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Friday, September 22, 2017

Tales Untold - Kevin Focke

This collection contains tales from a variety of genres from Kevin Focke, a man with a unique writing style. Readers will experience some unsettling and horrifying tales in the Reflection Collection, a mix of sci-fi psychedelic tales written in an unreliable narrative. Seasons of Love contains a full range of emotions, including both love and forlorness. The Zoobadoo Zoo reveals the horror that awaits the human race if they were to be wiped out and kept by aliens for their entertainment and observation. A cringey vampire reveals his life in The Fernando Bellisa Chronicles. The Most Epic Tale of All recounts the never-ending story that repeats lifetime after lifetime in a series of three short poems. And finally Tales Untold contains a collection of absurdest poems and short stories.

Like any collection, I enjoyed some stories and poems and disliked others. Seasons of Love was probably my favorite with the range of emotions in the stories. The illustrations that accompanied each story were also great to set the mood. The captivity of humans in The Zoobadoo Zoo brought to mind the Planet of the Apes series and the aliens reminded me a bit of the Vogons from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but the story itself was unique. And The Fernando Bellisa Chronicles amused me as a satire of the typical posh vampire life portrayed in most books and movies. For me this was an enjoyable read with a variety of stories to choose from.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Many, Many, Many Gods of Hinduism - Swami Achuthananda

In three parts, Achuthananda hopes to familiarize readers with the Culture, Concepts, and Controversies of Hinduism. In part one, readers will learn the essentials of Hinduism, like when and how it started, who Hindus are, and how other religions influenced the religion. Part two explains the core concepts of Hinduism, including the most referred to texts in Hinduism and how they are used, who the most popular deities are, and about the world view of the religion. Part three contains controversies from those outside of Hinduism and especially the conjectures of those in academia who analyze the religion.

The cover photo of a Hindu deity with blue skin makes it easy to identify the book's subject matter. His casual, simple, and sometimes humorous style makes this piece an enjoyable read. Humorous remarks were typically offset with a ☺ (smiley face), making it easy to distinguish when he makes them. The short chapters run between two to five pages and the information is short and concise,
making the topics easily digestible. I have a passing familiarity with Hinduism, but found a lot of new information provided here. I think that the last part may have been my favorite as it pointed out issues with outsiders giving their opinions on topics within Hinduism. My only complaint is that while the last chapter made a kind-of 'Hinduism is here to stay' comment at the end, it wasn't written in a way that made it feel the book had come to a close.

For those who already have a good understanding of Hinduism there won't be anything new, but for those of us who would like to learn more or know very little this is a great piece.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Blue Unicorn's Journey to Osm - Sybrina Durant

In the Tribe of Metal Horned Unicorns there is a prophecy that tells of a unicorn who will save them from the evil sorceress Magh who uses their horns and hooves for spells, but when he is finally born the Blue Unicorn has no metal in his horn. Without a metal horn the Blue Unicorn has no magic, but he still must find a way to save his people or they will all be doomed.

Along his way on the perilous journey he has the help of many friends, like Gaiso the Stag and Girasol the Firebird. With the help of both forest friends and magical friends alike, Blue Unicorn must battle his way through the magical land of MarBryn to get his tribe back to Unimaise or face extinction.

The cover art caught my eye as soon as I saw it and I was delighted to find that the same vibrant and detailed illustrations are found throughout the entire book. A map in the beginning of the book make it easy for readers to follow both the Blue Unicorn's journey and the separate trek of his Tribe as they make their way to Muzika Woods. Each section has a small black and white illustration and is only two pages of text, making it easy to pick up and put down. Following each section is a full-color 2 page spread version of the black and white picture on the text page. The formatting in the e-book great, but is best enjoyed on a color tablet or computer screen to get the full color illustrations.

Seeing each of the unicorns special abilities corresponding to each unicorns unique metal horn is creative. Although Blue is without magic, he certainly isn't helpless and his ability to stay positive throughout the book definitely helps him on the way. The writing style is appropriate for the age category. The story moves at a steady pace and kept me hooked from beginning to end. Readers should be warned of the inclusion of death near that end, which may be too dark for younger readers.

This coming-of-age story is sure to delight fantasy and unicorn enthusiasts.

