Sunday, January 24, 2021

Back to Writing

A 2021 goal of mine carried over from 2020 is to start writing again. While that means I'll return to posting book reviews here, I am also reviving the concept of my short-lived Brave and Bittersweet blog but over on Substack. It would mean a lot if any of you are interested in subscribing! And that's all I'll say about that for now.

Monday, July 15, 2019

FantasticLand by Mike Bockoven

Cover of FantasticLand by Mike Bockoven

My favorite genre is horror and I do feel like each season invites its own kind of horror. Summer, with its hot sticky days, is the perfect setting for a different kind of horror to the gothic chills and thrills of the Fall. I tend to find myself more drawn to thrillers, monster/animal stories, and anything set in the summer itself. For these reasons, FantasticLand really hit the spot. Furthermore, it's a book of interviews which I always enjoy. Or a fiction book masquerading as actual reporting. Or whatever the actual word for this kind of novel is!

This book landed in my possession during a short lived subscription to My Thrill Club and as I have recently, unfortunately, been weeding my TBR stacks, I decided to read it. The cover is fantastic and I didn't really know much in advance what it was going to be about but I did enjoy it. It has a Battle Royale, Lord of the Flies vibe but in a unique setting with a modern psychological understanding.

FantasticLand is a fictional theme park where each section of the park is a different land. Think pirates, fairys, etc. It was built by a charismatic visionary who insisted that visitors would be able to see the ocean from the park. Being so close to danger, the park developed an extensive plan for emergencies should anything go wrong. However, the plan hadn't necessarily been updated in modern times as a huge hurricane hits the coast.

With the employees, largely young adults, trapped inside the park, things begin to go violent. Otherwise normal kids have to start thinking about what to do to survive as people start breaking off into groups, hoarding supplies, and enacting violence to establish territory. In very little time, it's a matter of survival for those in the park.

I enjoyed how fast paced and imaginative the book was. FantasticLand felt real and I had no trouble understanding how quickly things really only takes one person to act violently in order to set off a chain of events when people are surrounded by uncertainty. There are some gruesome images as well, so definitely not for those with a weak stomach.

(I am an Amazon affiliate, if you click on a link and make a purchase I may receive a small commission)

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Girl in the Rearview Mirror by Kelsey Rae Dimberg

Book Cover The Girl in the Rearview Mirror

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher with no expectation of a favorable review.

I love a good thriller and mystery and even an unreliable narrator at times. Mostly, I just love twisty books that keep me with them for the duration of the read. My attention span has really changed over the thanks to my phone! So when I have time to read, I often reach for a thriller because they generally hook me in.

I was pretty happy to get this ARC from the publisher and dug in a few weekends ago. Dimberg's writing style is smooth and pleasant and I was instantly hooked with the promise of a hidden shady background for the main character, Finn. Add in the political intrigue of her being a nanny for a rich and powerful family, and I was into it!

I did end up mostly enjoying the book and I think it's a good read for the summer when you want something that is exactly what this sounds like. The story definitely takes some interesting and surprising turns and you'll want to keep with it to discover what happened. Having said that, it did drag a bit in places for me and more importantly, one reveal was not as...awful as I expected it to be? I feel like this could have gone a little harder. Even so, it's a great read and I expect to hear a lot about it this summer!

The Girl in the Rearview Mirror is available in stores now.

This blog uses Amazon affiliate links. If you click on an Amazon link and buy something, I may receive a small commission.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Reflecting on the Good in Social Media

Since I once again find myself on the job market, I've been forced to really think about what I want to contribute to this world. Yes, I need a job that pays the bills, but the more I can find a position that also aligns with my values, the happier I know I will be. I learned more than I can even begin to share about myself, my skills, my gifts, and what I need out of a job in the last two years and I'd hate to waste any of that very hard earned knowledge and experience!

