RAT: #BecauseDragonsRAT TBR

 

As I said before, I am going to be participating in readathons as much as I can. So, I read about the Because Dragons readathon. You can find more information right here.  It is a readathon centered on fantasy, and it lasts for a whole week.

Here are the challenges with my TBR.

Reading Challenges:

1. Read a diverse fantasy book. (could be #ownvoices, could be a POC author, could be a diverse cast of characters, or set in a part of the (real) world you are not familiar with)

When the Moon was Ours by Anna Marie McLemore (which is magical realism, not fantasy, I think).
2. Read a fantasy book with a steamy romance.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
3. Read a fantasy book with purple on the cover. (any amount is sufficient)

When the Moon was Ours 

4. Read the next fantasy book in a series. (continue a series or start a new one)

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. I have been “reading” this book for decades. Millions of decades. I need to get on it.
5. Read a fantasy books with dragons in it.

Eon by Alison Goodman

I am hoping to review or at least comment on the books as I go. Hopefully, you have followed me on Goodreads! Link right here.

I haven't been able to post on my blog for most of September. The world
As someone who is afraid of space and traveling in general, it's hilarious that I
Happy September to my peeps! After attempting to squish my library books and TBR into

WWU: Feb Weeks 1-2

Rather than doing a giant monthly review, I thought it would be easier to review my work one week at a time. So, here are my first two weeks of February. Check it out, if you’re curious!

FEBRUARY TBR:

Girl of Fire and Thorns–Rae Carson (read) 

The Dream Thieves–Maggie Steifvater  (read) 

A Darker Shade of Magic–V.E. Schwab (currently reading)

Revenge and the Wild–Michelle Modesto (read!)

Half-baked attempts: On Writing by Stephen King  (currently reading)

Extra Credit: Cinder (Marissa Meyer) and The Wrath and the Dawn (Renee Ahdieh) (Nope. Not even starting these two yet. Maybe I should) 

GOALS:

-Get halfway through my novel  (I’m laughing and crying at this goal. I am nowhere near this benchmark. In fact, I have not looked at my novel over the past two weeks of February. I am hoping to pick up where I left off, though).  

-Start exercising daily (walks maybe?)
(Another laughable goal, because I have not been able to focus on exercising. For the most part, I have been sedentary and stationary. Just sitting. Maybe I can try to do smaller increments of physical movement so I can get those minutes in. I’ll try. Will report back). 

-Photography
(In my head, I want to be posting pictures every day on Instagram. This has not happened yet. However, I will say that I am exploring photography more by looking at what other people take pictures of, and the manner in which they do so). 

-Read and journal every day

(I have mostly been able to keep up with reading every day. But, writing in my journal was not a priority, unfortunately. I’d rather focus more on meditation. Will tweak that goal). 

-Integrate creative writing into the blog/Twitter

(Nope. I have written one “creative” post but that was it. I have been drafting another one, though). 

 

You may have noticed the absence of a wrap up last week. I am, as
Image courtesy of username 1103489 on Pixabay. In my first week of July, I have
Goodbye June, you were a rough month. Growing up is hard work, but I am

BT: Life Syllabus

Leena Norms and Rowan Ellis posted a video about creating a life syllabus. In it, they discuss lessons that they wish they’d learned in the school of life.

So, I thought I’d create my own life syllabus. I used to be a teacher (albeit a very crappy one. It’s complicated). But, I think this post could serve as an introduction to things I value. Of course, the post is more of a reflection on what matters to me, and not necessarily to everyone else.

Take it all with a grain of salt.

Self-Directed Study
Book –

Fangirl–Rainbow Rowell (to learn about creativity, mental health, education, and relationships) + Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi (also see: identity, bravery, word play, and relationships). There are the obvious ones, Harry Potter series, Chronicles of Narnia, and Lord of the Rings.  Anything by William Shakespeare is worth checking out.

Film –

Swiss Army Man, Ruby Sparks, What If, Inside Llewyn Davis, Little Miss Sunshine, Amelie, 500 Days of Summer 

Documentary –

Supersize Me (I know. How old school of me!), Forks over Knives, Earthlings 

TV Series –

Community. 

YouTube Channel –

The School of Life,   Rosianna Halse Rojas, and It’s Radish Time  Rowan Ellis   and Leena Norms Obviously, John and Hank Green’s channel is great. I have more, but I’ll contain my enthusiasm.

