Of Ages Past: The Writing of Anne Marie Gazzolo

"I cannot live without books!" My favorite quote of Thomas Jefferson sums it up! I am the author of Moments of Grace and Spiritual Warfare in The Lord of the Rings, which includes a chapter on The Hobbit. Other WIP's include a book on the journeys of Bilbo and Frodo (due out on their birthday 2018), a volume of poetry about a heroic quest and its aftermath, an original fantasy series, and another series anxiously awaiting its turn! 

Tough as They Come by Travis Mills

 

In 2012, Staff Sargent Travis Mills of the 82nd Airborne Division put his back pack down in the worst possible place he could in Afghanistan. That's all it takes to set off the IED which robs him of three, and ultimately all four, of his limbs. He is only one of five soldiers to survive such horrific injuries.

 

But as this book shows, his backpack was also placed in exactly the right place. For as much as Satanic hatred tried to destroy his body and spirit, it did not succeed. It could not. In the great darkness that comes from overwhelming physical and emotional pain, it can only serve to highlight the light that comes from the human ability to bear the unbearable and shine out all the brighter and be seen all the clearer because of the darkness. Because Travis went through the night, cheered and strengthened by one who came to him who had already come back through the black into the light, he serves as a light to others. If he had not gone through hell, he could not show others the way out. Click on the link for the great work this inspired. Certainly not the enemy intended! The darkness wishes to devour us all, but it cannot if we look to such examples as Travis and see the black night rent by their light.

 

Rock on, Travis, and all your brothers who serve as inspirations. God bless you all.

 

Solitary by Giora Romm

 

Ace Israeli fighter pilot, Giora Romm, vividly recalls the harrowing time his plane was shot down over Egypt in 1969 and the terrible months he spent as a prisoner-of-war. Despair ever glared down at the seriously injured young man and pierced him at times with its claws, but it could not destroy him.

 

He thought the memories of his terrible time would easily fade, but this volume is a testament they remain indelibly etched into him - as does the resilience of the human spirit to endure the unendurable and triumph. As violent and powerful hate is, it is weaker compared to the strength of the heart. I recommend this book, told in the first person by Giora and with some humor too within the darkness.

Taliesin: Book One of the Pendragon Cycle

Taliesin - Stephen R. Lawhead

I love how this book begins: an unnamed chronicler remembers the lost land of Atlantis and determines to tell of its people. He or she has little else to do as a prisoner.

 

The story proper begins with Charis, a bored Atlantean princess, who is dying to shake up the sameness of her life. She hopes the chance of attending a Great Council will do the trick. She also has access to the Lia Fail, a globe much like a palantir or Galadriel's Mirror in how it shows events. She learns not all is well with her beloved homeland. But beyond these vague hints, nothing very exciting happens until those hints become awful and awe-ful realty. The destruction of Atlantis was cool to read at a safe distance from it. But most of the time I was as bored as Charis and never warmed up to her. This book could have been cut in half and not suffered from it.

 

The other half of book concerns the story of Elphin, son of a king in Gwynedd in Roman Wales. Particularly bad luck dogs Elphin no matter what he does. His father, Gwynddno, wishes to change that and prove to their people the young man is a worthy heir to lead them. To this end, Gwynddno announces Elphin will be the one to retrieve the salmon which each year abundantly blesses the clan. There is just one thing that goes wrong with this idea: a late snow delays the salmon and there are none found. But this is not the catastrophe it appears, as Elphin finds something else far more valuable: an infant boy. The clan's druid, Hafgen, names him Taliesin and proclaims Elphin's long run of ill luck is over. And, indeed it is. All Britain will one day be glad for this boy's life.

 

The chapters alternate between the story of Charis and Elphin and eventually merge, as they rise to meet the challenges which confront them. I liked the parts abut Elphin and those earn the stars I give to the review.

Paleoista

Paleoista: Gain Energy, Get Lean, and Feel Fabulous With the Diet You Were Born to Eat - Nell Stephenson, S. Boyd Eaton

Nell Stephenson is another advocate of the Paleo diet, which is becoming more mainstream as more books continue to come out about how toxic gluten, grains, and dairy are, not to mention all the other overly processed junk food that is out there, sometimes pretending to be healthy.

 

This is a fun book to read about what is bad for you and how to cook foods that are delicious and good for you. Do yourself and your body a favor and enjoy this book and lifestyle! You are only giving up the junk and enhancing your life and health. It's a win-win!

Interview with Benita J. Prins!

