The Zombie Hunters are Back!

Yesterday I finished Lost in Texas: The Living Dead Boy 2 by Rhiannon Frater. I had read her first book in the series recently, and the characters were fresh in my mind. Not to mention, I am preparing for the new book which will be out in a little over a week.

Before I go any further, if you have no idea what I’m referring to, I highly suggest you hop over to my post, Classic Zombie Lit, which reviews the first book in the series. My guess is you’re going to love The Living Dead Boy every bit as much as I did. After checking out my post, I highly recommend you head over to Amazon.com and snag yourself a copy.

“Lost in Texas: The Living Dead Boy 2” starts off right where the first book left off. Josh and his friends, the Zombie Hunters Club, have survived a botched evacuation at their school, spent the night in a treehouse surrounded by zombies, and also faced dissention within their group. Despite all the chaos, they’ve found familiar faces in the convoy in which they’re travelling. The city bus they are travelling on is safe. At first. But with zombies closing in and the adults making one poor decision after another and nobody listening to the kids, who have spent much of their time immersed in zombie lore, Josh and the other members of the Club start to doubt their safety.

I absolutely loved “Lost in Texas”! I could hardly put my Kindle down. I carried it around the house with me, trying to read it while doing laundry, cooking dinner, and even folding laundry. This series is categorized as Young Adult Literature, but it will appeal to every age.  Rhiannon deftly navigates the intricacies of a pre-teen and teenage set of characters. The comments they make and the responses they have to each situation is not only age appropriate, but also shows growth. The Zombie Hunters Club are definitely not the people they used to be before the apocalypse started, and they continue to grow as the series continues.

One of the tropes in zombie literature (and movies), is the inclusion of a dangerous person or people. Rhiannon masterfully takes advantage of this as well. In Chad, she has created a terrifying character. He is both believable and terrifying. He stands in stark contrast to the members of the Zombie Hunters Club, because he is not only selfish, but he is cowardly. The Zombie Hunters Club believe that if they band together they will survive. They chose Josh as their leader because he’s level-headed, and seems to make the most thought-out decisions. Chad is rash, domineering, and downright crazy. I suspect him of being a sociopath because he knows no limit when it comes to lying or trying to take what he wants outright. He gets into a very scary scene with one of the girls in the group, and it hit close to home. I was in an abusive relationship in college, and I recognized the signs that I had failed to notice in real life in this character. Chad is just terrifying enough to be a threat, but he’s not so overdone that his character isn’t believable. He attempts to make full use of the disorder of the zombie apocalypse to make his moves.

Josh and the other characters mature, and as the book goes on, they are forced to make increasingly more difficult decisions. More and more Josh finds himself weighing options and featuring in whether or not it will get people killed. Only, they’re not just people. They’re his friends and family.

“Lost in Texas: The Living Dead Boy 2” is a wonderful book, a perfect follow-up to “The Living Dead Boy”, and sets the stage for the third book in the series. No matter what kind of books you prefer, I recommend this book highly. I also recommend it for adolescents that are wanting to get into literature, but their parents are wary of it being too bloody or having sexual content. In short, Rhiannon Frater’s series is fantastic, and this book is a welcome addition!

 

 

An Apprenticeship

From the very beginning, technology has played a large role in the relationship I have with Tkout. The picture of us on the left is from Astronomy Club Fall Campout 2009, a few days after we started dating officially in October. We were playing Left 4 Dead with our friend Maverick, part of whom you can see sitting on the top bunk. We put tapestries in front of the windows because we were playing during the day, and we played on the XBOX Tkout had just gotten for his birthday a few weeks prior.

What’s even funnier about all of this is that when Tkout and I met, we were at a LAN gaming party at my college. (LAN is a local area network. Basically a bunch of nerds hooked up to the same network to share files, game, and hang out in the same space. It’s super fun! Go if you have the chance!) I digress. Tkout and I had met originally at the LAN while playing a first person shooter game called F.E.A.R. In the game, you’re on one of two teams, and you’re running around killing the other players. Tkout and I hadn’t met formally until he decided to run a full round with our mutual friend Plastiqmanb with no weapons. Just kicking and punching. I was an easy target because I’m terrible at those kinds of video games, so Tkout kept finding me to raise his kill count. I finally looked up and yelled, “Who the f— keeps kicking me!?” A really handsome face with dark eyes and hair raised up over the computer and Tkout waved. Before anything else could be said, he made a few keystrokes, and my character fell dead. Again. From a terminal kick.

When we were first getting to know each other I used to play World of Warcraft on a beat-up laptop. (For those of you that aren’t familiar, World of Warcraft is an MMORPG, or massive multiplayer online role playing game). Tkout’s first grand gesture was to build me a really nice gaming computer. It’s a gesture he’s repeated several times, always making sure I have a really nice gaming rig and peripherals (mouse, keyboard, etc.). The picture to the right is my current rig, which has purple LED lighting. He knows I’m a sucker for color and light, so he bought me a mouse, keyboard, and mousepad that change colors. The colors are dictated by the software that comes with the peripherals.

