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Friday, November 28, 2014

Taking a break - Return January 2nd

I'm taking a break from blogging for the holidays. Next update will be on January 2nd.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Mistborn: The Final Empire - Brandson Sanderson

The Lord Ruler has been in charge for a thousand of years. While the aristocracy rules without consequences, the Skaa are forced to live their lives in slavery. The prisons are filled with tortures from which nobody can escape. Except Kelsior. After going mad, Kelsior manages to escape the prison with his newfound powers of Allomancy.

Kelsior is determined to overthrow the Lord Ruler. With the help of a carefully assembled crew of fellow Allomancers, the plot is set. And with the addition of a Vin, a young woman just learning about her powers, they have a perfect member to infiltrate court.

Mistborn has a unique magic system that immediately interested me. Through Vin the reader learns about the ten powers and their associated metals, making it easy to learn. The political intrigue, action, and world building immersed me. It's been a while since I've felt satisfied with a fantasy read and this definitely hit the spot. The first book ends with a satisfying conclusion and leaves the door open for the rest of the series. I eagerly await for the second book to arrive at my doorstep.

Books in the Series:
The Well of Ascension
The Hero of Ages

Friday, November 21, 2014

Evil Genes - Barbara Oakley

Oakley wants to know if we are fated to such disorders as sociopathy, psychopathy, and narcissism. By using brain imaging and gene sequencing she explains how genes influence our personalities.

With the help of personal accounts of people who knew both General Mao and Adolf Hitler, she explores the personality traits of these disturbed individuals. She even uses the personal entries of her estranged sister to gain some insight into the mind of a narcissist.

But how much influence do our genes have on our personality? Are we fated to be a killer or a pushover? Science has an answer and Oakley explains the findings of multiple studies that have taken place over the years for the layman to understand.

Although the first few chapters provide information, I found the narrative of later chapters to be meandering and disorganized.

The overall narrative is less technical than many books and specials on the topic, which I think many readers will find accessible if they are interested in the topic.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Red Tent - Anita Diamant

Dinah begins her story by telling the reader of her family's history. How her father Jacob came to marry his wives Rachel and Leah and how she came into being. Following is the history of the Red Tent in which Dinah was allowed to stay despite her young age due to being the only girl in the large family. She recounts the travel her family took to a new country to provide greater opportunities for her brothers and her coming of age within the Red Tent.

Dinah's training as a midwife takes her on journey's to many strange lands, including Schechem, where she falls in love with a prince and also experiences the most horrifying event of her life. Eventually, her experience as a midwife carries her to Egypt where she lives out the rest of her life of loneliness and ultimately happiness.

There are a number of things I didn't like about this book. Written in first person, the character speaks of the past, but often interrupts her own story with insights she gained while looking back, which causes an inconsistent narrative. Because of this, the author also does a lot of telling, rather than showing.

Women being set apart during menstruation is common in many cultures, so the idea of these women participating in a Red Tent seems possible to me, though Judaism has no such tradition. The idea that women menstruated every month during that particular time period is debatable and the idea that they all menstruated during the new moon is even less believable. The study that many people base this on was a small sample during a short period of time in a modern setting and could easily be explained away by the inconsistency caused by health, stress, and diet. While I enjoyed the "sisterhood" aspect this created for the novel, it bothers me because many people (ones I personally know, even) don't just consider this book biblical fiction, but also historical fiction.

And while I do enjoy a bit of creative retelling, the changes the author decided to make when it comes to the events leading up to the destruction of Schechem are in direct contrast with the original narrative.

If taken all by itself it would be an okay read, but when put in the context of the Biblical story it is supposed to be based off of it is often in direct conflict. Although I am a part of a Red Tent community myself, which I love, I cannot recommend this book due to the contradictions and inconsistencies.

Similar Reading:
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret - Judy Blume
Like Water for Chocolate - Laura Esquivel
The Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan

Friday, November 14, 2014

The World of the Druids - Miranda J. Green

The Druids are a mysterious people who left little aside from bones and artifacts for people to study; however, the Romans and Arabs left written accounts of their encounters and interactions with these people. Who were the Druids? What were their beliefs and practices? How did they live their every day lives? Using the accounts of foreigners and the analysis of archaeologists, Green pieces together the culture of this mysterious people from the past and how Druidry is practiced today.

Full color illustrations and photographs fill this book with a variety of images, providing visual support to the large amount of information. Information is well-balanced between speculation and recorded history. The author's caution when it comes to particular topics give me confidence in her knowledge of the subject as a whole.

I found that the typeface was a bit small, even for my eyes, so I had to take breaks while reading. Another thing that bothered me was finding the captions for the illustrations were often only reprisals of the information in the main portion of the book, instead of tidbits or explanations of the pieces.

I feel this is an excellent book that provides well-balanced information with a plethora of illustrations that people will find entertaining and informative.

Recommended Reading:
Daily Life of the Pagan Celts - Joan P. Alcock
Heroes of the Dawn - Timelife

Friday, October 31, 2014

Sonic Saga 4: House of Cards

After the destruction of Knothole Village, Nicole brings all of the villagers to New Mobotropolis. Even with Nicole's advanced shielding capabilities, the Freedom Fighters and Chaotix discover they will have to defend their Home New Home from Dr. Eggman and his ilk.

New Mobotropolis is about to come down like A House of Cards. Amadeus Prower, Tails' father, leads a revolt against King Alias, Knuckles leaves to return to his troubled homeland, and recent events come to a head between Sonic and Tails between political disagreements and personal betrayals.

After the warning from Dimitri, an ancient echidna scientist, announces Enerjak's return Sonic, Eggman, Scourge, and the Chaotix make Preparations for War.

And in a special bonus story, readers are transported to issue 129, where Sonic first meets Tails' mother and father in space.

Seeing Princess Sally back in the leadership role of the Freedom Fighters and up for action was deeply satisfying to me. And watching the Kingdom of Acorn change from monarchy to something else was interesting. Since Enerjak was the enemy in the original Knuckles' mini-series, I'm curious to see what they do with his return in this new story arc.

Books in the Series:
Sonic Saga 1: Darkest Storm
Sonic Saga 2: Order from Chaos
Sonic Saga 3: Eggman Empire

Monday, October 27, 2014

Nocturnes - Kazuo Ishiguro

A washed up Crooner takes his wife to Italy on a romantic get away. Tony Gardner invites a musician to accompany him on a canal boat where he parks outside and serenades his wife one last time, in an attempt to get her to cancel the divorce. The plight of fame, fortune, and talent is wrapped up in this one short story.

Come Rain or Come Shine Ray thought he would always be best friend with his college friends Charlie and Emily. Every year he comes to visit them, and they normally have a good time. But this time they're both busy and leave him alone in the house, where he manages to get himself into a lot of trouble. This story is supposed to be humorous, but it was so forgettable that I had to go back and skim it to remember this story was even in here.

After failing to join a band after so many auditions, a young guitarist flees to Malvern Hills for retreat. He stays with his sister, where he helps with their cafe to pay for his keep. There he meets a foreign couple, who changes his outlook on his prospects. Both moving and depressing, I enjoyed this piece that tells of the struggle of musicians.

