Pony Gods

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Pony Gods
Written By: Maranda Russell

I pray to the Pony Gods.
I don’t know if they listen,
or even if they care,
but sometimes
they do seem to answer.

Why the Pony Gods?
Why not?

I figure the Pony Gods
have just as much a chance
of being good –
or being real
as the human ones.

Why “Mockingjay” (the last book of the Hunger Games trilogy) depressed me

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After seeing the Mockingjay Part 1 movie in theatres, I finally decided to read the entire Hunger Games trilogy. I had read bits of it in the past, enough to know the main plot of each book, but I had never really sat down and read them all cover to cover. Last night I finished the last book in the series. And I must admit that after I turned the final page, I found myself deeply depressed. To me, the last book was very much a downer, even more so than the previous two books.

So, I sat in our library looking at our darkened Christmas tree and wondering why I felt so morose. I finally decided there were several reasons I found the conclusion of the series so disturbing. First, it felt like the last book was filled with the agony of multitudes dying, often for no good reason (as is the reality in war). In the first two books, most of the deaths were related to the tributes participating in the Hunger Games or were the slow, gradual kind of deaths caused by the perils of poverty. In Mockingjay, the deaths seemed constant throughout, not just a few people here and a few there. Understandably, the thought of mass death and the destruction of the world all around us causes immense despair, even if only on a subconscious level.

Another issue was the very real idea that no matter how many immoral and violent governments, presidents, dictators and groups we remove from power or destroy, there are always just as many waiting in the wings to dole out their own brand of pain and injustice. Even at the end of the book when things seem a bit more hopeful, we know that the world is not safe and secure. The world is never actually safe and secure, no matter how much we may choose to live in denial. Even among those brave enough to rebel against injustice and evil, you will find cruelty, deception and betrayal. Many of those people don’t even realize that they are no better than the enemy they seek to destroy. Vengeance and victory may give us a brief respite, but eventually the same old problems seem to find their way back.

Lastly, it is incredibly depressing how war leaves those who survive broken. Maybe not always physically (although there is plenty of that), but deep down on the inside, the trauma of warfare leaves many human beings irrevocably damaged. Survivors are left with wounds that cannot help but affect the next generation, sometimes starting unending cycles of mental illness and abuse. Often hatred and bias is passed down much the same way, even if it is done so with millions of seemingly insignificant words and attitudes. If we could truly see the damage done by war throughout all space and time, we would probably be shocked by how far the effects trickle down.

After thinking about all that, I guess it is no wonder I found myself discouraged. Perhaps the worst part of all though is that when it comes to fighting for freedom and justice, we are often damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

The most memorable books I read during October 2014

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Starting this month, I am starting a new series of posts where I will list the most memorable books I have read in the past month and why they made such an impact on me. These aren’t necessarily “the best” books, but instead are the ones that really stuck with me for one reason or another. This list may include books for any age group or genre. I read a broad range of books, both fiction and non-fiction, so you never know what you may find in my monthly list! To get us started, here is my list of the five most memorable books I have read in October 2014!

1. The Flat Rabbit by Barour Oskarsson. This had to be one of the weirdest, least politically correct picture books I have ever read! It had me, my mom and my husband laughing out loud though. It is morbidly hilarious to see a rabbit flattened, then to see his neighbors scrape him off the road, attach him to a kite and fly him in the air. Not sure this is really a great book for kids, but it is hilarious for adults.

2. Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin. This middle grade historical novel stuck with me because it is the story of a child who grew up thinking Stalin and communism are the best things in the world, only to see how flawed the system truly is and how he has been led to believe things that aren’t true at all. To me, this idea that it is possible to fight for something you believe is right and then find out later that it is actually wrong is a profound lesson to learn.

3. History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky. This adult memoir struck a little too close to home, but then again, that is why I picked it up in the first place. Since I have also had a sister commit suicide, I could easily and sometimes painfully relate to much of what this writer had to say. The circumstances and details might be different from case to case, but anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide would likely see much of their own suffering and search for healing reflected in this memoir.

4. I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings & Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-44 by various authors. As the title states, this nonfiction book is a collection of poems and drawings that were created by children imprisoned in a WWII concentration camp. Some of the book is funny and cute, some of it is sad and depressing, but it all shows the innocence and strength of the children who were mistreated during this horrible time. It also shows the loss of life and joy this world suffered due to ignorance and hatred.

