The Mortal Instruments–A Book Review (with a little extra)

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Photo by the Bialons on Unsplash

It’s Christmas day, but as they say, writers never take a day off. So happy Bookworms day!

I’m the kind of girl who grew up burying myself every last book of the Harry Potter series until I made it to the final pages of the seventh—not only did my appreciation for an intensely and lovingly made series shoot sky high, my standards were also set pretty high for fantasy world building.

It’s not easy after all.

But alas, I found another series that isn’t quite on the same level, but simply in a different kind of category of fantasy world building. Yet, I started the first book back in middle school and here I am as a junior in college, still diligently awaiting the release of every new book so I can fall farther into the pages.

And it I’m going to keep talking about it, I guess I should introduce this series to you. So without further ado, here it is.


The Mortal Instruments, Infernal Devices, and Dark Artifices—Cassandra Clare

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Photo by Max Felner on Unsplash

Now, notice I put three different series up here; even though she started with the Mortal Instruments, if you want to find the full appreciation for these books, you need to read the rest after you finish the first set. From the Mortal Instruments, Clare pulls important details about the characters and their families through to her next series of a different century, the Infernal Devices, and finally her most recent and modern series, The Dark Artifices. Every single one plays off the last, so I hope you’re ready to pay attention.

With six different books within the Mortal Instruments, each sets the elaborate and intense background for the rest of the books to come later. Here you meet the main characters you’ll see reappearing through the rest of the books, whether through family name or actual presence. Jace, Clary, Alec, Isabelle, Simon, and Magnus all begin their journey here. But trust me, they don’t stop anytime soon.

There’s a reason a younger me fell in love with both Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs of the Infernal Devices. And don’t get me started on Tessa, she is quite the badass if I may say so myself.

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Every one of these books is the kind that lets you get lost in another world of things that would never happen in this one—if you have a thing for fantasy and elaborate world building, this is a good place to start.

But I give a fair warning, if you start here, you probably won’t stop.

Now I give these books high regard because just like the Harry Potter Series, I always seem to come back to them when I’m looking for something to get lost in. That doesn’t mean they are without flaw.

First of all, these books are definitely not child friendly as there are quite a few sexual scenes that even if they leave most to the imagination, people will probably assume the same things. Also, if there is any religious sentiment against magic and the works, this series is a no go.

As a whole, the books also seem to get better as Clare kept writing them; though I remember feeling like six books for the Mortal Instruments was a little long, I still loved all of it despite the tedious attitude I took on to find out what happened next. Tapering down to three for the Infernal devices and The Dark Artifices (so far, I’m almost done with the 3rd book that came out on the 4th, so I don’t even know if this is the end yet) was probably a good idea.

Logically, if you haven’t read a lot of fantasy, it can be hard to get a good grasp on this kind of world when it involves warlocks and downworlders and angelic powers, etc. But if you can get into it and truly understand it all, it’s definitely something I think people who like fantasy would enjoy. As long as you don’t mind heavy emphasis on romantic drama in the process—it seems to be the backbone for most of these plots on some level or another.

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Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Overall, I have enjoyed these books over the years and I guess, maybe this wasn’t a regular Bookworms post considering I just went through three different series for you. But hey, it’s Christmas after all and from a bibliophile, this was my little extra gift to all of you.


So Merry Christmas everyone (who celebrates) and Happy holidays to each one of you and your loved ones.

Have a wonderful day.

Risk vs. Reward– Defining Worth

There are nights when your friends ask you to go out for dinner or a movie and you answer without hesitating: Absolutely. Then of course, there are the nights when someone asks what you’re up to and you tell them something along the lines of this Harry Potter gif: giphy

So what do you do about the times when you really have no idea what you want… Say yes and miss out on this. Or say no and miss out on that. Whether it’s your grades or a fun night or even just good company, it’s a bit of a toss up right?

For the last week, I have been trying to find a balance within that toss up, between working almost forty hours and cramming for two finals and an essay, among other things. Did I hesitate to say yes in going out with my old team last night, while staying up with them till three am in the process, knowing I had another full shift today? 

