Saturday, February 24, 2018

#Sci/FiFantasySaturday: #ADolefulKindOfSinging

Ariela Harrington knows her brilliant father Cadmion couldn't have committed suicide in the icy waters of Loch Ness. So, being an independent young Victorian lady of some means, Ari and her servant Sophy proceed to Scotland to discover the truth.

EXCERPT: A Doleful Kind of Singing

It was dark when she awoke, and her aching body was racked with uncontrollable shivers. She tried to open her eyes, but something pressed against the tender lids, imprisoning them in a heavy softness, like a ton of feathers.
She opened her mouth to ask what was happening, where she was, why it was so cold.
Only a soft, strangled grunt issued from her mouth, barely loud enough to hear herself. Like her eyes, her tongue was a prisoner, crushed against her teeth by some thick, greasy mass tasting like death. Bile rose in her throat, threatening to choke her, but she fought it down with a mighty effort.
She twisted her head to one side, trying to spit out the horrible substance before it could sicken her further, but it filled her entire mouth and, tongue immobile, she couldn't force it out. She reached a hand up to remove the nasty thing.
Another shock reverberated through her, sending a fresh surge of pain through her throbbing head. She lay still for a moment, waiting for the pain to die down while she examined this new discovery.
She could not move her arms. Twisting her head—thank God she could move something, she thought, or she would have gone mad—she tried to turn over, to sit up, but her legs refused to obey her command, even as her arms had done. Both legs and arms felt so cold and far away, crisscrossed with narrow bands of sharp, icy pain.
Blindfolded, she realized. Gagged. Trussed like a rabbit. Her arms and legs were confined, preventing any movement.
Preventing her escape.
In all her life, she had never felt so helpless, so dizzy, so frightened. Nothing of her body, save her head, none of her senses, save for taste and smell and hearing, appeared to belong to her pain-racked body at all.
Taste and smell and hearing. Well then, she would use what senses she could until she found out where she was. She sniffed the air blowing across her face, blessing it for its movement even as she tried to distinguish its components.
Smoke, acrid and bitter. Not the usual comforting odors of burning oak or alder, or the comforting reek of coal. No, this was a smell she could not identify. It called out to something deep inside her, something ancient and wild, so invasive it seemed to be a part of each individual cell of her being.
Ridiculous, she chided herself as she twisted her head again. It was just a particularly nasty smell of something burning. She tried to concentrate around the pounding within her.
Ah, she heard the crackling and popping of a nearby fire. Something burning, that was all. The rest, those other strange thoughts of an ancient wildness, were just images in her newly awakened mind still confused and drugged with dreams.
The last cup of tea…the one she had hoped would calm her nerves when she had been so anxious to be away, to be searching for what she was convinced was the answer to her quest. She had sipped the tea to be polite, to please her host who had been so kind to her. The taste of the strange brew had been pleasant, almost seductive, soothing her jangled nerves and calming her racing mind.
But then, she remembered, just after she had set down the empty cup, the tingling had begun in her hands and feet, a tingling that had heralded the beginning of the series of dreams...
A dream of being scooped up by rough hands and carried for an incredible distance, her vision dim, her hearing muffled. Of crossing water with the rhythmic splash of oars, the occasional muffled curse from a harsh voice, droplets of cold water splashing onto her burning face. A dream of being tossed onto an uncomfortable bed full of rocks, prickling twigs, and gritty sand.
Then nothingness as she fell into a great, black, soundless pit.
Until now when a faint semblance of consciousness had returned to her battered and tethered body.
She tried again to speak. Another muffled croak, barely audible over the crackling of the fire, was all she heard. She prodded the obstruction in her mouth with her captured tongue and the foulness nearly choked her. She fought not to swallow, not to allow the horrible, seeping bitterness to enter her. An intense fear rose in her, threatened to send her reeling back into the darkness of unconsciousness as she fought for a breath.
Air. She needed air. She lashed her head from side to side, the fear of choking, of suffocation, threatening to overwhelm her.
A rough hand seized her chin, yanked the stifling mass from her mouth.
"Now be still," a voice—surely she knew that voice?—hissed in her ear, "or I'll ram it down your throat."
As the sweet air rushed down to her straining lungs, she thought how wonderful it tasted, how delightful it was to breathe in the air wafting over her; indeed, merely to breathe at all. For a time, she did nothing but suck in the glorious, smoke-tinged currents.
But as her fear of smothering dissipated a fraction, the wondering returned in full force.
Where am I?
Who brought me here?
Why have I been tied?


