Carrie Fisher: General Badass

carr2Real talk: I was never a huge Star Wars fan. I know, right? I was just a little too young for it to mean anything to me as a kid, I never had anyone introduce me into the magical Lucas world when I was younger, and when I did start caring about movies, all I got were the prequels (one of which I saw without my contacts due to a colossal screw-up at my eye doctor’s, but even I could see how horrible it was, blurry vision and all). I know this is some kind of grievous nerd sin, but that’s just how it is. Now that the new ones have come out, I’ve changed my tune, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that Carrie Fisher was never my princess. She was, though, a queen.

My first impression of Carrie came while watching Stephen Fry’s Secret Life of the Manic Depressive (which you can watch it here which I highly recommend) as she described to Stephen the moments she would spin and spiral off, losing all grip on reality and sense. I barely knew who she was, and she was mad as a hatter, but there was something about her that stuck with me. Maybe it was her humor, maybe it was her honesty at this really dark, grotesque part of her. Whatever it was, it was simply, purely her. It was love at first sight, really, this magnificent creature who embraced all of who she was, her mistakes, her illness, her bad luck, and she laughed. As she is often quoted: “If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”

The thing about having the job I do is that I’ve seen so many people on the edge of death. I’ve somehow been given the privilege and misfortune of witnessing grief and suffering and all the stages of seeing a loved one transition from who they once were to nothing. Someone seeing their mother or father, someone whose existence they’ve always taken for granted, whom they may have seen as indestructible, someone they have loved and looked up to even into adulthood, at their weakest, at their most vulnerable. I know what Carrie’s hospital room may have looked at the last few days before the end, and there’s just something about seeing your hero like that.

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I don’t like publicly talking about celebrity deaths much. I don’t really feel like it’s my place, and I try not to fault others who do. To be honest, I didn’t even realize how much Carrie Fisher meant to me over the years, despite having read almost all her books, watching countless interviews, defending her when someone I knew criticized her, but after yesterday’s announcement, I’m starting to really appreciate the influence she’d had. She was a force (groan) all on her own, never afraid to show the part of her that wasn’t perfect or afraid to embrace it, never afraid to see the absurdity in life, in sickness, in celebrity which she was more familiar with than most. There are people remembering her as that not-so-damsel-in-distress. There are men talking about how she was the star of their first masturbatory fantasies (which frankly was gross to hear about before she was alive—I’m looking at you, those who’d say this to her face—let alone now). More than anything, though, than the woman she was at the height of the original Star Wars trilogy’s fame, she’s the woman that taught us all what real strength, courage, and spirit was. It wasn’t always with a gun or resentment or blatant disagreement, but with intelligence, wit, and humor, with being who you are and learning how to stop apologizing for it.

Carrie Fisher, 60, died bathed in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.

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So You Think You Can Sew

This isn’t how I meant to return to this blog. I was going to start it with something clever and fun! Instead, we’re starting here, at the beginning of what is hopefully a new hobby that will stick.

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Isn’t she lovely? (Ignore that it’s “Brother”-branded. It’s a she. Even if I name it George. I don’t think I’ll name it George, but I might.) With the help from one of my lovely buddies Rebecca and armed with the most excellent Love at First Stitch, which has some truly lovely patterns for the clueless beginner like me who fancies herself with a hint of vintage fashion and some very nice, clear instructions with minimal instructions. (Check out the blog! It’s fantastic, and I’m obsessed.)

Now, I’m the sort who gets impatient and loves to jump into things, expecting to be a secret prodigy, ignoring basics and baby steps, and getting frustrated when I’m not perfect right off the bat. This is one really useful skill that I never bothered to learn when I was younger no matter how many times my mother tried to teach me, so I’ll do it the right way. It’s also one of those lovely hobbies that you can walk away with a physical result to help motivate me along the way to keep getting better. Plus, how could you not find this satisfying?ffzdbkwirhurag4

Today, I’ve achieved greatness and immortality in the form of a fun little headscarf (the Bridgette) which I haven’t taken a picture of because it’s all the way in another room, and I’m comfortable where I am, and in these slightly imperfect and over-sized but totally fun pajama bottoms

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Yes, I found medical-related print because I’m a huge nerd and apparently can’t miss a chance to mention that I work in health care. (Also, whoever belongs to this EKG is pretty much dead or getting there, right? That is not normal sinus rhythm.) It needs some resizing and reinforcing, but the material is fantastic and the pattern simple and fun, so they’ll always have a special place in my heart.

