Thursday, December 28, 2017

Dien Cai Dau (Wesleyan Poetry Series) –by Yusef Komunyakaa

Nonfiction / Poetry / Vietnam War
72 pages / 916 KB
5 Stars

I had to look up Dien Cai Dau, in GI parlance it is Dinky Dau, or Crazy. Any book that sends me to the dictionary so I can understand the title is a great book!

Yusef Komunyakaa served in the 'Nam and these poems tell of his experiences. They are lyrical, easily read and understood by anyone, and paint vivid pictures not just of the boy-men as they went through the jungles, but also the boy-men as they found entertainment and pleasure when, where they could.

Someone owned this book before me, and I think used it in class, as there are notes, and in a couple of places notes on the notes. While there are those who would find this distracting, I found it sauce for the feast.

My tears supplied the salt.

If Viet Nam was your war, then this is a book for you to read. If you are too young to remember and or partaken of that war, then this is a good book for you to read and learn something about it from someone who had his boots on the ground.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Zealot—the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth –by Reza Aslan

Nonfiction / Biography
354 pages / 2382 KB
5 Stars

I found this book spellbinding. Written by a historian, it is a book in search of Jesus of Nazareth, not Jesus the Christ. To be honest, I've not been overly confident that there was a Historical Jesus, until now.

If you are a True Believer, who believes the Bible is the infallible word of God, and you don't want your beliefs and or ideas stretched to any degree, this may not be the book for you. However, if you are a person of curiosity, and a history buff, this is a fantastic read. I had a hard time putting it down, and my copy is now filled with notes and marginalia. It is a book I will return to. Even the notes at the end are fascinating.

Zealot will give you new ideas to mull over. What was the real reason Jesus was crucified? Why and how were the books of the New Testament chosen? Was Jesus illiterate? How Jewish is the New Testament? How Jewish are Christians? Really.

Zealot will go on my bookshelf next to Hyam Maccoby's The Mythmaker—Paul and the Invention of Christianity.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart –by Willie Nelson with Turk Pipkin

Nonfiction / Inspirational
220 pages / 400 KB
5 Stars

As a friend said, this is The Book of Joy – Light. Many laugh-out-loud areas, and a lot of good aphorisms to live by. Willie Nelson has climbed higher on my Ladder of Esteem. One of the nice things about Taoism is one can be a Taoist (or Buddhist) AND (insert religion of choice). Willie is a Taoist and a Christian, and he has a delightful way of presenting the teaching of one, the other, or both (they aren't so different).

Highly recommend this book. Once you get it, Sit. Listen. Breathe. Dream. Renew. That's the Willie Way ;-).

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Midnight Land: Part Two: The Gift (Bk 2 of Zemnian Series) --by E. P. Clark

Fiction / High Fantasy / Fairytale
562 pages / 1334 KB
5 Stars

Oh, Blessings upon the advent of electronic readers. By the time I finished Part I: The Flight, I already had Part II ready to go.

If you haven't read Part I: The Flight, you really need to read it first, or you're going to be just a tad off balance for the beginning of this book. There is no recap, it just starts where Part I left off.

Now, this is a serious admonition, which I gave for Part I, and shouldn't need repeating for Part II; however, you really should consider calling your local hotel and finding out when their cheap rates are—usually a week-end—and book yourself a room with room service. That way, you won't be home to be interrupted by starving kids, dogs, or spouse. And you won't feel guilty, either. After all, you deserve to pamper yourself. Settle back, put your feet up, forget the house—it will be waiting when you go home, prepare for a great and fun journey.

Part II finds Slava, and us, on the way home from the far north. It is still winter, but they make it south, past the sun line. The group of adventurers, led by women because this is a matriarchal society after all, escape woodland sprites, the gods, bandits, only to discover that Slava's sister, the Tsarina has been cursed and Slava is the unwitting bearer of the said curse to her sister's door. If Slava can't figure out how to deactivate the curse, well all heck will break loose.

This book is, if possible, better than Part I, perhaps because the story is finished. I had as hard a time putting this book down as I did putting the first one down.

