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Rainy Day's Books, Video Games and Other Writings

Book Review: Shout

Shout Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

A searing poetic memoir and call to action from the bestselling and award-winning author of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson!

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she’s never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society’s failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #metoo and #timesup, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice– and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.

This book was so beautifully written that I enjoyed every minute I spent reading it. The overall writing style in this book reminds me so much of Ellen Hopkins’s young adult, contemporary, poetry prose. Like her works, Shout does a wonderful job of telling Laurie Halse Anderson’s story in poetic format. The difference being though that her story is a memoir, based on her own life experiences that she had during her adolescence.

For me, that made this book that much more beautiful. I found her story from teenager to young adult relatable as she talks about her experience with sexual assault and how that helped shape her into the adult she is now. Her poetry style flowed very well and was easy for me as a reader to follow along. As a result, I found myself wanting to continue reading her story to see how she handled her life experiences.

Another element of this memoir I enjoy is the honesty with which Anderson talks about sexual assault. Not only with regards to how it affected her own life but also how she’s seen her writing about it impact the lives of others. I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned this in any of my blog posts before or not, but her book Speak is one of my favorite books. The first time I read it, I knew it was an important book that I’d always have on my bookshelf and it’s a story I’ve read countless times. With Shout, I find myself feeling the same way because the story being told within its pages is just as important.

I appreciate that this book brings up important topics such as sexual assault and censorship when it comes to allowing children to read certain books. Both topics need to be addressed, especially in books. It saddens me to see so little has changed when it comes to these topics and I appreciate Anderson’s words bringing this truth to light and letting us know she wants to continue being a voice of change.

There is very little with this memoir I didn’t enjoy, except maybe certain poems didn’t flow very well. Or that I found when reading certain parts of the overall story didn’t feel quite as strong as others. I overall loved each of the sections in this book, but I sometimes found the writing worked well in one section over the other. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the content, I just didn’t find that section quite as enjoyable to read as the other. It was interesting and caught my attention but didn’t speak to me quite as much.

Either way, I overall enjoyed reading Shout. To the point where I’m at a loss of words to describe my thoughts on this book. It’s a good book, full of content that gets straight to the point and leaves quite the punch. If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend it, especially to those who love poetry/prose and memoirs. It’s also good for young adult readers and those who enjoy reading books that deal with difficult topics.

Book Review: We Are Okay

We Are Okay Book Cover

Rating: 3.5 stars

“You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.”

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

We Are Okay is a book that leaves me with mixed feelings about what I think of it overall. I enjoyed reading it because I can relate to the content within its pages. But at the same time, I also struggled with the story because of the way Marin decided to handle her grief.

What I loved about this story was the subject matter, the shift between past and present in each chapter, and Marin’s relationship with her best friend Mabel. I found this story heavily relatable to me because I too have lost someone very close to me recently. So, I could understand the feelings Nina LaCour used with Marin to describe the overall grief she felt at her grandfather’s passing. I felt sympathetic to her character as she dealt with this loss while going through what’s supposed to be one of the most exciting moments in your life: going to college. I can’t imagine how tough it must’ve been for her being at that college, knowing she doesn’t have anyone left in her family that she could talk to about her first day of school and starting the road to becoming an adult. Just reading the story from Marin’s perspective, knowing how lonely she was feeling despite having other people who cared about her reminded me of the grief I’ve been dealing with since the passing of my best friend. Even though I know I have people who care about me and that are here for me, I completely understood Marin’s feelings in this story. So, for me, this story did a wonderful job of talking about grief, loss, depression, and loneliness when it comes to losing someone you deeply care about.

One of the aspects of We Are Okay that I loved is the shift LaCour does between Marin’s past from before her grandfather passed away and her life presently. I felt like this shift as readers allowed us to see more into Marin’s life from before everything changed for her. It also allowed us as readers to see the dynamic between Marin and grandfather, which gave us an even better understanding as to why she made the decisions she did. There’s a lot we don’t know about him when we’re first introduced to Marin so by having these different chapters, we as readers are given the chance to learn more about his character and about Marin too.

