Book Review: Pilu of the Woods (Mai K. Nguyen)

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


Goodreads Link | Author Website

Intensely beautiful in every way.

TL;DR – A beautiful story about overcoming your demons

Book of the Month
Book of the Month (November 2018)

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Ragdoll Rating: Exceptional

Recommended For: Anybody who struggles with the nasty voices in their heads.

About the Book…

Poor Willow. Life feels so hard. She runs away from home into the forest after an argument with her sister, where she makes a discovery. Willow finds a forest spirit, Pilu, crying in the woods. Pilu has run away too, but now she is lost. Willow knows the woods better than anyone and offers to return Pilu to her home safely. The pair become firm friends immediately but the monsters are not far behind.

What I thought…

This book is so beautiful. Willow has these monsters in her head, monsters that make her angry and aggressive. She tries to bottle them up, to keep them subdued and hidden – an attempt at being strong. But it doesn’t work. The monsters get angrier the more they are resisted and then they burst out and take over, causing Willow to do things she really regrets.  But with Pilu’s help, Willow learns to overcome the monsters through compassion and understanding. This book shows a real deep, clear understanding of what it’s like to live with little demons in your head – monsters that don’t feel part of you, creatures you despise. It’s something I go through constantly, and to see Willow work through things compassionately is so close to my own personal experience it genuinely made me weep.

The story also deals with loss, feelings of isolation, and friendship. It’s so wholesome and heartwarming.

I’m making a complete pig’s ear of explaining the story, but trust me, it is wonderful.

The illustrations, also, and so pretty. Nguyen’s art style is adorable, and the characters are all so sweet, you just want to hug them until everything is alright again.

Final Thoughts…

This book was completely beautiful in every way, and I will absolutely be buying a physical copy as soon as I am able.

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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: Quantum Mechanics (Jeff Weigel)

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


Goodreads Link | Author Website

I got me a new favourite graphic novel!

TL;DR – A pair of young mechanics are kidnapped by pirates. Adventure follows.

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Ragdoll Rating: Exceptional

Recommended For: Fans of comics, especially girls ’cause it has 2 awesome female leads!

About the Book…

Rox and Zam live and work, tinkering around in a space junkyard. One fateful day, a real pretty ship comes asking for repairs, but is turned away. The girls offer their services, but find themselves quickly kidnapped by the most feared space pirate of them all.

What follows is a brilliant tale of underdogs fighting the system.

What I thought…

Let’s just go through a quick checklist of things I already loved about this book, long before I finished it:

  • 2 female leads, one of which is fat (and a lizard), both genius mechanics who are totally brave and crazy and totally awesome
  • Space pirates
  • A ship shaped like a skull and crossbones
  • Brilliant, cute artwork

I’m not gonna lie, it would be very hard for someone to put those things in a book and have me hate it – but I don’t just throw that ‘Exceptional’ rating around for just anything.

This book is funny, it’s got plenty of action and it’s totally ridiculous. The main characters, Rox and Zam, are totally awesome female leads. Cool and fun, super smart and totally adorable – and they make excellent pirates! I love the addition of the baby Zolorians (lil’ baby lizard mechanics) – they are so cute and silly. I love them partly because they are about as far away from ‘serious’ as you can get. They are vaguely telepathic, have an affinity for mechanics and eat power cells, and they wind up playing a pivotal role in the story despite being babies. It’s just hilarious and I love it.

Final Thoughts…

If you like space silliness, then you HAVE to read this book, then come back here and tell me all about it. Definitely getting a physical copy of this ASAP.

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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: Mirai (Mamoru Hosoda)

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


Goodreads Link

One of my favourite books ever.

TL;DR – A wonderful, beautiful story about family, sibling rivalry and love.

EBBannerRagdoll Rating: EXCEPTIONAL

Recommended For: Anybody who wants a beautiful story and isn’t put off by a bit of confusion.

About the Book…

Life is pretty good for Kun, until his sister Mirai is born. Suddenly his parents seem irritable, and have less time to spend with him, and poor Kun struggles to adapt to his new reality. He hates his new sister, he hates his parents and he hates his new life. Kun’s world has been turned upside down in an instant. But after an impossible encounter with a future version of his new little sister, Kun is thrown into an even more impossible journey and nothing will ever be the same.

What I thought…

Let it be known by one and all that I want to kiss Mamoru Hosoda and his beautiful mind. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this strange little book is one of the best I have ever read.

I don’t know what it is about this book. Perhaps it’s got something to do with being the eldest of four children, perhaps it has something to do with my own internalised difficulties with perceived rejection and change, perhaps it’s something else, but this book reached out and touched my very soul (an impressive feat considering I don’t believe in the soul!). Kun is such a relatable and believable character. He is flawed, what child is perfect, but everything he does, from his initial negative, even violent reactions over the arrival of his new sister, to the results of his dream-like journey…I just felt it, deep down inside me, that I knew exactly how he felt, and how he was hurting.

Kun is a lost boy, trapped in a scary world of conflicting emotions and change and that hits me where I live. Seeing his journey, meeting members of his family and learning from them, and then losing himself completely and almost irretrievably was heart breaking, and completely poetically beautiful. I refuse to tell you much about the ending, all I can say is that if I hadn’t been convinced by the story up until that point (which I absolutely was) the final few chapters would have swung it.

My only critique about this book is that the dream-like encounters come out of nowhere. You’re reading a slice-of-life story, and all of a sudden things get weird and sci-fi. I still have no idea what was going on, and a little bit of me wants an explanation, but a much, MUCH bigger part of me doesn’t care. Just be aware of it, and if it bothers you, please just accept it and keep reading, it is SO worth it.

