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Book Review: A Lily in the Light

Rating: 4 stars

For eleven-year-old Esme, ballet is everything—until her four-year-old sister, Lily, vanishes without a trace and nothing is certain anymore. People Esme has known her whole life suddenly become suspects, each new one hitting closer to home than the last.

Unable to cope, Esme escapes the nightmare that is her new reality when she receives an invitation to join an elite ballet academy in San Francisco. Desperate to leave behind her chaotic, broken family and the mystery surrounding Lily’s disappearance, Esme accepts.

Eight years later, Esme is up for her big break: her first principal role in Paris. But a call from her older sister shatters the protective world she has built for herself, forcing her to revisit the tragedy she’s run from for so long. Will her family finally have the answers they’ve been waiting for? And can Esme confront the pain that shaped her childhood, or will the darkness follow her into the spotlight?

I really enjoyed reading this book immensely for many reasons. I wanted to know how Lily’s absence impacted her family and how Esme used ballet to cope with her younger sister being gone. I also wanted to find out what happened to Lily, who ended up taking her and why. Wanting to find out the answers to all these conundrums made this book a quick page-turner for me.

I was also interested in learning more about ballet from Esme’s perspective. She was a very interesting character, and I found her perspective in A Lily in the Light endearing. It was interesting to see how Lily’s disappearance impacted her life and how she ended up using her pain in her ballet performances. As a reader, you could tell that Esme was traumatized by her little sister’s disappearance and I found reading about her trauma interesting.

I also enjoyed reading this book because it had a happy ending. I’m not going into specifics about what happened other than saying that everything ends up being okay and I get answers to some of the questions I had while reading this book. It made me so happy that I found myself feeling emotional when reading A Lily in the Light because I was happy for the family. They had dealt with such a heavy loss when their child was missing that I was glad things turned out good for them in the end.

What was missing from this novel that I wouldn’t have minded seeing is a little of the story told from Lily’s perspective while she’s held captive. Not specifically everything that happens to her during that time, but just a little so that as a reader I could see what she was going through. Mostly because before her disappearance, she was one of my favorite characters in A Lily in the Light, so I wanted to see her more in the story since the book centered around her anyway.

Overall enjoyed this read and was sad when I finished it. I recommend this book to readers who love mysteries, ballet, and coming-of-age stories. It makes me want to read other books by this author to see if I enjoy them just as much as I did this one.

Looking to Start Over

I know it’s been a while since I last made a blog post here. It wasn’t intentional, life has gotten quite busy since my last one. My husband and I got married in August, moved to another state, and I got a new job since we moved.  Also the last book I read (Lord of the Flies) wasn’t all too enjoyable for me. As a result, I felt like I needed a little bit of a break from reading.

I unintentionally ended up taking a break from my writing as well. But I’m hoping that I can now get off my hiatus from here and get back into writing blog posts again. I know I’ve missed it quite a bit, but also realize too that when you need a break you should take one when your able to. So I’m also trying not to be too hard on myself for it.

So I’d like to take this moment and acknowledge that I’ll be starting over on my blog. Not in the sense that I’ll be deleting my previous blog posts or anything like that. Just that since it’s been a while since I’ve written anything, I feel like I need to start over in general. Give myself a reset here. I’m not planning on changing any of the type of writing I do on here since I enjoy my little niche of talking about books, writing and video games.

What I want to start over on is with regards to how frequent my blog posts become. I don’t want to keep doing what I’ve been doing in saying I’ll be back only to leave and be gone for months. I want to try and make my blog posts on here more consistent whenever I’m able to. Like writing my book reviews whenever I finish a book I’m reading and putting down commentary on a game I’m playing once I’ve gotten acquainted with the game enough to where I feel like I can honestly be myself when talking about it.

I know life has been hectic lately due to the way things are going on in the world right now and want to acknowledge how that also easily played a part in my hiatus too. But I’m tired of not writing anymore like I used to and am ready to be back here that I hope this blog post is well received by whoever decides to read it.

If you’re reading this and are new to my blog, I welcome you and thank you for taking time out of your day to read this! If you’re reading this but are someone who’s been following me, I thank you for coming to read this post and for continuing to follow me despite the amount of time that’s passed since my last post.

