Search This Blog

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Circle - Dave Eggers

When Annie first offers Mae a job at the technology giant, The Circle, Mae turns it down at first. But after she grows tired of her dead end job and horrible boss, she decides to take the offer.

"Customer Experience" is easy for Mae, but when she finds being social both on campus and online somewhat challenging at first. Her loyalty to the company is questioned when she disappears for a weekend to care for her family, but when it's revealed the company can get her parents on much needed medical coverage, Mae quickly changes her attitude. Wooed by campus culture and tantalized by a mysterious lover who comes and goes unbidden, Mae sinks deeper into isolation from the real world.

As Mae's status grows in the company and she rises in popularity on social media, she abandons her old life and her humanity.

While I enjoyed the story and seeing how far the CEOs of The Circle were willing to go to complete their vision, I found Mae to be an extremely bland character. With the novel being written in third person limited there should have been more internal conflict and personal revelation in the narrative.

The Circle illustrates how some people may be easily led, while others will resist until the end. Worth reading for political and social commentary, but not for character development.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Tuning the Symphony - William C Tracy

Rilan Ayama has been training to become full Majus for years, practicing her talents in changing the Grand Symphony. Although she will be facing the tests alone against the instructors, she will be graded against her rival Vethis and only one of them can become Majus. The other will have to wait months before they can even attempt to move out of apprenticeship again.

Rilan is confident in her abilities, but when she receives a cryptic message from her closest friend Origon, she's thrown off her game. When it's all over, she's finally able to meet with Origon, who reveals he needs to travel off-world to find his brother. Instead of going straight to her duties, Rilan agrees to travel with Origon to lend her emotional support and symphonic abilities.

The mystery of his brother leads them to risk their own lives in search of answers.

During the first portion of the book the reader is treated to amazing synaesthetic prose, where Rilan changes the colors of the symphony to suit her needs. It reminded me of my own experiences with music->color synaesthesia. The story moves quickly on to Rilan and Origon's relationship and then on to traumatic experiences as they search to discover what happened to Origon's brother. This short but intense piece was a delight to read and even contains illustrations of the various species for the reader to better visualize the interaction between species. I look forward to reading more offerings from this author, especially if they are set in the same universe.

Books in the Series:
Merchants and Maji: Two Tales of the Dissolutionverse

Recommended Reads:
Singers of Nevya - Louise Marley
Singer From the Sea - Sherri S. Tepper
Singer of All Songs - Kate Constable

Friday, December 1, 2017

Power Rangers - Alexander Irvine

Jason was a star football player on the varsity team until he got caught pulling a prank on school grounds. Kimberly, a classic queen bee, is in trouble for punching somebody in the face. Thrill-seeking Zack bumps into Trini, a trouble maker herself, on one of his adventures. Then there's sweet and awkward Billy. Nobody's really sure how he got in detention.

Fate brings these five teens together and they suddenly find themselves at the center of a battle with an ancient evil who has just awakened. With the help of Alpha Five and Zordon, the teens must come together as a team to save earth. If they each can't awaken the power within them to awaken the ancient power of the Zords deep beneath the earth, their planet may be doomed.

The hit 90s TV series by the same name was campy and filled with the typical moral lessons expected of the time. This movie novelization is a far-cry from the original. Where in the original the teens were good role models for the target audience of kids, this new version shows troubled kids who must each overcome their own issues: performance pressure, peer pressure, belonging, carelessness, and familial obligation. Although much grittier in nature, the book still has moments of corny humor hearkening back to its predecessor.

I found myself rolling my eyes at many moments, but also smiling in fond memory. This novelization is nothing special, but it is fun to read.

Movie:
Saban's Power Rangers 2017

Original Series:
Might Morphin' Power Rangers - The Complete Series

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thundercats: The Return - Ford Gilmore

Lion-O leaves his comrades to rebuild Thundera while he enters the Book of Omens to pursue further training, hoping to protect his home planet from any future invasions. Unfortunately his worst fear takes place during his absence. For five years the Thunderians have lived under the cruel rule of Mumm-Ra with the mutants happy to do his bidding to exact revenge upon the cats.

When Lion-O returns he is devastated when he learns the fate of his fellow Thunderians and especially his comrades, the Thundercats.
Lion-O must journey across the entire planet to free his comrades from their slavery and also regain their trust after his betrayal in leaving them undefended against Mumm-Ra.

Mumm-Ra's power has grown exponentially. Despite their misgivings, the Thundercats are determined to defeat him once again and bring peace to their land.

This addition to the Thundercats franchise is much darker than the original children's television series. Torture, slavery, and rape all make an appearance as the reader learns the fate of each Thundercat. As a long-time fan I struggled as I read how deeply these experiences had effected each of the characters. The illustrations are full of expression during emotional scenes and the action is visualized beautifully.

For those who would rather leave Thundera as a happy memory this is better left alone, but for those who want to read a dark what-if this is a fantastic read.

Books in the Series:
Return to Thundera
Dogs of War
Hammerhand's Revenge

Friday, November 17, 2017

Chariots of the Gods - Erich von Daniken

Back in the 70s, von Daniken released a book that would change the world and open people up to new possibilities in history. It became an immediate best seller and was translated into several languages. Who built the pyramids? Who made fascinatingly accurate maps of the world? And also, how were they able to do it?

According to von Daniken it may have been alien visitors. That's right! He claims that within archaeology are hidden proofs if we are willing to open our minds and look beyond what we've been taught.

Chariots of the Gods spawned a new genre of speculation and imagination. History Channel's popular Ancient Aliens television series is based on his works and contains many interview pieces with the author.

With the advances in technology and a better understanding of archaeology, many of von Daniken's theories have been disproven. Many more will certainly fall out of favor as we learn more. Even so, it's fun to read the theories of such a creative mind.

More by the Author:
Return to the Stars
Gold of the Gods
In Search of Ancient Gods

Similar Books:
Forbidden Archaeology - Michael Cremo
Technology of the Gods - David Hatcher Childress
Fingerprints of the Gods - Graham Hancock

Related Television Series:
Ancient Aliens - Season 1
Ancient Aliens - Season 2
Ancient Aliens - Season 3

Friday, November 10, 2017

Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman

Long ago Midgard, earth, was populated by fantastic peoples and creatures. Gods, giants, elves, and humans all lived together in this realm. Thor's hot temper is exemplified in the retellings of Loki taking Sif's hair and his massive appetite during the feast at his unexpected wedding. Loki's mischief shines as he lies, cheats, and steals through the stories. Tyr's bravery and sacrifice in the capture of Fenrir shines. And at the end, the tale of Baldr's death and Ragnorak's final coming is just as terrifying in this version as it is in the original work.

Gaiman's dry wit adds a perfect amount of humor to these stories and his nonchalant storytelling voice in the audiobook version has fantastic flow. Those already familiar with these stories will be satisfied with his accuracy in adapting these stories while adding his own voice. Those who may be new to Norse mythos may find certain parts uncomfortable, particularly some of the stories involving Loki.

Source Material:
Poetic/Elder Edda
Prose Edda
Prose Edda (modern translation) - Jesse Byock

Friday, November 3, 2017

The 48 Laws of Power - Robert Greene

After learning to use the forty-eight laws of power, Greene suggests a person will lead a successful life. These laws apply in a variety of situations including business deal, social interactions, and personal relations.

