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Becoming Jane A movie based on Jane Austen’s life June 29, 2019

Posted by heidi skarie in Uncategorized.
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Becoming Jane is a delightful movie, especially for those who love Jane Austen’s books (Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility).  In the movie you see that Jane Austen’s characters and ideas stem from her life experiences.  Jane’s life was filled with loving family and some heartache.

The movie covers Jane’s (Ann Hathaway) young adult years.  Her father is a minister who encourages her learning and ideas.  Her family lives a modest life on a farm with the children sharing the chores.  Jane has a close relationship with Cassandra, her sister who is engaged.

Jane is full of life: She’s intelligent, an independent thinker and loves to write stories.  She receives an offer of marriage from Mr. Wisley, a wealthy man who could help her family live comfortably. However, Jane doesn’t want to be forced into marriage, even to help her family.  She declares she wants “affection” in a marriage.

Jane does a reading of her latest manuscript for her family.  Thomas Lefory (Jame McAvoy) attends and makes a poor impression by not taking interest in her story.  Gradually they come to know one another and fall in love.  Unfortunately, Tom is a young Irish man without money.  He and his family are dependent on his rich uncle.

It’s an enjoyable movie made by BBC in Ireland.  It’s well-acted and has a great plot drawn from the book Becoming Jane and the letters Jane wrote. Some of the situations, witty dialogue and characters remind the viewer of Austin’s books.

After seeing the movie, I was curious about how close it represented Jane Austen’s life.  It turns out the movie is a blend of fact and fiction. Jane Austen was born in 1775 in Hampshire, England.  She was the youngest child in seven siblings. In the movie her relationship with her sister Cassandra and her parents is the main focus with regards to her family life.  As in the movie, Jane received a marriage proposal from a wealthy man that she accepted, then turned down the next day.

She did know Thomas Lefory when he was on break from his legal studies in England. She enjoyed his company at dances while he was in Hampshire, but there is no evidence that they fell in love and wanted to marry.

Jane’s life was fairly private. Her sister destroyed many of Jane’s letters after she died, so there is much that isn’t known about her.

During her life, Jane wrote many short pieces and six novels.  All were published with the author being anonymous.  Jane Austen’s name didn’t come out until after she died of Addison’s disease at forty-two years old.  At that time, women weren’t supposed to be authors, since they weren’t thought of as independent thinkers, and the idea of novels was a new concept.

Jane Austen is considered a romance writer, yet she never had a serious romance or married.  Over the years people have wondered how she could write about experiences she never had.  However, she did attended many dances, received a marriage proposal and witnessed the heartache her sister suffered when her fiancé died of a fever in the West Indies. From her writing, it’s apparent that these experiences and her keen insight into human nature were enough for her to become an extraordinary writer.

Though Jane Austen had only modest success during her life, she became popular in the 20th century.  Today she’s considered one of the top one hundred English writers.



Star Rider and The Golden Threads Pre-order Giveaway! August 27, 2018

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Star Rider and the Golden Threads is the second book in my science fiction Star Rider Series.  It is now available as a paperback at Amazon.

It will be available as an e-book on September 1st.  I’m running a Pre-order Giveaway!

Enter to win a paperback copy of Star Rider and the Golden Threads, a book lamp, galaxy postcards, and a galaxy metal bookmark.

Here is the link: Giveaway

Description of Star Rider and the Golden Threads:


While Toemeka is living at a secret dome-city for refugees, an urgent message arrives for her husband, Michio, who is away at training. It’s a plea for help from Queen Koriann of Jaipar. Planetary-conqueror and sorcerer, Samrat Condor, threatens to attack unless they surrender.
Toemeka travels to Jaipar on planet Borko in Michio’s stead. There she is reunited with Agent Erling Fenian, her former Coalition partner.
Complications arise including old feelings between Erling and Koriann, an unexpected mission, personal betrayal, dark sorcery, spiritual tests, and hostile aliens.
Will they be able to save Jaipar?