In Nocturne a saxophonist finds himself in the hospital recovering from plastic surgery, where he meets Lindy, the former wife of Tony Gardner in the first story. Despite his misgivings, he ends up getting close to Lindy and going on misadventures in their hotel. I didn't have too many feelings about this one.

When Tibor is approached by an American woman who claims she can improve his playing, he is both insulted and intrigued. These to Cellists get together every day over a period of time. She listens, critiques, and then has him play again. He can feel his skills improving, but then he realizes something amiss. Although she claims to be a virtuoso, she has never played for him. This is a story of discouraged perfectionism many people may be able to relate to.

I liked Crooner, Malvern Hills, and Cellists the most out of this collection of short stories because they tell of the plight of the musician and how difficult it is to breakthrough. As mentioned, Come Rain or Come Shine was completely forgettable and something just wasn't there with Nocturne.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Like Water for Chocolate - Laura Esquivel

Tita, the youngest daughter of the ranch, is doomed to a life of servitude under her mother Mama Elena due to long-standing tradition. When her lover Pedro asks for her hand in marriage, Mama Elena denies his proposal; instead, she offers Rosaura, one of the older daughters. Pedro agrees, leaving Tita heartbroken and betrayed. She will not only have to prepare the wedding feast, she will also have to see Pedro every day when he moves onto the ranch.

Pedro insists he still loves Tita and assures her the only reason he married Rosaura was to stay close to her. Although she believes him, she is constantly tormented seeing him interact with Rosaura, have children, and continue to avoid her in daily interactions.

Dr. John saves her from madness and insists she is her own woman. But more trials await Tita before she can finally be free to live as she pleases.

It took several chapters for me to get into the novel. Tita seemed too obliging and perfect, while Mama Elena seemed unrealistically overbearing. The narration style also makes it difficult for me to get into the story. It's mostly bland, interrupted by recipe instructions, and only occasionally seems to get into Tita's emotions. About half-way through the novel, Tita's emotions come to the surface, making the reading more immersive. The conflict Tita faces is a real threat that so many women face, even today. Tradition or self? Image or desire? Patience or gratification? In the end I found myself relating to Tita in my own way.

Recommended Reads:
The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes

Monday, October 20, 2014

House of Darkness, House of Light Vol 2 - Andrea Perron

The Perrons left their life in the city to move into a small town. The farm house their mother Carolyn purchased had enough rooms for the large family, so that each had her own room. The lot was so large they had a river to tramp through, fields to explores, forests to wander, and hills to climb. Everything about the place seemed so perfect, until the strange incidents began happening. Overly high electricity bills, flies coming out of nowhere, strange voices heard, and general discontent that they never had in their previous house.

Andrea, the eldest of the sisters collects the tales of terror and woe experienced at the behest of the strange beings who also inhabit the farmhouse. Included in this volume are further details of the interception of supernatural and demonology experts Ed and Lorraine Warren who worked with them, visited the house, and performed seances and cleansings in an attempt to free them of the dangerous demons.

The first volume largely focused on Carolyn's point of view with sprinkles of experiences from the girls. The second volume largely focuses on the rest of the family's experiences with the haunting. I was looking forward to reading about the experiences with the Warren's; however, I found they weren't detailed enough to be all that interesting. Even though the stories jumped from person to person throughout the book, I felt the author could have done a better job of creating continuity.

Despite the flaws, I enjoyed reading this second volume in a series of true life haunting.

Books in the Series:
House of Darkness, House of Light Volume 1
House of Darkness, House of Light Volume 3

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Eye of the World - Robert Jordan

Rand al'Thor has lived all his life in the village of Emond's Field along the Two Rivers as a sheepherder with his father. Although his mother passed away long ago, his father refuses to marry despite Rand's support in the matter.

Instead of having a spring festival, the village falls prey to enemies. An unexpected ally comes in the form of an Aes Sedai, a wielder of magic, who takes Rand and several of his friends away from the village to save them from further attacks.

Moiraine Damodred and her Warder Al'Lan Mandragoran take Rand and his friends on an incredible journey through lands they'd never dreamed of seeing. Followed by enemies every step of the way, they are constantly met with threats and danger.

I recall attempting to read this book back in High School when my friends were into it, but I put it down after the first few chapters. I listened to the audiobook this time and I still felt like quitting at about the same point. The writing is long-winded without being interesting. The characters often wax on with what I think is supposed to be pearls of wisdom, but it's not formulated in a catching way.

While I expect certain tropes to appear in epic fantasy this one were so formulaic I knew exactly what was coming. I was constantly reminded of The Fellowship of the Ring while listening, as the sequence of events followed it so closely. Evil creatures chasing them down, cursed treasure, single-minded possessed follower, lost friends, long abandoned tunnels used as transportation, and the Ogier was nearly an exact copy to the Ents from Tolkien's work.

I understand the appeal of this novel with the popular theme of reincarnation, historic recurrence, and fate; however, I didn't enjoy it.

Books in the Series:
The Great Hunt
The Dragon Reborn
The Shadow Rising

Recommended Reads:
The Lord of the Rings
The Belgariad
Soldier Son

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sonic Saga 3: Eggman Empire

When Antoine proposes to Bunnie, drama inevitably ensues. Though, that's the least of their worries. Dr. Eggman comes at Sonic with his strongest machine yet, built to match Sonic in speed and strength. While Sonic is busy fighting Eggman, Eggman's transporter beam whisks all of the members of Knothole Village to the Egg Grapes, where he'll be able to harness their lives for power.

If Sonic doesn't save his friends, they will be die. But with Knothole Village completely destroyed where will they retreat? With Tails, Knuckles, and Amy-Rose at his side, Sonic hopes to free his friends from Eggman and somehow find a new place to hide.

This also includes mini-stories about the mysterious creatures called Chao from "Sonic Adventure", a story about Rouge the bat selling the Master Emerald, and finally a short containing Blaze as a precursor to the Sonic Universe: Treasure Team Tango Arc.

During the confrontation between Sonic and Eggman I was impressed with how the writers had Eggman taunt Sonic with heartfelt matters, but many of those circumstances wouldn't be known to Sonic's enemy so they were ridiculous in my mind. The reminder of the absurd love 'triangle' between Mina, Fiona, Sally, and Sonic reminded me why I stopped my subscription to the comic almost 50 issues before this one takes place (#173-176). I was dissatisfied with the overall content, but the brief glimpse of Sonic's humanity during the battle was nice.

Book in the Series:
Sonic Saga 1: Darkest Storm
Sonic Saga 2: Order from Chaos
Sonic Saga 5: House of Cards

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sonic Saga 2: Order From Chaos

When Tommy Turtle leaves Knothole, he leaves a path of destruction in his wake. He stole Sonic's guitar, destroyed Tails' latest project, and cleaned Rotor's petri dishes of Nanites. First Bunnie's robotic limbs go haywire and then Sonic's father kidnaps Tails', leading Sonic and the gang to the conclusion that maybe Tommy isn't the one at fault. It only gets worse when they discover that Shadow is being used as a pawn in the plot, as well. If they act smart, maybe Sonic, Shadow, and Tails can bring Order to Chaos.

In two separate mini-stories, Antoine learns the meaning of Courage and Honor when faced with the pending death of his father and Espio's willing to do just about anything for a friend.

With all the Comings and Goings in Knothole lately, Princess Sally, Sonic, and Tails all have a lot of emotions to work through.

