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Monday, December 30, 2013

Height of the Scream - Ramsey Campbell

A man decorated with The Scar is set to harm a man's family. What will happen when he finally confronts him?

Performers and audience members alike will shiver when a band decides to put on The Dark Show, leaving the audience and music players in awe of its performance.

Did you ever notice the wind seeming to play tricks on you, making it seem as if Litter were following you? One man discovers that this may actually be the case.

A woman who works at the library decides to put on a show for the children, but who knows what lies In the Shadows when she tries to play with tricks of light.

After finishing filming for a gory movie, a couple's house may become its own Horror House of Blood.

This collection contains 18 stories, so horror fans should be able to find something they will enjoy.

Recommended Reads:
Apocrypha Sequence: Deviance - Shane Jiraiya Cummings
The Changed Man - Orson Scott Card
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark - Alvin Schwartz

Friday, December 27, 2013

Bony-Legs - Joanna Cole

One of my reading groups was discussing scary books we enjoyed as children. I hadn't thought about this story in years, so it startled me when it immediately popped into my mind when the topic came up.

Based on the Russian folk tale of the witch Baba Yaga. Bony-Legs lives in a house in the forest that stands on chicken feet. Sasha, a girl, is sent out by her aunt to borrow a needle and thread. Along the way, Sasha shows kindness to a dog, a cat, and a gate, who later help her escape from the witch. When Sasha innocently asks to borrow a needle and thread, Bony-Legs announces she will instead eat the little girl.

Although Sasha is scared, she shows courage in escaping with the magic objects given to her by the animals she helped during her journey.

While I was a child, I could never quite identify what it was about this book that made me so attached; however, as an adult I am able to articulate it. I love Sasha's kindness and generosity. Even better is the fact that it is rewarded later in the story. She cries when she is first captured, but she shows bravery in the face of a seemingly hopeless situation when she escapes. Her trust in the magic objects she is given exemplifies faith in others.

There is also the fantastic illustrations. Hidden within many of the pictures are eyes and other creepy images that fascinated me as a child.

I hope other young readers will discover and enjoy this retelling as much as I did and still do.

Recommended Reads:
Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Incarnation - Nelson Reference

Being raised Catholic, Advent was celebrated every December. This meant the reading of the stories of the birth of Jesus for four weeks. I always loved this tradition and even though there are a couple of different version of the event in the Bible itself, I wanted to read different expressions of these stories. This collection contains songs, poems, and prose pertaining to the events surrounding the Nativity, which was just what I was looking for.

The chapters are separated by theme, making it easy to find what the reader may be looking for. The Man Joseph written by Sally Meyer is a lovely modern interpretation of Joseph's challenges as he stayed by Mary's side. The Annunciation in the book of Luke is one of my favorite stories in the cycle. There are many lovely prose and songs concerning Mary in the book, but my two favorites are Rupert Brooke's Mary and Gabriel and The Mother of God by William Butler Yeats.

One of my favorite activities during childhood was moving the Three King's as they journeyed across the house, until they finally arrived to greet Jesus on Epiphany (Three King's Day). It is hard to decide which ones are the best within this collection, but I managed to narrow it down to three: Journey of the Magi by T.S. Eliot, The Wise Men by G.K. Chesterton, and The Three Kings by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

There are many more themes that include amazing works from those inspired by the Bible, but each person will find their own delights. If you are looking to add new ways to tell the story of the Christ child's birth, this may just be the book for you.

Source Material:
The Bible

Books in the Series:
The Cross

Recommended Reading:
Jesus Calling - Sarah Young
A Symphony in the Sand - Calvin Miller
The Birth - Gene Edwards

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Ship Who Sang - Anne McCaffrey




This collection brings together five stories that were originally published as separate pieces in various magazines between 1961 to 1969. Helva is a human bred purely for her brain. She was inserted into a ship at a young age, so she has no experience in a normal human body.

While I love the concepts and conflict in the stories, the stories themselves aren't engaging, especially the ones written between 1961 and 1966. McCaffrey's writing is stunted and reads more like a movie script than a story. The Ship Who Mourned in particular is an apt example. The plot line of Helva being driven mad by the loss of a special individual should have been heartbreaking, but it reads like a series of events rather than being emotionally engaging. Dramatic Mission was just plain silly, in my opinion.

The Ship Who Killed was the only story in the collection that made an impression on me, as it forces Helva to confront both an outward foe and an internal one.

The ideas within are intriguing, but the writing style in the majority of the stories makes it difficult to enjoy.

Books in the Series:
Partnership
The Ship Who Searched
The City Who Fought

Recommended Reads:
Xenocide - Orson Scott Card

Friday, December 20, 2013

Last Child in the Woods - Richard Louv

If you grew up with open prairies, desert, forest, or even an open lot nearby you probably already know the joy and excitement of nature. You may remember how you learned about physics, the hard way, when you fell out of a tree or tumbled into a ditch. Those scars, bruises, and maybe even broken bones from adventures were probably something you recall and retold with pride.

Louv collects data and recounts the importance of nature to children. Studies show that exposure to nature can calm children, including those with ADHD, and improve their concentration. Exposure to nature, even just seeing green space from a window, has been shown to improve healing times in patients in hospitals. Hands-on experience by studying bugs, collecting rocks, or simply taking a trek through an area can help children learn about the world around them and how it all interconnects.

Louv and others all around the country are fighting for the return of exploration and adventure. This book exposes the advantages, pitfalls, logistics, and even legal challenges that await us if we choose to enrich our lives with more nature.

Recommended Article:
How Children Lost the Right to Roam in 4 Generations

Recommended Reads:
15 Minutes Outside - Rebecca Cohen
Free-Range Kids - Lenore Skenazy

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Solstice Evergreen - Sheryl Ann Karas

Decorating an evergreen during the winter season has become a staple of American life. For many it's simple a sign of the season, something fun to decorate, or a beautiful centerpiece to brighten the main room. It seems to transcend culture and religion.

In this book Karas explores the curious tales of evergreen trees throughout the world. Each chapter explains the theme followed by several tales from around the world as examples. The themes she chooses are: The Nature of Religion, Sacred Trees and Groves, Evergreen Symbology, The Tree at the Center of the Universe, The Earth Mother and the Dying God, the Death of Pan, and Rebirth of the Tree. It contains popular stories such as Grimm's The Juniper Tree, Anderson's The Fir Tree, and The Day the Sun Disappeared of Japan.

Traditions and folklore reveal the everlasting appeal of the evergreen tree in our hearts and homes in this book.

Recommended Reads:
Pagan Christmas - Christian Rätsch, Claudia Müller-Ebeling
The Winter Solstice - John Matthews

Monday, December 16, 2013

Children of Dune - Frank Herbert

Paul Atreides has left his mark on history with the people believing him the prophet Muad'dib. Now that he is gone and their mother, Jessica, is staying at Caladan, his sister Alia takes over the Jihad in her brother's name. Alia's hold on the empire is enough of a challenge, and her life is only made more difficult as she attempts to keep the thousands of personalities in her other memory under control. Ganima and Leto, Paul's two remaining children, are also held captive to the threat of their other memory turning them to abomination.

