Sunday, August 30, 2015

Neverwhere: a fantastical adventure of London Below

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is a fantastical story of an ordinary, mundane life turned upside down for an unbelievable adventure. It is the story of Richard Mayhew who works at an ordinary job, who has a pretty but overbearing fiancee and he was content. Until one evening when an act of kindness erases everything he was known. He must fight to get it back.

Richard is an ordinary guy who moves to London. The night before he leaves, he is greeted by an old woman who tell him his fortune. She tells him that he is about to begin a journey ahead of him that starts with a door. And that his good heart won’t see him safely on his journey. Dismissing this crazy woman, he leaves for London. After 3 years, he enjoys his life. During an argument with his fiancée, he sees a young girl begging for help. He stops and renders aid, despite his fiancée’s warning to stop. He learns that her name is Door and that she is being hunted by men who want to kill her. He sees her safely to her home and he soon discovers that no one remembers who he is and according to the world, he never existed. He must find a way to get his life back. He soon joins Door, The Hunter and other characters from the underworld of London in order to avenge Door’s family, stop an evil plot and get his life back.

I really enjoyed Neverwhere. It was an exciting adventure which kept my interest with its twists and turns. And just when you thought you have the plot figured out, Gaiman through a twist that you never saw coming and it grips you even more. Neverwhere is one of Neil Gaiman’s first novels. Even though I recently read it, I found it to be the same exciting story as his books. I like to see that an author’s style hasn’t weakened with time as he produces more and more books. I highly recommend Neverwhere for an adventure in a world which exists below us. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: stories of friendship and teamwork

My Little Pony first appeared in 1983 by Hasbro following their My Pretty Pony line. It was very popular worldwide until 1995. My Little Pony was reintroduced in 2010 with the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic movie and cartoons. The new show introduced Twilight Sparkle, a studious unicorn pony, who is sent to Ponyville to learn about friendship by her mentor, Princess Celestia. She soon becomes friends with five ponies who each represent a different facet of friendship: Rainbow Dash (loyalty), a tomboyish pegasus who helps control weather, Rarity (generosity), a glamorous unicorn with a flair for fashion, Fluttershy (kindness), a shy and timid Pegasus who is fond of nature and enjoys taking care of animals, Pinkie Pie (laughter), a hyperactive pony who loves to throw parties, and Applejack (honesty), a hard working pony who works her family’s apple farm. Together, the power of their friendship overcomes great evil and other problems which comes their way. The new line was so popular that in 2013, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls was introduced. In this series of movies, the characters are teenage girls in high school dealing with common problems.

When the Equestria Girls first came out, I was adamant that my daughter would not have anything to do with this line of movies and toys. As my daughter got older and become aware of this new line, she began to beg to watch it. So, one day, I gave in. I decided that we would watch it together. One, so I can see what it was about and then tell her why she couldn’t watch it. But by the end of the movie, I realized that I was wrong about this show. First, I would like to introduce the movies in which the toys are based on. Second, I will discuss what I liked about the show. Lastly, I will discuss some of the criticisms that I have read from other parents.

First, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls premiered on June 26, 2013 in which Princess Twilight Sparkle is transported to a human-like world of Equestria after her crown in stolen. There she meets the human equivalents of her friends. Together with her friends, Twilight Sparkle must stop Sunset Shimmer, retrieve her crown before the portal between the worlds is closes. This movie had a lot of lessons about friendship, standing up to bullies, and the ability of people to change. There are great musical numbers which are real catchy. One of my favorite songs is “Time to Come Together,” a song about coming together, pooling unique and individual talents to achieve a goal. The second film, Rainbow Rocks, premiered on September 27, 2014. Princess Twilight Sparkle returns to Equestria to help her friendships as Sirens plot to take over the school and the world. Again, the message of friendship and overcoming differences is the main theme of the movie as Twilight Sparkle and her friends are able to overcome the power of the Sirens. A third movie, Equestria Girls: Friendship Games, is set to premiere on September 26, 2015. In this film, the students of Canterlot High School get ready to prepare for the annual “Friendship Games,” a sporting competition against their rival school, Crystal Prep Academy.

