Reading Challenge Complete (#2)

Technically speaking, that’s three reading challenges complete so far this year. 52 total books and two different runs of the Badass Books Reading Challenge detailed here.

The 2018 Badass Books Reading Challenge was from a book blog I found – mehawkins.com18 unique categories. Doing this challenge actually inspired my to write my own challenges for next year (and the Around the World 2018 Reading Challenge you can try out already!!)

So here is the rundown of my progress through the challenge. (Please note: I read these in no particular order)

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Graphic and content from mehawkins.com

The 2018 Badass Books Reading Challenge (Run #2)

A book published in 2018.

ButtonHead On by John Scalzi(2018)

Another fast paced science fiction crime/conspiracy novel. Scalzi’s work makes for excellent reading.

See the full review here: Book Review: Head On (John Scalzi)

Rating: 5/5 Buttons

 

A book published the year you were born.

ButtonGood Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (1990)

Two of my absolute favourite authors writing a book about the end of the world. What could be finer? Funny, clever and entertaining.

Rating: 5/5 Buttons

 

A classic book or a book published over 100 years ago.

ButtonRound the Moon by Jules Verne (1865)

After being blasted into orbit around the moon in Journey to the Moon, our intrepid heroes find themselves stuck – never to hit the moon, never to fall back to Earth. To orbit until their death. It sounds far more dull than it actually is.

Rating: 5/5 Buttons

 

A book that you’ve started before and never finished.

ButtonThief of Time by Terry Pratchett (2001)

“The construction of the world’s first truly accurate clock starts a race against, well, time, for Lu Tze and his apprentice Lobsang Ludd. Because it will stop time. And that will only be the start of everyone’s problems.” (from Goodreads). Probably my least favourite Pratchett book – it’s telling that I remember so little that I had to steal a summary rather than write my own – I may owe it a re-read.

Rating: 2/5 Buttons
A book you should have read in school, but didn’t.

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The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arther Conan Doyle (1902)

After the suspicious death of land-owner, Holmes and Watson must solve the case of the mysterious devil-dog that has been reported to curse the Baskerville family, before the last of the great line meets a grizzly end. One of my favourite Holmes stories.

Rating: 4/5 Buttons

 

A Book you’ve already read – time for a re-read!

ButtonThe Pirates! In an Adventure with Napoleon by Gideon Defoe (2004)

This story finds the Pirate Captain giving up piracy and going to become a beekeeper on the island of Corsica, which he bought from the dastardly Black Bellamy. But PC’s dreams are shattered with the arrival of Napoleon, which sees the pair become locked in a battle for supremacy – and popularity – over the Island and it’s inhabitants.

See the full review here: Series Review: The Pirates! In an Adventure with… (Gideon Defoe)

Rating: Exceptional (Series)

 

A book that you’ve put off reading.

ButtonThe Bodhisattva Ideal by Sangharakshita (2000)

A brief introduction into what it means to be a Bodhisattva – someone who strives to attain enlightenment for all beings . A fascinating read. Don’t read this unless you have at least some idea about Buddhism beforehand.

Rating: 4.5/5 Buttons

See the full review here: Book Review: Bodhisattva Ideal: Wisdom and Compassion in Buddhism (Sangharakshita)

 

A banned book.

ButtonAnimal Farm by George Orwell (1945)

The animals take over the farmyard in the interests of seizing the means of production so they can all live a better life. Until the pigs take over. A weird, but enjoyable read.

Rating: 4/5 Buttons

 

A book by an author you’ve never read.

ButtonElla Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

The very strange tale of the land of Nollop, where words are treasured and linguists are deified. A weird but brilliant look into the world of religious totalitarianism. A word lovers dream (or indeed nightmare).

Rating: 5/5 Buttons

See the full review here: Book Review: Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters (Mark Dunn)

 

A popular author’s first book.

ButtonThe Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (1950)

A collection of tales about the colonization of Mars. I tried SO hard to like this book. Bits of it were interesting but mostly it just bored me. If you’re not a serious Sci-fi fan, give it a miss.

Rating: 2/5 Buttons

 

A book turned movie you’ve seen but haven’t read.

