February 2016 Reading Wrap-Up

So, I didn’t read all that much in the month of February… 

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I only made it through 4 books—1 middle grade novel, 2 adult non-fictions, and 1 adult thriller. I’m not sure what happened, other than that I was occupied by Academy Award Nominated movies, Valentine’s Day, my anniversary, and being really sick. Oh well, at least I enjoyed everything I read, unlike the crap I reviewed in January

The Imaginary by A.F. Harold
4/5 Stars

22443909This is a charming middle grade tale about a boy named Rudger who was imagined by a little girl named Amanda. After Amanda hurt and forgets Rudger, the imagined boy meets other imagined creatures who want to help him find a new real friend. Rudger, however, is determined to get Amanda back.

I’ll probably forget about The Imaginary in a few years, but I did enjoy reading it. The pictures are mostly in black and white, but the splashes of color give the book some extra personality. It’s wittiness and whimiscal-realism reminded me of Roald Dahl. And although I wouldn’t say Mr. Harold is even close to Dahl’s level, he can definitely imitate him in a way that should appeal to 21st century kiddos.


Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
5/5 Stars

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I didn’t love Are You My Mother?, which is about Bechdel’s relationship with her overbearing mother. But I’d heard much better things about Fun Home, the story of Bechdel’s coming out shortly before her closeted-homosexual father commits suicide. After its Broadway Musical adaptation won so many awards at the Tonys, I knew I had to check it out. It didn’t disappoint. I’ve loved so many graphic novel memoirs (Maus and Persepolis to name a couple); I consider the genre to be one of my favorites. Fun Home certainly ranks in my top 5 favorite graphic novel memoirs now. Alison Bechdel is so goddamn intelligent it makes me feel unworthy. I’d definitely recommend reading Fun Home before Are You My Mother?, as the later is definitely a companion piece. Fun Home sets the stage for what you need to care about Alison and her family in Are You My Mother?

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum
4/5 Stars

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I started working on a long review for this book right after I finished reading it. It’s not done yet because there’s sooo much to say. The Girl Next Door is a thriller based on the real life murder of Sylvia Lichens. If you’ve never heard of Sylvia Lichens, before you look up the case I’ll warn you that accounts of her death are some of the most horrifying things you’ll ever read. A lot of people have described this book as like a darker version of The Body (aka Stand By Me). The main character is a 12-year-old boy in late 1950s suburbia who witnesses the abuse of his female friend, by both an adult he trusts and his peers. The boy struggles with how and if he should save his friend without ruining his reputation. Reading this book is a lot like reading something that takes place during the Holocaust. You’re miserable the entire time, but you come away thinking about the psychology behind what makes humans commit horrifying acts of violence. That long review will be posted soon.

The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron
4/5 Stars

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Check out my review for this one here. This is a modern-classic self-helpish book written by the psychiatrist who coined the term “Highly Sensitive Person,” which refers to someone who has more intense emotions than average. I’ve known that I’m highly sensitive my entire life, but it wasn’t until I discovered Dr. Aron’s website in my late teens that it occurred to me that being sensitive isn’t solely a negative trait. I had some issues with this book (as explained in my review), but overall I really liked it.

 

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Book Review: The Highly Sensitive Person

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4-out-of-5-stars

Before I read this book there wasn’t a shred of doubt in my mind that I’m what Dr. Aron would call a “Highly Sensitive Person.” I’ve been labeled “sensitive” my entire life. But before I discovered Dr. Aron’s website in high school, I thought that “sensitive” was only an appropriate term for someone with strong negative reactions. When I took her “HSP Test,” which you can find on her webiste and in this book…aaand which I’m now realized sound like an STD screening… anyway, after I took the test I recognized that I have strong reactions, period. I don’t only get upset easily, I also get happy easily, scared easily, tired easily, hungry easily, cold easily. *insert your own emotion here* easily probs also. And if this sounds like you, you’re probably Highly Sensitive too. And you’d benefit from reading this book.

