All Roads Home by Lisa Diaz Meyer is a fictional short story collection. Covering several genres, the book is divided into six parts titled The Outposts, The Enduring, The Oddities, The Particulars, The Fragments and The Play Versions. With each section and story being utterly unique, this book really is a mixed bag of offerings. Nowhere is this more obvious than, besides the four sections of short stories all varying greatly in their genre, the collection also consists of a part of poetry and The Play Versions which really are that: five of the stories in the collection written in play format!
The first section of the collection deals with a world that is hard hitting. In the story titled The Safe Room, this links back to the previous short story in its representation of women, cancer, and childbearing. With such stark descriptive passages of the cloning and curing process detailed, this section hits upon the more awkward of subjects that aren’t always spoke about comfortably.
Dealing with religion verse science, this section may be quite an eye-opener, considering its placing at the very start of the collection, but its subject matter does indeed turn the tables making you question just who, if anybody, has such a right at this stage.
The Enduring section starts off with a story which is most certainly that – enduring for its characters. What begins as a heartfelt story of a mother’s struggles quickly turns itself on its head when the story ends. However, nothing physical has changed, her situation remains dire, but she has found peace in her heart and mind and can now approach her situation from a more positive perspective. This story emphasizes Lisa’s ability to change tact and emotion in just a few short pages and sums up the book in its entirety.
All of Lisa’s characters, though only with the reader briefly, are very easy at catching our attention and therefore it’s easy to recognize their plight and see the story from their point of view. That Lisa can create such emotions in her readers through characters that appear fleetingly is a wonderful achievement.
For me, The Enduring was a favorite section. Packed full of emotions, there is one story where the action begins, plays out and ends in a matter of just two short pages! If you’re not too sure whether this selection of stories is for you, I urge you to read The Christmas Break first. Immediately this highlights Lisa’s fluidity in prose as well as her ability to create a fascinating collection of characters, and all within a few short sentences.
With superb powers of observation, a beautiful and haunting writing style on many of the pages, alongside an ability to push topic boundaries (Hitler and Jesus at a dinner party, need I say more!) this is truly a collection you must read for yourself.
If Lisa is this good at creating such an enthralling collection of short stories, I can only imagine what she would be like with a full-length fictional novel!
Pages: 280 | ASIN: B00WVWFL86
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Cross of a Different Kind, written by Anthony Maranise, dives into the relationship between cancer and Christianity. A “field guide” for those affected by cancer, Cross of a Different Kind was created for those who have cancer, those who know someone affected by cancer and for the survivors of cancer. Each person will find solace in this novel, regardless of what part of the journey you are on and feel a connection of both faith and hope through the inspiring words and reflections. It’s a reminder of the light in the darkness and how God can bring spiritual comfort and acceptance in a time of loss, sadness and grief.
Cross of a Different Kind is a novel based on the ideologies of Christianity, written especially for those experiencing cancer themselves. The book is split into different sections with each part addressing the different stages of cancer that someone may be in.
The author, Anthony Maranise, tells of his battle with childhood cancer and the feelings surrounding his family, relationship with God and what it meant to find hope in some of his darkest hours. Maranise words are raw, honest and inspiring, allowing the reader to develop a sense of trust and gratitude for the words he writes. At times I felt as though I was sitting in a room, listening to him tell his story as it opened up the pathway to reflect on our personal experiences with cancer.
With statistics such as 69% of cancer patients praying for their health regularly, it is clear that Cross of a Different Kind is a novel that will connect with many people who have been touched by cancer. There are many Christianity references, but they are used to inspire hope, clarity and acceptance in a time of great trauma and stress. Cross of a Different Kind talks about how the journey of faith has helped the author and many others against the tough battles brought on by cancer.
So many of us know someone or have even experienced cancer ourselves and will find the feelings and reflections in the novel provide a sense of solace and comfort in the times of great stress and alarm. One of my favourite sentiments was that it is important to grieve and mourn the loss of our loved ones (even if we believe we will meet them again). Another idea the author presents is that those experiencing cancer are soldiers in their own way, battling the sadness, anger and trauma brought on by sickness that steals happiness and joy. This idea instills a sense of comradery and connection with the book, allowing the reader to feel acknowledged and understood in regards to their own personal battles with cancer.
