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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: A Prayer Journal by Flannery O'Connor

A Prayer Journal - Flannery O'Connor, W. A. Sessions

A short book of which half is photocopies of O'Connor's journal. As a writer myself, and a person of deep faith in a Divine Being (whatever one wishes to call that Divinity), I was fascinated by her struggle to keep faith in God & herself, and by her constant pleas to God to grant her ambitions to be more than a mediocre writer (possibly because they echo my own prayers)

However, cynically, I wondered who tore out the missing pages - was it the publishers themselves(to keep the journal focused on he writing prayers) and were they really missing when the journal was found? I'm not a fan of living celebreties biographies and advice books - but O'Connor is no longer living, and her talent has stood the test of time. Thus, this journal could have been a great inspiration to unpublished authors. It is fascinating seeing her insecurities & ambition laid bare. I did, however, expect a prayer journal to cover other aspects of her life, and that was missing from this very short book. I did, however, like the photocopies of the actual journal and seeing her actual handwriting.

Book Review: A Matter of Arrogance and Apocalypses (Dark Matters 4)

A Matter of Arrogance and Apocalypses - Claire Robyns

I've loved the whole DARK MATTERS series and found this final book A MATTER OF ARROGANCE & APOCALYPSES to be the best of the series. The author has a fantastic imagination, and the story is fast paced with barely a breath before the next adventure begins. There's depth to this whole series, and especially this book too - here we find Kelan & Lily locked in the age old battle between the sexes – the head/duty/male view versus the heart/caring/female view is very well done, and portrayed in an exciting way.

Secondary romances and exciting sub plots abound - the relationship between Greyston & Georgina is so different from Kelan & Lily – theirs is intense in an emotional, romantic way that suits the essentially gentle Lily with Kelan as protector while Greyston & Georgina’s is a meeting of equals in lust and passion and reckless courage & their need for freedom. Brilliant!!

Another great book with strong characters – Kelan & Lily are so different to Greyston & Georgina, and yet the chemistry the tension is just as strong – Kelan is a fascinating hero, completely my favourite (although Grayston has matured nicely too over the series). Their relationship also explores another important male/female issue – communication!

All in all A MATTER OF ARROGANCE & APOCALYPSES is an exciting end to a great series. Well worth the read.

Book Review: Good Poems by Garrison Keller

Good Poems - Garrison Keillor

An interesting division of poems, although at times the poems within the section didn't quite reflect the respective section title.

An anthology containing some poems I couldn't relate to, some good poems and some beautiful poems, outstanding in their simplicity and imagery, such as "When one has lived a long time alone" by Galway Kinnell (echoed with mysticism); "Rain Travel" by WS Merwin (vivid imagery of lying awake listening to the night time rain) and "The Peace of Wild Things" by Wendell Berry (expressing a deeply spiritual communion with nature) were particular favourites.

A nice addition to my poetry collection.

Book Review: She Walks in Beauty : A Woman's Journey Through Poems by Caroline Kennedy

She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems - Caroline Kennedy

I nearly did not buy this collection of poems - I have issues with publisher's exploiting celebrity names to sell books (and the Kennedy name is about as "celebrity" as you can get, even to a non-American!), but I'm glad I did! While at times the introductory notes were too maudlin (and, at times, slipped into condescension), this ended up being a wonderful collection of poetry to relax with. 


From the short, deeply profound words of Rumi & La Tzu, to the magnificent "The Summer Day" by Mary Oliver; from old favourites (How do I love thee?) to new discoveries (Letter from my Wife), this beautiful collection has something for every mood. It also held some surprises - who knew Elizabeth 1 wrote poetry?!


Particularly appealing was the well-constructed lay-out, consisting of sections each containing a variety of poetic voices speaking about different times/events in a woman's life (love, marriage, death, grief and so on).


A volume of poetry that can be dipped into again and again.

