Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson

As I read this book, I wondered if it was a secret history*, and what actually happened to San Francisco in 1909 (even though the book is set a tad earlier).

Wonderful mixture of Daoism, ghost hunting, martial arts, San Francisco's Chinatown, magic, a great central character, and a couple of great side-kicks, who may, or may not be ghosts and monsters. I got lost in some of the forms in fighting, but then, I have trouble remembering the forms doing Tai Chi, and I do that every day (and have for almost 4 years now.)

Found this via a FB post of author Michael Livingston, who mentioned seeing the book on the shelf near his own book, while travelling at Christmas. Good tip. Wish I had energy to write a full review, but have just enough to give it a hearty thumbs up.

*Secret histories are those tales set in our world, within our events and time lines, but depict additional happenings than what we are told in our history books.

Tags: read-in-2015thank-you-charleston-county-libraryfantasysecret-historytaught-me-somethingmade-me-look-something-upplaces-i-have-beenwill-look-for-more-by-this-author 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

I have no clue where I picked up this book, but I certainly enjoyed it. It unfolded for me like one of those classic romantic comedies-- I could see Cary Grant (yes, I know Don favors Atticus Finch, but still) playing Don perfectly, though I haven't quite decided on the leading lady. A brilliant presentation of Autism as well. Really enjoyed this book and will look for the sequel, because I want to see where these characters go.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Art of Mokuhanga by April Vollmer

This is a gloriously detailed, beautifully designed book on the ancient art of Mokuhanga (Japanese Woodblock ). In another life, I majored in Asian Studies, with an emphasis on Japan. The delicacy of Japanese art has always drawn me. When I opened this book, I had the naive notion that, since I have been wanting to try block printing as an art form, that maybe I could learn how. What I did learn is the complexity of the art, and details of the craft-- everything from making tools, preparing brushes, carving the plates, even the paper. It's far more than I am able to do at this time (and as we live in a small space, my husband would cringe if I brought in all the implements for making a good woodblock), but the book is so complete that should someone want to do so, they'd have a guide written by a master at their fingertips.

Many thanks to Blogging for Books and to the publishers for sending me a copy of the book. And Thank you April Vollmer for sharing your art and knowledge, and for finding beautiful work of others to include in the book as well. Amazing.

tags: artblogging-for-booksi-liked-the-picturesreadtaught-me-somethingwow

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Joyous Path: The Life of Avatar Meher Baba's Sister, Mani (Volume 1) by Heather Nadel

I read a lot. Yet it is not often that a book actually changes my life. The Joyous Path has done just that. Maybe not on the outside, where I still remain somewhat crotchety, an extroverted introvert, with her head in a book, or her hands creating art. But internally, this book has moved me tremendously, caused me to reexamine my world, spiritual path, behaviors, and that winding track we call the journey of life.

Heather Nadel has opened a window into the life of Mani Irani, the sister of Avatar Meher Baba. Even though I knew Mani, have heard her tell stories of her life with Baba, and have read much, written by others, about the times covered in this book, it was new, fresh and vibrant. It is  written with a viewpoint that is allowed by a biographer, rather than the subject herself, had she written a memoir. The author has gathered multiple sources, and interwoven these bits from letters, journals, transcript, memory, and memoirs of others, to create the picture of the early days in the discipleship of Meher Baba. As the subject of the book is Mani, much of what is relayed involves Baba's women disciples (mandali) rather that the men mandali, as strict seclusion for the women was observed on Baba's command. The more I read, the more in awe of the devotion, and the humility of these women, so completely focused on Baba. I became acutely aware of how, almost surely, I would fail, were I in the same situation, while also being in awe of the joy, humor, and complete willingness with which they all carried out His orders. Volume one contains family background and moves through The New Life and the early 1950's. In this age of electronics and modern conveniences, it is easy to forget (or to have never known) what life without such wonders, particularly in India, involved. While I was fascinated by the descriptions of Baba's work and world, it was the little things that drew me in-- the skits, stories, and tasks of daily life.

For all who knew Mani, her voice comes through, loud and clear, on every page. I hear her in my head as I read. I am once again sitting in Mandali Hall at Meherazad, just north of Ahmadnagar, in India, listening to the sister of Avatar Meher Baba share tales of her life's journey. And to those who did not have the fortune to meet Mani, or have never heard of Meher Baba, you're in for a treat. For Mani, regardless of your own personal spiritual beliefs, is the exemplification of the love exchange between Master and disciple. It is a beautiful story, a journey of devotion to God. Heather Nadel, who was Mani's longtime helper and companion, beautifully ties together the tales of Mani and her life. (Full disclosure: I am privileged to call Heather friend, and blessed to call her sister. Just about the smartest thing my big brother Erico ever did was to be persistent and marry this beautiful soul. But even if we did not share a surname, I still would love this book. I can hardly believe how perfectly Heather captured Mani's spirit and shares it with the reader.)

