Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Beach Junkie's Guide To Breaking Stigma

Hello there everyone!

So, you may have noticed that I wasn't posting anything for a while. 2015 was basically one long hiatus. I was in the process of moving into a different house, and along with that, I have been struggling with my ever-present mental illnesses. I'm back now, and am prepared to post as much as it takes to make up for a lost year!  

If you can tell from the title of this post, there is a stigma surrounding mental illness. In case you don't know what stigma means (I didn't prior to being diagnosed), it means that a characteristic of an individual may develop a socially negative attitude towards the individual. Now, I'm sure that in some areas mental illness is more widely accepted by the general population. However, that is not the case where I live. Seriously, you can't begin to imagine the kind of responses I get from people in my local area. (I intend to make more posts in the future talking about my personal illnesses).

I, like most people suffering from this, remained mostly quiet about it. I had a psychologist, whom at one point, encouraged me to share my story with others. She said that a lot of people are afraid to speak up, and talking about what I go through might help others feel less alone in the world. Well, I understand the feeling of alone pretty well. But I refused her advice to talk about it. It wasn't until just last fall that I changed my mind. A person confided in me that they suspected they had a mental illness. I listened to their reasons why, and I agreed that it did sound like something was up. So I said that they needed to see a doctor to get officially diagnosed, and then go from there in the recovery and coping process. They said that they weren't going to go to a doctor or seek help because they didn't want to be judged and picked on by other people. All I could do was stand there and shake my head. Yes, the stigma is strong.

I know that I'm not going to magically break the stigma all by myself just because I've decided to start talking. Unfortunately, as long as there are people in this world, there will always be someone who looks down on those with mental illness. My intention and my hope is that one person suffering, or one person who knows someone who is suffering, will be encouraged, and will seek out the help they need to start recovering and living a meaningful life.

Now, before we're finished here today, I want to recommend a book to you (I am a book blogger after all!) that isn't necessarily a book about mental illness, but it definitely could fit into that category. It's one that I enjoyed very much. I was laughing so hard at one point, I got those annoying little stitches in my side! So if you're curious to know more about these illnesses, and if you like hilarious protagonists, here's my recommendation:

   According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object-an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas-it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him.

The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking-er, focusing on-Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.

In this sweet story of first love, Lindsey Leavitt seamlessly balances heartfelt family moments, spot-on sarcastic humor, and a budding young romance. -
Summary and cover image from Goodreads

Friday, January 29, 2016

Recommending: Classics! A List Of The Best (And The Worst!)

Since I posted a review of "Treasure Island" yesterday, I thought it might be fun to give you a list of recommendations featuring my favorite classics ranked from "This book. I like it. Another!" to "aljsakdkjffjfjsjfhjaskal". And since I will be telling you about the ones I love, I also want to tell you which ones, in my opinion, are not worth the effort. So without further ado, here are some great classics that I highly recommend!

10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. While this book may be at the bottom of my list, it is still a good read for fans of historical fiction. I remember reading this and thinking the whole time, "Dang, this Huck Finn kid is intelligent!" He got himself into a lot of scrapes, but a lot of times managed to get out of them by using his brains rather than relying on sheer luck. He was practical and yet creative in these situations. I really liked his independence, and I loved his childlike narrative. I thought it was interesting how he didn't really understand some of the issues going on around him, but we the readers understood full well what was happening. But really though, the main reason why this book made it on the list is because the kid is crazy smart. You're just not expecting that when you open the book. I would recommend reading "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" before picking up this one, because the two of them have a unique friendship that plays an important part in both books.  

9. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. If you're a fan of the Disney movie, then you will no doubt love this! Other than the fact that it's packed with adventure and has talking animals, I think that it's a refreshing and original story that anyone of any age could enjoy. And also, Sher-Kahn is a fantastic villain, and a scene stealer.

