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Book review: The Golem and The Djinni by Helene Wecker

  
What is it that makes us human? Is it blood, bones and skin? What then of a woman made of clay, or a man made of fire?

Is it our thoughts, our actions, our hopes, dreams and sorrows that make us human?

What then of the wizard who only wanted fame, power and life eternal? What of the Djinni who only hoped he hadn’t harmed anyone while he was enslaved? Or of the masterless golem, who had to fight against her nature to make sure she didn’t scare the people around her?

Or is it our actions that make us human?

The wizard, who came back life after life, searching desperately, fearfully, for the secret to immortality.

The Djinni, who worked marvels in metal, explored the city, had a romantic dalliance, thought he was better than the humans and their small miserable lives, and came to befriend Chava.

The golem, who learnt how to control her actions, ignore the thoughts, wishes and desires of all the people around her, worked diligently at the Radzin’s bakery, and was forever changed by Ahmed.

This is the story of their unlikely friendship. That blossomed into love. That changed them subtly, even when they shouldn’t have been changed. For they were not human. They were Chava and Ahmed. The Golem and the Djinni. 

In conversation with Elaine Taylor, author of Karma, Deception, and a Pair of Red Ferraris

In Karma, Deception and a Pair of Red Ferraris, Elaine Taylor lays bare her relationship issues, childhood trauma, failed marriages, and her quest for love – all in her witty, sassy, down-to-earth voice. She gives it as it is – straight up – with complete honesty and vulnerability. Her insight into personal healing and acceptance as a pathway to love is both illuminating and inspiring. And her message of worthiness is one that needs to be heard – loud and clear. Weather or not you’ve had a traumatic childhood or relationship struggles, her honesty and doggedness will have you firmly rooting for her. By the time I finished reading the book, I felt like I really wanted to hear about her self-realization and the lessons she learnt along the way. So, without further ado, allow me to present to you – Elaine Taylor!

1: It’s been an inspirational move from equating love with control and realizing it’s open, expansive and just is. While therapy did eventually play a role in helping you, how do you think spirituality and Allie B, the psychic, helped you open up to love?

Allie B was the catalyst for my transformation. In our very first session, when I asked if I would ever find the deep and long-lasting love for which I so yearned, she was unequivocal. “Most definitely—all your power planets are in your houses of relationships. You incarnated into this lifetime to experience legendary love.”

Whoa! That was exactly what I wanted to hear! But to my, “when?”, she did that close-your-eyes, take-deep-breaths California woo-woo thing; then answered, “Not until you’re ready.”

That let the helium out of my balloon! It wasn’t possible to be more “ready” than I was.

But something about that niggled in my subconscious. Like, what if I really wasn’t “ready”? What if there was more to it than just desire—like maybe some actual preparation? I had no clue what that might be.

Early in KARMA DECEPTION I write about having always felt “guided”; having felt that “… gentle reassuring hand on my shoulder …” in times of extreme turmoil and fear and pain. Spiritual awareness led me to be more open when Allie B said things like, “Your Spirit Guides want me to tell you …”—fill in the blank. At first, a part of my brain shouted, “Beware: snake oil ahead!” But maybe not. If I was truly “guided,” was it possible Allie B was simply the most direct conduit to What/Whomever was doing the guiding? Over time I began to trust my gut—dilute my skepticism.

After I met Doc Ferrari, I asked Allie B to do our relationship chart—see if we had a future together, because I really, really wanted him to be My Legendary Love. When she said he and I had come together to fulfill a “shit-heavy karmic pact,” I was indignant—certain she got it wrong. I didn’t care about a karmic pact: I wanted true love! (Of course, had she told me he and I were destined to ride off into happily ever after together—I would have been like, “Oh yeah, the Doc and I have this fabulous karmic future—Allie B said so. I can’t lose!”) She turned out to be 100% right about Doc Ferrari, in every one of her predictions. I cannot imagine navigating that part of my history without her.