ButtonAround the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne (1872)

Phileas Fogg sets off on an impossible journey, in order to win a wager. A delightful tale of round the world travel in the shortest possible time. Well worth a read.

Rating: 5/5 Buttons

 

A book turned TV show you’ve seen but haven’t read.

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Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (1864)

When an ancient clue, written in runes, is discovered and translated a journey is made to discover what lies beneath the Earth’s surface. A tale of peril and adventures – fanciful and wonderful.

Rating: 5/5 Buttons

 

A funny book.

ButtonThe Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists by Gideon Defoe (2006)

The Pirates – for reasons that escape me – find themselves in London and have to solve a mystery involving the Opera, and see’s the Pirate Captain mistaken for Karl Marx, and become a Philosopher himself. Probably my least favourite of the series – it’s a great book, but the story doesn’t stand out in my mind as well as the rest.

See the full review here: Series Review: The Pirates! In an Adventure with… (Gideon Defoe)

Rating: 4/5 Buttons

 

A book that will make you smarter.

ButtonThe Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Nanh (1998)

This book is a basic introduction to the foundations of Buddhism, taught from the point of view of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Absolutely recommended. This is definitely one of the most important books I have ever read.

See the full review here: Book Review: The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Rating: Exceptional (Book of the Month June 2018)

 

An award-winning book.

ButtonThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)

The unlikely, and indeed impossible, tale of Arthur Dent – sole survivor of the destruction of Earth. What can you do when you discover your best friends an alien, your planet has been destroyed to make an interstellar bypass and you’ll never get a decent cup of tea ever again? Hilarious – one of my all time favourite books.

Rating: 5/5 Buttons

 

A book based on a true story.

ButtonBuddha by Osamu Tezuka (1972)

This is the first book on a graphic novel series detailing the events of the life of the Buddha. It’s interesting, but I can’t help but feel that if you didn’t already know the story you would be completely lost almost immediately.

Rating: 4.5/5 Buttons

 

A book chosen for you by a friend.

ButtonPirate Lattitudes by Michael Crichton (2009)

Most of the story was really good, and with a few small changes could have been amazing. Still recommended. It’s exciting and entertaining and a little bit racist which is super annoying.

See the full review here: Book Review: Pirate Lattitudes (Michael Crichton)

Rating: 3.5/5 Buttons

 

A book set during Christmas.

ButtonLost Christmas by David Logan (2011)

This is the story of the boy whose life falls apart on Christmas eve. The book reads like that list of ‘really bad metaphors’ that surfaces on the net every now and then – and I LOVE it.

See the full review here: Kwik Review: Lost Christmas (David Logan)

Rating: 4/5 Buttons

 

 

So there we have it. Badass Books Reading Challenge #2 is complete. Only a handful of books left to read before I make run #3 and the second total books challenge (80 books).

Last thing before I go:

Top 3 of the Challenge:

You gotta pick a top three, so here are mine (Drum roll please):

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You should go out and read these books immediately!!

Finally, a big thank you to mehawkins.com for writing the reading challenge in the first place and getting me reading again!

Reading Challenge Complete (#1)

Progress has been made – it’s getting towards the end of June and I’m 2 – that’s right – TWO reading challenges down already. It’s a good year for reading.

First I completed challenge #452 books in a year. But I’m not about to pointlessly list 52 books, if you’re that desperate to know what I read you can check my challenge page on Goodreads.

I will talk about #1 though.

Reading challenge #1 was from a book blog I found – mehawkins.com. It was titled, 2018 Badass Books Reading Challenge18 unique categories. Doing this challenge actually inspired my to write my own challenges for next year (and the Around the World 2018 Reading Challenge you can try out already!!)

So here is the rundown of my progress through the challenge. (Please note: I read these in no particular order)

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Graphic and content from mehawkins.com

The 2018 Badass Books Reading Challenge

 

A book published in 2018.

ButtonChildren of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (2018)

Fantastic magic and fantasy read. Well written, engaging and really exciting. Left me wanting so much more.

See the full review here: Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)

Rating: Exceptional (Book of the Month, April 2018)

 

A book published the year you were born.