Here is a link to Amazon to order the book: amazon

Star Rider and the Golden Threads is the second book in the Star Rider series. Star Rider on the Razor’s Edge is the first book in the series.  Star Rider on the Razor’s Edge is available for free 8/25 to 8/27/2018

Here is a link to Amazon for Star Rider and the Razor’s Edge: Amazon


Timeless Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic March 11, 2018

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51EnKpzqSDLTimeless Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic is a fun read that is illustrated with over a 150 full-colored paintings. Armand Baltazar is a talented, visual storyteller who has worked for Dreamworld studios, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation.

1034204058Earth had a rupture of the time-space continuum and a new world was born where there are enormous robots, dinosaurs, wooly mammoths, and buffalos as well as new land masses.

The story is told in first-person by Diego, a middle school boy who just turned thirteen. His mother is a famous fighter pilot and his father is New Chicago’s top engineer. Diego’s father is kidnapped and Diego and his three friends join mercenaries who’ve been hired to rescue him.

1366604301Diego is a delightful character. Full of courage and resourcefulness, but at times impulsive. The story is a coming of age story and tests Diego and his three friend’s mettle as they realize there are much large stakes than rescuing Diego and his friend’s fathers.

As the story unfolds, Diego discovers he has secret talents, why his father was kidnapped, and the terrible fate that awaits the children of the world, if he fails in his mission.

The book is geared toward a middle school and high school audience, but as an adult, I enjoyed reading this fantasy adventure full of lively, colorful illustrations.

This book is the first in a series and was an ambitious project. Well done Baltazar!

Fun Read/Melting Shadows by Rhea Rhodan September 19, 2017

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51JiFT1cPRLThe word that came to mind as I read Melting Shadows was fun. It has spunky dialogue, humor, a fantasy world that parallels this world, a touch of magic, simmering romance, quickly characters, danger, heroes, evil villains, smart women, and handsome men willing to die to protect the women they love.


The novel is great escape reading. Forget your to-do list and emerge yourself in this entertaining story where the answers to what’s going to happen in the character’s world lie in the OtherWhere where things reveal themselves before they happen here.


Prudence is a brilliant scientist working on a secret project for the government. She had a dark upbringing that caused her to be a recluse. She’s socially awkward and takes everything literally. Her project for the military has put her at risk and she’s taken to a safe house. There she’s shocked to discover the owner of the bunker, x-seal Max, looks just like the hero of her fantasy novels.


Max reluctantly gives Prudence shelter. Yet the “ice woman” he’s responsible for, is a mystery that he is more and more interested in unraveling– even to the point of invading her privacy.


I highly recommend this book to those who love contemporary romance with a touch of paranormal. Note: there is some adult content and a lot of swearing. The first part of the book mainly deals with the development of the relationship between Max and Prudence. The second part of the book speeds up when the bunker is breached by the enemies and danger erupts.

Five qualities of a good novel as shown in the book Shane July 25, 2017

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51rRxrScknL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_I just finished reading the classic western Shane by Jack Schaefer, which was published in 1949 and made into a movie in 1953.  The novel set me to reflecting on what made it a best-seller that is still read in schools and has stayed popular for so many years.  As the St. George Daily Spectum wrote: “Shane is a work of literature first and a Western second.”  What qualities does it have that make it a work of literature?

Interestingly, the novel opens at a slow pace.  Today’s writers are taught to open with action or grab the reader’s attention in some way.  However, in this book the author takes his time introducing the characters and setting. The result is very effective.

Here is the opening paragraph: “He rode into our valley in the summer of ’89.  I was a kid then, barely topping the backboard of father’s old chuckwagon.  I was on the upper rail of our small corral, soaking in the late afternoon sun, when I saw him far down the road where it swung into the valley from the open plain beyond.” (p. 1)

For the next eight paragraphs, the boy continues to describe the horseman as he rides closer and closer, then finally into the farmstead where the boy observes him.

This slow pace allows the reader to see the stranger and enter into the world the boy, Bob, lives in.  It is told from the intimate first-person point of view.  We see the horseman, the small town, the river and the fork in the road as the rider draws closer and finally into view.  Bob tells us the stranger’s clothes are different from the local people.  He wears tall boots and a belt, both made of a soft black leather tooled in intricate design and a “finespun” linen shirt.

A child’s viewpoint is an interesting way to tell the story because Bob is a keen observer of life, yet he is young and doesn’t understand everything that’s going on.  We, as the reader, left to our own interpretation of people and events, have deeper insights into what is going on.

