Just Call Me Stephanie. #DearStephanie

I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Mandi Castle’s debut novel, Dear Stephanie, and let me tell you, it REALLY spoke to me, y’all.

Dear Stephanie Cover

This book. Oh. My. God. This book. Mandi Castle’s writing is like a warm brownie. Gooey and decadent with all the sugary sweetness that you crave, but wicked and naughty all at once. To say Paige Preston is depressed would be the understatement of the year. Though her outer appearance oozes with perfection, she’s damaged to the core. She suffers deeply as she takes you on the biggest roller coaster ride of highs and lows.

Paige is the poster child for excessive perfection. While flawlessly beautiful, ridiculously wealthy, and fucking brilliant, she struggles with her own self as much as any of us. Sure, I’m not ridiculously wealthy. I’m far from the embodiment of perfection. I’ve never been depressed to the point of suicidal thoughts or tendencies. But as a woman who has felt pain, who has felt less than I am, who has had bouts of extreme crazy, who has suffered silently in her own right…I get it.

The novel is a series of journal entries from one Paige Preston to “Stephanie” who is a fabricated personification of Paige’s diary. Castle writes these entries with such realistic, natural, and eloquent language that I truly believe in Paige. I laughed with her, I cried with her, I felt as if she were writing to me, and I was Stephanie. I LOVED that she regularly referenced Stephanie inside the entries, often referring to her as “Steph,” which gives her a casual and even more realistic personality.

The entries are brutal, with strong sexual content that leaves you breathless, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching experiences that make you want to scream and cry, drug and alcohol abuse, suicidal depression, and brilliant acts of love and heroism. Mandi’s writing dances on the pages without glorifying the ugly truths, merely telling Paige’s tale and pleading with you to recognize depression, abuse and other unspeakable acts. By the end of the novel, you’ll find yourself begging for more, cheering for Paige’s triumphs and crying over her stumbles.

Basically, you guys, this book is fucking fantastic. I will place a mini disclaimer here and say that there are a lot of triggers in the book, so if there are things that you have difficulty with – suicide, rape, depression, alcohol and drug abuse – this novel may be extremely difficult. But if you’re okay reading about some really tough stuff, pick this one up.

Mandi Castle

Photo courtesy of Lizzi Rogers

Mandi Castle is a baller, a blogger, and a word magician. Her blog is full of awesome, and I’ve even caught her sneaking around here once or twice – which I’m not going to lie, kind of makes me feel ridiculously special.

Dear Stephanie hits Amazon today. So why don’t you pop over there and grab a digital or paper copy of this phenomenal novel?

What books have you read recently? What types of books do you love to read? What aspects of writing really turn you on and grab your soul?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Halloween Survival Kit Courtesy of Loot Crate

Happy Halloween bloggy friends!

 

I wanted to share this month’s Loot Crate box with you, so you could see how much fun I was having with it! As you remember from last month’s Galactic Loot Crate review, the October crate theme was fear. I knew that there would be some Walking Dead goodies and a sweet horror-related tee. I was pretty pumped to find this black kitten skull tee shirt on the top of the box. The first thing I saw was the kittens, and it took me a few minutes to catch the skull design. When I showed Brian, the first thing he saw was the skull. And I had to point out the kittens. He was kind of jealous (well…maybe a little {FINE. Not jealous at all]). Since I received a men’s XL, I told him he could borrow it some time. I think I may wear it tomorrow night to my first heavy metal concert. What do you think?

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The rest of the box included some other sweet things that I could use for surviving a Halloween full of zombies, ghosts, and other terrifying creatures. A SuperEmoFriends print of Daryl and Merle Dixon from the Walking Dead, bite mark temporary tattoos (which may also make an appearance at the metal concert), a Walking Dead comic with special Loot Crate exclusive cover art, a book with tips for surviving every type of potential disaster (including a sharknado), and a Dead Rising 3 sledgesaw pen hammer among a few smaller items like candy, a button and a digital code for a game. I really liked the shirt (obviously) and the comic. And the tattoos. And even the print (Daryl is still my favorite character, even though I stopped watching the show, and stick to the comic now). I think the weapon is surprisingly fun (not a Dead Rising girl),  and if you check out Loot Crate’s Twitter feed, you’ll see several hilarious retweets of the hammer pen and a variety of beloved action figures.

The only thing that may make it into someone’s Christmas presents this year would be the Sharknado survival book, as it’s funny, but not something I would really read or keep on a shelf.

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Next month’s Loot Crate theme is Battle, which makes me hope and wish and dream for a Hunger Games reference (release is in a few weeks, y’all!)

Which piece in the Loot Crate box would you like best? What do you think is going to be in next month’s box? Would you dig a monthly surprise box full of nerdy toys and stuff?

