Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Books for 2013

Looking for something Spooktackular to read with your kids? I've gone through the book releases for 2013 and compiled a list of some awesome looking reads.- Dorine

Picture Books:

 Crankenstein- Little Brown 2013

by Samantha Berger, Dan Santat- 

He may look like any ordinary boy, but when faced with a rainy day, a melting popsicle, or an early bedtime, one little boy transforms into a mumbling, grumbling Crankenstein! When Crankenstein meets his match in a fellow Crankenstein, the results could be catastrophic-or they could be just what he needs to brighten his day! 

Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat- Antheneum Books for YR.
by Doreen Cronin, Betsy Lewin -
Farmer Brown does not like Halloween. So he draws the shades, puts on his footy pajamas, and climbs into bed.

But do you think the barnyard animals have any respect for a man in footy pajamas? No, they do not. For them, the Halloween party has just begun. And we all know these critters far prefer tricks over treats.

There are big surprises in store for Farmer Brown!

Pinkalicious: Pink or Treat! (Pinkalicious)- HarperFestival
by Victoria Kann
When a big storm shuts down all the power in Pinkville, Pinkalicious must turn into Pinkagirl to save Halloween!

Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover -Disney-Hyperion
by Anne Marie Pace, LeUyen Pham 
Before Vampirina can host her very first sleepover there are a few things she must keep in mind: be polite and offer her guests food (like blood pudding); plan some games like scavenger hunt (but keep the clues simple so no one gets lost); and don't forget to dance! Vampirina may be a little nervous at first, but by following a few simple rules she will host the Best Sleepover Ever.

Middle Grade-

October Ogre (Calendar Mysteries #10)- Random House Books for YR
by Ron Roy, John Steven Gurney 
In the tenth book of the Calendar Mysteries, an early chapter-book mystery series featuring the younger siblings of the A to Z Mysteries detectives, there's a haunted house in Green Lawn! It's Halloween, and the Shangri-la Hotel has been transformed into a haunted house, complete with an ogre out front. Bradley, Brian, Nate, and Lucy are ready for some scary fun, but then they notice that none of the kids who have gone in the hotel have come back out. What's happening to them? Ghosts and witches and ogres aren't real . . . right?

Rise of the Balloon Goons (The Notebook of Doom #1)- Scholastic
by Troy Cummings (This whole series rocks)
Alexander has just moved to a new town where he is about to uncover all sorts of monsters! He finds an old notebook with the word "DOOM" inscribed on the front cover. The Notebook of Doom, which Alexander now holds, contains top secret information about monsters! In this first book, Alexander goes up against spooky balloon goons--unique and twisted arm-waving balloon guys!

The Emerald Ring (Cleopatra's Legacy)- Cedar Fort
by Dorine White (Me! There's a great Halloween scene)
Ordinary tween life turns upside down when Ancient Egypt intrudes on modern middle school life. Twelve year old Sara Guadalupe Bogus reads about adventures, but unexpectedly is drawn into one when a mystical emerald ring that once belonged to Cleopatra becomes stuck on her finger.

A series of burglaries spook Sara’s small Ohio hometown. Concluding that the root of all the crimes is the emerald ring, Sara realizes it’s up to her and her friends, Heidi and African exchange student Kainu, to save the town and protect Cleopatra’s legacy. Filled with magic, the ring thrusts Sara into a world filled with nightmares, allows her to shape shift into an Egyptian cat and battle assassins.

 The House of Hades (The Heroes of Olympus #4)-Hyperion

by Rick Riordan

Can't pass this one up! The final in the Percy Jackson series.
At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?

They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.

My Weird School Special: It's Halloween, I'm Turning Green! -HarperCollins
by Dan Gutman  (Author) , Jim Paillot 
It’s Halloween, and you know what that means! Candy! Costumes! More candy! What would happen if a kid ate a million hundred pounds of chocolate in one night? One thing’s for sure—when A.J. and his friends from Ella Mentry School go trick-or-treating, it will be a Halloween to remember.

