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Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Heart of Yoga

Desikachar, T.K.V. The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice.

Desikachar is the son of Sri T Krshnamacharya, which is recommendation enough for many who are interested in yoga. Krshnmacharya, one of the most respected yoga teachers of his time, insisted that yoga practice must be tailored to the individual, not the other way around.

Beautifully written (and translated), The Heart of Yoga provides insight and understanding into the practice and purpose of yoga. Easy to read and easy to understand, Desikachar provides information about the history and philosophy of yoga, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, the purpose of asanas, the importance of breath and movement, how to link asanas and why, and more.

It is not a book of poses and how to perform them, but a source of understanding more about the various poses, the difference between dynamic and static poses, the importance of taking into account the individual when designing a series of poses.

The individual takes precedence -- always. Perfect form in an asana does not mean that the pose is providing the service it should, and those who are less limber, less strong can modify poses to improve themselves physically and mentally. The yoga that Desikachar describes is not "fitness yoga" in the sense of intense exercise and beautiful bodies, but movements and philosophy that can benefit anyone and lead to improvements in health and well-being.

Excellent.

Nonfiction. Yoga. 1995. 242 pages.

The Language of Bees

King, Laurie R. The Language of Bees.

I always enjoy the Mary Russell/ Sherlock Holmes series. After a long period of time away from England, Mary and Holmes return home to a small mystery about the disappearance of a hive of bees. This mystery is followed by a much more pressing one when Holmes' son Damian Adler (ah, yes, remember Irene?) arrives seeking help in locating his missing wife and child.

This is only Mary's second meeting with Damian, a bohemian and talented surrealist painter, and the fact that the first was when he was accused of murder, doesn't ease her mind. His past and his paintings are disturbing, and Mary remains somewhat skeptical about the man Damian has become.

The entire Holmes clan becomes involved in the search for the missing mother and child. Holmes, Mary, and Mycroft each have a niche to fill and each works in different avenues toward the same goal. Things become darker with the realization that a religious cult is involved and that several deaths at ancient monuments seem to be linked.

As usual, an entertaining adventure, although I found the amount of time spent on the plane ride a distraction that slowed down the plot at a point the action should have been moving more quickly. Another quibble is the lack of conclusion. I'm not unhappy to have the prospect of continued characters and/or issues that are not fully resolved, but the conclusion seemed abrupt and a bit of a cliff hanger.

Other reviews: A Striped Armchair and Books & Other Thoughts.

Fiction. Mystery, Historical fiction. 2009. 433 pages.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Atlas of Unknowns

James, Tania. Atlas of Unknowns.

I really liked this ARC, a debut novel by Tania James, and certainly hope to hear more from this gifted author.

The story is of a Christian Indian family: Melvin, who raises his two young daughters after his wife's death; Ammachi, the grandmother; Linno, the elder daughter and talented artist; Anju, the younger daughter and scholar. There are many more fascinating and well-developed minor characters who add interest and spice to the novel, but the essential story involves family relationships.

James' language is beautiful and descriptive, never over-elaborate, and often deceptively simple. I love this scene of Melvin, with Linno riding sidesaddle on his bicycle, on the way to a shop:

"They bump along between paddy fields that, in stillness, reflect the sky's blue with such clarity that grass seems to spring from liquid sky. At the water's edge, a medley of palms bends low, each falling in love with its likeness, while webs of light spangle the dark undersides of the leaves."
The calm simplicity of the author's style works so beautifully with the complexity of the characters, their relationships, and the situations in which they find themselves. The setting begins and ends in India, but a good portion of the novel also takes place in New York as we follow Anju, who wins a scholarship to a school in America.

The novel also explores immigration: the Indians who wish to come to America, the difficulties involved in doing so, and the Indian community in New York.

James has created some wonderful characters, even her minor characters come off the page so well as to make the reader feel their impact. They feel real.




Atlas of Unknowns - Tania James - Final Spot from Khushi Films on Vimeo.


I highly recommend this one. Has anyone else read it? Let me know, and I'll post a link to your review.

Fiction. 2009. 319 pages.

Bones to Ashes

Reichs, Kathy. Bones to Ashes.

I enjoy Reichs' Temperance Brennan novels. This tenth novel in the series deals with a mystery that may connect with the forensic anthropologist's personal life.

When the skeleton of a young girl is discovered, Temperance feels a strong connection and begins remembering her childhood friend Evangeline, who disappeared at 15. The unidentified skeleton may be connected to Detective Ryan's cases involving missing and murdered young girls.

As usual, Reichs' deftly involves history, smoothly incorporating historical information into the narrative. This time, since the skeleton is discovered in Acadia, we get some background into le Grand Dérangement that evicted the Acadians from their homeland and information about the leper colony that was established in New Brunswick.

Temperance's personal life is in upheaval at the moment, and the possibility of discovering what happened to her friend becomes imperative.

I really enjoyed the role of sergent-enqueteur Hippolyte Gallant and the contrast between Temperance and Harry, her younger sister, who makes another appearance.

Reichs' novels are always a little dark in tone, but as well as enjoying the mysteries, I always learn a little something.

