Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is a very unique book. This is a transcription of Shunryu Suzuki’s talks, which were recorded on tape by Marian Derby and then edited and organized by Trudy Dixon, one of Suzuki’s closest disciples. Suzuki was a Zen master who moved to California because he was very interested in how the people living there were so open to the Zen practice. The book is a collection of talks that Suzuki gave that address many aspects of the Zen practice.
I have attended some meditation classes/sessions before and, while I was able to sit through them, I always had so many questions and distractions that I concluded that it was just something that was just too hard for me. This book told me that, well, I’m clearly overthinking it! This book goes through what the posture, breathing, and sitting position should be in order to make the Zen practice the most effective. After that it is all a mental game. Overall it is all about simply practicing. It is about having that discipline to sit and face my own thoughts and everything that comes when I stop.
I highly recommend that, if you’re interested in meditation, you check out this book. I also saw that this is available as an audiobook, which would definitely add to the experience. These talks definitely feel like listening to a mentor and it will be a book that I will revisit time and time again as I continue my practice towards a Zen mind.
This is my monthly dive into my Want To Read List on Goodreads where I look at 10 random books on that list and decide which books stay and which ones go. Out of the ones that are left I will add the book that has been on that list the longest to my TBR for September. Let’s see what’s at play today!
Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I definitely want to read this book, a letter to future feminists that promises to be inspiring. Adichie gives advice to a friend on how to raise her daughter as a feminist. It is a necessary book for all of the future generations. This one stays on the list.
Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel: I honestly don’t know why this book is on my list. It is apparently a funny book about some kind of spies in Cincinnati that somehow end up in North Korea? Not interested at all so I’ll be removing it.
Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen: I also don’t remember why I added this book! This book follows Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose life is basically going downhill. She’s gone to a small town to start her life over and find some new purpose. It reminds me of a Hallmark/Lifetime movie, which I don’t normally love since they are so predictable. I will also be removing this book.
Girl at War by Sara Nović: This is a novel set in Croatia in 1991, right when civil war is breaking out. We follow Ana as she is forced to flee her home country to go to the United States. This is a perspective I don’t know much about and would love to read so I’ll definitely be keeping it.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: This is one book I’ve seen everywhere since it came out, set in France and Germany in the middle of World War II. I’ve seen that it is told from three different points of view and that it is beautifully written. I’m definitely still interested so I’ll be keeping it on the list.
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi: This is a memoir that I’ve had for a while and actually started once but didn’t get too far. The reason was that I haven’t read some of the works that are talked about in this memoir. There were some clear parts that I was missing because I haven’t read or am not familiar with the books mentioned. I will keep it with the caveat that I will need to read some other books (or at least familiarize myself with them before I attempt it again).
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge: A middle grade book that I added long ago and I don’t remember why. I am not interested in this one so I’ll be removing it.
The Diviners by Libba Bray: This is the first installment of a series that is set in the 1920s in New York City. This also delves into the fantasy realm so there’s magic and hidden worlds. I’m interested in checking out this series so I’ll keep this book.
The Next Species: The Future of Evolution in the Aftermath of Man by Michael Tennesen: The subject of evolution is very interesting to me. As a scientist I’ve learned about how humans have evolved and the various mechanisms. Looking at reviews it seems like this book focuses mostly on how humans have evolved in the past and not at what might happen next. I think I can find some more recent book that explores what our future looks like, especially since this book was published back in 2015. Therefore, I’ll be removing it.
Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll: I just added this book! This story includes characters who are neurodivergent involved in a plot surrounding a technology that recreates humans as AI. I’m definitely keeping it!
And that’s the 10 books! Out of 10 I removed 4 books that I’m no longer interested in reading. Now, which of the 6 remaining is the one that has been on this list the longest? Well, that would be All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which will be going into my September TBR.
Now, I am perfectly aware that I am not yet done with both Todos Los Cuentos and Emma, but that’s okay! I’m in no great hurry to finish them right away, I just want them in my TBR so I can pick them up as soon as it fits my mood. I’m enjoying Todos Los Cuentos, reading one or two stories each day, thinking about them for a couple of days and then going back to dive into the next story. I just started Emma and I think that once I get into it I’ll likely not want to stop.
Were you surprised by any of the books that showed up? That I either kept or removed? Let me know in the comments!
