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“How to Be a Bawse” by Lilly Singh

I admire you, Lilly Singh. You walk your name, Superwoman, well. You truly know How to Be a Bawse. As a direct result of reading your book I know 100% my life will be, is, different going forward. You spoke to me in the form of a picture book for adults. (Not that kind of adult.) I didn’t even know that’s what I needed to light a fire under my butt. I am not aware of everything you do, but I do know you do a lot and you got there by doing a lot. And you are one of the few out there who knows every human being has the capability to be a bawse, but not every human being is willing to put in the work to be a bawse. To fix this problem, you wrote a book, knowing full well that to some, reading a book from start to finish can be intimidating.

I’m sorry it took depression to get you to eventually become the kickass woman you are today, but I’m glad it made you appreciate colors in a whole new light. Your book cover is eye-catching to say the least and every single picture in the book grabbed my attention as well. Your 50 short chapters about 2-3 pages each divided the book up in parts that made it a breeze to get through, absolutely perfect for the A.D.D. mind. It is a book that avid readers can most certainly enjoy, but also one where if someone was not into reading, they would find it easy to follow and get through and not feel like reading is a chore. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if your book turned non-readers into avid readers.

Your comedic personality shines through and I am so glad you can back up every single truth bomb with an example or story from one of your many life experiences. You are without a doubt a funny motivational speaker as well. Every single chapter is relatable in some way and there is a lesson to be learned within each chapter. You cover just about every aspect of life from how to think to how to feel to how to talk to your parents to how to set deadlines to how to learn and grow from a break-up to how to drink water to how to be a good friend to how to invest in yourself to how to hustle harder. I mean I could go on and on, but you leave no stone unturned. Best of all, you do all this efficiently.

To top it all off, you give God the glory for all your success. You remind everyone that no matter what they believe in, even if it wasn’t God, there is something out there bigger than them that can give and can taketh away. I admire you, Lilly Singh. Like a Shakespearean sonnet. You are not only a bawse and show exactly how you got there, but you GET IT. Zoop!

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“Circe” by Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller is my new favorite author. She makes me want to take a Classics class. I don’t even know what that class is officially called, but anything that has to do with Greek gods and I am in. From Circe I have learned the Greek gods are more like humans than we can imagine, but things like kindness and friendship is not something they are familiar with. And I hate to say this, but I think I have more in common with Circe than I’d like to admit because of who she is and what happens to her.

Getting exiled to an island due to transforming your sister into a six-headed monster is not my idea of a good time, but as a crazy writer introvert, I can relate to her life on the island in a weird way. Ever since my pre-teens I have dreamed of being on an island with no rules and being able to bring anyone on it as I like and if I had a boyfriend, do anything with him that I wanted and anything he wanted. Circe may be considered a witch, but there must be something therapeutic in working on her potions and spells and using different herbs and such like I find in writing or reading. She fell in love with the wrong man at the beginning of her journey and that caused her to not desire a commitment. I can understand that.

When men came to her island to rape her, she started turning all of them into what they are: pigs. While I cannot relate to that, I can understand why she would want to do that. In a world where women were devalued and not in control of anything, Circe was able to take control of her own life on her island and even find peace in being alone. She knew in her exile that she must still find a way to make things right with Scylla, her sister she turned into a monster, which is why she went in the end to find her. Things did not turn out the way she wanted, but she found the understanding she craved in Telemachus, Penelope’s son with Odysseus.

I admire Circe for her strength and independence. She may not do everything right, but she knew how to make the best of every situation throughout all her wild adventures. She also didn’t get everything she wanted, but she did get the understanding she desperately needed in the end. Isn’t that all we are ever asking for?

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“The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller

I know why Madeline Miller won the Orange Prize for Fiction for her debut novel, The Song of Achilles. She took a ten-year risk to write about characters from an ancient Greek epic poem from the point of view of the underdog. She put together sentences like these ones: “His fingers touched the strings, and all my thoughts were displaced. The sound was pure and sweet as water, bright as lemons. It was like no music I had ever heard before. It had warmth as a fire does, a texture and weight like polished ivory. It buoyed and soothed at once. A few hairs slipped forward to hang over his eyes as he played. They were fine as lyre strings themselves, and shone.” (p. 34, The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller) She paints a picture of the perfect man who does not exist in real life, but makes every girl (and man) drool over him to be real anyway. She describes a world where gods and humans coexist, fighting over land and honor, the stuff of Kings working toward expanding their Kingdoms. She is a woman, yet is able to describe the admiration and appreciation of beauty in a man from the point of view of a man so realistically there is beauty in that that comes to life, jumping off the page into the life of the reader. Before this book I had no idea there were so many ways to describe a beautiful man or the intensity of the wrath of a goddess, feeling the doom as if Thetis were there in the room with me.

