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Writing Bliss

"If they do not write the kind of books we want to read, we shall have to write them ourselves." -C.S. Lewis

Book Review: This House is Haunted by John Boyne

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The full synopsis for this book can be found here, but the gist of the story is a woman, after losing her father and last remaining family member, moves to the country become governess at the mysterious Gaudlin Hall where a “presence” resides. This book was written by the same author who wrote The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

This was a fun book. I love creepy and “things that go bump in the night”-type stories. This was a classic ghost story if ever I read one. I love the setting (1867 England) which just adds to the aura of gloom to the story; Charles Dickens at the height of his writing career, the prelude years of Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes. This story reminded me a great deal of the movie “The Others” starring Nicole Kidman. You remember it? The mother and children living in a wealthy estate in post-war England, the haunted mansion and the creepy caretakers? Yeah, this was very reminiscent of that and I loved it! I think the narrator occasionally slipped into modern terminology and that was disorienting at times, but for the most part this writing was right on queue for an edge-of-your-seat ghost story. I recommend it for anyone who liked the Dickens’ ghost stories, or for that matter “The Others” and that type of story.

The Controversy of Challenged Books

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The American Library Association released yesterday it’s list of Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2015 in its annual report which can be found here. The report is released every year during National Library Week and I found it extremely enlightening. It confirms what I have been saying for years: People absolutely despise, yet thrive on, anything that causes controversy. Let’s examine the list. The only book I have read any part of on this list is the Holy Bible, but even from the titles and cover art I can assume why the other books on this list have been challenged by parents and patrons across the country. Some I agree with, others not so much, but the beauty of this country is that all ten of these books have a right to be on the shelf, and every patron has the right to pick up, or pass up, each title.

The majority of parents who challenged these titles are undoubtedly concerned that their child or teenager will pick up a book that contradicts what they have been teaching them all their life, and that just maybe they might form an opinion on their own that differs from that upbringing. Take, for example, the Bible. It made the list. I’m not sure why, but it did. I don’t care how you feel about the Bible, whether or not you believe it’s content or divine authorship, it is a significant religious and historical document that is relevant to human history. Would you say the same about other such documents? Apparently, people have. According to the report, 33% of respondents do no believe their children should have access to the Koran at school, and another 29% believe the same of the Torah and the Talmud. On one hand, I believe that schools should either have all of these materials, or none. Do not pick and choose what is available to students. That is socialism if ever I saw it. Choosing what books are available to public in general is a move Hitler made, and following in those footsteps is generally frowned upon. From a religious standpoint (and I mean any religion), shouldn’t you know what other religions believe? What better way to defend your own faith, than understanding how others believe? Young minds in particular are more able to grasp concepts like this because their own beliefs are still being molded. They can experience the learning of other religions and cultures and ask questions while their brains are still processing this information. Not to mention, I think we all can agree that when you ban a book, or even question it, kids are bound to seek it out. It’s human nature to seek out the prohibited out of sheer curiosity. This happens in the fifth Harry Potter book when Umbridge bans The Quibbler after Harry’s interview…oh wait. Harry Potter is also on the banned books list. Nevermind.

I do have a problem, however, with some of the official reasons why people have challenged these titles. Going back even to last year’s report (which can be found here, certain books are labeled “unsuitable for age group.” Um, where exactly are they finding these books? Barnes & Noble classifies The Kite Runner, Saga, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, The Bluest Eye, and A Stolen Life (2014 Challenged books) as ADULT fiction and nonfiction. They should not be on any children’s shelf. If kids are having access to them, they are either required reading by a school, or a library is placing them in those categories. I have also found that, of this year’s list, Fifty Shades of Grey, Habibi, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time are also all classified as adult fiction (Habibi can be found in Graphic Novels). Having worked at the bookstore for several years, I know that The Curious Incident is repeatedly placed on the summer reading table because school’s have assigned it to students. If parents have a problem with this book, the complaint should be lodged against the school for requiring it, or at least question why a particular library houses the book in the Young Adult area. All of the above mentioned books are being challenged because they are unsuitable for the age group to which they are placed, but no one bothers to question why they are listed as available to these age groups. We just complain and demand they be taken off the shelves altogether. I can promise you that no bookstore or library anywhere is placing Fifty Shades in a YA section. Yes, the writing is poor (I found that challenge hilarious), and as a writer, I’m offended that this is considered publishable yet my type of writing is not, but people have the right to read smut if that’s what they prefer. Many people would say, “Hey! Why pay for Fifty Shades when porn is free online!” but to each his (or in this case, her) own.

