AMORA

AMORA ISBN: 9780982150338 (paperback) Cleardtone Publishing, copyright and written by Grant J. Hallstrom.

Amore is a Roman aristocrat who at 17 years of age marries a somewhat older member of the same class who, as a result of having been sent to settle a problem in Egypt, has developed a significant business that he runs with his Roman Senator partners. The marriage is a happy one with the birth of a daughter greatly loved by both parents. Later, she gives birth to a boy who has a deformed leg, something that the unwritten rules of their society almost demand the child’s abondement. She persuades Leo to allow her to keep the child in spite of the act reflecting badly on his position. A position that includes not only his business partners, but his personal friend the philosopher Marcus Aurelius who becomes the Emperor. On the daughter’s 12th birthday, she is kidnapped, raped and killed. Both Leo and Amora are devastated, but instead of consoling each other, they begin the blame game. He finds more and more time to spend travelling and she finds herself completely alone. Gradually she becomes acquainted with increasing numbers of Christians, finally is caught with a group, and is sentenced to die in the Arena. Leo has been one of the men pushing for eliminations of all Christians and witnesses her destruction, as well as that of her faithful maid by wild Lions. The story continues with his gradual descent into debauchery and increasing drunkenness where he is betrayed by one of his partners. He is discovered badly beaten and barely alive by the son he has not seen in a long time and nursed back to health by him and his Christian friends. The tale continues with several interesting twists, well-described bits of gladiator combative techniques, captivating descriptions of Roman centurion battle procedures and a considerable amount of well- done proselytizing. All in all, a quite fascinating read as it wends its way to a conclusion not only as a novel but one containing most pertinent historical factual material and stimulating proselytization.

Discussion: A Preface explains the background material for this book. The author’s younger brother, Calvin, “despite some mental and emotional instabilities emotional problems”, married, worked three low-pay jobs to buy a home for his wife and three children. Unfortunately, the combination caused him to be difficult to live with, so while on a trip to California, his wife changed the locks and filed for divorce. Shortly thereafter, the eldest son moved out. The middle child came out as transgender. The youngest became socially anxious and spent most of his time playing video games in the basement. A few years later the transgender child committed suicide. Calvin’s ex-wife barred everyone from even knowing where the child was being buried. Calvin, through all of this heartbreak refused to let anyone speak negatively about anything concerning his family. Six months later he was ecstatic when his youngest son wanted to reconcile. He joined him, they embraced and the boy stabbed Calvin to death. His story of failing to blame or discredit anyone, is the basis for this story.

Summary: As described above, a fascinating tale on several levels, “Amora is a historical novel based on the true story of the noblewoman who inspired Justin Martyr’s petition to the Roman Senate” on behalf of Christians. It was denied and he, along with several others, was beheaded after refusing to deny their faith. Other important figures of the day – Marcus Aurelius, Crescens, the aristocratic woman’s husband Leo, who is a central figure in the book, and other non-fictional as well as fictional characters play significant parts in this appealing story. Thus, as stated above – a quite fascinating read as it wends its way to a conclusion not only as a novel but one containing most pertinent historical factual material and stimulating proselytization.

5* fascinating novel; pertinent historical facts; stimulating proselytization.

 

Eastbound from Flagstaff

Eastbound from Flagstaff ISBN: 9781642793369 Morgan James Publishing copyright written by Annette Valentine.

