A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest, by J. A. Myhre – A Book Review


A Chameleon a Boy and a Quest
By J. A. Myhre
New Growth Press 1301 Carolina Street, Suite L-101, Greensboro, NC 27401
978-1942572084, $ 15.99, 2015, 160 pages
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

A Tale of Adventure and Fantasy with Lessons on Redemption and Sacrifice

Author, J. A. Myhre, and illustrator Acacia Masso expand the mind of the reader and give the child a broader understanding of the world and peoples of Uganda, Africa and of man’s universal need for fulfillment, purpose, acceptance, and family as seen through the eyes of ten year old Mu, a young African boy on a quest. A quest for identity and purpose, stolen from him as a baby.

“A Chameleon a Boy and a Quest” is an allegory, rich in adventure, full of fantasy; a combination of myth, superstition, folklore, and reality. Ten year old Mu is sold by his great uncle to men intent on using Mu for their evil purposes. In a fast moving series of events Mu faces danger, an ever present evil enemy, the friendship and guidance of a chameleon called Tita, and the protection of a dog named Botu.

Masso’s bold pen and ink drawings add a new depth of meaning to Myhre’s delightful narrative, and creative word pictures. Picture ten year old Mu riding bareback across the “nearly four meters above the African grasslands,” or sleeping soundly, without fear, in an oversized deserted ant hill, with the howling of hyenas, and the snarling of a lioness, guarding her cubs in the background.

A compelling story, reminiscent of C. S. Lewis, insightful and compassionate full of hope in the midst of endangerment, an amazing story of miraculous provision sustenance and protection on each step of Mu’s quest.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Ology, by Marty Machowski – A Book Review


The Ology
By: Marty Machowski, Illustrated by Andy Mc Guire
New Growth Press 1301 Carolina Street, Suite L-101, Greensboro, NC 27401
978-1942572282, $ 28.99, 2015, 258 pages
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

A Resource Guide for Parents – Multilayered Teaching of Biblical Truths for All Ages

“The Ology” is filled with life changing; Biblically sound stories that will equip parents to introduce their family foundational theological truths on the subjects of: God, man, sin, promises of the law, Christ, the Holy Spirit, adoption into God’s family, the Church, end times, and God’s Word.

The scripture passages and commentary challenge the reader to go beyond a casual reading and help establish a lifelong habit of Bible study, search for truth, assimilation, and personal application.

A parental guide describes how this multilevel resource can be adapted to every age level, from early and upper elementary students, through teens and adults. I like the suggestions for using discussion questions, the different Bible study approaches and the use of journals for optimum effectiveness. Suggestions are also provided for techniques to develop Scripture memory. A glossary of important Bible words helps the reader understand and embrace their meaning.

The format, artwork, graphics, and quality paper all add to the enjoyment and sense of importance of the permanence and the truth of the message being illustrated.

“The Ology” is a work of art. Every member of the family should be provided their own individual copy and be encouraged to make it a permanent addition to their personal library.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Sentinel of the Seas by Dennis M. Powers – A Book Review


Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (5/07)

“Sentinel of the Seas” reads like a novel. Dennis Powers has written another classic masterpiece which chronicles man battling the sea. As in his earlier works “Treasure Ship” and “The Raging Sea,” Powers has thoroughly researched his work. He spent five years in preparation, searching archives, original journals, dairies, ship logs, Lighthouse Board Reports, and doing personal interviews of survivors, and their families. The lighthouse was built on St. George Reef which is one of the most hazardous reefs off the West Coast.

Powers recounts the history, engineering and construction of the lighthouse. He also explains the various lighting and sound warning devices used over the history of the lighthouse. Powers masterfully weaves into the record heroic stories of the men and women who designed, built, and maintained the St. George Reef Lighthouse from it’s completion in 1892 until it’s abandonment in 1975, and renewal in 2002.

“Sentinel of the Seas” heralds the career of Alexander Ballantyne, who supervised the project, as well as the careers of George Roux, and Fred Permenter the lighthouse keepers. Powers details the work of the “wickies,” lighthouse life, the history and the development of other U. S. lighthouses. He shows a deep appreciation for the courage the lighthouse keepers demonstrated in the midst of crashing waves, tumultuous storms, and hurricane force winds which they faced on a recurring basis.

Turnover among the personal was significant. Powers explained it this way: “This station was one of the least sought-after assignments in the service. Potential wickies had already heard what duty would be like on Dragon Rocks. It had earned its reputation.” I personally enjoyed the insight into the contrast between routine work and boredom of the assignment with hazardous way of life of the lighthouse keepers. Powers uses descriptive phrases that made me feel “the enveloping curtains of cold mists” or hear the “barks of the seals, cries of the seagulls, and the crashing surf.”