So as I've been dipping my toes in the water, applying and interviewing for various positions, I've also been thinking about why I like marketing. I do like marketing. I took kind of a roundabout way to get into it, but I enjoy the creative process, the drive to create and execute in more efficient ways, the constant need for innovation, the opportunity to connect people and businesses with each other. I want to stay in digital marketing and I'd really like to continue working in social media/content strategy and anything that emphasizes and highlights community.

But social media has come under a lot of intense criticism and scrutiny and for good reason. Reconciling the fact that it has been used as an incredibly powerful weapon against humanity with all of the good that it has done in my own life has been a process I've gone through the last few years. When it's so easy to play people against themselves and create mass division, are the good things worth it? I think yes.

Chances are you don't even realize how much impact it has in your life, whether it's discovering a new book, being encouraged to see something slightly differently, or just connecting with an old friend. But beyond that, I know a lot of the ways social media has been a positive impact in my life and I wanted to share about it.

I've had kind of a hard year personally. When I think back to who I was a year ago and who I am now, the difference is staggering. I think a lot of these changes are I see the world and what I want and how I believe in myself. And I'm grateful for them, but friends, getting here was very painful. It can be hard to be as hopeless as I felt and alone as I felt a little over a year ago and then have some glimmer of hope, the feeling that something new was being birthed in you only to have it shatter. I have learned that life most definitely doesn't take the path you think it will to teach you something.

But alone is what I felt. I had a unique set of circumstances that people were sympathetic to but couldn't really understand. This wasn't like a bad break-up (something we've all been through and can relate to) and part of the reason it was so hard was because I've made some not so great choices for myself over my life.

Growing up as a bookworm, I always believed that part of why I loved to read was finding myself in the pages of a book in a way that I couldn't in human interaction. Finally, there were words for feelings and thoughts I had but couldn't express. And it's still true, as I read The Great Believers this past weekend I was just blown away by so many small expressions of humanity that made me feel more seen, less alone. But I believe this happens on social media, too.

Maybe at first it was just finding other people who liked the same things we liked. No one has to feel alone anymore, someone else must like the same things! But this past year for me, it was also the willingness people have to speak frankly about the things that really matter in life. I'd like to talk in particular about Jessica Dore.

I mentioned her Twitter feed shortly after the New Year, but like all things growth related, I didn't know how much her work had and would really come to mean to me. I don't know anything about Tarot cards, nor will I ever probably be a big supporter of them. So the fact that someone that cheerfully calls herself a witch and shares a daily reading of Tarot cards has become one of the most important people online to me is really saying something.

Jessica has received a lot of attention for what she does, which means that her work of bringing mental health topics into our common areas, to reach people and help them is working. She's having an impact and helping people like myself to feel less alone. There's something about someone you've never met being able to speak into your life like this. Reading her daily cards and her monthly offerings is a steady and important part of my life. I've been able to start to unpack the grief, the relational issues, and the brokenness I've felt in a safe way. And like any great artist recurring themes come up in her work, just as hearing something once is rarely enough times to fully digest it.

Tarot Card--Theme Seeming Opposites

This really impacted me. Sometimes it's easy to think that a dominant feeling like caring for someone or working really hard should be enough, but it's possible for two seeming opposites to be true at the same time. Striving to do better than even my best helped me get through many a day. But I also think this kind of thinking can help us in so many areas in life. Like, how a goodbye can both be the right thing but still painful.

Tarot Card--Don't Always Want What You Think You Want

Oh mannnn. This tweet showed up right before I executed such a "self-sabotage." I thought it was about one thing (and I still do), but I think it was about more than that. Realizing that I don't always want what I think I want in addition to being able to accept that what I want might not be what I need has been very important for this past year. Honestly, I'm old but just now learning how to control and manage my emotions better. Honestly, this is also a comforting way to think about this.

Tweet--Reciprocal Loving Relationship

Maybe the one tweet that has meant the most to me. Combined with the idea that something can be good but not good enough, I've really started to believe in how important it is to spend my energy, my compassion, my loyalty, and my love in places where it's needed. There is nothing more damaging to a heart than giving away its precious resources to someone or someplace that cannot see it for the gold it is. I don't want to waste any more time.

