Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wistful YA~VITAMINS AND DEATH by Medeia


Wistful YA is my reoccurring spotlight, giving young adult literature center stage.

If you're intrigued by peeking into the real life of some teens, the hard truth without the sugar coating, then my next YA spotlight is for you. I was part of this story's cover reveal and would like to share my thoughts about it with you. 

Purchase from Prizm, Amazon

VITAMINS AND DEATH by Medeia Sharif 

Release date: December 10, 2014

I'd like to thank the author for supplying me with an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Line/Passage: Mom's mouth was in an O. Nelly didn't walk. She leapt. In the air she went, flyaing toward Mom, punching her left and right. I stepped out of the way and screamed. Nelly's limbs were like the propellers of a helicopter, and I didn't want to be sliced. My eyes searched for a way in, to slip between Nelly and Mom, but I couldn't find a way. My instincts tingled to protect her, even though she didn't always protect me. She was my mom, and I didn't want her to tak a beating like this. (point 38%)

Description: Deidra Battle wants nothing more than to be invisible. After her mother, a public school teacher, engages in an embarrassing teacher-student affair at Lincoln High, they relocate to a different neighborhood and school. Being her mother's briefcase, Deidra joins her mother at her new workplace, Hodge High. Since her mother has reverted to her maiden name and changed her appearance, she thinks no one will figure out they're the Battles from recent news and that they're safe. Neither of them is. Hodge brings a fresh set of bullies who discover details about the scandal that changed Deidra's life. Feeling trapped at home with an emotionally abusive, pill-addicted mother and at school with hostile classmates who attempt to assault and blackmail her, Deidra yearns for freedom, even if she has to act out of character and hurt others in the process. Freedom comes at a price.

NIGHTSTAND WORTHY +1

My Splats: a delicate situation, true to life and relatable in similar ways even if circumstances differ.

The opening of this story is shrouded in Deidra's need to remain invisible. If no one sees her, no one will ask questions. Existing is all the living she wants to do until she graduates in a few months. That's freedom. That's her escape. But as most would probably guess, life never makes it that easy. The harder Deidra tries to hide, the more visible she becomes. 

Soon the story's covering adds the tension of dread and impending reality, as Deidra realizes her mom's secret will not remain hidden forever. Inescapably, her mother's irrational past behavior has tainted her and that stain is deepening, blurring her own identity. Being forced into a new school - one most definitely with lower standards than her previous safe high school - is much harder than she thought it would be. 

The longing for her old life of popularity, security, belief in people, and Dad living home gradually intensifies. She begins to drown in her mother's egregious error in judgment. Because of events out of Dee's control, choices someone else made (happens to be Mom), her life has quickly shifted from a bright future to one so uncertain she can't see farther than one foot in front of the other. To show this, the author chooses to alternate from Dee's current world and the one she left behind. As first I wasn't sure if this method would work, but it was done so seamlessly that it did work. I liked hearing today's Dee talk and react to those memories in her here-and-now.  

This dynamic between parent and child is one so often overlooked. Deidra is the more sensible of the two characters. She's the mature one, looking to do what's right and keeping Mom in check. The author's method of using Mom's fanatical obsession with staying healthy aka vitamins was very effective, basically showing Mom's weakness and selfishness.  

This tale shows the possible true-to-life events of a teen, as though she's on the outside looking in - a reality that many of today's youth can surely relate to. Only just like Deidra, many of today's teens are not on the outside, but smack dab in the middle of the chaos. 

I'd recommend this story to older teens and adult readers, who enjoy YA contemporary tales with true to life emotions. 

Find Medeia – YA and MG Author

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The United States Navy Lost My Father’s Military Records.

If you have care and respect for our US Veterans, then please read this!

My dad served our country through the United States Navy from 1963 – 1967, beginning in the Naval Reserves while still in school from November 1962 to June 1963. He was deployed to Vietnam twice and was stationed out of Tan Son Nhat Air Base, Saigon, Vietnam. He served his country humbly because 'that's just what we do.' Though his official service ended with his final honorable discharge in November of 1968, exiting the Navy with the ranking of AX2, Anti-Submarine Warfare Tech, he has silently continued in dedication to make this country a better place.

He has been an amazing husband and father, raising me and my brother while married to our mom for 46 years now. From his steadfast faith in God to caring for his ailing parents, his goodness has touched many. Like millions who've come before him and many who will come after, service like his is the backbone of our country. It consistently honors our founding fathers’ pledge to build a land of opportunity, bravery, equality, and justice, through selfless deed after deed. A US citizen, who’s lived his life from day to day in the shadows of politics and economics that so often shroud the true beauty of this great land. These people are our foundation. They are many.

As a child, I recall my father’s playfulness with my brother and me, yet his stern guidance to teach us right from wrong. This skill continued and was felt by many of our friends who knew him as their baseball or ice hockey coach. I'm sure some of you reading this recognize these same silent qualities in people you've known all your life - parent, friend, teacher, or neighbor. Someone who doesn't seek the limelight, but whose only goal is to live a good life and leave this country with a bit of light to flourish after they’re gone. 

