Hey, y’all! Welcome to The Monday Review, an original weekly meme where I invite YOU to link up your favorite book reviews!

Reviews may include, but are not limited to, posts from the past week, month, year, whenever – as long as it’s a review you’re proud of and would like to share with the blogosphere! 

Simply add the direct link to your chosen review to the linky and voila! 

Thank you for your participation – I’m hoping to keep this meme going as long as y’all are willing to provide your review links! 😀

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Love, Maggie

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Mostly Mag

She’s A Mystery to Me

I’m always so honored to be chosen to participate in tags and to receive blogging awards, but I’m SUPER honored to have been picked by sweetie pie Heather, curator of Heather’s Reading Hideaway to complete the Mystery Blogger Award!

Not only am I thrilled to have been nominated in the first place, this award, originally created by Okoto Enigma, really excites me because Okoto describes the award as being for “amazing bloggers with ingenious posts!” 

The award description alone makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, so THANK YOU SO MUCH for the nomination, Heather! 😀 Now, let’s get down to business [fun]!

The Rules

  • Put the award logo on your blog
  • List the rules
  • Thank whoever nominated you and include a link to their blog
  • Mention the creator of the award and provide a link to their blog as well
  • Tell your readers three things about yourself
  • Nominate 10-20 people
  • Notify your nominees
  • Ask your nominees any five questions of your choice, specifying one weird/funny question
  • Share a link to your best post(s)

About Me

  • I am a serious animal lover [I wanted to be a veterinarian as a child] and have three dogs, Althea, Harry, and Suzy, and one cat, Kit Kat. Over the years, I’ve owned no telling how many pets, including a squirrel I dubbed Amy Rachel! Although I couldn’t keep Amy Rachel alive very long [‘she’ was merely a baby], I loved her nevertheless and cried my eyes out when I found her dead! 
  • I’m obsessed with pretty colors, especially when they evoke feelings of happiness and good cheer. I can regularly be spotted wearing such shades as teal, pink in every shade imaginable, yellow, and definitely orange. I love to mix up colors; as a girl, when I was obsessed with Barbie dolls, I put together an outfit for my favorite doll at the time, with a hot pink blouse and a bright red pencil skirt. I’d still like to recreate the getup for myself and can see the image of the Barbie looking fabulous now!
  • I work as a therapist for the local community health center and the people I am privileged to serve inspire me every day. My clients have diagnoses which run the gamut from children with ADHD to adults with schizophrenia. The people with whom I work inspire me continuously and I’m honored to be in a position to help inspire in them positive change.

My Favorite Posts [Thus Far]

  • I’m super proud of my first original meme, The Monday Review; therefore, I’m linking to the page which discusses it!
  • I really enjoyed writing the posts I actually completed for the 2017 Blogging from A to Z Challenge! My favorite to compose was Brotherly Love, about my precious autistic brother, Bill.
  • I poured my professional – and personal – heart out in my And So it Began.

Heather’s Questions

When hunkering down for the night (or day) that you plan on dedicating solely to reading, what are some essentials for you to have so it goes smoothly with little interruptions?

When reading, I simply like to have something to quench my thirst, typically coffee, maybe some candy or a crunchy snack, and a cozy place to lounge.

What fictional magical weapon/object would you want to possess?

I could always find a reason to utilize an invisibility cloak, for quite obvious reasons! For example [I feel the need to provide examples, even though I wrote ‘for quite obvious reasons!], when I want to go out in public without fixing myself up, or when I don’t feel like talking to anyone, but still need to go somewhere, or even to eavesdrop on certain conversations!

Do/Can you listen to music while reading? If so, all types of music or only a specific kind?

I really don’t listen to music while reading, as I get distracted by lyrics and find myself either singing along with songs in my head or aloud. However, I do like background noise, so I’ll typically turn on the news or a show that I don’t need to hear every single word of to follow the plot, like a talk show.

What is one trope you’ll never get sick of?

This is a HARD one to answer! After doing extensive Internet research on the subject of tropes, I’ve come to the conclusion that I really enjoy the whole plain Jane who gets the man in the end thing.

