Author Review: Kiera Cass

This is the first Author review I have ever done. I thought it would be fun to take a look at an author who has a very successful young adult series, and look at her other work as well. I don’t typically get stuck on an author, but it does happen. I’ve read 2 Rainbow Rowell books and I can’t wait to read her others, and I’ve been a fan of Stephenie Meyer for longer than I care to admit.(I own most of her books, I’m not ashamed.)

theselection.jpg

Last year I got into The Selection Series by Kiera Cass. I can only describe the series (the first 3 books in the series) as The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor. It’s dystopian young adult, with lots of fluffy romance, just enough angst and feels to keep it addicting, and isn’t super long so it goes quick. I completely blew through the first 3 of the series, omitting 4 and 5 and the novellas because they followed new characters and I liked the original characters. America and Max’s story ends in The One as far as I’m concerned, and feel the next 2 books which are about another character, should have been separate, but I digress.

kiera-cass-the-siren

I heard about Cass’s The Siren after I read The Selection Series. A book about a siren?  I love mermaids and sirens, I’m OBSESSED with the mythological lore and all the surrounds it. I’ve been into mermaids as long as I can remember, and naturally I discovered the myths of sirens along the way. One of my favorite books of all time, is a book called Sirena by Donna J. Napoli. I read it when I was just  a kid, about 12 years old. The story is about a mermaid/siren named Sirena who lures a ship full of sailors to their deaths and falls in love with one of the men who survives. It’s a beautiful tail, (see what I did there…get it, tail? haha…I crack myself up) and it is honestly a great young adult novel.

I can’t say The Siren is bad by any means, because it was definitely interesting to say the least. The story follows Kahlen (which is another reason I wanted to read the book, not many times you hear my name in a book) who is supposed to die in a shipwreck, but she wants to live and so the Ocean takes her as a siren. As a siren Kahlen will be in the debt of the ocean for 100 years, then will be able to resume her life as human and live in peace, forgetting her time as a siren. The Ocean in this novel is both a villain and something similar to a mother figure. The Ocean takes lives to balance out the lives that live,  and her sirens aid her in her need to consume. This was a really interesting concept I thought, as was the bond between the sirens.

I went into reading The Siren with the idea it was going to be like The Selection Series, but it was not.  The Siren  is described as a romance- kind of like a modern day retelling of the The Little Mermaid, but it isn’t really the kind of romance you think your going to get, especially if you are familiar with The Selection Series. These 2 stories could not be more different.  While The Selection Series is full of romance front and center, The Siren’s romance is a fraction of the story. We spend more time with Kahlen pining over her romantic partner than we spend actually building up the romance or involved in it at all.  Kahlen falls in love with Akinli after a day or so, and total the “couple” only spend a few days together. It’s enough to throw it all away on though, apparently.

Cass isn’t the only one to ever do the “insta-love” trope, but I have seen it done better. I just didn’t buy into it as much as I wanted to,  and that was mostly because the meat of the story centered around Kahlen’s passive-aggressive relationship with the Ocean as a paternal figure, and her  socially disconnected relationship with her sisters. There’s a heavy bit of self-loathing as well from Kahlen, who despite doing this for 80 years, just can’t enjoy her life because of the lives she takes bringing her so much guilt.

I went into reading The Siren with the hopes it would be as fluffy and escapist as The Selection Series was and it was not anything like what I thought it would be for a Kiera Cass book. That’s both good and bad depending on how you look at it. On one hand, it could be good that Cass can write books that are so different, but it can be a bit off-putting if you are expecting cohesiveness in the plot.

In my opinion, I’d like to see some more of Cass’s work, to better make a comparison, but I can say this- Cass has proven she can do a variety of things, and her writing style and world building are both good enough that I’d still pick up another book by this author. The Selection Series by far is the standout, but I wouldn’t say The Siren was a bad book at all, its just different.

 

Advertisements

Book Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

 

I don’t know what it is about Rainbow Rowell’s writing, but it sucks me in from the first page.

I wanted to kick the new year off right, with positive vibes and definitely some fluff. I’d just finished Scott O Dell’s classic Island Of The Blue Dolphins, which is about a woman stranded on an island for 20 years. I needed something fun and lighthearted, and Carry On definitely delivered.

