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Friday, December 30, 2016

Beauty: The Invisible Embrace - John O'Donohue

Every culture around the world holds beauty in a high regard and each person has a unique sense of what is beautiful in their own view. Why do humans feel the need for such lovely things? How and where do we find them?

O'Donohue explores beauty in its many guises of the human senses: music, movement, colors, and shapes. Of course, inspiration also comes in more abstract forms through imagination and attraction. And then there is the strange way we often find beauty in flaws. Even in death, O'Donohue sees worth.

Finally, he closes by exploring how God is found and communicates through beauty.

Like many of his other works, O'Donohue's writing is soft and ponderous. It's not the kind of book I could read straight-through, but a book I needed to digest in little bits to consider how I felt these concepts within my own mind and heart. This is a wonderful book if a reader is looking to find new life or God in the every day experience.

More by the author:
Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
Echoes of Memory
Eternal Echoes: Exploring Our Yearning to Belong

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Devourers - Indra Das

When a mysterious stranger approaches Professor Alok, his evening takes an unusual turn. The man tells him of just a little bit of his unusual life and offers to give him a series of tattered notebooks and parchments he can translate to learn more.

With his curiosity piqued Alok cannot deny the stranger's offer. As he translates, he finds the journals contain the life story of a young woman wronged by a member of a mysterious race, who appear to be more beast than human.

As he comes more entangled in the stories, Alok finds himself irresistibly drawn to the stranger that entered his life, just like the woman in the parchments, despite the warnings of how dangerous the people are.

Das's novel is filled with realistic characters, who all drew both my sympathy and ire each in their turn. The passion and determination each character displays is sometimes admirable and at other times despicable. This supernatural foray reminded me that there is a beast within us all.

Similar Reads:
Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Thirteen Original Clan Mothers - Jamie Sams

By following the lunar calendar, Sams is able to provide thirteen heartfelt lessons to her readers in the span of a year. Weighs the Truth, She Who Heals, and Gives Praise are but 3 of the thirteen Clan Mothers found within these pages and they are joined by a plethora of animals who offer their wisdom to the lessons in these campfire-esque tales.

Each chapter begins with a poem or prayer to the Clan Mother and then continues into a brief introduction explaining the lessons she brings. The author also includes the color for the moon, so readers can wear a splash of color to remind themselves of the lesson until the next moon. The full color photographs of the Medicine Shields and a handful of dolls Sams made for the Clan Mothers give the reader extra visualization for readers.

While I found the lessons within each chapter worthwhile, I found the writing lacking any subtlety. The chapters are only 20 pages long, so it seems that twice or even three times repeating an animal's wisdom/lesson is unnecessary. When zebra, an African animal, makes an appearance in chapter 3 I was jarred to reality, remembering that the author said in the introduction that her tradition is from North America. This led me to do a brief search and I found that the author is listed on multiple sites as a "fraud" or at the very least an exploiter, who is appropriating teachings from multiple First Nation tribes.

With the doubt of the validity of this material, I cannot recommend it for anybody who wants to learn authentic teachings. A seasoned reader of the inspirational genre is likely to find this book unsatisfying simply because of its lack of subtlety. However, for those who understand this is new age materials and prefer blatant lessons this would be a good choice.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket - Edgar Allen Poe

Arthur Gordon Pym begins his journal by telling of his first drunken escapade on the sea when he and his friend take a small sail boat, Ariel, out. Having grown up on an island known for fishing and whaling, Arthur Gordon Pym is no stranger to the dangers of sailing, yet he still chose to mount the boat that day.

Undeterred by his first drunken misadventure, Pym decides to once again set sail, but this time as a stowaway with the help of another sailor. This ill-fated plan leaves him stranded and captive in a confined space when his friend does not return as planned. Although parts of his adventure find him in fond company, the positive moments are far outnumbered by the disasters, such as mutiny, shipwrecked, starvation, cannibalism, and hostile natives.

Although the tale reads like a standard journal filled with the woes of an unfortunate sailor, there are inconsistencies and bizarre circumstances leaving the reader befuddled. Edgar Allan Poe's only novel is no less disturbing than any of his shorter works.

More by the author:
Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Works

Friday, December 2, 2016

Sunshine - Robin McKinley

The best cinnamon rolls in town are made by Sunshine at the popular coffee shop, bringing customers in for miles around. Raised by her normal human mother, Sunshine is just vaguely aware of her magical powers through the limited training of her grandmother.

Like many humans, Sunshine is aware of the supernatural world with vampires, trolls, magic handlers, and other sorts of beings through news reports and history books, especially the Voodoo Wars. However, it doesn't truly become real in Sunshine's world until she is kidnapped and taken prisoner in a vampire layer.

With the assistance of an oddly friendly vampire, she must find a way to break free of a strange curse that has been put on her.

Like many of McKinley's other works, this novel is a coming-of-age story, where Sunshine finds her place in the world as a being with supernatural powers. Sunshine's dry humor was not lost on me, but it just didn't strike the right cord with me. I liked all of the characters and I enjoyed how McKinley managed to seamlessly integrate the supernatural world into a modern world. Sunshine is well-written book not quite to my taste.

More by the Author:
A Knot in the Grain and Other Stories
Deerskin

Friday, November 25, 2016

Sonic the Hedgehog: Waves of Change

Sonic the Hedgehog and company make the First Ripples as they dive under the sea to meet the guardians of the temple. They then catch up with the Current Events when Coral the Beta Fish is called before the King and accused of treason for not being able to hatch the sacred Chao under her care. The night monsters that had previously been attacking above ground strike Terror in the Deep as the underwater temple's shield begins breaking down. At the last moment two special guardians appear to bless the city with Sacred Waters. In the final chapter of this collection Sally leads her group to find The Light in the Dark while Eggman is away from one of his bases, but their adventure may lead to unintended Consquences.

I'm continuing to enjoy how the authors are combining new adventures with already established story lines in the recent Sonic the Hedgehog games. Working in things like the Mystic Melody from Sonic Adventure and bringing in
the monsters and the werehog features from Sonic Unleashed. The art is dynamic during action scenes and fun during retreats. I hope for the same quality as the series continues.

Books in the Series:
Countdown to Chaos (1)
The Chase (2)
Control (4)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography - Laura Ingalls Wilder

In 1932 Americans were first introduced to the autobiographical adventures of the Pioneer Girl Laura Ingalls Wilder with the first book: Little House in the Big Woods. The continuing series served as a reminder of the joy and hardship of simpler times with less technology.

Although well-known and loved around the world now, many are unaware of the original intent of the beloved children's series. Originally Wilder wrote it to be published as one large volume and also included personal notes for her daughter, Rose, to keep for their family history. Before finally being published as a series the novel went through many transformation when it was being shopped to various publishing houses.

The introduction of this edition includes explanations on the conversations and stress that was going on between the two families as they attempted to get the work published. The citations are weighty and long, which can make reading a bit tedious if the reader wants to learn all of the information. Perhaps the most interesting part for me was learning how Wilder shifted experiences from when they took place in her life to different parts of her novels to create a more satisfying rhythm for storytelling.

For anybody who enjoys the "Little House" series, I would highly recommend reading this annotated autobiography to learn more about the real life story of the Pioneer Girl Laura Ingalls Wilder.

More by the Author:
The Little House Series

Friday, November 11, 2016

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America - Nancy Isenberg

White Trash, Waste People, Hillbillies, Rednecks, Crackers are but a few slurs used to describe poor Europeans in America.

