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Love Live Forgive: Insights from Artists
Love Live Forgive: Insights from Artists
by Justin St. Vincent
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.78

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Rendering the esoteric accessible is what Justin St. Vincent excels in doing, and that is clearly what he achieves in this collection of interviews with musicians, artists, and authors from around the world. For the five main streams of this book, Artistry, Love & Forgiveness, Compassion & Healing, Transformation, and Unity, St. Vincent has written a brief introduction, summing up the major tenets of the artists whose interviews follow. The complete lack of bias as to the artists who appear in this wide-ranging volume can be seen in the diversity of their interests and faiths. What they do have in common is a deep belief in the transformative and unifying capacity of the medium in which they excel. Their deep-seated humanism and humanitarianism, as well as the simple, yet profound, way in which they express themselves, characterise the text.

To be able to gain access to the innermost workings of the artists’ minds and souls is an intensely felt privilege that so transcends the literal nature of the written text that a feeling of spiritual intimacy is attained with the many creative beings whose thoughts and emotions fill these pages, and which cannot help but overflow into the readers’ own life. For each person who peruses this compilation, Love Live Forgive is bound to exert a gentle and persuasive force that implicitly calls for you to heighten your own awareness of the nuances and subtleties that are both present in your innermost being, as well as in the world around you.

Whereas some of the artists relate their interpretations of the themes in the overall context of the creative milieu, others reveal, through a discussion of their personal experiences, how a particular form of art has helped them to transcend a particular crisis in their life. The latter show how even the scars that are left by surviving such a traumatic experience as rape can be healed through the mellifluous power of word, music and dance. For instance, composer, musician and producer Suzanne Doucet’s recounts how reaching her attempted rapist through song enabled the two to come together in a scene of reconciliation and forgiveness that might not otherwise have been possible. Tending to the spiritual needs of the dying through the therapeutic medium of art is an issue that appears in a number of the interviews, including in those with Mark Lombard, founder and president of For Love & Art, and with the aptly named Michael Stillwater, author and songwriter. Is it any wonder that those who are most deeply in touch with their own emotional and spiritual makeup are so readily involved with those who are having to come to terms with the intricacies of their own journey through life? Love Live Forgive’s many photographs of the artists concerned should also help to warm the readers to the individuals who have so generously given of their time to the present volume.

As well as possibly serving as a key text for encounter groups (for which St. Vincent provides a number of probing questions at key places in the text), Love Live Forgive offers an intrinsic appeal to art and music therapists throughout the world. All those who are intent on deepening their own self-awareness and spirituality are likely to find this book a reliable means of rising above the plain and mundane to ascend to a place of peace and tranquillity that knows few earthly bounds.

Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities
Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities
by James Turner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $30.98
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PHILOLOGY – ONE DISCIPLINE, OR MANY DISCIPLINES?, June 24, 2014
The fluent and highly accessible way in which James Turner, Cavanaugh Professor of Humanities at the University of Notre Dame, recounts the evolution of the science of philology makes for relatively easy reading, which is especially exceptional when one considers the complexity of the subject matter of this 550-page book. Attention-grabbing from the start, Professor Turner begins his prologue by discussing a highly apposite adage of the leading humanistic scholar, Erasmus of Rotterdam, namely: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog [knows] one big thing.” He explains the importance and relevance of the adage to a central issue of this work: whether humanistic scholarship in the West consists of many disciplines, or just one overarching discipline. Clearly, Turner is a dab hand at unpacking multidimensional and intertwined concepts that might otherwise leave the reader floundering in the midst of an academic maze. His competence and ease in exploring a subject to which he has devoted much of his own academic career instils a sense of trust in the reader that this is an expert who is not only on intimate terms with his material, but who is also vitally concerned with conveying his understanding of the matter to his readers, no matter how new they are to the field. While in no way being condescending towards his audience, Turner explains even the most fundamental of ideas and practices in a pragmatic and fulsome way that gives heart and feeling to Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities. Making no undue assumptions as to the pre-existing level of understanding among his audience, he animates and informs all aspects of the evolution of philology, leaving no stone unturned in his portrayal of the history of the discipline, from the time of the ancient Greeks to the modern day.