 The Grimm Conclusion (A Tale Dark & Grimm #3)- Dutton Juvenile
by Adam Gidwitz , Hugh D'Andrade 

Once upon a time, fairy tales were grim.

Cinderella’s stepsisters got their eyes pecked out by birds.
Rumpelstiltskin ripped himself in half.
And in a tale called “The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage,” a mouse, a bird, and a sausage all talk to each other. Yes, the sausage talks. (Okay, I guess that one’s not that grim…)
Those are the real fairy tales.
But they have nothing on the story I’m about to tell.
This is the darkest fairy tale of all. Also, it is the weirdest. And the bloodiest.
It is the grimmest tale I have ever heard.
And I am sharing it with you.
Two children venture through forests, flee kingdoms, face ogres and demons and monsters, and, ultimately, find their way home. Oh yes, and they may die. Just once or twice. 
That’s right. Fairy tales

Have a goulishly good time and read!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Physical Health vs. Mental Health: There Should Be No Difference

I'm going to keep this brief and to the point. Why do we, as a society, treat physical ailments one way and then stigmatize all mental disorders (Depression, Anxiety, Bi-Polar, Schizophrenia, OCD, etc.) under a separate category of "Mental Health"?

With all that we have learned about the brain during this past decade, we know now that all of these disorders have to do with chemical imbalances in the brain. Isn't the brain part of the human body? Isn't it, in fact, the most important organ of the body? It controls all of our bodily functions. That's why a person isn't really dead until he's "brain dead."

Even PMDD (Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder) is now classified as a mental disorder, even though you'd think it has more to do with your hormones than anything up in your brain...but then, I guess our brains control hormone levels, as well.

What is the difference, anyway, between a diabetic, who needs regular insulin shots to keep his/her blood sugar stabilized, and a person with OCD, who needs regular medication to keep his/her seratonin and dopamine levels stabilized?

Nothing. No difference in my opinion. It's all physical. Let's get over the "mental"block we have about these things.

So the next time someone has the guts to admit that they've been diagnosed with any of those disorders, reassure them, give them a pat on the back, show your support. Just don't give them the look that says, "Yeah,'s all in your mind. Get over it, already."

It's not in their imagination, it's in their brain.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Cancer Awareness Month

Today I am sharing about Writers Unite to Fight Cancer warriors who choose to battle cancer with the pen and through other positive forces.

Marilyn Hartness is a survivor of the rare cancer Non-Hodgkin’s Mantle-cell Lymphoma. She is  the author of inspirational memoir Brave the Day: An Account of Surviving Cancer. Marilyn donates half the profits from her book sales to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society for research. At the end of her book, Marilyn shares recipes of her favorite dishes that she ate while going through chemotherapy and radiation and continues to eat today. She has given permission to publish them in the WUFC cookbook: Cauldron of Love. Marilyn also participates in fundraising marathons.

Dr. Lise Alschuler is the co-author of Five To Thrive: Your Cutting-Edge Cancer Prevention Plan, with Karolyn Gazella, medical journalist.  Their newest book: The Definitive Guide to Thriving After Cancer: A Five-Step Integrative Plan to Reduce the Risk of Recurrence and Build Lifelong Health focusses on cancer prevention for cancer survivor who have increased risk for reoccurrence and secondary cancers due to chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Lise Alschuler is a naturopathic oncologist who is a breast cancer survivor, or as she coins it, thriver.  Karolyn Gazella was living her dream until cancer paid a heart-breaking visit. Her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, their mother died of advanced pancreatic cancer, and Karolyn was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Holly Rose is the founder of Don’t be a Chump! Check for a Lump! She discovered she had breast cancer at the age of 39 after being reminded on Facebook to perform a self-breast exam. Holly Rose has chosen to share her inspirational journey through breast cancer and so much more in her book, “Live and Give: Facebooking My Way Through Breast Cancer.”   She is an active breast cancer prevention advocate with Don’t Be a Chump! Check for a Lump! events, which include Wig Out to provide breast cancer patients with free wigs and an annual Flash Mob.