I Am is something Shadow doesn't know and he's determined to find out. After recovering the disc containing his past, he brings it back to Knothole, only to discover its damaged. With Nicole's help he may still be able to discover his past.

Knuckles' father warned him that Angel Island was under attack from multiple enemies, but it's only gotten worse since The Enforcers make their move.

Any matters belonging to the Truth of the Heart get Amy-Rose going, but when she finds out Fiona's been cheating on Sonic, she decides to give Fiona a wallop. Only she may not get a chance to fulfill her mission when Fiona's other lover arrives. In a mini-story Amy-Rose goes out to train with Julie-Su in pursuit of discovering if Sonic is Worth the Effort.

Aside from Enforcers the stories in this collection contained emotional matters, including death, betrayal, and love. I felt with more detail hashing they could have been much more effective, but they are good for what they are.

Books in the Series:
Sonic Saga 1: Darkest Storm
Sonic Saga 3: Eggman Empire
Sonic Saga 4: House of Cards

Monday, October 6, 2014

Interlude - Reading with Cats 3

I always read a bit before I go to sleep. Since I didn't have to work the next day I stayed up late reading The Walking Dead on this particular night. According to my cat it was time for bed. In order to illustrate this he dubbed himself my bookmark.

You didn't miss anything. I just forgot to schedule this entry. :)

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Scarecrow of Oz - L. Frank Baum

When a girl named Trot and Cap'n Bill, a man with a wooden leg, get washed overboard, they suddenly find themselves in the fairyland of Oz. Their adventures lead them to meet unusual creatures like Orks, experience size changes, and even save a princess in the kingdom of Jinxland with the help of the Scarecrow.

Children and parents will delight in these simple adventures through the land of Oz with exciting characters and events.

Recommended Reads:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sonic Saga 1: Darkest Storm

The Darkest Storm rolls in when it's announced the Ancient Walkers are fading from existence, the Destructix come to steal the Chaos Emerald, Mammoth Mogul and Ixis Nagus are released from captivity, and Eggman returns with his destructive machines.

Fiona Leaks information on Rouge the Bat before her arrival, and she is joined by some other unexpected arrivals, familiar enemies: Scourge and Sleuth.

Knuckles refuses the Call of Duty to return back to his home Angel Island. A mysterious Chaotix Connection emerges when the newest amusement, a casino opens in Stations Square.

The Ties that Bind Snively to his uncle, Eggman, are stronger than even he expects. And finally Sonic is cursed to repeat the same day over and over in Hedgehog Day.

The Darkest Storm contains intertwined plotlines and characters, which could have been enjoyable; unfortunately, I felt James Fry's cringeworthy illustrations, best described as sketchy and unfinished, detracted greatly from the story.

While the Leak illustrations by Tracy Yardley were much better, the story was only a way to create relationship drama. First between Rouge and Julie-Su over Knuckles and second between Sonic, Scourge, and Tails over Fiona. Both of which are forced and uninteresting.

Call of Duty gives insight into what is going on on Angel Island during Knuckles' and the Chaotix absence and also reveals the tension between Knuckles' and his father.

The Chaotix Connection was an interesting homage to the early issues involving the Chaotix with the inclusion of Renfield T. Rodent and references to poisoned food. While short, I did find it entertaining merely for the references.

Ties that Bind was short with the sole purpose of moving Snively back into ranks with his uncle Eggman. And Hedgehog Day is a story with a bit of humor for the reader.

An okay read, but not something I'd pick up again.

Books in the series:
Sonic Saga 2: Order From Chaos
Sonic Saga 3: Eggman Empire
Sonic Saga 4: House of Cards

Friday, September 26, 2014

Will I Ever Be Good Enough? - Karyl McBride

The majority of parent-child relationship have heartache, but the relationship between a mother with narcissistic traits with her daughter can be extreme. Breaking her book into three parts, McBride shares her story, the story of other women, and ideas on how to heal.

Part 1: "Recognizing the Problem". In the first chapter, McBride presents the nine traits of narcissism along with examples and at the end of the chapter she gives a list of 33 questions concerning how mother and daughter interact to help identify if the mother may be a narcissist or at least have narcissistic traits. The remaining chapters in part one expand on the narcissistic family dynamic using examples from her own clients, and include the behavior or mothers, spouses, and children.

Part 2: "How Narcissistic Mothering Affects Your Entire Life" explains how certain personality traits, relationship patterns, and more are reflections of a woman's experience as a daughter of a narcissist. While the result can be vastly different, a chronic overachiever versus a chronic underachiever, the symptom is apparent. Codependency and toxic relationships that echo the bond between mother and daughter are often apparent.

Part 3: "Ending the Legacy" provides a three step recovery model that provides many options for women to seek healing with or without the cooperation or accessibility of her mother. Many of these techniques are found in other self-help books, but these are tailored to the particular challenges of narcissistic mothers.

By providing actual examples from clients and herself along with features and symptoms, McBride makes the material easy to relate. Although some some readers may find their own experiences were much more violent or extreme, they will still find familiarity with the events described. While many books that focus on "toxic" family members contain the same material, the focus on narcissism will help with the specific problem. This is a comprehensive and accessible read that many women will find helpful.

Recommended Reads:
Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life - Susan Forward
The Normal One: Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling - Jeanne Safer Ph. D.
Broken Toys, Broken Dreams: Understanding and Healing Codependency, Compulsive Behaviors and Family - Terry Kellogg

Monday, September 22, 2014

When the Drummers Were Women - Layne Redmond

Music is well-known to move people and it has been used in matters of religion and worship as far back as is recorded. The oldest known instruments are rhythm instruments, like drums. Redmond notes that many of the goddess statues found around the world are seen holding a disc and suggests that these may have actually been drums. Redmond takes the reader on a journey to following civilization from Sumeria and up into Europe to explore the uses of drums and the sacred place that women once held within religion and society throughout time.

With the title I thought I would be reading more information on how drumming or even at least music related to women throughout cultures and religions; instead, she spends the majority of the book simply talking about religion and how it related to women.

I also had qualms with a particular piece of information Redmond decided to repeat with the bull symbolizing the female reproductive system because they look the same. This is unlikely seeing as ancient cultures did not have the tools to do autopsies to discover that information. It seems more likely that the bull may have simply been a horned cow.

I was originally excited to read this book, thinking I would learn more about music and how it related to women throughout time; instead, I read undetailed and familiar information that I've read in any number of books. Despite it's 200 pages, it was a quick read due to writing style. If you're familiar with religion and women as a topic, this won't present you with any new information. If you are just starting out, however, this is an accessible book.

Recommended Reads:
Goddesses and the Divine Feminine: A Western Religious History - Rosemary Ruether
Priestess, Mother, Sacred Sister - Susan Starr Sered

Friday, September 19, 2014

Silver Shadows - Richelle Mead

Raised as an Alchemist, Sydney was taught that despite the fact that vampires were evil beings, she needed to cover up their activities in order to protect normal human beings from the ongoing war between the Moroi (natural vampires) and Strigoi (undead vampires). When its discovered that she not only has grown to like her charges, the vampires, but has actually fallen in love with one, she is abducted and taken to a "Reeducation Center", where the Alchemists hope to show her the error of her ways.

