Book Review: MICHAEL VEY 3: BATTLE OF THE AMPERE by Richard Paul Evans

michaelvey3Rating: 4 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Suggested Audience: Middle school to high school. Lower and reluctant readers tend to have quite a bit of success with this series.

This is the third installment in the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans. For those that aren’t familiar with it, this series is published by Glenn Beck‘s Mercury Ink. This series is a perfect example of what we should be doing as conservatives. There is nothing about this book that is political. At the core of the story are themes that any principled conservative would recognize; love of country; doing the right thing no matter the consequences; treating others with respect; courage and character.

Beck talks about this a lot on his radio and television show. Conservatives need to quit only playing the politics game. Liberals have been killing us with the culture for decades. Not all battles are fought at the ballot box. If you retake the culture, you will easily win the political contests down the road. It is books like this I intend to continue to highlight for teachers and parents. Readers are thinkers and leaders in development. Lots of books that ask kids to think about things that matter can significantly change the culture. The culture that many of them are currently immersed in is toxic. Stories like this ask them to think about values that will help them question and later fight that culture. This book belongs in your classroom along with the first two in the series. (Check out my review of Michael Vey 1 and Michael Vey 2.)

This book is not quite as good as the second book in the series. It is certainly not bad, but just didn’t quite rise to the same level for me as that one did.

The story takes off right where the second book ended. Michael and the other members of the Electroclan have destroyed one of the Elgen Starxource power plants in Peru. Lost in the Amazon and on the run from the Peruvian army, Michael must save his friends who have been accused of terrorism for destroying the power plant. At the same time, the evil Dr. Hatch is busy trying to take control of the ES Ampere, the flagship yacht of the Elgen corporation. The Battle of the Ampere is full of action and adventure that will keep readers highly engaged as Michael and the Electroclan race to save the day.

One of the things I love about this series, and I think it is a huge help for lower and reluctant readers, is that Evans writes the book in short chapters. The book is 307 pages, but it has 48 chapters in it. The book is also dialogue rich which makes for a quicker read.

My biggest criticism, and it drove me absolutely crazy, is that Evans overuses dialogue tags, and he has a terrible time finding a variety of words to use as dialogue tags. He said, she said, he said, she said, he said, she said… Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!! It’s a little strange, too. He has good word choice in most of  the writing. You also can tell he does a good job researching the books. They feel authentic. Also, I thought the climax and resolution of the book was a little too quick. It just felt like it could have used a little more development. But, hey, I’m just a voice out here in the wilderness who has never written a book, Evans has seventeen million books in print. :-)

If the Michael Vey series is not in your teen’s school library, personal library, or English classroom, it should be.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Young Adult Book Reviews, Young Adult Books

Civics Lesson #3: THE PURPOSE OF A CONSTITUTION

Image courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The third installment of FJ Rocca’s Civics Lessons series.

The United States was established as a constitutional republic. The Founding Fathers provided us with three vital documents, the Declaration of Independence, a Constitution, and its amendments, called The Bill of Rights. Taken together, these documents establish the philosophic bases of our government and set up a foundation from which all laws in our nation proceed. While the Declaration of Independence states the philosophic basis of why and what we are as a nation, the Constitution and Bill of Rights spell out how we are to run that nation. Together these documents outline clearly what the government is allowed and not allowed to do, what rights citizens have and where those rights came from.

The Declaration of Independence, for example, states unequivocally what are called “self-evident truths” which cannot be argued with precisely because they are self-evident. These truths are “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” The Declaration goes on to say, “…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” This means clearly that the purpose of government is exclusively to secure the rights of citizens and that it derives the power to do so from the people it is established to protect. Put bluntly, the government is not supposed to be those people over there in Washington D.C. or in the state capitols or city halls. It is supposed to be each and every one of us citizens. Furthermore, the Declaration states that our rights come to us from our creator and are unalienable by anyone, including the government.

The Constitution and Bill of Rights spell out simply but precisely the limits of government. It does not limit the rights or freedom of people. That is because the Constitution and Bill of Rights are in place to protect the people from the government. Many people make the mistake of thinking that the Constitution is put in place to protect people from other people, but that is an error in thinking and it is an error that some politicians encourage, because they do not want the people to realize that they, and not the government, have unalienable rights. The truth is that government has no rights whatsoever. It is there to protect the rights of citizens. However, government does have strength, because it must have strength in order to enforce citizens’ rights. Because of this, George Washington, perhaps the most eminent American of his day, warned us that “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

The simplicity with which the clauses of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are written is deceptive. They mean exactly what they say, no more and no less. When in the First Amendment it states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” There is no “interpretation” necessary, except to repeat what the Amendment states completely. The Government can’t set up a religion; it can’t force any citizen to worship or not worship one way or another; it can’t keep any citizen from saying what he wants, either in print or in oral speech, and it can’t restrict people from gathering together for any purpose. It also cannot prohibit people from criticizing the government or of demanding that their grievances be addressed and corrected.

