Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Travelling Cat Chronicles: a book review

The Travelling Cat Chronicles 

Written by Hiro Arikawa

Translated by Philip Gabriel

Published in English language: October 23, 2018

Published by Berkley

The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a wonderful story in translation about a man and his cat, or perhaps a cat and his man.

In the beginning of the story, we meet a stray cat who is approached by a man. The story begins with the cat as the narrator. The tone is delightfully exactly the sort of attitude you would expect from a cat.

The man, Sartoru, takes in the cat, names it Nana, which means seven in Japanese for the way his tail is crooked like the number. Then, we skip ahead a few years to follow Sartoru and Nana as they go on a journey to visit old friends.

The reason for the journey is somewhat obscure at the beginning. Sartoru is unable to keep Nana and hopes to find a new home for his cat. In the meantime, we learn Sartoru's life story as he visits friends from the past.

The novel alternates points of view between the the cat and omniscient flashbacks.

This is a sweet book that will likely evoke smiles and tears. It is fairly short at 288 pages and definitely worth a read.

Disclaimer: I received a free ebook copy of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Body Mindful Yoga: a book review

Body Mindful Yoga: Create a Powerful and Affirming Relationship with Your Body 

by Robert Butera Butera and Jennifer Kreatsoulas Kreatsoulas

Published November 8, 2018

Llewellyn Publications

This is a great book about learning to be comfortable with your body. Through explanations, anecdotes, and questions, the authors guide the reader in learning about their body beliefs. I love that this book incorporates the philosophy of yoga. It is not, however, a yoga book that offers poses, so if that's what you want choose a different title. This book is about thought and changing belief systems. It is well written and easy to read.

Disclaimer: I received an ecopy of this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Everyday Enchantments: a book review

Everyday Enchantments

by Maria DeBlassie

Published: October 26, 2018

Moon Books

Maria DeBlassie and I have never met, but after reading her new book Everyday Enchantments, I think it might have been written just for me.

From the very first page, Maira DeBleassie’s words drew me in. I was not familiar with her before. I found this book as an advanced reader offering and selected simply because of the title. By page 4, I was already typing her name in Google. Who is this woman? Why have I not seen her words until now?

I clicked around her blog for a few minutes, then returned even more enamored to Everyday Enchantments. This collection of essays makes mundane experiences seem filled with magic and wonder. I am all in for that.

In this book of very short essays -- musings, really -- DeBlassie talks about tea, used bookstores, yoga, herb shops, rainy days, and pretty much everything I like. If you like these things, too, go get this book.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Tarot Inspired Life: a book review

Tarot Inspired Life

by Jaymi Elford

Publishes: January 8, 2019

Llewellyn Publications

This is my favorite book that I have come across about tarot.

It explains the cards, arcanas, and suits with direct clarity and invites the reader to study the cards through different exercises to make their own observations and connections.

That is only the first chapter. After that, the author covers many uses for tarot, including creativity.

Although I received a free ebook copy of this book for review, I plan to add the physical book to my shelf as soon as it is available.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Rising Out of Hatred: a book review

Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist

Eli Saslow

Published September 18, 2018

Published by Doubleday

I had this advanced reader copy for 2 months before I finally felt ready to read it. I was worried what I would find. Then the book was published and I picked up a copy from my local library thinking it would be easier to read in physical copy than on the computer screen. With that, however, I was afraid to have the book where anyone might see it. I didn’t want people to glimpse only the words “white nationalist” on the cover and jump to conclusions.

All that to say, I have read a number of books about race written by people of color. They aren’t always easy to read, but I dive in eager to learn from their words and experiences. Rising Out of Hatred is the flip side of the equation. It begins with the perpetrator side of the story. Somehow it seems so much easier to read the victim side. When you read the victim side, you can sympathize, you can be shocked. What do you do when you read the perpetrator side? How do you feel?

This is what kept me from picking up the book for so long, even though I wanted to learn from this story.

If I hadn’t already been anxious, the table of contents gave another clue of the tension to come, with chapters titled, “This is Scary,” “So Much Worse than I Ever Thought,” and “All-Out Mayhem.” Still, I am trying to educate myself on racial and social justice, which means I need to understand many stories. Finally, after a deep centering breath, I started reading.

Eli Saslow is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. In this book, he writes about the transformation of Derek Black, heir of the white nationalist movement who ultimately became an advocate for racial and social justice.

