Poetic, majestic, absolutely stunning

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The Dictionary of Animal Languages by Heidi Sopinka

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Ivory Frame has always been a rebellious one.  She refuses to be subdued by the nuns at the boarding school her wealthy English parents have sent her to.  She finds her way to Paris where she meets surrealists.  She has a passionate love affair with a married Russian painter and becomes an artist herself.  World War II is at its peak in Paris.  When tragedy strikes, Ivory leaves Paris and tries to rebuild her life.  She has always had an affinity with animals and sets out to record animal languages.  Now aged 90, she is still working on her dictionary of animal languages when she’s told that she has a grandchild, which stuns her since she has no children.

This book deeply touched me in a way that few books have ever done.  It was a very slow read for me as I wanted to savor each word.  It’s poetic, it’s majestic and it’s absolutely stunning.  I love how each chapter is entitled a different animal Ivory has studied and the way the author incorporates that animal and its characteristics into the chapter.  Each chapter is a work of art in and of itself.  Some of the chapters are short essays on life and love that are just gorgeous.

The book is loosely based on the life of surrealist Leonora Carrington.  The author spent several days with Ms. Carrington in her home in Mexico City and interviewed her for “The Believer”.  As soon as I finished the book, I had to read up on this artist.  There were some similarities between Leonora Carrington and Ivory Frame but also some quite significant differences.

I’m saddened to see far too many negative reviews of this wonderful book.  It’s true that it wouldn’t be for everyone and it isn’t a light read.  There isn’t always a lot happening.  But the author has a magnificent ability to get to the heart of her characters and brings Ivory’s world vividly to life in the mind of her readers.  I hope this book receives the recognition it deserves in the literary world.

This is a book that I will treasure and love and will read again.  Most highly recommended.

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

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A special treat

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Elevation by Stephen King

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Scott Carey should be more worried than he is.  He’s steadily losing weight each day no matter what he eats but he doesn’t want to go for tests to see what’s causing it because strangely enough, Scott weighs the same with his clothes on or without them.  Even if he puts something of weight in his pockets, he weighs the same.  And yup, even holding heavy weights, when he gets on the scale, he weighs the same.  He trusts Dr. Bob Ellis, a retired doctor, and confides in him.

Scott has also been having an annoying problem with his new neighbors.  A married lesbian couple have been unwittingly allowing their dogs to poop on Scott’s lawn and one of them does not take kindly to Scott’s making a point of asking them to try to prevent it.  The couple have opened a new restaurant in town but it isn’t doing well at all.  Apparently, quite a few of the people in town are prejudiced against lesbians.  Scott would love to get off to a better start with his neighbors and he has a plan.

When King writes an emotionally moving story rather than his typical horror stories, you know you’re in for a special treat.  Not only is this story a timely one dealing with prejudice, but it’s also very imaginative, touching and one of a kind.  I enjoyed every word of it.  It’s not a full-length novel but rather a short novella.  But if anyone can pack a lot into a short story, it’s Stephen King.

Most highly recommended.

Not for me at all – DNF

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The Reluctant Healer by Andrew Himmel

Book Review:  1 out of 5 star rating

Will Alexander is a young intern at a large law firm.  When he meets Erica, he is immediately drawn to her.  She claims that he is surrounded by color auras and she believes he’s a natural healer.  Erica is a social worker who is beginning to believe she can heal people through energy healing.  Will is very conflicted about his ability to heal, despite evidence to the contrary.

I struggled through over a third of this book but could not take it any further than that.  When I got to the part when Will, Erica and a man who wanted healing all lost consciousness and Will sees them running through a field, suspending themselves in the air and then they were all striking and punching each other.  That’s where I gave up.  It’s not often that I don’t finish a book that I intend to review, but I could not waste any more time with this one.

Let me say that I have a very open mind when it comes to alternative healing.  I’m a Reiki practitioner myself and believe in energy healing and thus the reason I was attracted to this book.  My review is more based on poor writing and a story that I could not find any reason to continue reading.  It seemed very disjointed to me and I had a hard time following it.  Other negative plot points would include the fact that when Will first becomes involved with Erica and for quite some time afterwards, he thinks she’s crazy but he wants her sexually so he continues to see her.  That turned me off from the start.  As for Erica, she may well be an energy healer (and I assume they’re talking about Reiki here though I don’t believe they actually use the word) but she has such a strange way of dealing with people.  When she was trying to convince Will of their healing powers, she grabs the arm of a woman to force her to show Will that her skin condition was healed.  She also worked as a social worker, yet was apparently incorporating energy healing into her work with her clients, which had to be unethical.  There were quite a few instances of strange responses by the characters and nothing rang true to me.