I have always appreciated the computers, but I think only superficially. Until last night, I didn’t have a real appreciation for what he was doing for me. I didn’t see the computers for the gestures that they really were.

Most of the movies and TV shows we watch are on digital media on our PLEX server. That allows us to stream our content from our computers, and makes it easier to watch than trying to hunt down a physical copy. Tkout doesn’t like to leave his computer running constantly because of the wear and tear on the parts, but I don’t mind. I don’t play games as often as he does. Well, we decided to make a PLEX server together. Basically, a bare-bones computer setup that would house all of our digital media so that we could stream it. I wanted to build it with him because I have a job as a desktop technician, and it’s handy to know how to build a computer if you’re going to go about fixing one. I also am looking to get the CompTIA A+ certification, which is equivalent to a low-level college degree in computers. Fully one half of the test is geared towards the actual hardware. Building a computer and interacting with the hardware is a great way to learn what the parts are and their functions. Also how they work together.

Before he builds a computer, Tkout spends hours reading through tech articles and comparing components until he has exactly what he needs for his purpose. That’s why he bought the parts by himself. Eventually I hope to be able to pick out parts, but I don’t know enough just yet. Yesterday we sat down and he went over the parts of the motherboard. He explained about the history of the components, which doesn’t sound like much, until you know that he taught himself. From scratch. In a time when you couldn’t just go and YouTube or Google the answer. I’m in awe that he knows so much, but he takes it in stride. He’s been there for the explosion of the popularity of the home computer.

He referenced how computers used to be, in terms of where the chipset could be found, or what its function was. I knew a little because back when Microsoft ME (Millenium Edition) came out (in 2000) I had my first home computer that I could take apart and re-image and generally play with. My parents were worried I’d break it beyond repair, so my meddling stopped. But it gave me a small background from which I’m launching my current career.

Tkout is an absolute wizard. He works with such patience, attention to detail, and skill that I was literally in the presence of an artist. There’s a reason for everything he does, and every piece of equipment that he uses. He’s also patient with me, and answers all my questions without getting annoyed. That doesn’t seem like much, but I’m inquisitive to a fault, and wind up dragging him down a rabbit hole of questions.

We also got a few laughs out of building the computer. The picture to the left is part of the motherboard. If you look closely, you will see EATXPWR written in white letters. I asked him what “eat x power” was. He couldn’t stop laughing. I forgot exactly what it means, but I know it’s excellerated ATX something-something. Good thing he takes things in stride, because that’s just a taste of the questions I was asking.

Just because I can, I snagged a picture of Tkout as he was fitting the solid state drive into the computer. He’s wearing his t-shirt from MassiveLAN, which is a charity computer gaming event we attend twice a year. (If you’re interested in finding out more and attending, check out the website here.) The weird red stripes behind him are the red LED lights shining out the side of his computer.

We aren’t done building the computer, and we also have to get the hard drives ready with all of our digital media. I asked Tkout to wait for me, because I want to be involved in every step of this process. He’s very excited, because for years he’s wanted to share his passion with me. He has lived and breathed computers for over a decade. Truth be told, I am glad he’s taken me under his wing. I don’t think that any course or book could teach as in-depth and hands-on as he does.

Over the years I’ve had friends and family ask why I’m ok with him being a gamer. There are basic positives, like gamers tend to stay close to home. They also tend to introduce their friends to their wives and kids. We have several friends at MassiveLAN, which is a family event and has something to offer for almost every age. Now that I’ve had the time to sit down with him and watch him work, I appreciate Tkout’s skill for what it is. I also understand why he chose a career in computers, and I’m glad that I’ve made that move as well.

If you’re wondering why there’s a picture of Zelda snuggled under covers, it’s because even our family pets enjoy the gaming household. Zelda is comfortable snoozing on the futon in the basement with Chloe, our cat. They know we are near by for kisses and pets, and we are all home together.

I’m not sure if we are going to work on the rig tonight or this weekend, but rest assured, there will be another post detailing the progress of this journey. I can’t wait to see what mischief we get up to in the next round of the build!

 

Oz like you’ve never seen it before!

I have a confession to make. One that might make your blood run cold, shatter your childhood, and doubt my sanity.

I hate The Wizard of Oz.

In case I wasn’t clear the first time. I. Hate. The. Wizard. Of. Oz.

There. I said it. It’s always been true for me, even as a little child. Not even the knowledge that Toto was supposed to be a Boston terrier has made me give a damn about this absurd movie. As far as I’m concerned, there are only three good things that have come out of The Wizard of Oz.