Sea of Crystal, Sea of Glass - Benita J. Prins

 

I am happy to post this interview with author Benita J. Prins, fellow lover of all things Tolkien and a great writer in her own right too! I read her fantasy, Sea of Crystal, Sea of Glass recently and recommend it to all. Read my review here. I look forward to reading her other, Starscape, and also any other books she will write!

 

Describe your guiding values in four words.

Faith, truth, goodness, and beauty.

 

What are your main themes or concerns?

One of the most prominent themes that I try to portray in my writing is sacrifice – sacrifice for the greater good of mankind. The characters in my books always have to make the choice to give up something dear to them. Another aspect that always makes it in is the presence of a higher power. Although each of my fantasy worlds has a different way of functioning, God is always there controlling it all.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

I get ideas from other stories, my own fractious imagination, and day-to-day incidents (real life is so extremely interesting). Often I’ll be reading a book or watching a movie, especially fantasy, and some aspect of the story will take root in my mind. I’ll start wondering about various other ways the author could’ve developed it rather than the one he chose, and eventually I end up with a completely new idea. Sometimes entire books spring from that process.

 

Who or what are your biggest inspirations in writing?

My greatest inspiration is the Catholic Faith. That sounds trite, but the Faith is so deep that you can dig forever and never find the bottom. Just reading the Catechism brings up so many questions that I can explore beneath the surface of a story! In the end, each of my stories finds its root in the story of salvation. I think it was C.S. Lewis or someone similar who said that, ultimately, that story is the only story that really exists. Every other story is merely an extension of it.

 

What are you reading now?

Mainly required reading – college is insane. When I can find spare time, I’ve been picking my way through some P.G. Wodehouse novels that I finally was able to get my hands on. (Project Gutenberg is a blessing.) Wodehouse was a twentieth-century English humour novelist; his books are hilarious, largely because of his mastery of the English language. If you’ve never heard of him, you may be familiar with the Jeeves and Wooster TV show from the 1990’s, with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. If you’ve never even heard of that, I would likely to heartily recommend you search out some books by Wodehouse. The Jeeves stories are arguably his best.

A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea

A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee's Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival - Melissa Fleming

Wow. Imagine all your life you are scared to death of the water. While your family happily splashes around, you sit far away. Now imagine you survive for four days in the water after men filled with demonic hatred sink the boat you and your fiance were on in the hopes of  starting a new life in Europe. This is the story of Syrian refugee, Doaa Al Zamel.

 

I love the title of this book for hope and strong faith in God keeps her alive through not only this but other horrific ordeals. This puts a face and name, just like Dear World does, to those who must flee their beloved home because their own government desperately wishes to kill them. It is nothing short of a miracle Doaa survives her torturous journey, sustained by a Love stronger than the malice of her enemies, and by her love for two little children who are thrust until her care after the boat sinks and so many drown. They give her a reason to live. Her courage and endurance to bear the unbearable gives us all a reason to live. God means great things for her. May He continue to bless her. Already through this book, she is a conduit through which He speaks of His love and mercy for all those who suffer. Love is stronger than hate. Never lose hope.

 

Dear World

Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for Peace - Bana Alabed

This is a quick, easy-to-read, hard-to-put-down and profound book of a young child's harrowing journey through the hell that is present-day Syria. What is so incredible about this book is the author herself, who is not even 10 years old, but has already lived through more suffering than anyone should in their entire lifetime. Yet she come through it with hope and faith and trust in God. She is still young enough to like to play with her dolls, but at the same time, in many ways, she is far more mature than many adults. She is an 'old soul' with eyes of compassion and love. Suffering has taught her much, but it has not embittered, hardened, or broken her. She is a little girl, yet she is made of indomitable strength that comes from her faith in God. Learn at her feet lessons only those who have seen and endured the worst and survived to teach the rest of us. You will gain a lifetime of wisdom and grace from someone only 8 years old. Bravo, Bana! God bless you.

That Hideous Strength

That Hideous Strength - C.S. Lewis

This is the third volume of the Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis, which fulfilled his end of a deal he made with J. R. R. Tolkien. Finding a dearth of books they actually wanted to read, they set out to write them. Lewis would write about space travel and Tolkien about time travel. Alas. the latter only began the sadly short The Lost Road and the much longer but also unfinished The Notion Club Papers (both found within The History of Middle-earth series). I wish he had finished both, not to mention The Fall of Arthur. I hope I don't die with books unwritten. But I digress...