Each Law titled and numbered. It's followed by a Judgment, a brief explanation of what the Law means. The section titled Transgression of the Law gives a historical account or mythological occurrence of violating the law and is followed by an Interpretation to further explain how or why the violation caused bad results. Observance of the Law gives a positive use of the law in the same format and is also followed by an Interpretation to further the reader's understanding. Keys to Power is written in the second person, telling the reader directly how to use the law and what to be wary of. Reversal presents situations in which the reader may want to use the opposite side of the law.

Concealing Your Intention, Makeing Other People Come To You, and Never Appearing Too Perfect are certainly not new ideas. Many of these Laws are found in other texts, such as the Art of War or The Prince, but the concrete examples and explanations of those situations makes the material much easier to grasp and understand.

Like many books of this manner, it is best taken in sections to absorb the lessons and feel confident in applying them to situations. Anybody who wants to learn self-mastery, how to relate to the world, and how to turn the world around them to their favor will benefit from reading this work.

More by the Author:
Mastery
The 33 Strategies of War
The Art of Seduction

Recommended Reads:
The Art of War - Sun Tzu
The Prince - Niccolo Machiavelli
The Book of Five Rings - Miyamoto Musashi

Friday, October 27, 2017

A Book of Women's Altars - Nancy Cunningham

With valuable knowledge and emotional insight, Nancy Cunningham invites women to learn about altars and how to use them. Throughout the book lovely black and white photos illustrate the many items and types of altars one can make, including themed, personal, seasonal, intentional, ancestor, and special event altars. She also includes examples of ceremonies or rituals the reader can use to enhance the feeling of the space. The last section is a blank scrapbook section where you can sketch or paste photos of your own altars.

Whether you are new to the idea and want to learn or you are looking for inspiration to create new altars this book will fit your needs.

More by the Author:
I Am Woman by Rite: A Book of Women's Rituals
Snow Melting in a Silver Bowl: A Book of Active Meditations
Feeding the Spirit

Recommended Reads:
Altars: Bringing Sacred Shrines into Your Everyday Life - Denise Lynn
Sacred Bedroom - John Roberston
SoulSpace - Xorin Balbes

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Quest of Heroes - Morgan Rice

Thorgrin has always been the least loved of the four boys. Perhaps it is because his birth meant the passing of his mother. Or maybe his father is just unhappy with his attitude. Either way he's left to watch the sheep, while his brothers are doted upon. On the day the army comes to recruit his father insists he watch the sheep, refusing to send a servant to take the charge, even though Thor is old enough and qualified to attend the assessment.

This one time Thor decides to disobey his father. The only reasons he succeeds in joining the army is his stubborn persistence and disobedience even in the face of his superiors. So starts his journey as a squire, who faces the wrath of his fellow recruits who are jealous of the attention his forthright attitude has gotten him.

Thor soon finds the charmed circumstances that brought him to his lofty circumstances are only the beginning of the magic around him

Thor is a simple-minded character with his heart set on heroics, whose story is driven by chance and circumstance. The way the story moves reminds me of Anne McCaffrey's Harper Hall trilogy, which was one of my favorite series in Junior High. This first book in The Sorcerer's Ring series isn't special, but it has potential to become much bigger. I'll be moving on to the next in the series with an expectation of a fun and simple read.

Books in the Series:
A March of Kings
A Fate of Dragons
A Cry of Honor

Similar Reads
Harper Hall Trilogy - Anne McCaffrey

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Sorcerer's Screed - Jochum magnus Eggertsson

Originally published in Icelandic in 1940, this collection of magic spells was first made available in English in 2015.

This collection contains some of the most popular spells, like gaining prosperity, winning the love of your life, and protection from evil. But there are also more unusual and gruesome spells for catching a liar and raising the dead.

Each page contains a single spell starting with the illustrated stave using
runes and symbols at the top in red, followed by the spell and operation written in Runes and then below that in English, both in black.

If you are a reader who is simply curious to learn about different forms of magic, you're appetite will surely be satiated. If you are reader hoping to cast some of these spells you will find the directions easy to follow, though drawing the staves and performing the operations may be a bit tricky in some cases

From the Publisher:
Icelandic Magic for Modern Living

Related Reading:
The Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Warrior Goddess Way - HeatherAsh Amara

Amara continues to show readers how to become more true to themselves in her newest addition to the Warrior Goddess series.

Part I imparts Wisdom concerning four different topics. The first is the gift Of Presence and being truly in oneself during even difficult situations. Of Stories seeks to remind the reader that the event itself may not be as important is how the story we tell ourselves of that event is. The importance Of Forgiveness to the victim or survivor is emphasized in the third chapter. Of Apology expresses the importance of extending an apology not just to the wronged but also to the wrong-doer, who can often be ourselves.

Part II speaks of the gift of Authenticity to ourselves and those around us. The importance of Respecting ourselves, being able to sit with ourselves in Stillness, and how these two things can bring us more Awareness
of who we are and what we should do to be true to ourselves.

Part III is all about saying Yes! to yourself by Cleaning and Maintaining the Home of You by knowing when to continue healthy Relationships with people, events, or organizations, and Opening to the Endings of things when the time comes.

Although this book is meant to build on the previous books in the series, it isn't necessary to read them before diving into this book. It stands well on its own. Any reference to previous books is explained so the reader won't need to pull out the book oneself.

Having read her previous book in the series, Warrior Goddess Training, I often felt myself recalling items I had read there. There wasn't anything new in this book, but it serves as an excellent extension for the reader to dive a bit deeper into the self and continue to maintain a healthy relationship with oneself and the world around. A worthwhile read for those both new and returning readers.

Books in the Series:
Warrior Goddess Training
Warrior Goddess Training Companion Book
Warrior Goddess Meditations

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

Friday, September 29, 2017

Earth Mother - Ellen Jackson

In this gorgeously illustrated full color book, Earth Mother awakens and creates the world and its creatures. She creates the land, the water, the wind. She creates all creatures from the plants to hawks.

Demonstrating the ecosystem mosquito, frog, and human all tell Earth Mother about each other, praising or complaining about each respectively. At the end of the day, Earth Mother is satisfied with her work and chooses to keep things as they are, seeing the necessity in each life.

Earth Mother is illustrated as a beautiful young African woman with a gorgeous afro and her people are shown in assorted traditional dress. The bold lines and certain stature of the characters seem stagnant, but the colors are vibrant and the faces expressive. Parents and children will enjoy watching the world come to life in this lovely book.

More by the Author:
The Precious Gift: A Navaho Creation Myth
The Summer Solstice
The Tree Of Life: The Wonders Of Evolution

More by the Illustrators:
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale
The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales
Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems

Friday, September 22, 2017

Tales Untold - Kevin Focke

This collection contains tales from a variety of genres from Kevin Focke, a man with a unique writing style. Readers will experience some unsettling and horrifying tales in the Reflection Collection, a mix of sci-fi psychedelic tales written in an unreliable narrative. Seasons of Love contains a full range of emotions, including both love and forlorness. The Zoobadoo Zoo reveals the horror that awaits the human race if they were to be wiped out and kept by aliens for their entertainment and observation. A cringey vampire reveals his life in The Fernando Bellisa Chronicles. The Most Epic Tale of All recounts the never-ending story that repeats lifetime after lifetime in a series of three short poems. And finally Tales Untold contains a collection of absurdest poems and short stories.

