30 November 2011

Corus the Champion - Dean "D. Barkley" Briggs


He was once the greatest champion in the land.

Then he disappeared.

With Nemesia's defeat, the Barlows have helped turn the tide in the Hidden Lands. But the victory is short-lived. An even greater evil stirs in the north with a fierce new army bent on destruction. As the twins, Gabe and Garret, discover their own special powers, a thin thread of hope emerges: long ago, a fabled king was rescued from death on our world and hidden on Karac Tor. Who is he?

Each brother has their part to play. Hadyn must travel north to warn the land barons, which leaves Ewan with a bitter choice. Will he sacrifice what is most precious to discover whether Corus lives? Even more important, if Corus is alive, can he wake the Sleeping King of legend...before it's too late?


This series of books blends Arthurian legend with the author's incredible imagination.  Mr. Briggs writes confidently and with a masters touch - he is rather talented and he weaves a dense tale full of magic, deception and mysteries galore.   This book is second in what will be a series of five. Unfortunately, for me I haven't had the pleasure of reading book one.  So for the first few chapters or so I felt rather confused.  Now, usually I prefer that when reading a series of books that the author not spend an inordinate amount of time retelling and retelling what happened in previous books.  Too much backstory is tedious and interrupts the flow.   However, zero backstory leaves the reader on her own.  That would be my only caveat...read Book of Names first.  Please.  Otherwise, this is an immense saga spanning great distances and between great lengths of time and Mr. Briggs tells this story with a strong and lyrical voice. 

On a side note there is a very interesting story about this book.  At one point near the end of the book there is one rather odd sentence.  Now, it turns out that during the editing of the book there happened to be a gale storm of apparently epic proportions.  Mr. Editor presumably headed for higher ground and in the midst of such chaos there happened a weird little cut and paste accident.  Mr. Briggs explains it here and I suggest that you read his account of how it happened as I am told that I tend to mix up my facts from time to time.  Now I only want to know...What does Poplar Springs Baptist Church still need?!?! 


Dean "D. Barkley" Briggs is an author, father of eight, and waaay too prone to twisting his ankle whenever he attempts a pick-up basketball game in his old age. He grew up reading J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lews, Patricia McKillip, Guy Gavriel Kay, Stephen R. Donaldson, Ursila K. Leguin, Susan Cooper, Madeline L'Engle, Terry Brooks, Andre Norton and Lloyd Alexander (just to name a few).
In the aftermath of losing his wife of 16 years, Dean decided to create a heroic journey that his four sons could relate to. Thus was born a new and paradoxical genre: semi-autobiographical fantasy, as Dean actively weaves elements of his life and family into the plots of his stories.
"The Legends of Karac Tor" tells the edgy, sweeping tale of four brothers who get stranded on another world. Together, they must find their courage, battle overwhelming odds, face their pain, and never quit searching for home. Five books total are planned.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

Out of My Mind - Sharon M. Draper


Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there's no delete button. She's the smartest kid in her whole school—but no one knows it. Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don't think she's capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can't, because Melody can't talk. She can't walk. She can't write. Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.From multiple Coretta Scott King Award winner Sharon M. Draper comes a story full of heartache and hope. Get ready to meet a girl whose voice you'll never, ever forget.

My daughter brought this book home for me after seeing it on one of her (numerous) book orders at school.  She said that it "just sounded so interesting, mommy".  I am truly one blessed Momma. 

There is no doubt that this book will stay with you for the rest of your life.  It's message will reside there somewhere in the depths and reaches of your being, fluttering just on the edges of your conscience it will speak to you, I guarantee that.  It will most likely change your world view. You will probably not see anyone the same again, you will never look upon the sea of human faces and simply dismiss them flippantly.  No, you will forever be changed if you read 'Out of My Mind'.

