7 Enriching Things about “An Ember in the Ashes”

“An Ember in the Ashes” An Ember in the Ashes Book 1

by Sabaa Tahir

Nikki’s Rating: 7 out of 10

Summary: In a world based on Ancient Rome, Laia a Scholar slave, finds herself at the mercy of the people responsible for the death of her family. Spying for the Resistance, a group of Scholar rebels, whose help Laia needs to rescue her brother, Laia infiltrates the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There she meets Elias, their best soldier, who, like Laia, is desperate to escape the clutches of the Empire and be free. But destiny has other plans.

Elias is dragged into a deadly competition against his best-friend Helene, who is secretly in love with him. The Resistance launches a devastating attack against the Empire. And Laia is caught in the middle of all of this, simply trying to save her last remaining family member from torture and death.


7 Enriching Things about Sabaa Tahir’s “An Ember in the Ashes”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Ancient Rome

While “An Ember in the Ashes” is no Historical Fiction, Tahir did base her fictional world on our Ancient Rome and this is one of my favorite places for a novel to take place!

2. Elias

Haunted, strong, handsome alpha male? Sign me up! But in all seriousness, I enjoy the complexity of Elias and how regardless of the way he was brought up and raised, he questions the Empire. I cannot get over who his mother is and I’m interested to see how that dynamic began. I’m hoping his story will not end up breaking my heart.

3. Down with the Status Quo!

Perhaps it fits with the way I’m feeling in our own political climate but stories about evil governments being taken down by rebels are very captivating for me and well, it’s a classic plot.

4. Keris, the Commandant

Fucking bitch. I have nothing else to say other than Tahir did an absolute amazing job of creating a very interesting villian who I just utterly hate and yet I want to know more about her and why she is the way she is.

5. Laia

Strong, capable female that constantly second-guesses herself, I can relate! I love Laia’s fire and drive, she is so spirited and her dedication to her brother is inspiring. I also appreciate that she has a very clear idea of what is wrong and right, she doesn’t do something that she believes to be wrong, sticks to her morals even when it is difficult to do so.

6. Helene

Another strong, independent female but damn this woman frustrates me so! Poor girl. I do feel for her; for her love for Elias and the pain of rejection by someone you love but it also maddens me how much she just blindly follows. I know this is slowly changing but I wanted to strangle her so many times throughout “An Ember in the Ashes”.

7. Intrigued

Overall, I’m intrigued. I NEED to know what happens to Elias, Helene, and Laia for my own sanity! Thank you Sabaa Tahir for creating such a beautiful world with very interesting characters and a dynamic storyline.

What are your favorite things about Sabaa Tahir’s “An Ember in the Ashes”?


Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Nikki Page, the artist

Just a little blurb on me:

Born and raised in Northern California, Nikki Page is a self-taught artist who believes in celebrating all the little things in life and spreading magic wherever she goes. Adopted at birth, “Page” is for her biological mother who loved unconditionally and so selflessly; she gets the blame for Nikki’s overactive imagination and quirkiness. “Nikki” is for the family who raised her, nicknamed her “Picky-Nikki”, and indulged her overactive imagination, creativity, and curiosity with unlimited books, comics, music, and play! Nikki Page continues living a blessed life with a wonderful, supportive husband, two purrfect furbabies, a fun, rewarding job, and lots and lots of books in Chico, California.

An Environmentally-Friendly Holiday Season

Each Holiday Season, the US produces one million tons of extra garbage a week.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, we use enough ribbon to wrap the whole planet. Endless paper, plastic wrap, and cardboard are used simply shipping items from manufacturer to sellers, to buyers. Now add in possible shipping from buyer to gift recipient plus the gift wrapping: the bows, ribbon, envelopes, cards, tape… etc.

Read the ideas below for ways to create less trash and give everyone the gift of an environmentally-friendly Holiday Season:

Go Paperless.

Help save the environment and wish loved ones Happy Holidays with an Amazon eGiftCard.

Tissue Paper.

A gift is easily placed in a gift bag and then the bag is overflowingly stuffed with tissue paper creating so much unnecessary trash!

The point of wrapping is to allow the gift to be a surprise and only a few pieces of tissue paper is needed for this.

Choice 1: Use a single piece of tissue paper to wrap around each item (or a small group of items) placed in the gift bag. This allows the items to be concealed if there is some pre-Xmas “peaking”.

Choice 2: Place item(s) in the gift bag and place 1-2 pieces of tissue paper over the top and tucked into the sides of the item(s) to cover them.

Choice 3: Use drawstring gift bags, no tissue paper needed!

Reusable Bags.

If you must wrap, wrap using bags! Wrapping paper cannot be reused but gift bags can.

Make the bag a gift as well. Christmas themed drawstring gift bags and reusable grocery bags are perfect for wrapping.