In this piece Isenberg explores the history of poor whites when they reached American soil and follows them to the current day. While many came as free people, some came as indentured servants, and some even as slaves. Each class of people given limitations and expectations, which make it difficult and sometimes nearly impossible to advance particularly during certain socio-political climates. A combination of land, shelter, food, materials, and monetary means are but a few of the items that have kept many people from advancing to their desired state in life.

Although much of the material Isenberg covers are pieces of history I recall in school, there are many more pieces of insight that we did not explore in my early schooling. The in-depth look at how the Founding Fathers looked upon the average citizen still influences our own way of thinking in a disturbing manner even today. This book serves as a good reminder of how we should all remain aware of our own economic status and how it effects not only our lives, but our views on others and how we may treat them.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Sonic Boom: The Big Boom - Archie

The fastest thing alive comes to audiences in comic format with The Big Boom. Sonic the Hedgehog and his team of friends seek to keep the island safe from Dr Robotnik and his kooky mechanical cohorts.

When Miles "Tails" Prower's house gets stolen the team gets A Little Boulder as they chase down the Golem with the help of Sticks the Badger's tracking skills.

In Knuckle Duster, Knuckles the Echidna joins Dr. Robotnik to put his buddies behind bars. What is Knuckles' cunning plan to come out on top?

When Amy-Rose loses her choice weapon in a fight, she becomes Hammer Spaced. While Sonic and Tails go out in search of her beloved Hammer, Knuckles and Sticks try to find her a new specialty.

In the final chapter Sticks and Stones prove to be the most powerful weapon of all, despite all the talents in the gang.

The corny humor of the television show translates well into comic format. Those who enjoy the show will love reading further adventures of Sonic and his gang.

Books in the Series:
Boom Shaka-Laka

Original TV Series:
Sonic Boom

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Way of the Superior Man - David Deida

How can a man achieve a more fulfilling life? What actions can he take to have better relationships with women? Can he harness negative energies for creativity and success?

With eight chapters, Deida endeavors to answer these questions for the reader and lead the reader to finding his own way. Each chapter is broken into sections with concise information that spans two to three pages each. These small sections all contain advice on how to bring the intersection of the physical and spiritual realms in conjunction for the reader to become a more complete man.

Among the topics, he talks about daily life, work, sex, women, and dealing with negative emotions.

According the Deida, his book is not just for those in male bodies, but for those who find themselves associating more with the divine masculine. Overall, I liked the contents of the book. It strongly encourages the reader to take charge of himself, his emotions, and his actions. There were other parts I found a bit troubling, but are resolved in later chapters. In the first on Dealing with Women he basically says to dismiss and ignore what they say, but in later chapters he expands to state he means to look beneath her complaints for the underlying issue to use that time to focus on oneself.

I think this is a good basic book on getting started to rebuild ones character into a new format.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Cycle Savvy - Toni Weschler

The menstrual cycle is a part of women's lives from a fairly young age, making it especially important for them to have age appropriate information available. There are many books available on the topic, some clinical and some more casual.

Weschler is known for her book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, which explains the various ways of learning the bodies fertility signs to chart ones cycle to conceive (or not) without the use of hormonal contraceptives. In this book for older teens, she explains these same details in an age appropriate manner and gives feel good advice on caring for oneself during various parts of the cycle, both physically and mentally.

I felt that Weschler handled the material in a sensitive, respectful, and relatable way. While reading it I found myself wishing I had had a guide to my fertility like this when I was a teen. Parents will want to personally review it before giving it to a daughter or other young woman, of course, but I highly recommend this book for young women who need to know a bit more than just the basics of her menstrual cycle coming once a month.

More by this Author:
Taking Charge of Your Fertility
Care and Keeping of You 2

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Charm Bracelet - Viola Shipman

Before giving her a charm each year on her birthday, Lolly's mother would recite a poem. With each charm came a story or blessing. Lolly carries this tradition on with her daughter and granddaughter. Even though they now live fair away in the big city, away from the little Michigan town, Lolly continues this tradition by sending it by mail.

Unexpectedly, Lauren, her granddaughter, convinces Arden to come away with her to visit her grandmother. Through the stories and wishes of the charms, Arden remembers her passion and also finds love that she never thought she'd find again. And Lauren learns that she must follow the passion she's been denying and also finds a way to pursue it.

As is often the case with novels of this type, the novel itself is largely predictable often to the point of absurdity. Still, the stories that accompany each charm are filled with emotion that may conjure the reader's own memories. Although it is nothing special, this light novel kept me entertained and made me smile.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Secret Chord - Geraldine Brooks

King David, slayer of the giant Goliath, the poet, the songwriter, one of the most beloved figures in the Bible. Natan (Nathan) his best friend and adviser requests to interview those who knows David best so he can write a biography, so others may know of King David as a real person and not just as the inspirational leader. He learns of David's tragic childhood as the unwanted son, the terrible relationship with Betheseba his wife, of the tragic betrayals he's endured, and the awful events that occurred to his family.

King David's entire life comes together in a jilted narrative as Natan includes his own experiences intermingled with those of the interviewees.

I enjoyed the imaginative first hand accounts of what may have been, each filled with pain, joy, and love. While I liked the fact that the author used the Hebrew names, those who read a translated version may have difficulty following the story because of it. There are also some ideas that readers may be uncomfortable with, such as David being in love with Jonathan, which is a well-known theory. I would recommend readers to have some familiarity with the Tanakh or the Bible before reading this piece.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Bourne Identity - Robert Ludlum

Found with bullet wounds when he was dragged from the sea, the man knows he has a sordid past but no memory of who he is. His only clue is a clue found beneath his skin and ramblings during his fever.

With these few leads, Jason Bourne begins his hunt to discover his identity and finds himself hunted, as well. Now he needs to figure out what is going on and escape those who chase him, or he may die without any answers.

I had tried to watch the movie adaption years ago and didn't enjoy it. I hoped the book may change my mind, but it hasn't. The plot is terribly paced. The third person limited point of view swaps between characters at some of the strangest places and most of those swaps up until the end don't seem to do much to advance the plot. The relationship between himself and the woman who falls in love with him doesn't even make sense. In the end the characters who know flat-out explain it all, almost like the author just gave up even trying to make any sense of what he wrote throughout the book. I definitely do not recommend this.

Books in the Series
The Bourne Supremacy
The Bourne Ultimatum

Movie Adaption:
The Bourne Identity


Recommended Reads:
The Manchurian Candidate - Richard Condon
Jumper - Steven Gould

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Mermaid's Madness - Jim C. Hines

Danielle (Cinderella), Snow (White), and Talia (Sleeping Beauty) band together on yet another mission when the undine/mermaid princess, Lirea, goes crazy and attacks not only humans but others of her own kind. The situation only becomes more dire when Lirea attacks the queen, leaving her seriously wounded.

Without the guidance of their queen, the young women must find a solution to stopping the crazed undine, saving the kingdom, and reviving their sovereign. Danielle struggles in the relationship with her prince, Talia seeks to hide her feelings, and Snow must come to terms with her own. Danger and drama all come together in this imaginative novel that brings fairy tale characters together in a world of magic.

One of my friends suggested this series to me originally. Although I wasn't interested in the first novel of the series, I read it knowing that I would need its background to read this second novel. While I found the first novel entertaining, it wasn't a satisfying read. With this second novel, I didn't feel much better. I enjoyed the reimagining of Lirea's predicament, the interactions between the main characters with the quips between close friends, and the new fairy creatures. Yet there's something in Hines writing that just doesn't fill me.