Turner has a delightful sense of humor—he manifests none of the academic stuffiness that is typically associated with the science of philology, and is, in fact, prone to take the mickey out of pedantic claptrap. For instance, he personifies the appearance of philology in academic circles in Northern America and the British Isles as tottering “along with arthritic creakiness. One would not be startled to see its gaunt torso clad in a frock coat.” The author traces the development of the science from its once “chic” and “dashing” form to its present state of apparent decrepitude with the ease and fluency of a skilled rhetorician who is a master of his art. He shows how, from philology’s once all-embracing encompassment of the study of all language and languages, as well as of all texts, the seeming deterioration of the discipline into its present attenuated state came about through its birthing of the many disciplines that currently comprise not only the humanities, but also the social sciences. By giving rise to a plethora of children, as many parents have done since time immemorial, it can clearly be seen to have sacrificed some of its own integrity so that it could give life to a host of new entities, each strong and growing by leaps and bounds in its own right.

In addition to the present volume, Professor Turner has also authored The Liberal Education of Charles Eliot Norton and Religion Enters the Academy, as well as coauthored The Sacred and the Secular University. He is well-known for the depth of his professional insight and for the fluency and accessibility of his writing, of which the present volume is yet another memorable instance.

Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics (Women of Action)
Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics (Women of Action)
by Kathryn J. Atwood
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.36
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The stereotypical image of the combatants in World War I is of bedraggled and weary men fighting for their very existence in muddy, rat-infested trenches dug deep into the ground of a besieged and war-torn France. However, that the War went far beyond that country, and was most definitely not the sole domain of men, is clearly shown in Kathryn J. Atwood’s Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics. Having already proved her mettle as far as writing about the role that women played in World War II goes, in her authorship of Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue and in her editorship of Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent (both also, as is the present volume, part of the Women of Action series), the redirecting of Atwood’s attention to the Great War in the present volume serves to confirm her overall understanding of not only how devastating conflict can be, in terms of the effects that it has on the life of combatants and non-combatants alike, but also how it provides an arena for bringing out the very best in those who feel inspired or compelled to take part in it.

By focusing on the contribution made to the war effort by the sixteen outstanding women whose tales she here tells, Atwood is able to show, in some detail, how they were able to use the strengths of their gender as a cause célèbre to enhance and complement the work done by those who have traditionally been seen as the major protagonists in military struggle, namely men. The caring capacity of women, although most clearly revealed in the medical profession, is also explored in the section on resisters and spies. The bravery and allegiance of the teenager, Emilienne Moreau, who became a national symbol of hope for the French during a time when they had otherwise become disheartened by their severe losses at the Front, is echoed in more mature and full-bodied terms in the life of Louise Thuliez (who gave, as her motive for becoming involved with helping the Allied cause, “[b]ecause I am a Frenchwoman”), and in that of the fiercely defiant Gabrielle Petit.

The impact made by the death of Edith Cavell at the hands of a firing squad is shown as a key element of propaganda that was used against the Central Powers for the rest of the war. Atwood’s logical arranging of the chapters of her book shows the considerable amount of forethought that she has put into this work. By heading Women Heroes of World War I with a description of Cavell’s involvement in the war, Atwood is able to refer back to the heroic stance that she adopted, even at her own execution, in later chapters. An instance of this is the fruitless attempt that was made by the Germans to get Elsie Inglis, founder of field hospitals run entirely by women, to sign a declaration condoning their treatment of her in captivity, which they could have used to reflect their humanitarianism, and to deflate the outrage felt by the rest of the world on Cavell’s death.

