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Wednesday, July 29, 2009
My husband came this past weekend, I abandoned class thoughts, and we had a great time. We saw the bats (estimated 1.5 million bats in the colony) come out from under Congress Street Bridge--fantastic!
A friend from class took me to see Mt. Benel and to a wonderful macrobiotic restaurant, Casa de Luz.
Now reading The Bhagavad Gita (re-reading, actually--but the first time was too many years ago in a college class).
Fee brought me 2 new ARCs that came after I left. The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal by Sean Dixon and Hot House Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire by Margot Berwin. Both of them sound really interesting, but doubt that I'll have time to read them (or the others I brought with me) as by the time I've gotten back to the room, there is still homework or preparation, studying for the exam, and eating and showering, etc.
Just a week and a half left, things are drawing to a close. Leaving will be difficult after the intensity of this experience. Such great teachers and classmates...I'm sad at the prospect of leaving, even if sometimes missing the security of home.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Gemmell, Nikki. The Book of Rapture.
Certainly my favorite book this year. I've pondered the book all week: recommending it to all the people in the yoga teacher-training class, bending my husband's ear (he came to Austin this weekend to visit), thinking about the many instances in which daily events keep reminding me of the awesome collection of quotes that conclude each chapter, and being grateful for all those serendipitous events that bring the right book to you at just the right time. And this, for me, was the perfect time.
How to give just enough information to whet your appetite, and yet, not give too much away? This is a story that encompasses love of family, courage in the face of fearful consequences, the conflict between science and religion (in this novel, both science and religion have much to answer for), and the cultural/religious differences that can escalate and result in crimes against humanity.
Gemmell presents a cautionary tale that our global society needs to contemplate, to force ourselves into a deeper examination of our own values and the values of other cultures.
In an unknown country, a political prisoner (a woman, a wife, a mother), writes a manuscript in Latin so that her words will be safe from her jailers. The beginning of the book is disjointed, with information coming piecemeal and keeping you off balance. You know only that there is so much about her situation that you don't yet understand and that much of what is written is confusing because you don't have enough information. She writes in a kind of stream of consciousness, with flashbacks and unexplained episodes. Eventually, Prisoner 57775 settles in and the reader gains enough knowledge of the situation to begin putting things together.
We understand that the woman (who is never named, and only later do we understand why), was a scientist with Project Indigo, but we have no details of what the project entails. Her husband removes himself from the project early on and wants her to withdraw as well. He believes that she (and all those working on the project) are getting above themselves, failing to understand the moral implications of their actions.
The woman, however, is too involved with the science and with the possibility of enhancing her reputation; by the time she does finally agree with her husband, they must go into hiding. Eventually, however, they are discovered.
Most of the novel concerns her children, her vast love for them, and how they must adjust to a dangerous situation, in hiding and without parental love and protection. The children all grow emotionally during their confinement, alternately keeping faith and failing, reminding themselves of what their parents have taught them, finding the strength and weaknesses in themselves, succeeding, failing, and trying again.
All of the main characters must have faith and trust in each other and the hope that things will, at some point, turn out right so that the family can be reunited. The mother, the author of the manuscript, finds a spiritual base that she had rejected before. It is not organized religion or dogma that she discovers, but an understanding of what her husband meant when he said to her, "People who completely deny spirituality are missing what it is to be fully human--with all its fallibility and mess and stupidity, yes, but all its glory...and beauty."
Each chapter ends with a quote--from the Bible, the Koran, the Rig Vedas, the Dalai Lama, the Buddha, Hafiz, Matthew Arnold, Philip Larkin, Goethe, etc.
The second chapter begins with "Nothing evolves us like love" and the novel ends with the same quote by Hafiz. Each quote is appropriate to its chapter. Some of my favorites:
"The small man builds cages for everyone he knows." Hafiz
"What we speak becomes the house we live in." Hafiz
"My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness." Dalai Lama
"As soon as you hold the view that this is 'true', friction arises; because the opposite view must then be termed 'false'." Buddha
"Is it true that our destiny is to turn into light itself?" Hafiz
"Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action." The Bible
"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." Dalai Lama
Science certainly has the potential for great good...and for great evil. The same can be said of religion. Some of the most horrendous crimes have, historically, been committed in the name of religion. Project Indigo (and scientists may be investigating similar solutions even now) has frightening implications, but Prisoner 57775 resists the pressure to give her jailers what they want while trying to be sure that her children are safe.