Dr. Cay Randall-May is and artist author of several books and CD’s including: Healing and the Creative Response, Four Key Steps Shared by Artists and Healers”  This book demystifies natural and spiritual healing and cites specific examples drawn from various modalities including prayer, laying-on-of-hands, Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, and Energy Medicine.  The author explains that these share four Key Steps: 1. set intention; 2. relax and clear; 3. engage and blend; 4. attune to the highest, unconditional love. Dr. Cay Randall-May is a cancer survivor. 

Kim Adair is a colo-rectal cancer survivor. During the follow-up, her surgeon asked if she'd heard Katie Couric was coming to town. She decided to go and meet her as she had lost her husband to colon cancer. At the fundraiser lunch for Rocky Mountain Cancer Center Kim filled out an "ask Katie a question" card: "Why are more and more women getting colon cancer and what can we do about it?" Katie answered: "Get the word out about early detection." Kim proceeded to found and has been an activist for colon cancer prevention ever since.

Lisa Finder, author of Black Sand, is the CEO of 4Best Life, a pharmanaturals company. She founded the White Lions Foundation in 2010 as a non-profit organization dedicated to research and education in alternative cancer therapies.  Lisa is one of the Writers Unite to Fight Cancer original eight authors and supports us by extending non-profit status through White Lions.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bug Zoo Escapee
by H. Linn Murphy
I don't know about you, but there's a merit badge two of my boys have gone for that I don't much appreciate. That's the entomology badge.
Normally I'm fine with bugs unless they are invading my space, in which case it's open season. That's what hair spray and a match are for (or big boots). I don't freak out about spiders unless they are on my skin and obviously venomous.

But having to deal with their decaying, smelly, powdery carcasses gives me the heebee geebees, especially if the meal worms have gotten to them. That was the case with my second son's bug zoo. The little cannibals had gone through half the zombies pinned to the board and gutted them in the most literal sense. There were some seriously cool bugs on there who had met their demise in the cause for boy scout advancement.
So when my last son announced he wasn't going to dink around with a bug zoo, I had mixed feelings. For one thing, I'd just come by a grasshopper roughly the size of a Buick. And he's a pretty thing. He has red wings and an iridescent green body and he can just about get out of his jar all by himself...shudder.

Nope. The boy wasn't messing with that sucker. He advocated dumping it out in the yard where I found it. "I'm not dumping it back in our yard to eat our trees," I said emphatically. "That's why he's in that jar. If we have to dump it out, it's going out the car window into an undisclosed location." There that gargantuan behemoth sits awaiting its fate with fire in its eyes, while I decide whom to bless with my addition to their bug zoo.

So I guess my years of collecting bugs, driving boys to merit badge summits, checking to see if they actually brought underwear for their camping trip to Havasupai, and attending their eagle courts is about over. It's a bittersweet thing. I kind of liked doing many of those things with them. I work for the Boy Scouts as a unit commissioner. I used to work in the units and have more actual contact with the kids. Now it's less companionable and more administrative.

And my own are growing out of it all. Soon all I'll have left of them are their moldering bug zoos and an occasional phone call (if they're anything like their mom, they'll call every February 30th). It's kind of how I felt on Graduation Day with my life like a bug zoo before me. Did I jump or fly or run along the edge of the jar? Would I end up on a pin? Or escape into the wild blue yonder?

The world is wide open but I'm mildly terrified to leave the jar. I've had kids around for coughthirtyyearscough. What will life be like without them?
Well. Enough maundering. I've got to find somewhere to dump this monster.

Monday, October 14, 2013


by Michelle Wilson

I was looking across some photos the other day, and came across a picture of my mom when she was a young mother.

She is in her pajamas, no make up. And yet, she is beautiful.  

I see her humor in the slight curve of her smile, and the kiss she saves for me in the corner of it. 

