Threads: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn, by Nell Gavin

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Have you ever met someone who seemed familiar though you’re sure you’ve not met the person before? Or have you come across a person you immediately disliked and can’t explain why? Nell Gavin’s book, Threads: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn may just have an answer to that.

Threads begins with Anne Boleyn’s execution in 1536 and her furious sense of betrayal by her husband, the notorious Henry VIII. As Henry’s second wife, she was executed on trumped up charges, all to conceal her one failure—that of not producing a son and heir to the throne. Once freed from her earthly life, Anne quickly discovers her soul has survived and she meets “The Voice,” an ethereal, bodiless being that guides her to review, not only her life with Henry but other lives as well. She must examine each with brutal honesty as she compares, learns, and tries to come to terms with the betrayal.

Anne’s complicated personality unfolds as she discovers reasons for her volatile temper, her extreme passion, her indifference to her daughter Elizabeth, and how her loyalty to Henry’s first wife turned to scathing contempt. She sees how she, Henry and others of their circle of family and friends have been intertwined throughout the ages and how they have influenced and changed each other. Anne eventually meets Henry again in a later time—1970—and they are immediately drawn to each other. Is it from love? Or hate? As the author says, “It is a very unusual love story.”

Surprisingly, Gavin used the book, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir, as her main source material. Weir’s non-fiction works have been roundly criticized by historians and novelists alike as speculation than more a scholarly effort. However, Gavin clearly states that her intention was not to write a historical novel about Anne Boleyn or a book about reincarnation. Threads is described as a fantasy, but it is much more than that. On her website ( Gavin says, “Threads…is about spiritual evolution in one lifetime or many, and about how difficult the growth process is. It’s about good and bad, right and wrong, and learning the difference. It’s about personal accountability and obligation. It’s also about love—each of the characters in the book represents a different aspect of love—and how it never dies, even when it disguises itself as hatred.”

That noted, Nell Gavin’s writing gives Anne Boleyn an astonishing realism, a highly intelligent, spiritual and elegant rendering. Told in first person, the book is almost literary in style as it flows seamlessly from one aspect to the next in a non-linear fashion. Gavin transcends mere time and space to craft a fascinating view of how reincarnation may be understood with clarity and honesty. This extraordinary book, while complex, is highly readable and will keep the reader’s attention in its grip right to the end.

Lest the Spell Break Like Crystal, by Robert Cooperman

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This lively collection of narrative poetry is based on Scottish and English popular ballads. Each of the twenty-four poems is a story on its own and told from a different character taken from the older tales. The collection spans time from the medieval period to the golden age of piracy to the early nineteenth century. The themes of greed, lust, and revenge tie the stories together.

Lest the Spell Break Like Crystal is a like a small, tight-knit community whose members whisper their deepest, darkest secrets to the reader. Cooperman’s characters are revealed through his uncanny sculpturing of their most intimate thoughts. One of them, a narrator who has sent the Scottish shipmaster Sir Patrick Spense to sea in a winter storm and to his death, also exposes a raw streak of jealousy at the admiration Sir Patrick had enjoyed. “No Scotsman should be more adored than his king, not even Patrick, whom I loved like a son,” the jealous narrator mourns. Another character, Lord Baker, who has returned from the crusades, is in the middle of his wedding when a Turkish princess whom he fell in love with during his travels arrives with a knife as a gift. He pays off the woman he was to wed and marries the princess instead. On their wedding night he begs her forgiveness for having left her—she is still holding the knife. And then there is Lady Diamond. After her father has hanged Henry the kitchen boy for being her lover, the Lady demands he give her Henry’s heart in a box. Later, at her wedding to a viscount, she still has Henry’s heart with her—literally.

Robert Cooperman’s surprising, unorthodox poetry weaves a fine spell indeed. As in Lest the Spell Break Like Crystal, his storytelling can be found in a number of his critically acclaimed chapbooks and full-length collections, including A Tale of the Grateful Dead and In the Colorado Gold Fever Mountains, which won the Colorado Book Award in 2000

Nectar From a Stone, by Jane Guill

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Jane Guill's debut novel, Nectar From a Stone, tells the intertwining stories of a young widow seeking redemption and a noblemen's quest for revenge. In 1351, the plague has devastated Europe, Wales is a country subjugated by English oppression, superstition runs rampant, and the medieval church blames women for just about anything it perceives as sinful.

Elise, a half-Welsh, half-English woman plagued by strange visions, is forced to stab her brutal husband in self-defense. Believing him dead, she flees with her servant, Annora, for Conwy, hoping to find work and peace. Gwydion, also half-Welsh, half-English, is a brooding nobleman on his way to Conwy as well, seeking vengeance against those who murdered his family and seized his estate. He and Elise cross paths on the road north and against better judgment, are inexorably drawn to each. As each reaches their destination, a dark and cruel shadow from Elise's past begins to catch up, sweeping her and Gwydion into a terrifying confrontation with their enemies.

