Monday, June 30, 2014
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When I read the first book in this series, I wasn't nearly as impressed with J.R. Ward's Fallen Angel novels than I am with her Black Dagger Brotherhood series. The second book affected me much more than the first.
I cared much more about the characters this time around. I felt like the "J.R. Ward magic" that makes me love the BDBs so much was a part of this one. I loved the ending, so much that I went ahead and gave the whole thing five stars. I won't say I'm on the edge of my seat to get to the next book in the series, but I will probably enjoy Envy when I finally do read it.
My copy of this book is a loaner from my mom, who is just as big a BDB fan as I am, if not bigger. I was not obligated to review this book in any way. I read it simply for my love of paranormal romances.
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Monday, June 23, 2014
The book systematically explores the ways in which Christian identity can cause people to be killed, imprisoned arbitrarily, violently assaulted, harassed, and/or unduly deprived of property. The chapters are arranged by country.
The first country is Egypt. Violent clashes between Coptic Christians and their Muslim neighbors have included:
- After an argument between a Christian trader and a Muslim trader in 2000 in the village of El-Kosheh, 21 Christians and one Muslim were killed. The Muslim who was killed was hit with a stray bullet.
- In November 2003, a person who was a convert from Islam to Christianity died while in police custody.
- When a Coptic church in Alexandria was accused of "insulting Islam" in October 2005 after putting on a play about how to resist forcible conversion, a mob surrounded the church and four people were killed.
The second country discussed in one very much in the headlines today, making this book especially relevant. Although the Christian population of Iraq had fallen to around 200,000 in 2013, Christians have lived in Iraq since the second century C.E. Since 2005, Christian clerics have repeatedly been subject to kidnappings, torture, and even beheadings by both Shia and Sunni Muslims.
In Iraq's Persian neighbor, Iran, it's increasingly difficult to be anything other than a Muslim. The only religion to be banned outright is the Baha'i faith, but people who convert to Christianity from Islam are often arrested. The story is much the same in Pakistan.
The book's fifth country is Turkey. Murders of Christians are not unheard of in Turkey. Three Christians were murdered at a publishing company in April 2007, and a Catholic bishop was murdered in June 2010. Turkey has laws against "insulting Turkishness" and Greek Orthodox Christians, Armenian Orthodox Christians, and Jews are often suspected of being "not Turkish enough," no matter how long their families have lived in Turkey. Some parties increasingly associate Turkish nationality with Islam and are suspicious of any citizens who aren't Muslims.
Next is Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country. A particularly gruesome crime against Christians was the 2005 beheading of three teenage cousins as the girls walked to a church-run school. Buddhists and Ahmadi Muslims are also subject to persecution.
Finally we arrived at a country where persecution happens to Christians and Muslims alike at the hands of nationalists and followers of another faith: namely, Hinduism. Hindutva, a philosophy that associates Hindu identity with Indian nationalism, considers Christianity and Islam as suspicious because of their non-Indian origins. It's the same problem as in Turkey, just with a different religion.
Ditto Myanmar (which Shortt refers to as Burma). Myanmarese identity is being increasingly linked to Buddhism. Western people typically think of Buddhism as being a rather peaceful religion, but there are verses of Buddhist scripture that can be interpreted to encourage, or at least condone, violence. This shows us that any religion can be used for either peaceful or belligerent purposes.
|Flag of Myanmar|
Chapter 12 deals with "The Holy Land," i.e. Israel-Palestine, where Christians are sometimes subject to attacks by ultra-Orthodox Jews. Israel-Palestine is a very complex situation, and of course there is good behavior and bad behavior on the parts of Christians, Jews, and Muslims (and others) alike. Shortt has a good deal of sympathy - and rightly so - for Arab Christians whose free expression of their faith is curtailed as well as for innocent Palestinian Muslims who suffer for the sins of the minority who espouse violence. The author has less sympathy for evangelical Christians from the U.S. who insert themselves into Israeli-Palestinian geopolitics without a sophisticated understanding of the present reality.
The 13th chapter presents brief summaries of some other problematic areas of the world, including Belarus in Europe and, in the Americas, Cuba and Chile. Shortt notes, for example, that Cuba appears to be getting more restrictive since Raul Castro took over for his brother in 2008. Still, Shortt ends his book on a hopeful note.
