ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “Religion 531 – The Master’s Course: 2000 Years of History Can’t Be Wrong, Can It?”

Religion 531 cover art

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

You Are Much More Powerful Than You Think You Are—And, Unfortunately, Are Totally Responsible For What Happens In Your Life.

You are NOT a physical being with a Spiritual nature. You are a Spiritual being that happens to be in a physical body at the moment. It is almost certain you have lived many physical lives. Your mission (and everyone else’s) is to return to God as an eternal companion to him. You do this by learning what brings you closer to God and what moves you farther away. In this book, you will learn:

  • God judges no one—You are your own moral agent—You will reap everything you sow
  • Whether you are religious or not, you are on your ‘correct’ path, for all paths lead to God
  • In 325 CE, a schism split ‘Christianity’ into those who believed in the ‘Mystical’ Jesus and those who believed in the ‘Mythical’ Jesus—the ‘Mythical’ believers won
  • Long lost, and recently rediscovered, writings indicate the ‘Mystical’ Jesus is a better choice
  • The ‘Mystical’ Jesus taught reincarnation, Karma, The Law of Return and other long-suppressed truths
  • Jesus did not start the Christian religion you practice

REVIEW:

Many books on religion are a minefield of biases, whether the author is conscious or unconscious of that fact. Refreshingly, Josephus the Scribe is extremely up-front about his goals from the very beginning of Religion 531 – The Master’s Course: 2000 Years of History Can’t Be Wrong, Can It? (I’ll shorten the title to Religion 531 from here on in this review). I always read introductions, without fail, because they are critical to my trust and faith in a book’s content, in that I can’t quite relax into a book until I know I grasp the author’s intent and baseline character. In his introduction, Josephus lays out his relationship to the facts (discoverer, not proprietor) and the analyses within the book. He both acknowledges his credentials and admits that credentials do very little to persuade those who disagree with the facts as written. So, by the time he gets around to saying:

Forty years of work experience, particularly those with the federal government, coupled with an extensive informal study of many religions, reinforced what I learned in college and illustrated repeatedly how ‘good intentions’ get derailed by bureaucracy and dissent.

… I believe him. I believe that he is not setting out to (as I’ve heard often during my childhood about those outside of Christianity) “undermine the Church.” (Capitalized to represent the entirety of orthodox believers, according to whatever the speaker took to be orthodox.) Even on my first read-through of his introduction, I understood that Josephus’ goal was to lay out the commonalities and shared beliefs between groups that have been divided from each other in public debate for eons, and to provide perhaps some talking points for those wishing to build bridges between various faith-based groups. In fact, later in his “About This Book” section, Josephus writes that “You do not have to deny your faith (whatever it is) to learn from this book. […] This book attempts to identify some of the common threads that are woven through all.”

In my mind, that’s an admirable goal.

As a reviewer’s job, my question is to ask if he achieved that goal so that you can feel equally as confident as I do in reading that introduction.

Let’s talk about the book in terms of clarity first. I appreciated Josephus’ warning (in “How to Read This Book”) that “The concepts in this book are difficult to follow. They are also difficult to explain.” A part of me, the sassy teenage daughter part, wants to roll my eyes (just a little bit) at his need to defend the book’s existence as-is, but mostly I’m grateful for the warning. He might as well have posted a big warning sign: IT GETS COMPLICATED. Which, well, that fits with the way life is working out, doesn’t it? “It is also likely that you will need to go back to previous pages of the book to understand fully concepts that you are reading in later pages,” Josephus writes: “This is expected, as absorbing a new way of thinking is tough.”

What is this new way of thinking? It’s not “scholarly,” as the author points out, but it is primary-text-driven. As he also notes that he’s primarily anticipating that his readers will mostly be Christians (presumably, protestant ones), it’s also not an attempt to “validate or refute” existing understandings. Josephus is clearly attempting to slow down the tendency to leap for an Apologetics-driven reading when his stated goal is to simply get people thinking and to a place of connection.

In some ways, the book’s structure is a hybrid between something like a traditional devotional book and a philosophy textbook for those looking for something more digestible than Plato or Kant. Each chapter is short, between roughly 5 and 15 pages long, excepting only the chapter on “What Does This All Mean?” which is broken out in 1 to 2-page bite-sized chunks. The opening Table of Contents and the closing Index are your friends, since some chapters are indeed worth revisiting as Josephus’ thoughts circle back later on. (I suggest sticking a post-it note there to make them easy to find. I don’t dog-ear books, but if you’re okay with me gasping in horror, go ahead and you do you! JOKING.) The book is fantastically easy to navigate.