Yet despite all the love and beauty between one man and another, as well as eventually between a man and his best woman friend, Briseis, Miller manages to portray the barbarity of the war. Women are taken as prizes and bed-slaves. Virgin daughters are sacrificed to appease the anger of the gods. Skulls crack open when one man kills another. Here is where hubris is introduced for the first time and henceforth all tragedies moving forward includes an element of excessive pride, or “arrogance that scrapes the stars, for violence and towering rage as ugly as the gods.” (p.295, The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller) I could not have defined that word any better. Nobody could appreciate Achilles better than Patroclus could and for this Patroclus deserved his own admirer in the form of Briseis. This is the beginning of good triumphing over evil and love conquering all. This is also where dying in a war is more honorable for a prince than dying for any other reason. This is where gender roles are explored for the first time and experiencing ramifications of disobeying the Greek gods. The whole novel is a song in itself, singing of the depth of true love and the amount of blood a man will shed to protect those who he truly cares about, men and women alike. Not too shabby for an underdog like Patroclus.

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“Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis

Dear Rachel Hollis,

Thank you. You don’t know me, but thank you for reminding me that sometimes watching TV is bailing on myself. Thank you for sharing your love story; I have learned how to identify toxic people in my life and successfully walk away from them. I have never felt so empowered in all my life. Thank you for that strength I didn’t even know I had in me. Thank you for sharing your pregnant story; I have learned that all you need to do during that time is make sure you take care of the baby and then yourself. If I ever get pregnant, I will keep that in mind. Thank you for teaching me that my goals don’t have expiration dates. I love that even though it took you years to buy your very first Louis Vuitton bag, you were able to imagine your dream in such intricate detail so early on that it became a reality one day. I’m sorry you went through so much trauma losing your brother to suicide, but thank you for sharing the story to remind me that trauma does not define my life. Thank you for talking to me like I’m one of your girl friends and believing in me even though you don’t know me. Thank you for not being afraid to talk about God, yet being considerate of those who are a different faith than you. I admire you for that. Thank you for not sugar-coating any of your stories and literally letting me see the good, the bad, and the ugly of what happened to you as a mom, as a marathon-runner, as a teen, as an entrepreneur, and as a writer. I know you wear even more hats than that, but truly, you are amazing just the way you are and I hope you stay that way. Thank you for sharing that part of eating every Oreo in sight and the other part of drinking all the wine. You are so honest, raw, and real. My favorite type of book to read is the novel and while your book was not a novel, I read it like it was the kind of novel I can’t put down. You don’t know me, but I love you as my sister in Christ. You don’t know me, but I think you do.

Love,

Me

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The Imagination Express

I’ve been hanging onto an alicorn’s wings. Maybe I’ll ask Peter Pan nicely to teach me how to fly and make besties with Wendy Darling and The Lost Boys. I wonder if he has an alicorn? I do know he has some mermaid friends and then there’s also Tiger Lily. Typical boy. I want to give Wendy some womanly advice, but I have a feeling she already knows. So maybe I’ll go have a chat with Smurfette and suddenly not feel so alone anymore. Mera will show me how she controls water and what it’s like to be married to Aquaman. Then I’ll be able to wash away all the Dementors attacking my mind. I’ll be able to focus on Ursula and finally tell her to go away with Expecto Patronum. No singing necessary. Once I hit the sand I’ll wave good-bye to the Loch Ness Monster. The pumpkin on the ground will turn into a carriage and my alicorn will chill with all the horses and we’ll bibbidi bobbidi boo our way home. I know Harry Potter’s got a hippogriff. I may need to try to hang onto one of those wings next time.

