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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

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Christological Controversy - Richard A. Norris, Jr.

The Christological Controversy is the argument of Jesus Christ when it comes to his spirit and flesh. Because many believed that God was so far above humanity, they didn't believe he could be housed within flesh. The prevailing theory among these people was that Jesus's body was merely an extensive illusion. This volume collects selections of several Christian theologians as they explain the Christ figure of both flesh and spirit.

The introduction explains in brief what each theologian proposes. Following are selections separated by chapters for each individual theologian. The selection from Melito of Sardis is guilt-ridden homily explaining while Christ had to die, as that was God's plan, that it didn't have to be at the hands of God's chosen people. Iranaeus of Lyon effectively argues that the Christ Savior must have been bodily intact or his suffering would have no meaning in his work "Against Heresies".

Tertullian, Athanasius, and Apollinaris of Laodica each in their own way explain that because a human being is made of both soul and flesh that Jesus is the same excepting that soul would be Godhead. Theodore of Mopsuestia says the same, but places special emphasis on the difference between man's soul and the Spirit within Jesus.

The final chapter contains a sermon from Nestorius, along with letters of Cyril of Alexandria, Nestorius, and Pope Leo I. It finally ends with the "Definition of Faith" by The Council of Chalcedon, which marked the final decision of the church concerning Jesus of spirit and flesh.

The chapters devoted to individual theologians average to about 10 pages each, with the exception of Athanasius at 20 pages. The editor does an excellent job in selecting the relevant passages to make the information easy to digest. The bibliography makes it easy for the reader to do further research if desired. Since the theology gets a bit 'technical' in certain places, it may not be the best choice for a lay reader, but those who are comfortable with Christian theology should have an easy time with it.

Recommended Reads:
The City of God - Saint Augustine
Summa Theologica - Saint Thomas Aquinas

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Miss Rumphius - Barbara Cooney

A little girl's great aunt is called "The Lupine Lady" and a lot of people in town think she's just a crazy old lady. But the little girl knows otherwise because her aunt has told her the story of her youth. Miss Rumphius was once told by her grandfather that she must do something to make the world beautiful. So she travels the world in search of that thing she can do. It isn't until she returns that she discovers what that thing is.

The colorful illustrations with their soft tones will delight both children and adults. Children will be inspired by the amazing journeys of Miss Rumphius and parents will love that she teaches their children about the important things in life.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Art of War - Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu's treatise has been used for countless generations to win battles and wars. A simple translation without annotations or commentary is less than 50 pages, making it a quick read for just about anybody; however, some may not be so good at understanding how to apply it to their own lives when it's framed as a war manual. Because many want to discover how to apply it to their own lives, many authors have reframed his writing to apply to creative endeavors, work, and relationships.

An example of its usefulness in daily life can be found in section X about Terrain: 7. In a position of this sort, even though the enemy should offer us an attractive bait, it will be advisable not to stir forth, but rather to retreat, thus enticing the enemy in his turn; then, when part of his army has come out, we may deliver our attack with advantage. During negotiations for a contract or a purchase, sometimes a person needs to feign indifference (or retreat) to get the deal one desires.

There are many other examples of this books usefulness in daily life, which is why this is one of my yearly reads. I find the strategies applicable to my own life. With a simple translation like the one by Lionel Giles, I find it quite easy to understand, without the additional commentary. Others, however, may find additional commentary useful.

Free download:
The Art of War by Sunzi, translated by Lionel Giles

Recommended Reads:
A Book of Five Rings - Miyamoto Musashi
The Prince - Nicolo Machiavelli
Hávamál of the Elder/Poetic Edda