Just over 26 years ago, our family was dealt a tough blow. My mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis to add to her existing battle with depression. As you can imagine, her MS diagnosis only compounded her highs and lows. She also has heart disease and other ailments that require a boatload of medications and hands-on care. Her bodily functions have slowly and painstakingly deteriorated over the years. It has been hard to watch her body constantly fail her to the point she’s been unable to hold her grandchildren. Her fight is one of heroism, but also degrading blows – blows which my father has always taken with her. He is her shield. But even the toughest shield ages and can’t keep up the same productivity. Many reading this can surely relate.

Always her faithful caregiver, my father has put her before himself in all and everything, just as he did all those years ago with our country. The Vietnam War could have taken his life. Thankfully, it did not. Instead, it spared him to return home and be a productive citizen. He has spent his life doing so until recently receiving his own diagnosis - cancer. The shield is developing cracks all his.

My brother and I now face the heartbreaking reality of setting up in-home care for our mom, while my father has surgery for the cancer and for his recovery. We both have four children and will do everything to care for her, but we can’t do it alone. I’m in awe that he’s been doing this alone all these years.

He is a proud man, so asking for help has been hard for him. But it got us thinking about his military service and if Veteran Affairs could be of any assistance. His initial reaction to the idea was that he’d given to his country without the expectation of anything in return and that there are thousands of vets coming home now in need of more care than he needs. (Yeah, my heart pounded a little harder after hearing him say that, too.) Finally, he agreed to let me take him to the VA to see if they could lessen his load of taking care of himself so he could still be available to care for our mom. But to our horror, we discovered the military records he was given upon his honorable discharge were incomplete. They lack the TDY orders proving his was ‘Boots on the Ground’ in Vietnam. Without that proof, the VA can’t offer him any help.

The Navy lost my father’s military service records. Seriously?

We petitioned the Military Achieves in Missouri in November, but have received no response. The only positive help we've been given is from Senator Susan Collins’ office in Maine, where my parents reside. However, a phone call from her office this morning shared with us some bad news. They have found nothing to prove his service as of yet. Again – Seriously? My father will not only be worried about his limited ability to care for my mother during his surgery and recovery, but he’ll also be worried about the expense and care he will need. His surgery is in less than two weeks.

This is a man who our country should be grateful to have as its citizen. And there are millions like him.

After receiving the news from the senator’s office, my father text me this: Makes me feel like I imaged serving, or it was a dream. I’m very disappointed. I can guarantee you his memories aren't his imagination, the atrocities he witnessed or the friends he lost. It’s all real. He could have died in Vietnam, not once but twice. If he had, would he now be a ghost? A never-had-been because the Navy can’t find his records, proof that he served?

This is heartbreaking. Obviously he is crushed, but not for the VA’s refusal to offer him the benefits he earned by serving in the armed services. He is devastated because it seems like he didn’t exit, as though his sacrifice didn't matter to anyone. I, for one, NEVER want a service person to feel this sort of abandonment. What about you? 
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Monday, January 19, 2015

Tying Up Plot Lines

Writers find inspiration in varies places and through many venues. There's nature or a crowded area such as a mall or subway station. People-watching can conjure intriguing traits for one's fictional characters - minus any creepy gawking, of course. Two of my most favorite venues for revving up my writing verve can be found in music or artwork. 

There are innumerable elements to inspire, but admiring a fellow writer's work is probably the most common denominator among all writers, myself included. And a lot of book writers also find inspiration while watching a film or television show. Despite being written to stimulate the visual and auditory senses, those are still stories. We writers love stories.

The other day I was reading an article about one of the most popular television shows of the last twenty years - LOST. The article, found HERE, highlighted a conversation between an outside source with one writer from the LOST writing team at the show's peak in ratings. Initially, this person was thrilled that he was about to discover how the writing team planned to tie up the numerous plot lines. But to this poor guy's dismay, he uncovered the show had NO plans on taking any story lines to a conclusive end.

I was like "What? That just doesn't make sense?", basically reiterating what the writer of this article said to the LOST writer. And then the realization hit me as to the reason I stopped watching the show - the lack of answers to the numerous questions drove me nuts!

It got me thinking about how we novel writers take our initial ideas from beginning, a brief idea of a middle, and then to a conclusion at the end of our books. 

For myself, fresh ideas always slam into me as the beginning of a story flows to its middle. I'll admit I definitely write overly-threaded moments and scenes that confuse even myself. But each time I end up seeing a flicker that eventually guides the frayed thread to a meeting place, which answers at least some of the questions I've created. That's called: typing up what is necessary to satisfy the reader. I don't tie up everything, because life is never that easy, simple, or perfect. 

So I read that article again and thought What if I went so extreme with one of these new fresh ideas that I knew a proper conclusion could never happen? Would I just write it anyway and would anyone keep reading it? Most of you probably are having the same initial writer thought I had - Would I tick off my readers to such an extent they'd never want to read my work again?

I guess I'm looking for a reason why the show LOST was so successful, yet used the format for creating that they did. The article stated that they basically thought up the  most messed up stuff they could and just wrote it with no regard for any purposeful conclusion. I've heard that not all 'loose ends' are bad. Granted, that had to do with student learning, but still... Did the creators and writers of LOST know something the rest of us are missing or did they make a grave error in feeding the public fantastic story lines with forever fraying ends?  

What sayzzz U? How many plot ends left loose at a novel's end are too many?
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