Wednesday, October 17, 2018

WEP: Deja Vu and Voodoo

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2018/10/welcome-to-wepff-writeeditpublish.html
Write…Edit…Publish (WEP) is an online writing community now partnering with the Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG). We post the third Wednesday of every second month. WEP challenges are open to all. 

I don't really like horror, so I took the prompt in a different direction, and wrote a short story from my Pismawallops PTA mystery series. You'll only get the "deja vu" part if you read Death By Trombone :)  I managed to hit 1000 words exactly, exclusive of the title.


Deja Vu All Over Again

“We’ve been over this, Kitty. With my new job at the library I don’t have time for everything. I really can’t do the Fall Formal.” I crossed my fingers as I said it; I worked a great deal less at the library than Kitty did at their gas station.

“We have been through it all before.” Kitty didn’t sound like she agreed with me. She sounded like she was laughing at me, or humoring me, which was worse. “You can afford one evening, and the library isn’t open Friday nights. Well, plus some time to decorate. Come on, JJ. You know I depend on you.”

Dang. She was invoking our friendship and all our shared history. How could I say no?

I made one last attempt to weasel out. “You know I hate how loud the school dances are, Kitty.”

“Wear earplugs,” was her heartless response.

I finally cut to the real issue. “Don’t you remember what happened the last time I chaperoned a dance?” That actually silenced her. We were unlikely to forget the body I’d found while taking a phone call behind the high school gym.

“You win.” Kitty sounded so contrite I almost felt bad.

I had to be supportive in my turn. “I’ll find you someone to help, or I’ll come myself. I won’t leave you in the lurch.” I knew as I said it that I’d probably end up doing it myself, but Kitty had been right there for me when I found that body. Finding volunteers was almost more painful than finding bodies, and nearly as rare. Staying in the gym through an entire high school dance might drive me crazy, so I was motivated.

*
Motivated or not, even I couldn’t accomplish the impossible. The day before the dance found me in the gym, swathed in bunting and strings of fake colorful leaves. Our local evergreens didn’t provide the desired ambiance, so we hit up the party store on the mainland for an affordable substitute.

I took another swig of my coffee—cold—and considered the logistics of affixing plastic leaves to cinder-block walls. There was only one logical solution, and the ringing of my phone gave me the excuse.

“Brian!” I summoned my son and his best friend. “You and Justin get started hanging this stuff. I need to answer this call.”

I headed for the front door, phone in hand. Not even to escape the decoration would I go out the back door. It was out that door, while decorating for the Senior Prom the previous spring, that I’d found the last body. I took my call and waited while a bevy of teenaged girls hauled in a giant basket of plastic jack-o-lanterns. In all the noise, I couldn’t make out who was on the other end of the call.

“Hang on! Let me get somewhere quieter!” The breezeway in front of the gym was still crowded with kids, so I headed around the side of the building, not thinking about where I was going.

“So have you taken up a career in steam-fitting?”

I knew that urbane and sarcastic voice, and snapped, “What do you want?” My Ex didn’t deserve a polite response. “I’m not letting you off the hook. I want the money you owe in my account by the end of the month.” Good God, I thought I was done battling with Allen.

“I really don’t think you—” he began, but I didn’t hear any more. I was too busy tripping over something in the near-darkness, and I didn’t like what it felt like. I gasped, but contrary to Allen’s later claims, I did not scream. I did hang up on him in the process of trying to find the flashlight app on my phone, but I assure you it was entirely unintentional. Well, mostly.

For some reason my hands were shaking. It was pretty cold out there; an October night on Pismawallops Island can be pretty chilly and damp. That must have been why I shook.

When I finally got the light on, I wished I hadn’t.

Someone was stretched out face-up on the ground, eyes open and unseeing.

*
Kitty told me later that I screamed, though I know she was exaggerating.

Ron told me I phoned him.

A dozen people told me a dozen different stories about what happened next, and I don’t remember any of it.

I must have called Ron, though, because the next thing I knew, the police chief was holding me in his arms and repeating my name.

“Huh?” It wasn’t a very articulate response, but it must have been better than he’d been getting, because he stopped saying my name.

“It’s okay,” he said instead.