ButtonJurassic Park by Michael Crichton (1990)

Who are you kidding, you know what Jurassic Park is about – and if you don’t, it’s about dinosaurs and being chased and possibly eaten by dinosaurs. What more could you possibly want. I loved it. Definitely one of the top reads of the challenge.

Rating: 5/5 Buttons

 

A classic book or a book published over 100 years ago.

ButtonFrom Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne (1865)

American artillery makers find themselves bored after the war. Not content with the theory of making big guns, they set out to make the biggest gun ever –  a gun that will launch a shell to the moon! It was great to see some really old science fiction, and how it differs from modern stuff·

Rating: 5/5 Buttons

 

A book that you’ve started before and never finished.

ButtonA Guide to the Bodhisattvas by Vessantara (2008)

An introduction to some of the key bodhisattvas. Very descriptive and detailed, if a bit heavy going at times.

Rating: 3.5/5 Buttons
A book you should have read in school, but didn’t.

ButtonA Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle (1887)

The first collection of Sherlock Holmes novels. I like the Holmes stories. They aren’t necessarily the most exciting books in the world, or the most clever or beautifully written, but they are fun and that’s worth something on its own.

Rating: 5/5 Buttons

 

A Book you’ve already read – time for a re-read!

ButtonThe Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe (2004)

The first book in ‘The Pirates!’ series. This story follows the pirates as the try to solve a mystery and find some serious gold in the midst of London. This book is just pure and funny. It’s silly and doesn’t take itself to seriously, and it’s about pirates. It’s everything I want in a book. It’s just a lovely, fun read.

See the full review here: Series Review: The Pirates! In an Adventure with… (Gideon Defoe)

Rating: Exceptional (Series)

 

A book that you’ve put off reading.

ButtonTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (1869)

The tales of Captain Nemo and his submarine, Nautilus. This book is a round-the-world trip of adventures. It’s fairly dated at times, but if you like classic books and you like adventure stories as I do, then you can’t go far wrong.

Rating: 5/5 Buttons

 

A banned book.

ButtonFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

In a world where books and readers are burned without a care, it takes a brave soul to keep reading alive. An interesting read that has left almost nothing in my memory to assure me I actually read it. Take from that what you will.

Rating: 3.5/5 Buttons

 

A book by an author you’ve never read.

ButtonFive Weeks in a Balloon by Jules Verne (1863)

3 men set off on an adventure to cross Africa in a balloon. The book is exciting, interesting and exceedingly racist. It is very “of it’s time”. But if you can see your way past that particular element, the story itself is very enjoyable, full of peril and thrills.

Rating: 4.5/5 Buttons

 

A popular author’s first book.

Button10 Years in an Open Necked Shirt by Dr. John Cooper Clarke (1983)

I’m not 100% sure whether this is a first book, or a popular author, but it’s the only book of his I could find evidence of and I like him so I read it. It’s a collection of poems – I don’t do poetry as a rule, but i quite like JCC – unfortunately performance poetry does not translate so well into written poetry and quite a lot of the magic was lost.

Rating: 3/5 Buttons

 

A book turned movie you’ve seen but haven’t read.

ButtonThe Lost World by Michael Crichton (1995)

Another book all about dinosaurs, and being chased and possibly eaten by dinosaurs. Once again, Crichton’s writing style is – how should I put it – weird, but very readable, exciting and enjoyable. Another ‘top read’ contender.

Rating: 5/5 Buttons

 

A book turned TV show you’ve seen but haven’t read.

ButtonThe World of Blandings by P.G. Wodehouse (1981)

This wasn’t written in 1981, just this collection of stories was released in a nice big omnibus. It’s great fun. The collection is a series of long and short comedic tales all centered around Blandings Castle. Wodehouse writes excellent comedy and I enjoyed it immensely.

Rating: 5/5 Buttons

 

A funny book.

ButtonThe Pirates! In an Adventure with Moby Dick by Gideon Defoe (2005)

This is the second book in ‘The Pirates!’ series. This one has the pirates attempting to capture Moby Dick in order to collect a reward with which to pay for the expensive new boat the Pirate Captain was suckered into buying. It is hilarious and silly.

