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jaymi's book reviews

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 3 months ago


 

Introduction

Hi, I'm jaymi, a writer currently enjoying the leisurely summer life in the Pacific Northwest. I'm friends with Micaela who invited me into this reading group last summer. I live with my coding hubby, kender, and our three furkitten kids Joth, Random, and imoen.

 

I enjoy reading modern day faerie tales, horror, and other strange tales. My favorite authors include Charles deLint, Neil Gaiman and HP Lovecraft. As far as non-fiction books go, I tend to read a lot on the following subjects: creativity/art, tarot, metaphysics, productivity, and learning. When I'm not involved in a book or two, I'm writing articles for D*I*Y Planner, revising my first novel, and making journals and other paper-based art.

 

2008 Book Reviews

A Weekend to Change Your Life by Joan Anderson. 2006. Self-help. 257.

This book gives suggestions and exercises for women who want to dig deeper and uncover what their soul purpose is. For many of us, we lose our way and Anderson believes that it only takes one weekend to examine what is going on to change it and become something new. I loved reading the mini-retreat stories from others and what they uncovered about themselves in this book. It was also engaging enough to keep reading during my past weekend getaway camping with friends.

 

Wraeththu by Storm Constantine. Collection edition 1993. Fantasy. 800.

OMG... took me a week but I have finished the first three books of Wraeththu. I was gifted this collection so it counts as one book and one third towards my summer goal of reading all the Wraeththu books that I have in my possession. (I have 2 more left.) I was a bit surprised at the way this trilogy came out. I knew it was about a hermaphrodite culture supplanting humankind but when I first heard about it, I thought it was going to be another race that came from the stars. Instead, the Wraeththu are the next evolution of humanity. Each book tells the story from the first person pov of a particular wraeththu (also called har). The stories were well laid out and drew me in. What was even better is that thru the three books there was also an actual story arc that progressed towards a very unexpected but wonderful ending. I'm looking forward to reading the next two books and seeing how this world and the characters within progress beyond. The only thing that disappointed me about Constantine's series is that the earth in the books bears almost no resemblance to our reality. The lands all have different names and it was impossible to try and figure out where in our world it takes place. Maybe one day I'll ask her and find out. Other than that minor annoyance, a very impressive trilogy to start the summer with.

 

Scaling Down by Judi Culbertson and Marj Decker. 2005. Home Improvement. 228.

I'm in a constant state of de-cluttering my home, it seems. I frequently check out various home simplification and de-cluttering books. This was one that amazon recommended to me and I borrowed it from the library. Instead of just going with the various de-cluttering tips and tricks and whatnot, this book describes how to scale things down and really have only the things you love with you. What I liked about this book were the stories they included about themselves or others who are on the path to decluttering. As a result of this book, I have finally shaped up my closet after a few years of getting rid of things. I'm also learning which knick-knacks I want to get rid of and what things I do want to keep in my house.

 

Breathing Life into your Characters by Rachel Ballon, PhD. 2003. Writing. 242.

As a fiction writer, I'm charged with creating characters that my audience will enjoy. Ballon's book takes writers thru the process of creating well-rounded characters using various psychological techniques. She describes lots of ways to make quirky, real characters by allowing yourself to examine them as they interact the real world. This books has lots of exercises and does get into how to make villians (shadow characters) as well. It was a good read and I'll be using many techniques in my own stories to make my characters more real.

 

Lean Forward into your Life by Mary Anne Radmacher. 2007. Reflective Thoughts. 210.

I'm drawn into books that help better myself. I borrowed this book from the library after being recommended it by amazon. Mary Anne Radmacher is an artist and a wordsmith whose book reflects upon several tenants on how to live one's life. She says this book is a commonplace book... a book of reflections over life events, teachings and thoughts. It's mapped over one of her more famous poems (her work can be seen everywhere. She's also a Oregon Coast artist) and includes many quotable passages as well as exercises.

 

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. 1993. Art History. 213.

Another book borrowed from the library, this one helps people try and deepen their understanding of comics. McCloud goes thru a bit of comic history and then describes several techniques to how to really understand what is going on in the comic format. The book was interesting and also follows a comic book format but I found that the style was a bit hard to read in some places and didn't keep my attention as best as it should have.

 

The Places that Scare You by Pema Chodron. 1991. Buddhist. 140.

