Giveaway: 3 copies of Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson and Tor books.

MightyThorJRS

The awesome folks over at Tor books have given me 3 copies of Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson to giveaway! *3 copies to the U.S. and Canada only (no P.O. boxes please)* 

To enter all you have to do is send an email message to mightythorjrs@gmail.com. Be sure you put “Shadows of Self” in the subject line.

For bonus points please share this post, like it, comment on it, and follow my blog.

Also you can follow me on twitter: @MightythorJRS and please tweet about the giveaway.

(Yes I will be watching 🙂 )

I am also on various other social media, links on the home page.

Giveaway starts with this post on 10/21/15 and will end on 10/31/15 (midnight AZ time.). I will draw the winning names and notify them via email. If the winners don’t respond within 48 hours, I will draw another name, and so on until…

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Book Review: Noah by Mark Ludy

I don’t usually read/review children’s picture books, but this one looked so adorable I had to pick it up. Mark Ludy tells the story of Noah entirely through pictures. The art is clever and quirky, cute without being saccharine or patronizing. At the same time, the drawings are emotional and immersive, drawing the reader (viewer?) deeply into a story that is so familiar it could feel worn and threadbare but doesn’t. Instead, the story seems very fresh and new. Ludy stays faithful to the Biblical account (which means that yes, the people who are not on the ark drown). I think part of this book’s charm is due to its wordlessness. Without having narration to fall back on, it’s almost like you’re telling the story yourself even though the artwork does a marvelous job of explaining the events. The art itself really is remarkable. Ludy makes full use of the space on the page, crafting dynamic and almost cinematic pictures that are just entrancing. This would be a wonderful way to introduce kids to the story of Noah.

I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher, though I am not required to offer a positive review.

“To Give a King a Crown”

To him she gave me with her hand, white arm

Extended up to him. He took me up

With joy. And at his side I was his charm.

Together then we crossed the land and up

We soared on dragon wings to make a king.

A king we made, both he and I. We fought

Both long and hard, a violent peace to bring.

The peace we made in blood and steel, and aught

There was of strife and fear. The endless light

Of Summer Country’s brightness filled the land.

Until his secret sent a hate filled blight.

They killed themselves and spilled their blood on sand.

My blade said, “Take me up,” and “Cast me down.”

Excalibur: to give a king a crown.

On Meeting T.S. Eliot

This is the book of Eliot poems I read as a child.

In one of my literature classes today, we were discussing T.S.’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” and “The Waste Land.” I kept thinking about how I first read him, years ago. When I was a kid, we had this slim book of illustrated selections from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. I remember sitting in the middle of my bedroom floor, eight years old maybe, with that book in front of me. The pictures were charming and the poems themselves had an engagingly playful cadence that made me want to read them aloud to myself, just for the sheer pleasure of the sound (if you’ve never read any of the Practical Cats, please do. You won’t regret it). I read it to my preschool-aged sister and it quickly became one of her favorite books, and she made me read to her probably hundreds. No, I’m not exaggerating one iota here.

Fast forward a few years, and around middle school I decided that I didn’t read enough classics. That is, I been raised on a steady diet of children’s classics: Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Fred Gipson, and the like. But around twelve, I judged that I was an adult—or near enough, at any rate—and ought to read real classics. I had no idea what I was doing. Every few weeks, I would stand in the classics section the library and stare at the shelves. Some of the authors and titles I recognized; most I didn’t. Even the ones I recognized, I rarely knew anything about them. And so, I usually chose books based on what I did know: their size. Being a fundamentally lazy child, I usually picked the shortest volumes I saw. Admittedly, this technique led to some absurdities (like reading A Clockwork Orange and having no idea what was happening), but those are stories for another day. Determined to fulfill my self-imposed classics quota one afternoon, I picked up Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” which was bundled with “The Hollow Men” and, I’m pretty sure, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” After all, it such a skinny book it was almost lost on the shelf, and I knew T.S. Eliot. I even liked him.

Ha.