Religion 531 is extremely accessible when it comes to voice as well as structure. Sentences are short and to the point, as well as what my writer friends like to call “voicy.” That is, there’s a lot of personality on the page, with humor and emphasis writ large on the page using punctuation, asides, and metaphors. Not all of the paragraphs are short, but they are all way shorter than you will find in typical textbooks and philosophy books. (Thank you, Josephus!) I love a good and to-the-point paragraph. The only stylistic choice that gives me pause is Josephus’ regular use of quotation marks (“”) to set apart words or expressions tied to common religious principles or beliefs. It can make him come off as skeptical, even though it would overall appear that he is nothing of the sort.

I reserve the right not to step into the minefield of attempting to review this book on the merit of its religious or religion-adjacent points. As a child of Christian missionaries, I know exactly how fraught that can be, no matter who I’m’ in conversation with. I am growing increasingly immune to taking offense when someone disagrees with me on arguments (I’m not naturally good at it) pertaining to the Deep Things (my umbrella term for faith, mental health, relationships, human nature, natural history, and science)–but in large part I can thank my brother-in-law’s family for making it clear to me that many people in this world just naturally love debate, love pushing thought to the outer edge of the envelope, and arguing over topics without taking them personally. I think Josephus would love having dinner with that side of the family. (You’re welcome to sub in for me at the next reunion, Josephus!)

If you’re more like me and prone to care very deeply about these things and feel utterly wrecked when the ground shifts underfoot, I still think it’s worth going on the adventure (or roller-coaster ride, depending) that is Religion 531. You just might want to take it slow and remember, always, that Josephus’ goal is to expand both your mental and emotional vocabulary for thinking about and connecting over items of faith. That’s an admirable goal, but he leaves the success in your hands!

That’s pretty brave, I think.

IN SUMMARY:

Josephus the Scribe tackles the core tenets of world religions, with an emphasis on modern protestant Christianity, in an attempt to broaden readers’ understandings and possibilities for connection over matters of faith in an easy-to-read, voicy book that isn’t afraid to ask big questions.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Religion 531 – The Master’s Course: 2000 Years of History Can’t Be Wrong, Can It?  wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about Josephus the Scribe’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

I’ll be wrapping up A Sense of Urgency for my next review! It has been a process working through these two books side-by-side, but a very enriching one. Watch this space!

 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Outskirts Press book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

Tuesday Book Review: “Population Control: The Life & Crimes of Terryn Masters”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.
When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review:

amy cottrell population control

Population Control: The Life and Crimes of Terryn Masters

by Amy Cottrell

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN: 9781478758525

Synopsis*:

When Terryn Masters was offered an opportunity she couldn’t pass up, a means of survival and a way off the streets, she never thought it would mean being asked to kill the identical twin sister she didn’t even know existed, the only link to a mysterious past she’d give anything to uncover. After an unfortunate life of bouncing haphazardly through the foster care system, Terryn Masters finds herself as a young adult braving the unforgiving streets in the dead of winter. Just when she thinks her luck has completely run out, a beautiful but secretive Winnie Alexander approaches her and offers her the chance to not only get off the streets, but a chance for a life of privilege and luxury, one like she’s never imagined.

There is, however, a catch, and it’s a big one. In exchange for the new penthouse and fancy car, Terryn must become a slave to The Agency, a secret government entity founded during The Great Depression to control the United States’ population. She must agree to kill American citizens, targets picked at random, in order to keep the necessary economic balance. Merely as a means of survival, she reluctantly accepts Winnie’s proposition. After months of training and a torrid affair with Winnie, Terryn, who has been groomed to look like a lady but think like a killer, meets and becomes seriously involved with an older and irresistible Agent Wade Warner, who further complicates her already complex existence.

While struggling to come to terms with her violent occupation and simultaneously juggling two lovers, she gets an assignment that is not only impossible, but the key to uncovering who she is and where she came from. The sinister Agent Mercer, the very agent who trained Terryn to be the skilled killer she has become is also dangerously obsessed with Winnie and sends Terryn on a mission to kill the identical twin sister she knew nothing about, turning her world completely upside down. With The Agency hot on her heels, she goes on the run to save hers.