Adrian, her lover, is well aware Sydney has been spirited away by the Alchemists. Without proof though, Lissa, the current Queen, refuses to send anybody to look for her. Unable to contact Sydney even through dreams as he normally would, he falls deeper into depression and begins self-medicating with alcohol again. When his mother finds out about his brooding, she has no words of comfort; instead, she insists that love isn't real, which brings him even more turmoil.

Trapped in an underground facility with no tools and under constant surveillance, Sydney stands little chance of getting free. If she can just get a hold of somebody on the outside, maybe she can go back into the world. Even if she does, though, she'll be a fugitive.

Readers should be warned of torture scenes that include sensory deprivation, medical intervention, and others. Although the scenes are not too detailed, they are certainly disturbing. I thought the swapping point of view between Sydney and Adrian actually worked well in this particular novel, as it told the reader what was going on inside the facility and what was going on in the Moroi world. The pacing was well-done and it was an enjoyable read overall. Seeing a bit more "magic" being utilized was also interesting. I'm looking forward to the next book.

Books in the Series:
Bloodlines (Book 1)
The Golden Lily
The Indigo Spell

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sonic the Hedgehog: Countdown to Chaos

Side by side with his best buddy Tails, Sonic faces off against a foe he's never encountered before that Tails insists has been defeated once before. That's when Sonic becomes suspicious. When he touches Nicole's console, an advanced AI, his mind suddenly fills with memories, including the ones Tails previously related. When Tails comes in contact with her, he is shocked with the memories revealed to him, the ones that Sonic previously remembered.

Something isn't right and the duo intends to get to the bottom of it. Nicole thinks that if she completes the circuit with each of the Freedom Fighters, she will be able to figure out the mystery behind the mixed up world and the unusual seismic activity.

As each of the Freedom Fighters, Antoine, Rotor, Bunnie, Sally, and Amy-Rose, comes in contact with Nicole the situation becomes apparent, but what can they do to save their collapsing world?

Starting with issue 252, readers find character appearance revamps for Rotor, Sally, Bunnie and Antoine, which keeps to their original basic designs, but changes them so they better match the character design that Sonic, Tails, and Amy-Rose have been following the newest video game designs for years. I think that the updated looks help bring the world together.

I am excited to see the departure from the soap opera drama that has been going on for years and a return to the adventure and character driven plots that I once loved about this comic and the television series. I will be renewing my subscription to this comic after reluctantly departing from it years ago. I hope other readers will enjoy the refreshing changes I unexpectedly found upon reading this collection featuring issues 252-256.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Josef Mengele - John Grabowski

Josef Mengele is a well-known figure of the Nazi occupation of Europe as The Angel of Death, a man who not only sent thousands of people to their deaths, but also conducted horrific experiments on them.

This book details Mengele's life, including his childhood, his experiments in Auschwitz, and his life after fleeing the country as a war criminal. Being a book aimed for juveniles means that the accounts are not too detailed; however, simple descriptions of transplanting eyes and injecting eyes with pigment may be disturbing to the reader.

This is an informative and short read about the man responsible for thousands of deaths and tortures.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Od Magic - Patricia A. McKillip

Brenden Vetch has a special gift that allows him to work with plants of all sorts. He spend days in the woods without uttering a single word, unperturbed by the lack of human contact. One day he has a strange encounter with the wizard Od, who invites him to become the Gardner of her school in the capital city, Kelior.

When he arrives, he finds himself at the center of an unexpected controversy. Invited as a simple gardener to the school, he is not reported to the king, but when the king discovers Brenden has magic, he demands to know why his presence was kept from him. Brenden is not the only one keeping magic from the king, however, which causes even more trouble. It turns out that a traveling entertainer may have magic, too. And, even more disturbing, the king discovers his own daughter has been keeping secrets from him, as well.

This is the second book I read by McKillip, and I feel the same way about this one as a did Bards of the Bone Plain. Even though her books have interesting ideas and settings, the plots and characters are written in such a ponderous way that even upon conclusion I am left feeling unfulfilled.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Parenting Without Borders - Christine Gross-Loh Ph.D

When raising her two children in Japan, Christine found that the Japanese parents had a different way of raising children compared to those in the United States; in fact, she found that Japanese society treated them differently, as well. When she first brings her children to yōchien, kindergarten, she is surprised and appalled by how the children are seemingly allowed to run wild.

She discovers that children as young as 4 and 5 are allowed to do many things on their own without adult supervision, like going to the park or picking up a loaf of bread from the bakery in Japan. When she starts researching, she finds that countries like Germany and Sweden have similar customs. She discovers in some countries, instead of fences there are merely ropes on the ground to mark the boundaries of the school yard.

The lack of supervision and apparent disregard for children bothers her, until she takes the time to speak to members of these areas to learn why they do things the way they do. At first they aren't sure what to make of her questions, but after she explains her own concerns they are able to articulate the reasons. Children in yōchien are largely left to their own devices to teach them to interact and solve their own problems. The use of a rope, instead of a fence, teaches self-restraint and responsibility. What other customs differ from America, the country where she was raised?

While the author lauds the customs of many countries when it comes to raising children, she also notes that these customs come with their own challenges in those societies. In the end, she concludes that a mixture of customs would probably be best. Readers will learn about how societies raise their children when it comes to education, health, sleep, chores, responsibility, and much more along with the reasons why. I enjoyed this insight into different ways of parenting.

Recommended Reading:
Free-Range Kids - Lenore Skenazy
NurtureShock - Po Bronson, Ashley Merryman
Simplicity Parenting - Kim John Payne, Lisa M. Ross

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sonic Universe 5: The Tails Adventure

Collecting issues 17-20 of the Sonic Universe comic series, this graphic novel adapts the events that take place in the "Tails Adventure" for Game Gear.

When Bunnie and Antoine announce they are looking for a secluded place to have their honeymoon, Tails offers his private island hide out as their get away. While the couple is enjoying their romance, Tails is busy up in his workshop with repairs and new projects. But their relaxing vacation is interrupted by the Battle Bird Armada, who have invaded Cocoa Island and aren't pleased with the interlopers.

Bunnie and Antoine get captured, but Bunnie's quick thinking allows her to gain inside information in order to bring down the Armada. Meanwhile one of the members of the Armada takes personal offense to Tails ability to explore the skies. The three Freedom Fighters must somehow manage to take down the entire Armada and their machines.

I have mixed feelings about this collection. I like the art style and coloring, which in the past has been an issue for me with the Archie series. I was amused by the references to previous issues and cartoons, such as the reference to the episode "Hooked on Sonics" about using butter versus margarine. Unfortunately the dialogue is littered with corny one liners and bad puns. I also thought it was weird that even after all Tails has done on his own in the comic series, even if you skip back to the timeline this is supposed to take place in, Tails is treated like a child instead of the full member of the Freedom Fighters he is.

While I enjoyed it, it's not something I would read again.

Related media:
Sonic Select 8: Tails - Southern Crossover
Tails Adventure - Game Gear

Friday, August 29, 2014

What If? - Eldon Taylor

As we get older, we often become more certain of our opinions. Sometimes it feels like we've known our positions on topics for our entire lives. But do we really? Growing up we are influenced by our parents and other respected leaders. We learn things from the media and our peers. Our cultural and religious upbringing can have an impact on us, as well. So are you so certain of your own mind?

