Believing in reincarnation makes me happy

There is nothing in this world that fascinates me more than the notion of past lives, the idea that there is an infinite part of us that reincarnates, takes form, time and time again to learn, grow and develop.

This is not a new passion. I grew up in a family that is carefully atheistic – there’s probably nothing out there, but you never know. From as far back as I can remember though, I felt that I was here for a specific reason, that I chose to be here, and that physical death would not be the end of me. Living again and again always made sense to me.

When I was in my teens and early twenties, I pursued this interest, read lots of books, and generally basked in the feeling of being different than the mainstream. I was into the esoteric for the wrong reasons and my interest was easily thwarted.

Under societal pressure to finally become an adult, I gave it all up. Well, except the books. Even though I’ve moved a dozen times, I never had the heart to give up all those fascinating, magical books.

I worked hard to get a degree, start a career, hold down a respectable job. I bought a house, got married and had a baby. And, although I love my life and wouldn’t change it in any way, I ended up still wondering about what else there is, why we are here, if there is a higher purpose to life.

It’s these questions that led me back to the magic I lost when I decided to fit into society. Thinking about them helped me find the courage to start figuring out who I really am. I rediscovered some of my former passions, and started exploring the notion of past lives again. It still makes sense to me and I live every day grateful that I am here to experience the beauty of life and this world.

I try to approach problems as obstacles on my path and take the time to explore the deeper questions I care about. I see lessons in everything, learn all I can, grow every day. And I’m starting to help others discover their own paths, learn their own lessons and overcome their own obstacles.

Linking my life to an eternal soul that reincarnates helps me live a happier, more fulfilling life because the things that happen to me make more sense as part of a bigger picture. And that can’t be a bad thing.

* This post was inspired by Michael Newton’s The Journey of Souls, a book about what happens between lives, based on information obtained through regression therapy. Only recommended for those for whom it feels right, I’m not here to convince anyone of anything!

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Have I gone off young adult literature?

The number of young adult books I’ve read in the past few months and not enjoyed has been disturbing me. I used to love YA because of its complexity and depth, and because I didn’t get to read quality YA when I was a teen. Does my new attitude reflect a change in me?

I think it does. I think I finally dealt with the issues that were leftover from my teen years. I no longer struggle with that feeling of being different, not belonging, and I don’t need YA books to show me that I have something of value in me even if I don’t fit in.

My own issues were not the only reason that I loved YA though, so I’ll continue reading for the great stories. Maybe I’ll just skip the most angst-y ones.

Here are some YA books that I read recently:

imageJenny Pox by JL Bryan
This is the story of Jenny, a girl who can’t touch any living thing because she gives them pox, which eventually kills. She goes to a regular high school and is shunned by her peers, even though her power is a secret. Then she meets a boy who is her opposite and things start to make sense to her.
I was attracted to this story and the more I read the more I loved where it was going. Except for one scene at the end, which I thought was too much. It was creative and interesting and I like the ending that linked the story to the sequel. But I didn’t connect with Jenny like I wanted to, I wasn’t drawn to her issues.

imageLooking for Alaska by John Green
This is about three friends in a boarding school, as they try to figure out who they are and what’s important. I’ve seen loads of rave reviews of this, and maybe that’s why I was slightly disappointed. I understood the whole fascination with the most beautiful girl in the world, and I agree that books like this one, that include young people coping with tragedy, have to be written. I liked the characters, they were genuine, even the beautiful girl was flawed. I loved that the main character’s hobby was collecting last words. That was great. But I wasn’t as bowled over by my first John Green as I wanted to be.

imageWanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
A teen girl goes through a painful break-up and takes off to travel around South America. She ends up backpacking, makes unexpected friends, and finds love where she was sure none existed. A simple story with a simple message.

 

 

imageEvery Day by David Levithan

I loved the concept in this one, about a boy who doesn’t have a body, but instead wakes up in a different one each day. The story was fresh. I loved some of the different issues it explored, like can you still love a person even if he completely changed physically. How much does the physical matter? Can we get past it to really see the person that’s inside?

imageHex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Sophie lets her magical powers get out of control and is sent off to Hex Hall, a boarding school for witches, fairies and shapeshifters. Soon she makes friends with the girl everyone suspects of murder and enemies of pretty much everyone else. I enjoyed this one, because I love the idea of a school like that. Just like I enjoyed the Gallagher Girl series, so much fun.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

howlI finally understand why people love this author so much. Howl’s Moving Castle is so fun to read, a fairy tale that’s not only for kids, a story that warmed my heart. And how timely  to have read it now so that I can review it for Diana Wynne Jones March organised by We Be Reading!

The story takes place in a magical world where pretty much anything is possible. Sophie, the eldest of three daughters and therefore destined for absolutely nothing (the eldest is always destined to fail), doesn’t have any expectations for her life. Until the Witch of the Waste visits her hat shop and turns her into an old woman. Now, free from rules and expectations, Sophie can go on an adventure of her very own. This leads her to Howl and his moving castle, where she makes a deal with Howl’s fire demon and ends up staying. While trying to break the witch’s spell she discovers more than she could have imagined.

