Finding Yourself

Look, I’m alive!

And I’m back with a little bit of a personal story of self-discovery. Quite literally.

I haven’t lived without an audience for as long as I can remember. I’ve been on Facebook since the beginning of high school. Performing my life for anyone who would pay attention. I guess that’s why I was so eager to start blogging; it was another outlet for my thoughts and creativity. And then the blog sort of lost its purpose, and I was doing it for reasons that weren’t about self-expression. So I stopped. It soon became clear how much I enjoyed living without an audience. Not only because it was exhausting to maintain, but also because I could finally figure out who I was without trying to impress anyone.

Facebook status updates. Tweets. Tumblr posts. Blog posts.
Snaps. Pins. Likes. Retweets.

It was all for the benefit of the people who follow me on those accounts. I was performing. I performed my entire personality and my entire life for the people with one eye on me. And it’s not like I’m an internet celebrity. It’s not like these people care what I’m up to. But I kind of like the idea of having that Instagram perfect life. Doesn’t everyone?

Actually, Instagram is the one thing I do still use on a regular basis. I haven’t stopped loving photography and sharing those photos. But that’s not for an audience. That’s because I like it.

And that’s what I’ve been up to. Finding myself. Figuring out what I like to do without the thought that other people are noticing. (Which, to be quite honest, is why I think this relationship I’m in right now is going so well – because I’m not constantly asking friends for advice on something they are not a part of. I love my friends, but learning what to keep to myself and what to share with others has been key in all of this.)

So what have I learned about me?

Mostly, I’ve learned how I honestly like to spend my time.

I got so caught up in the idea of being the quirky, shy bookworm girl and maintaining that image that I thought it was who I am. I mean, that has been people’s expectations of who I am since first grade – it’s easy to think that’s who you are. Family and friends can’t be reading you wrong for years, can they?

Well, here’s the truth.

I am an extrovert. That’s surprising to everyone. I am kind of quiet and can be nervous to meet new people. But I would one million percent choose to be with someone else over spending a night alone. I like talking to people. I like being surrounded by friends and drinking and dancing and going to shows. Too many nights on my own is what drains me – not too many nights going out.

I do love reading. But I wouldn’t choose it over playing a video game. Painting, sketching, and making pieces of art is something I like to treat myself to as a means of self-care.

I am passionate about learning. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed. But what I have discovered is that I’m not really into learning something by reading a book. I have a mind that learns better through images and sounds, not words on a page. I love listening to educational podcasts and learning new languages on Duolingo. That being said, I’ll almost always prefer to read a book over watching a movie. I guess fiction is still better left to my imagination.

I love to travel. I wasn’t sure if getting on a plane would be super stressful for me, or if I’d be okay when I got to another country. But it turns out I love to lowkey adventure. Iceland was amazing and now I know that I’d be okay getting on a plane by myself and discovering a new place to love.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for you is spend some time living without an audience. Don’t let other people dictate who you are or what you should do with your time. Stay away from the social media for a bit and stop letting other people’s opinions influence the way you choose to live your life.

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South Park: The Stick of Truth – Game Review

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Publish date: March 4, 2014
Rating: ★★★★★

SUMMARY

You are the new kid in South Park, and it doesn’t take long for Cartman to recruit you for their game. But when the battle between fake mages and elves for the Stick of Truth becomes a battle to stop the very real green alien goo that creates Nazi zombies, there is only one kid who has the strength, and the farts, to save the world.

WHAT I LIKED

I am a huge South Park fan. I love the satire and the 2D animations, and this game felt very much like playing through an episode of the show. I loved the fact that this game had turn-based combat; being a newer gamer, this aspect really helped me to gain more control of the combat at my own pace. And I didn’t feel like being turn-based slowed down the combat at all. Adding upgrades to my weapons and trying to build my ultimate character, and then smacking down some zombies with my fiery vibrator-sword was really satisfying. Being able to pick from South Park’s finest to be your combat buddies was pretty cool, too. (Butters. Always Butters.)

I also really enjoyed the collectible aspect of the game. I loved exploring South Park, discovering inside jokes from the show and collecting all of the items (Chinpokomon!) It was just so much fun to play through, and play through again to complete all of the side quests you may miss during your first attempt.

Side note: I’m currently streaming my third playthrough of this game – trying to collect all of the friends. Follow BohoWallflower on Twitch to get notified when I go live!

AND WHAT I DIDN’T

If I had one piece of criticism, it would be that I don’t particularly like how some of the collectibles (i.e. Chinpokomon, making friends, etc.) can be missed in the main quest. Some places you can only enter during certain points of the game, and if you miss these collectibles, you can’t just go back once you’re done – you have to restart the game and play through the whole thing again to get the few things you missed. I don’t mind replaying this game, because it’s a lot of fun, but it’s sort of frustrating to go back and do a whole replay for one little thing to get the achievement.

