Life · mental health

Self-Care and the Art of Forgetting How to Breathe

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Earlier this week I got a much needed massage after work. While I was there I thought about something I wrote last year when I was working on short stories for a self-care book idea I’d been throwing around. I have no idea if that idea will ever go anywhere (probably not), but I felt like sharing my story about massages with you anyway. (It’s a little lengthy, so I apologize if you were looking for a quick post.) Enjoy.

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I got my first massage when I was 25-26 years old. It’s somewhat absurd that I even waited that long, given that at that point I had spent a good 10 years whining about the neck and shoulder knots that I suffered from frequently. Prior to that I had been a little weirded out by the whole concept. Laying on a table with a stranger touching your naked body sounded more like something you’d see on Pornhub, not something that I would voluntarily pay money for. (I mean, porn is free nowadays. Why would I pay for it?) I finally changed my mind when one of my massage therapist friends, who I imagine was tired of listening to me bitch about my shoulders constantly, told me to man up and just do it already.

And that’s how my career as a porn star began.

Not really. It was, however, a life-changing moment for me. It had opened up a whole new world of pain-relief and relaxation that I had never experienced before. I walked out of my first massage feeling like I was swimming in a bowl of warm Jell-O. There wasn’t a single tense muscle in my body. Why had nobody told me how amazing massages were?! (Oh, yeah, they did. I was just too busy creating pornographic scenarios in my head to listen.)

Since that day I’ve gotten one or two massages a month. It’s a tad expensive, but the effects it has had on both my physical and mental health have made been totally worth it.

Despite how much I enjoy massages now, I can’t lie to you and pretend that it’s not still a little bit awkward at times. If you’re as socially inept as I am, receiving any kind of service from a stranger is going to be at least mildly uncomfortable. I am one of those people who will literally pay an extra ten dollars to have food delivered to their house so that they don’t have to go to a restaurant and interact with the people there. This solution does present its own set of problems. Like the fact that I have to answer the door and talk to the delivery person. I never know what I’m supposed to be doing when they show up. Should I be ready, waiting at the door when they arrive? Should I just open the door before they even knock or is that creepy? Should I be in some other part of the house, pretending that I actually have better things to do than stand around and wait for my food for an hour? And let’s not forget what I’m wearing. Am I supposed to change and put on a normal-looking outfit or is it okay to be in an adult onesie, completely unzipped in the front with my bra hanging out? I mean, delivery drivers are probably used to seeing all kinds of stuff when they show up at people’s houses. Would they even notice if I was half naked with bunny-clad feet?

I always envision myself acting completely normal in situations like this: There’s a knock on the door. From somewhere down the hall I casually yell “Just a minute!” because it’s Friday night and I am actually doing something other than stalk the pizza guy through the window. Perhaps I have a cute outfit on and am in the process of getting ready for a date. Or perhaps I have my glasses on and a pencil tucked behind my ear, indicating that I’ve been working on the next great novel. I answer the door with a smile and say something like “Oh, that was fast!” Then we exchange money and make brief small talk about the weather or our plans for the weekend, before I calmly shut the door and go about eating my dinner.

That’s how I always expect things to go. That’s how it probably plays out for normal people.