Seeing the relationship between Marin and her best friend Mabel was also something I really enjoyed when reading this book. You can tell with Marin that she really loved her best friend with all her heart. And while things with their relationship didn’t go the way you as the reader hoped, I was glad that despite everything that happened since Marin left California for college, Mabel still wanted to be there for Marin and be a part of her life. I found seeing that in their beautiful friendship wonderful. Reading about their friendship reminded me of my friendship with my best friend, even though our friendship was not like theirs at all. But I still found it relatable because my friendship with her was similar in that we were always there for each other whenever it really mattered, just like Mabel wanted to be there for Marin during this difficult moment in her life.

However, there are some things with We Are Okay that I didn’t like as well. For starters, I felt like the pacing of the story sometimes moved a little slow. While I understood why that was the case in that since she was dealing with this loss, Marin was experiencing a lot of feelings, such as depression, loneliness and isolation and LaCour wanted to show us, readers, how these feelings were affecting her. And while she did a good job showing us that, I felt like the story could’ve moved on a little bit more in showing us Mabel’s visit and the conversations they had while she was there.

While I understood Marin’s decision to leave California and everyone she knew there behind to go to college in New York, I felt like the way she handled it wasn’t the best. I get she wasn’t in the right state of mind when everything happened, so she was reacting in an irrational manner because of her grief and the anger she was feeling towards her grandfather. But she also had a circle of people left who cared about her that she could’ve confided in when this all happened so she wouldn’t have had to deal with her feelings alone. They were trying to reach out to her to make sure she was okay, and she ignored them all instead once she left. So, while I understood why she made this decision, at the same time, I still think she shouldn’t have too because these people that cared about her were worried about her and wanted to be there for her during this difficult moment in her life.

This is why I’m struggling with what I think about We Are Okay as a whole. Because I enjoyed reading this book, due to being able to relate to the subject matter and feeling empathetic with her character. But I also wasn’t okay with Marin’s decision to leave behind the people she had left that cared about her. So overall, I did enjoy it but have some criticisms with it too that I felt needed to be addressed. I definitely plan on reading more books by this author in the near future, such as Hold Still to see if she has any other books I’d enjoy.

 

Book Review: Born at Midnight (Shadow Falls #1)

Born at Midnight Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

Don’t miss this spectacular new series that will steal your heart and haunt your dreams, Welcome to Shadow Falls camp, nestled deep in the woods of a town called Fallen…

One night Kylie Galen finds herself at the wrong party, with the wrong people, and it changes her life forever. Her mother ships her off to Shadow Falls—a camp for troubled teens, and within hours of arriving, it becomes painfully clear that her fellow campers aren’t just “troubled.” Here at Shadow Falls, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, witches and fairies train side by side—learning to harness their powers, control their magic and live in the normal world.

Kylie’s never felt normal, but surely she doesn’t belong here with a bunch of paranormal freaks either. Or does she? They insist Kylie is one of them, and that she was brought here for a reason. As if life wasn’t complicated enough, enter Derek and Lucas. Derek’s a half-fae who’s determined to be her boyfriend, and Lucas is a smokin’ hot werewolf with whom Kylie shares a secret past. Both Derek and Lucas couldn’t be more different, but they both have a powerful hold on her heart. 

Even though Kylie feels deeply uncertain about everything, one thing is becoming painfully clear—Shadow Falls is exactly where she belongs…

Born at Midnight is an interesting read. However, it’s also a story that falls flat in a lot of areas too, making it a book series I’m still trying to decide if it’s worth investing time into.

The premise of the story centers on a young girl named Kylie who finds her life going wrong in every way. Her boyfriend breaks up with her, parents are getting divorced and her grandmother has recently passed away. To make things even more difficult, her parents send her off to camp for troubled teens after being arrested at a party even though she didn’t smoke or drink anything. But she soon discovers this camp isn’t for troubled teens like it’s made out to be, but for young teenagers who are supernaturals with abilities. Despite not knowing what she is, Kylie finds that for once in her life, she fits right in. But her life at camp isn’t quite so easy either with her attention shifted between discovering who she is, her feelings for two different boys, and the problems going on at camp that could result in it being shut down.

