Monday, April 14, 2014

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige


I'm actually writing a book review! I can't even remember the last time I did that. I'm also officially joining Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge with this post which I sadly should've done a month ago. In my head I joined a month ago if that counts >_ > There's no way I could miss it! I've been here for every one and I can't get over the fact that this is the EIGHTH Once Upon a Time Challenge! Thanks once again for hosting it Carl!

So, Dorothy Must Die. I have to admit that the marketing campaign won me over for this one. The cover of the book paired with the title was all I needed to buy this one. But the story itself more than holds up to the hype! It's a book that holds many parallels to the original Oz story, yet takes itself into much, much darker places.

Amy Gumm, a young girl from Kansas (sound familiar), wants nothing more than to get away from her life. She lives in a trailer with her drug addicted mother who would seemingly rather spend time with her pet rat than her. Amy is constantly harassed at school because of her socioeconomic class, a fact that doesn't bother Amy in itself (which I loved about her), but the constant bullying does get to her. Everything gets turned upside down one afternoon when a tornado comes through town, taking Amy with it and landing her in a world that seems oddly familiar to her. A world she's seen before in the movies and read about in books. Yep...she's not in Kansas anymore.

But this isn't the Oz that we all know. Dorothy came back to Oz after she went back to Kansas and much like Amy's mother is addicted to pills, Dorothy has become addicted to magic and has slowly drained Oz of almost all of it becoming a tyrannical leader along the way. The scarecrow, the tin woodsman, the lion and Glinda have become the leaders of her court, bestowing unspeakable tragedies upon the citizens of Oz. Seriously, some of the stuff in this book is just appalling.

When Dorothy hears about Amy, she instantly feels threatened, while there are others that see Amy as a way to rid Oz of Dorothy and restore Oz to what it once was. In return for her safety, Amy's given a mission by those who want Dorothy gone....kill her.

Oh if only things were that easy for Amy...and THAT'S why I loved this book so much. Because the answers aren't ever made that simple. Paige created a wonderful character with Amy. A character that's neither perfectly good nor evil. She has moments of guttural rage...towards her mother's addiction, towards the unspeakable injustices being done in Oz...and moments when she acts on that rage and you want to say "oh no Amy!" But then there are times when she steps back and sees the good underneath the seemingly complete evil in a situation too, where she questions how a rash decision might affect her and might affect others. In other words, she created a truly human character with all of her imperfections, something that's too rare these days in literature.

I also liked that there was no tiptoeing in this book when it came to death, addiction, bad things happening to good people, the bad guy winning sometimes, etc. I feel like that happens too often, not just in literature, but "entertainment" in general. And I get it to an extent...entertainment is supposed to be an escape for the most part. But I want my books to make me think and be a reflection of the real world too. And the good guy doesn't always win in the real world. But it's the lessons we take out of a situation even if good doesn't seem to prevail. And I like that Paige explored that some with this book. She reminded me some of George R.R. Martin with this book. I hadn't felt so unsafe with the lives of characters since reading Game of Thrones!

I'm also really happy that there will be at least another book in this world...I realized as the pages got fewer and fewer towards the end that this book was not going to end neatly. And while I was upset about that at first, I'm now looking forward to book two. And I'm excited too that there IS a prequel novella out there as an e-book about Dorothy's rise to power! About to go download that now ;) Great start to Once Upon a Time!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bummer of a Sunday

Hello friends. I'm here to write my monthly post which hopefully will become more regular with Spring coming on. As anyone knows who's followed this blog for any amount of time, me and Spring typically get along just fine when nature starts to show it's beautiful face and things start to bloom and I can start growing things. Some of what I did today to cheer myself up.

