Assorted Reivews

Kwik Reads

Okay somebodies – I’ve not posted a review in ages since it’s taken me 4 months to recover from christmas. I was worried about this, until I realised it took me the exact same amount of time to recover last year! So without further ado, here’s a few quick reviews to get me back into the swing of things:

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link

why did the man scream

his pet chicken pooped on his computer (holly)

TL;DR – A baffling collection of jokes, written by real Earth children!

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Ragdoll Rating: 3.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Anybody who wants to spend twenty minutes or so marvelling at the insanity that is the mind of children.

About the Book…

This book is a collection of jokes, written by real kids and compiled by the guy behind @KidsWriteJokesIt is 130 pages of the most random, bizarre and hilarious surrealism that only a child could possibly come up with.

What I thought…

Personally, I really enjoyed it. It’s totally stupid, even baffling – sometimes you can see where these kids were coming from, and other times it’s a complete mystery. This isn’t a book of well crafted, genuinely funny jokes, and it doesn’t pretend to be. This book is funny because it’s bad, and more than a little charming.

Final Thoughts…

This has got to be worth a punt, even if it’s just something to pick up and chuckle at from time to time.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

Can a cat really run a major business? Let’s find out!

TL;DR – A comic about a cat who runs a business – says it all really.

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Ragdoll Rating: 3/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of cats

About the Book…

This book is exactly what you think it is – a collection of comic strips about a cat who is in charge of a business. Business cat acts like a cat, making business difficult or bizarre and their-in lies the humour.

What I thought…

There is nothing wrong with this book – in fact I imagine that if you are fond of cats, or know anything about cats, it’s probably hilarious. Unfortunately, I am neither a fan of cats, nor do I know anything about cats, so much of the charm is lost on me. I can appreciate it at a “this is weird, cat’s shouldn’t run a business” level, but I assume there is also a level where you would think “this is so like my cat!” or similar, which is obviously lost on me.

Final Thoughts…

This is probably much more entertaining if you know cats – however it is still cute and fun even if you don’t.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link

A superb little campaign companion!

TL;DR – A selection of fun campaigns to play with your Dungeons and Dragons group.

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Ragdoll Rating: 4.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: TTRPG fans, especially dungeon masters

About the Book…

Rolled and Told is a super little collection of campaigns for Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition. Each campaign is provided with a setting, challenges, and experience guides and so on to allow your DM to run them with ease!

What I thought…

OK, I’m a part time DM for my younger sisters and a couple of their friends, and this book looks exactly the kind of thing I need. Each campaign is clearly well thought out, providing all the information you could possibly need to run it for yourself.

Seriously, this book has everything – setup and flavour text, NPC stats, challenge descriptions win/loss conditions, starting and ending information, plot and background stuff…just, everything! It’s well referenced too, pointing you towards pages in the various 5e players guides.

It’s also set out really nicely to make it easier to access specific information.

I’m particularly fond of the comic pages that accompany each campaign, setting the scene for the whole thing. It’s a really nice touch that makes the whole book seem a lot more fun, and would definitely appeal to my group of players.

Final Thoughts…

I’m absolutely certain my group would enjoy this book, and quite frankly I’m planning to put my money where my mouth is and get me a copy so I can test this theory. So much love to the folk who created this book!

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

AAAAAAH, it feels good to review again! Hopefully I’ll have more soon.

Book Review: Tardy Bells and Witches Spells (Sarina Dorie)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

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Ragdoll Rating: 4.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of magical romance

About the Book…

Tardy Bells is the tragic story of a teenage nerd who wants to be a witch. Clarissa Lawrence is a geek. She loves Star Trek and Doctor Who and Lord of the Rings, and she loves magic. But her wish for magic turns sour when, after an incident at the Oregon Country Fair, where Clarissa’s sister becomes convinced she will be murdered by Clarissa before her 18th birthday.

What follows is a tale of magical discovery and teenage romance.

What I thought…

I really enjoyed this book, it was another one of those can’t-put-it-down reads where, had I not had other things to do, I would have read it all in one sitting. I hate how much I relate to Clarissa, the 14 year old girl inside me was crying out the whole way through screaming “Oh my god YEEEEESS!” She is a nerdy little girl who doesn’t fit in, struggles at school and has a group of weird friends. She is a total underdog and you can’t not root for her. Her sister is the preppy, beautiful popular cheerleader. Clarissa’s life reads like a story book, which for a character so heavily influenced by fiction seems highly appropriate.

