Marjorie's World of Books

I have to admit - I'm terribly addicted to books! Will never live long enough to read all that I want to read. The problem is, authors keep writing more! :) 

Challenge Participant Professional Reader

I think it's time to say goodbye

I'm surprised at how sad this makes me but I think it's time to say goodbye to BookLikes.  I've been trying to post a review here tonight but can't get anything to work.  Not a new story to any of you who have blogs here.  Since I review ARCs of new books for publishers, I can't refer them to my blog and then have them not even be able to bring up the page on their computer.  BookLikes gets better and faster for a short time and then just clogs up again.  Today has been excruciatingly slow.

 

So unless BookLikes becomes more consistent and usable, I'll just be using my blog at WordPress.  I'm still learning the ropes there but hope to make it work.  If anyone would like to follow me there, it would be most appreciated.

 

https://marjoriesworldofbooks.wordpress.com/

 

I also post reviews at the following if you'd like to follow me there:

 

Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/32379875-Marjorie

 

LibraryThings

http://www.librarything.com/profile/hubblegal

 

Twitter

https://twitter.com/marjoriecracked

 

The Reading Room/Bookstr

https://www.thereadingroom.com/hubblegal/review-diary

 

Fare thee well and I'll miss you.

Kundalini Yoga and Meditation

Invincible Living: The Power of Yoga, The Energy of Breath, and Other Tools for a Radiant Life - Guru Jagat

This is my first experience with Kundalini Yoga and Meditation. Kundalini Yoga is designed to raise complete body awareness.  There’s a lot of attention on the spine, the navel and breathing.  There’s no need to get into complicated positions and most of the exercises are fairly quick.  The meditations are mostly breathing with silent mantras.  Even practicing just a few minutes a day is said to bring you much benefit.

 

I did receive benefit from one I tried. When I was reading this book, we were having a particularly warm October and while it was cooling off at night, the house was still quite warm at bedtime.  To cool the body, breathe only through the left nostril, which will help you sleep.  I did feel cooler breathing that way.  There’s another one I want to try for sleep but I was just too tired to remember all the steps and the mantra.  It just doesn’t work well with the light on reading the instructions from the e-reader!  And it said you should sit with your spine straight and to continue until you fall asleep.  I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to fall asleep sitting up and when I fall over onto the bed, I’m pretty sure that will wake me up!

 

I’ve been doing the Cat-Cow Pose that they recommend because I know how important it is to keep the spine flexible. I’ve always heard that yoga moves should be done slowly but this one says that the more quickly you move, the more anti-aging benefits you receive.  I can’t say that I enjoyed doing this quickly.  Maybe it’s something that you need to get used to doing.

 

The book does seem to be geared to people who have a bit more yoga experience than I do, though it’s advertised for anyone at any age. It mentions several times “vibrating the mantra at the brow point” with no explanation as to what that meant.  I looked it up online and apparently repeating mantras creates an energy vibration.  One pose said “inhale, pull root lock, exhale and relax”.  It completely lost me there.

 

If you do try this book, I would recommend the print edition as it’s not easy going back and forth in an e-reader looking up the different yoga and meditations that you want to try. I also couldn’t read the photos with writing.

 

There’s quite a bit in here that has intrigued me so I’ll be dipping into this book again and try to work through some of my confusion with the instructions. I think it’s the type of book that you learn more from over time.

 

This book was given to me by the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

 

Dark, perverted tale

The Lonely Hearts Hotel - Heather O'Neill

This story takes place in 1914. Rose and Pierrot are the children of poor, unwed teenagers and both end up at the same orphanage when they’re abandoned by their mothers.  There’s a strong bond between these two children as they face their loveless days with the nuns.  The nuns are determined to keep Rose and Pierrot apart and to thwart their love and happiness in any way they can.  But this is a love that can’t be beat down, even when Pierrot is sent to live with a wealthy man and Rose is sent to work as a governess.

