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darkfever

Book 1 of the Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning

Darkfever

“Sometimes Ms. Lane, one must break with one’s past to embrace one’s future. It’s never an easy thing to do. It’s one of the distinguishing characteristics between survivors and victims.”

–Jericho Barrons

 

MacKayla Lane (aka Mac) leaves her carefree life behind to travel to Dublin to investigate the mysteries surrounding her sister’s murder.  In Ireland, Mac uncovers family secrets, unknown powers, and a dark underworld inhabited by the Fae. In the midst of all that, she meets two central characters: V’Lane, a Seelie prince who holds a humorous at times “Death by Sex” power over humans, and the enigmatic Jericho Barrons who owns a bookstore and who is on his own quest to capture a sentient, omnipotent book – the Sinsar Dubh.

Having finished the entire series, in retrospect, book 1, was fun, but it was my least favorite.  MacKayla, preoccupied as she was with her hair, nails, outfits and general Barbie vibes, annoyed me at times, but I also liked her for the same reasons.  Overall, there was a lot of groundwork, character-setting, and world-building that had to happen to set the stage for the fun that follows.

Book 2 of the Fever Series by Karen Marie Moningblood fever

Bloodfever

“Well done, Ms. Lane. Just when I think you’re all useless fluff and nails, you show me some teeth.”‘

–Jericho Barrons

There was something about a vampire in this book, but that part was terribly uninteresting.  What was interesting were the interactions between three of the main characters: Mac, Barrons, and V’Lane.  Barrons continues to be cultured, self-contained, intriguing and mysterious.  The reader is left wondering what exactly he is and what manner of shrieking thing he keeps hidden in the lair beneath his garage. For her part, Mac uncovers more about who and what she is.  The banter between the two in their continued pursuit of the Sinsar Dubh is fun. Every scene with V’Lane, the immortal prince who has a knack for turning humans into sex addicts, is fascinating.

Book 2 of the Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning

faefeverFaefever

“Nobody looks good in their darkest hour. But it’s those hours that make us what we are.”

“…in the Deep South, women learn at a young age that when the world is falling apart around you, it’s time to take down the drapes and make a new dress.”

–Mac

The evil book, the Sinsar Dubh, is still on the loose and wreaking havoc.  The walls between the realms are starting to come down.  Without revealing too much about the cliff-hanger ending: it was dark and disturbing and Mac gets broken.

 

Before I picked up this book, I’d never heard of Dan Harris, so I didn’t realize he was a big deal.  He anchors for Nightline, and is a correspondent for ABC News,  and a co-anchor on Good Morning America.  He’s reported for 20/20 and has interviewed all sorts of famous people like Paris Hilton, Ted Haggard, and Eckhart Tolle. (Who knew? I don’t completely live under a rock, I just haven’t turned on my TV in 4 years because of complications.)Now with his first book, 10% Happier, Harris is a best-selling author.  Juxtaposing self-help and memoir genres, Harris chronicles his career and coping mechanisms (from drug-use to meditation) in the highly competitive world of TV news. He does so in a beautifully authentic, warts-and-all sort of way.

It’s hard to say what I loved most about the book.  Harris has an excellent command of English, and knows how to weave a story that is funny, smart, and moving.  I enjoyed the “behind the scenes” stories about coworkers Peter Jennings and Diane Sawyer and well as his skeptical views on various religious leaders he has met and interviewed. I smiled at the thought of the ambitious TV reporter and skeptic who found in meditation a practice that works as a way to live more happily and comfortably in his own skin. I appreciate that he’s extolling the benefits of meditating. There is so much good here.

If you too have jumped on the positive psychology bandwagon, this is a fun and informative book to take along on the ride. If you’ve already read it  you might also enjoy:

The Happiness Project

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

An Open Heart

The Power of Now

The Lost Art of Compassion

I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.  The first of these came as a terrible shock, and like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After.

-Jacob Portman (Ransom Riggs)

Reeling from the mysterious events surrounding his grandfather’s tragic death, 16-year-old Jacob Portman sets off to learn more about of his grandfather’s  life, the strange photographs he kept, and the fanciful stories he told about them. Jacob’s journey takes him to an abandoned orphanage on a remote island where a secret world hides beneath the ruins of the bombed-out wreckage.

We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing them becomes too high.

–Jacob Portman

As soon as I turned the last page of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children on Sunday afternoon, I ran to the bookstore to buy the next book in the series. This is Ransom Riggs’s first novel and it is  riveting. Riggs has woven a story around the strange and creepy vintage photographs he collected from flea markets over the years, some of which are published in the book as characters and scenes. The pictures alone are worth the book’s cover price.

