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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