31 December 2014

Book Review: Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

anita shreve stella bain book cover review

 Goodreads description (x):
When an American woman, Stella Bain, is found suffering from severe shell shock in an exclusive garden in London, surgeon August Bridge and his wife selflessly agree to take her in. A gesture of goodwill turns into something more as Bridge quickly develops a clinical interest in his houseguest. Stella had been working as a nurse's aide near the front, but she can't remember anything prior to four months earlier when she was found wounded on a French battlefield. In a narrative that takes us from London to America and back again, Shreve has created an engrossing and wrenching tale about love and the meaning of memory, set against the haunting backdrop of a war that destroyed an entire generation.

 My rating: 4 out of 5 hoots

book review scale owl 

I have a huge interest in reading books about war. I picked this book up before I even read the synopsis, so it was really just luck that it happened to revolve around World War I. In college, I took both a history class on The Great War and a literature class where we read books acknowledging The Great War, so this is definitely a book I would have chosen eventually. 

Our main character, Stella Bain--who tells us the story through her eyes--is a strong female character who I was in awe of and identified with. She's likeable right away, and is a well-developed character. When it's aware that she has shell shock (now usually known as PTSD), I was also intrigued because Anita Shreve did a good job of both detailing what exactly shell shock is, how numbing it can be in all counts, and how it can also affect women. I'm sure in Stella Bain's time (early 1900's) they simply brushed her symptoms off as hysteria because she was a woman. It made me think of today and how many women suffering from chronic illnesses are misdiagnosed or not even diagnosed at all because doctors state everything is just "all in their head." Yep, the hysteria still continues. 

The book was so well-written. I had never before read an Anita Shreve book, but from some of the Goodreads reviews, it seems like her other books are wonderful as well. Stella Bain was full of amusing words, a vast array of pensive quotes, and humor in time of a world of sadness. 

stella bain anita shreve quote book review great war world war

 The foremost reason I did not rate this book even higher was due to the last half--especially the quick ending which kind of jumps suddenly out at you. I was not impressed with the speed nor the ending itself.

Right before the sudden ending was a drawn out court case in which Stella Bain tries to gain custody of one of her children. I did think this was a bit interesting and that it was handled differently than usual, but also that it was given too much detail to. It probably could've been dropped. I mean, did I enjoy some of the parts? Yes, but did I think it really added to the story? Not so much. It really was just a long precursor added in as an excuse for Stella to go back to London where the story then ends (I'm not giving everything away).

For whatever reason, after Stella regains herself, the book just wasn't as interesting. It's like Stella found life and the book itself closed off its own chapters of life. Does that make sense? It became a little boring, then, and it's not necessarily because she was a different person and all that, it was just because the book changed. Like I said, it has a lot to do with the court case, especially.

I would recommend this book, still.
If you like books regarding war, bits of psychology or medicine, romance, and books that make you angry at the end (just kidding!)... Give it a try.

24 December 2014

UNi Argan Oil Review

While this organic UNi Argan Oil has many uses, I've mainly used it on my hands and on my face for the past month or so.

I did try it on my hair, but found it made it greasier. I don't know if that would have eventually evened itself out after a few more uses or not, but I wasn't ready to try since I have enough trouble trying to get the grease out as it is. (Dry shampoo, I love you.)

Although it claims to just have a "light nutty scent," my family members found the scent absolutely repulsive. My dad said I smelled like--and I'm quoting on his behalf--a dirty hippie. I actually didn't mind the scent, truth be told. Being completely honest, I kind of liked it. It gave off just a hint of an earthy scent. It wasn't pungent to me, or anything like my family members gave the impression of. Either my smeller is broken or something's up... (Although I did read some Amazon reviews where other people felt like the scent was pretty nasty too, just a head's up.)

I do like how the bottle comes with a little dropper. This way I don't have to worry about pouring too much into my hands, and it's just right for when I want a small amount for my cuticles. Yes, this stuff's great for your hands AND your cuticles!

argan oil bottle review image beauty

I didn't use a lot of it on my body other than my hands, but when I did, I used it on my ashy elbows and it always seemed to soak in quite well and last for a good time without having used more than a few drops of the oil. When using it on my hands, it always felt like a spa experience. Actually, anytime I used the Argan Oil it felt a bit like a spa experience. I hope if you use this stuff you'll say the same. Or if you've used it before, you'll agree. It was just so nice to have something that moisturized my hands without feeling too greasy or being too hard to work in--especially now that it's winter time.