For me, this is what actually happens: There’s a knock on the door. Having been pacing back and forth, staring out the window for the past hour, I already know the delivery person has arrived. At the first sight of their car I quickly duck behind the nearest piece of furniture so that they can’t see me looking out the window. Once they knock I panic a little, wondering if they saw me act like a spaz through the curtains. I try to casually yell “I’m coming!” but it comes out much higher-pitched than intended, because apparently I’ve turned into a twelve year old boy going through puberty. I open the door just a crack because I don’t want the animals to escape. I don’t open the door far enough though and end up tripping over myself in the process of trying to get onto the porch. Meanwhile, the dog senses that someone has arrived with either food or the intention to kill us (possibly both), so he gets in the window and barks his head off like a small fluffy asshole. The pizza guy mumbles something at me that I can’t hear because the dog is so loud, so I just stare at him blankly. He repeats himself, this time a little louder and more slowly, because obviously I don’t understand English that well. We exchange money and he hands over the food, which is the perfect cue for me to try to make the situation even more awkward for both of us. I try to say something clever, but it comes out in one long mumbled string of words. Howaboutjsjfjhrummphummmsausage. Heh. He then realizes that I am completely unbalanced and possibly contagious, so he says good night and runs away from the porch as quickly as possible. I then attempt to squeeze back inside the door with as much grace as possible. This proves to be difficult, however, as the dog is still in a frenzy and trying to run past my feet and because I now have a pizza box in one hand. At that point, I abandon all hope of resembling anything close to normal and hope I just gave the guy a good enough tip that he doesn’t black list my house.

Is anybody else hungry now? I feel like I need to order a pizza.

Can you see why having to spend an entire hour in the presence of a stranger could be a little bit of an issue for me? (We haven’t even gotten to the part about being naked yet.) I can’t even interact with a delivery person for thirty whole seconds without going into full moron mode.

The good part about massages is that you aren’t expected to talk. You’re allowed to talk, but if you prefer to lay there in total silence the entire time then that’s fine, also. It’s supposed to be your hour to relax and unwind and it’s probably a lot easier to do that by not talking the entire time. This works out in my favor, given that chit chat is obviously not one of my specialties. Howaboutjsjfjhrummphummmsausage. Heh.

My comfort level with a massage therapist depends on how well I know the person. If I am receiving services (That sounds dirty, doesn’t it? I swear that was unintentional.) from someone that I have met previously I am going to be more relaxed and less self-conscious about the whole thing. If you’re lucky, like my friend Christy, who is a massage therapist and services me regularly (Okay, that one was intentional.), then I will be comfortable enough to show up, get naked on the table, and proudly announce that I haven’t shaved in a month and am starting to look like Sasquatch. Poor Christy. Why she even lets me schedule appointments with her anymore is a wonder.

Now, on the occasions that Christy or my other preferred therapist is unavailable, I am willing to see someone new. This is where things can get a little weird. There are very few places you show up, are told to take all your clothes off, and try to relax. At least when you go to the gynecologist, or some other medical appointment, they know how uncomfortable you are and try to make the whole thing go as quickly as possible. It’s probably super uncomfortable and embarrassing for them, also, so it makes sense. When you show up for a massage, however, it’s a completely different kind of atmosphere. There’s dim lights, soothing music, and the pleasant smells of aromatherapy. (At least, I assume they are supposed to be pleasant. Personally, I think it just makes you smell like a hippie.) There are table warmers and soft, comfy blankets. It’s easy to see why most people are instantly relaxed in that kind of environment.

As you’ve probably noticed, I am not like most people.

Having anxiety means that I have a very difficult time relaxing. Even when I am actively engaging in a calming activity, my brain never shuts off. Nobody’s brain ever really shuts off (except those people who think that “raw water” is a thing), but you know what I mean. Most people can quiet their brains and stop thinking about important things when they need to. They can just enjoy the moment they’re in and experience what’s happening around them. I hate those people. I am jealous as fuck of those people. For me, turning my brain off means that I am slightly less fixated on the one hundred potential things that could go wrong at that given moment or in my life, in general. I can’t even turn my brain off at night when I’m supposed to be asleep, which is why I frequently have insomnia. (If you’ve never stayed up all night worrying about whether or not fleas were going to form a small battalion and take over your bedroom you’ve never really lived, my friends.)

Compound my anxiety with my general self-consciousness, it’s virtually impossible for me to just relax around strangers. I make a valiant effort when I am on the massage table. I know that I’m not going to get much benefit from the whole thing If I am tensed up and feeling stressed out the entire time. Even still, there’s no way I can just lay there and put my brain on “Do Not Disturb” mode. (It would be really handy if this was an option though, no? Dear smart people, make this happen in the future.) Instead, I oscillate between forcing myself to relax and being hyper aware of myself.