RECOMMEND IF…

  • You are a fan of South Park;
  • You love games with lots of side quests and collectibles;
  • You’re looking for a fairly easy game with which you can kick back and relax.

I cannot wait for the sequel, The Fractured But Whole, to finally hit shelves!

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Arkells + July Talk @ Budweiser Stage

Arkells + July Talk with Said the Whale and Mondo Cozmo
When: June 24, 2017
Where: Budweiser Stage – Toronto, ON
Seats: General Admission – Lawn

THE COMPANY

I could not have asked for a better group of people to see this concert with. I had an unanticipated extra ticket and asked my sister to come along – promising her the most fun concert she’s ever attended – and she said yes. (An answer which she doesn’t regret, because she is now obsessed with both Arkells and July Talk). And then my friends Christine, Jeremy, Marco, and Mike were all coming as well, so we met up and got super psyched together for what would be an amazing show.

It was actually the best thing ever to dance and sing along to my favourite tunes with some of my favourite people.

THE PERFORMANCE

The opening acts of this show were both pretty stellar. I’ve got a few Said the Whale songs on my iPod so it was cool to hear them live. I’ve never heard of Mondo Cozmo, but I really liked their music. But honestly, the entire time, I was counting down the seconds to the two headlining bands of this concert. And once they hit the stage, I think I literally lost my mind.

Having only heard July Talk songs on the radio before, I was really hesitant that lead male vocalist, Peter Dreimanis, would actually sound as deep and raspy as he does in the recordings. So let me just say: he sounds even better live. The entire band does. Peter and Leah’s voices are incredible together, and their chemistry on stage brought the crowd to its feet. They also (very smartly) advertised their next set of shows to the 16,000 people packing the Bud Stage that night. Needless to say those shows sold out almost immediately. (And needless to say, my sister and I will be going).

Arkells. My band. I’ve seen them before and I knew I’d love seeing them again. They’ve quickly become my #1 favourite band. So when the lights went out for them to begin, the cheers rumbled and I went into full fangirl-concert mode. Every song they played was a hit. Front man, Max Kerman, did not let the energy die down even for a second. I don’t think anyone in the crowd stopped dancing at any point during their set.

But easily the best part of the entire night was the encore. The venue gave everyone at the show a beer cup that would light up red at certain points in the encore. Arkells came out to sing “My Heart’s Always Yours” and the cups lit up the venue – pulsing and dancing along to the tune of the song. Then all four acts came out once more and did a rendition of Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” that had everyone going wild (including the red lights).

It was quite honestly the best concert I think I’ve ever been to in my life.

COMPLETE SETLIST:

July Talk:

  1. Picturing Love ♥
  2. Summer Dress
  3. Gentleman
  4. Johnny + Mary ♥
  5. Lola + Joseph ♥
  6. Strange Habit
  7. Guns + Ammunition ♥
  8. Paper Girl ♥
  9. Jesus Said So
  10. My Neck
  11. Ace of Spades (Motorhead cover) ♥
  12. I’ve Rationed Well
  13. Touch
  14. Beck + Call ♥
  15. Push + Pull ♥
  16. The Garden

Arkells:

  1. Private School ♥
  2. Michigan Left ♥
  3. Never Thought That This Would Happen ♥♥
  4. Come to Light ♥
  5. 11:11 ♥♥
  6. Oh, the Boss is Coming! ♥
  7. Pullin’ Punches ♥♥
  8. Drake’s Dad ♥
  9. Savannah
  10. And Then Some ♥♥
  11. Book Club ♥
  12. Leather Jacket ♥♥
  13. Dirty Blonde ♥♥
  14. Whistleblower ♥
  15. A Little Rain (A Song for Pete) ♥♥♥
  16. Cynical Bastards ♥♥
  17. Knocking at the Door ♥♥

Encore:
18. My Heart’s Always Yours ♥♥
19. Dancing in the Dark (Springsteen cover with July Talk, Mondo Cozmo, and Said the Whale) ♥♥♥

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Michelle Muses: June 2017

June was a busy summer kick-off, and it’s only going to get busier from here! But here’s what I’ve been up to this month.

Wonderland: I went with my dad and sister to Canada’s Wonderland – a place I haven’t gone in quite a while – and it was so much fun! We haven’t had a family outing in a while, so to be able to eat funnel cakes and walk around and enjoy the rides and take photos together was really nice.

