Sunday, March 31, 2013

Note to Self - Partials

A book review of Partials by Dan Wells – mild Spoilers

Note to self:

It’s probably not a good idea to read a book about a killer virus that destroys 99.98% of the human population, leaving only 40,000 people left IN THE WORLD, when you are getting sicker and sicker by the minute with the flu…

If you do, you will probably worry that your fever is the RM virus and you are about to boil to death from the inside out. Which is a problem because you probably don’t have the immunity only 40,000 people IN THE WORLD had. You know, and we haven’t developed a half-human, half-machine army called the Partials who will hold the key to curing the virus and saving the human race. Granted, that doesn’t matter too much because if I have the RM virus, I’ll be dead in like 3 days so I wouldn’t be able to get the cure anyway.

I read Partials by Dan Wells recently.  While getting the flu for the first time ever. I’m usually a pretty realistic person when it comes to sickness, but there were times I thought I must have contracted this world-killing virus. And that was a little scary, to be honest. Especially when I kept getting sicker and sicker for 5 more days.

I loved, loved this book. Why?

Reason number 1. It’s dystopian, which is my fave genre. Or post-apocalyptic at least. Yeah, not so much dystopian because I learned through a pin on Pinterest that a book is only technically dystopian if the main character thinks everything is fine and dandy and hunky dory until the crap hits the fan for said character, when really, crap has been hitting the fan for a long, long time. But definitely post-apocalyptic. And it just makes the wheels in my head whirl thinking about what it might be like after the end of the world. Gah. Love it.

Reason number 2. Slight romantic tension without hitting you over the head (or heart, or other body parts for that matter) with it. Granted, there are times that I love a strong romantic plot line in a book, but it would have felt wrong in this book. The main character, Kira, is in a relationship with Marcus, but questions the depth of her feelings throughout. Then she is chosen to be the sole researcher on a captured Partial named Samm. They start out with mutual loathing toward each other but as the week of her research continues on, they relax into a kind of friendship. You know, the strongest friendship possible when one person is strapped to a table and the other is performing researching on said captured person. I found myself wanting that relationship to strengthen while feeling torn about my desires for her to stay with Marcus. Kira and Samm don’t come anywhere close to actually starting a relationship, but the tension and buildup was indeed fantastic.

Reason number 3. There were a lot of different races represented. I appreciated that this ethnic inclusion was presented lightly enough that it didn’t feel like the author was making a socio-political statement by including lots of ethnicities. At the same time, being aware of the great need for greater diversity in our YA novels, I wish it had been focused on a tad more. The main character is of Indian (from India, not Native American) descent, but it’s only mentioned a few times and I found myself forgetting a lot. Despite wanting more, I was happy to see that it was not only middle-class white Americans that survived the end of the world.

Reason number 4. The characters had to deal with some really hard situations and decisions. The virus is still in the world and every new baby that is born dies within three days because he/she contracts the virus so quickly. Basically, the last survivors of the world were faced with eventually dying out because they couldn’t reproduce. Those stakes are pretty high. These people have to face some major moral decisions of how to protect and increase the human race. I love thinking about morality and under what circumstances normal beliefs and values must be challenged and altered. This series presents many moral dilemmas for those whirling gears in my brain. And presents the characters with horrible situations they have to either accept or fight to change. Love it. Well, and hate it, cause it’s so hard for them. But that’s what makes a book good, right?

Reason number 5. A male writing from a female point of view. It was believable 95% of the time. There were a few times I thought something was not said how a girl would say it, but they weren’t big enough to completely draw me out of the story, which is a good sign. Props to authors who write from the opposite sex’s point of view.

Basically, if you like post-apocalyptic/dystopian books, you will enjoy this book as well. The next book in the series, Fragments, comes out soon too. Thank goodness. 

- 4.5 stars
- If you want a strong romance, you probably won’t love this book, but would probably still enjoy it

Tissue Count:

Details for more cautious readers:
- There is a major emphasis in on pregnancy because the government wants immune babies to be born, and immunity is incredibly rare. In 11 years, not a single immune baby was born. So, they have a law that all girls must get pregnant at 18, with some leaders fighting for that age to be lowered to 16. No sex scenes, just mention of getting pregnant and who got who pregnant.
- Mild war-time violence, people getting shot, bombs, dead bodies, etc. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Note to Self - an explanation

I've started reviewing the books I read. Not all of them yet. I mean, I've read 13 books in the month of March alone and it would be very difficult to review all of those in my last few months of graduate school. But, I am reviewing, which is a totally new thing for me.

The reviews are going to be titled Note to Self. Because after I read a book, in my mind I summarize something from my experience of reading and make a mental note of it.

So, when you see:

Note to Self - book title,

that means it's a book review. Feel free to comment and start a conversation about the book.

And I just have to say - we're a quarter of the way through the year and I've already read 26 books.


This makes me happier than I know how to express.


