Curious About Off-Grid Living

Off Grid Living Bible Book Cover

The book by, Bradley Stone, covers the basics of some important considerations when deciding to venture into off-grid living. The levels, types, or progressions of off-grid living are presented, from the most complete, roughing it, to the least, staying somewhat connected on some level to the grid. Showing that there is some place off-grid for everyone.


The basic aspects of deciding how far off the grid you want to be and where is the best place to be for the new life you want is the basic premise for the work. Which states rank best for different aspects of off-grid living, from types of building restrictions, such as what size of residences are required, to different water access rights, can you use the water on your land, are listed in Top 10 lists. Did you even know that there are certain locations across the US that actually legally demand how large your residence has to be? Or that most locations have some form of restrictions and or limitations on rain water catchment on private property? As well as some states, such as Florida, have newer laws in place that require that ALL residences be connected to the grid. 

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

One of the short-falls in the book is that while the author details what he considers the pros and cons of different renewable energy sources, he does not truly explain the cons of ALL trending renewable energy sources. The idea of living in balance with nature is touted in the chapters on water and energy, yet the author is completely silent on the environmental damage to procure the resources to make solar panels and windmills, nor does he discuss their life expectancy or the fact that they are not recyclable, so what becomes of them when they no longer function? 

If you are truly interested in how in out of balance our current renewable energy sector is check out our article reviewing Bright Green Lies.

That being said, this book while not a true Bible, in the sense of being comprehensive and in-depth, is a good starting point for someone interested in knowing more about the whats, hows, and wheres of off-grid living. After reading this book, truly interested readers should absolutely do much more research including seeking out homesteading and prepping groups and forums, even to just to lurk in them and see what those in the know are actually doing, experiencing, and how they are getting on. One suggestion from the author that I think is a really good one, especially if you have no experience of “roughing it” at all, is to seek out places where you can AirBnB or lodge or rent different levels of off-grid holidays for at least a week. It’s really easy to make sure that you take care of all the things you might miss over a weekend; additionally, most people can have a ‘new and different’ life for a weekend and ‘do fine’. But going without internet, or indoor plumbing or electricity, or having to harvest your whole meal, before each meal can get really old really fast. So spending at least a week, will give you a more balanced idea of just how rough you like it. 

*Book Cover ScreenShot via BookSirens.

** Copy Received for honest review.

*** Featured Image: Chickens In The Yard by Dejan Arnautović

Sadistic Pleasures is Grim Reminder

Don’t be afraid of fear. Yours or anyone else’s. Fear like any other negative aspect of life is not something to avoid and ignore. Without fear you cannot know courage, bravery, or security. In order to truly know all the desired positive aspects of life you have to know the negatives; for both are subjective and relative to each other, and each are, in fact, dependent on the other. 

Knowing and learning the stories of our worst times and events is paramount to our history, our growth, and our evolution as people, societies, and civilization. 

Did you know that at least 52 countries are experiencing armed conflict right now as you are reading this? And that 18 of those are wars, whether major or minor. And five have been on-going, in some form or another since the late 1940s. 

Most of us will never be POWs or civilians caught in the midst of war, thus, hearing and learning from the experience of those subjected to such experiences is even more important. And that is where Sadistic Pleasures by Ashken Arakelyan comes in.

The armed conflict that Sadistic Pleasures exposes is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, both former states of the Soviet Union, that has been on-going on some level since 1984. However, Armenia has had conflict with its neighbors pretty much constantly since the Turks expanded from their western China central Asian origins as far west as they could militarily occupy, which included into the Balkan region of Europe. Armenia has been a historic entity since ancient times, additionally, it has been Christian for centuries as well. Both of these characteristics have caused friction with the influx of Turk Muslims. 

Ashken Arakelyan, a journalist grad student, studying in Germany returned to Armenia in 2021 to interview several POWs and detainees from the most recent escalation of the conflict, in late 2020. Some of their stories are brutally raw and all of them are substantive in showing how little people have changed since WWII or ever, if you prefer. 

The interviewees are volunteer soldiers, nurses, civilians, both men and women. Some are young, some married, and some are even elderly. That is the brutal truth of war, No One is safe. There is not one right/good side and one wrong/bad side, it becomes a never ending cycle of violence that rarely ever settles anything and certainly never brings true peace. 

