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Seeing Life From Another Perspective

I picked up a cheap book a while ago called ‘The Art Of Happiness‘ by Howard C. Cutter and HH Dalai Lama. I had developed an interest in mindfulness and was keen to learn more. I only got around to reading it last week, and it’s been far more interesting than I expected. The book explores several topics such as compassion, suffering and anxiety, and compares Eastern and Western viewpoints. We can discover new values by exposing ourselves to ideas from outside the place we grew up. Where we live can have a stronger impact on our minds than we realize. I was discussing this idea with a lecturer who also claimed that they had to use different approaches for students from other countries because the Western way of doing things was very different to what they were use to.

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Goosebumps Nostalgia

My mum enjoys reading books by authors such as James Herbert and Stephen King. My older sister use to collect Goosebumps by R.L.Stine, Shivers by M.D.Spenser and eventually moved onto point horror. Naturally, I was drawn towards giving horror stories a go myself and Goosbumps was where I started. My reading skills weren’t actually good enough at first, but having an older sibling means that you get a preview of what’s to come before you’re old enough to tackle it yourself. The covers with that bright bubbly goo attracted my attention. My first one was Monster Blood, because the hamster stood out to me. Once I was able to read them comfortably I was hooked and my sister and I enjoyed collecting them together. We avidly watched the show too.

So when I heard there was going to be a Goosebump’s film I was overjoyed. Admittedly I wasn’t expecting much from it, but just a revisit to the nostalgia of my childhood was exciting enough. I’d made the assumption that it was going to be childish and cheesy, although such films have never made sense to me as I’m not sure if they’re still popular with kids today and the rest of us have grown up (I imagine there were many other adults like myself eager to see this for the same reason.) Luckily I was wrong and Goosebumps turned out to be a highly entertaining film. There’s a lot of comedy in it that can appeal to adults as well as kids. There was no point at which I felt out of place being there, and as I looked around I noticed there were lots of other adults enjoying it too. The references were fun, bringing me back to the roots of what got me into the horror genre in the first place.

The film doesn’t focus on just one story, but on a collection of R.L.Stine’s monsters. They become freed from the pages of the manuscripts and start to wreak havoc, with Slappy the dummy as their leader. This creates the opportunity to re-visit a lot of our favourites. Some monsters seemed to get more screen time than others and I would have liked a bit more variety than what was shown. The first few encounters didn’t feel like they fit in too well, as they saw one monster at a time sequentially. Eventually more of the monsters are shown on screen working together. I guess one of the issues with trying to fit so much into one film is that while there’s a greater chance of seeing our favourites, we don’t get to see many of the distinctive qualities that made them special. Each monster overall feels similar in terms of threat, just with a different appearance. The encounters are fun, but Slappy is really the main star of the film. Luckily I was a fan of the Night of The Living Dummy and it felt right for him to take centre stage.

The actors in this film also put on a great performance. Jack Black is brilliant as R.L.Stine, a role he takes with a lot of humour. The main protagonists are also very likeable, despite all of their shortcomings. We see some depth and character growth throughout the film. I also loved the cameo from R.L.Stine at the end, who I was fond to see again after all the introductions he made during the show.

Overall the Goosebumps film was a fun nostalgic trip that didn’t disappoint. It might not appeal if you haven’t read the books, but for any person that grew up on horror stories this is very much recommended.

Thoughts On You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost) By Felicia Day

In all honesty, I wasn’t too aware of who Felicia Day was when I came across this memoir, but the description for You’re Never Weird on the Internetsounded really interesting. She’s an actress, comedian and writer as well as an avid gamer. One of her more well known pieces of work is a web-series called The Guild, about gamers meeting up through their love of an MMORPG. (It’s incredibly entertaining and funny, so if you haven’t seen it yet check it out on her channel Geek & Sundryhttp://geekandsundry.com/shows/the-guild/.) Within the book she writes about her unusual up-bringing and how this has influenced her life, including her love for video games. She also explores her battles with depression while working on The Guild.