Alia's hold on the empire and the Jihad is already tremulous, but when a man only known as "The Preacher" comes to the capitol city to denounce her and the way she runs the empire, it only makes the ordeal more difficult. As Alia feels her power decreasing she becomes more vulnerable internally, providing the necessary environment for her inner lives to attack.

While Paul's children are hidden away from the other Houses in the Empire, they are still not safe from the betrayals that have managed to establish themselves within their Sietch.

Full of treachery, danger, and conflict of many types, readers will find themselves fascinated with this addition to the Dune story line.

Books in the series:
Dune
Dune Messiah
God Emperor of Dune

Recommended Reads:
Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert Heinlein
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

Recommended Viewing:
Dune (mini-series)
Children of Dune (mini-series)

Friday, December 13, 2013

How Full is Your Bucket? - Tom Rath, Donald O. Clifton Ph.D.

This simple concept may very well change the life of the reader and all of those around them. Each person has a bucket, which is filled or emptied by the words and actions of others.

Sometimes it's necessary to make negative observations, such as during a work place review or when a child does something wrong. How do you keep the other person's bucket full while still making sure they understand what they've done wrong? The magic ratio is 3 to 1. For every one negative thing, you should try to express 3 positive things.

Are more positive interactions better? Studies show that being overly positive (a ratio of about 13 positive to 1 negative) will harbor a unrealistic environment and may even make the situation or environment worse.

Of course, it's important to remember not everybody values the same things. A plaque on the wall may mean the world to one person, but may just be a bauble to another. One person may prefer a heartfelt "thank you" with a handshake in person, while another may appreciate an email.

While this book only spans 89 pages in text, it makes an impact by keeping things simple and easy-to-understand. In the end of this particular edition are exercises and guides that will help the reader discover how best to fill their own bucket and the buckets of others. A good quick read that can be useful in all areas of life.

Similar titles for younger audiences:
Fill a Bucket: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Young Children - Carol McCloud, Katherine Martin
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids - Carol McCloud

Recommended Reads:
The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate Paperback - Gary Chapman
The Color Code: A New Way to See Yourself, Your Relationships, and Life - Taylor Hartman or Personality Plus: How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself - Florence Littauer

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Krampus: The Yule Lord - Brom

I borrowed this book from the library on the sole fact that it had to do with Krampus, Saint Nicholas's naughty companion who is better known in Europe for punishing children by beating them with switches or tying them up in a sack and throwing them in a stream if they are naughty. I had no idea what to expect.

Santa Claus decided that Krampus is no longer necessary in a world that is much more enthralled with good will, peace, and handing out favors than punishing children. When Krampus refuses to hang up his switch, Santa Claus shackles him in a pit so he can work in peace.

Jesse is a man down on his luck. His wife left him and took his daughter to go live with a man with more livable means. To make matters worse, this man works for law enforcement. Just when Jesse is about ready to give up, a strange thing occurs.

The solution to all of Jesse's problems turns out to be the bane of his existence. Not only is he caught up in the middle of a drug war, he's also caught up between the war between Krampus and Santa. Santa just wants his magic sack back, while Krampus wants to put the Yule back into Christmas. That and he wants to kill Santa for stealing his stuff and putting him in solitary confinement.

By weaving together folklore from Germanic, Norse, and modern traditions, Brom creates a fascinating backdrop for his novel. Jesse's life circumstances of the down-and-out man, trying to bring his family back together is something many people can either relate to whether personally or through others. How his life ends up out of control despite his best intentions is yet another. Disturbing in multiple ways, this read certainly isn't for the faint of heart. But it's not without its lesson. At the end it almost begs the reader to bring the spirit of Yule back into the winter traditions.

Recommended Reads:
Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide - Christian Rätsch, Claudia Müller-Ebeling

Monday, December 9, 2013

We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson

Constance Blackwood is the caretaker of her ailing Uncle Julian and her unusual sister Mary Katherine. Merricat, for short, is highly superstitious in her own way, and uses various objects around their property to keep her family safe. She is also highly unsociable, so while she enjoys the outings to the village to get groceries weekly, she is highly agitated by the people who approach her during her errands.

When one of her charms falls, Merricat intends to warn Constance of the coming danger; however, she is put off by the unexpected arrival of their cousin Charles, who quickly takes over. He eliminates Merricat's weekly errand by going to the village himself, and to make matters worse, he doesn't have a routine himself, which throws her entire world off kilter.

Tragedy strikes, displacing the Blackwoods from their home and killing one of their own. How will Merricat recover from her loss?

Jackson explores many fascinating themes in her short novel. How does one define family? How does one respond when the outside world does not accept oneself? And how does one build ones life after it has been destroyed?

Recommended Reads:
The Glass Menagerie - Tennessee Williams
The Darkest Part of the Woods - Ramsey Campbell
House of Leaves - Mark Z. Danielewski

Friday, December 6, 2013

15 Minutes Outside - Rebecca P. Cohen

Are you tired of your kids sitting in front of the television, computer, or other electronic devices? Do your kids complain they're bored? Maybe what they need is some time outdoors (and maybe you need some too).

But what do you do once you manage to get them outside? Cohen provides 365 ideas on how to get your kids out and moving. There are simple ideas like going for a walk. By walking to school or the store, a walk can become an adventure. A route normally taken by vehicle takes on a whole new aspect when taken in slowly.

If you're not quite ready to wander around with the kids, you can always have them explore the yard. What interesting objects can they find around the yard? Pine cones, flowers, ants, and even blades of grass look totally different when examined under a magnifying glass.

A bit too hot for exploration? Consider using water balloons, squirt bottles for water guns, or maybe use sprinklers. Is it too cold? Consider a short outdoor picnic in the yard with hot muffins and hot cocoa.

Many more exciting ideas for activities are available in this book. Cohen shares her own experience with time outside with her children. The activities start in January and move on through the year providing seasonally appropriate activities. Each entry is numbered with a title and contains a description of the activity. Throughout the book, she also includes text boxes that contain ideas on how to use the weather to your advantage, how to gather toys and other objects for use outside, how to make seasonal pack-and-go bags, and more.

Recommended Reads:
Last Child in the Woods - Richard Louv
Free-Range Kids - Lenore Skenazy
Simplicity Parenting - Kim John Payne, Lisa M. Ross

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Winter Solstice - John Matthews




If you've ever wondered where winter holiday traditions come from, this is the book for you. By separating the chapters by theme, the author makes it easy for the reader to locate whatever one is seeking: The Solstice Dream, Child of Wonder, The Green Bough, Old Sir Christmas, The Solstice Animals, The Twelve Days of Christmas, and Celebrating the Solstice.

Solstice Dream covers rites from all around the world. It Sun-Rites of the Hopi, the Celtic Wheel, Saturn's Games, and the Feast of Fools.

Child of Wonder addresses the most popular incarnation story of Jesus Christ, but it also talks about Dionysus, Baldr, Horus, and many others.

We use evergreen trees, holly, ivy, and many others to decorate during the holiday. The Green Bough reveals age-old traditions on where these originated and why they were used.

