Happy Three-Year Anniversary!

Okay, so I’m a wee bit late this year. But here it is–the three year anniversary post! Even though I’m on semi-hiatus (meaning I’m not really reviewing anything except what I happen to read along the way, and I’m not currently accepting review copies), the blog is still as active as I can make it. I’ve had this domain name for a year now, and I think I managed to get most of the links to it fixed, though old lupabitch.wordpress.com links should still go here. Here’s last year’s anniversary post, and the year before that. And here are this year’s stats, building on the stats from previous years:

–293 posts (not including this one), of which 290 are reviews or lists of reviews at other sites.
–92,414 views
–The best-ever day for views was last year’s anniversary post on Thursday, 18 December 2008, with 429 views.
–255 legitimate comments, some of which are my replies.
–100 categories, 99 of which are book-related
–PaganBookReviews.com is still the very first result on a Google search for “pagan book reviews”! However, it’s only #10 for “pagan books”.

The first review since my first anniversary post was The Goat Foot God by Diotima; the most recent post was Echoes of Alexandria by H. Jeremiah Lewis. Ironically enough, both of these are (or, until recently, were) published by Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

Even with the hellacious amount of reading I’ve had to do for school, which has cut down significantly on my fun reading time, I’ve still managed to get a good bit of reviewing done, and read some neat books. Here are some of the highlights of my year:

Bear Daughter by Judith Berman – one of the best novels I’ve read, and a must-read for any shamanic practitioner.
Lightbreaker by Mark Teppo – another good novel (two for two on the fic, now!) by a promising new author who’s going up on the must-reserve-next-book list with Jim Butcher and Patrick Rothfuss.
Drawing Down the Spirits by Kenaz Filan and Raven Kaldera – finally, an entire book dedicated to possession-based spirit work, particularly friendly (though not exclusively) to neopagans and other non-indigenous folk.
Christopaganism by Joyce and River Higginbotham – I’ve long maintained that eclectic/syncretic neopaganism can include Christianity as much as elements of any other religion, and this is a great guide for those who want to know how to do just that.
Darkwood by M.E. Breen – while I started this review blog to primarily review nonfic, I got a lot of good fiction this year. This YA fantasy novel is excellent, and I would recommend it to adults as well who want a well-written story in a fleshed-out world with good characterization.
Beyond 2012 by James Endredy – amid the huge pile of drek that’s accumulated around the 2012 hype, Endredy’s take is an excellent reality check about the real problems we face–environmental degradation, for example, instead of hostile lizard people and misplaced typhoons.
Ecotherapy edited by Linda Buzzell and Craig Chalquist – I love this book for so many reasons, personal, spiritual and professional. Even if you aren’t a professional therapist, this is an excellent read for working with the psyche as a part of a greater, interconnected whole (but without fluff and conjecture).
Make Merry in Step and Song by Bronwen Forbes – one of the reasons I really like this book is that it’s on a niche topic, Morris Dancing in theory and practice. Good research, well-applied.
Trance-Portation by Diana L. Paxson – a superb guide to trance work and altered states of consciousness which came in handy in some of my journeying work.
The Druidry Handbook by John Michael Greer – I’ve liked everything JMG has published, and this one stood out to me because it gave me a good understanding of some modern druidic practices, as well as their context. While it’s not my path, I’m keeping it on my reference shelf.
The Art of Shapeshifting by Ted Andrews – This is a really underappreciated book by the late Ted Andrews; if you ever wanted a thorough guide on shapeshifting as a form of magic and spirituality, this is it.
The Phillupic Hymns – An excellent variety of stories and poems ranging from the death of Antinous, to what happened to Sobek set up on a blind date.

As for my semi-hiatus, I’m going to see how things look late next summer, as I end my classwork and start into my practicum. My classes at grad school require a LOT of reading, which is why I had to cut down on the review copies. I do want to keep reviewing, though, and I will keep readers and publishers posted as to my status. I really appreciate everyone’s patience and support; please do feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or are just curious as to how I’m doing. Thank you 🙂

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Echoes of Alexandria by H. Jeremiah Lewis

Echoes of Alexandria: Poems and Stories
H. Jeremiah Lewis
Bibliotheca Alexandrina and Nysa Press
260 pages

I actually read this a few weeks ago, but I’ve been so backed up with finals that I just now got the chance to sit down and write out the review. I have the Bibliotheca Alexandrina edition, but the book is now available via Nysa Press.

Whereas the last of Lewis’ books that I reviewed, Balance of the Two Lands, is nonfiction, this text includes fiction and poetry, as well as a scattering of nonfic essays, flavored heavily by the author’s Greco-Egyptian polytheistic syncreticism. He displays a great deal of versatility as a writer, because I like this book every bit as much as the last.