8. A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. I love it when poems rhyme. I can't stand the ones that don't. Even though this poem has some spots like that, I think that the writing is brilliant. The story is your typical she likes him, he likes her trope, and it all blows up into a chaotic frenzy by the end. But the character of Robin (Puck) Goodfellow instantly captured my heart from his very first speech. He is without a doubt one of the most fascinating and beloved characters in all of literature (he's even made appearances in a few popular Young Adult novels). You will grow to love him, I'm sure of it. 

7. The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe. I bought a nice bind up of all his writings from Barnes and Noble, so I don't know if his stories are sold separately or not (they probably are). I would suggest starting with any of these: "The Raven", "The Tell-Tale Heart", "The cask of Amontillado", "Annabel Lee", "The Pit and The Pendulum", "The Fall of The House of Usher", and my personal favorite "The Masque of Red Death". Definitely give this book a try if you're attracted to sad, dark things :)

6. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. *sigh* Gilbert Blythe. Oh how my heart beats for you! Okay, so this is definitely a chick lit. But this book really can do no wrong. The writing, the setting, the romance, the humor, the heartbreak, the characters that make a home in your heart, and the tears of happiness shed by a perfect ending all make this piece of classic literature one that will endure for many decades to come.

5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Yes, it is very similar to "Anne of Green Gables", but something about this one really stands out in my mind. The story of the March Family is one that you can invest into and revisit anytime you want. It's a great story about love and the bond between sisters. The character of Jo March has lived on in the minds of readers as being one of the best complex characters to date. And Laurie isn't a bad reason to read this either ;)

4. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. If you read my review, you'll know that I love this book because it's chocked full of adventure! I felt like I was a character in the story, and let me tell ya, any book that can make you feel like that deserves a shot.

3. Beowulf by Anonymous. First off, nobody knows who the author is or exactly when it was written (they're guessing somewhere around 1000 A.D). Secondly, it's actually a poem (though it doesn't feel that way). I was forced to read this in school, and I groaned and carried on about doing it. But I'm so glad I sucked it up and did because this deserves way more credit than what it gets. Yes, the movie was weird, and the show isn't great, but don't let that influence your judgement of this book! I won't say much else because I do plan to review this one in the future.  

2. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Oh. My. Gosh. Words cannot BEGIN to describe my feels. Tom Sawyer is a sneaky, manipulative, lazy, no good, lying, trouble-making little snot, but somehow you wind up loving him. I was rooting for him ever since the whitewashed fence scene. Whether he was on the run from Injun Joe, or trying to get Becky Thatcher to notice him, I was hoping my little guy would get a happy ending. Review to come.

1. Hamlet by William Shakespeare. It's my favorite for a reason. If you think I won't write a ten page review of it, then you've got another thing coming.

Now, it's time to mention the absolute worst! Don't read them. Please don't.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck. I was forced to read it in school. But in my defense, all the classes hated it. I remember it being slow. And I remember the main characters becoming obsessed with the pearl to the point of acting like savages. Yeah, it just wasn't good.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. UGH. Hate. Hate. Hate. I even tried to watch the movie...still hate it. I guess it's too much on the morbid side for me. Not that it was gory or anything, just too realistically dark. (As opposed to Poe's fantasy-dark)

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. This one actually made me sad. I adore the story of "Peter Pan" and I wanted so badly to love the book, but it fell flat for me. Peter's and Wendy's relationship was nothing like I've always seen it be. I didn't even feel a connection between the two of them. In other words, dull and no chemistry.  

There you have it! So sorry it's on the long side! I tried shortening it. Guess I just have a lot to say :) Happy reading, everyone!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Classic Review: Treasure Island!

Title: Treasure Island
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Publication Date: 1883
Pages: 311
Genre: Classic
My Rating: 4 Starfish!