Like any collection, I enjoyed some stories and poems and disliked others. Seasons of Love was probably my favorite with the range of emotions in the stories. The illustrations that accompanied each story were also great to set the mood. The captivity of humans in The Zoobadoo Zoo brought to mind the Planet of the Apes series and the aliens reminded me a bit of the Vogons from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but the story itself was unique. And The Fernando Bellisa Chronicles amused me as a satire of the typical posh vampire life portrayed in most books and movies. For me this was an enjoyable read with a variety of stories to choose from.

*I received a free pre-sale copy in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Many, Many, Many Gods of Hinduism - Swami Achuthananda

In three parts, Achuthananda hopes to familiarize readers with the Culture, Concepts, and Controversies of Hinduism. In part one, readers will learn the essentials of Hinduism, like when and how it started, who Hindus are, and how other religions influenced the religion. Part two explains the core concepts of Hinduism, including the most referred to texts in Hinduism and how they are used, who the most popular deities are, and about the world view of the religion. Part three contains controversies from those outside of Hinduism and especially the conjectures of those in academia who analyze the religion.

The cover photo of a Hindu deity with blue skin makes it easy to identify the book's subject matter. His casual, simple, and sometimes humorous style makes this piece an enjoyable read. Humorous remarks were typically offset with a ☺ (smiley face), making it easy to distinguish when he makes them. The short chapters run between two to five pages and the information is short and concise,
making the topics easily digestible. I have a passing familiarity with Hinduism, but found a lot of new information provided here. I think that the last part may have been my favorite as it pointed out issues with outsiders giving their opinions on topics within Hinduism. My only complaint is that while the last chapter made a kind-of 'Hinduism is here to stay' comment at the end, it wasn't written in a way that made it feel the book had come to a close.

For those who already have a good understanding of Hinduism there won't be anything new, but for those of us who would like to learn more or know very little this is a great piece.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Blue Unicorn's Journey to Osm - Sybrina Durant

In the Tribe of Metal Horned Unicorns there is a prophecy that tells of a unicorn who will save them from the evil sorceress Magh who uses their horns and hooves for spells, but when he is finally born the Blue Unicorn has no metal in his horn. Without a metal horn the Blue Unicorn has no magic, but he still must find a way to save his people or they will all be doomed.

Along his way on the perilous journey he has the help of many friends, like Gaiso the Stag and Girasol the Firebird. With the help of both forest friends and magical friends alike, Blue Unicorn must battle his way through the magical land of MarBryn to get his tribe back to Unimaise or face extinction.

The cover art caught my eye as soon as I saw it and I was delighted to find that the same vibrant and detailed illustrations are found throughout the entire book. A map in the beginning of the book make it easy for readers to follow both the Blue Unicorn's journey and the separate trek of his Tribe as they make their way to Muzika Woods. Each section has a small black and white illustration and is only two pages of text, making it easy to pick up and put down. Following each section is a full-color 2 page spread version of the black and white picture on the text page. The formatting in the e-book great, but is best enjoyed on a color tablet or computer screen to get the full color illustrations.

Seeing each of the unicorns special abilities corresponding to each unicorns unique metal horn is creative. Although Blue is without magic, he certainly isn't helpless and his ability to stay positive throughout the book definitely helps him on the way. The writing style is appropriate for the age category. The story moves at a steady pace and kept me hooked from beginning to end. Readers should be warned of the inclusion of death near that end, which may be too dark for younger readers.

This coming-of-age story is sure to delight fantasy and unicorn enthusiasts.

Author's Related Books:
Coloring Book - Blue Unicorn's Journey to Osm
Art Book and Character Descriptions - Blue Unicorn's Journey to Osm

Friday, September 1, 2017

Sonic The Hedgehog: Control

After continuing to fight against the Dark Gaia energy on his own, Sonic the Hedgehog finally reaches his Breaking Point and transforms to his werehog form in front of his friends. Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Squirrel convince Sonic to train under Moss the Sloth to learn to control his strength, so finally he can be Unleashed without harming his friends and allies.

When Sally sees a Chaos Emerald being moved, she knows she has to make a move so she doesn't risk it being secured in a better location. Unfortunately her doubts about the situation are founded when they are Ambushed.

To avoid interrupting a cohesive narrative, two secondary stories are moved to the end of the book, rather than in order of appearance in the series. In A Nice Day to Start Again Antoine and Bunnie help a newly wed couple and their entourage escape from a flood. And in The Grand
Tour Rotor shows the gang the improvements he's made to the Sky Patrol, their flying base.

I continue to enjoy this reboot with it's tie-ins to the video game series and its reimagining of the characters from the comic and cartoon series. The art is crisp and the colors are vibrant. The action is clearly illustrated and the dialogue occasionally has a few jokes or puns to give me a laugh snuck between the serious events.

Books in the Series:
Countdown to Chaos
The Chase
Waves of Change

Related Media
SegaSonic Arcade
Sonic Unleashed

Friday, August 25, 2017

Warbreaker - Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna spent her entire life studying for her role as the betrothed of the God King, Fafen prayed and did acts of charity in the religious order as she was promised to do, but Siri, without a specific role to fulfill, spent her days free and wild despite her father's best efforts. When the time finally comes to send his eldest daughter away, though, King Dadelin makes a sudden change and sends Siri, the most ill-prepared of the sisters to the foreign kingdom to fulfill the obligations of the peace treaty.

Alone, Siri must adapt to this completely new culture and set of duties, which she knows nothing of
other than rumors and prejudices she learned in her homeland. With her life's duty stolen from her Vivenna is lost and sets out to Hallandren, thinking to save her sister.

Now Siri must fight to prevent war from inside the political scene with the help of the God King, while Vivenna tries to stop it from the outside with brute force by learning new magics she previously scorned.

I listened to the Brilliance Audio full dramatization, which contained a full voice cast, an original soundtrack and sound effects. The cast did an amazing job bringing the book alive. I especially loved the voice actor who performed Lightsong. The sound effects were always appropriate, though I found a particular chiming sound irritating. The soundtrack was subtle and rarely overwhelming, only adding to the mood.

I wasn't fond of many of the main characters, but each clearly had a purpose to fulfill in the plot. The magic system involving breath (lifeforce) and colors was intriguing and it was one of the primary reasons I continued listening to the book. Some of the characters were more interesting than others. In the end I had thought all was lost until an unexpected character came into play. Filled with drama, intrigue, and magic I loved this book.

Warbreaker:
Brilliance Audio Performance - Part 2
Brilliance Audio Performance - Part 3
Paperback

Friday, August 18, 2017

Baldr's Magic - Nicholas E. Brink, Ph. D.

Through the use of special postures inspired by ancient carved figurines and ecstatic trance, Brink has discovered the history and lives of his ancestors, as well as new tales of the Vanir, the gods that came before the Aesir.

Part One, entitled The Universal Mind contains chapters one through three. The first explains The Lost Power of the Nordic People as they've lost their connection with the earth mother, the second discusses the use and The Powers of Ecstatic and Hypnotic Trance, and chapter three explains the Nordic Postures and what they are used for.

In Part Two, The Lives of the Ancient Ones contains five chapters that contain detailed accounts of the author's journeys. Communing with the Ancestors explains the process before delving into four eras of his experience: The Era of the Mother Goddess,
The Transition, The Warrior and His Family, and Baldr's Rebirth.

Part Three, Myths and Beliefs of the Ancient Ones, contains a brief explanation on The Origins of the Gods before continuing on into the revelations he had in ecstatic trance that he chooses to call The Lost Edda of the Vanir, and finally concludes with The Teachings of the Vanir.