I had to give Max back to the shelter I adopted him from today. It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I've been telling myself for the last three weeks that I just had a really bad cold, but it had been getting progressively worse and it got to the point where I almost couldn't breathe, my chest had gotten so congested. When Charli, the stray, would come around before, she'd be in the house for 8 hours max, then leave, so I thought my allergies had adjusted. But they hadn't. I kept thinking I'd adjust to Max, but my chest was closing up on me completely and I was taking way too much medication :( It broke my heart for me and for him because we had bonded pretty quickly. When I brought him back today, the lady at the shelter who was amazingly sweet gave me a hug right away and told me "I can see this is hard for you." I felt like an idiot because I started crying right there at petsmart where they adopt. But I just couldn't help myself. I hope he finds a good home and a permanent one this time.

On top of that, I had to go buy a suit today in preparation for a possible funeral soon. My grandma who I'm extremely close to isn't doing well. She's actually made it longer than we expected already. But she's getting hospice care at home now. Knowing my grandma though, she could make it another year. Though it's not likely with what's been going on.

On the GOOD news front though, I planted things today!! I bought a blueberry bush! And planted it in a gorgeous turquoise planter that I found at a really good price. I also planted a couple of tomatoes, a bell pepper and a jalapeno. And I planted my herbs for the year a couple of weeks ago along with some flowers. I still want a house so damn bad just so that I can plant more and plant it in the ground where it can all have a permanent home. Container gardening is fun, but just not the same.

I'm discovering a love for essential oils too! My friend Sharon introduced me to Young Living and the many many uses for essential oils that I wouldn't have even dreamed of and just in a couple of days I've seen huge changes from them. They've helped my allergies, helped me sleep better, cleared out my chest, given me energy, they actually taste fantastic used the right way, you can clean with them, and so much more. I already have my mom wanting to get some too :p Anything that takes me away from more medicine and harsh cleaners is a plus in my book.

On the reading front, this month has completely blown. I have read one other book since my last review, Diane Rehm's Finding My Voice, and it really deserves it's own review. It's the first "wow" book that I've read this year. I love Diane so so so much. I listen to her show on NPR every day and she's benefited my life in so many ways and her memoir was so inspiring and so touching. The raw honesty took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting it, though at the same time, I shouldn't have expected anything less from her. I would've never known how much she's struggled with depression and anxiety without reading this book nor the abuse that she's overcome. She's certainly a fighter and reading her book really made me think that I should be taking each day as a blessing.

Right now, I'm reading Sedaris' Naked, but believe it or not, I've been reading it really slowly because I laugh too much reading it which makes me cough which hurts really bad. Hopefully that gets better now. I think I'm also going to start Melody Moezzi's Haldol and Hyacinths tonight, a book that I first heard about on the Diane Rehm show. And then next month will be all about Once Upon a Time!

How's everyone else doing? Sorry again that I've been such a stranger. Hopefully soon I'll be able to stop saying that at the end of every post and be back to my normal self!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida



Warning, possible long post ahead! I have lots and lots of thoughts on this one. For those who don't know what The Reason I Jump is, it's a look into the mind of Naoki Higashida, a 13 year old boy (at the time of writing the book) living with autism. Higashida is unable to effectively communicate verbally at times, so his mother developed an alphabet board that opened up a way for him to communicate with others, also allowing him to write this book. The book itself is a series of questions posed to Higashida such as "Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?" and "what's the reason you jump?" among many others, along with extremely short pieces of touching fiction written by Higashida. The book ends with a beautiful short story written by Higashida with the aim to show the reader what it's like to not be able to communicate with someone that you love.

Now...time for thoughts. Let me begin with this...I absolutely loved this book and I think everyone should read it, regardless of whether or not you have a child or loved one on the autism spectrum. There's something that all of us can learn from it not just about people with autism or other disorders related to the autism spectrum, but anyone with a disability.

I can hear the criticism a mile away for this book and I don't think it's completely undeserved. I think many a reader would be hesitant to pick up this book because they may feel there's danger in taking one child's experience and applying it to every child with autism. That's not what this book is about. It's not a text book of "how to deal with a child with an autism spectrum disorder." Rather, it's a look into Higashida's experience with autism and the few lessons that he does share with us, I think there is deep meaning in each of them and a true gift given with each of them.