Mani S. Irani was an amazing woman, and a huge influence in my life. Her love, and her devotion to God, carried out daily, with a smile, a laugh, a touch of tenderness, and a huge dose compassion, helped show me a path to follow, and a way to try and shape my life. I'm not nearly as successful as Mani was, but when I stumble, I can hear her voice encouraging me to brush myself off and try again. I hear her now, in my head and heart, when I despair of my own spiritual inadequacies, or fret over my own weaknesses. I'd let her spirit grow dim, these years since her passing, but with this book, I have been able to take a sip at that wellspring of her love for God, and move ahead, renewed. I read it slowly, to savor each sip provided, and refresh my spiritual self.

In short, The Joyous Path is a joyous read.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Damselle in Distress by Kiley Kellermeyer

It's long been a complaint of mine that heroines in fiction, particularly those in fairy tales, or that typical princesses/maidens version,  or in books geared toward younger humans (which are three sets that do not necessarily overlap) tend to be somewhat insipid, and almost always passive; the classic "when bad things happen to good people who do nothing to stop it" scenario. Then Damselle in Distress happened, and fairy tales got turned topsy-turvy (and by that I mean "totally wonderful".) We've got a girl whose faery godmother gave her a name that's a curse, Damselle (rhymes with bell), and constantly makes her a damsel in distress. But our Damselle learns there's a possibility to change her name and lift the curse. She takes that curse by the horns, so to speak, and begins a quest to gather the magical objects that are required in exchange for a new name. Her companion in arms each have a fantastic blend of qualities that carry them through the enchanted Willowwax woods, past some characters that may be a bit familiar from childhood storybooks of old. I could see each adventure, battle, struggle, triumph, clearly in my mind, and chuckle when I stumbled on a familiar fairy-tale turned on it's ear.  And I am overjoyed that the main character is a determined, spunky, book-loving, determined, caring, thinking gal with a spoon-- just the one to take a band of misfits on a quest.

I also love how Ariel Burgess captured the essence of this delightful tale so perfectly in her cover art.

Disclosure: I read an early draft of this book, and was pleased to see how the author tightened the tale and grew the characters in this final version. I really loved how Damselle, Ixby, Biddy, Reietta, and Peter developed, each coming into their own distinctive personalities. I wish to reassure the author that her own daughter's faery godmother has nothing as devious as Damsel's planned for the little one when she makes her appearance later this year.

Tags: didn-t-want-to-put-it-downfantasyfirst-novel-or-bookgrandgirl-nonsparkly-foddergreat-covergreat-titlekids-of-most-agesmade-me-laugh-out-loud-for-realmagicmet-the-authorreadread-in-2015rollicking-good-funya-lit

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tiles Make the Room:Good Design from Heath Ceramics by Bailey Petravic

I'm fascinated by design and color (which is a good thing, I guess, since I'm an artist.) This book satisfied both those desires in me, plus let me see into homes, offices, buildings, restaurants, and be a bit of a voyuer , to see how others design their spaces. Oh those beautiful tiles, textures, colors, and designs.  Truly enjoyed this, plus it's given us some ideas to incorporate in our own home.

Thank you, blogging for books, and the publishers, for sending this book along to me. I hope to visit the factory/showroom sometime, if I ever get out to the Bay Area again.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (and some other stuff)

Still not up to reviewing. Sorry gang. It was good and made me feel less alone. I've got my own set of spoons.

Tags: an-author-i-read, made-me-laugh-out-loud-for-real, made-me-look-something-up, made-me-sad, made-me-think, read, read-in-2015, taught-me-something, thank-you-charleston-county-library, will-look-for-more-by-this-author

If you really want to make me happy, go visit my store at czukart.com. If you want to receive undying gratitude and make me squeal with delight, place an order. That coloring book, coloring cards, and note cards are all direct products of the work of healing from an unfun health setback. Slow and steady.

Be well.

Peace on Earth; Good books to all.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Owls: Our Most Charming Bird by Matt Sewell

I've always loved the sounds of owls in the night. When we moved into our home on the island, the first week I saw a barn owl coast across our yard at dusk, ghostly white against the darkening sky. I'd hear the "who cooks for you"  of a barred own call and know they were nearby. I've seen great horned owls perched up in the live oaks in the back yard, near the lake; once, even a group of three watched me sleepily from a branch as I pushed my kayak out onto the water. The last few years we were there, screech owls took up roost out our bedroom window. They were so fascinating, and so absolutely darling, I almost didn't want to move. But we did. Within a week, I'd heard the cry of a barred owl in the trees near our new place, and knew I was truly home.

My fascination has taken expression in my art, as I love to draw owls, too. And I love to see how others draw them, which is why this book was so much fun for me. Matt Sewell's Owls: Our Most Charming Bird is a fun addition to my birder books, and while it may not be a Sibly's or a National Geographic, it has a charm of its own and is a book I will love to return to and visit the whimsical owls that grace the pages. 

This is probably a better book for a beginner birder, or an owl lover than for someone who is seriously into birding, but the illustrations are truly charming.


Thank you to Blogging for books and to the publishers for sending me my copy of this book.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Hand-drawn-- now available!

It's here! And almost gone! In 3 days! Crazy!

