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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Batman: The City of Owls - Scott Snyder

The City of Owls compendium contains volumes 8-12 of Batman and Batman Annual 1.

Bruce Wayne discovers the death of his parents may not have been an accident. With his connection at Wayne enterprise and his super sleuth abilities as Batman, he seeks out new data in order to confirm his suspicion. Long ago Wayne Manor had been infested with bats and owls were sent out to eliminate them. The Court of Owls seems to echo this distant memory leaving Batman and his Bat family struggling to survive and fend off the threat. But nature has a way of balancing itself out. And maybe the Bat family can manage to do the same.

With brilliant art and a fast-paced plot, readers will easily get caught up in Gotham City's plight.

Books in the Series:
Batman: Court of Owls (vol 1) - Scott Snyder
Batman: Night of Owls

Thursday, June 27, 2013

World War Z - Max Brooks

The Zombie War came close to eradicating human kind. The world is still reeling from the attack of millions of the undead.

Max Brooks was one of many who was chosen to write a report that would go in the government records. Much of his research was rejected and omitted from the report because it was emotionally, rather than informational. In World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Brooks gathers the testimony of soldiers, government officials, and regular people who lived through the zombie outbreak and its aftermath.

The dialogue between the interviewer, Brooks, and each of the characters feels natural. The fact that each character is voiced by a different voice actor in the audio version adds to its legitimacy. All of the individual narratives were well-done, and most of the stories were interesting. A few of my favorite characters and stories were Todd Waino, Colonel Christina Eliopolis, and Jesika Hendricks. Todd Waino is they typical enlisted soldier who gets thrown into the fray and left with ineffective tools due to inept leadership. Colonel Christina Eliopolis is a captain who finds herself in the middle of enemy territory and only manages to survive by the help of a random person on her radio by the name of Mets. Jesika Hendricks was a child when the zombie infestation happened and offers an innocent and terrifying glimpse from the perspective of a common child.

Zombie enthusiasts will love this compendium of personal stories of the year human kind and all living creatures nearly met its demise.

Recommended Reads:
The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead - Max Brooks
The Zen of Zombie: Better Living Through the Undead - Scott Kenemore
Warm Bodies: A Novel - Isaac Marion

Recommended Viewing:
The Walking Dead

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift is a popular satirists who is most recognizable for A Modest Proposal and Gulliver's Travels. While Gulliver's Travels can simply be enjoyed for the curiousness of the places the narrator visits, Swift's clever use of satire reflects on real world events of his time.

The humble narrator, Lemuel Gulliver, is shipwrecked and from then on finds himself on a journey through many strange lands. When first awakened, the narrator finds he is tied down by thousands of tiny ropes and has been taken captive by little people, who he later learns hail from the country of Lilliput. As he becomes more of a burden to the Lilliputians, they eventually decided to let him free enough to move on his own after he agrees to help them. It turns out the Lilliput is at war with Blefuscu over which side to break boiled eggs on: the large side or the small side.

After escaping from Lilliput, Gulliver is rescued by a passing ship. Unfortunately, when this ship gets blown off course, he finds himself in the opposite predicament as before. He finds himself taken captive by the large beings in Brobdingnag. At first he is kept by a farmer who makes money by showing him as a curiosity, but the kind decides he wants to keep Gulliver at court. Gulliver is kept captive, but is well taken care of. Tired of being disparaged for his small stature and silly ideas, he eventually reveals to the king the incredible power his people have in his native land with guns, bombs, and other horrors, which the king quickly refutes as being barbaric.

Not long after, Gulliver manages to escape and is once again rescued by a passing ship. It seems to be Gulliver's bad luck that this ship is attacked by pirates and he is marooned. A passing island happens to see him and picks him up. This island is filled with people who seem to be more fascinated with philosophy and technique than actually doing anything. On his journey back to his country of origin, he visits Glubbdubdrib where he becomes acquainted with ghosts of many historical figures. This portion reminded me of Dante's The Divine Comedy. After visiting a few more places, he returns home.

