Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What Have You Learned About Teen Suicide?

Today I'm delighted to welcome Jane Mersky Leder to my blog. She's the author of Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide--a book for teens, adults and educators. And she's here to explain how suicide has affected her, and what she has learned in many years of researching the topic.Thank you so much for joining us Jane, and I'll hand this over to you:

Jane Mersky Lederm author of Deadly Serious

I’m not a stranger to suicide. My mother’s first cousin took her own life, but the cause of her death was listed as an “accident.”
Three days before my wedding to my ex-husband, his aunt took her own life. Didn’t know whether or not to cancel the wedding. We went ahead.
My brother took his life on his 30th birthday. He stuck a hunting rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
And so began my journey to try to understand why 44,000 Americans—more than 5,000 of them teens—decide that life is not worth living. I wrote a book about teen suicide in the late ‘80s and now some three decades later have written ‘Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide’. 

·         We can never know for sure why some people choose to end their lives. We can make educated guesses, read the research and talk to suicide survivors, but in the end, we are left with questions that will never be answered.
·         There is never just one reason why a young person takes their life. It’s not just the breakup with a boyfriend. Or just academic problems. Or alcohol or drug abuse. Or issues faced by LGBTQ teens. Nope, experts say it’s some six to 15 reasons why (not to be confused with the TV series 13 Reasons Why).
·         Talking about suicide does not make matters worse. What makes matters worse is not talking. That may sound counter-intuitive. But more than anything, someone struggling with suicidal thoughts wants someone to listen, to show that they care.
·         It is never your job to save someone from taking his or her life but to connect with a mental health professional who has the training and expertise to help someone who is considering suicide.
·         It is your job to break the code of silence if a friend, child or student tells you not to share his feelings. It is always better to have someone angry with you than not to have that person around at all.
·         Recognizing the warning signs of potential suicide is essential. This is not always easy with teens who can be moody and uncommunicative. Still, it’s important to be on the alert and to notice changes in behavior: eating, sleeping, social habits. And it’s crucial to plug into even more serious warning signs, like a teen giving away possessions, writing a will, crawling into a deep depression or severe anxiety, and an obsession with death.
·         There are many myths out there about suicide. One of the most prevalent is that when anyone talks about suicide they are just looking for attention. The truth is that most teens who take their own lives do talk about it. They make open threats that, sadly, are too often ignored.
·         The importance of a loyal friend—a connection—who will be there no matter what can make a big difference between a teen deciding to choose life instead of the alternative.

All excellent advice, particularly the reminder that it's better to have someone angry than not to have them around. Thank you so much Jane. And readers, please continue reading below for an excerpt from Jane's book which she is generously sharing with us.

Jane Mersky Leder was born in Detroit, Michigan. The "Motor City" and original home of Motown have driven her writing from the start. A "Baby Boomer" who came of age in the Sixties, Leder is fascinated by the complexities of relationships between generations, between genders, and between our personal and public personas.

Dead Serious, a book about teen suicide, was named a YASD Best Book for Young Adults. 

The second edition of Dead Serious (with a new subtitle): Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide, will be published on January 23, 2018, and will be available as both an ebook and paperback on major online book sites, at libraries, and at select bookstores.

The Sibling Connection: How Siblings Shape Our Lives, and Thanks For The Memories: Love, Sex, and World War II are among Leder’s other books.

Leder’s feature articles have appeared in numerous publications, including American Heritage, Psychology Today, and Woman’s Day.

She currently spends her time in Evanston, Illinois, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.



Thirty plus years after publishing the first edition of Dead Serious, this second completely revised and updated edition covers new ground: bullying, social media, LGBTQ teens, suicide prevention programs, and more. Scores of teens share their stories that are often filled with hurt, disappointment, shame--yet often hope. Written for teens, adults and educators, Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide explores the current cultural and social landscape and how the pressure-filled lives of teens today can lead to anxiety, depression--suicide. Leder's own journey of discovery after her brother's suicide informs her goal of helping to prevent teen suicide by empowering teens who are suffering and teens who can serve as peer leaders and connectors to trusted adults. The skyrocketing number of teens who take their own lives makes Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide more relevant and important than ever.

"Talking about suicide does not make matters worse. What makes matters worse is not talking."

Order Your Copy!


Author: Jane Mersky Leder
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 237
Genre: YA Self-Help


 “ I moved in middle school. Some girls started to bully me online. They called me a ‘monster.’ All my friends turned against me. I didn’t know what to do. I had to make all new friends.” —Haley, 17

Haley’s story is a common one. The girl who bullied her in middle school was considered the “queen.” She was the leader and had the power to call the shots. Because all of Haley’s friends wanted the “queen” to like them, they turned against Haley—afraid that maybe they’d be the next victim.

