News

News: Since April of last year I have managed to accomplish several monumental things in my studies, but I update you now to tell you that three nights ago I had the best sleep since I last visited my aunt's house (years ago) and probably will never have another good sleep like it for years to come *nods sagely*.

--12 March 2017 --

Quote: I really dislike how glasses slide down your nose impetuously when you're glaring down at your unfinished work. -Me

The Fellowship

April 20, 2017

8 Reasons Why Not to Watch '13 Reasons Why'

I have taken quite some time to think about whether or not I wanted to write this post and, after much debate and hemming and hawing, I decided I was morally obliged (by my conscience - blasted thing) to do so regardless. 

First things first, a disclaimer: 1) I have not watched '13 Reasons Why' nor do I intend to, 2) some of the content below may be triggering or emotionally disturbing. There is no graphic description or details regarding such content. 

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A lot of people have been talking about the latest Netflix hit, titled 13 Reason Why. I'm not going to be linking to the official sites, promotional videos, or quoting any lines because I'm about to express my complete disgust and disagreement with the very notion that something like this has even been aired. Now before you get your panties in a knot and start spouting phrases like, "But this is a big step forward for mental health advocates!", "People need to understand how serious suicide is!", "Kids are dealing with this, we need realism to come along side them!", hear me out. I'm going to give you a number of reasons why you should definitely not be watching this series, which will include reasons why this is not a big step forward for mental health advocates, and so on and so forth. We can discuss your opinions vs my opinions at the end if you'd like, but some ground must be covered before that happens. Furthermore, before you consider sharing your life story on your struggle with depression, anxiety, suicide, etc (and I am not making light of this in any way) to explain why you think your opinion is more valid than mine, kindly remember this: everybody has a story and you don't necessarily see the big picture.

For those of you who are unaware of this show, don't let me spark your interest. It's rated R/MA for mature audiences and ultimately glorifies and dramatizes the suicide of a teenager, wherein the audience follows along with her post-suicide cassette recordings that explain why she killed herself and who she blames for it. It's a story of revenge and does nothing to counteract the harmful content with what is needed in the area of mental health these days. It provides no hope nor any promise of healing, no discussion of diagnosis or treatment or recovery; that is a huge misuse of the entertainment platform. Nothing about this series is entertaining. 