  1. Memes. There are a ton, and they’re absolutely hilarious. They range from esoteric to the foul-mouthed. There’s something for everyone. The one to the right is one of my absolute favorites.
  2. Pink Floyd. When I was in high school, I heard a rumor that you could start up Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz together, and the album worked as an alternate soundtrack. My friends and I did it, clean and sober. And it was fantastic! (If you’ve never seen it, check out the link here.)
  3. Bloodstained Oz. Authors Christopher Golden and James A. Moore have created pure, graphic, nightmare-inducing genius.

Bloodstained Oz is an absolutely nasty take on the idea of The Wizard of Oz, but it’s not a retelling by any means. It takes place in Kansas in 1933. As happened in the Dust Bowl, a storm comes in. But this is no ordinary storm by any means. After the tornadoes touch down and wreak their havoc, the main characters are left to try and survive the horrors the storm brings with it.

There’s 9 year old Gayle Franklin and her parents, whose parents are trying to make it as corn farmers even though there is a severe drought. After the storm, Gayle finds little porcelain dolls scattered in the dirt. A dying Scarecrow warns her that they are not what they seem.

Stephan, his wife Elisa, and little baby Jeremiah are traveling Romani who sell elixirs. They encounter horrible winged creatures that shouldn’t be possible. Their only shelter is a wagon and the symbols of faith inside.

After the storm breaks, prisoner Hank finds a beautiful necklace in the irrigation ditch he and the other prisoners are forced to dig. He hides it in his pocket, thinking he can sell it and start his life after his prison sentence ends. All his hopes are shattered when terrifying vampires with emerald eyes attack the prison, searching for something.

Bloodstained Oz clocks in at 114 pages, but don’t let that fool you. Golden and Moore waste no time getting the reader acquainted with both the characters and the horrors they will face. I started this book at work on lunch, and I wish I hadn’t. All I wanted was to snuggle under my comforter at home and read it from beginning to end in one sitting. When I got home, I quickly made and ate dinner, and then climbed into bed to keep reading. I never wanted Bloodstained Oz to end. When I got to the end, I rolled over and snagged my advanced reader copy of Bloodstained Wonderland, which is the as-yet unreleased sequel. I fell asleep with the book hitting my face around page 61. You can bet once I’m done with this review, I’ll be returning to it!

I can’t say enough about how awesome and scary Bloodstained Oz is. It’s a genuine page-turner with solid characters and wonderfully twisted monsters. Golden and Moore borrowed from The Wizard of Oz, but make no mistake. This isn’t a retelling. They took well-loved characters such as The Tin Man and The Scarecrow and warped them into something out of a fever dream. I’m not a fan of porcelain dolls, so I’m going to say those were my favorite, but just barely. Everything in this book is fresh and terrifying.

It pains me not to say more about the plot and the fates of the characters, but the fun of Bloodstained Oz is wondering exactly what is going to happen next. I don’t want to deprive any readers of the scares and chills that come with exploring uncharted territory.

Before I curl up and get to reading Bloodstained Wonderland again, I want to add that you can get the first book for $2.99 on Kindle. At that price, you’re practically stealing from the authors and the publisher. Trust me, Bloodstained Oz and Bloodstained Wonderland are two books you’re not going to want to miss!

 

 

Short, Gory, and Totally Worth It!

Some years ago, when I was first realizing that there was an absolute boat-ton of zombie material available, a friend mentioned a British mini-series to me. Called Dead Set, it features a fake Big Brother TV show which is in full swing when the zombie apocalypse hits. The kicker? None of the contestants know what’s going on.

The show starts on the night of an Eviction, where a cast member is chosen to leave the show. There is a crowd outside the studio, waiting to see a live interview with the cast member who is evicted. There is a big stage and a dolled-up host. In the meantime, another crew member was sent to get a previous Big Brother contestant’s mother because there is also a reunion party going for previous Big Brother participants. Needless to say there are tons of living people at the studio when the first zombie shows up.

Inside the Big Brother house, the screaming doesn’t sound unusual. They mistake the screams of agony for the fan frenzy of eviction night. The next morning though, things seem to have changed but they can’t figure out why. They just know that the cameras aren’t recording, Big Brother isn’t reminding them to put on their mics, and things seem a bit quiet. Dead, almost.

Life in the fishbowl changes abruptly when Kelly, one of the behind-the-scenes workers at the show, comes in bloody and carrying a huge pair of blood-dripping scissors. She tries in vain to explain to the cast what happened, and that not only is there no TV show anymore, but there may not even be a world at all. They don’t believe her, until one of the cast members opens a fire door, accidentally letting a zombie inside. The zombie is fast, ravenous, and bloody as hell. Before anyone can do anything, another cast member is bitten on the leg. Kelly dispatches the zombie in a very gory sequence featuring a fire extinguisher and some really realistic special effects.

From there on, it’s a tooth-and-nail battle for the contestants of Big Brother and the few crew members left. They must stay alive against all odds, which includes ravenous, rabid, fast-moving zombies. As if that weren’t enough, some of the cast members themselves become obstacles to survival.