 * courtesy of Amazon.com

Featured Review:

This book was so cleverly written– so many twists and turns. It was so descriptive–I felt like I was there with the characters. I could not put it down. I will definitely recommend this book to everyone!!
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– Review and image by Paige Freeman

 

Here’s what some other reviewers are saying:

This book not only grabs your attention from the very first chapter it keeps you focused all the way through!!! I could not put this book down.. I read it in 8 hours!! Anxiously waiting for more from Amy Cottrell!!!

– Amazon Reviewer k jones

You can not put this book down. Every page is filled with excitement. You will enjoy this book. Can’t wait to see if the author can bring it again.
Looking forward for the sequel.

Amazon Customer


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Saturday Book Review: “Old Dog, New Tricks”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.

When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review, courtesy of Midwest Book Review:

Old Dog, New Tricks: The Story of an Old Shelter Dog Who Got a Second Chance marie yolaine williams

Old Dog, New Tricks:
The Story of an Old Shelter Dog Who Got a Second Chance

by Marie-Yolaine Williams (author)
Richa Kinra (illustrator)

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN: 9781478765332

Synopsis*:

Who Says Old Dogs Can’t Learn New Tricks? Boscoe is an 11-year-old dog who suddenly finds himself at a shelter competing with puppies for potential adopters. When a family finally comes in looking for an older dog, Boscoe can’t believe his ears! Will he find his forever home?

 * courtesy of Amazon.com

Critique:

Who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks? Deftly written by Marie-Yolaine Williams and charmingly illustrated by Richa Kinra, “Old Dog, New Tricks: The Story of an Old Shelter Dog Who Got a Second Chance” is the story of Boscoe, an 11-year-old dog who suddenly finds himself at a shelter competing with puppies for potential adopters. When a family finally comes in looking for an older dog, Boscoe can’t believe his ears! Will he find his forever home? Highly recommended, especially for children ages 6 to 9, “Old Dog, New Tricks” will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that “Old Dog, New Tricks” is also available in a paperback edition (9781478761631, $14.95).

reviewed on the Children’s Bookshelf of Midwest Book Review ]

Here’s what some other reviewers are saying:

I love reading this book to my children. It is refreshing to see such diversity in this book. It was heartwarming to read a story about a rescue dog getting another chance. I can not wait to read the more from this author.

Top Ten Reasons I Love This Book and Have Read It Over and Over Again!

I could have done more reasons, but I’m a Dave Letterman fan and I know everyone is pressed for time. Here goes!

10) The writer doesn’t talk down to the audience. If you read a lot of children’s books like we do, you know what I’m talking about;

9) The story is compelling and well written;

8) The book promotes the values we should be instilling in our children. I’m talking about compassion, love, loyalty, a love of learning and reading, and treating animals with respect.

7) There is real diversity in the book, not just background diversity. How refreshing to see a mixed race family in a children’s book;

6) The book teaches how to calculate dog years and that we never stop learning, no matter how advanced in age we are;

5) The illustrations are striking and the whole time I read it I thought to myself this book would also make a great movie;

4) The How You Can Help section at the end of the book supports parents who are not ready for a dog (if now is not the right time for a pet in the house there are so many ways you can help shelter animals) Brilliant!

3) The About the Author’s Senior Dogs Section is adorable. The writer even lists her old dog’s favorite CDs (we love Seth MacFarlane too);

2) The writer discusses loss and the plight of shelter animals in a way that is easy to understand, but still gives everyone hope that we can give these so called undesired pets a second chance at love;

1) Some of the profits will go to shelter animals, and that in itself is reason enough to give it five stars.

The truth is, I would take all the stars in the universe and give them to this book. This book has transformed me into a dog lover!

– Amazon Reviewer Amazon Customer

This book is an instant classic. This book is good on so many levels and reading to my son he absolutely hangs on the reality of the situation at the same time the metaphors on life are not lost on the reader, while the story’s poingency is felt by both. We read stories every night to both of our children and this one has displaced some old standbys (ironic?).

The levels that the writer reaches is rare. In the first respect, you have the story. In the second, you have the writer’s story with her dogs. Finally, you have the respect on how to rescue a dog or contribute.

We are a couple of years away from our first canine addition to our family, but with the help of this well written and beautifully illustrated book I know that my sons already have an appreciation for their future friends.