The plot is fairly straight-forward.  Bob and his parents live on a farm and a mysterious stranger rides onto their land and asks for a drink of water.  The father, Joe, soon recognizes that Shane is the kind of man whom nobody will push around and asks him to stay as a farmhand.

Shane hires on and is loyal to the family, so when a powerful rancher tries to drive out the local farmers, Shane is pulled into the deadly conflict.

The story focuses more on character development than action and the topics of courage, honor, love and heroes are explored.

The book is relatively short, yet it will draw you in from the beginning and keep you reading to the end, leaving you to ponder its depth and layers of meaning.

The reader never does find out about Shane’s background and what it is he’s trying to escape.  He finds serenity and inner peace on the farm, but this is broken by the tension in town between the farmers and the large rancher.

So what makes this a good novel?

  1. It has well-developed characters with heroic qualities that we care about.
  2. It has an interesting plot with high stakes, both in terms of how the outcome will affect the character’s lives and how it will force them to grow and change.
  3. It has great descriptions and metaphors. Here is the boy’s description of a stump. “It was big enough, I used to think, so that if it was smooth on top you could have served supper to a good-sized family.” (p. 18)
  4. The author, Jack Schaefer, shows the reader what’s going on instead of telling him, leaving the reader to interpret the situation.
  5. The story has good pacing that gradually builds to the climatic ending.

In conclusion, Shane is a great read for anyone who enjoys a good western.  For writers, it’s an interesting study in what makes a good novel.  As you read the book, look for the five qualities listed above and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What draws the reader into a story and keeps them there?
  2. What universal values and ideas make the story worth telling?

I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section.  What do you think makes a good novel?  What qualities do you look for in a book?

If you’ve read Shane, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the characters and story.


Review of Louis L’Amour’s The Walking Drum June 29, 2017

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51oy3dgHDYLIf you’re looking for a good book to read this summer, pick up The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour.  A friend recommended this book and I’m glad he did because it was an exciting and educational read.

L’Amour published his first novel in 1953 and every one of his over 120 books are still in print.  There are 300 million copies of his books worldwide.  He is one of the bestselling authors of modern times.  Forty-five of his novels have been made into films.

He is best known for capturing the spirit of the American West.  This novel, written in his later years, is a departure from those books. It takes place in the 12th century, starting out in France, crossing medieval Europe and the Russian steppes, and finally ending in Constantinople.

Young Mathurin Kerbouchard of Brittany is thrust into a violent, dangerous world when he returns from a fishing expedition and finds his mother murdered and his home burned to the ground.  He barely escapes with his life only to be captured and forced to be a galley slave.

In L’Amour’s usual style, Kerbouchard goes from one adventure to another as he sets off on a quest to find his father (who is reported to be killed at sea or sold into slavery) and revenge his mother. Kerbouchard is bold to a fault, trained by the Druids to have an amazing memory, and a seeker of knowledge who can speak and write many languages (an unusual talent for the times).  He is skilled with a sword, but also relies on his wit as he works toward achieving his nearly impossible goals.

The book is broad in scoop and covers several years as Kerbouchard grows into manhood.  He faces life with courage and honor, making friends and enemies along the way.  He is a unique character whom the reader will remember long after they finish the book.  We see the 12th century world through Kerbouchard’s active, intelligent mind.  He travels from the dark, dirty cities in France where the Christian church forbids new ideas and books are rare, to the Moslem cities of Spain where books are plentiful and scholars are valued.

The book reads quickly, especially the first half, which is filled with one hair-raising adventure after another.  But it slows down in places where Kerbouchard, a brilliant scholar interested in different ideas and places, tells us the history of the city he’s traveled to and shares his philosophy of life with other scholars.

In his Author’s Notes section, L’ Amour said he was fascinated by this period of history.  He feels that our schools ignore two thirds of world.  “Of China, India and the Muslim world almost nothing is said, yet their contribution to our civilization was enormous, and they are now powers with which we must deal both today and tomorrow, and which it would be well for us to understand.  