I hope you all have been doing well during this crazy time and can’t wait to hear from you!       

Can I Call Myself An Author Now?

For the second time in the past couple years now, I can say I have had a poem of mine published once again! My first poem published was in an anthology called We Will Not Be Silenced which shares countless stories through poetry, prose and art of survivors of sexual harassment and assault.

Me holding my copy of We Will Not Be Silenced, which contains what will be the first of many poems I’ll have published in the future.

What made me decide to contribute to this anthology about sexual harassment and assault is my own personal experiences. The long story short end of the matter was as I was growing up having to deal with being bullied in school by boys in my elementary and middle school years. The bullying I experienced in elementary school from boys my own age was physical, such as tugging at my hair during class to one of the boys sitting behind me on the school bus and punching the back of my seat.

Once I entered middle school, the bullying became more harassment in nature. In my 6th grade English class, I found myself hiding my face during class because one of the boys was always puckering his lips and making kissing noises at me. I tried getting him to stop to no avail. I also had to deal with another boy that same year telling me that he wanted to kiss me and telling me that he knew I wanted to kiss him too even though I never expressed any interest in him. At that point of my life, I’d never kissed anyone so I was worried that he might try to force a kiss on me one day.

These experiences and many others I experienced growing up inspired me to write my poem because the phrase I use to title my poem is a phrase many of us heard growing up when dealing with harassment from boys. But in my opinion, I see the phrase as a crutch to excuse boys from their wrongful behavior, which just continues to perpetuate and allow them to act that way as they grow up.

My most recent poetry publication is in an anthology called Through the Looking Glass: Reflection on Madness and Chaos Within. This anthology’s main focus is on mental illness and the experiences each of us have with dealing with our battle against our mental illness. Since mental illness is such a taboo subject, this anthology is an important step in the right direction to beginning the process of people actually talking about their mental health problems instead of feeling like their having to cope with them alone.

My big struggle that I talk about in Through the Looking Glass is with depression. I make a comparison between depression being an everyday fight against a demon that I have to slay and conquer every day because that’s how my experience with depression has been since I discovered I was depressed. I discovered I had depression when I was in college when I started having dreams and waking up with tears streaming down my face during the night and not understanding why. But it was not until years later in 2019 when my best friend lost her fight against cystic fibrosis that I discovered my depression getting worse. The depression I experienced during my college years was nothing like the demon I found myself fighting against once I lost my dear friend, one of the few people who I felt like knew me and understood me as a person. But I’ve been conjuring it one day at a time and I feel like I’m doing so much better now than I’ve been for a while.

 I also have another poem of mine that’s going to be published in another anthology that’ll be coming out in the near future that I’m excited about.

But one of the many reasons I wrote this post is now that I have some of my writing being published, should I consider myself an author? I mean most of the writing of mine that is getting published is poetry and each anthology is only going to have one of my poems, each one different from the other. But I do not know if I should consider myself an author because of these poems being put out there because I do not know if I feel like I deserve that title.

At the same time though, I love the written word so much and being published in any capacity has always been a dream of mine. I know technically I have been published since college along with since I started this blog back in 2015 after I graduated from college. But there is something different about seeing your name in a physical book you can hold in your hands. And to me (along with this blog of course), that feels like a huge accomplishment. Nonetheless, I still struggle with assigning myself the title of author because I still cannot believe I have accomplished this much in what feels like such a short amount of time. And I really cannot wait to see where my writing will go from here, what other publications I will find myself contributing to in the near future.

Missing You (Poem)

So last year, I wrote this poem in reference to the passing away of a friend of mine in 2019. I never did anything with the poem and stumbled upon it today while working on another task and realized how much I actually did want to share it here on my blog. I know after my last blog post I want to bring into 2021 the process of continuing my healing, but also want to share something with you all that I’m sure you can relate to if you’ve ever lost a loved one and are still grieving that loss today. Because loosing a loved one is never an easy grief to deal with, I feel like this poem will resonate strongly with people and should be shared so others know they aren’t alone. So without further introduction, here is a poem I’ve written titled “Missing You”:

Missing You

Yearning for
A friend that cannot be replaced.

