Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sea of Tears

I am floating in a golden sea of tears. You are beside me, the warmth of your hand in mine as the waves ripple and break above us. We are underwater, yet we can breathe. You turn to me and kiss me, stars swirling around us as the moon dives into the golden water. We are alone and young, yet we are not sad. I rest on your chest as the creatures of the sea dance around us, celebrating the spiritual connection between you, me, and the sea. I twirl about and weep stars as you give me one last golden kiss that cannot be gone tomorrow, never gone. It is the kiss of immortality. Our love will never die. You tie a rose made of stars around my neck as I cry silver tears of night. We swim ashore as the day breaks and the birds sing goodbye.

Review: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I went into this knowing. Knowing and accepting that I am an introvert. While my mother enjoys going out and engaging in social situations, I count down until it's time to go home. Not that I don't enjoy it myself, but I also enjoy it eventually ending. I like to cuddle with my beau and watch movies. I despise small talk. Writing is my outlet for my voice. In a large group, I rarely speak. It's me. It's who I am.
This book endows people with the knowledge that introverts are not freaks or weirdos, which is something that I feel all people should be aware of and accept. Society follows the Extrovert Ideal, as this book carefully explains, but teaches introverts to cope and thrive in this world and accept who we are. The author did a wonderful job weaving the facts and statistics together with true experiences of introverts. This book is a balanced, well-researched, and engaging study on introversion and how to thrive in a society following the Extrovert Ideal.

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Review: Who Censored Roger Rabbit?

Who Censored Roger Rabbit? Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wolf weaves an extraordinarily interesting detective story here. I loved the constant twists and turns of the novel, how they built up to the unbelievable truth. It kept me guessing until the very end. My copy had a lot of errors, but they weren't enough to fully distract from the story, thank God. Well worth a read. It's not like other detective stories. It's colorful and fun as well as hard case work that detectives go through. Each character shines so you know fully who they are. But I guarantee that you will not be able to guess who the real culprit is. I tried, and was disproved every time, so you'll have to see for yourself what Wolf does here. But in the end, all of the turns of the plot culminate in an adventure well worth starting.

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Review: Full Circle: A Father's Journey with a Transgender Child

Full Circle: A Father's Journey with a Transgender Child Full Circle: A Father's Journey with a Transgender Child by Derry Rundlett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a musician for a famous 1960's pop group, my father claims to know a lot of renowned people. I take it all in stride; him knowing a music legend is no longer news to me! He first told me about Derry and Nicole Rundlett when he received the book as a gift, I think from Derry himself. Rundlett is a friend of one of my father's partners in the music industry, which is why I open this review with a brief word about my father's job. It doesn't matter how we received the book, though. What matters is how it affects us. My father told me that I should crack it open first, with him finishing up my recommendation to him of Markus Zusak The Book Thief. I finally opened the book last night around 5 pm and finished it around 12 am.
This book has a beautiful message about how you can do anything if you really try, how you shouldn't be afraid of being who you really are, and how a parent's love for their child should matter more than anything. Derry's relationship with Nicole is one of the strongest father-daughter relationships I've ever seen and I'm proud to say that the relationship I have with my own father is very similar, so I feel an incredible empathy toward them that enhanced the experience of reading this book greatly. I would recommend this to anyone struggling to embrace who they really are, those who want something more in life and fear rejection, because above all, this book shows that when it's related to your personal journey, it's always worth taking a chance to achieve what you want.
Update September 2015 I just met Mr. Rundlett at a charity event. He's a sweetheart! It was a very nice time.

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Review: Schizo

Schizo Schizo by Nic Sheff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first experience reading literature that had schizophrenia as its subject was January First by Michael Schofield. I cried. About two years ago, I read Tweak by Nic Sheff. I wept. Schizo is no different experience.
Reading from Miles' point of view, I fully believed everything Miles said, having forgotten how Goodreads called Miles "the ultimate unreliable narrator." As a result of those beliefs, the ending shocked me in a way I haven't experienced in a long time.
I knew Sheff was a good writer going in, but I didn't know that writing fiction is as much a talent for him as is writing a memoir.
So congratulations, Nic. I loved it!