The best part about this product for me was definitely using it as a moisturizer on my face. After taking a shower and making sure my face was nice, fresh, and clean, I would apply some of the Argan Oil all over my face (except for my lips, even though it says you can do so--I didn't like the taste). I tend to get dry patches lightly on my cheeks and heavily on my eyebrows, but after using the Argan Oil every time my face was clean, I noticed improvements in how much less I was using regular moisturizer when it came time to put on makeup.

This is 100% pure Argan Oil. Pure organic Argan Oil. So this is the good stuff.
And like I said before, there are so many uses for this product. From treating split ends, to reducing sunburns and rashes,  to even helping with psoriasis! 
My mother has eczema and very dry skin. I'm hoping to get her a bottle of her own so she can try the Argan Oil out for herself. 

If you want to try it out for yourself, you can click the link at the very top to take you to Amazon's website where you can check out how neat the product is, or you can take a look at the product at the actual website here.

*I received this product for free to review. All opinions above are honest and mine.

15 December 2014

Macabre Monday: Dark Mountain

dark mountain 2014 movie film review horror

I think most of us here can say that we've seen The Blair Witch Project and ultimately--at least back then--it was freaky and scary and something in a new vein altogether.

Dark Mountain (2013), another found footage film, will have you saying something along the lines of, "Hey isn't this a lot like--" Yep. Do not even say it because it's already been said for you, in fact, in the movie itself.

BUT, I do have to say that most found footage films bring me back, in a sense, to The Blair Witch Project. So even though there are immense similarities between the two films that have been pointed out, I'll try to steer away from the witchiness aspect in this review.

You know what the TBWP is about--what's this ominously titled Dark Mountain about, huh?
Well, first of all, let me just start by saying that the title caught my eye because it reminded me of a place near where I used to live called Black Mountain. So that's something.

Now that I have that off my chest, the scenery in the movie is completely different from where I used to live. Yes, there are mountains. But in the movie, the mountains are desert mountains. Why? Because the characters--a filmmaker and her two guy friends--are in the Superstition Mountains located in Arizona. WHY? (I sound like a little kid.) Because they're looking for the notorious Lost Dutchman mine.

lost dutchman mine movie dark mountain film horror

Apparently the Lost Dutchman mine has some misfortunes that surround it. From hardcore legends, to strange phenomena, to missing people, and even deaths...this sounds like nothing to mess around with!

What I really appreciate in horror films is when they add an aspect of realness to the plot. Especially something historical. Apparently the Lost Dutchman mine is alive and well--or once was, who knows?

After interviewing a few locals--and I mean real locals--the gang begins their trek to find the lost mine and all its gold.

One thing that really annoyed me right off the bat was that these shoddy camera phone scenes were used which looked like they were using some Instagram filter named something like "1970's Camaro Douche"--I MEAN REALLY.

Let's just take a gander...
dark mountain screenshot instagram hulu movie horror film
Gross, just gross. Get it away!

Aside from the...whatever is above...and the long, pondering silences...and the nods to TBWP, I did enjoy the film, I have to say.

I'm one that usually likes ambiguous endings. Where the viewer has to decide--was it this that happened, was it that, were they all just crazy, am I crazy?

This is one of those films. The way I see it, that means a lot of other people aren't going to like the ending because most people want a straight up-and-down answer.

Endings don't always sit well with me, though. Movies are hard to end. Anything is hard to end. That's why I try to judge the rest of the film even more.

Which is why I'm now asking myself: Did the movie freak me out a bit?
Yes. And that's why I'm recommending it.

14 December 2014

{Widened Horizons}

(Sunday, Sunday, Sunday.)

We've all made it through another week.
This month has been flying by for me. Which is almost frightening considering I still don't have all my Christmas shopping done--oops!

I've been scouring the Internet in full force this weekend. Which is why this Widened Horizon's post rules. Maybe you'll even find that special something you've been hunting for, for that special someone, that you really didn't even know you were looking for. Uh...right?


These awesome fortune teller knee socks!
fortune teller knee socks crystal ball cool
I see...
I see you buying these...