This book should remind us that just because it doesn’t impact us directly doesn’t mean that we should ignore it. When we choose to ignore all tragedy that isn’t on our front step, then we are allowing worse tragedy to feel welcome on our own front step. No, we do not have to jump up and go pick a side in every conflict around the world, nor do we need to insist that our governments pick a side either, what we decide to engage in with each conflict should be based on the conflict itself. 

While peace should be encouraged, sometimes war has to be fought and some wars have to reach a military conclusion. However, it needs to be fought with honor and integrity. There needs to be certain respect shown by all sides about what is acceptable and what is not. And that can best happen when every time there is violent conflict the combatants know the whole world is watching and judging. 

Sadistic Pleasures reminds us what happens when we turn a blind eye. 

War brings out the best in a few and the worst in quite a few more. 

*I received an advance reader copy for free. No compensation for review.

Map credit: By Futuretrillionaire, CC BY-SA 3.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22118731

Jack? There’s No Jack Here

I am all for seeing things from a different perspective and or point of view. Sometimes when you see something from a different point of view it helps you understand things better and improves the way you look at and see things moving forward. Thus, I enjoy this approach in novels. And this is the approach that Thea Sutton took in her novel The Women Of Blackmouth Street. Sutton has taken one of the most famous murder mysteries and created an interesting twist.

While the plot sticks fairly close to the historic tale, there is absolutely no mention of Jack. All the horror takes place around Dury Lane, a different East End slum. Over crowded with the poor, lost, desperate outsiders of society. London probably had more than her fair share of poor trying to eek out some form of survival, having lost their belief in even eking out a living during the late 19th century. 

The streets are just as hazardous for prostitutes. Their murders are just as brutally savage and there is even a double event one night. There are letters to the press, though different from that other story. 

The letters provide us one difference, they are also sent directly to the heroine of the story. Maybe heroine is not the right word for her. Lead character might be more apt, and it is her role that takes this telling from mere horror and mystery to a psychological thriller. This psychological approach is one of the unique twists and the other is the feminist approach.

This feminism is not political or ideological in whole, it is more adding feminine qualities to all main aspects of the story. Take the leading character, Georgia, while she is certainly strong-willed, courageous, and determined, she also shows compassion, weakness, and empathy.

Another interesting facet is the inclusion of living historical persons of the time. The James siblings, William, Henry, and Alice all make some appearance in the story. Alice’s role is the more predominant one. Her role while very much minor is also major support that contributes significantly to the overall development and challenges in the novel.

*I received an advance review copy for free. No compensation for review.

Time Not Travel Stopped

I received Time Travel: To The Edge Of History as an ARC. I requested this book as I thought the concept was a really good one. Imagine a father taking their early teen-aged daughter on a 30-day globe trotting adventure exploring the history of us, before history. I have made it to somewhere in Chapter 5, about 3 or so days into their actual journey and I currently cannot finish it. I do hope to get motivated to pick it up again in the future and give it another go, but for now, it will become a DNF.

Part of my issues with the work follows:

First, it’s a completely unbalanced organized work. It apparently has only 11 chapters. I have read 4 and ‘a half’ of the chapters and I am only 16% through the book. Being 41% finished by chapter math, but only 16% by reader math, well it messes with my psyche while reading. I believe that there should be more overall balance between chapters or the book should have been divided into parts. For example, part one of the book could have been “The Plan” or “The Idea” of the trip and part two could have been “The Journey” or “The Adventure” telling about the trip itself. In that way the chapters would feel more balanced, where the chapters of the planning part are short and quick and apparently, the travel chapters are much much longer. Another idea could have been that from Chapter 5 on-wards each day could have been a chapter, that would have made it easier to follow as I am not truly sure if I stopped 3 or 4 days into the trip.

Second, thus far, I also find the story-line part of the book to feel lacking and not genuine. I just really struggle with feeling like I am part of this father-daughter trip to explore human history. I don’t buy it. I do not connect with the characters. They feel shallow and forced. Their awe and emotion lack the verbage needed to give the reader something to feel. It seems fake. It seems like the author really is just literally making up a story as he goes along, instead of telling a story. Some details feel weird cause they are unnecessary and other details are completely missing that would add the needed depth to the story. The author maybe a great conversationalist whom is knowledgeable. But, storyteller he is not.

Third, I find the structure of the dialogue and the narration of the book to be somewhat stilted for a native reader. I do not know if this is done intentionally or if it is poor English translating. Either way it makes for a very disjointed read. There are certain phrases that sound strange to the ear. Additionally, there are misuses of words and phrases that have the reader tripping and or falling and stopping to reread and grasp and understand. This prevents the reader from just tagging along for the ride with this father and daughter.

