Thursday, January 27, 2011

random thursday night thoughts...

If there is a bright side to large snow dumps, it's that I read a lot more.  And watch a lot more television, which I'm sure some would argue is a waste of time, but obviously, they have never gotten sucked into the show, Fringe.  I've made it through the first two seasons in a week and have just started the current season (three). 

I'm currently finishing up a re-read of the first Harry Potter book.  I also just started Glad No Matter What: Transforming Loss and Change into Gift and Opportunity by Sark.  My mother died two years tomorrow and it's still this huge cloud over my head, following me around and miring me in storms.  I have this cycle of being really angry, feeling guilty, feeling sad, and angry again.  I've been working with my therapist and journaling and hoping that at some point I'll see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I'm hoping this book might help me use my creative strengths to further my journey. 

Now I'm off to read some blogs and play with my new phone.  I've finally entered the 21st century and gotten a smart phone.  Mostly because my five-year-old phone randomly stopped working and I feared being trapped in the snow or some sort of emergency without a way to call for help (as though I live in the woods and not suburbs of Philly).

Review: Magic in the Shadows

As I continue with Lazy Girl Read's Mini-Challenge, where I have to read four books - something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. 

Book 2/4 - something borrowed (from Camden County Library, which I love and adore)

Title: Magic in the Shadows (Allie Beckstrom #3) by Devon Monk

Summary:  Allison Beckstrom's magic has taken its toll on her, physically marking her and erasing her memories-including those of the man she supposedly loves. But lost memories aren't the only things preying on Allie's thoughts. 

Her late father, the prominent businessman-and sorcerer-Daniel Beckstrom, has somehow channeled himself into her very mind. With the help of The Authority, a secret organization of magic users, she hopes to gain better control over her own abilities-and find a way to deal with her father...

My Review:   I really enjoy the Allie Beckstrom novels. I had to originally put this book down as I was at the will of the library and got swamped. But once I'm able to get into these books, I really enjoy the stories and want to keep reading it until the end. This book fleshes out the world of magic much more and the world that Allie's boyfriend, Zayvion, was a part of. I really love the way the history and universe of magic these books has put into motion. I'll admit the fact that Allie's dad is residing in her head is more than a little creepy - but it's supposed to feel that way, so the reader reacts the same way Allie does at many moments.

What I love most about these books is the character of Allie. She's tough and smart, but she still gets scared and isn't invincible. And despite all of these things, she still throws herself into harm's way when someone is in danger. She cares about people, more than she'd like to admit, and it shows with her choices, even when they backfire. 

She's still learning and making mistakes, but it usually comes from a good place.

And really, I'm nothing if not a reader who is loyal to characters I love, especially strong female characters.

Overall: 4 stars 

Review: Decision Points

Title: Decision Points by George W. Bush

Summary:  President George W. Bush describes the critical decisions of his presidency and personal life.  

Decision Points is the extraordinary memoir of America’s 43rd president. Shattering the conventions of political autobiography, George W. Bush offers a strikingly candid journey through the defining decisions of his life.

In gripping, never-before-heard detail, President Bush brings readers inside the Texas Governor’s Mansion on the night of the hotly contested 2000 election; aboard Air Force One on 9/11, in the hours after America’s most devastating attack since Pearl Harbor; at the head of the table in the Situation Room in the moments before launching the war in Iraq; and behind the Oval Office desk for his historic and controversial decisions on the financial crisis, Hurricane Katrina, Afghanistan, Iran, and other issues that have shaped the first decade of the 21st century.

President Bush writes honestly and directly about his flaws and mistakes, as well as his accomplishments reforming education, treating HIV/AIDS in Africa, and safeguarding the country amid chilling warnings of additional terrorist attacks. He also offers intimate new details on his decision to quit drinking, discovery of faith, and relationship with his family. 

My Review:  I freely admit that I come at this book as a bleeding heart liberal who never thought much of President George W. Bush and his capabilities. I borrowed this book from the library - because yeah, wasn't going to pay for it - as I was curious to read his take on certain situations. I went into it fully expecting to feel annoyed with things and biased against his politics. I didn't expect it to be so very boring. It took me a whole week to get through fifty pages before I finally started skimming to the parts that I was curious about.

