Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Wikkeling by Steven Arntson

So… regardless of the fact that I’m an adult, I just want to clear things up by saying that I’m not a “grown up.” I still like to live in the world of make-believe sometimes.

I guess you could say I’m a dreamer.

It is refreshing to pick up a book and read a fantastical story that takes place in a land unfettered by grown up worries–money problems, relationship problems, stuck in traffic, addicted to drugs, etc… (Why is being a grown up so damn negative?) In fact, some of the best stories that have ever been told are written for children. Look at Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (to name a very few.)

The Wikkeling by Steven Arntson is no different. While I’m not necessarily comparing it to the greats listed above, I will definitely say it’s new fare in the way of children’s literature. It takes place in a city called the Addition, and life is similar to our world, yet also very futuristic. Children aren’t jet-packing to school, but car horns have been replaced by Honk Ads, so irritated drivers spout product placements instead of beeps. Kids have cameras to watch them while they sleep.  They are being monitored (by both their parents and the government) at all times via tracking cell phones that live update their actions. That means no hiddren report cards, no sneaking off to be alone with friends, no ever being completely alone. PERIOD.

So imagine young heroine Henrietta Gad-fly’s surprise when she discovers a secret attic in her old decrepit house that seems to defy time and space and allows her to be alone for the first time in her young life. Imagine her surprise to find a wounded wild house cat in said attic.

Not to mention learning that her only friends have been experiencing the same “headaches” that she has.

Or the fact that they are being stalked by an unknown monstrous entity named “The Wikkeling.”

I enjoyed this book. It’s rare that I read a book with pictures, but the illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini are silhouette in nature and definitely add to the integrity of the story.  I liked that Henrietta’s character was made out to be ugly and unpopular from the beginning, and the way Arntson pointed out that this was not going to change. It’s going against the typical notion that a girl must become beautiful and popular in order to live a good life and become a good person. Beautiful and good are not always synonymous, ladies. (Remember the Veelas from Harry Potter??) Conversely, although I liked how Henrietta’s character was shaped, I never felt particularly connected to her or her friends.

Above all, though, my favorite part was the obvious (to adult eyes) parallel to how our world is now and what it could easily become. All the constant worrying, materialism, discarding of the “out of date,” and technological upgrades make us lose sight of that which is truly important.  Al (Henrietta’s adopted grandpa) is a prime example of a juxtaposition of the old world and the new. Definitely food for thought…

3.5 of 5 stars

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Quote of the Day: Joseph Campbell

 

 

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
-Joseph Campbell

 

 

 


Quote of the Day: Lord Byron

“Love will find a way through paths where wolves fear to prey.”

     -Lord Byron

Quote of the Day: Marcus Aurelius

‎”Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but you will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

-Marcus Aurelius


The Accidental Santera by Irete Lazo

BAM! I’ve been able to squeeze in a decent amount of reading time lately, and although I have an extensive reading list because I stumble across so many interesting things at work, I fished this little baby off of the $2 cart and couldn’t resist. The Accidental Santera by Irete Lazo details  female scientist Gabrielle Segovia’s journey into the forbidden world of the Santeria religion. Mystical. Magical. Ooooh. Voodoo. Animal sacrifices. Eww… 

I DON’T PRACTICE SANTERIA, I AIN’T GOT NO CRYSTAL BALL…. Ok, ok, I’m done joking now. (And please, you know you thought it too.)

The main thread in the book was that Dr. Segovia desperately wanted children, but had been unable to conceive with her husband Benito for years. She kept experiencing miscarriages, as well as phantom hand movement and vivid dreams during the night. One conference trip to New Orleans with her best friend, and margarita-fueled near indiscretion with a sexy Spaniard causes her to realize her life isn’t going exactly as planned. Enter, la botanica (or grocery store for herbs/potions/and sacrificial animals). One spontaneous venture into the magic shop and BOOM! Enter Santeria by way of her long lost family.

I will say, I was really surprised by this book. I’m am a book snob in a lot of ways, and it is common for me to turn up my nose at a book simply because it’s in a sale bin. It can’t be good if it’s a bargain, right? Wrong.

The Accidental Santera thoroughly engrossed me, from beginning to end. It was fascinating to learn about such a taboo religion from the eyes of a logical, modern female. (Ok, and I had a bit of twisted interest in the whole animal sacrifice thing. What the heck’s that all about?) It was cool to read about her journey from beginning to end, and I will say that I eventually ended up admiring Gabrielle’s connectivity with her new-found religion. I envy her in having something strong and spiritual to believe in. I also liked the way the religion honored the feminine aspect of the divine. The story was kept moving by not only Gabrielle’s inner turmoil, but as well as the fact that each of the supporting characters were interesting in their own right.

