Maya's Musings


I love books, paper, words, libraries, reading and writing. I read pretty much anything (though shy away from intense sci-fi, history and horror). Here, I share my musings on books and bookish things with fellow book lovers. Choose a book and join the party!


“The only thing you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” ― Albert Einstein


Minding My Mornings

Meditate Your Weight: A 21-Day Retreat to Optimize Your Metabolism and Feel Great - Tiffany Cruikshank LAc  MAOM

Here's a book suggestion if you are looking for a kickstart to the new year.


I chose this book because I was looking for a way to get back to a practice that incorporated mindfulness into my day, while also getting me journaling and physically healthier. These daily exercises over 21 days include a meditation that starts at 3 minutes on the first three days and builds to 12 minutes; journal writing exercise led by questions, and a daily mantra.

I like the slow build up of meditation time that makes it easy to include in my morning ritual and (hopefully) will re-create the meditation and journaling habits that I have let fall to the wayside.

Cruikshank's tone and writing style are gentle and easy which makes the book an easy welcome to the day.

It's only day one, but I'm motivated and optimistic.  That's already a plus in my books!




Suspenseful Sense of Deja Vu

The Girl Before: A Novel - J.P. Delaney

After reading J.P Delaneys "The Perfect Wife,' I gave this audiobook a try and was not disappointed.


Delaney once again does a good job developing plot and characters in this suspenseful story about a woman who moves into a home owned by a man with curious requirements for his renters. The woman discovers that there are quite a few similarities between her and the girl who lived in the house before. 


A well drawn mystery told through the perspectives of several people - in the past and present.  Left me rethinking how quickly I would sign a rental agreement . . . 



A Feast of Celestial Information

Eating the Sun - Ella Frances Sanders

What starts as an examination of the sun and its role, becomes an entertaining contemplation on our cosmic universe, earth, our bodies, science and a plethora of other things.


I listened to the (just under three hours)audio version of this short (under 200 pages) book, narrated by Imogen Church. She did a pretty good job conveying the winsome tone and lyrical style of the descriptions that came across with the illustrations and playful font of the hard copy of the book.


Fun and fascinating, this book might appeal to Bill Bryson fans, or those who enjoyed Lost Feast.

Beware the Innocent-Looking Sea Structure

Beyond the Ice Limit: A Gideon Crew Novel (Gideon Crew Series) - Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

Preston and Child are back with the third? fourth? of the Gideon Crew series.

I didn't read the first few because I wanted to get to the nitty gritty of the encounter and attempted destruction of the creature.


The authors do a good job of making this a stand-alone book, with enough references to the previous events that you get backstory to understand their angst, stress (beyond dealing with a sea creature), and what's at stake, without rewriting the whole series. The creature's description is well done to provide detail and plausible interaction.


If you enjoy creature books, like Alien and Meg, and want an easy read (with a sprinkle of gory details), you might enjoy this trip to the bottom of the ocean.

Too Many Cooks . . .

My Lady Jane - Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows, Cynthia Hand

Three authors came together to make this book possible. But, the writing styles were not quite standardized, and led to some flaws.


The premise of this retelling of historical events (with just a touch of storytelling liberties by the narrators), is promising. This is the story of a sixteen-year-old girl who becomes the Queen of England by a series of traitorous events; and how she and her sometimes-horse-of-a-husband (literally) must return the throne to Jane's cousin, Edward.


The tone is tongue in cheek and comes across as a quirky mixture of The Princess Bride and Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail. It's funny, but at times it comes off as though it's just trying too darn hard. Also, run on sentences and sentences that are not stylistic, but just badly written and not edited (i.e. "Hobbs, Edward remembered the man's name was") made this difficult to read.


However, if you are a fan of YA and don't care a hoot about anything but plot, this is a fun story with numerous instances of deus ex machina to explain any part of the plot that gets cornered.  Of course, this is part of the fun at times.


Great for Fans of Horrible Histories, Princess Bride, Monty Python, and parodies.

The Art of Book Discussing


When I move, one of the first things I do (sometimes even before I get to the new place), is look for a book discussion group.  It helps me meet and get to know people who have at least one thing (and an important one at that) in common with me, and help me familiarize myself with my new city or country. 


In the past, the book groups have consisted of someone (usually the moderator with some feedback from the group) who chose the title and everyone read the same book an we discussed it.  This system gets you to break out of your shell, step outside your genre and read books that you ordinarily might not read. The discussion allows you to glean insight and understanding on the aspects of the book that you loved, hated, didn't understand or just skimmed over. It has its advantages. However, I recently discovered a different format for a book discussion group that made me realise the disadvantages of the traditional book discussion groups for me.