Taylor chooses controversial topics, such as abortion, marriage, and capital punishment, for each chapter and challenges the reader with different scenarios. His goal isn't to change the reader's mind, but to challenge the reader to consider why he holds the position.

Many readers may find this book a useful tool for finding insights into their own mind and feelings.

Recommended Reading:
The Myth of Choice - Kent Greenfield
The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives - Leonard Mlodinow

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Walking Dead: All Out War Vol 20 - Robert Kirkman

Rick and his party storm up to the gates of Negan's compound, only to discover they've been sold out. But that won't stop them from fulfilling their plan. If they can't break in themselves, there's always the Walkers.

In the confusion and mayhem many lives are lost and there's no telling who will be able to rejoin at base camp. Negan's taken a prisoner and there's not doubt he'll use her to his advantage when he comes back to retaliate against the troublemakers.

All action in this volume, complete with zombies attacks, knife fights, heavy guns, and death. With an open end, I'm excited for the conclusion of this story arc.

Books in the Series:
The Walking Dead: Compendium One
The Walking Dead: Compendium Two

Friday, August 22, 2014

The First Fossil Hunters - Adrienne Mayor

Paleontology, the study of dinosaur bones and fossils, is a fairly new discipline having only been established in the 18th century. Or is it?

In recent years scientists have suggested that dinosaurs may have been feathered due to the preserved feathers that have been found among their remains. After seeing bones and fossils in areas where griffins were reported, Mayor suggests perhaps these mythological creatures were based on just that. When researching the bones and fossils of the east, she wonders if perhaps this is the same case. And what about the giants of myth and legend? By studying folklore, myth, and history Mayor explores the possible lost roots of paleontology in the past.

While not all of Mayor's theories are complete or comprehensive they are still interesting to consider.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Walking Dead: March to War Vol 19 - Robert Kirkman

Tempers run hot and argument ensue as the partnered towns prepare to attack Negan. Making ammunition is an arduous process that just doesn't seem to be making enough. With the high population in the immediate area, it is growing more difficult to gather supplies to keep both themselves alive and Negan satisfied.

Negan has his own code of honor and conduct, but it's unpredictable and dangerous for everybody. Rick has had enough and decides it's time to take Negan out while he's vulnerable. Unfortunately, Negan having been at this game for a while is prepared for anything and Rick's gamble could cost everybody their lives. If they do it right, though, maybe they can take Negan out and gain their freedom from a crazy oppressor.

Each time I pick up an issue of this series, I can't wait to get a hold of the next one.

Books in the Series:
The Walking Dead: Compendium One
The Walking Dead: Compendium Two

Friday, August 15, 2014

Red Rising - Pierce Brown

Darrow is a member of the working class called Reds. Despite being one of the least respected castes in the society of Mars, he and his fellows risk their lives every day in the mines to prepare the planet for habitation of the other colors. He takes pride in being a hell diver, knowing that he is the reason the planet will soon be ready.

Until he discovers the truth: the planet has been inhabited by the higher colors for hundreds of years. His whole life is a lie. And when he loses the most important person to him, Darrow is prepared to throw his life away. That is, until he's given the chance to take down the people who put him here.

But to even have a chance, he'll need to give up his identity, undergo a serious transformation, learn new habits, and finally make his way through the training of the peerless scarred, where he'll be forced to kill and endure pain unimaginable.

I originally started this book by reading the text version, but I wasn't fond of the style with the short and stunted sentences. It did, however, work well as an audiobook because it was as if I was listening to somebody telling a story aloud. The entire novel is brutal and violent. It begins with the the toil of working in the mines and starvation, continues on to beatings and medical procedures, and then on to the detailed descriptions of war in the training school.

I enjoyed watching Darrow's changing personality as he goes from proud hell diver to uncertain recruit and finally into the flawed leader commanding loyalty. I look forward to the second installment of this series.

Recommended Reads:
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
The Mazerunner - James Dashner

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Walking Dead: What Comes After Vol 18 - Robert Kirkman

After losing one of the best in his band, Rick is prepared to give Negan what he wants. Although there the majority of the townspeople disagree with his decision, including his son, they decide to trust his judgment. Negan stays true to his word, only taking fifty percent of the supplies; however, half is more than they can afford. He only takes half of the medicine, but all of the antibiotics. He takes takes only half the ammunition, the most versatile kind.

In order to keep his plan on track, Rick has to keep his counsel, causing turmoil within his inner circle. When his son disappears, Rick fears the worst. Carl finds out himself exactly how brutal a leader Negan can be.

With the help of Jesus, Rick hopes to recruit King Ezekial and his town to rise up against Negan. But in a world ever changing, nobody can be certain who is friend and who is foe.

With detailed black and white illustrations and a solid story line, readers will be enthralled with the continuing struggles of the survivors of the apocolypse.

Books in the Series:
The Walking Dead: Compendium One
The Walking Dead: Compendium Two

Friday, August 8, 2014

House of Darkness: House of Light - Andrea Perron

When Carolyn, the matron of the household, sees an advertisement in the paper for a large house out on a farm, she can't resist taking a look. After viewing the house with a realtor, she puts down the good faith deposit without consulting her out-of-town husband. When he returns they fight at first; however, when she reminds him of how their neighborhood has been getting worse, he decides maybe she's right. With a combined effort from the entire family to save pennies and earn change, they manage to get enough money to move in.

In the beginning, the home seems perfect. Each of the five children can have her own room, they can play in the barn, and spend hot summer days in the river on the property. But soon strange events happen. Items disappear, unfamiliar sounds haunt them, and encounters with unfamiliar people ensue.

This is only the first book in a three volume set by Andrea Perron of the unusual, disturbing, and sometimes harrowing true events that occurred during the many years her family lived in a haunted house. Being the eldest of the five sisters, Andrea was privy to many events that the other girls never revealed to their mother. And since she originally came to her mother about her own experiences, she and her mother shared their experiences with each other. Knowing so many of these secret encounters gives Andrea an understanding of the full scope of the strange events surrounding their stay.

Because it is written in a novel narrative, I found this book easy to read. Some of the experiences of family and friends in the house are classic haunting symptoms, while others are unique. I'm looking forward to reading the following volumes.

Weird Encounters: True Tales of Haunted Places

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Walking Dead: Something to Fear Vol 17 - Robert Kirkman

Rick and his crew have taken on Walkers, hardened prison inmates, cannibals, and more. So when the neighboring town tells them about a man named Negan keeping them "safe" from Walkers in exchange for half of their supplies, Rick is certain he can take this army on without any trouble. His gang's first encounter with Negan's men goes well, but the retaliation is more than they can handle. In the midst of battle he loses an essential part of his group and with it the trust of the people he has taken charge of.

In the face of defeat, Rick has to decide between continuing the rebellion or giving in to the demands of the deranged leader of the neighboring town.

The series continues to get gorier and darker as civilization crumbles. Although black and white, the details of the violence are no less disturbing. Fans of dark zombie stories will love this series.

Books in the Series:
The Walking Dead: Compendium One
The Walking Dead: Compendium Two

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Sacred Bedroom - Jon Robertson

People tend to spend a lot of time in the bedroom for a multitude of reasons. They are used for sleeping, of course. It's also used for having relations between people. They can be safe havens for meditation or creativity. A place where a person can be alone or invite special people in. With how much time is spent in the bedroom, Robertson believes that how a bedroom is arranged and utilized can have an effect on each person.