Misc

“Ode to My Bitch Face”  ,   “Recovering from Failure,”   (Actually, the whole Talking in Circles by Laura Miller is a wonderful series).

Course Work – experiences to have
  1. Failure
  2. Fostering new skills and interests
  3. Therapy for the first time.
  4. Meditation
  5. Deep and frank conversations
  6. Writing your through a prompt or a question/written meditation/epiphanies/revelations
  7. Regular self care rituals
Exam – brace yourself for a situation

Friends moving on or drifting apart, interests changing, questioning social norms in regards to ideologies, beauty, health, identity, relationships, beliefs, self worth, and sexuality.

 

I sound like a broken record, but I am trying to recover from this bout
My incredible friend Ely posted her answers to this Book Personality Challenge a few days
As I watched Marines' video of this tag, I felt that it would be a

RAT: Bookentine 2017 TBR

I am going to participate in Bookentine to encourage reading more throughout this month. Bookentine is a readathon with three challenges. It was created by Ely and Michelle over at Tea and Titles.

Challenge 1: Read a book with red and/or pink on the cover

There are a few options for this challenge.

  1. Crown of Embers which is the second book in the A Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy (Yes, I finally finished the first one!)
  2. The Dream Thieves 
  3. Wrath and the Dawn

I am tempted to just work on The Dream Thieves for now, because The Raven Boys went by quickly.

Challenge 2: Read a book by an author you haven’t read before,

I am going with V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic to fulfill this challenge’s requirement.

Challenge 3: Read a book featuring mental illness or disability.

Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto. I just double checked, and it sounds like the heroine has one arm.

 

Now, there are a few things to keep in mind here:

First, I read at a relatively slow pace. I am not sure I’ll be able to get through all three of these books. But, this will not stop me from trying to read on a daily basis. This is the goal here. I am participating to get myself some motivation to read more frequently.

I am very lucky to have more than one option to read at a time, so I want to get my TBR to be smaller over time. While I am not being too creative with my reading list for this readathon, I am hoping to communicate about what I read as well, to build this blog some more.

Warning: I am starting all these books for the most part. I am a Slytherin, so cheating is not beyond my capacity. Hope that is okay.

If you want, follow me on Goodreads for more on my thoughts as I read these books. Linking my account right here.  Come say hello.

Hope you will participate with us!

 

 

I haven't been able to post on my blog for most of September. The world
As someone who is afraid of space and traveling in general, it's hilarious that I
Happy September to my peeps! After attempting to squish my library books and TBR into

To the Stars!

So She Thought

She lived in a shoe-box thinking it a mansion. In her head, she dreamed of being someone else, of being blue-eyed blonde, stick thin and muscly.

Never mind her thick legs. Ignore this frizz like pineapple hair. She promised to erase her wilderness, her half-masked ambition, her enthusiasm. Instead, she would trade it in for a calm, cool, collected caricature to a charismatic clever creature. Shrewd and nonchalant, she would circle those goals, day after day.

Wrong.

Her mind was wrong, but it was made up.

But, she spent her time wishing to be different. Only to realize that she is wasting her glory days gorging and gawking at other brains, other dreams, other beings.

Perhaps, it is less about minding the gaps between her and the rest. More, it is more about feeling the cloth she is working with. Touching the seams and zippers, soothing velvet texture. Throwing it back and jumping off roof tops, cape bellowing behind.

“These are the glory days,” she would whisper to the stars.

 

 

I'm writing this post after procrastinating a long time. However, it was brewing for a
Over the past week, my sleep schedule has taken a plunge into bat schedule land.
While I did enjoy The Final Empire novel, Brandon Sanderson completely blew me away with the sequel, The

February TBR and Goals

I didn’t do so well last month with the TBR pile. January was an awful month for me. I struggled to do the basics, because I had a huge change in my life. Hopefully I can manage things better this month. I am trying. You’ll notice some of the same books from last month’s TBR on February’s TBR.

Also: I would like to note that TBRs are a new thing to me, because I normally read whatever I lay eyes on. It is not very effective. Now, I have a nice pile of books next to my bed ready to be read. I am not sure if that is necessary. I mean, maybe you just put them on the shelves nearby. What do you guys with TBRs? Do you set them nearby? Or, do you leave them scattered in the room? Does it matter?

Another problem I am facing is focusing on one books or two at a time. I want to read all the things, all at once. I kind of have a lot of books to go through. *Gestures wildly around her room* If you have any tips, please share them in the comments.