Final Thoughts…

I genuinely did not expect the reaction I got from this book. It is currently 3:30AM, and I hauled myself out of bed as soon as I finished reading to write this review because I felt an overwhelming urge to tell anyone and everyone who would listen to read this book. I love it, and I really hope you’ll give it a try.

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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 Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching (Thich Nhat Hanh)


Goodreads Link | Author Website

Book of the Month
Book of the Month (June 2018)

“This is definitely one of the most important books I have ever read.” ~Me

TL;DR – 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.

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RAGDOLL RATING: Exceptional

The Book…

The book covers the absolute fundamentals of Buddhism. Thầy introduces us to the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path and a handful of other concepts he considers to be the bedrock of the Buddhist faith.

The writing style is quite unusual – I have no idea of this a trait of Zen masters, poets, Vietnamese folks or just a personal quirk but it seems quite unique. Specifically, the writing seems to flow quite rapidly from one thing to another, usually from explanation to metaphor and back again. I don’t personally find it difficult to read because my mind tends to wander a lot anyway and I found it actually helped me take things in, but some people my find it a little tricky to deal with.

Thich Nhat Hanh (Who I will refer to as Thầy (teacher) from now on) is not only a Zen master but a poet too and this look is laced with sections of poetry on related topics. It’s a nice touch although I confess I am far to ignorant of poetry to be able to suggest how good it is.

The book is well referenced, linking to canonical texts, other Buddhist teachers works, and other books Thầy has written. It also includes, in the final section, a small selection of translated discourses which had been mentioned in the text.

Why I read it…

I’ve been trying to read a Buddhist text before my evening meditation and I just happened to buy this book not so long ago. I had listened to a guided meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh and found his insights really struck a chord with me.

Conveniently, this book also took up a position in my reading challenge in the “A book that will make you smarter” category.

Thầy has devoted a considerable amount of word-space to the teachings of the Four Nobel Truths and the Noble Eightfold path – 16 chapters in fact. He breaks down the teachings into their component parts, explains these parts, often with the use of poetry, metaphor and canonical sources. Then he explains how all these elements are connected, how the interplay and are how the ‘inter-are’ – when you truly focus on one element, you will be practicing all the elements automatically.

The third section of the book is dedicated to what I hesitate to call lesser known teachings. Perhaps if you have a good background in Buddhism then you would probably at least know what they were (I knew a handful) but if you are new to Buddhism then the chances are you wouldn’t know them. These teachings are well explained and most importantly linked in to the other elements. It was really good to read about these other important teachings.

Why I love It…

Firstly I have to mention the use of metaphor. This book is full of metaphorical explanations to aid the reader in their understanding. They help make the teachings easier to digest – and some of these teachings can be confusing at the best of times. One thing that really stuck in my mind was a metaphor about waves:

“When we look at the ocean, we see that each wave has a beginning and an end. A wave can be compared with other waves, and we can call it more or less beautiful, higher or lower, longer lasting or less long lasting. But if we look more deeply, we see that a wave is made of water. While living the life of a wave, the wave also lives the life of water. It would be sad if the wave did not know that it is water. It would think, ‘Some day I will have to die. This period of time is my life span, and when I arrive at the shore, I will return to nonbeing.’

These notions will cause the wave fear and anguish. A wave can be recognized by signs — beginning or ending, high or low, beautiful or ugly. In the world of the wave, the world of relative truth, the wave feels happy as she swells, and she feels sad as she falls. She may think, ‘I am high!’ or ‘I am low!’ and develop superiority or inferiority complexes, but in the world of the water there are no signs, and when the wave touches her true nature — which is water — all of her complexes will cease, and she will transcend birth and death,” (p.124/5)

While I was reading this passage (and many others), suddenly the ideas behind impermanence, rebirth and all sorts of other things started to make a bit more sense. The book is full of useful metaphors like these and by the end I felt like my understanding of the fundamental concepts was improved.

All the way through I found myself learning new things, and understanding concepts I already knew about much more clearly than I ever have before. I’m sure I missed more than I took in, and this book will definitely become a book I will re-read over and over.

The main reason this book is ranked ‘exceptional’ rather than just 5 buttons is basically because of my emotional reaction to text. With every chapter my understanding grew and I had clear guidance to help me understand some difficult concepts and encouragement to apply these things to me own life. I really strongly felt motivated to make improvements in my life and to follow the teachings of the Buddha more closely. I felt a really strong emotion of loving kindness in my heart as I read this book and that feeling continued after I put the book down each night. It was a rare experience and one I feel very happy to have gone through. I genuinely feel this may be one of the most important books I have ever, or indeed will ever read.

 

Recommended For…

Everyone with an interest in Buddhism, from the absolute beginner to the advanced practitioner.

Everyone generally. I would recommend this book to everyone actually – the contents are very Buddhism-centric (obviously) but there are lessons to be learned from this book that everyone from all works of life could make use of.

Final thoughts…

This book is probably one of the best books on Buddhism that I have read for a beginners view. The concepts can be difficult but Thầy offers excellent guidance and explanation to help you understand.

The book also contains a good deal that would be of value to a more experienced practitioner. Yes, it’s good as a reminder of the basic teachings but the poetry and imagery of this work make it well worth reading as a guide to deeper understanding and encouragement to deeper practice.

Everyone should read this book.

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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!