Soul Sessions: A Book About Soulmates, Serendipity and Life After Death

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As soon as I saw the campaign for this book, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. Soul Sessions just looked like something that was unique from the other books that are out there and it piqued my interest. I quickly ordered it on Amazon and I began to read it as soon as it was delivered to my doorstep. It’s a quick and compelling read that I sat down and devoured in one sitting, pausing to make more tea and eventually to pour a glass of wine but otherwise staying glued to my couch, beneath my favorite crochet blanket, turning page after page.

About Soul Sessions

Soul Sessions is the story of a man who goes through a tragedy and struggles with suicidal depression. However, he meets a psychologist who uses past-life regression to help him understand what is happening with him. Through this, he discovers that there’s a woman he has been partnered with in many other lifetimes and he becomes compelled to find her again in the current life. It’s a love story and it’s a story about the bigger question of what happens to our souls when our bodies die.

What I Loved

  • I really appreciate stories that look at depression in an honest way.
  • I also appreciate that there are many different ways to get out of depression and I think this one – the potential to find a lost love in this life time – is an intriguing one.
  • It’s a love story. How can I not love a good love story? But it’s not a traditional love story in any sense of the word.
  • It’s thought-provoking. It’s really more than  love story. It’s a story about spiritual growth.

soul sessions book

Food For Thought

Although the book is a simple read, Soul Sessions is filled with complex ideas and offers a lot of food for thought. Mulling over some of the questions that the book poses challenge me to think about my own belief system. I’ve always had this push-pull feeling about past lives. Sometimes I believe that we’ve been here before and will be here again. Sometimes I believe this is true only in the sense that the star stuff in our bodies will come and go in different incarnations. And sometimes a series of past lives that we can understand in this lifetime is just beyond my grasp and I doubt it. But what do I really believe, when all of the doubts and questions fade away? I still don’t know but the book has my mind wrapping itself around and around these questions. It’s inspiring in that way.

You Might Like Soul Sessions If:

  • You like quick-read stories.
  • You’re looking for something different to read.
  • You believe in soul mates.
  • You are curious about life after death.
  • You love a good love story but want to experience one that’s different.
  • You are inspired by spiritual growth stories. One reviewer said that reading this book was like getting a spiritual hug!

Learn More

Learn more about Soul Sessions and author Carson Gage here.

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I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Just Girls – YA LGBTQ Book Review

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Just Girls is a young adult LGBTQ novel that stands out to me as innovative and aware while simultaneously touching on the topics that affect many teenagers as they enter the college scene for the first time.

The Story

Just Girls is the story about Ella Ramsey, a MTF transgender woman who is starting as a new student in college and hasn’t come out to people there even though she has gone through the coming out process in her hometown.

She becomes friends with Jess. She’s a cisgender lesbian who has overheard slurs and bullying comments about the transgender person on campus and pretends that she is transgender as a way to raise awareness of trans and LGBTQ issues. She doesn’t know at first that her friend Ella is the person she’s defending in this way.

The story is about their individual and shared experiences in these early days at a college campus.

What I Love

Author Rachel Gold does a great job of raising awareness of myriad LGBTQ issues in this book while still retaining the story itself as the primary focus. Reading it, I was concerned about the characters and their inner lives and their relationships. I wasn’t focused on anything as a “trans issue” and yet noticed that there was a lot of information and advocacy happening in those pages. I love that Gold was able to balance her writing in this way.

A Memory

Continue reading

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Isolation When Working From Home

I just received my copy of the new book Out of Office: How to Work from Home, Telecommute, or Workshift Successfully  by Simon Salt. I purchased this book not just because it interested me but also because I’m quoted in it!

work from home book

Isolation

My quote is on page 62, in the section on “isolation” when working from home. I shared:

“The single biggest challenge for me has been that there is isolation when working alone at home. This is how I work best and tends to be what I prefer. However, it gets to a point where you are spending way too much time alone and this is not only a negative thing socially but also ends up being bad for your work because you just don’t get the creativity and stimulation that you need to be pushing yourself forward in the job.”

