Monday, November 30, 2020

Review: Laughter Yoga

Laughter Yoga

Madan Kataria, M.D.

In 1995 Dr. Kataria started a laughter yoga club with five people in order to bring some happiness and joy back into his life and to help him cope with the stress of everyday life. Since then, the movement has grown around the world, and now many are enjoying the health benefits of laughter.

Research shows that laughter can change the biochemistry of the brain, leading to positive changes in mood. Combining laughter and elements of yoga, Dr. Kataria's program encourages people to practice ten to fifteen minutes of laughter yoga a day. He likes to start by clapping, stretching, and using phrases like 'HoHo' and 'HaHaHa' to warm up, especially if one has difficulty laughing at the beginning. And don't worry if you don't feel like laughing, apparently forced or fake laughter is just as good. The brain can't tell the difference.

Laughter Yoga provides exercises that can be done in a group setting or alone. Anyone who can laugh can benefit from this book. Dr. Kataria also encourages smiling more to help bring about more laughter in your life. Frankly, before reading this book, I was unaware that the simple act of laughing could have such great health benefits. Whether it is improving mood, lowering blood pressure, or decreasing stress, this is a cost-effective way to do something good for the body and mind. Considering all the benefits, I don't know why everyone isn't already laughing all day long.

This review was written by me and published by City Book Review.


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Review: Love Letters from Montmartre


Love Letters from Montmartre

Nicolas Barreau

Julien Azouly, a well-known writer of romantic comedies, has lost his wife, Hélène, at the young age of thirty-three. Now he is alone with his young son. Before Hélène died, Julien promised to write her thirty-three letters describing his life without her. At first, he is too distraught to write anything, but eventually, he is able to put his feelings down on paper. Afterward, he deposits the letters in a secret compartment in her gravestone.

One day he discovers that a letter has disappeared. In its place, he finds a heart carved from stone. He doesn't know what to make of this. Is it a sign from Hélène that she is still with him? He so wants that to be the case, but it could be someone else who has discovered his secret hiding place at the cemetery. He must make a choice. Does he want to remain with the dead or rejoin the living? Only time will tell.

Love Letters from Montmartre is so well written I could not put it down. The story and its characters are sweet, charming, and utterly irresistible. This heartwarming tale is all about love and rediscovering life, however hard that might be after the death of a loved one.

This review was written by me and originally published by City Book Review.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Review: One Drum


One Drum

Richard Wagamese

In One Drum, Richard Wagamese shares stories, ceremonies, and teachings from the Ojibway people of Northwestern Ontario. All are concerned with our spiritual journey on this planet. As he explains, we are part of Creation, living on one sacred breath. This is the first ceremony he shares, allowing one to connect with one's feelings in order to recognize the sacred breath of Creation within. The second ceremony, the Tobacco Offering, focuses on being thankful. The third ceremony is a Vision Quest, which allows one to be brave and to recognize being part of everything. The fourth and final ceremony is entitled Acting Outwardly. This one is intended to make one aware of the nature of sacrifice.

In between the ceremonies, Wagamese presents tales of humility, discovery, bravery, and harmony, all of which remind us to walk gently upon the earth and do no harm to one another. He also shares his personal story about how he came to learn the importance of these teachings and what they meant to him as he became reacquainted with his traditional roots. One Drum is one of the most moving, powerful, and profoundly spiritual books that I've ever read. I feel honored to have found this beautiful gem.

This review was written by me and originally published by City Book Review.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Review: High Tech and Hot Pot

High Tech and Hot Pot

Stephan Orth

After hosting a Chinese student in his Hamburg flat, Orth decides to embark on a journey across China. Of course, he doesn't divulge to the authorities that he is a journalist. He wants to travel around and try his hand at "couch-surfing" with locals, if possible, to see how they view their own country and the wider world.

I found some of this book interesting, and I'm always amazed at how quickly the Chinese can build and develop sprawling metropolises. It often makes me feel like the West is lagging behind. But as Orth shows while he travels from one large city to another, all the development might come at a price, which made his chapter about searching for Shangri-la all the more enjoyable.

I do wish he had included a map of China for reference; it would have been a great addition. Unfortunately, I didn't feel like this book added anything new about China's development. I liked that the author showed how his hosts were feeling about their own lives and sometimes about how they view the rest of the world. He also dealt a lot with the increasing security surveillance in the country, which some readers will view as a restrictive practice. But, it would be useful to point out that in the West, especially the United States, our habits and movements are tracked by large data companies and credit companies that also, significantly, determine how we can live our lives.

I was hoping for a little more focus on the country's phenomenal economic growth and maybe a bit more about ordinary people and their expectations. To be fair, this is a travelogue, and it does what it claims, it showcases the author's journey from one area to another.

Thanks to Library Thing for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Review: The Hour of Death

The Hour of Death

Jane Willan

When Sister Agatha of Gwenafwy Abbey in Wales learns that Tiffany Reese, head of the local arts committee has been found dead at the Parish Hall, she immediately thinks foul play has been involved. Sister Agatha starts her investigation with a little help from her trusted friend Father Selwyn. As they set out making a list of possible suspects, strange events begin to occur in and around the Abbey, convincing Sister Agatha that there is more to the story of Tiffany's death than first realized.

Sister Agatha is a fan of mystery novels, and when she isn't dealing with the Abbey's library or the cheese production venture the Reverend Mother has recently invested in, she spends her spare time writing mystery stories. Now that she is facing a real mystery she will have to rest her pen and think carefully if she intends to find out what happened to Tiffany and root out any killer hiding in the area.

I fell in love with Sister Agatha who loves nothing more than a good mystery and honing her skills as an amateur sleuth. Jane Willan has written a thoroughly satisfying mystery with interesting twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the end. It's full of fun and lovable characters who make it a delightful read. I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon than curled up with The Hour of Death and a good cup of tea.

This review was originally written by me and published by City Book Review.