There were a handful of lessons learned from this book that I truly think are applicable to not just all people with autism spectrum disorder, but to all people with disabilities in general. The main points that Higashida drives home are these:
  • He interacts with the world differently than us. It's important to understand something as simple as that. We know for a fact that people with autism experience their senses differently than people without autism. The feeling of clothing, the passing of time, the consistency of food. All of these things can be catastrophically unsettling to a person with autism.
  • People with autism have meltdowns. Higashida's descriptions of his meltdowns broke my heart to a million pieces. There were many many times in this book that he said that he hated himself. That that's what he was feeling when he has his meltdowns. And often those feelings of hating himself came from not making others happy. Those meltdowns can also come from the above though...from the co-occuring sensory integration issues. Higashida suggests that during these meltdowns, the best thing to do is just to let the person go through it but to "please make sure I'm not hurting myself or someone else."
  • People with autism don't want to be alone. Higashida talks about how he thinks that people think that people with autism enjoy being alone. He says that that's not the case at all for him. He says that he often ends up alone because he doesn't want to bother other people or because he can't effectively communicate with other people. The most important lesson here though is that people with autism need and want love just as much as everyone else. I remember when I worked as a personal care attendant while I was still in school, I would often work with kids with autism and this in particular would break my heart. The kids that I worked with with autism would just get alienated and people would think "well that's how they like it." And I think it's because they couldn't communicate verbally. But if you spent any amount of time with these kids, you'd quickly learn that they loved the company of others too.
  • People with autism don't like being talked to like they're younger than they are. Because a person can't communicate verbally very well doesn't mean that they're 10 years younger than their age. This drives me nuts. It's like when people yell at a blind person. It makes no sense. There's nothing wrong with their ears. There's no need to talk to a person with autism like they're a baby. 
  • Don't give up on us. This is another thing that Higashida says over and over again and another thing that broke my heart. Just the fact that he has to say that tore me apart. But really...have patience. It truly does take patience caring for someone with autism. I can recall being at a mardi gras parade with a kid I was caring for once who had autism and he just bolted in the middle of the parade! Right into the huge crowds and the floats. I panicked and when I finally found him I was furious and took him home and told him no more parades. After reading this book, I regret that. Apparently it's common for people with autism to do this. They wander and almost can't help it. And then I think back to Higashida saying "and then I hate myself for doing that" and now I wonder if that kid that I was working with felt the same way afterwards. 
These are just a few of the points made in the book, but as you can see, some of these things are things that we can all appreciate that aren't person specific. While this is a book written by a singular person about their individual experience, it also is a book filled with lessons that we can all afford to learn. And if nothing else, it's beautifully written. I don't think I could ever do anything but congratulate Higashida for writing such an eye opening book.

One thing that bothered me some was the way that some of the questions were worded. I would be interested in knowing where the questions came from. If they came from his peers maybe? That's almost where it sounds like they came from. Or maybe he posed the questions that he wanted to ask himself? But "why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?" really?? In his answer to that question, part of what he says is "This is one of those things I can't control. It really gets me down. Why can't I fix it?" I'm sure it doesn't help to have it pointed out as "weirdly."

I'll end this review by sharing my very favorite answer in this book. Higashida returns again and again in this book to his love of nature and I smiled every time he talked about it. He just radiates joy when he talks about nature. The question posed to him was "Why do you enjoy going out for walks so much?" Here's his answer:

"My guess is that lots of people with autism like walking, and I wonder if you can make out why. "Because walking makes you feel good?" "Because it's great being out in the open air?" Both these replies are true, of course, but for me the number one reason is that us people with autism love the greenness of nature. Now you might be thinking, "oh is that all?" However, our fondness for nature is, I think, a little bit different from everyone else's. I'm guessing that what touches you in nature is the beauty of the trees and the flowers and things. But to us people with special needs, nature is as important as our own lives. The reason is that when we look at nature, we receive a sort of permission to be alive in this world, and our entire bodies get recharged. However often we're ignored and pushed away by other people, nature will always give us a good big hug, here inside our hearts. 