 

Rose and Pierrot are very imaginative characters and their journey through life is written much like a fairy tale, with dancing bears and magic at every turn. But it’s a truly tragic story, filled with child rape, child abuse, animal abuse, drugs, prostitution, etc., etc., etc.  It’s very profane, blunt and sexually graphic, which I felt was done in a way that seemed to be specifically for shock effect, though I’ve read where others have thought it lyrical.  The writing consists of far too many metaphors, though some of the metaphors are quite beautiful.  On one hand, the book can be seen as a story of two entrancing characters trying their best to struggle through a depraved world.  On the other hand, it’s just a perverted, tragic mess, with one atrocity following another.  I just wanted the book to be over so I could escape the horrendous world created by the author.

 

Sorry, but I can’t recommend this one. I was caught up in the comparison to “The Night Circus” but this is a much different type of book.  This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Excellent tale of love and betrayal

Leopard At The Door - Jennifer McVeigh

When Rachel Fullsmith loses her mother at the age of 12, she also basically loses her father and her home in Kenya due to her father sending her to boarding school in England. When she returns to Kenya 6 years later, she finds that very little remains the same.  Not only is another woman living with her father, but there is political upheaval taking place.  The Mau Mau Rebellion was a real-life uprising that took place in Kenya in the 1950’s.  The Kikuyu community has been split apart, some remaining loyal to the British in Kenya and others violently rebelling.  The violence is even directed at those Kikuyu who refuse to take the Mau Mau oath and who just want to live peacefully.  Rachel longs to help the Kikuyu but Michael, a Kikuyu who was her teacher when she was little, doesn’t always agree with her methods.  Rachel also has a memory of an incident that occurred when she was a child that she has always kept secret.  Will that memory be as much of a danger to her as the Mau Mau?  Or will her forbidden love be the most dangerous of all?

 

This is a wonderful book packed with emotions. The main character, Rachel, sometimes seem to be unbelievably naïve but she is very young and has lived a protected life.  I’m not sure of the age difference between her and her love interest but his previous role in her life when she was a child caused me to cringe a bit when they become involved.  But regardless of those small faults, I was pulled completely into this engrossing story.  Parts of it read like “Out of Africa” with the beauty and originality of Africa shining through the struggle between the Africans and Europeans to live together in peace.  Ms. McVeigh writes in a similar lyrical manner.  She does a great job in conveying the reasons for the rebellion and the division among the Kikuyu.  The story is a very suspenseful, dramatic one.  Highly recommended.

 

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Not just for seniors

Relax into Yoga for Seniors: A Six-Week Program for Strength, Balance, Flexibility, and Pain Relief - Kimberly Carson MPH  E-RYT, Carol Krucoff, Jim Carson PhD, Mitchell W. Krucoff MD

This is an excellent introduction to yoga. It’s geared towards seniors but I think it would be beneficial to anyone learning the poses and setting up a home routine for themselves. 

 

The book starts off with several chapters detailing the benefits of yoga, particularly for seniors. It talks about the vicious cycle of inactivity as we age.  Movement hurts so people stop moving.  Unused muscles become weak, which leads to more pain and immobility so people move even less.  Not moving leads to weight gain, increased pain, plus the increased risk of heart disease and other health issues.  The basic message of those first chapters is to keep moving and yoga is a great way to do that.  Those first chapters also delve into what movements you should or shouldn’t do if you have specific health problems, such as heart and circulatory problems, osteoporosis, joint problems and arthritis, joint replacement, lung disease, cancer or chronic pain.

 

This is a six-week program so that yoga positions are separated into six sections. The first section describes the foundational practices that should begin and end each yoga session.  That includes the three-part breath and range-of-motion sequence that would start your session to relax you and loosen you up.  Also it describes the relaxation pose that you would end each session with.

