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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Children's Past Lives

Children's Past Lives: How Past Life Memories Affect Your Child by Carol Bowman is a ground-breaking book written by one of the few people who has investigated the ability of some young children to remember past lives and look for commonalities between them. Her own reincarnation memories of dying in a Nazi gas chamber in one life and suffering from a lung disease in another surfaced in her current life as a debilitating and unexplained illness. Remembering her earlier lives freed her from her lung ailment in this life and started her on the search for answers.

One of the things she discovered is that young children move in and out of a light trance much more easily than adults. When her son experienced extreme terror at a 4th of July fireworks show, she was amazed at how easy it was for him to remember his past life in the American Civil War simply by being asked to think of the fireworks. Because of her research, she has been able to identify how a parent can distinguish when a young child is remembering a past life versus telling a creative story and most importantly, how parents can help their child by accepting their memories and using them to help the child heal from emotional wounds. The most common cause for children remembering a past life she discovered are in having experienced a difficult or unexpected death or the feeling of having unfinished business. Young children may need help understanding that the memories they have of this earlier time happened in another body and reassurance that they are in a new body with a new family and that they are safe.

This book is well-researched and documented and the stories are fascinating. I recommend this book to anyone with young children, but even though mine are grown and out of the nest, the insights are still helpful in understanding some qualities that I observed in them that did not seem to come from my parenting, but perhaps were brought with them from earlier lives.

One of the issues the author addresses is how the belief in reincarnation has been repressed by organized religions, even though there is evidence for it in scripture and its history can be traced to very ancient times throughout the world. Parents confronted with a child who talks about her other mother or how she died may have to adjust their thinking to include this new information, but most are able to do this without losing their faith. Instead, this knowledge often deepens their faith.

It's like stumbling upon a dewy spider's web, with the sun glistening on it at just the right angle. We suddenly see the intricate strands that connect us to all people and events in our lives. We realize that nothing happens by chance; coincidences suddenly have meaning. We get a glimpse of the gossamer patterns that connect all things between the inner and outer worlds. But we might have missed it if our small child hadn't pulled us by the hand and pointed it out to us.

Click on the title of this post to visit the author's website.

Don't Call Them Ghosts

The Spirit Children of Fontaine Manse:
A True Story

I read this book about four years ago. I was attracted by the title and the cover image of the child looking out of the window along with the fact that it is told as a true story.

Kathleen McConnell falls in love with the Louisville, Kentucky house known as the Fontaine Manse as a 19 year old. She often sees it while riding by on the city bus and frequently sees a child looking out of the window. She dreams of living, not just in any house, but of living in that house.

Many times I saw a little girl standing at the upstairs window. She always waved as the bus went by and I'd put the palm of my hand flat against the window. I knew she couldn't see me that far away, but I'd made the gesture to return her wave.

Eight years later, in 1971, married with children and a baby on the way, she and her husband buy the old house, which has been languishing unsold on the market for years, at a bargain price. Shortly after moving in, she realizes that they are not alone and that she must make peace with the spirits of the house if they are to live together safely. She wisely begins to communicate respectfully to the spirits and gradually learns more about them, starting with the fact that there are three and they are all children.

As they come to know and trust her, they help her out by hiding her husband's gun which he keeps under the mattress (and which she is afraid her children might find) and watching out for baby Duncan, playing with him to keep him entertained and once even saving his life. While she is never able to ascertain the exact identities of the spirits, she is able to draw some conclusions about how they died and why they are still in her home. After becoming very ill and having a Near Death Experience, she is even able to see them.

There she was–the same little girl I had seen years ago. She was standing at the front window of Duncan's nursery, holding the rag doll from the old toy box in the attic, silently saying, "It's me, it's me . . . "

Kathleen McConnell is not a professional writer, but she tells a clear, coherent tale, and it is the story itself that is compelling and heart wrenching. I have to admit I sometimes skimmed over the details of her daily household routine to get to the action sequences.

