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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jen's Book Den is Moving!

With all of the recent changes with Google Friend Connect coming in the near future, I decided to move my blog.  Please drop by  Don't forget to follow me, like me on facebook and networked blogs and/or follow me on twitter <3

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Art of Life

The Art of Life by Sabin Howard and Traci L. Slatton, is not only a historical survey of sculpture and figure as an art form, but also serves as a personal memoir of the husband and wife.  Various sculptures are discussed along with the impact these pieces had on both Howard and Slatton respectively.  

As one reads The Art of Life, it is expressly seen how “beauty is the doorway to higher consciousness.”  How art affects our interpretations and emotions along with the significant moments in life and how they stand out from the ordinary mundane experience is expressed.  “They catapult us into another, deeper realm of awareness, a realm of possibility and creativity”.  Slatton further conveys her own personal experiences with sculpture as she discusses her overwhelming emotional reaction to first seeing the Winged Victory as she states “I became someone for whom a magical form had unveiled a hidden realm”. 

The Art of Life is not a very long book, 125 pages, but there is a richness of personal awareness, artful interpretation of the conscious and subconscious, the past and present, and an interweaving of the realm of time on a cosmic level as well as individual level.  Howard and Slatton do a great job in projecting the historical concepts of this art form in addition to allowing the reader into their heart and mind by discussing the impact that art has had on their life.  For anyone who appreciates art, this is a great, short little book to enlighten the mind on the human figure, its disposition and how art truly reflects life.
Disclosure:  I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> :  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Brilliant Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, and we have all heard the quote by Alexander Pope “to err is human.”  However, in Paul J. H. Schoemaker’s Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure, the reader is implored to re-evaluate the concept of error.  Schoemaker uses facts to illustrate how mistakes were actually vital in the success of many remarkable figures in history.  “Most groundbreaking achievements in science, technology, economics, and the arts represent long, meandering paths of misjudgments and false turns”.

Schoemaker proposes that our mistakes can be viewed as “portals of discovery”, and he elaborates on this by giving a conceptual framework on how to learn constructively from error.  He allows the reader to assess the self, and exhorts individuals to further understand their decision making process, thereby making brilliant mistakes rather than tragic mistakes.

Personally, I find Shoemaker’s perspective quite interesting.  One of the first brilliant mistakes in Schoemaker’s book is the discovery of the Beatles by EMI records.  George Martin went against the flow of the corporate record label and took a chance on the Beatles.  Even for those people who do not like the Beatles, it is indisputable that their music affected the world and continues to effect generations of music lovers.  He also speaks about Einstein and Fermi and how their errors turned out to contrarily be world-changing. 

Schoemaker quotes Kierkegaard “Life can be only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”.  I believe this to be true, and commend Schoemaker as he presents his argument and fosters the psychological distinctions between the different types of mistakes people make and how to learn from them.  “Sometimes, committing errors is not just the fastest way to the correct answer, it’s the only way”.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


For Always is the debut novel of Danielle Sibarium.  In this young adult novel, Stephanie feels that death haunts her.  Too many circumstances in the past have caused her to feel like she is a magnet of death, and she feels socially ostracized until she develops a friendship with an older boy named Jordan.

As Stephanie and Jordan become closer, their age difference becomes an issue.  Stephanie knows in her heart that Jordan is the one, and waits for him until he can see it too.  Then tragedy strikes in more ways than one.  Stephanie feels broken and defeated.  The emotional roller coaster of Stephanie are effortlessly correlated, and the reader therefore, can feel nothing but empathetic.

Sibarium does an enormous job in reaching out to her audience.  The emotional conflicts, along with the intensity of the emotional ups and downs of adolescence, are brilliantly conveyed through her writing.  There were several points in the book when Stephanie’s story caused me to look back and reminisce about my own adolescent years.

Sibarium truly drew me in from the beginning.  The story takes place in Brooklyn where I have lived half my life, so it was familiar.  I have lived on Staten Island the past several years, but it was nice to read a story taking place in my old neighborhood.  It made it that much more real to me.  While I am not a big young adult reader, I found this novel really touching, emotional, and relatable.  Her characters are not only well developed, but also credible.  I found myself turning page after page, enticed by the story and curious for the outcome.  In the words of Danielle Sibarium, “live, love, dream!”


Danielle Sibarium grew up as an only child of divorced parents in Brooklyn, New York. Her imagination was developed at an early age. Surrounded by stuffed animals and imaginary friends, she transported herself into a fantasy world full of magic and wonder. Books were the gateway between her play world and reality. On any given summer afternoon she became Snow White sweeping and cooking for the dwarves, or Cinderella waiting for the prince.

Danielle always loved dialogue and in elementary school began writing plays and short stories. This is when she began to understand she could not only bring her fantastical world to life for herself, but she could enchant others as well. And so she wrote. She wrote and wrote and wrote.