I see truth and conviction behind her dark eyes. She knew who she was-  a daughter of God, and taught me to believe I was, too. I see sacrifice under her eyes, from time spent caring for her kids rather than sleeping. I see virtue, kindness, and most of all, love in her face.

She is beautiful.

And not a stitch of makeup.

I like make up and hair product. They polish me up. They're also easy to hide behind. I sometimes wonder if I had an airbrush if I would use that, too. But, beauty- real beauty- isn't what is outside, but inside. We've all heard that, right. But most of us still wear makeup.

Heck, I grew up in the eighties and nineties with dark make up and giant hair. They were my shield, and my glory. As I matured, the compliments grew. I'll admit, I liked it. So much so that I began to depend in it. It got to the point, in my early twenties, where I wouldn't dare be seen without makeup or my hair done.   Then a deeper problem began to grow. My sense of self became attached to the compliments given. If they told me I was pretty, than I was. If they didn't think I was, the I must not be. So, I tried harder to be pretty in their eyes, because I wanted to be pretty in mine. I even went to a modeling agency once. They told me my features were plain and "too soft" and I could stand to lose thirty pounds. I weighed 120 back then.  I didn't feel pretty that day.

Then I met my husband. One of the first things he said to me was, "You're pretty on the outside, but that'll fade. What's on the inside?" 

I was shocked. Wasn't my Cher-worthy hair good enough for him?

Thankfully, it wasn't. For the first time in my life, I had to look at my inside completely dependent from my outside. There was some good things there, dare I say a lot of good things. I was kind, loving, helpful, smart and funny. 

(What?! You say.  Is Michelle really complimenting herself? I am. And you should, too. To not acknowledge the good thing inside of you is an insult to God, your creator, who gave you those things. There's more about that at the end of this post.)

I was pretty good in the inside. I realized, though, that I had spent more time fussing and nurturing and polishing the outside that those good things within.

So I started focusing more on my insides. What did I really believe? How did I really behave? What did I really want? How strong was I really?  I launched a search to find all my weaknesses and faults- something had I tried to hide my entire life. And when I found them, I turned them over God, and with Him, tried to make them stronger, or even disappear.  

I learned more about God and my Savior, and tried to become like Them. A pursuit which is nearly entirely internal.

I worked on, and am still actively working on what is inside. And I will for the rest of my life.

How grateful I am for my husband's priorities. He did, and still does, look for what is in me.  I'm so glad, because my outside is changing. I'm 41. The gray hairs are sprouting. Skin is sagging. The bags under the eyes are appearing. The single-digit pants are gone.  I'm not a fan of any of it. But, I really, really  like what's in me. 

This is my mother again. I just love her. And this is me, as I write this post. No make up. Hair air-dried with no style. Bad lighting and a messy room.  Yep- that's me. 

And I'm totally ok with it.

In fact, I think I might resemble my sweet mother. At least, I hope I do.

I hope my kids can see the humor in the slight curve of my smile, and the kiss I save for my them in the corner of it;the truth and conviction behind my hazel eyes. I am a daughter of God, and teach my children they are children of God, too; the sacrifice under my eyes, from time caring for my children rather than sleeping;the virtue and kindness I strive to exemplify as I try to follow my Savior's example each day.

But I hope, most of all they will see love.

I love God. I love being His daughter. I love my husband. I love my children.

And I love me; outside....but especially in.

Who I am makes me feel beautiful.

Society tells us we need to look a certain way, wear certain fashions, to be beautiful. They tell us we should love who are, but then is up in arms when we one of us stands up and says, "I think I'm beautiful."

That happened to me once.

I was in a group of women. The subject of loving yourself came up. One woman asked, "Do you feel pretty?"  One by one the women said, "Oh, no. Not me. I'm just me. I would never say that."

Why not?

When it came to me, I said, "Yes, I do." You would have thought I just admitted to a heinous crime! They took my remark as arrogant and conceited. They clutched their chests and wore looks that screamed "We don't say things like that about ourselves. Real women are burdened with guilt, insecurity and self-deprecation."