Speaking of future friends, I can’t wait for the next book in this series to come out. These books will make a wonderful addition to our library and will make a great gift for a lot of our friends.

I give this book my highest recommendation. Great for family reading time.

– Amazon Reviewer Clayton III


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Saturday Book Review: “Gramma Darling”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.

When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review, courtesy of The Fairview Review:

Gramma Darling by Lissa Schroeder

Gramma Darling

by Lissa Schroeder

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN: 978-1478757900

Synopsis*:

It is truly extraordinary, the difference one woman can make in the life of a child. Beautifully written and stunningly illustrated, this delightful book for children, parents, and grandparents paints a nostalgic picture of unhurried summer days at a dear grandmother’s house. Seen and felt through the eyes of a child, every discovery is full of innocence and wonder; from an attic brimming with treasures to running through the fields at twilight catching fireflies. You will laugh and remember your own childhood and feel as though you are there sharing in all the small adventures of her little world; the baby birds, the gardening, the stormy days, and bedtime baths. And through it all, in the background, is Gramma Darling and her laughter. You sense the atmosphere of nurturing, protection, and worth that she provides; and far more importantly, you get a glimpse into the wisdom of a woman whose genuine genius for simply loving, inspires wholehearted lifetime devotion. It will leave you uplifted and looking for ways to spend quality time with the little ones in your own life.

Critique:

Schroeder’s reminiscences of childhood days spent at her grandmother’s house make a wonderful picture book. Whether it is the memory of playing in the enclosed front porch during a rain storm while Gramma works at her sewing machine, or Gramma tucking kids in at the end of another long summer day, the memories are full of love and warmth. Anyone lucky enough to have a grandmother like Gramma Darling will feel an instant kinship with the remembrance of delicious desserts made with lots of love or the safety of performing a song or skit knowing that she is always there to applaud. The circular nature of the story is a reflection of the “circle of life,” with the book opening on the scene of a grandchild just learning to walk across the rug and into Gramma’s arms, and closing with a similar scene -but this time with a great-grandchild toddling into those arms.

Doron Ben-Ami’s illustrations are so clear and crisp readers may double-check to make sure that they are not really looking at photographs. The happiness on the children’s faces as they explore in Gramma’s yard, the pleasure on her face as she watches them eat her homemade pie, and the love beaming from her smile as she waits for those hesitant steps to carry her grandchild across the room and into her arms are all captured perfectly. This is a book that will become a family tradition among readers. And what’s better than snuggling in a grandmother’s lap for a read-aloud? (Although offering the recipe for Gramma Darling’s Chocolaty Cherry Cake is also very nice.)

reviewed by Suzanne Costner at The Fairview Review ]

Here’s what other reviewers are saying:

Remember Grandma and how she was a second Momma to you at times. I remember spending so much time with Grandma especially on the weekends. She lived down the street from us. She had such an influence on me and my sister. This book by Ms Schroeder is simply a loving book that will bring back so many good memories of your own Grandma. The story is based on actual memories. It is the author’s way of honoring a wondering, inspiring and influential person in her life. I remember going to Grandma’s on Saturday. First it was the day you went to town and the grocery store. What a thrill it was when Grandma would take you to Kresgee’s Five and Dime Store and you would get a lemonade at the soda fountain. Then after shopping you would go home and the afternoon was for baking. What wonderful pastries, cookies and treats. This book will take you through the author’s wonderful memories of a childhood spent with Grandma. You.as the reader, will relate so much to this wonderful story of times past, but times fondly remembered. You’ll remember how much Grandma loved you and you definitely will feel it as you turn these pages. Along with the story are some lovely illustrations, simply lovely. At the end of the book is the recipe for Gramma Darling’s Chocolaty Cherry Cake. I tried it and it is yummy. This is a wonderful book to add to a child’s bookshelf and a must for adults also.

– Amazon Reviewer gayle pace

Author Lissa Schroeder has written a beautiful book about her beloved grandmother entitled Gramma Darling. She takes us back to the time when she was young and enjoyed many happy visits with her gramma at her house in a little town in Minnesota. The story is lovingly told and will take you back to your youth if you have ever played in trees, caught fireflies, helped your grandma bake pies or snuggled under a warm quilt in your grandma’s old house with a creaky step! If all children in the world could enjoy the kind of visits this author had with her grandma, there is no doubt the world would be a much better place. And while the story is good and will sweep you and your children away to Schroeder’s life as a child, what set this book apart are the illustrations. They are quite simply some of the best I have even seen and they breathe life into the book on every page. If it were up to me this book would be nominated for both the Newberry and Caldecott book awards it’s that impressive. Gramma Darling is a wonderful journey you can take with your children, grandchildren or the kids in your classroom. Not only is it an engaging story but a visual feast for the senses. I can whole heartedly recommend this book for children roughly ages ten and under. Five Stars.

