The most memorable books I read during November 2014

love-of-books

During the month of November I read a wide variety of books, including kids picture books, several popular young adult series, poetry and nonfiction. Here is a list (in no particular order) of the ones that really made an impact in one way or another -

1. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. This was the November selection for my Goodreads middle grade book club. I’m glad it was picked because it was truly an engrossing story. I loved the historical tidbits about Philadelphia weaved into the story and I have always enjoyed books about people dealing with major tragedies and illnesses. It is during those times that the true character and strength of human beings is tested. Stories like this make you think about what is important and appreciate what you have.

2. Where She Went by Gayle Forman. I decided to read this young adult book series after seeing the movie based on the first book, If I Stay. I enjoyed the first book and figured the second book would be anticlimactic, but I actually ended up liking the second book more than the first. I found it sad but realistic how the relationships formed in the first book became messed up by the residue of personal tragedy. I like that the series ended satisfactorily, but without being too cheesy.

3. Hold Me Under: Poems to Drown to by Casey Renee Kiser. I discovered this poet through Goodreads and have now read two of her books. Her poetry is dark and at times a little disturbing, but I happen to like my poetry that way. I like that her writing isn’t predictable and boring, yet still remains easy to understand.

4. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. I decided to read this middle grade book for several reasons. I love novels in verse so I figured this memoir in verse would be a good read too. I also read the book because it just recently won the National Book Award. Unfortunately, some inappropriate things were said at the award ceremony that overshadowed the victory somewhat. I felt that the best way to support my fellow author in this situation was to turn my attention back to her book, so I picked up a copy. Like her previous novels in verse, I found Woodson’s writing in this book quite moving. It is an intimate look at racism, religion, and family issues, as well as an inspiring story about fulfilling dreams.

5. How We Die: Reflections of Life’s Final Chapter by Sherwin B. Nuland. I have an unusual and probably weird interest in death. This nonfiction book fascinated that morbid aspect of myself. Both medically academic and creepy at turns, this book really lays out the entire process of dying. The chapters are mostly separated by different modes of physical death (heart failure, murder, suicide, cancer, viruses, euthanasia, etc.). I especially found the chapters on murder, suicide and accidents interesting. This book made me surer than ever that no matter how I die, I just hope it is quick and relatively painless.

Is suicide an unforgivable sin? A bit of hope for those left behind.

Overdose

I am feeling impressed tonight to share something very personal….which is kind of odd because what I feel I should share actually happened over a year ago. However, I just feel very strongly that I am being asked to share this and hope that maybe it will help someone somewhere who is dealing with the loss of a loved one due to suicide.

Now, first off, I want to say that coming from a conservative Christian family, I was always taught that suicide was a sin that would get you sent straight to hell. It was murder and since you would die from the action before you could repent of it, you were out of luck if you later regretted it. Personally, I always doubted this belief, but when my sister committed suicide almost two years ago, these thoughts did make me worry about what would happen to her. I hoped and prayed that God would have mercy on her since she had been in horrible physical, emotional and mental pain at the time of her overdosing, but I didn’t really know what she was thinking or feeling the night she took far too many pills and then went to bed never to wake up again. I still wonder if she really knew she would die from her actions or was just desperate to rid herself of the pain, but I don’t know for sure and probably never will.

Anyhow, the incident that really affected me and made me feel that she was ok happened about 6 months or so after her death. I had already dreamed of her many times, odd dreams of doing routine stuff like shopping together or fighting like when we were kids. None of my dreams of her were realistic or made sense in the waking world…until the night I went to sleep and had the following dream:

When the dream began, my sister and I met in a huge hall or maybe an entranceway to some building that I didn’t recognize. When we saw each other, it was like we could communicate telepathically. I knew she was dead. She knew she was dead. Both of us knew how she had died and what it had done to those she left behind. She apologized to me, the most heartfelt apology I have ever gotten. She explained how she never meant to hurt me or her other loved ones. She admitted that she made a huge mistake and regretted it.

At that point, I asked her what had happened to her. I will never forget her answer. She told me that God was so much more loving and forgiving than we could even imagine. That God forgave her and was giving her a chance to work it out and try to make things better. It shocked me to hear these things since my sister wasn’t a Christian or religious in the conventional sense. She had always had curiosity about God, but had pushed religion away due to the strict and overly judgemental religious upbringing we had as kids. She never explained exactly what God was having her do, but just that he was giving her the opportunity to make up for her mistakes in some way.

At that point, we hugged and it felt so good. It felt like her. It smelled like her. I had all the senses that I normally have while awake. After we hugged, she just kind of dissolved into light and was gone and the dream ended. In the morning, when I awoke, I can not even describe the kind of relief this experience gave me. It brought me closure and gave me the chance to say goodbye. To me, it will always be more than a dream, but I realize it is easy to be skeptical when you haven’t experienced something like this yourself. Anyhow, I just hope that maybe this simple but meaningful experience of mine may encourage or comfort others going through similar things. Please feel free to leave a message below if you have anything to say on this topic.

