Wednesday, January 29, 2014

(2) Quotes You May Need From Maya Angelou

Thank you for continuing.  Let's commence...

"What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it.  If you can't change it, change the way you think about it.  Don't complain."

Lord help me.  This quote takes me back to my early twenties when I was out of high school and realizing life wasn't what I dreamed it would be--so a part of me wanted to go back to high school.  That's not to say that as I approach 31 I have escaped my need to lay down and whine into the earth.  

It's safe to say that much of that whining has tapered down due to growth.  However, I can recall days where I screamed for life to open up to me.  From 18-21 I worked a fast food job where every day I ached over life, and how I didn't want to be at that job.  I still do it a little these days--or maybe more than I should.  The difference is that I now acknowledge that I have a switch in my mind.  It's ready for me to hit it, turning off my need to complain.  It takes some practice, but many times I just wish I would shut the hell up about a situation.  So I do it.  I hit the switch and revert to singing instead.  It's the easiest way to shut me up and vibrate something a lot less negative.

"Too many times for comfort I have expected to reap good when I know I have sown evil.  My lame excuse is that I have not always known that actions can only reproduce themselves, or rather, I have not always allowed myself to be aware of that knowledge.  Now, after years of observation and enough courage to admit what I have observed, I try to plant peace if I do not want discord; to plant loyalty and honesty if I want to avoid betrayal and lies."

I think I learned this somewhere in my childhood, in the form of how lies bring ugly inner and outer consequences.  I say this both from my experience telling lies, and watching a friend compulsively bask in them.  They never really lead to a good place inside of you, especially when they draw bad things to the outer you.  

Nonetheless, the phrase/idiom "you reap what you sow" is probably this quote at its barest.  It really goes without saying that what you put out you get back.  How you live life is how you'll see it.  Such expressions go on and on.  

"Many adults show impatience with the young.  They want them not only to grow up, but to grow old, and that immediately.  They are quick to chide, criticize, and admonish..."

My mom tried to make me as responsible-oriented the minute she could.  I was a baby warming up baby bottles for my sister.  I was a toddler fixing "innovative" sandwiches for our lunch.  I was always "watching" and "tending".  But nobody was really asking me about me.  If I was being my naturally silly self (which I learned early on to keep in low profile), I was told to stop it.  I couldn't have the haircut I wanted, so I hated getting haircuts.  When I wanted a pair of boots that I liked, I was quickly asked what for.  As if those boots were going to interrupt an image someone plastered on me, instead of unleashing the image I wanted to build of myself.  

I once asked my mom could I borrow her hoodie zip-up, because lots of kids wore them.  It was simple and dark blue.  Nothing bedazzled or sparkling.  Fitted me just fine.  Instead, I received an attitude for asking.  Without an issue, my sister did the same thing and wore the same hoodie frequently compared to my single time.  

I couldn't even have graphic tees to even feel marginally cool in school.  And from there the list goes on.  So growing up I was in a shell.  There was me, books, games, ideas, and drawings.  And a tremendous amount of developing self-respect.  Nevertheless, nobody asked me about my interest or desires.  I believe everyone always assumed that I was too level-headed and complacent to even be asked.  Everyone figured because I was quiet that I was smart and mature and had so much figured out.  However, I was also hopelessly doubtful about my future because nobody was taking part in blossoming my ideas and creativity as a kid.

"We must re-create an attractive and caring attitude in our homes and in our worlds.  If our children are to approve of themselves, they must see that we approve of ourselves.  If we persist in self-disrespect and then ask our children to respect themselves, it is as if we break all their bones and then insist that they win Olympic gold medals for the hundred-yard dash."

Ever heard of that Whitney Houston song "Greatest Love of All"?  Of course you have.  Now think about it lyrically.  I think this quote ties into that song, as well as the previous quote.  Soak on that for a minute and tell me if you gather the connection?  