Here are some examples of the things that pop into my head while I’m getting a massage:

Therapist: “Just take deep breaths and relax.”

Me: Am I breathing deeply enough? Did they say that because they know Im not taking deep breaths? Okay, try to focus on your breathing. Just breath in and out, very slowly. *Takes a few deep breaths* Who the hell needs to be told to breathe? Me. Thats who. I cant even be good at BREATHING. What is wrong with me? Okay, stop. Just freaking breathe and stop worrying about it. *Takes a few more breaths* Am I breathing too loudly? Am I supposed to be breathing through my nose or through my mouth? Oh shit, has my mouth been open this whole time? What if I fucking drool on the table? Thatd be so embarrassing. I wonder how many other people have drooled on this table before.

*Therapist pulls blanket down to massage my lower back*

Me: Wow, this feels amazing. Im basically laying here topless. I wonder if he/shes picturing me naked. Im glad they cant actually see anything, even though Im technically naked right now. Oh my god, is my vagina hanging out?! Im freaking naked in front of this person and Im probably exposing my vagina. *Panics* Okay, seriously, stop it. The blanket is draped over your bottom half. How would your vagina be hanging out? Youre being ridiculous. Just focus on your breathing. Fuck, have I not been breathing again? How do I keep forgetting to breathe? *Takes a few deep breaths* I wonder if theyre going to touch my butt. The last guy touched my butt without any warning. I mean, I guess its okay because hes supposed to do that, but still, it would be nice to at least warn someone before you go touching their ass. I wonder I anybody has ever farted while getting a massage before. That would be so embarrassing. *Represses the urge to giggle* Mmmm, this is nice…”

*Therapist moves blankets so they can access my legs*

Me: Is my vagina hanging out?! How do I check? Should I say something? If I was exposed they would be nice enough to readjust the blankets and cover me up, right? Stop it, Kiersten. Your vagina isnt hanging out. Relax, damn it. *Takes a few deep breaths* I really hope I remembered to shave this morning. What if I did, but I missed a big spot? Theyre probably going to tell the other therapists that I dont even know how to shave my legs properly. Ugh.

Therapist: “Okay, you can flip over now.”

Me: They didnt even touch my butt. *Repositions self under blanket* Now what am I supposed to do? Should I keep my eyes closed? Otherwise its going to look like Im staring at them. Yeah, thats it, Ill keep my eyes closed. *Opens eyes to see what therapist is doing* Oh shit, they saw me. Do they think Im being creepy? Should I say something or just keep quiet? Just close your eyes and breathe again. *Takes a deep breath* But seriously, how do I know if Im breathing right? Why dont they go over this with you in the beginning? Oh my god, did I just fart?

Therapist: “Okay, our time is up for today. I’ll meet you out in the hall once you get dressed.”

Me: “Thank you.” *Checks to see if vagina is hanging out*

By the time the whole thing is over my muscles feel fantastic and I have no choice but to feel relaxed, as my brain is so exhausted from playing ping pong with itself that it eventually goes numb. I put my clothing on, thinking about how great I feel, and wander over to the mirror hanging on the wall. That’s when I discover that I am as much of a mess on the outside as I am in my head. My hair is typically in a bun directly on the side of my head, there’s black makeup smudged all over my eyes, and I’m so greasy from all the oil the therapist has used that my skin is actually shiny. (Not to mention that I smell like a hippie.) At that point, I walk out of the room to meet my therapist and casually ask “So, was it a good for you as it was for me?”

Fortunately, most of the paranoia I experience during my massage sessions are unjustified. Pretty much everything that I am worrying about has never actually happened to me. There was, however, one particular incident that had me wishing I could crawl under the table and light myself on fire.

