Fiend Review

Fiend by Peter Stenson
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: July 9th, 2013
Date Read: 3/18/15 to 3/22/15
295 pages
Rating: ✰✰✰✰

To be honest, outside of The Walking Dead comics I’ve never really read much zombie fiction. I thought it was cool and provided an interesting background to test humanity and morality and stuff but I never really got too into the whole genre. But look at that summary! An addict making their way through a zombie apocalypse? That’s something that I’d definitely heard of or imagined before so I had to check it out.

So the plot has the same straight forward as any other other zombie story–survive. The one key difference is that in addition to food, water, shelter, and guns, our heroes need meth. Throughout this book meth is their number one priority, which is makes sense. Literally the first thing Chase and his friend Typewriter do after figuring out that the end of the world is really happening is drive to their dealers house to see if they can find some meth.

You can read the rest of my review on my friends blog The Innocent Smiley

Redwall Review

Redwall by Brian Jacques
Redwall #1
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: October 4th, 2007
Date Read: 3/6/15 to 3/14/15
352 pages
Rating: ✰✰✰✰

I actually got a solid 15 books into this series when I was in middle school. And since I’m older and wiser I figured a re-read was in order. This book is every bit as awesome as I remember.

There is literally no reason for you not to read it. I love everything about it. There are adorable mice and woodland critters doing cute things that literally had me saying “aww” as I read. The plot is pretty simple. Redwall Abbey is the home of the peaceful monk mice and they take care of and live happily with the surrounding woodland critters. Then an evil rat called Cluny the Scourge shows up, decides he wants Redwall and begins a siege. The main character is Matthias, a young mouse who steps up and becomes the warrior that Redwall needs. However this is as much a story of the place and the other creature’s relationship to and love of it, as much as it’s about Matthias’s hero journey.

You can read the rest of my review on my bud’s blog The Innocent Smiley

I Feel as If I’m Learning Things

I’ve never exactly considered myself a team player. I mean that in the sense that I prefer to do things alone. I prefer running and lifting to any sport that involves any type of team effort. I believe that team projects are the work of the devil. Most of my hobbies–gaming, writing, reading, photography–are all things that I can do alone.

It’s not that I hate people. It’s more because I’m more of an introvert, and while I do enjoy being around my friends and stuff, people exhaust my very quickly. My mindset is pretty much “since 85% of life requires me to be around others, the remaining 15% is for me, alone”. This is also the reason why I never really got involved with any clubs or anything on campus.

But something has changed within the past few months.

I’ve been spending a lot of time working on myself, and making it a point to try out new things and put myself outside of my comfort zone a bit. About a month ago one of my best friends mentioned that the student art magazine that she’s on was in desperate need of a photographer. I have a Nikon DSLR, somewhat decent photography skills, and a fair amount free time on my hands, so I decided to give it a shot (hehe).

What surprised me the most is how much I am enjoying myself. I spend the better part of my Monday and Wednesday afternoons with my bestie and two other guys in the art collecting and taking pictures of student art. We walk throughout the art building, choose pieces from display cases, set up proper lighting, and I photograph them, all while we talking about random stuff and argue about anime. I can barely believe how much I enjoy being part of a team. True, this enjoyment might stem from the fact that I’mm the one directing them since I know what goes into making a good photo. But even then, I still consult with them, show them the photos as I’m taking them and try to get the shots that they want.

But of course, being part of a team sometimes involves picking up someone’s….negligence.

Well, negligence is a harsh word. Long story short the 11 pm on a Thursday night I got a text from one of the dude’s on the magazine telling me that he needed all the pictures I had taken by the next morning. I was mildly pissed because I was winding down for the night. And also because the dude had the whole freaking day that he could have told me. He apologized, telling me that he had just found out himself.

Anyways I stayed up until 3 am that night looking through all the photos I had taken, choosing the best ones, and editing them slightly to bring out their colors and such. Yes, I was exhausted, yes I was annoyed. But, surprisingly, I also felt important. I felt proud of myself for being part of something bigger than me. Having a role so important that I had simply refused everyone the whole magazine would have been screwed.

I don’t really know what the point of this post is, but I just feel like I’m slowly learning new things throughout this break, and that feels good.

Still Not Over It

My Chemical Romance broke up 3 years ago.

They were my favorite band.

I’m still not over it. And, to be completely honest, I’m not sure I ever will be.

