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review 2018-08-01 18:14
Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit: Essays on Native American Life Today by Leslie Marmon Silko
Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit - Leslie Marmon Silko

Bold and impassioned, sharp and defiant, Leslie Marmon Silko's essays evoke the spirit and voice of Native Americans. Whether she is exploring the vital importance literature and language play in Native American heritage, illuminating the inseparability of the land and the Native American people, enlivening the ways and wisdom of the old-time people, or exploding in outrage over the government's long-standing, racist treatment of Native Americans, Silko does so with eloquence and power, born from her profound devotion to all that is Native American. 

Amazon.com

 

 

 

In this collection of essays, Silko, a member of the Pueblo Nation, discusses art, symbolism, and overall cultural growth within the Pueblo community. Some of the topics covered in Yellow Woman (the title of the book coming from one of the essays enclosed):

 

ART

 

* Symbolism in Pueblo art, ie. use of squash blossom on pottery designs = possible berringer of death, lightning imagery could mean good fortune, karmaj petals used for their symetry to represent four corners of the earth or four elements  (fire, water, earth, air). Discussion of how some imagery is used to illustrate the earth being simultaneously complex and fragile

 

* "Yellow Woman" an image of Pueblo mythology, a goddess highly regarded for her bravery, strength, calm demeanor during catastrophe, and her "uninhibited sexuality" Rather than relying on violence and destruction to assure victories, "Yellow Woman" bewitches foes simply through her sensuality and self confidence.

 

FAMILY / SOCIETAL STRUCTURE & PREJUDICES

 

* Silko writes that her own family is a blend of Pueblo, Mexican and Caucasian and her own struggles of "not looking right" to any of these groups. She speaks lovingly of her "dark and handsome" great-grandmother who "exuded confidence and strength", but admits that the woman might not have been considered traditionally beautiful by either Caucasians or Pueblo people, which opens up an essay discussion for how beauty, the thing itself, is interpreted by different cultures. Silko notes that facial differences are highly prized among the Pueblo people. 

 

*Discussion of how the idea of gender norms or "mens' work vs. womens' work" doesn't really have a place in Pueblo culture, only a matter of if you are able-bodied enough to get the job done.. so you find women doing construction and men doing basket weaving and child care. People just go where they are needed. 

 

*Historically, Pueblo people were originally fine with sexual fluidity and up until the arrival of the Puritans, openly supported LGBTQ members of the tribe. Also, babies born out of wedlock were not an issue because unplanned or not, the life was honored as life. If not wanted by the biological parents, the newborn was simply given to a barren woman within the tribe to raise. 

 

The discussions on art and culture were interesting but there was something quietly underneath that just had a feel of Silko sometimes talking down to her readers. Some of the essays repeat topics and even certain passages are duplicated verbatim from one essay into another, which I found incredibly disappointing and lazy. I know some of these pieces were previously printed elsewhere, but certain essays she must have been sitting on for a long while. For instance, one that is noted as having been previously published in 1996 -- "Auntie Kie talks about US Presidents and US Policy" -- but within that essay Silko talks about telling her aunt about an upcoming article Silko is to have published, "What Another Four Years Of Ronald Reagan Will Mean to Native Americans" (Reagan announced his Alzheimer's diagnosis in 1994). 

 

So while some of the topics were interesting, I thought the collection as a whole was kind of sloppily put together. Also, if you haven't read any of Silko's fiction, there are spoilers for some of her short stories within these essays.

 

 

 

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review 2018-04-08 07:12
Alpha & Omega -- Cry Wolf: Volume One by Patricia Briggs
Alpha and Omega: Cry Wolf - David Lawrence, Todd Herman, Jenny Frison,Patricia Briggs

Anna never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack…and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she’s learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. Then Charles Cornick, the enforcer—and son—of the leader of the North American werewolves, came into her life. Charles insists that not only is Anna his mate, but she is also a rare and valued Omega wolf. And it is Anna’s inner strength and calming presence that will prove invaluable as she and Charles go on the hunt in search of a rogue werewolf—a creature bound in magic so dark that it could threaten all the pack…

Amazon.com

 

 

Text Adaptation of the novels: David Lawrence

Art: Todd Herman

Coloring: Mohan

Cover Art: Jenny Frison

 

This graphic novel collection is based on Patricia Briggs' novel Cry Wolf, this book rounding up the first four issues of the graphic novel adaptation. The cover also proclaims that this special edition offers a previously unpublished version of Issue 1. 

