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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.

Brilliance Audio Performance - Part 2
Brilliance Audio Performance - Part 3

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