What made this book an interesting read for me was all the supernatural elements in the story and the characters themselves. While I feel like they didn’t highlight the supernatural parts of the story all that much, what I found of them in between the pages was interesting enough to make me continue reading. I found the idea of the camp to be interesting even though some aspects of it were poorly executed. It reminded me a little bit of Camp Half-Blood from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series as well as the boarding school in the House of Night series. What I liked about the Shadows Falls camp that reminded me of both series was the one-hour session these teens had where they drew names and learned about the other person’s supernatural culture. While I felt like the way C.C. Hunter went about this wasn’t the best (aka, Kylie ended up most of the time getting the names of the two guys she’s debating between so I feel like most of the time was spent with her romantic interests), I still liked the idea and was intrigued to learn more about the different supernaturals in the story.

Another supernatural element in the story that interested me was learning about Kylie’s abilities. While during most of the story she tried the best she could to suppress her powers, I found that whenever Kylie did use them, it made the story that much more interesting to me. What intrigued me about her powers was that she didn’t have too much control over them, but also the way they were described in detail to the reader. It makes me interested in wanting to continue the story just to find out how as a character she grows into her supernatural identity, whatever that may be since that’s a mystery to us too.

While I enjoyed reading Born at Midnight, there are some flaws with this book too that need to be addressed. While I enjoyed learning more about the characters in the story and their different abilities, I wish there was more of a focus on character development. Yes, Kylie does undergo some changes because of where she’s at and her relationship with both of her parents completely shift. But at the same time, I still don’t see her character changing all that much. While she does seem to fully accept her powers and that she does belong at this camp, I still don’t see her fully coming into her own by the end of the story. Maybe that happens more so in the rest of the series, but I didn’t see that happening in this book. I know part of that struggle could be due to not knowing what type of supernatural she is, so I do applaud the author with having that struggle continue into the next book in the series. But for this book, it would’ve been nice to see her character develop more and see her fully come into her abilities.

Another criticism I have for this first book in the series is the love triangle between her, Derek and Lucas. It felt like with both boys there was an instant attraction, but for different reasons. Her feelings with Derek were due to him being a reminder of her ex while her attraction for Lucas seemed to stem from her past with him. But with both, it seemed like she was instantly attracted to them whenever she had some alone time to spend with them, which didn’t feel right to me. I also didn’t like this dynamic because I’m not fond of love triangles. I don’t like them because you as the reader get forced to choose between two different characters who both have an appeal but for different reasons. But in this book, I just didn’t see her having any chemistry with these two because it just felt like the author was forcing the romance when there wasn’t any.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed my reading experience with Born at Midnight. I loved all the supernatural elements included in the story because it made reading this book more enjoyable for me. I just wish there was a little more character development with Kylie and that she had some chemistry with her two love interests instead of the book forcing romance between them. Maybe the next book in the series Awake at Dawn will improve what’s missing from this first book and bring even more interesting details when it comes to the character’s supernatural abilities.

 

First Impressions: Kingdom Hearts III

Kingdom Hearts 3 2

As someone who’s been playing video games since elementary school, the Kingdom Hearts games have been the biggest part of my childhood. So, when I heard about the release of Kingdom Hearts III, a game I’ve been waiting for the longest time to come out, I was so excited and ready to play it.

Kingdom Hearts III takes place after the events in Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, following when Riku and Sora take the Mark of Mastery test. As Riku and King Mickey go on the search for Aqua (another chosen Keyblade wielder whose story you learn more about in Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep), Sora goes on an adventure of his own with Donald Duck and Goofy in search of reawakening his weakened powers and trying to learn the power of wakening. As Sora travels from world to world, he encounters Heartless, Nobodies and Unversed as well as runs into various members of the new Organization XIII whose true goals remain unknown.