In Rowell’s novel FanGirl, ( which I LOVED) Cath writes fan fiction of a Harry Potter-esque novel series. She’s grown up with Simon Snow, and her and her sister are bonded over it, and very into shipping the two fictional main characters, Simon and Baz. In FanGirl, Cath’s magnum opus is her final take on the story( she’s writing it all through the book, and trying to put it out before the last Simon Snow novel comes out). Through FanGirl, we see bits and pieces of Cath’s fanfic so we are familiar with the characters Simon and Baz, as they are a pivotal part of Cath’s identity for her adolescent years. Carry On IS that story, a fictional character’s fanfic of a fictional story. So unbelievably meta, I know.

First, let’s address the elephant in the room- Harry Potter. You should be sitting down for this…

I’ve never read Harry Potter past the halfway mark of Goblet Of Fire. I have not seen all the movies, either. I know you are probably wondering how in the bloody hell that happened, right? It’s not like it doesn’t have the makings of a book series I’d be into or anything. In fact, in all seriousness- I can’t quite grasp what it is that keeps me from reading further, other than some validation that Goblet Of Fire is hard to get through, and the least “appealing” of the series.  In most cases when I’m reading a book that is a parody or satire or a book that draws influences heavily from something else, usually I read the source material first. I did not take that approach with Carry On, mostly because if I had to wait until I read the whole Harry Potter series to read it and compare, I’d never do it; but also because I’d never be able to look at Carry On as a standalone story, which it ultimately is. If I read Harry Potter FIRST, I’d compare Carry On to a series that is termed a masterpiece and one of the greatest books ever written.

Still, I know enough basic knowledge about Harry Potter, that I couldn’t help but reference it in the very beginning, but the book quickly picks up and stands on its own.  Is Simon Snow like Harry Potter? I don’t think so. Is Baz like Draco? I don’t think so. J.K. Rowling doesn’t OWN the wizard genre or anything, and I think  not really knowing how much it’s borrowed kind of helps me. If Harry Potter was written anywhere near the way Carry On is, I’d read it in a heartbeat. But it’s a different kind of drama, and Carry On isn’t really taking itself seriously for obvious reasons.

img_5169

One of the things I loved about Carry On, is the way the romance is handled. It’s believable and the characters are very well developed, and they feel real. The dialogue is cheeky, fun and even downright humorous. I loved the questions posed, the world of Watford, and I absolutely could not get enough of Simon and Baz. I loved their relationship, and how it was treated. It had that certain “magic” if you will for me.  Just enough angst, just enough fluff and not nearly enough kissing.  The characters themselves were all flawed, but loveable and Rowell sets us up with really intriguing plotlines and a really great pay off. I don’t want to give too much away, because much like FanGirl, the buildup may be slow, (a total slow burn for you all fan fic readers out there) but the pay off is really, really good. If reading about 2 dudes making out and getting all sorts of feels bothers you, this is NOT the book for you. I have stated before, I am an incurable romantic and when it comes to reading books, if theres love involved I am a sucker for it. No matter what. I am not a stranger to books with same sex couples either.  While I typically read books with straight romance triangles or squares, I have been known to get all squishy over slash pairings. For God’s sake have you SEEN Winter Solider? Steve and Bucky are MORE than just friends. Just saying.

 

This is the second book I’ve read by Rowell, and I don’t see myself stopping.  Rowell writes romances in a real, attainable and believable way weather it’s a guy and a girl who get together,  two guys who  give in to their feelings, or even the platonic relationships between best friends and siblings. The interpersonal connections between all of her characters, coupled with wonderful world building is what makes Rowell stand out as an author for me.  You can bet I’ll be checking out her other books as well.

Carry on then.

2017 Year In Review

Wow. It’s been a year already. The last time I wrote a blog on here about my resolutions, seems so distant… Did I live up to any of those resolutions?

Yes and no. Yes I did try to be more proactive about my health, and I did start and complete a project. This year I ran my first 5K. I worked out on the treadmill, probably not as much as I should have, tried to eat better, and even though it was hard I took no shortcuts and ran/walked very fast a 5K. That was a huge deal for me. I tried lots of new products, got really into make up, read 45 books, took a trip to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival and visited the Super Mario pop up bar, went to The Supernatural convention, Brony Con, and Replay FX again. This year I took a month off through the summer to enjoy my time before going back to school, I worked a lot of overtime after going back for the year, watched my little cousin complete her first semester of college, drank a lot of wine at wine fest, actually went to the movies, and overall I can say it’s been a hell of a year.

