Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Angel's Game: a Gothic novel of mystery and suspense

The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is another exciting mystery thriller in the heart of Barcelona in the days leading to Spanish Civil War and the dictatorship of General Franco. Told in three acts, the story follows David Martin, a young writer who becomes entangled in the mysteries of the underworld and his fight to break free.

The story opens in 1917, David Martin has led a harsh life. His mother abandoned him and his father. He is abused at the hands of his father until his father is brutally murdered in front of him.  He writes short stories for the local newspaper until he is approached to write Gothic novels. He is soon able to rent a home and he chooses a tower house which no one wants and everyone warns him against living in. He moves in anyway and he soon meets the mysterious Andreas Corelli, who commissions a book. His deal is almost too tempting to resist. He soon receives devastating news that he throws caution to the wind and agrees to write Corelli’s book. Soon strange events occur and David doesn’t know if he is going mad or if someone is playing a cruel game. He begins to research the previous owners of the house and he becomes entangled in a murder mystery which someone fights hard to keep buried. Will David find his way out? Or will he become another victim of the mysterious Andreas Corelli?

The Angel’s Game is a prequel to Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind (another awesome book). The Angel’s Game is thrilling adventure where shadows lurk and alternative motives are everyone. Like a great Gothic novel, The Angel’s Game answers the main question of the mystery of the tower house but leaves open the question of who the mysterious Andreas Corelli is. I like that the author leaves that question to be answered by the reader. I can’t really say who I think he is without giving too many details. I highly recommend The Angel’s Game. It will have you hooked. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Today in history: Armistice signed ending the Korean War

Today is the 62nd anniversary of the signing of the armistice which signaled the end of the Korean War. The Korean War was the first major conflict of the Cold War. In North Korea, this day is known as the Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War. In the United States, the Korean War is referred to as the Forgotten War. On this day in 1995, the Korean War Veterans Memorial dedicated in Washington, D.C. The war which ended in a stalemate and is a war that is technically still being fought by North Korea and South Korea.

The Korean Demilitarized Zone is the buffer zone between North and South Korea. It is the de factor border which runs the vicinity of the 38th parallel and roughly cuts the Korean peninsula in half. It is 250 km (160 miles) long and approximately 4 km (2.5 miles) wide. Despite its name, it is the most heavily militarized border in the world. Since its establishment, there have been numerous incidents and incursions by the North Koreans which the North Korean government denies. In 1968, there was a failed attempt to assassinate President Park Chung Hee. Between the years of 1974-1990, a series of infiltration tunnels were discovered. A total of 17 tunnels were discovered. The most recent incident was June 15, 2015 when a teenage North Korean solider walked across the DMZ and defected at a South Korean guard post. 

Today, I would like to remember the Forgotten War. To remember the men who fought a war that no one really cared about not like they did for World War II or the Vietnam War. The men who came home to no fanfare, no tinker tape parades. To the men who quietly came home and began to build their lives, their families and their careers. Approximately 40,000 American soldiers died in the Korean War, more than 100,000 were wounded and more than 32,000 are missing in action. In total, 5 million people were killed in this conflict and 10% of the causalities were Korean civilians. 416 Korean War unknown soldiers are buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Oahu, Hawaii.  

Today the North Koreans proudly claim they won the Korean War, we remember the men and women who served and those who died in service of their country during the Korean War, a war that officially wasn’t a “war” but it was for those who experienced it. To all the Korean War veterans, thank you for your service. I may not know your names but you are not forgotten.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

And the Mountains Echoed: a great story about a family torn apart

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini is a heartbreaking journey one Afghan family must take from an impoverished Afghan village to a modern day, war torn country. From Afghanistan to Paris, France to the United States. The book is told in a series of short stories told from different perspectives as the reader is taken on one father’s devastating choice to a country trying to rebuild.

It is the fall of 1952 and 10 year old Abdullah is being told a story by his father. The story of a father sacrificing his favorite child to save an entire village and the anguish he suffers. Abdullah, his beloved little sister, Pari and their father, Sabor are on a journey to Kabul where Pari will be adopted by Mr. and Mars. Wahdati. In the spring of 1955, Mr. Wahdati suffers a stroke and Mrs. Wahdati to return to Paris, France taking Pari with her. The book fast forwards to spring 2003, as two Afghan-Americans, Idris and Timur, come to Kabul, looking to restore their families’ lands which were stolen by the Taliban. The experience changes Idris as he returns to his cushy and safe life in the U.S. We learn that Abdullah has made it to America where he and his family have opened a restaurant. The story flash backs to Paris 1974 and Pari as a young adult. She struggles with her alcoholic mother. We sees Pari’s life as she gets married, has children and becomes a widow. Until one fateful day, when the phone rings and she learns about her past that her mother took with her to the grave. Will brother and sister finally be reunited? Or is it too late?

