Wednesday, August 1, 2018

MG Book Review: Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard

Just Like JackieJust Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A repost of my review on Kidliterati 

Robinson Hart isn’t a baby robin. She’s the only person to stand up to Alex Carter, the biggest bully in fifth-grade, and he’d better watch his mouth. Grandpa taught her how to seal transmission fluid, but nothing’s going to seal Alex’s mouth or the bloody nose she just gave him. “Robbie” Robinson’s a spitfire and a darn good baseball player. Her best friend Derrick, the opposite of everything she is, runs to her aid on the schoolyard, proclaiming it’s not her fault. “That’s why people need moms, or they end up like her,” Alex Baby Carter cries in defense.

Robinson’s never known her mother or father. All she’s had is Grandpa even if people stare, wondering how they could be related. He’s a black man, and she’s white, he raised her and named her after Jackie Robinson. Now it’s she, who’s taking care of him. Grandpa’s showing signs of Alzheimer’s, and Robbie hates when he’s called into school, on days she’s forgotten to count to ten or read baseball stats in her head to calm down. Whenever I’m bad he forgets more.

Robbie’s wants suspension, then she can help Grandpa in the garage all day, every day for the rest of her life. She’s really good at it, good thing because Grandpa’s forgetting his words and his memory gets tired, and she can’t have anyone wondering if he’s unfit to raise a child. She’s his right-hand and Harold, who’s practicing to be a dad while awaiting an adoption with his partner Paul, is Grandpa’s left-hand in the garage. She knows everything about repairing cars and tapping sugar maple trees.

When her fifth-grade class is given a family tree assignment. Robbie doesn’t know her mother’s name or anything about her family, and her grandfather’s quickly forgetting everything. Robbie needs to find out. Gloria, the guidance counselor, invites a group to discuss their emotions and work on the family tree project, but there’s no way Robbie’s having any of it. Especially since Gloria invited the bully, Alex Carter into the group.

A heartfelt and realistic depiction of living with someone with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s particularly painful reading how a child deals with her grandfather’s struggle. A beautifully written book, with great sensitivity, along with fantastic baseball and mechanic metaphors, we also learn a little about tapping sugar maples in Vermont. And what it looks like when we misjudge others and the lives they live, or the suffering we know nothing about, and then discovering your archenemy might have a heart after all.

Suggested for grade level: 3-7. A moving and powerful reading experience.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Families Belong Together! But NOT Incarcerated Together.

Once again, we marched. 

Thousands upon thousands marched over the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC! 

We march in over 800 cities worldwide for Families Belong Together because of the ZERO Tolerance policy the Trump Administration has implemented that separates children from their parents for misdemeanors, or for seeking asylum. I don’t watch the network news stations and prefer to read my journalism from various unbiased sources – and videos take too long to distribute information.

You can you see things in black and white when you read. There’s so much BS from this administration, and when I learned that corporate media wasn’t confronting Trump or the GOP, I was astounded. The gaslighting happening right now from this treasonous POTUS is gut-wrenching and so effing frustrating and it’s So BLATANT. How can the major news outlets NOT CONFRONT TRUMP? It’s their job.

We must also protect our journalists, and free speech, and the 1st amendment – all under attack. Trump is playing Putin. Everything he does is from the Putin playbook. Follow Sarah Kendzior author of The View From Flyover Country. She saw all of this coming!

I’ve written letters to the editor, to my representatives, I’ve called, marched, sat-in.
I won’t stop raising my voice, and we need MORE people to do this. Especially those with privilege! If we don’t protect the most vulnerable in this nation – who will? Those who have taken the helm of the U.S. government are hell-bent on destroying the gains we’ve marched for, stealing as much as they can. The Trump family is rife with con artists and absolute criminals. New Yorkers knew this. No one listened. I marched and spoke out during the Bush years. I will not rest. I’m not young, but I sure am fired up and energetic.