In the Epilogue he tells the reader that the age of Baldr and the Great Mother has come.

The prologue's title Our Relationship to the Great Mother should have been a warning sign to me, but even after reading the prologue itself I willingly forged on. When I got to chapter 1 I fully realized where the author was going when he referred to books like The Mayan Code by Clow and authors like Marija Gimbutas. At this point I realized that there will be very little reference to evidence we have the Norse tradition and the author would be providing everything in a new age interpretation. Chapter 2 explains how ecstatic and hypnotic trance work and gives many examples of his own work and that with clients. In chapter 3 the author takes figurines found in various areas and creates postures from these figurines, adding his own commentary on how he found each best to use.

Chapter 4 is simply an explanation of how the process works. Chapter 5 talks about his experiences with ancestors that lived in a "Mother Goddess" era, which I find it important to note we have no evidence for in this area. Chapter 6 explores the transition between this theoretical earth-based worship and the warrior-based society. In chapter 7, the author erroneously concludes because of his trance work that a wife in a warrior society was "essentially that of a servant, and she is used sexually by her husband, with little identity beyond that function", which is counter to evidence we have of many Nordic areas found in Eddas, Sagas, and Grey Goose laws. As well as further evidence provided by records of Moslems* and Christians, who balked at how the Northern Europeans treated their women compared to their own societies. While this may have been true in other areas, this is not true for the culture in which he claims to have been exploring. In chapter 8, Brink presents his reinterpretation of the story of Baldr's death and suggests his rebirth has already happened and we are living in this age now. He is the bridge to another era of "The Great Mother" Móðir, completely leaving out her husband Faðir from Rígsþula of the Poetic Edda to which he refers.

Chapter 9's brief explanation of the gods, their genealogy, and culture is decent. And most of the stories he receives in trance for chapter 10 are not objectionable in and of themselves. However, it becomes even more obvious in these chapters that he has an agenda with long citations referencing Vanir and particular events about them, while ignoring explanations and stories of Aesir. Anybody who is unfamiliar is left with incredibly one-sided views and those who are familiar will at the very least raise an eyebrow at these choices. And in many points he makes statements that simply aren't true. He states that the Aesir did not have magic, Seidr, which we know is not true as there is a tale of Odin being side-eyed for his practice in exactly that. He chooses to acknowledge the goddess Móðir while simultaneously failing to mention her husband Faðir, as this would ruin his explanation of her as the "Great Mother/Goddess". He makes conjecture that people walked around with what he basically describes as a "Venus of Willendorf", which there is no evidence. This particular conjecture I found confusing when in chapter 3 he refers to images that were actually found in the Northern European areas.

Looking at the Notes (citations) and Bibliography provided at the end of the book shows an abundance of psychological and new age texts and only a few references to primary sources or even secondary sources when it comes to actual Nordic beliefs. This work is obviously agenda-driven by the "Great Mother" theory and it is done poorly by only choosing the positive aspects of female Vanir and ignoring that of the Aesir and male Vanir, as well as engaging in rampant cherry-picking throughout his entire book.

I would not recommend this for anybody due to the amount of inaccuracy.

Source Materials
Prose Edda
Poetic Edda

Recommended Reading:
Roles of the Northern Goddess - Dr Hilda Ellis Davidson
Everyday Life in the Viking Age - Jacqueline Simpson
Nordic Religions in the Viking Age - Thomas DuBois

*Spelling due to the time period in which these were written

Friday, August 11, 2017

Hidden Warrior - Lynn Flewelling

When the magic spell keeping him in the wrong body is revealed to Tobin, he finds himself both relieved and isolated. His attraction to his friends suddenly makes sense and his lack of physical growth is no longer alarming. But in order to keep himself safe from the tyrant king who would kill him, he must keep his secret to himself.

After a particularly harrowing incident with his sponsor, Tobin is called back to the main city by orders of the king. There things get even more awkward as his friends start visiting brothels and insist he comes along. When he was sent away he was also somewhat sheltered from the events around the kingdom, now he's coming face-to-face with the reality of the failing kingdom with crops dying and disease runs rampant through the land.

If Tobin is to save the kingdom as the prophesy says, he will need to act soon.

When I started reading this second book in the trilogy, I remembered why I took such a long break between this and the first. Flewelling's writing plods along steadily, but sometimes it feels like nearly stagnant. Even so, the continued mystery and anticipation kept me going as I waited for Tobin and his companions to find the right time to reveal themselves and take back the kingdom that was wrongly taken from him. Tamir's appearance is painful and magical, breaking free from the shell she has been forced to live in her entire life.

I am excited to read the final novel in this series to find how Tamir handles her new power.

Books in the Series:
The Bone Doll's Twin
The Oracle's Queen

Friday, August 4, 2017

Chi's Sweet Home (Vol 1) - Kanata Konami

A kitten gets lost from his mother and finds himself in the gentle and loving hands of a family. Like many people who have cats, the family didn't plan on keeping Chi, as their son soon names him, but after many attempts at finding him a different home, they end up keeping him.

This comic records the every day antics of a kitten as he adjusts to his new environment and the environment adjusts to him. Anybody who has owned a cat will enjoy the humorous take on the difficult tasks of toilet training a cat and teaching him the rules of his new home. The mundane take on the daily life of a cat is the distinct charm of this series.

Books in the Series:
Chi's Sweet Home Volume 2
Chi's Sweet Home Volume 3
Chi's Sweet Home Volume 4

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

Arthur Dent was already having a terrible day when he found out his house was getting bulldozed to make room for an interchange. Little did he know his disappearing house would turn into a disappearing planet. In the nick of time, Arthur is rescued from certain destruction by his friend Ford Prefect by hitching a ride on a Vogon ship.

Hitchhiking across the galaxy should be fun with all of the new foods and technology, but there are lots of aliens and bureaucracy to deal with. Along the way he meets back up with his former crush, Tricia McMillan, the now-girlfriend of Zaphod Beeblebrox, who just happens to be the president of the galaxy. And even makes the acquaintance of the depressed android, Marvin. Their idiosyncrasies should make the journey across the galaxy interesting, especially since one of them is also on the run from the law.

With all of the absurd and unexpected situations, I always laugh when I read this book. It's not the kind of humor everyone will enjoy, but it remains one of my favorite books through the years.

More by the Author:
Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Life, the Universe, and Everything
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Friday, July 21, 2017

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: 7 Steps to Freedom from Anxiety, Depression, and Intrusive Thoughts - Lawrence Wallace

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is currently one of the most popular methods used to address a variety of disorders, including Anxiety, Depression, and Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, among many others. In this short book Wallace gives a synopsis of the origins of this technique, how it works, and the instances in which a CBT program on its own may not be appropriate. It is then followed by a simple 7 step process the reader with examples in each step that can assist the reader in beginning his or her own program. Throughout the book the author uses religious and philosophical texts and points of view that may assist the reader in processing the information, which include Buddhism, Stoicism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Christianity. At the end the author provides resources, encourages readers to seek assistance from a trained person, and a few work sheets.

The book cover definitely caught my eye with a shadow person inserting a new cog into their head and I found it representative of the book's contents. I enjoyed the inclusion of the religious and philosophical texts and that the author chose a variety in order to help the reader integrate the process with his or her own personal beliefs. This text will assist a reader in deciding if CBT may be the solution he or she is looking for with it's readable explanations and process. Due to it's short-length, however, it is not in-depth and readers will likely need to pursue other resources or assistance from a trained counselor to proceed.