Every person in the world has a different relationship with their body, ranging from the most confident and self-loving to a toxic and painful relationship. As we age, our relationships with our bodies also change, from trying to be “healthy” or developing an illness or strengthening our perception of our bodies, this relationship is dynamic and can make us or break us. Of course, this does not happen in a vacuum, in fact, our perception of our bodies is formed from the moment we are born. We are determined to be of a certain sex, which then leads people to expect certain gender expressions, from the clothes we wear to what our bodies are supposed to look like. In Hunger, Roxane Gay tells us the story of her body, from her birth, her childhood, teenage years, all the way to her 40s.
Gay’s body has endured social expectations, trauma (both physical and emotional), and her journey has not been easy in the least. The world is not compassionate towards fat people, especially fat women. Women are expected to look pleasant for society to look at, like a nice painting or a bouquet of flowers. But we are not inanimate objects, we are people and we deserve respect and the ability to take up space without feeling like we shouldn’t.
I listened to this book, which is narrated by Gay herself and it really added to the experience to hear about her life right from the source. There is an emotional rawness in her voice as she talks about the trauma that she experienced, and continues to experience, that is very difficult to ignore. She is at her most vulnerable and it’s both heartbreaking and it also made me think about how so many people (including myself) change how they treat their bodies because they are afraid to just express themselves in their body as they are.
This is not an easy book to read or listen to but it is a very valuable book that I am glad Gay was able to write. I’d recommend it; listen and/or read with an open heart.
I finished “An Offer From A Gentleman” a couple of days ago and well, Benedict wasn’t much of a “gentleman” now was he?
I was surprised that this book was a bit of a Cinderella retelling. Sophie is a young woman who is forced to stay as a servant (without pay) for her stepmother and stepsisters after her father passes away.
She’s an illegitimate child and so she doesn’t have much power to claim anything for herself or the credibility to seek a job on her own. It is a hard time for women to be individuals, standing on their own accomplishments means very little to the rest of the world. Therefore, when the opportunity arises to attend a masquerade ball at the Bridgerton house she takes it, knowing that it might be the only thing in her life that will ever be meaningful, fulfilling one of her wildest dreams. In that fateful night she meets Benedict Bridgerton who has almost given up on finding a suitable wife at all the balls he is forced to attend. However, since she is wearing a mask and never tells him her name, she is able to disappear, leaving him wondering who she is and where he could find her.
That’s kind of where the similarities with Cinderella end. Sophie is back to being a servant and Benedict doesn’t actually find her right away. He also doesn’t realize it’s her when he does! He thinks that it is simply another servant who he is very physically attracted to and he doesn’t even think for a minute that marriage is something that is an option between them. I’m willing to accept that in the context of this world, servants are seen as people of a lower social standing and so forth and so it is understandable that he does not consider marriage. However, he has very little respect for her as a person, he’s very condescending even when he knows that she’s a very smart woman and that was very disappointing.
Nevertheless, the one reason I thoroughly enjoyed this book is because we got to see more of the other members of the Bridgerton family. We get to see more of Violet and Eloise and the way they interact with people from other families. I absolutely love the unconditional support that Violet gives her children, as well as the love between all the siblings.
While Benedict was disappointing in the way he treated Sophie, this book was pretty fun and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the lives of the Bridgerton family.
This book is the second installment in the Legacy of Orïsha series, which I’d been meaning to read for a while since it came out a few years ago. This series takes place in the land of Orïsha, a land that is based on African mythology. In this world, there are people who are born with magical gifts related to the diverse gods of Orïsha, which rule different aspects of life and death, the four elements, healing, animals, spirituality, etc. This magic has brought a lot of conflict between the people of Orïsha since the King killed all the maji as a way to control the kingdom. Now, in order to continue with this review I must spoil the first book so I’ll put a divider next, proceed with caution!
Alright! Spoilers start now. Book one, Children of Blood and Bone, ends with Zélie bringing magic back to Orïsha except the magic is not brought back only for the maji, it also comes back to the nobles. The mythology of the series gets complex since now there are maji who have the inherited ability passed down from each clan elder, generation after generation and then there are the tîtán, or nobles, who just acquired magic from one of the gods but their magic is raw, uncontrolled, and overall seemingly more powerful. The way that the magic has evolved in the second book is what was most interesting to me. We get to see how Zélie is able to develop how the maji are able to use their magic in order to try to bring down the monarchy that has been oppressing the maji for so long.