A missing presence
That cannot be ignored.

A voice I can no longer hear
When I need someone to calm my fears.

Almost a year has passed
Since you left my life involuntarily.

But I miss you just as much now
As I did before.

Your friendship meant the world to me,
More than you’ll ever know.

Missing you,
Has opened a void that can’t be erased.

Has left my heart broken,
Drying off my tears.

But I know you would want nothing more
Then for me to live on and be happy.

So for you, my dear friend,
I live on with you in my memory.

So while I’m missing you,
I also know I’ll see you again one day soon.

So this poem isn’t me saying goodbye,
But me telling you, I’ll see you again soon.

           

           

Writing My Truth

I know it’s been a solid while since I’ve written here on my blog. The hiatus I unexpectedly took wasn’t at all planned, just was something that happened. I don’t know why—well, I have a couple theories at least as to why I just vanished off the blogosphere for most of 2020. I know this year has been rough for almost everyone with what all’s been going on, from COVID 19 ravaging the world to here in the US having our elections and all the craziness that’s going on with Trump not accepting his loss. 

For me, it’s been a whole lot rougher than I expected. I think the biggest reason being that it’s my first year without having my best friend to talk to. And to tell the truth, I’ve been struggling with dealing with that loss. I think it impacted me a lot more than I expected to where I just couldn’t write for a while. Losing her literally put me at a loss of words, the grief was that powerful for me.

I also think what doesn’t help is that I struggle with depression and anxiety. I get into a deep sadness where all I want to do is sleep and not wake up and cry with no provocation. I’ve been struggling with it for a while, I want to say since we left my Mom’s abusive marriage. I’ve just never put it into words or admitted it because I didn’t realize it was something I had for the longest time. It wasn’t until I was in college and I’d have moments where I’d cry in my sleep that I realized something was up. But even then, I didn’t realize it was depression because it was like I just couldn’t accept it that something was the matter with me. It wasn’t really until this year that I accepted I had depression and that I needed to tell my doctor and family about it. And even now, I’m still dealing with it in different ways. I’m taking medication prescribed by my doctor for it, which I know only does so much.

I know there’s still more I need to do about it, but I am working on it. One step at a time, one day at a time because that’s what I can do. Focus on what’s going on in front of me and keep moving forward. But I am okay, doing a lot better than I have been. This blog post is proof of that because I hadn’t been writing as much lately until these past couple days. Been playing video games and focusing on work more than anything.

Been moving forward in life too, because I moved into an apartment with the love of my life at the end of July. It’s small and cozy, but perfect as a temporary home for us until we’re able to save up for a bigger place. I also received a raise in October from my job. Not by much mind you (2% increase is what I was told, which is the highest they give to employees apparently), but still better than nothing. Work has also been busy in general too, leaving me most days feeling physically exhausted by the time I make it home. But I don’t mind because my job has never been slow or uneventful for me. Just tires me out more than I’m used to, especially having to wake up to be ready and at my desk by 7am. I’ve been working for this company since May last year and I’m still not used to when I get up to begin my day.

But yes, I’m doing a hell of a lot better now. I haven’t been reading and writing as much lately, which I’m hoping to change now because I’m ready to be out of this rut I’ve been in. However, I’ve also been enjoying the video games I’ve been playing on my PlayStation 4 as well. In this time of solitary isolation with my love, I find them to be a good way to relax and destress from a busy day. Maybe I’ll write about some of them here so I can tell you why I’ve been enjoying them so much, why they’ve been such a wonderful distraction for me in my life when I’ve needed it.

I want you all to know though, that I’m extremely thankful for each one of you who’s still here even though I’ve been gone for so long. I’ve been meaning to come back way sooner, but I really feel like life got so crazy and draining for me this year that I needed to be away and didn’t even know it. So I apologize for being gone for so long and I’ll try my best for it not to become a habit.

I also want you all to know I’m okay. Seriously, I’m doing good. I wouldn’t say that with such conviction if I truly didn’t mean it. Do I have bad days where I don’t want to do anything at all, but lay in bed? Yes, that’s part of the sadness I have to deal with. However, I’m not going to let it control me or rule my life. I’ll deal with the moments when they come, but I’ll conquer them each and every time. Because I believe in myself, know that everything is going to be okay and that I’ll get through it. I also know what I need to do for myself to get through them because I’ve dealt with them enough already to know how to handle it.

