S is for Samurai

Say Japan and the first thing that jumps into people’s minds is sushi, then sakura, and then sake. But Samurai have to come in at a close fourth. Truth be told, Japan’s ancient warrior class played such an important part in this country’s history that remnants of their deeds and code survive them even into the modern era.

The Secrets of the Samurai have long been a source of fascination for East Asian scholars and casual admires of Japanese culture. From their ridged social hierarchy, to their prowess in battle, The Samurai enjoy the same cult status as heraldic knights do in Europe.

The Ways of the Samurai, like most aspects of Japanese life, were governed by strict social rules and adherence to the bushido code: that a samurai would devote himself to justice, courage, benevolence, politeness, honesty, honor and loyalty. While real life samurai (those like the Shinsengumi and the ones committed to Giving Up the Gun) have faded into legend, those who practice budo today continue to carry the torch into the future, and keep the history, and the culture, alive.

April A – Z Highlights

survivor-atoz [2014] - SMALL

I did it. I blogged every day in the month of April. I even kept to my regular Sunday schedule (except for one Sunday when I was just too tired to have a coherent thought). It was a lot of fun researching the authors on my shelf, talking about my favorite books and connecting with fellow book lovers. Most of all, I enjoyed the incredible, entertaining, and educational content I found with other bloggers participating in the challenge. I want to give the spotlight here to a few of them whose blogs I especially enjoyed reading every morning:

Claire Gillian: Oh my goodness, did Ms. Gillian ever have me laughing and giggling over my coffee! In her theme Regrettable Books A to Z™, she gave us a new cover and back blurb for a new ridiculous, completely fictional romance novel each day. While they were each over the top with their tongue in cheek romance tropes, I admit, there were a few days when I found myself genuinely wanting to read some of those books that do not exist. Maybe Claire will pen a couple of them and satisfy my curiosity.

Editorial Stand: Giving fantastic advice and definitions from the editing side of the publishing industry, I looked forward to a new fact every day to add to my writing notebook. For writers, this blog is a must read. If you have a manuscript in need of professional copy-editing, Editorial Stand provides that service.

Jay Noel made me feel old, then young, then old again with his theme One Hit Wonders from 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s pop music. Many of the songs he featured threw me back to my childhood. Many more I’d never heard in my life. In addition to enjoying spending a few minutes in my past every morning, I also enjoyed the originality of the theme, which is what earned this blog a spotlight here.

Mina Burrows: I don’t watch a lot of classic movies (or really any movies much anymore) but I love a good monster story, and Mina took us through A – Z of classic movie monsters. Quizzes, trivia and clips from old classics–this blog was a delight for looking back into what scared us in the past, and what still does.

MopDog: With a new strange Hungarian cultural tidbit every day, MopDog was a delight to read for me who sometimes feels as though I grew up in a cultural vacuum. As the adage goes, the grass is always greener (or more interesting, in this case) on the other side– these quirks and oddities from Hungary more than once made me want to visit the country on my next vacation.

Murderous Imaginings: Love a good slasher story? Writing a crime novel and just can’t pick the right murder weapon? Murderous Imaginings has you covered. From Axe to Zip Line, throughout April this blog gave us murder weapons and the bizarre, gruesome, horrific true stories that go with them. Don’t forget to lock your doors at night.

Notes From My ApartmentIn case my theme for this challenge didn’t make it obvious enough, I love books and the people who write them. It’s no surprise then that I loved stopping by this blog through the challenge for a new author and applicable book recommendations every day. I was both saddened and delighted by the number of books and authors featured here that I had never heard of before, but that is the way of things. I recommend going back and giving this A – Z a look if you’re interested in filling your shelves with more books.

Olivia Waite: Doing her challenge on intersectional feminism in romance, Olivia Waite amazed me daily with deep analyses of the romance genre and how it portrays women and people of color. There were some great recommendations and some well deserved dressing downs, and for someone who takes an interest in feminism in literature, this was a great blog to keep up with.

SaylingAway: I love history; I love art; I loved this blog which explored the life and work of a new historical artist every day. Some of the works I was familiar with but for the most part, every entry was entirely new information for me–something I also adore.

Tales of a Pee Dee Mama: This was one of the blogs I especially looked forward to reading each morning. As a kindergarten teacher, this A – Z animal crafts theme was and still is a great resource for my lesson plans. Each letter gave a detailed craft idea, and several facts about the animal in question, which I also very much enjoyed.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping: With tales from life that were sometimes stranger than fiction, this blog had me giggling and chuckling through most of the month. A must read for those who enjoy everyday humor.