Let’s start!

FEBRUARY TBR:

Girl of Fire and Thorns–Rae Carson

The Dream Thieves–Maggie Steifvater

A Darker Shade of Magic–V.E. Schwab

Revenge and the Wild–Michelle Modesto

Half-baked attempts: On Writing by Stephen King (it’s good! But, my copy is gross)

Extra Credit: Cinder (Marissa Meyer) and The Wrath and the Dawn (Renee Ahdieh)

Goals:

-Get halfway through my novel

-Start exercising daily (walks maybe?)

-Photography

-Read and journal every day

-Integrate creative writing into the blog/Twitter

 

Hope you guys have a brilliant February! Please share your advice, if you have any, below. I am very curious to hear what you think of the books on this list. I am trying to participate in a Feminist Lit February readathon. I’ll link it in this blog entry, right here.

 

I haven't been able to post on my blog for most of September. The world
As someone who is afraid of space and traveling in general, it's hilarious that I
Happy September to my peeps! After attempting to squish my library books and TBR into

BR: Colin Fischer

Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz wrote Colin Fischer, a book I found lonesome at the library. In it, they tell the story of a boy called, surprise, Colin Fischer. The story is supposed to be a mystery where Collin tries to unfold who dropped a gun in the middle of some room in the school.

Wait a Minute:

The story made me feel very uncomfortable, because Colin’s mental illness (autism) was alienating for him. I didn’t know much about autism, but there’s a part of me that is unsure of how the book presents the illness.

Spock and Data as role models for Colin. This is the second time I see this so-called “connection” in a book about a disabled character. Is this the only bit of representation out there, though? Why can’t characters relate to other people? Other heroes?

Colin is presented as a detective, but, I feel like this is an escape route rather than showing a life with disability. He is not shown to have any interests, or any friends, or any relationships that extend beyond care-giving. Supposedly, he “thinks a lot,” but the authors do not present any examples of what these thoughts may be. No motivations are associated with him either. All he is focused on is solving this so-called mystery, and it feels disrespectful.

Just a quick Google search shows many accomplished people exist, and they happen to have autism. They do more than float or obsess over the stories of others. And, the fact that this is a young adult or middle grade book makes this portrayal even more damaging.

 

 

Ill-Prepared Schools

 

One of the aspects of the story that rang a disturbing note for me was the school Colin attended. He is bullied and mistreated by teachers, who somehow do not foster a comfortable environment. I am not sure what school allows students to let their phones ring. And, I am also not so sure any teen would drop hundreds of dollars to make a disabled student uncomfortable.

Even more strange was the head-mistress who just…tells Colin he won’t get special treatment for his disability, which is bizarre. I recall having papers telling teachers what I’d need to cope in the classroom as a disabled student (and this was college, I can’t even imagine it being any different in high school).

Furthermore, from what I know, educators are exposed to various information regarding students and how to help them integrate into high school. When I was a tutor, we had day-long seminars and training sessions to, you know, be aware.

Family Dynamics

Sure, maybe his school was not well prepared for disabled students, but it baffles me that his little brother calls him the r word repeatedly. This intense hatred is never further developed or resolved.  Reading this kind of relationships feels isolating to me as a disabled woman. Should my family see me as a burden because my brain is wired differently? Would I not be able to have satisfying relationships with others? While I think it is fine to show that some characters feel this way, I wish the authors somehow challenged the notion through Colin, through his insight and intelligence.

 

Overall

Kind of a cringe worthy experience with this book. I think this is an example of representation not being fulfilling at all. While it is okay to show the problems a disabled person faces, I think its still crucial to show that they are problems. Rather than just facts.

Your Turn:

What is an inaccurate portrayal of a disability that you have encountered? Why and how was it inaccurate? Share your thoughts in comments.

 

Some of you may know that I lived in Egypt in the 90s. I was
In the most recent months of 2018, I have been aiming to read beyond my
The Love for V.E. Schwab I started reading V.E. Schwab's work about a year ago.

BR: Every Last Word

The book Every Last Word gets recommended often as a story about obsessive compulsive disorder. I struggled to get into it at first, because Every Last Word is not focused just on OCD. It does more. It made me uncomfortable as I identified with the character, Sam, deeply as the story continued.

Mental Illness as Fluid

One of the enjoyable aspects of the novel is its complex portrayal of mental illness. I have had OCD all my life, and, unlike Sam, I hadn’t been diagnosed as a young teen. In fact, it was not until I was in my mid to late twenties that my therapist diagnosed it.