Old Sir Christmas follows Santa Claus, along with Saint Nicholas, Shamans, and many others. This chapter also includes his entourage of companions, including Krampus, elves, and reindeer.

If you've seen a nativity scene, you'll notice certain animals always seem to be included. The Solstice Animals provides insight into how these animals came to be endearing enough to maintain their status throughout many cultures and religions.

The Twelve Days of Christmas provides a series of themes with activities for the reader to utilize from December 25th to January 6th (Christmas to Epiphany in the Christian calendar).

And finally in Celebrating Solstice, the author provides plays and other activities for the reader to use for their own solstice celebration.

This book is full of insightful information on the winter season in Europe, Americas, and Asia. Filled with quotes, illustrations, and activities, readers are sure to find what they are looking for, whether to satiate their curiosity or to institute some old time religion in the modern world.

Recommended Reading:
Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide - Christian Rätsch, Claudia Müller-Ebeling
The Solstice Evergreen - Sheryl Ann Karas

Monday, December 2, 2013

Looking for Mary - Beverly Donofrio

Donofrio's life isn't going so well. She just broke up with her long-time boyfriend, her son isn't speaking to her, and she's not happy. Deciding to get herself out of the funk, she sets out one day on a treasure hunt at the local yard sales. She unexpectedly returns with a statue of the Virgin Mary. She finds herself bringing home more memorabilia, and soon the forgotten figure of her childhood begins calling her back home.

While searching for Mary in the scripture, the faith, and in culture, Donofrio begins to understand her life and herself more. As she imagines the things that Mary must have done right with her child Jesus, she recalls the hurtful things her mother and grandmother did wrong. As she thinks about the hurt her mother caused her, she begins to truly recognize the things she has done herself as a mother that hurt her son.

In her search, she not only discovers Mary, she discovers herself.

Recommended Reading:
Cult of the Black Virgin - Ean Begg
The Catholic Passion: Rediscovering the Power and Beauty of the Faith - David Scott
Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

Mary was an unwanted child, so her parents had the servants spoil her just as long as she'd keep from being underfoot. One day tragedy strikes and Mary is sent to live with her cold and distant uncle.

He is often away on business, so she is taken care of by a few servants, who don't deal with her bad attitude. Even worse, she's expected to occupy herself. Though there are 100 rooms, she cannot explore, as they are all locked. She is left with her room and the garden. Even worse than her loneliness, though, is the wailing and screeching she sometimes hears at night.

Will Mary learn new ways or will she continue to be miserable? Will she discover the secret in the garden? And will she ever discover what that terrible sound is?

This children's novel is about becoming a better person and overcoming the obstacles in your life. It's also about friendship and the delight of keeping a secret among friends. While I feel I related to this novel much more when I was a child, I still appreciate the lessons in the book. It was especially timely as in one of my groups we have been talking lately about taking care of yourself and being your best self.

Recommended Reads:
Little House in the Big Woods
Anne of Green Gables - L. M. Montgomery
Charlotte's Web - E. B. White

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Prince - Nicolo Machiavelli

Utilizing examples of both failures and successes in ruling from his own time and in history, Machiavelli proposes the proper way to rule in this classic political treatise.

Machiavelli proposes ways to seize power to conquered kingdoms and how to establish new kingdoms. He explains how to both defend and attack using the state military. He expresses the importance of the qualities of the ruler. In what may be the most important part, he explains the many ways in which a ruler may gain the trust and fealty of his subjects, even when they do not like his rule

Regardless of where a person is in life, this is an educational read. Those in leadership position may learn how to best maneuver their charges into pliability. Those who aren't in leadership positions may find this an insightful tool in understanding those in leadership positions.

Recommended Reads:
The Art of War - Sun Tzu
A Book of Five Rings - Miyamoto Musashi
Tao Te Ching - Lao Tsu

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sarah, Plain and Tall - Patricia MacLachlan

Because she died the day after he was born, Caleb doesn't remember his Mama. He's told his Papa used to sing every day with his Mama, but now he is quiet. And his older sister Anna, his older sister, misses his mother.

One day their Papa announces that he thinks it's time he sought a new wife. He explains he put an advertisement in the paper. Soon a letter arrives from a woman named Sarah. Each member of the family writes a letter to ask questions, and she responds to these questions in a letter. Finally, Sarah agrees to meet them. "I am plain and tall," she says in her description.

Will Sarah enjoy the company of Papa, Anna, and Caleb? Will the family like her? Will she learn to love the plains like she did the oceans of Maine? Will she choose to stay or will she return to Maine?

Children will be whisked away in the daily events of a time long ago, so different from the life they live now. And they will be enthralled with gentle and determined Sarah, Plain and Tall.

Recommended Reads:
Little House in the Big Woods
The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
Anne of Green Gables - L. M. Montgomery

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ishmael - Daniel Quinn

After seeing an ad in the paper seeking serious students, an unnamed pupil decides to meet the teacher at the appointed address. When the author first meets his teacher, he's uncertain because this is definitely not what he expected; however, after speaking with Ishmael, he decides to stick it out for a bit longer. Ishmael challenges him to think: What is the myth of your people? With such a vague question the author and the readers are hard-pressed to know where to start.

And the questions and challenges only get harder as the author delves further into the teachings from Ishmael. Ishmael won't let the narrator slide away with a shrug or an "I don't know". He's forced to either think about it then or go home to think about it if he doesn't have an answer. The reader may find himself challenged and sometimes feeling threatened by Ishmael's questioning of the world, society, and how it works.

I've read many title of this type, but this is especially poignant. It challenges historical and religious perspectives. It challenges a person's personal actions and beliefs. I think for some readers this may be a difficult read because of the topics, but for many it may open their minds and hearts. Be prepared for a new way of thinking when embarking on this journey.

Recommended Reads:
The Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz
Jonathan Livingston Seagull - Richard Bach
The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Friday, November 15, 2013

Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes

Between AP English and Spanish class, I read a hefty chunk of this tome in High School. Reading the entire novel has been on my to-do list for years, but I didn't get started on it until earlier this year. I also went through a couple of translations before I found one that I liked.

Don Quixote is an elderly gentleman who, after filling his head with too many books on chivalry, decides he will go out on his own conquest to become a knight errant. He recruits a townsman named Sancho Panza, who foolishly decides to follow Don Quixote on his misadventures and agrees to become his squire after receiving the promise of becoming a governor.

Don Quixote's wild imagination causes him to think that windmills are giants, inns are castles (which should gladly house and feed him without charge because of his occupation), and that ladies are all damsels in need of his help. At first people are merely annoyed by his fanciful adventures and some even give him a good thrashing when he doesn't act in accordance with modern convention. Even after these incidents, Don Quixote doesn't give up on his dream. His exploits only become worse, as he sets free prisoners who claim false imprisonment, attempts to set free his lady Dulcinea from enchantment (whom he sees in faces all around), and challenges peasants to battle who are minding their own business. At some point, word of this lunatic gets out and nobles decide to have their fun at the expense of the knight and his squire.

Reading the entire piece is a chore, but when viewed as a series of exploits it becomes more amusing. I'd recommend reading this in bits and pieces, rather than as a novel.