It is established that Clarissa is geeky by namedropping all the various geeky things she enjoys, from Star Wars to My Little Pony. I understand why it was done, it was just super irritating.

Also, I hate Clarissa’s mother. I personally feel that the events of this story, much like the events in Disney’s Frozen, could have been easily avoided if the child’s parents weren’t total morons. Clarissa’s mother goes out of her way to make Clarissa think magic doesn’t exist, allegedly for her own protection. To whit, she has drugged her daughter since birth, and after an argument, literally burned every magic related item Clarissa owned, which was about 90% of her stuff. When Clarissa’s sister gets abducted at the Country Fair and comes home raving about how Clarissa is going to murder her, instead of sending the sister to a psychiatrist or something, the whole thing seems to be put on Clarissa. Her mum hates Derrick because she senses magic in him, and worries Clarissa’s magic will surface by association. Now to her mums credit, that is exactly what happened, but realistically if she had done the sensible thing and talked to her daughter about the situation like a normal person, the terrible things that happen throughout the book might have been avoided. Infuriating, but good reading.

The story is paced well and reads nicely. The writing style is informal, I suppose very much in the way you would expect a well-read 14 year old to recount things. It makes for very easy reading. I love Clarissa and Derick as characters, I see so much of myself in both of them, which was really nice. I just want them to be happy! I’m so pathetic!

Final Thoughts…

This really is a book for the outcast weirdos out there. This book is a fun little read, that I couldn’t put down. It’s a little weirdly written at times, and the constant name dropping bugged me, but I’m glad I read it and will definitely be reading the rest of the series (I have the next 2 downloaded already!)

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Den of Smoke (Christopher Byford)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link

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Ragdoll Rating: 4.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of heists, anti-heroes and adventure.

About the Book

This book focuses on Jackdaw, a mid-level criminal the Morning Star‘s crew worked with in the previous book, and his gang.

When a man bursts into the gangs hideout brandishing a pistol and demanding money, Jackdaw finds himself a promising candidate for his criminal enterprise – he hires Cole immediately. Cole quickly makes himself a valuable member of the team as they go out committing their various crimes. But the new crime lord, Donovan, demands ever increasing tribute from Jackdaw and his gang, which leads them to attempt the most insane 1-chance-in-a-million heist anybody has ever conceived.

What I thought

For the first 60% of this book, the Morning Star and it’s crew don’t even get mentioned. This is exactly what I needed after finishing the previous book (for an explanation of why I hate almost the entire cast of the previous book, please see the full review here: Book Review: Den of Stars (Cristopher Byford)). It focuses on the Jackrabbits ad they go about introducing Cole to the world of crime. The remaining 40% also features barely any of the cast of the other two books – so heads up, if you loved the crew, you may miss them in this book.

I, on the other hand, did not miss the other characters. I LOVE, the Jackrabbits. They are great. They spend the entire book committing crimes, but without any of the problems I had with the crew of the Morning Star.

The book is exciting from beginning to end. It’s very action based – there is always something happening, from a bank heists to beatings. I personally think this story is less complicated than Den of Stars which for me is definitely a good thing. The motivations of the characters are simple, their responses make sense and it just makes for a much easier, more engaging read. It made the characters easy to relate to – so when Jack takes a beating, and that dude takes a lot of beatings, you feel sorry for him and want him to get his revenge.

It’s well written and entertaining, and most importantly, fun.

Final Thoughts

This book could, with minimal alteration, have not had the Morning Star cast in it at all. When I say it focuses on the Jackrabbits, I mean it – it is all about them – and personally I think that’s brilliant. It confirmed my suspicion that I hated Byford’s characters and not his writing, which as it turns out, I really enjoy. This book more than made up for my disappointment with the last one and you should definitely read it.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: The Alchemist’s Illusion (Gigi Pandian)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

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Ragdoll Rating: 4.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of mystery novels. Young folks.

