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review 2017-08-14 13:23
Contemporary Cables
Contemporary Cables: Classic Aran Reimagined in Current Styles - Jody Long

by Jody Long

 

I love cable knitting and the sweaters that result.

 

This is a collection of patterns for twenty-one different projects, each of them interesting in their own way. As with most knitting books, patterns for women dominate, though two of the three men's patterns are particularly interesting! No children or babies in this one.

 

Measurements and all instructions are very clear, giving both US sizes for needles and metric. The description says medium to advanced knitters, but I didn't see anything too complicated. Cables are actually very easy!

 

The patterns diverge from traditional into some creative combinations and there are at least three of them that I'm looking forward to knitting for myself. Full color pictures of all the finished designs and extensive charts to show texture or crossover patterns.

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review 2017-08-01 10:37
Original Magic
Original Magic: The Rituals and Initiations of the Persian Magi - Flowers, Stephen E., Ph.D.

by Stephen E. Flowers, Ph.D

 

This book claims to reveal for the first time the origins of the study of magic, specifically Zoroastrianism. This origin comes from Ancient Persia, now Iran, the etymology given as Mazdan -> Magian -> Magician.

 

The author asserts that his intention is that Western students of magic will use this information as a basis to further explore their own methods, but with knowledge of a 4000 year old history that forms the basis of much of what has been filtered through many cultural influences over that time to develop into modern magic as we know it.

 

There are five chapters followed by seven appendices. The first chapter is entitled It's Time to Life the Ban and is about the basic training system for a Mazdan and the knowledge they are to accrue over a twelve month period. The chapter explains the significance of an initiatory path and defines terms for the purposes of the book, explaining the difference between magic and sorcery as well as various cultural terms. I really enjoyed reading about history of this culture from a philosophical perspective rather than a political one.

 

The second chapter goes into more detail about the history of Iranian magic. The ideas of Zarathustra (called Zoroaster by the Greeks) and the progression of religion all the way up to current Muslim prevalence in Iran is covered as well as the idea of magic as religion.

 

Chapter three is called Theories of Mazdan Magic. Here we go into cultural ideas of duality and cosmology that look rather a lot like the roots of Judeo-Christian religious structure and morality, but with Astrology providing a cosmological model. Then chapter four brings us to Initiation to Magic. The author emphasises the importance of initiation and lays out a twelve month process for accomplishing a self-initiation according to Mazdan practices. Here it is easy to see the basis for many systems of elaborate daily ritual using specific ritual equipment.

 

As a historical record, this is brilliant. The exercises themselves present a solid structure of discipline, but is culturally based in a basically monotheistic religion that is the basic for the Abrahamic religions. I can't imagine that Western practitioners would benefit much from reciting the formulae in the Avestan language. It's a strong academic work that would be of value in the reference library of anyone interested in the history and study of magic on a spiritual level.

 

The fifth chapter is on Rituals of Mazdan Magic. The author starts by stressing importance of using original languages for manthras and of both inside and outside environments for performing the rituals. These rituals are very ceremonial and steeped into the belief system of the Persian Mazdan.

 

After these chapters we have seven appendices. The first is a brief history of Eranshahr, which is basically cultural background for the beliefs and practices of what this book is about. In just a few pages, the author explains several hundred years of Middle Eastern peoples, migrations and empires in a straightforward narrative that I personally found fascinating, as someone who has an interest in history.

 

Appedix B is a pronunciation guide for the Avestan language, then Appendix C details the Three Major Avestan Manthras. Appendix D lists 101 names of God to be used in the manthras, then Appendix E explains basic Mazdan astrological lore. Appendix F is resources; addresses online to find further information.

 

The Appendices are followed by a glossary, notes, then a bibliography and reading list, and of course an index.

 

I found the book historically fascinating, though the belief system involved doesn't fit with my own beliefs. It is certainly well-researched and a gem of a historical record. A very interesting read.

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review 2017-07-28 11:33
The Goblins of Bellwater
The Goblins of Bellwater - Molly Ringle

by Molly Ringle

 

Modern fairytales seem to be a rising trend and some good stories are coming out of it. This one read much like a traditional fairytale as far as language and sentence structure goes, but it had some original elements like goblins using iPhones and other modern devices. I was finding it rather charming until near the end of the first chapter an F-bomb spoiled it for me.

 

I'm not a prude or easily shocked, but I had been thinking this would be a lovely story for adults and children alike up to that point and it served no purpose to the story except maybe to add some shock value. Was it worth making it unsuitable for children? I didn't think so until I saw the direction the plot would take.