What Is Bullying, Anyway?
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance (as in Haley’s case.) The bullying is repeated, or can be repeated, over time. Making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose are all considered to be bullying.

One out of three teens said they have been bullied in the last thirty days. Bullying can lower a victim’s self-esteem, create a lot of anxiety, and affect academic performance, and it may lead to depression and body aches and pains. Ouch!

Myths and Facts About Bullying
MYTH: Most kids who bully are poor students, aren’t good at sports, and/or come from dysfunctional homes. FACT: Many bullies are the smart kids, the popular ones, the athletes, who have power.

“ They can pick out the kids that no one is going to rescue. The kids who bully are generally liked by adults. They know how to turn charm on and off. It is social suicide to go against this kind of bully for fear that, if you do, you might be the next victim.” — Dorothy Espelage, professor of psychology, University of Florida

Myth: Cyber bullying is worse than face-to-face bullying.
Fact : Nope. Face-to-face bullying is still more prevalent than online. However, bullying in school often spills over into social media after school. There is no place to run, no place to hide.

Myth: Bullying causes suicide.
Fact : We don’t know if bullying directly causes suicide-related behavior. We know that most youth who are involved in bullying do NOT think about/attempt/complete suicide.

Myth: There is nothing kids can do to stop bullying.
Fact : Wrong. Anti-bullying programs in schools can be effective. Kids need to help create an environment in which bullying is not tolerated and know what to say and do, if and when they witness a peer being bullied.

Myth: Bullying has no long-lasting effects.
Fact : Children and teens who are bullied have a greater risk of low self-esteem, poor grades, depression, and an increased risk of suicide. They are often less engaged in school, and their grades and test scores decline. As adults, victims of childhood
bullying suffer more than others from anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.

Myth: Bullying does not affect many children and youth.
Fact : Bullying in school affects between 18 to 31 percent of students. Cyber bullying victimizes between 7 to 15 percent. These estimates are even higher for some groups like LGBTQ teens and teens with disabilities.

Climbing the Social Ladder
Bullies are often described as the “coolest” kids, but they can be the most hurtful. The perpetrator (the person who bullies) is popular because she/he is powerful, has lots of friends and calls the shots when it comes to style, music, dating, and anything else that seems important. She/he wants to hold on to the position at the top of the social ladder and will do whatever it takes, whether or not that means mowing people over in the process—spreading gossip in school and via social media, convincing people you thought were friends to turn against you.

Why would these supposed friends do that? On the surface, it makes no sense. But  think about it: these “social strivers” are jockeying for a higher position on the social ladder. They may not reach the top but can get closer. The last thing they want is to find themselves on the bad side of the bully for fear that they might be the next victim.

In the past, the word bully evoked images of boys entangled in a physical fight. Girls were left out of the equation. But things have changed: today, there’s a lot of talk about girls and bullying. Girls don’t usually get into physical fights. Their bullying is all about feelings and relationships. Instead of punching someone out, girls can gossip, spread rumors, form cliques, and use social media to “take down” their target. It’s always been hurtful not be invited to a party or other event. It’s even worse now with invitations splashed all over Facebook and Instagram. And during the party there are
those selfies of people smiling and laughing and having the time of their lives. It’s like an unending TV commercial that screams fiesta, happiness, fun, possibly romance.

With all this talk about power and climbing the social ladder, it should be noted that a popular girl who should, by all accounts, be the belle of the ball can be bullied too. Why? Well, because other girls are jealous and think she’s “too” swag, “too” smart, “too” high and mighty for her own good. So, the shoe fits on the other foot in this scenario, and the “too swag” girl gets the boot.

What We Know About Bullying and Suicide
Tragic stories about teens’ suicides linked in some ways to bullying are nothing new. National magazines and local newspapers are filled with them. So, what do the studies show? Bullying behavior and suicide-related behavior are closely connected. Translation: young people who’ve been bullied are more likely to report high levels of suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts than their peers who have not been bullied. However, what the experts don’t know is whether bullying directly causes suicide or suicidal behavior. Most young people who are involved in bullying do not consider or attempt suicide. But it is correct to say that bullying, along with other risk factors, increases the chance of suicide.

David’s Story
When David Beres was five, his family moved from Ohio to Michigan. As the new kid on the block, he was picked on by the other children. Some of the bigger kids threw pebbles at him. He would run home crying but stopped just before he walked in the
front door. He told his dad that he felt sorry for a child that others were picking on. He never said that he was that child.

When David started high school, he was bullied again. One upperclassman apparently said, “I’m going to kill you.” And another boy, the day before what was called “Nerd Day” at school, told David, “You don’t have to dress like a nerd tomorrow because
you are one.” Later the next day, David took his life. Police investigators listed “peer teasing” as one of the possible precipitating causes of his suicide. The word possible is important.