Book Review: A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver

A Thousand Mornings: Poems - Mary Oliver

My first exposure to Mary Oliver's poetry. I enjoyed the poems, especially "The Moth, The Mountains, The Rivers","Hum, Hum" and "The Man Who Has Many Answers." Will be reading more of her poems in future.

Book Review: Words under the Words by Naomi Shihab Nye

Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (A Far Corner Book) - Naomi Shihab Nye

Beautiful lyrical poems about a range of topics, many filled with a mysterious poignancy that clutches at the emotions even if the meaning is somewhat obscure at times. These poems entice one to read them again and again. They hint at secrets waiting to be unearthed from the rich words they're planted in.


A worthwhile collection from Palestinian-American poet Naomi Nye.

Book Review: You Get So Alone At Times (that it just makes sense) by Charles Bukowski

You Get So Alone at Times That it Just Makes Sense - Charles Bukowski

Put aside any politically correct concerns you have before reading this volume. Bukowski's Hemingway-esque voice doesn't leave room for any sensitivities. His poetry is the better for it - unsanitized, vibrant, loud, coarse and unique, these poems are full of the pain & humour of being an ordinary human being in the 20th century.

My first exposure to Bukowski and what a find. I'll be reading more of his poetry as as I can order the books!

Book Review: Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith

Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System As a Path to the Self - Anodea Judith, Judith Anodea

The third time I've read this book. Each time, I've gained more insight and grown a little bit deeper. Easily accessible while dealing with profund spiritual and psyhcological matters, Anodea Judith's revised edition is still a life changer. You can use this book to help you face some pretty dark and scary shadows in your unconscious. After the journey, the insights gained are rewarding.

Book Review: The Waste Land and Other Poems by TS Eliot

The Waste Land and Other Poems - T.S. Eliot

I've read (and listened to) this collection of poems half a dozen times. THE WASTE LAND is, without a doubt, still my favourite. It's hard to understand, pompous at times and so dense with allusions to other works I lose track of what's Eliot's work and what isn't. And yet ... on some atavistic level this poem still "talks" to me. The rhythm, the magic, the sheer (dare I say it) poetry in the lines (April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land) draws a reader in and shakes up emotions I didn't even know I had.

The tension between the physical and the metaphysical is tremendous; Eliot clearly had a deep experience of how earthbound and limited we are by the very denseness of our bodies (...the last fingers of leaf Clutch and sink into the wet bank), while the voice of our souls rush by unheard (The wind Crosses the brown land unheard). THE WASTE LAND is a mournful cry of a man trapped in a world of harsh reality (it was written only four years afer the devastation of Europe in World War 1), sensing there is something more (Madame Sosostris), yet unable to feel or perhaps believe in it (... this card, which is blank,...,which I am forbidden to see). Here, in this poem, is the struggle between the intellect and the emotions (fear death by water - in the Tarot the water cards represent emotion), good and evil and man's lower, sexual nature and his higher, Divine nature.

What a brilliant, depressing, strong poem it is!

So strong, it almost overshadows the other poems in this collection. But ASH WEDNESDAY, with its tone of sorrow and penitance already obvious from the title, is another powerful poem, as is JOURNEY OF THE MAGI and the remainder of the poems.

In its struggle between hope and despair, this collection is as relevant today as it was in Eliot's time and is worth the effort it takes to try and grasp its elusive meaning.

Review: A New Look at Mercury Retrograde by Robert Wilkinson

Veteran astrologer Robert Wilkinson brings his authentic wisdom to bear in this look at the dreaded Mercury Retrograde.

Wilkinson covers topics ranging from an introduction to Mercury; what Mercury Retrograde means; he explores the "bad" reputation of Mercury Retrograde and then goes into excellent detail about how Mercury Rx manifests in signs & houses in natal, progressed, transiting or return charts. Also discussed is how Mercury Rx periods influence different signs and the book ends with an interesting selection of famous Mercury Rx people and historical events that occurres during Mercury Rx periods.

While clearly aimed at people with some knowledge of astrology, the text is easy to understand while giving wonderful insights into the different facets of Mercury Rx. Interested amateurs (such as myself) and professional astrologers alike will benefit from the information in Wilkinson's book.