The Highlights

Arts & Entertainment was the theme of highlights this year!

Adding a bit of Drama to my life:

In February my friends and I did something we’ve been talking about for years- we saw The Book Of Mormon live, downtown! Theatre isn’t something we usually do together despite our love for it, and it was sooooo much fun sharing that experience with others who love it as much as I do. It also sparked a desire in all of us to see more shows. We also saw Welcome To The Nightvale live reading, and on the schedule for 2018 is Wicked, and hopefully Hamilton.

The Cherry Blossom Festival and Pop Up Bar-Washington, DC

In March I saw an article on Facebook talking about a Super Mario themed pop up bar in DC. I investigated and checked out the dates. The pop up was part of the Cherry Blossom Festival, something Jeff and I have done before. We jokingly talked about going, so imagine my surprise when we actually pulled it off. On a whim with 2 weeks to set it all into motion, we booked a trip to the nations capital. The Cherry Blossom Festival is an amazing and fun experience everyone should try to do. With the help of Jeff’s cousin who lives in the area, we got to experience the Cherry Blossom Pub and Super Mario Bar. It was every bit as amazing as it sounds. I was geeked out! They even had a room decked out with chain chomps! The bartenders were dressed like Mario and Luigi! Next door was the Cherry Blossom Pub, and it was something I’ve only seen in my dreams. Beautiful pink paper cranes and cherry blossoms and sweeping canopies… I literally can’t even. Staying in a swanky 5 star hotel where they have valet, and called me personally to ask if “ everything was to my liking” was definitely something to experience. I really felt like a princess. The Sakura Matsuri Street Festival was also a highlight as I ate my salmon poke off my knees surrounded by the amazing and beautiful culture that fascinated me with my partner in crime, who I feel truly blessed to have been able to share the experience with.

Hello Kitty Cafe – Pittsburgh

Traveling food and franchise trucks exist, but does anything EVER come to Pittsburgh? Hell naw. However this year I was extremely fortunate that the pretty pink mobile of cuteness visited our city and I got to experience it. I waited in line for an hour, and got all the Hello Kitty goodies and I assure you, I was not the only adult geeking out.

Fourth Of July- Deep Creek, MD

This year, one of my uncles bought a swanky cabin in Deep Creek, which he owns and operates as a vacation rental. He invited the whole family to come up for the weekend, and I stayed the day. Jeff drove up to hang a bit and of course take me home. The cabin was gorgeous, and while I am not “outdoorsy”, my husband seemed to enjoy walking in the woods, and taking selfies on rocks. He was scared to eat a wild raspberry though. I ate one and I’m still kicking, don’t mind my twitchy eye. Kidding, I promise. I lived through my share of wilderness camping, but seeing how much fun Jeff had made me have fun too.

Night Nation Run- Pittsburgh

I started something, and finished it. I took part in the Night Nation Run. While my training was super low (and I paid that price let me tell you lol), I enjoyed running in the park with Jeff, and walking around playing Pokémon Go afterwards, to get our extra steps in. Just the experience of doing this with my husband up to the 5K itself was something I really enjoyed.  It didn’t suck that we got to party afterwards down at Stage AE either.  It was a small victory for me, because I thought I couldn’t do it.  Any number of reasons I could have found an excuse, especially since my ADHD makes it hard to focus and finish things for me. The fact that I ran, walked, ran, walked and finished the whole thing without punking out, was a big deal for me and proved to me that I can finish something.

Replay FX- Pittsburgh

Another awesome year at Replay and this time, the surprise of my year. This year Replay had a tournament for Dr. Mario. I have definitely logged a lot of hours into one of NES’s most loved games. As a kid I’d play for hours, as an adult I regularly play 4 games with my husband-Tetris, Dr. Mario, Bust-A-Move, or Mario Kart. To qualify for the tournament, the entry level to start was level 11. I played on level 16. It cost $10 to register. Naturally amidst the sea of televisions with old school games, there was a Dr. Mario station. I played for awhile, and was approached not once but TWICE to try out for the tournament. Finally the recruiter gave me a free ticket to try out. Jeff said go for it. I felt like I’d never place, but you only live once right? At least use the ticket up…right?