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Review: Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being disabled myself, I was touched by this book. I know Lennie died, but it was inevitable... And he died happily. That, I think, is amazing. Not that I don't feel bad for him; I do. But Steinbeck wanted to be realistic. And, even though the way the disabled were treated back then was terrible, it WAS real, and still is, to an extent. It's gotten better, but there's still a long way to go. Rest in peace, Lennie Small. You are proof that the disabled are still misunderstood, and you made your mark. And, yeah, we're still misunderstood, but the world's got a lot to deal with. Someday, people will get it, and "Of Mice and Men" shows that we need to treat the disabled better.

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Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finished reading this yesterday. After drying wet eyes and putting a weary heart to sleep, I went over what I loved and didn't love. I'll share cons first, so there's something good to look forward to.
The language was strong for a story centered around a young girl. A man named Pfiffikus has the nerve to call ten year old Liesel a slut. While it was WWII, and life was a living hell, it seemed really, really harsh. Most of the characters in this story are far from family to the others during hard times. (Yeah, I'm looking at you, Rosa Hubermann!)
And, honestly, that's my main complaint about the story. Now on to pros.
I loved how Death was the narrator and broke all stereotypes about death. It's not evil; HE is not evil. He was the best narrator for the story. I loved him. I loved how sympathetic he was, how he wants humans to be comfortable and wants to provide hope for them.
Hans Hubermann. Leisel's father, best friend, and English teacher. A soldier, a giver, a man of words. What's not to love?
Rudy Steiner. "How about a kiss, Saumensch?" He was so cute! And such a great friend to Liesel. He deserved the world. Even the narrator admits he was treated unfairly!
Max Vandenburg. He's definitely my favorite character; I just love him. His imaginary battles with the F├╝hrer were so intense and beautifully executed what Jews may have legitimately thought of Hitler! I don't think the author could have captured stronger emotion! I also loved the stories he wrote: The Standover Man and The Word Shaker. They captured his life experiences in such a touching way! From a man afraid of being himself to a man who has learned to overcome that fear through a young girl's friendship. He's amazing, as is his journey.
And that's the crux of it. I adored this book. It's so worth reading, at any age.
Five stars for this beautiful story of courage, heartache, and the true power of words.

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Review: The Valley of Fear

The Valley of Fear The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of the BBC crime drama Sherlock, the way it is formatted and the way it appreciates its original source work and the love shown for it. The show's love of the source material pushed me to read some of the original Holmes novels and it's something I definitely do not regret! The Valley of Fear, I believe, is one of Conan Doyle's best. The way the seemingly related stories connected shocked me. It was a twist that I did not expect, although this story had many twists that I did not expect. The way the characters of the past connect to the story in the present time of the novel was something again unexpected, but appreciated. I think this has replaced The Hound of the Baskervilles as my favorite Holmes story (though I still think The Hound of the Baskervilles is a very close second!)
Definitely worthy of the title "classic".

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Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel has to be one of the best mysteries I've read. I love the mysteries that occur on the moor, the way something is always to be puzzled over. When Watson arrived on the moor without Holmes I felt a little disappointed, though I quickly realized through the reports that Holmes was really the one doing the most work, but yet they were still a team in their correspondence. The only thing that I would say that I did not like was the way Stapleton treated his sister wife. That being said, this novel was a very haunting tale worth reading for any mystery or Sherlock Holmes fan.

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Review: Carly's Voice

Carly's Voice Carly's Voice by Arthur Fleischmann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What appears at first glance to be a seemingly tragic story - a young girl cannot speak or function the way other adolescents her age can - turns into a beautiful story of a voice waiting to be heard. Autism had trapped a young Carly Fleischmann inside a world only she could understand for nearly a decade. But when she turned ten, she showed the world that, even though an oral motor impairment prevented her from speaking, she still had a voice inside just waiting to be heard.
A beautiful story of overcoming challenges from parenting a child with autism to seeing Carly struggle to live with the condition firsthand, this story shows that, even in a most dire situation, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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Review: Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, I decided this would be an early birthday present to myself and managed to finish it the day before my birthday. So mission accomplished.
I'd never read Hesse before, so this was uncharted territory. This book kind of scared me in the way that I believe I understood Haller's struggle against the frivolous aspects of life all too well. I, too, turn my nose up in response to certain songs played, it's difficult to make me laugh, et cetera. Bottom line, I'm serious like Haller. Perhaps too serious.
But this isn't about me.
Haller's struggle kind of reminded me of Charlie Gordon's discovery of life's pains and pleasures after the operation he had. I saw similarities in the way they were presented and it warms my heart to think that Keyes may have used a similar presentation with his own character, like how Haller learned to dance reminded me of how Charlie learned to dance.
I'll admit, at first this book was confusing. However, when I got to the chapters with Hermine, the masked ball, and the magic theatre "for madmen only" I felt like I understood the story. My point here is that you need to have patience with a story like this. It's not one that will grab you, it's one that will gradually grow on you.