This is great adventure reading, brilliantly written. I highly recommend “Sentinel of the Seas” to everyone who loves epic adventure stories of the adventure of the sea, shipwreck, and nautical history.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for feview purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Rediscovering Discipleship – Making Jesus’ Final Words Our First Work


Rediscovering Discipleship – Making Jesus’ Final words Our First Work
By: Robby Gallaty
Zondervan
An Amazon Vine Review

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

A Refreshing Reminder of the Dynamics of Discipleship

In “Rediscovering Discipleship – Making Jesus’ Final words Our First Work” Dr. Robby Gallaty stresses putting a focus on knowing Jesus before the emphasis on ministry and service for Him. He introduces the model Jesus used in training his followers to be effective disciples..

The book is divided into two parts: Getting to Know Jesus and The Method of Making Disciples.

In Part I, Gallaty discusses the Jewish mindset to help the reader approach and understand their reading and understanding of the Bible in the Hebrew context. He then goes on to show how discipleship developed in the early church, receded and was later re-introduced through the influence of Augustine, Martin Luther, Richard Baxter, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley. He looks at more recent influences made by organizations outside the structure of the church, including Campus Crusades and the Navigators.

Gallaty advocates a small group setting for making disciples in what he dubs a “Mc Christian Culture.” I like the practical aspects of his approach. He covers the subjects of authority as a disciple maker, the goals, and the roadblocks you may face.

From the Introduction through to the final Appendix and chapter endnotes “Rediscovering Discipleship – Making Jesus’ Final words Our First Work” has an important message for the contemporary church, and for the individual Christian.

Legging It by Craig Clapper – A Book Review


Legging It – Life Lessons Learned Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail
By: Craig Clapper, AKA Hoosier
Xulon Press, 2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, Florida 32779
9781498418867, $ 14.99, 2014, 116 pages
Reviewed by: Richard R. Blake

Legging It – A Life Changing Pilgrimage

The Appalachian Trail begins at Springer Mountain, Georgia and ends at Mount Katahdin, Maine. Craig Clapper brings together for the reader three facets of life observed during his 2,186 mile Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hiking experience: the physical, mental, and spiritual.

In a logical progression Hoosier, Clapper’s trail name, carefully describes the topography of the trail, the climate, the scenic beauty, and the pitfalls and dangers along the way. He uses his keen power of observation to draw parallels from these unique experiences and shows how they mirror life and give insight into man’s personal quest to find purpose and meaning.

Hoosier devotes a full chapter to the benefits of “Traveling Tight – Traveling with Friends.” The community of hikers on the Appalachian Trail attest to the fact that the camaraderie and companionship developed along the trail is a driving force behind reaching Katahdin and attaining their goal of becoming a thru-hiker.

Photos taken of scenic markers and of fellow hikers add a significant dimension to Hoosier’s creative word pictures of these new friends; they include: Sparks, Caribou, Dovetail, Nickelodian, Rash, Punkin Pie, Mot, Joe the Hiker, Samson, and many others. Hoosier compares this to the bond of friendship of David and Jonathan described in the Old Testament.

I especially appreciated the emphasis of the final chapters: Traveling with the End in Sight – Staying Committed, and The Joy of Completion. After completing the journey the thru-hikers received certificates of completion. The author’s certificate is made out to “Hoosier, formerly known Craig Clapper.” Hoosier reminds the reader of a more important “Joy of Completion” for the Christian, that is when at the end of our journey we hear the words from Jesus, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

The Last Goodbye by Alfred M. Albers – A Book Review


The Last Goodbye

By: Alfred M. Albers

Infinity Publishing, 1094 New Dell Haven Street, Suite 100, West, Conshohocken, PA 19428, 978-1495808210, $ 26.95, 444 pages

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

Magic, Mystery, Illusion, Collusion, Crime, Murder, and Resolution

Within the first five pages of Alfred M. Albers “The Last Goodbye” I was hooked. I remembered then why I had become a fan of his unique writing skills, characterizations, and the memorable descriptions of New York City. I learned to appreciate his incredible plots and the challenge of matching wits with the remarkable John Michaels, magician extraordinaire.

Alber’s writing begins at a comfortable casual pace, but always moving the plot forward. He uses a realistic conversational dialog, this added to a genuine credibility and a strong cast of believable characters build an ever steady course of actions which introduce a complex storyline of suspense, mystery, police procedure, media frenzy, and hospital protocol. Whether magician’s myth, actual fact, or a creative imagination, the backstory of Louie Franklin is plausible and adds a new twist to an already multifaceted plot. This fast moving narrative style adds to the suspense and builds a sense of the risk and danger his protagonist, John Michaels is facing.