The most popular pirate story ever written in English, featuring one of literature’s most beloved “bad guys,” Treasure Island has been happily devoured by several generations of boys—and girls—and grownups. Its unforgettable characters include: young Jim Hawkins, who finds himself owner of a map to Treasure Island, where the fabled pirate booty is buried; honest Captain Smollett, heroic Dr. Livesey, and the good-hearted but obtuse Squire Trelawney, who help Jim on his quest for the treasure; the frightening Blind Pew, double-dealing Israel Hands, and seemingly mad Ben Gunn, buccaneers of varying shades of menace; and, of course, garrulous, affable, ambiguous Long John Silver, who is one moment a friendly, laughing, one-legged sea-cook . . .and the next a dangerous pirate leader! The unexpected and complex relationship that develops between Silver and Jim helps transform what seems at first to be a simple, rip-roaring adventure story into a deeply moving study of a boy’s growth into manhood, as he learns hard lessons about friendship, loyalty, courage and honor—and the uncertain meaning of good and evil. - Summary and cover image from Goodreads 

Wow. Just wow. This book blew me away! First off, I have to give a shout out to my 8th grade science teacher. He made the class read "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", and I have been in love with the classics ever since. So even though I know you're not reading this, thank you, Mr. Reagan :)

Now onto the review!

I have a deep affection for friendships. The bond that forms between Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins is so odd, but it works so well. I will say that I was expecting their relationship to be something akin to Disney's "Treasure Planet" (yes, I know. But seriously, who doesn't love that movie?) however, I feel like the movie version had them both being a lot more touchy-feely with each other. So if you're expecting the book to be similar to that movie, I'll tell you right now that it's not. But that doesn't mean that their relationship wasn't any less strong and complex. I think that if you're going to give this book a go, you should go into it with all other revisions tossed to the back of you're mind. That way, you can really get wrapped up in the story and look at it as it's own thing (if that makes sense).

I understand that this story is most well known for the Hawkins-Silver storyline, which is fantastic, mind you. But I believe, that at the heart of this story, it is first and foremost an adventure. You can tell right away beginning in chapter one what the genre is. Action-packed doesn't even begin to describe it! I was immediately drawn into the story. By part two, I was all in. And by the time I reached the halfway point, I was completely immersed.

There are two unfortunate things about  most adventure novels that I've come across. First, there is so much action, and so little dialogue, that you never really delve into a character's psych like you should be able to do. Instead, you may find yourself rooting for the heroes (or even the bad guys), but you never get too attached to them. Second thing is that an adventure novel can have thrilling action sequences, but then a scene of dialogue comes along and it slows down and dulls what was, moments ago, a fast-paced novel. I am so very pleased to tell you that this book has found a way to beautifully balance between the action and the dialogue. Every scene smoothly transitioned into the next without breaking pace, and even the conversations between characters were just as exciting as the scenes of swashbuckling piracy goodness!

Jim Hawkins is a great lead character and the best choice of narrative for the story. I loved his innocence and the way that he described what was going on around him. He was a big reason why the story really came to life for me! Since we're on the subject, I loved the author's decision to include a few short chapters from another character's perspective. By doing this, it allowed the reader to see what had been going on while Jim was off doing his own thing. Once those chapters got you up to speed, it switched right back to Jim's narrative. I didn't get lost or confused at any point during this.  Great choice, Mr. Stevenson!

The characters were all great, my favorite being the doctor. I was surprised that he grew on me so quickly! But with his brave (and somewhat attitude-y) personality, you just can't help but like him. Each main character held there own, and I don't think that the story would have been near as good if any one of them had been left out of it.

Most people get turned off by the classics due to the words used and the old-fashioned style of writing. I think that this style actually helps to make the stories become more alive in the mind. But if the writing is something that concerns you, then I should mention that this particular classic is a lot easier to understand than most that I've read. I'm not entirely sure why. It could be the country that author resided in at the time, or it could be that the times were changing and books started changing with it. I mean, I really don't know. But if you're not a fan of classics for that reason, or if you've never read a classic before and are looking to start your first one, then I would suggest "Treasure Island" be the one you sit down with at the end of the day.

If it isn't obvious, I'm trying really hard to convince you to read this book! Because this book deserves to be loved! It has captured my young heart and brought the carefree kid out of me, and it has done so for many other people besides myself. To say that I love this book would be an understatement. I couldn't recommend it strongly enough.