The Cloudy Corners of Creation by Mark Tate

Publisher: Outskirts Press.
Release Date: 2012
Image Source: link

Synopsis: Dr. Tate has written an introduction to the subject of the paranormal for seekers of all faiths, especially Christians. He has surveyed a large number of books, articles, websites, television, and radio programs in his presentation of the subject of the paranormal for those who might normally shy away from the subject. Included are chapters on UFOs, near death experiences, prophecy from non-Christian sources, and a host of other subjects. Anyone interested in the paranormal from a sympathetic but questioning perspective will enjoy this read. 

Review: When I heard of this book, I knew I had to request a review copy. The Cloudy Corners of Creation is right up my alley; a book that comprises an open-minded take on spirituality and a speculative look at the paranormal and occult. Mark Tate is a brilliant author and human. He is strong and resolute in his faith, yet still sympathetic towards those of differing beliefs. He realizes that ignorance is not the path to tread and takes steps to learn from non-Christian sources. One quote from his book on page 71 proves how open he really is and gives insight on a momentous yet true vision:

At this point in time, what is most needed in this world is understanding between different spiritualities and religions of the truth of who and what they are, what they practice, and what they believe.

This truth rings clear throughout his book as Tate tries to uncover or at least bring attention to the cloudy corners of God’s great creation. I can’t commend him enough for his bravery of walking where other Christians fear to tread. I hope his actions inspire others to blaze their own trails and realize dogma can be interpreted in more than one way. 

There was a tremendous amount of research put into this book, enough to satisfyingly back up the evidence Tate gives on the possible existence of the paranormal. The only criticism anyone could have is a lack of strong conclusion. Tate presents many questions in his book—with the support of strong evidence—but doesn’t wrap it up in a superbly satisfying way. I personally don’t consider this a failure. How else could one conclude a book on pseudoscience? Definite answers cannot be given. Instead, readers should look for insight that the author offers on spirituality and the fate of humanity. As he states on page 152:

…Perhaps God’s voice is quietly being whispered through many diverse places by diverse peoples to warn the world—You have used and abused the poor, the needy—men, women, children—all created in the image of God—for all of human history. You have raped and pillaged the earth—given by God to humanity to care for—for hundreds of years. You have acted as though the most evil things—murder, rape, neglect of parental duty, civilization’s laws, and your own consciences—taught by all religions—were approved by God or gods—you have made the end to be near—and it is…

If this message is to be taken literally, you will understand its foreboding nature. Humans have sinned nearly incessantly in all of recorded history. When Judgment Day arrives—if there is such a thing—our fate is sealed in a nice high quality envelope. Postage paid. Are we to pay for our misdeeds? Will God have mercy? Currently, faith is providing the only answer.

From reading The Cloudy Corners of Creation, I have learned much. I realize that we have to look at the unknown with both our eyes and our heart, and only then can understanding the truth become possible. I thank Mark Tate for this stunning realization.
All in all, as my first ever non-fiction review, things went pretty smoothly. The Cloudy Corners of Creation is an insightful read on the more speculative aspects of nature. Readers who are interested in the paranormal and occult with undoubtedly savor this. I look forward to a possible interview with the author which is always a plus. So until then, faithful readers, au revoir! 
Tate, Mark. (2012) The Cloudy Corners of Creation. United States: Outskirts Press

The Golem’s Eye (Bartimaeus Trilogy #2) by Jonathan Stroud

The Golem’s Eye by Jonathan Stroud

Publisher: Hyperion Books
Release Date: 2006
Image Source: link
Other Titles in Series: The Amulet of Samarkand (#1), Ptolemy’s Gate (#3), The Ring of Solomon (prequel)

Characters- 20/20
Plot- 19/20
Writing- 19/20
Originality- 19/20
Recommendation- 20/20
Overall- 97/100 or A

Synopsis: At only fourteen, Nathaniel is a rising star: a young magician who is quickly climbing the ranks of the government. There is seemingly nothing he cannot handle, until he is asked to deal with the growing Resistance movement, which is disrupting London life with its thefts and raids. It’s no easy task: the ringleader Kitty and her friends remain elusive, and Nathaniel’s job — and perhaps his life — are soon at risk. As the pressure mounts, he is distracted by a new series of terrifying attacks in the capital. But is it the Resistance again, or something more dangerous still? To uncover the perpetrators, Nathaniel must take desperate measures: a journey to the enemy city of Prague and — worse — summoning once again the troublesome, enigmatic, and quick-witted djinni, Bartimaeus. Meanwhile, Kitty and her fellow rebels are planning their most daring exploit of all — one that will make their fortune and change the history of London forever.

A thrilling sequel to the best-selling Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye is a roller-coaster ride of magic, adventure, and political skullduggery, in which the fates of Nathaniel, Bartimaeus, and Kitty explosively collide.

Review: The Golem’s Eye is a fantastic sequel to it’s predecessor; The Amulet of Samarkand. It could very well comprise the heart of the Bartimaeus Trilogy. The fast-paced turn of events invokes the childhood glee I used to experience during all my reading endeavors.  I enjoyed the return the protagonist—the sharp-tongued djinni that everyone should now be familiar with. Nathaniel was portrayed as slightly more aggressive than the previous novels, and his ambitions have anything but waned.

Since The Golem’s Eye takes place a couple years after the events in Amulet, readers should note how character relationships have changed, along with the positions those characters now hold. Indeed, Nathaniel’s increased aggression is probably the result of his rise to power in the government. He now holds commoners as beneath him—Although, hasn’t he always? I found Nathaniel’s antics hilarious as he continually proves his arrogance. His yearning for fame and recognition is pitying at times.

The character that truly struck me the most was probably Kitty Jones. She is both valiant and rebellious, but for the right reasons. Her truthful character is strong, a blockade of fortitude built by her past. She understands the nature of the commoner’s position, and the many flaws in the dominance of the magicians in society. Kitty stands for what she believes in, and values her partners as both friends and comrades. I have more sympathy for her, than Nathaniel.

Also, the character Bartimaeus is becoming increasingly mysterious. As readers become more familiar with his humor and personality, they are undoubtedly curious about the djinni’s past. Maybe we’ll get some insight on these mysteries in the next book, Ptolemy’s Gate.

Overall Grade: A
The Golem’s Eye is a superb sequel to The Amulet of Samarkand. It is the cleverly engineered, second installment of the Bartimaeus Trilogy. Anyone should should love this, I definitely did. Readers should try to understand the motives behind both Kitty and Nathaniel. Finding out what drives them will lead to a richer experience while reading. Also, the perplexing mysteries of Bartimaeus are as great as ever, but one step closer to being solved. I bid you adieu an invite you to check out this excellent series (if you haven’t already). 
Stroud, Jonathan. (2006) The Golem’s Eye. United States: Hyperion Books.