I’d also like to give my thanks to the following blogs for being so active in the comments. You guys are awesome, and I really looked forward to seeing what you had to say about my shelves! Please come by again. I have cookies!

Tina DC Hayes
Elizabeth Hein
Dean K Miller
Shere y Paul
Defending the Pen

Linda Covella
Donna’s New Day
Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams
Anabel’s Travel Blog
Tell Me Another
Doorway Between Worlds

herding cats & burning soup
The Transgentle Wife

And of course I couldn’t have done it at all without the encouragement and support of Alex Hurst.

There are so many others too. Thank you for your time, your interest, and the audience. I had a lot of fun this April.

C is for…

CC is for controversy, courtesy, and social commentary:

Card, Orson Scott
Castiglione, Baldesar
Carvantes, Miguel de
Chaucer, Geoffrey
Clavell, James
Coatsworth, Elizabeth Jane
Crow, Kirby


A friend gave me Ender’s Game in university and told me it was a life changing book. While I’m generally wary of book recommendations given by friends (complete strangers seems to give my no problem) I did in fact, enjoy Ender’s Game quite a lot. I have also liked some of Orson Scott Card‘s short stories in the past. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to enjoy Card’s writing as much as I did before I learned about his stance in regard to LGBT issues. The case could be made that the art should not be punished for the artist, but I don’t think an artist can remove his or herself entirely from their art, therefore I won’t be able to read anything else by Card without seeing negativity in it. Just my thoughts.

The Book of the Courtier by Baldesar Castiglione is the third book on my 2014 reading list. It is a courtesy book or a book of good manners, and much like Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji is exemplary of Japanese Heian court life told in fiction, The book of the Courtier exemplifies Italian Renaissance court life. In this book written over the course of many years, aspects of what makes a respectable courtier are told through fictional dialogue. This book is a research read for me, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t also be pleasurable.

Published between 1605 and 1615, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra is considered to be the first modern European novel. Cervantes had a few adventures of his own before writing Don Quixote among which included his capture by pirates while working for the Spanish Navy, five years of slavery, and arrest for bookkeeping discrepancies while working as a tax collector.

In high school, we read selections of Geoffry Chaurcer‘s Canterbury Tales and I remember liking them a lot. Chaucer uses the stories of the pilgrims in the book to criticize English society of the end of the 14th century, though he himself was a courtier.

I have been itching to read James Clavell‘s Shogun for a long time, having received several glowing recommendations for it. Alex added it to our mutual book shelf from her collection, and so it is now on my reading queue to be read I don’t know when.

The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Jane Coatsworth is one of Alex’s favorite childhood books. Her descriptions of it remind me of Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richarch Bach, which I’ve read twice and both times received a different message.

I bought Kirby Crow‘s Scarlet and the White Wolf as another tentative step into LGBT fiction. I have been disappointed by the genre before, but I have also been charmed by it. It’s really hit or miss, so I’ve been hesitant to read this one. I get a lot of recommendations to read Crow’s writing though, so maybe this one will be an experience of the latter kind.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Are there any others by the above authors you would personally recommend? Let me know in the comments.

B is for…

BB is for yellow bricks, lost boys, and a bolshy B biblio:

Ball, David
Barrie, J. M.
Baum, L. Frank
Beagle, Peter
Bear, Elizabeth
Bierce, Ambrose
Blake, Margaret Rose
Booth, Michael
Bradbury, Ray
Brett, Peter V
, Poppy Z.
Brooks, Terry
Brust, Steven
Bunch, Chris
Burgess, Anthony
Burnett, Frances Hodgson
Butcher, Jim

Wow, I have a lot of B authors! I’ll try for quick commentary to keep this under 500 1000 words:

David Ball‘s Empires of Sand is an 800 page historical novel. I’m 100 pages in and it’s enjoyable so far, if a bit confusing. It jumps like a nervous frog through perspective and setting with little warning, so it can be hard to keep track of whose head you’re in as you read. It is also the second book on my 2014 reading list.

I have not yet read Peter Pan, or any other of J. M. Barries works, but fun fact, he was only about five feet tall, and once asked Arthur Conan Doyle to help him finish and revise an opera he was working on.

When I read The Wizard of Oz for the first time I was struck by how perfectly childish the writing was. I appreciate it when authors can tell their stories truly from the perspective of their characters, as L. Frank Baum does in The Wizard of Oz.

Not pictured but read is Peter Beagle‘s The Unicorn Sonata which I quite enjoyed, but wished had a more solid ending. I haven’t read The Last Unicorn, but I have seen the animated version, which doesn’t count at all.