A primary example that comes to mind is the classic tale of Cinderella – and all the retellings based on the story. For instance, even though I totally knew Ella and Elle, from Kelly Oram’s Cinder & Ella and Geekerella by Ashley Poston, respectively, would wind up with their hot crushes, their stories were still such a blast to read!

The ups and downs of Ella’s and Elle’s stories made me seriously wonder if they’d get their men – which seems silly because, you know, the TROPE! But, both books are so well written, with ups and downs and plenty of what-ifs, that I really enjoyed their plays on Cinderella.

If your favorite book was adapted into a movie/tv show, who would you cast as the main characters? If it’s already been adapted, would you change who was chosen?

My favorite book of all time, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, has been adapted into multiple movies and I’m pretty satisfied with the actors cast in those productions. I’ve seen the Keira Knightley version of the tale, but I really want to see the 1948 movie featuring Vivien Leigh! I think the production featuring Leigh as Anna will honestly blow the Keira version out of the water!

My Questions

  1. Is there a book or story you feel parallels your life? If yes, tell us all about it! 
  2. What title would you choose for your autobiography and why?
  3. What are the last three books you chose to DNF?
  4. What was your favorite book as a child and why?
  5. Is there a genre you absolutely refuse to read? If yes, why?

My Nominees

Megs @ Between the Pages

Faith @ Sucker for Coffe

Cassie @ Cassie’s Library

Stephanie @ Phannie the Ginger Bookworm

Lindsay @ Singer of Stories

Sarah @ Book Hooked Nook

Gryffindor Books Blog

Ashleigh @ For the Love of Books

Erica @ Diving Under the Cover

Ariel @ Best Mermaid

Jessica @ Reading with Jessica

Tina @ As Told by Tina

Jackie @ Bookworm Cafe

P.S. All I ask is that those I nominated try to remember to link back to this post – I’m dying to see your answers! 😀

 

Love, Maggie

Mostly Mag

My Place in Hogwarts

Tagged by Paige at Books and Belle, here is the amazing Harry Potter tag! I love hopping on Pottermore and researching my Potter traits, so this tag will be so much fun to complete! I also adore Harry Potter in general – I mean, how many readers out there don’t?!

I’ve recently started rereading the books via Audible and I’m falling in love with the wizarding world all over again – I still can’t believe it’s been 20 years since the release of the first tale! 

Thanks to Cassie at Zombie Goddess Beauty for creating this awesomely fun tag! 😀

P.S. It’s been such a long time since I’ve read all the books and seen the movies that answering some of these questions will take a bit of research on my part!

The Questions

What house are you in?

I’m a Gryffindor through and through! Every single quiz I’ve taken regarding my Hogwarts house – even away from Pottermore – has sorted me into Harry’s house!

I’m honored the hat thinks I possess the traits of chivalry, bravery, boldness, courage, and daring!

What is your patronus?

My patronus suits me so perfectly, it’s unbelievable! A basset hound is my loyal charm and it’s so perfect – we had a wonderful basset hound – Blue Girl – for years and I loved her SO very much! When I discovered my patronus, it was after Blue Girl’s death and it made me feel like she is truly watching over me from above!

What is your wand?

My wand is made of willow wood, is 13 and three quarters inches in length with a unicorn core, plus, it’s quite bendy! 😀

What would your boggart be?

My boggart would just be a toxic asshole.

What position would you play in Quidditch?

Honestly, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about playing Quidditch! This could probably fit under the unpopular opinion question, but the Quidditch chapters got on my nerves. 

Would you be a pureblood, half-blood, or muggle-born?

I’m a pureblood, plain and simple! 😀

What job would you want to have after graduating Hogwarts?

I think it would be neat to sit on the Council of Magical Law. Back in the day, I wanted to be a lawyer, before social work called my name. I’ve always enjoyed arguing about the facts and think I’d be cut out for the job!

Which of the Deathly Hallows would you choose?

I would pick the Elder Wand, not only because Harry got it from one of my most favorite characters, Draco Malfoy, but because it symbolizes the ultimate wizard as well as the Master of Death, which is kind of creepy, but cool at the same time. As a Gryffindor, I think the Elder Wand represents true bravery, that’s for damn sure.