Did you every grow up looking up to someone with a hint of distaste in areas you saw didn't fulfill your vision of them, as well as what you wanted to be from them?  I have.  As a child, it wasn't enough for me to look up to the adults around me.  I learned their sassy ways of back-talking each other to get their point across.  As well as their strength, willpower, and determination as striking characteristics over adverse times.  But I also grew up seeing limits in those individuals.  So no.  I still needed someone who dreamed and succeeded in manifesting what I wanted to do, or at least obtained the aura of limitlessness concerning success.  I wanted someone to show me how to earn a college degree.  Someone to show me how to be a singer and actor.  A writer and artist.  No one showed me how to do those things.  No one showed me how to believe in things.  So I had to learned to show myself, driven by this fragile ambition that those who put limits on life insisted that mine was limitless without ever expressing that to me through their own mouths.

"I arrived at the conclusion that if a man came along who seemed to me to be honest and sincere, who wanted to make me laugh and succeeded in doing so, a man who had a lilting spirit--if such a man came along who had a respect for other human beings, then if he was Swedish, African, or a Japanese sumo wrestler, I would certainly give him my attention, and I would not struggle too hard if he caught me in a web of charm."

The sex in this quotes irrelevant.  Nevertheless, the quote translates to me that you'll never know how love arrives in your life only when it has.  I was never good with romantic kind of love, but I've seen friends and family members go to war to make something that isn't right--right.  Eventually it explodes with all the pressure put into it, and the real emotional war begins.  But I think we all pray that love comes effortlessly.  Even if we have to tweak it with effort.  Something about "tweak" implies changing an individual, though.  So I don't know...

"I am never proud to participate in violence, yet I know that each of us must care enough for ourselves to be ready and able to come to our own self-defense."

Now a quote like this certainly describes what I learned directly and indirectly from those around me growing up.  As well as what I learned cherishing myself in those times I felt that was all I had.  I get sad when I see someone beat over the head concerning their lack of self-esteem.  And I get mad when I see bullies who think they can take it from someone.  People will try to take it from you and it's your job to make a stance on containing it.  Even if you have to knock somebody out to make that clear.

"Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, lovers, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.

A great closing quote.  I think I've shared so much between these two post and hope to hear your stories and what quotes you identify with and in which way.  In the meantime, thanks for stopping by and reading.  There's more to share, but I encourage anyone who hasn't read this book [Wouldn't Take Nothing For My Journey Now] to find it now.

So grateful.

Didn't read the first half?  No?  Then here!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book Buying ~ Book Tag

Here we are with a Book Buying Tag.  My first tag--in fact.  I used to think only those big name booktubers did this among their friends or whatnot.  But I thought it made for a great topic for a newbie like myself.  This particular tag/topic was brought to my attention by a Booktuber named, Kristinathebookworm.  Here's a link to her video.   Check her out and keep on reading!  And yes, Lightning Returns demo was awesome!  I should stop sitting on my ass and go pre-order the game now.

As for the tag's list of questions:

1.  Where do you buy your books from?
2.  Do you ever pre-order books and if so do you do this in store or online?
3.  On average, how many books do you buy a month?
4.  Do you use your local library?
5.  If so--how many books can you/do you borrow at a time?
6.  What is your opinion on library books?
7.  How do you feel about charity shop/second hand books?
8.  Do you keep your read and TBR pile together/on the same book shelf or not?
9.  Do you plan to read all of the books that you own?
10.  What do you do with books that you own that you feel you will never read/felt you did not enjoy?
11.  Have you ever donated books?
12.  Have you ever been on a book buying ban?
13.  Do you feel that you buy too many books?

XOXO Hi-ho Cherrio!

Monday, January 20, 2014

(1) Quotes You May Need From Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou is undoubtedly powerful and influential with her words, and thankfully she doesn't come off as too much of a lyrical enigma of sorts.  I say this especially if you can capture the meaning behind her assorted catalog of material.  Still, in that respect, she is like the woman (or even mentor) that I probably needed closely in my youth.  Nevertheless, it takes me a couple of careful readings to grasp the meaning behind her poems, quotes and what have you in between.  Sometimes I find what I am looking for when I seek some advice to calm my over thinking spirit.  Then there are moments where I am attached simply to her story, as discovered after I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings years ago.  Nevertheless, Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now was read for answers; for some words I could use at this moment to help clear a couple of clouds or phantom feelings of inertia.