8 Reasons Why Not to Watch '13 Reasons Why'
  1. R/MA rating. If the notion of F-bombs, gratuitous rape scenes, and suicide don't already shout stay-away, massive trigger warning!!! with blazing red flares, then I honestly don't know what's wrong with you. This is not a teen-friendly show and, having read reviews and synopses discussing its content, I don't think it's adult friendly either. You're essentially watching the abuse and destruction of a child's life... how is that screen worthy? Even if it's fictional, it leads to her "death"... how is that something you can condone watching? And why would one consider hiding behind the statement of, "The message is important" - let me tell you, this particular message is detrimental and harmful, it is not helpful in any way, shape, or form. 
  2. There is no happy ending. Yes, life doesn't always end happily - sometimes it ends with a pitiful whimper in the midst of horrifying internal pain. If you know me well, then you will recall that I'm a strong advocate for realistic literature depicting the fact that life is certainly not fair, kind, or happy. However, it's one thing to write such hopeless, dystopic messages and send them off into the literary world... it's another thing to graphically show them on screen and not have appropriate measures taken to ensure that the information isn't going to harm viewers. 
  3. Triggers. I'm not even going to talk about this one in depth. Those who struggle will understand that graphic depiction of self-harm and rape is not healthy. In fact, several years back, the social media site Tumblr underwent massive renovation to remove/restrict all accounts that sent out negative mental-health messages to their audiences. Hundreds of sites were closed to ensure that tumblrs previously posting pro-anorexia, bulimia, self-harm, and sexual abuse would no longer be able to do so (this included, but is not limited to: graphic images, triggering content, and negative "advice"). This was one of several social media facelifts that occurred and prompted numerous users to employ trigger warnings on their content and has shifted the atmosphere from the perpetuation of mental illness to the encouragement for seeking help and recovery. If social media sites restrict and punish users for harmful content, why is there not a greater outrage at this TV series? This is not art. Death is  not art. And suicide, rape, and self-harm are absolutely not art. Too many people have already spoken up about how 1) it doesn't have nearly enough trigger warnings to make people cautious and 2) it has brought about unexpected and difficult emotional responses to those with past traumatic experiences or with a history of mental illness. 
  4. It simplifies the consequences and promotes blame. Death is final; handling such a serious topic in such a primitive, petty way is distasteful. It isn't a show that tells the story of the tragic loss of a human being... rather, it is a dramatic retelling that flaunts death and showcases how a school becomes wrapped up in the drama of the event. Death is not something to be taken lightly and it is certainly not something to chat about as if it were a mystery puzzle for your benefit. Additionally, the message is revenge instead of recovery. If this were truly a series with an intent on educating about mental illness, then there would be a far better coverage of steps to recovery for those who currently suffer.  
  5. It is in direct violation of the recommendations for reporting on suicide. Over 50 academic studies around the world have shown a connection between poor reporting on suicide and increased likelihood of suicide. These guidelines were developed by many well known suicide-prevention groups (including, but not limited to, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Medical University of Vienna, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute). Their intention was to provide members of the media with guidelines to ensure they do not fearmonger with their stories or write triggering news articles. If such statistics are associated with simple reporting of actual events, then how much more harmful would a graphic film be to at-risk audience members?
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  6. It doesn't provide any alternatives. There is no out-right discussion or naming of depression or mental illness. There is no balancing out of the graphic images with statements about how treatment is readily available and it does work - things DO get better and recovery is possible. Leaving an audience hanging, especially for a show that may attract those suffering from depression or struggling with thoughts of self-harm and suicide, is a harmful thing. Yes, suicide has happened and likely will continue to happen, but we need to focus on directing people to recovery and treatment instead of letting them drown in the agony of such emotionally disturbing information. 
  7. It gives a very bad reason for survivors guilt. Yes there is such a thing as survivors guilt, and yes it is based on a lie. The characters in this series are driven to feelings of guilt and obligation and the viewers revel in the revenge. No matter what the world tells you about responsibility for suicide, the only person that should ever be blamed is the one no longer present. Like I've already said, there are many treatment options and there is plenty of hope for people struggling with thoughts like these. It still all boils down to their decision - will they seek and wrestle out their recovery, or will they end their life. Yes there are factors that impact that ultimate decision, but the only one in control at that point of no-return is the person owning the body. There are horrible people out there who will hurt you and put you down, abuse you and try to destroy you - but unless they outright kill you, they cannot ever be responsible for your death. Basing this series around the revenge acquired by the infliction of guilt and humiliation does not help anyone - it only promotes further harm.
  8. It provides a graphic depiction of suicide. In no way, shape, or form should suicide be graphically shown on screen, even if trigger warnings are given beforehand. Authorities have removed and banned videos of real suicides and deaths from social media before - just because this series is not "real" does not mean that they should have any right to step-by-step show such a horrible thing simply for its shock value. People have become so desensitized to what is okay to watch and what is not okay to watch; once you see a graphic scene like this you can't unsee it. I mean heck, one of my English professors at university required her Holocaust Autobiography/Biography class to report any symptoms of PTSD because some of the readings were graphic. This is a university class full of adults and the professor was concerned about the impact it would have on our mental health...we're talking about a TV series with graphic scenes of self-harm and suicide. I am so deeply disturbed to think of people sitting comfortably on their couch with a cup of tea in hand, languidly watching a young girl kill herself. HOW IS THAT OKAY? THAT IS NOT OKAY! I don't care if it's a show, I don't care if it's "entertainment", and I certainly don't care if you think you are educating yourself on the struggle of mental health - that is not something anyone should ever watch. 
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This post was extremely difficult to write. It's the effort of multiple days, of weeks of thought, and I still feel like I haven't expressed my point very well. However, it needed to go out into the world and do its thing, so I eventually decided to not spend any more time on it. What happens will happen. I just want to bring awareness to the fact that it is very negative and harmful and I 100% do not recommend this show. Yes, we need to talk about mental health. Yes we need to discuss depression, self-harm, bullying, rape, and suicide, but not in a manner that is for simple entertainment. Not in a way that could cause people to hurt or to relapse or to suffer. We need to be delicate, but we also need to be bold. 

If you are currently struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-harm, depression, anxiety, or any mental illness, please seek professional help. Confide in someone you trust, or call a help line. For Canadians, please visit: http://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/.



Signed with love, 

Squeaks.

April 8, 2017

Twenty One Pilots - 5 Lyrics I Adore (+ some discussion)

Some of you skimming this post maybe aren't up to speed on Twenty One Pilots... thank you for clicking the link, because it is quite possible that your life will be different after you read what I have to say. If you want to check out their social media for yourself, please check out their links to major websites here:

Band Page   |  Twitter   |  Youtube   |  Facebook   |  Instagram

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Before I get into the lyrics (you can scroll down if you're desperate for the list), I wanted to discuss a few short things. Actually, they are exponentially LARGE things, in my mind, but I will try to condense all my thoughts for you so we can actually get somewhere with this discussion. I like lists, so let's have a small list on reasons why Twenty One Pilots is near and dear to my little heart. 


