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review 2015-11-13 09:26
Fantasy fiction at its most powerful and cutting-edge
The Girl with Ghost Eyes - M. H. Boroson

The main character is a Daoist priestess named Li-lin in Chinatown at the turn of the century. Li-lin takes her place among Lisbeth, Katniss, and Hermione, unforgettably establishing herself as one of the most nuanced, resilient, BAMF fictional female characters around. That a Woman of Color has been placed at the heart of this visionary Hero's Journey is a fact that should be lost on no one.

From the brilliantly established hook and its crisis, the story rapidly plunges the reader into a highly complex world. Li-lin rapidly develops as a reliable and sensitive interpreter and translator of this culturally-immersive paranormal thriller. The story is loaded with Chinese magical rituals which seem to be extremely accurately depicted. Reading the exquisitely written descriptions of these traditional rituals is a rare joy.

The dialogue is credible, believable, culturally attuned, and engaging for the reader. From its dizzying beginnings grounded solidly in the conflicts suffered by Li-lin, The Girl with Ghost Eyes soars into a fascinating and gripping story that never ceases to engage and surprise, all the way through to the heartbreaking final resolution.

The wonderfully dramatic content is sustained throughout the entire story! The reader never knows who can be trusted or how far, constantly upping the ante of tension and suspense. The predicament grows worse by the minute, the stakes are clear and high, and information is only imparted as it is badly needed. The story is extremely unique and exciting.

The heroine is wonderfully developed, thoroughly complex, and powerfully convincing. Her poignant realism as a deprecated widow cements the wildly surreal adventure she embarks upon firmly in the realms of reality and credibility. One “villain” is conflicted about the evil he is helping to perpetrate and therefore multi-dimensional as a dutiful son and inexcusably cruel cad. Why the other villain has elected to persecute this poor Third Aunt/madwoman/priestess seems hard to understand until

his need for a body to enact the most humiliating revenge on the heroine’s father

(spoiler show)

is explained. Then the whole story’s genius absolutely shines!

The writing is luminous and hauntingly evocative. This plot represents an exceptionally moving depiction of a human being discovering, questioning, and reversing her long-held beliefs, one after another, until the very final moment.

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review 2015-08-12 04:39
Pleasantly surprised!
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead - Sara Gran

Randomly picked this up on a $2 shelf at a great local bookstore. Aside from Sherlock I don't read a lot of mysteries, but the summary on the back caught my interest:

Claire DeWitt believes she is the world’s greatest PI, even if few agree with her. A one-time teen detective in Brooklyn, she is a follower of the esoteric French detective Jacques Silette, whose mysterious handbook Détection inspired Claire’s unusual practices. Claire also has deep roots in New Orleans, where she was mentored by Silette’s student the brilliant Constance Darling—until Darling was murdered. When a respected DA goes missing she returns to the hurricane-ravaged city to find out why. Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is a knockout start to a bracingly original new series.

Overall, I thought it was pretty damn good. It takes place in the years following Hurricane Katrina, and it's very honest about the horrors of being in New Orleans during and directly after the storm, which I think is massively important- especially because people seem to be forgetting how hellish it was. Here's a pretty intense passage from the book of a teenager talking about the storm: 

"So I go down to the water. I go down and it's a fucking mess down there. I mean, really a mess, because garbage and shit is washing up from everywhere. And it's hot, and people is acting crazy, screaming and crying. And there's -- fuck. There's bodies everywhere. I hadn't thought -- I mean, I thought I'd go down there and it'd be like some sailor shit, pulling people out of the ocean. But it was --- people was crying, people was hungry, people was all sunburned, being on their roofs for days. People was looking through the dead people looking for their kids and shit. It was like when in church, when they talk about hell? Like it being hot and dead people all over and shit? Like your worst nightmare, but it ain't a dream anymore. That's what it was like."

It doesn't say anywhere in the book that she interviewed real-life people, but when you read the dialogue, it's so... real. I hope she did. 

The story has elements of the supernatural/metaphysical, but it's not at all cliché; there are references to Daoism ("The clue that can be named is not the eternal clue... The mystery that can be named is not the eternal mystery."), the I-Ching (which Claire consults when she's feeling stuck) and visions brought on by psychedelic substances. Détection, which is basically Claire's Bibleoffers strange and mystifying passages: 

"The mystery is not solved by the use of fingerprints or suspects or the identification of weapons," Silette wrote. "These things serve only to trigger the detective's memory. The detective and the client, the victim and the criminal-- all already know the solution to the mystery. They need only to remember it, and recognize it when it appears." 

And of course New Orleans itself offers up supernatural imagery almost automatically. I really love the way Sara Gran was thinking outside the box when she wrote this book, but I think that the supernatural/metaphysical aspects could have been made a little more... solid. I don't really know how to put it- they're obviously vital to the story and yet I don't feel like they are explained well enough or connected often enough in a satisfying way. 

It has a somewhat dreamy quality- the story is punctuated by short flash backs, once brought on while smoking a laced blunt with a street kid- and bits and pieces of Détection float through her mind and through the chapters. It's a very dark, melancholy sort of dreaminess, which I think helps the reader feel like they're actually there, walking through 'the City of the Dead'.

