Saturday, December 28, 2013

5 favorite kids' books of 2013 (Reviewed on this blog)

2013 was a very important year for me.  I published my very first book, Tristan Wolf, launching this way, what I hope it will be a career as a writer with many, many books. Another highlight was this little blog that has connected me with many talented authors, who, like me, are trying to open their way in the ocean of books out there.
I had the privilege to read some of their work and review it. Sadly, I had to refuse to review some ... I could only go with what I and my modest opinion could recommend my readers. And some works needed more ... well, more work! So, the ones I reviewed this year are the ones I really enjoyed or thought they were important in their own right. They all have merit and still recommend them like great reads. But, among those books I do have some favorites.

Today, I'm going to reveal MY FIVE FAVORITE books for children I reviewed on this blog. Those books were fun, page-turning, captivating, and charming. And that's just my opinion as a reader, of course.
In no particular order, this 2013 I enjoyed reading and reviewing:
 1.The Most Important Critter in the Whole Wide World: Why the Coyote Howls at Night by Gusty McCabe: An example of storytelling well done, I qualified his book as "a really amusing and well written story that will not disappoint." Really, really fun to read.
2.The Dreamcatcher Adventures: Greedy Jack Wallace (Volume 1) by Adam C. Veile: Mr. Veile became one of my oldest son's favorite authors. I described it like "an action-packed new western adventure, equally engaging for kids and grown-ups." I'm looking forward to his next book!
3.Graveyard Scavenger Hunt (NightScares) by Brian Barnett: Oh I dread scary books, movies ... scary anything. But this one was spooky in just the right dose for me, and so engaging I couldn't put down. About the author's style I said, "He makes his characters believable and lively, with just enough action to keep readers turning pages." Well done!
4.Kellie at Come-alive Cottage (Volume 1) by Kellie Unsworth: I enjoyed this lovely, charming book a lot! Of it I said: "This is a fun, smart book that I'm sure will delight young readers. It's full of oddities, silly illustrations and fun fonts." Can't wait for more!
5.An Evening with Grandpa by Diana Matlin: If you are a Chess lover or not, this book will make you want to play. I wrote, "I read it to my 6 years old and I can tell that he lived the story. And how not since it's interesting and engaging from the beginning." Very enjoyable.
My own book, Tristan Wolf! Well yes, you'll say I'm biased, but here are the reasons I have to choose my own work: It has taught me so much! I've learned about writing, about publishing...I've learned from the many mistakes I've made, from some of the money wasted, from the marketing that didn't work. It has connected me with people. Some of them hateful, some others now my favorite people (that's for next post). And even more, Tristan Wolf gives me the opportunity to visit schools and connect with children. It lets me inspire them with this little tale of adventure and imagination. As if these reasons weren't enough, it was a finalist in a contest! Yes, it might have flaws in the eyes of some, but it delivers and my readers love it. What else can I expect from my very first book?

To all the authors I reviewed in my blog I say thank you for allowing me the honor, I've learned so much from you! And to my favorites I say congratulations! Keep up the good work. We all have to learn from each other, in the end the goal is to make our readers the sole and only winners.

Readers, please keep on reading and keep on supporting independent authors. We depend on your support and encouragement to produce more books. Blessings to all, have a great 2014!

Mariana Llanos

Monday, October 14, 2013

Review: A Strage Sound from the Attic by Nancy S. Rippy

A Strange Sound from the Attic is a lovely short tale of friendship and imagination. Young Amy hears a sound coming from her attic. Eager to catch what or who is making that sound, she places her cell phone by the attic door...the next morning, her cell phone is gone! And not only that, but it appears in her next door neighbor's attic!
The title might sound spooky to some young children, but the story really isn't. On the contrary, it's sweet and encourages the use of imagination.

Although the description recommends the book for readers five and up, I would recommend it for kids seven and above, who may be able to understand the story better.

What I'd really like to rave about though, are the illustrations. They are adorable and have a pleasant,  ethereal quality in them. I'm sure children are going to be fascinated, specially with the girls' pictures. Mrs. Rippy is, without doubt, a talented illustrator.