It might seem strange that I’d read a book about somebody that I didn’t know that much about, but it sounded like something I could relate to and it allowed me to acquaint myself with her. I think it’s wonderful for people to share their thoughts, tribulations and jubilations about life, and in doing so you come to realize that we’re not all that different. That sounds a bit odd considering that Felicia Day is known for encouraging people to embrace their weird, but I also think that most of us are just trying the best we can and we’re not alone in some of the problems we face. One of the issues that Felicia seems to struggle with is this need to strive for perfection and an anxious mind that has her worrying over potential problems. One of her stories was about how a teacher tried to encourage her to be satisfied with her best, but instead she obsessively studied to get the high grade, even though afterwards she hasn’t used that knowledge since – it sort of reminds me of how I was at school. Although I do love her uplifting attitude about how our differences can help us to stand out. She was mostly home-schooled and one of her thoughts particularly stood out to me, that even though it was hard missing out on the social connections, there were paths that she could enjoy pursuing that she might have otherwise been discouraged from due to peer pressure – such as her enjoyment of maths. While others can have a very positive influence on us, we can also lose parts of ourselves trying to fit in.

I enjoyed this autobiography more than others I’ve tried because despite her success she still came across as a down to earth person that I could relate to. (I’m not so keen on the ones that name drop too many famous people for example.) She writes very openly about her World Of Warcraft compulsion and her issues with anxiety. Even after gaining success, she didn’t find it to be the key to happiness because of the pressure to continue delivering and in turn the fear of what would become of her after this major part of her life ended. In a final chapter she also shares her thoughts about Gamergate, and that while it was a scary experience she feels like it’s important to stand up for what you think is right.

While it might sound as if she explores some heavy issues, for the most part the book maintains a light and witty tone. She has a wonderful sense of humour that can make you laugh even about topics that carry a lot of stigma. Many of her words are also incredibly inspiring. I found it interesting to watch The Guild after reading this because I could see just how much her life had influenced the characters and plot. Overall it’s a very easy read about how she discovered a sense of community through gaming.

Why I Think Books Are Cool?

Reading is something that I’ve always done and never considered why. I do feel like it enriches my life, but I have found a love for books to be a bit of a rarity when meeting with others around my age. It’s not just a case of them having different preferences for how they’d like to invest their time, but they talk about books as if the idea of sitting to read them in an absurd notion. I’ve heard the activity described using words such as weird or uncool. I remember a few years back there were growing concerns over an issue where children had admitted to feeling embarrassed about being caught with a book. I think it’s a shame if these are the reasons for why a person doesn’t read as I don’t know if they even understand what they’re missing out on.

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Star Wars Books (Drew Karpyshyn)

I’ve really been into Star Wars lately. Leading up to Christmas I sort of fatigued myself playing The Old Republic a lot; during the experience boost up to the release of the expansion Shadow Of Revan. After that point my interest sort of died down for a bit; Sometimes an experience boost can also be a bad thing because the game won’t feel so good once the bonus is removed. My partner kept insisting that I read the Revan book by Drew Karpyshyn though, something that I had meant to do a long time ago at the release of The Old Republic, but for some reason I never got around to it. It’s a fairly short and easy read so I figured I could now make time for it. Reading this book managed to put me back in a Star Wars mood.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Revan. Drew Karpyshyn’s writing style does appeal to me though (he also wrote the Mass Effect books and worked for Bioware.) He has a simpler style that seems to cut straight to the point (in contrast to other books where you’re left thinking that they could have made it shorter and edited some parts out.) It also feels like he knows a lot about the subject matter, offering little geeky titbits – such as what lightsaber form a character is using. At the same time I don’t think you have to be massively up on Star Wars to follow the stories, but the details are there for those that want it.

I enjoy learning about the old republic era more so than the time around the films. I always liked Star Wars, but I got into it more after playing Knights Of The Old Republic (There is a lot of content outside of the films that is just as good if not better.) I was introduced to Revan for the first time and I absolutely loved the character and the story that revolved around him (the twist is still one of my favourite reveals.) I haven’t completed the second game. I’ve started it, but for some reason it doesn’t maintain my interest for long enough to get to the very end. Either way, as far as I know, Revan has disappeared during the time of that game and the book explains where he was. The story also introduces a character called Lord Scourge. Somehow their fates become entwined as they attempt to take on the Sith emperor.

The ending of the book is exciting, but is also left open and isn’t entirely satisfying. I’ve heard that it concludes in The Old Republic knight storyline (Lord Scourge also appears as a companion.) I’ve finished all of the storylines on the side of the Empire (I just find this side more entertaining for some reason,) but knowing what I do now I’m eager to start a knight at some point.

