A Vivid Backstory for Bible Lovers

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Some Shall Not Die — Philip

by Everett Cole

This story is an excellent example of well-executed Christian fiction.  The characters are well-developed, the research is outstanding, and it’s not preachy. Clearly, the main character, Philip, is passionate about sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but he does it in a natural, compelling manner. If you’re a Christian, you’ll find your faith strengthened by Philip’s quoting of Biblical verses and intrigued by how much of this story is historical truth and how much is fiction, as the two are blended beautifully.

As stated in the introduction, the premise is based upon a statement made by Jesus Christ and recorded in the Bible that promised that some of his disciples wouldn’t taste of death until Jesus returned. The story recounts the mission of Philip, one assumed to be one of these chosen few, and starts when he’s in Britannia, i.e. today’s United Kingdom, as his companion, Barnabas, dies. Following that event, he’s summoned to a meeting with the other disciples so he leaves to return to mainland Europe. He winds up in a small village in Northern Italy and become involved with the various citizens of a town called Martigny.

If you’ve ever wondered what it was like for these early Christian missionaries, this story will take you there. It’s a great history (and geography) lesson with regard to travel at that time as well as the Roman Empire’s influence. Threats early Christians faced, not only from the Romans, but the Druids as well as hoards of barbarians, who resented the Roman invasion of their land, are clearly explained. Living conditions of the time are well-represented, as well as the simple nature of the majority of people, who were mostly illiterate. This enjoyable story takes you on a fascinating journey and provides a powerful glimpse of what it was like to be one of the early Christians. While fictitious, it nonetheless will provide fascinating context to your comprehension of the New Testament. For that, I highly recommend it, especially since it’s suitable for family reading time if you or your children’s eyes glaze over when reading the actual scriptures.

As a Christian myself, but also a professional astrologer, I wasn’t surprised when the primary antagonist was an astrologer and mystic. Of course there have always been charlatans, but I can’t resist mentioning that if it weren’t for the Magi’s knowledge of astrology, they never would have found Jesus or recognized his significance. The Bible tells us to expect signs in the heavens (as well as in the Earth beneath), the recognition of which in the majority of cases will require a knowledge of astrology. What better way to keep people in the dark than to forbid such knowledge? Furthermore, all the Bible says against astrologers is that they’re not as powerful as prophets and are not intended to replace them.

To set the record straight, it was actually the Roman Empire who did all it could to keep astrology out of the hands of those who weren’t in the highest echelons of society; they wanted to control the common people and what they knew. Individuals are never encouraged by emperors and/or dictators (or even popes) to think for themselves.  Given the heavy influence on Christianity by the Romans, it’s no wonder that this false tradition has persisted in Christianity to this day.

I have found astrology to be so elegantly detailed and precise that it could have no origin other than from God, who created the stars and planets in the first place. Thus, how could their message not be from Him? A knowledge of astrology was required of those considered learned for centuries, but ironically fell out of favor during the Enlightenment, when most things spiritual in nature were dismissed as either nonexistent or of the devil when they couldn’t be proven with hard data.

The Sefer Yetzirah, the book of the Letters of Abraham, contains a wealth of information related to Jewish mysticism and Kabbalistic traditions. Astrology is mentioned in great detail. along with the statement that Abraham was the greatest astrologer of all time. It seems to me that’s a pretty high recommendation. Like so many other gifts given to man by our Creator, its use has been misunderstood and maligned to keep us from recognizing signs in the heavens and the many insights it can provide into our personal lives.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

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A Touching Autobiographical Account of One Woman’s Journey

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Born for Life: A Midwife’s Story

by Julie Watson

This book is the autobiographical account of a woman who was involved in childbirth much of her life. It took me a while to figure out where it was taking place, which I knew wasn’t the USA, but wasn’t sure where until it was stated eventually that it was New Zealand. That explained some of the terminology which was unfamiliar, but nonetheless, I could relate to this book on many levels.

First of all, as the mother of six children, I’ve been through the birth process personally enough times to understand much of what was recounted for numerous birth experiences. I suppose one I had that wasn’t mentioned was a posterior presentation. I was also surprised that women in labor whose membranes had ruptured were allowed in a bath, something that was a major no-no here in the USA. Other than that, most was familiar, other than names of different medications.

You really got to know the author through her experiences, some of which were heartrending, which of course life can be at times, especially with something as intense and life-changing as childbirth. She started out at the tender age of 16 as a nurse’s aide, then eventually later in life went to nursing school and certified as a midwife, which she’d dreamed of doing her entire life. I could relate to that as well, having returned to college when I was 35 to pursue a physics degree and my childhood dream, then eventually starting my career at 41 years old working for NASA.

