A Kite at the Edge of the World

A Kite at the Edge of the World ISBN: 9781733080613 Yearning Press, copyright and written by Katy Grant.

The story opens with an eighty-plus-year-old man reminiscing on the same beach where he met his first childhood friend in a vacation resort town they visited every summer. He was five or six years old, rather reticent as the result of a rather overprotective mother and a strict nurse heavily occupied with his newly-born sister. Thus, he did not take to the other children because they were ‘too noisy’ but had noticed a young boy several times walking with his mother or an older woman. The boy appealed to him because he too seemed to walk quietly and seemed somewhat ‘reserved’. A few days later he saw him alone on the beach and they began talking. The boy, Ilio, was a little older and this was a first visit with a mother and father who wanted him to learn as much as possible. The reason for the visit, as he informed his new friend because he was dying. He explains that whatever it was it was incurable and he didn’t have very much time left. The plot follows the simple pleasures discovered by the two young boys as it advances during the summer through Ilio’s gradual decline and eventual death.

Discussion: In the closing pages, the author presents a summation by the old man telling the story “True Ilio’s life was short. There were many things he never experienced…Never looked back on a long life and wondered, bewildered, what he possibly had to show for it. Time was his enemy. Yet time has been my enemy too. I was once told years ago that nothing lasts. Not mountains, nor planets, nor stars. And yet, I have also been told that these three things abide – faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love. And now, all of the people I have loved in my life, more of them are dead than are living. Do they know we still love them? I am told that they still do. Perhaps that is the power of love. It endures.” And he continues his ruminations about the first young friend he had ever made. Obviously, the author has attempted to weave a poignant tale extolling the importance and everlasting effect of love and sets forth the story in a well-written manner amply providing thoughts, verbalization and actions of children of the age portrayed. Many readers may thoroughly embrace this story. Regrettably and apologetically to the author however from the perspective of this reviewer, a caveat is required. A story of ruminations by an old man about the death of a childhood friend, although such occurrence is readily acknowledged by all as simply a necessary part of living, is not a more usually preferred subject for selection.

3* 5* Well-written tale extolling the importance of love; -2 caveat as explained.

OM: Life’s Gentle Reminders

OM: Life’s Gentle Reminders ISBN: 9781951943028 WSA Publishing copyright and written by Kamini Wood,

This interesting little book’s title is a simple reminder for persons to look at the simplest and most mundane things and ‘happenings’ of life and recognize what lessons they might provide. Each short discussion is titled simply as ‘what it is’ and opens with a pertinent quote followed in turn by a short discussion of what thoughts it may bring to mind. For example, “What my Morning Traffic Jam Taught Me” discusses passing a scene of cars piling up in the opposite lane as the result of two stopped blocking any forward movement. The thought came to mind of how similar this was to “what happens when I get down on myself about something”. At such times when something does not go as planned, it is the only thing on which she can focus. So many others are similar. “Such negative thoughts can paralyze us, much like those cars being stopped in the travel lane paralyzed any other vehicles from moving forward.” The obvious answer simply is to acknowledge the negative thought, and like the offending cars, move them to the side of the road. Another is “Toy Story 4” which opens with a quote from Herbert Bayard Swope; “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure – which: Try to please everybody.” The pertinent discussion follows. Another, “To Each Shell Her Own” that admonishes not to be concentrated upon personal perfection, but to take time to look at what is available and possible with a little more self-compassion, who you are and where you are in life and what possibilities exist from this perspective. Another, “Over the Rainbow” with a quote from Dolly Parton: “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” The author follows with the astute observation that a rainbow consists of a mixture of the darkness of the departing clouds and the advancing sun’s rays, an admixture of light and dark bouncing off the raindrops to produce the beautiful structure. So “what if just for now, we started recognizing that our darker moments mixed with our lighter ones makes us us? And what if we start seeing ourselves as the amazing, smile inducing humans we are?” The book continues providing numerous simple little “gentle reminders” of the constantly encountered situations in daily life from which only the slightest deviation in thought direction can produce a worthwhile lesson to be learned. Thus, as a professional coach in personal aspects of living, the author states “based on the concept of realigning with and rediscovering your authentic self…hence the term I created: AuthenticMe.” And “Because of the prevalence of buzzwords today, the words themselves get tired and overused – in essence they lose some of their impact and meaning.” Here, she proceeds to quote Brené Brown with ““Letting go of who we think we are supposed to be” hits it on the head for me.”” She includes a discussion of this feature among her other offerings at a point approximately sixty per cent of the way through her little book. Directly thereafter in the section entitled PIV…OOOT she quotes Winston Churchill’s statement “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often” and poses a tantalizing question. Another providing a simple, but really necessary subject for thought is “What Does the End Say” that opens with a quote from Aristotle; “Happiness depends upon ourselves”. Still others follow that allow the mind to reach an entirely new plateau of understanding some other facet of living.

