What I’m Reading

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card

by Sara Saedi, Alfred A. Knopf, 2018.


This memoir is a real eye-opener for anyone who is unfamiliar with the workings of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Sara Saedi was two years old when her parents fled Iran.  She didn’t know of her illegal status until years later, when her older sister applied for an after-school job.  Samira, Sara’s sister, couldn’t work because she didn’t have a Social Security number.

The Saedi parents spent years trying to get their green cards.  They even got a secret divorce in order for Sara’s mother to expedite her green card application.

Although the Saedis’ experiences with USCIS were terribly trying and difficult, and although Sara suffered with the constant fear of deportation, this family’s living situation was not nearly as dire as many of those facing ICE today.  The girls were not separated from their parents.  Money was tight, but they were not desperately poor.

For me, the most relevant part of this book was the “Undocumented Immigrant Refresher Course” at the end of the memoir.  From visitor’s visa to applying for political asylum, the author takes us through the process of naturalization in the U.S.



Awakening Magic: Coming Soon!

Book III of the Karakesh Chronicles

by Kim Ellis

Illustrated by Matt Wall


“In the beginning, the land’s designs were formed with the Deep Earth Song. And in the beginning, the dwarves were given charge of the underneath and all its treasures. The Tuatha faeries arrived and took the air and the surface for their abode. The arrangement worked well until the humans invaded.”  (p. 181, Awakening Magic)

Now, many years later, young Prince Emric must settle a dispute between the dwarves and the faeries or there will be war.

Morg, pictured above, is a leader of the dwarves.

Awakening Magic will be available this spring.

Meanwhile, the first two books of the Chronicles, Tangled in Magic and Guided by Magic can be found on Amazon.com and Handersen Publishing.



What I’m Reading

The Trials of Apollo

Book One: The Hidden Oracle

by Rick Riordan, Disney Hyperion, 2016.

trials of apollo 1

In preparation for the workshop I’m co-teaching this summer (Sci-fi/fantasy writing for 12-14 year-old kids with the Hudson Valley Writing Project*), I’ve been reading books in that genre.

Rick Riordan is the brilliant writer who conceived of Percy Jackson, the main character in his first series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians.  Percy is a demi-god, whose father is Poseidon and mother is human.

In Riordan’s books, readers get a lot of mythology, plus a clever sense of humor.  Riordan makes references to popular culture throughout The Hidden Oracle.  It’s fun to imagine with him the ancient gods like Apollo, and the mythical beings like centaurs and nymphs living in the 21st century.

Apollo takes credit for being the creator behind present-day artists and composers.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

My name is Apollo.  I used to be a god.

In my four thousand six hundred and twelve years, I have done many things.  I inflicted a plague on the Greeks who besieged Troy.  I blessed Babe Ruth with three home runs in game four of the 1926 World Series.  I visited my wrath upon Britney Spears at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards.

Riordan’s book is a wonderful mix of mythology, history, and popular culture.  The plot moves fast, from one dire situation to another, as Apollo, in the form of a 16-year-old human, tries to save Camp Half-Blood from the Triumvirate.

I may have to read Book 2!


Where the Deer Go


Three of the resident herd huddled in the snow outside our window this morning.  They belong to a group of at least eleven deer who make their home in the woods on either side of The Ridge.  Last week, during the ice storm, the entire herd picked its way up the main drive of the complex.

These two in the photo are yearlings from last spring.  I’m pretty sure I saw these twins as spotted fawns crossing streets in the village behind their mother.

“A deer’s home range is usually less the a square mile. Deer collect in family groups of a mother and her fawns. When a doe has no fawns, she is usually solitary. Male bucks may live in groups consisting of three or four individuals, except in mating  season, when they are solitary.”  (https://nhpbs.org/natureworks/whitetaileddeer.htm)

Too bad these lovely animals carry such a dangerous disease and are the bane of gardeners.  They are so elegant to watch, and bring a bit of the wild right outside our window.

Red Bird —Soon in the Morning


Two rival male cardinals live in the woods surrounding The Ridge.  Seeing this one (sorry for the blur) reminded me of the old Leadbelly song Pete Seeger used to sing.

I was a fortunate kid to have been taken to Pete Seeger concerts in Los Angeles, back in the 1950s.  My first memory of Pete Seeger is watching him perform Abi Yoyo from the foot of the stage.  I was astounded that this grown-up man was hopping around on the stage, acting pretty silly for an adult.  I can still picture the slim man with his banjo, high-stepping above my head.

