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ZEN MASTER TOVA TARANTINO TOSHIBA: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire ~ Gabriel Constans

Monday, December 15th, 2014

How do you handle Satire?   This is a very tongue in cheek lesson reference the arrival of Buddhism to China and one needs a keen wit and a good twinkle in the eye for these lessons, koans, and questions!  What a Zen Master to discover!

ZEN MASTER TOVA TARANTINO TOSHIBA is Amazon Editor’s pick for Book of the Month and if you like satire you will not be disappointed by making this choice.

What the editors said on Amazon’s site:

“This fictional short-story collection challenges perceptions and illusions about religious masters, spiritual teachers, gurus, charlatans and holy men and women of all persuasions, while simultaneously tickling our funny bone and exercising the muscles our faces rely on for laughter. Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba takes liberty with questionable material from the living sea, near Egypt; tofu paper, in Okinawa; a tomb, in Italy; a shaman, in Ethiopia; and a half-sister, in India. The words, quotes, koans and stories, of this soon to be classical work, include the timeless insights of Let the Worm’s Go, Dead Food, Reality Bites, Stealing the Buddha, Drip After Drip, Sound of One Eye, Catching Wind, Looking Good, My Cat’s Enlightened, Chocolate Box, and Sex, Drugs and Sushi Rolls.

“Enlightenment or laughs? With Gabriel Constans’ book you don’t have to choose. Zen masters usually have a sense of humor, or need one. Gabriel’s got it, and he gives us a world of illusions to laugh about.” Bob Fenster, author of Duh: The Stupid History of the Human Race “

Truly I am having difficulty writing this review, because I start to say something and then dive back into a story and get lost in laughing or crying over a concept explanation or questionable answer.  My Kindle says the book is about 2 hours of reading, but I dare you to read it cover to cover.   Why I just had to deal with my health insurance company and ended the call by picking up this book and learning about Wandering and Meditation by relentless napping.  I just think you should get this book and then do not drink anything while reading the chapters randomly.

Gabriel Constans biography on Amazon:


He has written for numerous magazines, newspapers and journals throughout North America, Europe, Africa and Asia; has 13 books published in the U.S. and continues to discover great stories, provide editing and consultation services and write fiction and non-fiction. His latest work of non-fiction is DON’T JUST SIT THERE, DO SOMETHING: GRIEF’S WAKE UP CALL.

Dr. Constans has worked as a trauma counselor in a variety of situations and environments, most notably with local and international non-profit organizations such as hospice, the coroner’s office, hospitals, state prisons, the ROP Center for Street Children and the Ihangane Project (both in Rwanda).

His classes and books on grief, loss, hope and transformation, can be found at The Figley Institute and Quantum Continuing Education Online.

Gabriel’s favorite writers include Deena Metzger, Isabel Allende, Wallace Stegner, Toni Morrison, Bell Hooks, Zora Neale Hurston, Dave Eggers, Ann Petry, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Alice Walker, Barbara Kingslover, Joan Tewkesbury and James Bladwin.

Oh yes!  Constans sent me a copy of his book for review – Lucky me!

I highly recommend this book, I enjoyed this book, I will return to re-read this book often, I so enjoy this kind of humor and I know you know someone who needs a great laugh and twinkly insight.

The Last Conception
Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death
The Garden Plot
US: A Novel 

THE BEST OF DAUGHTERS: a novel ~Dilly Court

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

1912-1917 are the years covered in THE BEST OF DAUGHTERS a novel which takes place in primarily London and a country home 4 hours from the city.  It is during this time period that the Suffragettes are demanding the vote, big estates are breaking apart and old money is moving away from traditional roles, and there are the rumblings of WWI.

Daisy’s father’s business partner bankrupts his business and the family is forced to move to their small country home and start again.  Gone the fancy dresses and vote rallies, parties and social life, gone are the servants and cooks, and gone are the now married chums into the arms of their husbands and family money.