Books in the Series:
The Stepsister Scheme
Red Hood's Revenge
The Snow Queen's Shadow

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Secret World of Hildegard - Jonah Wintr

Hildegard was born with a special gift to see things that were not there. In fact, when she was a child she dreamed of the color of a calf before it was born. Winter's children's book tells Hildegard's story of being sent to a cloister, learning about God, and how she became head of the convent. Here she was able to share her gifts freely by recording her visions in both words and paintings. She also wrote songs and even a play for them to perform. But it didn't end there, she shared her gift with the Pope and many other leaders of Europe.

With beautiful and colorful illustrations by Jeannette Winter, this book tells the story of one of the most beloved Saint and Doctor of the Catholic Church. Children will appreciate the simple storytelling and parents will enjoy the age-appropriate explanation of her life and work.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Anam Cara - John O'Donohue

With spiritual insight using Celtic, Zen, and Christian wisdom, O'Donohue reveals the sacred in every day experiences.

The Mystery of Friendship is the sense of fulfillment and belonging we feel among those we love. Here he speaks on the Celtic "Anam Cara" or soul friend that he titled his book after. Toward a Spirituality of the Senses explores the beauty we experience every day through our five senses. Although many of us loathe or fear being alone, O'Donohue seeks to show that Solitude is Luminous. Work as a Poetics of Growth shows how even dissatisfying jobs or chores are worthwhile. Aging: The Beauty of the Inner Harvest helps us find the importance in growing old. Fittingly, he ends his book with Death: The Horizon is in the Well.

Although it's not uncommon to find Christian theology mixed in with Celtic spirituality in these types of books, I was surprised to find Zen mixed within the pages. The Zen pieces he chose to include were mixed in well without interrupting the flow. Observations and invitations encourage the reader to consider ones own experiences in the past and to use new ones in the future to create a meaningful spiritual life in the mundane that we often seem to occupy. This ponderous piece is not for the serious study, but for those who are more whimsical in their search of the divine.

More by this Author:
Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong
Beauty: The Invisible Embrace
Echoes of Memory


Recommended Reads:
The Celtic Way of Prayer - Esther De Waal
Sayings of the Desert Fathers
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick

Hidden within the walls of the train station lives a young apprentice, who lives off of what he can steal from the patrons. Afraid that he will be discovered as an orphan, Hugo continues to repair the clocks around the station to keep others from discovering his uncle has disappeared.

When he's caught stealing a toy to repair his own machine at home, Hugo finds himself in an impossible situation filled with unexpected enemies, friends, and secrets that lead him on a path of self-discovery and wonder. The mystery of the items Hugo's father left behind, may be his salvation, if he can only find the right person.

I was enthralled throughout the entire book. The simple storytelling made it an easy read, while the stunning black and white drawings brought the drama to life at the most extraordinary moments.

More by the author:
Wonderstruck
The Marvels

Movie Adaption:
Hugo

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls - Gary Thomas

Parents do their best to mold their children into good people by doing things like enrolling them in school and other activities, by teaching them life skills, and bringing them to church. Often parents are so focused on their task of raising their children that they don't notice how much their own children are influencing them. Any relationship effects a person and the parent-child relationship is no exception.

In thirteen chapters, Thomas shares his experiences with how his children have changed his life, especially his understanding of God and his personal relationship with his faith. In the very first chapter, Thomas sets forth one of the keystones to his book: Just like he looked up to his father, his children look up to him. This knowledge leads him to make different decisions than he would without them. In chapter three, he explains how to use guilt to plan future endeavors, rather than tearing oneself down.
In chapter eight, he reveals the "The Glory behind the Grime" by sharing experiences he and his wife have shared. In chapter eleven he explains how he learned the importance of his own behavior when seeing his own son do the same actions.

Backed by scripture, Thomas provides a faith-filled read that includes not only his family's experiences, but the experiences of other Christian parents who share his ideals. Anybody wishing to strengthen their Christian faith along with their growing family will enjoy this book.

More by this author:
Sacred Marriage
Sacred Pathways

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Botany of Desire - Michael Pollan

For thousands of years humans have been cultivating and manipulating the natural world to support them. Choosing the seeds from the plants that created the biggest fruits, choosing seeds from the heartiest grain, adopting animals and breeding them to haul or hunt, and even choosing the brightest and most unusually colored flowers for beauty. While we assume we are the ones controlling the plants, perhaps we should ponder if the plants are the ones controlling us.

Pollan ponderously explores the history of four influential plants: apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes.

Apples came to America from Europe, yet they are ingrained in the American culture with phrased like "As American as mom's apple pie." Pollan explores the curious life and fantastic tales of John Chapman, Johnny Appleseed, and his influence in making this possible. I was taken aback as the author talks about all of the variety of apples that once existed before the big three became the standard.

While flowers are a thing of beauty, they are often ignored in favor of fruit-bearing plants in a home garden. After expressing his own relationship with tulips from childhood to adulthood, Pollan explains the unexpected upheaval over these gorgeous bulbs in Holland when they made their arrival and the just as unexplained downfall of their trade.

After marijuana was made an illegal substance in America, it has become a heated topic of debate. Pollan explains the differences between the plant raised from hemp fibers and plants raised for other uses, like medication or drugs.

In the final chapter on potatoes, Pollan tells of the rise of the potato as a food source in northern Europe and its failure during the potato famine in Ireland. He also discusses Monsanto's genetically altered "New Leaf" potato.

The bulk of the book wanders far from the premise given in the summary, but I found it all informative and interesting. The writing style is like listening to a friend tell you about what they have learned about various topics they've researched. I enjoyed this book, but warn the reader to be prepared for something different than promised.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Wolves & Honey - Susan Brind Morrow

Growing up in the Finger Lakes region of New York, Morrow benefited from a unique understanding and appreciation of nature. Her experiences fishing and foraging were complemented by two remarkable men, one a trapper and the other a beekeeper. As Morrow retells her experiences growing up with the addition of lessons from her studies and the startling insights given to her by her two older mentors.

Morrow's storytelling made it easy to immerse myself in her memoir. Tales of her experience seemlessly mingle with lessons from her mentors and insight from her studies of the natural world in academia. Anybody curious about wilder living and the human connection with nature will enjoy this short book.

Recommended Reads:
The Botany of Desire - Michael Pollan
Little House Series - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Friday, July 15, 2016

Morning Star - Pierce Brown

After months spent in agony in the torture chamber controlled by the Jackal, Darrow is finally rescued by his allies. During his absence the rebellion has fallen into disarray after the sovereign's transmission of his public execution.

There is no shortage of hardships awaiting Darrow and his rebellion now. He has to recover the loyalty of the lost sects of the Sons of Ares, keep enemies like the wild Jackal off of his trail, and manage to reach the Sovereign to kill her and take over the society to begin anew.

Former foes become friends and many friends change coat. Unfortunately, Darrow may have put his trust in the wrong people and he and all those he loves will pay the price.

As with the previous two installments, there is no shortage of violence in this final installment. The torture scenes at the beginning are brutal as are all of the battle scenes. The evolution of Darrow and his companions over the course of the series is realistic and sometimes difficult to accept as a reader. I was glad I decided to follow this trilogy to its satisfying conclusion.

Books in the Series:
Red Rising
Golden Son

Recommended Reads:
The Hunger Games Trilogy
Ender's Game

Friday, July 8, 2016

Dexter is Dead - Jeff Lindsay

After being framed for murder, Dexter is left to rot in jail seemingly forgotten by law. The only person willing to stand by him is his criminal brother. If he can find evidence to prove he's being framed maybe he can escape his fate, but that will be hard when they entire department and even his adoptive sister is against him.

But his troubles don't end there. After losing custody of the kids, they are kidnapped by some drug kingpin out for revenge. On top of trying to prove his innocence, Dexter now needs to recruit allies to save his kids from a man who certainly won't willingly part with his hostages no matter what is offered in exchange.