Derek was homeschooled and during that time he already began to insert himself on the white nationalist movement. He created a kids version of the Stormfront website -- a website for white nationalists -- and later joined his father on a daily radio show of the same kind. He continued to call in to the radio show daily while attending the liberal New College in Florida. It is there that he befriended a Mexican immigrant, a convert to Kaballah Judaism, and then fell for a Jewish woman. Through the relationships formed there, he slowly begins to unravel his beliefs. Ultimately, he publicly renounces white nationalism, which has familial repercussions.

Saslow approaches this material with a thorough journalistic eye. He relays the events that happened based on interviews he conducted with many of the people mentioned in the book, as well as studying correspondence that was shared with him.

The book is engaging, and I found myself flying through much quicker than I expected to. The complete 180-degree flip in beliefs is fascinating to follow. Many of the students at New College wanted to ostracize Derek when they learned of his affiliation. A few students had already built friendships with him and decided that what they had seen from him didn’t seem to match his white nationalist propaganda. If those were truly his beliefs, why would he join them for Shabbat dinner on Friday nights? Why would he continue to speak with them? The result of continuing to pursue the friendships was that Derek began to question what he had always believed. He began to research other ideas, explore other countries, and through debate with a young woman named Allison transformed his own belief system.

I highly recommend this book. Don’t be afraid to read it like I was.

Disclaimer: I received an advance-read copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I used Amazon affiliate links in this post. Should you choose to buy something through those links, you will not pay any extra, but they will send me a small fee, which I will likely add to my book fund. Thank you. Please see my Book Review Disclaimer for more information.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Be Your Higher Self: a book review

Be Your Higher Self

by Samesh Ramjattan

Published August 22, 2018

Published by Matador

Be Your Higher Self is a short self-help book with a New Age feel. The cover is beautiful; the contents are okay. Ramjattan covers a lot of ground in brief chapters.

The book begins with a call to recognize yourself as a spiritual human being made of the same cosmic dust as everything and everyone else. From there the discussions flow to ego, masculine/feminine energy balance, age of aquarius, karma through reincarnation, chakras, and advice for healing, including breathing exercises, mantras, meditation, and diet, to name a few. It even offers examples via a few pop culture references to The Matrix, Groundhog Day, and Field of Dreams.

Be Your Higher Self didn’t quite hit the mark for me. It is a physically gorgeous book with interesting information, but not much that truly resonated with me.

Disclaimer: I received an advance-read copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I used Amazon affiliate links in this post. Should you choose to buy something through those links, you will not pay any extra, but they will send me a small fee, which I will likely add to my book fund. Thank you. Please see my Book Review Disclaimer for more information.

All the Colors We Will See: a book review

All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way

by Patrice Gopo

Published August 7, 2018

Published by Thomas Nelson

In All the Colors We Will See, Patrice Gopo explores her experience of race throughout various points in her life. These experiences have been shaped by a number of factors and in a number of locales.

Gopo was born in Jamaica, grew up in Alaska, lived in Cape Town where she met her husband, then in Charlotte, North Carolina where she raises her family. She has two grandparents from India. She was among 5% of black students in attendance at Carnegie Mellon University during her time there. She has been told her hair looks more professional when relaxed and straightened (meaning not worn naturally).

I imagine many people of color can relate to these stories and many white people need to hear them.

Gopo’s writing is beautiful and matter-of-fact. It comes across with ease, which almost certainly means she has taken the time to hone her craft because writing is not easy.

Her chapter about hair -- it’s different types and textures -- is a mindful exploration of society’s expectations for how hair should look, what is beautiful, what is unkempt and what is professional. This made me wonder if hair has so much expectation tied to it, what does that mean for the rest of our existence?

Perhaps the most prevalent theme in the book is about belonging. Gopo looks at the ways she may be seen as an outsider or something "other." She is the only black student in her class at school in Alaska, which leads her to be singled out for questions about race. She doesn’t feel she fits in with her family members in Jamaica because of her accent and inability to understand some of the local dialect. She recognizes that she is an anomaly in her university graduation class as a black woman in engineering. She questions, years after the fact, what it meant when a friend said, “I don’t see you as black.” She describes with rawness what she felt when she first encountered a confederate flag.

I highly recommend this book. I think people of color will be able to relate and see themselves in Gopo’s stories, and I think white people need to hear more stories from people of color. We have a responsibility to learn how word choices contribute to racism, how simple exchanges can have greater impact than we realize. And I think all of us, of all colors, need to move to a state of belonging and understanding. All the Colors We Will See is an easy entry point to this conversation.

Disclaimer: I received an advance-read copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.