While I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of Kingdom Hearts III, I truly believe it’s my favorite game in the series that I’ve ever played. One of the things I enjoy about the game so far is the combat. I love the different abilities (otherwise known as form change) that each of Sora’s Keyblades has that you can activate when you fight. I feel like each of them is unique to the Keyblade Sora is using but in a way that suits it.

Kingdom Hearts 3 Form Change
One of the form changes in the game.

There’s also a new ability in combat called attractions that I still have mixed feelings about. Just like the name suggests, attractions are an ability that Sora can use where he’s on different attraction rides that can cause damage to the enemy. I have mixed feelings about this new ability because some of the attractions you can use are very useful and others I just find to be very annoying and don’t like using in combat. But overall, I find the combat in this game to be the most fun I’ve had in a Kingdom Hearts game in a very long time and look forward to fighting whenever I play.

Another thing I’ve enjoyed with Kingdom Hearts III so far are the different worlds you can travel to in the game. I like the worlds you get to go into because most of them you’ve never been to in any of the other games in the series. I also like the role Sora gets to play in those worlds, whether he’s dressed like a toy and helps Woody and Buzz search for their missing friends or he’s a monster helping Mike and Sullivan get Boo back home. Sora is always getting himself into situations, making friends along the way and I love it just as much in this game as I do all the others.

Kingdom Hearts 3 3
Sora in the Carribean, one of my favorite worlds from Kingdom Hearts II that I’m glad they’ve brought back.

I also love the message of friendship these games bring with them. Of your friends even when they aren’t around still being a part of your life, close to your heart. This message always resonates with me and I feel like its exactly what I needed to hear. Especially with the personal stuff that’s been going on in my life.

There are, however, some issues I do have with Kingdom Hearts III. One of the biggest issues I have with the game is how they go about the plot. I’ve just recently started to get further into the main storyline of the game and while I do at times find it interesting, I also find myself left with a lot of questions that remain to be answered. I know since I haven’t completed the game yet I probably shouldn’t be complaining about this, but its something that bothers me so I feel like it needs to be discussed.

What I think doesn’t help is that a lot of the worlds Sora goes to the story doesn’t feel complete. You get some gameplay in these worlds, but I feel like you never truly get any resolution to the conflicts the characters in the world are dealing with. For example, one of the worlds I enjoy going to because the characters were a big part of my childhood is the Hundred Acre Woods from Winnie the Pooh. In the previous Kingdom Hearts games, you go to the Hundred Acre Woods and must help Sora find the missing pages of the book to see Pooh and the rest of his friends. In this game, however, Merlin shows you the book and Sora notices his image is missing on the front cover, so you go visit to see if anything is wrong there. It’s the shortest world visit in the game you experience and its one of many worlds in the game I felt were treated the same way, though not quite as short.

I also don’t like with Kingdom Hearts III that the worlds you go and visit don’t really tie in with the main storyline in the game. Usually, in these games, the worlds you go into playing as Sora there’s usually a reason he goes there that ties into the main storyline in the game. With this game, I didn’t see that truly being the case. I felt like you got some snippets of what the main storyline was, but not enough to really understand why Sora went to these worlds. The main storyline doesn’t take place until after you’ve completed these worlds. While I didn’t necessarily mind it, it’s different from what I remember in the other games, so it threw me off.

But overall, I’m enjoying my experience playing Kingdom Hearts III. I remember when I first got into the series, excited to play these games. This game has been no different for me because I’ve been waiting for its release for so long. I know I’ll be sad when I finish this game because this game series has been a part of my life for such a long time. But right now, I’m enjoying my first time playing through it and believe I will continue to do so despite my criticisms.

Book Review: Five Feet Apart

Five Feet Apart Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

Can you love someone you can never touch?

Stella Grant likes to be in control—even though her totally out of control lungs have sent her in and out of the hospital most of her life. At this point, what Stella needs to control most is keeping herself away from anyone or anything that might pass along an infection and jeopardize the possibility of a lung transplant. Six feet apart. No exceptions.

