Books I'm Currently Reading (or re-reading)
Like many people, I read several books at once. Normally, I’m reading at least one non-fiction book, a new fiction book I’ve never read before, and a much-loved book from my keeper shelf that reminds me why I love to write and why certain books touch readers not just for the moment they’re reading but for many years after the book has been closed on the final chapter.
I’ll admit that I’ve been so busy with my own writing (and plotting and planning) recently that I haven’t been doing much reading. But my sister-in-law sent this book to me for my birthday, and I can’t wait to start reading it! She lives in Australia, so she’s cheering on the side of us moving to Hawaii, where we’ll be in much closer proximity to her and her family. Hawaii splits the difference between the mainland and Australia, so we’re sure to be able to visit more often if we make that move.
I hope the book isn’t as good as I think it’s going to be, because I really don’t want to get so enthralled that I have to start binge-reading this until I finish it. But as it won the 2009 Grand Prix of Fiction, I’m pretty sure I’ll be piled up with my dogs reading from dawn till dark until I finish. (Of course, if that’s what happens, I’ll just be okay with it.)
I’ll let y’all know how it goes, and I’m trying to do a better job of posting reviews on BookBub, so I’ll do that and send y’all a link in next month’s newsletter.
Books I Recently Recommended
I loved this book! It made for great vacation reading, because I could read small snippets, then put it away whenever I needed to do something else. Part memoir, part self-help motivational book for entrepreneurs, Move the Needle tells how Shelley Brander opened a series of knitting and yarn shops, ultimately creating a world-wide community of yarn crafters. The stories she tells about her challenges and the lessons learned can be applied to any creative or entrepreneurial undertaking, and I left very few pages unmarked by my highlighter pens. This is one that will stay on my keeper shelf so I can flip through the book whenever I need a little encouragement.
When my daughter Natalie and I went to Hawaii and spent a few weeks getting her settled in her new life far away from us, she brought along a fantastic book that we took turns reading to each other every evening: World of Wonders; In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, by Aimee Nezhukumatathil.
Though Natalie is all grown up now, it gave us both a lot of comfort to rekindle that old past-time from her childhood, when nightly reading together was a ritual. This book, with its short chapters, lyrical prose, and thoughtfully curated subject matter, was perfect for that.
One chapter in particular—about fireflies—brought back memories of my childhood. Natalie and I talked about how that magical experience had been denied to her because there are hardly any fireflies left anymore. She’s never felt the wonder of walking into a dark backyard filled with the winking lights of living creatures sending silent luminescent signals to one another.
I will treasure our recent days of reading together that we shared as she embarks on her new life far away from us. Those memories will be just as precious as memories of our bedtime reading when she was a child. I doubt that any other book would’ve been as well suited to our situation.
Whether you’re reading to yourself or a beloved child of any age, you will love this book.
I have a few books about writing within arm's reach of my computer. One of those is The Secret Universe of Names by Roy Feinson. It's a great writer's resource, because it lists the personalities that tend to go along with each name. For example: People whose names contain CRT, such as Carter, Catrina, Curtis, or Courtney, tend to be straightforward, honest, and driven. They can also be gruff, temperamental, and aloof. They can be hyper-organized, excelling at planning and cutting out extraneous or unnecessary work. There's a whole page of detailed personality traits for every name. With this book, the not-so-simple act of choosing character names goes a long way toward creating the character.
I love everything Sharon Sala has ever written, because she has a keen knowledge of human psychology, and it shows in the characters she creates. I also love that she has a very visual way of writing, so the story world she creates seems real, as if I could really go there. When I read her books, I am able to immerse myself in her world and feel that I'm really there. That's pretty amazing, because as a writer, I'm bad about finding fault with anything that's less than perfect. But Sharon's books allow me to quiet my writer/editor mind and just enjoy the story. The town of Blessings that she has created is incredible, and one I'm happy to visit over and over again. (I'm jealous that she came up the Curl Up and Dye hair salon before I did, because it's so perfectly Southern!) I love her knowledge of southern vernacular, so when I read her books, I often think, "Yes, I remember that saying!" In Somebody to Love, Sharon creates a down-to-earth hero whose traumatic past has its roots in a toxic family secret. The hero is so compelling and the storyline is so believable that I'd follow him anywhere to find out what the secret is. The heroine is someone we can all relate to as well--she's a nurse who never quite got over her childhood crush on a friend's big brother. Sharon has a knack for pairing believable storylines with unforgettable characters in familiar settings we can relate to. I can't say enough good things about this book--but it's nothing more than I can say about any and all of her books. Sharon Sala is simply a master storyteller.