I stopped by the massage studio after a particularly exhausting Monday at work. The therapist was someone I hadn’t been to before and he was really good. So good that I actually let myself decompress and just enjoy the massage, rather than lay there overthinking about whether or not I was breathing. (For the record, I don’t take very deep breaths. My anxiety makes my breathing somewhat shallow most of the time. This may or may not be why therapists are always reminding me to breathe. They’re probably paranoid that I’ll pass out or die on their table and that wouldn’t be very good for business, would it?) I was proud of myself. I was being less weird than usual that day. The therapist and I even chatted a little bit at the beginning of the session. Maybe I could act like a sane personal after all!

That’s when I touched his crotch and ruined everything.

To clarify, I didn’t intentionally grab his crotch. It just ended up in my hand. I don’t go around touching other guys’ genitals at random, even if I find them attractive. This was completely by accident.

I had been laying facedown on the table while the guy worked on my neck. He went to reposition himself from the side of the table to the top of it, near my head, and that’s when I got a handful. At the exact same moment I lifted my arm to move my hair out of my face. The movement was intercepted by the therapist’s junk, which came directly into the path of my hand.

For a few seconds I wondered whether or not I had actually made contact. “Maybe I just brushed his leg,” I pretended. But alas, I couldn’t even lie to myself to make it less embarrassing. I most definitely touched his crotch. It was like an unseen force had guided his penis directly into my palm so that for the rest of all eternity I could look back on that moment and be forever humbled. (“You got a promotion at work? That’s great news. But hey, remember when you accidentally felt up your massage therapist? Haha. You suck.”) Well played, universe. Well played.

My heart rate spiked as I silently panicked over what I should do. Should I apologize? Should I assure him that I was not trying to sexually assault him? Should I make a joke to lighten the mood? I couldn’t have thought of a joke even if I had tried. The universe was already laughing its ass off at me. I was clearly the joke here.

I did nothing. I was too mortified to even say anything, so I just laid there for the remainder of the session (which, thankfully, was only another ten minutes) and tried to will myself out of existence. The therapist never said anything either. He went about his job and pretended that nothing ever happened, which I suppose is a sign if professionalism. Or perhaps he was also as mortified as I was. Who knows.

I got dressed and left that place as quickly as possible, but not before leaving my digits with the lady at the front desk. I didn’t want to make him feel cheap after that tender moment we had shared together. Believe it or not, he never called.

Since I’ve started getting massages I’ve learned a few things:

  1. For starters, massage really is a good form of self-care. This won’t be the case for every single person, but for me it’s been beneficial. Despite my awkwardness and my tendency to be slightly paranoid while I’m on the table, it has been great for my overall well-being. My depression and anxiety can make me feel pretty shitty, both physically and mentally. Even on my good days, my body is pretty tense, which causes a lot of knots in my neck and shoulders. This tends to cause headaches. I can’t speak for everyone, but I find it difficult to go about my day and try to maintain a positive attitude when I’m in pain. Massage has been a great way to help me alleviate some of that pain and make me feel a little better overall. I’m not going to call it a cure for anything, but it’s a nice way to unwind and make my body feel good.
  2. I suck at relaxing. I’m not even good at relaxing when I am actively trying to relax.
  3. Apparently, I also suck at breathing.
  4. Under no circumstances is it ever okay to grab a random stranger’s crotch.
  5. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, you should always check to make sure that your vagina isn’t hanging out.
Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Young Adult

Book Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

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My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Meet Simon Snow, Mage extraordinaire. Actually, that’s not true. Simon is a pretty terrible magician, despite the fact that he has more power in his pinky finger than all the other students at Watford combined. It’s Simon’s last year at school and nothing seems to be going right – his roommate, Baz (aka his sworn enemy) hasn’t shown up, his girlfriend dumps him, magical families are at war, and the Insidious Humdrum is still out there threatening to end it all. What’s a Chosen One to do when he can’t even use his wand correctly?