BUT-- there still are a few left, and I'm getting ready to get more from the printer. The website will be set up to take pre-orders on the second batch if the first runs out. Plus, locals, message me here and we'll figure out a way to get you your books without having to pay shipping. 
smile emoticon
My website is http://czukart.com The coloring books are under line art, or a direct link is http://bit.ly/1PEmu3I

Working on #2 which is Wheel of Time themed, pysanky style.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell

When I finished Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, I remember whimpering to a friend, "The book was great, but I want to read the ones about Snow and Baz!" Rainbow Rowell heard my pain, (or actually felt her own, according to the author's note) and decided to explore the world of Simon, and Baz, and Penelope, and Agatha. Fun!

Someone, somewhere, is going to make comparisons to another school or two for young people with magical abilities, but it won't be me. Rowell's school, magical system, and characters are all their own folks, not a carbon copy among them. She builds the tension between characters, shifts it, creates more edginess, and it's a great ride. Somewhere, someone's gonna be upset how she spun out the characters' relationships, but it won't be from this corner of the reading world. My only complaint is that while the character interactions were well-explored, I would have liked a bit more about the magic of the version of world in which the story was set. (Of course it's entirely possible I am dense, or still recovering from illness, and missed some valuable information.) But even so, this was a good read, and I applaud Ms Rowell for bringing her fictional-fictional characters into their own.

Tags: a-favorite-author, didn-t-want-to-put-it-down, grandgirl-nonsparkly-fodder, i-liked-it, magic, read, read-in-2015, satisfying, thank-you-charleston-county-library, vampires-ghosts-and-other-creatures, will-look-for-more-by-this-author, ya-lit

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mystic by Jason Denzel

I am fortunate enough to have talented, creative, and imaginative friends. One of the side benefits of that is that a number of them write, so I get to read creative and imaginative works by people I know and like. And sometimes, I get to be a part of that creative process, as a Beta reader. Such was the case with Mystic. Back in early 2014, this lucky gal got to read an early version of the manuscript, before it was accepted for publication.

Sometimes re-reading a book you read in manuscript is tiring. Not the case with Mystic. The story zips along, fairly sings to the reader, as Pomella, a commoner,  journeys to the seat of the new High Mystic, to compete as a candidate for her assistant. The catch is, few commoners have ever been welcome into the world of the Mystics. Should Pomella lose to one of the high born candidates, she most likely will be shunned by society, and become a scorned Unclaimed.

One of the things I really like about this book is that Jason has incorporated his extensive knowledge of the master/disciple relationship, gained from his many years involved in martial arts. Whether that relationship is in martial arts, spiritualism, or magic, there are essential shared elements. The author sculpts the growth of Pomella's character using the these same techniques. This, for me, along with the magic system within the book, and with a strong female main character, was quite welcome.

In a market for YA literature drenched in sensationalism, Mystic is a blessed relief. There are elements that satisfy those yearning for romance, but the story itself is focused on the task at hand: the chance to rise above a lowborn birth and find your destiny, find your song, in a world of magic. As the cover proclaims: "One Master. One Apprentice. One Chance."

Pick up a copy of Jason Denzel's Mystic for you or for your favorite YA reader. I think you'll be pleased.

(Jason was just here in Charleston for the start of a book tour that is running conjointly with The Wheel of Time Companion, of which my husband is a co-author. I have known Jason since 2007, when we met at the funeral of Robert Jordan (James O Rigney Jr.) It's just a tad embarrassing  to learn I've been saying "Denzel" wrong, all these years. Sorry Jason. Unfortunately, I can't remember which way is right, as I have both in my head now, so am bound to be wrong at least 50% of the time. What are friends for?!)

tags:  worth-the-rereadmet-the-authorfantasyread-in-2014read-in-2015first-novel-or-bookgrandgirl-nonsparkly-foddergreat-covermagictorwill-look-for-more-by-this-author ya-lit 

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Witch of Lime Street by David JAher

World War I and the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1919 carried many souls from this earth. But could those left behind actually still communicate with them? It is this question that is at the heart of The Witch of Lime Street. David Jaher presents the background of the time, and those who championed each side, including Sir Author Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini.  The two sides debated mightily with perhaps the culmination being offered by Scientific American magazine: $2500 to any medium who could physically produce proof of life after death and another $2500 for a genuine example of spiritual photography. The panel of experts included MIT physicists, respected judges and Harvard psychologists. And Harry Houdini, a man bereft from loss, but soured by the frauds and schemers bilking other bereaved out of masses amounts of money. But also a man who was an expert on illusion, and who vehemently unmasked charlatans. The panel dismissed many applicants: frauds, delusional, mentally ill. And then came Margery (aka Mrs Crandon, or The Witch of Lime Street.)

The author did good job presenting both sides, allowing the reader to act as their own judge. The book reads well, though the pace dropped for me a midstream. However, if this period of time is of interest, and the phenomenon of clairvoyance and interacting with the sprits of the dead intrigues, this presents a good picture of a time in history when these pastimes were prominent.

