2 Thumbs Up for “11.22.63”

11.22.63“11.22.63” by Stephen King

Summary: Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke… Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald.

Recommendation: Yes (in fact, if I could, I would give this book a dozen stars)

Review:

Not since “Bag of Bones” have I enjoyed a Stephen King novel as much as I have this one. In fact, I would say that this one may just tie with “Bag of Bones” as my top favorite book.

Touted as an alternate history/time travel novel (which is a genre I love), for me this book was more about the characters that peopled it. Stephen King’s understanding of human nature is obvious in the way his characters slip into your mind and your life. When I had to break from reading the book, I still thought about the characters; wondering what they might be doing at that moment, as if they were living human beings instead of just fictional characters.

If you’re looking for constant thrills and adventure that keep you on edge until the end of the book, this is not the book for you. While it has thrilling and edgier moments, it also has a lot of pathos, romance, and relationship building. This is a book about people caught up in situations that they want to capture, change, examine, or build. It isn’t a book about car chases, shoot outs, or winning the race; although, there are enough chases, spying, secrets, and edge-of-your-seat moments to keep you enthralled.

Overall, though, this is a book about people. To me, the core of the book was about the characters and the travails that forged their humanity. It is the Stephen King writing that I fell in love with way back at the beginning of his career. This is the magic that that I’ve always admired him for—the magic of writing real-life characters that are at times more real than the people we interact with on a daily basis.

If I could, I would give Mr. King a huge hug to thank him for giving us another of his marvelously peopled, and lovingly executed books. The ending may be bittersweet, but the book contains enough life lessons and thought-provoking insights to keep someone like me rereading it for years to come.

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A review of “The City of God: Transgressions”

cityofgod_bookcover“The City of God: Transgressions” by R.S. Ingermanson

Summary: Can history be changed? Three people are about to find out.

It’s A.D. 57 when Rivka Meyers walks out of the wormhole into a world she’s only studied in books. Ancient Jerusalem is awesome! Rivka can’t believe her friend Ari Kazan’s theory actually worked. But when she runs into Ari’s whacko colleague, Damien West, in the Temple, Rivka starts to smell a rat.

When Ari discovers that Damien and Rivka have gone through a wormhole that’s on the edge of collapse, he has to make a horrible choice: Follow them and risk never coming back — or lose the woman of his dreams forever

Recommendation: Yes

Review:

I love stories about history and time travel and this book covered both points quite well. While the science portion of the book wasn’t integrated as smoothly as I would have liked, it was expressed well enough to convince me that the premise of the story was possible.

I also wasn’t enamored with Ari, who was rather narrow in his outlook and beliefs. However, I realized that if I was wondering why Ari couldn’t be a bit more liberal, then the author had done a good job of creating this character. After all, we don’t get aggravated with characters that don’t seem real to us, do we?

Overall, I was quite pleased with this story. It had a strong female lead, which I found rather refreshing. She was, in many ways, very self-sufficient, yet her surroundings were so different from what she was used to that it led her to have to rely on others. However, her reliance wasn’t as a damsel in distress, but more of someone seeking directions in a strange, new land. And it was strange and new, even though it was also part of her past.

The small moment in history that the author chose to explore was one I had never given much thought to, and I was intrigued by his examination of it. I found his projection of the possibilities that could be spawned based on how this moment played out, compelling and interesting. It was a juxtaposition of Judaism and Christianity; the point at which Christianity could become unrealized or it could become what it has…one of the leading religions in the world. Given the backgrounds and biases of his main characters, it was the perfect backdrop. Would they help or hurt the outcome of history? Would their interference (unintentional or deliberate) skew our world into one totally different from what we know, or would they only be fulfilling what history had already said had happened?

Find out for yourself. Read the book…it’s really a great way to spend a weekend.

 

 

Book Review, With Apologies

“Stone of Fire” by J.F. Penn

Summary:  Forged in the fire and blood of martyrs, the Pentecost stones have been handed down through generations of Keepers who kept their power and locations secret.

The Keepers are being murdered, the stones stolen by those who would use them for evil in a world transformed by religious fundamentalism.

Oxford University psychologist Morgan Sierra is forced into the search when her sister and niece are held hostage. She is helped by Jake Timber from the mysterious ARKANE, a British government agency specializing in paranormal and religious experience. Morgan must risk her own life to save her family, but will she ultimately be betrayed?

Recommended:  No

Review:

I usually try very hard to find something good to say about every book I review; however, I found little to recommend about J.F. Penn’s “Stone of Fire” book. It’s free; the concept is interesting…did I mention that it’s free?

Despite all the hype that Ms. Penn issues regarding her novels, I was far from impressed with this book. The premise was interesting: stones from the Pentecost that might contain mystical powers. However, the writing was less than stellar…in fact, it was barely adequate.

