Spirit Raiders by Savio Dawson

Savio Dawson presents a close encounter of a different kind in his debut sci-fi.

En route to meet up with a friend in Dallas’ Highland Park, Mark’s trip is starkly interrupted when he comes face-to-face with aliens — and we’re not talking about illegals here that a Wall could stop.

The odd-looking creatures take off in their spaceship shortly after touching Mark’s eyes with a pen-like tool, which leaves him with distinctive blue eyes. The next thing Mark knows, he is in the hospital.

Next enter Alain and Anita, two representatives from XTRA-T, an agency specializing in this kind of thing. Questioning Mark about his alien encounter goes nowhere when they discover that the FBI got to him first.

Although Alain and Anita’s meeting with him in the hospital is a bit rocky and Anita thinks that Mark is an old grump, she is nonetheless attracted to him. More surprisingly, after a few interactions, Mark does invite her to dinner. As Anita is excited to gather information about his run-in with the aliens, she agrees.

Mark and Anita hit it off. Toward the end of the evening, Mark shares his real story.

Although she wants to help him in every way possible, his reason for sharing the truth is so that Anita will back off from getting involved. With a nervous smile, Mark says, “I mean, I don’t want you to be hurt in any manner. I am an extremely dangerous person to be around, you know…I attract the wrong kind of people, many from outside this world.”

Maybe Mark IS an extremely dangerous person, especially when word gets out of the FBI colonel’s disappearance…

Dawson’s first attempt at story writing is both fascinating and unique. He spends a considerable amount of his narrative on conspiracy theories involving the government’s meddling in alien activity over the years—which includes a whole array of technology used to detect all things extraterrestrial.

We were left wondering, however, where the story might have gone with more attention to the love angle. Perhaps a sequel is in order.

Of particular interest in this book—especially to extraterrestrial aficionados—Dawson closes with a robust reference list, much of which includes hyperlinks for those who want still more info on ETs. A bonus, to be sure.

Four stars to Spirit Raiders. It weaves a compelling tale about our place merely as citizens of a much greater galaxy.

Amazon Link

People of The Sea by Jack Dempsey

Author Jack Dempsey provides a different perspective on The Promised Land in his latest novel.

“Look your family in the eyes, and say

why, in this fight before us,

your courage will endure your blood upon a blade—

why moon and sun shall see

an end of wandering, people of the sea.”

A perfect sequel to his 1996 work, Ariadne’s Brother: A Novel on the Fall of Bronze Age Crete, Dempsey’s People of the Sea opens with a rather lengthy prologue called “Out of Djahi.”

Dempsey sets the tenor of his narrative with first-person accounts using fictionalized names. The prologue’s stories articulate, for the first time, why each tribe of Sea Peoples—who for the most part lived in peace and worshipped Mother Earth—will join in the actual great attack (c. 1177 BCE) on the powerful but fading Egyptian empire under Pharaoh Ramses III.

For Bible and ancient history buffs, this prologue alone should be eye-opening, since the Sea Peoples were the original Palestinians, or in Bible terms, “Philistines.” The Old Testament depicts the Philistines as nothing but a brutish pagan group that had to be annihilated. Dempsey paints a different picture.

Dempsey groups his plot into three sections, continuing in first person narrative, but this time using an old Minoan priest-chief as narrator. He tells of various factors (i.e., volcanic eruption, battles, brutal occupation) that lead not only to the destruction of Minoan Knossos—considered the oldest European city—but also to the determination of a people to survive oppression and build proud lives again.

Readers may find themselves adjusting to Dempsey’s writing style from the get-go. Very atypical of work of ancient history, Dempsey has chosen a different design that may seem format-free: “free verse” that evokes these peoples’ love of music and ceremony, dialogue free of quotation marks that reduces the sense of authorial intrusion, and storytelling free of periods between paragraphs—as, for the Sea Peoples, one reality or point of view keeps melting into another.

Dempsey’s attempt through his lilting narrative to capture the heart of peoples who have been significantly misunderstood and mislabeled is spot-on. Indeed,while he does not identify ancient Philistines with modern Arabs, this represents the foundational first episode of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—driven by a wish to “separate” from other peoples and so become exclusive heirs to a multicultural land.