Thank you, Maxine Waters, (i love you!) for saying what more of our Reps need to say and they need to stand up and call out the treason, and the absurdity that a president under criminal investigation – could select our next Supreme Court Justice. Absolutely NOT! Especially since Justice Kennedy’s son, Justin may have supplied Trump the $1 Billion loan at Deutsche Bank, when no one else would. How many of Justice Kenny’s decisions over the last two years, including Gorsuch’s stolen seat, are illegitimate?
That’s what I want the news reporters to ask. The corruption is OFF THE CHARTS.
Here’s an overview from one of my favorite news columnists, also an attorney and professor, Seth Abramson. He’s helped save my sanity through all of this. (Follow him if you’re on Twitter @SethAbramson)

Seth’s breakdown:
“I have this terrible fear Mueller will wrap up his investigation and we'll discover that all Trump did is * launder hundreds of millions of dollars * accept hundreds of millions in bribes * conspire to blackmail the FBI into reopening Clinton's case * aid and abet Russian crimes. * committed 25+ acts of felony Obstruction * tampered with 10+ federal witnesses * conspired to offer pardons for silence * sold U.S. foreign policy for private gain * lied 3,000+ times to voters.
* knowingly hired Russian agents * instructed aides to illegally negotiate US policy * forced his son to issue a false statement about a felony * spent the campaign negotiating secret business deals with Russia. * knowingly hired Russian agents * instructed aides to illegally negotiate US policy * forced his son to issue a false statement about a felony * spent the campaign negotiating secret business deals with Russia. * lied repeatedly about releasing his tax returns * admitted to being a serial sexual assailant * never recused himself from his businesses as he promised us pre-election. * nearly tweeting us into nuclear war, claiming he averted it/deserved a Nobel Prize, only to have North Korea punk him like a schmuck * nearly crashing Earth's economy daily with policies he brain-farted on Twitter. * picking judges from someone else's list * knowing less about every issue than anyone in the room * changing his position on every issue * betraying his constituencies with policies he hid while campaigning. So you conservatives can only imagine the embarrassment and sense of being a silly snowflake we progressives feel daily at knowing that we know only 10% of what Robert Mueller does and yet having absolutely no basis to doubt this man's actions, judgment, or policies.”

No doubt there’ll be additions to this list before the day is through.

Stand UP. Call out Bigots. This POTUS is a racist and a horrendous person. Wouldn’t even drop the American Flag at half-mast to honor the journalists killed by his constant hate on the free press “the media” -- what a blanket statement, as in all media? Sounds like Putin, no? Vilify the media, have people mistrust their government – making them ripe for the pickings and for propaganda!     

*Update: POTUS lowers the flag after pressure to do so.  (as I wrote this post!)

Call out the lies!  Call out the hate. LOVE WILL WIN.  


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

MG Book Review: Stef Soto,Taco Queen

Stef Soto, Taco QueenStef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A repost from my review on The Kidliterati Blog. 

Tía Perla, the jewel of the family Soto –Not. Smelling of jalapenos and cooking oil that “clings to your hair and crawls under your fingernails.” The Tía Perla was fine when Estefania, “Stef” was younger, it meant corn chips and sodas for all her friends and being playground royalty. But she’s had enough of the truck taking over her life.

She’s in middle school now, and her parent’s drop her off with the taco truck. No one gets picked up by their parents anymore. Stef wants a little independence and not constantly associated with the taco truck and to walk alone to school. She’s been negotiating for months. Mami and Papi wouldn’t even think of leaving her alone, and once again, she’s scooped into another taco truck adventure with her Papi, picking up friends along the way, creating recipes, and bringing people together.

When Papi fires up his grill, the Banda music plays, and the mouth-watering flavors sizzle off the page. Lexi has mixed feeling about the Tía Perla. But she helps her father, while her mother works at the 24-hour grocery, and when he needs her to help him save the family business, Lexi must find her voice and she discovers just how much the taco truck means to her.

A heartwarming book that brings the strength of family, first-generation immigrants, and finding your voice together in this delightful middle grade, while also learning a little Spanish, but be warned: You will become unbearably hungry while reading this book!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Free Fiction Fridays!