You never forget your first, I guess, do you?

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

616Ubdqmn3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_It’s hard to say anything about In Real Life that wasn’t already wonderfully articulated in this review, but gosh darn it, I read the damn thing, so I’ll try.

Anda is a girl who feels more comfortable exploring and socializing on the internet than off line. One day, she’s introduced to the world of the MMRPG, Coarsegold Online. Here, she’s tall, incredible, amazing, strong, talented, admired. People look up to her there, and other people pay her money to knock off gold farmers in the game, little nameless avatars that spend all their time collecting online gold to illegally sell for real money. The problem starts when she befriends one of these gold farmers, a boy in China who lives in circumstances she never could’ve imagined in her young, privileged life. Now Anda isn’t really sure what’s the right and wrong thing to do.

I’ll try to make this short (for me). First off, the art is absolutely exquisite. It was easy to be distracted from the story for the sake of the graphics, not just because the story is a little on the thin side. The aesthetic is just gorgeous and really appealed to my personal tastes. I really need more of Jen Wang’s work in my eyeballs. Second, a story about a cute internet girl that doesn’t disparage her or portray her as a sad loner who only got into gaming because she has no friends. Not only does she enjoy this thing, she thrives in this world. That’s just rad. Third, the story and message have a really good intention working for it, but… there was just so much more Doctorow could’ve dug into here. The politics behind Raymond, Anda’s gold farming friend, and his situation are far too complicated and widespread for one kid half the world away and completely detached from it to be able to understand, let alone solve. I know he didn’t mean for it to come across as so easy, but it does end up being a little (okay, more like a fuckton) White Saviory. That completely took me out of it.

This might’ve been more interesting as a serial story, diving into Anda’s world at school with the different factions of school cliques with the gamers and the popular achiever kids and everyone else in between, and then explore her many online adventures, giving us a great, varied array of female characters prowling through the game and generally Owning This Shit, and Anda and we readers could get to know Raymond and his world as a gamer, a student, and a kid surviving however he could in a world that seems like a game carefully coded for him to lose.

All in all, a great premise and a promising start with some gorgeous graphics that captured me in a way few do, and In Real Life really left me wanting more. Unfortunately, it’s in the bad way.

Reviewed for Canonball Read.

When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez

I was lucky enough to win a copy from The Debutante Ball, and when I received it in the mail, it was clear that Rodriguez was the one to take it to the post office herself (but not before signing it to me). That’s, like, a lot of pressure to like a book. I’m a woman of limited attention span. What captures my attention and can hold it is arbitrary and without reason. So it was pretty disappointing when I first started Cindy L. Rodriguez’s When Reason Breaks. The story starts off with an unsigned suicide note, but it was still hard for me to get into. Then I got past the 45th page, and something clicked.

Emily Delgado has friends, a successful father in politics, and teachers love her. Her boyfriend was her childhood crush, and nothing seems wrong with her life. Elizabeth Davis has an attitude and a problem with authority. Everything about her from the outside screams GOTH. Someone tells her she looks like the girl in NCIS. She writes poetry and doesn’t talk to anyone but her two best friends. Their lives are so disparate from each other and only come close to overlapping in class because their names always put them next to each other alphabetically. They only have one thing in common, and that’s English class where Ms. Diaz introduces to them the works of Emily Dickinson. One of these two girls is going to commit suicide by the end of this book. (And yes, it’s probably the one you’re thinking.) (Or is it?)

