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The Last Crusader Kingdom: Dawn of a Dynasty in Twelfth-Century Cyprus
By: Helena P. Schrader
Publication Date: August 2017
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 13, 2017
Reviewers have stated this before: This author knows more history than anyone out there. In addition, she also knows exactly how to put on paper a historical book that excites, offers suspense, sparks adventure, and brings together a cast of characters that are literally impossible to forget once the last page has been read.
In this newest tale, readers join up with John d’Ibelin, who is the son of the legendary Balian who readers met and became loyal to in previous tales written by Helena Schrader. We begin at a monastery on the island of Cyprus in the year 1193. Dozens of villagers have reached the monastery’s doors, and look like they have met with men of war, which they most definitely have. The villagers have had to defend their homes (yet again) and fight for their very lives against an enemy they cannot beat. However, this is nothing new for these people on the island of Cyprus.
The English King first sold the island to the Templars, whose rule was not exactly popular with the natives. The Templars were forced out and now the island has been placed in the hands of one who has a mighty pack of supporters desperate to gain Cyprus as compensation for their own lands lost. If something is not done soon, the name of Richard the Lionheart – the ultimate crusader – will no longer have a legacy that includes Cyprus. There has to be hope somewhere; a man who could stand up to the battle and win the ultimate war.
Enter...John d’Ibelin. As the son of a true hero, John has a legacy of his own he will one day have to live up to. At this moment, he is away from his own father and family, apprenticing for a Constable. A pounding comes on the door of the home owned by the Constable of Jerusalem. He is arrested for treason, sending John on horseback to alert his father of this horrible news. After all, if anyone would know what to do, it would be Balian. He is the man who enabled 3,000-plus to escape the Saracen and negotiated the surrender of Jerusalem which saved tens of thousands of more lives.
When John arrives before his father, they are both confused as to how on earth the ‘paragon of chivalry’ who is Lord Aimery would possibly have committed treason. Something is truly wrong with this picture, and another war is about to commence.
From a faltering dynasty to meeting up with pirates sailing the Mediterranean, this intricate and exciting book offers up the early history of the Kingdom of Cyprus. As the author states at the beginning, this is one kingdom that has largely been lost over time. There are very few facts left in regards to the founding of Cyprus, so this fictional work focuses on ways that these things could have happened.
Quill says: Historical fiction fans, adventure fans – there is something in The Last Crusader Kingdom for everyone. Yet again, Helena Schrader has hit the ball out of the “proverbial park” with her intelligence and creativity.
There are many reasons why people become writers, and their reasons are all valid. In Diana Raab’s case, she began journaling as a source of healing—a way to express her feelings after the only grandmother who she knew (as well as her long-time caretaker) committed suicide. That was just the beginning. There were many more trials to come, and with each situation, Raab turned her pain into writing. Her proactive attitude back then and now is this: “direct your rage to the page.” While journaling is not a new concept, what Raab offers in her latest work, Writing for Bliss, goes way beyond journaling. Precisely capturing the purpose of her latest book, she states:
“My intention in creating this present book, Writing for Bliss, is to share my passion for writing and how it has helped me heal over the course of six decades. I hope it will help you transcend what immediately meets your eyes by digging deeper into your psyche and hearing the voice of your true authentic self, while listening to the messages of your heart rather than suppressing them.”
Writing goes hand-in-hand with reading, so if you think you’re not much of a reader or writer but have a desire to go there, then you’ve come to the right place. Maybe you’re at the other end of the spectrum—a seasoned reader and writer. Raab has plenty to steer you into an eye-opening “trajectory,” as Raab puts it. In a nutshell, Raab’s “seven-step plan for telling your story and transforming your life,” as her subtitle indicates, is all about introspection—a topic that is as old as scriptures in the Bible. Unfortunately, for many, choosing to “examine oneself” fits into the category of “the road less traveled” since it requires facing one’s fears—an action that is as frightening as the fears themselves.