Recommended Reads:
Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift
The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure - William Goldman

Recommended Views:
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
The Adventures of Baron Manchausen
A Beautiful Mind

Monday, November 11, 2013

Practical Magic - Alice Hoffman

For generations the women of the Owens family were blamed for anything that went wrong. It didn't help that everything seemed to happen to everybody in town except them, like a storm missing the house. People have avoided the Owens family, saving if they need a specific kind of help. Sally and Gillian live with their aunts who enforced few rules throughout their child. Despite the love in the house, their childhoods were made so unbearable by the townspeople that they each decide to escape in their own way when they reach adulthood. While Sally settles down with her family, Gillian runs amok with her boyfriend.

Their relationship, though good, has always had its troubled spots, and it only grows worse as they get older. After being out of contact, Gillian suddenly lands on Sally's doorstep. Can Sally and Gillian put aside their differences to solve a very big problem? Or will Gillian have to suffer alone?

The part I enjoyed most about the story is how Sally and Gillian's issues as siblings are also reflected in the issues of Sally's daughters: Antonia and Kylie. Both sets of sisters manage to mend their relationships in different ways, but both are because of particularly traumatic incidents.

I'm not sure how I feel about the writing style. The point of view is third person omniscient, but more than anything it seems to meander than to give the reader an insightful view of what the characters are feeling. I think that sometimes the author doesn't know where to fit the bits about previous generations and she just puts them wherever she wants.

I think more people are familiar with the movie than the book, so I'm sure some are wondering how they compare. The characters are the same and the major plotline is the same, but other than that they are hardly identifiable. How things happen and for a large part what happens is completely different. I think fans of the movie may not like the book and vice versa; however, I like the book for it being more about family, but I like the movie for bringing in the community element.

Recommended Viewing:
Practical Magic
Chocolat

Friday, November 8, 2013

Simplicity Parenting - Kim John Payne M.Ed., Lisa M. Ross

We all want to give our kids the best care in both quantity and quality, but are we really giving them what they need? Payne's approach to raising children is called extreme by some, but many have found his advice sound and truly life-changing for both parents and children.

The first things he recommends is throwing out your kids toys. Why? The average American child has 150 toys. It's no wonder parents find toys strewn about the house and children are overwhelmed when asked to clean up their toys! How many of those toys do children really play with? How many have missing parts or are broken and just taking up space? You shouldn't throw all of your child's toys away, of course, but it's important to choose to keep toys that have staying power and can spark your child's imagination. This mom took her kids toys away and refuses to give them back. A year later she writes a follow-up explaining why it has improved her family's life.

It's easy to recognize when a child is physically sick by the signs of an aching stomach, a fever, or a hurting head; however, many of us don't know how to identify emotional sickness. Children who act out by throwing things, yelling, crying, or moping about may be overwhelmed or maybe understimulated. One parent relates how her teenage daughter was acting out on the whole family, so she asked her to take the weekend off from all of her extracurricular activities. Her daughter raged at being "grounded", but it turned out to be just what she needed. From then on she learned to take breaks herself. Another parent related how her young daughter had trouble going to sleep despite being physically active. It turned out she needed the addition of creative activity during the day, like drawing, to help ease her mind once bed time rolled around.

Payne suggests creating a routine, but with many households being extremely busy with both parents working or going to school, single parenting, or working multiple jobs it can be difficult. And that doesn't count the activities their children may be participating in. It's too busy for routine, isn't it? Payne explains that maybe you're too busy not to have a one. A rhythm, or routine, creates patterns that make things easier for everybody. Making Monday pasta day gives kids something to look forward to and keeps parents from having to stress out on what to cook. Taking a walk in the evening all together is a way to calm down before bed through exploration and conversation.

There are plenty more ideas on how to simplify a family's life within these pages. While not all of them may be for every family, they can certainly provide some ideas on how to adjust. This book isn't just for parents; these same ideas can be utilized by adults without children, as well. Simplifying your life may be just what you need to make life more enjoyable.

Recommended Reading:
NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children - Po Bronson, Ashley Merryman
Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) - Lenore Skenazy
The Myth of Choice: Personal Responsibility in a World of Limits - Kent Greenfield

Monday, November 4, 2013

Scary Stories 3 - Alvin Schwartz

Schwartz returns with more scary tales collected and retold from around the world, and along with it are the delightfully disturbing illustrations of Stephen Gammell.

A young man has an unexpected run-in with death and attempts to escape to the city, but can he escape his Appointment? Picking up a young woman at The Bus Stop may seem like the kind thing to do, but things are not always what they seem. Who is The Wolf Girl who runs wild? Sam always wanted a pet, but when his parents come home with a cute dog from Mexico, he gets more than what he anticipated. When a mother gets sick on a family trip, her daughter let's the doctor take her away for urgent care. But something's not right when she returns to the hotel in Maybe You Will Remember.

These and more await the reader in this thrilling anthology of Tales to Chill Your Bones.

Books in the Series:
Scary Stories Box Set: Scary Stories, More Scary Stories, and Scary Stories 3
More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Recommended Reads:
The Monkey's Paw and Other Tales of Mystery and Macabre - W.W. Jacobs
Ten Great Mysteries - Edgar Allen Poe

Friday, November 1, 2013

Autumn Gospel - Kathleen Fischer

With each generation, our lifespans are growing longer. While a longer lifespan means more time to experience life, it also means increasing challenges when it comes to health and relationships. Fischer understands these challenges through her own personal experience and the experience of those she has helped through her occupation as a nurse. By combining experience with spirituality, Fischer creates a book that expresses understanding and hope for the reader.

While the book is aimed at women who are reaching those who are older, many women will find this book insightful in understanding themselves and other women around them. Fischer covers topics like self-image, transition from one life stage to another, the sacred body, mourning, reconciliation, and continuing tradition.

Even though it comes from a Christian perspective, Fischer also discusses traditions from other religions and cultures. This book encourages exploration through imagination, participation, and personal insight. Along with individual activities, she includes group activities, including recreational and ritual. While many of these are Judeo-Christian in nature, a reader or group could easily adapt it for their own group.

Whether an individual or a group, I think this book can make a difference in how readers view the world and the aging process.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Little House in the Big Woods - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Mrs. Ingalls Wilder recalls her childhood days out in the big woods, living with her Ma, Pa, older sister Mary, and baby sister Carrie. Ma maintains a strict routine in their house to ensure they have the things they need. Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Mend on Wednesday, Churn on Thursday, Clean on Friday, Bake on Saturday, Rest on Sunday. Even daily chores become interesting in the delightful eyes of the child, Laura. She shares the secrets of how butter, cheese, candy, sausage, and many other foods used to be made before the convenience of modern machinery and convenience stores. As a kid these processes fascinated me, and as an adult reading about them reminds me of how blessed I feel to live in a time where I can just run to the store to pick something up off the shelf.

Outside of the chores, though, there are exciting events that make me shake my head and laugh out loud even as an adult. The two encounters with bears are both frightening and heartening. Laura's loss for words over such precious gifts at Christmas remind me of gifts I received that made me speechless. The innovative ways she and Mary used sticks, leaves, and other objects they had around the house for their play reminds me to be thankful for all I had and have.