The story introduces Simon Hagan, a man in his late twenties, in his small apartment in Albuquerque. His present activities include washing dishes at the hotel, classes in acting and first year pre-med college courses at the university. He is waiting excitedly for the love-of-his-life’s arrival from Flagstaff in an hour. Thus he leaves a little early to drive his typical crank Model T. Ford. At the bus station he learns that there has been a disastrous accident. The story moves from here to follow Simon’s life from its beginning on a rather successful farm outside of Elkton, Kentucky. He is the oldest son of a growing family – God devoted father who is a mentally, as well as physically, a strong man – a loving mother, a two-year younger brother Alain and several other siblings. Although never quite happy with the life of a farmer, he functioned well while dreaming of some other path in life. When he was eighteen, his mother was mauled to death by a bear which he had slowed but not stopped with the family shotgun. Unnecessarily blaming himself for her death and stimulated by his desire not to be a farmer. He leaves for Detroit, Michigan where Ford Motor Company was hiring workers for the very excellent pay of $5.00/day. The tale continues with his ability to equate easily with new people, and his activity on an assembly line. Through a chance remark by one of his new friends, he is given a job as a rookie on the Detroit Police Force. Here he rises very rapidly, becoming a Police Captain within a very few years. Regrettably, he acquires tuberculosis and must resign to move to a sanatorium in Albuquerque. The entire sequence of episodes covers a 9 year period during which he encounters many devastatingly crushing personal blows. Many of which, as with his mother’s death, he blames himself and continues a struggle with attempting to accept the fact pounded into him as a child, that God was in control. All of this mental stress is exacerbated by the constant presence in his bedroom of his mother’s bible that his father insisted he take with him and read the numerous notes he and his mother had entered on various pages. His continuation to do so adds immensely to his tension. Specific details and their chronological order really need to be read to understand the deep feelings and emotional turmoil dealt with in this tale.

Discussion: The author, a well-recognized figure in other endeavors, has presented here a debut novel depicting a period in the early life of her father. An Endorsement recounted before beginning the story points out quite accurately, that this “powerful story of resilience and recovery is a quest filled with brutal tragedies that explores the depths one endures and the path that ultimately leads to redemption”. This reviewer heartily concurs with the summation quoted by the endorser. But most regrettably, as a novel, several features require a greater degree of attention. The protagonist has a self-accusatory problem initiated by his mother’s death, but employed to strengthen his desire to leave the life of a farmer. Subsequent catastrophic occurrences strengthen the belief as his life continues. Furthermore, he fails to recognize the importance of the good matters that so easily come his way – his easy arrival at a pleasant boarding house resulting from his enquiry at the wrong address; similarly his hiring as a rookie police officer; his rapid advancement; and more all are serendipitous. Seemingly he makes a number of wrong decisions, especially with respect to his love life. But then again, his character is so sketchily developed as are those of his loves that it is impossible to even conjecture adequately. Therefore, and most regrettably, from this reader’s perspective the author has set forth a story with all of the elements of a fine fictional biography providing a powerful message, but it does require considerable character enrichment to reach the powerful story latently existent.

3* 5* powerful tale of a tormented trail attempting to reach redemption.

When Life Doesn’t turn out the Way We’d Hoped It Would

When Life doesn’t turn out the Way we Hoped it Would Volume I ISBN: 9781974032822 Create Space, copyright and written by Tom Wick.

This autobiography is written by an individual who had been born into a family whose roots he had been able to trace to a particular tribe of some of the most “unrestrained and pitiless pagans and savages of all Vikings”. Thus, his particular family were a mixture of Scots, Pics, Irish and Manx who had ultimately occupied a small section of northern Scotland. Further extension of genealogical facts detail the intermixing of the family strains as they move into more recent history. Here it would seem, some of these early ‘unrestrained’ genes carried over to the future generations with occasional episodes providing vicious physical harm. Specific sordid details of the remarkably dysfunctional family’s interrelationships as well as their activity with others are presented along with lengthy descriptions of his personal activity. The protagonist enumerates the fact that by the age of six years he had witnessed people being killed, men beating women as well as other men. He relates seeing and participating in indiscriminate sex. He smoked tobacco and marijuana incessantly, drank liquor heavily, sniffed, inhaled, ingested and injected drugs. However, until later in life, he thought this just was the ‘normal way of life”. His mother had been diagnosed with “agoraphobia, paranoia, multiple personality disorders, and other mental and emotional ailments.” His father had been beaten mercilessly and repetitively by his grandfather. The author had been molested constantly by his older brother, participated in exploratory sexual activity with playmates and had sex with a ‘girlfriend’ at four years of age.

