A life story told alongside life lessons…
Grandma’s Secret Blessings: A Memoir with a Twist, is a deeply personal and dramatic-memoir. It tells the story of Yianni’s life, family, troubles, and successes. Told from a mix of first and third-person viewpoints, it gives an interesting perspective on how a person develops character. Central to the book’s theme are the secret blessings, which are a collection of inspirational messages, trans-cultural personal instructions, and existential aspirations. The book also has a number of lessons passed down by Yianni’s grandmother from the Greek oral tradition.
Yianni and his family are Greek in origin, and as such, they share a long history involving the oral transmission of stories. Over history, folk tales and legends were often performed by storytellers in front of audiences, including young children and even grown children, such as Yianni. This culture is present in the story as Yianni learns of his family history, reaching clear back to great-great-grandparents. This family history has personal ties back to Greece and Albania, much of it during a time of serious political and economic turmoil. Of course, those history lessons passed down to Yianni are also infused with Grandma’s life lessons for Yianni. This is all interspersed with Yianni’s own personal history, along with description for the way that these stories and lessons helped him.
There are more than ten of grandma’s secret blessings, many of which existing in some form in many different cultures and languages. However, what makes the lessons particularly powerful is that in Yianni’s experience with his abusive father, Yianni explains that, “…it’s the only way to close the gaping hole in my heart.” Many of these secret blessings are a blessing in that they are a form of grace, protection, or favor for Yianni. “You are the captain of your own ship,” as an example, explains for Yianni that no matter what tosses you around and what terrible things may befall you, you still have control in your own life and life choices. This is how the book is a memoir “with a twist.”
Grandma’s Secret Blessings is not perfect in its presentation. For example, there are a number of typographical and grammatical errors, as well as punctuation mistakes that are distracting. However, these generally do not detract from the message and central themes of the story. In a way, it conveys the very essence of that oral tradition, which is sometimes imperfect and lost in translation.
Grandma’s Secret Blessings is intended for adult audiences. There are depictions of child and intimate partner abuse, discussions of sexuality and sexual behavior, and alcohol and drug abuse. These depictions are realistic in nature, contributing to the overall feel of the book and its weighty emotionality. Overall, even with the copy-editing errors, Grandma’s Secret Blessings is a good read for those looking for emotional and inspirational literature.
Pages: 364 | ASIN: B077PLR98B
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The Raid on Troy, written by Murray Lee Eiland JR, is the seventh book in the Orfeo Saga. It follows two brothers, Memnon and Menas as they rise to power from the chains of slavery. Determined to taste the gold of Troy, the brothers assemble their lives so they are in a position of power to take the city. Telemon is drawn into the plans after a prophecy about the kidnapping of his daughter Elena is fulfilled. The battle lines are drawn as each player in the war game draws their sharpest weapons and assembles their greatest armies to fulfill their own dreams and desires.
This epic adventure begins with a slave boy Memnon attempting to escape the perils of slavery caused by an early capture from the Therans. Memnon’s previous family life is all but a distant memory and for now, all he knows is slavery and hierarchies of power. The brutality that he has experienced in his life has meant that kindness has seeped away from his soul, leaving a dangerous man with nothing left to lose. He is inherently a leader who fearlessly takes control of perilous situations. This allows him to develop a following of men who are eager to drop the chains of slavery too. Together they begin to rebuild their lives, raiding villages and meeting with bandits who help them acquire food and weapons.
Menas, Memnon’s brother, is also an escaped slave and eager to live a life beyond being a pawn of the Therans. Menas soon involves himself with the Spartans, where he becomes a “fixture in the local politics of Sparta”. The two brothers rise to power in an epic tale of action, revenge, lust, and influence. You will admire their ability to rise to power and success as they take what they believe is rightfully theirs, having no mercy for those who dare to cross them.
The Raid on Troy has several storylines that are interweaving together as you progress through the novel. We have Orfeo who enters the plot line as an admirable and successful leader who has a beautiful wife Clarice, Telemon and Estra with their daughter Elena and the brothers Menas and Memnon who all take the leading roles in this twist of Greek mythology. There are similar aspects to the traditional mythology story, however, Murray Lee Eiland JR curates this version to be an almost historical version of events, leaving the reader to feel connected to the characters and the plot line.