Reading Revan left me wanting more, so I went onto the Darth Bane trilogy (also written by Drew Karpyshyn.) These books follow the rise of Darth Bane from his beginnings as a miner on Apatros to the battle with his apprentice. He was the one that noticed a flaw in the system and invented the rule of two – there can only ever be one master and one apprentice. The reasoning behind this was because the very nature of the Sith – power to the individual – meant that they were constantly weakening the order through infighting. A group of less powerful Sith could take down a leader. Having just one apprentice killing the master to take their place ensures that they will always get stronger. The very nature of the Sith is at times contradictory and at odds with itself.

Despite Revan being my favourite Star Wars character I think I enjoyed the Darth Bane books more. I found it really interesting how they followed through so much of Bane’s life and the process to becoming a Sith. You can understand how he ended up being on the dark side and even find yourself rooting for him only to have your allegiance later changed to his apprentice. The final battle is a thrilling one.

I don’t own Drew Karpyshyn’s final Star Wars book – Annihilation. I’ll probably correct that at some point. I do have a few other Star Wars books that have been sat on my kindle for a while and need attending to though. If you are a fan of The Old Republic or just Star Wars in general I would recommend trying some of the books out as they add to the plot and help to explain a few things. One of the main reasons for why I would like to get through all the classes in The Old Republic is because I want to find out about all of the stories in it.

I’m currently reading A Brief Guide To Star Wars by Brian J. Robb that covers how the franchise began. I picked it up for less than £1 and wasn’t sure if it was going to be any good. Its been a compelling read so far. I always find stories about unexpected successes and the struggles leading to them to be inspiring.

Review Of ‘Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble’

ladythynameistroubleI was given the privilege of being sent a copy of ‘Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble‘ by the author Lori L. Maclaughlin so that I could read and review it. She manages a blog called ‘Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams‘ where you can read all about her writing journey.

The book is a fantasy adventure about the sisters Tara and Laraina who end up fleeing with a prince and young sorceress after a surprise invasion by the Sulledorn army. An assassin who has never previously failed in his mission – called the butcher – is pursuing them. As the name of the book suggests, this is a story full of ups and downs. It doesn’t take long for the action to start and continues at a high and exciting pace through to the very end. At times the book is quite dark and tense – with some sad moments too -, making the sprinklings of romance and humour all the more delightful.

I found myself developing a fondness for the characters as they desperately try to flee the butcher. In some ways the story feels like it’s more about the characters and how they grow and change than the rising Sulledorn army, which provides a means for this to happen. Even the butcher offers a lot of intrigue – at first he seems inhuman and invulnerable, only to develop to the point that you can almost sympathise with him. The main character also appears to be strong and undefeatable, only to have to face self doubt for what seems like the first time. These character arcs help to drive the story forward. Back stories are also trickled through to help explain some of the character’s motives, but there is enough held back to leave you always wanting to find out more.

Tara and Laraina are the most interesting characters in the story – referred to as fire and ice with the looks and personalities to fit. While in the beginning they seem like your typical swords for hire, they develop in complexity as the story progresses. While their relationship feels unwavering at first – just like the characters themselves -, it later becomes apparent that each sister’s own desire is in conflict with maintaining what they share. Their similarities and differences leave an impact on how the plot and characters develop, and it was an aspect of the story that I thoroughly enjoyed. I also quite like strong female leads. I can imagine many more exciting tales could be told about the adventures of these sisters.

The way the story is written particularly appealed to me; it flows nicely and is easy to read. It doesn’t overwhelm you with descriptions and explanations, which is a problem that can easily crop up in the fantasy genre. At the same time there is enough depth there to help bring it all to life. It feels like you’re jumping into the world and based on the encounters the characters have you can sense there is a history to it that is yet to be revealed. I would have liked to have found out more, but it is left open for the next book; Even so, the ending felt very satisfying. Can’t wait for book two.

‘Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble’ is an action packed adventure containing aspects of humour and romance with an interesting array of characters. An enjoyable read for fans of the fantasy genre.