During the first third of the book, the plot and story were so thin that the framework she was building for the book was easily visible. It was like sitting in the audience of an amateur drama and watching the actors mill around while the stage hands pushed and pulled the various sets around. The characters were undefined and unclear as was the plot and the story. Someone told her she needed to have something dramatic happen in chapters 1, 3 and 5, so she focused on making that occur, whether those occurrences worked within the framework she was struggling to build or not.

About mid-point, the author finally seemed to have figured out the plot and the story started to come together. Unfortunately, she still hadn’t defined her characters. In fact, they were so ill-defined that she couldn’t even keep the POV straight. A paragraph would start out with Morgan’s POV (the female protagonist) but end with Jake’s (the male protagonist). And if the author can’t tell one character from another, how are we, the readers, supposed to? The mixed POV’s continued throughout the rest of the book, leaving me distanced and struggling to care about these characters at all. The only character that the author seemed to know and understand, and that I enjoyed, was the clergyman, Ben. However, we only got his POV for about one chapter.

In the last third of the book, Ms. Penn seemed to have finally figured out the basics of storytelling; however, she still couldn’t seem to determine whose POV she was using as we drifted from head to head, sometimes even mid-sentence. The ending was as weak as the overall book was poorly written. And the author added an addendum, which was her way of “fixing” the story so that it could become a series.

Overall, I would give this story a half-star (if only for its original premise), but since that’s not allowed in Amazon or Goodreads, I will give it one star with the note that it is half a star too much.

Coming Soon

I know I often write about my dreams, but that’s because dreams are important to our lives…and because I know a lot about dreams (hence, the book On dreams and dream symbols). But while this post is about another of my (bizarre) dreams, it’s also about a series of events of which the dream was just the latest.

brokenmirrorfrontThe dream was about me being trapped in a mirror, one of those large cheval-type mirrors. I could see a rather spacious bathroom, all done in black and white tile with an old-fashioned claw foot tub. This same scene was reflected behind me in the mirror world, but I needed to get out of the mirror world or I would be late (late for what, I’m not sure). Frantic, I began beating on the glass hoping someone would come and help me. Instead, the glass broke apart and landed in the tub and I stepped out of the mirror world and into the tub containing the broken glass.

About a month ago, I attended a milestone birthday party for a friend. Her husband had hired a tarot reader to entertain everyone and predict their futures. My friend thought it was a wonderful extravagance, and encouraged each of us to sit with this reader. Being the skeptic that I am—I can’t help it; having the abilities myself makes me aware of just how often psychics-for-hire are merely entertainers looking for a payday—I kept avoiding the tarot reader. Eventually, my friend goaded me into it and I finally sat down and let the lady do her schtick. While she may have been in it for the money, she had enough intuitiveness to get many things right.tarot cards

I’ve used tarot cards before, and I can do my own interpretations of the layouts, so I didn’t need to rely on the tarot reader’s interpretation; although, her interpretations and mine were pretty spot on. But overall, it just seemed like another step along a path that I had started in my teen years.

When I was 18, a friend wanted to learn about palmistry, so she asked her pals to make copies of their palm prints. She took those palm prints and, using several books that she either bought or borrowed from the library, she began to translate all the lines, loops, and breaks into a series of “predictions”. When she finished, she gave us each back a copy of our palm print with her notes. I read it through, and then filed it away and forgot about it.

That is, I forgot about it until all of these other events started up.

palmAccording to my girlfriend’s notes, my Fate Line shows a complete break between two decades of my life (this decade and the next, in fact). When the Fate line restarts, it starts as a V, with 2 distinct paths. One of those paths is short-lived, the other lasts for several more decades.

The tarot cards indicated a major life changing event occurring soon (although with tarot cards there is no way to easily define “soon”).

And the dream…well, the dream says that I’m trying to break away from my current world view and adopt a new world view. I’m facing (or will be soon) some inner or worldly issue that will require my strengthening or changing aspects of my character in order to survive. Seeing broken glass or mirrors means a change in my life, and I will find that a situation will come to an abrupt and untimely end. Meanwhile, escaping from the mirror world and into the real world bathroom/bathtub indicates a need and desire to escape from overwhelming issues and for self-renewal.

So, what’s coming? I don’t know. But it seems as if all the warning signs are there and they’re all saying the same thing: 

Danger! Life Altering Event Ahead!

Do I have any idea what kind of changes are in store? Not a clue…but if it’s a windfall (like a winning lottery ticket), I’m ready (and waiting).

What would you do?

I saw a movie the other day that made me wonder what I would do in a similar situation. In the movie, a plane gets hijacked and the passengers know that they are going to die, so many of them use their cell phones to call their loved ones. It’s the various reactions they showed of those calling and those receiving the calls that got me thinking.