This book, a gift from my friend Taylor, surprised me a bit. Its about balancing your inner self through a series of compassionate exercises. The book talks about buddhicitta, a way of awakening yourself by walking a middle path. It shows you how to sit with yourself and accept all the things that make you an individual-- the good and the bad. Just sitting around is something I don't do often and I know I need to face up to what I am rather than just being a human doing. I know I've picked up some good ideas for things I can do and be more aware of and know that another two or three readings of this book is in order. Overall, an interesting read and a good one for those who want to delve deeper into their own being.

 

Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves. 2007. Fantasy. 241.

This story, follows the life of one Joey Harker, a Walker. Joey's been born with the gift of being able to move through time/space and into other Earths. This is the story of how he learned to use his gifts, find his place amongst infinite worlds, and become a hero. A highly fun read and had a surprisingly high amount of depth to it. I totally loved the story.

 

I Was a Teenage Fairy by Francesca Lia Block. 1998. Fiction. 200

Another book borrowed from the library and devoured very quickly. Absolutely stunning and left me speechless. A story about a girl, who's trapped in a world of "giants" and how she learns how to become her own woman with the help of a fairy.

 

Magical Tarot, Mystical Tao by Diane Morgan. 2003. Metaphysical. 261.

Lately I've been reading a lot of books on Tao and Buddhism and when I heard about this book (which combines my love for tarot in with the eastern side of things), I knew I had to get it. It's an interesting blending of eastern and western thought patterns. It follows the Tao Te Ching rather than the traditional structure of the cards themselves and tries to tie the tarot in with this ancient book of tao.Slightly different than what I expected... this book gives indepth interpretations on how one would read tarot cards with a eastern mind (it also includes the more traditional western meanings as well). I'm hoping to attempt to incorporate some of these ideas into my own readings.

 

Writing Along, Writing Together by Judy Reeves. 2001 or 2002 (just got home and am very lazy right now). Writing. 160

I've just started a new writing group with a friend and we've had our first meeting the last week of July. We're a small group, 6-8 people who have varied interests and goals. So I got this book to help me get a bit of focus on what types of groups are out there and how we should approach our own group. I have the feeling that ours is going to be a mix of the types Reeves spoke of, with a sprinkle and dash of our craziness and silliness. :) All in all a good book that gave me much to think on.

 

Spellbinder by Melanie Rawn. 2006. Fantasy. 500

Given to me by my mother-in-law, I was a bit hesitant. It's urban fantasy (which I love) with some romance thrown in. Thinking it'd end up some being steamier than it was, I can honestly say I was a bit surprised. It's a love story, with magickal workings thrown in. The characters are well rounded and quirky, the plot kept me on my toes (even if I found it a bit slow to begin with), and totally engrossing (started it yesterday and finished in under a day). Some good quotes in this one that I'll be transcribing.

 

The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure by Storm Constantine. 2002. Fantasy. 480.

The second of three books I own on the Wraeththu series, this one focuses on several lesser characters from the original trilogy. It's told between the second and third books and ends briefly before the final events of the third. It not only expands a bit of Constantine's mythology but sort of also retells and gives more information on the events of what happened. I'm enjoying this and can't wait to see where the next book leads. I'm now 2/3rds done with my goal books! yay.

 

The Shades of Time and Memory by Storm Constantine. 2004. Fantasy. 444.

The last of the books I own on the Wraeththu series, this one took me by storm (no pun intended). It pushes the Wraeththu mythology further along it's story and out of the past. This is the book I was hoping it'd be and now need to read the last one to know how it all ends. I'm very impressed and also very tired. (Finishing this book at 5am on august 14th. )

 

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. 2004. Fiction. 643 (Large print edition).

This seemed to be the book that everyone had just got done reading this summer. My friend Jenn recommended it to me and then I got it from the library and suddenly everyone else was telling me they had read it or started to. Wow. What a story and especially for a first publication. This is a story of lovers and love and of time and how nothing can keep it all apart. Not even time itself. Traces of this book will linger with me for a very long time to follow.

 

Storm Front by Jim Butcher. 2000. Fantasy. 322.

My friend Taylor loves the Dresden series. Gushes about it even. So, after seeing the box display for Butcher's books at Barnes and Noble, I decided to take the plunge; and found it enjoyable. It's not the best writing in the world but it works. Butcher's Harry Dresden is a cross between a urban warlock and a old fashioned gumshoe and the writing shares the same feeling. It's got all the elements I like in a good plot. Humor, supernatural occurrences and a main character who's got flaws that make him more real. The story reads at a quick pace and while I'd have liked scenes to run a bit smoother, overall this was a fun read. Good thing I have book two on the shelf waiting.