Cross of a Different Kind will bring the reader a sense of spiritual comfort, understanding and information for those who are experiencing the journey that comes with cancer. I would recommend this for all Christians who are suffering from the burdens of cancer- whether it is themselves or their loved ones.
Pages: 188 | ISBN: 0692974148
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How a church wrongfully uses the Word of God to their own advantage for the unreasonable exercise of power and exploitation.
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Have you ever wondered about the importance of communion? What really is the root of all this power the blood of Jesus is purported to have? How can human beings harness this power as God wishes?
Wendy Varga’s Sacred Secret is an in-depth analysis of the Communion. We often use blatant explanations of God’s instructions. But man is protected from all sorts of evil if he marks himself with the blood.
If faith is shallow, little is expected. People should know the limitless capabilities of God as this affects their level of faith and consequently, how impactful He will be in their life.
Wendy Varga’s passion helps to eloquently unravel many biblical mysteries. Her fervent writing had me craving to know more about communion; I found myself often referencing my bible. By the end of this book I felt that I had a better understanding of the power of the New Testament Covenant Meal. The author’s eagerness to truly understand God’s purpose for the Passover is evident. Her break down of the relation between His blood and God by use of scientific explanations is startlingly enlightening. Her insistence to not just know God, but also know Him intimately is a recurring theme. I’ve read other religious books on similar subjects, but they often only touched on this subject before quickly moving on. But it is the focal point in this book. It’s refreshing to see a book take a deep dive into one aspect of faith.
I consider this a knowledge check for anyone who knows their Bible well, but what I truly appreciated was the unique perspective in which the information is presented. Be prepared to ask yourself questions you never have before. In the end, I appreciated how this book left me reevaluating my relationship with God. This book will arm you with the knowledge and power of the blood and thus strengthen your faith. I believe that this book will unlock the potential of God’s power in your life through faith.
Pages: 156 | ASIN: B072M8R6JG
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Truth and The Serpent explores an alternate creation story that follows the serpent from the Garden of Eden. What were some themes that you felt were important to highlight in this story?
Once I decided to write this story, I immediately determined that I wanted it to be different in some way. If it’s the same old thing then why write it at all. Honestly, I didn’t know if that was even possible, as these stories have been overdone so many times.
The major theme of the story is true versus untrue or consistent versus inconsistent, unlike every other story you hear of about religion. Where God/ religion is all fake and the explanation is aliens, monkeys, and sun worship. Or its all real, and Jesus is coming back tomorrow at 4:30 pm, pack a bag!
The issue with stories dealing with religion is that they are usually examined through the scope of morality. But morality is not a constant, which changes with culture and time. So, as I was developing the Serpent character I searched to find something to argue other than morality, which is based on perception, and not facts. I decided that even though there were may inconsistencies in these stories there was information within them, that was consistent or true for everyone.
Then I realized that that was a good discussion to have, and one that I had never heard of with these stories. Thus the Serpent would argue consistent information, and the Man of the Present, would represent our everyday biased understanding of these stories. The discussion and theme soon changed from morality, to the impact that these stories have had on culture and society. This is why the Serpent does not debate the existence of God, or Heaven or Hell, because it’s irrelevant. As culture and society deem which acts are “wrong” and which acts are “forgivable.” Once I removed that from the narrative, I could then be honest with the Serpent Character.
I felt that there were a lot of great twists and turns throughout the novel. Did you plan this before writing the novel, or did the twists present themselves to you as you writing?
No, there was no way I could have planned that the story would unfold and then end the way it did. I had an idea for each chapter, but once I got in there they became something more. The original story was a page and a half, and was literally just rewriting the Garden of Eden story form the Serpent’s point of view. It came out well, and then I thought to myself, what would it look like if I continued…
To me most of it was not a twist, but merely a change of perspective. One thing to note, is that every time we are told these stories, we subconsciously put ourselves on the side of the “good narrative” or the “victim/ saved narrative.” By doing so we only see certain things. For example, while writing the chapter “The Earth” which covers Noah/ the flood. Once the flood came I instantly put the Serpent inside the Ark, because that’s just what our minds do. I came up with a scenario that the Serpent was camouflaged hiding in the haystacks, which I’m glad I didn’t go with. But then it hit me, why does the serpent have to be inside? The Serpent is a reptile, there are sea snakes, Sea Serpents of legend even… what would happen if I put the Serpent outside.