No I did not.

But should I have?

I’m not sure. Because between my grades, very little sleep, a long shift, and one final still to go, I have to figure out what is more worth it to me and make that a priority. As I think most of us understand, figuring out priorities isn’t the easiest thing.

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Photo by Nicolas Lobos on Unsplash

Take spending money for example— sometimes when you’re really just craving Thai food or you see an outfit that you cannot pass up, you decide that you want to spend the money and go for it. But even as I tend to do that on occasion, I still hesitate and think, at least for a moment, that maybe I should save my money.

What if I need it tomorrow and that’s the exact amount I needed?

What if I get home to realize someone else already bought the food and wants to share.

What if I wear the outfit out and actually hate it, so I never wear it again?

What if I should use my money to put into my retirement fund instead? Unlikely, but still a possible thought.

It’s a risk and reward type of situation, and it comes down to the decision of what’s best. The difference is whether or not what you consider “for the best” is in the moment or in the long run.

Maybe it can be both.

Because we can bring this back to my work schedule, catching up with friends last night, and knowing I worked today, while still deciding to… Go for it. Was it worth it?

Absolutely. As much as people and sometimes I like to say “GPA is forever,” my GPA isn’t always the best company. Especially if it’s so low that it can’t even pick me up if I needed it to. In the long run, my grades probably won’t be what I remember, nor will the amount of hours I worked or the time I spent studying.

What I want to remember are the nights like last night, the people who are worth my time, the fun that I have to remind myself I deserve, and the moments that I get to slow down in for a little bit. Even when I don’t think there’s time.

That’s probably the best time to make some.

When it comes to risk and reward, only risk it if it’s for you and you alone— risk it for your success, your happiness, your youth, your love. Risk it for your life. Because your life is worth the good that comes next.

The reward of having lived fully, not holding yourself back, and remembering that you’re the real priority in this, that the good. And you deserve that.


See you all on Tuesday for another Poetry Place, here’s to another summer weekend.

Growing Up: 4 lessons I’ve learned from Books

With finals coming up next week and a weekend ahead of too much studying, instead I’ve been thinking about all the books I haven’t gotten to read this summer. From the classics I bought a few weeks ago at Barnes & Noble to my favorites that I still enjoy re-reading, I’m the kind of person who learns a lot from my books.

I’m also the kind of person who ignores what I learn from what I read.aga-putra-125108

That being said, I think we could all use a reminder every once in awhile take a break and hold onto the things that used to mean a lot to us. So as a little motivation for the upcoming weekend and a reminder that there are still two weeks to catch up on reading before the new quarter starts, here are four of my favorite lessons I’ve learned from literature. And you can bet that Fitzgerald made this list.

Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain

“There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.”

No matter who you are, how much money you have, or who you’ve been in the past, life is something that will always come with obstacles. If you’re like me, the hardship of doing something or the fear of what it will take to get there can stop us from even trying. We decide not to race. But in The Art of Racing in the Rain, told from the perspective of a dog, it really is the effort that counts. That’s the thing about life… We have to be willing to fail, otherwise what would life be to us? Failure is a part of the game, nidhin-mundackal-281287like getting on a bike for the first time. Even if your parents told you that you’re not going to fall a few times, you are. They lied to you. But that’s the point, you’re supposed to learn all about it along the way, it’s how we become who we are. As for the falling part, you don’t stop tripping as you get older. You simply figure out how to fall the right way.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

“No good sitting and worrying, what’s coming will come and we’ll meet it when it does.”

