Hope of Ages Past

      Hope of Ages Past ISBN: 9780999881101, an e-book 1st edition 2018 by Zeno Publishing written by Bruce Gardner.

The author has presented “An Epic Novel of Enduring Faith, Love, and the Thirty Years War” fought in Germany between the newly advancing members of the Lutheran faith and the proponents of the long-established Catholic church. The story’s protagonist, around whom part of the story centers is Peter Erhart as he follows a calling to the ministry rather than following his father’ desires to have him be an accountant. The young man first becomes an assistant Lutheran pastor and with training from his particularly gracious mentor a seemingly gifted orator gradually ascending in position. The second protagonist sharing the trials and tribulations of the horrendous conflict and resultant chaos is Anna Ritter, a peasant girl who falls hopelessly in love with Peter, although he is married to the lovely Ursula, the mother of his two small children. Most of the early action takes place in the wealthy trade center of Magdeburg and the surrounding area and gradually shifts to Leipzig. The tale is a brutal account of the destruction of Magdeburg and the results thereof as affecting all of its citizens and particularly Peter, Anna and their immediate families followed by their subsequent activities as they continue on to again meet in Leipzig.

Discussion: This is a book of historical fiction featuring fictitious protagonists but populated additionally by numerous historical figures. The whole has been rendered into a highly readable account of the actions of individuals under the most devastating circumstances. The prose appropriately and graphically descriptive, the characters easily acceptable and empathetic and the horrendous actions taken in the name of religious faith almost impossible to understand, as are some of the Godly reactions of ‘true believers’. For any person interested in this rarely described era, this is a scholarly book, written in an interestingly manner about a rarely illuminated era in history that is a MUST READ.

5* Must read historical novel.

Fractured: Dereck Dillinger and the Crystal Ball

Fractured: Dereck Dillinger and the Crystal Ball ISBN: 9781543939651 assumed published copyright and written by Eddie McPherson.

Dereck constantly is baby-sitting his 6-year-old sister Jessie because his mother has had to find a second job since his father died last year. He loves her and doesn’t mind except when meeting his friends who mock him. He has taken Jessie to the carnival where she now is riding a horse on the carousel and waves every time she passes him. Two of his friends see him and begin their usual routines. While he is occupied with them, he looks back and finds that Jessie is nowhere to be seen. From this moment, he is whisked away on an incredible journey through the land in which all of the characters about whom he has been reading to Jessie, reside. It is a world in which monsters, dragons, witches, fairies, magic and more and where Little Red Ridinghood, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel and other of these famous people live.

Discussion: The author has provided a second novel to accompany the first which also had deposited him in this other world for a time before returning him to his home. His creative style is one that young readers will find entertaining and adults involved may discover amusing reminiscence. It is somewhat longer than most children’s books, but its pace and frequent introduction of new scenes and players should overcome any deterrent influence.

5* Enjoyable children’s book even adults reminiscently may enjoy.

The Winter Sisters

The Winter Sisters: A Novel ISBN: 9780984974894 QW Publishers, Copyright and written by Tim Westover.

The story opens with a prologue set in 1811 that introduces the three Winter Sisters – Rebecca, the oldest, Sarah and Effie the youngest. They are ‘healers’, taught by their now deceased mother, well known for their abilities by residents of the nearby town of Lawrenceville and the surrounding area of Georgia. Raised in Hope Hollow in which the mother had settled long before the town existed, they had moved to town, largely because of Rebecca’s association with one of the town’s inhabitants and lived there for some time until driven out by a ‘fire breathing’ minister who had incited the townspeople to riot against these ‘devil’s advocates and witches who produced their cures through potions and other demon-directed methods’. In the resulting action, the man with whom Rebecca related was badly burned and even Effie, the youngest who did appear to have some manner of occult power, could or would not save him (causing something of a rift in her relationship with Rebecca). The sick, if still desperate enough, still followed them when they returned to Hope Hollow, but now were threatened on the journey by a rabid panther that roamed the forest. An animal that the minister insisted was the Devil’s own creation serving the desires of these witches. Because of the new difficulty encountered by the sick and infirm residents, the Mayor persuades Dr. Aubrey Waycross, an urban hospital trained physician to move there. The story gradually unfolds as Waycross arrives with his training of the day that still embraced Galen and Hippocrates. This consisted of using lancets, emetics, enemas and blistering agents, with bloodletting when called for, as well as other treatments obvious to the names of the agents employed. Thus, his practice vies with the herbal and holistic approach as developed to that time because he sees their results effective in many instances. So, simultaneously he attempts to combine the two approaches as he also becomes enamored of Rebecca. During the development of the plot, the characters of each of the three sisters proceed along quite different lines that aid in its development and a number of supporting characters including a travelling medicine man, the minister, and several other town characters, also provide different aspects of the story.

Discussion: The author has set forth a fascinating description of medicine as it existed, and was practiced, in rural (often to a degree urban as well) areas and populations of the era. As such, the tale is well worth reading. Unfortunately, a number of hiccups occur in recounting the tale. Most prominent, from this reader’s perspective, is difficulty attempting to define and empathize with the main characters. Waycross’ activities frequently appear quite thoughtless, even at times ridiculous; Rebecca appears to act in accord with her position in that place and time, but still is rather wraith-like in presenting a persona; Effie is even more of a wraith as she wanders about with her apparent occult power, and her ultimate close relationship with Thumb, a typical medicine man, seemingly unpredictable; Thumb, in turn offers his share of question marks; Sarah is a ‘loose cannon’ wandering around; Other, supporting characters also provide interesting, often amusing additions to the story. The ending, at least for this reader, was abrupt, somewhat inexplicable and unfulfilling.