Remember: experts don’t know whether bullying directly causes suicide or suicidal behavior. What the experts don’t know is whether bullying directly causes
suicide or suicidal behavior. 

13 Reasons Why
The popular Netflix series 13 Reasons Why first aired in spring 2017, and it launched a national conversation about suicide. Teens have been glued to their TV or other devices to watch every episode about a girl named Hannah who, in effect, comes back from the grave with thirteen tapes she has left behind. Each tape focuses on a different classmate—some supposed friends—who, she says, factored into her suicide. But as many critics have written, it’s not possible to figure out exactly why someone takes her own life and to be able to guard against it happening to others. But, writes Mike Hale of the New York Times, the beleaguered school counselor may have it right when he tells Clay, one of the main characters, that you can “just never tell.”

Chat rooms and sites like Facebook have been ablaze with comments from teens and adults who have watched the show. Their opinions vary from those who love the show and feel it has important messages to those who found it disturbing and dangerous for vulnerable teens.

13 Reasons Why sent a hard message that people needed to hear. But a second season could be almost dangerous. I’m a recovering cutter and this show was a big trigger for me and I’m sure countless others. The suicide scene was so graphic, I couldn’t watch. While I think the message overall was good, I also think that people are too focused on the entertainment and revenge fantasy that they don’t see the big picture: suicide is ugly and never justified. Let the show remain as a harsh warning and not just another piece of entertainment. It is degrading.

This definitely was one of the darkest shows I’ve ever seen. I hope it opens kids’ eyes up about bullying and social media and how one screenshot of photos can ruin a person’s life.

I just finished the series and found it disturbingly emotional, raw and realistic. I’m at a loss for words.

Bullying can break someone’s heart, destroy someone’s reputation, break their spirit, and break their soul!

13 Reasons Why is an amazing show with a great message! The show inspired me to do public speaking at my school about the consequences of bullying. Because I’ve been bullied for 7 years at previous schools, and it sent me down a depression that lasted about 6 years and almost ended in suicide. After therapy I’ve come out stronger than ever, but sadly not everyone has that so I try to change that with telling people about my personal experiences and how we can work together and stop bullying!

Reactions to 13 Reasons Why from parents, teachers, and counselors have also been mixed. Some organizations, concerned about the effect the show can have on teens, have published guides for parents to use when they watch the program with their kids. Many counselors are upset about the way the school counselor is portrayed. Many therapists are afraid that, for kids who are in crisis, 13 Reasons Why could push them into the abyss. On the other hand, some posts by adults online strike a more favorable opinion.

So while I wouldn’t recommend this series, I do think it’s important for parents to honestly and openly discuss the troubling challenges it portrays. More importantly, our teens need to know that there is always hope and help. The Netflix show has sparked a lot of conversations about bullying and abuse, but we also need to improve communication between teens and the adults who can actually help them.

I just can’t bring myself to watch it. I already see kids in my elementary school every day who I worry about. I hear horror stories of the bullying going on in middle school. I’m sure HS is just as bad. Couple the bullying with mental illness & it’s scary to see where it leads.

If any of you have Netflix and preteens or high schoolers, I highly recommend the series: 13 Reasons Why. It absolutely depicts the everyday bullying, drama and aftermath that some of our kids go though.

Whether you or someone you know “loves” the series and the potential lessons about how bullying can cut deeply, bullying is never the sole reason why Hannah or anyone else ends her life. Just as important, no one gets to seek revenge by “returning” from the grave. The tapes are a convenient vehicle for a fictional TV show (and the book by the same name on which the show was based) but not realistic. The graphic portrayal of the suicide itself, along with the rape scenes, have prompted many to forcefully object—better to tell, not show.

Witnessing Bullying
There are many studies that show how students who witness bullying could become as distressed, if not more so, than the victims themselves. Sounds crazy, right? If you’ve ever watched someone being bullied, you probably have felt fear that you might be next, anger that the abuse is happening, helplessness, or guilt because you could or would not do anything to stop it. The end result: witnesses of bullying are more prone to anxiety, depression, and/or helplessness.  (To be accurate, there are researchers who do not believe that those who witness bullying are just as likely to have long-lasting consequences. Brain imaging shows a stress response to witnessing bullying, but that stress response goes away quickly.)

So, why not stand up and be counted? Why not do what you can to stop the bullying? You probably have or have heard some answers.
“I feel more comfortable being a member of a crowd.
You know, ‘Go along to get along.’”
“Ah, the whole thing is just a joke. It’s not that serious.”
“You know what? He/she had it coming.”
“If I snitch, everyone will start bullying me.”
“And what if I don’t join in? Or actually try to break things
up? I might be pushed together with the victims—the nerds,
the disabled, the LGBTQ crowd.”

