Weekend Reads: “From Panic to Power”

I usually pick something fun and fictional for my Weekend Reads series, but this time I felt truly moved to share some non-fiction.  You’ll also learn a little bit about me from the review; I seldom discuss the days when I suffered from agoraphobia.  It was very much real and debilitating … and I now know that it is possible to get past it.

From Panic to Power: Proven Techniques to Calm Your Anxieties, Conquer Your Fears, and Put You in Control of Your LifeFrom Panic to Power: Proven Techniques to Calm Your Anxieties, Conquer Your Fears, and Put You in Control of Your Life by Lucinda Bassett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t talk about it often, but there was a time in my life when I was rendered agoraphobic by panic attacks. I have a number of friends who deal with anxiety, whether it be high-functioning or socially crippling. This book would doubtless help them, as it did me.

One night about 20 years ago, in the midst of all of this, I fell asleep with the TV on. When I woke up, there was an infomercial on. Ordinarily I would have turned it off, but the woman speaking was literally telling my story … she was talking about how her panic had made her agoraphobic and what she did to overcome it. She had decided her life’s work was to help other people in the same situation.

That woman’s name is Lucinda Bassett. She was selling an expensive tape program, but she also talked about her books. I bought this book 20 years ago and recently unearthed it in the book purge at our home. I’m re-reading it and finding her gentle wisdom extremely helpful. I have put her techniques into place since the day I first read the book, but it never hurts to be reminded.

So, I re-read this title and am reviewing it for the first time. Bassett’s willingness to share her experiences, and the things that helped her cope with anxiety without medication (although she acknowledges that some people may need such further assistance) is a boon to all who cope with anxiety. She talks about the importance of acknowledging the feelings are real, positive self-talk, and controlled exposure in order to overcome panic attacks.

What I know from experience is that Bassett’s methods work. The panic attacks become minimal or non-existent, and on the occasions that they happen you have tools to manage them.

Highly recommended.

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Weekend Reads: “Mycroft Holmes”

Mycroft HolmesMycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a long-time Holmesian, and I love to see what different authors do with the spin-offs. Some are better than others, of course … and this is one of the best.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, himself a long-time Holmesian, has made Mycroft Holmes his main character in a story about human trafficking during the late 19th Century. With his friend Cyrus Douglas, a free Black gentleman business owner, he goes to Trinidad to investigate disappearances in Douglas’ home town … and becomes embroiled in intrigue at all manner of levels.

Abdul-Jabbar’s authorial voice is entertaining, and it’s obvious from this work that he takes the Doyle canon very seriously. He gives us a backstory that explains Mycroft’s solitary ways in the Doyle canon, and also lets us in on the earliest days of his career in the service of the Crown.

The book is chock-full of entertaining characters, intriguing situations, and great historical detail.

Highly recommended.

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Weekend Reads: “Peony in Love,” by Lisa See

Peony in LovePeony in Love by Lisa See

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I often tell people that I have found something to like in every genre of music except for Chinese opera … and yet I have just read a book that is very much about Chinese opera.

Peony is obsessed with an opera called “The Peony Pavilion,” which is about a young woman who dies of love and how she is resurrected as a result of it. Peony has long been betrothed in an arranged marriage to someone called Wen Ru, whom she will not meet until her wedding day. She, in the mean while, meets a poet whose name she does not know … and decides that she is in love with him. Given that she is 16 years old, this is probably not surprising.

She decides that, if she cannot marry her poet, she will die of love … and, of course, after her death, she discovers that Wen Ru is the poet in question.

The majority of the book is written from the perspective of Peony’s afterlife, and depends on an understanding of 16th C. Chinese funerary practices and beliefs. Fortunately, I had read The Ghost Bride already and had a bit of a grounding in this information. From her status as a “hungry ghost,” Peony wreaks a kind of loving havoc on Wen Ru’s subsequent marriage to her cousin before realizing that she has the power to do a great deal of good.

See created this book based on an actual historical document, The Three Wives’ Commentary on The Peony Pavilion, and a great deal of research into female poets and artisans of period in China. Very well done indeed.

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Weekend Reads: The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum

I was in the mood for good cozy mysteries this month, and I embarked on a marvelous new series.  Here’s my review of the first entry:

The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum (Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum #1)The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum by Kirsten Weiss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was in the mood for a good cozy mystery and remembered that author Kirsten Weiss had a new series. This is the first book, and I’m hooked.

Newly unemployed Maddy Kosloski has returned to her California home town, San Benedetto, and she’s commiserating with her girlfriends Harper and Adele. Adele is opening a tea room in the building she’s inherited … the other half of which houses the town’s paranormal museum. She convinces Maddy to run the museum while she’s looking for other work. The three go to the museum — and find a dead body!

Thus begins the tale that introduces us to some of the more interesting folks in Maddy’s town, like the Ladies’ Aid Society people who want the museum closed, and the hunky motorcycle shop owner, Mason, who lives above the museum. Oh, and GD (“Ghost Detecting”) Cat, who lives in the museum itself.

The characters make the story fun and keep you reading as Maddy tries to find out who not only killed the victim at the beginning of the book, but the truth about a long-cold case in the town — a case that involves a haunted photo in the museum.

I thought the book was fun and entertaining, and I’ve already started reading the second book in the series, Pressed to Death

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Weekend Reads: The Language of Silence

It’s taken me a little bit to get back in the swing of things after the Blogging from A to Z juggernaut! Before I do anything else, I wish to thank and welcome all of my new readers.  I hope you will enjoy my writing.  I have a few semi-regular features, which you’ll find in the Categories list.  Weekend Reads is one of them.  With that, here’s this week’s review:

The Language of SilenceThe Language of Silence by Peggy Webb

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the very first page, I was enchanted by this book. There is no other way to describe it. Each character’s voice was so distinct, and Webb’s prose so evocative, that I wanted to spend the day doing nothing but entering the world created here.

Ellen is fleeing an abusive husband, so she goes to her elderly aunt Ruth for help. Together, the two of them run away to join the circus — just as Ellen’s grandmother had done decades before.

As Ellen begins to feel at home in her new family, her husband is looking for her … and Ruth’s having visions that show how it will all turn out.

While this could have been just another tale with paranormal overtones, instead this is a look at family dynamics and the real nature of love, revealed in each circus performer’s own hidden secrets.

There are a good many twists and turns in this book that keep the reader on the edge of his or her seat, rooting for Ellen and Ruth to triumph.

Absolutely to-notch literary fiction, and highly recommended.

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