With great power comes great responsibility: a review of the fantasy novel, “Justi the Gifted”   Leave a comment

Justi the GiftedJusti the Gifted by R.R. Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

R. R. Brooks fantasy novel, Justi the Gifted, is the story of a young man with destructive power that is called forth when injustice and violence threaten. While this power can be wielded in many circumstances, as Justi grows up he struggles to achieve some level of control over it, to reach some level of maturity in understanding the proper use of this gift. In some respects, this gift is an imperfect one – even with the best intentions on Justi’s part, a certain balance is called for. Mercerio, Justi’s love interest, has a gift of her own, one of mercy and peacemaking. Her gift helps to balance Justi’s, and the fulfillment of good and order in their world depends on both gifts. Neither alone is sufficient. In the process of restoring their land and vanquishing its invaders, Justi and Mercerio are aided – and thwarted – by an assemblage of humans and gods, from parents and friends to seers and warriors and warlords who follow, however unwittingly, the will of their gods. The thread connecting discovery and danger moves the story along to the triumph the heroes seek … but the consequences of an indiscretion on Justi’s part leave room for a possible sequel to Justi the Gifted, making us wonder how a more mature Justi and Mercerio can apply their gifts in meeting a new threat.

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Posted April 22, 2017 by markelacy in book review

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The Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the ShellGhost in the Shell by Tow Ubukata
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Short enough for an experimental read? Check. Eye-catching cover? Check. Decent price through Amazon? Check. Tie-in to a movie I want to see? Check. Worth the effort of reading? Sadly, no.

The Ghost in the Shell: Five New Short Stories is a collection of stories by five Japanese media authors/creators that builds upon the story presented in the movie “The Ghost in the Shell.” It is a quick read, which is the only reason I didn’t abandon the book part-way through. Too often I felt like I was reading a comic book or graphic novel without the graphics, and that just doesn’t work. I have not yet seen the movie, but I don’t believe my opinion of the book would change if I had.

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Posted April 14, 2017 by markelacy in book review

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On Tyranny

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth CenturyOn Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It has become a cliché to quote George Santayana’s dictum that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It is unfortunate – if not tragic – to hear history as an important part of school curricula spurned. Worse yet, as author and Yale historian Timothy Snyder tells us in his new book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (Tim Duggan Books, 2017), democracy is in danger if we do not take historical lessons to heart.

“The Founding Fathers,” writes Snyder, “tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from the experience.”

On Tyranny is a short book but is one which the reader should reread again and again. Snyder packs a lot of warning into his words, words that need to seep in for us to become fully awake to our clear and present danger. There are twenty chapters, or “lessons,” each of which is titled with a maxim: “Do not obey in advance.” “Take responsibility for the face of the world.” “Believe in truth.” “Listen for dangerous words.” And, perhaps the most chilling, “Be calm when the unthinkable arrives.” Each chapter is introduced with a few remarks about how to put that chapter’s maxim into action.

We must learn from the mistakes of the twentieth century, Snyder admonishes us. We must not take democracy for granted, or fall victim to naïve optimism that because democracy is so important, it is not vulnerable. Wake up, says Snyder. The wolves are at the door.

It would be impractical to comment on every one of Snyder’s lessons, so allow me to select one as an illustration: “Investigate.” Snyder encourages us all to investigate. “The individual who investigates is also the citizen who builds. The leader who dislikes the investigators is a potential tyrant.” And truth? Snyder does not mince words: “Like Hitler, the president used the word lies to mean statements of fact not to his liking, and presented journalism as a campaign against himself.” What is our responsibility as citizens? “Since in the age of the internet we are all publishers, each of us bears some private responsibility for the public’s sense of truth.” Snyder says to verify information ourselves, and carefully choose trustworthy journalists.

Snyder’s message is loud and clear: we must defend democracy, we must do it now, and there are ways to accomplish that. I can’t imagine how anyone could not take this to heart.

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Posted April 5, 2017 by markelacy in book review, government

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Neurologists and Firemen: A Review of Susannah Cahalan’s “Brain on Fire”

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, Susannah Cahalan’s first-hand account of a debilitating illness, is both disturbing and captivating. Disturbing, because we are reminded by her story that any of us could be (and many people are) hit with a serious illness out of the clear blue. Life is neither fair, nor predictable. Captivating, because how many of us could lose our mind, as Cahalan did, and chronicle the process of our mental death and resurrection? The story of what she endures while in diagnostic limbo necessarily relies on the observations and notes of family, friends, and physicians. Detective work permeates Cahalan’s story on two different levels: the struggles of physicians who are trying to determine why a young woman suddenly begins exhibiting bizarre behavior, hallucinations, and seizures, and, at a higher level, the author’s application of her skills as an investigative reporter in order to piece her story together.

If you’ve ever seen someone suffer from an unexplained illness, you can’t help but connect with Cahalan’s family, if not the author herself. I have watched someone close to me struggle with an autoimmune disorder that has baffled many doctors and placed major constraints on this person’s quality of life. Simply giving this person’s disorder a name (a.k.a., a definitive diagnosis) has eluded most doctors. Susannah Cahalan was extremely fortunate to have been diagnosed and successfully treated for what is known as “anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.”