I have three main reasons why I enjoyed the first two Equestria Girls movies. First, the lessons of standing up to bullies as well as standing up for others. Twilight Sparkle stands up to a bully for Fluttershy, who is shy and timid. In a society in which bullying has become a big problem, we need to be able to teach our children in different ways that we treat others like we want to be treated. Children need to learn that standing up for someone is just as important as standing up for yourself. Second, I like to see a group of girls with very different personalities be able to come together, despite those differences, and rise to the challenge or goal that they are facing. This scenario is the center of Rainbow Rocks, when the girls’ pride and selfishness keeps them from working together. They soon realize that they are more powerful together. The importance of teamwork and how some situations in which cooperation with others is key in order to see it through. Lastly, I enjoyed seeing the lesson that people can be redeemed. They can see the error of their ways and strive to better themselves and be a better person to others. This lesson is seen with Sunset Shimmer who was the bully in Equestria Girls and is trying to undo the damage done in Rainbow Rocks. It is a lesson that sometimes someone just needs a chance to prove that they have truly changed.

The main criticism of the Equestria Girls features the design of the characters. According to one reviewer, the girls are same body type and the same style of clothes (top, skirt and legwarmer shoes). The girls seems too sexed up to be appropriate a la Bratz or Monster High. Another reviewer commented that “you have to look and act a certain way to be fun, cute or normal.” I wonder if she saw the same movie I did. The six main girls do have the similar body styles, however, they do not act or look the same. Fluttershy is timid and quiet while Pinkie Pie is outgoing. Rainbow Dash is athletic and Rarity is a girly-girl. How this acting or being the same? To me, they are more polar opposites. Polar opposites who still are able to become friends despite their differences. Another criticism is the “need” of a love interest in the story. I’m sorry but every Disney princess has had a love interest (with two exceptions) and no one bats an eye. Why are these films different? Third, the villains near the end of the films are too scary for young viewers. I think this criticism has a valid point. However, what is deemed too scary is on a child by child basis. For example, my daughter is three and a half and has no problem watching scary images in cartoons but my niece who is two months older, does. It’s an example how age does not indicate if a child is ready.

In conclusion, I have been proved wrong about the Equestria Girls. I found myself being able to identify with each of the main characters. The first two films, at least, are fun and filled with many lessons on about friendship, teamwork and giving others a chance. I will have to view the third film when it premieres to see if it follows the same standard. I am still apprehensive about my daughter having the Equestria Girls dolls, but for now, she is content with watching the movies and playing with the My Little Pony dolls. If your children are expressing interest in the Equestria Girls, I recommend watching it yourself before taking a decision. These movies may not be for every child and, as parents, we need to be actively aware what is available for our children and decide what is appropriate. If we see something we don’t like, we need to teach our children why a certain behavior is inappropriate. We can’t just turn off the TV and say you can’t watch that without an explanation. Children aren’t stupid. They will wonder why and seek it out without your knowledge. I recommend giving My Little Pony and My Little Pony: Equestria girls a chance. It is filled with life lessons which everyone in the family can relate to and learn from.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,
My Little Pony: Equestria Girls,
Rainbow Rocks

Are available on DVD and on Netflix

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Girl on the Train: mysterious disappearance and a troubled eyewitness

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is a mystery story told through the eyes of a lonely and recovering alcoholic, Rachel Watson, as she sees something while waiting on the train headed into London. She doesn’t know if what she saw was real but she must find out.