I really wanted to like this book. I believe that we as a people need to be more curious about ourselves and our history. I believe that curiosity should be nurtured and encouraged and the author stated his desire to help inspire the curiosity to reignite within readers. In this we are both proponents, but unfortunately for me, I found myself more bored than inspired. I do hope that others do better with the book than I have. More importantly, I hope that no one loses their curious spark by struggling with the same issues that challenged me with this work.

Black Widow: Right Hero, Wrong Story

Last summer we finally got a Black Widow movie, but let’s face it…. Disney SUCKED at it!!!

Of course Disney has lost all recognition for producing quality products. They are just expensive ones now. Disney also sucks as a business entity.

Scarlett Johansson At San Diego Comic Con

The story-line that they chose for Scarlett Johansson’s title character was not awful in concept, but it was beneath the accomplishments of Johansson’s protrayl of her Black Widow role. Scarlett Johansson is one of those rare talents who can truly own the character she plays. She is an actor’s actor. When she steps into a character the audience doesn’t watch Scarlett act; they, instead, are enthralled by the character that Johansson has morphed into and it is only that character the audience experiences and loves. She is one of the best character actors in the business. Ranking among such other greats as Morgan Freeman, Sandra Bullock, Matt Damon, and Denzel Washington.

With the quality and caliber of Johansson, Disney has the main ingredient to create a phenomenal series of movies to rival such successes as The Dark Knight and Christopher Reeve’s Superman. However, they instead fumbled the ball into the endzone for a safety. They chose the most lack-luster part of Natasha’s story-line and then treated Johansson like dirt. I do not believe that they treated Johansson like dirt cause she is a female; no, they treated her like dirt because Disney Corporation has no morals or ethics. Any and all sense of right and wrong left the company when the Disney family left the Executive Offices. Disney is no longer an idea, a concept, a dream to realize. Now it is just another mega-media mega-corporation whose only focus is profit margin. Employees, actors, and “partners” are just assets to be leveraged, used, and disposed of.

Two resin cast Black Widow Glock 26 Handguns

Disney has murdered EVERY movie franchise they have acquired. They have taken some of the icons of American Film and completely eviscerated them, dismembering them into paper-shell jokes. Their writers write not for the love and desire of storytelling. No, they write stories for virtue signaling and political statements, to prove support of trendy special interest movements. The sad thing is; their stories are so shallow that nothing supports their farce propaganda.

Disney could have written and filmed a great Black Widow back story that touched on truly meaningful social issues and still enthralled die-hard Marvel fans, that is part of what really great stories and storytellers do. They could have expanded on Natasha’s forced removal from her family and the plight and murder of her mother. They could have exposed us to some of her assassinations that brought her into contact with S.H.I.E.L.D. All culminating with her mission with Hawkeye to bring own the Red Room.

3 Ticket Stubs for Black Widow movie

That was the story that this fan wanted to see. And I don’t think I was alone in that hoping while waiting for the movie to release. Even so, in spite of this not being the story I wanted to see, the actors did a great job with the what they had to work with from the writers. I had been waiting for the release and have become such a fan of Johansson’s Black Widow that I was actually wanting to go to a theater and see this film on the big screen. Therefore, as an individual spite to Disney for their rude handling of the release and contractual obligations to Johansson, instead of streaming the movie for $30 on my Disney+, I made 3 trips to movie theaters to watch Johansson be Black Widow, thus requiring that Disney have to split my profit contribution with Scarlett.

I am still hopeful that Disney will be greedy enough in the future to produce a Black Widow back story worthy of the excellence that Scarlett Johansson has brought to the role. And one that gives Marvel fans something worth paying for.

How Joe Killed A Book!

If you have come across the book Blaze In, Blaze Out by Joseph Lewis, but have not picked it up yet, be forewarned that you will get more than you think you are from the synopsis and less at the same time. It is literally 2 stories clashing all the way through. The clash is due to the divergence of the plots that would appeal separately to different audiences with such a minor overlap as to be negligible for true reader enjoyment.

The synopsis only gives you half the plot. Usually, that’s a good thing, you don’t want to know the whole story without reading. However, you do not want to pick up an action- thriller to find out it is all romantic comedy dialogue, nor do you want to pick up a sci-fi adventure to find that it is a real world drama. Most readers want to have mostly what they think they are getting when they pick up a book. So if you advertise a thriller or romance or sci-fi then the majority of your plot should be inline with that.

