REVIEW: Practical Sigil Magic by Frater U.:D.:

305318After almost an year, I finally finished this book. Now, it took it so much because I decided to go slowly and experiment with the various techniques before proceeding with my read (and obviously this means a long span of time in which I didn’t use anything written on these pages at all). I also wanted to work a bit with sigils before getting into the chapter about “how does this thing work?”, as to not make up my mind on sigil work before actually doing some of it.

I am not a chaos magician. I have read about Chaos Magick and its principles, I find it fascinating, but I also don’t think it is what I want to do in my practice. My main interest is religious, magic and witchcraft are…something I am drawn to, but also something I am a bit scared of. They also tend to come up a lot. Sigil magic seemed an interesting starting point to explore magic, so I tried it. That being said, on with the review!

The book explores the modern method of sigilisation derived from the works of Austin Osman Spare, which is the same that can be found in Carroll’s Liber Null. The word, pictorial and mantric methods are explained with the use of examples, which I found extremely helpful. I had a bad time with the aesthetic of my sigils, being too much…bare? Common? Non-graphic? I don’t even know. However, seeing how the author makes and works on sigils really helped me gain confidence over mines. The explanation is simple, straightforward and non dogmatic. Methods of activation have their own dedicated chapter; although I admit that I might have found a couple more methods helpful, I understand that this is not a book about gnosis and how to achieve it. The Alphabet of Desire (which I find a fascinating topic) is also described in its two different iterations. Closing the book is a chapter on “traditional” sigil work, as known in high magic and hermeticism, which refers to Israel Regardie’s How to Make and Use Talismans.

I found this book very comprehensive, easy and practical. It gives all the information a person who has never heard about sigil might need, delivered clearly and without too much speculation. The chapter in which the *why* sigil magic work is discussed is very adamant on proposing models of explanation, theories instead of dogmas. I appreciated this, because the author invites the reader to try and understand magic for themselves; furthermore, sometimes trying to understand the technicalities and the reasons behind magic might hold back from doing and experiencing it. I will surely keep this volume as reference as I go on experimenting sigil work.

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REVIEW: Milk & Honey, by Rupi Kaur

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Milk and Honey has been on the home page of Book Depository for forever. I found some of the poetry by Rupi Kaur on pinterest, got curious and decided to give it a go. I finished it in one sitting on a Friday evening and got mixed feeling about it.

The underlying themes of the volume are abuse, recovery and love. They are further broken down into four different aspects, corresponding to four different chapters in the book: the hurting, the loving, the breaking and the healing. In each part, poems deal with that particular aspect; however, I feel that almost every poem can be seen as carrying inside it all the four aspects.

From what I see on Goodreads it’s a book people either love or loathe; I do understand some of the criticism moved to the form and content of the poetry, however I believe some detractors take this volume too seriously. It’s the first published work an author, not the last. Not the one in the midst of her career. And first works tend to be weakest by definition. Yes, it contains mediocre poetry and poetry that doesn’t work at all. There’s also some powerful poems, though:

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this is probably my favourite

My biggest problem with it is that sometimes the poems read too much like prose. Poetry conveys meaning subtly. It uses images, sounds and words, all combined. Sometimes you have to stop and re-read. Reflect about what you’ve read. Poetry is not a genre you can read a book in one sitting and expect to have grasped all the meanings it contains. This surely doesn’t happen with Milk & Honey: it flows and flows and flows untile you’re at the end. You don’t need to pause your reading except for a couple times. That’s why I understand the criticism to the form.

As to the content, what made this book so popular is, in my opinion, the way in which the author opened up. Rupi Kaur shows every inch of her being and of her experience, and sometimes it’s really heartbreaking. Some of her ideas are not groundbraking, especially when she talks about womanhood, her body and self-image. They sure aren’t groundbreaking ideas for me. Maybe for someone are, and to those people maybe it’s helpful to read about them. As much as her experience of sexual abuse might be relatable to other survivors. In this light, it’s easy to see why this book became so popular and why people like it.

Overall, I gave it a 2/5 stars on Goodreads. It has potential, even though it will take a bit more writing to the author to really produce the great work that is being sold. I once again fell in the trap of marketing, which surely is about judging the book from its cover.

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REVIEW: Irresistible, by Adam Alter

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I am one of the kids who grew up with the internet. It might not seem much (I mean, what kid doesn’t have the internet now?), but back in the day I had a 56k connection we payed so much for, we were allowed half an hour of it on Sundays. Me and my sister cherished that time, playing Scooby Doo flash games. I was 12 when I got my first ADSL connection, and there began my browsing and I became and internet citizen: I played (my beloved text-based RpGs!), I made friends, I chatted in forums and I also had many blogs. I have always been up to date with the latest internet fashion (be it neopets or memes) and I love it all. Internet is an open sea of possibilities that have been enhanced more than ever when social networks and smartphones came. Given both my interest for the internet and my slight smartphone addiction, this book immediately caught my attention when I saw it on Goodreads.