 

For the remaining five weeks, you would start off with the three-part breath and range-of-motion sequence, then add that week’s poses, ending with the relaxation pose. Some of the poses require a chair, most don’t.  Each of the poses have very detailed instructions, including tips you should remember as you do the  pose and cautions that you should take if you have limited movement or a particular health issue, including a picture of the pose. The book ends with additional practices to enhance vigor and relaxation and also how to set up your own personal program.  I haven’t finished all six weeks yet but I haven’t come across any that I’ve found hard to do.

 

What makes this book unique from any other yoga book that I’ve had is ability to download audio guided practices. You should look through each pose explanation very carefully so you have a good understanding of what you will be doing in the session and then download that week’s practice and just follow the very calm, relaxing voice of the instructor who will slowly walk you through each pose.  The only thing I wish they had done with the audio downloads is to include the beginning and ending poses with each week’s new poses so you don’t have to first listen to the beginning of week one, switch to the week you’re on and then go back to the download of the first week to end.  I’m sure as you keep practicing, those beginning and ending poses will become routine and you’ll no longer need to listen to them.  These audio downloads are like having your own personal yoga instructor in your home.

 

Highly recommended to anyone beginning a gentle yoga practice.

 

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway and am under no obligation to write a review.

Such an extraordinary and haunting tale

Idaho: A Novel - Emily Ruskovich

I truly didn’t want this book to end. At its heart is the story of a tragic act, but it’s so much more than just that act.  Each chapter is a literary work of art.  There’s the story of Wade and Jenny and their two daughters, June and May, and the terrible act that tore them apart.  There’s the story of Wade and Ann and her efforts to heal his broken heart and mind.  There’s the story of Wade and his father and the health issue they share.  There’s the story of June and May, two young sisters living their lives in the days before tragedy strikes.  There’s the story of the friendship between Jenny and Elizabeth.  There’s the story of a young boy who loses his leg in a freak accident.  Each of these stories are tied together but each is worthy of its own telling.

 

The story is not told in a linear fashion. The chapters travel between present, past and future but are not confusing in any way.  Time weaves back and forth to create a beautiful mosaic.  All is tied together – love, forgiveness, regrets, memory, imagination.  Ms. Ruskovich’s book deserves every award I’m sure it will get.   This is one of my favorite books of the year.  Most highly recommended.

 

This book was given to me by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

A bit too adventurous for me

Lucky Peach Presents Power Vegetables!: Turbocharged Recipes for Vegetables with Guts - Peter Meehan, the editors of Lucky Peach

This is quite a unique cookbook in that the recipes are different from what are usually found in a vegetable cookbook. This isn’t a vegetarian cookbook in that there are very few complete vegetarian meals but mostly side dishes. There are actually only a few recipes that I probably will ever try, such as the Quiche Lorraine, Ribollita and Latkes. Whenever I saw something else that looked interesting to me, it had ingredients that I’d never heard of and had no idea where I would find them. The baked Eggplant Marinara looked good to me until I saw that the only cheese in it was 3 cups of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It does call for a large ball of fresh mozzarella but with the cold slices placed on top or on the side. Maybe I’ll give it a try one day.

If you’re looking for exotic recipes such as Daikon with XO Sauce, Giardiniera, Mujadara, Pipian Rojo and Akuri, you’ll love this cookbook. The illustrations and author’s notes are fun but I can’t see myself getting much use of this cookbook.

This book was given to me by the publisher through Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.

More Info

Author Bio

What type of breather are you?

Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve Your Mental and Physical Health - Belisa Vranich

Everyone should read this book! It explains how our breathing changes throughout our lives due to stress, trauma and anxiety and how we start to hold our bellies tight and breathe up in our chest area.  That type of breathing doesn’t allow your body enough oxygen and can lead to many different types of health problems, including heart problems, insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, obesity, GI tract difficulties and even memory problems.  This is a 14-day program that will re-teach your body to breathe as you did when you were a child, using the diaphragm instead of chest muscles.