Bottom line: Allie B was instrumental in my journey to be ready for the contentment, happiness, and love I now have in my life.

2: It took you a very long time to really focus on the scars from your childhood and acknowledge and heal them. Do you have any suggestions for others who may be in your situation – believing they are being strong and brave by holding on to their scars and going on with their lives without acknowledging the need for/seeking help?

Like a gazillion people, I grew up with addictive/abusive parents, in a redneck culture where a girl had less value than a “trained huntin’ dawg” and a “good woman knows her place.” So shutting down my emotions—walling off a tender heart—was a survival instinct.

When I entered the workforce, I set out to prove I was “as good as any man.” Not because I was a militant bra-burner; but because I was a single mom in need of a man-size paycheck. So I emulated the hard edges, sharp elbows and impenetrable boundaries that I thought comprised “real men.” That’s when I really screwed up my perception of what emotional strength is!

My personal life was one long trail of relationship roadkill. The combination of being emotionally shut down plus tough and invincible … well, it ain’t exactly a nurturing environment in which to plant the seeds of romantic love.

“Getting ready for love” meant going back in time and confronting hurtful memories that made me believe, deep at my core, that I was not deserving of love. I had to dismantle the protective armor that kept the pain at bay. I had to rediscover that true emotional strength is the courage to be vulnerable. The willingness to be tender and soft with no guarantee that life/love will turn out as we want it to. Essentially, I had to heal.

And boy, was that hard! And scary! But hanging onto those scars was costing me something dear.

I came to understand that if I didn’t heal those old wounds, I would never have the love for which I yearned—the deeply fulfilling love I have shared for over a decade, with an amazing man.

Three key things that came out of my years of “getting ready”:

  • I believed the dark void at my core would magically vanish and I would feel light and free once the right man came along and filled me up. Wrong. I was/am the only one who could/can fill that void.
  • We never find love until we believe ourselves worthy of it. We will never feel worthy of love until we haul out the emotional trash, heal the emotional wounds.
  • All that difficult and painful work that I resisted for so long because I was terrified to step into my own personal haunted house? It is sooooooo worth it!

Regarding your question about “need for/seeking help”: I believe it is absolutely essential that we not try to do deep healing on our own. First, it’s almost impossible to consider other perspectives about the demons to be vanquished (critical to this kind of work) when we are sitting alone, in our own heads, with our certainties and deeply held thoughts/beliefs that are like the grooves in an old vinyl record: dug deep and virtually impossible to restructure. Secondly, it can be dangerous. Sometimes we have to wade into territory that can undermine us if we don’t have an objective guide/safety valve to pull us back if we get too close to a treacherous edge.

3: Given your childhood trauma, you made sure that your children were brought up differently. What advice can you give to young, harried mothers so they don’t pass on their stress to their children?

Oh wow. Wouldn’t it be an amazing boon to society if humans were not allowed to parent until we had been taught some of the fundamentals of parenting!

It is one of the most important jobs we do in our lifetime; and most of us do it by the seat of our pants. Unfortunately, that often means we repeat with our own children the things that were done to us. It’s easy to replicate what is familiar, extraordinarily difficult and time-consuming to try to figure out better way—if we even have a conscious awareness that there is “a better way.”

My parents undoubtedly started with the idea of  “raising me right”—of doing what they felt necessary to “make me the best woman possible.” But a lot of times Mom acted out of her own anger, frustration and bitterness—certainly in part because she was young and harried and trying to make her way with scant resources. “Resources”—emotional, financial, physical, etc.—unavoidably impact every parent’s best-intentioned parenting patterns.