See the full review here: Series Review: The Pirates! In an Adventure with… (Gideon Defoe)

Rating: 5/5 Buttons

 

A book that will make you smarter.

ButtonCoding Unlocked: Scratch and Python: the basic by Hywel Carver (2015)

This book is a fun introduction to computer coding aimed at children, but suitable for anybody who wants to try it out. It focuses on using Scratch to teach basic coding concepts, and then Python to do ‘proper’ text-based coding. It’s a lot of fun and by the end of it you’ll have made a couple of really simple games.

See the full review here: Book Review: Coding Unlocked: Scratch and Python: the basics (Hywel Carver)

Rating: 5/5 Buttons

 

An award-winning book.

ButtonThe Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon (2007)

This was a pretty good detective story with some exciting elements but I thought it pretty much died out towards the end, which was fairly disappointing.

See the full review here: Book Review: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (Michael Chabon)

Rating: 3.5/5 Buttons

 

A book based on a true story.

ButtonPersepolis by Marjane Satrapi (2003)

An autobiographical graphic novel. I don’t like biographies, auto or otherwise, but I do like graphic novels, especially the ‘alternative’ (as in, not superheroes) ones (although I love superheroes too). Someone recommended this book while I was studying my degree as a bit of an insight into the Iranian Revolution, and it was a very interesting read. I recommend it, but only if you like the medium of graphic novels.

Rating: 4.5/5 Buttons

 

A book chosen for you by a friend.

ButtonNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (2017)

In this book, Neil Gaiman retells a selection of Norse myths in his own style. The book was better than good, but less than excellent. I enjoyed it, and it was a pleasure to read some mythology aimed at someone other than children and academics – I’m not on a mission to find similar books about other pantheons and cultures.

Rating: 4/5 Buttons

 

A book set during Christmas.

ButtonHogfather by Terry Pratchett (1996)

It’s Hogswatch Eve on the Discworld and the Hogfather is on his rounds – or at least something like the Hogfather. A hilarious tale of how to kill a God, and the real meaning of Hogswatch! I’ve never read a Pratchett book I didn’t like so perhaps I’m biased, but still…

Rating: 5/5 Buttons

 

So that’s what I read for this challenge. I’m most of the way through a second and third run of this Badass Books Reading Challenge, so hopefully I’ll finish both before the end of the year.

This was the first time I’ve ever done a reading challenge like this and succeeded. I’ve done X number of books a few times, and they’ve been OK, but the last time I tried with specific categories I got stuck real quick and gave up.

It was a real good experience for me – I read a lot of things I’ve been meaning to read, things that have been on my shelf for ages that I’ve never got around to before. I also read some things I never would have picked up in the past which was fun too. It was a lot of fun.

Last things before I go:

Top 3 of the Challenge:

You gotta pick a top three, so here are mine (Drum roll please):

sketch-1529883198820.png

You should go out and read these books immediately!!

Finally, a big thank you to mehawkins.com for writing the reading challenge in the first place and getting me reading again!

Book Review: Coding Unlocked: Scratch and Python: the basics (Hywel Carver)


Goodreads Link

“Oh man this is fun! I made squid-Pong!!” ~Me post-book

TL;DR – A great little introduction to coding with Scratch and Python. Everyone buy this for your kids!

5Button

RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I was well and truly bored out of my skull since finishing university – then I saw on the news that the world needs more folk with coding skills. We happened to have this book lying around for some reason, so I thought I’d work through it.

This was added to the “A book that will make you smarter” section of my reading challenge.

The Book…

This book gives you an absolute bare-bones introduction to computer coding. It teaches the absolute beginnings of Scratch and Python.

Scratch is a visual coding language; you drag and drop different elements into sequences and build your code that way. It is a very clever tool for developing the kind of structured, critical thinking required in order to use the other parts of the book – Python.

Python is your more traditional coding language. Typing in symbols and words that might as well be an alien language if you don’t know how to use it.

The book starts by introducing you to what coding means, and what it is for. Then it moves on to introducing some basic concepts. Each section has a series of tasks for the reader to complete and understand before moving on which consolidate all that has been covered so far in the book, gradually building and building.

By the end of the book, readers have created a couple of little games using Scratch and several little programs using python.