 

Witchling by Yasmine Galenorn. 2006. Fantasy. 293.

I've known Galenorn when she was writing wicca 101 books and knew that she had a flare for storytelling. So when I spied the first three books of her Otherworld series on my mother-in-law's bookcase, I knew that I'd hafta get a set of my own. She's not that bad of a story spinner either. This book, written in first person perspective by the eldest of three sisters (who are half-fae and half-human), Camille-- a witch who draws her magic from the power of the moon-- jumps right into the action. It tells the tale of how the sisters have to deal with a daemon attack on the Earthbound (aka Earth) plane. The writing feels a bit over the top, as there seems to be too much goodness about these characters but I'm hoping as the series continues, that the writing as well as the characters smooth out a bit and lose some of the fae-glam and get a bit real. We'll see. Over all, a fun book to read; and didn't take that long... gulped in down in less than a day.

 

Changeling by Yasmine Galenorn. 2007. Fantasy. 293.

The second of Galenorn's Otherworld series, this one focuses the tale around Delilah, a half-weretabby cat. The tale picks up a few months after Witchling and continues the tale of the three sisters. While the voice of Camille seemed a bit stronger from the last book, Delilah seems to be a bit more grounded in reality. Her part of the tale (tailored a bit too much for her being, I think) revolves around how she (and by extension, her sisters) are enlisted to help a local pack of werepumas in the area. It's a good story and I wonder how deep this story will go and how far the roundtable of voices will go before getting to the conclusion.

 

Darkling by Yasmine Galenorn. 2008. Fantasy. 281.

The third book in the Otherworld series, this tells the tale of the youngest of the three fae/human sisters, Menolly. She's a vampire who was turned by a horrible sire. While I was excited to read this book, it took me almost a week to finish it. As with the other two books, the book structure was the same. Introduce the character and background, get them into some spooky action, have them seek a new alliance to help, go thru something where they had to pay a price, quickly vanquish a foe they built up to be bigger than they really seemed and end happily. This is all fine and good but... I was hoping for a bit more. Maybe now that we've got the round robin intros out of the way the next trilogy will be a bit different in structure and more on actual story. Who knows, guess I'll try and find a used copy of the 4th book out at powell's.

 

2007 Book Reviews

Tarot for Life by Prospero. 2004. Metaphysics/Tarot. 143.

Interesting course on combining tarot with aspects of majick. It not only gives many spreads and interpretations for the cards but also gives physical and meditative examples to apply lessons to one's own life. Each chapter had some personal story that introduced a core concept, presented an original spread, then discussed the card(s). Each chapter ended with a personal exercise that involved getting away from the deck and meditate or practice some energy/perspective exercise. Seeing that this book is also British, it was refreshing to hear different interpretations on what each card means. It's a quick read, but I'd recommed this book for tarot enthusiasts who already know a bit about tarot, its structure and the meaning of each card. This fits into my overall goals for the summer, but I realize I need to read more fictiion books. This book DOES remove one book OFF a stack of books that I keep on a t.v. tray behind the sofa; it now rests peacefully back on its spot on one of my bookcases.

 

The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman. 2005. Fiction/Young Adult. 167.

Quite honestly, this was the first book I've read of Hoffman's. I've seen Practical Magic and have always thought about buying it, but other books caught my eye. This one was on my amazon wish list and given to me by my best friend. I was expecting a more coming of age book but instead got treated to a wonderful story set in a mythic age. It reminded me more of oral stories written by Native Americans than a traditional tale. Our heroine, comes to grips with herself and her position within an amazonian society that's poised on the edge of a new dawn... where they need to learn how to fight with cunning and words, rather than spears and weapons. Hoffman's diction brought this world into very vivid realism in my mind. This fits into my goal by being fiction. Yay for fiction.

 

The Labyrinth by Cathreynne M. Valente. 2004. Fiction/Postmodern. 181.

This was a very interesting book. Really, it was. It's told in the first person and is about a woman who's trapped in a Labyrinth. She's being chased by doors and we follow along as she searches for the mythical center. But it's the writing and the way the story is structured that makes this book so interesting. The writing is painfully structured, as if every word was CAREFULLY chosen. In some places the story reads more like a poem than modern-day prose. The structure, folds in on itself and doubles back... as if it were the labyrinth itself. I chose to read this book because it fits into my goal of reading more fiction than non-fiction.

 

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville. 2007. Fiction/Young Adult. 432.