What To Do About It

The author goes on to write in paragraph form about ways to deal with this issue when working from home. He incorporates some of the ideas that I shared with him as well as some thoughts of his own.

Here’s what I’d shared (that isn’t in the book specifically in this way):

  • Get involved in collaborative projects. I seek out short-term projects that I can do in collaboration with others. These often aren’t the most lucrative in terms of payment but they are creaively fulfilling and intellectually stimulating. These can be online or in-person projects and both seem to work equally well even though with online projects I’m still working from home.
  • Attend networking events. This is a great way to meet people from a variety of different backgrounds and be challenged to think in new ways about my work. Conferences and small business classes offer something comparable.
  • Actively engage in an out-of-home social life. This links to another problem I’ve had which is that I tend to be something of a workaholic who doesn’t take enough downtime since work is always there at home to be done. Making sure that I’m social out of the house gives me downtime and ends theisolation so that I can be fresh for work the next day.

My Experience

Finally, I added (also not quoted):

“I have tried co-work spaces, working at coffee shops, etc. and that never really works for me. When I am working on my own projects I really need to be at home, in my space, in my routine, doing my thing. By adding in additional projects and activities I’m able to meet my own social/intellectual needs without sacrificing my work.”

The Book

Salt’s book is a practical guide for working from home. It’s especially for people who haven’t done this before or who are fairly new to it as it provides a pretty step-by-step description of the ups and downs. I haven’t read through it all yet, just flipped through it, but it looks like there are also a few gems that us longtime stay-at-home-workers can also enjoy. I appreciate that he took the time to consult a lot of us about our own real life experiences and I think that this is especially adds to the book.

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Book Review: Antiphony

I’ve gotten the opportunity to participate in a lovely book tour for the book Antiphony by Chris Katsaropoulos so I’m happy to share that book here with you today.

antiphony book

About the Book

“What if the Universe is really a giant thought?”

This is the question posed by a leading theoretician in String Theory physics at the start of this book. The book doesn’t so much answer the philosophical question as explore the ramifications of being someone in a field who radically changes the perspective that field has long taken. Powerful!

What I Loved Most

I enjoyed this book a lot. Here are some of the main reasons:

  • It’s super smart but also accessible. It delves deep into scientific theory as well as philosophy and some psychology but it uses layperson language and felt really accessible to me.
  • The writing style reminds me of Milan Kundera. I’m a huge fan of Kundera’s work, particularly the book Identity: A Novel
    so this is a big compliment. I think Kundera has a really unique voice and style that I never really see anywhere and Katsaropoulos has a similar quality that lent some magic to the reading for me.
  • It’s fiction but I’m sure it’s rooted in some history/biography. At least in the sense that the major game-changers in the world, especially in science, have often faced difficulty in their fields (and their lives) when they turn accepted ideas on their heads. It really gives pause for thought and appreciation when it comes to the innovators of our world.
  • It blends reality and non-reality in a fabulous way. There are dreams and visions, there’s science and of course the piece itself is fiction but could be a real story theoretically. Interesting!

About the Author

I actually wasn’t familiar with Chris Katsaropoulos before now but it turns out that he’d written another novel called Fragile and has also authored a number of non-fiction titles and poetry.

About the Publisher

luminis booksLuminis Books is a proud independent publisher located in Indiana. Learn more at www.luminisbooks.com.

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The Reason Why I Jump

I recently read this special book that is a teen’s educational memoir about what it’s like to live with autism.

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 The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism was written by Naoki Higashida. He’s a Japanese writer who worked with a teacher using a system of pointing out what he wanted to say on alphabet cards, answering questions about what it is like to be inside the body of autism.