So there I stood in my nerd princess shirt with my pink hair, with an old school original NES controller in hand in between 2 rather large guys. The 3 of us were the only ones for the qualifiers that hour, so we had to each play each other until one came out on top. The first guy was saying “I don’t know what’s wrong, I’m usually better than this…” and I beat him. The second guy played me and I beat him too. Imagine my shock when the guy running the tournament told me I placed and would move on to the finals. I couldn’t participate sadly, and I never thought in a million years that I’d make it. Even though I couldn’t participate, I still felt amazing that I was good enough to place, and now I had bragging rights forever. This moment is one of the biggest highlights of my year because it showed me that I am capable of more than I give myself credit for, and that I can go head to head with the big boys, even if it is just on a old school tv playing a classic Nintendo game.

BronyCon- Baltimore, MD

I don’t know what it is,  but there is something truly magical about BronyCon. I’ve been to lots of conventions,  but the energy and just the feel of being at BronyCon is like no other convention.  I was so thrilled to go back this year.  It was just Jeff and I this time, and we had a blast. Bronies are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. Everyone at the convention is friendly, accepting and about 99% of the attendees are over the age of 16, with a rather large chunk in their 20’s 30’s and some even older.  Aside from one minor meltdown where it was POURING down rain, and  we had to go back to the hotel to change, and I was freaking out about ruining my cosplay… I know it may have been our last BronyCon, and if it was, I am so glad we went and experienced it again.

Seven Springs Wine Fest- Champion, PA

Wine Fest isn’t an annual thing for us,  but more so a trip we do every other year.  There is nothing quite like escaping to the mountains with your besties, getting tipsy and lugging  several bottles back to the the shuttle, and crashing in your hotel until dinner time at the super awesome Slopeside restaurant.(The buffet is amazing!) R & R in the best sense, of course.

2017 was full of surprises for me this year, and while there was a lot of stress, and anxiety throughout the year, I ended up making some really great memories, and got to share the experiences with the people I love and care about the most, and that’s all I could really ask for.

Things to look forward to in 2018:

VACATIONS!!!

February 2018 Seeing Wicked with Nicki and Dani, and Jeff and I plan on going on vacation together as well.
July 2018 the family and I are tentatively planning a family vacation. We have not been on a family vacation since 2010.

DRAGONCON 2018!!!

We’re doing it again! We’re going to Atlanta for Dragon Con 2018! My cosplay line up is looking so far like Jessica Rabbit, Agent Carter, The Little Mermaid (obviously I have costumes already to use for that), and possibly my first video game cosplay, Lara Croft.

 

 

 

Double Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart/ Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

tumblr_n4wwnymceU1sm095go1_500

 

I have had a hell of a time recently with my materials.  First, I watched 13 Reasons Why, and then I read this. We Were Liars. This book was lent to me by my wonderful friends and fellow booklovers, Nicki and Dani who had both read the book. It looked fairly short, and sounded interesting, they both said it was amazing, and they were not kidding.

avatar_2b2f1b15d227_512.png

We Were Liars is the perfect summer read- it takes place on a private island, with the focal characters being privileged kids (with the exception of one), and the secrets kept and the truth behind a perfect, wealthy American family. The main character has an accident, and spends the majority of the book trying to figure out what happened to her since she has amnesia. I can’t give the plot away, but trust me when I say  this book will leave you breathless.

I can’t deny that the title was hard for me to shake, because I actively watch Pretty Little Liars on Freeform, and the fact the main characters are referred to as liars just makes me think of Spencer, Aria, Emily, Hannah and Alison. Also the characters in We Were Liars have some serious secrets they are holding, which is also one of the things that makes this a perfect suspenseful beach read.

Everything about this book is engaging, and indulgent.  The island and its  houses, the teenage cousins plus their friend, and the budding romance between our main character and her friend. Despite their privileged lives, the cousins +1 have deep connections as well as average teenage instincts.  Each one is written vividly, with multiple layers to  their personality. I found myself heavily indulged, and I’m pretty sure I finished it within 24 hours. The ending left me speechless, and I am not going to sugarcoat this for you- it is tear inducing.