As for what may be the most controversial part of these books, the topic of homosexual and transgender titles, let’s face it, these topics are here to stay. No matter how you may feel, whether you support the LGBTQ community, condemn it, are confused by it, or are repulsed by it, you cannot deny that it isn’t going anywhere. It is a trend. That phrase alone may be offensive to someone, and I apologize because I don’t mean it offensively. Whatever is being covered by news media or talked about among celebrities or on talk shows, is a trend, simply put. With the revelation of the new Caitlin Jenner came the conversation of transitioning adults. With the announcement that Brad and Angelina’s daughter Shiloh is now going by the name John, a conversation was opened about transitioning kids. If you live in North Carolina, the debate in Charlotte over restrooms has sparked a firestorm of controversy. The topic is not going away and with the trend comes published works of those who wish to profit on the perfect timing. Again, those titles have a right to be in the library and whether they are in schools or not, kids and teens who seek out such material will always find it. You can also look at it this way: there are plenty of stories about teen drug abuse (Ellen Hopkins’ Crank and books in the style of Go Ask Alice) and sex (Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer, Huntley Fitzpatrick’s The Boy Next Door, and even Stephanie Myer’s Twilight series). Are we supposed to shield our kids to the point where they cannot even recognize subject matter like this when approached by it in the real world? Are they not going to be exposed to the same material in movies and TV shows? Again, they are going to come into contact with it at one point or another, and parents, if doing their job right, will teach their kids how to react to these situations. Kids will make their own decisions based on that, but even the bad decisions are not at the fault of a book or a movie.

I’m not saying there are not books out there (or even on this list) that I wish hadn’t been published. I am simply saying that the practice of banning books is nothing short of ridiculous when you consider the First Amendment upon which our country was principally founded. The authors and publishers have a right to put them out there, and you as a patron have the right to not pick it up.

 

Book Review: Room by Emma Donaghue

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Plato’s analogy of “The Cave” asks the important question: if we are only ever exposed to one type of life, can there be anything else? If a man is born within the walls of a cave, knows no light, no sound beyond the echo of his own voice on the cave walls, no human beside himself, can there ever truly be an outside world? The child’s riddle of if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear, does it still make a sound takes on a new meaning under Plato’s analogy. Just because our perceived version of reality may be warped, that doesn’t mean the real thing isn’t out there somewhere, waiting for us to discover it.

Enter Jack, a vibrant 5-year-old boy whose entire existence consists of Room, a 10 x 10 enclosed, windowless room where he lives with his mother (who is unnamed for the entirety of the book). While at first this book could be disorienting because it is narrated completely from start to finish in the voice of a child, this book held an extremely powerful message. We’re all familiar with the kidnapping case of the girls in Cleveland, one of which was forced to give birth to her captor’s baby while being held prisoner. This is the situation for the mother in Emma Donaghue’s story. Kidnapped at 19, the young woman is held captive for 7 years and during that time she gives birth to Jack, who tells this story only as a 5-year-old can.

The TV is a world of fantasy, roads and streets, people, animals, places that aren’t real, just in TV. The real world is Room. The only people who exist are Jack and Ma and Old Nick. He listens each night that Old Nick comes into the room and counts the squeaks of the bed. Of course as adult readers, we know what’s going on in that room and it makes our skin crawl. We know that it happens all over the world every day, and it makes us sick. But Jack has no idea. His mother has done her job and shields him from the evils of the world as best she can.