Keeping with the passive narrative and disconnected voice, Lindsay portrays Dexter faithfully in this latest and last selection. Unfortunately, I didn't feel the same enjoyment of this novel as I have for the past ones. I was hoping for a better send-off to this curious and intriguing character. Alas, I have had to say a unsatisfying farewell.

Books in the Series:
Darkly Dreaming Dexter (Book 1)
Double Dexter (Book 6)
Dexter's Final Cut (Book 7)

Television Series:
Dexter

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Art of Imperfection - Veronique Vienne

Accompanied by beautiful sepia tone photographs of landmarks, people, and natural places by Erica Lennard , Veronique Vienne seeks to remind the reader of the the importance of living life as they are in ten short chapters. Through mistakes, disorganization, and not being right. By being shy, not knowing what to do and embracing silliness. By looking like yourself, having nothing to wear, and having ones own personal taste. by not being rich or famous. In the end, she seeks to enforce the importance of self-acceptance and embracing that self. At the end of each chapter is a collection of tips to help one make the most of each feature.

An unfortunate repetition in this book is the cliches she repeats. The purpose in recalling these common refrains found in every day life is to help dispel them, but they are no less annoying. Otherwise this short book is a nice minimal text to remind oneself to embrace life and the self in all ways.
More by the Author:
The Art of Doing Nothing: Simple Ways to Make Time for Yourself
The Art of Growing Up: Simple Ways to Be Yourself at Last
The Art of the Moment: Simple Ways to Get the Most from Life

Friday, June 24, 2016

What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite - David DiSalvo

The brain is one of the least understood organs in our bodies. It controls involuntary movements that keep us alive, like the heart pumping and breathing. And we use our brains consciously to perform acts like tying shoes or completing a complex math problem. But how much more is the brain controlling that we don't recognize?

How accurate is memory? How can questions and preparations change our observations and recall?

Are our predictions of how we would act accurate when faced with the actual situation?

If doing a certain action causes your mind less stress it indicates you are on the right course of action. Or does it?

Written in 2011, the studies and data used in this book are new and serve to further our understanding of the brain and how it works. With its short-length it's more of an overview than an in-depth look, but it's worth listening to because of the current findings the author uses.

Recommended Reads:
The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives - Leonard Mlodinow
The Seven Sins of Memory - Daniel L. Schacter
The Myth of Choice: Personal Responsibility in a World of Limits - Kent Greenfield

Friday, June 17, 2016

Assassin's Quest (Farseer Book 3) - Robin Hobb

The Sixth Duchies is in ruin and at the mercy of the Red Ships. Verity, the rightful king, has gone out to seek the help of the legendary Elderlings effectively abandoning the kingdom to his brother Regal, who cares not for the people or the land but for his own comfort.

Although Regal killed Fitz, he's not completely convinced of his death because of his Wit magic. Although alive, Fitz is not unscathed and must recover from his ordeal under the care of Burrich, hidden in the woods. Fitz is haunted by his visions of Molly and her life and the continuous call of his King Verity.

After seeking to fulfill his own revenge, Fitz finally returns to the pull of Verity, only to find a mad man on the mountain.
With the Red Ships destroying the kingdom from the outside and Regal destroying it from the inside, there may be no hope left for the Sixth Duchies and its residents.

While I always enjoy the realistic narration of the characters' turmoil by Hobb, I sometimes find myself suffering from sympathy fatigue while listening. I liked the strictly mentally-based magic system with its limitations that was eventually revealed to be something much bigger. Despite Fitz's many losses throughout life, in the end the joining of friends and allies gives him a new one.

I enjoyed reading this series and I plan on reading the other books that take place in this world.

Books in the Series:
Assassin's Apprentice
Royal Assassin

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Wheel of Darkness (Pendergast Book 8) - Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

Aloysius Pendergast and Constance Greene go on retreat to a Buddhist monastery, only to have it cut short when they are asked to retrieve a sacred object chasing stolen during their visit.

Such an unusual artifact should be easy to track down with it having to run through customs, but with corruption everywhere they have their work cut out for them. Finally they are led to the most unusual place: a cruise ship. With the added evil influence of the artifact on a disgruntled crew and greedy customers the ship soon becomes a island of the worst.

Despite all of his encounters with the supernatural, it would seem that even Aloysius isn't immune to the seduction of the unusual item. If he can't save the ship, there may be no hope for anybody. Not the crew, not the passengers, and not Constance or even himself.

I've begun asking friends for their favorite media (books, movies, music albums) as gifts. Two of my friends named the Pendergast series as their favorites and gave me this novel to start me with. I was immediately hooked with the supernatural flavor of the novel. I feel I would have enjoyed it more if I had read a few previous books to get a better feeling for the two main characters, but I still enjoyed their company as they took me along for the ride. Aloysius is a character with a flare for theatrics and a plethora of skills, while Constance is better with infiltration and social interaction.

I will be joining them again soon on their investigations, I have no doubt.

Books in the Series:
Relic (Book 1)
The Book of the Dead (Book 7)
Cemetery Dance (Book 9)

Friday, June 3, 2016

To Bless the Space Between Us - John O' Donohue

This beautiful Book of Blessings is filled with poetry and prayers that will spark the hearts of those who read it. Organized by topic, it's easy to locate the blessing that may serve your purpose.

Beginnings contains prayers for the Morning, the start of the new year, and new jobs. Desires contains love, of course, along with companions like friendship and abscence. Within Thresholds are prayers for change like becoming a mother or father and events that bring us to the brink like death and the incarceration of a loved one. Prayers greeting mother, father, sister, brother, and sleep are all in the chapter titled Homecoming. States of Heart are invocations for things like courage and to give strength during times of loneliness, failure, grief, and suffering. Callings holds blessings for priesthood, nursing, teaching, and many others. And finally Beyond Endings hopes to bring closure for hard times like death, the end of friendships, and broken trust.

While the prayer at the very end titled "The Eyes of Jesus" is obviously Christian, many of the prayers are non-denominational and could readily be used by those of many different faiths. I noted that many of my non-Christian friends would likely find his "In Praise of [Elemental]" series, one for each of the four elements, useful. My favorites from this collection came from multiple chapters, including "For the Senses", "For a New Father", "For Exile", and "On Meeting a Stranger".

The only qualm I have with this book is the gold ink used for the titles of the prayers and the blue ink used for the prayers themselves. While it was easy on my eyes, I could see it being an issue for those who have difficulty seeing. I will undoubtedly be purchasing this wonderful book for my permanent collection and reading more of O'Donohue's fabulous work.

More By This Author:
Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
Beauty: The Invisible Embrace
Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong

Friday, May 27, 2016

Undeniable - Bill Nye

Mechanical engineer Bill Nye, better known as "The Science Guy" is best known for his appearance in the television series back in the 90s that taught children all about science in a fun and engaging way.

In this book, Nye gives an updated reading of evolution and what we know about it today. The book also talks about theories like the 600 year earth, dinosaurs, climate change, genetically modified organisms (better known as GMOs), and even racism.

Narrated by Bill Nye himself, the audiobook is packed with his personality and wit. Religious people may find themselves challenged as he directly approaches the idea of intelligent design from multiple angles. Entertaining and educational this is an excellent book serving as a primer or review of our current knowledge of earth and its species.

