What I am Thankful For

Totally stepping out of my comfort zone by writing this and posting it unedited. But given that Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I figured now is as good as time as any to talk about all I am thankful for. And maybe it will get my writing juices flowing again.

I have been seeing people create their “Books I’m Thankful For” blog/videos this past week. I attempted to write such a list, but I could not narrow it down. Because I realized I am thankful for books in general, not just any specific books.

I feel like I am now in a place where I am comfortable talking about this. But my mom has been in hospice since the week before Halloween. She has been ill for a decade and two of her major organs (kidneys and liver) are failing. Though my dad is taking half days at work, for six hours a day I am basically by myself taking care of my mom. My brother is autistic and there is only so much he can do/handle. It’s been tough; I’m starting to notice the affects the stress has had on my body, such as weight gain and my hair feels thinner than normal.

However, I tell myself that if I had a job right now, I would go crazy not knowing how my mom is. If she had to go to a facility, all I would do is worry about if she is getting what she needs or if she’s being ignored. For me, that is worse.

I’m not sure how, but I’m managing.

Despite my annual end-of-the-year reading slump, books have helped me get through these last few weeks. When I have managed to open a book, it has distracted me from all that is going on right now. On that note, I’m thankful for my local library, which is close to my house and their well-stocked supply of books.

Books have distracted me in other ways. I’m already making reading plans for 2018. The books I have on that TBR are making me excited for next year. I finally have something to look forward to.

One thing I have learned that is, in during times of grief, you learn who is there for you and who is not. I’m thankful I have a group of supportive friends, as well as a strong, caring community on Facebook. For the first two weeks my mom was on hospice, outside my family, I only told three of my closest friends what was going on. They were amazing, naturally, but I didn’t say anything on Facebook because I felt like I was looking for pity. Then, my friend urged me to do so, promising the community would be more caring than I thought.

She was right.

People were so supportive and caring and even those I barely spoke to asked if there was anything they could do. It was more than what my family got from some relatives.

After that, I didn’t cry so much. For that, for their kindness and my friends’ support, I am thankful.

Blogging has helped me get through this time, too. As I expected, my story writing took a hit. I got frustrated and distracted one day, then decided to put it off. I’ve been meaning to get back to it, but now I feel like I have to start all over again. On the flip side, focusing on my blog has helped a great deal. I’m drafting ideas for future blog posts, which distracts me and makes me feel relaxed, even for a little while.

No matter how bad a day might get, I tell myself that some people have it worse than I do. I know people in situations similar to mine have had the healthy parent walk out, leaving them the burden of such a responsibility, or worse, mentally check out and refuse to acknowledge it at all. I have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep on, and food in the kitchen.

Books and blogging give me happiness. My brother and my dad give me motivation to carry on, because I know they carried the brunt of this while I was in college. And, of course, many supportive friends and a few caring relatives.

Happy Thanksgiving! ❤

Advertisements

Review of Alias Grace Netflix Miniseries (Will Contain Spoilers)

While everyone else and their mother was anticipating season two of Stranger Things, I was waiting for the Alias Grace miniseries to drop on Netflix. Thankfully, the show did not disappoint.

In fact, I dare say I enjoyed it more than the book.

Alias Grace tells the story of Grace Marks, a real-life Irish woman convicted of murdering her employer and his mistress in 1840s Canada. Like the novel, the show is set fifteen years after Grace’s trial, while she is serving her sentence in Kingston Penitentiary. Her supporters bring in American psychiatrist Simon Jordan to study Grace and prove she is innocent by reason of insanity the day of the murders. Only the media has painted her as a conniving murderess. But Simon realizes there is more to the quiet, mild-mannered woman than what people see on the surface.

This TV adaption is one of the few I’ve seen that is true to the novel it came from. It kept the major plot points and the characters as they were. The camera was entirely focused on Grace, with five minutes on Simon at the beginning of each episode.

Regarding women, the show’s primary focus is the 19th century’s mistreatment of women. While the show did a good job accurately portraying life for the lower classes compared to the life of the gentry and how the political unrest of the era in Canada played a role in Grace’s conviction, the show, in my opinion, focused more on gender roles.

Servant women were treated like property by their male masters; they were seduced, then tossed aside once they got pregnant, or sexually abused. Such as Grace’s best friend, Mary Whitney, who was in love with George Parkinson, the son of her wealthy employer, and he promised to marry her. But when she gets pregnant, he throws her to the wayside. Thus, like other women in her situation in that time period, Mary chose to have an abortion, to spare her child the life of a “bastard” in the 19th century. Only without regulations and proper medical treatment, Mary bled to death from having the fetus cut out of her.