Author's Related Books:
Coloring Book - Blue Unicorn's Journey to Osm
Art Book and Character Descriptions - Blue Unicorn's Journey to Osm

Friday, September 1, 2017

Sonic The Hedgehog: Control

After continuing to fight against the Dark Gaia energy on his own, Sonic the Hedgehog finally reaches his Breaking Point and transforms to his werehog form in front of his friends. Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Squirrel convince Sonic to train under Moss the Sloth to learn to control his strength, so finally he can be Unleashed without harming his friends and allies.

When Sally sees a Chaos Emerald being moved, she knows she has to make a move so she doesn't risk it being secured in a better location. Unfortunately her doubts about the situation are founded when they are Ambushed.

To avoid interrupting a cohesive narrative, two secondary stories are moved to the end of the book, rather than in order of appearance in the series. In A Nice Day to Start Again Antoine and Bunnie help a newly wed couple and their entourage escape from a flood. And in The Grand
Tour Rotor shows the gang the improvements he's made to the Sky Patrol, their flying base.

I continue to enjoy this reboot with it's tie-ins to the video game series and its reimagining of the characters from the comic and cartoon series. The art is crisp and the colors are vibrant. The action is clearly illustrated and the dialogue occasionally has a few jokes or puns to give me a laugh snuck between the serious events.

Books in the Series:
Countdown to Chaos
The Chase
Waves of Change

Related Media
SegaSonic Arcade
Sonic Unleashed

Friday, August 25, 2017

Warbreaker - Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna spent her entire life studying for her role as the betrothed of the God King, Fafen prayed and did acts of charity in the religious order as she was promised to do, but Siri, without a specific role to fulfill, spent her days free and wild despite her father's best efforts. When the time finally comes to send his eldest daughter away, though, King Dadelin makes a sudden change and sends Siri, the most ill-prepared of the sisters to the foreign kingdom to fulfill the obligations of the peace treaty.

Alone, Siri must adapt to this completely new culture and set of duties, which she knows nothing of
other than rumors and prejudices she learned in her homeland. With her life's duty stolen from her Vivenna is lost and sets out to Hallandren, thinking to save her sister.

Now Siri must fight to prevent war from inside the political scene with the help of the God King, while Vivenna tries to stop it from the outside with brute force by learning new magics she previously scorned.

I listened to the Brilliance Audio full dramatization, which contained a full voice cast, an original soundtrack and sound effects. The cast did an amazing job bringing the book alive. I especially loved the voice actor who performed Lightsong. The sound effects were always appropriate, though I found a particular chiming sound irritating. The soundtrack was subtle and rarely overwhelming, only adding to the mood.

I wasn't fond of many of the main characters, but each clearly had a purpose to fulfill in the plot. The magic system involving breath (lifeforce) and colors was intriguing and it was one of the primary reasons I continued listening to the book. Some of the characters were more interesting than others. In the end I had thought all was lost until an unexpected character came into play. Filled with drama, intrigue, and magic I loved this book.

Brilliance Audio Performance - Part 2
Brilliance Audio Performance - Part 3

Friday, August 18, 2017

Baldr's Magic - Nicholas E. Brink, Ph. D.

Through the use of special postures inspired by ancient carved figurines and ecstatic trance, Brink has discovered the history and lives of his ancestors, as well as new tales of the Vanir, the gods that came before the Aesir.

Part One, entitled The Universal Mind contains chapters one through three. The first explains The Lost Power of the Nordic People as they've lost their connection with the earth mother, the second discusses the use and The Powers of Ecstatic and Hypnotic Trance, and chapter three explains the Nordic Postures and what they are used for.

In Part Two, The Lives of the Ancient Ones contains five chapters that contain detailed accounts of the author's journeys. Communing with the Ancestors explains the process before delving into four eras of his experience: The Era of the Mother Goddess,
The Transition, The Warrior and His Family, and Baldr's Rebirth.

Part Three, Myths and Beliefs of the Ancient Ones, contains a brief explanation on The Origins of the Gods before continuing on into the revelations he had in ecstatic trance that he chooses to call The Lost Edda of the Vanir, and finally concludes with The Teachings of the Vanir.

In the Epilogue he tells the reader that the age of Baldr and the Great Mother has come.

