Book Review: Safe With Me

Hannah: Hannah’s life was irrevocably changed the instant her twelve-year old daughter, Emily, was hit by a car while riding her bike. Her only comfort comes from knowing that her daughter’s death was not in vain, as Hannah decided to donate Emily’s organs. Now, a year has passed, and Hannah is still going through the motions as she grieves the loss of Emily. She’s attempting to re-build her life when Olivia and Maddie walk through the doors of her newly renovated salon. As she listens to Olivia describe Maddie’s situation – a young girl who up until recently was home bound due to her being very ill – Hannah cannot help but wonder if Maddie is the recipient of Emily’s liver. Desperate for answers, but not willing to divulge her suspicions quite yet, Hannah befriends Olivia and Maddie and is able to find a closeness that she never expected. But what happens when her deception comes to light?

Olivia: To the outsider, Olivia has it all. A great house, a wonderful, successful husband who is able to financially support her to the point where Olivia doesn’t need to work, and lastly, a healthy daughter. For the past eight or so years, Olivia’s daughter Maddie has been sick; however because of an unknown family’s loss, Maddie is given the second chance of life. There’s only one problem. Olivia does not have it all. She’s careful to hide the bruises from her daughter and from everyone else in her life; quick to keep up the facade of a perfect family – and husband. It leaves Olivia lonely. And then fate brings Hannah into their lives. The two begin to craft a friendship as Olivia opens up to Hannah about James’s abuse. And then Olivia’s world comes crashing down. Hannah is the mother of the liver donor who saved Maddie’s life. If James finds out that Olivia brought Hannah into their lives, he’ll go ballistic and there’s no telling what he’ll do. How can Olivia keep Maddie – and herself – safe and not lose the one true friend she’s made in a long time?

Maddie: At sixteen, Maddie is finally able to live her life as a teenager out in the world instead of as a patient in a hospital, waiting for death to take her. But Maddie knows nothing in life is simple, for consider the cruel irony surrounding her own circumstances. Someone had to die in order for Maddie to live. And yet, Maddie is not really living. Not yet. She spends more time behind her computer screen fabricating a fake persona than interacting with her peers. Of course, her fellow students don’t make her transition easy. Her first day at school is a disaster and leaves her hysterical. Olivia suggests a makeover, which brings them into Hannah’s orbit. Maddie immediately feels a kinship with Hannah – as does Olivia. Only Maddie could never fathom why, until that is, she sends a thank you letter to the donor’s family….and Hannah reveals it is she who is the family of the organ donor.

In Safe With Me, Amy Hatvany tells a powerful story about two mothers and their daughters that is sure to pack the emotional punches. What starts off as a slow tale quickly evolves into a story that could easily have a devastating ending as the lives of Hannah, Olivia, and Maddie begin to spiral, both together and apart.

Safe With Me masterfully intertwines suspense and mystery into a novel about second chances, forgiveness, friendship, and most of all, healing.

Rating: Four-and-a-half stars.

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Poem #5

They Don’t Know

Lay your head against the pillow,

they think you’re asleep.

But sleep never comes easy.

Your mind never shuts off.

Ruminating. Ruminating. Ruminating.

But they don’t know.

Wear a smile,

pretend to be happy.

Hide the fact that inside you’re

terrified.

But they don’t know.

They don’t know

how easy it would be

for you to lock yourself away,

stay in your apartment,

not stepping outside for anything.

A life spent on the couch.

Not worrying about anything.

They don’t know

how the things that come

so easily to others

for you, take all of your energy.

They don’t know.

They don’t know

that it catches up to you

daily;

your exhaustion.

It takes so much.

You give so much.

But they don’t know.

How could they?

Do you tell them?

Do you try to explain?

No.

It’s easier this way.

They’ll never know

and you’ll never say anything.

And they don’t know.

But you do.

Poem #4

Anxiety

Heart racing,

Can’t get it under control;

Stomach hurting,

Feeling like a stranger has inhabited my body.

 

Trips to doctors,

One has a PhD and the other an MD;

Talking, endless talking,

The need to figure out why I am this way.

 

Passed down through the family?

Thanks, but no thanks;

This is a gift I’ll be returning,

My mind is never asleep.

 

Endless worry,

Consuming doubt;

The memories span years,

How sad it must have been for me as a child to be plagued with such fear.

 

It’s not something you talk about,

Too much stigma attached;

Ironic, since “normal” has never really existed,

And yet, nobody wants to be “crazy.”

 

Respite would be nice,

A way to escape;

But when what you want to escape is your mind,

That trip is a much harder one to take

 

Original Writing: Poem # 3

Hero

She’s sunken

Crawled up like a ball

She’s trying to keep her balance

And yet she’ll always fall

I hand her a blanket

to protect her from the chills

but she moves way from me,

grabs the bottle and gives up her will

To live;

To be happy;

To change;

To make things right.

I’m trying to be the hero

But I don’t know how

But she needs a hero

And she needs one now

Her childhood pains are still alive

Can’t slay the demons, can’t just cry

So what do I do?

Let her die?