 

In a nutshell, here's the rundown of the story: Anna Latham goes on what amounts to a pity date with this guy (she's not really feelin' him but agrees to go out anyway). Turns out the guy is a werewolf who essentially kidnaps her, takes her to his pack in Chicago (or the area anyway), transforms her into a werewolf and then him and his crew proceed to torture her in various ways until she is somehow rescued by the Cornick werewolves of Montana (this book doesn't really offer too much in details on that portion of the story, guess you'll have to rely on the novel to fill you in).

 

Bran Cornick is the "marrok" -- or basically the Godfather -- of ALL North American werewolves. His son, Charles, insists that newcomer Anna is an Omega wolf and claims her as his mate. But Anna is still struggling with some PTSD from her hellish experience in Chicago... and it seems there's also some more protocol ceremonial stuff to be done before these two are officially mated... so, in the meantime, they team up to try to track down and capture an elusive rogue werewolf who is on a murderous rampage lately, threatening the safety of the Cornick pack. 

 

I have many friends who rave about Briggs' books and even though I'm a lover of the paranormal genre, I've never tried her books myself. Maybe because my personal interest gravitates to ghost stories over werewolves. Still, I found a bargain priced copy of this one and figured I'd finally give the woman's work a go. That said, I did notice that the title page notes "text adaptation by David Lawrence"... so maybe Briggs' name is just stamped on the cover because they're her characters but is Lawrence doing the actual story writing here? Not sure. 

 

Plotwise, this fell short for me. I was left with so many questions. Granted, those questions might've been answered if I was an avid follower of this series in its novel form but as a Briggs newbie, I definitely felt out of the loop here. I also found it mildly irritating how everyone kept talking about what a superpower Omega Anna was, how strong and all that.. but her actions SCREAMED delicate, trembling snowflake most of the time. I realize there's only four issues in this collection but I didn't feel like I got a strong enough grasp on her character or what was supposed to be so amazing about her and I'm sorry, if you can't at least somewhat snag my curiosity by four issues, this series is probably not for me. To be honest, I was left not really giving a flip about ANY character in this story. Not. A. One. 

 

Artwork: The issue covers for each section, done by Jenny Frison, were very nice. Clean, fluid lines, attractive color work.

 

 

The artwork within the issues themselves? Not so much. Todd Herman's art had an overall muddled look to me. What was going on with the faces? In nearly every shot, the characters look either angry, murderous, or even sometimes a little lecherous...even when it was a very average, uneventful conversation.. almost as if the act of conversing were the most painful thing ever. Everyone just walking around rockin' Joker faces at all times. Weird. Thankfully, this was toned down some by Issues 3-4. 

 

The end of the book features a "Gallery" section where you can see samples of the artwork uncolored, initial sketches, etc. which I found interesting, especially when looking at the uncolored version of Issue 1 cover. It was nice with color, but I was surprised to see how much prettier I found the black and white sketch version. 

 

 

 

Following the Gallery section is an excerpt from Patricia Briggs' novel FAIR GAME, so you can sample her writing style if you're a newbie to her work like me. 

 

 

 

 

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review 2018-03-05 14:56
Phoebe's Light (Nantucket Legacy #1) by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Phoebe's Light (Nantucket Legacy) - Suzanne Woods Fisher

Phoebe Starbuck has always adjusted her sails and rudder to the whims of her father. Now, for the first time, she's doing what she wants to do: marrying Captain Phineas Foulger and sailing far away from Nantucket. As she leaves on her grand adventure, her father gives her two gifts, both of which Phoebe sees little need for. The first is an old sheepskin journal from Great Mary, her highly revered great-grandmother. The other is a "minder" on the whaling ship in the form of cooper Matthew Macy, a man whom she loathes. Soon Phoebe discovers that life at sea is no easier than life on land. Lonely, seasick, and disillusioned, she turns the pages of Great Mary's journal and finds herself drawn into the life of this noble woman. To Phoebe's shock, her great-grandmother has left a secret behind that carries repercussions for everyone aboard the ship, especially her husband the captain and her shadow the cooper. This story within a story catapults Phoebe into seeing her life in an entirely new way--just in time. 

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Phoebe Starbuck has only just turned eighteen years old and already feels as if she's spent a lifetime caring for her widower father, Barnabus, on the island of Nantucket, MA. No matter how many major financial setbacks he succumbs to, 'ol Barnabus remains ever optimistic about the future. Sadly, optimism alone doesn't pay the bills, so Phoebe has to continually figure out ways to make the meager Starbuck money stretch. Due to too many of Barnabus's failed business ventures, the Starbucks are nearly bankrupt. Resources being limited from the start, the family is now at the point where some miracle boon in fortune must appear or Phoebe and her father will be deemed "Town Poor" and likely homeless shortly thereafter. 