“One of the best means of introduction to any history is the historical novel.” p. 462

L’Amour planned to write two more books about Kerbouchard’s adventures; regrettably, he died before he completed them.

I was partly intrigued by the book because I also researched this area of the world for my book Annoure and the Dragon Ships.  My historical saga is set almost 400 hundred years earlier and takes the reader from Saxon England, to Viking Norway, to the Russian steppes.  It was interesting to see how the world had changed over those four centuries.

If you’re in the mood for a fascinating, exciting adventure filled with treachery, violence, passion, love and friendship, check out The Walking Drum by best-selling author Louis L’Amour.

Book review of Exit Five From Charing Cross by Valerie Keogh April 5, 2017

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51YvPr2Vz4LExit Five From Charing Cross by Valerie Keogh is told in first person. Jake Mitchell begins his story by talking about missed opportunities and wonderful lives almost lived. “A life like mine.” We find out he’s at work at his dream job where he’s worked eight years. He set out to be rich and achieved his goal. “money was God.” But now business has dried up and he’s struggling to hold on. He leaves work to meet his best friend Adam at a café at Charing Cross. Sitting outside the café, is a woman he’s instantly attracted to and hopes to see again.


After this initial opening Jake goes back in time and tells us how he met Adam, and then about his family. Over the course of the book we learn of the lies he told and how, once they were told, he had to keep lying to keep his secrets. One poor decision led to another as Jake set out to build a “wonderful life”. At the end of chapter four he says, “Didn’t know then, in my enthusiastic youth, that every little action, choice and deed had a consequence.”


What makes this book interesting is how we see the world through Jake’s eyes and hear his inner thoughts. We learn why he lied and what led to the destructive decisions he made.


The book was an enjoyable, quick read with a haunting quality to it. The story twists and turns in interesting ways and has a surprise ending. I reminded of the recent movie Gone Girl in that things are always what they appear.


I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy psychological thrillers. It’s well written with a strong plot and well developed characters.


Book review of The Immortal Life of Piu Piu: A Magical Journey Exploring the Mystery of Life after Death (Dance Between Worlds Book 1) January 25, 2017

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41fel8exsnlAfrican author Bianca Gubalke has written an uplifting visionary fiction novel about the journey of soul. It started out in the first chapter with Anata, a soul in the inner realms, talking to an elder about her next life. She’s picked a hard life for her spiritual advancement in a small village in Western Cape coast of South Africa. A place that is beautiful with numerous plant species, animals, mountains, and ocean.

The elder warned Anata that her memory of who she really is as soul will disappear so she can create a new life. She won’t remember her true home but will search for it.

In the second chapter, we met a little girl named Pippa and MadMax (a delightful talking cat). They heard a peep and find a little gosling on the ground. Pippa brought it into the house, determined to take care of the small, helpless creature. Thus begins the tale of Pippa, MadMax and her goose Piu Piu.

The story explored the loving relationship between humans and animals and included many beautiful photographs of plants and animals.

The novel had a powerful message because it delved into the spiritual realms and the longing of soul to return home in a time when many baby boomers are wondering what happens after they die.

In places, the story of Piu Piu, the goose, reminded me of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Both birds long for freedom.

The book also reminded me of Oversoul Seven by Jean Roberts, which is about Oversoul Seven who runs three bodies at once in different times and places as part of his education.

I was exposed to the idea that soul takes part in choosing their next life in Dr. Michael Newton’s work Journey of Souls and Life Between Lives. Dr. Newton hypnotized people to take them back to their childhood so they could heal. Once when he hypnotized someone they ended up in the inner realm where soul goes between lives. After that Dr. Newton took many people back to their life between lives on earth and asked soul about their experience there.

In the Immortal Life of Piu Piu I was fascinated to see how Bianca was able to weave together the idea of soul living more than one life and choosing that life based on what that soul needed to learn for its spiritual growth. I especially enjoyed the action-filled second half of the book that shares the backstory of Poppa’s parents during a raging forest fire.

The end of the book was a treat for it nicely tied up the whole book and brought clarity to the story.

I highly recommend this story for those who enjoy visionary fiction. You might find yourself wondering if this is simply a magical world where animals talk, have human emotions and past life memories or if there is a golden thread of truth that can help us in our own journey home.

