Posted in 2018, Fiction, LGBTQ

Minotaur by J.A. Rock

This book is very well written…but badly executed. I read it because, 1) I have a thing for bull drawings (see cover) and 2) it was featured in Pride’s month reading recommendation.

I personally felt as if it were two different books merged together. You have the book of the Rock Point home….and then you have the book of the Labyrinth. Both stood well alone, but combining them felt disappointing.

I would have settled for a longer book if it had better action. My guess is that the author originally wanted to make the labyrinth scene, but then fell in love with the back story and focused more on that than on the labyrinth itself.

The labyrinth, full of promise and spooky potential, was treated like a badly managed circus. It’s not that I have an issue that a complete amateur was able to survive the place, it’s that she didn’t even get hurt. Yes, she got tricked, but she, for the most part, suffered outside of the Labyrinth way more than she did inside. How then, can I be convinced that the Labyrinth is a scary place?

The flow of the second part of the book felt like those unnecessarily dramatic stories that you can read to children to scare them. This differs from the beginning which felt more young adult and self-actualization.  

Our protagonist, although a teenager, has the emotional mindset of a child. That’s probably what made her interesting. Child-like heart but adult-like brain (or at least she wanted to act adult, anyway).

The love interest isn’t really about love….but about need and want. That, however, inspired the best quotes!

The character development is uninteresting since regardless of the circumstances, they were all haunted by their pasts. The character relationships were well thought out though.

The Beast was probably the biggest disappointment. Maybe that was the point. To not give us such an obvious villain. Or clever yet, to instate that the real villain isn’t the Beast, but society. The Beast then, becoming relatable.

Favorite Quotes:

We are all a step away from goodness cracking  under our feet and collapsing us into villany.

Loss, violence, bullying, starvation, boredom, the promise of beauty or fame or sex–chances are there is something somewhere you’d turn wicked for. Innocence starts to look haggard with age, same as skin.

My tantrums, my rotten words, the joy my fists took in meeting flesh–those were to distract others from seeing all the spots the spear could go. Until one woman stripped me truly bare, and together we built an armor that rendered me both powerful and humble. It looked so right on me that seeing myself in it for the first time.

Rivulets of grief, sliding down their bones, blushes of it in their cheeks. They suffered because they were lonely in a way people seldom talk about, a way that affects grace and movement and dreams and memory.

Perhaps we believed that if we never acted like adults, we’d never be forced out into the wider world to confront the magnitude of our desolation.

Loneliness is like having a wound sewn shut with barbed thread. We close off the parts of ourselves that are open to others and pretend to embrace the privacy of our bodies–and yet we do the closing with something that will hurt every time we move. That will remind us of the secrets we’ve tried to stow away.

I didn’t give a shit about being pretty. Yet it’s hard sometimes, in a world that promises you the most basic treasures in exchange for being a looked-upon thing, not to wish your face had been a better construct.

A soldier-ish loyalty grew on me ivy-thick, and I started to feel less like an awkward angry child and more like a warrior, with followers and a destiny and a tortured soul.

Bad things, I thought, can’t hurt you if you pursue them with devotion.

I’d spent a fair portion of my life taking, but I could now see the appeal of doing the opposite. Could imagine that it was its own sort of power, to do murder on somebody’s heart with a gift.

That’s a little blunt

I think our wishes often get as muddled as dreams. In our wishes, people are their better selves and walls lose their permanence, and no matter how heavily we populate our fantasies with friends, with family, with lovers–we are ultimately in them alone.

I don’t know why it works this way–that we blame the one who shatters the illusion, rather than the illusion itself, or ourselves for buying into it.

Shame is perhaps both a form of self-pity and a form of loneliness. In the heat of embarrassment, it’s possible to believe you are the only one who has ever felt such guilt, such a profound understanding of what an impossibility evil thing the self is.

388073c6-914c-43fc-bda1-028dd50234cc-c2c6fc9d-a9ca-4363-8ef0-ed51522b6d12-v1 Love, love, love that one!

I didn’t want to be shy or delicate. I wanted to know what it was like to ravage a body with a misguided admiration for it. To know that skin got in the way of the truth of the person, and yet that truth, that soul, was untouchable, and so you had to settle for skin.

When you fall in love with someone, you fall in love not only with her face and eyes and heart, but with her vision of the world. Love leaves no room to stand back and pity another’s delusions. You share them. You join hands lying down and draw an arc across the sky and tell a story about what a cloud looks like, a story that becomes your shared truth.

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You can’t unleash an act of good to tame a tragedy.

It’s not that revenge has no place in the world. But we so often clamp our jaws around the things we think we want, while the real prizes escape between our teeth, slide down our necks in rivers and are lost in our skin.

I always thought loneliness must be a quiet thing. Up all night with frog sounds, wandering an empty room by day, resenting the sun squares on the floor. Guilt too seemed like it ought to be a silent kind of suffering. But what was going on inside me was a filthy and violent underground. Jeers and wagers and the sound of creature versus creature.

