Summer Stories

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What stories do you plan to get lost in this summer?

I don’t know about you, but the slower pace of summer is a great time for me to catch up on my TBR pile and I get super excited about a good summer series on TV and salivate over summer blockbusters at the theater!!!!!

Summer TV

imagesMy summer binge that I am most excited about is Hell on Wheels. The dark western about the construction of the competing railway lines westward into the harsh frontier of the Americas. Season 5 was just released on Netflix a couple of weeks ago. I love watching it on Netflix because I can watch all episodes at once for full effect.

In an effort to seek revenge for the brutal murder of his wife and young son at the hand of Union Soldiers, former Confederate soldier Cullen Bohannon hunts down their attackers. In doing so, he finds himself the foreman of transcontinental railroad. The “town” that follows the building of the railroad is called “Hell on Wheels” and brings together some of the roughest characters possible. Characters to hate, love and question. This is a true western series with dirt, mud, blood and the hardship of an unfamiliar terrain.

Needless to say, I am extremely excited to hunker down with this fifth and final season of one of my favorites!!

Summer Reads

Aside from book reviews that I am wading through, I have my own TBR pile that will sadly outlive me. However, summer is always a time for me to catch up where I have fallen behind.

Currently I am making my way through the Parasitology trilogy by Mira Grant. This fun, exciting and suspenseful series is a quick read and begs the question – What would we do if we found a cure for…everything! and then discovered  that it could end the human race!!!!!  This is enough of a “zombie” thriller that it keeps my Walking Dead appetite sated for the time being (if that’s possible). (rated PG13 for violence and intensity, language)

**Excellent reads for your middle schooler!

89716 Al Capone Does My Shirts is an interesting novel of historical fiction with a male protagonist. The story describes life on Alcatraz for families of guards, focusing on the activities of their children. Moose, the main character, is 12 and new to the island. He is also the caretaker of his sister, Natalie, who is Autistic – as she would be diagnosed today, but in the setting of the novel, it is unknown as to what makes her different from the other kids.

Gennifer Choldenko’s historical note at the end of the book as almost as interesting as the story itself. While some adaptations were made to the historical context of Alcatraz for effect, Choldenko seems to use quite a bit of interesting research to form her setting and plot. (rated: this novel is completely appropriate for students 6-8th grade and older)

Counting by 7s is a compelling story of loss, grief, coming of age, and individualism. Willow Chance is extraordinary…to most people she is a “weirdo”. But not to her parents. Willow is the precious gift to a couple who was unable to conceive and waited seven years to adopt a baby. 15937108

Now in middle school, Willow’s extremely orderly life is turned completely upside down. Willow often counts by 7s as a calming technique, but even that no longer helps. Despite the pain she experiences, Willow learns what love and relationships are with people other than her parents.

This is a deep and emotional story completely appropriate for students 6-8th grade and older.

Summer Blockbusters

Well, I was finally able to take my kids to see the new adaptation of The Jungle Book. Wow – totally worth it and super fun. New comer Neel Sethi is a fun, energetic and talented choice for Mowgli and accomplishes the job of creating a believable man cub wild enough to be completely at home in the jungle.

The CGI and other cinematic effects bring Kipling’s story to life in a new and amazing way. Christopher Walken as King Louie was perfection. My girls LOVED the movie and we had a blast watching it together on a hot summer afternoon.

This movie is intense and suspenseful. All of us found ourselves jumping in our seats several times. While this movie is not “scary” per se, the intensity may make it inappropriate for small viewers.

And the movie I have waited all year to see, X-MEN: Apocalypse!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And it did NOT disappoint.  I thought the movie was fun and exciting and everything I would want an “origin” story to include. I’m a huge Patrick Stewart fan, but I really do love James McAvoy as Professor X.

I recently watched Ex Machina on Amazon Prime. Oscar Isaac plays one of the main characters, a disturbingly despicable narcissist with a god-complex. Fittingly, he also plays Apocalypse. Needless to say, Apocalypse is an even more disturbing villain in my opinion because I could catch glimpses of Isaac underneath all that makeup.

Jean Grey, played by Sophie Turner, is far less annoying than normal. I found her much stronger and appealing as a hero than previous adaptations of the character. Scott Summers…meh, not so much.

There have been murmurings and disagreement as to the appropriateness of the Wolverine cameo – I loved it! As he is and will always be, my favorite of the XMEN, I thought it was a spot-on rendition of his escape from Striker. It also established a link between himself and Jean Grey which all fans know will be important later in their story.

I was extremely pleased with this installment of the XMEN saga and highly recommend the film.


Get your story on…and wear sunscreen!