Yah, HSP isn’t a medical label, so you might be skeptical about buying into whatever’s written in here. But the fact is, some people are more in touch with their emotions than others. I’ve seen it in myself and in others to varying degrees. And living as a sensitive person is different from living as an “average” person, as Western culture accepts only a certain amount of controlled sensitivity. You shouldn’t need a “self-help” book to tell you that. But Dr. Aron, who identifies as Highly Sensitive herself, has some great insights on Highly Sensitive life and some awesome tips on how to come to terms with your sensitive self.

I wouldn’t say I love everything about this book, but there is quite a bit to love. It was refreshing to read a generalization about the average Highly Sensitve person’s experience and think “that is totally me.” For example, there’s a little section about how sensitive kids are often labeled gifted in elementary school, and then struggle with living up to that label for the rest of their lives. There’s also a bit on how Highly Sensitive People often get too attached in romantic relationships because they feel love more intensely than the average person and they also value close friendships more than the average person. But of course, this is a kind of “self-help” book, so it’s not as scientific or as detailed as I would have liked. There’s also a whole chapter on “spirituality” that I didn’t care for. I’m not really agains the term “spiritual,” but I don’t like it when people use it to only label people who believe in a kind of ethereal higher power despite not being religious. Yea, I would consider people like that to be spiritual, but I would also consider people who have good relationships with the natural world (really good meditators, people who love going on long hikes, y’know) and believe that science can eventually explain everything to be spiritual as well. I feel like Dr. Aron implies that all HSP believe in some kind of god, which clearly isn’t true… cuz I don’t.

But I will definitely be checking out The Highly Sensitive Person in Love and The Highly Sensitive Person’s Workbook. Everything I can do to make the transition into adulthood easier, amirite?

Thoughts on the publication of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I threw up my dinner a few nights ago. I’m not sure if I had a virus or if something I ate didn’t agree with me, but regardless I decided to stay home from work the next day to be safe. That morning, my boyfriend woke me up and asked me if I was still sick and I replied, “Yes.” Then he said, “There’s going an 8th Harry Potter book.” “Great, now I’m even sicker,” I said.

When I found out that it’s just going to be the script of the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, my stomach settled again. At least now I don’t have to worry about not getting a chance to ever see the play, which I’ve been excited for ever since it was announced. But at the same time, I know this is a slippery slope. It very well may lead to a second and third and fourth sequel, and I’ve always been very comfortable with the 7-book canon. I remember my high school guidance counselor saying that he’d be shocked if JK Rowling never wrote an 8th book. I told him that there was no way she’d go back on her promise that this was the end …at least not until she was like, 70. Well, guess I was wrong.

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But yah… I’m cautiously optimistic about this. All I want is for it to be well-written and to feel more like Harry Potter than freakin’ No-Majs and Illvermorny.

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Being a recent college graduate feels like…

  • Reading the first chapter of a book that you’re not sure you’ll like
  • Being in the middle of the first hill on a roller coaster, (or waiting in line for the high dive)
  • Watching those pre-previews, movie theater promotional crap
  • Waiting to find out if that strep-throat test was positive
  • Trying to fall asleep the night before your first day of school
  • An awkward first date
  • Wrestling with a very slow internet connection
  • When it rains on your first day at the beach
  • A 7 hour car ride to grandma’s
  • Trying to write an introduction to what is sure to become a very long essay

How do I start this thing?

I’ve been eager to start a blog for MONTHS now. I knew that I should wait until I graduated, so it wouldn’t distract me from my schoolwork. Well, schoolwork is now no more. I am now a young alumni of The University of Virginia, wobbling around on her scrawny, 22-year-old, effectively unemployed legs.

I waited over a week to kickstart my blog mostly because I was dreading this first “welcome to my blog, this is why I wants to be blogger” post. I don’t have a set goal in mind. I just want to share some of my creative musings to my friends, family, and potential employers. Here’s what to expect:

  • Book reviews
  • Film reviews
  • Advice on how to deal with being in your early-twenties and scared to death, (because the internet really needs more of this stuff).
  • Some liberal political business
  • Short stories and flash fictions
  • Fun, better-than-Buzzfeed lists
  • Maybe some photos if I ever learn how to take good ones

So stay tuned. I’m looking forward to this.