In the first chapter Robertson suggests the reader answer a few questions in order to evaluate how one feels about the bedroom. He then gives examples of fanciful tidbits about famous people and how they felt or used their own bedrooms. He provides examples on how to bring God back into the bedroom, using examples from major religions.

Throughout the book, he will refers to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, Judaism, and others. One of the things I especially like is that he emphasizes the importance of finding symbolism and ritual that matches the reader's religion or personal practice.

Robertson explains the basics of Feng Shui and how to use it to arrange the bedroom for the best results. He includes the use of "cures", which is utilizing things like water, mirrors, and plants to complete a room that does not have desired placement for Feng Shui. He also provides ideas on the best materials to use within the bedroom, such as sheets, beds, and end tables.

In order to keep the mind in sacred space, the author suggests the use of of stimulating the five senses. Creating altars and decorating the room for visual, candles and incense for smell, music or white noise for hearing, teas or snacks for taste, and soft or interesting textiles for touch.

Sleep is considered the essential reason for a bedroom, so he explains various ways to make the room more comfortable for just that. He also emphasizes the importance of romance and sex. While the exercises for couples are both meditative and interactive, he only provides meditative exercises for singles. In this chapter, he also reinforces gender stereotypes by listing features like initiator and objective for masculine and the follower and subjective for the feminine.

In the last chapter, he provides further ideas and examples on how to bring all of the information together to make the bedroom a sacred space. This book is useful for those who want to create a sanctuary of the bedroom.

Recommended Reads:
Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You - Sam Gosling
SoulSpace - Xorin Balbes
Altars - Denise Lynn

Monday, July 28, 2014

Stardust - Neil Gaiman

Tristran Thorn's origin is strange, and he is just as odd to the residents of Wall. As he comes of age, he falls in love with the most beautiful young woman: Victoria Forester. When he offers to marry her, she is reluctant. When he offers to retrieve the recently fallen star from the fairylands to prove his love to her, she agrees to do whatever he wants if he manages to bring it back.

Thus begins Tristran's journey into the fairyland, where he meets both allies and enemies. A hairy man, a talking tree, and an air ship crew come to his aid, but there are evil witches who wish to steal his feisty star for their own purposes. If he can manage to bring the star back, his greatest wish may come true.

Tristran's comes across as clueless, instead of innocent. When he discovers the star is a person and not just a rock, he hardly hesitates in taking her captive. He has a complete disregard for her feelings in favor of his own ambitions. His personality doesn't develop; he just suddenly comes to realizations at the end.

Tristan's quest for the star, his childhood sweetheart, and his origin come together neatly near the end. I was not a fan of the conclusion of the novel, though. This is a classic fairy tale told by a modern author.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Self-Hypnosis and Subliminal Technology - Eldon Taylor

In a well-known experiment, those who practiced free throws for one hour were only 1% more successful than those who simply visualized making baskets. When some patients take a placebo pill they often end up recovering as if they were taking an active pill; in fact, there has been some concern over the past several years about placebos becoming more effective.

Knowing the power of the mind, Taylor has been creating programs over the past several years to help people improve their lives emotionally, mentally, and physically. With his additional knowledge of hypnosis and subliminal messages, Taylor's program may be an effective tool for those wanting to change their programming.

This book is short and not particularly in-depth. Much of the information I read in this book I've read in others that had more detail. Although he gives some guidance on how to make your own subliminal message audio tracks, it's not detailed enough to be all that helpful. The "hypnotic" state is the equivalent to the meditative state found in guided meditation programs.

There are better books on this topic under all sorts of headings.

Recommended Reads:
What Your Childhood Memories Say about You...and What You Can Do about It - Kevin Leman

Monday, July 21, 2014

Odin's Family - Neil Philip

The retelling of the Norse myths in this picture book are child-friendly, which will please many parents. For example, in the Prose Edda chapter 56 in order to make Skadi laugh Loki ties one end of a rope to a goat and the other to his beard instead of his testicles. The battles between the Aesir and Vanir are not detailed, merely factual. It also includes a watered down version of Ragnarok.

The stiff illustrations did not spark my imagination, like some of the other children's versions of the myths. Many of the illustrations also did not include beards on the characters, meaning they were missing an essential part of their character.

Parents who are raising their children as Asatru or of Nordic religion will be pleased to find that it does not include the Christian influence, which is a direct consequence of them being based on Sturluson's version of the Edda.

Due to the stiff illustrations and diluted details, I personally feel the D'Aulaires version and many others are preferable.

Recommended Reads:
D'Aulaires' Norse Gods and Giants - Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, translated by Jesse Byock

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Walking Dead Compendium 2 - Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard

After being forced to separate the group, Rick and his son, Carl, must find a way to survive on their own. As they wonder from town to town they try to gather supplies and keep themselves safe from the Walkers. Of course, as they've found in the past, the Walkers are the least of their worries because people have become savage as the world becomes more grim and hopeless.

When they manage to meet back up with several members of their group, they work together in hopes of building a better community than the one they had in the prison. As they make their way closer to Washington D.C., they find themselves meeting more groups and communities, each one a mystery as to whether they will become allies or enemies.

The pacing of this series is fantastic. The characters live in a world of uncertainty with limited supplies, knowledge, and experience. As they encounter both new and familiar challenges, they are forced to make decisions that have dire consequences. As I was reading, I often felt compelled to consider what I would do in those same situations. Gory and emotionally challenging this series is not for the faint of heart.

Books in the Series:
The Walking Dead Compendium 1

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fresh-Brewed Life - Nicole Johnson

Johnson combines coffee recipes, tidbits, personal experience, and prompts to aid the reader in taking a fresh look at life.

In the first chapter, the author recounts her Surrender to God and encourages readers to find their own way to Him. The second chapter introduces journaling, a tool that she encourages the reader to utilize throughout the book with prompts and tasks.

The rest of the book approaches a number of topics that nearly every reader will relate to, such as longings and desires, the internal struggle with beauty, anger, sexuality, friendships, and relationships.

The advice, prompts, and exercises given in this book are solid. I sometimes, however, found the author's stories meandering, making it difficult to determine how they related to the topic of the chapter. Despite their ponderous quality, the stories she tells are always heartfelt, coming from the author's own painful experiences and enlightened moments. It's saturated with her Christian point of view, which is wonderful for other Christians but not good for secular readers.

For the right audience I think this is an excellent read and workbook, but it wasn't for me because the way she approaches and views her challenges are not the same way I choose to approach my own.

Recommended Reads:
Keeping a Princess Heart in a Not So Fairy Tale World - Nicole Johnson
Self Talk; Soul Talk - Jennifer Rothschild

Friday, July 11, 2014

Manchurian Candidate - Richard Condon

After being captured by the Communists, Raymond Shaw is brainwashed into a becoming an assassin. Upon returning, he is given the Medal of Honor after his comrades announce he saved their lives.

Although his mother, didn't original want him going out to war, she certainly uses his success to her advantage. Parading him as a honored patriot boosts the campaign for her current husband who is running for President.