This band, their lyrics, their mission, and the four goofy guys that made it up have done so much for me that I can’t properly express my love for them in words. During my darkest points they were always there for me. They always reminded me that no matter how crappy life got, it was always worth it to hang in there because it always gets better.

That message didn’t just come from their lyric, but also from their very lives’. For example, for the first two albums of their career, the band’s vocalist, Gerard Way, as severely depressed alcoholic. He even admitted that he went to one their shows in Japan with no intention of returning. But eventually he got sick of being at rock bottom, went to rehab, and took care of his mental health, and his now married with an adorable little girl, and has an Eisner winning Comic Book. I’ll see pictures of him now and smile, wondering if the old him could have even had an inkling of how good his life would eventually become.

Even their most famous album, The Black Parade, was one of the most emotionally draining experience for them. In the book that comes with the limited edition version of the album, Gerard talks about how Mikey–the bassist and his younger brother–would have to come sleep in his room because he was terrified each night. They had to go to such a dark place within themselves, but they came out stronger and produced such a beautiful that have touched so many people. The last song on the album is called “Famous Last Words” and the lyrics that touch me the most on it are these:

I am not afraid to keep on living
I am not afraid to walk this world alone
Honey if you stay, I’ll be forgiven
Nothing you can say can stop me going home

And these guys truly cared about their fans. Gerard started the band after 9/11 happened, and he realized that he wanted to make a difference in the world, and in his words “lower the suicide rate a little.” They wanted to create a space for those that felt misunderstood, and make them feel loved. Throughout performances, between songs, he would urge how important it was to not hurt yourself and even made the fans promise that “even if they never played another show, they’ll keep themselves alive.

I just…I just love this band so much. But I feel like the word love doesn’t fully encapsulate everything I feel for them. But I really want to show you how I’m feeling, so I’ll share a few youtube videos with you.

My Favorite Interview

No matter how crappy I’m feeling, this video always manages to touch me in some way. In it he talks about how even though he had started My Chemical Romance, they were still treated as the “uncool” kids and how he never let it get to him. He discusses his struggles with depression and says one of my favorite quotes of all time “All your quirks and your problems, all your depression and your failures, that’s what makes you, you.”

(Side note: The song playing throughout is “Cancer” from The Black Parade) 

Famous Last Words

I already quoted this sing earlier. But it just means so much to me.

Welcome to the Black Parade

This was one of the first songs that I heard from them. This song (and the album as a whole) is inspired by Gerard’s belief that death comes for an individual in the form of their most cherished memory. For the protagonist who is dying of cancer in this album, death comes for him in the form a parade he went to with his dad when he was younger. I just like the theatricality of it and everything.

Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back

Fans often tell the band that their music saved their lives. But Gerard doesn’t see it that way. He says that everyone has the power to save themselves, and MCR didn’t save them. Rather they play the role of a good friend holding off the brunt of the storm, because they know that they can do it themselves, but just need some help.

Also, the album this is off of, Danger Days, is centered on the Killjoys, a group of outlaws trying to bring down blind inc. But this song is so upbeat and admits, in a rather casual way, that they die and lose, but it doesn’t matter too much because of all the fun they had and chaos they caused while they were alive.

The Light Behind Your Eyes

The first time I heard this song I teared up. Some people say that he wrote this song for his daughter, others say that it was written as a goodbye letter to fans. I don’t care either way. It touches me just because how he admits that he won’t always be there for the listener. I took the message  to both be from the band, and from my parents and friends–the people who are always there for me and help me when I need it most. And how they say that they will be times they can’t be there for me, but no matter what, don’t give up the fight and don’t let the world, my demons, what ever take the “light behind my eyes.” And just how sad, meaningful he sounds throughout this song just gets to me.

Demolition Lovers

This is from their first album I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, which isn’t too popular (outside the fanbase) and might not be as objectively good compared to their later albums. But I just love the lyrics “I’m trying, I’m trying to let you know just how much you mean to me.” And just how desperate he sounds to convey his love to his lover.

And the “plot” of this album is of a Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque couple and in this song, the last in the album, they are finally caught and shot down.

Helena

A classic. How could I not. He wrote those song in honor of his grandmother who had recently passed away. And it is a beautiful song.

