In Inventing Memory, Jong weaves an epic of four generations of independent and creative Jewish women. Fleeing the pogroms of Russia, Sarah Solomon im...moreIn Inventing Memory, Jong weaves an epic of four generations of independent and creative Jewish women. Fleeing the pogroms of Russia, Sarah Solomon immigrates to New York City, and becomes a professional artist. Her daughter Salome is a flapper who parties in Paris, only to return home as the Depression hits to uncover secrets of her past. Salome's daughter Sally rises to stardom as a celebrated folksinger of the 1960's. But she can't take the pressures of fame, and descends into alcoholism and obscurity. Her daughter in turn, Sara avoids the excesses of her mother and grandmother and focuses on her career as a historian. Working in the archives of the Council on Jewish History, she finds a photograph of a woman she believes to be her great-grandmother, Sarah. And so the family saga comes full circle. The story is told through both direct narration by the characters as well as letters and journal entries, which gives an interesting variety and adds texture. Jong sometimes alternates perspectives and time periods, but I didn't find it hard to follow. The prose was richly descriptive, passionate and often filled with wise and poignant observations about the meaning of life, family relationships and Jewish identity. (less)
I slogged through this (I feel sort of obligated to read books I buy) The definition of folklore they use is broader than most laypersons would use- it...moreI slogged through this (I feel sort of obligated to read books I buy) The definition of folklore they use is broader than most laypersons would use- it includes any ideas/information/practices that are passed down orally- not just stories but customs, jokes, music, children's games etc. There were some interesting articles here, such as one on female participation in a male-dominated comedy contest in rural Gascon, France, another about how girls play, and the Egyptian goddess Nuit. Some of it I just skipped or skimmed through. It's funny that most of this scholarship (like any other kind) has been done by men, since it seems like most folklore is passed down by women.
I'm amazed at how good feminist academics (and others) are at making interesting topics boring. However it does seem older books like this one from the '70s or '80s are more annoyingly pedantic than newer ones. Anyway, I would like to read other analyses of folklore that are more down-to-earth, especially European peasant traditions (music, holiday customs, stories etc) that may have pre-Christian roots. (less)
Magda, the daughter of Little John and Emma (deceased) has grown up in Barnsdale Forest under the care of Marian, the Forestwife. At 15, she grows res...moreMagda, the daughter of Little John and Emma (deceased) has grown up in Barnsdale Forest under the care of Marian, the Forestwife. At 15, she grows restless and longs to experience life outside the forest. She gets her chance when John & Marian allow her to accompany Robin & the Merry Men on a quest to rescue the noblewoman Matilda and her daughter Isabel. They have both been imprisoned by the sheriff until Matilda agrees to allow Isabel to marry FitzRanulf, the sheriff's bloodthirsty mercenary chief. At first stubborn and petulant, Magda grows a lot as a character as the book progresses. She learns that life outside the forest isn't as fun and glamorous as she thought. This was a short and easy to read book- about the level of 10-13 year olds or so. But I enjoyed it as a fun adventure, as well as a story with depth and historical realism. I think older teens and adults who like Robin Hood legends and stories set in the Middle Ages would like it.(less)
Found this at the Merriam Park Library- someone had donated it & they didn't want it, so I picked it up for 50 cents! What a find- have heard grea...moreFound this at the Merriam Park Library- someone had donated it & they didn't want it, so I picked it up for 50 cents! What a find- have heard great things about it.(less)
This was another chosen by my Goodreads SF/F book club, though I finished it too late to participate in discussions! The story begins with five colleg...moreThis was another chosen by my Goodreads SF/F book club, though I finished it too late to participate in discussions! The story begins with five college students who attend a conference on Celtic Studies. They meet a mysterious fellow who calls himself Loren Silvercloak, and his companion, Matt Soren. He tells them that they have been chosen to accompany him to Fionavar, another world, ostensibly to join in a celebration. Later they found out that they are there for more serious reasons.
The 5 main characters start out fairly simple but develop a lot over the course of the trilogy. While there are many familiar elements to the world Kay as created, there is enough originality that I don't think it's fair to call it a "Tolkien rip-off" as some do. I found the story to be OK- I had trouble following the plot- kept re-reading the same paragraphs, so it took me longer than normal to finish this medium length novel. His writing style is very descriptive and poetic, like Tolkien (not as slow-paced thankfully) I found "The Summer Tree" made more sense after I read the summary at the beginning of the next book, The Wandering Fire. I wish all series had summaries of the previous book!
