Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Yoga for Real Life

I do like my yoga books. I bought this after I started doing Kundalini Yoga. Most of the yoga practiced here focuses on the asanas, the postures. Kundalini is different in that the focus there is on moving with the breath. The major focuses of Kundalini are breath and mantra. Doing Kundalini is almost like a moving meditation. And, regardless of how easy it sounds, it really isn't. Because in Kundalini they like to repeat a move (in time with the breath) for long periods of time. In this book, the recommendation is to start with about 5 minutes for each practice and build your way up to half an hour.

The thing I really like about this book is that it talks about integrating yoga into your life. So that it's not just about the time you spend on your mat. If you're interested in yoga, this is an interesting read.

The Nine Tailors

This is a great book. I knew nothing about change ringing (I still know very little), not even that it existed. I do wonder if it's a completely lost art or if there are still places where it happens. As a murder mystery this is a great read, though I will admit to finding certain aspects of it blindingly obvious. Other aspects kept me guessing. The coded message was fantastic and once the message was decoded I had a fair (though not complete) idea of what it meant, but I would never have been able to solve the code myself. I definitely recommend this to people who enjoy mysteries. It's a little dated, being set between the wars, but it doesn't suffer for it.

Friday, 21 January 2011

In the Teeth of the Evidence

This is a set of short stories. The first two, featuring Lord Peter Wimsey are pretty good. The next five or six feature a travelling salesman named Montague Egg. They're enjoyable but nothing special. The rest of them feature no one in particular and are frequently nothing more than misdirection masquerading as a mystery. It was a fun, quick read, but not something I'd recommend.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Busman's Honeymoon

My first Dorothy Sayers, the last of her Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. I really enjoyed this. The characters were engaging and I actually cared about what happened to most of them (even the annoying ones that I didn't particularly like).

I can't say how I would react to moving to my new home and finding a corpse in the cellar (of course, South African homes don't really have cellars, so the chances are miniscule), but I imagine I'd have some interest in knowing how and why it came to be there. I don't think I'd be quite as cavalier about it as Lord Peter, but since this is set just before the second world war one can imagine that things were very different then. Anyway, this is a wonderfully written book with an excellent plot. Highly recommended

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Death at the Dolphin

This is my first Ngaio Marsh (who is, along with about a dozen other women, the Queen of Crime). I was not particularly impressed. I don't read murder mysteries so that I can read half a book before someone dies. All it says to me is that the writer is not particularly good at mysteries and so can't write an entire book centred around the murder. The lead up was interesting, though in my opinion out of place in a murder mystery. Sometimes the lead up to the murder contains a few red herrings and some information relevant to catching the killer. What I most particularly didn't like was the fact that, as in Sherlock Holmes stories, all the important evidence is kept from the reader. What that says to me is that the author is afraid that the reader will be able to work it out for themselves too quickly, and that the author should therefore not be writing mysteries.

I enjoyed this, but I wouldn't recommend it and I'm not particularly interested in others by this author.

The Raphael Affair

This is a very interesting book. It ends up as a murder mystery, though it's really about art theft and forgery and so on. I really enjoyed it. I liked most of the main characters, particularly the two that I gather continue the series. It's also a nice break from the usual murder mysteries in that it's neither set in the US nor the UK (it's set in Italy) and one gets a completely different kind of government influence on the investigators. Also, being set on continental Europe there's occasional travel to other countries, including Switzerland and the UK. This was a quick, fun read and I'd be interested in reading more in the series.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Yoga for Pain Relief

This is a fantastic book. If you suffer from chronic pain and enjoy yoga you should read it. Probably, you should read it even if you don't enjoy yoga. I don't really have much else to say...

I will say, though, that it's harder than it seems to put the information into practice. I'm pretty good about doing my yoga, but when I'm sore I tend to skip classes and I don't really want to do yoga. I'd certainly be more inclined to do yoga at home than in a class at those times. The hard part is getting the brain to move past pain and into a place where you can do something about it. I really enjoy seeing the various variations on poses that can make it easier for someone that's hurting. The variety of props and the way they're used is a departure from normal yoga books.