What I liked…

The book is written in a really easy-to-follow style. It gives you some code, explains what it does and then tests you to see if you can apply what you’ve just learned. It does this through a series of little tests. In Scratch, you are guided gently into creating an extremely simple animation, which makes a cat speak, and gradually you build up to making a fully functional game of Pong. In Python, you are told to solve a series of puzzles, by writing a program and inputting data.

Probably the best thing about this book is the way it uses Scratch to teach you the way to think about using python. Every concept is introduced in Scratch and you are taught how to piece your code sequences together with a drag-and-drop interface, and a cartoon cat that does what you tell it to. This teaches you the way the code operates, and how to split down a big instruction such as “Answer this number puzzle” into the simplest set of instructions possible – then you are shown how to use these ideas and turn them into python code. The transfer from one language to the other feels very natural, and and very simple.

Finally, it is really good fun. I felt an immense sense of accomplishment as I was working through this book. Completely each chapter feels like a real achievement because you can see it working – everything you learn has a purpose and you can watch it work.

What I disliked…

Code elements are printed in green text on a black background. __Like This which can be a little difficult to read at times, especially if you don’t have good light.

I also would have liked more of it, but it was a book aimed at children so I really can’t complain much that front. However, there could have been a ‘next steps’ or ‘further reading’ section, which it unfortunately didn’t.

Final thoughts…

This is a brilliant little book for learning the absolute basics – a perfect first step into the wonderful world of computer code. It is encouraging and challenging in all the right ways, and gives you a great sense of accomplishment.

If your child (or indeed you yourself) are interested in what makes computers work, then you can’t go wrong with this book. I cannot recommend it strongly enough as a starting point.

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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: Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters (Mark Dunn)

Goodreads Link

“Inventive and impressive … as politically engaging as it is fun.” ~ Big Issue

TL;DR – This book is a strange little treasure. A must read for lovers of words.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I honestly have no idea how I came to own this book – I just remember one day I didn’t own it, the next day I did. I assume tumblr had something to do with it. I assume that I read about how unique it was somewhere and thought I’d give it a shot.

Also, it was a the “A book I by an author I haven’t read” category for my reading challenge.

The Story…

Off the coast of America is an Island called Nollop. Named for the revered Nevin Nollop (deceased), creator of the pangram “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Nollop is not an advanced nation – it’s not even keeping up with the rest of the world. But what Nollop lacks in technological advancement, it’s makes up for with the adoration of language. The Nollopian’s adore words – especially Ella. They adore words, and they idolise the aforementioned Nevin Nollop. A monument to his linguistic prowess stands proud for all to see – tiles with individual letters spelling out the famous pangram.

One day, a tile falls from the monument – the letter Z. The governing body of Nollop – being so fanatically devoted – declare the falling of the tile to represent an instruction from Nollop himself! The message is interpreted to mean the Nollopians should never used the letter again. Not in speech, not in writing…and those who break this divine law are severely punished.

The book is written as a series of letters from various Nollopians. As more tiles fall from the aging monument, the Nollopians are forced to abandon the variety of words they adore so much, until they can take no more…

What I liked…

The book itself is an example – albeit a very strange one – of totalitarian government, fanatical religious leadership and censorship. As the letters fall from the monument, so too are they removed from the book. Dunn writes very cleverly, managing to keep as much variety and love of language in each letter, despite the every increasing pressure caused by the rapidly decrease pool of usable letters. It is clever, not just because it is a physically difficult task, but also because Dunn manages to express so much emotion in so many ways, and when Ella’s heart breaks, my heart broke too.

The format itself, a series of somewhat connected letters, is a very novel and highly effective form of delivery. It was not just a gimmick – it brought the story to life. It took me a little while to get my head around it, and might have been irritating if the story wasn’t so engaging.

Finally, I loved the variety of ‘authors’ for the letters. The letters are written by many different characters; all with different views and ways of dealing with an incredibly difficult situation. Perhaps one of the most difficult, but most rewarding things about this book is that you find yourself questioning which of the characters approaches you think you would follow if you were in their place. Questions like this are what usually make books about totalitarianism very difficult, and often soul crushing to read – but the admittedly bizarre situation allows you to consider these ethical dilemmas, something which I find really important.