What is a gal to do?   21 and nearly a spinster, wanting to have both worlds of enough money, important work to accomplish and never having tested her feelings, Daisy is now doing the marketing and cooking to keep her family going as they begin again.  Should she marry her childhood friend or look elsewhere; is life just from father to husband? What about the poor women who often have no choice at all?  Could there be more opportunities?

I liked THE BEST OF DAUGHTERS because it was the story of a young woman with lots of questions, searching and having good problem solving skills but also looking for new answers and results. Daisy just rolled up her sleeves and got the job done. The story was fast paced and although marriage and love were an important part of the story, they were not so limiting for Daisy’s choices.   Her younger sister actually benefitted from her explorations.

I especially liked learning about the First AID Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) And Dilly Court had obviously done some fine research on this core group of women who were integral during the War in France.   I loved reading about their training and fitness; how they learned to drive, ride horses, and shoot with accuracy.   They were vital to the War efforts and the story line here was outstanding.  I was reminded of the WWI story LETTERS FROM SKYE.  Lots of ambulance driving and close calls, luckily Daisy had a fur coat!

If you like the series Downton Abbey, I am certain you will like THE BEST OF DAUGHTERS.

As much as I like the flower daisy, I just could not think of the heroine as being a Daisy.  This character was presented as much more powerful and smarter that I could conjure up with the name Daisy; too light weight, simple, and happy to carry off this role.  In my simple search, I found that RUTH was one of the most popular names in 1913 England, now that is a more substantial woman.  Top 5 for 1891 when supposedly Daisy was born = Mary, Anna, Margaret, Elizabeth, and Emma. (Daisy was not even found on the top 100)

What name would you choose for a transition, questioning character?

In the post THE LADY’s MAID  also by Dilly Court, I wrote about her yellow Lab ARCHIE.  THE BEST OF DAUGHTERS is dedicated to Archie with a love poem.

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s will receive a few blossoms in my bouquet!  Thank you.  Donations also welcomed

tlc logoI received a Kindle copy of this book from TLC online book tours and Random House Publishing in exchange for this review.   I am happy to share my thoughts about THE BEST OF DAUGHTERS.

Great British Reads is coming to the US! Dilly Court is one of their star authors.

Related Reading:
Walter’s Muse
Letters From SKYE 
The Paper Garden
Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon

The CROWN: A Novel ~Nancy Bilyeau

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Joanna Stafford is a novice Dominican Nun and the Cousin of King Henry the VIII.  She has been trained by her Spanish mother to be a Lady in Waiting to Catherine of Aragon, King Henry’s first wife and the mother of his daughter Princess Mary.  THE CROWN is a fascinating story of Stafford’s adventures as the King and Cromwell destroy the religious communities of the Catholic Church after the divorce has been granted and the new religion organized and proclaimed.

Stafford is a feisty young woman, quite religious, learned and outspoken, who disobeys her vows as a novice, to attend the “burning at the stake” of her beloved cousin and claim the body for burial on the family estate.  She is arrested and spends a long time in the Tower of London before she is released and commissioned to find a Church Treasure of another King – THE CROWN.

As she returns to the Priory and begins her search for the treasure there is a murder….

With the novel THE CROWN, there is a substantial amount of historic detail about this time period. The stirred in suspense and drama creates an interesting read, holding one’s attention right to the very end.  I enjoyed the inclusion of the use of visions, dreams, and storytelling through tapestries which were included in the narrative and make the story more believable for the time period.   Not just witchcraft, sorcerer kinds of magic details where so many writers get bogged down, but more how a learned person of this time period would view the messages.   There were some interesting little side wisdoms shared by the Friar – Brother Edmund in the Apothecary about tools for healing which were available during this time period.  I felt this was a well-researched story.

I did have to look up a number of words for the religious significance; overall I found there was simplicity of language usage in this work which I think teens who are not avid readers would also enjoy; creating an expanded audience.  All readers would find the spunky, intelligence of Joanna Stafford to be much more interesting than werewolves and zombies.   An enjoyable way to learn history and a great heroine.  THE CROWN will not disappoint.

On the cover, Women’s Day Book of the Month Club says:  “Part THE DA VINCI CODE, part THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, it will keep you guessing until the very end!”

