Review: The Ancient Tripod of Peace

Why am I reviewing a young adult mystery here? Well, it’s about an ancient artifact and modern-day code breakers. How could I not want to read this??

This is my second recent review here and I hope to do more. See the end of this post for details about my review policy.

 

My Review Summary: This is a fun read that will keep you turning pages and have you googling Shakespeare and ancient Greek history. As a YA novel, I give it a solid 4.0/5. My full review appears later in this post.

About this book: Teens Lexi and Gil face relic-thieving secret societies. Plagued by loneliness in her Lake Erie Islands community, vegan Lexi hopes to make like-minded friends in high school. But her dad’s job is jeopardized when relics are stolen from his museum, changing her priorities. And she finds her new teachers’ eerie dislike of her troubling.

His dad in jail, cipher enthusiast and bacon-loving Gil hopes freshman year will provide a clean slate. Soon, he discovers secret codes within a Shakespearean play while paired with Lexi, pulling him into an ancient mystery.

 

With the official museum burglary investigation stalled, the mismatched teen sleuths join forces to try and crack the case. Lexi’s inquiries and Gil’s codes capture their teachers’ attention. But these teachers have the stolen Tripod of Peace, a powerful relic sought by rival secret societies. Caught in these societies’ crossfire as thieves wield an instrument of astounding power, Gil and Lexi are in danger.

 

About the author: Kalen Cap is a writer living in Ohio and regularly commutes back and forth between Columbus and Port Clinton residences. Set among the Lake Erie Islands, “The Ancient Tripod of Peace” is his second novel, first of the Teen Thief-Catcher series. His first novel, “Tangled Ties to a Manatee,” was published in 2012.

Learn more about this author at his website, on Amazon, and on his Facebook page TeenThiefCatchers.

Giveaway:  Kalen Cap be awarding a $40 Amazon or Barnes & Noble Gift Certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more and register to win.

My full review: (See my summary at the start of this post.)

More than anything, this books seems like Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons) for young adults. It’s full of ancient secrets hidden in plain sight and the reader is left wondering how much is true and how much has been made up to serve the plot. It’s a fun kind of confusion, and it kept me eagerly reading until the end.

What I liked best:

  1. The book is filled with complicated characters, both teen-age and adult. It centers on teenagers who are realistically drawn, as they deal with their own issues and those created by the adults in their lives.
  2. The author presents a lot of mystical and new age ideas, and yet structures the plot in way to leave the reader free to believe in as little or as much of them as the reader chooses. It’s a tough balancing act, but by the end it works.
  3. The overall plot is interesting and the dangers feel real. It’s not a story which tries to trick the reader with gotcha-type surprises, but rather one that builds in complexity and then reaches a satisfying resolution.

What I liked least:

  1. I felt the chapter titles gave away too much of what was about to happen.
  2. The decoded message and other parts of the mystery occasionally become too complex to follow.
  3. There were enough characters, referred to by first and last names, that I had to start a list so I could remember who was who.
  4. A few issues were resolved too easily or things came together a little too well, even for a novel in this genre.

In spite of these minor issues, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to those of all ages who like tales of hidden codes, ancient relics and resurfaced mysteries from the past.

Purchase this book at Amazon

The excerpt I liked best:

Lexi hadn’t met any vegan guys her age, only girls. “Want to join me and Anita later?”

“Sure. I’ll try it out,” Trevor agreed.

“We only have a day to find our code for this topic,” Gil said. “Let’s focus on the project. I don’t want to start out locked in with something weak.”

The three read the project description again. Lexi felt clueless. She asked the others how to begin.

Gil said the topic related well to his social science fair project the year before on secret codes in writing.

Lexi rolled her eyes. From the way Gil told it, the project was designed for him. Full of yourself maybe?

Trevor said he spent part of a summer in Greece the year before when his father ran workshops there. There, he’d learned about ancient Greek history. Lexi didn’t mind as much when Trevor made it sound like his experiences aligned with the project. Unlike Gil’s, Trevor’s voice soothed her.

Trevor and Gil both stared at her expectantly. She blushed, first believing they were checking her out. But she soon realized they wanted to hear her special connection to the project topic.

“My grandmother usually teaches history here, too. She gave the opening talk at assembly. Oh, and my granddad’s an actor. He used to be a professional and acted in lots of Shakespeare. They can give me pointers,” Lexi said. My grandparents? That’s my “in” on the project? I’m such a loser. She was determined to not be the weakest link in the group.

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

Read more reviews at:

May 14: Notes From a Romantic’s Heart
May 14: Andi’s Young Adult Books
May 21: Lauren is Reading
May 28: Kimmi Love
May 28: Just Books
June 4: Bookaholic

If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning the $40 gift certificate.

If you are interested in a review from me:

I am interested reading science fiction of all sorts, particularly anything involving the nature of time. My protagonist in z2 is a history-loving, time-warping high school physics teacher, so I am predisposed to stories that feature physics or have an historical element as well.

I am not interested in reviewing pure romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review erotica, BDSM or books about vampires or zombies.

If you would like to be considered for a review contact me at Alex (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

Final Note:  I received a free pdf of this book, which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.