The greenness of nature is the lives of plants and trees. Green is life. And that's the reason we love to go out for walks."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Happy Rainy Mardi Gras!

It's Mardi Gras day and sadly, quite the wet and cold one as well. Though that didn't stop the crowds from going out to the parades. It did however stop me :p I'm not a huge fan of Mardi Gras day to begin with though. Here's my sister on the right with a friend of hers:

Spending the whole day out in the rain with temps in the 30s getting hit with beads just doesn't sound appealing to me today :p But then again, if you're drinking all day, I suppose it makes things a little bit easier. Today also happens to be my little brother's birthday! Though he's not so little any more. He's NINETEEN today!!! I still can't believe that he's not a kid anymore. Here he is on Bourbon street with his friends last night celebrating. That's him in the middle with his head lit up. Don't let him fool you, that's not a halo:


What have I done today? Well I got up early to ORDER TICKETS TO GO SEE TORI AMOS WITH ONE OF MY BEST FRIENDS EVER :D :D :D I preordered her new album on vinyl and with the preorder I got a code for presale tickets to her upcoming tour!! So we scored SIXTH ROW CENTER STAGE tickets! She's not coming to New Orleans, so I'm going a state over and seeing her in Dallas with Megan on July 29th! Can't wait :) In celebration, I've been listening to her all day. Under the Pink goes perfect with this mellow, overcast weather we've had today. 

 And of course, Max has kept me company. He's now warmed up completely to the apartment and if he's not cuddling up on my chest when I'm on the sofa, he's in my spot on the sofa :p It's entirely too amusing and perfectly sweet having a kitty in the apartment :) Don't know how I went so long without one now! Hope everyone else's week is going well! I'm off to read until dinner time now.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

I Haz A Cat! And Books! And Hi!

Hey everyone! Well I certainly didn't mean it to be over a month since I posted over here. I won't go into all of the details as to why I haven't posted in so long and as to why this year just hasn't started out so great, but what I will say is that today has been the best day of the year so far.

I've never been a cat person. You hear people say that all the time and I've always said the same. Until I met Charli, the stray I've been looking after, months ago. Charli instantly won my heart over when I met her and when she started coming around I suddenly discovered the unique personalities that cats have and just how loveable they can be and how wonderful of companions they can be. She hasn't been by in over a month now and needless to say, I've been worried sick about her. I've missed having a pet in the house too.

I knew Charli would never be an indoor cat all the time. She's an outdoor cat and I just don't think she'd have it being inside all the time. Though if I can get her to come back, she may just have to deal with being inside all the time. My time with her showed me that I wanted a cat with a sweet temperament that WOULD stay inside. I've been looking for a little while now. My friend at work texted me two nights ago from Pet Smart with pictures of a little 3 month old all black kitten named Maxwell that was up for adoption. I fell in love with him just from the pictures! He was found separated from his family at 5 weeks and the adoption agency has been looking for a home for him.

I went to meet him today and it was love at first sight. And the adoption agency was really great and super informative! He's neutered already, has his first two sets of shots and he's microchipped. And I'm keeping his name as Maxwell :) Yep, I brought him home! He's here with me now discovering the apartment and he's just precious! He's a big fan of my feet right now :p Here he is:



Isn't he precious??? I'm a little biased :p He seems to like books too as he's already toppled over a pile :p That pile would be the whole TEN books I read for graphic novels month. Yep...to show you what kind of year I've had so far, I only read 10 frickin graphic novels in all of February. Not because they were bad at all, just because my lack of motivation has been off the charts.

But in March, me and Debi will be reading memoirs/biographies/diaries/books of letters/anything else that fits that category. And I have a LOT of books that fit that category that I'm super excited about. The first is one that I just got and I'm absolutely in LOVE with it so far!! It's Tori Amos: Piece by Piece by Tori herself and Ann Powers. It's so wonderful and I can't wait to tell you all all about it. I'm going to be seeing Tori in July in Dallas and I'm so freaking excited about it that I don't even have the words for it!!!! I'm going with one of my best friends too and she's never seen Tori before. We share a special bond when it comes to Tori as well.