Summary: A look at the practice of medicine in the 1800’s, perhaps particularly of interest at this time because of the surging interest among patients and even physicians in the holistic approach to treatment.

4* Special interest for current holistic medicine interest; hiccups as noted.

Are you Scared?

Are You Scared? An e-book copyright and written by Ingo Blum, Illustrated by Mark Balita.

This small book is subtitled “Help Your Children Overcome Fears and Anxieties”. The story tells of little Susie whose mother sent her to a store to obtain ingredients she needed to bake. Susie leaves on her journey and encounters numerous imaginary fears that fortunately no longer scare her on her return. The reason is that her beloved grandfather happens by and gives her a ride home. It is then she sees that she was imagining the fearsome figures.

Discussion: The author has presented a very short book purportedly to aid small children in handling their fears. On the good side, the idea is sound and the illustrator has provided charming drawings. However unfortunately, most of the book expresses Susie’s imaginary fears and only a few lines actually are directed toward a solution. In fact, much of the book could be scary to a child with imagination. The author has brought forth an excellent matter about which parents unfortunately give too little thought and he is to be commended for doing so. It is just that, regrettably, pragmatically and apologetically from this reader’s perception, he has written an excellent reminder for parents, but not a book per se for young children.

3* 5* Reminder for parents; far less for small children.

Monkey Money Mind

Monkey Money Mind ISBN: 9781946633712 Forbes Books Copyright and written by Chris Zadeh and Angeliyue Schouten.

Subtitled “How to Stop Monkeying Around with Your Money” this book provides brief notes about the authors followed by an Introduction commenting on “Making Sense of How We Use our Cents” followed by nine chapters of suggestions, an Epilogue, The Silverback (gorilla), 179 pertinent bibliographic notes and finally an extensive Bibliography listed alphabetically. The authors explain that the Money Monkey Mind is “a hybrid of two concepts; it’s the psychological influences on our financial decisions blended with the Buddhist concept of the monkey mind, “the presence within us that remains restless and unsettled, criticizing our decisions, creating doubt, and stifling our creativity…. affect even the most brilliant financial giants.” The rational mind may focus on the future but the Monkey Money Mind focuses only on the present seeing only the next tree branch with the next piece of fruit – instant gratification. The concept is based upon the fact that “only a few shreds of DNA separate humans from apes. In fact, we share more than 96 percent of our genetic composition – a percentage ten times smaller than the genetic difference between rats and mice.” In other words, even the most knowledgeable individuals suffer occasionally from the urge for instant gratification, or taking the less demanding route our more rational side dictates. Each chapter examines a different phase of this troubling activity and provides helpful suggestions toward making the correct decision. Simple choices are examined with test proven results that readers may find surprising; e.g. is winning of a physical prize such as a car, expensive piece of jewelry, or other more gratifying than winning money? And why? The results often are offered from studies of unusual sources such as the NFL. Other factors are discussed using equally interesting subjects of brand loyalty, Inattention blindness, gambler’s fallacy, the trouble with easy payments, getting over irrational (and expensive) fear of loss, expert addiction, the importance of making your own decision and more.

Discussion: The authors, both of whom have experienced lean money times from childhood, have produced an interesting discussion and provided most viable suggestions on how to deal with this monster of a subject. Further, they have done so in a simple, readily understood manner, reciting study results of pertinent examples from unusual test groups. The summary suggestions pertinent to each subject discussed also neatly provide ‘take away’ thoughts. This book is well worth a reader’s time.

5* Nicely presented discussion and suggestions of a most important subject.

Munching on the Sun

Munching on the SUN ISBN: 9781775111122 an e-book copyright and written by Mark Paul Oleksiw.

The story opens with a young man reciting a bit of the dramatic play Frankenstein on an empty stage in an equally empty theater at midnight. The single spectator is the Dramatics Professor who overheard the intruder’s entrance and came to see what was happening. From this unusual beginning the reader finds him/herself proceeding through the life of a very conflicted and confused young student as he and his friends advance through their senior school year. He is an extremely disciplined young man from a loving family and with an older sister with mental challenges. Through his dedication, he has succeeded in advancing her to a seemingly relatively normal manner of existence. He is tremendously well-liked and a natural mentor-of-sorts to his classmates. Much of his enduing problems stem from the fact that he becomes totally enthralled with a girl recently arrived with her strict family from India. Their evolving relationship, both reminiscences and on-going, along with his unusual interaction with his sister as well as his classmates, provides, a basis for the strange tale as it unfolds.

Discussion: The author has set forth a most unusual story in an intriguing manner that makes a reader want to follow to its termination. For most readers, this is sufficient. However, for a few who are inclined to think more deeply with respect to a character, questions about Lucas, the protagonist, surface and will not ‘go away’. Obviously this is more than a young person’s ‘coming-of-age’ tale and a reader would like to have some basis provided to account for his singular attributes – his dedication, and ability, to raise his sister’s mental acuity; his almost mesmerizing effect upon his fellow students; his actions with Kara; his tendency to react violently to certain stimuli. Similarly, some hint of an explanation for Kara’s unusual actions would be so helpful in providing some explanation for an initial reaction and her often wraith-like appearances. Granted, much of the story depends upon reminiscences, but frequently the reader is not sure which are fact and which fiction. Another feature that is difficult to dissemble is the educational level of the group. Much of the material indicates their senior level of secondary school. Yet much of the academic structure is more specifically of university level. But perhaps this feature only is troubling to individuals acquainted with the idiosyncrasies of academia.

3* 4* Fascinating tale in spite of missing and confusing elements.