This book also made me realize that a person doesn’t have to be famous to present an interesting story. I thoroughly enjoyed it throughout, eventually feeling as if I knew the author as a friend. I have thought of writing up some of my experiences, but wondered if anyone would care since I’m not famous. This story, however, demonstrated the value of stories of ordinary people who have done something remarkable. Anyone who feels as if they’re too old to pursue their dreams needs to read books like this, which will remind them not to give up. However, be warned, this one has a whole bunch of somewhat graphic descriptions of the birth process, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea for entertainment. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it tremendously.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

An Amazing, Uplifting Story of Recovery

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5stars

Review of

“Before, Afdre, and After (My Stroke…oh, what fun)”

by Maureen Twomey

This is the true story of a woman who had a massive, extremely debilitating stroke at the young age of 33 which caused significant brain damage. The book recounts, step by step, her very difficult journey back to functionality. It truly illustrates the principle that heroes (and heroines) are ordinary people plunged into exceptional circumstances. I was totally blown away by this book for so many reasons. First of all, that someone could be so entirely debilitated and survive, much less want to, given the immediate effects left her abilities so compromised. She had to learn to read and write again as well as speak, since it was the left side of her brain which was damaged, which governs these abilities. Walking was likewise something she had to learn again, given the resulting paralysis.

The support of her family and friends was so heartwarming. What a marvelous person she was to have so many people, including coworkers, pulling for her during her long recovery period back to functionality in today’s world.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with a debilitating illness or injury, I highly recommend this inspirational story. Few have to go through what Ms. Twomey endured. Her sense of humor remained intact, however, so while this is a heartbreaking experience in so many ways, she confronted it with courage and determination, which paid off for her and defied the doctors. What a testimonial to the human spirit when assisted by the skilled hands of physical, occupational, and speech therapists. It’s absolutely amazing how the human body can respond to willful recovery. Those who are working in those field will enjoy this book as well, as a testimonial to the importance of their profession and training.

Included in the book are illustrations of the various exercises and protocols she used, which accentuate how much work Ms. Twomey and her therapists put into her recovery. Her step by step improvement is shown graphically, demonstrating how far she has come throughout this difficult journey.

I am so glad that she took the time and effort to write up her story for a multitude of reasons. It has brought me true appreciation for my own health while showing how bad things can really get. It has provided me with an increased appreciation for therapists and their valuable work. And it has increased my faith in the human spirit and the body’s ability to heal, especially when commanded to do so through work and positive thinking. This story is amazing and something everyone needs to read to expand their awareness to those with handicaps of all kinds. Maureen Twomey is nothing short of a miracle.

There are a few typos, but considering what an accomplishment it was for her to write it in the first place, they are forgiveable. I’ve read many, many books by those with no such excuse that are loaded with them! How many of us had to learn how to read, write, and speak again in our 30s? Some of the graphics and illustrations were difficult to read with my old Kindle, so for those who want full benefit of this marvelous story, I recommend they get a print copy if their reading device doesn’t cooperate. Either way, don’t miss it.

You can pickup your copy on Amazon here.

5* Wacky British Humor Suitable for Nerds Like Myself

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This book strikes me as what would result if Monty Python had directed “The Martian”; picture Eric Idle playing Mark Watney. If you’re not a fan of that particular brand of British humor, then this story’s genius will undoubtedly escape you. I laughed myself silly several times at the absolutely ludicrous characters, situations, and scenes. You wouldn’t expect that such a silly, outrageous premise would be brilliant, but it is. As someone who worked for NASA for over twenty years, I think it takes considerable imagination to come up with something so far from reality. Nonetheless, the characters are amazingly well-developed, not only the humans, but the plethora of robots as well.

The plot is more complex than you’d expect and includes not only the totally bungled Mars mission, but a murder mystery as well as a tie back to the Roswell UFO crash. The basic story is that the Brits have put together a mission to Mars, for which a robotic crew was tasked with building and preparing the base. This does not happen on schedule, which means that the humans arrive to a facility that is not only unfinished, but built incorrectly, i.e., too small because they used “old meters” (yards) instead of “new meters.”

The crew is not what you’d expect, but a motley bunch  that ranges from librarians to scientists and their child prodigy-type offspring plus various others unlikely to be part of such a mission. The commander, Flint Dugdale, who acquired that position when the original one was murdered en route, won his place on the ship originally from a reality show, then strong-armed his way into the top seat. He’s rude, crude, and obnoxious, typically swilling beer and belching, thus not endearing in any way, but does lend a certain level of humor with some of his exploits, especially when they finally get settled at the base. I won’t say any more than that because it would constitute a spoiler, as would mentioning any of the funniest scenes that had me laughing so hard I was in tears.