After five years, the family sold the house, but before moving, Kathleen was finally ready and able to help her young spirits find resolution and peace. It may seem to the reader that she takes a long time to get to this point, but she was living in a different time, and information about how to help wayward spirits was not as readily available then as now. She also did not feel comfortable talking about her experiences with her children and her husband, her children because she did not want to scare them, her husband because he seemed skeptical. It was only after she wrote the book that her children admitted that each had his or her own story to tell about the ghost children of Fontaine Manse.

To learn more about this book and read an interview with the author, click on the title of this post.

Favorite Authors: Ellis Peters

Edith Pargeter, writing as Ellis Peters, penned a beautifully written series of "medieval whoddunits" featuring Brother Cadfael, the herbalist at Shrewsbury Abbey. A man of the cloth during the Civil War between King Stephen and Empress Maud in 12th Century England, Cadfael was not always so committed to the causes of peace. He had been a soldier in his youth who fought in the Crusades and hung around the Middle East for a large part of his life, even fathering a child, although he did not know this until much later. He returned to England and sought the peace and sanctuary of the cloister.

In his retirement, Cadfael is much in demand by the community round about for his knowledge of medicines, but his ability to sort out the mystery of One Corpse Too Many leads to an ongoing partnership with the local Undersheriff, Hugh Beringar. Cadfael frequently needs Hugh's help since Prior Robert and Brother Jerome, those stern upholders of the Vow of Obedience, often serve as obstacles to progress, and Hugh seeks his guidance to help him sort out the guilty from the innocent. Cadfael's knowledge of the human heart comes in as handy as his keen observation and knowledge of local plants and paths. The author's knowledge of these and the history of the times provide a wonderful journey into the past.

Count on Cadfael to bring the guilty to justice, to free those ensnared by unjust circumstances, and occasionally to look the other way or even assist in the escape of those he deems to have acted in the cause of justice. Cadfael has compiled a wealth of wisdom on his journey through life, and while his commitment to God is complete, his application of God's law occasionally takes a Cadfaelian twist.

Ellis Peters died in 1995 at the age of 82, so I'm sorry to say there won't be any more Cadfael novels. I was happy that she was able to bring the story to a close in the final novel, Brother Cadfael's Penance, in which his relationship with his son Olivier was finally brought out into the light.

PBS produced a series of 13 episodes from the books, which are available on DVD. These were well-done, expensively filmed and starred Derek Jakobi as Brother Cadfael. You can view photos from the films here: http://www.linsdomain.com/Derek/mainpages/jacobi-cadfael.htm and I have included a couple of photos of him in the graphic above. The top right shows him with the author, Ellis Peters, and the bottom right a scene from my favorite novel: The Virgin in the Ice.

The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael
1. A Morbid Taste for Bones (1977)
2. One Corpse Too Many (1979)
3. Monk's-Hood (1980)
4. St. Peter's Fair (1981)
5. The Leper of Saint Giles (1981)
6. The Virgin in the Ice (1982)
7. The Sanctuary Sparrow (1983)
8. The Devil's Novice (1983)
9. Dead Man's Ransom (1984)
10. The Pilgrim of Hate(1984)
11. An Excellent Mystery (1985)
12. The Raven in the Foregate (1986)
13. The Rose Rent (1986)
14. The Hermit of Eyton Forest (1987)
15. The Confession of Brother Haluin (1988)
A Rare Benedictine (1988)
16. The Heretic's Apprentice (1989)
17. The Potter's Field (1989)
18. The Summer of the Danes (1991)
19. The Holy Thief (1992)
20. Brother Cadfael's Penance (1994)

There are several good links to websites where you can learn more about the Cadfael novels:

Here you can find a complete bibliography of all the writings of Edith Pargeter: http://user.chollian.net/~beringar/e-book.htm

A Certain Slant of Light

The novel by Laura Whitcomb,
not the poem by Emily Dickinson

This is the best ghost story I have ever read. I stumbled onto this book by first-time novelist, Laura Whitcomb, and couldn't put it down. I loaned it to a mature 8th grader, and she finished it and loaned it to her next door neighbor, all in the course of a weekend. From there it went to a fellow teacher. Within a week, four readers had devoured this story.