I want to be her hero

And sometimes I want to cry.

She says she’s tired of life.

Maybe I am too.

Every path, she’s taken

There’s nothing to start anew

I guess I am just human

And I’ll make my own mistakes

I can’t save everybody

I don’t have what it takes

To be a hero.

Short story: The Sinister Lagoon

Disclaimer: This was written for a short story contest.


The Sinister Lagoon

“Attention all Springland County residents,” the radio announcer’s voice barked loudly, “we have just received word of an escaped prisoner from the Eastfall Prison. Investigators are not positive precisely when the escape happened, but they believe it was within the last few days. Springland County Sheriff Eric Shaw has issued a warning to all those residing in both Springland County and nearby areas. Please be advised that prisoner Madeline Dunn is considered both armed and very dangerous. If you see her, do not approach her. We repeat, do not approach her. Call the police immediately. Thank you all for your time. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

“Awesome,” she heard Jace say. “We could use some excitement around here.”

“Wait, wasn’t she that chick who killed her cheating fiancé or something like that?” Curtis asked.

“Oh right, I heard she shot him like eighty times or something,” Madison chimed in.

“Great,” Chelsea groaned from the sandbar as she adjusted her tanning position, “just what we need – some unhinged psycho running around.”

Curtis jetted out of the water and sat down beside Chelsea.

“Aw, what’s wrong, Chels? You scared?” He questioned in a mocking tone. Then he leaned in closer and attempted to cop a feel. “Need me to protect you?”

Chelsea pushed his arm away in disgust.

“You wish.”

You okay, Avery?” Jace asked as he swam cautiously towards her. It was unusual for Avery to be so silent. She was the girl who could barely go five minutes without uttering a sound. Except for now that is. There was nothing emitting from her except for an eerie silence. No, she wanted so badly to say, she wasn’t okay. After all, there was a known murderer lurking around. How could any of them feel safe right now? Or at least safe enough to be out in the open with little to no protection. She was terrified, absolutely terrified. But she couldn’t let Jace know that. Not popular, charismatic Jace who all the girls in school wanted. Not the Jace that she unexpectedly bagged. Not the Jace she never deserved in the first place.

Avery simply nodded her head in response to his question. Her body stilled as she felt him get behind her and wrap his arms around her waist. His constant cinnamon scent wafting into her nostrils; his hot breath on her neck. It was all she could do to keep her composure.

“You’ll be safe in my bed tonight,” Jace said in the huskiest of voices. “I promise.”

Avery removed herself from his grip long enough to turn around to face him. Then she pulled him into a passionate kiss.

“Okay, seriously, get a room you two,” Madison said from a few feet away.

“We already have one,” Jace responded jokingly as he broke the kiss.

“Then use it.”

“We should be thinking about heading out anyway, bro. We’re seriously low on beer,” Curtis informed his friend.

“And we can’t let that happen, can we Curtis? Heaven forbid there’s no beer.”

“Screw you, Chelsea.”

Jace gave Avery an apologetic look, one she knew all too well. One that said he had to back up his friend.

“Curtis is right. We’ll go for a beer run and you girls can start dinner.”

“Yeah, I’ll get right on that,” Chelsea replied, giving the boys a sarcastic thumbs up.

Jace started to paddle to shore as Madison sidled up alongside Avery.

“Know what I don’t get? Why did she shoot him? Why not just go for his bank account or his reputation instead?”

Avery heard Chelsea snort. “Because cheaters don’t care about their reputations. And he probably was broke. No, she was right in serving up some revenge; however, she was wrong in the way she doled it out. She should have killed them both. I mean, why does the other woman get a free pass?”

Madison shot Avery a shocked look to which Avery responded merely with a shrug. That was Chelsea. Unfiltered, but loyal.

“You don’t know the whole story, Chelsea. Maybe she was lied to as well.” Madison’s voice quivered. “Maybe she thought he was going to leave his girlfriend.”

 Chelsea rolled her eyes. “You’re so naïve. I’m sure the two of them were going to live blissfully and unfaithfully ever after.”

“Maybe they were.” It came out barely as a whisper, but Avery heard it nonetheless. She slowed her pace and allowed Madison to walk in front of her. When Madison realized Avery was no longer next to her, she turned around.

“You coming, Aves?”

Avery nodded. “I’ll be there in a second.”

And then she watched them gather their belongings from the ground and head back to the main cabin. She felt sick to her stomach. How stupid could she be? It had been right in front of her face all along. The texts Jace would get and suddenly delete. The way Madison hung on his every word. The quick and darted looks in the hallway at school. They needed to pay for humiliating her this way. Stepping out of the swimming hole, she picked up her bag which had been situated on the rainbow colored beach chair. Sticking her right hand in, she fumbled through it until she felt the item she had so desired. Her lips formed into a smirk as her fingers ran across the sharp blade of the knife. It was poetic justice really. Avery had never seen it coming. And now neither would they.

Book Review: I Was Here – Gayle Forman

“I don’t know if I had ever really listened to the words before, because when I did now, they were like a smack from her grave. It says you can still forgive her. And she will forgive you back.

