If I Run – by Terri Blackstock (2016)

Both the hunter and the hunted in this novel have post-traumatic stress disorder. Dylan has returned from military service in the middle-east with vivid memories of friends being blown up by IEDs. Casey has been traumatized by finding her father hanging from a rope in an apparent suicide when she was 12. She has never believed it was a suicide, but has no proof to suggest otherwise.

Then Casey is further traumatized when she finds her friend Brent in a pool of blood after being repeatedly stabbed. Fearing she will be accused of murder, Casey runs, leading the police to indeed think she committed the murder. Dylan is hired by Brent’s grief-stricken family to assist the police department in finding Casey and bringing her to justice. How long can Casey elude Dylan and the police?

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Not a normal Thanksgiving…

Let’s face it – Thanksgiving 2020 is not going to be the holiday we are accustomed to. Many people are bemoaning the fact that they can’t get together and have their usual celebration with family and friends. But this is not the first time Americans have struggled at Thanksgiving time. Consider these photos:


These guys were stuck in Korea, about six thousand miles from home, and with no cell phones or Facebook to connect with their loved ones.

Norman Rockwell painting of a homeless woman on Thanksgiving Day, 1948

And this painting by Norman Rockwell summed up what Thanksgiving was like in many places in Europe, where cities had been been bombed, leaving many of its residents in rubble for years.

So wherever you are, be thankful for what you do have, instead of what you don’t have this year.

Twelve Years A Slave – by Solomon Northup (1853)

Solomon Northup was born as a free American in 1807 in New York State. The first thirty or so years of his life were good. He worked as a farmer, married, had three children, and earned additional income playing his fiddle at community gatherings. In 1841, he was lured to a musician’s gig in Washington D.C. Instead of finding a good job there, he was drugged, kidnapped, and sold on the slave market under a new name – Platt. He quickly learned that if he tried to protest that he was a free man, he would be beaten severely, and no one would believe him. So it was that Solomon ended up working on plantations in Louisiana for the next twelve years.

To extricate oneself from slavery in the mid-1800s was like moving heaven and earth. It was truly a miracle that Solomon was able to convince a white man to send a letter to friends back home. In the end, it took an abolitionist carpenter from Canada, the governor of New York State, and letters from a senator and a Supreme Court justice to free him. On January 4, 1853 he was legally declared a free man again.

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The Goldfish Boy – by Lisa Thompson (2017)

Twelve-year-old Matthew Corbin has not left the house in months. In fact, he spends the majority of his time in his bedroom, staring out the window and keeping meticulous records of what each neighbor on their cul-de-sac is doing. Every time someone takes a walk, returns home from the store, trims their bushes, or talks to someone, it is carefully recorded in his notebook.

In addition to writing his observations of neighbors, he compulsively washes his hands, sanitizes his room, and takes scalding-hot showers. Yes, Matthew has OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He hasn’t been able to go to school for about a month. His parents have no idea what brought on his obsession with germs.

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Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years – by Clinton Heylin (2017)

Bob Dylan is one of the most talented song-writers and musicians in modern times. He was born into a Jewish family in Minnesota in 1941. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, he began performing and recording folk music, at first with others, then on his own. Before long his songs about social and political issues made him a voice for all Americans who objected to the Vietnam War (and wars in general).

As the years went by, Bob Dylan tried almost every style of musical expression, some of which his listeners loved, and some of which people disliked. But it didn’t matter to Bob, as he wrote and sang about whatever was on his heart at the time, and in whatever style he wished.

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All Right Here – by Carre Armstrong Gardner (2014)

Amy Darling leads a somewhat fulfilled life. She has a close relationship with her parents and siblings, is married to a good man, and enjoys her job at a bookstore. Both she and husband Nick desperately want a baby, and have been on adoption waiting lists for years. It looks like their dream of becoming parents may not happen.

Then comes the day that the three children next door are abandoned by their mother. Amy brings them into her kitchen, feeds them, and calls the authorities. The children have no idea where their mother has gone, and say that this is not the first time she has left them. Nick and Amanda become their foster parents.

As the story goes on, the author takes what seems like a simple storyline, and weaves into a much more complex one.

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I Survived The Eruption Of Mount St. Helens, 1980 – by Lauren Tarshis (2016)

Mount St. Helen was a beautiful mountain in the state of Washington. Despite the fact that it had been an active volcano in the 1840s and 50s, people hiked and camped at its base. But beauty can be deceiving. On March 20, 1980, the volcano began to awaken, releasing steam and ash. Many other small eruptions followed. On Sunday morning, May 18, Mount St. Helens shook violently, one side of the mountain began to slide away, and hot lava spewed forth. The smoke and ash rose 80,000 feet into the air, spreading into eleven states and two provinces in Canada. Fifty-seven people lost their lives, and hundreds of miles around the mountain were obliterated.

The author has taken the historic events of the Mount St. Helens eruptions, and added in the fictional characters of eleven-year-old Jess and her twin friends, who live in a little town at the base of the mountain. The kids enjoy exploring the woods there, and are trying to figure out if the local legend of a crazy person named Skeleton Woman is true. They experience the early warning of the first earthquakes, and bump into a geologist who warns them that the mountain is about to erupt.

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Adam Canfield Of The Slash – by Michael Winerip (2005)

Harris Elementary/Middle School has a student newspaper with the catchy name of “The Slash”. Adam and Jennifer are coeditors, with a team of other students eager to report the happenings around school as well as the community. The youngest member of the team is Phoebe, who is only in 3rd grade, but is brilliant.

Every issue of the school newspaper has to be approved by their principal, Mrs. Marris. The kids write articles about things like the quality of cafeteria food, how to prepare for tests, and a feature story about their beloved janitor. Then an elderly woman in their community dies and leaves some money to the school.

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Oh, those blasted reminders…

If your mailbox is like ours, for months it has been filled with mass mailings that say:

“Apply for an absentee ballot.”
“Apply for your mail-in ballot NOW.”
“There’s only ___ days to apply for an absentee ballot – hurry!”
“Vote for this person!”
Don’t vote for this person – they are terrible!”
“We support this person and so should you.”
“Don’t vote for this person; ____ has been a disaster for our state.”

One of the mailings even chided a member of our family for not voting in two specific elections over the past ten years, and gave the specific dates that they were negligent! Holy cow, if someone doesn’t want to vote in a specific election because they don’t like any of the choices, it’s his/her/their right to not vote!

Now we are to the point that every day brings a scolding that we haven’t voted yet. Yesterday’s mail delivery gave us a “FINAL NOTICE”,

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The Christmas Scrapbook – by Philip Gulley (2005)

If you have read and enjoyed any of the “Harmony” novels by Mr. Gulley, you will find this slim book to be just as entertaining. Sam, the melancholy minister of Harmony Friends church, is attempting to make a unique gift for his wife Barbara for Christmas. His heart is in the right place, but he has no idea what he’s doing. So he signs up for a Wednesday night class, but won’t tell Barbara what he’s doing. The secrecy leads to all sorts of misinterpretations by folks around town.

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