If I told you that I do my fair share of worrying on a daily basis, that would be an understatement. I’m a worrier. A big one. Summer quarter hasn’t finished yet, but somehow I’m still thinking about the midterms I know are coming by the first week of October. Does that mean the worrying prepares me for the tests any better? Not really. But I’m not the only one who thinks about things like this, a lot of us do it. One thing that a lot of people forget to do, however, is live in the moment. Sometimes we have to take things in stride. If anyone was good at that, it would be the young witches and wizards in Harry Potter— with the wrath of Voldemort and the pieces of his soul breathing down on them, they didn’t have time to get caught up in what might be coming. Neither do we. Because as much as I would like to say we’ve got our whole lives ahead of us to worry, there’s no guarantee there will be a tomorrow for each of us. And at some point, we’ve got to start living. Why not now?

Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

When I made the decision to switch my major to English, I wanted to mark the change with something permanent, even if it was something small. So I filled the top of my laptop with quotes that mean something to me, little reminders of the lives I’ve lived through literature. Among them is this beautiful line of fiction, possibly one of the best. As someone who has high aspirations and dreams of who I want to be, I also want to change from who I’ve been in the past. robert-crawford-12905But it does not bode well to dwell on dreams and forget about reality in the process. I know that a lot of us hope for these changes, the hope to become someone better or to succeed in a way that fulfills our dreams… Even while we do so, we also have to remember that the only way to be better than who we used to be, we have to know who we were first. To get to the future, we have to be present.

Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

“I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.”

Last but never the least, let’s talk about love— it all comes down to the beating heart of humanity. Love is the kind of thing that you can ask someone what it means get a different answer every single time. I wrote an essay last year defining love as “a manmade construct used to symbolize devotion, with no real concrete definition due to its reliance on singular experiences that differ from person to person.” It cannot be defined by gender or by passion or by sex or by society. Love is feeling, it’s telling someone to call when they get home safe, or asking how their day was and caring about the answer, or twenty seven years of sticking by their side in sickness, in health, and everything in between. Love is listening to someone’s heartbeat against yours, the only sounds in the room, and understanding that you don’t daria-sukhorukova-496 (1).jpgalways need words to tell someone how you feel. In a generation said to have forgotten what “love” means, I don’t think that’s the case. Like anyone else, we just express it in our own ways that grow and change with who we are. No one can tell us how we are supposed to feel it, we just do. And I can be okay with that.

 

No matter what you find in your life or how it impacts you, the lessons we learn have the potential to change who we are from little bits of our personalities to the people we want to be. I feel like learning from books is a chronicle of time, the timeless value of life in literature. If we can’t learn something valuable from that, can we ever learn anything at all?

Happy Friday everyone, until next week.

Getting Unstuck: 5 ways to get back up again

Welcome to the second week of August— aka, the time when all the high schoolers realize that a new year just started and all the college kids realize that the end of summer is inevitable. lisheng-chang-239427With a new year starting for everyone and all the adults giving in to the impending end to vacation time, sometimes we look in the mirror on that first day and realize something: We’re stuck.

Personally, I’ve been finding myself getting restless lately. As all my friends head back to college or move on to new things, I’m taking a summer class I’ve ironically already taken and doing most of the things I’ve always done because there aren’t many people here to do new things with. I guess you could say that I’ve been feeling a bit stuck.

We’ve all been there right?

But as a way to get myself back up and moving again, and maybe to help out anyone else feeling the same way, I decided to write about it. Let’s be honest, it’s what I do. So if you’re feeling stuck, if you’re looking for something new, or you just have a little time to read, here are 5 ways to remind yourself what it’s like to live your life.

 

Be honest with yourself

“Honesty is the best policy.” I know my parents used to always remind me of this and I’m really not sure who said it, but I can tell you that when it comes to ourselves, the truth is important. Are you pushing yourself in a certain direction even though it may not be where you want to go? Stop pushing, break those boundaries. When people get stuck, it’s often because we feel like we’re not headed towards anything special. The thing is, the only person who can make where we’re headed anything but boring is us. So be honest with yourself— if you don’t like dancing then stop dancing, if you need new friends then find new friends, if you don’t like who you’re becoming… Find a way to become someone better. Just because you’re stuck doesn’t mean you can’t get out. You’ve simply got to want to.