So, by the by, “The Waste Land” is nothing like “The Song of the Jellicles.” Just in case you didn’t know. It was quite possibly the most confusing experience I ever had in middle school—and remember, that includes reading A Clockwork Orange. I muscled through the poem because I was, in addition to being lazy, also shockingly stubborn when I came to books. I don’t think I ever left a book unfinished until around the time I graduated from high school and even then, I had to slowly train myself into being able to abandon a book once I started. Yes, I know it’s sad, but we’re talking about T.S. Eliot. So I read the entirety of “The Waste Land.” And when I say ‘read’, I mean I looked at every word. There was essentially no comprehension. I loved some of the images. The fortune-teller and the tarot cards in particular burned themselves into my memory. But I couldn’t have told you what the poem was about. After all, I was twelve and it was T.S. Eliot, and I didn’t even have a teacher to explain things. The end result was that I walked away from that experience convinced that I was incapable of understanding whatever Eliot had to say. He was too smart and I was too dumb, and other people could appreciate his genius, but not me.

Fast forward several more years, and now I was in college. “The Waste Land” appeared on the syllabus of my introductory literature class, and for first time in six or seven years I had to read Eliot again. Dutifully, I read the poem. Again, I didn’t understand a word. I took a seat at my desk and listened to the lecture on the poem. The lecture, unfortunately, consisted mostly of a little background about Eliot’s life, then the professor asked the students in the class for their thoughts and opinions. She essentially offered none of her own, and I was still clueless about Eliot. My only consolation now was that, at least I wasn’t the only one. Maybe I couldn’t understand him, but it didn’t seem that anyone could, either, and that whole class was spent with us students drowning “I will show you fear in a handful of dust” and “April is the cruelest month.” I walked away from that class even more convinced of Eliot’s inaccessibility.

Now, a few days ago, I took a third stab at Eliot for my American Literature class. As I read “The Waste Land” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” glimmers of meaning and the reality behind the metaphors started to appear, vague and blurry, yes, but there. For whatever reason—several more years worth of English classes under my belt, age, or even just the sheer number of readings—Eliot was starting to be something more than just a disjointed series of images. I sat in class today and my professor perched on her desk the way she always does and talked about Prufrock.

And it made sense. I understood “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” And I enjoyed it. One of the most beloved of my favorite childhood poets, whom I had decided nine years ago I could never decipher, regained something of the magic he had lost when I had first tried reading “The Waste Land” all those years ago.

Heartsong

The light of the world with love on His arms

In His hand a sword to stand before us

As a swift sure fire He shines above us

A holy light to keep us back from harm.

 

And on our sides to the left and the right

He stands below us and stands above us

With gold wings encircling those He loves

His wings of faith and hope and charity.

 

And Christ among us and He surrounds us

And Christ before us and Christ behind us

And Christ beside and He walks in our shoes

And Christ the vanguard and at the front lines.

 

He holds our hands and knows our hearts and souls

Is in each whisper and in each silence

And in our heartsong and in our lifedream

And in our fear we are not abandoned.

7 Things I Learned Moving 3000 Miles Away (Mostly about Actual Cold)

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There isn’t actually this much snow here, but it totally feels like it

Okay, here’s the thing. I’m a native Angeleno, one of a rare and dying breed. In Los Angeles, in case you were unaware, we don’t have actual winters. Once, about fifty years ago, it was 28º. That still holds the title for Coldest Day Ever in a Not Very Cold Place (I know, I know, someone reading this right now in Minnesota is laughing so hard they can’t breathe). Anyway, recently I decided it would be a good idea to move three thousand miles to the East Coast to attend university. Technically, I’ve lived on the East Coast before, but not during actual wintertime. Queue the cold. And snow. And ice. And other stuff that’s white and falls from the sky but people laugh at you if you call it snow? Flurry, they call it?

