Sunday, April 28, 2013

Book Review: Survivors of Atlantis

Atlantis. Just the name conjures up mysteries and undiscovered secrets of a past, magnificent, and now fallen civilization. Unsurprisingly, in modern times, countless books have been written on the subject; numerous movies have been made; and just as many theories have been espoused. Did Atlantis exist? If so, why are there no physical traces of an island  past the ‘Pillars of Hercules’ (Straits of Gibraltar) that Plato (427-347 BC) describes as being ‘larger than Libya and Asia together’ when the island supposedly was destroyed overnight in a volcanic explosion? The writings of Plato have prompted theories and debate for over 2000 years. Plato was not the only person to speculate about Atlantis. There are 24 or so references to Atlantis by ancient authors, whose works date from 4000 BC to 450 AD (Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Indian writers). Many people believe the tale to be complete fiction; others believe that the story was inspired by catastrophic events that may have destroyed the Minoan civilization on the islands of Crete and Thera. Still others maintain that the story is an accurate telling of a long-lost and almost completely forgotten land.

I love the whole concept of Atlantis, and fell upon Frank Joseph’s book eagerly. The author puts forward the theory, and compellingly so, that the culture itself spread widely throughout the Mediterranean, Africa (north and west), and as far as the Americas, although the physical island base was not as large as Plato describes. Various jumping off points and
established colonies maintained the strength and control of the Atlanteans over conquered territories. The author provides numerous cited examples, including wars, archaeological discoveries, massive architectural remains, similarities in names of places, people, gods, rulers, etc. (although I found some linguistic links a little tenuous).

The only area where I disagreed was the date. This has created problems ever since Plato pinpointed Atlantis as being in existence around 9600 BC, according to the legendary 6th century BC Athenian lawgiver Solon (supposedly the source of his story). Frank Joseph puts his Atlanteans rise and fall within more accurate periods, identifying the Atlanteans and their battle allies as the historically documented ‘Sea Peoples,’ a confederacy of seafaring raiders that attacked various countries such as Egypt, Anatolia, Syria, and Cyprus at the end of the Bronze Age (3200-600 BC). Plato calls the Atlanteans by name; historical records in the time the author cites (3200+) do not. Surely, such a powerful group, if they existed in the time of established record keeping (from 3100 BC), would have been named directly, although the 3rd century BC Egyptian historian Manetho describes a group that have similarities to the Atlantean survivors as ‘Auriteans.’
Plato describes the destruction of Atlantis as having taken place 9000 years earlier than the time he wrote. While this cataclysmic destruction sounds farfetched, the melting of ice caps and glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age (around 12000 BC) resulted in the Mediterranean Sea level rising by 200 feet or more, swamping coastal and island settlements. In addition, around 7500 BC extraordinary rainfall in the Middle East led to catastrophic flooding and other natural disasters, which again affected civilizations. Frank Joseph is more specific and points to four catastrophic events—the cyclical return of a comet and its debris—as being the downfall of this magnificent culture (3100; 2200; 1628 and 1198 BC.). Mass immigrations that followed each disaster spread the Atlanteans’ culture and achievements to Peru, Ireland, Greece, and Mexico, where descriptions of superior visitors are recorded.

The author also points to the particular metal, orichalcum, as being the source of the Atlanteans’ wealth, enabling them to achieve power quickly over their neighbours. Sound far-fetched? The Menomonie Indian tradition mentions fair-skinned strangers that mined the Earth’s ‘shiny bones’ in the North American Great Lakes area. However, by the time Plato wrote, the metal was known by name only.

Another telling point that resonates with the 21st century and the future is the reason the Atlanteans perished. Natural disasters aside, Plato describes the Atlanteans’ hubris, their overweening pride, as a symptom of a sick society. Once heralded for their pure and noble qualities, the Atlanteans became materialistic, proud, aggressive, and forgot the source of their good fortune. They ignored the gods, with dire consequences. Frank Joseph describes how the Atlanteans, at the zenith of their magnificence, thought they could go on conquering various people forever. In control of a purported global empire, who would stop them? They assumed that the rest of humanity would be better off under an Atlantean warlord. The author describes this kind of arrogance as just one of many that various civilizations indulged in before they crashed. “History is littered with the wreckage of broken civilizations…” The pattern of a rise to power, a period of uncontrolled carnage in conquering, and then decline is all too familiar. Herein lies a moral, historical, and cautionary tale for the future. An extensive bibliography is testament to the author’s mammoth research. Despite quibbling about dates, I enjoyed this book so much that I will definitely read other works by this author.