I’m not big on Big Brother type shows, but this is phenomenal. The characters vary from funny to downright insipid. The non-zombie protagonists are downright terrifying. Dead Set doesn’t hesitate to delve deeply into the horrors that humans are capable of both in times of stress, and in times of relative quiet.

I highly recommend this show, especially if you have the roughly two and a half to three hours to run it from start to finish. The storyline is compelling, the effects are super impressive, and the death scenes are inventive. While there are many tropes of the zombie genre present, Dead Set definitely sets the bar higher for movies and TV shows that follow.

 

Nightmares Abound!

I’ve been a fan of Adrian Chamberlin‘s work since I first read The Caretakers. He’s a helluva writer, and has a sense of humor to match. After reading The Caretakers, I resolved to pay close attention to any anthology in which his work is featured, as well as to his own books.

I stumbled on Dreaming in Darkness awhile ago and had purchased it for my Kindle. Since I finished a run of books for review, I wanted to read something quick for myself. If nothing else, it would be vastly different than the books I had been reading, and I thought it would work as a palate cleanser until the next round of review books arrived.

Dreaming in Darkness was more than I could have ever hoped for, and just may have spoiled me for Mythos literature forever. There are only four stories in the book, which clocks in at  a massive 356 pages. Each story is by a different author, and I tell you no lies when I say that all of them were fantastic. After having finished it, I’d be pressed to select just one as a favorite. They were all so wildly different, yet united in that they were horrifying on a visceral level. These stories are what primitive fears are made of!

Before I go into each story, please note that I am giving vague descriptions of each. They are all wonderfully complex with solid and engaging characters. But I don’t want to deprive the reader of the surprise and terror by spoiling the stories ahead of time. Therefore, please forgive me for the thin descriptions.

THE ORDER – Aaron J. French

In this tale, retired detective Carl Sanford returns to the field at the behest of a friend. His interest in the occult as well as conspiracy theories makes him a particularly important viewpoint on the latest murder case. As Sanford and the others delve deeper into the case, they find that not only are many of the occult theories actually true, but that there is a cult called the Order of Oriphiel that seeks to overturn the world order and bring the Apocalypse.

SHADRACH BESIEGED – Adrian Chamberlin

A centuries-long struggle to keep a horrifying idol out of the wrong hands comes to a terrifying climax at an abandoned monastery during the English Civil War. The majority of the soldiers caught up in the mess think they are fighting their Civil War. Little do they know that Shadrach and his old foe have also come together to wage their own war, and everyone around them will get swept into it. Not to mention having to cross a hellish forest with an agenda of it’s own!

THE SERPENT’S EGG – Jonathan Green

A writer goes and stays in a castle, hoping to find inspiration after his marriage and life crumbled in the aftermath of his first successful novel and the dry period that followed. He’s researching the legend of the Lambton Worm, and thinks himself lucky to find his host is none other than Lord Tristam Lambton himself. However, he stumbles onto a pagan ritual and from there everything goes to hell. He soon finds out that not only is the Lambton Worm no legend, but he now must fight this cult for his life.

NEW HEAVENS – John Prescott

Instead of bringing the Old Ones to us, we are brought to the Old Ones. Literally! Monoliths rise from the sea, people wander into the ocean only to be changed into horrifying creatures, and then one day, the Earth itself is transported somewhere else. Our characters are left to battle against the Old Ones in their own environment, among countless other horrors, as they also struggle to get the Earth back in it’s own universe.

Again, these descriptions are thin compared to the wonderful complexity of each story. The descriptions in all of them are guaranteed to give nightmares – I can attest to this personally, from experience. At first I thought I could pick favorites, but by the end, I was positive that every story is unique and terrifying in it’s own right.

All four authors masterfully blend suspense, thrills, scares, and mystery together. Dreaming in Darkness is an absolutely amazing book, and at $4.00 for Kindle, it’s an absolute steal! If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t despair. You can still read it with the free Amazon Kindle app.

Family Friday

Dipper and Phoebe came to visit us last Friday. Due to a possible obligation, they weren’t able to stay over, but it was still an amazing evening. Phoebe got things going by showing me her new Superhero Girls toy. It’s Wonder Woman on a motorcycle, and it’s downright badass! She also brought Clue, but we didn’t get a chance to play. The week had been rough on everyone, and we were all dying and ready for the sleep of the dead by about 9:30.

Since it was the last Friday of winter break Phoebe and Dipper had gone out around the town together. Among their stops were Barnes and Noble and Toys R Us. Dipper snagged a few graphic novels and a Gravity Falls Cinestory Comic for Phoebe, which I called dibs on after she finishes. (Phoebe liked Gravity Falls before I came along, but I suspect that she finds it even funnier now, since her dad and I are so much like Dipper and Mabel.)

