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Judy Croome: Author on the Prowl

Judy Croome lives, writes and reads in Johannesburg, South Africa.  A novelist & poet, Judy loves cats, exploring the meaning of life, chocolate, rainy days and cats (who already appear to have discovered the meaning of life.) Visit Judy on www.judycroome.com or join her on Twitter @judy_croome

Book Review: Surprised by Joy by C S Lewis

Surprised by Joy - C.S. Lewis

I might not have been surprised by joy as I read this book - it was far to factually autobiographical for me, and not what I expected - but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed parts of it.


Both Lewis's description of his childhood education (and the hotbed of homo-eroticism that private boys-only schools were) was brilliant and non-judgemental and his glossed-over, but no less harrowing, account of his experience in WW1, provided an intriguing glimpse into a byone era.


Perhaps this was my biggest problem with the book - I expected a deeply inspiring, imaginative and very personal account of his spiritual awakening. Instead, this book is mainly autbiographical with a few paragraphs here and there covering his spiritual journey. Emotion was thin on the ground - intellectual scholarship was densely packed into each sentence.


Thanks to my long ago classical studies I could wade through the allusions without getting too lost, but still ... I wanted to be inspired, to feel what Lewis felt as he journeyed back to his God.


Instead, it took me nearly two weeks to struggle through it because as a rule, I don't read autobiographies. Ultimately, this was more biographical than it was spiritual and thus SURPRISED BY JOY didn't meet my expectations as a reader.


(This review is for the Kindle edition with the below cover)



Book Review: Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch

Duck, Death and the Tulip - Wolf Erlbruch, Wolf Erlbruch, Penelope Todd, Catherine Chidgey

A sweet, simple and sad story about death. The drawings add depth to the text, which became quite poignant towards the end. From the moment Duck became aware of Death's hovering presence, their inevitable relationship deepened into friendship. In the drawings, Death's gifts Duck with a tulip - but the text makes the assumption that the reader will know the significance. Perhaps that was deliberate - ultimately death cannot be fully known, only guessed at.


While I enjoyed the book, especially the smiling, skull-faced Death and the quaintly appealing Duck, I was left feeling only sadness, where a similar book "Cry, Heart, But Never Break" uplifted me despite the poignancy.

Book Review: The Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam

The Selected Poems - Osip Mandelstam, Clarence Brown, W.S. Merwin

Some brilliant poems (#223; #344;#351;#388 to name a few), but overall I couldn't connect with the poet's voice on any deep level. Perhaps the dense classical allusions, which forced me to rack my brain for my long ago Classical Culture studies, stopped me from being drawn into this volume.

Book Review: The Adulterous Woman by Albert Camus

The Adulterous Woman - Albert Camus

Three very different short stories from French writer Albert Camus, translated by Jusin O'Brien:

- "The Adulterous Woman" poignantly confronts existential loneliness and what we do to avoid it

- "The Silent Men," my favourite of the three stories, shows the complex interaction between the haves and the have-nots. With heart rending simplicity Camus shows how a changing society leaves everyone adrift and alone

- "The Guest" is the most depressing story as it shows how an act of good will by the teacher is misinterpreted and misunderstood with threatening consequences.

Worth the read for Camus' evoctave descriptions and cutting insight into the human condition.

On a practical note, the small size of the book was convenient to pop into my purse and read as I found a chance!

Book Review: "The White Cat and the Monk" by Jo Ellen Bogart

The White Cat and the Monk: A Retelling of the Poem "Pangur Bán" - Sydney Smith, Jo Ellen Bogart

A re-telling of a 9th century Irish poem which, by its very simplicity, captures the essence of Zen spiritual enlightenment through the relationship between a monk and his white cat.

Throughout these few elementary words and the delightful accompanying illustrations, neither cat nor monk dreams of glorious rewards for work done. They exist, finding joy in the execution of their everyday tasks: for the white cat, the pursuit of mice; for the monk, the pursuit of knowledge. Therein they find that mystical inner peace which no amount of aggressive action can ever catch.

A beautiful book that I'll return to often to lift my spirits with a quick and inspiring read.

Book Review: "Cry, Heart, but Never Break" by Glenn Ringtved

Cry, Heart, But Never Break - Glenn Ringtved, Charlotte Pardi, Robert Moulthrop

The great appeal of this book begins with its title, which encapsulates all that is resilient about how we humans cope with the saddest of life's natural cycles: death.

Written for children, the language and story is simple, but the emotions it arouses are not. Four years after my Dad died at the ripe old age of nearly 84, I felt my heart cry again at the interaction between gentle Death and the 4 young children grieving the imminent loss of their beloved grandmother.

Packed with beautiful illustrations, inspirational and touching, Cry, Heart, But Never Break will give adults and children alike an increased acceptance that we are born into life and we must, therefore, die ... but in the time between we can feel joy as well as grief, sorrow as well as delight.