Conclusion: An interesting and simply provided collection of discussions of thoughts generated from and/or provided by, daily mundane ‘happenings’ for the reader to review, consider and adopt.

5* “Gentle Reminders” for easy, amusingly worthwhile contemplation.

Conscience of the Machine

Conscience of the Machine published, copyright and written by Brian Cato.

This is a philosophical tale concentrating on three humans and one machine in a fictional setting not possible within the U.S. for many years. The setting is to be ignored, however, as it has been employed to illustrate the author’s interestingly thought-producing sequence. Bobby Rosen is a young student with greater intelligence than he is able to demonstrate. When facing academic tests he develops an overriding tension that interferes with his thought processes. Regrettably, he has an additional learning problem in mathematics and the sciences. His parents are supportive and well-meaning, but both have overly active work lives that allow little other than demonstrating stray moments of affection. Emma Browne is a dedicated teacher believing that gentle encouragement is required to bring forth the best student performance. She constantly is at odds with Harvey McNair, the school’s Principal who contrarily believes in following the era’s trend to use fear in his pursuit of better student performance. The ominous machine overshadows the entire tale from its early introduction simply as an interruption of normal daily activity at the local high school by the sudden metallic screeching sounds accompanied by screams from behind a fence adjacent to the school yard. No student, if knowledgeable, will describe, much less discuss the matter and the machine does not actually appear and take an active part for the reader until the story’s closing moments when it assumes an overpowering position.

Discussion: The entire tale is a presentation of the psychological and philosophical aspects of personal development and whether man actually has ‘free will’ in making choices in his life, or whether life is dictated by fate? The author, a Brown University dual major graduate (Philosophy, Chemistry), is a synthetic organic chemist engaged in working “for major pharmaceutical companies for ten years, taking breaks to spend a year teaching English in China and to write.” He offers further that he has “an abiding interest in the phenomenon of the mind, the genesis of identity, and the persistent irrationality of the human creature, himself included.” If the prospective reader’s interests are in accord with those expressed by the author, you certainly will thoroughly enjoy being able to project yourself into this somewhat fanciful setting.

 

5* For devotees of philosophical discussions.

Acts of Faith

ACTS of FAITH, a novel published copyright and written by Martin Elsant.

In this “Part 1 of The Inquisition Trilogy”, an initiating statement by Archibald Bower, Authentic Memories Concerning the Portuguese Inquisition, 1761 reads “An Auto de fe is not so much an Act of Faith, which the words would impart, as of the hypocrisy of Inquisitors, who thus make a mockery of God and man, by abusing the venerable name of religion, and forcing the secular judges to become their butchers.” An author’s note follows explaining that, as a teenager, he had found an account of an undisputed miracle that involved Diego Lopes of Pinanocos at his “auto de fe’ in Coimbra, Portugal, and more than 50 years later actual records of the man’s trial. (Both books referenced as additional reading.) However, a discrepancy existed between the trial records discovered and reported by Bodian and the public perception reported in the Roth book discovered so much earlier. The author’s intent in this book simply is “to add a component of human involvement to a process that they (individuals of the time) believed required only Divine intervention.” The story then introduces the young Portuguese Divinity student Aristides and the other characters of greater or lesser importance as it presents the quite specific procedures initiated and employed by the dominant figures in the Inquisition, as well as the surprising number of those attempting resistance, along with his new ‘element’.

Discussion: This is a fascinating and most informative story that should appeal to a rather diverse population of readers. Historians certainly will find much to learn as will those interested in beliefs of Judaism and of Catholicism of the era. A story of unrequited love is included, as are numerous references to bits of understanding of facts about the anatomy and functions of the human body as well as initial, perhaps surprisingly advanced, thoughts about surgical cleanliness available at the time. Thus, as readily admitted by the author, although tenuous, the tenets upon which certain of his actions are based are technically and scientifically feasible as well as the actions of Jews and Christians in this time of religious chaos arising from greed and ignorance. A most interesting and relative ‘Postscript’ is included as are suggestions for ‘Further Reading’ that history devotees will find extremely helpful. A somewhat unique aspect of this volume that may appeal particularly to readers who do not enjoy ‘cliff hangers’ where the protagonist or similar is left in a precarious position, resolution of which awaits the succeeding book, this first of a trilogy is a ‘stand-alone’ volume. However, sufficiently well done to make the reader anticipate the next in the series.

