A Review of Weird NY

Weird New YorkWeird New York by Chris Gethard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book at the gift shop of the New York State Museum. Now, I’m really glad that I did! It’s got the look and feel of a coffee table book – you know, the sort you leave on your table when guests arrive as a conversation piece. The pages are thick and most of the pictures are bright and colorful.

Inside, is a collection of weird stories from all over New York State. Some are of places that are supposedly haunted. Others are just interesting or odd landmarks – strange things that you won’t find anywhere else. It was fun to see some that were close enough for me to visit and others that I can consider visiting one day. It’s also a great reminder to stop and look a little closer at some of the things you encounter on a regular basis. After all, just because I’ve heard of Pratt Rock (for example) all my life doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting place to visit. It made me want to look into some of the lore a little closer to home, as well.

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Review of The Last Unicorn

The Last UnicornThe Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was another one of those books I read having grown up watching the movie. I couldn’t read any part of it without comparing the two, because both were so well done. I feel like the movie was a truly faithful retelling of the book. There were differences: The village of Hagsgate was never mentioned in the movie. Schmendrick’s backstory wasn’t really filled out as much in the movie as it was in the book. Haggard’s men-at-arms never appeared in the movie.

Having noted the differences and similarities between the two mediums, I’ll leave that conversation aside by saying one last thing. Read the book, if you enjoyed the movie! You’ll enjoy the book every bit at much – perhaps even more.

This book is a keeper and one that I’ll read again at some point. I loved every moment of reading it and I’m glad that I decided to read it. Schmendrick is my absolute favorite character and I feel like I could easily imagine more adventures for him and Molly, just as I could for Lir and for the unicorn. All the characters took on a life of their own for me as I read.

Having read the book, I can see how the movie – particularly the character of Schmendrick – really influenced both my love of fantasy and my expectations of magic. I won’t tell you how things turn out for him by the end of the book, but I will say… I loved it! I also loved the little cat and how (just as in the movie), he found Molly at the end. Over all, it was a lovely book that I would encourage anyone to read at least once in their life.

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Review of It’s a Purl Thing

(It's a Purl Thing) (Chicks with Sticks, #1)(It’s a Purl Thing) by Elizabeth Lenhard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was given to me by a writer friend, because she knew that I enjoyed knitting (I also crochet). I have to say… when I first started reading it, I wasn’t sure I’d like the story. However, once I got into the story and started meeting the rest of the characters, that all changed. I found myself drawn along with the characters – happy when they were happy, sad when they were sad, etc.

It has the feel of a teenager sort of book. The main characters are all in high school. They’re just getting their first crushes, etc. They also have… drama! When things start to go a little sideways, Scottie feels like her whole world is unravelling. That might annoy some people, but… I found it to be very realistic. It made the characters more relatable, perhaps because the author didn’t drag it out for too long.

All in all, I’m really glad that I read this book. I may even try to find the next one in the series. I’m looking forward to trying the free patterns that are included in the end of the book.

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Review of Write the Story

Write the StoryWrite the Story by Piccadilly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I used this book for my July Camp NaNo. For each day of the month, I’d select a different prompt and use it to write another section of my project. Each prompt had a topic and ten words to include in the piece. There was a lot of variety in the prompts, which lent itself well to writing and made for quite the challenge. I didn’t use all the challenges, but I’ve used many of them (I’d used about 30 of them previous to July, so… I’ve used about sixty total now).

If you’ve got writer’s block and you’re looking for something to get the creative juices flowing, this is a great tool. If you’re just looking to challenge yourself (as I did), this works great! I didn’t write directly in the book (since it actually belongs to my sister), but you could if you really wanted to do so. I’d really love it if there was another volume, with more challenges and words to use.

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A Review of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMHMrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was a little girl the movie, The Secret of NIMH, came out. I was at an age when the idea of mice and rats being able to speak to each other – personifying them – was right up my alley. I also liked the fantasy aspects of the movie. I went into this book knowing that it was not going to be the same, but I wasn’t sure what had been changed from the book to the movie.

Oh, my! Certain things were pretty close to the same – Mrs. Frisby (though it was Mrs. Brisby in the movie, I always called her Mrs. Frisby) still had to move her family out of their house before the garden was plowed. She still went to the rats for help and, ultimately, helped them in return. There were other similarities too. However… whoa! There were huge differences.

In some ways, the book is far less dramatic. There was also no fantasy in the book. Everything that happens is firmly in the realm if science fiction and is limited to the rats (and some mice) being used in an experiment by NIMH. I’m not going to consider this a bad thing, but I do wonder why the decision was made to add the things that were added. Normally, things are left out when you change a book into a movie, not the other way around.

