2 Great YA Books About a Sensitive Subject

Suicide is a sensitive subject, and one that people often shy away from, even if it has touched their own lives personally. However, as someone whose life was deeply impacted by a loss due to suicide, I try to be open about its reality and unafraid to tackle it head on. In the spirit of that, I want to share the following two videos I made about young adult novels I’ve read recently that really handled the subject well in my opinion, and will give readers plenty of food for thought:

If you enjoyed these videos, please subscribe to my channel on YouTube and leave a comment here or there!

Video: New ACEO Art Trading Cards & “Kid Artists” Book Review

Some of my newest art work and a cool book I came across for fellow art nerds:

5 Observations About the Movie “Jurassic World”

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Spoiler alert!

First off, of course I don’t think “Jurassic World” is as good as “Jurassic Park”. Being that “Jurassic Park” is a beloved classic from my childhood with warm memories attached to it, it would be darn near impossible for any sequel to match the emotional impact for me. So, I am not judging “Jurassic World” in direct comparison with the original movie, although I may make some casual observations about the direction some aspects of the film franchise have gone.

1) “Jurassic World” did have some awesome special effects and cool fight scenes. I especially enjoyed the Indominus vs. T-Rex scenes. I did find it a bit abrupt how the Mosasaurus brought the battle to an end, but it was still cool. That was by far the best part of the movie for me, probably followed by the scene where the Indominus is trying to break open that gyrosphere the kids were trapped inside or when the kids come across the ruins from the original Jurassic Park.

2) I didn’t care for Claire, the heroine of this latest film. I read an article online after seeing the movie about how Ellie Sattler from the original movie was a far stronger female character and someone kids could really look up to as a role model, while Claire is kind of wishy-washy and boring. I must say I agree.

3) I liked Owen’s character, but I didn’t buy the romantic relationship between him and Claire. That whole thing felt forced to me, perhaps because as I stated above, Claire seems like such a two-dimensional character without much depth.

4) As for the kids, I liked the younger kid (Gray) but didn’t care much for his older brother (Zach). Zach just seemed sort of boring and forgettable to me. I did like the one scene that showed a bunch of the tourists (mostly kids and teens if I remember right) playing on their cell phones instead of paying attention to the dinosaurs they came there to see. That pretty much sums up society today.

5) The whole Indominus is part velociraptor twist didn’t really come as the great surprise they seemed to think it would be. Personally, I think it would have been cooler had it been revealed that the Indominus had been spliced with some human genes. At one point I thought that might be the case since the creature started showing signs of logicial or manipulative thinking to confuse and trick its keepers, or when it was revealed that it was killing for sport and not for food.

New YouTube Vlog Playlists, Featuring Book & Collectible Toy Reviews

I recently decided to start two new vlog series focusing on two of my favorite hobbies/obsessions. The first vlog series is called “Toy Talk” and will feature all kinds of collectible toys (mostly I collect toys based on my favorite characters, so will focus a lot on that). Here is an example of the toy series which features new Mario Bros. collectibles…

The second vlog series is entitled “Book Talk” and will feature reviews of books I have read or am currently reading. I will occasionally throw in a video about one of my own books, but mostly I plan to feature the work of other authors. For one of my first videos in this series, I featured the new book “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” which is a companion book to the HBO documentary sharing the same name…

Lastly, I wanted to let everyone know that I also arranged playlists for my vlog videos on other subjects, that way it is easy for viewers to find the subjects they are interested in and just watch all those videos if they so desire. Besides “Toy Talk” & “Book Talk”, the other available playlists on my YouTube channel are broken into the following subjects: “My Asperger’s Syndrome Vlog“, “Art & Writing Vlog” and “News & Entertainment Vlog“.

Thank you “Fifty Shades of Grey” for making my life look great

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So today I decided to go see the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. Tuesdays are bargain day at our local theater so I figured it would be the best time to go if I bothered to see it. I didn’t want to drag my husband to the movie because he hated the Twilight series for having no plot…and the Fifty Shades series makes Twilight look downright complex. I skimmed through the first two books of the Fifty Shades series and made it about halfway through the last book, so I did have an idea of what I would be in for with the movie.

First off, let me say that some of the others who showed up for the movie kind of surprised me. As I expected, there were groups of women, a few couples and quite a few single women like me there (this is the first time I’ve gone to a theater all by myself and that was actually kind of liberating in a way). What surprised me were the few single men (because this is billed as such a “chick flick”) and the 70 & 80 year-old women who came, one of whom (an adorable little old lady) sat right beside me. For a moment I felt like I was seeing the movie with my grandmother and that kind of threw me off balance a bit!