The book has been translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell and an introduction has been added by David Mitchell. They have an autistic child and explain how reading this book finally helped them to understand a lot about their child and gain more patience, compassion and communication with their kid.

The book is mostly Q&A format. The teen author highlights that this is just his personal experience and that he can’t say for sure what it is like for anyone else to be autistic. But he explains a lot about his experience in a way that might answer questions for others wondering what an autistic child is thinking or why they behave the way that they do.

For example, he addresses the question: “why do you ask the same questions over and over?” He explains that whereas other people seem to have their information stored in chronological order or clear files in their brain, his memory is more like a pool with dots of information. He says, “I’m always picking up these dots – by asking my questions – so I can arrive back at the memory that the dots represent.” And he goes on to explain that repeatedly asking the same question also offers the benefit of allowing him to play with spoken language because words or phrases he’s familiar with are easiest for him for conversations.

In  addition to the Q&A there are some short stories/ essays integrated into the writing. It’s a quick read and one that I found really powerful. It helps remind me that people experience every single thing differently from others – not just autistic people but all people. We don’t all remember the same, perceive the same, experience the same. It makes me want to be more curious about what others are experiencing and why they do what they do, rather than sitting in my experience and judging what’s happening from the outside.

I shared this (and other books I read) on Instagram. Follow me there.

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Laurie Gray’s Maybe I Will Book Tour

maybe i will book

Today I am a stop on a really interesting two-book blog tour hosted by Novel Publicity and Luminis Books. The tour kicked off on August 26th with Book #1, a historical literary book by Waimea Williams called Aloha, Mozart. That fascinating tour continued through the 7th and then on the 8th we kicked off part 2 which is for the book I’m reviewing: Laurie Gray’s book Maybe I Will.

Before Reading the Book

Before I read the book I chose to join this book tour because something about the book intrigued me and I wanted to check it out. What intrigued me was that the book is about a teen sexual assault but the “twist in the story is that we never know for sure if the victim is a boy or a girl, and we realize that it doesn’t matter, because it’s not about sex”. The author’s website says: “Written in the first person with no indication of Sandy’s gender, Maybe I Will presents each reader with two very different books depending upon his or her own projection of Sandy as male or female.” I think that’s such a fascinating approach to a book. How can we know and sympathize with and love the main character if we don’t even know a fundamental thing like the gender of the character? And yet, my suspicion before even reading the book was that if this was well done it would prove the point that what matters is the way the act affects the person, regardless of who they are.

After reading the book I haven’t yet decided how I feel about it. I think it’s interesting that the author has been able to do this successfully. I think it’s intriguing that you could choose to look at it either way. For me personally I found that the gender wasn’t really relevant and I’m not sure the story would have read differently to me either way if I’d applied a gender to the protagonist in my mind. It’s interesting.

Covering Tough Topics

The book is about sexual assault, but that has a ripple effect and the book talks about a lot of other important and difficult teen issues including:

  • Depression
  • Alcoholism 
  • Stealing/ lying
  • Friendship issues and struggles to fit in
  • Authority issues
  • Trust issues
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Transitioning into personal empowerment

In fact, the details of the sexual assault take up less than one page of the book so the book is really about how to deal with trying to handle an issue as a teen that feels too big to deal with on your own but that you aren’t sure how to talk to someone else about … that’s really valuable.

And a Literary Twist

Take a look at the beginning of each chapter in the book and you’ll find a quote from Shakespeare there. The quote is directly related to what you’re about to read. It’s an interesting literary twist that seems appropriate especially considering it’s a teen book and Shakespeare is commonly read in high schools. I’m not really a fan of Shakespeare myself (respectfully so) but some of the quotations chosen really inspired me.

Poetry within the Pages

Like many other books I seem to be reading lately there is also some of the protagonist’s poetry written into the pages of the book and I really enjoyed that part of the writing. My favorite quote is:

“I have this feeling.

Somewhere in the universe there must be a word.

A word attached solely to this feeling alone.

