Book Review: Tender is the Flesh

Title: Tender is the Flesh
Author: Augustina Bazterrica
Genre: Sci-fi; Dystopian; Horror
Year Published: August 4, 2020

Date Started: August 1, 2022
Date finished: August 7, 2022

This book was given to me by my daughter to read because she enjoyed it. The story is about cannibalism in a future world where humans can’t eat other meats because of disease so they resort to eating human meat. Some humans are made specifically for eating. They are treated, let’s just say, how cow-farms are presumed to be treated by humans in the modern world.

The story is about a man who works in one of these human-farming companies. He and his wife are trying to have a baby but are having difficulty. The man doesn’t eat the human meat. There are strict laws on how to treat these humans and the man breaks the law. He was gifted a female human for his consumption. Because this man doesn’t eat human meat, he decides to sleep with her and in doing so impregnates her. The story snowballs into a big mess.

This was an okay story. I liked the idea of a future where meat can’t be eaten, but I didn’t like the execution. I’ve read books on cannibalism before so was curious about this one’s take. The story went on about the man and copulation with the human made for consumption. I have no issues with that, but it was that it didn’t make sense. It sort of just came out of left field. It felt like this was two stories badly sewn together. There was no clue as to why this man did what he did to this female. He could have sold this woman to the black market for a much higher price for an adoption or traded her for a baby. There were so many ways to go about this story to make it more exciting and thought provoking, but it didn’t do that for me. It was all going for the shock, but if you’re an avid reader and read multiple genres, the shock really doesn’t work. I needed more.

I almost didn’t review this book because I didn’t feel that it was worth my time, but I figured someone might enjoy my review and maybe pick up the book and read, because after all, I am all for everyone reading and learning about what’s out there.

Who should read this book: Dystopian lovers of all kinds. Also, if you enjoy speculative sci-fi or oppose eating meat, you’ll probably enjoy this book.

Book Review: Once to Die: The Other Side of Dead

Title: Once to Die: The Other Side of Dead
Author: T.S. Epperson
Genre: Fiction; Christian Suspense
Year Published: March 28, 2023

Date Started: March 20, 2023
Date finished: March 27, 2023

This story follows a homeless man named Perry. He’s a good man but just ended up on the wrong side of life. He wants success and he wants to get away from all the dangers he’s encountered. Tension builds and things happen around Perry that he can’t control. He’s desperate for the better life and finds himself at confession with a priest. Throughout the story, there are other sub-stories about a few other characters. These stories seem to somehow connect to Perry’s situation but because this is a series, it seems these stories will move to the forefront later on.

I enjoyed this story. This was my first time reading a Christian suspense/mystery thriller having to do with cops and robbers more so than detective. There is a bit of fantasy in it but done so that it doesn’t feel like it’s fantasy but more like spiritual magic. I loved loved loved the parts of the story where Perry meets and talks to the priest. I wanted more of this. It felt so real how Perry was frustrated and confused about his existence. The questions he asked the priest were questions that every person who’s struggling through life would ask. The priest himself questioned his own existence as well. It was wonderfully written.

There is a heavy Christian vibe to this story, but not in a pushy way or anything of the sort, and not for every character. It’s mainly around the main character but it’s part of his plot and necessary. You can probably pick up religious vibes from some of the other situations not having to do with the main character, but if you don’t pick it up, it would simply appear as though they were just bad luck situations.

There was only one thing that I felt could have been done better and this is just a personal picky opinion, but I thought the ending could have tied a few things together. There was so much going on in the story and so many characters’ stories to follow. Mind you, it was well done, but I would have liked to have at least one of the characters’ stories resolved or a subplot resolved.

Who should read this book: If you enjoy a good suspense/thriller that moves a bit fast and contain multiples storylines, this one is excellent.

Note: I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway but the opinion is my own.

Those Who Shape Us

Daily writing prompt
Who was your most influential teacher? Why?

We don’t realize it but the teachers who educated us on reading, writing, science, and math are shapers of our lives. Of course, there are those teachers who really shouldn’t be teaching because they really are just making a living and really don’t care to better the children who’ll eventually grow to run the world, but that’s not who we’re talking about here.