I have a few short stories on Wattpad lingering and since I seem to have more traffic on my blog, I'm going to try something new called #FFF or #FreeFictionFridays. I'll leave a short story or a chapter every Friday, and if you blog and would like to join me, please do! And leave a link in the comments, I'll happily visit your blog to read. 
This story is from a vision I kept having from about the age of five, the light through the trees, the helicopters, with no idea why this visual returned over and over, I used the image like paint and clay and sculpted a scene.  #SFF

What They Leave Behind  
Kylie is being blamed for Sadie's disappearance, and no one is buying his alien story. How will he prove his innocence? 
I remember hearing a helicopter. The leaves soaked in sunshine made them translucent, but I couldn't see anything. A clear summer day, and I was playing with friends near the Airforce base. Helicopters certainly weren't unusual.
The only time I left their sight was when I went under that tree for a little privacy. Helicopters, and sunlight, that was my only recollection. When I came out, one of my friends shouted, "What happened to your head?"
Sure enough, I reached until I found the wet, warm spot, and had a look. Blood! My head didn't hurt. And I had no idea what happened. I didn't remember being scared. I know now, the head bleeds profusely, but this happened when I was seven years old.
I walked with my friends to the base; my mom approached me, fast and frightened, asking what had happened.
"That's probably when it started, Doctor Murphy, the missing time. Isn't that what they say?"
"The Abducted. They always mention missing time, and."
I stopped. I wasn't sure what they said. I might have heard Dillon say something, once. Dillon's been trying to keep me sane through this.
"What about the other time, with Sadie?" he asked.
"That's what we're here for ... " I settled back into the chair. I knew he'd make me go through it again. I much preferred the times when I couldn't remember anything. This wasn't going to be fun.
"Sadie and I were walking, out on 9D. Pretty dark, you know. It was last Monday, just after the sunset. There are always lights, by the way, floating around, especially right before they come."
I had to take a breath. I couldn't control this wavering pain in my stomach, the wave machine, and my hands were shaking. I rubbed the sweat on my pants and re-crossed my legs, stiff from sitting here too long. I'd hate to lie down, never know if he wiped the couch.
"Just go slow," he said.
Yes slow, the images always run in slow motion.
"The darkness was unreal. With the new moon, you could see the stars to infinity. We started walking toward the river, and first, our legs slowed, then our arms. I looked at her and everything on Sadie's face vibrated, every line and wrinkle. And then the lines on the trees vibrated like maybe they were slowing down, too. Or their matter was breaking up? It's hard to put into words. Dillon said that's what happens."
"And you and Sadie hadn't been drinking? Or anything?"
He did that fatherly thing again, where his glasses dropped down his nose.
What if we did use drugs? We didn't, but come on. It's a judgment call. He's calling it.
I watched out his office window. His daughter was playing with dolls near the woods.
"That's when we saw it," I said.
"And when they took her?" He flexed his jowls as he took notes.
He loved this part and wanted me to say it again. I nodded. "They said they were watching, and that Sadie had a contract with them."
"That's what they told you?"
"Yes, not like we talked, but they did. They said her family had a contract from years ago. Why don't you ask them a few questions? Honestly, I think you really should."
I couldn't breathe again. I watched the little girl through the window. Dust particles floated through the beam of sunlight. I wanted to float away with the dust.
"Why do you suppose they didn't take you?" he asks.
"Said they did, many times. Guess my number wasn't up for this trip?" I laughed, sort of. But it wasn't funny. My nerves were impossible to settle. They're always watching. I screamed for them to release her.
"That was only a week ago ... "
"Yes. Well, Kylie, you're still under investigation for Sadie's disappearance. I believe you, somehow, I do. I've heard a case or two, similar to yours, and yes, there was missing time with those cases, but how to get the police to believe it, and a lawyer, not so easy."
"Unless she comes back," I said.
He looked at me; man, he can drop eyeglasses on a dime, and said, "Yes, if she comes back."
"They hang around military bases, you know, like the one in Maine, where I lived as a kid."
