Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Nook Review: "PRIDE'S PREJUDICE" by Misty Dawn Pulsipher

Misty Dawn Pulspher
Pride’s Prejudice is debuting author, Misty Dawn Pulsipher’s, mature, contemporary treatment of Miss Jane Austen’s beloved coming of age novel about class distinctions and false assumptions. While many authors are attempting Austen adaptations, particularly of Pride and Prejudice, Ms. Pulsipher has a rich writing style and the honest courage worthy of such an effort.

College coed, Beth Pride, and her roommate Jenna, meet two wealthy businessmen at a college charity auction. Lighthearted Les Bradford bids on Jenna and sweeps her off her feet, but William Darcy’s mind is preoccupied with family problems, and aside from being roped into attending this charity function, the only thing he’s less interested in is paying to dance with a college coed. Enter Beth, the shanghaied auction “item” and last coed left standing. William bids on Beth as an act of mercy, which he thoughtlessly reveals to her, wounding Beth’s pride. In retaliation, she fires off a cutting reply, and the unhealthy dynamic between Beth and William, and their best friends, Jenna and Les, is set early on.

Pride’s Prejudice is a romantic pleasure fest. Technically, Pulsipher’s dialogues are crisp and believable, and her economical use of words moves the story along, while painting clear settings and building her characters into rich satisfying friends you care deeply about. Pulsipher doesn’t tell us a great story. She paints one for us, using beautiful lines like these:

The house fell behind them like a sulky child left standing in the road.

. . .it was clear to Beth. The connections we share in this life are fragile—wispy spider webs, easily swept aside with the crass bristles of circumstance.

But there’s so much more here.

It is no easy task to adapt Austen-era situations to our day while still remaining relevant, clean, and honest. Pulsipher’s writing sizzles with romantic tension and pleasure while remaining a clean read that doesn’t insult a thinking woman’s sensibilities, such as these passages:

A sick feeling laces through her insides like a parasite. It takes up residence in the dark recesses of her heart and mind. Could he have possibly done this to her?  . . .The glimmering castle of her girlhood hopes burns down, leaving a heap of smoldering ash in its place.

Liquid fire saturated her body, incinerating any trace of coherent thought.  . . Time seemed to ebb, as if the earth had slowed its rotation. As if they were in another dimension. . .  When her fingertips grazed the skin of his waist at the sides, he pulled her in tighter for an instant, pressing his palms into the small of her back. Then he froze. Somewhere, perhaps in that other dimension, an invisible switch had been thrown.

Pride’s Prejudice was self-published by Ms. Pulsipher, and admittedly, it contains a few more editing and formatting errors than most commercially-published novels, but only a few, and stylistically, the characters’ occasional internal conversations distract from the power of the well-crafted dialogue, but no worries. The quality of the author’s writing easily triumphs over these minor distractions. The Prologue nagged at me through the first half of the book, but set it aside. Pulsipher ties it in beautifully at the end.

Pride’s Prejudice nearly caused some marital discord in my own home. I seriously stole away to read this book every chance I got. It's that good. In fact, I'll be nominating "Pride's Prejudice"  for a 2014 Whitney Award. As I said, it’s that good.

(Better yet, Ms. Pulspher is giving the ebook away for free until July 30th.  Here's the link. Grab a free copy.)