A word that I could say, that you would hear,

Allowing us both to understand.

 

If such a word exists, it eludes me.”

What I Liked Most

I think my favorite part of this book is that it shows the teen’s resiliency. The main character is an actor who is playing Peter Pan in a school play and also takes up the martial art of tae kwan do. This is in addition to writing as a form of self-expression. All of this helps to provide positive outlets for dealing with the stress of the situation even though the teen does engage in some risky, questionable behavior like drinking. I loved that this was worked in!

Who Should Read The Book

  • Teens struggling with personal issues including but not limited to sexual assault
  • Teens who know someone who has gone through sexual assault and want to understand them better
  • Parents of teens; it’s a great conversation starter for important issues you should be discussing with your teen!
  • People who work with teens, especially high risk teens and teens dealing with issues of abuse, criminal activity, etc.
  • Writers interested in the unique approach of telling a full story without sharing the gender of the author and readers interested in how a book like this could be interpreted in different ways.
  • Book clubs; it’s a good story for conversation.

More About the Author

author laurie gray

Author Laurie Gary had a great background in understanding teen issues and abuse/assault issues before writing this book:

  • She was a high school teacher.
  • She also works as an adjunct professor of criminal sciences at the university level.
  • She was a deputy prosecuting attorney.
  • She is a bilingual child forensic interviewer for a Child Advocacy Center.
  • She serves annually on the faculty of the National Symposium for Child Abuse in Huntsville, Alabama.

They always say that you should write what you know and it seems in this case that she has drawn directly from her work experience and the things she’s encountered in life to write Maybe I Will. She previously authored the novel Summer Sanctuary, which received a Moonbeam Gold Medal and was named a 2011 Indiana Best Book Finalist. She has a 2014 book planned called Just Myrto.

Connect with Laurie Gray on her websiteFacebook, or GoodReads.

More About the Publisher

luminis books

Luminis Books is a proud independent publisher located in Indiana. Learn more here.

More About Novel Publicity

novel publicity

Novel Publicity helps support books and bloggers by setting up and running fun book tours. They often include giveaways, various prizes and other interactive experiences. Learn more here.

Read More Books Like This!

5 books that Maybe I Will have been compared to are:

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  2. The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
  3. A Child Called It: One Child’s Courage to Survive by Dave Pelzer
  4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  5. Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy by Sonya Sones

Disclosure:

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Reading: I Don’t Care About Your Band

The first book of 2013 that I finished reading was a quick and fun read by Julie Klausner called I Don’t Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I’ve Dated. As the title suggests, it’s a memoir about the follies of dating.

Permission to Just Be

I think what I really loved about this book was that it offered a refreshing take on a crappy dating life from my usual way of thinking about. I’m super interested in human psychology and why people do what they do. As a result, I’ve read many memoirs by women about their dating lives but these usually go into intense detail about the reasons that they are so messed up that they choose men who treat them badly. Julie basically just says, “nothing terrible happened to me; I was just a normal teen/twentysomething figuring out what dating was all about with a bunch of young guys who were also doing the same and that’s why there were a lot of crappy dates”.

I think that there are a lot of deep psychological reasons we choose who we choose but it was refreshing to just look at it as, “does it really matter? This is just what happened.” Julie gives girls permission to just be where they are in their dating lives and not beat themselves up about it, even if they are making what are arguably mistakes. She doesn’t advocate dating guys who treat you badly and gives lots of great examples of why not to do that but she does say it’s okay to just make those mistakes and not get too bent out of shape about why you did.

It’s a Funny Book

Julie is a comedienne and you can definitely tell this in the book. All of her tales are funny. All of her insights into her reasons for going on these wacky dates are funny. What I really love, though, is that she manages to share her dating mistakes in a funny way without being self-deprecating, which I think is something that’s really hard to do and really hard to see. It made the book especially charming.