In one of the local library's book discussion group, everyone talks about whatever book(s) they have read.  Some people give a detailed, Cliff-Notes-type explanation, while others, like me, give a book-jacket-like synopsis and a takeaway sentence: i.e. "If you are a fan of Downtown Abby, this book is for you.' With this book group you are still interacting with people who love books, you can talk about the books that you reading, (sometimes others have read the same book so there is a mini book discussion) and you hear about new books and authors. The advantages over the other book group format is that if you are pressed for time and really want to read the books you chose, you can; if you really hate the title, you don't have to spend your precious time reading it. This also prevents the overanalyzing of a book (although some may like that). Sometimes, one-book-discussions feel like a college course where everything becomes significant  Also, with different titles, everyone gets a chance to present their books, whereas with the one title format, it can become a free for all with the most boisterous people dominating the discussion - if there is no moderated process. 


The free format group is new to me (as is BookLikes, and this whole blogging thing) and I am finding it works better for me, I'm curious if there are any other formats out there, and how those fare.  


Happy book discussing!

More Human than Bot

The Perfect Wife - J.P. Delaney

Abby wakes up. Everything is normal until her husband, Tim  tells her that she isn't his wife.  She's an A.I who has been made in Abby's image because she disappeared and he couldn't bear to live without her. How sweet, you think? So does Abby A.I. until she discovers human Abby's old Ipad. It doesn't work so she heads out to get it fixed. BUT, that's when she meets people who are shocked to see her and say things that make her suddenly suspicious of Tim. Why did he really create her? What really happened to Human Abby? Would she really have left her son behind? 

And so, the mystery begins.



The mystery had me trying and not managing to figure out exactly what was going to happen. However, I found the whole portrayal of the Humanoid/A.I well done and quite thought provoking, especially as A/Is are being rolled out and developed to be more and more human.


This is the first of J.P. Delaney's books that I have read. A good mystery with a satisfactory ending. 

Mary Poppins She Ain't

The Perfect Nanny - Leila Slimani

Translated from the French novella, and also previously released as "Lullaby," this sinister and suspenseful tale of a nanny and her two charges is a page turner. It's no mystery how it's going to end, because it starts with the ending, but the story of the seemingly-perfect (aren't they always?) Louise unfolds in flashbacks and backstory from other people's perspective.


Tight writing keeps the tense mood. Similar books that I have read recently are Gone Girl and Something in the Water.  Children being involved and knowing the ending adds to the horror of the story, and makes you want to understand what drove Louise to do what she did, and if you could spot the clues to make you see that she was not the perfect nanny.

Beautiful Gift Ideas for Writers (but not Vegans)

As an artist, I've been trying to support artisans more when I do shopping. I recently purchased a couple of gifts for myself from an Etsy store called Ox and Pine.a wonderful leather store that crafts high quality leather products such as wrap journals (among other styles), bags, luggage tags, leather bracelets and much more. 


I was able to choose the colours for my bag and journal. I even got a sweet inscription in French inside the bag.  There is a key chain ring and clip inside as well as a pocket. I love the feel of the soft, supple leather and the craftsmanship is excellent! There is also timely customer service to help choose colours and styles or customize the product. It's a great store for products that you want to invest in. That being said, the prices for the leather products is very good -- especially during sales.


It's a lovely idea for writers, journal keepers and people who still like to lug books around wherever they go.  I put my bullet journal in the wrap journal and have a notebook for whatever I want to brainstorming scribbles without disturbing the semi-order of my journal.


Happy writing and reading journeys . . .




The History of the Disappearance of Species and Food

Lost Feast - Lenore Newman

Author Newman expertly explains how the loss of various species has affected our meals.

Weaves a fascinating history of people, culture, species, world events into the explanation of why certain animals vanished and how it has affected culinary knowledge and impacted what we eat and don't eat.  Newman also examines how culinary extinction will affect our ilves and what we can do about it.

An informative and insightful book that provides much food for thought.



Suspense and Paranoia

Something in the Water - Catherine Steadman

A couple honeymooning in Bora Bora, discover a bag filled with loot. Both Mark, who has just lost his job, and Erin are tempted to keep the goodies to ease their financial burdens. Their decision could be the death of them.


