An Independent Woman- Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond by Jayne Barnard. Book Review.

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Click here to buy Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond

Jayne Barnard has written a classic “Who Done It?” placed in the setting of a steam punk universe. Her extensive knowledge of Victorian times comes through clearly in details of clothing, behaviour, social class, and environment creating a tangible sense of the time period. She has blended this beautifully with steam punk culture. The author explains steam punk, as well as diesel punk and cyberpunk, in an interview on this blog here https://bferrante.wordpress.com/2017/03/22/author-jayne-barnard-three-random-questions-interview. Basically, steam machines are predominant. This includes dirigibles for cross Atlantic travel. Mix these two together and you get a recipe for a fun, unique mystery.

The major character calls herself Maddie Hatter in order to travel incognito as a reporter. She is in reality, the daughter of a rich and powerful Steamlord but prefers to make it in the world on her own mettle. However, in order to survive, she is forced to file fashion columns on a steady basis to pay her bills.

“She spent the afternoon composing a weeks worth of articles centred on Lady HH’s new Easter bonnet. This immense edifice of wire, linen, and lilies was worthy of a public Cathedral, and would be seen in one on Easter Sunday in London.”

The men of her era do not take her seriously and don’t hesitate to claim her detecting results as their own. Some young women reading this may be surprised as to how women were invisible in male social circles, especially women of the lower class.

Maddie is brave, clever, independent, and determined. We wish she would get the recognition she deserves but know that the best possible outcome is that she will be able to continue to live independently and pursue her dream of becoming a famous byline reporter. Not using her real name, of course. Since this book is the beginning of the series, we may yet hope that she will be justifiably rewarded for her courage and intelligence.

There is a list of cast members inspired by the game of Clue (Professor Plumb, Colonel Muster, Sir Ambrose Peacock) and the bigger-than-life explorers of the time period. Barnard uses a rich vocabulary which gives the text a Victorian quality. There is a missing trunk with a tribal mask holding a possibly magical massive diamond. There is an empty dirigible crashed far from its planned route. There are missing documents. Etc. I don’t like to say much about the plot of a mystery as it is too easy to accidentally include spoilers.

Hidden in the light-hearted text, the reader periodically comes across an absolute poetic piece of writing.

“She could look out over the desert below, its rocky outcrops and sloping dunes tinted blue by a waxing moon that shimmered over crests and lined each sandy windrow in purple shadow. Concerns of the civilized world were as ants beneath the weight of mere survival down there; up here, too, her worries faded before the vast empty majesty of the land and sky, the whisper of the night-time breeze teasing the sand into new patterns for the next morning. A bird warbled, alone in the immensity.”

Her description takes the writer to another world filled with sensations.

“In a very short time, Maddie, Clarice, and Nancy were walking down the gangplank to the Venetian aerodrome. The greeny-gray waters of the Grand Canal murmured four floors below, but the gangplank was wide and the side-rails sturdy oak. Their trunks, bags, and hat boxes followed in a veritable parade of porters. Mist kissed their cheeks, too delicate to be called rain, but leaving a slick over the vast, flat rooftop with its contra-dance of passengers, porters, and luggage. At the last step, the men in majordomo’s livery of black and teal – the Aquatiempe colors, Maddie recognized – lay in wait for them. A phalanx of one-wheeled automatons stood behind him, their armatures ready to take the load from the porters. Steamer trunks would be towed while smaller boxes were piled on their polished platforms. The ladies, the majordomo indicated with a bow and an outstretched hand, would be conveyed across the terminal and a teacup-shaped, auto-steering steam-carriage, painted and upholstered in teal with black accents.” And it continues.

If you enjoy lighthearted mysteries with unusual flavour, then this is a book for you.

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The author, Jayne Barnard, will be interviewed on this blog on Wednesday, March 22, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Top Three Young Adult Books I Reviewed in 2016

#1 Radical by E.M. Kokie.

This realistic contemporary novel is for mature young adults and up. I say that because it has some light lesbian sexual interplay. But it is a worthy read for any young adult especially those concerned about an upcoming societal collapse.

 Click the cover to buy the book.

#2 The Ugly Princess: The Legend of the Winnowwood by Henderson Smith.

The book is full of intrigue and exploits balanced by a coming-of-age experience sure to tug at your heart. Olive is such a wonderful protagonist that you may find yourself tearing up. Her animal sidekicks will make you smile and her love interest will make you hopeful.

 Click on the cover to buy the book.

#3 Zeros by Scott Westerfeld,  Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti. 