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Teachers often say they are the ones who learn the most from preparing a lesson. Writers can say the same when they research a topic for a book.
I researched dementia while writing "The Dragons of Alsace Farm" because we were dealing with those issues in the family. My research came too late to help with some issues, but it did provide insight and assistance in many ways. One was a nudge to pull out the old photos and sit down with Mom. 
I had read some interesting pieces on the power of music, and I spoke with a dementia-trained caregiver who explained the great trigger clothing and other belongings can be. I know from personal experience that certain items become "buoys" by which these patients "navigate" when anxiety makes them overly confused. The photos were amazing
She had been extremely agitated and angry the previous night, and she needed to be calm the next day. Sleep helped, but the photos maintained that calm.
Her expressions shifted from blank, to wonder, to recognition as she studied each photo. Sometimes names came, but when names remained vague, she became frustrated and embarrassed, and we'd focus on things other than the faces--clothes, cars, the house in the background, anything. Ideas and stories began to flow, some were completely unrelated to the photo, but it was all golden. I kept encouraging her and thanking her for teaching me so much. That was perhaps the best thing for her. She was so proud, and she seemed to sit straighter and walk with a surer gait after our gab session, as if she had been restored. It was wonderful. She filled in holes in our genealogy that day that she hadn't been able to provide on previous days, and most importantly, the exercise calmed her, made her feel connected, and brought her joy. 
So "Dragons" was actually intended to bless me. And let me suggest that if time has passed since you last sat down with an aging loved one and those old family pics, pull them down and spend an hour reliving old memories with them. If your experience is like mine, it will heal you both.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Red Skelton's Pledge of Allegiance

That patriotic spirit is still humming in many hearts today, so this sweet but powerful address on the Pledge of Allegiance by Red Skelton will add to your celebration of America. It would make a wonderful Family Night lesson. I don't know how many schools even start the day with the Pledge. I hope your children's school does. If not, it's up to us to treasure these thoughts and teach them to a new generation.

Have a great day.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


"Awake; awake from a deep sleep, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound. . ."

That scripture comes from a scripture in the Book of Mormon, II Nephi 1:13. Most LDS people will recognize it as a call to a spiritually complacent people to change and turn back to God, but regardless of your religious persuasion, the sentiments seem poignant for our day.

If you know much about American history and the tumultuous birth of this nation, it's hard to deny the hand of the Lord was in it--that we survived the Revolution at all, and that a passel of minds, such as those of our Founding Fathers, came to be on America's stage at the same time with such unprecedented vision.

Modern scripture verifies the divine spark that inspired these men, and our forefathers freely acknowledged God's hand in America's formation. Said George Washington, "The man must be bad indeed, who can look upon the events of the American Revolution without feeling the warmest gratitude towards the great Author of the Universe whose divine interposition was so frequently manifested in our behalf." Said Patrick Henry, "The American Revolution was the grand operation, which seemed to be assigned by the Deity to the men of this age in our country."

These words from the Book of Mormon chill me now. Speaking of America, it calls this land "a land of promise," and "that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord." And then the responsibility of this great blessing is spelled out. "Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom [the Lord]shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity."

This land was set apart to be a special land of freedom and hope, and we who are blessed to live here are supposed to be stewards over these freedoms. But most of us fell asleep at our posts, and we're in serious trouble. . . After years of lazy, selfish slumber, current events aroused our curiosity, and we awoke like angry bears to find that much had happened while we were in political hibernation. And now we don't know how to turn things around, or who to trust anymore.

I'm trying to kindle patriotism in my family like never before. I want my grandchildren to love America in the old-fashioned flag-waving way. Let's take our families to the places where freedom was won. Let's take time at the dinner table to talk about the men and women who sacrificed so much to give us the liberty to think, and worship, and speak freely. Let's pray for the president to hear and see the vision the Founders envisioned for America.

I pray for our military and I'm grateful for them every day, but while their monumental sacrifice holds our foreign enemies at bay, we have plenty of troubles here at home as well, and I think we need much bigger help to win these battles we're facing now. It's time to stop, drop and pray for this country like we've never prayed before.

But I feel hope abounding again. I drove home from a meeting near ten o'clock last night and entered Mt. Airy to the boom of the town's firework's displays to kick-off the Fourth of July celebration. Cars filled every shoulder of Route 27, while blankets and chairs covered every spot of rain-soaked grass for blocks around the carnival grounds. Families gathered in awe for the grand show--children on laps, and men with arms around wives. Joy, hope, love, reverence--these were the expressions on faces as they watched the sky light with brilliant fire. And I have to hope that whispers of names like Washington and Jefferson were spoken, along with words of gratitude for the sacrifices of that generation and heroes from every generation since. I believe there were soft prayers of thanks to God for this land, and earnest prayers of protection for those who defend and protect her today, those on foreign soil, and those awaiting the call to leave homes and family. I believe there were thoughts of the great founding documents--the bold Declaration of Independence, and the visionary Constitution. And I pray there were prayers for those elected to lead her. Oh, we need those.