I’ll be honest, for the first third of this book I was really confused. There are a lot of similarities to the Harry Potter series. So many, in fact that I actually Googled whether or not this book was supposed to be some kind of fanfiction crossover.

-Orphaned teenager who goes to a school for magic folks
-Nemesis who’s family thinks they’re better than other families
-Cryptic headmaster who tries to protect Simon
-The Chosen One (as foretold by the prophecy)
-Villain who repeatedly tries to kill Simon
-Magical war

A lot of the boxes are checked off. By the time I got halfway through the story, however, I began to see the differences in the characters and story and could appreciate them on their own.

Simon was okay as main character, although I wouldn’t call him overly complex or anything. He seemed a bit thick-headed at times, especially considering he’d been at Watford for 7 years at that point. I didn’t love Simon, but I did love the relationship between him and Baz. Baz was a bit of an ass, but he was complex and had a lot of shit going on his life, so who can blame him? Personally, I wouldn’t mind having a vampire/mage as a room mate who could kill rats and stuff. Sounds like a win all around. (Except for the rats. They definitely aren’t winning in this scenario.)

I would have liked a little more exploration of the other relationships in the book, but I don’t think the story is lacking without it. Overall, this was a fun read and I was pleasantly surprised by the ending. If you like stories similar to Harry Potter, this is a good one to read, especially if you don’t feel like investing time in a long series.

 

Favorites · Television

Jessica Jones: The Anti-Hero We All Need

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About a month ago I began watching Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix. It was a total whim. I’ve heard of it before, but didn’t really know what it was. Both Game of Thrones and Big Bang Theory had ended. I’d already watched all of Good Omens and Stranger Things season three hadn’t been released yet. I needed a new show to binge on.

About 20 minutes into the first episode of Jessica Jones I hopped on social media and demanded an answer: Why did nobody tell me how amazing this show is?! 

Jessica Jones is a super-powered P.I. living in New York. She’s strong as hell, angsty as a person can be, and has an intimate relationship with the bottom of the whiskey bottle. Jessica is as flawed and real as they come, which is what drew me to her immediately. The show begins in the aftermath of Jessica’s escape from manipulative super-villain, Kilgrave. Even a year after his death, Jessica is still haunted by her time spent under Kilgrave’s control, in which he was controlling her mind and her actions, forcing her to do unspeakable things.

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The cast of characters is exquisite. Patsy Walker, aka Trish, is Jessica’s adopted sister and famous television personality. Upon first meeting her, Trish looks like she’s going to be a boring, stereotypical “friend” type. But, oh, I was so wrong about that. The relationship between the two is a rather complex one and later becomes a huge part of the story line. (Those of you who are familiar with the world of Marvel comics will be delighted to see this crossover of Patsy Walker/Hellcat.)

Luke Cage (who also has his own show on Netflix) shows up in season one as a fleeing friend/romantic interest of Jessica’s. We’re also introduced to neighbor and ex-junkie, Malcom, crooked attorney Hogarth, and Jessica’s adoptive and emotionally abusive mother, Dorothy. Of all the characters we meet though, Kilgrave was by far my favorite.

David Tennant has been a favorite of mine since I was first introduced to him as the 10th Doctor. Even if I had never heard of him before, I would have immediately become a fan after watching his brilliant performance as Kilgrave. In my opinion, he’s possibly one of the most chilling villains in the Marvel universe. He has the ability to take over people’s minds, which, of course, he uses for horribly nefarious and twisted purposes. As if the psychological trauma of what Kilgrave did to her wasn’t bad enough, Jessica learns that it’s possible he’s still alive. Can she really trust anyone else, knowing that they might be under his control? Can she even trust her own judgement?

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Seasons two and three were also fantastic (although season one was my favorite), with new superheroes/anti-superheroes and bad guys alike. We learn more of Jessica’s backstory and how she came to possess her powers. There’s incredible character development, not just with Jessica, but across the board. Relationships are explored, strengthened and broken apart. Mistakes are made. Lives are lost. Shit gets real. Through it all, Jessica remains the bad ass that New York can count on again and again, whether she wants it or not.