Santa’s Sack.

If you have little children, you can have all of “Santa’s Gifts” in a large Santa Sack. All the gifts can be inside, unwrapped, with small gift tags on them. This way, the gifts are still a pleasant surprise and Santa gets to be eco-friendly.

Or Better Yet… Don’t Wrap Gifts, Period.

I am an adult child and I can tell you that no child cares what a gift is wrapped in! Wrap it in toilet paper and they will still be overjoyed that you got them the latest gadget. And hopefully, no reasonable adult would turn their nose up at an unwrapped gift.

Knowing that someone took the time to think about you and that they spent their time and energy in getting you something, is a gift in itself. Fuck the wrapping.

This Holiday Season, take the time to notice what you waste. If you can find alternatives, use an eco-friendly or recycled product to replace it, or better yet, cut out trash where you can. Please pass this message along to others and let’s try our best to be environmentally friendly when gift-giving!

Season Blessings,

Nikki Page

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Religion…

“Do you believe in religion?” This is the question Fred Kat asked me last time he emailed me. And Fred, I need to apologize… You asked this question in April.

I have sat down at my computer and attempted to answer this question 1000 times. And deleted everything. Every time.

Is it because I’m afraid I’ll be persecuted? Perhaps I don’t wish to be told that I will be going to hell? Maybe I know my beliefs cannot be defended against criticism?

Or perhaps I think you are all idiots and I don’t want to waste my breath on something that you will never grasp?

None of these are true. Although some humans are idiots, of course. (He runs ‘Merica atm)

So what is my problem with religion?

It’s none of your business.

And that is my answer because it is also none of my business what you believe.

So the answer is I don’t believe in religion.

Do I believe in a higher power? Yes. Does it matter or affect me in any way shape or form if you believe in a higher power? Not at all.

Do I call my higher power a specific name, do I distinguish a gender? No, depends on my mood and how I am connecting to my higher power that day. Humans have had thousands of different names and words to describe or call the gods. Is the name really important? I think more depends on how I live my life versus what I call my higher power. So why do you care?

Do I believe that you should be allowed to practice your beliefs in anyway shape or form? As long as you are not harming another living creature physically, emotionally, socially, financially, or mentally, absolutely.

Do I think people should be allowed to perform rituals and or ceremonies in a gathering with like-minded individuals? Sure.

Do I get to tell you all about my beliefs, how I have all the answers, and how to live your life in order to have a “heavenly” afterlife? Is it my job to “save” you? Fuck no. And it is not your business to try to “save” my soul either.

Spirituality, our relationship with the spiritual/divine realm, whatever you want to call it, is a PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. There is no right or wrong to believe in. And how much suffering has been caused by trying to prove that one religion is “true” and all others are “wrong”?

So go ahead, go to church, mosque, a meditation or prayer group and have a ritual or ceremony together. Celebrate that you view the divine in a similar manner! Find joy and support in a community. But don’t make it an “us” versus “them”. Respect that others will have a different experience, different perspective, and different interpretation of the mythical.

Allow governments to do their job and be the ones to create laws centering on human rights. While spiritual establishments should be there to allow people to gather and discuss their spiritual experiences, partake in ceremonies, rituals, and celebrations together, and aid those who want to explore their spirituality. Ultimately religious establishments should be focused on making people better humans, not better Catholics, Muslims, or Buddhists. Human.

Until this becomes the reality, I don’t believe religion is a positive thing in our world. We have twisted something that could have been beautiful into a weapon to hurt others and then a shield to not take responsibility for our own actions. We use religion as a way to spread ignorance and hate.

Do you agree with me? Or feel that I am being unfairly pessimistic about religion and humanity? Please share any thoughts about this!

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Curing Mental Illness

Star Bubbles 1.2I spent days thinking about this…

One of my followers emailed me after reading my post “Living with Mental Illness.” He asked 2 questions. I will attempt to answer one of these tonight.

Fred Kat: “Do you think the condition (mental illness) is reversible?”

As someone who is diagnosed with mental illness, has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and works full-time in the mental health field, this question is seriously loaded and not easy to answer.

My answer: No.

Mental disorders a lot of the time make actual physical, chemical, and anatomical changes to the nervous system. Also, all our brains are continuously changing. Our neurons are making new connections. Repairing others. Destroying useless ones. A never-ending affair.

Likewise, we are continuously changing moment to moment. We are the sum of all our experiences. Good or bad.

So I would never use the word “reversible.” I don’t think anything is truly reversible.

Even if you don’t consciously remember something, you do somewhere. Somewhere in you physically, mentally, and/or emotionally remembers. You cannot “reverse” it.

But Nikki, what about curing mental illness? Do you believe that is possible?