“No, it isn’t,” I pointed out. “It’s another corpse. What killed this one?” I didn’t really want to know, but I was determined to appear calm, and settle all the people who were hovering around as though I needed help.

“Clear out, all of you,” Ron took care of the problem for me. “Don’t you have a gym to decorate or something?”

“You just want to get her alone,” someone quipped. It was probably either my kid or Kitty’s.

“Darn right I do,” Ron growled. “Now go!”

They went, and I assumed Ron would move into investigator mode, but he seemed to be a great deal more interested in investigating me than the corpse I’d tripped on.

“Stop that.” I pushed him away, though in general I liked the way he kissed. “Don’t you need to figure out who killed him?”

“I believe that would be Archie McPhee,” Ron said.

“Huh?” It took me a minute to recognize the name of the famous  purveyor of magic tricks, gag gifts, and tasteless practical jokes. Then the lightbulb went off, and I flipped on my flashlight again. Steeling myself, I brushed off Ron’s hand and took a closer look at the “corpse”. Someone had left the price tag on the left cheek.

I really hate Halloween.

###

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.
Critique guidelines: FCA
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Monday, October 15, 2018

Middle Grade fiction: Castle Hangnail

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1408312316l/22504710.jpg 

Title: Castle Hangnail
Author: Ursula Vernon
Publication Info: Penguin Young Readers Group, 2015. 386 pages.
Source: Library digital collection

Publisher’s Blurb:
When Molly shows up on Castle Hangnail's doorstep to fill the vacancy for a wicked witch, the castle's minions are understandably dubious. After all, she is twelve years old, barely five feet tall, and quite polite. (The minions are used to tall, demanding evil sorceresses with razor-sharp cheekbones.) But the castle desperately needs a master or else the Board of Magic will decommission it, leaving all the minions without the home they love. So when Molly assures them she is quite wicked indeed (So wicked! REALLY wicked!) and begins completing the tasks required by the Board of Magic for approval, everyone feels hopeful. Unfortunately, it turns out that Molly has quite a few secrets, including the biggest one of all: that she isn't who she says she is.

This quirky, richly illustrated novel is filled with humor, magic, and an unforgettable all-star cast of castle characters.

My Review:
Oh, this was just what I needed! Reality has been pretty horrific lately, so I wasn't inspired to read a truly scary book for our Great Middle Grade Reads October BOTM. I was happy my choice won, and when I started reading I knew we'd gotten it right. The description of Castle Hangnail which opens the book plays delightfully off every gothic pile you've ever read of, with the minor distractions of cheery dandelions in the "blasted heath" that surrounded it and a stray teacup by the front door. 

And the minions! They are the most delightful collection of misfits to wander the pages of absurd fiction, topped only by the absurdity of the 12-year-old Wicked Witch who shows up to become master of the castle.

The book, in my opinion, found exactly the right balance between the laugh-out-loud moments and some real peril, not to mention some very grown-up threats to Castle Hangnail (frozen plumbing? It takes a genius to make that both a hilarious problem and an existential threat). Yes, there are incredibly serious problems facing Molly and the castle minions. But the author doesn't let that stop her making the solutions as absurd as the idea of a minion made of steam. I didn't even think that the nod to mean-girl issues damaged the story, and I hope very much that Molly will be returning to the castle in a sequel.

My Recommendation:
A perfect Halloween read for kids from 7 or 8 up. I think it would be wonderful to read it aloud to the kids. Maybe I'll have to set up a Skype session with my boys... think they'd like that in their college dorms? (In fact, this kind of reminds me of the Hank the Cowdog books we used to read to the boys, with their mix of slapstick little-kid humor and more sophisticated jokes that the parents can get without comment).

Full Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of Castle Hangnail from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."    

Friday, October 12, 2018

Photo Friday: On the Shores of Lake Superior

Last week this blog took you to the North Unit of Teddy Roosevelt NP.  This week I'm sharing some highlights from a couple of stops we made along the shores of Lake Superior in the first week of September: Porcupine Mountains State Wilderness Area, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, both in Michigan. These were pretty much drive-by visits; we spent only one night in each area so we just touched on some of the possibilities.

