The CROSS Worked

The CROSS Worked ISBN: 9781984959255 a religious e-book Zack Maldonado.

The author has sub-titled this book: Why You Can Have Confidence on the Day of Judgement and proceeds in an Introduction to tell the reader “If you’re tired of a god who only wants you to do more or be better, then this book is for you. If you’re confused about the mixed messages you’ve been hearing, then this book is for you. And if you’re burned out because you were told you have to do more for God, then this book is for you.” He then explains that, like many others, “I wasn’t being set free by what I was hearing either. This is why I had to reexamine everything I believed. Once I got back to Scripture, I realized that the gospel is really good news and that God really is good.” What then follows is a scholarly critical analysis of the reasons for this conclusion with three basic reasons: Reason 1; You’re Totally Forgiven, followed by 9 individual supporting chapters; Reason 2: You’re Just Like Jesus, with 7 particularly relevant chapters; Reason 3 Your God Is Good, with 6 more positive chapters supported by reassuring passages from scripture. The presentation ends with 4 pages of exact references to the scriptures quoted, a tremendously helpful 14 page Study Guide and a gracious list of acknowledgements.

Discussion/Conclusion: As almost everyone knows and admits, much confusion exists in attempting to gather the main messages from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible – books contributed to by many groups and individuals over a large expanse of time and offering countless interpretations. In this reviewer’s opinion Maldonado has offered the best critical approach printed to date supporting his discussion with specific spiritual references. Admittedly, most readers will find much of his presentation to be uncomfortably repetitious as is so prevalent with pastors/lecturers, so judicious editing would be most helpful to present this treatise. However, in large part this feature should be overlooked if one is interested in the nicely postulated, credible answers he presents to so many of the controversial opinions extant among religious leaders as well as their parishioners.

3*       5* Content; -2* for reasons described.

 

To Be Had

To Be Had ISBN: 9780473408855, ABSeeS (New Zealand) Publisher, an e-book by Sava Buncic.

The story follows the life and struggles of Boris, the product of a woman beaten down by a cruelly mentally abusive alcoholic husband who employs the same tactics with his son. Money always is a problem exacerbated as he retires with a small pension insufficient to support his drinking along with usual expenses. Boris does manage to obtain a law degree and gain employment as a part-time assistant to one of the two lawyers in his home town which is too small even to adequately support these. Thus, money also for him always is a problem complicated further by having married directly after leaving high school and his wife conceiving shortly after. He believed she should not obtain a job because it would ‘not send the proper message as wife of a practicing lawyer’. Concentrating on his mounting problems, he completely neglects his daughter, still refuses to allow his wife to work, and when his employer can no longer even afford him and terminates the position, he decides to move to a larger town for a position in a small firm. The wife and child are left behind until ‘he gains sufficient funds’ to establish a new home for them in the new city. Within a short time his life begins to totally unravel. The salary is barely sufficient to support the two residences, he becomes involved with a woman co-worker, almost completely ignores his wife and daughter, begins stock market trading, his father is incapacitated and mother requires money, his wife and daughter refuse even to talk with him, as a lawyer he becomes involved in land deals using trust money, his unlawful activity results in court appearances and loss of his ability to practice law. Desperate, he becomes a male prostitute where he does meet and become friends with Simona, the wife of a prominent politician. The establishment is raided and part of the fallout results in a financial windfall in a most unusual manner, but this only produces a lengthy mass of further complications as his unwise attempts expand. Ultimately, Simona again finds him and together they reestablish a relationship, he finds his now rather sadly partially mentally compromised daughter as a result of complications of her own and the story eventually proceeds to the small town in which it began.

Discussion: The story, through Boris’ actions, actually presents interesting illumination of several common fallacies in personal development; total self-interest, opportunistic behavior with at best fragmentary personal honor/ethics and little to no personal respect. Also interesting commentary on a number of social issues – the tendency for TV Reality shows to appeal as resulting from provision of excuses for similar tendencies within the audience; again, for the attraction presented by the subjects of such shows for some; for the only somewhat veiled persistence of ‘class distinction’ and its manifestations. Additionally positive is that Boris does exhibit persistent perseverance in the face of repetitive disasters. Other than these features, Boris’ performance is quite painful to follow. He never seemed able to acquired even the slightest ability to equate with people and only was marginally successful in general. His decisions often lack seemingly normal responses as does his attendant performance. With respect to mechanics of presentation, further judicious editing would greatly enhance the content.

Summary: This is the second book I have read by this author, and again must caution it has a distinct dystopian slant that will not appeal to the reader who is looking for enjoyment. However, individuals who like tales of the less enjoyable aspects of life, mostly self-created, with additional commentary on some of the not so subtle aspects of social intercourse will find To Be Had to their liking.

3* 4* For certain type of readers.

Elixir of the Ages

Elixir of the Ages is “The New Science of Understanding”, an e-book published, copyright and written by Chinmayee N.