By the very simplicity of the Constitution and most of the early Amendments, all rights are enumerated, or plainly stated. In order to change the basis of our society and to limit our freedoms, some amendments have been made to the US Constitution that are questionable in their wisdom. Other amendments have been deliberately misinterpreted to create the illusion that there are unenumerated rights within the original simple texts. But many wise jurists have asserted and insisted that there are NO UNENUMERATED RIGHTS in the Constitution or its Amendments. Thus, many laws are challenged as unconstitutional and cases to determine this are heard by the US Supreme Court, whose job is to decide whether laws are constitutional. Sometimes they appear to do this wisely. At other times, however, judges who want to make laws rather than interpret existing laws, deliberately stretch their interpretation of the original texts of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. This is called judicial activism, and it can be a threat to citizens’ rights.

All rights are individual. There can be no group rights. There is no such thing as a collective in nature. Even ants are individuals, as are blades of grass or drops of moisture. They may come together and appear as a mass, but in truth, each and every thing on the Earth is independent from every other thing. This is especially true of human beings. Each of us occupies a separate space, a separate set of genes, and a separate independent mind. Each person possesses his or her own freedom and set of rights and government is not allowed to deny that fact. It is the most important principle on which our nation was founded. Never before or since, in human history was a nation founded on the recognition of individual rights to be protected by, but never abrogated by, government.

But beware. Politicians always seek power over people. Our constitution forbids that explicitly. We as citizens would do well to remember that our eternal vigilance against their acquisition of power over each of us as individuals is the price we must pay for our liberty.

FJ Rocca is an independent, conservative writer/blogger of fiction and non-fiction, most interested in the philosophy of American conservatism. Clarity is more important than eloquence, but truth is vital to human discourse.

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Check out the Works of Retired English Professor Hank Kellner

I received a note awhile back from Hank Kellner. He is a retired English professor. He is also a conservative. Kellner has written multiple books, and I thought they may be of interest to our readers. 

I Don’t Want to Be an Orange Anymore

Orange IIGrowing up in the fictional town of Meadowview, young Willie Watson objects to being required to play the part of an orange in the school play when he is nine and in the fourth grade. But that’s just the beginning of his problems. As he continues through elementary school and into junior high school, Willie has to deal with the town bully; Christmas with his relatives; the death of a schoolmate; the loss of his girlfriend; the theft of a fountain pen, and his broken eyeglasses.

But that’s not all. Willie doesn’t want to eat his peas; take the garbage out; deal with his troublesome kid sister; try to climb the ropes in gym class while his gym teacher harasses him, or have to stay after school until he’s “…old enough to grow a beard.”

Readers will discover how Willy becomes a member of Brucie’s gang; what happens in the old movie house on Main Street; how feisty old Grandma inspires Willie, and much, much more.

Included in this book are such chapters as “There Is No Santa Claus,” “Oh Captain, My Captain,” “The Dog in the Rhinestone Collar,” “A Bird’s Just a Bird,” and “Hey Brucie, Your Sister Wears Long Underwear.”

I Don’t Wanna Be an Orange Anymore contains a wealth of humorous and often touching descriptions of a young boy’s fantasies and life experiences as he grows up in a small town many years ago. This coming of age book is suitable not only for young adults, but also for older readers.

About the Author: Hank Kellner is a retired associate professor of English. He is the author of 125 Photos for English Composition Classes (J. Weston Walch, 1978); Terror at Mirror Lake (Smashwords, 2013); I Don’t Wanna Be an Orange Anymore (Smashwords, 2013); The Taste of Appalachia (Smashwords 2013); How to Be a Better Photographer (J. Weston Walch, 1980), Write What You See (Prufrock Press, 2010), and, with Elizabeth Guy Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing Prufrock Press, 2013). His other writings and photographs have appeared in hundreds of publications nationwide.

 

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HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT JOHN STOSSEL’S “STOSSEL IN THE CLASSROOM?”

stossel

Longtime investigative reporter and current Fox News host, John Stossel, has a great website that teachers should be aware of. It is called, Stossel in the Classroom and offers materials for teachers that have been put together by the Center for Independent Thought.

Teachers can order one free DVD from the website every year. The current DVD for 2014 is available. For a direct link please click here. The DVD contains many of Stossel’s reports and classroom resources for lesson planning. According to Stossel’s site, there are 150,000+ teachers who have ordered a DVD. To me, that’s incredibly encouraging.