Bethanne’s Story
BETHANNE: So I was homeschooled from kindergarten to third grade, and then in fourth grade, I started public school. And I mean it was fine for the first few months like no one really knew me. No one really bullied me. And I was definitely the tomboy. I wore like sneakers and jeans and a T-shirt every day and didn’t wear makeup and didn’t follow the crowd.
INTERVIEWER: How did the bullying start?
BETHANNE: This girl started calling me a tomboy and telling me that no one liked me. She said I was a fake, not a real person, who wanted to be like all the boys.
INTERVIEWER: This was before social media, right?
BETHANNE: Right. It was all verbal and in school and behind my back. But this girl turned my friends against me. I felt really unsafe in school. I grew up with two older brothers. We were always playing outside.
INTERVIEWER: So, do you think the bullying was some kind of gender thing?
BETHANNE: All I heard was the word tomboy.
INTERVIEWER: So how did you feel when this girl bullied you?
BETHANNE: I felt really alone . . . like I didn’t have anyone except for one of my best guy friends who stuck with me through it all. But it was really rough because all these people that I thought were my friends . . . they took her side. I felt really insecure. This girl taunted me to my face during school and during recess. I think she did it a few times at lunch too.
INTERVIEWER: Would you describe her as popular, smart, someone with a lot of friends? You know, what some people call a “Queen Bee.”
BETHANNE: No. She was just bigger than most girls in the class. I think she felt insecure and tried to make me feel the same way.
INTERVIEWER: How did things end?
BETHANNE: I moved. My parents got a divorce, and I went with my mother and one of my siblings to another state. I never saw the girl who bullied me again!

Even though Bethanne was in fourth grade and will be a junior in high school, the bullying is still fresh. She’s forgotten some of the details but not many. Whether or not she’ll carry this experience with her into adulthood remains to be seen. If the studies are accurate, she will.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

How real is real?

I've just finished reading Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow, and now I'm turned upside down. Are the decisions I make based on real analysis, or do they bubble up from a biased subconscious? Do I dream of being a writer because I'm any good, or just because I want to be one? Are any of the judgments I make about myself worthwhile, or are they all just a product of inner desires?

Ah, but then he points out that none of us would persist without our subconscious prodding and praising us. Great writers would never work long or hard enough to be great. So I guess there's still hope.

Meanwhile there are some truly fascinating experiments and results described in the book (some pretty depressing ones too). It's a smooth easy read, even if, like me, you're not sure you agree that every experiment was correctly analysed - don't ask me to choose which jam I prefer when two are offered me; I might like them both. Enjoy with some smooth easy-drinking three-star coffee.

Memoirs, of course, also invite the reader to question how decisions are made, and how circumstances form the unconscious self behind mistakes. In Stories from the Handbasket by Sean Gorman the reader is invited into the lives of small-town social exiles, working-class teens with half-imagined dreams, hopes and fears. It's a smoothly told memoir, set in a world that's more hand- than bread-basket, and spanning the time from coming of age to adult realization of age. In between there's another memoir referenced, where the self-conscious young man creates his alter ego. But now alter ego and self are the same, and a sibling's different approach to the same background leads on a very different path. It's a truly haunting story, smooth and easy to read, and oddly inspiring. Enjoy with some more smooth easy-drinking three-star coffee.

Historical fiction does the same sometimes, asking readers to imagine living in a different time, where different situations and ideas informed their subconscious minds. Perhaps they help us realize how much is real and how much of what we perceive is distorted by culture. I like to think they might, and Yael Politis' Olivia novels certainly seem to achieve some sense of that. Summer of 1848 is the fourth in the series, but stands alone perfectly. It tells the tale of a sympathetic white woman looking for love and a career, together with a black man looking for his heritage. They walked a ways together but now they head on separate paths, switching chapters, learning and growing as the reader walks beside them. It's a truly compelling read, an elegant tale to enjoy with an elegant four-star coffee.

Novels set in our own time can make us think about reasons and reason too. Connie Dial's latest Josie Corsino novel, Warning Shots, is set in LA, as police captain Josie Corsino struggles to catch a potential cop killer or serial killer or both, while those she trusts fire their warning shots of hope or betrayal around her. It's compelling, intriguing, and a seriously good read even when you've guessed the outcome. Enjoy with a cup of dark five-star coffee and some elegant four-star on the side.

Then ponder, how well founded are any of my opinions, or yours, and how much comes out of our subconscious. I want to believe that reading can be a way to educate that subconscious. I hope you might agree.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Why Can't She Stay?

Today I'm delighted to introduce Annette K. Larsen with an excerpt from her just-released new novel, If I Could Stay, and a great giveaway!

