Thursday, December 31, 2015

Books I Read in 2015

Last year was my first time joining the reading challenge on Goodreads. I was able to read 25 books in 2014 and decided to do the challenge again this year. I really wanted to read 30 books but I found I didn't have time during some months to read like I wanted to and some of the books I read just didn't catch and hold my attention like I hoped for. As this year comes to an end, I decided I would write about the books I read during 2015.

Now that I work at a used book store, I’m always being asked for recommendations. One problem with that is everyone reads different types of books and I tend to read the books we don’t have in stock. So I decided this year to read authors I’ve never read before. It wasn’t really my intention when 2015 started but that’s how the year went for me and to be honest, I loved it.

Like with all authors, there were some I absolutely loved and others, not so much. And like with all books, there were ones that shocked me, made me cry and touched my soul. Then there were the stories that disappointed me, ones I thought I would love and it turns out they didn’t.

1. I didn’t have to read To Kill a Mockingbird in school and it was on my to-read list for a VERY long time. Knowing that the sequel was going to be released in July, I wanted to read this amazing novel.

I recommend this book to anyone and I do believe that teenagers should read it. This story that is set in the 1930’s is relevant to today’s current events. This is a book I will never get rid of and will read many more times in my life.

2. I felt like this story jumped around a little too much and got confused in a few spots. In the end I love that Sylvia Plath was able to help you understand the mind of a person in an asylum. While I had to deal with a little confusion, I enjoyed this book.

I wanted to read the book because I have depression and this story deals with mental illness.

3. Kiss of Deception was one of the books that surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. I couldn’t put this book down. The sequel came out in July, but I have yet to read that novel.

I love reading young-adult fiction because they are an easy read and this story kept my attention every step of the way.

4. Little Gale Gumbo was an impulse buy that sounded amazing and yet I was disappointed in it. When I first purchased this book, I was expecting a murder mystery. That’s not what I got. While the story was okay, it focused on the background of the characters and their various love stories than it did the actual murder/death that occurred.

5. After watching the movie several times, I knew I has to read the book. This was one book that we had several copies in stock.

I’m always nervous when books are turned into movies, especially the books I love. In a way I’m glad I saw the movie first, but I have to say this is one instance where I love both the book and the movie.

6. When I came back from my birthday trip to Disneyland, there was a package sitting on my bed. There was no note inside saying who sent them to me, but it contained the first two novels in Miss Peregrine series and The Night Circus. Turns out the package came from my cousin Genaphur (who is also a reading fanatic) and her daughter Rory.

Once I read how Ransom Riggs wrote the story, this story intrigued me even more. He collects all these vintage photos that you can buy at flea markets for less than a dollar. Once he had gathered quite a collection, he wrote the story around them. The people you see in the photos are the ones you are reading in the story.

 7. The second novel of the Miss Peregrine series was just as intriguing as the first. In this story you get the travel into the past while following these children on their incredible journey. My friend Margi wanted to read these books and while I was waiting for her to read these, she bought book three once it came out (because I forgot… bad book nut) and other novels got in the way and I have yet to read book three. I will be reading it soon though.

8. A mysterious circus that shows up out of nowhere, no one even sees them set up, and unbeknownst to the visitors of the circus there is a magic duel going on between two young magicians.

Unfortunately, this story was not exactly what I expected. While I still enjoyed the story, for me it seemed to just end. I still did enjoy the book and I will probably read it again, just not soon.

9. To be honest, this was a cheater read. I bought it because I love Halloween and poems and this has incredible illustrations. Most of the poems were not that great, but I mainly got it for the drawings.

10. This was another book that surprised me. Based on an Irish folktale that didn’t have much known about the whole story, the author did a good job at telling her version of the tale. This was a great story about a kidnapped princess that learned that silence can be a life-saver.

 11. Go Set a Watchman was probably the most anticipated book of the year. For me, it took about 100 pages for this to feel like To Kill a Mockingbird. I was upset with the outcome of certain characters, but this still showed how much Scout changed in the following years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird.

12. I got this book confused with another, but I still liked the sound of the book. How would you like to repeat the last day of your life until you learn what you did wrong, how mean you were to someone who didn’t deserve it and the reason for your death? The pouty teenager narrator kind of got on my nerves, but I still enjoyed the message of the book.

13. I usually don’t read short stories, but Jennifer Weiner is one author I was really wanting to read this year. Once I finished this story though, I realized that it was just a prequel to a novel. I do want to read the actual novel to continue the story.

 14. For Kindle owners, Amazon has this great deal called Amazon First. Every month Amazon will give you one book for free, one month before the book is published. I usually don’t read romance, but none of my other options interested me. To my surprise, I loved this book and would like to read more by Michelle Major.