Murray Lee Eiland JR writes with a legendary force that will have the reader engaged from start to finish. The chapters are short and fast-paced, allowing the plot line to develop quickly whilst covering vast amounts of time. However, there is still an incredible transformation in the character development as you watch the characters grow in both power and ambition. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys an epic battle mixed with the rise of power and fortune.
Pages: 300 | ASIN: B06ZYK6M2Z
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On a trade visit to Malta, Orfeo – in line to the throne of Pylos – is kidnapped by mysterious strangers. The net is spread far and wide, with heroes from all over the Aegean joining forces in the quest to find the lost prince.
Is Orfeo in danger, though? His captors seem to have strange motives, what exactly do they see him as? A prince, a prophet, a political pawn, or something more? Only one thing is for certain, nothing is as it appears on the surface, and Orfeo must keep his wits about him. This wonderful work of historical fiction will amaze and engage you in equal measures.
With The Wanderer’s Last Journey, Murray Lee Eiland Jr. has woven an astounding and complex tapestry. It has all the makings of a classic fantasy epic, as the rich and evocative world he creates is as intriguing as it is intricate, whilst the narrative constantly keeps us on our toes. Eiland Jr. clearly has an eye for important details, as his simple use of language is restrained and mannered. He writes much like any of the great classical fantasy writers, with simplistic, well-constructed sentences forming the framework for a complex and sprawling narrative. Where he does choose to go into detailed description, he paints for us a clear and colourful picture. The milieu of The Wanderer’s Last Journey, whilst mostly serving as a stage on which to set the players, is perhaps one if the novel’s most astonishing features. This mythical, magical Mediterranean is exotic and enticing, and we are left wanting to learn more about it. As the story expands and speeds towards its thrilling crescendo, its setting is left unexpanded, and one wonder’s whether the novel might have benefited from going into greater detail in this regard. In many ways it is unfamiliar from the Ancient Greece we know and are familiar with, yet it verges upon Virgil and Homer. The Iliad is an obvious reference, and Eiland Jr.’s love of this period is clear on the page.
This novel sets Eiland Jr out as an author of great scope and intention, however one who isn’t afraid to create a world of great depth and complexities. He cleverly weaves multiple storylines and, for the most part, manages to keep on top of this, and keeps all the strands of his stories working together. There are moments, though, where the machinations of the plot seem to get the better of him. The action tends to flit between one character’s perspective and another’s, and whilst this serves to provide us with a huge wealth of storyline, it occasionally distracts from it. It also means, at points, that we aren’t given long enough in each character’s story to form an emotional bond with them, and we are left wondering who exactly our protagonist is. This is perhaps to be expected, though, with a story so vast, and one with so many strands, and for the most part The Wanderer’s Last Journey works well as a rich, entertaining fantasy epic.
Pages: 237 | ASIN: B018RHOIRI
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Zurga’s Fire takes place in historical Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean and is broken up into four books filled with short tales of adventure. What was the inspiration for this third book in the Orfeo Saga?
The fictional universe laid out by Tolkien in Lord of the Rings was probably the series that got me thinking along the lines of an extended saga. I liked the way Tolkien used ancient sources to create heroic fiction. At the same time I wanted to be more historical like Robert Graves and his series I, Claudius. I wanted to write something that would not be fantastic, and which would not re-tread well known history. The Bronze Age offered scope to speculate. There are few written sources, but what there is offers scope to invent characters and place them in historical context.
Zurga’s Fire introduces the issue of nomads and how they impact civilization. I had been researching nomads for my other interest, Oriental carpets. Nomads were very effective warriors, and they could overwhelm sedentary societies. They did have one weakness, and that was leadership. Every group from that lead by Attila to Ghengis Khan eventually fell apart. A charismatic leader is essential for nomads. In Zurga’s Fire the leader of the nomads is eventually undone not so much by a face to face challenge, but by a crisis in leadership.
Why did you go with the format of short stories told as a collection?