I thought the author did an excellent job of painting a picture of New Orleans without going overboard with the visual details- what she does describe serves to demonstrate how bleak and hopeless life in New Orleans is for many people. The street kids, the other detectives she talks to, and her memories of Constance are vivid in my mind, though I have trouble picturing Claire herself- I feel like her current physical appearance isn't really described, but I guess that doesn't really matter that much.

At first I had a hard time getting interested in the main mystery (the missing DA) but when I got about halfway through, things got more interesting. What really got my attention though, was the mystery of Claire herself. There are hints at Claire's past- a childhood friend gone missing, flashbacks of her strange parents and her training with Constance- that I'm dying to learn more about. I'm guessing the investigations into those mysteries are going to be woven throughout the series.

Anyway, I enjoyed this book enough to recommend it to anyone who cares for mysteries, social justice, or the city of New Orleans. I appreciate its honesty and I love Claire's attitude- she's gritty and clever but she has vulnerable moments and she's not unrealistically witty. Claire is hardened by her experiences but still has empathy. She can see through the rough exterior cultivated by the kids she is questioning and imagine what they would have been like had they not been brought up in the streets. And she seems to get along with them. They're all outcasts, all have tough exteriors, all have insecurities and mysteries of their own. She seems like a tough broad that could actually exist. 

In summation:
favorite things- the way Claire interacts with the unfortunate youths she meets and the way she treats homeless people like equals; the metaphysical aspects; it made me want to learn more about New Orleans; it has an important message; and I loved the ending!
not so favorite things- it could be kind of scatterbrained at times in general and especially with the metaphysical stuff and I didn't get into the main mystery right away... but that's it.

I wasn't sure I'd get all that into this one but after finishing it, I'm actually really excited to read the other books in this series! 


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review 2015-04-20 11:54
Workbook for The Art of Stalking Parallel Perception
Whisperings of the Dragon: Shamanic Practices to Awaken Your Primal Power - Lujan Matus


How to cultivate this coveted state so it can be available at any time as a state of seeing. This is but the last section of this hard-hitting and practical text.
Lujan discusses four teachings to bring next-level depth to topics fundamental to any spiritual path.  As he sketches the context in visual language he prepares the reader to apply the practice of the Eight Gates of Dreaming Awake". 
Written to act as a stand-alone teaching, or as a workbook for the newly revised "The Art of Stalking Parallel Perception" - Lujan's first book:
From the Publisher
The revolution begins within, and this is a step-by-step guide to setting your personal metamorphosis in motion, effective immediately.

Lujan Matus reveals here, in clear and accessible language, how to recover your authentic self, using the simplest yet most profoundly useful techniques you could ever apply. Complex processes of socialization distance us from our original essence very early on in our formation.

Our socio-cultural inheritance weighs heavily on our intangible self and is reflected in an erosion of trust in our intuitive knowing and a consequent inability to see and do what is truly necessary. This dilemma of conditioning, no matter where we are from and however aware we become of its intricacies, cannot be addressed by merely thinking about it.

A complete turnaround is required. Restoring our natural state of inner silence, that elusive axis of enlightenment, is our golden key to personal and collective freedom, and providing a precise and practical way to do that is exactly what this book achieves.

Your journey through the Eight Gates of Dreaming Awake will open the door for your primal essence to return to your present moment continuum. This book delivers ancient shamanic wisdom and quantic insights that allow precious points of arrival to be sustained within the power of one's omnipresence.

The techniques in this book can be successfully applied to any ideology, religion or philosophy.
Contextualization and Review
Whisperings of the Dragon; Shamanic Practices to Awaken Your Primal Power, like Lujan's previous books does not pander to the masses. This book provides a description of man's predicament, the causes and the key requirements to transcend it. These amount to the life skills of one on a spiritual path as life.

NOTE: The book does not teach shamanic practices to apply to clients. It returns to the fundamentals of the mystic shamanism that evolved into esoteric Taoism, and Tibetan Dzogchen.

This text best reveals Lujan's native philosophy in terms of metaphor and terminology. The Oriental influence is clear and did much to make my grasp of The Tao more real.

The Practice of the Eight Gates of Dreaming Awake brings a clear and practical method to develop key life-skills of the manifested spiritual path. The purpose of the term "Path with Heart" was never clearer and now lives in a practicable context that I can gauge through a type of bio-feedback. This text stands out as a truly practical work of high mysticism minus the heady stuff.

Students of the internal martial arts, who tread that path with the purpose of combining it with their spiritual journey will gain much from this book. Important aspects of neigong are addressed.
Those on any spiritual path will benefit from this book and be able to enrich their path.
Source: www.parallelperception.com/books-and-articles/the-art-of-stalking-parallel-perception.html
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review 2015-04-19 21:34
Esoteric Daoism made practical
Whisperings of the Dragon: Shamanic Practices to Awaken Your Primal Power - Lujan Matus

One of my all-time top 3 books on practical spirituality. For those who like the philosophy -but also want to actually apply it.  


Reaching inner silence is the holy grail of many practices. This text addresses human beings, sketches the principle challenges we face (what got us here), then leads down a path of making those key changes that can circle out into life.


For all who recognize the benefits of meditative / trance practices: Students of Shamanism, taoism, Chan/Zen, Dzogchen, etc. Applicable to any tradition. How? By focussing on that over-used tool called the mind, then providing a practice to gently turn it off, so you can discover the deeper you that has a mind but is not defined by it. 


Step-by-step instruction, no belief required -just practice. Short and sweet but hard-hitting. More please!

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