5. The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz. This middle grade fantasy novel was a fun and enjoyable read. By the time I finished it, I was wishing to be a night fairy myself. I’ve always been a night owl anyways, so why not? Although the story starts out rather sad (with the fairy losing her wings in a terrible accident), things quickly start to look up and by the end of the novel, the little fairy is better off for the experiences she has had – both good and bad.

An interesting thought about the afterlife

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Ok, this post may be a bit out there, a mix of philosophical musing and fantasy stories, but thought I would share just for fun. Right now I am reading the Riley Bloom series, written by Alyson Noel. This fantasy series is based on the premise that the main character, a 12-year-old girl is dead and on the other side (heaven, or at least one of the levels of heaven). Anyhow, while I was reading the book, I found myself fascinated with some of the ideas of heaven the author had. For instance, while in spirit form, deceased people have the ability to manifest anything they want or need. Want an ice cream sundae…picture it and there you have it. Want a cool new building…imagine it and it is yours. Want to fly? Just desire it. Have something to say to someone? Just send the message telepathically. 

So anyhow, this book had me thinking something I’ve thought before….what if in our true state, our original state (spirit), we do have those abilities? What if we existed in spirit before being born and we unconsciously remember having those abilities? Could that be why humans have such a desire to create…because it comes so naturally…is so innate? Could our attempts to create art, music, literature, objects, technology, etc., be us trying to grasp some of that amazing manifesting power that seems to be out of our reach here on the earth plane? Is that why so many of us fantasize or dream about flying (without an airplane)? Do we miss the ease of communication we once had if we were able to communicate telepathically?

In no way do I think this would nullify or violate a belief in God. For it would seem logical to me that if God made us in his image we may have inherited some of his abilities in spirit form, or perhaps these aren’t even special “abilities” but just how things are done in the spirit world. Of course, I know some people really have an issue with believing we existed in spirit before coming to earth, but who really knows? Only God really knows where our souls were before being put into human bodies…and only God knows how time actually works (or if it even exists).

Well, just a few late-night thoughts for all my readers. Maybe I’m just up too late and thinking too hard lol. Hope you enjoy my little musings and that it gives you something to spark your imagination and love of mystery…even if you don’t consciously believe the fantasy.

Review of “The Adventures of Cecilia Spark” series

For this post I am going to share reviews of the first two books in the children’s chapter book series, “The Adventures of Cecilia Spark”, written by Ngaire Elder and illustrated by Peter Maddocks.

Book #1 – The Adventures of Cecilia Spark: The Brimstone Forest

I could tell right away that Cecilia Spark is a character after my own heart. Instead of being into “girly” stuff like princesses, dolls and tea parties, Cecilia is all about adventure! She would much rather be out bug hunting or chasing dragons than sitting around painting her fingernails, which makes her my kind of heroine! It seems rare to find a book series where the main character is a strong girl with interests that fall outside of the female stereotype. While I enjoyed some girly pursuits growing up, I was always a “tomboy” who would rather be outside getting dirty than inside doing something domestic. This series will definitely appeal to girls who like adventure and fantasy.

I also really liked the elements of fantasy woven into the story and the creative names that the author bestowed on some of her characters. For instance the bad witch named Trixa, the dragon named Jinxi, the talking mouse named Soldier and the “Thingamabob” which turned out to be a good witch named Senorita Favorita. This book is full of creativity and imagination, aspects which are sure to delight young readers. The illustrations are simple black & white drawings, but they are very well-done and definitely add visual delight to the storyline. I would definitely recommend this book for grades K-3 (although kindergartners and first graders might still need some help reading it).

  Book #2 – The Adventures of Cecilia Spark: The Mystical Mountains of Terra

With the second book of the Cecilia Spark series, Cecilia finds herself facing an even bigger adventure than last time! This book is about twice as long as the first book in the series, but since it comes in at a little under 100 pages, it is still appropriate for the chapter book age set. In this book we get more of a look at the history behind the magical world that Cecilia finds herself drawn into. It was cool to find out how Soldier became a talking mouse. Although I don’t want to give the plot away too much, I will say that the plot for this book was more complex and personally, I found it even more fun than Cecilia’s first adventure. Using the suspense technique of pitting her characters in a race against time to help defeat evil, the author made this story into a book that is hard to put down.