Then, after the Great Escape, Jack is forced to accept the real world and sees, for the first time in his life, the fantasy world of TV come to life. It is hard to accept that it is all real. He keeps asking if they can go back to Room, and that alone makes me want to scream! No you can’t go back to that room you silly kid! You have no idea what that room did to your mother, what it’s still doing to her! You can never fully understand until you are much older. But of course, you can’t scream that at a 5-year-old. The only thing a mother, or anyone, can do is to let him grow in the world. Shape him the best you can, and hope that one day, you’ll have done enough and raised him right for him to understand everything you did for him you did out of love. Hopefully along the way, you can learn to forgive yourself for what you kept from him and hope that he will love you no matter what the real world throws at him.

This was an incredibly powerful and moving story. It made me sick and angry, but it is a testament to a mother’s love and the resilience of human nature.

Book Review: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

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I want to open this review by saying that I read this for my book club because our March theme will be “Page to Screen.”  My challenge to participants was to read a book that has been made into a movie, then watch the movie.  Compare, contrast, and just make general observations.  I wanted to watch this movie when it was nominated for a few Academy Awards last year, and I have every intention of watching it.  My review today is strictly on the book.

This book, as most people know, is about a woman who, just after turning 50, is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.  Alice Howland is a professor at Harvard University; clearly she is incredibly smart.  Her brain is wired to think far beyond the scope of most people.  This makes her diagnosis all the more tragic.

Before I get into the body of the story, I must mention that I listened to this book on audio, and was initially excited that it was narrated by the author.  I was slightly disappointed because Lisa Genova is an author, not an actor, and her reading was not that lively.  Her writing, however, was exquisite.  Her artful way with words really made the read pleasant.  I loved the idea of weather’s “flirtation with winter,” and the description of the cafe that had been “serving the chronically caffeinated long since before the invasion of Starbucks.”  More importantly, Genova was able to convey deeper emotions and true understanding of the mind of someone suffering such a debilitating disease.  When Alice first goes to the doctor, before they know what’s wrong with her, the doctor refers her to get an MRI.  A bran scan, Alice thinks, implies that they are concerned it may be cancer.  She refers to the potential tumor as a “predator,” and what better way to refer to any disease, really.  Diseases are predators, preying on the human body and making them weak.  It is a tragic reality.  The author touches the topic of cancer again later, after Alice has been struggling with the Alzheimer’s for a while.  Alice blatantly wishes she had cancer.  Cancer is something you can fight, with radiation and chemotherapy.  People rally around you when you have cancer, and they support you.  People with Alzheimer’s just get sympathy, pity, and there’s nothing to fight.  It just slowly takes away your consciousness.  This is a terrible and terrifying thought.

There are also three very impactful scenes I’d like to discuss.  They’re not necessarily spoiler scenes, but if you plan to read the book or watch the movie and don’t want to know what happens at all, you may want to stop reading here.  The first scene takes place at the grave site where Alice’s father is buried.  She knows she has the disease at this point but she hasn’t told her husband, John, yet.  Alice breaks down.  She is crying so hard that John goes to comfort her.  She does not mourn her father, who was a life long drunk and responsible for the car accident that killed her mother and sister years before.  It is  literally the toll that the burden of knowing she has Alzheimer’s Disease has placed on her shoulders.  I’m driving in the car when I’m listening to this and I’m yelling at the CD, “Tell John!  Right now is your chance, just tell your husband!”  A simple request, it may seem like, but Alice has always been independent and her husband is not only her partner in life, but also her intellectual equal.  This refusal to tell John is a matter of pride, but not in the way one would expect.  She fears losing his respect.

There is another scene where John and Alice are sitting together in the doctor’s office and they’re discussing the genetic mutation that has caused Alice’s disease, for which she has tested positive.  She asks if there is a chance that her kids will have the same mutation.  This is a heavy topic of conversation.  Should her adult children get themselves tested?  What about her oldest daughter who is trying to get pregnant, will this affect Alice’s grandchildren?