It's a ghost story, but it's also a love story: the story of two ghosts who meet and fall in love and how they free not only themselves, but two living teenagers from their own individual versions of hell.

Helen, who has been a ghost for 130 years has only been able to keep herself from being dragged into a watery hell by attaching herself to various living hosts through the years. She is lonely, but resigned to her circumstances, until she is startled by a teenage boy, a student in the English class of her current host, looking directly at her

This is how she meets James, a spirit who has been wandering around near his former home since his death in World War I. He shows her how to take over the body of classmate, whose spirit has departed, leaving a living shell behind. They are able to be together for a while, but struggle to deal with the issues left behind and the demands of the very different families of the young people whose bodies they now inhabit.

Ms. Whitcomb writes beautifully and compellingly of their love and attraction to each other and of the issues that must be settled for them to be together.

I rose and began to flow slowly away. I could feel the flutter as I passed through James––he had put out his arm, pretending to stretch, as I was leaving. We were as close to touching as one spirit and mortal could for a moment. I started to imagine putting my arms around him but was stopped suddenly by a wall of cold blocking me. Blinded, I reached up and felt wet mud, the slime of a leaking dirt cellar or the bottom of a grave. I had let Mr. Brown leave me behind. I pushed against the coldness, and it gave way in messy pieces, the chill now running down over me like rain on my face. I had no voice with which to call out. I dug through the mud, hearing students laugh, buses, trash can lids rattling. I felt cement under my feet and then the darkness was pierced with white. I was sitting in the back seat of Mr. Brown's car, the sun blinding me in the rearview window.

One reason I liked this story and why I'm writing about it here is how well and genuinely the author addressed the issue of why Helen and James had been trapped as ghosts. This remains a mystery until the last few pages, but in the end you understand that any one of us could have been similarly ensnared. This novel has a lot to say about the issues of free will, self-determination, the nature of hell and the possibility of redemption. I won't tell you how this story ends, but I can tell you that you'd better have a full box tissue handy!

Favorite Authors: Lauren Haney

Lauren Haney, author of the Lieutenant Bak mysteries. Haney's novels about the hardworking policeman of ancient Egypt are full of dust and sweat and realistic depictions of the people and politics of upper Egypt during the rein of Queen Hatshepsut. These novels are great mysteries with characters who come alive as real people. She has opened my mind to what Egypt was like in the way a history book never could.

Our hero, Lieutenant Bak, managed to get himself in trouble with Queen Maatkare Hatshepsut, one of the few women to rule Egypt, when he raided the wrong house of pleasure, one favored by the Egyptian elite. So, he basically got demoted, and sent south to Upper Egypt to a remote outpost, the fortress of Buhen along the Nile, where he must work hard to redeem himself acting as the local chief of police.

I like Lieutenant Bak, not just because he is tall, good looking, and knows how to fight from a chariot, but because he is intelligent, smarter than the average Egyptian; ethical, which is how he got into his current line of work; and without prejudice. He works with the Medjay troops, the local police force, made up of Nubians from the local area. There are Nubian rebels to deal with out in the desert as well, so there's a level of cautionary distrust between most Egyptians and most Nubians, but Lieutenant Bak trusts his troops and develops a close relationship with them that helps him get out of many a tough spot. The mysteries are well thought out; the research into the historical background enriches the stories; the glimpses into a life lived long ago in a land so different from our own is a real plus.

Take a journey to Egypt with Lieutenant Bak as he travels the Nile, hunts for bandits or missing travelers in the desert, or chases down a murderer across the rooftops of Buhen. You won't be disappointed.