I was not compensated for this review, though I was provided with a complimentary Loot Crate shipment in order to facilitate this review with my honest opinion, which you always receive. I only review products that are of interest and enjoyment to me, and hopefully may benefit you. 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Shave and a Haircut. Two Bits.

So last night I had my first solo experience in the house. I wanted to finish the second coat of paint in one of the rooms, so I had my mom pick me up at the train station near her house and drive me to my house (it’s weird to call it my house, but that’s exactly what it is…). Brian would be meeting me there. Before I got out of the car, though, Mom reminded me to lock the door behind me.

This is the layout of my house, before it was my house. And in the daylight. When it's less scary.

This is the layout of my house, before it was my house. And in the daylight. When it’s less scary.

Random aside: Brian genuinely thought I was walking from our new/future train station, because it’s not very far away. Later, he even asked how my walk was. I Iaughed and responded, “You thought I was actually going to walk…” And then he thought I called a cab. But really, Mama Bear had it handled. Because she’s awesome.

Anyway, so I was alone in the house. It was already dark at not-quite 7 PM. And I started peeling painter’s tape from the kitchen walls.

All of a sudden, I heard a faint knock at the door. I, quite naturally, immediately panicked. I dove further into the kitchen to avoid being seen from the from door window. I stood, cowering beside the refrigerator when the knock was confirmed with a “Shave and a Haircut” knock.

Now, logically, someone who uses that knock probably isn’t going to kill me. But I didn’t know that. And I wasn’t taking chances.

I looked around and realized that there were no window treatments in the kitchen, as we took them down when we painted. So I did what any normal person would do. I dropped to the floor to avoid being seen.

Now our kitchen is in the center of the house and has two doors across from each other. One leads to the front room (and the front door); the other leads to the dining room. So I crawled to the dining room (probably seen), when I heard another knock. I was really regretting that I had turned all the lights on, as the perpetrator could now see pretty perfectly into my whole house.

After another minute, I crawled from the dining room to the family room (which is next to the kitchen and also has a two doors to the dining room and front room). I peaked around the corner and realized I was in plain sight of the door, and sat paralyzed with fear.

I waited another minute and crawled further into the family room. I finally stood up and tried to remember where I left my phone. And started analyzing the situation. If it was a friend, they would have tried to call me, right? And a neighbor wouldn’t come knocking after dark, right? What if it was the mean-ass contractor that I didn’t hire? No, it was a different contractor who used the same knock…I looked at the door and there appeared to be a note on the window.

I saw my phone on the counter between the kitchen and family room, grabbed it and ran to the hallway with no windows by the garage. I called Brian and explained the situation (sort of), and asked him to check the door for the note.

I stood in the hallway for 10 minutes before I finally grabbed my paint supplies, changed my clothes, and ran upstairs to paint.

Brian arrived, and I was perfectly alive. And safe. And crazy. Apparently, it was a delivery service(not UPS or FedEx or USPS). I have no idea what it was they were trying to deliver, but as soon as I find out, I’ll let you know.

Don’t worry. I put the curtains back in the kitchen window pretty soon after. shudder

Blog Friends, what would you have done? Would you have just answered the door or would you have freaked out like me? Have you ever panicked unnecessarily?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Weird Fears. Please Tell Me I’m Not Alone.

I have a lot of ridiculous fears…

I mean there’s the standard brontophobia (thunderstorms, people, NOT dinosaurs.) which I’ve gotten better at over the years…

And the zombie apocalypse fear (Brian and I have zombie discussions somewhat regularly…and they always end with me saying, “you know…I REALLY don’t want the zombie apocalypse to happen.” And then Brian tries to bite my arm. Or I try to bite Brian’s arm. One of those.)

But what about the strange fears that you’re afraid to admit to? I’ve got lots. I promise they get funnier as we work our way down the list. Bear with me. Or is it bare with me?

OK, so I’ve already admitted my fear of having MS which seriously sprung from watching the Annette Funicello Story on TV. And the ridiculous number of people that I have known in my life who have or have had MS. Seriously. Crazy. Fear.

Then there’s the fear that I’ll be unable to produce offspring. I know that this isn’t something I’m trying to make happen right now…but I’ve always had a fear that I wouldn’t be able to make babies. And that makes me sad.

I have this ridiculously unhealthy fear of botulism. Ever since taking the food sanitation class when I was a catering manager…I have a horrible fear of botulism. Reheated onions? NO THANK YOU.

Who else has a fear of deer? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? I clam up and get panicky when I so much as see a deer. Brian isn’t allowed to send me pictures of deer. Ever. Because they terrify me. A lot. Ever since one decided to commit suicide by slamming into my car I hate them. And get sad for them. But mostly I’m afraid of them. And their fearless ability to race into oncoming traffic. Even when I play “Frogger” in the Loop, I’m better off than the deer.