Gulliver grows restless with his surgeon occupation and decides to set sail again. This time there is a mutiny among his crew and he is once again abandoned. This time he finds himself in the company of Houyhnhnms, horses. He learns their language and lives among them. At first, seemingly humbled by his experiences in other lands already, he is shy about expressing the traditions of his land. But once he gets a better command of the language, the head of household demands that he explain. The houyhnhnms are so appalled by his people that they expel him.

Eventually he does manage to get home, but after living among such strange people for so long, his ideas of the world get skewed.

Simple satires can easily be derived from his visitations and with historical context these stories take on more specific connotations. The author expresses that many trivial issues become huge problems when taken to an extreme, especially in politics with the battle over eggs between Lilliput and Blefuscu. With historical context, we see that Swift may have been talking about the silliness of the battle between various sects of Christianity at the time. Whether read as simply explorations of strange world or as a satire, this book continues to fascinate audiences all over the world.

Recommended Reads:
Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions Edwin A Abbott
Utopia - Thomas More

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Return to Eddarta - Randall Garrett, Vicki Ann Heydron

Return to Eddarta by Randall Garrett and Vicki Ann Heydron is the penultimate book in the Gandalara series.

After retrieving the sword, Tarani gets a shock of new found knowledge, which she now intends to utilize in order to take her rightful place in the capital city Eddarta. The harsh journey back to the cub is bad enough, but with the wild aggressive vineh, ape-men, Rikardon and company have even more to worry about.

The Sha'um Yayshah, Tarani's companion, assures them that the cubs are now old enough to travel. The threat of the vineh still looming, Rikardon leads them through a course he believes will keep them safest. The vineh are the least of their worries, though. When they arrive at the capital Tarani must outsmart and out power her greedy brother and also convince the counsel that she is worthy to become lord.

Full of familiar fantasy and hero tropes, this is a great read for those who just want to experience some fun.

Books in the series:
The Gandalara Cycle I: The Steel of Raithskar, The Glass of Dyskornis, The Bronze of Eddarta
The Gandalara Cycle II: The Well of Darkness, The Search for Ka, Return to Eddarta
The River Wall

Friday, June 21, 2013

Batman: Night of the Owls

Collecting multiple series cross-over issues, Batman: Night of Owls gives readers the chance to experience the Owls takeover of Gotham City all in one compendium.

The issues included are: All-Star Western 9, Batman 8-9, Batman Annual 1, Batman: The Dark Knight 9, Detective Comics 9, Batgirl 9, Batwing 9, Birds of Prey 9, Nightwing 8-9, Batman and Robin 9, Catwoman 9, and Red Hood and the Outlaws 9. The book itself mistakenly says that it contain Batman 8-11 when it only contains 8-9.

I would strongly advise readers to read Batman: 1-7 before reading this collection. While some of the stories are decent enough to stand on their own, some will cause confusion for the reader if s/he is unfamiliar with the overarching plot of the Owl arc. The art styles differ due to the many artists contained within. While some are grittier, others are more cartoon-like in style. While it's unnecessary to read the cross-over issues before continuing to the next part of the Owls arc, they will give a reader a more robust view of what goes on throughout Gotham City during the onslaught.

Books in the Series:
Batman: Court of Owls (Vol 1)
Batman: City of Owls (Vol 2)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Super Freakonomics - Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Super Freakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner is a second delve into economics, sort-of.

Can you really get rich off of prostitution? Why are some acts more costly than others? By exploring prostitution historically and interviewing prostitutes today, Levitt and Dubner reveal surprising information about one of the worlds oldest occupations.

What makes a suicide bomber? Are we any closer to catching terrorists before they act? Apparently financial habits not necessarily social affiliation may be a good indicator on how to identify a terrorist.

Turn on the news or read an newspaper article and you may find yourself staring straight in the face of the question: Are humans inherently bad or good? Apathy versus altruism seems to be a constant debate in modern society. Some studies and events seem to make it easy to come to a conclusion, but are they true?

How about global warming? Did you know that before global warming scientists were preaching global cooling? With a little human ingenuity is it possible to combat the ongoing climate changes on Earth?

Much of the information discussed in this book was familiar to me, so I didn't find it as interesting as the first one, but it still gave me plenty to think about. If you're looking for something to ponder on this is the book for you.