I Never Told You What I Do For A Living

This is the last song off Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. The plot of this album is that a man has lost his love, and has made a deal with the devil. He must kill 1000 evil souls and them he’ll be able to be reunited with his love. And while the song is more or less upbeat, he still admits that the blood he has spilled has soiled him to his core and can never be washed off. But how desperate he says when “I tried” as he realizes that while he did all this for her, because of how tainted he is, he can never be with her again. At least that’s my interpretation of it.

Those are just a few of my favorites. I’m curious, if anyone else who reads this likes My Chemical Romance, I’d like to know which songs are some of the most important to you and what they mean to you.

The Museum of Intangible Things Review

The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: April 10th, 2014
Date Read: 2/28/15 to 3/5/15
304 pages
Rating: ✰✰✰

The cover of this book lied to me. I picked it up expecting a sort of cute hipstery light read about some girlfriends doing fun stuff on a road trip. Instead I was treated to a story that dealt with bad parents, an alcoholic father, lower-middle class struggles with money, and the toll mental illness can take on a person and their relationships. So be warned, if you pick this up don’t be expecting a light-easy read.

I’m not giving anything away when I say that Zoe has bipolar disorder, you find out within the first chapter. And I think, even though it’s told from Hannah’s point-of-view, that this book is more about Zoe, her disorder, and how it affects their friendship. Hannah and Zoe are pretty much exact opposites. Hannah is firmly rooted in her place in life, and cares about her parents to the extent that she’s more or less taking care of them instead of them taking care of her. Zoe on the other hand, possibly due to her manic tendencies, is much more impulsive, confident, and everything Hannah is not.

I really appreciated this book’s portrayal of mental illness. It doesn’t shy away from the debilitating effects of mental illness, and doesn’t try to romanticize it in anyway.

Read the rest of my review on my friend’s blog The Innocent Smiley

Much Excite

Hi it’s been a while! But so many exciting things have happened! Well, exciting for me at least.

First, my anxiety surrounding writing is more or less gone. It’s amazing, I’m so happy. I’m going to start writing fiction again soon, and hopefully start writing on this blog more regularly! I mean my life isn’t too interesting to write about but I’m sure I’ll figure something out. Maybe I’ll do a blogging challenge or something. I’ve been reading a lot more, so I have a feeling that there are going to be a lot more book reviews. Anyways, I’m just so incredibly happy to be writing without experience any anxiety.

Second, I am making so much progress in the gym. I’m now squatting 115, and deadlifting 100. I’m trying to work on my form for the clean but I just can’t get it down and its frustrating.  But I’m not going to give up. To be completely honest a solid 80% of my thoughts involve the gym: how much I miss it, eagerly waiting for it to be my next workout, planning my workouts. Ah, I’m just so in love with the gym, and pushing myself every day. I’m actually kind of tempted to make a fitness blog to record my progress, track my workouts, and just keep me on track because I love it so much.

I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and enrolled in a programming class! I’m learning C++. One of the only things that makes it manageable for me is imagining the questions as a puzzle from a Professor Layton game. That makes me feel more excited about answering them.

I’m also learning to take more time for myself, treat myself better and occasionally spoil myself. I still have the occasional bad day but I’m coping with them so so so so SO much better and it’s awesome. Recovery is a process, a hard and scary one, but I’m happy and proud of myself for doing it.

I’m also finding myself more interested in existentialism and am thinking about buying some Camus, Kafka, and Kierkegaard to understand it more. One thing I really like about what I’ve been doing for the past few months is taking the time to really learn about myself and what I value, and confront myself head on. It’s just great/

Peeps Review

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
Peeps #1
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: February 3rd, 2005
Date Read: 2/8/14 to 2/24/14
312 Pages
Rating: ✰✰✰✰

You know how back in the days before science when strange things happened humans would make up elaborate stories to explain it? Droughts happened because the gods were upset, a child was born blind because of the father’s sins, epilepsy was obviously just someone being possessed. Now imagine that is the same thing that happened with vampires. Vampires never really existed…well they do, but instead of being some mystical creature they’re just normal humans who are showing symptoms of a sickness. Welcome to the world of Peeps.

In this book, vampirism is a result of infection from a parasite and those who are infected are referred to as parasite-positive, or, for the sake of brevity, as  peeps. And this parasite is spread by the exchanging of bodily fluids. Yes, so vampirism is basically an STD.