Unfortunately, I can’t find anything good to say about this book so I can only give it one star.  My apologies to the author and Goodreads giveaways but this wasn’t for me.

Not recommended.

This book was won by me in a Goodreads giveaway contest.

Bleak but gripping apocalyptic tale

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City of Ash and Red by Hye-Young Pyun

The unnamed narrator is known for his talents as a rat killer.  The extermination company he works for has given him what many consider to be a promotion and is sent to Country C.  However, when the man gets to Country C, he finds its streets are overrun with rats and piled high with rotting garbage with horrible odors.  There’s also a deadly rampant virus going around and men walk around in hazmat suits.  When he finds out that his new job has been postponed, he thinks things can’t get any worse.  But his world completely caves in when he contacts someone from home and finds out that his ex-wife has been murdered and he’s the prime suspect.

Wow, this author surely knows how to write a gruesome story and keep her readers on edge!  Her imagination knows no limits and the world she has created in this book in a bleak, horrendous one.  I was very impressed with her book, “The Hole”, but this one is even better with a more involved plot.  The book has many layers and I think different people will read different meanings into it.  I see that “The Hole” has won the 2017 Shirley Jackson Award and I can see why.  Her work does remind me of Shirley Jackson’s plus it has that unique Korean touch that I’ve grown to admire.

Recommended.

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

 

Not very credible

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The Girl Made of Clay by Nicole Meier

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

Sara and her mother were abandoned by her father when Sara was a young girl and she was left with an emotionally unstable mother and too much responsibility on her young shoulders.   Sara’s father, known as “TR”, was a famous sculptor and his fame pulled him away from his family.  Sara is now a grown woman with a husband and a young son.  Her marriage is not doing well and Sara needs no further complications when she receives a phone call from a hospital telling her that TR was severely burned in a fire and was asking for her.  Old wounds are reopened.

While I well understand that family dynamics can be very complicated, this book just didn’t ring true to me.  I could have been in Sara’s shoes in my own life and I know I would have responded quite differently than she did.  Not wanting to give away the plot, it’s difficult to explain but forgiveness is one thing and being used is another.   I also had a hard time connecting with these characters, maybe because I felt out of sync with them.  It was also too drawn out at times.

I did enjoy the artistic parts of the book and the creative passion that Sara never lost despite her father’s abandonment.  I felt compassion for Sara but it wasn’t enough to make this book a really special one.  It was an OK read and I never wanted to give up on it.  It just isn’t one that I will long remember.

This book was won by me in a Goodreads giveaway.

Mesmerizing, heart-breaking first book in reverse order trilogy

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The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir is being forced into a slightly earlier retirement, being replaced by a younger person.  She dreads her future although she has met a very nice man who she thinks might be an answer to her loneliness.  Before she cleans out her desk at the police station, she’s been given an opportunity to look into a cold case of her choice.  She knows immediately which case it will be.  A young Russian women who was trying to find asylum in Iceland was found dead and her death was deemed a suicide. However, Hulda knows that the officer who investigated this case didn’t always do a very thorough job and she has a feeling that there was more to this case than he found.

I was so very impressed with this book and can’t wait to read everything else this author has written.  His characterization of Hulda is excellent and very detailed.  This woman has had a successful career as a police officer but hasn’t always been accepted by the men in the department.  She’s determined to end her career on a high note by solving this cold case but as each day approaches her retirement, errors are made and her situation deteriorates.  She begins to pin her hopes on the man she has recently met and envisions a happier future.  I loved Hulda and felt complete empathy for her.  Secrets in her past are alluded to, which when revealed are absolutely heartbreaking.  Also the story of this Russian immigrant is so timely and tragic.

This is the first book in the Hidden Iceland Trilogy.  The series is being told in reverse order so the next book will be set 25 years prior to this book.  It’s an unusual format for a trilogy and I think I may have preferred reading Hulda’s story in chronological order since now I know how her story ends.  But this first book is so brilliantly written that I know I will be anxiously awaiting the next one.  This author is one who isn’t afraid of taking risks and definitely knows how to write Nordic Noir.  The book is mesmerizing and heart breaking and the ending will chill you to the bone.

Most highly recommended.

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

Influential book on the power of our thoughts

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The Three Rooms: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life by Kevin Murphy

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

I’ve been practicing Mindfulness for a while now and find it very helpful in quieting down my thoughts.  Yet I still too often find myself thinking of unhappy past events or feeling fear about the future.  I’ve been looking into the Law of Attraction and was very happy to win this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

The main premise of the book is that our mind dwells in three different “rooms”.  The Past Room is often where we feel negative emotions.  It’s fine to visit the past from which we hopefully have learned lessons but not to get lost there.  The Future Room can be frightening since it’s unknown what’s ahead.  It’s only in the Present Room that we can connect with our Higher Self and feel peace.