Fiction. Mystery/forensic science. 2007. 388 pages.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

This and That

Several months ago, Cathy at Kittling: Books asked if I would share some pictures of my blogging space for her Scene of the Blog feature. I sent her a couple of pictures.

Since then, I've been reading and enjoying some of the Scenes from other bloggers. Don't we all enjoy having a peek at the places other bloggers work in? Yesterday she posted such a nice post about both of my blogs!

------------

Yesterday, my books arrived from Amazon, and I'm both excited and intimidated by these new additions to my Yoga Library.

I've begun Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice by Desikachar and like both his writing style and his philosophy.

I already owned Yoga Anatomy and have just recently finished it. I've been reading it for several months now, alternating between Yoga Anatomy and Yoga as Medicine, which I still haven't quite finished.

I also need to review Atlas of Unknowns by Tania James an advanced reader's copy that I really enjoyed, Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs, and The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King.

Ahem, and I also need to finish quite a few books that I've begun and put aside for a while.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Silent on the Moor

Raybourn, Deanna. Silent on the Moor.

The third in Raybourn's series about Lady Julia Grey.

I have to admit that the cover nearly prevented me from checking the book out. A poor choice, I think. The earlier covers were excellent, and the series is popular so there was no need for the change in style. I would never have read the first novel if the cover had been in this vein.

Oh, well, having read the first two in the series, I bit my tongue and bagged the book.

I did enjoy it, of course. The first book was the best, partly because of that wonderful opening sentence, but this was a nice bit of mystery to occupy an empty evening. The immediacy of the first novel is not present in this one, and I'm a little tired of the Heathcliff image with Nicholas Brisbane--although it fit in perfectly with the setting in the Yorkshire moors.

Hopefully, the next in the series will see Brisbane begin to grow out of his petulance and to exhibit a bit more humor. I'd like to see Brisbane and Lady Julia more as partners than contestants; this possibility is implied in the conclusion, but the relationship will never run perfectly smooth.

And will there be more of Portia and Jane? This series has a number of interesting minor characters who deserve more time.

Raybourn writes light historic mysteries that make for enjoyable reading.

Fiction. Historic novel/Mystery. 2009 465 pages.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I've not been keeping up with either blog lately. Haven't even been online much, but I'm trying to do better.

The garden and yoga have been calling me more than reading lately, and both reading and blogging have been taking a back seat. I do have several books to review and have several in progress, but I'm moving more slowly.

Iliana recently asked what music I listen to when doing yoga. Here are CDs I listen to--for both yoga and meditation: Deuter: A Spiritual Healing, Yoga Rhythm by Soul Food, Prem by Snatam Kaur, Grace by Snatam Kaur, and Tai Chi: Music for Relaxation.

I love the music on Shiva Ray's DVD's. She uses various artists including Sivakumar, John DeKadt, Layne Redmond, and Tumbara. I'd like to have Yoga Rhythms.

At yoga this morning, Marcia had a wonderful CD, but I've forgotten the name of it. And this is something new-- I've branched out in my yoga practice (The Vigorous Mind self-challenge) and have been taking some lessons from another studio from teachers of Iyengar, Hatha, and Viniyoga.

This has been a good experience and has inspired me to attend a Hatha Yoga Intensive in Austin this summer. Hope I'll have the opportunity to meet Iliana while I'm there!

When I began my self-challenge in January, one of the goals was to go deeper into my yoga studies...which I have been doing in reading. I would never have believed, however, that I would go so far as to attend classes from 8 AM-5:30 PM, five days a week for a month. Sometimes things just fall together.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Four Corners of the Sky

Malone, Michael. The Four Corners of the Sky.

Another Advanced Reader's Copy and Blog Tour book, The Four Corners of the Sky was all over the place. There were so many digressions that it was difficult to find the main plot (despite it being mentioned many times, keeping track of it wasn't easy).

Annie, a Navy jet pilot, was left with her aunt on her seventh birthday by her con artist father Jack. After having been absent from her life for years, Jack calls home asking that Annie fly the airplane he left her to St. Louis. He is dying, and he is in trouble with some dangerous characters.

The book is long and convoluted, moving back and forth from past to present and from character to character. Although there were a couple of characters I liked, the narrative has no since of continuity. While Annie and Jack would logically seem to be the most important characters, they are the least developed-- which has an odd effect on the novel as a whole.

The plot is complicated, but not necessarily complex, and the novel lacks an overall cohesiveness. Plenty of symbols (i.e. Annie's last name is Peregrine) and lots of quotes from movies and from Shakespeare, but they seem overdone, an indulgence. The quotes aren't there in an allusive fashion, as kind of an inside message to those who are widely read, but are fully explained in a pedantic manner.

I did like Raffy, Sam, Clark, and Georgette, but Annie and Jack and Daniel Hart never filled out. I'm not sure how to categorize this novel as it contained elements of several genres: mystery, suspense, romance... None are fully realized.

I fear this is another book where my opinion may be in the minority.

Michael Malone has written ten novels and has won the Edgar, the O. Henry, the Writers Guild Award, and the Emmy.

Other reviews: favorable - Grace's Book Blog and less favorable - At Home with Books.

