Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year, New Books, New Goals

I did a decent amount of reading last year. Decent. Not awesome or best yet or anything like that. Decent. I think I could have read more because there were many moments I found myself bored and honestly chose not to read. But, there were many moments where I did read and I reached my goal of reading 50 books within the year..

Not too shabby, huh? The thing that shocks me when I get to the end of the year and look over the books I've read during a year I am always so surprised to see what I read way back in January. "Really? It's been that long since I read that book? It doesn't feel that long!" (My reaction to The Mists of Avalon) or "Oh God, I can't believe I only read that book this spring. God I hated that book." (My reaction to Some Others)

The point of Soon Remembered Tales was that I have always associated life events with books and I wanted to remember more than that. I may not completely remember the point of the book, the plot or characters, but I could tell you what was going on in my life when I read that book. Straight back to books I read in middle school or earlier I do this. Now with this blog I've been able to record my reactions to the book itself. How did I like it, how it made me feel, what did I think about the actual story; because I certainly don't need to record what was going on in my life at the time. It seems that will always be with me.

I dislike the term "resolution" but would rather say "goals." I often make goals for myself as I go through each month and don't resort to setting up a bunch of resolutions at the start of a year. With the death of my grandfather, the start of a new job, and trying to get back on my feet I feel that I'm only just getting back to normal so now is probably the best time for me to think of the future -- it just happens to be at the same time that everyone is setting up New Year Resolutions (of d00m). 

To continue doing reviews, of course. This past year I wanted to do more reviews on books of the YA and adult genre and not so many children's books but with that I've missed out on the children's books and reviews. I enjoy children's books and I shouldn't stay away from doing reviews on a genre that I enjoy. So, in this upcoming year I hope to do more reviews on not only the adult books but children's as well. With that, maybe I'll read 50 adult books and.... 50 children's books? We'll see how far I get!

Now that I'm starting fresh I have a couple of things in mind: to start my classes for my publishing certification, to continue trying new recipes, to continue eating healthy, to start working out more (something I keep failing at...), and to be able to save enough money for my New Orleans vacation in May. I have so much to look forward to and I only hope I can achieve it all. 

Here is hoping to a good new year for you and yours; myself, too. 

For a more detailed account of the books I've read this past year and what my favorites are, check out this post.

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Soon Remembered Tales Book Wrap Up!

There was a lot going on in 2011 and 2012 held something exciting: the rebirth of Soon Remembered Tales. For those of you who have stuck by me through the years, thank you, I know I wasn't always very quick to post and I'm grateful that I didn't make you all run away.

I had a lot of hope for this year that I would get a lot of reading done and keep this blog full of new posts and life. I think I did a decent job at maintaining that despite the highs and lows of this year. I moved out of my parents house, went to another state, learned the ins and outs of Washington DC, and got a new job. I was busy exploring my new home and lost someone very important to me while dealing with two other family emergencies. It has been a crazy year and so I hope you understand that while I may not have updated quite as often as I would have liked, I'm proud I updated at all. If I could keep this blog alive during all of this I really have no excuse to continue keeping it alive in the future.

So Happy New Year; welcome 2013; I hope I have many more book reviews to share with you in the future.

For this end of the year wrap up, it's going to be a little bigger than most of my other wrap ups (which I failed to do last month -- sorry!) but why not? Everyone else is doing Best of 2012 lists, so this is my very own -- with pictures!