I'm so happy and excited that JoAnn's Biggest Little Love Story series has earned a new life and all-new cover art for a higher heat level series line! The books and JoAnn all deserve it. The series hits all the romance marks readers look for: A vivid, believable story world that's grounded in reality, characters who are flawed enough to seem real and courageous enough to root for, and realistic plots that give those characters a chance to overcome obstacles and show what they're made of. JoAnn is a natural storyteller who has worked hard to hone her innate ability, and all that hard work and talent combine to create a must-read series.
The book I want to tell y’all about this month is a magazine. As y’all know, I’ve done The Artist’s Way course multiple times. One of the key components of the program is to take yourself on an “artist’s date” once a week— just you, yourself, and your inner artist, no hangers-on allowed. On one such date, I took myself and my inner artist to Barnes & Noble and browsed the magazine racks. I was blown away by the gorgeous photographs in the Enchanted Living magazine, so I bought a copy, then went home and subscribed to the magazine. It’s only four issues a year, but it’s not expensive, and every issue is an absolute delight. I can flip through the pages for five minutes and come away inspired by the beautiful images. If in your childhood you yearned to meet a mermaid or befriend a faerie, or if you now long to create spaces in your home and garden that are ethereal and uplifting, I think you’ll love this magazine. Check it out at enchantedlivingmag.com.
I knew I would love Luna Joya’s books, because I’d met her recently in a couple of online writing classes—one for editing and one for plotting—and I had the opportunity to read snippets of her writing as part of those classes. I knew before downloading the first book that I would love her brilliant wordsmithing, her solid plotting, her multilayered characterization. But when it turned out that the heroine in Tides of Time had the ability to communicate telepathically with animals, I wasn’t just in love, I was hooked.
Tides of Time deftly sets up the series, and the story world of modern day witches who’ve inherited their family legacy of elemental magic feels natural and believable. The author’s treatment of animal communication is done well too—it’s clear from the way she writes the interaction that she knows how to communicate telepathically with animals, and she drew on that experience to accurately portray the way in which the heroine communicated with the hero’s dog.
I also appreciated the realism of the dog’s presence in the story. He was a character in his own right, not a prop that conveniently appears and disappears at the author’s whim (a pet peeve of mine—I hate reading about humans while wondering what happened to the dog).
Tides of Time nailed it for me in every possible way. From the animal-communicating heroine to the sexy/strong hero who loves to cook to the interfering family members who are as well-drawn as the protagonists, the magical characters were down-to-earth in spite of their paranormal powers. The otherworldly elements were so well integrated with the setting and the plot that it all felt real. By the time I reached the end of book one, I wanted to know more about the heroine’s magical sisters. Having book two right there on my Kindle already, I just kept reading, and I know I’m gonna love the rest of the series too.
I've read The Artist's Way several times. But The Artist's Way isn't something you just read. It's not just a book, and it's not just a course that you take for twelve weeks and then set aside. It's a life path, a spiritual path, something you immerse yourself in so you can learn from the experience. Each week has a short lesson to read, then a list of tasks that support the lesson's teaching points. There are also daily and weekly practices like journaling and spending time alone to do fun things that support creativity.
Understanding without action is a surface activity that is easily forgotten. Action without understanding can lead to unnecessary disappointment--you tried but failed, and you don't know why, so you decide the problem must be your own inadequacy. Success in any spiritual journey involves understanding and practice, uncovering and dismantling old patterns and preconceived notions that pin you down to a false dynamic and rob you of your innate authenticity. It's WORK. But it's work worth doing.
I hope you'll stay tuned for future updates, because I'll soon be able to offer a forum on my website for people who want to work though spiritual and experiential texts like The Artist's Way. It's a free-of-charge way to connect with a tribe of other like-minded individuals who are embarking on the same journey. Meanwhile, I urge you to get the book and get started. It's never too late. Every day is a new chance, a new beginning, a new opportunity to embrace the rest of your life as your most authentic self.