Quotes you may need from Maya Angelou’s Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now...

"Human beings are more alike than unalike, and what is true anywhere is true everywhere, yet I encourage travel to as many destinations as possible for the sake of education as well as pleasure."

This quote very much resonates with me.  As someone who tends to feel swallowed up by his current surroundings/location, nothing screams more to my spirit than to be successful enough to have the freedom to choose where I want to go and expose myself to cultures I feel my spirit needs to "download" through hands-on experience.  See, I get a lot of puzzled gazes from people when I express how I wish to clap twice before bowing my head in a Japanese Shinto shrine, or sun-soak near travertine ponds in China--among other things.  Those puzzled gazes then ask why would I want to go visit those countries and do those things.  I tell them because I feel like I can express and be myself in unlimited places.

"I like charitable people and like to think of myself as charitable, as being of a generous heart and a giving nature--of being a friend indeed to anyone in need.  Why, I ponder, did the benefactors not feel as I?"

Like any quote, there are ways to reflect the author’s message onto our personal lives.  This quote in particularly caused me to recall the many occasions in which I’ve done something charitable for a friend simply as a friend.  Never asking for anything in return.  Only acting as a support system to their needs--and sometimes--requests.  The problem with that is sometimes those situations become one-sided, which would be okay if we all weren’t human and would sometimes like to have someone think of us out of common civility.  I experience this often with friends.  Playing the role of support for other individuals but sometimes finding myself disregarded or taken for granted because of that position I took.

"Each of us has the right and the responsibility to assess the roads which lie ahead, and those over which we have traveled, and if the future road looms ominous or unpromising, and the roads back uninviting, then we need to gather our resolve and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction.  If the new choice is also unpalatable, without embarrassment, we must be ready to change that as well."

This quote is probably my favorite, taken from Angelou's essay titled, "New Directions".  The essay shares the story of Annie Johnson, a woman during the early 20th century who found herself an entrepreneur after marital discontent, followed by the divorcing of her husband.  Nevertheless, the message of the quote sung so clearly to me, but can appear pretty self-explanatory if not relative to the individual who finds his or her own meaning within it.  For me, it asks me to keep moving forward, boldly and anxious for whatever the future brings even if I have to drop some things (or people) off to reach what I feel is the right path.  I have to take control of this thing called life, and its many directions.  I would like to elaborate a little more, but will stop here.

"Never try to take the manners of another as your own, for the theft will be immediately evident and the thief will appear as ridiculous as a robin with peacock feathers hastily stuck on.  Style is as unique and nontransferable and perfectly personal as a fingerprint.  It is wise to take the time to develop one's own way of being, increasing those things one does well and eliminating the elements in one's character which can hinder and diminish the good personality."

I suppose at one point we've all been known to "bite someone's flavor" without understanding that we should shine and uphold our own.  Whether it's conscious or subconsciously done, it just seems a part of life.  Especially in adolescence.  Still, I think there comes a time when you have to play up on your own, personal strengths; likewise, become accountable for your weaknesses and the consequences they bring.  And if all else fails, we can try to remember that what we put out we get back.  If being yourself consist of you brightening up someone else's day with a smile, you'll get that back.  Should you wallow in misery, that, too, is all you'll get.  So many directions.  So much potential for over-thinking.

"It is this belief in a power larger than myself and other than myself which allows me to venture into the unknown and even the unknowable.  I cannot separate what I conceive as Spirit from my concept of God.  Thus, I believe that God is Spirit."

I'll be simple and quick with this semi-loaded quote.  It can go in so many directions that I don't care to go to.  I am not religious, or at least fashioned underneath the banner of "organized religion".  However, I believe in God.  Call it God, Universe, etc.  It doesn't matter.  To each his own.  As for me, God is a force that consist of love inside other matters that are complex and unreachable in human form.  To me, God is not this humanized persona many religions stack upon.  Nonetheless, I would be a fool to believe that I can traverse this world without a belief in God.  I'm scared of anyone who is able to move through this earth without such to ground them.  That's why I like this quote.  I also must trust that there is a power larger than me that can push me through the unknown that makes up being alive and uncertain about my existence/purpose.