I love knee high socks. They're stylish, they're cute, and they're comfy-cozy.
This shag cardigan looks to be all of those things and more. And it's perfect for winter!
shag cardigan winter fluffy white

You know what else goes well with all of the above? COFFEE. Especially a coffee mug that is full of sass.
This "introvert" coffee mug is something I have been coveting since I saw it last week! I. need. it.
introvert coffee mug cup funny cute

Something my family and I really need to do is organize better. I mean organize everything better.
Since it's winter, and we're taking advantage of the fireplace, I think it's time we organize how we stack our wood instead of just piling it all up in a corner by the fireplace. While this log hoop stands no chance of realistically fitting into our house, I WISH it could. At least it gives us an idea of a better way to organize our wintry ways. 
fireplace firewood wood log hoop organize organization

I have to admit, I am kind of freaking out about what to wear over the holidays.
Since I mainly wear dresses, I am limited in my choices, by that doesn't mean I have to wear the same type of dresses every day.
This beautifully colored plus size swing dress is just darling! I already own a Stop Staring! dress and although I rarely get the chance to wear it, it is well-crafted and one of my finest dresses.
eggplant purple swing dress retro vintage pinup stop staring plus size

For the owl find, I discovered this really neat necklace that seals with a cork; it can actually be used to hold essential oils! I know how my essential oil, Chill Pill, really calms me while I'm at home. I can't imagine being able to carry that around with me while I'm grocery shopping or outside the home in general, faced with an anxiety-inducing situation.
owl bottle necklace cork essential oil neat

Now, keep on dreaming!
tumblr keep on dreaming motivation

Quick Links: 

(Image of sweater dress below. How cool is this?!)

    refashionista ugly sweater christmas dress great awesome sew sewing 

Are you done with your Christmas shopping?

10 December 2014

Wordful Wednesday//Mind This (Migraines)

I had yet another migraine over the weekend.
And I had a migraine yesterday afternoon.
What's new?

I'm a bit put off by possibly telling someone I'm experiencing a migraine or that I had to bail out of plans from a migraine because of bad past experiences.

There is stigma with saying, "I have a headache/a migraine, I can't do that right now, sorry."
The person can (in my experience) interpret you as lazy, unwilling to do the job, unfit to do the job. Your friend might see that as you telling them you don't want to hang out anymore and a gap might soon wedge itself between the two of you.

The next time your friend says, "Let's get coffee." And you say, "I have a migraine." They'll kind of scoff and shrug and say, "It's no big deal." But they're tired of it.

I've suffered from migraines since I was in high school; although, back then, I thought they were just "very bad headaches" or "weird vision thingies."

What I was never told was that my migraines would possibly get worse.
And they did.
What started out as having to maybe set myself and my world back an hour--a few hours--came into being something that can now set me back sometimes as long as a week.
And that's with noise, lights, certain smells, ~everything~ bothering me, irritating me, making the pounding in my head feel like an alien is about to burst through. (Seriously, I picture that scene from the movie Alien.)

The medication I mainly take--Imitrex--even bothers me. I can only truly take it twice a week, which is basically ridiculous considering my migraines can attack more often than that. AND, the side effects are horrendous. You feel like you're in a sauna--hot and sticky, sweaty to the max; you're even more nauseous than the migraines make you, which is really saying something; irritable, irritable, irritable; and possibly the worst of them all, you feel sore all over--like bruised--and this can last for days.

No other medicine seems to help me. Unless...I manage to take a pain pill RIGHT when I feel a migraine coming on. But this is tricky because it has to be timed almost perfectly. And life doesn't always have the best timing. What's more, I don't want to feel like I'm becoming dependent on pain pills. What a predicament, huh?

Some symptoms I experience from my migraines are:
  •  Feeling lightheaded, nauseous
  • Heartbeat constantly pounding in ears
  • Seeing an aura, visual problems
  • PAIN: left temple, behind left eye. Stabbing, searing, throbbing pain
  • Sounds echo and are increased. That mixed with my misophonia = a world of trouble
  • Exhaustion. Just feel drained all over
  • Irritability
  One of the worst things about migraines is they really put your life on hold. What you need to do when you are having an attack is just set everything aside (I mean everything) and just rest. Or try to rest. Sometimes the pain is really so bad that rest and sleep are impossible.

What I do instead a lot of the time is try to go about my normal routine in hopes that the migraine will go away. Like it'll just sense that I'm not having its crap that day and leave me alone. Now, I know that this will never work but I still do it. Why? Because I want to be normal.

Still yet, I am my own worst enemy by doing this.

I'll try to stay off the laptop and do other things like knit or read or watch Netflix. But even those things do not help my migraine.

I think a part of me is, even after all these years, still in denial that something can break me down so much. In college, my migraines were a large part of why I was so full of stress and why I started doing badly in school.

I started vomiting in class, having to take naps in class, having to excuse myself because the fluorescent lights were driving me crazy. Every time I worse sunglasses in class, a part of my accommodations, a student would complain that they should be able to wear their shades as well. The stress really got to me. Then the stress would cause me to have a migraine! It was a never-ending cycle.

Migraines are mental, physical, and emotional drains on your body.

