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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Book Review
Book Review:  The Akashic Records by Ernesto Ortiz

Published by New Page Books, 2015

The Akashic Records: Sacred Exploration of Your Soul's Journey Within the Wisdom of the Collective Consciousness, by Ernesto Ortiz

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Book Review: Crystal Healing for the Heart: Gemstone Therapy for Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Well-Being by Nicholas Pearson

The subject of crystal healing is actually quite simple in practice but has a tendency to get complex in theory. Through his book Crystal Healing for the Heart, Nicholas Pearson makes this subject approachable and easily accessible, keeping it simple in theory as well as practice. The chapters are laid out as modules tailored to different aspects of healing our hearts and each chapter builds on the work done in the chapter preceding. This is a book to be worked with and through rather than one just to read.

Working from the outside in, Crystal Healing for the Heart is a colorful book with a rainbow of gemstones on the cover. It draws you in to the promise of the heart of this book (pun intended) which is about working with various gemstones for healing the heart. Visually, the layout is easy to follow, the subject is well-described, the gemstone "requirements" are fluid and interchangeable and the meditations are well laid out. A full color interior, the book has a pleasing visual layout with color-coded headings and photographs which are simple and clear. There is a photographic example of each of the suggested gemstones and a photograph of the author depicting the final step in each meditation exercise. An appendix for crystal basics makes a handy reference for novices.

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“All Hands on Pet!” By Susan Davis, PT.

From time to time, I will be doing book reviews of various books concerning animals, not just books about "finding your totem animal."

One way to foster human-animal relations is by caring for pets. As pet “owners,” people want the best for their animals. Physical Therapist Susan Davis tells people how in “All Hands on Pet!,”(a companion to her “Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation for Animals: A Guide for the Consumer.”) Her philosophy in writing this book is to help pets enjoy their lives as much as possible. Her aim is to offer practical insights for the pet owner on how to do that.

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I had other plans... meaning, that I had other plans for the start of this blog, or should I say, the re-start of this blog. As I'm sliding into the end of Saturn in my sun sign (gather round, fellow Sagittarians!), I've been obsessed with streamlining, simplifying, being more efficient, not wasting time (hahaha), but, here I am. In short: Broomstix is still available as an archive on Blogger.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Review of Horn of the Kraken

Set in the Fate of the Norns universe originated by Andrew Valkauskas, Horn of the Kraken by Stephen B. Pearl is the first in a new series within that universe. This is a universe full of magic and fantastical beasts, where the Norns choose human champions. Based on historical conversion-era Europe, featuring some historical figures such as Eric Blood-Axe, Horn of the Kraken is also set during Fimbulwinter, the prelude to Ragnarok. Fimbulwinter is the breakdown in the cycle of the seasons in which the sun never rises again and winter lasts until the end of the world. The world’s central problem is the mass failure of agriculture, and the world’s politics centers on the impact that would have if it occurred during the Viking Age. The villains, who are Christians out to convert the heathen and control the world’s economy and political structures, are using a mysterious new superweapon, the Horn of the Kraken.

Into this come five chosen heroes. Fjorn is a nobleman and a fighter/bard. Politics stalks him because of his bloodlines. Sigurlina is a seidhkona, a type of heathen witch with powers of necromancy and healing. She serves Freya and is sworn to avenge her family against Christian ruler Hakon. Audun is a rune master who has a near-death experience at the hands of the Christian enemy that echoes the story of Odin’s runic initiation on the Tree. Ragna is a thief. She tags along to get out of town ahead of trouble. Vidurr is a werewolf who serves Surtr, the king of the fiery underworld who is prophesied to fight against the gods at Ragnarok and destroy the world. Vidurr’s sole desire in life is to avenge his family against the Christian “crusaders.” Although those who serve Odin and those who serve Surtr are theological enemies within heathenry, they join forces against the outside threat of the Christians. Pearl knows enough about heathenry to portray both the Odin’s man and the Surtr’s man as having no god-based conflict with the Freya’s woman.

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Book Review: The Dawn of Genius - Minoan super-civilization?