I just wanted to let you all know that. Just wanted to write my truth on here about what’s been going on with me and let you all know I’m fine. And I’m going to try from here on out not let this be a habit. I’ll make sure that if there’s a next time I take a long time away from blogging to let it be known here so that if any of you were worrying about me, you’ll know I’m okay.

I hope you all are doing well during this time. I know 2020 has been a really rough year, so I want to know if you are okay. And if you aren’t, that’s also fine too. Just know I’m here and that if you ever need to reach out to someone, I’ll gladly listen to whatever you have to say.  

2020: The Year of Me

2020 Happy New Year Pinterest
Image from Pinterest.

2019 has been a rough year for me. I lost one of the most important people in my life, someone I never imagined I’d have to face life without. My best friend who while I know is no longer in pain, I still miss as if she passed away just yesterday. Dealing with the grief I feel over her loss has been one of the hardest things I’ve gone through, especially knowing as I experience 2020, she won’t be here this year. While I’m currently doing fine right now, I won’t say her loss hasn’t changed me in some way like losing someone you care about tends to do.

Erin and I At the Beach
One of my favorite pictures of my best friend and I at the beach for her birthday.

It’s made this year difficult. As I experience certain moments in life, I’m constantly reminded that I can no longer talk to her about what’s going on and it sucks. It reminds me of how short life is for all of us and how much I wish she were here experiencing life with me.

2019 hasn’t been all bad though. I’ve had some good moments during this past year too, like starting my new job at China Jushi USA in May and being one of the bridesmaids during my sister’s wedding in November. I’ve also made some new friends through a video game I’ve recently been playing on my PlayStation 4 I bought for myself in 2019, Final Fantasy XIV that I talk to on almost a daily basis along with reconnecting with some old friends too who’ve also had the same loss I’ve been experiencing.

Laney and I At Her Wedding 2019
My sister and I at her wedding reception.

So, while 2019 has been a rough year, I’ve also seen some good come out of this past year for me too. Yes, 2019 wasn’t the year I was hoping it would be, but I know it helped shape me into the woman I am today. So, for that, I’m grateful, even though it means beginning a new year without one of the most important people in my life.

What I want 2020 to be for me is a year of taking care of myself. I spend so much of my time and energy worrying about other people that I don’t stop and think about what I want out of life. So, I hope for 2020 to spend some time doing things for myself that make me happy, like continuing writing here on my blog and continuing pursuing other passions I love.

I also want 2020 to be a year of learning and growth for me. With that in mind, since I work for a Chinese company, I want to learn Chinese. I’ve already started the process a little by downloading Duolingo on my phone and using it a little each day. However, I also plan on looking into other avenues for learning Chinese so if anyone here has gone through the process of learning another language and knows a good tool I can use, don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments section of this post.

So, for 2020, I hope to continue growing into the woman I’m meant to be while pursuing passions I love and putting my genuine self out into the world.

But enough about me. What all do you hope to get out of 2020 and how has it been treating you so far? Leave a comment below because I’d love nothing more than to hear from you.

Personal Blog Post: Apologies Are in Order

Sorry for My Absence Blog Post

Hello everyone! How’re you all doing today? I know it’s been quite a while since you’ve heard from me. For that, I extend my sincerest apologies for my long silence. I can tell you from the bottom of my heart I didn’t intentionally stop writing on my blog. There wasn’t anything going on here in the blogging community that made me not want to write anymore. I just—needed to be away for a little while.

As you all know, I mentioned back in February that I lost my best friend to a disease that has yet to have a cure. While I’d love nothing more to say I’ve gotten over that loss and have fully moved on with my life, that would be a lie. The grief I feel over her death comes and goes with some days being easier than others. She was someone who was really a big part of my life so having to live without her hasn’t been easy. But I’m managing the best I can, one day at a time. One of the things I’ve started working on to help deal with my grief is writing personal letters to my best friend, talking about the different things going on in my life. I’ve found that it helps even though there are a lot of times I don’t really know what to say.