A marvellous, touching story.

Savage Solitude: Reflections of a Reluctant Loner - Maighread Medbh

An unusual and interesting book, more snippets of philosophy than poetry by this Irish poet. Set in an easy to read format the, at times, deeply profound content is made easier to digest by its presentation. Written in 3 viewpoints - One, The Other, I - the text takes the reader on a journey through the poet's consciousness and reaction to life in the context of these different perspectives, with quotes from famous people as a starting point. Fascinating, challenging and thought provoking, I would have preferred more raw emotion to balance the highly intellectual ideas. My favourite piece was 175. safe love. This text is a keeper as, at a different times in life, a reader will always find further meaning in the words.

Book Review: Venetia by Georgette Heyer

Venetia - Georgette Heyer

One of Georgette Heyer's grittier romances, VENETIA is my favourite. I've lost count of how many times I've read it, but I still feel a whole gamut of emotions as I'm reading it. As always, Heyer's descriptions and settings are impeccable in their detail and her characterisations of even the smallest bit players are marvellous. A lovely twist in the end to bring about the happy-ever-after for Dameral and Venetia reflects Heyer's plotting skills as well. I'll be re-reading this novel with much pleasure for many years to come!

Book Review: "The Soul Speaks" by Mark Jones

The Soul Speaks: The Therapeutic Potential of Astrology - Mark Jones

An excellent book for amateur and professional astrologers alike. While the last chapter was not wholly aligned with the content of the previous chapters, & I found it difficult reading, THE SOUL SPEAKS contains many insights and breakthrough moments. A good mix of astrology, philosophy and psychology, THE SOUL SPEAKS offers interesting concepts and guidelines. A worthy addition to my astrology bookshelf.

Book Review: "Healing the Soul:Pluto, Uranus & the Lunar Nodes" by Mark Jones

Healing the Soul: Pluto, Uranus and the Lunar Nodes - Mark Jones, Tony Howard

An insightful and profound exposition of the evolutionary impact Pluto, Uranus and the Moon's Nodes on the soul.

On a personal level, Mark's theories on Pluto in Virgo provided me with numerous breakthrough moments that have raised my consciousness about hidden motivations that have eluded me for years. This book is well named - soul wounds I've been working on for years suddenly made sense and I was left feeling a deep sense of acceptance and understanding.

This book touched me so deeply, I've ordered a hard copy as well as there are many sections I need to re-read and re-absorb.

Highly recommended.

Book Review: 'The Sea Close By' by Albert Camus

The Sea Close by - Albert Camus

More a booklet than a book, THE SEA CLOSE BY contains two of Albert Camus's essays. On the surface there isn't much to these stories other than the stunningly beautiful prose. But, dig deeper - read the words again and again, and these two essay become allegories: the sea (in THE SEA CLOSE BY) for life itself and Algiers (in SUMMER IN ALGIERS) for adulthood.


The joys and challenges of the sea journey so vividly described ["we bend beneath savage winds blowing endlessly ... Each cry we utter is lost, flies off into limitless space ..."] correlate with the ups and downs of our small, ordinary lives, tossed in the vastness of an unknowable universe in the same way the boat is driven by "the imperious wind." The primordial "antique sea", in endless motion, is both the bringer of life and the taker of life; like life itself, the source of both humanity's "unbearable anxiety" and "irresistible charm."


Although ending on a glimmer of hope, the adult human doesn't fare so well in "Summer in Algiers." Camus observes the harshness of the summer's heat on mankind and how young virile men, lose their beauty and their hope in remorseless heat of the land. ["they wagered on the flesh, knowing they would lose"] We, as humans, live knowing we will die and as the young men in Algiers "haste to live that borders on waste", we squander our youth and burn our passion out too soon. This illusion of living, of indulging in experiences, Camus says leads to an old age without much love or hope for a man (or woman, one assumes!); only a waiting, a merciless "end between his wife and his children."


Despite his melancholic condemnation of "hope" as the most awful of the ills released on humanity by the opening of Pandora's box, Camus ends his description of Algiers with the first autumn rainfall. As we enter the last phase of physical existence after the "bitter lesson" of summer, we are liberated by our tears from the "violence and hardening" of a youth spent too fast. As he ages, and exchanges hope for an acceptance of life's harsh realities, Camus implies, man can, at last, awaken to the "only really virile love in this world," the fleeting union of two states of being - life and death.


Highly recommended for the sheer joy of reading such lyrical, profound prose.

Book Review: One Touch of Scandal by Liz Carlyle

One Touch of Scandal - Liz Carlyle

"Oftentimes, he well knew, the worst sort of pain was the silent kind, the kind inflicted not by a slash of an assailant’s knife but by a thousand little cuts made up of thoughtless comments, cold restraint, and condescending eyes."