So, it seems that suicidal teenagers is a thing in YA this year? I’m not complaining—okay, I am a little. Feelings are hard. Depression is a difficult topic to broach. Reminders of my humanity are not often welcome. But here we are, having emotions. What Cindy Rodriguez did here was really pretty wonderful. There was no big AHA moment that suckered me in a few chapters in. I merely was allowed to slide into the story. These two girls have more in common than they’d admit, and the reader gets to know them throughout the book. I really enjoyed seeing them through each others’ eyes and then their own. In the Author’s Note, Rodriguez explains that the two girls represented the two sides of Emily Dickinson: the smart girl with the normal social life who pulls back from those she loves, and the angry reclusive poet.

Depression comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s the picture of sadness that just can’t be shaken. Sometimes it’s numb and deafeningly blank. Sometimes, it’s agitated, resentful and angry, quick to snap. Sometimes it creeps up on you, devious and quiet, destroying everything before you even know it’s there. I really loved the diversity in how Rodriguez brought this to life. I also loved the fact that one of the main characters isn’t white. There, I said it! I said it! But it’s true. You don’t get that viewpoint often, which is stupid, because depression doesn’t care where your ancestry hails from or if other people in your life are suffering too or if your dad is running for state legislature. These are all things that Rodriguez manages to address and demonstrate seamlessly into her story, as easily as she weaves in little Easter eggs for the Dickinson geeks out there who might notice all the fun details from ED’s life. (There were many more than I could’ve picked up on, and the Author’s Note helpfully points them out for you.)

It’s pretty clear that I really enjoyed this book. My only qualms with the writing didn’t matter after a while (the aforementioned slow start) or were small and petty, such as the number of times Emily “circled a piece of hair around her ear” (I counted five times, and it might’ve been intentional anyway). Rodriguez makes a pretty solid first impression with her debut novel here, and I hope to read more for her.

Reviewed for Canonball Read.

The Martian by Andy Weir

imagesI have to admit I don’t always get into hard sci fi. Not everyone has a talent for bringing facts in without it feeling like a laborious lecture, bogging down any story or character. The Martian, though, is a beautiful, fantastic, thrilling adventure story, despite its seemingly slow, quiet pace of a solitary man just trying to get back home. Backed up with humor and character, the ingenuity and determination to survive and to save made this a lively, wonderful read. The film that followed is one thing. That was enjoyable enough, but the book brings so much more than could be contained in a two-hour film. The insight of a man who uses everything in his mental and physical reach to make it is thrilling. The diverse cast of likable, funny, sometimes pig-headed, sometimes opportunistic background characters also add to it, but there is really just one star of this story, and I’m happy to know him.

Becoming Nursey by Kati Kleber

23575245This is not a book for everyone to read and enjoy. I mean, you can still pick it up and peruse even if you aren’t, were, or are going to become a nurse because you’re a grown-ass adult who can make his or her own decisions and who the fuck am I to tell you what to do? You might not really get as much out of it as someone who does have some investment in the nursing field, though. This book goes from time management to advice when interviewing for your first nursing job to calling the attending physician (which you never have to do when you’re a student) to maintaining a work-life balance to funny and all-too-relatable stories about severely obese patients farting on you and the really hard shit like a first code.

Becoming Nursey is the kind of book I wish someone would’ve given me any time from my second year in nursing school through to interviewing for my first clinical position. Nursing school doesn’t really train you how to be a nurse; it teaches you how to be safe to train to become a nurse. It’s a very exhausting, draining, exciting, tear-infused time, and you’re so focused on learning the basics and learning the book facts and stressing out about boards that you don’t always get the experience or the knowledge on how to actually be a person who is a nurse on an actual floor with actual patients. This book is meant to fill in the gaps in between and find the thread throughout all the chunks of information learned, and it does so in a more casual, often humorous tone that makes you feel like, hey, this shit is manageable, and I can do it!

