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 He isn’t bullied anymore, but he has withdrawn from society, has no friends and shows what to me seemed like social anxiety.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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Weekend Reads #1

I’ve been pleasantly surprised yesterday when I started Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. It had been sitting on my kindle for quite a while when I clicked on it in an attempt to clean my ebook TBR. I’m in love. I might be able to start the second book in the series tomorrow, since it’s so short and I’m already at 60%. It’s such an enjoyable read!

I’m also reading the Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales by Patrick K. Ford and I hope I’ll finish the fourth branch before the weekend ends. It’s more of a slow read, this one, and my loan expires in three days or so.

It’s so satisfying when the books you pick up end up being this awesome!

Mid-Year Book Report

In which I talk about all the nice (and not nice) book-related stuff encountered so far.

I’ve managed to read 30 books before the end of June and I must say it’s been a pleasant year as book discoveries are concerned (and I hope it stays that way). Out of 30, fifteen books are non-fiction and there’s also a pretty good amount of graphic novels/manga (9 volumes, which is higher than usual for me). As for fiction, I read primarily SFF. Oh, and I’m still stuck on the second book of Middlemarch because I demand an annotated copy that I currently cannot afford.

Discoveries
A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima. This has been such a pleasant discovery. I saw the animated movie first and loved it so much I needed to read the manga. I enjoyed both the characters, a group of teenagers around 17 or 18 years of age, and the story. I still am really impressed by this work and could probably pick it up again soon. I think I fell in love.

Harlan Ellison is the last author I discovered and I got really interested in his work. I got to him through Fallout, since the movie adaptation of A Boy and His Dog is apparently one of the things that inspired the creators of the first game in the series. I read the novella, saw the movie, and I was hooked. I’ve finished I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream (and found out there’s an old 90s game based on it, too!) and I must say that I really, really enjoyed it. Short stories aren’t typically my thing and I struggle to read them, but the set of each one of these was so interesting and unique that kept me interested. I also enjoy the writing style and the way the author manages to build a convincing setting in maybe 20 pages.

Disappointments
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I always have time for feminist essays, especially if they are this short and so well reviewed. So I picked this book up even if I wasn’t planning to, read it in 25 minutes or so and spent the rest of the day wondering if I got an abridged version or something. It felt really too short. First let me say that I did enjoy to read about the author’s experience as a feminist and an African woman. What led me to my disappointment is the fact that everyone seemed to think the book was ground-breaking for some reason: “Read this book now!” “This book should be a required reading!” “Everyone with a heartbeat should read this essay”.  Now, don’t get me wrong: I strongly believe in everything Adichie’s writes and I believe that she did put it down awesomly. There are great quotes from this work. However, there is not much new or unheard of in it, which was the reason I picked this up. I was a bit disappointed, but it’s still worth reading and I highly reccomend it.

New Releases
I never keep up with the new books coming out because I couldn’t care less, but the third volume of the Wayfarer Series by Becky Chambers is apparently coming out this month. I still haven’t tackled A Close and Common Orbit, though, so I don’t know when I’ll put my hands on it.

What do I plan to read next?
My reading plans never get through, because my TBR is ever-changing and I pick based on my mood or the time I can commit to the book in the case of non-fiction. So here’s a list of the last fiction books I got interested into:

  1. Bröderna Lejonhjärta by Astrid Lindgren
  2. When God Was a Rabbit and A Year of Marvelous Ways by Sarah Winman
  3. Gamescape: Overworld by Emma Trevayne
  4. The Mabinogi, and Other Medieval Welsh Tales by Patrick K. Ford (we’ll pretend it’s fiction and put it here 😉 )

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

My 2017 in books and 2018 bookish resolutions

I started 2017 with the idea of not setting any book goals, in terms of the number of volumes read. Unsurprisingly, I ended up reading a lot even without the ghost of the Goodreads challenge. However, I didn’t keep up with my intention of annotating books or writing down notes and thoughts. I still haven’t figured out a way that I like to do it.

Books read: 46
Number of pages: 9369
Longest book: Runemarks by Johanne Harris
Most-read genres: non-fiction
Authors were mostly male, with 7 female authors and 1 queer author

I guess I have become more critical in my rating because there’s around 10 of them who got just one or two stars.
I’ve read a great deal of non-fiction on various topic, ranging from psychology to classical Chinese philosophy and Daoism, to polytheistic theology. As for fiction, apart from my Scandinavia literature compulsory reads for uni courses, it’s mostly fantasy or science fiction. It’s really not been a year for novels. There’s also a fair deal of graphic novel, although they’re mostly the Overwatch comics that come out every three or four months or so.

And now, in no particular order, my 5 favourite books of 2017!

  1. Niels Lyhne by Jens Peter Jacobsen – One of the few Scandinavia novels I really like, I fell this is a great read. It’s got all the best things from XIX century books, but with a fair dose of relatable existential dread.
  2. The End of Eternity by I. Asimov – My first Asimov novel, a book I bought at a library sale. It’s short, dense and amazing, I read it maybe in two days because I was so hooked on the story.
  3. The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer – the book that broke my heart into tiny little pieces, I’ll never be the same. A great book, as always when you hold one of Colfer’s volumes.
  4. A World Full of Gods by J. M. Greer – the first volume on polytheistic theology I read, a wonderful read that got me thinking a lot about my own practice.
  5. The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thic Nhat Hanh – a wonderful book about meditation, full of reflections on the topic and exercises on which I draw from my daily practice.

What now?
Now that’s a whole new year, I want to keep with the same intent of not setting challenges and reading for the sake of reading. Not looking at my reading rate was really an improvement, even though I rushed through more than one book (but that’s just because I rush everything that I do).
I joined a couple of Goodreads groups to find some new titles to read, especially in the department of classics and literary fiction, because I lack knowledge of more than one volume (and bein an undergrad in English literature I can’t keep with what I am ordered to read).
The real challenge will be writing a review for at least half of the book I read: why would I have a blog to write about books, after all? Hope this will help me note more book thoughts as I read

Wishing you all a very bookish year,

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.