While the plot is clever and contains a few surprises, it is the characters and their development that holds the reader to the page. They each represent something people struggle with. Scam shows what happens when we speak thoughtlessly. Anonymous symbolizes how we all struggle to be truly seen by others and our desire to be remembered.

 Click on the cover to buy the book.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Fantasy Sci-Fi Network Holiday Sale – Come Chat with Me

The Fantasy Sci-Fi Network will host it’s annual Fantasy and Scifi e-book holiday sale this 2016. On December 17 to December 31, 2016, we’ll be hosting an e-book extravaganza with free books, 99 cent deals, and deep discounts on fantasy and science fiction books from award-winning and bestselling authors!

I will be cohosting an hour on facebook from 6pm to 7pm on Sunday, December 18. Drop by and say hello.

If you are in Thunder Bay on Sunday, December 11, come by the Da Vinci. I will be selling my books there as part of this.

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Does the New Kid Always Get Bullied? – Malcolm Devlin and the Shadow of a Hero by Michael Ferrari. Book Review.

Click here to buy Malcolm Devlin and the Shadow of a Hero

Malcolm Devlin and the Shadow of a Hero begins with a riveting and heartbreaking chapter. Malcolm and his parents are a circus family. Mom stands in the middle of a centrifuge while dad drives around her at top speed on a motorcycle. Malcolm is never afraid as he firmly believes his mother’s love is unconditional and his father is invincible. As a result, Malcolm is protected and loved completely. What happens in the first chapter completely shatters Malcolm’s belief in personal safety and security.

When Malcolm’s father is killed being a hero, we understand the title of the book and the motivation of the protagonist. The reader is quickly invested in Malcolm’s well-being and wants to know what will happen to him.

Fatherless, and living with a mother who has lost her glow, Malcolm lives in constant fear. His coping mechanism is to separate himself from society and try to be invisible to the bullies that inevitably dog his life. When his mother sets up her traveling flea market in the theatre of a small town, Malcolm is targeted by three dangerous, violent bullies. The leader of this trio is the grandson of the harsh and manipulative mayor. Malcolm seems doomed.

Just when things seem the most hopeless, in walks a mysterious gypsy woman with a magical trade. She promises it will help him live without ever being lonely or afraid, the two most dominant emotions in his life. What unfolds is humorous, touching and suspenseful.

The only time this book did not feel believable was during the fire scene but that is probably because I have been researching this topic recently for my own work.

This is the kind of book that would translate easily onto the big screen. There are laugh out loud scenes that would be even funnier to watch. Although some things are little clichéd, it doesn’t matter because the character of Malcolm is so well-rounded and lovable that we buy everything at face value. The author has a talent for atmosphere and characterisation. Readers 10 years old and up will find time flying by as they enjoy this wonderful book.

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A copy of this book was generously donated by the author to my Little Free Library.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Secret of Atalaya: A Carolina Cousins’ Mystery by Rhonda S. Edwards. Book Review.

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The cover of the book is intriguing and draws one into the story. It gives a promise of mystery and discovery.

The premise of this story is fascinating. The history of the Gullah slaves and the Florida Seminoles was new to me.

There are a few sections where the history of the area is related in interesting detail. The author has obviously done a great deal of research.

The editing, as far as spelling and punctuation, is flawless.

Unfortunately, there were some serious problems:

The germ of this story could have made for a fascinating mystery especially if the author had chosen to write it from three viewpoints, the modern viewpoint of the children discovering the relics, the historical viewpoint of the person who hid them in the 1930s,  (We never really find out why) and the historical viewpoint of the escaping slaves whose identity tags are found. We get a snippet of this on pages 39 to 42 when the author writes a few paragraphs from the point of view of Archer in the 1930s.

I would love to give everyone fours and fives but for my reviews to have any credibility, I have to be honest and forthright. I hope that I’m also being helpful. Read below for details on suggestions to improve this book.

The author was interviewed on November 2, 3016.

A copy of this book was generously donated by the author to my Little Free Library.

Areas That Could Be Improved

The book opens with a long page and a half of telling, basically an info dump. (Pages are 10 x 8 in size.) In the first one and a half pages, we are introduced to Eric, Aunt Savannah, dad, Ashley, mom who was also later called Winni, Katie, Cally, Nick Junior, Anne, grandma Prudence, and grandpa. Most of these characters are not essential to the story.

