Monday, November 17, 2014


Lately I've been a little disappointed in the new book selections I've brought home from the library. It's not often I leave a book unfinished, but, sadly, it's happened twice in the last few weeks. I don't know if it's simply been my mood, or the writing, or something else, but the books just didn't hold my interest.

That was not the case, however, with Magic Delivery by Clete Barrett Smith. This book is a jewel, and I can highly recommend it to anyone of any age who loves to laugh and go on an adventure that is pretty much unique.

The cover art caught my attention right away. The colors swirling across the front makes me think of candy for some reason. Perhaps cotton candy, or Jolly Ranchers. Sounds weird, I know, but that's how it affected me. But then I noticed the bear squashed into the driver's seat of the big truck, headed down the middle of the highway toward two kids on bicycles, and my interest was definitely piqued.

This is a tale with a premise I've yet to come across, although in some ways it reminded me a little bit of The Mask. But just a smidgen. It's much more involved and creative than that.

Two best friends, both from the poor side of town, and both with definite issues, are nearly killed when a large truck comes barreling out of nowhere straight into the boys' path as they ride their bikes home from school. An accident is avoided when the truck goes over the edge of a cliff and falls to the forest below, but the boys feel obligated to check on the driver to see if he's okay. Even though the driver did look suspiciously like a huge grizzly bear.

I'm not going to tell you what they find when they arrive at the scene of the accident. It's just so much fun that you need to read it for yourself. 

This book made me laugh - alot. It also made me cringe because it isn't all fun and games. There are bullies involved, and class clashes, and underhanded dealings, and resentments, and danger. It's quite a roller-coaster ride emotionally, but it's all done in a style that is lighthearted and that makes perfect sense and makes it all believable. Even though the preposterousness of the situation is totally unbelievable. I'm not sure if preposterousness is even a word, but it fits in this situation.

I can highly recommend this book to MG readers who love a rousing adventure and who like to root for the underdog. It is a clean read, but there is some crude humor involved from time to time. If you read, or have read, this one, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, November 10, 2014


Attention teachers, librarians, tweens, and parents of tweens! Announcing a contest just for you... The Emblazon authors are giving away a brand new touch screen Kindle loaded with over 50 of their books. That’s a $300 value and hours of reading entertainment! Emblazon is a collection of authors who seek to create lifelong readers by creating top-notch literature for kids. They have a particular focus on ages 11 to 14. They’re hosting this fabulous giveaway to celebrate their first year and to treat you, the readers. The Rafflecopter contest runs November 3 through November 17 and is open to anyone who loves tween literature. a Rafflecopter giveaway Note: Signing up for the catalog is required for entry. Current subscribers are also eligible for entry. Winners must reside in the United States or Canada. 

List of Stops on the Blog Tour:

November 3rd:

November 5th:

November 10th:

November 11th:

November 12th:

November 15th:

You can help even more by sharing this post with your friends and family. If you know teachers or librarians let them know about how awesome the Emblazoners are by sharing the link to their website:

Monday, November 3, 2014


November has finally arrived. That means it's NANOWRIMO.

If you are not a writer, or possibly even if you are a writer, you may not be familiar with this silly little acronym. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. And though the acronym is little, NANO is anything but. It's HUGE! 

I have attempted NANO twice now, and failed miserably both times. The idea is to write an entire novel during the month of November. Approximately 50,000 words is probably the average. 

That's a lot of writing for some. Others have no problem with it at all.

During the process of writing the novel, participants will encourage you to avoid all urges to edit. That is partly why I always fail. I just cannot leave things alone. I'm constantly going back and changing things, or waking up in the night and thinking, "Oh, wait, that won't work. I'll have to redo that part in the  morning." The editing eats up all my time and thirty days go by quickly when one is trying to make a deadline like NANO. 

But I'm not going to even bother this year. I have a project that I'm quite pleased with spending my time on, even though the going is slower than molasses on a cold morning. I'm researching for a historical middle grade novel. It, too, may be my undoing. 

Research isn't bad,  per se. But this project is really big, and I'm still trying to narrow it down to just a few people I want to center on. It's confounding to find so much conflicting information once I begin researching each individual. Dates don't always match. Sites that should have burial information list no such person. And my eyes are nearly bleeding from trying to decipher old letters that have been uploaded to internet sites. Don't get me wrong. I so appreciate the efforts others have made to afford me this information. I just wish it was easier to read.

As I said, though, I'm enjoying the work. And I'm finally learning a bit more about American History - which has always been a difficult concept for me. But I'm ready to begin the actual writing of the project, and I know I'm not ready yet. That's why I didn't even bother to sign up for NANOWRIMO. I am hoping this turns into a positive project and I may not even be finished with the research by the end of this month. 

