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Friday, December 25, 2015

William Shakespeare's Star Wars - Ian Doescher

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....

back in 1977, George Lucas released a film that changed sci-fi genre and pop culture forever. Rich with allegory and old-time tropes, many which could be traced back to Shakespeare's works, Lucas's Star Wars films quickly became a classic loved the world over.

Doescher seemlessly transforms the work into iambic pentameter and adds more Shakespearian influence by adding the omniscient narrator through R2D2. The addition of new songs and minstrel renditions of the existing songs, made me smile. The play between Han and Leia is overly dramatic in the fashion of Shakespeare. I was happy to have listened to the audiobook version instead of reading the written version. With the different voices and sound effects it was like listening to an old radio show.

If you are a fan of both Star Wars and Shakespeare, this is the book for you.

Source Material:
Star Wars Trilogy Novels
Star Wars Trilogy Movies

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice - Wendy Pfeffer

On or around December 21st is the shortest day of the year known as winter solstice, which indicates the official start of winter. This children's book, decorated with wonderful illustrations, begins by explaining the change from autumn to winter in a modern context with dressing warm when outside and staying toasty inside buildings and goes on to explain what causes the change scientifically.

Following this introduction, children are then told about what ancient people thought about the change of seasons and includes explanations of some of the festivities of the ancient peoples, including: the Romans, northern Europeans, Sweden, Incas, and finally some of the modern traditions.

The back of the book includes an index with illustrations of with more details of how the tilt of the planet causes seasons, activities to demonstrate the tilt of earth, and even a few ideas on how to celebrate solstice.

Children will enjoy learning about natural events and how people around the world celebrate them when reading this book.

More by the author:
The Longest Day: Celebrating the Summer Solstice
A New Beginning: Celebrating the Spring Equinox
We Gather Together: Celebrating the Harvest Season

Friday, December 11, 2015

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs

When Jacob's grandfather used to tell him stories of his childhood filled with floating girls, talking birds, and monsters, he was amazed. But after making the mistake of telling the wrong children at school and being mocked, he demands his grandfather no longer fill his head with lies. These stories are long forgotten to Jacob's memory, even though his ailing grandfather calls him at least once a week insisting the monsters are after him. It isn't until it's too late that Jacob realizes his grandfather wasn't telling fairy tales or lying at all.

Seeking closure, Jacob convinces his parents to take him to the island his grandfather grew up on to seek out the truth of his childhood. What he finds is beyond his wildest dreams and nightmares. Like his grandfather before him, Jacob becomes the center of a war he doesn't want to be part of, but has no choice but to endure.

The beginning of the book was so normal, starting with Jacob trying to get out of his family job and dealing with his mentally ailing grandfather. As a reader, I was just as confused and horrified about the first unusual incident as Jacob was. And when he got to the island, the first few peculiar incidents I shared his disbelief. I loved following along with Jacob as he learned about the strange world Miss Peregrine and her charges occupied.

While this novel is the beginning of a series, I wasn't satisfied with the conclusion of this first book. It did leave me curious for what awaits Jacob and his friends in the future, though, so I guess the author did a great job.

Books in the Series:
Hollow City
Library of Souls

Friday, December 4, 2015

Trouble in Teton Valley - Gary McCarthy

After escaping Cheyenne, Henry and Samantha ride the Medicine Wagon out toward Yellowstone National Park, where the good doctor hopes to enjoy the natural beauty of the preserve and Samantha hopes to sell some of her father's "medicine" to make a bit of money. Along the way they make a stop in Teton Valley, where Samantha gets caught with her sticky hands by the sheriff. Fortunately, she has Henry on her side, who manages to negotiate her freedom.

Just as they are about to leave disease breaks free, the top that only a doctor like Henry Wallace can hope to contain. With his knowledge and Samantha's determination, they may be able to save the town from death.

There hasn't been much development in Samantha's character in the previous two books, but she seems to be realizing that she's not as slick as she previously thought. And after seeing Henry having to pay for the consequences of her actions out of the goodness of his heart, she's realizing maybe her way of life isn't best for her. Henry, meanwhile, is learning the necessity of being a hard man out in the lawless west. As with the previous books in the series, there was nothing particularly special in this novel but it kept me entertained during my commute.

I'm disappointed that the audio book I borrowed advertises a fourth book in the series that hasn't seem to have come out yet. While I'm not heartbroken over it, I have found this light series a nice way to unwind.

Books in the Series:
The Medicine Wagon

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Alloy of Law - Brandon Sanderson

Three hundred years after the collapse of the Final Empire, humanity has evolved and life has changed. There are now trains, guns, and even electricity is starting to come into vogue.

Waxillium Ladrian is one of the lucky, born with the ability to use both Allomancy and Feruchemy metal magics. Although born in a high House, he decides to become a lawman in the Roughs in an attempt to save the citizens there. After a tragic incident where he loses somebody he truly cares about, he decides to give up his tough life and take up his duties as the head of House.

At first he finds contentment fixing things from behind a desk, until his House becomes a victim of theft. He discovers that many Houses are having their supplies stolen during transport on trains. Even worse, he finds that nobile women are being kidnapped in the process. Wax resists getting involved, despite the prodding of his friend Wayne, until he's finally face to face with the ruffians and forced to act.

The part I enjoyed the most in this novel is the imaginative ways the characters used there Allomancy and Feruchemy in order to resolve problems, especially at the climax. Since I read the original Mistborn trilogy, I found the evolution of technology and religion interesting, as well. Unfortunately, I didn't find the rest of the novel satisfying. I didn't particularly care for any of the main characters and their relationships. And banter between the characters was often irritating more than entertaining. After reading this standalone novel, I don't foresee myself reading the rest of the series because I just didn't feel immersed like I did with the previous novels in the series.

Books in the Series:
Shadows of Self
The Bands of Mourning

Original Trilogy:

Friday, November 20, 2015

Where the Long Grass Blows - Louis L'Amour

Bill Canavan came into the valley with a plan to stake a claim for his ranch. Despite being a latecomer, he manages to strike a deal to get the most desired land in the valley containing the only watering hole. And, as luck would have it, he manages to find the love of his life in the same valley. But luck has a sense of humor.

With his stake claimed he becomes the target of multiple assassination attempts and, as luck would have it, Dixie Venable is actually the fiancee of his biggest rival Star Levitt. The only way to come out on top is to catch Levitt in his web of lives to set the entire town free of his tyranny.

This book contained the standard western tropes I expect of the genre. A clever and cocky cowboy rides into town ready to save the town from their covert bad guy and sweep his lady love off her feet.

There's nothing special about the writing style and no twists. Just the standard fair you'd expect. For what it is, it's an enjoyable read.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Where Were You Last Pluterday? - Paul Van Herck

Sam led a comfy life by writing science fiction books for his publisher, until his publisher informs him that sci-fi is out and so is he. Sam decides to become a newspaper man and is content to lead his normal poor life, until he sets eyes on the most beautiful woman. Obsessed with her, Sam borrows a car and some nice clothes and pretends to be the son of a rich oil merchant at a party to grab her attention. Luckily for Sam, the woman is quite interested in him and sets up a date for next Pluterday. He's so excited that he doesn't think until he gets home: When is Pluterday?