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Review: Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I was in eighth grade, I read the short story "Flowers for Algernon" as part of the curriculum. I can relate to Charlie Gordon in that I live in the world of the disabled and the world of the non-disabled as he did. Though for me, it's a little different. My disability was not removed by surgical means; rather, I am mildly disabled and I can talk to disabled kids better than I can other kids. But I can still talk to other kids; it's just harder. I can't blame that on my disability, but my point is, I feel my disability drives a wedge between me alone and the outside world; this happened to Charlie as well. I feel trepidation approaching others, getting involved in romantic relationships, etc. because the past with my own disability did not incorporate that, just like the way it was for Charlie.
But enough about me.
I can honestly say that the overall story is amazing: I remember reading the short story before my class did (I'm known for doing that, because of my intense love of reading) and crying after I'd finished.
Reading the entire novel, however, made it even better. I loved how the novel dove into Charlie's past. One of the things I often wondered about while reading the short story was why Charlie was so determined to learn. The novel explained that beautifully through flashbacks Charlie had. I felt so bad for him, yet I just wanted to know more. I loved the way they were written. And I loved how Charlie began to see the mentally challenged Charlie through hallucinations until he finally confronted the "boy," promising that he would not let go of learning. That, I think, shows true determination.
I also loved how this book showed you that being disabled is not all bad. Sometimes, it's better to be an innocent, mentally challenged man, than to give that up to learn, only to find that that man has become an "arrogant, antisocial bastard."
Charlie learned many things in the story, but most important was definitely, for me, that "the mind without the heart isn't worth a damn."

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Review: Station Eleven

Station Eleven Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Hell is the absence of the people you long for."

As many know by now, the science fiction genre in publishing has recently been gathering a lot of steam. We have books like Divergent that are very heavily hyped due to heavy action and excitement, something that just didn't work for me... we have Flowers for Algernon, a novel that had come from the beloved short story, a story that I love in both forms for its analysis of what excess knowledge can do to the human soul... and then we have Station Eleven, a novel that, upon initial look at, I was skeptical about. However, Mandel paints an exquisite picture of this amazingly believable world... it is our world... and it has been shattered in a sinister, quiet, and very destructive way.
One snowy night in Toronto, Canada, a famous Hollywood actor, Arthur Leander, dies of a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, leaps to Arthur's aid, but the curtain drops and it is too late. Meanwhile, a flight from Moscow arrives, transporting people who unwittingly carry an extremely deadly disease known as the Georgia Flu and are immediately transported to the hospital upon the flight arriving. Soon enough, the disease is all over the world, people dying like flies as our present civilization dies with them. The novel leaps back and forth in time, before and after the pandemic, illustrating the remarkable resilience of people and what urges them to continue fighting, even when all seems lost.
This novel was a beautiful metaphor for the fragility of the human race. Every point of view introduced felt like a uniquely refreshing look at whatever occurred. I especially loved seeing Arthur's viewpoint toward the end. In my progress, I wrote that I didn't really like him. Well, after reading his viewpoint, I respect him. I cannot say that I like him, but all I ask from characters is to make me care, and that is what was done.
And can I just take a moment to say how much I love the Traveling Symphony? They are so incredibly strong. Their relationship with the Prophet was executed beautifully, with suspense and danger at every turn.
This novel is unlike any dystopian novel that I have read. It scares me with its brutal shocking realism. I have grown suspicious of most science fiction stories that use dystopia as a backdrop due to all-too-often shoddy world building, but this is the best world building I've ever seen in a science fiction novel.
Station Eleven was a national book award finalist and has totally earned it.
Five stars.