About the Book

The Alchemist’s Illusion is part of the Accidental Alchemist series, although it is mostly a stand-alone work. This book makes frequent references to things that I assume happened in the previous three titles – I’ve not read them yet, so I can’t be totally sure – but I didn’t feel I missed anything from not having read them, everything was explained to some extent.

Zoe Faust has set herself up in Portland, Oregon. Zoe is an alchemist who created the Elixir of Life and has lived for hundreds of years. She has led a life on the run, skipping town and changing her identity every few years to avoid detection and revealing her secret, but now she had built herself a comfortable little life and she want’s to stay where she is. Then she discovers her old mentor, Nicholas Flamel is in danger and needs her help. Suddenly her life is turned on its head, and Zoe finds herself in the midst of an alchemical conspiracy / murder mystery.

What I thought:

It took me a while to get properly into this book. I think it was the abundance of language related to alchemy that did it. I know absolutely nothing about alchemy, which highlighted two thoughts in my head. Firstly, I didn’t know what any of the words meant, and secondly, I didn’t know if the vocabulary used was accurate or just made up by the author. I don’t know why this bugged me, and I don’t know why it stopped bugging me either. But it did stop, and once I got over it I was in the middle of a really excellent mystery novel. I read the whole book in less than a day – I stayed up all night just to finish, it was that kind of book. I couldn’t put it down.

So the first thing I really liked was the way alchemy was portrayed in the book. As I’ve just said, I know nothing about it, so perhaps everything is totally accurate (in so much as you can be accurate about something like alchemy), but it was different to how I usually see it portrayed. There is a lovely line in the book that says that the different between alchemy and chemistry is that alchemy requires a connection to the materials, and proper intention (or words to that effect). Zoe, for example, really struggles to turn things into gold, because she’s just not interested in it, but she is superb with plant-based alchemy. Edward Kelley can’t make gold, because his intentions aren’t good – he’s greedy and want’s the power and so he just can’t manage it. It’s very different from, for example, the Harry Potter style of alchemy where the philosophers stone gets made and suddenly anybody can use it just by having it on them.

It was also really interesting to see the variety of alchemy. Nicholas Flamel is sort of the traditional alchemist, lead into gold, that sort of thing (although by no means limited to just that one thing). Zoe is all about the plants. Tobias is a spiritual alchemist – someone who works to transform the spirit into something better. Phillipe Hayden is a alchemical painter – using raw materials to do magical things with paint. It really makes the world of alchemy more interesting and alive to know that there is so much to it that you wouldn’t necessarily expect.

Another thing I liked was the characters. Particularly Dorian – a gargoyle who became real by accident. Dorian still looks like a gargoyle – he’s grey, he’s got wings, he’s 3 feet tall – but he wanted to do things with his life, so he apprenticed under a blind chef and cooked for blind folks as a way of being out in the world but not seen. He’s heavily influenced by the books he reads and throws himself into any situation that calls for his attention. He’s just a wonderful creation and the whole book was improved by his existence.

One thing I noticed – and this an observation more than a criticism – is that Pandian has a tendency to repeat things that have already been said. The attic room where Dorian lives, for example, is probably described 3 times in much the same way at different points in the book, and there are other examples that escape me – mostly alchemical things. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it certainly helped cement some of the concepts in my mind, but I’m aware it could bug some people. Also there were a couple of times where characters said things that I just can’t imagine any human being every saying. The one that sticks in my mind most was an outburst by a murder victims wife, who says “He was wearing that on the moonlit night he was murdered!” The night he was murdered, sure, but the moonlit night? Perhaps people in Portland are more poetic than I am. Again, this isn’t a criticism it just struck me as a bit peculiar.

The thing I liked most about this book is that, as I said, after a shaky start (due to an abundance of technical terminology) I was completely and totally hooked. I think I read a few chapters Monday night, and then the entire book in on sitting last night. That’s not something I usually do, unless I’m really hooked into something. I’ll read for a long time, but it’s not often I find something I’m willing to stay up all night just to see how it ends. I’m also desperate to read the other three books in the series so I hope that goes some way to showing just how much I liked this book.