I enjoyed And the Mountains Echoed. I enjoyed the epic story of one family as their country is thrown into war, the arrival of the Taliban and the aftermath of the U.S. war against the Taliban. While the political agendas are very much in the background, the reader can feel its presence as the characters interact and live in the world around them. Despite the back and forth in the timeline and the narrators, the story flowed and was easier to read than I expected. I highly recommend And the Mountains Echoed. It is a great story about the personal events in a turbulent region of the world. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Still Alice: a portrait of Alzheimer's

Still Alice by Liza Genova is the story of one woman’s slow descent into the harsh realities of early onset Alzheimer’s which occurs before the age of 65. Her struggle to retain who she is. Her husband, John, and their three children, Anna, Tom and Lydia struggle understand what is going on. The book was made into a movie starring Julianne Moore as Alice which she won the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

“My yesterdays are disappearing and my tomorrows are uncertain.”

The story begins in September 2003, Alice Howland is a psychology professor at Harvard specializing in the mechanisms of language. She’s leaving for a conference in San Francisco before leaving for Los Angeles to visit her daughter, Lydia. She notices that she easily loses her train of thought and she is forgetting certain words. She worries it may be menopause, she makes an appointment with her doctor. After Alice’s 50th birthday, her doctor reveals that her test results are all normal but Alice knows that something isn’t normal. She wants to see a neurologist. After a battery of test, her neurologist diagnoses her with early onset Alzheimer’s. She is given the hard news that there is no cure just treatments to slow the progression. Her husband, at first, is in denial until he sees her memory lapse firsthand. Then he aggressively seeks to treat her. Despite her treatments, Alice is slowly getting worst. As the family sees the reality that has overcome their wife and mother, they struggle and argue about how to proceed.

“There is no weapon that could slay it [Alzheimer’s].
Taking Aricept and Namenda felt like aiming a couple of leaky squirt guns
in the face of a blazing fire.”

I really enjoyed this book. It was emotional for me to read as I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer’s in 2005 and my uncle to early onset Alzheimer’s this year. As I read Alice’s behaviors, I was reminded of the weird things my grandmother used to do. We would find items in the oddest places. She would ask for people who had been deceased for many years. The violent outbursts as my grandmother struggled to remember and understand. I appreciated that the author gave the science behind Alzheimer’s without being too overbearing with the scientific lingo. I learned a great deal about early onset Alzheimer’s. I highly recommend Still Alice. It is a great book which looks into the mind of this horrible disease. For those who have lost or has a loved with Alzheimer’s, it will be a heartbreaking look back. For those who haven’t witnessed Alzheimer’s firsthand, it is an excellent example of this debilitating disease. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

What was the faith of our founding fathers?

I always hear that we need to return to the faith of our founding fathers. I’ve always wondered what their faith was. What did they believe in? And was it what we think it was? In my research, I used the criteria for an individual to be counted as a Founding Father, he must have done one or more of the following: 1) signed the Declaration of Independence, 2) signed the Articles of Confederation, 3) attended the Constitution Convention of 1787, 4) signed the U.S. Constitution, and 5) served as a senator or a representative in the first Federal Congress, 1789-1791. I also focused on the very basic teachings and beliefs that were available at the time. The majority of the Founding Fathers fell into one of four categories: Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregational and Unitarianism/Deism.

The Episcopal has its origins with the Church of England (aka Anglican). Benjamin Harrison and Samuel Chase are two examples of members of the Episcopal Church. It would make sense that the majority of the founding fathers were of this faith as many of them had English backgrounds. The church’s teachings were pretty straight forward and standard what modern Christians believe today. The basic teachings were that Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine. They fully believed in His birth, life and resurrection. They believed in the Holy Trinity and that the Bible was the inspired Word of God.  The Episcopal Church appears to be between the Roman Catholic and the Protestant churches. They focus on two sacraments: baptism and communion with the other sacraments as optional.