The only thing Will Newman wants to be in control of is getting out of this hospital. He couldn’t care less about his treatments or a fancy new clinical drug trial. Soon, he’ll turn eighteen and then he’ll be able to unplug all these machines and actually go see the world, not just its hospitals.

Will’s exactly what Stella needs to stay away from. If he so much as breathes on Stella she could lose her spot on the transplant list. Either one of them could die. The only way to stay alive is to stay apart. But suddenly six feet doesn’t feel like safety. It feels like punishment.

What if they could steal back just a little bit of the space their broken lungs have stolen from them? Would five feet apart really be so dangerous if it stops their hearts from breaking too?

I read this book in memory of my best friend who passed away last month in her battle against cystic fibrosis, which I recently shared here on my blog. It’s based off a screenplay by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis and chronicles the story of Stella and Will, two teenagers struggling in their battle against cystic fibrosis but for different reasons. While Stella is doing everything she can to keep her health in order so that she can get a lung transplant, Will is tired of going from hospital to hospital and is doing the best he can to live his life to the fullest. They fall in love with each other, but they must stay six feet apart in order not to jeopardize each other’s health, which feels like punishment to them both.

What I loved about reading Five Feet Apart is that this story brings awareness to cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects so many people in the world and currently doesn’t have a cure. I especially love that the story brings up information about cystic fibrosis people who don’t have the disease might not know, such as that people with cystic fibrosis can’t get too close to each other because of the risk of catching bacterial infections. While I had a very good friend who had cystic fibrosis, there are still some things I myself don’t know about the disease and I felt like this book brought that information to my attention. For that reason alone, I appreciate this book because it brought about awareness for a terrible disease that deeply impacted the life of someone I truly cared for.

I also enjoyed reading this book because I love the characters and the shifting points of view between the two protagonists, Stella, and Will. What made the characters in this book so sympathetic and real to me was seeing how they each handled their current predicament. For Stella, she focused on being well for the sake of her two parents whose marriage crumbled due to a devastating loss that shook the foundation of their family. Will, on the other hand, was more focused on getting out of the hospital and being able to live his life to the fullest since he was dying anyway. He was tired of spending all of his days in the hospital and couldn’t wait to turn eighteen so he could be done with hospital stays for good. I felt myself cheering these two young teens on as they struggled with being together while keeping their own safety in mind.

What I especially loved about reading Five Feet Apart is that it had an emotional impact on me. I know part of that is due to what happened with my friend, and reading a story with characters dealing with the same disease brought those emotions to the forefront. But I also know it’s due too because the story itself moved me. It felt like it was the right book for me to read at the right time.

But at the same time, there are some issues I had with the story itself too that I do need to bring up. For starters, I wasn’t fond of the instant-love that happened between Stella and Will. It’s a common troupe you see in young adult literature that I feel gets overused too much and I was sad to see it in this book too. While I understand why the connection starts, I felt like it was a little unrealistic in this story because of what these characters are dealing with.

I also wonder slightly about the accuracy of cystic fibrosis in this book. While I personally knew someone with the disease so I already knew some of the information that was brought up in the story, there were some details I was unsure of. I don’t have cystic fibrosis so I know I can’t speak for those who do, but if there’s inaccuracy in this book, it would be nice to know for sure. Unfortunately, the person who I’d speak to about this is no longer here to talk to about this book with.

This brings up another separate issue itself that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the book but that I feel I need to talk about anyway. I honestly wish I’d read this book sooner before my friend passed away. Or that we both could read it so we could talk about it with each other. I know she probably would’ve loved to do that (especially since there’s a movie coming out later this month, and she’s the one who mentioned wanting to see it) and I would be able to pick her mind about the way those with cystic fibrosis are represented in the story. So for me reading this story was pretty bittersweet because it reminded me of my friend’s desire to go and see the movie, which I also plan on doing too.

