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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Leif the Lucky - Edgar and Ingri D'Aulaire

Leif the Lucky, son of Erik the Red, travels in a long boat with his family. He explores many fascinating places, including Greenland, Vinland, and even America. His adventures in foreign lands will fascinate readers of all ages. With gorgeous lithograph illustrations bring this story to life with people, animals, and curious events. Along the margins of text only pages are Norse knots, similar to the better known Celtic knots, that are sometimes just designs, but often take on the impression of humans or animals.

More by these authors:
Columbus
Pocahontas
Benjamin Franklin

Friday, December 28, 2012

Utopia - Sir Thomas More

Sir Thomas More's Utopia has been used as an inspiration for all types of media. More importantly, More's text has has often been used as an example in many social movement of how things ought to be.

Many people wrote about utopias long before More, but the two best known are Plato's Republic and Saint Augustine's City of God. What makes "Utopia" particularly convincing, though, is that he wrote it as if he had actually visited this place and came back to tell others about it. His description of the society includes the use of trade, how government works, family units, and even about military operations.

More also recognized that how things work isn't the only important part of a society. He took the time to address the attitude of the society when it comes to the behavior of the individual and the group.

Although the time in which More wrote this piece was much different than the time we live in now, it continues to invite the curious and the hopeful to make life better.

Because this text is out-of copyright, it is available for free from many sites. It is available as an audiobook download from Librivox.org and as text from Gutenberg.org.

Sacred Texts: Utopia Index

Recommended Reads:
The City of God by Saint Augustine of Hippo

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mother Ocean, Daughter Sea - Diana Marcellas

The Shari'a Witch, Brierley, has been hiding by leading a normal life. She works as a healer for the villagers, who gratefully accept her and her wonderful gift. When Brierley witnesses an act of brutality from one of the nobles, she foolishly acts in his presence and becomes accused of witchcraft.

Mother Ocean, Daughter Sea by Diana Marcellas is a lovely tale of perseverance, bravery, and discovery.

The writing of Brierley's daily life is standard; however, when vision and dream sequences come into play, the author's style is poetic. Detailed descriptions of sand and caves along the ocean, the call of gulls, and weather draw the reader in. As there are no clear transitions between Brierley's regular senses and witch sense, it can be confusing at first; however, I found it easy to slip into once I figured it out. While the communication with her ancestors can often be a bit bland, the battles with the beast, and her exploration of the other world is fascinating. Even though the author decides to employ the standard "four elements" magic, she makes them her own.

Brierley is a respectable character, who is focused on her duty to heal people. Her overall attitude toward life and the world is fully realized through the first portion of the novel, due to her constant pondering. Around the time of Brierley's arrest, the author seems to lose hold of the character's personality. Suddenly Brierley gets a tart tongue and a blithe attitude toward her arrest and possible death. Thankfully, the heroine soon returns to her previously established personality and continues to develop in a natural manner.

I liked and took interest in many of the characters who appear throughout the novel, especially Megan. I wasn't too impressed with how the romance portion of the book went, though. A noble who takes her under his protection ends up falling in love with Brierley. Because the author doesn't describe either of the characters' feelings toward each other throughout the novel, their eventual coupling is just strange.

Brierley's discovery of her ancestry, development of new-found powers, and the hinted political intrigue may leave many readers eager for more.

Books in the series:
Sea Lark's Song
Twilight Rising, Serpent's Dream

Recommended Reads:
Singer from the Sea by Sherri S. Tepper
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Monday, December 24, 2012

Deadpool: I Rule, You Suck - Daniel Way

Deadpool: I Rule, You Suck by Daniel Way contain classic Deadpool humor with brilliant art.

After unexpectedly helping the Secret Avengers hunt down a terrorist, Deadpool is offered the chance of a lifetime. When asked to join the team, Deadpool agrees saying "I'm Your Man". To Captain America's frustration, Deadpool doesn't accept orders and proceeds to ruin all of their plans. But something strange is afoot. After discovering another Captain America, Deadpool is forced to use his wits to figure out which one is real.

And in "I Rule, You Suck", Deadpool is hired by a bunch of draculas to kill a bunch of bad draculas. Also, not-Edward-Cullens dies.

I enjoyed Deadpool's antics while he tries to figure out how to work in a team, as well as his odd solutions to getting rid of vampires.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Pilgrim's Progress - John Bunyan

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan is an allegorical story that follows the travels of the pilgrim Christian and then the travels of his wife, Christiana, and their children.

Christian decides to leave the City of Destruction where he has been living in search of the Celestial City. When he is unable to convince his wife to come with him and bring the children along, he leaves by himself on the journey. Along the way he wanders through strange places like Slough of Despond, Vanity Fair, the Doubting Castle, and the Valley of the Shadow of Death. He also meets many people along the way, such as Evangelist, Obstinate, and Piety. The second part has Christiana and her children, as they follow Christian's path to the Kingdom of God.

Bunyan left nothing to chance or interpretation. Every place and every person in both part one and part two are given obvious names. When things happen the characters often recap immediately after the event to make sure the reader is clear on what the events are meant to represent. While some may find this tiresome, others may appreciate the clear symbolism, over the more subtle type used by modern authors.

Christian's journey and that of his family is a journey of faith that many people experience. Many may find their own life or the lives of others reflected in this story.

Pilgrim's Progress is an out of copyright text and may be found for download from gutenberg.org and many other sites.

Recommended Reads:
The Bible
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
Pilgrim's Regress - C.S. Lewis

Recommended Viewing:
Pilgrim's Progress

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Hanged Man - Orson Scott Card

The Hanged Man is a collection of eleven stories in the horror genre by Orson Scott Card.

I first began reading horror in elementary school when I read collections that contained stories like The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs and The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe. From time to time I attempt a full-length horror novel without the same sense of satisfaction. There's just something about short stories that seem to express the dread in just the right way for me.

One of the neat things about anthologies, whether the stories contained within are from multiple authors or a single author, is that each person can normally find at least one that sticks out to them personally.

