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, Non-Fiction

My Own Devices by Dessa

Dessa is one of my favorite underground rappers. She was recommended to me by Spotify and I was not disappointed. Her verses are smart, raw and poetic….her book is no different. If you could add background music to this, I’m pretty sure we can have ourselves a musical.

The story begins with love: love of a person and love of an artform. It transitions to experience and it ends with acceptance. We are rewarded with sprinkles of complex moral and philosophical ideas.

We learn about the start of Doomtree and their touring routine. We learn about Dessa’s past work experience and we even get a front row seat on some family history. My favorite thing of all though is when Dessa lets us into her brain. This woman has experimented with science and spirituality (do not confuse it for religion) and has been molded into an observational thinker. She thinks about things that wouldn’t normally reach topics of conversations at dinner parties. It’s addictive, really.

She always ends each chapter with a statement, question or observation. It always feels profound and creative. She holds time and meaning between the pages. This is definitely one of my favorite non-fiction books this year. I would definitely recommend this.

Now, some of my favorite quotes:

“I wanted to be considered a success and I wanted to be on the right side of a hard fight. But I wasn’t sure what job or even what field to pursue.”

For any person who ever had unguided ambition, this quote is extremely relatable. We aren’t afraid of hard work, we’re just afraid of pointless tasks. We don’t want to waste our time. Time becomes a theme in this book.

Finding a place that aligns our spirits and our abilities is one of the hugest struggles we fight.

“Stage was a place for all of the outsized feelings that didn’t fit neatly into daily life. “

I mean, wow! This is so true. When I was in band (marching band…not a cool rap group like Dessa), I remember always feeling better after the performance was over. That first breath after knowing I survived yet another performance was always sweeter than the others. Playing music is therapeutic. You never realize how many troubles get released until you become deflated after giving it your all. The reason why muscle memory is so important for performers is because we need to rely on our instincts. We become our most vulnerable self when it comes to art.

“There’s no best-practice handbook for the pursuit of unlikely dreams.”

Bumper sticker idea! Or a shirt idea.

“This is the Tinker Bell model. She’s only real because she is clapped into existence. The children refuse to entertain any alternative, and the force of their desire and their determination has metaphysical consequences.”

Same as Santa Clause. He is real. I will fight you on this.

This model is also why the Wizarding World of Harry Potter became so big. People’s need for this type of reality to exist transcends any reason.

“When I first had that idea, it kicked back like a shotgun I hadn’t known I was holding.”

Thoughts can be deathly. Once aware, it’s hard to hide.

“Lonliness is the fare that you pay to be free.”

I remember this conversation would appear a lot in both my high school psychology classes and in all my English classes. What does freedom mean? Freedom means the right to feel. It’s why in every dystopian and utopian novel, emotions are always controlled. They instill fear, or they instill a promise of safety. But to be free to think can lead you into a rabbit hole of inner turmoil and self-doubt. Eve bit the apple and found that she was uncomfortable with her mere existence. We risk unhappiness and separation from our community when we pursue the path of knowledge. Alcoholics drink to forget. Book readers read to remember. Remember that in the end, this is all worth it. To remember that our loneliness only goes in vain if we stop trying.

“The sense of purpose squared my shoulders and liften my chin. Purposeful might be my favorite feeling–even better than happiness.”

Yes! I have a lot of coworkers who tell me that being charitable makes them happy. I wish I could say the same thing but, I’m a bit more selfish than they are. However, being charitable gives me purpose. I’ve felt happy and I’ve felt purpose…and I can tell you that it’s a lot easier to sleep when you know you belong and that you have a reason.

“It’s impossible to know which stories are crusual to your narrative until the story is over.”

I love this quote because I always think of this whenever I’m in the pursuit of new friendships. Some people are worth having in your life because they shape you (again, I’m not afraid of hard work). Some people are just there to help the time pass by. Some are just there. Each adds to the overall story, but some become mentors to a lesson you didn’t know you needed to learn. It’s amazing to be aware of each interaction and how it shapes you. It’s amazing to see how you, in return, contribute to their story.

“Even if you dodge all the landmines and retain the starring role, you might find yourself in a story that wouldn’t interest you. That’s why I don’t buy lottery tickets: I’d hate to win. A million-dollar jackpot would pivot my whole narrative on five random numbers–that would be the biggest story of me, the one I’d ask to tell at cocktail parties with my new rich friends and it’d be one that would strain all my phone calls with my old poor friends too. A story signifying nothing.

My concern isn’t about legacy, exactly. That’s an old man’s game. It’s more about agency, about trying to minimize the role of chance and maximize the role of will. If you can’t parse the merit from the luck, it’s hard to know what to think of yourself.”

“But I didn’t want to conceptualize myself as a quicksand pit of changing variables. I wanted something permanent, stolid–a cinder block of a self.

Maybe self works like the word here— the referent changes as you maneuver through the world. You just drag the word along, like PeterPan with his shadow sewn to his heel.”

This was just mental foreplay, really.

“If there are heaven, and it has walls, I doubt they’re hung with mirrors. Maybe we wouldn’t be able to pick ourselves out of a lineup. Maybe we wouldn’t recognize ourselves from any other red-lipped angel passing on the stairs.”