Miss Patricia Mayfair is a wealthy, orphaned Regency bluestocking. While in London for the Season, Miss Mayfair spends more time buying books than ribbons, to the despair of her more conventional friend. Begrudgingly attending a dinner party, Miss Mayfair meets Lord Andrew Aragon, who fancies himself tired of London and the ton and never expects to fall instantly head-over-heels. But Lord Andrew is a notorious gambler, and Miss Mayfair has vowed she will never marry a man who indulges in such a vice. Can the leopard change his spots or the rake his habits?

Friday, February 23, 2018

#Friday'sFeaturedTitle #APlaceOfLearning: Catherine DePino

This tell-all book about teaching relates triumphant stories of kids achieving against all odds and staff members who refuse to give up on their students.


A Place of Learning: A Teacher’s Story
By Catherin DePino

Five Stars
Review by Jeffrey Ross
Nothing I write in this brief review can do justice to this quality work. On one level, A Teacher’s Story is DePino’s loving memoir about 31 years of teaching at different high schools. It is also a review of cultural and pedagogic trends in our society since the late 1960’s. The title is most important—the phrase “a place of learning” is used in many chapters in this book—of course, the easy explanation is that a school is a place of learning. But the text itself is a learning experience—you will learn about the compelling struggles of students, teachers, parents, and staff. You will learn that public schools are a daily work place for teachers-- but also a place of hope for inner city kids who need a break, a refuge, from sometimes very tough family lives. I loved the school restroom conversations among teachers (do you suppose real strategic planning and-team building takes place in the lounge and restrooms?) and the snippets of their personal- life dilemmas. The appendix with school recipes is wonderful. But I think my favorite parts were the sections describing   former students who returned to their schools to check in and share their successes since moving on into adulthood.  Teachers are so important in their students’ lives. In many ways, teachers are the unrecognized front-line guardians of our society’s future—not just in academics, but in character development as well. This should be required reading in teacher preparation classes. It is easy to read, fair, and heartwarming.

EXCERPT: A Place of Learning

There's a picture on my wall, faded now, of my students marching down the aisle of our city's largest university's auditorium where our local high schools stage their graduations. Parents, grandparents, and children wave lollipop colored balloons in the bleachers. Sophomores and juniors jump up and shout out names of seniors as they enter the massive hall in their blue and gold robes. "Sheree, Willie, Jonette..."
The graduates march slowly down the aisle, right foot first, then the left foot meeting the right, then the left again, like a quaint wedding march. Mendelssohn isn't playing. Instead, it's the Sounds of Blackness singing "Optimistic."
Dr. Leeds strides up to the podium. He doesn't shout out his usual, "Looking good, feeling good, and smelling good." Instead, he tells the graduates how he knows many of them are the first in their families to earn a high school diploma and that the act of their coming to school each day in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, such as teen parenthood, poverty, violence, and drug addiction, is an act of profound courage on their part.
"So, stand up now and applaud yourselves." He is openly crying and gesturing with open arms to the audience. "Applaud each other."
The crowd waves banners and balloons in a flurry of crayon colors. Restless babies squirm in their mothers' arms and cry out for it to be over. Weary grandparents fan themselves. Dr. Leeds calls the graduates up one by one. He tries to say something personal to each one as he hands them their diplomas.
"Anna, you come back and see me when you finish community college. Maybe we'll have a job for you here."
"Demetrius, if I ever need a lawyer, I'll be sure and look you up." He smiles and whispers. "First, you need to go get a new haircut, and get rid of those ugly plaid shirts."
Demetrius smiles widely. He is proud to be valedictorian.
Next Dr. Leeds moves toward Samuel, who beat up Mr. Parks, the security guard. He speaks in a low voice so the audience can barely hear. "Personally, I don't believe you deserve to graduate, but I'm sending you off anyway. Got no choice. Others need to take your place, but if I see you anywhere near this building, I'll take care of you myself. You hear?"
Dr. Leeds ambles back to his seat, his red velvet-stole draped over his black doctoral robes. Miss Janel, the choir director, approaches the dais. Mothers rub their babies' backs to keep them from crying. Sisters and brothers stop waving their balloons. Relatives stop calling out names of their graduates. Their voices trail off. "Terrelle, Rosita, Malik..."
Miss Janel's lone alto voice resonates through the hall. "When you walk through the storm, hold your head up high. And don't be afraid of the dark..."
Everyone stands. We join hands and sing along with her. Dr. Leeds gives the signal, and the graduates begin to stride slowly down the center aisle.
No pomp and circumstance. No hoots and hollers, merely the hushed bustle of shoes brushing the glossy hardwood floors and voices in synchrony singing "You'll Never Walk Alone.".
Purple and gold robes blur into sun and sky as the class of '93 marches out onto the city sidewalk and into the world.