This is a very good question. I really did not think about the format before I started writing the series. I wrote many short stories over a period of years that were never published. Looking back that was probably a good thing. I always liked reading short stories. I think I have a short attention span. The result is that I am quite comfortable writing short stories and I have structured my Orfeo Saga that way too. Many books in the Orfeo Saga are made up of two different stories which are divided into books. In contrast my other series about a Los Angeles based private eye (the Bart Northcote series) are entire novels.
I felt that the characters in this book were complex and well thought out. What was your favorite character to write for?
I think that the character I had the most fondness for was “Zurga.” I gave him a rather ridiculous name because the character went by many names. This name suggests that you cannot take the character seriously. Zurga likes to deceive people as to his true intentions, as well as build up a mythology around himself. Zurga realized early on that he would not be fully accepted. No one would ever select him as a leader. In contrast his protege Orfeo can become a leader. Again I was well aware of Orpheus in the Greek pantheon. While Orpheus was a gifted lute player, he is also credited introducing civilization to savages. My Orfeo character has some similarities with Orpheus, but I have taken all supernatural elements away.
I think of Zurga’s Fire as a historical adventure tale. Did you do any research to keep the setting and characters true?
I studied ancient and modern nomads for years. I read about them, their social structure, history, and particularly art. Many of my research trips were to see nomads making textiles, particularly Turkish speaking people. I knew that for the Bronze Age there were not good historical sources, so I filled in the blanks with what I understood from more modern nomadic groups. I tried to capture their lifestyle in the novel, without going into the nuts and bolts of their society. The interesting thing is that the Greeks had recently settled by the Bronze Age. In the novel they were well aware of the kind of enemy they faced. The same pattern repeats throughout history many times. A group settles and then the next group of nomads impinges on them. Every sedentary group has the same choice. They can fight or they can flee. For Zurga’s Fire I wanted to show how the nomads being horse riders and archers had an advantage. Sedentary society, with farmers, had fewer people who would naturally take on a warrior role. They could fortify cities to stop nomads, but that does not always work. That is the tension I wanted to accentuate in the book.
What does the next book in the Orfeo Saga take readers?
The next book is also divided into two main parts. The first part takes the characters to the New World. There has been a huge amount of scholarly speculation about the contacts between the Old and New Worlds. I think that there must have been limited contact between these two areas, but I am not sure that it occurred as early as the European Bronze Age. However, there was likely early contact. There was a report that a scientist had found traces of cocaine as well as nicotine in Egyptian mummies as early as 1000 BC. I think it is important to look at evidence with an open mind but have a healthy skepticism about big claims.The Orfeo Saga volume 4 has a bit more humor in it than other books in the series. I also thought it was important for Orfeo to take a greater role in his own fate. His teacher disappears during this story.
Part II of the book deals with the rise of Sparta. This is not as far-fetched as some people think. Archaeology is pushing the date for Spartan civilization further back in time. I try to post interesting links to the archaeology on my Facebook page.
The Getae inhabited the region on either side of the Lower Danube River, in what is today northern Bulgaria and southern Romania. They were in contact with ancient Greeks from an early date. Herodotus – writing in the 5th century BC – extols their martial spirit: “…when it lightens and thunders, they aim their arrows at the sky, uttering threats against the god; and they do not believe that there is any god but their own.”
They ruthlessly incorporate conquered people into their society through enslavement, and are prepared to kill those who are not useful to their plans. They have no need for the luxuries of city life. Fighting in troops of mounted archers, they mock individual heroes. Getae have a long history of reducing enemies in deadly hails of arrows while not getting close enough to lose warriors in single combat. Here Orfeo and his warriors must deal with an expanding Getae empire during the heroic age of Greece. Vastly outnumbered, can they stop an invasion that threatens not only their lives, but also their entire culture?
Posted in Interviews
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Travel back in time in this fantastical adventure with Zurga’s Fire, book three in the Orfeo Saga. Murray Lee Eiland Jr weaves his tale that takes place in historical Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean. Broken up into four books filled with short, easy to digest chapters we begin with Daryush, a young man who has been living as a consort for the Empress Zinaida. If you are just coming into this saga, you won’t be able to get a true grasp on what previous volumes have covered. What we learn from Daryush and Zinaida is that theirs is a young love and she has recently acquired her position of power. Due to their differences Daryush decides to leave Babylon in order to preserve his life. We then begin to follow him on his journey while meeting other important characters and breaking off to follow them. It all comes back around and end with Daryush.