Here are some tips on how to deal with this.

http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/unnecessary-characters/

I was hoping this was a early pages mistake but it actually was stylistic. In most of the book, nothing much happens. There is too much unnecessary detail about things that have nothing to do with the mystery. For example here is a section from chapter 2.

Eric and his mom said goodbye to Ashley. Ashley not only worked as a cashier at a local grocery store, but had and rolled into summer courses at Northeastern community college. She would not be coming except for the occasional weekend visit.

None of that information is important. Neither is Ashley. Here are two excellent sites on dealing with info dump.

https://www.quora.com/What-are-ways-to-avoid-information-dumps-when-writing-the-first-chapter-of-a-book

https://ellenbrockediting.com/2014/07/03/novel-boot-camp-lecture-3-how-to-avoid-info-dumping/

Every arrival and departure is told in painstaking unnecessary detail such as, Eric jumped out to grab his MP3 charger that he had left earlier in the week. Then he checked to see if he placed the cooler in the back, closed the passenger door, and finished loading his mom’s car.

Halfway through the book we are still spending time on such things as this: Savannah grabbed her purse, Katie grabbed her book bag, and they moved to the door with Eric and Cally. “We’ll see you later. Buy, Jesse,” called Savannah and she closed the door behind her.

As they travel, the story turns into  family reminiscing and a history and geography lesson. We spend an entire chapter collecting seashells. By the end of Chapter 5 (out of 12), all we have done is seen a glimpse of Atalaya. Nothing about the “mystery” has unfolded. When readers see the word mystery in a book title, they have certain expectations. The mystery solvers need to be challenged, have goals and obstacles. Unfortunately, the actual mystery took about five pages.

http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/unnecessary-scenes/

On page 27 (out of 45) we finally get a hint of a mystery when Katie is overwhelmed by a feeling that there was a presence in the room. On page 29 the mystery finally begins. The children accidentally film a ghostly image in the master bedroom. They believe that there is a reason for it and a mystery to solve that is theirs alone. No one questions the existence of a ghost contacting them. We expect things to take off from this point on but on page 31 we pause for a trip to the beach where they pack two bottles of frozen water per person placed in an insulated bag. Since Eric and Katie didn’t care for water, Crystal Light tropical punch was added to some bottles before freezing. This helps everyone stay hydrated during the day.

Characters use unnatural dialogue such as 12-year-old Eric saying, Hey this thing has a built-in microphone and a memory stick so that you can transfer to a computer for emailing, printing, or sharing. This will be super to use when we go beachcombing, on the daytime tour of Atalaya or our trips to the educational center at the State Park.

I describe these not to embarrass the author, but to help others avoid these mistakes and, hopefully, help the author to avoid them in the future. Most writers have been guilty of many of these in early drafts. I know I have. The trick is to fix them before publication.

I recommend buying and using a couple of good books on plotting such as those mentioned here.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Death Leaders by Kendra Hadnott. Book Review.

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 Click here to buy Death Leaders

This is a young adult fantasy novel. It is the year 2031. Death leaders must bring down the exploding population by killing their “assignments”. Things become complicated when Christopher, a death leader, feels an unfamiliar emotion for his newest target, 19-year-old Tracy Wilbourn. Things become even more complicated when he learns that her child was murdered the previous year.

Hadnott has a writing style that is smooth and comfortable to read. The novel is fast paced without being frenetic. The author doesn’t waste time on back story but just gets right into the action. Things are revealed in a natural and logical way as needed. The dialogue is smooth and natural, completely believable, and clips along at a compelling piece. The editing was flawless, not a comma or period out of place.

Most importantly, we care about the protagonist, Christopher. In the beginning, we are not sure who is good and who is bad, who is betraying him or setting him up, and who is protecting or defending him. Other death leaders are jealous of his father and project their anger onto him. Someone seems to be sabotaging his assignments and if a death leader makes too many mistakes, he is killed. It isn’t until the last chapter that everything falls into place and we fully understand what has been happening.

There is a hint of a love story but circumstances cut it short. It is a cliffhanger book with no lasting resolution.

This was an impressive first book of what I hope is a successful series.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

What if You Could Smell Death Coming? – Scented, a Love Story by RJ Crayton. Book Review.

 

Click on the cover to buy Scented.

This is a gently paced novel focused on three people, Brian, Lauraline, seniors in high school, and Brian’s father, Jack. Lauraline, the new girl, has left Brian breathless from the very first encounter. Brian is a kind, thoughtful young man but he has a skill that makes life extremely difficult. Lauraline also has a paranormal “gift”.