Shifting gears, I was pretty emotionally exhausted from consuming 13 Reasons Why and We Were Liars, and it was time to read something cheerful. Enter Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

rainbow_rowell_fangirl

Fangirl was the answer to my prayers.  This book felt so real to me, it was insane. I completely identified with so much of this book and its characters.

The story is about Cather, who is a twin.  Cather and her twin sister Wren are as close as twins can be, and after their mother leaves when they are kids, they are left with their bipolar father.  The girls are fans of a Harry Potter style fictional series, Simon Snow.  The girls are such big fans that they write Simon Snow Fanfiction.

An aside note for those of you who are not as ensconced in geek culture- Fanfiction is huge, and has been around FOREVER.  It is when fans appropriate and borrow characters be it from their favorite TV show, comic, movie or even book series-and create their own stories. I am not afraid to admit that I used to write my own fanfiction back in the day, and I’m sure if I read it now I would want to erase it, but you can never truly erase something once its on the internet, right?

The main plot of the story is that Cath and Wren are trying to establish their own identities by going to college and parting ways for the first time. Wren, is more assertive and itching for freedom, while Cath is shy and suffers from anxiety. This book hits the nail on the head so hard with its depiction of anxiety.  There’s a scene where Cath continually waits for her roommate (who she doesn’t speak to) to leave so she can eat her protein bars in peace,  because she doesn’t know where the dining hall is and is afraid to ask anyone. When her roommate finds out, she says “but you’ve lived here a month! how do you not know where the dining hall is?” and Cath replies that she’s never asked anyone.
fangirl

Cath’s social anxiety is something that is explored and challenged throughout the book, by herself and the people and situations around her.  I saw so much of myself, my friends, and even my husband in this book. I could relate to almost ALL of the situations in this book, except the part about having a twin sister, because as you know I’m an only child. The characters in this book were believable and charming. I really enjoyed Rowell’s writing style, and became engulfed in the world of Cath, Simon Snow, and university life in Nebraska.  This book also has romance in it, and we all know how much of a sucker I am for a good romance.

This book had everything for me and I enjoyed it so much I stayed up until all hours of the night, and read this as much as I could whenever I could.  I don’t want to give this plot away, because it is gradual and the pay off is really good. This would also make a spectacular beach read, and I recommend it to EVERYONE.  It doesn’t matter if you are a geek or not, but it will definitely hit you in the feel spot if you are. I really wish there was a sequel to this, and there KIND OF is. Cath writes a fanfic titled Carry On and it is basically her biggest project. We get bits and pieces of her fic in the book, but apparently Rainbow Rowell actually WROTE the fanfic Carry On. a FICTIONAL CHARACTER’S FANFIC. It’s the “sequel”, if there really is one. Rowell also has written another book, titled Landline in which a couple of the characters from Fangirl make an appearance, so I am definitely going to have to  check that out, as well as some of her other books.

 

13 Reasons Why: A Review

13ReasonsWhy-800x445

 

DISCLAIMER: This review contains MAJOR SPOILERS about the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why. Please read with caution.

The information in bold are ACTUAL FACTS. Please see list of citations at the end of this article for more info.

 

I’m probably a little late on this bandwagon, since the groundbreaking show 13 Reasons Why hit Nextflix in March. I am all for binging new Netflix shows, especially the hot ones everyone is talking about. I had heard lots of things about 13 Reasons Why, good bad and ignorant. I decided to watch it after my husband Jeff came home and said he watched the first 2 episodes and I needed to see it.

Unlike most Netflix shows, 13 Reasons Why is a show you should NOT binge. It’s heavy, deep, and it doesn’t just leave you wanting more; it leaves you devastated.

The choice to not binge was the right choice to make, instead we watched one episode a day (or 2 if Jeff saw it before me). This gave me time to truly let the things that happened sink in, to a point where I could process the gravity of what I was watching.

13-reasons-why-netflix-tv-show-590x400

The show itself, if you are still unaware at this point- follows Hannah Baker. Hannah is your typical teenage girl who just happens to be caught in a hurricane of unfortunate events. One moment snowballs into a catastrophic set of circumstances that ultimately lead to Hannah’s decision to take her own life.  However dark and twisted the path is to that point is something we see through a series of cassette tapes left by Hannah. There are 13 tapes, each dedicated to a person who had in some way shape or form contributed to the downfall, the snowball effect that lead to her death. Each person has to listen to all 13 tapes, and when they are finished pass it on to the next person.  The main character we see the story through, is Hannah’s friend Clay Jensen. Clay is a socially awkward, shy, smart kid who befriends Hannah and ends up with a big crush on her. We see through his eyes as the show takes place between the past during the actual occurrence of events, and the present after Hannah’s suicide.  Visually, the past is brightly colored, in contrast with the present which is muted, cool gray tones.  In the past we learn what happened not just to Hannah, but to her friends as well.