Though categorized as “young-adult fiction,” consider yourself forewarned, there is a significant amount of dark and violent topics touched on in the pages, including the Holocaust, bomb raids, murder, animal slaughter, animation of the dead, and slightly less scary non-human monsters of the sharp teeth and tentacled sort. In fact, there was a certain point, about mid-way through, when it began giving me nightmares, so maybe it’s not the best bedtime story. But it is a story worth reading.

 “The moment you fall in love feels like it has centuries behind it, generations–all of them rearranging themselves so that this precise, remarkable intersection could happen.  In your heart, in your bones, no matter how silly you know it is, you feel that everything has been leading to this, all the secret arrows were pointing here, the universe and time itself crafted this long ago, and you are just now realizing it, you are just now arriving at the place you were always meant to be.”

-David Levithan

I started Every Day yesterday and finished it before 9 this morning. I slept and dreamt in between, but the story called me awake early this morning. I’m not sure if it consumed me or if I consumed it, but I do know I haven’t read a story that held me hostage like this in a very long time. This is the tale of a body-snatcher….kinda.  “A,” the protagonist, wakes up in a different person’s body everyday, though (s)he has no control over who and where. Sometimes A is in a male’s body, sometimes in a female’s body, and (s)he doesn’t particularly identify with gender one way or the other. This is how it’s always been since A’s earliest memories. Each host is A’s chronological age – 16, and (s)he can access the hosts’ memories to get through the day without messing up the host’s life, which is typically A’s goal. That changes when A falls in love with the girlfriend of one of his hosts.

This is such an original and fascinating premise for a book. The ending vibrates.  David Levithan, please, please write a sequel!

“If you want to live within the definition of your own truth, you have to choose to go through the initially painful and ultimately comforting process of finding it.”

–David Levithan

My village people can’t take it anymore.  They have set fire to the village in protest. Six months without resolutions is too many.  Abort Mission!  My village people are not ready for the laissez-faire approach to life. (Click HERE for more village people context if you missed the first post).

There is a time and a place for surrendering to what is and for accepting life as it comes.  And then there are the rest of the times and places, during which I need exorbitant details to obsessively micromanage in order to keep myself occupied and entertained.  I need goals and measurement and progress – or at least the illusion thereof.

These realizations hit me last week as I was reading Gretchen Rubin’s
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.   This book was an emergency, impulse vacation purchase.  Having abandoned every book I had packed, I had to have something to read to tide me over until I could get home. Rubin’s memoir is peppered with tidbits on the art and science of happiness, combined with her meticulous list of a year’s worth of resolutions to guide her in the practice of achieving joy.  Her resolutions are organized by month, category, and sub-category, all of which are rigorously tracked.  The book annoyed me to no end!  It’s no fault of the author.  I claim full responsibility for the baggage I took with me inside the cover.  I saw my own annoying OCD resolution-tracking self on every page and it made me itchy and irritated with the fact I didn’t have a single resolution to track this year.

So here I am in July making my New Years Resolutions. My first resolution for 2015 is:

1. Cook something fabulous and complicated every other week.

I don’t cook.  I am plagued by mageirocophobia, or the fear of cooking. You see, I have this history of setting devastating kitchen fires. Yes, that’s plural, as in fires$$ of the devastating-call-the-fire-department-and-the-contractor-and-the-insurance-company sort. A certain member of the family gave me the nickname “Housefries” once he started talking to me again, which was weeks after I burned down his kitchen and half the family’s wardrobe. The wardrobe aspect of this story needs explaining. What happened is, in the heat of the moment (literally) I tried putting out the kitchen blaze by smothering it with the contents of a nearby laundry basket full of clothes. As you might imagine, this only succeeded in making it all much, much worse. Go figure.  On the flip side, meatloaf flambe with a side of smoked socks should get some points for creative culinary pairings.  I wish that had been an isolated incident. My father may still bear the scars from another of my kitchen fires.  And then there was that unfortunate Christmas morning we were forced to use a fire extinguisher we had JUST received as a gift.  Even the fact that people give me fire extinguishers as a non-ironic Christmas gift should tell you something about the magnitude of the problem.

Despite my checkered and charred past, I am increasingly drawn to the kitchen and the alchemy of cooking. I am inspired partly by the thriving herb and berry garden I’ve planted that needs something to do besides look pretty. Plus there are all these fabulous cooking blogs I read and drool over, like Peri’s Spice Ladle  and Once Upon a Chef.

Yesterday I kicked off my resolutions by making vegetarian lasagna with fresh basil from the garden.  I picked mint to make Strawberry and Orange Salad with Citrus Syrup and Fresh Mint, which I polished off this morning for breakfast.  There was a lot of strawberry and orange juice leftover so I poured it in a popsicle mold for later. Knowing this popsicle awaits in the freezer has made me happy all day.  It’s the little things.