 

I’ve become more aware of my breathing since starting up yoga practice once again a few months ago. I found this book to be so helpful in re-training my body to breathe the way I should be breathing.  I’ve only be using the book a few days and already feel the expansion in my ribs and lungs.  The muscles in my back are a bit sore due to the increased use of those particular muscles that haven’t been used in many years due to the short, shallow, upper body breaths I’ve been taking.

 

The book includes simple, quick exercises that you can use to strengthen those muscles used in breathing to give you increase your lung capacity. I thought the beginning of the book read like an infomercial and was a bit repetitive.  But stick with it as when the author gets to the exercises, they are excellent.  Quite a few of them I’ve been using in my yoga practice so were familiar to me.  There’s also an excellent section for athletes.  The book is very easy to read and understand.

 

I’ve always been an admirer of Dr. Andrew Weil and there’s a quote by him included in the book that I’d like to share. “If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn to breathe correctly.”

 

Here’s to better breathing for all! Highly recommended book.

 

This book was given to me by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

A gorgeous piece of literature!

The Barrowfields: A Novel - Phillip Lewis

Henry’s father is obsessed with literature and the writing of a novel, so much so that each family member’s life seems to revolve around his books and writing endeavors. Henry’s parents buy a strange, metal and glass house, which is possibly haunted, in the Appalachian Mountains.  There are some back flashes to the lives of Henry’s grandparents also.  Henry grows up in this spooky house, longing for some kind of connection with his father.  When their family is struck by tragedy, Henry can no longer stay in the home and leaves for college, promising his younger sister, Threnody, that he will return for her, a promise which he finds hard to keep.

 

This is a book to read slowly so you can savor every word. It’s filled with beautiful prose that constantly struck a chord with me.  It’s a character driven book and the author has done a superb job in bringing these characters to life.  The blurb about this book says that it recalls classics by Thomas Wolfe and William Styron and I have to agree with that.  When I first started this book, I was sure it would be a 5-star book and I didn’t want it to end.  But once the courtship between Henry and Story begins, the book lost some momentum with me, though I was still enjoying the book.  It once again regains its unique beauty with the continuation of the story of Henry and his sister, Threnody, and the ending is very moving.

 

Recommended.

 

This book was given to me by the publisher through LibraryThing in return for an honest review.

Communist "witch" hunt during the '50s

Home Sweet Home: A novel - April Smith

This book is loosely based on a real-life family who was victimized by the fear and hatred created during the McCarthy era.   Cal Kuseck and his wife Betsy move their two children, Jo and Lance, to a cattle farm in South Dakota.  The book chronicles their struggle to adapt to their new life.  Cal becomes interested in politics and serves three terms in the State Assembly.  When he decides to run for the Senate, the FBI looks more closely into his and his family’s past affiliations and learn of Betsy’s short membership in the Communist party when she was a very young woman.  Cal’s political enemies start a smear campaign and his friends and neighbors turn against him.  This all leads to a libel lawsuit and ultimately, many years later, to murder.

 

I had expected this to be a fascinating, empathetic book but for some reason, I never could really connect with the characters. I thought this book would really speak to my heart, especially during this difficult time in our country when people are so divided and fear is prevalent.  I read this book during the last days of the presidential election.  But I really didn’t get caught up in the victimization of this family and didn’t find much suspense in the murder either.   It felt a bit flat and disjointed to me. But it’s certainly a timely book and shows just how fear and hate can grow in a country until it produces unreasonable mass hysteria.

 

This book was given to me by the publisher through First to Read in return for an honest review.

Truly chilling ghost story

The Silent Children - Amna K. Boheim

When Max Albrecht’s dying mother, Annabel Albrecht, wants to meet with him and explain why she’s been so distant with him, he isn’t sure what he should do. He and his mother had angry words the last time they met.  Max’s mother has also asked him in her letter to find a boy she once knew when she was young – Oskar Edelstein.  Little does he know that he’s begun a journey into the past that will bring up family secrets that he may be better off not knowing.