The last scene, and in my opinion the most powerful, was when Alice holds her twin grandchildren just after their birth.  Her daughter, Anna, tested positive for the genetic mutation, which means at some point in her life, Anna will suffer her mother’s fate.  The doctor’s were able, however, to remove the mutation from the cells which were implanted in Anna during in vitro treatments.  Alice holds her granddaughter, recognizes that it is her grandchild, then asks, “Will they get this disease like me?” Her daughter tells her they will not.  That is the most amazing moment in the whole book.  Living long enough to see one’s grandchildren is a tremendous blessing, but living with Alzheimer’s and not knowing if you’ll recognize them is scary.  Alice knows the child is her grandchild and can be at peace knowing they will never suffer like she did.

I absolutely loved this book, and I know it’s still early, but I’m pretty sure this book will be making my Top 5 at the end of the year.  This book had a powerful message that is relevant to all ages and every generation.  It raises awareness of a brutal disease with no cure.  This disease takes away what many cancer patients, even if they lose their fight with the disease, have still maintained until the end; peace of mind.

Writing as a Community

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In honor of NaNoWriMo last November, the Iredell County Public Library that I work for in North Carolina partnered with Mitchell Community College to create the first ever community novel.  We created a group of writers who were patrons and staff of the library, and students and staff from the college.  We organized our thoughts, constructed a vague outline for what we wanted to accomplish in the book, and then, chapter by chapter, each person wrote the story.  To many people this sounded strange.  “Is it an anthology?” was the main question we received when we told people about the project.  I suppose it made sense to assume we were constructing a collection of short stories written by different authors.  Instead, we chose the challenge of writing a full, complete novel with each chapter being written by a different person.  Each character was created by the author of that chapter, and no one knew where the plot would turn next until it was written.

I can tell you right now, as co-coordinator of this project, this will NOT happen in our next novel.  While I loved the idea of having each person write a chapter, there was too much confusion about where the book was heading, and it wasn’t until the two weeks before we sent the book for printing that we really came up with a solid conclusion.  This will be much more organized in the next book.  But the wonderful thing about this project is that it was our FIRST and it was successful.  I am so proud of this book, and more importantly, what it stands for.  This book encompasses community purpose and togetherness.  It displays teamwork and collective learning.  Were there mistakes?  Sure, but even the most seasoned authors make mistakes.  Were there things I would like to plan differently for next time?  Of course, but that is the whole purpose of this project.  There was a wide age range of participants, and that alone proves that you’re never too old to learn something.  We had published authors and novices involved, which proved that anyone can accomplish something when they set their mind to it.

So what was the book about, you may want to know.  The synopsis was simple enough; we wanted to keep the story local to entice library patrons and students at the college to feel invested in the story.  We changed the name of the town, but anyone with a basic knowledge of Statesville, North Carolina can understand where the book takes place.  The setting is the old Playhouse Theatre (which has long since been torn down) in the early 1980s.  The protagonist is a young girl who was born and raised in the town, but left for New York City to pursue a career in film.  When she arrives back home to settle the estate of her parents who died in a car accident, she discovers she inherited the Playhouse Theatre.  The main character and her sister then embark on an emotional journey to learn more about each other, appreciate the importance of family, and embrace a sense of community neither of them have felt before.  The story takes some unexpected turns, visits from mysterious people of the past, and hopefully, conveys an essential message to the readers.

For our first book, I must say I am quite proud.  Copies of the book, Renovations, are available for purchase through Amazon here, and the royalties of the online sales will go the Iredell Friends of the Library in support of our next project, which we hope to make annual.  The book will be available for purchase and officially launched on Friday March, 25 at the Doris Betts Literary Festival at Mitchell Community College where the authors will also be signing copies.  For people who are local and can pick up a copy in the library, copies will be available at a discounted rate with your library card and 100% of those sales will go toward the project.

Please share this post because I think more libraries and communities should participate in these types of projects.  The library in Topeka, Kansas is in their fifth year of their community novels and are a huge success.  Communities need people, and people need communities.  This book is positive proof of the power of that union, and I cannot wait to lead the next project.