The Chimp Paradox – A Very Helpful Book About Mind Management

A couple of people recommended this book to me called ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Steve Peters. They had gotten the book for various reasons such as helping them to cope with depression or just to find a confidence boost; Apparently it really helped them. I often struggle to deal with my own storm of emotions, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give this book a go.

I can be a bit wary because some books can promise too much and people are often drawn to quick solutions. ‘The Chimp Paradox’ is not one of these books however. In fact it is probably one of the better ones I’ve tried. It admits that the ideas it suggests may take several months to work if at all. Building our confidence isn’t a sprint, but a marathon where we have to monitor our behaviour and catch ourselves from time to time. It’s normal to slip up sometimes too. ‘The Chimp Paradox’ helps to explain how the different parts of our mind works and in turn how to manage them. There’s the logical part that is us and then there’s the chimp that manages our emotions and sometimes causes us to act inappropriately. Since reading this I have found myself putting it down to chimp behaviour whenever I’ve had an off encounter with another person; Thinking in this way seems to really help me to deal with these situations better.

I would also suggest that this book could be of use to anybody, not just those of us that are struggling with low confidence or anxiety/depression. We tend to wait until out self-esteem has taken a knock before considering learning about these things, but we’re all effected by our emotions from time to time. Improving our ability to manage our minds can help us in many ways. The book covers topics such as how to connect with others, dealing with stress and making plans to reach our goals. There are also suggested exercises at the end of each chapter to help you to follow along.

A major problem that I tend to have with these books is that while some of the advice seems pretty solid, I can’t always apply it to my own situation. My mind has a way of finding loopholes and arguing with certain suggestions. It did happen a few times during ‘The Chimp Paradox,’ but overall I still feel like I’ve taken a lot from it. It also gives example situations to explain how to apply some fo the concepts. Since finishing the book I have continued to follow what I’ve learnt from it. It could just be a placebo like effect (sometimes after reading help articles It’ll give me a temporary boost,) but so far its advice has been helpful.

Listing The Books I want To Read

As it is one of my goals to read more this year I was originally considering attempting some sort of reading challenge, inspired by Emma who managed to complete the Goodreads 52 book challenge. If you like books you should check out her awesome blog at http://bluchickenninja.com/2015/01/08/on-reading-challenges/. She also mentioned another type of reading challenge called Popsugar’s 2015 Reading Challenge, which I did consider, but some of the points on the list seem a little odd.

The problem is that I already have a good idea in my mind of a selection of books that I would like to attempt to read, and on finishing one I tend to already have an idea of what I want to move onto next. While I want to read more in the sense that I stop taking long breaks where I don’t read anything at all, I’m also not sure if I want to read under pressure or if I’d have the time to. So I’ve gone and made a list on my Goodreads account that I can follow through at my own pace instead – https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/38957084-jo-osborne. I’m not sure if I’ll get through all of these books within the year and I’ll probably be adding more at a later point, but it’ll be fun trying to tick some of them off.

I would still like to attempt a reading challenge some day, as I seem to enjoy trying these things out. I’m just not ready to take that on yet. I have been reading a bit each week since the new year began however. I’ve found that you can fit a little bit of time in here and there, such as reading while I’m waiting for my dinner to cook or during advert breaks on TV. Sometimes a bit before I go to bed. Just so long as I remember to keep my kindle by my side :P.

Do You Re-experience?

I was reading ‘More Fool Me’ by Stephen Fry and I seem to remember there was this one sentence where he suggested that it was a shame that people didn’t tend to re-read books because we will in time forget much of what they were about. This got me thinking about the difference between my partner and I. He will re-read books, re-play games or re-watch films on a regular basis. I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s completed Mass Effect for instance. I, on the other hand, tend to get through new experiences much more quickly than he does but can only boast having completed them one or two times.

Having to constantly find new experiences can be quite costly so It’s great to be able to find more worth in what we already own. There can also be so many little details that we’d miss if we only ever experienced something once. Some people also find new ways to improve the longevity of an experience (such as speed running or adding new challenges to a game) and seem to take great pleasure in knowing something inside out. My partner is the type of person who will read wikis or find additional material about a franchise to develop a deeper understanding. I wish I could do this too, but I have a tendency to grow bored and flit from one experience to another.