Much of the poetry scans like old Greek verses, addressing the gods and other beings with praise and fine description. One could simply say “Eilieithuia is associated with midwifery”, but instead Lewis writes “…lend [the expectant mother] your strength, so that she can grit her teeth/and bring her screaming baby into the world” (105). These poems would be excellent choices for ritual work, even if not in a strict Greco-Egyptian context. However, they also make for good reading as well.

The stories are of a similar quality. They make the gods seem even more real, multi-dimensional, even moreso than the original myths which often focused on the foibles and failings of divine and semi-divine beings. I think my favorite story is “The Beautiful Reunion”, which describes Hathor’s thoughts as she awaits her lover Horus, and how she feels conflicted over her attraction versus her independence. (And, of course, there’s the amusement of Horus greeting her with “Hello, sexy. I’ve missed you”.)

Overall, I found this to be a highly entertaining and enjoyable collection, and once again, Lewis does not disappoint. Highly recommended whether you want a good read for a cold night, verses for ritual use, or alternate, though faithful, interpretations of ancient myths.

Five pawprints out of five.

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Book of Witchery by Ellen Dugan

Book of Witchery: Spells, Charms and Correspondences for Every Day of the Week
Ellen Dugan
Llewellyn, 2009
321 pages

Note: This is a guest review by Bronwen Forbes, who graciously agreed to take on some of the extra review copies I had when I decided to go on semi-hiatus.

I am thoroughly enjoying this guest review gig here; I’m going to be sorry when Lupa runs out of books for me to review!

Next on my pile is Book of Witchery: Spells, Charms & Correspondences for Every Day of the Week by Ellen Dugan. I wish she’d written this book in the mid-1980s when I, a new Pagan, was struggling with correspondences and magick and trying to get some sort of regular personal spiritual practice started – preferably one that didn’t involve my almost burning down my own house during a solitary Lammas ritual (which is another story for another day).

Dugan refers to this work as her Book of Shadows. However, unlike most Books of Shadows, this one is organized by the day of the week rather than by season or by Sabbat – which, if you think about it, makes perfect sense, especially for beginning ritualists and spellcrafters. There is also an extra section on full moon workings for each day of the week; If the full moon is on a Monday, do this, if it’s on a Wednesday, do this. Why overwhelm readers with long, complicated sabbat rituals that they can only do once a year and promptly forget when they can cut their teeth on small workings that can be done fifty-two times a year. Frequency breeds familiarity and competence; the more one does a ritual, the easier it becomes to do it, and Dugan had a stroke of genius to make magick, spells and kitchen witchery accessible to all with this format. Kudos!

As a quick reference for correspondences, this book has some value for the more experienced practitioner as well. I’ve never memorized correspondences beyond the basics, have you? However, devotees of the various deities connected with each day of the week may wince at the oversimplification of their Patron’s/Matron’s aspects and history. Fortunately there is enough material about the mentioned deities elsewhere (including the Internet), so anyone who wants to know more can easily research them in depth.

Overall, though, this is a useful, well-written, logically organized book. Alas, my current living situation is such that I cannot try any of Dugan’s spells or rituals for myself and report on their efficacy. If I could, I definitely would!

Four and a half paws out of five!

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The Idumean Covenant by Eugene Stovall

The Idumean Covenant: A Novel of the Fall of Jerusalem
Eugene Stovall
OPC, 2009
430 pages

Note: This is a guest review by Bronwen Forbes, who graciously agreed to take on some of the extra review copies I had when I decided to go on semi-hiatus.

Guest reviewer Bronwen Forbes again with the third book that Lupa invited me to comment upon here.
The Idumean Covenant is the story of two men, Robban and Lupo who find themselves caught up in the fall of Jerusalem in the time of the Roman emperor Nero. When childhood friends Robban and Lupo run away from their powerful yet benevolent owner, they join the Sicarii, an army of Jewish bandits that are sworn to liberate Jerusalem from its Roman rulers. The two friends inadvertently find themselves making history as the son of their former owner rises in power.

I wanted to love this book, I really did. I even tried to set aside my longstanding dislike of novels that are told in third person present tense (“Josephus remains immobile, saying nothing.”). But when character point-of-view switched every few paragraphs, I quickly gave up on whose head I was supposed to be in at any given moment. Very confusing.

There is also an overabundance of telling the reader about the major historical events that frame the novel, rather than placing the characters in those events and letting the reader see them through the character’s eyes. I am not a scholar of this particular period in history (that’s my history professor husband’s job), so I was completely lost as to the deep significance of these events as they pertained to the novel. And without a good understanding of the historical events, the entire point of the story was lost to me.