I will say that in my infinite blondeness, I went through the whole book believing that the author was writing directly about her own life story. Not so. This book is loosely based on her own experiences I’m sure, since Lazo is a scientist as well as a practicing santera, but Dr. Segovia is a made up character. Imagine my disappointment.

 The only other thing that was a bit off was that, although I realize the book is about a      Hispanic woman, there was a decent amount of Spanish sprinkled in for the average        American reader. Lazo does a good job explaining it, but I will say that during some       conversations if I hadn’t taken Spanish in college, I would’ve had no idea what they         were talking about…

But all in all, I would definitely recommend The Accidental Santera for a quick read.

4 of 5 stars


(Alter to Yemaya, Goddess of the Sea and Motherhood)

Bangkok 8 by John Burdett

I know, I know… I’ve been posting a lot of quotes lately from this book, I can’t help it. Every time I see something poignant I just have to dog ear the page to share with you guys… Anyway, on to the juicy bits.

 Bangkok 8 by John Burdett tells the story of Thai Detective Sonchai Jiteecheap. He’s lead investigator solving the double murder case of an American marine and his “soul brother”/partner Pichai. Death by python strangulation and getting bitten directly in the eye by a baby cobra, respectively. Ew. It’s now his quest for retribution that drives him to follow the suspects deeper and deeper into the sleaze-fest underground world that is Thailand’s drug, sex, and jade trade industry. Don’t worry, there will be enough yaa baa to go around. Oh yeah, and hookers, trannies, hit men, and corrupt cops–oh my!

Without getting into too much plot detail, I really did enjoy Burdett’s interpretation of Thailand. It made me realize what an interesting (yet dangerous) country it really is, and I liked the comparison between Eastern and Western mentality.  That was really illustrated in Sonchai’s quote I posted yesterday. He had a long internal dialogue as to whether or not he would sleep with the attractive FBI agent with whom he worked. I laughed because as a Buddhist Thai, he seemed more concerned about the karmic retribution rather than the personal disaster that their relationship could potentially become.

“Be nice to incompetents and they’ll be nice back. Be nasty and they’ll still be incompetent, so what do you gain by making an enemy?”

I really liked the Thai landscape being illustrated in my mind. Burdett did a good job making the city seem real, as well as presenting the gritty prostitution (that is a reality for most girls between the ages of 15-30) in one easy dose. I will say that I wish he had included more dialogue, because the long pages of text became a bit monotonous after a while–making the story seem slow at some points. At the same time, although I realize that the story was written from a first person point of view, I wish there had been more action and less time spent in Sonchai’s head. He was a very strange character, and I didn’t ever really feel very attached to him or his mission. There were also quite a few strange tangents the story went off on, but I guess that’s just the natural course of field investigation.

All in all, I would recommend the read– but at the risk of sounding biased, I would say that a man would enjoy this novel more so than a woman…

3 of 5 stars


Quote from Bangkok 8 by John Burdett

“For a moment I think about taking the FBI to a bed somewhere, but immediately I realize this is a consequence of the defilement from yesterday. This is exactly how karma is generated, through craving arising from craving arising from craving. Just because I successfully negotiated the charms of three beautiful women, with the help of JBO and an astronomical investment by my Colonel, I now feel I can fuck the FBI with impunity. But the Lord Buddha taught two thousand five hundred years ago that there is no impunity. In more elegant language than I can muster he warned that you always pay for pussy, one way or another. For example, if we go back to Jones’ room at the Hilton, one of two things could happen. She could enjoy it more than I or I could enjoy it more than she. The keener one immediately becomes the slave of the other, with disastrous consequences for both. I think it likely that I would initially fall under her spell, which gets more powerful every day. Having trapped me, she would use her abrasive genius to nibble away at everything about me which is alien to her: my belief in rebirth, my spiritual dimension, my meditation, my Buddhism, my preference for huge doses of chili in everything I eat. She would not realize that she would be turning me into an American, but by the time I’m living with her in some luxurious by soulless suburb in one of those cities in America which looks like all the others, with an American accent now and forced to go underground with my chili habit, she will have started to hate me because I will have become a millstone round her neck and the lust will have run out a long time ago. There might even be a child, which of course will make things a whole lot worse, because our mutual karma will include this third person. After death, no matter how hard we try, we will be reborn in circumstances where we will be forced to continue where we left off. We will be sworn enemies by this time, and I will probably be the dominant one now, due to the way things have to balance out in the universe. No, I am not going to fuck her today.”

-Sonchai Jiteecheap

From Bangkok 8  by John Burdett