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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.

Monday, January 12, 2015

House as a Mirror of Self - Clare Cooper Marcus

A residence takes on different meaning for different people. For some people it is a base of operation, for others it's a refuge from the outside, and others open it up for entertainment. There are all kinds of ways people use their houses and Marcus is set to not only discover how people use them, but also how they feel about them.

Through in-depth interviews, Marcus reveals the soul of the person reflected in the surroundings a person creates for themselves. Often a person's upbringings influences how they choose to decorate their home, either in a similar fashion or completely differently. How a person wants to feel in their home also influences how they choose to decorate.

For me, one of the more interesting features of the book is the pictures interviewees drew of their homes. These illustrations are included in full color and show the variety of ways people view their living space. Some separated it by "ownership" (who spent the most time in various areas), how areas made them feel, or their usage.

The desire for new or old, dull or bright, and any number of features are a reflection of each individual, though the meaning is not always obvious until the interviewees were asked the right questions. The environment we surround ourselves can lead to fascinating insights about ourselves if we take the time to think on it.

Recommended Reads:
Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You - Sam Gosling
Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things - Randy Frost, Gail Steketee
SoulSpace - Xorin Balbes

Friday, January 9, 2015

Celtic Art - Miranda Green

The Celtic artisans left a variety of amazing art pieces behind in the forms of armor, containers, and jewelry that leave tantalizing clues to their history and culture. With full-color photos and illustrations and Green's wealth of knowledge of both Celtic history and mythology, readers will be informed and enchanted by the mysterious Celtic culture that is such a large influence on society even today.

The only issue I had with this book is the captions for the illustrations were simply repeat information already provided in the main text and of about the same length. Other than that I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful book.

Recommended Reads:
The Dragon and the Griffin - Aidan Meehan

Monday, January 5, 2015

Sonic the Hedgehog Volume 6

With the evolutionary Phases of E.V.E., Robotnik's newest robotic creation is sure to defeat Sonic the Hedgehog with its ability to adapt to any strategy and circumstance Sonic can come up with. Evolution takes a surprising turn, leaving both Sonic and Robotnik in awe. In a more light-hearted mood, Princess Sally tells Tails' Knighttime Story before he heads to bed.

After a bolt of lightning strikes near Sonic and his family, he and the Freedom Fighters decide to investigate. The Return of a nearly forgotten enemy leaves the Freedom Fighters worried about the future.

A visitor from outer space decides to examine Mobius, putting Sonic, the gang, and Robotnik under glass. Ivo Robotnik Freedom Fighter will set them free from their captor. Maybe.

Antoine puts on a brave face and becomes a VolAnteer by invading Robotropolis on a secret mission. Luckily he has a friend who can save him.

When Sonic and the gang start attacking the citizens of Knothole, they turn on their heroes. But maybe things aren't what they seem. Find out what happens When Hedgehogs Collide as Sonic, Sally, and friends take on their evil doubles.

This collection is a bit odd, due to the fact that Phases of E.V.E. and The Return are two of the earliest stories in the series to take on a serious tone with the surrounding stories being humorous. Fans of the newest Sonic cartoon "Sonic Boom" will probably enjoy the antics of the humorous stories, while fans of Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) will find more enjoyment in the two serious stories. New fans will find a satisfying variety.

Books in the series:
Sonic the Hedgehog Volume 4
Sonic the Hedgehog Volume 5
Sonic the Hedgehog Volume 7

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Immortal Crown - Richelle Mead

When Mae Koskinen agrees to continue protecting Justin March on his investigations of the supernatural, she doesn't expect to get caught up in a diplomatic mission to the country of Arcadia being led by Lucian Darling. Because Arcadia holds woman in such low regard, Mae reluctantly agrees to the disguise of Justin's concubine.

Neither of them are thrilled to be participating in this assignment, especially Mae due to her disguise; however, it as luck would have it, this situation provides both of them an opportunity to fulfill their own missions. Justin needs to investigate the rumored powers of the leader of the religion, while Mae needs to locate her kidnapped niece. In desperation, Mae depends on the gifts of an unknown deity at an unknown price to save the girl she believes is her niece.

More trouble awaits the two if they make it back to their homeland, RUNA.

Mead decides to take on decidedly adult themes in this particular book. Arcadia is a government is so intertwined with religions that laws are established by morals. Arcadia includes domestic abuse, human trafficking, and many more abhorrent activities that are a fact of daily life in many areas of the real world. While she stays away from describing these events in detail, readers would do well to be prepared. Near the end of the novel there is an instance of sexual assault on one of the main characters that includes a trip to the hospital in the aftermath.

The novel still maintains strong themes of romance between the main characters and continues exploration and discovery of the supernatural, which all tie in to the political intrigue plot line. It felt slow at the beginning, but quickly picked up as more became revealed. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

Books in the Series:
Gameboard of the Gods

Recommended Reading:
Norse Code - Greg Van Eekhout
Valkyrie Rising - Ingrid Paulson