  • First, the band is made up of two men - there were more originally, but right now there are two. Tyler Joseph, who is the vocalist and plays the mandolin and keyboard and we love him for it - and his best friend Josh Dun, master drummer otherwise known as Spooky Jim Christmas. They are one of the best representations of friendship and loyalty that I've seen in what I call the Warped Tour world (although, don't get me wrong, there are a lot of other fellows out there in their genre of (and I use this loosely and carefully) "emotionally in-touch" musicians who are not running shows on Warped Tour). I love the freshness and humanity they bring to their art. And I love how they are clean with their language and encouraging to each other and their fanbase.  
  • Second, Tyler writes his heart out. This is why his music is so meaningful to so many people, because it connects his humanity to theirs - they see someone going through life and putting words and music to that intangible sensation we all feel but can never fully grasp. The fact that we are mortal, some of us suffering, and everyone trying to figure it all out. Purpose, meaning, the reason we're alive, etc. I cannot emphasize enough how much their lyrics mean to me or to others, or just in general - they're deep and important and I love them
  • Third, it's relevant. In a society that's wrestling with how to discuss mental health and matters of the heart, Twenty One Pilots' lyrics bring critical components to light and present an undercurrent of hope. This, again, leads to the encouraging nature of the fanbase and the support system they offer each other. I think it's beautiful. It also opens up avenues of conversation for people who are afraid to talk about their struggles - and opening up is the first step to healing :) 
  • Speaking of the fanbase... have you even seen the ART??? It's insane how many talented people there are out there. I love it. In fact, I love everything about this band and the community it has created <3 all the love! 


Alright, so, time for some lyrics. That's what we're all here for, right? :P I present, 5 lyrics I adore (out of SO MANY, guys this was ridiculously hard to do...). Click the links to access the music/lyric videos on youtube.

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  1. I try desperately to run through the sand as I hold the water in the palm of my hand. 'Cuz it's all that I have and it's all that I need and the waves of the water mean nothing to me. But I try my best and all that I can to hold tightly onto what's left in my hand, but no matter how, how tightly I will strain, the sand will slow me down and the water will drain.
    //
    But you specialize in dying, you hear me screaming, "Father," and I'm lying here just crying, so wash me with your water.
    {Addict with a Pen, Self Titled Album}
  2. Am I the only one I know waging my wars behind my face and above my throat? Shadows will scream that I'm alone, but I know we've made it this far, kid.
    //
    I am not as find as I seem, pardon... me for yelling, I'm telling you green gardens are not what's growing in my psyche, it's a different me, a difficult beast feasting on burnt-down trees. Freeze frame please, let me paint a mental picture portrait...
    //
    And I know that I can fight or I can let the lion win. I begin to assemble what weapons I can find, 'cuz sometimes to stay alive you gotta kill your mind.
    {Migraine, Vessel}
  3. ...they just might wage war on you, therefore it's true that I shot my general on my side of enemy lines.
    //
    I'm the son of all I've done, impostor, been fostered, then my new father drained my dirty blood.
    //
    I'm not done, I'm not done yet, no, kick me off the stage and take my microphone. Then you'll walk up to me and when you get close, I'll look you in the face and say, "Where's your home? Where are you going and why are you here?" Have you asked these questions? Have you been sincere? Want to know what I believe? It's right here, dig a little deeper and it's crystal clear.
    {Clear, Regional at Best}
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  4. I won't take much of your time, I just want you to see what I have made inside these lines. It's as good as I can be, it's as good as I can be, this is all that I can be, this is all that I can be... all that I can be. Head tilted down, knees on the ground and I will ask, "Please..... SAVE! Save me! Please, save, save! Save, save, save, save, save, save, save. Save me, save me, save me, save me, save me, save me."
    {Save, No Phun Intended - technically titled under Tyler Joseph pre-Twenty One Pilots era, but THAT DOESN'T MATTER}
  5. Death inspires me like a dog inspires a rabbit. Can you save, can you save my -- can you save my heavydirtysoul?
    {Heavydirtysoul, Blurryface}


*******

Twenty One Pilots Lyrics - Pinterest
I honestly can't pick a favourite song, or even a favourite album. While Blurryface (their latest release) is definitely the sharpest sounding because of the higher production quality, the previous albums are full of lyrical gold and glorious instrumentals. They all deserve to be listened to and thought over. 

My journey with listening to them started back in 2013, when Guns for Hands first came out (and can we just have a moment of joy for how adorable Tyler is in that music video? <3 :O so adorable). I actually didn't like them much at first, but the lyrics stuck and one day I suddenly realized I was in much too deep to not be a fan :P I simply can't get over how much meaning the lyrics have and how delightful Tyler & Josh are as people. They're kind of like lemonade - sweet and sour with a lot of quirky quotes on life. Many of their songs got me through a really rough 2016, so I am very grateful for them.  

Additionally, can we just talk a moment about how many references there are to the Bible and their faith in Christ? I mean, at first I thought it was a coincidence, but now I'm absolutely certain (particularly after reading their professions of faith). So this is doubly exciting for me, to see people who have the same beliefs that I do pursuing a career in music, struggling with deep thoughts and dark concepts, and coming out stronger in the end. Take Fairly Local for example, some of those lyrics are straight out of Romans 7. I thought I was imagining things the first time I heard it, but their whole Blurryface album is chock full of this stuff. It is awesome and so encouraging. 