“Based on new archaeology and multicultural myth,” People of the Sea takes readers through fascinating adventures that change our perspective on the ethnocentric and damning Old Testament accounts. They also lead to discoveries of a new old world—in the hope of recovering buried memories “of our real archaeological ancestors, with their long-successful human ways of life.”

Dempsey’s latest may not garner broad reader appeal, but for those who want to understand the humanizing heritage hidden behind a wall of long-standing tradition, look no further than People of the Sea.

Amazon Link

Mario Cuomo: Remembrances of a Remarkable Man by William O’Shaughnessy

An unlikely connection turns into a thirty-eight-year-long friendship in O’Shaughnessy’s memorial tribute to Mario Cuomo (1932-2015).

What is the probability of a self-styled “Rockefeller Republican” and a liberal Democratic icon “with too many vowels in his name” becoming the best of friends? Most likely on the low side of the spectrum. But when O’Shaughnessy—“one of the best-known broadcasters in the nation”—interviews Cuomo for the first time in 1977, something genuine clicks between them.

Two years have passed since the death of Mario Cuomo. Not a day goes by that William O’Shaughnessy (known to Mario as “Brother Bill”) doesn’t think of his close friend, and thus, his necessity to create this memoir.

O’Shaughnessy does not follow the typical format found in political memoirs, such as everything…well, political—career, news events, issues, bills, and the list goes on. O’Shaughnessy’s memoir is more of a love letter wrapped into an elaborate scrapbook.

Capturing meaningful snippets of Cuomo’s life, O’Shaughnessy touches lightly on Cuomo’s significant political achievements while spending the bulk of his engaging work on his friend’s contemplative side—starting with Cuomo’s background. A child of immigrants and the son of a Queens greengrocer who dreamed big, Cuomo never forgot the “little man” during the time he served as secretary, lieutenant governor, and three-term governor in his home state of New York.

This concept of “never forgetting the ‘little man’” is the driving theme of O’Shaughnessy’s memoir. O’Shaughnessy, who identifies Cuomo as a gentle person who never forgot his roots and always upheld the underdog, states that Cuomo pleaded “with the American people to see the poor and disenfranchised not as failures and losers, but fellow citizens.” He saw American immigrants, both then and now, not as a “melting pot” but as a “mosaic.”

Cuomo chose his words wisely, using his speeches “to inspire, to probe, to critique, and to provoke.” O’Shaughnessy includes an array of full orations so readers can experience the power of this iconic wordsmith. A spiritual man who had many favorites from whom he loved to quote, Cuomo spoke of the meaning of life and the purpose of our existence, frequently referring to the word “sweetness” to describe people and things.

Cuomo was also not afraid of addressing the media. Always up for a challenging debate, Cuomo was a frequent guest on O’Shaughnessy’s WVOX radio talk show. O’Shaughnessy dedicates a chapter to these interviews as well as one on Cuomo’s comedic moments, since he had an amazing ability to find room for a laugh or two amid discussions on hard issues.

A tribute back to you, Bill, for a job well done from your dearly departed friend Cuomo: “He understands life, he understands love, and he knows how to portray it.”

Truly a work of love, Mario Cuomo: Remembrances of a Remarkable Man is nothing less than inspiring.

Amazon Link

Why Does Government Need to be Funded?: In America Today, it Doesn’t by Amphidromus

What if, in a near-future America, the government existed without any support from taxation?

What if we went back to the original precept of individual liberty laid down by our founding fathers—who would not, by the way, recognize the governing body that now sprawls and intrudes into so many aspects of our lives?

Would we have chaos, brought on by a sort of leaderless paralysis created by thousands of departing bureaucrats? Or would we finally have the kind of society in which comfortable complacency could safely be allowed, free from the incessant threat of ideology?

Are these simply so many rhetorical questions? Not at all. The roadmap to such a sea-change can be found by reading this erudite little book, written with great care and deep insights by first-time author Amphidromus.

(The real author decided on using a Greek pen name to set a tone that, he says, “is intended to connote a relaxed zone in an otherwise turbulent place.”)