This ARC is a book that I will treasure, and I'm very grateful to the Fourth Estate in London for sending it to me and to Nikki Gemmell for writing this remarkable book. Thank you.
Fiction. 2009. 269 pages.
A video about Dewey (the library cat):
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Who sent this to me? I can't find any record of this ARC, and sometimes books just arrive out of nowhere, but although I find no record, there is a vague memory of someone sending me the description (I would write you a thank you note if I could). Maybe, when I finish, my review will be the thank you note.
Gemmell has just the right touch to create suspense, tension, the love of a parent for her children. She can bring you to grief and joy without ever slipping into the maudlin.
I'm almost finished, but can't quite bring myself to read on. I've stopped at a crucial point, and I need some time before I can bring myself to bring the book to a close... for several reasons.
It is another example of synchronicity. This book. At this time.
Went to my third Kundalini Yoga class from 4:30-6:00, then a Hatha class from 6:00-7:30. Both were good, but I love the Kundalini. So different, so deeply relaxing, and then there is the gong during final relaxation. Addictive. Yes. The vibrations just travel through your body.
Bought two more yoga books and a great CD after class, then came back to the room to eat the tabouli I made this morning and left to refrigerate for about 10 hours. Mmmmm.
I've enjoyed this weekend. Yesterday, I had to wash clothes and do some grocery shopping, but there was time to play on the computer, to read, answer emails, talk to family and friends on the phone, and to practice on my own. Today, more of the same. Tomorrow, free time will be less available.
Listening to my new CD, Deva Premal's Essence...
Saturday, July 18, 2009
I'm reading The Art of Racing in the Rain, which is beautifully written and so moving, but I can read only a little at a time because so many emotions keep arising.
Enzo is a dog who feels he should be a man and fully expects another lifetime as a man with the gift of a manageable tongue for speech and opposable thumbs. He sees himself as training for his reincarnation, but truthfully, he is already far more human than most people. I could wish that Stein had included fewer elements of sadness and more of the joy, but there is so much to think about in this novel that although I resent having to put it aside frequently because of being so emotional, I simply must have more Enzo philosophy, more Enzo world vision, more Enzo. Remember Old Yeller, another wonderful, loving, and devoted dog? Just imagine the story told from Old Yeller's perspective. (Kailana mentioned in a previous comment that she liked this one, too.) I don't have much time for reading right now and can't read it for very long at a time, but I hope to finish it soon.
Of course, if you enjoy stories about animals in general, nothing beats James Herriot's books! All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and All Things Wise and Wonderful are my all-time favorites in animal stories. A veterinarian in Yorkshire, Herriot's many books about his experiences are hilarious and moving. These remain some of my most beloved comfort reads; just thinking about some of his experiences, some of the animals and their owners, some of the events with Siegfried and Tristan make me smile.
I loved the three memoirs of Peter Gethers (televison and film script writer, editor, founder of Villard Books, editor-at-large for Random House, etc.) about his life with Norton, the Perfect Cat. The first one is The Cat Who Went to Paris, and all three of them are wonderful! Gethers' was a cat-hater until his life tangled up with Norton.
I still have Dewey, the Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World on my TBR list and there is another version specifically for children.
Somewhere I read about Gobbolino, the Witch's Cat by Ursula Moray Williams, first published in the 1940's and still a children's classic. Gobbolino, born into a witchy family, wants to be a hearth cat, a kitchen cat. Unfortunately, his reputation as a witch's cat follows him.... The book has been on my TBR list for a while; maybe I'll begin a Reading Trail on either animal books or children's books.
Diane Ackerman's The Moon by Whale Light is a delightful adventure. Ackerman's essays are a wonderfully poetic scientific look at penguins, bats, whales, and alligators and the importance of these creatures in nature. Great scientific story-telling and encouragement for conservation.