I’ve Dated That Guy

I definitely saw some people from my own past in the dates that Julie details in I Don’t Care About Your Band. I think most women will, if only because Julie gave herself over to trying quite a variety of guys in her search for love. Reading the book, therefore, makes you feel like you’re reading your own diary or talking with a best friend who really gets you.

Hopeful Romantic

Julie makes this great point somewhere in the book that stood out to me which is essentially that you really have to believe wholeheartedly in love to keep subjecting yourself to the awful experience of dating. At the time of the book’s ending she’s been happily dating a good guy for about a year although she doesn’t dwell on this “happy ending”. You just get the sense that for all the bad dates and times it might’ve been better to stay home with a book it’s really a good thing to keep putting yourself out there because it means that you still believe in love.

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SmartChick Reads: The Last Goodnights

The Last Goodnights: Assisting My Parents with Their Suicides is an intense book that is definitely worth a read. It tells the true story of a man who helped both of his aging parents to commit suicide separately. It provides a strong argument for euthanasia, an argument worth checking out regardless of what your personal opinion is on the topic because it does give such a thought-out and personal view of the issue. It also provides insight into the degeneration of the mind as it ages and the difficulties that individuals face as they and their loved ones go through this all-too-common ordeal.

The parents of the book’s author both decided when they were younger that they would like to be in control of their own deaths when they got old. They didn’t want to suffer long and drawn out misery due to age. The father was diagnosed with a horrible form of cancer and didn’t have very long to live. He asked his adult son to assist him in committing suicide which they did together at home using the medications he’d been prescribed by his doctors. The process was very short because of the situation.

In contrast, the man’s mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s. She knew that she was degenerating, forgetting things and losing control over both mind and body. She wanted to hang on as long as possible but to never get to the point where she was living beyond what she decided she wanted to live. She also asked for her son’s help. This was a much longer process than the situation with the father and the telling of it gives terrific insight into the issue of Alzheimer’s and what people go through when this happens in their families.

The book mostly focuses on the individual’s right to what the author calls Self De-Termination and the situation surrounding the decline related to Alzheimer’s. However, it does also provide food for thought regarding this man’s own personal choices and struggle to assist his parents and the little-known fact that euthanasia may be placing pressure on adult children since it’s not allowed to be done by doctors. I’m not saying euthanasia is right or wrong; that’s not the point. The point is that the book provides a very interesting perspective.

It’s an emotionally tough read but definitely a fascinating one!

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SmartChick Reads: Comfort

I try to read books that cover a diverse range of different topics and styles. Mostly I choose books that are relevant to the topics that I am currently most interested in or most affected by. However, sometimes I find myself picking up books that are not related to anything that I’m doing or dealing with it right now. And sometimes those end up being the most important touching books that I read. That seems to be the case with a book I just read called Comfort: A Journey Through Grief.

This is a short book that can be a quick read if you want it to be. It’s the true first-person account of a woman who lost her five year old daughter to a sudden illness. It is about what it was like to live through the three years following her daughter’s tragic death and to come out on the other side of that, wounded and forever changed but still alive and ready to live again. It’s a tough read in the sense that it is highly emotional but it’s an easy read in the sense that it unites the writer and reader through common human emotions.

There are many things that I love about this little book but I think what grabbed my attention most of all was the writing style that was implemented in it. The author uses primarily short sentences and also uses a lot of repetition of the same facts. Sometimes these facts are repeated in the same way and sometimes they are a little bit different. The combination of repetition and short sentence structure ends up being really powerful

One of the things that happens when we lose someone is that our lives become limited to the bare minimum of things that we must get done to survive. We don’t do any extras; we barely even shower or eat. The short sentence structure of the book reflects this minimalization our lives go through during this time. And something else that happens is that we go over and over events in our minds. Sometimes we replay them word for word, again and again, trying to gain some meaning from them. Sometimes we see them through a new lens, repeating them in our minds with a new level of understanding or a new perspective on what happened. The author doesn’t actually come right out and say that these are the things that she is going through but the structure of her story reveals this side of grief.