Do you believe in reincarnation?  Do you have any memories of a past life?  Do you think we decide what our next life will be?

Here is a wonderful book trailer of the novel.

Check out Heidi Skarie’s website bluestarvisions.com where you can get a free short story and get on her newsletter.

Book Review of The Bears and I by Robert Franklin Leslie November 15, 2016

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51f5sntxuml-_ac_us160_A friend gave my husband The Bears and I.  I picked it up to see what it was about and once I started reading I couldn’t put it down until I finished it.

The story is set in the wilderness of British Columbia where Bob, the author, is panning for gold for the summer when an old sow bear leaves him with triplet orphaned black bear cubs.  Bob’s heart goes out to the small creatures that he describes as the size of teddy bears and he decides to raise them until they are old enough to survive on their own.  The cubs end up sharing his cabin even sleep with him in his sleeping bag.

What makes this story remarkable is the amazing bond of love that develops between Bob and these three bear cubs and the insights we gain into bears.  After reading this book I don’t think I’ll ever look at them the same.  The bear cubs each had a distinct personality and enjoyed playing tricks on each other. They also had a wonderful spirit of fun and adventure.

As the cubs grew older they also learned to hunt together and to protect each other. They were highly intelligent creatures and soon learned their names and to respond to simple voice commands and gestures.  Like when there was danger Bob would say tree and point to the tree and they would run up it.

The book is also an exciting adventure story especially in the first half as Bob tries to keep these three cubs alive against all the dangers of the wilderness including predators that eat bear cubs.  There is also devastating fire that sweeps across the forest they live in and a harrowing journey by canoe deeper into the wilderness with a winter’s worth of supplies.

The author vividly describes nature with its planets, flowers, birds, animals and changes in season in such detail that I felt I was right there with him every step of the way.

It helped that I’ve had enough of my own experience in the wilderness to relate to his.  I’ve been backpacking in the Bitterroot and Rocky Mountains in the United States and in the Canadian Rockies. I’ve also been canoeing in the Boundary waters wilderness of the US and Canada.  I’ve experienced having a bear come to my campsite at night and breaking the branch of a tree where we’d carefully tied up our food bag ten feet above the ground.  I’ve also paddled a canoe across rough lakes in the rain with high winds and chopping waves.

I could also relate to Bob’s winter experiences with deep snow and long months of cold weather as I lived just across the Canadian border in Minnesota.

Moreover, the book is enjoyable because the writing is excellent with detailed descriptions, original metaphors and good insights into life.  Bob wrestles with questions like how much of the wilderness should be a game refuge or park and how to do we protect wild animals.  Bob also ponders the questions of why animals live by killing one another and why is there are forest fires, which wipe out so many of the creatures that live there.

The book was written 1971 and made into a Walt Disney movie in 1974.  I haven’t seen the movie but from the movie trailer it looks to be a fun family movie with three cute, mischievous cubs and beautiful scenery.

Do you have any good stories to share about a wild animal?  I loved to hear them.

S Collin Ellsworth, Finding the Route 40 Phantom September 29, 2016

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41dcma-8gjlS Collin Ellsworth is one of the authors in the recently published anthology Where Rivers Converge. For the anthology, she wrote a gripping short story entitled Coward about a hit and run woman driver.

Ellsworth’s novels feature elements of life after death interwoven in the lives of women. She writes witty women and comical children that appeal to readers looking for relatable characters.

Her latest novel, Finding the Route 40 Phantom weaves two different women from different times: Natalie, an eighteen-year-old living in the 1950s with ambitions ahead of the era and Alexandra, a small town newspaper writer who constantly has to justify her contentment to her intellectual mother and sister. The two women’s lives intersect with the mystery of the Route 40 Phantom.

The Route 40 Phantom is a Southern Ohio legend. In the early fifties, a man terrorized the truckers of Route 40 by driving dressed as a skeleton. Despite not being an actual ghost, the Route 40 Phantom appears on many Haunted Ohio history sites. The real phantom’s identity remains a mystery. In her novel, Ellsworth gave him a persona of a beatnik mechanic with mysterious intention.

Filled with, suspense, and bucolic charm; Finding the Route 40 Phantom is a great fall read.