Recommended Reads:
The Origin of Species - Charles Darwin
The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins
The Dragons of Eden - Carl Sagan

Friday, May 20, 2016

Blood Magic - Edited by Thomas Buckley, Alma Gottlieb

With the first chapter, A Critical Appraisal of Theories of Menstrual Symbolism, Thomas Buckley and Alma Gottlieb set the tone for this collection. In short, they state that seemingly negative taboos in various cultures are not negative when taken into the cultural and religious context and encourage readers to read with open minds. Unlike many books of this nature that draw vast comparisons across cultures, the chapters in this book are confined to studies of individual areas that ensure a more comprehensive understanding of menstruation in the unique society.

Part I, titled Menstrual Images, Meanings, and Values contains three studies. Alma Gottlieb, one of the editors, presents Menstrual Cosmology among the Beng of Ivory Coast, where she explains the maturation of young women and men and how the view of sex, not just menstruation, is seen as a pollutant in certain cases and not in others.
In Mortal Flow: Menstruation in Turkish Village Society, Carol Delaney explains how a "natural" process like menstruation carries many taboos even on into menopause for women. Menstruation among the Rungus of Borneo: An Unmarked Category explores the casual attitude this society has toward menstruation.

Sociology of Menstrual Meanings, Part II, explores how taboos effect society as a whole. Menstrual Politics: Women and Pigs in Rural Portugal by Denise L. Lawrence explains the complex challenges that arise when menstruation keeps women from participating in certain activities, but are unable to talk about it openly. Vieda Skultans interviews a number of women to explain the Menstrual Symbolism in South Wales and the surprising theme that arises in individual women's attitudes towards menstruation and their lives. Emily Martin visits a commonly pondered topic with Premenstrual Syndrome: Discipline, Work, and Anger in the Late Industrial Societies.

Part III are fascinating studies in Exploratory Directions: Menses, Culture, and Time. Thomas Buckley, one of the editors, Menstruation and the Power of Yurok Women, which speaks of the more commonly known pollutant nature and power of menstruation in women and how those in the same household would cycle together. Frederick Lamp tells of Heavenly Bodies: Menses, Moon, and Rituals of License Among the Tmene of Sierra Leone complex set of rules and traditions both sexes learn upon reaching the right age. Menstrual Synchrony and the Australian Rainbow Snake by Chris Knight is a fascinating study into the practice surrounding menstruation and the religious tales of this people.

One of the more interesting points to me that was brought up in the introduction is that our ancestors were unlikely to have menstruated monthly, due to nutritional needs (fat percentage). It also notes that women menstruating with the moon is actually a fairly new concept as of the writing in 80s. Because this was written in the 80s there are also multiple references to an old study with college students' cycles syncing over a period of time that subsequent studies have determined is merely coincidence.

The majority of the studies were firmly expressed in the words of the peoples themselves, with the exception of Lamp, which presented a lot of conjecture for his part. This particularly bothered me with how the introduction implored readers to listen to the words of the people, rather than through the lens of our own ideas.

Even with its age, this is an excellent collection because it speaks of in specifics, rather than generalizations, like so many books of this nature do.

Recommended Reads:
Priestess, Mother, Sacred Sister - Susan Starr Sered

Friday, May 13, 2016

Rosicrucian Principles for Home and Business - H. Spencer Lewis

The idea of thoughts creating reality is an idea that has been around for longer than is recorded. How to utilize this power of the mind is a point of contention among many in the metaphysical community. In this classic work, Lewis presents the Rosicrucian way to take advantage of the God-given ability to create reality.

In the first chapter, Lewis reveals "The Truth in Affirmations", giving the reader a firm understanding of what they are and how they work before moving on to the more complicated concepts. "The Cosmic and You", "Mental Alchemy", and "Commanding Cosmic Help" build on the first chapter, explaining how affirmations should effect our decision-making and behavior. In the chapters that follow, he explains how to gain wealth in a plethora of ways, whether that's through an employer, customers, or other means.

Throughout the book, Lewis emphasizes to be on the lookout for the universe offering means of achieving goals through avenues unconsidered. Sometimes clinging hard to a preconceived notion of how things should happen will keep people from recognizes their true goal. Lewis provides ample examples to assist the reader in understanding these concepts throughout the work.

Despite its age, this work continues to be a fantastic guide for those who want to invite abundance and health into their lives. This is one of the best books I've read with instruction on how to best use the power of will.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Wisdom of the Shire - Noble Smith

Tolkien's Hobbits have been inspiring people ever since the release of The Hobbit in 1937. The simple country folk who share bravery and ingenuity in peril, while having never faced danger in their lives inspire people to imagine who they could be. In 20 chapters, Smith reveals the wisdom we can learn from Hobbits through their lifestyle and habits at home, as well as adventures outside of the Shire.

Is your home cluttered or dirty? Perhaps you are hanging on to things that make you feel bad. "How Snug is Your Hobbit-Hole?" and "The Party Tree" may help you relieve some of that tension you have around the house.

"Eat like a Brandybuck, Drink Like a Took", "Sleep like a Hobbit", and "Sing like a Hobbit" will help you on your merry way to being fed, rested, and in good spirits.

Then there are, of course, lessons on how to manage the troubles in your life with chapters like "Your Own Personal Gollum", "Dealing with 'The Big People', and "Bearing the Burden of Your Ring".

These are only the few bits awaiting readers who wish to delve deeper into Tolkien's philosophy and ideas with this book. Whether a fan of Tolkien's books or Peter Jackson's movies, readers will enjoy this Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life.

Source Material:
The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Friday, April 29, 2016

Crown of Crystal Flame - C. L. Wilson

When Elysetta was chosen by the Tairen Soul and Fae King, Rain, she thought her dreams had finally come true. But among the romance and magic she anticipated lay turmoil and danger. In this short time period, Elysetta has discovered her hidden magical powers, her fae heritage, and her skills in diplomacy. And now she will learn her skill at war as she goes out side by side with her husband and many skilled warrior to defend both the human world and the Fae lands against the mages.

With the help of friends and former enemies, the world may yet be saved. But nobody is prepared for the greatest threat to the kingdoms yet: Elysetta herself.

The first novel started out as light romance reading until the end and the series has progressively gotten darker and more war orientated as it's gone along. In this final book magic and war takes over, leaving only small bits of romance between the intense scenes of diplomacy and battle. I enjoyed this last book, but also noticed a few loose ends that hadn't been addressed by the end with some minor characters, but the major plot lines were complete. I'm curious if she left it open-ended for spin-offs. The one pitfall throughout this entire series is her terrible use of simile, like "death was playing with her like [a kitten] playing with a jingle ball".

This is a intense romance fantasy read complete with magic and action. It's sure to satiate many reading palettes.

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

Friday, April 22, 2016

How Music and Mathematics Relate - Professor David Kung

How did Tammie Willis, a deaf woman, earn her Masters in Music in 2003 without being able to hear? Having not always been deaf she knew what music sounded like, but learning music theory is an entirely different matter than just listening.

Music is made of rhythms (sequences of beats), pitches (the highness and lowness of tones), and vibrato (variation in tone). Music theory has been taught for generations, but with new technology we can study it from a mathematical perspective providing a whole new view of how music works and what gives it its appeal. In a series of 12 lectures, Professor David Kung reveals these secrets the listener.

From the beginning Professor Kung grabbed my attention. The first lecture on Overtones where he isolates a single note down to its base note is fascinating. Pitch and Auditory Hallucinations is another fantastic lecture showing how composers trick our brains into hearing what may not be there. Self-Reference from Bach to Gödel is another favorite of mine in this series, showing how various composers made certain that everybody would know who wrote the piece.

Since the version I borrowed from the library only had audio, no video, I often had to make a mental note to look up items like certain waves or rhythm sequences when I got to computer. I feel with this series of lectures, it is beneficial to have the video alongside the audio because of all of the visual components he includes. For anybody who wants to learn more about music this is a must-watch.