Overall, I love this book as a whole and give it four stars despite several issues I had with it. I find that I can’t give this book a lower rating because awareness of cystic fibrosis is important to me and I appreciate that this book attempts to bring this illness to people’s attention. It might not be done correctly, but I appreciate the effort and the story had a strong emotional impact on me that I can’t simply ignore. This book will forever hold a special place in my heart because it reminds me of a dear friend. I also can’t wait to see the movie no matter how sad not getting to see it with her will make me.

I highly recommend this story to those interested in learning more about cystic fibrosis and anyone interested in health as a collective whole. I also recommend this book to those who enjoy a good young adult romance like I sometimes do and want to read a story with sympathetic characters.

I’ve included the trailer in this post below for those interested in going to see the movie like I am so you can have an even better idea of the story I just finished reading.

 

Book Review: Mama Flora’s Family

Mama Flora's Family Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

In the tradition of “Roots” and “Queen,” Mama Flora’s Family” is a sweeping epic of contemporary American history, culled from the unpublished works of award-winning writer Alex Haley. It is the poignant story of three generations of an African-American family who start out as destitute sharecroppers in Tennessee. Mama Flora is the heart and strength of the family, shepherding her children through hard times after the murder of her husband by white landholders. She has passionate ambitions for her son Willie, but he dashes her dreams by abandoning his church-going roots and moving to Chicago. After fighting in the Second World War, he marries his childhood sweetheart and struggles to build a new urban life for his family.

Flora’s dreams are realized by Ruthana, her sister’s child, whom Mama Flora adopts. Ruthana graduates from college, and as a social worker in Harlem, counsels underprivileged women. Through her love for the radical poet Ben, Ruthana begins to understand her heritage, and after a sojourn in Africa comes to a redemptive understanding of herself.

In Chicago, Willie’s twin son and daughter embrace Muslim militancy and Black Power, and eventually, drugs on their rocky road through the 1960s. Mama Flora struggles to maintain her family, but she also is caught up in the turbulent times. “Mama Flora’s Family” is an American tale as dramatic and touching as anything Alex Haley ever wrote.

Highly recommended read by the love of my life, Mama Flora’s Family tells the story of three generations in one African American family. It’s a story that makes you reflect on America’s past, about a time that isn’t that long ago. For me, it made me feel sympathetic to Mama Flora and her family because I know I’ll never understand what it’s like to face such strong racism because of the color of my skin. But reading this story from her family’s perspective and the different conflicts they had to endure made me briefly feel like I could understand what they were going through and wish things were different during that time for them.

What I especially enjoyed about reading this book was that the story wasn’t just told from Mama Flora’s perspective. You as the reader had different family members sharing their own stories, talking about their own struggles and challenges they are enduring during this time. I especially enjoyed reading the chapters that were told from Ruthana and Willie’s perspective because they both had interesting lives that I enjoyed reading about. I also loved it too because I loved all of these characters, which made me enjoy reading this book, even more, to see what happened to this family.

I also enjoyed reading Mama Flora’s Family because I found myself learning more about America during this time. Especially because I learned more about black history, something that’s never fully taught in school. I especially loved learning about black culture, reading about the different styles of clothing and hair that changed as time went on and how Mama Flora and her family reacted to these changes. As someone who typically doesn’t read historical fiction of any kind because it doesn’t interest me all that much, I found the story of this family to be a fantastic read and it made me interested in wanting to learn more.

The only criticism I have with this book is that I sometimes found the story at times to be a little too preachy. While I completely understand the reasoning behind this, since Mama Flora herself was very strong in her faith and it was such a big part of her life that she raised her family to have a strong faith foundation. I don’t personally have a problem with that, even though I myself am still working on my own beliefs and what I personally believe to be true when it comes to faith and religion. I just think at times there was just too much of it in the story.

But overall, I really enjoyed reading Mama Flora’s Family. Mama Flora and her family dealt with quite a lot during that time and it was nice to see how they handled those difficult moments. I also enjoyed reading this book because I learned so much from it despite historical fiction not being something I personally enjoy reading. It made me as a reader consider reading more stories like this because I love learning and enjoy reading about real struggles people deal with in life.