I do not want the truth gone from me. I do not want only stories. What stories do to heroes is edge out the things that make them bravest–their insecurities and wrongdoings, their trashing-tailed desire for self-preservation. The way they sharpen their love with a quiet, occasional contempt for the object of it. We paint heroes in broad strokes–nameable virtues and forgivable flaws. They brood, yes, but they are never paralyzed by self-loathing. They kill, but only monsters.

Courage without fear is simply recklessness.

I could have fucked her until our cries twined and drowned out the music of suffering.

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Miss Ridges had said once that reading meant nothing unless you could articulate what a story had given you. But I’d always disagreed–though I’d never found the words to argue. You didn’t have to be able to analyze to appreciate a story. You had only to be able to feel, deep in a place that didn’t deal in words, how that story was yours and everyone else’s too.

I don’t know which one I believe in.

“Violence starts as a discovery–of power, of ambition. Of a force that rests with its head against your heart. It is always there–a shadow, featureless. Until you turn a certain way, and the silhouette resolves itself. You see the nose, the lips, the curve of the shoulder. You see what you are capable of. You feel both the danger and the ordinariness of it. Because in the end, the blood comes out of each of us the same way. And one dead human, weighed against the world and the galaxy and everything beyond, means very little.” She paused. “Every act of violence is a disappointment before it even begins.”

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Overall, I don’t think I would recommend this book. The end doesn’t justify the means.

Featured image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25866851-minotaur

 

Posted in 2018, Discworld, Fiction, terry pratchett

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

This book was wonderful with wit. Reminds me of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It’s really hard to write a book review about it because I know that the Discworld is so detailed and I’ve only just read the beginning.

The book starts out with describing a turtle (whom I wish to learn about but it is not really mentioned in this book. We are then transferred into the world of the tourist, who originally communicated via punctuation (seriously though, what does an “!” sound like?). The tourist is taken into town where eventually he hires the services of the Wizard, that is when the fun begins. The Tourist is quite naive and ignorantly brave whereas the Wizard is extremely cynical and cowardly. They are the opposite of each other and both provide comic relief.

The footnotes make it feel like a textbook which makes this feel historical instead of fictional. Making Death a character is great! Scrofula is super cute, probably the funniest moment of the entire book (Even as I type it I know this is incorrect. Due to the recency effect, I believe that this is the funniest part, but I found myself thinking that same sentence over and over again)! Oh! And bringing back dragons but actually giving them an actual complicated history was well done.

Below are questions I’ve had during the book. I plan to read more of Discworld.

  • It’s a game?! With Fate? (Hahahahahahaha!!!!!)
  • Who is Octavo?
  • Do we ever find out more about Lady?

Favorite Quotes

“I used to be an exceptionally powerful wizard. My daughter poisoned me, of course. It is generally the accepted method of succession in our family”

I mean, come on! How funny is that!!!!!!

Ripples of paradox spread out across the sea of casualty.

Wow

Some pirates achieved immortality by great deeds of cruelty or derring-do. Some achieved immortality by amassing great wealth. But the captain had long ago decided that he would, on the whole, prefer to achieve immortality by not dying.

Logical.

But usually he didn’t bother the gods, and he hoped the gods wouldn’t bother him. Life was quite complicated enough.

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(Feature Image taken from https://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/34497.The_Color_of_Magic)

Posted in 2018, Fiction, LGBTQ

The Ghost Network by Catie Disabato

I’m not really into mystery novels but this one was worth reading. If you read the description on Goodreads where it claims it’s “Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl for adults” you’d be perfectly misled. I read Fangirl and this is nothing like it. Fangirl is a love story by someone obsessed with fanfiction and has low self-esteem and doesn’t believe these cute guys can actually like her (there is more to the story than that….it’s also about her figuring out her writing style, it’s about her relationship with her twin and coming to trust her roommate. It’s about her relationship with her parents. But this blog isn’t about Fangirl so I won’t go into detail). Although the Ghost Network does contain characters who are experiencing a loving relationship, the story is about the Situationists (which apparently was (or is) a real group that originated in Europe led by a man named Guy Debord.

This story starts out with a disappearance of a girl named Caitlin Taer, whose body they never recovered from the sea even though her friends, Nick Berliner and girlfriend (see, love relationship) Regina Nix made it back to shore after their (stolen) boat was recked (I should also mention that they were drunk at that time). Taer’s disappearance was a lot less of a mystery because everyone was still too busy trying to figure out where Pop Sensation Molly Metropolis has disappeared to. Molly was at the height of her Pop Music career when she disappeared before a show. Her body was never recovered and no one knew of her whereabouts. The only comparison I can make to Fangirl is that, whereas Cath was working on improving her writing, Molly was working on improving her music. Well, I guess the other comparison I can make is that where Cath was obsessed with Simon and Baz fanfiction, Molly was obsessed with the Situationist.

