Friends of the Tsar, by Jon de Graaff, is a story about the author’s “Aristocratic Grandparent’s harrowing escape from the Russian Revolution of February 1917.” The story starts near Petrograd, Russia in 1916 with Vera and George, with George and his mother, Adelaide, saving Vera from a wolf attack. They are at the country estate of George’s father, Baron Alexander Zuckschwerdt. Adelaide and Alexander are very much aristocrats. Vera and George are not on board with the aristocratic ways of their parents. Vera, who also came from an aristocratic family, started rejecting her parents’ ways after Bloody Sunday when even children were killed during a protest.
Vera has ten sisters. Three of them come to stay with her. Monica is 16. Mary is 15. Natty is 10. Vera often gets strong premonitions when something bad is about to happen. Blue is Alexander’s friend. He is an Australian cattle breeder. He comes to stay as well. Blue saves Natty from choking. He learned how to do it on a chance visit with friends. Vera sees it as meant to be. Blue tells story after story of things that happened that seem to have a lot of coincidences. Vera does not see them as coincidences at all. He dismissed them as being luck in the past. He now thinks differently.
The family finds itself in trouble. The country is in trouble. Their money is not worth as much. The people in the country are starving. The family decides that they need to leave. Blue offers to let them stay with him in Australia. Alexander books passage for himself, George, Blue, Vera and the girls for February 27, 1917. The story goes on from there to cover how they escaped and the challenges they faced as they did.
I felt that the story could not decide on what the book was going to be. As I went from chapter to chapter, I felt like many of the chapters could have been stand-alone chapters and were not connected very well. It lacked continuity. There are different stories being told that don’t seem to reach any conclusions. At first, I thought the book was going to be a love story about Vera and George. After the first chapter or so, they seemed forgotten and the book focused on Blue’s stories. Then it would jump to near misses while trying to escape and spy stories. I found myself confused a few time. The language seemed a bit stilted and formal and did not flow like normal dialogue in places.
There is a good story in the book though it would benefit from a bit more organization. The author writes well. Some of the stories were definitely interesting. Some of the story lines had definite possibility and begged for further development as the characters were intriguing and were usually placed in exotic locations.
Pages: 126 | ASIN: B071ZQ6CG8
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Activism is high on Netai’s list of priorities, or at least he thinks as much. As a member of the working class and a young man who is loyal and determined, Netai finds himself deep in the throes of the Naxalite during the decades of the eighties and nineties. While his involvement in the ever-increasing political movement increases, so does the tension within his parents’ household. His mother, afflicted with cataracts, struggles day in and day out while his hard-working father faces his own inner turmoil at being asked by his son to host the members of the resistance. Nowhere is the battle for emancipation so strongly felt as in Netai’s own household.
Sanjay Lahiri’s Comrade Netai and the Chronology of His UG Days traces Netai’s battle with his own participation in the resistance. As he goes about work in the mines, he is privy to a firsthand look at the suffering of the men and women employed there, the reality of back-breaking work, and the hardships of the working class. Lahiri paints painfully clear pictures of the desperation of the mine workers’ struggles in day-to-day living. The bulk of Lahiri’s effectiveness is nestled neatly in his main character’s own horror at the atrocities he witnesses. The author leaves nothing to the imagination as he describes the most shocking scenes of life as a mine worker. When Netai finds himself in awe of the scenes he witnesses, the reader is pulled along as an unwilling participant. Lahiri’s writing is vivid and exceptionally effective.
Details are Lahiri’s strong suit. On every level and in every way, Comrade Netai and the Chronology of His UG Days exists as a portrait of life in activism. A work of political fiction, Lahiri’s book provides a unique peek into the intense consideration given to decisions, elections, and organization of a revolution. Readers see the true rigors of rallying around a cause.
For me, nowhere was Netai’s struggle as clear as when it is pointed out to him that he has not had a change of underclothes and has exposed himself to infestation by chillars, insects growing in hay. Netai’s lack of hygiene is but one of the signs of the way in which his dedication to the cause is wreaking havoc on his psyche.
Lahiri’s key character, Netai, demonstrates an endearing eagerness despite the hardships he endures. He is an inspiring character filled with bright-eyed optimism and a strong desire to learn the ins and outs of the political processes involved in making change possible. As he is offered the opportunity to represent the state, his enthusiasm is positively contagious.
Comrade Netai features well-drawn characters and a relatable main character who wears his heart on his sleeve and exhibits humanitarianism along with a certain level of blind innocence. The subplot surrounding Netai’s parents is engaging and powerful. Comrade Netai is a must-read for any fan of political fiction and activists across causes and continents. Lahiri unites readers in a common bond–justice.
