Saturday, May 2, 2020

Reading Challenge: 2020 Audiobook Challenge


https://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/2019/12/2020-audiobook-challenge-sign-up.htmlBetter late than never to officially post and sign up for the 2020 Audiobook Challenge hosted by Hot Listens and Caffeinated Reviewer. This year officially marks the 4th year that I've participated in this challenge, and every year I have a stronger appreciation for the audiobook because without it, I wouldn't digest nearly as many books as I would like.

As I mentioned in last year's signup post, I used to be anti-audiobook because it felt like cheating and like I wasn't truly reading. Once I got past that and realized that I was still absorbing the same information, it became a real challenge for me in the sense that it's a competition for myself.

I enjoy trying to outdo myself and now that I've been doing this challenge for a few years now, it's amazing to see how my listening habits have evolved over the years.

There are seven Achievement Levels:
  • Newbie (I’ll give it a try) 1-5
  • Weekend Warrior (I’m getting the hang of this) 5-10
  • Stenographer (can listen while multitasking) 10-15
  • Socially Awkward (Don’t talk to me) 15-20
  • Binge Listener (Why read when someone can do it for you) 20-30
  • My Precious (I had my earbuds surgically implanted) 30+
  • Marathoner (Look Ma No Hands) 50+
In 2017, I was the Stenographer because I listened to 15 books.
In 2018, I surpassed my personal goal of 15 books, and achieved the Binge Listener level by listening to 24 audiobooks.
In 2019, my goal was 25 books (Binge Listener), and I surpassed that by listening to 34 books pushing me into the My Precious level.
My 2020 Goal: 30 books to reach My Precious level again. I may increase it to 50 at some point considering I've listened to 22 books so far this year (thank you COVID-19).

Are you interested in signing up for this challenge? Head on over to Caffeinated Reviewer's link up post where you'll also find the rules. You do not need to be a blogger to join - you can link up using your Goodreads, Facebook, LibraryThing or other account.

Happy Listening!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Poem: She's More


She's more than meets the eye
She's more than your preconceived notions
She’s more than the one awake at night
                watching over her child(ren)
                                She worked so hard to have
                or staring out the window
                                Wondering when she’ll be next
She’s more than the one declining invitations
                to the baby showers
                                to avoid the painful reminders
She’s more than the one always on the sidelines
                watching others catch her dreams
She’s more than the one trying so hard to be whole on the outside
while she’s cracking from within
She’s more than the one who wants to scream from the rooftops
and tell the world her story
but instead, she sobs
into her husband’s chest
while he’s hurting too, and doesn’t weep with her
because “big boys don’t cry”
She’s more than the one who feels punched in the heart
                every time there’s a pregnancy announcement
She’s more than the one who crumbles
                every time the pregnancy test is negative
                and her feed is full of positives
She’s more than the one who’s constantly wondering if she’s worthy
of the love society says she should have
the love of parents (a status she wants so badly to have)
of partners (who leave because she can’t make them parents)
of children she doesn’t even know if she wants
and if that decision is because of infertility, or not
She’s more than the one waking up at 2am
from the nightmare that her surrogate would change her mind
the one staying up late rereading tips
                                on how to get pregnant for the 1767th time
or trying to figure out ways to pay
                                for the treatments, adoption fees, surrogacy
                wishing people wouldn’t be so hurtful
She’s more than the one crying (again)
                that her surrogate did change her mind
or that yet another embryo transfer didn’t take
or that her husband left her because he couldn’t handle it anymore
and(or) he found someone to finally make him a father
She’s more than the one putting on a brave face
                in public
                in the face of the news that it’s actually her husband who is infertile
She’s more than the one wondering
                why her body is unable to do the one miraculous thing it’s built to do
                                carry a child – make another human
                when people will stop invading her privacy
                                with silly questions
                “are you pregnant yet?”
                                Are you smart yet?
                “when are you having kids?”
please drop the “when”
                “when are you starting a family?”
Um, my partner and I are already a family…
“you’re not a real family until you have kids”
                See above answer.
“what do you mean you’re not? (pregnant, having kids)
                Uh, “no” is an option…
                “it’s your responsibility to raise the next generation!”
                                Really? Says who?
                “what’s taking you so long?”
                                Oh, so many things…
                “trying to get pregnant is the fun part!”
                                Obviously you’ve never really tried to pregnant
                                Or have a functioning uterus
She’s more than the one who’s lost friendships
                because they simply don’t understand
                yet she’s been welcomed into a sisterhood of those who do