"Seek the fashion which truly fits and befits you.  You will always be in fashion if you are true to yourself, and only if you are true to yourself."

I am far from being a fashionista or even fashionably conscious.  That's not to say that I have split the link between what I wear and what kind of attention it will attract, as well as how I feel in it.  I still strive to look relatively good and decent, checking the mirror and changing tops and bottoms seconds before I leave the house.  However, one thing is true about me: I don't try to keep up with what is "in".  I like my scruffy slip-in shoes.  I wear t-shirts years old.  And I have several comfortable pairs of jeans stashed in my clothest because I'm too lazy to make room for new ones.  My clothes and shoes aren't big name brands.  Never had a pair of Jordans in my life that didn't come second-hand and out of fashion from a cousin.  I shop at Target and, if I'm out accompanying a friend, Ross.  I like to spend less than $50 on clothes, but I took advantage during H&M's After-Christmas sale where I got $10 off a $20 purchase.  So it's nice to have two really cool t-shirts for the price of one, but the fact is that I rather spend my money at Barnes & Nobles as opposed to Footlocker.  And I'm okay with that.  That's being true to myself.

"One day the teacher, Frederick Wilkerson asked me to read to him.  I was twenty-four, very erudite, very worldly.  He asked that I read from Lessons in Truth, a section which ended with these words:  'God loves me.'  I read the piece and closed the book, and the teacher said, 'Read it again.'  I pointedly opened the book, and I sarcastically read, 'God loves me.'  He said, 'Again.'  After about the seventh repetition I began to sense that there might be truth in the statement, that there was a possibility that God really did love me.  Me, Maya Angelou.  I suddenly began to cry at the grandness of it all.  I knew that if God loved me, then I could do wonderful things, I could try great things, learn anything, achieve anything.  For what could stand against me with God, since one person, any person with God, constitutes the majority?" 

I related to this passage and wanted to share it.  I had a similar experience once at work.  On two occasions I found myself frustrated, wrapped in my dreams and stuck hauling trash to the dumpster and sweeping the parking lot clean.  On the first occasions I was sweeping away when a voice inside me said: "I am here.  You are not alone."  The second time I was wheeling away trash when a voice said: "God wants you to be happy".  There was this undeniable Truth in both occasions that I exploded into gleeful laughter.  I realized how right the voices were.  It was only I resisting those Truths by clouding my mind with my current situation.

"There are many incidents which can eviscerate the stalwart and bring the mighty down.  In order to survive, the ample soul needs refreshments and reminders daily of its right to be and to be wherever it finds itself."

This quote is taken from the essay titled, "Further New Directions".  It's here that Maya Angelou share details during her teen years, where she was fired from a job.  Sadden by the incident, her mother encouraged her by reminding her that she will look for another job and survive again should something happen to that one.  What I like most about this quote is the use of the terms "refreshments" and "reminders".  Sometimes, alone, I am not enough to lift my spirits when they are down.  At least my thinking can't remove itself from troubling and anxious thoughts.  That's when I have to surround myself with things that refresh and remind me of how I want to think/feel.  Whether I play a Louise Hay audio book, watch a TV show that inspired me as a youth, or simply come onto the blog, I use those things to pull myself out of muddy thoughts so that I can proceed to survive and move forward.  Truth be told, we need everything we can get to survive when we began to attack ourselves.