After Mary’s death, George turned his sights on Grace. He came to her bedroom at night, demanding entrance. Grace tells Simon she had to leave the Parkinson house, where she had lived the happiest days of her life, because she knew George would eventually break down the door and force himself on her. Because he honestly thought it was his right to.

As for Nancy Montgomery, the woman Grace and James McDermott were convicted of murdering, I have mixed feelings towards her. She was kind of flat in the book, but the miniseries did a good job giving her more depth. For the first three episodes, I strongly disliked her. Nancy came off as jealous and spoiled, using her sexuality to manipulate her employer and increase her station in society. She targets Grace when Kinnear, the man Grace worked for that was murdered, started to pay attention to her.

However, at a certain point, I began to wonder if Nancy was simply looking for a way to survive in a world that was often cruel to women. Then, at the same time, I could understand Grace’s resentment towards Nancy regarding Mary Whitney. Nancy falls pregnant, and fears she will be tossed aside by Kinnear for a younger, non-pregnant model. As for Grace, she sees Nancy’s situation, sees Kinnear as possibly taking responsibility for the baby, and feels anger that her friend never got the chance at the better life she deserved.

Women in Kingston are horribly mistreated for even the smallest infractions. The guards make sexual advances towards Grace. The inmates have no rights. While I am not opposed to the idea of inmates being disciplined—I mean, after all, that is the point of prison—the way Grace and the other women were treated was inhumane.

One of my favorite aspects of the Alias Grace miniseries was the psychology of women. Before going to Kingston, Grace spent time in an asylum, where she was sexually abused and tortured. Back then, women with mental illness, or without, were labeled as “hysterical” if they behaved abnormally, i.e. not within society’s standards. Because she was different, and because there were women that dared behave outside the norm, they were scorned.

Looking at Grace’s mental health through 21st century eyes, I would say she might be diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Her black outs and the lapses in her memory suggest that is her possible condition. Going under hypnosis revealed the alternate personality that everyone thought was a demon.

Another favorite aspect is Grace’s relationship to men and how they played a role in her psyche. Her father was an abusive drunk. In the show, he makes a sexual advance towards Grace when she is fourteen. He calls her “slut” for no reason.

James McDermott, the instigator behind the murders of Kinnear and Nancy, thought he had a right to Grace after he coerced her into agreeing to help him in the murders. Even before, he too called her a slut or a whore for resisting his advances.

Then, there is Simon Jordan. A decent man at his core, it is obvious his morbid curiosity in Grace’s abusive history morphed into twisted sexual attraction. Grace noticed it, too. She comments on how Simon seemed to be turned on when she talked about the abuse she endured at the asylum or in the prison. I liked Simon, but my opinion of him soured after he has sex with his lonely landlady and says to her he only did her because he could not have the woman he really wanted (Grace).

The man in Grace’s life that really irks me is Jamie Walsh. McDermott was an asshole that wanted to drag someone down with him. Kinnear was a dog. Simon was a psychiatrist that wanted to help her but he clearly had some issues of his own. Jamie was a jealous little boy that testified against Grace because she thought he was flirting with another man. The only guy that ever did right by Grace was Jeremiah, the peddler that risked everything to pose as a doctor to use hypnosis to clear her name.

My most favorite part of Alias Grace was Grace Marks herself. She was quiet and mild-mannered, but she had a sassy edge I loved. She had no problem telling people off when they deserved it. She never felt sorry for herself. The show did her character justice. And I’m glad she got the happy ending she deserved.

Overall, I give the Alias Grace miniseries adaption 4.5 stars. I highly recommend you watch this show if you like historical pieces or you are looking for a show to binge-watch that has a little more depth to it.

Most Disappointing Books of 2016

I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

I have read enough disappointing books this year that I can write a blog post about them. I see these types of entries on blogs and in videos on YouTubers every year, but I didn’t have a lot to contribute until 2016. While I have read other books that were significantly low on the rating scale, more than I have in previous years, the books on this list are on it because they were the ones I had known about for a long time, was excited to read them, and then they let me down. Either I am becoming more critical of books or I have just had the misfortune of reading books that did not meet my expectations.

Anyway, here are my most disappointing reads of 2016.

 

Whitefern by V.C. Andrews

img_6542

These books are not in any particular order, but Whitefern by V.C. Andrews is definitely a shoo-in for the number-one spot on this list.

