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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