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 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.