Now, I’m in the OR, which is pretty specialized in nursing (we spent approximately 1 day in surgery out of my 24 months of schooling), and most of what is discussed in the book doesn’t really apply to me. Talking about checking lines and assessing patients regularly and morning reports mostly reminded me why I was so happy not to work in a unit because that shit is taxing and can be overwhelming. I spend most of my time interacting with surgeons, and my patients are sedated and almost completely covered in a drape. Anesthesia covers the medications and drips, and if they do their job right, the patient won’t even remember coming into the surgical suite after they wake, let alone meeting me. Still, I’m really glad I read this book. It was relatable and a nice reminder of all the stuff I worked so hard to becoming vaguely competent-ish at a just a few years ago. Kleber is clearly religious, but the book didn’t have a discernible lean in that direction, which I appreciated. She mostly struck me as the kind of preceptor or clinical instructor you’d want to have when you’re learning or new, someone who has enough experience to know what she’s doing but still close enough to being new she remembers what it’s like being green and scared and feeling constantly underprepared. Kati herself also seems like the nurse you’d want taking care of your mom—conscientious of the patient as a person as well as her rehabilitation and also very personable yet professional.

The book came from her blog, Nurse Eye Roll, which I think I’ll be checking out more often now. It’s a nice piece to have bound up to take wherever to read a relevant chapter whenever inspiration or clarity is needed. I’d definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a gift for a nursing student or someone just starting in the field.

Reviewed for Cannonball Read.

My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp

Tomp_MyBestEverything_HCFYI: I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book will be available March 3, 2015.

A Catholic good girl with a Spanish-y last name and a crazy mom while trying to escape Appalachia through college so she can help people but without actually talking to them? Well, that’s not a story I’ve heard often, you know, except in my own life. Lulu Mendez is too smart for middle-of-nowhere Dale, VA, and she has done her best to avoid any of the small-town traps that would keep her complacent in her tiny little town, including snubbing off the local hick boys with no interest in exploring the bigger, wider world out there. That is until her father breaks the news that they can’t afford to send her to college. That’s when Lulu gets the bright idea to brew and sell moonshine, nectar of the hillbilly gods, to pay for her education, and she’s going to get the help of her best friends and relative stranger Mason Malone, whose family is known to be pretty successful Shiners themselves on the not-so-DL. (That’s where Lulu’s story makes a severe departure from mine, one can safely assume.) Mason is everything she has tried to stay away from. His family is involved with illegal business, he dropped out of college, and he has a really bad haircut. There’s nothing close resembling a future with a boy like that, but when did love ever listen to logic?

As a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of second-person. The whole thing is told as if a letter to Mason, which is a little uncomfortable for me to slip into, but it does an interesting job of foreshadowing the end. Is she reminiscing with him or talking to a grave? Are they together in Dale or San Diego or god knows where else? It was a clever way to plant uncertainty in whether or not I knew where everything was heading. As far as the story goes, it’s not the most earth-shattering or surprising. Despite the slightly contrived circumstances that bring our protagonist and her love together in the first place, it’s a pretty simple, sweet without being too syrupy love story with minimal eye-rolling and, interestingly enough, some background character development for her background BFF, too. Most of what I loved was in the character of Lulu herself. Lulu is so hellbent on turning her back on the town of Dale to the point where it’s nearly off-putting but also learns to appreciate that it is a part of who she is. She’s a good girl without being too good.

For once, I don’t have gads and gads of words for my review. There isn’t much I have to say about this book other than the fact that I enjoyed reading it. The writing was solid, the main character wasn’t annoying, the love interest was a decent interesting person in his own right (but honestly, I kept picturing him as a cross between Eminem and every Ford-driving, football-loving hillbilly I grew up with), and it was a nice piece of something to disappear into for a few minutes of the day. On thing I really loved, which was a small, throwaway detail really, was that it turns out, is actually a reference to Roni, her best friend, and not to Lulu or her man. If you have some time and like a sweet YA romance, this one is definitely up your alley.

Reviewed for Cannonball Read.