Hi Annette. Please would you introduce yourself and your book:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I was born in Utah, but migrated to Arizona, Missouri, and Virginia before settling in Idaho. Though I dabbled in writing throughout school, being an author seemed like an unattainable dream. It took me seven years to write my first book, Just Ella. During that time, I taught myself how to write a novel. Not the most time effective method, but it gave me an education I wouldn’t have received from a class or a how-to book. Something about the struggle of writing without a formula or rules worked for me. I write clean romance because I love it. Jane Eyre is the hero of my youth and taught me that clinging to your convictions will be hard, but will bring you more genuine happiness than giving in ever can. I love chocolate, Into the Woods, ocean waves, my husband, and my five littles. And I love books that leave me with a sigh of contentment.

Mmmm. Chocolate! And where can readers find you?

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

What can you tell us about your latest book?

ABOUT THE BOOK: They killed her mother, and if they find her, Leila could be next. Being pursued from one state to another, she has learned to constantly look over her shoulder, and when necessary, to become someone new. She’s burned through four cities and four identities, always managing to stay one step ahead. Now Leila is left with nothing. No car, no money, and no choice but to trust the man who finds her, half frozen, wandering the back roads of Missouri. Despite the fact that Jack seems to genuinely care about her, Leila knows all too well the danger she poses to anyone brave enough to get close to her. Her growing feelings for Jack force her to make a choice. She could risk staying and hope she’s not found, or she could do what she’s always done, and disappear.


Annette has generously offered to share an excerpt, so please enjoy, then look below for more of her books, plus a giveaway. Thank you Annette.

EXCERPT I don’t know how long we sat in that pickup truck, two strangers wrapped around each other. One desperate for help, the other willing to give it without a thought for himself. But it was long enough that my shaking stopped, and my breathing slowed, and I started to feel very, very tired. “You falling asleep on me?” he asked. “Maybe,” I whispered. “So you can talk.” I cleared my throat and took a deep breath, realizing for the first time how good he smelled. “Yeah. I can talk.” “You got a name?” Hmm. I hadn’t decided on a new name yet. Now was as good a time as any. “Celeste.” It came out sounding like a question. “You sure?” I let out a little chuckle. “No, I’m not sure. What do you think my name should be?” I was feeling a little bit floaty, safe, like everything was suddenly fine. He grunted. “Angel seems appropriate.” My brow furrowed in confusion. I wasn’t an angel. I might not have been sure of much right then, but I did know that. “Why?” I asked as I was finally able to unlock my arms and wrap them around him. “That’s what you looked like, standing in the middle of the road. Your hair looked like it was glowing. Though that might have been frost.” I was guessing my white blouse, beige pants, blonde hair and pale skin all added to the image. He cleared his throat. “Wow, that sounded cheesy. I swear I’m not trying to hit on you.” I smiled, knowing that was true. “What’s your name?” “Jack.” “Nice to meet you, Jack. I’m pretty sure you saved my life.”

Also by Annette K. Larsen


And now for the giveaway !!!!!

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Giveaway Ends 2/23/18 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

When did you learn to love mythology?

I had just started high school. We had to borrow books from the school library, but there were rules. We had to borrow one fiction and one non-fiction book every week. And we were meant to read them.

Anyone who knows me knows I love to read. I read quickly, and I'd happily have borrowed way more than two books. But... one non-fiction book! Every week! No way! The trouble was, I really didn't enjoy reading non-fiction. Then I discovered the "mythology" shelf. I couldn't believe my good fortune. Here were all these wonderful short stories and novels, all those amazing fantastical words, all these great characters, and they weren't fiction!

I was hooked. I've loved mythology ever since. And so I couldn't possibly resist when someone suggested I try reading a middle-grade novel called Minotaur, by Phillip Simpson. It's a wonderful reimagining of the familiar story, with mostly human heroes and monsters, beautifully researched history, and fascinating characters. Highly recommended, it's one to read with some richly elegant four-star coffee (and a cup of the darker brew for some dark scenes).

Escape from Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth doesn't reach so far back into history, but it's built on a nice blend of teen angst and the myths and legends that people America's youthful European shores. Just complex enough, just far enough out of the normal, it's a pleasing adventure for teens and young adults. Enjoy with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Monsters of Venus by Martin Berman Gorvine has the curious attraction of being set simultaneously in future, past and present. Crossing 50s style science fiction with the diary of Anne Frank perhaps, it should be impossible, but it works. It's enticing, zany, captivating and fun; fast action, fascinating thoughts to ponder, fiercely intriguing protagonists... what more could you want. Enjoy with some full-flavored, well-balanced and curiously wonderful three-star coffee.

And finally, taking readers back into mythology and applying the results in the present-day world, A Life of Death: the Golden Bulls by Weston Kincade is the second book in a cool paranormal series. The protagonist has grown up from struggling teen to wise detective now, but young men are being murdered in his small town and one of them was a kid he once knew. The murders may have links to Egyptian mythology, and the detective may have links to some curious paranormal skills. But the novel's firmly anchored in the real world of Virginia and DC. Enjoy this elegantly plotted tale with some elegant four-star coffee (and again, keep a darker brew around for the darker scenes).