Recommended Reads:
What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming OCD - Dawn Huebner
Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts: How to Gain Control of Your OCD - David A. Clark, Christine Purdon
Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior - Jeffrey M. Schwartz

Friday, July 14, 2017

Into the Heart of the Feminine - Massimilla Harris, Bud Harris

Harris and Harris use their knowledge of Jungian symbolism and storytelling to encourage people to embrace the hardships in their past to build a new foundation and build a new person.

The book is written in four parts. Facing the Death Mother builds a foundation of understanding of Jungian analysis before moving on to how to do the work in A Healing Path with the myth of Medusa. By examining who Medusa is and how she came to be,
Harris presents a new understanding of Medusa that readers can use to reframe their own past experiences. Burning Clean explains how to confront shame, fear, and how mirroring the death mother within us will help us move forward. Finally, The Freedom to Come Home gives readers permission and encouragement to truly be themselves by finding their passions, speaking their truth, and making life new.

When this first arrived in the mail I was both confused and ecstatic! The package did not contain a letter and only contained a return address on the package. Once I remembered I had entered the giveaway for this book, I couldn't wait to read it.

Since I already have an understanding of Jungian analysis, I found Part I somewhat tedious, but it set an important groundwork for me to understand Harris and Harris's personal approach to the matter. Part II contains the actual work and immediately reminded me of Women Who Run with the Wolves with the way the authors reframe the story. Part III gets more specific as to what negative feelings can be approached this way and how to use it. Part IV is an invitation and map for authenticity, which provides closure to the book and encourages further work by the reader in their personal life.

I only have two gripes with the book. The amount of times Part I hints at the Medusa myth and tells readers the book will address it later is both tiresome and frustrating. It's supposed to be tantalizing, but it feels like it leaves too much unsaid. I would also liked to have seen more story examples of using negative tales for positive gain in order for the reader to get more in-depth understanding of how to use them.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it for people who are looking to change their story. I look forward to reading more books by these authors.

More by the Author:
Like Gold Through Fire: Understanding the Transforming Power of Suffering
The Art of Love: The Craft of Relationship: A Practical Guide for Creating the Loving Relationships We Want

Author's Site:
Budharris.com

Recommended Reads:
Women Who Run with the Wolves -Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Warrior Goddess Training - HeatherAsh Amara
Coming Alive!: Spirituality Activism, & Living Passionately in the Age of Global Domination - Rebecka Eggers

Friday, July 7, 2017

To Every Thing There is a Season - Diane Dillon, Leo Dillon

There are many memorable quotes from the Bible. One of the most beautiful and loved comes from the third chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes, which speaks of the necessity of change with the natural occurrences that happen throughout the seasons.

Dillon and Dillon take this text and place it side-by-side with illustrations that reflect the art styles of many cultures, including: Celtic, Egyptian, Japanese, Mayan, Greek, Indian, Medieval European, Ethiopian, Thai, Chinese, Russian, Aboriginal, Inuit, and Arabic.

For anybody looking for representation and gentle lessons, this is a wonderful addition to the library.

More by the Authors
Mama Says: A Book of Love for Mothers and Sons

Friday, June 30, 2017

Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut

Like most of his work, Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle contains a biting satirical view of modern society that revolves around science, technology, and religion.

The narrator, John or Jonah, talks about how he once set out to write a book and it appears that perhaps what the reader holds in his hand is the result. He tells the reader of his quest to speak with the creators of the atomic bomb and later his search for the newest and most devastating weapon ice-nine.

During his search he is led to the fictional Caribbean island of San Lorenzo, where the people use a nearly unintelligible language and follow a religion called Bokononism,
a strange mix of nihilism and cynical observations of God.

While previously I had enjoyed Slaughterhouse-Five, I found this novel more difficult to navigate. There are many scenes and ideas I enjoyed listening to, but I feel like I didn't get the whole of this book my first time through. I'll have to read this again in the future.

More by the Author:
Slaughterhouse-Five
Catch-22


Recommended Reads:
A Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Fahrenheit 451 - Rad Bradbury
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

Friday, June 23, 2017

In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash - Jean Shephard

Before heading into town on his trip Ralphie stops by Flick's tavern for a drink, where they recollect their childtimes in the small town of Holden, Indiana. A quick dip turns into a day-long excursion as they walk down memory lane with both the good and bad.

Some of the most memorable scenes were chosen to be included in the movie adaption A Christmas Story, like the fight scene between Ralphie and his bully and Ralphie's many foiled attempts at convincing his parents to get him the Red Rider BB gun with a compass on the stock and this thing that tells time, but there are many other adventures that Ralphie and his friends embark on that would interest anybody who enjoyed the movie.

Ralphie remembers good things about money, like buying loose candy from the grocery store or eating his favorite foods at home. He also recalls troubling times when food
was scarce or when the auditors came by during tax season. He remembers the disaster of damaging his father's brand new-used card and of the promotional gravy boat disaster that ran the local theater owner out of town.

The musing narrative kept me hooked the entire time I was reading. Before I knew it I had finished this book with many chuckles and guffaws, where I not only enjoyed Ralphie's recollections but was also reminded of many goofy moments in my own childhood that took place at a much later date. I recommend this book to anybody who enjoys nostalgic humor.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Gender and the Chivalric Community in Malory's Morte d'Arthur - Dorsey Armstrong

The legend of King Arthur and his Knights was written as multiple pieces by many authors spread across many lands. It was Sir Malory who finally pieced these stories together into a cohesive narrative for readers to enjoy. While Malory put this story into the hands of people who would not otherwise have access, as Armstrong will explain, he has a different idea of what chivalry is than those who wrote the original stories.

Armstrong explores the Rise of Arthur's Court in the first chapter and concludes in the final chapter with The Decline and Fall of Chivalric Community. The second chapter is devoted completely to Sir Lancelot, one of the primary characters in the saga,
including his adventures and his devotion to Guinevere and the chivalric duty. She also talk about Gareth and Tristan's adventures and how they represent chivalry. In the second to the last chapter, she explains how gender
and kinship factor into community and the Quest for the Holy Grail.

Anybody who wants to get a true understanding of chivalry and what it means to the many authors of the chronicles of King Arthur should read this piece.

This book is available for free by Creative Commons License and can be downloaded: http://ufdcimages.uflib.ufl.edu/AA/00/01/16/82/00001/GenderandtheChivalricCommunity.pdf

More by the Author:
Great Courses - King Arthur: History and Legend
Sir Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur: A New Modern English Translation Based on the Winchester Manuscript
Mapping Malory

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Art of War: Baby Edition - Jesse Tamburino

Sun Tzu's treasured treatise Art of War has been translated into a multitude of languages and adapted for a number of occupations. In this edition, Tamburino brings the basic strategies from the text to a new audience: children.

Brought to life by Rey Lijesta's clear and colorful illustrations, children will follow Sun Tsu and young Sun Bin around town and across the countryside as they discuss strategies for battle and war. Through Sun Bin's curiosity and Sun Tsu's friendly voice, children will learn the simplified lessons found in this classic text, like when to push forward and when to retreat. How to assess the oppositions strength and how to count ones own.

Parents who wish to help their children learn basic strategies early in life will find this friendly book just what they are looking for.

