“Girls Can’t Be Knights” by Lee French – A Review



   This is a very different sort of YA story, dealing with a young girl (Claire) who has been orphaned and finds herself in the foster care system.  Trouble seems to find Claire at every turn, until she meets a young father-figure knight named Justin.  Even more trouble follows as the two alternate between the modern world and the fantasy world, battling corrupt spirits.  When I first read Lee French’s “Girls Can’t Be Knights” from the Spirit Knight Series, I began writing a review from an adult’s point of view.  But having written several Young Adult fiction books, I knew the difficulty that adults can have when trying to critique something written for a much younger audience.  So I asked my twelve-year-old to read it and tell me what she thought of it.  This is how much our views differed!


Character Development

Me:  This was my main complaint as I didn’t feel I knew enough about the main characters.  I wanted more fleshing-out.

12 y.o.:  Claire and Justin were awesome.  I liked how she seemed like some girls at my school.


Me:  I wanted more background so that I could understand why the characters acted as they did, rather than having to wait until the end for explanations.

12 y.o.:  I liked how it moved so fast without having to read a bunch of pages about every small detail.


Me:  The story was rather short and setting descriptions were on the minimal side.

12 y.o.:  There was enough description of places to move the story along.  I was so interested in the action that I thought there was just the right amount.


Me:  There was an abundance of conflict, but I wasn’t always sure I understood what some of the terms really meant (such as ur and ne-phasm).

12 y.o.:  Lots of it!  There was always something going on that kept your interest.  It made me want to keep reading until the end!


Me:  The resolution did satisfy me, but I would have preferred it not to come all in a rush at the very end.

12 y.o.:  Everything that I was hoping would happen, did come together at the end.  I loved how it ended.

Desire to continue reading the series

Me:  I did enjoy this book, but probably would not continue with the series.

12 y.o.:  There are more?  Can we get the next one now?

So you see, Lee French has targeted her audience well.  The young teen and preteen reader seem to love or not mind the very things that I did not care for.  I’m betting your young reader will too.

Kathleen Barker was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. A graduate of Blessed Sacrament, the Institute of Notre Dame and Towson University, she spent twenty years as the much-traveled wife of a Navy pilot and has three children. While working for a Fortune 500 insurance company in New Orleans, she wrote feature and human interest articles for their magazine and received the Field Reporter of the Year award. After Hurricane Katrina, she returned to her beloved state of Maryland where she started work on “The Charm City Chronicles”. All four volumes, “Ednor Scardens”, “The Body War”, “The Hurting Year”, and “On Gabriel’s Wings” are available in Amazon’s Kindle store.

Cool off with “Cover of Snow”

Every summer I search for the perfect beach read that has certain qualities:  not too long, not too mushy, and with a plot that will keep my mind from drifting lazily back to the hypnosis of the surf.  The funny thing is, I generally don’t read mysteries.  They are the literary equivalent of math puzzles to my brain, and who wants to sit in a beach chair and do those?

For inexplicable reasons, I decided to read Jenny Milchman’s “Cover of Snow,” hoping it wouldn’t bring about the aversion I felt while trying to read Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” (loved the movie, hated the book).   I needn’t have worried.

The story is set in New York state’s Adirondack mountains where Nora Hamilton lives with her husband, Brendan.  She wakes one morning, sleepily recalling their lovemaking from the night before.  The warm reveries don’t last long as Nora discovers that Brendan has committed suicide, hanging himself inside their farmhouse.  From that shocking beginning, Milchman takes her readers on a wild ride through the frozen rural community.


cover of snow

Milchman’s descriptive prowess telegraphed the bitter cold straight to my bones, and wove an artful suspense that kept me engaged to the very last page.  This is her debut novel, which has won the Mary Higgins Clark Award.  I can’t wait to read more from this talented writer.


Kathleen Barker was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, but spent much of her life as the traveling wife of a Navy pilot. While working for a Fortune 500 insurance company in New Orleans, she wrote feature and human interest articles. After Hurricane Katrina, she returned to her beloved state of Maryland where she started work on “The Charm City Chronicles”. All four volumes, “Ednor Scardens”, “The Body War”, “The Hurting Year”, and “On Gabriel’s Wings” are available in Amazon’s Kindle store.

If It’s Winter, It Must Be Cornwall

poldark from amazon



If you are like most people, you watch more television during the cold, winter months.  That was me, too, until the arrival of a streaming box.  You are scratching your head now, wondering why I would not watch even MORE television with this commercial-free viewing device.  I did…at first.  I cannot diminish the joy of snuggling under a down throw and binge-watching shows I’d postponed or just plain missed.  Two series were so addictive that I wound up reading the books (more than once) as only a single season had been filmed.   First was the Starz channel adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” and the second was Masterpiece Theater’s “Poldark”.

My viewing of the “Poldark” series was completely by accident.  I was depressed by the long wait for the next season of “Outlander”, which is supposed to resume in March 2016, and had already read the approximately 10,000 pages of the books.  Slowly, the story of the British soldier returning from America to his neglected, inherited property in Cornwall began to grow on me.  By the time I finished the televised series, I found myself in a similar state of mind as post-Outlander before discovering that the Masterpiece series was based on actual books.

Quickly doing a google search, I found that Winston Graham had written a slew of novels – 32 in addition to the Poldark books (of which there are 12).  They have opened a new world to me: the world of 18th century Cornwall with all the mountains and valleys of human existence in this mixture of society.  The first of the series was written in the 1940’s and more than once has been the subject of a television series.  The BBC broadcast an adaptation of the first seven books back in the 1970’s.  I haven’t watched the older series, as I don’t want to lose my identification of Aiden Turner as Ross Poldark.  Author Graham also wrote “Marnie”, which was made into an Alfred Hitchcock motion picture in addition to a Nazi spy thriller and a history of the Spanish Armadas.

