Motorbikes and Camels

Motorbikes and Camels ISBN: 9781944733995 Luminare Press, an e book by Nejoud Al-Yagout.

Plot: The story opens with Salma, a young girl who like others of her faith, has gained her knowledge of the opposite sex and romance secretly from magazines and/or TV. She believes she is in love with Khaled. However he loves Saadia. The reader then meets Maha who is enchanted with Bader but then meets somewhat older Ahmed and leaves Bader only to find Ahmed is not sure he wishes to marry so she returns to Bader whom she eventually marries. The ‘coming-of-age’ portion of the tale expands and continues on through the years following Selma, her friend Aisha who marries Hussam with whom she has a child only to discover her husband’s true love is a male. Aisha then has another partner, Meshary and the reader continues to be introduced to a number of other ‘disturbed’ individuals including the father Mohammed, a strongly ‘old school’ Muslim whose wife Zayna insists upon a divorce when he , as permitted, takes Lina, a second wife. She then becomes involved with Mike, an expatriate school teacher and the tale continues being told with many of the chapters devoted to the thinking and action of each character, often directly after the chapter explaining the situation that has involved the pair. Parenthetically a format that provides a degree of repetition.

Discussion: In spite of the above description of complex but simplistically superficial appearing interrelationships engaged in most frequently by essentially naïve individuals, the author has set forth a fascinating examination of the compelling situations that develop when modern concepts collide with long held strongly followed religious edicts, traditional teachings and societal influences of cast, monetary distinction, and similar factors. The Kuwaiti author has explored the basis, as well as reaction to both bi- and same sex relationships, definitions of certain aspects of the Muslim faith, teachings of the Koran, Sharia Law and existing traditional as well as less traditional interpretations and practices. This reader found a number of descriptions and/or statements especially interesting and an aspect of homosexuality intriguingly only provided in one usually preferred manner. An epilogue further extends the author’s thoughts.

Summary: A thought producing presentation of numerous complex issues arising from modern life’s entanglement with long held, but variously interpreted, aspects of the Muslim Faith and how they might interact in the lives of various individuals.

4* A look at modern life’s interplay with traditional Muslims beliefs.

Blood Symbols

Blood Symbols ISBN: 9780620738507, Amazon Edition, a fictional e-book copyright and written by Izak Botha.

Plot: Jennifer Jaine, a young devoutly Catholic woman working for her Doctorate in Religion gains an opportunity from a prominent news organization to interview Cardinal Cardoni, perhaps the most powerful man in the Vatican besides the Pope. She is quite shocked to find him quite inadequately prepared for his position. His answers are based on conjecture rather than actual evidence, mostly age-old tradition where missing portions had been replaced by earlier texts (which also were missing). It was not known who wrote them and when. The Gospels were not written by the Apostles as the earliest manuscripts appeared around 300 CE. Interestingly, the Epistles of Saint Paul were written about 45 – 60 AD, the Gospels supposedly postdate Paul by decades but do not mention him. She is quite pragmatic because of long-standing frustration and becomes quite confrontational and even rude

Meanwhile, Cardinal Leonardo Santori knifes to death young Father John Yilmaz because he has discovered a secret of the church in the well-hidden vault beneath the Penitentiary office. And unfortunately, all of these matters are occurring at an unfortunate time with the Vatican already haunted by a number of years of negative publicity. Added to the upheaval, another intruder is discovered and cannot be stopped before he escapes and it is found that he has taken the ancient secret document that could lead to dissolution of the Catholic faith and the premises upon which it had been administered for centuries. Specifically, the document written in the 12th century, provides some answers to, and many questions about, the discrepancies between the lives and writings of Peter and Paul and their relationship to Jesus all stemming from the original church’s site in Antioch, now the city of Antakya, Turkey.

Still an additional imminently catastrophic incident threatens when a highly disturbed individual has appeared threatening another part of the Vatican. He has a bomb sufficiently powerful to destroy a huge part of the city. Schneider, a devout defender of the Holy See in charge of the Helvetian Guards, must attempt to save the compound from suffering such destruction. From these fascinating initiating factors, the tale continues with a confrontational relationship between the well-prepared Schneider and Verretti, the self-serving head of security for the Vatican. An important part is offered with the appearance of Simon who is a Jew but a Turkish resident with long familial history in Antioch. He now is one of the specialists working at a Turkish licensed dig of the ancient Cave Church in Antioch and incidentally related to the Priest killed by Santori. Simon is aided at times by the professor in charge of the excavation and by Giogio Castignani, the son of a former Sicilian Mafiosi Boss. The action in parts is full throttle but interspersed with other sections of lengthy discussion of the writings of Paul and Peter and replete with supportive and contradictory biblical facts as the tale proceeds finally to reach a conclusion of sorts.

Discussion: The author has provided, as stated, a story with several intertwining sub-plots and an overall rather uneven approach. Parts provide a high-test thriller while others spend considerable time on a slow, methodical discussion of factual material. Basically it is another quite fascinating story following the long-standing controversy of conflicting statements, especially with respect to the Gospel according to Peter and to Paul. It is suggested that “scripture offers enough circumstantial evidence that Peter did not convert gentiles in Antioch and that he never was in Rome.” The author further sets forth his belief that the differences in the two men’s stories in how the Christian Church was begun could form the basis of the church’s founding suspect and he does proceed to supply most interesting material. He also makes another interesting statement with respect to the soul: that “Lack of evidence cannot support a belief, but it is also no argument against it. Lord suggests in the Gospel of Matthew – body, soul and mind? (Thus,) The inability of technology to identify the soul does not negate its existence.”

Summary: The pace of this story ranges from an almost frenetic velocity to lengthy, slow-moving explanations and discussions. BUT, it presents a fascinating ‘take’ on the development of the Catholic Church, the relationship of Jesus and disciples Peter and Paul and upon what passages from the writings of these individuals may indicate with respect to the entire matter. In spite of the uneven presentation of the inter-related sub-plots and the complexity involved character involvement, the tale should provide enjoyment for readers who enjoy thrillers, yet it offers much intriguing material to the individual who may think, even occasionally, about the long-argued controversial passages in the Scripture. This reader found the presentation intriguing, even with the areas and descriptions that were overdone and/or slow in development and presentation.

4* 5* story with regrettable -1 for reasons described.”