On a side note, I've noticed the motif of ordinary people being transported to a fantasy world (sometimes called "Through the Looking Glass") is used more often by British authors, particularly for children's books. So I found it interesting to see it in an adult novel. Of course, this all goes back to old folktales of people who visit fairyland. (less)
In Republican Like Me, Harmon Leon, journalist and flaming liberal goes undercover into a a variety of conservative/right-wing groups. He starts tryin...moreIn Republican Like Me, Harmon Leon, journalist and flaming liberal goes undercover into a a variety of conservative/right-wing groups. He starts trying to shock us by attending a Neo-Nazi meeting at an Applebee's. The participants are at least semi-normal people with very creepy opinions- they mention that they are very family-oriented. The family that hates together stays together? Often at the various events he goes to, he makes provocative statements (not lefty but more righty)
One of the things we can take from this book is the diversity of conservative thought. All too often liberals think of conservatives as a monolithic group (they seem to do the same of us, however) I think if a conservative tried to infiltrate liberal groups, they would find just as many absurdities though of different kinds. Goofy hippie behavior, illogical socialist statements, etc.
While entertaining, I was hoping to get more insight and understanding of conservatives and their subcultures- more of a anthropological viewpoint. Coming from a political science background- maybe I am just too serious for this book?
Interestingly, I bought it at a thrift store in a very small town- the proprietress commented that being a liberal living in a small town is rather like being undercover like Leon.(less)
Note that to some degree, this is a review of the whole trilogy, since it is really one long story (rather than 3 related episodes)
The Two Towers star...moreNote that to some degree, this is a review of the whole trilogy, since it is really one long story (rather than 3 related episodes)
The Two Towers starts to get darker as the war with Sauron progresses. The Fellowship has been separated into 3 parties: Frodo & Sam, taking the Ring to Mount Doom in Mordor; Pippin & Merry, who have been carried off by Orcs; Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, who are searching for Merry & Pippin. Gandalf also shows up again, though he plays a more distant role in this one. I enjoyed seeing the development of some of the characters, mainly Sam and Gollum. Many of the characters in LOTR aren't very fleshed out, but I think those two are among the more interesting. Gollum's struggle between his baser and better nature is a very profound theme, and it's great to watch Sam grow in courage and confidence.
Overall, the trilogy is very detailed- this is either good or bad depending on how much description you like of landscapes and history. A friend said this is what she like about it: that it was one long camping trip! The writing style has to be appreciated for what it is- a saga, rather a novel. (less)
Note: this is the 7th in the Young Wizards series Nita, Kit and Dairine are hoping for a break from the craziness of their lives. Dairine signs up for...moreNote: this is the 7th in the Young Wizards series Nita, Kit and Dairine are hoping for a break from the craziness of their lives. Dairine signs up for a wizardly intergalactic exchange program- Kit & Nita head for the planet Alaalu, while 3 wizards come to stay at with Dairine & her father. But this turns out to not be as much of a vacation as they'd hoped. Nita & Kit relax on the peaceful planet, getting to know the friendly family they stay with. But they slowly begin to realize that this is too good to be true. Meanwhile, Dairine contends with various cultural clashes, including with an arrogant prince. But he may hold the key to saving Earth from disaster...
As usual with the Young Wizards books, this is a fun and fast-paced adventure, amusing as well as thoughtful about philosophy & ethics. I found some of the ideas & technical concepts in it hard to understand, but you don't need to understand all the details to follow and enjoy the story.
One criticism I do have, is that I think it would be more interesting if the wizards had an enemy other than the Lone Power (roughly equivalent to Lucifer/Satan in their universe) S/he suffers from the "Sauron/Voldemort" problem- too abstract & distant to be a really interesting villain. Human-like enemy(ies) would be better, a great antagonist that the reader loves to hate.(less)
While race is a frequent topic of discussion and activism among UU's, socio-economic class is all too often ignored. Personally I have encountered cla...moreWhile race is a frequent topic of discussion and activism among UU's, socio-economic class is all too often ignored. Personally I have encountered classist attitudes among UU's, so this was of great interest to me. Beginning with Unitarians in Britain, Harris shows that they had more humble origins as skilled workers and small merchants, who rose in status through their own efforts. After coming to America, Unitarians became a more elite group particularly in Boston. Their churches often excluded people of other classes and races. Universalists, while stereotyped as rural and working-class, actually were more economically mixed.
I was shocked by some of what I read in this book, including many Unitarian's advocacy for eugenics. At the time it was seen as progressive! All in all, I believe this is essential reading for anyone interested in Unitarian Universalism, liberal religion or the intersection of religion and class.(less)
After watching and enjoying the Dinotopia miniseries (set in a later time period, by the way) I remembered that I had a Dinotopia book so I picked it...more After watching and enjoying the Dinotopia miniseries (set in a later time period, by the way) I remembered that I had a Dinotopia book so I picked it up. In this scenario, Sylvia has gone off on a quest and her fiance, Will Denison follows her into the wilds of the Amu River Canyon. The officials of Canyon City refuse to help, but they insist on sending Chaz, a protoceratops to accompany him. After finding Sylvia, she reveals that she is searching for the legendary Hand of Dinotopia, an object said to show a safe sea route away from Dinotopia. (The island's isolation has been previously explained as being surrounded by impassable ocean currents) Though Will is convinced that this may be worth a try, Chaz thinks it's a wild goose chase.
