22 March 2020

Just my Thoughts on Mother Earth and the Virus

It is without a doubt a time of uncertainty and fear. And so now is when we reclaim moments with our immediate family and slow down. To share time and meals without technology, and if we do, to instead just be present together.

We need to honor, respect, and appreciate nature and Mother Earth so much more (my opinion: I do fear we are being rushed earlier for mass change because we have just pushed it too much with nature. We mass produced, toxically polluted our waters, land, and air, so that as expected, any disease easily has evolved and continues to be ahead of the data for us to learn how to “fix” it), and nature is speaking loudly to us. If we don’t radically change things, make different choices, we are on the way to a life we have nightmares about.

The rain pounding Desecheo.
When things return to what it was like before, may we also learn to support our local businesses,
local farms, to learn how to appreciate doing things on our own, living off our own land (if we can) to whatever degree it may be (anywhere from having our own chickens as is so popular nowadays, to even just making our own tinctures and balms and sprays and medical remedies), because we can no longer blindly trust something on a grocery store shelf. We continue to be brainwashed and assume it had to go through rounds and rounds of safety testing before it got to us; it hasn’t. It has chemicals that disrupt your hormones. It is carcinogenic. That means it can cause cancer. All of it. Yes, even Clorox.

Hopefully this is when we also completely revolutionize and speak loudly how we want to receive information from health and government officials.

I hope we take time away from modern day news, to publicly denounce and demand that the 24 hour news cycle completely and totally and finally implodes.

We are an obsessed audience, allowing one bad feeling to override the next, we have completely succumbed to the brainwashing of the 24 hour news cycle, to the nastiness of politics and more, simply because it is thrown in our faces over and over again, and we don’t even understand the majority of what is “interpreted” by the news. We just feel constant anxiety and panic which will lead to anger and arguments amongst ourselves.

Instead, research on your own. Watch the news but NEVER take the “translation” of the news from a politician or a news reporter. They are there to give us the information. They are not there to editorialize or translate or feed us how we should think because just like commercials, when we are force fed information from thousands of different angles about one thing, we end up spouting whatever someone else’s agenda may be. We, the people, should do our own research and then make informed decisions.

If your opinions are based on interpretations from Fox, CNN, MSNBC, PBS - you are getting a skewed news source. If you are getting your opinions from your friends on Facebook on who to vote for or how to feel about something - it’s not okay. It is all, dare I say it, an attempt to reprogram our very way of thinking to someone else’s agenda.

Research extensively on your own first and then have the opinion that you developed by yourself. Trust yourself. We are the people our forefathers planned to one day have for this great country, and yes, I think they would completely scoff at how we take in the news. I think they would be disgusted.

Do your own research on anything. It is only then that you can make your informed decision and develop your own unbiased opinion.

This is just my own little thought. Feel free to cut me to pieces in the comments.

18 January 2020

Elevation, by Stephen King (audiobook)

This three hour audiobook was as intense and special as Stephen King always is. Thoughts of love, death, moving on and letting go, intersect in the life of one man, Scott, who, while he never changes physically, is suddenly and dramatically losing weight. All of it. But you'd never know it to look at him. If his weekly tracking is correct, it won't be long at all that his body will experience complete weightlessness. What's causing it? Does it matter anymore? And truly, what can he achieve in the time he has left in Castle Rock that will resonate with his friends, new and old? And most importantly, can he help them learn anything as well?

This is a gem of a tale with a short bonus story, which felt like a very special and surprisingly good "b" side track from your favorite band. It really doesn't matter what King writes about; he does it well and makes this reader always happy. When in doubt on what to read next, I just settle down with a King tale and I thank the lucky stars above that he hasn't hired writers to do his bidding or to write in his style (a la many famous mass market writers of today), and instead just continues to produce, one uncomfortable and insightful story after another, or one sweet and sad scene after another. There isn't anything in the human emotion and in life that Stephen King hasn't been able to deliver and articulate well into his stories, something that doesn't strike immediate nervousness or fear, or increasing sadness and empathy, and for that, I will be ever grateful. Stephen King continues to provide us with everything we always need, if we only continue to give him those chances to hear him out again and again.

Side note: I listened to this audiobook from my library's Libby app, and it is read by the great man himself; he is an EXCELLENT narrator, that I will also emphatically state each and every time. It's not often an author is as good as reading their work as they are to write it, so with Mr. King, it is quite a pleasure to hear his voice yet again.

Disclosure: I downloaded this audiobook for free from my library's Libby app. Check with your local library if they participate with Libby (they probably do).

About the Author

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty novels, including The Stand, The Dark Tower series, It, The Shining, Under the Dome, Pet Sematary, 'Salem's Lot, oh...what more can be written that one doesn't already know. So here you go, click here to visit this wicked cool author's official website.