I look forward to more stories from this author. Hopefully we'll hear more from this fantastic world she's created.

Author Nancy S. Rippy is originally from Taiwan.  When she was a young girl she started writing down her dreams, that's when she realized she was a writer. She now lives in California with her husband.
*I received a FREE PDF copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.
*This blog is an Amazon Affiliate Program's associate.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Review: Just Say Hi! by Margaret Bucklew

“Just Say HI!” is the story of two mushroom friends that come up to the surface and discover a whole new world. But making new friends in that new world is not an easy task, since the mushrooms feel different and shy. Little by little they learn that saying “hi” can open the door to new adventures.

It is told in dialogue and rhyme in a tone that at moments feels like a lesson about making friends, reminding me of Veggie Tales (without the reference to religion), and I guess that’s good if that’s what you are looking for. Maybe your child is in a situation when he or she will be facing a new environment and needs to be reassured that she’ll be alright. This book could be a guide or a conversation starter.

I think the illustrations will appeal to children. They are cute and simple, and show a new character in every page. My young daughter had fun pointing at them and looking at what was coming next.
Overall, “Just Say Hi!” is a book I can recommend for young readers to be read to, or early readers to read on their own (perhaps with some assistance), but most importantly it is a book that could help a child overcome the loneliness and shyness of trying to make new friends… and that’s priceless.

Mariana Llanos
Author Margaret Bucklew is the author of eight children's books

listed on She has received several award in her teaching career.

*I received a free PDF copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Review: Kellie and the Come-alive Cottage by Wendy Unsworth

I just loved this book by Wendy Unsworth! Kellie at Come-alive Cottage tells the story of Kellie, a curious girl who probably has the coolest family in the world. Her parents are explorers, and are set to fly off to Africa to discover a new river...but Kellie has no one to stay with while her parents are gone....well, she'll have to stay with aunt Kitty, an aunt she didn't even know she had! And, there is a good reason for that...

This is a fun, smart book that I'm sure will delight young readers. It's full of oddities, silly illustrations and fun fonts. It plays with the absurd but in a way that doesn't feel forced. I would recommend this book for second and third graders, even fourth graders. It is equally enjoyable for older readers, that, like me, still believe in magic.

This is Mrs. Unsworth's first book for children but I have a feeling that we'll be hearing a lot more of Kellie and her fantastic adventures.
Mariana Llanos

Wendy Unsworth lives in England. She has spent many years in Africa,

and a great deal of her inspiration comes from her experiences there. She has written a grown-up novel called The Palaver Tree. "Kellie..." will be out on October 1st, available in paperback an eBook.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Review: My Keyboard Was Hi-Jacked by Mammy Oaklee

My Keyboard Was Hi-Jacked is another story in the fun and simple storytelling style of author Mammy Oaklee. She writes from The Heart of the Bottoms Up 2/3 Acre and tells us what happened when her keyboard gets hijacked by non-other than a…creeper! You know, for a writer is a very big thing if you are unable to use your keyboard and Mammy tells us with innocence and humor how she felt in her moment of fright.

Well, we all have our fears and in my case I can relate to her phobia or every-bug-phobia perfectly! I think this story opens a door to talk about our particular fears, and how we can overcome them or at least live with them. This tale also show us the other side of the story. I always tell my children how horrific must’ve felt for the cricket that saw their shoes coming at it; he had no other choice than hopping high!

My Keyboard… made me double check my shoes this morning! Other than that it’s a story than I’m sure will be a delight to read with the family. Like in the previous book of these series, "Mailbox Kitten", the illustrations are beautifully done. And just so you know, Mammy Oakley, there are touch-screen keyboards now-a-days…and I’m writing this post in one of those.
Mariana Llanos

Author Mammy Oaklee is a city chick who always long to lived in the country side. Now she writes from where her heart always wanted to be.

This blog is part on the Amazon Affiliate Program
*A free review copy was given in exchange for my honest opinion.

