They kidnap him and take him in a spaceship to a planet that the inhabitants call Malacandra.
They were invited by a being called Oyarsa, and planned to desert Ransom there. But, the doctor evaded his captors and made it into the wilderness where he risks both his life and his chance of escaping back to Earth. Fortunately, Ransom will discover that most of the creatures are friendly on this planet.
The first group of natives he meets call themselves the hrossa. One of his first friends is later shot by his former captors, who wish to show their power. The hrossa suggest he go to Oyarsa, who lives in a valley. In order to make the journey, he must first cross steep mountains. As the cold nips at him from the altitude, he comes across a cave. In this cave, he finds a sorn named Augray, another inhabitant of this strange planet, who he finds to be friendly. This creature helps him to find Oyarsa’s valley.
Finally, when he meets Oyarsa, he finds that his captors had already been taken captive for the death of the hross. Weston and Devine confess and are forgiven for their crime, and Oyarsa frees Ransom. Their space ship only holds enough provisions for ninety days. If their spaceship does not make it to Earth by then, they would die. Under great stress, they barely make it in 88 days. After they return home, Ransom becomes extremely sick. When he recovers, he wonders if any of this was real.
My favorite character is the protagonist, Dr. Ransom. It was amazing to see how much his character changed from when he was kidnapped to the trial scene with Oyarsa. C.S Lewis does an extremely excellent job of describing him. In most physical respects, he is rather average, although he has notably high stamina. An example of the latter is the trip he made when he was searching for Oyarsa. As C.S Lewis put it, it would usually be impossible for some one “with his age and build” to stand up to the extreme conditions he faced.
C.S Lewis writes many beautifully descriptive passages throughout the book. Here is an excerpt of Ransom’s impressions when they landed on the planet:
A mass of something purple, so huge that he took it for a heather-covered mountain, was his first impression: on the other side, beyond the larger water, there was something of the same kind. But there, he could see over the top of it. Beyond were strange upright shapes of whitish green: too jagged and irregular for buildings, too thin and steep for mountains. Beyond and above these again was the rose-coloured cloud-like mass. It might really be a cloud, but it was very solid-looking and did not seem to have moved since he first set eyes on it from the manhole. It looked like the top of a gigantic red cauliflower – or like a huge bowl of red soapsuds – and it was exquisitely beautiful in tint and shape.
I liked how descriptive C.S Lewis is in painting the scenery in my mind. The characters were realistic and believable, as well. This book was full of mystery and suspense which were well-balanced with the rich character development. The natives learned to trust Ransom, and to be wary about Weston and Devine. Ransom himself changes dramatically through the story. At the beginning, he had been dishonorable, but when his life was on the line, his values changed. The following passage talks about his encounter with a hross:
Then something happened which completely altered his state of mind. The creature…opened its mouth and began to make noises. This in itself was not remarkable; but a lifetime of linguistic study assured Ransom almost at once that these were articulate noises. The creature was talking. It had a language.
If you are not yourself a philologist, I am afraid you must take on trust the prodigious emotional consequences of this realization in Ransom’s mind. A new world he had already seen – but a new, and extra-terrestrial, a non-human language was a different matter…In the fraction of a second which it took Ransom to decide that the creature was really talking, and while he still knew that he might be facing instant death, his imagination had leaped over every fear and hope and probability of his situation to follow the dazzling project of making a Malacandrian grammar.
Readers will be delighted to know that this is only the first book of a three part series called the Space Trilogy. The two books that follow this are Perelandra and That Hideous Strength. For further reading, C.S Lewis has also written almost 30 other books that may be of interest.
Photo credit: Amazon.com, Fair Use
Lyn Lomasi is founder and owner of the Brand Shamans Content Community. Services include ordained soul therapy and healing ministry, business success coaching, business success services, handcrafted healing jewelry, ethereal and anointing oils, altar and spiritual supplies and services, handcrafted healing beauty products, and more!
Lyn is your brand healing, soul healing, marketing & content superhero to the rescue! While rescuing civilians from boring business practices and energy vampires, this awesomely crazy family conquers evil and creates change.
They live among tigers, dragons, mermaids, unicorns, and other fantastic energies, teaching others to claim their own power and do the same.
By supporting us, you support a dedicated parent, healer, and minority small business that donates to several causes. Profits from our all-inclusive store, Intent-sive Nature support these causes and our beautiful family!
HIRE OR SHOP WITH LYN | CONTACT LYN