Favorite Book of the Year:
Deathless by Catherynne M Valente

Favorite Book of the Year Runner Up:
Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story by Ashley Marie Witter

Least Favorite Book of the Year:
College Girl by Patricia Weitz

Least Favorite Book of the Year Runner Up:
Tied between Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly and Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Most Popular Post:
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

Book Reviews
Below is the list of books I've read and/or reviewed during the course of this crazy year! Check out the accompanying links to each review and take a peak at what you may have missed.
  1. The Girl Who Was On Fire Collaboration of different authors
  2. Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson
  3. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  4. I Am Morgan le Fay by Nancy Springer
  5. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  6. The Vampire Diaries: The Hunters: Phantom by LJ Smith
  7. Claire de Lune: Nocturne by Christine Johnson
  8. Writing Tools & The Daily Writer by Roy Peter Clark & Fred White
  9. It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  10. The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries: Book #4 by LJ Smith
  11. Insight Guides: Boston City Guide by Rachel Lawrence
  12. The Lorax by Dr Seuss
  13. The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause
  14. Percy Jackson: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
  15. The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice
  16. I Am Mordred by Nancy Springer
  17. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  18. Juliet by Anne Fortier
  19. The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
  20. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
  21. PS, I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
  22. College Girl by Patricia Weitz
  23. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
  24. DK Eyewitness Travel - Washington, DC by Susan Burke
  25. The House on Blackstone Moor by Carole Gill
  26. Darkness Before Dawn by JA London
  27. The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
  28. Bayou Myth by Mary Ann Loesch
  29. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  30. Intangible by J Meyers
  31. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
  32. The Doorknob Society by MJ Fletcher
  33. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  34. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  35. The Pemberely Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins
  36. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  37. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
  38. Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson
  39. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  40. Sierra by Taylor Dean
  41. Girl of Nightmares (Anna Dressed in Blood) by Kendare Blake
  42. Deathless by Catherynne M Valente
  43. Her Fearful Symmetry -- Review will be posted in January
  44. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George RR Martin
  45. Moonsilver (The Unicorn's Secret, Book 1) by Kathleen Duey
  46. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  47. Le Morte D'Avalon by J Robert King
  48. Looking for Alaska -- Review will be posted in January
  49. The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O'Shea
  50. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  51. The Goddess Test -- Review will be posted in January
  52. Mortal Instruments -- Review will be posted in January
  53. Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story by Ashley Marie Witter
  54. The Snow Child -- Review will be posted in January
  55. GPO Style Manual -- No Review
For past reviews, check out the Book Review Archive where titles are listed, well, somewhat alphabetically!
Erica R Hopper. Please quote or link back, do not repost as your own.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

American Gods

Oh, Neil Gaiman. I am sorry I am such a slow fan. Here I am, absolutely fascinated by Neil Gaiman and the way he works, his creativity, everything else, and yet I am so slow to catching up with his publications. So, it should come as no surprise that I only just got around to reading American Gods. Well, "just got around" is a slight falsehood -- I began reading this book while my area was being hit by Hurricane Sandy. I felt that a story that seemed to obsess over an "incoming storm" seemed sort of appropriate for hurricane weather. It's kind of a long book and I was busy not having power, celebrating Halloween, then writing my little heart out for NaNoWriMo but during the course of one weekend I laid in my bed and read the book from nearly halfway to the very end -- then I slept because my eyes hurt. But that's neither here nor there.

With this review and next week's review on another book by a different author I will be flying my deity loving flag. Apparently I like books that are all about bringing deities of long dead religions back to life and I've only really realized the level of this obsession just now.

My friends, who are much more caught up with the times than I am, have all endlessly praised American Gods. They would gasp and go, "How have you not read this book yet?" when I'd admit to my lack of book reading and finally they have something to be proud about: I read the book and I loved it.

If you have not read this book before allow me to say that Gaiman takes you into his own world while keeping your firmly on the ground of this one. It's like a cosmic road trip of America as our main character, Shadow, is taken under wing by Mr. Wednesday -- a mysterious gentleman who ends up being a former god -- and experiences an assortment of things he did not know was possible within this world.