"You've got it easy-you have all of your physical functions working properly.  You never have to struggle just to be understood...you're just lucky...all of us who have our faculties intact are just plain blessed.  Melody is able to figure out things, communicate, and manage in a world where nothing works right for her."
Not even Melody's mother has any idea what is really going on inside of Melody.  Melody is trapped inside and she can't communicate the simplest things to those around her.  She wants to share memories with her parents and can't, the things she loves about them most she can't tell them, she hears a song and can not tell anyone that she likes it.  Oh, how I fell in love with Melody and how desperately I wanted to make it all okay...make it all go away.  Sometimes, I am struck by how much we take for granted.  Sometimes, this realization brings tears to my eyes.


Sharon Draper is a two-time Coretta Scott King Award-winning author, most recently for Copper Sun, and previously for Forged by Fire. She's also the recipient of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Author Award for New Talent for Tears of a Tiger and the Coretta Scott King Author Honor for The Battle of Jericho and November Blues. Her other books include Romiette and Julio, Darkness Before Dawn, and Double Dutch. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she taught high school English for twenty-five years. She's a popular conference speaker, addressing educational and literary groups both nationally and internationally.
This biography was provided by the author or their representative.

*The opinions stated herein are all my own.

22 November 2011


2009 Not Rated 116 minutes

Kim Seong-geun (Jae-yeong Jeong), despondent over being dumped by his girl, decides to end it all by jumping into the Han River, but instead wakes up on a tiny island in the middle of the waterway, now a castaway in the teeming heart of civilization. Part social commentary, part romantic adventure with hints of science fiction, Lee Hey-jun's film touches on topics ranging from economic disparity to the alienating nature of modern urban existence.
Jae-yeong Jeong
Hae-jun Lee
Comedies, Dramas, Foreign Movies, Romantic Movies, Foreign Comedies, Romantic Comedies, Foreign Dramas, Romantic Dramas, Romantic Foreign Movies, Korean Movies
This movie is:
Emotional, Imaginative, Romantic
I've been really into watching Korean movies lately.  Castaway on the moon is a fairly serious commentary on modern life. The commercialism, greed, consumption, our reliance on modern 'necessities' and our resulting crippling alienation from each other in the process.  While the overall them is quite heavy this movie has some pretty funny moments in it.  I found myself laughing out loud, crying and rooting for the characters - there are some very touching moments.  It is beautifully filmed...a near perfect film in my opinion.  So much about it works on so many levels.  The dichotomy of the hero being shipwrecked on an island in the middle of a bustling city-so close yet so far away.  A perfect metaphor for how so many of us live our lives today.  The heroine that has a self imposed alienation from the world, living in a virtual world, afraid of human contact also speaks to the modern way of life.  
There are some films that stay with you long after the last credits roll.  This is one such film.  It is truly amazing...easily one of the best films I've seen probably ever. 

I was really very surprised by how much I truly liked this film and found myself telling everyone about it.  I hope you'll take the time to give this film a watch. 

21 November 2011

The Law of Nines - Terry Goodkind

512 pages
Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (August 18, 2009)

  • ISBN-10: 0399156046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399156045
Turning twenty-seven may be terrifying for some, but for Alex, a struggling artist living in the midwestern United States, it is cataclysmic. Inheriting a huge expanse of land should have made him a rich and happy man; but something about this birthday, his name, and the beautiful woman whose life he just saved, has suddenly made him—and everyone he loves—into a target. A target for extreme and uncompromising violence . . . In Alex, Terry Goodkind brings to life a modern hero in a whole new kind of high-octane thriller. 


I haven't read this one.  It sounds interesting.  The reason why I am reviewing (sort of) this title here is because I am, like many others, beginning my annual holiday shopping.  There are a quite a number of people on my list that are clients. Some people on my list are just a tad more than acquaintances. Sometimes a gift needs just a little something extra.  You know, like when you get something small for your Aunt Sheila and you think she might notice that you only picked it up on the way out of Wal-Mart the day before Christmas?  And you feel guilty because you don't want to come across as a total cheapskate?  I'm just kidding.  Really, I don't shop at Wal-Mart.