15. I heard that they created a show on FOX based on Pines. I love a good mystery and this one really kept me thinking. It was nothing like I expected, but I immediately bought the other two books of the trilogy. At one point I got confused because this went from a mystery to science fiction and I wasn’t sure if I misread something, but turns out I didn’t. That’s just the story.

16. I bought this book at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon in 2012 then it got lost on my shelf. Unfortunately, I could not keep up with it. For me it felt like the story was dragged out way too much. I still have to finish it, but kind of read a few paragraphs here and there and feel like I know somewhat of how the story ends. I will probably finish it this coming year. This was a big disappointment for me.

17. Jodi Picoult is another author we have a lot of at the store and one that I’ve been wanting to read for some time now. Leaving Time was recommended to me by a friend. I didn’t read it as quickly as I wanted to but I still enjoyed the story. You will learn a lot about elephants. The ending was great and not what I expected. Usually I pay better attention, but this one surprised me.

18. You want to talk about a book that can touch your soul? This one certainly did for me. I believe this is a must read for teens and anyone wanting to read a great story that can show you a way to just enjoy life.

19. This was another short story and one that while I knew what was going to happen, I still enjoyed the story. I’ve really gotten into short stories this year and I’m planning to read more in 2016.

20. Another short story that was really short, only 27 pages, and took no time to read. Even though I just read it just about a month and a half ago, I honestly don’t remember the story. I’ll have to read it again.

21. I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary fiction novels that I was craving a good murder mystery. My mom told me to try Lee Child so we found this at Barnes & Noble. I really had to get used to Lee Child’s style of writing. I’m not used to the broken sentences and I’m fond of “and” being used to string sentences together. But once I realized that he kind of writes like he’s writing a police report, the story really took off for me. I read the majority of this book over Thanksgiving.

22: I bought this as a short story, but it took me a few days, in between working, to read it. It was a cute story and I would like to read the rest of them. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Always Keeping Fighting

While it has been several years since I've watched an episode of Supernatural, I've always supported the show. I really do need to catch up on the show. I really miss it. Thank God for Netflix. :)

In January, I got excited when Stephen Amell from Arrow started his Sinceriously campaign to raise money and awareness for mental health. Shortly after that, Jared Padalecki started Always Keep Fighting and while I missed the first round of Jared's campaign because I couldn't afford both campaigns at the time, I was so excited when I was able to partake in this current round. I cannot wait to get my shirt.

I wish I could have been in Hall H at Comic Con this year to light a candle for Jared and for the person(s) who thought of it, only one word comes to mind: brilliant.

Earlier today on Facebook, Jared asked a simple question. "What does #AlwaysKeepFighting mean to you?" This may not be a simple answer for most people, but for me it is. So Jared, here is my answer:

Always Keep Fighting reminds me that I didn't give up on my life at the age of 10. 

I've said for a long time that fifth grade was the best and the worst year of my life. It was the best because I had one of the best teachers I ever could have asked for in my life that figured out I'm dyslexic and encouraged me to read. I've never stopped reading and I now work at a used book store and couldn't be happier.

Fifth grade was also the time where I was bullied the worst in school and I began a five year stint of my life where I threatened suicide to my family. At 10 years old, I was done. I was entering into puberty faster than my peers and I didn't know who I was or even wanted to be or what was going on with my body and mind. Being a tomboy was hard enough and did nothing to help the tormenting, but to add the mood swings and confusion to the mix, I was overwhelmed. My teachers also didn't know what to do with me. They knew something was wrong but I was afraid to talk about it. The one time I did talk about it, yes I got three boys suspended for a couple days for calling me a boy-wannabe, after that, I was just called a tattle-tale. So I learned the hard way to keep my mouth shut and bottle everything inside until everything blew up and I took it out on my family. I believe that was the true beginning of my depression. The sad part? I was able to hide it so easily, like most depressed people do, that my friends had no clue.

My friends never really knew that dark side of me, because only my family got to see it. I'm also a fan of Criminal Minds and one of my favorite quotes from the show was when Reid said, "I know what it's like to be afraid of your own mind." THAT is depression. Plain and simple. People with any type of mental disorders become experts at responding, "I'm fine" when someone asks how we are doing. We smile when really we are screaming inside our head, but there we are are, smiling and saying "I'm fine."

I still have days where I stay in bed and only get up to get food or coffee, mostly for the coffee, and I don't care if I don't see anyone or utter a single word throughout the entire day. I just call them my depression days and it's okay. I'm okay. Honestly, I am. I just need that time to myself to sort out the bullshit inside my head.

One thing that is so hard to comprehend for most people in life is that it's OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP. About 6 years ago, I finally confronted my doctor. I was on antidepressants for about three years. I did the worst thing you can do while on them. I stopped cold-turkey. I DO NOT recommend that. I went off them for two reasons: (1) I didn't want to take a pill to be somewhat happy with my life and (2) the main reason, I couldn't afford them anymore. I still know that it's okay to ask for help and most of the time I call my mom when I'm having a depression day because I need to talk to someone.