I own a copy of this book and received no remuneration for this review.
by Fiona Ingram

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book Review: The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club

I love murder mystery books and movies. There's nothing like trying to guess whodunit! Imagine when there are four possible victims, and a mysterious killer who remains an enigma until the very end? Author Duncan Whitehead has created a wonderful microcosm of society in Gordonston in his book The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club.
When Thelma Miller dies, everything changes in the leafy Savannah neighborhood of Gordonston. Her three closest friends and fellow members of her afternoon cocktail club (aka Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club) gather to mourn the death and lament the life of their neighbor but already the dynamics of their once close relationship have changed. Gordonston is a typical gated community, where all is amity and tranquillity, and the only thing that mars this idyllic existence is the ONE person who does not scoop the poop after walking his dog. Thelma’s death unleashes a relentless juggernaut of revenge that crashes into these once-peaceful lives. Old sins cast long shadows and ancient histories are revealed in an intertwined web of deception. A killer lurks in the wings and is anyone really who they seem to be?

Hearts beat faster, passions surge, and dark secrets spill over and threaten to destroy the harmony. Age is no barrier to desire—when the chips are down, the resident widows will do anything to secure the affections of the newly widowed Elliot Miller who has political prospects. Added to this overriding theme are the various ambitions of a motley assortment of characters. From the mysterious
European gentleman in South America, the young Italian count in Paris and a charitable and kind hearted nephew recently arrived from India, to the lovely Kelly (who could even be a model) and her handsome fire-fighter husband, to the Englishman (who seems suspicious) and his young daughter, and finally a mysterious killer with links to organized crime. Who is destined for an early-unmarked grave in the wooded park that centers the tree-lined avenues of Gordonston?

This is an absolutely hilarious cosy murder mystery with a kick. A chilling beginning develops into a full-blown saga of intrigue, deceit, and vengeance as petty rivalries escalate and various players set wheels in motion to accomplish their ambitions. With an unerring eye, author Duncan Whitehead homes in on the tiny details that make each character unique. His darkly comic style is reminiscent of Alexander McCall Smith’s writing, with a dry, tongue-in-cheek touch. Seemingly unrelated people and events are drawn into a deadly entanglement that keeps the reader glued to the pages until the dénouement that surprises. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to more from this author. Recommended. Four Stars

by Fiona Ingram

First reviewed for Readers Favorite

Friday, April 5, 2013


 Julian Twerski isn’t a bully. He’s just made a big mistake. He has done something he is deeply ashamed of, something that goes against the grain of his conscience. When he returns to school after a weeklong suspension, his English teacher offers him a deal: if he keeps a journal and writes about the incident that got him and his friends suspended, he can get out of writing a report on Shakespeare.
Julian jumps at the chance. And so begins his account of life in sixth grade—blowing up homemade fireworks, writing a love letter for his best friend (with disastrous results), and worrying whether he’s still the fastest kid in school. Lurking in the background, though, is the one story he can’t bring himself to tell, the one story his teacher most wants to hear.
There’s nothing like a ‘real’ story to bring a smile to one’s face. The book was inspired by author Mark Goldblatt’s own childhood growing up in Queens during the 1960s. Reading it, one can’t help being taken back to the ‘growing up’ years, when everything is confusing, nothing goes right, everyone else is cooler/faster/cleverer and girls are an unfathomable mystery. Told from Julian’s point of view in typical middle-grader stream of consciousness, the author takes the reader on a trip back in time. Incidents pack Julian’s life and he reacts to them in a visceral and sometimes confused way. Life lessons can be hard, and Julian rolls with the punches, doing his best. He doesn’t always pull it off, but he does make sense of things where he can. Julian is a likeable character and he truly does want to make amends. Kids will enjoy this, but I think their parents will also relish this trip down Memory Lane. Times may change, but kids don’t. Author Mark Goldblatt’s style is quirky and different, but appealing with a touch of nostalgia. Five stars.
About the author: Mark Goldblatt is a lot like Julian Twerski, only not as interesting (that’s what he says!). He is a widely published columnist, a novelist, and a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Twerp is his first book for younger readers. He lives in New York City.