Escape Room: I have never done an escape room before, but my family and I started doing this monthly get-together, and our first activity was an escape room. It was SO FUN. The guys teamed up and did a sort of James Bond-ish escape room, while the ladies took on a Mayan Temple, very Indiana Jones-type room. And we escaped our room! The men were not as fortunate, but theirs was a lot harder.

Family BBQ: I got to accompany Jacob to one of his family’s BBQ dinners where we went swimming and I met a ton of people – it was a lot of fun and very relaxing. This was mainly prep for the fact that in August I’ll be attending a bigger family reunion with even more people. Eep.

Jays v. White Sox: I think I am a jinx, in that anytime I go to a Jays game, they get their ass handed to them on a silver platter? Hoping the next time I go it’s a bit of a closer game! But it was still fun to have a drink and hang out with my favourite person.

Train: First concert of the crazy summer of concerts ahead of me! Train with one of my best friends was a great way to kick it off. Keep a look out for my post about the show!

Arkells & July Talk: Arkells is my favourite band right now, and July Talk is quickly climbing my list. This was, not gonna lie, probably the best show I’ve ever been to. I wa surrounded by awesome people who just wanted to have a great time and we did not stop dancing. Again, keep an eye on the blog to see a more detailed post about the night ❤

Third Eye Blind: This was such a great, nostalgic concert. Getting to jump up and down to Semi-Charmed Life and scream the words to Jumper? Heck yes. Stay posted for the full concert recap!

Changes on the blog:

Here’s probably the biggest one that will actually affect my readers. As you may have noticed, my blog is sort of headed in a concert direction. And honestly, it’s not about me switching the blog from “book blog” to “music blog”. It’s about me switching the blog from “writing about books because I have to”, to “writing about what I want, when I want”.

So no, you probably won’t see reviews for books before they get published. No, you probably won’t even see reviews for books within the first month of their being published. No, I don’t plan on working with publishers anymore.

BUT.

Yes, you will see more variety and posts about things I’m up to and things on my mind. Yes, you will get better reviews, because I’ll actually WANT to review the books, and I’ll have many more passionate things to say about them. So. There’s that.

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Skin Flick by Norm Foster: Book Review

Skin Flick

Obtained: Playwrights Canada Press
Pages: 112
Publish date: March 13, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

SUMMARY

Middle-aged couple Daphne and Rollie and their friend Alex are out of work and out of luck when they get the idea to make their own porno film for some quick cash. The only problem is none of them want to star in it. As if on cue, a birthday telegram messenger arrives on their doorstep…

Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

I wasn’t sure what the tone of this play was going to be when I picked it up, but as soon as I started reading, I could not stop chuckling to myself. Rollie narrates the story to the audience directly, telling the story of how their idea to make a porn film came to be, and these narration often influence the characters acting out the story. Rollie decides to censor their language, and the characters become aware of the fact that their “F-words” get bleeped out. He also changes details mid-story and they get confused as to why they’re saying one thing when they wanted to say another. I thought the narration and breaking the fourth wall was extremely clever and entertaining.

I also enjoyed how dynamic and fun the characters were to read. I didn’t feel like any of them were particularly flat or conventional, which was refreshing for a comedy. And on a bit of a deeper level, I really liked the way the play addressed the topic of sex. Each character had their own viewpoint that wasn’t right or wrong. Sex wasn’t just meaningful, and it wasn’t just a meaningless act.  It was dependent on the situation and the individuals involved, and I thought that was a really great approach to the topic.

AND WHAT I DIDN’T

Honestly, there wasn’t any part of reading this play that I didn’t enjoy. The only reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is because I wasn’t totally blown away (pun intended?). It was funny and I had a great time imagining the staging of this production, but it isn’t going to go down as one of my all-time favourites. And that is what a 5-star rating is reserved for, in my books.

RECOMMEND IF…

  • You’re looking for a great, live comedy;
  • You’re open to learning about various opinions on sex;
  • You have an hour to kill and want to laugh.

Skin Flick is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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The Kindness of Strangers

I work in a school. So whenever I go into a public washroom, I see students – young women on their phones, taking selfies, laughing with friends, fixing their lipstick. Sometimes I have the unfortunate experience of walking into a washroom and seeing a girl crying. Most of the time, they’ve got a friend to support them through whatever is going on in their life. And sometimes I walk into a washroom and I’m reminded of an instance when I was in grade twelve, of an act of kindness that always sort of blew me away. That was nearly ten years ago, and I still think about it to this day.

