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! 

Greenwitch: The Dark is Rising Sequence, Book Three

Greenwitch - Susan Cooper

This third volume of The Dark is Rising sequence returns us to the Drew children and the theft of the Trewissick Grail they found at the end at the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone. How the priceless artifact was stolen from a museum baffles the police, as there is no evidence of a break-in. Merry confirms what the children suspect: the Dark took it. He asks them to come with him back to Cornwall during the Easter break.


As it happens, Will Stanton from the second book, The Dark is Rising, is also headed there with his Uncle Bill. None other than Merry picks them up at Will's house, but neither give away the fact they already know each other. The Drew boys do not like Will, for how are they going to find the grail again if some other boy is always going to be with them?


The boys' sister, Jane, accepts the nocturnal invitation to attend the annual, ladies-only, making of the Greenwitch, a tall figure made of leaves and branches, who the women then ask for whatever they wish. Only Jane feels the tremendous power in the figure - and its terrible loneliness. Her wish is for it to be happy. The leader of the event tells her this is a dangerous thing to request. The event ends in the morning with the figure cast off a cliff into the sea.


Will and Merry discuss the latest disguise a member of the Dark has taken: a painter who stole a picture Barney made and who also tried to break into the crowd around the Greenwitch just before it tumbled into the water. Simon and Barney follow Rufus the dog to the painter's home. Barney finds not only his painting but the stolen grail.


Will and Merry launch a desperate search for the Greenwitch and what it possesses: the lost manuscript from the first book that would give the Dark terrible power if used in conjunction with the grail.


Will and Merry are not the only one who seek the Greenwitch. What is that painter doing out after dark? And what does Jane's wish for the witch's happiness have to do with it?


I didn't like this book as much as the first two because it was not as interesting or exciting until towards the end.

The Grey King: The Dark is Rising Sequence Book Four

The Grey King - Susan Cooper

The fourth volume of The Dark is Rising series begins with Will traveling to Wales to stay with a cousin of his mother's, so he can recuperate from hepatitis. The young man is troubled because there is something important he forgot. On the way to the cousin's home, he sees clouds around a mountaintop, which helps him remember one part of a prophecy spoken at the end of the third book, Greenwitch. The woman's son, Rhys, says the clouds are the breath of the Grey King, a legendary figure whose home is there.


Another clue to the gap in Will's memory is Cadfan's Way. As he explores the church of St. Cadfan and searches for this lost road, he has a curious encounter with a dog. All his memories come back. He meets a boy, Bran, who knows his true identity as an Old One and who says he has awaited him. The Dark awaits him too. "All around, throughout the countryside, he [Will] could feel the malevolence of the Dark growing, pushing at him." 


But this time, the Light is not there merely to defend all from the devouring Dark. This time, it is actively on the attack against it.


This series is much more interesting when it focuses on Will, as this one does. I love through the series how descriptive the author is. It is no wonder these are classic fantasies. 

Silver on the Tree: The Dark is Rising Sequence Book Five

Silver on the Tree - Susan Cooper

The final volume of The Dark is Rising series begins with Will and his brothers, James and Stephen, enjoying the rarity of a lazy, hot summer's day together. Will thinks life cannot get better than this, but he soon realizes it is but a lull before the great and last battle against the Dark.


Brief visions come to Will from the past. He slips entirely out of his own time and arrives shortly before the battle of Badon in Arthurian times. There Will understands what his next quest is: retrieve the Six Signs of the Light, joined by Wayland Smith in the 20th century at the end of the second book. Wayland now labors long in the 5th century to make enough weapons for Arthur and his men for their great battle against the Dark. Will has only a night and a day to bring the Signs back from his own time and return them to Arthur.


Failure is not option. If Will does not succeed and call the Circle of the Light into battle, Merriam Lyon gives a grim vision of the future. "The High Magic which guards [the Signs] will take them outside Time, and the only advantage the Light holds in this great mater will be lost forever." Whether Will succeeds or not, the coming battle against the Dark in his own will be terrible. Swept up into it are Bran and the Drew children.


This is an awesome series recommended for anyone who loves a great adventurous fantasy. Epic!