In "Fat Farm" a man goes to a medical facility after years of abusing his body to get cloned and live in a new one. The man thinks he's going to live comfortably in the facility, while his clone goes out to continue living his hedonistic life; however, he discovers that the bargain doesn't work out the way he expected. In the end, the man takes on a different perspective on his body than when he started. I think many people may relate to this tale and Card's commentary on the story in the author's afterward is enlightening to his own experience battling weight.

The "Sepulchre of Songs" is told from the point of view of a psychologist who goes to a home once a week to visit a parapalegic young woman. When the rain lasts for more than a week, she begins losing her mind. She tells him about a woman who is teaching her songs to pilot a ship in outer space. For me, this was a fascinating exploration of escapism, while for Card the story is much more personal.

There were only two I didn't particularly care for: "Closing the Timelid" and "Freeway Games". Listening to the author's explanation in the afterward gave me a different feel for each of them, though.

"Closing the Timelid" is about a group of people who decide to use time travel to experience death without actually dying. According to the author it's supposed to be about hedonism. "Freeway Games" is about a man who follows people on the highway, putting them into a panic and causing their deaths. Card states the original version was meant to be humorous, but his wife told him it was "horrible" and he ended up rewriting it with that tone. In both cases, I felt like I just didn't 'get it'.

Other stories in this anthology include: "Eumenides in the Fourth Floor Lavatory", "Quietus", "Deep Breathing Exercises", "Prior Restraint", "The Changed Man and the King of Words", "Memories of My Head", and "Lost Boys"

Recommended works by this author:
Ender's Game
Songmaster

Recommended Reads:
Ten Great Mysteries Edgar Allen Poe

Recommended Viewing:
The Twilight Zone

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Witches - Roald Dahl

The Witches by Roald Dahl is an old favorite that I decided to read again.

In elementary school I read quite a few of Roald Dahl's books on my own, such as James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, The Twits, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. His disturbing sense of humor tickled me in the right places.

I had already read several of his books, when one of my elementary school teachers decided to read The Witches to the class. She announced to us it was her favorite book before beginning. We soon discovered why when we started piecing things together. I was living in England at the time, which is also where this novel takes place. As the teacher described the many features of witches that the grandmother of the story describes to her grandson, we found an uncanny resemblance to our teacher's balding head, sharp nails, and blue spit. (No, really, she had blue spit. We were practicing needle point on plastic canvas and when she licked the yarn to get it through the needle it was tinted blue.)

Many of Dahl's books have been challenged for a number of reasons and The Witches is no exception. The Witches has been challenged for "sexism" because of one character stating "All witches are women"; of course, this challenge is a bit strange, when the same character follows-up by stating "All ghouls are men". It's also been challenged for having occult references: witches, spells, and transformation.  Additionally, it's been challenged for violence against adults, which is one thing found in nearly all of Dahl's books.

Despite the objections of many adults, I still find myself very attached to this story. The transformation the main character undergoes after getting caught by the witches used to terrify me and even now I have a vivid image from how I remember it in childhood. Dahl's imaginative vision of what the unnamed hero, a young boy, is able to achieve in mouse form has stuck with me over the years. While he can never change back, his positive outlook and determination to save other children from witches before they can be harmed is something I admire.

Recommended books by this author:
James and the Giant Peach
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Deadpool: What Happened in Vegas - Daniel Way

Deadpool: What Happened in Vegas by Daniel Way is an amusing collection of Deadpool comics.

Deadpool visits Las Vegas for a little R&R in "Tricky". In typical Deadpool style he finds himself at odds with The House and their mech pilot security guard "The House". Impressed with the powerful mech his friend Weasel is piloting, Deadpool decides it would be worthwhile to join up and get a mech of his own. As "Wild Card" Deadpool causes mayhem all across Vegas.

Bored with Vegas life, Deadpool leaves and runs into "Ghost Rider". After being blinded, Deadpool uses his special Pool-O-Vision to track down a group of robbers in "Wade Until Dark".

I didn't particularly care for any of the stories in this collection; however, I did find Carlo Barberis's illustrations crisp and detailed.

Recommended from this series:
Secret Invasion
Dark Reign

Friday, December 14, 2012

Son - Lois Lowry

Son by Lois Lowry is the final book in The Giver quartet.

I originally read and fell in love with The Giver in Junior High when we read it as assigned reading. The dystopian community where children and adults were expected to adhere to strict standards fascinated and horrified me. The disturbing truth of the many seemingly clean procedures in the book made me start digging deeper. And Jonas's courage gave me hope.

The sequel Gathering Blue involved a separate community that was just as disturbing as Jonas's. This one involved a young woman named Kira, who risked everything to do what she felt was right, just like Jonas.

The Messenger, the third in the series, takes place in a remote village that is nearly utopian. After much debate, the village decides to close itself off from outsiders. While this novel, too, carries a strong moral message, it simply didn't contain the same wonder of the previous two.

Son gathers characters from the previous books, including Jonas, Kira, and Gabe to bring the story to a final conclusion. Claire, a birthmother, loses her son to the community and must deal with her loss. The story of Claire's determination through her journey and many trials is admirable.

While the author did a good job of taking many threads from the previous novels and making them into a cohesive storyline for this final book, it seemed like it didn't all fit together quite right. It seemed like Lowry hadn't planned for this to happen, and I found from research that Lowry had indeed originally intended The Giver to be a stand alone novel.

While I felt that this novel was a disappointment as a conclusion to the 'quartet', I felt that as a stand alone novel, it was enjoyable.

Books in this series:
The Giver
Gathering Blue
The Messenger

Recommended Reads:
Earthsea Trilogy Ursula K. Le Guin
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Divergent by Veronica Roth

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is an unusual book that tells the story of one boy's experience during his Freshman year of High School through a series of letters to an unknown friend.

Charlie has always been smart and keeps mostly to himself. In his freshman year of High School, he unexpectedly becomes involved in a group of friends. They accept him for who he is while he participates in new and sometimes strange activities. He goes to parties, football games, and travels around town. He falls in love, gets in a relationship, and breaks a girl's heart. He even experiments with different kinds of drugs.

Despite the fact that the novel is written in first person as a series of letters, the writing lacks emotion outside of simple statements of anger, sadness, and happiness. This gives the events in the story a dissonant feeling, making it difficult for the reader to get an idea of what is going on in Charlier's head. I think this style actually benefits the story in the end, since he ultimately learns that just going along with things, rather than expressing oneself isn't necessarily beneficial.