In the meantime, and to fill in when my eyes can no longer stare at a monitor, I picked up a few promising titles at the library this morning. 

I really AM writing every day, but I don't consider notes to be quite the same thing.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

I have the habit of choosing books based on the title and the cover. I rarely take the time to read the back cover or inside flap blurb. One reason is because I'm usually in a hurry when I stop at the library, and another reason is because I think it's interesting to be surprised by what's inside.

The Boundless was certainly a surprise of the most pleasant kind. The cover does reveal a number of interesting bits. It depicts a train traveling through a snowy darkness, with a full moon shining in the distance. What's interesting about the train is the mammoth size of it. The cars are double-decker, and the engine has three levels to it. I'm pretty sure I've never seen a train quite that large. Additionally, the silhouettes of two figures are leaping across the tops of these double-decker train cars. Those details give me a clue that something interesting is happening here.

Next we have the addition of a key. Keys are always fun. They indicate numerous possibilities. Perhaps there is a treasure hidden away. Or a secret car or compartment somewhere on the train. And I've read enough to know that sometimes whatever is secreted away behind that key is not the surprise we are expecting. Or, it could be a different type of key. After all, the figures jumping the car roofs are a boy and a girl. The key may signify something about their relationship. Keys are fun.

But, when you look closely at the cover, there's something else to grab your attention. Scattered throughout this dark, snowy landscape surrounding the train are eyes. Hmmm. There's no way to tell if these are friendly eyes are those of potential enemies. The combination of all these details was enough to convince me I wanted to read this book. When I began reading and discovered the main character's name was Will Everett - the same as one of my favorite uncles - I knew I had to find out what happened to that young boy.

I couldn't put it down. Even with all those clues right before my eyes, I was still unprepared for what I found inside this remarkable tale. A combination of adventure, murder mystery, science fiction, historical fiction, and steampunk. The action is non-stop, whether the main character is running for his life from the bad guys or the Sasquatch. And then there's the little matter of exactly WHO are the bad guys.

The tale is admittedly far-fetched, from the colossal size of the train, to the equally colossal characters. It was tempting to find myself scoffing. But the author bestows such lifelike traits into the characters that I found myself loving them and hating them so well that they became real to me.

The story involves a train's maiden voyage across Canada, carrying the remains of the man who made it all possible, along with a carload of treasure that instigates the train robbery and most of the adventure. Young Will becomes embroiled in the theft plot, and is determined to warn his father of the danger. Unfortunately, he's at one end of the train, and his father is miles away in the locomotive. Will faces many dangers, adventures, and conflicting emotions as he makes his way to his father.

One aspect of the book that I really enjoyed was the inclusion of Mr. Dorian, the owner of the circus that is traveling with the train and is heavily embroiled in the plot. I love the fact that the author uses that particular name. Have you ever read The Picture of Dorian Gray?

I liked this one, and highly recommend it for those who love never-ending tension. And I'm very pleased that the author managed to keep the reading clean throughout. There are some close calls as far as language goes, but he doesn't succumb to the growing popularity of vulgarity. Thank you for that, Mr. Oppel!


Cordelia Dinsmore

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Curiosity Quills is excited to reveal the cover for contemporary, young-adult Burn Baby Burn Baby, by Kevin Craig, which is due for release December 11, 2014. The cover was designed by CQ managing partner Eugene Teplitsky. Burn Baby Burn 1000About Burn Baby Burn Baby: Seventeen-year-old Francis Fripp’s confidence is practically non-existent since his abusive father drenched him in accelerant and threw a match at him eight years ago. Now badly scarred, Francis relies on his best friend Trig to protect him from the constant bullying doled out at the hands of his nemesis, Brandon Hayley—the unrelenting boy who gave him the dreaded nickname of Burn Baby. The new girl at school, Rachel Higgins, is the first to see past Francis’s pariah-inducing scars. If Brandon’s bullying doesn’t destroy him, Francis might experience life as a normal teenager for the first time in his life. He just has to avoid Brandon and convince himself he’s worthy of Rachel’s attentions. Sounds easy enough, but Francis himself has a hard time seeing past his scars. And Brandon is getting violently frustrated, as his attempts to bully Francis are constantly thwarted. Francis is in turmoil as he simultaneously rushes toward his first kiss and a possible violent end. Add Burn Baby Burn Baby to your Goodreads 'to-be-read' list. -- Kevin Craig - Author picAbout The Author: Kevin Craig is the author of three previous novels; Summer on Fire, Sebastian’s Poet, and The Reasons. He is a 4-time winner of the Muskoka Novel Marathon’s Best Novel Award. Kevin is also a playwright and has had eight 10-minute plays produced. His poetry, short stories, memoir and articles have been published internationally. Kevin was a founding member of the Ontario Writers’ Conference and a long-time member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR). He is represented by literary agent Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group. Find Kevin Craig Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Monday, September 29, 2014

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

I really enjoyed this book. Not because it was a Newbery Honor Book. Not because it was a historical fiction and I LOVE historical fiction. Not because it was a great mystery. I enjoyed it because Georgie Burkhardt is one of those characters who, although young, and a female in a time when females weren't fully appreciated for their amazing contributions to society, does not allow anyone to tell her what she cannot do.