I’ll conclude by saying this: Reading the book will not change my love of the movie. They are so different that I feel like I can love them both for what they are.

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A Review of Italian Shoes

Italian ShoesItalian Shoes by Henning Mankell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is not the sort of book that I would normally read. However, it was loaned to me by a friend, who suggested it. He enjoyed it and he wants it back (so that he can read it again), so I decided to read it immediately and get it back to him.

I told my sister and a friend of mine about the story and both of them had the same reaction that I did to it. It’s an odd story, but fascinating. Fredrik’s life is a bit of a train wreck. I felt like I spent the entire book waiting for him to get his act together. That was, I think, what the story was truly about. He’s been running away from himself all his life. When the woman he once loved comes back into his life, she forces him to stop running.

The author leaves some dangling threads at the end, but… I think that the main character has finally turned the corner. Since that was the goal of the book, whatever else happens from there on out does not matter. The story is finished.

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Migraines – More than just a headache…

June is Migraine Awareness Month. When I learned that, I decided to write a little about my experiences with them.

When I first began suffering from migraines, I didn’t even realize what was happening. My earliest memories of them come from when I was about twelve years old. My head would begin to ache and light hurt my eyes. Most of the time, I would just muddle through the rest of the day, feeling tired and having difficulty focusing. A few times, I went down to the nurse’s office to lie down for a while. I wasn’t the sort of kid who liked going home from school – no matter the reason – so when she’d ask if I wanted my parents called, I would say no, take a nap and then return to classes.

That was my life through the end of high school – getting headaches and seldom complaining about them, merely muddling through. I started noticing that certain things caused them: hormones, getting too much sun, changes in the weather, extreme heat… I began wearing sunglasses and ballcaps to shade my face when I was outside. That helped tremendously. I stayed in air conditioning as much as I could. That also helped, but I still didn’t know that I was suffering from migraines.

By the time I stated college, I was beginning to suspect that I was getting migraines. My mother had them, so it wasn’t inconceivable. However, mine weren’t like hers… I never had the nausea that I’d always heard being a symptom. (My mother nearly always does with hers.) However, I did research and I saw other symptoms that I did have: a dull ache in my head that would throb, sensitivity to light and sound, being tired and having difficulty focusing, visual disturbances… It fit, but I didn’t get it officially diagnosed. What I did do was begin taking OTC pain killers when I felt the headache coming or saw my little flashing star (which is my aura).

Around this time, I also found a new trigger: Red 40. It was, very likely, less of a new trigger and more something that I’d finally recognized as having been a trigger after many years. Once I cut Red 40 out of my diet, the number of days that I suffered dropped dramatically.

There came a day one winter when I slipped and fell on ice. I hit my head and ended up in the emergency room with a mild concussion. They let me go home that day and I had a follow-up where I was shown to be fine. However, for a few years after that, I had a new symptom that scared me enough to send me to the doctor: I’d get vertigo and numbness on the roof of my mouth preceding a migraine. At this point, I finally described my symptoms – most of which I’d been suffering from for just over fifteen years by that point – to a doctor and got my diagnosis. (I also had a brain scan just to make sure there was nothing more serious going on.)

That was nearly a dozen years ago now. It’s been a journey to figure out exactly what triggers my migraines and the best way to deal with those things. Some things, like food triggers or dehydration, I can avoid simply by watching what I eat and drink. Other things, like hormones or weather changes, I can’t do very much about. However, I can track them and have warning ahead that I’m primed for a migraine.

One thing I’ve had to deal with, particularly since becoming an adult and joining the workforce, is the idea that migraines are severe headaches. In reality, they are so much more than that. My OTC medicine takes care of the pain, but it doesn’t take care of certain other symptoms. I’m still tired when I’ve had a migraine – long after the pain has stopped. I still have trouble focusing in the hours after I’ve had a migraine. Those things go away, with time. However, getting people to understand that it’s not just the pain isn’t always easy. The other thing that’s difficult at times is the assumption by some that, since I’ve taken medicine the pain will automatically go away. While that’s often the case (thank God), it’s not always so. Sometimes, it’s as if I took the medicine too late and I just have to wait – take another dose or two – and relax.

I have heard of some people being unable to function with migraines or having difficulty maintaining a job, because of frequent absences. I thank God that’s not my story. My pain is, generally, manageable. However, migraines are so much more than just a throbbing pain in my head. They really are something that effects my entire body and, as a result, can influence every aspect of my life.