The author shows some typical OCD habits in Sam’s behavior. From the counting of threes and the obsessive researching, it seems like a classic case of OCD, but then, another disorder is introduced by the final quarter of the book, and it made me so ecstatic.

You see, the book presents Sam as a person, not an illness. When presented with difficult realities, coping mechanisms kick in. On a personal level, I relate to this very much as someone who experiences various psychotic episodes frequently. Not only that, but the book also suggests that disability is not just clear cut boxes to check. There’s more to it than what people normally expect. It’s frustrating and oddly comforting.

Identity

Another fantastic aspect of the novel is its exploration of identity’s relationship with disability. Sam focuses her energy on being “normal,” which speaks volumes about the role society plays into a disabled person’s life. There is a lot of pressure and suppression of feelings because Sam wants to appear “normal.” By extension, being “normal” implies that she is worthy of having friends, having hobbies, having interests, having relationships.

It is very powerful to see this struggle in a book because I thought no one else feels this way. Most disabled people I have met are rather accepting of their life. Not me. I always longed to fit into the mold of normalcy.

As the novel unfolds, Sam learns that her identity is beyond her illnesses. While they are a part of her life, they don’t necessarily hinder her ability to live a fulfilling life.

Disability as Different, but Not Inferior

Her therapist Shrinky Sue tells her of another patient who could see sounds. She talks of how full his life is rather than unpleasant. Sure, it is isolating to be different, but it can also help empower a person.

Sam doesn’t have a full-circle of accepting her disability completely and I found that rather satisfying, because I don’t know if anyone should be “cured” to have growth.

That’s the thing about disability, there’s no end result for recovery. It’s an ongoing process. Sometimes, you’ll fall back into the pit.

Some of you may know that I lived in Egypt in the 90s. I was
In the most recent months of 2018, I have been aiming to read beyond my
The Love for V.E. Schwab I started reading V.E. Schwab's work about a year ago.

Anl: Trauma and Psychosis in Harry Potter

I love the Harry Potter books. From Goblet of Fire onward, I read each book as it was published. Part of the charm of reading relies on revisiting stories from new perspectives. When I started reading the Harry Potter books, I was not diagnosed with my mental illnesses. Teenage me was unaware of disability. I didn’t notice the underlying messages regarding trauma and mental illness in Harry Potter. Here, I will only be focusing on Harry and Ginny for the most part.

 

Trauma and Harry

Harry is singled out by trauma. The Boy Who Lived. He was literally marked by a visible scar to note his trauma. Living with the Dursleys, an abusive family, he often struggles to find his own worth. For example, he questions Molly for her affection. He rejects his friends’ offers to hep often. And, he doesn’t see much hope for his future.

As the series progresses, Harry loses people repeatedly. From his parents to Cedric. The list grows longer. Hedwig, his companion–the literal connection he had to his friends and the magic world, is axed.

However, it is not simply “loss” that marks Harry.

He is haunted by crippling anxiety as he is pressured into a fight he never chose. Voldemort chose him as his equal, and as such, tries eliminate him. Moreover, the pressure of being the Chosen One is rather debilitating. Harry doesn’t perform well in school. He doesn’t make a lot of friends. By Half-Blood Prince, he doesn’t have much ambition for his future. It takes Professor McGonagall to remind him that he can still become an auror by taking Slughorn’s class.

 

Mental Control (Lack thereof)

Another aspect of trauma is control. I think this is the scariest idea presented in the text. Harry has very little control over his own mind (literally). For example, Voldemort and Harry’s minds are linked. They can tap into each others’ visions. Harry loses Sirius through Voldemort’s manipulation of his mind.

This idea of losing touch with one’s reality reminds me of psychosis. As someone who experiences psychotic episodes and schizophrenia, this bit of representation matters to me. I always connected to Professor Trelawney, the Divination instructor. The prophecy comes through her. She is a bit of an outcast, but still. The story would not exist without Sybil Trelawney.

What about Ginny? She loses her ability to reason in Chamber of Secrets as Tom Riddle controls her body. Terrified, she runs, but it is too late. She is trapped in a dark place because of her mind.

Again, the fact that Rowling gives these psychosis-based experiences is hopeful.

Finally, Neville’s parents are traumatized by torturous spells so much that they are in a hospital. It is shown that they have no recollection of their family. This is some sort of representation. But, the question is, does Rowling do much with it?