Many thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and to the publisher for sending me this copy.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Doodletopia: Cartoons by Christopher Hart

I'm afraid I'm going to part from the crowd on this one. It's a fine book, and I can see the appeal of Hart's style of cartooning, but it's not for me. I was hoping for more tips on figure drawing, and they're there, but mainly if I want to draw like Christopher Hart. My style is very different from his, and I'm not wanting to change. I think I just somehow entirely missed the "cartoon" in the title (which is crazy, because it's right there in big letters, but I was rushing to select a book from Blogging for Books, and now hear my grandmother's voice telling me "haste makes waste"). Oh well. I think that if I dig in more deeply, I'll probably find some helpful information regarding proportions etc, but for the most part, it's not really what I'd hoped. Plus side is, I know someone who'll adore this book, so it's being put away for a holiday gift. Many thanks to Blogging for Books and the publisher for sending this on to me.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hand-drawn: Pysanky-inspired coloring by Amy Romanczuk


So.... this is what's happening. A pysanky-inspired coloring book by yours truly. It was great fun to create-- an amazing process of inspiration, creativity, artistic passions, and feedback from wonderful people. The book is with the production folks and heads to the printer shortly. It will be available on czukart.com (or locally through me). Details to follow. Get your coloring on!


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Initial thoughts on The Joyous Path: The Life of Avatar Meher Baba's Sister, Mani, Volume 1, by Heather Nadel

A package arrived at my doorstep yesterday. Inside were the two volumes of The The Joyous Path: The Life of Avatar Meher Baba's Sister, Mani. I actually squealed with delight, as Mani S. Irani was an amazing woman, and a huge influence in my life. Her love, and her devotion to God, carried out daily, with a smile, a laugh, a touch of tenderness, and a huge dose compassion, helped show me a path to follow, and a way to try and shape my life. I'm not nearly as successful as Mani was, but when I stumble, I can hear her voice encouraging me to brush myself off and try again.

I am not going to write a review yet, as I'm still reading the book(s). I just want to say, that for all who knew Mani, her voice comes through, loud and clear, on every page. I hear her in my head as I read.  I am once again sitting in Mandali Hall at Meherazad, just north of Ahmadnagar, in India, listening to the sister of Avatar Meher Baba share tales of her life's journey. And to those who did not have the fortune to meet Mani, or have never heard of Meher Baba, you're in for a treat. For Mani, regardless of your own personal spiritual beliefs, is the exemplification of the love exchange between Master and disciple. It is a beautiful story, a journey of devotion to God. Heather Nadel, who was Mani's longtime helper and companion, beautifully ties together the tales of Mani and her life. (Full disclosure: I am privileged to call Heather friend, and blessed to call her sister. Just about the smartest thing my big brother Erico ever did was to be persistent and marry this beautiful soul. But even if we did not share a name, I still would love this book. I can hardly believe how perfectly Heather captured Mani's spirit and shares it with the reader.)

In short, The Joyous Path is a joyous read.

Friday, October 16, 2015

So Anyway by John Cleese

Though I am a John Cleese fan, I rarely watched Monty Python when it originally aired. (It was on at a bad time for me, as I recall.) Nonetheless, certain bits and bobs did make their way into my world, enough so that I occasionally find myself singing the lumberjack song, or chuckling about dead parrots. I was introduced to Fawlty Towers when it originally aired, and adored it-- so much so that we have the complete set (on VHS no less, and introduced our kids to it at a tender age.) What I liked about this book was some of the fill-in-the-gaps about John Cleese that occurred before, during, and around these productions (and A Fish Called Wanda). The beginning chapters about Cleese's boyhood and school days were particularly interesting to me. And while the latter part of the memoir has drawn criticism for running through various shows and projects, popping in bits of scripts here and there, I found it interesting, as I didn't know a lot of the British shows pre-Python, though the actors and personalities are known from other projects (David Frost, Peter Sellers, Marty Feldman etc.) Yes, there were times when I was less engaged than others, but there were enough delightful nuggets of information, and moments where Mr Cleese's ability as a writer of comedy caused me to laugh out loud, that I have come away happy. I hadn't realized how tightly kniy that group of writers and performers were or how far back they knew each other. 

Having introduced our grandkids to Dr Who and Firefly, I think it's time to add British comedy to the mix, starting with some John Cleese projects.

Thank you to Blogging for Books and to the publisher for sending a copy of this book my way.

Tags: 

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Sevin

For those of us who consider our favorite books family members, for those who make friends with the characters in the books they read, for whom a treasured excursion is to a book store or library, for those who love not only the story, but the feel of pages-- the call of the words on a page, this is a marvelous find. There's something about a well done curmudgeon that I adore, and AJ Fikry, with his gentle thaw while never quite losing his unique outlook on life, totally captivated me and my literary heart. The rest of the characters are wonderful, and evolve in a totally realistic, human way. Gabrielle Zevin, incorporated both books I love, and books for me to add to my reading list, which is always a plus. And, I got to enjoy all the literary references (who didn't see The Book Thief coming when that customer complained about the book Fikry sold her?), and puns (A good mandarin is hard to find? How perfect).  Plus, she's got six books under her pen that I can go back and explore, should I want to. I only wish that The Late Bloomer was a real book. Sounded like a good'un.
An interview I heard with the author on NPR is here.
Now, I'm off to update my reading wishlist.