Recommended Reads:
Freakonomics - Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives - Leonard Mlodinow

Recommended Viewing:
Penn and Teller's Bullshit

Monday, June 17, 2013

Math for Mystics - Renna Shesso

Math for Mystics: From the Fibonacci sequence to Luna's Labyrinth to the Golden Section and Other Secrets of Sacred Geometry by Renna Shesso is a short book on math within many paths of mysticism.

It begins with a simple topic: methods of counting throughout the ages. It goes on to talk about the moon and its cycles, various types of measurements, and days of the week and their associations. It talks about Fibonacci, geometric solids, and a number of other topics. Near the end there's a section titled "Individual Numbers" that gathers tidbits and trivia about them. It goes from 0 to 22 and then has a smattering of other numbers. There's also a section on math and how it involves the Knights Templar, the Black Virgin, and Mary Magdalene.

This book is littered with illustrations to assist the reader in visualizing many of the more difficult concepts, such as the the phases of the moon, counting, shapes, and the Knight's Tour. While some of these concepts are familiar to readers, the ways to count or how to visualize the phases of the moon with ones hands are most likely to be unfamiliar. Another thing I liked about this book is the author discussing the advantages and disadvantages of taking math mysticism into account for spell work. It also has an excellent bibliography to help readers find further information on the topics.

While these are all excellent topics and the material itself is valuable, the author does a poor job of covering them. I felt these were neither covered in-depth nor were they written in an interesting way. For those who just want to get familiar with "Sacred Geometry" this may serve as a good introduction, but it's otherwise an undesirable book on the topic.

Recommended Reads:
The Secret Teachings of All the Ages by Manly P. Hall
The Tree of Life - Israel Regardie

Recommended Viewing:
Pi
What the Bleep do We Know

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Search for Kä - Randall Garrett and Vicki Ann Heydron

As the first female to bond with a sha'um, Tarani's relationship with Yayshah leads to some unusual circumstances. Unwilling to leave Tarani's side, Yayshah leaves the valley, but must find a safe place to birth her cubs when the time comes. With the help of Rikardon and his sha'um, Keeshah, the group crosses the desert to a safe space.

After gathering information from a session with a Recorder, a professional who has connection to the All-Mind, Rikardon decides it's time to set out in The Search for Kä. Although reluctant, Tarani agrees to leave Yayshah's side in order to search out the long-lost sword.

This novel does not contain the same element of physical danger that the previous books do; however, I found the character development and relationship development readily took its place. The couple's relationship takes on a huge strain as Tarani adjusts to her new bond with a sha'um. Rikardon and Tarani fight over the presence of his previous lover hidden in Tarani's body.

If they can find a way to work together, they may find a way to retrieve the Kä. If not, then Gandalara may be doomed.

Books in the series:
The Gandalara Cycle I: The Steel of Raithskar, The Glass of Dyskornis, The Bronze of Eddarta
The Gandalara Cycle II: The Well of Darkness, The Search for Ka, Return to Eddarta
The River Wall

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Batman: Court of Owls - Scott Snyder

Bruce Wayne's parents were killed in a robbery right in front of him while he was a child. His thirst for revenge and a desire to make sure it never happened to anybody else drove him to use his money and gain the skills to become Batman. He has always harbored a secret suspicion that it was no accident. This idea consumed him and nearly killed him when he attempted investigations as a child. Now, upon discovering the Court of Owls, Bruce finds he may have been right all along.

Bruce follows the trail of his deceased grandfather in search of clues. His grandfather's obsession with owls was no coincidence. Batman may be the master of the streets and skies of Gotham, but underground his wings are clipped. With his allies unable to reach him, Batman must fight his way through the labyrinth.

Greg Capullo's gritty style brings Scott Snyder's disturbing vision to life. Between pages 108-117, readers get thrown into Batman's point of view as he struggles to keep his sanity beneath the surface of Gotham's streets. This powerful narrative will leave readers thirsting for the next volume.

Books in the Series:
Batman: Night of the Owls -
Batman: City of Owls (Vol 2) - Scott Snyder

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Celtic Spirituality

Celtic Spirituality is an amazing collection of biographies, texts, homilies, prayers, poetry, and much more from writers of the 13th century.