At the Porcupine Mountains, we camped at the Presque Isle campground, and did our hiking and sightseeing along the Presque Isle river close by. Since it rained heavily during the night and we'd failed to adequately secure our gear, instead of hiking in the morning we had to go off and find a laundromat. The thunder and lightning in the night were worth it, though--it must have been quite a night out on the lake.

The trail along the west side of the river was well-engineered to handle the crowds who must come on summer weekends. It wasn't bad when we were there mid-week, though the campground was full--we got one of 2 open sites.
On the other side of the river, we poked a little way into the forest, finding the trail wet and full of slick roots. We decided pretty quickly that we had gotten the general idea and went back to the river.
The river is largely about waterfalls, most of which we Westerners would call "rapids," or at most "cascades."
I think these were Manabezho Falls.
 The water was full of tannin, giving it a brown coloring, different from when rivers are brown from silt. This was more like... a river running with tea.
Same falls I think.
This one, Manido Falls, was the only one I'd really call a waterfall, with a vertical drop of 10 or 12 feet.
Maybe the coolest thing we found there was the way the foam on the river disclosed the eddy patterns of the water.
At the mouth. Might be out to sea, but it's Lake Superior, which might well be a sea, though not a salt one.
Foam swirls
This next is apparently a common phenomenon there, because we have seen other photos of it. The foam gets caught in an eddy, and rotates as it builds, until you have a large "wedding cake" of foam in constant rotation. While we watched, a puff of wind caught it and pushed it out into the current, where it was broken up and carried away.
The cake looks good, but hasn't much flavor.
The next morning, as noted, we were very very wet, and found a laundromat in a nearby(ish) town. To save time, we had breakfast while our clothes washed and dried.
Yes, we will set up and fix a meal pretty much anywhere.
Clothes clean and selves fed, we drove on to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where we discovered that it was Friday of Labor Day weekend (yes, these things can slip your mind on a long trip), and there were no campsites available in the park. We decided to make a day of it, then drive on and take our chances (we did, in fact, find a spot in a commercial campground just outside the east end of the park).

The sun came out on the shore by the time we got there. We weren't the only ones to appreciate it.
Apparently the monarchs migrate through the Park.
I was struck by how blue-green the water was, at least next to the shore.
Everyone has to stop and look at the Miner's Castle. Saw some kayaks; that seems like the way to go.
We concentrated our efforts on a 6+ mile hike to Chapel Rock and Chapel Beach, since we didn't have time to do multiple explorations. The trail led through a near-monoculture of beech trees, past a waterfall, and down to the beach.
Managed to find a patch of empty trail, but this was a popular hike, despite the length.
Chapel Rock was once a full arch, but sometime in the 1930s (? a long time ago, anyway), a big chunk of it fell into the water, leaving the tree's roots reaching across open air to the mainland.
Someday I suppose the tree will fall over, and the rock will be the less interesting for the loss.
 The "pictured rocks" are the multi-colored rocks that form the cliffs along the shoreline, and they erode into pebbles of many colors.

It was a warm, humid day, and the water was inviting. So even though the beach was well-used, we walked a little away from the crowds and stripped to our undies for a swim. Hope we didn't shock anyone too much.
Partly wanted to cool off, and partly just wanted to have swum in one of the Great Lakes.
All of that hiking left us with just enough time to get to a scenic viewpoint to cook some dinner and watch the sun set (I don't even know just where this was--somewhere along the Twelvemile Beach is my best guess). The sunset was well worth the price--driving the rest of the way to Grand Marais, and finding a campsite, in the dark.

There was definitely a lot more we could have done in either of these two parks, and maybe someday we'll be back. If not, at least we got to see that much!

Next week: Algonquin Provencial Park, Ontario.

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.







Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Middle Grade fiction: After Zero, by Christina Collins

32194556 

Title: After Zero
Author: Christina Collins
Publication Info: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2018. 256 pages
Source: Library digital resources
 
Publisher’s Blurb:
Elise carries a notebook full of tallies, each page marking a day spent at her new public school, each stroke of her pencil marking a word spoken. A word that can't be taken back. Five tally marks isn't so bad. Two is pretty good. But zero? Zero is perfect. Zero means no wrong answers called out in class, no secrets accidentally spilled, no conversations to agonize over at night when sleep is far away.