The best part of the audiobook is the inclusion of a Paul Woodiel performing the pieces played by Pa on his fiddle. As a child I wondered what some of the songs might sound like, so the inclusion of the fiddle parts brings these to life.

I loved this book as a child, and I'm glad I took the time to read it again as an adult. I hope children continue to enjoy this book for years to come.

Books in the Series:
Little House on the Prairie
Farmer Boy
On the Banks of Plum Creek

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Whoopie Pie Book - Clair Ptak

The Whoopie Pie Book: 60 Irresistible Recipes for Cake Sandwiches Classic and New by Clair Ptak is an easy cookbook filled with delicious ideas.

When asked what a "whoopie pie" is I normally respond saying it's a cake version of an Oreo or chocolate sandwich cookie. The texture of the cake is something between a cookie and a cupcake and the cream can vary depending on who makes them.

The traditional whoopie recipe with chocolate and marshmallow is the very first recipe in the book. I'm not a fan of the marshmallow filling, so I went straight for the traditional butter cream when I tried this recipe. The cookies were just the right consistency and the butter cream was delicious.

The second recipe I tried was the strawberry with strawberry. The cookies turned out great, but I had to make some modifications to the filling recipe. It calls for 4-6 cups of powdered sugar, which is way too much. I ended up using only about 2 cups for this one, and even that was a bit much for me personally; although, the company I had that weekend loved them.

All of the recipes I tried turned out fairly well, though with the filling one may need to adjust the sugar content to personal taste.

Monday, October 21, 2013

One Year of Blogging

Thank you all for continuing to visit my blog for the past year, as I've recorded my adventures with books of all different genres. Updating this blog 3-4 times a week has been fun for me, and it's also helped keep me on track of reading 15 books a month.

I've decided I'd like to focus on some of my other hobbies as the new year comes up, so my reading will be going on the back burner. I'll still be updating this blog, though, on Mondays and Fridays.

Expect the next update on October 25th. Happy reading, everyone!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark - Alvin Schwartz

This is another collection of scary stories retold by author Alvin Schwartz with brilliant grayscale illustrations by Stephen Gammell.

Many of the stories I grew up with hearing around the campfire and at sleepovers are found in this anthology. I recall being spooked by tales such as The Wreck, One Sunday Morning, Wonderful Sausage, and The Bed by the Window and entertained by more humorous ones like The Bad News.

Reading this anthology reminds me of happy times spent with friends and family during social nights.

Books in the Series:
Scary Stories Box Set: Scary Stories, More Scary Stories, and Scary Stories 3
More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Recommended Reads:
The Monkey's Paw and Other Tales of Mystery and Macabre - W.W. Jacobs
Ten Great Mysteries - Edgar Allen Poe

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Darkest Part of the Woods - Ramsey Campbell

Dr. Lennox Price originally moved to the small town to study the mystery of Goodmanswood. Successfully discovering the secret of the hallucinogenic moss of the dark woods doesn't make him immune to its effects, though. Now with Lennox in a mental hospital, his family must learn to get along without him.

His wife decides to immerse herself in her strange art. His daughter, Heather, tries to keep her own family together as best as she can, but her husband is distant and her son can't seem to escape the town. Meanwhile her sister becomes pregnant and refuses to reveal the father.

Hints from their father's work may lead them to the solution. With a little bit of research they may be able to break free from the woods and its curse. Or is its hold on their family just too firm to escape?

The overall feel of this novel was reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft's work, which is a big reason by I enjoyed this so much. I'm anticipating reading more from this author.

Recommended Reads:
The Call of Cthulhu - H.P. Lovecraft
The Shadow Over Innsmouth - H.P. Lovecraft

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dune Messiah - Frank Herbert

Paul Muad'dib Atreides took the throne by cunning after the emperor conspired to kill his entire family. Paul secured his place on the throne by marrying the Princess Irulan, but he refuses to have any meaningful relationship with her, preferring to attempt a royal birth with his Freman love, Chani. His coldness toward Irulan causes her to join a conspiracy, which makes him vulnerable both from within and without.

He and his sister Alia attempt to control the people by both the throne and religion, but the Jihad may be too far gone for them to handle. As Alia reaches sexual maturity, her other memory fights with her budding feelings. And Paul finds himself increasingly hedged in by his prescience.

I've read this novel multiple times and I still have mixed feelings toward it. While I'm reading it, I sometimes find myself wondering if it's ever going to get anywhere, but when it finally comes together at the end I'm always left thinking for hours later. If I had prescience, could I use it to improve my life in the way I want? How does my culture and religion effect my daily life? And what would I decide if given the chance to revive my dearest loved one to life?

Books in the series:
Dune
Children of Dune

Recommended Viewing:
Dune Mini-Series
Children of Dune Mini-Series
Avatar

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark - Alvin Schwartz

Back in grade school I loved to scare myself silly. Along with Poe and Jacobs, I enjoyed collections of horror stories like this one. The versions Schwartz tells aren't unique; in fact, you can find them in tons of collections. What set these books apart were the accompanying grayscale illustrations by Stephen Gammell. The illustrations are ten times more frightening than the stories themselves.

The versions in this book are purposefully a short 1 to 2 pages long to provide a good translation for oral storytelling. I remember many of these tales most clearly from around the campfire and during sleepovers than I do from the books. While the tellings of High Beams and Bloody Fingers were the same as the versions told here, I remember tales like The Hook growing increasingly more morbid with each gathering as we tried to frighten each other worse.

Anybody who enjoys a good scare will be satisfied with this collection.

Books in the Series:
Scary Stories Box Set: Scary Stories, More Scary Stories, and Scary Stories 3
More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Recommended Reads:
The Monkey's Paw and Other Tales of Mystery and Macabre - W.W. Jacobs
Ten Great Mysteries - Edgar Allen Poe

Friday, October 11, 2013

Priestess, Mother, Sacred Sister - Susan Starr Sered

I often hear people lamenting the disappearance of women's religions. Many have a lot of theories about what they were like. Some of the more popular ideas I've heard are: A girl's menarche would be a time of celebration, women would have more control over their bodies, and an almighty goddess would be worshiped instead of an almighty god.

There are a lot of women's religions alive all around the world that most people just haven't heard of. So do any of these women's religions match these ideas that many people today have of what women's religions should look like? The answer is mixed and a bit complicated. While some of the women's religions Sered studied fit some of these expectations on the surface, when looking a bit deeper they may not be what people expect; however, most of these religions don't fit any of these expectations at all.

Some of the religions Sered explores include: Shakers, Burmese Nat, Sande, and Zar. All of these religions are unique, though some of them do have similarities. Sered is careful to make comparisons, but not generalizations. There are a few sections where her own personal point of view get in the way of the narrative, but in these cases she does note they are her personal opinion and not those of the practitioners.

If you want to learn about live women's religions, this is an excellent read.