Molly obsession got the point where she was trying to figure out what the New Situationists (a new group of Situationists that originated, although rumored to be dismantled after one of their members, Mary Helen Krauss [she is not actually French] was arrested for manslaughter after a domestic terrorist attack went wrong.  The original plan was that they were going to blow up parts of the Chicago Public Transit System after working hours. Just to take the extra step, they pulled the fire alarm to make sure any homeless or security guards got out. However, in Krauss’ section, there was a sleeping security guard that didn’t hear the alarm and therefore….boom goes the guard. Krauss was sentenced to 25 years of prison.) were up to.

Molly persisted on befriending Nick Berliner (a known New Situationist) in order to get more information. Nick refused at first, but Molly persisted. When Nick went to discuss this with his girlfriend, Krauss (he visited her every week), she asked him to bring her (Nick did not know at the time that Molly had already visited Krauss, but they kept that a secret from him). Krauss asked them to find out anything they could about what that NS was planning. That’s when they found out that the Situationists were trying to retrieve all archives of the Chicago Public Transit System, those that existed, those that were planned but never built, those that were rejected and those that were just thought up but never presented to the board. With that, came the Ghost Network.

Caitlin Taer was a reported and a huge Molly Metro fan, so when she found out that Molly disappeared, she wanted to be the one to take on the report. That’s when she learned that a former high school acquaintance of her, Regina Nix, worked closely with Molly. Taer’s editors said that if she can get an interview, she can have the story. Taer contacted Nix and Nix obliged. That’s slowly how their love relationship started. They developed a friendship and then it developed into more…and pretty soon they were living together. Nix was depressed and wasn’t as interested in finding Molly as Taer was. Taer thought about Molly almost all the time. When Nix was asked to clean Molly’s hotel room, she asked Taer to come along and that’s where they found her journal. That’s when Taer’s obsession fully blossomed. That’s also how they come to know about Nick Berliner (his number was written in her journal). Nix also told Taer that Molly always read about the Situationists. Eventually, they befriended Nick and tried to solve the mystery of “where is Molly Metropolis.”

The story is written by a fictional Catie Disabato who was given the work of her mentor, Cyrus Archer after a car accident. He was writing the book on Molly Metropolis and her disappearance. Catie further investigated the matter in order to finish the book and find out the truth. It reads like a report and is sprinkled with footnotes. My favorite part is all the uncertainties of identities….and the fact that there is a secret society. I love secrets so, it’s no wonder I enjoyed this book.

It was suspenseful but also extremely detailed. Whereas the book synopsis claims it’s about finding Molly Metropolis, I honestly say she was just a piece to the larger picture and this book is really about discovering the Situationists. She goes into complicated detail about the history and intentions and I still don’t think I fully understand this organization. But the mystery behind it is what makes it appealing. The idea of a new world is what made it exciting.

This is definitely not a book I would recommend to just anyone. This reminds me of a much more middle school version of what Atlas Shrugged was meant to be. An awareness of human perfection. A place where intellect rules over popularity and status.

The cool thing is that this book feels real. They have current celebrity references (like Miley Cirus and Jennifer Lawrence…even Christopher Nolan is thrown in there). And in the acknowledgments, she even thanks Caitlin Taer and Regina Nix; her created fictional characters as if they really did undergo this great adventure that helped her discover this new world (which in a way, they did).

If I haven’t lost you already, here are some of my favorite quotes.

If you know a place, he realized, it’s no longer a trap.

 

Very often, when you meet a person for the first time, their emotions are really turned off. Even people who are really open, I’m not just talking about closed-off people. Most of the time, people don’t show you thier heaviest, deepest emotions the first time you meet them. I mean, they don’t want to show you that vulnerable part of themselves and you don’t want to see it. You don’t want them to see yours either. There’s a social contract between people who have never met before, to be some diminished version of yourself.

 

Debord was interested in a sociological study performed by Chombar de Lauwe in 1952, where de Lauwe strove to show that the average Parisian doesn’t live in a neighborhood so much as a small swath of the city determined by her won habits and preferences.

 

Most people are ready to suffer, as long as it’s for the right reasons.

 

 

These quotes make you self-reflect, don’t you think?

If you know any books regarding secret societies or mystery worlds, please comment and let me know. I’m starting to realize that I appreciate those book a lot more than the fantasy books that used to help me escape. I know Jules Vernes has books with secret worlds. But I don’t know of any others.

Posted in Becky Albertalli, Fiction, LGBTQ

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Leah on the Offbeat was hilarious to read. Not because it was funny, but because I guess the plot before even reading the book. I remember texting my friend what I thought it should be after I read the synopsis. I can’t say what it is because of spoilers.

Anyway, happy feelings aside, this book was different than Simon Vs The Homosapien’s agenda because (besides it being from the point of view of Leah) it wasn’t as happy…or innocent. Unlike Simon liking Blue, Leah liking her crush posed complicated ethical dilemmas. Also, Leah was not the way she was described by Simon. In Simon, Leah was this easily angered friend…whereas here, she was just sensitive (and no wonder, she had to deal with a lot of obstacles).