Rachel Watson rides the morning train into London. While the train stops at a light, she imagines the life of a young couple she calls “Jason” and “Jess.” She can see their house from her favorite seat.  Until one morning she sees “Jess” with another man. She is hurt that “Jess” would do that to “Jason” and she relives her own jilted relationship. When “Jess,” whose real name is Megan, goes missing, Rachel feels she must tell the police what she saw. When she feel the police don’t give her information any real attention, she feels she must find out on her own. She is soon drawn into a world of lies, affairs and secrets. Will ever overcome her sordid past? Will she ever happen to Megan? Can she trust her own eyes and memory in the events of Megan’s disappearance?

The story is told in three perspective, offering events in various points of the timeline. Rachel’s perspective as the current events while Megan provides the events leading up to her disappearance. I thought the book started out real slow and I was wondering what did Rachel really see or was it her alcohol fueled imagination. But the story speeds up quickly and the events leading to the identity of the person who was responsible for Megan’s disappearance happens at a dizzying pace. There was a couple times when I had to stop and go back a couple of pages to make sure I read it correctly. By the end of the book, I was thoroughly shocked and thrilled at the revelation of the person’s identity. I love a mystery in which the clues are subtle but when the dots are connected, they all make sense. I recommend The Girl on the Train as mystery thriller with so many twists, the final revelation is a shocker!  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Gone Girl: secrets and lies

Gone Girl is a 2012 best seller by Gillian Flynn which was turned into a 2014 film starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry. The book explores to the two sides to every story. Told in three parts, the story gives the present day events as well as flashback leading to the present as told in Amy’s diary.

Nick Dunne wakes on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary and soon discovers that his wife, Amy, is missing. He finds the house ransacked and chores left in process of being completed. He calls the cops and waits for them. When the cops arrive, they find his behavior suspicious as he doesn’t try to contact any of their friends or family looking for his wife. Through Amy’s diary entries, we see how they met and their early marriage in New York City until layoffs and family illness takes them to Nick’s hometown in Missouri. Nick soon discovers blue envelopes with clues written by Amy, at first he thinks it’s some sort of romantic anniversary scavenger hunt but as the evidence mounts against Nick, he realizes that something more sinister is at work. Did Nick kill Amy? Where did she go? Is someone playing a sick game of cat and mouse? Will Amy ever return home?

Gone Girl is definitely a different story of who done it. As the book progresses, I started to question Nick’s innocence then I didn't then back and forward. When the truth behind Amy’s disappearance is revealed it was a big shock! It had a nice twist which left me feeling sad and angry at Nick and Amy at the same time. It is a story about secrets, lies and revenge. I can’t really reveal too much for those who haven’t read it. I would ruin the shocking twist. However, I highly recommend Gone Girl for those who love a mystery which leave you turning the pages to discover the truth. I am also looking forward to seeing the film to see have it compares to the book. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

My Thoughts on Toxic Christians: Part 2

This is Part 2 of My Thoughts on Toxic Christians. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here:

6. The “Culture is Evil and Scary” Christian: When a person rants against culture, they are usually talking about the life outside of the Christian church and activities. However, culture is itself is not evil. Culture is simply the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that are accepted and passed on from one generation to the next. There is culture all around us: our region of the country, our cities/towns, our families, schools, age groups, and even our churches. I find the Christians who fear culture often will try to protect themselves by living in a corruption free bubble. I agree with Mr. Powell that this belief can be toxic because it can lead to isolation and is how most cults are formed when the outside world is shut out. Christians are called to go out into the world and spread the gospel. How can we do that if we shut ourselves away?

7. The “I love Jesus but not the church” Christians: In the defense of the Christians who say “but not the church,” they are usually referring to a particular congregation that they feel wronged by even disenchanted with. I have left churches in which I felt did not have a place for me or I had outgrown or simply did not feel comfortable being a part of. And it’s not that this Christian wants isolation, they want to a part of a church but feels he or she does not fit in or welcome either through their own faulty perspective or the actions of others. When my husband first become a Christian, he was fired up and wanted to get involved. However, he was told he was not ready to serve. How can you tell a person who wants to help he can’t? It’s not that he wanted to lead a sermon. This is the kind of attitude I’m talking about. While I do believe that having a church to worship and fellowship is important, I feel it is only a fraction of a Christian’s life, not the entirety.