Adam Alter has made a wonderful work in this volume: he dwells into a vast body of research to talk about what behavioral addiction is and why it is relevant today, especially when we talk about smartphones and social networks. The first three chapters of the book introduce the topic and describe what substance and behavioral addiction are. I read people got bothered by this part, but I believe that it helps clearing up the misconception about both type of addiction, illustrating their similarities, but especially their differences. Recognising behavioral addiction is something we’ve done just recently, after all.
The second part of the book is divided into six different chapters, each one devoted to a single aspect of the design of addictive technology. Goals, feedback, social interaction and more are examined and plenty of examples are (unfortunately) drawn from our daily experiences. Waisting an hour on social network, playing until early hours in the morning, getting hooked on a mobile game or app is something most of us have experienced at this point. Organisations who work to help people recover from their addiction and researches who studied or are studying the phenomenon are also presented.
The three final chapters are more focused on how we can “exploit the bugs in our brains” (as my beloved engineer boyfriend would say) to promote healthy behaviours and replace wrong habits and addictions. How can we use modern technology to work with/for us, instead of against us?
I personally found the book an interesting read. The language is concise and clear, easy to follow even when it gets a little bit more technical. The amount of research that must be behind the writing of this book shows itself in the pages. There references to scholarly studies is surely helpful to those who are academically drawn to the subject, or just interested in furthering the research on their own.

The subject matter is surely something we need to become conscious about. I must admit that reading through the book, I felt a bit ashamed of my personal smartphone habits. I ended up uninstalling all games, YouTube, Tumblr, Goodreads and whatever other app on my phone before I finished the introduction. I am not one of those people who is frightened by every new tech, but nonetheless I believe we are all a bit addicted to these devices. Or we all can potentially be. It’s what they’re made for. Awareness is what will always save us from ourselves.

REVIEW: The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxiere

I’ve put this book on my TBR years ago. I don’t remember why I did it (although, knowing myself, the cover tempted me), but I can only thank my past self. This book is beautiful.

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Alone in a country they do not know, Molly and Kip are in desperate need of a job. So desperate they accepted to work for the Windsor, the family living in the haunted Sourwoods. Once settled as servants, they begin to uncover the secrets of the family, the house and the tree that grows in it: what do they lock behind the strange,old green door? What does master Windsor do in there? What sickness is the family suffering? And who is the nightman the youngest child speaks of?

I liked almost everything about this book: the rounded characters you come to sympathize with (Kip is a real sweetheart, he’s probably my favourite), the compelling story that pushes you to go on reading to find out what’s going on. It has an eerie atmosphere about it, but being a book for 9-12 years old don’t expect it to scare you too much.
The only thing I didn’t like was how long the book began to feel toward the end. That’s when the pacing of the story, not the fastest but anyway flowing, started to feel a bit off. There is a particoular event (no spoilers!) that although required to end the story, really seem to cut the pace. Furthermore, the last chapters are short and some might have been merged as the switch serves only to change the character from whose point of view the story is told.

Despite this little flaw, however, it still is a beautiful story: it’s filled with magic, it tells about love, life, courage and the need to do what’s right; how sometimes what we want to do and what we have to do are very, very different things.

REVIEW: Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

I do not love grammar. For all the love I bear to languages, grammar is always my least favourite part. That thing that stands between you and expression. Unfortunately, rules are what make us comprehensible to others.
In my almost 20 years of studying English – my, do they sound a lot! – I’ve learned about verbs and sentences and tenses, but never (not properly) about punctuation. It seemed sensible to me, when our professor gave us a list of books to choose from, to pick this one: first, because the subject matter is one I’m weak in. Secondly, because I want to learn to write properly. Punctuation is as essential as words, in that regard.

truss_book-a7ef04dc51ca66b0ffa7b6e403faa170e627455a-s6-c30I begun the book with great expactations, as it is (apparently) well known and well loved. I enjoyed the introduction, although I found some bits…uncanny. I read pleasantly of the various mistakes, the horror of the author at misplaced apostrophes, the history bits.
I must say that I did found interesting rules for the semi-colon and some for the comma; apparently they escaped my formal education. However, much of what is written is ridiculously…predictable. Maybe it’s because usage resamble a lot that of the Italian language, or maybe because I studied a lot of grammar. Either way, that part didn’t give me what I was hoping for (superior punctuation powers, that is). However it did help me point out mistakes I make regularly, so I call it a win.

The problem that became apparent all through the reading is the obnoxious insistance of the author on herself: I get it, you illustrate stuff that happened to you by recalling a life event. Many non-fiction books of this level do. Many bloggers do, too. It gets annoying, however, when there’s a continous stream of insults of any kind masked as “humor” or those very self-centered part that are meant to point out how superior you are.
I still need to understand what statements like: “I bought a book on grammar while every other girls was having dates and abortions and were at the isle of Wight, and wrote rude letters to a teen-ager” really give to the book. To me, it sounded like “I was not like other girls” discourse; meant just to underline, once again, the stupidity of others or the abyss between the stickler and the non-sticklers.

