Friday, December 25, 2020

Tiny Tim in Dickens' A Christmas Carol

The character Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (which was published in 1843) is one of the minor characters in the story whom Scrooge sees when he and the Ghost of Christmas Present make an invisible visit to the Cratchet family on Christmas Day. Suffering from what was likely renal tubular acidosis, or possibly rickets, Tim is doomed to die unless Scrooge changes his ways, and pays Tim's father better. Both diseases were treatable in Dickens' time, but fatal if they were not treated, which follows the announcement toward the end of the story that because of Scrooge's increasing Bob Cratchet's salary, Tim is able to live. Even though Tim Cratchet is a static character, and doesn't have a character arc, his inclusion in the story is important, and was a smart move on Dickens' part. One big thing Tim's presence does, is to show that Scrooge's change of heart comes not because of fear for his own salvation alone, but also because his changing will save Tiny Tim. This shows Scrooge's change of heart to be more altruistic than readers might think without Tim's inclusion. Also, Tim's predicament, and his family's, illuminated the plight of poor people in Dickens' day, which was a topic that Dickens was mindful of in his stories, educating the readers of his books about the needs of others, which is something I appreciate in A Christmas Carol.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens performed by Patrick Stewart

I love the story A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I am especially fond of the audiobook version of A Christmas Carol performed by Sir Patrick Stewart. It is abridged, but I don't mind that. The important stuff is there. Mr. Stewart's voice is, in my opinion, perfect for the performance. I like how he does the voices of the different characters, especially of Scrooge himself.
At the beginning of A Christmas Carol, we meet Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge, who is not a terribly nice man. He doesn't do anything illegal, but he isn't very kind either. To his surprise the night of Christmas Eve, he is visted by his old business partner, Jacob Marley. One small problem is that Jacob Marley has been dead for seven years! And he's got a message for Scrooge: If Scrooge doesn't change his ways, he'll end up like Marley for the rest of eternity. (Bound in chains!) He says that three different spirits will be coming to lead Scrooge on a journey to learn what he needs to learn. What happens next? Read the book, or listen to the audio version and find out! This audiobook version of A Christmas Carol was produced by Simon and Schuster in 2006.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Freaky Friday performed by Duchesne High School

Freaky Friday is the story of a mom and daughter who don't really understand each other very well. But one day, they get the chance to walk in each other's shoes...literally! During an argument, their souls switch bodies, and they have to go through the day experiencing each other's lives! Will they be able to figure each other out? And will they be able to switch back? Watch this fun play, and find out for yourself! The first night was tonight, and the play will be performed tomorrow, December 12, at 7pm (pre-show 6:30 pm) as well as the 14th and 15th, Monday and Tuesday, starting at 7 pm both those nights. Tickets are available for 7 dollars at the door, or 6 dollars online at! Remember that because of Covid, masks are required!

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Children of the Lamp #1: The Akhenaten Adventure by P.B. Kerr

The delightful first book in the Children of the Lamp series, The Akhenaten Adventure by P.B. Kerr, tells the exciting story of twin brother and sister John and Phillipa who shortly after getting their wisdom teeth out, discover that they are descended from a long line of Djinn! Their mother has given up the life of a Djinn to lead a normal human life, and so her brother, their Uncle Nimrod steps in to teach them what they need to know about their powers. But a band of evil Djinn start causing trouble for the kids and their uncle! Will John, Phillipa and Uncle Nimrod be able to escape the evil Djinn, and tip the balance of power in favor of the good Djinn of the world? Read the book to find out! This book is aimed at middle grade ages, though I believe that anyone young or old who enjoys a good adventure will like this book. Children of the Lamp is copyrighted 2004.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Jesse Sings by Victor Hess

Jesse Sings by Victor Hess is about the struggles a young boy named Jesse goes through in the mid twentieth century. Jesse and his mom escape an abusive father, but encounter new problems as they try to settle into a new life. His mom, a seamstress, struggles to get by and support herself, and Jesse all while being pregnant and suffering from what I suspect is PTSD because of her abusive spouse who gambled and drank. There is also a judgmental pastor who won’t let Jesse and a friend into a Bible camp because the friend doesn’t know who her dad is, and Jesse’s dad is in jail. But there are good people too, and Jesse meets friends and other supportive people. Overall, The story is enjoyable, and I think it would be good for kids and adults alike to get to know Jesse and watch how he faces life and his struggles. Jesse Sings is followed by a companion novel called The Clock Tower Treasure as Jesse goes on another adventure! Jesse Sings was published in 2017.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary is a fun middle grade adventure where the reader goes along with Ralph Mouse on his adventures. He lives in a hotel with his relatives between the walls and under the floors. He's told to stay away from humans. But one one he makes friends with a young human named Keith who rescues him when Ralph falls in a garbage can and can't get out without help. Keith lets Ralph borrow his toy motorcycle, just the right size for a mouse. (He can actually make it run by making a motorcycle noise with his mouth.) When he accidentally loses the motorcycle after falling into a load of linens, Keith loses faith in Ralph. But when Keith gets sick and there's no medicine, it's up to Ralph to save the day! Will he be able to find medicine in time to help Keith? Read the book and find out! The Mouse and the Motorcycle
was first published in 1965.

