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review 2016-07-24 18:44
A journey of sin and redemption
The Passion of Mary-Margaret - Lisa Samson

In her book, The Passion of Mary-Margaret, author Lisa Samson tells an entertaining, uplifting, and encouraging story where the gifts of the Spirit are manifested by the main characters as they lead us to a better understanding of Jesus' Divine Mercy.

 

The book cover shows a picture of a lighthouse in the background and a religious sister holding a wooden rosary in her left hand, dressed on a white jacket and skirt set. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and the grass is bright green. These symbols of peace, hope, trust, and faith are key elements in the development of the story.

 

The book begins with Sister Mary-Margaret Fischer writing a letter to her best friend, Sister Angie. She is complaining about Sister Mary-Francis' idea of writing their memoirs for others to benefit learning about their personal trials, tribulations, and blessings. The book gives us a glimpse in the life of religious sisters, including their spiritual needs and temptations.

 

After the death of Mary-Margaret's mother during childbirth, she was raised by her grandmother and her Aunt Elfi. Then at school age, Mary-Margaret moved permanently into the convent school after her family could no longer provide for her. The school was located in a small island of Chesapeake Bay. She was in fourth grade when she met Jude Keller, the lighthouse keeper's son. Every day Mary-Margaret used to look at the lighthouse and see Jude rowing out on the bay. Even at her young age, she was immediately captivated by his rough personality and physical appearance but decided to keep their relationship as friends.

 

During her preparation years and mission work, she goes to Georgia, where she has a close encounter with the KKK that leaves her mentally and emotionally devastated. She then returns to the island to recover from that experience and to prepare for her final vows. To her surprise, Jude also returns to the island defeated, broken hearted, ashamed, and to make things worse, he had also gotten sick with syphilis.

 

Then, one day, Jesus asks for her greatest act of obedience. She is in shock and speechless. How can Jesus ask her to take a detour from their relationship to bring back Jude, the lost sheep, into His flock, now that she is so close to her final vows of complete unity with Him, her beloved. She is the good servant through whom Jesus will change many lives and God's name be glorified.

 

The reader will be amazed at the unforeseen turns of events as Mary-Margaret searches for Jude and the identity of her “rapist seminarian father,” among other places, at the city mission safe house, located in the middle of ''The Block,'' where sex, drugs, and prostitution are the norm of the day. “The mission” is a place of refuge, healing and redemption for those forgotten by society.

 

In her search for answers, Mary-Margaret discovers that there are three sides of her conception's story: her family's, her father's and the truth squeezed in between. Was she conceived in love, lust, or was she the result of a rape?

 

At the end, the truth sets her free, as she reconciles the past with her present and provides for a better future in peace with it all.

 

The Passion of Mary-Margaret is the journey of sin and redemption walking hand-on-hand the path to salvation through one person understanding and expression of God's greatest gift, Love.

 

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review 2016-07-24 18:41
A captivating apocalyptic tale!
The Last Ark: First Omnibus Edition, Parts I-IV (The Fatima Code) Is The Antichrist Already In The Vatican? - Jack Sky

 

The Last Ark, penned by author Jack Sky, is a twelve-book apocalyptic series based on the Third Secret revealed by the Virgin Mary to the children at Fatima. The books are available as individual volumes or in three omnibus editions, each one containing four books. This review is for books I-IV.

 

The first book, The Vision, begins with a disturbing vision that comes to Marian Pope Petrus Romanus in the form of a dream. Once awake, he prays fervently for guidance. Through the protection and intersession of the Virgin Mary, he and his trusted team get the skilled workers and the funds they need to organize and build the refugee camps known collectively as “Mary's Ark” or, in short, “The Marks.”

 

While Pope Petrus Romanus and his crew are preparing to protect the refugees, an Anti John the Baptist called The General is working on a more sinister project. The General’s job is to pave the way for the Antichrist. He and his team of Exterminans, vicious demons disguised as humans, are supervising the construction of the Drozdov underground cities to protect the world’s ruling elite and their allies and for the stockpiling of nuclear missiles --- all with the goal of causing a global catastrophe that would lead to the reign of the Antichrist. As part of the “Plan” they are charged with implementing, they will assign a demon to each human subject so that the people could easily be enslaved for the benefit of the ruling class.

 

The saga continues with True Devotions, where the forces of evil continue to make arrangements for the fulfillment of prophecies by implementing a new world order with its man-made religion and doctrines. Meanwhile the Catholic Marians are rushing to establish the Marks worldwide before the appointed Blackout day as revealed to Pope Petrus Romanus.