I did, and then everything opened up. My mind began to explore this world in a way I had never done before. I soon found that the Serpent was the perfect vehicle to do this with, as putting him outside would not affect our opinion of him, while the same couldn’t be done with the human characters. It was difficult to navigate these stories from this perspective, but once I separated my ego from the subject, I was able to write the story.
I felt that the biblical aspects in this novel were expertly used. What kind of research did you do for this story?
One I read the bible for myself. Second, I removed my ego from the equation. Writing this book was not about me, it is at its core a talking animal story that takes place in the what if universe. That is, in itself, about as fictitiously fantastical fake as you can get. However, once I started reading for myself, I quickly saw how inconsistent the biblical stories were. Then on top of that, there is the commercial understanding that we have been taught and sold.
One thing to note, is that Christianity does not own these stories, and they exist in many other cultures and beliefs. For that matter this could very well be Muslim Fiction, Jewish Fiction, or Zoroastrian fiction. We live in a western world, so that is our first thought, but these stories have existed long before there ever was a Christian church. Additionally, this story is not about religion, it is a story of humanity as seen through the eyes of the Serpent character.
Then, once I got started I didn’t limit myself to the bible. As you will note I make references to spirituality, mythology, history, science, and math. I researched and looked up everything, not just say Noah’s Ark the tale, but what Noah’s name meant. I looked up what causes a flood, what happens to flood waters, how does it impact species and topsoil and later plant growth. I viewed the events not as only divine wrath, but in natural real terms. i.e. the animals going to the Ark, is explained as animals changing their migrations. Then I asked, what could cause a change in animal migrations and so on. I then added these definitions to the biblical story, which then added new depth and meaning. I would say that I had about 100 pages of printed notes for each chapter. I looked up everything trying to find something tangible and meaningful beyond the everyday wrath, salvation, and lightshow.
Once I did that, the stories came alive and were now three dimensional, taking on new meanings that I didn’t see coming. But none of that would have been possible if I didn’t research meticulously. Most of all, I didn’t just ask questions, I sought out rational answers as if, I was actually having this epic discussion. So, in a way, it was me asking the questions that I never got an answer to, and using the “absurd Serpent in the what if universe” as a platform to have this discussion, which somehow worked.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
Next is Serpent book 2. It will be the Serpent and another human character who live during the time of Jesus. The Serpent will be his obnoxiously colorful self, adding sarcastic commentary to the events as they unfold. It has a title, but I’m not releasing it until I finish writing it. I have notes started and have started planning out the chapters, but I have not begun writing the dialogue and narrative. Hopefully, I will start officially on it January 2018.
What do we really know of creation, myth, and belief? There was a Man, a Woman, a Garden, and of course… a Serpent. Yet, what we have come to know as temptation, and mortal sin are only one side of the story. You see, three sinned, and three were punished, but only two were expelled from the Garden, but afterwards…what happened to the Serpent?
A present day man finds himself eye to eye with the infamous Serpent of curse and ruin. The Serpent who characteristically makes the man an offer to learn not just what happened, but why.
A tale unlike any other, where the fall of man is not weighed on a scale of good or evil, but in truth and lies. The Serpent whose intellect, sarcasm, and wit cultivates over time as he appraises the history of man and religious lore. The Serpent who is also on a journey of self-discovery to learn the meaning of that ill-fated encounter and the purpose of his own life.
Come to know the unsung story of one who lived through creation, survived the great deluge, witnessed a mass exodus, and the rise and fall of exalted kings of men. Could such a tale, as told by a forked tongue, be the end of lies, and the beginning… of the truth.
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Have you ever wondered why there is such a huge discrepancy between what scientists say about the age of our planet and what the Bible says? According to scientists, the planet is 4.6 billion years old. Yet the Bible says that this planet Earth is only six thousand years old. But what if both were right? What if there was an analysis of creation that combined science with scripture in the search for truth—yielding a unique and provocative conclusion about life’s beginning?
In The Re-Creation of Planet Earth and the Real Account of Life’s Beginnings, author Brian Donnelly explores just this integration of science and biblical truth to provide a more realistic account of creation and re-creation. He addresses the ongoing debate between creation science and evolutionary biology, and he shows how creation is more viable than evolutionary theory and the big bang. The Re-Creation of the Planet Earth and the Real Account of Life’s Beginnings also speaks to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and it provides a detailed description of what heaven is like—an account supported by scripture and near-death experiences.