More Audio Lectures:
Great Courses
Modern Scholar

Recommended Reads:
Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain - Oliver Sacks
Music, Mysticism and Magic: A Sourcebook - Joscelyn Godwin

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Celtic Way of Prayer - Esther de Waal

As the Celts converted from their native religion, they brought pieces of their faith and integrated it seamlessly into Christianity. Many of the most beloved prayers of Christians today were created or adapted by the Celts.

De Waal presents these prayers, the Celtic worldview, and her own personal experience to bring spirituality alive for the reader. Organized by topic, it makes it easy to find a prayer or inspiration to fit any mood. The topics include: Journeying, Image and Song, the Trinity, Time, the Presence of God, the Solitary, Dark Forces, the Cross, the Saints, and Praise.

Journeying and The Trinity chapters felt especially strong with the amount of prayers, many of which I was familiar with myself. Dark Forces includes a number of powerful prayers for protection and a wonderful bit on the understanding of confession. A variety of readers will find this book a delight to read for its spiritual content and down to earth understanding of faith.

Recommended Reads:
Celtic Spirituality
Fire in the Head - Tom Cowan

Friday, April 8, 2016

Orange Crows II - James Perry II, Ryo Kawakami

Cierra's disappearance means the Orange Crows are down one member, putting them at a disadvantage in their quest to protect the airship. The witch's brew they are protecting is just as important as they witches and warlocks they are having to entertain diplomatically on the ship.

Meanwhile Cierra finds herself wandering in the wilderness once again, only to be disturbed by both familiar and new faces, set to lead her astray from returning to Natalie and the rest of the group.

When disaster strikes and the fairies unexpectedly attack the airship, Natalie thinks she has the situation under control with her exceptional powers; however, she may find herself outmatched by a new enemy.

This series is just getting started and I foresee following it for a while. Between chapters are single page panels entitled "Queen Bianka's Crash Course" revealing only a peak into the in-depth world of magic and technology that Perry has created. This world The characters are each as unique as their costumes. I eagerly await the next installment of this series.

Books in the Series:
Orange Crows

Author's Site:
OrangeCrows.com

Support the Project:
Patreon: Orange Crows

Friday, April 1, 2016

Poe's Children: The New Horror: An Anthology

This anthology collects stories of the uncanny and terrifying in the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe.

Elizabeth Hand tells the story of Cleopatra Brimstone, an amateur entomologist out to collect the corpses of the most rare moths she can find.

Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem alternate narration to tell the chilling story of The Man on the Ceiling who invades and destroys their lives.

Ramsey Campbell's Voice of the Beach drives two friends to madness as they explore an abandoned town.

Plot Twist David J. Schow is a disturbing tale of what goes wrong when the situation gets dire.

Benjamin Percy tells the disturbing tale of a man who Unearthed more than just historic remains.

Little Red's Tango by Peter Straub tells the curious tale of the sometimes saint.

Of the 24 stories collected in this anthology, I only found the six above memorable. Although Ramsey Campbell and Peter Straub delivered, the other four big names, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Thomas Ligotti, and Joe Hill fell short. My other four favorites were from those I hadn't previously heard of. I was disappointed and don't recommend this anthology.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Myth of Eternal Return (Cosmos and History) - Mircea Eliade

Through extensive research of culture and religion, Eliade reveals the oft repeated motifs all around the world and explains what they meant to our ancestors.

In Archetypes and Repetition Eliade reveals the sacred in the profane by analyzing the make up of cities, rituals, and even daily tasks. Throughout the ancient world and even today The Regeneration of Time is a common theme found in yearly celebrations. Misfortune and History reveals the fascinating meaning of suffering and the idea of destiny. He closes by examining The Terror of History and how this idea of eternal repetition effected the thinking of our ancestors and how these beliefs influence us even today.

Superstition, traditions, and folklore remind us of the our ancestors beliefs, reminding us that these values are relevant even today in the modern world.

If you have any interest in the beliefs of the past, how it effected our history, and even how it ripples into us today this is the book for you.

More by this author:
Patterns in Comparative Religion
Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy
The Sacred and the Profane

Recommended Reads:
The Hero with a Thousand Faces - Joseph Campbell
The Varieties of Religious Experience - William James
The Secret Teachings of All the Ages - Manly P. Hall

Friday, March 18, 2016

King Arthur: History and Legend - Professor Dorsey Armstrong

King Arthur and his legend are known the world over. Even those who are not directly familiar with the legend know the motifs found in media: only a worthy person can wield a weapon, the love triangle between two friends and a woman, the evil fairy queen. But where did the legend of King Arthur come from and why is it so popular?

Armstrong endeavors the difficult task of expressing over a thousand years of history and legend in a series of only 24 lectures. Where is Arthur and his band found historically? What common knowledge of King Arthur and his court is correct?

From these questions she moves on to the legends as they were chronologically written. Following the legend in this way reveals the evolution of these legends from Wales to France, from Germany to Scandinavia and on to America. The Arthurian legend is ever-growing with modern interpretations and Armstrong includes some of the more unusual, including Camelot 3000.

There's no doubt that given the opportunity, Armstrong could have expanded on this material in a profound way given the chance. With the limited amount of time, though, she does a stupendous job covering a huge amount of time and material. Whether new or familiar with these works, listeners of these lectures are bound to gain more enlightenment of the importance of King Arthur and his knights.

Author's Website:
Arthuriana.org

More Audio Lectures:
The Great Courses
Modern Scholar

Friday, March 11, 2016

Orange Crows Vol 1 - James Perry II, Ryo Kawakami

After her mother passes away and leaves Cierra with her research and lab, she decides to do the forbidden and create her own magic. Unfortunately, her overconfidence leads to tragedy and exile for five years into the wasteland outside of the tamed city of witches and warlocks.

Through ingenuity and luck she manages to survive long enough to return to civilization and join the "Orange Crows", where she meets her long lost best friend, Natalie, and is forced to acknowledge the damage she has done. While simple things like riding brooms has changed a lot since she left, she also finds that she can offer some of her own talents to the team. But can she adjust and live in this unfamiliar world after living wild for so long?

From the beginning, Orange Crows sucks the reader in with a story of friendship and loss. The world is fraught with mystery, magic, and danger. The characters' costumes are fashionably gothic and unique to each character. When I finished this volume, I couldn't wait to read the next.

Books in the Series:
Orange Crows II

Author's Site:
OrangeCrows.com

Support the Project:
Patreon: Orange Crows

Friday, March 4, 2016

Finn Again - Linda Meyers

Half Irish, half British, Finn is two halves of a whole. He loves the pub life and chasing women, but he's well-educated by Oxford with a quick wit. Despite all his tricks there was always that one woman who wouldn't give in: Regan.

When the war starts, he decides to join the army as an enlisted man to prove his worth to himself. In the war, he not only loses the one he loves, but himself. After returning to the island, he finds himself wandering aimlessly, until he finds himself in a small fishing town that reminds him of what's important in life.

With a little help from friends and family, maybe he can kick his addiction to pain killers and alcohol and become Finn Again.

Opening with a sitcom-like accident between Finn and another woman in the prologue, I wondered what I had gotten myself into at first. But I was soon whisked away into Finn's past to discover his past, filled with drama, love, and heartache. And finally into a journey of self-discovery through hard work and finally by returning to his Celtic roots. Meyers's skillful handling of the first person narrative made it easy to get sucked into Finn's story and his emotional state every step of the way. Readers won't be disappointed in this stunning second offering by this talented author.