It was the image on the cover and the name that caught my eye when I was in the bookstore. And I'm gald I purchased it. Adding into what I call the Modern day faerietale and magic realism genres, this book tells the story of UnLondon, a world under and between our London. Smog (yes, the smokey stuff) has grown to intelligence and threatens to destroy this rich and lush world spun by Mieville. It's up to the heroine (seems like more books are choosing to write from the perspective of young women heroines these days) and her stalwart crew of unLondoners to save the day. The characters are real and have their quirks and flaws; all which help keep the action lively and fast paced. While this book is a nice fantasy created for younger readers, it's got a lot to keep adult readers engrossed and smiling at the turn of names and places. The ending, leaves room for a sequel; and I, do hope that Mieville makes a sequel. Again, not only does this book count into my goals as being more fiction than non, but it removes a big tome off my stacks.

 

Page After Page by Heather Sellers. 2005. Non-fiction/Writing. 228.

Writing is my trade. Words are the currancy and writing help books are market watchers. Page After Page discusses and promotes a whole writing lifestyle. Sellers writes about how she came to her writing by meeting the trade, page after page, each day. She gently nudges you to the page by telling you stories of her triumphs and failures to meet the page every day. Through her stories and almost memoir-like writing, the reader learns how meeting the blank page and writing can lead to a writer's life; that words, written and read, along with surrounding oneself with chearleaders and other writers, builds a blooming writing lifestyle that will last an entire life. Exercises help broaden the writing life and help you write every day, building one one another until you're able to get the building blocks to keep up with writing daily. This is a great book... Sellers doesn't sugar coat any aspect of a writer's life. She lays all her cards on the table, telling you what is good about writing and a writing life and warns you against the bads... and what happens to writers when they drop out or lose the passion. This is a true writing life-- it's dirty, gritty and helps you cultivate something real... which is how to be a writer and sit your butt in the chair every day to write. This book fits into my summer goals by removing it from one of the three stacks I have laying around my writing desk. It's now going back home in my art/writing studio. (So I can use it to write daily.)

 

Mockingbird by Sean Stewart. 2005. Fiction/Fantasy. 256.

My favorite genre is magic realism. I love reading and writing about how life would be if our world got blended with fantastical things. This story, reads very much like a diary from the blender. It is the story of Tori and what happens when her mother leaves her a voodoun legacy, debt and how she deals with bringing her life together. She must reconcile her love/hate relationship with the magicks, god and adapt to her own abilities while being pregnant. As a first novel, and written from a female perspective from a male author, Stewart does a good job of painting scenes and throwing the reader into his world where magic and reality collide. I was impressed with his ability to pull off writing from the point of view of a pregnant 30-something woman who's terrified and exicted to lead a life without her mother or the dark legacy that she left her. This novel has tight writing and some witty dialog (not to mention some interesting situations) and is a quick and fun read. It fits into my goals by being, yet another fiction book.

 

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. 2005. Non-Fiction/Autobiography. 222.

I love books that attempt to try something new. This is one of those books. Rosenthal writes snippets of her life that are categorized around entries that could be found straight from Britannica. Some entries detail list-like favorites of her past, while others are more serious and detail particular moments of her life. She claims that she lived an ordinary life and had nothing special happen to her. She was not a drug addict, her parents never divorced and she never got into any major wrecks. And yet, in this book... we see just how extraordinary a life can be when one decides to capture the small, insignificant moments of their life. This book is playful and a wonderful way to categorize one's life. This fits into my summer reading goals by removing yet another book off the stack of books on the table next to me. It also was a book that I purchased a while ago and had not read yet.

 

Simple Days: A Journal on What Really Matters by Marlene A. Schiwy. 2002. Non-Fiction. 220.

We all long for the simple life, where we surround ourselves with just enough things to not weigh us down; and time to enjoy the greater things in life. Does it mean stripping her life to the bare minimum of items around her? Does it mean moving from the life in the city to out in the countryside where she grows her own foods? In a day and age where many people take the idea of a "simple life" to the extreme (they move away from places they love, grow their own food, and get rid of countless treasures) Simple Days is Schiwy's attempt at looking inside herself and trying to understand what a simple life really means. Schiwy kept this journal over the course of a year in which she determined what she wanted to gain in "simplifying her own life". At first she wonders if simplifying life means getting rid of just stuff or if there's a deeper meaning to it all. The journal, then follows her path as she sorts out just what sort of a simple life she wants. It details her comfort zones of what she needs to retain in her life and also reminisces about her family life and how that shaped her view of living. In the end, she finds that she already lives a simple life; it's mostly just clearing out clutter and preparing herself for a long move from the East Coast to the West that she needs to get a handle on. This book was another long ago purchase that helps to clear it off a stack.