Alex and I both bought Elizabeth Bear‘s Range of Ghosts at the same time and for the same purpose: to see how other writers are adapting culture into fantasy. We still have an extra copy floating around the house, fate undecided.

I loved The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce. If you like satirical humor, you just might like it too.

Alex won The Ring of Curses by Margaret Rose Blake at a novel launch party, and I have to admit, this YA looks pretty good. The series title is Merlin’s School for Ordinary Children, which is a nice take on the magical school theme in YA. I look forward to reading it.

Just as Well I’m Leaving is a biography and travelogue by Michael Booth about Hans Christian Andersen, which makes me wonder why it’s not higher on my reading list than it is.

Ray Bradbury wrote many books over multiple genres and is considered a writing legend for his contribution to American literature. Sadly, he passed away in 2012, but not before leaving us with works such as The Halloween Tree and Something Wicked This Way Comes (pictured) among many, many others.

Peter V. Brett is a new addition to my book shelf. Recommendations spurred me to buy The Warded Man which I haven’t had a chance to sample yet.

Poppy Z. Brite has been one of my favorite authors since high school and probably always will be. Lost Souls remains my favorite book, and has held that position for over a decade, despite some pretty heavy competition. Writing in the horror genre, Brite combines skin crawling imagery with deep human emotions to create stories that have given me nightmares more than once.

I read the first five books of Terry Brooks‘s Magic Kingdom of Landover series in a week and was disappointed there weren’t any more. Then I discovered that there are! I’m looking forward to finishing this series, and starting Shannara which has always been absent from my reading lists.

It’s nice when one’s favorite authors are prolific. Whenever I want a smart story told by a snarky protagonist in a fun, tangible world, I reach for one of Steven Brust‘s many books. Hawk, the latest addition to his Dragaera series is set to come out this autumn, and I’m so filled with excitement I can hardly contain it.

I’ve had Chris Bunch‘s Storm of Wings on my shelf for years, and haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I’ll need to fix that soon, I think.

A Clockwork Orange is easily one of my favorite books. That Anthony Burgess wrote it in only three weeks, and still managed to pack it so full of hidden allusions and meaning still boggles my mind.

I have not read any of Frances Hodgson Burnett‘s writing yet, but I loved the film adaptation of A Little Princess.

Jim Butcher‘s Storm Front: Soon… soon.

Which of these books have you read? Do you have any favorites by the authors mentioned above? Let me know in the comments.




A is for…

AA is for anger, apathy, and absence of opinion:

Abercrombie, Joe
Amis, Kingsley
Anthony, Piers
Ashworth, Jenn
Asprin, Robert
Atwood, Margaret
Austen, Jane



All right, starting the challenge off with A because starting with Z would just be silly. The Blade Itself was the first book on my reading list this year and if you’ve followed my blog previously you’ll know that it completely blew me away. As Joe Abercrombie‘s first published book it is an incredibly well-written, well-paced, and entertaining read. He now has seven books to his name and is wrapping up a young adult fantasy series at this time. He writes fantasy in the sub-genre dark, or gritty, or grim, or however you choose to label ‘violence, swearing and sex’. I call it realistic, but realism is already used to describe another sub-genre. Oh well. You can find my reviews for his First Law trilogy here, here, and here.

Next, Kingsley Amis (16 April 1922 – 22 October 1995), a prolific English writer whose only work I’ve read is Lucky Jim. At first I didn’t think I’d like the book, but as I continued I chillingly started to relate more and more to Jim Dixon, which really made me question my own life and relationships. In any case, it’s a slim book and a good read. I should pick up more of Amis’s works in the future.

Piers Anthony, a staple of science fiction and fantasy whose work I have not read. The confession is out, I’m so embarrassed. His books adorned the shelves of my library in high school, but I did not read them then because of a science fiction bias I bitterly held but am now overcoming. That two of his books are in my reading queue is proof of that.

I’ll admit that Jenn Ashworth isn’t an author I would usually pick up on my own, as literary fiction isn’t a genre I usually read. Cold Light was a gift from a friend who was shelf cleaning, and I rarely turn away a free book. It’ll be read sometime.

I have wanted to read Robert Asprin‘s Myth Adventures series since my early teens. I had several of the books from the middle, but never the first one. This was before the days of ‘OMG I can buy anything I want on the internet!’ Also before the days of my actually having money to buy books. Anyway, times have changed, and now I have the first two Myth Adventures books ready to be read.

Be kind. I have not yet read Margaret Atwood or Jane Austen. I am aware that I am a terrible person. I will correct my mistake sometime in the future.


Which of these books have you read? If you have any recommendations for works by any of the above mentioned authors, let me know in the comments. My Amazon wishlist could always use more books.