Just like every parent throughout the history of time, I did some things right; and some things wrong. Things I wish someone had told me before my daughter was born:

  • Kids are good actors, they generally want to please, and they are resilient; so I didn’t realize how my parenting was impacting my daughter until she was a teen and I was paying for her therapy! (Ha! But seriously …)
  • I wish I had understood the importance of being aware of my true and honest intentions in every parenting situation. (Sometimes I was angry/hurt/frustrated/whatever and believed everyone around me should share my burden. I wish I had understood potential unintended consequences of my actions/words. Some of my “best decisions” turned out to be wrong. Life is complicated.
  • Yes, I did my best; but I often fell short of some invisible marker. I wish I had known the magical power of a sincere apology. I would have admitted more often that I might have been wrong; and I would have apologized.
  • I wish I had taught my daughter, by example, forgiveness and compassion for herself, as well as for others.

Two important facts: There are a ton of factors beyond our control: genetics, social/outside influences, etc. Even with all the expert advice available and our unflagging best efforts (for any superhuman who can actually be unflagging), there is no guarantee it will turn out well.

4: Now that you’ve found your true love, what’s your mantra for a successful relationship/marriage?

Good and open communication is absolutely essential. (Ever heard that before?!)

I try always to remember that, when life/relationship heads south, as life and relationships are wont to do, the one thing I have complete control over is how I choose to react to the situation. I am 100% responsible for my role in turning the ship north … or helping it stay on that unpleasant, sometimes disastrous, southerly course.

5: Could you share your new moon manifesting ritual?

Here it is, straight from Allie B! http://www.modernmystical.com

NEW MOON MANIFESTING RITUAL

I was reminded that not everyone knows about rituals, and how to do one.  Rituals are an ancient way to honor the sacredness of High Holy Days, important Moons – Full and New, to clear, invite, release and call in.

This is a simple one – in accordance with the Native way of honoring this sacred time.

Feel free to use your own prayers, words, Name of GOD, etc.

The Planning

New Moon is a time of new beginnings.  The moon is totally dark, a propitious time to plant the seed thoughts of new creativity, new determination and new goals.

Sit and think about what you want to call in, create, begin to manifest, or take to the next level.  Get a pad and pen and start writing it down. What do you want for yourself, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially?  what do you want to help create in the world?  In your relationships?  Through your work?

Be aware of how you are phrasing it!  Words have power (as do thoughts!) At New Moon you are creating Magic. You are calling in the most potent and powerful forces of the Universe. Make sure to put things in positive ways. Make sure to ask that everything you call in or ask for comes in a gentle and benevolent way !  Remember this is a time of new. This is not a time of clearing, or releasing.

Do not tell the Universe what you do not want!

What you will need:

Make sure you know when the exactitude of New moon is.   Go out 1/2 hour before with everything on a tray.

Gather a tea light candle, 2 sticks of incense, a cup of water, 2 pinches of tobacco, some cornmeal, a few candles to make a sacred circle (You can use 4 to the 4 directions, or 5 (to create a pentacle of Power,  8 or 12) and a smudge stick (sage, cedar)  as well as a lighter or matches.  Appropriate color candles for new moon:  white, green, blues, pink (esp for love) lavender for new consciousness.

To do a New Moon Ritual

You first need to do a burning sea salt smudge before you start,  to clear and create a pure, sacred space to do your ritual in, and to have a pure and sanctified place to have the magic work.  So do this first, starting with smudging yourself and then your home, car, and the space you are doing the ritual in.  Smudge your phone, your pocketbook, change purse, wallet, (whatever you hold your money in),  as well as your day-runner, schedule or appointment book.

If possible, do your ritual outside, standing barefoot on the Earth. If this is not possible, do it on your patio, deck or whatever you have. In bad weather, inside .

Light your smudge stick: cedar, sage, sweetgrass or a combination of them.

Starting in the East , with your burning smudge stick do the invocation:

Invocation to the 4 Directions:

“Ho to the Spirit of the (E, S,W, N). To the Direction of the ___ To the Angel of the ___. To the Totem of the —-. Ho to the Lessons and Blessings of the —-. Ho to the Spirit of the —-.!”

Bow to the  East (S/W/N)

Repeat to the South, West and North.  Turn to face the East again.