What did you come here to do? You might find out when you take the time and expend the effort to experience The Artist's Way.
I've just finished reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It's a small book with a big message, and reading it is time well spent. The agreements are easy to condense into bullet points, but I encourage you to read the book because it lays out the research, the reasoning, and the results you'll get if you follow these easy to remember/hard to do instructions for living a full and happy life. The agreements:
1. Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity, say what you mean, and don't speak negatively about yourself or others.
2. Don't take anything personally. Other people's actions stem from their own reality and isn't a reflection on you.
3. Don't make assumptions. Communicate clearly to avoid misunderstandings. Have the courage to ask if you don't understand.
4. Always do your best. This will help you to avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
I've been meeting myself coming and going these days as I work to fulfill my obligations to my family, my animal communication clients, my publisher, and (last but not least) myself. The four agreements have been guideposts I return to often to help me stay balanced.
A Single Girl's Guide to Wedding Survival by Melissa Borg. I've known Melissa for a few years, so I had the great pleasure of reading this book even before its debut. Knowing Melissa's fun and quirky sense of humor, I expected her book to be just as sassy and fun as she is, and I was not disappointed. Her wicked sense of humor shines from every page. Don't be surprised if you find yourself snorting with laughter over some random and clever turn of phrase. (Maybe you shouldn't read the book in public, just in case.) Every character, even the minor ones, are so well-drawn that you can see them--and often, recognize bits and pieces of them in people (and animals!) you've known. Melissa clearly has one of the most important traits a good writer must: She pays attention. Micro-details you may not even notice are threaded throughout to keep you anchored in the book's vivid world. If you like romantic comedy, you will love this book.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown is turning out to be a quick read, and I’m grateful for that, because I also have her book, Daring Greatly, on the table, waiting to be read next. I hope that Daring Greatly will help me to greatly dare as I finish writing the next two books in the Magnolia Bay series and then do the work involved in supporting the series once it’s been launched. Because I am learning that it does take a certain amount of courage to “put myself out there.” I’m hoping that both of those Brené Brown books on my bedside table with help with that.
I’d been hearing about Brené Brown for a while, and knew I wanted to read her books to support my New Year’s challenge to be more balanced in my approach to writing and life. (The word “resolution” almost has a ring of built-in preordained failure to me, whereas “challenge” seems more like a fun thing I might like to try for a while and see where it takes me.) I’m hoping it will take me to a renewed balance of body-mind-spirit that will enable me to write the third book with much less struggle than the second book, which I had to really buckle down to finish on time.
The new beginning of a long-held dream career is exciting, but also daunting. There is always an element of fear, of vulnerability, in showing your creations to the world. Brené writes about getting comfortable with feeling vulnerable in order to become more courageous. And writing for publication does take courage. Each book has its own unique path, and as a writer, you sometimes have to hack through some weeds to find it. In those weeds, you are often confronted with your own fears and insecurities.
I was really happy with the way Warm Nights in Magnolia Bay turned out, so the whole time I wrote the second book, I worried. “What if it’s not as good?” That fear made me procrastinate, so writing book two felt like climbing Everest compared to the brisk hike of book one. At the end, I was satisfied that I’d done justice to the story. I realized then that worrying didn’t make the book bad, but procrastination made it harder to write. I could have made the journey a little easier on myself. I’m hoping that knowing this will make the writing of book three feel more like an easy walk through the woods. Book four, IDK, that’s a long way off still. Maybe, if I’m lucky, it’ll be a quiet stroll along the beach. Hopefully, reading these Brené Brown books will help me get comfortable with whatever it takes to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Cold Nose, Warm Heart by Mara Wells. What happens when a would-be luxury condo developer meets resistance from neighborhood residents who don't want their dog park turned into a parking lot? Plenty of dogs are involved in telling the story, so fun happens, of course! In this funny and sweet romance set in Miami Beach, you'll love the well-drawn characters (human and canine), the vivid setting, and the fast-paced unfolding of the love story between two people who ought to hate each other, but just can't manage to do it. I'm so excited to have found a new romance author whose books are witty, engaging, and well-written. In this debut novel, Mara Wells demonstrates a knowledge of the craft of storytelling that I know will put all her books on my keeper shelf.