What I disliked…

Nothing. I loved it.

Final thoughts…

This book seems really strange. The premise is strange, the way it uses an ever decreasing pool of letters is strange. The use of letters instead of ‘normal’ prose is weird. BUT it is beautiful. It is challenging. It is insightful. It is art.

This book may be better suited to those with an appreciation for linguistic acrobatics, and the art of words, rather than the casual reader – but I would still encourage the casual reader to try it and see. It’s more than worth the effort.

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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.

4-5Button

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!

Book Review: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (Michael Chabon)


Goodreads Link | Michael Chabon Website

“Maybe I missed something somewhere…” ~Me, post-book

TL;DR – I liked this book enough to finish it, but not enough to read it again. Recommended for crime fans.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 3.5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

It won the Hugo for Best Novel -2008  (Reading challenge category)

I wouldn’t say I’m ‘big’ into crime novels – I enjoy them, but it’s not my usual area. Having said that, I’m a sucker for alternate history, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

The Story…

Alternate History – The state of Israel collapsed in 1948, and for the Jewish people in diaspora moved  to (and thrived in) a temporary new homeland – The Federal District of Sitka, Alaska. The district is due to revert to Alaskan control.

Alcoholic cop, Meyer Landsman is woken one morning in his flea-bag hotel room and informed of a murder in another room. Together with his partner Berko Shemets, Landsman sets about solving the case – and gets much more than he bargained for!

What I liked…

My first impression was the setting. As I say, I’m a sucker for alternate history, so this gave me something to sink my teeth into right from the start. It was, admittedly, quite a culture shock, what with me knowing very little about Jewish cultures, and even less about Yiddish terminology, but once I got my head around the basics everything settled nicely.

Secondly, the plot. It’s difficult to say what I particularly liked about it without giving away more than I am comfortable about the story itself. I enjoyed how the story progressed – it was entertaining, and kept the air of mystery about it as the case slowly unfolded – needless to say I absolutely did not guess ‘who dunnit’.

What I disliked…

The ending. I’m not going to say what happens and ruin it for anyone. I’ll also say right now that the ending wasn’t necessarily bad. As I said in my quote at the top, I feel like I must have missed something because I was left feeling like the story had just lost steam by the end.

The case was progressing, and I was enjoying it. Things were escalating and it was exciting. Discoveries were being made and everything looked great. Then it just sort of ended. This is why I think I missed something. As far as the plot goes, it makes sense to have ended where it did – I guess I just expected it to go another way. I could read the last few chapters again – and indeed I might – but for the moment, the vague sense of disappointment.

Another minor thing – the case had a chess theme, and often there were descriptions of chess moves, or terminology that admittedly flew right over my head. This isn’t a criticism of the writing itself – I’m quite sure if you’re slightly more familiar with chess than I am those parts would make perfect sense – it was just something that made little bits harder to follow.

Final thoughts…

When I started reading, I was having fun – and I really wanted to enjoy this book more than I did. Frankly, if it wasn’t for the ending – which I remind you, wasn’t necessarily bad, it just wasn’t what I was expecting – then this would have got a solid four buttons. Unfortunately, the fact the I got to the end with my interest waning knocked off some points.

One final point. When I started writing this review, I gave the book a 3 button rating. However, as I was writing, bits of the book I had enjoyed kept coming back to me and the rating seemed unfit – it didn’t do it justice. This book isn’t a bad book – I would recommend it to a crime fan – it just didn’t hit the right buttons for me!

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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: Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)

Goodreads LinkTomi Adeyemi Website

BOTM
Book of the Month (April 2018)

“Oh my goodness, this book is AMAZING! You have to read it!” ~ My sister (Age 15)

TL;DR – Buy this book, read it, then buy it for all your friends.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I’ll admit right off the bat there were 3 reasons I bought this book:

  1. It sounded pretty cool (Can’t go wrong with a bit of magical fantasy).
  2. It was published this year – 2018 (Reading challenge category)
  3. My library (with the exception of manga) is pretty monochromatic, both in terms of authors and characters.