The story revolves around Cal Thompson, a 19 year-old Texas native who, on his first night in New York City, had a one-night stand that left him with a new parasite friend. However, he’s special in that he’s a carrier. A carrier is someone who is infected with the parasite and gets all the cool super cool side-effects, but doesn’t become a brainless bloodsucker hiding from the light. He works for the City Nightwatch, which is a secret branch of the NYC government that deals with keeping the parasite under control, and learning more about it.

You can read the rest of the review at my friends blog The Innocent Smiley

On Writing

I’m having trouble writing and it’s extremely frustrating. All forms of writing. For this blog, for apps, fiction writing, even in my own journal. For my whole life writing has always been my sole comfort. The ability to sit down and pause life for a bit as I scratch words on a page in an attempt to create and control something.

But for the past few months it’s become a minor source of anxiety. So I stopped writing. January rolled around, and I was able to think about writing without getting extremely nervous. So I decided to start my journal again and come back to this blog. Doing this is helping me I think, even though I still feel uncomfortable as I write, at least I’m doing it. I think my main issue is that I worry too much about it not being good enough and beating myself up before I even write and deciding I’d rather not try then write crappy words. I have no idea where this came from, but I’m not going to let it take away the thing I love most.

I know one of my “New Years Goals” was to write on this once a week. But I’m not sure if I can do that at this point in time. Even writing this required me to take a lot of breaks and took 45 minutes. So I think until I get past whatever mental block this is, my aim is to post on this every 10-14 days. I’m also hoping within a few months I’ll be able to write fiction again.

New Years Resolutions….kind of?

I’ve never been a fan of New Years Resolutions. I don’t buy that New Year, New Me crap. I never understood why some date on the calendar suddenly makes me a new person and that can suddenly do all the things I’ve been meaning to do. The way I see it each and every day is a new chance to improve myself and start picking up new habits. But, it has to be something I’m really motivated to do. It has to be a goal that I yearn to reach with every fiber of my being, or else it’s simply not going to happen. And, for me at least, it being a new year isn’t going to suddenly inspire me to make changes in my life.

All that being said, I have some goals that I’ve been working on for the past few months. However goals aren’t really anything if they don’t have deadlines. So my deadline for these goals is before the end of 2014. So I guess in some roundabout way these are my versions of New Years Resolutions? I’m not sure, make whatever you will of it.

Stuff to do before December 31, 2014:

  • Finally read the Game of Thrones series
  • Run at least one 5k race
  • Do a Spartan Race
  • Make a post on this blog at least once a week
  • Actually finish writing a novel instead of getting bored and giving up like 20,000 words in
  • Continue to get more comfortable and firm about carving time out for myself for self-care stuff
  • Bench Press 100 lbs (I currently do Dumbbell Bench Presses with 30 in each hand so I’m almost there!)

Those are main goals, and I’m pretty confident about being able to fulfill all of them because I’ve already kind of started working to some of my goals (mainly the fitness and self-care ones).

Now I’m curious, what are some of your New Years Resolutions? Post them in the comments I’d love to hear them.

The Golem and the Jinni Review

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: April 23rd, 2013
Date Read: 11/29/14 to 12/30/14
496 Pages
Rating: ✰✰✰✰

This book was magical, touching, charming, and realistic all at once. I followed the lives of two mythical creatures as they made their way in late 19th century New York, and simultaneously found myself questioning some of silly things inherent in human nature. I loved this book.

Chava is a golem, a creature made of earth and clay that was brought to life by her master on a voyage across the Atlantic. A golem is created in order to serve their master and can look into their minds and hear their desires. However her master died shortly after, leaving her alone and overwhelmed in New York city as her head is constantly filled with the wants, wishes, and hopes, of everyone in the city. Eventually she runs into a Jewish rabbi that takes her under his wing and teaches her how to pass as a human.

Ahmad, is a jinni and the exact opposite of Chava. While Chava is essentially a child, the Ahmad is hundreds of years old. Chava is timid, cautious, and wants to help others, while Ahmad is a bit selfish, hedonistic, and cares little for how his actions might affect others. A golem is created by humans for the purpose of serving while jinnis have no master and even look down upon humans. Chava is made of earth while Ahmad is a being of fire untethered by anything. Well…until he got tricked into captivity by a wizard many, many years ago. Somehow his lamp ended up in a Syrian immigrant’s tinsmith shop, and when he goes to fix it, the jinni is released. Used to a life of flitting from one pleasure to another he is greatly irritated by his new captivity as he begins to make a life for himself.

You can read the rest of the review on my friend’s blog The Innocent Smiley