Recommended Reads:
Goddesses and the Divine Feminine: A Western Religious History - Rosemary Ruether
Warrior Women: An Archaeologist's Search for History's Hidden Heroines - Mona Behan, Jeannine Davis-Kimball
Roles of the Northern Goddess - Hilda Davidson

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Charlotte's Web - E.B. White

Mr. Arabel decides he's going to kill the runt, but Fern's earnest concern for the piglet leads her father to give it to her. Fern loves the pig so much that even when she is forced to sell it to her uncle, she visits him as often as she can. When Wilbur discovers he is bound to become a holiday meal, he throws such a fit that the animals of the farm band together to save him, including a spider named Charlotte, who inventively saves his life. For children, this is a tale of friendship and wonder.

For those a bit older, it contains an additional coming-of-age plot. Mrs. Arabel is concerned with her daughter's constant visits to the barn, and even more concerned of her daughter's stories of the animals actually talking. Her husband brushes it off and the doctor assures her that Fern will soon grow out of it. Their assessments prove to be true, as at the show when Wilbur is awarded a blue ribbon Fern is more
concerned about getting money from her parents to wander off with the neighbor, Henry, than with the pig she once cared for.

Many readers have expressed their dislike for the fact that Charlotte is never recognized for her efforts by the human characters. While this is true, Charlotte's sacrifice is recognized by Wilbur and his barnyard friends. One of my favorite parts of this book has always been that despite Charlotte's fate, hope blossoms in the gift she left Wilbur. It assures us that life may change, but it continues.

Recommended Reads:
Ramona Quimby Age 8 - Beverly Cleary
Little House in the Big Woods - Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis

Monday, October 7, 2013

Selected Writings: Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen is an amazing Catholic mystic of the 12th century. She wrote and illustrated her vision from God, recorded her herbal cures, traveled to give theological lectures, wrote music and a morality play for her abbey, and was even an influence to bishops and kings.

Atherton, the translator, chose many selections that I don't typically see in Hildegard collections, so I was happy to see that. One of the things I was happy to finally peek at was from her cures. Many editors and translators choose to focus on Hildegard's herbal remedies because many of them are applicable today. Atherton decided to include some of the metaphysical stone and crystal remedies, including sardonyx for overactive libido.

This volume includes selections from her three major works, Scivias, Book of Divine Works, and The Book of Divine Merits, as well as selections from her morality play Play of the Virtues. There is a section containing verses from the music she wrote for her abbey, but it does not have music notation, nor is there an accompanying music disc. Like many books on her work it does not contain actual illustrations of he work. While the translator does a decent job of describing the pieces, Hildegard's work is detailed, so it's hard to describe all of the nuances in her visionary pictures. There is a brief biography in the introduction and at the end it includes selections from letters to and from Hildegard.

I enjoyed this collection mostly because of the variety of selections the translator chose in comparison to others I have read.

Recommended Reads:
Hildegard de Bingen - Regine Pernoud
Hildegard of Bingen's Book of Divine Works: With Letters and Songs edited by Matthew Fox
The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen: Volume I - edited by Joseph L. Baird and Radd K. Ehrman

Recommended Listening (traditional):
Canticles of Ecstasy performed by Cologne Sequentia Ensemble for Medieval Music
The Origin of Fire: Music and Visions of Hildegard von Bingen performed by Anonymous 4

Recommended Listening (modern):
Hildegard von Bingen by Garmarna
Vision: The Music of Hildegard von Bingen

Recommended Viewing:
Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen (2010)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Odin's Gateways - Katie Gerrard

Gerrard strikes a good balance between historical, established, and personal practice when it comes to Runes in this book.

By starting with the background of the Runes, Gerrard ensures that her readers will have a solid base before learning about Runes as a divinatory tool. She addresses controversial topics, such as the "blank" Rune, the use of Runes a divination tool, and the use of Runes by the Nazis.

Like many Rune practitioners, the author suggests readers attempt contact with Odin, the God who is originally associated with the Runes. She also suggests that like Odin giving his eye for the Runes that a person make a sacrifice for knowledge of the Runes. There is a brief section that covers journeying and guardian spirits in order to do these things. She also recommends either making ones own Runes or working with each Rune for a set amount of time individually (one day each, one week each, or a month each) in order to get a personal understanding of them.

The Runes in the Anglo-Saxon and the Old Norse poems are used for interpretation, so for those who want to use the Icelandic Rune poem this guide may have limited use. She covers what each Rune means in the poem, typical interpretation, her own interpretation, divination, and as a symbol. Like many authors, she suggests using the sound of the Rune by chanting to get a better understanding.

At the end she also covers Bindrunes, which is a way of a type of spell created by combining runes. She also provides another way of making bindrunes by using a eight-spoked wheel, the aetts, and a simple mark on the wheel. The author explains that this keeps the meaning hidden from others, as well as avoiding creating inadvertent Runes in the Bindrune that could mar the effectiveness.

I've read several books on Runes, and I think this is one of my favorites so far. Her honest separation between historical, modern, and personal interpretation is something I appreciate, along with her emphasis on the readers personal experience. I would recommend this for anybody who wants to learn more about Runes.

Recommended Reads:
Runes - R.I. Page
Rune Song with accompanied audio - Edred Thorsson

Recommended Site:
Sunnyway.com
Norse-Mythology.org
Northvegr.org

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Jovah's Angel - Sharon Shinn

150 years has past since the Archangel Gabriel and his Angelica, Rachel, sang the Gloria. The wrath of Jovah, God, was set upon them when Rachel refused to participate in the Gloria. Once Rachel recanted and joined, the people were placed back in His good graces.

After a terrible accident the current Archangel, Delilah, can no longer fly; therefore, Jovah ousts her from her position and appoints Alleluia. Like many Archangels before her Alleluia has one major problem: She must locate her Angelico before the singing of the Gloria. The consultation with the oracles has only given her a cryptic message to lead her to her one and only mate. To make matters worse, the last of the machines used to play recorded music for the Archangel are breaking down. On top of seeking an unknown entity, she needs to find an engineer who can fix the machines, which are in short supply since they haven't even made horseless carriages yet.

Alleluia's faith will be tested when she finds the man she loves is not the one Jovah has bound to her. She will be further challenged when she discovers that Jovah is not who she thought He was.

Although this is a sequel, it can easily be read as a stand-alone novel as there are very few references to the previous work, Archangel. The only mentions are about Gabriel and his relationships with Rachel, but the author is sure to inform the reader of necessary information. I enjoyed this much more than the first in the series. The internal war of love versus duty rings true within Alleluia. The internal turmoil of her beliefs being directly challenged with solid evidence is one with which many people can relate. Delilah's desperation to avoid hope in fear of disappointment echoes the situations of many. I think that many readers will find themselves challenged when reading this novel.

Books in the Series:
Archangel
The Alleluia Files
Angelica

Recommended Reads:
The Telling - Ursula K. Le Guin
Singer from the Sea - Sheri S. Tepper

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

InuYasha Volume 1 - Rumiko Takahashi

I had watched a few episodes and even a couple of InuYasha movies in the past with friends who are fans, but I could never get into it. A couple of them had suggested I should try the manga/graphic novel version. I figured I would give it a shot, considering there are a number of Japanese products where I prefer the manga version to the anime version. Unfortunately, I can't say I feel much different.