8. The “God doesn’t work that way” Christian: I used to be a very black-n-white Christian, influenced by the church I was attending at the time. When I begin to study the Bible on my own, I realized that there are a lot of shades of grey simply because life is not so clean cut as we want it to be. People cannot fathom the greatness, the bigness, and the powerfulness of God. We try to understand Him in ways that our brain can handle. One of the hardest questions to answer is why. For example, I believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that God allowed me to suffer two pregnancy losses because He saw a role that I needed to fill. I know many people who don’t like to think that God allows the death of a child. While the losses were painful and traumatic for me, I wouldn’t be able to fill that role had I not suffered the loss of two of my children. I now have another purpose in life to help others.

9.  The “Love to Pick a Fight” Christian: These Christians usually argue or discuss doctrine. Doctrine which is often man’s interpretation of the Bible. Sometimes it’s right and sometimes it’s wrong. I’ve learned that some people who argue loudly about doctrine don’t really understand it and want to try and prove that they do. For example, many years ago, I was on my way to a College Bible weekend and during the drive up, the discussion turned to Calvinism. At the time, I had never heard of Calvinism and I asked for more detail. The blank look I got from the person who was debating the loudest was very telling. He stumbled with his words before telling me that I wouldn’t understand. At the time, I was very insulted that he couldn’t take the time to give me the basics. However it was only much later when I encountered another person discussing Calvinism, did I realize that that young man didn’t truly understand what he was talking about but he wanted to sound like he did.

10. The “You can’t talk about that in church” Christian: I caught myself doing this at church a few weeks ago. The worship band was playing a song that isn’t a typical worship song. I leaned over to my husband and said, “I can’t believe they’re playing this song in church.” What I was really concerned about wasn’t the content of the song (which fit the theme of the day’s sermon) but who the song is associated with. The person who usually uses this protest to the topics discussed in sermons is more because the topics which makes them uncomfortable. Also, sometimes when a topic makes you feel uncomfortable because it speaks to you more deeply then you want. When Jesus taught, he wasn’t concerned with making people comfortable. He wanted to shake them awake from their old ways. To open their eyes to the sin in their lives. He made many enemies this way but He also gained many followers who were set free from the chains that society had put them in.

In conclusion, bottom line Christians are still humans. They still suffer the shortcomings and failure that all humans do. Just because someone is Christian does not mean they are perfect. It means they are a follower of Christ. That they strive to live their lives as He did. Sometimes they will succeed, sometimes they will fail. Remember just because someone is a Christian, as a Christian, you or I are not obligated to like them or hang out with them or have any deeper relationship. We are commanded by our Lord and Savior to love them as a child of God. To pray for them that the Lord will help them change their toxic ways. We are not to exclude them from fellowship. We must be better examples of Christ. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Save My Place: a touching love story

Save My Place by Oliva deBelle Byrd is a heartwarming and heart wrenching love story set in 1960s and 1970s. It was recently honored with two Gold Medals in Florida Fiction for Adults and Cover Design by the Florida Presidents Book Awards. It is the story of love through various stages of courtship, marriage, war, and personal tragedy.

The story opens with Elisabeth Belle Sterling, a young college student who is “creative, independent but not rebellious.” She begins to enter the dating scene and after a lot of misses, she feel she’s doomed to be an old maid. Until she meets Kincaid Patterson, an Army buddy of her roommate’s boyfriend. The two immediately hit it off and before they know it, they are married and settling into life together. He is stationed at Fort Banning and she becomes a second grade teacher. Soon their wonderful life is halted as Kincaid is deployed to Vietnam. Before he leaves, Kincaid tells Elisabeth to “save his place.” She ends her letters to him with “your place is saved.” Will Kincaid return home? Will Elisabeth be able to learn to live without him?