Please note that I reviewed an ARC. The book will be available on 28 May 2013.

by Fiona Ingram


I am a huge Agatha Christie (15 /09/1890—12/12/1976) fan. I have possibly all of her books, and nearly all the television and film versions of her works, starring a variety of Hercule Poirots (my best is David Suchet) and Miss Marple (Margaret Rutherford, Joan Hickson and Julia McKenzie tops). According to the Guinness Book of records, Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time. Often referred to as the “Queen of Crime,” she is also regarded as a master of suspense, plotting, and characterisation.
Recently I started rereading her work and began with Crooked House, one of the seven novels inspired by nursery rhymes. Agatha Christie described this as her favourite book. She says in the author’s foreword: “This book is one of my own special favourites. I saved it up for years, thinking about it, working it out, saying to myself, ‘One day when I’ve plenty of time, and want to really enjoy myself—I’ll begin it! … Crooked House was pure pleasure.’”

Three generations of the Leonides family live together under the roof of wealthy patriarch Aristide. His first wife died; her sister Edith has cared for the household since then. His second wife is the indolent Brenda, decades his junior, who exchanges love letters with the grandchildren's tutor, Laurence Brown. After Aristide is poisoned by his own eye medicine (eserine), his granddaughter Sophia tells narrator and fiancé Charles Hayward that they cannot marry until the killer is apprehended. Charles' father "The Old Man" is the Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, so Charles investigates from the inside along with assigned detective, Chief Inspector Taverner. It seems that everyone could have a motive. The ridiculously young wife Brenda wants to be free to marry the tutor. Then there’s Roger, the eldest son who needs money to prop up his tottering business. Second son Philip has always been jealous of Roger. Not to mention their wives (Clemency and Magda), who could also have motive for various financial reasons. Josephine, Aristides’s precocious granddaughter, tells Charles that the police are stupid and she has already worked out who the killer is, along with copious notes and clues in her little black notebook. When Josephine is attacked and Nanny is mysteriously poisoned by hot chocolate after Brenda and the tutor are arrested, the danger escalates to a surprise finish.

This was the first time I’d read the book and it was great. The pace is good, the characters real (we have all met them somewhere along life’s path) and the suspense chilling. I am quite good at guessing the killer in various crime books, but this one stumped (and shocked) me completely. Charles is excellent as the sometimes-bumbling amateur sleuth. Sophia is sharp-witted and courageous. There’s a Roger and a Magda in every family. The family are at once torn apart and cling together in this time of adversity and stalking danger. Highly enjoyable! (A lesson about making a watertight will included!) Five Stars

by Fiona Ingram

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Judicium is a Latin word meaning "legal investigation" or "judicial inquiry" into an incident. One such incident happened around the year 33 AD in the ancient city of Jerusalem when the body of a carpenter's son from Nazareth disappeared three days after He was executed by crucifixion. Because Roman law declared the bodies of those crucified to be Roman property, there was an investigation —a Judicium—into this apparent theft and the strange circumstances surrounding it. Did Jesus’ followers steal the body of their master, or did Caiaphas, High Priest of the Sanhedrin do so to implicate them? If so, why unwrap the body, leaving the shroud and ropes as evidence? Or, as Mary Magdalene fervently attests, did Jesus himself rise from the dead and exit the tomb? The prophecy that Jesus would rise from the dead after three days has come true, but by what means? The novel follows the investigator from Rome as he questions suspects, looks into motives, and runs down leads until the truth is finally revealed to him at the village of Bethany.

Peace in Judea in 33 AD was a fragile accord, held together by the strength of Rome (the ultimate enemy) and politically motivated clandestine agreements and machinations. Jerusalem simmers with burning resentments, ready for an explosion into civil war. The disappearance of the body of the man who so unsettled established rule could be the fuse that sets off a clash between two mighty forces: Rome and Judea. The significance of Jesus’s body cannot be underestimated for people of the time, and for Christians thereafter. The validity of Jesus’s claims about Himself rests on the Resurrection—did He rise from the dead (proving his divinity) or was his body was stolen?

Gerald Hess has created a fascinating read in this thrilling combination of historical and detective novel. The author weaves a detailed tapestry of the politics and religious hatreds stemming from various antagonistic factions, and his deft and unique handling of the topic breathes new life into an ancient story. Faith, religion, and redemption are highlighted as various players are drawn into the tangle of facts and rumours. Included are interesting details that flesh out the era without impeding the story. Both major and minor characters and their various concerns are well drawn and believable. I particularly enjoyed the investigator’s methods of detection. A minutely researched book, with an excellent plot that unfolds with nail-biting intensity. Highly recommended. Five stars.
First reviewed for Readers Favorite
Paperback: 388 pages Publisher: Tate Publishing (January 29, 2013)  ISBN-13: 978-1620248041
Genre: historical, Christian, detective

by Fiona Ingram