"A New Look at Mercury Retrograde" is a great addition to my astrology library and I'm sure that I'll be referring to it in future, not only to gain insights into Mercury Rx transits, but also when exploring my progressed or return charts.

Book Review: Collected Ghost Stories by M R James

Written in a more innocent and graceful era, MR James's ghost stories are subtle, with very polite and, at times, utterly chilling ghosts.


I enjoyed most of them, with some of the stories giving me delicious goosebumps (The Ash Tree, Number 13, Oh Whistle & I'll come to thee, my Lad, The Uncommon Prayer Book, Wailing Well and others).


One issue I had with this particular text, was that the explanatory notes were by means of an * (no differentiaton within each story) and the note itself was at the back of the book, rather than at the foot of the relevant page, which would have made reading the explanations without interrupting the pace and tension of the story a lot easier. In the end, I stopped looking at the notes and just enjoyed the stories, although I would have liked to know what some references meant.


Quaint and appealing, these ghost stories are a great in bed late at night ...!

Book Review: Crossing the Creek (A Practical Guide to Understanding the Dying Process) by Michael Holmes, RN

"Crossing the Creek" is not only a practical guide to understanding the dying process, it's a sincere and caring look into the spiritual side of dying too. Holmes, as a registered hospice nurse, shows a tender compassion towards all aspects of a dying person's journey to the "other side."


As he covers the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects associated with this (to most people) fearful aspect of life, he makes it clear upfront that not everyone will agree with his perception of the dying process. His gentle understanding of human nature has him suggesting that, if uncomfortable with any part of his text, the reader must seek solace elsewhere.


I found this text highly informative, and appreicated the author's sensitivity to the squeamishness of readers such as myself. He didn't pull punches about the dying process, but he did convey such a sense of acceptance, faith and compassion that this book was a great comfort.

Book Review: Finding Love Again by Chioma Iwunze-Ibiam

A sweet love story set in Nigeria, proving that love and the desire for a happy ending is universal.


Poet & DJ Kambi, left at the altar by her erstwhile groom, escapes to a luxurious resort in an attempt to meet her editor’s deadline. There she meets old flame Beba and the attraction flares between them again. Beba rescues the pretty Kambi from unwanted male attentions, while Kambi agrees to help mixed-race Beba find his white South African mother by becoming his fake fiancée.


This tender romance was an enjoyable light read for the end of a day. An interesting facet was the emergence of an idealised African hero: loyal, gentle and sophisticated, the well-educated Beba treated Kambi with a tenderness that women the world over can aspire to in their lovers. Although the romance does not go beyond the bedroom door, there is no doubt that Beba adores Kambi.


The scene where Beba, for the first time, meets his long lost real mother and half-siblings Michael and Judy in South Africa was filled with emotion.


In that, and other passages, Iwunze-Ibiam shows the talent to develop into a leading light in the new wave of romance authors writing contemporary romances for the African romance reader.

Review: God Child by Stefan Emunds

GOD CHILD is a brave attempt to articulate the mystical experience of a person's individual spiritual awakening. Listed as "spiritual fiction" GOD CHILD is more a didactic epistle than it is a novel, so any reader expecting definite plot and character arcs will not find them.

However, much of the content is thought-provoking and succeeds admirably in conveying the main protagonist's ephipany and resulting search for spiritual truth through the "cloud of unknowing."

At times opaque, because of the dense philosophical text, George's personality is both complex and sincere in his search for the truth. A celibate priest, he fears - possibly even distrusts - women and their sensuality, for example, he says, "Emotions are like women: it’s hard to figure them out, it’s even harder to win against them, and once a man manages, they give him a hard time for succeeding." [Kindle Location 2080]

This, at best, patronising, at worst, mysogynistic attitude colours George's choices and the advice he gives to his parishioners. More importantly, it forces him to explore his dualities and embrace the concept that we all contain both male and female enegies within us. This provides an interesting background to the slow awakening of his consciousness.