Now, Zélie is not alone in this story of course, let’s take a quick look at the other characters:
Inan: The son of the king and heir to the throne. In the first book he learns that he is a Connector, with the magic to connect to people via their dreams. (The other parts about the connector magic was a bit fuzzy for me I have to admit) Inan and Zélie develop a relationship throughout the first book that is quite tense since they are fighting for opposite sides. Inan for me was frustrating, I had big hopes for him but he always came short of meeting those expectations.
Amari: Inan’s sister who actually started the events of the first book when she stole a scroll that was the first item that would bring magic back to anyone who touched it. In the first book Amari helps Zélie bring the magic back and, when everyone believes that she is the next in line for the throne, she does all she can to get back to the throne, no matter the consequences. Amari and Zélie seem to have something of a romantic relationship as well but it never goes further than intense friends, which was so disappointing! (To me this was a better match than Inan….that is until we get to the next character…)
Roën: Possibly one of the most interesting characters in the series and one I wish was featured more! He is a mercenary who takes no sides except for those who are able to pay him and his band of rogues. He is a tough guy who has fallen in love with Zélie and my absolute favorite scene in this series so far is between the two of them. He does not have magic but he does not need it, he has a heart of gold.
As you can tell, there are complex relationships, politics, war, magic, and characters who are willing to do just about everything to win. There are definitely some high risk moves and at times I was confused about the characters’ core beliefs since they seemed to go back and forth a lot at times. Of course, they are under immense stress but as the reader it was a bit confusing.
I do want to read the next (and final?) installment, which is still in the works, so hopefully it will come out soon. The ending of this second book left me a bit concerned about where the series is going but I’m hopeful that Adeyemi will wrap up the series and give me more of Roën, please! If you haven’t checked out this series yet, I didn’t completely spoil everything in this review so do check it out if you are interested.
Yes, I strayed from the plans! I wanted to give audiobooks a try again (I’m not normally successful) and this one was a group read for Team 1 of the Enneagramathon, a readathon based on enneagrams going on on YouTube. I didn’t plan to join in the readathon but when I saw that the book I’m currently reading, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, fit the prompts I decided to go for it. (You’ll hear more about how it goes with this readathon as I write the reviews for the next two weeks.)
So, Team 1 is reading A Perfect Marriage and I saw people saying that they had listened to the audiobook and it was good… and so I got it! It was also free with the free Audible trial so I’m glad for that because, while it was interesting and fun at parts, I was not a huge fan.
You know those movies on Hallmark or Lifetime murder mysteries? Yeah, this was kind of like that. And just like with those (the bits and pieces I’ve seen) this was amusing and entertaining but hard for me to completely take seriously.
The premise is simple, Adam has been accused of murdering his mistress. He just so happens to be married to one of the best defense attorneys around and so now Sara, his wife, is the only one who can save him from the death penalty by defending him. Of course, all of this is complicated by a mother-in-law, a sheriff who is trying to help but nor actually helping? (confusing…), and alcohol, lots of alcohol.
It is definitely a book that’s fun to try to figure out who did it. The book is told from the points of view of Sara and Adam so the reader/listener can hopefully get more information and clues that way. It all added to the lack of communication between Sara and Adam which was at times very frustrating.
I can appreciate that the author was able to construct this story the way she did, putting some clear clues right in front of the reader but the reader not seeing them because they don’t have the context. I did not like how egotistical a lot of the characters seemed, it was just a bit too much at times.
Overall I’d recommend it for anyone who likes murder mysteries with big twists and very damaged characters.
Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy” is a journey through some of the most heartbreaking stories of adults and children who have been sent to prison for life or sentenced to death. What is so unfair is that there were innocent people who did not have a proper legal defense or people who had a punishment that was not proper for the crime they committed. This book had me on the edge of my seat while also grabbing tissues because it really was upsetting.
These stories are not easy to read, in fact, this is one of the hardest books I’ve ever read. There are stories in this book that truly broke my heart. Adults and children sent to prison because it was easier for the officers and judges to do that than try to look for the real culprit, or sometimes simply because the laws set mandatory sentences that the judges couldn’t ignore. I would warn that there is a lot of violence described in this book, stories about difficult childhoods, mental abuse, physical abuse, isolation, and stress. I could feel Stevenson’s stress and anxiety through the page as he goes through all the hoops to get appeals, re-trials, as well as everything crumbles and he is faced the execution of the people he’s trying to help.