However, that isn’t the only reason I’ve been absent from my blog. This year in general has just been very busy as well. I have an older sister who just recently got married so I’ve been helping prepare for that.

And to be honest, I just haven’t been writing or reading quite as much lately. I guess you could say for the past couple months I’ve been in a reading and writing slump that I’m slowly working on getting myself out of. I have a lot of books to read, just need to pick one up and start reading again. But it’s been difficult to get out of because I just haven’t been feeling like reading lately and I don’t know why. So, I’m going to try and figure out what’s causing this slump for me and what I can do to remedy the situation so I can read the books piling up in my room that remain unread.

With that being said, I’m hoping this blog post can be the start of me getting back to being involved with my blog again. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy writing on my blog and have missed being a part of this community. Hopefully writing this post will motivate me to get back into blogging again like I was doing before I took this unexpected absence.

Again, I apologize from the bottom of my heart for being absent for so long. I can’t guarantee I’ll immediately be active on my blog again, but I’m definitely working right now on getting out of this slump so I can get back into it. And I truly believe this post will be the start of that for me.

I hope you all are doing well and can’t wait to continue blogging where I left off! Please let me know in the comments below what all you’ve been up to since my unexpected hiatus because I’d love nothing more than to hear from fellow bloggers.

Acquiring a New Opportunity

Brave Leap of Faith

I know it’s been quite a while since my latest blog post. I just haven’t had as much free time to read and write blog posts though. But it’s for a very good reason.

I know I haven’t mentioned this on my blog at all because my blog posts have been laser-focused on books. But I just recently acquired a new job, once again. I think the last time I mentioned a job was last October on this personal blog post where I talked about a position one of my dear friends from college recommended me for.

The reason for the job change is because the company I was working for due to my friend is very soon going to be done with the project I was working on. From what I’ve heard, their last day on site will be June 14th, which is next week. As a result, I would’ve likely been unemployed if I’d stayed until the very end of the project. BUT it’s actually because of the company I was working for that this opportunity came to me.

You see, the project I was hired on for with this company is on a construction site. Most of the people I’d worked for were electricians on this construction site that were hired to do work for a fiberglass plant here that’s in the process of opening. Well, someone in the maintenance/utilities department on site was looking for someone to help with some of their forms.

My previous employment was very pleased with my work for them. So, when they heard the maintenance department on site was looking for someone to help with their workload, they told that person about me. This opened the door for me to interview and then be offered this position, which I started officially on Monday, May 20th.

While I’m still sad to have left that job behind, I feel extremely thankful. I had no idea that working for them would give me this opportunity. Would give me the chance to get a more permanent full-time job that gives me even more work experience in an industry I’m still learning more about.  I feel like I’ll never be able to thank them enough for getting me employment after they’re gone from the site.

And so far, the job itself has been going well for me. Yes, I’m still learning all my responsibilities and it can sometimes feel overwhelming because there’s a lot I’m going to be doing. Like I’ll be handling our department’s payroll because I mentioned in my interview that I have payroll experience. I’ll also be responsible for keeping track of the equipment that’s on site as well as different forms of paperwork that our department will need to get approved to get the equipment we’ll need. A lot of my responsibilities are essentially administrative tasks and data entry work. But I’m still learning what all I’m going to be handling right now in this position so if the details sound vague to you at all that’s probably why.

I can tell you for sure that I’ll be a lot busier than I was before. Since I’ve started, I’ve yet to have an unproductive/slow day where I’m not handling some aspect of my new job, which I don’t mind at all because I love being busy and feeling challenged at work.

So that’s why I haven’t been blogging quite as much lately. I’ve been so busy with this new job (even working on Saturdays, which gives me overtime pay) that I just haven’t had the energy or time to focus on much of anything at all.

But I’m not going anywhere, I can promise you that. I’m still planning on blogging, continuing reading books I love, playing video games I enjoy, etc. I just wanted to explain to you all why I haven’t been quite as present on my blog lately and wanted to share the good news. Because I’m extremely thankful for this new opportunity and can’t wait to see where it takes me.