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Does Your World keep Spinning Round?

The library's tidy. The books can be found. And the world keeps spinning around. I'm enjoying the delight of a son's bedroom now repurposed as a home for all my books, and the benefits of last year's flood that engendered this repurposing. I'm still regretting the books I lost, and staring anxiously at bottom shelves, four inches above ground level, just hoping that will be enough if the worst comes to worst. But we have water detectors now. As long as we're home when the worst comes to worst, I shall hear a loud noise and come down to rescue my world...

...which keeps spinning around.

The books on my review list for today are a very curious mix--the only thing they might have in common is that curiously spinning world... and the fact that they create their own worlds made of words...

The Nut File by John Skoyles presents an almost real world in almost a series (or sequence) of essays, very short stories (sometimes only one sentence) and ponderings, and almost many things. It's intriguing to find such short pieces so unputdownable. Enjoy with some lively easy-drinking two-star coffee.

The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard are firmly set in the real world of the past, starting in 1930s England. I've only read the first book so far, The Light Years, but I'm definitely hooked. Like a cross between Upstairs Downstairs and Enid Blyton's Secret Seven, it depicts the rich and poor, rules and ruled, children, lonely mothers and homely nursemaids, all convincingly real with every view-point drawing the reader further in. Enjoy with some richly elegant four-star coffee, and watch out for more.

Murder on New Year’s Eve by P. Creeden is first in a series of short novellas, designed to be read in an hour or two each. There's a dog, so I'm hooked, plus nicely low-key romance, and a mystery solved by a woman's attention to detail. It's a fun quick easy-reading tale to enjoy with some easy-drinking two-star coffee.

And still in the realm of romantic suspense and mystery, but in a much, much longer tale, there's See Me by Nichlas Sparks. Weighty with backstory at the start, it's a novel that comes into its own in the second half, where half-hinted trials and tribulations begin to take the stage. Enjoy with some dark five-star coffee as the world spins around these characters and the reader tries to guess where it will end. I guessed.

Finally, in a world even darker than ours, filled with politics, lusts and wars, there's A Heretical Divide (Of Hate And Laughter Book 2) by Serban Valentin Constantin Enache. It's the second part of a sprawling epic, but easy enough to pick up after forgetting part one, so probably easy enough to stand alone. A large cast of characters, mostly human, fights for power in the name of various gods. Enjoy this dark epic with some darkly brewed five-star coffee. A spinning world indeed.

Let's keep spinning stories!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Corridors of Time in the City of Paradox

Today I'm delighted to introduce author Vinay Krishnan, who is touring the internet with his upcoming book, Corridors of Time, a novel set in Bangalore--city of paradox.

Corridors of Time by Vinay Krishnan

Corridors of Time tracks the story of a sensitive young man who grows from carefree childhood to eventful manhood - one who stumbles before learning to stride through those dark and dense passages.
Set in Bangalore - a city of paradoxes. of gardens and garbage heaps. of technology and traffic snarls. of friendly people and failing infrastructure. when bungalows had gardens and pavements were meant for pedestrians. this is a narrative of the human spirit.
Rohan, an idealistic young sports lover experiences rejection, dark dejection and isolation and hurtles down the path to self destruction.
Shyla, attractive and successful is everything his heart yearns for and his body desires, except, she is married!
Chandrika, simple and devoted fails to understand the man she loves.
The shuklas long for justice denied by the system.
And khalid fears nothing and no one ...anymore.

About the Author:

Vinay Krishnan describes himself as a ‘complete Bangalorean’. A student of Clarence High School, he graduated in Humanities from St Joseph’s College. Earning a diploma in Business Administration, he began his career at Usha International Ltd and rose to a position of Senior Sales manager. Vinay has now set up a construction firm of his own. He also writes and devotes his time to an NGO assisting people with disability. The city of his dreams, Bangalore, where he stays with his wife and daughter, continues to inspire and exasperate him. He can be reached at – vinaykrshnn@yahoo.com.

Praises for Corridors of Time:

The book is simple in style and content, for often it is this simplicity that bewilders and rouses
~ Shri S . Rajendra Babu, Former Chief Justice of India

The book has excellent literary craftsmanship, passion humour and adventure. Highly recommended.
~ Mr. Namboodiri, former Asst. Editor, Deccan Herald

This charming book about old Bangalore is written in a racy easy-to-read style.
~ Deccan Herald, Bangalore.

This Cover Reveal is brought to you by Author's Channel in association with b00k r3vi3ws

Friday, February 16, 2018

Can a picture have a purpose?

