Tag: fiction

Review: The Lost Girl, by Dotti Enderle

By Mike Gleason | September 4, 2003 | Leave a comment

The Lost Girl: The Fortune Tellers Club, Book 1, by Dotti Enderle
Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738702536, 125 pp. (+ preview), 2002

This is a series intended for the middle school crowd. It is light in tone and although some parts might be considered “spooky” there is nothing terribly frightening or threatening.

Three young girls (Juniper [whose mother reads tea leaves], Gena, and Anne) each use their growing, individual talents to help each other in their times of difficulty. It is reminiscent, in a lower key way, of the “Witches Night Out” series by Silver RavenWolf.

As with any group of young folks, there is the popular one (Anne), the quiet one (Gena) and the “odd” one (Juniper). This leads to the various kids taking the lead in various circumstances.

The books are easy to read, not at all preachy, and fun. They illustrate a variety of divination techniques from the very simple (the Magic 8 Ball) to the more traditional (Tarot, scrying, and tea leaves).

This first book deals with every parent’s worst nightmare – a young child missing. The three members of the Fortune Tellers Club don’t start out to find the youngster (Laurie Simmons). Instead they are looking for Gena’s lost retainer.

Juniper, being the “experienced” one of the group, feels the call to help locate Laurie. When none of her usual methods (scrying and Tarot) work, she resorts to trying new methods – in this case, psychometry. She becomes so focused on finding Laurie that she dreams of her.

Add to the psychic confusion the turmoil and angst which is so much a part of the pre- and early-teen years (especially during the summer when there are more hours to agonize over such) and you have a story which any youngster can identify with.


Review: The Book of Wizardry, by Cornelius Rumstuckle

By Psyche | June 18, 2003 | Leave a comment

The Book of Wizardry: The Apprentice’s Guide to the Secrets of the Wizards’ Guild, by Cornelius Rumstuckle
Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738701653, 325 pp., 2003

This book presents it self somewhat confusingly. On the back of the book the category indicates it as fiction, yet inside it describes itself as ‘positively not fiction’. It might be more accurate to say it’s a bit of both. As it is, the book is comprised of two parts, the first deals mostly with magickal theory and simple exercises (mostly non-fiction), the second a game (fiction, though it repeatedly claims not to be).

The first part includes twenty-two short sections on magickal topics with practical exercises describing how to make simple tools and use them with simple techniques – and as an added bonus, he manages to do this without including any religious elements that usually pervade introductory books of this sort. The practical exercises given are generally quite good, and will prove useful to the budding trainee wizard.

However, Rumstuckle’s advice regarding ritual tools is somewhat shaky. He sensibly substitutes a feathered wand for a knife or dagger – rather dangerous weapons in the hands of a minor. Yet his advice regarding making a wand out of cardboard that I find most bizarre – if you’re going to go to the trouble of having ritual tools, make them of substantial quality – eight year old or not, use a real stick. I’m not sure how serious anyone would feel waving around a cardboard roll.

The exercises given for charging and purifying aren’t bad, but there is a ridiculous sense of dependence on the tools, indeed he states that any elemental ritual cannot be done without them – in my experience, I have not found this to be the case.

The second part of the book is written in a ‘choose your own adventure’ style game where you use the practical advice and lessons taught in the previous twenty-one chapters to arrive at a coded message, instructing you to mail and request further lessons.

While the practical section is quite good, I’m not impressed with the fabricated history surrounding the lessons and the author – the exercises can stand alone without it. Indeed, much of the information contained within resonates with popular occult theory, and tables of correspondence are taken from such sources as Eliphas Levi and actual recognized occult authors. I understand that falsifying is supposed to add to the mystique and it’s supposed to be a clever marketing tool cashing in on the Harry Potter craze, but it takes away from the true validity and practicality of the book, which is a shame.

It’s not a terrible introduction to the basics of the magickal arts for the group its aimed at, but it’s not the best it could have been either. ‘Rumstuckle’s’ falsification of history and lineage and his insistence on its importance makes this book simply sound phoney – had the information been presented in a more honest manner it might have been more suitable for recommendation, as it is, I’m sorry to say I don’t find it to be so.


Review: From the Ashes, by Meghan Brunner

By Mike Gleason | May 1, 2003 | Leave a comment

From the Ashes, by Meghan Brunner
First Books, 0759681708, 544 pages (+ glossary and character listing), 2002

Although I’m not a Ren Faire goer myself, being chronically cash-strapped, this book rang very true for me. The differences between a week-long Pagan gathering and a Ren Faire are not that great. I felt, immediately, like I knew these characters.

There were minor typographical errors (missing words, some irregular spacing, and such) but nothing major enough to detract from my enjoyment of Meghan’s crisp and vivid writing style.

By the time I was a quarter of the way through the book I had one major regret – that I only had another 390 pages to go. I already knew that I was going to want more (which is why I am glad to see that this is only the start of a series).