Jessica Dore Tweet--You are Special

Yeah, this one made me burst into tears when I read it. Can you imagine the power of tweeting something like this to a perfect stranger and having it encourage them? Not everyone has someone in their lives to say this to them and sometimes when it comes from people we know it somehow doesn't have the power it does when a stranger says it and we have to claim it for ourselves.

A couple more about knowing what we want and the power we have when we walk away from something:

Jessica Dore Tweet--Negotiation

Jessica Dore Screengrab Tarot Card

I know that I still have a long way on this journey to wholeness, but I also don't know that I would have had the ability to reflect and recast things without Jessica's daily readings. Her monthly offerings are great, too. But this post isn't so much about promoting Jessica Dore as it about reminding us all that there is still a valuable role for social media. We just have to remember to keep things in perspective.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase Blu-Ray Giveaway!

**“Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.”**

I grew up reading Nancy Drew. I was a HUGE Nancy Drew enthusiast as a matter of fact. When I was in second grade, I convinced my friends to "play Nancy Drew" with me. I always had to be Nancy, of course, they could be Bess and George.

That's why I'm so excited to get a chance to watch the new Nancy Drew movie with Sophia Lillis. I loved her in IT and I think she's a great choice to play Nancy!

I'm excited to offer YOU a chance to win this new Blu-Ray! To enter, simply play the game below and leave a comment telling me how long it takes you to escape the Escape Room. Make sure you leave a valid email address so I can easily contact you.

And here's a little bit more about the movie:

The iconic mystery solving teenager from the classic Nancy Drew books is back with an all-new feature length film that will keep you guessing until the very end! Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Nancy Drew And The Hidden Staircase on Digital starting March 26, 2019 and Blu-ray™ Combo Pack & DVD on April 2, 2019. Executive Produced by Ellen DeGeneres, the film stars Sophia Lillis (IT and “Sharp Objects”), Sam Trammell (“True Blood” and “This is Us”), and Linda Lavin (“The Good Wife” and“Alice”) and follows Nancy Drew in her new town, making new friends and on a mission to solve the case! The film carries a suggested retail price of $19.99 for the Digital, $19.98 for the DVD and $28.98 for the Blu-ray Combo Pack.

After the death of his wife, Carson Drew decides to leave Chicago behind and make a fresh start with his daughter in River Heights. But for 16-year-old Nancy Drew, life in a small town is mighty dull. She longs for excitement, adventure, and the chance to make a difference. Nancy gets that opportunity when she is asked to help solve the ghostly activity at the Twin Elms mansion. Can she help explain the creaking footsteps, exploding lightbulbs and the ominous creature? Is it the handiwork of high-school bully Derek Barnes? Or is it possible that the ghost of original owner Malcolm Colfax is back for revenge? Recruiting her best friends George and Bess, along with local “mean girl” Helen, Nancy Drew is on the case!

Welcome to the Interactive Nancy Drew Escape Room - to escape, you must solve riddles and find items to uncover the three numbers needed to open to door. Good Luck!

• In the Mystery Match Video Puzzle, use your mouse to click + drag puzzle pieces to unlock clips from the film.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson

All the Beautiful Lies Cover

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

I needed to escape into an engrossing read this weekend to both take my mind off unalterable life circumstances as well as reintroduce myself to reading, something I seem to have stopped doing very frequently. There's a host of reasons for that I will probably discuss at some future distant time, but I am glad to say this weekend I was able to complete a whole book! Even though it was mostly a book read for the pleasure of reading and of escape, it stills feels like a huge accomplishment.

Peter Swanson describes his book, All the Beautiful Lies as a gothic novel with a monster at the heart of it and that's a pretty accurate way of describing it. The book starts with a death and with a young college student, Harry, returning to the small town his father lives in to grieve his death. His mother died long ago so the visit home only reunites him with his stepmother, a woman he has an uncomfortable relationship with due to her younger age and attractiveness.