Original Work:
The Art of War - Sun Tzu, translated by Lionel Giles

Friday, June 2, 2017

Shadowshaper - Daniel Jose Older

With the entire summer ahead of her, Sierra Santiago is looking forward to uninterrupted time to work on the mural she's been tasked to complete by her neighborhood. When her friends and family begin hassling her to complete the project, including her ailing grandfather, she knows something is amiss. Robbie, an old classmate, is willing to help her with the mural, but he seems to be in on the conspiracy to keep her in the dark, as well.

When Sierra starts hallucinating when looking at art around town, she thinks it's just stress playing tricks on her eyes. But when people around her start getting hurt and even dying, she decides it's time to get down to the bottom of what's going on. Sierra will need to dive deep into her family's past in order to find the answers she seeks and defeat the evil that is coming over the city.

Sierra is a loyal part of her family, helping with chores and caring for her ailing grandfather, but she's also a party girl. Her friends are mostly party-goers, but their own loyalty to their friendship to Sierra also shines through, especially near the end when the situation gets dire.

I enjoyed the slow reveal of Sierra's family history and the magic system that utilizes artistic talent, both of which she ultimately uses to win against the enemy.

While basic Spanish is used throughout the novel when Sierra speaks to her family, it is no hindrance to a non-Spanish-speaking reader. Older does a superb job of keeping the conversation flowing back into English so the reader understands what's going on. The inclusion of simple things, like food, brings Sierra's every day life into reality.

Perhaps the greatest strength of this piece is the themes of family history, loyalty, and truth. It also includes a moment where Sierra stands up against prejudice in her own family. I loved this book and I look forward to reading the next book coming out later this year.

Books in the Series:
Shadowhouse Fall
Ghost Girl in the Corner

Friday, May 26, 2017

Soundless - Richelle Mead

Because her people are deaf, Fei's village communicates solely by handsigns and written word. Although their histories say it was not always like this, nobody can remember a time when this wasn't so.

Isolated from all other trade due to their location, their consumption is restricted by the line keeper who sends goods and food in exchange for mined goods. When the mines begin drying up they're barely able to feed their people and to make matters worse, people are losing their sight.

Fei and Li Wei leave on a difficult journey determined to speak to those in charge and change how things are done and save their people.

Although Fei is aware of the hardships of the other villagers because she records them, she does not experience them because of her position and social status. When she leaves the village with Li Wei she finds herself on equal footing. With their social statuses no longer keeping them apart, their relationship is allowed to blossom in a romantic way. For me this was a nice change from Mead's normally lustful relationships in her stories.

Unable to communicate with outsiders when they get there, Fei and Li Wei must use creative thinking to get themselves out of trouble. They find allies in unusual places. While Li Wei accuses Fei's talents with the brush to be useless compared to the brute strength he used to get them out, her skills even find use in the outside world.

I loved this story all the way until the climax, which essentially amounted to "suddenly! magical beings save them".

In the summary it says it's inspired by Chinese folklore, but the author herself doesn't say what tale and nobody can seem to figure out what story served as inspiration. This is disappointing for me because I always like to go back and read the original tale when possible.

While this is not a read again type book, I would recommend it for the shear creativity Mead shows throughout this novel.

More by the Author:
Vampire Academy
Bloodlines
The Glittering Court

Friday, May 19, 2017

Finding Your Sacred Contracts - Caroline Myss

In her work Sacred Contracts Myss believes that each of us was given unique skills and talents when we born to fulfill contracts that only we as individuals are capable of completing. In her workshops, Myss hopes to bring clarity to people's lives by having individuals analyze their archetypes and the combination of archetypes living within us. She also believes dreams, intuition, and even coincidences in our lives can point us on the right path if we are willing to listen.

I'm somewhat familiar with Myss's work from her book Archetypes, which appeared to be merely a dictionary of archetypes with little use without further guidance. I'd also heard the gist of her ideas from others who have found her Sacred Contracts book useful for their own lives. I had hoped by listening to this workshop I could get a better feel for her work, but I found myself no more enlightened. Myss seems to have trouble staying focused and meanders in her presentation. To make matters worse when she does stop to explain something she doesn't do a good job of it. I found myself largely depending on my own familiarity with archetypes, Jungian thought, and other metaphysical topics to understand what she was saying.

The one thing I did appreciate about her presentation was her use of inclusive language. Near the beginning she explains she is familiar with many modes and advises the audience to substitute their own religious or spiritual language. Of course, this would be a much easier if the audience themselves understood the vocabulary Myss is using at any particular point in her presentation.

This is definitely not a workshop for those unfamiliar with multiple belief systems or for those unfamiliar with her work. Aside from a few odd stories about the author and some of her students, the listener will not receive an further insight. Perhaps this is best for those already familiar with her work and may want to brush up on the philosophy.

Before listening to this or reading other works by this author I would suggest brushing up on the philosophers she uses as a foundation.

More by the Author:
Sacred Contracts
Archetypes
Archetype Cards

Suggested Reading:
The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (Collected Works...) - Carl Jung
The Myth of Eternal Return - Mircea Eliade
The Hero with a Thousand Faces - Joseph Campbell

Friday, May 12, 2017

Big Mushy Happy Lump - Sarah Anderson

When I heard Anderson was releasing a second collection of her online panel comic I had to check it out.

Through comics Sarah shares he daily experiences that I find both relatable and humorous. She draws light-hearted panels about her fickle and ever-changing taste in fashion, her obsession with cats (as well as that of the internet), and the joys of friendships and relationships. But Sarah also draws about more serious topics like depression, anxiety, and social awkwardness.

If you're the type who sees the humor in every day life then this collection of comics may be something to put a smile on your face.

More by the Author:
Adulthood is a Myth

Author's Website:
Sarah's Scribbles

Recommended Reads:
Hyperbole and a Half - Allie Brosh
Heart and Brain: An Awkward Yeti Collection - Nick Seluk
Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants - Matthew Inman

Friday, May 5, 2017

Ronia, the Robber's Daughter - Astrid Lindgren

Ronia was born on a stormy night with the harpies taunting and her mother singing in Mat's castle. Ronia is not only fawned over by the loving Lovis and the hot-headed Matt but also by the band of robbers who live with them.

When she is old enough and the season is right, Ronia spends her days wandering in Matt's forest and enjoying the natural landscape and animals for her play. But her life is forever changed when she meets the son of a rival clan's Chieftain, who opens her eyes to a life very much like her own but different in many ways.

Ronia and her rival must learn to work together in the early-medieval Scandinavian landscape filled with both natural dangers and supernatural creatures from folklore. Together they may eventually be able to break a generation broken friendship.

Lindgren's characters are personifications of certain attributes. Ronia the innocent girl with her loving mother and her overreactionary father. The rival clan's members are near opposites with Borka the cool-headed chieftain, Undis the strict mother, and their teasing son Birk.

Ronia's world is filled with natural dangers like wolves and starvation, as well as supernatural dangers like harpies and grey dwarves. Perhaps my favorite part of this children's novel is that the supernatural creatures are an extension of the natural world, like in the case of gray dwarves only attacking at night. Lindgren presents lessons on safety, charity, love, courage, responsibility, death, and more in episodic chapters.

I hope both children and parents will continue to enjoy this piece for years to come.

More by the Author:
The Brother's Lionheart
Pippi Longstocking's
Rasmus and the Vagabond

Film adaptions:
Ronja Räubertochter
Ronja, the Robber's Daughter

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Sociopath Next Door - Martha Stout

When a news segment comes on speaking of an extreme case of abuse or of a serial killer, most people immediately think sociopath or psychopath. What most of us don't realize is that sociopaths with much less detectable behaviors live among us in our daily lives and most of us are unable to identify them. In fact, it's estimated that 4% of the United States' population are sociopaths.

