Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match

John Watson is used to being the new kid and this year is no exception. After solving a case with the intrepid Shelby Holmes, however, this time he’s certain that he can take the Academy with confidence. The only problem? Shelby. Or rather, his friendship with Shelby. It seems everyone at his school is jealous of or in fear of her – with good reason. Shelby’s already on the hunt again and this time the victim of her scrutiny is the new science teacher, Mr. Crosby. When their case becomes much more than a simple matter of theft, Watson and Shelby find themselves facing an opponent who is might even achieve the impossible and be even more brilliant than the young detective herself! Can Shelby and Watson beat out their clever enemy before it’s too late?

Elizabeth Eulberg has done it again with the second in her brilliant gender-bend version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective. The author weaves a well-told tale, punctuated by humor, middle-school spirit, and a healthy dose of mystery. I highly recommend this book for younger readers, as they will love the relatable character of John Watson and his friendship with the brilliant young Shelby Holmes.

Before you read this book though, pick up the first one and check out my review on it at

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Mother’s Day

He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.” ~ Proverbs 18:22

The above verse may be true, but I think that verse is a little incomplete without something: “He who finds a wife [who will make a good mother] finds what is good…”


Mothers are vital. Though we know many for the infamous roles of being “step”mothers or for being neglectful or even scheming mothers, I think people forget some of the best mothers ever made famous through prose, lyrics, and film. Think of Lily Potter, who gave her life for her son or Marmee from Little Women. These characters are loving, selfless, and are examples of motherhood at its best. Even if we’ve never personally experienced the love of such a person, we know of them.

There is a reason we have a national holiday to celebrate mothers. They are one the pillars upon which society stands, one of the two fundamental parts that make up the basis for a Godly household. Their role is important despite the fact that it is so easily overlooked. The mother that raises her children with true love, a love that includes discipline, compassion, and patience is the best mother indeed.

This Mother’s Day, I encourage all of you to let the mother figure in your life know how much you love her. God made the first mother with a vision in mind of a wonderful woman, whose love for her children would be second only to his.

Happy Mother’s Day, ya’ll.

Oh and just so you guys know, I’m just gonna state here and now: I have The. Best. Mom. In the world.

Just in case you got any ideas.

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Sarah Plain and Tall

I’ve always been blessed to have a mother. There wasn’t a time when I can’t remember her being ever-present, ready (but not always willing) to cater to my every wish for cocoa and just one more story….please? Nevertheless, as will be, mothers and daughters quarrel. Despite the fact that we’re often complimented with the praise of looking alike, my mother and I don’t exactly have the same temperaments – though miraculously God gave us strong wills and A type personalities to clash regardless.

What a joy.

It is at times like these that I often have to be reminded, most often through the literary medium, of the numerous children who have never been lucky enough to enjoy a mother’s grace, love, and compassion. Sarah Plain and Tall is one of those books that reminds me of how much a mother can mean to children and how beautiful that slim hope is of having a complete family, fulfilled by the pivotal role of a mother.

Anna’s papa is wonderful and even if her home is rather dry and isolated, it’s hers. She and Caleb love their home, but even still it has something…missing. When their father decides to write away for a mail-order bride, Anna and Caleb get excited. Their best friends have a stepmother and she’s one of the sweetest people they know. So when a Sarah writes back to their father, Anna becomes hopeful that soon her father may start singing again and that the house will feel complete again. When Sarah arrives, she’s just as described, “plain and tall.” She’s exactly how Anna imagined, even with her talk of the rolling sea and the New England world she’s used to. The only problem? Papa may not be able to make Sarah fall in love with him and if Sarah goes back, Anna may lose the only chance she has of having the one thing she wants most in the world: a mother.

Anna’s desire to have a mother always reminds me what life should be like, not just for me with my type A personality and stubborn chin that points straight up when I’m angry, but for all of us. The mother we were born with isn’t perfect, but neither are we. And if I’ve got to choose to live a life with or without a mother, I’d rather take it with.

And hey, at the end of the day, watching my mom dance around the kitchen to Stevie Wonder may be embarrassing, but I’m pretty sure she cringes when she tells people that I’m a Ravenclaw nerd who adores Han Solo and wants to be BFFs with all the Avengers.

This Mother’s Day, celebrate the mothers you know. Even if it’s just the ones in books, they are important figures who make the world what it is. As some man with a long beard in a dress – sorry, tunic – said once upon a time, “It is the hand that rocks the cradle, that rules the world.”

Or something like that.

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When you’re homeschooled your whole life, middle school doesn’t really faze you. It’s more of a matter of “great, am I going to have to actually learn a new skill this year?” But there’s one thing that doesn’t change no matter whether you’re homeschooled or publicly schooled and that’s how awkward middle school can be. Life becomes a little bit more complicated as you try to navigate through all the change – and boy is there a lot of it. Thankfully there are authors like Svetlana Chmakova to help remind us that middle school can be fun or at least the books about them can be.