If you want to try one of this prolific author’s works, they include the following:

  • 1945 – Ross Poldark (original U.S. title: The Renegade)
  • 1946 – Demelza
  • 1950 – Jeremy Poldark (original U.S. title: Venture Once More)
  • 1953 – Warleggan (original U.S. title: The Last Gamble)
  • 1973 – The Black Moon
  • 1976 – The Four Swans
  • 1977 – The Angry Tide
  • 1981 – The Stranger from the Sea
  • 1983 – Poldark’s Cornwall (non-fiction)
  • 1982 – The Miller’s Dance
  • 1984 – The Loving Cup
  • 1990 – The Twisted Sword
  • 2002 – Bella Poldark

Other works

  • 1934 – The House with the Stained Glass Windows
  • 1935 – Into the Fog
  • 1935 – The Riddle of John Rowe
  • 1936 – Without Motive
  • 1937 – The Dangerous Pawn
  • 1938 – The Giant’s Chair (revised edition, 1975, as Woman in the Mirror)
  • 1939 – Keys of Chance
  • 1939 – Strangers Meeting
  • 1940 – No Exit
  • 1941 – Night Journey (revised edition, 1966)
  • 1942 – My Turn Next (revised edition, 1988, as Cameo)
  • 1944 – The Merciless Ladies (revised edition, 1979)
  • 1945 – The Forgotten Story
  • 1947 – Take My Life
  • 1949 – Cordelia
  • 1950 – Night Without Stars
  • 1953 – Fortune Is a Woman
  • 1955 – The Little Walls (Gold Dagger Award)
  • 1956 – The Sleeping Partner (filmed as Sócio de Alcova / Carnival of Crime)
  • 1957 – Greek Fire
  • 1959 – The Tumbled House
  • 1961 – Marnie
  • 1963 – The Grove of Eagles
  • 1965 – After the Act
  • 1967 – The Walking Stick
  • 1970 – Angel, Pearl and Little God
  • 1971 – The Japanese Girl (short stories)
  • 1972 – The Spanish Armadas (non-fiction)
  • 1986 – The Green Flash
  • 1992 – Stephanie
  • 1995 – Tremor
  • 1998 – The Ugly Sister
  • 2003 – Memoirs of a Private Man (autobiography)


kate barker headshot

Kathleen Barker is the author of

“The Charm City Chronicles” which include the following:

“Ednor Scardens” http://www.amazon.com/Ednor-Scardens-Charm-City-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B008BODK0E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454536041&sr=8-1&keywords=ednor+scardens

“The Body War” http://www.amazon.com/Body-Charm-City-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B008D983ZY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454536168&sr=8-1&keywords=the+body+war+by+kathleen+barker

“The Hurting Year” http://www.amazon.com/Hurting-Year-Charm-City-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00CR8K8T6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454536228&sr=8-1&keywords=the+hurting+year+by+kathleen+barker

“On Gabriel’s Wings” http://www.amazon.com/Gabriels-Wings-Charm-City-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00EG5VK54/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454536276&sr=8-1&keywords=on+gabriel%27s+wings+by+kathleen+barker

Barker also blogs at “Dashboard Confessions of an Undisciplined Mind” http://kateinla51.blogspot.com/





Dirty Nana



Lately I’ve felt a bit like Sally Field’s character in the 1976 book-based movie, “Sybil”, which is the story of Shirley Ardell Mason, who suffered from dissociative identity disorder (more commonly known as multiple personality disorder).  No, I’m not breaking apart from long-suppressed psychological trauma, but contemplating the different faces that all of us present to others.   saint1

As a young parent, life requires us to exhibit a persona of infinite patience, boundless energy and determination.  I alternately portrayed a saint, a teacher, and the embodiment of love and comfort during that time.  Once the kids grew older and ventured out of the house, I could finally unleash my inner demon who uttered the “f-word” and the like with abandon.  My halo continued to tarnish when they learned what physical act was required to create a baby.  As one of my daughters put it, “Ewwwwww, you and dad did that THREE times?????” to produce her and her two siblings.  making out

I’m thankful that my grandchildren are still too young to peruse my Facebook page or read one of the four books I’ve written (“Ednor Scardens”, “The Body War”, “The Hurting Year”, “On Gabriel’s Wings”).  To my adult children, I’m still supposed to possess infinite patience, wisdom and other saintly qualities, but the years have taken their toll.  My filter is wearing ever thinner.

grumpy woman

“Tell It Like It Is” was a popular song (sung by Aaron Neville) and became a 1960’s catch-phrase, but I still hold back from saying what I really think about people and their choices, ideas, situations, etc. to avoid hurt feelings, but I know the day will come when I’ll be just like my mom by the time she landed in assisted living.  No matter how often I visited or what I brought to please her, she still seemed unable to understand why I no longer had the figure I had in my twenties.  Anytime I bent over to retrieve something on the floor, she would sigh and comment, “You have GOT to get rid of that ass!”  Depending on her condition, I never knew which of Sybil’s personalities I’d be visiting that day.   Mom passed away a few years ago, and my turn will

come eventually.

Now that I think about it, that might not be so bad.  It could be the basis for my next book!



Kathleen Barker’s books and personal blog can be found at:





http://kateinla51.blogspot.com/my pics 071