I really appreciate my partner recommending this read to me and highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about black history. For those wanting to read about what black families go through when it comes to racism. It opened my eyes further to issues I know I myself will never have to deal with.

Grieving the Loss of a Dear Friend

Erin and I Great Strides Walk May 2017

My heart feels so shattered right now. This week has been one of the hardest weeks of my life. My best friend, who I’ve known since my freshman year of high school, passed away on Wednesday, February 13th. She was fighting for her life against cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that affects a person’s lungs and their ability to breathe, the pancreas and other parts of their body.

While I knew this day would eventually come (people with cystic fibrosis don’t have a long life span, most nowadays live until their 30’s and there’s still no cure), it still doesn’t make it any less hard for me to deal with the grief I’ve been experiencing since her passing. She was a good friend, someone I truly trusted with all my heart and soul, who cared a lot about everyone she encountered. She was strong too, always putting on a brave face even when she was in pain fighting against this terrible disease. In our friendship, I always felt like I could truly be myself around her and could talk to her about anything and everything.

She was the best friend I could ever ask for. It feels like just yesterday we were talking and creating memories together. I remember moments from high school, like some of the classes we had together and when we’d eat lunch on the senior balcony during senior year. Also, recent moments too from during and after I was done in college, like when we went to the zoo together with her oldest son, went to the beach with another friend because she loved the ocean, and whenever I went with her when she decided she wanted tattoos. There are so many other moments that stand out to me in our friendship, but these are some of the best ones. Now, she’s no longer here and I feel like a piece of me went with her when she passed away.

Erin and I At the Zoo June 2014

I know the next few weeks will be extremely difficult for everyone she cares about. She’s left behind so many good people who care so much about her along with a wonderful husband and her two young children who’ll now live without a mother. But I feel extremely lucky and grateful to have met her and know that our friendship will always hold a special place in my heart. I know one day, I’ll get to meet her again very soon, and that lessens the pain of her loss. Until then best friend, I want you to know I love you so much and can’t wait to see you again.

If you’re reading this post, if you can, please donate to the Go Fund Me page me and a couple of her friends have set up to help her husband and kids during this difficult time or donate to your local cystic fibrosis organization in honor of my best friend’s memory.

My heart is hurting, but I’m glad my dear friend isn’t suffering anymore.

Turning the Page on Life To 26

birthday cupcake image

Hello everyone! I hope you’re all having a wonderful week so far. So, January 14th is my birthday and this year, I turned 26.

When I was younger, I used to make such a big deal about my birthday. I’d get all excited every time it came around to the point where I’d tell other people it was my birthday just so someone would wish me a wonderful day.

Well this year has been a little different for me. For once, I was more relaxed about it being my birthday and not making as much of a big deal about it. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve come to the realization that it’s not something I need to make such a fuss over. That if someone wants to wish me well, they will and if they don’t then on well.

Either way, this year I felt calm about it being my birthday and just took the moment to enjoy the day no matter what happened. I was at work all day and it was busy because of payroll being due for me to turn in so it came and went quickly.

While I’m another year older, I don’t feel that much different than any of the days before. I feel like just the same person that I’ve always been and that not too much has really changed. But at the same time, I feel happy with where I’m at in my life and that there have been some changes that I’m proud of.

For starters, I’ve acquired a new job that’ll put me in the right direction in life. Not to say working in food service isn’t a noble thing, it just isn’t where I picture myself working for the rest of my life. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of this job because I originally wasn’t doing well at it my first couple weeks. But now, I feel like I’ve gained my ground and am starting to adjust to my job responsibilities and handling whatever tasks get thrown at me. If anything, I find I’m busier now than when I started out due to us hiring more employees and being given more responsibilities by my boss. I see this as a positive thing because I believe they wouldn’t give me more work if they weren’t happy with the way I’ve been handling things. While I don’t know where this work experience will get me in life, I’m extremely thankful for this opportunity and to get the experience.