“The Last Goodbye” is must reading for amateur and professional magicians and illusionists as well as all their fans and “wantabe” magicians. Every magic shop in New York City should make sure to stock Alber’s books.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

 

Embracing the Wild in Your Dog by Bryan Bailey – A Book Review


Embracing the Wild in Your Dog

By: Bryan BaileyFast Pencil Inc., 307 Orchard City Drive, Suite 210, Campbell, Calif. 95008978-1619334712, $ 16.95, 174 pages

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

A Wonderful Combination of Story, Scientific Fact, and Guidelines to Understanding Your Dog

Bryan Bailey unlocks the key to trying to domestic the wolf in his book “Embracing the Wild in Your Dog.” He guides the reader on a journey that includes emotionally charged stories and well developed scientific fact.

Although there are many theories and methodologies that have been disputed for years, advance in scientific evidence show that today’s domestic dog is a direct descendant of the grey wolf. In consultation with dog owners as a professional trainer Bailey works on the premise that, a dog’s behavior is dominated by “instinct” passed down from the wolf. The dog is a modified wolf, not a human.

Bailey’s highly developed intuitive sensitivity and curiosity are the result of growing up in Alaska and as young man being mentored by Special Forces survival instructor. He writes from years of formal study and real life experiences in the field of wolves in their wild habitat, sled dogs in Alaska, his years as a K9 officer and as a training instructor. He is an advocate for taming the wild and teaching others to “embrace the wild in their dog.” His writing is articulate, authoritative, important and informative.

Bailey has given me a new appreciation for nature and especially for the wilds of the Alaskan frontier. As an extra “take away,” I was reminded of the importance of acceptance without judgment, and of the importance of always striving for personal and professional growth.

“Embracing the Wild in Your Dog” is an imperative read for every dog owner.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own

Along the Templar Trail by Brandon Wilson – A Book Review


Along the Templar Trail

By Brandon Wilson

Pilgrim’s Tales, Inc.

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

Seven Million Steps to Peace

“Along the Templar Trail” describes Brandon Wilson’s personal pilgrimage for self-exploration as well as an important journey for the cause of peace. Brandon has written and amazing account of a mission that took him from St. Jean de Losne, France to the city of Jerusalem, a distance of 2,620 walking miles.

Brandon’s descriptions are so vivid I could almost feel the pain of blisters forming on his feet as he walked. My back ached along with E’mile’s under the weight of his twenty-seven pound backpack. While tilting back in my recliner I escaped the torture of Brandon’s swollen feet and painful exposed blisters, as I loaded my Gregorian Chant CD’s in the player and lived vicariously the quest of two men traveling two continents on a pilgrimage for peace. I, too, entered the transcendent experience of the Baroque Chapel of the Benedictine Monastery at Beuron, Germany.

Brandon described his quiet contemplation and reflection along his walk this way: “Isolated, I wore the solitude like a comfortable cloak…a primeval sanctuary, the most holy of cathedrals…allowing retrospection and quiet contemplation…”

Although supportive of each other, Brandon and E’mile each faced their own personal quest. They had to individually confront their insecurities, the unknowns, the “what if” questions, the pains, limitations, and fears. Risk, danger, in-climate weather, and the challenge of physical endurance created an air of drama and suspense throughout the odyssey. As nerves became frazzled and patience wore thin the ongoing relationship between the two pilgrims was threatened.

I enjoyed the accounts of “angels” miraculously providing food, lodging, and encouragement at critical stages along the way. Engaging stories of generosity, and camaraderie, demonstrated the universal concern for peace among peoples of every ethnic group, culture, religion, and generation.

Word pictures depict Brandon’s subtle humor, even as these same words portray the reality of the drama of life. “The streets were patched together like an ugly, gray, communist quilt, rife with moth eaten holes. It had more bulges than a fat lady in Spandex. The corridor was strewn with trash, rotting animals, and those ever present plastic liter bottles.” In the midst of all this poverty Brandon experienced another side of life on those rare occasions when at the end of the day he shared meals and the hospitality of emphatic hosts. I enjoyed Brandon’s ongoing descriptions of ethnic cuisine and epicurean delights as well as his commentary of wine aficionados, and his connoisseur’s taste.

Invitations along the way for Brandon and E’mile to appear on TV through interviews reaching over 1,000,000 people demonstrate the power of one or two individuals to make a change when dedicated to a cause. Seed thoughts sown through the media coverage gave opportunity for prejudice to be challenged in hopes of producing needed change.