The Presbyterian Church has its roots in Martin Luther and the 95 thesis and was refined by John Calvin and the Reformation theologians. Benjamin Rush was a famous member of the Presbyterian Church. They believed what most Christians would. They believe that knowledge of God comes from God, that Christ is the only way to God. They believe that the Word of God comes in several forms: the life and words of Jesus, prophesies of the Old Testament, the ministry of the apostles and from the preaching of ministers. Sounds the same as all churches right? Where the Presbyterian Church and Calvinism differs is in its five points. First, total depravity is the total inability as a consequence of sin. A person is a slave to sin and naturally not inclined to love God. Second, unconditional election is that God has chosen for eternity those whom he will bring to Himself based on His mercy alone. Third, limited atonement is that only the sins of the elect are atoned by the blood of Jesus. Fourth, irresistible grace is that God’s grace is applied to those He chooses to save, “the elect” and the elect cannot resist the Holy Spirit. It is God’s choice not the individual’s to accept the Holy Spirit. Lastly, the perseverance of the saints refers to the elect who will preserve in the faith because God chose them to do so.

Congregationalism is another Protestant/Reformed movement which originated with Robert Browne in 1592. The founding fathers were considered themselves among the Congregationalists were John Adams and John Hancock. Congregationalism is associated with the Puritans and John Cotton. They have the same fundamental beliefs as most Protestant churches. However, they believe in universal salvation which is direct conflict with Presbyterian Calvinism. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a famous Congregational minister who had the famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (July 8, 1741) which I actually read in my 10th grade English class. In his sermon, he emphasized that hell is a real place and he portrayed a horrific reality that awaited people should they continue without Christ. He taught that the will of God gives wicked men the chance to rectify their sins.

Lastly, the movement which featured prominently among the founding father is Unitarianism/deism. Unitarianism is a theological movement which teaches that God is one entity and rejects the Holy Trinity. It also teaches that Jesus is the son of God as all humans are the children of God and reject the claim of His divinity. Deism is the rejection of revelation of authority of religious knowledge. Deists like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, believe that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a Creator. Deism gained prominence during the Age of Enlightenment (1620s-1780s) which believed in one God but were disenchanted with organized religion and the notions of the Trinity, the inerrancy of the Bible and supernatural events (i.e. miracles). Unitarianists and deists reject religions based on book which claimed to contain the world of God, they reject all religious dogma and are skeptical of miracles, prophesies and religious mysteries.

It is amazing to me that men from very different religious faiths could come together and make the U.S. Constitution as great and stable as it is. From different ideologies, different religions and different ideas about what the United States should be these men came together and built the foundation of this country which has survived for 239 years. In recent years, I’ve heard the call to return to the faith of our founding fathers. While each denomination had the basics of Christian beliefs, there are some big differences when it comes to doctrine. As well as the theological movement of Unitarianism/deism seems out of place. My question is what faith should we return to? Do we return to the faith of Thomas Jefferson, who had a complex belief system, was known to be a deist? Why must we follow the faith of these men? I didn’t even discuss every religious faith that was represented by the founding fathers. Have I been clear? Faith is believing in something without seeing. Every Christian doesn’t have the same faith. My faith in Christ is different from my family and friends. Our belief in Christ and His teachings, the word of God in the Bible may be similar. But faith is very personal and unique for each believer. I ask again: do we go back to our founding fathers’ beliefs and if we do, which belief system do we follow?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Orphan Train: a story of a piece of unknown history

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline is the story of one woman’s story of her experience on the Orphan Train. The Orphan Train is the nickname of the time when more than 200,000 orphaned, abandoned and homeless children from New York City were transported to adopted homes in the Midwest between 1854-1929. Many of the children, were first-generation Irish-Catholic immigrants and often found themselves in situations of indentured servitude rather than adopted families. The program was founded by Charles Loring Brace who believed that work, educated and firm but compassionate Christian family values would save these children was a life of poverty.

The story opens with Molly, a teenager in a foster home. Her foster father really tries to do right by this commitment to being a foster parent and his wife who wants nothing to do with Molly. Molly is in trouble because she tried to steal a book from the local library and now has to do community service in order to stay out of juvie. She agrees to help organize the attic of Vivian Daly, an elderly widow who lives in a mansion. As she is organizing the attic, Vivian tells Molly the history behind each piece which leads her to tell the story of her life in America. The story then flashback to 1929, 9 year old Niamh is taking care of her baby sister when tragedy strikes. She is the only survivor in a tenement fire. She is sent on the Orphan Train where she is sent to family and family. Each one worse than the one before. She must endure harsh working conditions to even harsher living conditions when a horrific incident occurs and she is rescued by a community who sees the life she has been sent to live. Through Vivian’s story, Molly learns that someone can rise above a situation they did not ask for or did nothing to deserve.

