Book Reviews, Personal, Uncategorized

Nicole’s Reading Round Up

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Sooo, hi! I’m back (hopefully). The last time I posted anything was at the end of February. As the one half of this blog that tried to update on a twice a week schedule, that was very different, and, understandably, it’s been reflected in our stats. Still sad though because we were really getting (kind of) popular.

Why did I disappear? Well life. And a reading slump. And laziness. And stress. We also opened up for accepting review requests last year (I think), and, boy, that was a mistake. We quickly got overwhelmed, and really neither of us deal with that well. So, yeah, we aren’t doing that anymore. Sorry.

But hopefully I’m back for good with a nice schedule because I do really miss making posts. I feel like a lot of the books I did read during my impromptu break feels too far from my mind to make individual posts, but I also feel like I can’t move on without acknowledging them in some way. Hence this post. Consider it a lighting round of reviews. Hope you enjoy!

 

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“If you don’t make the decision to love, every day, it’s an easy thing to forget.”

The Last by  Hanna Jameson is an interesting mix of murder mystery and post-apocalyptic novel. When Jon is away in Switzerland for a conference, a nuclear bomb hits Washington. He’s stuck in his hotel with strangers at the end of the world with no idea how his wife and children are doing, and then he discovers the body of a dead little girl. As a historian, he compulsively writes about the events for future generations while also becoming obsessed with finding out if the murderer is still in their midst.

I love how this book was written. It was refreshing, a nice break from the regular narratives of novels. The characters were interesting, and I was very invested in the beginning. I was convinced it would be one of my favorite novels of the year. But around the middle/ending, the story lost it’s way. I think the author had many ideas of where to go and instead of picking one, she tried to stuff all of them into the book. It didn’t work. Overall, I found this book disappointing, but I can’t forget how great the beginning was. 

3 stars

 

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“You must forge your own path for it to mean anything.”

“Life is only precious because it ends, kid.”

Oh, Rick Riordan, you always make me feel better when I’m down. I’m always torn between ripping through these books because they are so good, and saving them for when I am really stressed and sad. 

This is the spin off series to the original Percy Jackson series, and yes, you must read those books first. These books bring in a new enemy, new heroes, new friendships, and new jokes. I am loving it. I think I like it more than the first series which I think is an unpopular opinion but oh well. I can see Riordan’s writing improve in this, and it’s simply a magical adventure everyone should read.

5 stars

5 stars

 

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And that’s how you go on. You lay laughter over the dark parts. The more dark parts, the more you have to laugh. With defiance, with abandon, with hysteria, any way you can.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor is a young adult fantasy about a librarian, a magical world with a name that disappeared, and blue monsters. It’s weird but entertaining and really beautifully written.

I’ve heard so much about Laini Taylor’s writing, but this is the first time I’ve read from her. Everyone made me feel intimidated by her which made me put off reading her, thinking that it would be a little complicated to understand. But that’s not true. Taylor’s writing style simply gave me writer envy. I spend the book in awe of her writing, but also wondering if I could ever write so beautifully. 

The story itself is unlike anything I’ve ever read, yet, still boiled down to a simple love story. I have to admit that did disappoint me a little. I did like it, and I might read the sequel in the future. It’s not a need though which I always thinks says a lot about a book.

3 stars

 

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I doubt there is a loss in the universe more profound than a daughter losing her mother.

The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth is a thriller surrounding the seeming suicide of Lucy’s mother-in-law Diana. It switches from Lucy’s POV of the present to Diana’s of the past as the mystery unfolds.

I liked the characters more than I usually do in thrillers. I especially liked Diana, and I feel like her POV made the novel. The mystery itself was a little lackluster, but the relationships shown was very good. The commentary of the concept of a mother-in-law, and what is expected of women was great as well.

4 stars

 

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I’m lonely but I’m not alone. My body works, my brain works, I’m alive. It’s a good life. I have to make a conscious effort to remember that. To choose to be happy every day. If I didn’t, I think my own pain would’ve killed me a long time ago.

Shadow Me by Tahereh Mafi is technically book 4.5 in the Shatter Me series. It’s a novella following Kenji through the final chapters of Restore MeThe whole series in general is mainly about Juliette, a girl who’s touch kills, set in a dystopian world.

Kenji is really one of the reasons I love this series so getting into his head was amazing. Mafi did not disappoint my little fangirl heart. However, with my reader/writer brain I realize this novella was kind of pointless. Yeah it clarified a couple things, and made me more interested in the next book. But it wasn’t needed at all, no like, in my opinion, the other novellas in this series are, and I think that’s the point of novellas.