 

Tailchaser's Song by Tad Williams. 1985. Fiction/Fantasy. 375.

While camping last month, a friend and I got into a conversation about books that we read over and over and over again. Mine was Watership Down, affectionately known as "the bunny book". It's one of those rare stories that never grow old for me. Last week, she loaned me Tailchaser's Song. This book, is the cat's version of Watership Down. It's the tale of Fritti Tailchaser, who's lost his friend from kittenhood; disturbed by this loss, he sets out to find her. The book describes his tour of the countryside as he learns the importance of freedom, friendship and what it means to be a independant cat. The ending, while very fitting, has left my eyes filling with some tears of happy-sadness and I know that after the pages ran out, Fritti discovered where he really wanted his life to roam. This book, helps add another fiction novel to my growing list of books for the summer. Yay!

 

 

Dragonfly by Frederic S Durbin. 1999. Fiction/Fantasy. 326.

I remember picking this book up on a lark. It was the name and the cover that caught my eye. We were just about to leave the store when I saw it and knew I had to have it. I'm glad I got it. Imagine Neil Gaiman meets HP Lovecraft and this is one possible reality. Dragonfly is the story of a 10 year old girl, who foolishly adventures down into a horrible realm (much like Lovecraft's Dreamlands). Dragonfly, follows a strange "exterminator" down into her basement that has been strangely changed into a horrifying world. She then discouvers a horrible plot by the ringleader, Sam Hain (get it? get it? *giggles*), who steals children from our world and forces them into slavery. No matter where she goes, trouble follows; even if all she wants to do is go home. Dragonfly finds that no matter where she goes, trouble follows. People she loves die or get caught and all she wants is to go home. Finally, after a weird and bizarre battle that is both fitting to the story and not quite fitting, she does go home... only to forge a bond with many of the characters that leaves the book open for future sequels. I enjoyed this book, but found it a bit hard to digest. Durbin's prose is thick and dense and filled with puns. The print was small and I found my self constantly re-reading passages that my eye may have skipped over. In the end I added another fiction book to my reading list and cleared one more book off the table. Yay! 7 more to go.

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling. 2007. Fiction/Fantasy. 759.

Like Micaela, I too have finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I will also refrain from posting a report. But I will say that the release party at Powell's was crazy last night. They ordered about 10,000 books or so and filled up one whole block and THEN some for the line. I had never seen anything like it in my life. And all for a book. It was incredible.

 

The Castle of Crossed Destinies by Italo Calvino. 1969. Fiction. 129.

I've always said that a pack of tarot cards can be used for more things than just fortunes. Calvino's book proves this theory. In it, he descibes a Castle and an Inn, where things aren't always what they seem. People who stay at these places... lose their voices and cannot speak. Instead, after meals...they spend their time crafting their stories using only a pack of tarot cards and wild gestures. The narrator of these two entertwined, yet separate tales, helps us decipher the meanings of each person's story as it unfolds out on the table. The book even uses the images from two Marcelles decks to help tell the tales. I found this book oddly intriguing and as each story was told, I found myself trying to follow along with the pictures of the tarot. This particular edition of the book, included Notes about how these stories and a pack of tarot cards haunted his writing life for years. He was constantly trying to refine stories and the patterns utilizing all 78 cards. All in all, I'm glad I discovered this writer and will definitely try and read more Calvino in the future. This fits into my goals by giving me another work of fiction under my belt.

 

Cell by Stephen King. 2006. Fiction. 449.

This is the first Stephen King book I've managed to finish in a long time. Of course, my all time favorite is The Dark Tower series. Intrigued by the idea of cell phones turing people into zombies, I had to get this one. However, what I thought this was going to be about and what it ended up being are two different things. Yes, this book is about how a single call changed the way people look at communications over a cell phone. But in my head I wanted to see how the world coped in this new zombified world. And King didn't deliver that story. Instead, he turned it into one man's journey to find his son and understand what may or may not have taken hold of him. Even at the end, I found the book a bit open ended for my tastes and didn't leave me with answers to the questions I wanted. I even read this one in a few hours, so it's a quick read too. This book helps boost my goal of reading more fiction than non-fiction.

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