She's more than all of the bad days.
She's more than the battles, the fights, the tears, the pain.
She's more than the distance between her and her partner.
She's more than the obstacles.
She's more than the decision to pursue motherhood.
She's more than the decision to not pursue motherhood.

She’s more than the negative:

She's the one who still hopes
                amidst the questions, the doctor’s visits, the endless tests,
                the pain, fear, and broken dreams
                the weight gain, needles, and heartbreak
She’s the one building others up
                because she knows what it’s like to be down
She’s the one breaking glass ceilings
                and floors
                and walls
                breaking the silence to show that there’s no shame in this struggle
and somehow manages to lead by example…
She’s the one who practices
                self-care and self-love
                to maintain her own mental sanity
She’s the one who has the strength to say no
because she knows when
she needs to say yes to herself
yes to her family
She’s the one who politely exits a conversation
                about periods, pregnancy, families
so others can save face
she doesn’t need to be rude
they don't know
She’s the one who loves with all her heart
even when she’s not feeling so loved herself
She’s the one who learns to own her truth
and discovers her worth,
stands up for what
and who she believes in
She’s the one who uses her pain to her advantage
to treat others with compassion
because she knows that behind that smiling face
are years of heartbreak
and some of the strongest people
She may have crashed and burned
                and then rose from the ashes
                a member of a club no one ever wanted to join
                yet proud to represent the strength and love
                of an infertility warrior

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Review: Summerland by Elin Hildebrand


Secrets, lies, teenage angst, depression, and heartache lead to even more heartache for small town high school kids in Nantucket. One night of drinking after graduation and secrets divulged, and many lives are changed forever.

Synopsis: A warm June evening, a local tradition: the students of Nantucket High have gathered for a bonfire on the beach. What begins as a graduation night celebration ends in tragedy after a horrible car crash leaves the driver, Penny Alistair, dead, and her twin brother in a coma. The other passengers, Penny's boyfriend, Jake, and her friend Demeter, are physically unhurt--but the emotional damage is overwhelming. Questions linger about what happened before Penny took the wheel. As summer unfolds, startling truths are revealed about the survivors and their parents--secrets kept, promises broken, hearts betrayed. Elin Hilderbrand explores the power of community, family, and honesty, and proves that even from the ashes of sorrow new love can take flight.

Review: Elin Hilderbrand has a style that works for her and there's no reason to change it. She does an excellent job of showing how despite how things might look on the outside, things can actually be drastically different than what meets the eye. Penny and Hobson are the "golden children" of Nantucket High. Penny is destined for Broadway or an otherwise equally famous destination with her beautiful singing voice. Jake, her highschool sweetheart, would do anything for her. Hobson inherited his father's athletic abilities on the football field and is expected to "make it" at any of the college's he so chooses to attend. One night around the time of graduation, Penny is driving Jake's Jeep home from a party with Jake and their friend Demeter in the back and her brother in the front. She is clearly upset about something Demeter had told her earlier in the evening and they can't seem to calm her down.

It isn't until the end of the book that really know the full story of what was going through Penny's mind in the moments leading up to her death. We learn that Hobson, also called Hobby, didn't know his twin sister as well as he thought he did. Zoe, their mother is second, triple and even quadruple guessing everything she did in raising her twins. She withdraws from her friends and focuses all of her energy on Hobson's recovery.