Final Thoughts

This is a really fun book, that I would happily recommend to anyone, and will probably wind up buying a physical copy of the series so my younger sisters can read it too, because I know they will love it.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: No Mud, No Lotus (Thich Nhat Nanh)


Goodreads Link | Author Website

I can only hope to one day see the world as Thich Nhat Hanh does…

TL;DR – A collection of personal experiences, Buddhist teachings and mindfulness practices to help heal the suffering of the world.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

This was part of my ongoing practice of reading a Buddhism book before meditation. I chose this book because I was so moved by The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching (Thich Nhat Hanh) that I felt I had to read more of Thay’s writings, and I chose this book specifically because I liked the title.

The Book…

(Please note: In the interests of my own sanity and time saving, I will refer to the author by the honorific Thầy – teacher/master, instead of his full name)

“Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud.” ~Thich Nhat Nanh

The tagline for this book is “The art of transforming suffering”, and that is what this book is, a guidebook for turning suffering into – well, not suffering.

The first (and biggest) section of this book is dedicated to discussing suffering, it’s effects on us as individuals, and on society itself. Each chapter is split into little sections that are written with the authors usual somewhat eclectic mix of personal stories, scripture and metaphor.

In the first chapter, Thầy tells us how suffering and happiness are linked – you cannot have one without the other, and suggesting that the causes of suffering and happiness can be the same thing. Here he uses an example of being cold:

“Cold air can be painful if you aren’t wearing enough warm clothes. But when you’re feeling overheated (…) the bracing sensation of cold air can be a source of feeling joy…” Thich Nhat Hanh (p.11)

Thầy also provides useful practices you can try for yourself in times of suffering, to try and provide some relief, either for you or for the people around you. Chapter 5, for example, is dedicated to 5 practices for nurturing happiness, such as letting go of attachment, and simple meditations.

The second section of the book is entitled ‘Practices for Happiness’ and details 8 (relatively) simple things we can all try to do, to help transform our suffering and the suffering of others.

What I liked…

One thing that really appealed to me in this book was that Thầy always provides multiple forms of explanation and example to any point he makes. Nothing is left to chance. You will often find multiple metaphors, personal examples and stories from the Buddhist canon to help aid understanding of what can be difficult points.  Some people might find this annoying and it could be interpreted as unnecessary repetition, but I personally find that it helps me understand each point much better because of it.

On a similar note, the combination of traditional Buddhist stories and personal anecdotes is also refreshing. One problem I often find with guides for personal improvement, is that if often the steps seem impossible – if you tried them, you would fail – and once you feel like it’s too difficult, you stop paying attention. Having examples of how Thầy puts this guidance into practice – is really refreshing. But this book goes one step further. We also have examples where Thầy talks about times he has found himself confused about teachings (for example the section entitled “Did the Buddha suffer”) – which is really reassuring. It’s nice to see someone admit that they didn’t always understand how these things worked, because often I find hearing guidance from people comes across as if the knowledge was inside them from birth, which as an often-confused person, is really quite disheartening.

What I disliked…

I’m not sure this is so much a dislike in the traditional sense – it’s certainly not the authors fault – but at times this book was hard to read. Not in the usual sense, the language is pretty straightforward, it’s written clearly and has lots of examples – it’s not an ‘advanced text’ or anything like that. It’s the concepts addressed in the book.

There is guidance in this book that seems difficult, if not impossible to follow. For example, there is a place in the book (although I can’t find the specific page as my bookmark fell out) where Thầy talks about how to respond to somebody else’s anger. He encourages us not to respond in kind, not to become angry ourselves or to shout or defend ourselves. Instead he tells us to listen, apologise for your part in this persons pain and just hear them out. Then later, when things are calmer you can try to transform this persons view should an opportunity present itself.

Now, I totally see how this could work. In fact I know it works at times because I’ve done it – not on anything particularly important mind you, but it can work. Even if I hadn’t actually put this into practice, I would be able to see the logic behind it because it is all explained in a clear and simple fashion. BUT, this – and other pieces of guidance – can be really, really daunting. I know on several times during this book, I stopped reading and thought to myself;

“How the hell am I supposed to pull that off!?”

I suppose the thing is, it is all very well explained and I can see what to do, and why I should do it and all those nice things that should make it seem like a walk in the park, but in the back of my head something is telling me the whole thing is nuts. The teachings in this book can be hard to process and accept – that’s just conditioned into us I suppose, and something we all need to unlearn. Just be aware of it.

