You are missed

Today marks one year since loss of one of my best friends and greatest role models. One year ago today, she took her own life and forever changed so many lives. I remember with amazing clarity that day. Getting the phone call and in turn letting all of our friends now. Crying as I sat with my wife and son. Friends coming over and mourning with us.

She was one of my dearest friends in undergrad and there are few memories from those four years that don’t have her in them. She was in the crew that hung out nearly every weekend. She came to my hometown with friends during our first spring break. I talked with her on how to propose to my wife. She was a bridesmaid at my wedding. And she gave my oldest son his nickname while he was in the womb.

More importantly, she was one of my most influential role models. She was the one in the group who always had her shit together. She was the most organized and disciplined and without fail, she always had her work done when the rest of us were struggling with procrastination. There’s hardly a day that goes by when I don’t encounter some situation and ask myself “What would she do?” Or rather, now, “What would she have done?” I miss her very much, more than words can say.

There are few people I’ve met in my life who have had such a profound effect on my life. And fewer still who have earned my trust and respect to the point I’d call them a brother or sister. She was one of those people and I will never forget her.

Part of life is loss. But it’s hard to lose the people we love. I would hope to impart a message to all those people who struggle with mental health and suicidal thoughts. I strongly urge you to stop for a moment. Think of all the people you influence on a daily basis. Think of those people who love you. Even if it seems like they don’t exist, they do. You have someone who looks up to you and undoubtedly many who would miss you when you are gone. Many who would cry themselves to sleep without you around.Know that you are supported. You are loved. You would be missed and missed dearly.

I’d give nearly anything to spend time with my sister again. To laugh and joke with her. To see her smile and hear her voice giving me some piece of much needed advice at just the right time. You never know how important someone truly is until they are gone. So cherish every moment and every memory.

Rest in peace, my friend and sister.

Happy Father’s Day!!!

I vividly remember when my wife and I found out we were pregnant with our first son. I was terrified. I was just a senior in undergrad. All I knew I was doing after graduation was going to graduate school for my MFA. I had no job, no insurance, no way of supporting my family.

And to make things even more troubling, I was filled with so much self-doubt. How was I going to be a father? Did I really know enough to raise a child? Would I be a good dad?

IMG_2508Fast-forward to present day. This is my third Father’s Day and I’m  watching my son play
in the dirt outside an apartment. I’ve finished my MFA and have a steady job with full benefits. And now my wife and I are expecting our second child and I have the confidence that was missing three years ago.

I’ve realized that I am a good father because of the men who have been in my life to advise and mentor me. And this Father’s Day, I want to thank all the men who made me into the man I am today. My own father, who raised me the best he could, teaching me the difference between right and wrong. And then there’s my grandfather, who taught me how to change the oil on my car, fix a flat tire, and what it meant to be a strong, Christian man.

Finally, I want to say a special thank you to my own stepfather. He’s been a great mentor for both me and my family. Although he’s only been in our lives for a few years, he’s accepted us as his own kids and looks out for us like his own. I’m very blessed to have a two dads. So thank you not only to my own stepfather but to all the men who come into young people’s lives as stepfathers. They play a special role in our lives and we are very grateful.

I do my best to be a good father for my family. I’ve had many great examples of how to do that and with those people to call on for advice and guidance, I’m excited to bring our next son into this world and continue to strive to be the best dad I can be.

I’m Back!!!

Did you guys miss me? You know, I’ve worked at Washington University in St. Louis for three years now and I have to say, I’ve finally realized that the busiest time of the year at work is mid-April to mid-June, which is why I kind of took a hiatus from the blog. All of the planning and preparation that goes into wrapping up the year and getting students graduated or into summer programs and jobs is a little overwhelming to say the least. But that’s okay. While my maintenance of the blog may have slipped, it’s still been a rather eventful and productive couple months.

Personal Life

In personal news, my wife and I are expecting our second child in September and guess what? It’s going to be another boy! We’re super excited. Expect things to start getting a little frantic as the date draws near and in the weeks (or months) afterwards. At least I won’t be working on my masters degree at the same time. Gabriel seems to be taking the whole big brother thing pretty well too.

We also took our first real family vacation this past weekend to Branson, MO. We’ve gone and visited family before, but this was the first time it was just the three of us. We had so much fun, especially Gabriel. Those moments to spend with each other and build memories are the experiences that bring us closer together and hold us together. I look forward to the many more vacations we’re going to take in the future.