(stella and sam pic –; Hell on Wheels pic –; Al Capone and Counting by 7s –; XMEN –


Take a little listen…

I LOVE audio books! How amazing that I can clean, fold laundry, drive, watch my kids in the pool, go for a walk or whatever and never have to put my book down! And, if you are lucky to come across a great narrator who makes the experience even more magical, all the better! And there are some great narrators out there…and sadly, some not so great ones.


So, I would like to offer up some suggestions for some great summer listens!



Harry Potter series read by Jim Dale

Pictures of Hollis Woods read by Hope Davis

Chronicles of Nick series read by Holter Graham

Lies of Locke Lamora read by Michael Page

In the After duology read by Julia Whelan

Ender series or Ender’s Shadow series read by a series of amazing narrators

Ramona series read by Stockard Channing…yes, Rizzo!!!!

Thirteen Reasons Why read by Joel Johnstone and Debra Wiseman

Unknown Assassin (previously called Boy Nobody) series read by John Salwin

Patricia Cornwell novels read by a series of great narrators

The Giver quartet read by a series of great narrators

All the Light We Cannot See read by Zach Appleman

Between Shades of Gray read by Emily Klein

Pirates!the true and remarkable adventures of Minerva Sharpe and Nancy Kingston, female     pirates          read by Jennifer Wiltsie


These are just a few audio books that have stood out to me over the years. It is not exhaustive by any means. Check out your local library – most libraries are equipped with Overdrive at this point and you can find so many books and audio books (for free!). A shout out to the Richland Library here in Columbia, SC with Overdrive set up with over 30,000 titles!!!!

Hope you can find a story that sucks you in this summer! More titles to come!

I want to know:                                                                                                                                                    What are you reading/listening to while you sunbathe this summer?


(For book review requests, there is now an email contact in the sidebar. I look forward to hearing from you!)


What are “your” kids reading?

Most of the time when we see a kid reading we get so excited just because he is reading! Which is great! And if you have read my previous post “Encouraging Reading” then you know that I am the same way! BUT!!!! (there is always a but…isn’t there) let me ask this: WHAT are “your” kids reading?

I say “your” because there are kids all around us who are “ours”. You may be a teacher, a daddy or a mama, a neighbor who has watched the kids next door grow and flourish, a church member or friend who loves another’s child like your own, an aunt or uncle, grandmother or grandfather. Regardless of who you may be, there are children in our lives that we love and for whom we are responsible.

So, what does that mean about what kiddos are reading? Well, just like most of us would be aware of what our kids are watching, we want to have the same vigilance with what our kids are reading.

Just because they can, doesn’t mean they should.

Often as parents we get super excited because our kiddo may be on a ridiculously high reading level. (Yay! Superheros whose super power is reading! BEST SUPER POWER EVER!) Sadly and realistically, upper reading level means more mature topics. It means different language, mature situations and discussions.

Are you aware that the book your innocent 3rd grader is reading is intended for middle or high school kids? That the main topic is boyfriend/girlfriend relationships or deciding whether or not to have sex? These topics are not bad in and of themselves! But are they age appropriate?

So here is my suggestion: be vigilant.

  • Preview the books your kiddo reads. Look up reviews or other parent commentary.
  • Read a bunch of age appropriate books and have some titles for “your” kiddos to choose from.
  • Don’t be afraid to comment kindly to a parent and say “Hey, I’ve read that book and I’m not sure if it matters to you or not, but….” I guarantee, they will be grateful for the protection you are offering. (Granted you do it respectfully without calling their parenting into question.)
  • Talk to your child’s teacher.  He/she WILL have a wonderful list of age appropriate books for your kiddo to choose from.
  • Think: If this was a movie, would I want my 2nd grader to see it?
  • Be willing to read along with your child and discuss more mature topics.
  • Just like you would want to protect your child from movies, TV, internet or other exposures to things he may not be ready for, do the same with a book. Just because it is a BOOK, doesn’t mean it is GOOD for your kid.

In this vein, I will have a few recommendations over the summer. To start:


TRUE…(sort of) by: Katherine Hannigan

My 9 year old recommended the novel TRUE…(sort of) by Katherine Hannigan. Her teacher read it aloud to the class this past year and my kiddo couldn’t quit talking about it. Week 1 of summer and she checked it out from the library to read on her own. She was so captivated by the story, that I decided to give it a go myself.

1 a.m. and a box of tissues later and TRUE was on my list of favorites!!!


This book is beautifully and simply written in a precious Southern voice. Delly Pattison races across the page on “Dellyventures” and straight into your heart to become the biggest “surpresent” you and your kiddo may find in a book this summer… or ever! The novel does deal with a child who is being abused at home, however, details are not graphic and the issue is dealt with in a completely age appropriate way.