Books · Favorites · graphic novels

The Chillling Adventures of Sabrina: Comics vs. Show

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Back in 2018 Netflix premiered The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and fans of the original show from the 90s (myself included) rejoiced. It was apparent right off the bat that this newer version of Sabrina was hardly anything like the family-friendly version we remembered. It was a darker – much darker – filled with occultism, satanic rituals, orgies, murder, and the Dark Lord, Satan, himself.

I don’t know if everyone was pleased by such a huge shift in nostalgia, but I ate season one up. I enjoyed the newer, more twisted iteration of Sabrina, possibly even more than the original show. Back in the spring, Netflix released a second season, which, to my delight, was just as good as the first. It wasn’t until season two came out that I found out that the show was actually based on a comic series, set in the Archie universe. Recently, I picked up a copy of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: The Crucible (vol. 1) to see just how the two compared.

There are some major differences between the comic and the television show. The comic, believe it or not, is even darker and more mature than the show. The story arch is similar: Set in the 1960s, Sabrina is a half witch on the verge of turning sixteen. The eve of her dark baptism is approaching – the occasion in which Sabrina signs her name in the Book of the Beast and fully commits herself to Lord Satan – but, naturally, she has some conflicting feelings. Is she really ready to give up her friends, boyfriend, and all that she’s come to know in the mortal world?

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I really liked the comic version of Sabrina. Her mortal friends and boyfriend were a little less present than they were in the show, which I actually preferred because I found them a little annoying at times. (Both versions of Harvey are boring and too white bread for me.) There was more Salem in the comic and he actually talked, just like the original 90s version. More talking cats is always a win for me. I also liked the crossover with Riverdale and Archie characters (I was also delighted to see Sabrina make an appearance in the Afterlife with Archie graphic novel.), although I don’t think this would have worked in the show. Sabrina’s backstory is quite different here and far more fucked up. Her parents aren’t dead this time. Rather, her mother is trapped in a mental hospital and her father is trapped inside a tree. There’s less misogyny than the show. We don’t really learn much about the coven the Spellmans belong to and there’s no Father Blackwood contending for a spot as the biggest douchebag in the series. Thankfully, Madam Satan (disguised as one of Sabrina’s teachers), is still present, following her own agenda and meddling in all of Sabrina’s affairs in a deliciously wicked way. Even without the brilliant performance of Michelle Gomez, comic version of Madam Satan is just as satisfying.

So far, there’s only one graphic novel and there’s some speculation as to whether or not there will be another. For now, I’ll keep my fingers crossed and just have to wait for Netflix to make another season to tide me over. 

Favorites · Middle Grade · Sci-Fi · Television

Strange Things, Indeed (Season 3 Review)

SPOILER ALERT. DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED WATCHING SEASON 3! 

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Eleven and the gang are back for another season, only this time around there’s way more hair and bad outfits to go around. Everyone’s been busy since we last saw them: Eleven and Mike have been busy sucking face, Dustin has been off at summer camp, and Steve landed a job slinging ice cream at the brand spanking new mall, Starcourt.

Everyone is ready to have a normal summer, filled with teen love and angst when shit gets weird…again. Russian communists have infiltrated Hawkins and are trying to re-open the portal to the Upside Down, which had been closed by Eleven last season. On top of that, Max’s big brother Billy seems to be acting more douche-y than usual…

This season was amazing. I was worried that it was going to be lame, with all the teenage drama and whatnot, but I actually ended up liking this season better than the previous one. Despite the weird and sometimes horrific stuff going on, the writers managed to add comedy and lightness to this season that hadn’t been there before. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just watch any scene with Steve and Dustin.) The younger characters were a little more mature (except Mike, he was whiny and kind of annoying) and complex this time around, dealing with real-life issues that all teens experience: romance, strained friendships, boundaries, standing up for your friends, etc. There were some great new characters thrown into the mix, as well, like smart and sarcastic Robin. Of all the relationships we’ve seen evolve on the show, the big brother/little brother relationship between Steve and Dustin is by far my favorite. They are absolutely hilarious together and I just love them.