I have the same problem with the manga version that I have with the animated version. I like the basic premise of the series: High School student finds herself in a foreign world, where she becomes the heroine in a search to bring together a great power. It's a familiar story that also weaves in the concept of reincarnation in an interesting way. The use of magics of all types and the inclusion of demons in a fantasy world is great.

However, I find the two main characters to be insipid and annoying. While Kagome, the heroine, is kind-hearted and uses her intelligence and skill to win the day, her behavior with InuYasha is careless and sometimes cruel. A particular talisman places bodily harm on InuYasha when Kagome says a particular word. She sometimes uses it to keep him from doing something inappropriate, but she most often uses it when she feels the least bit of annoyance toward him, which I find inappropriate. InuYasha, a half-demon, as expected can be unthinking and often offensive with his words and actions toward Kagome. Having seen episodes from various points in the series, I can say with confidence that this poor relationship does not evolve much further.

Books in the Series:
InuYasha Volume 2
InuYasha Volume 3
InuYasha Volume 4

Suggested Reads:
Magic Knight Rayearth - CLAMP
Gandalara Cycle Volume I - Randall Garrett

Friday, September 27, 2013

Interlude - Returning on October 1st

It's time for another vacation. Work has been stressful lately, so it's time to relax with a good book or two. I'll be returning with reviews on October 1st.

Currently Listening to:
Dune Messiah

Don Quixote

Currently Reading Hardcopy:

Selected Writings:
Hildegard of Bingen

Priestess, Mother
Sacred Sister
Jovah's Angel


Currently Reading Ebook:

The BhavadGita
As It Is

Odin's Gateway

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Two is Enough - Laura S. Scott

Through surveying and interviewing childfree/childless couples, Laura S. Scott gets to the the heart of the matter in Two Is Enough: A Couple's Guide to Living Childless by Choice.

In the introduction, Scott gives the reasons and methods to her research. An important thing to note here is that Scott uses childfree and childless interchangeably throughout the book. The first chapter reveals who the childless by choice are, chapter two explains how the choice came about with the growing availability of drugs and other medical procedures, and chapter three defines the different ways how people came to be childfree/childless.

Scott sent out a survey asking couples to rank on a scale of 1-5 how much they agreed with a series of 18 motive questions, such as "I can better serve the world by not having children" or "My lifestyle is not compatible with children, among many other interesting statements. What Scott found was that the amount and frequency of agreement with many of these statements were about equal between men and women, as well as across wages. While Scott's sample is admittedly small, less than 200 childfree/childless, it is interesting to see the patterns are so consistent.

The chapter titled "On the Same Page" features interviews with many couples about their choice of lifestyle. Their experiences and explanations are often similar despite their varied lifestyles. While some found their decision to be without children easy, others found it a a bit more difficult. In fact, the chapter following, "...Myths and Realities of Living Childfree" challenges many of the assumptions that many people make about those who choose not to have children.

The last two chapters explore the difficulties of living in a pro-natalist (pro-child) world, when living without one. People without children often find themselves "picking up the slack" when other workers have to bale to transport children or take care of them when they're sick. While programs like FMLA have helped in larger companies, many smaller companies are not required to follow these laws and put those without children at a disadvantage. Many people even find themselves looked upon as children by their families because their culture doesn't recognize them as adults until they have children.

This insightful book will help the curious, the decision-makers, and the decided understand the motives, freedoms, and challenges faced by those who choose this lifestyle.

Recommended Reads:
The Parenthood Decision - Beverly Engel M.F.C.C.
The Childless Revolution: What It Means To Be Childless Today - Madelyn Cain

Monday, September 23, 2013

Lost Tales of Ga'Hoole - Kathryn Lasky, Kathryn Huang

This anthology contains six short stories of different owls from the Ga'Hoole series. Each one is a fascinating look into the background of a minor character along with a lesson for young readers.

The Snowy Sisters, Madame Plonk and the Rogue smith of Silverveil, were once only owlets being used as pawns in a plot. Their painful past led them to become better owls in their later lives.

Fritha's Painted Past has always kept her quiet when it came to her family and upbringing, but it might be time to be proud of who she is and where she comes from.

Uglamore Redeemed himself by coming to the aid of Coryn at a crucial time of the war, but how did he become a slipgizzard to the cause he was raised in and believed in?

Everyone of Ga'Hoole knows of bold Twilight and his battle songs, but do you know of his brothers Tavis and Cletus, the Brothers Brave and Blustery?

A Secret in Braithe's Gizzard has been bothering him and even interfering with his storytelling. Can he learn the truth about his father despite the missing pieces of the letter?

Cleve's Sorrowful past led him to become a pacifist, and now readers will know what horrible occurrences led to his decision.

The final story is told in the first person while the rest are told in third person. Each story has an introduction and conclusion by Otulissa, the editor. This collection should definitely be read at the end of the series, as there are spoilers when it comes to many of the characters. Any fan of the series will feel enrichment with this bit of extra insight into some of the minor and well-loved characters.

Books in the series:
The Capture
The Journey
The Rescue

Recommended Reading:
Warriors: Into the Wild - Erin Hunter
Animorphs: The Invasion - K. A. Applegate
TailChaser's Song - Tad Williams

Suggested Viewing:
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Devil's Apocrypha - John A. De Vito

De Vito was digging through his uncle's belongings and discovered a strange manuscript written in multiple languages. Through careful translation De Vito manages to decipher the meaning and share it with readers.

What did this priest find that was so disturbing that he was excommunicating from the church? What if the Bible is biased toward the wrong side? What if God is actually the bad one?

The idea may be repugnant and downright offensive to some readers to consider. Others may find it an interesting philosophical question, while others may find the idea humorous.

I did not feel that this book made Lucifer/Satan and his minions sympathetic; however, God comes across as a megalomaniac and many of his followers seem psychotic. The author does not change the stories, he just writes them in a different way.

Considering the possibility that the stories I've known all my life are somehow not as they seem was thought-provoking. And the perspective of 'other side' was moving. Adam and Eve's temptation at the garden was more sympathetic. The hardened heart of Pharaoh was heartbreaking. And many more stories in the Bible are given a more emotionally detailed description.

While I wouldn't recommend this for everybody due to its sensitive nature, I would recommend for those who want to think and take in a new perspective.

Source Material:
The Bible

Recommended Reading:
The Lost Books of the Bible and The Forgotten Books of Eden
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell - William Blake

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Spiritual Scents - Shauna Aura Knight

As more members of the Pagan community come forward with intolerances and allergies, careful or no use of scents becomes more important. Because many rituals take place in areas where use of flame is restricted, it's important to have alternatives available.

Spiritual Scents is a 20 page e-booklet with advice on how to not abuse scent and fire during rituals and gathering. You can find my full review of this booklet at Pagan Book Reviews.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Fall of Arthur - J.R.R. Tolkien

The text written by Tolkien is a mere 40 pages, while the rest is commentary and clarification by Christopher Tolkien, his son.

There is a brief forward in which Christopher explains the layout of the book followed by the 40 page text.

After this Christopher does a great job of explaining where Tolkien pulls from in the various Arthurian lore for the reader, who may not already be familiar with the material, in order for the reader to better understand the poem.