I honestly have been processing how I want to review the book for a whole week…..I really feel like the author intentionally ran a scam on readers….and I do not like how he presents the coming of age part of the book when the book is geared toward adults….there are some topics in the book that I feel are valid and important, but I think his tactics are appalling ……

Additionally, the story is unbelievable! It really is. It is like a really bad soap opera. You have to accept that Waukesha is the most unlucky city in America and that they have the highest concentrations of natural born heroes, while having the most violent disasters. It just makes you shake your head. The true art of fiction is to tell a tale so real as to make the reader believe in the truth of it. In that regard Lewis completely misses the target, I am not even sure that he found the range, he certainly didn’t stay in the proper lane.

The “action/thriller” part of the book apparently had a good enough outline to get Black Rose Writing to agree to a publishing contract, but the outline is really all that exists in that part of the plot. The whole story of the two local cops from Waukesha that are included in National Task Forces and their current dealings with an Ukrainian drug crime boss, who puts hits on them, is told in a very efficient manner so that it does not interfere with the author’s true passion, the boys’ story. This supporting plot of the story is where the author puts all his focus and attention, it shows and it terminally damages the supposed main plot and the book.

Almost from the beginning, the author starts inserting his preferred story into the marketed plot, confusing readers and repeatedly referring to “their story” and its events as something that everyone knows about. setting the self-destructive tone. I still do not have all the boys straight in the story, in spite of the fact the boys and their story seem to be Lewis’ primary focus. He does a disservice to the boys and their story, as well though. He does not seem to be a natural storyteller, he does seem to have a sincere desire to get some topics out in the open, in his mind at least. His delivery is tragically lacking and on some levels appalling.

I am not sure if Lewis has ever even read a good action thriller book, he doesn’t seem to have the basics of what readers of the genre expect. He includes too many details about weapons and “toys” that do not make up for the vagueness and shallowness of the thriller plot. He admits in his foreward or acknowledgments that he is neither a hunter or fisherman, he doesn’t seem to truly socialize with many that are, as his handling of those components are poorly related. Sure outdoorsmen might among themselves brag down to the serial number about a new “toy” they do not focus on that detail when they are “outdoorsing”. He should listen to more of their tales about actually hunting and fishing, which are more about the prey and the “actions” of getting or losing said prey.

In spite of his shallowness for the marketed plot of the book, his real plot was just as damaged as his pretense. His story of the boys, all of whom suffered trauma, mostly sexually, was totally exploited. All the boys that you actually meet in the story have all spent at least a few hours kidnapped into a sex-trafficking ring that, of course, these two cops were the heroes of bringing down, that is how Lewis’ gets to tell their story, they are the previous heroes. And honestly, maybe that is the story that he should have written instead of this one. Though it may be that the publishers turned down his stories of the boys, and I wouldn’t blame them.

This is not that stories of sex-trafficking of minors should not be told. Nor, is it that stories of gay adolescents coming of age shouldn’t be told. It isn’t even that those two topics can not be told together, it is in how the author chooses to tell the story that I find fault with. I felt like the scenes with the boys always had a sexual undercurrent to it. I felt that every physical interaction between the boys, regardless of sexual orientation, was sexualized. Most importantly, I felt lied to. The most the boys get mentioned in the synopsis is

“O’Connor planned on attending a high school soccer game and then head to Northern Wisconsin for a fishing trip with another cop, Detective Jamie Graff and four teenage, adopted brothers: George Tokay, Brian Evans, Brett McGovern, and Michael Two Feathers.”

There is no mention of their past traumas or their sexual orientations and coming of age aspect of the story, nothing that lets the reader know what they are really getting into when they pick up the book. If either topic were just a passing comment then no harm, no foul. But, when they are the focus of the book, that is at best lazy, irresponsible, inept or at worst deceitful, conniving, manipulative. Either way it is unacceptable. The author and publisher have done a disservice to reader and to the topics of the book.

*Copy Received For Review.

**Cover via Amazon.com

Zero Per Cent Chance Of Truth

“Investigating fraud in sports — which is a multi-billion-dollar business today — is apparently safer than writing about the weather”

Nothing in life is one sided or one faceted. Nothing has one truth and one “right” side. Everything has multiple sides and facets and is complex. No, profession as a whole is made up of all highly intelligent people. Science does NOT require a certain level of intelligence to excel. An average or below average intelligence with focus, persistence, and hard work can attain a position of expertise in a field of science. Having a position of authority, especial within government does not guarantee wisdom, understanding, or intelligence. The problem arises when persons in those positions of power convince the masses that they are more than what they really are and abuse their positions out of greed and ego based on being more than they are.