That’s good to know as we set off on his far-ranging journey that covers so much more than his provocative title suggests. In fact, a word of caution is called for before we begin. I’m just a humble book reviewer, and not at all sure I’m really smart enough to fully comprehend all the author has to say here.

You will use brain cells that haven’t seen a real workout since your college philosophy classes, so be forewarned. That said, grab your thesaurus and let’s dive in

In a nutshell, the author waxes eloquent on how we got to this point as a nation, controlled by a big and bloated governmental entity, actually operating against the harmonious cosmic forces that define our deeper reality (the author says tenets of Taoism are present in the solutions he provides).

Then, in a carefully constructed series of mini-essays, he explains what can be done to right the ship and resume control of our country and our lives.

This would also include repairing so-called “defects of rationality” that he says are inherent in capitalism. In addition, he asserts, this would also allow improved social justice, while actually enhancing free-market activities.

In this book, he touches on the following concepts and topics:

Money at the Level of Being — a very useful discussion of how money and wealth are separate and distinct concepts. When the concept of money is allowed to naturally progress in advanced, modern economies, he says, money actually becomes an integral part of government—which changes (almost) everything. The need to actually fund government simply disappears, he goes on to say, while the value of the currency is “assured by virtue of underlying wealth creation.”

“Wealth comes before money,” he says. “Money is imbued with value by being exchangeable for wealth.”

The Great Antinomy — a chapter in which the perceived need for an economy with top-down control, in pursuit of social justice, is examined in some depth.

The Politics of Deep Reality — a remarkable exposition that touches on God, nihilism, and how different kinds of consciousness can look at the exact same thing, and perceive it in different ways. But, most of all, we learn how modern science reveals the exquisite fine tuning of our universe, leading to a logical conclusion of divine order.

The Structural Flaws of Capitalism – an investigation into true “defects of rationality” inherent in capitalism, but to which apologists for this economic model remain blind, mostly because under our present organizing principles no alternatives can be found. But, this is also a stirring look at the unholy institution of slavery through time, and how a not-so-free capitalist market may yet give rise to victorious insurrection and therefore Apocalypse.

A True Market, Real Government — a startling discussion of (1) true, enduringly reliable, universal market forces, (2) how the original purpose of government was not to improve “human felicity and flourishing,” but to collect tribute and taxation, and (3) how and why this author’s concepts could actually enhance underlying workforce motivation, and resultant market drivers. “We are increasingly ruled, not governed,” the author asserts. “The trajectory is toward tyranny.”

Removing the Levers of Power — here is where Amphidromus really hits his stride, describing the actually unconstitutional threat of judicial review, how other sources of unaccountable decision-making can be removed, and how abusers of power — including the President – can and should be removed from office, “in handcuffs, if necessary.”

Implementation: Perfect Money Applied — finally, the author wraps up with a vigorous recipe for proper distribution of America’s wealth through augmented payments to the rank and file. This would not just result in augmentation of wages — but in a vastly simplified, integrated system of payments that could simultaneously be supported by big-money interests and the workers who make the whole system function. Through application of his proposed reforms, Amphidromus insists that “Leviathan would be forever laid to rest at the grassroots level.”

Five-plus stars to the author and his ambitious and thought-provoking work of very nearly anarchical nonfiction. (He points out how the left and anarchists too have forever been “sniffing around the right bush,” but have been prevented by their own natures from ever “finding the prize”).

If you’re fed up with Big Brother sticking its ubiquitous nose into your business at every turn, and reordering your life with frivolous legislation and whimsical executive orders that actually suffocate what the author repeatedly refers to as “fulsome wealth creation,” give this book some serious scrutiny.

Amazon Link

From Anaphylaxis to Buttercream by Holli Bassin

Tired of hearing condescending platitudes from your pediatrician, pooh-poohing your concerns about your child’s suspected food allergies? Well, here’s a book that will validate your instincts when it comes to what’s best for your young one.

Holli Bassin hasn’t always been the confident, knowledgeable person that she is today. Early on, she suffered anxieties as her precious baby girl Rachel swelled up and developed hives and severe eczema from — what? She didn’t know, and her pediatrician wasn’t much help.