5 stars

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Personal

I went on a road trip to Point Pleasant, WV because of fanfiction

In 2012, I read a lengthy Supernatural Dean/Castiel fanfiction entitled Point Pleasant by chainedtoacomet. And then I read it two more times.

In 2013, that fanfiction became a novel by the same name, but now by the author Jen Archer Wood. I befriended Jen. She lived in the UK while I lived in the US, so we were mostly pen pals, but our friendship was strong for a while. And I loved her story so much.

Point Pleasant is the story of two friends who share a camaraderie for spooky things. As kids, they run into the Mothman in their hometown of Point Pleasant. This brings them even closer together. But as adults, they grow apart. Ben realizes too late that he’s in love with Nicholas, and when he spills his heart out, he gets rejected. Ben leaves Point Pleasant behind for thirteen years, but he returns because the Mothman has made a reappearance. Now Ben is a famous horror novelist, and Nicholas is the town sheriff. Here, the story takes off. And boy, it’s a good one.

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first cover of the novel. it has now been changed, but i prefer this one.

I have read this book at least 8 times now. Maybe more. It was hard to keep track after the 5th time. Since the story is set in the fall, in October actually, that’s usually when I tend to pick it back up. It’s kind of a tradition of mine.

This year, I decided to drive with Nicole 15+ hours from Texas to West Virginia to visit the town. This is something I’ve wanted to do ever since I first read the fanfiction about 7 years ago. And you might think it’s crazy to do all this because of a story, but it’s the only place I’ve wanted to visit for years. I wrote a post a few months ago about how much fanfiction has influenced my life, if you’d like to check that out. I take my fanfiction very seriously.

It always felt impossible to make the trip, even though it’s only a few states away. But I’m happy to say I finally did it.

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i was embarrassed to take this picture because it was in the corner of a heavily trafficked intersection but i got the shot
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here i am posing with the beautiful mothman statue
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we stayed at the lowe hotel, which is both historic and haunted and has really comfy beds
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we had mothman pizza, which was delicious
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we drank mothman rootbeer and mothman cookies
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i visited the mason country sheriff’s department at night so that i would not get arrested. sadly, though, i did not get to meet the sheriff, who i’m assuming is very cool
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point pleasant at night. so beautiful
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i don’t understand why the mothman statue has such a nice butt he’s a moth for god’s sake
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i didn’t want to leave him

In conclusion, I want to live in Point Pleasant. No, but in all honesty, Point Pleasant was such a beautiful town rich in history and wonderful residents that are proud of their little town with a pop. of about 4,000. I’ll never forget this trip. I was sad to leave, but I know I’ll return. There’s still so much to experience in Point Pleasant.

*Explaining to the town residents why I drove so long to visit their town was a bit awkward because how do I explain fanfiction to older people? Anyway, my love for this town goes far beyond fanfiction or even the Mothman. I just love it.*

Buy the book here!

 

 

 

Personal

Listening to the Signs

I’m Mexican, so naturally, I grew up Catholic. My grandmother was a firm believer in the Virgin Mary being there to offer her support at all times. I grew up going to Sunday school and talking to priests like they were my friends.

That all changed when I was eight and moved from Mexico to Texas. As soon as I arrived to the U.S. I was told by my older brother that we were no longer Catholic because he was no longer Catholic. He had recently converted to Christianity and attended an Evangelical church. I learned to just roll with it when my mom, sister, and I all switched over to his religion. It all made sense at the time. Plus, I liked that they played upbeat music at the beginning of the church service.

My family drifted from church, though. It happens. But when I turned fifteen, I returned, and got settled in nicely. I found friends and had had a huge crush on the pastor’s son, which played a big role on my sudden commitment to the organized religion. I spent most days at church, sang in the choir, got involved in all the youth events. I lived and breathed the church.

Things eventually went sour. I realized that the people in the church were not as perfect as I once saw them. They were hypocritical in their actions, and yet felt superior due to their constant attendance of church. I was caught in the middle of their gossip and was sort of kicked out of their little clique. A lot of it also had to do with people finding out my feelings for the pastor’s son and using it to mock me. In the end, I quit the church and the religion in general.

But I’ve never lost my faith. I have a strong faith in God that I cherish. It helps me in my darkest times, and it helps me feel less alone. I see God as my friend because he listens to me when I pray, when I just randomly talk to him. I love God with all my heart. When I lost my mom to cancer almost four years ago, my only comfort was my faith in God. I never got angry. I trusted in him.