The two teenagers also have great loss in common. Brian’s mother died when he was eight and his father became cold and distant as a result. He avoids Brian and often seems repulsed by him. Without siblings, Brian has led a lonely life but for his closest friend Ferraz. When Lauraline walks into his heart, Brian is torn as to whether he should tell her about his grisly secret.

Lauraline, too, has lost her mother. But her father has stepped up and been a diligent and loving parent in spite of his own pain. However, Lauraline has a residual phobia from her mother’s death. Although she was only three years old and can’t remember the car accident, Lauraline knows it was raining when her mother crashed with her in the back seat. Because of this, she is terrified of rain. On her first day at the new school, when lightning hits close to the gymnasium, she screams and faints.

In spite of the fact that these two teenagers have not been able to recover from the deaths of their mothers, they are mature and thoughtful people. By supporting each other, they each become stronger individually. Little do they know that one of them will have to deal with death yet again.

This is a sweetly romantic book and although the darkness of death overshadows the narrative, Brian and Lauraline’s courage and determination are inspiring. They are almost a little too level-headed and responsible. There conversations often sound like sessions with a psychologist. I felt the book could have used a bit of humor now and then to lighten the atmosphere. I also felt the message from the beyond was a bit weak. It was wonderful, though, how well they treated each other. This is the kind of relationship everyone should have with a girlfriend or boyfriend.

All in all, if you’re looking for a mature, inspiring romance that avoids any sexual incidents, this will fit the bill.

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I received a free copy of this book from good reads in exchange for an honest review. The book was donated to my Little Free Library.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Does Death Have a Conscience? – Author Kendra Hadnott – Three Random Questions Interview

Kendra Hadnott is an author, freelance writer, educator, and blogger.

Welcome Kendra. You have three books in your Live series. Why did you break this into three separate books instead of making it into one long one? What is it about novellas that appeal to you?

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Kendra Hadnott: The entire series will actually be five novellas once it’s complete. I think fiction, especially sci-fi, is a lot easier to get into and digest when it’s broken up into shorter pieces. On top of that, I tend to not like my writing to drag on. The minute I get that ‘are we there yet?’ feeling when I’m writing, I start to reevaluate whether or not I’ve written fluff. After all, if the writer is having a hard time finishing it, imagine what the reader must feel! So, breaking things up seemed like the logical choice for this particular story.

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Click here to buy LIVE: LIVE Series Book 1

Kendra Hadnott: Death Leaders is your first science fiction book. Why did you change from suspense/mystery? What was the inspiration for this novel? What is it about?

Hadnott: It is. I call “Death Leaders” my baby. It’s the first book that I wrote once I was laid off and the first one to be traditionally published (although it’s since been self-published through my own press). The book is set in my hometown of Chicago, IL and takes place in the near future—2031 to be exact. The story reveals the existence of beings called Death Leaders who have been historically tasked with keeping the world’s population under control without humans ever catching on. When the protagonist, Christopher Rush, is assigned a 19-year-old single mother to kill through medical illness, he thinks it’s business as usual. But as Chris soon learns, everything isn’t always as it seems, and no one is exactly who they appear to be.

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Click here to buy Death Leaders

Hadnott: All of your books have been written in the last two years. What was the impetus for all this creativity?

Hadnott: Getting laid off was the biggest impetus. I was actually happy when it happened. I kept feeling like I was supposed to be doing something else besides sitting in someone’s office rattling off numbers and statistics. I’d write all during my lunch instead of joining my team on outings. When I received a document, I checked the grammar and language in it instead of looking at the data like I was supposed to. On my breaks, I’d have my head buried in my phone, getting lost in the novel that I was reading at the time. My heart has always been with the written word. I have been writing books since I was seven years old, so becoming an author wasn’t a random choice. It was a logical progression since I had the time, the drive, and the passion. It took three full months for me to write “Death Leaders” and soon afterward, it was accepted for publication by a small press.

Hadnott: As a teacher, how do you find time and energy for writing? What organizational strategies do you use?

Hadnott: Although I used to be an elementary classroom teacher, I’ve taken to more untraditional teaching roles these days (i.e. tutoring, leading before-and-after school programs, etc.). Any profession that allows me to work with children actually gives me energy. So when I come home from work, I’ve been around children so much that I find it really easy to speak in their language. It helps a great deal when I’m writing for children. I prefer to write my titles for adults on the weekends when I’m around more people my age.