Where to find My Keyboard was Hi-Jacked beside Amazon:



Thursday, September 5, 2013

At the Candy Shop with Author Aviva Gittle

On this edition of Candy Shop we have a special promotion (Only today 9-5-2013)!! FREE EBOOKS! Make sure to check out the links at the end of the interview!

Tristan Wolf, our imaginative hero is eight years old when his adventure begins. He is as dreamy and clever as only a child can be. We were all Tristan once in our life and maybe now, we have one in it. My guests- smart, creative and inspiring personalities- have accepted the challenge to go back to those years, to go back to when they were around eight or ten to answer some questions about the world around them.

Let me introduce you to author Aviva Gittle, when she was ten. 

Mariana: Hi, Aviva, it’s very nice meeting you. Where do you live? And who do you live with?

Aviva: 6 Cliftwood Place, Kings Park, NY. My mom, my stepdad Bob, my sister, our collie dogs, Kimmy and Laddie and our Siamese cat, Muffin. Kimmy and Muffin are smart. Laddie’s pretty dumb. But he’s really cute. He eats melon. What kind of dog eats melon?

Mariana: What’s your sister’s name? Do you two get along?

Aviva: My sister, Barbara, is 4 years older.  I hate her. She’s bigger and taller and mean. Every April Fool’s Day she leaves me notes that say I’m going to win a big prize. I go all over the house reading these stupid notes and the last one always says, “April Fools!” No prize. Nothing. I fall for it every year. Why do I trust her? I’m Charlie Brown; she’s Lucy.

Mariana: What school do you go to? What do you like about it?

Aviva: Parkview Elementary School. I like playing on the monkey bars. I like gym class. Well, I did like gym class. Every year I climb the ropes to the top and touch the ceiling. When you do that you get to be in the Monkey Club. This year I fell. Two stories down onto hard wrestling mats. Hurt my back bad. I don’t get to play in gym anymore. I have a cast that starts at my chest and goes down past my hips.

Mariana: And the worst about school?

Aviva: Most of the other kids. In Kindergarten and first grade, I wet my pants a few times. The first time was on the playground. I’m in 5th grade now, but I still remember the kids making fun of me. I was sick, but the doctors told Mom there was nothing wrong with me. Dr. Waterhouse yelled at the other doctors ‘cause all they had to do was a simple test. I had a really bad infection.

Jenn and Bev are my best friends, but they’re not in my homeroom, so I have no friends. I’m an easy target. My parents are divorced, my hair’s frizzy, I’m not pretty and everyone makes me nervous. I told Mom the kids were all making fun of me, but she just told me to ignore them. It’s not working.

Mariana: Tell me more about your best friends!

Aviva: Jenn and Bev are both my best friends. Jenn can draw really well and Bev…is just Bev. She’s smart and she puts up with me. I’m different with them. A leader. I’m always coming up with creative projects. Like the time we made these little dolls out of yarn and sold them door-to-door. We record radio shows on my little cassette recorder. I write the scripts and they act them out with me.

Mariana: What is the food that you absolutely dislike eating?

Aviva: I didn’t know tongue really came from a cow’s tongue! I thought they just called it that. It used to taste great until I knew that. And I thought those were grapes on Grandma Pearl’s table. They were olives! Ew; so bitter. I’ll never eat an olive again for as long as I live.

Mariana: Do you have pets?

Aviva: Kimmy and Laddie, like I said. They’re a bit smelly, but I let them lick my face. Muffin, my cat, sleeps with me. He takes up half the bed!

Mariana: Are you scared of the dark?

Aviva: Very scared. When I walk home in the dark from my friend Bev’s house, I sing John Denver songs to keep me calm. Rocky Mountain High…

Mariana: Do you daydream?

Aviva: I daydream so deeply I forget where I am. Sometimes I’m walking home and day dreaming and I realize I’m talking out loud. When I was younger, the school called my parents because all I did was daydream in class. The counselor at the school told them to tell me that Santa Claus wasn’t real. They had my sister tell me. Bet she loved doing that. She’s so mean.