I simply can’t pick just one teacher who’ve influenced me, so here’s my list:

Elementary/Grade school: 4th grade teacher. His name was Mr. Shwindt and I remember when he picked me as the student of the year. I was shocked because there was another student who I thought was just perfect in every way and that she’d definitely get picked. Strangely, I felt bad because I didn’t think I deserved it. I was not the perfect student. I was shy in class, but loud with my friends. I wanted to grow up too fast, so I always wore makeup and curled/teased my hair (this was the 80’s). Plus, I believe you had to have straight A’s and I had like a D in music. I was afraid to sing because I didn’t like my voice. One time, Mr. Shwindt sat at our table at lunchtime, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I always thought teachers lived big and were super rich and thus were too good to sit with and chat with students. He influenced me because he showed that it didn’t matter how “rich” he was, he wanted us to know that we were all the same. Also, the teacher I had the year before him (so, 3rd grade) was to me, a bit picky. She favored certain students and no matter what I did to show that I was a good student, she just never liked me. Going from that teacher to one that was kind and fair with all the students was a nice change.

Middle School: 7th Grade English teacher. I can’t remember this teacher’s name, but she was the sweetest teacher I’d known. She had a very soft voice and never seemed to get mad. She taught so well that I remember a ton of stuff about Greek Mythology and fell in love with short literary stories. When I had moved on to 8th grade the next year, she asked me to work as her grading assistant for one of my electives. I was so excited, mainly because I realized that she appreciated me.  

I also want to give a shout out to the librarian. In 8th grade, three students from the Gifted and Talented program were picked to help her (as one of our elective courses) and I was one of the students. It was such an amazing experience to learn about how a library was ran. The librarian was also a very sweet and kind woman. At the end of the school year, there was an award ceremony where we each got an award for our help in the library, but what I really remembered was how much I’d miss my GT friends, the librarian, and all those books!

High School: 9th Grade AP English. This teacher’s name was Mrs. Burger, and she was mean. If you weren’t ready when she picked on you to answer a question, she’d come back to you and let you know she was coming back to you, so you’d better have an answer, and the right answer too. If she picked on you and you didn’t answer, she’d wait like three minutes or so (well, that’s how long it felt but it might have been shorter) before moving on to ask the next student. I was really scared of her. I didn’t understand why she had to be so hard on us. However, in college, when I was able to understand English like no one’s business, I realized it was because of her. She was so good with grammar and the usage of all the participles (present, past, perfect), perfect tenses (present perfect, past perfect, future perfect), active/passive tenses (simple present, present progressive, present perfect, present progressive, present perfect progressive, simple past, past perfect, past perfect continuous, past perfect), and so on. She also made reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens exciting. Just the way she taught us to dissect the characters really had a lasting effect, so much so that I bought David Copperfield with the little money I had (from delivering the morning newspaper with my sisters) just to be lost in another book written by Dickens.

High School: 10th Grade Botany and Zoology. This teacher was fun to learn from. He made science enjoyable by having us do some work ourselves. He was also a good lecturer too. I always felt I was in a college course in his class. At this time of my life, I had stepped down from AP English and took your basic English course and regretted it. The English course itself was interesting, but it was just too easy, and because it was a regular course, most the students didn’t care to learn in the class and preferred to talk over the teacher. The teacher was okay. I think he felt more like a babysitter than a teacher.

High School: 11th Grade AP English. I found my way back to AP English because as mentioned earlier, regular English was too easy. What I loved about this AP English was reading Brave New World. I think this was the best teacher to teach this book because I was so immersed in it, I ended up buying the book. She also introduced me (the class, but I have to assume some of the students already knew who he was) to the musician Yanni, and had me loving “These Are Days,” by 10,000 Maniacs. I already knew who 10,000 Maniacs was and had heard the song, but she got me to love the song, and eventually, I got hooked on Natalie Merchant.

High School: 12th Grade University Level Communications Course: This course was taught by the same AP English teacher in 11th grade. She was a full-time teacher at the high school and part-time teacher at the University of Colorado in Denver. This course was offered to AP English students, but we had to apply and get accepted. I was so excited when I got accepted even though I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t think I was as smart as the other students who got in. You know, you kind of just know, you know? Anyway, I loved the course. Learned a ton from this amazing teacher. When I started college, this course helped me ace all my research papers. During a review session in my English 101 class, the professor asked me if I was a pre-med student because my research paper was that good. It was all because of this teacher and my 9th grade AP English teacher.

Undergraduate School: 3rd Year (I believe). I think my HTML professor was the only teacher that I could say was most influential. He taught so fast it was hard to write anything he said down, but the cool thing with him was that in the first fifteen or twenty minutes of class, he’d talk about his family. His granddaughter was an ice skater and sometimes he’d make it to class late, but he’d tell us all about her skating and I just loved it. Then, the last few minutes of class, he’d quickly write down codes and stuff and then it was time to leave. HTML was easy to learn so I can see why he taught the way he did. I had already learned HTML on my own, so it was a breeze. This was back in the mid-90’s when the Internet was just booming and we were designing websites by simply using a notepad or if you could afford it, Macromedia Dreamweaver (before Adobe purchased it and then discontinued it). The student version was affordable, but I had a classmate who got me the full version for free. Anyway, I digress. This professor was very family oriented and loved his family so much. Even though he was good at what he did, his family always came first, and I think I took that with me.