Smudge to Mother Earth, and make a tobacco offering

Smudge to Father Sky / God / Goddess  . Light a stick of incense and place in the ground, or a planter or a make-shift holder.

Raise your hands , palms out :  Ground yourself, feeling the connection of you and your physical body to the Earth. Visualize running your Grounding cord down into the core of the Earth.  Take a deep breath.

At this Time of New Beginnings, I now create:  (Or choose to manifest) Go thru your list.

When you are finished, Say:” Ho!   SO BE IT !  And it is so!

Take a deep breath.

Make a cornmeal offering to the Earth Spirits and Earth Devas

Make a water offering to the water Spirits and Devas

Light your incense and make it an offering to the Air spirits and Devas

Finally, light your tea light. If it blows out after you light it, just put it down.  It has been accepted by the Fire Beings. If it stays lit, make sure it is in a container that will not tip over or start a fire.

Ground yourself again.  Make sure you have included every area and every thing you are ready, able and willing to Create, Manifest or take to the next Level.

Thank the Angles, Teachers, Guides , Devas, Mother Earth and Divine Self for witnessing.  Ask their help in your calling in the Forces needed to fulfill your prayers.

Bless yourself, Mother Earth and your life. Release the circle.

Turn around, and do not look back.  You can go out tomorrow to pick up the candle holders, etc.

Your magic is now set. It is working!

Blessed Be !

Book Review: Wind Horse by Kaushik Barua

Wind Horse by Kaushik Barua Windhorse is the story of Lhasang, who grew up in Kham in Eastern Tibet. The son of a trader, he grew up with stories of King Gesar of Ling, of Padmasambhava, the man who taught Buddhism to Bod (Tibet), and Lhalung Pelgyi Dorje, the man who conquered fear and killed the godless king. But after the Chinese invade Tibet, when it becomes apparent that they will take away “class enemies” to be “retrained”, he makes the death-defying trek to India with his family. Uprooted from everything that he knew, all that he held dear, in a foreign country, surrounded by people whose language he doesn’t understand, he comes to realize that the only way forward for him is to go back – to Tibet.

This is the story of Norbu, the son of a successful Delhi-based  Tibetan businessman, for whom Tibet is just an idea, a picture of a young Kundun (The Dalai Lama), the place where his grandparents stay. In college, he’s lumped together with the Northeastern group on the basis of their facial features. He goes through life controlled by his father, secretly learning all he can about Tibet, but confused about his identity, about his purpose. Until he meets Dolma, a young Tibetan college student. She’s escaped from Tibet, though her parents are still there. And she’s very active on the political front, fighting to get the Tibetan voice heard, to get help to the refugees who are flocking in to Delhi, to Majnu Ka Tila, almost every day. Norbu goes with her to the refugee colony to teach children English, which is where he meets Lhasang, and his life takes a completely different turn.

This is the story of Thupten, the rich Tibetan trader whose business was ruined by the Chinese and whose only daughter Dechen was killed during the uprising in Lhasa. It is the story of Ratu, a disfigured rebel, of Athar, a rebel monk who took up arms when the Chinese killed the head of his monastery.

This is the story of Tibet. The story of the early years of the Chinese invasion, of the Tibetan’s struggle for freedom.

It’s a story that is alive with Tibetan myth and culture, with their innate sense of non-violence, and the clash between the ideologies of the older and younger generations caught in the conflict. This is the story of a people who are still in exile, of a conflict that continues until today. And while it is a fictionalized history of Tibet, it is also a story about human beings and their search and struggle for purpose and freedom.

All-in-all, it is a story that must be read. Highly, highly recommended!