Phoebe was also excited to give me the fuzzies that she and Dipper had picked out during the day. I’ve been all about the Resident Evil Funko line, and they found me Nemesis. As well as the Alien Queen from the Alien series. Phoebe found a Resident Evil manga at Barnes and Noble, that I didn’t even know existed. It’s called Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire, and it takes place prior to video game RE6. I snagged the Power Rangers t-shirt from Dipper’s Loot Crate, and Phoebe had some more Monster High minis for me. (Yesterday I snapped all the little lockers together. I just have to clean candle soot off the one wall and then hang them. I’m really at a loss as to what to do otherwise!) The little green Cthulhu is part of a series of vinyl toys called Dunnys. Dipper got it for me a little bit ago, but I was able to glue the wings on Friday (they snapped off in shipping).

Although I didn’t take pictures of the fuzzies I gave them, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fuzzies waiting. I got Dipper the Hulk Mr. Potato Head, which means he’s only missing one or two more from the series. I also got him a Deadpool mini figure from Walgreens. I couldn’t resist! Phoebe got an Easter egg which turns into a bunny nose, some pens, and I honestly forget what else. I was so happy to see them that the first hour or so is a blur.

I was worn out and didn’t feel like cooking, so Tkout ordered us pizza and wings. He got pineapple on the pizza which is basically my favorite thing. After dinner, I did dishes and we sat down to watch Just Add Magic. Tkout changed the filtering on our router, so I couldn’t use the Amazon streaming app until he did some legwork. While we waited Phoebe and I decided to do some reading. She’s working on the Gravity Falls comic, and I was telling her that not only would Dipper and I be able to read it sooner, but I was sure her dad would count it towards her 20 minutes of reading homework. I sat down with Dreaming in Darkness, which I’m working on so that I can post a review. I chose the couch, because I knew Zelda would come and sit with me and hopefully I could keep her calm. It’s difficult to read with a Boston terrier zooming around the living room! Phoebe was over the moon that Chloe decided to sit on the top of the chair Phoebe had chosen.

Chloe likes Phoebe very much, but she’s not always up for the kind of attention Phoebe wants to give her. Since Chloe is at least 7 years old (she’s a rescue cat so we don’t know for sure) she’s not as spry as Vampira. When Phoebe is home, Vampira basically lets her do whatever she wants, within reason. Chloe isn’t like that. She likes to occasionally play with a toy, but more often than not, she wants to just sit and be petted by whatever hooman she chooses. Treats don’t hurt either. Now that Phoebe has learned that trick, she’s definitely used it to her advantage, and Chloe’s delight. Chloe dozed off while Phoebe read, and on occasion Phoebe would reach up and pet Chloe. Zelda did what I hoped, and stayed with me on the couch. As you can tell from the picture, Phoebe is a truly intense reader and really gets into the story!

I had been dreading seeing it for some time because I wasn’t sure what I was in for. Since she’s 9, she’s at this weird age where her shows are either insipid and torture (Bunk’d, I’m looking at you! Bizaardvark gets honorable mention for really annoying supporting characters.) or they’re really fun (Justice League Unlimited for sure!) Just Add Magic was a pleasant surprise for sure. It follows a common recipe – sisters (in this case friends) realize they can do magic, and they use it to try and have a positive impact. In this case, it’s a magic cookbook that the girls find in the attic. I like the strong female leads.

It was a really amazing Friday night. As much as I was sad that Phoebe and Dipper didn’t stay, part of me was glad because I was absolutely dead to the world once I hit my bed. There would have been no late night comic book talk with Dipper or movie marathon with Phoebe. I would have dropped absolutely dead and stayed dead until late the next morning. There’s also zero chance I would have gotten up early to watch TV and build Legos with Phoebe the next morning.

I promised Phoebe the next Family Friday we would play Clue and watch more Just Add Magic. Although I think we will wait for Dipper to go to bed for that last part. I’m not too sure that’s his bag. With any luck I can talk her into more Justice League. Or the classic Batman movies. By classic, I mean my classic. It’s high time she learned that Batman is Michael Keaton, Joker is Jack Nicholson. And as much as nobody seemed to notice, Harley Quinn pre-transformation in Suicide Squad is a dead-ringer for Kim Basinger‘s Vicki Vale.

(Just to prove my point, to the right is a snapshot of Miss Vicki Vale, from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman.

In the shot below, we have Miss Harley Quinn, of the 2016 Suicide Squad. Game over. I win. Right down to the glasses and classy shirt! Oooh..does that make Harley a foil for Vicki? Maybe. That theory will have to be put to the test in another post, another day.)

 

 

The Echoes

Battling an invisible illness day in and day out can make work a struggle. Especially if you find some days it’s harder to be around people than others. Sometimes the type of interaction with these people matters most. Others it’s the degree to which I’m familiar that dictates what I can handle. The worst days are the days that don’t seem to have a pattern. The days where I can’t figure out the magic combination to make it through comfortably. Those are also the days I find hardest to explain to people who don’t fully understand what’s going on with me. That’s because on those days, like today, I can’t answer their questions. “What caused it?” “What if you did x, y, and z?” “Gee, I wonder why that trick didn’t work this time. Do you think it won’t work anymore?” Days like today, I hate to say it, but “I have no fcking idea…” is the best I can do in terms of an answer. And really, I don’t know. That doesn’t mean I’m not analyzing the situation, it doesn’t mean I’m not trying, it doesn’t mean I’m not absolutely fighting for every moment of peace.