"Hagiography"contains selections on Saint Patrick, Saint Brigit, Brendan, Saint David, Beuno, and Melangell. It also includes saying and letters that are attributed to Saint Patrick. Saint Patrick was taken prisoner at a young age and found his faith during his captivity. After that he became an advocate for the Christian faith in both word and action. Saint Brigit had always been a woman of faith, even when it went against the wishes of her family. The stories of her miracles and action echo from an Irish tradition from a Goddess of the same name. The rest were interesting, though not as detailed as the first two.

The "Monastic Texts" section is made up of rules and lists of penance. The lists of offenses and penances (punishments) are very detailed and will provide a fascinating insight into the lives of priests and those they ministered to.

"Poetry" contains a small sampling of both Irish and Welsh poems, which are often called prayer in other collections. From the Irish Poems I liked "A Hymn of Praise", "The Lord of Creation", and "My Speech". And from the Welsh Poems I liked "Praise to the Trinity", "The First Word I Say", and "Fragment of the Dispute Between Body and Soul".

"Liturgy" contains Mass parts from the Stowe Missal. These will probably be most useful for those who are already familiar with the Catholic Mass (service).

"Apocrypha" contains four short pieces. The amusing lesson is found in "The Power of Women". "The Vision of Adamnán" is a terrifying vision of the afterlife for those who have not been following the Christian laws.

"Exegesis" contains detailed interpretation and analysis of Psalm 118 and 103. Those who are into mystical analysis of the Bible will find both of these insightful.

"Homilies" contains multiple sermons that utilize multiple passages from the Bible, especially the New Testament, to emphasize the lessons.

"Theology" contains information on how to live a proper Christian life and an analysis of John, his life, and his gospel. It also has "The Food of the Soul", which gives advice on how to avoid vices, to embrace virtues, and to enjoy the embrace of God and His love.

While the footnotes are extensive, the bibliography is only selected. This unfortunately means that not all of the sources are provided for readers to reference, but it does give the reader a place to start. This collection is great for both those who are unfamiliar with the Celtic tradition and those who are well-seasoned.

Recommended Reading:
Book of Kells -

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pain and Faith in the Wiccan World - Crystal Blanton

You may view my full review of Pain and Faith in the Wiccan World by Crystal Blanton at Paganbookreviews.net.

There are a lot of self-help books on how to handle emotional and mental pain from a secular or Christian perspective, but very few from a Wiccan perspective. Other than being of Wiccan flavor, there is nothing particularly special that this self-help book has to offer; however, it is one of the best self-help books I've seen on the topic.

Recommended Reads:
Secular - What Your Childhood Memories Say about You...and What You Can Do about It - Kevin Leman
Christian - Self Talk, Soul Talk: What to Say When You Talk to Yourself - Jennifer Rothschild

Friday, June 7, 2013

Song of the Vikings - Nancy Marie Brown

Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of the Norse Myths by Nancy Marie Brown brings new curiosity to long established traditions.

With the aid of writings from others and from Snorri Sturluson himself, Brown creates a believable portrait of the man considered responsible for preserving the Norse culture and mythology with his writing. Sturluson is best known for his recording of the Eddas, and many linguistic analysts now speculate that he is probably responsible for many of the Sagas, as well. It's well-known that he was a poet, a leader, and somewhat of a historian, but what about his own life? Was he a leader or just another vagabond poet? What motives did he have for preserving the myths of his ancestors?

Brown calls into question Sturluson's recording of the Eddas. Many of the tales recorded there can be traced to other sources, but some can't. Were they long forgotten tales of the past or creations of his own imagination? Did he create for entertainment, history, or his own vanity?

And what was the cultural climate during his life? Surely the events taking place around him had something to do with his motivation to spend so much time recording these things by hand.

Viewing things from a different angle, Brown brings readers a fascinating study of history and mythology with the added bonus of a biography.

Recommended Reading:
The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman - Nancy Marie Brown
The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology - translated by Jesse Byock
The Sagas of the Icelanders - various