Leah and the Offbeat also slightly connect to Albertalli’s other book “The Upside of Unrequited” but it is not necessary to read in order to know what is going on.

Because I can’t write more without disclosing spoilers, I will go straight to quotes.

It’s that girlfriend feeling again, not that I’ve ever been anyone’s girlfriend. But I imagine it feels like this. Like I’m this tiny precious wanted thing. I can’t decide if I feel gross about that, or if I only think I should feel gross about it.

This feeling….I have never read it in a book before so it was…cute.

There’s a tug in my chest. Because when Bram says Simon’s name, he pronounces every part of it. Like it’s worth being careful over. It’s really sweet and everything, how wow, I get so jealous sometimes. It’s obviously not just Simon and Bram. It’s couples in general. And it’s not about the kissing stuff. It’s just — imagine being Simon. Imagine going about your day knowing someone’s carrying you in their mind. That has to be the best part of being in love–the feeling of having a home in someone else’s brain.

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I think I hate the concept of needing space. What it really means is that the person’s mad at you, or hates you, or doesn’t give a shit about you. They just don’t want to admit it.

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I used to think boners literally pointed in the direction of the person you’re attracted to, like a compass. That would be helpful. Mortifying as fuck, but at least it would clarify things.

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Let your guts hand out. I don’t even get that. Why would anyone want to live like that? Why would anyone want to live like that? Like it isn’t bad enough I’m always one breath away from falling apart. I’m supposed to fall apart under a spotlight?
It’s too much. And I don’t want to embrace the suck. I want things to not suck. And I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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“Do I want to love him enough that leaving him would wreck me? Yeah”

*speechless*

 

 

Posted in 2018, Fiction

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

I remember watching The Golden Compass movie when it first came out (before reading the book) and I thought it was soooooo boring!!! Now after reading the book, I understand why. The actors did a terrible portraying the fictional characters. The actors, themselves are usually good but in this movie, the only believable characters were the animals.

Therefore, it took a while for me to find the motivation to read it. If it wasn’t for a pen pal making a pack to read it together, I probably wouldn’t have opened it, regardless of how many people told me it was a wonderful read.

Now that I have read it, I agree with it. It’s fantastically detailed and filled with imagination. This was the first part of a 3 part series of His Dark Materials.

The details, in the beginning, made the story feel slow at first, but after our protagonist’s adventure began, it was hard to put down. I would definitely recommend it if you are a fan of the fantasy genre.

There was a moment in the book where the author really described a fearful event. To us, it would be a normal event but in the book, the occurrence is so unbelievable that I remember my eyes going wide. That is how you can tell a book is good. When you start feeling what the characters are feeling.

Here are some of my favorite quotes (spoilers below):

“Nothing will hold my hand, Margaret, save only judgement. If I stay my hand in the North, it will only be to strike the harder in the South. To strike a day too soon is as bad as striking a hundred miles off. To be sure, there’s a warm passion behind what you say. But if you give in to that passion,friends, you’re doing what I always warned you agin: you’re a placing the satisfaction of your own feelings. Our feelings don’t matter. If we rescue the kids but we can’t punish the Gobblers, we’ve done the main task. But if we aim to punish the Gobblers first and by doing so lose the chance of rescuing kids, we’ve failed.”

That’s why John Faa makes a great trusting leader. He commenced by saying when the times comes, he will because his heart is not soft, but it will be under judgment and not passion.

Being a practiced liar doesn’t mean you have a powerful imagination. Many good liars have no imagination at all; it’s that which gives their lies such wide-eyed conviction.

Hahaha, it’s an honest quote.

“Well, that seems kinda precipitate. Seems to me a man should have a choice whether to take up arms or not.”
“We have no more choice in that than in whether or not to be born.”

I feel like that’s life. You don’t get a choice on which war you get thrown in, you just get thrown and you have to do the best you can.

“There wasn’t really and Adam and Eve? The Cassington Scholar told me it was just a kind of fairy tale.”
“The Cassington Scholarship is traditionally given to a freethinker; it’s his function to challenge the faith of the Scholars. Naturally he’d say that. But think of Adam and Eve like an imaginary number, like the square root of minus one; you can never see any concrete proof that it exists, but if you include it in your equations, you can calculate all manner of things that couldn’t be imagined without it.”

Here they are talking about Dust. That when Adam and Eve ate the apple, their Daemons turned into one form instead of changing about like a child’s do. The twist here is that Dust started forming because the Lord said “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” as in, you will be filled with Dust (another cool argument is that someone argues that returning to the ground is God’s way of admitting his own nature to be partly sinful). Dust in the book is an elementary particle that surrounds kids after puberty. It is themed as original sin. One sentence that really struck was when he mentioned: “There was a physical proof that something happened when innocence changed into experience.”