That sentence probably has some major technical problems, but it is what it is.

Georgie's story takes place in 1871, in and around the town of Placid, Wisconsin. The first paragraph of her tale blows me away - we writers are told to grab the reader from the get-go, and Ms. Timberlake manages to do it with gusto. She talks about her sister's first funeral, and tells us she knows it won't be her last. How can you resist something like that?

This gutsy young girl takes off on an adventure to discover what actually happened that has resulted in this catastrophe. Imagine watching your parents go through the grief and anguish of attempting to verify that a badly mistreated body (or parts thereof) is that of their missing daughter, while knowing in your heart that it canNOT be the sister you know and love. Unimaginable!

It's a good thing Georgie is such a crack shot with that rifle of hers, because she's going to need her skills as she turns detective and sets off in search of the truth. Of course, it turns out to be a good thing when that questionable character, Billy McCabe, decides he'll just have to go with her - with the excuse that he's only loaning Georgie his mule, and has to make sure she takes good care of him.

I love the voice of this girl, and her grit, and her refusal to be molded into anything other than the incredible person she is. The setting is interesting and all of the historical facts regarding the now extinct passenger pigeons were woven into the story with great skill. 

A great read and suitable for all ages.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ava and Pip by Carol Weston

Ava and Pip by Carol Weston is a delightful journey into the private life of young Ava. This one is geared toward the younger end of MG, and the voice is exceptional in portraying just that.

Ava is the younger sister, but she often feels invisible. With an extremely shy older sister, and word-nerdy parents who seem too preoccupied for her, Ava often feels overlooked. She has trouble expressing her feelings with her family, so she turns to her diary to voice her complaints and work through her emotions.

However, she's had a problem finishing the diaries. This year, though, she is determined to stick with the plan and complete at least one entire diary in her life. Her dad has given her a special pen that she plans to use for this endeavor - until she ends up losing it!

But Ava is pulled out of her own difficulties when two unrelated events come together - a new girl at school, and a writing contest. When the new girl is mean to Ava's sister, Ava gets even with her entry to the contest. Of course, her plan backfires and turns into bigger headaches than not being noticed. Now Ava's suddenly on everyone's radar, and not in a particularly good way.

This was a fun read in several ways. The story line was appropriate and handled realistically for the age range, and I felt a definite bond with Ava and empathy for her situation. And Ms. Weston introduces loads of fun and interesting word facts and games that will be a valuable addition to every reader's repertoire. I loved all the palindromes! 

Definitely worth checking out for your 8-12 age range.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, September 15, 2014

What the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren

For a debut novel, What the Moon Said hit all the right buttons for me. I imagine part of the perfection I found in it lies in the background of Mrs. Rosengren. She has an impressive background in writing and library work. Remember the advice of so many authors? Read, read, read! I was left with the impression that this author has done her homework in that area.

What the Moon Said takes place during the depression years of the 1930s. A small family of city dwellers move to the country when the father loses his job. Young (almost 10) Esther isn't pleased to leave behind her best friend and her comfortable way of life, but it helps tremendously when she discovers the farm her parents purchased comes complete with an assortment of animals, including a dog - something she has always longed for.

Esther's ethnic background is German and Russian. Her Russian mother loves all her children, but Esther can't help but feel that she doesn't quite measure up to the rest of the tribe. She wonders if her mother's strong superstitious nature enables her to detect what Esther perceives as her own shortcomings. Those thoughts might never have entered her mind if she could remember even once when her mother had enfolded her in her arms in a warm hug.

I enjoyed traveling back to a time that was certainly simpler, but also much tougher, than anything I've experienced in my own life. The characters are well-developed and realistic in their thoughts and actions. The contrast between their lives in Chicago and rural Wisconsin was fun and informative. Even though the main character is not quite ten, and the writing level is easy enough for that age, I would recommend it for those at least that age, or possibly a bit more mature reader.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Paula Danziger's Amber Brown

It's been a while since I've read much in the way of early chapter books. I seem to always come home from the library with bags full of picture books, and a few middle grade novels tucked under my arm. But I admit that I've been neglecting the reading level that falls between these popular ages, so I've been trying to make up for that lacking.