Again, no.

But there is hope…

Just as nothing is reversible in this universe, nothing is permanent either. Change is the only constant.

Is there hope that things will get better? Yes.

Is there hope that you won’t always feel this low or this high or this out of control? Of course.

Can you learn tools, skills, and techniques to help yourself and keep yourself mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally well? Absolutely!

Is that a cure? No.

But is it enough? Is it worth it to keep fighting? Is hope for the future worth the heartache, disappointment, and stress we experience each and every day?

YES!

I have seen true powerful transformations in my life.

I have seen people who have hit rock bottom. Go from owning a home to homelessness. Have nothing but change in the bank and own only whatever they carry. I have known people who could not figure out what was real or not, their perception of reality being that skewed.

And I’ve witnessed these same people turn their lives around. Some of these people are now holding jobs, are housed. Have had their children returned to them. Many of them are now supporting others on their road to recovery.

So yes, there is hope because the possibilities for our wellness and recovery are endless.

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

Living with Mental Illness

Red Gerbera Schism 1.1

I was once asked, “What’s it like having a mental illness?” This question was asked by a very good friend of mine. This friend never experienced mental illness. He asked with sincere curiosity. He had never known anyone with mental illness (that he knew of besides me). The question was asked because he didn’t understand. He didn’t understand why I sometimes struggled. Why I struggled with what he thought was nothing to struggle about. Like getting out of bed.

There are days that I really have to push myself to get out of bed. I have to give myself a pep-talk, think about good things that could happen that day, and really convince myself that staying in bed forever is not going to help my shit mood that I’m in. Some days, getting out of bed is my biggest accomplishment.

Then there are the other days. Days where my mind is racing. I feel like I can take on the world. Sleep is not something I need anymore, I have tons of energy and I’m excited to do… EVERYTHING!!! Those days, I really have to question every decision I make simply to try to avoid possibly doing something I would end up regretting once I was more clear-headed.

And then there is the random thoughts of worthlessness and suicide that just pop into my head. I literally can have nothing, nothing bad happen. Nothing that made me upset, triggered, anxious, or even excited, elated, or happy. Just an average non-eventful day where I feel contentment. And then driving down the freeway on my way home from work, randomly I think: “I should drive my car off the side of the road and kill myself.” No particular reason why. It’s like somewhere inside me is a part that wants to die. Insidious thoughts of suicide have haunted me for as long as I can remember, even as a child.

But how could I explain this to someone who has never experienced this? How could I communicate the difficulties I face simply from being me? That I’m in constant war with myself. That I want to live but I’m also so exhausted from being hyper-vigilant of my moods and thoughts. Continuously reminding myself that no, I don’t actually want to die, I’m very happy with my life, I just have suicidal ideation.

I thought long and hard on how best to explain what it is like living with a mental illness and this is the analogy I came up with:

Every person in the world is in their own small boat. We are all sailing across the sea of life. There is no visible end or destination, we just sail along until death claims us. As we are sailing, there are storms on this sea, waves that crash into our boat, and all we have is a small bucket to use to toss the water out. These waves and water filling the boat are the struggles, challenges, and perhaps even trauma that we all experience in life, storms are situations that affect multiple people at once. And our small little bucket that we are using to try to keep our boat afloat represents our wellness tools, supports, and coping skills in life. The quality of the boat represents are resources. If you grew up in poverty, your boat may be made from rotten wood, while an upper class white male may have a boat made from lightweight carbon fiber.

So everyone is on their small single man boat, doing their best to sail in the ocean of life, with waves crashing down on us as life throws trials and tribulations our way. For those with mental illness, our boats have holes. It may be several tiny holes, one giant crack in the hull, or one small hole that doesn’t seem all that bad but it is a hole nonetheless. So while everyone else is scrambling to toss the water out of their boats from the waves, those with mental illness are trying to fix our boat while still dealing with the crashing waves. We may be lucky and be able to patch up all the holes and/or get a bigger bucket by getting help through therapy, medication, peer support, etc. Or society may fail us and our holes could get bigger, causing our boat to sink leaving us to swim until we get the help we need. Once we are swimming, we need the help of others. We need support to bring us out of the water, rest our exhausted body and mind, and build another boat for ourselves.

Keep in mind that the waves and storms could cause anyone to develop holes in their boats. Mental illness knows no boundaries. Mental illness can affect anyone! Any social class, race, religion, age, gender, culture, financial status, or sexual orientation. Sure some of us may have better boats, better resources, bigger buckets but it is possible for anyone of us to develop mental illness. And if we do, we are dealing not just with the constant crashing waves of life but also a boat with holes.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Did the analogy make sense? Did I totally miss the mark and you don’t agree? How would you describe having mental illness if you were asked?

Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.