Graduate School: 1st Year. Professor Fletcher was amazing. He was very patient and super knowledgeable. I started my program in nonfiction, writing memoir, and this professor knew so much. Also, memoir writing is no piece of cake. I found myself getting depressed and crying all the time, but I stuck through it for a year. Never told the professor. I just dealt with it. The knowledge I learned from his classes are still with me and I use them to write my fiction stories. The 2nd year (and final year) of my master’s program, I had switched to literary fiction because I found it a lot more fun and less depressing. I had taken about 6 years off between starting and finishing so when I wanted Professor Fletcher again, he’d moved on. I was pretty disappointed that I waited so long, but life got in the way, and there wasn’t anything I could have done to finish my program sooner. I would have loved to have finished my program with Fletcher. However, I was able to do that with the second best, the director of the MA and MFA programs. The director was great too. I had written a story from a dream I had and called it, Encounter. Not thinking anything of it, because I’ve never written thrillers, I figured if he liked it, he liked it. If not, I’ll try again (he was very hard to please). Turned out, it was his favorite of all my stories. I learned from this that everyone has their own taste and even the hardest to please will still enjoy a story if it fits their genre of interest.

There you have it. These were the biggest influential teachers of my educational years. There were a few others too, like two of my art teachers (one in 9th grade and one in 10th grade) who saw the artist in me, and the accounting teacher whom I’ve dedicated my first published book to. Also note, my middle school and high school years were not the best. Like a lot of others, I was bullied and had my moments thinking of dropping out of high school. Just having these teachers who enjoyed what they did and were good at it made going to school a little easier.

Book Review: Higher Connections: Humor and Inspiration from a Certified Public Pothead

Title: Higher Connections: Humor and Inspiration from a Certified Public Pothead
Author: Eric Right and Alexandra Right
Genre: Nonfiction; Addiction; Memoir
Year Published: July 27, 2022

Date Started: March 15, 2023
Date finished: March 19, 2023

This book is about the author, Eric Right, and his addiction to cannabis. The book was written while he was high on cannabis in which he was able to reach areas of thoughts that he wouldn’t be able to reach if he’d not been high. Right covers a few areas of life from raising a family to religion, to science, to questions about who we (humans) are. It’s a thought-provoking book with included research.

The topics Right touched on were interesting. He seemed to delve deeper into religion than anything else, but it’s understandable because of his upbringing. It makes sense that that’s at the forefront of his insights. I just found it unfortunate that he’s only able to delve that deep when high because it’s impossible to truly communicate with others about these insights in that state.

I’m glad to have read this book. I like learning about people and why they make the life choices they do. Right sounds like someone who’s intelligent and caring. It sounds like what lead him to the use of cannabis was his environment. He was being pulled in too many directions and found cannabis to be something to hold him together. It was also his way of escape.

This book was well written with a touch of humor. Aside from learning about Right and his life on cannabis, I also learned a lot about the effects of cannabis in how it distorts the mind (how it’s one-sided). It seems to jump start a part of the brain that’s been dormant in some people. If not done already, more studies should be done on the positives and negatives of this drug long term.

Who should read this book: Anyone interested in learning about a person’s path into using cannabis.

Book Review: Fairy Tale

Title: Fairy Tale
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Fantasy
Year Published: September 6, 2022

Date Started: March 8, 2023
Date finished: March 17, 2023

This is a story about a boy named Charlie Reade. Life was hard on him, and bad luck just seems to be something that’s been happening to him and his parents. His mother dies in an accident and his dad loses his job. Charlie ends up helping a neighbor, Mr. Bowditch, who is an ornery old man. Charlie worries for Mr. Bowditch and at first it seems mainly because Charlie didn’t want to be responsible for Mr. Bowditch’s dog, Radar. However, Charlie warms up to Radar and learns that Radar’s aggressiveness is simply how she protects her owner. She quickly warms up to Charlie. Radar barks at the shed in Mr. Bowditch’s backyard sometimes, and it piques Charlie’s curiosity, but Mr. Bowditch is adamant about not allowing anyone near it. When Mr. Bowditch dies, he wrote a letter to Charlie explaining who he really is and why he had to keep the shed a secret. He revealed the truth of the shed to Charlie and allowed Charlie to go in. Inside the shed is a whole new world, one where Charlie is known as a prince and where those who lived there, respected him and treated him like a prince.

