Posted in 2019, Non-Fiction, Self-help

Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Last year, I volunteered to walk in the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention 5k Out Of The Darkness Walk. There was a booth there where a man was giving this book away. He said most people commit suicide because they can’t find their meaning. My friend, who volunteered with me, said David Foster Wallace (her favorite author) recommended this book as a must-read.

I believe the message was good: meaning will keep you going. Having him talk about his time in the concentration camps and what he experienced witnessing others fight and/or give up was very dramatic and well exemplified his theory. However, I felt the writing was very dry so it took a while to finish.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it. At one point, Frankl writes that a person “may remain brave, dignified and unselfish, or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal.”

 

And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.

I remember reading a book where the author said his mom told him that as a human, your purpose was to overcome your instincts. To be better. Therefore, if your instict is survival, you were to strive to be more than just that.

I always wonder how I will behave if I were imprisoned. It is such a good excuse to ignore all morals and just go with it. It’s easier than enduring the pain without lashing out. However, I know that if I make it out alive, I wouldn’t be proud of myself or my behavior. It’s why the Stanford Prison Experiment was such an eye opener.

When I watched the first season of Orange Is The New Black, I remember thinking “how freeing must it be to let your filters down. To just go full mental.” I, of course, realized that this was only a show and that real prisons aren’t as lenient or fun as the show makes it seem, but the idea of not needing to care about your personality felt like a burden has been removed.

But a personality is very different than that of an identity. I think this whole book was focusing on remembering your identity throughout the situations. To never falter who you are for what is convenient in that moment. Frankl was spared from being treated badly because of who he was and how she expressed himself. He wasn’t preferred for any other reason.

The salvation of man is through love and in love.

As someone who has struggled defining what love is, this seems extremely discouraging. However, I do understand that love has some mystical powers that no other emotion has. It drives people insane. It gives them courage. It warms. It pains. It is the most difficult thing to explain.

A prisoner who had lost his faith in the future–his future–was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay.

Depression, basically.

We have to consider that a man who has been under such enormous mental pressure for such a long time is naturally in some danger after his liberation, especially since the pressure was released quite suddenly.

This is a good definition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Surviving is only the first part of the battle. Finding how to move on is the war.

What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.

 

The existential vacuum manifest itself mainly in a state of boredom. Now we can understand Schopenhauer when he said that mankind was apparently doomed to vacillate eternally between the two extremes of distress and boredom.

 

Self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.

In other words, find a passion.

What can never be ruled out is the unavoidability of suffering. In accepting this challenge to suffer bravely, life has a meaning up to the last moment, and it retains this meaning literally to the end.

 

Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness.

(Frankl believes that the answer to the meaning of life is being responsible.”Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”)

 

Featured image from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4069.Man_s_Search_for_Meaning

Posted in 2018, 2019, Children's Stories, Fiction

Maleficent by Elizabeth Rudnick

I must confess, I started reading this book during Thanksgiving 2018, in order to get away from my family. I was reading out loud in order to tune out the conversation being had in the living room. My niece overheard me and came to the room. Then my other niece came and they just became my audience, equally engrossed in the story.

Eventually, the day ended and I was only 50 pages in. Afterward, every time I visited, my niece wanted me to read to her.  This became her new bedtime story. My niece is 10 years old and loved the story.

I am not 10 years old but I too enjoyed the story. I did see the movie so I knew how it ended but it’s still fun reading about it. I love books where the villains are really good people (Wicked changed my perspective on the world).

I was never a fan of Sleeping Beauty when I was younger. I thought it was a joke that she fainted from pricking her finger in a spinning wheel. I didn’t understand the story very much and to be honest, the dragon, in the end, scared me (now I love dragons).

However, Maleficent is far from boring. The love story between her and Stephan is gag-worthy but the betrayal is juicy. Now, I do see how incompatible it is to have a good faery named Maleficent. They should have given her a name, then changed it to a Maleficent after she placed the curse in Aurora. A good example would be how Elphaba (in Wicked) was Elphaba before she became the “Wicked Witch of the West” (The Wizard of Oz). Let Maleficent be the name of her legacy, not her real name.

Spoilers ahead:

This book, unfortunately, did not have enough character development. I would have loved to see more chapters with Diaval and Maleficient alone just to gauge their dynamic without interruption. I would have liked to read more chapters with Aurora in the Moors to know exactly when Maleficent fell in love with her (as a daughter of course). I would have liked to read more about her childhood just to contrast how much she has changed. I wanted to get to know Maleficient more as a character and not just a victim of circumstances.

