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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