– Amazon Reviewer terrylynn

Book Trailer:

* = courtesy of the book’s Amazon book page.


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Saturday Book Review: “Checkmate Run”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.

When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review, courtesy of BlueInk Review:

allan alexander checkmate run

Checkmate Run

by Allan Alexander

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN: 978-1478765929

Synopsis:

The KGB agents are vicious, and they are closing in… His odds of escaping are bleak… Will he prevail although everything is muddled in a treacherous love triangle? Whom can he trust? The inevitable checkmate could bring him freedom … or death. Checkmate Run is an adrenaline rush of a story about a precocious young man’s deadly struggle to survive the brutal Soviet regime. Alex Loevsky is a medical student and an inspiringly rebellious poet. He becomes enmeshed in a breakneck battle against the rampant cruelty of the totalitarian state, where just the desire to think freely is nearly a crime on par with treason, and being born Jewish is more than a mere hindrance.

Alex aspires to be a physician. Despite his top academic standing, he has to overcome unspoken rule that aim to restrict the number of Jews entering medical school. Before sitting his admission exams, he is unable to locate his name on the list of alphabetically grouped applicants. He soon discovers that a special group has been created and that everyone in it, including him, has Jewish-sounding surnames. Finding this odd, he goes to his friend and confidante–his aunt Anna. They formulate a daring scheme to shift his name to the regular group.

Alex gets the highest score in the admission exams, but to his chagrin, he discovers that everyone in the special group has been flunked. Shortly thereafter, with the help of his literary mentor, Andrey Simyavsky, Alex’s poetry gains recognition, and New Word, a coveted avant-garde literary magazine, starts to publish his work regularly. All of a sudden, Andrey is arrested, convicted in a closed trial, and sentenced to seven years of hard labor after his banned novel, Lyubimov, was covertly published abroad. While searching for the secret transcripts of the trial, the KGB murders Andrey’s wife.

Alex, who is suspected of hiding the transcripts, is hounded, severely beaten, and left to die. He manages to escape and runs into Lara, a fellow medical student, who saves his life. Aunt Anna enlists the help of her friend, who now holds the rank of general in the Interior Ministry Force. They devise a plan to shield Alex from the KGB by keeping him in solitary confinement inside the Internal Ministry prison. Six months later, the general arranges for Alex’s release, but with one caveat–Alex is forever barred from creative writing. While incarcerated, Alex is expelled from medical school. The general applies pressure on the corrupt dean, and, with Lara’s help, Alex is reinstated.

A few years pass, Alex witnesses the murder of a dissident who seeks to expose to the Western world the torturous reality of life in the Soviet Union. The murder leads Alex to the core of the dissident’s underground movement. His life becomes a death-dealing game of chess; he needs to remain one step ahead of his ruthless opponent–the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate–and must win the game in order to survive. Unexpectedly, the KGB attempts to recruit Alex as an informant. Being entrapped, he experiences betrayal at the hands of the woman with whom he has had a long and passionate love affair. As Alex and Lara grow closer, their friendship turns into love. They get married, and a year later, they have a son. Concern for their son’s future fires up their desire to escape the country that turned on them. Having nothing to lose, Alex and Lara navigate through the imminent danger of terrifying twists and turns in their bid to cross the Iron Curtain.

 

Critique:

Allan Alexander’s compelling autobiographical novel follows an increasingly disillusioned and rebellious young man through a decade in Brezhnev’s Soviet Union.

Alex Loevsky is an aspiring doctor, but his heart belongs to poetry. With the encouragement of his intellectual Aunt Anna, Alex begins contributing to the avant-garde journal New Word and mingling in literary circles. But his and his friends’ nonconformist work angers the authorities. In order to continue his studies, Alex must renounce his literary career.

This is only the beginning of the injustices Alex experiences and witnesses. His Jewish heritage, in particular, singles him out for abuse. But institutional anti-Semitism also brings Alex close to Lara Katz, a fellow medical student. Still emotionally tied to a former lover, however, he initially thinks of Lara as only a friend.

