Excellent points! As a reviewer myself I definitely agree with every single one of them.
Monthly Archives: September 2016
Why Earth has 4 seasons
If you don’t know why we have seasons, here’s a great article on the explanation. It’s also notable that astrologically, each change comes about as the Sun ingresses a Cardinal Sign of the Tropical Zodiac, i.e. Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn.
Some assume our planet’s changing distance from the sun causes the change in the seasons. That’s logical, but not the case, for Earth.
Source: Why Earth has 4 seasons
Review of “Faithless Elector” by James McCrone
Don’t let the enigmatic title and somewhat bland cover of this political thriller fool you. While the subject sounded interesting and very apropos for the times, which is why I decided to read it, I had no idea it would suck me in like it did. I could hardly put it down and even stayed up late, missing a new episode of one of my favorite shows, “Blindspot,” to finish it. Believe me, that takes something pretty gripping.
There were so many things I loved about this book. First of all, I learned more about the Electoral College and the process the U.S. has for electing its president. Many years ago I remember a political science class in college where the professor stated that we should have a national primary, get rid of the electoral college process and go with a strict popular vote to elect the president, which made sense to me. That was back in the 80s and clearly nothing has changed. The complexity of this process leaves too many loopholes for corruption, as this intense story points out.
In this day of computers it simply wouldn’t be that difficult to assure the integrity of elections which is obviously not happening. I could go off on a complete rant about that, but this is a book review, for heaven sake. So I won’t. But I enjoy learning something from a book, especially when it’s packaged in a fast-moving, gripping story where you can’t read fast enough to find out what will happen next. There were parts where I wouldn’t have dared take my blood pressure. Yes, it was that intense.
The characters in this book were strong and believable. The main character, Duncan Calder, is a political science professor. He’s charming, intelligent and undoubtedly handsome, but not someone who is accustomed to being plunged into a world of intrigue and murder. It was very credible, the way he adapted, using his intelligence and survival instincts. All of the characters were also vivid and believable, particularly Imogen Trager, a former grad-student of his who is now working for the FBI. The history these two have is believable and handled in a very convincing way. They were very human and nothing felt contrived.
The descriptions and imagery were fantastic. The author described the various settings using prose that read like literary ambrosia. Yet, he knew when to cut to the chase, literally, and make the story and plot move at a breathless pace. It reminded me so much of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels that I loved, books I gave up like an addiction back in the days when I had a day job because they would force me to stay up into the wee hours of the night finishing them. Like those best sellers, the sense of danger of this thriller is palpable. There were a few brilliantly funny lines that had me laughing out loud and a touch of romance, masterfully intertwined within this incredible. I not only look forward to the next book, given not all the mystery was resolved in this one, but will probably read this one again. That, also, is something I rarely do. If I could give this book 10 stars I would. Don’t miss it.
Pick up your copy on Amazon here.
A Coloring Book with a Biblical Message
More than just a coloring book, this inspirational activity book will help you relax, unwind, and enjoy some creative fun while hiding God’s Word in your heart.
The 35 separate verses and passages are printed in colorable word art with decorative borders, blank on the back to make them easier to remove and frame or display, if desired. Each one is accompanied by two different activities or puzzles featuring the verse or key words from it.
Hide it in Your Heart is an ideal Scripture memorization aid for Christian schools, homeschool programs, Sunday schools, or your own personal use. Children and adults will enjoy learning, practicing, and meditating on these artistically presented verses from the New International Version Bible.
Proceeds from the sale of Hide it In Your Heart will be donated to www.Christar.org to help provide a translation of God’s Word for a particular people group in East Asia who do not yet have the Bible in their own language.
Here are a few sample coloring and activity pages from Hide it In Your Heart. If you’d like to color them or complete the word puzzles, click on the link below the illustration to access a PDF that you can download and print.
Sample page: Psalm 68:5-6a
Hide it In Your Heart is available in paperback on Amazon. Click here to order your copy for $8.99.