Mariana: Who do you look like, your mom or dad?

Aviva: Wherever we go people always say to my mom, “That one definitely belongs to you.” I think it makes my sister mad. Good.

Mariana: Who is your favorite star?

Aviva: Barbra Streisand. I sing her songs all the time. People, people who need people, are the luckiest…

Mariana: What is the best book you’ve ever read?

Aviva: The Phantom Tollbooth. Once I read that book my mom didn’t have to pay me to read anymore. She used to give me 35 cents a book!

Mariana: Do you think you’ll ever get married or have kids?

Aviva: Of course. Isn’t that what everybody does? I’ll have a house, and a white picket fence, and some kind of a job. It will all be really good.

Mariana: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Aviva: A veterinarian. I love animals.

Mariana: Thanks for sharing with me Aviva. I hope we can be friends for a long time!
And this is Aviva Gittle now:

I live in San Diego, CA with my partner of 16 years,
David. I’m still in touch with both of my best friends, Bev and Jen. I’m a grandma. Which, honestly, beats the heck out of being a parent. I’m older, wiser, calmer and I have more time to give.
In January of this year, I decided to self-publish two children’s stories I had written many years ago. I’ve had an entrepreneurial spirit since childhood, so I decided to be a publisher, too. In a fit of inspiration, I wrote a whole series (7 books) called “Kitten and Friends.” Kitten, who is irresistibly fluffy and cute, makes a new friend in each book. A butterfly, a snake, a koi, a squirrel, a monkey, a litter of kittens and a boy. I’ve written (or co-written) 6 other books. All will be offered in English, Spanish and “Spanish Immersion” (bilingual) versions. By mid-2014 I will have 42 eBooks in the Amazon Kindle library. Several more are actively in development. I’m also starting an animation project called “Blue Guy and Fly” with a young, talented Columbian artist. You can find a list of my published books here: Or just search for “Aviva Gittle.” There’s not too many of us. J
Aviva Gittle's free Ebooks, ONLY 9/5/2013...Please leave a review if you enjoyed her stories:

When I was eight I used to daydream, I played pretend and I loved to write. I still remember my eighth birthday present and the feeling of joy it gave me. What was it? A journal, covered in beige leather, with a writing pad of white satin pages and a black fountain pen that attached to the inside of my elegant and beaming new friend. Oh, yes! A world of words and stories was waiting for me...


Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review: Graveyard Scavenger Hunt by Brian Barnett

What a fun and clever story I found me to
read! I am not a fan of scary stories, so I was glad when the author warned me: “It’s not horror…just spooky.” Well, it was more than spooky, it was entertaining and engaging. Young Pete Davidson is forced to spend a week at his Grandparents' house. He hadn’t seen them in a very long time and he didn’t remember how their house looked like… less that they lived next to a graveyard! Against his grandpa’s warning, Pete trespasses into the graveyard to pick up some papers that were blown by the wind. What could actually happen? It’s just an old, abandoned cemetery. Imagine his surprise when something grabs his foot from the ground and takes him into the land of the dead, ghosts and ghouls!  Now Pete has to win his way back home and save our world.

Graveyard Scavenger Hunt is a well written short chapter book. I really like the author’s narrative. He doesn’t fall into unnecessary descriptions or redundancies. He makes his characters believable and lively, with just enough action to keep readers turning pages. It also looks like this book is the first one of a series called NightScares for middle graders...can't wait for the next one. A job well done!
Author Brian Barnett is the author of several stories published online and in print. He lives in Kentucky with his wife and children.
This blog is part of the Amazon Affiliate Program.
*A Free PDF copy of the book was given to me in exchange for my honest opinion.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: Begotten: with Love by Jo Ann V. Glim

Begotten: with Love is one of those books I am pleased I came across with. I not only enjoyed the story of five generations of family, I also learned a lesson of upholding and hope. The author’s descriptive prose transports the reader into the different times in history through short tales that give the book a staccato rhythm.