The sleeper agent Raymond is living his life, but will soon be activated in order to bring down the United States, unless somebody can discover a way to stop the secret instructions from being carried out.

Getting into this work was difficult due to the narrative jumping between various points of Raymond's life. In the end all of these pieces come together to give the reader a full vision of Raymond as a person. While I enjoyed the story, I didn't like the way it was written.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Revelations of Divine Love - Mother Juliana of Norwich

Julian of Norwich, a faithful nun, prayed for a illness to befall her in order to share in the torment of her Savior, Jesus Christ, so she could truly know him. Not only was she granted the sickness she prayed for, but she was granted incredible Revelations of Divine Love during that time, which she recorded as a total of 16 (XVI) entries.

Due to her illness, it's fitting that the first revelation has to do with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ with the torture he endured to bring salvation to God's people. His sacrifice as man is proof of the complete love.

The next four revelations follow the theme of sin. Man being separated from God because of his sin, but of all man being a part of God despite sin, and also how that sin is relieved by the sacrifice of Christ. Five and six extend the understanding of Christ's sacrifice for man. And seven explains the necessity of both joy and hurt for man to reach the fullness of God's love.

Chapters nine through eleven are my favorite as they express how God is in Jesus is in man. She further explains how Christ's love is extended through mankind by their acts.

The eleventh revelation is a short bit about Christ and his mother, Mary, who is incredibly important in her faith due to being the mother of God.

Love is the theme and she returns to God's love of man for the remaining chapters.

The themes of each revelations seamlessly flow into each other, giving a complete view of the Christian God as Julian understood it when it comes to his compassion and love. This particular version can be difficult to read due to the old English translation, where phrasing and word choice are unfamiliar to the modern day reader. Having a strong familiarity with these themes I found it easy to follow, but others may opt for a more modern translation.

For those looking into Christian mysticism or who want to learn about the Divine Love of God, I'd highly recommend this book.

Recommended Reads:
The Mystical Christ - Manly P. Hall
Scivias - Hildegard of Bingen

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Mystical Christ - Manly P. Hall

People all over the world look to Jesus Christ as a Prophet, an Ascended Master, and a Savior.

Hall contends that Christian mysticism, and not philosophy, is the way for a person to live a meaningful life in Christianity. The practice of faith and charity, as Christian values, can lead a person to a higher understanding of God's love. While he brushes on the importance of the Essene sect to Christianity's growth in the first chapter, he devotes the entire second chapter on educating the reader on the sect in order for the reader to truly understand why.

In the remaining chapters, he explains the meanings of Jesus's sayings, miracles, and sacrifice and how it pertains to the reader's own life. He also analyzes the The Lord's Prayer and the Beatitudes.

In the final chapter, Hall closes by explaining how Christ lives in each person and how the practice of His teachings in daily life will bring readers closer to God.

Hall is one of my favorite authors on metaphysical topics and this book lived up to my expectations. Readers who are curious about the draw of Christianity to others may find this book informative, while readers who are already Christians will find inspiration for their own lives.

Recommended Reads:
The Case for Christ - Lee Strobel

Monday, June 30, 2014

Friday, June 27, 2014

Ringworld - Larry Niven

In the outskirts of space exists a strange world in the shape of a ring. Nessus, a member of the puppeteer race, has been trusted with the mission of investigating this new world as a possible living space of his species. He recruits Louie Wu, your average human of about 200 years old, and Speaker-to-Animals, a ferocious Kzin with orange fur and an appetite for raw meat. Along the way they recruit yet another member who is meant to bring them good luck.

Unfortunately, the expedition goes horribly awry when they crash land on the ring planet they merely meant to observe. With limited supplies, a hostile environment, and primitive locals, they must somehow find a way to get their ship back into space so they can get home and report their findings.

While reading this novel, I was often struck by how dated it is. The attitude toward sex is purposely meant to be progressive, but it's a bit over the top. While it does become a plot point later in the book, the only female character's naivety grows irritating quickly. Another turn-off to me was the wordiness the author often used. He would explain things in far more detail than was necessary for the reader to know for the purposes of storytelling.

I did enjoy the clash between cultures as Louie, Nessus, and Speaker-to-Animals went about their mission. The cultural misunderstandings when they land on the Ringworld is also interesting in places.

Overall, it was an okay read, but not something I'd recommend or read again.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Dreaming the Soul Back Home - Robert Moss

In cultures who practice shamanism, many have a belief in soul loss. When faced with a traumatic incident, such as abuse, a piece of the soul pulls free and becomes lost in the spirit world. Moss has experienced this loss, has witnessed it in others, and he wants to help those all over the world to become complete persons again.

With the examples of workshops with people from all over the world, the reader is immersed in the versatility of healing that can be provided for an individual or even a group of people though dream work. By reentering dreams and misplaced memories, Moss brings pieces of the lost child back to the dreamer and often heals others during the process through shared experience. Spirit guides who help him come in the forms of the person's ancestors, angels, or animals. Even after the soul returns a person must keep that part of the soul connected by engaging in desirable activities, like eating old favorite foods or enjoying an old time activity.

Whether the reader is simply curious about shamanic techniques of healing or desires to heal their own wounds or the wound of others, this will be a helpful guide. This book contains only a few meditations and exercises, but provides ample examples for the reader to draw from. Moss's personable tone and easy expression makes this an accessible read even to those who are unfamiliar with shamanic techniques. Moss also provides a bibliography in the end for readers who may want to read more in-depth about the subject. Those who are familiar with this topic will still find this a worthwhile read due to the many real life examples of soul retrieval.

More from this Author:
The Secret History of Dreaming

Recommended Reads:
Dictionary of Dreams - Gustavus Hindman Miller
Soul Retrieval - Sandra Ingerman

Friday, June 20, 2014

Maleficent - Elizabeth Rudnick

Long ago in a fairy land there was born a fairy child whose parents died in an attempt to forge a truce between the humans and their kind. Despite the watchful eye of her caretakers, she still manages to get entangled with human kind and, just like her parents before her, she is betrayed.

She bides her time until she finds the perfect moment for revenge by placing a curse on the king's daughter. The king sends his daughter off in hopes of keeping her from Maleficent and her evil ways. Unfortunately for the king, Maleficent is a skilled enchantress who is determined to see her curse through.

But the longer she spends watching the child, the more her feelings change. Is Aurora doomed to a life of eternal sleep or will "true love" set her free?

This retelling of the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty is enchanting. I was immersed in Maleficent's thoughts and found myself empathizing with her throughout the novel as I related it to pieces of my own life. Readers will not be disappointed as they learn about the other side of this beloved fairy tale.

Recommended Reading:
The Curse of Maleficent - Elizabeth Rudnick
Keeping a Princess Heart: In a Not-So-Fairy-Tale World - Nicole Johnson

Source Material:
Briar Rose - Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm
Disney's Sleeping Beauty
Disney's Maleficent

Monday, June 16, 2014

King of Sword and Sky - C. L. Wilson

Ellysetta had been living among humans for years, until the day her true mate Rain, the Fae King found her. After repeated tragedy, she is thankful to have finally reached the border of the Fading Lands, the Fae world, where she will finally be recognized as a queen.