Having a complete view of creation, re-creation, heaven, and life’s beginnings will help you better understand how God relates to us today. But even more, this understanding can go on to help you see through the fog of the world and better relate to God as a believer.
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Mindfulness and mediation are creeping into more parts of society. Things that were once meant for children are evolving for adults to enjoy as well. One of these is colouring books. No longer is this pastime reserved strictly for young children. There is a soothing sense that one can derive from colouring an image. It does not require much artistic talent either. Along with this shift to the adult mindset comes The Contemporary Christian Colouring Book by Rev. Ernesto Lozada-Uzuriada. Coupling the peaceful activity with biblical themes and images this book is a perfect gift for the devout. Each image evokes the idea of a stained-glass window one might see inside a church depicting various scenes from the bible. There is some melding of these scenes with modern technology which just serves to remind us that Christ is still present today.
The book begins with a lovely forward from Ruth Finnegan, operator of Living Tree Publishers that has produced this colouring book. In it, she seeks to remind us why we are drawn to art and why we colour. It is the marriage of that simple meditation with something tangible. A brief biography is also given of the artist who designed the pictures, Lozada-Uzuriada himself. The images are carefully crafted to convey the message of a particular scene or passage from the bible in a format that is easily understood. Titles are given to each piece to help the user remember which part of the bible and which story the scene belongs to. The line work is heavy and dark; much like stained glass itself. This is useful for those who colour because it easily defines which sections are contained.
Given that the images impress upon this writer scenes in stained glass windows, it serves to mention that the content of this colouring book is better suited for adults. The expressions of various people within the scenes could be taken as angry, frightening or scary. Young children need to have faith in the beauty and gentleness of the Bible and exposing them to this colouring book without proper context might serve to scare them, rather than inspire them. That aside, this book is a wonderful compilation of some of the more memorable pieces of scripture that one might want to colour and perhaps display in their home. Christ is a central figure in most of the pieces of this book.
With the world’s attention focusing more on mindfulness and meditation for the adults in the world, colouring has become a de-stressor for many. The Contemporary Christian Colouring Book by Rev. Ernesto Lozada-Usuriada is a must-have piece for those of the Christian faith who would like to colour while they meditate. Being able to add a personal touch to such moving and important points of Christian faith allows those who use this book to come closer to the inner workings of their faith. It is nice to see how something as traditional and sacred as someone’s faith can mix and meld with the current needs.
Pages: 46 | ISBN: 1326968165
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Einstein’s Fiddle begins with a man abandoning his child on a doorstep of a stranger’s home; the rest of the novel seeks to reveal and understand this man. What was the inspiration for the setup to this emotional novel?
Like my first novel (A History of the World), Einstein’s Fiddle began as a short story. The story form was abandoned quickly – perforce, as soon as Davy abandoned Mitchell. The inspiration for the setup was a simple disturbing question that presented itself: What if someone – no, not just someone – a dad – left his baby boy on a doorstep? The image that first came to mind was of the proverbial unwed mother from earlier decades in this country – desperate, ashamed, alone, afraid, and apparently out of options. The obvious second question followed hard upon the first: why would any person – at least any loving father – do such a thing? And these were questions that led quickly to others – questions of personality, motivation and experience – and my poor powers certainly could not answer them, or sufficiently illuminate the depths of such a father (Davy Calhoun), in a short story.
Davy Calhoun is a multilayered character that is deftly developed. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
The relationship between fathers and sons has been at the heart of my writing from the beginning. It was there in my early stories and my first novel, and it is at the center of Einstein’s Fiddle. The desire for his (or her) father’s love, approval, guidance and acceptance is deep in every child’s heart from the first breath. It is a ‘natural’ yearning and part of each one of us because God put it there. I wanted Davy Calhoun to be a character with whom we all (if we are honest about it) share common ground; and of course – like each of us – he has his own story, his own unique experience and narrative, which I hope makes the book singular and engaging. There are a number of fathers in the novel, all of them flawed and fallen in his own ways – and one particularly outstanding in his degree of fallenness; but my ‘ideal’ father in Davy’s story is the dad in Jesus’ story about The Prodigal Son, a parable which one of the characters in the book’s third section relates to Davy. Perhaps the one ‘driving ideal’ behind Davy’s development is best summed up by something a friend of mine has said more than once: “Love is the most powerful force in the universe – just largely untried.”