Finally, she effectively fired him, switched doctors, and began getting to the bottom of the mysterious attacks that, at one frightening moment, sent her child to the hospital in anaphylactic shock.

This excellent, well-written account of Rachel’s carefully shepherded journey from a childhood where she couldn’t even eat her own birthday cake, to her current enjoyment of just about any kind of treat, is filled with inspiration and information aplenty for Moms currently going through the hit-or-miss process of what might be safe to feed their children.

Bassin takes the reader through a well-documented — yet eminently readable — account of Rachel’s early years, and then documents how, through a process known as systematic desensitization, the young girl blossoms into a normal, healthy pre-teen who can eat — well, just about anything.

This would not have been possible, Bassin points out, without the groundbreaking allergen therapy provided by a woman known throughout the book simply as Alexis — a naturopathic, professional nutritionist, health coach and advanced level practitioner of an allergy elimination technique that marries Western techniques such as systematic desensitization with Eastern techniques known as “energy medicine.”

It’s a long-haul treatment protocol that, Bassin emphasizes, should not be undertaken without strict supervision. However, with proper oversight and diligent adherence to a plan that — among other elements — includes eating measured portions from formerly forbidden food groups — a person can truly go — as the title of the book suggests — from anaphylaxis to buttercream, and to living a totally normal life.

Make no mistake. This is a deceptively serious and well-documented work, featuring copious references to both scholarly and popular articles and clinical studies on this subject the author knows so well — from firsthand experience as a vigilant caregiver and as a professional Integrative Nutritional Health Coach.

But it’s written in the light and helpful tone of a gentle and concerned friend, dispensing knowledge and hope over a cozy cup of coffee.

“Food allergies have increased dramatically among children in the last fifteen years,” says Bassin, “more than fifty percent between 1997 and 2011.” She is citing a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the statistic is at once startling and troubling.

She lays much of the blame at the feet of the food industry which has, she asserts, “cut corners,” choosing profits over our well-being. Nevertheless,  she says there is hope for children afflicted with food allergies as parents become more empowered to get the upper hand through nontraditional programs like the one that has transformed Rachel.

Still, Bassin cautions readers not to go it alone in trying to fix food allergies in their own kids. Only through a carefully constructed protocol and regimen overseen by a fully qualified nutritional health coach can a child be desensitized over time using the methodology so painstakingly described in this book.

Rachel now is a healthy, normal teen who can go out with friends or host a sleepover, consuming large quantities of Cherry Garcia and even loaded-down pizza from one of the national chains.

It’s a far cry from the delicate — and dangerous — condition she was forced by allergies to endure in her early years, when even going off to summer camp caused major anxiety for Bassin.

Five stars to From Anaphylaxis to Buttercream. It’s a frank and thoroughly documented read, jam-packed with wonderful information and inspiration for any parent currently coping with their kids’ food allergies. Buy it today!

Amazon Link

Life… A Fickle Mistress by Timothy Patrick

In Timothy Patrick’s autobiography  Life…A Fickle Mistress, we learn that whatever bad things get thrown at you, things can always get worse. For Timothy, this mantra is terribly real.

During his childhood, his real parents abandon him. Then, just as he’s settling into his new residence, with foster parents who really seem to care about him, he is shuffled unceremoniously and very much against his will, to a new home, with a well-to-do couple living on a golf course. Should be good news, right? Nope.

The father is abusive and the mother is clueless, leaving Timothy to cope with his bad-news brother,  always high on drugs and blaming everything on Timothy. And, since Tim figures he doesn’t have much to lose, he begins unlawful activities himself, winding up in county jail.

That teaches him a lesson, though, and he vows he will never go back. Instead, he goes straight — but into a series of dead-end jobs and failed relationships. At one point he is kissed off royally by an ex-girlfriend he wronged in high school. The scene points up just how pathetic his life has become up to that point.

But some stories have a way of taking a happy turn. Timothy meets and marries a lovely young girl, and he recounts, in vivid detail, the wedding preparations and the event itself, right down to the fairy tale honeymoon in Las Vegas, Disneyland and, finally, Lake Tahoe, at a picturesque cabin in the snow. What could be more perfect, or happen to a nicer guy?