This I Know

* Originally written at the end of January 2013 on my original blog. 

Do you ever feel like you forget who you are? Like there are so many different things smothering you for time and attention that you slowly lose yourself. You can see pieces of you slowly leaking out and away but there’s nothing you can do to stop the continuous draining.  Until it feels like nothing is left.

I’ve been feeling like this lately. Probably because of my anxiety-ridden licensure exam coming up in 3 weeks. But for many other reasons as well, I’m sure. I do know the main reason I feel like I’m losing myself, unsure if I’ll ever get those pieces back, but I’m not quite ready to talk about that just yet. It’s coming though.

But really. 2012 was a very hard year for me. I am so relieved it’s over. And desperately hoping 2013 is better.


What do you do when you feel like you’re losing everything that makes you, well, you? It’s an incredibly unsettling feeling. Especially when you’re trying to become a therapist and help others only to realize that you need so much help yourself. That’s okay though, right? I’m allowed to be human, too, aren’t I? Sometimes I need that reminder. That permission to be fallible. To make mistakes. To feel those emotions I help my clients deal with. But still… it’s hard to give yourself that permission. Especially when you really haven’t given yourself permission for much, ever, which is my unfortunate tendency.

The only thing I can think of right now is hold onto the pieces of myself that are still there. That I can identify. That feel real. And true. And since discoveries, especially of the self- variety, are what I really like to share here, this is what I have come up with so far. 

This I know about me - Rachel.

1. Maxi skirts. Who knew that such a simple article of clothing could come to feel so right to me? I feel so comfortable in them. So free.

I really hate clothes. Especially when they constrict. And I especially hate pants. I made it all summer with only wearing jeans once. To me, that is a beautiful thing. My discovery of maxi skirts helped free me, once again, and in another way, from society’s expectations for me. Or my perception of society’s expectations. Whatever.

I hope to one day have my wardrobe full of maxi skirts. Other skirts are nice too. And maybe someday I’ll break down and get some leggings to go with my boots. Cause I sure feel great in boots too. I think that if you had to define yourself in terms of clothing, I would be a maxi skirt. Comfortable. Free. But classy. And flowy. Cause what better word to describe yourself is there than flowy?

2. My hands. And how I adorn them.

For some reason, I am at peace with my hands lately. I bite and tear at my nails incessantly. I’ve tried to stop. I can’t. I don’t really care to anymore. I have owned my short, sometimes jagged nails. They like to be painted fun colors, but have been sad because I’ve been to busy, or lazy, or both, to give them the color they like. Sorry nails. I’ll try to do better. (Post-edit: About a month after writing this, I started painting my nails again and they have been painted for the past 6 weeks. Yay for progress!)

I’ve not worn rings since I was pretty young, except for a CTR ring. Until I lost my CTR ring and the others I had didn’t fit comfortably. I always wanted to wear rings more, but I got my dad’s hands and my fingers are just thick. Which makes it very hard to find a ring that actually fits and looks good.


This summer at West Yellowstone I found the ring. The one ring that actually flattered my fingers. And excited my eyes. And brought a smile to my face. It was a big turquoise stone with the most beautiful veining. And a small-ish silver band. I can’t do just small bands because then my finger looks huge. But a small band with a large stone on it? Oh yes. Yes, that I can do. And I have loved it ever since.


I finally got my eagerly, and not-so-patiently waited upon ring from my beautiful Grandma. She collects them. And got enough for all her granddaughters to have one of her rings. My sisters and I were among the last to receive ours, but only because we live so far away. We semi-hesitantly trusted Mom to pick our rings for us when she was on a trip to Utah. She called me to discuss the options, but I had to go off descriptions because her phone is ultra-ghetto and won’t send or receive pictures. I was unsure how they looked, and nervous that the picks for the 3 of us would not quite suit us. Finally it came.  And suit me it did! Large smoky quartz stone in a beautiful antique-esque silver band. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. Sarah and Becca’s were beautiful, too. Geez, my grandma has exquisite taste in rings. I hope to glean more of her ring knowledge from her this summer. Because this is knowledge I need. Desperately. One of these two rings is on my finger every day. Except when I forget them and upon realizing my mistake, curse myself and feel naked and so un-Rach-like all day long.

I have also recently added a charm bracelet to my left wrist. It was also bare since I lost my CTR ring in March, 2011. I had the most perfect watch that I would put the ring on for safe keeping when I wasn’t wearing them. Well, the gremlins in my mom’s van stole them after my MFT interview. I hate those gremlins. No matter the searching I did, I never found any watch, or other decoration, that accurately said “I am you. I make you more yourself. You need me. Right there, on your left wrist.” And so it’s been naked. And alone. And sad.


James Avery had a sale on their new bracelets. Buy two charms, get a bracelet for free. Sign me up, I declared! I looked at the charms for probably an hour. Because picking a charm is no light business for me. Especially the first charms. Finally I found the ones that not only called for me, but fit within my poor-grad-student budget.