Doctor Murphy stood up. "The officers are here." He put his clipboard down, and briefly checked on his daughter from the window. Then he went to greet the officers, waiting in the next room.
"Time's up," said officer Frank.
I was already standing, and he took my arms by force. I didn't resist. Doctor Murphy winced.
They could hang me for this.
I told them everything I saw. How she split in two: one bubble and one transparent body. Her "earthly" body or whatever you call it, disappeared - poof, without a trace. I'm the only trace. Everything leads to me.
Doctor Murphy said he believed me, but I don't buy it. I'm escorted, or more accurately, towed, to the police car. Head shoved under and in, like a deranged killer. Or someone they think is trying to get by on an insanity charge.
Where's the body? Just tell us where the body is? That's what they'd asked. I stopped telling them what happened to her body.
Once, years ago, listening to the radio the music changed to a song that answered a question on my mind. It got my attention. The lights flickered and I knew they were there. "How long have you been doing this?" I whispered.
The Cindy Lauper song, Time After Time played. The station was set to a rock-n-roll only broadcast.
"For years?" I asked in response to the song's title. "What did you do to me when I was seven-years-old?"
You are here to help, this earthy role is not your own. You wanted it this way. It's not good to know too much, or you won't want to stay.
I felt lighter after that and it lasted a couple years. But when my dog was killed, I knew it could only be them. All the blood drained from his terrier body. Why my dog? Never an explanation just cruelty.
And they were sloppy, leaving a sticky residue. The bioluminescent fluid they leave behind like slugs. Even left traces of it on the radio dial after our "conversation".
What if the police found bioluminescent residue near the river? Would that create enough doubt? They'd investigated during the day. Maybe they never saw it glow at night?
"I need to call my lawyer," I said through the wire mesh.
"Yes, at the station."
When we arrived they shut me into a holding tank. I waited for my parents to come with the lawyer. I was innocent. No one believed what really happened.
Why make me suffer you bully-aliens? You couldn't stick around to take the heat? Gonna let the human go down for it?
The bunk was cold and without a blanket to keep warm I crossed my arms and started to cry. I was lost. Even Dillon couldn't help.
A ball of light floated into the room. It bounced about and settled at the foot of the bunk.
"You're crying," it was Sadie's voice.
"Sadie, is that you?"
"Yes, Kylie, I can see you."
"Are you all right?"
"I'm perfect. But you ... I had no idea."
"What? That you could disappear without a trace and I wouldn't look suspicious?"
"You're going to be fine," she said.
"What are they doing to you?"
"I'm fulfilling my agreement. My parents will come. And you, Kyle, have a family here. They're waiting for your "timing". The time must be right or the cross-pattern will hiccup, and mess-up all the timelines," she said, her voice growing distant.
"I have a family?"
"Yes, two boys and a daughter. Your daughter plays with mine."
I sat up on the hard cot and looked around. Was I hallucinating? The light orb grew larger and I saw Sadie through the sheen. Glowing, like an otherworldly God. She smiled.
"I have a family?"
"Yes, Kylie and your dog is here with them."
I rubbed my eyes. Rubbed them until eyelashes fell off.
"When do I get to see them?" I asked, despite the impossibility.
"Are you ready to leave your parents in this world? They won't remember until they die what happened to you."
I nodded.
"Come, Kylie, fall into the orb. I will bring you to them. It's a little soon, but we decided we could not let you continue to suffer, for what you didn't do."
The light orb danced up and down and grew larger. Sadie stood there, bright as day, looking much the same only more beautiful and filled with a brighter light.
Footsteps came down the hall. I think I heard my mother's voice. I would miss my family."
"Come, Kylie. The conduit is closing."
I stood up and leaped into the orb. The cell door opened. My father and the guard came in first and then my mother. They must have seen something because Mom put her hands over her mouth and the guard reached into the air and came away empty-handed. Their heads were now fixed on the ceiling.
I floated with Sadie in the orb. Dad yelled that the light was too bright and Momma began to cry. She screamed my name while clutching at the air.
I wanted to tell her I'd see her again.
The End