Once a sister, always a sister

My last blog entry was about my grandfather’s death (he passed away just a couple weeks ago). Exactly ten days after he died, I got a call from my sister’s fiance saying that she had also passed away. Of course, her death was unexpected since she is only 35 years old and wasn’t severely ill that any of us knew about. We knew she had some health problems, but none of us thought her life was seriously in danger.

I was stunned when I got the news and before it even registered, I felt dry sobs rack my body. I think I was too shocked for real tears to even form, but the fresh wave of grief had to come out in some way. I kept hoping it was a mistake, but when I spoke to the hospital nurses and the coroner, I knew it was no mistake.

I don’t want this post to be all depressing and whiny, but I also want it to be real. To be quite honest, my sister and I didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. We weren’t what you would call close, even though I think both of us really wanted that intimate relationship…we just didn’t know how to overcome certain obstacles that stood in our way.

However, regardless of whether we were extrememly close as adults or not, I can’t envision my childhood without my older sister. Growing up she was a mystery to me. Since we were six years apart in age, I always looked up to her. She was allowed to do things I wasn’t and could easily accomplish tasks I struggled with. She seemed ultra cool just because she was my big sister.

Of course, since we shared a room until I was 11 and she was 17, there were plenty of fights to be had as well. I was tidy and she was messy, I was cautious and she was bold, I was a tomboy and she was feminine…pretty much whatever I was, she seemed to be the opposite. Yin and yang, peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper…two halves of one biological whole. Maybe that is why I now feel like a part of me has died with her.

So to my sister, my “sissy”, wherever you are, if you can hear me, I just want you to know I miss you and I loved you more than you probably even knew. And as Diana Ross and the Supremes once sang, “Someday, we’ll be together”…

In memory of my grandfather…

Sorry I haven’t been around to post much lately, just have a lot going on. My grandfather passed away this past Sunday after a lengthy battle with cancer. I miss him greatly, but am so glad to see him at peace and finally out of pain. I know he is in a better place.

The picture to the left is an old one of me (on the far left), my grandmother, my grandfather and my sister. Both of my grandparents have now gone on to be with their Lord.

I have also been busy setting up several author events here in the Dayton area, so if you live around here, you just might see me out and about! I am also thrilled to say that the Dayton Metro Library has added a few copies of my picture book, “Ode to Icky” to their catalog, and the nearby Greene County Library is considering doing the same! Overall things are looking up. I also have several great books to review for you soon, so stay tuned!

Are printed books really endangered?

With the advent and increasing popularity of ebooks, many doomsday prophets are now proclaiming that printed books will quickly meet their demise. I have heard experts claim that within the next 50 years, traditional books are destined to go the way of vinyl records. They might be used for decoration or sought out by collectors, but other than that, books as we have always known them will be obsolete.

Is this true? I hate to think so. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those purists who believe that ereaders are evil or anything, in fact I own a Kindle myself, but I still prefer the feel of a real book in my hands. Maybe I am old-fashioned or sentimental, but nothing will ever feel the same to me as flipping the pages of a new book.

I don’t really want to live in a world where the only place I can buy books is Amazon either. I like the convenience and wide diversity of internet bookstores, but I would much rather browse a brick and mortar store. I could literally spend hours in a cozy bookstore reading area. I prefer to sit down and try a book out before I buy it. Plus, in the bookstore I get to snoop around to see what other people are reading and get in some people watching, which happen to be two of my favorite pastimes.

As an author, I can also attest to the fact that there is nothing like holding your own book in your hands. I have had both ebooks and traditional books published, and the ebooks don’t elicit near the excitement from myself or others as the handheld ones do. This fact gives me hope for the future of traditional literature. What about you? Do you think that printed books are on their last leg? If so, will you consider it a great loss?

I joined the ebook revolution!!!

Guess what?  I just published my first eBook on Smashwords!  So excited.  The story is entitled “In Memory of Dad” and is geared towards upper elementary and middle school kids, ages 8-14.  The story is based on the real-life struggles I went through when my dad passed away.  I was only 12 when he died, but I remember it as clearly as yesterday.  I wanted to share the experience with other kids who may be dealing with loss in any form.

You can get the eBook on many different formats, such as Kindle, pdf, online reading and apps for various hand held devices.  The best part?  It’s only $.99 to download!  I really hope that you will check it out and share it with your kids.  Please feel free to tell anyone you know who might be interested in this book as well!  Word of mouth really is the best promotion, whether it be in person or on a social networking site!

Soon the eBook should be available on Amazon and other top online retailers, but now you can buy it here at Smashwords.  If you do read it, please leave a quick review on Smashwords to tell me (and everyone else) what you thought!

Feeling helpless and frustrated

It’s been a hard day as a foster parent.  Today our foster child went to his father’s funeral, and he has pretty much been crying nonstop all day since.  I want so much to take the pain away but I can’t.  I wish I could replace his parents and give him everything he never got from them, but it’s not possible to turn back time. 

I hope that someday he will see that even though he has lost a lot, he still has people who care about him deeply and would do anything in their power to make his life better.  Of course, we can’t raise the dead or make a deadbeat parent step up to the plate and do their job.  I wish we could, but we can’t.  At times like this, I wonder how much we can help at all.  I guess at least he knows that we care and are here for him.