One of my subgoals is to finally do something with the crabapples.  We have an abundance of crabapple trees and each year I think something should be done with them, but I never manage to figure out what.  A friend popped over last week randomly and told me about her grandmother’s recipe for candied crab apples. This year it’s on! I have my recipe picked out for Spiced Crab Apples based on her gram’s recipe.

Another sub-goal related to food is to stop eating after 7:30 p.m. We’ve gotten into the habit of eating dinner between 8:00-10:00 p.m., which is ridiculous and unhealthy.  Part of the problem is I teach yoga classes two evenings a week, and I don’t want to eat right before them and I’ve been too busy to catch a decent lunch, so by the time I’m done with class it’s late and I’m famished, so I eat like a Viking (well, a vegetarian Viking) then I crash. This must change.  I need to make time to  eat a big late lunch and then be done with it.

In conjunction with the cooking thing, I also want to have people over more for dinner.  I’m intrigued by the idea of having a dinner party with mixed and matched guests. Just the thought scares me.  I have no idea how to do this sort of thing. People of the Web: who out there has experience with dinner parties? Can you give suggestions? Themes? Ideas? Testimonials?

Dear Readers:

Happy New Year!

I signed up to be an Amazon Affiliate, which means 1.) I can use their book cover images in my posts without having to worry about them suing me, and 2.) if you use one of the links I provide in the blog to purchase the book on amazon.com I’ll get like a nickel or something.

I’m disclosing this so you will be aware that if you click on a book link, our electronic “footprints” will be walking together toward amazon.  Without further ado, here’s some of the stuff I read over the course of last year.

1. Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

Read my review HERE

2.A Random Book about the Power of ANYone

3. I Suck at Girls

Read my review HERE.

4. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

Read my review HERE.

5.Three Weeks with My Brother

Read my review HERE

6.The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World

Read my review HERE

7.Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection

Read my review HERE

8.The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Read my review HERE

9. NYC Ballet Workout

10.Flight Behavior: A Novel

Read my review HERE

11.Twilight Dips

12. Ape House: A Novel

13.A Life Worth Breathing: A Yoga Master’s Handbook of Strength, Grace, and Healing

14.The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

15. The Search

Read my post about it HERE

16.Cesar’s Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems

Read my post about it HERE

17. The Silver Star: A Novel

18. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Read my review HERE

19. Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist

20.The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to Renewal

Read my review HERE

21.The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards

Read my review HERE

22.Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited

Read of my love affair with Nabokov HERE

“…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…Live the questions…live  your way into the answer.”

–Rainer Maria Rilke

~~*~~

Last year Parker Palmer shined my teacher’s heart when it when was tarnished.  His book The Courage to Teach got me through a teacher’s heart crisis and showed me how to teach (and live) with greater integrity.

Though untarnished this year at semester’s end I figured the teacher’s heart was due for routine maintenance, so I picked up a copy of The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to RenewalPhysicist Arthur Zajonc joins Palmer to bring educators back to the big questions underlying what we do.  In this work lives the question: “How do we promote educational efforts that address the whole human being (mind, heart, and spirit) in ways that contribute best to our future on this fragile planet?”

This and other questions posed in their work remind us that education is transformation. It is not merely “the conveyance of information concerning objects, but a leading…through the manifold layers of experience and reason to occasions of epiphany…to the exalted experience of genuine insight.”

They remind us that community and conversation are often the driving force behind this transformative experience. They remind us what conversation can bring about when done well, “The point is not to convert, but to cultivate the possible by collaboring with people who hope to bring it into being.”

Twice this week I’ve come across the Bantu word ubuntu once in this book and then later in Boyd Varty’s wonderful tribute to Nelson Mandela (see video below). Varty’s story gets at the essence of the word’s meaning: I am because of you.

I am; because of you. If you want a real education, try living that one.

And yet for transformation to truly take hold, we must strike a balance between community and solitude.  Our institutions and culture have a growing tendency to encourage living at a frenetic-pace. When left to our own devices (and I do mean devices) we are increasingly engaged in a world that keeps us pathologically distracted and distanced from our own minds.  Abha Dawesar makes this point by distinguishing between two nows: the present now and the one that technology provides us, which she calls the “digital now.”

Parker and Zajonc remind us that we need ample time for “quietude that allows for real reflection on what we have seen and heard, felt and thought.”  They promote a contemplative pedagogy that creates time and space for silence with practices that develop concentration and deepen understanding because:

“Education is a vital, demanding, and precious undertaking….if true to the human being education must reflect our nature in all its subtlety and complexity.  Every human faculty must be taken seriously, including the intellect, emotions, and our capacity for relational, contemplative, and bodily knowing.”