Not only is this book an interesting supplement to what we regularly hear on the news regarding current events in Iraq, Nigeria, and elsewhere, it's also a good reminder of why freedom of religion (and freedom to choose no religion at all) is so important in modern multicultural societies. In the U.S., we often take our freedom of religion for granted. Yet we are no different from any other peoples of the world - able to fall victim to mob mentality, the ravings of charismatic sociopaths, and us-versus-them thinking like any other imperfect human beings in the world. All the more reason to cherish and protect our precious freedoms - and that includes standing up for other people, whether we share a religion with them or not, when their religious freedoms are threatened.
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Understanding the Prophetic Times We Live In by ASR Martins. $10.26 from Smashwords.com
This book is about the end-times. The aim of this book is to bring clarity and to counter confusion in the lives of many Christians regarding the end-times, especially regarding the prophetic time we live in at this moment. Clarity will equip and enable God’s children to follow His vision for, and in this time period we are living in right now.
Friday, June 20, 2014
Sunday, June 15, 2014
|Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle, Anaheim, CA. Public domain image|
The villain is Aurora's awful father Stephon. Human Stephon and fairy Maleficent met as children. He showed goodwill at their first meeting when he threw away his iron ring - fairies can't bear the touch of iron. As they grew into teens, they fell in love, but Stephon didn't have an honest or loyal bone in his entire body. Maleficent grew nicely into her role as protector of the moors, while Stephon went off to court and secretly aspired to be king. She was innocent, open, and honest, while he was worldly, greedy, and duplicitous.
The presiding king tried to conquer the moors; Maleficent and her fairies repelled them. The king was wounded and promised that whoever killed Maleficent would be his successor. Slimy Stephon paid his "true love" a visit on the pretense of warning her, but instead drugged her and brutally cut off her wings. He brought the wings to the king as "proof" she was dead.
Stephon, subsequently made king, married and had a daughter, but slowly descended into madness. Maleficent got her bit of revenge by cursing the newborn Aurora to fall into a deep sleep on her 16th birthday when she touched a spinning wheel. (We know this part from the cartoon.) We can't really blame Maleficent for this, because STEPHON CUT OFF HER MAGNIFICENT FRICKING WINGS.
|"Sleeping Beauty" by Louis Sussman. Public domain photo by Mutter Erde|
Maleficent comes to the rescue, though. Aurora's prince friend is ineffective at lifting the curse, but because Maleficent friendship-love for Aurora is true, Maleficent kisses her friend and breaks the spell.
Then the really happy ending: fairy and wings are reunited, Stephon gets his comeuppance, and the violent old patriarchy is replaced with a peaceful matriarchy under Queen Aurora.
This movie is visually beautiful and well-written. Angelina Jolie's acting in the title role is perfection.
According to Wikipedia, the earliest published account of Sleeping Beauty is Charles Perrault's 1697 version. That article (linked above) doesn't say much about the European folklore that may have inspired it, except that the sleeping princess motif may have been inspired by "tribulations of saintly female martyrs in early Christian hagiography conventions" and the Germanic folk tale of Brynhild. Also called Brunnehilde, Brynhild was placed by Odin in a magical circle of fire, where she slept. The hero Siegfried rescued her and awakened her by removing her Valkyrie armor.
"Hagiography" is simply a fancy Greek loan word that means "holy writing." For an example of a female martyr story, see this post on the feast day of St. Lucia.
|"Wotan's Farewell to Brunhilde" by Emilie Kip Baker. Public domain within the U.S.|
I've read elsewhere - and unfortunately I can't remember where - that the spindle on which Aurora pricks her finger may be a stand-in for another type of "prick." In other words, the thing the king and queen wish to keep her away from is her own awakening sexuality.
If you'll recall from the Mother Night post, the Germanic mother-goddess known variously as Frigga, Frigg, and Freya has a spinning wheel, which was known as the Wheel of Fate. Fate or Fortune seems to be an underlying theme of the Sleeping Beauty legend. Wikipedia will tell you that in some versions, the princess doesn't fall under a curse at all, but falls into an enchanted sleep simply because it's her fate to do so. The three fairies who raise her represent the Fates, who in Germanic mythology are called the Norns.
|Public domain image of the three Norns. 1895|
It's probably not a coincidence that when a bitter, vengeful Maleficent decides to make herself queen of the moors, her throne is located in a grotto with a waterfall, and a tree grows out of it.
The Fates are also the Triple Goddess: maiden, mother, and crone. This is clearly depicted in Maleficent. The eldest of the three, played by Staunton, wears pink and represents the crone. (Imelda Staunton isn't actually very grandmotherly, in my opinion. She's younger than 60 and rather young-looking for a Caucasian woman of her age. She has good skin.) The fairy in blue who wishes happiness on Aurora is the mother figure, and the green nature-fairy with wild blonde hair is the childlike maiden.