The characters are very vivid and have rapidly become like members of my extended family. I will miss them while I wait for the next instalment in this wonderful series of books.

This is not a children’s fantasy book. It is set firmly in the real world and deals with real-life issues such as sexuality, jealousy, power trips and more. It is not blatantly sexual, but it does not shy away from the topic either.

Although it has Pagan/magickal themes running through it, it is a book, and a series, which should be thoroughly enjoyed by a wide cross section of readers. One does not need a working knowledge of Paganism or magick to understand it. More mundane readers will simply enjoy the stories of personal interaction and growth which a major part of this wonderful book.

The development of characters and plot-lines is very smooth and vivid, and makes the images come alive. I have seldom read a book where I developed an understanding and empathy for the characters as quickly as I did with these people.

Ryna and Phoenix are meant for each other, but neither is sure the other shares those feelings. In the manner of all lovers, they stumble through the opening phases of what each hopes will be a life-long commitment. They brave dangers for each other, often from a single enemy shared though the centuries. They find happiness, share the fear of loss, and find themselves part of a family which offers love and support unconditionally – something Phoenix has looked for all her life. Along the way, as often happens with lovers, they spread their happiness through their circle of friends and acquaintances unconsciously.

Not to give away secrets or spoil anything, I must say that the “initiation” ceremony near the end of the book is profoundly moving, and I wish I could have taken part in it myself.

If you want a fun read, something to take your mind off day-to-day mundania, the price of this book is money well spent. On top of that, the book is available in a variety of formats (Electronic – ISBN 0-7596-8169-4; Rocket – ISBN 0-7596-8172-4; Softcover ISBN 0-7596-8170-8; and Hardcover ISBN 0-7596-8171-6). So, choose how you want the book, then go to www.1stbooks.com and order your copy today.


Review: Cosmic Banditos, by A. C. Weisbecker

By Psyche | July 7, 2002 | Leave a comment

Cosmic Banditos, by A. C. Weisbecker
New American Library, 0451203062, 1986, 2001

Mexican drug dealers, quantum physics, and the pursuit of enlightenment through obscurity with a cast of many interesting and bizarre characters.

This edition comes with a forward by the author, which is interesting in and of itself, but would probably make more sense had you read the book beforehand – as it is with most forwards in works of fiction.

The plot mainly surrounds around three main characters. On whose name you never learn, though he goes by ‘Mr. Quark’ in messages to Tina’s father. You also meet Jose, the Bandito, became Drug Lord, exiled Drug Lord, thusly back to Bandito, then back to Drug Lord; he doesn’t speak English. And High Pockets, ‘Mr. Quark’s’ dog – he doesn’t understand Spanish, he likes the bitches though.

Rollin’ high times and good fun, this is on my list of books to recommend to people during especially mundane times in addition to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Principia Discordia, Illusions and similar great works of literature.

“When all is said and done, when all the shouting and philosophizing and moralizing is over, I suspect that this tale is simply another example of something.”


Review: The Great and Secret Show, by Clive Barker

By The Wizzard | November 23, 2001 | Leave a comment

The Great and Secret Show, by Clive Barker
HarperCollins, 0006472257, 1989, 1994

“Memory, prophecy and fantasy –
the past, the future and the
dreaming moment between –
are all one country,
living one immortal day.

To know this is Wisdom.

To use it is the Art. “

If you have never read Clive Barker before, prepare to be impressed. His books will be like none you have read before. It is hard to sum up his genre, it crosses from fantasy to horror to metaphysical wonderings. Each book, or series of books is different, yet they all share one thing, and that is Barker’s ability to create not just a new world of characters, but an entire system of beliefs and philosophies that create a story so deep you can almost believe it’s real.

This series (Books of the Art) is my personal favourite out of his books I have read so far. The ideas he puts forward in these novels are as well thought out and tenable as any contained in magickal treatise or religious text.

They concern The Art, while it is never really clarified as to what The Art is, Barker’s creativity and attention to every details convinces you it is real and attainable. These stories provide ideas about our world and race and that of worlds outside our own, of the way that life itself, our every essence of being relate to an overall scheme. Without wishing to ruin aspects of the story, it sets out a clear, and yet not so clear, paradigm of existence, with our world (the cosm) and an almost polar opposite (the meta-cosm) set opposing each other, separated by the dream sea ‘quiddity’ , the place where everything comes from. Our world and that outside our own both seem to be reflections of that which comes from quiddity and it is never perfectly clear what Barker is suggesting about the nature of reality, are we real and the enemy (Iad) in the meta-cosm mere creations of our minds or the other way around?

There are so many levels to this story, as people step up to take their rolls, people searching for The Art, people who know, people who don’t, people finding out, Barker sews together a million little threads seamlessly into one story.

In trying to write this review it became apparent to me how complex these two books are and how hard it is to sum up the plot. It is a series of books that just have to be read by anyone with any interest in different ways of thinking about how everything fits together.

Clive says he will start work on the long awaited book 3 of the art sometime soon, personally, I can’t wait.


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