Alongside a cast of different gods in human form from various religions you do not know who to trust, who is real, who is fake or what corner you'll be turning next. The story at times seems to crawl but my general paranoia of, oh, everyone in the book left me on the edge of my seat even during the slow points. The chapters are broken apart by "Coming to America" sections where different deities are "brought" to America by humans who worshiped them long ago. I enjoyed these sections and thought they were well fleshed out while, at times, while we followed Shadow around it seemed Gaiman let up on description. Coming to America was full of detail and storyline and the regular story of American Gods seemed to lack that at points which was a shame.

Now, I really enjoyed this book and had an all around kick ass time reading about one of my favorite gods, Czernobog. I would probably read this book again. But there was one thing that really bothered me: this entire book is building up to the "storm" that is going to rage over the world. The fight between gods and all that. But when we get to this storm it seems almost too easily brushed aside. The fire is essentially put out by a speech and the gods go home. That bothered me. Of course, what was going on behind closed doors was interesting. A little surprising and yet I feel that if I paid better attention I probably would have figured out the ending on my own. I know, I know, I'm being vague and that isn't all too informative but you'll just have to trust me on this.

The book is worth the read. It is long but you are set up for a long trip of sorts. You'll read about things that you can easily imagine happening and you'll likely wish that Shadow was your friend. He certainly is like a big puppy and is very likable as a main character. This book didn't kick Neverwhere out of its place as my favorite Gaiman book but it's up there as one of my favorites. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Currently - December 23rd

Often times book bloggers either over share (and stray from reviewing books) or share too little about their lives. I want to share a little bit about myself so that you, the reader, will know who I, the writer, am. I have no intention of turning this into a personal blog but after seeing Currently posts from Sometimes Sweet I felt that it would be a nice break every once in awhile.

Holiday movies, because why else? I haven't been in the holiday spirit this year but I've been persistent in trying to win my brain over with holiday cheer. I really love Disney's Christmas Carol and have been trying to catch a viewing of it for the past month. Thus far I've seen the very end and the very beginning. Maybe I'll get lucky this weekend.

The National Christmas Tree in Washington DC

Listening to:
...More Christmas music... and a mix that's inspired by an rpg I'm a part of. Again, with the holiday music it's all to get into the spirit!

Thinking About:
All of the plans I have for this upcoming year! I'm very excited because I'll finally be able to travel (yay, paychecks!). I'll be visiting Florida a lot more often so that I can see my grandmother but besides that I have a week long trip to New Orleans in the works! There is also the possibility of going to Boston come the fall. Really exciting stuff and I finally get to see cities that I have never had the chance to visit. If you have travel tips for New Orleans or Boston or suggestions of places to go -- let me know!

That since the winter solstice hit we're going to start getting more daylight to each day. In my old age I've really begun to hate winter. It's lost the magic that it once had when I was a little girl living in New York. You know, when winter was actually worthwhile because we got snow storms and school closings. But even then I remember in March going to my back yard and digging the snow away from the edge of the house to reveal the moss and clover that was underneath. I became desperate to see some green. Now I'm always cold and it's dark when I wake up for work and dark when I get home. When do I see daylight during the week? I'll tell you, never. So yes, I love that the winter solstice has come and gone and now I can look forward to brighter, longer days.

Beautiful Creatures in an attempt to have it done before the movie comes out. I've otherwise have been craving some classics. I usually read a Dickens book around this time of the year and yet all my Dickens books are in PA! Sob!

Making Me Happy:
The effort my friends have made to make this Christmas somewhat normal. Sometime during the end of summer I came to the startling realization that this would be my first Christmas where I wouldn't for sure be with my family. I have never been apart from my parents on Christmas and the idea sort of scared me.

As the months progressed and my temp job ended, I realized it was a certain thing -- I would be without my parents on Christmas. Near Thanksgiving however my parents announced plans to come down and spend the holiday with me and I felt instantly better. Then my grandfather died four days after Thanksgiving, my Grandmother was in the hospital with a broken hip, my father was catching up on work after having missed two weeks due to our unexpected trip to Florida, and my mother is still in Florida helping my grandma (which also makes me happy and I am thankful for).