I have also watched – with heartache – someone else I cared for periodically descend into a serious mental illness, and felt helpless to do anything about it. We look to doctors for answers and when they are unable to give them, it plants a seed of fear, a fear that this person may never be the same again. I also know someone who, like the author, was evaluated by a neuropsychologist for a cognitive disorder. It is truly amazing what the administration of cognitive tests can reveal about brain function.

Cahalan’s story has a happy ending. She is successfully treated and, with time, able to make a full recovery. But she reminds us that there are many others, every day, whose illness so baffles physicians that they may never be appropriately diagnosed. Though modern medicine is able to treat and prevent disease in ways we would have never guessed, it is both true and uncomfortable to accept that there are medical tragedies for which we have yet to find a cure.

Posted March 22, 2017 by markelacy in book review

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Civil War Mysteries

William Martin’s hybrid historical-fiction/thriller, The Lincoln Letter , promised to be an interesting read, and I was not disappointed.  The story revolves around a previously-unknown diary of Abraham Lincoln’s, a daybook that clearly shows the evolution of his thoughts on the emancipation of slaves. Modern-day historical sleuths Peter Fallon and Evangeline Carrington are racing to locate the diary before it is found by those who would use its controversial contents to further their nefarious political desires. Juxtaposed with the 21st century treasure-hunting story is the story of how Lincoln’s diary came to be lost during the Civil War, and the lengths to which Lincoln’s enemies would go to locate it. In order to track down the diary, Fallon and Carrington must – through careful research – reconstruct the Civil War story.  They must also thread their way through a complex web of characters whose varied selfish aims place the sleuths in danger at every turn.

The novel was very interesting, but it also appealed to me on another level: it reminded me of my own research in reconstructing the Civil War career of my great-great-grandfather, a junior officer in Tennessee’s Confederate Cavalry who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the middle of the war, never to be seen again. Solving Lt. Andrew Lacy’s mystery does not have the potential impact of Lincoln’s diary in The Lincoln Letter, and there is no race to elucidate this mystery. But just as seemingly minor details at the time of the Civil War provided important clues to the disappearance of Lincoln’s diary in The Lincoln Letter, my hope is that minor details (many of which are found in the letters Lacy and his family wrote one another during the war) may lead to the discovery of my ancestor’s actual fate. This possibility is what keeps me searching, researching, and re-researching. It also makes for more extensive research than I realized I would need in order to tell Lt. Lacy’s story. That, in turn, has caused the writing of my story to take much longer than I had guessed. All I can ask for is patience from those who are waiting to read Lt. Lacy’s tale.

Posted March 22, 2017 by markelacy in book review, research

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THE DREAMTUNNEL SEQUENCE – Kindle ebook is FREE from January 12-16, 2017!

It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since I published my fantasy novel,  THE DREAMTUNNEL SEQUENCE.  I know many people interested in the novel never snagged a copy.  Now there’s no excuse not to!   From Thursday, January 12 through Monday, January 16, you can get the Kindle ebook from Amazon for FREE!  Spread the word … I want everyone to have a chance to download THE DREAMTUNNEL SEQUENCE and it won’t cost you anything!

Read it on your Kindle, with the Kindle app on your mobile device, or the Kindle app on your computer.


Many thanks, and remember, authors always like to hear back from readers, and always appreciate honest reviews/ratings, whatever they may be!

Posted January 11, 2017 by markelacy in book promotion

Incomplete Truths   Leave a comment

Six weeks ago my father passed away after a long decline.

Over the past year I assumed responsibility for my elderly parents’ legal, financial, medical, and insurance matters. As a result, stress and worry and frustration have plagued me and I’ve fought to find the emotional energy to write. Things that would’ve ordinarily fed my soul, like reading and writing, have tasted bland and provided little nourishment. Many days I’ve done little more than lose myself in Pinterest, re-pinning art that might inspire my writing. My blog was placed on the back-burner.

When my father died, I felt obliged — as the eldest child — to speak at his memorial service. And I was honored to have the opportunity. I received many compliments on what I had to share with people about Ed Lacy. However, on this occasion, as when I spoke at my grandmother’s service several years ago, I was reminded there is an unspoken rule — a societal norm, as it were — that one only speaks of the good things about the life of the recently deceased. When a family loses a loved one, the last thing they want to hear is anything negative. After all, it is the goodness in people, and their triumphs, that we treasure and want to remember. Asked how you would like to be remembered, no one is likely to suggest their failings.

But by limiting a eulogy the most positive aspects of someone’s life, aren’t we sharing incomplete truths? Would it really be so bad to explain that the deceased struggled? That they were truly human, like the rest of us, and not perfect? We might mention the obstacles they surmounted (a troubled childhood, a terrible illness, a tragedy), but we aren’t allowed to mention what they failed to conquer.

Sometimes we have a story to tell but we can’t tell it. I was very much aware of this as I constructed the right story for Dad’s eulogy. I wanted to honor my father, so I shared at his memorial service some of his legacy, from food to music to writing and his Christian faith. I could only hint at his social isolation and his spiritual trials. A more complete story of this complex man will have to wait for another occasion.

A big shout-out to thank author Kendra Lacy for sharing Austin Kleon’s book, Show Your Work!

Posted September 6, 2015 by markelacy in biography

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