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feeling like a real writer at YALLSTAYHOME a.k.a. YALLWest

I have not felt more at home than I did this past weekend during YALLSTAYHOME. It is normally called YALLWest and would have taken place at Santa Monica, but due to the coronavirus, it became YALLSTAYHOME in the format of several consecutive Zoom meetings. Attendees could pick and register for the specific meeting they wanted to attend and registration could include entering to win some of the fun book giveaways if so desired. YALLWest is the sister festival to YALLFest and both festivals are celebrations of the reading and writing world, with a focus on YA authors. I registered for as many panels I was interested in, but due to my schedule, I was not able to attend all the ones I registered for. However, cross my fingers that because I registered, later I will get a link to each recorded session. Hoping for the best here, guys!

Anyway, the whole festival ran from Friday, April 24 – Sunday, April 26 and here are the panels I registered for: Fierce Friday: Create Your Own Fantasy Story, I Read YA@Home, Opening Ceremony + Keynote, Creativity in the Time of Corona, Modern Magic Worldbuilding, This American Experience, PM Keynote with Brandon Sanderson, YALLSTAYHOME Smackdown, Suckage is Part of Writing, Remember High School?, and Writing Empathy. There were so many others as well that I did not register for just because I did not have room in my schedule! There were so many authors there including Marie Lu, Julie Buxbaum, Leah Johnson, Marisa Kanter, Bill Konigsberg, Alex London, Samuel Miller, Zan Romanoff, Tara Sim, Angie Thomas, Maggie Tokuda-Hall, and F.C. Yee.

I have got to say, I want to read all of their books!! And…I felt like Belle when she opens her eyes for the first time inside Beast’s library. With each panel I learned all about each author’s background and writing journey and in the case of Brandon Sanderson, got to meet his pet macaw as well. With each panel I learned the struggle is real during this pandemic. Many authors feel that it is harder to write staying inside all the time. I learned stuff like you can build a world based off of your main character’s needs and it’s important to write your truth and teens go to novels as a form of escape, some making more friends with the characters in the books than in real life and there is a now a lot more representation from Asian authors to Muslim authors to queer authors to biracial authors. A lot of times someone becomes an author because they weren’t reading books with their race or culture represented, so they became the first to write that representation. That is awesome!

It was also awesome to finally experience the Smackdown. I had read about it beforehand and I really looked forward to it. The Smackdown did not disappoint: Dumbledope and Snape Dog were there for starters, and it kicked off with a Cards Against Humanity type of game and I only just learned how to play this game a couple months ago, pre-coronavirus and a Harry Potter version, no less. Let me tell you there is nothing more LOL than this game. There was another segment a lot like MTV Cribs and then a Pet Roast and finally a dance party at the end. Once coronavirus is over this festival is definitely on my top ten list of places want to go to for real.

Finally, noticing there are a lot more Asian authors out there now made me feel comforted and happy and giddy. I seriously could not stop smiling. Then I noticed how welcoming and inviting and safe these panels were. It didn’t matter what someone’s background was, everyone was open to listening to everyone’s stories and where they came from and how they got into writing. I realized writing = life. There’s going to be racism, suicide, queer life, privileged life, and everything else in between in stories and everyone accepts this as is. Many of the authors mentioned inspiration can come from anywhere and even talked about how writing can get so hard sometimes you end up playing a video game instead of writing sometimes. I could not agree more. I love how relatable each of the panels were and I truly felt right at home. I left the festival with a feeling I’ve known all along and just needed a little reminder: This, reading and writing and talking about reading and writing until the cows come home, is the community I belong in.

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Blind Date with a Book

It was a Saturday of course. This particular Saturday was on February 24, 2018. I can’t believe it’s been a little over two years already! I feel blessed now thinking of all the moments I’ve gotten to share with my Nerdy 30s gals. I know I’m still behind in documenting our adventures, but I bet I’ll be able to catch up soon now. I also think if you’re going to go on a blind date, the best option is with a book. It shows up with a story to tell and you can stop it from speaking at any time and pick up where you left off at any time. If you don’t like it you can sell it or gift it to someone who will like it. If you do like it, you’ll be able to discover a new genre and find more like it to read. Win-win.

On this particular blind date, we met at La Bodega. I’m pretty sure it was during brunch hour, not just because I’m looking at the eggs I had, but because this group loves meeting during brunch hour. Don’t ask me how many of us were there. I honestly don’t remember anymore, but if you see the table of books, you’ll see there was a good number of us. La Bodega is a Spanish restaurant known for its tapas. Yummy.