I found Slava, and the others, quite believable, and for the most part, quite likable. These are characters I'd love to have over for dinner, and if they can't make it, the author herself. I also enjoyed the gender role reversal. Some good things to think about in light of today's society.

Move over, Katherine Arden, make room for the new kid on the shelf, E. P. Clark.

Review of The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden: 

Review of The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden: 

The Midnight Land: Part One: The Flight (Bk 1 of the Zemnian Series) –by E. P. Clark

Fiction / High Fantasy / Fairytale
535 pages / 1764 KB
5 Stars

There are some things you might wish to know before buying this book:

1. This book ends and flows straight into Part Two, so if you're enjoying this book, buy Part II before you finish so you won't have to wait.

2.  You really should consider calling your local hotel and finding out when their cheap rates are—usually a week-end—and book yourself a room with room service. That way, you won't be home to be interrupted by starving kids, dogs, or spouse. And you won't feel guilty, either. After all, you deserve to pamper yourself. Settle back, put your feet up, forget the house—it will be waiting when you go home, prepare for a great and fun journey.

If you enjoy adult fairy tales, with lots of depth, you're in for a real treat. If you liked Katherine Arden's books (The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl in the Tower), you will love these books. Based (I think) on Russian fairytales, Clark takes us on an adventure like none I've been on before.

Zemnia is a country ruled by women, and Slava is the younger (half-)sister to Vladya, the Tsarina. She is, literally, the second heir-in-waiting behind her niece and serves little to no useful purpose. The chance for adventure, away from her Kremlin, arises and Slava takes it. It is a coming of age book, but not like the normal sort I've read.

The adventure takes her to the northern edges of the Zemnian empire, she must travel through dark forests filled with woodland sprites, magical animals, and fear to be overcome. Once above the sun line, Slava and her party are on the tundra, in darkness and the bitter winter cold.

She loses her soft edges, learns about her 'gift' and that others desire both it and her. At least until they come face-to-face with it.

This book also gives us a sneaky peek at gender role reversal, and how we think about those of the opposite gender.

A well-crafted book, filled with characters I'd love to have over for dinner. Or go adventuring with.

The Girl in the Tower: A Novel --by Katherine Arden

Fiction / Fantasy
384 Pages
5 Stars

DISCLAIMER: I received an electronic ARC from the publisher.

This is a sequel to Katherine Arden's first book, The Bear and the Nightingale, which I also received from NetGalley, and by the end of this one, I was in (happy) tears. Our heroine, Vasya, has left her village, and has decided to become a traveler, and therefore a boy. With the help of Morozko, Father Frost or the Winter King (who has his own reasons for helping her), she makes a fair boy. Her choices aren't many—marriage or the convent, neither of which appeal to her. She is used to running free, riding her horse, and either choice would be a slow and painful death. And when she faces death, she does so with a clear mind and honor.

Vasya makes it to Moscow where she finds her brother, the Monk, and her sister, the Princess, both of whom are horrified at what she has done. The Priest who chased her out of her village is also now in Moscow, and he's after the blood of all Witches, of which, he is sure, Vasya is.

If her secret is made public, that she is really a girl, she faces either death by being burned alive in a cage, or being shut up in a convent. Not only does she face punishment, so do her sister and brother for not reporting her immediately. Considered an affront against God and nature, girls were to be nothing but quiet, demure, and pliant. That's not our Vasya. She prefers adventure, and we are so fortunate that she takes us along.

In the back of the book are notes, in which naming conventions are explained, as well as some of the history upon which this story is drawn.

Vasya has some great escapades, meets danger with courage and cunning, and the end of the book is most satisfactory (I was in tears, remember?). There are subplots, enough good guys and bad guys to satisfy anyone's craving, and the end is wrapped in a great ribbon of stardust. A marvelous adult fairy tale.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys good storytelling, good writing, and fairytales of any era. Although this is a sequel, I think it would read just fine if you read it as a stand-alone. I look forward to Ms. Arden's next book. Alas, I read them faster than she writes them.

My review of The Bear and the Nightingale