Whitefern is supposed to be a “sequel” to My Sweet Audrina, one of V.C. Andrews’s best novels that was published decades ago (my mom actually read it). It’s a dark, twisted novel about a young girl, an unreliable narrator, living with her wealthy but dysfunctional family in a grand, haunting Victorian mansion. When I found out V.C. Andrews’s ghostwriter was coming out with a sequel to My Sweet Audrina, called Whitefern, I made a whole post on Books Amino gushing about how excited I was.

I had it on my Amazon Wishlist as soon as I found out, but I was reluctant to spend the $20 on the hardcover. Then, I saw my local library had it and I could not wait to read it.

The reviews on Whitefern are mostly negative, but they are well earned.

I expected another dark psychological mystery with the same determined, smart protagonist. Instead, I got a ton of drama, predictable plot, horrendous character development, and a one-dimensional protagonist that sat around waiting for things to happen to her.

Needless to say, I am glad I did not spend that $20.

 

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

img_6545

Easily the second most disappointing book I read in 2016. I gave Hidden Bodies, the sequel to the psychological thriller You by Caroline Kepnes, 3.5 stars on Goodreads. Not a bad rating, compared to some of the other books on this list. But if I were to compare it to its predecessor, it would not hold a candle.

Hidden Bodies was not as creepy as You and Joe, the protagonist who is a darkly funny stalker, did not have the same craziness that made him so delightful. The writing was still good, but the plot was boring and I did not like Joe’s new “girlfriend” in this book. Compared to Beck, his obsession in the first book that was not the typical girl you see in stalker films, the girl he falls for was plainly boring.

You was better off as a stand-alone book. There was no need for a sequel.

 

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

img_6546

I was expecting this book to be creepy. A family cursed to have accidents, either harmless or fatal, at the end of every October; you would think it would be extremely creepy. Also, there are mentions of a taboo relationship: the protagonist is in love with her former stepbrother. But there were so, so many problems with this book.

It seemed the author could not decide if she wanted the novel to be horror or magical realism. She was definitely trying too hard to make her writing come off as “beautiful” or “haunting.” The romance was absolutely forced, made to add more drama to the story than was necessary. There was no character development and there was too much going on for me to keep up.

In other words, I was not impressed with this book. So glad I got it out of the library.

 

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield

img_6547

I can’t tell you how long I’ve had Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield on my Goodreads TBR or Amazon Wishlist. I was practically skipping the day I checked it out of the library. (Noticing a trend here yet?)

The only thing I can say that was in this book’s favor was the beautiful writing. I was bored out of my mind, yet I still enjoyed the author’s writing style. As for the rest of the book, I was not impressed. While I appreciated the chapters dedicated to the description of small-town life, I never understood the purpose of them in relation to the plot. It was supposed to be a mystery, for the protagonist to investigate how a girl much like herself became a corpse on the side of the road. Yet, the mystery does not actually come into play until the near end of the book.

As for the main protagonist, I did not like her at all. I know she was only eighteen, but she’s supposed to be this super-smart girl that graduated in the top ten of her class. So, why did she keep making such poor choices? Why did she continue to date a boy that clearly mistreated her, not her equal intellectually, dumped her on the night of her graduation after sex, and then get back together with him the next morning because he said he was sorry, he didn’t know what he was thinking?

I did like the other girl, Amelia Anne—the one who was murdered—and I enjoyed her chapters. She was sassy and knew what she wanted. However, I have to say, I think it was Becca, the main protagonist, who ruined the story for me.

 

The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Wass

img_6548

I knew about this book since it came out summer of 2016. Again, it was on my Amazon Wishlist because it reminded me so much of one of my all-time favorite books: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes.

A teenaged girl and her five siblings are trapped under the thumb of their father, a religious fanatic that is more like a cult leader. The children are pariahs in their town and their father shoves his own crazy interpretations of the Bible down their throats. The children even believe their father when he says they have to marry each other.

Why was I so disappointed in this book? I liked the protagonist, Castley, and the writing was fairly good. However, the book was too short, all the other characters were one-dimensional, the story’s pace was never consistent, and we never know the father’s backstory, particularly a monumental event towards the end of the novel that is never explained to why it happened. That is what absolutely killed it for me.

After I read it, I deleted it off my Amazon Wishlist. Like some others on this list, the chances of me buying them or even reading them again are slim to none.

What disappointing books have you all read this year?