Well, I still struggle with guilt and insecurity. I even self-deprecate sometimes.

But, I still feel pretty.

I don't feel pretty because of my outside. That is mostly out of my control, and is fading fast.

I feel pretty because my of what is in me: the DNA of Deity. I strive to have His image in my countenance. How can that not be pretty - even beautiful?

That's what I see in that picture of my mother.  That's what makes her beautiful.

Perhaps the most beautiful part of it all, is that that is what makes you beautiful.

Make up or not. Messy house or not. Trendy or not. Believe it or not. You are beautiful, too.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Responsible Parenting vs. Banning Books

I recently participated in a blog hop for Banned Books Week. As a writer and reviewer I read many books, and often I might like the book, but feel it is inappropriate for certain age levels. When I looked at the top ten ALA 2012 banned book list I had to agree with most of the books on there, and the reasons why the books were in question. Then there were books like Captain Underpants that made me laugh at the choice. I don't believe in banning books, but I do believe in age appropriate books.

 In fact, my 8th grader was supposed to read 2 of them for summer reading and I said no. What were they? 13 Reasons Why by Asher and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. I read 13 Reasons Why a couple years ago and enjoyed its poignant portrayal of a girl who chose to commit suicide. But, when I finished the book, I set it aside and told my oldest daughter she could not read it until she was sixteen. So, when my twelve year old was assigned it as summer reading I was astonished. I immediately wondered at the rest of the books that had been assigned. Most were fine, but then I ran across The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. 

As I began researching the book I was dismayed at the sexual references. Again I believed this book was not age level appropriate. I asked my daughter not to read it. She agreed when I explained to her my problems with both books. A problem arose when the teacher announced that the only way to earn an A first quarter back in the Fall, was to read the Part-Time Indian book. My daughter was devastated, but I sat her down and explained that she was taking a stand for what was right and that her school grade was not, at that moment, the most important thing.

As a mom, the most important thing in my life is raising good and moral children. It is my parental responsibility to monitor things like television and books. I don't want a library doing it for me. Their ideas might not coincide with my own. As an author I sometimes get flack from other authors about content in YA novels. Many writers today believe that YA is now an anything goes genre. It makes me sad to see what is put out there and considered appropriate for early teens. Please don't be afraid to be responsible. Talk to your children about what is appropriate to read at their age. Let them know that when they are older, in my kids cases 16, they are free to read what they want and I hope that they will choose wisely, but it will be their choice. And to teachers that assign questionable books- Please value children as much as their moms and dads do.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Loving Limitations- a how-not-to

“And if men come unto to me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Ether 12:27