Recommended Reads:
There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom by Louis Sachar
Manic Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fire Logic - Laurie J. Marks

Fire Logic by Laurie J Marks is a story of political intrigue set in a fantasy world with mild elemental magic.

When the ruler of Shaftal, an earth witch, dies without leaving an heir, the land is left in turmoil. The guardians of the hidden receptacle of his power try to keep it safe, while the tribes war among themselves.

While the premise of this story is intriguing, the narrative ruins any enjoyment I may have had while reading. The story moves at a steady pace throughout the novel; however, the writing is choppy. I often found myself having to go back a few paragraphs only to find that I hadn't missed anything, but that the author had made a sudden shift in the setting.

It was clear to me that the author intended for the tribes to be different from each other just by little tidbits that managed to make it into the narrative. Despite the fact that the author afforded many opportunities to illustrate the differences between the tribes, she failed to do so.

Another major problem I had with the novel is the characters. While the circumstances of the characters are sympathetic, I didn't feel empathy toward any of the characters due to their lack of personality. This also led to my overall disinterest in the many relationships between the characters

The use of elemental magic was inconsistent. Earth users could do healing and water users could manipulate the element of water, yet the fire users didn't seem to have an ability beyond a sixth sense.  Fire is often associated with intuition, but it seemed odd that the other two elements had tangible abilities and fire didn't.

While the plot line is obviously stated for the summary of the book, any semblance of a plot line can't be cobbled together in the actual novel until about half-way through. Up until that point, it's a bunch of confused events told by multiple characters that seemingly have nothing to do with each other. When these story lines do finally come together, it still doesn't make much sense.

The events that happen and the actions the characters take felt contrived to me. I felt as if the story was doing the characters, rather than the characters doing anything of their own volition.

For me this novel falls into the "great premise, poor execution" category.

Books in this series:
Earth Logic
Water Logic

Recommended Reads with elemental magic:
The Singers of All Songs Kate Constable
Singers of Nevya by Louise Marley
Sing the Four Quarters by Tanya Huff

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Deadpool Classic Volume 7 - Jimmy Palmiotti, Buddy Scalera

Deadpool Classic Volume 7 by Jimmy Palmiotti, Buddy Scalera collects issues 46-56 in one book.

I only recently started getting into Deadpool and I had only read the ones from the more recent series, where Deadpool is more random and makes a lot more jokes, so this was different for me. Deadpool still has humor in the "Classic" series. I just felt like his character was much more focused, while still a bit crazy and unpredictable.

In the 3-part "Cruel Summer" (issues 46-48) The Merc with a Mouth takes on a job to kill a number of people in the mob. While on the job, he hooks up with his informant for a bit of fun on the side.

Deadpool somehow manages to charm his way into the hearts of five lucky ladies in "Cat Magnet" (issues 49). This can't end well.

After failing to fulfill a job, Deadpool finds himself in the awkward position of fulfilling "The Promise" (issue 50-51) to take care of a guy's teenage son. The kid takes this opportunity to become Deadpool's sidekick.

Glimpses of the antics of two gorgeous psychopaths were revealed in past issues. Now in "Talk of the Town" (issues 52-53), Deadpool is hired under the table by a member of the justice department to catch these two dangerous killers that have been terrorizing the city.

With such a high price on the vigilante's head, Deadpool just can't resist the chance to kill The Punisher. "End of the Road" (issues 54-55) is bound to see one of these two dead.

"Going Out with a Bang" (issues 56) is the conclusion to the ongoing love affair between Wade and shapeshifting Vanessa. Deadpool has been pleasantly cohabiting with Vanessa. That is until Theresa calls him up for a meeting.

While all of the artists who worked on these comics did a stupendous job, I particularly enjoyed the art of Paul Chadwick (Cruel Summer) and Karl Kerschl (Going Out with a Bang).  Other illustrators who worked on this include: Michael Lopez, Darick Robertson, Anthony Williams, Georges Jeanty,and Liam Sharp.

Other compilations for this series:
Deadpool Classic Volume 1
Deadpool Classic Volume 2
Deadpool Classic Volume 3

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Haunt of Horror: Edgar Allen Poe - Richard Corben

Haunt of Horror is a collection of reinterpretation of classic Poe stories.

I spent a good portion of 2nd and 3rd grade reading scary short stories, in particular W.W. Jacobs and Edgar Allen Poe. I've carried that love of the supernatural and creepy into my adulthood, so I was excited to receive this as a Saint Nicholas Day gift!

This book compiles the original comics 1-3 and contains the stories: The Raven, The Sleeper, The Conqueror Worm, The Tell-Tale Heart, Spirits of the Dead, The Lake, Eulalie, Izrafel, The Happiest Day, and Berenice.

The illustrations are gray scale, which lends itself well to the creepy tone the stories have. While the majority of the stories are illustrated with standard pen and ink, there are a few that are computer rendered that give the stories a surreal feeling.

Some stories only contain captions of the original text or variations of it, while other stories contain additional dialogue. At the end of each illustrated portion is the full version of the story or poem.

Both the interpretations of the "The Raven" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" are straightforward. The rest of the stories contained within are reinterpretations. I especially enjoyed "The Conqueror Worm" and "Izrafel" reinterpretations.

Those who enjoy different perspectives will probably enjoy this, while purists would do well to stay away.

Recommended Reads:
The Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe - Edgar Allen Poe
The Monkey's Paw and Other Tales of Mystery and the Macabre - W.W. Jacobs
The Complete Fiction - H.P. Lovecraft

Many of the stories from the authors listed above are available for free download from http://www.gutenberg.org, due to their out-of-copyright status.

Recommended Viewing:
The Masque of the Red Death (1962)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Banshee - Patricia Lysaght

The Banshee: The Irish Death Messenger by Patricia Lysaght is a detailed delve into this fascinating piece of mythology.

Banshee is one of the lesser known myths of Ireland, yet it is popular in Ireland itself.  The Banshee is known by many names around Ireland, including baen síh, banshee, ban chaointe, and badhbh.  While these names are quite different they are each known for their wailing to announce the death of a person.  In some areas these beings are attached to specific families, while in others they are attached to the area or those who were born in the area.