We also meet several new characters in this book that I really enjoyed. Ractus the Armadillo was probably my favorite, maybe because he could be a little grumpy and high-strung, but in a lovable way. The two other new characters who really stood out were Pacha (a friendly little raccoon, who isn’t quite who she seems to be at first) and Turan (a half-human, half-tiger creature that plays a pretty important role in the climax of the story).  Again, this is definitely a series that would be enjoyed by children age 4-9.

If you would like to find out more about The Adventures of Cecilia Spark, please visit the series’ website, www.ceciliaspark.com. On the website you can find out where to order the book and enjoy some extra features like character illustrations, print-off activities to go along with the books and news stories related to the book series.

“The World of Fairy” Art Book Review

“The World of Fairy: A Sketch Book & Artists Guide to Fairies”, written and illustrated by Ty Hulse, is fun, interesting and colorful. I immensely enjoyed this book, not only because I have always had an interest in fairies and other magical creatures, but because I learned things I have never read in any other book about fairies. For instance, did you know that in some cultures fairies acted as poltergeists? Or that it was once believed that humans that died at sunset might become fairies because they are caught forever between the living and the dead?

Pretty interesting stuff, huh? One thing that I really like about this book is that it weaves many different types of fairy folklore and mythology together. Some attention is given to the fairies from the British Aisles that we are most familiar with, but there are fairy stories from many other lands included as well. It is fascinating to see the similarities and differences in how various cultures view the world of fairies.

Of course, this book is above all, an artist’s sketch book. The illustrations included are obviously drawn by someone who loves the subject and does their best to visually depict the various types of these creatures. Some of the pictures are in color and some are black & white, but you kind of expect that when you get a glimpse into an artist’s sketch book. This is the kind of book that you could study for hours and hours and still find new details to notice. I would highly recommend this book for fairy lovers, mythology buffs and art enthusiasts everywhere.

To find out more about this book and other fairy tale projects by Ty Hulse, please feel free to visit his fascinating website, http://zeluna.net/. If you would like to purchase your own copy of “The World of Fairy”, it is currently available on Amazon.

Review of the Alice Parker’s Adventures fantasy series

Instead of just reviewing one book in this post, I have decided to go ahead and do short reviews of the first two books in the Alice Parker’s Adventures fantasy series. This new series, written by Nicola Palmer, is a fun foray into magic, adventure and mystery for middle grade readers and young adults. It is an original and interesting take on the whole “fairy” genre that is so popular with kids and teens right now. So without further ado…here are my reviews of the first two books.

Book #1 – Alice Parker’s Metamorphosis 

I have always loved the fantasy genre, but will admit to being picky about what series I will actually take the time to read. I look for books that are well-written, plausible (even fantasy needs to be believable) and most importantly, I want stories with characters that aren’t flat or boring. I am happy to say that Metamorphosis met and even surpassed my expectations.

From the moment I started reading this book, I actually found it rather hard to put down. The plot was engaging and carried enough suspense to keep me reading clear to the end, while the characters became almost like friends to me. I felt like I actually got to know Alice and her crew personally, which in my opinion is the ultimate aim of any fiction. I especially enjoyed the relationship between Alice and her brother, Thomas.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but I will say that I was also very impressed with the author’s ability to create a new world that readers will want to call their own. This is a book that I can wholeheartedly recommend to kids and teens (or even adults if you like a good fantasy story).

Book #2 – Alice Parker & the Mind Magician

The second book in the Alice Parker series picks up a few months after the events of the first book, but the transition is done well enough that readers pick up on the storyline without skipping a beat. It quickly becomes apparent that the trials Alice is going to face in this sequel are even darker and more dangerous than the hurdles she overcame in the first book.

As the title suggests, much of this book’s battles are waged in the human mind, a very dangerous and disturbing scenario. Without getting preachy or slowing down the plot, this book manages to address some fairly sinister concepts, such as mind control and the corruption that often accompanies having too much power. I was wondering throughout the course of the book how the author was going to manage to bring the plot to a satisfying conclusion, but was pleasantly surprised to see that she managed to do just that.

After finishing the second book I was actually a little bit sad that it was over. I am definitely looking forward to the third book and hope that there will be many more volumes to come!

For more information on the Alice Parker’s Adventures series, please visit the author’s website, www.nicolapalmerwriter.blogspot.com.