I am particularly fond of the Swedish Connection and the chapters that follow. As an immigrant myself, it’s easy to relate to the dreams and efforts of the Swedish immigrants and, despite the different circumstances, see that the principle remains: love and respect for the new Land that welcomes us and the eagerness to make it your own.

The story of Joanie was heart wrenching and in my opinion, a book on its own. Being a sentimental like I am, my heart ached for this girl, but at the end, my spirit was lifted by her bravery and courage. Quite a character she is! As a matter of fact, several stories throughout the book could easily stand on their own. Maybe author Jo Ann V. Glim will delight her audience with a next book where she’ll pick up on some of these interesting stories and compelling characters.
After reading a book like Begotten, you can’t help but reflect about your own family and their own battles, their demons, the heritage they passed on, their dreams and expectations. And it’s up to us to either dwell in the past flaws and mistakes or take those experiences and make for a better generation…just like the book says, every family has its story. We are continuously adding to that story.

I highly recommend this book not only for its contribution to American history (and literature) but for the values it transmits to readers: love, faith, family and forgiveness.

Author Jo Ann V. Glim lives in Florida with
her husband Bill. She is retired and spends her days helping the community, serving at church and writing. Her book is available in paperback through her website: 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: A Glimpse from Christmas Past by D.C. Donahue

You better get hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies ready; light the tree and hang the mistletoe by the doorway. Don’t forget to play Jingle Bells on your iPod. Snuggle in your most comfortable onesies and a blanket by the fireplace and get the children ready to hear a delightful Christmas story. Wait! I forgot it’s only August! A Glimpse from Christmas Past pulled me in the spirit of Christmas and reminded me of classics like A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life.

Told in first person, it narrates the story of a young man that goes shopping on Christmas Eve in his city, (because of the streets and landmarks named, we can guess it’s downtown Philadelphia). Strolling down the decorated and snowy streets, he stops to see a Santa Claus through a window shop, who is listening to children’s wishes and reminding them to keep off the naughty list. But something seems familiar and when his eyes meet with Santa’s he remembers a night many years ago, when that same old man and his reindeer visited his house!

This is definitely a nice story to read aloud to your children, perfect for getting in the mood for the upcoming holiday season. The illustrations are nicely done, with plenty of details to help the young minds follow the story and make their own story lines. And if it’s not Christmas but you’re nostalgic for it, this book will surely bring you the joy and warmth of the season, like it did to me!
Mariana Llanos
Author D.C. Donahue lives in Philadelphia with his wife and editor,

Nancy. He raised four children and currently has five grandchildren, who are the inspiration behind this, his first book.
This blog is part of the amazon Affiliate Program
*A free PDF copy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Review The Adventures of Blue Books 1 & 2 by Ronnie James

The Adventures of Blue, books 1 & 2 are a new series recommended for children 3 to 8 years old. The stories are very simple, engaging and cute. Blue is such a good dog that he is left free to wander around the countryside where he lives. He gets a new collar that turns out to be magical, and with it he goes on new adventures. On the first book he goes under water and on the second one, he floats over the river and goes to a farm.

The stories are simple enough for new readers to read on their own or younger readers to be read to, without losing attention. The illustrations are nice but I really wished it had more of them. That, in my opinion, would make this book even more child-friendly.  

Although a bit more editing is necessary (yes, that’s the author-me speaking), I recommend Blue, the very happy dog to your youngsters. I’m sure his happy spirit will steal their heart!

Mariana Llanos

Author Ronnie James lives in England with his dog Blue, who has inspired his books. He wrote his first children's story in 2007. He has a passion for dogs and to put smiles on people's faces.