I loved this book. It was sweet and tender. It had shocking moments when you gasped and hoped for a positive outcome. I can’t give more without ruining the entire book but there are moments when you cry and your heart aches for the characters as they deal with different tragedies. I especially loved the ending. It showed a great loved between these characters and I can imagine them living today still hand-in-hand. I highly recommend Save My Place. It definitely has a place on my keeper shelf. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My thoughts on Toxic Christians: part 1

I recently came across an article “10 Toxic Christians in the Church Today” by Frank Powell.  You can read the full article here: Toxic is defined as harmful. People who are often referred to as toxic can be destructive in our lives. What happens when toxic people are also Christians? I would like to give my thoughts on this article. While the author has some valid points, I feel I need to address a few of his labels. His labels focus on personality traits that you can see in everyone and just because certain people are Christians doesn’t mean that the personality traits change. I feel his label as “Toxic Christians” leads to the belief that these types of people are not true Christians.

1. The “Always Cynical” Christian: This person is always distrusting or hates in anything which is non-Christian. I’ve seen many Christians do this and what I found is that sometimes they are not giving their opinion why something is bad, they are merely repeating someone else’s opinion. I often asked “have you read that book?” or “have you seen that TV show or movie?” If they answer no, then you cannot really hate something if you don’t know what it’s about. I’ve come to realize that just because something is labeled “Christian” does not make it automatically good and Biblically correct just like something non-Christian is not automatically evil. You cannot judge a book by its cover. I remember when I worked in a Christian bookstore and a customer rejected Lord of the Rings because it had wizards and magic despite the fact it was written by an author who was Christian. From this experience and others, I’ve learned to explore and research someone or something before forming my opinion and I will not rely solely on any one person’s opinion as my own.

2. The “Back Row” Christian: According to Mr. Powell, this is the Christian who keeps God at arm’s length and his or her life isn’t informed by God. My question is how do you know if someone is keeping God at arm’s length? And how do you know if his or her life isn’t informed by God? Just because you do not see their involvement in your church’s outreaches, does not mean they are not doing one on their own. They may feed the homeless, mentor to those in need without your knowledge and without recognition. In Matthew 6:3, Jesus says “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know that your right hand is doing.” Do so without acknowledge or personal glory. Just because you think this “Back Row” Christian isn’t contributing to your church does not mean he or she is not contributing to the Church.

3. The “World is Caving In” Christian: These people can be annoying with all talk of doom and gloom but this in not exclusive to Christians. You see it every day in the news. Mr. Powell states that “the phrase “do not fear” appears hundreds of times in the Bible.” In my research, I’ve been able to find the phrase appears approximately 110 times. However, fear does not mean a lack of faith. Fear is a natural emotion that God has given us. It is what we do with our fear that matters. Do we run and hide? Or do we trudge on despite our doubts and our fears with faith on our Lord’s promise? I fear many things and many times in my life, it does not mean that I have any less faith in God. Jesus felt fear. In the Garden of Gethsemane. Matthew 26:38 says he was “troubled” and Mark 14:33 says he was “deeply distressed.” He worried and fear what was to come because the time had arrived. Did He walk away from this fear? He prayed that God could find another way but He knew there wasn’t one.  Fear does not make you a bad or “toxic” Christian, it makes you human.

4. The “Follow the Rules” Christian: This is one I agree with Mr. Powell on. I know many people like this and sometimes they push away great people because of this attitude. It makes people feel as if they do not belong. However, the “rules” they are often following are the rules the church has made. It is the doctrine that a group of people created using the Bible as their guide. The some rules are correct and others not so much. The thing about humans is that sometimes we are going to fail and despite our best efforts. Some Christians forget that we are still human. Christ only gave his followers two commandments to follow: 1) to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul and mind and 2) to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:35-40). As long as we focus on these two commandments, all other rules should fall into place.