Final thoughts…

This book is well thought out, brilliantly written and no doubt it will prove incredibly useful in the future. I have already attempted to put some of the teachings into practice.

The book is clear, but some of the concepts are hard to digest. Your mind may try and reject them, even though they are really good stuff. My advice is if you find yourself resisting something in the book, put it down, breath deeply for a minute or two, then start reading again. It will be worth it.

This book is now on my re-read pile. I recommend this to everyone.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Series Review: Ghosts of Shanghai (Julian Sedgwick)

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Goodreads Link | Author Website

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. ~Laozi

TL;DR – A beautiful example of the “Unlikely heroes go on a dangerous journey” genre. Exciting and fun, and definitely worth a read.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4.5/5 BUTTONS

Series Details…

Released: 2015-2018

This series is made up of three books: Ghosts of Shanghai (2015); Shadow of the Yangtze (2016); Return to the City of Ghosts* (2018).

*Or, The Pale Revenant

See the reviews of the first 2 books here:

Book Review: Ghosts of Shanghai (Julian Sedgwick)

Kwik Review: Shadow of the Yangtze (Julian Sedgwick)

The Story…

The Ghosts… series follows the exploits of Ruby – a western girl, born and raised in Shanghai – and her little band of friends on an epic quest through China in the 1920s.

In Ghosts of Shanghai, Ruby and her friends have discovered an ancient Toaist almanac and have set out to learn its magical secrets by trapping a fox spirit. They soon meet a mysterious hermit in the old temple which they use as a base, Lao Jin, who amazes the group with his martial arts skills. Things soon take a turn for the worst as the political situation in Shanghai begins to deteriorate and Ruby suddenly finds her best friends, Charlie and Fei, are mixed up in something dangerous, resulting in broken friendships, families and a kidnapping.

In Shadow of the Yangtze, Ruby and Charlie set off to rescue Fei (who was kidnapped in book 1). The book follows the pair from the relative safety of Shanghai, into the Chinese interior – a dangerous place filled with warlords, revolutionaries, and spirits! This book has more of everything – more action, more folklore, more romance…

In Return to the City of Ghosts, things take a bit of a format twist, and we are introduced to ‘the author’, who tells us how everything has been told to him by the Ruby, decades later. Ruby and her friends must make it back to Shanghai – and you needn’t think that it will be easy!

Why Did I Read Them…

My sisters were bothering me to at least try the first one, but I never got round to it, but since they happened to be sitting there when I finished the last book I was reading I thought I’d give it a try. I read the whole series because the books were so much fun.

What I liked…

The biggest draw for me was Ruby. She was just so COOL. She’s brave, caring, smart and open the world. She lives in Shanghai and just absorbs Chinese culture – she doesn’t reject it like her parents and the other westerners living there. She speaks the language, knows (a little) about the religions and folklore, and she just loves the culture she’s been brought up around. It’s nice to see.

The story itself is really fun. It is well paced, so no matter how much you read in one sitting you always feel that certain something that draws you back in – you just want to find out what comes next.

Note: The following contains SPOILERS. If you wish to read it, just highlight the blank space (I’m making the text white).

I don’t like romance stories. They annoy me. As such, I was really worried the minute the romantic element was introduced between Ruby and Charlie. It built up in the second book quite a bit, and was a big theme throughout it, and I was worried that Return… would feature a heavy romantic theme. As it turns out, it didn’t. There was a bit here and there, but mostly it was just action and peril. This was a massive bonus for me.

What I disliked…

In a previous review I noted that Sedgwick has a tendency to make up random words – as it turns out, this is not actually true. I looked up the words (like jinked and snicked), and as it turns out they are real words, and he uses them correctly. He also uses slang contractions like ‘brolly’ (umbrella) and ‘loco’ (locomotive) – words I do actually know. The reason I am mentioning this in the ‘dislike’ section is because while they may be real words, they really stood out. I don’t know why, they just did – it was more strange than bad though.

Spoilers: As above.

The ‘big bad’ villain in this series was a gang boss called Moonface. He kidnapped Fei and kicked the whole journey off – which was why I was massively surprised to discover that the showdown – Ruby and Lao Jin VS Moonface and his army – was finished in a couple of pages, right at the start of Return…!