This blog is part of the Amazon Affiliate Program.
A free PDF version of this book was provided to me in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: Arthur Pong and His Smelly Song by Jose Fernandez

It’s gotta be a boy thing. Everything that
has to do with farting, burping or gross bodily functions seem to fascinate them. And it doesn’t matter how old they are, most of them always find it amusing. Well, some girls too, but in my experience it’s more of a boy’s fixation. Nothing wrong with that! I think everybody needs a good laugh and this book gives us plenty of it.
Arthur is boy that sings like the angels,
hypnotizing his whole neighborhood with his
voice and the awful smell of his...farts.
The author tells us his story with witty
rhyme and humorous style. It includes and
audio download which is an obvious plus.
My boys (10 and 6) found it really funny. For me, it was a little odd, but in some way I enjoyed the author’s irreverence. So if you want to have a laugh, download Arthur Pong and his Smelly Song, a silly read well worth it of checking it out. The author also promises more funny books like this one, I wish him great success

Author Jose Fernandez was born and raised in England. He loves jokes about farting and such.
This blog is part of the Amazon Affiliate Program.
A complimentary copy of this book was given to me in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, August 9, 2013

At the Candy Shop with Author Jo Ann V. Glim

Tristan Wolf, our imaginative hero is eight years old when his adventure begins. He is as dreamy and clever as only a child can be. We were all Tristan once in our life and maybe now, we have one in it. My guests- smart, creative and inspiring personalities- have accepted the challenge to go back to those years, to go back to when they were around eight or ten to answer some questions about the world around them. 

Let me introduce you to author Jo Ann V. Glim, when she was eight.

Hi, Jo Ann, it’s very nice meeting you.  Where does Joanie live?

Thank you so much for this opportunity.  I’m looking forward to doing this interview and introducing you to Joanie.

Joanie grew up in a 3-room, cedar-shingled house that occupied ¾ of an acre of rich farmland in a little town called Anacortes on the Island of Fidalgo in the Pacific Northwest (90-miles north of Seattle).  The house was definitely a fixer-upper.  Dad added an indoor bathroom shortly before his tour of duty in Japan in 1948.  He was career Navy.  He also converted the wood-fueled kitchen stove to oil after Mom put the axe through her shin while splitting logs.

After Dad left, times were difficult!  To help make ends meet, my mother’s aging parents left all they knew in Chicago (including their younger daughter and her family) and moved in with us.  Our home was tiny and furnished only with the bare necessities.

Joanie was raised as an only child.  Her sister, born the year before her, died 3 days after birth; and her brother died in-utero in the 7th month of pregnancy.  You asked if she had any brothers or sisters…  Let’s see what she has to say about that…

“I wish I did!”  Joanie said as she blew her bangs out of her eyes.  “Mom won’t let me go play with my friends on Sundays.  She says that’s family day.”  Joanie crossed her arms and pursed her lips.  “On Saturday, I have to wait for Carolyn to finish her accordion lesson.  She’s my best friend, you know.”

“Carolyn and I have a secret.  Do you want to know what it is?” Joanie asked as an impish grin settled on her face.  But before Mariana can say anything, the little girl blurted it out, “Carolyn practices outside.  She lives down there,” Joanie added as she pointed over her shoulder.  “Her mom says that noise box is too loud for a house but this is our secret… she plays ‘Lady of Spain’ last, so I know when we can go play.”

What School do you go to?

"I go to Central Grade School.  Miss Davis is my teacher.  She’s very nice!  We had to write a story last week.  Anything we wanted.  I was really happy because I’m going to be a writer when I grow up, and a nurse, and an actress and maybe a teacher or a cowgirl… maybe not a writer.  Mom says I have writer’s block.  She said sometimes it’s contagious, so, don’t sit too close.  Anyway, I couldn’t think of a thing to write.  My friend Susan’s story was voted the best!  Mom said it’s my first rejection and writers get a lot of those.  She told me to never stop trying."

Joanie’s small for her age.  When she sits back in a chair, her feet don’t touch the ground.  Instead, her legs swing out in rapid motion, and today stopped only when she tapped the side of Mariana’s chair.  Her mother gave her that look.  Joanie stopped.

“Mom says I have to act like a lady,” she told Mariana as she smoothed her dress.  Grandma says, ‘if I don’t mind my manners, I’ll never dine with the Queen of England…’  Have you met her?  I wonder what Queen’s eat?”

Is there anything you hate about school?