I was faced with a Christmas without my parents and a heart aching from the loss my family had suffered. But my friends came through, spoiling me with an assortment of presents and threatening me within an inch of my life that I couldn't open them until Christmas day. Of course, as all of this has proven, plans change.

My Christmas goodies! (and my tiny tree)

I am also happy that I will not be alone on Christmas -- I will be going to my Aunt's house and spending Christmas with them. So today was my own Christmas. My friends and parents are not here but I was able to open what presents were sent to me. I am spoiled and happy and feel very loved. Christmas certainly has lost its sparkle this year but I am warmed by how wonderful of friends I have. They truly helped to make Christmas a little more.... Christmasy. And that makes me happy.

This morning before opening presents.
Seen: candles (one smells like a Christmas tree!), coffee, and a "yule log" from YouTube
Unseen: my twinkling Christmas tree, all the presents, and the sound of classic Christmas music
Happy Holidays, dear readers. Spend time with your family, hold them closely if you can, and love one another. I'm taking the next few days off but will be back with a review on the 26th for Neil Gaiman's American Gods and my book review wrap up for the year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bookish Christmas Stars - DIY

A few months ago I stumbled upon this creative way to make use of books you no longer wanted. Even with books I no longer want, I can't imagine destroying them. Typically I'll just send the book to a used bookstore -- just because I dislike a book doesn't mean everyone else will hate it as well, there is always the chance that it could be entertaining for another reader and who am I to deny that of them?

However, I sometimes read ARC's of books that cannot be sold off. The cover isn't finished or edits still need to be done, the list goes on. What am I to do with an ARC that I don't want and I can't give to a bookstore? Well, that's when I can make crafts out of its pages and not just crafts but Christmas ornaments (or maybe just ornaments, I intend on keeping some of these hanging around as decorations in the future even when Christmas has passed). 

Not only do they come out looking pretty cute and are great to give as gifts but they're inexpensive as well. Really -- I had the book, paintbrush, paint and string laying around so I didn't have to go out and spend a dime. Of course if you don't already have this stuff you'll have to go shopping but acrylic paints aren't too expensive and you don't need a fancy paintbrush for this either. 

The link I posted in the first paragraph definitely leads you to a beautiful origami star of sorts but I've tried it and it is damn hard to make. Maybe I am just really bad at origami, maybe I'm too visual and I need a video to really get how to do it, but I tried it numerous times and every time I'd try to put that star-ball together it would fall apart. 

I poked around online and found this really pretty (and easy!) design. Granted the instructions are in Norwegian but if you have google Chrome it can translate it for you. For me, personally, the pictures were enough.

Anyway, onto the instructions!

  • Rip out pages from a book you want to recycle 
  • If you want to paint some, pick out your colors -- I suggest metallics as they are generally light enough that you can still see the typed words through the paint -- and paint one side of each page.  

  • With the book pages you've selected (or painted) cut them in square shapes. 
  • The bigger the square, the bigger the star. 
  • I got 8 squares out of one page, two out of another, and you can see the size difference in the stars further down in the tutorial. 

  • When you have your star, select some type of string. I had a shining white to use. 
  • Use a needle to pull the string through and tie it off to make an ornament.

Cheap, inexpensive, and bookwormy fun! 
Happy Holidays!

My own stars on my tiny Christmas tree.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Hounds of the Morrigan

Amongst my very long list of books I own but have yet to read this book may have been on the list the longest. I have owned this book since, honestly, I was 13 years old. Thirteen! I was a tiny little 8th grader who was preparing for that big step into High School! I loved all things Celtic and this type of stuff just fascinated me. Then I started High School and fourteen-year-old Erica was far too busy to be reading a (near) 700 page book. So the book was shelved and forgotten through High School and college. When I graduated and actually had time to read again, I kept returning to this book and thinking, "I've had it for so long, I really need to read it someday soon," yet I never did. Skip to 2007 when my family moved out of New York and to Pennsylvania; I donated a ton of books but for whatever reason I wanted to keep this one. I still hadn't read the book after owning it for nearly 10 years but I put it in our "keep" box and somehow found its way into my "books" box when I moved out of my parents and to the DC area. 