What the death messenger wore, what she looked like, and her accessories varied from area to area.  Sometimes she came whisking through town, while in others she would only cry from a particular place.  Her death song was likened to many animals: fox, owl, cat, and many others.  It was always noted that somehow it had an otherworldly sound to it, though.  Very rarely, however, was she actually associated with these animals.

With extensive research, the author details the tradition of the Banshee in her many forms.  The author pulls from archives and questionnaires of Ireland and Irish people.  Half of the book is actually appendixes, notes, references, and bibliography.  Due to the academic tone of the narrative, some readers may find it difficult to immerse themselves.  However, the information is in depth and definitely worth reading for those who are interested in this fascinating being.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Wielding a Red Sword - Piers Anthony

Wielding a Red Sword by Piers Anthony is the fourth in the imaginative Incarnations of Immortality series. I originally loved this series when I first read it in High School, but I've discovered that it's not as enjoyable the second time through.

In this series, humans are able to take on the offices of Death, Time, Fate, War, Nature, Evil, and Good. The author does a great job of detailing what the duties of these offices entail. He also creates a fascinating world that uses both magic and technology.

Mym runs away from home to go join the circus. Mym is a self-pitying young man who, apparently, didn't like his plush life in the palace. Through a series of unfortunate events he falls in love with one of the ladies at the circus and is later forced into an undesired betrothal after his father hunts him down. When his father breaks off the betrothal with the first woman and forces him into a different one that would better benefit the kingdom, Mym finds himself with the option to run away once again by taking on the office of War. He takes on the office with the expectation of continuing his relationship with his originally betrothal; however, when she sees more of the world beyond her palace, she decides she can do better.

While the four lesser incarnations, Pestilence, Conquest, Famine, and Slaughter are interesting additions to War's entourage, Anthony doesn't do much with these characters. Another insert that never seems to materialize in this book is the inclusion of Mym's studying Go Rin No Sho or The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, which is a treatise of war much like The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Mym's battle with Satan lacks any sense of urgency, even at the climax.

The first in the series involving the incarnation of death is still a favorite of mine; however, the novels that follow just don't seem to be as enjoyable. Unfortunately, Anthony's writing has a lot of problems. Many of the characters have the habit of revealing plot points in monologues, rather than letting the story take on a natural progression. Because the author otherwise portrays the characters as stereotypical 'normal', the theatrical dialogue that takes place throughout the narrative is jarring. If one read this particular novel as a stand-alone, I think it would be easy to excuse the sexism in the narration due to the fact that the main character, Mym, was raised in a sexist and entitled household; however, having read many other Anthony novels in the past, it's clear this is simply Anthony's own personal prejudices.

Sadly, the concept of this novel has a lot of potential, but the author failed to bring it to fulfillment.

Books in this series:
On a Pale Horse
Bearing an Hourglass
With a Tangled Skein

Friday, November 30, 2012

Julian of Norwich - Grace Jantzen

Julian of Norwich by Grace Jantzen is a book containing a biography and commentary on the work of the anchoress Julian of Norwich, who lived between 1342-1416.

Julian lived as an anchoress, which meant she had a servant to take care of her daily needs and spent most of her time in prayer and meditation.  She would have lived outside of a village, but close enough that she could give counsel to residents.

Julian began her journey when she prayed for three things.  She prayed for a deep understanding of the passion of Jesus.  She prayed for physical illness that may bring her near death.  The third was a prayer for three things: "true contrition, loving compassion, and the longing of the will for God."

Julian did receive the sickness she desired and the near-death experience brought her visions.  She originally wrote them down and then returned to expand upon them twenty years later.  The original is often simple called 'the short text' and the latter called 'the long text'.  They have been translated and modernized for modern readers under various names, such as "Revelations of Divine Love" or "Showing of Love".

Her probing into the mysteries of God and the world will be fascinating to many.  She explores the divine love, the trinity, and much more.  I found her view on sin particularly interesting.  She suggests that when the body and soul are out of alignment, it causes the person to sin.  This misalignment, she says, is often due to a person being out of contact with God.  This same view is perceived by another female Christian mystic: Hildegard of/von Bingen.

The author writes in a first person narrative, often employing the use of "we", which may turn readers off who are not of the Christian persuasion.  Still, the author provides valuable insight into Julian's works by commentating and using quotes from both the short and long text.

This is an excellent book for those who want to become familiar with this amazing mystic and her work before embarking on reading her more complicated work.

Revelations of Divine Love:
Audio version available for free download from Librivox.org
Text version available for free download from Archive.org

Showing of Love:
Available for free viewing
Showing of Love by Julian Bolton Holloway

Other books about female Christian Mystics:
Passionate Spirituality Hildegard Of Bingen And Hadewijch Of Brabant by Elizabeth A. Dreyer
Hildegard of Bingen's Book of Divine Works: With Letters and Songs by Matthew Fox
The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen Volume I edited by Joseph L. and Radd K. Ehrman

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Brain Sense - Faith Hickman Bryne

Brain Sense: The Science of the Senses and How We Process the World Around Us by Faith Hickman Bryne is a fascinating and accessible read on how the brain and senses function.

For those who aren't so familiar with the brain, it is recommended to go to the Appendix, which contains a brief synopsis of how the brain and the nervous system work.  For those who are familiar, this can be skipped.  While the book does get technical from time to time, the overall tone is for an average reader.

The book is divided into several sections, each of which talks about a different sense: touch, smell, taste, vision, and hearing.  Each part includes a chapter on the absence of the sense, along with many other fascinating topics.  There's a final section that talks about abnormalities of senses, such as synesthesia, phantom feelings, and paranormal activity.

Does aromatherapy work?  Are pheromones bunk?  Does color have an effect on how people perceive things?  Why do some people taste bitterness while others enjoy the flavor of vegetables?  Many of these questions have been answered before, but new research presented in this book shed light on how and why.