Eiland is very good at keeping his chapters short and to the point. Instead of long, drawn out chapters that cover far too much information to digest well, this tale has the benefit of being broken into four books and a total of 70 chapters. While that may seem like a lot, the story doesn’t break 300 pages. There is even a historical note for those history buffs who are reading. This is a historical fantasy-adventure tale and Eiland does his best to keep information as true to history while taking certain artistic liberties. This makes the book easy to read without getting bogged down by technicalities. While the information regarding tribes, empires and villages is indeed massive, it is all presented in shortened, easy to read ways.
Daryush is not the titular character, although he feels like one. He weaves in and out of the story that the reader can get deluded into thinking it’s all about him. The book is called Zurga’s Fire for a reason and that is made quite apparent in the third book within this volume.
Aside from being a bit in the dark to previous accomplishments in the first two books, Zurga’s Fire stands well on its own. The story feels complete at the end and doesn’t leave too many unanswered questions. The writing is clean with little to no grammatical errors and the chapter formatting is nice on the eyes. The intrigue, romance and mystery that pepper the tale are all tasteful with nothing feeling forced or contrived. This is a spectacular feat to accomplish when you have so many characters with such intricate lives.
If you’re looking for a good read that won’t have you feeling overwhelmed then Zurga’s Fire by Murray Lee Eiland Jr is definitely something you should consider. Not too heavy on historical explanations and easy to read with short chapters, this third installment in the Orfeo Saga is pleasant and satisfying.
Pages: 244 | ASIN: B017YFKZSU
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Bodybuilding for Weight Loss: Facts About Weight Loss Through Body Building That You Did Not Know About
Want to lose weight and look great but don’t know where to start? We’ve all heard that to get that perfect summer body we need to exercise right and eat well – but where to begin? How do we get there? Is simply jogging and eating a few more vegetables enough?
Bodybuilding for Weight Loss by James Eaton seeks to answer those questions. Eaton takes the workout regimen and diet typically used by bodybuilders and shows how anyone can lose weight and look great by following their lead. Eaton organizes and breaks the information down into digestible chunks that even those with no gym experience can understand and apply. While occasionally he jumps from one topic to the next a bit too frequently you can get lost in all the information he presents. His book is a solid building block for learning how to lose weight through bodybuilding.
Eaton starts by giving a rapid-fire history of bodybuilding, tracing its roots from ancient Egypt and Greece to the 20th century when professional bodybuilding competitions really came into their own. After that historical introduction though – it’s all business.
Taking a holistic approach, Eaton stresses the importance of coupling appropriate exercises with the right foods. To see results, you’ve got to give your body what it needs and then work it appropriately. Eaton walks through the raw foods consumed by bodybuilders, such as onions, apples, and brown rice, and explains why each is such a great option for building muscle and losing fat. However, it’s not just about what you eat, it’s when you eat as well. He points out that eating certain foods before or after working out will help build muscle faster. For example, eating foods higher in carbohydrates just before getting your pump on will keep you powered throughout your work out. But, those same carbs eaten just before bed will simply turn to sugar in your body, undoing your hard work at the gym. It’s this sort of insight, Eaton’s explanations of the reasons behind his recommendations, that really keep you reading.
Healthy eating is only one side of the coin; it’s got to be balanced with aerobic exercise and weightlifting to really see the body you desire. Eaton doesn’t leave us in the dark here either: He provides us with step by step instructions for several weightlifting exercises and walks through how to perform them correctly. Barbell bench presses, seated dumbbell press, bar curls, and even the Arnold press (yes, named after that Arnold) – it’s all here. And for those of us who’ve never picked up free weights before, the pictures and texts are easy to follow and make you want to grab some soup cans and try them out.
The book provides valuable insight and a clear path to losing weight through exercise and diet. Eaton’s passion for the subject clearly shines through.
Pages: 47 | ASIN: B00T3ETMIU
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