The High King: Chronicles of Prydain Book Five

The High King - Lloyd Alexander

Wow, wow, and wow! I thought the 4th book of The Chronicles of Prydain was the best, but that was before I read this stirring conclusion to the series! It begins with a joyful homecoming for Taran and Gurgi, which includes a reunion with Eilonwy, who has had more than enough of education about how to become a princess.


The sight of Fflewddur as he brings in a gravely wounded Gwydion cuts Taran's gladness short. His noble friend is nigh to death from an attack by the evil Huntsmen of Annuvin.Fflewddur recounts how the assault came as they responded to Taran's cry for aid. But Taran did not cry and was not beset by many enemies as the king-bard said he saw. The revelation the dark lord Arwan masterminded the deception stuns them all, as does the truth Gwydion's magical blade is now in the hands of the enemy.


After Gwydion makes an astonishing recovery, he and his beloved companions make for a castle en route to the man's final destination, the dark realm of Arwan himself, to retrieve his sword. But no sooner do they arrive at the friendly holding than they discover no old friend welcomes them but an old enemy. They escape but at a high price.


Gwydion decides to abandon his quest for his sword and raise an army against the one Arwan will soon send into the field against them. He charges his companions with the task to rouse all the free people and join him at his fortress.


Another great ally, Medwyn, sets his animal friends to gather their fellow creatures against the enemy. He gives a grim forecast if all free men and animals give anything but their utmost to defeat the dark lord and his allies: they will fall under the bitter domination of their enemy with joy and freedom snuffed out.


Many answer the call to arms, but not all are the allies they should be. The battle for Prydain begins anew, and it is terrible to behold: awful and awe-ful. "Amid the black pines the voice of the chief Bard rose in deep sorrow, yet it was sorrow without despair; and while the notes of the harp were heavy laden with mourning they held, as well, the clear strains of life and hope" (130).


What a wonderful book and series, strewn with true heroes and wisdom for them and readers to absorb and live out! Loved it!!

Taran Wanderer: The Chronicles of Prydain Book Four

Taran Wanderer - Lloyd Alexander

This fourth volume of The Chronicles of Prydain begins with a restless Taran asking his guardian and foster father, Dallben, who his parents were. As the man says, he does not know, Taran begs leave to depart and find out. His faithful companion, Gurgi, accompanies, even though the news they will travel first to a marshland and visit three enchantresses does not sit well with him at all. But Taran hopes they can give him the information he so earnestly seeks.


The young man begins to regret his decision before they even arrive, but he does not turn back. Once the three women demand a price paid for their information about his parents, Taran says he already gave them the thing he most valued in exchange for the Black Cauldron. This time he promises to give whatever he will come to value the highest in the future for them to claim whenever they chose. Fortunately, they refuse, but they offer another source which may hold the secret to his identity.


During this latest and most personal of Taran's quests, he encounters old and new friends, new enemies and perils just as terrible as any he already experienced. But his wisdom grows in equal measure.


What a powerful book! The best one so far in this series - still one to go! I love Taran and the growth he has. My favorite quote is from Hevydd, the blacksmith: "Life's a forge, say I! Face the pounding; don't fear the proving; and you'll stand well against any hammer and anvil!"

The Castle of Llyr: The Chronicles of Prydain Book Three

The Castle of Llyr - Lloyd Alexander

The third volume of The Chronicles of Prydain begins with the hot-headed sword-maiden Eilonwy sent off to the royal house on the Isle of Mona to learn how to be a princess and a lady, two things she has zero interest in. Taran and Gurgi accompany her on the sea voyage with Prince Rhun, a clumsy young man Taran dislikes from the first. Eilonwy thinks her friend is just jealous.


The unexpected appearance of Fflewddur Fflam thrills Taran and Gurgi, as does a shoemaker, who is Gwydion in disguise. Gwydion warns Taran he and Eilonwy are in peril. An old enemy thought dead threatens them anew: Achren, the evil enchantress who the princess had apprenticed under as a child, yet remained uncorrupted by. The man admits he fears this threat as much as the greater evil of Arawn. Gwydion swears Taran to secrecy and then disappears.


After a feast to welcome Taran and his companions, the young man seeks out Gwydion. He happens to see the Chief Steward sneak out too and travel to the harbor where he signals a ship at anchor. Gwydion reveals the dread news their enemy is abroad it.