Tags: books-about-booksheard-interview-with-authori-heard-about-it-on-npri-liked-itmade-me-laugh-out-loud-for-realmade-me-look-something-upmade-me-thinkreadread-in-2015read-on-recommendationthank-you-charleston-county-library

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley

There was a lot to like in this book: art, love, history, intertwined tales, Corsica for starters. (And I will give a slight spoiler alert at the end, so stop reading when you next see 3 stars like this: ***). Poor Kate has lost both her mother, a famous ballerina/choreographer, and her grandmother (actually her mother's adoptive mother) within a year. It's a blow to anyone. But shortly before her her grandmother died, she revealed a hint to the identify of Kate's actual grandmother, her mother's birthmother. Part of this hint includes a drawing from 1929 of a young woman, who bears a striking familial resemblance. Kate begins a quest for the woman, which first brings her to the artist, and to the island of Corsica. The narrative floats between Kate's story in 1986 and that of the artist and of the woman in the sketch, the illusive Alice/Celia from the 1920's through WWII. I found it a interesting tale. I appreciate it when a book expands my viewpoint and my knowledge. ***



(You were warned: Spoiler alert)
One of the things I liked best about this book was the end. In a fairy tale world Alice and Tom would have ended with them being reunited, but Foley didn't yield to the happily ever after that some might crave, and for this, I applaud her. Both Tom and Alice continued to love each other their entire lives, recognizing the other as their one great love. But though they each had loss and disappointment, and lived without the other, they each had full lives, filled with love (though maybe not a "great love'.) They had family, friends, careers, and memories. They did great things. They died knowing the other was alive. It was realistic. Their story continues to be a love story, even though it didn't have the traditional ending. That was fine by me. And I also applaud the almost afterthought of how the relationship with Kate and Oliver panned out. It was a product of this story, but not the focus of this story. Nice, in my opinion, that the author resisted temptations that could have reshaped the ending.

Tags: first-novel-or-bookmade-me-look-something-upreadrounded-up-in-star-ratingtaught-me-something


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon


The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

It's lovely to pick up a book with great expectation, and, within the first few pages, sigh with contentment. It was lovely to be immersed in several of my favorite things: books, friendship, love, and the French country-side. As none of those things ever flow 100% smoothly, it's only natural that my level of contentment varied at points in the book.

It's been a few days since I finished The Little Paris Bookshop and when I sat down to write my impressions, the first thing that came to mind was one of the characters talking about how best to arrange your bookshelves: not by color or title, but by subject, so that Hemingway's Old Man and the... was with other books about the sea. That notion delighted me and imagined putting my own bookshelf together so that novels and nonfiction nestled together by subject. I quite liked the thought that Chocolat could nestle next to Julia Child.

There are other delightful moments in this book. And some completely mournful, with a French soul. Overall, though, the moments blend together into a well-told tale of love, longing, forgiving, and ultimately, moving on in life.Jean Perdu sells books from La Pharmacie Litteraire (The Literary Apothecary), his barge on the Siene. He begins a journey on the river to help resolve something that has kept his life from moving forward for the past twenty years. The journey, like the novel, is languid at times, tumultuous at others. One of my favorite quotes is “Books are like people, and people are like books, I’ll tell you how I go about it. I ask myself: Is he or she the main character in his or her life? What is her motive? Or is she a secondary character in her own tale? Is she in the process of editing herself out of her story because her husband, her career, her children or her job are consuming her entire text?”. Along with my imaginary rearrangement of my bookshelf, I say now try to place people as characters in the book of their life.

And the idea of secret tango milongas? Makes me want to learn to dance the tango and go travelling again.

Tags: bookcrossingbooks-about-booksfoodiemade-me-look-something-upreadread-in-2015read-on-recommendationrounded-up-in-star-ratingtaught-me-something


Friday, September 25, 2015

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? By Roz Chast

I don't think I could have read this book earlier than this year. It would have been far too painful, living with, and then losing, my own mother, who was of the same generation as Roz Chast's parents in this wonderful graphic-memoir. Chast's brilliant cartoons in the New Yorker have long been favorites. In her memoir, she turns her sharp eye to what so many of us are in the midst of now: our parents' journey through elder years to the end. It's not an easy subject, but Chast is both brutally honest, and piercingly true to the pitfalls (many), insights (some), and the humor (readily available) that comes in this part of life. Though my parents came from similar backgrounds as hers, the evolution of character was completely different. My father died shockingly young, so I was spared his aging foibles. My mother, a completely guileless, and completely giving woman, died in her upper 80's. (When I say guileless, I do mean it. My brother once commented that the word "Gullible" was not in the dictionary, and she believed him.) She was, perhaps, the antithesis of Chast's mother. But the worries, fears, concerns, hopes that Chast depicts in her memoir/graphics really hit home. Been there. Done that. I miss the crap out of my mother.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I read banned books: Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

This book is on my TBR stack. It contains Cracked Up to Be and Some Girls Are, the latter of which was originally a book on the reading list of West Ashley High School for this summer, but then pulled because of parent protest. What happened next is very cool, much cooler than banned books. Book lovers of the internet rose to the occasion and have supplied literally hundreds (yes, hundreds. Over 830 at the last count, I think) of copies for teens to read. Read about the adventure here. I have picked up this copy to give to my granddaughter, who fits the age of the target audience. And I will read it, too, though there are elements of the story that seem not to my taste. But hey, I believe in freedom to read, and freedom to choose when to stop reading.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Time Garden by Daria Song

