Mindfulness and Yoga: yes. This book: meh :(

I should really stop requesting books from Netgalley on yoga and meditation, especially if they’re aimed at beginners. I’ve been doing meditation almost daily for about 8 years, and yoga almost daily for about 3 (and less regular in the 5 years before that). These are topics I am in no way an expert in, but reading most books does not help me much further in my practice, and sadly, this book was one like most

“The Practice of Mindful Yoga: A Connected Path to Awareness” by Hannah Moss is by no means a bad book. I’ve read the e-book version on my phone, and it’s well put together, visually. The yellow-ish pages, the stylistic picture of someone in a lotus position, the bordered exercises.

The content is also not bad. It’s quite well written, and does go back to the main sources. It does feel like it tries to say too much sometimes, for a beginners book, and not enough for a more practised practitioner. I also feel it focuses more on mindfulness then yoga, and not enough on how yoga is mindfulness . This point is mentioned, but then seems to be disregarded when she dives into mindfulness itself.

Also, it’s hard to tell people how to do yoga, without pictures. I think that’s the main lack of this book. There is a nice yoga sequence described in the end, which ties all the former exercises in the book together, but extra visual cues would have been nice.

All in all, this book is just… not it. It feels too broad to be a good book for beginners, especially seeing the lack of pictorial descriptions of the yoga-poses. And for more intermediate practitioners like myself, it’s too basic. I think one would be better of reading a good book on mindfulness (The Mindful Geek comes to mind, or Mindfulness: In the Maelstrom of Life) and go for your yoga to Youtube, for Yoga With Adriene or Sarah Beth Yoga. That’ll teach you more and better.

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Get Thick. I mean it.

So, how do I describe this book, to have you all get it and read it? Probably it’s not enough if I say this might be the book that I’ll look back on in the end of 2019, and that it will have had the biggest impact on me. Maybe if I tell you that I rarely (virtually) underline sentences in books, and here I kept highlighting things. Societal analysis and critique:

How is it that we have laid bodies down in streets, challenged patriarchy in courts, bled for fair wages and still inequalities persist? The easiest answer is that racism and sexism and class warfare are resilient and necessary for global capitalism.

And beautiful imagery like:

But my soul remembers my grandmother’s memories.

On the website of the book, the following is written:

WELCOME TO THICK
A Community for Team Too Much.

A friend once told me that I was “extra.” She joined the teacher who called me “Ms. Personality,” the men who called me “thick” and a world that penalizes black women who are too much of one thing and not enough of another. Because the universe has a sense of humor, richly-layered lives generate the nuanced theories of change that we all desperately need.

THICK celebrates complex lives, nuanced ideas, and hard answers to complicated questions. And, it is a celebration because what could be better than taking up space in a world that shrinks the best of humanity to its lowest common denominator.

Take up space. It is our birthright.

‘Thick – and other essays’ consists of 8 essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom. I needed time between reading them because they were intense. Not all the same kind of intense, but reading about racism and sexism and how they all intersect, and how black women in particular are systematically pushed out of the public space of the world, is just a harsh reality to read about.

The essays “In the Name of Beauty” and “Black Girlhood, Interrupted” hit home the most. The first because of how she writes about a experience she had after writing a piece in which she calls herself ugly, that created a massive backlash, mostly from within the community of black women. She then analysis why she wrote what she wrote, using an framework of embedding beauty in capitalism, and intersecting this with race in how beauty is always white, and heteronormativity, and also touching upon the influence of social media. Woah! The other essay hit me, because reading on sexual assault (a definite content warning for that one) is always hard for me. It also shows how pervasive rape culture is, seemingly especially so within black communities. And how common it is for women to experience sexual assault in some way, shape or form. This is something I knew before reading this, but it brought this point home, again.

The book also challenged me. As a European white human, well versed in feminism, but less well versed in issues of race, I felt I lacked context sometimes. I don’t know exactly if that’s mostly because I’m white, or because I’m European. I guess it’s a combination. I guess that many people reading this, are also white and European. Don’t let this stop you, but let it encourage you to read it. Did I tell you already I love this book and that you should definitely read it?

A venture into a cute manga, by an unexperienced manga-reader.

blissfull

Cover of Blissful Land #1

I rarely read manga, comic books or graphic novels. They don’t work well on my kindle (since that’s a paperwhite, and the resolution is just not the best, even if the illustrations are not in color), I prefer not to read on my pc or even my phone. That leaves paper versions, and those I just…. forget about?