Since I had my health scare in November, I decided that 2015 was my year to focus on ME and only ME. I want to finally be happy with who I was, who I am and who I'm becoming. Tonight, my cousin got to hear me say something that I NEVER thought I would say in my life. I have started to finally be able to look in the mirror and tell myself that I'm beautiful. You have no idea how big of a feat this is for me. I HATE that word with a passion, because I've never believed it. I built up this barrier around that word and finally that barrier is cracking. I actually wake up in the morning and want to wear makeup because I like who I am when I wear it. It doesn't cover up who I am, instead makeup is showing off what makes me me.

I AM BEAUTIFUL!! Yes I'm awkward and overweight (something I'm working on) and a geek and a bookworm and an all-out weirdo and I can curse worse than a drunken sailor, but I'm a beautiful person on the inside and out and I'm okay with it. In fact, I love it. So I'm not perfect. Who is? I've never wanted to be. I am me and if you don't like, too bad.

After 23 years or more of dealing with the many, many, many, many ups and downs of depression, I'm finally starting to win the battle.

So Jared Padalecki and Stephen Amell, thank you sinceriously from the bottom of my heart for reminding me that having depression is okay and I promise that I will always keep fighting.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Racism in America

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." 

When the United States of America was formed in 1776, this was one of the main foundations to this country as it was stated in the Declaration of Independence. Granted the majority, if not all, of the men who formed this country were racist and owned slaves, but it's sad that in 239 years, we have not changed much when it comes to racism. Yes, slavery was abolished, but black people did not get the same rights as white people until more than half way through the 20th century.

I am not racist and these are just my opinions and the way I see the world today. I don't give a crap what the color of your skin is. You treat me with respect and I will return that respect. You treat me like shit and I will treat you like shit. With that said, a lot of what is in the media today pisses me off.

All of these young black people being killed by white cops has me frustrated. Not by the fact that they are dying because it's sad and horrible and shouldn't happen, but by the way everyone is reacting to it and the way the media is reporting it.

If a black person is killed by a white cop, it makes the top story in the news. If a white person is killed by a cop of any race, you NEVER hear about it. Sound fair or equal to you? Not to me.

This country is so focused on not offending anyone that we've ended up offending everyone. We all have to be politically correct that we don't even know what to say anymore.

I feel like I need to defend myself sometimes because I'm white. Most of the time I feel like I'm being punished for what white people did two centuries ago. Slavery was abolished in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution 150 years ago. As far as I know my ancestors didn't own slaves. They may have had black nannies, but even nannies back then were white. And that's only one side of my family. My other side is Irish. You want to talk about discrimination in the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, try coming to this country with pale skin, copper-colored hair, blue eyes and freckles. In the early 1900's most black people could get a job, whereas my ancestors faced the signs saying, "No Irish need apply." The Conscription Act of 1863 declared that white men between the ages of 18 and 45 were eligible for the draft and the poor men, most of which were Irish, couldn't buy their way out unlike the rich, but the free black men were only permitted to volunteer to join the Union Army. (Citation: Library of Congress

The majority of black African-Americans and white Irish-Americans have faced harsh discrimination and still do today, you just don't hear about the discrimination against white people. Think I'm wrong? Someone can set up a scholarship fund and only accept applications for black African-Americans and it's fine, but if someone sets up the same type of scholarship for only white Irish-Americans it's discrimination against people of color. Fair? No it's not.

I'm sorry that people who are not white have faced horrible things in the past and today, but does that mean that your lives matter more than the lives of white people? Lives of all people matter. Some black people lost their lives due to cops and a Hispanic cop and an Asian cop were murdered in cold-blood. Is this what defines America today? We're not perfect but what country is?

And then you have the rioting. Seriously what makes it okay to destroy other people's property and livelihood when someone is killed? According to the First Amendment of the Constitution, we have the Freedoms of speech, press, religion, and PEACEFUL assembly/protest. You aren't protected under the First Amendment if you riot and burn businesses, cars or homes. And then there is stopping traffic by blocking the cars of people who are just trying to go about their daily business. Don't disrupt my life because I choose to protest or believe a different way than you. You want to stand on a freeway where cars are going 70 MPH or faster, well... that just makes you an idiot.

