Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Farewell, Summer

Well, it seems that summer is finally drawing to a close. And while I did spend quite a lot of time resting and catching up on my enormous reading list, I still kept busy!

For one thing, I got to see more of my best friend, Lauren, than I normally do. We got together a couple of times a month to catch up on books, blogs, and life in general. We even talked about publishing her essay on The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, which she wrote for school, but after I proof-read it for her, I fell in love with it and insisted that she let me post it on my blog. Keep an eye out for it soon. (Update: it's been posted!)

At the very beginning of summer, I found out that my favorite bookstore, which I've gone to since I was a little girl, would be moving into a smaller but cheaper building. I needed something to do in my spare time, and they certainly needed volunteers, so I offered to help out whenever possible. Doesn't sound like a big deal, right? Except it was. This bookstore had been located in the same building for over 24 years, and wasn't very organized. That meant there were several million books that needed to be marked (stamped on the inside cover), sorted, packed, and moved - all within the space of a month.

Eventually, as the end of the month drew closer, it became obvious that we needed more time to get everything out of the old building. So, we took two extra weeks to finish up. Everything after that was setting up the new store, including moving shelving units, unpacking books, trying to keep track of them, etc. Now, months later, it's (mostly) ready and open for business. I still like to stop in once a week now, but less for work and more for enjoyment.

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to do that, because it really gave me a sense of how overwhelmingly hard it is to run a small business, especially one that's not doing so well. I met new people, made new friends, and even brought Lauren with me a few times.

Most importantly, I took time during the summer just for me. Sometimes I slept until 2 in the afternoon, and proceeded to do nothing but read all day. I took more naps than I could count, I spent hours in the pool, I ate more than my fair share of ice cream. But most of all, I did things that made me happy.


If You Love This, Read This

One of the most challenging things for an avid reader is deciding "what next?" after finishing a great book. You could have piles of books surrounding you, and yet none of them seem ripe for reading just yet. It's infuriating, because you want to read, but you don't want to read the books you already have. Below are three of my favorite books for different preferences.

If You Like Coming Of Age Novels...


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Guest Post: The Fault Obviously Isn't In Our Stars, Brutus


      "There are books like An Imperial Affliction, which you can't tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal." 

This quote from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green adequately describes my personal adoration for this book. Being a person with a disorder since birth, my disability has always plagued me, making me feel trapped and isolated, while fear and sadness seep into my very existence. The Fault in Our Stars continues to bring me out of the darkness that constantly surrounds myself, lending me strength to forge on. This book is all I feel I have, because before I read it, I felt so alone with my condition, and the main characters - Hazel, Augustus, and Isaac - sincerely help me through it. They understand me in strange ways that no one else does, and that makes me so delighted to know that I won't truly be solitary. They constantly remind me that every day is a gift, and I definitely need that. Each day means a new twenty-four hours and that everything's possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time. I'm tremendously grateful for each passing day when I wake, and I'm still able to see; it's a blessing each time. I can always depend on the book to reassure me that things will be okay. The Fault In Our Stars is an exceptional and fantastic book, one that everyone, young or old, should have the privilege of reading.

       The novel is beautifully written, and the plot is mesmerizing, drawing readers in, grabbing their attention, and never letting go. The writing style is humorous but also very poignant. This shows how even though a person has obstacles and baggage in their life, it doesn't mean that they are labeled with that certain obstacle or baggage; they are people with personalities and interests, a notion most people often overlook. When reading the novel, readers feel as if Hazel is telling them her story and why it's important, like they're having an actual conversation with Hazel herself. The pain people feel while reading it is very intense, and even though the characters don't want to be given sympathy, they end up holding the hearts of the readers. The plot was beautifully composed. While there weren't any daring sword fights or anything heroic, it is a different hero's journey. Hazel goes through these painstaking events with bravery and grace, not allowing her life to make her bitter and hard like most. The writing is well done and elegant, while the plot is captivating, daring people to look away from the page for even a second.

       The characters are well-crafted and genuinely portrayed, bringing not only their best qualities but their worst. Hazel and Augustus, the two main characters, are smart, witty, and realistic, but also complicated. Their situations and experiences made them more aware of the complexities of life and how people perceive them. Battling with cancer, they are both forced to mature faster and deal with topics that normal adolescents shouldn't have to associate with. In doing so, they come off as pretentious, which is a character flaw, making them seem as people anyone would meet on the street, characters people normally identity with. The characters also happen to come from messy lives and can be explosive at times. Part of the reason why this book is so important to people is because of the fact that not every great story is going to come from nice, happy human beings; some come from people with legitimate problems. Hazel talks about being a grenade and wanting to minimize the casualties; she wants to hurt less people she can be responsible for.  Green's characters are unforgettable, ones people know on a personal level and will continue to love and cherish for a lifetime.

       The book takes a spin on universal themes, dealing with life, love, and the qualities that make up a person. The novel shows how young adults are capable of thinking profound and complex thoughts. Adults have the tendency to regard adolescents as incapable of using words with more than two syllables or lacking brainpower to be insightful and existential in conversation. On the contrary, young adults are people with thoughts, and emotions, and feelings, and they have the potential to be creative, thoughtful, and imaginative. The book also shows how just because a person is sick, it doesn't mean that they can't lead a full and meaningful life, nor are they immune to being loved and accepting it in return. Sickness doesn't obscure people from doing the things that they love, even though there might be challenges; it gives them an incentive and something to fight for. Being sick also doesn't mean that they can't be loved, love comes in all shapes and forms, whether it's friends, family, or a significant other. Most importantly, people have to learn to accept love they think they deserve. People often show that they care with the best intentions; even if they're showing it in the wrong way, they do it because they love them, and they have to learn to accept it. Green writes about themes that everyone should have the opportunity to experience.