If you haven't yet heard anything other than Stressed Out, Heathens, or Ride (which are the top 3 Twenty One Pilots songs on the charts) then you should check out the rest of the Blurryface album - from there, it's up to you where you'd like to take your adventure. Their discography is very eclectic and undoubtedly has something for everyone: Twenty One Pilots (self titled album, 2009 release), Regional At Best (2011), Vessel (2013, which has quite a few redone songs from RAB - don't be confused like I was, lol), and Blurryface (2015).  

I have a lot more I could write about these dear fellows, but I think I'll save it for another time :) Thanks for reading, folks! Tell me in the comments what your favourite Twenty One Pilots lyrics or songs are - I'd love to chat with you about it! <3 


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Signed with sunlight,

Squeaks.

Follow me on Pinterest @MinstrelWarrior for more Twenty One Pilots Fandom stuff & fantasy writing inspo!

March 12, 2017

Tag :O - One Lovely Blog Award - 7 Facts About Me

I never do tags (not since 2009 I think, back when I was a small bean). Those of you who have been with me from the turn of the decade know these things. Yet what does my title say? WOT?! Who unleashed this madness? Before we get into the heft of it (and before you scold me for starting my sentence with a preposition) I must tell you a few things.

  1. Thing 1 - I have been terribly busy - so busy that I have barely enough time to sleep before I needs be busy again. Such is life. 
  2. Thing 2 - I have been unbearably sullen. I promise, I do try not to be sullen, but sometimes the business gets in between my ears and I become a dark little raincloud, bustling to and fro between my Things that I do. 
  3. Thing 3 - Part of that business is writing academic papers. The droll of this particular Type of writing tends to vacuum dust into my head and I end up spouting facts to myself that I don't really truly want to know. Facts that will turn me into an old, rusty bucket. 
  4. Thing 4 - I have been absent from this blog (obviously <-- duh) because I have very little energy after all these Things have taken their due. 
Why am I even bothering to do a tag - A TAG, I never do tags - on this briefest of brief breaks from my business with all the Things? Well - I will enlighten you. It was this, stare at my dead social media, or cry tears of stress into my bedsheets and so obviously I picked the better of the three. 

That being said - I give you this gangly little tag, wherein I tell you 7 facts about me and we all leave here happy as a baby coconut. This dear coconut-inducing tag has been brought to you by the daring of Tracey Dyck over at Adventure Awaits (yes dear your name is in extra large font because the master poster can choose such things :) that is all). Let's give her a round of applause for unsuspectingly waking the sleeping dragon (or lethargic, comatose dragon... take your pick). You shake your hands and I'll shake mine. Deal? Fantastic. Now let's unbother ourselves with more stuff. 

[Tag] One Lovely Blog Award - 7 Facts About Me
  1. In terms of clothes, I abhor the colours orange and yellow (but still own some t-shirts like that??!! WHY!) and much prefer dark or muted forest-y tones. Mostly I just love blue. 
  2. On that same vein of thought, I used to have atrocious style as a teenager (dear lord) and would often go around dressed something akin to a motherless hippie child living out of a grandmother's tickle trunk. My mother did often try to suggest otherwise. There was one year in particular where I decided to use glitter glue to decorate my eyebrows... who ever thought that was a good idea. 
  3. I used to (and still do) think it admirable to read the books that people complain about - claiming they're impossible to understand - simply so I can know in my heart that I still have that knack for literature. (isn't this a horrible thing? it has led me to many fantastic discoveries though :P so my win, their loss)
  4. Most people think I'm between 16-18 years old and that I'm still in highschool *pats heads affectionately* that's adorable. 
  5. I have 2 non-intentional stick-n-poke tattoos from accidentally getting stabbed (or stabbing myself) with a pen. 
  6. I'm an extroverted introvert - I may seem outgoing in public, but I am truly a tired, lonely little penguin who likes to sit in silence, read books, and cuddle my cats. 
  7. One of my biggest everyday goals is to ensure no one gets left out and no one feels under-appreciated. 

Grief, child, looks like we got a little deep there - alrighty. Well, I've promptly run out of steam. I would really love to just sleep now, but it's still much too early for that nonsense. I was also going to add a nice picture to this post, but after 15min of not finding anything suitable it shall remain purely word-ridden *rolls eyes* pinterest, you have failed me. 

So anyhow..
Should I return to blogging? What do you guys think (if anybody is left reading this mishmash of words)? 


Signed with a breathe, 

Squeaks.

August 20, 2016

Five Magic Spindles - A Review

If you like traditional fairytales but get bored of the same story over and over, then buckle in for some wild and massively creative twists on the story of Aurora (otherwise known as the Sleeping Beauty). Five talented young authors were recently selected to be featured in the Rooglewood Press collection Five Magic Spindles - the end prize of Anne Elisabeth Stengl's yearly writing competition held over at Tales of Goldstone Wood.
I received an influencer e-copy of Five Magic Spindles in return for my honest review - let me tell you folks, you're going to love this! Let's get down to business..