Disney's The Haunted Mansion

When the Evers Family stops at an old mansion where they believe the owner wants to talk to them about selling it, they get a lot more than they bargained for! Realtors Jim and Sarah Evers played by Eddie Murphy and Marsha Thomason are the parents of Megan, played by Aree Davis and Michael played by Marc John Jefferies
. On their way to an overdue family vacation, they decide to stop at the mansion for a visit that Jim promises his family will be "twenty minutes, tops" since they got a phone call the day before from a servant representing the owner who wishes to sell. But the adventure lasts a lot longer than twenty minutes when they discover the house is haunted! Will the family be able to figure out how to help the good ghosts, and stop the bad one before it's too late? Watch the movie and find out! The Haunted Mansion is clean family fun, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys funny movies with a little bit of scary added in! The Haunted Mansion was first shown to audiences in 2003 and was directed by Rob Minkoff.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Ramona's World by Beverly Cleary

In Ramona's World by Beverly Clearly, Ramona Quimby is just getting ready to start the fourth grade, and can't wait! She's got a new baby sister, and she's excited to tell the other kids about that, but she's also able to meet Daisy, a new friend who is cool because she's got braces! Ramona wants braces too, but doesn't need them. That's not so bad. But things quickly take a difficult turn when Mrs. Meecham uses Ramona's misspelled words as spelling words, and Ramona falls halfway through the attic floor in Daisy's new house, she realizes that the fourth grade isn't going to be so easy after all. I recommend this fun book for kids, and adults who enjoy remembering what it was like to be a kid! Ramona's World was first published in 1999.

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Indian In The Cupboard-Movie

The Indian in the Cupboard was based on the book by the same name by Lynne Reid Banks. It stars Litefoot as Little Bear, and Hal Scardino as Omri. The movie was directed by Frank Oz. There were some things I liked more about the movie than the book, in particular Little Bear's character. His character wasn't unbelievable in the book, it was however, less likable; particularly his views toward women. In the book, he asked Omri to find him a wife, which Omri did. Little Bear didn't think at all about how they were taking the young woman (Twin Stars) possibly away from a home and family that she might not see again. He just wanted a wife. It worked out that Twin Stars liked him back, but the uncertainty of whether she would or not before hand, and his not considering that, bothered me. In the movie he is more sympathetic and actually tells Omri not to turn the plastic figure Omri had gotten, into a real young woman and expressed concern about taking her from her family. But there were parts of the movie that I didn't think were appropriate. There was one scene, very brief, where the boys were watching scantily clad women dancing before they changed the channel. That part wasn't in the book, and in my opinion, should not have been in a movie made for children. The movie otherwise follows the plot of the book, and has an appropriate amount of suspense, tension, and a dangerous race against time and a (to Little Bear) race against a giant rat as well! I would recommend parents reviewing the movie before showing it to their children because of that one unnecessary scene. The Indian in the Cupboard movie came out in 1995.

The Indian In The Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks tells the story of a young boy, Omri, who gets, among other things, an old medicine cabinet for his birthday, and a small plastic Native American. He puts the little toy indian in the cupboard, and with a key that his mother gave him that he finds locks and unlocks the cupboard, locks his toy in for the night. In the morning, he discovers, to his surprise and delight, that the plastic figure has turned into a human! But it isn't just that the plastic figure came to life, the tiny (from Omri's perspective) man is an actual Iroquoi from the past transported forward in time, and made tinier in the journey! Things are made complicated when Omri's friend Patrick finds out, and then brings a cowboy from the 1800s along with the cowboy's horse, forward in time as well! While the title may be out of date, I do appreciate the way the author handles Little Bear's culture, and explores ideas of racism and prejudice that Boone and Little Bear face and deal with. This begins an adventure that is both exciting and dangerous! I recommend this story for young middle grade readers who like time travel adventure. The Indian in the Cupboard was first published in 1980.
The Battle of Hackham Heath by John Flanagan is an exciting fantasy adventure follows the story of Halt, a successful and famous ranger in the kingdom of Araluen. While I have not read any other stories in this series, I was able to follow this story fairly well, and did not find myself wondering overly much what was going on. Halt clearly had established himself already from a previous book, but the way this story was written, I wasn't confused about anything. The evil Baron Morgarath (which reminded me somewhat of Morgoroth from Spiderwick at the beginning, though the names are pronounced differently) has recruited an apelike species known as the Wargals to help him try to take over Araluen. But will Halt, King Duncan, the rangers, and the soldiers of Araluen be able to stop them? I enjoyed the story, and while there is violence, it is not descriptive or gratuitous. I believe that readers who enjoy fantasy that is clean, though with a lot of action and a little bit of violence (there is a war after all) would enjoy this book. The Battle of Hackham Heath was published in 2017.

The Navigator by Eoin McNamee

The Navigator by Eoin McNamee is a book written for middle grade readers. It follows the adventures of a boy named Owen on a bizarre adventure. He starts off on what seems an ordinary walk to a favorite spot away from his house when he encounters a group of folks who have woken from ages old sleep to battle a group of villains known as The Harsh. The story is rather difficult to follow and what exactly the bad guys want is never really defined during the book. The main protagonist is never really defined well for me, and because of the vagueness of the story despite so much going on around Owen, the narrator has to constantly explain what's happening. As a result, very little time is spent on developing the characters. And while there is a lot of exposition, I still can't see things very easily. For example, the propeller, which is an important part of the story, I never get a clear picture of. At first, I think it's big. Like the size of an airplane propellor. Then I think it's small. Then I think it's... Because of its importance, the author maybe should have been more descriptive in describing its proportions. One good thing is that this book is extremely imaginative, and it is possible that younger readers might enjoy it more. There is an imaginitive story there, but it takes a lot of patience to get through. The Navigator was published in 2008.

Monday, September 21, 2020

My Book Kits and Cubbyholes is a Whitney Award Nominee!