5. The “Political” Christian: I hate politics to begin with. I’ve tried to be largely engaged in the political debates and questions in our world, I just…well, it’s not that I don’t care. It’s more because there is so much going on that my brain cannot wrap around everything.  I get stressed out when it comes to politics. I really dislike elections years. I know that God is in control. I am a dutiful citizen of the United States, I research all candidates and propositions on the ballot before I vote. Does that mean that a Christian who is passionate and active in the political process bad? I don’t think so. I think God gives certain people the energy and the know-how to be active in the political realm. I think churches needs someone who can easily understand what is going on in order to help others understand and make an informed decision. 

to be continued...

Monday, August 10, 2015

Trampled Underfoot: the Dirt on Vic and Lia

Trampled Underfoot: the Dirt on Vic and Lia by Elizabeth Good is a follow-up story to Just Another Sunday. I usually don’t like to read books out of order but the story intrigued me and it was advertised as a story to stand on its own. It is the story of Lia Benedict and Vic Somers in the late 1970s New Jersey. The story opens in the spring of 1976, Lia and Vic are newly married and newly pregnant. A hopeless romantic, Lia sets to make the perfect life with her new husband. Until trouble strikes, hang up phone calls, a paternity suit and radical religious beliefs begin to invade her perfect fantasy. Vic’s brother, Greg, returns from Vietnam a broken man. Lia discovers that she is RH negative and need injections but her religious beliefs prohibit such treatment. Vic doesn’t seem to end his philandering ways as Lia’s pregnancy progresses. When she has the baby, Vic suffers a TET spell due to his heart condition and needs several surgeries. Will Vic finally see the light and build his life with Lia and their baby? Or will Lia’s heart be trampled underfoot?

It was difficult to like or care about these characters. Lia eventually becomes a bitch and Vic is a stereotypical male who chases any skirt that flitters his way. I felt it was impossible to be sympathetic to Lia. I felt she was too naïve and she was blind for far too long. This book almost made my Did-Not-Finish list because I found myself turning page after page wondering when it would get better, exciting even. I waited for the final confrontation between Lia and Vic and….nothing! The story jumps years later and the reader is given a rundown of what happened since. Also the book was advertised as a follow-up to Just Another Sunday but could be read on its own. I still felt there were references in the book that I should have had knowledge and didn’t get because I didn’t read the other book. Maybe I'm wrong. However, I didn’t like the any of the characters. I cannot recommend this book. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Celebrating Happiness Happens Day

Today is Happiness Happens Day which was founded in 1999 and organized by the Secret Society of Happy People as “Admit You’re Happy Day.” The organization set out to celebrate the expression of happiness and help others recognize the happy moments in their daily lives. The mottos of today are “Happiness Happens” and “Don’t Even Think of Raining on My Parade.” I began thinking about the happy moments in my life. I chose my Top 5 things that I am happy for:

1. My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: I feel His presence and guidance in my daily life. He blesses my family with the means to keep a roof over our heads, food on our tables, and other needs. He gives me hope in times of darkness and rejoices with me in times of joy. He is my Rock and has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams.

2. My husband, Joe: He is a loving husband and father who works hard to provide his family with whatever we may need and want. While we may not have the latest and greatest, he is also a kid at heart and he knows how to enjoy the little things in life. He is everything I hoped for. We are truly partners in our life together. He values my opinions and we work well together. I love him more every day and I don’t want to imagine my life without him.

3. My children: Abby is an amazing little girl who astonishes me every day with how much she knows and is learning. She picks up new skills and explores her imagination. My angels, AJ and Ziva, are never far from my mind and while their loss has been dark periods in my life. I have found a way to honor their memories by helping others. While I hope and pray for more children in the future, right now I’m the proud mommy of two angels and one rainbow.

4. My wonderful family: I have an amazing family who helps, support and encourages me in times of trouble and times of celebration. We have our own lives but we come together when it matters. I also want to express my gratitude to my in-laws who have truly accepted me in their family and I truly feel bless to call them uncles, aunts, and cousins.