The ancient Greeks pictured the fates as weavers, weaving the thread of life and cutting it at the time of death. What do you make with a spinning wheel? Thread. You spin thread from flax. The Greeks also envisioned the Fates as standing over the cradle of newborns, determining the child's destiny, according to Barbara G. Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.
Clearly, the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty has some roots in very old Indo-European mythology, some of which was common to the ancient Greeks and the Vikings. How cool that we're still adapting and telling this ancient bit of goddess-mythology. How cool that Angelina Jolie makes such a cool goddess figure.
Hollywood Classics Title Index to All Movies Reviewed in Books 1 - 24 by John Howard Reid. $0.99 from Smashwords.com
Another essential book for a film buff's library, this one is packed with information and reviews. Some of the entries are quite extensive. JHR provides all the information you need, including complete cast and production staff. I find JHR's information invaluable. I like to read not only who acted in a movie, but who made it, both top-billed and lesser mortals. -- Ross Adams in DRESS CIRCLE mag.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Author Social Media Site links:
Friday, June 13, 2014
Author Jerry Gill's first volume in the Vic Challenger series is Time Doesn't Matter.
Read more about heroine Vic Challenger at the Vic Planet website
Add Time Doesn't Matter on Goodreads
Find Time Doesn't Matter on Amazon.com
Now you can get Time Doesn't Matter and its sequel, Mongol, which naturally is set in Mongolia.
Add Vic: Mongol on Goodreads
The Mongol board on Pinterest
Watch the Vic: Mongol trailer:
A third book in the series, Never Give Up!, will be out in Summer 2014.
Sunday, June 8, 2014
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I got a free Scribd membership through Smashwords, and I read this book there. I'm glad I didn't have to pay money for it, because it wasn't nearly as good as I hoped.
I liked Charlie well enough, but I didn't care for the narrative voice. The tone was flat and dry, and it didn't seem to fit with a supposedly above-average 15-year-old. The narration made Charlie seem so much younger than 15, I wondered at first if he was intellectually disabled rather than intellectually gifted. After all, what gifted teen can't think of how to use words like "corpulent" in his school essays?
Perhaps Charlie falls somewhere along the autism spectrum and is high functioning. He certainly seems to be clinically depressed, and his mood swings might indicate bipolar disorder as well. It's hard to say; he's a bit of an unreliable narrator since he's not always insightful into the behavior of others or himself. At times he's very insightful, but clearly, he has enormous blind spots.
(Can you tell I was a psychology major and used to work in a child and adolescent mental health care facility?I have met many a Charlie in my day.)
This is probably a fantastic book when you're 15, but I'm not anymore.
Now that I've read the book, I give myself permission to watch the movie, which features Emma Watson as Sam. I don't know of the actor playing Charlie himself, Logan Lerman, but the actor playing Patrick is Ezra Miller. I last saw Miller in We Need to Talk About Kevin, a film I watched despite not having read the book.
This is Ezra Miller in a 2014 photo by Nick Step, via Wikimedia Commons.
Of all U.S. actors of Eastern European Jewish descent, he is surely one of the most Middle Eastern-looking, with dark eyes, olive skin, and dark curly hair. Of course, we Jews are a very diverse ethnicity, all sharing the same Middle Eastern DNA (also shared with our Arab sibs) yet ranging from blond and blue-eyed to brown-skinned with African features. Ezra Miller could join the Israeli army and from his looks, no one would know he wasn't a sabra. Especially since he practices Judaism as a religion.
Going on this year's list of Hanukkah hotties? I think maybe so.
But I digress.
I'll have to get The Perks of Being a Wallflower at the video store, since it's unavailable on streaming Netflix, and my local library doesn't have it. Streaming Netflix actually kinda sucks when it comes to catching up on young adult page-to-screen. It doesn't have The Book Thief, Ender's Game, or The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.
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Saturday, June 7, 2014
Amateur MMA fighter, Marcy Foster is determined to win the state championship. But dark secrets and a broken trust mean there's one submission she just can’t master. Fortunately Club Excelsior has hired a coach who knows all the right moves.
Sexy, confident and commanding, fight consultant Jax demands control, both in and out of the ring. But once he has Marcy against the ropes, Jax knows he’s in too deep. He has the dominance to give her what she needs, but once he unleashes her hidden passions, there's no going back.
Under Jax's skilled hands, Marcy submits to her deepest desires. But when her personal and professional worlds collide, she is forced to face a brutal truth—yielding to her darkest needs may be the one thing that costs her the fight...and her heart.