Having finished the book I can now say that this isn’t much of a problem as the story is really about the journey and not the destination, but it really stood out while I was reading.

Final thoughts…

I loved this series. Ruby is an amazing character and I loved reading about her. They setting was great, and the writing, while a little odd at times, was really good too. I would recommend this to anyone who likes easy, adventure fictions – providing they don’t have hangups about stories with ghosts and spirits and magic.

 

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Please note: Although my family do know the author, I have do not. I am reading them because they come recommended by my younger sisters, not because of any connection to the author. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Buddhist Meditation: Tranquility, Imagination and Insight (Kamalashila)

Goodreads Link |  Author Website

A brilliant meditation guide with something for all learners.

TL;DR – This book is a great guide for any meditation practitioner – from the absolute beginner to the more advanced users

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4.5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I’ve been meditating for a while now – every day for 200 days, and on-and-off before that – and I’ve been wanting to find a way to deepen my practice at home. A friend recommended this book to me as an excellent meditation guide so I thought I would give it a shot – this also, conveniently, meant that the book counted as my “Book recommended bya friend” for my reading challenge…two birds and all that!

The Book…

This book is described as:

“A comprehensive and practical guide to Buddhist meditation, providing a complete introduction for beginners, as well as detailed advice for experienced meditators seeking to deepen their practice.” (from the blurb)

This seems to be about as good a description as I could possibly give. We start with an introduction to the concept of meditation, what it is and what it’s for, then we have instructions for some basic meditations – mindfulness of breathing, metta bhavana (loving kindness), sitting and walking.

Following these basic meditations, we have instructions on how to take our meditation practice to a deeper level, eventually leading into some much more in-depth and advanced practises.

What I liked…

The first thing I loved about this book is the way instruction is offered for meditations. Instructions are broken down into 3 parts.

  1. Brief instructions: Each stage of the meditation is broken down to a few lines, so you can get a feel for what you are supposed to do.
  2. Table guide – Each stage is broken down into the smallest instruction possible, (i.e “Count just after each out-breath”) and displayed in a handy table for easy memorisation.
  3. Detailed instructions. This gives you the full detail for the practice. From posture, to breath, if you’re supposed to do or think something you will find it clearly stated in the long instructions.

This breakdown provides a brilliant opportunity for people who are learning without the benefit of a teacher or group of experienced meditators. The instructions are clear and easy to follow, and the addition of the table and the brief instruction sections make it easier to remember what you are supposed to be doing so you (hopefully) don’t have to keep looking at the book when you should be concentrating.

The next thing I loved was the inclusion of descriptions of things you might feel or experience as you meditate. As anybody who meditates will no doubt know, probably the biggest barrier stopping people from meditation is that they feel they are doing it wrong. They expect meditation to feel different, maybe they expect perfect calm, or insight or a clear mind – it doesn’t always work like that and this book is very clear on the fact that it could feel amazing, but it could also feel like nothing much was happening. Kamalashila then goes on to explain why feeling nothing isn’t actually a problem.

There are also sections about the hindrances to meditation and the importance of routine. The book identifies the primary hindrances, explains what they are and explains how to counteract them. This, I found, was a really useful section as often these sort of things can be completely overlooked when you are learning.

Finally, I loved how in depth the book got – and it went deep. If you are just starting your meditation journey then I warn you now that the second half of this book is going to come at you like a train and seem completely overwhelming – and I’m right there with you. This book went waaaaaaaay deeper than I expected it to go, and well beyond my level – which is fantastic, because with the best will in the world, it’s all well and good knowing who to practice the metta bhavana and get a routine going, but if that’s where my practice is going to end then I feel like I’m missing something. This book should help make my practice deeper for a long while to come.

What I disliked…

In my notes I have written down 2 things that bothered me about the book. The first note was that there where some untranslated mantras kicking around in there – I am aware that mantras don’t necessarily translate very well (and the book might even mention that, I can’t recall), but it would have been nice to have some idea what the words meant without a google search.

I also have written down, the phrase “Use any method…” I’m not 100% certain what this was referring to any more, I just remember thinking that if I had been a complete beginner then I probably wouldn’t actually know any other methods (of whatever it may be) and that bothered me.

Having said that, neither of those things bothered me enough to knock of a whole star, and to be honest for my own purposes barely warranted a half start reduction – take from that what you will.