Lieutenant Bak novels in order of publication:
The Right Hand of Amon (1997)
A Face Turned Backward (1999)
A Vile Justice (1999)
A Curse of Silence (2000)
A Place of Darkness (2001)
A Cruel Deceit (2002)
Flesh of the God (2003)
A Path of Shadows (2003)

There will be no more Lieutenant Bak books, according to the author, but she is hopefully working on a new book. Read more about that here: http://mysteryscenemag.com/whw98.pdf

Favorite Authors: Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich, author of the hysterically funny novels about bond enforcement agent Stephanie Plum. Stephanie is from the Burg, a section of Trenton, New Jersey, and she takes a job working for her deviant cousin Vinny as a bounty hunter, because she is desperate for a job. She likes to wear 3-inch stiletto heels, shop at the mall, and eat donuts a lot more than chase bad guys, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Stephanie can always be counted on to catch the bad guy and wreak havoc in the process with the help of crazy Lula and Grandma Mazur (or maybe not) and Morelli and Ranger, the two absolutely to-die-for men in her life who keep her spinning and occasionally even satisfied, if you know what I mean.

Morelli is "lean and hard muscled with wary cop eyes that softened in the bedroom," where he has never left Stephanie unsatisfied. He's also "six foot of lean, hard muscle and hot Italian libido." In spite of that, she resists his attempts to settle down into a permanent relationship. Notice how that phrase "lean, hard muscled" gets used a lot. It works every time for me.

Ranger is "Rambo meets Batman," a bounty hunter's bounty hunter; wears black, drives black cars, has muscles on top of other muscles; think the Rock. He doesn't say much. He usually just looks at the mess Stephanie has gotten herself into and says, "Babe." He normally goes after the big ticket bad guys for the bond agency, but backs Stephanie up when he's in town and she's in trouble. Their relationship has grown over the course of the books. Stephanie manages to resist his sexual overtures most of the time. Note, I said, MOST of the time.

Lula, an ample black woman who wears the dresses of a much smaller woman, is a former prostitute who becomes Stephanie's best friend and sidekick after Stephanie put the man who nearly killed her away. Stephanie got Lula a job filing for the agency, but she's more likely to be found riding shotgun (and that includes carrying a big gun) with Stephanie or giving her a lift during the frequent times she is between cars, usually because her current one has been blown up.

Grandma Mazur is curious, fearless, bloodthirsty and willing to try anything. She's not going into old age with anything approaching dignity. One can only assume that Stephanie inherited her high spirits from her Grandma Mazur.

Did you catch the part about these books being hysterically funny? You don't have to be from the Burg or live in New Jersey to relate to Stephanie. Few aspire to be bounty hunters, but who can't relate to living with a dysfunctional family, wanting to do bad things to that old enemy from high school, problems finding a good job and keeping the rent paid? But Janet Evanovich takes these to the extreme with the wild and frequently embarrassing episodes that Stephanie experiences while trying to get her man (or woman) to court and collect her fee.

The dialogue may be funny, but the bad guys are really bad guys. Bad things happen in these books, sometimes to nice people. It's a rare book that doesn't have Stephanie's car getting blown up, but it's when the bad guy hurts a friend or threatens her hamster, Rex, that Stephanie really gets riled up. She's frequently terrified, but never lets that get in the way of trying to nab the perp. That's one reason these books are so successful, they are witty and wild, but the danger is real and and Stephanie needs to figure out where the danger is really coming from before the bad guy(s) can kill again. But no matter how terrifying the situation, Ms. Evanovich and Stephanie find the humor in it. Here's an example. Stephanie has been kidnapped, shoved in a trunk by a gang who have every intention of doing her severe bodily harm, starting with gang rape:

I'd always thought in a situation like this the major emotion I'd feel would be terror, but my major emotion was anger. I'd been taken away from my sister's shower. How freaking rude is that? And on top of it, I was still dieting, and I was cranky as hell. There'd been meatballs at the shower. And sheet cake. I'd been steadily working myself into a frenzy while I was in the trunk, thinking about the sheet cake. I glared out at the faces of the degenerate losers who'd kidnapped me, and I wanted to get close enough to them to sink my thumbs into their eye sockets. I wanted to draw blood with my nails. (Ten Big Ones)

You can also get these books on audio CD. My husband and son enjoy listening to them on long road trips.