I am not currently dealing with a major loss. I am not currently struggling with the family issues that arise when such a loss occurs. However I was still touched by this book. I can only imagine how powerful it would be for someone who was going through a tough time. This one is highly recommended!

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Book Review: Paul Martin’s “Original Faith”

I recently had the exciting opportunity to read and review the book “Original Faith: What Your Life is Trying to Tell You” by Paul Martin as part of his book tour with Women on Writing. This book is a spiritual self help book which manages to guide the reader through his or her own murky waters by sharing spiritual insights and asking probing questions. I was particularly interested in the process of writing that Paul went through as he wrote this book. He has experienced health problems in the past and I was curious as to how this impacted his views as well as his writing experience. Answers to those questions are found in the following short interview with Paul Martin:

  1. What did you consider to be the most challenging part of writing “Original Faith”?

Overall, my writing process had a sense of ease and joy. The most challenging period may have been about a year’s worth of work, in about my third year of writing, when I took a major wrong turn. Writing was becoming more and more tiresome until I realized that if I myself was bored with what I was writing… well then, who wouldn’t be bored reading it! I saw that I’d been writing from my head as uninformed by my heart and my actual lived experience – not writing creatively at all.

  1. You incorporate wonderful poems at the start of each chapter. How do you feel this adds to the book (or what do you hope readers will take away from these)? And at what point in the writing stage did you add these in?

The poems’ themes anticipate each chapter’s contents, adding variety to the reading experience and helping to engage readers at the level of immediate feeling. I worked them in at the end, which was fun to do. Since these poems and many others were written concurrently with the prose, they reflect similar experiences, imagery and thoughts, which made it easy to find poems to integrate with my text.

  1. You describe writing down your experiences and revelations over time as they occurred. Would you say that writing aided you in understanding your experiences or were you simply trying to recapture them for memory?

For me, the act of writing very much helped me to understand my experiences. Jogging, my work with children, meditation – and sitting at my writing table – these were the major and ongoing sources of experience and insight that generated material for Original Faith. Much book content wouldn’t have become as clear as it did and some of it wouldn’t have been created at all if not for the regular activity of sitting down to write.

Often I’d be at my desk working on one concept when I’d find myself unexpectedly struck by an insight or by especially vivid language that related to another. This aspect of the writing process was a big factor in how the manuscript came together – and what a mess my desktop was…

  1. Some spiritual writers believe that it is impossible to truly articulate their beliefs although they do the best that they can in their writing. Is this something that you have struggled with at all?

Original Faith is a guide to entering into a process by which our identity changes in ways that lead us to contribute more emphatically and consistently to the well being of others, in turn bringing us greater personal fulfillment. Initially, identity moves away from being ego-based toward becoming increasingly love-based. I found that I could express this aspect of personal transformation in considerable detail and in a pretty straightforward manner.

The second identity shift that I discuss involves the transcendence of identification with one’s own love. Here I found myself having to rely a lot more on analogy and metaphor. Often the best that I could do was to use language as a kind of pointer for providing a sense of direction.

  1. What is the one key thing that you would like a reader to take away from “Original Faith”?

That faith is a fact. Whether or not we connect faith with a religious belief system, each of us is profoundly at peace with what we’re doing here, with living and dying into the biggest picture, the greatest context. To know all-hope and all-trust in (to paraphrase St. Paul) “the One in whom we live and move and have our being,” is to become aware of an unconditional fact concerning who we are – a dimension of our own being that we can know with certainty. This is so whether we conceive of the One as a Creator existing in distinction from creation or as all-being, nature or reality itself.

Paul Maurice Martin is author of Original Faith: What Your Life Is Trying to Tell You and blogs at www.originalfaith.com. He holds an M.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago Divinity School and an M.Ed. in Counseling from the University of New Hampshire.

 

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