I enjoyed Orphan Train as it told a piece of history that I was aware of but didn’t know much about. I also enjoyed how Vivian’s experience help Molly rise above her situation. However, I felt certain areas were left underdeveloped, for instance her foster mother’s hostility. Why did she agree to be a foster parent when it was obviously she didn’t want to be one? Also how Molly ended up in foster care is barely mentioned and there were hints as to why but I feel wasn’t fully explained. Despite these questions, I enjoyed the story. There were moments of shock and horror as Vivian lived in situations that she couldn’t get out of knowing that there was some truth to what these children faced. I highly recommend Orphan Train

Monday, July 13, 2015

Behind every bouquet of flowers, there is a story

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is the story of one woman’s struggle with trust and love. It is the story of a woman who finds it hard to love and be loved in return. It is a story told through the meaning of flowers.

Victoria Jones is 18 years old and she has now aged out of the foster care system. She must now learn to fend for herself. She ends up living on the street with a tiny flower garden that she has created. One day she approaches a florist looking for a job. She makes a bouquet of flowers to give as a resume. The florist, Renata, recognizes Victoria’s natural talent and hires her. Renata also realizes that Victoria is on the streets and helps her give a place to stay. Soon, Victoria has customers coming back for her special bouquets which through the meaning of the flowers helps restore relationships and brings joy into people’s lives. But she, herself, rejects and even sabotages her own chances for happiness. Why does Victoria feel unworthy of love? Will she learn she is worthy of love?

I enjoyed The Language of Flowers simply because I love flowers and the Victorian meanings behind them. It was an easy book to read. I was able to read it in one day but the story was beautiful and had me hooked to find out if Victoria would allow herself to love, be loved and learn that happiness is possible. The story is told in a series of present events and flashback which gives the readers clues as how Victoria learned the meaning of flowers, how she ended up in a group home and why she feels unworthy of love. I recommend The Language of Flowers is a great summer beach book. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Strange but true historical facts

Every now and then, a strange but true historical fact will be posted on social media. And sometimes you may read them and think that there is no way that they are real.  However, fact can be stranger than fiction. I found three strange but real historical facts which I found interesting.

First, John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States of America, is the earliest former President with living grandchildren. That’s right, a man who died 153 years ago still have living grandchildren. How is this possible? John Tyler’s son, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Sr was born in 1853 when Tyler was 63. Lyon Tyler than had two sons, Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. (born 1924) and Harrison Ruffin Tyler (born 1928) when he was 71 and 75. As of 2015, those two sons are still alive at the ages of 91 and 87. It is strange to think that a man who was president in 1841 still has living grandchildren. Strange but true.

Second, the swastika has become a symbol of hate and Nazism but for over 3,000 years, it was actually a symbol of goodness and good luck. The symbol, which in Sanskrit means “well-being” had been used by cultures all over the world including Greco-Romans, Celts. Early Christians, Jews, Hindus and Native Americans. I learned the true meaning of the swastika from an episode of History Detectives (originally aired July 13, 2009) when a Native American rug was investigated because it had the swastika symbol. According to Navajo legend, the swastika symbol is known as the Whirling Log and is used in healing ceremonies. It is associated with the narrative of a man (sometimes called the Culture Hero) who takes a journey down the San Juan River and during his adventures encounters Yei figures. From the Yeis, he learns knowledge that he brings back to his people. It is sad that a symbol that once meant for well-being not only brings images of hate and evil.

Lastly, Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241) issued the papal bull, Vox in Rama which condemned a German heresy known as Luciferian. It was issued to King Henry, son of Emperor Frederick II of Germany in June 1233 and then to Archbishop Siegfried III of Mainz, demanding that all efforts be taken to stop the practice. In the bull, the association of cats with devil worship is first made, according to historian Donald Engels.  Engels claimed, the bull was “a death warrant for the [cat] which would be continued to be slaughtered without mercy until the early 19th century.” It is believed that very few black cats survive in Western Europe as a result. If that is true or not hasn’t been substantiated. There is the belief that the sudden lack of cats led to the spread of disease because infected rates ran free. The most devastating, the Bubonic Plague, killed 100 million people. One false association can led to the devastation of millions. Strange but possibly true.

So, if you ever come across a strange piece of information don’t just dismiss it as false internet information because it could be true. As Mark Twain said, “Truth is stranger than fiction but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.” Therefore, things can happen beyond what we could possible imagine could happen. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Why the sky is blue: a story of faith, trust and love

Why the sky is blue By Susan Meissner is a story about trust in God after a violent attack which leaves a woman pregnant and unsure what to do next. It is a story about faith, trust and trying to find meaning in life after horrible violence. Most importantly, it’s about a person’s ability to love.