The heroic role played by the Russian women who voluntarily enlisted in the Women’s Battalion of Death, headed up by Maria Bochkareva, in raising the morale of those who fought on the Eastern Front is counterpoised against the role of the intrepid intelligence organizer extraordinaire, Louise de Bettignies, who inscribed her petticoats with messages written in lemon juice, a cheap form of invisible ink, so that she could move through enemy lines unscathed. No matter to which country or cause the women described in Women Heroes of World War I committed their energetic endeavours, they are all shown as having maximized the resources at their disposal, whether of a more feminine nature, or through temporary suppression of their gender in support of what they saw as a far more urgent cause.

In short, Atwood’s book is a reflection of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, and deserves its place on the bookshelf of anyone who is truly interested in the history not only of World War I, but also of womankind itself.

Alive!: Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary People Who Survived Deadly Tornadoes, Avalanches, Shipwrecks and More!
Alive!: Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary People Who Survived Deadly Tornadoes, Avalanches, Shipwrecks and More!
by Editors of Reader's Digest
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.03
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stories of How Getting to Grips with the Raging Elements Can Bring About Spiritual Faith and Renewal in a Tempestuous World, June 2, 2014
The adventure stories in this collection, although all previously having been published in the Reader’s Digest magazine itself, remain as fresh and gripping as they were on their first day of print. For decades, Reader’s Digest has narrated tales that transcend human anxieties and fears, showing how we nearly all, when we are pushed to the very limits of our endurance, are, nevertheless, somehow able to rally ourselves to overcome the odds that sometimes seem to be overwhelmingly stacked against us. All of the tales in Alive!: Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary People Who Survived Deadly Tornadoes, Avalanches, Shipwrecks and More originally formed part of the regular column entitled “Drama in Real Life” during the last two decades, with most of them coming from the 21st century. However, as is stressed in the introduction to this fine volume of intrepid amateur exploration and outward bound activity, which is set, more often than not, in the wilderness, or at sea, although sometimes in the apparent sanctity and security of the protagonists’ own homes, these tales are, essentially, “timeless.”

What makes these stories a great deal more than just simply anecdotes is the nature of the combatants themselves. The individuals who people these tales, and with whom we become familiar on first name basis, can, at times, be seen to be at harmony with elements in the wild that serve to attract them into situations where their very lives are often imperilled. When not vying against primeval forces of tempest and environmental mayhem, such as typhoons and hurricanes, they can be seen savouring the beauties and wonders of this double-edged nature. For instance, the noble mustangs that Tom and Tabitha Garner search after for spiritual solace in “Into the Wild” are felt almost to empathize with the couple when they are marooned by howling blizzards: “The blizzard was petering out, and a crowd of mustangs peered at the truck through the trees. ‘Look, Tom,’ Tamitha whispered. “Our guardian angels.’”

The objective and thoughtful recounting of these stories of human endeavour is balanced by the insights that the tales provide into the inner workings of the human mind under stress. With the circumstances in which the various characters find themselves being contextualized in such a way that readers are easily able to relate to them, even if they have not personally encountered such situations themselves, when it comes to moments of high drama, the perspective is presented from the eye-view of the proponents of action themselves. Once the crisis is over, the aftermath is then once more narrated from a more objective standpoint. This alternate narrowing and broadening of focus helps to make the accounts not only highly readable and exciting, but also capable of conveying a deeper message than might otherwise be possible. Many a budding journalist out there might well take note of this tried and true technique, in order to improve their own stylistic rendering of similar situations.

Alive!: Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary People Who Survived Deadly Tornadoes, Avalanches, Shipwrecks and More should prove to be a worthwhile addition to any home, school or school library. It comes thoroughly recommended for all ages and all audiences, as, naturally, does the Reader’s Digest magazine itself.