The search for Pluterday and his beloved sets Sam on a bizarre journey through several lifetimes to reach his goal. Along the way he buys a time machine, gets married, kicks some martians, meets death, and even becomes a rich man.

This novel had me laughing out loud at several points as the narrator navigates through multiple lifetimes and tries to better society by buying out millionaires with his absurd amount of banked capital. Those who enjoy satire or just simply the absurd are in for a treat if they can manage to get a hold of this elusive novel.

Recommended Reads:
Flatland - Edwin A. Abbott
Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift
Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

Friday, November 6, 2015

Cheyenne Medicine Wagon 2 - Gary McCarthy

Once again on the run, Henry Wallis hitches a ride with the over-confident Samantha in her medicine wagon on the way to Cheyenne. The straight shooting doctor just wants to earn an honest living, while the gritty Samantha is perfectly fine selling her snake oil cure and picking pockets, which lands them in trouble multiple times.

Encountering injured people, the doctor does his best to patch up and comfort them with his modern doctoring knowledge, while Samantha uses her experience and kindness to get them through their lumps.

While Samantha is hard-headed and kind, Henry is high-handed and acts as a good Samaritan. Their personalities complement each other as they journey through the wild west and into small towns. There's nothing that stands out about this story, but it helped pass the time during my commute.

Books in the Series:
The Medicine Wagon
Trouble in the Teton Valley

Friday, October 30, 2015

Nightbird - Alice Hoffman

After moving out of the big city and leaving their father behind, Twig and her family move to their mother's hometown of Sidwell. A small town should make for closer relationships, but their mother insists they keep to themselves; in fact, because of her brother's wings, her mother insists he stay inside to avoid being mistaken for the Sidwell monster.

When another family moves in across the street, Twig befriends the younger sister and James falls in love with the older sister. With help from these new friends maybe they can break the curse and save Sidwell from the monster.

In this heartfelt novel, Hoffman expresses the pain of secrets, the harm of prejudice, and the importance of friendship. While the plot lines are all woven together nicely, I was dissatisfied with neatly the plot with her family came together in the end. All-in-all it's a good read that children will enjoy this novel.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Royal Assassin - Robin Hobb

Just barely surviving his first mission as an assassin, the disillusioned Fitz hides himself away in the mountains. He's determined to stay there until a fit of empathy alerts him to the Red Ships attacking the coast, including the woman he loves. Still wrecked by fits upon his return, he does his best to continue performing his duties as a stable hand.

Fitz continues to flirt with the wit, despite Burrich's warnings and finds himself entangled with a wolf he rescued from an abusive seller. He also has to hide his relationship with his beloved Molly from the entire castle and most especially Prince Verity, his father, who skills within his mind. And along with his training with Verity, he must continue his studies under Chade and add raw fighting to his daily stress.

As King Shrewd grows sicker and the Red Ships attacks become worse, King-in-Waiting Verity decides it's time to seek help elsewhere. And while Verity is away, Queen-in-Waiting Kettricken's authority is undermined by Prince Regal, who's determined to become the heir of the kingdom. While Fitz is his obvious opposition and becomes a prisoner, Regal discovers more and unexpected opposition in the court. If Fitz can somehow find a way to escape the prison cell, he can hope to dethrone Regal, if not, he and the revolution will surely die.

As always, Hobb amazed me with her skill. Fitz's conflicting loyalties and his complex relationships with multiple characters make it believable. The way details come together in multiple plot lines impressed me, as always. I look forward to completing this series soon..

Books in the Series
Assassin's Apprentice
Assassin's Quest

Recommended Reads:
The Last Herald's Mage

Friday, October 9, 2015

Queen of Song and Souls - C.L. Wilson

Ellysetta's life has changed from being a simple farm girl to being the reigning queen of the fae with the Tairen Soul, Rain. While she has healed many, she still suffers from fits. No healer mundane or magical can explain them.

There are other dangers besides, though. The Eld are preparing to attack and they don't know where to find them. The king of the neighboring kingdom is reluctant to join forces. The fact that one of the elves has found his soulmate in the crown princess isn't helping matters. Elysetta is under attack in her dreams, being infected with mage mark, and if she gets too many she will become under the influence of the enemy. Even Rain is fighting the madness brought on by not being bound to his mate.

Mystery, violence, and joy all await within the pages. And there is still one more novel left before the final conclusion to this wild journey into the Fading Lands.

The first novel started somewhat light, but the series has gotten increasing dark with each book, including torture, battles, and war. While I like the way she's done it, it's something for readers to be aware of before starting the series.

While this is a fantasy romance, Elysetta's perfection is over the top. Elysetta's optimism influences her to the point of stupidity. A lot of circumstances throughout the book seem contrived. Elysetta's actual decisions, no matter how poor, never land her in any real trouble, while random events brought about by her unknowingly wielding her power result in bad results. Rain's possessiveness and that of her advisers is a huge turn off for me, as well.

Despite its flaws, there are also some great features in this book. The relationships between Elysetta, Rain, their entourage, and all of the characters in general are believable. The magic system is well-developed and the politics are messy. The battles and torture are detailed and often difficult to read.

Overall, this was a good read and I plan to finish the last book in the series.

Books in the Series:
Lord of the Fading Lands
Lady of Light and Shadows
King of Sword and Sky

Recommended Reads:
Warprize - Elizabeth Vaughan
Archangel - Sharon Shinn
Singer from the Sea - Sheri S. Tepper

Friday, October 2, 2015

Throne of Glass - Sarah J. Maas

Celaena Sardothien has been stuck in the salt mines of Endovier, suffering under hard labor, little food, and the lash for an entire year for her crimes as an assassin. She's saved when the crown prince comes with an offer she can't refuse. Compete to become the King's Champion and be set free in four years or continue to suffer until death in the mines.

After so long outside of her trade, she'll need to get back in shape to win with the help of a soldier. But the competition won't even be the hardest part of her stay within palace walls. She'll have to make herself presentable for court, make nice with the prince who hired her, and figure out what mysterious powers are killing her competition. If she can find time, maybe she'll even get involved in a little romance.

While the blurb focused on the competition and political intrigue, I found the novel itself focused far more on a forced romance between the main character and the obsessed prince who hired blackmailed the former assassin into a competition to the death. Celaena is supposed to have a past full of grief and hard training, but aside from a few times when the author brings it up pointedly, you wouldn't know it with her ditsy and clueless behavior. She's supposed to be one of the greatest assassins and claims throughout the novel that she's holding back, yet when it's finally time for her to show her prowess she fails. The author mistakes sarcasm for wit in her characters, which often makes the dialogue tiresome and irritating. While I realize this is a young adult novel, the political intrigue is hardly worth mentioning.

This genre is one of my favorites and even I couldn't stomach this mess. I was so glad I was only listening to this during my commute and didn't waste the time actually reading it.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mama Says - Rob D. Walker

All around the world, every day, mothers teach their sons lessons of how to live life. Be kind, have faith. Have courage, be respectful. Learn, be caring.

With gorgeous, poignant illustrations the wisdom from many cultures comes to life. Alongside the English text is the same message in the culture's language, including Cherokee, Japanese, Hebrew, Arabic, and many more.