Well, this year I'm approaching this thing from another angle altogether.  So, thus begins my holiday shopping list for all those lovely people that do not fall into my dearly loved category.  This is for all of you out there that I barely know and yet must buy a gift for.

The Law of Nines was a huge best seller.  Goodkind is apparently a very popular author and from what I can gather (no, I haven't read any of his books but let me tell ya' that I'm going to) he's had a TV show based on his books.  After reading (okay skimming) some reviews I gather that this book is part fantasy and part thriller.  Sounds good to me.  It should be mentioned that some reviewers said it had a slow start.  That's okay I guess because it has also been mentioned that the action does pick quite nicely.  

Now the good part.  Why is this on my list?  Why has this particular title been singled out?  The simple answer is the hardback is currently on sale for...$1.34.  It's one of dozens of Black Friday deals currently being offered on Amazon.  I figure that I can pick up maybe seven different titles from the list, get my total to twenty five dollars and have the lot of them delivered for free to my doorstep in just a few days.  Bam!  Seven people checked off my list.  I'm a happy camper.  With cash left over.

The Lake - Banana Yoshimoto

Translated by Michael Emmerich
While The Lake shows off many of the features that have made Banana Yoshimoto famous—a cast of vivid and quirky characters, simple yet nuanced prose, a tight plot with an upbeat pace—it’s also one of the most darkly mysterious books she’s ever written.
It tells the tale of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though … until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too.
They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake, she begins to piece together a series of clues that lead her to suspect his experience may have had something to do with a bizarre religious cult. . . .
With its echoes of the infamous, real-life Aum Shinrikyo cult (the group that released poison gas in the Tokyo subway system), The Lake unfolds as the most powerful novel Banana Yoshimoto has written. And as the two young lovers overcome their troubled past to discover hope in the beautiful solitude of the lake in the country- side, it’s also one of her most moving.


There is perhaps no other author like Banana Yoshimoto.  She writes with a spare beauty, delicately examining the nuances and secret places of the human heart.  In this, her latest novel, she quietly explores love and loss, alienation and fear.  Chihiro and Nakajima are wayward souls adrift in a sea of faceless humanity.  They manage to forge a cautious friendship that eventually leads them into each others arms. 

This is not necessarily new territory-a lot of authors write about love.  It is in the way Yoshimoto writes about love, her unique way of communicating the intricacies of such a complicated emotion that breathes new life into a well worn subject.  It is in her style, her precise use of language...each word placed with care and forethought, her innate realization that complexity begs for simplicity not the other way around.

I adore Banana Yoshimoto. I hope you will too.  I read her first novel, Kitchen, many years ago and have been enamored ever since.  If you ever get the opportunity to read one of her books I do suggest Kitchen but failing that The Lake is equally lovely. 

If you are so inclined there are discussion questions available for this book HERE.



BANANA YOSHIMOTO wrote her first novel, Kitchen, while working as a waitress at a golf-course restaurant. It sold millions of copies worldwide, and led to a phenomenon dubbed by Western journalists as “Banana-mania.” Yoshimoto has gone on to be one of the biggest-selling and most distinguished writers in Japanese history, winning numerous awards for her work. The Lake is her thirteenth book of fiction.
MICHAEL EMMERICH has translated numerous books by Banana Yoshimoto, and is also famous for his translations of Nobel Prize-winner Yasunari Kawabata.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

20 November 2011

Flourish in Progress

I discovered this blog a few months ago.  I haven't laughed so hard in...well, it's been a while.  The author is candid, outspoken, honest and hilarious. 

Anyway, I'll leave it up to you to peruse her pages at your leisure.  The reason I'm writing about her today is because last week she put out a request for 'gooder books' to read.  Every week she sets a little goal for herself and this last Monday it was to become more literate.  I know a lot of you that read my blog are quite well read and I thought maybe we could throw a few good titles her way.

Read her post here.