Finishing up in the second part...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Afflicting the Already Afflicted... and Other Things

I could get into where/when I discovered Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, as well as the doldrums concerning why I keep reading.  But I won’t.  Wait.  Okay, I will say that I keep reading them because I am an Aquarius and we are known for our fierce loyalty and resolve to finish things that we've started.  Nonetheless, I could also share my many meditations on what I loath about the series; if there‘s room, maybe what I love (at least within the first nine books).  However, I've shared my wobbling opinions about this series time and time again with those who've listened and shared my troubled thoughts concerning this cast of puppets and caricatures.  And despite so, I try and try again to read the next book with a fresh pair of nerves.  It’s like a revolving door, I come close to saying “f this series”, yet follow through with the next book the proceeding year.  As more of what I dislike about the series repeats itself, without the slightest dawdle in concerns to readers' fatigue, I notice that I spend less and less time finishing any one particular book.  And it's this wave of Mary Sue nausea--among other things--that is probably why it took me five months and almost four weeks to finish Affliction.  Around the last third of the book is when I really began to clunk out and crash.  I spent more time engrossed in my Murder, She Wrote marathons than seeing whether Anita and company were going to get off their cranky, notional philosophizing asses and focus on the case at hand. 

And that's pretty much all I got.  So enough of the undercover conversations and spiels on misogyny, as well as themes concerning the accidental emasculation of men.  Even the gratuitous, ill-expressed sex scenes are now cake (although I totally skipped the third one out of exhaustion) as opposed to Hamilton's need to pound her readers in the head with whatever the hell her characters give a crap about randomly discussing at any--and I mean any--given moment.  Those subject matters are about as old as grunge music.  Only I like grunge music for being such.  This... is just plain beating--or flogging in this instance--a dead horse.

Where do we go from here?  Or do I really care to know now?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Dream Maker Purchases

What’s up, everybody.  Listen, I wanted to share a couple of things I bought over the weekend at my favorite metaphysical gift shop located within the city.  The place is called The Dream Maker (here’s a link to their website:, and my best friend and I absolutely love this place.  We kind of discovered it over a year ago during a time where a few unexpected twists were happening in both our lives and relationships with others.  However, in a general sense, we've always loved and believed in stuff (I really don’t mean to use the term “stuff” lightly) like this.  Nevertheless, the Universe and its timing during periods of necessary growth and change is always on point.  Our Dream Maker visits helped “charge“ and motivate positivity into our lives.  Or at least helped point us in the direction of alignment with the positives.  It started with collecting crystals and gemstones (which I suppose I should share) and moved into collecting all sorts of other things, including this jade frog I keep near my door to attract money.  I adore the frog regardless, though.  

My intention on this weekend visit was to find a large quartz crystal point to help jump start my established crystal/gemstone/rock collection for the New Year.  However, I walked out with all Native American items, along with a bill that was shockingly less than $40.  I had a lot of assistance in making my decision; the shop keepers/employees are extremely friendly, helpful, and suggestive.  Every time my best friend and I leave the place we always smile about how good we feel.  We're always excited about carrying on that feeling with our new acquisitions.

It didn't take much convincing for me to purchase this shiny abalone shell.  I looked at many handcrafted boxes and bowls to see what would suit as a new bed for my crystals/gemstones to rest inside before deciding the shell might work and look cool at the same time.  As always, the shopkeepers and their little item description tags helped move my decision.  Apparently, abalone shells are known for providing growth and clarity within individuals, as well as assisting with smudging practices/ceremonies.  Considering we’re talking about metaphysics, this is vibrationally speaking.  So I went about picking me out a nice one, as you see here.  However, I didn't use it for gemstones after I floated around the shop catching my eye on something else I could use the shell for.

One of the shopkeepers was busy rearranging a shelf of new items while I was picking through other Native American products, and reading up on something called wishing paper.  As I am somewhat easily excitable and loud in places like this, the shopkeeper eased over to explain their new product called incense powder.  Ordered by a company called Anna Riva, they were new and selling really well in the shop--according to the shopkeeper.  Curious as I am, I saw that each bottle had a tag explaining what each mixture of power represented.  One simply titled “Job” was self-explanatory.  However, there were others like “Desire Me” and “Drive Away Evil” that really had my curious.  I decided to give this a go, asking the shopkeeper if it would be okay if I burned the powder incense in my new-found abalone shell.  He said it would work, but I just learned that heat transfers quickly through the shell.  I burn very little powder on a stable surface after nearly melting a hole into my PS3.  Anyway, after a short deliberation between choosing the “Five of Love” powder or the “Quick Money”, I chose the “Quick Money” powder.  Hey, I want to travel aboard some time this year.  Don’t judge me.  Besides, the “Quick Money” powder smells amazing.  Straight out of the bottle it has an airy lemon scent.