Yes, I laughed a lot, hard, at how outrageously crazy the entire situation was. There is clearly no semblance of reality here, especially on the science side, which the reader needs to recognize. It’s a spoof and a satire, which I felt was well-done. It certainly expanded my knowledge of British slang, including boffins, twonk, pillock, kerfuffle, conkers, and numerous others, which for me added to the flavor of the story and kept me aware that this was a bunch of Brits. Fortunately, I read it on my Kindle, which has a built-in dictionary to help with such matters. As an author myself, I enjoy learning new words and have been known to read the dictionary. So I’m probably not your normal reader.

Clearly this book is not for everyone. For me it was just what I was looking for, something to make me laugh out loud while I was recovering from pneumonia. As a physicist and former rocket scientist, I have a weird, nerd-like sense of humor that resonated with this story. Consider that our college ritual every semester’s end back in the 80s was to have a pizza party and watch “Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail.” To me “The Big Bang Theory” is a reality show. If you can relate to that, you’d probably find this book amusing. I certainly did. You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

A Cute Christmas Short Story

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Okay, this review is a week late and a dollar short, so to speak, but worth putting on your list for next year. This cute short story is perfect to read aloud with the family during the Christmas season, especially if you have a cat.  It’s well-written, has characters you can relate to (especially Mildred, the cat), and enough of a plot to give it substance. I laughed out loud at some of Mildred’s opinions of the dog and loved the innovative ways she tried to intervene and make sure everyone was happy. Highly recommended for a cozy read by the fireplace.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

What Awaits Us on the “Other Side?”

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Review of “The Legend of the Walking Dead” by Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko

First of all, if you think this story relates to the popular television series, “The Walking Dead”, it doesn’t. Secondly, if you think this book is a dry account from an anthropologist’s point of view, it’s not that, either. Rather, it’s what best described as a dramatization or fictionalized account of what the Igbo culture in Nigeria believe happens to a person after death, an account of what goes on in the spirit world, if you will.

When Gloria’s son, Osondu, disappears, she goes looking for him. She finds him, but at a price. They are both dead and in the world of spirits where an entirely different culture, hierarchy of authority, and set of rules apply.

As the story unfolds, the reader joins them in a fascinating journey where “the walking dead” are not zombies, but simply those who have died, yet mingle with the living. Some may not realize they’re dead, others may refuse to leave the world of the living, others, who discover and follow the rules, get established in their new environment, progress, and are given assignments. This is not a simple world where departed spirits hang out on clouds playing harps.

The author has definitely researched the subject and conveying it in story form makes it come alive, no pun intended. There are times when it rambles a bit and there certainly isn’t any discernible plot, given it’s more like a stream of consciousness journey of discovery.

I was fascinated by the similarity to various religious beliefs as well as the work of renowned psychologist, Michael Newton, author of “Journey of Souls” and “Destiny of Souls.”  These two books contain accounts of some of his clients, whom he has regressed back to their sojourn in the Spirit World via hypnosis.

If you’re curious about reincarnation and what goes on in the world of the dead, I can highly recommend Newton’s books as well as Joy’s, all of which convey the message that things on the other side are structured and in most cases, far better than what mortals have to deal with. It’s no wonder we come into this world crying.

You can pick up your copy of “The Legend of the Walking Dead” on Amazon here.

Three Cheers & Five Stars for Scott Skipper’s “Alien Affairs” Trilogy

I read the first book in this series, “Alien Affairs”, a few years ago and always intended to read the others, but had a TBR list that precluded it at the time.  When a health issue drove me toward reading something that would make me laugh (laughter is the best medicine after all, right?), I reread “Alien Affairs”, then immediately dove into the sequels. I was not disappointed.

As a fan of dry, dark humor, not only did this one make me laugh, it was also a great, highly suspenseful story with a complex plot of its own with some new engaging characters. With the human race left sterile by the attack depicted in book one, now the characters need to figure out how to reverse the effects. Coupled with that, however, is a wave of terrorist attacks, which rather than simply using explosives to kill people, disperse the deadly ebola virus instead. Thus, the chase is on, the team trying to second guess the terrorists with regard to where they’ll strike next while also trying to develop the antivirus to say nothing of trying to live their personal lives in the midst of chaos.