Parents are certain to enjoy imparting life lessons to their sons with this lovely book.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

Chiyo is set to be just another fisherman's daughter in the little town of Yoroido, until her family falls into bad luck. When her mother passes away, her father realizes he can't take care of his two remaining daughters and takes the advice of a man to give them up to better homes.

When she is sent away to an Okiya, geisha house, in Gion located in Kyoto, Chiyo leaves behind her childhood innocence. Forced into a life of servitude as a Geisha, entertainer, her life becomes torment. "Mother" is ruthless in her money dealings, the senior Geisha of the house, Hatsumomo, insists on making her daily life torture.

But her life is set on a course of hope when she runs into a man of kindness, who dries her tears with her handkerchief and offers her money for a little treat. Determined to repay this man's kindness, Chiyo sets about her apprenticeship with a renewed sense of vigor. Under the tutelage of another Geisha, she flourishes and is set to be the most accomplished Geisha in Gion, until the war finally reaches the pleasure district of Kyoto.

Despite her hard life Sayuri, formerly Chiyo, is determined to reach her goal of becoming the Geisha beside the man who gave her new purpose.

While I cannot speak for the authenticity or historical aspect of this novel, I found it to be enjoyable. Chiyo's struggles as a child just trying to survive in the circumstances she has been placed is heartbreaking. Sayuri's determination to eventually capture the heart of her love, despite all of the setbacks, is a journey that many readers will be able to relate to from their own lives.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Spirit Walker - Nancy Wood

Inspired by the Taos Pueblo Indians of North America, Wood writes splendid spiritual poetry. What is love? How can we give our children a future worth living? How are we connect to the earth? And what gifts do the creatures around give us? What binds us to others? What can our emotions teach us?

With his paintings, Frank Howell illustrates how humans are only a part of the environment, a larger circle and cycle of the world.

Those who want to strive for unity with life will find themselves easily swept into the book with the fascinating verse and gorgeous illustrations.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Ropemaker - Peter Dickinson

Tilja grew up in a sheltered valley surrounded by an enchanted forest that keeps them safe. When the power begins to fade, she sets out to find the answers and bring healing back to her home. What awaits her is a whole new world where she will learn of her own power as a normal person among magicians.

Reading this book was frustrating for me because I felt like it had so much potential, but in the end fell flat. The different cultures they encountered on their journey, the different types of magic people used, and the relationships between the members of the party were enjoyable. Everything else about the book was a snooze to me, though. While I realize the story is fractured for a reason, it did not have the same readability as other novels of this nature, like A Wrinkle in Time. The enemies were forgettable as was the hero that ultimately allowed Tilja to fulfill her role in saving the world.

While this coming-of-age story received an award and a multitude of good reviews, I was disappointed.

Recommended Reads
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula LeGuin

Friday, August 28, 2015

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See

Lily was born to a farmer's family in 19th century China. Born on the same day, in the same hour, and having their feet bound on the same day, she finds her laotong, old same, in Snow Flower. Despite the strange circumstances of their relationship, Lily makes the most of their relationship; one that is closer than a husband, in a time where betrothal and not love determines marriage. The distance between their classes brought them closer together as girls, but as they age their circumstances pull them apart. When Snow Flower can no longer stand the harshness of Lily's words, she finds comfort in a Sworn Sisterhood, instead.

While I can't speak for the historical accuracy of this novel, I like to think of it as a sort-of Cinderella story with Lily marrying up. I think many people can relate to this story with how relationships ebb and flow. How you can be so close to a person one moment and in the next you're in completely different worlds. From the glory days of secret conversations, the pain of betrayal, and the final reckoning of the relationship, nearly everyone can relate in some way or another.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Warrior Goddess Training - Heatherash Amara

Do you ever pause to think about yourself and your life? Are you unhappy with your life circumstances or the person you are? Or maybe something just isn't quite right and you can't put your finger on it? With ten chapters devoted to introspection and action, this book will get you back on track to becoming your best self.

If you are having trouble speaking your feelings or maybe speaking a bit too loudly, this book can help you. If you are looking for a way to improve your self image or your sexuality that's covered, too. Are you missing passion and pursuit in your life, this book can get you back to it. The book not only provides lessons, but also exercises in order to get you introspective and motivated.

Don Miguel Ruiz's influence on Amara is apparent by her point of view and vocabulary. The gentle, prodding tone pushes the reader to keep going even if the concepts and exercises are difficult.

Even if you are satisfied with your life, this book with its questions may turn you on to new paths to make your life even better. This is a fantastic book that will help get you where you want to be.

Recommended Reads:
The Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz
The Artist's Way - Julia Cameron
Archetypes - Caroline Myss

Friday, August 14, 2015

Medicine Wagon - Gary McCarthy

Henry Wallace has a great life ahead of him with a fiancee and a great career as a physician in his father's practice. After an encounter with some hooligans leaves him feeling defenseless, he decides to learn boxing to defend himself. After rising to the top of his local gym over many months, he becomes confident in his skills. After jumping in to defend a young couple against robbers, he finds himself framed for a crime he didn't commit. He's either going to spend his life in prison or a life on the run. And neither prospect looks good.

This is my first venture into the western genre and I enjoyed it. With a simple storyline of hard luck for a young man on the top it was familiar, but it's time and place unfamiliar to my normal reading. I think I'll be reading more from this genre in the future.

Books in the Series:
Trouble in Teton Valley

Friday, August 7, 2015

The 7-Day Prayer Warrior Experience - Stormie Omartian

What are the parts of the "whole armor of God" and how can one gird oneself with those parts?

This short piece will teach readers how to don the belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet, and sword that make up the armor of God and how to keep it all upon oneself. Each chapter is between 3-4 pages long, excluding chapter 1 which acts as an introduction and is about 8 pages long. Each chapter explains the importance and use of the item, along with a prayer, and a few study questions for a reader to gain more insight.

Backed by scripture, this 7 day devotional is both simple and strong in manner. It's a great way to boost your Christian prayer life.

Recommended Reads:
Jesus Calling - Sarah Young
Self Talk, Soul Talk - Jennifer Rothchild
Keeping a Princess Heart: In a Not-So-Fairy-Tale World - Nicole Johnson

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Road to Hell - Christopher C. Starr

Once there was a creator who was lonely. To cure his loneliness he creates a being, an angel, whom he names Lucifer. Lucifer, shining one, morning star, bringer of light. But his creation is not content to be the entertainment of the Father. He wants to have his own life, and in so doing he crosses the Father. As punishment, he is sent away from the Father's presence.

While Lucifer languishes away from the Father and Heaven, he creates his own world. From time to time the Father sends his new creations to visit Lucifer, but never reveals himself again and tells his minions Lucifer is now Satan: the enemy.

With his trickery, Lucifer is able to recruit many angels for his army: Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim, and more. Launching war upon Heaven will prove to be devastating to everyone, including Lucifer himself.

This amazing work makes the Christian figure of Lucifer, Satan, closer to humanity. While reading, readers may remember times when they felt the same with feelings of abandonment, being used, or a number of other situations in their own lives. The writing is poetic at times, making it fantastic to reader. Near the end the descriptions of battle get brutal and bloody, which may be a little over the top for some readers. I enjoyed reading this piece and I hope to see more from this author in the future.

