Thursday, 31 January 2013

K is for Kindness

It's week eleven of Alphabe-Thursday!

K is for Kindness...

The Dalai Lama said "My religion is kindness" and I've always loved that quote. In my opinion being kind is the cornerstone of a life well lived.

I consider myself a success whenever I'm being kind, thoughtful, generous and supportive to friends, family and even strangers. For me a person's worth is measured not by a list of their achievements or how much money they've earned, but by how kind they are to others.

An act of kindness stays with the recipient for a lifetime. I have experienced kindness that has had a very profound affect on me. It is something I will never forget because it reaffirmed my belief in the goodness of people. Kindness from another is something we can all cherish because it reminds us that someone cares. We know we're not alone in this world when someone takes the time and effort to be kind to us.

Doing a good deed is an act of love. It is putting our spirituality into practice. Helping someone, being there for someone in need is a beautiful way to serve humanity. It doesn't take a lot of hard work to offer even a brief moment of kindness. Any small act is enough to touch a person's heart.

Giving really is more rewarding than receiving. The irony is that when you give you also receive - knowing you've helped another makes you feel quite good inside, doesn't it? :-) A kind gesture will always be returned to you in the form of karma (another great K word!), so make the most of your ability to be a supportive, thoughtful person. Your act of kindness might just change someone's life for the better.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

J is for Joy

It's week ten of Alphabe-Thursday!

J is for Joy...

Joy is one of my favourite words. Whenever I see it I can't help but smile. For me everything that is exciting and magical about the world can be found in that beautiful word - joy. I love it! :-)

Joy can be found anywhere we choose to see it. Even when things are hard and we're feeling low there is always something joyful to discover, or be reminded of, in our lives. Joy is a lot like love; it has the power to embrace us in a warm hug and make all our problems fade away. Joy is more than just a pleasant emotion - it's a state of being that bubbles up from the depths of our soul to enrich our lives. Joy is an expression of our elated selves, the part of us that knows no bounds, the part that meets the world with open arms and overflows with pure delight and happiness. That part exists within you. Let it out!

Joy is one of life's precious gifts. I believe it is important to fill our days with joy. It only takes a moment of our time to do something just for the fun of it, just to feel the joy. Sing a song, dance around your house, tell a joke, smile! :-) Even just a few priceless minutes of joy in your day can do wonders for your soul. Anything that brings us joy is infinitely valuable.

I choose to find joy in the simple things - a sunny day, a gooey chocolate dessert, a smile from my husband, a day out at the cinema, reading the paper on a saturday morning, laughing, singing, dancing. All these things make my heart leap with joy.

What brings you joy?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Book Review: Shadows by Paula Weston

It's been almost a year since Gaby Winters was in the car crash that killed her twin brother, Jude. Her body has healed in the sunshine of Pandanus Beach, but her grief is raw and constant.

It doesn't help that every night in her dreams she kills demons and other hell-spawn. And then Rafa comes to town. Not only does he look exactly like the guy who's been appearing in 
Gaby's dreams, he claims a history with her brother that makes no sense.

Gaby is forced to accept that what she thought she knew about herself and her life is only a shadow of the truth - and that the truth is more likely to be found in the shadows of her nightmares.

Who is Rafa? Who are the Rephaim? And most importantly - who can she trust?

Paula Weston's debut paranormal YA novel Shadows is the first book I've read as part of the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge. I came across this book while browsing the reviews from last year's AWWChallenge and decided to give it a try - mainly because I was curious. I've never read any of this type of paranormal fiction before, but as I'm fascinated with angels I knew this subject matter would be of interest to me. Besides, this year I plan to read a lot of genres I haven't read before!

Weston is a great writer. Not only does she create strong, believable characters but she also manages to keep the story moving along at a rapid pace while effortlessly revealing more and more of Gaby's past. Weston's writing held my interest and kept me turning the pages long into the night. She does a wonderful job of dangling only strands of the truth without giving away all of Gaby's story in this book (Shadows is part one of a series). I am invested enough in Gaby's story to want to read the next book when it is released later this year, so in that respect Weston has written a very successful book.

Even though I wasn't overly familiar with paranormal fiction prior to reading Shadows, the subject matter is handled with expert care which allowed me to suspend disbelief and accept the presence of angels, demons and hellions. I'm a huge fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, so I found it easy to imagine the supernatural world Weston creates here. This is also testament to Weston's writing and storytelling skill - not once did I lose my connection to her fictional world.

I loved the lead character Gaby because even though she's extraordinary, Weston has still made her a normal, ordinary girl that we can all relate to (even if we're not fighting hellions in our daily lives!) Gaby is capable and strong much like Katniss in The Hunger Games, and I find this wonderfully refreshing. To see a female being portrayed like this is especially important given that young girls will read this book. Gaby is a fictional character that is worthy of role model status.   