The constant pointing to the internet as the Devil, come to destroy the world, is something I still have to understand. More specifically, the claim by Truss that punctuation will disappear because it was invented for the printed medium of books and not the interwebs is absurd. There exist tumblr, with its uses of language that are meant to convey tone and allow people to write in a way that is more similar to speech (and yes, it does take a linguist do appreciate this), there are the facebook status updates of people who forgot how to use a comma; people that don’t care because “it’s the internet”. And then there are websites like Wikipedia, scholarly institutions like universities, companies and a whole lot that use punctuation because it will never cease to be usegil.
I really don’t see why a person can hate the old : – ) emoticons because they’ll make punctuation be forgotten, and be taken seriously. By the time the author made this claim, it was the end of the book; I was seriously done with these amount of absurdities and obnoxious tone though.

I gave the book 3/5 stars: it’s good, it’s not bad written, it gives information. You need to be really good at ignoring the author’s voice, though. I honestly hoped for it to be better.

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TAROT DECK REVIEW: Arcane Bullshit

I laid my eyes on the Arcane Bullshit tarot deck the first time I believe a year and a half ago. I was reading an article by Sarah Anne Lawless about indie tarot decks, because I was looking for a new addition to my collection. Note to the reader: my collection was composed of a Celtic Tarot deck based on the original RWS deck, and another one always celtic-themed where the 22 major arcana were represented by various God/esses (a mish-mash of Irish and Gaulish deities) and the minor were ogham in different order for each season.
I was looking for something with a more classic tarot imagery to start learning again, but I never found the Marseille or the Raider-Waite-Smith deck particularly appealing. It was a hard challenge.

Until I saw the Arcane Bullshit. Every single image spoke deeply to my soul (which probably says a lot about me). After months of going back and telling myself that “yeah, I wanted something more classic”, I received them as a birthday gift from my boyfriend. And I love every single card.

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Chaos Mom is in my top 5 cards in the deck

The deck is composed of 50 cards and doesn’t follow the standard major/minor so I think we could say it’s not properly tarot, but more of an oracle deck. Despite the name, I found some of the cards mantain some symbols we often see around (i.e. the eye, skulls, etc.) and cards like Knees, Random Clipart, Robododo or the Card of Cards still make a lot of sense to me. Working with them is wonderful, funny and really engaging. When you pull out a card that doesn’t seem to make any sense (litterally!) you really have to let your sixth sense run. What could the Pit Bull in a Triny Truck mean? What’s the Hooker with an Octopus trying to tell you?

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some of my favourite cards of the deck + my tarot journal

It’s like a new world to be discovered, because there is no set interpretation for the cards, although in the Tarot Bullshit app there are some idea on what they could mean. You can also do a reading with the app, which is completely free, and see where it brings you.
Despite their looks, I assure you this deck is absolutely serious – it only does its work in its own way, but it calls you out in such an honest way. I’d say thee cards feel very direct.

I adore working with this deck. I’ve never been good with card divination, but now I feel more interested into it and ready to study it properly (I’m going to get a RWS deck eventually for this purpose) and it has really boosted my confidence to work with cards that I can really understand.

I understand that this is not your standard deck, but I reccomend getting a copy if you like an approach to card reading that is absolutely non dogmatic and leaves you a little bit of freedom in the interpretation, or just to tell a very bizarre story.
I also believe that they would work great with Cards Against Humanity. Just imagine the greatness of such reading!

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REVIEW: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

October is the month of spoopy things and I couldn’t help but add at least one spoopy book to my reading list for this month.
Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark by Alvin Schwartz is a collection of horror stories for younger readers, but it will make adults shiver as well. It’s a super short book and I found it entertaining and yes, a bit creepy.

Ghosts, monsters and strange creatures are hidden in this book ready to scare the readers who will venture through its pages. I found the stories rather creative and, although I’m not a reader of the genres, I don’t think they play too much on horror tropes even though you can definitely see them here and there (i.e. the girl’s ghost who seeks revenge for her death). The narration is quite simple and direct, but still hooks you up. Suffice to say I found myself staying up to read until 1am, so I would describe it as “rather addicting”. And yes, I was reading the book in the dark (well, with a little light to see obviously!). There are also some “stage directions” telling you when to stop or when to scream if you’re reading the book out loud, maybe to your children or your friends. It’s a detail that makes this book a nice guest at a Halloween party or a sleepover.

illustration by Stephen Gammel

The illustrations by Stephen Gammel are a great addition to the mix and 80% of what drawn me to this book in the first place. They are beautifully grotesque and scary enough, especially for a children’s book. Nothing too horrible, however, just the right mix to make your blood chill in your veins. I actually got scared when flipping the page during the story of the already mentioned ghost girl, when the illustration unexpectedly popped up!

Pleasantly scary, it is the perfect book to get into that Halloween mood!