Unsure of the practices of using incense powder, I researched Anna Riva’s website (I’ll link it here: to get some facts.  According to the site, using “Quick Money” required the user to write the amount they wish to receive on a piece of paper.  Place the paper underneath the instrument housing the burning incense and repeat each day.  I’m on day three and I can say that after five months I finally made another sell in my Amazon Marketplace shop.  Not to mention Sunday I found a dollar on the ground at work and gave it to a customer who was short on change.

The last thing I’m listing was actually the first thing I picked up during the visit.  I was just attracted to this item right away.  It’s a brass chime if I’m not mistaken.  There really wasn't much discussion over this item while I was in the shop, only that I was interested in this particular color.  Nevertheless, my intentions was to use the chime as a means of musical meditation.  Something about the tinkering of the chimes exudes calmness.  If anyone has any information or suggestions for its use, please pass it on to me.

Toward the end of our visit, the shopkeeper and owner took out some of the flying wish paper that I mentioned earlier.  They were allowing some customers to try them out, seeing that this was a new in-store product.  Made mainly out of rice paper, the purpose of flying wish paper is to send your wishes out into Heaven/Universe where they can come true, or manifest into your life.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to give it a try.  While it was difficult to write clearly on the paper itself, I let my intentions do most of the “writing” as I took an extra three minutes making my inner self clear.  After you write your wish on the paper, you roll the paper up into a tube then light a match to it.  The minute the flame touches the paper, the wish paper takes off.  Because we were inside we lit the paper and watched it lift, almost smoldering in the air.  The shopkeeper caught the burnt paper in plastic baggies and instructed us to take them home and release them there.  I did so the next morning before work, but hours before then, I walked out of The Dream Maker feeling both elated and comforted by the whole experience.

Can anyone guess what I asked for on my paper?  I'll hint that it was two things.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Liking Gaga

Have you ever told someone what album/artist you like listening to and them not having anything positive to add along with it?  This recently happened to me and now I feel fit to share why I like Lady Gaga--with a little splash of why I like Artpop.

Once upon a time I threw all my money away buying music.  I stayed in Best Buy buying whatever just came out--didn’t matter if they were new artist or not.  Actually, debut albums were probably my favorite thing to waste money on.  I could burn a whole $10 just to repeat one song, or that one single off an album.  I suppose you can say that I was hungry for something to relate too back then.  Then one day I grew up and saw that there were only a handful of artists left that I would buy from again without question.  That would have to be enough; sticking with what I knew.  Lady Gaga turned out to be one of them after I bumped around my old campus to her debut, The Fame.  Having marked itself as a keynote to a happy time, I turn to that album during those nostalgic needs to remind myself that I in fact did experience pieces of the college experience; stood on bar chairs at underwear modeling parties (myself fully dressed I might add); and spent late nights in the city park with friends and bags of Krystal's.  Many of those youthful occasions were achieved while the ringtone to my cell phone was “Poker Face”.

Now, I’m not one of those super, uber fans.  I don’t consider myself a “Little Monster”, per what Gaga addresses her fan base as.  And that's partly because I'm not good with up keeping labels that require up keeping.  My walls aren’t coated with Gaga posters, and my coffee table isn't decorated with art books dedicated to her style and fashion (though I do pay some small attention when gossip stirs on her attire).  Nevertheless, I’ve always loved and admired her panache, or reckless audacity.  I say that despite all the questionable labels and criticisms she receives.  As well as all of that other junk that spills onto her audience like a wobbling chalice after a heavy-handed pouring of the liquor.  There is just something so releasing about her, plus she writes some catchy-ass pop songs over some driving beats.  And people may contest this, but I do see her as an artist.  From my view she is most certainly attuned to her personal vision and creativity, even under taking risks.  Also, she comes across as musically intelligent, if even in her own right.  Other than that, I can hear her voice in her music, unlike a certain popstar who I finally gave up on because I’d rather hear an animatron howl than her squeak over a beat.