Practical Handbook of Veterinary Homeopathy: Healing Our Companion Animals from the Inside Out by Wendy Thacher Jensen, D.V.M. My dog Fred has chronic foot pain that several veterinarians have been unable to correctly diagnose or treat. On the advice of a knowledgeable client, I’ve been looking into homeopathy. When this book was sent to me for a review, it seemed like a sign from the Universe, and I couldn’t wait to dig in. I’ve already read several books on the subject, and most are so esoteric or unnecessarily detailed as to be inaccessible to the average reader who hasn’t been trained on the subject. This book immediately drew me in with its conversational, approachable style. Filled with real-life stories of the author’s clients and backed up with lists of reference materials for those readers who want to learn more.
A Place to Call Home: A Novel by Deborah Smith. This is one of those books whose characters will live in your heart long after you’ve put the book down. It’s tender, sexy, southern, and it tells a compelling story of the treacherous pathways between one side of the tracks and the other. On my keeper shelf, this book has the mark of an unputdownable book: It has clearly been dropped into the bathtub.
Animal Talk: Interspecies Telepathic Communication by Penelope Smith. This is the first book I read about animal communication, way back when I experienced it for myself in such a memorable way that I decided it was time for me to learn to control my abilities instead of being blindsided by them. That was many years ago, and at the time, there were few books available on the subject. I have since read every one of Penelope Smiths books, and they are all still relevant and helpful to anyone who wants to learn about animal communication. Penelope Smith is credited with being the first pioneer to bring animal communication into the mainstream of human consciousness, and many of the best animal communicators practicing today were taught by Penelope (including me). I highly recommend this book and any others written by her.
The World Is a Waiting Lover: Desire and the Quest for the Beloved by Trebbe Johnson. This book delves into the compelling connections that draw battle lines and love lines between ourselves, those we love, and those whose magnetic allure has the power to reel us in and reveal our unrealized potential. These people and possibilities can lift us out of the mundane and rip us up by the roots. Whether the seductive allure of the untapped unknown destroys our foundation or builds upon it depends on whether we have the courage to look these troublemaking possibilities in the face with honesty and integrity. A fantastic book I recommend for reading and re-reading.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I love books that are steeped-in and colored-by the dark muddy waters of the Deep South. I was talking about this book with a fellow writer, and she didn’t love it because she didn’t have the patience to read the detailed descriptions of the setting, the murky bogs, the mosquito-infested swamps, and the sucking quicksand of the past that can drag the unwary under before they know they’ve stepped wrong into a mud-patch that goes down forever. If you don’t like reading about a lush landscape sliced-through with sharp slivers of backstory, you might not love this one. I think that maybe this book didn’t call to my fellow writer friend because she isn’t from “around here.” But it is (so far) especially compelling to me because I grew up surrounded by the mystery of deep woods and even deeper swamps. Because it took me back to a time when I was free enough to embrace the danger and mystery of an unknown wild, and fearless enough to call it mine.
Practicing Peace in Times of War by Pema Chodron. This book is a tiny little bedside gem; I’ve been reading and re-reading it for years. Each chapter is only a few pages long, and it always seems that whatever chapter I open the book to at random has some nugget of wisdom about viewing whatever trouble or strife is going on in the world without absorbing it and allowing it to overtake me. I fail at this fairly often, but the book also shows me how to have compassion for myself and my failure to be the kind of person I strive to be.
Tending The Soul With Healing Ritual by Gay Wolff, Ph.D. is a quick read, well-written and concise, packed with information about how to integrate healing rituals—described as embodied moments that allow us to open the windows of our inner being to let our soul expand, ventilate, and be refreshed—into daily life. Since starting this book, I’ve restructured my meditation space, and have nearly finished the labyrinth I’ve been creating in the yard for several years. If you need to jumpstart the creation of some healing rituals in your life, I think you’ll enjoy this book.