In the next chapter, Christopher reveals the curious similarities between his fathers notes on his Arthurian works and those found in the Silmarillion.

"Evolution of the Poem" explores the various drafts, comparing the latest versions of certain verses to some of the earlier versions that Christopher was able to gather and analyze.

Christopher Tolkien's commentary is worth reading for his insight into his father's mind and for understanding Arthurian legend. Although the actual text is short, fans of Tolkien will find this peek into the incomplete tantalizing. Fans of Arthurian legend may find this interpretation an interesting addition to their library, either mental or physical.

More from this author:
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; The Pearl; Sir Orfeo
The Silmarillion

Recommended Reads:
Le Morte D'Arthur - Sir Thomas Malory

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Haunt of Horror: Lovecraft - Richard Corben

H.P. Lovecraft has been scaring people for generations with his horror stories. His work has been a popular influence in literature, games, and even music.

This collection contains reinterpretations of many of H.P. Lovecraft's horror stories in black and white comic-style format followed by the selections of which they are based on. These stories include "Dagon", "The Music of Erich Zann", "Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family", "The Well", and "The Window". From "Fungi from Yuggoth" there are selections from "Recognition", "A Memory", "The Canal", and "The Lamp".

One of my favorite pieces by Lovecraft is "The Music of Erich Zann", so I was delighted to find it interpreted here. It is a straight forward interpretation and very well done.

All of the interpretations are well done. I especially liked "The Well" and "The Window". Some are straight forward, while others are more artistic.

Those with an open mind will find these good reads, while purists may not like them so much.

Recommended Reads:
The Complete Lovecraft - H.P. Lovecraft
Haunt of Horror - Richard Corben
The Complete Tales and Poems - Edgar Allan Poe

Friday, September 13, 2013

Gameboard of the Gods - Richelle Mead

Mae Koskinen is an elite soldier of RUNA (Republic of United North America). Justin March is an exiled member of state and a former investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. Koskinen loses her normal cool continence during an event. As punishment she is pulled from her normal duties and has been assigned to Justin to investigate a series of murders in RUNA.

Justin only has a month before the next full moon when the killer will strike next. With each day the pressure is put on harder, the investigation becomes more dangerous, and the trail becomes colder.

Koskinen's typical high society upbringing may hold the key to finally breaking the case, but it may not be in time to save the next victim. And maybe those strange voices in Justin's head can offer a hand in solving the murders.

Mead's characters each have a diverse background and personality. The plot is revealed not just in the events, but in the character development. I look forward to future books in this series.

Recommended Reads:
Norse Code - Greg Van Eekhout
Valkyrie Rising - Ingrid Paulson

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Dune - Frank Herbert

Because I live in the desert, I tend to get the urge to read this book again every year in the summer.

Herbert's Dune was first published in Analog magazine as two parts. He later edited and expanded it to be published as a full-length novel. It was followed by five sequels by the author and a continuing written series collaborated by his son, Brian, and Kevin J. Anderson. It has been interpreted into a movie, a mini-series, computer and board games, and even songs.

After the failure of House Harkonnen to harvest the precious commodity spice in acceptable quantities, the Padishah Emperor decides to move House Atreides from the lush planet Caladan to the desert planet Arrakis.

The Duke Leto has only one son through his concubine and that son, Paul, is set to take over the dukedom when the time comes. Paul was raised with his father's high moral standards and under the instruction of his Bene Gesserit mother, so both of his mental and physical abilities are astounding. When tragedy strikes, Paul is forced to flee the capital city and find a way to survive in the wastelands of Dune. If he manages to survive, he may be able to take back the planet for House Atreides.

Herbert's Dune is filled with political intrigue, economical trade, social uprising, ecological awareness, and messianic fulfillment. The royalty-based politics harkens back to times past, while the setting is in the future along with space travel. This fascinating tale appeals to a wide-range of readers and will continue to be lauded as a classic in the sci-fi genre.

Books in the Series:
Dune Messiah
Children of Dune

Recommended Reading:
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert A. Heinlein
Hyperion - Dan Simmons

Recommended Viewing:
Dune Mini-Series
Children of Dune Mini-Series
Avatar

Monday, September 9, 2013

Interview with a Vampire - Anne Rice

Although he believes it's a prank, the interviewer decides to meet with a vampire on the off-chance this is an interview of a lifetime.

Louis was a successful plantation owner, until the vampire Lestat bit him and interrupted his life. His sire, Lestat, informs Louis that there are things Louis needs to learn about becoming a vampire and he holds Louis hostage with this knowledge. Everything is going fine for Lestat until he decides to transform a little girl, who soon decides to rebel against his tyranny.

Claudia convinces Louis that they need to seek out the origin of the vampire in order to learn the things that Lestat refused to teach them. After much research she determines the best course of action would be to return to Europe to seek out past Sires there. As they travel Europe, they find many bloodsuckers, but they seem to be nothing but animated corpses.

When they are just about to give up, they come across a community of vampires, led by a man named Armand. Claudia's child form makes the group suspicious, as does their separation from their sire. Armand wants Louis for himself, but he needs to separate him from Claudia.

The tradition of the vampire can be found all around the world, whether that's a blood sucker, a life sucker, or a body snatcher. Rice brings life to creatures that are normally simply seen as terrors of the night. Louis's experiences are sympathetic, but his character is one of hopelessness. He allows himself to be pushed to act by Lestat, Claudia, and then finally by Armand.

I enjoyed the story and the style of writing, but I'm not left with a desire to pursue the rest of the series.

Books in the series:
The Vampire Lestat
Queen of the Damned
The Tale of a Body Thief

Recommended Reads:
Dracula - Bram Stroker
Dead Brides: Vampire Tales - Edgar Allen Poe

Recommended Viewing:
Interview with a Vampire

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Batman: Detective Comics: Scare Tactics - Tony S. Daniel

One of Batman's scientifically inclined enemies is up to his Scare Tactics again. And the stakes go up when Catwoman gets tangled up in the madness.

The Owls Take Arkham, leaving the institute in a state of complete disarray and putting Gotham at an even worse risk. The escape of Black Mask puts Gotham On the Brink and more trouble is yet to come when a new Radioactive! nemesis comes to challenge Batman. After nearly killing himself in attempting to find the secret of the dangerous substance, Batman may have just found a way to release The Killer Inside to bring down this new threat. Black Mask is on the loose again after fooling the doctors at Arkham. It turns out that he may not be the real threat this time, as a man reveals he's thinking about trading his hat in for a mask.

Bruce has left Gotham in search of advanced training from all around the world. While Alfred must endure The Long Wait, Bruce must learn The Final Lesson when it comes to not only training but life.

In a three part series, Two-Face is put into the care of an unusual group of people. Can these determined individuals bring Harvey Dent back to himself, so he can go back to practicing law and lead a normal life?

It seems like these stories are supposed to be woven together, but I found the plots to be a bit too messy to make sense of it. The only stories I felt worthwhile in this volume for me were The Final Lesson and The Long Wait.

The art, however, was excellent. Both the pencils and coloring were phenomenal with a sense of both grit and clarity.

Books in the Series:
Batman: Detective Comics: Faces of Death