Robin, at A Fondness for Reading, has also contributed to my TBR list with her post about Irene Pepperberg's book Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process.
Ooops, out of time for this post and so many good books about animals unmentioned!
What are some of your favorite animal books --for children or adults, fiction or nonfiction?
Friday, July 17, 2009
Wanted to share this link again (I posted it a couple of years ago) about finding authors in your favorite genres: Literature-Map.
If you enjoy William Faulkner, or Richard Russo, or Reginald Hill, or Ruth Rendell, or Wilkie Collins, or Flannery O'Connor, or ...whichever author you might like, just type in the name and see what other authors appear who write in a similar vein.
One more note for those who enjoy children's lit and YA fiction: The Fairy Godmother Academy (written by the mother-in-law of Cameron, a fellow yoga teacher-in-training) looks like great fun!
Published by Random House, Birdie's Book is the first in the series.
"Before there were finishing schools, therapists, or how-to books there were fairy godmothers. Theirs was a legacy of magical Wisdoms, an academy of powerful women with the gifts of Singing Stones, Spirikins, Kalis Sticks, and Magic Hand Mirrors. These powers were handed down through generations to daughters, sisters, nieces and grand daughters.
The Fairy Godmother Academy is a book series and trans-media brand that introduces preteen girls to their inner Wisdoms by connecting them to a school of the heart in a dream world called Aventurine."
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
The 9th novel in O'Connell's Mallory series has Kathy Mallory away from the NYPD and preparing to follow the mythic Route 66 for her own reasons. When a body turns up in Chicago that appears to be linked to other murders along the famous route, Mallory lends a hand, but does not want to be deterred from her own journey.
Mallory, however, finds that her route and the murders are connected to the fabled highway, and she is eventually completely involved in the case and with the sad caravan of parents who are traveling the route looking for their missing children. Worried about her uncharacteristic absence from the NYPD, Riker and Charles Butler are trying to catch up with Mallory and find themselves enlisted into protecting the caravan and in the search for the killer as well.
This installation reveals more about Mallory's back story, answering questions and following up hints from previous novels. As usual O'Connell's prose carries the reader along in a tidal wave that prevents questioning the often over-the-top events and character of Kathy Mallory.
I find that I'm perfectly willing to overlook the sometimes bizarre elements in these mysteries. The characterization, intricate narratives, and psychological puzzles keep me entranced. The changes in Mallory and the final scene leave me fearful that this may be the last of the Mallory narratives.
This series may not be for everyone, but it is one of my all-time favorites. I do recommend reading the books in order, however. Each novel reveals a little more about Mallory's background, making it easier to enter Mallory's world with each successive installment. Starting in the middle of this series might make the novels less enjoyable.
Fiction. Crime/Mystery. 2006. 352 pages.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Val McDermid has several series, including the Tony Hill novels which are the basis for the BBC series Wire in the Blood featuring Robson Green. A Darker Domain is a stand-alone novel (and hopefully, a new series) featuring Detective Karen Pirie, head of the Cold Case Review Team in Fife, Scotland.
When a young woman comes in searching for her missing father, who walked out on them 22 years earlier. She has a young son who needs a bone marrow transplant and desperately needs to locate her father.
Detective Pirie can't resist and finds herself more and more curious about the disappearance of Mick Prentice. At the same time, however, she is assigned to another a case involving the kidnapping and murder of Catriona Maclennan Grant, daughter of one of Scotland's wealthiest men. New evidence discovered by an investigative journalist has Brodie Grant once again eager to find and punish his daughter's murderers and hopefully to discover his missing grandson still alive.
Mick Prentice disappeared in 1984 during the devastating miner's strike, and his wife believes he left with 5 men who left the village to work as scabs, betraying family and friends. Pirie determines that Mick did not leave with the men and continues trying to determine what happened to Mick even as she works on the 20 year old kidnapping/murder case.
The story is told partly by flashbacks involving various characters. The cases eventually converge, although this link seem a trifle forced. However, if these two old cases coming to the fore at the same time seems coincidental, McDermid still manages to keep the reader involved with the characters and the narrative. A few things about the conclusion bothered me, but not excessively.