Bah, humbug. The message of the scripture above (from the Book of Mormon for anyone not familiar therewith {I got to use the word therewith :D}) is one that I have been at odds with since, well, forever. I have a ton of weaknesses. Most of them involve food like cheese and chocolate and caramel and . . . . *takes snack break*
Ok, what was I saying? Right, weaknesses. I find myself frustrated daily with the prospect of tackling even one of these little demons at a time, and I am super distractible, another failing. Don’t get me wrong this isn’t a pity party post; I just feel like I have a grievance to air.
My faults don’t make me humble. They make me angry. Hulk. Smash. Angry. And according to a really great councilor I met once, anger is the physiological response to the belief that something is unfair. What I have intellectualized from this is that I think it is unfair that I have to have weaknesses. Probably because I don’t want them. More than that, I can’t accept them. I refuse to just acknowledge and move on from the fact of my mortality and therefore my imperfect nature. And despite this TED talk, this talk from the LDS General Conference this weekend, oh and this one, too, I can’t seem to get to a place of embracing my limited nature.
I often see people’s Facebook posts full of awesome accomplishment, and rather than feeling joy for their success, I want to punch myself in the face for not being equally excellent. Even as I am typing this my husband is gently explaining to my son that we don’t use the word stupid in our house, except that he learned that from me. So technically we do. I do. I shouldn’t. *forehead palm*
What this means for my writing is that I go into these places of complete lock down. I can’t write because every word is wrong. Every plot line is stupid, insipid, cliché. I find myself sitting at my computer with enough rage at my own ineptitude to melt the screen with my laser vision.
I have tried to tackle this particular issue a few times. And I manage to make a little progress. I can breathe through the mistakes, shake off the humiliation of one more, “Oops.” And then the cat-o-nine tails comes out and floggings begin anew. Maybe it’s because I care what people think of me (I want them to think good things, only good things), maybe it’s because I know I’m not quite living up to my potential, maybe I just need more chocolate.
I want to be humble. I want to face a place where I need some help or just more work and be able to say, “I know this isn’t my strong place, but I’m going to just try. And that’s enough for now because I am mortal and imperfect.” Yet every time I approach a failing with the intent to work on it I have an internal tantrum. “Why aren’t I better at this? Why is this taking so long? This makes no sense! Why can’t I just be perfect?”
I have no lesson here other than those given in the links above (You should watch them, really. They are fantastic.). So if any of you have been here, this place of epic frustration and wheel spinning over the stuff that isn’t right yet, please let me know. Let me know it’s not just me.
And in keeping with the theme, I signed up for this awesome write-a-thon and I missed the first two days. Check it out, I’m giving away a copy of the anthology I am in to someone who, you know, actually accomplishes stuff. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Turn Around

I live in a small town in Los Angeles county (which I realize sounds like an oxymoron to those unfamiliar with Southern California). It's a great place to live when you love culture and food the way I do. In minutes, I can eat at fantastic Asian or Mexican restaurants; see paintings and sculptures created by some of the finest artists of all time; hear a world-class symphony in a world-renowned landmark; sit and have the tension baked out of me at my choice of jimjilbangs; visit gorgeous beaches that have been memorialized in film and song; or find unearthly peace in one of my religion's largest and oldest temples. Millions of people live in the valleys to the south, east, and west of my house, as is evidenced by the sometimes horrendous traffic on our legendary freeways. 

But just days ago, I realized with a shock that I live on the edge of wilderness. Our house backs up to the San Gabriel Mountains, and we regularly have coyotes, mule deer, and black bears ambling down our street and generally causing a ruckus. And the other morning, I was walking our dog and looked up at the mountains, which were wreathed in a mist that made them look even more forbidding and inaccessible than usual. What lay beyond them, I wondered. When I got home, I looked us up on Google Maps and realized that civilization basically ends just feet from our front door--because beyond those mountains lies the Mojave Desert. 

What's more, 45 minutes to the south of us is the Pacific Ocean. Paddle out into that in a straight line, and you wouldn't hit land again for thousands of miles. When I look at where I live while contemplating these two wild borders--the mountains and the sea--Los Angeles suddenly feels very small. And what lies beyond my house and neighborhood and city feels like a gift that has been waiting for me all along. The great Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai wrote, " As the peach-blossom flows downstream and is gone into the unknown, I have a world apart that is not among men." Seeing the world around me in this new way was a radical shift in perspective for me, one that gave me a bit of a sense of vertigo.

Sometimes we need a similar shift in perspective when it comes to our writing careers. Those of us who are still waiting for our careers to take off, or who are hoping to take things to the next level, may at times feel like we're on the edge of a marvelous city, with all kinds of wonders just beyond our grasp. We may feel envy or a sense of injustice when someone else we know is admitted through the gates, while we remain outside, hoping for a chance to enter. We may have had some success, but it might not feel like enough, or as though things are moving much more slowly than we would like. When will it be our turn?

But maybe, when frustration rises, we just need to turn around. Have you been looking in one direction so long that you've forgotten what's behind you? Perhaps if we do an about-face, we'll see how far we've come on our journey and realize the bounty with which we've been gifted. And we, like Li Bai, will be able to retreat into a world that is not among men--and find peace there.