This book is written in a very down-to-earth manner and is easy to read and relate to.  The author often uses scenes from popular movies as examples of what he’s teaching.  Of all the books I’ve recently read about mindfulness and the Law of Attraction, this one resonated the most with me.  I’ll be monitoring my thoughts much more carefully and will return to this book often in the days ahead.  We’re all one in this universe and when I look at that guy who just cut me off on the road as being an extension of “ME!”, I’m feeling much more love and compassion and not being as judgmental.  Our thoughts are so powerful and life-changing, everyone should be more aware of their thought patterns throughout our spiritual journey.

Influential book on the power of our thoughts.  Most highly recommended.

This book was won by me in a Goodreads giveaway.

Compassionate story of maternal love

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The Caregiver by Samuel Park

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Ana and her little girl, Mara, take care of each other in their home in Copacabana, Brazil.   Ana works as a voice-over actress but her job brings in little money.  In desperation, she agrees to take a job posing as a citizen with information about student guerillas in an attempt to lure the violent Police Chief Lima from his post.  Ana then makes a decision that tears their lives apart.

Years later when Mara comes to America undocumented, she takes a job as a caregiver to a woman, Kathryn, who is suffering from stomach cancer.  Caring for Kathryn brings up memories of Mara’s mother and Mara struggles to come to terms with her past.

This is a beautifully written book about the relationship between a mother and daughter and what lengths a mother would be willing to go for her daughter.  The characters are very well developed and the book is full of heart and compassion.

The author, Samuel Parks, passed away from stomach cancer shortly after writing this book.  At the end of the book, his essay that was published in the New York Times is shared.  It’s called “I Had a 9 Percent Chance, Plus Hope” and it’s a must read for all.  After reading this book, I’m even more anxious to read “This Burns My Heart”.

Recommended.

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

Over-complicates Reiki

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The Art of Psychic Reiki by Lisa Campion

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star review

This is a guide to learning the principles of Reiki and how to develop your psychic and empathic abilities.  The author, Lisa Campion, is a psychic counsellor and a Reiki master teacher.  The book guides its readers through Reiki Levels I and II though stresses the importance of having an attunement by a Reiki master.

Where it goes off the path of most Reiki books that I’ve read is that it also shows the importance of developing your psychic abilities and getting in touch with your empathy.  I understand that in some ways we all have some psychic abilities and intuition about the world around us.  When taught Reiki, I was told that sometimes I would “just know” where to place my hands and where the energy was most needed.  This book goes much more in depth into how to communicate with your psychic “guides”.  I’ve heard many Reiki practitioners talk about spiritual guides but my teachers never stressed that and to be honest, it makes me a bit uncomfortable.  I believe Reiki energy comes from our creator and it’s that creator who “guides” the energy to wherever it’s needed most.

In some ways, I think the author over-simplifies Reiki, especially when she talks about giving self-Reiki while watching TV.  On the other hand, I felt this book over-complicates Reiki in many ways and may actually turn some people off from doing Reiki.  To me, Reiki is very, very simple.  I’m just a vessel and I ask God to help the energy flow to where it’s needed.  This was an interesting read but I don’t think it added anything to my daily Reiki practice.

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

 

Entertaining, thought-provoking spy novel

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Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

It’s 1940 and Juliette Armstrong has been recruited to work for M15.  She’s 18 years old and quite naïve.  She’s been given the tedious job of transcribing recordings of meetings of British Fascist sympathizers.  But she’s soon pulled even deeper into this frightening espionage world.  When the war is over, Juliette believes the past is behind her.  But she learns that there are still consequences that need to be dealt with.

There are sometimes light hearted moments in this novel that are deceiving because this is quite a deep, thought-provoking work.  While I very much enjoyed Juliette’s witty remarks, there are layers and layers to explore in this book.  I feel like starting the book from the beginning again and dissecting it, scene by scene, which is not something I’ve ever enjoyed doing.   The fragility of loyalty, how thin the line can be between “them” and “us”, how contradictory our inner beliefs can be and how history can be re-shaped in its telling are all explored.

On the negative side, I did get bogged down some with all of the boring transcriptions but I don’t really see how the author could have gotten around those.  Also, while most of the book is very realistic and believable, there were some scenes toward the end that were a bit far-fetched.

Overall, this is was a very interesting and enjoyable read.  Recommended.

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