I’ve realized, though, that as much as I love God, my views on religion are a big different. First of all, I don’t trust my old church anymore. I feel incredibly uncomfortable just stepping inside the building. I can’t speak to my old church friends anymore. I’ve tried to go back, make nice, but things turned so bad so quickly. I have decided to never attend another church again, because I can’t go through that again.

I do respect people who practice all types of religion. I think the freedom to do that in amazing. I’ve learned a lot about other religions, and it’s opened up my mind. But I do still hold a bit of stigma when it comes to Christianity. Part of me thinks that anyone who’s Christian will immediately try to exorcise me for being the gay that I am. I also really hate it when Christians say stuff like: “I don’t hate the sinner. I just hate the sin.” Like yeah, but you still hate that I’m gay and wish I wasn’t.

My point is, I have had many interesting interactions in my life. Random times when people come up to me and tell me to keep believing in God, no matter what. Or people telling me they see God working through me. My first reaction to these things is to run away from the person and not look back. But I don’t. I listen to what they’re saying, and I replay it in my mind.

Yesterday, while I was at work, a random guy looked at my necklace. I wear an essential oil diffuser necklace that’s round with a tree in the front. He said he loved the tree, in particular. And then, he looked me in the eye and said, “You know what part of the scripture it reminds me of? John 15:5. Look it up.”

And I laughed and said, “Oh, okay. I didn’t know that.” And the guy just repeated, “Yeah, it’s John 15:5.” Then he left.

My instinct was, of course, to completely disregard this guy. Who the hell did he think he was? Did he think I was Christian, too? But then, I thought about it. I thought that I do want to read and learn the Bible. I want to know more about God’s message. So I wrote it down on a sticky note and when I got home I looked up the verse. Here’s what it said:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

And I instantly realized what he meant when he said my tree reminded him of this. I have read this verse over and over today. It’s pretty simple, honestly. But the message speaks to me. I think it’s a message for me. From God. And look, I know it sounds a bit crazy, but I like to listen to the signs. I like to think that God just wants me to stick with him. He doesn’t want me to stray from him. Because if I’m with him, then I will achieve many great things.

I just wanted to share this because it’s been in my mind all day long.

Personal

I’m In Love…with Fanfiction

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I stumbled into fanfiction when I was around 15. It was kind of an accident. Twilight was the most popular thing at the time, and of course I was obsessed with it. One thing led to another, and I started writing a fifth Twilight novel — starring me and all of my friends. I thought I was so clever. I thought I was the only person who could ever have come up with something so ingenious. For a while, I was convinced that my book would be published and the world would get even more Twilight goodness from me.

Of course, it didn’t take long for me to find the wonderful site fanfiction.net. There, I discovered hundreds, if not thousands, of stories continuing with the Twilight story that I loved so much. I started a few of them, and I was shocked by how good they were. Immediately, I was bummed out about how insignificant my story was compared to them. But I kept writing. I finished my Twilight fanfiction, entitled Sunlight (see how clever I was?) and it ended up being over 500 pages of pure nonsense.

It didn’t take long for me to grow out of that. Twilight was old news, and I had just discovered what was to become my brand new obsession: Supernatural. Now, I know this show isn’t very popular. Sure, it has a big fandom, but odds are, you’ve probably never seen a single episode of the show. It’s perfectly understandable. The show is on it’s 14th season, with plans for a 15th. No one has time for that. I actually gave up on the show around its 8th season. However, my love for Dean and Castiel knows no bounds.

Supernatural came into my life at a very crucial time. I was fresh out of high school, starting college with a very open-mind. I had just stumbled into many LGBT+ books that had me obsessed with learning about the topic. I thought of myself as the biggest ally. And when I read my first Dean and Castiel fic, I knew I had found something amazing. I was hooked on the spot, and I never looked back. Dean and Castiel encompassed all that I loved. Dean was often a closeted bi boy, while Castiel often struggled with his religion and sexuality. I connected with those things so much, and I didn’t even know why. (It took me a while to realize how gay I was, but don’t worry, I got there eventually).

It’s been over a decade since I’ve discovered fanfiction. Now, at 25, I wonder if I’ll ever give it up. Chances are I’ll read fanfiction for the rest of my life. Maybe it won’t always be about Dean and Castiel. Maybe it’ll be about some other crappy show with a couple that isn’t queer-baited. Maybe it’ll be about characters from a book. Who knows? For now, though, Dean and Castiel is all I care about. I have written many fics about them. And through them, I have improved my writing skills. There’s still a lot for me to learn, but I owe so much to my fics.