 

Reflection on Trauma and Psychosis

In a way, Rowling reflects on trauma through Harry Potter. No one chooses to be mentally ill. Harry never chose to be against Voldemort. He never chose to be prey for Death Eaters and dementors.  And, this is a positive idea to choose. However, it is not just about mentioning ideas. It is about what you do with them as an author.

It is not just Harry dealing with trauma that is interesting. I think of Cho Chang’s example often. Faced with the death of a boyfriend or classmate (Cedric), she is left into a state of depression. She cries a lot. She cries when Harry kisses her, in fact.

And, Harry, fellow trauma-survivor, doesn’t seem to sympathize. What truly hurt is that Rowling could have used Cho as a character who has depression resulting from trauma. Would it not be neat to see Cho be a central character? Instead, she is dismissed and replaced with Ginny.

Now, granted, Ginny survived the abuse of being in touch with Tom Riddle. It sounds like psychosis a bit. She doesn’t know her own reality or her own strength. But, she is literally rescued by Harry. And Harry in turn is helped by a phoenix. Rowling never revisits this trauma again for Ginny.

By the end of the stories, “all is well” and Harry’s scar doesn’t hurt anymore. None of this aligned with my own experiences as a person with PTSD. Ginny is somehow presented as a “cool” person. She is a Quidditch star, wife, mother. The world is all possible as she thinks  “Everything is possible if you have the nerve.” But, she is never faced with her trauma anymore. It just disappears.

That’s not good representation. It’s two dimensional and diminishes the complexity of mental illness and trauma.

Your Turn:

What are your thoughts on Harry Potter and the representation of mental illness? Share your thoughts in comments to get the discussion going. Don’t forget to check out posts by the rest of the Disability Diaries crew.

For More:

 

Potter and PTSD 

 

What Harry Potter Taught Me About Trauma 

 

 

When watching Poldark, most people feel passionate about Ross and his story, but I am
I knew I would love Swiss Army Man from the moment I saw the trailer. Granted, I
I read Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close a few years ago and it moved me tremendously. So,

Introduction Disability Diaries

Welcome to my first Disability Diaries entry for 2017. Over the next week, I will be dedicating my blog to discussions regarding disability (more than usual)). I am joining awesome hosts: Ely (who created this whole thing!), Angel, Cee Arr, Lara Liz, and Jolien.

 

Context

I was always a crier. Frequently suffering from intense mood swings and daily dose of manic episodes. Unable to maintain friendships, I relied on stories to find acceptance. And, unfortunately, it was very hard to find my place in a grander narrative. So, I existed with the pressure of trying to mask all the “weirdness.”

Never did I think that there were others like me. As educated as I thought I was, I was never aware of my family’s history with mental illness.

But, by January of 2012, I was crying all the time. Constantly. Things were going “well,” too. I had a steady job and two college degrees under my belt. There were very few reasons for my sadness. I felt so guilty for being unwell. Days would go by and I would be unable to get out of bed.

Even though I had just gotten a car, I was also starting to see things that confused me on the road. I would hear whispers about how much I sucked at driving. My heart was always beating too fast and loud for me to breathe properly.

Process

One day, my mom sat me down and encouraged me to look into therapy. So I did. I remember my second appointment being on Valentine’s Day. Then, by June, I was writing about my journey angrily on my blog.  You may be wondering why you can’t see posts from my early days on the blog-o-sphere. Well, I was very angry and frustrated. When I shared my experiences, I was quick to delete them out of fear and shame.

Represent

While I am trying to gear this blog toward books and more tangible things, I am also hoping for representation of disabled people like myself. It is hard to find good examples of people who are disabled in literature, I find. And, if the portrayal is accurate or convincing, sometimes the illness takes over the narrative. This is one of the reasons why even five years into treatment, I still struggle to be my own hero in my life.

My hope is to get a dialogue going to help other disabled people voice their experiences too. In doing so, we can challenge the idea of us being “abnormal” or objects to be controlled and manipulated. Part of it is confronting the shaming and overall erasure of our existence and, by extension, our value.

Hope you’re ready for Disability Diaries. I look forward to check out your posts and get the dialogue going!

I'm writing this post after procrastinating a long time. However, it was brewing for a
Over the past week, my sleep schedule has taken a plunge into bat schedule land.
While I did enjoy The Final Empire novel, Brandon Sanderson completely blew me away with the sequel, The