This book was released a month before the movie came out. I understand it was a marketing technique from Disney to get fans excited. I understand that the book is based on the movie and not the other way around. I still enjoyed the story so I could let it pass, but I do feel they have a great character and should do much more with her. With that said, there is a sequel to the movie coming out October 18, 2019, so, fingers crossed that they do her justice.

Featured Image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21949771-maleficent

Posted in 2018, Fiction, young adult

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

I read this book because Entertainment Weekly said the author was just as good as J.K Rowling. In my opinion, that was untrue. J.K Rowling spends her time writing in great detail to set the scene. It’s one of the advantages of writing in 3rd person.

Since this story is in 1st person point of view, it’s harder to set the scene. I like the idea behind the story, but I am not a fan of the execution. For one, it felt rushed. I was okay with the timeline being rushed since it had a purpose. I was not okay with the love being rushed.

Prince Inan fell too hard for Zélie. There was no obsession turned into feelings that the hunter usually gains for his prey. They also had no chemistry other than the mutual fear for and of each other. Adeyemi tried to portray this prince as a complicated character but in reality, the princess should have had the crown. She was best friends with a maji and she saw her getting killed by her own father. Prince Inan just had to compete for his father’s approval. Yes, giving him powers (which the King strongly loathed) was a great detail to his character, but not enough to value him as a narrator.

Princess Amari was a great compliment to Zélie. Amari was genuinely nice and naive, yet fierce. Zélie was distrustful, selfish and paranoid. This isn’t a slight at Zélie’s character. She saw her mom being killed for having magic powers. Her father kept getting threatened and taxed by the people of the palace. She grew up in a tough world. Having Amari and Zélie become friends would make for a dramatic story of how friendships can overcome differences. However, that’s not what’s happening. Zélie has only tolerated Amari because it was in a prophecy. Amari tries her best to be nice but it goes unrewarded until Amari became of use to Zélie. Again, not a slight, just an observation. I look forward to what see what the sequel has in store for these two.

I will hand it to Ademeyi. Creating a world in which the magical are oppressed and feared is indeed thrilling. Having them slowly regain their power is heartwarming. I am excited to read more of this world.

Now here are some of my favorite quotes:

“On earth, Sky Mother created humans, her children of blood and bone. in the heavens she gave birth to the gods and goddesses. Each would come to embody a different fragment of her soul.”

Poetic.

“Showing the princess what it looks like when her life is actually in danger!”

Back story, Amari (the princess) was telling Tzain (the brother) that her life was in danger. Zelie became angry because she has this stereotype that this princess is a weak spoiled brat who doesn’t know any hardships. This is a good attribute to show in the book. How it’s easy for people to jump to conclusions based on very limited information.

The sears on my skin are nothing compared to the guilt that scalds my heart.

Whoa! Deep.

“But he wasn’t wrong to take magic away. He was wrong for the oppression that followed.”

I feel like this is a suitable argument for gun control (given that this book is already political enough). Funnily enough, when I read this passage, I didn’t know this book was meant to be a statement about Black Lives Matter.

“Your people, your guards–they’re nothing more than killers, rapists, and thieves. The only difference between them and criminals is the uniforms they wear.”….
“Fool yourself all you want, little prince, but don’t feign innocence with me. I won’t let your father get away with what he’s done. I won’t let your ignorance silence my pain.”

Another political statement.

 

Featured Image taken from Goodreads

Posted in 2018, Fiction, LGBTQ, young adult

Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

This was awful. I, at first, really liked our protagonist Leila because…what’s not to love? Persian closetted lesbian who hates working out and is constantly feeling disappointed with the fact that she will never be better than her older sister. All traits of an interesting character.

Then we meet the possible love interest whom we don’t really get to spend time with knowing because we are too busy being in Leila’s fantasy world whenever she is around her.

Tess, Lisa, Greg and the tech crew were far more interesting than the love interest. But because she was so infatuated with Saskia (the love interest) we don’t really get to know more about them other than surface identities. But that whole fantasy fiasco ends as quickly as it started and it just feels like a bad soap opera that is trying too hard to be dramatic. I wish there was more substance to the story…to the main character.

It just all felt…fake (and yes I know its fiction). It felt like a dream where you lose track of time but the story still keeps going and dragging you along with it. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t really boring….but it also wasn’t impactful.

Oh! And the ending is so abrupt! That was perhaps the most painful part (I actually screenshot it and texted my friend texting “what the fuck”.) I mean, if you want to be cheesy….then own it. No shame in cheesy endings but…abrupt endings? Now unless there is a sequel (or spinoff…preferably in Lisa’s perspective) to this, I feel robbed of a world.