Try something new

Have you ever found yourself watching the same Netflix show or re-reading the same book because you liked it the first (few) times? As someone who absolutely loves to re-read books, even I get bored of it after a while. But our hobbies and our outlets, they change who we are— you cannot change if you’re still doing the same things you’ve always done. Maybe there’s a sport that you have had your eye on for a while, thinking “I wonder if I would enjoy doing that.” As a student, there’s no time like the present, put yourself out there! Even for the adults there are different things for different places, like wine tasting and monthly hiking meet-ups, or Thursday night markets and live music… The only way to try something new is to go all in and do it. It takes a bit of vulnerability, the idea of being in a zone that may not exactly be comfortable. But give it some time and effort on your part, and maybe that comfort zone can get a little wider.

Find a different path to follow

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what path we’re on, like Little Red Riding Hood finding herself going down the wrong one. Finding the right one is a trial and error kind of thing. ivana-cajina-337709If you don’t like the people you meet or the things you find along the way, change your direction. Easier said than done? How about this: everything we do is an attempt to get closer to that next chapter, whether it’s paying off bills for the house, picking a college major, or even working hard at a job in hope of a raise and later on, retirement. We do all of these things with a goal in mind. Yet sometimes these goals are too far ahead of us; we get tired. You have to set smaller goals. Allow yourself to feel like you’re accomplishing something every day, even you just read a few pages in a new book or tried that new yoga pose. No matter what you do, give yourself a chance to feel something other than stressed out or over-worked. By giving yourself that break and finding a bit of breathing room, you might feel like you’re headed in the right direction along the way.

Be okay with failure

This one is short and sweet— sometimes you are going to fail. And that is okay. A few weeks ago, I tried picking up a new hobby: painting. Not that I expected to be a prodigy or anything, but in hindsight, I’m not very good at painting. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun. Usually when I try new things, I have the security of knowing I’ll be good at them. Like pursuing writing or trying out for a capella— I knew I at least had a shot. But if you’re trying to get out of a slump, maybe what you need is a little failure. We could all use the reminder sometimes; we’re only human and failing comes with title… As long as we don’t stop there. So let yourself fail, let yourself try, and let yourself fail all over again. If you are enjoying something new, then it doesn’t matter whether you’re good or not. As long as it makes you feel alive or like a part of this life, never let failure stop you. Who knows, maybe you’re better than you think.

Let go of Expectations

Last but not least, this is something a friend of mine told me last week that I’ve been trying to take to heart: There will be times when you need to let go of the expectations you have and just live your life day by day. Simply expect yourself to keep going. As someone who loves to read and get lost in the fictional worlds others have build, it gets easy to lose sight of reality and the life that actually belongs to me. I was a little disappointed that some giant didn’t bring me a cake on my eleventh birthday to tell me I’m a wizard, or that I didn’t grow up with a satyr as a best friend because Poseidon is actually my father. My expectations were a smidge too high.But we all have them and sometimes, they don’t push us forward. They hold us back. So right now, I am asking you to do one thing: let them go, just for a little while. Live outside of your boundaries, brooke-cagle-336464outside of what you think you want, and go find something that makes you happy right now. Once you find that, go find another thing, and another thing, until your heart is so content that you’re running out of room. Then take a look at those expectations— have they changed a little bit? And most importantly, have you changed? I hope so.

With these 5 ideas, I’m hoping that I can find my way to change. I keep telling myself that I’m too young to be stuck, and maybe I’m not. I just haven’t been trying hard enough to get up. But if you’re ready for something new, then allow yourself to go chase life, whether you have all the time in the world or a just a few minutes here to pick up that book. Every little bit counts.

So here’s to getting unstuck, another attempt at painting for me, and to looking in the mirror to realize that maybe this truly is a good life. Good luck and until next week 🙂

In Loving Memory and Suicide Prevention

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

 

They say that no matter what happens, life goes on. And it does— unless something else gets in the way.