To get a feel for the characters, check the "Cast the Stephanie Plum" thread on this fan website: http://www.grupthink.com/topic/1878

One for the Money
Two for the Dough
Three to Get Deadly
Four to Score
High Five
Hot Six
Seven Up
Hard Eight
Visions of Sugar Plums (Holiday Novella)
To the Nines
Ten Big Ones
Eleven on Top
Twelve Sharp
Plum Lovin' (Holiday Novella)
Lean Mean Thirteen
Plum Lucky (Holiday Novella)

Click on the title of this post to visit the author's website.

Favorite Authors: Lindsey Davis

Lindsey Davis, author of the Marcus Didius Falco mystery novels. Another brilliantly funny writer, whose novels give us a look at the way the common and not-so-common lived in the ancient Roman empire, while telling of the travails of the much put-upon Marcus trying to solve mysteries while his family, friends and the government occasionally assist him and frequently get in the way.

M Didius Falco is a former legionnaire, now
an informer, trying to turn an honest denarius in a distinctly inferior job. Private informer is Romanese for today's modern P.I. These stories move at a quick pace and the author covers a lot of ground, showing that the ancient Romans moved around a lot. In the course of the novels, Marcus, usually accompanied by his buddy Petronius Longius and assorted members of his extended family, travels to Britain, Germany, Spain, Greece and North Africa. If you go to this link at the author's website, you can pass your cursor over each book and see red dots appear showing the locales in each book. http://www.lindseydavis.co.uk/map.htm

I'm hard put to say which story is my favorite, but I'm a sucker for a good love story, and I enjoy rereading the first book,
Silver Pigs in which he meets and feuds with the beautiful Helena Justina, senator's daughter, who works her way into his heart, his bed, and eventually becomes his wife and business partner. Like Elizabeth Peters and the Amelia Peabody series, Ms. Davis has crafted a group of people that you will care about and who care about each other, although some more than others. The author wisely includes a cast of characters in the front of the book with clever and intriguing little hints about the part they will play in the tale, such as:

an architect who stepped on something nasty
a widow with a very attractive asset
a lyre player who hasn't found his muse
a mother, positively awful (and awfully positive)
a slow driver with a fast reputation
a model whose measurements are worth taking
a dancer who does curious things with snakes
a corpse in a warehouse (extremely deceased)
a blonde, beautiful and therefore not obliged to be sensible
an auctioneer who may be Falco's father, but hopes he isn't
a plumber in Pompeii (fairly honest for a plumber)
a dog who finds an interesting bone
an ox enjoying his holiday
a rather surprised donkey

Pick up any one of these books and enjoy the wit and wisdom of Marcus, and see if you can figure out whodunnit before the end.

The Silver Pigs (set in Rome and Britain) in AD 70-71.
Shadows in Bronze (set in Rome and Naples) in AD 71.
Venus in Copper (set in Rome) in AD 71.
The Iron Hand of Mars (set in Rome and Germany) in AD 71.
Poseidon's Gold (set in Rome and Capua) in AD 72.
Last Act in Palmyra (set in Rome, The Decapolis and Palmyra) in AD 72.
Time to Depart (set in Rome) in AD 72.
A Dying Light in Corduba (set in Rome and Córdoba, Spain) in AD 73.
Three Hands in the Fountain (set in Rome) in AD 73.
Two for the Lions (set in Rome and Carthage) in AD 73.
One Virgin Too Many (set in Rome) in AD 74.
Ode to a Banker (set in Rome) in AD 74.
A Body in the Bath House (set in Rome and Britain) in AD 75.
The Jupiter Myth (set in Britain) in AD 75.
The Accusers (set in Rome) in AD 75.
Scandal Takes a Holiday (set in Rome) in AD 76.
See Delphi and Die (set in Rome and various locations in Greece) in AD 76.
Saturnalia (set in Rome) at year-end.

Click on the title of this post to go to the author's webpage.