Jane Austen's Country Life: Uncovering the rural backdrop to her life, her letters and her novels
Jane Austen's Country Life: Uncovering the rural backdrop to her life, her letters and her novels
by Deirdre Le Faye
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.83
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How the Tranquil Hampshire Landscape Contributed to Jane Austen’s Literary Masterpieces, May 28, 2014
For lovers of the Hampshire countryside, there can be no greater joy than rediscovering it under the guidance of one of the greatest English female authors of all time, Jane Austen, and that is exactly what this wonderful portrayal of country life, as seen from her perspective, allows us to do. As Deirdre le Faye is keen to tell the reader from the outset, Austen spent three-quarters of her relatively brief lifetime of forty-one years in just such a tranquil rural setting. The insular nature of the society in which Austen lived and wrote, and which runs as a common thread throughout her work, can be seen as circumscribing it to such an extent that there was little else on which to dwell than on property, whether of an animate or inanimate kind. However, what might be seen as a demerit by some might just as easily be seen as a merit by others.

Indeed, the nature and use of land is of prime interest throughout Austen’s writings. Little wonder, then, that such is a central theme of this work, from the impact of land enclosure to a focus on those who worked and managed the land. Le Faye’s vivid and clear descriptions, placing Austen’s work within the historic agricultural context, are so vibrant and full of life that they buoy the spirit up, as well as helping to familiarize foreign readers with the settings in which she wrote.

For those who are already well acquainted with Le Faye’s other works on the life and writings of Jane Austen, among which the most notable are Jane Austen: A Family Record and Jane Austen: The World of her Novels, it comes as no surprise that this guide to the rural backdrop of her life, her letters and her novels is so well illustrated with numerous full-colour portrayals of a countryside that is both beautiful and moving, in both a spiritual and an aesthetic sense. Despite the petite bourgeois nature of Austen’s own family and setting, she was closely familiar with the more rustic scenes of working class life, allowing for the inclusion of pictures of labourers' activities to form an intrinsic part of this study. Instances of such artwork appear in the form of, among others, such reproductions as William Bigg’s “Sunday Morning, a Cottage Family going to Church”, John Boys’s “Ploughman at Work”, and Thomas Rowlandson’s “Labourers at Rest”. Austen’s warmth and involvement with her characters, which in no way, however, prevented her from criticising their flaws, albeit in the gentlest of ways, is clearly reflected in this highly articulate text, which shows at every turn the close intimacy that Le Faye has with all aspects of her subject matter. The landed estates of the aristocracy are also revealed in all their magnificence, with the great sweeping vistas of “The Country round Dixton Manor” and Thomas Sandby’s “View of Box Hill from Norbury Park, Surrey” being only two instances of the reproduction of a multiplicity of grand and gracious paintings and drawings.

All round, Jane Austen’s Country Life is a most insightful volume, and deserves to have much success, both among Janeians and among all those who love the English countryside, and who wish to be transported back to a time when they could ramble more freely, in both body and spirit, about its verdant meadows.

Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays of Erich Auerbach
Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays of Erich Auerbach
by Erich Auerbach
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $34.73
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Of this collection of twenty essays by the German founder of comparative literature, spanning his entire career, twelve have never before appeared in English, and one is published here for the very first time. The main purpose behind this volume is to make Auerbach’s writings more generally available to English-speaking audiences. With this intent in mind, James I. Porter, professor of classics and comparative literature at the University of California, Irvine presents a profound and deeply insightful introduction to the life, work and importance of Auerbach, within the context of the time and place within which, and where, he wrote. Of great importance to his work was the fact that he was a displaced Jewish person in exile, having escaped the National Socialist regime in the country of his birth, and having taken up an academic appointment in Istanbul, at the time of his writing of his greatest work, and that for which he is the most renowned, namely Mimesis.

The significance of these essays is that they both foreshadow, and follow on from, the above-mentioned text, so that they comprehensively reflect Auerbach’s development as a thinker and philosopher. The focus throughout the essays included here is on the linkage between different forms of language, and on the transformation of the Western world by means of human intellectual conception, perception, and action. Rather than arranging the essays chronologically, Porter has opted for organizing them into three main themes: history and the philosophy of history: Vico, Herder, and Hegel; time and temporality in literature; and passionate subjects, from the Bible to secular modernity. Porter’s introduction likewise does great justice to the subtlety and nuances of Auerbach’s writings by pointing out how they embody and exemplify the author’s worldview, fundamental to which was his complex relationship to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, leading to his profoundly moral and ethical stance on the whole of human history.