Claire Holland only heard God speak to her once, when she was 4 years old. It was the morning her family learns that her father died in Korea. He whispered, “Do not be afraid.” 33 years later she hears that voice again telling her to not be afraid. She awakes in the hospital after being viciously attacked and left for dead. Miraculously she survived only to discover that she is pregnant and the only possibility is that the father is her attacker. Together with her husband, Dan, and her two children, 11-year old Katie and 6 year old, Spencer, she must face a choice. Claire always had difficulty carrying to term and she believes that she will lose the child like the others. But when the child continues to survives, Claire and Dan decide to give the baby up for adoption and try to move on with their lives. What happens when that baby grows up and enters their lives once again? Will the family be able to accept this person into their lives? Or will the family come crashing down?

I loved this book. It had me captivated from beginning to end. It is a great story about how God can use a bad event into a wonderful gift to the world. There were many great examples of this. Claire’s mother tries to example why God allows bad events to happen, she says “Sometimes asking God for a reason for something is like asking Him why the sky is blue. There is a complex, scientific reason for it.” That’s the theme of this story, that when the question is complex, the answer is too. There is a quote which resonated with me, “God’s reason for allowing certain things to happen are too complex for us to fully appreciate.” It is true that God’s reasons and thoughts are beyond our ability to reason and think that we couldn’t begin to understand. One day, I think He will reveal all to us. I highly recommend Why the sky is blue By Susan Meissner.

“Love is not blind- it sees more not less.
But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.”

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Doctor Zhivago: a book that should be on your must-read list

A few books come out in a generation and has such impact that future generations cling to the truths on the pages. Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago is one of those books. A book which tells a tragic story amidst war and great social shifts in power. Doctor Zhivago features World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution and the Russian Civil War which brought the Russian people deeper and deeper into poverty. The tragic life of Yuri Zhivago is one example of a man whose circumstances were nothing he asked for or wanted. While he tried to overcome his circumstances, the power that be keep bring him down.

Boris Pasternak was born February 10, 1890 in Moscow. He began writing Doctor Zhivago in 1946 at the height of Stalin’s regime. When Stalin died suddenly in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the Community Party, denounced the crimes of Stalin and initiated The Thaw, a general easing of repression and ideological control. The Thaw would be brief. When Pasternak finished his book in 1955, he sent the manuscript to Novy Mir “New World,” the most liberal of Moscow’s literary magazines. He would eventually send the book to an Italian publisher after many in Russia refused to publish it. The book would be a success and the Russian government would ban the book from the country for many years. In 1958, Pasternak would win the Nobel Prize for Literature to which he had to refuse. Rumor was that he was forced to refuse by the Russian government under threat of his life. When the Soviet Union fell in 1988, his descendants would accept the prize on behalf. Boris Pasternak died May 10, 1960.

The story opens in 1901, a young Yuri Zhivago is bury his mother who has suddenly died. His father had abandoned them, Yuri is left to be raised by his uncle. The story shifts to introduce Lara, a young girl whose widowed mother moves to Moscow and opens a seamstress shop. She soon gains the attention of Viktor Komarousky, who takes advantage of the family’s dire straits. Fast forward to 1911, Lara is now a young woman who marries Pasha, a young man who wants to rescue her. Pasha then joins the army and soon goes missing and is feared dead. Yuri marries Tonya at the urging of her dying mother. Yuri is soon a military doctor where he encounters Lara, now serving as a nurse while trying to get information about her missing husband. Yuri’s and Lara’s timeline weave in and out as the country is thrown into turmoil after turmoil. Their love is brief and bound to end tragically as the country is at war with itself.

Doctor Zhivago is not just a historical novel about a love story amidst the Russian Revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union. It is a moving story about a harsh reality which was changing in front of Pasternik’s eyes. He wrote the events of his book as they were happening in his life. He portrays Russia’s three revolutions, civil war, the two world wars and the political terror which the Russian people faced on a daily basis. Through Yuri’s eyes, we can witness the events of modern Russian history. The brief moments of happiness surrounded by period of deep darkness. I can see how the government of the Soviet Union found this book to be explosive as the characters discuss the pitfalls of Marxism and the atrocities which were committed by both sides of the war. The tragedies of Doctor Zhivago are influenced by the transformation of Russia to the Soviet Union and the dehumanization of its people. The book is long and can be difficult to read but I enjoyed it. It is getting an eyewitness account by someone who was there and saw these events unfold. The courage it took Boris Pasternak to write his story, knowing it could end his life. Doctor Zhivago should be on every one's must read list. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Some forgotten yet important faces of the American Revolution