HOWEVER, you can get it for 15% off if you order it here on CreateSpace with coupon code JZBVVBH8! The code can be used an unlimited number of times and will not expire, so feel free to order as many copies as you like for family and friends. Hide it In Your Heart makes a great gift for anyone who enjoys word puzzles, coloring, or God’s word!
You’re welcome to share the code with others, too.
About the Author:
Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published thirteen books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, five anthologies of her students’ poetry, and a Scripture coloring and activity book). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.
Connect with Annie Douglass Lima online:
Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/AnnieDouglassLimaOnAmazon
Sign up for author updates and receive a free ebook of “interviews” with characters from her fantasy series: http://bit.ly/LimaUpdates
Review of “The Wake (and What Jeremiah did Next) by Colm Herron
This story is nothing short of brilliant. If you have any connection to Ireland, you’ll recognize the intimate depiction of its people and culture. If you don’t, you’ll get a crash course. The saying that fiction is best for depicting truth definitely applies. In this case, it’s like being fully immersed, perhaps even like being baptized in Irish whiskey, through the eyes of the main character, Jeremiah.
The book is so loaded with truth I hardly know where to start. It starts out at a wake, an event that is typically associated with Irish culture. If you’ve never been to one like myself, this will give you a glimpse of what they’re all about. If you’ve ever lived in a small town, it will make even more sense. Here you have someone who has passed away and has no relatives, so a neighbor holds the wake because it’s the thing to do. The conversations during this event reveal a boatload. It’s more of a social event where refreshments are served than a time to remember the deceased, who was not particularly liked. Jeremiah, whose mother is the hostess, is stuck attending and, to make it more tolerable, has a bit too much to drink. Well, okay, maybe more than a bit. This results in some absolutely hilarious situations that had me laughing ’til I cried, but I won’t give away because I hate spoilers.
So what did Jeremiah do next? Well, he got on with his life. A rather weird, somewhat dysfunctional, crazy one that wasn’t particularly unexpected for a young man in his twenties discovering life in that time and place. As is the case with most that age and gender, he’s obsessed with sex. He’s in love with a woman who’s not only bisexual, but a rebel. This is where all the social issues regarding the Catholics and Protestants come into play. After all, it’s the 60s when protesting was in vogue. So, Jeremiah hooks up with Aisling and her partner, Frances, whom he describes as “Stalin in drag.” The adventures they encounter, including in the bedroom (which are tastefully done, considering it’s a menage a trois) take off from there, and provide a glimpse into the religion-related issues and what the protests are all about.
I consider this story a literary masterpiece. I could hardly put it down, which was exacerbated by the fact it doesn’t have chapter breaks. It reads partly like a journal and partly like following Jeremiah around, perhaps as his guardian angel sees him. Few books have the ability this one has to draw you into a world so effectively. It’s like a very personal trip to the Emerald Isle.
As a bonus, and to assist those who may not “get” what this book is all about, the author includes some discussion questions at the end which would be particularly helpful for book clubs or even English teachers. All great literature is unique and stands out from everything else and this is in that category. You’ll either love it or hate it. I loved it.
Pick up your copy on Amazon here.
Review of “The Star Agency Chronicles Book 2: The Voyages of the Seven”
This second book in the “Star Agency Chronicles” series does a great job of expanding the cultures of the alien worlds to which “the seven” have been transported. In this story, they embark on specific journeys that resemble interstellar “sightseeing” in some respects and yet transform more to quests for others. The characters are further developed, at least some of them, as they meet the challenges thrust upon them inherent to their specific missions, greatly adding to the suspense and intrigue. Ruby’s situation is particularly fascinating and her evolution and growth especially well done. At this point, she is my favorite character. I love her spunk and courage coupled with emotional vulnerability, easily seen as a person who is hard on the outside yet soft on the inside.