I really like that the book focuses on the importance of Dust. In my opinion, it’s a metaphor for finding yourself. Lyria doesn’t want to grow up, and her pursuit of understanding Dust is her way of trying to figure out where she belongs. The people who inform her about Dust are ironically her parents. Given that Dust is proof when “innocent changed into experience,” it’s interesting to know that the more she knows about Dust (herself, her life…her place in the scheme of life), the more she is losing her innocence.

We’ve heard them all talk about Dust, and they’re so afraid of it, and you know what? We believed them, even though wecould see that what they were doing was wicked and evil and wrong…We thought Dust must be bad too, ebcause they were grown up and they said so. But what if it isn’t? What if it’s [good]?”

I love that logic 🙂

Posted in 2018, Fiction, Our Shared Shelf

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I read The Hate U Give because, not only was it constantly being advertised, it was the book of the month for the Our Shared Shelf virtual book club.

I was really excited to read it because one of my friends mentioned that it was an influential book for the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Now, in my opinion, if I didn’t already believe that black lives do matter, this book wouldn’t have convinced me otherwise.

The problem was that there was no connection to the main character. It’s not that she wasn’t relatable, because she was, at least for me. I can relate to not wanting to sound ghetto around white people due to the fear of judgment. I can relate to needing to separate parts of your world with different people. I can relate to constantly having the pressure of “which identity do I need to be right now” in the back of my mind that disconnects me from the moment and my reality. Very relatable, no connection though. That probably has to do with the fact that she is emotionally unavailable. She had to get hard because, well, her life has been horrible. Her family, as odd as it is (which I won’t go into detail as to why since it has little to do with my argument here, but it is rather interesting and is beneficial to the character dynamic of the book), is probably the only thing keeping her sane. (The rest of this blog contains spoilers) She watched two of her best friends getting killed….heck she watched one of her best friend getting killed when she was too young to process death, let alone murder. I can only imagine the emotional impact it can have on her. That’s probably a good cause as to why she had to shut down. She didn’t shut down in the angry teenage angst kind of way, more or less, she just stopped expressing herself. She expressed her thoughts constantly, sure. She expressed how she felt, or how she felt she needed to feel. But the majority of the time, she just felt like a narrator rather than a protagonist.

I get it. She has a painful story to tell, and if I were in her situation, I probably wouldn’t have had the magnitude to tell it. Maybe if she made Khalil more of a person rather than a memory, things might have felt different. I know that he technically was a memory…but the thing about the mind is that it can make memories feel real. She could have written him to be somewhat present. The way her aftermath occurred made it seem like she just underwent a very traumatic experience….if I didn’t know that he was her best friend, I wouldn’t assume that he was. It was too…detached. Or maybe she’s just more grown up than I am, but if my best friend was wrongly killed, I’d be broken to the point of dysfunction. That is why I couldn’t connect with her. If her emotions were a little more extreme it might have changed the whole story. If she were angrier, or more fearful, or even completely dead inside (this is a teenager we are talking about, after all…I’ve been there….it’s crazy) and she is acting all responsible. But, I guess the end result is that it got the message across. No matter how well you cooperate and follow the laws, black people still have injustice brought upon them. No matter how many right things she did, in the end, she still lost the war. So I would say that the protagonist here isn’t really Starr, but the black lives matter movement itself….leaving the antagonist to be the system.

“‘Pac rapped ’bout that stuff too, yeah, but he also cared ’bout uplifting black people,” says Daddy. “Like he took the word ‘[n-word]’ and gave it a whole new meaning–Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished. And he said Thug Life meant–”
“The Hate U Give Little Infants F—s Everybody.”

I didn’t grow up listening to Tupac. I only really know a few songs from him but I always knew he was a big deal….kind of like Elvis, Michael Jackson and The Beatles…although I didn’t grow up listening to them either. Suffice to say, I might not have the best music taste.

Regardless, I never knew this about Tupac. I asked a friend who loves him if this is true (because part of me thought this was just a theory from the author…kind of like the gang theory from Harry Potter [also mentioned in the book…which makes total sense and that’s somewhat the reason I liked the series]) and she said it’s true (even if it weren’t true, that wouldn’t take away from the book. It’s a cool saying). Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because, since it is true (according to my one source, so don’t take my word for it), I feel like all his work in the progression of black people has gotten lost somewhere. I don’t mean black people in general. I mostly mean the hip hop artists, whom, instead of using the N word as an empowerment tool, they use it to bring other’s down. The usage of it in the songs these days is similar to using the B word. There is no grace to it. So it’s sad that Tupac made it meaningful, and that these new artists, whom claim to be inspired by Tupac, are shattering that legacy.

Now thug is an appropriate acronym. I do believe that, even though we try to act otherwise, we are affected by how others view us and treat us. We become the product of our environment. It’s why we love stories with underdogs, and going against all odds and other unreal things that don’t normally happen to the average person. We are amazed by the unordinary because we are prone to become numb to our surroundings. People settle. It happens. We let our dreams die. When our dreams die, it affects the world. Think of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” There was a plan for your existence, and if, for whatever reason you stop honoring that path, it affect the world…directly or indirectly.