16 December 2019

The Ash Family, by Molly Dektar

It's been quite a while since I've devoured a book with such gusto, but in a slow and deliberate manner. I took my time reading The Ash Family, by Molly Dektar, and each section had me contemplating the actions and choices made by Berie, the main character. I was dumbfounded to realize that I wasn't shocked one bit with how simple it was for her to fall down the wrong hole in life. 

There are 1264 ratings on Goodreads as of this writing, but only a 3 and 1/2 star review and I was stunned by some thoughts because I think this story is that good. I don't often post reviews on this little corner of the blogosphere nowadays, but I had to for this one. Maybe it's the fall season when I read it and I was ready for a disturbing tale; maybe it was because I happened to be traveling through the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina at the exact time I was reading this book that helped me feel the atmosphere even more so, but I started reading this before my vacation and I live in Puerto Rico. While it might sound a bit corny, I was sitting in Puerto Rico with all of its heat and humidity and the sweat of everyday life, and I was seriously swept away into the cold of the Ash Family's world. I was so excited to join into reading reviews of this book and relishing on shared similar responses by other readers, but alas, I will resign myself to the realization that this will be a sleeper hit, that in a few more years we'll all be wishing we had read it sooner or with a different perspective.

The Ash Family is a quiet story about Berie, a nineteen-year-old who feels passionately about living, but not exactly certain how to fit herself into it all. She's out of step with others, not ever feeling a tie to her own mother or her boyfriend, Isaac. It's in Isaac that Berie may have learned some foundational element of defying authority, which interests her, but instead of fighting it from the outside, Isaac chooses to do so from the inside, by being part of that traditional and conventional life and that decision is significant for her, and it destroys her hero worship view of him. It disappoints her greatly, and you could question why she feels compelled to live her life through others and their choices, but it circles right back to how Berie wants to be led by someone else. She's afraid to make the big decisions, she's never genuinely felt at home in anything, and she's listlessly living that conventional life where her very next step after high school and a broken relationship is the traditional next jaunt of going to college. Instead, Berie skips the flight and takes a bus to anywhere and meets a random man named Bay, so different from anyone she's ever known. Somehow, Bay meets her initial needs of security, comfort and being led. She's perfect to bring home to the Ash family.

The explanation of her decision to stay either "three days or the rest of her life" magnifies the intensity of the stress Berie feels to belong to something. Anything. Even this quiet and bizarre group of people who live off the land, who feed their sheep, who slaughter the animals and grow their vegetables, who values each item so preciously that a member can be punished for the accidental break of a glass jar. It's all so different from the very different and privileged living Berie had before heading off to college. And then before she fully realizes it all, she's now actually in so deep to what isn't a family, but very much so is a cult.

No, there isn't strong and signifiant action and rolling moments to move you through each page; instead it is a story of how easy it is to feel a sense of connection to something, to want to belong with others, to someone and how simply it can just become that way. We can all make fun of teenagers nowadays not knowing how easy they have it, but this is exactly the reason why some can unknowingly fall into the "wrong crowd." But truly, you don't have to be young, old, or have a terrible life - you can quite easily be led astray by the simplest of methods that can take a long amount of time or a quick amount, depending on the victim - which is exactly what brainwashing is, and what Berie experiences.

It is frightening how simple one can be led astray and I will spoil one thing for you - there isn't a big moment that significantly clarifies the choice she makes to live differently - as it is with anyone. There isn't always a momentous identified event that helps to distinguish life before and life after anything; there isn't always a "something.". Life is a natural progression of day in and day out decisions, and then before you know it, you're comfortable. It's home. It's your life. It's the family. Which is actually a cult, but I, as the reader, didn't feel it at first, I didn't realize it was all a cult, I felt comfortable with how Berie becomes part of it. There are characters who move in and out and it's completely dreamlike and terribly sad to feel how deeply embedded into this lifestyle she is ultimately drowning in.

But this happens. This is how cults are born, how innocent communities go astray and become different because of who might be leading them; it's so easy for someone like that to charm a young person who is unsure or insecure about their life and lead them down a different path. Berie is like that. She's unsure and confused about where she belongs, but she is also a little bit confident about wanting to do something different and she wants to earn her spot with the family, with Bay, with the main leader, Dice. She wants to be part of something else with them, more of whatever "action" it is they work on without her inclusion.

So when she meets Bay at the bus station, a strong and big and engaging man who seems like someone she should go with, she just does. She has nowhere else to go. She becomes part of the Ash Family, led by Dice, who gives her the new name of Harmony, and gives her tasks that make her grow callouses on her hands and slowly becomes entrenched in all of her decisions that she simply can't be sure what to do next without his guidance. She always wonders when she'll be trusted enough to be part of the "action." She is always working for that hope and feeling for someone to believe in her, and ultimately it is clear that if she just believed in herself, none of this ever would have happened. It is a frightening example of how anyone can so easily be pulled into a world which cuts them off to everything and everyone they know.