But I saw Blissful Land on Netgalley and it was just so pretty, and the blurb so interesting, that I could not help myself to click “request”. Here’s the blurb:

Khang Zhipa is a 13-year-old doctor’s apprentice living in a mountain village in 18th-century Tibet. One day, when he gets back from collecting medicinal herbs, he finds a bride-to-be and her wedding party will be resting at his home for the night. The bride’s name is Moshi Rati and it turns out she’s actually Khang Zhipa’s fiancee from another land, here to stay! Enjoy this heartwarming slice-of-life tale woven by a kind-hearted boy and his mysterious bride.

I was slightly disappointed that the rest of the manga was in black and white. As I mentioned, I rarely venture into this area of books, so this might be a common thing. Even in black and white, the pictures are stunning. Lots of nature and detail. It made for a very peaceful read.

The stories in itself were homely and peaceful too. It is indeed slice-of-life, where you see how the doctor’s apprentice goes about his day, gathers herbs (his passion) ans makes medicine to help his fellow-villagers. The research done on this shows in the details, with explanation of the herbs used and how the medicine is prepared.

What I disliked, was that the pacing seemed off. The stories move at a slow pace, but then you get a unexpected SUDDEN resolution of a problem. Sometimes I also seemed to lack some cultural background to really grasp things. Like why are Khang and his fiancee allowed to go off by themselves for an overnight camping trip? My western view of the 1800’s and their purity culture raises an eyebrow there. You can’t blame the author for this, but maybe the translator could have added some explanations points like these. The genderessentialism also irked me (“women are fragile and complicated! Men don’t understand them!”), which is just a personal pet peeve.

I think I’d like to read the next volume, mostly because of the lovely imagery and my love for depictions of calm daily life.

“The witch that needed a gender 101 class” and other stories.

I’ve been following Ana Mardoll on twitter for ages, but never read one of xer books (my TBR is SO long, and I try to not acquire more books, also for financial reasons), but when I saw the following tweet, I could not help myself:

So on to Netgalley I went, and requested and send to kindle I did. Here’s the blurb:

Destiny sees what others don’t.

A quiet fisher mourning the loss of xer sister to a cruel dragon. A clever hedge-witch gathering knowledge in a hostile land. A son seeking vengeance for his father’s death. A daughter claiming the legacy denied her. A princess laboring under an unbreakable curse. A young resistance fighter questioning everything he’s ever known. A little girl willing to battle a dragon for the sake of a wish. These heroes and heroines emerge from adversity into triumph, recognizing they can be more than they ever imagined: chosen ones of destiny.

From the author of the Earthside series and the Rewoven Tales novels, No Man of Woman Born is a collection of seven fantasy stories in which transgender and nonbinary characters subvert and fulfill gendered prophecies. These prophecies recognize and acknowledge each character’s gender, even when others do not. Note: No trans or nonbinary characters were killed in the making of this book. Trigger warnings and neopronoun pronunciation guides are provided for each story.

And I loved it. The stories had a lovely length befitting to the story. The only one that I wished was a bit longer, was the last one, about a little girl going to a dragon to have a wish granted. I just wanted to see what kind of adventures she would have when she was older, since she was so brave and sure as a toddler.

It’s amazing to see how genderessentalist tropes and fairytales get turned on their head, when a protaganist isn’t cis gendered, or falls outside of the gender-binary. It was lovely to see stories where the gender of the main character was a plotpoint, but not a problem (except for one story, where the near family does not accept the gender identity of the protagonist, but even there the problem is not that the protagonist is trans, but the problem is that his father finds that hard to accept. And even that is not the main issue in the story).

I’ve learned that witches and dragons and sorcerers really need to take a gender 101 class if they want to see their curses actually be successful in the long term. And this also rekindled my love for fairytell retellings. And realised that stories about non-cis characters are really validating to my own non-cis gender identity. More please! Maybe I should lift my selfimposed book-buying ban…

The Quantum Magician: hell of a hard sf heist

Netgalley kindly gave me the book The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken in exchange for a honest review.

First, the blurb as goodreads gives it to us:

Belisarius is a quantum man, an engineered Homo quantus who fled the powerful insight of dangerously addictive quantum senses. He found a precarious balance as a con man, but when a client offers him untold wealth to move a squadron of warships across an enemy wormhole, he must embrace his birthright to even try. In fact, the job is so big that he’ll need a crew built from all the new sub-branches of humanity. If he succeeds, he might trigger an interstellar war, but success might also point the way to the next step of Homo quantus evolution.

This is a heist-story, in a hard science fiction universe, a load of science/techno-babble somewhat based in actual science, aliens that are more then just green humanoids, and space opera feels to it.