So what are sociopaths really like? How do they act? What motivates them to do the cruel things they do. Stout hopes to shed light on this with the insight she's gained from her practice. She uses real cases to reveal the inner workings to the layman, but protects her clients' confidentiality by creating three composites from clients with the same M.O. and additionally changing names and locations when need be.

Stout provides an accessible analysis for readers who are unfamiliar with the topic. She explains what sociopathy is and perhaps why some people are sociopathic. With the three composite cases, readers are given insight into their thoughts, motivations, and behaviors. She also provides some ideas on how to identify those who may be sociopathic and how to deal with their behavior. She also concludes why having a conscience is better than not having one.

Since I've already read on the topic, I didn't find anything new in this piece; however, it was an easily digestible read with little technical jargon. For those who are unfamiliar with the topic and want to learn more, I would recommend this piece for insight and understanding. For those already familiar, I would say look elsewhere.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Age of Ra - James Lovegrove

In an alternative timeline it is the Egyptain pantheon who has lived over all others. Powered by the devotions and prayers of their followers, they spread their blessings on their own the areas that provide the most worship. Of course, this means many areas have been left abandoned due to the hardships the people experience. Seeing his opportunity a man known only as Lightbringer begins the rebellion against the Gods.

David, a soldier, is one of the many who has reached the end of his patience with the gods, especially after his captivity in a foreign land leading to the deaths of many of his fellow soldiers and innocent strangers. After witnessing so many abuses, David and many others join with the Lightbringer to cause havoc that even echoes in the very heavens themselves.

While I have mixed feelings about the story itself, I loved Lovergrove's style. Lovegrove's ability to create tension and maintain a steady stream of ups-and-downs for the reader is the best part of this book. The alternating point of view between David on earth and how the events effected the heavens reminded me of the Greco-Roman mythology retellings in film. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Readers should be warned of scenes involving torture, child abuse, and survival before deciding to read this work.

Books in the Series:
Age of Zeus
Age of Odin
Age of Aztec

Friday, April 14, 2017

Caesar's Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus - Joseph Atwill

There is an ongoing argument as to whether or not Jesus of the Bible is a historical figure. Some believe this historicity is of the utmost importance, while others argue the power of myth makes this point moot. Atwill contends that the truth is of the utmost importance and presents his theory that Jesus was not real, but a figure created by the Roman Empire.

While many point to Josephus's works as proof that Jesus existed, Atwill argues the opposite. He finds parallels between The War of the Jews and The New Testament to be proof of a larger satire when read side-by-side.

Like many scholars, Atwill agrees that when put in order the gospels tell a full story; however, he also states that the narrative of this story sometimes reveals some unbelievable circumstances.

With visual charts, lists, and a large section of citations readers will find it easy to follow Atwill's train of thought as they read. Perhaps one of the best parts of this book is that Atwill does not reference texts that are outside of the reach of the layman, as many authors who approach this subject do. He references out-of-copyright texts that any person can get a hold of to check his work.

I found Atwill's theory interesting, but with all of the references it took me a while to wade through the entire book. For those who are willing to put in a little bit of work themselves, I think this is a fascinating read. And while it may not convince readers, it is certainly an idea worth entertaining.

More by the Author:
Updated Edition

References:
The War of the Jews
The New Testament (KJV)

Related Reading:
Cleopatra to Christ - Ralph Ellis
Jesus Never Existed Kenneth Humphries
Pagan Christianity

Friday, April 7, 2017

My Neighbor Totoro (Novel) - Tsugiko Kubo, Hayao Miyazaki

After their mother falls ill and has to stay in a hospital, Satuski and Mei move with their father from Tokyo to a small village. Without relatives or servants to help and in an older house, the three have to learn new ways to care for both themselves and the house. There's one more peculiar aspect of their house: it's haunted. While Tatsuo their father is excited about this, the two girls aren't so sure how they feel about it.

Despite being in a brand new place, they soon find they are not alone. There are friendly neighbors, including the old housekeeper, who are willing to help them get used to their new life. There are also more curious neighbors, the spirit kind, who are looking out for the girls in their new hometown.

While this novelization largely follows the film when it comes to its story line, there is an added episode where the two sisters go back to visit their relatives in Tokyo, which demonstrates how much the girls have changed because of their new lifestyle. Some of the events unfold a little differently, such as Mei's discovery of Totoro and when Satuski seeks out Mei at the end.

There are some things that aren't explained in the Disney dub of the film, the version I am familiar with, that are explained in the book. Such as why the dustbunnies/soot sprites leave after the bathtub scene. Or how both Satuski and Mei are both associated with the month of May.

Those familiar with the film may find this novelization charming, but I didn't feel the novelization conveyed the same amount of magic as the film version.

More in the media:
My Neighbor Totoro Blu-Ray
Art of My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro Picture Book

Friday, March 31, 2017

Beauty and the Clockwork Beast - Nancy Campbell Adam

When Lucy, a well-known botanist, hears of the ailment plaguing her cousin Kate, she travels to Blackwell manor in hopes of providing a cure for her. Upon her arrival she finds she is unwelcome, especially since the family is still recovering from the recent death of Lord Miles Blackwell's wife and the death of his own sister, Marie. People suspect Kate has caught the Blackwell curse by marrying into the family with Jonathon.

Lucy doesn't believe in curses and is convinced there is a reason for her cousin's illness, but the list of suspects is long: unhappy servants, competitive rivals, spurned love interests,...

Adam's smooth writing makes this a delight to read. Lucy is independent, confident, and a bit sassy, especially when it comes to her encounters with the overbearing Lord Blackwell. Her discoveries about the manor, the people, and what transpired happens over a gradual period. My only complaint is an unfortunate predictable villain monologue near the end that is, of course, used to save the protagonist's life.

Although this is the only book the author has written in the Steampunk genre, I hope for more in the future.

More by the Author:
The Secret of India Orchid
From Cairo, With Love
Autumn Masquerade

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Affinity Bridge - George Mann

When an airship in Victorian London crashes and the piloting automaton disappears in the wreckage, Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes are put on the case. If this mystery wasn't hard enough they have the addition of a glowing policeman who is linked to a string of strangulations and the added pressure of a zombie-like plague infecting the city.

Although technological progress has provided many every day conveniences, there are many disturbing advances making their jobs all the more difficult. Both agents must use their sleuthing and physical prowess to find the truth lying somewhere between the technological and the supernatural.

While I enjoyed the multiple plot lines and how they were woven together, the writing itself jumped a lot and a lot of events were tedious. Neither of the agents were particularly engaging. The narrator often mentions how adept Newbury and Hobbes are, but we don't see it until the very end when all is revealed. I'm not compelled to continue the series due to my many gripes.

Books in the Series:
The Osiris Ritual
The Immortality Engine
The Executioner's Heart

Friday, March 17, 2017

Assassin's Creed: Heresy - Christie Golden

As the new head of the Historical Division, Simon Hathaway wants to experience how the Animus works. When he dives into his ancestral past as Gabriel Laxart to fight alongside the famed Joan of Arc, he discovers that what he's learned about the Templars, even with his insight as a member of the Inner Sanctum, may not be true.

As he experiences the lies and betrayals of Joan, these same experiences seem to start haunting his real life. He tells himself he is only experiencing leaking and becoming paranoid from his consistent use of the Animus. Or perhaps his livelihood as a corporate head and his place in the Inner Sanctum of the Templars isn't as safe as he has been led to believe. But even more disturbing is the idea he may not be on the right side of history.