So my prayer for America is that we pause to be grateful for all these things, acknowledging God whose hand hid this land and protected it until He could raise up a nation that would be an Ensign to the world of hope and liberty, a cradle where the divine spark that fuels the human spirit could flourish.

Isn't she wonderful? May God bless her and each of us.

Happy Fourth of July!


There are so many beautiful, stirring details forgotten or never learned that surround Key's story. Most of us know he was on board a ship in the harbor overlooking Fort McHenry during the bombardment when the inspiration hit him. Fewer people recall that he was on a mission to save his Scottish friend, Dr. William Beanes, who had been dragged from his bed in the middle of the night by the British on charges of treason and murder. But there's so much more to the story.

To fully understand the passion behind Key's story you must recall that three weeks prior to the bombardment, Key and his wife were secreting their children away from Georgetown, a suburb of Washington, to Key's parents' home in Frederick, Maryland. The British were expected to march on the Capital and the Key's were desperate to send them away to safety. Days later, while Polly remained near her husband in the home of friends, Key was horseback and on the battlefield with President Madison at Bladensburg, Maryland, when the American forces clashed with the British army. The fight became a humiliating rout sadly dubbed "The Bladensburg Races," a pitiful reference to the frightened American retreat that left the way open for the sacking of the President's House, the Capitol building, the government offices. As a result, very few mementos of our country's birth and infancy exist prior to 1814.

Key had also witnessed, firsthand, the brutality of the British military when crossed, and on September 13th, Baltimore was swollen with angry Americans poised to fight back. Worse yet, Key had family in the city. His brother-in-law, Judge Joseph Nicholson, was the second in command at Fort McHenry that day. And Nicholson's wife, sister to Key's wife Polly, was still in the city with their children. After all Key had done to protect his own family, his concerns for these loved ones pressed heavily on his mind.

During the negotiations with the British to secure Beanes release, Key and the Prison Exchange agent, John Skinner, were taken aboard the British admiral's flagship and treated as guests. But during the meals, the British officers discussed their plans to burn the city to the ground in front of their American "guests." Having been apprised of the British war plans, Key and Skinner became detainees of the British until after the battle's conclusion, unable to warn their people, and forced to watch the attack from afar, knowing the dire fate intended for Baltimore if the fort were to fall. Key's heart was deeply harrowed.

The twenty-five hour bombardment from September 13th into September 14th was unbearable, but Key had also seen thousands of British troops land fourteen miles south of Baltimore, poised to enter the city and subdue it once the fort fell. Knowing the atrocities committed in other cities that had opposed the British, he shuddered with fear. Days later, in a letter to a friend, John Randolph, Key expressed the anger and fear he felt while maintaining his hope that the prayers of the pious would be heard by God who would deliver the city.

The flag therefore, became more than a mere real estate marker, announcing the power that controlled the fort. It became the sign of life, that as long as she waved the fort had held and the British army and its destructive might had been held at bay.

He jotted his notes on the back of a letter during the final two days of his detainment, setting the entire poem, titled, "The Defense of Baltimore" on a sheet when he was back in the city in his room at the Indian Queen Hotel.

He took the poem to Judge Nicholson as a gift for the brave men who had survived the bombardment, and the judge was so moved he rushed it to a printers for duplication. Within hours, broadsheets of Key's poem could be found everywhere across the city. People were so starved for something positive and hopeful to cling to in these hours after the loss of their capital that soldiers in the fort wrote home about the poem, and copies began moving to other cities. It was first published in the Baltimore Patriot but soon it appeared in papers in Philadelphia and Boston and New York.

It was set to the tune of a popular melody of the day, "To Anacreon in Heaven," and performed as the finale in performances along the embattled coast where it received standing ovations.