I am really excited to announce that my book Kits and Cubbyholes is an official nominee for the Whitney Awards! There are several categories that are recognized during the Whitney Awards, General Fiction, Romance, Historical Romance, Mystery/Suspense, Speculative, YA General, YA Speculative, YA Fantasy, and Middle Grade. There are also overall awards for Novel of the Year, Novel of the Year Youth, and Best Novel by a Debut Author. After books are nominated, and placed into their categories (mine is Middle Grade) a committee assigned to that category reads the nominated books and they choose the five finalists. The finalists in each category will be announced in early February of 2021, and the Whitney Award Gala will be held in May of 2021. Even if I'm not a finalist, I enjoy going. It's a wonderful event, and I love the opportunity to support the authors of great books!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

My Newest Book: Kits and Cubbyholes!

 I am so excited to announce that my latest book has been published!  D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review had this to say about my newest book, Kits and Cubbyholes

Kits and Cubbyholes (c) 2020

'Twelve-year-old Will leads a good life. He's found work and a home in Mister Wilberforce’s house, a friend in eleven-year-old Nellie, who is teaching him to spell words, and leads a fine life, for an orphan, after living alone on the streets of London.


His memories of the day he met Mister Wilberforce, when everything changed, feel murky and incomplete, however. When he encounters strange little animals that appear to be speaking to one another, some pieces of the puzzle of his life begin to fall into place.


As Will stumbles into an adventure that includes a group of disparate children and a fireplace that leads him into another world, young readers are treated to a story that is peppered with observations about social and cultural relationships and different forms of adversity: "Will found himself smiling hesitantly. Jax appeared to be the leader of this group of friends, but he didn’t seem domineering. Despite their different races, the children treated each other like equals. Was that how life was in America? But it couldn’t be so. America was terribly dependent upon slavery from all that Will understood. This comfortable amity between these children befuddled Will, yet at the same time, it pleased him."


Will's search for the portal that will lead him back home isn't the only purpose of this story. The tale moves from raccoons and time travel to encounters with historical figures and kids charged with finding their way home under impossible circumstances that challenge their perceptions of the world.


Loralee Evans crafts a fine adventure in Kits and Cubbyholes that moves from a boy's singular good fortune in a revised life to his ability to take charge of his own future.


Middle grade readers will find the characterization well-done, the dialogue and dialect particularly convincing and believable, and the adventure portion nicely paced. It's not too fast, but is captivating, as Will participates in an adventure with newfound friends from the 21st century and confronts the mystery of what his future will bring.'


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House on the Prairie
(c) 1935
by Laura Ingalls Wilder

 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder is an enjoyable tale about little Laura moving with her parents, Mary, and baby Carrie from their home in the Big Woods, to a little house they build on the prairie. Through various adventures, from a prairie fire to meeting Native Americans for the first time, Laura learns and grows, finds new things, and learns to let things go.

The novel is told in chronological order, though each chapter is very much its own short story, and is good for bedtime reading between parents and children.

It is an enjoyable tale for children who are interested in learning about the settling of the west by white pioneers. 

Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark by Ridley Pearson

Kingdom Keepers: Disney
After Dark (c) 2005
by Ridley Pearson
 Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark by Ridley Pearson is the first book in the Kingdom Keepers series. In this first book, readers meet Finn and his four friends. At the beginning of the story, the kids' images are made into holographic images to act as guides through Disney World in Florida. At first this is fine until Finn and the others realize that when they fall asleep, they wake up in their holographic bodies inside the park. And when the kids meet an imagineer named Wayne, they find out some sinister stuff is going on. Disney villains are trying to sabotage the park, and are trying to take it over. And Wayne fears these bad guys won't want to stop at the park, and move on to the whole world! 

As the kids work together following various clues to stop the bad guys, they have all sorts of adventures.

This book, intended for about ages 9-12, is an exciting beginning to the series. Kids and adults who love Disney, and especially who have imagined what it would be like to sneak into a Disney park after dark, would enjoy this book!

Friday, August 21, 2020

Kingfisher by Clair M. Poulson

Kingfisher (c) 2020
by Clair M. Poulson

Kingfisher by Clair M. Poulson is an exciting book that doesn't let up on the suspense and danger until nearly the very end. I enjoyed learning about what the bad guys would try next. Sadly, I found the bad guys very believable. I say sadly, because I know there are people out there who think like them. They're the most tragic of all. I was genuinely worried for Kingfisher, the  talented horse and his people. The bad guys were relentless, and the things they did to cause trouble for Kit Troxler, his sister Paisley, and their friends had me on the edge of my seat from the get go. I listened to the CDs, and enjoyed listening for the most part. The reader represented one character's voice in a way I didn't care for. One of the female characters. I don't think Mr. Poulson intended to make her sound so bubble headed and whiney, and I don't think she would have come across that way had I read the book. Other than that one character, and aside from some dialogue that I found a little bit unnatural, mostly between the bad guys, the story was still very good. I loved the plot, and appreciated the author's knowledge of the way the legal system works, and how police and other special groups that provide security work in high stakes situations. I also have to say I quite liked the lawyer. He was a really stand up guy. 

From the beginning of the story I suspected the person who was responsible for the cruel deed that set off the trouble because of various clues, (Poor, poor Sharpshooter did not deserve what happened to him!) but we're not told this for sure until toward the end. Readers aren't kept much in the dark in this story. For the most part, readers know what's going on, what the bad guys are doing, and who the  bad guys are. The suspense comes from whether or not the good guys can figure out what the bad guys have planned in time to stop them.

If you enjoy clean, suspenseful fiction with characters who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (not all of them, but the main ones) you will enjoy this book.