  1. Murphy’s Law is a terrible, terrible truth, especially when it’s 19º and snow piled against everything. I went outside tonight to empty an outdoor trashcan in a polo shirt with the thickness and warmth of a damp Kleenex because hey, it was right next to the door and would take all of thirty seconds. Besides, I didn’t want to risk getting muck on my coat. There had not been so much as a hint of a dream of a breeze all day, but as soon as I tried to line the can, it was ripped out of the can with so much force and gusto that I’m still half-convinced that Airbenders were responsible. By the third time I muscled the liner back into the can, I was essentially manipulating the bag by sight alone since I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore. It wasn’t fun, guys.
  2. Snow is gorgeous. It really is. It’s a white blanket of winter wonderland. Yeah, but then people drive on it and walk in it and the Second Law of Thermodynamics kicks in. It gets gross. It looks like dirty mud, and by that I mean mud that looks dirty even by mud standards. It looks like people have been using to clean their engines and mop up oil spills. Dirty snow looks like the scat of a diuretic demon bear.
  3. That icy, snowy, slushy sludge that people track inside on their shoes dries to look to spilled milk. It looks like someone stood in the middle of the room, ripped the lid of a gallon of milk, and then performed fifteen pirouettes en pointe with the jug balanced on her head. And here I figured that snow and ice are both basically water. Water is clear. Therefore snow and ice would dry to be clear. No. They don’t.
  4. I used to think the concept of ski masks were stupid, except possibly in the context of robbing a bank. Now I don’t.
  5. There are people in this world who walk around in sandals, gym shorts, and a t-shirts, their only concession to the undeniable fact that the ground is covered in snow being to wear socks with their sandals. I don’t understand these people. Meanwhile, I’m in jeans and leggings, shirt and sweater, coat, scarf, gloves, boots, hat, and the thickest socks this side of the North Pole.
  6. Snow days are brilliant.
  7. It never occurred to me to wonder how to remove snow from the inside of your boot before it melts onto the carpet. Now I have.

Long days and pleasant nights from the Tale-Weaver.

Book Review: The Judgment Stone by Robert Liparulo

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The Judgment Stone is a sequel to Liparulo’s The Thirteenth Tribe, picking up where the first story left off. Now, instead of merely having the comparatively easy job of preventing a small cadre of theologically challenged immortals from blowing all ‘sinners’ to kingdom come, former soldier Jagger now has to deal with yet a second group of immortals who are trying kill the remaining population of Earth. So on the one hand, Jagger’s trying to stop a bunch of maniacs from leveling an orphanage full of kids, and on the other hand, he’s trying to rescue his wife and son from an entirely separate group of trigger-happy maniacs. And it all started because someone finds a shard of the Ten Commandments that enables people to see angels and demons. What, you thought being able to see angels and demons would be a good thing? Yeah, I would have thought so too, but then, this is a Liparulo book we’re talking about. Everything that can go wrong will do so, liberally accompanied with blood and explosions and grenades and some really cool tech.

So that’s the nutshell version of the story. If you liked the first book in the series, you’ll like this one. If you haven’t read the first book, then please don’t pick this up because it would be like starting with The Two Towers. Go get the first book and start there. The Judgment Stone is not an amazing read, but it’s a fun way to spend a couple hours and Liparulo’s handling of the immortal characters is thought-provoking as he explores what it would be like to live for thousands of years as the rest of the world passes you by.

In accordance with Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, I am disclosing that I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My opinions are my own, and I am not required to write a positive review.

Long days and pleasant nights from the Tale-Weaver.

Book Review: God’s Not Dead by Rice Broocks

If you need an apologetics books, and you’re not quite sure what ‘apologetics’ means (by the way, it means knowing how to defend Christianity), this book was written for you. If you have a few such books under your belt but need a solid overview of the field, this book is for you. If you’re not interested in being able to defend Christianity but just want some information for your own search for truth, guess what? This book has also got something for you.

Essentially, Broocks offers an array of evidence for Christianity from multiple fields: history, philosophy, science, and others. The book is not very thick and it covers quite a range so the answers are not explored in great detail, but at least it introduces you to many examples of evidence (as an example, Broocks covers in a portion of a chapter an argument C.S. Lewis develops over nearly an entire book). This is not to imply that the book is a lightweight. On the contrary, it’s chock full of information. It’s just that Broocks opts to give the reader an introduction to apologetics across many fields, rather than an in-depth discussion of just one.