The way I see it is that there are so many things to enjoy in this world that I’d much rather spend my limited time finding new experiences rather than repeating the old ones over and over. Some experiences have left a large enough impact on me to return, but I also have many books, games and films that I’ve only gotten through once and then tossed aside. Sometimes I prefer to leave them as fond memories because on returning they may not live up to expectations; people can grow and change. I have vague recollections of experiences enjoyed during my childhood that I know wouldn’t be the same if I re-discovered them now. I also find that the first time I experience something is often the best time because I’m still open to the surprises on offer. As a result of this I often hesitate to complete books or games that I’m really enjoying because I want to savour them and will not be able to have that first experience again. I think my partner finds comfort in enjoying something that he already knows is going to be good, whereas I love that feeling of not knowing what is to come. I can get hooked on wanting to know what is going to happen next.

I do find the idea of experiences laying by the wayside a saddening thought though, especially when considering the amount of creative energy that goes into them. Even if we will continue to cherish the great pieces, there are many more that will eventually be forgotten to be replaced by new ones.

Books That Have Stayed With Me

So I read on the new blog ‘Planet Pasduil‘ that people are currently making lists of the top ten books that have stayed with them in some way. I’ve been re-visiting a few books recently and I fancied compiling them into my own list:

  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – To be honest, when I was younger I found The Lord of The Rings to be a bit too much of a struggle to read, so The Hobbit was sort of like my first introduction to the world of Tolkien. I just really enjoy fantasy and love dragons.
  • Inheritance Cycle (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, Inheritance) by Christopher Paolini – This is probably one of my favourite fantasy series. While it’s classed as a teenage book some aspects of it feel really dark and you could see the author’s skills and viewpoint growing alongside the main character. It also panders to my love of dragons.
  • The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – I went through a phase where I wanted to try a few more classical books. I struggled to understand the language in many of them, but The Picture Of Dorian Gray was one that I not only managed to complete but also really enjoyed.
  • White Fang by Jack London – I read this book quite a while ago, but I’m planning to read through it again next. It appeals more to my love of animals than anything else and I love that it’s from a dogs perspective.
  • Mass Effect (Ascension, Retribution, Revelation) by Drew Karpyshyn – I just think Drew Karpyshyn is a really good author and the series tied in really well with the game. I loved how the final book explored what it was like to become indoctrinated from the perspective of that character. It was kind of disturbing in a way.
  • Harry Potter by J.K.Rowling – Lots of people grew up with Harry Potter. It’s just a really fun magical read.
  • Age of The Five (Priestess of the White, Voice of the Gods and Last of the Wilds) by Trudi Canavan – This series had some really interesting characters in it and a pretty good twist at the end. I think I prefer it to The Black Magician Trilogy myself, although Trudi Canavan books are all generally quite good.
  • Deathscent by Robin Jarvis – I read this a long time ago and for some reason I always remembered it. I think it was the first time I’d experienced anything that felt a bit steampunk in style and it fascinated me. All of the animals in the world are mechanical and the residents can bring any creation to life by using different coloured ichors. The annoying thing is that while the back of the book claims to be the first in a series, no more ever came.
  • Angels and Demons by Dan Brown – I have to admit that even though I have every Dan Brown book on my Kindle I’ve only read Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. I didn’t know which one to list because I enjoyed them both a lot. I found the subject material interesting and I like books where I feel like I can also learn something at the same time (of course it’s important to note that a lot of it is also made up.)
  • Empress Orchid by Anchee Min – I recently read through this book again, followed by The Last Empress. I seem to be fascinated by the lives of people living in China or Japan around certain times. To be honest I found it a bit too dry in places when covering politics or the war, but I really enjoyed reading about The Forbidden City.

There are many others that I grew up with, but I haven’t added them to the list. For example, I’d say that every Roald Dahl book has had a significant impact on many lives. I also read a lot of horror books when I was a kid like Goosebumps and Shivers. There was also the Animal Ark series which I think helped to start my love of animals. I mostly read fantasy books but I didn’t want to the entire list to comprise of just one genre. I’m also reading the odd short story by H.P. Lovecraft and there are some pretty interesting ones like ‘The Thing on the Doorstep’ and ‘The Colour Out of Space.’ I also read a lot of non-fiction books like Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal, Theory of Fun by Raph Koster and Quiet by Susan Cain.