The relationships between the various youth are credible and demonstrate nicely the complexity of teen emotions as they interact with each other, especially those of the opposite sex. Some have romantic possibilities while others are simply platonic. Jealousies arise as romantic interests are not reciprocated but directed elsewhere. The characters and their personalities are integrated nicely into the story, giving it more depth.
The aliens are definitely more enigmatic versus the first book, though I would have liked a few more reminders of what they look like. The interactions between the different alien worlds are further developed as well, introducing their various agendas that introduce numerous new plot twists, conflict and mystery in which the young characters are entangled.
I wish the author had not given two of the characters such similar names, i.e. Larissa and Lara, especially since Theo has taken to calling Larissa, Lari, which makes it even worse. The two are clearly different people, but it’s still slightly confusing, sometimes yanking me out of the story as I figure out which one is involved when all the characters are together. Maybe in the next volume one of them can acquire a nickname that will make each stand apart more clearly.
You’ve gotta love Lara, who shows signs of being slightly autistic, probably afflicted with Asperger’s syndrome. Her inability to filter what she says adds tension as well as raw honesty which adds to the interpersonal dynamics of this chosen group of youth. Larissa, though you see more of her in this story, is not nearly as well fleshed out as a character. A few of “the seven” have not gotten to “show their stuff” yet, which I assume will occur in the next book.
I give four stars to this entertaining and imaginative hard sci-fi series suitable and undoubtedly directed to teen and young adults.
You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.
Greek Fire: Interview with Konstantinos Karatolios
One of my favorite sayings is “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Unfortunately, we see such consequences all around us. And it’s no wonder, considering the way they taught history when I was growing up, which was primarily to memorize dates and events without context. Bor-ing!
Quite frankly, I didn’t have much interest in the subject until I started researching my family’s genealogy several years ago. At that point it had meaning, as events at the various time periods affected my progenitors, specifically by precipitating migrations to say nothing of wars. Now that I’ve lived long enough to see a significant number of historical events transpire before my eyes, it’s even more interesting. At this point, I love it, but it’s taken me a lifetime to get there.
Thus, I find it tremendously encouraging to see a young man such as Konstantinos Karatolios embracing history. As you can tell from his name, he’s Greek, and thus hails from a culture with a long and rich history. I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, “Troy”, about the Trojan War and I can easily imagine Konstantinos in the role of Achilles, formerly portrayed by none other than Brad Pitt. If Konstantinos goes into teaching after completing his PhD, I’ll bet dollars to donuts he’s going to have a powerful affect on increasing interest in the subject, kind of like Indiana Jones did on archaeology. 😉
So without further ado, let’s learn some more about this good-looking guy who’s intelligent enough to realize what a treasure trove history is , long before he’s as old as dirt like myself, and discover his motivation to write “Greek Fire,” from which you can find an excerpt below the interview.
You can learn more about Konstantinos here as well as his website and connect via his Facebook page.
MF: Few civilizations have a history as rich as Greece. Which time period do you find most interesting?
KK: There is no doubt that there is a focus on the Classical Period and I truly understand the popularity of this era. However I think that if you scratch the surface you will find that other periods are very interesting as well. One of these is definitely the Mycenaean era. Despite all that I chose to write about the most ambiguous period of all. The medieval period, i.e. the Byzantine when we are talking about the East. It is definitely the least appreciated of all but it promises some of the biggest thrills to those who bother study it.
MF: Who do you think is the most fascinating person in Greek history?
KK: That’s a really tough question. However it is my opinion that it’s not the charismatic leaders that make the important era but it is a significant era that calls for a charismatic leader. The same applies for artists and scientists too. What would Mozart have been if it wasn’t the historical period he was born at?
MF: How much truth to you think exists in Greek myths? Do you think they’re true stories embellished with time or purely symbolic?
KK: I think that myths are myths and we shouldn’t take them as facts. However no story is made without having a historical core. Difficult as it is our job is to find that core and see how it correlates with history.
MF: Was there something specific that drew your interest to Greek Fire?