But now months have passed, and Elise isn't sure she could speak even if she wanted to―not to keep her only friend, Mel, from drifting further away―or to ask if anyone else has seen her English teacher's stuffed raven come to life. Then, the discovery of a shocking family secret helps Elise realize that her silence might just be the key to unlocking everything she's ever hoped for...


Review:
I'm going to do something I don't usually do. I read this book after reading a review from Jemima Pett a few weeks ago, and I'm just going to direct you off to her review. That's partly because I don't think I can write one without being influenced, and partly because I'm lazy as can be :D

So... before I send you to read Jemima's review, I was maybe a shade less enthusiastic (but still read it right through almost non-stop). I felt a bit like I was being educated about an issue, but for the most part it didn't interfere with the story. I would recommend it for the usual age range--8 or 9 to 12 or 13.

Now go read Jemima's review!

 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Middle Grade Review: The Summer of Bad Ideas

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1478673279l/31371235.jpg 

Title:
Author:
Publication Info:
Source:
Publisher’s Blurb:
In this funny, big-hearted friendship story, perfect for fans of Wendy Mass and Linda Urban, twelve-year-old Edie and her impossibly cool cousin, Rae, set out to complete a mysterious list of “Good Ideas for Summertime” that their eccentric late grandmother wrote back when she was their age.

But good ideas? Most of them seem like bad ideas. Reckless. Foolish. Ridiculous. Still, by accomplishing everything on the list, rule-abiding Edie feels certain that she can become the effortlessly brave adventurer she dreams of being, just like her daring cousin and bold grandmother. For this one summer at least, bad ideas are the best shot she has at becoming who she wants to be.

Bad Idea Number One: It’s time for a new set of rules.
My Review:
I took my sweet time finishing this one, but that was because of distractions (like driving across the country), not any real problem with the book. I did seem to be easily distracted in the first few chapters, but that's pretty normal for me.

Edith--Edie--is a likeable and relatable heroine. I could certainly relate to the geeky misfit aspect of her character, though not to the over-protective parents problem (my parents were blessedly trusting and liberal, as were many in the 1960s and 70s before we all became paranoid). In a way, there are two issues being developed here: Edie's need to learn to accept herself so that she can make and have friends (and her need to discover that she's not really so very unique with her anxieties and failings), and her need to break out of the fear-limits that have been in part developed out of her mother's over-protective parenting. Honestly, someone should have shaken that woman a long time ago, but with luck it's not too late for Edie. 

Some of the things on Petunia's (the grandmother's) list might be bad ideas, and most lead to trouble, but the idea behind the list is a good one: push your limits and find out who you are, or make yourself who you want to be. Of course, that's easier said than done, and doesn't Edie know it! In a different sort of way, this is a coming-of-age novel that has something for everyone, as we watch Edie discover herself and learn what makes a real friendship.

My Recommendation:
Ages 9 or so and up (the issues Edie faces are somewhat particular to middle school, but the friendship-insecurities start much younger for many). This is required reading for any geek who is scared of the outdoors, and anyone who thinks that she is the only not-cool kid around. It might also be required reading for any parent who is afraid to let their 7th-grader go to the store by herself. 

Full Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of The Summer of Bad Ideas from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."    

Friday, October 5, 2018

Photo Friday: Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Unit

Two weeks ago I shared our adventures in the South Unit of TRNP.  It's time now for the North Unit. We only spent one night there, but still managed to get in two adventures, at least as much as we did in the South Unit (it helped that our time in the North Unit was unhampered by rain--the weather was beautiful). For more about the park in general, see the previous post.