And if you managed to read this far, thank you. 🙂 Ubuntu. Please share what’s on your mind.

Title: The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards

Author: William J. Broad

Why I Read It: As a yoga practitioner and teacher, I have experienced the transformational power of the practice, so I was curious to see how Western science, a reductionist endeavor, would parcel out a holistic experience and to what effect.  The book looked and quacked like science when I flipped through it quickly at the bookstore. Besides, Yoga Journal said it was “a well-researched book that belongs in the library of every yogi” right on the book’s cover.  Surely I needed this?

Synopsis: The author, a journalist and yoga practitioner, gives a brief account of yoga’s history and describes some of the gurus’ claims on health, mood, healing, sex, and creativity.  He smatters in various sorts of research tidbits in the attempt to substantiate those claims or refute them.

Highlights: The book provides an introduction to some researchers and practitioners of interest.  The chapter on the risks of yoga was an original and helpful contribution that added to my knowledge base for particular poses.

Lowlights: If you’re going to use the word “science” in a book’s title, you really need to bring it. The science reporting here lacked rigor and clarity.  It was a mishmosh of personal anecdotes and poorly explained studies delivered with the sort of content and writing style better suited to a gossip magazine. I give you an example: “Ranjit Singh was an ugly little man who liked to surround himself with beautiful women” (p. 13).  What this has to do with yoga or science is beyond me. Also, I think the author tried to cover too many topics with too little depth and he was overly focused on the sensational (like the sophomoric chapter on sex) at the expense of the substantial.

 

Title: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Author: Sheryl Sandberg

Synopsis:  Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, gives women career advice. She also discusses the problems women face in getting leadership roles and how to overcome them.

Why I Read It: Someone at a convention raved about the book during a talk.

Full Disclosure: My opinions may be biased by my dislike of her employer. I don’t do Facebook; the whole phenomenon seems at best a waste of mental resources, and at worst a dismaying invasion of privacy.  All that said, I read the book because Sandberg is an accomplished woman writing on a topic, women in leadership, which is interesting and relevant being that I’m a woman and all.

Highlights: It was a quick, easy, well-organized read. Every chapter is concentrated into its one sentence essence (so tidy!!), which made the content memorable. There were a couple of these that stood out:

  •  Don’t Leave before You Leave, in which she discusses the problem of being focused on some future event rather than on your present job, and
  •  It’s a Jungle Gym Not a Ladder, in which she discusses the trajectory of a career and how it’s ok to move laterally and all around instead of constantly climbing up, up, up.  I appreciate the playfulness of this metaphor.

Lowlights: I had a hard time relating to Sandberg. First off, I am drawn to work that is academic and not corporate. My fields are already dominated by women. I’ve been mentored by women, promoted by women.  Likewise, I teach women and promote them.  As a result, sometimes the issues she wrote about seemed remote.  Secondly, her writing style was safe and overly-processed….a little too polished.

Recommended to: 1.) Men – every last one of you should read it.  2.) Working women with children. 3.) Ambitious women just beginning their careers.


If You Liked This Book You Might Also Like: Leadership by Rudy Giuliani, which I reviewed (very briefly) here, and which I found equally as helpful and more compelling.

Best Quote:

“It’s not about biology, but about consciousness”

–Gloria Steinem

If you want to learn more here’s a Ted Talk she gave on the topic.

Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.

-Albert Einstein

Title: The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Author: Twyla Tharp

Synopsis: Master choreographer, Twyla Tharp, interweaves stories about what makes her creative life tick with advice and exercises to help others develop their own creative habit.

Why I read it: Because Caitlin Kelley wrote that it was one of her favorite books ever, which instantly made it a must-read.  She described it as, “Kick-ass and inspiring in equal measure.”


You might like this if you liked: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
(Steven Pressfield)

Highlights: You don’t have to be a dancer to appreciate this book – she gives lots of examples from other creative walks of life, including the business world.  That said, her descriptions of how she choreographs and teaches dance were fascinating.  My favorite chapter was the one on failure. She used one of her own productions as a case study on failure and what to do about it. The rigor and brutal self-assessment/honesty with which she handled the topic were impressive.

Fun coincidence: One of Tharp’s methods to harness and organize creativity is by starting with a physical box because as she puts it, “before you can think out of the box you have to start with a box.” She devotes an entire chapter to the box and what she puts in it and why.  In an entirely unrelated conversation, a friend recently invited me to craft an intention box with her – same idea as what I was learning from Tharp, but different verbiage. Crafty boxing fun will be had this week.

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