Pages: 506 | ASIN: B07JP3F1W6
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The Philosophical Future discusses the social and psychological challenges facing people in the 21st century. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Man is of course a creature of needs, which are easily misunderstood and in a confrontational world often taken by the individual as absolute imperatives. Violent actions and reactions, and more broadly aggressive behavior in general, tend to satisfy only, and too often, wrongly perceived needs of an instant. Long-term consequences are imprudently ignored. But it is too late as a rule to correct the mistake.
To avoid this familiar trap, nothing avails save the self-aware use of individual will — a learned capability — to survey each situation as it arises, and then rationally decide on and carry out a plan of action (including non-action) suitable to the circumstances. In an overly crowded world, and given today’s climate of festering person-to person and group-against group hostility, however, nothing appears to succeed other than violence or a threat of it. Whatever deprives the “other” of his ability to remain a self-respecting combatant can be employed. This wholly negative world view leads down an unsustainable road — in fact to social chaos.
Calls for meaningful change fall on mostly deaf ears. They do not convince. Nonetheless, the burden for positive change rests with individual minds. Such social unanimity as does occur is forced, and unless or until enough self-discipline takes hold in individual minds, and without coercion, this millennial consummation seems just as probable as another..
This book was written with such global issues in mind. Its significance lies in the message which it conveys to minds honestly aspiring to achieve a personal knowledge of what they may expect to encounter in the way of social, psychological, and moral trials in years to come.
You have an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin and an Ed.D. from the University of California, and you taught at many different schools. How has this experience helped you write this book?
Teachers, much akin to dispensers of religious doctrine, today more than ever share a burden of communicating to students more than mere facts or supposed facts originating with cultural authority. The effective teacher has also himself both learned and understood the “material” of his lessons. Even so, automatic transfer from one mind to another is a misconception. Not all learning experiences can be summed up in this formula. Even the substance of what there is to be learned erodes in this migration.
The basics of language and social skills can of course never be taken for granted. This includes all knowledge that can be reduced to a common parlance, including number, letter, names, places, dates, and even some rules of interpersonal behavior. The tyro can usually master this domain with aid from a teacher who himself studied and retained not only the rote aspect but some of the life-value of its content. Still, more than ever beyond this one needs certain more fundamental elements to make his way in life.
Most individuals, sadly enough, while they do achieve a grasp of these lesser aspects of behavioral competence, fail to move past them. Even many teachers may not learn to question themselves, to seek beyond their already memorized data base to explore the deeper significance of being human. For all further, higher knowledge, the kind needed to live with meaning, though built on a firm foundation of “the basics,” requires a yet greater step, and the true teacher recognizes this. All such higher knowledge demands a learner, as well as his teacher, who together strive for genuine understanding — so that each of them in the web of his own experience questions both himself as well as the “why” of things, basic and abstract alike.
I think this book does a fantastic job of delivering complex ideas in an understandable and meaningful way. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
To those whose developing interests include a genuine curiosity about conditions of life over the longer tomorrow, and assuming they are looking for an unvarnished view of today’s global scene, with some adumbration of what lies ahead, this book aims to provide some, but not all, and never absolute, answers. It is not indeed a prediction but an advisory. It deals only with the possible, in an age of few if any certainties.
Most young people, but also readers in general, tend to live on two levels of thought: On one hand they have a vision of society as some kind of mechanical entity; its fundamental workings go on at a comfortable distance; unless one becomes caught in their legal entanglements, they can be ignored. On the other hand, when society calls on them as individuals to participate actively in its formal activities (such as jury duty), thought and intelligence must be brought to bear; even so, the passive state of mind dominates. Typically (even in the jury room) one follows the herd.
For this typical reader this book then cannot help but sound a wake-up call. Neither mechanistic nor presumably-more active approaches to life in society in fact suffice. Knowledge of the whole and of its salient moving parts and of one’s own capabilities for adaptation to the turmoil of future existence — these will be key to genuine success in the art of living.
Where do you think society is headed and what can an individual do to ensure they are successful in that future?
The question of where society is headed and how it is likely to get there cannot be answered without giving thought to the individual’s plasticity of character and his motivations as a moral being. If individuals en masse pay no heed to what serves the common good, then the way forward becomes rife with predictable social decline. But this view overemphasizes the dark side. Neither man’s overall world outlook nor his web of relations in a complex environment ever reduce to a simple unidirectional pattern, at least in the short run.