I am currently in the middle of reading a +400k fic. It is all I can think about. In fact, it’s what inspired this post. I had a brief moment today when it all came back to me. And I thought about all the things I love now because of fanfiction. I found the show The Office thanks to an angsty fic, and it is now my favorite show in the world. I found Bob Dylan thanks to another one, and Elvis Presley, and Alt-J, and Dead Man’s Bones. I learned about The Mothman, who is by far my favorite cryptid ever. I learned so much about angels, too. I found countless favorite songs through thoughtful playlists made by the many authors who write fics. So much of who I am as a person was shaped by fanfiction.

The best part is, I know fanfiction will be there for me when I need a pick-me-up. Every time I struggle getting back into reading, I know fanfiction is a good place to start. The stories are there, written so carefully for anyone to read. And they’re all free and easily accessible. Fanfiction is such a positive thing in my life, even when the fics tear my heart apart, like the one I’m currently reading. I love reading them. I love finding a new favorite, and then re-reading it so many times that I can almost memorize it. I love writing them, and getting those lovely comments from readers who are just as excited about the story as I am. I love knowing that my fanfiction has made others just as happy as it has made me.

For someone who struggles with feelings and dating and all things romance, nothing makes me happier than seeing my favorite couple get together. Again, and again, and again. In every scenario imaginable. In every alternate universe. In a coffee shop, or a pet store, or a concert, or a wedding. It doesn’t matter where you put them, they will fall in love, and they will get a happily ever after. And it never gets old.

This is sort of my love letter to fanfiction. I love it. I love getting lost in it. I love the community around it. It’s my happy place.

If you love fanfiction, let me know what kind you like to read!

Personal

Pansexual and Bipolar

I’ve recently realized that there are two very big things about me that I can choose to share with the people around me. This occurred to me because I recently got a second job, which means I have many more coworkers than I had before. I’m a very open person. I like to share, sometimes overshare. At my first job, my full-time job, I have one close friend. She knows everything about my life — including the fact that I am pansexual and bipolar. I’ve shared these things with her because she makes me feel safe and she has never judged me. But it also dawned on me that she is my only coworker who knows these facts about me.

Maybe it’s normal not to share such personal things with coworkers. But should these things be shared with all my friends? The thing about me is, I’ve always labeled everyone I share more than one conversation with, a friend. My therapist recently made me see that many of these people are mere acquaintances, and not friends. I still haven’t fallen out of the habit of calling these people friends, but I’m trying.

But I’m also not sure when it’s safe to share these things about my sexuality and mental health. They’re huge things. To me, at least. And they aren’t things I’m ashamed of. I know who I am, and I’ve accepted it. I’m an honest person. I hate lying. And not sharing who I am with people often makes me feel like a liar. But I would hate to go up to a person and tell them I’m pansexual and bipolar, and have them see me differently.

You might ask, why do these things matter? Nobody should care.

Well, I care. I care because I want to talk about my sexuality. I want to talk about my past crushes on guys and girls. I want to say when I like a girl, as much as when I like a guy, or anyone else. And my mental health matters to me. I want others to be aware of it because it affects the way I act sometimes. I have bad days and good days, and I’m still learning how to be okay. I want people to understand why certain things take more time for me to adjust to.

I wish it were easier to share these things with people. I wish I didn’t have to “come out” all the time. I wish I could just be myself all the time.

But for now, I’ll just keep these things to myself. And you guys.

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Personal, Uncategorized, Writing Projects

Writing Update: Listening to My Gut

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It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about my writing. With it being NaNoWriMo  and me semi attempting to do that, I figured why not write about my writing? Especially since I have no book reviews to post because of it.

So I have started a new project about an all women magical pirate crew. It’s a story that’s been in head for about a year though I’ve never worked on it before this month. I always wanted to practice writing more, do research, make outlines and aesthetics and character profiles. And then I got an idea for it and said fuck it. I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote out the first page because I didn’t have my computer at the time.

I didn’t know anything about my story other than what I mentioned here. I decided my character’s name and the plot right there on the spot, and the first time in a long time I had fun while writing. Before I couldn’t help being overwhelmed with anxiety about word choice and what people would think and outlines and profiles and research. But I was actually making it all up on the spot and loving the story and not thinking about anyone reading except myself and making me happy.