“This neighborhood makes young men deaf to their elders”

The truth to this statement caused me to pause and digest. Sometimes, when the situation seems overwhelming, we stop listening to wisdom and start listening to the fastest way out. I don’t blame Khalil for needing to sell drugs (before we knew the real reason). When people are taught to believe that you won’t accomplish much, you look for a way out. You think you will be an exception. You think you’ll figure it out the way no one else has done so before. Life is extremely personal and it’s hard to believe that you are just a vulnerable piece in the game of life. Elders are wise from their experiences and obseravations. Youth blinds us to time because the pressure of it feels deathly.

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

One of the reasons I loved reading this book is because the family had strong moral values…well….to an extent. It’s hopeful to read about people continually trying to do good regardless of the circumstances. It’s easy to give in to the darkness, and this family kept trying to be better…to do better even after they’ve already made countless mistakes. George W. Bush made a speech where he said “Self-correction is the secret strength of freedom. We are a nation with a history of resilience and genius for renwal.” That’s essentially what the characters in this book embraced. It’s refreshing. I’m always reading books where characters are trying to justify their actions but here….they face the truth, as ugly as it is and learn from it.

I also liked that the main family had to fight off racism…not just from the cops…but internally as well. Starr had to face dating her white boyfriend after a white cop shot her best friend. She knew it was wrong to judge him by his color, but…it is what it is. There is this invisible line when two cultures (whether ethnic or religious) merge of what’s appropriate and not appropriate. Starr refused to let any of her white friends in on her personal life…and she doesn’t introduce her black friends to her white friends. She is certain they wouldn’t understand (and there is truth to that) but she doesn’t even give them a chance. She, without realizing it, judged them. It happens. The question though is whether or not you let arrogance rule your thoughts. She learned to try and see the best in people regardless of the exterior. Great character development.

Daddy once told me there’s a rage passed down to every black man from his ancestors, born the moment they couldn’t stop the slave masters from hurting their families. Daddy also said there’s nothing more dangerous than when that rage is activated.

As a minority, I often find myself livid about the injustices of the past and the present. I can’t really explain why that happens, or why it feels so strong….but this works as a possible explanation.

I don’t know if I would recommend this book. It wouldn’t be for everyone. I would recommend watching the movie though. Although it hasn’t been released yet, the trailer pretty much gives the story away. Frankly though, I’m displeased at the direction they took of Khalil’s last moments…with him reaching for the brush. The way it was written in the book was so much more…intimate. His last moments were of him worrying about Starr…whereas in the trailer, it seemed he care more about impressing her, or showing off. Won’t know until the movie comes out, obviously.

Posted in 2018, Fiction, John Green

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

In my personal opinion, this book didn’t pick up momentum till a little after the middle. I picked to read this book because I heard it was sad and that it was John Green’s greatest book yet. Sadly, it did not live up to the hype. (My fault, really, for submitting to the hype.)

But let’s talk about what the book did get right. It introduced a character, Aza Homes, that has a mental illness. She has a strong case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder mixed with anxiety over germs. She has a callus on the fingerprint of her middle finger that she keeps bandaging throughout the book. She opens the wound, thinks it’s infected, cleans it and wraps it up again. She developed the callus because once upon a time, her mom told her that she knows she’s real if pinching herself hurts. That turned into a bad habit. Being inside Aza’s head is difficult if you’re not used to overthinking. She has thought spirals and constantly thinks she’s dying. Reading this book in the waiting room of a doctor’s office was strangely comforting.

The storyline was not interesting at all. Russel Pickett is a billionaire fugitive CEO that goes missing on a day of a search warrant. There is a hundred thousand dollar reward for any information that will lead to his capture. Daisy, Aza’s best friend, wants to get that reward so she convinces Aza to help her since she know’s Russel’s son Davis. Daisy and Aza are high schoolers, mind you. This is not a detective story. It’s just two girls trying to solve a crime police officers can’t. They try to put the pieces together until love gets in the way.

The relationship between Daisy and Aza was great. They are uncommon best friends and when they argue, it’s very developing. My favorite parts where with them actually talking through their feelings instead of pretending everything is okay. They are both selfish in their own way.

The relationship with Davis and Aza is sad. Mostly because of all they’ve lost and how, based on those circumstances, they have a silently strong connection with each other.

The relationship with Aza and her mom is, well, typical. It’s not that different from other single mom stories. The mom is worried about her teenage daughter, the daughter is trying to conceal her mom from worry.

This book is very monotone (well, up until the intersting part in the middle of the book). At least that’s how it felt like.

Favorite Quotes (Contains spoilers)

Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills.
-Arthur Schopenhauer

This is at the beginning of the book. I just think it’s a good quote. It basically means that just wanting something is not enough. Something that most people don’t understand. Especially if you have a disorder of some kind.