Source Material:
The Bible

Recommended Reads:
The Devil's Apocrypha - John A De Vito
God Knows - Joseph Heller
Book of Job

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Hero of Ages - Brandon Sanderson

In hopes of saving the world, Vin and Elend go in search of the remaining caches the Lord Ruler left behind. Not only are they fighting against nature, including the mists and ash that are becoming increasingly hostile toward the people, they are also up against the citizens of other cities and wild koloss.

With TenSoon's contract complete, he returns to his people only to meet with punishment for his betrayal of his people. He's determined to somehow convince them to keep him alive and to break free of the contract that has bound his people for a thousand years.

And Sazed continues to compare the religions of the past in hopes of finding the truth and a way to save their world. As he digs deeper he becomes more discouraged finding the contradictions of each show how wrong they are. Time is running out. And they need to find the Hero of Ages.

The entire series has kept me on my toes and the conclusion of the series only solidified my enjoyment of this series. Sanderson's characters are all complex, as are their relationships. His ability to bring many storylines together for a final conclusion is something I don't see often and is refreshing to find. While I was reluctant to finish the series, I also couldn't wait to discover the end.

Books in the Series:
The Well of Ascension

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Family of Earth - Schim Schimmel

Humans mostly live in cities and towns all around the world in many different climates, but animals do not have apartments, huts, and houses to live in. They live in the jungle, the desert, the ocean, and the sky. Despite living in such different environments, we all share the same earth.

With gorgeous illustrations, both parents and children will delight in the message of harmony.

More by the Author
Dear Children of the Earth
Children of the Earth: Remember

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Agricola and the Germania - Tacitus

Tacitus records the life of Julius Agricola, the governor of Roman-ruled Britain. In revealing the challenges Agricola faces with the British natives, he reveals the traditions and lives of the people.

In The Germania, Tacitus sole purpose is to record and comment on the way of life in the tribes of Germany, including housing, laws, livelihood, and much more.

With little to no record of many of the early tribes in Europe, even the observations of outsiders, which were often unfavorable to the traditions, provide valuable insight for those who want to learn more about the European people before the Roman influence took hold.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Well of Ascension - Brandon Sanderson

Defeating the Lord Ruler was only the beginning of setting the Final Empire free of tyranny. Elend Venture has taken the throne and chooses to set a council of representatives for Luthadel. Unfortunately, his ideas on how to run the kingdom are much different from the councilmen. When the city comes under attack by not just one but two armies the differences become even more pronounced. While Vin and the others advise that dispensing of the council would be the best course of action, Elend insists that keeping the council will build confidence in the new rule.

While Elend plays politics, Vin finds herself matched against an unknown alomancer who can match her own skillset. If that weren't bad enough, a Kandra taken on the form of a member of their team, but Vin must discover who.

In the meantime, the Keeper Sazed, who had set out to learn more and spread knowledge in the kingdom discovers disturbing news. The Mists are killing people. And a mysterious location reveals clues as to the Lord Ruler's power.

Because the novel focused mainly on politics in the beginning I found it a slow start, but intrigue and danger soon took over. I enjoyed watching the evolving relationships between Vin and characters like Elend and OreSeur. The politics could be boring at times, but in the end the loose ends all come together making it worth paying attention. The action scenes are well-written, sometimes leaving me breathless as I listened to Vin and others fight against skilled enemies or large numbers of them.

I immediately started the next book in the series after finishing this one. I look forward to my commute every day because I get to listen to novels like this!

Books in the Series:
The Hero of Ages

Friday, June 26, 2015

Libriomancer - Jim C. Hines

Isaac has an unusual power hidden behind his librarian persona. Through libriomancy he is able to make virtually any object in a book come to life. It's a good thing too, seeing as he has to fight supernatural creatures like vampires and other assorted villians. With his faithful flame spider, Smudge, and the help of a Nymph he intends to get to the bottom of the attacking vampires and the disappearance of Johannes Gutenberg.

Hines pays tribute to some of the world's most popular novels and tales, including The Lord of the Rings, King Arthur, and Narnia. In addition, he adds a few fake titles of his own. For the reader's convenience, he even includes a bibliography at the end to look up each book.

While there's nothing particularly special about this novel, it is pure fun, especially for those of us who read a lot.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

I forgot to finalize my drafts, so several of them did not post when they were supposed to. I am backposting to correct this error. Thank you for your understanding.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Dear Children of the Earth - Schim Schimmel

Mother Earth petitions her children for help to protect the environment and in turn save all of her creatures, our brothers and sisters. Elephants, whales, lions, tigers, and more come to life in the striking illustrations accompanied by beautifully written text that expresses the need for all of us to be more conscientious of our choices and how they effect ourselves, the earth, and every creature around us.

I was feeling nostalgic when I ordered this book. After reading it and admiring the illustrations, I was happy to add it to my bookshelf. The paintings are so vibrant with bright colors and detail, a mix of real life and imagination. The message speaks to my heart and reminds me why I did and still do try my best to live a simple and sustainable life.

Also by the author:
Children of the Earth Remember
The Family of the Earth

Friday, June 12, 2015

Deerskin - Robin McKinley

The most beautiful woman in the kingdom once had princes from all over the country perform tasks to win her hand. Eventually there was a man who could complete the task and took her as his wife. The king and his queen had a lovely daughter, but nobody had time for Lissla Lissar when her mother had the eye of the entire kingdom. Her only companion is a hound given as a gift from a prince. When her mother passes away, she is suddenly remembered. And tragedy finally visits the sheltered princess, leaving her no choice but to run away.

With memory lost and body broken, she must somehow find a way to heal both her own body and that of her hound. If she can manage that, perhaps better times await the forgotten princess../td>

Like many of McKinley's works this novel is based on a folktale: Donkey Skin by Charles Perrault. McKinley's style is engrossing and I always feel a kinship toward the characters she puts forth. While Lissla's circumstances are far more dire than any I have experienced, I could see my own life reflected in her feelings of brokenness and I recalled my own experience in healing while reading.

Source Material:
Donkey Skin - Charles Perrault
Recommended Reading:
Daughter of the Forest - Juliet Marillier

Friday, June 5, 2015

Strange Heaven - Jon M. Sweeney

There are a number of Christian sects and each one of them varies in their theology and teachings, including their ideas on the mother of Jesus Christ: Mary. Sweeney explores Mary through the use of biblical sources, apocrypha, tradition, and continued modern interpretation.

Why is Mary a virgin? Why is Mary sometimes called the First Disciple and what does it mean? Part One reveals an image of Mary through the use of multiple sources, including her origins in Hebrew prophecy, the gospels, and apocrypha.

Part Two explores the tradition of Mary in Catholicism, including Apparitions, the Rosary, the evolution of the "Hail Mary" prayer, and her many titles. It also addresses dogmatic teachings about her such as, divine motherhood, immaculate conception, assumption to heaven, redeemer, and the imagery of milk.

Part Three presents Martin Luther's understanding of Mary, the divine feminine, and finally what Mary means to followers of Christianity today.