I think that’s why I like Lady Gaga.  She gets her share of comparisons, but for the most part she showcases that seemingly unleash of  her own personal creativity.  And might I add with a nod to those who've inspired elements of it.  Along with that, I like the sort of devil may care attitude her music sometimes emanates.  That lack of inhibition to indulge in your own desires or ingenious (or what have you) force.

It's fair for people to pan her latest album, Artpop.  I’m not the type to go on a defensive rampage, considering I let people do/believe what they choose in general.  As for me I love the album.  No, it’s not all great.  On the surface I could do without maybe 4 out of 15 tracks.  And yes, upon my first listen all I understood was sex, fame, and drug-use.  Then left to internalize the music for myself, I saw something different.  I saw Gaga maybe trying to write her way out of something.  So I began to spoil myself by slipping into that catatonic state of Gaga "unleashing" to see what I could find.

While the message behind Artpop is probably a little more complex than I can address here (more as Gaga tackles fame and artistry), what reached me was the vulnerability that I found in many of the songs like "Aura," "Dope," "Swine," and "Gypsy".  From those few I got a sense that the way you’ll be where you wish to be is to sacrifice pieces of who you are, and then close off or separate the rest of yourself while you still can.  Leading to the question as to who lies “behind the aura”?  

Then at the end of the day I can always rely on Gaga to push being yourself instead of always being understood.

Many times, that's good enough for me.  So I keep listening. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

7 Favorite Reads of 2013


With each year comes one concrete, consistent thing that forever entertains, comforts, and enlightens me... that would be books.  According to Goodreads I read more in 2013 than 2012.  I felt a little surprised, certain that it was the other way around for some reason.  Still, I had a few decent books on that list that I cropped through to find my 7 Favorite Reads of 2013 that I wanted to share on the blog.  Some of the books I've never written about; this is the perfect time to do so.  I also have another list comprising of a few of the books I rather leave in 2013.  Neither list is necessarily numbered in order of greatness, flavor, or level of entertainment.  It’s just a list of the books I walked away from feeling mostly inspired (or uninspired) by.
Here goes…
1. The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino

Natsuo Kirino is a Japanese crime writer best known outside of Japan for the English adaptation of her grizzly novel, Out.  I was introduced to her by that particular book, after a bored bookstore stroll for new titles to read.  Quickly put, Out is about four hard-up Japanese women working in a bento factory while disposing bodies for extra cash.  Their method of disposal?  Divide the bodies into pieces before each takes a part to an undisclosed location for dumping.  It doesn't take long before their trust with one another, concerning money and their nasty dealings, begin to unravel from within.  And true to its nature, some of these women don't make it till the end of the novel.  While Out may sound like some sort of ABC crime novel under the streets of Tokyo, the psychology Kirino goes through with each of the women places this book a whole step above.  That exploration into a character's dark psychology (and impulse) is familiar in Japanese crime novels.  You see it in authors Keigo Higashino and Miyuki Miyabe as well.  Nonetheless, I was sold by Out's synopsis and have been a fan of Kirino since.  

The next novel adapted into English was her book, Grotesque.  Just as dark as Out, Grotesque follows the story of two Japanese sisters weighted by the inferior treatment of women in Japan.  One sister has turned to prostitution underneath the weight.  When I say this story will take you down some dark and scary places--I mean it.  It is one ride that will keep you hanging on just to find some kind of resolution with these sisters.  If you can stomach it, of course.  In 2008 the English adaptation of Kirino’s Real World was released.  Here we had another dark story featuring a group of Japanese teens assisting a murderer-on-the-run within their group.  Naturally, Kirino’s dark stories reflect societal concerns, particularly bullying and the heavy amount of pressure placed on Japanese students and academics, so addressed in Real World.  

So what is Kirino’s fourth English adapted book about?  