Ok...I promise it will NOT be a month before you hear from me again. Hope everyone is doing well! I've missed everyone so much!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I Have Been... 1/28/14

Writing: Well that's the problem, isn't it? I'm not writing much! It's not that I don't want to blog, it's that I don't know what the hell to blog about these days. I feel like I've been reading at a snail's place and aside from that, life's been pretty mundane and honestly just exhausting at times, so there hasn't been much to write about here on the blog. I got a beautiful five year journal for Christmas and I write in it when I remember to. So that journal may end up lasting a bit longer than five years in order to fill in the missing days ;) But here I am, writing finally.

Reading: Like I said, I've been reading at a snail's pace, but I AM reading! I finished a book, The White House Boys, last night by Roger Dean Kiser that I've been wanting to read ever since I heard an NPR review with the author. It's a horribly appalling account of abuse in every form that went on at a state run institution for years at a Florida school for boys and one man's tale of survival through it. Review coming soon. I'm also reading Paleofantasy by Marlene Zuk which is FABULOUS so far!

Listening: There always seems to be one or two albums that I'm heavily into at the moment and right now, those are the new Forest Swords album and the new I Break Horses album. Both incredibly good! I'm also in love with Beck's new single and can't wait for that album!!

Watching: So many of my favorite shows are ending for this season :( American Horror Story's season finale is tomorrow night and I can't WAIT for it, but I'm also incredibly sad that it'll be over because I LOVED this season. Same goes with Sleepy Hollow. I was sad to see the season in, but damn it's a good show! I'm a sucker for Project Runway and all of it's various spin offs, so I'm enjoying Under the Gunn too :)

Looking: For a new job? Not really...if only it were that easy. I could spend an entire post (multiple posts really) bitching about my job, but I won't. Sadly, there aren't many mental health jobs at all in Louisiana so I'm lucky to have the one I have despite how much I despise that place sometimes. So maybe I'm looking for acceptance? Looking to be able to let things slide off my back a bit more easily? Yeah...looking for that.

Learning: Balance. Trying to learn balance which is so much harder than what it sounds like. I want so badly to get back to how life was a few years ago. When I found the simple pleasures in keeping up with blogs, having my time to myself to exercise, to read, listen to music, go out with friends, yet still maintain my job with my sanity, keep up with the cleaning, and do it all seemingly with what I remember to be a smile on my face. I know I've been there before so I know I can have it again. It's just relearning that behavior.

Feeling: Meh. 

Anticipating: FEBRUARY!!!! Because it's graphic novels month :D So this is one thing that has me super duper happy! I've made a pile of 42 books that I plan on reading and yes, my plan is to read ALL OF THE BOOKS! I don't think I've ever read 42 books in a month, but one can hope right? February has quickly become one of my favorite reading months of the year :) Also greatly anticipating April as I requested the entire week of the readathon off :D 

Wishing: That we get some snow tonight! It's currently snowing by my apartment and we're supposed to get 3-5 inches of snow up there but I won't be there to see it as I was told I had to come to work, and when I got to work was told to go home so now I'm down here stuck on the southshore where it MIGHT snow. Right now it's just nasty ice. Hopefully I get to see some snow out of this though!

Loving: Life....despite the things I can endlessly complain about and the things that can be completely overwhelming at times, there is always the good too. And I can always return to this little place and feel like I'm back home again.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Life In Bullets