I brought my absolute favorite book of all time, the one that made me fall in love with reading, A Ring of Endless Light. I read this novel for the first time in fifth grade and I remember sneaking it under the covers at night and waking up at 5:00 a.m. to find out what happens next. It was the first book I found out what “couldn’t put down” meant. I am still inspired to this day by this book to keep reading and keep writing. It is an oldie and a goodie.

Since each book is covered in a brown paper wrapping with just the description on the outside, there is no way to know what book you are picking, but of course, you do get to decide based on the words used to describe the content. I ended up with Beloved, a classic, but yet not one I enjoyed. Maybe if I studied it in school it would make it enjoyable to me, but on my own, no. So unfortunately you’re not going to get any words from me about it.

Hey, a blind date doesn’t work out every time, right? At least this one I didn’t have to delete a number or anything…XD…but seriously though, this was a lot of fun and I’m glad I went. I wouldn’t have had my first sangria and I got to go back to a restaurant I like eating at, but don’t get to go too often due to distance. But the best part was getting to get together with my girls and discussing a lot of different books across the board as well as why each book was special to the lady who brought it. Another win-win if you ask me. 😉

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Where did the white rabbit go?

Sometimes I take a long time to finish reading a book not because it’s not good, but because I don’t want to lose time I get to spend with the characters. I know, sounds silly. Like crazy writer talk. You would think dragging out the story that long would mean I would spend less time with the characters, but dragging it out like that makes me feel like I’m spending more time with them. You see, as long as I haven’t finished the book I can keep thinking about the characters and imagining what they’re going through. Once I finish the book, my time with them is done. Reading to the last page is like shutting the world where my new favorite characters reside and never being able to reach inside that black top hat again.

 

 

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“Fatal” by Fred Colton

Fatal

If you don’t know who Pace Warner is, you are seriously missing out. If you are like me and have always wondered what it would be like to put action scenes into words, this is for you. Colton has some sort of sniper experience for sure. Only someone who has been one or observed one or talked to one can describe it from the first person point of view. The only downside to this book is it is so short. You get to the last page and you’re like, “Nooo, that’s it?! Tell me more!” The length is not really a downside at all though, as all good things must come to an end and it leaves you wanting more. I’m not going to say anyone can enjoy this book, but I will say anyone who’s watched an action/thriller film or is in any way remotely interested in this genre will enjoy this book. As previously mentioned, I haven’t read nearly as many thriller books as the average thriller fan, but I don’t care about numbers. If you are a thriller fan, you have got to check out Colton. Plus, if you have read The Colony, this will give you the backstory. Who doesn’t love backstories?

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“The Singles Game” by Lauren Weisberger

The Singles Game

I don’t know what it’s like to be a professional tennis player, but Lauren Weisberger’s The Singles Game is what I imagine it to be like. I have to admit though, I think the title has a double meaning. The first thing that came to mind was love and relationships and not just because Cosmopolitan recommended this read. I had to look closer at the cover a second time to see it was about tennis.

I loved The Devil Wears Prada so I went in with great expectations. It is safe to say Weisberger delivered with this one as well. It could be made into a movie if she wanted. You can tell she did her research.

It turns out it was about tennis and relationships at the same time, so maybe that was her intention all along. It’s a very fluffy story, but I liked learning about the behind-the-scenes in tennis and seeing just how Todd Feltner was like a male version of Miranda Priestly. It’s basically a story about a girl named Charlotte “Charlie” Silver who devoted her whole life to tennis and really wants to be number one, but once she makes the decision to sacrifice everything outside of tennis for the sake of winning, she realizes she wants all the real people back, like her former coach Marcy and her hitting partner Dan, and not the celebrities who only add glitter to her life, something sparkly that later lands and creates a huge mess.

Like Andy Sachs, Charlie is a determined girl. She is willing to change her whole image into this “warrior princess” type to not only please Feltner, but to realize her ultimate goal. But like any person who’s ever chased a dream so hard it hurts, Charlie comes to her senses and focuses on staying true to her heart and to the people who helped her do just that.

The story is simple, but it’s a fun read to be enjoyed at any time.