A music note. Because few things affect me like music does. My dream life is still playing French Horn in the pit of broadway musicals. Please, if you ever see a charm with a French Horn, get it for me. I’ll pay you back. You know how most people, especially girls, always have something on their minds that they are thinking about and planning? That doesn’t happen for me. When I don’t have something I’m actively thinking about, I have music playing in my head. It’s completely unconscious. And completely beautiful.

Also, a dove. This was a more abstract pick. I wanted something for my chosen-if-not-exactly-dreamed-of profession. A marriage therapist. But what would a charm for that look like, exactly? A couch? No. So I thought about what my purpose would be in that profession. To help people.  To pull marriages up through the muck of pain they’ve been slopping through. Or. To give hope. To give peace. Which is what a dove represents, after all. (Not to mention the religious significance of a dove, which is also important to me).

I have two more charms ready to be added. My best friends forever half-heart that fits together with my thank-goodness-she’s-still-around-and-loves-me-cause-I-need-her best friend, Malorie, given to us by her mother at my graduation. And my Texas heart charm. Because my heart is always in Texas. And Sarah is getting me a nativity charm soon, which yes, will be on the bracelet year round, because what more could I want than a constant reminder of Christmas and that dear little baby who saved me?

3. Reading. Oh, reading.

I am consumed by it. In a wonderful, coming-alive sort of way. All my worries slip away as the story weaves through me, lifting me to something higher. I am changed, yes, but in all the right ways, by the books I read. I think more critically, feel more deeply, desire more strongly because of being swept away to new places. Places I could never explore if not led by the hand by these authors with the most beautiful gift of words. I find myself in those pages. In those words, between those lines and through those experiences of characters so different from myself.  And what have I found?

A desire. A desire that has always been there, but never came out into the light for me to really see and examine. It was there, but out of focus and blurred differently each day. But it has stepped out into the light. I’ve seen it, felt it, studied it. And now this I know:

I want to be a writer. An author. I want to lead people by the hand, as I have been led so many times before, and take people where they could never go without my help. Into the recesses of my music-filled mind. Into the nooks and crannies, shadowed corners and vaulted ceilings of my imagination. I haven’t even really been there myself, but I want to go. I want to make a record of my journey and share it with others. For no other purpose than enjoyment. Fun. Hope. Peace. For me and for them.

And can I share a secret? I’m terrified. This desire (which was brought into the light by Veronica Roth and Divergent, by the way,) scares me to the core. I don’t know how to write a novel. I’ve never written more than 25 pages in one work. I’ve never written more than what has been required me by my professors. Never once have I written creatively, with the exception of my blog. But that is all based on life experiences, not pulling a story out of nothing. I only ever took one literature class, which I loved, but wasn’t even in the genre I plan to write in. I don’t know the first thing about any of this writing business. AND I’m about to get a degree in therapy!

And somehow I have the audacity to think that I can do this. That I can (with plenty of practice, mind you – I don’t expect this to come easy or naturally) write a story that other people would be interested in, maybe even pay money for. I partly think I must be having delusions of grandeur, because this desire seems so unlikely, so impossible.

But I want it. I want to write. And read, because every writer knows you have to read at least as much as you write. Maybe I won’t ever get published. Maybe I won’t ever get past a short story. Maybe the only people to read it will be myself and those few friends I trust to share in the intimacy that comes with writing from the heart. But I want to do it. I want to try.

I don’t really know how to work this out with school and licensure and a profession looming. But I’ll figure out a way. Because somehow, I feel like the only way to find myself again, after losing so much, is to write.

And read.

And so that is what I plan on doing.


(What is your favorite piece of clothing that makes you feel you? What are your accessories that scream at you that they belong with you, on you?)

(And for the love of all that is holy, AM I CRAZY? Those of you who have read my writing, is this possible? I need some encouragement cause like I said, I’m awful scared.) 

New Beginnings


This blog has been in the works for a while. And will continue to change as time goes on. I was going to wait to start the blog til all those changes came in, but I just got too excited and couldn't wait for it anymore.

So, click over and read my About Me page to learn more well... about me.

And as a further explanation on the whole Ballard-isn't-really-my-last-name: having a pseudonym is something I need to do for my work as a therapist. Someday, if I'm ever not a therapist anymore, I will reveal my last name.

I have another blog, which will soon be private, which has a lot of posts that I want on this blog as well. So I am going to transfer those posts here. Because I know that there is occasionally a problem with blog material being plagiarized, I want to make sure I address that. If you ever notice a post here that sounds like somethings you've read elsewhere, check if the profile picture is the same. If it looks like me in the other blog, it's just that I wanted the post on both blogs. If it's not me, well, let me know so I can figure out what's going on. Deal? Deal.

So, without further adieu, here we go!