The prologue's title Our Relationship to the Great Mother should have been a warning sign to me, but even after reading the prologue itself I willingly forged on. When I got to chapter 1 I fully realized where the author was going when he referred to books like The Mayan Code by Clow and authors like Marija Gimbutas. At this point I realized that there will be very little reference to evidence we have the Norse tradition and the author would be providing everything in a new age interpretation. Chapter 2 explains how ecstatic and hypnotic trance work and gives many examples of his own work and that with clients. In chapter 3 the author takes figurines found in various areas and creates postures from these figurines, adding his own commentary on how he found each best to use.

Chapter 4 is simply an explanation of how the process works. Chapter 5 talks about his experiences with ancestors that lived in a "Mother Goddess" era, which I find it important to note we have no evidence for in this area. Chapter 6 explores the transition between this theoretical earth-based worship and the warrior-based society. In chapter 7, the author erroneously concludes because of his trance work that a wife in a warrior society was "essentially that of a servant, and she is used sexually by her husband, with little identity beyond that function", which is counter to evidence we have of many Nordic areas found in Eddas, Sagas, and Grey Goose laws. As well as further evidence provided by records of Moslems* and Christians, who balked at how the Northern Europeans treated their women compared to their own societies. While this may have been true in other areas, this is not true for the culture in which he claims to have been exploring. In chapter 8, Brink presents his reinterpretation of the story of Baldr's death and suggests his rebirth has already happened and we are living in this age now. He is the bridge to another era of "The Great Mother" Móðir, completely leaving out her husband Faðir from Rígsþula of the Poetic Edda to which he refers.

Chapter 9's brief explanation of the gods, their genealogy, and culture is decent. And most of the stories he receives in trance for chapter 10 are not objectionable in and of themselves. However, it becomes even more obvious in these chapters that he has an agenda with long citations referencing Vanir and particular events about them, while ignoring explanations and stories of Aesir. Anybody who is unfamiliar is left with incredibly one-sided views and those who are familiar will at the very least raise an eyebrow at these choices. And in many points he makes statements that simply aren't true. He states that the Aesir did not have magic, Seidr, which we know is not true as there is a tale of Odin being side-eyed for his practice in exactly that. He chooses to acknowledge the goddess Móðir while simultaneously failing to mention her husband Faðir, as this would ruin his explanation of her as the "Great Mother/Goddess". He makes conjecture that people walked around with what he basically describes as a "Venus of Willendorf", which there is no evidence. This particular conjecture I found confusing when in chapter 3 he refers to images that were actually found in the Northern European areas.

Looking at the Notes (citations) and Bibliography provided at the end of the book shows an abundance of psychological and new age texts and only a few references to primary sources or even secondary sources when it comes to actual Nordic beliefs. This work is obviously agenda-driven by the "Great Mother" theory and it is done poorly by only choosing the positive aspects of female Vanir and ignoring that of the Aesir and male Vanir, as well as engaging in rampant cherry-picking throughout his entire book.

I would not recommend this for anybody due to the amount of inaccuracy.

Source Materials
Prose Edda
Poetic Edda

Recommended Reading:
Roles of the Northern Goddess - Dr Hilda Ellis Davidson
Everyday Life in the Viking Age - Jacqueline Simpson
Nordic Religions in the Viking Age - Thomas DuBois

*Spelling due to the time period in which these were written

Friday, August 11, 2017

Hidden Warrior - Lynn Flewelling

When the magic spell keeping him in the wrong body is revealed to Tobin, he finds himself both relieved and isolated. His attraction to his friends suddenly makes sense and his lack of physical growth is no longer alarming. But in order to keep himself safe from the tyrant king who would kill him, he must keep his secret to himself.

After a particularly harrowing incident with his sponsor, Tobin is called back to the main city by orders of the king. There things get even more awkward as his friends start visiting brothels and insist he comes along. When he was sent away he was also somewhat sheltered from the events around the kingdom, now he's coming face-to-face with the reality of the failing kingdom with crops dying and disease runs rampant through the land.

If Tobin is to save the kingdom as the prophesy says, he will need to act soon.

When I started reading this second book in the trilogy, I remembered why I took such a long break between this and the first. Flewelling's writing plods along steadily, but sometimes it feels like nearly stagnant. Even so, the continued mystery and anticipation kept me going as I waited for Tobin and his companions to find the right time to reveal themselves and take back the kingdom that was wrongly taken from him. Tamir's appearance is painful and magical, breaking free from the shell she has been forced to live in her entire life.

I am excited to read the final novel in this series to find how Tamir handles her new power.

Books in the Series:
The Bone Doll's Twin
The Oracle's Queen