Least favorite book?

I don’t think I ever finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – by the time its publishing rolled around, I was getting sick of the series. So, by default, it’s my least favorite. I feel like I’m writing blasphemy right now! I’m from the era of readers whom were around when the books were being released one by one and I was probably exhausted by the time the final installment debuted.

Plus, it’s such a long book – I simply ran out of patience in reading it and was truthfully ready to move on from the land of Hogwarts. I am rereading the series via Audible and I absolutely adore the books’ narrator, Jim Dale, and I will definitely be listening to all of the books, so I’ll eventually get back to this one.

I think this is the single Potter tale I actually gave away, albeit to a sweet foster child, who adored Harry, when I was a caseworker.

Favorite and least favorite movies?

I can’t really choose a favorite or least favorite movie adaptation because, well, I don’t remember them! I know I didn’t watch them all either, so it’s quite impossible for me to accurately pick. 

Least favorite/most hated lead character?

Again, I think I’m writing blasphemy here, but all of the Weasleys, especially the twins, just got on my nerves. It really irritated me when Harry wound up with Ginny and Hermione with Ron. I can’t pinpoint what it is about the supposedly most awesome family ever – perhaps it’s because they are awesome – but they’re just gross.

Favorite teacher at Hogwarts?

I adore Snape’s snark and going through the books wondering just which side he’s truly on! I think he would be my favorite teacher in real life – I’m drawn to dark and spiteful characters – in real life and in the fictional world.

Do you have any unpopular opinions about the series?

I’d say I’ve mentioned my primary unpopular opinion already – that the entire Weasley family just grates on my nerves!

If you could save one character from the final battle, who would it be?

I would totally save Snape! I was devastated to learn he kicks the bucket!

I Tag…

Flavia @ Flavia the Bibliophile

Amber @ JewellReads

Adele @ Bookish Blair

Jordan @ The Heart of a Book Blogger

Lila @ Hardcover Haven

Shawn @ The Bookish Librarian

Caro @ Between the Pages

Erin @ Bluestocking Bookworm

Love, Maggie

Book Review

The Walking Dead, Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us

The Walking Dead, Vol. 2: Miles Behind UsThe Walking Dead, Vol. 02: Miles Behind Us by Robert Kirkman
Series: The Walking Dead #2
Published by Image Comics on November 24, 2004
Genres: Graphic Novel, Horror
Pages: 136
Format: ebook
Buy on Amazon, Buy on Barnes & Noble, Buy at The Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Walking Dead, Vol. 01: Days Gone Bye
Illustrator: Charlie Adlard

An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months, society has crumbled: There is no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally begin living. This volume follows our band of survivors on their tragic journey in search of shelter. Characters live and die as they brave a treacherous landscape littered with packs of the walking dead.

Miles Behind Us picks up where Days Gone Bye, volume one in the series, left off, with Rick and his comrades burying Shane after Carl killed him in defense of his father. In this issue, it is decided by the group of zombie apocalypse survivors that Rick shall be their leader, as he is a natural and was a sheriff prior to the zombie invasion, after all.

The group chooses to leave the camp at which they’ve been holding court and move on to – hopefully – better surroundings as well as more survivors. On the road in their RV, the tight-knit group comes across three people whom are added to their numbers – Tyreese, his daughter, Julie, and Julie’s boyfriend, Chris. Rick’s wife, Lori, gets pissed about the inclusion of the trio – she’s just a bitch, in my opinion! 😀

Lori’s unexpected pregnancy comes to light, which is an issue not only because of the extreme lack of medical care, but due to the fact that either Rick or Shane could be the child’s father. It is revealed at the beginning of this volume that Lori did indeed have at least one sexual encounter with Shane prior to Rick’s rejoining his family. Rick chooses to ignore this fact in order to maintain some sense of sanity.

The group stumbles across a gated community dubbed Wiltshire Estates and assumes they will be safe and able to rebuild some semblance of a life there. However, the zombies hiding in the community have different plans. After spending one night in the neighborhood, the undead awaken, killing Donna, Allen’s wife and mother to Ben and Billy.  Naturally, Allen is absolutely devastated and considers abandoning the group, as well as his sons. Allen is talked into continuing on with his comrades, but falls into a deep depression.