Some picture books are for adults, some are for children, and some are for both to share. Some picture books are serious, some are just fun, and some tell a story with a message, making them both. Some picture books are black and white; others are vividly bright. Some take their pictures from photographs; others try to seem real; and still others make no pretense, adding cartoon imagination to every scene. I kind of suspect picture books should be faster to read, but it's not always true, since thinking takes time (as does laughing or crying). But pictures and picture books can certainly have purpose. I think mine do (http://sheiladeeth.weebly.com/bible-picture-books.html), and I think some of these do too.

Where did my friend go by Azmaira H Maker PhD is a bright colored picture book with photographs nicely edited to evoke the story's mood. The text is deceptively simple with just a few sentences per page. And it's a powerful conversation starter for any child afraid of death and dying, just afraid, or particularly afraid after seeing a traumatic death. Read this one with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee. It's not too dark, but it's very real.

Another book by the same author is Family Changes. This time the images are more old-fashioned, more appropriate to a story of anthropomorphic rabbits. It's a sweet tale of a young rabbit who's heard that her parents are now separated, possibly divorced, and wants to know what the words will mean for her. Meanwhile there's a magical party going on at school with fun for all--life goes on. The story takes the child through an up-and-down day, balancing sorrow with joy very naturally and presenting the possibility of fun after divorce. Serious questions are tackled well, and it's an enjoyable read. Pour a cup of well-balanced three-star coffee while you open the pages.

Other picture books are less serious of course, and these next two were Christmas gifts to my mum (who loves cats). Breaking Cat News by Georgia Dunn hides some intriguing news behind its convincingly feline point of view, and is really rather fun as well as rather odd. Enjoy with some lively easy-drinking two-star coffee and read all about it, feline-style.

Texts from Mittens by Angie Bailey shows why cats should never be let loose on Facebook and Pinterest. The Furizon phone used by Mitty displays text message threads between cat and human, including various bathroom comments on dog. Some pages are laugh out loud funny. Some are just odd. All are feline. Enjoy an easy read with some more two-star coffee and have fun.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

What makes you you?

I wandered the aisle of the bookstore and saw books on the brain, the unconscious mind, etc; and I realized it was time to read some more non-fiction. I got the story of the Gene for Christmas. I acquired Science Held Hostage from a church book sale. And I bought Dan Eagleman's The Brain from that very aisle... which raises the question; why did I choose those books, and why did I choose to read them now?

Eagleman devotes a whole chapter in the Brain to how we make choices; how the emotions have to feed into them, helping us imagine a future after each option; helping us weigh those imagined futures with feeling so we can decide. I enjoy a close relationship with someone very indecisive, so that chapter deeply intrigued me. I also have autistic relatives, so the question of why we need other people intrigued me too. And the thought that, just for a while, John Robinson knew the pains of empathy. Plus, I know I remember things differently from other members of my family - not just disagreeing over orders or facts of events, but answering questions with a different approach to retrieving those events. I'm intrigued, and Eagleman feeds me with much to ponder on. So drink some richly elegant, complex four-star coffee and wonder what makes you you.

While Eagleman describes the importance of our subconscious selves and of community in defining our consciousness, I remain convinced that there's a selfhood beyond that which physical sciences can explain. I see my autistic relative and I'm sure there's a "him" behind his disability--a self he would have been, disguised by the self he is, and more than the sum of his selves. Robinson gained empathy and feared he'd lose his uniqueness; instead it seems he lost other things in the morass of relationship's pains, which makes me more than eager to read his books (but I haven't got them yet).

Still, I was already reading Science Held Hostage by Van Till, Young and Menninga, which delves into that line between faith and science, the boundary of the physical and the faith that there's something more. It's an older book that still seems to have great relevance. The authors invite their readers to see the distinction between origin and formation--where science describes the formation of say, stars, plants, animals (even brains and consciousness) but cannot discover why they work the way they do. Scientific laws describe how things work, but don't dictate their behavior. And rigorous science is precisely that--rigorous--while folk science picks and chooses unverifiable facts and decides to call them true--folk science on both sides of faith, since some scientists will cherry-pick their facts too, to prove their that there is no God. The science may well be out of date in this book, but the scientific method and room for debate is clearly the same today, and I really enjoyed the read. Find some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee and give it a go.

I recently read The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee too, and was lost to the world as I devoured long pages. The history aspect is fascinating, recording stories of famous people involved in genetic discovery. The science is cool and absorbing, including information about epigenetics that informs the reader delightfully, arming me well against those who say "Genes aren't the answer anymore and science got it wrong." Science progresses beautifully forward, and this book is a wonderful read. Enjoy with more richly elegant four-star coffee.

So what makes me me, and what makes you you--genes, consciousness, physical reality... or more. I just want to learn more!