Alien technology recorded in an ereader that main character, Carrie Player, obtained in book one, contains the information they need to beat the virus, which they hope to employ to reverse the sterility situation as well, since it’s caused by a virus. Nothing is simple, though, because the aliens are still hanging around committing random abductions to make sure their extermination plan has succeeded. If they discover their mission to wipe us out humanely by attrition has failed, they’ll simply kill off everyone real-time with their gravity wave weapons, though we’re on the trail to developing them as well, thanks to the same ereader.

Anyone who has left-leaning political views would probably find this book outrageously offensive.  I found it refreshing and satisfying, the characters’ goals such that could undoubtedly improve upon the current world situation. There’s no sugar coating of what’s going on or where we’re heading, if someone doesn’t take drastic steps soon. While I appreciate the symbolism vampires and zombies represent in numerous dystopia novels, this cautionary tale doesn’t pull any punches with regard to where the greatest threat really lies. These stories are not trivialized satire; they are well-written, masterfully constructed, brilliant looks at how our way of life is crumbling before our eyes. Read it and weep.

If you haven’t read “Alien Affairs” this book would still make sense since the author did an outstanding job of recapping major events that tie into this one. However, I recommend starting with book one since it sets the stage by going all the way back to the Roswell UFO crash back in 1947. If you’re a UFO or conspiracy aficionado, you’re bound to thoroughly enjoy these well-written, fast-moving stories populated with vivid, often snarky characters you’re sure to cheer on in their quest to save the world from annihilation.

Pick up your copy of Book 2 on Amazon here.

Moving on to Book 3, “Alien Child”, the third and final book in the “Alien Affairs” series, this one is slightly different since it’s written through the viewpoint of Terrie Deshler, who is Carrie Player’s child (born in the end of book two as the result of an alien encounter in book one) who has 2% alien DNA.  Now a teenager, she’s brilliant, snarky, sexy, and telepathic, her black eyes the only visible evidence of her alien heritage. This is enough for her to be viewed as an abomination, so she and her mother become the target of government supported terrorist attacks. Thus, they are forced to live in a walled compound surrounded by heavily armed security details.

Having found an anti-virus which can reverse the sterility imposed upon the world in book one, it is being selectively dispersed only to graduates of Georgia Turnbull’s elite Academy, their goal to repopulate the earth with educated, hard-working, morally solid individuals. Controversial, yes, but what intelligent person hasn’t entertained the thought that there are some people on this planet who simply shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce? Yet, there is the matter of who should make such a radical decision? It’s even more complicated, however, because if the aliens discover their plan to destroy the entire human race has failed, they’ll employ more violent means to do so and be done with it.

Like the other books in this series, this one is loaded with political incorrectness. However, anyone who thinks we’ve made strides forward in the past several years is either blind or can’t be playing with a full deck. It’s thought-provoking to consider who the real enemy is: The aliens who want to destroy the human race because they don’t want our propensity for violence unleashed on the entire galaxy? Or the terrorists and their sympathizers in the government itself, who are clearly on the path to destroying civilization as we know it?

Yet, when push comes to shove, the aliens turn out to be Carrie and Terrie’s allies, providing some very satisfying, high-five moments, though the problem remains regarding the alien’s refusal to accept a failed mission due to the sterility issue. There are certainly plenty of other loose ends that the author could continue to develop, should he so choose to continue the series.

I blew through this book in a single day, wondering how it would end, which certainly held some interesting twists and surprises.  Dark, satirical humor and suspense aside, this thought-provoking series addresses numerous sobering issues. Clearly we live in a world that has chosen a path that can’t possibly end well without intervention. It wasn’t too difficult to see both the alien point of view as well as that of the Turnbull Academy with regard to human behavior. As a side note, if you’ve read any of Dr. Steven M. Greer’s books on the UFO phenomenon, you may recognize that there are various elements of this tale that could be more truth than poetry. We can always hope.

Pick up your copy of “Alien Child” on Amazon here.

5-Stars for “Finding Billy Battles – Book II” by Ronald E. Yates

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I learned so much from this well-written and meticulously researched book. I’m not usually that much of a fan of historical fiction, but in this case it was a welcome educational experience. As Billy’s journeys take him to Saigon, the Philippines, and even turn-of-the-20th-century Germany, this story is richly imbued with cultural and historical facts I previously did not know. This included something as simple as where white pepper comes from, but most especially the dark history of colonialism. I had heard of the Spanish-American War, but had no idea it was fought in the Philippines, much less why.

I have grown up simply accepting the fact that the British, French, and Spanish did a considerable amount of exploring, which also constituted conquests for more land and resources. This is apparent by the languages spoken in diverse parts of the world, far from where they originated. Getting a glimpse into the climate and attitudes of the 19th century, especially how indigenous people were trampled and exploited, brought up multiple considerations that had previously been entirely off my radar.