  • Things have been fairly good lately. I'm learning that sometimes you just have to throw things out into the universe and hope that things work themselves out. Not that life is always that easy. In fact, it's rare that life is that easy but it's nice when every now and then the universe throws something good back at you, isn't it? I guess what I'm learning more than anything is to recognize these things when it can sometimes be much much easier to notice all of the other crap.
  • Charli has been coming around again! Not that she had disappeared for long, but she did disappear for about two weeks which I guess stray cats can do sometimes. But here's one for you....when she showed up again, she showed up with a pink collar on! Now I'm wondering if I've been taking in someone else's cat....I'm leaning towards no for a few reasons...she had her kittens out in the wild...she still roams out around the apartment complex...and I think someone actually may have gone and gotten her fixed during those two weeks that she was gone because she's been sleeping a lot when she comes over and looking like she's having healing time. The collar has no identifying information on it either. I think someone may have put it on her so that she doesn't get picked up by animal control. Even though she stays here most nights now, she's sort of the "apartment complex cat". It's really cute...I'll see her playing with all of the kids by the play area, she'll hang out by other people who are outside smoking. Everyone over here loves her :p 
  • I've finally gotten some reading done! I've been focusing on Long Awaited Reads and even though my reading has been completely shitty this year so far, it's been quality shit. I started with A Cool Moonlight by Angela Johnson which was a beautiful little story about a girl with a rare disorder that doesn't allow her to be out in the sun. It's quite the magical little fairy tale of a story that's both heartwarming and bittersweet at the same time. After that I read a graphic memoir, Stitches by David Small, which I've been wanting to read for quite some time! What a great book! But what a heartbreaking book too. It tells the story of the author's childhood growing up with two parents with issues of their own leaving him severely neglected to the point where it affected his physical health, eventually leaving him without a voice, both literally and figuratively. Highly recommended. And then I literally just finished The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros and wow! This book has a little bit of everything in it...I laughed, cried, felt angered, hurt and the whole story is so endearing. Told through the eyes of a young Latino girl in Chicago through short chapters, it encapsulates the experience and gives a voice to many that isn't heard enough. So many beautiful, poetic passages in this one. 
  • I checked out Stitches along with a few other books from my local library. I'm telling you this because I finally, after living here almost two years, got a library card! It's ridiculous that I hadn't gotten a library card before now but there's a reason. I had intentionally not done so because my TBR is so huge that I didn't want to be deterred from it. But then Debi went and convinced me that I had to read A People's History of American Empire and seeing as no bookstores had it, I decided to visit my library and pick up their copy. All of the librarians there are WONDERFUL! And so very friendly! Not at all like the librarians in the parish I used to live in who, sadly, were just rude and seemed to hate their jobs :( So glad I discovered my library :) They seem to have some great programs too! So maybe it'll add to my social life a bit too! 
  • Hmmm....I feel like I wanted to write about more stuff but that's all I can think of for now. Hope everyone is having a wonderful January! My local meteorologist says we have a chance of snow flurries Thursday night here!!!! While the mention of snow makes most of you groan I'm sure, it makes me super excited :p So keep your fingers crossed for me that I get the rare chance to see a bit of snow ;)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy Sunday

I had every intention of doing productive things today, but I've decided that it's a day of being non-productive. Which can be productive in itself sometimes when you're needing just that sort of day. I slept in late today, got a massage for the first time in three months, came home to decide what to do with the rest of the day and then said screw it....it's about to get really cold and rainy, I'm going to stay inside and read by the fireplace this afternoon!

We're about to get weather that we just aren't prepared for down here in south Louisiana :p The low temperature for tomorrow is 19 by me!!!! 19! That's the title of an Adele album, not a temperature! I do love the cold, but not that cold. I'd gladly take it if it came with some snow as I don't ever get to see snow, but sadly, no snow in the forecast. Right now it's 63 degrees, but that'll be dropping 30 degrees within the next three hours. From shorts to coats! That's the south for you.

So reading it will be. It's been a slow start for my reading year so far. I've finished one book, Patti Smith's Woolgathering, and it was quite a beautiful, surreal little book. It's her memoir of her childhood told how only Patti Smith can tell a tale. It reminds me of her music and her lyrics, powerful yet subtle and poetic.

