The Daily Better

      The Daily Better ISBN: 9781628656992 Authors place Press, copyright and written by Henry Edwards.

In the Preface, the author explains that, although having been raised with all of the amenities available to a child born in this period in the United States, he acquired an obsession “with America’s hypocrisy and the “evils” of capitalism” with a “rotten Core of America – materialistic, militaristic, superficial, overweight…bloated both physically and metaphorically. I also started believing that all of humanity was doomed for decline and fall.” He moved into alcohol and drug abuse and “high school partying moved into an addiction.” Therapy turned things around and he began looking not only at America but also the rest of the world. With voracious reading he began to learn that humanity actually had progressed in fantastic proportions with the passage of time. “Pestilence, War, Famine and Death – the Four Horsemen of the Biblical Apocalypse – are all in retreat. I end up noting that there is a world-wide epidemic of anxiety, depression and suicide. The causes are many and complex, but I propose an additional cause: pessimism.” He expresses hope that by presenting here a full year’s 365 days of Reasons for Optimism others may gain a similar degree of overall optimism. An introduction provides a discussion of how a meeting with one of today’s more pessimistically inclined individuals might proceed and then the substance of the book begins with the list by date of occurrence and/or date of birth of the person responsible for the activity discussed. The first is a brief description of The Montreal Protocol of 1989 that set forth global agreement that stopped the use of chemicals contributing to ozone depletion. Another local/international/global beneficial action that benefits a particular part, or all, of mankind then is set forth in similar manner and the list continues for a complete 365 days. After each individual presentation, there is an accompanying “Thought for Today”.

An enormous number of highly varied actions, people, dates and global areas are presented to offer reasons for optimism. The dates range from antiquity and even before, to present day. The objects – TV, Web, Telephone, sonar, space, quantum theory and more. Coverage ranges through women’s rights, sexual freedom, racial relations, medical advances, and various aspects of children’s well-being, the poor, disabled, health issues and more. Individuals of note include Albert Schweitzer, Ford, Benz (Mercedes Benz), Andrew Carnegie, Jesse Owens, Walter Reed, Washington Roebling (Brooklyn Bridge), Jane Austin, Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others. Places – Antarctica, various places in England, Africa, America, Apollo Theater in Harlem, Canary Islands, others.

Discussion: Turned off by the pessimism constantly encountered, the author has provided a monumental amount of ‘evidence’ to offer corroboration for his desire to create a basis for world-wide optimism. From this reviewer’s perspective, he has offered excellent material. Regrettably also from this reader’s perspective, the format; i.e. fitting occurrences into a 365 day pattern, although quite unique, results in inclusion of numerous repetitious episodes of the same basic material. The effect is a little ponderous that, at least for this reader, seems to result in an undesirable detraction from the main theme. Additionally, inclusion of his statement with respect to wars being less frequent and less costly in lives will be open to lengthy contemplation as will his comment with respect to Dr. Benjamin Spock’s teachings – a legacy the basic psychology of which along with its manner of application are particularly controversial in the minds of many today.

Conclusion: A bright light offered especially to Americans in this chaotic period of political struggle and questionable Department of Justice activity.

4* 5* Much needed optimism offered; -1 presentation as 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.

What Makes America Great

What Makes AMERICA GREAT ISBN: 0781950540716 Toplink Publishing copyright and written by Bob Dowell,

The author obviously is disturbed about the chaotic situation that presently exists within the country. Thus, he sets forth to examine a number of factors pertaining to the early development of America that he believes have been effective in attaining its greatness. His modus operandi first includes introductory remarks with respect to freedom from slavery and the gradual advancement of blacks to greater stature in the country and the part played by Martin Luther King. Lincoln and the Civil War, followed by the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments are included. By extension he proceeds to include women’s rights, the 19th amendment and the lesser known effort provided by Elizabeth Cady Stanton on its behalf at the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. He then proceeds to look closely at the earliest influences on the country’s establishment and growth. First is examined the establishment of the Jamestown Colony in 1607 and that of the Pilgrims in 1620 and the religious leaders responsible in these early days. Subsequently he expands upon his main religiously based contention and provides interesting material little, if not un-known, to most citizens of this country. He discusses “The Day of Doom” reputedly a ‘best seller’ book extending from its date of publication (1662) until its replacement by Ben Franklin’s “The Way to wealth” in 1778. The former concentrated on man’s sins. The latter, no doubt influenced by Ben’s parental puritanical upbringing, also espoused the religious bases, but added practical aspects, and later published his list of proverbs on how one should handle temperance, order, resolution, frugality, etc. The author however did offer another thought on the subject. He briefly discusses Historian Frederick Jackson Turner (1861-1932) who presented the “Frontier Thesis” that described America’s greatness stemming from an individualistic, self-reliant, democratic American spirit.