Recommended Reads:
Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks
When a Gene Makes You Smell Like a Fish: And Other Amazing Tales about the Genes in Your Body by Lisa Seachrist Chiu
The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers by Daniel L. Schacter

Monday, November 26, 2012

ArchEnemy - Frank Beddor

ArchEnemy by Frank Beddor is the heart-pounding conclusion to The Looking Glass Wars Trilogy, which is based on Lewis Carroll's popular Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass novels.

This amazing re-telling has Alyss getting lost on Earth, rather than in Wonderland. Many familiar characters from the original novel are delightfully recreated. The Mad Hatter as Hatter Madigan, a talented military man and personal guard of Queen Genevieve Heart. The White Rabbit is found in Alyss's tutor Bibwit Harte (an anagram of the original name). The Red Queen is now Alyss's Aunt Redd who is hellbent on getting back on the throne of Wonderland. The Cheshire cat is transformed into a highly trained assassin, only known as "The Cat". Even the caterpillar makes a reappearance as the oracle of Wonderland. Imaginative recreations of familiar objects, places, and characters appear throughout the series, along with many of the author's own unique additions.

In this final novel, Alyss must fight against Aunt Redd and the invading enemy King Arch of Borderland. The battle against her Aunt Redd was desperate enough before, but now without her imagination available to her, Alyss must think of other ways to defeat them both. Friends both new and old come out to help her along the way, all while the Caterpillars continue to interfere for reasons unknown to anybody.

Some may find this much darker than the original novels by Lewis Carroll due to fond childhood memories. Others may find that the dark tone of these novels will match with that of the original novels. There is a lot of violence and many deaths in this series, many of which are emotionally engaging. Readers who enjoy reimaginings may enjoy this series, while those who are more traditional would probably prefer to stay away.

Books from this series:
The Looking Glass Wars
Seeing Redd

Graphic Novels for The Looking Glass War:
Hatter M
Hatter M: Mad with Wonder
Hatter M: The Nature of Wonder

Source Material:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Recommended Viewing:
Disney's Alice in Wonderland
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Alice Mini-Series

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier is a book about corrupt school faculty, gangs, and peer pressure that is a frequently challenged due to offensive language, sexual language, and violence.

As a freshman at Trinity boarding school, Jerry finds himself in a world beyond his experience. The school gang, the Vigils, harass him, students, and faculty relentlessly. Despite the fact that the faculty know Archie is in charge of the gang, he dodges punishment.

Brother Leon, his teacher, is a corrupt man who insults and pressures the children in his class to go against their conscience. As he increasingly pressures the children to sell chocolate bars, Jerry suddenly stands up and refuses to sell the chocolate bars.

Jerry finds himself in the middle of controversy, not just with the faculty, but with the gang. This realistic read on corruption of both youth and adult will leave many readers devastated.

Recommended Reads:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Soul to Lose/Reaper/Never to Sleep - Rachel Vincent

While these novellas can be purchased separately in digital format from several places online, they are also available in the compilation volumes of the main series.

My Soul to Lose
Trying to unwind, Kaylee goes out to the mall with her best friend. After having a strange panic attack where Kaylee finds herself unable to stop screaming, she ends up in the insane asylum. She begins thinking maybe she is insane, but after meeting several residents, things start to become clear.

Reaper
This novella is told from the point of view of Tod, where he tells the story of how he became a Reaper. I enjoyed the fact that this novel gave a little more insight into the complicated relationship between Tod and his brother Nash; as well as giving the reader a little more background on the relationship between Nash and Sabine. This stand-alone novella relies upon the reader already knowing a bit about the already established world, so I would recommend reading at least the first novel in this series before reading this one.

Never to Sleep
Sophie is sick of her cousin Kaylee's cries for help. Kaylee's insanity is starting to make her peers question her own sanity. After Sophie finds herself in a horrifying world with creeping vines that feed off of blood, she starts to think that maybe Kaylee isn't just trying to get attention. In this novella, I found Sophie to be just as annoying as she was in the rest of the series, so I didn't enjoy the narrative much; however, the excursion into her point of view was interesting.

Books in this series:
Soul Screamers Volume 1: My Soul to Lose, My Soul to Take, My Soul to Save
Soul Screamers Volume 2: My Soul to Keep, My Soul to Steal, Reaper
If I Die

Recommended Reads:
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Recommended Reads concerning Baen Sidhe (Banshee):
The Banshee: The Irish Death Messenger by Patricia Lysaught

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pagan Christmas - Christian Rätsch and Claudia Müller-Ebeling

Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide by Christian Rätsch and Claudia Müller-Ebeling is an informative read that reveals winter traditions from the past and how they are utilized today with a heavy emphasis on plants and flowers.

Why do we decorate evergreen trees? What are the origins of Santa Claus? What is the connection between holly and mistletoe? Why are red and white the prominent colors during Christmas? How did poinsettias and other flowers become associated with Christmas? What is in the traditional incense associated with church and why were those ingredients chosen?

For the curious, the authors have included loose guideline recipes for 'baccy' to smoke, cookies to bake, incense to make, and beverages to drink.

Most of the traditions the authors talk about come from middle Europe and the Mediterranean, but there are also traditions from Asia and the Americas.

From the old start of winter in November, now called Saint Martin's Day, to Candlemas in February, readers are certain to learn many things in this treasury of knowledge.

Recommended Reads:
Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by George Barna and Frank Viola
Shamanic Christianity: The Direct Experience of Mystical Communion by Bradford Keeney

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a novel that expresses the evil of censorship, especially of books. Ironically, it has been challenged for questionable themes and foul language.

Guy Montag lives in a society where books are banned; in fact, he works as a fireman who burns any illegal books they find. The job even goes so far as burning those who will not let release their books.

Montag lives a decent life with his wife, who stays home and talks with her family via wire and watches videos all day. When he comes into contact with an unusual young woman, his perspective begins to change. The woman talks about how there used to be porches, rocking chairs, and conversation between people. At first he thinks her daft; however, as he begins to consider her words, he becomes troubled.

Montag sets out on a journey of self-discovery that eventually leads him into becoming an outcast.

Readers may find themselves challenged in their views by this novel, while others may find that they align with their own views.

Recommended Reads:
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Friday, November 16, 2012

Animal Farm - George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell is a novel that carries strong social and political overtones that readers would do well in noticing.