One area in which this corruption is most notable is in the field of climatology and the dogma of climate change. First, lets make some things crystal clear:

Climate Protests

* One, climate and weather are not the same thing.

* Two, climate is ALWAYS in change. No “climate denier” denies that, but some climate alarmists do.

* Three, the Earth has been hotter, significantly hotter than now and life lived through it. Some can argue that life, in fact, thrived through it. According, to paleo experts there were times when there were more species of plants and animals than are presently believed to be on Earth today and those were during the “hotter than today” times.

* Four, according to historic evidence from various different sources (written, ice cores, tree rings, ocean core samples, etc.) a cyclonic pattern can be discerned. Matter of fact several different cycles, smaller ones within larger ones, can be identified going back eons. And most of what is being blamed on “post-industrialization CO2 pollutions” could also fit just as nicely, sometimes even more so, into the known cycles.

It seems that a couple things have happened. People have forgotten “that everything that glitters is not gold.” And for all the known wrongs committed by all governments and more all the immoral and illegal acts of members of government, for whatever unknown reason, people will blindly follow these same untrustworthy organizations with these same untrustworthy people blindly in the worst of times.

Add in that the press is no longer a watchdog of government and big business. There is little to no push back or questioning of the science or government policies, nor any accounting of the costs of such policies. The press is no longer even superficially unbiased, they have an agenda and they relentlessly push it to the point of slander and libel of individuals and organizations that they see as “the opposition”.

In the work A Guide to the Climate Apocalypse Our Journey from the Age of Prosperity to the Era of Environmental Grief by  Vítězslav Kremlík you can follow the dramatic change in science and the press over the last 50ish years that has brought us to such heated and politicized attacks. While not the primary focus of the book, Kremlik shows how the climate change movement is not inline with or truly part of environmentalism and the conservation movement, in fact their agenda destroys the environment and thus will increase any impact that humans have on increased pollutions in the air and subsequent warming that may or may not be triggered. Since science truly does not know what continued “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere will create, a second Venus or the next glacial maximum all this “solving the problem” is not fixing anything.

What Kremlik does best in his work is show that when added up there are more experts that disagree with the dogma than support the dogma. He also shows just how political the “science” has gotten. All the layperson has to do is follow the money, or to think about this, if finding “how much man is screwing up the climate” and “how to fix it” is what pays your bills are you going to tell your boss that man isn’t screwing up the climate or that there is no way to “fix it” ? Not if you want to keep your job and your status.

What A Guide to the Climate Apocalypse also shows is how brutal the “Climate Gods” and their advocates are to anyone who even hesitates to fall in line with the adherents. There is a very scary undercurrent of the Climate Dogma and Policy Dictates that has truly questionable intent. Unfortunately, most people do not look into who runs some of the most popular environmental movements such as Greenpeace and WWF. Or even know the foundation missions of the largest funders of NGOs and non-profits.

How can a government funded “NGO” watchdog group independently critique the government policies and actions? How can scientists practice honest science when serving political bodies with political agendas? How can the public trust the policies and actions when all the lines are blurred? And Kremlik shows just how blurred the lines are and how muddy the water is.

This work is very fact based and not softened with nice or funny anecdotes, but it is not a long read. The book is under 300 pages of text with over 50 of references to fact check on your own if you would like. There are some quotes that read very roughly, I do not know if that is due to accuracy of quotes from speaking interactions or bad translations or bad editing, it is not prevalent throughout the book but it does happen several times. Regardless, this is a book that should be read by all.

*Copy Received For Review.

**Cover via Amazon.com

Wonder if the 3rd time was a charm

I just finished an okay book. It was readable, I made it all the way through. It did not have me on the edge of my seat or avidly turning pages without pause, matter of fact, I was content to put the read down for a couple days. And the thought struck me that the “back cover” tease (website synopsis) was not accurate. I completely dislike back covers not being accurate, I feel cheated, betrayed, lied to.

I kept waiting for the “thriller” part of the story to come into play, the race against time and from the enemies. And I was let down like a drunk one-night-stand. So before starting this review I wanted to make sure that I had remembered that synopsis properly thus I pulled it back up….I did. It clearly states “For both couples, time is running out and enemies are closing in.” Sounds exciting, doesn’t it, yeah, I thought so to, even the full title labels the book “An Archaeological Thriller”.