Discussion: The author’s book no doubt was initiated by the deep chasm that exists today among those who espouse Trump’s “Make America Great Again”, those adhering to the mantra that “America Never Was that Great” and the others who are between. And it is granted, the author concentrates on biblical teaching and thoughts. As such, he has presented an interesting case that for America to reach its former stage of greatness, it must return to the precepts set forth by the first settlers. It further is understood unfortunately, that reference to God and the principles set forth here and by these people are distasteful today to many. But from this reader’s perspective, let us for the moment look at a very practical account of this subject. Specifically, let’s just return a few years to look at the basics of American thought held by the often referred to as the Greatest Generation. The one that survived the Great Depression that began in 1929 and then were faced with WW II as well. A few years ago I reviewed a book entitled Bluejacket published by Radioman 1st Class, John A. Hutchinson USN. He described his service which was served mostly aboard a destroyer, but also with time aground in Guadalcanal and participation in numerous major battles from Guadalcanal to the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. Among his other statements, he says: “We Hope to be remembered as the products of a different country and society from what the United States of America has become in the last fifty years. Products of a far more disciplined society with rather rigid moral and social standards to which everyone was expected to conform given how society chastened and disciplined offenders. The way of the transgressor was hard. We were taught individual responsibility, that evil is due to character flaws in the individual and not to the shortcomings of society.” The WW II veteran author also went on to say, “We were taught to depend on God, to persevere in adversity, and to take care of ourselves and our families, and not to depend on society or government to look after us.” AND in explanation of some of his highly specific statements: “…while I hold strong moral, ethical, and religious beliefs, I am a very private man who usually keeps these tenets within. I feel that my relationship with my Maker is just between Him and me.” Also quite interestingly and appropriately, an adage became prevalent during that war that has been repeated by many people during each ensuing conflict by those actively engaged – “There are no atheists in Fox Holes.”

Summary: Interesting, well-presented historical approach to the subject that may not be well-received by a number of readers, but surely must be given considerable thought

5* Interesting, well-presented, only slightly lacking, historical approach to the subject.

Forlorn

Forlorn, a dark story of suspense ISBN: 9781978440180 Vinspire Publishing, an e-book copyright 2017 and written by Gina Detwiler.

A prologue describes the situation that results in Grace Fortune being pulled by her Guardian Angel when she is 6 years old from the flaming wreck of her family’s automobile that consumes her parents. The story begins as Grace, now sixteen and being raised by her aunt and uncle, is a student at the Buffalo Arts Academy, where although suffering from a degree of Attention Deficit Disorder, possesses a lovely voice and ability to play the piano. With her are her somewhat misfit friends that include scientifically inclined and quite pragmatic Ethan Ellerman who is there on full scholarship as a designer of video games, artistically inclined Brianna (Bree) Reynolds who at the moment points out a newcomer to the school who is every girl’s dream man, Jared Lorn with muscular build, almost white hair and strikingly blue penetrating eyes and his seeming attraction to Grace. Ethan points out that Jaren is a felon and was transferred here because he had stabbed another student with a fork at a different school. He heard that he moved from “Ohio or Oregon, something with an O anyway”. However he was said to play the guitar amazingly well. Only shortly thereafter Derick Holder, the boy with whom Jared had fought appeared at the lunch room and opened fire with an automatic weapon. Ethan is struck in the stomach and falls into Grace’s lap bleeding profusely. She calls out “Derick! Please stop! Stop shooting.” Her guardian cries out to Grace to sing a special song which he sings to her in the night when she has bad dreams from the Dark Ones seeking a way in. Her singing causes Derrick to hesitate and suddenly Jared moves as a blurred figure knocking the gun from his hand and literally throwing him against a large plate glass window with sufficient force to shatter the glass killing Derick. From this moment the tale becomes one of war between forces of good and evil including different levels of both with guardians, archangels, appearance of ‘the Risen One”, demons, fallen angels, the Nephilim, the importance of faith and the power of prayer per se and through music.

Discussion: The author has presented a most unusual fantasy that may well appeal to readers, especially YA who enjoy conflicts between good and evil forces as they vie for dominance in the living world. The trials and tribulations of the two protagonists are suspenseful as they engage in a series of activities that take them on remarkable journeys. Regrettably, from this reader’s perspective, the tale contains numerous hiccups that are difficult to accept and therefore may require a SPOILER ALERT. If, however a reader enjoys unusual suspenseful fantasy stories pitting the forces of good versus those of the ethereal dark side, obtain the book, enjoy and do NOT read further.