As I've read the past two published collections (with Cinderella and Beauty-and-the-Beast themes) and thoroughly enjoyed them, I had high expectations going in to this one. As expected and anticipated, I wasn't disappointed. Each of the stories had a unique take on the tale of Aurora, which must have been hard to get creative with because at first glance, there's not a lot you can say about a princess that sleeps the entire story through! That being said, let's talk detail.




The Man on the Buckskin Horse - by Rachel Kovaciny
Emma, a good-hearted midwife, rushes to warn a neighbor about the hired gunman headed to his ranch but can't prevent the catastrophe in store for his daughter.
As the title implies, this is a western, set in the post-civil war era of the USA (at least that's what I could gather from the context). It gives the vibe of some of the western Christian romances I used to read back in the day (*blushes* - they're still tucked away on my bookshelf, hah!). Don't shirk away though! This is definitely more action packed than a typical romance - we've got pistol-slinging hired gunmen and a crazy spinster lady intent on stealing a man's hard-worked farmland. Siege is laid in the wild west, but if that weren't enough action, the farmer's daughter falls deathly ill with infection and it's up to the machination's of a stalwart midwife-turned-physician to save her life. The story becomes a fast-paced race against the clock as a young girl's life hangs in the balance... 

Favourite excerpt...
I have learned from my dealings with all sorts of sick folks that there are some diseases you can't see: thoughts that eat you up from inside your own head, and you can't admit they're there until they're about to kill you. Some festering sores in your memory need a lot of time to mend. Some only start to heal once you've told someone else they exist. And some can't be cured, no how.
My thoughts? It was a pretty good story and definitely left me with the whimsical taste of morning porridge mixed with brown sugar and butter, the tang of trail dust, and creak of leather (these are all very very good things, in case you doubt me :P ). If you like westerns, you'll enjoy this! Several parts of the plot could use a little smoothing out, but otherwise I thought Rachel did a fantastic job at putting a unique spin on the story of Aurora (and I especially like her detail on old western medicine - *loud applause*). 

Rating: 4/5 STARS


Guardian of Our Beauty - by Katheryn McConaughty
Palli, the prophesied daughter of a king, is fated to rescue her people from the destruction called forth by a vengeful priest.
I did not expect to read a middle-eastern twist on this fairytale, but here it is! Katheryn writes a unique and humourous story with fascinating poetical additions, mystical creatures, pirates, robbers, and awkward princelings. You'll be cringing along with me as you meet Kashap, the evil chief priest with the equivalent position of Maleficent. As a dreadful curse is set upon the entire kingdom, it falls upon the shoulders of an overlooked prince from a distant kingdom to make a dangerous journey to save an entire country.

Favourite excerpts...
"How can I live? I am drowning in daughters!" the king complained to his chief priest.
There are masterless men in the mountains. Robbers. 
My thoughts? I loved the eastern twist; it was very different from the preceding western and had a welcomed twist of humour scattered throughout the character's dialogue (I'm a sucker for humour, especially if a writer can pull it off successfully, which I think Katheryn managed). However, I felt that this plot really needed a lot more time to develop. There was so much information and so many unique components that probably could have used a chapter of their own, rather than several paragraphs. In the end, I found it slightly lacking, but I think the humour saved the day and so, for a short story, it turned out very enjoyable :)

Author Page: http://thelanguageofwriting.blogspot.ca/
Rating: 3/5 STARS



The Ghost of Briardale - by Grace Mullins
Roselee, a ghost with a faulty memory, flits through the halls of an insane asylum in search of the mortal boy who can help her save the day.
If I could describe this retelling with one word, it would probably be: perfection. Grace writes with a Charles Dickens/R.A. Salvatore voice - so The Ghost of Briardale comes across as a Victorian-esque Pickwick Papers with high fantasy and dark elves... come again?? IT WAS AMAZING. Poor Franz Happernickle gets tossed into an insane asylum because he sees ghosts... or does he? This superbly well-written short story takes you on a wild ride from Victorian politics to the bowels of a dark asylum where Franz keeps company with a curious strongman, a dwarf, and a green ghost. Not to mention the dreaded Slavering Swamp Beast is chained up just down the hall... I honestly cannot explain how unique this retelling is - you simply have to read it to appreciate Grace's ingenuity.


Favourite excerpts...
A True Hero has to have performed one of the Three Great Deeds: save a kingdom, slay a dragon, or move a mountain.
He looked down to see the Slavering Swamp Beast savaging the lace of his shoe.
My thoughts? I 100% loved this story and I adore the Slavering Swamp Beast - definitely on my list of favourite characters. Again, you have to read it to fully appreciate the masterfulness of this story. Grace likely stole my heart with this because of her unique Victorian-esque voice that rings throughout the text; I love Victorian literature and her prose is so musical... yet it's unlike anything I've read before, because it comes across as something akin to Salvatore and his high fantasy. *throws flower petals in air* Mystical magical magnificence - I adored this story 100000%!