Natural Healing Techniques: Get Well & Stay Well With Asian Bio-Energetic Therapy (1) by Joanne Klepal. As an energy healer, I’m always looking to add new modalities (or at least the understanding of them) to my toolkit. In Natural Healing Techniques, the author begins by relaying the fascinating story of her own journey of healing that began in Thailand and took her to many other parts of the world. In two years of traveling, she trained, practiced, and taught several healing modalities, some that I’m very familiar with—because I use them myself—and others that I didn’t know anything about. It’s a fascinating book, and I love the personal anecdotes and conversational tone that make the book accessible to anyone who’d like to learn more about alternative healing modalities.
Here's Looking at Euclid: From Counting Ants to Games of Chance - An Awe-Inspiring Journey Through the World of Numbers by Alex Bellos. My husband likes to read boring books about math and science and astronomy at night; it helps him fall asleep. So my holiday gifting always includes a likely-to-be-boring book I’ve found on Amazon specifically for that purpose.
This book, unfortunately for me, didn’t fill the bill. The writing is engaging and witty, so rather than falling asleep, my husband reads aloud to me about math at night, thus keeping us both awake. I have learned more than I’d like to know about math games, perfect numbers, number trains, and the like.
The book even tells about this one mathematician who has collected thousands of number sequences that follow some made-up rule or another. Interesting, huh? Well, at least it makes me wonder. It makes me wonder whether we can get that mathematician to come to our house and pull weeds because he is clearly thorough and meticulous and has nothing better to do.
Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything by Ervin Laszlo. This book is on my bedside table, but like the math book my husband likes to read, this really isn’t great for nighttime reading. (Subjects that make your brain go “poof” aren’t conducive to relaxing and falling asleep.) We’ve all heard about the Akashic Records (the record of everything that has ever happened, is happening, or will happen), an “interconnected cosmic field at the roots of reality... from which all things arise.” Many psychics (and so-called psychics) claim to be able to tap into those records to reveal the past, present, and future for their clients. But does this virtual field of information really exist, and if so, how does it fit in with “true” science? Laszlo integrates modern scientific knowledge with spiritual mysticism, effectively taking the “woo-woo” out of the idea that we are all connected to each other and to the cosmos by an enduring field of intelligent conscious energy that is available to each of us, should we choose to connect with it.
Loving Animals: Conversations with an Animal Communicator by Jeannie Lindheim. This sweet little gem of a book is a fantastic introduction to animal communication for anyone who wants to know what it is, how it works, and how it can help them to better understand their animal companions. The first third of the book is written in simple Q and A format. The answers are brief, straightforward, and informative. The middle third of the book is a series of client testimonials—stories of animal communication experiences—written by Jeannie’s clients. The end of the book shows some of Jeannie’s personal photos and experiences, and includes a comprehensive list of animal communication books for those who want to learn more. If you’re wondering what animal communication is all about—or if you know someone who is—you will love this book!
The Intention Experiment: Using Your Thoughts to Change Your Life and the World by Lynne McTaggart. This book has been on my keeper shelf since 2007. It was a big deal back then because it supplied the science behind The Secret, which was an even bigger deal. It's very dense reading--packed with information about the power of intention, and explanation of the science that supports it. McTaggart cites multiple studies and experiments throughout the book (there are 49 pages of footnotes at the back of the book), not only the successful experiments that support her thesis, but also the experiments that failed and why. Then she goes on to explain how we can use our own power of intention to manifest positive change in our lives. There's even a great website where you can read about intention experiments that were done after the book was published: www.theintentionexperiment.com. On the website, McTaggart offers a year-long intention experiment master class. I'm thinking I'll take the class in 2021. Who's with me?
Books on the Keeper Shelf
Books on the Keeper Shelf
Santa's Dog [hardcover] Joann Sky (author), Ed Koehler (illustrator) [Sep 12, 2018] by JoAnn Sky. I loved this book by JoAnn Sky. Santa's Dog is a rhyming read-aloud children's book your kids will love. It's a sweet, touching story with bright, whimsical illustrations.
The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel By Garth Stein This fantastic book is expertly told from a dog's point of view. A completely enthralling book from the first page to the last.
Busting Loose From the Money Game: Mind-Blowing Strategies for Changing the Rules of a Game You Can't Win by Robert Scheinfeld. This book isn't really about money. It's a new way of thinking about how we play the game of life. If you want to take charge of your life, read this book!