For Peppi Torres there are certain rules that one must remember when navigating the halls of a new school. When she’s noticed by the mean kids on her first day, breaking cardinal rule number one, Peppi lashes out in embarrassment at the one person who’s bothered to help her, science nerd Jaime Thompson. For almost every day after she feels guilty, but Peppi is finding it hard to apologize, especially with the rivalry rising between her social group (the art club) and Jaime’s (the science club). As the tension rises and pranks on both sides get more vicious, Peppi and Jaime find themselves in the middle of a battle for the last table at the annual club fair with no visible way to get both sides to make up. Luckily with a little bit of ingenuity and friendship, Peppi and the rest of her friends at Berrybrook might be able to make things a little less…awkward.

I absolutely adored this book. Awkward is told in such a winning way. It’s rip-roaringly hilarious and every single character is so filled with personality that it’s hard not to fall in love with all of them. Svetlana Chmakova’s book is filled with true-to-life characters and heartfelt humor that proves just what a great storyteller she is. This story of friendship, science, art, and a bit of middle school spirit is one that will definitely brighten up your day – I know it does mine.

Chime Time! Were you a part of a club in school and if so, which one?

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The Girl’s Guide to Rocking

When I was twelve years old, my grandfather sat down on the couch next to me and looked at me. “What instrument do you want to play, mija?” Violin was my immediate answer. I’d always wanted to play like Darby O’Gill or Lindsey Stirling.

He shook his head.

“Pick something else!” Alarmed, my twelve year old self lurched on to the next instrument that came to my mind: guitar, like my dad. Of course, I had no aspirations to play Van Halen, ACDC, or Chuck Berry, but it seemed that now I was stuck because my grandfather left and returned twenty minutes later with a guitar and book. “Here. Learn.”

All this to say that it’s been a long journey to becoming as good a player as I am today. Now, I’m not saying I’m excellent – far from it – but I consider myself more experienced now than when I began the journey into the music world five years ago. Getting calloused fingers and struggling to play rhythm was hard at times and my newest read would have definitely been an asset to the girl taking her first tentative steps on that path.

For any girl who’s dreamed of being up on a big stage or forming her own girl band, Jessica Hopper’s written a great how-to book: The Girl’s Guide to Rocking. Filled with all sorts of professional tips from a woman’s who’s been in the field, this read has tips on how to buy and maintain the basic instruments that one starts off with. It details how to start a band, how to survive as a lone star, and how to record a great demo. The Girl’s Guide to Rocking also features a timeline of women in the music field and talks about how women in the field have impacted music, how they have risen and fallen, played, and ultimately faded away. For those who are just starting out or even a seasoned professional, this book will definitely be a fun read.

After having discovered this read at the Skirball museum during their run of the Simon and Garfunkel exhibit, I ordered it at a local libary and waited. And waited. And waited. Well, it finally got here and I’m super glad it did. The Girl’s Guide to Rocking is worth a read and is a great way to remind me of all the fun and excitement of being a musician. It reminded me of what made me fall in love with the craft, from writing my own songs to playing music with friends and family.

Chime Time: Do you play an instrument and if so have you ever played in a band?

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious

What with the Avengers film debuting this weekend, I thought I might take a little time to flip through a book targeted at drawing younger audiences into the Marvel universe. The read? The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious, a follow up to the original book which is available at Disney Books.

Doreen Gray is pretty sure that being Squirrel Girl is the most awesome. Epic. Wonderful. Fantabulous thing ever! She loves every opportunity she gets to don the “suit” (okay, okay it’s just a hoodie with bear ears, but still). Being the resident superhero of Shady Oaks isn’t dangerous most of the time and when the really bad baddies come around Squirrel Girl’s got her BSFF (Best Squirrel Friend Forever) Tippy-Toe and BHFF (Best Human Friend) Ana Sofia to help her. Sometimes it’s so much fun being Squirrel Girl, that Doreen finds it hard to be Doreen Green. It’s especially hard when she has a mean teacher who doesn’t like her, a bunch of groupies/friends that only really like Squirrel Girl, and an inexperienced time with having a BHFF. When a mall begins to open between the two towns of Listless Pines and Shady Oaks, Doreen’s relieved to have some time to just kick back and enjoy quality time with her friends. But as a poll to decide the town’s mascot causes animosity to spread throughout her community, it may be time to take a closer look at those who run the mall…and whether they really have to do with Hydra or not!

For younger audiences who have yet to become acquainted with Marvel entertainment or for those who are a little too young to peruse some of the more adult content, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a great read. I would warn that there is some “mild” language, mostly the use of the word “crap”, and some slightly crude material as it is aimed at younger readers. Otherwise this is a clean read and an enjoyable one! I advise picking up the first book though.

Chime Time! Who’s your favorite lesser-known Marvel character?

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Question of the Week

For this week’s question, the answer is a bit complicated. I’m breaking it up into three different parts of the one answer.

Q: How do I create a good leading hero?

A: There are three general steps to creating any good hero, no matter their gender.