Although this contained a lot of information I was already aware of, that information was presented in a readable and concise manner. It also contained a lot of new information for me, like the milk imagery and Martin Luther's perspective on Mary. I felt it handled the controversial 'praying to Mary' argument well, which as a Catholic is important to me. Whether a seasoned reader on the topic or new, I would recommend this book.
Recommended Reading:
Goddesses and the Divine Feminine - Rosemary Ruether

Friday, May 29, 2015

Heaven's Shadow - David S. Goyer

A strange object makes its way toward earth and eventually orbits there, as if waiting. NASA sends a team to investigate the object, but when they arrive they find they aren't the only ones there to investigate. The Russian-Indian-Brazilian Coalition has sent their own team to discover what secrets the object holds.

Although the environment is hostile toward their technology, they find that it seems to be friendly to them as life forms. As they delve furthers into the object more secrets are revealed through the use of familiar faces that will haunt them for the rest of their days. Can the teams manage to get back to earth to bring the news of their discovery? Or will they perish on this foreign plane?

This well-written sci-fi contained mystery and drama that kept me looking forward to my commute every day. Each of the characters had their own past to wrestle with as they dealt with the danger at hand. I look forward to reading the next books in the series.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Sonic the Hedgehog: The Chase

Sonic and his friends recently came to a reawakening in their new world, which is crumbling right in front of their eyes. While Princess Sally remains in the Sky Patrol to lead with the assisted vision of T-Pup and Omochao, the rest of the Freedom Fighters, Sonic, Tails, and Amy-Rose, Rotor, Bunnie, and Antoine go out to save the citizens of Station Square from the flooding city. The duel memories are causing trouble for everybody, but especially Sonic who is edging closer to madness.

When Dr. Robotnik kidnaps Uncle Chuck and several other scientists, the Freedom Fighters must Chase them down in the secured train. Traps and enemies await them.

In the final section, the new origin stories for each of the characters is revealed.

Sally's is probably the least changed showing her childhood as Princess, her escape from Mobotropolis, and her consequent rise to leadership in Knothole village. Antoine's story reveals how he became fostered at the palace, how his relationships developed, and finally his development into the soldier his father always wanted him to be. Multiple origin stories for Bunnie's half-robot body have run throughout the various Sonic series, one reveals Bunnie to have been captured by Robotnik, while another shows it to be an accident. This version reveals a doctor making a last ditch effort to save her life through the robotification process. Rotor's origin has always remained a mystery, so the addition of his family background and his early tinkering is a welcome addition to his character.

This reboot continues to be enjoyable as it ties in the video game elements along with the comic series own elements. I look forward to each addition when I pick up this series.

Books in the Series:
Sonic the Hedgehog: Countdown to Chaos
Sonic the Hedgehog: Waves of Change
Sonic the Hedgehog: Control

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Invisibles - Grant Morrison

Dane McGowan is your typical rebellious teenager causing trouble in school, as well as out on the street. He thinks he's a tough kid, until he commits a crime that gets him thrown into Harmony House, a rehabilitation center with an excellent record of success. Harmony House is only the beginning of Dane's reeducation. After being rescued by a man who goes by the name of King Mob, he discovers that the world isn't what he thinks it is. Dane, or Jack Frost, learns that there are people out to get him and who are manipulating the very fabric of time and the world. In fact, he discovers he is one of the people, like the other members of the Invisibles who are able to use their abilities to fight these world manipulators. He'll face death, terrifying figures in history, and horrifying monsters.

If the intention of the author was to leave the reader feeling like Dane, completely lost, he achieved his goal. Because it contains the first 12 issues, I figured some of the plots might be wrapped up, but even the ones that were didn't feel resolved. I felt no particular pull toward any of the main characters. The art was decent and expressive when necessary. Although I've had it recommended to me by many people, I don't feel compelled to finish the series with what I've read so far.

Books in the Series:
The Invisibles: Book Two
The Invisibles: Book Three
The Invisibles: Book Four

Friday, May 8, 2015

Montessori From the Start - Paula Polk Lillard, Lynn Lillard Jessen

When my friend told me, he was raising his baby with the Montessori method, I decided to do a little reading into what all it involved.

In 1897, Maria Montessori began her research in children's education. By 1907 she had opened her first classroom using her new techniques. Since then Montessori has been looked to for guidance on raising children from birth to twelve years.

This particular book focuses on the ages of birth to three, the first "plane" or period Montessori used to categorize stages of development. The authors contend that fostering independence, curiosity, and education is the way to raise a healthy and happy child. They encourage a regiment of simplicity, routine, and controlled environment as the best way to achieve these goals.

As with any system, many people object to various techniques or suggestions found in this book. One of the more common criticisms I've seen for this book has been the idea of leaving the baby alone for an extended period of time, when it actually recommends leaving the child to his own devices while merely keeping an eye on him. It also suggests moving from a bassinet straight to a mattress on the floor, instead of a crib. The authors argue that a bed on the floor poses less danger of falling than a crib does and also point out that a plain mattress allows the child more freedom of visual entertainment, as well as movement as she gets older. Another common criticism is the suggestion to wean at the age of 9 months, while the average age to wean around the world ranges from two to four years old. While I myself was surprised to find the suggestion of beginning toilet training at 12 months, a little research revealed that not beginning toilet training before 18 to 25 months is actually a fairly new idea.

Even with these criticism, I found the book had a variety of fantastic ideas. Limiting the amount and types of toys to prevent overstimulation in such an infant seems sound. Giving a toddler a small pitcher and cup to practice pouring while at the table at such an early age just makes sense as it allows him to learn better motor skills. And starting evening walks with a child even at a toddling stage allows her to explore the outside world and exercise her skills. For me this was a worthwhile read, so I could understand the technique and goals my friend has in mind for his child. With this new knowledge, I'm hoping to become an active part in his child's activities and education.

Recommended Reads:
Simplicity Parenting - Kim John Payne, Lisa M. Ross

Friday, May 1, 2015

Golden Son - Pierce Brown

Darrow's life as a downtrodden Red left him with the taste for revenge after his wife was killed for breaking the law. After graduating from the academy as a peerless scarred he became a highly sought prize. While his commission was quickly purchased by Gold, he is unable to keep the same streak of luck he had at the academy. When he fails yet another mission, his commissioner decides to sell him to the next highest bidder.

If Darrow and his allies want to continue their coup, they will need to come up with a new plan quickly before Darrow loses his position. But what sacrifices will they need to make in order to achieve their goal? And will their weaken their bid for power from numbers or will the tightened circle make it stronger?

This second addition to the series is a worthy successor to its predecessor. Darrow continues to grow as a character, as do his relationships with all of the characters around him, including Mustang, the Jackal, and Mars. Violence, anger, and sorrow continue to haunt Darrow as he tries to bring equality to the colors, castes. I excitedly await the next and final installment to this series.

Books in the Series:
Red Rising

Recommended Reads:
The Giver - Lois Lowry
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

Friday, April 24, 2015

Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen - commentary by Matthew Fox

Hildegard of Bingen was born the 10th child to a noble family. Like many late children in a royal family, she was entrusted to a nunnery for her upbringing and later dedicated herself to the life of a Nun. Nobody could have guessed that the sickly child would eventually become an Abbess, a songwriter, a healer, a theologian, and even an influential force on royalty and the church.