After moving on from Wiltshire Estates, the gang runs into Otis, who shoots Carl, mistaking the group for a horde of zombies. Luckily, Otis tells the crowd he’s living semi-safely on a farm with Hershel Greene and Hershel’s six children, Maggie, Lacey, Arnold, Billy, and twins, Rachel and Susie. Along with the group at the farm is Otis’ girlfriend, Patricia.

As Hershel has medical experience, he is able to extract the bullet lodged in Carl’s shoulder, thus saving the boy. Maggie and Glenn take a liking to each other and quickly become a couple. The farm is seemingly too good to be true – and it is. Not long after arriving at the farm, it is discovered that Hershel has his own horde of zombies, including his son, Shawne and other loved ones and friends, locked in the farm’s barn.

Sensing impending doom, Rick tries in vain to convince Hershel that the zombies are no longer the people Hershel once knew and that they should be killed. Hershel becomes angry and refuses to listen to Rick’s advice. When Hershel tries to put another zombie in the barn, the undead break out and attack, ultimately killing three of Hershel’s still-living children, prompting Hershel to almost commit suicide before being stopped by Rick.

Hershel, having basically lost his mind after witnessing the deaths of his children and nearly killing Rick, announces the original group must leave the farm. Glenn stays behind with Maggie and the rest of the group begrudgingly hits the road in the RV. Finally, the group comes across a highly secured prison and decides to make it their new home, setting the stage for volume three.

Love, Maggie

Mostly Mag

Synopsis Free

Synopses of books = spoilers for me. I don’t even read summaries on hardcover jackets or the backs of soft cover books. I feel like too many plot points are given away if I read synopses/summaries. I do adore reading reviews – they are generally spoiler-free and I really enjoy seeing others’ opinions of both books I want to read and  those I have already read.

I like to dive into a book headfirst – without knowing much about it, except maybe a basic overview. I crave the element of surprise when I read. I also tend to pick up books solely based on their covers – that’s how I discovered my favorite book of all time, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina! I picked up the Oprah’s Book Club edition on a whim at Books-a-Million seemingly a hundred years ago and instantly fell in love with everything about it – the plot, the writing, the characters, even the length.

Additionally, I find that I am often disappointed in books featuring brilliant synopses – if something doesn’t live up to my sometimes lofty expectations, I’m crushed. For instance, books claiming to be disturbing are typically not disturbing enough for my taste. 

If I read a certain something in a summary, I want to really be hit with that something as I read. This may sound odd to some, but I like horror, gore, trauma, and tragedy. Therefore, if a book claims to contain any of the aforementioned traits, I expect to be creeped out, grossed out, and/or incredibly disturbed during and after my reading. 

I find myself to consistently be disappointed with the content of memoirs that are supposedly really true to life and tell of tragic tales. Some examples of books that didn’t seem to delve into the facts enough, in my opinion, include A Child Called it by Dave Pelzer, Night by Elie Wiesel, Running with Scissors by Augusten Burrows, and The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce D. Perry.

When reading a supposedly dark and tragic memoir, I want to actually FEEL the pain experienced by the author telling his or her personal story of survival. The above mentioned books all received one star ratings from me on Goodreads because I DIDN’T feel the horrors experienced by the authors. Sometimes I wonder if publishers tone down particular books – if this is the case, I wish the practice would stop.

The same goes for works of fiction – if a book claims to be of the horror genre, I want to be scared to death – scared enough to sleep with my lights on, scared enough to seriously have nightmares. Some ‘horror’ tales in which I was incredibly disappointed include Peter Straub’s Ghost StoryAnna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, and M.R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts.

Veering a tad off subject, it also kills me when books start out SO well and then take turns for the stupid. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold quickly pops into my head as I think of silly endings. I also got sick of reading Red Winter by Annette Marie and absolutely hated Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and The Secret History

I was super disappointed in both of Tartt’s tales I mentioned, as the author has a gorgeous, flowy writing style – the plots just didn’t enthrall me or seem to go anywhere. The Secret History and The Goldfinch each feature incredibly intriguing synopses – I was just sorely disappointed.