Discussion: The material covered in this first book in the series presents, in quite explicit detail, quite lengthy descriptions of the repetitiously indulgent activities of the author, his family, friends and acquaintances as he moves among several locations. However, there is an overlying tone of a man somehow repentant of much of his activity and, as a result of some unnamed factor, ultimately realizing the ‘error of his ways and being ‘born again’ as a Christian. Although the causative factor is not mentioned per se, when he failed 1st grade a psychiatrist diagnosed him as having ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). This long-standing dysfunction, in combination with being brutally beaten, raped and suffering a degree of PTSD could have left him totally repentant for the meaningless sex, constant drug and alcohol abuse and the rest that caused him intense feelings of alienation, isolation, and loneliness.

Summary: A seemingly most honestly and completely told tale detailing the extent of dysfunctional behavior existent in the author, as well as sections of the general population, is set forth along with a series of factors that influenced change to a direction for resolution for the author. If the extent of explicit description of immorality can be accepted, the level of reader interest for members of the Evangelic religious faith should be high. That for general readership difficult even to suggest.

3* High interest level for some readers; difficult to determine for others.

Dreamwander in the Ruins of Eden

Dreamwander in the Ruins of Eden ISBN: 9780996305709 Kildaire Press copyright and written by Kildaire.

This is “Volume One of In The Ruins of Eden” and begins with the protagonist, Cillian Rysgaard, an old North Dakota rancher, travelling down a strange forest path where he encounters increasing numbers of strange, illusion-like ‘happenings’. Ultimately he meets an old woman whom he recognizes as Mórríghan, the ancient Irish Goddess who humans meet before dying. She informs him that it is not quite his time. He next realizes he is in a strange doctor’s office where a woman says the practitioner is ready to see him. He enters and here is informed that he has dementia that gradually will worsen although he may live anywhere up to another ten years. He then is ushered out through another door that becomes a long tunnel where eventually he encounters a stately young woman dressed similarly to a Roman Centurion. She tells him to mount her chariot and she delivers him to the ruler of the impossibly large assemblage of buildings crowded with huge numbers of citizens cheering him as he is honored by the ruling Imperator as the two time savior of the empire. Thus begins this strange tale that involves a parallel world inhabited by the Tuath Dé who have a physical body and a sex but actually are part of the fallen angels remaining from the revolt of the angels that resulted in Yewah splitting the revolutionaries into three groups – theirs, Satan and his followers to the dark nether region and retaining the third group of Michael and others of the ‘good’ angels with him in the upper regions. They are in a constant state of war with the Dread Queen who once was one of them, and both they and she, with her followers, continue living under an uneasy truce since neither has been able to defeat the other. The action swings among various, mostly fanciful activities in ‘other worlds’ with Cillian having the ability to pass unharmed among the different ‘civilizations’ because of an amulet he had received as a gift many years ago. The amulet had been fashioned by Satan and assures his safe passage between worlds because both sides need him since, through an error, he had released Loki, the God of Chaos from his chained position of eternal bondage.

Discussion: A weirdly fanciful tale that is difficult, at least for this reader, to describe. It begins interestingly with what appears to be an old man with some degree of advancing dementia wandering along a forest path. Assumedly, his formal/informal educational development includes a superior knowledge of Irish, Nordic and Christian mythology, although we are told that he simply is a North Dakota Rancher. Large sections of the story involve individuals who speak Latin and a Celtic dialect, and reference is made repeatedly to persons described in the written, and before that unwritten, mythology just mentioned and Roman Centurion-like uniforms are in abundance. There is much of interest set forth and the action at times generates excitement. However, the action sequences often are interwoven with considerable prose explanations of pre-occurring and/or predictive activity. Settings following each other occasionally are sufficiently far removed from each other enough to cause momentary need to re-arrange one’s thinking with respect to the tale’s continuum.