Some of those on the plane were stoic and realistic about what was coming, which just seemed to make it that much harder on the people they had phoned. Meanwhile, some of those who had been phoned refused to accept what they were hearing and kept insisting that everything would be fine, which made it hard on the callers who were trying to reconcile some open issues.

After watching this, I began to ponder what my reactions might be. What if I were on the plane, would I call my husband? (Of course, even if I did, he probably wouldn’t answer—he’s notorious for ignoring ringing phones;-) Being on the plane, I think I’d like to hear my husband’s voice one last time, take one last moment to tell him that I love him, and have some small touch of loving humanity with me at the end. However, from his perspective of being the one called, would it be cruel of me to involve him in my death like that? Make him listen to me as the plane crashed all the while he would know that he couldn’t do anything to help me, that he couldn’t do anything to stop the disaster?

I think back to when my mother died, and my father insisted that we (my brothers and myself) be in the hospital room with her. I’ve never forgotten that cruelty—because to me, it was a cruel thing to make me watch my mother’s death throes.

Sure, I now understand what all those authors meant when they used the term “death throes”, but I think I could have gone my whole life without observing it first hand. To sit there and watch someone struggle against death, yet knowing that they can’t win, is horrible. Sitting there, watching, and knowing you can’t do anything to ease their suffering, or to help them live or die is a horror that I hope no one reading this ever suffers.

And if that is how I would make my husband feel by calling him as my plane nose dived into the ground, then I would rather not call him. It doesn’t matter how much comfort I might get out of the phone call, if it causes him an equal amount (or more) of stress and upset.

And what about afterwards—once the plane is crashed, and I’m gone? Then I’ve left him with all that guilt, as he wonders if he should have said more, or less, or done something (even though there was nothing for him to do). So, no, I don’t think I would, or could, do that to my husband.

I think after watching that movie, I would only call him if I needed to reconcile something with him—maybe apologize for something. Even then, I think I would try to make him think I was only call to apologize, and hang up before anything really happened. Why leave him feeling any more horrible than he has to?

* * *

Now, let’s take it from the other side. What if I were the one on the ground and it was husband in the plane. Would I want him to call me? I think I would, but not so I could listen to him crash, but so that I could at least tell him I loved him one last time.

I think if he called and just said, “I love you”, so I could say “I love you, too”, that would be enough for me. However, I wouldn’t really want to hear the final moments of those on the plane. I think that would be much too much to deal with.

Of course the odds of this type of situation occurring for me or my husband are slim, considering my abilities to perceive things before they happen. I think if either of us were planning a trip without the other, I’d be able to tell whether there was danger—I always have been before 😉

But even so, it still makes you think doesn’t it? I mean, really—what would you do? Would you call or not? Would you want your husband, wife, daughter, son to call or not?

Peel back the shroud…

I think it’s about time that we brought death out of the coffin (so to speak). We need to pull back the shroud and take a good hard look at why it bothers us so much that most of us won’t even discuss it. When someone does occasionally bring up the topic, they do so in hushed voices, as if by speaking normally they may actually awaken some grim reaper from its stygian depths that will spirit them away into that frightening world of the unknown, that world into which all who are dead disappear.

What are we really so frightened of, anyway? After all, death is, in dictionary terms, the state of non-being. However, logic, common sense, science, and religion all tell us that there is no such state. They all say that although the physical form ceases to function, another part of us lives on; therefore, you can never not be.

That part of us that continues to exist is referred to by religion as the soul, the core, essence, the spirit, and the chi, and science calls it the psyche, the aura, a vibrational frequency, and a type of energy. Whatever name you give it, something of us remains once the body ceases to be. So, death is really just an altered state of being, a state in which matter ceases to function, but awareness continues.

So, while the physical presence of the person ceases to be, the true person lives on, just in a state of being that most of us refuse to recognize. (Yes, I said refuse. After all, we can choose to see beyond the boundaries of our physical world, but most of us do not because it would “ruin” the “dramas”, the “plays” we call life.) Therefore, while the person we knew and interacted with is no longer available to us, while we can no longer pick up a phone and call or text them, receive emails from them, or see their smiling face, they still exist.

But where do they exist? In what form do they exist? Why can’t we see them, hear them, interact with them?

Every culture, religion, family or tribe, has their own way of answering those questions—and sometimes even more than one answer. The Mayans believed that the underworld had nine layers and their version of heaven had 13 layers.

The Ancient Egyptians conceived of an afterlife as quite similar to normal physical existence — but with a difference. The model for this new existence was the journey of the Sun. At night the Sun descended into the Duat (the underworld). Eventually the Sun meets the body of the mummified Osiris, and Osiris and the Sun, re-energized by each other, rise to a new life for another day. For the deceased, their body and their tomb were their personal Osiris and a personal Duat. For this reason they were often addressed as “Osiris”. For this process to work, some sort of bodily preservation was required, to allow the Ba to return during the night, and to rise to a new life in the morning. However, the complete Akhu was also thought to appear as stars.