Until a few weeks ago, I'd not read any of the Amber Brown series by Paula Danziger. Let me say, they are delightful. 

I've only read a couple so far, but Amber Brown is around third or fourth grade and faces the same problems many kids that age will face - along with divorced parents that she is drastically hoping will get back together.

Told in first person out-spoken viewpoint, Amber Brown is a pleasure to follow along, both in the classroom and on trips to foreign countries. I really like Ms. Danziger's skill as a storyteller for this age group. She did an outstanding job, in my humble opinion, and I highly recommend her books for your young readers.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, August 4, 2014


My granddaughter and I have been quite busy this summer, with swimming lessons, baseball games, visits to the park to play and seek out four-leaf clovers, and, of course, the summer reading program at the library.

I'm proud and pleased to say that we have shared well over fifty picture books together since the end of the school year. She's going to be a well-read young lady for her venture into kindergarten in the fall.

To date, I don't think we've found a single book in the lot that we didn't enjoy. Some were hilarious to the point I had to stop reading so she could get her giggle box under control. Others were thought provoking and needed some additional explanations from the wise old Grammy. But she has never tired of them, and just today we picked out another huge bag full of promising titles.

Two of the books that I especially liked were There's a Dragon in My Sleeping Bag, by James Howe, and The Old Tree, by Ruth Brown.

The Old Tree tells the story of just that. An old tree is the home of a variety of creatures, and one day they notice a mysterious X marking one side of the tree's huge trunk. As the creatures search for answers concerning the X, they squabble and carry on as usual, as many neighbors do, but then they all work together to save their home, in a most unexpected way. My granddaughter's favorite aspect of the book is the huge fold-out tree at the end. She loved searching through the roots and branches for all the different woodland animals.

There's a Dragon in My Sleeping Bag is a fun story of two brothers and a situation that arises from their vivid imaginations. I love the way the boys solved their own problem and mended their relationship. 

There are many, many more great books out there, but these were two of our favorites. So far!


Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, July 14, 2014

JACKPOT - A Swindle Mystery

I'm going to admit right at the beginning that I didn't think I was going to like this book. I picked it up at the library for my son, who loves Gordon Korman and was excited when he saw it on the kitchen table. 

But, I've been reading at an accelerated rate lately, and found myself with no appealing options late one evening. I always read after everyone's gone to bed, and often read an entire MG novel in one night. It seems to have become a habit. 

So, while waiting for my Nook to recharge, I picked this one up and figured it would put me to sleep, at the least.

I'll admit that it was a slow start for me. The book starts out with a dream sequence, which I've been told repeatedly is not a good way to start a novel. My first thought was, 'oh, no, this isn't good.'

But it was. And it got better. And by the time I got to the final chapters, I was exhausted. Not from staying up to finish the entire book, but because of the increasing action! There was no way I could put the book down without finishing it.

The story is about a group of school kids who find themselves in a frantic search for a winning Mega-Millions lottery ticket that has gone unclaimed for almost a year. The time is quickly approaching when the ticket will become worthless, and they devise a plan to find the winning ticket holder so the money can be claimed.

Before their adventure is fully developed, however, the town bully steps in and decides he should find and claim the ticket as his own. After all, he's always wanted loads of money, and in his eyes he deserves it more than anyone else. 

Then there's the new kid. Once he's added to the mix, things begin to get hairy. And, speaking of hairy, there's also an assortment of pets that get involved in the plot and add a lovely twist that makes this wacky adventure even more fun.

I loved the voice of this, and the humor that resonates with kids this age. The descriptions of the minor characters through the eyes of the kids is hilarious and more than likely exactly how they would actually see the adults in their world.

Highly recommend for both boys and girls looking for a fun read, with a touch of seriousness in dealing with bullies. 


Cordelia Dinsmore

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Zane and the Hurricane, A Story of Katrina, by Rodman Philbrick, was quite an adventure. Very well written and quite enlightening, in my humble opinion.

This is a story of a young boy named Zane, whose father was killed in a tragic accident before Zane was born. Zane's mother has searched for years for any relatives from her husband's side of the family, but she had sketchy details to begin with, and they weren't all accurate.

Now she has found Zane's great-grandmother, who lives in New Orleans. She packs Zane up and sends him off for an exciting summer adventure to meet this new-found relative and to possibly learn a bit more about his father's side of the family. Zane's wonder dog, Bandit, naturally comes along for the ride.

And it's a wild ride, for sure. Zane and his great-grandmother, Miss Trissy, are still in the stages of getting to know one another when disaster strikes in the form of Hurricane Katrina. As they're packing up their meager belongings in preparation for evacuation, Miss Trissy shares stories with Zane of past hurricanes. Stories that later help save his life.