So who would I recommend this book to? Well, most everyone. It’s for anyone who follows Jesus as their Lord but maybe isn’t quite sure how to respond to challenges from friends and coworkers. It’s also for anyone who is curious about the evidence for Christianity. If you have a fair knowledge of apologetics already, this one might be a just a refresher course you, but if that’s the case then you still should pick up to give it to people you know in the first two categories.

Per full disclosure, I received a copy of this book free from the publisher for review purposes. And no, I’m not obligated to write a positive review. I just wrote one because this is a good book.

Book Review: Fire of the Raging Dragon by Don Brown

Fire of the Raging Dragon is about a face-off between Chinese and Taiwanese naval forces into which the American navy gets dragged. The climax of the story is–and I feel I shouldn’t be spoiling this in a review, but it’s on the back cover–when the president of the United States has to decide whether to make the military move that is the best for the country, or the one best for the safety of his daughter, who’s on one of the ships in the war zone. Okay, that’s about all the positives I can think of (and I know those weren’t positives so much as they were nonnegatives. Oh well). It was just. . .the plot, characters, and writing all had me cringing more or less continually the entire time I trudged through them. Frankly, I can’t think think of anything else to say, save for going into gory detail about passages like: “Noooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!” Tang screamed as he stood, knocking papers on the floor. “He is my brother!” Tang grabbed the gold lamp off his desk. “Nooooooo!!!!!!!!” And no, I added neither o’s nor exclamation points (at least not consciously; you try squinting a a page and trying to count consecutive exclamation points). So yes, if that excerpt made your day, grab this book. Otherwise, run. Run far. In interests of fair disclosure, please know that I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review, obviously.

Chapter Thirteen: Not at Home

Okay, so can I share with you what is quite possibly one of my favorite of all of Tolkien’s countless thousands of sentences?

“If you want to know what cram is, I can only say that I don’t know the recipe; but it is biscuitish, keeps good indefinitely, is supposed to be sustaining, and is certainly not entertaining, being in fact very uninteresting except as a chewing exercise.

Why do I like that sentence so much? Dunno. Something about it being good for nothing but long journeys and as a chewing exercise. Finally, a product designed so that all of us with underdeveloped jaw muscles can have faces just as buff as the movie stars. It makes me snicker every time I read it. Then I think of the bit in The Fellowship of the Ring, in Lothlorien when Gimli takes a piece of lembas and thinks it’s cram, which makes me snicker again. Then I think of the “one small bite can fill the stomach of a grown man” line from the movie, and I snicker a third time. Then I’m done snickering, and now that my absolute favorite part of the chapter is out of the way, on to the next bit.

(This, if you haven’t noticed yet, is going to be a rather stream-of-conscious type of post, consisting of the sorts of things that strike my fancy as I read this chapter.)

Now we’ve got our reluctant hobbit (I’ve go the Silver Jubilee edition of the book, and it says “The Reluctant Hobbit” in enormous lettering on the back cover, as if that’s supposed to entice us to pick it up) whose stepping into his own. Yes, he faced down Smaug, one tiny hobbit against a mighty dragon, but now he becomes the unexpected leader of the dwarves as they attempt to find a way out of the mountain. It’s a far cry from falling on his face and shouting, “Struck by lighting! Struck by lighting!” It seems only appropriate that it is a this point that Thorin gifts him with the mithril coat. Bilbo has taken on the role of leader and is thus dressed like a prince.

And naturally, on the subject of Bilbo coming into his own, we mustn’t forget that, while the dwarves have been calling him a burglar all along, he has always been the farthest thing from. Until now, the moment he closes his hand around the coveted Arkenstone and slips it into his pocket.

Also, Tolkien uses the word “wormstench” to describe the smell in Smaug’s chambers. Somehow there a different connotation when those two words are squashed into one that works incredibly well to define the atmosphere of the place. It’s another of my favorite Tolkien-ism.

And here I must leave you, with bated breath against Smaug’s return (don’t worry, I’m sure the wrothful dragon will turn up soon, first line of the next chapter if I remember correctly).

Namarie from the Tale-Weaver.