His stepmother, Alice, is another character we get to know through flashbacks to the past. Alice has an unhappy family life until her mother remarries and then Alice starts to see her new stepfather as her savior.

Meanwhile, in the present, Harry learns that his father's death was likely not an accident and an investigation ensues in which he learns more about his father's life and the many things he didn't know before.

It's been cold here and this book was the perfect way to curl up lose track of the present. I can't say any of the characters were particularly likable but the book does make you think a little in its own way about the many ways we use one another and the stories we tell ourselves about our lives and the people we love. I haven't read any of Peter Swanson's other books, but I wouldn't hesitate to pick up another in the right circumstances.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Spectrum

I've been meaning to come by the old blog for some time to write some reflections on my life over the past year. It has been incredible and so much more than I anticipated heading into it. It was both very painful and very rewarding and I thought writing about it would help me make more sense of it as writing has so often in the past.

Then someone with a completely different life wrote a post that did a pretty good job of expressing my feelings...on Instagram of all places and so I'll just steal her concept. There's a human tendency to want to wrap up a unit of time, like a year, with some sort of definitive judgement. This was a good year, or a learning year, or a hard year. But really when I look at 2018, I see as Kaitlyn wrote, the spectrum. There were moments where I learned that I could do things I never knew I could, I had new experiences I never dreamed I'd have, met new people, worked incredibly hard to create something, learned about where my heart lies when it comes to work, and I loved. Hard. Not a person necessarily, not a job per se, but a team and a belief in building something together.

But it was also hard. I made some poor decisions that resulted in real consequences. I made what I thought was a friend who unlocked some part of me that had been long bound up tight and all the repressed hurt and brokenness of my life came spilling out. It wasn't always pretty. I've had to face my own issues with more clarity than ever before. I lost big time and then I had to try to hold my head up every day and pretend that I was okay with my new reality and the way my world--that once felt like it was big and expanding was suddenly shrinking.

I kept thinking that if I pushed through the end of 2018, I'd be okay in 2019. And I was okay for a lot of the end of 2018, though I had setbacks. I thought 2019 was going to be amazing. Instead, I've been sick every day of 2019 with a lingering and persistent cold. 2018 ended with the death of my grandma and my feelings are somewhat complicated about it. There have been setbacks at work. I feel tired and alone.

For 2019, I have certain things I want to achieve, but I guess, most importantly, I want to feel the same sense that the year was important when I look back. I realize that it may just be tiny small steps taken over the course of many days, but I need to progress. This life is short. My life gets shorter by one day everyday. I need to make it matter. And I do think, if you read that tweet, that going where the love is is my 2019 goal. I hope I make it.

A Few Recs from 2018:
The Good Place--I don't watch nearly as much TV as I used to, but this show just hits the spot. It always makes me feel better about the world and life and our relationships to each other. It also makes me laugh out loud which is rare. I just LOVE it. If you haven't watched, please do!

The Haunting of Hill House--to me this show was horror perfection. It's incredibly smart television, moving, scary, touching. I it.

This piece about how the soul doesn't want to be fixed, but witnessed blessed me so deeply when it entered my life I can't overstate it. Because I'm a pretty transparent person, the times I was in pain this year were pretty obvious and there were people I respect who offered a lot of unsolicited advice that didn't really help at all. If you can sense someone in pain and you can't understand it or you think if they just did this one thing it would be better!! Maybe just stop and instead offer the comfort of your caring presence.

Jessica Dore's Twitter account. I'm not even really into Tarot at all, but her therapeutic words have given me moments of peace and great insight. Thanks to whoever retweeted her onto my timeline.

My other favorite account this year has been Blair Braverman. She tells the sweetest stories about her race dogs and this one in particular just hit right in the heart. Such wonderful freeing love!

Here's to 2019 and an increased presence on the blog, a safer more loving world, and growth. Always growth.