In the case of The Lovely Bones and The Girl with All the Gifts, I was devastated with how the plots went from amazingly absorbing to goofy and predictable. I could probably dedicate an entire post to my horrible disappointment with the ending of Sebold’s novel. I don’t want to give anything away to those who haven’t read it, but The Lovely Bones practically jumps off a cliff into crazy land near the end, rather than coming to a realistic conclusion.

Anyhow, enough ranting about goofy books and back to the subject at hand – my decision to stop reading synopses. As I stated earlier, I want to be surprised by a book – completely. Plus, it seems like those who write summaries for book jackets and backs feel the ridiculous need to cover every single plot point in the books, making me feel like I’ve read entire stories before cracking the books open. 

On the other hand, some books with seemingly silly synopses end up being among my favorites, like the majority of cozy mysteries, especially the books belonging to Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who…series. Cozy summaries often make books sound silly, when in reality, they are amazing, fast reads. 

I figure by avoiding synopses/summaries, I can keep my expectations at rock bottom and in turn be surprised when a book turns out to be amazing. I mentioned this earlier, but it really grates on my nerves when synopses seem to basically belong on a Cliff’s Notes cheat sheet.

How do you feel about reading synopses/summaries prior to reading books? Oftentimes, I’ll finish a book and THEN read the synopsis, just to see how much of the plot is given away in said synopsis. I’m happy just knowing the genre in which the book I’m aiming to read belongs. I just cannot stand it when I go into reading a book with basically a bullet list of each plot point included on the back of a book or inside the jacket.

Love, Maggie

Top Ten Tuesday

Graphically Speaking

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, Top Ten Tuesday invites bookish bloggers to share lists based on a given topic. This week, I’m featuring both my own graphic novel recommendations and those that have been *highly* suggested to me!

The Lists

I Recommend…

Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan – OMG is about all I can say about the Saga series! The first graphic novel I ever picked up and laid eyes on, volume one introduced me to one of my newest top favorite genres. Immediately after reading this first installment, I set my sights on collecting each book in the series, which includes seven, with volume eight releasing in January 2018. 

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier – The first book I’ve read by Telgemeier is different from any other graphic novel I’ve read, or book for that matter. Dealing with spirits, of course, as well as a little sister with a life-transforming illness, Ghosts opened my eyes to more than I ever expected.

The Walking Dead, Volume 1: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman – Now, I gave up on The Walking Dead TV series on AMC – it got silly and incredibly convoluted after a couple of seasons. However, with the graphic novels, of which I’ve read four volumes as of this typing, I actually understand who the characters are and what in the hell is happening with the plot!

Moon Knight, Vol. 1: Lunatic by Jeff Lemire – Moon Knight, Vol. 1 left me confused, asking many questions, and wanting more! Dabbling in Egyptian mythology, this series, although I’ve read only volume one thus far, blows me away!

Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan – It’s no secret that I love Vaughan’s work, after all, I did start out with his Saga series, as mentioned above and Paper Girls is no exception. With a premise I wasn’t expecting, I’m very anxious to continue this series and read volume two before number three releases in August.

Recommended to Me…

Locke and Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill – First of all, I discovered that Joe Hill is in fact the son of Stephen King, whose novel, The Stand, I have been working my way through since June! I am fascinated by King’s writing style and am really excited to get to Hill’s graphic novel series, which has come very highly recommended. I’m hopeful that Locke and Key has horror elements; I mean, hell, King’s books are horror-based after all!

Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu – I’m also really excited to get to Liu’s series! Not only are the titles and covers appealing, I keep seeing rave reviews for Liu’s work everywhere I turn – bookishly speaking, of course!

Assassins Creed, Vol. 1: Trial by Fire by Anthony Del Col – I’ve never played an Assassins Creed game nor read a book based on the story, so I’m looking forward to finding out what this series is all about!

Fruits Basket Collector’s Edition, Vol. 1 by Natsuki Takaya – Another recommended series, Fruits Basket has an appealing title – I’m a sucker for titles and covers – and seems very different from the graphic novels I’ve read so far.