 

Book Review: Noughts & Crosses (Noughts and Crosses #1)

Noughts and Crosses Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

Sephy and Callum have been friends since early childhood. And that’s as far as it can go. Because theirs is a world full of prejudice, racism, distrust and mounting terrorist violence.

Despite all this, a romance builds between the two friends.

But this is a love that could lead them both into terrible danger…

The summary on the back of Noughts & Crosses doesn’t do it any justice. From the beginning, this book had me hooked, wanting to know how this story would go. It was an emotional rollercoaster that while in the moment didn’t produce any tears from me, it made me have an array of emotions when I was finished.

It tells the tragic story of Sephy and Callum, best friends since childhood who over the years of their lives fall in love with each other. But they can’t be together because of racism and terrorist violence which threatens to tear their lives apart.

I received this book through Blind Date With a Book Club, a website where for the next six months, you get a mystery book based on the genres you’ve chosen. This is the first book of the six I received, and I couldn’t be more pleased with it.

What I love about this book is that it emotionally hooked me into the story. As a reader, this story really pulled me in, made me root for Sephy and Callum to be together despite the many obstacles that stood in their way. I wanted so badly for their love story to work out even though I knew the chances were slim because of how dark this story became.

I also appreciate the honesty in which this story portrays heavy topics such as racism. This book gets seriously dark in the way it shows you as the reader how much racism can affect the world around you. How hatred for someone because of the color of their skin can really cause harm to the people that hatred is turned towards. This book does a spectacular job of showing you as the reader how this hatred can really hurt people, especially those you love. I’m not scared to admit that this dystopia world sometimes frightened me because it felt so real and it wasn’t that long ago that the world we live in acted the way the Crosses do towards the Noughts.

But experiencing that fear helped me because as someone with privilege, I know I’ll never understand what the Noughts went through. Though in this dystopia world, the author turns racism on its head, since Noughts in the story are white people experiencing racism from black people. I thought that was an interesting dynamic because it made me think and I feel like it helped me understand racism better. Especially since Malorie Blackman used a lot of experiences to show how terrible racism can truly be. Before reading this book, I felt like I understood racism, but I truly believe this book really showed me how dark it can get, and that people tend to take it way too far.

I felt like this book really spoke to me too. My partner and I aren’t the typical relationship you expect to see so I feel like I can relate to this story because of it. It made me think about our relationship and made me realize how much I truly appreciate my partner. Our relationship isn’t always easy, but I truly feel like we’re meant to be together despite the obstacles we’ve faced. So, in many ways, I feel like I can relate to Sephy and Callum’s relationship because they both went through some hurdles to be together.

My biggest criticism with Noughts & Crosses is that while I was rooting for Sephy and Callum to be together, there were moments where I didn’t understand why they still cared for each other. Throughout the book, their relationship is put through the ringer. Yet, both Sephy and Callum still end up caring about each other despite the many situations their put in during their romance. Situations that would typically result in one or both people involved wanting to separate from each other. The best example that comes to mind happens close to the end of the story and is the result of the way their romance ends. I won’t go too much into it because I don’t want to spoil this book for anyone, but I really don’t understand why these two characters chose that moment to do that. It was the worst timing on their part and I knew as soon as it happened it would cause the end of their relationship. It also just didn’t make sense to me because the situation they both were in wasn’t an ideal moment for them to give into impulses.

Like I said, I can relate to their relationship, so I do overall understand why they wanted to be together. But there were moments in the story where for their own safety, they shouldn’t have been. Or where they both made rash decisions that they shouldn’t have, which impacted not only them but those closest to them.

Another criticism I had while reading was that while I loved that this story was told from two points of view (Sephy and Callum), there were times I didn’t overall like the writing from their perspectives. I know both these characters are young, so I get that what they said or did sounded childish, but there were times for me when it was a bit too much. I especially noticed this a lot when the story was being told from Sephy’s perspective. Maybe part of that in the story is that Blackman wanted to showcase with Sephy her privilege through the way she acted during certain moments in the story. Either way, it was something I wasn’t too fond of despite liking that this story is told from two different perspectives.

But overall, Noughts & Crosses was a really gripping, emotional read for me to complete and I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m also happy that this was the first book I was given with Blind Date With a Book Club and can’t wait to see what book I’ll receive from them next.

 

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