“Self-reflection,” Raab states, “encourages you to examine your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs.” Her proactive approach to self-examination may be methodical as well as user-friendly, but on a larger scale, it is laced with a huge heart of compassion. Life can be tough, and everyone goes through trials on various levels. People may be on different journeys, but their paths lead to the same place of desiring to achieve the highest of dreams possible. That said, she encourages her audience to read her book the first time through to get a basic overview, and then zero in on the areas that speak loudly and clearly during the second round.
The first four steps concentrate on engaging in the introspection process. Topics range from “rituals to writing” and transpersonal psychology (“the newest and fifth branch of psychology”) to “the art of power of storytelling” and “the meaning of experiences.” The last three steps provide tools to help readers find their voice, such as journaling, poetry, as well as publishing for those who love the challenge of going the extra mile and sharing their memoirs to others who could use a helping hand. Barely over 200-pages in length, Writing for Bliss is jammed with examples (personal and from other authors), tips, a plethora of writing prompts, and a chock full list of books for further reading. Raab’s ability to reach out and tenderly touch her audience is nothing less than awe-inspiring.
Closing on Raab’s words, she leaves her audience with these thoughts:
“My hope is that readers will become inspired to write during their joyous and difficult times, while also experimenting with different genres and ways of writing and being.”
Quill says: An absolute must read for those seeking real breakthroughs in their lives.
For more information on Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life, please visit the author's website at: www.dianaraab.com
By: Lisa Stauder
Publication Date: January 2017
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 25, 2017
Remember those days of “imaginary friends?” What if those days didn’t end upon maturation? What if those friends turned out to be a whole heck of a lot more? Well...after reading Imprint, not only will readers have a cool time, learn about an interesting piece of history, and be able to meet, greet and relate to a variety of characters, but readers will also find themselves questioning whether or not we simply “accept” the norm because it’s easier than making waves.
Leah is a seventeen-year-old girl who has been ‘traveling’ in her dreams for years. She has been able to see and hug those who have gone before, and even has the ability to take back messages to the rest of the family. For example: she met up with her great grandmother and brought a message back to her grandmother in regards to a treasure of sorts that was hidden underneath the floorboards of her grandparents’ house. In addition, Leah has always heard and seen, mind you, since she was a toddler, two girls named Amy and Jessica. Not just in dreams, but during the day, as well. Leah’s mother believed that it was one of those adorable traits when she was a kid, although Leah’s father knew it was more than that. As Leah grew, her mother became more and more frustrated by these various ‘gifts’ her daughter had, while Dad was simply waiting for a time to explain to Leah what they were all about and how to use them properly.
Soon, Leah’s horizon is opened by her father’s side of the family. She is taught many things about her abilities, dating back to 1641 and the Pequot tribe that lived in what became the State of Connecticut. Leah learns facts in regards to how people lived and exited the earth at one time before subscribing to the “normal” way in order to not scare people. She was also shown a place called ‘The Labyrinth’ which ends up being a core piece of the story.
As the reader follows Leah through her own path of enlightenment, many things are touched upon from the true art of tattooing, to ‘traveling’ in other bodies, viewing incidents both bad and good happening in life, the theory of guardian angels, a family’s attempt at understanding and acceptance, and the wisdom and spirituality of grandparents as they bestow the future generations information they should be aware of in order to live a full life.
As it is with prejudice in other forms, there are a great many who make fun of those who believe they have abilities that cannot be proven, so to speak, by scientific fact. However, everyone has these gifts; they simply choose to go with the “norm” and give titles to the unknown, such as déjà vu, in order to explain them away. Imprint gives an interesting take on this gift. The only downside to this book is the formatting troubles. There is punctuation left out, as well as tabs omitted so that at times the actual structure of the paragraphs is a bit messy. Although these issues may, to some readers, detract from the book (which is unfortunate), it is important to remember that this author has not only put together a fun story, but she has also put her own experiences on paper in a tale that can be enjoyed. And a tale that, perhaps, will have people stop closing the door on something that is labeled “unknown.”
Quill says: It is true that we leave an imprint on other peoples’ lives. This is a great read for those who want to laugh, love, and learn about that imprint.