1. Don’t fall into stereotypes. That doesn’t mean your character won’t have similar qualities that can fall under a certain stereotype, but don’t do your readers the disfavor of creating a character who is bland and lacks all complexity because they simply fall under a general description. You know, the “chosen one,” the “moody one”. That’s not to say Harry Potter and every other chosen one isn’t loved, but they can all sort of blur together if something about them isn’t made more distinct than just being “the chosen one”.

2. Give characters something more complex details that are memorable. This can be the fact that the character LOVES carrying around a bag of cheerios to bribe their BFF’s evil dog. That’s an interesting dynamic for the character and also an interesting look into the character’s personality. They’re friends with someone who owns a scary dog and is not afraid to bribe that dog to get to the quality buddy time they want.

3. Give characters room to grow. The example I gave was Captain America and Iron Man [MCU versions, for you comic junkies], both great examples of growth. Iron Man is an example of a character whose values change. He changes from a self-centered playboy to an easily guilt-inflicted, responsibility-oriented adult who still has control issues. So at the heart of it, some of what makes him still remains. Captain America is the complete opposite. His values never change, but his reaction to the world around him changes. He believes in the same ideals of justice, honor, and duty, but his reaction to that (following orders without question, always following the letter of the law) change. Both characters also grow in response to each other.

So yeah, these are the three parts to one answer. 1. Make your character a bit more than a stereotype 2. Give them some interesting details that are memorable. 3. Give them room to grow.

Did this help? Do you have any tips to create a great hero?

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Disney Parks Presents the Haunted Mansion

This post is a sequel to my previous Disney Parks Presents post, this time featuring the Haunted Mansion book.

When crypt doors creak and tombstones quake, spooks come out for a swinging wake! In this fun book, Disney’s classic attraction is celebrated with colorful illustrations and the bold lyrics of the well-known “Grim Grinning Ghosts” covering the pages. If you’re a fan of the attraction, which originally opened on August 12, 1969, this book will definitely be an enjoyable read. The art does not necessarily play into the lyrics themselves and instead loosely follows the path that the renowned Omnimovers take through the attraction. The artwork is creepy and graphic and manages to capture the perfect balance of these dual elements that Imagineers Xavier Atencio and Claude Coats tried to capture.

If you’re a fan of classic attractions, especially those in the New Orleans Square area, then you should definitely pick up this fun read. Disney Parks Presents the Haunted Mansion is a marvelous ode to a ride that has become as essential to the parks as the other attractions featured in the previous two books, Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World. Pick up all of these great children’s books to have a fun trip through the rides you know and love that remain so iconic to the Disney experience.

Chime time! What is your favorite classic Disney attraction?

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Question of the Week

This week’s question is pretty basic advice for writers who find their books being rather…skeletal:

Q: I feel like I am bunching everything together in my book and it is moving along too quickly. What should I do?

A: [This is another friend’s question from my Write a Book in 30 Days project] Excellent question! If you’re struggling with everything being lumped together and therefore having no suspense and body to your story, I would suggest adding some fluff and character development. Character development can happen through the actions of the story, but it can also happen through the slow, sentimental moments that give us a glimpse of a reader’s character when not thrust into the middle of a terrific adventure. These character development points will also help when trying to space out your novel as each scene of development should help further your character’s story along, even before the rest of the action plays out.

That’s all for this week! Be sure to leave a question in the comments if you have any and I will see you all next week for a haunting read.

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Lost in a Book

This week’s review is on a Beauty and the Beast stand-alone novel that takes place within the timeline of Disney’s live-action film. 

Clever Belle. Beautiful Belle. Funny Belle, trapped in a palace with a monster. After saving her father from imprisonment with a horrible creature, Belle is unsure what she’s going to do. Trapped as she is and with no means of escape, it seems all she can do is spend her days cleaning the castle and daydreaming about returning to her father. Beast’s secretive nature intrigues her and the pain she sees in him and the castle staff make her more determined than ever to discover what secrets they hold. Though she finds kindred spirits in all of the hard workers, Belle is rebuffed time and time again by the Beast. One night when she escapes to her new library, she discovers Nevermore, an enchanted volume that is more portal than book. Stepping into its pages leads to a magical realm that brings back everything she lost at the hands of the Beast. Here, Parisian luxury and charming friends are only a carriage ride away. But everything is not as it seems. Unbeknownst to Belle, she is the victim of a vicious game played between the two most powerful beings in the universe and Nevermore is just a device in that game. Can Belle untangle the mystery of Nevermore before it’s too late? Or will she be forever lost in the book?

Funny, thrilling, and entertaining, Lost in a Book is a superb example of what an author can do with a pre-existing world and cast of characters. Jennifer Donnelly, the author of several award-winning YA novels including the Waterfire Saga, breathes new life into the well-known tale of Belle and her Beast with this read. Whether or not you enjoyed the movie, this is an excellent read. If it makes you feel better, just picture the original cast of characters in this one, as there are no obvious references that differentiate between the two films.

However you choose to read it, Lost in a Book is a book that is definitely worth giving a try and I highly recommend you pick it up at least once.

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