Summary: A strange tale that from this reader’s perspective requires dichotomous interpretation – extreme mental wanderings resulting from a knowledgeable individual’s advancing dementia, or, an equally strange Fantasy tale that devotees of the genre may enjoy.

3* difficult to describe and rate, as described.

Evolution Tested

Evolution Tested, Library of Congress #2019905164 Outskirts Press, copyright and written by CS Stephens,

(Reviewer’s apology for length of review seemingly required.)

Sub-titled “Evolution & Empiricism Viewed through Engineering Standards”, this book presents a treatise resulting from the observed fact that although skepticism of Darwinian claims continue and some highly placed scientists and even a legal judgement support the claims, religions provide mixed reviews and a large number of physicians, dentists, and engineers repute them. Here, after some opening discussion of various claims in the Preface, the author offers a theme adopted by engineers as the Salem Hypothesis, which briefly assumes the existence of more than one type of skepticism – the irrational Pyrrhonian or radical view that refuses to believe anything because even evidence of the highest quality cannot be believed, and two types of scientific skepticism; 1. No one knows anything about anything, and 2. We know only the contents of our own minds. And because both can exist in the same person, empiricism or evidence-based results, are required. He follows with what to expect in the ensuing ten part discussion. Each, subdivided to a varying degree, follows with his application of the Hypothesis to evolution; its claims; aspects of DNA/evolutionary hypotheses; complexity of ‘First Life’ formation; Problematica (little known outside the “evolutionary practitioners” who study creatures “which have nothing in common with either known modern or deep time phyla”); analysis of evolution theory as a unifying concept; specific claims for evolution and treatment of coherent dissent by the evolution community. A Final Analysis recalls: “Darwin presciently outlined the failure zones of his theory. His failure criteria have been met, yet evolutionary theorists press on, regardless”. Further, a Condensed Summary of 12 falsifiers for evolution and five appendices conclude the book; A. discussion of knowledge in general and the essential disciplines of rational thought; B. movement from Aristotelian destructive logic, to the steps required for, and application of, objective thinking; C. examines when probabilities actually are impossibilities; D. “Understanding Life”; E. Validating Aristotle’s First Principles of Thought mathematically.

Discussion: This is one of the more thorough evaluations of a subject I have read. It also is quite literalistic, precisionist and in large part scholastic. In many ways it is reminiscent of PhD theses I’ve read.  According to the author, “The first purpose of this investigation is to analyze the purported scientific practice of evolutionary professionals compared to both the Enlightenment definition of Empiricism and the actual practices required of engineering disciplines. The second purpose is to determine whether there is sufficient cause to designate evolution as a pristine, disciplined source of objective knowledge. There will be no references or inferences to design, because this work is solely focused on evolutionary theory and its relationship to objective knowledge and truth. (But design will (be) mentioned – as above – when quoting evolutionists who falsely attack it as a concealed aspirational cause when it is not, rather than proving their own assertions. That’s a Red Herring Fallacy.)” He also states that because “evolution is a milieu of hypotheses” both complementary and contradictory, even interim ones that have expired exist so “It is an interesting task to attempt to organize the personal “theories” of many evolutionary ‘experts’ into reasonable form in order to analyze their content for applicability to the general knowledge base as containing either objective knowledge, or subjective knowledge.” Objective knowledge being defined as “inductive-reductive-hypothetico-deductive-objective-demonstration-falsification. Subjective knowledge – “inductive-extrapolative-hypothetico.” His stated goal – “decision to decide and emphasize that evolutionary pursuit can be shown to be a generator of objective knowledge”. Discussions of varying length ensue apropos all of the above-listed subjects.