This book collects 24 of her colorful and detailed visions on large full color plates for the reader to admire and study. Unfortunately, the text collects only a limited portion of Hildegard's words to accompany the visions. Each vision is accompanied by two to four pages of commentary, most of which is by editor Fox or notations about other philosophers with similar ideas, such as Carl Jung, Mircea Eliade, and Meister Eckhart.

While I would typically appreciate these comparisons between ideas, I felt that due to the short-length of the book it only served to muddle the voice of Hildegard herself.

The format of the text is also strange. In order to fit 3 pages of text per illustration the two columns the text is shaped into are inconsistent, leaving large blank spaces. Considering Hildegard herself had written long pages explaining the symbolism of each of her visions this is exceptional strange to me, as he had plenty of material for inclusion.

The only reason I would recommend this book is to see the full-color pictures of her visions. The commentary is sometimes misleading, the formatting is awful, and the text itself contains very little of Hildegard's original words.

Recommended Reading:
Hildegard of Bingen's Book of Divine Works: With Letters and Songs - commentary Matthew Fox
Revelations of Divine Love - Julian of Norwich

Monday, April 20, 2015

As my readers may have noticed my posting has not been as consistent as it was in the past. There are lots of reasons for this, including a changing work schedule and spending more time in the garden. But I'd be remiss if I didn't admit I've been busy playing Bloodborne on PS4. This is a ridiculously difficult (and fun) game that is easily sucking up my hours of free time.

With that in mind, I'm changing my schedule to updating every Friday. That may change once I finish the game or work slows down, but for now changing to every Friday will work best.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Prisoner in the Oak - Mists of Avalon Book 4 - Marion Zimmer Bradley

Morgaine grows older and finds herself without allies among her kin and even among those in Avalon. While Morgaine, now Lady of the Lake, believes that Arthur should return the Holy Regalia of Avalon to its rightful place because he has turned his back on Avalon, Kevin the Harper, and current Merlin, disagrees. He believes that the world is changing and that the holy items should remain in the real world, instead of disappearing into the Mists along with Avalon.

Morgaine plots as Viviane once did ways to bend the world to her will. If she could not only displace Arthur but replace him with a man of her choosing, she could prevent Avalon from disappearing into the mists by bringing the old ways back. Plan after plan is ruined, until unexpectedly Arthur's companions scatter in quest of finding the Holy Grail that disappeared.

What will become of the High King Arthur and his Kingdom? And what of Lancelot and Gwenhwyfar's forbidden love? And will Morgaine ever gain control of the sacred isle?

Those who know the tale of King Arthur and Camelot know what to expect, but because the tale is told from the point of view of the many women in the saga there is a different flavor to the events. Each time I read this I come away with a different understanding of not only the events but of the characters due to my own life experiences. Morgaine's determination to bring right to the world even as the world fights. Kevin's desire to keep the true faith among the people, even if it is tainted by misunderstanding. Gwenhwyfar's intense love constantly warring with her desire to be honorable. And Morgause's desire to bring about the best future for her sons.

Purists will object to Bradley's interpretation, but those who want to see things from a different perspective will find this an insightful and enjoyable read.

Books in the Series:
Mistress of Magic - Book 1
The High Queen - Book 2
The King Stag - Book 3

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Ruby Circle - Richelle Mead

The forbidden romance between Sydney the human alchemist and Adrian the vampire is a hot topic of gossip. While Adrian was able to secure safety for them within the confines of Queen Vasalisa's rule, they are trapped within its grounds. Used to a transient lifestyle thrust upon her by her previous Alchemist lifestyle, staying within grounds is slowly killing Sydney and placing strain on her relationship with Adrian.

Their boring life won't last for long though. Jill makes an appearance to Adrian in his dreams and Sydney receives veiled clues as to where she may be and what her fate will be. But is their friend really in trouble or is it another plot by the Alchemists to recapture Sydney to "rehabilitate" her and bring her back into the fold?

I was originally excited to hear Mead was going to have a series follow Sydney, as she was a character in the Vampire Academy series that piqued my interest. The best part of this series has been the character development for both Sydney and Adrian as characters; however, the overall quality of the series has gone down with each novel. The magic system which originally started out requiring components for non-vampires required no elements by this final book. Sydney and Adrian's relationship growth ended as soon as they got married. And unless Mead intends to do another series after this one, she left loose ends concerning dhampir fertility and the anti-striggoi vaccine.

Mead began employing the swapping point of view between Sydney and Adrian in the previous book and it's just never felt right to me. And with this final book it was worse than any of the previous ones due to a lot of telling and little showing. Events felt summarized and rushed. Many parts that should have been action-oriented or emotional didn't have a lot of feeling.

I'm disappointed by the novel itself and the majority of the series. For those who are curious about Sydney's further adventures it is worthwhile, but it is otherwise a mediocre addition to the Vampire Academy world.

Books in the series:
The Indigo Spell
The Fiery Heart
Silver Shadows

Friday, March 20, 2015

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff - Christopher Moore

While many people are familiar with Jesus from his adventures in the Bible, they only know a portion of his life. Levi, known as Biff, is brought back from his death to write the definitive history of Jesus, including the years he had disappeared into the desert. After all, what better person to write this additional chapter than Jesus', or Joshua as they used to call him, best friend?

Just like any child, Joshua was prone to little acts of wickedness. Knowing his real father is the one in heaven, he's constantly at odds with his earthly father, Joseph. And with his budding powers, bringing lizards back to life and turning water to wine is only the beginning of mischief.

Despite his childish outbursts, Joshua is still a good boy at heart. He continues to seek counsel of his Father in heaven; although, he confides in Biff alone that he never receives an answer. And when his childhood love gets betrothed, Joshua can't stand the idea and runs away with one goal in mind: to find the Magi, just like they found him.

He learns many lessons from the Magi, each of which specialized in certain forms of discipline. With their help he is finally able to discover what he wants to bring back to Jerusalem as the Savior of his people. But many more adventures await him as he spreads the good word and gathers disciples. And he shows courage and determination that his followers can never comprehend when he surrenders himself to the will of the Pharisees.

Moore's creative retelling of the Jesus' story includes references to culture, history, and apocrypha, which makes it a special treat for those who are well-read. But anybody who reads this book would also need a broad sense of humor toward religion in general, as Joshua and Biff not only grew up with Judaism, but also explore Buddhism, Hinduism, philosophy, and mysticism. Biff, the narrator, also has a healthy sense of humor when it comes to sex and doesn't spare vulgarity in his word usage.

This is the second time I've read this novel and I'm just as moved as I was the first time. Knowing Jesus, Joshua, all the way through his life gives me a sense of truly knowing him. Not just the sacred parts in the Bible, but the every day parts of him. The flawed parts that I, as a human being, can relate to. Just like the first time, I found tears streaming down my cheeks as Biff comes to terms with the death of his dearest friend. While I certainly wouldn't recommend it to everybody, I find it a fantastic read.