 

 

Bringing in the New Year

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!  I am so excited for this year because, as everyone does, I have set a New Year’s Resolution, and it involves all of YOU (my followers and fellow bloggers).  Unlike most of the “lose weight” plans, mine is (I’d like to think) realistic.  I plan on finishing my novel.  I’ve been writing a fantasy novel that is an adaptation of the Little Red Riding Hood tale.  My work is still untitled and over the years has expanded to the point where, who knows, maybe now it no longer resembles the LRRH at all.  All I know is that I love this story and the characters and I’d hate to let it all die because I wasn’t motivated enough to finish it.  I’m starting in January with research.  Not on publishers or agents or the business of writing (though that will certainly come later), but the first month of my resolution will be on researching the art of writing.  I know that sounds weird coming from someone who writes fairly consistently but I feel there is always something to learn.  Thanks to my subscriptions to Poets & Writers and Writer’s Digest magazines, I have been stocking up on construction knowledge.  What does it take to write a convincing plot?  How do you make your audience fall in love with your characters?  How do you keep up your readers interest and keep your arc suspenseful?  All these things and more I have been reading about and taking vigorous notes on.  Many tips from the experts I have already done, many I have not even considered.

So I mentioned that this involves my followers.  How, you may ask, can you be involved in my New Year’s Resolution?  Simply by commenting or sharing.  I don’t think that a blog should be the only thing that agents and publishers look at to establish the audience of a particular writer, but let’s face it, they look at our blogs.  The more people who become involved in my posts the better.  If you’re not already following my blog via email, today’s as good a day as any to start!

As far as writing goes, what are your 2016 goals?  Have you considered that you may not be as “in tuned” with writing as you thought?  I think, in the few short days I’ve been researching, my favorite part has been realizing what I don’t know.

What will it take for you to get motivated enough to finish your first novel?  Or your second?  What will it take for you to become motivated enough to seek representation for an already existing work?  A New Year’s Resolution should never be set so high and unattainable that you set yourself up for failure.  It should always be about bettering yourself and making yourself better.  Even if I don’t actually finish the novel this year, the end result should be that 1. I’m much closer than I was at the beginning of the year, and 2. my story grew along with my writing skills.

Happy writing!!!

My Year in Books

According to Goodreads, I read 57 books in 2015.  My last blog post was on my top five favorites but today’s post is on my progress throughout the year and my end-of-year stats, so to speak.  My year in books can be found here on Goodreads.  It’s interesting to see what kind of reading I did this year. My shortest book was a picture book (The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce- hands down best picture book ever).  My longest was apparently Shadowmarch by Tad Williams.  I would like to finish this series but fell seriously unmotivated this year.  That is a daunting series that will have to wait until next year.

My goal for next year will be increased in the 2016 challenge.  I will up my reading goal to 50 instead of 30.  I have written out the titles that I would like to get through in 2016.  My aim to read mostly rereads (books I’ve read before, mostly classics) and fantasy.  I started my career as a reader and a writer as a fantasy guru and since I began working in the library this year, I have discovered so many new genres and authors that I have strayed from my origins.  I want to read more fantasy this year.  Among the titles and series I’d like to explore is The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  I read it years ago but had no clue that there were more books in the series.  I will reread it and continue with the other books (hopefully).  I also plan on hitting The Mortal Instruments series again.  I read the first three when it was supposed to be a trilogy then gave up.  But after hearing from other people who kept reading, I am convinced to give it another try.  I am also going to attempt to read Pride and Prejudice again as well as The Scarlet Letter and a few other classics that have been screaming at me from my dusty shelves.  Most important of all, I will be rereading the entire Harry Potter series for the first time in YEARS!!  The films have poisoned me, since I’ve seen them more than I’ve read the books, and the series really does deserve better treatment.

So there you have it.  Where I’ve been, what I’ve read in 2015, and my goals for the bright future of 2016.  I also plan to finish my novel in 2016.  In addition to all of whatever else life may throw at me, I think I’m in for quite a busy year!