We were barely getting to know the real Leila…the Leila not hidden from the world or the fear of her parents lack of undestanding and we get absolutely nowhere with that freedom. I mean come on! There aren’t that many stories with Middle Easters lesbians and we only got a glimpse of it. Nothing new (except the language) that I haven’t read from other religious characters realizing they are gay.

It wasn’t all bad though. I liked how the author kept slightly foreshadowing the ending so when it gets to it, it’s a sigh of relief. It’s cute (butterfly in stomach, blushing kind of cute). But it’s really not worth the read. She just spent her attention in all the wrong places. But maybe that’s the point. I know when I was a teenager I focused on all the wrong things. Which if that was the point to the story, then this book is actually brilliant! I, personally, just wanted more out of her already interesting characters.  She paints a picture but never finishes is. If this were a movie, it would be great! Straight to the point and everything. But as a novel, we (well, the author anyway) have more freedom to tap into more lives.  But maybe she didn’t want to overcomplicate things.

Either way, probably wouldn’t recommend this one. Then again, I’m not the targetted audience. I feel like the targetted audience spans from 13-16 year olds.

Posted in 2018, Fiction, LGBTQ, Romance, young adult

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

This is the second book of Sara Farizan that I’ve read. I wasn’t too impressed with the first one, but I gave this one a shot anyway. I’m glad I did because I thought it was great (at least in comparison with Tell Me How A Crush Should Feel).

In this book, we have Nasrin and Sahar keeping their love a secret because, in Iran, homosexuality is punishable by death.  But since they are best friends, no ones thinks any differently that these girls love hanging around each other.

Conflict: Sahar’s parents have arranged her to marry a man.

Solution: Nasrin attempts to try to change her gender (because being a transexual is legal in Iran, did not know that) so she could marry Sahar instead.

This books is funny, emotional, entertaining, slightly annoying (it’s not uncommon to be annoyed of a character when you are binge reading first person point of view.) but overall educational on the experiences of a teenage Iranian coming to terms with the injustice.

One thing I did like about this book is that both characters loved each other equally, although they showed it in different ways. There was no pity love. There was no “I’m better than you, and I can have anyone I want so you better be good to me (which is how I first thought Sahar’s character would be like).” Both character were committed to each other, but circumstances got in the way.

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.

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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 Non-Fiction, Self-help

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Psychologists have concluded that the need to feel loved is a primary human emotional need.

Child psychologists affirm that every child has certain basic emotional needs that must be met if he is to be emotionally stable. Among those emotional needs, none is more basic than the need for love and affection, the need to sense that he or she belongs and is wanted. With an adequate supply of affection, the child will likely develop into a responsible adult. Without that love, he or she will be emotionally and socially challenged.

When your spouse’s emotional love tank is full and he feels secure in your love, the whole world looks bright and your spouse will move out to reach his highest potential in life. But when the love tank is empty and he feels used but not loved, the whole world looks dark and he will likely never reach his potential for good in the world.

If that excerpt doesn’t encourage you to read this book, it might not be for you.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman has been recommended to me countless of times but I refused because I thought it would be boring.

I was wrong.

It is insightful and well written. It not only helps you define your love language, it helps you understand your partner’s and how to manage their love language.

If you are in a relationship, plan to be in a relationship…or want to form better relationships with friends, collegues and/or relatives…this book is a wonderful tool to use.

There is a test in the end where you can find out your language and I must say, I was somewhat surprised about my main language. I guess subsconsiously I knew what it was, but I assumed a different one. Now I know. Now I can express myself.

Now if you don’t already know, the languages are (in no particular order):

  1. Receiving Gifts
  2. Words of Affirmations
  3. Physical Touch
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Quality Time

I feel they are pretty self-explanatory on their own, but this book deepends the definitions and circumstances.

People tend to criticize their spouse most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need. Their criticism is an ineffective way of pleading for love. If we understand that, it may help us process their criticism in a more productive manner.

Guilty!

I am significant. Life has meaning. There is a higher purpose. I want to believe it, but I may not feel significant until someone expressed love to me.

See….it’s not about low self-esteem…it’s about a low love tank. This is probably one of the few self-help books that don’t say “everything you need is inside you” or “you just need to love yourself.” Chapman understands that we are a creature of community.

“Perhaps it would be helpful for us to distinguish between love as a feeling and love as an action.”

Now this is powerful because, if you were like me,  you tend to confuse the two. This book contains examples on what both look like.

Overall, this book will help you grow, if you stick to it, and you apply it to your life. However, it will require patience getting through because, like most self-help books, it gets repetitive!

Feature image was taken from the Goodreads page