Animal Play in Costa Rica

Travel messes with you. My vacation in Costa Rica has moved on from a week long retreat centered around the ancient Chinese study of energy flow, known as qigong, to the family-fun-at-the-beach portion of this wonderful time. Yet here I am complaining because I’m now finding it hard to find a time and place to be alone. I’m staying at a rental house on a cliff overlooking the pounding surf, surrounded by the rain forest, with five other family members who constitute the people on this earth about whom I care the most deeply. Yet, I need to get away for a few minutes every day, to practice qigong and to feel the solitude. That’s just who I am.

Psychedelic 8I’ve started taking my quiet time at dusk out by the swimming pool. I sneak out like a teenager going for a smoke, and start my routine. Soon I have moved into the portion of my meditation that involves free movement and letting go of inhibitions. In it’s milder form it is known as swaying willow, but at its more expressive it is referred to as five animal play. I’m feeling pretty expressive today.

I hear an odd noise close by in the bushes. We’ve been told that there are howler monkeys nearby, and we have seen and heard them in the distance. I recognize their sound. This lone monkey cannot be more than a few dozen feet away from me but even though I open my eyes and stare into the forest, I cannot see him. They are small and harmless, so I go on. As I ease back into my meditation, the wilder my movements become the more noises he makes. Are we communicating? Does he like what I am doing? Can he feel the sheer joy of it? I roll his sounds into my own exuberance and finish the session with a grin on my face. I think to myself that this creature and I have shared something special on a primitive level.

The next morning I find myself in the pool with a cup of coffee. My son joins me, and we are both startled by what appears to be a small snake near the far edge of the pool. He goes to investigate, and laughs. “Definitely animal shit,” he says. “Monkey shit, if I had to guess.”

The neat little pile of excrement is roughly where I stood doing my qigong last night. Great. Did I maybe misunderstand his noises and he hated what I was doing? Then again, he could have been indifferent to me, making sounds for reasons of his own. Maybe this is a random dropping from another creature all together. Or maybe, just maybe, leaving this little bit of himself here where I stood was his way of saying hello. Who knows. There are some puzzles in life that you simply cannot solve.

For more on my own personal story of my Costa Rica qigong experiences please see
1. Embracing the Yin in Costa Rica,
2. Finding Forgiveness in Costa Rica
3. Many Paths in Costa Rica  and
4. Breathing Deeply in Costa Rica

If you would like to know more about qigong, please visit Flowing Zen

Also please drop by the Facebook page of Psychedelic Adventure and drop off a like for the great image above.

84 years ago. 56. 28. It’s a pattern! Or is it …..

Yes, Tuesday Oct 29 1929 was the infamous Black Tuesday of the stock market crash that many think brought on the great depression.  Read more about it here. In fact it was preceded by several days of free fall and mild recovery, and in fact the causes of the depressions were far more complicated. None-the-less, it remains one of the few days in history for which many people who did not live through it can still identify both the date and the day of the week on which it occurred.

This allows me to point out the fun fact that dates and the day of the week reliably repeat themselves every 28 years. Luckily historical events themselves have no such cycle. Twenty eight years after the stock market crashed,Tuesday October 29, 1957 saw no major economic turmoil. Rather the day brought the disturbing event of the Israli prime minister and five of his cabinet members being injured by a hand grenade tossed into Israel’s parliament. On the much lighter note, the number one song in the US that day was “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley.


Another twenty eight years later, Tuesday October 29, 1985 boasted as its biggest news event that Samuel Doe was announced the winner of the first multiparty election in Liberia. Sounds like a nice calm day in the world. The number one song in the US that day was “Part-time Lover” by Stevie Wonder.

And what of today, October 29, 2013? The main headline is that there are six people dead in a shooting in South Carolina.  The top hit in the US comes from New Zealand singer Lorde’s “Royals”.

You may wonder what was the biggest musical hit back in 1929? Yes, they had music back then. Looks like it was Eddie Cantor’s “Makin’ Whoopee” and it really can be seen in video. The styles and costumes have changed a lot over 84 years. But the subject of the songs? Like and ebb and flow of the news, not so much.

What stays the same?

mayan numbers 300

Can you figure out how to write the number 20 in Mayan?

The story behind z2 is that of a clever 26 year old Maya woman who devises a puzzle to hide a secret she has promised to protect. I did a fair amount of research on Maya culture as I prepared to write z2, but it was only after I finished the book that it occurred to me that I had simply assumed that at least some of the Maya enjoyed riddles and brainteasers  Why? Well, the truth is that I assume that some people from every culture that has ever existed have enjoyed puzzles.

Is this true? I recently stumbled on a book called “Ancient Puzzles: Classic Brainteasers and Other Timeless Mathematical Games of the Last 10 Centuries” by Dominic Olivastro, and I am treating myself to copy. Reading through the reviews, it appears that riddles, mental games and brainteasers indeed span all continents and several millennium, not to mention being common among more trivial divisions like age, gender, religion and educational background if any.

Yes, things keep on changing and generally that is good. It’s also true, however, that some things do stay the same and I’m glad that a love of puzzles is one of them.

Of course, in z2, the puzzle has more to offer than just the satisfaction of solving it …. but that’s another whole part of the story.