In short: if you're suffering, read it.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The Bullet Trick

Another book for Dad. This is about a magician, rather down on his luck. At one engagement he ends up with an envelope he shouldn't have, in order to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. He sends the envelope to a safe place before heading off to his next engagement, a stint in Germany. While there he learns that the person he was keeping the envelope for died later that night. Unsurprisingly, the person who originally had the envelope is now looking for him. On top of all that, he thinks he's responsible for the murder of an unnamed person

The book is following him about Glasgow, intercut with flashbacks to his time in London (where he got the envelope) and Germany. A bullet trick is a trick performed by magicians that I understand is rather standard. This is an interesting book. I probably wouldn't have chosen it for myself, but it's worth reading because it's a departure from the usual types of murder mysteries.

Six Graves to Munich

This was written by Mario Puzo, best known for the Godfather. It was written a long time ago under another name. I bought it for Dad's birthday, and I think it was a good choice. It's set in the early 60s. The main character was an American intelligence agent tortured and (apparently) murdered by Nazis. He survived and is now determined to wreak revenge upon the seven men responsible for this. One of the driving forces of his revenge is the murder of his pregnant wife. The book is filled with flashbacks to both the time of his torture and his recovery, as well as a chapter on his childhood and how he ended up where he did. His sidekick, a young prostitute that he picks up, also has her share of flashbacks and so on.

This is an interesting book that's well worth reading. I didn't think it particularly graphic, but I'm not particularly squeamish, most of the time. The worst part was actually reading about what had happened to the sidekick (Rosie? Sophie? Something like that).

Saturday, 08 January 2011

Entombed

This book was originally meant to be part of Dad's birthday present. Then I read it. I like to give Dad books because he enjoys reading. In my opinion he suffers from the same malady of most of the rest of the population - he reads too slowly (I've heard it argued I read too fast, but I'm not buying it). What this means is that I like to give him books that he'll enjoy but that he wouldn't necessarily have thought to buy himself.

This, however, is a book he'd have bought himself. Like many of the other books I (and he) enjoy, this is a fairly standard murder mystery. Well, it's not a terribly standard murder mystery at all, given that generally when dealing with skeletons that were murdered 25 years ago the lead character is a forensic or physical anthropologist not a lawyer. Anyway, the point is that it's a fairly standard form of mystery writing and so not what I want to give him for his birthday (though I do think he should consider adding Linda Fairstein to his collection).

The protagonist is Alexandra Cooper, who is a lawyer for the New York District Attorney (or the Manhattan one, if they're separated like that). She works with Mercer, who seems to be an African American cop who moved from homicide to dealing with rape or vice or the special victims unit (this is number seven in the series, okay, the details are a little fuzzy) because he's good at giving victims (and surviving relatives for that matter) compassion and comfort. Her other sidekick is Mike, who is a homicide detective. They wander about New York (City, mostly, as far as I can tell) solving crimes and saving the world, or something ... I'm trying very hard not to give out more about the plot than I can help but if you like murder mysteries and Poe (who's generally credited with inventing the first detective for Murders in the Rue Morgue) then you should read this book.

Thursday, 06 January 2011

The Panda's Thumb

I love Stephen Jay Gould. I really do. I'd probably love him more if he hadn't died so early. He takes complicated subject matter and writes about it in such a way that it seems like the simplest thing you've ever read. This book is a collection of essays about natural history, just like most of his books are. This is the first collection of his essays that I've read (I've only read two other books of his, which is absolutely shocking!).

There's not really much you can say about his work - it's easiest just to say: read it yourself. Not only does he say everything far better than I ever could, it's totally worth it and you could never regret reading anything he's written (and if you could, then I don't really want to know you).

A Return to Love

This book is based on A Course in Miracles. Given the essentially Christian culture in which the book was written, it takes a Christian viewpoint, but uses the usual Christian touchstones as symbols, so God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, the resurrection and the crucifixion are common terms scattered throughout the book but their meaning is not the conventional Christian meaning – for example, God is used interchangeably with love, joy and the light.

The basic premise is that the ego has caused us to live in a world of illusions, caused by fear-based thinking. By focusing on God's will instead, the illusions disappear leaving only the perfection of love behind. In order for us to be able to see the world in this way, we need to pray to the Holy Spirit for miracles – these miracles are changes in the way that we perceive things and will enable us to see the core of perfect love inside every being. It will also enable us to enter situations from the basis of love, rather than fear. A variety of situations are covered, ranging from how to view your career and find total fulfilment in it to the illusions that ruin your relationship with your body, other individuals and people in general.