With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child, Vol. 1 by Keiko Tobe – I’m mainly interested in this series because my older brother is autistic and I have been by his side throughout his journey – we are merely 15 months apart. So, I’m looking forward to seeing how autism is covered in a graphic manner.

Love, Maggie

The Monday Review

The Monday Review, Vol. 5

Hey, y’all! Welcome to The Monday Review, an original weekly meme where I invite YOU to link up your favorite book reviews!

Reviews may include, but are not limited to, posts from the past week, month, year, whenever – as long as it’s a review you’re proud of and would like to share with the blogosphere! 

Simply add the direct link to your chosen review to the linky and voila! 

Thank you for your participation – I’m hoping to keep this meme going as long as y’all are willing to provide your review links! 😀

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Love, Maggie

Reading Challenge

Challenged

Well, I’ve been doing four challenges pretty much simultaneously over the past month or so. I must pat myself on the back – as y’all know by now, I’m shitty at finishing challenges – but, I ALMOST completed one! Yay! The others, I didn’t do so well on, probably due to my wandering eye when it comes to books and the fact that I chose to sign up for SO many concurrent challenges!

I almost finished the Summer TBR Wipeout challenge, hosted by the lovely Olivia at The Candid Cover. Out of a whopping ten books I picked for the read-a-thon, I actually read six – which is unheard of for me! I think I did better at this challenge than the others that have wrapped up because it was a month-long event. But, I’m thrilled to have those six books wiped off my TBR list!

This was the first time I’d found the amazing Alphabethon, hosted by a handful of awesome Twitter book lovers – @banterbooks, @KayteSays, @Kris_Marie7, @adlelinereads_, @thesmolprincess, and @callmesensei14. This round, number three, highlighted books/authors/topics/etc. beginning with the letter C. I tried to take it easy on this one, picking four books; however, I managed to finish only one and at least started a second. I’m excited for round four, which will focus on D books!

I also spent at least a month gearing up for the ultra cool Make Me Read It read-a-thon, co-hosted by the brilliant Val from The Innocent Smiley and Ely over at Tea & Titles. I was seriously overambitious with this one, in which voters pick the order in which each participant is to read X number of books in a week.

Well, I went wild and chose seven books as my contenders. I managed to get through exactly zero tales! LOL! I did start the winner, Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass, which I really like, but haven’t finished. I had a total blast watching how the votes fell! Thanks to all who voted – I at least have seven books on my newly revamped TBR list!

Now, I’m participating in #ARCAugust, hosted by Read.Sleep.Repeat, which, thankfully, lasts all month! I’m doing well with this challenge – *knock on wood* – as nearly all of my ARCs are pretty short! I actually blew through two of them today! I finished my first ARC of the month, which also satisfied my sole completed self-imposed book for Alphabethon, Tamara Ireland Stone’s Click’d

In September, I’m doing the Tackle Your TBR Read-a-Thon, hosted by Wishful Endings. I’m excited that this challenge will take place over the course of about two weeks, so surely I’ll get through at least most of it!

I’ve chosen to read only Stephen King books for Tackle Your TBR – I started reading the enormously amazing The Stand back in June, pledging to finish it by September anyhow, so the King idea struck me like a bolt of lightning!

Following is a breakdown of the challenges I tried, the one I’m currently trying, and the one I’m going to be trying next month:

The Summer TBR Wipeout Challenge

What I planned to read – 

What I Actually Read –

Alphabethon

What I Planned to Read –

  • Click’d by Tamara Ireland Stone
  • Creepy Susie and 13 Other Tales for Troubled Children by Angus Oblong
  • The Secrets of My Life: A History by Caitlyn Jenner
  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

What I Actually Read –

Make Me Read It

What I Planned to Read –

What I Actually Started to Read –

#ARCAugust

What I Plan to Read –

What I’ve Read Thus Far –

Tackle Your TBR

What I Plan to Read –

So, there you have it, folks – my ups and downs regarding my just finished [sort of], current, and upcoming reading challenges! Obviously, if I want to actually complete read-a-thons and meet my preset goals, I need to lower my expectations of myself and [maybe] not participate in SO many at once! 😀

I wrote a post earlier in the year, Pulling the Plug, in which I discussed my decision to ditch year-long challenges for the year, save for the penultimate Goodreads challenge. I’m already planning for 2018 and I think I’m going to return to attempting one – or a few – 365-day challenges, while participating – mildly – in shorter read-a-thons!