After that, I decided to continue with it. I got a navy blue notebook with a gold whale on it (I love matching notebooks with the story) and I decided to continue handwriting. I usually struggle a lot with typing on the computer, but I usually still use that as a main writing source with only sometimes using a notebook for a particularly hard scene. A computer is simply the proper way to write a book right? Not this time. I decided to go with my gut and continued handwriting everything.

No other story has flowed out so easily for me. I wrote out ten pages in a single day. I’ve never been that productive ever. Typically I can get maybe five hundred words in a day which I would guess would be a page and a half in handwriting. 

It has been amazing how shedding the conventional writing advice (using a computer, character profiles, outlines) has actually helped me. The outline especially surprises me. I have always needed an outline before. But even with no knowledge about this world doesn’t stop me. If I don’t know a name for a place I put [City Name] and continue on like that. 

I’m curious about how others have dealt with this if they’ve even dealt with it at all. Do any of you have trouble with going against the norm to find out your own path? How do you deal with it? This seems like such a small struggle, but actually listening to myself and what works for me has been my hardest hurdle in writing (and life honestly). 

 

Personal

When did I know I was gay?

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In honor of pride month, I wanted to talk about a topic I’m very curious about. Back in college, I wrote an essay for my creative nonfiction class, where I mentioned my sexuality. My professor was unhappy with me leaving out a big detail regarding the topic. During workshop, she asked, “When did you know you were gay?” and requested that my answer be added to my revised essay.

I wanna preface this by saying that I’m using gay as an umbrella term. I identify as pansexual. I’ve seen many debates about the legitimacy of pansexuality as an identity separate from bisexuality. I’m not here to make a statement about my identity. I’m pansexual, and that’s it.

Now back to my class. My professor asked a very pointed question about a topic that I wasn’t very used to discussing. When I told one of my queer friend about it, she rolled her eyes and said, “You should have asked her: when did you know you were straight?” And we just laughed it off.

Recently, I’ve been seeing tweets about queer people sharing stories about the moment when they knew they were gay (or not straight). I don’t really know what to do with all of these stories, because I’ve never given much thought to a specific time when something clicked in me and I thought, “Hey, I’m not actually straight. I think I like everyone!” My journey to coming out was a bit different.

What I’m trying to say is, there is no one specific moment when everything changed for me. It happened gradually. Mostly because I’m clueless to most things, including myself. As a kid, I found my girl friends attractive. I never paid much attention to it, though, because I found boys just as attractive, and that was all that mattered. As I got older, I found myself getting all sorts of “girl crushes,” which I believed to be totally normal for a straight girl.

And then came the day I watched Black Swan. If you’ve seen the movie, maybe you’ll remember the scene between Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman having sex. I certainly do. The moment I saw it, I was very, very shocked. I had never seen two women getting it on, and let me tell you, it was doing funny things to me. I remember being unable to stop thinking about it for days. I kept bringing it up with my friends, but pretending I’d hated that part of the movie. I wanted to know their thoughts on it, but they were clearly not as fazed by it as I was.

I guess if I wanted to pinpoint a pivotal moment in my coming-out journey, it would have to be seeing Black Swan. But it was until many years later that I finally accepted my sexuality, and wholly embraced it.

In high school, I had come to the conclusion that I could probably fall in love with anyone, regardless of their gender. Because gender didn’t seem to factor in my ability to fall for people. But I still didn’t consider myself anything but straight. I figured every straight person in the world felt the same way as I did. See what I mean about being clueless?

I was in college when I had my first crush on a girl who wasn’t a celebrity. In other words, a real girl. It started out slowly. I was so confused as to why I was so drawn to her until the day I came out to her, after knowing she was queer too, and realized I liked her. After that moment, I just kept coming out to people. Because, why not?

I didn’t know that pansexual was a term, but Nicole brought it to my attention. After a lot of reading up on it, I grew attached to the term. Now I don’t know what I would do without it. I feel comfortable using that label. It feels right. It fits me.

So, to answer the title of this post: I guess I always knew I was gay. It just took me a while to figure it out. I used to feel bad about not having a specific moment when things clicked and I just knew. But I don’t care anymore. I’m pansexual. I’m gay. I’m happy to be part of the LGBT+ community. I’m here and I’m queer.

Do you guys have a specific moment when you knew you were gay, or is that a silly question? Let me know! I’d love to hear your stories.

Happy Pride!