Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Death, dying, meaning of life, and fiction

I had a wonderful trip to England, spending time with family and friends, and celebrating my Mum's 85th birthday. Mum is very much alive and well, already planning her next visit to the US. She says growing old's no fun but she still has fun and shares fun times with the rest of us--a reminder to me when I complain at weakening eyesight and aching knees--hey, growing old doesn't mean closing down.

Then I got back and ended up reading so books on death and dying. Still, as you'll see from my reviews, they're not miserable books at all. In fact, they're a mix of fun, intriguing, compelling, and deeply evocative, so get that coffee ready and see which ones you'd like to read.

You might want to wander over to Amazon too where Banjos, Boats and Butt Dialing is FREE on Kindle July 10-11 on Amazon via this link
Click here for my review of BB&B 

First is I Know You Know, by Helen A. Howell, a nice mix of paranormal and detective fiction. The young tarot reader employs plenty of kindness and gentleness in her job after her grandmother bequeaths her the cards, but when things turn real, she needs a little more care to avoid a very real danger. Luckily there's an intelligent cop on the scene. Enjoy this pleasing novella with a lively 2-star easy-drinking cup of coffee.

Next is a novella for middle grade children, first in the Guardians & Lost Paradise series. The Journey by Michael Abayomi tells the story of a lonely boy thrust into a curious afterlife world filled with interesting symbolism and wise lessons, plus action and adventure. Enjoy the dark sorrows and lively action of this novella with a 3-star well-balanced coffee.

A Retrospect in Death, by J. Conrad Guest, is a much larger volume for adult readers, viewing life backwards from the point of view of the gentleman who lived it. Filled with cultural references to sports, movies and music, and with a strong clear point of view, it reads like a cross between Dr. Phil (the higher self) and Memento (life told backwards) as the protagonist seeks meaning and purpose. Okay, it sounds dark, the ending's great. Enjoy with a bold dark cup of 5-star coffee.

Subjected volume 1, the Eye of God, by G. F. Smith, isn't strictly about death and dying, but a curious being who might be angel or alien is deeply involved in provoking the protagonist's search for meaning in it all, so I'm including it in this list of reviews. There's lots of backstory and the characters carry lots of baggage. But there's plenty of food for thought too and some hauntingly powerful descriptions. Enjoy a rich, complex read with a 4-star rich complex coffee.

Search for the Fallen, by J. E. Hudson, may not be strictly about death either, but with characters dwelling in a rather oddly imagined Heaven and Hell, one might be excused for including it in this list. The protagonist is somewhat unlikeable, but the quest is intriguing, as is the underlying question of who can be rescued from well-meaning damnation. An odd, dark tale, best read with a dark 5-star coffee.

And, still on the topic of heaven and hell, Grace Through Blood, by A. J. Lee, has an intriguingly different mythology of death demons and hell. A Christian girl who reads auras finds herself beset by vampires. Meanwhile history and the modern military do their best to intervene, and the whole is complex and strange. Enjoy this dark tale with another dark 5-star cup of coffee.

Finally, just to lighten the mood, here's a book that's seriously about living not dying, and about living well--something my Mum is a great example of. Authentic Happiness, by Martin E. P. Seligman is a self-help book with a difference. The author's not trying to heal our mental ills, but rather to encourage us to enjoy our mental strengths. The book contains some fascinating questionnaires, but more importantly it contains lots of encouragement to see what we're good at, instead of wishing we were good at what other people are good at. Valuable strengths are derived from research over many different societies, giving a list not of lowest common denominators but rather of most frequently valued skills. And some wonderful examples show how applying one's strengths can turn the most boring job into an everyday delight. I love this book! Supply yourself with several cups of 4-star elegant complex coffee, add some 2-star easy-drinking cups 'cause it's a really enjoyable easy read, and see what you can learn.

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