I really enjoyed this book. It reminded me of King’s other fantasy story, “The Eyes of the Dragon,” which I enjoyed as well when I read it over some two decades ago. I think King writes excellent fantasy and should continue writing them. There is just something about the way his stories come together in his fantasy stories that make them fun to read.

Who should read this book: Fantasy lovers of all ages.

Events and Gatherings

WP Question: What makes you most anxious?

Events and gatherings make me anxious. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy going places and trying new things and revisiting old places, etc., but when it comes to scheduled events, I get super anxious, especially in places like the image above. That photo was taken in 2018 during oldest daughter’s national competition at the ESPN center in Disney World. It was a lot of fun being there, supporting her and the team, but it gave me a ton of anxiety just keeping up with the times they would perform (so I won’t miss them) and remembering the team’s schedule afterwards like pick up time, and dinner time, etc.

In general, anytime I have to plan an event, including things like making reservations, I get extremely nervous. I was always like this, even during undergrad and graduate school when presenting, and during the years I worked as a student finance advisor when I had to educate new students on financial aid. Years ago when my sister and I and two cousins created a Hmong dance group and performed at the Dragon Boat Festival and all over the city, I was super nervous. One time the camera man from the local news had the camera on my sister and I and asked me some questions but I just couldn’t speak up. I think my sister ended up doing the talking.

Strangely, I used to teach Catechism and I never got anxious. I believe I taught for about 10 years and enjoyed every moment of it. Maybe teaching isn’t so much an event or gathering. I’m not sure. I just know if I have to plan anything or attend a planned gathering, yeah I get super quiet and just want to hide.

Book Review: Tides of Blue

Title: Tides of Blue
Author: Sharon Brukaker
Genre: Fiction; Literary, Women’s Fiction
Year Published: October 20, 2020

Date Started: March 9, 2023
Date finished: March 12, 2023

This story is about two women, Anna Grace and Beth, who are in abusive marriages and learn to find their way out. The two stories take place in two different time periods, one in the 1800’s and one in the present. The two stories are intertwined through the sea glass which plays an important backdrop in both women’s lives.

I really enjoyed this story. I like how it began with Anna Grace’s story and how she ended up marrying an abusive man. She didn’t know it at the time that he was abusive and by the time she realized he wasn’t who she thought he’d be, it was too late. As for Beth, she too didn’t realize her husband’s abusive ways until he became extremely violent. Luckily, for both these two women, they each found a man who was caring and supportive.

The tension buildup was excellent. I was on edge when Beth’s husband pretty much went crazy. I felt it was well done and really got me rooting for Beth and the other man who cared about her. This is a well written story of suffering and love. The added history behind the sea glass was a plus. I loved learning about them.

Who should read this book: Anyone into overcoming violence and learning to move on from it. The information about the sea glass is also very fascinating and worth learning in this book.

Homemade Bread

A month ago or so, I ordered a dutch oven from Amazon in hopes to try making my own bread. I watched a bunch of Youtubes on how to make bread. There were lots of videos that I got overwhelmed a bit. I then Googled a bread recipe and found this one. It sounded simple and easy so I went with it. I’m very happy to say, it turned out pretty good. The outside was super crunchy and the inside was soft and slightly chewy. I had it with butter and it was delicious.

You don’t need a dutch over to make bread. There are different ways and they can be found all over Youtube or the Internet. I personally wanted to try making it in a dutch oven. I’ve been eying bread bakers and bread makers and want to try them out but I just don’t have a lot of room in my kitchen. I’ve been thinking of turning part of the basement into a storage for cooking/baking items but that’s not going to happen. I’d rather convert it to scrapbooking room #2 because I love papers and colors more. Anyway, my next bread making goal is to make rye bread. I love rye bread especially with caraway seeds.

If you’ve made bread before, let me know your method or if you have a recipe you think I should try out.

You Made It!

Write a letter to your 100-year-old self.

Dearest Self,

How’s that rocking chair working for ya? I’m kidding. You don’t like rocking chairs. You like stillness, the sound of rain, the quietness of snow, and soft autumn winds.

You always knew life was hard and unfair. I think from the moment that little girl cut the chewing gum unfairly, giving you just barely enough when she gave herself and her other friend bigger pieces, you were aware that something was not right. You got the short end of the stick and for some reason, it was like a foreshadow for your future. You were maybe three-years-old, but that feeling remained. It’s strange how we remember these hurtful things that others forget, yet they too remember their own hurtful memories that others forget. Even you forget how you’ve hurt someone, but I’m glad you don’t deny it or pretend you’re too perfect to do anything like that. It’s recognizing our faults that make us human. It’s also not recognizing our faults that make us human.