Final thoughts…

I can’t decide if it was a mistake to read this book like a novel – a chapter or so a day until I finished. I think reading it like that made the content seem overwhelming and intimidating at times, although it did open my eyes to the scope of meditation practice. I am quite certain I will find myself coming back to this book from time to time, to dip in-and-out of in order to deepen my practice.

My recommendations for this book would be definitely for meditators who want to deepen their practice. Advanced meditators might find it useful, but not being an advanced meditator myself, I wouldn’t like to assume. I would recommend this to beginners, with the proviso that you should take it slowly and get the hang of what you have read before moving on.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Bodhisattva Ideal: Wisdom and Compassion in Buddhism (Sangharakshita)

Goodreads Link | Sangharakshita Website

“To consider the Bodhisttva ideal is to place one’s hand on the very heart of Buddhism, and feel the beating of that hears.” ~Extract from the blurb

TL;DR – A fascinating read. Don’t read this unless you have at least some idea about Buddhism beforehand.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4.5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I’ve been fascinated by the concept of the Bodhisattva from the moment I first heard about it, and this seemed as good a place as any to start.

As it says in my introduction, I am a practising Buddhist. I have started to read a chapter of a book on a Buddhist topic every day before meditating.

Also, it was on my Reading challenge list.

The Book…

This book is an intended as an introduction to the concept of the Bodhisattva – which simply (and completely underwhelming put), is a being who seeks enlightenment for all sentient beings, rather than for themselves.

The first chapter takes you briefly through the origins of this ideal – detailing the differing opinions of Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism. This history is filled out a little more in the following chapters to provide you with a neat little guide to the origins and reasons for the rise of this ideal.

The remaining chapters are a fascinating account of the qualities of a Bodhisattva, and detailing how one becomes a Bodhisattva.* Chapter 2 introduces and explains the concept of Bodicitta and how it applies to the ideal. Chapter 3 introduces the Bodhisattva vows, and so on and so fourth. Each chapter introduces further qualities and concepts and explains them all.

*NOTE:- when I say ‘how one becomes…’ I do not mean to suggest this book is a sort of spiritual ‘how-to’ guide, nor that it pretends to offer a ‘quick’ guide to enlightenment.

What I liked…

I enjoyed the writing style. It was – for the most part – quite clear, and made use of metaphor, and drew parallels to other things in order to try and make difficult concepts clearer. I found the book mostly easy to read and to digest – the chapters are about 25-30 each, which was perfect for the way I chose to read this book.

Obviously I enjoyed the content. Going in, I was primarily interested in finding some explanations as to how a Bodhisattva functions – unlimited compassion and seeking enlightenment for all sentient beings is a lofty ideal, and something that I find both interesting and inspiring. I found some good information in this area, and the rest of the book was just as interesting. The historical aspects in particular were very enjoyable.

I also liked that the book was well referenced throughout, pointing to Buddhist. It’s usually a good sign to have proper referencing in a factual book.

Finally, there is a neat little Further Reading section at the back, which is something I always like to see.

What I disliked…

I would have liked a glossary of terms at the end – all the non-English terminology is translated and explained within the text, it just would have been nice. That said, there is a fairly big index that appears to contain all the non-English terminology (and a whole lot more) so it would not be difficult to research.

I found it a little difficult at times to grasp some of the concepts, and on occasion I was confused about the point being made – however this almost certainly has more to do with the complexity of the topic, the difficulty of explaining concepts that by their are difficult do understand from what I would term ‘the normal level’, and also inexperience on my part – as such, I would warn that this is not a book for the beginner; some knowledge of Buddhism is (I would think) essential, before reading this book.

Final thoughts…

I really enjoyed this book. I found it a very enjoyable and fairly simple read, and it answered a lot of questions – of course it also raised countless other ones, but that is definitely a good thing. It has inspired me to further reading on the subject of the Bodhisattva ideal, and also Buddhist history.

The book loses half a star, purely because it was not always as beginner friendly as I hoped. However, it will be going on my ‘read again’ list for a time when I will understand it better.

I would definitely recommend this book to anybody interested in the subject – providing they have some prior knowledge of Buddhism or don’t mind a doing a little bit of research.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!