I highly recommend that you read this book or even watch the film if you have any interest in this subject at all. The film, starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, is filled with great acting but also a lot of heart. Jordan and Foxx take some liberties with their characters but I felt that it was a good story overall, even if it became a bit more Hollywood than documentary. While the movie is not a 100% faithful reproduction of the book, it still translates the main message of the book and does introduce a lot of the issues with the legal system at the time. While some of those issues have gotten better, it’s not yet all great.
I’d also recommend that you check out the Equal Justice Initiative website where you’ll find a lot of information on the current state of the legal system with regards to capital punishment and different ways that you can get involved.
Hello August! July was a bit of an intense month for me, you can read about it in my July Wrap Up, and I finished reading 5 books. So, what does August have in store for me?
Let’s look first at the books I’m currently reading:
The Stand by Stephen King: My friend and I are making good progress on The Stand. We are currently about half way through the book and I love how all the characters are starting to come together while there’s still a mystery of what will happen next.
The Sandman Omnibus Vol I by Neil Gaiman: I’m about half way through this collection of comics as well! I’ve loved how the mythology is weaving through all the different characters while moving along Morpheus’ storyline.
Todos Los Cuentos by Gabriel García Márquez: This book has been a bit slow for me. Each story so far is one that I need to take my time with and pay a bit more attention than most books. That’s not to say that I’m not liking it but I am definitely taking my time with each story.
Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi: I barely started this book so I’m about 50 pages into it. I’m really enjoying jumping back into the world of the Orisha so I’m sure I’ll breeze through this book after I’m done with Just Mercy.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: I am almost done with this book! It’s been a hard book to read because of the subject matter: people on death row, specifically people who do not deserve to be there because they are innocent or because the punishment is not on par with the crime. I love that it is opening my eyes to issues that I never imagined were issues so I’ll be researching more about it all beyond this book.
Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki: This was not in my plans for July but due to the stress of the month I thought that it was appropriate to read a bit about meditation and how to take that into my every day life. I love this book so far because it is something that I can incorporate easily without actually needing to sit for 20 mins with my eyes closed.
And now, let’s take a look at the books I’ll be adding to my TBR for August:
An Offer From A Gentleman by Julia Quinn: I’m continuing my journey of reading the Bridgerton series so I’m looking forward to reading about Benedict and his quest of finding love.
Emma by Jane Austen: This was the book chosen via my Want To Read List Cleanup #2. I’ve never read a Jane Austen book so this will be really interesting. I don’t actually know much about what the book is about but that’s fine by me!
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: I’ve heard a lot about this series and, seeing the teasers for the show, I’ve been very interested in reading it. It’s a looooong one so we’ll see how long it takes for me to read it.
Hunger by Roxane Gay: This is the book club pick for QB Alumns for the month of August. This book is about body image, Gay’s relationship with food, and self care. This one might be a bit of a hard book to read so I’ll likely read it in sections throughout the month.
The Allies of Humanity by Marshall Vian Summers: This is the new book pick for the book club with my friends and well, not my first choice so this will be interesting. Summers writes about aliens and their interactions with the people of Earth. Apparently it is non-fiction…!?
Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto: This is the book that will come in the Feminist Book Club box for August. This book looks like a lot of fun: murder and romance, what’s not to like?
I am quite glad that I’ll get to read more romance books in August. I’m hoping that this month is a bit less stressful than last month and that I’ll be able to dive into my books without much of a care in the world.
Well, July is over… where has the time gone?! I wanted to write a bit about the month since it was a pretty intense roller coaster.
I haven’t talked much about my life outside of this blog so here’s a bit of an introduction to what my life is right now. My name is Paulina, I am 32 years old, and I work as a scientist for a biotech company. I just bought a house with my parents so I live with them and my sister, who is currently in college. Since March 2020, due to the pandemic, my work is fully remote, so I am pretty much home all the time, which is great for reading! I also have a cat named Seiko who is my reading buddy and loves the fact that I’m sitting around reading and chilling when I’m not at my desk working.
So this month there were a lot of changes at work and also a lot of deadlines. I am so grateful that my coworkers are such a great team to work with, even when facing a big deadline full of complex work. Because of all this I definitely had to be good about setting boundaries and setting time aside for basics like exercise, reading, good food, hydrating, etc. I can’t say I was completely successful everyday since I did have trouble sleeping some nights since my anxiety would bubble up some days.
My anxiety isn’t all about work of course, as a new homeowner (wow still feels weird saying that!) I am figuring out what it means to maintain a house, from the plumbing to the landscaping, it’s a lot! Of course, I get to do that with my family and, while we tend to agree on most of these decisions, it’s still a whole other part of my life that’s new to me so it brings me quite a bit of uncertainty at times.