 

In the third book, The Blackout, chaos reigns everywhere in the aftermath of nuclear-missile explosions. The Marks and the Drozdov underground cities are fully operational, and their leaders are receiving the survivors as planned. Worldwide, electronic devices are non-functional, except in Russia, the Operations Center for the Plan.

 

After the blackout, Russia arises as the world's savior with a ruling body comprised of the General with his six subordinate Exterminans, Russians militia, six Chinese oligarchs, and American and European elite.

 

As part of the Plan, Vatican City is fully annihilated while the Cardinals are in a secret conclave to replace Pope Petrus Romanus, who was accused of misconduct. After the proceedings against Pope Petrus are over, he and a trusted group of Cardinals leave the room. At a small chapel, they elect Pope Petrus II. After the election, they go to the Mark located outside Rome to wait for refugees. At a top of a mountain from which he could see Vatican City, Petrus I performs an exorcism. Afterward, he and his loyal and fervent group die as martyrs. That scene is based on the Third Secret revealed to the children of Fatima.

 

The omnibus edition concludes with The Consecration, in which the properly elected Pope Petrus II must fulfill Mary’s wish to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart. In order to succeed, the Marian Catholics will have to face the General and his evil forces, whose goal is to enslave the human race and prevent that consecration. However, the General himself is confronted with a series of unfortunate events that makes him reconsider his strategy --- they come about because now both Heaven and Hell are at war on Earth!

 

Shortly before concluding the story, the author will give the readers a glimpse of Hell, the orchestrated hierarchy and dominion of Heaven and Hell, and, as its culmination, the release of the Beast as prophesied in the Book of Revelations.

 

When I decide to review a book with theology and apocalyptic theme, I do some research to verify and discern truth from fiction. Although I am not an expert on theology, based on my research, I found the core basis for the story to be in agreement with the teachings of the Catholic Church. The author uses Pope Petrus I to relate what happened to Sister Lucia when she was ordered to reveal the Third Secret of Fatima and how the Church reacted to the message.

 

The story is captivating and full of Catholicism. Readers who are not Catholic but who enjoy this kind of book need to have an open mind in order to understand the story and its message. Names and numbers are chosen for their meaning and relevance to the story. For example: Pope Petrus refers to Saint Peter, the first pope, who was appointed by Jesus himself. The first four books of the series entail topics of interest today as well as reliable historical facts and events.

 

I found only two main issues that took some credibility away and made the story, at times, hard to follow. First, the use of military jargon was not always properly or immediately explained. Second, I found the explanation of quantum theology for children of ages 10 through 12 too complex for that age group. That discussion was extremely hard to follow. This book could have highly benefited from a glossary to explain all the jargon and abbreviations.

 

I highly recommend Jack Sky's apocalyptic series, The Last Ark, as an improved version of the Christian series, The Left Behind.

 

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review 2016-07-24 18:33
Mathematical and science mystery
Numbers Up - Kevin Clark

In his book, ''Numbers Up'', first time author Kevin Clark brings to the teens/young adult audience a crime story full of mathematical and science concepts weaved into the storyline.

 

The story begins with the discovery of the renowned mathematician Dr. Michael Townsend's dead body in his office at the Institute for Applied Mathematics. A call is placed to the Metropolitan Police Department and detective Paul Ondracek is chosen to lead the investigation.

 

In the course of the investigation, detective Ondracek uncovers some suspicious activities involving former Dr. Townsend with some well known and established banks, and his financial support of some terrorist groups in Palestine. Detective Ondracek must use his experience, good judgement, and analytical skills to solve this case before it's too late.

 

Meanwhile, the Feds and the NSA (National Security Agency) are monitoring some suspicious activities in the Chechen Republic with the help of one of their undercover agents and his informer. When a fax transmission giving details about the selling of a Joe-2, an old Russian nuclear bomb, to a terrorist group in Palestine is interrupted, then the White House finds itself in a big dilemma: how to prevent the sell of the bomb without causing an international crisis and deteriorating any further their relationship with Moscow.

 

The book moves back and forth between detective Ondracek's criminal investigation and the terrorist group in Palestine pursuing ways to find economical means to purchase the Joe-2 from a former Russian Red Army General. At the end, when all pieces of the case start to fall in place, the murderer escapes from an NSA secured location. This gives the author an opportunity to write a sequel in which he could develop detective Ondracek's character to his full potential. He could be promoted or transfered to another government agency giving him the opportunity to amend his mistakes, capture the murderer and close the case successfully. I like detective Ondracek character very much. He is clever, naïve, fresh, and with a personality that makes the reader able to identify with him and his predicaments.