Author Page: http://itssimplygrace.blogspot.ca/
Rating: 5/5 STARS


Spindle Cursed - by Michelle Pennington
Arabella, a living spirit trapped in her own comatose body, helplessly watches from the realm of dreams as her usurping cousin plots to destroy her once and for all.
Spindle Cursed is the only traditional fantasy story in this collection, yet it stands out as unique and is very well written. In a world where magic has a severe price, a disregarded prince must avoid the charms of a sneaky lady (who's a LOT older than she looks), fight his way past a dragon, and ensure he doesn't irk the sleeping princess's fairy guardian (lest she turn him into a fish) so that he might save the day. All the while, another prince is on the move... will our hero make it in time? 

Favourite excerpt...
Life and death held hands in this strange green world.
My thoughts? I really liked this story, and it came across quite strongly despite being "traditional fantasy". In particular, I really loved how Michelle wrote the internal struggle that our main character has with the whole true love trope. Here, true love isn't a first sight thing, rather it's something that develops out of relationship and requires, oftentimes, a big leap of faith. If anything, this story felt more realistic than the others, simply because the romance was more believable and honest. Yet it isn't an overpowering part of the story - after all, we're talking high fantasy here and there's a dragon to beat!

Author Page: http://www.michelle-pennington.com/
Rating: 4/5 STARS


Out of the Tomb - by Ashley Stangl
Tanza, a tomb raider on a distant planet, struggles to make a living and doesn't need a long-lost prince to complicate her difficult life.
It wouldn't be a complete collection without a sci-fi short story! This is like Tomb Raider meets Killjoys meets Star Wars <3 I know I've said all of these stories are unique but OH MY GOODNESS, this one trumps all of them (except maybe The Ghost of Briardale - they tie... :P ). Tanza, a native tephan, is a thief by trade... a tomb raider who makes a living off rich, deceased people. She's an energetic, dangerous individual whose past is sprinkled with all sorts of high-status crimes. Little does she know, her next job is going to produce a lot more than just jewels and collectible medical equipment. The reader is taken on a spell-binding ride with multiple heists, alien politics, and a sacrifice so selfless I legit felt my eyes tear up. This is a one-of-a-kind retelling that was a huge treat to read and makes for the perfect closing piece of the collection. 

Favourite excerpt...
Tanza rolled her eyes, "He insisted on looking up the meaning. The name Arthur means 'bear'."
"A brushbeast with legs!" Auren moaned, as if this proved his entire point.
"Not yet, perhaps," Auren said, his voice gentle, "but virtue names aren't about the virtues you already have. They're about what you can be. The name isn't too heavy for you. ... 
My thoughts? This retelling was fantastic. It had no romance (a nice break, I admit) and was focused more on the purity of the heart and the kindness of the soul. The whole concept of virtue names was a fascinating one ( :P go buy the collection and read it to find out more!) and I admire how smoothly Ashley transitioned her scenes. It felt like reading a full novel, but it didn't come across as jam-packed with information. Not to mention all the sci-fi goodness and the twist on Aurora's spindle (*fangirls*). The underlying message was a very powerful one - no matter who you are or what you've done, there's always a chance for forgiveness and change <3

Author Page: ashleystangl.blogspot.com
Rating: 5/5 STARS


TL;DR
So here's my quick overview and I'm pretty much just going to say once again, Stengl and crew picked out some amazing shorts for this compilation and the final product is absolutely magical. In particular, The Ghost of Briardale and Out of the Tomb really shone through as being exceptionally unique, powerful retellings of the classic Sleeping Beauty fairytale. All of the writers did a great job at the task presented and I applaud them for their wonderful tales :) So now, readers, will you be picking up a copy of Five Magic Spindles and joining in the adventure? If I haven't convinced you yet, check out the following links for additional information :)



Signed with pixie dust,
Squeaks.

July 13, 2016

Omaha Beach by Adam Young // FIVE STARS TIMES INFINITY!!!

ayoungscores
Normally I'm right on the mouse as soon anything new from Owl City/Adam Young comes up, because let's face it... he's amazing. However, I admit I was pretty behind (like over a whole MONTH behind) on picking up Omaha Beach (which is entirely FREE, yo! Just log-in on his Scores website, which I've linked to the album name, and it's yours to download). 