For instance, the author indicates that the Sicarii raids on Roman caravans is a major plot point, yet the reader is only told about these raids in a few lecture-dreary info-dump paragraphs. Seeing the raids, being there with Robban and Lupo would have been much more effective and interesting to read. Sadly, this is just one of many examples of why “show, don’t tell” is Rule #1 for all good fiction authors.

However, the story (as opposed to the mini historic lectures) is well-written with interesting, sympathetic characters, and Stovall is quite good at illustrating little details about life in the first century c.e. Jerusalem. Perhaps someone more familiar with the history of the period would appreciate the book more.

Three pawprints out of five.

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Synarchy by D.C.S.

Synarchy
D.C.S.
SVT Publishing, 2009
216 pages

Note: This is a guest review by Bronwen Forbes, who graciously agreed to take on some of the extra review copies I had when I decided to go on semi-hiatus.

The second book on the stack that Lupa gave to me to guest review was Synarchy, a novel about the end of the world – the one currently scheduled for December 21, 2012.

As with most other fin de siècle tales, Synarchy features conspiracies, counter-conspiracies, power-hungry world leaders, intrigue, and super-advanced technology working to either bring about the end of the world or prevent the end of the world – all for the good of mankind. And this is only the first book in the series!

What makes Synarchy truly stand out from the other stories in the genre are an overabundance of appallingly amateur grammar and punctuation errors, frequent awkwardly constructed sentences, and too many character-building sentences that consist solely of a description of the person’s eye color. The fact that the author’s bio in the back of the book states that she is also working on a series of short stories based on the Synarchy 2012 txt roleplay game explains the abrupt descriptions, but does not excuse them.

A little digging on the Internet proved my suspicion that this is a self-published book – the basic grammar and punctuation issues alone speak of a total lack of an editor’s eye. I am aware that a lot of good books go unread by the general public because the established publishing companies don’t want to take a chance on an unknown author and/or niche market story. For those books and authors, I am all in favor of small press and self-publishing opportunities. I am also aware that a lot of stuff the established publishing companies reject they reject due to lack of unique story and basic writing skills.

That being said, the addition of ancient aliens (including one we referred to as the Norse God Loki) is a novel and interesting addition to the fin de siècle formula. Technogeeks may love this book and cope better with the Twitter-esque characters and odd sentence structure. Apparently this luddite curmudgeon reviewer is just not the target audience.

One and a half paws out of five.

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Llewellyn’s 2010 Sabbats Almanac – Various

Llewellyn’s 2010 Sabbats Almanac
Various
Llewellyn, 2009
312 pages

Note: This is a guest review by Bronwen Forbes, who graciously agreed to take on some of the extra review copies I had when I decided to go on semi-hiatus.

I am honored to be a guest reviewer for Lupa’s book review blog, eager to read something closer to my “field” than the erotica and science fiction I normally critique for a national book review magazine. I bravely told her to “send me anything” only to receive the most random collection of Pagan books I’ve ever seen!

First on the stack was Llewellyn’s Sabbats Almanac: Samhain 2009 to Mabon 2010. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say upfront that I am a relatively new member of the Llewellyn author family. That being said, this latest addition to the Llewellyn annuals (Witches’ Spell-A-Day Almanac, Witches’ Companion, etc.) is, I think, a useful and worthy one. I may not feel comfortable pulling out a Llewellyn Witches’ Datebook out of my backpack when scheduling my next dentist appointment in this small Kansas town, but the Sabbats Almanac is something I will likely refer to from time to time throughout the year – in the comfort of my own home, of course.

Contributing authors to the Almanac include a deliberate mixture of relatively new writers and Pagan “celebrities”; Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, Kristen Madden, Ann Moura, Dan Furst, Raven Grimassi, Michelle Skye, and Thuri Calafia (plus others) all add their expertise and voices.

The history of each sabbat is thoroughly discussed, including an astrological section by Fern Feto Spring. I would have liked a little more explanation of astrological terms for the zodiacally-impaired reader. Kristen Madden provides seasonal recipes for an appetizer, main course, dessert and beverage for each holiday far beyond the usual “bread at Lammas, apple pie at Samhain” fare. Every sabbat section ends with a holiday ritual that can either be done as a solitary or with a group (except Mabon, which definitely requires several people).

In further interest of full disclosure, I’ve never once opened any of the Llewellyn Almanac series until Lupa sent me this one. If the Sabbats Almanac is any indication, I’ve been missing out on a basic, useful source of inspiration and ideas. The Sabbats Almanac, at least, may just become a permanent addition to my holiday book-buying binge.

Four and a half paws out of five!

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