Just a wee note on my part, I am finding it interesting all the books I have been reading in 2013 which are first time novelists who live on the West Coast of the USA and are the mothers of 2 sons with a supportive husband!!!  I keep reading this in the cover sheets and the bios of the authors. 2012 was the year of the East Coast writers.  I am beginning to wonder if anyone from Tennessee, South Dakota or New Mexico writes books or if it is an art form dependent on location, location, location!!!

Ah!  Nancy Bilyeau is a magazine editor living in New York City. “And my family deserves my most profound gratitude:  my mother and sister, and my husband and two children.  They were the ones who had to live with me while I anguished over my book.  Without their acceptance, their love, and their patience, I couldn’t have finished it.”

There is a large bibliography of her research at the end of the book and a great book group study guide.


tlc logoI received a copy of this book from TLC online book tours and Touchstone/ Simon and Schuster Publishing.  This book was published in 2012 and was on tour during that time, so a giveaway copy is not available.  The Chalice, the sequel, is being published currently and that review will appear on this site in August with a giveaway.   The publisher wanted me to read both books in the series for the review process.

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s from this site I will receive a few posies for my bouquet.  Thank you.  Donations also welcomed.

Related Reading:
Hannah Coulter
The God’s Of Heavenly Punishment
Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series

THE LEMON TREE: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East ~Sandy Tolan

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

One of the members of my book group asked us to read THE LEMON TREE for our summer gathering.  I am very glad that I was able to pull this book off my own personal library shelf, because it has been my intention to read this book for a long time.  The subject matter of the book has been a part of the news cycle for my whole life.  It is about lots of wars and about a great deal of struggle which is no closer to resolution or consensus and is still curled up in resistance and teaching the next generations new levels of hate and objectification.

I wanted to know more about Israel and Palestine and the human story of this conflict.  Tolan has created a remarkable history lesson based on an Arab man and a Jewish woman who both lived in the same house with a LEMON TREE in the back courtyard.   Bashir was born in this house that his father built and as a boy his whole family was told they must leave and were expelled from this home and not allowed the right of return.  Dalia was a baby coming to a new homeland from Bulgaria and her family was assigned this house which became her home.  Bashir and Dalia meet at their home and Dalia opens the door to a friendship and understanding.

The story is also a who’s who of all the individual names and countries involved in this conflict from Hitler to Putin and Cheney.   It highlights the troubles of the entire region and one can begin to understand the role of the ARAB SPRING experience of the last few years.  There is perspective and insight which can layer the pieces of history and begin to put the whole conflict into a container tossing the pieces around until the different outcomes are revealed.   The basic story is about little boys throwing rocks at soldiers with machine guns and tanks and how terrorism is just moving through the world at large, how it is a global problem festering within the minds of each new child born today.  It is now a central part of our cultural DNA.  The child who was tricked into playing with a bomb concealed within a toy deception has translated that explosion into each of us, we all know that loss.

I purchased this book because I felt I needed to understand.  My daughter’s friend Rachel http://www.rachelcorrie.org/   was killed in this conflict, when as a college student she went to help with the olive harvest and tried to stop a Palestine home from being destroyed by a bulldozer and was crushed to death, saving the lives of the sleeping family in the home.  The BUSH/Cheney/ Rumsfeld response to her parents, “No American was killed in this incident.”

THE LEMON TREE is about how we become polarized in our positions and when this happens there is no progression – all forward motion is stopped until the pressure builds and we have explosive responses. This is the behavior our political parties are exhibiting currently here in the United States and boldly within the Middle East; a stop action scenario to say the least.

Sixty years of loss.  THE LEMON TREE is about seeing the reality, accepting the opportunity and moving forward; understanding and ending terrorism.  THE LEMON TREE is an excellent look at history unfolding and repeating before our eyes.

If you purchase anything from Amazon http://www.amazon.com or Powell’s http://www.powells.com from this site I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you.  Donations also welcomed.

Related Reading:
Mug Vs. Heart 
The Gods of Heavenly Punishment
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena 
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana
Margaret Fuller