The Top 5 Reads of 2015

2015gold1As the year draws to an end, I find myself compelled to share my top five reads for the 2015 year (though some of these books were not published this year).  Everyone has different tastes and I am not suggesting anyone read these books simply because I enjoyed them.  You should read what appeals to you.  Personally, these five books did something to me.  They stirred up raw emotions.  I screamed, I cried, I cursed in fits of rage.  I laughed, I snorted, I cooed in moments of joy.  I asked questions, I answered questions, I am still asking questions.  These books fit in with the criteria which, for me, are the requirements of a great book.

  1. Story- The book must be engaging.  Let’s face it no one wants to read a boring book.  From the first line, or at the very least the first chapter, I should be sucked into a book.  I’m not requiring a book to have action on every page, that would be unrealistic.  But a story should continue to peak my interests and make me curious to find out what happens next.
  2. Writing- The author should be a good writer.  I know that seems silly.  Well of course the author should be good, that’s the mark of a good book.  NOT TRUE!  I am in the process of reading J.K. Rowling’s series under the name Robert Galbraith and while I love the story, I HATE her writing style.  She swaps character perspective like we change shoes and it’s just awful.  Being a good book does not mean the writer is good.  The books on my list succeeded in both categories.
  3. Research- Every author needs to do their research.  Of course, the absolute essential for historical fiction is research but that also applies to other writers as well.  Someone who writes about a crime drama needs to know what goes on a modern day court room just as much as a writer about 19th century France needs to be familiar with Napoleonic history.  Research makes a story believable.  If I can’t believe what I’m reading, how can I ever expect to fully immerse myself in the plot?
  4. Relevance- The story, plot, and characters all need to be relevant; to me personally, to the world, it doesn’t really matter, but it all must be applicable to life.  J.R.R. Tolkien hated allegory and he disliked that his critics tried to directly link his fantasy books with his personal experience in the first world war.  What he never denied was that his stories were applicable to life.  Even the lessons learned in high fantasy should be relevant to the reader.
  5. Characters- I need to love (or hate) the characters in a book.  The worst feeling a reader can feel is indifference.  If we don’t care what happens to a certain character, why write the book at all?  I need to want with all my heart for a character to succeed, or feel a sense of tragedy when that character fails.  Or I need to detest a character so bad that I jump for joy when they die, or I feel an intense anger when that characters impedes the protagonist in their quest.

NOW FOR THE WINNERS!!

Best Book #5- The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

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This book was published in 2013 in Australia but just made its way to the US this year.  I loved this book and I posted a full review which can be found here.  Not only did I love the characters, but the story was incredibly engaging, believable, and relevant.  Kate Forsyth definitely did her research for this intriguing historical fiction based on the woman who captured one of the famous Grimm brothers and would tell him some of the tales which many of us cherish today.  Sometimes fact is better than fiction and although this is a work of fiction, I felt a deep connection with this story and I see how it shaped the recording of the fairy tales that have shaped literature for generations.

Best Book #4- Esther by Rebecca Kanner

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I promise not all of my choices are historical fiction, but this book surprised me.  I do not typically read Christian fiction but I’ve always loved this story and Rebecca Kanner also did her research in creating a fictionalized rendition of the inspiring tale of Esther, who captured the heart of a king and bravely stepped forward to save her family and her people.  That message alone is extremely relevant and let’s face it, it would not have made its way into the Bible if it did not have some kind of powerful message to convey.  After reading this book, I reread the Book of Esther in the Bible and was surprised to find how similar they were.  Kanner does an excellent job of embellishing the already known characters and story and making into something new and exciting.

Best Book #3- Defending Jacob by William Landay

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This was not my typical book since I am not into crime dramas (which is funny since my favorite TV show is Law & Order: SVU).  This was a well researched book full of characters that I was deeply attached to.  This book raised some deep questions.  How well does a parent know their child?  How far are you willing to go to protect that child?  I never saw the final chapter coming but this was a psychological thrill ride from start to finish.