I work as a computer installation technician in a local hospital system. Tkout works in the same department of the same system as well, though at another hospital. My days range. Some days I stay totally behind the curtain, a high-tech Wizard of Oz. Other days I’m working with staff, and some days I’m even in front of patients while setting up or supporting the equipment. It’s always a rewarding job, and I leave feeling accomplished. The amount of contact I have with people varies, which is also good.

Today has been one of the days where I feel adrift. But it didn’t start out this way. I woke up feeling rested and happy. I wasn’t anxious that I had somehow lost anyone in my circle to the symptoms of my depression. The weekend was exhausting, but fulfilling. I achieved things I didn’t think were possible, given how I struggled the past few days. The thought of going to work made me feel strong and competent. I was ready to meet the challenge with both feet on the floor.

I got to work early, settled in, and when I clocked in I immediately began working on a user’s problem that was a carryover from Friday. I had to head to the children’s dental clinic in a neighboring building. One of the dental patients was afraid, and kept crying and screaming. Generally speaking, I get anxious and sad when the patients are so scared. It’s impossible not to feel for them.

While I waited for the computer I was working on to re-image, I took a brief call from Dipper. All was well. The conversation went well. We talked and nothing was wrong. I mentioned that if he heard wailing in the background, it was the patient. I wasn’t sure if the sound would carry to the phone or not.

Shortly after that call, I think the mix of the amount of people in the clinic, the issue I was working on, and exhaustion from the previous weekend got to me. I started sliding. Worrying that I had annoyed Dipper by asking what time he was planning on sleeping (he works the night shift). I knew it wasn’t a valid worry since I KNEW everything was fine. I tried to stop the slide. I reached out to Dipper and Tkout, both of whom were more than willing to help me get vertical. It worked, for the most part.

Which leads me to the topic of this post. After an anxiety attack or a depressive swing, often there are Echoes. That’s my collective term for the shame and embarrassment that follows. I don’t struggle long term so much with the attacks or the swings as I do with the echoes. More than not, they hurt worse than the attack or swing. I had my attack around 11 am. In a minute it will be 1 pm. I’ve been dealing with the echoes for literally 2 hours. I’ve been biting back tears because there is no safe, quiet, and secluded place where I can go to fully break down and cry. I don’t want my coworkers to think I’m a flake, so I don’t want them to see it either.

I know in my mind that there shouldn’t be shame or embarrassment. But there is. The shame is that I fell apart on a good day, when I’ve been doing so well up until. When I got out of bed with no problems going to work. The embarrassment is part of what I call the domino slide. The domino slide is where I start thinking I’ve done something wrong, reach out to apologize, get reinforcement that everything is ok, and then start worrying that I’ve done something wrong by reaching out (even when I KNOW that it is what my circle wants me to do), and more worries pile on. They become stifling. Until I start to believe them just for the sheer fact that there’s so many. Hence the name domino slide.

Once the domino slide starts, my self-image plunges. I start to wonder how people can deal with my shit, when I can barely deal with it myself. My thoughts turn dark. I start imagining that my circle is getting tired of this, just as I am. I hear my husband and brother in my head, telling me that it’s alright. That they still love me and there’s nothing to be ashamed or sorry about. That everyone slides. That they’d rather me reach out over and over than suffer quietly. That they want the chance to reassure me. To make everything right.

Then I start thinking that I don’t deserve this love and devotion. That I haven’t done enough to balance out the shit they put up with when I flounder. Both of them have told me countless times that it’s not a matter of balancing out. The good always outweighs the bad. That I need to stop thinking about it like that. I believe them. I really do. I know I’m loved and needed. Not just by my humans, but by my fuzzies too. Even the snakes and bearded dragon.

But the anxiety and the depression lie. And because it’s my own mind, they know just what to tell me to make me feel worthless. To make me feel afraid. To make me want to keep asking if everything is alright, and then fearing that just by asking, I’ve shattered everything. They make me feel like everything is fragile. Even though I know it’s not.

I’m writing this post while biting back the tears. I know I’m loved. I know that there’s nothing to ask forgiveness for. I know that I don’t need to ask them to hang in there, because they will. I’m Wife. Seester. Aunt. Friend. Family. Confidante. Ride or Die. That doesn’t change, no matter how hard the anxiety and depression are whaling at me.

Tkout, Dipper, and Phoebe always tell me that they think I’m a superhero because I still fight. Even when I don’t feel like it. I still fight to go to work. To stay the whole shift. And even if I’m not feeling well, I still come and see Phoebe and Dipper. Still hang with Tkout. I try to make sure they don’t suffer when I’m struggling. And if they need me, I’ll come running. Even if it’s a day where I struggle to get out of bed.