Book Review: Private by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Former Marine helicopter pilot Jack Morgan runs Private, a renowned investigation company with branches around the globe. It is where you go when you need maximum force and maximum discretion. Jack is already deep into the investigation of a multi-million dollar NFL gambling scandal and the unsolved slayings of 18 schoolgirls when he learns of a horrific murder close to home: his best friend’s wife, Jack’s former lover, has been killed. It nearly pushes him over the edge. Instead, Jack pushes back and devotes all of Private’s resources to tracking down her killer. With a plot that moves at death-defying speeds, Private is James Patterson sleekest, most exciting thriller ever.

I’ve long been a James Patterson fan, primarily of his Alex Cross novels – those are brilliant! But it’s been a long time since I read any of his novels, so when this book came across my radar screen, I thought I’d give it a go.

I dived into the book with high expectations – it’s a James Patterson after all, and a series for which he is teaming up with writers from across the world. I thought it would be interesting. It wasn’t.

In this, the first Private novel that serves as the backbone for the rest of the franchise, we are introduced to Jack Morgan – a former helicopter pilot who crashed out of the Afghanistan war with terrible memories and immeasurable guilt (nothing new here). With the money left to him by his father, he set up Private, a detective agency with state-of-the-art equipment and a free pass to do with it as he pleases.

The most interesting case is the one where they are tracking the dead school girls, but the NFL case just seems to be tacked on as an after thought and I didn’t see any reason why the murder of his best friend’s wife was in any way relevant to the story.

The writing is sloppy, the dialogues are forced, the plot twists are quite predictable. The characters are two-dimensional – the women, especially, are horrifyingly portrayed. The lead police detective on the schoolgirl case, for example, is a fat, angry woman, while Justine, who is leading the investigation at Private, arrives at murder scenes in stilettos. The men are all effortlessly good looking and the cops are pretty much bumbling idiots. It’s very reminiscent of a B-grade Hollywood flick.

I give this book a big thumbs down.

Book Review: Sita’s Curse – The Language of Desire by Sreemoyee Piu Kundu

From the back cover: Trapped for 15 years in the stranglehold of a dead marriage and soulless household domesticity, the beautiful, full-bodied and passionate Meera Patel depends on her memories and her flights of fantasy to soothe the aches that wrack her body…until one cataclysmic day in Mumbai, when she finally breaks free. Bold, brazen and defiant, Sita’s Curse looks at the hypocrisy of Indian society and tells the compelling story of a middle class Indian housewife’s urgent need for love, respect, acceptance – and sexual fulfillment.

What I expected: Simply put: feminist erotica. This is the first book whose book trailer I actually watched. And I had high expectations from it. I thought it would be bold and brazen; daring and defiant; eschewing the stereotype of an Indian “bahu” (wife) and looking, instead, at the woman – at her dreams and hopes; her fight for respect and acceptance in her new household; her flight from the cage that traps her.

What it is: C-grade thrash. Honestly, 50 Shades of Gray was literary manna compared to this.

We have Meera, an innocent village girl, who starts her sexscapade as a child with her twin Kartik, moves on to underage sex with her dance teacher, girl-on-girl sex with the daughter of her father’s associate, and then has sex with a stranger on a riverbank before she’s pushed into a loveless marriage with Mohan.

Now Mohan, despite trying really hard, just cannot get it up. So in between pleasuring herself, Meera has sex with their guruji, indulges in voyeuristic behavior by spying on her brother-in-law having sex with his wife, bangs the dance teacher in her colony, and then discovers the joys of internet porn. And on that “cataclysmic day in Mumbai”, she calls her chat room lover to a seedy hotel in Colaba where she discovers that maybe she is in love with the gigolo.

And if you’re wondering where Sita fits in all of this – you’re not alone. I have the same question. Apart from the fact that Meera played the role of Sita every year on Dusserha, Sita has nothing much to do in the book. Except to cringe at this gross misuse of her name.

By now I am sure you can surmise that you will have to hunt for the plot with a magnifying glass. The sex will not titillate you – it will disgust you. And feminists everywhere are most probably seething at having this book labelled “feminist erotica”.

Final verdict: Give this one a miss

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