This show touches on a world that teens live in, that we rarely have access to. In the first episode, we learn that Hannah develops a crush on a boy named Justin, who plays football. As we cycle through the show we learn Justin is a kid who comes from a broken home, with an addict mother and her abusive boyfriend. We also learn about Justin’s “friendship” with the most well liked, most popular douchebag in school ( you realise he’s a douchebag further in), Bryce Walker.  In Hannah’s world, Justin is the catalyst for insighting the event that causes the snowball.  Justin and Hannah go out,  to the playground and playfully flirt and do what teenagers do. It’s Hannah’s first kiss, and she comes down the slide and he puts his arms around her and kisses her, while simultaneously taking an upskirt picture of Hannah without her knowledge.

13-reasons-why-graphic-scenes-explanation

The picture is then sent around the school, and Hannah is branded a slut. Even her friend Clay believes the talk, and tells Hannah sometimes its better to wait. We know  from Clay’s character and situations that his comment was partially out of hurt because of his feelings for her, but also because he ASSUMED Hannah knew about what Justin did, and was ok with it. Its low key slut shaming, but its still slut shaming.  This topic of sexting, slut shaming and bullying- that is just the beginning. 1 in 4 dating teens is harassed or abused through the use of technology.   People slut shame Hannah. People assume she’s easy and try to force themselves on her. Hannah’s reputation falls farther and farther, and instances add up to a reputation that is based on things that are the furthest from the truth. Everyone Hannah reaches out to ultimately fails her in some way, making the situation worse than it was before. You are watching a person fall apart, piece by piece, until there is literally nothing left.

13-jessica

The other big topic covered in the show, aside from suicide and bullying, is sexual assault. People tend to think of sexual assault as something that doesn’t happen to teenagers, but it does. 8 times out of 10, the person who has been assaulted KNOWS their assailant, and possibly even trusts or likes them.  Hannah, who is hiding out in a room because she’s had too much to drink, witnesses her one time friend Jessica being raped while she is passed out at a party.  Hannah is frozen, unable to move and so affected she can’t help but throw up.  Jessica doesn’t know she was raped, and instead thinks she just had sex with her boyfriend Justin, but as the show goes on you can tell Jess is going through some things, and that maybe she DOES remember, but is unsure. Things only escalate for Hannah, and ultimately she ends up being raped by the same person who raped her friend. This is what throws Hannah over the breaking edge.

The decision to show Hannah’s suicide was risky. We don’t see the television canned “goodbye cruel world” and then a cut scene. We see Hannah tie up her loose ends, clean her room, pick out clothes and a towel, get in the tub and physically slit her wrists and bleed out. It was so awful and uncomforatble (as it should be) that I couldn’t even watch the whole thing, and ended up watching through my fingers as my hands covered my eyes. I sobbed.  That’s what this show does to you- it gets down to the core of these issues and makes you feel, makes you think about these things in a way that is very needed.  There is nothing glamourous about what Hannah did,  or what she left behind. Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for 15-24 year old Americans, and females in this age bracket, attempted suicide 3 times more than their male counterparts.

landscape-1493291520-13-reasons-why-finale-3-696x348

The way the show tackles the warning signs of depression, someone who is suicidal, and those who have been sexually assaulted is no easy feat, but in my opinion very realistic.  A lot of people out there claim that the show glorifies these things, and those arguments are shared mostly in my opinion by people who have not seen the show. Schools were banning the discussion, people claimed it gave false glamorization, and parents were vouching their reasons to allow or not allow their children to see the show. A similiar argument arose for my first post on this blog- when Deadpool came out. Parents everywhere were argiung about weather or not it was appropriate to take their child to the movie which touted an R-rating.  This issue was brought up again with the  release of 13 Reasons Why. While I don’t think an 8 year old should watch it myself- I think that these topics- suicide, depression, bullying, sexual assault- all need to be addressed as early as possible.  No matter how many programs you put in place in school, these things will still occur, and it is up to us, to be able to explain this part of the world to our kids and prepare them.  I hope your kid isn’t the bully, or the one who is struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide- but maybe they are. Maybe they know someone who is, and starting this conversation could literally be the difference between life and death.