Recommended Reading:
God Knows - Joseph Heller

Recommended Viewing:
The Life of Brian

Monday, March 16, 2015

I've been busy lately and haven't been able to update. Sorry to my readers.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The King Stag - Mists of Avalon Book 3 - Marion Zimmer Bradley

Gwenhwyfar remains hopeful that her piousness will gain her favor in the eyes of God so she can have a child. When Gwenhwyfar of Arthur's secret child, she blackmails him into confessing to the priests, making him a slave to Christianity. Vivienne sees Arthur's actions as a betrayal of Avalon and moves to bid him to renew his vows to the Old People, who have supported him and made him High King.

Despite Morgaine's warning, Elaine insists that Morgaine cast a spell so she can entrap Lancelot. It is all worth it, until Morgaine returns to Elaine to demand the toll that was promised to her in exchange.

Morgaine lives life married to an old king for many years before she finally decides to return to Avalon to take her rightful place. That is, if she can manage to return to that sacred place cut off from the world. After years of hiding among the rest of the soldiers Morgaine's son, Gwydion, (Mordred) now appears ready to take the stage.

Tension continues to build in the third part of this extraordinary retelling of King Arthur's Court. The fall of King Arthur and his Court of Companions is not too far away.

Books in the Series:
Mistress of Magic - Book 1
The High Queen - Book 2
The Prisoner of the Oak - Book 4

Friday, February 27, 2015

Elves, Wights, and Trolls - Kvedulf Gundarsson

Gundarsson dives deep into the Eddas and Sagas to reveal the nature of Elves, Wights, and Trolls, mysterious creatures who share the realm of man on MidGarth (earth). The names seem to be use interchangeably in many stories, but there's still much to learn about them. Many of these creatures appear to be tied to the elements, earth, fire, water, air, and metal and this is perhaps where more meaningful division can be made.

While the majority of the chapters are focused on the creatures themselves and how they interact with the Norse people in the Eddas and Sagas, there is also a single chapter at the end on how to contact, communicate, and even make pacts with these creatures based on the authors own experience with magic. He also includes cautions to the reader on choosing to do so. Additionally, he includes suggestions on how to modify the ceremonies should a practitioner choose to do so.

Filled with citations, footnotes, and untranslated words, this work is for the more seasoned reader of Norse mythos. While some find untranslated words make the reading more difficult, I found that in many cases the choice to stick with the original word is helpful because English translations have connotations that the original words do not. While informative, it can be overwhelming at times due to being so densely packed, so I found it best to take it in small pieces. A fantastic piece aimed for the scholarly reader.

Recommended Reads:
Roles of the Northern Goddess - Dr Hilda Ellis Davidson
Prose Edda - Jesse Byock (translator)
Rune Song - Edred Thorsson

Monday, February 23, 2015

The High Queen - Mists of Avalon Book 2 - Marion Zimmer Bradley

After her encounter with the Stag King, Morgaine has come away with child. With anger in her heart toward Vivienne, the Lady of the Lake, over what has befallen her, Morgain leave Avalon. She travels from Lothian to Camelot and beyond.

Meanwhile Gwenhwyfar does everything she can to conceive a child and heir to the throne to Arthur. Despite all her prayers, confessions, and efforts, she is met with disappointment time and time again. Desperate, she finally reaches out to Morgaine requesting her expertise, betraying her faith. Despite Morgaine's warnings Gwenhwyfar insists that she must have the charm, and now she may live with a tarnished soul indefinitely.

I originally read this when I was in my late teens and now as I reach my thirties with more life experience, I find that I relate to this novel in different ways. The desires and goals of each woman in this novel are familiar to me in my own life. Gwenhwyfar's desire for a child and her feelings of helplessness in her situation, Morgaine's desire for independence and regret of participating in certain events, and even Vivienne's determination to guide the fate of the isle (the world) are situations that I can relate to in my own way. I looked forward to getting back to the story every day when I hopped into my car for my daily commute.

If you're the type who likes alternative tellings of Arthurian legends and a feminine point of view, this is the novel for you.

Books in the Series:
Mistress of Magic - Book 1
The King Stag - Book 3
The Prisoner of the Oak - Book 4

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Gods of Olympus - Barbara Graziosi

People learn about the Greco-Roman deities through a number of sources. In literature classes they are studied as epics of their time and inspirations of modern plays and movies. Heroes like Hercules have their stories retold on television and in cinema. The deities reappeared over the centuries in paintings, sculptures, and other art forms.

The Greco-Roman deities have lived a long and varied life, much of it forgotten. Graziosi begins by explaining who the twelve deities of the pantheon were in their original Greek context. The features of these deities may only seem somewhat familiar, as she goes on to explain that when the Romans decided to adopt and adapt these deities, they took on more and curious attributes. Even more curious is how they managed to merge the Greek pantheon with that of the Romans.

Worship and understanding of the Gods changed as philosophy became a popular past time. And as Christianity grew in popularity, the cults and their gods had to go into hiding because of persecution. While the gods disappeared as religion, they reappeared in the pursuit of astrology and astronomy, which used references to mythology to identify constellations or star formations. In the renaissance, they saw a revival in sculptures in chapels, reimagined as saints or demons. Or in paintings of artists who were sometimes haunted by their presence.

For anybody who is interested in the history of the Greco-Roman Gods and Goddesses, this is a fantastic book that will provide insight into the ever-changing world.

Recommended Reads:
Mythology - Edith Hamilton
Bulfinch's Mythology - Thomas Bulfinch

Monday, February 9, 2015

Sonic the Hedgehog Vol 8

When Rotor creates chip that allows people to keep their free will after going through the roboticization process, Steel-Belted Sally sees this as a perfect opportunity to infiltrate Robotnik's ranks and defeat him. When she loses the chip, however, she ends up roboticized and under Robotnik's control. In a solo story, Tails runs off on his own and falls in love with a beautiful fox named Fiona. Unfortunately, he's going to experience Growing Pains when he realizes things aren't as they seem.

Sonic's dream predicts The Return of Uncle Chuck. But what he doesn't see is Robotnik's being banished to the void and Snively rising to power in a more hideous threat. When Robotnik demands Who Keeps Stealing My Chaos Emeralds, Coconuts, one of his minions, intends to prove himself by capturing and discovering the thief.

When Sally and Sonic embark on a mission to stop a train, they don't expect to encounter Geoffrey St. John, Sally's old flame. Even worse, they find a A Robot Rid[ing] the Rails. In a solo story, Knuckles plays a game of Lost...And Found as he seeks out who is holding the Chaotix hostage. After receiving a distress call, Rotor sets off in search of his family on Tundra Road.

The Freedom Fighters get a Blast from the Past, when a chunk of ice melts unleashing a Mobian cave bear on Knothole Village. The Chaotix finally discover who has been keeping them as Prisoners!. And Rotor finishes his mission on Tundra Road by rescuing his family.

The Sonic the Hedgehog Saturday morning series was on the air around this time, and you can see the influence in the comics with the inclusion of places like The Void and characters like Uncle Chuck and Muttski. The comics overall also started taking on darker and more serious themes, though mini-stories kept their more humorous tones. Those who enjoy the more serious side of the series will enjoy this archive.