Detective Karen Pirie is well-developed and likable, and I hope to see more of her in future novels. The book was a page-turner for me, and despite the few quibbles, I enjoyed it very much!
Fiction. Crime/Mystery. 2009. 355 pages.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Some folks were only there Friday night, others only Saturday. I came home Sunday afternoon, but Erin, Mila, Max, Rhodes, and Fee stayed until Mon.
Now, I'm here in Austin, TX. Wednesday, it was 106; yesterday, 105. Have to admit, though, that with the lower humidity than at home and frequent breezes, it doesn't feel as miserable as Shreveport/Bossier weather. Sweat dries here.
I scheduled my most recent reviews before I left, so I won't have to worry about reviewing A Darker Domain by Val McDermid or Find Me by Carol O'Connell. I also have a couple of drafts in progress.
Orientation for the Hatha Yoga Intensive was Friday from 5:30 - 8:30. Classes today were from 8:00 - 6:30. Exhausting, exhilarating. There are 20 participants, and they have all been very nice--which is great given the amount of time we will be spending together for the next 30 days!
I did bring some review copies to read:
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (which is wonderful so far)
Conversations with Richard Bandler by Owen Fitzpatrick
The Book of Rapture by Nikki Gemmell
God is an Englishman and
To Serve Them All My Days - classics by R.F. Delderfield that Sourcebooks is re-publishing and want reviewed for a Blog Tour in September.
Now, I don't know how much time I'll actually have to do much besides study and practice!
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
I love O'Connell's Mallory novels. I've not been as impressed by her stand-alones, but Kathleen Mallory is one of the most unusual protagonists I've ever encountered. O'Connell's minor characters Detective Sergeant Riker and Charles Butler are perfect foils for Mallory and each involves the reader in his own right.
When a burglar is killed by an old woman, the initial interest is because the house was the scene of horrific murders and a missing child nearly sixty years earlier. On second glance, however, it seems that the dead man was not actually a burglar, but a serial killer that Mallory and Riker had in their sights. And then the scissors with which he was stabbed were not the cause of death...
The original investigation expands, and as it does, the murder of a family and a missing child also begins to unravel.
Mallory--often referred to as a sociopath, so damaged by her terrible childhood that even the loving intervention of her adoptive parents can only partially redeem her-- has moments in this novel that indicate a bit of a sea-change. Her inability to communicate her feelings (and to comprehend the feelings of others) leads even those who love her to suspect her behavior, and Charles Butler actually stands up to her in this novel.
When I read the first Mallory novel years ago, I remember being confused at times because Mallory's background is dropped into the narrative little by little, and even in the first novel the back story (though incomplete and added to novel by novel) is so important. The character of Kathy Mallory is unique in crime and mystery fiction and well worth following book by book!
O'Connell's Mallory series ranks in my top ten mystery favorites.
Fiction. Crime/Mystery. 2004. 306 pages
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
This is Finch's second novel. Both feature the gentleman detective Charles Lenox.
An event in India (involving stolen jewels, of course), a London detective in love with his neighbor, and a missing Oxford student provide the fodder for this mystery set in 1866.
I just wasn't captivated by this novel for several reasons. I found Charles Lenox to be a bit bland. He was so very nice. Talk about damning with faint praise--almost everything I can think of to say about the book falls into that slippery category.
The first of the novel becomes a panegyric to Oxford, and it is obvious that Finch, who attended Oxford, loved it and absorbed all kinds of trivia and history concerning the various colleges and the university town itself. His inclusion of so much information, however, interrupts the pace and flow of the narrative, and regardless of how interesting, results in a textbook awkwardness.
One amusing episode, though, is inserted as a throw-away later in the novel. Lenox stops a student to ask a question. The student replies politely and respectfully, and Lenox thanks him and gives his name. The student courteously disregards the thanks and gives his own name--"Hopkins," the lad said. They shook hands. "Gerard Manley Hopkins. A pleasure to meet you..."