I’ve had trouble reconciling the way they see me, because most of the time I certainly don’t see this myself. When I’m struggling, I tend to only see the bad. But I have always appreciated that they see me in this way. A little while ago, Dipper sent me a YouTube video about the newest Green Lanter, Jessica Cruz. In her, I’ve found my superhero. Take a look at this series of panels, where she fights anxiety. I almost fell over when I first read them. They’re so true to life in terms of showing the anxiety. But they also show her in the moment where she pushes through it. Not surprisingly, it’s because she knows people are counting on her. I almost cried when Dipper sent this to me. For the first time ever, I saw myself as Tkout, Dipper, and Phoebe have seen me the whole time. All those times I was too busy hitting myself over the head to see what they saw. The whole time they saw my will to persevere. The fact that just reaching out and asking for the love and reinforcement was an act of defiance against the mental illness.

For the first time in the last year, since all hell broke loose, I finally saw in myself what they’ve seen the whole time. I understand why they say the good outweighs the bad. Why they say they love me, no matter what. Why they’ve chosen me to be Wife. Seester. Aunt. Friend. Family. Confidante. Ride or Die. Why they have faith in me, and say that it’s never misplaced. Why they’re always willing to catch me when I fall. What they mean when they say they won’t leave me, because it’s not an option.

For the first time, I see myself as the fighter and superhero that they see. I may get knocked down. But it’s not for always. And every time I come back up, I’m stronger than I was before.

 

How’s your year going?

Last year I was a little late to the party. This year? READY.

Last year I got back on GoodReads.com after a prolonged absence. I started reviewing books again, and tracking my reading progress. It also helps me keep track of books  I want to read, or have read with my brother as part of our two person book club.

In any event, I set myself the lofty goal of reading 79 books by the end of this year. Since I got such a late start last year I only projected 9, but wound up reading 59 since I count graphic novels as well. So far I’m off to a good start. As of right now, I’m at 15/79 books. They range from authors I just discovered to authors that I’ve been reading for years. There are graphic novels as well as regular novels represented. I’m sure that I’ll also be adding in some young adult reads, since Phoebe likes when I read books that she’s read. She’s super into Superhero Girls and Disney’s Descendants, so I know those will be among my titles for this year. (Speaking of which, I need to catch up on Descendants! I think I’m about 2 books and a movie behind.)

Honestly, the young adult books are really good. I read a Descendants book last year (Wicked World Wish Granted). It wasn’t bad – there’s many lessons to be learned about friendship, identity, and the consequences of your decisions. It was in graphic novel format, but there are several tie-in books that are in the series too.

I’d also like to get back to Jonathan Maberry‘s Rot and Ruin series. I’m anxious to see what’s happened with Benny Imura and his longtime crush Nix Riley. I also want to get back to Alessia Giacomi‘s Zombie Girl Saga, because the last Eve Brenner book I read left a really interesting cliffhanger. There are other book series that I want to work on, too many to list, in fact! Not to mention, I am woefully under-read in the world of comics. My plan is to change this up this year. I don’t want to be a superhero fan only based on movies. I’m ready to go full nerd.

If you’re on GoodReads.com too look me up! Let’s be friends! (Feel free to send recommendations my way, either books you’ve liked, or books that you’ve written.)

 

 

 

Powering Through

Several friends have recommended Christopher Moore‘s books to me over the years. I picked up a few of his books, A Dirty Job, Bite Me: A Love Story, and Lamb. The Serpent of Venice is on the list of Dipper and my books to read. I wasn’t sure where to start, so a friend suggested I begin with A Dirty Job, since I’m a fan of stories that feature the personification of death.

The story centers around Charlie Asher, a goyim who is married to Rachel, the love of his life. Moore immediately establishes a few truths about our main character. He’s a beta male. He’s got anxiety. He’s the proprietor of Asher’s Secondhand. And he’s a complete nebbish. His wife dies while giving birth, and shortly after, a man in a mint green silk suit comes into the hospital room and steals Rachel’s Sarah McLachlan CD. Little does Charlie realize this is only the beginning.

What seemed like a random and senseless robbery turns out to be a definitive moment for Charlie. It’s revealed that the man who took the CD is Minty Fresh, and he’s a Death Merchant, which is not exactly as it sounds. Death Merchants have a special date book that names and numbers appear inside. The name is the person who will die, and the number is the amount of days the Death Merchant has to retrieve the soul vessel. Soul vessels pulse red, and basically the job of the Death Merchant is to get the soul into the hands of the next person it’s supposed to belong to.

If the Death Merchant does not get the soul vessel, sometimes the Morrigan and Orcus lay claim to it. Orcus and The Morrigan dwell in the underworld, and they need to consume the souls so they can travel Above, and eventually claim rule over the world. Eventually the tension between the Morrigan and the Death Merchants will come to a head, when the Luminatus, or Death appears.