Anyhow, as I watched the movie, it was pretty much what I expected, a somewhat tamed down version of the book. Although I do understand why many women don’t like this series and think it encourages stalking, unrealistic expectations and domestic abuse, I don’t feel quite that strongly about it because there is consent. Anastasia may seem stupid in many ways and definitely makes some questionable decisions, but she is a consenting adult. She has quite a few chances to walk away and doesn’t do so. I know she seems innocent (maybe too much so for living in today’s world) but she does know what she is getting into, especially once she is given that contract to study.

As for Mr. Grey, I can see some of why the character is appealing to some women. He is rich, good-looking, can be sweet at times and represents a sexual fantasy fairly common to both sexes (that of being dominated or dominating someone else). Those aren’t the things that bother me. He is undoubtedly somewhat stalkery and controlling…but again, Anastasia’s character chooses to allow that to have him in her life. What truly bothers me about Mr. Grey’s character is how he is so messed up from his own abusive history that he wants to actually hurt women. He wants to cause pain. To me, there is nothing sexy about that. I know that there are those who like the BDSM lifestyle and enjoy a certain amount of pain…but I doubt that most true BDSM practitioners would want to cause pain to someone who clearly does not enjoy it or go beyond their partner’s pain threshold. I can see why the BDSM community hates this portrayal of their sexual fetishes.

As the movie neared its end I was surprised to see women in the audience around me crying. I sat there and wondered why they were crying. Were they frustrated and annoyed like me because Anastasia wouldn’t just say the safe word or yell stop? Were some of them victims of abuse in the past and this triggered that as they saw Anastasia cry miserably in pain? Were they simply feeling sad that Grey’s character was so messed up emotionally? Did they feel for Anastasia’s character, who clearly felt humiliated and heartbroken because the man she loved carried so much pain that he had to make others feel that pain? After the credits started, I heard cries of “is that it?” and “what the heck?” from others in the theater. Guess they hadn’t read the books.

As I got in my car and drove home, the main feeling I had was that I am so THANKFUL to have a husband who is not emotionally or mentally messed up like that. I’m glad that my husband has never once wanted to hurt or humiliate me. In fact, if anything, he would do anything in his power to prevent me pain or to take it away when I am suffering. So thank you Mr. Grey. You made my husband look even more wonderful and made me deeply thankful for what I have. You made me realize how strong I am because I never would have put up with your crap in the first place (had I been Anastasia that would have been one short book!). In the end, I guess fantasies are ok and maybe fun to indulge in to an extent, but nothing beats a good reality!

Why “Mockingjay” (the last book of the Hunger Games trilogy) depressed me

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After seeing the Mockingjay Part 1 movie in theatres, I finally decided to read the entire Hunger Games trilogy. I had read bits of it in the past, enough to know the main plot of each book, but I had never really sat down and read them all cover to cover. Last night I finished the last book in the series. And I must admit that after I turned the final page, I found myself deeply depressed. To me, the last book was very much a downer, even more so than the previous two books.

So, I sat in our library looking at our darkened Christmas tree and wondering why I felt so morose. I finally decided there were several reasons I found the conclusion of the series so disturbing. First, it felt like the last book was filled with the agony of multitudes dying, often for no good reason (as is the reality in war). In the first two books, most of the deaths were related to the tributes participating in the Hunger Games or were the slow, gradual kind of deaths caused by the perils of poverty. In Mockingjay, the deaths seemed constant throughout, not just a few people here and a few there. Understandably, the thought of mass death and the destruction of the world all around us causes immense despair, even if only on a subconscious level.

Another issue was the very real idea that no matter how many immoral and violent governments, presidents, dictators and groups we remove from power or destroy, there are always just as many waiting in the wings to dole out their own brand of pain and injustice. Even at the end of the book when things seem a bit more hopeful, we know that the world is not safe and secure. The world is never actually safe and secure, no matter how much we may choose to live in denial. Even among those brave enough to rebel against injustice and evil, you will find cruelty, deception and betrayal. Many of those people don’t even realize that they are no better than the enemy they seek to destroy. Vengeance and victory may give us a brief respite, but eventually the same old problems seem to find their way back.

Lastly, it is incredibly depressing how war leaves those who survive broken. Maybe not always physically (although there is plenty of that), but deep down on the inside, the trauma of warfare leaves many human beings irrevocably damaged. Survivors are left with wounds that cannot help but affect the next generation, sometimes starting unending cycles of mental illness and abuse. Often hatred and bias is passed down much the same way, even if it is done so with millions of seemingly insignificant words and attitudes. If we could truly see the damage done by war throughout all space and time, we would probably be shocked by how far the effects trickle down.

After thinking about all that, I guess it is no wonder I found myself discouraged. Perhaps the worst part of all though is that when it comes to fighting for freedom and justice, we are often damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

The most memorable books I read during November 2014

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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.