Friday, August 14, 2020

To Win A Lady's Heart by Sian Ann Bessey

 To Win A Lady's Heart by Sian Ann Bessey is a sweet story set in the Middle Ages. The beginning is exciting, scary, and sad, and sucks you right in. In turns I was angry and felt sorry for Lord Gilbert. The things that happened when she was a baby weren't his daughter Lady Joanna's fault, yet he treated her like they were, and she suffered unnecessarily because of her dad's short-sightedness.  

To Win A Lady's Heart
(c) 2016 by Sian Ann Bessey

Despite her dad's unkindness, Lady Joanna is a wonderful character. I would love to be friends with her! She is so kind to everyone, be it her dad despite his gruffness, or the people of the lower classes when she develops genuine concern for the plight they find themselves when someone starts stealing their wool. She is a good match for Sir Lukas who is what a knight ought to be, kind, just, fair, and concerned for people even if they have nothing to offer him in return. He goes far beyond what is required when he goes out of his way to find the wool thieves. Sir Edwyn was a good mentor to both Lady Joanna and Sir Lukas, and I adored him for being a father figure for Lady Joanna when her own father was unwilling/unable to be there for her. The other minor characters, Agnes etc. were also believable, well-rounded characters.

The mystery of who was stealing the wool was mixed well with the archery tournament and the high stakes involved in that. While the plot was a bit predictable (I had at least one of the bad guys figured out well before the reveal) it was still a fun and enjoyable read!

Readers who like clean medieval romance will enjoy this story.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Banana Split by Josi S. Kilpack

Banana Split (c) 2012 by Josi S. Kilpack
Banana Split (c) 2012
by Josi S. Kilpack
 I have often wondered what it would be like to live life as one of those poor hapless people in the murder mysteries on TV that continually stumble over dead bodies every week, and seem genuinely surprised when they do, despite the fact that last week, and the week before, the same thing happened. I've often wondered why poor Father Brown, as well as Laura Thyme and Rosemary Boxer don't develop PTSD because of their constant interactions with people showing up murdered.

In Banana Split, the seventh book in the Culinary Mysteries which feature Sadie Hoffmiller, a middle aged detective, that very thing has happened. It's the first book of Josi Kilpack's Culinary Mysteries that I've read, though. And in this book, poor Sadie, trying to relax in Hawai'i because of the stresses of other mysteries she's been involved with, finds herself entangled, quite literally, with the deceased body of a young woman found floating in the ocean. Already suffering from PTSD, OCD, etc. she finds herself terrified of leaving her condo, and accepting the police's assessment that the poor young woman must have died either from a drug overdose, or by falling in the water while intoxicated with something.

But then the young woman's eleven year old son shows up at Sadie's doorstep pleading for answers, and Sadie finds the strength to help the young man try to find out what really happened to his mom.

This book is a fun read, especially for people who enjoy mysteries. I appreciate how the victim is treated. Noelani Pouha isn't just a dead body put there for shock value and a reason to solve a mystery. Sadie sees her as a person, gets to know Noelani through her son and her friends, and cares about her, even though Sadie never met her while she was alive.  I liked the several different red herrings, which made figuring out the whodunit quite entertaining and kept me guessing.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden

"Sheriff Cade O'Brien was heartily sick of shooting people." This sentence begins The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden, and tells me a whole lot about Cade O'Brien in that one simple sentence. Right there, I like Cade O'Brien, and also feel a little sorry for him, too. But only a little. He's too cool to feel sorry for. So mostly I like him.

Sheriffs of Savage Wells, The (c) 2016
by Sarah M. Eden
And when I meet Paisley Bell, I like her just as much. She is good at being a peace officer, but no one in Savage Wells Wyoming in 1875 wants to take her seriously because she's a woman. Still, she'll try for the job even if she has to face off with the famous Cade O'Brien to do it.

In Savage Wells, the last sheriff left because he wanted to go cut down trees in Oregon. That left the spot of sheriff open. Paisley had been acting sheriff for several months as the past sheriff shirked more and more of his duties as he got ready to leave. So she should be perfect for the job. But the town council doesn't exactly agree with her. So they advertise for the job, and Cade O'Brien shows up. Not one to back down easily, Paisley wants to have a try for the job as well, so the town counsel decides to let them have a competition.

The banter between them is at times heated, and at times less so. Paisley really wants the job. She's good at it, and she wants to be able to take care of her aging father. Cade is good at it, too, and wants to settle in a small, quiet town without having to shoot any more bank robbers or horse thieves.

Despite their differences, and conflicts of interest, Paisley and Cade start realizing their attraction to each other. But then before they can discover what their growing feelings for each other might mean, a gang of bank robbers shows up in town, and the two sheriffs will have to put their feelings (good and bad) aside to deal with the bad guys. What happens next? Read the book and find out!

This is a very enjoyable and clean romance. There are a few clean kissing scenes, and the worst word in the book is "Saints!" which Cade is fond of spouting when things aren't going his way. If you like clean, western romance, this is a book you will enjoy!

Friday, July 17, 2020

Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: A Giant Problem by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: A Giant Problem
(c) 2008
by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
The second book in the Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, A Giant Problem by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi is a fun continuation that began with The Nixie's Song, and that will end with The Wyrm King.

A Giant Problem is a fun, suspenseful book that involve step-siblings Nick, Lauri, and Jules. (Nick and Jules's dad is married to Lauri's mom.)

The giants are waking up, and they need a nixie's song to get the giants away from people and out to sea. But Taloa, their Nixie friend is nowhere to be found. Nick, Lauri, and Jules are the only ones who know that so many unexplained fires are caused by so many giants starting to wake up!