I’m also thankful/happy because I have a poem published in an anthology. I know I’ve already talked about this quite a bit, so I probably won’t say too much else about it, but I’m still excited that a poem I’ve written is physically in a book that people can buy and read. One of my dreams is to one day be an author who writes her own stories and gets published. And I feel like with the anthology, I’ve accomplished my dream of being an author even if it’s just having one poem I’ve written getting published. While I hope that’s not the only piece of writing of mine that’ll be read, I still want to continue pursuing that dream and having more of my voice going out into the world. I know my blog here on WordPress also helps me accomplish some of my writing goals so I’m extremely thankful for that too.

All of this I accomplished when I was 25. So, I can’t wait to see what 26 has in store for me. Hopefully it’s as wonderful as being 25. I’m hopeful that it could be another great age but will wait and see what life has in store for me.

 

Book Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #3)

always and forever lara jean

Rating: 4 stars

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

I really enjoyed reading this concluding book in this series just as much as I enjoyed P.S. I Still Love You, but for different reasons. While I didn’t want this book to end, I felt like this book was the perfect way to end the series because of it being Lara Jean’s last year of high school before she goes off to college.

It continues to tell the story of Lara Jean’s relationship with Peter, but also focuses a whole lot more on the pressure of getting into college and what comes with that. When Lara Jean doesn’t get into the college of her dreams, she faces a dilemma she didn’t expect. I enjoyed seeing that conflict with her because I felt like it was a realistic problem that I’m sure other teens applying to colleges experience. Part of senior year of high school is beginning the journey of adulthood and I felt like with Always and Forever, Lara Jean, Jenny Han tackled the subject very well when it came to Lara Jean’s beginning journey into adulthood.

I also appreciated seeing how talking about college impacted Lara Jean’s relationship with Peter. Especially because they both wanted to go to college together since they were planning on continuing their relationship after high school. While Lara Jean didn’t handle her plans changing very well at first, when she discovered another college that was very similar to the school she originally wanted to attend, I thought it was wonderful that she made the decision to go to that school. For once in these books, she actually made a big decision for herself instead of taking the easy road to get what she wanted. Seeing Lara Jean struggle with her decision on where she was going to college when her original plans failed reminded me of what the pressure of choosing college was like for me. While I can’t say my experience was anything at all like Lara Jean’s (because it definitely wasn’t), I felt like I could relate to her character when it came to college because that’s a big decision for a person to make for themselves.

What I also liked when reading Always and Forever, Lara Jean was that you as a reader slowly saw Lara Jean make big decisions. While she’s still pretty far from acting like an adult, I felt like she was finally maturing a little bit in this book. For once, she was finally making decisions for herself, not because her family and friends wanted her to make those choices.

My biggest criticism for this book would have to be the lack of conflict in it. While I sometimes didn’t mind because it made this book a fun, light read like the others, I felt like there should’ve been something more. I mean, yes there was conflict when it came to Lara Jean going to college and how her final decision impacted her relationship with Peter, but that was really it when you actually think about it. There wasn’t really a whole lot else going on that really caused conflict in the story and that did bother me a little bit because it was like certain characters who were featured in the previous two books never existed.

But overall, I still enjoyed reading Always and Forever, Lara Jean. As a whole, I enjoyed reading all of these books in this series because they were a light and easy read for me to get through. I also enjoyed seeing Lara Jean’s family dynamics and how close she is to her two sisters as well as her relationship with her friend Chris and boyfriend Peter. I enjoyed reading them as well because they reminded me of what it was like when I fell in love for the very first time and reminded me of what choosing a college was like for me. My biggest criticism for this series as a whole is the lack of character development, especially in the main character Lara Jean. She still has a whole lot of growing up to do, but I still find myself liking her anyway.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading this series and recommend it to anyone looking for something light and easy to read. But I recommend caution to anyone who reads these books that’s just gotten out of a relationship and is still dealing with that heartbreak.

 

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