So here I am, 26 years old, and realizing I've had this book for an awful long time. I've been relatively good at making my way through the different books on my to-read list since my move and this, obviously, was on that list. So I picked it up, flipped it open, and began to read.

Now after all of that rambling... here's the review:

There were a few things that consistently bothered me from editing to the voices of the characters. There were a lot of editorial mistakes and while I know every publication ends up  having at least one mistake in it, this book had some very obvious spelling errors and not the typical "is it color or colour" type of issue. I also was bothered by the little sister, Brigit, who is about 5 and while many times acts like a typical child her dialogue seems extremely advanced for a child of that age. Now, I know some very wordy little kids who have shocked me with their vocabulary use but this character gets to the point where it seems somewhat unbelievable and not once is it mentioned that she is the type of child with an advanced vocabulary. 

The book itself, as previously mentioned, is nearly 700 pages long and while it reads much like a story that is appropriate for children and very filled with humor and fantasy I often felt that it dragged on and on. The child-like quality of the book can be displayed through the amusing list of characters created by different objects, people and animals. The plot was rather suited for a child as it was quite classic and simple. Children going on a journey and doing something dangerous and daring without the aid of parents can attract a child's attention. They're aided by magical beings (something that will also draw interest from a child reader) and there is your typical host of creepy villains. And yet - there was a lack of suspense. At the end of the book the hounds and the Morrigan became much more scary and a true battle formed but it took 600 pages for you to get to that point which was a disappointment in my eyes.

The children got out of sticky situations with too much ease. Every time the Morrigan seemed intent on throwing up some obstacle I didn't find myself concerned about the kids because it seemed that surely there would be a creature that would come along and be a friendly help to them. Then, to make matters worse, after all of this the children forget their adventures! I was left feeling rather like, "What's the point?" which I don't entirely like to feel when reading a book.

So I found myself disappointed with this book. After having the book for over 10 years I finally read it and was left feeling rather let down. I think I'll send this book back to my parents' home in Pennsylvania and maybe when I have children I'll read the book to them however... it's really long. So while it's a decent kids book it isn't of the Harry Potter caliber and the high page count may be a little daunting to children. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Musing Mondays - December 17th

Hosted by Should Be Reading, this week's musing asks...
Is there a particular book that is your nemesis–the book you’re determined to one day finish?
My Answer:
Currently it's The Life of Pi. There are a couple of books out there that I've had all intentions of reading and finishing but the issue isn't so much with struggling to get through the book -- it's an issue of time and priorities. However, I have tried to get into The Life of Pi two times now and given up a couple of pages in both times. A coworker mentioned it took her a few times as well which was reassuring to me and I do believe it will be a good read once I read it. That's the keyword: once I read it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story

I have loved Interview with the Vampire since I was a preteen. The story captured my attention and has become something of a security blanket in my personal library. If I want something familiar and comforting, I read it, even if the story itself isn't very comforting.

I've missed Anne Rice's vampires for the past number of years since she stopped writing them and while I know Claudia is a character of the past I still loved her and wanted to hear more from this child vampire. I wasn't, at first, entirely sure if I liked the idea of a graphic novel for Claudia's story; see, I've only ever read one manga series and that's the closest I've come to any books of that nature, graphic or otherwise. There was a lot of buzz in the Ricean fan world about this book and it gained my attention and made me rather excited -- I couldn't help it. But then the first number of pages for the book were released and I instantly fell in love.

