New year, new me

Hello fellow readers!

So, it’s 2017. Yay! No, really, there’s absolutely no sarcasm (for once) behind that yay. 2016 was not only crappy for the world, but on a personal note as well. Okay, maybe that isn’t entirely accurate. It was more a general feeling of ennui. Mainly for what I wanted to accomplish with my writing.

For example, this was the first year I attempted Nanowrimo, and I pretty much failed spectacularly! Oh, no, please, hold your applause for later 😉 November ended up a busy month and I don’t have any excuse because I know that if I really wanted it, I would have made it happen. But I didn’t. Oh well. So, what? It’s not like there’s a rule that says you can only write a novel during November. Really it’s more of a formality to get you started.

I also took part in NYCMidnight’s flash fiction contest. I was close to advancing to the third round, but fell short by a few points. I was slightly disappointed in myself, but like Nano, it was a learning experience. Having 48 hours to write less than 1,000 words while utilizing random objects and – at times – unfamiliar genres is definitely a way to get your creative juices flowing.

Lastly, my reading was abysmal for 2016. I started out setting my goodreads challenge for 20 books…and then 15…and then 10…and I rounded out the year with six books. Meh. I know, I know, but I was in a massive book slump. It started to pick up around summer when I read The Forgetting Time and Still Alice, and then it dwindled.

So, this begs the question, what do y’all do when you’re in a book slump/funk? How do you get yourself reacquainted with reading?

Anyway, I plan to do much better this year. More books, more reviews!

🙂

Until then,

-That Media Chick

P.S. Happy New Year

What Was Mine

What Was Mine – Helen Klein Ross

Genre: Fiction, contemporary fiction,

Admittedly this book started off a little slow for me, but once I got into it, I pretty much plowed through it. The chapters themselves are not very lengthy so it’s very possible to get through the book pretty quickly.

Anyway, moving on. This is a story about a kidnapping. Lucy has been trying for years to have a baby, but nothing has worked. Eventually she and her husband end up divorcing due to the stress of infertility. Lucy resigns herself to the fact that she will never have a bay. That is, until she happens upon an unattended infant in an IKEA store.

(Disclaimer: I’m going to be really honest here. Lucy’s reasons for taking the baby are pretty much crap. Natalie aka Mia, was not some neglected child. It was a mistake for her mother to step away, true, but that doesn’t make Lucy the law and sure as hell doesn’t give her justification for, you know, kidnapping someone else’s kid!)

Ugh. Sorry, but the anger.

Marilyn will never forget the day she last saw her four month old daughter, Natalie. She’ll also never forget the mistake she made of taking that call while she was in IKEA. Marilyn was a loving, doting mother whose only crime was letting her guard down for a few minutes. Those few minutes changed everything about Marilyn’s life. Reeling from the disappearance of her daughter, Marilyn navigates the days after with trepidation. She loses her marriage and herself. But somehow, she manages to get through the darkness and find some light with a new love and ends up having three more kids, though her heart is still broken from losing Natalie.

Natalie/Mia. Mia always knew she was adopted. She knew that Lucy wasn’t her birth mother, but all the same, she was her mother. Until Mia finds out the truth. Lucy is not her adoptive mother. Lucy is her abductor. Now she’s faced with the prospect of getting to know the mother she was stolen from, as well as her biological siblings. But how can she just forget the last twenty-one years of her life? She hates Lucy. Or does she? It was difficult watching Mia trying to navigate this new chapter of her life. I can’t imagine finding out that the person I trusted most in this world was capable of such an awful crime.

It was also difficult seeing Lucy try to justify her actions. Yes, Lucy wanted a child and after trying and failing, I understand the urge continued to grow. But with that being said, nothing makes what Lucy did OKAY. Not only did she make a choice that directly affected Mia and Marilyn, but Lucy’s own family. Her sister who is in complete shock that Lucy could do such a heinous act. Marilyn’s other children. I guess the best way I can describe it is if you cut down one tree in the forest, even if there’s hundreds of other trees there, the one you’re cutting down is significant to the forest. To the birds and other animals that need that tree.

Conclusion: 4.5/5 stars. I can’t give it the full five because I really hated Lucy. Still, an enjoyable (and quick) read that you’ll be intrigued (and possibly horrified) by.

Book Review: Still Alice

Still Alice – Lisa Genova

Harvard professor Alice Howland had the life she always wanted. A loving husband and three successful children.

And then she got the one thing she never wanted….or expected. At 50, Alice is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. As her mind slowly deteriorates, Alice struggles to hold onto those aspects of her life that she holds most dear. Her words. Her memories. Her life.