While Charlie is trying to get used to his new responsibilities, he is also trying to raise Sophie. However, not even that part of his life is carefree, because strange things keep happening. Not the least of which is when two hellhounds show up and watch over Sophie. Charlie has no idea how they got there, or who they’re from, but as the story progresses and the stakes get higher, he’s glad the hounds are there.

I hate to admit it, but it took just shy of forever to get into this book. Charlie is such a nebbish that a good deal of the book is hard to get into. The graph on the right shows my reading progress for this book, as logged on GoodReads.com. The saving grace are the supporting characters. Ray, a retired cop who works for Charlie and suspects everyone of being a serial killer, Lily the goth who also works for Charlie but is studying to be a chef, and Mrs. Ling and Mrs. Korjev. The latter two women live in Charlie’s appartment complex and take turns sitting Sophie. More often than not they offer comic relief. There’s also Charlie’s homeless friend, The Emperor, who thinks he’s the emperor of San Francisco. His faithful canines Lazarus, a golden retriever, and Bummer, a Boston terrier, constitute his soldiers.

Once the story gets going, however, it really takes off! Once the darkness starts rising and the Morrigan and squirrel people get more prominent, the book becomes nearly impossible to put down. As a matter of personal bias, it definitely helped that little Bummer, the 7 pound Boston terrier, sees action against the Morrigan and winds up having a huge impact on the story’s outcome.

I would recommend reading this book, and sticking with it. There is a follow-up called Secondhand Souls, which focuses on Sophie and the coming battle for the soul of humanity. This book certainly has my buy-in because many of the characters I came to really love appear in the second book. (I’m not going to spoil it, except for to say that Bummer is back in action…and a book with a Boston terrier certainly has my vote!)

Since I haven’t read anything else by Christopher Moore yet, I can’t really say if this is a better introductory novel or not. I think it really depends on what kind of story the reader is looking for, and what degree of patience the reader has in terms of waiting. Overall, I’m really glad that I took the time to finish A Dirty Job. It turned out to be the book I was looking for, even though I didn’t realize it.

 

 

The end is nigh…or is it?

When I finished All Souls Day, I literally couldn’t wait for the sequel. Well, as it turns out, we all have to wait because it’s not ready. In the meantime, author Martin Berman-Gorvine asked  if I wanted to read another book in the meantime. I chose 36 for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I’m interested in mysticism.

36 takes place in the future, after a third war has rocked the world. Eric Lonnrot, a detective heavily interestd in Jewish mysticism, has been researching people for years. He believes they are the tzadikim, or 36 righteous whose actions justify the continued existence of the world. Through his research, he notices an alarming trend – they’re dying off. What’s even more troubling is that they’re dying off faster than they can be replaced. Lonnrot talks his friend Nahum Applefeld, who himself is a survivor of horrific genocide, to accompany him. Nahum doesn’t share the same views as Lonnrot, but feels responsible since he’s Jewish, and the idea of the tzadikim is a Jewish myth.

Lonnrot and Nahum’s journey turns out to be more than they were expecting. There are glimpses of good, and terrifying abysses of true evil. Through accident and sheer coincidence, Lonnrot and Nahum also learn each other’s deepest held secrets. Their friendship is tested, as are their ideals and worldview.

Nahum eventually splinters off from the quest and goes in search of his own answers. He has seen too much sadness, to much evil, too much horror. Even before he joined Lonnrot. He also begins to suspect that Lonnrot’s motivations are not quite what he’s letting on. Nahum begins to suspect that the journey has more to do with Lonnrot’s own needs than that of keeping the tzadikim alive.

For his part, Lonnrot does experience growth during his journey. The more of good and evil that he sees, the more he searches his own heart. He begins to examine the choices he’s made, and the life he’s lived. There is a particularly dark period of his life that he begins to question. Was he just going with the motions of society, or is it really a reflection of who he is at his core?

I can’t rave about 36 enough. It’s two main strengths are the characters and Martin’s ability to successfully world build. To the point where I found myself checking the web here and there to verify the reality of people and events in the book. He creates a world that is so different yet so similar to our own that it almost feels like a history book, even though it’s obviously an alternate history.

Lonnrot, Nahum, and the other supporting characters all have depth. They are believable in terms of they could actually be people that you know. When they speak, there’s a whole unwritten history below the surface that informs their choices and actions. This also leads into my point about world building. Not only are the characters three-dimensional, but so is the world in which they live. There are no lengthy explanations of events or political alliances between countries, yet somehow Martin manages to get all of his points across. The end result is a book that you can’t help but fact check on the Internet because it feels so real.

Lastly, 36 will leave the reader looking into themselves. It’s easy to sit back and say that if you were in someone’s shoes you would be able to make better choices. When it comes right down to it, is that really the case? There’s always more to the story than what we see in the beginning.

I recommend 36 anyone who is looking for a book that makes the reader challenge themselves and the accepted normalcy of society.