It’s hard to not get emotional when reading Einstein’s Fiddle. Did you pull anything from real life or personal experience to use in this novel?
I spent time in all the places where the narrative unfolds – Charlottesville, Washington, D.C., Chicago and San Francisco – and I used a lot of my experiences of those places (and the places within those places) in the book. As I imagine any author does, I created whole characters with pieces of people I know or have known. Whenever it worked well in the narrative, I used – call it stole, if you like – real-life stories that friends have shared with me over the years. In the last section, when Davy is in San Francisco, there is a scene near Pier 39, which completely replicates something that happened to a good friend of mine in New Jersey. It was a wonderful gift to me, and I gave it joyfully to everyone who reads Einstein’s Fiddle.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The working title is Thomas, but that could change in an instant. I expect it to be much shorter than Fiddle…but that could change too. I don’t want to say much about it right now, except that it is about a life-changing relationship between a white doctor in Charleston, South Carolina, and the black man he hires to build a stable for his horses. You can safely bet that there will be fathers and sons in this book too…. I hope it will be available in a year or so. I’ve begun to work on it in my head, but I have yet to write the first word.
What kind of man leaves the infant son he loves on a doorstep in a strange town and drives away? With its present set in the summer of 1985 and its past reaching from 1950 to 1974, Einstein’s Fiddle is a dramatic examination of Davy Calhoun’s journey from home to the far country and back. The language and landscape of the novel vary between the existential and familial, tragic and comic, as the non-linear narrative – by turns realistic, lyrical, magical – focuses fearlessly on Davy’s fall, dishonor and redemption.
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Jesus and Magdalene follows the story of Jesus and his return to modern day Earth where he meets Magdalene who is an activist fighting for a better world. This is an intriguing setup to a novel and a unique perspective of a religious story. Why was this novel important for you to write and what was your inspiration?
Religion has played an important role in my cultural development. I was christened, I went to catechism classes, I was confirmed and I went to mass until the age of fourteen. I wanted to create something truly original, involving contemporary problems, politics, the existence of God and human nature using facts, humor, and irony. For example, the relation between Christiany and Ecology or why there are so many racial conflicts. Jesus and Magdalene don’t give answers, but present questions. Why there is so much violence? Why there is so much stupidity? Are we really so much different from other animals? My novels satirize modern society and use irony and humor to provoke reflection and controversy.
Jesus and Magdalene are biblical figures, but in your story they’re striving to make a better world as regular people. How did you handle the balance between biblical and fictional characters to make them feel real and relatable?
For me, Jesus is the most important figure in History. Jesus was the first to say that all men are equal and to question the dogmas of the temple rulers. He also saved a woman from being stoned, according to the tradition. He was a much greater revolutionary than Castro or Che Guevara. Even those who don’t believe they are influenced by Jesus’ teachings. Freedom and Equality – those are the basis of all western society. In my novel I try to describe the challenges Jesus would face if He would visit us again, 2000 years later. But,although he limits himself to accompanying Magdalene attempting only to pacify those on bad terms, even then Jesus is unable to escape the fury of mankind.
What kind of research, if any, did you do to keep the story accurate?
I read the Bible and I search for biblical studies and interpretations.
Is there a pivotal moment in the story that you feel best defines your characters?
Yes, there is a pivotal moment in the story that defines not only the characters but also mankind (in my own interpretation). A con man – Professor Kacimba – is going to recognize Jesus, while the others don’t. A swindler sees the son of God when he tried to read his hand, but the rest of people, including this modern Magdalene, only see a normal man. This is supposed to be funny and sad at the same time.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I am writing a novel about Communism, Perestroika and the fall of the Berlin wall. The Staline or Lenine ghost could be one of the characters. I hope to be published in the next year.
Jesus returns to earth and meets activist Magdalene who is fighting for a better world. He find an extremist ecological group, which is plotting to destroy a maize plantation it believes to be genetically modified. Then, he observes the rise up against a tourist development that is to be built in a forest reserve. Finally, he witnesses an armed conflict between blacks and gypsies. However, although he limits himself to accompanying Magdalene attempting only to pacify those on bad terms, even then Jesus is unable to escape the fury of mankind. And only a conman will recognize him. Using humor, Jesus and Magdalene broaches recent phenomena of social and political conflict.
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