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Monday, May 21, 2018

Balder The Beautiful: A Song Of Divine Death - Robert Williams Buchanan

In this poetical written work, Buchanan retells the story of Baldur the Beautiful, whose death foretells the beginning of the end to the Norse Gods, with his own personal ideas to expand on what is originally a short piece. In 9 (IX) "Books" he tells the story of Baldur's birth, the protection bestowed upon him by Fre(y)a, the circumstances leading to his death, the Twilight of the Gods, and his return to bless the land. Between these chapters Buchanan adds his own emotionally charged ideas of Baldur's journey into the afterlife, his search to speak with the personification of death, and his struggle of his short life, and even an encounter with the parallel figure of sacrifice: Jesus.

This work was sometimes difficult for me to read due to the style, but it was such a wonderful read. I felt myself rage and lament along with Baldur as he made his way through his confusing life and afterlife. While some may be turned off by his inclusion of the figure of Jesus, I found their dialogue insightful. For those who would like an
emotionally charged retelling of this story from the Edda, I highly recommend this piece.

Source Material:
Prose Edda - translated by Jesse L. Byock

Additional Reading:
Balder the Beautiful - James George Frazer
Baldur the Beautiful - Grace Denio Litchfield

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Sacred Heart of Jesus - Saint John Eudes

Saint John Eudes felt such fervor in the burning passion in the Sacred Heart of Jesus that he wrote to bring others closer, as well. The first portion is a series of chapters where he talks about the various aspects of the Sacred Heart, such as Jesus's love for His Heavenly father, His earthly mother, and for the people on earth (us). Following this are several meditations for readers to use to bring themselves closer to Jesus's love, in both mind and deed. It also includes a Mass and Office of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that includes the Latin beside an English translation. The final portion of this piece contains a series of prayers that can be used to bring ones heart closer to Jesus and His purpose.

The writings in this book are sometimes soft and loving, while others are hard and disciplined. In order to gain full benefits from this book, I'd advise readers to read only one chapter a day to give the mind and heart time to digest the ideas. In this book readers will strengthen their
relationship with Jesus and find their own way to make their heart more like that of the Heart of Jesus.

Monday, May 14, 2018

City of Stairs - Robert Jackson Bennett

After hearing of the death of her former mentor in the foreign land of Bulikov, Shara Thivani insists that she is allowed to investigate what she believes is his murder. The strange city once rumored to be filled with the powers of gods is now just ruins of what it once was. The landscape is surreal with staircases leading to nowhere and the leaders of this land are just as mysterious.

Despite her seeming innocence, few of the people who knew her colleague are willing to speak with her, impeding her investigation.
When she finally does make headway, she finds herself combating political intrigue and local custom. Despite the help of her loyal companion Sigrud, if she's not careful she could not only lose her life, but also her soul in this strange city full of danger, mystery, and wonder.

Although it took me a little while to warm up the main character, Shara, I was easily carried away by the world Bennett created. Filled with traditions, mores, and folklore that impeded Shara's investigation as a visitor from a foreign power I felt immersed in the environment. Even as Shara pieced everything together more intrigue awaited her on the journey. I look forward to reading further installments of this series.

Books in the Series:
City of Blades
City of Miracles

Friday, May 11, 2018

Odinn's Child - Tim Severin

In the year 1001, Thorgils Leiffson, the son of Leif the Lucky, is sent to Greenland to be raised as a foster child of Gudrid. Without his mother and father, he grows up with little knowledge of his past, so when his abilities of second sight rise to the surface, he has little understanding of what is occurring. His mentors try to teach him the old ways so he can stay afloat, but his wandering ways lead him into danger.

The passive voice used to tell this story is reminiscent of the tellings found in the Eddas and Sagas, which are worked in throughout the novel. Although I liked how this set the mood, I found the narrative sometimes tiresome. I'm torn between wanting to continue the series. I enjoyed how the author worked in the history and folklore, but the style made it difficult to read. For those who enjoy fiction set in this era or the topic, I would recommend giving it a go.

Books in the Series:
Sworn Brother
King's Man

Monday, May 7, 2018

Infomocracy - Malka Ann Older

After the world changed from warring states to a worldwide democracy, the world had become more peaceful. But after two election cycles, many people are dissatisfied with the new system. Now with a global democracy in place, information has also become monopolized despite its wide availability to the public.

Tensions increase as the election draws near, and one group has even resorted to physical violence to show their dissatisfaction. The question is who is committing these crimes and how can they be stopped.

Every day I excitedly hopped into my car for my daily commute to listen to what would happen next in this thrilling ride of social and political intrigue. A fantastic read for those who like dystopian series, as well. Highly recommended!

Books in the Series:
Null States
State Tectonics

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Demon-Haunted World - Carl Sagan

Many people best know Carl Sagan from the 1980s science television series Cosmos, where he inspired people with science. Sagan's love of science continues to inspire people even today.

Originally written in 1995, Sagan wrote this book in hopes of bringing current science to every day people. Despite the advances in science and technology this book remains relevant today. With his personal anecdotes from childhood, Sagan provides readers with relatable ways to understand science and provides tools for people to better determine what is real and what is not on their own.

Many people may be familiar with excerpts of this book that are often used in classroom, such as the "Dragon in the Garage" analogy on the burden of proof.

I encourage anybody who wants to learn more about science and the wonder of the world to read Sagan's passionate and compassionate book about our world.

Recommended Reads:
Magic of Reality - Richard Dawkins

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Road to Hel - Hilda Roderick Ellis

In this scholarly work, Ellis examines the evidence left behind by the Norse people to reveal their view of death and the afterlife. Chapters one and two set the stage by examining the the funeral customs found in both archaeology and the literature. Chapter three examines the ideas of the afterlife, including the realms of the afterlife, the deities who rule there, and about the other figures associated with death. Chapter four explores practices involving the dead and how elves and land spirits factored in with those practices. Chapter five presents the elusive ideas of soul and spirit found within Nordic tradition. Chapter six includes the curious study of necromancy and the undead. The final chapter speaks on the journey to the land of the dead found throughout Norse literature.

Although I was familiar with much of the evidence and material Ellis spoke of, I found that the parts I was unfamiliar with were well-explained. In some places
she was able to come to what she felt were solid conclusions concerning certain aspects, while in others she talked about the conflicting information and only her speculations. It was especially refreshing to read the author willing to speak about conflicting information and information that doesn't go with her own ideas. Since it is a scholarly read it may be difficult for some readers to get through, but with the amount of information it is worthwhile.

More by the Author:
Roles of the Northern Goddess
The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe
Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions

Recommended Reading:
Viking Age Iceland - Jesse Byock
Nordic Religions in the Viking Age - Thomas DuBois
The Seed of Yggdrasill: Deciphering the Hidden Messages in Old Norse Myths - Maria Christine Kvilhaug