Considerable care has been taken, in translation, to retain the intent and the meaning of the original work. Professor Jane O. Newman, a colleague of Porter, and the translator of these essays, who is lauded by her students in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine for her intelligence and passionate commitment to her work, spent her undergraduate years at Yale, and her postgraduate years at Princeton. She shows her intense interest in this work through the sincerity of the effort that she has put into her translation. As she states, “I have tried to capture Auerbach’s insights into the way literary texts themselves work and his methodological interventions into how we read them as accurately as possible.” While consulting some of the existing translations, when available, she has done so in such a way as to assimilate the most worthy, and to reformulate their wording and expression where she has found it desirable, and necessary, to do so.

For scholar and non-academic alike, this work is of extreme importance, especially given the relatively scanty number of works available on such a key figure to the development of the study of comparative literature.
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Cooking for Crowds: 40th Anniversary Edition
Cooking for Crowds: 40th Anniversary Edition
Price: $16.17

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Although the readership of this long-standing culinary classic is likely to be much better informed about cross-cultural cooking than its original audience was forty years ago, Cooking for Crowds is as likely to be pleasing to the modern-day palate as it was a generation ago. With a keen appreciation for the tasteful and the nutritious, White’s recipes are bound to appeal to a broad spectrum of those who can appreciate fine food, without it having to be exorbitantly expensive.

Her brief, but informative, introduction to each dish not only serves to contextualize the origin of the course (and to explain what its fancy and/or foreign-sounding name means), but also contains useful suggestions on how to present it most appropriately (and, sometimes, what common mistakes to avoid). For instance, White’s introduction to the recipe for “Lapin Chasseur” reads: “A simple rabbit stew can be a rich and savory treat. Fresh thyme and parsley are especially important for this dish, as are fresh tomatoes, fresh mushrooms, and good olive oil.” As can be seen, White’s tone is reassuring without being patronising, and she clearly has hands-on experience of all the meals that she so eloquently describes. This comes as no surprise when one recalls that she earned her way through school by catering for Harvard’s Center for West European studies, neither is it at all amazing to find that her adventurous spirit (which saw her, among other things, trekking through the Nepalese mountains during the 1970s—small wonder that she is currently professor of anthropology at Boston University) spills over plentifully into the richness and assurance of her dishes.

Following on introductory sections on such essentials as “Pots, Pans, and Utensils”, “Herbs and Spices” and “Conversion”, the main text is conveniently divided into “Soups and Starters”, “Main Dishes”, “Vegetables and Side Dishes”, and “Desserts”. Rather than illustrating the work in conventional cookbook fashion, with colorful photos of how each dish should appear, the decision was taken to use humorous line-and-ink drawings that anthropomorphically reflect the various ingredients as characters in their own light. Acclaimed artist Edward Koren’s multiple illustrations successfully add to the approachability of the text, and no doubt should help to ease some of the angst that is often associated with catering for large numbers. Keeping such a concern in mind, a key consideration of the presenter of this text was the requirement that the amount of ingredients used should be easily adaptable to the size of the party concerned. However, any qualms that the prospective cook might have in this direction are quelled by the list of constituents for each dish being given for 6, 12, 20, and 50 people.

The format of Cooking for Crowds is also very appealing, using large type and with each step in the process being logically and clearly described, many in their own paragraph. The eight-page index is well organised under key entries such as “beef,” “bread,” and “broccoli.” None of the ingredients is difficult to obtain, and where one might not easily be able to find one item, an alternative is named. In short, this is a thoroughly delightful and accessible source of food inspiration for catering creatively for large groups. Cookery clubs and caterers, no matter the size, should definitely bear this one in mind.