My favorite character was young Dallingham; now, he was interesting. He will, no doubt, be in future installments and, hopefully, with a larger role.
Fiction. Historical mystery. 2008. 310 pages.
Monday, July 06, 2009
Set in Philadelphia in 1889, this medical mystery is full of suspense, interesting characters, and fascinating historic medical detail.
The novel opens with Dr. William Osler (one of the real characters in the book) leading students and practicing physicians to the Dead House, the morgue that provided anatomical training for University of Pennsylvania Medical School, to observe the dissection of several cadavers.
When the coffin containing the body of an attractive young woman is opened, all present are somewhat distressed. The lesson is concluded with the excuse that there isn't enough time for this last corpse. Young Dr. Ephraim Carroll, who has come to Philadelphia specifically to study with Dr. Osler, finds the abrupt conclusion disconcerting and suspects that the nameless young woman has been recognized by at least two individuals.
Goldstone smoothly incorporates information from the real Dr. Osler's notes on actual autopsies he performed and information from a manuscript Osler wrote but instructed to be kept sealed for fifty years after his death.
An interesting forensic thriller that reveals a bit of the bohemian art world, social mores of the time, interesting medical history, and a glimpse of the conflicts concerning medical advances.
Fiction. Historical mystery. 2008. 340 pages.
Sunday, July 05, 2009
This and Desikachar's Heart of Yoga are two of my favorite yoga books so far, and they have much in common as Desikachar is the son of Krishnamacharya and A.G. Mohan is one of his most famous students.
Chapter 1: Yoga and Personal Reintegration
Information on perception and misperception, the 5 states of mind, the gunas, obstacles to reintegration and some solutions, Kriya Yoga, the 8 Limbs of Yoga
Chapter 2: Asana--The Role of the Body in Personal Reintegration
The core principles of reintegration, listed and expanded upon. The principles of practice and sections on putting each principle in action.
"Asana should not simply be an external form into which you fit your body, but should arise from within you. What you see in the mirror is the form. What you feel is the function of the posture. Unity, not uniformity is the goal of yoga."
"The vast spectrum of body types and conditions assures that any partiular posture or movement not only will, but should, look different in every student."
Chapter 3: The Asanas
Classic and modified postures illustrated.
Chapter 4: Viparita Karani -- Inversion
Chapter 5: Vinyasa Krama--Sequencing and Adaptation
Chapter 6: Parnayama-- The Role of Breath
Inhalation, exhalation, retention, and suspension of breath and the relation between the components discussed. Methods of breathing listed and defined (ujjayi, sitali, nadi shodana, etc.). General Guidelines for pranayama practice; bandhas, use of sound.
Chapter 7: Meditation
Chapter 8: Yoga Therapy
I've highlighted so much in this book! The content is so similar to Desikachar's Heart of Yoga, but the language is very different. I always benefit from different explanations.
Nonfiction. Yoga. 1993. 211 pages.
Scholes, Ken. Lamentation: The Psalms of Isaac.
Although Scholes been publishing short fiction for about 8 years, this is his first novel and a very good one. The novel is a fantasy with some intriguing elements of science fiction.
Opening with the destruction of the city Windwir, the narrative is told from several perspectives:
Rudolfo, the head of the Wandering Army and Lord of the Ninefold Forest Houses, sees the smoke and realizes that something terrible has happened, but can't imagine the breadth of destruction until he arrives.
Neb, a young Androfrancine apprentice, has been waiting for his father on one of the hills surrounding the city; he feels the ground shaking, sees the city collapse upon itself, and watches for hours as the fires complete the destruction.
Petronus the Fisherman, also sees the cloud and realizes with sudden clarity what has occurred. Jin Li Tam, consort to the Overseer, is called to join him to witness the fall of Windwir.
War, political intrigue, codes and secret languages, magic, deception, a robot that cries, a gypsy king, a marsh king, and a hidden pope--all packed into the first of what is planned to be a five book series.
A fine first novel with the promise of more to come!
I love this post by Nymeth about why she reads fantasy!
Fiction. Fantasy. 2009. 361 pages.