History reveals one singular truth: In its gradual development, and often without conscious control, society “fixes” some problems, analyzes others without acting on them, and simply ignores those it cannot deal with. So we cannot rationally envision either a future utopia or dystopia. There is no end-point. The real wild card remains the “average” individual’s capacity for directing his powers either to improve the common good along with his own sense of social stability, or to give way to mental and moral negation, with destructive results in society.
Men are not prisoners of history, as is often claimed. But there is just so much any generation can do in a practical sense to unleash itself from on-the-ground conditions and the relatively passive state of mind it inherits. Revolutions come and go, yet underlying capabilities cling to their natural limits. The process is slow, unseen, and does not involve conscious volition other than to a limited degree. So the likeliest condition of society a century hence, barring an atomic or planetary disaster, will represent in essence only a repetition in substance (though not in detail) of what have been the commonplace evils of our time: over-population and consequent mass poverty; ever increasing global hysterias; police-state governments; continued lack of education and subsequent bewilderment over how to live a meaningful individual life in a complex and demanding environment. The true individual may disappear as this process works itself out. Yet fortunately, his eventual reappearance cannot entirely be ruled impossible either. And how this unresolved dichotomy is then resolved will make all the difference.
This book surveys the breadth of mankind’s postmodern malaise, which is achieved through a discussion of the major challenges, social and psychological, which every individual faces in the effort to live fully in the twenty-first century. These challenges lay in broadly familiar domains: self- and group-consciousness; common man and his place in a future society in which mental activity dominates; work and leisure; knowledge and values accruing from it, both for self and others; possibilities in education; civilization, with its “Dark Age” phenomena and its dreams of progress; the role of the past in contemporary life; and power, both in society and within the sovereign individual who, though bound by physical and intellectual limits, functions as a seeker after the freedom and self-fulfillment which are so wholly integral to the human condition. And finally a serious question: What fate awaits the perpetual non-conformist, whose views, however unwelcome in his own time and in a contemporary environment, may in fact anticipate future living conditions?
Posted in Interviews
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A brave knight is wrongfully cursed, turning him into the most beautiful woman on the planet. To reverse this curse, “she” must form a quest to seek out the Wicca Master who cast the spell, hopefully changing her mind.
Along the way, the knight falls in love with her squire, battles vampires, helps aid an Elf revolution, and even becomes pregnant. Ultimately, her squire must make the hard choice: does he complete his master’s quest, or does he try to keep his one true love?
Posted in book trailer
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Defiance on Indian Creek is a quiet, but enthralling read by Phyllis A. Still. We follow a smart, courageous thirteen-year-old girl, Mary on the frontier in West Virginia on the eve of the Revolutionary war. Her father comes home with news that disrupts Mary’s world; talk of loyalty to the unfair King and moving to far off Kentucky. The relationship with her father is stretched as she finds him mired in plots and implications of possibly being a traitor or even a spy. Mary is forced of her own loyalties to her father, family and country as the weeks go on until she is asked to make an impossible choice.
Overall, Still has clearly done her research in this fine YA novel. In the tradition of historical fiction before it, Defiance on Indian Creek takes a quiet frontier family and throws them in the forefront against an increasingly dangerous time. Reading these pages gave me the feeling I was actually there in the reeds of Indian Creek alongside Mary and her Papa. The maps included at the front of the book were helpful in understanding the setting and getting even more of a feel of what this era felt to those early colonists.
It isn’t often such a tale is spun on the frontier, but also invokes the greater happenings on the east coast. Mary is a fun protagonist to follow as the story progresses, because Still is able to give the reader the feeling of anguish from the girl and her struggles over choosing to place trust in her father and the lack thereof.
Being a YA novel the story itself is pretty straightforward and does not beat around the bush when it comes to finding out certain things. Mary herself seems to grasp things beyond her years, but her parents are not the usual inept adults that are so often present in YA novels. And being a young girl, who genuinely wants her father to be okay and her family to be safe, the reader can only root for her.
There are few books that I could remember for the relationships it creates between characters, but Still has managed to make the daughter-father relationship in this book a special one. Especially, since the tension between them is so palpable as the book goes on.
If there is any criticism for the book that can be offered it would be for something that is almost uncontrollable. It concerns the background conflict between the Colonies and the Crown. This is what gives historical fiction its flavor, but it does overshadow the very personal, family struggle between Mary and her father. This is the only real issue with the storyline, beyond this Defiance on Indian Creek will be a pleasurable read to any person who enjoys YA and a painstakingly researched historical fiction.
Pages: 212 | ASIN: B01HBV3VOW
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