The hard life and difficulties of life began from memories of your parents. You saw their struggles when you yourself experienced hardship. Only then did you realize what it meant to struggle. Instead of feeling as though these were battles you’d never win, you succeeded. You worked hard. And again, it was because you saw how your parents persevered and succeeded. I know if you were given the opportunity, you’d thank your parents. You’d speak their tongue so perfectly that you could eloquently explain to them how much they’ve done to give you the life you have now. They did their best and you’d tell them that.

It seems you don’t give yourself any credit. You want to thank your parents, your friends, your siblings, your spouse, your children, your teachers, your bosses and co-workers. It is always someone who did something for you to get you where you are. Will you ever give yourself credit? (LOL…no)

Well, I’m proud of you living to 100. Even though your goal was at least 1 billion years, 100 is pretty good, for a human.


Life Update and Book Review: These Violent Nights

The book review is below this life update. You can skip and go directly to the review because it could be a bit depressing.

I’m currently playing catch up on my book reviews from the last year and before. There was a period in there when I was trying really hard to blog but my father had passed away in 2020 and thinking that I could handle it, I tried to keep going like everything was okay. But everything wasn’t okay. I just blocked all my emotions. I knew it was all going to catch up to me, I just didn’t know when and how.

In August 2020, my dad died unexpectedly from a brain hemorrhage. When he was in the ER with my youngest sister and wanted to see me (and one of my other sister–I have 3 sisters–he wanted to see all his 7 children, but at the time, only three of us were available) really badly, we sort of just told him that we’d see him later because they were running tests and stuff on him, but then it turned out, due to COVID, only one family member could be with him for the day. We also didn’t think much of it. Dad had gone to the ER before and it was always something easily taken care of. While driving back to our mom’s house, we chatted with Dad on video message. He was all hooked up but looked happy. He smiled at us and tried to talk. He was very happy to see us on video.

Later the same day, the doctor said they needed to perform an operation on his brain to relieve it from the hemorrhage but they had to send him to a different hospital where they specialized in the procedure. The next day he arrived at the other hospital and they performed the surgery. Our whole family was there including all our spouses and some cousins.

After the surgery, we were told that Dad was not going to wake up and that they’d keep him hooked up until we said our good-byes.

Three years later and I still miss him. I still dream of him (like this morning) and wake up thinking he’s still here. When he was alive, he’d often call me just to ask me how I’m doing, how my kids are doing, and how my husband’s doing. If I had missed his calls, he’d leave a message. I know it’s weird but I’ve kept all his voice mails. I don’t listen to them very often (just once since his passing).

Anyway, I hope I don’t weird anyone out. There was a moment I thought I should delete the messages, but I just can’t find myself to do it. I think just knowing I have a part of him still near me is comforting. I rarely go to the cemetery to visit his grave site. Having his messages on my phone means more. It reminds me of how he cared about my well-being.

For the last couple of years, I blamed myself. I kept telling myself I should have gone and seen him inside the ER. I should have found a way to switch places with my sister to see him. I was angry at the doctors and I was angry at myself. It was only after hearing on the news that another man had died from the same brain hemorrhage that I forgave the doctors and realized they did all they could. I don’t hold grudges so you can see how much weight that was to hold a grudge on them for at least a year.

I’m going to stop there. I just thought I should let this out because sometimes I think people see me as a robot because I don’t tend to share my feelings or emotions very much. And for the most part, I don’t get emotional really. It sometimes makes situations very uncomfortable.

Title: These Violent Nights
Author: Rebecca Crunden
Genre: Fantasy romance; Dark fantasy
Year Published: March 31, 2021

Date Started: September 27, 2021
Date finished: June 1, 2022

This is a dark fantasy that follows two friends through a dystopian world where an alien race, the Suriias, made their way to earth via a portal and destroyed most of humanity. The remaining humans were either turned into slaves or killed. The human world was completely taken over by this race and in order to survive the humans must remain hidden or else their lives would be completely controlled by the Suriias.

The story is split into three parts. The first part focuses on the two human friends, Thorn and Thistle. The second part tells the story of a human named Nik and Lucien (the Suriias in the first part). There is a love story between the two men. Their relationship grows slowly and eventually and ultimately becomes a full-blown relationship. The third part ties both of these stories together.

This was a great story. I really enjoyed it. The magic in this story was excellent. I liked that they had to hide their magic so most of the story was about the relationships between the characters. The world is very gloomy and creates a dangerous place to be. The backstories are done exceptionally well describing the aliens path to earth and the destruction of earth.  

Who should read this book: If you’re into fantasy mixed with dark future worlds or dystopian, this one is excellent.