Writing

These past few months have actually been pretty good in terms of writing. I spent the month of April taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo. I can happily say that I achieved my goal of 25,000 words in one month and finished the first draft of Sentinel’s Blood (the sequel to my MFA thesis novel) in mid-May. It wasn’t easy but I started a new writing schedule which was super helpful. Stay tuned for an insider’s look at my writing schedule and process. I’m planning to start revisions on it July 1, if not sooner.

I also spent some time working on a weird western short story that I submitted to a magazine. Hoping to hear back on that sometime next month. I really enjoyed working on something different than a novel. I’ve always had trouble with short stories, but I think I could really get into them. I’ll likely try my hand at more. If nothing else, they will be good ways to cleanse my pallet between bigger projects.

Reading

I’ve actually read a three books in the past couple months, but again, not as many as I would have liked. But they were good reads. They included Stephen King’s Wizard and Glass and The Wind Through The Keyhole (This was my first time reading this one. It wasn’t too bad but definitely not my favorite in the Dark Tower Saga), and Ernest Cline’s Armada (An excellent, fun read). I’m currently reading Christopher Moore’s A Dirty Job and loving it. Expect a review soon.

 

That’s pretty much all the updates for the past couple months. Feels good to be blogging again. See everybody next week.

If there’s something you want me to read/review, discuss, or just have a general question for me, don’t hesitate to ask.

Salvatore’s Streams of Silver

So, I’m a few days late on this review, but it’s been a little hectic. See my post next week about my new writing schedule. But I’m happy to be able to talk about Salvatore’s Streams of Silver.

Streams of Silver, for me at least, seems like the typical second book in a trilogy. I’ve seen this a lot, where the second first book stands alone pretty well. Then the second book happens and draws you in to where you want to read the third book. Often times, the plot carries over, we meet more characters who will eventually carry onwards. And that’s totally okay. Just wanted to point that out.

The two best aspects of this book revolve around two characters, and since characters are the most important aspects of any novel, this makes sense.

The first is Cattie-brie. If you read my review of The Chrystal Shard, you’ll see I was a little (maybe more than a little) disappointed with her passivity and lack of agency in the first novel, being that she’s the only major female character. However, we see Cattie-brie coming into her own here in the second novel, no small part due to Artemis Entreri (I’ll get to him momentarily). While Cattie-bri doesn’t set out on the quest for Mithral Hall, she is dragged into it and finds that inner strength that makes her such a formidable and compelling character later in the series. So, I encourage any readers to power through the first novel with the understand that the contrast from where she starts to where she ends up is worth it.

The second character is Artemis Entreri. When someone asks me what my favorite part of a book is, I will often times say it was the villain. A strongly crafted antagonist, with just as many nuances as the protagonist, always catches my eye. And Artemis Entreri is just that. He is the mirror opposite of Drizzt, a warrior just as skilled with the sword but lacking the dark elf’s passions. And the great thing in the end is that they are nearly equally matched. Not to spoil too much for later books, but Artemis is constantly able to hold his own against Drizzt, which goes against the cliche good morals winning over bad ones.

The book, like I said, sets up for the third novel, with Drizzt and Wulfgar chasing after Entreri and Regis while Cattie-brie seeks to reclaim Mithral Hall in honor of her (believed) dead father, Bruenor.

I give this book a solid 3.75/5

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss-Peregrine-Home-Peculiar-Children-Ransom-RiggsThis was an interesting book that I actually got from Facebook. A friend of mine posted the trailer for the movie that’s coming out, so I figured what the heck, I should try reading the book first. (It’s my general policy to read the book before I see the movie, as all book lovers know the book is always better than the movie.) Well, I can honestly say I was pleased with it.

The book tells the story of Jacob, a boy who’s just seen his grandfather get murdered by some three tongued monster. Or he thinks he did? Maybe it was just a pack of dogs? Jacob travels to Wales, where his grandfather grew up, in an attempt to dispel the fantasy of the stories his grandfather told him as a child. After all, his grandfather was a Jew who lived through World War II. It makes sense for him to create some white lies about his past, right?

As it turns out, everything his grandfather said was true. There really were kids with peculiar abilities like super strength, invisibility and the ability to control fire. And they’re still alive now. Jacob even has his own peculiar ability, one that will help keep everyone else alive.

The story is a great coming of age story, with Jacob learning what is real and what is fiction, who to trust and who to stay loyal to. It’s a solid young adult novel with some great action and mystery. While Jacob isn’t the strongest protagonist I’ve ever read (he kind of gets swept along with everyone else) he does have some great internal conflict that redeems him in the end.