Books in the Series:
Sonic the Hedgehog Vol 7
Sonic the Hedgehog Vol 9
Sonic the Hedgehog Vol 10

Friday, February 6, 2015

American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis

Patrick Bateman is a well-to-do young man in a big city, who makes his living off of Wall Street. With money at his disposal, he's sure to enjoy the finer things in life, including expensive food from fancy restaurants and his amazing apartment in a high rise.

Well-educated, muscular, and handsome, Bateman has his choice of women. Even with a girlfriend he prefers the company of prostitutes at night for his sexual appetite. At first his warped midnight desires are simple BDSM requests, but soon he becomes out of control and begins true torture of the women he invites in. His sadistic behavior begins oozing to the outside world, where he also tortures vagrants of the streets. And soon he is even committing murder.

When a detective shows up at his office inquiring about the disappearance of his friend, Bateman realizes he may have gotten in too deep.

I watched the movie version of this many years ago, and I just now finally got around to reading the novel it was based on. The novel is much gorier and I appreciated that it delved so deeply into Bateman's psyche. While reading this I felt fascinated, sickened, and amazed at the activities Bateman so gleefully engaged in to torture his victims. Even though I wouldn't read it again, it was worth reading once.

Movie Version:
American Psycho 2005

Recommended Reads:
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

Monday, February 2, 2015

Foxe's Book of Martyrs - John Foxe

Foxe's Book of Martyrs records the sacrifices of many loyal followers of Christ throughout history, who continue to influence religion today.

It begins with general information about the persecution of early Christians and continues on into more details with specific people.

The first person presented is Constantine the Great, the Roman emperor who initial decision to tolerate Christianity meant that Christians could finally practice their religion without open persecution and his eventual conversion made Christianity even more acceptable in the eyes of the public.

The influential founder Martin Luther, whose 95 Theses called out the Catholic Church on corruption and questionable theology, is included. His translation of the Bible into modern text made it easily available to the every day man.

Many other martyrs are covered in this book and it ends with a final section titled Anecdotes and Sayings of Other Martyrs.

When I originally read this during my Confirmation class back in High School I found it inspiring for a number of reasons. Although I had read about many witnesses and martyrs over the years it was always single person studies, so reading about a number of them together had a huge impact on me. It made me thankful to not only live in the times I do but also the place I do. Over the years I've had the opportunity to read similar texts, many of which were inspired by Foxe's book.

It's been about 15 years since I originally read this and it was interesting to return to it. After reading so many stories over the years, these stories seemed repetitious as I listened to them, but I still found their loyalty and belief inspiring. Foxe's Book of Martyrs will undoubtedly continue to inspire Christians for generations to come.

Recommended Reads:
Josephus - The Complete Works
The Pilgrim's Progress - John Bunyan

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mistress of Magic - Mists of Avalon Book 1 - Marion Zimmer Bradley

Having been long away from the mystic isle of Avalon, Igraine is surprised when she has a sudden glimpse of the sight that tells her of the coming of her sister Vivienne. Vivienne's arrival is accompanied by that of the Merlin both elders of the mystic isle of Avalon, indicating to Igraine that this is no family visit, but one of business. When they inform her that she is to give birth to the future king by a man other than her husband, one who she reluctantly married through betrothal, she is unable to keep her temper.

Despite her personal misgivings, Igraine reluctantly agrees to do as she is commanded to gain the favor of the predicted High King: Uther Pendragon. It is only by violence, tragedy, and loss that she will be able to bear the son foretold. But Igraine is not the only woman to be used in this game to keep the kingdom together under the attack of the Saxon hoards.

Morgaine, her daughter, is called to join Vivienne on the isle of Avalon to train as a priestess. While her training and vows follow that of the majority of the other women, she is set apart by one simple thing: a vow of chastity. Growing up around the the Beltane fires, where women frolic with men and become pregnant puts strain on Morgaine's resolve, but she manages to keep her vow until she is ordered to participate in The Great Marriage. It is here that she experiences both her greatest pleasure and her greatest regret.

The tale of King Arthur, his court, and the rise and fall of his kingdom has been retold countless times, but rarely from the point of view of the women so highly involved in its making.

The main characters are alive and their points of view relatable. The creative mysticism Bradley created for Avalon is believable and fascinating. Although the first few chapters dragged a bit for me, I was quickly engrossed in both the characters and the plot as the novel continued. I'm happy I decided to read this a second time and I'm excitedly listening to the following parts.

Full Novel in Print:
The Mists of Avalon

Audiobooks in the series:
The High Queen
The King Stag
The Prisoner of the Oak

Television Mini-Series:
The Mists of Avalan

Friday, January 23, 2015

Sonic the Hedgehog Vol 4

It's the rockin' debut of Sonic's first rival and the heavy-hitting fan-favorite Knuckles the Echidna! See how Sonic and Tails met the red warrior for the first time - and how they barely made it out alive in This Island Hedgehog! In Space in Your Face Robotnik takes his plan to roboticize folks a step farther by filling them with infomercials. Can they change the channel and their fate?

Tails's Taste of Power leads him to make some amazing discoveries in science and technology and starts alienating his friends. When he gets into trouble will the Freedom Fighters still be there to help him? Girls Just Wanna Have Fun at the mall and take a break, but Bunnie and Sally discover they aren't even safe from Robotnik's schemes during a fun day. But these girls are read to show what they're made of when he attacks.

After rescuing a magic frog, Sonic is gifted with three magic stones with unknown properties. He ends up Rockin' the Bot with these unknown powers when Robotnik comes to attack his friends. Rotor's full of great inventions both successful and failed, and the Freedom Fighters wonder What's the Big Idea? with his newest secret project. Bunnie's half-roboticized body normally gives her an advantage in a fight, but she finds herself at Robotnik's mercy in Animal Magnetism.

After Robotnik's disappearance, Sonic and Sally finally tie the knot, but they suddenly find themselves Under Glass when he reappears bigger than ever. In the final story The Man from H.E.D.G.E.H.O.G., Robotnik suspects a traitor in his midst and uses the Wheel of Misfortune to randomize his plans and hopefully catch the Freedom Fighters once and for all.

Fans of the newest Sonic show Sonic Boom will likely find the corny humor of the earlier comics a great addition to their Sonic experience.

Books in the Series:
Sonic the Hedgehog Archives 1
Sonic the Hedgehog Archives 2
Sonic the Hedgehog Archives 3

Monday, January 19, 2015

47 Ronin - John Allyn Jr

When their daimyo, feudal lord, is killed a group of samurai become ronin. Forbidden to avenge the death of their master by the shogun and property confiscated, they are forced to disperse. While many go on to live normal lives, others find themselves depressed and unable to go on. But there are still some who are determined to follow the bushido, samurai code of honor, and avenge the death. With all eyes on them, they have to find a way to plan the death of the high ranking betrayer, while remaining inconspicuous.

This 17th century historical event remains a prime example of bushido and has inspired playwrights of both bunraku and kabuki and continues to inspire people today, including this written version in English and the 2013 American theatrical adaption.

Realistic and emotional, this novel held me fast. Even knowing how it all ends, I couldn't wait to get back in my car every day to listen to how Ōishi and the rest of the ronin were getting by and continuing their plot for revenge. Tragic, heroic, and inspiring, I'd recommend this novelization to anybody who is interested in Japan.