This book is like President Bush when he went off script during press conferences. If it weren't so boring, it might rate as a train wreck. I will say that a few of the clips that were sensationalized were completely taken out of text - his mother didn't make him stare at her miscarried child so much as needed someone to drive her to the hospital - but the Kanye West thing? Very true. And so anger-making. He was president when 9/11 happened (no, I don't think he was responsible, but it still happened). He was president during two wars and whether he believed in them or not, men and women lost their lives during these wars. And the worst moment of his presidency was when Kanye West called him a racist? 

There really was no new information or understanding provided. I'm a political nerd and was honestly curious about Bush's time in the west wing, but it was so boring.  I think the only way the reading experience could have been worse would have been for it to be narrated to me by George W. Bush.

Overall: 1 star 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

mother nature is on a rampage, but it's still wishcasting wednesday

Snow is once again ruling and mother nature is a force to be reckoned with.  It's a hard week for me as the two year anniversary of my mother's death is this Friday.  In some ways, it feels so much longer and at other times, it feels like it just happened.  Some days I just wonder if I'll ever be free of the whole ordeal.  I doubt it, but I can aim to at least stop being so hurt and angry and get to a place that's a lot healthier.  Baby steps.

In spite of all these things, today has been a great day.  We had a winter luncheon at work, where I was reminded how much I do enjoy the company of many of my co-workers, and it's wischasting wednesday.

This week Jamie asks:

It's funny because sometimes the quickest and simplest answers are the hardest to achieve.  As soon as I read the question, the answer "my life" popped right into my head and I started thinking about all the ways I thwart myself in this department. I've become  a person who focuses on the negative and has accepted the idea of unhappiness as a way of life for myself.  It's a weird thing with me because I'm actually pretty optimistic where it concerns others and such, but whenever it's about me, I take a brutal, sometimes mean view.  Enjoying life is for other people, better people, people not me.

I've slowly been learning to stop that cycle.  I grew up thinking that there were only certain things that should make me happy.  Except these things were never right fits for me and I didn't really have anyone who understood or who I could explain this to.  It's sad that it has taken me so long to realize that I'm allowed to be happy and make the most of my life the way that I want to, but it's also amazing to finally acknowledge.

And yet, some days, enjoyment feels so hard to come by, so wrong at times, like all these positive steps I've taken in my life since my mother died (as that was a huge catalyst in my life) is wrong somehow.  And the simplest answer becomes complicated.

Because I make it that way.

So my wish is to enjoy my life.  Not every moment will be great, but happiness is not some fairy tale-never-happens sort of thing.  I am in control of enjoying life and I wish that I can allow myself that right (which at this very moment is to curl up in front of a fire with a book and hot cocoa, hence the picture).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Taking some time to wishcast

This weather has put me in a bit of a funk.  Coupled with ongoing sinus issues and this being the month of doom & gloom in my life, well, every day feels like a battle at points.  I'm doing pretty well overall, but there are moments where it's a struggle.  Like at this very moment, my eyelids feel so very heavy and all I want is to curl up and sleep.

Instead, I will focus on something energizing and happy.  It's Wishcasting Wednesday.

Today Jamie asks us:

courtesy of We Heart It

Hunger always elicits such an immediate negative connotation for me.  As someone who has spent the majority of her life struggling with weight and body image issues, I'm still working on realizing what an actual feeling of hunger is and what I'm hungry for.  Am I eating because my body requires fuel to function or am I stuffing myself to fill a different sort of hunger, one that I'm afraid to face or don't think I deserve?  It's funny how words can come to have such different meanings to people for the strangest of reasons.  

I do get hungry for things, crave and wish to feast, but I've always let people's judgements (perceived in some cases) and my own fear stand in the way. It leads to me being unhappy and me trying to squelch the hungers in the wrong ways.

Over the course of the last couple of years I've been working on understanding these things.  Figuring out who I am and what I want and what I need.  So what hunger do I wish to feed?  I want to feed my dreams.  I want to devour my creative ideas and allow them to manifest as they were meant to.

What is your wish this week?

It's Not What You Read But Where Reading Challenge - Main Entry

I wasn't going to do anymore reading challenges.  I was content with the ones I had signed up for, especially since my reading habits tend to vary at times.  I'm always reading, but some weeks, I zoom through books and some weeks, I trudge along.