 What I need to learn is that sometimes those migraines are breaks for me. They could be my body's way of telling me I need to stop stressing. I need time away from the laptop and the television. I need peace and quiet and rest.

Joan Didion wrote a piece, one of my favorites, called "In Bed" where she recounts her own experience with migraines. It's really beautiful and when I found myself reading it for an assignment in college, I knew it was just for me.

At the very end of the piece, after talking about how painful migraines are and how much of a burden they are, Didion explains that once a migraine is gone, it's like everything is new again. She says, at the very end of the personal essay, "I count my blessings."

In a way, migraines make for a clean slate. They create this terrible pain and then this giant calm. Afterwards, we are so grateful that we recognize everything anew. We are ready to take on the world.

That is how I hope to look at my migraines. Silver lining in everything, right? They are hated. They are ugly. They are painful.
But they make me grateful.

05 December 2014

Playlist: "It's Raining, It's Pouring"

Bye bye summer

Rain rain rain rain rain rain...
Go away!

As for dancing in the rain? It's not really my thing--sick people don't want to get even more sick--but maybe these beats might change my mind. Or maybe I can live vicariously through you ;)

Starting off with a really artsy music video, I chose to include this song because...well, just listen to it/watch it and learn why!

"News" by Freddie Dickson is very moody, and I like it. Someone compared it to music Lorde would make. I don't have a problem with that.

The lyrics to this next one are really interesting. The entire song is interesting, honestly. I can see these guys going places.

Have you seen any rain lately?

03 December 2014

Wordful Wednesday//Holidaze

Let's face it, the holidays are exhausting for everyone. 

But when you're left tired from simply taking a shower or cooking your own breakfast, you might not be able to make it through what everyone expects you to. Especially when it comes to socializing and engaging in all the hubbub that comes with a full table of family members. 

There's just not enough energy to spend on others when you are trying to look after yourself. 

Aaanddd...that's exactly what happened to me over Thanksgiving. I did try to take part in activities, but my body just couldn't handle it. After about a five hour car ride, I was basically immobilized for two days with my joints all out of whack, auras from both migraines and seizures, and that just horrible crummy feeling all over. While the rest of my family was out eating, or inside playing the games Charades or Catch Phrase, I was tucked under the covers suffering. 

I think what bothered me the most, what really made me cry, what angered me over my illness was that my family all had their picture taken beside the waterfront. Beautiful picture. What was missing? Me. I felt absolutely awful. What's more, I felt invisible. I didn't even want to go onto Facebook to see the pictures there, reminding me of how my illness has taken away my ability to be with my family. 

You know when you're younger, you almost always hate having your picture taken with family, and you really hate going to family gatherings? I remember faking colds so I could get out of them sometimes. 
You're like OH MY GOSH, I want to stay home in my pj's, play video games, and watch TV instead. 
I'm so backwards now. Instead of going to all these holiday dinners, I'm at home, watching Netflix and surfing the web. Always in pain. Always exhausted from being sick and from asking God, "Why?" 

If you caught some crud over the holidays, I hope you get well soon. But I also hope you got to be with your family--to spend that special time with them. Treasure those moments. Even the ones you love to hate. Be grateful for Grandma's horrible fruitcake that no one touches. And make sure to appear in those photos you say you don't want to be in. 

01 December 2014

Macabre Monday: Beneath

movie beneath horror film

Like any "inspired by true events" film, the intro starts us off with that reminder in bold text. 
However, many films that are "inspired" by true events are just that--inspired. This movie is no exception. So when I saw a tag underneath the film that said "supernatural," I knew something was up. 

Taking place in a coal mine after a horrific collapse, the regular miners, a rookie, and a daughter of a retiring miner all have to figure out how to stay alive until help arrives--which will be in 72 hours. 

The main character, Sam, who is the retiring coal miner's daughter (sorry but I had to), is out of her element, confused, and panicked. As she should be. 

With what one of the characters, Randy (Joey Kern: Cabin Fever, Super Troopers), keeps calling "bad air," comes the disappearance and the killings of the miners.

randy joey kern mine beneath

With no answer as to who may be the culprit, the miners are picked off one by one until there are only a few left.

It begins to seem like all the miners are hallucinating--and we know for sure that Sam is from the special effects that are presented.

What happens next, at the end, is stupid, mystifying, and confusing all at the same time. It's one of those "let the audience decide what really happened" kind of things. I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

But really, it's definitely left an impression. Which is why I picked this film for today's Macabre Monday. It's been compared to the movie The Descent, which is huge in my book. Although, let's be real, The Descent is much better!