 

Lewis began his Trilogy with Out of the Silent Planet, continued it with Perelandra (loved this! especially Ransom's struggle, so like Frodo's, to fulfill his vocation), and concludes it here. In the previous volumes, we spent time on Mars and Venus. In this tale, we are back on the silent planet, our own Earth.

 

Newly married Jane Studdock is troubled by nightmares she later learns are actual event and is a gift (or curse) powers around her wish to use for good or ill. Her husband, Mark, is a professor at Bracton, an English college more than 700 hundreds old. He desperately wishes to be considered part of the Progressive Element at the school.

 

Bragdon Wood on the school's property is even older than it, with ties to the time of Merlin. N.I.C.E. (The National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments) wishes to buy the Wood for their headquarters. Even though I have only read this classic for the first time this year, I already knew N.I.C.E. was not nice, but the college is in financial distress and the money offered to purchase the wood proves irresistable.

 

Mark attends the meeting that decides upon the sale, while Jane lunches with Mr. and Mrs. Drimble. Mr. Drimble was Jane's tutor in school and an expert on all things Arthurian. Jane's strange dream intrigues the man. That night, Mark attends a dinner where he hears of N.I.C.E.'s vision of the future, which is truly frightening to anyone with sense (and unfortunately still alive and well today in the real world). But Mark readily agrees to help the organization implement their plans and so begins his slow slide into hell.

 

Upon recommendation from Mr. Drimble, Jane goes to see Miss Ironwood. She hopes to get a cure for her nightmares, but the woman tells her she cannot cure her because she is not sick. She has not had nightmares; she has received visions of reality which Miss Ironwood hopes Jane will use to help save the whole of mankind, which is in great peril. If Jane tells anyone else of her dreams, she could place herself in terrible danger. But if she places her visions in the service of Miss Ironwood and her unnamed cohorts, she would be a tremendous boon to the entire human race. Jane says she wants nothing to do with anything like that. She just wants her nightmares to end.

 

But the dreams do not stop. Jane and Mark are soon caught up in a great battle between light and darkness and on opposite sides. Who wlll prevail?

 

I liked this book overall, It is chilling how accurate it still is, more than 70 years later, about how the so-called Progressive Element operates with the manipulation of the media to misinform the public, their goals to eliminate undesirable elements of the human race, and their work toward making man immortal. It gets rather too strange shortly after the appearance of Merlin (though not because of his appearance). Before then, the strength of Lewis' writing shows through. Let us heed the warnings he gives.

Moments of Grace and Spiritual Warfare in The Lord of the Rings

Moments of Grace and Spiritual Warfare in The Lord of the Rings - Anne Marie Gazzolo

My first published book!

 

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s desire to create a mythology for his homeland, he actually made one for every person, every land, and every age. The Lord of the Rings is a catechism of spiritual warfare cleverly disguised as a fantasy. The struggle against evil that takes place inside its pages is the same one that occurs even now within the soul of each person.

As we cannot leave the field of battle until death takes us from it, we should learn as much as we can about how to fight from those who have labored before us. Certainly the Red Book of Westmarch is one source to use. We may not have to sacrifice ourselves as does Gandalf, but we can learn from him and his wise counsels and from the others who he taught. Frodo guides us as well, as he makes his torturous journey to Mount Doom and endures the Ring’s unceasing temptations. With him, we see that sometimes we overcome our temptations, and at other times they overwhelm us. We also learn, as he and Boromir do, to get back up and start the struggle anew. Sam shows us the height of hope and the depth of devotion. In fact, everyone in the tale, good as well as evil, has something to teach us.

 

To view an excerpt and get your copy:  http://ow.ly/ez2dT

It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways

It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways - Dallas Hartwig, Melissa Hartwig

This is another great book to read if you want to live a healthy, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free life. As the authors say, it's not just you are what you eat, you are what you eat eats. So if all you eat is food filled with toxins because that's part of the diet of the animals and fish you eat, then you share in their diet. These authors are the founders of the Whole30 diet, which challenges you to give up all the junk for 30 days and detox your system. Many have seen their long-time illnesses vanish because they are eating healthy foods, reducing the inflammation that causes so much sickness, regaining energy and losing weight because the carbs, processed foods, and sugars are not killing them anymore. Includes meal plans and recipes and encouragement! Don't see it as giving up stuff you love. You will only be giving up the bad stuff. See it as a sea-change in your life that will not deprive you of anything delicious.but will show you how wonderful whole, real foods can be! Take up the challenge. Your body will thank you!