I thought this was a fun and suspenseful adventure. Foster gives very rich descriptions of the natural world and Dinotopian culture(s). Obviously he (and/or James Gurney the creator) did a lot of research on prehistoric plants and animals. Many species of dinosaurs were mentioned that I'd never heard of, so it was neat to learn of them. As for the characters, the most interesting ones were the dinosaurs- Chaz for one had a lot of personality. Sylvia is kind of cool, but Will is a somewhat bland protagonist. Dinotopia is also a little too perfect to be believable, though any Dinotopia fan is already capable of plenty of suspension of disbelief! There are still many natural dangers that the characters face, but no true villain. So if you prefer complex human politics & conflict, this probably won't be your cup of tea.
Note on reading order: I definitely would recommend reading the original Dinotopia book before this one. It is also set after the World Beneath and Dinotopia Lost, while there are slight spoilers for the latter I don't think the order matters as much.(less)
Wow, this book is really old! Both when it was published (early 1900s) and the particular copy I have. The introduction, history and religion chapters...moreWow, this book is really old! Both when it was published (early 1900s) and the particular copy I have. The introduction, history and religion chapters are outdated- there is a bit of a Noble Savage framing of the Celts and he takes seriously the fabricated "Barddas" of Iolo Morganwg that was claimed to be ancient Welsh Bardic wisdom. However the re-tellings of the myths seem like they are good. There are even a few myths that I haven't seen before, like the story of Tuan Mac Carell. The edition I have also has nice Art Noveau illustrations. Actually this is the most extensive collection of Celtic myth and legend I have seen in one book- that is the best reason to buy, borrow and read this book.(less)
The Druid Renaissance, retitled Rebirth of Druidry in this new edition is an anthology featuring essays from a variety of types of Druidry: Pagan, Chr...moreThe Druid Renaissance, retitled Rebirth of Druidry in this new edition is an anthology featuring essays from a variety of types of Druidry: Pagan, Christian, revival/philosophical, and neo-shamanic. The history of modern Druidism in both Europe and the U.S. is explained. Though I was familiar with U.S. druidism, and to some degree British, it was very interesting to learn about the emergence of Druid groups in continental Europe (France in particular) Another section was about ceremonies- both for holidays and life passages. I have read extensively on history and customs surrounding the solstices, equinoxes and 4 Celtic fire festivals, but these essays still had new things to teach me. One unique essay compared the 8 holidays with the symbols of the I Ching. Erynn Laurie and Mara Freeman discussed the connection of druid to nature and poetry, and nature imagery in mythology. They argued that druidism can help us overcome our modern alienation from nature. Those were among my favorite essays. Another essay (can't remember author) compares the history of Druidry and Witchcraft. One key point she demonstrates is that while Witches position themselves as being secretive, and alternative or oppositional to the dominant culture, including Christianity, Druids tend to be public and identify more with the establishment. They reconcile more with Christianity, at least in its Celtic-influenced varieties.
Some of the writers espoused beliefs & theories that I don't buy into such as ley lines and the idea that Jesus & Joseph of Arimathea journeyed to Britain. But I enjoy reading about different viewpoints, even those I disagree with.
All in all, Rebirth of Druidry serves as a good survey of different forms and aspects of Druidism, informative and insightful both for the curious seeker/beginner or the experienced Druid/Celtic Pagan. (less)
This is the handbook for the beginning year-long training program for Ancient Order of Druids in America. I have read many books on Druidism and Celti...moreThis is the handbook for the beginning year-long training program for Ancient Order of Druids in America. I have read many books on Druidism and Celtic spirituality, so some of it was familiar but there was also some new things to learn from it.
John Michael Greer is part of Revival Druidry- an older tradition that is based more on philosophy and personal inspiration and less on history as contrasted with later Neo-Pagan Druid traditions. After introducing the Druid movement and its history, Greer explains 3 triads- groups of related concepts. The training consists of the Earth Path- connecting with nature and adopting a more eco-friendly lifestyle; the Sun Path- celebration of the solstices, equinoxes and four Celtic fire festivals, and the Moon Path- meditation.
The ceremonies in the Sun Path were shorter and simpler than I prefer. But I found both the information in the Earth and Moon Path sections to be quite useful. He described forms of meditation I'd not heard of before- like discursive, where you focus on a particular theme and see where that leads your thoughts.
This book would be of interest not only to those following Druidism (and Revival in particular) but any form of nature-based spirituality.(less)
I have long been curious about Walpurgisnacht, the eve of May Day (Maitag in German) but there is little information available about it. It is much li...moreI have long been curious about Walpurgisnacht, the eve of May Day (Maitag in German) but there is little information available about it. It is much like Halloween if it was celebrated in spring. I was impressed, this book was surprisingly well researched for a New Age press book. The first portion gives us the history and origins of Walpurgisnacht, discusses witches in German folklore and holiday customs. The second part of the book has recipes, crafts and activities for the occasion. Many of them are simple & easy, including the materials needed, so it is quite family-friendly, as well as fun for adults who enjoy whimsy. All in all, Night of the Witches was fun & interesting, striking a good balance between background information & ideas for celebrating. (less)