While colonialism’s defenders note that it brings a higher standard of living to these areas, it is also at a high price to the cultural norms and freedom of those unfortunate enough to live in such a place. Insights into Saigon in the late 1800s provided a new understanding into the Vietnam War and guerilla warfare. While in some cases, America has helped defend these countries, in others it has been just as guilty as the European conquests. Ironically, American is the prime example of a country that rebelled successfully against colonialism, yet then went on to force it on others, for example Native Americans. We are no better than anyone else and it’s easy for me to understand why other countries hate us.

The best part of this story is that all these fascinating details were woven into the plot of a story with believable characters caught up in this historical drama, from the Old West, to pre-WWI Europe, and overseas in the Far East.  I recommend it highly to anyone who enjoys a meaty, well-researched read that serves up more than an interesting story. History buffs will love it. While it is the second book in a trilogy, I thoroughly enjoyed it and had no trouble following it without the benefit of reading the first.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

“Immortal: The Soulmate” by Terra James

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This suspenseful sequel was another great page-turner, which picked up where “The Chosen” left off. While unconventional, the author’s technique of writing each chapter in a different character’s first-person viewpoint works nicely for understanding the characters and their motivation. More insights into the different cultures, particularly the link between Emmaline as a witch and Dravon as a vampire were illustrated, as well as a closer look at the Fae, with a bit more magic introduced.

One of the best parts of this series is the way the author gradually takes you into a fantasy world, which eventually feels normal with its supernatural population of witches, vampires, werewolves, and fae, and how these different cultures interact. There’s a great lesson and analogy in this story for human races in general with regard to getting along, that it’s together in cooperation that great power is achieved. However, there will always be opposing sides of good and evil, so nothing is ever simple.

I especially liked Sadie’s blessings as a healer where she used another language. I didn’t bother dropping it into Google Translate to find out if it was real or not, but it looked convincing and added a really nice touch of authenticity.

This is an excellent story with engaging characters. The cliffhangers are done skillfully, i.e., in a way that makes you want to find out what happens next without making you growl at an abrupt non-ending. It was suspenseful enough for me to keep reading, but my emotional involvement was fairly low. If a book can make me both laugh and cry it will easily earn five stars. This one didn’t do either, but it’s generally imaginative and well-written so I’ll give it four and a half.

Pick up a copy on Amazon here.

A Very Elegant Conversation with a Vampire

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5stars

Review of “A Perilous Thirst” by Rhani D’Chae

This short story is as elegantly written as its cover implies, taking you straight into the mind and very cold heart of a traditional vampire. We’ve had an “interview” with a vampire sometime back, but this is a “conversation” with a vampire, or perhaps, “seduction” by a vampire. And what an entrancing and enlightening one it is!

This is not a friendly, warm, fuzzy, and moral creature, even though he states that he has never forced himself on anyone. Nonetheless, he is of the human blood-sucking type from which nightmares derive. This is one who has lived for thousands of years, has amassed plenty of money, has sophisticated manners as well as tastes, and is now living in Tacoma, Washington in 1987.  As the story begins, he has not indulged his sordid nature for four months and the lack of nourishment is agonizing. He’s in a bar, perusing the potential menu items, while explaining his dilemma and buying drinks for–you!

He explains the reason for his abstinence is not only because he’s gay, but due to his concern with contracting HIV. This is a horrible fate for vampires because they cannot die, but nevertheless waste away if they become infected. Thus, he is extremely cautious in choosing his next victim. He finds one whom he gets drunk and offers to take home, continuing his soliloquy as he returns to his own residence.

The writing is no less than literary in caliber, tastefully done, and amazingly unoffensive, given the topics under discussion. Yet there are bits of subtle, albeit dark, humor, such as referring to his catches as “tv dinners”, a reference to fang-sized condoms, and noting he prefers to live alone not only to more easily conceal his true nature but because “the young men of today tend to equate cohabitation with a ‘relationship’, and so while I am simply attempting to keep my sustenance close at hand, they are picking out bedroom furniture and embroidering our initials onto the bath towels.”

If you’ve been indulging in the usual vampire fare out there these days, much of which is clever and entertaining, you nonetheless should spend an evening with a real vampire, one who could easily have been one of Count Dracula’s contemporaries. This was the perfect read for Halloween and offered a fascinating glimpse into a true vampire’s persona and character. It was chilling, yet fascinating, and truly one of the best pieces of outstanding writing I’ve seen in a long time.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.