The Original Reigining Cats and Dogs: A Lighthearted Look at Pets and Their Owners
The Original Reigining Cats and Dogs: A Lighthearted Look at Pets and Their Owners
by Marvin Ross
Edition: Perfect Paperback
Price: $11.40
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A chatty and pleasant guide to pet ownership, with many a sound piece of appropriate advice between, or emerging from, the plentiful anecdotes described, The Original Reigning Cats & Dogs: A Light-Hearted Look at Pet Ownership (keeping in mind that they tend to own you, rather than you to own them) is the reworking of a text that first emerged in 1985 from the joint stable of Marvin Ross (who has been described as “an excellent writer, researcher and humorist”) and David Shaw (who has over forty years experience as a freelance illustrator and book designer).

From the very first, Ross advises “your decision about a pet carries with it a great many responsibilities and numerous consequences”. The book is jammed full of amusing incidents between pet and (prospective) owner that clearly illustrate how (not to) handle the former, if the reader wishes to retain a smidgen of sanity in a world occupied by a subject race (i.e. humans) that is (or at least appears to be) dominated by animals of one specie or another. No matter who you are, and regardless of whether you have had one or other pet occupy the throne in your home, or merely had the misfortune to have been exposed to such subjection in the homes of others (for we, the initiated, regard you, in such a case, as being truly deprived), the sundry episodes of comic relief that the reigning monarchs (seek to) provide, as described in this guide, are likely to bring to mind the winsome and wily mannerisms of other pets that you have encountered on this long, and otherwise sometimes inevitably lonely, sojourn through life. And not only are the pets themselves amusing, in their wanton and wilful ways, but so, too, are the humans involved (sharing, as they do, the camaraderie of the oppressed, for not always, it must be admitted, is the reign one of benevolent dictatorship, but, on the odd occasion, fringing on the tyrannical).

Among the humans, the ongoing conflict between those who are ‘in the know’ (such as the omniscient clerks in pet stores) and those of us who struggle ineptly along, trying to cope the best that we can with animals of which we sometimes know relatively little, but of whom we need to know a great deal more, is artfully and wittily described in word and drawing in The Original Reigning Cats & Dogs. If you are one of the willingly subject, the combined talents of Ross and Shaw are likely to have you cleaning up even the smelliest emission with a smile (albeit rather wry). For those of you who, in a most unseemly and anarchic fashion, have so far refused to be dominated by another species (and the range spreads far beyond merely canine and feline in this work, going even so far as to include exotic and substitute pets), the likelihood is that you will easily succumb, with, no doubt at times, voyeuristic glee, to the mood elevating tales of (mis)adventure that you encounter in this well-written and illustrated text. In short, this account is recommended for all, no matter the age, who have had a pet enter their life, for no matter how short a period.

Hitchhike the World: Book I: America, Europe, Africa
Hitchhike the World: Book I: America, Europe, Africa
by William A. Stoever
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.46
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Pros and Cons of Hitching a Ride Around the World, December 30, 2013
Hitchhiking is not the ideal means of transport for many, but when you are young and intrepid, it is a way of gaining self-confidence, as long as you approach it sensibly and clearheadedly. As Stoever points out, “most people couldn’t adjust to the uncertainties and discomforts I experienced. I’m tremendously glad to have done the things I did, but they wouldn’t be right for most people.”

What Stoever did was to travel through 86 countries by the time that he was thirty, and, since then, to have visited 21 more. During his 20’s, he got around mainly by hitchhiking, on a strictly limited budget, staying at some of the cheapest accommodation available. In the two volumes of Hitchhike the World, Stoever relates how, in order to master “the excitement of going new places, seeing new things, having new experiences” he took to the road, first in the U.S., and then later in Mexico, Europe, and Africa (described in Book I), followed by in the Middle East and Asia (described in Book II). On the way, he came to learn a great deal about himself, about his fellow travelers (including many an apostolic Bible-thumping missionary, as well as some fairly risque mavericks), and about the places through which he traveled. This he regales his readers with at some length, recounting verbatim many of the conversations that he had with those who gave him lifts, as well as with those he met at the numerous stopovers where he stayed.