One of my favorite parts of the Assassin's Creed video game series is the alternating and intersecting plot lines, so I was happy to see this same point of view carried on into this stand alone novel. The way in which Simon's consciousness merges with Gabriel's throughout the Animus portions of the novel were well-done. Gabriel's discovery intertwines in the modern world with Simon's plotline perfectly. While the plotlines of this novel come together in the end, there is still an openness at the end for future books.

As somebody who has read a lot on Joan of Arc, I was pleased to see some dialogue throughout the past reflect what is recorded in pieces such as Joan of Arc: By Herself and Witnesses. Many of the alternative ways events unfold I have seen speculated in other texts with alternative ideas of how things happened. I was satisfied with how the author decided to mix fiction with known history for the sake of plot.

For those who enjoy the Assassin's Creed series this is a fantastic addition. For those who are interested in a different idea of how Joan of Arc's life may have been, this is also a good read.

Friday, March 10, 2017

How to Be a Hero - Lynn Daue

When Ricky Nishizuka's son died while on duty, he decided to share his son's positive attitude with the world. Through collaboration with writer Lynn Daue and illustrator John O'Neill they created a wonderful board book for young children.

Children learn by seeing the gallant acts of firemen and the upright and virtuous faces of military personnel. More importantly, children will learn the value of daily acts through the illustrations, like a faithful crossing guard holding traffic in the rain,
the mentorship of an older friend, and the importance of appreciating diversity with the inclusion of the word xenophile and yearning to learn about other cultures.

The adults and children in the book are of varying color and ability, so children will certainly see both themselves and the people around them. If you are looking for a book to encourage right action at a young age, this is a good piece to read.

Related Links:
Live Like Reid.com
Live Like Reid - Facebook
Reid Nishizuka Mentorship Award

Friday, March 3, 2017

Yes Please - Amy Poehler

Although well-known as a comedian during her years with Saturday Night Live, Amy Poehler is probably currently best known as Leslie Knope in the television series Parks and Recreation. Although Poehler makes comedy look easy and natural, which it should be considering she's been practicing since she was a kid, she worked hard to get to where she is.

In this autobiographical piece, Amy shares her defeats and triumphs flavored by her own brand of humor to not only talk about her only life, but also to encourage others to reach for their own dreams.

I was happy I had chosen to listen to the audiobook version, which is narrated by Poehler herself and many others, including Carol Burnett, Seth Meyers, Patrick Stewart, and even her own mom and dad, it brought the writing to life as they acted out the parts. We hear about Poehler's early experiences as she struggles to live off of waitress wages while simultaneously spending her nights as a member of the comedy troupe, Upright Citizens Brigade, as well as her experiences with the many celebrities and politicians she's had the pleasure of working with during her time on SNL and many other projects. We also get to learn how she keeps up with her career, while caring for her wonderful family.

If you are a fan of Amy Poehler, as I am, I definitely recommend her humorous autobiography to get a glimpse of who Poehler really is behind the scenes.

More featuring Amy:
Upright Citizen's Brigade
Saturday Night Live: Best of Amy Poehler
Parks and Recreation

Friday, February 24, 2017

Sister of Wisdom - Barbara Newman

Hildegard of Bingen's works have been translated into many languages and interpreted in many different ways. In this book, Newman focuses on the feminine both divine and human to bring about a better understanding of this particular aspect in Hildegard's theology.

In order to provide better understanding and context, Newman begins chapter one, A Poor Little Female, with a brief biography of Hildegard, a survey of her works, and an explanation of the difficulty of delivering her message in the cultural climate.

Each of the following chapters focus on a particular topic. The Feminine Divine explores her ideas of theophany, counsel, creation, wisdom, and charity. The Woman and the Serpent explores womans' reflection of God, her creation by Adam's rib, and her
responsibility in the fall of mankind. Daughters of Eve talks about sex, fertility, and healing. The Mother of God discusses Mary, the atonement, and the ideal role of women. The Bride of Christ is about the Church's place in the kingdom of heaven. The final chapter, Sister of Wisdom serves as a recap of the content within the book and also contains final conclusions on Hildegard's feminine theology.

Although Newman does a splendid job quoting Hildegard's work, a familiarity with the full context of the works these quotes came from would aid the reader. There is a similar issue with the cultural climate. A base knowledge of medicine, Vatican law, and political occurrences of her time will help put Hildegard's ideas into context. The content is detailed and well-explained. For those interested in this specific part of Hildegard's theology I would definitely recommend this text.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Postmortal - Drew Magary

John Farrell is an early adopter of "the cure", a new procedure that prevents a person from dying of old age. For many years it is only offered on the black market, due to the political and moral debate. Eventually it is offered to the general public through doctors and then finally even in home kits.

Living forever has unforeseen consequences, though. Individuals who thought it would be fun to explore the world and try new things, soon find that it's too easy to achieve their dreams. Faced with the prospective of spending life together, not just for a lifetime, but forever, leads couples and families to seek new contracts for marriage.

Beyond the personal consequences there are larger societal and environmental consequences. New fanatical cults arise, as both religions and gangs. Overpopulation leads to food and water shortages. And new government euthanasia programs become an essential part of life.

The novel is written in a scrapbook format where John Farrell's personal journal entries, filled with complex experiences, emotions, and relationships, are interspersed are news reports and articles of current events giving his personal experiences more context with the world he is living in. At times it was difficult to get through this due to the realistic events. I look forward to reading future works by this author.

More by the Author:
The Hike

Friday, February 10, 2017

Take Heart, My Child - Ainsley Earhardt

Before you were born
Before you came to be
I dreamed a love song...


Jaime Kim's vibrant and dreamy illustrations awaken Ainsley Earhardt's heartfelt wishes for her daughter's life in this picture book. Her wishes are the same as many other parents: love, growth, confidence, companionship, and more.

The rhymes are beautiful and sentimental, but there are times when the rhymes are a bit nonsensical, with the inclusion of a "polka dot tree" and a "grand deer ballet". Despite these awkward moments, the illustrations bring the poem to life.

Both mothers and daughter will enjoy the gorgeous illustrations. The sentiments in the poem are nothing unusual, but the meter is pleasant to read. While I'm not sure children in the 4-8 age range, as the book is written for, will understand the full meaning of the sentiments in the book, they will learn to absorb the lessons as they get older.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Between Heaven and Mirth - James Martin

For many people religious practice is strict and serious. It is filled with quiet periods of meditation and prayer, study of scripture, and the hymns or songs sung in services.

James Martin, a Jesuit priest, is one of many who finds that both joy and humor are important aspects of both his daily life and his spiritual practice. Martin shows that these two aspects can be found even within the pages of the Bible, both in the Old Testament established by the Judaism and the New Testament that Christians added.

There is also a long-standing tradition of wit that can be found throughout the ages in Christianity. Quotes and stories found in the pieces of The Desert Fathers, the tales told and attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, and in modern times where religious leaders tell anecdotes from their own lives. Martin even tells a few of his own.

I enjoyed giggling with familiar stories and laughing aloud at the experiences Martin shared in this piece. Those looking to add a little levity to their own practice will find this book a useful tool to finding their own balance in life.

More by the author:
My Life with the Saints
The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything
The Abbey

Recommended Reads:
The Desert Fathers
Little Flowers of Saint Francis