Pete’s music followed me, or perhaps I followed it, throughout my life.  When I was actually on stage, singing with him at Clearwater Festival, it was the completion of a circle than began many years before.

Hail to Pete! Good morning, Red Bird!


5 Star Review for Tangled in Magic!

Readers’ Favorite awards 5 stars to Book I of the Karakesh Chronicles

5star-shiny-hr (1)

TIM cover1

Young Adult – Fantasy – General
272 Pages
Reviewed on 03/19/2019

Buy on Amazon

This author participates in our Review Exchange and Book Donation Program. Click here to learn more.


Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers’ Favorite

Tangled in Magic by Kim Ellis is the first book in the Karakesh Chronicles. Agatha’s twin brother Malcolm has disappeared, and she has strong reason to believe he’s still alive. She’s determined to find him, no matter the danger, and to stay one step ahead of the sinister warlock who murdered their parents. With a gyrfalcon at her side to lead her, she sets out to find Malcolm, but the journey won’t be easy as she encounters various travelers, who do not all have the best intentions, and confronts a dangerous panther. As she uncovers the truth about what happened to Malcolm, she also faces other dangers including Grassmen and dwarfs. All the obstacles she encounters are woven together to make her stronger. She shows strength and courage in everything she does, even helping strangers and putting herself at risk to do so. She also meets children she ends up helping, specifically a little girl named Rami who is in chains, and later a little boy. Their presence adds to a larger plot that finds Agatha as she’s going through her own journey in the background of her own situation, but also ties into her journey. She’s trying to free herself and so she goes to great lengths to help these children be free.

Ellis strikes a mirror between the present and the past with the warlock keeping a large presence throughout. Though he’s not seen physically, his presence is a constant threat seen through the stalking of a panther. Malcolm’s journal is key to unraveling the mystery of his disappearance as it chronicles his journey and gives insight into him as a character. The two animal characters of Archer and Carl are the primary companions who have a bickering dynamic in how they treat each other, which adds humor. Romance isn’t a major part of the story with only a sweet connection between Agatha and Garret, who is charming, but the real relationship focus is the one between her and her brother. It’s about their bond and how this plays into her determination to save him. Tangled in Magic is a fairy tale adventure with a daring heroine on a quest to save her twin brother, who faces a variety of dangers, meet travelers, and finds her own bravery.





What I’m Reading

pendragon book I

Pendragon  Book One: The Merchant of Death

by D.J. MacHale, Simon & Schuster, 2002.

In preparation for the sci-fi/fantasy workshop* I’m co-teaching this summer, I’ve been reading middle grade books in those genres.  From the first page of MacHale’s series, I knew what was coming:

…two things happened yesterday that changed my life forever.  The first was that I finally kissed Courtney Chetwynde…

The second thing was that I was launched through a wormhole called a “flume” and got jacked across the universe to a medieval planet called “Denduron” that’s in the middle of a violent civil war.

Reading this book as a writer, I was impressed with how much information MacHale packed into half a page.  We get the voice of the narrator, Bobby Pendragon, his approximate age, and the problem he’s going to face.  From the first page to the end, it’s one close call after another.

MacHale’s used an interesting plot device by alternating a third-person narrator recounting the events that Bobby’s two friends experience with Bobby’s first-person account in his journal.

For me, The Merchant of Death wasn’t a “can’t put it down” read, but it was good enough to keep me going to the end.

Warriors 4th Apprentice

Omen of the Stars   Warriors: The Fourth Apprentice

by Erin Hunter, Harper, 2009

By contrast, I ditched the Warrior cats book during the first chapter.  Maybe I’m suffering from an aging memory, and that’s the reason I gave up on this book.  Author Hunter threw so many new names at me that I became irritated.  Perhaps she was assuming that the reader (me) had read the previous series.  I hadn’t.  As a writer of a fantasy series, I’ve thought about this, and, in my case, I don’t expect the reader to know what came before.  A couple of sentences of backstory are helpful, and don’t slow things down too much.

Hunter has written several of these Warrior Cat series.  I don’t know how she keeps all the cats straight in her mind.  Admittedly, in the beginning pages, she provides a list of all the clan members and a description of each.  Even so, it would strain my reader brain to remember the differences among Briarpaw, Blossompaw, and Bumblepaw.

I did like that she included two maps.  For my own Karakesh Chronicles, I found that a map was necessary to gauge distances and directions.

Sometime this spring, the third book of the Karakesh Chronicles, Awakening Magic, will be published.  It’s my favorite of the five and will be available online at Amazon.com and Handersen Publishing.


*Hudson Valley Writing Project, SUNY New Paltz, Youth Writing Camp