Best Book #2- Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

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My official review for this book can be found here but this book had it all for me.  A fast-paced plot, engaging characters, gruesome trials endured by the characters, and an emotional struggle for the reading audience.  This book was graphic at times but it took the readers into the heart of a horrific crime that split up and ultimately brought back together two completely different sisters.  This story had its characters struggle with forgiveness and redemption and it kept you on the edge of your seat the entire time.

Best Book #1- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

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I know I said I wouldn’t make anyone read anything but in the case of this book, I lied, YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK! This was the best book for me in 2015.  My official review can be found here but the only word I can use to describe the experience of reading this book is “breathtaking.”  This book was incredibly real and believable.  The lessons learned by the characters can and should be headed by every person of every generation and of every culture.  The story of war is one that unfortunately repeats itself throughout history.  This is my biggest must read book of the year.

My runners up (those who maybe hit 4/5 of my criteria and were still very good) would probably be:

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
The Sound of Glass by Karen White

Congratulations to all the books read and/or published this year, including those dubbed by Goodreaders as the best!  Happy reading in 2016!

Thankful, Grateful, Blessed

Thanksgiving Contest - What Are You Thankful For?

This post will undoubtedly join the thousands of others today on the topic of celebrating the things for which we are thankful.  I think it is still important to say, no matter how many times it is repeated.  The truth is we should not be thankful only one time of the year but all year round.  So what are you thankful this year?  My list could go on for quite a long time, but I guess I will start with the highlights.

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FAMILY– As many of you know, I am adopted.  I have always been grateful to my birth mother for giving me a chance at life when so many other young mothers chose a different road.  I am even more grateful for the parents who raised me, the only parents I have ever known, or ever wanted to know.  They have guided me through the most amazing life I could have asked for.  This year, I made an addition to my family.  I have been with my boyfriend now for almost a year and from day one I knew this was it.  His family has become my family and my family has become his.  We both strive for a Christ-centered relationship where we can support one another unconditionally and I could not be more blessed.

FRIENDS– After I moved to North Carolina, I knew I would leave behind many friends.  I knew I would talk to them less but that they’d still be there for me.  I had no idea that every time I talked to them, be it on the phone, through Skype, or even via text, that it would feel as if I had never left.  Some friendships are for life and you only realize it, I think, when something separates you, like great distance in my case.  I have made new friends here that I am also grateful for.  As an only child, I have always associated my friends with my family, so for me they are one and the same.  I could only be so lucky!

LIFE– I never realized how difficult life could be on a single part-time job salary or multiple part-time jobs.  Until I turned 26, I didn’t have to worry about health insurance, I was always covered on my parents’ plan.  All that changed last year and the several months I spent job hunting were extremely stressful, never knowing whether you’d get a call back or not.  Telling yourself, “This time you’ll get the interview.”  Or getting the interview and never hearing back.  It’s maddening!  All the hours spent filling out online applications only to have your Internet go down, or your computer crash and you lose everything and have to start all over again.  I have never been so thankful to have a full-time job.  As a public service employee at a library, I feel so grateful that now I can pay it forward.  I can reach out to the community and connect with them on a new level.  I’m not bound to the laws of retail where the customer is always right.  I am held to a higher standard of being there to serve and create a working relationship with patrons rather than squeezing money out of greedy customers.  It’s a whole new atmosphere and I’m so blessed to be a part of it.

GOD– I would be nothing without my God.  I usually don’t post religious topics, not because I do not want to, just because they usually do not come up in my writing.  But none of the above would even be relevant let alone worth being thankful for if it wasn’t for God.  This Thanksgiving weekend, we are being told to be vigilant and that every country is on high alert from terrorists.  In a world where our holidays are now a time of great stress and fear, I refuse to be afraid.  “Grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”  Hold tight to your family this year and all year long.  Enjoy the time you have with them.  Cherish every laugh, every talk, every tear shed in joy or sadness, but most of all, cherish the memories that you make because those memories will be your legacy.  You can’t take anything with you when you leave this world, but you can leave something behind for the next generation.

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