REVIEW: A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima

A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima is a series of manga in seven volumes. In 2016 a movie by the same name has been released (sometimes it can be also found as The Shape of Voice). The movie was one of the most aesthetically pleasing animations I’ve experienced in a while and I loved it so much I decided to read the manga. If you’re interested, both the movie and the manga series can be found on archive.org!

a_silent_voice_2_1024x1024.pngShoya is a kid like many others: he spends time with his friends doing reckless things and playing video games. One day a new girl comes to school, Shoko. She smiles a lot and is really shy, but still tries to be friendly. There’s only one thing: Shoko is deaf.
At first, it seems everything might be well, but soon everyone in class starts making fun of her, Shoya being the one who harasses her the most. Even those who don’t participate actively, stand by and look. Or make fun of her behind her back, like the girls do. When the games go too far, Shoya becomes the scapegoat for the mischief he helped creating and enjoys the same bullying he inflicted on the girl.
As the years’ pass and Shoya move to middle school and high school, nothing changes. He isn’t bullied anymore, but he has withdrawn from society, has no friends and shows what to me seemed like social anxiety. He decides to throw himself off a bridge, but first, he wants to see Shoko for the last time and apologize to her. When he finally meets her, everything changes.

9781632360595_manga-A-Silent-Voice-Graphic-Novel-4.jpgFrom there, the story goes on portraying the will of Shoya to be forgiven and reclaim his life, Shoko dealing with depression, her sister Yuzuru’s struggle to save her and Shoko and Shoya’s former classmates trying to make up for the past.
Bullying, depression and suicide are the big themes of the story (so yeah, big trigger warning for that!) but overall it’s not pessimistic. As much as it gets sad sometimes, it surprisingly manages to also be heartwarming and make you smile. This is partly due to the fact that is easy to sympathize with the characters, to the point that even the least likeable have understandable motives.
It’s not only about the bad things: the story portrays how powerful forgiveness and compassion can be. That’s why it manages to be so full of hope, despite it all. Despite the fact that some characters don’t seem to feel there is any. We need more stories like this one: hopeful and gentle, instead of the many nihilistic portrays of life that we so often see around. Especially in the teenage section of the bookstores.

I hope to write more extensively about how forgiveness is central in this series, hopefully, the post will be out in a week.

firma

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REVIEW: Owning Your Own Shadow by Robert A. Johnson

The shadow is that part of ourselves that we fear, that we strive to keep inside of us no matter what. Most of the time we don’t want to recognise we even have a shadow and do the impossible not to meet and confront it. Owning Your Own Shadow is a book about the importance of facing that part of ourselves we fear the most.

THE BOOK
The book is short, 112 pages, and it took me around three hours to finish. Even if it’s a book about Jungian psychology, it’s not as dense as you might expect. The author does not use psychological jargon all the time, I’d say it’s more colloquial in tone compared to other books. I believe this makes it a nice read for those who, like me, are interested in Jungian psychology, but haven’t studied it formally.
I found it an informative read, even if I had some knowledge on the topic before starting the book. It makes a good introduction on the topic of the shadow, although there isn’t a thorough explanation of Jung’s analytical psychology. Some concepts are mentioned, but it won’t give more than a general idea of the theory behind it. If you’re new to the entire topic, maybe a general introduction to Jungian psychology might help you understand where the whole shadow business comes from.
The first two chapters discuss the shadow: what it is, why we escape it, and why it is important for people to confront it. The core idea is that shadow work helps both us and society; if we integrate our shadow and recognise how it plays, we can stop projecting it onto others and refuse when others project theirs on us.
The last, brief chapter of the book – called the Mandorla – describes how the author sees shadow integration and how one could go about it. Johnson itself states there is no one way to confront and integrate one’s shadow, so there is no universal recipe either. I don’t find it surprising, coming from a therapist.

SPIRITUALITY AND THE SHADOW
Throughout the book, there is a strong spiritual and religious influence that I couldn’t always agree with. Partially because of the heavy Christian-based belief and symbolism (I don’t relate to Christ as the role model for humanity’s inner work, for example) and partially because sometimes it felt to be a little extreme, in a way. However, I do agree on three basic spiritual ideas shared.
The first one is that shadow work is spiritual work and that in doing it, we can get closer to the Divine. Not only does shadow work allow us to know ourselves and understanding better ourselves, but to better understand others as well. It is also a work of synthesis, the synthesis between the opposing forces inside of us. Both ideas can be found in a variety of spiritual traditions. I enjoyed the idea that paradox is our primary tool in this work, it reminded me of Buddhist philosophy.
The second spiritual idea I share with the author is that religious and everyday life shouldn’t be separated and put into different boxes. It furthers the idea of dichotomy and separation, whereas shadow work is – as I mentioned before – synthesis. The split is counterproductive and can also result in guilt and fear (the big fear of sin in Christianity comes to mind).
The third idea is that ritual can help us with our inner work, that through ritual we can integrate our shadow. Johnson uses the idea of Mass being a shadow experience for the Christian but also talks about personal rituals that can be ordinary actions such as taking out the trash. One of the things that find me a sceptic is in this section: the author states that since people don’t go to Mass as before, we make and consume movies and novels to project our shadow. Even if I can agree, to an extent, it is put down in a way that seems to suggest storytelling didn’t exist when Mass was popular. I bet this isn’t what the author meant, but it was what got through.

I liked this book and I think I’ll revisit it in the future. It’s short, so it’s not a comprehensive introduction, but there’s enough information to make it useful. Even if the topic is discussed from a very subjective point of view, the author’s opinions are firmly grounded in psychology. I’d suggest, if it’s a first read on the topic, to pair it with a more objective essay. It’s always useful to hear a second opinion, anyway.

firma

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

305318After almost a 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 with sigil work.

firma

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 into the trap of marketing, which surely is about judging the book from its cover.

firma

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.