Snowball the pig and his fellow animals are tired of suffering under farmer Jones, who unfairly takes advantage of their hard work and life. He doesn't treat them with respect they deserve. After much discussion, the animals decide to rebel and run the farm themselves.

The community begins with the best of intentions. All animals are equal and each will perform his duties to the best of his ability. Filled with optimism each animal is willing to do this.

The pigs, as the most intelligent of animals, put themselves in charge and create seven rules. Gradually, the pigs begin giving themselves special privileges with explanations that the others find reasonable. Soon the animals notice that rules seem to be changing, but since the painted words on the barn match what the pigs say, they determine that they must have misremembered.

The socialist society slowly becomes something much different than they intended. The lessons Orwell portrays are easy to find for those who pay them mind. I recommend this simple tale of political commentary.

This novel has been challenged on many occasions. Reasons ranging from conflicting ideology to offensive illustrations that show pigs drinking liquor.

Recommended reads:
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Recommended viewing:
V for Vendetta

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Crossed - Ally Condie

Crossed by Ally Condie
I enjoyed the first novel in this dystopian trilogy, so I was looking forward to reading this one. Cassia lives in a society where everything is planned out. School, jobs, food, and even partners are chosen by the government. Cassia goes along with everything, until a mistake happens and a bug shows her the wrong partner during her matching ceremony. At the end of the first novel, Cassia determines that she will find a way to join her partner, despite the government's intervention to separate them.

Generally, I try to get about 1/3 of the way through a book before putting it down, but I couldn't get past the first few chapters of this one. The alternating point of view between Cassia and Ky didn't flow well for me. Another thing that immediately turned me off was that the first novel ended with Cassia's determination, while the second book opened with her whining. Being unhappy with the separation from her personally chosen partner is reasonable, it's just a stark contrast to the development of her character from the previous book.

Maybe the novel gets better after that, but I just couldn't stomach it.

Recommended Reads:
The Giver - Lois Lowry
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Violent Grace - Michael Card

A Violent Grace by Michael Card is a heartfelt and insightful look at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

The author starts by pointing out that many ministries have removed crosses and crucifixes from church buildings. Many are choosing to focus on the teachings of Jesus, while the crucifixion, perhaps the most important part of the story, is being ignored. The purpose of this book is to bring focus back to Jesus's sacrifice for His followers.

The author takes the reader from the temptation at the garden, the betrayal, the process of the crucifixion, to death, and then to His rising. Each chapter explains what happens accompanied by Bible verses. The beginning of each chapter has a sepia-toned illustration and the end of each chapter ends with a prayer, each of which pertains to the chapter.

Card provides historical information about Judaism and Rome during Jesus time. The content concerning the process of the crucifixion may be too detailed for some; however, I felt it was just enough to experience the event in my mind. The Bible verses referenced throughout this work, use the New International Version (NIV), so if the reader prefers a different translation it may be best to have it readily available.

Unfortunately, Card mistakes certain verses in Psalms and other Old Testament books as prophecy*. While fascinating parallels exist between the afflictions suffered by the many writers of Psalms with those of Jesus, they are not prophecies.

With that in mind, I still think that many will find the content of this book helpful in getting a fresh perspective on the crucifixion.

Recommended Reading:
The Bible
The Singer by Calvin Miller
The Beggar King by Dan Hamilton

Recommended Viewing:
The Passion of the Christ
The Last Temptation of Christ

*For more information about mistaken prophecies:
Debunking Skeptics
Farell Till
Jim Lipard
Thomas Paine

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Death Cure - James Dashner

The Death Cure is a disappointing finale to the Maze Runner trilogy.

Thomas and the other test subjects have had to put up with a lot throughout the trials. They've lost friends to sickness and violence. They had to work to get out of the maze, they had to make a mad dash through a city filled with infected people, and now WICKED wants to give them their memories back in order to secure their full cooperation.

Thomas and many of the others don't trust WICKED, but many others are willing to go through the operation. But just before, the WICKED representative announces that not all of them are immune to "The Flare"; in fact, some of them have it.

Will they go along with WICKED to find a cure or will they fight for their own solution?

While I was disappointed in the conclusion of this series, there's a lot to be praised about the series as a whole. The slang used by the Gladers and their counterparts feels natural, which is important to note simply because so many authors have a difficult time making believable slang for their novels. The characters are not archetypes, but actually relatable characters with multiple dimensions to their personalities. The action scenes, as well as the every day portions are engaging throughout the entire series.  Overall, the series is enjoyable.

Books in this series:
The Maze Runner
The Scorch Trials

Recommended Apocalypse and Post-Apocalypse Young Adult novels:
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Sun Witch - Linda Winstead Jones

The Sun Witch by Linda Winstead Jones is about the youngest of three sisters, all of whom are cursed to live without love.

This fantasy romance is a bingo: child out of wedlock, man wants to marry her after finding out about child, forbidden love, kidnapping, and a wanna-be jilted lover. The male love interest is, of course, a former soldier and the leading female is a voluptuous, golden-haired lady.  The relationship between the two characters seemed artificial to me.  Like many romance novels, this novel has sex scenes; however, they are quite mild.

A plot with the emperor and his desire for an heir ties in about midway through the novel. And some political intrigue end up mixing into the main plot.

The romance genre isn't something I particularly care for, so it's not a surprise that I felt luke warm toward the novel. I like to think it's worthwhile to visit genres I don't normally like because there are a few gems.

Books in the series:
Moon Witch
Star Witch

Similar reads:
Chronicles of Chesuli by Jennifer Roberson

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster - Bobby Henderson

The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster by Bobby Henderson is a satirical book on religion.

FSMism, or Pastafarians, are followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose Noodly Appendage touches us all. The gospel encourages sharing of the gospel, but opts for peace if the subject is causing the listener to feel uncomfortable. A delicious meal of noodles and tomato sauce is encouraged as a healthy meal.

The book contains proofs from many scientists, including physicists, naturalist, and mathematicians.

It may also be worthwhile to note that the FSM heaven has a stripper factory and a beer volcano.