We left the South Unit on a chilly morning, but the day heated up during the 60-mile drive north. On the road into the Park, we had a minor  delay, the local version of a traffic jam.
A herd of 15 or 20 cows and calves and a bull or two (young ones? Not sure why these were with the females) ambled across the road, supremely indifferent to the inferior beings in their metal boxes.
We found a campsite in the attractive Juniper Campground (in a peaceful cottonwood grove; I don't recall seeing any junipers...).  After a trip to town for supplies and a nap (and some serious time spent cleaning our bikes, which had gotten rather nasty what with the rain and dirt roads), we mounted up for a late-afternoon ride.
Juniper campground is in that grove of cottonwoods.
The park road offered a perfect 19-mile round trip ride from the campground, and almost no traffic on this weekday in late August. I think we saw about 6 cars the whole time we were out. Of course, for most people it was dinner time. For us, it was the perfect time for riding and photos.
The little viewing pavilion was a 1930s CCC project.
Even right along the road the badlands geology was on show.
Layers with varying degrees of erosion resistance, as well as different mineral make-ups, create striped slopes and platforms.
The "Cannonballs" are accretions, but I missed the explanation (if any) of why and how they formed in this cliff.
 Low afternoon light over the river and the bluffs provided the motivation for timing our ride just before sunset.
The Little Missouri River marks the line between Mountain Time and Central Time right here. South Unit runs on the former, North Unit on the latter. The parts of the North Unit across the river are wilderness, so no one cares what time it is there.
 Next morning we made an early start to get in a 4-mile hike before it got hot. This proved to be a great choice--the trail routed us through a bit of everything, from coulees (canyons) to badlands to the rim. We had wanted to do a much longer hike/bike combo, but with a long drive ahead of us, decided we couldn't afford the time. Another one to come back to some day! Actually, I'd like to do an overnight loop through the wilderness section of the park someday.
Walking up the coulee, with some really interesting layers of mud/mudstone on the walls above us. The dark grey is something that clearly oozes and slides with every rain, or nearly.
The is petrified wood in the badlands as well.
This was well above the trail, but in any case, however tempting, good people don't steal pieces of petrified wood.
We had noticed as we hiked that many of the trail markers appeared to be posts with plain metal pieces attached. We finally figured out why the markers were blank and the posts so smooth.
All that hair gives bison itchy faces. And the post are perfect for scratching those itches... even if it means leaving some of that hair behind.
We broke out onto the high prairie after a couple of miles.

The road crossing was a popular spot. This reminded me of something... ;)
Wild turkeys. Not that different from British rock stars?
On through more badlands. I wouldn't want to do this trail when it was wet (as we learned in the South Unit, the mud turns ice-rink slick).
  And then we dropped back down to the car, to clean up and drive 6 or 7 hours to Minnesota and a new kind of terrain.
This was really a beautifully designed trail, and hiking it in the recommended direction early in the morning was perfect.
Next stop in a week or two: Lake Superior--my first Great Lake.

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

IWSG: Major Life Events and Writing



Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to the IWSG page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! If it links to Google+, be sure your blog is listed there. Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.



Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!
October 3 question - How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?

The awesome co-hosts for the October 3 posting of the IWSG are Dolorah @ Book Lover, Christopher D. Votey, Tanya Miranda, and Chemist Ken!
 ***
Oh, wow--I think our IWSG leaders chose this prompt for me. Do life events affect my writing? Well, yeah. You know that, because I've been whining about it all year!
This has been a year of change for us, though in fact the change didn't happen until June. But we have spent much of the year planning for the big events: retirement and the sale of our home of 20 years (last year was the year of empty-nesting, as our second son started college), followed by major travels. Just the planning badly disrupted my writing--I think that any significant writing stopped by early March, and I am only now starting to get at it again.
A lot of that disruption to my writing was what I'll call physical: my time was eaten up by preparing the house for sale, then by our summer backpacking extravaganza, and finally by moving out, putting all our goods in storage, and driving across the country to begin our year of vagabonding.
The other aspect that has made it hard to write, though, is the psychic and emotional burden of these life changes. Having our last kid move out (a year ago) was one thing, but ripping my life up by the roots is quite another. Part of the point of this exercise (besides getting to see more of the world) is to shake us up and keep us sharp by forcing us to adapt to new situations. That's not an easy thing for me, so facing the prospect (maybe even more than actually doing it), left me often unhappy and upset, and in search of the comforts and consolations of re-reading old favorites, rather than the adventure of diving into new stories of my own.
I'd like to say that through it all, writing has been my point of stability. But I'd be lying. Writing is my calling, but that doesn't mean it isn't hard. And, being hard, when everything around me is in chaos, I find it all too easy to find something else to do. I'll give myself credit for keeping this blog going the whole time, the one writing task I managed to sustain. I still have visions of writing my way around the world--but I think that I'll do very little beyond maintaining my journal of our travels, and, I hope, sharing them here.
How about you? Can you treat writing as your rock when chaos erupts around you? Or are you with me--in search of a nice novel and a bowl of ice cream? Leave your answer below, then follow the link in the logo to visit the other participants in this most encouraging of writers' blog hops.
    