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On Wednesday, our 15 year old yellow Lab, Samson, passed away and though I am incredibly sad to have lost a member of our family, I am also thankful he had such a long life with us. Over the years, we watched him grow up, climb fences, father puppies, and eat our food (two whole cakes at one point). Then we watched him grow older, slow down, climb the stairs less, and inch his way towards a deadline none of us could see.  

No one can ever truly see it coming.

But that’s the point. Because lately I have been thinking a lot about life and death, or more specifically, death when it comes by way of suicide. We’re not supposed to be able to see that deadline, but far too often, people make their own.

It has been almost three years, yet I can still remember a young boy who had attended Folsom Middle and went as far as homeschooling to escape relentless torment— Ronin took his own life because he was bullied too far past his breaking point. At age 12, he was said to be kind, outgoing, and even “better than some of the girls” when it came to the junior cheerleading squad. I still remember the green ribbons tied around trees throughout town for him. He was only in seventh grade and sometimes I wonder where Ronin would be now if he were still alive; a question none of us will ever have the answer to.

Three weeks ago, a junior from Cal Poly Slo took his own life after battling what seemed to be bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. I never knew Jack either, but from what I can tell he had an incredible amount of promise and a personality that made others feel like they mattered. Though there may be no proven cure for the two illnesses he suffered from, there are countless ways to find help and reach out when someone is struggling to cope day by day. Every day the stigma around mental illness fades little by little, but even so, the rates of suicide in young adults and teenagers continues to rise.michael-dam-258179.jpg

Something needs to change.

Two weeks ago, a girl I can only say I knew from passing in the halls of Vista Del Lago High or as part of the Class of 2015 also took her own life. Yet Cinnamon is survived by so many people from the music program at the high school, which you may donate to in memory of her, to her family and friends alike. Though I can say nothing about her motivations or the situation she found herself in that led to her death, I can say that she was loved and made an impact on countless people throughout her life.

A life that was cut too short.

I said this last year in my post on world suicide prevention month, but this is something I can never say enough: Your life matters. No matter what you’ve been through, from family divorce and bullying, to heartbreak and failure, the universal truth of the matter is that life goes on.

But it can only do that if you let it.

When it comes to mental illness, or bullying, or hardship that seems too large to overcome, people can find themselves wanting to quit, wanting a way out. Maybe you aren’t where you wanted to be in your life or you don’t think you’re strong enough, good enough, smart enough… The list goes on and the people who feel this way begin to add up, when maybe a just few of them can’t hear it when someone says “I love you” or “you’re important to me.”

These words cannot be said enough, if you love somebody, tell them that. To anyone who has ever found themselves losing hope, or running out of fight, know that it is okay to ask for help, there is nothing wrong with that. For you are not broken, you are never a burden, and you will always be loved by someone. Just because you don’t always feel strong or like people need you in this life doesn’t mean either is true.

Just because you cannot see the stars in the daylight does not mean they aren’t there.

For the survivors and those who have lost loved ones, support is always, always a priority. My heart goes out to all of you in hope that healing can come with time.

In order to help raise awareness and prevent tragedies like this in the future, here are just a few warning signs of suicide to look out for and a link if you want to know more: Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose, talking about being a burden to others, increasing the use of alcohol or drugs, or withdrawing/feeling isolated.

annie-spratt-218458Below, if you or someone you know ever needs assistance in a hard time or just needs some help, here is the Crisis Text Line which is a toll-free, nationwide 24/7 crisis text line. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24/7, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline for suicidal crisis or emotional distress. And lastly, The Trevor Project which is a nationwide organization that provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

And on a final but very important note, if anyone ever needs someone to talk to, to not talk to, or just sit and exist with, I am always available no matter who you are, how I know you, or even if I know you at all. My email is on the site, kwilliamsbooks@gmail.com, feel free to reach out to me, any time and any day. Because you are worth it.

Though we may not be at Hogwarts, and I may not be a wizard, the quote still stands…

“Help will always be given [in my life] to those who ask for it.”