Sadly the first piece she ever sent out for publication of any sort was a letter to the editor of The Home News Tribune. It was a piece thanking the first responders for their bravery and selflessness on Sept 11th. It was chosen as letter of the week.

In 2007 Danielle collaborated with Charlotte Doreen Small to write songs for her CD More. Danielle wrote the lyrics for Take My Hand, and Goodbye, while Charlotte contributed the melody.

Danielle graduated from Farleigh Dickinson University with honors, and currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and three children.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Tony Iommi is the lead guitarist for the band Black Sabbath.  Considered by some to be the father of “heavy metal”, Black Sabbath has had an enormous influence on the music industry, giving birth to the genre of “heavy metal.”  In his memoir, Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell With Black Sabbath, he recounts the events in his life that lead him to form the band, as well as tells of how certain events impacted and influenced his life.

From early points in his life, such as the domestic violence between his parents, to events such as the death of former lead singer Ronnie James Dio, Iommi discusses his experiences as well as his struggle with other former band-mates.  Some other memorable accounts of Iommi’s experiences on the road while the band was on tour, and the struggles each of the band-mates faced during the times Black Sabbath songs were on the charts are also recounted.  

Iommi discusses his intimate relationship with the band members, the effects that drugs had on all of them, his relationship with singer/guitarist Lita Ford, and the bands rivalry with other successful bands of the time, Led Zepplin, Deep Purple.

On March 13, 2006, Black Sabbath was inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  All in all, Iommi concludes, “I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved.  We spawned a whole new generation of music, of players…It’s extremely rewarding.” “I enjoy where I’m at now, I really do.  It’s a good place".  There is talk of a Black Sabbath tour in 2012, I for one, am looking for to that!

Monday, November 7, 2011


The Night Eternal is Book III in the Strain Trilogy, written by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan.  In this final installment, the Earth is experiencing nuclear winter with primarily darkness covering the planet, and only a couple of hours of sunlight occurring daily.  The main character Ephraim Goodweather, is a scientist with the CDC, who continues to tackle the problem of the strigoi.  Another important character, Vasiliy Fet, a pest control exterminator who lends his expertise to Goodweather, and put together a network of resistant humans.  

The continuing premise from Book I, a virus is spreading among the Earth, turning people into vampires.  Del Toro and Hogan attempt to meld the worlds of science, fantasy, myth and reality into one.  However, it was not the most convincing of stories, mainly because by mixing all of these concepts, the traditional vampire lore is somewhat lost, so the storyline loses some credibility.  However, what Del Toro and Hogan do accomplish is a suspenseful, action-filled, quick read, leading the reader to want to continue to turn the page and read on.  In speaking of the will of the Master, “who understood the dark side of human nature completely, but not love”, in contrast to Eph, who states “this is love…it hurts-but this is love…” the intention of the authors is brought out, and is confirmed by Nora reflecting on the words of her mother.  “Looking back on one’s life, you see that love was the answer to everything”.  The story culminates with a moving scene between Eph and his son Zack.

Del Toro and Hogan effortlessly portray vivid scenes of this fantasy world of vampire-monsters, with an apocalyptic nature.  Del Toro is known for directing such films as Blade II, Hellboy I and II, Pan’s Labyrinth and most recently, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.  Hogan is known for his acclaimed novel Prince of Thieves.  It would be interesting to see this collaborative effort transcend to the big screen, as many of the scenes depicted in this final chapter of The Strain Trilogy are written in classic Del Toro style. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011


The Night Circus is the magnificently written debut novel by Erin Morgensten.  She eloquently tells the tale of the constantly moving, unique circus that "...arrives without warning" beginning at dusk and continuing throughout the night.  Unlike most circus-going experiences, this nocturnal adventure is different.  "He had expected it to be a show.  Something to sit in a chair and watch.  He realized quickly how wrong he was.  It was something to be explored."  Many tents are available to explore, each with its own theme. 

A competition is underway.  For years, Celia and Marco have been training diligently for the challenge for which they were inducted by their trainers, neither one knowing that they were the adversary.  A world of mystery, magic and illusion; Morgenstern easily draws the reader into the nocturnal world of Le Cirque de Reves.  What the competitors do not know is that in order for a winner to be determined, only one can be left standing.

The Night Circus provides the venue for this competition to take place.  Celia and Marco didn't expect to fall in love with one another, which makes their challenge much more difficult. 

I truly enjoyed this novel, down to the artwork of the book keeping with the color theme.  The Night Circus draws you into its magical world and leaves you with a feeling of hope, and the desire to dream as any majestic fairy tale would accomplish.  Completely captivating, mysterious, romantic, and a dream-like fantasy bound into one book!

Morgenstern is quite successful in this, her debut novel, craftily written, and providing a truly unique reading experience.  It would be wonderful to see this book go to film, for the magical scenes Morgenstern so brilliantly expresses and conveys are vividly seen by the reader.  She achieves all of the goals a writer wishes to achieve as she takes you on the journey of The Night Circus.  Well done!