 

Seeing the whaling ship Fortuna come into port, Phoebe (feeling emboldened by her newly minted "adult" status) puts herself together in the most appealing way she can, being a respectable & modest Quaker woman, and approaches the ship's captain, Phineas Foulger, at the docks. Though much older (in his mid 40s), by author Suzanne Fisher's description of him, the reader gets the impression that Phineas's physical appeal has held up well over the years. The last time he last spoke with Phoebe, she was just a mere girl, but now she wants him to see her as potential wife material. Within mere weeks, using only a comely blend of charm, beauty and innocence, Phoebe wins the interest of Capt. Foulger and soon has the MRS title she so strongly sought. As a wedding gift, Barnabus gives Phoebe the journal of her great-grandmother, Mary, telling her that there's said to be great life wisdom in its pages. But why is Captain Foulger SO insistent on knowing the journal's contents?

 

Though he was initially against the idea, Phoebe convinces her new husband to allow her to accompany him on his next voyage. Also joining the journey is 21 year old Matthew Mitchell, Nantucket's town cooper (barrel maker) and former suitor of Phoebe. Matthew gets a two-fold request to board the Fortuna, one from Barnabas to keep an eye on Phoebe as he does not trust Capt. Foulger -- and Barnabas can see that despite the history between them, Matthew still cares very deeply for Phoebe --- and one from the captain himself to serve as the ship's cooper. But as the reader soon discovers, nothing aboard this ship is as it might first appear. 

 

Expecting the adventure of a lifetime, the new Mrs. Foulger instead finds herself smacked with weeks of sweating out mal de mer (chronic sea sickness). She cannot hold down food, she struggles to be attentive to her new husband, most days she can barely stand for more than a few moments. Before long, the captain seems more annoyed than enamored with his young missus... not just distant, but almost surly. He grows outright neglectful of her, leaving her care primarily to Matthew and the cabin boy, Silo. Suffice it to say, she quickly regrets her earlier insistence on coming along on this voyage! The crew of the Fortuna meanwhile battles epic squalls, ship fires, and constant crew fights, blaming it all on the bad luck superstition of having a woman on board. 

 

Phoebe's Light is the first in what looks to be at least a trilogy from Suzanne Woods Fisher, who is primarily known for her nonfiction and fiction Amish-themed books. Between our main character's story and that of her great-grandmother Mary, the novel spans both the 17th and 18th centuries. Props to whomever came up with the idea to print Mary's journal entries in slightly faded ink... brings in a nice realistic touch for the reader, since the fadedness of the journal is something Phoebe mentions repeatedly struggling with as she makes her way through the pages. 

 

My stance on Phoebe weeble-wobbled throughout the story's progress. In the beginning she seemed sweet and good-hearted, but it can be frustrating reading a character so stubbornly set on getting her way that you just have to watch her set herself up for failure... maybe it's tough because we don't like to see ourselves quite so much, eh? But there were other sides to Phoebe's strong will that were quite admirable. Oooh, I got goosebumps and cheered when she stills the captain in his tracks with her quiet, edged "I asked you a question." Go, girl! 

 

Also might just be me on this one, but I got a giggle out of Fisher's approach to the topic of sex (or almost sex) in this Christian fiction work. Every time the old captain tried to corner Phoebe for her "marital duties", someone conveniently shows up with a "Captain, you're needed at the helm." There's even one point where Phoebe herself prays for a distraction, gets it moments later when yet again her husband is called away, and the next line reads, "She had never known the Lord to work with such haste." Oh man, loved it! 

 

Though not absolutely perfect in execution, Fisher crafts one highly immersive tale of historical fiction! I found myself craving just a bit more action and moments of tension between the various protagonists and antagonists, but even so was quite satisfied with the rich detail in character personality traits and living environments. Whether Phoebe was on land or at sea, every bit of her world was virtually tactile to me as the reader, a credit to Fisher's finely honed writing skills. Also a nice feature: if you are a reader new to historical fiction, Fisher includes a handy pages-long 18th century terminology glossary at the front of the book you can refer to for those dated terms. 

 

I close this book having really become attached to this family and I eagerly anticipate the next installment to see what happens with the next generation! 