I freely admit to reading pretty much anything I can get my hands on about the ancient Minoans, simply because there's not that much available. I began this particular book with a bit of trepidation, since its cover is full of hype ("The Minoan Super-Civilization and the Truth about Atlantis" is a bit much, I think). The author, Alan Butler, has previously collaborated with Christopher Knight to write some fairly controversial books such as The Hiram Key Revisited and Before the Pyramids, which didn't help my confidence. Fortunately, it appears that when he's writing by himself, Mr. Butler does an excellent job of collecting up known facts and strong evidence and drawing reasonable conclusions from them. The cover is the wildest thing about the book; I quite enjoyed the contents.

So what's the book about? The first section does an excellent job of organizing and explaining the things we know fairly surely about the ancient Minoans, including all the latest data that often gets left out of the articles that get passed around online so frequently (the book was published in 2014 so it's pretty up-to-date). Unlike many writers who rely on outdated references, Butler gets the timeline right: The Mediterranean island of Thera (modern Santorini) erupted in about 1628 BCE, dealing a heavy blow to Minoan civilization and creating a weakness that allowed the Mycenaeans to enter into their sphere and eventually take over (and ultimately, destroy Minoan culture since they don't seem to have been able to adapt well enough to wrangle Crete's stubborn native population into compliance). Minoan civilization itself officially ended about two centuries after the eruption, with the systematic destruction of all the major cities and temple complexes.

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Oryx and CrakeOryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Read for the Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge 2016 and the Apocalypse Now Reading Challenge 2016.

Method of the world's destruction: ecological devastation, corporate greed, and a mad scientist's bioengineered supervirus.

Oryx and Crake is the second Margaret Atwood book I have read. I am finding that I have mixed feelings about her. I think she's a brilliant writer. Her prose is magical and her sense of character amazing. I can't help but feel a little pride in her as a Canadian. But the critics always wax rhetoric about how wonderfully original she is. She's not, at least not that I've seen yet. Obviously these people just don't read science fiction.

Atwood's basic scenario here is a weird mating of The Time Machine, The Stand, and Frankenstein. Professional reviewers claim that Atwood has written "an innovative apocalyptic scenario in a world that is at once changed and all-too familiar because corporations have taken us on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride." It sells books because of our secret fears of genetic engineering. However, it's not true, and if that's what these people think then they weren't paying attention. Also, one professional reviewer who was quoted on the cover of the edition I read said it was "uproariously funny." I don't think it was funny at all, and I think that if this guy thought it was funny he's probably one of the corporate drones that Atwood was critiquing in the book. Someone in a review also said that it was confusing because she jumps back and forth between different moments in time and changes tenses when she does; and this same reviewer had the audacity to criticize Atwood's grammar! Her grammar was the professional quality one might expect of such a critically acclaimed writer, and the story started in media res and was told primarily in flashbacks, and if that was confusing, I think you should stick with teen fiction.

What is actually great about this book is the fact that it is a brilliantly-written Greek tragedy that ultimately results in the likely extinction of the human race; along with quite a lot of the animals that we are familiar with. There's a lot of "for want of a nail" stuff going on here. At several points disaster could have been averted, but it isn't because of human flaws and human mistakes, and so all hell literally breaks loose. The epicenter of many of those flaws and mistakes is the protagonist, once called Jimmy but now known as Snowman, who found himself uniquely in a position by which he could have saved the world but, like Hamlet, fails to do so because of ignorance, negligence, and his tragic flaw, which is a desperate desire to be loved or even liked by someone, largely stemming from childhood neglect, emotionally distant parents, and a very lonely childhood. I love it because so many people in real life fail to do the right thing because of that flaw, or they overlook things that probably should have triggered alarm bells.