Taran and Gurgi take turns standing guard at Eilonwy's chamber, but still the evil Steward kidnaps the princess after Prince Rhun waylays Taran. During the search that follows, the king asks Taran to watch over Rhun, who he wishes Eilonwy to marry. This does not sit well with Taran, but he does as the king wishes.


Rhun goes off on his own one night. Taran finds him the next morning in an abandoned hut. Abandoned that is, expect for the oversize mountain lion who comes to call while they are inside. This and other desperate perils assail Taran and his friends in their search for Eilonwy, who is in ever deeper danger than they.

The Black Cauldron: The Chronicles of Prydain Book Two

The Black Cauldron - Lloyd Alexander

This second volume of The Chronicles of Prydain starts with Taran, Assistant Pig-keeper and Hero, harshly dealt with by a visiting prince with a big ego and no sense. A surprise visit by Taran's noble friend, Gwydion, on the other hand, thrills the young man. So does the reason for the man's visit: a secret council to decide how to defeat the evil Arawn, who rises in might once more. Many others come to Taran's homestead, whether knowingly for the council or ignorant of the true reason they are present. Old friends like the king-bard Fflewddur and the dwarf Doli join new acquaintances such as Adaon, son of the Chief Bard, Taliesin.Two kings from neighboring realms also come.


At the council, Gwydion brings the dread news of how Arawan has increased the size of his deathless armies. Not only has he stolen corpses and returned them to life to serve him, but he has kidnapped the living as well. Gwydion proposes the audacious plan to enter the enemy's land and destroy the magic cauldron where Arawn breeds his warriors.


The next morning, Gwydion heads away with hand-picked companions, after he  secures their free-will assent to accompany him to Arawn's Dark Gate. Unfortunately, or fortunately, this includes the jerk of a prince Taran ran afoul of the beginning of the book. Ellidyr excels at getting on Taran's last nerve, but he also saves the young man's life on more than one occasion.


Gwydion's plan to steal the black cauldron goes off without a hitch until they arrive where the cauldron was supposed to be and discovers someone else already stole it. More bad news follows. Besides the revived corpses who cannot be killed, Arawn's forces include the living, who can be slain, but each death strengthens those who survive.


Taran comes up with Plan B, which not everyone agrees is the best choice. But his companions who were with him on the adventure in the first book follow him into this new peril. The hostile Ellidyr comes along as well but later separates from the group.


Taran begins to second guess himself almost straightaway, but Adaon addresses the young man's concerns. "There is a destiny laid on us to do what we must do, though it is not always given to us to see it." Adaon foresees Taran will come to know grief on his journey, but he also gains wisdom and the courage to make the sacrifices he must to help ensure the success of his quest.


This is a wonderful book about a young boy's path to become a man and a hero. As he grows in moral strength, pity and compassion, he finds the path to adulthood fraught with perils and grief. Yet wise Gwydion tells them there is just as much love and joy as there is pain. I love to be back with the king-bard, Gwydion and Gurgi, not to mention Taran. Great to find another kindred spirit. Now onto the next book!

God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life

God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life - Paul Kengor

Great book about a great man! This traces Reagan from his birth and the great impact his faith in God had on his entire life. It covers his early life and the profound influence his mother and other mentors, both real and fictional, had in shaping him into the man destiny called him to be. It follows his acting and political careers and his use of the 'bully pulpit' of the Presidency. He deeply felt America had a unique role to play in the DP (Divine Plan) in bringing freedom to the Soviet Union. His survival of the assassination attempt made on him made him even more aware he wanted to be an instrument God could work through. No wonder the liberals hated him.


I also highly recommend Kregor's book God and George W. Bush, another great book about another great man. We need more men like them! God bless them both.

The New Policeman

The New Policeman - Kate Thompson

Fifteen-year-old J. J. Liddy has two problems. One is the same one that so plagues modern man: there is just not enough time in the day to do everything he wants to do. The other is some dark secret on his mother's side that makes him want to change his last name to his father's. The Liddy's go way back in Ireland. J. J,'s parents never married, so the name would not be lost. But once J. J. hears of a terrible deed done long in the past by a Liddy, he starts to reinvent himself as J. J. Byrne.