The sepia tones, black, white and blood red work so well with the story. Blood is something important and primary in the lives of these vampires and the sepia sets the stage for time gone by. The artwork is beautiful and Witter truly captured the personalities of Lestat, Louis and Claudia. Lestat with his dashing looks and constant smirk, Louis seeming sad or pressing a hand to his mouth, and Claudia as the innocent child vampire turned cunning and dangerous -- the artist depicted Claudia perfectly.

If you do not know of the character, know this: she was made a vampire while still a small child. This small child, however, had a mind that still grew and matured. During her vampire existence she went from being the child vampire (depicted in the drawings with wide eyed innocence) to a woman trapped in a child's body and that is what blew me away. Witter drew this child lounging as a woman would, her expressions holding lust, anger, and even hatred that only an adult could feel but it was on a child's face. The detail of wardrobe and other lesser characters was not forgotten and the story line, while brief, was to the point and still clear of Claudia's feelings and experiences.

For those who know of Claudia's story, how it begins and ends, allow me to continue -- for others this may be a spoiler -- but at the end of the book, after Claudia dies, my favorite and most heartfelt page that only a Ricean who has read Interview with the Vampire will understand (not those who have only watched the movie) is a single drawing on an otherwise blank page of Lestat's hands clutching Claudia's gown.

I was thrilled by this book and overall impressed. At some point I hope to read Interview with the Vampire and go back and forth between that book and the graphic novel to compare. I went through the book so quickly, devoured it so hungrily, that I worry I did not appreciate all the artwork and it is something to be appreciated. So I say unto you, dear reader, take your time with this book and appreciate every aspect of it, it deserves that attention.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Musing Mondays 12/10

Hosted by Should Be Reading, this week's musing asks...
What was the last book you could not finish and why?
My Answer:
The Casual Vacancy. It was just that bad. I went more into detail here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


After seeing the Currently posts from Sometimes Sweet I wanted to break up the constant book talk on my blog and do a Currently post once a month. I figured it would be at the start of each month but Saturday and Sunday came and went -- I wasn't even home. I still want to do my Currently post but for this month I think I'll make it a little different than what I had originally planned to do.

I've suffered a great loss in my life and it is all that is on my mind.

Watching: The tv shows I missed while I was in Florida. Walking Dead, American Horror Story, Vampire Diaries, Merlin and Once Upon a Time. I suspect I'll have to watch them again in a few weeks so that I can better remember what I saw. Right now they are serving as a distraction.

Listening to: 
Frank Sinatra. After my grandfather's funeral my family gathered at my Aunt's house. We celebrated the life of my grandpa and I am sure we made him proud. He would have loved the party we had. Bottles of wine, too many dirty martinis, Italian food covering tables and fresh bread with oil. We drank and blasted Frank Sinatra, singing along, all for him.

Thinking about:
As mentioned, and is obvious, I am thinking of my Grandpa. My beloved, loud, tan, story telling grandpa who I was fascinated with all my life. My grandpa who I wish I had gotten to know better. My grandpa who will always remain my grandpa. But not only that but my grandmother whom was hurt whilst helping her husband and is recovering from a broken hip and shoulder blade. She's a strong woman and I only hope to have half of her strength in my life.

My family. We are all opinionated, loud and a little overwhelming. We all butt heads and annoy each other but god damn do I love them. I miss them so much, especially now when I am feeling particularly low. Moments like this seem to draw families together (well, some are torn apart, but we're lucky) and I know that they understand. We can just sigh, state "I can't believe this" and they will reply with complete honesty, "I know." And you know that they know because they are in this with you.

Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story, a book I preordered months ago and was waiting at home for me the day after I returned from Florida and started my new job. I have adored Claudia and Interview with the Vampire since I was a preteen and this book I devoured on my hour long bus ride to work. It brought comfort to have something so familiar with me. I've also been reading The Snow Child which, thus far, is somewhat sad but beautifully written. I can sympathize and understand the heartache the main characters feel.