19 November 2011

Resonance - A.J. Scudiere

Dr. David Carter knows this. However, he’s a geologist, so ’soon’ means anywhere from tomorrow to a thousand years from now.
Drs. Jordan Abellard and Jillian Brookwood are standing at the edge of SuperAIDS. Or are they? They won’t be able to figure it out if they can’t get some authorization signed - and soon. But they’re peons and no one is paying attention. That means no one will notice a little forgery either, right?
Right now Dr. Becky Sorenson has some seriously mutated frogs in her lab. In L.A. Bees are making abnormal columns on the side of the freeways. In Georgia, birds are migrating out of season. It all makes a sick kind of sense when the doctors consider that the last magnetic shift is strangely coincidental to the dinosaur die-out. And the only similarity among the problems today is that each is occurring in a ‘hotspot’ - a pocket of reversed polarity that tells them all.


"The planet's northern magnetic pole is drifting slowly but steadily towards Russia -- and it's throwing off planes in Florida.
Tampa International Airport was forced to readjust its runways Thursday to account for the movement of the Earth's magnetic fields, information that pilots rely upon to navigate planes. Thanks to the fluctuations in the force, the airport has closed its primary runway until Jan. 13 to change taxiway signs to account for the shift, the Federal Aviation Administration said."  Read more: Here

I couldn't put it down, thank goodness it is a rather longish book at 484 pages.  As the ominous (really?) 21 December 2012 approaches I imagine we will be accosted by many doomsayers and fear mongers.  So, while this book was originally published in 2008 it is also a rather timely read (especially considering the recent slow drift of the poles that is currently happening...well, now.  Cue spooky music here, dum, dum, dum).

I love books like this.  It is solidly based in scientific fact with a dash of creative license thrown in.  It doesn't repeat itself over and over again the way some authors are wont to do especially when trying to explain rather complex ideas.  There is a bit of medical mystery, romance, scientific quandaries, quantum physics, biological mystery, and even some archeology in the mix.  So if you, like me, enjoy a good old fashioned race to beat the ticking clock type novel this one will leave you well sated.



It’s A.J.’s world.  A strange place where patterns jump out and catch the eye, very little is missed, and most of it can be recalled with a deep breath, it’s different from the world the rest of us inhabit.  But the rest of us can see it – when we read.  In this world, the smell of Florida takes three weeks to fully leave the senses and the air in Dallas is so thick that the planes “sink” to the runways rather than actually landing.
    For A.J., texture reigns supreme.  Whether it’s air or blood or virus, it can be felt and smelled.  School is a privilege and two science degrees (a BA and MS) are mere pats on the back compared to the prize of knowledge.  Teaching is something done for fun (and the illusion of a regular paycheck) and is rewarding at all levels, grade school through college.  No stranger to awards and national recognition for outstanding work as a teacher, trainer and curriculum writer, like most true teachers, the real joy for A.J. is in the “oh!” - the moment when the student sees the connection and it all makes sense.
    A.J. has lived in Florida and Los Angeles among a handful of other places.  Recent whims have brought the dark writer to Tennessee, where home is a deceptively normal looking neighborhood just outside Nashville.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

05 November 2011

Daylight Savings Time Is Here Again!

Don't Forget To "Fall" Back Sunday Night
06 November 2011

Daylight savings time explained in a handy dandy video:)

04 November 2011

Waiting to Forget - Sheila Kelly Welch

Waiting to Forget
Sheila Welch
Ages: 10 and up
Grades: 4th-8th
Pages: 172

T.J. has always looked out for his little sister, Angela. When Momma used to go out and leave them home alone, he'd lock the door so they'd be safe, keep Angela entertained, and get out the cereal and milk for her. When Momma's boyfriend got angry at them, he'd try to protect Angela. Later, at their foster homes, T.J. was the only one who knew how to coax his little sister out of her bad moods. The only one who understood why she made origami paper cranes and threw them out the window.

But now T.J. is sitting in the waiting room at the hospital, wondering if Angela, unconscious after a fall, will ever wake up. Wondering, too, if he will ever feel at home with his and Angela's new parents—Marlene, who insists on calling him Timothy, and Dan, who seems to want a different son.

