Authors, Artists & Artisans!

Had a nice time at the Higher Ground Books & Media‘s “Authors, Artists & Artisans!” event.

I spent way too much money, but hey, I got some Christmas gifts! (Thanks Michael Fehskens and Meaghan Fisher: Children’s Author)

Met some authors that I’ve read (J.Kevin Earp) and several that I’d like to read (Mina R Raulston, Parker Stevens, and Carolyn Williams). My reading list just got longer!

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Splendors and Gloom

Splendor's and Gloom.jpgWeird. That is the only way I can describe Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz. As far as children’s fiction books go, this is rather dark, and the story is confusing. The story bounces back and forth between different character’s and perspectives, and the real focus of the story does not become clear until much later in the book. (About ½ way through the book you finally figure out what happened to Clara, and ¾ of the way through the book you finally realize how all these characters relate to one another.)

The synopsis of the story makes it sound like the focus is discovering what happened to Clara, however, in truth, her disappearance is only a small part of the bigger picture. Perhaps a better synopsis would be:

An old curse, two enemies, and the lives of three unhappy children collide in this tale of magic and greed set in London in the 1800s. Cassandra, a witch who will stop at nothing to dispel her curse, and Grisini, a master puppeteer with a desire for power and money, care little for the lives they must take and the happiness they will destroy in their quest for freedom and power. Caught in between are three children – Clara Wintermute, Lizzie Rose, and Parsefall – each being viewed as a tool – a puppet – for Cassandra and Grisini to achieve their desires. Life was hard for the children, and thanks to Cassandra and Grisini, it just became harder.

The story though, is not without merit. The children, even Parsefall who is the most “hardened” of the children, are examples of selflessness and courage. Lizzie Rose in particular is a good example of compassion, showing mercy and kindness even to those who hurt and mistreat her. The story also has an interesting way of dealing with each character’s grief and helping them find the peace and healing they very much need.

Non-Fiction books for the Martial Artist

man-3021551_1280.pngI enjoy martial arts (karate, silat, and kali), and picked up some books at the library on various martial arts techniques. These are books I would recommend for people who want to learn more about martial arts techniques.

  • The Advanced Shotokan Karate Bible Black Belt and Beyond by Ashley P. Marin
    • I borrowed this book primarily because it contains several sections on the application of techniques performed in katas. When I was studying karate, we did not learn the practical application of kata techniques, so to me they were nothing more than choreographed martial arts moves. While I knew that each movement had a purpose, I did not know what that purpose was. This book helped give me a general idea of the application of various kata movements.
  • Karate for Kids by Robin Rielly
    • This book is good for kids or adults who want to learn some of the basic karate techniques. If you are already hold an advanced belt in karate, this book will not benefit you.
  • Karate Techniques & Tactics, Skills for sparring and self-defense by Patrick M. Hickey
    • Of the martial arts books that I borrowed, this one so far, is my favorite. However, I borrowed this book for the “techyniques and tactics” aspect of it. I only made it part way through the book and due to Christmas break ending, I won’t be able to finish it until summer, but I have thoroughly enjoyed what I read. It starts off with a history of karate and even provides a general overview of several other similar styles of martial arts. It then introduces several martial arts stances, strikes, and kicks. From there, it moves moves into katas and sparring in competition. It was for the sections on competition, particularly sparring in a competition, that I borrowed this book.
  • Tae Kwon Do Third Edition by Yeon Hee Park, Yeon Hwan Park, and Jon Gerrard
    • I borrowed this book to read the section on sparring techniques. I honestly never got around to reading it, but I like the layout of the book. Like the The Advanced Shotokan Karate Bible and SUMO Mixed Martial Arts, this book has tons of pictures accompanied by written descriptions, and it is a book I would recommend to people interested in learning more about martial arts.
  • Sumo Mixed Martial Arts by Andrew Zerling
    • I borrowed this book to learn some of the various takedowns. This book accompanies each step with an explanation and pictures.

Echoes of Fate by Philip C. Quaintrell

Echoes of Fate.jpgEchoes of Fate, a book series by Philip C. Quaintrell, is a very engrossing story. At first I wasn’t sure I would like it because the story follows many different lead characters, all with weird sounding names. I didn’t think I would be able to follow the many different story lines. However, it was not long before the stories intertwined, making it easier and much more enjoyable to follow.

My favorite aspect about this story is the path for redemption that two of the characters – Asher, the main character, and Galanor – are on. Each of these characters has had a tumultuous past. Whereas Asher has already turned from his old life as an assassin when you first meet him, Galanor is conflicted between duty, which calls him to perform unsavory actions, and his desire to be a good person. While you get to see Galanor in the before-and-after stages of his path to redemption, you meet Asher after he has turned away from the life of an assassin. However, trusting and friendship are two things foreign to Asher, and it is fun to watch his relationship with the characters develop as he struggles to live life as a better person while carrying the guilt of his past life.

Due to the content of this series, I would say it is rated R. There is intermittent use of the F-word and some fairly graphic violence (at least by my standards). However, it is the scenes in which the Darkakin torture/rape the queen of the elves that is primarily responsible for my rating the book as R. It is hard to describe these scenes; they are not graphic but there is enough description and allusions to what is going on that it is bothersome. While this did not stop me from reading the book (as you can easily skip those scenes), it does make me hesitant to recommend it to anyone but a mature audience.

Note: I continued reading the book despite the scenes with the Darkakin because I am enjoying (I’m on the last book) the path to redemption of Asher and Galanor. I also enjoy the internal struggle of the other characters who, after experiencing horrendous torture or loss, fight to retain their virtues and moral beliefs. The characters in this book experience very real, human emotions. You see them struggle to be the people they want to be despite the torture they’ve experienced or the losses they have endured. For that reason alone, the book is worth reading as you see that no matter how horrible life can get, you should always strive to be the better person, even if you don’t always succeed.

P.S. I will be adding this to my favorite books for adults.