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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