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Review: Watership Down

Watership Down Watership Down by Richard Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In loving memory of Richard Adams (1920 - 2016) 

My relationship with Watership Down began about a year ago, (2013), on a sunny May afternoon. It was warm outside and I was basking in the sunlight on the terrace, allowing the swinging bench I sat on to move at its leisurely pace. My father sat at my side, discussing home renovations with my mother, when suddenly I sat up and searched this book on iBooks. My favorite singer had covered the song "Bright Eyes" and a favorite band of mine (to which the singer belonged, believe it or not) had written a song entitled "Heroism: Hazel and Dandelion," which I'd heard was an allusion to Watership Down. So, I decided to search the book. When I found out it was about rabbits, I remember feeling absolutely no qualms about reading it, and I think that was because I'd seen small snippets from the film adaptation online, which I was able to handle, given my age. I remember wanting to watch the entire movie, but I found out that it was a novel, and I never watch a movie without cracking open the book first. The only thing I really remember about that first day of reading is diving into the sample from iBooks, and finishing the 100-page preview within the hour. (The iBooks version was 1,000-plus pages.) I remember walking back out to the terrace, where my parents were still conversing in the mid daylight. I sat down beside my father and patiently waited for the conversation to stop, distracting myself with my iPad. A minute later, he turned to me and said, "Okay, I know you're dying to tell me about the book."
I remember trying to conceal my excitement; I remember feeling bad about him spending his money on something for me. I knew the price was only $10, but I still felt bad about it. My father didn't care, which wasn't a surprise, since we both shared a profound love of reading. Exactly a week later, I had finished the book and at the same time had fallen in love with it. I remember trying to pick a favorite character, and coming up with a ton! (Hazel, Thlayli, Fiver, Pipkin, Dandelion.)
I remember how, every time I picked up the book during that first read, a wave of nostalgia would wash over me as I was driven by an intensely burning hunger to see what would happen next. I remember falling in love with Thlayli after he promised to save Blackavar from certain death in Efrafa. I remember reading the chapter "General Woundwort" during my lunch period at school, and feeling intensely sad when I had to stop because the bell signaling the end of the period rang! I remember one of the teachers asking me about the book I was reading and telling her, and her telling me in response that she had read it, too, and loved it.
This book is so worth reading. I still have it on my iPad and I remember that, every time Apple accidentally deleted it, (it does that sometimes) I would think to myself, "Why that one? Delete any other book besides that one!" and wait impatiently until I had internet so I could download it again! This novel is an absolute treasure! It is a must-have for any library. It was so wonderful that I decided to use it for my Summer Reading assignment a month later.
I'm telling you so much about the effect the story had on me, but I should explain why it affected me in this way.
Fiver, the runt of the litter and a seer to boot, has a terrible vision of death and destruction approaching his home Sandleford warren. He convinces his brother Hazel that evacuation is mandatory, so, as the Chief Rabbit dismisses it all as nonsense, Hazel and Fiver gather a small group of rabbits to leave, including two members of the warren's militia, Thlayli and Silver. Their journey takes them to places and puts them in situations unlike anything they've ever experienced before. But will they find a new home?
I won't spoil any more. All I have left to say is:
it was one of the best novels I've ever read. Five MILLION stars.

Update 2014
I just listened to the audiobook (the week before Thanksgiving 2014) for the first time, narrated by the wonderful Ralph Cosham. I fell in love with the audiobook almost as hard as I had with the novel itself. After reading it I did some research on the narrator of the audiobook.
May Ralph Cosham rest in peace....

Update December 2016:

News just surfaced on 12/27 that Richard Adams, the author of this breathtakingly beautiful story, passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve 2016. May his beautiful soul rest in peace.... 

Richard George Adams 
(1920 - 2016)

Rest in Peace... 

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New to this

I'm new to this. For now, I will be posting reviews of books I've read on goodreads.com. Just a simple post on this new medium. I may also post some of my own writings as well. We'll see where this goes.