5* Historical fiction engagingly presented for reasons described.

Into the Woods

Into the Woods, a 16th century mystery novel assumed published copyright and written by Josh Soule.

The book opens with Chapter Zero where a “beast, no longer interested at clawing its way through the door to devour the family dwelling inside, but rather the townsmen who had just fired his musket… it did not slink through the trees… The beast was no longer afraid, no longer timid; it no longer would hide from the people of this town. The monster would not stop until it had its fill of death…A deep rumble escaped the beast’s throat as it skulked its way down the dirt path toward the town square.” A prologue follows that apparently begins recounting events that preceded this occurrence by three months; i.e. March 3, 1590. The reader is introduced to John who has left Paris where he had been studying art, to return to Carn, a small town on a trade route that is home to farmers and tradesmen. He has no family, was raised by Michael, the town priest who also was responsible for Thomas and Henry who were in similar circumstances. They were inseparable as children and often played close to and occasionally ‘on a dare’ entered the huge forest that began at the town’s edge. Their ‘acts of bravery’ occasioned by the rumors of its being inhabited by a creature that supposedly could change from human to beast. As the friends are reunited upon John’s return, more information is provided about them. Henry is married with small children and seemingly possessed of some lung problem; Thomas is a very large man, a hunter as well as owner of a farm on the outskirts of the village and a real ‘loner’; John again lives in the church with Michael, is the intellectual of the threesome and often approached by town residents for help. As time progresses, reports of cattle being killed in a horribly destructive manner surface and the three friends decide they must investigate for the safety of the town. Thomas and Henry are constantly at odds on the method to be followed and John acts as arbiter. On one attempt they are attacked by a rabid bear and manage to kill it without being infected. However, John is brutally mauled with broken ribs and more, but does recover. The town celebrates the heroes and believes all is well and life activities continue normally until sometime later another attack occurs. The tale’s description of the time and activities leading to this and the subsequent events comprise the remainder of the story.

Discussion: This book’s most unusual and especially intriguing dedication provides a compelling basis for post-reading thought. It is to “every pastor, priest, or any other religious leader – no matter where you live or what title you go by it is a very challenging task to care for the masses as your own family – the severity and complication of this cannot be fully compared to the symbolism in this book. The physical, spiritual, and emotional toll you have taken upon yourself cannot go unnoticed. Thank you.” The tale itself explores the existence of a mental attitude to protect another individual from some feature/condition/action. Frequently such activity may appear to be helpful, but conversely it may provide grossly detrimental results. In accord with the author’s expressed beliefs, the tale examines this attitude. With respect to the mechanics of presentation, the story itself projects the period and its physical and mental patterns moderately well. The characters, although not as well ‘fleshed-out’ as they could be, are adequate. *SPOILER ALERT*! Their movement within individual scenes occasionally leave gaps that require the reader to fill, or ignore, and for the pragmatist, some of John’s post bear activity is most difficult to accept as are occasional activities of others.

3* 5* Post-read thought stimulant; -2 spoiler alert re: presentation, at end of discussion.

Skeletons

   SKELETONS ISBN: 978317(incomplete) Xlibris publishing, copyright and written by Bryce Wellington Rhymer.

Sub-titled “Poetry of Human Nature”, this little book consists of a large collection of poems exploring individual thoughts and emotions as one wanders through life. Characteristically, as with thoughts themselves, the subjects presented do not follow any particular pathway. They range through “A Retiree’s View, A Sad Reality, Alone, Poetic Insight, Wrong Doing” and a host of others. They explore subjects of love, why one may enjoy writing poetry, relationships, “who’s in charge of you”, how continued disregard of basic discipline will cause the downfall of any institution and numerous other thoughts every individual considers, even if not more than occasionally.

Discussion: The reader will discover that the interesting contents of this little book have been quite well provided in the description employed for its introduction to the prospective reader. Exactly as described, it is a simplistically written tale of human behavior and how such individuals realistically think. A recounting, in a rhythmic poetic pattern, the often immense depths and flow of emotions, feelings and thoughts we all harbor but do not express. Thus, they simply add a little more to the already heavy psychological luggage many individuals carry through life as “Skeletons in your closet.”

4* Quite fascinating assembly of thoughts/emotions shared by all.