5. My books and my writing: I know it sounds silly but I’m happy when I’m reading. I love a good book. I love settling in my favorite chair and diving into the story which I can live in another place and time for a few hours. I’m happy when writing. Even as I write this, my brain is working hard to craft beautiful and meaningful words and I’m happy at the finished piece. If I’m not happy with it, I will put it aside to work on later, in the hopes that inspiration will come with time.

People often say, “I’ll be happy when____” Happiness is not the destination. It’s a part of the journey. There will be times of sadness and other negative emotions but it doesn’t mean there isn’t happiness there too. Sadness helps you recognize the happiness in the future. I chose to find the happy moments every day. Even when life has me stressed, worried and sad, I find the silver lining in every situation. What can you feel happy about in your daily life? If you were to list the things which make you truly happy, you’ll find you have a lot more to be happy about then you knew before.  

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Luxor: Book of Past Lives: a story of brothers in times of greed and corruption

Luxor: Book of Past Lives by Julie Bettendorf is story set in both Ancient Egypt and 19th century Egypt as the lives of two sets of brothers become intertwined. It is a story about brothers, about greed and about corruption.

1324 BC, during the reign of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, Nebamun is the high priest whose job is to become Anubis during the embalming process. He must prepare the body’s soul for the journey to the afterlife by reading incantations from the Book of Coming Forth by Day. His older brother, Iraman, is also a priest but was passed over the high priest position and is now a lowly job to eviscerate the dead. The tension between the brothers leads one brother to do the unthinkable and Nebamun is given a special task by the Pharaoh. 1874 AD, brothers Karim and Abdul are following the family tradition of grave robbing. They sell their small wares to a local dealer when the brothers stubble onto a great find. It will soon bring the attention of the authorities as the protection of antiquities is in full swing. How can the lives of two ancient men influence the lives of men centuries later?

I found this story to be entertaining and an interesting description of life and beliefs in Ancient Egypt. I enjoyed reading about the different gods and how the Ancient Egyptians lived their daily lives. I also enjoyed seeing how the ancient brothers played into the lives of the modern brothers. There were moments when I gasped in shock as the events unfolded. I also enjoyed seeing how the lives of the two brothers were connected even centuries apart. If you are interested in reading about a world that no longer exists and read an intriguing tale of family, greed and corruption, I recommend Luxor: Book of Past Lives
Luxor: Book of Past Lives
is available online at 
Amazon and Barnes & Nobles  
for $15.95

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Prisoner of Heaven: the horrors of Montjuic Castle

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon converges the characters from The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game. We met up with Daniel Sempere, enjoying life after the events of The Shadow of the Wind. He soon hears the story of his friend’s Fermin’s past as a stranger comes to tear his life apart.

The story opens at Christmas time 1957, when a stranger comes in to the bookstore and buys an expensive copy of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. He leaves a message for Fermin which leaves him frightened and looking over his shoulder. Fermin reluctantly tells Daniel his story. The story is transported back to Barcelona, 1939 where Fermin has begun his time at the infamous Montjuic Castle. He soon befriends a fellow prisoner named David Martin, known as the Prisoner of Heaven. The evil Governor Mauricio Valls persuades Fermin to find out where another prisoner has hidden a treasure. Fermin recognizes that he must find a way to leave the castle. Together with Martin, they hatch an escape plan a la Dumas. Daniel hears this story and he realizes who is really responsible for his mother’s death and seeks revenge. Who is the stranger? What does he want with Fermin? Will Daniel be able to avenge his mother’s death?

I enjoyed this book so much as it was a great culmination of the other two books and leads to the fourth and final book in this series. The fourth book, unfortunately, has not been published and there’s no word yet when it will be. The Prisoner of Heaven was an easier read than the other two books but I enjoyed finally seeing more in depth of the infamous castle which was mentioned in the other books. I highly recommend these Carlos Ruiz Zafon books. There are a great Gothic adventure told in the beautiful but tragic backdrop of Barcelona in the early 20th century.