At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution on the north side of Indianapolis called White River High School, where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time–between 12:73 pm and 1:14 pm–by forces so much larger than myself that I couldn’t even begin to identify them. If those forces had given me a different lunch period, or if the tablemates who helped author my fate had chosen a different topic of conversation that September day, I would’ve met a different end–or at least a different middle But I was beginning to learn that your life is a story told about you, not one that you tell.
Of course, you pretend to be the author. You think, I now choose to go to lunch, when the monotone beep rings from on high at 12:37. But really, the bell decides. You think you’re the painter, but you’re the canvas.

This is a long quote. Well, this is actually the first page of the book. Aza, herself is an interesting character to venture on such an uncommon story. If you’ve ever had an out of body experience, this is pretty much the feeling. You don’t necessarily feel in control of your life. It feels like you are just a victim of the circumstances rather than a human being. Already, I fell in love with Aza’s thought process. What this book lacked in storytelling, it made up with fantastic thoughts. It’s possible that the storytelling would have been better if it were in the mind of Daisy, Aza’s StarWars Fan Fiction blogging best friend.

The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.

Not to mention, the deeper you go, the harder it is to see the light to find your way out. One of my favorite quotes is “My mind is dangerous neighborhood, I have to remember to bring a friend.” Although friend’s aren’t quialified professionals, sometimes their mere company alone helps. Aza admitted that it was easier to get distracted when Daisy was around. However, depending on your friends who do not understand your situation is not a full proof method. John Green wrote instances about that as well.

I would’ve told her that Davis and I never talked much, or even looked at each other, but it didn’t matter, because we were looking at the same sky together, which is maybe more intimate than eye contact anyway. Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.

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“Your brain seems like a very intense place,” Mom answered.
“It’s just weird, how this is decided by someone I don’t know and then I have to live by it. Like, I live on someone else’s schedule. And I’ve never even met them.”
“Yes, well, in that respect and many others, American high schools do rather resemble prisons.”

True…and hilarious. The only difference is that in high schools, thinking won’t get you killed…maybe bullied…but not killed. But that’s not the point. Our justice system since that incarceration is the only way to teach discipline.

“I’ve got a theory about uniforms. I think they design them so that you become, like, a nonperson, so that you’re not Daisy Ramirez, a Human Being, but instead a thing that brings people pizza and exchanges their ticket for plastic dinosaurs. It’s like the uniform is designed to hide me.”

Daisy is correct about uniforms. It’s to make you into one entity and not into a being. It why they are called uniforms and not costumes.

I remembered Daisy throwing daddy longlegs at me because she knew I hated them, and I’d scream and run away, flailing my arms but not actually scared, because back then all emotions felt like play, like I was experimenting with feelings rather than stuck with it. True terror isn’t being scared; it’s not having a choice in the matter.

It’s why we are afraid of situations we feel powerless in. But still, let’s take a moment to digest that. Also, I like how she ackowledged that she was experimenting on feelings. I had to go through a phase like that where I thought I was supposed to find certain things scary, or gross or whatever just because that’s what “girls” do. I feel like, regardless of gender, a few of us experiment on acting the way our family excpects us to act than how we really want to act. Of course, that might be a good thing when teaching about values and filters…but it’s counterproductive when teaching about personalities.

“Our destiny is coming into focus. We are about to live the American Dream, which is, of course, to benefit from someone else’s misfortune.”

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“Whether it hurts is kind of irrelevant.”

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I have these thoughts that Dr. Karen Singh calls “intrusives,” but the first time she said it, I heard “invasives,” which I like better, because, like invasive weeds, these thoughts seem to arrive at my biosphere from some faraway land, and then they spread out of control.
Supposedly everyone has them–you look out from over a bridge or whatever and it occurs to you out of nowhere that you could just jump. And then if you’re most people, you think, Well, that was a weird thought, and move on with your life. But for some people, the invasive can kind of take over, crowding out all of the other thoughts until it’s the only one you’re able to have, the thought you’re perpetually either thinking or distracting yourself from.

Ladies and gentlement….thought spirals!

If I die weep at my grave every day until a seedling appears in the dirt, then cry on it to make it grow until it becomes a beautiful tree whose roots surround my body.

This is just funny. Daisy is such a drama queen.

“I don’t mind worriers,” I said. “Worrying is the correct worldview. Life is worrisome.”

YES! AGREED!!! I want a t-shirt with this saying.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
-William James

Aza later complains that one can’t always just simply chose a thought. I agree with Aza on this one. But it’s a powerful quote nevertheless.

Me: I is the hardest word to define.

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“I’ve noticed you use that word a lot, crazy. And you sound angry when you say it almost like you’re calling yourself a name.”
“Well, everyone’s crazy these days, Dr. Singh Adolescent sanity is so twentieth century.”
“It sounds to me like you’re being cruel to yourself.”
After a moment, I said, “How can you be anything to your self? I mean, if you can be something to your self, then your self isn’t, like, singular.”
“You’re deflecting.” I just stared at her. “You’re right that self isn’t simple, Aza. Maybe it’s not even singular. Self is a plurality, but pluralities can also be integrated, right? Think of a rainbow. It’s one arc of light, but also seven differently colored arcs of light.”