Demeter falls into a deeper depression and resorts to drinking on the job and stealing from her company's clients homes to drown out her feelings. Jake’s father, Jordan, and his mother Ava have been having marital problems, partly related to Ava's desire to move back to her native home of Perth, Australia, made especially stronger over the last decade since their younger son died of SIDS. Penny's death gives Jordan the motivation he needs to give into Ava's longing to go home. He thinks that Jake needs a fresh start away from the reminders of Penny's death, despite Nantucket being the only thing Jake has ever known. Ultimately, Jordan's primary motivator is his need to distance himself from Zoe, his lover since his marriage to Ava has suffered.

Life on Nantucket isn't always what it seems as Hilderbrand easily paints in her stories. The ending of this story left me wondering what's next for these particular characters and how they survive the traumatic loss of a promising young person. Maybe we will see them again in another one of her novels.

I highly recommend this to anyone who needs an easy, summery, beach type read at any time of year. 5 out of 5 star rating.

**
Review: Summerland by Elin Hildebrand
Format: Audiobook
Published: June 26th 2012 by Hachette Audio
Dates Read: August 31, 2018 to January 5, 2019

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Review: Rokitansky by Alice Darwin

This book. All the feels. The only non-textbook I've highlighted and marked up. The first book in a long time that took me a journal entry and a day and a half to mentally and emotionally process before I could talk about it. I have the same condition as the main characters (Rokitansky, also known as MRKH), and reading this book made me grateful for all the support I've had regarding my syndrome and yet angry that any woman has to suffer the emotional and physical trauma of infertility and resulting shitty relationships.

Rokitanksy by Alice Darwin captures the ups and downs of MRKH so well, I definitely recommend this to anyone and everyone who'll read it. My only advice is to make sure you have tissues nearby, especially for the twist at the end! I had this for 4 years and I was finally able to get through it, even though I had to take a break every 20 pages or so to breathe and remind myself that I'm okay! I wonder if it took me 4 years to get around to reading this because I needed to be in an emotionally strong enough place in my life to be able to handle the roller coaster of emotions.

Darwin does an amazing job of portraying the emotions of an MRKH diagnosis at every stage of life, even when it seems like the older woman isn't affected anymore. She's at a stage in her life where it doesn't bother her much anymore - the diagnosis is hardly even mentioned until the end.

Moira is trying to navigate college life and figuring out who she is as a person, while fighting an internal battle of constant reminders of what she doesn't have since she's living with female roommates. She throws herself into a shopping addiction instead of dealing with the problem head on because she feels so ashamed of who she is and can't bring herself to share her experience with others. She has internalized her mothers feelings towards the condition, and believes that she can't make the decision for herself of who she can and cannot tell.

Tori yearns to be a mother at any cost. She wishes the cost of her dreams was only financial, and not also the price of her marriage. She wishes she and her husband Harry could go back to what life was like before they hired a surrogate. Harry wants their journey to parenthood to end because he sees how it is destroying her - the beautiful woman he once fell in love with has been taken over by a stranger, a brokenhearted woman he does not recognize and does not know how to help. Yet, somehow they figure out to communicate again and come to a decision with which they could both be happy about. 

Mrs. Brown is tired. So very tired of everything, of life. She misses seeing Mr. Brown more often, and hopes that something will give and they'll be able to spend more time together. Rokitansky is not mentioned in her story line until the every end of the book, which makes me wonder if she's come to terms with the condition and is "okay with it."

It is the last chapter when we understand why Rokitansky was at the forefront of Moira and Tori's stories, but not with Mrs. Brown. It is a twist that I saw coming roughly 3/4 of the way through, but wasn't entirely sure how it would play out.

Darwin shows us the heartbreak, anger, confusion, strength, love, perseverance, and courage that are synonymous with Rokitanksy, and any infertility diagnosis. Out of pain, comes beauty. Out of the ashes, a phoenix rises.