Saturday, March 28, 2015

Shelf Candy Saturday #143: Firebird, by Mercedes Lackey


Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!!

This is my weekly feature
showcasing beautiful book covers!
It also provides information,
if available, on their very talented creators!

For more information
about Shelf Candy Saturday,
simply go HERE.

Here's my choice for this week!

(Fairy Tales, Book 1)
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Tor Books
January 8, 2008
Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retellings, 
Historical Fiction, Science Fiction

My Thoughts About This Cover

The beautiful legend of the Firebird, of Russian origin, is wonderfully evoked in this gorgeous cover!

Those highly-detailed wings create a very dynamic composition, with their swirling movement, which carries the eye from the top of the image to the sides, and help focus the viewer's gaze on the magical woman, to whom they belong. They also give the feeling that she has just landed, having flown from an unknown location.

A metal band encircles her head, with a stone or perhaps a jewel, resting on her forehead. This contributes to her magical-looking appearance. She is gracefully poised, having stopped to gaze at the viewer. Or is she about to take off? Now I'm wondering....

The contrast between the two fonts used is a striking one. The font used for the title reminds me of 19th-century writing styles. I think I've seen this font on the cover of some classic from that century. The other font, which is used for the author's name, is definitely the type used in Art Deco designs, usually for posters.  

I also like the lines that frame the cover image on each side. Another nice detail is that the wings go over the lines, and the color of these lines contrasts very nicely with the cover's predominant color, which is a beautiful shade of soft golden tan. 

Thanks to the Amazon reader, I have been able to get information about the superbly talented cover artist! Her name is Julie Bell. She not only creates fantasy art, but wildlife paintings as well, and is married to the equally talented, and very well-known fantasy artist, Boris Vallejo. I hope to own this book someday!!

Online Links for Julie Bell

What do you think of my 
choice this week?
Please leave a comment
and let me know!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Review: Books of Light, by Robert Leichtman & Carl Japikse

Books of Light
Robert Leichtman, Carl Japikse
Mass Market Paperback, 184 pages
Ariel Press, 1988
Creativity, Fantasy, Metaphysical, Nonfiction, Science Fiction, Spirituality
Source: Purchased at used bookstore

Book Synopsis:   There is a rich treasure of books, both fiction and nonfiction alike, that explore the nature of spiritual growth, psychic development, the inner dimensions of life, and healing. Books of Light is a collection of reviews which introduces the reader to the best such books in print today, in the hope of inspiring him or her to discover these treasures. Each of these books has been a selection of the Books of Light Book Club, the only national book club in the New Age. The reviews printed in this collection were the ones first introducing each book to club members. There is also an introductory essay on the art of intelligent reading.

There is a rich treasure of books, both fiction and nonfiction alike, that explore the nature of spiritual growth, psychic development, the inner dimensions of life, and healing. Books of Light is a collection of reviews which introduces the reader to the best such books in print today, in the hope of inspiring him or her to discover these treasures.Each of these books has been a selection of the Books of Light book club, the only national book club in the new age. The reviews printed in this collection were the ones first introducing each book to club members. There is also an introductory essay on the art of intelligent reading.

As the book synopsis states, this is a collection of reviews of books on various spiritual and metaphysical topics. This is the first and only time I have ever come across such a book, and I have found it to be absolutely fascinating, even though, of all the books reviewed, there are some I know I would not be interested in reading.

The authors, Robert Leichtman and Carl Japikse, are well-known in New Age circles, and are partners in the publishing house of Ariel Press. Both have written books themselves, all related to New Age topics. Their book club, mentioned in the synopsis, and now no longer active, featured these types of books, whether written by themselves, or other authors. These continue to be featured through Ariel Press.

Another interesting and unusual thing about this slim volume is the mix of reviews of fiction and nonfiction books, as well as the mix of Christian and New Age books (although the collection does favor the latter). For instance, No One Hears But Him, by Taylor Caldwell, is a collection of stories revolving around a sanctuary located on a hill, in an unnamed town, to which people go in order to tell their troubles to someone who listens in silence, behind a curtain. This person is later revealed to be Jesus Christ. On the very next page, a book titled Winged Pharaoh is reviewed. The author, Joan Grant, claimed that her novels, of which this is one, were really recollections of her past lives. Another book reviewed is The New View Over Atlantis, penned by John Michell, which is a revised edition of his earlier work, originally published in 1969. This nonfiction book examines the work of several researchers regarding the existence of ley lines. These are "a precise network of straight lines crisscrossing the English countryside in a geometric pattern." (pg. 40, Books of Light) According to Wikipedia, they are alleged alignments of sites of historical importance, such as ancient monuments

Other titles mentioned by Leichtman and Japikse are classic fantasy and science fiction works, such as The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. This book of fantasy tales is full of Christian symbolism, since the author was a famous Christian writer. Also mentioned is Lewis's science fiction work, The Space Trilogy, whose volumes include Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. This series of books deals with an alien civilization which regularly communicates with God through beings known as "Eldila", who are somewhat like angels.  Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein, is a science fiction classic about a young man brought up on Mars who subsequently arrives on Earth to preach a religion based on "grokking", which means to totally understand and empathize with people. Magister Ludi ( a/k/a The Glass Bead Game), by Hermann Hesse, which won the 1946 Nobel Prize for Literature, is a fascinating exploration of the contrasts between the intellectual life and the active life. 

There are also reviews of two books by Ayn Rand -- The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged. The first is about an architect who refuses to compromise his creativity and personal principles, and thereby encounters great opposition. The second one is about a group of people who decide to band together to establish a new society founded on principles of excellence, genius, and self-sufficiency. 