The Introduction to this short (31 pages) book recounts how human nature dictates our need for “things to ensure our happiness and prosperity” and how we expend constant effort, even struggle to obtain them. This is not bad per se. However the accompanying worry about not losing what already has been gained while attempting to acquire the next ‘necessity’ is, and can produce both physical and mental problems that can reach frightening levels. True, life expectancy has advanced but, according to corroborating studies, “we’re unhappier than we’ve ever been.” Help is abundantly offered but unfortunately “the business of happiness has become hopelessly commercialized.” Thus, the author states “The purpose of this book is not to convey a never-before revealed secret, or to provide instructions which, if followed, guarantee well-being, or to tell you what you’re doing wrong…” Instead: “What I do hope to accomplish is to demonstrate through science and traditional wisdom, that the process of studying the nature of the self is both the beginning and the end to any spiritual quest.” Understanding the reader’s hesitancy because of the overburdening mass of self-help material already available, she asks simply that you “keep an open mind and keep reading.” Five chapters follow each title beginning with “The Elixir of…”. The first, Identity, offers “a simple theory of the universal misunderstanding of the meaning of identity; the second, Immediacy discusses connection and acquisition, the dual source “at the root of virtually any struggle one can imagine” and examines the differences in need for immediacy of decision-making between early man and the more cognitive approach that is more appropriate as man’s evolution continued. Additionally “Letting go of at least some of our attachments to conditions and to our own visible identity, does not mean we are less likely to achieve happiness and well-being. Instead, it just alleviates a lot of the suffering we needlessly put ourselves through along the way…” concluding “As the great teacher Paramahansa Yogananda (prominent exponent of Kriya Yoga) said, “Forget the past, for it is gone from your domain! Forget the future for it is beyond your reach! Control the present! Live supremely now! This is the way of the wise.””; the third chapter, Benevolence concentrates on “The blueprint for all the relationships in our lives can be found in a single core relationship – that which each of us has with our Self. If one wishes to be surrounded by loving family and friends, and to be respected and recognized in our community, one must cultivate those attributes by being loving to one’s Self, and being a respected friend to one’s self”; four discusses Possibility with an opening descriptive quote by philosopher Sam Keen: “We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly; Chapter Five is that of Eternity and begins “How is a person different if they are convinced of their own goodness and the goodness of the world? Why does a belief in one’s own attributes become an attribute in and of itself? The easiest explanation is in the result – a person with a lot of self-confidence moves through life with less pain and stress than a person with no self-confidence. Clearly, it is better to have self-confidence than to lack it just as it is better to have an optimistic rather than pessimistic view of life.” Further discussion follows on cultivation of such a positive outlook.

Discussion: This is the author’s first book and is interestingly different. It has been written with a decidedly fresh approach by one who “knows what it’s like to border two worlds: she is an entrepreneur and a finance professional, but also a practitioner of Kriya yoga” – a long existent form brought to international attention by Paramahansa Yogananda and described as a Buddhist tradition based, ritualistic use of heart-warming words/phrases not necessarily related to any religion, family member(s), social class or other, but whose use purportedly evinces social as well as individual change. The author also includes an interesting and Zen (Japanese version) Buddhism statement about an individual’s activity before and after attaining one’s most coveted life’s goal “Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water.” i.e. remember you still have to continue your life.

Conclusion: Fascinating, fresh approach to ‘self-help’. Recommended.

5* Fascinating, fresh approach to ‘self-help’.

Harnessing Altruism

Harnessing Altruism ISBN: 9780473382957, ABSeeS (New Zealand) Publisher, an e-book by Sava Buncic.

The book opens with an Epigraph paraphrasing French philosopher Auguste Comte’s definition of altruism as an “ethical doctrine based on a belief that the moral value of an individual’s actions is defined primarily by how they affect other people, and the consequences on the individual are secondary to that. Accordingly, the regulative supremacy of social sympathy over the selfish instincts is the first and foremost aspect of morality.” Immediately following is a description from British ethologist Richard Dawkins describing selfishness as “something all individuals are born with, because they are merely survival machines directed and used by the selfish molecules known as genes for their own preservation.” Thus he continues “This implies that inherently, altruism is an unstable system open to abuse, because selfish individuals are ready to exploit it.” The author’s preface follows with a questioning of Earth’s pathway with global warming, depletion of its resources and endless overpopulation rampant while most peoples’ thoughts of results are too “gloomy, bleak, scary, painful’ to face.” “We ignore visible signs that our current hedonism is not only self-serving so ethically questionable, but clearly biologically unsustainable, globally and in the long term.” The story itself opens as a gathering of leaders of the world’s nations is in progress to attempt to devise a credibly workable solution when it finally is discovered that only enough resources remain to support one-fifth of its total population. Their action is to establish the “World Organization for Resource Management (WORM)” with the largest and most productive nation as principal management. There follows a ‘worst scenario’ plot as the plan moves through its early stages into ensuing years as even the imposed measures begin to be insufficient. Then, as verbalized by one of the ‘important class’ to inform one of lesser status that it is very sad but to save civilization individual values such as morals, ethics, empathy, altruism must be sacrificed. Instead “…altruism must be looked at from mankind’s perspective…Yes, that’s the highest altruism. Altruism means not only that the stronger help the weaker to survive, altruism also means that the weaker don’t prevent the survival of the whole. What’s for the good of mankind is above the good for individuals.” “To protect our civilization, it’s necessary for some people to endure a much tougher fate than others, because those others – they’re crucial for the overall outcome”. The story continues to describe and present these ‘required’ activities for mankind to continue its existence and the enormous disparities that exist.