Almost the same theme concerning the overthrow of women in Japanese society; however, it’s told underneath a retelling of an old Japanese kwaidan-like myth.  The Goddess Chronicle takes place on a Japanese island shaped like a teardrop (let’s go ahead and push the symbolism).  On this island we’re introduced to two sisters born and designed to fulfill a local prophesy.  One sister, Kamikuu, must be a representative of purity and light, whereas the other sister, Namima, resides in the shade.  Natural to Kirino’s characters and storytelling, Namima wishes to escape her position underneath her sister’s shadow.  This wish becomes increasing dire when Namima is ordered by tradition to serve the goddess of darkness.  To serve the goddess is to live in isolation without the island’s graveyard, attending to the dead.  However, Namima carries a secret that breaks her tabooed position as a servant of the darkness.  Namima devises a plan to escape the island.  Should the tradition-baring locals find out about her secret, the consequences could equal up to her life.  Where Namima's eventual escape leads her is to the Realm of the Dead, where she meets the goddess of darkness herself.  It's here that Namima realizes that she has a lot to relate to with the goddess herself.  They both share the pain of the betrayal.  Now to find absolve (or maybe revenge) within those betrayals are the women’s common goal.

2.  Night by Elie Wiesel

3.  Tar Baby by Toni Morrison

4.  Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor

My post on Linden Hills.  

5.  The Shining by Stephen King

7.  Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Now the 3 books I'd probably leave in 2013 follows...

1.  Jazz by Toni Morrison

Seems a little off I'm sure.  It's not that I disliked the book, it just wasn't what I'd hoped for.  I've learned that much of Morrison's material post-80's has what I see as a distracting dip in vivid prose and language.  The problem for me is that that "distracting" sometimes lures me away from gathering some sense of the plot of the book, or even the order of the plot.  Add in the multiple themes and narratives in JazzI just didn't leave fully connected with overall story.  However, some of the individual narratives in the book stood so strongly that it was like reading an individual short story inside the book.  Glimpses of pieces of the past that made the two main characters was where I enjoyed the book the most.  In any regard, it's definitely a book that needs a second, focused read.

2.  The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams

The Urban Fantasy genre has failed me over the years.  After Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake series set the tone for what to avoid while writing/reading in the genre, I've been sketchy on picking up anything that even distantly suggests a girl must sleep with vampires and werewolves for a plot.  Save for the authors who introduced me to the genre (sadly, Hamilton is one), I try to look carefully for new authors in the genre.  I'm afraid they'll try to pull me in with a ridiculous plot about sex and a she devil who thrives on it to survive.  Williams, luckily, isn't any of those things.  However, what did annoy me about this particular book was that the heroine spent a little too much time than I cared for ruminating on her affection between two guys.  One guys is labeled bad.  One guy is labeled good.  We got a love triangle and the whole time I just wished the main character, McKenzie, would give up the need for romantic stability and just start slaying heads.  Something tells me that's a personal taste of mine.  Nevertheless, I'm actually on the fence about continuing the series.  I'll let it get a few books in then see.

3.  Deadline by Sandra Brown

She has some good ones.  She has some boring ones.  This was a boring one.  I hate to say it, but many times Brown's characters are all the same.  Their careers are different, but their desires are not.  Predictable in many senses.  I saw a lot of that in Deadline.  Same as in 2012's Low Pressure.  Same as in 2011's Lethal (which I actually liked).  As I said before, Brown's books sometimes read like Lifetime movies--and that's not a bad thing.  But here's what I see too often that annoys me.  There's a guy.  He's often a suspect involved in the murder contained within the book.  He likes the girl.  She's often related to the victim in some way.  They're either on the run from cops or bad guys.  Between that running, she is a wall to his desperate sexual advances.  She cracks.  He makes way.  Together they become a force to smoke out the true killer.  That's been her last 3-4 books.

That's the end of my list folks!  Wish I could've written about them all, but trust and believe me when I say that the ones that I didn't write about would've required an entire post.  Any suggestions or comments?  Do you have a list 2013 book list of favorites?  Share and let's compare notes!

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