When I read this I imagined cars. Like dealership cars. Where they all look the same in the lot, and what makes it yours is when you get to decorate it the interior (i.e, we all have bodies but it’s our characteristics that define us). It’s also why, when it’s really dark, a lot of people just look for cars that look like theirs and can approach the wrong car.

I also don’t think our self-conscious isn’t really aware of our looks which is why our dream bodies are usually different. 

But then there is an argument to be made with trans people. They don’t relate to the body they have, so trying to personalize the car feels awkward and suffocating. So if there was a line-up, they probably wouldn’t want to choose their given bodies.

But do we get to choose? Or is like, our bodies are created for our souls? What about people that have out of bodies experiences, but then get to return to their bodies? Or people who’ve actually temporarily died and then were resuscitated, could there have been an instance where the spirit returned to the wrong body. But then that implies that reincarnation is real. And the whole theory that when one person dies, another one is born, the soul could transfer over.

What are your thoughts on it? I am for sure overanalyzing this.

“But the art that really blows my mind usually violates the assumption I didn’t even realize I’d made, eliciting some variation of Holy Shit, I didn’t know you could do that.

Basically, anything that alters my reality and rewrites “impossibility” is what I define as art. I can go to a museum and stare at the sculptures and portraits and think “this is talent, but not memorable.” Then there are those that scratch that itch of curiosity.

“Nobody gets to save up their health and beauty for redemption at a more convenient date. Living more or less celibate and alone, I feel like I’m squandering a resource, like part of me is being wasted.”

It’s really sad how much pressure there is on looks. I know the pressure was always there but now that online dating is mostly based on looks rather than compatibility, it becomes more intense.

“Freewill is just the ghost we strap into the machine when the manual gets confusing.”

Speechless

“Charisma is an excellent attractant, but lousy glue.”

I should tell that to my friends…

“Maybe loyalty is just love fossilized.”

I believe this. People that I have loved, still hold a piece of my heart even if the feeling isn’t there anymore.

 

Cover copied from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38526745-my-own-devices?from_search=true

Posted in 2018, Becky Albertalli, Fiction, LGBTQ, young adult

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

I read this book because I was discovering the books of Becky Albertalli. This book is somewhat a spinoff of Simon Vs The Homesapiens Agenda. Only not really. It’s about the cousins of Abby. Simon and Abby do make an appearance in this book but its not about them at all.

In this book, our protagonist (Abby’s cousin) Molly is learning about falling in love. Sounds yucky, I know, but really, it’s funny. She’s used to just crushing on people and never really any real opportunity for love, but once her sister Cassie starts dating this girl seriously (Cassie is known to be player), she starts feeling more left out and starts searching for the company of others (#NoMoreSafetyBlanket).

This book is written in 1st person point of view. For someone who’s lonely, Molly is very nice and upbeat (unlike Leah. Leah, I feel, is like her negative energy counterpart. Interestingly enough, Leah sounded a lot like Molly in her book rather than sounding like Leah from Simon and the Homosapien’s Agenda. That sentence only makes sense if you’re read all three of Albertalli’s books).

I’d recommend this as a fun read if you just want to read something cute. However, it has very little to do with Simon (as mentioned earlier) so if that’s the reason you’re reading it, you will be disappointed. I was able to finish this book in a day so it’s not a hard read whatsoever.

I will say this, Molly has done such a great job being a people pleaser, that we don’t get to know too much about her. I feel like I knew more about Cassie than I did about Molly.

There weren’t any memorable quotes but here are some passages I liked:

I don’t entirely understand how anyone gets a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. It just seems like the most impossible odds. You have a crush on the exact right person at the exact right moment. And they have to like you back. A perfect alignment of feelings and circumstances. It’s almost unfathomable that it happens as often as it does.

There was a book I read a few years ago called Human by Matt Haig where he stated how improbable it is for two people to meet, let alone connect. That stuck with me and it’s great to read a story where someone questions it.

The silence is a little painful. It’s funny, because you always think the hard part is meeting someone the first time. It’s not. It’s the second time, because you’ve already used up all the obvious topics of conversation. And even if you haven’t, it’s strange and heavy-handed to introduce random conversational topics at this stage in the game.

One of the things I hate about “just be yourself” is that I am many different versions of me. It’s not a lie, it’s adaptation. Which version should I be? What if one version is more interesting than the other. What if one of my versions is too snobish for someone. So yes, although I am one of the few people who want to be more than just internet friends, I am always nervous that I can’t keep up.

I’m not trying to overthink things. I’m trying to be less careful. But you have to be your heart’s own goalie.
And if I’m going to be rejected, I want to see it coming.

The sad thing is that if it got to this far of the tought process, chances are, you already rejected yourself. You’re not a goalie, you’re a future teller.

Maybe my company is even better than making out–which is pretty much my goal as a human being, honestly.

This was just hilarious. Back story on this quote, her twin sister was hanging out with her girlfriend for Independence Day event. Our protagonist kept trying to give them space but they kept following her including her in all the activities. They sacrificed their “together time” to hang out with Molly.

Image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30653853-the-upside-of-unrequited

 

 

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