Atlas of Middle-earth: Revised Edition

The Atlas of Middle-Earth - Karen Wynn Fonstad

Anyone who loves Middle-earth's maps will love this book. It is chock-full of large maps of the First, Second, and Third Ages, detailing the major events from them all. Follow the Elves, Hobbits, Men, and more through their epic journeys. Also has valuable information about how many miles the Nine Walkers traveled each day, what the climate was like in their time and much more.

Grain Brain Whole Life Plan: Boost Brain Performance, Lose Weight, and Achieve Optimal Health

The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan: Boost Brain Performance, Lose Weight, and Achieve Optimal Health - David  Perlmutter, Kristin Loberg

 

Change your diet, change your life, indeed, save your life! Grains are killing us. Go gluten-free, grain-free and feel great for perhaps the first time in a long time. Regain energy, lose those extra pounds and live a longer, healthier life. There is also meal planners and recipes to start your out on your journey to health. This is also great to help you live a life free of chemicals that are also so harmful, found in every day things like shampoo and household cleaners.

Myth and Middle-earth

Myth & Middle-Earth: Exploring the Medieval Legends Behind J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings - Leslie Ellen Jones

I enjoyed this book about how various mythologies and legends were re-used and presented in a new light by J. R. R. Tolkien, especially the section on drowned lands. The Celtic myths of Ireland and Wales were interesting too. There's much more inside for anyone interested in mythology and how Middle-earth reflects these. Recommended!

Swan and Shadow: A Swan Lake Story

 

Swan Lake is not Aislin's favorite story. For her, it is not just a story, but her real life. She is the second daughter, born minutes too late after her twin sister, who just dodged the bullet of the family curse. By day, this teen is a swan; by night, she is human. The only way to break the curse, which has endured for generations, is to encounter true love before she loses her purity. No one else has done so, sometimes through no fault of their own. Can Aislin can finally break the curse and live a normal life? Such is the setting of this unusual, contemporary fairy tale love story.

 

 

Young Sherlock Holmes

Young Sherlock Holmes - Allan Arnold

In this novelization of the wonderful film by the same name, Alan Arnold tells - or is it Dr. John Watson? - of the first adventure of the famous crime-solving duo while the two are schoolboys in 1870. 

 

Watson writes in the first person to chronicle his meeting of the sleuth and the beginning of their great friendship. Their first case comes through a series of mysterious deaths ruled suicides by the police, but Sherlock is not so sure. The last words of one of the victims, a dear friend, gives the young man some clues. Holmes desperately implores Lestrade to follow up and involve the police in solving what he is sure are murders. Lestrade refuses until he himself survives what caused the others to die.

 

Until Lestrade sees the light, Holmes; his beloved friend, Elizabeth; and Watson come through many perils to discover the terrible truth behind the deaths and who is behind them all. 

 

This book is an immersive journey into Watson's long-held admiration for his beloved friend. One could believe he - not Arnold - wrote it. It makes me want to watch the movie again, which such books should do.

 

 

Sea of Crystal, Sea of Glass by Benita J. Prins

Sea of Crystal, Sea of Glass - Benita J. Prins

This book starts with a bang with sixteen year old Einur first escaping a sudden storm and then fleeing for his life from those who come to claim him for sacrifice to the Great Achiel  All his sister's young life, he feared she would be the one chosen, but rather his name is drawn. His beloved dragon, Efrix, refuses to help him escape, so he runs. Efrix returns to his side later but goes off again. 

 

The next day, a man approaches Einur as he wakes from a nap. He introduces himself as Eigion and asks Einur if he follows the cult of the Great Achiel. Einur responds he does, but the man notices the young man hates what it stands for and asks Einur to confirm his suspicions. He then bluntly tells Einur to give up all belief in the cult. He then presents to him the great task before him: to find the ancient Third Tribe of the Kelyanic Harmony, who millennia ago refused to worship the Great Achiel and disappeared after many were killed in battle. Eigion says if Einur finds the Tribe's king, this will help defeat the evil cult.

 

Einur finds it hard to believe Eigion's words that finding a king who was lost 5000 years before is the easy part of his quest. The second part will be much harder and involve great sacrifice. Already Eigion calls on Einur to make his first one. Stranger though the man is, Einur trusts him, for he senses the great worth and good of the man and the Power he serves. A much greater sacrifice is still to come. Will Einur have the courage to make it?

 

I really liked this book. I recommend it to anyone who likes an adventurous fantasy with heart. The teen hero is quite likeable from the start. I enjoyed my journey beside him as he grows into his destiny and walks a difficult path with the strength that comes from love, faith, trust, and valor.

 

This author is going places! I look forward to walking further down the Road with her.