 

This is a well-constructed novel that sent chills up and down my spine and that’s saying something for me as I don’t scare easily. The book takes place mostly in the present with flashbacks to Annabel’s life as a young girl in Vienna.  I had thought, due to the time period of the past being in the 1930’s, that the book would be centered on Nazism but it only lightly touches on that theme.  The author does an excellent job of setting up a very spooky atmosphere and creating empathetic characters.  I had thought the book was pretty much over at one point but it still held yet another surprise.

 

This book is a dark, tragic ghost story, a thriller, a mystery and a sad tale of the love of mothers all in one. I enjoyed it very much and am looking forward to reading more by this author.  Since the book is so well written, I was surprised that the book is the author’s debut and that she started writing it while taking a writing course.  She’s a natural and her first book well deserves the awards it’s received.  She’s also generously donating 50% of the royalties from her book to Borne, a charity doing research into preventing death and disability in childbirth.  Recommended.

 

This book was given to me by the publisher through Smith Publicity in return for an honest review.

Completely addictive

Behind Closed Doors - B. A. Paris

Jack and Grace Angel are the perfect couple.  He’s a successful lawyer representing battered women and has never lost a case.  His lovely wife Grace keeps the home so beautiful and is the ultimate hostess, never making a wrong move.  Jack is even ready to welcome Grace’s younger, disabled sister, Millie, into their home to be a part of their lives.  Yet, no one ever sees Grace without Jack by her side and she never answers the phone herself.  Is life behind closed doors as perfect as it would appear?

 

This is a debut novel and I do believe that this author will have a wonderful career writing thrillers .  The book grabbed ahold of me right from the start.   The tension and suspense never let up.  While the whole scenario might be a bit unbelievable, the book just flows along and carries you with it so you don’t even care about the little flaws.  You just have to know what happens.  And isn't that what you look for in a thriller?  My favorite character in the story is Millie, who is one smart young lady, even if she doesn’t like George Clooney!  I thought the ending was very clever and I can almost guarantee that this one will be made into a movie.

 

Addictive, fun read. 

Entertaining

Good Behavior - Blake Crouch

I’ve been looking forward to the new TV show, “Good Behavior”, starring Michelle Dockery, which will premiere on TNT on November 15, 2016. So I was quite excited to be reading Blake Crouch’s three novellas that comprise his work centering on the character, Letty Dobesh.  Also, this is the tie-in to the TV show and has photos of the cast at work and also the author’s notes about each of the stories and how they were incorporated into the TV show.

 

Letty Dobesh is out of prison and is back to being a thief and con-woman. She’s an alcoholic and a drug addict.  The only way she seems to be able to keep from the alcohol and drugs is to have the excitement of a heist going on.  There are three novellas about Letty.  The first is “The Pain of Others” which is my favorite of the three and which is apparently going to be included in the first season of the TV show.  That one is about Letty’s intervention with a hitman in doing his job.  The second, “Sunset Key”, involves Letty’s attempt to rob a man who is being sent to prison the next day for fraud.  The longest of the three novellas is “Grab”, which is about a casino heist.

 

From the advertisements I’ve seen of the upcoming TV show and from my reading of other books by this author, I expected to have sympathy for Lettie. That wasn’t the case at all.  I had a hard time connecting with her or sympathizing with her life.  She has a 6-year-old son who she has lost custody of and throughout the books, she longs to set things right with him and become the mother he needs.  However, it just seems that her love of the excitement of thievery overcomes her maternal instincts so I had a hard time liking her.  When things don’t go well for her, she feels she has two choices – do a heist or do drugs.  I just hope that Michelle Dockery can instill some sympathy into this character on the TV screen because these stories didn’t for me, though other readers have said that they did have sympathy for her. 

 

As always, the author has written very entertaining stories, which are exciting and suspenseful, with quite a few surprise twists. It was a fun read, especially in light of the upcoming TV show.