A gallery of photos depicting highlights of the journey, important monuments, buildings, and locales add a significant dimension to the book, especially for any who may want to consider their own pilgrimage along the Templar Trail as it becomes recognized as an International route for peace.

“Along the Templar Trail” is a timely, important book a must read for every American.  This is a step in fostering peace and eliminating the root cause of war. Thought provoking, engaging and inspirational, this is a great read.


Dead Men Don’t Leave Tips: Adventures X Africa

By Brandon Wilson

Publisher: Pilgrim’s Tales, Inc.  978-0977053650, $ 14.95, 2005, 280 pages

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake,

Africa, An Amazing Journey

Wilson’s acerbic humor and amusing antidotes relieve the personal tension that arises from twenty-three unlikely characters being thrown together for a five month journey into the heart of Africa. Brandon describes their truck transport as an “enormous overland Dutch oven.”

The author’s word pictures and phrases created images so real I felt I was present with him on the summit when he said, “Hundreds of feet above the Lilliputian village, impressive dunes stretched miles behind us, as far as eye could see. Down below a cluster of palms looked like tiny drink umbrellas poked into a sandbox.” At that moment I had a sense of the immensity of the Sahara desert.

Wilson’s flair for artistry is also revealed in the results of his “photo stalking”. Twenty pages of exquisite photos add another dimension to Wilson’s narrative and reveal the breathtaking beauty of Africa’s diverse scenic wonders. Other photos are of wildlife taken in the jungles of Africa. Prize photos portraying African natives endear the reader to the human side of this troubled continent in turmoil and transition.

Speed reading this book was out of the question. I did not want to miss a single word or nuance of meaning in Wilson’s steady flow of language magic.

Brandon Wilson is gifted with powers of observation and a rich command of language. I found his writing to be both moving and powerful. Extraordinary!

 

Over the Top and Back Again, by Brandon Wilson – A Book Review


Over the Top and Back Again, by Brandon Wilson
Pilgrim’s Tales, Inc. 978-0977053650, $ 14.95, 2010

Reviewed by: Richard R. Blake

Trieste to Monaco Over The Via Alpine Traila

As I read Brandon Wilson’s account in “Over the Top & Back Again” I enjoyed vicariously all the excitement, danger and adventure Brandon and his wife, Cheryl, experienced as they traversed a new hiking path called “The Via Alpine Trail.”

After experiencing what Brandon describes as “facing the scary sameness of so-called normal life” he was ready for a new challenge. Together the Wilson’s made the decision to downsize their belongings and to burn their bridges behind them to follow the alpine trail.

The Via Alpine Trail crosses eight countries and covers 200,000 square kilometers. The trail is made up of five tracks connecting existing long distance trails across the Alps. There are various stages and runs which sometimes intersect allowing hikers to explore a personal Alpine interest. The Wilson’s itinerary was planned around the goal to complete the trail from Trieste, Slovenia to Monaco in one five month season.

They soon discovered the difficulties confronting them. In spite of the dearth of good maps, disappearing trails, and harsh weather Brandon and Cheryl enjoyed Slovenia scenery, culture, and the promise of “Discovering the Alps” as they traversed parts of Italy, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France and Monaco.

Clever illustrations by Ken Plumb, accompany the helpful maps detailing the trek and spectacular photos that include: the “breathtaking grandeur” of the Alps, a “jaw dropping panorama,” the marmot and other wildlife, a refuge hut, and a unique reminder of the danger of a trek, “agony of de feet.”

Brandon has a gift for creating descriptive phrases that bring a scene to life. For example: a “breathtaking, heart throbbing climb.” Other graphic descriptions include colorful characters met along the way, “a crotchety fella” and “a grand mountain woman.” These descriptions compare the vast range of attitudes of refuge owners. He uses the heart to illustrate both sight and sound, “heart-stopping vistas” and “our hearts pounding a polka.”

I especially enjoyed the thought of solitude as found in a “magical sanctuary” or “a cathedral among the clouds” as the epitome of tranquility, contrasted with a storm where the “thunder boomed like cannon fire.”
I also appreciated Wilson’s careful attention to detail, his subtle sense of humor, candid approach, and spontaneity.

Throughout the entire trek made up of 350,591 feet of vertical climbs and descents across the Alps, the rain, the snowstorms, and death-defying dangers, Brandon and Cheryl, did not lose sight of their motive and the underlying joy that drove them to experience the adventure of breathing fresh air, the freedom to explore, daily measurable accomplishments, memorable views, personal peace, the companionship of community and reconnecting with nature.