Fourth of July is here once again. A very important date in America’s history, a day in which the thirteen colonies of the British Empire declared they were a free and independent nation. Everyone remembers Thomas Jefferson, a talented writer and the drafter of the Declaration of Independence. Everyone remembers John Adams, John Hancock, and Benjamin Franklin as members of the Continental Congress. But there were 56 signers to the declaration and I would like to highlight some of the important but forgotten signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Charles Carroll was born September 19, 1737 in Annapolis, Maryland. He came from a wealthy Roman Catholic family and enjoyed an education aboard. When he returned home, he immediately joined the fight for independence. In 1772, he would anonymously engage the secretary of the Colony of Maryland in a series of newspaper articles. He protested against the British government’s right to tax without representation. He was an early advocate for armed resistance with the ultimate goal of independence. He was elected to represent Maryland at the Continental Congress. He arrived too late to vote on the Declaration but he signed it. He would return and help draft the Constitution as well as the state government for Maryland. He would serve in the state senate in 1781, the first Federal Congress in 1788 and then again the state senate in 1790 until his retirement in 1800. Charles Carroll was the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence when he died November 14, 1832 at the age of 95.

James Wilson was born September 14, 1742 in Carskerdo, Scotland. He would attend many universities but never obtained any degrees. He came to the colonies as a tutor and then teaching at Philadelphia College. Some of his famous student includes James Madison, Aaron Burr and many future senators and house representatives. After two of studying, he was able to attain the bar in Philadelphia and opened his own successful law practice. He would represent Pennsylvania at the Continental Congress. Although he personally as for independence, his state was still divided. Rather than act on his own convictions, he voted with his constituents and voted against separation from Britain. He was able to consult with his constituents and return with a vote in favor of independence. Following the ratification of the Constitution, he appealed to Washington for an appointment in the federal government. He would be appointed as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1789. Unfortunately he would end his life in ruin. While serving on the Supreme Court, he would spend time in a debtor’s prison. By 1798, he complained and great mental fatigue and retired. He would die August 28, 1798 at the age of 55.

John Witherspoon was born February 5, 1723 in Gifford, Scotland. When he arrived in the colonies in 1768, he brought with his impressive credentials and public acclaim as he took the position of president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton). While he usually avoided political concerns, he supported the fight for independence. He would be elected as a delegate to the Continental Congress where he voted for the Declaration of Independence. In response to another delegate’s argument that the colonies were not ready for independence, he said it “was not only ripe for the measure but in danger of rotting for the want of it.” He was very active in the Continental Congress as well as the state legislature of New Jersey. He would die on his farm on November 15, 1794 at the age of 71. He is still held in high esteem at the college that he helped create. 

Along with the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 45 percent of the colonists supported the fight against Britain. 80,000 militia and Continental Army soldiers would serve at the height of the war. After more than eight years of war, 25,000 soldiers would give their lives for the dream of what is now United States of America. As we look forward to a day of family, food, fun and fireworks, let’s remember the men whose daring and bravery to set forth and fight for this great nation. They each deserve to be remembered and recognized. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Witches Protection Program: a book review

Witches Protection Program by Michael Phillip Case is about a secret government agency whose mission is to protect good witches and rid the world of the bad witches. Partners, Alastair Verne and Wes Rockville, must protect an heiress from her aunt’s evil plans.

The story opens with Wes Rockville in trouble for a botched case. He is being transferred to the Witches Protection Program as his last chance to remain in law enforcement. There he meets, Alastair Verne, a veteran witch protector. The program protects the good witches known as Davinas while investigating the evil witches known as Willas. They soon hear of an evil plot from within the Pendragon Cosmetic Company and the CEO, Bernadette Pendragon’s plans to take over the world. They must also protect heiress, Morgan, from danger. Along with Davina, Junie Meadows, they must stop Bernadette and her evil minions before they can carry out their evil plot.

I enjoyed this book as it was a fast paced and easy read. It was interesting to see the twist on the Witness Protection Program. Although the story was predictable, it was fun and engaging. The author had all the commonly known aspects of witches, such as cat familiar, shape shifting, spells, magic wands and the ability to fly. There was some humor and plenty of action. I recommend this book for those who enjoy the supernatural stories with a modern twist.