I mention this to begin with for one reason. Because I initially struggled with this book.

I know I’m not the only person in this world whose book collection consists of almost exclusively white authors. It’s not intentional – but there is no way justify that fact that doesn’t sound terrible. And it IS terrible. The amount of POC (or any minority) authors I have been exposed to is comparatively small – and that’s a damn shame.

When I started reading, I was plunged into the world of Orïsha, and I am ashamed to say I struggled to picture it consistently. My frame of reference is ‘white people’ and it shouldn’t be. Every so often I found my image of these characters reverting to what I shudder to call my ‘default’.

BUT, not for long.

I usually struggle to imagine characters without reverting to the handful of famous actors I really like – but this wasn’t an issue while reading this book. The world and it’s characters were bought to life by Adeyemi, and by the end of the first few chapters I had a beautiful (and cruel) new world whirling around in my head.

The Story…

Orïsha was a world of magic – until the Raid. Now Zélie wants to bring the magic back.

It’s a story about magic, evil kings and heroic teenagers – but it’s also a story about oppression. People with the capacity for magic (divîners) are born with white hair – before the Raid, this was seen as a good thing – since then, it’s has been something to hate. The peoples connection to the gods has be severed, and as a result, the magic is gone. Now divîners are ‘maggots’, heavily taxed and massively abused.

A young divîner, Zélie, soon learns of a secret ritual which could just bring restore her connection with the gods, and bring the magic back to Orïsha. She sets off, with her brother and a princess, on an epic quest to right the wrongs of the kingdom.

What I liked…

As I’ve mentioned, this book took me far out of my comfort zone, and plunged me into a beautiful, magical world. The writing is wonderful – it’s easy to read and the story is gripping. I finished it in 2 days – I think my sister read it all in one sitting. We were both hooked, from start to finish and begging for more!

I usually find I enjoy the plot more than the characters in most stories, but this wasn’t the case. The characters in Children of Blood and Bone and amazing. The two main characters (Zélie and Princess Amari) are strong women – both physically and spiritually – and the supporting cast is full of strong women too. This is also a refreshing change from the usual mostly male cast and (if you’re lucky) supporting damsel dynamic. But they are also beautifully written. The characters feel real – you understand their motivations and their desires and their pain. This is true of all the major characters – none of them feel like ‘set dressing”.

The premise is fun – magic and fantasy are an enjoyable medium – but it has this strong theme of resisting oppression that is really compelling. At no point would you say this story was ‘frivolous’ or a ‘fun romp’, it’s set in a fantasy setting, but the issues are hard-hitting and real.

One of my favourite elements of storytelling is world building – if an author manages to construct a world that you can really believe it is a joy. If an author leaves you begging to know everything about the world, the mythology and the people it is a treasure – and on these points Adeyemi really delivers! There is so much about the world of Orïsha you want to explore (and a whole world beyond). The mythology she has created (and I must admit mythology is one of my true pleasures) is beautiful in it’s presentation, and I could happily read any number of books detailing the creation stories and magical practices that are part of this book.

Finally, the ‘villains’. I am a firm believer that a good villain is not someone you are told is bad, and are left to hate without reason. The villain is important and the writing should reflect that. The ‘villains’ of this story – King Saran and his armies – are as well written as all the other characters. You see their motivations, their desires and fears – you are led to try and understand their position and I suppose, to make up your own mind.  Well written villain makes for a compelling story, and this book does not disappoint.

(On a playful note – I also loved the word “Baboonum” (sp?), and have chuckled to myself several times as it randomly resurfaces in my brain!)

What I disliked…

I wasn’t a fan of some of romantic elements – however I must stress that this is because I find romantic plots uninteresting personally, not because they were badly written!

Other than that, I really can’t this fault this book.

Final thoughts…

Basically, I adored this this book. It is well written, highly engaging and left me wanting more. I have been able to recommend it to my younger sisters, and they have also loved it. It is listed on Goodreads as a ‘Young Adult’ book, however I would strongly recommend this to any adult who wants a gripping, fantasy action novel.

If you like magic, rich worlds and strong characters – buy this book immediately.

I cannot wait for the sequel!

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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!