       "That's the thing about pain, it demands to be felt."

This quote from the book perfectly describes the pain I feel everyday. It's always there, insistently tugging at my head, demanding to be felt, until I collapse on the floor in a haze. The only solution is to unmake the world, before the time of Cleopatra, the invention of the wheel, and cavemen, when the world was nothing but a vacuous uncreated space. Hazel also talks about how "the physical evidence of disease separates you from other people." Everywhere I go, people always have to stare and ask questions, and it picks me apart, breaking me from bone to bone, until I'm reduced to nothing but a shell. The Fault in Our Stars makes me feel as if I'm not different, like it's okay to be separated from the rest of society, and saves me from a prison of my own mind. This book has changed my perspective of life and myself, and I'd like to thank John Green for writing such a fantastic book that I have become endearingly attached to. In conclusion, The Fault in Our Stars is a book that everyone should read, enjoying its humor, genius, and emotion.

Lauren Tra

The Bookworm Corner

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tag, You're It!: The Fairytale Tag

I know, I know, it's been forever since I've posted anything. In my own defense, I DO have some posts planned, they've simply been... delayed. Oops. So, today's post is just a fun tag that I haven't done before. I was tagged by laceituplove to do the Fairytale tag (Thanks, Ellie)!

Snow White: Do you consider yourself beautiful? 

I strongly dislike the word "beautiful" because it's so overused by society. But yes, I have a high self esteem.

Sleeping Beauty: How many hours do you sleep at night? 

I have a lot of trouble falling asleep, so I usually drink half a bottle of NeuroSleep to put me to sleep for 8 hours. If I forget to drink it, I'll be lucky to get 4.

Cinderella: Do you have a curfew?

11 o'clock, unless I'm babysitting and need to come home later.

Rapunzel: Do you love being outside?

Yes! I love doing things outdoors. Bike riding, picnics, even reading outside. I don't like it as much during summer, though, because I get eaten alive by mosquitoes. 

Little Red Riding Hood: Do you trust strangers easily? 

Not really. Unless you make me laugh, and then maybe.

Beauty and the Beast: What makes someone beautiful in your eyes? 

Confidence & an ability to laugh, especially at themselves.

The Little Mermaid: What would you sacrifice for love? 

Some things, but not everything. Not things that are really important to me.

The Frog Prince: What do you find disgusting?

 It's a long, boring list, but let me give you a sample: Cockroaches, smoking, twerking, pollution, etc.

Jack and the Beanstalk: What plans do you have? 

To start writing and reading more, and to volunteer more time and effort to help people.

Puss In Boots: Do you have pets? If not, do you want any?

I don't have any pets right now, but someday I really want a dog/cat/rabbit/hedgehog/all four.

Pinocchio: What's your biggest wish?

I know I'm supposed to say world peace, but right now I just really want to take a nap.

Peter Pan: What's your mental age?

It bounces between 10 and 25 every hour.

The Snow Queen: Who's your best friend and what would you do for him/her?

My best friend is Lauren from The Bookworm Corner, also affectionately called the Asian Hobbit. I'd do anything for her.

The Princess and the Pea: Are you sensitive?

Way too sensitive. Say anything even slightly mean to me, and there's a 99% chance I'll cry without meaning too.

The Brave Little Soldier: Do you consider yourself brave?

In the sense of heroism and struggle, yes. But if you asked me to walk into a room full of cockroaches, I'd scream, burn the room to the ground, and move to Canada. There are some things you can't prepare for.

Who do I tag?

Meredith at Beauty O'holic
Anyone else who wants to do this.


(P.S. Congratulations to Meredith, who delivered a healthy 9lb/6oz baby boy on June 27th!)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Making the Switch (To All Natural)

Over the last few months, I've been more aware of the impact my lifestyle has on the planet. Recycling, producing less waste, eating local foods (when possible), etc. I even managed to cut down the amount of mail and catalogs I receive each month. 

Hardest of all, I've been switching from all my beauty products to natural, good-for-you,good-for-the-planet alternatives. For instance, using coconut oil in the place of expensive hair treatments and ineffective moisturizers, or apple cider vinegar to make my hair soft and manageable. And of course, I'm still a huge supporter of small businesses like For Sanity's Sake that make affordable, natural products (However, Meredith is off on vacation delivering a small child with her body. Check back with her shop in September!). Just today a friend of the family sent me a bunch of the homemade beauty products she makes and sells, such as Milk and Honey Shampoo & Conditioner. If she starts selling them online, I'll do reviews! 

The best thing I've noticed since I made the switch is how much more comfortable my skin feels. On the average day, my skin is red and dry and itchy and all kinds of awful. But not anymore! It feels soft and smooth, and hardly sensitive unless I do something different. Even my acne is starting to look better, which is a miracle quite frankly. 

Before you start complaining how much more expensive it is to buy natural products, let me correct you. The average bottle of body lotion from the drugstore costs $7, yes? If you go on amazon right now and check, you'll see that a 16 ounce jar of coconut oil is around $12. At first glance, it seems more expensive, until you consider this: a little goes a loooooooong way, and lasts nearly 3x as long as that lotion, plus it has a wealth of other uses. Now tell me which option is more cost effective. 

Do you use all natural products? Do you like them? If so, leave your recommendations in the comments!



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