On the other hand, this book could have greatly benefited from the services of an editor to help the author polish the dialogs and correct the flaws in the storyline. In some instances, it appears that the author is discussing prime numbers and DNA sequences concepts with high school students. The redundance of these topics in several conversations throughout the book makes it very hard at times to follow the story and it also undermines the capabilities of the main character, Detective Ondracek. I encourage the author to continue cultivating and improving his writing skills so the sequel to this book is enjoyable to a wider audience.

I recommend this book for teens/young adults looking for a crime story. This book is not suitable for readers under 16 yrs old since they will not be able to understand it and follow the story. In general, I found the storyline to be original and interesting, considering it was written by an amateur author.

 

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review 2016-07-24 18:29
Entertaining Historical Fiction
NIGHT PRAYER from the Office of the Dead - Brother Bernard Seif

 

Night Prayer from the Office of the Dead is author Brother Bernard Seif's newest release of the Brother Francis O'Neil's mystery series. In this book, the author will take the main character to China on a dangerous and life-threatening quest.

 

Brother Francis is a clinical psychologist, a doctor of Chinese medicine, and a committed Salesian monk. He has dedicated most of his life to studying the Salesian Order's founders, St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal.

 

Brother Francis' enthusiastic research and his skills as a historian will take him away from the quiet of his monastery in Pennsylvania to visit a friend's relative on a remote village in China. There, he will receive some mysterious ancient parchments which have been passed down from generation to generation. He is fascinated by their content and by the legend of doom surrounding them.

 

Some of the previous keepers of the parchments had met a deadly fate. Will Brother Francis be able to solve the mysterious hunting accidents that befell them without putting his own life at risk?

 

Although this is the sixth installment on this series, I did not have any problems following the story or understanding the character's predicaments. The author did a wonderful job disclosing relevant information without affecting the flow of the narration.

 

The captivating cover illustration transported me to the sixteenth century. Illuminated by a single candle, a religious man sits deep in concentration at a library desk, writing a letter with a quill pen. For me, the image raised interest about the significant relationship between the writer and the recipient of such letter. The expectations of an enigmatic tale and its resolution were fulfilled.

 

I recommend this book to historical fiction readers looking for a short, condense, and intriguing story.

 

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review 2016-07-24 18:21
Thought-provoking historical fiction
Eugenios: Servant of Kings - Julian Bauer

Julian Bauer's latest release, Eugenios, is a novel based on the evolving relationship of two Jewish families with some key Roman politicians and Jesus' family.

 

The book is divided into two sections. In the first one, the reader will meet the Jewish slave Sphaerus, his wife Kallisto, and their children; Eugenios, Theodoros, and Sarah. The second part describes the lives of their descendants, especially on Eugenios's whose role in Roman politics will affect all their extended families.

 

The story begins in 38 BC during the reigns of Emperor Augustus Octavian, and Herod, governor of Galilee. After Herod invades Joppa, his soldiers murder the family of Kallisto. At the time a young virgin, she is taken as slave and offered as a gift to Octavian. However, Octavian orders Sphaerus to marry her, so as to avert a jealous fit from his wife, Livia; thus Octavian hoped to keep the peace of his household. That night changes Kallisto's fate forever, from a life of comfort as the daughter of a very wealthy Jewish merchant to that of an impoverished housewife of a slave. Nonetheless Sphaerus's love, consideration, and patience win her over and save her from becoming entertainment for Octavian's soldiers.

 

In the first part of the story, the reader will follow Sphaerus and his family through political intrigues, challenges, and the ordeals of Rome and its colonies. However, since Octavian appreciates Sphaerus's loyalty, service, and wise counsel, the slave's family benefit from the protection of the emperor. However, it will also be influenced by the societal and religious that emerge as Jesus' ministry begins to flourish.

 

In the second part of the novel, the Roman Empire is under attack and its enemies are allying against it. Mr. Bauer reveals how the constant political changes in Rome have ripple effects on all its citizens and specifically on Eugenios, Theodoros, and Sarah.

 

In contrast with other books by Mr. Bauer that I have read, this is a well-researched historical-fiction novel emphasizing current topics such as corruption, lack of integrity in government, earnest ambition leading to war, strategic treaties, the decline of social morals, and religious metamorphoses”. The author skillfully weaves the threads of Jesus' life with that of Sphaerus and his family. Their relationship will come together in an unexpected climax at the end.

 

Eugenios is a thought-provoking book that educates and creates awareness of how the choices we make affect our future.

 

For me, it is one of the best books written by Mr. Bauer.

 

I highly recommend Eugenios to readers who enjoy historical fiction novels that interweave universal themes in a refreshing new way!

 

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