Recommended religious satirical and humorous reads:
Principia Discordia, Or, How I Found Goddess and What I Did to Her When I Found Her: The Magnum Opiate of Malaclypse the Younger
God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales - Penn Jilette

Recommended atheist reads:
The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True - Richard Dawkins, Dave McKean

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Punisher Max: Kitchen Irish - Garth Ennis

Punisher MAX: Kitchen Irish is written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Leandro Fernandez. It contains comic 7-12 in one volume.

Four Irish gangs are in a war that spans multiple generations. After his death, the boss sends out unique clues to each gang, instructed them on hidden riches; however, it can only be found if all the clues are brought together.

In an attempt to acquire the treasure without having to share it with the other gangs, each gang attacks the other, resulting in shoot-outs, torture, blackmail, and bombings.

After getting caught in the middle of one of these attacks, the notorious anti-hero Punisher decides to step in and put an end to the carnage.

Fernandez's illustrations for this graphic novel are detailed and sometimes gory, which is typical for this particular series. Those who are squeamish will probably want to steer clear of the series.

Recommended books in this series:
Punisher MAX: Mother Russia
Punisher MAX: The Slavers
Punisher MAX: Barracuda

Recommended Movies:
The Punisher 2006
The Punisher: Warzone

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Joy of Geocaching - Paul & Dana Gillin

The Joy of Geocaching is a wonderful introduction to the sport of geocaching, a modern day treasure hunt that uses GPS positioning.

Players use GPS Navigation systems, such as Garmin or Magellan, to find the general location and then hunt around for a cache that can consist of anything from a large rubbermaid bin, an ammo box, or even as small as a pencil eraser. Upon locating the cache, players sign the log. In some cases, caches contain prizes where players can trade swaps, like personal coins.

There are challenging locations that require rock climbing, hiking, or a number of other activities. Some geocaches require solving puzzles and some contain multiple legs to get to the final destination. Many caches are handicapped accessible, as well! They are located in places like malls, parks, or other public areas that are easily accessible.

People participate in geocaching for a number of reasons. In the book, interviews with players give the reader an idea of what drives many of these people. For some it is the excitement of exploring new areas. For other it's the physical and mental challenge of reaching a cache. Some people do it for recreation with family and friends. Those who are up for a challenge may participate in "powercaching", which is finding as many caches in a set amount of time. There is also "geodashing", which is a challenge to see who can locate the most random caches on a mailing list the quickest.

With the variety of geocaches available and the variety or ways to play, geocaching is sure to be a good fit for many people.

Authors' website:
joyofgeocaching.com

Websites to find geocaches in your area:
geocaching.com
earthcache.org
terracaching.com

Friday, November 2, 2012

Reflex - Stephen Gould

Reflex is a sequel of taking place ten years after the original novel Jumper.

Davy has been doing contracting work for the NSA that takes advantage of his special unique to "jump", teleport. Millie, his longtime girlfriend, is working as a psychologist.

When Davy doesn't return to pick Millie up from one of their many hide-outs in the middle of nowhere, she's forced to strike out on her own. After a traumatic incident, she realizes she has gained the same ability Davy has. She becomes even more determined to find out what happened to Davy on her own, all while being chased by a mysterious organization.

Meanwhile, Davy is captured by an unknown enemy, where he is tortured and conditioned so that he will do the bidding of his captors.

The narration swaps between Davy and Millie on the chapter change. Their stories twine together very well. Millie proves to be just as innovative as her boyfriend in getting what she wants. And Davy proves to be both tactical and strong, as he bides his time.

Other books by the author:
Jumper

Movie based on the book:
Jumper 2008

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Audiobooks: an addition or alternative to reading - interlude

I had listened to audiobooks a few times during school, but I wasn't too keen on them. A few years ago one of the books I wanted to borrow from the library was only available in audio format, so I decided to give it a try. It opened up a new avenue for my reading.

Audiobooks are a wonderful invention. At one time they were available as records and audio cassettes. Now they are more frequently found in CD and digital format. Many books are often offered as both unabridged and abridged (shortened/condensed).

There are many services for payment for audiobooks. There are also free resources like local libraries that often carry many newer books and Librivox.org that carries out of copyright texts in audio format. The Library of Philadelphia also has library card available for a fee, if you want to check out digital media there.

If you're looking for a way to add reading to your life or to add a couple extra books to your reading list, audiobooks may be the way to go. By listening to audiobooks during my daily commute to and from work, I normally add 2 books to my monthly count. Many people enjoy listening to audiobooks while working, exercising, or even cleaning the house. It's a great way to indulge a hobby, while getting stuff done.

Of course, a good narrator makes a huge difference between whether the book is a hit or a miss in this particular format. Narrators like Dick Hill make the characters come to life. He makes it easy to tell one character from the other by the way he speaks. Events take on real tenderness or urgency with just the change of his tone.

Many books I had difficulty getting through when reading were much more palatable in audio format.

I suggest giving audiobooks a try, if you haven't already.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Two Towers - J.R.R. Tolkien

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien is part of his famous Lord of the Rings trilogy.

With the Fellowship now broken, the characters find themselves going on in various groups. The beautiful prose sung by Aragorn and Legolas at the departure of yet another member of the fellowship is heart wrenching. As they continue on their journey and on into battle, the camaraderie between Gimli and Legolas grows stronger. An unexpected character comes to their aid during their journeys in Rohan. As the group travels on more of Aragorn's origins are revealed. Their search for the missing members lead them on to Isengard.

Merridoc (Merry) and Peregrin (Pippin) find themselves with only each other for company. In their dire situation, each shows a sense of ingenuity and courage. Their travels bring them to a strange forest where they meet an old forgotten people, who they join to continue their journey.

Frodo and Samwise (Sam) pair together, leaving behind the rest, and continue on to Mordor. They team up with a most unlikely ally, who eventually leads them into trouble and possibly death.

Many readers find the long descriptions in Tolkien's writing tedious, while others enjoy them for the vibrant picture they create. The many songs scattered throughout the book are a delight, especially when read aloud. I think many readers will find bits of themselves or people they know hiding in the many beloved characters.

While this epic fantasy is certainly enjoyed by many all on its own, learning the folklore that influenced Tolkien can add a new layer of appreciation. Like the opera composer Richard Wagner, Tolkien was inspired by Norse mythology, such as the Nibelungenlied and Volsunga Saga. The powerful ring, elves, dwarves, dragons, and many other fantastic events and creatures can be traced back to these sources.