Will the kids be able to stop the giants in time before they destroy all of Florida with their fighting, and their fire blowing?

If you enjoy middle grade fantasy with suspense and tension, you will enjoy this. Especially if you like exciting twist endings that will lead into the next book!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume

Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great
(c) 1972 by Judy Blume
I remember reading Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume when I was a kid, and finding a lot about Sheila that I could relate to.

Sheila Tubman lives in New York City with her parents and older sister. She lives in the same apartment as Peter Hatchman, the protagonist in Judy Blume's first book of the series, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. While it happens in the same series, this is a standalone book. I enjoyed Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, but I especially liked Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, because as a girl, I was able to empathize with her a bit better. Especially when it came to her uncertainties about the unknown and scary things.

Going to Tarrytown for the summer (the Sleepy Hollow of Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow) she finds a lot to be scared of, from swimming, to dogs, to spiders. But she also grows in a lot of ways that I appreciated.

I recommend this book to young readers, upper elementary and junior high. But I'm sure adult readers wanting a little bit of nostalgia would enjoy it, too.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: The Nixie's Song by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

Spiderwick Chronicles The Nixie's Song (c) 2009
by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black 
Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: The Nixie's Song by Toni DiTerlizzi and Holly Black is the first of three books in the Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles series. Stepsiblings Nicholas and Lori are having a hard time getting along after their parents marry. Lori loves mystical stories, fairies, unicorns, etc and Nicholas is practical. Lori has a copy of Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide and loves the Spiderwick Chronicles. (While the fourth wall isn't completely broken in this book, it comes close.)

After finding a four leaf clover in the woods as he's trying to entertain his new stepsister, Nicholas can suddenly see things he didn't see before. Including an injured nixie who needs to be taken to water in order to survive! Working together, the stepsiblings are able to help her only to find out something worse: a giant attacked her and her sisters, and Taloa, the nixie, needs their help!

When they reach out to the authors of the Spiderwick Chronicles (this part was rather whimsical coming near to breaking the fourth wall) the authors don't take them seriously! Fortunately, the Grace brothers are there, and do. Working together, will the kids be able to defeat the giant who has found Taloa and will kill her if she stops singing? Or is she, and all of them, doomed?

I recommend this fun book to young and old who enjoy middle grade fantasy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare is one of my favorite plays written by him. It was likely written in the mid 1590s.

It begins with the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and his fiance Hippolyta making plans for their upcoming marriage when Egeus, a citizen comes to them with a complaint. His daughter Hermia, won't marry Demetrius, the man he's picked for her, and he's upset! Lysander, the man Hermia does love is there too, but nothing Lysander or Hermia say will change Egeus' mind.

Theseus tells Hermia she has four days to choose one of three things: either take the man her dad has chosen, go to a convent, or even possibly face execution! Neither of those things are what she wants, and so Hermia and Lysander plan to run away. But they make a slight mistake in telling Hermia's friend Helena what their plans are. Helena is in love with Demetrius, and he was in love with her too before he decided to change his mind and ask Egeus for Hermia. So Helena, hoping to get on his good side, tells Demetrius what Hermia's plans are. Angry that Hermia has run off, Demetrius goes after Hermia and Lysander, and Helena goes after Demetrius!

Meanwhile in the forest, the king and queen of the fairies are at odds with one another over the fostering of a little boy who was the son of the queen's mortal friend who died in childbirth. Oberon the king, wants custody of the little boy, and the queen, Titania, wants to keep the child. So the king is mad.

Meanwhile, a group of actors including a rather silly fellow named Nick Bottom want to perform for the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, and so they are on their way to Athens in the hopes of performing it.

Oberon, wanting to play a trick on his wife, gets his servant Puck to go look for a plant that has magical properties; when you place the juice on the eyelids of a sleeping person, they will fall in love with the first individual (human or animal) they see upon waking up! Oberon sees Demetrius, followed by Helena, stalking through the forest and berating her for following him. He wants to find Hermia and Lysander, and is mad! Taking pity on Helena, Oberon tells Puck to put the juice on Demetrius' eyes when he is asleep, so that he will fall in love with Helena when he wakes.

But poor Puck, not knowing what they look like, comes upon Lysander and Hermia sleeping (the two are a fair distance apart) and he puts the juice on Lysander's eyes. Unfortunately, Helena finds Lysander and wakes him, and when he looks at her, Lysander thinks he's in love with her!

Puck also finds Nick Bottom, and as a joke, turns his head into a donkey's head.

Realizing his mistake, he also puts the juice on Demetrius' eyes so that Demetrius will fall in love with Helena, which he does, but now both Lysander and Demetrius are in love with Helena, and Hermia is completely left out. But Helena thinks the three of them are playing a joke on her, and is mad at all of them.

Puck puts the juice on Titania's eyes, and when Nick Bottom accidentally wakes her, she thinks she's in love with a man who has a donkey head!

What happens next in this twisty turny romantic comedy? Read or watch the play to find out!

I recommend it to adults as well as children who enjoy Shakespearean comedy.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Sir Ian Holm, 1931-2020

Sir Ian Holm in his roll as Bilbo Baggins
in The Lord of the Rings Movies directed
by Peter Jackson

"I've thought up an ending for my book: 'And he lived happily ever after, to the end of his days." -Bilbo Baggins, from Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings.

Sir Ian Holm, (12 September 1931-19 June 2020) who acted in such  works as Lord of the RingsChariots of FireDay after Tomorrow, etc. has passed away. I enjoyed his performances, and thought him to be a supurb actor. I am sad to hear of his passing.