 

The story continues in an enchanting style for a while, drawing the reader into the human interactions with the goblins. It takes a sinister turn just as the f-bombing starts again and then a set up for an apparent romance angle.

 

The significance of the human characters to the goblins all clicks into place by 20% and I started enjoying the original premise, despite the teenage-like relationships. It comes out that the characters are actually in their twenties and becomes decidedly sexual by about a third in, so any thoughts of sharing with children are out the window. I'll give it credit for stopping at 'sensual' rather than turning into graphic erotica, which I hadn't signed on for.

 

By this time the story has become about the humans and the goblins are left behind. They appear again periodically, but the fairytale atmosphere gives way to a Romance story. Readers of that genre may enjoy this more than I did. It went in a different direction than I expected and my interest waned accordingly.

 

The writing itself is good so I can't fault it, it just wasn't for me.

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review 2017-07-19 09:54
Golden Age and Other Stories
Golden Age and Other Stories - Naomi Novik

by Naomi Novik

 

I wanted to read something by Naomi Novik, but didn't realise this collection of short stories was fan fiction related to the Temeraire series, which I haven't read. Never mind, it's a good test of a story collection like this to see if it can stand on its own.

 

The first story, Volley's Cow, did leave me a little bewildered. I think there was an assumption of familiarity with the characters, both human and dragon, as well as adventures they had been through in the series. The second story, Planting Season, was more self-contained and stood on its own well.

 

This was followed by Dawn of Battle, which I think probably reflected the sort of military battle atmosphere of the series and gave me a taste of the dragons and how they work in this world.

 

Then there is the title story, Golden Age. This one is longer than the others and rather good. My impression was that it was an alternative history using the characters from the first book of the series and focused very much on the nature of the dragons.

 

The next story, Succession, takes place in China and tells about how the French came to have a Celestial egg. This is followed by Dragons and Decorum, about a young woman being recruited into the air Corp, because female dragons will only have female handlers. Although I haven't yet read Pride and Prejudice, the use of the names Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy suggest there might be a nod to that book in this story.

 

The book wraps up with a section of Drabbles, 100 word stories. These were amusing and gave me some snippets of the world in which this series manifests. thought it was a nice way to finish up the collection. The artwork alone is worthwhile.

 

Over all an enjoyable read that I'm sure will be indispensable to readers of the Temeraire series.

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review 2017-07-12 10:22
Crystal Magic
Crystal Magic: Mineral Wisdom for Pagans & Wiccans - Sandra Kynes

by Sandra Kynes

 

This is a Llewellyn book, definitely targeted at Pagans and Wiccans and about using crystals in magic to enhance magical ritual with the use of crystals.

 

Unlike a lot of books of this kind, it has a wealth of practical information that would be of interest to anyone interested in gemstones or any mineral that might be used in jewellery. There is some history of the use of gemstones in medicine as well as cosmetics and information about their constituents, followed by a science chapter that I found very interesting indeed. This included information about how crystals help to support life and how crystals are formed and reformed in nature. Also about crystal structures and non-mineral crystals like Amber, jet and petrified wood. The information about optical properties of stones was especially fascinating.

 

There are many pictures in black and white, but of such good resolution that they work in a book where color might have been expected.

 

Chapter 3 is about Selecting and Preparing Stones. This one hit my 'new age' meter and I questioned some of the advice, particularly about putting salt water on stones. For many that will do no harm, but opals, especially Ethiopian opals, would lose their color, at least for several weeks.

 

Chapter 4 on using crystals in magic, however, mostly impressed me. There was some good advice for charging crystals and color correspondences given that actually matched up with older information about associations. I liked the explanation of crystal grids, though I've heard of this idea before.

 

There were two things I thought needed a warning. One was that you should never stare directly at a candle flame during a divination as it can harm the eyes. I can see the method of watching the flame through a clear stone working okay if the stone was big enough, but I did feel some caution should have been given about keeping the flame completely behind the stone at all times.

 

The other thing was about using oils. Oil an opal and it will lose its color forever. Other than that, the part about herbs and oils was very interesting as was the mention of the significance of birthstones, though it seemed to skirt around some of the disagreement about which stones belong to each month.

 

Much of the book is a compendium of stones, giving information about more that a hundred varieties of minerals. It was strong on history and description, but didn't give hardness index.

 

Appendix A deals with magical properties of stones, while Appendix B lists associated deities. I'm not knowledgeable enough to judge the accuracy of either of these, but found the information interesting and the extensive bibliography suggests that the author did a lot of research.

 

Over all this was a very good book on the subject with its strengths being on history, science and thoroughness. I may well get a hard copy to keep on my reference shelf.

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