But I don’t know that I can. And I don’t know that she did.”

– Cody Reynolds, I Was Here

Gayle Forman, author of books such as If I Stay, Where She Went, and Just One Day brings readers I Was Here, the story of one young woman’s search for answers in the wake of a tragedy. Meg and Cody were best friends. Where Meg ended, Cody began. They knew everything about each other. Except they didn’t. Not even close. Because Cody had no idea that her best friend was so depressed that she needed to swallow poison to make the pain go away. When someone takes their life unexpectedly, it’s natural for those around them to question why they didn’t see any warning signs. It’s also understandable to look for some reasoning behind their decision.

As humans we’re conditioned to ask questions about situations that leave us confused. Why? Because answers help us cope. Help us move on. And we cannot move on until we reach a conclusion, a finality in our quest for answers. So when Meg’s grieving parents ask their daughter’s best friend, Cody, who is like a second daughter to them, to pick up Meg’s stuff from school, she accepts, albeit reluctantly. Although combing through the remainders of Meg’s life feels all wrong for Cody, she continues doing so. While picking up Meg’s belongings, she meets her former roommates who were just as in the dark about Meg’s suicide as her parents and Cody, her supposed best friend. Cody also stumbles upon Ben McCallister, the guy who broke Meg’s heart.

Cody is looking for someone to blame – someone other than herself that is – for Meg’s heartache. At first, the person that fits that bill is Ben. Even more so after she finds e-mail after e-mail from Meg to Ben that for the most part go unanswered. There is one poignant response from Ben, however; the one where he tells Meg she needs to leave him alone. If only he knew the lengths she would go to to satisfy that request. Only it’s not that simple. Even Cody knows that. Most college freshmen don’t kill themselves over unrequited feelings. When Meg’s parents insist Cody keep Meg’s laptop, Cody gets an insight into her best friend’s world that she never saw coming. Meg had joined a suicide support group. But it’s not the type of group that dissuades suicide. Oh, no. It is one that encourages it.

This is a discovery that leaves Cody reeling and angry. Angry that people – specifically one person – would goad her obviously confused best friend into killing herself. This person and this group need to pay. Fueled by a myriad of emotions, Cody hatches a plan. She makes a profile for the page and begins to post in an attempt to lure out the man who helped Meg take her own life. And at first, Cody knows it’s all lies. But in a way, it’s also the truth. When she writes about losing her other half in Meg, she isn’t lying. And even though Cody goes into this knowing it’s a hoax, it doesn’t make it any less intoxicating when she is able to make contact with the user going by the name “All_BS,” fitting for an individual who offers death as a solution to those who are lost.

In addition to playing detective, Cody also struggles to keep her distance from Ben, who is intoxicating on a whole other level. He’s able to get under a skin in a way nobody else can, but it’s so wrong. So very wrong. Because this is the same guy who broke Meg’s heart. Between tracking down All_BS and her attempts to not fall into Ben’s trap like the many girls before her and Meg, Cody is barely holding it together. Maybe it would be easier to just end her own life the same way Meg did. After all, they were best friends, were they not?

Forman is able to take a book that appears to be about suicide and turn it into a story that is really much more. And she does it with extreme talent. At its core, I Was Here is about friendship, love, family, and finding oneself in a world that is more vague than certain. It’s about letting go while finding a way to hold on. And lastly, it’s about forgiveness; for those who are no longer with us and for those who still are and most importantly, for ourselves.

Fans who enjoyed Forman’s If I Stay will surely devour I Was Here. I certainly did.

Original Writing: Poem # 2 – She’s Okay

She’s Okay

They all look at her as an example of greatness

she’s never let them down

and she stands there, mask hiding her face

so they don’t see her frown

I’m okay, she states

but nobody seems to hear

I’m okay, she assures

but she’s not, she fears

She writes down these words to escape the pain

her bruises are all hidden well

she tries and tries but has lost the flame

she’s been expelled from hell

She tries to be the good one

daughter

sister

friend

but none of this seems to matter

she just wants it all to end

But nobody understands

Nobody even tries

All they see is smiles

Even when she cries

All they see is truth

When all there is are is lies

She’s Okay

She’s Okay they say

But she’s not

So why even try?

Original Writing: Poem #1

Hello, ya’ll. So, normally I use this blog as a book review sort of thing, but I want to evolve it into something more. I figured I would start posting some poetry I have had lying around:

Say

It’s okay,

you said what you needed to say,

forget the hurt feelings

left in the wake.

Are you unburdened now

do you feel safe?

It’s funny how quickly

the tables change.

Because now it’s me

left out in the cold.

Funny, you’re suddenly so silent now

Now that you have had your chance.

But it’s okay.

You said what you needed to say.

Conscience cleared

what a relief

No need to hide

who you are.

If I’ve made you feel bad

you’ve evened the score

this is no longer friendship,

it’s an all out war.

Who knows

maybe all of this will fade away

get erased

dissipate.

At least now

you feel heard

but let me ask, “friend”

what was the price?

No, you know what?

It’s okay.

You said what you needed to say.