St. Thecla Convent, Maaloula, Syria from above.
By Heretiq – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=276318

While for one couple (John Mark and Miriam) time was running out and enemies in the form of Roman soldiers were closing in, that is not the case for the other couple (Dr. Chris Jordan and Dr. Kate Ferguson). The story follows both couples in relation to a copy of The Gospel Of Mark. And is told in tandem by alternating chapters between the couples and their time periods. This was not a bad delivery style and it kept plots easy for readers to follow.

The style of the story telling was not up to a typical standard for a thriller on any level. The story was very heavy in the dialogue side, which left no time for “enemies” for Jordan and Ferguson, so it is a good thing that they didn’t have any real ones. Running from the police for 3 to 5 pages because you stole an artifact, is not running from enemies. It is the job of the police to apprehend accused thieves and investigate crimes. And they do not become enemies just because the accusers are scruple-less and greedy.

Technically, the story was properly written with one irritating flaw….the use of the metric system by John Mark during the 1st Century when it was not in use. When you are writing to such a niche audience as those that would read “An Archaeological Thriller” you really need to make sure that your details will not stop a reader in their what did I just read tracks. Most readers of any historical nature know what should and should not appear in them. Those mistakes distract greatly. And after the fact even more so, as the version of the book that I was sent is the second of 3 different publishing of the same work under similar but different titles.

2015
DEC 2021
SEP 2021

The author Joe Edd Moris has 6 publications listed on his GoodReads profile, of which 3 are some form of the book I was provided to read for an honest review. The first version was published in 2015, by West Bow Press, my copy in September of 2021, no publisher listed and finally December of 2021, by Black Rose Writing. As a disclaimer, though, my copy was received from Black Rose Writing. What isn’t listed is any of Moris’ nonfiction work such as Revival of the Gnostic Heresy: Fundamentalism, on Gnostism and Fundamentalism and their overlap. I suggest that Moris stick to nonfiction in future solo projects. His need to explain everything in dialogue and detail is not beneficial to action/thriller works, it’s actually the exact opposite impact on the reader. Pointing out this trait is not an insult to the author, just my explanation for what distracted me from thoroughly enjoying his work. I possess the same trait. That said, he might make a great authenticator for other story tellers to make sure their stories are not dismissed on bad research. Or at least stay away from thrillers.

*Copy Received For Review.

**Cover via Amazon.com

***Featured Image: By Bernard Gagnon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10326035

Who Needs God Anyway?

I think most people would say that while numbers claim that many people are getting religious or converting from one religion to another, in most Western countries the trend seems to be inverted. More people seem to be leaving religions completely or being totally inactive within their specified branch. So it might surprise you to learn that 4.8billion people or roughly 70% of the world’s population belong to one of the top 3 world religions and only 16.3% are not religiously affiliated and the difference is made up of lesser religions, this according to Pew Research Center.

Additionally, I think most of us, religious or not, have questioned God, gods, or the existence of some divine creator or deity.

Either asking:

how could you not believe, or

how could this God or that God or any god allow evil to exist or bad things to happen, or

how do you know God exists,

how can you believe in God, or

where’s the proof of your God or any god.

All these questions and more have been asked by people since the beginning of any religious thought, to question is just part of life.

Sometimes we may think or it may seem like we are the only person asking these questions. We are not. Theologians, philosophers, scientists, the lost, the found, the convinced, the converted have all pondered such queries, especially when life throws a challenge or obstacle our way. I would counter with this; what is the value in life if everything is easy, pretty, and happy? If all that you have is easy, pretty, and happy with nothing hard or ugly or awful how do you know that things are easy and pretty and happy? You don’t. Easy, pretty, happy just like hard, ugly, and awful are comparative terms. You cannot have pretty without ugly. You cannot have easy without hard. You cannot have happy without awful.

Some experts and most followers of the major religions will say that everyone needs religion, religion is how you learn morals and virtues and how to lead a good and just life. However, the historic accounts of most religious beginnings are steeped in violence, from genocide to scorched earth to raiding, enslaving and thieving. Some morals. For the Abrahamic religions extreme punishment is included, for both the Old Testament and Quran seem to prefer some form of a death sentence for most infractions and some violence or maiming or other extreme punishment for lesser offenses.