Unfortunately, she comes into her new home to find a plethora of problems awaiting. Internal turmoil fills the soldiers from too many years of battle, the high council is in conflict, and the Tairen Kitlings are dying in their shells. Elly is determined to fix all of these problems with her new found powers, but at what cost to her, her true mate, and the kingdom?

This third installment continues the intense and conflicted relationship between the two lovers, both of whom are equally stubborn when it comes to doing what they feel necessary. As the enemy acts bolder, their disagreements only become more passionate. While their arguments become repetitive and irritating, Elly's evolution into a strong and confident healer is inspiring. One of the big things that bothered me while reading were the constant cliche similes the author liked to use. While I didn't like this one as much as I liked the first two, I will probably finish out the series.

Readers should be forewarned of torture scenes and battle scenes.

Books in the series:
Lord of the Fading Lands
Lady of Light and Shadow

Recommended Reads:
Warprize - Elizabeth Vaughan

Friday, June 13, 2014

Interlude - backposting

Back posting to Friday to apologize for my absence. I had some crazy bad luck recently that's prevented me from posting, but a new review will be up on Monday.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cinder - Marissa Meyer

Being a young woman working your own repair shop in New Beijing is difficult. It's even worse when all of your money is going to your horrible stepmother, who won't even give you the money to buy a new cyborg foot when you've grown out of the one you have.

When Cinder comes home to find her two step-sisters being fitted for gowns for the ball, she is unsurprised to find her stepmother hasn't arranged for the dressmaker to fit her for a dress. In fact, Cinder is so used to her stepmothers attitude that she's even less surprised when she's informed of the long list of chores she has to finish before she'll be allowed to even consider going to the ball.

But Cinder has more important things to deal with than worrying about preparing for the ball. She needs to fix the Prince's robot, which will soon lead her down a road of adventure, terror, and ultimately to the discovery of her origins.

This futuristic retelling of Cinderella is something much different than any I have read before. Cinder is a capable mechanic with a tempered attitude due to years of mistreatment. Her prowess with the screwdriver and with her mind is a refreshing change from the usual damsel in distress. Meyer's world is filled with both science and magic, making it an fascinating world of possibilities. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series, inspired by age old fairy tales.

Books in the Series:

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Curse of Maleficent - Elizabeth Rudnick

Maleficent's parents died in the process of trying to make a truce between the humans and fairies. The orphaned fairy is only doomed to repeat her parents fate of betrayal when she falls in love with a young human boy.

When the boy who betrayed her becomes king and has his first child, she decides to destroy his life in the same way he did hers. She curses the child to fall into a deep sleep by her sixteenth birthday that can only be broken by true love's kiss.

To save his child from the curse, the king sends his daughter away to live with three inept fairies, who do their best to raise her. Aurora wanders the forest and befriends the animals, but she is haunted by a strange shadow. When the shadow finally reveals itself, she assumes it must be her fairy godmother. Is this creature really her fairy godmother? Will she escape her fate of eternal sleep? And who is true love?

This version is told in an alternating third person from the point of view of the good characters. While it was mostly well-written, many of the events were told in a detached narrative, making it difficult to get into the story. The illustrations are vibrant and expressive; however, the illustrations were not always placed with the pages they coincided with.

This tale tells of betrayal, revenge, love, and redemption. Many of us have been hurt in a way we feel we may never recover from, just like Maleficent. But maybe, just like this fallen fairy, we can find the strength and inspiration to become whole again.

Recommended Reading:
Maleficent - Elizabeth Rudnick
Keeping a Princess Heart: In a Not-So-Fairy-Tale World - Nicole Johnson

Source Material:
Briar Rose - Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm
Disney's Sleeping Beauty
Disney's Maleficent

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Minority Report and Other Stories - Philip K. Dick

This collection of short stories contains dystopia, mystery, and adventure all in a sci-fi setting.

While in the process of attempting to keep the unit in business, precrime Police Commissioner John A. Anderton suddenly finds himself the suspect of a predicted murder. The majority report given by the "precogs" indicate he will murder a man he hasn't even met. Now branded as an outlaw, he's on the run and determined to prove his innocence by finding The Minority Report. Being caught promises a lifetime of prison, while proving his innocence may cost him his livelihood.

In We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, REKAL promises Douglas Quail they will implant an incredibly detailed memory of his trip to Mars for a hefty fee. Fed up with his boring life, he decides to go through with it. When something goes wrong with the procedure, however, he finds himself in real danger. Perhaps more disturbing is what he finally does remember.

Jennings joins "Rethrick Construction" for a two year contract with the stipulation that his memory will be erased at the end of the term. When he goes to collect his Paycheck he finds another strange clause: Instead of accepting money, he can choose a small envelope of seemingly random objects he personally chose. Armed with the objects in the envelope, Jennings is determined to discover the secret he left behind.

The earth is in ruins after so many nuclear attacks between the west and Russia. After sending "the claws" against the Soviet Union, there is suddenly a call from the enemy for a temporary truce. The claws are not only replicating, but they are also creating new versions. Although they've been able to identify 1V, 3V, and 4V, it's still a mystery what the Second Variety looks like. And it may be the downfall of all of humanity.

In The Eyes Have It, a man suddenly realizes he's surrounded by aliens while in the midst of reading a paperback book. They can remove their limbs and use them while separate. The Eyes Have It

I enjoyed all five of these short stories for their charm and suspense. In each story I was immersed in a foreign world not too far removed from my own, which made them all the more disturbing.

Recommended Reads:
And Some Were Human - Lester Del Rey

Friday, May 30, 2014

Interlude - Reading with Cats 1

While reading, my cat often joins me for reading. Here is from a while ago when we were reading Jovah's Angel by Sharon Shinn.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Tik-Tok of Oz - L. Frank Baum

Return to the fairy land of Oz, where Queen Ann Soforth, ruler of Oogaboo, has decided to take over the whole world. However, with several officers at her disposal and only one soldier to do the work, she finds herself in many quandaries.

Betsy Bobbin of Oklahoma finds herself in a strange state when she and her mule Hank end up shipwrecked in Oz. With the help of the Shaggy Man, the Rose Princes, and Polychrome she hopes to find her way back. But between the aspirations of Queen Ann and the cruel Ruggedo, King of the Nomes, she is certain to have many troublesome adventures.

Children and parents alike will be delighted with Baum's continued imaginative land filled with magic and morals.

Recommended from the series:
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Ozma of Oz
Patchwork Girl of Oz

Friday, May 23, 2014

Dreamgates - Robert Moss

In some religions, they are said to reveal the future; in others, they are said to reveal past lives. Some people believe dreams are alternate realities that we live concurrently. And many psychologists think that dreams can reveal our troubles in coded sequences.

Moss examines characters, scenarios, and objects to help readers understand their dreams. He contends that dreams can lead us to understanding many parts of our lives, including the things in our minds that our holding us back and the secret desires that would lead us to true happiness. He then shares ideas and shamanic techniques to assist the reader in using their own dreams them to the highest potential.

He also includes topics like encounters with ghosts, aliens, dead people, and past lives. When discussing these, he includes ideas on how analyze and use these to a person's advantage.

This volume contains insight and techniques that I think even some veterans of the topic will find useful.

Recommended Reading:
The Art of Shapeshifting - Ted Andrews
Shaman, Healer, Sage - Alberto Villoldo Ph.D.
In the Shadow of the Shaman - Amber Wolfe