"I hate report cards!  I don’t like math, either.   I like English and I love geography.  I’m going to travel around the world when I grow up!  I get good grades but I always get into trouble because I talk too much.  Red checks… that’s all I ever see.  Do you think I talk too much?  I don’t think I do… well, maybe… sometimes."

Joanie looked past Mariana’s shoulder toward the kitchen.  “Miss Mariana, Grandma wants to know if you’ll stay for lunch.  She’s a really good cook!”

What is the food you absolutely dislike eating?

"The only time I make a fuss about eating is on Christmas Eve when she makes Luté Fisk!  I can’t open my presents until I finish my dinner.  I hide it in my mashed potatoes and swallow really fast!  She says all good Swedes eat Luté Fisk. Even my dog, Boola, won’t eat it.  Why can’t Grandma be Italian?  I love spaghetti!"

Are you scared of the dark?

“Nooooo...  I don’t think I am…  When I go to sleep the lights are still on ‘cause I sleep on the hide-away sofa in the living room and grown-ups stay up late.  Mom lets me bring all my books to bed with me.  She reads me a chapter every night… the ‘Bobbsey Twins’ is one of my favorites.  I also love ‘Little Britches’ but it makes me toss-n-turn trying to figure out the ending, so, she reads that one to me after lunch.  My bestest memory of reading is from the first grade when I could finally read a story to Mom about Dick and Jane and Spot.  I felt so grown up."

Who is your favorite star?

Joanie’s eyes were wide as she reverently said, “The Lone Ranger… him and Tonto.”

“Would you like to see my favorite toys?” Joanie asked as she pulled them from her toy box.  “Here’s Howdy Doody and Clara Bell the clown marionettes.  Clara Bell can’t talk.  He has a horn I honk when he has something to say.  But I can’t find it… it’s been missing for weeks.  I don’t know what happened to it.”  Joanie didn’t notice the faint smile on her mother’s lips.  “Oh, and my doll, Blondie, whose hair is now brown because I gave her a haircut.  When mom sent her to the doll hospital, they were out of blonde wigs.  Now, I have to ask before I use the scissors.  Carolyn has a doll just like Blondie except her name is Nancy and she still has blonde hair.”

Do you think you’ll ever get married and have kids?

Joanie laughed and twirled around.  A muffled voice could be heard through the hands cupped over her face as she responded, “Someday.”

Thanks for sharing with me, Joanie.  I hope we can be friends for a long time!

“You betcha!”
And this is Jo Ann, now, in her own words:

My husband, Bill, and I live on the Sun Coast of Florida on the gulf
side (north of Sarasota and south of Tampa Bay); a far cry from where Joanie spent her childhood.

We both love Scotties and share our home with, Lucy, a sweet, 2-year-old rescue dog that’s nothing but unconditional love on 4 paws.  We’re both retired and spend our time doing what we love: volunteering in the community; serving in our church; and (for me) writing, (for Bill) singing with the church choir.  One of his biggest honors was singing at the Vatican in Rome for Pope John Paul.

Carolyn and I have remained friends all these years.  Carolyn was my maid of honor; Bill and I are god-parents to Carolyn’s younger son.  We may not play dolls anymore but every once in a while, have been known to play a round of Chutes and Ladders.  Now (ohhhh, help us all), we’re learning how to Skype.

I did become a writer.  My career began as a disc jockey/copywriter in Chicago.  I've written one-liners for well-known comedians, verses for Hallmark Cards, and an award-winning weekly column that appeared in 14 papers in the northern Illinois area (as well as hundreds of articles on an assortment of topics).

My book, “BEGOTTEN: With Love,” is gaining in popularity thanks to venues like Goodreads and bloggers like Mariana.  Thank you, Mariana for your support.

Copies are available in print through

When I was eight I used to daydream. I played pretend and I loved to write. I still remember my 8th birthday present and the feeling of joy it gave me. What was it? A journal, covered in beige leather, with a writing pad of white satin pages and a black fountain pen that attached to the inside of my elegant and beaming new friend. And this is me, at that age, when all I wanted to do was to tell stories.