Social interactions in person are very few right now. We are in a pandemic and, while my family is all vaccinated, we are still taking all precautions possible. This is not just for our own well-being, but we also recognize that there are people out there who can’t get vaccinated due to health reasons or because they are children who can’t get vaccinated yet. I also think of all the people in other countries where they don’t have enough vaccines, or where their governments haven’t been good about managing the distribution of the vaccines. I strongly believe that we can’t get past this era of pandemics if we don’t think of the rest of the world. (Add that to my mental stress!)
But not all is bad and anxiety inducing! I have been having a great time diving back into books and connecting with people online. There are now three book clubs that I participate in, and one long buddy read, that have definitely kept me happily reading. One is with friends I know in real life but live far away in Mexico and Canada and it has been great to chat with them every Sunday about books I never would have picked myself! We tend to pick books that are very interesting but could be either a hit or miss, which is great for this group. Another is with people I did not know previous to joining but we are all alumni who received the Questbridge scholarship. These are such great discussions of just excellent books and I’ve definitely made some new friends in this group. The third is much bigger with the Feminist Book Club subscription box and we get to join Q&As with authors of really diverse books as well as have zoom chats with other members of the club. While I don’t personally know all the members, it’s so great to meet with people online and chat about important topics like gender, social issues, activism, and life in general.
So, while July was stressful and busy, I had great ups to balance the stress. I managed to read 5 books:
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan: I finally finished the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy! I had a lot of fun with it and I look forward to reading more romance, it’s a genre that I need to explore more for sure.
Reinas Malditas by Cristina Morato: This was not a great book but it was so much fun discussing it with my friends. I learned a lot from our conversations but not enough from the actual book to make me love it. Too bad!
The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn: Another romance book! These have really surprised me because I feel like they are more about the men than the women, which is quite interesting. I am overall enjoying the Bridgerton series and I look forward to reading the other books.
Fierce FairyTales by Nikita Gill: Poetry is not normally in my bookshelves so it was great to read these poems inspired by fairy tales! I am now following Gill on Instagram and want to read more poetry this year!
All in all, a busy, productive, stressful, fun month! August is looking to continue to be busy at work and also fun with the book clubs. How did your July go? Are you excited for August and the peak of summer?
One of the highlights of the month (for the past three months) has been getting the Feminist Book Club Subscription Box! For the month of July there was a theme of poetry and Fierce FairyTales was the book chosen for the box. This book is by Nikita Gill, a writer and poet who has become pretty popular online with her thought-inducing posts about fairy tales, mythology, and how it all relates to what it means to be human.
I thoroughly enjoyed her work in Fierce FairyTales! I don’t normally read poetry so it was a breath of fresh air to slow down a bit and experience these poems that encapsulated an idea about a particular fairy tale. Each one took one character or idea from a fairy tale and flipped it in order to show how messed up each story truly is.
Take Rapunzel, she’s trapped by her mother in a tower in a completely toxic relationship and she has to wait for a prince to come and save her. To top it all, the only way he can get to her is to climb on her hair. Gill tells a story where perhaps, Rapunzel cuts her own hair and uses it to get down!
Growing up I saw these fairy tales as ideals, the princess waits in her castle/tower/cell for a prince to come and save her and then they marry and they are happily ever after. The princess doesn’t really need to think or accomplish anything except wait and go with the prince who comes save her. Of course that’s not true, but it definitely left me with some subconscious feelings about feeling shame about being an independent and strong woman.
Another cool thing about this book is that Gill illustrates it too. She has beautiful drawings with some of the poems that really helped me add that other dimension to the poem. Some of the poems were very uplifting and inspiring while others are heartbreaking and just touched those tender bits in my heart. One such poem was The Giant’s Daughter, which I will share here so you can have a sample of what to expect if you choose to read this wonderful book:
The Giant’s Daughter
Teaching yourself to take up space is like trying to love someone who is violently resisting your love.
It is walking into a room and trying not to make yourself scarce. It is to be mindful of your own shrinking.
It is to become comfortable with being uncomfortably aware that you, like Houdini, have mastered the art of escaping whilst being watched.
It is learning how not to do it even when every bone in your body has been taught to go into hiding.
Fierce FairyTales by Nikita Gill, pg. 119
Do you enjoy poetry? Even if you don’t read it much, like me, if you like fairy tales and re-tellings, definitely check this out!