This quote from Liz Carlyle​'s "One Touch of Scandal" (2010) is why I love reading romances. From the Fraternitas Aureae Crucis series, book #1, this book has an alpha, tormented hero, a strong (not aggressive) heroine, an excellent plot and paranormal elements. I've only recently discovered Liz Carlyle as an author and am mowing my way through her back list. What a pleasure! This book has everything that makes my heart flutter & I read it as fast as I could. Great entertainment and a great example of the best of the romance genre.

Book Review: The Art of Being a Healing Presence by James E Miller, Susan Cutshall

The Art of being a Healing Presence - James E Miller, Susan Cutshall

"The Art of Being a Healing Presence: A Guide for those in Caring Relationships" is inspirational, practical and useful. With simple but profound wisdom this short book reminds us that healing begins within. An important theme throughout the book is that healing of both body and spirit is an art, not a science. Like all the arts, healing oneself and others requires self-mastery: that ability to still the noise of the mind so that the soul's sacred whispers can be heard.

Using easy-to-read language, inspiring quotes, short chapters broken down into quick paragraphs, and ending with a summary of the steps necessary to be a healing presence, this book is essential reading for anyone who is in a caring position, whether a professional carer, or home-carer for a loved one.

"The Art of BEing a Healing Presence" is a book that "practices what it preaches" - by the time I finished reading it, I was filled with the sense of calm and purpose that can often be stripped from us in the course of our stressful days and too-busy lives.

Book Review: Corpus Homini: A Poem for Single Flesh by Sofia M Starnes

Corpus Homini - Sofia M. Starnes

"Corpus Homini: A Poem for Single Flesh" is best described as poetry of praise. In her meditations on the relationship between body and spirit, Starnes' uses ordinary images to explore the extraordinary. In "One Food" she equates the hungering of the body ("absolve us for not knowing/ what to eat, how thickly to lay/honey on the bread") with the hungering of the spirit and suggests that both spirit and body can be fed through the small daily rituals that make up our lives ("Come, mama, knead once more/once more reflect the customary/pressing with hand's heel ... the dough springs, earnest, to the rim./ Ninos, do not stray too far-")

The poems do need concentration, as they are dense with imagery and allusion and thus are somewhat obscure on first reading. But the poet's underying reverence, her belief in humanity's desire to transcend the material and become one with the Divine is worth digging for, as these lines from "One Birth" show: opening with a quote from 1 Corinthians 12 ("all the parts...making up one single body ... share its joy"), she likens humans to ants, and faith (or seeking for the Divine) as the "white-gold burden" the ant carries as it returns "into earth's loins" leading the reader into the ephiphany ("burst of steam that thaws a single/glacier, single stream -/ single exodus of people") that leads, despite our resistance, into humanity's divine rebirth/ascension into Heaven ("Ah, how they tug; ... and the nerves band into one/ascension, out to spring."

Resonating with echoes of T S Eliot, Corpus Homini is ultimately about the human need to find spiritual wholeness, to be redeemed in our ordinary lives through our common hope and extraordinary faith.

Shadow the Cat reviews "How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity" by Patricia Carlin

How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity: A Guide to Financial Freedom - Patricia Carlin

Review by Shadow Croome, dictated to human slave Judy Croome


For any multi-talented cat, such as myself (one can't be honest and modest, now, can one?), this book is an essential addition to one's cat-a-library. Why should Grumpy Cat get all the celebrity status?

"How to make your cat an Internet Celebrity" provides valuable advice for any cat/human slave wishing to break into the cut throat world of feline celebrity status. With chapters such as "clawing your way to the top" and "the world is your litter box" any ambitious cat can train his/her human in the finer details of managing a star-studded career as an internet celebrity. It's also easy to use with plenty of diagrams and simple tasks that any human slave should manage to understand.

For any extraordinary cat wishing to fulfill his/her potential, I'd highly recommend that this book is left on your human's bed as soon as possible.

Book Review: The Hawk in the Rain by Ted Hughes

The Hawk in the Rain - Ted Hughes

As a debut collection, and the first poems I've read written by Ted Hughes, my enjoyment of the poems was erratic. Some poems were brilliant as they stood ("Song"; "Incompatibilities"; "Law in the Country of Cats" and "The Martyrdom of Bishop Farrar"); others appeared to have less emotion and more intellect, which made them somewhat obscure to me. I felt a flavour of TS Eliot in these poems when first dipping into the volume, and wasn't surprised by the interesting tidbit in the front of the book, which included a copy of TS Eliot's response to Faber & Faber's Charles Montieth's enquiry about Hughes. (The edition I read is not the one listed here, but ISBN 978-0-571-32281-7)

Overall, the poems were too bleak, violent and obviously carefully composed for me to be swept away by them. However, as a debut collection the poems did enough to make me want to read more of Ted Hughes work as he became a mature, more experienced poet.