I love pattern. Designs delight me, and line drawings can make me swoon. So, it's quite understandable that The Time Garden pushes all the right buttons for me. I also am an pysanky artist, who has taken the symbols and designs of pysanky into 2D art (You can see some of my work at http://czukart.com.) I find inspiration in the world around me, and in the works of other artists. Sometimes you can look at what another artist has done, and it speaks to you. Sometimes, it helps you puzzle out a solution for something that has been stymieing you. Sometimes, it makes you say, "Oh wow!" and then rush to pick up a pen to try your own ideas. Daria Song's beautiful art speaks to me, inspires me, and encourages me. Plus, she added a little story to support the art, so that I can read it with my grandchild and we can talk about the story, what we see in the art, and how we'd embellish it. That's a win in a book for sure. For the record, I've steered clear of adult coloring books because I feared they might pull my own art one direction or another. Ms. Song has her own unique style, and in this book, is more reality based than my own. However, it is a style that is beautiful, and makes my artist soul happy to see.

Many thanks to Blogging for Books and to the publisher for sending me this book. And many thanks to Daria Song: you are well named for your art makes my soul sing.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Wicked Charms by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton

I wish I'd listened to my inner book critic and remembered how I felt reading book #2. Could have saved myself 100 pages of "give me my time back". Won't rate, because I didn't finish it.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbø

A somewhat different sort of fiction from
Jo Nesbø, which carries his usual complex characters and subtly sudden twists of plot. Olav Johansen, the central character, isn't very good at a lot of things: he makes a lousy get-away driver, he's not good as a bank robber or as a pimp. But he is good at being a fixer: the guy who does the dirty jobs for the boss and kills on demand. Nothing personal, of course. Someone wants somebody else dead and Olav is the guy for the job. The book opens with Olav on an assignment, and moves on to his next job, which proves to be a bit sticky: to kill the boss's wife at the request of that same boss. Things get complex, in true Nesbø style, though because of the length of the story it doesn't evolve into Harry Hole detail. There's a great interpretation by Olav of Les Misérables, which probably would have surprised Hugo, and makes the reader wonder at the Olav's perceptions in general. But, it's a good read, though a quick one. I did notice this is referred to as "Blood on Snow #1"on GoodReads, which makes me wonder of Nesbø is going to give us a series of stories from the viewpoint of the criminal now.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Roofus Rastus Johnson Brown

Once upon a time there was a girl from Brooklyn. Her parents, Ada and Avram,  had come to America from the old country, found each other, and settled into a life together on New York's East Side, selling eggs from a wooden cart. Shortly after she was born, Ada and Avram  moved their young family from the city to the fresh air of Brooklyn, settling in a brownstone near the  Brighton Beach boardwalk. Though Ada and Avram had travelled many miles from the countryside near Lviv, the girl from Brooklyn didn't travel much. Her entire family, for the most part, lived within blocks of the her home. She travelled through the books she read, and dreamed someday of a great adventure.

The family grew, adding a couple of brothers (one having been her father's oldest son, whose mother had died in the old country during the Spanish Influenza epidemic, and was finally able to immigrate to live with his father and new mother), and a sister. The girl from Brooklyn blossomed. She had a joyful nature, an inquisitive quick mind, and the ability to give wholehearted attention in a conversation. She also was extremely teasable, and even in adulthood would sputter in protest when her younger brother sang "Rufus Rastas Johnson Brown, whatcha gonna do when the rent comes round" and called her Rufus, instead of her given name of Ruthe.

The girl from Brooklyn loved and was loved. In her twenty-first year, she wed. She still dreamed of travel, but she and her Eli were young, limited in funds, and it was wartime. Eventually, though, they were able to begin to take road trips to explore this beautiful country, as well as travel to move their own clan to new locations as Eli's studies and work required.

Looking back now, her journeys can be traced through the souvenirs she collected. Her charm bracelet gathered tokens from New York, Massachusetts, and other eastern seaboard states. Eventually, she added Wyoming to the chain. The bracelet also documents the three children Ruthe and Eli brought into this world, two boys and a girl (I am that girl, now grown, myself.)

At some point, the charm bracelet got full, but our Ruthe still wanted to get a token to commemorate  her travels. As a young girl, she'd been given a spoon from Rockaway Beach, which she treasured. She began to add small spoons as souvenirs for each state she visited. Soon she had spoons from coast to coast.













When the girl from Brooklyn, who had gone on to live in Washington DC, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Missouri, and South Carolina, left this life in 2009, she left behind many who loved her. She also left behind her spoon collection. Occasionally, I'd take the spoons from the box where they rested and remember our times and travels together. The collection was one of the things I kept when we downsized from the family home to our current abode. But what do you do with a collection of state spoons besides dust them?

It's no secret that I have a love of art, particularly the vibrant artists that we have come to know here in Charleston. Last year, we first saw the wonderful works of an incredibly talented and imaginative metal artist here in Charleston. Since then, we've had the good fortune to become friends with him, and marvel at the works, large and small that he creates. But when I saw Matt Wilson's (aka Airtight Artwork) silverware metal sculptures, I knew what had to happen with my mother's spoon collection.