Of course, if the evacuation went smoothly, the story would have been very short. I will warn that this book is a bit graphic in some of its details, but it's well worth the read. There's no sugar coating in this tale of disaster, and friendship, and the true meaning of family. I recommend this for the upper middle grade readers who can handle some fairly serious subject matter.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, June 23, 2014

AUNT MARIA by Diana Wynne Jones

While I don't consider myself an 'official' reviewer, I do enjoy sharing my limited opinions regarding the books I read. A lot of them are MG, but I occasionally run across a picture book or YA novel that stands out, so I include them when the mood hits me.

On a recent trip to the library, I picked up Diana Wynne Jones' The Pinhoe Egg. It's a substantial tome and a twisting tale that made my head spin, but once I straightened out the considerable cast of characters, I found it quite enjoyable. She's a clear-headed writer who manages to keep everyone in line and on their best behavior, and that appeals to me since I know how difficult a task that is to pull off. And in all fairness, this book might not have been such an effort on my part if I had read any of the earlier volumes of the series first. But they were not available at my local library, so I took what I could get.

But the writing impressed me so much that I wanted to see what else she had to offer. I went back to town and requested the first book in the series and am waiting for it to arrive. In the meantime, I managed to pick up Aunt Maria on my way out, and I'm so glad I did.

Aunt Maria - that's pronounced with a long I, like in the song, They Call The Wind Maria. What a gruesome and intriguing plot Ms. Jones has created in this much quicker read. It was a bit reminiscent of The Stepford Wives in some ways, but on a younger level. From the very first paragraph, the writing is extremely clever, and I instantly fell in love with Mig and her brother, Chris. And, unlike some stories, we know immediately that Aunt Maria is very, very bad. We also know, sadly, that the kids are going to make some huge, costly mistakes in their dealings with this tyrant and her cloister of old biddies who hide behind facades of sweet helplessness. 

I will warn that there are a couple of instances of profanity thrown into the mix, but aside from that I can recommend it as an entertaining read.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, June 2, 2014


Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, by Lynne Jonell, is a very fun read.

I've never had a dislike for the talking animal thing, so it didn't bother me in the least that Emmy could understand Rat after he bit her the first time. It seemed completely natural, especially since all of the rodents involved in the dastardly plot were endowed with special abilities.

I'm not one of those reviewers who relate the story line of the books I read, and I'm not going to change my tactics at this time. I will say that when I read the title, I thought the Rat shrank. I was wrong. He shrinks whomever he bites, but it's a bit more complicated than that.

This is a creative and fun tale, with a clever twist to the absentee parent situation. Although it is refreshing that Ms. Jonell managed to allow one set of parents to be involved and concerned about their missing son. It isn't too often that the kids can go off on an amazing adventure without offing the parental units in some way, so I enjoyed that she left a few of them intact and worrying.

I also loved the personalities of the rodent population. They were actually more fun than the humans, although Emmy and Joe are portrayed as entirely believable preteens. She's invisible and he's a jock. Of course they're going to end up together in some manner.

I really love the characters in this book, from the incredibly evil Miss Barmy - Emmy's nanny - to the absolutely adorable Endear Mouse, each has such a unique personality that every one of them should be considered a star. And although Rat has some traits that are slightly less than stellar, I couldn't resist falling in love with him when he sang The Star Spangled Banner. What a hoot!

My favorite aspect of this tale is the humor. At times it is sweet, and at other times it is so gross that it nearly made me gag. And it all worked together so well that I think this book would appeal equally to boys and girls. 

This is one that I will remember for a long time, and I hope there are more of the same caliber in the future, for I really, really enjoyed it. Definitely recommend for any middle grade reader.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, May 26, 2014



Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.

Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing near
Falls the night.

Thanks and praise for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
As we go, this we know
God is nigh.

Lyrics written by Horace Lorenzo Trim

Taps is also dubbed, Butterfield’s Lullaby. The tune is a variation of an earlier bugle call known as the Scott Tattoo and was arranged in its present form by the Union Army Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, an American Civil War general and Medal of Honor recipient.  Butterfield commanded the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division in the V Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac.

According to Wikipedia, Captain John C. Tidball, West Point Class of 1848, started the custom of playing taps at military funerals. A corporal of Tidball’s Battery A, 2nd Artillery, died, and Tidball wished to bury him with full military honors. At the time, the custom was to fire three shots over the grave, but because of the situation, that wasn’t prudent. So Tidball decided to sound taps in lieu of the customary salute. Shortly after that, it became a military custom.