It was the first day back from summer – my first day of my last year of high school. I’d signed up for an art class that was meant to focus on theatre set and costume design. Due to an underwhelming registration for that class, they’d merged it with the grade twelve art students’ class. I hadn’t taken art since grade nine, and these guys were all naturals. The teacher told us to draw a person’s face in two minutes – just a rough sketch using techniques we’d learned (which I hadn’t learned, because I wasn’t an art student). He came around to my desk and told me I was doing it wrong. Each similar exercise, he’d approach me and said I needed to draw faster: I wasn’t doing it right; I wasn’t good enough. Eventually he just didn’t walk around the class anymore, he just stood in front of my desk and criticized me in front of everyone. Finally, I’d had enough. I threw my pencil down and stormed out of the room, not waiting to burst into tears until I’d reached the girls’ bathroom. I don’t like any sort of attention, and all of his negativity was terrible.

I locked myself in a stall and started sobbing. Was this what grade twelve was going to be? It was only the first day and I already couldn’t handle the stress.

That’s when I heard a timid knock on the stall door. Quiet and curious. Then, a voice as small as her knock. “Um, hi – are you okay in there?

I sniffled and wiped my face, even though she couldn’t see me. “Yeah.” She obviously knew that was a lie, so I back-tracked. “No, I don’t know.”

“Do you want to talk?” Really? This girl actually cared enough to talk me down from this? I sighed and opened the door. The girl was tiny. I barely remember what she looked like, but I remember she was smaller than me. “Are you okay?

I explained what happened with my art teacher, and the girl shook her head. “What grade are you in?” she asked me. I told her twelve. Then she said the part that blew my mind.I’m in grade nine.

It was this girl’s first day of high school. She should have been terrified. Intimidated. Hoping just to get herself through the day. But this thirteen/fourteen-year-old girl had the courage to step up and knock on that door. And even though I was quietly sniffling into my tissue paper, she kept talking. “I can’t imagine how hard grade twelve is going to be. You’ve got to start thinking about graduation and school is getting harder… This is only my first day of grade nine, and it’s a little scary. But that teacher seems mean. Do you think you can drop the class?

I’d never considered dropping a class in my life. I loved school a lot. But I didn’t need it to graduate. I could have a spare period. She was being the logical one and talking me down from my anxiety attack. “Yeah, I think I could.”

If you don’t like the teacher, and you don’t like the class, maybe stick it out for a few days and if you still don’t like it – drop it.

Yeah. Thanks.

Do you want a hug?

Sure.I smiled as this girl wrapped her arms around me and actually squeezed. Not one of those awkward stranger hugs where you’re hoping to not have any more physical contact than absolutely necessary, but an actual, meaningful hug.

You got this. You’re almost done. You’ll be okay.”

I left the bathroom smiling through my reddened face, and didn’t return back to the classroom until 5 minutes before the bell. I ended up dropping the class the next day and saving myself a whole lot of unnecessary stress.

Often times I think about how brave that grade nine girl was. If I was in her shoes – the first day of high school, I’d be keeping my nose down. But that girl stepped up, talked me down from an anxiety attack, and was a friend when I needed one. I never learned her name, and I don’t think I ever saw her again. But the fact that she reached out and helped me did not go unnoticed.

Those random acts of kindness really do matter.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon: Book Review

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Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 380
Publish date: May 30, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

SUMMARY

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

First of all, I loved the diversity in this book. I love reading about different cultures and traditions, and this book actually gave me a great insight into a culture that isn’t my own.

The story was also super adorable. It was so sickly sweet that I found myself d’awww-ing out loud. I find a lot of YA romances feel interchangeable and eventually I begin to mix them up in my head, but you just know right off the bat that When Dimple Met Rishi is going to be a rom com to remember. All of the little details in the novel – Insomnia Con, Dimple and Rishi’s separate dreams and passions in life, the Bollywood dance routine – are ones that will make this YA romance stand out against all of the other ones for me.

Dimple and Rishi were great, and I actually really loved Dimple as a strong female lead. I could imagine her perfectly in my head, and I related to her quite a bit.

AND WHAT I DIDN’T

Honestly, I felt the ending to this book was kind of rushed. There was only 100 pages left and Insomnia Con still had three weeks to go. I kind of wished all of the plots had more time to wrap up; it was literally the halfway-point of Insomnia Con and then the next paragraph was “we’re announcing the winners”.

My other issue with this book is that I didn’t particularly like the secondary characters – Celia and especially the Aberzombies – seemed very flat. The “bad guys” were so over-the-top “bad” that I just couldn’t believe them. I wish they’d had more redeeming qualities to make them more well-rounded.

RECOMMEND IF…

  • You love cheesy romantic comedies;
  • You crave some diversity in your reading;
  • You want a read that will keep you smiling the whole way through;
  • You’d like to gain perspective about social privilege.