J. J.'s mother lets him in on the truth behind the deed, which is closely tied to the musical legacy of the Liddy's and the abiding faith in fairies the Irish hold to to this day. Some did not adhere to such beliefs, however. J. J.'s great-grandfather was one who suffered from a detractor who thought these beliefs ridiculous and dangerous. Said detractor later disappeared with the man's beloved flute. Neither was seen again. The rumor began J. J.'s namesake murdered his great adversary. But is this what really happened?


J. J. also learns of another secret, also tied to his family's musical gifts. That night he starts to give his mother the birthday present she must craves: more time. He tells a neighbor of his determination to do this. She tells him she will help him, and it involves going to a fairy mound near her home.


She leads him through it to Tír an nÓg, the Celtic underworld. The people there are more than willing to sell him all the time in the world, if only they could figure out how to do that. Time has entered their timeless world from our stressed-out, frantic one, and they do not like it. Because there is a leak now between the two worlds with time running out in ours into theirs, a way must be found to repair the damage to both worlds. Not to mention it would solve one of the greatest mysteries known to man, but I won't spoil that for you, or tell you more of the wonderful and terrible consequences of J. J.'s quest for his special gift.


I really enjoyed this book. The title character is but a minor one, wrapped in mystery, but an important one. In keeping with the frantic pace of the modern world, it's a quick read and a fun one too. The outcome of J. J.'s quest has much to teach us all about the value of time and timelessness. We shall all take heed of the lesson to take a breath and slow down and enjoy life, not merely rush through it to the next thing.



The Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien

I read this for the first time in 2004 and several times since then. What can be said about this epic tale that has not been already said many times over? The Professor is a master story-teller, loving the world of nature as much as the world of Men, Hobbits, Elves and Dwarves. He is also a master of suspense in heating that kettle just a little a time, hinting at threats that may or may not be imaginary, as in Frodo's uncertainty whether he really sees and hears someone following them or not and the sound of a hammer that may or may not have to do with Pippin throwing down a stone in Moria.

Middle-earth is a real place because it is our world. The people who inhabit it have so much to teach us. The lessons begin here with Merry and Pippin's beautiful words about their love and friendship for Frodo and what lengths they are willing to go because of it, Frodo's fearful and courageous embrace of his terrible calling and the grace that sustains him and his companions, Sam dogged faithfulness and support and his wonder to see the Elves, and so very much more.

The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth

The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth - Gerald G. May

Very readable introduction to the spirituality of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross and the dark night of the soul. Painful as it may be, May shows it is also a blessed place  for the fruits it brings.

Iron Tower Trilogy Book Two: Shadow Of Doom

Iron Tower Trilogy  02 Shadow Of Doom - Dennis Mckiernan

I loved this book just as much as the first one. And just as the first one, there are a lot of nods to Middle-earth. Here under other guise is Sting, lembas bread, Khazad-dum, the Balrog (though in some ways this one is even scarier though not wreathed in flame the same way) and the Straight Road. But as the first one, this is also very much its own story of the terrible struggle of good vs evil. Another treasure found in a used book store. Yea!

Sauron Defeated

Sauron Defeated - J.R.R. Tolkien

Fascinating conclusion to The History of The Lord of the Rings. Also includes The Notion Club Papers, Tolkien's unfinished time-travel tale. Various drafts of the fall of Numenor and the early history of Men are very interesting, as well. The entire History of LOTR is must reading for anyone deeply interested in Middle-earth or the idea of sub-creation in general and all the twists and turns a tale takes as its author seeks to discover the truth.

The Book Jumper

The Book Jumper - Mechthild Gläser

I wish I could do this: jump bodily into my favorite books, though as the protagonists find out, it is not without its perils. I liked Amy and Werther the most.

The Winter Prince

The Winter Prince - Elizabeth Wein

Amazingly well-written, intense book about a terribly conflicted Mordred, shattered by abuse from his mother, yet still trying to hold himself together.

One Tribe at a Time: The Paper that Changed the War in Afghanistan


If this book was utilized as it is meant it will be the end to terrorism in Afghanistan. General Petraeus knew it and started to use it. bin Laden knew it and marked the author for assassination. Now this step-by-step guide should be heeded again and fully implemented.