Although he has officially given up poetry, Alex continues to mingle in contrarian circles. He helps smuggle the transcript of a dissident writer’s show trial out of the country and carries on a dead man’s crusade to expose the abuse of political prisoners in mental hospitals. Through these adventures, he grows closer to Lara and begins to reconsider his feelings for her. Eventually, Alex and Lara decide to attempt their most dangerous mission: escaping the Soviet Union for a better life.

Checkmate Run occupies a rather uneasy place between the literary fiction and thriller genres. The novel covers so many incidents and experiences that it occasionally feels unfocused. A slightly slower pace and more descriptive passages would allow readers of literary fiction to feel more involved with the characters. On the other hand, although frequently gripping, the narrative lacks the kind of slick, streamlined plot that would appeal to genre thriller readers.

Nonetheless, Alexander’s work offers a fascinating insider’s portrait of Soviet life post-Stalin but pre-glasnost. It’s probably best appreciated by readers especially interested in that time and place, rather than casual fiction readers. That core audience should find Checkmate Run quite rewarding.

reviewed by BlueInk Review ]

Here’s what other reviewers are saying:

I grew up during the early “duck and cover” days of the Cold War. There was plenty of red scare propaganda back then, but (obviously), we couldn’t read about someone’s first hand experience in the “USSR,” as it was known at that time. Dr Allan Alexander’s book changed all that for me – what an incredible story…of love, of family, of survival, and of perseverance!

Checkmate Run is well written and the prose is tight. Dr Alexander’s precise word choices for describing people and situations make this book a delight for the reader. The author doesn’t waste your time with any unnecessary drivel; everything is well thought out, fast paced and deeply absorbing. I couldn’t put this book down!

I have recommended this book to many people since reading it. I would especially recommend it to those that grew up in the shadows of the Cold War on this side of the Iron Curtain. If this book doesn’t fill you with gratitude for the freedoms we so often take for granted, then perhaps you missed the Preface and didn’t realize that the author LIVED this story!

If I had to identify one thing that I wanted to find in the book, it would be a complete copy of the poem, “The Salvaged Hope.” Since there are multiple references to it, I found myself wanting to read it. Since Dr Allan Alexander wasn’t able to carry any copies of the magazine bearing the publication of his poems out of his motherland, it is possible they are forever lost to us. This is one of the sad tragedies of censorship – history is forever incomplete.

– Amazon Reviewer Judith

Checkmate Run by Allan Alexander is an intriguing story of Soviet Russia during the Cold War. It is a story about one man’s struggle against powers which tried to quash personal expression and ideas that were different than the status quo. The events take place between 1965-1975 as a young man named Alex learns the harsh and life threatening reality that he faces every day.

The story opens with a prisoner getting ready for trial. A trial that is heavily swung in the government’s favor. He is found guilty and sentenced for hard labor. We then meet Alex, a young man who has recently published a poem in a national magazine. A poem which openly criticizes the government. Alex is of Jewish descent and he must use trickery and subversion in order to achieve his goal of becoming a doctor as the government is discriminatory toward the Jewish citizens. With the help of his aunt and her powerful friends, he is able to get into medical school. When a friend and fellow author, Andrey Simyavsky, has been arrested for treason, a series of events occur that will change Alex’s life forever. He vows to fight in any way he can. He soon becomes on the radar of the KGB, the Russian spy and state-security branch, and he must fight quietly and undermine the growing reaches of the government. Will the KGB finally be able to stop Alex? Will he be able to escape?

I enjoyed this book very much. It’s hard to give a description of the book without giving too much away. Every event in the book is a piece of the puzzle, a calculated chess move in which Alex tries to outsmart the KGB and they are trying to catch Alex in “illegal” activities. I always knew about the harshness of life behind the Iron Curtain but to read about it in such detail, it’s heartbreaking. I have a deeper appreciation for the freedoms we have here in the US. We may not like what people say or do, but we can do the simple things like openly criticize the government without fear of losing our freedom or our lives. I was also intrigued of how the book Doctor Zhivago played at role in the story. I must confess I’ve never read the book or seen the movie but now I will. The last few chapters move at a furious pace as the danger greatly increases for Alex. I highly recommendCheckmate Run.

– Reviewer Jennifer Lara of Observations From a Simple Life

Book Trailer:

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