With all of the situations where men and women have lost their lives by the hands of police officers, we don't know exactly what prompted the officers to shoot. Anything can look like a gun, knife or any other weapon from even a few feet away. If officers feel their lives or the lives of innocent people are at risk, they are trained to shoot. In the case of Eric Garner in New York, I disagree with the choke hold because of what happened to Mr. Garner. That never should have happened. I do agree with making it mandatory for officers to wear cameras on them. We require them for the patrol cars, why not the officers themselves? That way we could know exactly what happened and not assume the potentially wrong reason. I don't want this to come off that I'm just defending the cops because they happen to match the color of my skin. I will defend them because they are sworn to defend me and until someone gives me concrete evidence to prove otherwise, this is what I will believe. If an officer shoots first because of the race of the other person and doesn't feel threatened beforehand, they don't deserve to be a cop.

We look at ourselves as Native American, African-American, Asian-American, Latino/Hispanic-American. Why can we just be AMERICAN? I am American and I'm proud of it and I happen to have Irish, Italian, Scottish, German, English, and even a little Cherokee blood in me (what can I say? I'm a European mutt). Can we all stop focusing on the color of skin and start focusing on the things we do that makes us human. To the media, instead of saying, "An unarmed black man was killed by a white cop" how about, "An unarmed man was killed by a cop." It's not hard, but that doesn't make a very good story now does it?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Why I'm Single

I saw the hashtag #whyimsingle on Twitter or maybe even somewhere else on my computer. I'm not sure. Anybody who knows me knows I HATE Valentine's Day with a passion and why. I've written about being single before, many, many times, but for some reason I feel like this year is somehow different even though nothing has changed.

Three days ago my grandfather was admitted into the hospital with the flu and pneumonia. His prognosis wasn't good and still isn't. He's 82 years old and that combination isn't good for anyone. My grandparents have been married for 59 years. Tonight I've realized all the things Pa will probably never get to experience with me in my life; me getting married, having kids and basically being happy with my life. I'm not happy about where my life is to be completely honest.

I've also written about my depression and being an introvert. Honestly those two things have a lot to do with why I'm single. How can someone love me when I'm not in love with myself? My depression has been at its worst over the last five years or so. Eight months ago today (it does not feel like that long) I quit my job after five and a half years because I got so stressed, and because I'm a stress eater, I gained about 30 pounds in two months. Soon after I quit, my grandma and I started walking every morning and I started losing the weight that I put on. After my whole experience in November last year (see my last post), I had lost about 36 pounds since quitting my job. I've only gained back about four to six of those pounds, mostly to do with my depression. I can't exercise like I want because my lungs are not back to 100% and may never be. I have to come to terms with that.

I also need to come to terms with the fact that I am who I am and maybe there is someone out there that will love me for me. But that is the hardest thing I face in life and it is the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around.

I've never been the popular one. I was bullied and those negative statements tend to control my thoughts about how I feel about myself even today. Being told over and over and over and over that you are not pretty takes a toll on you. I lost all self-esteem about 20 years ago and I'm not sure if I will ever get that back. I cannot look in the mirror and see a pretty girl staring back. It's not possible for me to do that. Maybe that will change. Maybe not. I don't know.

I had this whole post planned out in my head while I was in the shower and now I can't remember half of the things I wanted to say. But I will start again with the title of this post.

I'm single because I just am. I've always been single. I turn 33 in exactly two weeks and I still have never had a boyfriend. I can still count the number of dates I've been on on one hand and will still have fingers left over. I have not been kissed in 11 years and even then I've only been kissed once in my life. The summary of my life is pathetic. Even if by some miracle I have children, I don't have any stories to share. I was always the odd friend out at the school dances because I never got asked and there was no way my introvert self would ask a guy. That just wasn't going to happen and still won't to this day. I will not be the one asking someone out. I am not that brave.

While I struggle with being the type of person I want to be in my head, it's not going to happen. I will never be confident enough in myself to allow another person to see the real me. One thing that goes along with depression is being able to put on a smile every day and say you're okay with everything when you're screaming "LIAR" inside your head.

There is so much I want to do in my life and while it would be great to have someone to experience them with me, I'm not sure if it will happen. People are constantly telling me that I need to stop looking and just let it happen, whatever "it" may be. That's not good enough for me. I've been waiting for over a third of my life and nothing has happened. I have a specific type of guy that I'm attracted to, but I'm invisible to them. There really isn't anything I can do to make them notice me.

I've never cared about how I look. I hate makeup and always will. I dress to be comfortable not fashionable. I don't necessarily care about the latest trends. I curse worse than a drunken sailor half the time. I am Pagan and proud of it. And yet people are always telling me that I have to change everything that makes me me. Again, I am who I am and someone will either like me or they won't. I don't want to change for anyone. Nor should I have to. I'm trying to lose weight to be healthy not to follow what society wants me to be. Society can fuck off for all I care. I tend to focus on celebrity crushes because I can't be hurt when they go off and get married to some other actress that is a size 2 or whatever.

Regardless of everything I have written, I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me or have pity for me. My focus for this year is to live my life one day at a time and see where it leads me. If that happens to include a relationship great, but I'm not going to hold my breath and expect something to change.