I’m definitely interested to see the movie, although it looks like they changed Emma from the fire-wielding hottie she’s supposed to be to be more like Olive, who is able to float and control the air. It should be a good flick to watch. And I’ll definitely be reading the second novel, as soon as my wife finishes it.

This novel gets a 3/5. I’ll be moving on to Salvatore’s Streams of Silver next, the second book in the Icewind Dale Trilogy.

Want to see me review a book? Send requests to kristopherlcampa@gmail.com

The Crystal Shard

crystal shardI just finished Salvatore’s The Crystal Shard. I have to be honest, and you all know I’m a

huge fan of Salvatore from my previous reviews, but this book was a little less than what I remembered. But, I understand it in some sense. Here’s why.

The Crystal Shard was Salvatore’s first published novel. And like any author will tell you, that first book is always the worst. You can only go up from there and improve your craft. So it’s understandable that this book didn’t wow me as much as the Dark Elf Trilogy (the first three chronologically but published after The Icewind Dale Trilogy). The writing was eh, okay. The action was good but it lacked that polish and flash that I’ve come to expect from Salvatore. The plot was a little basic and predictable. But the novel did have a few redeeming qualities.

We get to meet some of the greatest characters we will ever see in Salvatore’s writing. We meet Bruenor, the battle tested dwarf king. We meet Wulfgar, a barbarian who’s life is spared by Bruenor and who learns the meaning of tolerance (more on that in a moment). We meet Regis, the halfling who at times holds everyone together. And of course, there’s Drizzt and his cat, Guenhwyvar. Although, word to the wise, when writing a series make sure that gender pronouns are consistent. Guen is referred to as a he in this novel, and a she in nearly all the others.

The character development is probably one of the better aspects of the novel. We see Bruenor growing fond of Wulfgar, who he will eventually adopt as his son. We see Wulfgar growing from his barbarian prejudices and becoming a strong leader. We even see Regis learning to trust his friends to an extent. Definitely helps pull the story along.

You may think I’ve forgotten a very important character – Cattie-brie. She is the warrior woman of the group, adopted daughter of Bruenor, who plays a large role in later books. I left her to the end because I was a little disappointed in this novel. She plays almost no role in what goes on, other than to tease Wulfgar and get her hurt during the battle for Ten-Towns. I was a little disturbed by the only significant female character in the novel playing such a small role. I’m excited to watch her character develop and look forward to seeing how Salvatore brings her to life like he has his male characters.

All in all, I say a 3.75/5. I’m taking a break from Salvatore for a moment to read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children next. Stay tuned.

Is there a book you want to see me review? Submit a request at kristopherlcampa@gmail.com

Sojourn: A Story of Acceptance

Sojourn2Well, I finished the third book in the Dark Elf Trilogy – Sojourn by R.A. Salvatore. And I have to say, once again, I forgot how much I enjoyed this series and it feels so good to come back to it.

However, coming back this time around has brought many new revelations. As we as readers experience life, it undoubtedly changes the way we experience novels. We learn from our interactions with people and form new ideas and beliefs. That alone should be all the reason to support rereading books. You never know what will speak to you.

Sojourn details Drizzt’s first years on the surface. He wanders around, not knowing the language or the region. Heck, he doesn’t even know about seasons and nearly freezes during his first winter. He also makes new friends and learns how to be a ranger. And by the end of the novel, he comes to a semblance of truce with Bruenor Battlehammer, who is one of the main characters and one of Drizzt’s best friend.

But at heart, this book is about acceptance, both of self and from other people, something that appeals to me greatly as I focus on similar topics within my own writing. Drizzt wants nothing more than to be accepted on the surface world and have a place to call his own, friends to call his own, and a life of meaning.

He says:

It would happen suddenly, I imagined. I would approach a gate, speak a formal greeting, then reveal myself as a dark elf… Suspicions would linger about me for many months, but in the end, principles would be seen and accepted for what they were; the character of the person would outweigh the color of his skin and the reputation of his heritage.

This is a powerful passage in the novel. It’s something that Drizzt greatly desires and something that we all want as well. At least that’s what I hope. But in the light of recent events in our country, from police brutality to violent protestors to the bigotry and racism of certain political figures, I think we could all hope for a little more compassion and understanding. There’s more to Drizzt Do’Urden than his skin tone and there’s more to the people around us as well. We just need to take a moment to put aside our prejudices and listen a little.

Once again, a great novel. I give it a 4.5/5.

Coming up, I’ll start on the Icewind Dale Trilogy, the next three books in Drizzt’s journey.