Now I know some folks aren't into the whole "scores" thing, what with it being more orchestral music/documentary type, etc. However, that aside, I think every person who has a love for history and an appreciation for what our soldiers did for us on Omaha Beach will really be touched by this short album. It honestly feels like a story without words - it is amazing

I don't know how he does it, but Adam really came through on this score. In my opinion, he truly managed to capture the emotion of this historical event. I had chills just listening to it. Some of the tracks are especially powerful (for me it was Seasick, On the Beach, and Bloody Omaha). It has a similar vibe to the Edge of Tomorrow soundtrack (which is also fantastic and one of my favourite film scores). 
In 1944, after years of planning, the Allies launched an invasion upon Nazi Germany and converged on the coast of France, beginning the reclamation of occupied Europe. In anticipation, Hitler fortified German defenses in hopes of countering the Allies and driving them back into the sea. What the Allies didn't know as they stepped onto the shores of Europe was that Hitler was waiting for them. The ensuing battle was gruesome. At a place codenamed Omaha Beach, hundreds of Americans fought and died for the freedom of others, and it is the memory of these men that I want to honor with this album. This is my interpretation of what occurred that fateful day in 1944 on Omaha Beach. -- Adam Young
If you haven't had a chance to listen to this score yet, I would highly recommend it - like 5 stars times infinity recommend it. I'm not often one to get chills from music, but this album had my skin crawling (in a good way!). 

If you're not familiar with what happened on Omaha Beach in 1944 (D-Day might ring a bell) then take a gander through the following resources to learn a little more about this historical event where hundreds of men gave their lives for us.



If you'd like to listen to Adam Young's Omaha Beach score, you can do that by visiting his website here (again folks, it's a free download, made possible by Adam's wonderful generosity to us!) or just hit the play button on the youtube box below :) Thanks for reading!!



Signed with Remembrance,

Squeaks.

May 27, 2016

Hard-Core Science & Bookish Fantasy - How Two Very Different Worlds Can Exist Together

Salutations to my loyal readers! I'm going to talk about something today that is very dear to my heart (wot with being a scientist who's simultaneously obsessed with books and writing and high fantasy realms). Before I get started, though, let me just quickly bring up the small wonder that prompted me to write this post :)

PAPER FURY

Cait over at Paper Fury (yes, that's her pretty button above; also, go wish her a very happy 5th blogversary!! & she has giveaways running!! [how jolly-well kind of her!]) recently wrote a post entitled "10 DREADFUL THINGS THAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU READ TOO MUCH". It is wonderful, witty, and sassy - I think you'll enjoy reading it. In any case, after digesting her words myself, I got around to thinking about how a lot of people say that it is seemingly (and I use 'seemingly' with much salt here) antithetical to love both literature (of the fictional, dragons-ate-my-pet-moose kind) and science.

So first I'll point out that, as Cait says in her blog post, the average number of books read by one person of the General Public is purportedly 6 per year, and a large number of people that have voiced such aforementioned statements to me tend to fall on the shadowed side of that 6. Therefore, such voiced opinions really are inadequately supported by experience or even (might I go so far to say) understanding.

I am a wide reading individual. I love science, I love a wide variety of literature, I rather enjoy driving down dirt roads, swimming in creeks, and applying warpaint in preparation for a violent game of paintball. Perhaps I'm an enigma (although I really don't think so - I often see myself as a rather boring slump of neural tissue that regularly squawks for peanut butter). In any case, let me introduce you to some of the reading material I enjoy - let's have two examples.

First we've got the science-y side of things. I can often be found devouring (or slowly chewing through) primary research articles. These are the ones chock-full of puzzling terminology and mind-numbing instructions on how to elicit, say, a Hoffman's reflex in the tibialis anterior muscle. Let me just show you.

Lévénez et al. (2008) J. Neurophysiol
Ah yes, Lévénez here gives us the low-down on how they went about recording electromyographic activity for their study entitled, "Cortical and spinal modulation of antagonist coactivation during a submaximal fatiguing contraction in humans". How riveting. I might be pressed to make some sassy remark about the boring nature of most, if not all, primary research papers. HOWEVER, let me be 10000% straight with you - if it weren't for the glorious detail, time, and effort put into writing these often-times dry articles, I would be utterly lost and my research would have like a 10% chance of actually making a difference in the community. It's the dry, boring bits (like EVERY methodology section EVER written in the ENTIRE universe) that makes it possible for people like me to come along, fresh out of the Dante's Inferno that is undergrad, and run a research project. I can't tell you how many times I've rushed to read the methodology section of papers to find out what the anatomical landmarks are for basing electrode placement off of, or what pulse-width I need to set my electrical stimulator at - etc. These dry, boring bits that I thought people could do without are actually really really really important!

Ok, so I've ranted a bit (but oh I could go on for an age and a half) on research articles, now let me turn to my FAVOURITE pastime in the history of all hobbies. Fiction. Ah yes, here's another example:

Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind - prologue excerpt
My darlings, let me introduce you to one of the best fantasy writers since Tolkien *sighs*. Whenever I'm not science-ing or running after shrieking chickens (literal chickens, I promise), I'm usually immersing myself in some realm or other where magic exists and dragons plague the northern reaches and eggs talk. Death, destruction, dystopia, giant talking trees, never-ending cupcakes, plot twists, etc. What a relief and what a contrast. When one is so strictly adhering to ethically approved research methodology and writing papers with the most succinct, professional English one can muster out of their brain, it is sometimes a breath of fresh air to read a little logical-defying fiction.