Fiction. 2009. 544 pages.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Ford, Jamie. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

I looked forward to reading this ARC; both the title and the cover are enticing. The internment of Japanese citizens during WWII is a fascinating topic, and one that I've been interested in since reading Jeanne Wakatsuki's memoir, Farewell to Manzanar several years ago.

While the book provided a pleasant read, it did not measure up to my expectations. For the most part, I liked the characters, and the portions of the book that deal with the initial prejudice against and persecution of the Japanese are compelling...and terribly sad.

The scenes of Japanese-Americans burning photos, keepsakes, kimonos, and precious items that might connect them with Japan and thereby justify the seizure of their homes and property are particularly moving, and sadly, didn't prevent their eventual round-up and confinement.

Overall, however, the novel didn't quite coalesce. I'm afraid this is another book where my opinion will be in the minority...

Other reviews Two Kids and Tired, Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?,

Fiction. Historical fiction. 2009. 285 pages.
--------------------------------------------------
More on the internment of Japanese Americans:

The documentary The Cats of Mirakatani, the story of artist Jimmy Mirakatani's internment and the subsequent effects on his life gives some fascinating information about the internment process. I really enjoyed this documentary.

Farewell to Manzanar, Jeanne Wakatsuki's memoir, describes life in the Manzanar camp, the indignities suffered, and the attempts to make life as "normal" as possible. YA.
Added to my TBR list:

Novels:

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka.
Another look at life in the camps and the inevitable and lasting consequences even after being released.

Tall Grass by Sandra Dallas.
Based on a camp in Colorado, the is described as "part mystery, part historical fiction, part coming-of-age story."

Nonfiction:

Looking Like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese American Internment Camps by Mary Matsuda Gruenewald.
"In this eloquent memoir, she describes both the day-to-day and the dramatic turning points of this profound injustice: what is was like to face an indefinite sentence in crowded, primitive camps; the struggle for survival and dignity; and the strength gained from learning what she was capable of and could do to sustain her family."

Only What We Could Carry edited by Lawson Fusao Inada.
"The editor of this unusual anthology has drawn from a wealth of material: poetry, prose, biography, news accounts, formal government declarations, letters, and autobiography along with photographs, sketches, and cartoons that reflect the tragedy of the internment. Taken as a whole, it conveys the deep anguish felt by Japanese who defined themselves as citizens of the United States and yet lost their rights as citizens during a time of national fear.
"

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Genesis

Beckett, Bernard. Genesis.


Original, unusual, unpredictable. Beckett's Genesis is a very short novel of ideas, of philosophy, of neuroscience (think Daniel Dennet, Gerald Edelman, Neural Darwinism, Conscious Robots).

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was reading Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works. His opening chapter examines the limits of AI, artificial intelligence, or thinking robots, and it was one of those neat little coincidences that having just finished that chapter, I picked up Genesis, an unexpected Advanced Reader's Copy that arrived that day.

In a distant future, Anax, a young history student, is applying for admission to The Academy (an exclusive order of philosophers/rulers similar to what Plato imagined) and is undergoing an examination.

The narrative consists largely of questions and answers as in the defense of a doctoral thesis. Anax's area of expertise is myth and the young rebel Adam Forde, but the examiners have her respond to questions about Plato and his Republic, the Great War, and other background events in the 21st century before leading her to her topic of interest.

Anax has spent 3 years preparing for this examination, aided by her tutor Pericles. She knows her stuff, but her interpretations differ from the norm concerning Adam Forde and the robot, Art.

What makes us human? What if robots began to self-evolve? An intriguing book that combines beautifully with all of the "brain" nonfiction I've been reading lately. While it may not appeal to everyone, I found this tiny novel immensely provocative , the surprising twist, unexpected.

Fiction. Science Fiction/dystopia/utopia. 2006. 150 pages.

Fault Line

Eisler, Barry. Fault Line.

When Alex Treven discovers a client has been murdered in an apparent drug deal gone wrong, he is uneasy for a several reasons, not least because he expected his work with the inventor of a new encryption program to help Alex make partner at his law firm. When the patent examiner reviewing the program dies of apparently natural causes and information about the encryption program review disappears, Alex is even more unsettled. Then he survives an attack in his own home.

Time to call in estranged brother Ben, a military assassin (conveniently), who comes to the rescue. The brothers' estrangement is a result of an event when Ben was in high school, and the back story is interspersed with current events. This attempt at psychological explanations doesn't really succeed.

The third character: a beautiful Iranian American lawyer. Alex is attracted to her; Ben distrusts her.

Fast-paced where the back story doesn't interfere, Fault Line is a quick read. Author Barry Eisler spent 3 years as a covert operative for the CIA and lists some sources about "military liason elements," the NSA domestic spy program, warrant less eavesdropping, cryptovirology, etc. at the back of the book.

The characters don't really come off the page despite the author's attempt to give them some complexity and the pacing is uneven. A simplistic thriller, but a kind of fun way to spend an evening.

A more positive review: Nicole at Linus' Blanket
Fiction. Suspense/Adventure. 2009. 302 pages.