This is an incredibly realistic and therefore painful depiction of what it’s like for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and what it is like for their families. For Alice, it’s made worse due to the fact that her type of Alzheimer’s is genetic. So, not only is this disease going to rob her of her life and those activities of daily living we take for granted, but it also holds the possibility of robbing the lives of her children as well.

It’s not an easy read. I found myself aching for Alice as her Alzheimer’s progressed and she had difficulty recognizing her children. I wanted to jump into the pages and give her a hug. I wanted to be able to save her and find a way for her to get her life back. I felt her humiliation and frustration.

And I also felt for Alice’s family. Her husband, John, a scientist who can’t do anything for his ailing wife; her three children. Anna, newly married and trying to get pregnant, Tom, a surgeon, and Lydia, an aspiring actress.

I pictured myself in Alice’s shoes, my world crumbling around me. Losing the ability to process situations, fearing for when I would not remember those I love more than anything in the world, but also how devastating it would be to lose myself. Maybe we don’t always have a grip on who we are 100% of the time. We feel lost and confused, but it’s a temporary feeling. Except for when it isn’t.

For anyone who has had a relative with Alzheimer’s, you know how excruciating and awful it can be. But we expect it with relatives who are elderly. We don’t expect it with people we love and care about who are still relatively young. We don’t see it coming for us either. There’s a lot of scary things out there, but for me, this book was terrifying. Not because it was some thriller about a serial killer, but because it was just….too real. But that’s also what makes it a wonderful story that will stay with you long after you have finished the last page.

Rating: 5/5 stars

 

Book Review: The Forgetting Time

Title – The Forgetting Time

Author – Sharon Guskin

Wow. Sharon Guskin hits a home run with her debut novel, The Forgetting Time. I really did not want this book to end because I found it so engrossing. But with that being said, it may not be for everyone. The story follows single mom Janie and her precocious son four year old son, Noah. Parenting is never easy, and parenting as a single mother is even harder, but as the story unfolds, Janie cannot even begin to imagine how difficult caring for Noah will become. You see, Janie finds that Noah’s oddities can no longer be dismissed as him having a vivid imagination. Noah remembers things he should have no memory of, like a vacation house. He’s never seen a gun, but tells stories of being shot. And Janie’s never read Harry Potter to him, and yet, he knows details from the books. Faced with the possibility that Noah might be sick, Janie becomes desperate for answers, desperate enough to seek out Dr. Jerome Anderson. Anderson, who was once a prominent and promising professor of psychology is now the laughing stock of his field. Why? Because his life’s work has become about chasing down accounts of past lives.

Now, you don’t have to believe in reincarnation to enjoy this book, but being more open to it helps.

In the end, though, it’s not about the metaphysical. It’s a book that challenges us to ask questions, questions like, what came before and how does it affect who we are now? Do we really only live once? And finally, can we ever reconcile our past with our future?

Rating – 5/5 stars

Book Review: The Last Time We Say Goodbye

Cynthia Hand – The Last Time We Say Goodbye

TW: Suicide

Alexis aka “Lex,” is not doing too well in the wake of her younger brother’s suicide. But then again, who would be “doing well” under those circumstances? Not many people I would assume.

But Lex isn’t just mourning Ty. No. Lex is hiding a secret from everyone she loves about Ty’s last day. And since then, she’s closed off from those who love her, including her ex-boyfriend, Steven.

And then, perhaps prompted  by guilt, (although it’s probably in combination with grief), Lex starts feeling Ty’s presence in her house and in Ty’s room. Not only is she feeling his presence, she’s seeing him too. And smelling him, or at least, the remnants of his wafting cologne. In addition to seeing Ty, Lex begins to notice things around the house going missing.

As if this mystery isn’t enough, Lex is dealing with her mother who is still reeling from her son’s suicide. And after he left his wife and two kids for a younger woman, Lex’s relationship with her dad is anything but okay.

But I won’t lie. This isn’t a science-fiction type of book. It’s not a mystery either. Not in the larger sense of the word/genre anyway. Not to completely spoil the book, but yes, Ty is really dead. No, Lex doesn’t find a way to bring him back.

But that’s mostly why I enjoyed this book, despite the topic. Death leaves us looking for answers no matter how old or young  a person is. Even if we had warning or time for “closure” (yeah, using quotes there because do you ever really achieve closure?). But death is especially jarring if we have no warning of it at all.

If you’re looking for a story with a huge plot twist, this isn’t it. Instead what you’ll find here is a truly raw and gripping tale about to how to conceive of moving on when someone you love is gone forever. How to accept that your life is never going to be the same as it once was. And finally, coming to grips with knowing that no matter what you had done differently that hour, that second, that day, that week, that sometimes, while not for the lack of trying, you simply couldn’t have done anything.

4/5 stars.

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.

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.