For the rest of the month, I plan on reading Long Awaited Reads! Here's my ginormous pile of possibilities:

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle
Ratha's Creature by Clare Bell
Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster
A Cool Moonlight by Angela Johnson
The Secret Fruit of Peter Paddington by Brian Francis
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost
Voice of Our Shadow by Jonathan Carroll
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
The Red Market by Scott Carney
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo
Saplings by Noel Streatfeild
An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks
The Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie R King
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
the House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
The Summer Book by Tove Janssson
One for Sorrow by Christopher Barzak
Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams
Virgin by Hanne Blank
Code Name Verity
Little Boy Lost by Marganita Lahski
A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
The Enchanted Places by Christopher Milne
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
To Bed With Grand Music by Marghanita Laskhi
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Once by Morris Gleitzman
Dying to Know You by Adrian Chambers
Anna and the French Kiss
Castle Waiting Volume 1

All books that have waited far too long to be read and sadly many of them will continue to wait :( But random.org has chosen Ratha's Creature as my first book so that's what I'm currently reading! I hope you are all having a wonderfully cozy Sunday as well. Cheers to you all.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Wrapping Up 2013

Wow it's hard to believe that 2013 is coming to a close already, but my calendar tells me that it is indeed the truth. To be honest, I'm quite glad to see this year end and quite excited to see the symbolic beginning of a fresh start that January 2014 represents. I was surprised to see that my reading wasn't so bad this year. It was actually my second best year as far as the number of books read since I've been blogging. However, in other aspects of life, this year was for the birds for the most part. Though I did take a lot of good from the bad at the same time so I can't say it was a total failure. But without further ado, here you have it...my favorite 12 books of 2013...you know, because I can't ever just give you a top 10 :p They're in no particular order.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver - Such a very beautiful book with many layers to it. This was my first experience with Kingsolver's fiction and it won't be my last. The story of a woman trying to find herself and gain acceptance with herself while also being the story of the very real dangers of climate change and it's effects on the world around us. Loved it.

Wandering Son by Shimura Takako - So this is cheating a bit as I've actually read all five volumes of this endearing manga series about a young boy and a young girl who identify as a young girl and a young boy, respectively that have been published so far. It's easily my favorite depiction of transgendered characters that I've read simply because it doesn't focus solely on the characters being transgendered as many books do. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with that, but this series instead focuses on the characters as people with that simply being one aspect of their lives.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain - One of the most powerful books I've read this year. This book helped me accept and embrace little old introvert me more than anything else I've read and I've recommended it to so many people. I think it's common sometimes for introverts to feel "less than" or that we don't fit in. Cain shows that that's not the case at all, that our strengths are just as powerful as those of extroverts, just different.

Farm City by Novella Carpenter - I LOVE this woman and reading this book made me want to go buy a herd of goats, a pig and some chickens and start a farm in the middle of the city. It's not just the amazing farm that she created and the way she sustained it and the community around her, it's the person behind the farm as well that makes this book and this woman so loveable.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - What can I say that hasn't been said about this book already? Simply the best characters I've read in so long and a hero of real people. God I love this book!

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger - I've come to really love Ellen Wittlinger as an author. This is another great story of a transgendered character coming into his own while those around him struggle to accept her for him. I love the way she was able to balance the seriousness and at times, harshness of the story with humor.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman - It's always a good year when a new Neil Gaiman novel comes out! This one was certainly no exception. I get scared sometimes when my favorite authors put out new books. I'm afraid they won't live up to my expectations. But I really shouldn't ever fear with Gaiman. This book was so very special and so very personal. Perhaps more so than any other Gaiman novel and I adored it.

Hero by Perry Moore - AKA, the book that made me cry more than any other book this year. If you haven't read this amazing story yet, read it. That's all.

The Color Master by Aimee Bender - Quite possibly my favorite short story collection I've ever read. I really loved every story in this collection and "Tiger Mending" has become one of my favorite stories ever. It resonated so very much with me and gave me a much needed jolt.

More Than This by Patrick Ness - Oh Ness. You did it again. This story was such a surprise. Not that I was surprised that it was amazing, because we all know that Ness writes amazing stories, it's just that the story itself and how it unfolded was a welcome surprise. So much unexpected wonderfulness in these characters, much heartbreak, and such a very real story despite it's dystopian theme.