Friday, February 2, 2018

What makes a character real?

I share a love for Jan Karon's novels with my mother. We can talk about the characters as if they were real, asking each other why this and how that, and generally driving the male members of our family crazy. But what makes these characters seem so real to us? Perhaps it's the fact that we've read about them so often, seen them grow up or grow old through so many books, enjoyed their conversations with each other and remembered pithy quotes... But how does that apply to other books where the characters feel like friends (or neighbors, or enemies)? While Mum reads other well-remembered volumes, I've been reading books I've never read before, and finding myself enthralled by characters who feel just as real as the inhabitants of Mitford, if not more so. I hope the characters in my own novels have the same sense of reality. But perhaps I'll never know if I can't work out how authors create it in their own books.

I'm thinking the protagonist in a memoir should seem real shouldn't s/he? Not a friend perhaps, but at the very least someone who cornered you over coffee perhaps in the store. And one of my recent reads was a memoir. Another was first-person fiction and another firmly anchored in a character's head. Both are told with sometimes disturbing clarity and honest confusion--stories I could relate to in places, less so in other places. Perhaps it's a point of contact with the protagonist that makes her real, but isn't she equally real to people with no such connection?

The third-person protagonist who makes mistakes you wish you could rescue him from... then the world moves on and his mistakes become a present imperfect reality and you want... and you feel like you know him though of course, you never would...? How does he become real?

The historical; the futuristic... more?

Some characters feel like they belong on TV and I'm comfortable to watch/read, enjoy the tale and forget it afterward. But others stay in the mind and memory. Long introspection might turn their fiction into a text book, but some internal thoughts just draw the reader in. Dialog can feel like you wish you weren't there, or else it makes you long to talk some more. Locale's can enthrall with fascinating scenery and events. But there must be something more.

I guess they call it depth; depth of character; depth of characterization; depth of reader involvement perhaps. Some characters have it; some novels draw you in; and some just entertain.

My latest Jan Karon expedition with Mum was the novel, To Be Where You Are. It's set in the familiar streets of Mitford, and the reader is happy to be there, even if some of the characters start wondering if they couldn't make more of life by being somewhere else. The author weaves several stories together in the novel. Situations and resolutions reveal and heal wounds. And the reading is fun. Enjoy with some well-balanced smooth three-star coffee.

First Person Female by Maria Flook is a complex literary memoir. Oddly, for me at least, the author doesn't feel any more real than the characters in Mitford. But perhaps the point is I'd never in real life meet anyone like Ms Flook; we'd never frequent the same places; and we'd probably instantly dislike each other without stopping to talk. Part of the strength of this memoir though, is how it pulls the reader in through short essays. If you're pushed away by one part of the tale you'll surely be drawn in by another. And a character whose adult life is grafted onto a wounded childhood might find, in wounded motherhood, the healing of the graft. Read this dark tale with some dark five-star coffee.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel is dark as well. It seems to be in all the stores, so I was delighted to get a free copy. The story's told in first person by a very convincing protagonist. Nicely avoiding excessive introspection, the author weaves past and present with well-timed breaks, each section feeding naturally into the next. It's a story of darkly broken family relationships, but it's deeper than most, allowing air for wounded truths to breathe. Read this one with some elegant complex four-star coffee.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer tells a story of a wounded boy who loses his father on 9/11. Humor, pathos, mystery, history, angst and delight all combine in a tale with a protagonist who doesn't quite seem real, but is so genuine you have to follow through every curious path--does having to follow him mean he is real after all? Certainly he and the people he interacts with become hauntingly convincing as the tale progresses. It's a great read, best enjoyed with some seriously elegant four-star coffee.

Moving from New York and Europe to Brooklyn and Ireland, Brooklyn by Colm Tiobin is just as good in book form as in the movie, and just as vividly real to me, an immigrant. The story of a girl who travels to the States to start a new life with a new job...who returns to her home and finds it's unchanged, yet not home... who struggles to decide where she fits in in either land. The narration's kind of detached, firmly fixed inside Eilis' head, yet immensely global and enthralling. Drink some well-balanced, full-flavored three star coffee while you read.

And finally, heading further afield (to Africa, seen through the eyes of an African American) The Uttermost Parts of the Earth by Frederic Hunter is a novel with a desperately real protagonist in situations that slide from merely unreal to desperately unreal. He works for the embassy and he just might be looking for his soul in Africa. But the girl he wants to marry has a thoroughly American soul. And the guide who helps him out when his boss goes missing... it's not clear where his soul lies. There are some pretty detailed scenes of sensuality, graphic horrors of war, and laugh-out-loud disasters of exile diplomats. Not an easy read, The Uttermost Parts of the Earth is nevertheless enthralling, captivating, unexpected and highly recommended.