But the idea of the It's Not What You Read but Where You Read It Challenge from I Heart Monster's blog sounded far too interesting.  Maybe it's just the idea of being discovered in my mud room curled up with a book.  You can sign up here.

The Categories

Twist Your House
Place of Commerce
You Don't Call Home
Probably Shouldn't
In Pairs

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Writing Progress - 18 days in...

Since January 1st, I have made my writing goal of 250 words a day.  There were a few days where I managed a lot more words, even finished a story or two, but mostly, I'm just aiming to make my goal and writing for at least 30 minutes a day.  I know to a lot of people that's not a lot, but getting back into the habit of this and making room for it along with my other obligations including working out, chores around house, etc, has meant that I just need to allot a certain amount of time. 

It's been hard some days, like pulling teeth to get any words out, let alone decent words, but I'm also trying not to worry so much about the quality in the first draft.  I don't want it to completely suck, but it's so easy for me to get caught up in trying to perfect one paragraph that I accomplish nothing else.


Aside from that, I'm reading, but not as quickly as normal.  Partly because I was attempting to read George W. Bush's book, which made me want to cry from boredom and anger at various moments and I've been trying to see all the possible Oscar movies and rediscovered the show Fringe and have been watching that from season one to present.  I'm sure, at some point, JJ will mess this up as he does all of his shows I have loved - Alias, Lost - but for now, I shall enjoy it.  Plus, Joshua Jackson with scruff?  Not sure one can go wrong there.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Delayed Opening at Work & Wishcasting Wednesday!

Today was all over the place.  A lot to try to process and I'm not sure I'm quite there yet.  But let's focus on the good.  I didn't have to be at work until 10:30am today, which gave the roads time to clear and made my work day shorter.  And it's Wishcasting Wednesday!

Today Jamie asks:

 courtesy of We Heart It

I have been feeling so depleted lately, emptiness running amuck.  Depression, illness, and the cold weather have had their ways with me and this week I'm slowly coming out of this fog.  It's like last week was a dream in many ways.  I remember bits and pieces - pangs of moments, but no real clarity.  I talked to my therapist today about this.  it's the time of year for me.  My mother's birthday was last week.  Her death was at the end of the month (two years on January 28th - seems almost surreal how fast time has gone).  It was a death that came out of the blue and my sister and I were the ones to find her.  Throw in the fact that I'm trying to make sense of all these feelings about my mother that I've harbored for so many years and I've been a bundle of emotion.

I simply feel like there are moments where I have no more to give.  Last week I slept a lot.  A lot.  And I felt bad about it.

So I guess, what I wish most regarding renewals, is that I allow myself to do it.  That if I find myself feeling depleted and sleep seems like a good idea - it probably is a good idea.  I need to stop feeling like the only way to live is to deny myself even the simplest things.  It's an ongoing battle for me, but I wish, with all my might, that I could learn to just let myself do what comes naturally without all the negative voices in my brain.

I want to play in the rain.  I want to laugh and sing (badly) at the top of my lungs.  I want to write epic stories and find happiness.  I want to be able to sleep and dream and replenish.  I want it all.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Review: Paranormalcy

I'm off to a good start for the 2011 Young Adult Challenge.  My goal is to read 12 books.  One a month.  I can do that, right?

Book 1/12

Title: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Summary:  Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours. 

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures. 

So much for normal.

My Review:  I think what made this book so very good was the main character in Evie. She's spunky and determined, so sure of herself at times, but beneath that, she really doesn't know much about who she is and worries about how others view her. It's typical teenager feelings, but with the added bonus of being a one-of-a-kind paranormal. 

I was hooked right from the first scene, where she kicks butt with her pink taser and brings in a vampire. Slowly, you learn about her life in the IPCA and, with Lend's appearance, the reader, like Evie, becomes aware that things are hardly as they seem. 

One of the other main things I really enjoyed about this book is the slower evolution of Evie's relationship with Lend. It doesn't happen over night. There is attraction and curiosity, but everything develops over the course of time rather than that knocks-you-on-your-feet immediate kind. 