More by the Author:
Letters From the Ledge

Friday, February 26, 2016

New Versions of Victims: Feminists Struggle With the Concept

Prepare to be challenged on your point of view on violence, rape, and victims, as you read the complex and profound views expressed by each of the authors in this collection of essays on the topics dated from 1999.

In Heretical Texts Janice Haaken analyzes "The Courage to Heal" and the Incest Survivor Movement from the 1980s. In the 1980s, repressed memories and recovered memories from hypnosis fueled an epidemic of fear and paranoia about sexual abuse in children. While the authenticity of these memories has been called into question in recent years, Haaken suggest that the authenticity of the memories aren't so important as what they represent in these women's lives: emotional trauma. She further discusses the implications of how this effects girls, women, and society.

When all assaults are taken into account, the amount of domestic violence committed by men and women is about equal. Violence is actually more prevalent among lesbian couples. These statistics have seen little change between this essay's writing and when I write this. Since feminism often poses that men's violence is the main problem Clair Renzetti writes The Challenge to Feminism Posed by Women's Use of Violence in Intimate Relationships to address the discrepancy. Perhaps the most interesting part of the essay to me was how violence in domestic situations is used in different cultures. How in one a woman is more likely to commit suicide than murder her husband. Or how violent defense means different things according to cultural context.

When it comes to rape interviews and questionnaires there is a huge challenge posed in how these questions are asked and who determines if they are rape. Nicola Gavey addresses these concerns in detail in "I Wasn't Raped, but": Revisiting Definitional Problems in Sexual Victimization. This essay provided me with a much better understanding of how the research works and why it is set up the way it is.

In Recasting Consent: Agency and Victimization in Adult-Teen Relationships Lynn M. Phillips provides valuable insight by using quotes from interviews by both younger and older women. In their own words, teens explain why they seek out relationships with older men and how they feel about it, revealing complex reasoning for those choices. Meanwhile, older women express their feelings in hindsight about their reasoning and how they feel different about it with more life experience.

Constructing the Victim: Popular Images and Lasting Labels by Sharon Lamb analyzes how the understanding of the word "victim" is becoming increasingly challenged with many now identifying themselves as "survivors". The change in vocabulary is empowering for some, but it is causing an increasing rift between those who have a shared experience.

After being reassured that her experience would not be used to cast a negative view of living with a mentally retarded mother, Carol Rambo Ronai agrees to be interviewed. Although warned multiple times by friends and family members to cancel the interview, she still goes and discovers what it's like to be In the Line of Sight at Public Eye: when television is In Search of a Victim. It was interesting to me that during the interview the author became so upset when she was asked to clarify what she meant by something she had released in a publicly available article. Although I was sympathetic with the author's experience overall when the interview didn't go as she expected.

Jeanne Marecek compares and contrasts Trauma Talk in Feminist Clinical Practice with typical psychological treatment. With quotes gathered from practitioners the reader gets a first hand descriptions of how and why it works so well. Marecek sees the advantages of this system, but also argues that there can be the same problems as with typical counseling, one of which is projecting the therapists expectations on the client. In my own view, I often see these different systems as being nearly identical with the exception of using different terminology, which is also an observation the writer makes.

While reading Victims, Backlash, and Radical Feminist Theory (or, The Morning after They Stole Feminism's Fire) by Chris Atmore I could not get wholly engaged. A big part of the problem is I do not have enough familiarity with the authors she discusses on either side of this argument to feel like I am getting a clear picture of what the author is expressing. What little I did get from this only made me feel like I don't agree nor can I support either side of this argument.

I had never read any of these essays before, so reading them over 15 years later is a fascinating time capsule. Perhaps the most frustrating part of reading these essays is seeing what little has changed and how it has gotten worse in certain regards. Renzetti, for example, warns that feminists should take control of the research in women's violence so they can control the information, but most importantly put into place programs to help. Now we often see feminists groups ignore or deny these same problems that have remained unchanged. Despite its age, this book remains a worthwhile read for anybody who is interested in feminism and feminist theory.

More by the editor:
The Trouble with Blame: Victims, Perpetrators, and Responsibility
The Secret Lives of Girls: What Good Girls Really Do--Sex Play, Aggression, and Their Guilt
Sex, Therapy, and Kids: Addressing Their Concerns Through Talk and Play

Recommended Reading:
Harmful to Minors- The Perils Of Protecting Children From Sex - Judith Levin
Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers - Danile L. Schacter

Friday, February 19, 2016

Baldur the Beautiful - Grace Denio Litchfield

Baldur, the fairest of the gods, is doomed to death. Afraid to lose her son, Frigga goes to every creature making them promise to do no harm to the most beloved of the gods. While she easily receives the agreement from all life, she decides to exclude the mistletoe for it is too young to make such a promise in earnest.

After hearing the news that Baldur is invulnerable, the gods decide to test his strength. Unfortunately, Loki, the mischief maker, discovers the secret and tricks another god into sending the fatal blow. Following Odin and Frigga seek the mercy of Hela to release their son from death. But Hela is vicious and unwilling to release what is hers. She promises to release the beloved, but only if every creature on earth will mourn the loss.

Litchfield's gorgeous retelling of this classic tragedy is filled with lyrical prose sure to please any reader or audience.

Source Material:
Poetic Edda

Friday, February 12, 2016

The 5th Wave - Rick Yancey

First all of the electricity went out, next the coasts were destroyed, after that came the plague, and finally the "others" came to eradicate man. The apocalypse is upon them and there is certain to be another wave of death to follow. Cassie, Cassiopeia, and her family are some of the lucky few to survive and join one of the camps near their hometown. When the military comes to save them, they think all will be well at first, until they're told only the children can come. After disaster strikes, Cassie is determined to save her brother from the interlopers.

If she's lucky, maybe she'll find a little help along her way from people she least expects.

The story is told by three different characters: Cassie, Zombie, and Sammy, Cassie's younger brother. Since we are thrown into the thick of Cassie's mission to save her brother and we only get to know the boy crazy teenage girl through flashbacks, we do not get to see Cassie's transformation to survivor. What we do know is that she had some training in karate, is a good shot with guns, and seems to have a decent idea of how to stay alive. Zombie is not his real name, of course, but it is the name he is given during training to stop the alien invasion. The first two characters speak from a first person point of view. There are only a handful of chapters told by Sammy in the third person limited, which I feel were unnecessary; although, I do understand why the author decided to throw them in to help tie things together at the end.

It was an okay read. Nothing stuck out as particularly good or bad to speak of, but it wasn't compelling enough for me to continue the series.

Similar Reads:
Life as We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Carrie Ryan

Recommended Movies:
The Live
Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Friday, February 5, 2016

Mr and Mrs God in the Creation Kitchen - Nancy Wood

A long time ago lived Mr. and Mrs. God. In their kitchen in the heavens they set out to create the world and everything in it.

But it would seem that sometimes Mr. and Mrs. have different ideas on what is good for the world. And sometimes they accidentally ruin each others creations. Through laughs, anger, and love, they create an amazing world for children and their parents to experience.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Wild Feminine - Tami Lynn Kent

Women are taught a variety of ways to relate to their body. Some are taught to revile it, others are taught to indulge it, and some are taught it is just a vessel for their consciousness. The way a woman feels toward her body can also be influenced by her own personal experiences in life, such as menstruation, pregnancy, sexual encounters, miscarriage, and birth.

Kent, a holistic women's healthcare provider, gives women the tools they need to reconnect and stay connected with their body to improve their lives with both physical exercises and mental meditations. By providing personal examples of herself, friends, and clients, she invites women to relate using events in their own lives. Kent challenges readers to rethink how they feel about their bodies and encourages them to try to break the old way of thinking.