Today, the beliefs are as myriad as the stars above. Most Christians believe in some form of heaven (complete with angels, cherubs, heavenly choirs, and a long-bearded, robed man waiting at the entrance to a large golden gate) or hell (being either torridly hot or frigidly cold and containing pitch-forked laden, goat-eyed, horned and tailed half-men to provoke them).

While many who believe in Wicca, Buddhism, and other religions believe that at death the dying consciousness of the body moves to a new biological structure (usually another human body, but some believe that the consciousness can be reborn as animal) and continues their cycle of lives with little interruption. For them, an afterlife only occurs once all the levels of living have been completed.

For others, there is no afterlife at all. Life simply ends when the body dies, and that’s it. Still others believe that the afterlife is simply one-step removed from our own world, sharing the same space as our world, but not viewable (except by a few “chosen” who see and speak to spirits).

And just maybe that’s why we’re so frightened. There are so many possibilities, so many beliefs, that we don’t know what to think. We start second-guessing ourselves and wondering what’s real. Are our loved ones in heaven (or hell), or is that just a platitude that others tell us to comfort us during our bereavement? Do people really come back? Or are they just hanging around, just out of sight, waiting for us physicals to notice them (can you imagine just how crowded that would make their reality?).

So, then we start thinking that maybe we’re just fooling ourselves; maybe there really isn’t any kind of afterlife, after all. Well, considering we each create our own world, we could be “fooling” ourselves, but how would we know?

But just because we can’t get our minds around the type of world that could actually exist outside of our own, doesn’t mean that some type of afterlife doesn’t exist.

So why not talk about it. Let’s bring it out into the open. It’s not morbid, sick, frightening, or depressing. In fact, death is just another type of life waiting to be created and explored by each of us. So, rather than being frightened by the idea of death, try thinking of death as a vacation from life. (Of course, like all vacations, death also ends when you decide to take on a new life, in a new body, with a new family, and a whole new set of dramas to participate in.)

Achieving Oneness

Scientists conducting studies on monks and shaman who go into deep trances expected to come away with the insight of which areas of the brain were activated during these periods of heightened awareness. However, what they discovered instead was that no new areas of the brain were activated; instead, the spatial awareness section of the brain was inactive—totally dark and unused.

What does that mean? It means that when someone states that they felt at one with the universe, they very well may have been. Without the spatial awareness section in our brains functioning, we have no way to distinguish between what is us and what is someone else. We also do not recognize physical locations. In other words, there are no boundaries. We literally see everything as one large, connected energy, and not as individuals. There is no longer a feeling of place and time or you and me.

It’s what the spiritually enlightened have been saying all along—our feelings of separateness and aloneness are self-created and self-perpetuated. We establish the boundaries and lock them into a portion of our brain where we can reference them whenever we feel a need to re-establish ourselves in our reality. However, if we were to stop referencing them, make them inactive, then we would see and experience the world from a totally different perspective, one of universal oneness.

Some people are only able to stop referencing part of this section of their brains. Those that can stop referring to their internal GPS (their spatial locator, which positions them within a specific location in the physical world) can then more easily do remote viewing or have out of body experiences.

Releasing the internal barrier that helps you recognize the difference between self and others is what allows some people to “read” others, to see them clearly. This is because with this particular barrier released, they are able to see the other person as if they were the other person. Without personal internal boundaries you can actually shift your perception to include anyone and everyone if you want to.

The more of this barrier that you release, the more universally is your perception of others, until you completely shut it down, and then you can widen your perception to be everywhere and include everyone, even those energies not recognized by us because they have no particular physical form. Imagine being able to perceive and accept everything—all animals, all peoples, all of nature. Imagine how much more aware we’d be of the damage we do every day by tossing out a gum wrapper or stepping on an ant hill?

If even just a small portion of us adopted this attitude, this skill every day, we would eventually have to stop with the campaigns that say “Save the Planet”, because it would come naturally to us. After all, if we saw the planet as one with ourselves, then we would never pollute; it would be too much like forcing ourselves to drink the toxins that spew from the factories, or eat the refuse that we dump into the landfills every day.

And if we could release that portion of our brains that keeps us separate from everyone else, just think how little crime there would be. How could you kill or maim someone, when you see, feel, and perceive that person just as clearly as you perceive yourself?

Wow, maybe there is a way to create a utopia, but, of course, we would all have to learn to shut down the spatial awareness sections of our brains first. But to me, that sounds exceedingly intriguing. Anyone want to try with me?