 

FTC Disclaimer: Revell Books (Baker Publishing Group) kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

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review 2018-02-28 06:55
Found Things by Marilyn Hilton
Found Things - Marilyn Hilton

One morning, River Rose Byrne wakes up talking like nobody else, and she doesn’t know why. Maybe it’s because her beloved older brother, Theron, has abruptly vanished. Maybe it’s because that bully Daniel Bunch won’t leave her alone. Or maybe it has everything to do with the eerily familiar house that her mind explores when she’s asleep, and the mysterious woman who lives there. River has to puzzle through these mysteries on her own until she makes a strange new friend named Meadow Lark. But when she brings Meadow Lark home and her mother reacts in a way that takes River by surprise, River is more lost than before. Now all that’s left for her to do is make wish after wish—and keep her eyes open for a miracle.

Amazon.com

 

 

For quite awhile now, River Rose Byrne has been wondering about and searching for her missing brother, Theron. In the meantime, she befriends mysterious, somewhat odd Meadow Lark Frankenfield, "her name was one of the only pretty things about her." Author Marilyn Hilton's description of Meadow Lark includes "a popped out eye" and "a strange way of walking".

 

"People make fun of my eye," she say, "but I can see better than some of them." 

 

As the story progresses, there are quiet character traits of River that the reader comes to see as a result (side effect?) of the trauma of Theron's disappearance, one being her taking up the habit of intentionally filling her speech with poor grammar. To help heal River's spirit, Meadow Lark teaches her the trick of writing down wishes and sending them down the river near the town library. Sidenote: I loved the imagery of a library set up next to a river!

 

One of the fun elements that keeps this story moving is the sense of mystery Hilton writes around the character of Meadow Lark, all the questions around her origin story. Is there some true magic to her? Why does River's mother respond so powerfully to her? 

 

One of River wishes is for the school bully to disappear. When said bully ends up in the hospital, River is surprised... maybe gives a glance in Meadow Lark's direction, but then reminds herself that she doesn't believe in things like magic / angels / miracles, so it's just a wild coincidence! Right? 

 

As River's emotions regarding her missing brother continue to escalate, overflowing to the point of affecting other aspects of her life, Meadow Lark is there to teach her the importance of maintaining hope & faith -- even just a grain of it -- in life. 

 

There was such a wonderful sense of childhood magic and whimsy infused into this book! There's a dreamlike quality that runs through the whole thing, but also quite a bit of depth when it comes to incorporated themes. Quite a feat for a debut novel! If you are a fanatic for beautiful language and all things lyrical, I highly encourage you to seek out Found Things and give it go! 

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review 2017-10-19 07:19
Animals Talking In All Caps by Justin Valmassoi
Animals Talking in All Caps: It's Just What It Sounds Like - Justin Valmassoi

A goat who wants to sell you some meth. 
A giraffe who might be violating his restraining order. 
An alpaca with a very dirty secret. 
A cat who’s really mad at you for cancelling Netflix instant. 
 
These are just a few of the hilariously human animals you’ll meet in Animals Talking in All Caps. Inspired by the wildly popular blog of the same name and including some of the site’s best-loved entries as well as gobs of never-before-seen material, these pages provide a brilliantly unhinged glimpse into the animal mind.

Amazon.com

 

 

This book is an extension of the humor originally found on author Justin Valmassoi's tumblr page (also called Animals Talking In All Caps). The subtitle on the cover is "It's Just What It Sounds Like" and that's the truth! It's just straight up humorous captions / conversations put to pictures of animals! The conversations touch upon not only pop culture references and relationship craziness but also some more crude or risque material.. but in such a dang cute way! 

 

The book also features a pretty adorable introductory essay :-) In it, Valmassoi writes: 

 

"My friend Stacey asked me to collect all the random caps-lock-captioned animal photos strewn across my many abandoned tumblrs into one convenient spot so she could giggle at them without having to search through years of bad jokes and turgid prose. Having nothing better to do, I obliged. After collecting them all under the highly creative title Animals Talking In Caps, I went on to write a few more. I wrote one or two a day, mostly to keep Stacey entertained. I didn't tell anyone about it because I'm in my thirties and "I made a dog talk about the perils of Western capitalism" is a really embarrassing way to answer the question "What did you do today?" (not that anyone was asking, but just in case). Nonetheless, because it was a website featuring animals, people found it. If it has an animal on it and it's on the internet, everyone will eventually see it because humans are biologically wired to seek out animal photos whenever they get near a computer."

 

I don't have a ton to say about the book other than to say I was endlessly entertained, it gave me a smile on a bad day, and I'm sure I'll be returning to it for a giggle numerous times for years to come. 

 

Some of my favorites from the collection:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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