Thus, if you are wondering how you can truly assess either your own religion or religion in general as a valid and necessary part of your life or something that should be history, then Timothy Chen thinks he has the answer for you in his new book The Religious Transaction. Chen was raised in a religious home and continued to practice while off attending college. However, in early adulthood, Chen faced some challenges that led to him questioning everything about his belief system, which was based on his religion.

This questioning about his own beliefs and struggles to reconcile his issues with his religious conflicts led him to author the aforementioned book probably both as therapy for himself and the genuine belief that it will help others. While Chen seems to really try to be unbiased about religion and honest about his personal issues, challenges, emotions there does seem to be an underlying passive nudge to encourage others to question to the point of abandoning their own religious paths. Whether this is an intended ploy by Chen or just a natural reaction to his personal struggles and journeys I cannot say, but regardless it is present.

His religion as a child was christian and his primary focuses on are Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, yet, he does include other religions scattered throughout the work. Personally, I have never been devout or zealous at all about religion, I believe that Organized Religion is a man made necessity in order to create a peaceful society for those in power. I also believe that while there are some truly devout and genuine believers, most religions and their sects have been usurped by individuals seeking power and glory and fortune.

The organization of the book is well thought out and flows. His approach to each aspect of religion is thoughtful and seemingly neutral. The neutrality is displayed in the pro-con discussion of each question with cited arguments supporting the pro or con respectively. And it is obvious that Chen has put thought and research into his writing. While it is difficult to research everything about a topic, I do feel like some of his research could have provided him with stronger arguments if he had dug just a little deeper. But all authors have to decide how much is too much or not enough and how much is “just right” or at least enough for the message. And I think that Chen did what he felt was just enough to support his arguments. That is not a critique if his purpose is more to get people to do their own research and questioning, but it is marginal if his purpose is to be the justification for changing religious paths.

In addition to arguments that are marginal to just enough, I believe that some of his points are more than over simplified. He admits to some over simplification, which can be excused considering the breath and depth of the topic if truly and fully investigated. One example is his argument that our similarity to some animals supports evolution over godly creations without any mention of the fact that the opposite is just as possible since religions with a “Creator God” believes that this god is responsible for the creation of the universe and EVERYTHING in it. So why wouldn’t such a god create similar living creatures, created or evolved they would both be from a collection of building blocks. He is also more willing to give benefits of doubt and early unearned credit to scientific discoveries but not to divine intelligent creation.

In short, it was an interesting read. I did hear some new arguments in the validity of religion debate, but I also felt the ball was drop and some arguments were skewed to the author’s current stances. However, he does make the effort to at least appear neutral and that effort is noteworthy.

*Copy Received For Review.

**Cover via Amazon.com

Hey, Mack!

Have you ever picked up a novel, started reading, and felt like you walked through a door into another time, for no other reason than the style of writing? I had that experience this past weekend. I am trying with gusto to wipe out my stack of works that I have been asked to read and review. The work that was next in the line up was Message In A Bullet by Owen Thomas. As you might surmise it is a mystery, but what you would not surmise is that the author’s style is so retro that it is fresh!

Cover Art via Goodreads

The first pages seem like a cheap attempt at noir glam, but that is just the bait. Within a few pages it’s reading like one of those dime store novels in all the best ways. It’s gritty, raw, and monochromatic, but still clever enough to keep you turning pages wondering if you are keeping up with the clues. Everyone is damaged goods still trying to abide by their own versions of virtue.

This is the debut story for the main character’s series. In good dime store fashion he is a self-persecuting, redemption denying, relentless gumshoe from some of the toughest city streets and dirtiest halls of justice that America has to offer and none of it is softened by Thomas. Mack is just the kinda guy you would imagine having the nerve to work the streets of Chicago and just the guy that you would want on your side if you are in a bind. Additionally, now as a widower and “retired” detective he doesn’t have much to lose, but lots to gain, including his sanity.

The piece is a great weekend escape or Friday night date, one-night stand. With no next morning regrets. The chapters flip past just like the play list of the local band at the American Legion Hall. The story is constantly moving forward with just enough memory lane detours to not make it a marathon run in sprint mode. So pour that glass of merlot, turn off the phone, and spend the night with Mack and his motley crew of ghosts and cohorts.

*Copy Received For Review.