Discussion: This is a plot-driven story with little character development per se. The main protagonist is Ed, apparently the only surviving member of one of the smaller country’s Prime Ministers who was an early sacrifice to the initial scramble to establish control and a typical example of some of the baser actions of which mankind is capable. In spite of little character development, Ed does generate a certain amount of empathy, as does Naomi his ‘soul mate’. The author’s style of presentation requires a little ‘getting accustomed to’ and there often are sizeable time gaps where ‘probable activity’ must be deduced by the reader. Generally, the tale provides a grim picture that definitely is NOT for the reader looking for entertainment. However, for the reader who is concerned with global warming and other aspects of Earth’s problems, or even those who simply enjoy dystopian tales, this one’s for you – once you are able to adjust to the problems mentioned.

Conclusion: A dystopian slanted tale presented in a realistically harsh manner that should be enjoyed if this is within your sphere of interest and you can adjust to the features mentioned. For others, a depressing read.

3* 4* Dystopian slanted tale for readers concerned with Earth’s future; 2* for hiccups.

The Sword Swallower & A Chico Kid

The Sword Swallower & A Chico Kid, an e-book copyright and written by Gary Robinson.

A Preface informs the reader that the story was inspired by the author’s friendship with a circus sideshow sword swallower named Captain Don Leslie. “It is a fictional account of events that took place in each of their lives with a few chapters loosely based on the literary work of Madame Chinchilla and her Tattoo & Museum located in Fort Bragg, California.” A Prologue next presents a grandfather playing with his grandson Calvin when interrupted by a mail delivery of a picture of his old friend who has passed away. He is overcome, begins to tear up just as his aging but still lovely wife enters to tell him that two of his books now are on the New York Times Best Sellers list. She stops mid-sentence when seeing his reaction, runs to him, sees and exclaims about Duke’s picture. Calvin quietly asks “Who is Duke, Grandpa?” He wipes his tears away, holds Calvin’s handles tightly and answers “He is the reason you are here, Calvin.” The following seventeen chapters describe the life of a 15-year-old who leaves an impossibly dysfunctional and abusive home to become addicted to methamphetamine and alcohol. He joins a circus, become something of a legend as Duke Reynolds, sword swallower, and stated in his own words follows his basic philosophy: “This life will not promise you anything. You are guaranteed nothing. All you have is today. This moment. Yesterday is just a memory and tomorrow is not guaranteed. All you have is this moment. Make sure you try to live as much as you can every day.” The next six chapters describe “The Destructive Path of a Chico Kid”, another young man from a pretty much similar background who slides through college deep in alcohol, drugs and sophomoric male activity often indulged in by members of some fraternities and similar groups. The last, Part 3 devotes 9 chapters to “An Eccentric Friendship and an Unconventional Mentoring” where Gary, the young man heading down this destructive course is befriended by Duke, mentored in a most unusual manner and after having a very close brush with death gains redemption.

Discussion: The author has set forth a story that probably will affect each individual reader in different ways. Fundamentally it is a tale of redemption. However it also is a remembrance of a another era when the world was more provincial; recall for some individual of activities that never change; recounting of controversial decisions made ‘for the good of humanity’; a number of truisms; and perhaps an introduction to a ‘different’ way of life, here modifying another of a type that all too frequently is being encountered today – the entire tale provided in raw, often disgusting but regrettably perhaps, most realistic prose. It is a tale about the earlier part of the last century when the larger towns were entertained by Barnum & Bailey and The Ringling Brothers circuses, and the smaller by the numerous small circuses and ‘carnies’ such as the one that served as a home for Duke. A re-editing would greatly enhance the story’s presentation.

Summary: For older readers, many fond memories will surface; younger readers will be introduced to what were occasions of great enjoyment to the ‘oldsters’. For some it is a sad tale but for all readers a caveat is necessary – this is a tale replete with drugs, alcohol and ridiculous decisions couched in raw, though pertinent language, even though it is a story of eventual redemption.

3* 4* Compelling story of redemption; caveat and suggestions as described.