This is one of the reasons I keep my literary diet approximately half and half - sensible, factual literature paired with nonsensical, fictitious literature makes for a healthy heart (ok, I don't know if it's healthy but I have a very very deep love for reading all things and so let's just say it's healthy for me).

I suppose what I'm getting at is that no matter what your occupation is, it is 100% entirely fine to be a book-fanatic. Just because I do research doesn't mean I'm some white-coated scientist with the intense desire to cure cancer (I could be.... but I'm not - I wear jeans to work, haven't worn a lab coat since 2nd yr undergrad, and spend most of my days reading papers and writing ethics applications). And just because I love books doesn't mean I can't try my hand at solving a couple neuromuscular physiology puzzles in my lifetime. I love what I do and I do what I love; I'm a bookwyrm and a scientist and it. is. awesome.

In conclusion, I bring you the novel (or not-so-novel) idea that hard-core science and bookish fantasy can both exist together in your life - very happily I tell you. If you want to do research for NASA or become a physician or study the mechanisms of Ebola's effects on the human body - do it! If that's something you've always dreamed of then pursue it! because books are always going to be around when you need some downtime or want reprieve from the crazy push and pull of everyday living. Science and fantasy can exist hand-in-hand; go forth and conquer!


Signed with banana chips,

Squeaks.

April 28, 2016

Life Update: Squeaks' brain + my gorgeous (fat) horse + greedy cows

Dear reader (if there are any of you left at this point),

I promise I didn't leave again for good! My brain has been tied down for the last few months as I wrapped up and defended my Master of Science (MSc) thesis. I present to you the newest, latest Squeaks :)

So I've got my MSc now and life continues to advance at a horrifically fast pace. I'm officially (as of today) a PhD student. Why do I put myself through all this stress - honestly I don't know, but I really love science :P so it's not for nothing! I just rather dislike the whole let's-pump-out-the-projects-as-fast-as-your-scrawny-fingers-can-type aspect of things. Not to mention I really really really miss working on the farm in the spring/summer. There's something unnatural about being indoors, stuck at a desk, reading incredibly dry papers from the early 2000s on some far-removed electrical stimulation technique that you just might need to know about in the future :| I'd rather zap myself at this point than read another line of this dreadful material.

Pinterest
Speaking of the farm, I'm hoping this weekend I get to actually do some work around the place. The irrigation and fences need fixing, not to mention random bits of gardening and such. Plus the animals. I've started up an exercise routine with my (fat) horse - can't say whether he's enjoying it yet, but I love having the opportunity to be out in the fresh air for an hour or two.

Additionally, let's talk cows. We're hoping to send off a bunch of steers and bull calves to auction over the next month (probably). I haven't really seen much of our herd these last few months, usually because I've had my nose stuck in the folds of my computer, smashing out my thesis (which no one is every going to read front-to-back; sometimes I wonder if it was really worth all the tears and sweat and headaches, lol). In any case, our herd is up on the range at the moment; sometimes I see a bulbous eyeball or two when I drive in from work, but I haven't actually checked for new calves (or overly-pregnant cows).

So, that's on the checklist for this weekend: do a little bushwhacking and count the herd. I know our bull is still alive and healthy, because when I was coming home the other day he was standing there fat as a king, with his head draped over the barbed-wire fence eating grass from the neighbour's property :| and our grass is much nicer looking, so I think he's a little bit deluded.

I'm so looking forward to haying season this year. I can't wait to get out on the tractor for hours at a time. Trust me, it's a lot different from sitting at a desk. There's nothing like the hot sun soaking into your skin, the smell of fresh hay, the sound of the engine rumbling, that screech you make when you realize you broke the shear pin again :| (the bailer and I have a very rocky relationship at this point in our history; I think we've gone through 3 shear pins together over the years). Not to mention the joy of bouncing around on the scalding hot seat, gearing down around the corners, and trying to squelch the desire to race your sibling who's on the other tractor doing rounds in the opposite direction.

Pinterest
Ugh. I crave haying season so badly right now. I'll have to try and satisfy myself this weekend with fixing fences and picking rocks. Nothing like a good bit of back-breaking work while blasting Florida Georgia Line or Brad Paisley through your earbuds.

I think I've gone on a long enough rant about farm life (but I didn't even mention baby calves and bottle feeding and foamy milk beards!! *sniffles* there isn't enough time in the day for everything I want to talk about). My drab read titled, "Cortical and segmental excitability during fatiguing contractions of the soleus muscle in humans" is still awaiting my attentive gaze (I haven't even gotten through the methodology section yet *falls off theoretical cliff into an ocean of despair*).

If you read all of this, give yourself a small pat on the back and leave me a comment about your deepest summer wishes and dreams so we can both daydream about the perfect lives we'll never live :P Cheers to you, benevolent reader!


Signed with white-out,

Squeaks.
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