From this reviewer’s perspective, two of the more interesting inclusions are the dating of fossils where he quotes Willian Durant, author (with his wife) of the eleven volume The Story of Civilization: “Most history is guessing – the rest is prejudice.” Because it is impossible to link chains of cause and effect in any valid way, his deductions “are sustained more in our minds than in reality and are informed and conditioned by our prejudices, which will tell us NOT what happened, but what we think OUGHT to have happened” and explores the numerous ways of dating fossils and what successively has been learned and concludes. Thus: “There is no hard, material, empirical, contingent fact which grounds any of the many molecular clock hypotheses.” The second subject should be of interest to religious leaders involved in the discussions – Molecular Biology, the composition of DNA, the importance of the function of mRNA as messenger thereby securing the fact that random proteins can NOT be the origins of life. Also, the more recent information that human genome’s nucleotides may play more than a single role.

Summary: The author has provided a thorough, scholarly treatise of a rather esoteric subject that elicits thoughts of PhD theses. Fundamentally it is well done, beautifully referenced and substantiates his conclusions. Most regrettably, however, the author projects a third, unlisted agenda – proposal of a belief that engineering provides a superior quality of investigation to that of other ‘scientists’: “Engineering is completely secular and materialistic; no deities are summoned and no chickens are sacrificed in the process of engineering. Engineering requires disciplined adherence to Enlightenment values: objective knowledge through thorough testing is both required and valued by engineers…” These and other quotations denigrating members of other scientific disciplines and reporting of their activities follow. Granted engineering deals with hard structures; e.g. wood, concrete, steel, while other ‘science’ more usually focus on less ‘concrete biological entities’ Also granted is the existence of rivalry between scientists in other disciplines that occasionally and sadly may degenerate into ugly situations. Injection of such puerile thought/activity does NOT belong it science.

Conclusion: This reviewer believes this book deserves: 5* as an Erudite examination of Empirical data on an esoteric matter for the semantics aficionado; 4* for the religious devotee because once again the ‘spark of life’ has NOT been proven to ignite without a ‘higher power’; 0 – 1* for distasteful material included.

3* 5*Erudite, esoteric treatise descending to 1* for distasteful material included.

A Coin for a Dream

Coin for a Dream published, copyright and written by Mae Adams.

This volume presents a series of short stories, the first fifteen of them told to the author in her early childhood growing up in Korea. They are simple tales, the significance of some perhaps even a little unusual for the uninitiated to absorb. Included are tales of egg ghosts, water ghosts, angels of death, servants of the underworld, a 9-tailed dragon shape-shifter and its nemesis, a 3-legged dog, also of the monstrous part lion, sheep and unicorn haechi with scales, feathers and horns who actually seek justice by punishing the wicked. Other tales, some provided a little later, detail the legends and folktales along with historical explanations of Korean beginnings, religions and practices. Included are tales of how shamans, these mediums between this and the spirit world are created, fascinating explanations of the differences among the Chinese, Japanese and Korean Dragons, discussions of their zodiac, and more. All of these later features gradually and ultimately fade into and join material of a bio- and autobiographical nature.

Discussion: This is the second book by the author of “Precious Silver Chopsticks” which I had reviewed approximately a year ago and stated “This autobiography/memoir is written by an eighty-four-year-old Korean woman of considerable intelligence, fortitude and an amazing ability to survive and prosper” and concluded: “Certainly a relieving catharsis for the author and a book of considerable interest for a diverse reading public.” Because I had witnessed the conditions and people of  Korea during the U.S. involvement, my conclusion with respect to this second book retains my admiration for the author and personally find considerable material she has provided to be quite interesting. But regrettably and in all honesty, I must narrow the scope of those for whom I believe this book will have appeal. There is much redundancy in her presentation and repetition within the body of the work as well as a considerable amount from her first book. Thus, I strongly recommend this book to readers who are interested in learning more about other people, their history, cultures, religions, activities, habits, individual beliefs, and their personal abilities to adapt and especially as depicted here, to survive. For readers with these interests, the subject matter most assuredly requires a 5*. The rating unfortunately must be reduced by 2 because of matters that judicious editing would have removed, plus the most regrettable fact its level of interest for others than those mentioned; i.e. general readership, probably would not be extensive.

3* 5* story regrettably reduced by 2 as explained in the discussion.