Taps always brings a tear to my eye. It’s a mournful tune, while simultaneously soothing in an eerie way. We don’t often hear the lyrics, and I feel that’s a shame, because they are beautiful in their simplicity. I believe the song was originally intended as a signal for lights out on military posts. When we were first stationed in Colorado, we temporarily lived on the Army base, and I looked forward to hearing those mournful notes every evening. It served to remind me that others always had my back; others who would give their life to protect me and mine. That was the first thing I missed when we moved off base.

I hope each of you have someone to remember on this day. Someone who was willing to protect and defend you, and give his/her life for you, if duty required that sacrifice. So that you can go to bed at night and know that ‘all is well’ and enable you to ‘safely rest.’ And to remind you, always, that God is nigh.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Recently I read Bone by Bone by Bone, by Tony Johnston. This is shelved with the middle grade books in my local library, but I believe some parents are probably not going to want their younger kids to read it. I may be among that group, although I'm still trying to sort through all the emotions the book touched off in me.

The setting for the story is a small town in Tennessee during the early 1950s. This was a time and place for a lot of racial clashes between black and white. The main character is a young white boy from a very prominent family. He is befriended by a black boy, and part of the story is a portrayal of the strong feelings the boys develop for each other. Overshadowing this beautiful story of love is a much darker tale of the hatred and fear that enveloped so many lives during that time.

I fell in love with David and Malcolm, the two young characters. One moment my heart was breaking at the hopelessness of their relationship, and the next moment I was shaking my head and chuckling at the antics they were getting into. The author's voice has such strength and depth of feeling, and her use of language is absolutely spot on. I especially love the tone and expressions she uses at particular times, such as when Malcolm tells Hell (the meanest rooster that ever lived) that he's going to eat him "squawk an' all." My family came from Tennessee, and this is the type of expression I grew up on, so I instantly felt a kinship with Ms. Johnston from the very first page.

This story, however, is made up more of instances of hatred than it is of love. It is brutally honest with no holds barred. I admire the author for her ability to pull this off without producing a quagmire of misery and hopelessness. She does come close to doing just that, and except for the strength of the youngest players, that very thing would have happened.

But the very subject matter is enough to make me squeamish about recommending it for middle graders. The language is raw, with no apologies made for it, but I realize it couldn't be more honest. That, too, is another reason for my concerns to recommend it to children. I don't believe the bad language was used in a gratuitous manner; I think it was more of an effort to portray things as they were. I can appreciate that and know the book is more honest because of it, but it still made me cringe from time to time. 

I'll leave it up to you to decide for yourself. I rated the book highly because of the skill of the writing and the way I connected with the author's voice. I am not in any way recommending that any of my young readers put it on their TBR list. In fact, if you are tempted, I hope you will clear it with your parents first. 

In the meantime,


Cordelia Dinsmore

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Today I’m excited to have a special guest on my little blog. Her name is Lilly White, and she is the main character in Cornell DeVille’s newest MG novel, Skullhaven. Lilly’s schedule has been quite busy lately, so I’m delighted she has finally found some free time to talk with us today.

Hi, Lilly! How are you? Could you please tell my readers a little bit about your interesting life?

Well, I don't know if my life is that interesting or not. I live at the Sacred Heart Orphanage with Sister Rosemary and Sister Carmen. I spend a lot of time reading but that's mostly in the winter because in the spring and the summer and the fall, I have to help Sister Carmen in the garden. We have flowers and vegetables growing out there. We sell some of the vegetables to the people who drive by the Orphanage. And we take some of the flowers over to the Skullhaven Cemetery and put them on the graves sometimes. 

I love fresh vegetables! Perhaps I can come by someday soon and pick up a few. Fresh salsa is so good this time of year. And I think it’s lovely that you decorate the graves. It shows that you are a caring person. But back to you, Lilly. You’ve certainly had a bit of an unusual upbringing so far, being raised in an orphanage. Tell us, is it frightening to be living in such close proximity to a cemetery?

It was kind of scary when I first found out there was a cemetery right across the highway from the orphanage. And it really bothers me on stormy nights with all the thunder and everything. And, don't think I'm weird or anything, but I have seen some ghosts over there. 

Ghosts? Seriously? Could you tell us about them? Were they hideous, or did they just sort of float around and moan?

No, they weren't hideous at all. Well, except for that big hole in Rico's forehead. That was kind of scary when I saw it the first time, but aside from that, they looked pretty normal. Except they were kind of filmy. I mean, you could sort of see through them. And they didn't moan or anything like that. Actually they weren't nearly as scary as some of the real people I've met lately.

You must be a very brave girl, Lilly, to hang out with a bunch of ghosts – especially ones with holes in their foreheads. But enough of the ghost talk or I’ll have nightmares tonight. Could you tell us a little bit about that gorgeous necklace you’re wearing? Is it a family heirloom?