People might shake their heads when they watch documentaries on cults and I don't understand that - I can watch a film on a cult and feel the same but deep down, I am puzzled on what the difference is between a cult and anything else we so gleefully follow. In Corporate America, we faithfully follow our boss and their decisions whether we agree with them or not, we all say the same "company line." Of course, we obviously should choose to not cross the line with anything illegal, but seriously. It's not that hard to imagine how someone gets caught up in the wrong decisions. This is a powerfully told story of insecurity and the blind willingness to belong to anything at all.

I loved this story. I will be giving this 5 stars on Goodreads.

Disclosure: I downloaded this book for free from my library's Libby app.

About the Author (from her website)
Molly Dektar is from North Carolina and lives in Brooklyn. She received her MFA from Brooklyn 
College, where she was awarded the Himan Brown Award and the Brooklyn College Scholarship for Fiction. She is a graduate of Harvard College and was the recipient of the Louis Begley Fiction Prize. The Ash Family is her first novel.

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06 September 2019

The Sea of Japan, by Keita Nagano (book tour stop!)

Thank you to PR by the Book for sending me this advanced reader's copy of Keita Nagano's book tour for his novel, The Sea of Japan. (Fingers crossed this is the cover chosen for the final printed copy - it's gorgeous!)

After fleeing a disastrous teaching job (and a bad gambling habit) in Boston, Lindsey starts teaching English in Hime, a small fishing town in Japan. One morning, while trying to snap the perfect ocean sunrise photo for her mother, she slips off a rock at the edge of Toyama Bay, hits her head, and plunges into the sea—and in doing so, sets off an unexpected chain of events.

When Lindsey comes to in the hospital, she learns that she owes her life to a young man named Ichiro—a local fisherman who also happens to be the older brother of one of her students. She begins to spend time with her lifesaver, and in the ensuing months, she becomes increasingly enmeshed in her new life: when she is not busy teaching, she splits her time between an apprenticeship with the local master sushi chef and going out fishing with Ichiro. As she and Ichiro grow closer, however, she also learns that not all is well in Hime, and she is drawn into a war to stop the town next door from overfishing their shared bay. Soon, she, Ichiro, and her pastrami-obsessed best friend, Judy—the New Yorker, who talked Lindsey into coming to Japan in the first place—are spending all their free time working together to rescue the town. But when their efforts backfire, Hime gets closer to falling apart—putting Lindsey’s friends, her budding relationship with Ichiro, and her career in jeopardy. To save Hime, Lindsey realizes, she’ll have to become a true American fisherwoman and fight for her new home with everything she has.

The buzz is...

Love, survival, conflict…Lindsey runs wild in the Sea of Japan. When her loved ones are attacked, her American spirit stands tall. When her friends are in danger, her Japanese fans get united. The Hollywood-like climax where Lindsey competes in a fishing duel will leave you hanging on the edge of your seat.
—Tetsu Fujimura, Executive producer of Ghost in the Shell (Starring Scarlett Johansson)

Keita Nagano has created a fascinating tale blending the best of two literary worlds, the American and the Japanese. It is a story of friendship, transformation, and journey for the meaning of life. What's really marvelous about this novel is the unique style with its apparent simplicity and deep meaning. A true Japanese delight.
—Elvira Baryakina, author of Russian Treasures series

Win or lose. Sports are loved by Americans because they're tough and challenging, just like this story. At the climax of the book, the readers are on Lindsey’s fishing competition boat with her, watching her struggle to save the people she loves and get justice for her adopted town. Imagine you are standing on the 10-meter high diving board. The tension is just that, on the beautiful Sea of Japan
—Thomas Gompf, 1964 Tokyo Olympic Medalist & Former President of the United States Aquatic Sports.

Disclosure: I received the book from PR by the Book, published by Spark Press.

About the Author
Keita Nagano is an award-winning Japanese author who has lived almost equally in Nevada and Tokyo—more than twenty years in each place—and reflects the difference of the two cultures in his novels. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Keio University in Japan, as well as an MBA in global business and Ph.D. in management from Walden University in Minnesota. The pursuit of the authentic American experience is his hobby: he has been to all fifty states, all thirty major league ballparks, and the top sixty big cities in America. He has published seventeen business nonfiction and eight fiction books in Japan. In 2013, he received a Nikkei (Japanese Wall Street Journal) Award for Contemporary Novel for his missing-child thriller, Kamikakushi. He is also an official weekly columnist for Forbes Japan. Nagano lives in Henderson, Nevada, with his wife and Welsh corgi, and their teenage daughter is currently studying in Tennessee.

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