For most of his life, Bing has prepared ceaselessly to take the civil servant examinations, with little time for anything beyond the collections of texts that dictate political matters. Passing the exams would be the first step in following his father’s path, and also determine nearly everything else about his future. Finally, the day to begin them has arrived, and Bing faces the grueling challenges before him with understandable anxiety, but also a necessary determination. Outside of the exam compound, however, his focus is frequently drawn to a mysterious dream that recurs almost nightly, as well as a glimpse into history from his beloved grandfather.
In 18 Cranes by Robert Campbell, we’re introduced to Bing, his loved ones, and some of the traditions of village life in 17th century China. With an engaging narrative and colorful descriptions of Bing’s world, 18 Cranes does an excellent job of holding the reader’s attention, even while discussing a subject as mundane as civil servant exams. Despite a lack of any real action, the story never seems stagnant. Of course, there’s more going on than just rigorous testing. Bing is also suddenly plagued by a recurring dream, the meaning of which eludes him. The reader learns a lot about Bing and his relationships with his loved ones over the course of several expertly crafted conversations that examine each part of the dream, which always ends with 18 red-crested cranes ascending into the sky. The number 18 in particular holds special intrigue and multiple explanations are suggested for its meaning. To further the feeling of mystery, toward the end of the story, Grandfather Ai begins to tell Bing about the origins of their family. The short oral history is enough to stoke Bing’s stifled imagination. Restricted by his strict studies, Bing has never had the opportunity to read many legends or works of fiction and his curiosity, although kept under control, nonetheless exists. Grandfather Ai’s revelations also provide an interesting twist for the reader.
The uncertainty of the future is an overarching theme throughout the book and is explored through both tangible avenues, like Bing’s performance in the exams, as well as in deciphering the symbolism of his dream. There is also a considerable emphasis placed on Bing’s age, with repeated mentions that he could be one of the youngest people to ever pass the exams on the first try. Because of this, it reads a good bit like a coming of age story.
18 Cranes is subtitled “Kaifeng Chronicles Book One”, in reference to the village that Bing’s maternal ancestors came from. I’d be excited to read the rest of the series and follow Bing further through the avenues of his life. The abundance of detailed descriptions make it easy to picture the aspects of Bing’s village life, from the shores of West Lake to the flowers in the gardens. This book is an interesting and well written story that moves at a good pace.
Pages: 123 | ASIN: B07C8LC32H
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The Mystical Qigong Handbook for Good Health details one of the pillars of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Why was this an important book for you to write?
I believe that in our global society we are no longer restricted to one mode of medical care; that we can share and learn from each other. Further, Qigong is an ancient practice that offers incredulous insight into the human body and how it functions. I have utmost respect for tradition and the ancients.
It was nice to find a book that covered a variety of questions average people have about Qigong. What is one question you always get asked about this topic?
Can Qigong cure every disease?
What do you hope readers take away from your book?
That they should know the dynamics of the human body and how much we are connected to the universe; that we are inseparable.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am working on 100 paths to God, a compilation of published articles that I have written for the Gleaner company, one of the oldest media houses in the western hemisphere.
Qigong is one of the pillars of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It involves gentle hand movements, postures, controlled breathing and some visualization. Qigong is widely known to successfully treat a number serious illnesses, promote muscular-skeletal strength, increase circulation and promote overall wellness. The Mystical Qigong Handbook For Good Health offers simple but very effective exercises for all age groups.
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The Mystical Qigong Handbook for Good Health by Glenville Ashby goes into detail about how more people are turning to the East instead of focusing on pharmaceutical solutions that are pushed forward by the West. It focuses on the benefits of Qigong which is a holistic solution that focuses on coordinated body posture, movement and focused breathing. There are 12 benefits to Qigong if it is done properly and can meet many of today’s health challenges. It also has step by step pictures demonstrating how to properly do the movements of Qigong, which is helpful for people who aren’t sure how to do the movements.
I really liked this book as it gave an in depth and thorough look at a method I haven’t heard of before. Although the recommendation is to read the whole book thoroughly before attempting the exercise routine at the end, I felt like I had to give it a go. I’m not entirely sure that I did it right, but visualizing some of the aspects that are mentioned within the book gave me a sense of calm that I didn’t have before.
It was also nice to read a book that covered a variety of questions about Qigong. While reading about it, I initially thought that it sounded a bit like Tai Chi. However, the author has clearly realized that this is a similar train of thought for most people and covers this in the chapter ‘Qigong and Tai Chi Chaun: What’s the difference?’.
The style of this book is informative but casual. While reading this book, it feels more like you’re talking to a friend that’s very passionate about Qigong and has a lot of knowledge on it instead of reading a rigid textbook. I found it very easy to read due to a personal preference for this style of writing.
I also enjoyed the pictures of how to perform the fluid movements that are associated with Qigong. These diagrams made it easy for me to attempt to copy the movements and it helps that there are also written instructions.
One thing that I didn’t like about the book was that it implied a certain amount of knowledge about Qigong. As a beginner looking to expand my knowledge about Eastern health concepts, the book keeps mentioning Qigong but doesn’t explain what it is until the tenth chapter. As this book is about Eastern health concepts, people who aren’t open to expanding their minds about a different concept will not enjoy this book as it goes into astral travel and the third eye.
I enjoyed reading this book. I felt that I’ve expanded my view of the world and learned some helpful skills to deal with life’s stresses.
Pages: 100 | ASIN: B0722JVGNN
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Set against the backdrop of one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent history, A Tangled Web by ML Sparrow tells a tale of teenage angst and romance. A girl abandoned by her parents and twin brothers wrapped up in their emotions weave this tale of romance, betrayal and heartache. Hayashi Taiyo has lived with her grandmother since the death of her mother. She has grown up with twins Kita Ryuu and Kairi in the quiet little town they live in. Things start off soft and slow as we learn about their everyday lives. As with most teenagers, growing emotions and endless confusion seek to disrupt the delicate balance between the three. Two brothers who are as opposite as fire and ice and the girl caught between them. However a tsunami is coming and it will upend their lives in ways they couldn’t imagine.
This novella is just the right length. The relationships between the three who are caught up in the love triangle are delicately portrayed. There is just enough backstory to understand the past of the characters and their mindsets without feeling as though something is missing. The risk a lot of novella’s run is that there is not enough explanation. Sparrow crafts the tale in such a way that the small page count doesn’t detract from the story itself.
By using the romaji forms of several Japanese words in the story the reader can feel much more like they are experiencing every day life in Japan. There is a handy glossary at the back of the book but the sentences they are used in and the way Sparrow writes makes it easy to understand what the words are meant to mean. This saves the reader from having to flip to the end of the novella while reading.
The tsunami in Japan in March of 2011 was devastating. A force of nature that could not be stopped devoured lives and homes without regard. Sparrow indicates at the beginning of the novella which books they read to better understand what happened. By listing them out it allows the reader to continue investigating the event on their own time. This novella is a work of fiction and whether or not Taiyo and her twin friends Ryuu and Kairi actually exist is unknown. What is true is that there are people who lived through the tsunami just like our three protagonists did.
A Tangled Web because is a story about three young people who are trying to navigate the transition from childhood to adulthood. It’s a delicate journey and the severity of the tsunami serves to illuminate the fact that life will go on. The tsunami is like the tumultuous relationship between the three. It attempts to tear them apart, to drown them, and it will change them forever. It’s a lovely read for those who are interested in a coming of age story with a touch of reality.
Pages: 89 | ASIN: B01MRU67AN
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