Others have found Snowman to be really unlikable as a result of those tragic flaws, but I didn't. I found I had a lot of sympathy for him, and I could understand why he did a lot of what he did. Jimmy's mother reminded me of my own, who was bipolar, undiagnosed and untreated for the length of my childhood. You learn that she and Jimmy's father were at odds over some morality issue associated with the work that Jimmy's father did for the Corporation they both used to work for. And in this future vision, Corporations own Compounds and keep their people entirely separated from the rest of the world, which they call the "pleeblands" (which of course was actually "plebelands" at one time, one would guess), and your worth, status and wealth depend entirely on your usefulness to the Corporation. Scientists and mathematicians are valued; artists and writers are considered a waste of oxygen; unless they write advertising for the Corporation, of course. Protesting the Corporations is outlawed and demonstrations are punishable by death. In this, Atwood borrows extensively from the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction (or, if you believe her and the critics, she reinvents the wheel).

You learn also, mostly as side stories in Jimmy's personal observations of what goes on around him growing up, that the world is in a desperate state of ecological disaster due to climate change, there are too many people and too little resources, and the work that the genetic engineering companies do is actually important, or at least some of it is, in assuring the human race's survival; except that they create primarily what makes the CEOs of the Corporations money, rather than what is good for humanity, due to selfishness and an innate sense of their own superiority over the pleebs (the rest of the planet). In this we also see some shades of the overpopulation horrors of the 1970s, such as in Soylent Green (or Make Room! Make Room!, as the book it was based on was called.)

Quickly you learn that Snowman is looking after an artificially-created sentient race that bears some resemblance to humans, and who comes from humans, but who aren't quite human. They'll remind science fiction aficionados of H.G. Wells' Eloi. They were created by someone named Crake, who is a very important character in the novel, being the mad scientist in question, and who was once a friend of Snowman's. Also, there was someone named Oryx in his past, a woman he quite clearly loved, who for some reason was believed by the Crakers to be the creatrix of the animals. But since they are guileless, innocent, and somewhat simple like the Eloi, their beliefs seem almost mythological or biblical. You also learn that Crake was somehow responsible for whatever killed humanity, which was clearly a plague, and if Atwood tried to tell me she never read either The Stand or I Am Legend I would call her a liar, because parts of the book were full of eerie scenes of human life stopped dead, just like Stephen King and Richard Matheson wrote about so well. The title of the book is meant to represent both sides of human nature and not just the characters.

Sounds like spoilers? Nope, not a bit, because you find out most of this stuff in the first chapter. The story is more about how it all unfolds than what happened. And in this, Atwood displays a masterful understanding of the dark side of human nature and how the light side of it can be manipulated and twisted to dark purposes. It's an amazing story and I was reading it with page-turning alacrity because it was gripping and fascinating. Only at the very end does everything become clear.

There are many questions that should concern the modern mind. Have we already gone so far with climate change that it will inevitably destroy the human race? How far is too far to go with genetic engineering? What are we going to do when there are so many of us that we overwhelm the planet's resources to care for us, which might already have happened? Are we doomed to destroy ourselves out of greed, neglect, indifference?

And yet there are also subtler questions of human morality and the nature of religion. The Buddha's dilemma comes up; the Buddha abandoned his wife and child to pursue enlightenment. Did he do the right thing? Buddhism is founded on the idea that attachment is sin, but if anyone did this in modern society we would call them a nutbar or a jerk, and certainly they don't have normal human empathy and are probably something of a sociopath. There's a Frankenstein-like element too; the Biblical references in the story of the Crakers is quite clear. Did God mean to create us? If so, was S/He aware of the full consequences of that? Were we created imperfectly and almost by accident, to be lesser, or greater, beings than our creator(s)? Was the Creation a total accident, or some madman's weird plan?

And there's a subtle human dilemma too, and that is the damage created by neglecting a child and denying them real love. Snowman might have been able to recognize that Crake was a sociopath if he'd had anything resembling normal parental empathy, but he had no basis of comparison. Is Atwood subtly critiquing the fact that since our society demands that both parents work, our children are being raised by babysitters and the internet? I think perhaps she is.

I really wish I could recommend this novel to everyone, because it does what really good science fiction is supposed to do, which is to make you question the world and society we live in, in a setting that is weird enough to make us feel a little safer than confronting it directly in the present, real world. But not too safe, because some of this sounds a little far-fetched; but not enough of it. Not enough of it by far.

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