In addition to ratcheting up the suspense and mystery about the origin of the loot; author Steadman does a great job  revealing how quickly paranoia descends on the couple, and they begin to develop a moral and criminal mindset to cover their tracks and save their hides.  The fact that Erin is a documentary filmmaker working on a project about convicts who have been released from prison adds to the plot.


Well written suspense, although the ending wasn't as satisfying ass I had hoped it would be for the level of mystery created. Worth a read for an adrenalin rush and a Hitchcockian element of mystery.

Charming Small Town Magic

The Book Charmer - Karen Hawkins

This book has all the elements of a Hallmark movie - magical characters - literally and metaphorically. A young woman who had a difficult childhood. moves into the small town of Dove Pond, N.C. She meets Sarah Dove - a woman with a special relationship with books that extends beyond her being the town librarian. There is mystery and magic as Sarah the delightful story unravels.


While the story was sweet; the characters were a bit too cliche and the narrative was a little too light, over-explained and repetitive for my liking. However, its small town charm would be enjoyed by  fans of Debbie Macomber.

A Fondness for Flaneuring

The Art of Flaneuring - Erika Owen

It sounds like it is some sort of French process to be found dans la cuisine. But, 'flaneuring" means to wander with intention or stroll. In this book, Erika Owen reveals that flaneuring has come to mean much more than simply a walk in the city or a stroll through a park. It can now incorporate flaneur-inspired activities - exploring the world via Google maps, or taking a vicarious audiobook walk, or keeping a flaneuring journal to exchange with a fellow flaneur.

And, what is the purpose of this seemingly-pointless intentional walking? To balance our work with life, to help us notice the details as we explore new routes in what would be a mundane routine, reinvigorate our relationship with life and the world, and maybe one another.

This short book has numerous tips and ideas on how you can flaneur wherever you are and whatever you are doing.

A lovely reminder to take care o ourselves, be grateful for our precious life and rediscover our beautiful world.

Chinese Eat-In

Chinese Unchopped - Jeremy Pang

This book - also entitled Essential Chinese Cooking in some editions - is perfect for chefs of all levels, who are interested in authentic asian cuisine. Chock full of wonderful information about basic and advanced Chinese ingredients, detailed and deliciously arranged photographs, and easy to follow recipes; this is an essential guide to own or gift.

Authentic and Appetizing Asian Eats

Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking: Authentic Dishes for the Home Cook - Lauren Chattman, Maangchi

I first stumbled across Maangchi on her YouTube videos, and loved her down-to-earth, fun cooking show.  Her recipes are now in this attractive, hardcover format with beautiful illustrations and easy to follow recipes. There are explanations on ingredients, sauces and cooking techniques for those not familiar with Korean cuisine. A great gift book for lovers of Korean cuisine.


A Certain Type of Trouble

— feeling what?!?
The Other Typist - Suzanne Rindell

This intriguing story captures the tone of New York City in 1924 and has a great premise: Rose Baker, a young female stenographer works in a Manhattan police office, taking the confessions of witnesses and criminals. The arrival of glamourous and independent Odalie, 'the other typist' adds flavour to Rose's otherwise routine life; spicing it up with exotic characters at underground speakeasys/bars. Rose falls right into this lifestyle as her obsession with Odalie grows. But, who is Odalie and will her life irrevocably damage Rose's?


Rindell has a clean, concise writing style that is engaging. Rose's first person narrative is enticing in that you're not quite sure what's going on and what is going to happen. The mini-cliffhangers make for a page turner. There were a couple of plot lines that I thought were going to be the focus for the story, but they ended up not really developing.


What I loved: The style of the book that captures the stylistic feel of the 1920s, and the way Rose speaks and observes.

What I didn't love: The ending. I won't ruin it further except to say that I felt it was a bit too vague and easy to read in a number of ways -- hence the "WHAT?!?" rating.


Reviews compare 'The Other Typist' to "Hitchcock, with a flourish of Great Gatsby"; Patricia Highsmith and Gillian Flynn's 'Gone Girl.' 

I might recommend this to lovers of psychological thrillers and book groups who like to lively discussions on open-ended finales - there are also book group discussion questions in the back.


I didn't realise until writing this post that this was made into a movie by the same title, in 2015 and stars Keira Knightley.


Favourite quote (this reference is to the telephone/landline telephone back in 1925):

"It is interesting to me how technology has in many ways facilitated and refine the practice of deception."




Currently reading

Meditate Your Weight: A 21-Day Retreat to Optimize Your Metabolism and Feel Great
Tiffany Cruikshank LAc MAOM
Progress: 116/336 pages
The Magnolia Sisters
Michelle Major
Min Jin Lee