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The girls were more front and center this time around, too, which I really liked. Eleven finally gets to have a somewhat “normal” life and figure out who she is. It was fun to watch the friendship blooming between Eleven and Max and see how much Eleven changes throughout the course of the season.

Overall, this season was a huge win for me. I have some theories on that last scene we saw and what it all means, but I guess we’ll  have to wait and see if there is going to be another season.

Are you a Stranger Things fan? What did you think of season 3? 

 

Books · graphic novels · mental health

My Brain Sucks. Let’s Read Graphic Novels.

Readers, I have a confession to make: I haven’t been reading many books lately. If you’ve been following this blog since the beginning you’ve probably noticed the lack of book reviews and posts in general. Part of this is due to the chaos that has been ensuing at work the last few months, resulting in a very exhausted Kiersten by the time five o’clock rolls around.  The bigger culprit is my depression, which has decided to pay a visit and stick around for some undetermined length of time. I’ve spent far too many hours the last few weeks (months?) binge watching shows on Netflix and staring mindlessly at social media, rather than pick up the dozens of unread books on my shelves.

Believe me when I say it’s not for lack of trying. In fact, even more frustrating than how behind I am on my reading count for the year, is how many books I’ve begun and quickly abandoned because my brain can’t stay focused on anything for more than five minutes. *Long, frustrated sigh*

Cue my small, but growing collection of graphic novels. For now, I’ve come to accept the fact that I may not be doing the type of reading that I want to, but I have found a solution in graphic novels. My brain seems to be able to take in the shorter length and less daunting nature of graphic novels. Rather than picking up a 400+ page book and immediately feeling like I can’t absorb it all, I can pick up a graphic novel and stay absorbed for only about 100 pages. Even if there are multiple volumes to the story (as there often are), I know I don’t have to read them all at once, which, for whatever reason, is more palatable for my overwhelmed brain at the moment.

I normally feel guilty, like I’m letting my readers and myself down, when I’m not reading much. At this point, I am familiar enough with the cyclical nature of depression and the effects it has on me to know that it won’t last forever and that beating myself up over it will only make me feel worse. For now, at least I have found a way to feel like I’m still reading and able to stay engaged on the blog.

Check out a few of the graphic novels I’ve read recently. (Reviews to follow)

Book Reviews · Books · Young Adult

Book Review: I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

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My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Once upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure. That is, until Libby died in a tragic car crash, taking Princess X along with her.

Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window.

Princess X?

There’s an entire underground culture, focused around a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com. The more May explores the webcomic, the more she sees disturbing similarities between Libby’s story and Princess X online. And that means that only one person could have started this phenomenon—her best friend, Libby, who lives.

Part novel, part comic book, this one was a quick and easy read. Not that quick and easy is a bad thing. In fact, by the time I was halfway through this one I found myself wishing that the Princess X webcomic empire existed in real life. (Can someone make this happen, please?!)

The premise of the story is fantastic, being the perfect blend of crime and fangirl fiction. I found the way Libby’s past unfolded via webcomic, under the guise of Princess X’s story, to be incredibly clever. Telling this story this way made it feel like the princess was an actual character, rather than just a gateway to May discovering that Libby was still alive.

Despite the short length, the story was rich with detail and intrigue. The cast of characters was a colorful  blend of pretend princesses, heroes, hackers, and rogue punks. I wish we would have seen a little more from Trick (May’s hacker neighbor) because he and May made an unexpectedly good team. But that’s just me being picky. One thing that I did really like was the lack of romance in this book. You don’t see that very often anymore in YA literature.

This was a great read about the power of friendship and not giving up hope. Two thumbs up!