This novel and other by Tolkien were burned in New Mexico by those who claimed they were Satanic.

Notes specific to the audio version: The narrator gives some tune to the songs throughout the book. While they are not melodic, the narrator has a good sense of cadence for each one. The way he voices each character is different enough that in most cases it is easy to tell the difference between them during a conversation.

Other books by this author:
The Hobbit: or There and Back Again
The Silmarillion
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun

Recommended viewing:
The Hobbit animated version from 1977
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy theatrical extended version.

Recommended listening:
Nightfall in Middle Earth by Blind Guardian
Music Inspired by The Lord of the Rings by Bo Hansson

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Joan of Arc: By Herself and Her Witnesses - Régine Pernoud

Joan of Arc: By Herself and Her Witnesses by Régine Pernoud is a fantastic biography on Joan of Arc, Jeanne d'Arc. This biography sets itself apart by using recorded testimony of both Joan and those who knew her to create a living portrait of Joan.

Appropriately, the book starts at the beginning of Joan's life. With testimony from Joan's own mouth during the trial and that of those who knew her as a child, the image of an obedient and devout girl comes to life. A child who went to confession daily, if she were permitted, and kept to her chores diligently.

Despite the disapproval from her parents, Joan set out on the road to meet The Dauphin, Charles, who she was determined to place on the throne of France by driving out the English. Her defeat of the English at Orleans staggered many in France, and struck fear into the invading English.

Details of the battles that followed are provided by her comrades in arms, including Jean de Dunois, the Bastard of Orleans. Joan won many major battles in the Hundred Years War, but she also lost many. Those she lost, she claims to have done without the support of her "voices", Saint Catherine, Saint Margaret, Saint Michael, and Saint Gabriel.

While it's true that Joan recanted to save her life at one point, the author suggests that she knew more about the situation than she would say aloud. Being held under state custody while undergoing a "church" trial appears to have tipped her off to the illegitimacy of the process. Even though Joan knew how to sign her name, she only signed an "X" on her recant. Her many demands to see the Pope, which by Church law were supposed to be honored, were dismissed.

This biography does not end with Joan's death like so many do. Details about the "rehabilitation" 25 years after are shared in this book, where Joan was finally once again accepted as a member of the Church. Many of the statements throughout the book are taken from these documents.

Joan's influence in the Hundred Years War cannot be emphasized enough. Without her intervention to take back Orleans and many other strategic locations in France, the outcome most certainly would have been different.

More recommended reading on Joan of Arc:
Joan of Arc: Maid Myth, and History by Timothy Wilson Smith.
Joan of Arc: A Military Leader - Kelly DeVries

Recommended movies on Joan of Arc:
The Passion of Joan of Arc

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths - Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire

D'aulaire's Book of Greek Mythology by Ingri d'Aulaire and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire is a treasure.

The illustrations in this book are just delightful. The illustrations were originally done by a process called lithography, which works on the principle of grease and water repelling each other. The overall style is sketchy with attentive details and gorgeous color schemes. Many of these are full page illustrations, that include family trees and exciting scenes from the stories.

The retellings are faithful to their originals while leaving out details that many do not find appropriate for children. A good example of this is that it does talk about Zeus having children with many women aside from his wife; however, it does not talk about how he came upon them in the form of a swan or a bull.

The continuity of the narrative is carried out in an easy to follow format. It starts with the telling of the creation of the world, Gaia, and her brood: the Titans. It goes on to talk about Zeus and many wives, which bridges the gap for the next portion which talks about Hera. Each story makes a segue way into the next by introducing the next character by how he or she relates to the previous one. The tales of Prometheus and Pandora make an appearance, among many other popular tales. Heroes like Heracles and Jason of the Argonauts are presented. Even the tragic tale of Oedipus is included, as well.

Many of the gods and goddesses in the Greco-Roman mythos are often presented in a malevolent manner, but that is not the case in this book. The anger of Artemis for being caught unawares while bathing and the jealousy of Hera of Zeus's antics is presented in a matter-of-fact way.

I'd recommend this for anybody who is interested in Greco-Roman mythology.

Other books by these authors:
D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths
D'Aulaires' Book of Trolls

Recommended books on Greco-Roman Mythos:
A Child's Introduction to Greek Mythology: The Stories of the Gods, Goddesses, Heroes, Monsters, and Other Mythical Creatures by Heather Alexander
Mythology - Edith Hamilton

Recommended viewing:
Jim Henson's The Storyteller: Greek Myths
Clash of the Titans 1988 version
Jason and the Argonauts

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Introductory Post - interlude

As a first post, I think I should give a little background on myself and what this blog is about.
As a child I loved to read; although, I wasn't good at it. I read a lot, but it was rare that I would actually finish a book completely through. I visited with characters like Ramona, who drove her parents and sister crazy. I stopped by to say 'hello' to Charlie as he explored the candy factory. I even peeked in on Gilly Hopkins. Thanks to the library, I'm able to borrow these children's novels and finally find out what happened to them.

When I got Junior High, I skipped over young adult novels. In the few books I read in the genre, I found the characters to be unrelatable. Having gone back to read many of the young adult novels, I've come to the conclusion that this is more of a reflection on where I was than on the genre as a whole. Although, I do tend to think some of it had to do with the limited selection in my small town library.

Instead of the young adult genre, I mostly read classics. They were often in the $.99 bin, so my mother brought many of these home and I devoured them as fast as I could. By the time I reached High School, I had already read many of the required reading assignments. If our book reports were limited to a selection of books the teacher had given us, chances were I had read at least one of them.

As an adult, I keep track of the books I finish each year. I keep a low-end goal of reading 3 books a month or 36 books a year for the past four years. I've exceeded this goal each year, but I still think that 3 books a month is just right for me. It ensures that I'm keeping active in reading, while not limiting other activities in order to attain it.

I decided to start this blog after realizing that I start a lot of books each year that I never finish. The reasons can vary from book to book. I thought it would be interesting to not only keep track of and review books I complete, but to give impressions of books I don't finish, as well.