Monday, October 1, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: Hattie Big Sky/Hattie Ever After

207798  15760528
Audio book reviews.

Title: Hattie Big Sky and Hattie Ever After

Author: Kirby Larson. Read by Kristen Potter

Publication Info: 2007 and 2013 by Delacourt Press (hardback) and Listening Library (audio). 289 and 240 pages respectively.

Source: Library digital resources


Publisher's Blurbs:
Hattie Big Sky:
After inheriting her uncle's homesteading claim in Montana, 16-year-old orphan Hattie Brooks travels from Iowa in 1917 to make a home for herself and encounters some unexpected problems related to the war being fought in Europe.

Hattie Ever After:
After leaving Uncle Chester's homestead claim, orphan Hattie Brooks throws a lasso around a new dream, even bigger than the Montana sky. She wants to be a reporter, knowing full well that a few pieces published in the Arlington News will not suffice. Real reporters must go to Grand Places, and do Grand Things, like Hattie's hero Nellie Bly. Another girl might be stymied by this, but Hattie has faced down a hungry wolf and stood up to a mob of angry men. Nothing can squash her desire to write for a big city newspaper. A letter and love token from Uncle Chester's old flame in San Francisco fuels that desire and Hattie jumps at the opportunity to get there by working as a seamstress for a traveling acting troupe. This could be her chance to solve the mystery of her "scoundrel" uncle and, in the process, help her learn more about herself. But Hattie must first tell Charlie that she will not join him in Seattle. Even though her heart approves of Charlie's plan for their marriage, her mind fears that saying yes to him would be saying no to herself. Hattie holds her own in the big city, literally pitching her way to a byline, and a career that could be even bigger than Nellie Bly's. But can making headlines compensate for the pain of betrayal and lost love? Hattie must dig deep to find her own true place in the world. Kirby Larson once again creates a lovingly written novel about the remarkable and resilient young orphan, Hattie Inez Brooks.  

My Review:
By the age of the protagonist, these should be young adult novels, but they are rightly cataloged as middle grade. Hattie's struggles and the issues she faces are real and adult, but the author has written it in such a manner that the story will appeal to children, while still absorbing this undeniably non-juvenile reader.

I am of course fascinated by the whole process of settling the western US, and Hattie is the same age as my own grandmother, who also helped settle the west during that time of transition from the frontier to the 20th Century. Hattie has to face her life choices and struggles more or less alone, though I think that the important lesson she learns in each book (it takes a couple of times for her to get the lesson, and who among us hasn't had that problem, too?) is that she isn't alone, unless she chooses to be. In each book, she makes it through because others reach out to help her, and because eventually she reaches out to accept that help.

Since one of the big appeals is that Hattie is so strong-willed and independent, and determined to make a career for herself, I would love to see a 3rd book that shows how she manages her "work-life balance," as we say nowadays. Otherwise, we are left with the feeling that I so often get from books set in this era or earlier, a bit of disappointment that the female protagonist may be forced to compromise too much. So often the books fall on the side of love and marriage, as though somehow a year or so of independence was enough to last a lifetime. I'm in favor of more independent spinsters in books for girls, even though (or because?) I didn't choose that path!

I've wandered a bit from the point of the review, but suffice to say that I enjoyed the books a great deal, and checked out the second immediately on finishing the first, because I hadn't had enough of Hattie's humor, independence, and occasional blunders!

My Recommendation:
This is good for readers probably from about 8 up through adulthood. The view of the homesteading life is rich and realistic, and the intrusion of WWI into Hattie's dream adds an element that forces readers to think about prejudice and nationalism. The second book feels less weighty to me, but as mentioned, it touches on the very real issues of women's rights that were just coming into force after WWI.

Full Disclosure: I borrowed electronic copies of Hattie Big Sky and Hattie Ever After from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."