Happy reading to all and good luck with YOUR challenges, whether they take place year-round, for a month [or more], or for a week or two! 😀

Love, Maggie 

Essays

And So it Began

Hello, I’m Maggie and I, like all of y’all, have tales to tell. I figure what better platform than my blog?! So, welcome to the first installment of a tentative series, in which I tell you various tales! 😀

I decided that I’d like to get a little more personal with all of you wonderful, loyal readers of The Caramel Files, hence the birth of this little project of mine. I don’t know what all I will write about or where this series will lead me, but I’m excited at the possibilities.

Firstly –

I’m a proud social worker!

Therefore, I’ve decided to write an essay series regarding the situations, families, and individuals I have encountered throughout my ten years in the field. I also seek to educate others about the profession and society’s need for practicing social workers.

A traumatic event completely reshaped my life 14 years ago, taking me on a seemingly endless roller coaster ride of emotions, therapy, many more horrifying losses, psychiatric diagnoses, hopelessness, and ultimately – recovery.

Looking back on this past decade, I have overcome so much more than I ever imagined possible. I’m honestly a stronger person because of what I’ve experienced – I’ve had to be in order to survive.

The trauma I endured led me first into a downward spiral, then shouted in my face that my life’s calling is to help others, especially children and their families. Thus began my new journey of hope – hope that I achieved by inspiring it in others.

My ultimate decision to major in social work in college was not easy to reach. After attending the state university for five semesters and in the midst of experiencing severe depression, I decided to transfer to a much smaller college an hour from my hometown.

Horrible depression had slapped me in the face after the happenings of July 15, 2003. I awoke that balmy summer morning to my worst nightmare – my best friend was dead.

I had seen Brian only hours before receiving that fateful phone call. I remember telling his sister ‘to watch him’ – he’d been taking and mixing four different prescription pills – before I left their house, saying, ‘he’s had a lot’, referring to the pills, which Brian had obtained illegally.

Not fully realizing the gravity of the situation, not understanding that we should have already been calling 911 by the time I headed home, I left – fate was out of my hands – I’d unknowingly given up control.

I can still remember the names of the pills Brian mixed that night – Percocet, Xanax, Lortab, and Soma, all central nervous system depressants. Immediately following his accidental overdose, I spoke with my psychiatrist and asked him to explain exactly how Brian died.

My doctor laid out the interactions that most likely occurred due to Brian’s combining drugs. I learned that because of the drugs’ classification as depressants, Brian most likely suffered respiratory distress, leading to heart failure and his premature death. He was 19.

I was 20 and had never experienced the death of a loved one – all four of my grandparents were still living at the time; I even had a great-grandmother and several great-aunts still kicking. I never dreamed I’d first be touched by infinite loss via the sudden death of a beloved friend, a peer.

I’m writing this in such detail because I want others to understand just what led me on the career path I chose. Before I lost Brian, I had zero clue regarding what I wanted to do with my life. Although his death still kills me, and always will, he didn’t die in vain.

Not only did I want to help people, especially teens and young adults, like Brian, I strove to gain knowledge in working with the bereaved, like me. I’ve always been the listener and advice giver among my friends, so pursuing a degree related to mental health and general well-being suited me.

After that horrible summer, I returned gladly to the state university four hours away from my problems – or so I hoped. I remember a friend of mine asking me if I was ready to leave home again and return to school. I simply replied, “Brian’s dead and I hate my job, so, yes.”

I had grown to despise my once beloved job as head lifeguard at my hometown’s awesome pool. It was so odd, yet expected. The morning of Brian’s death, I, being in a dazed shock, actually reported to work at 10:00, after seeing my dearest friend’s lifeless body being wheeled out of his home on a gurney and placed in an ambulance.

I don’t know what I expected from my fellow lifeguards – I don’t think I expected anything really; I didn’t say anything about what had happened in the early hours of that morning, but word travels fast in my town. I knew everyone had an idea of what I was dealing with, especially when I finally broke down in hysterics on the stand an hour later.