Favorite Authors: Elizabeth Peters

Elizabeth Peters, author of the Amelia Peabody novels. Gotta love Amelia and want to jump in bed with Emerson. The writing is fun, clever and full of tongue-in-cheek, read-between-the lines humor. Plus, I love reading about Egypt, archaeology, and murder and mayhem.

I fell in love with Amelia Peabody in the first novel, Crocodile on the Sandbank, written in 1975, when she inherited her father's fortune and went off to Egypt to indulge a passion for all things Egyptian. She is now a grandmother, so I've followed her adventurous life as she fell in love with Emerson, married him, had her "catastrophically precocious" son, Ramses, pursued villains and murderers with her trusty umbrella and belt of tools, explored pyramids, been kidnapped by a romantic villain, rescued many fair maidens, and helped many a couple find each other. I've watched her pedantic, intellectual son grow up into a strong, tall, multi-lingual, brilliant spy and sexy hero, fall painfully in love, marry and have children of his own. Now there are grandchildren and nieces and nephews all over the Emerson household, and the adventures continue.

Each adventure has added a friend or a family member to the ranks, but the stories still center around Amelia, Emerson and their children: Ramses and Nefret. Each member of the family is both brilliant and limited in his or her own way, and very competitive in their attempts to solve each mystery while failing to keep each other out of harm's way, due to the fact that each one is determined to hurtle headlong into danger to protect the others. But their love for each other and unflinching belief in their ability to bring the villain to justice see them through every crisis.

What draws me back to reading these novels again and again and waiting with great anticipation for each new one is the love that I have for these characters and the love they have for each other. Who wouldn't want to be as clever and resourceful as Amelia, as fearless and strong as Emerson, as beautiful and kind as Nefret or as handsome and intelligent as Ramses? These novels never let me down. The early ones I have in paperback, but the new ones I buy as soon as they are printed. No waiting for the paperback edition on these . . . and if you've never read an Amelia Peabody novel, you've already waited too long, so go out and get one. Let the fun begin!

For a fun summary of each of these books visit: http://www.whidbey.net/licenseplate/gallery.html
This collector of license plates has collected many that reflect names, places and events to go along with the novels.

Popular Amelia quotes:

Most small boys are barbarians. It is a wonder any of them live to grow up.

At the age of three Ramses had informed us that he did not need a nanny and would not have one.... I did not agree with him. He needed something--a stout healthy woman who had trained as a prison wardress, perhaps--but it had become more and more difficult to find nannies for Ramses. Presumably word had spread.

...I am firm believer in psychology when it agrees with my own opinions.

At first I was too stupefied by surprise to do anything. Afterward, I was simply too stupefied to do any thing.

Evelyn was right. With the right person, under the right circumstances-it was perfectly splendid.

I felt I deserved the title; (Sitt Hakim) scarcely a day went by when I was not patching up some scrape or cut, although, to my great regret, I was not called upon to amputate anything.

This annoyed him [Emerson] a great deal, for, as he remarked, when he knocked people down he expected them to stay down.

Abstinence, as I have often observed, has a deleterious effect on the disposition.

Husbands do not care to be contradicted. Indeed, I do not know anyone who does.

There is nothing like continued proximity to strip away the veils of romance.

I would not be at all surprised to find that it was for gold that Cain committed the first murder. (It happened a very long time ago, and Holy Writ, though no doubt divinely inspired, is a trifle careless about details. God is not a historian.)

I knew how Eve must have felt when she looked back at the flowers and lush foliage of Eden, from which she was forever barred. (Another example of masculine duplicity, I might add. Adam was under no compulsion to eat of the fruit: and his attempt to put the blame on his trusting wife was, to say the least, unmanly.)

Though I had slept only a few hours, I felt quite fresh and full of ambition. Righteous indignation has that effect on my character.

The trouble with unknown enemies is that they are so difficult to identify.

A lady cannot be blamed if a master criminal takes a fancy to her.

Men always have some high-sounding excuse for indulging themselves.

Click on the title of this post to visit the Amelia Peabody website.