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan - This story just struck home with me so much and meant a lot to me personally. Levithan continues to put out amazing, forward thinking books that never cease to amaze me and leave me begging for his next one.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed - I said that these books were in no particular order, but this is my favorite book of the year hands down. This book will stick with me forever. The last time a book had this type of effect on me was when I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, a book that changed my life. This one did the same. I read this at a time when I could relate to Strayed's need for time to process traumatic life experiences in a solitary way, pushing herself into new territories and redefining herself. So very thankful for this book and so very thankful to Ana forever for telling me about it.

And now for stats...there's still the possibility that I'll finish another book or two before the year is over, but for now, I'm closing the books for the year. If I read anything else, I'll just update the post. Here we go:

Total Books Read: 80 (Up 18 from last year)
Total Pages Read: 17,231 (Up 3,091 from last year)
Comics/Graphic Novels Read: 29 (Up 25 from last year.....ha!)
Nonfiction: 21 (Up 6 from last year)
Short Story Collections/Essays/Anthologies: 5 (Down 2 from last year)
Poetry: 4 (Down 1 from last year)
LGBT Themed Books: 14 (Up 5 from last year)
Written by Women: 36
Written by Men: 41 (Most balanced I've been since blogging!)
Chunksters (450+ pages): 2 (same as last year :/)
Average # of Pages Per Book: 215 pgs. (Down from 234 pages last year)

Overall I'm happy with my stats! Nothing really surprises me. I've been drawn to shorter books this year, and I've really enjoyed graphic novels this year too. I've also noticed a trend to nonfiction this year too and that shows in the numbers as well. I'm not making any particular goals for next year aside from ENJOY YOURSELF CHRIS! And I shall :) I'll be spending January reading Long Awaited Reads for Ana and Iris' Long Awaited Reads Month :D So excited about that! Wishing you all the most amazing 2014 filled with personal victories and of course, one amazing book after the other.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas Everyone!

What a year this year has been. I'm not going to bother going through all of the ups and downs of this year....suffice it to say that the spikes have been extreme. Ana wrote something in her post yesterday that struck a strong chord with me.  She wrote:
"I know the end of the year is an arbitrary division of time, but rituals and human-made markers do have their power, and for me the holidays are largely about pressing pause for a little bit and making sense of what it really means to have lived through another year. We think of what has passed and of what’s to come; we touch base with the people we love; we do a tally of sorts; and we fiercely hope we’ll all be able to gather again to do the same next year."
And I thought that was beautiful and so very true. The end of the year is really just the marker of another month on the calendar that's come and gone, but because of the power that we've given to the holidays, it does indeed give pause to look back and reflect and to sort of hit the reset button for the year ahead. It's like we're given an empty slate in a way and we have no idea what things will be written on that slate whether they are things that we can control and will write ourselves or the things that will be out of our control.

It's also a season that allows us to take stock in our lives. To look at how things have changed, how we've grown, how others have grown. Not that it's always a pleasant picture, but it's still a time when we can look at how different things are from Christmas' past.


Tonight we celebrated Christmas Eve at my Dad and Grandma's house as we do every year. That didn't change, but I noticed how many changes there were. My little brother, 14 years younger than me, was in town from college this year for Christmas eve. The boy who's diapers I used to change and spoil with mountains of gifts is now almost 19 years old and had a very small stack of gifts as he's at that age where he just wants money. Me and my sister are now both living in our own apartments for the first time. And it's hard to see the fact that this could be my grandma's last Christmas with us. None of that detracted from a wonderful night with lots of smiles. I thought of all of this while I was at my Grandma's and that's why I took the above picture. My sister, my brother and I haven't taken a picture together since my brother was probably 12. And we don't get together too often any more. So I wanted to have this.

Wherever you are, whatever you do, whatever has changed and whatever has remained the same, I hope that the holidays find your heart filled with warmth and comfort and that new memories are made and that smiles are shared among one another. This is my wish to you all. I'll see you all again very soon with my end of the year wrap up post and then hopefully MUCH more in 2014 than I have in 2013.