 

This book was given to me by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

Spellbinding

The Second Mrs. Hockaday: A Novel - Susan Rivers

This haunting novel takes place during the Civil War. Placidia is only 17 years old when the older Major Gryffith Hockaday speaks to her father about the possibility of marrying her.  Major Hockaday’s wife has died and left him with a young son.  He and Placidia are married within days of meeting and are only married two days when Major Hockaday has to return to the war.  He leaves young Placidia to run their farm and to care for his young son.  When he returns from the war two years later, Placidia is accused of murdering the baby she bore out of wedlock.

 

This is a beautifully written book, told through letters and diary entries. The chapters are short and Ms. Rivers is quite good at giving just enough information in each chapter to keep you turning the pages.  It’s a compulsive read and a very intriguing one.  The love story is very touching.  This is a debut novel for Susan Rivers and I think she’s a talent to be reckoned with.  Recommended.

 

This book was won by me in a contest given by the publisher through LibraryThing with the implied understanding that I would give an honest review.

Like a charming visit to Italy

Under the Tuscan Sun - Frances Mayes

Edit:  I mentioned in my review that the author paid $1,000,000 for this abandoned villa because she said in the book that she wrote "milione" at the closing so many times.  But Ms. Mayes sent me a tweet questioning where I got that price and that it was a fifth of that or $200,000.  That was when I realized that I hadn't converted the milione that she mentioned from lire to dollars!  It was her entire savings from her marriage that she put into this home.  Plus they did a lot of the work themselves.  Quite a difference with the conversion.  So thank you, Ms. Mayes, for this clarification!

 

I’ve long been familiar with this book but until now had never had the chance to read it. The 20th Anniversary Edition is being released so I grabbed the chance to read it all these years later.

 

This memoir is beautifully written and pulls you right into the atmosphere that exclusively belongs to Italy. Though I’ve never visited Italy, I do enjoy reading about it and believe it’s a very unique place. Ms. Mayes and her husband had the privilege and daring to buy a run-down villa in Tuscany 20 years ago and she and her husband undertook the extensive renovation of it.  I must say that it left me quite astonished to hear that they paid $1,000,000 for this villa, were still able to put so much money into the renovation and that this was only to be their summer home.  I couldn’t quite relate to that but regardless of that disconnect, I very much enjoyed reading of their adventures over the years.

 

The beginning of the book details their search for a home, their finding of Bramasole in Tuscany, their search for contractors and decisions made as to what the renovation would entail and the actual renovation. I love watching “This Old House” and other shows like it so enjoyed the first part of this section.  However, I did become a bit bored with some of the renovation details.

 

But then she goes on to talk about her exploration of the neighboring areas and her finding of little known paths, roads and churches that she finds and I was entranced. And then, since she’s apparently a gourmet cook, there are the wonderful descriptions of the food of Italy and pages of her recipes that I definitely will be trying over the winter.

 

All in all, the author has shared her delight in Italy with her readers in a completely captivating way. Recommended.

 

This book was given to me by the publisher through Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.

 

More Info

Author Bio

Entertaining story

The Fall Guy: A Novel - James Lasdun

Wealthy Charlie and Chloe have invited Charlie’s cousin Matthew, a struggling chef, to stay with them in their luxurious home for the summer. Matthew stays in the guest cottage and dreams of perhaps one day living there as caretaker of the home.  He steps in as chef for the three of them and cooks enticing meals and they spend their days lounging by the pool or playing Scrabble.  But tensions, suspicions and jealousy slowly escalate and the cracks in their relationship begin to appear.

 

Saying anything more plot wise would go into spoiler territory. As for the writing, there were a few things that weren’t really credible and I kept thinking “Why doesn’t he just…?”  But I had such a good time with this book and the world around me was completely lost the whole time I read. It certainly kept me riveted to the pages enjoying the whole experience.  I was sure it was taking me in one direction when it never did so I was kept in suspense as to what would happen.  The author has created a chilling, sinister, erotic atmosphere that was very entertaining.   He truly knows how to tell a story and I’ll be checking out his other books soon.  Highly recommended.

 

This book was given to me by the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.