Does the future wind up all sunshine and roses for Timothy? Or does life once again intervene and kick him to the curb?

At one point, he becomes reflective and even profound. “Everyone has a heavy heart at one point in their life, and if they say no, then they are lying…I’ve always heard people say that life is a learning event. I can agree…”

Certainly, in this first-person, stream-of-consciousness narrative, Timothy relays more than anyone’s fair share of drama, angst and hard life-lessons. But through it all, he views his lot mostly with the glass half-full, a testament to his growing maturity.

Four stars to this ambitious journal. It’s an absorbing read for anyone who wants to cheer for a lovable underdog just trying to make his way in the wide, wide world.

Amazon Link

End of Knighthood Part I: The Chess Pieces (Reverence Book 2) by Joshua Landeros

The Borgs are back in this absorbing first installment of author Joshua Aaron Landeros’ much-anticipated sequel to his debut SciFi thriller Reverence.

Early in the book, Chancellor Venloran pays tribute to UNR troopers Valerie Iglesias and Luis Viramontes before a packed pavilion honoring those who fought — and died — to make the ruthless new megapower a reality.

“The cost of insurrection is always tragedy,” Venloran intones.

His words prove prophetic as subsequent events spiral into still more action and intrigue — definitely the author’s strong suit. Jacob, Miles, Angela, Victor and Neal are a close-knit cadre of cadets at the academy, where training includes dealing out death to dissidents by firing squad.

Not everyone can handle the brutal executions, though, and Miles is sent to a Correctional Unit for failing to kill a preteen girl who stood trembling before him, waiting for the bullet that never left his weapon..

It’s indicative of the cracks beginning to appear in the UNR facade of unity, and the Chancellor must become ever more vigilant as even the cyborgs who are key to enforcing UNR absolute rule begin to show signs of siding with a small but ever-growing dissidence.

As the story progresses, one cyborg in particular goes rogue and must be hunted down like a rabid dog. Except this dog is ready to bite more than its former master’s hand. His pre-cyborg name was Will, and his quest for justice — for true independence from Venloran and the ever-reaching tentacles of the oppressive UNR — is single-minded and relentless.

Even his good friend and fellow cyborg Luis fell to the long sabre hung at his side. It was a deed for which Will remains deeply sorry, as he explains one day to Luis’ only daughter, Alyssa.

Meanwhile, super soldier Mari kicks ass in a rebel takedown, wondering as she does so about the righteousness of her vicious actions. She’s not the first SSC unit that’s contemplated her orders to kill and maim the UNR’s puny opposition forces.

But now there’s more at stake, as Venloran — a complex character who often rises above the two-dimensional cutout reserved for most megalomaniacal villains — is constructing a world summit that will once again make the venerable United Nations organization relevant.

Driving through a run-down stretch of Chicago one day, he turns morose. “I’m sorry,” he says to his wife. “it’s just… sometimes I worry I might lose. If I do, things will only decay even more.”

“‘Sorry? Worry?'” These are not words you hear from the lips of many all-powerful world leaders. But it’s just one more layer to a decidedly flawed and human player in Landeros’ complex plot.

And then there’s Super Soldier 37. Mari is hard-wired to save the world personally, yet it’s her personal demons that often get in the way. Raised by an obsessive Catholic mother, she typifies the reason why some units are being recalled for “modification” by UNR biomechanics. And even though her military training forces her to comply when it comes her turn to submit, the order nevertheless bothers her. A lot.

Strange behavior indeed for a being engineered to fight and kill without remorse of any kind. The perfect soldier in this intriguing intro to the Reverence sequel is, in fact, imperfect. And that’s what makes the entire book’s concept so appealing.

Go ahead. Get hooked on this carefully constructed series of novelettes that, together, will complete the next segment of the saga. You’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose — except, perhaps, some sleep as you go with Will and the other freedom fighters to their next meticulously choreographed fight scene.

With this diverse cast of characters, you truly will wonder who the bad guys really are.

Amazon Link