Making me happy:
The many memories I have of my grandpa. I keep thinking of them, these dazzling moments of his life that I have had the chance to experience and the stories I heard which I was not involved with. My grandfather fascinated me as a child, as I mentioned, and he still does now that he's gone. I am so happy to have had such a wonderful grandfather, to have had that chance to be so loved by him. And I am so happy to have such a wonderful large family who I can laugh with no matter what. I'm also happy that I have my new job. My grandfather, prior to his death, asked me about the job while we were alone. I told him about it and he was happy, he wished me luck, and I know he was with me when I started to work.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Best Tale to Remember

I have always known of Anthony Albanese as Grandpa. He was the loud, tanned man with the big house in New Jersey (later, Florida) that his daughters and grandchildren would descend upon for the summer and Thanksgiving. He was the builder who could make something out of nothing and the staring role in so many memories that gave me the understanding of what family is and should be.

He was surrounded by strong willed, opinionated women and one could say that's enough to drive a man to drink but to me, he was always happy and full of boisterous laughter; if we ever drove him nuts he certainly didn't show it. In fact, I think he wouldn't have it any other way -- our strong personalities made us, well, us.

When he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 15 months ago it was honestly the first time I realized that Grandpa may not be around forever -- something I had innocently thought all my life.

Cancer is not a pretty disease. It is degrading and heartbreaking and even the strongest willed people can be broken by it. My grandfather, above all things, fought. He was not the type of man who would go quietly into the night and his wife, my strong grandma, was his second in command. She was with him every step of the way and refused to give up. They were a team as they always have been and cancer wasn't going to break that companionship.

On Thanksgiving evening while families were watching football or preparing to go shopping, my family was in a frenzy as they tried to get to Florida as quickly as possible. The day was already a little dim -- my Aunt had died 11 years prior during the Thanksgiving holidays -- but the holiday grew even more dim when I learned that my wonderful grandfather was not long for this world.

My parents and I drove through the night to Florida and were by his side on Saturday morning. The next two and a half days are private moments between my family and our loved ones, something I will not go into detail on here, but despite the suffering, medication and panicked calls to health care workers we had one wonderful moment: my grandfather awake and lucid, not feeling any pain, and surrounded by his family.
We talked, joked, drank and smiled and one by one we drifted off to go to bed with a smile, kiss, and "good night" from my wonderful grandfather -- the last time we would hear our grandpa say goodnight to us and receive his kisses.

We all feel an emptiness in our lives without him here. We have lost many opportunities to build future memories: for the children not yet born in our family -- they can't meet this wonderful man; for those not married -- he will not see us wed. And yet, one has to think that a man so full of life and determined to live will not be so easily extinguished from the world. He cherished life and lived it to the fullest and he will find a way to do so in death. He will be at future weddings through our thoughts and will meet our unborn children and know them well, whether if it is in heaven or by the sturdy objects my grandfather built for us, such as the intricate dollhouses each granddaughter has.

I never met my great grandpa, my grandpa's dad, and yet I've always felt I've known him. My mother, aunts, and older cousins have kept him alive by telling me so many stories and I feel that if I saw him walking down the street I would know him although I was born after he died. My grandpa will live on in that way because we are filled with stories about his wonderful personality and life.

How lucky we are to have called Anthony Albanese our grandpa. How lucky we are to have known and be loved by him. Although we have lost him, and it certainly leaves a void in our lives, I would never give up my memories and experiences of him.

Grandpa, do know that grandma is left in the capable hands of your daughters and grandchildren. Know that you have taught us well. We will remain those loud opinionated people you loved and you will always live on. Thank you for teaching us what true love and devotion is. Thank you for showing us how to laugh loudly and fully. Thank you for teaching me how to whistle on your back porch and going blueberry picking with me. Thank you for letting us take over your otherwise peaceful home each summer despite dirty feet, picky eaters (sorry, I really loved my pink milk) and "dangerous" games of "throw me on the couch." For every life you have touched you have brightened and in that you will always be here with us. I love you.