In addition to the DVDs, there are numerous videos on the site on various topics. Each video comes with a few discussion questions. According to the website there are new videos added every month.

Another neat feature of the site is the Standards Alignment Tool. You can search and find videos that match your state’s standards. And yes, the videos are correlated to the Common Core Standards in some cases. I think this is good. The reality is that teachers in the trenches are still being asked to teach the standards. It’s nice to see some materials from a source such as Stossel that could be brought into the classroom and tied directly to the Common Core.

You might also want to check out Stossel’s most recent release, The Power of Markets. This “is an 80-minute DVD that includes 16 video clips (2-8 minutes each) from John Stossel’s most recent shows. The clips focus on microeconomic concepts. The entire set compares and contrasts resource allocation based on market decisions with the actual effects of regulation and limitations to market decisions. While much regulation and market interference might be made with good intentions, the actual outcomes should be used to determine the merits of that regulation. This DVD program will enhance your coverage of basic concepts and empower your students to think more critically.” The DVD is available for $19.95.

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Civics Lessons #2: SECULAR GOVERNMENT

Image courtesy of Damian Brandon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Damian Brandon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The second installment of FJ Rocca’s Civics Lessons series.

The word secular is easily misunderstood or misinterpreted and sometimes deliberately misused. The term secular does NOT mean Godless, as many people in our society will say. The term comes from the Latin saecularis meaning “of the world” and “not of a religion.” The term does NOT mean against religion or atheistic. A thing that is secular is separate from religion or is not associated specifically with any religion.

Many activities are secular. For example, walking down the street or driving a car, brushing one’s teeth or eating breakfast are secular activities. Likewise, in our American society, government is supposed to be secular, not because religion is banned, or proscribed, but because it is not prescribed by our Constitution or the laws derived from it. There is a good reason for this. The Founding Fathers of our republic wanted to guarantee that each and every individual citizen of our country could practice his or her religion freely as chosen. The guarantee extends to those who choose not to practice a religion, as well.

In fact, the Declaration of Independence uses the term “creator,” but wisely does not specify who or what that creator is. Even atheists cannot argue logically that the term refers to God, because human beings exist, therefore were created by someone or something. Arguably, even nature itself could be interpreted as a creator by this definition. The non-specific term creator was used to guarantee that no one religion could claim the authority of Government, and the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, which is a part of our Constitution, states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” It is important to understand that the term “respecting” means “with respect to” and not owing respect to any specific religion.

The First Amendment does NOT say that religion should be kept out of all government actions or activities, only that Government cannot establish a religion of its own and cannot require people to practice a specific religion. Atheists who protest religious symbols on public lands or in government offices deliberately misinterpret the First Amendment in. I believe they do this in order to establish their own religion of anti-God. But the First Amendment prohibits this, just as it prohibits other religions from dominating government.

The Founding Fathers were very wise in the way they treated this very important and delicate matter. Governments that are dominated by a specific religion are skewed in favor of those who belong to that religion and, worse, often repress or persecute those who do not. Witness the persecution of Christians in so-called Islamic Republics. This is a good lesson in what happens when government is not kept safely separate from specific religious affiliation. For example, the imposition of Sharia Law on our system of government and in our courts would directly violate the First Amendment and abrogate the rights of American citizens living in our country. No collective group has rights over any single individual citizen in our nation. When a single individual’s rights are threatened, everyone’s rights are likewise threatened.

A secular form of government, properly established to ensure and guarantee individual rights and freedoms, will protect and enforce the right of every individual citizen to practice or not practice a religion as a matter of personal choice. Therefore, people of any and every religion, provided that religion does not violate the rights of others, may practice that religion without interference. There are some practices associated with some religions that are prohibited by our civil laws. For example, polygamy, marrying of people under legal age and physical beatings or so-called “honor killings” are absolutely forbidden by law, because they are direct and egregious violations of individual civil rights specifically and of human rights generally.

Understanding this definition of secular vs. sacred is important if we, as citizens, are to perpetuate the extraordinary society given to us by our Founders. It has been said that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Freedom is as fragile as it is priceless. It is far too easy to let liberty slip away through complacency. Each of us must be eternally vigilant to prevent anyone from taking it away.

In our society, it is easy to mistake the false promises of politicians for benefits. When someone promises to fundamentally transform our nation, we should be very wary, because those who promise that change are really promising to transform our rights and freedoms, as well. Such people should never be put in charge of our nation or our freedom. Our government should be secular, but our freedom must remain sacred.

FJ Rocca is an independent, conservative writer/blogger of fiction and non-fiction, most interested in the philosophy of American conservatism. Clarity is more important than eloquence, but truth is vital to human discourse.

 

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