In addition to the multiple instances of dialogue, with some pleasant, and some not so pleasant, people whom he met along the way, he conveys a great deal of advice to youngsters on how to handle different situations that they might encounter if they decide to make use of this form of transportation. The topics covered most notably include toilets, dangers, photography (the only part of Book I that contains several photos is that on East Africa, although Stoever does provide rudimentary maps, on which all his journeys described are traced), meals, prices, and weak currencies and black markets, among many others.

Half reminiscence, half guidebook, Hitchhike the World makes a truly worthwhile read, whether you are interested in recalling similar experiences that you might have had in your own youth, or whether you are still young and adventurous in both mind and body, and wish to embark on such exploits yourself. Even though Stoever’s travels mainly occurred in the 1960’s, he has included many asides updating the details that he provides with salient information concerning the modern-day situation in the countries that he describes, so the work is still relevant today.

The Ravens of Solemano or The Order of the Mysterious Men in Black (The Young Inventors Guild)
The Ravens of Solemano or The Order of the Mysterious Men in Black (The Young Inventors Guild)
Price: $7.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Discovery and Invention Meet Gifted Children in Peril Makes for Exciting Adventure, December 29, 2013
Following on The Atomic Weight of Secrets, with which The Young Inventors Guild series started, comes The Ravens of Solemano, or The Order of the Mysterious Men in Black. This novel for tweens has a great deal to do with invention and discovery, as well as with adventure and intrigue.

The Ravens of Solemano concerns a group of children who are whisked away from their homes all over the world (Faye Vigyanveta from Delhi, India; Jasper and Lucy Modest from London, England; Noah Canto-Sagas from Toronto, Canada; and Wallace Banneker from New York), to board a train that takes them to a laboratory-in-making set in a resort on Long Island, where they encounter the inventor Mr. Nikola Tesla. The fictional portrayal of this great physicist and futurist, who is most well-known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system, is both amusing and insightful. And this is only the start of their trans-Atlantic journey that takes them all the way across the Atlantic to arrive, finally, in the ancient Italian village of Solemano, set deep in the Apennine range of mountains, where they are met by an eerie silence that is penetrated by “the occasional howl of an Apennine wolf”. Eerie enough for you? Good.

Any tween with the slightest interest in science is likely to be drawn into this spirited tale of exploding trains and fantastic discoveries, including death rays and flying machines. Enough is explained of what has happened previously that even those who have not read the previous book in this series will be able to grasp the story line with ease, and to relate to the central characters (consisting of the children, their parents, and their teacher) from start to finish. The warmth and the integrity of the characters shines through in the way in which they care for one another, so that this is a pleasant and a comforting text, despite the weirdness of the situations in which the children find themselves. By the book also giving valuable insights into how the adults involved perceive and understand situations of crisis, specifically, the child reader is also able to gain perspective on what it feels like to be part of the adult world, with its attendant responsibilities.

The omnipresence of the children’s arch-enemy, Komar Romak, a somewhat Houdini-like character, who seemingly just won’t go away, at least in terms of thought, binds the children together in response to the common peril. The portrayal of the sense of camaraderie that prevails amongst these youngsters, who are so imminently at risk, especially when their parents are not around, should serve to capture the attention of the target audience of The Ravens of Solemano. Quite apart from the physical dangers to which they are subject, it is even more the ongoing dread of Romak that elicits their sense of responsibility towards one another. However, the humorous descriptions of the mysterious “men in black”, who, although they, on the one hand, are described as “no angels…[g]uardians or captors…a rather unlovable bunch”, are, on the other, portrayed as wearing such totally outlandish gear (“a bathing cap, a pair of dark goggles, and poofy trousers that seemed to tie at the ankles”), serve to alleviate the tension of the central plot.

This middle novel of a trilogy is so intriguing that it is highly likely to have you asking for the other two, too. Its sound ethical stance, without being in any way preachy, and its take on the many aspects of giftedness among preteens, should recommend it to any teacher or parent who believes in old-world values and holds them dear.

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