Falling into sewer grates. In Chicago, EVERY. FREAKIN.’ SIDEWALK. is lined with these grates. BIG. Giant. Grates. And I’m terrified that I’m going to fall into one. I know that this is silly. Because I don’t wear high heels that would get caught in them. And they’re pretty safely constructed. But I don’t walk on them. Ever. And it usually makes me bump into people on the sidewalk.

If you’ve ever seen Scrooged, then you may understand why I refuse to be cremated. I have a fear of being burned alive courtesy of the ghost of Christmas future in Scrooged. I know that when you die, you cannot be burned alive. But I’m not taking ANY chances. Besides, if the zombie apocalypse happens after I die, I want the chance to dig out and be free.

What about you, Blog Friends? Any strange fears? Any “normal” fears?

 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Monday Memories: Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Yes.

No.

Well…not anymore anyways.

First things first: This post is a part of the Monday Memories to Make You Laugh Series. Each week, you can join me, It’s a Dome Life, and First Time Mom and Dad in our adventures of remembering. If you’d like to jump on our little bandwagon, we’d love to have you. Today’s prompt is all about being afraid of the dark.

When I was a kid I used to have these recurring nightmares.

  • A giant gorilla escaped from the zoo that smashes through our kitchen wall from the backyard. (I blame Disney)

  • A pack of wolves chasing me around my dining room table.
  • Vampires – hiding under my bed.

I couldn’t fall asleep without the hall light on. In the holiday season, I had to have Christmas lights in my room (but NEVER red ones. Red ones were evil. They made my pink room glow with scary red walls. I suppose my disdain for the color red makes it a little ironic that I wrote a poem about the color red…)

If I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I would JUMP from my bed to the middle of the floor, so that anything hiding under my bed would have to come out from under there to grab me, thus giving me time to sort of run away. Really, it all worked out in my head.

Nowadays, I can’t sleep without complete darkness, but I’ll always look fondly on the days of vamps and wolves. Oh crap. My childhood was like a clip of Twlight.

Blog friends! Did you have nightmares when you were a kid? Crazy fears of the dark? Worries about something under the bed? Tell me about it!

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

In Light of the Tragedy in Connecticut

I realize that I have yet to comment on the shooting in Connecticut. I realize that I was, until this post, a minority in the blogging world for having held off until now. But what I have to say needed a few days to breath. And I still cannot seem to find the eloquence that I long to find. And I’m sure haters are going to hate. But this is my blog with my opinions and feelings. Without further ado…

Our strongest weapon is hope. Hope for a brighter future. Hope for a more peaceful world. Hope for our children and their children.

Our biggest enemy is fear. Fear of moving forward. Fear of violence and terror. Fear for our children and their children.

We need to gather strength from our mourning hearts and courage from our fears to move forward. To continue on. To hope that the world isn’t all terrible. And to remember. When innocent children are killed for selfish and thoughtless crimes, the world weeps. For one brief moment, they are everyone’s children. But after the news had aired, the children are returned to the earth, and the world resumes in blissful ignorance.

Until it happens again.

What, then, can we do to prevent such a tragedy?

6 months ago, 70 people were injured or killed in a movie theater.

5 years ago, 50 people were injured or killed at a Virginia university.

13 years ago, more than 30 people were injured or killed in a Colorado high school.

Can such tragedies be prevented? What can we do to help our children and their children? Instead of placing blame, we need to take responsibility. We need to hold ourselves accountable. We need to hope. We need to have faith…in something.

someecard tragedy Sandy Hook Elementary

I’ve been mostly appalled with the judgmental hostility floating around the internet. When an even like that at Sandy Hook Elementary occurs, we shouldn’t start pointing fingers at the people who manage to make it through the day laughing and playing with their families or friends. The world doesn’t stop when anyone passes away. The world doesn’t stop when human beings are cold. Or hungry. Or abused. Or mentally distressed. The world weeps, but it does not stop; not for a second. You can choose to dwell on the tragic events that the news chose to publicize (because yes, a lot of other tragic events happen that you don’t even know about), or you can choose to do something about it. Live your life to the fullest. Contact a politician. Do something nice for others. Be a decent human being that makes other peoples’ lives worth living.

The following blog posts have been inspirational in my journey to find the right words:

Still Life Miniatures-So Much Going On

First Time Mom and Dad-An Open Letter to Media Hounds

It’s a Dome Life-I Don’t Have Any Words

The B(itch)log-What is Wrong With You People?

To them, I say, thank you.

What do you think? Am I wrong?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!