When Dimple Met Rishi is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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How the Arkells Changed My Life

I can count the bands I love on one hand. They’re not just bands I like, but bands that have had a serious impact on my life. Green Day has always been my group – the one whose music has meant the most to me and inspired me since I was ten years old. It’s been so long, I guess I forgot what it felt like to “love” a group like that. Then I got a chance to see Arkells at their homecoming concert in Hamilton.

“Take me to the bus stop Matty, drive me back to Hamilton…”
-Book Club

It was the first concert I’ve ever been to where I only knew a couple of songs, but still had a blast singing along. I fell in love that night – but not with a person. Arkells rekindled my love and appreciation for music. Their songs are so upbeat and happy, or emotionally charged. I can’t stand still. “Dirty Blonde” comes on, and I just need to dance.

“Give me your number, pick any colour, I can tell your fortune tonight.”
-Dirty Blonde

I guess that’s when I realized I wasn’t happy. In that moment, I fell in love with a sound harder than I’d fallen in love with the person I was dating. When I listen to their music, it makes me feel stronger – happier, sadder, giddier – than I felt when I was with the guy who was supposed to be “the one”.

In that moment, I decided I was tired of feeling numb. I realized I don’t need a person to make me feel – I can feel things on my own – with a book, with a game, with a band, with a song. And whether it was with another person, or by myself, I realized this is how I wanted to feel for the rest of my life.

The Arkells were the light in my life when I was numb and repressed by my selfish ex.

“I just want to love you, but it’s so hard.”
-Private School

They were there when he left me.

“When the rain starts comin’ down, a little rain ain’t bringin’ me down.”
-A Little Rain (A Song for Pete)

And they were there when I fell for someone who respected me, and who empowered me to be the person I wanted to be, for me. Not for him or for anyone else.

“It used to be just weekends, now I want you everyday.”
-My Heart’s Always Yours

The Arkells were my lifeline in a time when I needed something to shake me from my comfort zone, and tell me that there was something better out there for me. I just had to get out of my funk and find it.

And I can already feel the difference between going through the motions, and being just plain happy. I’m as happy as I was that night in Hamilton, and I feel happy every time I put High Noon on my record player.

I cannot wait to see the Arkells when they come to Toronto this month, because this time around it’ll mean so much more.

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Michelle Muses: May 2017

Holy crap, I feel like this month flew by. Remember how at the end of April, I said I would take it easier this month? I actually did it! I’m usually the worst and just fill my calendar with stuff, but I took this month kind of easy. So here are the low-key adventures I went on in May.

Mother’s Day: For Mother’s Day, my mom and I went to see Beauty and the Beast (finally). I was really hesitant about seeing the movie because TBH I’m not a huge fan of Emma Watson (sorry, not sorry), but Beauty and the Beast was my favourite movie as a kid. I would literally watch it like, 4 times back to back in one day and then watch it again the next day, and the next day. No wonder I’m such a book nerd. Anyway, there’s no one else I would have rather gone to see this with, and it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.

When the music started at the beginning, I may have cried. I also may have cried when each character was introduced for the first time (Belle! *sob* Gaston! *sob*). And when Belle and the Beast started the dancing scene… Okay I cried like the whole time. Thank god for 3D glasses covering my shame.

Michelle’s first ball game: So apparently it was sacreligious that I live basically in Toronto and have never been to a Jays game before. So Jacob and I went to one. I’d go again!

May 24 long weekend: Guys I did nothing over May 2-4. It was great. Friday afternoon by 6pm, Jacob and I were in pajamas with a glass of wine/beer and watching Netflix. That was our weekend. It was glorious.

Toronto with Sam: I met up with my bestie Sam and we went shopping (I bought way too many albums whoops), and we had lunch at our fave diner, and dinner at this amazing pho restaurant on Queen street. And even though it was pouring rain like half the time, it was so fun!

Date night in: No man has ever said “let’s cook dinner together” to me before. It is also a fact that I don’t typically cook. So we went and got ingredients, got a little creative, and spent the evening preparing dinner together. ❤

Booked my first vacation: I have never been overseas before. I’ve never been on a vacation without an adulty-relative before. But this weekend, I booked a trip to Iceland with one of my friends, and it is extremely exciting. I’m planning like a crazy person just because it’s fun for me to imagine all the things I can do not in Canada.

Basically, I just spent a lot of time this month with this guy, relaxing and watching TV (recently finished Bill Nye Saves the World and now onto Brooklyn Nine-Nine – so good!) But alas, relaxing can only last so long.

Next month begins the season of concerts.

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