Since I've been tracking my cycle with the help of Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) since I was 17, I'm familiar with how my reproductive organs and hormones effect my every day life in a natural way on a personal level. This isn't just a personal experience, but biological fact that it does so. A person's attitude toward her body definitely influences how she feels, as well, according to many psychological texts.

This book takes it a step farther and states that there is an additional spiritual element to it. The book, unfortunately, repeats many of the common pseudoscience falsities, like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) being caused by bad attitudes toward the feminine or breast cancer being caused by denying ones truth. While the encouragement, personal experiences, and exercises found within the pages are useful for personal growth, I'm not sure that it outweighs the damage of perpetuating known myths. I'd caution readers to read this in conjunction with more biologically based books to balance it out.

Similar Reads:
Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom - Christiane Northrup
Her Blood is Gold - Lara Owen
Red Moon - Miranda Gray

Recommended Reading:
Taking Charge of Your Fertility - Toni Weschler
Warrior Goddess Training - HeatherAsh Amara
Women Who Run with the Wolves - Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Stepsister Scheme - Jim C. Hines

Her stepmother and stepsisters interference at her wedding is only the beginning of Danielle's (Cinderella) woes as she embarks into marriage. Instead of enjoying a happily ever after with her prince, she finds herself right in the middle of a war between the human world and fairy land when her husband disappears.

Two powerful allies come to Danielle's aid: Talia, sleeping beauty, the expert weapons master and Snow White with her magic mirror. Combined with Danielle's telepathic ability with animals, they make a formidable team as they search for her missing husband. As they get closer to her husband they discover they are in way over their heads with new enemies coming at them and old foes resurfacing.

If Danielle can manage to survive trickery, magic, and the regular danger of death, she may be able to save her prince and even her entire kingdom.

It's not often an author will decide to go for the grittier original versions of fairy tales, so it was interesting to be reminded of Danielle's sisters cutting their feet, Talia's rape, and Snow White's stepmother being punished. For added fun he used a lot of the traditional fairy tale tropes, like the troll under the bridge and the two door riddle. I liked the reimagining of the mirror magic and the dwarfs.

This should have been a fun read, but I wasn't drawn into the story like I normally am while reading. None of the characters were particularly engaging nor were the dangers they get into. I'm continuing to the next novel in the series, since The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite fairy tales, hoping that it's better.

Books in the Series:
The Mermaid's Madness
Red Hood's Revenge
The Snow Queens's Shadow

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Feminine Face of God - Sherry Ruth Anderson, Patricia Hopkins

The majority of religions we are familiar with today are led by men, which means the point of view we read and listen to by religious leaders is largely from men. Although there are women priests, priestesses, medicine women, and nuns we don't often hear from them in the mainstream. So what does religion and spirituality look like from the point of view of women?

Anderson and Hopkins interview women from various faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Chumash (Native American), and individual spiritualities to reveal the personal journeys and experiences of women when it comes to God.

What does the divine look like to women? Women often describe their beliefs and practices as being in a garden or blooming, which isn't surprising when many of the faiths these women were born into use allusions to nature to describe God. But what else does it look like?

What have women experienced in childhood that built their faith? Since many women describe their experiences as being in a garden, it's not surprising that one of the common threads between many women is the appreciation and experiences of nature, including climbing trees, digging in the ground, and much more.

How does leaving home, whether that's a nuclear family or a religious institution, effect women's faith? Did leaving challenge or deepen their faith?

There are a striking number of religions and practices all over the world. The authors offers just a few of the Ten Thousand Gates available to experience God through the eyes of women.

In Tools for the Sacred Garden (2 parts), women offer their journeys to finding the practices that keep them in step with their path,...

How do intimate relationships, like husbands and children, effect women's spiritual lives? Is it possible to be intimate with both the physical and the spiritual realms? The answers are insightful and thought-provoking.

What of our ancestors and relatives? How do they support us and how do they hold us back?

Being in the Sacred Garden is a desire of people from many walks of faith. With the experiences revealed in this book perhaps more women will find themselves within its bounds.

Firstly, I felt misled by the title of this book. Instead of reading about Goddess or female deities, I discovered what I was actually reading was better described by the subtitle: The Unfolding of the Sacred in Women. Reading about other women's experiences with the divine is fascinating to me. While I found many things that resonated with my own experiences, I found many more that did not. Learning about the experiences of others opens me up to other points of view, which is something I value.

Overall, I enjoyed the narrative of the authors. The introductions before each topic and explanations between the interviews provided bridges between varied experiences and gave extra insight. I did, however, disagree with her conclusion that leaving home is so different for women than men. Perhaps if she had interviewed women living in generational homes it would have been supported, but the examples she provided did not back this up.

For readers who are looking for insight into the personal experiences of other women this is a valuable resource that can provide understanding and opportunities for personal growth through previously unknown paths.

Recommended Reads:
Warrior Goddess Training - HeatherAsh Amara

Friday, January 8, 2016

Witches of East End - Melissa de la Cruz

Joanna and her two daughters, Freya and Ingrid, live in North Hampton, out on the tip of Long Island. After they were forced to abandon magic by the counsel, they now live their own regular lives as humans: Joanna as a nanny for a little boy, Freya as a bartender, and Ingrid as a librarian. As the years pass without word from the other side, they grow weary of the normal human life. After one of them partakes in a small spell for rebellion, it's hard to stop. But there are consequences to their breaking rules. Soon strange events start happening all around the world and they have to do something to stop it.

My first hint that this was going to stray into Norse mythology was the obvious name Freya, which indicates her specialty in love potions. There's a bit about Loki and Baldr that remains, as well as a bit about Skadi and Njord, but the rest of it doesn't hold together. To me it seems like she would have been better off just creating her own myths to go with her novels.

The love triangle was poorly done. Her relationship with her fiancee is just so bland I kept thinking: "I don't get it. Why is she with this guy?" Then there were a lot of terrible sex scenes with the other guy to accompany that. The reveal was simple, though all of the loose ends did come together.

I liked all three of the main characters. Joanna for her loyalty and caring, Freya for her innovation and love, and Ingrid for her intelligence and thoughtfulness.

In the end, I think all I can say about this book is that it wasn't for me.

Books in the Series:
Serpent's Kiss

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Uncanny Reader

After listening to an interview with the editor Marjorie Sandor on Coast to Coast AM I just had to pick up this collection of Uncanny stories. With stories from as early as the 1700s up to 2000s and spanning all across the globe, I was not disappointed by the offerings in this anthology.

I got to read old favorites by authors. I was able to once again listen to the strange "Music of Erich Zann" by H.P. Lovecraft. I followed alongside Egaeus as he fretted over her lovely bride-to-be "Berenice". And immersed myself in "Paranoia" by the talented hand of Shirley Jackson.

And I also got to meet new (to me) authors. I gagged as Yoko Ogawa described a neighbor with her unusual vegetables called "Old Mrs. J". I feared for my life as Chris Adrian detailed the intervention of "The Black Square" in people's lives.

And I began doubting reality as "Stone Animals" took over a family's life in Kelly Link's story. These are only six of the thirty-one stories found in this volume.

There were a few selections that I had to look up after reading to make sure I had understood the story correctly due to the writing style. Even so I can't name one story in this collection that I disliked. Many of these were also translated, which meant I was able to read many works, which I wouldn't have otherwise been able to enjoy. Each one charmed me and left a distinct impression on me, which is part of the reason why it took me so long to finish this.

Any fan of this genre should happily add this to their bookshelf or at the very least visit the strange worlds these authors paint for their readers.