My only criticism - though it's not much of one, maybe more like a mini-complaint of sorts, as it didn't really take away from the book - was that the author provided the readers with so much build up, such a great plan set into motion, and the resolution was over so fast. I understand that part of that is because we are seeing things from Evie's perspective, but I felt the slightest bit cheated, like I wanted more explanation than we got.

Still loved it.

Overall: 5 stars

Review: Sleepwalk With Me

I signed up for Lazy Girl Read's Mini-Challenge, where I have to read four books - something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.  And I'm starting with something blue.

Book 1/4 - something blue (the cover! Total cop-out, I know!)

Title: Sleepwalk With Me by Mike Birbiglia

Summary:  Grown out of Mike Birbiglia's critically acclaimed one-man show, SLEEPWALK WITH ME is the hilarious story of the perils and pitfalls of being Mike.

My Review:   I love Mike Birbiglia. He is one of my favorite comics and this book definitely didn't disappoint as a fan of his work. He has always been the storyteller type of comic and it still works in the written form. However, I think this is one of those books that I wish had been available in audio format. Even though I could imagine his voice as the narrator, there were things that would have been so much funnier with his inflections and emotion behind it.  There was a little something missing in reading the text rather than hearing him tell me these stories.

It's also good to know that if you're a fan of Mike Birbiglia, some of the portions of this book have been featured in his stand-up and off-Broadway shows.  You might end up a little disappointed if you're looking for completely new material, but the new stuff does mesh well with the stories I'd heard before.

At the very least, it kept me giggling, which garnered strange looks from people.

Overall:  4 stars

NaSmaStoMo Day 7

Appreciated the beautiful landscape of snow much more as it wasn't making roads unpassable and traffic crazy.  Some days it's the smallest things that make me feel triumphant.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

first wishcast of 2011

It's the first Wishcasting Wednesday of 2011!  I love this weekly chance to think about things I want and put it out into the universe.  Even more than that, I love sending out good vibes and hopes for my fellow wishcasters. 

This week Jamie asks us:

What do you wish to say yes to?

I've spent most of 2010 feeling stuck, kinda like this girl in the middle of a pond. Except, in the picture, this girl is practically embracing it.  Throwing her head up in defiance, almost enjoying the feel of the wind whipping her hair and looking up into the skies, as if to say "What's next?"

My wish is quite simple:  I wish to say yes to life, to stop worrying so much about failure that I allow myself to be paralyzed.  To say yes to the wind and the universe and stop ignoring the hints it tries to provide me with.

(My head is killing me, work was rather busy, so I might be a day late getting to everyone's wishes, but just so you all know - as you wish for yourselves, I truly wish for you also!)

NaSmaStoMo Day 5

The front tire on my car needed air.  Panic ensues as I turn into the stereotypical girly-girl who knows nothing and how can I do this.  Success was mine.  And I didn't need any help.  Sometimes it's the simple things that make me feel like I'm king of the world.

Monday, January 3, 2011

first writing update

I know we're only three days into the new year, but I'm quite proud of myself for making my writing goal every day. Today, I'll admit, was quite tough.  I just didn't want to do it.  My sinuses are killing me - eye goo is never pleasant - and it's my last day of vacation with a very inviting bed of warmth.  Finally, I picked up the first season of The Wire on dvd and have become sucked into the world of Baltimore detectives.  It's so good.  While I enjoy television, I'm usually not the girl who can sit and watch episode-after-episode of a tv show, but I watched six episodes today.

Still, I got my 250 words in and I didn't worry too much about edits.  I'm still a bit OCD when it comes to making sure every sentence is perfect, even in my first drafts, but I'm trying to catch myself and let it go. 

NaSmaStoMo Day 3

The wind whipped around her, hair going in every direction, and her feet made a slush-stomp-slush-stomp sound from the melted snow-turned-dirty-puddles.  As the cold chilled through her coat lining, she thought about how lucky she was to have not just shelter, but a home.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

NaSmaStoMo Day 2

"We need to get together more often," she said as we left our favorite hangout.  It had changed so much since we were last there, but like all great things in life, places may change, but relationships can just pick right up where they last left off.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

NaSmaStoMo Day 1

The orange and blue flames dance before my eyes, the heat flushes my skin, adding to the warmth of my cat sleeping against my feet.  Contentment.