landscape-1494019086-screen-shot-2017-05-05-at-44509-pm5-1
Clay is the one person who saw Hannah struggling, but didn’t know why or how to reach out.  I could really feel the emotion after he had finally heard his tape. The infamous line in which he utters, “I cost a girl her life because I was afraid to love her…” will hit you right in the heart.  Hannah attempted to seek help through her school counselor, in a last attempt but ultimately wasn’t handled right. You can’t solely blame the counselor because what he told her was true- without any evidence, and after the fact; it is hard to prove. The fact Jessica, the only other victim Hannah knew about- had no knowledge and wouldn’t come forward- the fact that the attacker was a well known, well liked member of the school and community- and the fact he would be graduating- shouldn’t even have been an issue, but it was.  Unfortunately the way this was handled is just one of the reasons why so many rapes go unreported.

There is a lot of speculation about the second season which is confirmed.  Many think a second season will detract from the impact of the first, and many think Hannah’s story is over.  The show throughout its first season not only shows us the story of Hannah’s death, but also shows how directly or indirectly her death ultimately effects the others who had a hand in her story. Alex for instance, who was responsible for putting Hannah on his “list” as having “the best ass”- shows many signs of depression and despondance, and attempts suicide himself.  The student who spreads an intimate picture of Hannah with a  girl friend of hers- is  repeatedly shut out of the group despite having his own cassette in the mix- is shown in the last episode with a trunk full of firearms, insinuating that he may have ideas of  terrorizing the school for being outcast.  There is also a huge trial going on between Hannah’s parents and the school, which asks the question could they have done something to prevent this? The answer is both yes and no, but it will definately be touched upon in season two, as the trial moves forward. The plot of the trial is going to be just as controversial in my opinion, when you have grieving parents who feel something should have been done, and a schoolboard trying to avoid any blame.

clay

In conclusion, I think 13 Reasons Why is a phenomenal show.  It is not drama for the sake of drama and entertainment- it is so much more than that. The show is based on the best-selling book by Jay Asher, and although I have not read the book personally (I don’t think I could after seeing the show), I can honestly say that both strive to open the doors to a much needed conversation and awareness about these very hard, difficult topics. It tells a story of the pitfalls and the atrocities, but also of humanity, and connection. Clay is a kind person, and a smart kid; the quintessential goody two shoes-but even he falls victim to peer pressure, criminal actions, and judgement. Even when he is avenging for his darling Hannah, he does not always think, but acts impulsively and often retracts inwards with his feelings of depression and loss.  Clay’s story isn’t just a cautionary tale,  but also a reality.  These sorts of things are not black and white.  Suicide, depression, addiction, bullying- these things don’t look a certain way, or affect just one type or gender, or person.  The worst part is that Hannah COULD have been saved,  not just once but many times.

So what are you waiting for? Stop watching your reality scripted television, or whatever it is you normally watch to zone out.  Grab a box of tissues, and watch 13 Reasons Why.  I promise you it is something that will stick with you, and effect you on a much deeper level than anything else you are watching. I promise you that it will bring up feelings and thoughts, and perhaps start a well needed discussion with your kids, your friends or your co-workers, and isn’t that what we need?  Who knows, someone close to you may be listening, or begging to be heard.  Start the discussion,  because it could be the discussion that saves a life.

If you are interested in supporting the fight against suicide, anxiety, depression, and mental illness, check out these campaigns that I support:

To Write Love On Her Arms
Always Keep Fighting (Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki’s Campaign)
Project Semicolon

This article was written using information from these links:

National Sexual Violence Resource Center– Sexual Violence Statistics
Urban Institute.org-Digital Abuse Through Technology Statistics
Teen Help.com– Teen Suicide Statistics

 

Caprese Stuffed Chicken

I love to cook, mostly because I just love to eat food.  One of my main mantras in the kitchen is that I try to make “restaurant style” meals at home.  This is one of those meals.

