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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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!
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