Saturday, July 04, 2009
I know, I know. These novels are absolutely ridiculous, but every time I see a new one, it goes right in the library bag! I'm weak. It is like eating fried food knowing it isn't good for you, but occasionally giving in the craving.
This one has an even greater "unbelievable" factor with zombies. As with all the books in this series, things move at a rapid pace; plot (regardless of how fantastic) is king,and character development is minor. Pendergast and D'Agosto must determine how a man who died 10 days previously managed murder one of their close friends. For some reason, both felt even more cardboard than usual.
Have to admit that I wasn't happy about the loss of a recurring character in the first chapter.
Not my favorite in the series, but good for a night's entertainment, if you are a fan of the series.
Fiction. Horror/mystery. 2009. 435 pages.
Friday, July 03, 2009
This book certainly contains some useful advice, but is the least favorite of the yoga books I've read. The information could be contained in fewer pages, and something about the style and anecdotal situations put me off a bit. Loved Farhi's Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit, but this one...not so much. Perhaps as a former high school teacher, much of the content is pretty standard fare. Which doesn't mean that even experienced teachers don't need reminders...
Here are some of the points I highlighted:
- "The underpinnings of the Yoga tradition have to do with leading a moral life in which our actions are congruent with our values." I like the way she worded this, and it is one of the more difficult virtues to accomplish--to practice what we preach.
- I also like that when she mentions ahimsa, usually described as non-violence, Farhi expands the meaning to "compassion for all living things" and later balances satya (not- lying or truthfulness) with ahimsa and not-harming. Often truth is used as a weapon and is intended to hurt or belittle. Farhi makes the first mention of this need for balance that I've read so far. It may be taken for granted by many, but I like that she spells it out.
- Farhi's use of Patanjali's yoga sutras to introduce many of sections is worth noting. I liked this aspect as well.
- I found the sections on the power of words, appropriate etiquette, and setting boundaries useful concepts to keep in mind. These are important in any teaching situation, but have special relevance for physical endeavors.
I do think Teaching Yoga is a book that will be good to have on the yoga shelf and one to which I might need to refer in the future. (There is a CD included that contains Farhi's keynote address at Yoga Spirit 2002.)
Nonfiction. Yoga. 2006. 166 pages.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
All of those scheduled and in progress were completed in June. A little minor surgery and a thyroid imbalance slowed down the physical activity in June so it turned into a reading marathon. When I wasn't too tired to keep my eyes open, I was reading, but as usual, not reviewing. So the first week of July will be reviews of June books.
My only crafty activities (besides the ever present embroidery) were these flowers for Calamity Kim's Fabric Flower Flickr Group.
While I was in my "too tired to do much" state, I attended only Marcia's morning restorative yoga classes. Last week when I began feeling more energetic, I went to one of the evening "fitness yoga" class and...injured my shoulder. Duh!
This is the 14th novel featuring Adam Dalgliesh, and it doesn't disappoint. The first sentence announces the victim, but goes on to develop Rhoda Gradwyn's personality and gain our interest.
Most of the characters are introduced and developed before James embarks on the murder, which takes place in a wonderful old manor house that has been partially converted to house patients before and after plastic surgery. Rhoda Gradwyn is to have a terrible facial scar that she has born for over 30 years removed because she "doesn't need it anymore."
As usual, James has constructed a riveting mystery with complex characters. Dalgliesh, however, is soon to be married and is thinking of retirement and, perhaps for that reason, plays a smaller role than usual. His presence still dominates, but other characters are given more time.
James' careful plotting and intelligent prose keep the novel moving, yet at the same time, she manages to have the reader ponder various contemporary social dilemmas. The dilemmas of aging, journalism, immigrants, and education are so intertwined with the characters that they are in no way intrusive, but rather add depth to the characters and the novel. There are also plenty of literary allusions, skillfully done.
This is a police procedural that I didn't want to put down and didn't want to finish. P.D. James, at nearly 90, is still on her game and as usual, far ahead of most writers!
Other Reviews: Random Jottings, Gaelic Threads,
Fiction. Mystery/Police Procedural. 2008. 352 pages.