It's called an ankh. Sister Carmen gave it to me. It's not an heirloom, but it is very old. Father Vargas's journal said that it came from ancient Egypt and it was made for Queen Nefertiti. It's actually enchanted, you know.

Enchanted? How interesting. Can you tell us more about it, or would you rather we read your story for all the details?

Well, I probably shouldn't tell you ALL the details, because you really need to read the book to understand it. I think we should just say that it's enchanted. If you read the book, you'll understand what I mean.

Thank you, Lilly. I intend to do just that. In fact, I hope everyone here will take the time to read it soon. I just found out that the ebook version is being offered FREE on Amazon for the next two days. That’s May 2nd and May 3rd, for those interested.

I have enjoyed our visit today, Lilly, and I wish you the best in life. Please give my regards to your guardians, also. Sister Carmen and Sister Rosemary are doing a wonderful job raising you. You are a charming young lady and a true reflection of their devotion.

Thanks so much for having me, and for the nice things you said about the Sisters. They are kind of special to me.

Here is the LINK for readers wanting a free copy of Skullhaven.

And here is a blurb to help you decide!

Lost Spirits are haunting Skullhaven. And Lilly can see them!

Skullhaven Cemetery is across the highway from Sacred Heart Orphanage, where Lilly has lived for the past seven years since her mother mysteriously disappeared. Lost spirits haunt Skullhaven, and when Lilly starts seeing them, she realizes that the gold cross she wears is enchanted. Danger lurks just around the corner when a ruthless Egyptian antiquities dealer recognizes Lilly’s cross as the priceless Golden Ankh of Queen Nefertiti, and he decides he must have it for his collection. After kidnapping Lilly and giving her his ultimatum—either part with the Golden Ankh or spend eternity in Skullhaven Cemetery—Lilly must summon her inner strength. If she gives up the ankh, the lost spirits of Skullhaven will never find their way home. 

A great choice for any age! Written with the upper middle-grade reader in mind, Skullhaven is a fun adventure with a hint of history, a bit of mystery, and a lot of complexity that will keep readers of all ages turning the pages and wondering—what’s going to happen next! 

And, in the event you'd like to learn a little more about the author, here is some basic information for your enjoyment.

Cornell DeVille considers himself an Imagination Director. A member of the Baby Boomer generation, DeVille was influenced by the state-of-the-art technology of the fifties -- television -- and the great storytellers of the day, including Hollywood icons like Walt Disney, Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling. Rather than spending his summer days outside playing baseball, DeVille preferred the world he could find within the covers of a good book.  At an early age, he fell in love with the works of Jules Verne, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, and H. G. Wells.

Those nostalgic memories remained with him throughout the years and continue to influence his writing today. A lover of adventure, mystery, and fantasy, DeVille’s writing leads readers on a journey that allows them to escape the real world and venture into a special realm where anything can happen. His current adventures include Lost in the Bayou, The Golden Disk, Star Wishes, The Treasure of Morro Bay, Scary Night Music, and Skullhaven.

DeVille grew up in the Kansas City area, where he lives today with his wife Rosie, their bichon-poodle, Hannah, and a Himalayan Persian cat named Billy. You can find him on Twitter at cornelldeville1, and on Facebook as Author Cornell DeVille.

That's all I have for today.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, March 31, 2014


Today I am proud to announce that I am hosting writer/illustrator Mikey Brooks on one stop of his blog tour. His newest Middle Grade novel just released yesterday, and he has a little bit to say about it and what inspires him as an artist.

Also, if you wish, there is an opportunity at the bottom of this post to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway. So enjoy! And I'll be back in a few days with some more thoughts on Middle Grade books.

Welcome to The Stone of Valhalla Blog Tour!

A middle-grade fantasy-adventure by Mikey Brooks.

Don’t forget to check out the GIVEAWAY at the bottom of this post
for a chance to WIN a $25 Amazon Gift card and other great prizes!

Art in Writing
Guest Post by: Mikey Brooks

I am a writer but I am also an illustrator. A lot of times I am asked if I use my illustrating to help me in my writing. I reply: “Of Course!” A lot of thought goes into a painting. Of course you have your main character there but you also have other things. The background can tell a lot about what is going on. It can also help move the story. In fact, when I hit a wall, or what some authors call “writer’s block” I step away from the computer and I pull out the sketch pad. I am a very visual person and have to see the scene visually before I can write it. Drawing helps me do that. I don’t spend too much time on it. Mostly the characters look like something a child drew. I focus mostly on the background. I need to know what is happening. I tried this once when I had a character in a room. I didn’t know where else to go with the scene. So I started drawing the back ground. I drew a stone wall with some dark shadows here and there. Then I drew a window. Suddenly I had a shadow in the window. “Who is outside the window?” I asked myself. Soon the writer’s block was gone and I was onto finishing the scene. So yes, drawing can help move writing along.