I also enjoyed the Australian setting because it was wonderful imagining angels and demons fighting it out on the beaches and in the mountain ranges of my home country! The Aussie humour was never far from the surface either which was enlightening given the seriousness of Gaby's situation. Weston's descriptions of her fictional surfer town Pandanus Beach were spot on and as I read I could picture any number of beachside towns in Australia. This made the 'reality' part of the novel much more grounded for me and gave me room to let my imagination run wild with all the supernatural stuff going on. :-)

I'm glad I chose to read Shadows because it really was a perfect introduction to this new genre for me. Shadows is the right mix of the supernatural and the real, and the story is exciting enough to hook you from the very first page. I look forward to reading the second book in the series and following more of Gaby's remarkable story. Paula Weston has a new fan! :-)    

Thursday, 17 January 2013

I is for Intention

It's week nine of Alphabe-Thursday!

I is for Intention...

Intention is all about living a conscious life. Rather than just letting things happen we can choose to set a positive intention and then go about our day with purpose. It is our intentions that bring meaning into everything we do.

Humans are powerful, creative beings who have the ability to use imagination and intention to manifest reality. When we set our intentions and visualize the life we want for ourselves we can create it. Intention guides our actions so we can design a life of purpose and fulfilment.

An intention is the focussing of our attention on a particular aim or goal. We can set a simple intention every morning to enjoy the day to the full. Or we can set much grander intentions for our lives as a whole - such as achieving success, finding inner peace or embracing love. An intention is a positive affirmation that keeps us on the path we've chosen.

A lot of people float through life never becoming aware enough to realise just how much power they possess. Whatever we focus on becomes our reality. We are all a product of our own beliefs and intentions. If you think the world is out to get you that will be your experience. On the other hand - if you imagine the world to be one full of compassion, love and all manner of magnificient things that will be the reality of your life. We all have the power of intention so why not intend for the world to be a happy place? Consciously choosing to live a joyful and loving life will bring us all infinite abundance.

Meaning, purpose and joy can all be found through intention. Decide what you want your life to look like, imagine the grandest reality you want to experience and then set the intention that you will, at any given moment, consciously choose this reality. It really is within your power.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Book Review: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki. Immediately he is transported back almost twenty years to his student days in Tokyo, adrift in a world of uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and desire - to a time when an impetuous young woman called Midori marches into his life and he has to choose between the future and the past.

I read this book as part of the Eclectic Reader challenge. One of the challenge categories is 'translated fiction'. For this I chose Murakami's famous novel Norwegian Wood because it was one of those novels I'd always heard about but never got around to reading.

Norwegian Wood is well written and engaging. I enjoyed reading it. It's a love story at its core but it is also much more than that. It's a coming-of-age story, a story of discovery. It's a story about memory and looking back on life to ponder who Toru used to be and what made him the person he is now. It's an exploration of those youthful experiences that guided the formation of his personality. In this respect it's an easy story to relate to.

Even though the novel is set in Tokyo, the location isn't richly described. The city really could have been any city, which does allow the reader to put their own imaginative stamp on the place as they read. And while music plays an integral part in Toru's experiences, Murakami's writing isn't particularly melodic or lyrical; he connects the reader to the music by listing a lot of song titles throughout the story. I've read other novels where music is such a powerful force in the story that it actually becomes another character. For me, Murakami doesn't manage this, but what his writing does do is to give the reader room to conjure their own memories of, or feelings about, specific songs.

I must say that at times I struggled to accept the accuracy of the English translation. I've been to Japan, but I didn't feel I was reading a book set in Japan nor featuring Japanese students. The book felt way too American - the culture, the language etc seemed out of place for a novel set in Tokyo. For example - sarcasm is used a lot by Toru and his friends; I don't see that type of humour being part of Japanese culture. Murakami may very well have intentionally written an Americanised novel, but because I can't read the original Japanese version I wondered if perhaps this was more a product of the translation process.

Norwegian Wood is a touching, melancholic story about first love, loss and self-discovery. It may be a simple narrative of one man's youth but it does deal with harsh realities such as death, uncertainty, mental illness, isolation and fear. There is a lot to grab onto in this story, a lot to think about. However, I felt these weighty issues weren't developed as deeply as they could have been. I wasn't blown away by the story, but I did enjoy reading about Toru because he's a likeable guy. This was a good introduction to the work of Murakami, but it's been said that Norwegian Wood is actually a departure from his usual style so I'd like to read another of Murakami's novels to see how his writing has evolved.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

H is for Heart

It's week eight of Alphabe-Thursday!

H is for Heart...

I believe the truth of who we are resides in our hearts. The heart is the home of our dreams and desires, our love and our passions. It is our heart that can offer us guidance when needed.

The heart chakra is the beautiful middle ground between our upper and lower chakras. It is the centre where we integrate the energies of both our physical being and our spiritual being. It is the site of unity. Our heart is where we can tap into our soul, our divine spark within, and connect to all that is. When we live from our hearts we can feel at one with others and our planet. We are no longer alone.