The Canadians Were There Too

Period pieces are one of my favorite fiction genres, especially if they are generally historically and geographically accurate. Of course, I do actually expect all fiction to be geographically accurate if the author is going to use real locations, past or present. Popular for action pieces are any one of the war times of history and WWII is a top choice. It makes sense as it left a scar across the whole of the world and some would say that it changed the face of globe as well. Everything seemed to change during the war and maybe more so after it. The Old World was suddenly the supporting characters and new leading roles were assumed by the US and USSR.

Cover Art via Author Page

Whatever the reason, it is certain that period pieces of the ear are popular. Due to the popularity one can find all kinds of plots as well as quality of writing. From drama to action and everything in between to satisfy the desires of most readers. There might be some players of the period that are under portrayed. To that end, some authors are trying to increase the stories of these brave men and women and keep their memories alive. It is this goal that we have the pleasure of exploring today, with Vengeance Of The Allies.

I do have to admit that this is the first work that I remember reading that highlights the Canadian contribution to the cause. And while Canadians are certainly not the only countrymen that most don’t remember sacrificing , hopefully others will come or gain wider circulation in the future. I will neither affirm or dismiss the accuracy of some of the historical details of The Black Devils and will instead allow the author such credit as to his due diligence.

The story takes place in Occupied France, roughly 4 years in. The setting is mostly split between Marseille and Serronelle, in the South of France and unfolds from Berlin’s reaction to the murder of an SS Officer in the area. That leads to a chance opportunity for unlikely Allies to take things into their own hands. The obsession of these individuals change the course of the war and life for a group of unwitting Canadian commandos.

The action starts with the opening lines and continues to the last page. The reader is entwined into the unanswerable question what would you do if it were you? How far would you go to seek vengeance? What would you be willing to sacrifice for a promise made in the worst of circumstances?

For a debut novel, this work certainly shows skill and talent. There are some areas that word order made me stop and wonder if the proofing of my review copy was pre-final editing stage or have I never noticed Canadian word order being different. From a publishing point of view that is the strongest critique I have. I am pleasantly, surprised to see such quality work in a debut in today’s world of self-publishers and everyone thinking ANYONE can write and wanting their 15 minutes of fame and even more fortune.

I truly look forward to see more from Mr. Ethan Watts.

*Copy Received For Review.

Can Gothic Modern?

Gothic is one of the most iconic all time genres of literature. Once in the realm of the genre almost any arguement could be made to name one master or another as supreme mastero or mistress. Probably the most iconic characters to come from the greats are Frankenstein’s Monster and Dracula, immortalizing Mary Shelly and Bram Stroker through to current day. Other greats include the Bronte sisters, E.A. Poe, O. Wilde and R. L. Stevenson. One might wonder how such works could have been produced so masterfully as to remain as popular today as they were during their contemporary era. That was easy, their cultures were still very much connected to the stories and lore of their past. These greats also lived in times of great change in the world around them. The world was getting larger and industrialization, just like colonization were bringing out the best and worst in society and mankind. All of this gave them much to ponder and question and investigate within the pages of their novels or the lines of their prose.

Cover via Amazon

Additionally, to have some excellent authors from across Europe and North America, there were and still are some places that are steeped in all the makings of gothic tales galore. Can some of those ideas and concepts find homes in the tech-savvy modern world of today? That is the idea that Mirko Marković explores in his collection of stories Poppy Seeds On A Grave. Pulling from the rich legend and lore of the Balkans, Marković weaves tales that do not have happy endings and delve into our peripheral shadows further than most would desire. In spite of our natural reluctance we follow owing to our curious nature being stronger than our caution at times. Or at least that has been the way of our nature for eons.

Poppy Seeds On A Grave is a collection of a dozen short stories set in the here and now that might tug at some long dormant fear in the readers collective memory of generations past. The collection gives the reader variety of stories so there should be at least one that grabs the attention of the reader. I will suggest that if you are like me and the first story begins to feel like getting a root canal….bare with it, or just skip it and move on. It is not, in my opinion, the best act in the book and certainly not a great opening act. Additionally, while this piece has gothic elements it is more post apocaylpse weird than gothic modern. Some may not like the fact that there are no happy endings, but life is not always about happy endings and sometimes the ending is more about how you see the world around you than what the world around you actually is, not sure what I mean, remember this when you read “In The Darkness.”

Confessing that I am an outsider Balkan girl, I would have liked to have seen more overtly Balkan lore themes in the stories, while I could see some of them in a few of the stories, owing to the title, I was expecting more undead and monsters of the dark forests to appear in the pages. Maybe that is some future work we will see.