KK: Greek Fire is covered in vagueness. It’s not only the fact that the way it was made was a state secret. Byzantines knew how important it was to possess a weapon that the opponents didn’t knew what it was and indeed we know that there were cases when armies surrendered just hearing that the Byzantines had it. So we have a weapon mentioned in a lot of sources but with a way that it doesn’t help us historians to draw definite conclusions. On the other hand the modern opinion of Greek Fire is oversimplified and totally unacceptable. The combination of these too made me interested in Greek Fire.
MF: Did you have any interesting experiences while researching your book?
KK: Researching is always an interesting experience by itself. All these little disappointments when you find out that things were not as you expected them to be on the one hand but also the huge satisfaction you get when you discover something new, is something difficult to describe.
MF: What’s the biggest challenge you found researching historical events?
KK: The biggest problem for a Byzantinologist is definitely the lack of sources. In many cases we must make the most with almost nothing.
MF: If you had access to a time machine, when and where would you want to go?
KK: It goes without saying that I would travel to the Byzantine Empire. I truly hope that they wouldn’t burn my time machine down using Greek Fire! It would be highly ironic!
MF: What is your favorite place to go when you’re seeking some inspiration?
KK: The ideal place for a writer is somewhere where he or she can be totally isolated from other people and not distracted at all. I have to admit that this is too good to be true. Usually I just lock myself up in my office but that’s never as isolated as it sounds!
MF: What are you currently working on?
KK: I’m working on my PhD. I try to find out everything there is for the education of the princes of the Macedonian Dynasty, at the Middle Byzantine Era. I am looking to return to Greek Fire as soon as I get the chance to do it.
“The wonder of the thousand-year Byzantine Empire could not have been achieved without an army that allowed it to maintain its existence for so many centuries. This was despite facing constant challenges from external enemies that differed significantly in their nature. In this context, what had been inherited from the Romans and the adoption of new weapons and tactics in battle were of equal importance. “Greek fire”, if not the most important of these weapons, was surely that which achieved the greatest fame of all. It was used throughout the course of the Byzantine Empire and granted resounding victories to its navy. Its use verges on legend, and yet almost all we know about it and its use is clouded by the vagueness of the primary sources.”
You can learn more about “Greek Fire” at the publisher’s site and pick up your copy from Amazon here.
Capricornus? Here’s your constellation
If you haven’t identified your zodiac sign in the night sky you’re missing a special treat. The following article contains instructions for finding Capricorn with links to how to find the others at the end of the article. Bear in mind that not all of them are visible year round!
Note, however, that the constellations do NOT line up with the Tropical Zodiac used in astrology! At one time they did, but due to the precession of the equinoxes, i.e. the changing of where the Earth’s axis points over time, this has changed by about 23 degrees. Thus, the sky represents the sidereal (star) zodiac while western astrology uses the Tropical Zodiac, which is based on the relationship between the Earth and the Sun.
More specifically, the equinoxes and solstices mark the seasons and the beginning of the Cardinal Signs.
Vernal Equinox (Spring – Northern Hemisphere, Autumn – Southern) = 0 Aries
Summer Solstice (Winter – Southern Hemisphere) = 0 Cancer
Autumnal Equinox (Spring – Southern Hemisphere) = 0 Libra
Winter Solstice (Summer – Southern Hemisphere) = 0 Capricorn
The following article, which is based on astronomical views, names Ophiuchus as the constellation for those born late November to early December. In the tropical zodiac, this is an overlap between Scorpio and Sagittarius. Ophiuchus is not recognized astrologically.
The constellation Capricornus the Sea-goat. How to see it, and how a sea-goat came to reside among the stars.
Moon and Venus on September 3
Here’s what to watch for tonight after sunset. Jupiter, Venus and the crescent moon.
Look for the moon and Venus low in the west shortly after sunset. Venus is bright and will appear against the bright twilight. Don’t wait too late, or they will have set!
Source: Moon and Venus on September 3