(Rated: PG for the abuse situation you may need to discuss with your kiddo)


Go to your local library this summer and on your own or with your librarians help, grab a stack of age appropriate books to peruse with your magical creatures!


Unexpected Hiatus

Dear Readers,

I’ve missed many writing opportunities over the last 2 months.  However, buying a home, moving in and dealing with unexpected major illness in my family has caused me to be away.

Several of you have emailed and requested some book reviews.  Please do not hold the delayed response against me.  I’m excited to hear details about your work and discuss moving forward. I do apologize for being away so long and look forward to hearing from you soon!

Please contact me via the email in the sidebar!

Thank you for stopping by The Story Realm!

#AtoZChallenge: O


Theme: My Favorite Stories in Haiku

The Trojan war ended with the deception of Troy and the gift of a wooden horse. The city fell when the Achaeans emerged from the horse and slaughtered the unprepared Trojans.  Achaean warriors departed the Trojan shores leaving the city decimated.  The Odyssey is the poet Homer’s tale of one warrior’s journey home after years away from his people and his wife. Odysseus meets many challenges on his journey homeward. Whether he is tricking a cyclops or escaping the clutches of Calypso, this epic poem is riddled with suspense and adventure. Homer’s lyrical story of a warrior returning to his devoted wife is definitely one of my favorite stories.


O is for The Odyssey

Called by the sirens.

His fight did not end at Troy.

A warrior returns.



Have you ever had one of those weeks when you feel like:



The house is a disaster, there is somewhere to be every hour of the day, the kids have realized they only have 7 weeks of school left and prematurely begin their shift back into the Wild Things…oh and you’re buying a house…and this is what you want to do:


Yeah? Me too.

But, I survived and here I am! Back to catch up with my challenge and super encouraged by all the love of the readers! Thank you!  The show must go on!









Theme: My Favorite Stories in Haiku

G is for The Giver

Lois Lowry spins one of the most beloved tales of a futuristic society. The Giver is the first book in a quartet that imagines what the world could be like if we allowed ourselves to restructure society and eliminate the things that we thought had corrupted us. Jonas grows up in one of these new cultures, one in which science and reason have become the ultimate guides to “safe” living. But someone has to hold on to the past so that it is not completely forgotten. This “burden” lies with the Giver. So as Jonas begins his apprenticeship to become the next Giver, he begins to realize that the absence of love, dreams, color and emotion is less a solution than heavy chains.

Shades of memories.

Hope is born in vivid red.

Death…is colorless.

H is for Harry Potter

Yes, it’s Harry Potter. I’m with the millions who love it. This series is fun and exciting for people of all ages.  Not only that, but it makes a person want to read! It is the classic fantasy about good vs. evil, a young boy on a quest to save the world, the bonds of love, and of course, magic! J.K. Rowling invents a world that will go down in the history books next to Middle Earth.

Some of you may be saying, “What?! Harry Potter isn’t going to be a literary classic !!!”  But I would beg to differ. Some of the very things that make a story a literary classic are true about the Harry Potter series. Only a few of which are that the stories are loved around the world, the plot throughout is intricate and well woven. The characters are well developed and diverse. Another thing that I find interesting about this series is the writing style. The books begin when Harry is 11 and end when he is 17. Throughout the course of the novels Rowling’s style and voice within the narrative represent the age of her characters, which in turn means that the books seem to age with readers as well!!! Although, to be frank, I’m not sure anyone who has read them has been able to wait that long between books…except maybe those of us who started reading before the series was completed.

He’s the boy who lived.

Marked with love and for greatness.

Finds his family.


#AtoZChallenge: F

Everyone has been so encouraging about my theme and haiku! So far the challenge has been really fun and I’m enjoying it immensely. Thank you for visiting the Story Realm!


Theme: My Favorite Stories in Haiku

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is the story of a dystopian society in which firemen start fires. The fires destroy art and books and individual thinking. Guy Montag is a fireman. His late night calls are not to save children from burning buildings.  They are to ignite pages of words that create worlds and watch them singe and curl into nothing.

Bradbury describes a society that is at once organized and comfortingly predictable, but also restrictive and divisive. Life is bland and colorless. Relationships are shallow and filled with distrust. This Orwellian world paints a picture of the consequences of censorship and oppressive government.

F is for Fahrenheit 451

They burned all the books.

Razed color, light, thought and choice.

Their souls lay in ash.


I would also recommend the action film Equilibrium, starring Christian Bale. The film is an incredibly exciting adaptation of the novel for screen. It is definitely a favorite of mine.