I really liked the conversations with her therapist…especially because her therapist was witty too.

“If taking a pill makes you different, like if it changes the way-down you…that’s just a screwed-up idea, you know? Who’s deciding what me means–me or the employees of the factory that makes Lexapro? It’s like I have this demon inside of me, and I want it gone, but the idea of removing it via pill is…I don’t know…weird. But a lot of days I get over that, because I do really hate the demon.”

The struggle with accepting mental disorders.

“I guess I just don’t like having to live inside of a body? If that makes sense. And I think maybe deep down I am just an instrument that exists to turn oxygen into carbon dioxide, just like merely an organism in this…vastness. And it’s kind of terrifying to me that what I think of as, like, my quote unquote self isn’t really under my control?”

I remember having similar thoughts, although not so detailed, when they taught me about the cognitive functions and all that jazz. How is it that the most important thing for us to do to live, we have no power over?

“Nobody ever says anything is too bad to be true.”

Ha! Guys, let’s start saying this! Actually…I’ve said something similar to this. One of my friend’s used LOL in a depressing text and I asked her why. She said because it was hard to fathom that it was real. That’s when I said “yeah, it sounds too horrible to be real.”

It’s a weird phrase in English, in love, like it’s a sea you drown in or a town you live in. You don’t get to be in anything else–in friendship or in anger or in hope. All you can be in is love. And I wanted to tell him that even though I’d never been in love, I knew what it was like to be in a feeling, to be not just surrounded by it but also permeated by it, the way my grandmother talked about God being everywhere. When my thoughts spiraled, I was in the spiral, and of it. And I wanted to tell him that the idea of being in a feeling gave language to something I couldn’t describe before, created a form for it, but I couldn’t figure out how to say any of that out loud.

False. You can be in fear, lust, depression, denial…there’s a lot of emotions you can inhabit. Love just happens to be the most song-inspiring.

“I like short poems with weird rhyme schemes, because that’s what life is like.”

I don’t….because that’s what life is like. I want poetry to take me to a new place. However, every now and then, I do appreciate realism.

I could feel the tension in the air, and I knew he was trying to figure out how to make me happy again. His brain was spinning right alongside mine. I couldn’t make myself happy, but I could make people around me miserable.

That last sentence is one of my biggest fears. As the youngin of the family, I grew up with the feeling of being a burden. So that particular sentence hit me hard.

“There’s a moment,” she said, “near the end of Ulysses when the character Molly Bloom appears to speak directly to the author. She says, ‘O Jamesy let me out of this.’ You’re imprisoned within a self that doesn’t feel wholly yours, like Molly Bloom. But also, to you that self often feels deeply contaminated.”
I nodded.
“But you give your thoughts too much power, Aza. Thoughts are only thoughts. They are not you. You do belong to yourself, even when your thoughts don’t.”
“But your thoughts are you. I think therefore I am, right.”
“No, not really. A fuller formation of Descarte’s philosophy would be Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum. ‘I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am.’ Descarted wanted to know if you could really know that anything was real, but he believed his ability to doubt reality proed that, while it might not be real, he was. You are as real as anyone, and your doubts make you more real, not less.”

I never knew this about Descartes and his philosphy. I like it!

Every loss is unprecedented. You can’t ever know someone else’s hurt, not really–just like touching someone else’s body isn’t the same as having someone else’s body.

Thank you! This is true!

“What I love about science is that as you learn, you don’t really get answers. You just get better questions.”

Never thought about it like that. Reminds me of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Chewie and Rey are accompanied by a blue-haired girl named Ayala, whom Rey describes as “my best friend and greatest burden.”

So….burden issue…re-triggered.

I expected the sight of Daisy to piss me off, but when I actually saw her, sitting on the steps outside school, bundled up against the cold, a gloved hand waving at me, I felt like–well, like I deserved it, really. Like Ayala was the thing Daisy had to do to live with me.

I have conflicting emotions with this.

“There’s no self to hate. It’s like, when I look into myself, there’s no actual me–just a bunch of thoughts and behaviors and circumstances. And a lot of them just don’t feel like they’re mine. They’re not things I want to think or do or whatever. And when I look for the, like, Real Me, I never find it.

Identity issues. I can relate.

So you would, and in writing it down you realize, love is not a tragedy or failure, but a gift.
You remember your first love because they show you, prove to you, that you can love and be loved, that nothing in this world is deserved except for love, that love is both how you become a person, and why.

The “why” part struck me as unusual. What are your opinions on that? I disagree but I don’t know why. Maybe because I don’t believe that love should define your why’s. Maybe because the love I’ve known in my life was never explanatory. Or maybe because I was thought love was a tool to help-build your character, but never the answer.

 

Featured Image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35504431-turtles-all-the-way-down