Two of the most difficult discrepancies for this reader to reconcile are: Much is made of the fact that Grace’s parents were completely destroyed by the fiery crash. Yet her mother suddenly appears with an entirely different scenario? Neither Grace nor her friends know much about Jared and seemingly nothing about Derrick yet Grace speaks to him by name and is uncertain when he left school when he is massacring the students?

Conclusion: A fascinating fantasy that should be of particular interest to younger readers and most especially to those of religious inclination. Regrettably and although having enjoyed many tales in the fantasy genre, this reviewer apologetically cannot reconcile the plot discrepancies mentioned.

3* 5* Fascinating fantasy for many; -2* for reasons described.

How to Live to be 100

How to Live to be 100 ISBN: 9781943386543 Leaders Press copyright written by Elizabeth Lopez.

The book consists of a Forward, Preface and The Magic of Nicoya culture and personality as they are intertwined in a discussion as to how their life activities contribute to their longevity. This is followed by portraits and discussions with seven of these individuals about their lives and with a 95-year-old whose father just passed away at 110. Comments by a school teacher who has had a long and lasting acquaintance with these people follows and then comments by the author’s primary associate in the project. A number of local recipes are provided in detail along with a personal questioner with respect to the reader’s possibilities of reaching this advanced age, and thirty references are added.

Discussion: The book contains considerable redundancy. However, it is the most interesting result of the author’s request to be included as part of the group provided by Blue Zones LLC, Inc. to investigate whether this remote peninsula of Costa Rica qualified as a Blue Zone containing a larger than ‘normal’ number of centenarians (Presently listed are Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, CA; Ikaria, Greece; areas of Japan.) As a native of the peninsula and an American University EdD in psychology, the author’s stimulation to make the request is obvious and her findings indeed interesting. They appear to be much in accord with findings in the other Blue Zones listed with respect to living a healthy life style that includes an obvious genetic factor, physical, biological and personal traits and a life style consisting of low neuroticism, high extroversion, openness, agreeableness, competence, self-discipline, ability to ‘take care of one’s self’ and pride in being able to do so. Some qualities perhaps somewhat more specific to this population that she describes as the “World’s Happiest Centenarians” is their love of nature, music and dancing and strong belief in God.

Conclusion: An interesting, but perhaps somewhat surprisingly unsophisticated approach by a native who has obtained advanced psychological training and resides in the United States, to this subject of growing interest to a larger number of people. Of probably particular appeal is the inclusion of a personal quiz for the reader to take and evaluate his/her own chances of reaching that level – one that seems increasingly today to be elevated to ‘holy grail’ status.

3* 4* results & quiz to discern the reader’s possible attainment; -1 as described.

Nightmare along the River Nile

Nightmare Along the River Nile, Library of Congress Control number 2009910872, assumed published, copyright and written by S. E, Nelson.

Sub-titled “A Story of Twentieth Century Slavery” the author has set forth a fictional tale of one young man trapped in the vicious slavery system. It describes his entrapment, his subsequent treatment along with others similarly gathered, his unusually fortuitous escape bolstered by his deeply held belief in God, and his eventual rescue as the result of friendship rarely of such strength as to provide unending personal help that attracted further aid by truly altruistic individuals in prominent positions.

Discussion: “Written from an African perspective and in an African voice”, “this story was inspired by actual events that happened to many young boys and girls in the 1990’s in northern Uganda, who were abducted by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) rebels.” It graphically describes the vicious activity of these, and other rebel groups, their activity with the Mullahs who are a throwback to biblical times and buy these captives as they do camels and donkeys to use them similarly on their farms and other properties. It also presents an amazingly detailed picture of the barter methods that seem to be the normal way of life in many of the under developed areas of today’s Africa as well as the wide scale corruption that pervades all commerce as well as much interpersonal activity. Additionally, it presents a touching picture of deeply held faith. My only comment of an adverse nature is that from this reviewer’s perspective the story appears to focus less attention on the stated purpose of the book apropos the dedication, i.e., “to all of the men, women and children who are still in bondage anywhere in the world”. Instead, the book’s emphasis appears to be more heavily directed toward the intensely close relationship among the close friends and the remarkable altruism demonstrated by the other characters involved and how these factors, along with a devout religious faith, were able to accomplish a miraculous reunion.

Conclusion: A book that provides a most enlightening picture of parts of Africa, its residents, and their way of life but only partially encompasses the features the author seemingly was desirous of emphasizing.

4* 5* Description of rural Africa activities; -1 seemingly short of author’s intent.