As with most of my cooking, I blended recipes from a few different sources. Awhile ago, my friend Dani made chicken stuffed with provolone cheese, roasted red pepper and spinach, and wrapped it with prosciutto. I tried to make her recipe, but when I made it, it just didn’t work out.  Fast forward to today- I decided to use up some things in my fridge. such as the Balsalmic Honey Dressing I made yesterday, some leftover slices of fresh mozzarella, and some spinach leaves. I decided to marinate the chicken in the dressing, and use the remainder of the mozzarella and spinach to stuff it with.   I make small portions since its just the two of us, but you can adapt easily to make more.

Here is the recipe:

 

Kailyn’s Caprese Chicken

Ingredients
-2 Pieces of Chicken
-4 slices fresh mozzarella (from a fresh mozzarella log)
-6-8 fresh spinach leaves
-1/2 cup of seeded, halved cherry tomatoes
-*Balsamic Honey Dressing (to coat and marinade chicken/ drizzle on top before baking)
-1 tsp dry oregano
-1 tsp dry basil (or sweet basil if you prefer)
-1 tsp minced garlic
-Splash of white wine
-Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Instructions
Prepare your assembly stations:
-Chop cherry tomatoes and remove seeds and put in a bowl for dressing.
-Slice your mozzarella ( I got a fresh mozzarella log from Aldis and it was precut if you can find one like that, save yourself a step an just pull off)
-Lay out spinach
-Toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil, minced garlic, and seasonings.  Set aside.

Balsamic Honey Dressing:
-1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar of Moderna
-3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
-3 tbsp honey
-1 tbsp Dijon mustard
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp pepper
For the chicken:
-Marinade chicken in Balsamic Honey Dressing for 3.5 hours or overnight.
-Butterfly chicken and arrange spinach and mozzarella. Fold chicken back over and secure with toothpicks.
-Spray baking dish with PAM or coconut oil.
-Drizzle chicken with dressing.
-Bake at 425 for 30 minutes.   When pan starts to get  slightly brown and charred, splash white wine in to deglaze. Put back in oven for 30 minutes.
-At the 15 minute mark, remove pan from oven and cover chicken evenly with cherry tomatoes. Any leftover cherry tomatoes can go right in the rest of the pan with the balsamic-wine glaze that is coating the bottom of the pan. Put chicken back in oven. Cherry tomatoes should be roasted and look glossy when they are done.

Side suggestion for this dish:
-Salad, or hot steamed broccoli
-Fingerling smashed potatoes or diced potatoes

 

 

Book VS Movie: City of Ember

So, if you’ve been following this blog, you know that this past year I read the City of Ember series and was completely in love with it. Naturally I wanted to see the movie, which had to be good since the book was so awesome…

Nope.

I really wanted to like the movie as much as I did the book, and it was ok.  The adaptation really skimmed a lot of what made City Of Ember so good- the tension, the mystery, the hope and faith. Lina and Doon’s friendship in the movie makes it seem as if they’ve been friends forever when if you read the book you know that they had a slight falling out and hadn’t talked in years until Assignment Day.

 

Some other noteworthy issues: Giant bugs and critters. I don’t remember this being in the book AT ALL.  I may be wrong, since last I read the book was last spring, but I don’t think I’d forget that.  Giant bugs? That Doon asks his dad how could they have been so small before and so big now? Don’t remember that in the book. In the book I remember Doon being into bugs, but they were regular sized caterpillars and moths, not the giant bird sized moth in the movie that creeped me out even though it was kind of cute.

 

Furthermore, Doon asks that question and it never gets answered. I can only assume some form of radiation or something manmade in the city has happened to evolve the bugs to be so big but this isn’t referenced at all. It’s filler.  Lina plays old tapes from her parents answering machine and I don’t remember that either. Nor do I remember Doon’s dad and Lina’s  parents conspiring to escape together. Lina and Doon are the ones who discover the exit, by no way of any one other than themselves. Also in the movie, Poppy is portrayed as a 5 year old but in the book shes obviously a young toddler, like 2 or 3. The city was portrayed nicely, but that was it.

I get that the film did poorly at the box office. The film was missing the spark that made the story so good. It felt like a PBS special version of Ember and not a feature film. While it has great parts, such as the scenery, Bill Murray and Tim Robbins, Saorise Ronan and great effects- the characters and plot are just shells of what Ember truly is.

My advice: read the book, skip the movie.