Back on Track

New reviews coming soon! I'll be importing my work from the past two years, but in the meantime,
I'm reclaiming my small place on the web.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Non-Fiction/Spirituality Review

Midsummer: Magical Celebrations of the Summer Solstice
by Anna Franklin
ISBN-10: 0738700525
Review by Heather Froeschl

Midsummer is my favorite time of celebration. The longest day of the year is recognized by numerous cultures and embraced by people all over the world. What is it all about, really? It is a magickal time with many traditions and customs to honor it. Anna Franklin explains them all and invites you to embrace the holiday.

Franklin begins with the origins of the Summer Solstice. Technically, the word Solstice means "sun stands still" and the sun may appear to do just that on the longest day. But there is much more to it than that. Midsummer is one of four solar festivals that mark the wheel of the year. It is likely a time that has been noted since people started taking notice of such things, thousands of years ago. The Celts and Druids, the Saxons, Finnish, Romans, Greeks, Islams, Russians, Europeans, Spanish, Americans, and many others, all have some part in the history and traditions known as Summer Solstice.

So what ARE the customs? They are as varied and many as there are those who honor the day. Some more notable customs include bonfires, torchlight processions, circle dancing, and divination. Then there are the very simplest of customs, such as my children staying up late to fill a jar with fireflies and letting them go again with a wish before bed. Franklin explains them all, very well, and goes on to explain the details of the customs and what brought them about. She even explains the conflict of the actual date of the day, the eve and the confusion of the name MID summer, when in many areas, Summer has just begun at the time of celebration.

Being a magickal time, optimum for fairy spotting, and other mystical adventures, "Midsummer" includes a few tips on divination, including Tarot card directions, the use of Runes, playing cards, and Oghams. The use of crystals and gems is something that many cultural traditions adhere to; the inclusion of a list of properties and descriptions is a useful portion of the book. Since Midsummer is the best time to make a magickal wand, Franklin offers instructions, advice and a list of wood properties for your information and a little story of how she followed the teachings in her own quest for a branch. And what book on Midsummer would be complete without a few spells for the beginner to work?

Herb craft is something easily worked on at this time of year, as the herbs have been growing nicely and can even benefit from your taking a sprig or two to dry. "Midsummer" offers plenty of recipes for the herbalist to enjoy, from a simple tea for the nerves to detailed guides to making incense. More substantial recipes for traditional Midsummer foods are also included.

Detailed directions for Rites and Rituals, including handfasting, fill a complete chapter. What follows are several useful appendixes of such things as animal totem descriptions, a calendar of festivals, and Gods and Goddesses. You could not find a more complete guide to the Summer Solstice, and what's more is the tone in which Anna Franklin offers this information is embracing and encouraging. For anyone wanting to celebrate the Summertime, from the simple joy of catching fireflies to the student of cultural traditions, and the experienced circle dancer, "Midsummer" is a must have for your collection.

Sunday, June 1, 2003

Fiction Review

The Calico Club
by Marjorie Knorr
ISBN-10: 1930859635
Review by Heather Froeschl

Darlene has dreams of becoming an Art student. She has talent as a painter and has found her passion. Randolph is a biologist, studying birds, in need of a research project to publish a paper on. Darlene and Randolph meet when she saves him from an irrational rancher with a shotgun. Upon escorting her home he discovers that she lives in a brothel and she works there too.

His discovery in the desert, the Bristle-thighed Curlews, is an important one and he has found his project. Darlene becomes his research assistant by day, continuing her night job, and Randolph agrees to help her look into attending college classes. The birds are big news though and the Feds get involved in protecting them and their environment. The locals aren't happy about this and eventually conflicts arise.

A fence is put up by the Feds and the locals retaliate by vandalizing government vehicles. Darlene's presence as a bird watcher is noted and threats are made against her. Whose side is she on anyway? The locals need the fenced off road and dont like being told what to do. A fire is started in the brothel and Darlene finds herself in a position to start her life over.

With nothing to lose but her reputation, she finds Randolph and persuades him to let her stay in his guest room. Will the two ever break through the stigma of her past? She begins her career as a college student and finds she is truly talented in painting. Her life is changing for the better. But someone at the college knows who she is and threatens to expose her. In the process he could destroy Randolph's career. And the Curlews are nesting amongst bulldozers and angry ranchers. Will the rare birds stay with their nests?

With a plot surrounding an artistically talented [...], a prudish professor, a town up in arms and an evil-minded schemer, the author has created a very interesting tale of life lessons. A view that is not often shown, Marjorie Knorr introduces us to the world of the oldest profession. An entertaining read!