"Go in Peace! I will not say do not weep, for not all tears are an evil"- J.R.R. Tolkien (Gandalf, in Return of the King.)


Juneteenth, which is a contraction of June and Nineteenth is a celebration that originated in Texas commemorating the day on which General Gordon Granger announced federal orders that all people held as slaves in Texas were free. This came about two and a half years after the  Emancipation Proclamation was put into effect.
The Emancipation Proclamation freed all previously enslaved people in the U.S. As the Union Army advanced into the south, or as escaped slaves crossed into Union territory, either action freeing a person from the control of the Confederate government, that person was considered free. When the Union won the war in April 1865, it permanently freed all people previously enslaved under Confederate law. But Texas was remote compared to the other slave states. Granger's announcement on June 19, 1865 helped enforce the Emancipation Proclamation more consistently in Texas. After Juneteenth, there were some people still owned legally as slaves in the Union Border States (slave states that did not join the south during the Civil War) but these people were officially freed on December 6, 1885 by the 13th Amendment.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872-1906
I remember first reading We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar when I was a high schooler. It wasn't at school, it was at a mid-week church youth group, or Mutual as it is called in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The lesson being taught was about the pain that we often feel but hide from others for the sake of appearances, and how we need to be aware that other people might be feeling pain that we can't see.

Paul Laurence Dunbar was well acquainted with hidden pain. He knew, first hand, the injustice of racism, and how other people who hadn't experienced racism, too often don't see or want to see the pain they are casually causing their fellow humans by the way they treat them. It teaches a powerful lesson in how people who are treated badly, beaten down over and over again, can develop a fake exterior, acting happy and contented because the majority want them to act happy and contented. So they do so for the sake of survival. While I haven't experienced racism myself on a long term basis in my home country, I know what it's like to be systemically pushed down and silenced. I appreciated the poem, because I can relate to much of what it is saying.

Paul Laurence Dunbar was born June 27, 1872. He was the first black person to make enough off of his writing to live off of it. He was born free, but his parents had been slaves before they were freed. He wrote numerous poems and novels during his short lifetime, and died tragically of tuberculosis at the age of 33. I often think, when authors and artists die young, like Paul Laurence Dunbar, Sylvia Plath, or Vincent Van Gogh, what great works they could have created if they lived longer. Of course, that question can't be answered. And I am grateful for what Paul Laurence Dunbar did put out into the world, particularly We Wear the Mask, which is my favorite of his poems.

We Wear the Mask
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
       We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
       We wear the mask!

Saturday, June 6, 2020

D-Day, The Beaches of Normandy

On this day, 76 years ago, Canadian, American, and British soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy to fight against tyranny. The battle on June 6, 1944 became known as D-Day. There were five beaches on which the soldiers landed, Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. 4,414 men died on that day. Despite these casualties, that day was a turning point in World War II. The allied forces went on to free France and defeat the axis powers. I hope that during this current time of unrest and uncertainty, that we can remember these men, their courage, and the ideals they fought for.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Sounder by William H. Armstrong

Sounder (c) 1969 by William H. Armstrong
Sounder by William H. Armstrong is a moving story about a boy and his dog. The boy is never given a name. The only important character with a name, is Sounder, the dog. He is a loyal, loving dog, who is badly injured while trying to protect his master, the boy's father, who is arrested for stealing a ham to feed his hungry family. The boy is unable to find his dog for a long time, but doesn't give up hope that somewhere, Sounder is alive. Finally, Sounder comes home, wounded, but alive. The boy and his dog make a strong pair as they go looking for the boy's father on various chain gangs. Meanwhile, the boy works hard to teach himself how to read, partly on his own, and partly with the help of a generous, altruistic teacher. Racism against the boy and his family is very prevalent in the book. But so are courage, caring, and love; from several characters, but especially from Sounder.

I recommend this book to people who are willing to learn uncomfortable but important things, and who enjoy stories of overcoming hardships, and stories about loving, loyal dogs.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The View from Castle Always by Melissa McShane

View from Castle Always, The (c) 2019 by Melissa McShane
The View from Castle Always by Melissa McShane is an exciting fantasy about a young lady who wants answers about why her once loving forest home seems to be rejecting her. Setting out to find Castle Always, and hopefully, answers, she finds more than she bargained for when the castle seems to want her dead! But with help from the castle's other prisoner and a cat, maybe she can figure her way out! Maybe.

This book has intimate scenes in it, and is not appropriate for children.

DragonWatch: Master of the Phantom Isle by Brandon Mull

DragonWatch: Master of the Phantom Isle
(c) 2019 by Brandon Sanderson
Master of the Phantom Isle by Brandon Mull, the winner of the Whitney Award for middle grade this year, is a fun, frightening book that kids and adults would enjoy. Poor Seth has lost his memory, and doesn't know friend from foe. Meanwhile, Kendra is doing what she can to keep more dragon sanctuaries from falling. If the dragon sanctuaries fall, Celebrant, the dragon king, will take over the world and humans will be in big trouble!

Fans of Kendra and Seth who have followed them since Fablehaven, will love this new book that continues on their adventures and misadventures!

Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving is such a fun little novella. It's entertaining to read around Halloween time with all ages since it's not super scary, but scary enough to be fun. Poor Ichabod Crane doesn't know what he's up against when he sets off for home after a harvest party at midnight. He's already sad because the girl he liked dumped him, but then his troubles are about to get worse, since something he doesn't expect is waiting for him in the woods!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Whitney Award Gala and 2019 Winners

This year, because of Covid-19, the annual Whitney Award Gala was virtual. I missed going in person, but I think the Whitney Award Committee and everyone involved in making it virtual did such a great job. I really loved what they did to make the virtual event so fantastic. Congratulations to them for making such a wonderful event, and congratulations to the finalists and winners!
The Categories, with their finalists were:

The Book of Abish by Mette Harrison
Muddy: Where Faith and Polygamy Collide by Dean Hughes
The Girl in Gray by Annette Lyon
Deborah: Prophetess of God by H.B. Moore
Whatever It Takes by Jessica Pack

Mistaken Reality by Traci Hunter Abramson
Sanctuary by Traci Hunter Abramson
Nest Egg by Josi Avari
Robin and Marian by Stephanie Fowers
Death in Focus by Anne Perry

House of Assassins by Larry Correia
The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon
To Kill a Curse by Jennifer Jenkins
The View from Castle Always by Melissa McShane
A Dragon's Fate by Daniel Swenson

Historical Romance
Miss Adeline's Match by Joanna Barker
The Paradox of Love by Teri Harman
What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon
A Song for the Stars by Ilima Todd
Suffering the Schot by Nichole Van

Hitching the Pitcher by Rebecca Connolly, Sophia Summers, and Heather B. Moore
Love Again at the Heart of Main Street by Meg Easton
Dream of the Next Door Doc by Brenna Jacobs
Finding Jack by Melanie Jacobson
Missed Kiss by Cassie Mae

Young Adult General
Lovely War by Julie Berry
Just for Clicks by Kara McDowell
Paul, Big, and Small by David Glen Robb
Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart
Rayne and Delilah's Midnite Mainee by Jeff Zentner

Young Adult Fantasy
Smoke and Summons by Charlie N. Holmberg
Before the Broken Star by Emily R. King
Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller
The Bone Charmer by Breeana Shields
An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley

Young Adult Speculative
Displaced by Bridget E. Baker
Harper by Jo Cassidy
The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie
Shattered Snow by Rachel Huffmire
Lovestruck by Kate Watson

Middle Grade
Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers by Shauna Holyoak
Master of the Phanton Isle by Brandon Mull
The Obsidian Compass by Liesl Shurtliff
A Monster Like Me by Wendy Swore
The Vacant Realm by Mike Thayer

The winner of the General category was Dean Hughes!

The winner of Mystery/Suspense was Traci Hunter Abramson for her book, Mistaken Reality!

The winner of Speculative was Amy Harmon!

The winner of Historical Romance was, again, Amy Harmon!

The winner of Romance was Melanie Jacobson!

The winner of Young Adult General was Julie Berry!

The winner of Young Adult Fantasy was Breeana Shields!

The winner of Young Adult Speculative was Ally Condie!

The winner of Middle Grade was Brandon Mull!

Best Novel by a Debut Author was Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart!

Novel of the Year in Adult Fiction was Sanctuary by Traci Hunter Abramson!

Novel of the Year in Youth Fiction was Lovely War by Julie Berry!

Monday, May 4, 2020

Miss Adeline’s Match by Joanna Barker

Miss Adeline’s Match (c) 2019
by Joanna Barker
In Miss Adeline’s Match by Joanna Barker, Adeline Hayes has her work cut out for her as a lady’s companion when her boss tells her that she’d better find a husband quick for his daughter if she knows what’s good for her. Adeline really does want what’s best for her friend Charity Edgeworth with or without Mister Edgeworth’s threat. And her heart aches for Charity who called off her engagement to George Henley with no warning or reason that Adeline knows. So when the two young women go to stay with The Beckett’s in the country, Adeline thinks this is a perfect opportunity to find her friend the husband, and the happiness she knows Charity deserves. So what is Adeline to do when George Henley shows up, making, as she sees it, a nuisance of himself, and why does Adeline find herself drawn to the handsome, but annoying Evan Whitfield?

Sunday, April 12, 2020

To Kill a Curse by Jennifer Jenkins

To Kill a Curse (2019)
by Jennifer Jenkins
In To Kill a Curse, an exciting fantasy romance by Jennifer Jenkins, we meet Fina Perona who is running away from home when her small boat is caught in a storm. Dashed to pieces by the waves, Fina’s boat is lost. But instead of drowning, she is pulled to safety by Antonio and his fellow sailors. But what Antonio doesn’t know, is that poor Fina is cursed, and anyone who comes in contact with her is endangered. Fina s determined not to let anyone be hurt by the curse that’s on her, but what happens when Antonio decides he wants to help her try to kill the curse?

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A Monster Like Me by Wendy Swore

Monster Like Me, A (c) 2019
by Wendy Swore
A Monster Like Me by Wendy Swore is such a great book, not only for kids, but for adults as well. The main character, Sophie, because of a mark on her face, seems to sincerely think that she's a monster, especially after a cruel comment about her mark made by, of all people, an adult, a GROWN UP PERSON in a grocery store as the main character is standing right there! I appreciated the difficulties the main character faced as she went through her trials, and the things she started believing about herself and others around her. Knowing that in real life real people face these same troubles made me very glad for this book. It teaches empathy and compassion for others, and tells a fantastically written story at the same time.

I recommend this story to kids and adults who like strong protagonists who stumble sometimes, but get back up, and learn important lessons along the way.

The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

First Girl Child, The (c) 2019
by Amy Harmon
The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon is a skillful blend of Norse mythology and fantasy, creating a well written story about a country cursed with being able to produce no girl children.

