Nimona by Noelle Stevenson | Book Review

★★★★☆
April 1st – 3rd

Nimona is a graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson, which I read for the Magical Readathon (it was my Transfiguration prompt choice!) This book was absolutely adorable, with fun characters, a captivating plot, and really good stylized artwork.

We follow Nimona, a shapeshifter with a mysterious past who becomes the sidekick of Lord Ballister Blackheart, a villain with a vendetta against Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. The dynamics between Nimona and Blackheart were great, and took on a father/daughter or mentor/mentee quality fairly early on. I liked the relationship between Goldenloin and Blackheart as well, though I wished it was further expanded on whether their relationship was strictly friendship or something more.

Nimona herself was a bit of a mystery as well. The reader is given some clue into her backstory, but it’s unclear (at least it was to me) later if she was telling the truth or if there was something more. Maybe this is something that I missed, but the ambiguity of her past took away from her relationship with Blackheart for me.

I also thought this story would focus more on her, and less on Blackheart, though I ended up being glad that it didn’t. Nimona as a character was somewhat one-dimensional, and didn’t seem to learn or change by the end. In contrast, both Blackheart and Goldenloin did grow and change, and learn more about each other.

The two have an enemies to friends (or something more?) dynamic which is really well played, showing their transition from best friends to enemies and back, which became more of the plot than I was initially expecting.

Overall, this was good. I may check out Noelle Stevenson’s series, Lumberjanes in the future.

-Siobhan

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo | Book Review

★★★☆☆
March 28th – 31st

Third, and finally in my trifecta of non-fiction was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It was spring when I read this, and having been stuck at home for a month at this point, I decided to engage in some spring cleaning. I watched Marie Kondo’s show of the same name on Netflix last year, and I really enjoyed seeing her method in action. I’d heard good things about her book, and wanted to give it a try.

I did listen to the audiobook for this, and I wish that I had read it physically. There were a lot of descriptions of how to fold and how to organize which I felt would work better in a physical book than over audio. I don’t know if it was because of the audiobook, but this book was just okay for me. I enjoy Marie Kondo, and liked when her personality came out in the book, but the advice itself I found to be slightly unrealistic and not entirely practical.

She speaks a lot about only keeping things that bring you joy. We all know this. There have been countless memes about this. But one thing that I didn’t feel like was touched on was things which you don’t necessarily like, but which you need. I don’t necessarily love having cleaning products in my house, but I need them in order to stay clean.

The biggest example of this for me was her section on getting rid of books. Every book that I own currently doesn’t necessarily bring me joy, but I own them for a reason. Marie Kondo doesn’t seem to see the value in collection, something which I really enjoy. As an example from my life, I own a lot of enamel pins. I really like them, and though I try and limit how many I purchase, I still own a lot of them. I can’t see myself getting rid of them, because though each individual one doesn’t bring me joy, the collection as a whole does. With my books, I definitely go through and will get rid of some that I know I’m never going to read on occasion, but I like owning books that I’ve physically read, even if I don’t have plans to go back and reread them. To me the representation of the time that they were read in is worth keeping them.

The most impractical aspect of her book was the time that everything takes. In several sections, she calls out other cleaning and tidying advice for taking place over the course of several days or a routine which has you tidy a little bit every day. She says that this is unrealistic and talks about how doing it all at once is much better.

I definitely do not have the time for this type of approach. With the combination of work stress and life stress, it would be extremely difficult for me to dedicate an entire day (or several, if we’re being honest) to the level of tidying that Marie Kondo recommends. This is something that I felt was missing from both her show and her book, was an explanation for how people merged this approach into their daily lives without needing to take a week of vacation to get everything started.

I do like the order that Marie Kondo has you tackle the items to get rid of, and I think that her explanations for why to get rid of things, and how to know if something is worth getting rid of is extremely valid and well thought out.

If I was able to dedicate the time to this type of method, I could see it being beneficial to help pair down the amount of stuff that people have. I was also really surprised to hear about the amount of things that people had in her examples. Descriptions of overflowing closets were absolutely crazy to me. I know that they’re mostly there for shock factor, but I can’t imagine dealing with that type of stress on a daily basis.

Overall this was a fairly mediocre read. I’m glad I read it, but I don’t know that I’d recommend it or ever read it again.

-Siobhan

10% Happier by Dan Harris | Book Review

★★★★☆
March 26th – 27th

Second in my little grouping of non-fiction was 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduce Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works, which I think wins the title for the longest title I’ll be reading all year.

I’m luckily enough to work for a company which provides the Ten Percent app, owned by Dan Harris, for their employees. Meditation was something that I found beneficial when extremely stressed, and let’s face it, we’ve all been extremely stressed out the past few months. Scribd had the audiobook, narrated by Dan Harris, so I decided to redownload the Ten Percent app, and give this book a listen.

I was expecting the book to be a lot more “preachy” about meditation, but it felt very grounded. It read more like a memoir about Dan Harris’s life, his struggle with mental health and addiction even at the peak of his career, and how meditation helped him with that.

I really liked how candid he was in a lot of the book: how he valued science and the medical benefits of meditation. One of the people he specifically mentions in the book, Sam Harris, is a fairly prominent atheist, and one who also practices meditation. It was interesting to see the separation of spirituality or religion from meditation, and focus more on the psychological and medical benefits.

Some of my favorite parts of the book were his descriptions of a ten day meditation retreat he went on, something I don’t think I could ever do. He describes his struggle, his euphoria, and then back to his struggle with trying to bring his brain back to focusing on just his body over and over again. I can barely get my brain to do that for ten minutes, let alone ten days.

The title itself, and the description of where it came from was one of my other favorite parts of the book. The idea that meditation, for Dan Harris, and also for me, isn’t about being one with yourself or expelling thoughts to think about nothing. At first it’s about forgiveness, and being kind to yourself. Not berating yourself for slipping up or having your mind wander, but instead guiding it back to focus on the breath, or what you’re trying to focus on. Meditation doesn’t solve your problems. It doesn’t get you a promotion, or more money, or a new life overnight, but it can give you the tools to be a little bit happier.

I will say that this book did convince me to give meditation a more serious attempt, and to try and incorporate even 10 minutes a day into my routine. So far I’ve found that the days that I don’t want to meditate at all are the days I need to the most, and we’ll see if it makes me 10% happier.

-Siobhan