What was so horrible was that the two girls with whom I worked and assumed were my pals, ferociously turned on me THAT day – I was totally iced out. I can only guess that I was being judged because of the manner in which my Brian died. I never spoke to the bitches again that summer and bade my time until fall came back and I could run away again.

So, obviously, I was anxious to get out of town, back to the place where I was already accustomed to not seeing Brian – across the state. Part of me looked forward to the support of who I thought was one of my closest friends. This friend, also one of my roommates, had lost a friend suddenly the year prior and I had lent her a listening ear many nights and watched her cry and struggle.

I had anticipated that this friend would understand and be present for me to grieve openly, to tell my story. I was blindsided again. She jumped so far up her boyfriend’s ass that I pretty much never saw her again.

As an aside, I want to say that I told her boyfriend that he looked like a spider. He wasn’t amused, but he asked me what animal he reminded me of and I was truthful.

Anyway, that friend was the only confidante I – thought – I had. I was left alone. That semester I quickly crumbled. I stayed in my room most of the time, refusing to attend even big home football games. If I did go out, I got sickeningly drunk, praying my hangover the next day would take my mind off my emotional pain.

Eventually, I completely isolated myself at school and made the journey home every single weekend, whereas before my personal tragedy, I would go a couple months at a time without leaving campus.

I wallowed in my misery from August until the semester finally ended in December. My grades had gotten so bad, as I’d quit attending classes, that I’d been humiliated by my psychology major advisor, burst into tears on campus, and made the decision with my mother to transfer to a school in the next state, within an hour’s drive from home.

I went home with no purpose, no idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I just knew that I had to use my traumatic experience to help others – to turn my loss into a purpose, to give reason and meaning to what had happened to Brian. Only when I realized I could re-frame my experiences and feelings, did I figure out that I could handle life without my near-constant companion.

These are reasons I became a social worker – I couldn’t save my dearest friend, but I thought I could save others.

Perhaps I have a bit of a savior complex? However, that’s beside the point.

Some of the things I discussed in this piece – like people I thought were loyal to me apparently changing their minds – may seem to be rant-y tangents. But, I want you to understand – maybe even feel – the emotions I convey and experienced during this turning point in my life.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading this piece – I needed a forum to push some intrusive memories out of my mind. If anyone can relate in any way to my experiences, I’d love to hear your feedback.

Love, Maggie

Book Review

Rebecca

RebeccaRebecca by Daphne du Maurier
on December 17th 2013
Genres: Classic, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 393
Format: Paperback
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Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .

The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady's maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives--presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

It’s no wonder Alfred Hitchcock adapted Rebecca for the silver screen.

Daphne du Maurier’s gothic tale of horror follows the tumultuous relationship between Maxim de Winter and his second, much younger, wife, whom he meets while virtually escaping the memories he has of his home in England, Manderley.

Maxim quickly marries his young bride and whisks her away to Manderley from Monte Carlo, where she is a paid companion to Mrs. Van Hopper.

Only the second Mrs. de Winter does not find herself welcome at the estate, especially by the private maid to Maxim’s dead first wife, Rebecca, and house manager, Mrs. Danvers.

Mrs. Danvers is very creepy, showing up at the oddest of times.

du Maurier’s description of Mrs. Danvers is enough to scare the hell out of me.

The newest Mrs. de Winter soon feels that Maxim doesn’t truly love her, as she firmly believes he is obsessed with the deceased Rebecca, who holds power over Mr. and Mrs. de Winter’s relationship from beyond her watery grave.

After much heartache and humiliation, Mrs. de Winter ultimately wins Maxim’s love and trust upon their becoming forever bound by a secret that comes to light months after the marriage.

The only thing I will say bothered me about this book, and it’s most likely because of the time in which it was written, but there is a minor character, Ben, who is described as a ‘half-wit’ and other derogatory terms.

Normally, I could overlook details like that description, but since my brother is autistic, I am especially sensitive to material regarding the mentally challenged.

However, Rebecca gets a resounding five stars for its amazing story and character development.

I cannot wait to watch Hitchcock’s take on the novel!

Love, Maggie

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