In regards to Atlas Shrugged, I must say that, although the plan for this new society sounds great on paper, it is established through the 'shrugging off' of "the tyranny of the masses". The founders of this new society "are no longer willing to carry on their backs the hordes of welfare consumers". (quotes from pg. 137, Books of Light) So, in other words, social responsibility to those less fortunate is totally eschewed. This sounds like a totally callous, cruel attitude. While I would certainly champion the fostering of excellence and creativity, this must be tempered with a social conscience. Rand is not known for her social compassion, however, which is why I never finished reading The Fountainhead when I started it, years ago. So I would argue with Leichtman and Japikse's inclusion of these two books.

I was delighted by some of the other books included in this volume. One of these -- Memories, Dreams, Reflections, by Carl Jung -- is a book I have long intended to read. In  it, the great psychologist candidly reveals the workings of his inner world. According to the authors of Books of Light, it is "one of the most important books of our century." (They were referring to the 20th century.) The Time Quartet, by Madeleine L'Engle, is a collection of four wonderful children's fantasy/science fiction books, starting with the best-known one, A Wrinkle In Time. The others are The Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters

Another book that I was happy to see included is Narcissus and Goldmund, by Hermann Hesse. I have read most of this author's novels, and consider him one of my favorites. In this particular work, Hesse examines the creative, artistic life, as contrasted with the life of the mind. This is a powerful novel, one I intend to re-read, as my first reading took place years ago. Another Hesse novel, Siddhartha, is also included. Of course, I intend to re-read this one, as well, although I do prefer Narcissus and Goldmund, together with Magister Ludi

The Dragonriders of Pern, by Ann McAffrey, is another wonderful inclusion. McAffrey's novels should have been brought to the silver screen a long time ago; after all, she invented the concept of people riding dragons way before Christopher Paolini's Eragon burst upon the scene!

The nonfiction books mentioned in Books of Light explore various typical New Age themes. There are several titles such as The Reappearance of the Christ, by Alice Bailey, who was a member of the Theosophical Society, The Bach Flower Remedies, by Edward Bach, M.D., Clairvoyant Investigations, by Geoffrey Hodson, which deals with angels, There Is A River, by Thomas Sugrue, which examines the life and work of Edgar Cayce, Music: Its Secret Influence Throughout the Ages, by Cyril Scott, and many others.

Each review gives a summary of the book's plot or subject matter, and then an interesting analysis of the book, why it's considered important by the authors of Books of Light, and thus, recommended to their readers. Leichtman and Japikse are excellent writers, so their reviews are the next best thing to reading the books they have analyzed. They also make for some very entertaining reading!

The only thing I found detracted from this work, besides the inclusion of books I don't believe accurately reflect the beauties of the spiritual life, is that there is neither a Table of Contents, nor an Index. Both would have been very helpful in locating the books and topics mentioned. However, the excellent reviews more than make up for this, so I am giving this book the highest rating. I do think that this is a fascinating collection of book reviews, as well as a great reference source for those who, like me, are interested in the topics covered. In fact, the authors' reviews have motivated me to seek out some of the works mentioned, as well as to plan to re-read others!


Friday, March 20, 2015

The Book Lover's Den #17: In Honor of a Very Special Vulcan Human

Welcome to my Friday feature!

In each weekly post, I explore 
my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.

I couldn't believe it when I first heard the news.... The iconic actor, Leonard Nimoy, world-famous for his unforgettable portrayal of Mr. Spock, the Vulcan on the classic "Star Trek" TV series, passed away on Friday, Feb. 27th. Those of us who grew up with the inscrutable Mr. Spock, so expertly brought to life by Nimoy, will mourn for a  very long time, and will always miss him and his character. Nimoy and Spock are inseparable. Others may play the role in the future, but none of them will be THE Mr. Spock we ST fans were privileged to know and love.

I have been extremely busy with my recent move from a rented apartment in Miami, to a condo, also in Miami, owned by my husband and myself. However, I decided to honor Mr. Nimoy in my next "Book Den" post as soon as I possibly could. There was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to do so!

Of course, Leonard Nimoy was not only known for his portrayal of Mr. Spock. He was a very talented individual whose achievements included photography, film directing, and singing. He was also a writer and poet.

Although "Star Trek" in all its versions was a TV series that then spawned several movies, it has also ignited the creativity of several science fiction writers who have penned further ST adventures, not only for the original crew, but for those of the show's other versions -- "The Next Generation", "Deep Space Nine", "Voyager", and "Enterprise". Thus, "Star Trek" has become a literary phenomenon, as well. 

My own preferred version of the TV series is the original, and the main reason is Mr. Spock. His complex psychological makeup made him totally fascinating, and his dry sense of humor when interacting with humans was truly hilarious at times!

Nimoy himself contributed to the literary side of "Star Trek" by writing two memoirs -- I Am Not Spock (1975), and, ironically enough, I Am Spock (1995). I must sheepishly admit to having read neither, in spite of my great love for this character. Therefore, I am hereby making a firm commitment to read both of these books in 2015!

I am also making a commitment to read several books inspired by the original version of "Star Trek", starting with those that focus on Spock himself.

Here are the "Star Trek" books I have added to the top of my TBR list for this year. I am hoping to get started just as soon as I possibly can!

I know I will feel sad as I read these books, knowing that Leonard is gone....but somehow, he lives on, not only in the episodes of the original series, which I have seen umpteen times each, and of which I never tire, but also in these novels that immortalize the character he embodied so well. I will therefore read the novels, as well as the memoirs, with bittersweet feelings, but read them I will!

The only thing left for me to say to all of you who, like me, love the classic series, especially its resident Vulcan, is that famous Vulcan blessing, "Live long and prosper!"

If you're a Star Trek TOS fan,
please feel free to leave a
comment on the passing
of this great actor, as well as
your feelings about his
immortal character, Mr. Spock.