Here's a list of the Amelia Peabody novels:
Crocodile on the Sandbank, 1975
Curse of the Pharaohs, 1981
The Mummy Case, 1985
Lion in the Valley, 1986
The Deeds of the Disturber, 1988
The Last Camel Died at Noon, 1991
The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog, 1992
The Hippopotamus Pool, 1996
Seeing a Large Cat,1997
The Ape Who Guards the Balance, 1998
The Falcon at the Portal, 1999
He Shall Thunder in the Sky, 2000
Lord of the Silent, 2001
The Golden One, 2002
Children of the Storm, April 2003
Amelia Peabody's Egypt* (a book about Egypt of the time Amelia Peabody would have lived if she weren't a fictional character), October 2003
Guardian of the Horizon, March 2004
The Serpent on the Crown, March 2005
Tomb of the Golden Bird, March 2006

Another fun set of Elizabeth Peters books to read is her Vicky Bliss series:
Borrower of the Night
Street of Five Moons
Silhouette in Scarlet
Trojan Gold
Night Train to Memphis

She also writes as Barbara Michaels and Barbara Mertz.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

I recently read The Journal of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Now, here's a wonderful kids' book, thick as can be, but nearly half the pages are artwork, so the story. which is told partly in words and partly with these wonderful drawings that allow you to zoom in and out on the action, reads very quickly. The book isn't just a good read, it is a piece of art.

It tells the story of a young boy who lives in hiding in the walls of the Paris train station, keeping the stations' many clocks running because he fears discovery and being removed to an orphanage. He has in his possession a broken-down automaton, for which he steals small parts in an effort to repair so that he can find out what message it will write. Being young and alone and friendless, he has important questions he wants answered. How long can he keep this up? What will happen to him if he gets caught? And what is the secret of the grumpy old man who steals his father's journal?

This would be a great gift for an upper elementary or middle school child who enjoys reading, or a reluctant reader who needs the pictures and the suspense of the story to keep up his interest. The author has a great website where you can view many of the drawings and learn more about the story behind the story. Click on the title of this post to visit it.

So B. It

So B. It by Sarah Weeks is my favorite book to read with students in my middle and high school reading classes. Students of all ages are captivated by Heidi, her incredible lucky streak, the mystery of who she really is and learning how her mentally disabled mother mysteriously appeared at the door of Bernadette, the neighbor in the apartment next door, with a bottle of powdered formula and a crying two-week old baby.

Where did Heidi and her mother come from? What is Heidi's mother's real name and how did she end up all alone with a baby she was clearly unable to care for on her own? Heidi's story is also an exploration of the nature of truth, love and family. On the way to learning the truth about where she came from, Heidi also learns some painful truths about herself.

This is a book that kids beg to read and want to know what is going to happen next. I've used this book with both middle school and high school students. It is a truly satisfying read.

The Cup of Ghosts

The Cup of Ghosts is the first Paul Doherty novel I have read. I thoroughly enjoyed this first story of Mathilde of Westminster and how she comes to be part of the household of Princess Isabella in 1322. I love reading well-written, historically-accurate murder mysteries set in medieval England. I'm a big fan of Ellis Peters and the Brother Cadfael series.

This story starts out in Paris and ends in London when Princess Isabella marries King Edward II of England. The characters were well drawn, although the problem with historically-accurate stories about political intrigue is there tend to be a lot of them to keep straight. The story revolves around the devious princess and the development of her friendship with Mathilde and how they come to rely on each other to survive. They show that men may rule the world, but women can and have influenced the men who rule the world. There are hints of a future romance or at least deep love between the passionate Mathilde and the unattainable Templar Knight, Demontaigu. I was kept guessing till the very end when Mathilde finally revealed the assassin's identity and brought him to justice.

In the middle of a good book

To what do I attribute my success? To the fact that I have been a reader all my life, a voracious reader as a child, often too busy to read now. But even now, nothing gives me any greater satisfaction than to be in the middle of a good story. So, this blog will be about stories, ones I have read, ones I am reading, ones I will read. I hope you will find it helpful in that important search for the next good read.

May YOU always be found in the middle of a good book.

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