Another way I incorporate my art into my stories is I draw out some of the scenes. For my newest book, The Stone of Valhalla, I actually drew chapter pictures. I did this about 13 years ago when I first finished the story. Since then it has been majorly rewritten and the pictures don’t really fit the descriptions of the characters anymore, but they helped me when I first constructed this story. I was able to see into this other world as my main character, Aaron saw it. Art carries with it a small sense of emotion. I took that emotion I felt from the art and tried to convey it into words. Art can be a powerful tool when constructing a story.

I am thrilled to announce the release of my newest middle-grade fantasy-adventure: The Stone of Valhalla. I hope you love Aaron as much as I do. Yes, he has a lot to learn in the beginning but the excitement comes as we see him grow throughout his journey.


Aaron was chosen to save their world, but it might come at the cost of losing his own.

Breaking into an old lady’s basement was supposed to reward 13-year-old Aaron with new friends. Instead he finds an enchanted amulet that transports him to another world—one at war with magic. Before he knows it, he is accused of witchcraft and invited to a bonfire—where he’s the main attraction. If that’s not bad enough, a goblin army shows up and toasts the town...literally. The good news: Aaron escapes being charbroiled. The bad news: the goblins are after him. They want his amulet and will stop at nothing to get it. Battling to find his way home, Aaron teams up with a not-so-magical-wizard and learns it’s his fate to destroy the amulet and save this new world. But is he willing to sacrifice his own?

Check out what these talented authors are saying about it:

The Stone of Valhalla is one of those books that only comes along once in a great while. Brooks doesn't just create a world, he puts you inside of it, allowing you to experience the wonder in a way that only he can. His characters are likable and fun. His twists leave you asking ‘Why?’ Treat yourself to an exciting adventure through a beautiful new land. Make new friends and be a part of the magic. This is a book that you will not be able to put down!”
—J.R. Simmons, author of Ragesong: Awakening.

 The Stone of Valhalla drew me in from the get-go. Aaron’s journey is reminiscent of Dorothy’s trek in The Wizard of Oz. Magic, sword fights, danger, and more danger, sprinkled with humor and unexpected twists. This is one of the ‘best’ fantasy adventures I’ve ever experienced!”
—BBH McChiller, author of The Monster Moon Series.

The Stone of Valhalla is a riveting mystery revealing true friendship, loyalty and sacrifice. Brooks engages the curiosity of middle graders and older sleuths alike, until the very end. Fantastic!”
—L.R.W. Lee, author of The Andy Smithson series.

Where to Find The Stone of Valhalla:
Exclusive price for the eBook release is just $2.99! (List Price: $4.99)
And only $9.99 for the paperback! (List Price: $12.99)
On April 12th 2014 the price will return to the List Price

Another special offer:
During The Stone of Valhalla Blog Tour
Mikey’s other great middle-grade eBooks will also be set to the low price of just $0.99!

The Dream Keeper:
Kindle | Nook | Kobo

The Dreamstone:
Kindle | Nook | Kobo

You’re Invited to PARTY!!
The online launch party will take place on Thursday, April 10th at 4pm (MST). The party will run for 2 hours and you’re invited to drop by anytime. The longer you stay the more chances you have of winning prizes! We have a slew of eBooks to give away, as well as a Stone of Valhalla necklace AND a $25 Amazon gift card! It is hosted by LovingtheBookLaunchParty on Facebook. Just follow this link to join the event:

What’s that? Another Party!
That’s right! If you’re local to Utah you don’t want to miss this kickin’ party. We are having a launch party to celebrate the release of this awesome new book. Of course there will be plenty of giveaways there too, but what’s even better are the guest authors! Just check out these fabulous names: J. Scott Savage, Chad Morris, Lisa Mangum, Jenni James, Ali Cross, and many more. The Launch Party is: Friday, April 11th from 6-9pm at the Viridian Center in West Jordan, Utah. Follow this link for a map:

About Mikey Brooks:

Mikey is a small child masquerading as an adult. On occasion you’ll catch him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is the author/illustrator of several books including the best-selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures and Bean’s Dragons as well as the middle-grade fantasy-adventure series The Dream Keeper Chronicles. His art can be seen in many forms from picture books to full room murals. He loves to daydream with his three daughters and explore the worlds that only the imagination of children can create. Mikey has a BS degree in English from Utah State University and works full-time as a freelance illustrator, cover designer, and author. As a member of the Emblazoners, he is one of many authors devoted to ‘writing stories on the hearts of children’. He is also one of the hosts of the Authors’ Think Tank Podcast. You can find more about him and his books at:

The Giveaways!
a Rafflecopter giveaway