So far, only one little guy has been created -- the smallest bird Matt has yet done. Its tail feathers are the spoons of South Carolina and Colorado, which makes me smile for many reasons. And even more thrilling for me was that I had the opportunity to add my own touch into this little bird, and will be collaborating with Matt on some future projects. This one, however, stays here with me. I've named him Rufus, in honor of that old song that my uncle used to sing to torment his big sister.








Thursday, September 10, 2015

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal


When this book first came out, I wasn't 100% sure, from the descriptions, if it was a novel or memoir. Either way, I was pretty sure I wanted to read it. It is the story of Eva Thorvald, an iconic and imaginative chef, told not about her directly, but via vignettes from the pov of people who have floated in and out of her life, starting with her sommelier mother who abandons her in infancy, and her chef father who also leaves her in infancy, not by choice, but by death. Eva's climb to becoming the figure behind a phenomenally successful and sought-after popup dinner event is fascinating. When well done, which is the case here, the interweaving of stories and characters is a delight to follow and find individual threads while enjoying the whole cloth... or to use a culinary example, it's the ability to find and appreciate the subtle hint of thyme against the burst of rosemary, while enjoying the mouth-feel of the meal. (And for the record, the only time I ever ate sweet pepper jelly was when I was pregnant.)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Fastest Thing on Wings by Terry Masear

I'm a birder. Birds in the wild fascinate me, and I am certain that watching the song and shore birds that populated my yard when I was in recuperation mode after being placed on medical leave were crucial to my healing. It was a thrill for me to learn the different species that came past my window, but a true milestone when I realized I could identify different individual birds by their habits, markings, and personality. But to care for them, in my home? I don't think I have what it takes.

I've now read two memoirs written by people who have rescued birds. In each case, the species are ones I love (the first was a barn owl and now this book on hummingbirds). And, in each case, the authors have sacrificed much of their lives and personal freedoms to care for the birds that the winds of fate have blown their way. Their dedication, and that of people who rehab hurt animals, amazes me. I'm a nurse, but as a caregiver to ill or hurt humans, I could put in my 8 hours and go home. For author Terry Masear and others who run rehab centers for injured, it's a 24/7 commitment during fledgling season. Wow.

This book taught me a great deal. I will admit that when I heard Masear speak on a radio talk show, I thought she was anthropomorphizing a lot. But reading the situations, rather than hearing a brief radio chat, threw her observations and assumptions into a bit clearer light. I've always liked seeing hummingbirds buzz about, but now I shall look at them with different eyes.

tags: heard-interview-with-author, i-heard-about-it-on-npr, i-liked-the-pictures, made-me-look-something-up, made-me-think, read, read-in-2015, taught-me-something, thank-you-charleston-county-library

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler


I first heard about this book on one of the many book sites I visit, but didn't have the opportunity to pick it up until I stumbled on it at the library and remembered I wanted to read it. Interesting interweaving of present day and family history, with some unusual twists. I mean, not everyone comes from a family of mermaids who die young, on the same date, and have a sister (also a swimmer) who is troubled, and the death date is approaching. Solve a mystery? Sure? Track your heritage? Sure. Crack your heritage curse? Read the book and find out.

A couple of side comments, though: I liked the glimpses into Carni-life and the circus folks. I wish I knew more about Tarot cards. I liked that Simon, the central character in the modern telling, is a librarian. The script used for text of the letters included in was hard for me to read (old eyes.) And, it was fun that the author included drawings in the book, though I wish they'd been a bit more detailed and in color.

tags:  thank-you-charleston-county-library, books-about-books, first-novel-or-book, taught-me-something, made-me-look-something-up, made-me-think, read-in-2015

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Siege Winter: A Novel by Ariana Franklin, Samantha Norman

Once I got over my disappointment that the last book Ariana Franklin was writing when she died (which was finished by her daughter) was not a resolution to the cliffhanger in the "Mistress of the Art of Death" series, I was able to settle in and enjoy this one. Good historical fiction, sans bodice ripper element.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore

It's a sequel to a favorite book of mine, by a favorite author, with some of my favorite characters of his, set in a city I adore. It's full of snark, and irreverence, and humor, and completely whacko situations, and a touch of philosophy. You expected I wouldn't like it?

Thank you <i>so</i> much to library thing and the publishers for sending this one my way. It came while I was ill, and everyone knows laughter is the best medicine.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Just a teeny bit terrifying....


Extra special bonus? September 17 would have been my mom's 94th birthday.

There's an invite over on Facebook, set up by City Lights, if you think you can join us.

Friday, August 21, 2015

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Dr Horrible? Yup.
Buffy? Uh huh.
Dollhouse? I think so.
House? Saw that one, too.
Eureka? Eureka!
Cheetos? Crunch.
Geek and Sundry? Subscribed.
Tabletop? A few times
Supernatural? (We haven't gotten to her arc yet)
The Guild? Wowzer!