What I loved most about Sophie is the change that happened in her when the witch made her old. She had always followed the rules and didn’t expect anything more than what she was entitled to, which in her world meant nothing. But then, when her whole world was taken away with that spell, she didn’t break down or despair, she got on with it and just did whatever she wanted, not caring who it pleased or displeased. It’s a great idea to put in a story, the ridiculousness of following expectations when you’re clearly capable of so much more. And the idea that when you grow up you’ll look at things very differently.

“It was odd. As a girl, Sophie would have shrivelled with embarrassment at the way she was behaving. As an old woman, she did not mind what she did or said.”

I admit that I loved Howl… I think I could have been one of those enamoured girls they talk about at the beginning of the book.

I also really liked the story. Some of it was predictable, sure, but it was still enchanting enough to hold my interest. And I loved the fairy-tale feel of the book, but without any of the sugary, almost forced sweetness you sometimes see in such stories. It felt like a fairy tale, like a crazy world that could never exist, and yet it felt real somehow, too.

It was comforting to spend time in the world Diana Wynne Jones built, and I would like to go back again. I understand that there are two sequels to this book, and I know that there is a famous movie.

Have you read/watched them? Should I bother?

Read this if you want to feel really good about your French

17227206I definitely feel very good about my knowledge of French now – I finally read a book in French! After 16 years of living in Belgium. It’s a miracle!

Many thanks to Larissa – I would not have discovered (or had the courage to read) Le Guide du Mauvais Père by Guy Delisle had it not been for her. She reviewed it on her blog, made it sound interesting and even lent me her copy. It could not have been easier than that.

Le Guide du Mauvais Père translates as The Bad Father’s Handbook and isn’t really a book, but a collection of short story comics about parenting. It is funny and rings true. My favorite one is of the Dad promising his son that the tooth fairy will come. But he  keeps forgetting, his evenings are too busy – he spends them on the couch watching TV series. Sound familiar, parents?

It hasn’t been translated into English, but the French is easy, so if you understand some you’ll be able to read it. I had to look a handful of words up and even learned some curse words in the process! 🙂

Here’s an example of Delisle’s humor. He’s asking: ‘Do you want to try?’

guide07
(credit)

Seriously, get this little book and bask in your inner multilingual genius, like me.

Delisle also wrote Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea which I think will be my next book in French (Thanks for lending me that one too, Larissa!). It looks a tad more serious than this one.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Reading this book was a pretty huge task for a person who finds classic literature daunting. Plus, at over 600 pages, it’s on the chunkster side. But I haven’t been doing very well with reading gifted books and I received this one from Iris as part of the All Hallow’s Eve book swap, so I decided to dive right in.

First a bit of background – The Moonstone is the precursor of the modern mystery novel and is set in 19th century England. It also introduces the character of an English detective for (I believe) the first time. The story deals with the theft of a precious Indian diamond and is narrated by various characters. Although the number of suspects is limited, the story is never boring. There is so much more to it than simply finding out ‘who did it’.

The first part of the book is narrated by Gabriel Betteridge, the house steward. For me this was the best possible start to the story, as Betteridge was my favourite character. How could I not love a man who seeks guidance in the pages of a battered copy of Robinson Crusoe? He also comes out with some hilarious observations, especially about women. Like this one:

“You make my flesh creep. Nota bene: women like these little compliments.” (p. 28)

Or

“When you want to comfort a woman by he shortest way, take her on your knee.” (p. 36)

Despite these views, he really is a loveable character with a great voice. And he truly cares for his mistress, Rachel, who is the one the diamond is stolen from. He never believes anything bad about her and always remains on her side.

I loved Rachel too and found her as witty as a Jane Austen character. She says of her upcoming marriage:

“I am marrying in despair, Mr Bruff – on the chance of dropping into some sort of stagnant happiness which may reconcile me to my life.” (p. 349)

I don’t know what it is about this statement, but it makes Rachel incredibly believable, rather than a two-dimensional outdated character. I can understand her. It’s writing like this that makes a novel a classic.

I also loved the common sense statements, like this one:

“Persons and things do turn up so vexaciously in this life, and will in a manner insist in being noticed.” (p. 32)

Persons and things do that now too!

So much in this story is funny. Not in itself, really, just in the way in which it is phrased. Like this:

It is not every day that we can meet an eminent person at dinner and feel that there is a reasonable prospect of the news of his murder being the news that we hear of him next.” (p. 362)

Honestly, this entire story was a joy to read, with a good story and witty use of language. I don’t know why Wilkie Collins isn’t more well-known, at least as famous as his friend Charles Dickens. In fact, their friendship makes me want to know more about Dickens. Well, that and also the fact that Joss Whedon likes him!