Nectar From a Stone is a fascinating window into medieval Welsh life. Impeccable research and lively characters bring both the place and time alive, illustrating the depth to which war, illness, the church and superstition played in everyday life. Elise and Gwydion are endearing, and Annora is a delight with her wry humor-a nice balance against the cruelty of Elise's evil husband Maelgwn and Gwydion's conspiratorial foes. Jane Guill's intelligent, rich portrayal of medieval Wales is told with charm, wit, and masterful storytelling. Highly recommended.

Farewell Darkness, by Ron Zaczek

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When I first came across Farewell Darkness, I was looking for an account that would give me a solid insight into the effects of combat trauma. As a novelist, I needed to get more deeply inside the head of one of my characters, and though my subject's time was different, war is still war, only the technology changes. Not only did I find what I was looking for in this book, but I also found a tremendously moving, intense story of war, trauma and recovery that should be read by anyone who lived in the Vietnam era, veteran and civilian.

Ron Zaczek writes with eloquence, crisp detail and a straightforward honesty rarely found in personal accounts of serving In Country. With profound insight and courage, he sorts through the fear, guilt and anger that he suffered. And even without having been in war personally, I have learned quite a bit about how fear, guilt and anger are irrevocably interconnected and how we face similar degrees of them in everyday life. Highly recommended.

The Phoenix Circle, by Boris Raymond

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As Boris Raymond’s historical novel The Phoenix Circle opens, the Roman Empire is rumbling towards its demise. Barbarians are crashing through the frontiers, greed and mismanagement of government are more the rule than not, and the church has become a political entity powerful enough to vie for control. Amidst the chaos, a small group of patriots called the Phoenix Circle emerges, its purpose to restore Rome to the full glory that she once was.

Beginning with the year AD 448 and ending with 476, the author takes up many threads of Rome’s later history: Attila the Hun’s quest for European dominance; the ambitions of Orestes who became the father of the last emperor Romulus; the decadence of the Roman royal courts; the quickly growing power of the Church; and most importantly, the secret society of the Phoenix Circle begun by Cassiodorus, the head of the Imperial Secret Service and Honoria Augusta, the emperor Valentinian’s sister. Through intelligent storytelling, Dr. Raymond intricately weaves the threads of history together, giving the reader a clear, sweeping and engaging view of the age. The Phoenix Circle successfully captures the dynamics that caused the fall of Rome.

Beyond the Ninth Wave (DVD) by Jen Delyth

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“The Ninth Wave is the mystical border between worlds,” according to Welsh artist Jen Delyth. For anyone wishing to delve into this border, Beyond the Ninth Wave is a mystical journey that will be thoroughly enjoyed. This easy to explore interactive DVD showcases Delyth’s gorgeous artwork, interweaving it with traditional and contemporary Celtic music and poetry. The DVD includes nine animated movies that can be viewed together as a feature film or individually as chapters. Within each chapter are not only the movie, but also links to poetry, descriptions of mythological symbols, and notes about the artists pertaining to that chapter. A booklet accompanies the DVD to guide the user in navigation.

Delyth’s astounding Celtic artwork is brilliant, colorful and flows gracefully from one image to the next. Accompanying it, Gilli Smith’s haunting voice reminds one of a wise woman of the woods, as she reads the poetry of both ancient and modern Celtic poets, including her own works as well as that of Dylan Thomas, Robert Graves, John and Caitlin Matthews, Hildegard de Bingen, Taliesin, and Fiona Macleod. The DVD also contains an abundance of information explaining the Celtic pantheon and the symbolism of each figure’s aspects. Druidic wisdom is portrayed through the words of the early poets Taliesin and Amergin.

Anyone with an appreciation of timeless wisdom and beauty will quickly realize this is not just entertainment or learning, it’s an experience. Beyond the Ninth Wave is the kind of DVD to which you can sit back, pour yourself a glass of wine, and let its inspiration flow through all your senses. It will take you on a mystical journey to the border between worlds.

At the Edgelessness of Light, by James A McGrath

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Poet, artist and teacher, James McGrath, defines the edgelessness of light as "that place where love and light are revealed: a vibrant, gentle, lonely place where the tides of feeling and understanding move in and out with constant illumination and exposure of what is important in the moment before fading, leaving the edgeless shadow of a poem."

Indeed, McGrath's latest collection of poems is tied together through the theme of light and the natural world in balance. The sixty-two works also spring from the essence of many cultures, including Celtic, Native-American, Filipino, Okinawan, and Greek. As different as these cultures may be, it should be noted that authors/artists/musicians often overlap elements from one culture to another in their work, linking the primal and spiritual similarities within them. This collection glides from one to the other with seamless ease.

McGrath's writing is clear, tight, and accessible. The poet is also an artist, and this is evident in the strong visual images his words evoke. Each poem explores the facets of a very personal story. Many are autobiographical. Others are portraits of friends, family, students. Some are heartbreakingly poignant. It is as if he captures a handful of light, pinpoints it on his subject, then sets the light free again. What is left behind is an impression that will long remain in the mind. Absolutely luminous!