After Washington, few symbols remained to proclaim that our nation and our government still existed. Britain had their king, their crown, their castles, their Parliament, but Britain had left us no home for our president, nor a house for our Congress. With no surviving symbols of our government left, many wondered if the democarcy still remained. All America's citizenry had left were the ideals of their people, and a flag--a red, white and blue banner that stood defiantly between the enemy and them.

That's what Key saw that day. And this is what he knew--that buildings may burn, presidents may change, armies may march, and enemies may come, but as long as our people hold fast to the ideals upon which this nation was founded, and have access to a few scraps of fabric, the symbol of America cannot be extinguished.

That reverence for, and allegiance to the flag still remains in most American hearts. I received a beautiful letter from a reader of my Free Men and Dreamers books who shared a remarkably tender story with me. Her name is Diane Wilson, and this true story came from her father-in-law. It was so personal and painful, he only shared it one time, but as you'll see from the story, the details remained excruciatingly close to him all his life. Here it is, in her own words. She gave me permission to share it. Thank you, Diane.

My father-in-law was a prisoner of war of the Japanese during World War II. He was on the Philippines when McArthur surrendered the islands after the bombing of Pearl Harbor; he wasn’t released until the war’s end, at which time he and the prisoners he was with were in Japan.

Dad once told the story of how one of the men in his unit had a small American flag folded and kept in his breast pocket. On special occasions (4th of July, Thanksgiving. and even Christmas… those holidays when the men’s hearts turned away from the tortures they endured and focused on family and memories of happier times), the men would gather and this soldier would take out the flag, reverently unfold it, and all would stand as best they could and repeat the Pledge of Allegiance. Then the soldier would carefully refold the little flag and again protectively place it in his breast pocket.

Up until Dad’s death last year, whenever he saw a flag in a parade, at a ball game, or in a ceremony, his shoulders would begin to shake, large tears would roll down his face as great sobs would take over. The flag represented freedom to him… home, family, country. It brought back memories of the men he was imprisoned with and the sacrifices each made. Many of his friends simply gave up; those were very emotional memories for Dad. He was a true patriot who loved his country and it’s symbol, the American flag. Dad was given full military honors for his burial, and the flag he loved so dear draped his casket.

Long may she wave. Proud may she wave!

(Book four of  L. C. Lewis's Free Men and Dreamers series, "Oh Say, Can You See?" tells the story of the Battle of Baltimore and the Star Spangled Banner. Preview the other books of her series at

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Braden Bell

Warm up your credit cards, or start counting out the Benjamins, because you're going to want to buy both of Braden Bell's magical books. The Kindling, his first YA masterpiece, is matched and perhaps surpassed by its sequel, Penumbras. These are more than great reads folks.

Middle School Magic: Penumbras, the velocious, magical sequel to Braden Bell’s highly successful, "The Kindling," enchants readers while matching that middle-grade gem spell-for-spell, situation-for-situation, and theme-for-theme.

The struggle to hold darkness at bay has matured Conner Dell, sister Lexa, and his secret love, Melanie, and Penumbra's tone reflects the consequences facing off against the forces of evil has had on these Tween-aged magis. Their previous battles have made the trio stronger and more skillful magi, but Connor in particular learns that sparring with dark forces has consequences that can tarnish even the purest of hearts, pulling even the best of friends apart.

Bell, a Ph.D author/educator knows his audience and their world, and once again, he delivers a stellar read that hits all the right buttons. Bell’s books have depth. On the surface, they are fun, smart, action-packed reads written with a masterful pen that merges crisp middle-school-ish dialogue with sizzling action that pops. Bell doesn’t dummy-down to his readers. These books contain smart vocabulary, and better yet, each page and subplot invites readers to dig deeper, to think, and to explore critical values such as loyalty, faith, honesty, trust, and love.

Adults will enjoy these books as much as their youth, but more importantly, though their youth may not be off chasing Darkhands, Bell’s characterizations of these young heroes remind parents that their middle grade youth are daily engaged in battles of their own.

Penumbras definitely entertains, and makes a great chapter-a-night family read, but it offers much more to savvy families. Before it’s public release, critics already nominated Penumbras for a coveted Whitney Award. I highly recommend it as a pick read of 2013.