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Writers and Loneliness

As a full-time writer, some days feel I’m on the outside looking in. The buffet has been set before me, but where’s my seat?  

I write at my day job, the family café, and it’s by no means alone. While not always the easiest place to concentrate, with the random visitors. I’m thankful I’m not sequestered away, hidden in my dark apartment.

The loneliness, the insecurity, the silence, and the doubts, all writers go through this at some point. I was delighted discovering the name for this malaise and uncertainty. I have my writing groups to discuss anything publishing, but still, it’s hard knowing when to bug them or allow time to pass. 

Where to turn?  Inside.    

One less way to be consumed by fears and doubt -- Write it out!

Everyone has a struggle, whether it’s publishing or personal. I find returning to my journal to explore my fears and doubts has helped. Growing up, I always kept a diary. My single- immigrant mother raised us and surviving was a blessing. Eating a wholesome meal was a blessing. Writing in journals saved my creativity in many ways, and reading the journals years later I’ve gleaned a greater awareness about younger me: the patterns of behavior when the second-guessing strikes, and not be too hard on myself because I see the patterns.

An inspiring quote, by biologist and author Rachel Carson. We’re by no means alone.

You are wise enough to understand that being “a little lonely” is not a bad thing. A writer’s occupation is one of the loneliest in the world, even if the loneliness is only an inner solitude and isolation, for that he must have at times if he is to be truly creative. And so I believe only the person who knows and is not afraid of loneliness should aspire to be a writer. But there are also rewards that are rich and peculiarly satisfying.



Tuesday, April 24, 2018

YA Review: Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton

Heart of ThornsHeart of Thorns by Bree Barton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a repost from my review on Kidliterati. 

In a Kingdom where “Gods forbid a woman ever express a sound belief” two sisters, 17-year-old Mia Rose and 15-year-old Angelyne, challenge this belief. Mia wants to be a Huntress, not married off to the prince and continue her mission fighting Gwyrach and their menacing magic.

The girls of the Kaer Killian wear gloves, for the fear anyone one of them could be a murderous Gwyrach, and a threat. “Women who, through their touch could manipulate the flesh, bone, breath, and blood of their victims.”

Mia Rose prepares for her escape; her father, who loved her mother, now dead, has forced her into a loveless marriage. Only “She has work to do and a sister to save.”
Her sister’s fighting a mysterious illness, since staying in the ancient citadel carved from a mountain of ice, her lady in waiting during the month-long engagement.

A demon, half-god, half-human, killed her mother and destroyed their lives. It’s Mia’s mission to find that Gwyrach once they escape. But her sister, Angelyne won’t go, and Mia can’t leave her behind. She insists the life Mia hates and wants to escape isn’t so bad.

Mia’s marriage to the prince continues as planned. Even after overhearing him call her dangerous. During the wedding dinner, Mia vows to strike fear in every living Gwyrach, once she’s princess.

Her father secretly hands Mia her mother’s journal. Her mother wanted Mia to have it when she was ready. She discovers her mother’s secrets as the blank pages reveal what she needs to know in due time. Changing all her preconceived beliefs.

Five hundred pairs of eyes await the union, marking the alliance of two great houses. The prince falls into Mia’s arms, wounded by an arrow, and they make their escape. When Mia tries to save his life, her entire world is thrown into chaos, and the adventure is just getting started.

A gorgeously written fantasy with nail-biting suspense, and twists that’ll leave your mouth gaping. A familiar world, a little too familiar, where powerful women and girls are seen as dangerous, feared, and kept bottled up, or on display. Many of the truths are painfully similar to the struggles of our time. Written with a poignant message about feminism and love.

Sometimes love is the stronger choice.

*Wish I could format the italics properly.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 20, 2018

Reality Check!

I haven’t posted much over the last couple months, drafting two new manuscripts, one’s a YA, and with a beta reader, the other a middle-grade I’ve started revising. Some days it feels like I’m running out of time.
Do you ever feel this way, as a writer?
I’m fortunate the years of wrestling for writing time finally produced. Maybe it’s my age, (the fear of death) the spinning of the Earth, or moving toward the galactic center, but I cannot write fast enough.

Or it could be I’m hiding in my writing to escape the world!
But it doesn’t last.
When the pages of my fictional world close, the world around me opens.

Today’s reality check was the Student Walk Out! I stand in solidarity!

The NRA is a terrorist organization.  #NeverAgain

While the so-called leaders, ruin our democracy, I find hope and leadership in the children of the USA. Go, Team!