George's exploration of this, and other changing realities brought about by his "grand awakening", are depicted through a meander down the paths of several traditional religions, science, psychology, karma, astrological zodiac signs and their meanings (described as twelve little egos), the tarot and other spiritual disciplines. These concepts are used to explain George's thought processes as he slowly works his way through the "dark night of his soul" into a changed spiritual reality.

GOD CHILD does require time and patience to read, but then it is representative of the struggle to understand, explain and merge into a cohesive philosophy a vast number of abstract concepts drawn from a large variety of sources. If at times it's labyrinthian, there are beautiful drawings that provide markers along the way and some lovely homilies that we can all learn from, such as, “Evolving self-consciousness is a tedious, lonesome affair. Nobody can do that for us.” [Kindle location 4497] and “I’d rather be kind than strict.” [Kindle location 3109]

There were some issues with the text: for example, the drawings of the Major Arcana cards XVII The Star [around location 1542] and XVI The Tower [around location 1965], while original graphic representations, were not described in the explaining text as an exploration of the meanings of particular tarot cards, but were rather narrated as part of George's mystical experiences.

Also, for such a dense text, with so many theories, some of which I could relate to and others which I couldn't, dividing George's awakening into smaller texts (similar to Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse) or any texts by Jiddu Krishnamurti) may have proved beneficial.

Additionally, in what is essentially a serious philosophical work, the constant use of slang words such as "Wow!" [location 386 and others] and "awesome" ["your awesomely squared Mercury" location 3164] were distracting and undermined George's gravitas.

Ultimately, though, GOD CHILD achieves a difficult and inspiring task: it guides and comforts the reader through the spiritual challenges so many of us face in a material world that is increasingly unkind, materialistic and divided.

Review: The Chief by Monica McCarty

Enjoyable light reading for a day when I didn't feel like straining myself. I love Highland romances and this fits the genre nicely. Doesn't have the emotional intensity of, for example, Claire Robyns' The Devil of Jedburgh, but I enjoyed it for what it was and will be reading the rest of the Highland Guard series.

Review: Self-Mastery by Swami Paramananda

Self-discipline has always been something I've, perhaps foolishly, rebelled against. It's a word that reeks of oppression and limitation. And yet, without self-discipline, where does one find the structure and stength to meet goals?


So, when I came across a thin little book called SELF-MASTERY in an old book sale, I was intrigued. Written by yoga master Swami Paramananda (5th Edition, Vedanta Centre, 1961) this book begins with the statement that "the thirst for happiness is a common instinct in all mankind; but every one does not possess the secret of acquiring it, nor the power to retain it when it comes...perhaps for this reason the great men of all countries and ages have laid such tremendous emphasis on a life of self-discipline."

Yearning for that happiness, yearning for the strength of will that great men & women possess I paid the required donation and was reading the book before we got home.


The index lists the chapters:
* mastery of self
* man: his own friend and foe
* control of body and mind
* how to conserve our energies
* self-help and self-surrender


Each chapter contains a wealth of wisdom that, as I read it, felt like a light-bulb had gone off in my head. My view of self-discipline has been changed forever. Where the word self-discipline triggered a knee-jerk reaction against a perceived oppression of my soul, I now eagerly seek to master my soul. (Sounds like William Henley's "Invictus" poem: ... I am the master of my fate/ I am the captain of my soul)


Every page is packed not only with the spiritual importance of learning self-mastery, but also with practical advice on how to apply self-mastery to mind, body and soul. The book ends with paragraph that says "surrender to God is the greatest sign of wisdom ... the (wo)man who surrenders himself to God, s/he alone finds peace ... and his(her) doings are filled with Divine Love and Wisdom."


The path to happiness SELF-MASTERY reveals is not an easy path, but it is a life changing one. Whatever your religion or spiritual beliefs, this book will offer a way to bring you closer to that Divine Peace, the peace of God, which is beyond understanding or knowing and merely is. How lucky I was the day that I was guided to find this book of wisdom.