Yeah, I'm a Felicia Day fan. Intelligent humor, artful awkwardness. Seemingly unafraid to be outside of the norm for females in the entertainment industry. Honesty.

But is that her?

I was utterly thrilled to learn that someone I enjoy so much had a book out and immediately put in a reservation for it at my library and was first on the list for when it came in-- which gave me just enough time to begin to worry that I'd be disappointed by the book. That it would be as bad as some other celebrity memoirs that I've read. That I would cringe the next time I saw her on internet or television.

As they say down under, no worries mate!

Felicia's book is marvelous. Brutally honest, funny, informative. She plays the quirky geek girl often, but she is quirky. She is a geek and she is female, for real. Her upbringing was decidedly unconventional. I never would have guessed that she didn't graduate from high school, but managed to go to university, major in math and music/violin (4.0!) Her foray into acting and onto the internet fascinating. As for integrity, she's got it, and isn't afraid to speak about details many people keep hidden (struggles with her mental health), while keeping private details that many blather too freely (no kiss and tell name dropping, though she does tell that she kisses.) The voice in the book is open, direct, entertaining, able to poke fun at herself.

I came away with these impressions:

1. I'd recommend this book to fans and to girls coming up who probably fit the quirky geek girl mold. The road may not be easy, but it can be done. Stay the course.

2. This gal is a mensch. I'd have her over for martinis in a skinny minute.

3. I know jack squat about gaming.

4. Joss Whedon writes a kick ass forward.

5. You go, girl. Thank you for a great read.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

On loss, and a review of Lost and Found by Brooke Davis

I've been thinking a lot about loss lately, coming to terms with the loved ones who have left or are in the active process of departing. We're not a vocal bunch about it, in general. But if you're seven years old, as Millie Bird, the pivotal character of this novel is, you'd have even less experience. Millie, and three compatriots she gathers (recently widowed Karl the Touch Typist (87), local hermit Agatha Pantha (82), and Manny the department store manikin), come together in this debut novel, to search out both Millie's truant mother, and a stability in a world that for each of them has gone rocky.

It took me a little while to find the rhythm of this book, but once I did, I enjoyed it. I saw the world through Millie's eyes, as she collects a list of dead things to help her understand and cope with the loss of her mother, and the death of her father. She leaves messages like beacons for her mother: on windows of department stores, backs of buses, the door of her abandoned home: "In here Mum". She explores the hyphen, the dash between two dates on a grave stone. She becomes a superhero: Captain Funeral. She is a seven year old girl, in search of answers.

The winning part of this book for me (and what raised it in the rating), though, was the article by the author that follows the story, Relearning the World. Davis' world was reshaped January 27, 2006, when she found my mum on the front page of the newspaper for all the wrong reasons: "Freak Gate Crush Death" in capitals. Letters so thick, so black; death so close it could have been me. (You can google it for more info, if you wish.) I, too, live in that place where grief crops up unexpectedly, fiercely. The prescribed mourning periods may be over, but it can be a simple thing -- the taste of a peach in summer, the way the rain moves across a beach, the smell of lilacs in the air, that make me long for those now gone from this earth. It's hard to share, because there are those who simply say "get over it", while others understand that memory is an important part of life, the way you preserve heritage, a vestige of precious love.  I am coming to terms that it's ok to let grief reenter the world, to be through it but not over it. To me, were I "over" grief, I'd be "over" people who shaped my life, my world. Like Davis, I will move back and forth and up and down and over and sideways through different stages of grief for as long as I'm allowed to be here. I am beginning to understand that gif is now, simply, a part of everything I do, everything I say, everything I write. Everything I am.

Tags: first-novel-or-book, made-me-think, read, read-in-2015, rounded-up-in-star-rating, thank-you-charleston-county-library

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Out on the Wire: Uncovering the Secrets of Radio's New Masters of Story with Ira Glass by Jessica Abel

It's no secret that I am a devotee of public radio. NPR, PRI, APR, are a large part of my daily life, as are other public radio offerings in the forms of podcasts and music. (We're also big radio drama fans, old and new, but that's another story.) Book+favorite subject+creative format=Big Win for me, and thanks to Blogging for Books, I was able to snag a copy of Out on the Wire, a graphic/comic documentary about narrative radio shows. 

Being familiar with all but one of the shows that are explored in this book by Jessica Abel really helped. I dare anyone who is a "This American Life" fan to absorb the squares with Ira Glass in them and not hear his distinct voice. I found the details behind the scenes fascinating. However, the take-home message for me was that this is a great book about writing.

I live in a world surrounded by creative minds, absorbed in the worlds of writing, film, and art. The goal of all these endeavors is to share an image, tell a story. What is documented in this book are the approaches used on radio to tell stories, how to craft your message so you have a hook, explore the adventure, and wrap it up. Using techniques like the focus sentence to create the story, Abel shares the knowledge of folks who make their living this way via radio. There are chapters on creating a voice, sharing the visual image through words, editing, adding sound, and a kick-ass forward by Ira Glass.

All in all, for me, this book is a keeper and is going on my books on writing shelf for inspiration and aide when I do get back to editing my novel.

Tags: blogging-for-booksgraphic-manga-etcnonfictionreadtaught-me-something