When a monk finds a dying woman, his own sister, who has just given birth to a baby boy not far from the Temple Mount where he serves, he witnesses her curse the baby's father who rejected both her and her son before she dies. When the women of the country start giving birth only to boy children, he realizes that his sister's curse has become a reality. But when the queen, seemingly, gives birth to a healthy girl after miscarrying several boys, he begins to think the curse is beginning to lift. Or is it? And why does his little nephew that he has been raising feel such a connection to the little baby princess, and who is the mysterious "Ghost", the woman with white hair and skin, and strange colored eyes he finds weeping under the very tree where his sister died?

The First Girl Child is meant for older ages, having violence and intimate scenes in it not appropriate for young readers.

The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

Spiderwick Chronicles, The (c) 2013
by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black are a fun set of five books/chapters that make up the story of the Grace children, Jared, Simon, and Mallory, who, with their mom, move into their great Aunt Lucinda's house. When Jared finds a book entitled Arthur Spiderwick's Fieldguide, he starts discovering a lot of things about the woods near his house that he wishes he didn't. And when something he and his family can't see, but can hear, starts to play pranks on them, things really start to get weird.

He, his brother, and his sister get embroiled in the world of the Fae folk, some of them benign, others dangerous. When the elves ask Jared to get the book for them, will Jared be able to do as they ask? But what happens when someone, or something else takes the book?

Read the Spiderwick Chronicles and find out.

Readers who enjoy middle grade fantasy will enjoy this story.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, first published in 1942, is an insightful book that looks at the world from the view of a devil. Screwtape, the master, is coaching Wormwood, an apprentice tempter as Wormwood works to guide his "patient" toward evil and away from good. It is an interesting look at how not only devils, but mean people as well, think, and how they seek to build themselves up by destroying (sometimes literally, sometimes emotionally) other beings. I liked how Screwtape talked about his and Wormwood’s philosophies of consuming other things to feed themselves made perfect sense to him, and the “Enemy’s” (God’s) philosophy of “filling the universe with tiny copies of himself” didn’t make any sense to their ultimately selfish philosophies, and therefore must have some ulterior motive behind it. It was interesting to see how people whose every thought is focused on self ultimately can’t or won’t understand selflessness, so to comfort themselves, they decide that an act that is selfless by someone else can’t be, and therefore must have a sinister, selfish bent to it since they can’t or won’t, understand anything else. I also found it insightful at the end when *spoiler* Wormwood failed, that Screwtape turned on Wormwood without mercy. It showed how selfishness, by its own nature, inevitably turns on itself. An endnote by Mr. Lewis mentioned how he hadn’t enjoyed writing The Screwtape letters, though it had been easy to do so. For myself, I appreciate that despite the fact that he had not had fun writing it, that he had done so anyway.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
(c) 1997 by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Also titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in the U.K.) by J. K. Rowling begins the magical series of Harry Potter and his friends as they go to school at Hogwarts, a school for witchcraft and wizardry.

Not only does Harry have the usual school troubles of tests, difficult assignments, teachers who don't like him, and bullies, but he also has to worry about Volemort, who wants to find him and finish the job he'd tried to do ten years before, when Harry was a baby. Voldemort killed Harry's parents, but oddly failed at killing Harry, leaving only a scar on his forehead.

Fortunately, Harry has the support of his two best friends, Ron and Hermione, as well as the school's headmaster, Dumbledore.

Hopefully, with their help, he can make it through his first year at
Hogwarts alive!

Magic Treehouse Good Morning, Gorillas by Mary Pope Osborne

Magic Treehouse Good Morning, Gorillas
(c) 2010 by Mary Pope Osborne
Magic Treehouse Good Morning, Gorillas by Mary Pope Osborne is the 26th Magic Treehouse book.

In this book, Jack and Annie travel to the cloud forest of Africa and meet a family of gorillas. The young gorillas seem to like the kids, and the young gorillas' mothers. But the silverback who leads the group is another story. Will he make friends with Jack and Annie too? And what will happen when a dangerous leopard has its hungry eye on the littlest gorilla? Read the book and find out!

Magic Treehouse Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne

Magic Treehouse Dragon of the Red Dawn
(c) 2008 by Mary Pope Osborne
Magic Treehouse Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne is the 37th book of the series.

In this story, Annie and Jack travel back to Old Japan to find the secret to peace, and bring that secret back to cheer Merlin up. But while in Edo (the ancient name for Tokyo) they are questioned by Samurai wanting them to show their passports, and they don't have any! Who will come to Jack and Annie's aid? Read the book and find out!

Magic Treehouse: Dinosaurs Before Dark (Book 1) by Mary Pope Osborne

Magic Tree House Book 1 Dinosaurs Before Dark
(c) 1992 by Mary Pope Osborne
Magic Treehouse Dinosaurs Before Dark begins the fantastic series of over thirty books by Mary Pope Osborne.

In the first book, Jack and Annie find the magic treehouse for the first time, and are transported back to the time of the dinosaurs! As they explore, Jack finds a mysterious medallion in the grass with the letter M on it, and they wonder what it could mean. But before long, their attention is diverted by a dangerous T-Rex! How do they escape this ferocious monster? Read the book and find out!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Ramona Forever by Beverly Cleary

Ramona Forever by Beverly Cleary is a sweet story about Ramona during her 4th grade year. She’s worried that the family might have to move if her dad can’t find a job in Portland, and she doesn’t want to have to leave her school and her friends, and she’s worried about her mom too, and the baby inside that’s slowly making her mom’s stomach bigger and bigger. But what secret is her Aunt Bea keeping, and what does it have to do with her best friend Howie’s Uncle Hobart? This is a fun book that kids will enjoy reading, and adults who enjoy fun children’s stories will like it as well.
Ramona Forever  (c) 1984
by Beverly Cleary