Opening our heart can bring us an abundance of love and joy. Our heart is our feeling centre. It is where we experience the magnitude of human emotions. The heart has its own rhythm and it is one bursting with positive, sensual, vibration. Allowing our hearts to guide us can bring us everything we desire.

Most of us are slaves to our brain - those endless thoughts that run through our mind, the stress that second guessing brings, the worry and fear that overloads us at times. Our brains have their place in our life, sure, but the most joyful, carefree, happy people in the world have learnt to make their brain work for them and not the other way around.

Have you ever been wrestling with a decision and asked your heart for the answer instead of your brain? Try it! Once I began to ask my heart for direction I felt a weightlessness come over me. Things started to become easier as my intuition awoke. I found my heart was able to answer me through my feelings. When I gave my heart the chance to speak up, my brain was automatically silenced. Only when I had my answer did my brain start talking again - and then it was to give me notes on how to make my heart's dreams come true.

Your heart holds your deepest desires and your divine essence. Trust in your heart's wisdom. It knows the best way forward for you. Just give it the attention it deserves. Love your heart and all of life's joy and wonder will be yours.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

G is for Grace

It's week seven of Alphabe-Thursday!

G is for Grace...

I've always liked Deepak Chopra's definition of grace - "the effortless flow of existence that comes when you are living in harmony with life, when the rhythms of your body-mind are in synch with nature's rhythms."

Have you ever experienced synchronicity - those coincidental moments where something you've been searching for miraculous presents itself, when all your desires are fulfilled, when everything just effortlessly falls into place?

That's grace.

I consider myself to be living in a state of grace when my life is full of harmonious blessings. At these times I am overflowing with carefree optimism - no dream or desire is out of reach. Grace brings profound happiness and joy into my world.

I see grace as living in alignment with my divine, spiritual nature. I believe God is love and this love resides within us all. The divine spark of love present in every human being is the same divine spark that exists in all life. Life itself is the creative power of the universe. Life and love are the two forces that bind us all together.

When we awaken to the flow of life energy and begin to appreciate our own divinity we can not help but live in grace. We become one with all and our movements synchronise with the dance of life happening all around us. This is when effortlessness takes over and we stop fighting so hard. We learn to 'go with the flow' and let things happen naturally.

Surrendering to the power of life's destiny can be hard at times. We long for something to happen in our lives and we push, and push, and push, until we wear ourselves out. But life doesn't have to be this difficult. Acknowledge that timing is everything, and that we can't force life to bend to our whims. Instead we must harmonise with life and trust that our destinies will be fulfilled. As long as we follow our inner, spiritual guidance.

The divine spark within knows what's best for us. All we need do is listen to it, trust in its wisdom, and let the rhythm of grace carry us forward. 

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

3 Reading Challenges for 2013

Happy New Year! :-)

My new year's resolution is to get off my iPhone and get back into my reading. :-) Before the internet and smartphones I would always have my head stuck in a book. I miss that! Of course I still read a lot of books but in 2013 I'm making it a top priority!

There's no better way to do that than signing up for some reading challenges. And there is no point doing this halfheartedly. So I'm going to sign up to not one but three challenges. :-)

They are -

2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge 

In 2012 I only found out about the AWW Challenge halfway through the year. In six months I managed to read six books written by Australian women and I really enjoyed them! So this year I'm signing up in January to get a whole year's worth of reading in! :-)

I love this challenge as it allows me to support my fellow Australian women writers.

This time I have set my own challenge level. Which is -  to read and review 12 books in 2013. I will be reading a mix of genres. Books to be chosen as I go along.

2013 Eclectic Reader Challenge

This challenge is hosted by the wonderful Shelleyrae at Book'd Out. She's asking readers to go outside their comfort zone and read 12 books from 12 different categories. I like this one as it will get me to read genres I wouldn't normally.

The categories are -

1. Translated Fiction
2. Historical Mystery
3. Romantic Suspense
4. Made into a Movie
5. New Adult
6. Urban Fantasy
7. Dystopian
8. Memoir
10. Action Adventure
11. Humour
12. Published in 2013

Books for the Eclectic Reader challenge can be read in any order. I'll choose the books as I go along.

2013 Book to Movie Challenge

This challenge is hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey. This is a great challenge for me as it allows me to combine my love of reading with my love of watching movies! Yay! :-)

For this challenge I'll sign up for the Movie Devotee level, which is to read 6 books and watch their movies. As I've already watched a lot of movies that were once books, I decided to choose six books/films for this challenge that are all totally new to me. I have neither read the book nor seen the movie before.  

Here are the six books/films I'll be reading, watching and reviewing for this challenge (in no particular order) -

Never Let Me Go
The Prestige
Winter's Bone
Sophie's Choice
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I will be posting my reviews for this challenge over on my movie blog Back to the Film.

So there you have it. 3 reading challenges for 2013. I'm excited! :-)

If a specific book fits into more than one of my reading challenges, I will be combining them.

I'll be posting my reviews as I write them. Stay tuned...