Going back and forth between Now and Then, weaving the uncertain present with the painful past, T.J.'s story unfolds, and with the unfolding comes a new understanding of how to move forward.


I finished reading this book in a single day.  It felt like I was witnessing some sort of accident in slow motion, watching events unfold before my eyes and wondering how it all would turn out.  This story held a sort of morbid fascination for me.  As a mother I am always surprised by the depth of love I have for my child.  When she was born I was struck by the realization that I had never really known what love was until that precise moment she was laid in my arms.  Like, the emotion I had foolishly labled love was a cheap imitation, a vague pantomime of feeling that had no real substance. Whenever I read in the news about a child lost or neglected I am drawn into the story...it's like an itch.  I can't stop my morbid curiosity.  I read as tears well up and I grieve for the child, I pray for the parents-I pray and pray that all will be well.  To say that losing my child is my deepest fear is not giving that fear enough weight.  To say that I can not understand how any human being could willingly place their child in harm's way is understatement.  I can not make myself come to understand the selfishness, greed, vanity and carelessness that must be involved when a parent puts their needs before that of their child.

So I find myself drawn to stories of familial dysfunction in a need to find reasons.  Reasons why a parent would choose to abandon their child.  Reasons why a parent would choose to not love.  What is it that makes people tick?   I want to know why a mother would drown her children.  I want to know why a mother would leave her children alone.  I need to understand.  The tragedy needs to make sense for me or else I fear that I will lose any love for humanity that I have left.  Jesus taught us to love each other but how can I love a mother that leaves her baby to die?  How can I love a parent that willingly murders, abandons, hurts...

So I read these stories of loss and despair searching for that intangible something that will put the pieces into place.  I search the stories looking for any thing I can cling to that I could empathize with.  Some little bit that I could justify.  I pray that Jesus will help me along the way.  Help me to see these lost souls through His loving and forgiving eyes.

Waiting to Forget didn't really help me find the answers I seek.  I am beginning to think that some things can not be justified no matter what.  That, senseless acts of violence and neglect happen because people simply allow them to.  Perhaps they are lacking in an essential ingredient to their humanity...their ability to have empathy, their ability to feel anything besides primal hunger.

Waiting to Forget is a simple portrait of lives lived under less than ideal circumstances.  The author deftly avoids the darker aspects of child neglect and I for one am grateful for that.  Some things can not be unread so I am glad that the author treated her characters with a loving hand and by consequence she spares the reader the brunt of terrible acts that can not be undone.  At it's core this story is about the resiliency of the human spirit, of our ability to see hope which is at the core of our humanness.  That trait is God given and enables us to be survivors, it shows us daily the face of God lest we forget that He exists.  Hope is our gift.  We should use it wisely and give it freely.


Sheila Kelly Welch

I began writing and drawing before I started school. In first grade my black crayon was always worn down from making pictures of horses with long manes and flowing tails. In junior high school, I began to think about a career, and I actually wrote in my diary, "Maybe someday I'll make my own children's books, illustrations and all."
When I went to Temple University in Philadelphia, I majored in fine arts and also received a master's degree in education. In the next few years, my husband, Eric, and I began to raise our family. We bought and sold a farm in Minnesota, I taught school, and Eric decided to become a librarian.
Then, in 1981, I had open heart surgery. With my artificial valve ticking away, I knew that if "someday" was ever going to arrive, I'd better get busy. My first short story was published in 1983. Since then my short stories, often accompanied by my illustrations, have appeared in a number of magazines including Cricket, Children's Playmate, Girls' Life, The Friend, Ladybug, Cicada, and Spider. Several of my short stories have been published in language arts textbooks. I've also written and/or illustrated fourteen books for children of various ages.
Now I live in the country near Forreston, Illinois with my husband and a menagerie of pets. We have seven grown-up children and seven grandchildren. I enjoy volunteering at the local animal shelter and visiting nursing homes with my certified therapy dog. Raven and I also participate in the "Paws for Reading" program at the library. Children read aloud to the dogs.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.