I really enjoyed this book. The fast pace, as is becoming of a heist, makes for a quick read, and the characters and their backstories are fascinating. I actually liked the little insights in the lives and characters of the book, more then the actual heist part, which had just a bit too many technical convoluted explanations. You meet all the people in this book at a midpoint in their life. They’ve done things before Balisarius pulls them in, and will do things after (if they make it…). I loved the kind of humans that were developed: the homo sapiens (humans, just like you and me, but then… in the future!), homo quantus (their brains are basically quantum computers), homo pupa (designed for religious awe towards their “gods”. This gets… creepy quickly. Content warnings for torture and medical procedures apply) and the homo eridanus (they’re deep sea dwellers, and can’t live without intense water-pressure, which has created it’s own kind of religion with lots of cursing included).

So, if you like a read that will keep you on your toes because of pace, characterization and scienc-y stuff: grab The Quantum Magician! It got published October 2nd 2018, and so you should be able to find it at any (digital) bookstore near you ^^

Review: Soulless by Montiese McKenzie. Or: how I offered to review a book, while my TBR was begging me not to.

I’ll let you in on a conversation I had with a dear friend about a week ago:

  • Me: I’m tempted to get more books
  • Me: tell me I don’t need more books
  • Friend: Well, how many unread books do you still have that you want to get to?
  • Me: Goodreads tells me that’s about 550
  • Me: (this is not a typo)
  • Friend: You don’t need more books

So, of course I offer to read and review Montiese McKenzie’s new book Soulless, why do you ask?

First, the blurb from amazon/goodreads, so you people know what I’m talking about.

A serial killer is stalking the posh homes of the nation’s capital. The victims are a group of women known as Meretrix, and the crimes send former FBI agent Alexander Rubidoux and his spirit team of Sam Kassmeyer, Jacob Falconer, and Mandy North on the path of a wily killer who might be closer than any of them realized.
On the home front, a family quarrel sends Nathan Kirsch running into the night. When he doesn’t return home the next day one case suddenly becomes two. Do recent, friendships cultivated as Nathan comes into adulthood hold the key to his disappearance? Will Alexander find him safe before the unthinkable happens? The spirits will need all the help they can get and it comes in the form of Devrim Hisham, his new girl on the street, an MPD detective with experience in the supernatural, and a human FBI agent from Alexander’s past who is brilliant but in the dark about the killer’s true motive.

My verdict? I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I always forget I like supernatural stuff (give me all the non-sparkly vampires, shapeshifters, spirits, everything!), and that whodunnits don’t have to be boring. Just a warning if you haven’t read the two books before this one (like I hadn’t): there’s a lot of characters and relationships and new kinds of beings to absorb in the first few pages. The book is a complete story, and you don’t need to have read the earlier books, but it helps. Also, judging by this one, the other books in this series (Awakening of the Spirit) are a good read too, so just read them for their own sake. (I know that I will)

The main thing that irked me a bit, was the absolute of good and evil. The light, the spirits and their Boss are good: the Darkness is bad. All people and creatures can be more good or bad, although this also depends what “kind” you are born as or made in. This is something I had to suspense my disbelief for the most. Things are never so clearcut. Everything is grey, always.

I can’t say too much about what I really liked, because I’ll spoil too much. I’ll just say someone gets their first kiss and it’s cute and amazing and I squee’d! And I want to know so much more about [character’s name redacted] and how they’ll learn more about themselves, because they’re amazing and badass. The story kept me on my toes (I like a mental workout while reading) and there were some plottwists I did not see coming. Fun!

Just a warning: as you probably noticed in the blurb: there’s violence in this book, especially against women, and some of the stuff is quite descriptive. Also contained is some sexual violence (not much though), and mention of abuse in a former relationship. It’s typical for what to expect in this genre, so if you read more paranormal mystery/urban things, you’ll probably be fine :)

Burn it with fire!?

So ‘far I’ve finished 3 books this month: Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin, Burnt Offerings by Laurell K. Hamilton and Overal Vuur(Fire Everywhere) by Eddy C. Bertin. Do you see the theme? Apparently this is a fiery month for me. And I like it! All were 4-star reads, as can be seen on my goodreads page. It’s that I’ve read Fahrenheit 451 relatively recently, else that should be next on the reading list.

Completely unrelated to fire, but I want to give a shoutout to Ninja Book Box! I got my first box of theirs yesterday (themed “Going home”) and it was awesome. All the things in the box were wrapped in paper, so they looked like little gifts. The envelope in it was handwritten with “Spoilers, please open last”, with lovely lettering. And the book (SPOILER) sounds lovely. There box shows so much care <3 I can really recommend it!