Catherine DePino, Ed.D, has published 15 books about bullying, grammar/writing, spirituality, and women’s issues. Her background includes a BS in English and Spanish education, a master’s in English education, and a doctorate in Curriculum Theory and Development and Educational Administration from Temple University. The author worked for many years as a teacher, department head, and disciplinarian in the Philadelphia School District. After this, she worked at Temple as an adjunct assistant professor and student teaching supervisor. Catherine has also written articles for national magazines, including The Christian Science Monitor and The Writer. Her self-help book, Fire Up Your Life in Retirement: 101 Ways for Women to Reinvent Themselves, recently appeared on the market. Cool Things to Do If a Bully's Bugging You, debuted in 2016. Visit her website and contact her at


A Place of Learning: A Teacher’s Story
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Length: 124 Pages
Rating: Five Stars!
Reviewed by: Jonathan Dimmig

A Place of Learning was a very fun read. It provides a detailed look into the life of a teacher named Caterina, whose career path runs the gamut from rough-edged urban schools to a straight-laced academic magnet school.

Readers get a chance to find out exactly what it must be like to live the life of teacher.  There are many highs and lows to Caterina’s story as she’s forced to deal with pressures from crazy parents, kids who are more interested in fighting than learning, and school administrators with impossible demands.  She tackles each challenge differently and both her failures and successes showcase the balancing act that all teachers in this world must attempt to achieve.

Caterina’s passion for teaching in some of the toughest circumstances is simply amazing.  Reader’s of DePino’s book will walk away with a true appreciation for what it takes to be a quality teacher in today’s society.  I highly recommend A Place of Learning.         



Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big Fat Loser
by Catherine DePino
Manic Reader Review
Rating:  5 stars out of 5
Reviewer: Teresa

Total Score: 5/5

Nothing is worse than feeling you are all lone without anyone you can count on to have your back. Anyone who has experienced bullying in any way can understand exactly what Elliot was going through. It was difficult enough living in the funeral parlor that his father owned and ran, but being overweight just made things more difficult. Kyle, the school bully, and his gang were relentless and nothing Elliot did made them stop. If it wasn't for Roy, his best friend, and Duke the head custodian Elliot would have felt completely alone. Duke was determined to keep him safe where Kyle's good looks and manipulative behavior had most of the teachers believing he could do no wrong. It takes a strong person to stand up saying no more, but with the help of his friends Elliot may find a way to triumph.

This was a wonderful story about the difficulties of growing up and how one person can make a difference. Elliot didn't believe in himself until others stepped forward to support him even if it made them a target. It was ridiculous how Kyle thought that anyone, even Duke and the school principle, could be threatened by his parents if they attempted to make him face up the verbal and physical abuse against Elliot. This story should give hope that there are people out there who are willing to support and help anyone so please look around. There is light at the end of the tunnel as one who has overcome bullying so don't give up. Better days a head for you.

The kids at Ralph Bunche Middle School love to pick on Elliot Kravitz-Carnucci. He struggles with his weight, looks like a geek, makes top honors, and lives above the Carnucci Home for Funerals in South Philadelphia with his distant, workaholic father and Nonna, his quirky, overbearing grandmother. Since his parents divorced, he splits his time between living with his father and his mother Rayna, who dreams of becoming the queen of commercials, on the west coast. At the hands of his peers, Elliot experiences a series of bullying episodes that escalate from entrapment in a school supply closet to a brutal “swirly” (head dunk in the toilet) that lands him in the hospital emergency room. Can Elliot win his fight against the nasty bullies, or is he doomed forever? Read this funny, sad, and crazy book to find out.