Finding the time to write isn’t hard if the passion is there. If the passion is missing, finding the time to write will seem almost impossible. When I first got laid off, I used to wake up every morning at 4am and write/outline until about 3pm that day. Since my schedule has changed, I usually get my writing done in the evenings after school has ended for my students. Between marketing, writing, and outlining, I work on author stuff for a minimum of three hours a day. If I have to get up super early to get my hours in, I do it. If I have to stay up late, I fall asleep on the couch.

Hadnott: What books or authors have influenced your writing?

Hadnott: Well, in the middle grade arena, it was A Wrinkle in Time, hands down. I remember reading that book in grade school and just having this magical feeling. I couldn’t wait to get back to reading class to read it every day because I wanted to keep that feeling with me. Louis Sachar was also a big one. He started off as a lunchroom and recess attendant. I believe that’s why he had such success with his books. He worked around children so much that he was able to become one of them when he wrote.

As far as YA and Adult stories go, I really like Lauren Oliver‘s writing. It’s this beautiful, poetic prose that can make smashing a cockroach sound like the most eloquent thing in the world. James Patterson is a wonderful storyteller. I enjoy reading his books for the twists and turns. Other than that, anything that’s sci-fi, horror, or thriller is probably going to catch my attention.

Hadnott: What is your next project?

Hadnott: I just finished a close-to-the-final draft of a middle grade novel that I’ve been working on for about a year. I’ve heard from Beta readers that it has a very dark, ominous, suspenseful feel. It’s one of my favorite pieces yet!

three random questions

Hadnott: If you had to write your own personal definition of the word “Success,” what would it be?

Hadnott: Failure would be my definition of success. It’s nearly impossible to experience success or even have a sense of the word if you haven’t failed or seen failure. Success is learning from mistakes. Success is doing something that you once thought impossible. Oprah was fired from her news reporter job; Walt Disney got fired for lacking imagination; Milton Hershey filed for bankruptcy twice before he became a household name. Success is failure gone right.

Hadnott: What is the most interesting course you have ever taken in school? On the other hand, what is the most boring course you have ever taken in school?

Hadnott: In high school, I took this Eastern Philosophy course just to challenge myself. I didn’t think I would actually enjoy it, but I did. That was my first exposure to other cultures and mindsets. I fell in love with the concept of Taoism, and still use it in my everyday life. On top of that, I got to do yoga every week and actually receive a grade for it. The downside is that I would be too relaxed from the yoga to function for the rest of the day, but at least I slept well those nights!

Math fanatics, forgive me, but I absolutely hate numbers. I have never taken a math class that I would deem “interesting”…well, not in a good way, anyway!

Hadnott: If you could become fully enlightened instantly on any one subject, which subject would you choose?

Hadnott: Ever heard that saying, “Ignorance is bliss”? I’m not sure I’d want to be fully enlightened on anything, as it bears a huge responsibility that I believe only God is equipped to handle—and I ain’t Him.

LOL. Very insightful. Thank you, Kendra, for sharing with us today. Best of luck with all your writing.

http://www.kendrahadnott.com/

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Terrifying Vengeance: The Dream Traveler by Kathrine LaFleur. Book Review.

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Click here to buy The Dream Traveler: The Cardonian Chronicles Book 1

This young adult novel is Book One of The Cardonian Chronicles. LaFleur starts out the series with a bang. She sets up a terrifying situation wherein a husband and father, Barrett, must choose between trying to save his wife and endangering his teenage daughters, Raven and Violet, or bringing his children to safety and hoping for the best for his wife. Their world is being overrun by vengeful and horrifying spirits in a kind of social karma.

One thing threw me off in this book. Barrett could understand what animals were saying. He sent the sows piglets off to be slaughtered on a regular basis and “mourned with her.” If someone in power sent my children off on a regular basis to be murdered, we would not mourn together. Obviously, the pigs were completely sentient. Did the sow tell her piglets what was going to happen to them? I think she would behave very differently to Barrett after the first slaughter and so would all the other animals.

As different villages connect together behind a safe barrier, previous social classes are forgotten. People rise and fall in this new community based on ability and contribution. However, one man, gifted with the talent of persuasion, rises quickly in power and prestige. Raven and her new friends suspect something dangerous and secretive is happening.

The novel develops into one of intrigue and almost political suspense with a backdrop of never ending menace of the angry spirits.

It was a little difficult to differentiate between so many new characters but gradually I was able to sort them out. Many of them will continue into the next book. Raven, at times and unlikable character, stands out as the major catalyst for resistance. Moonlight is the second most formidable character, an adult with the skills of an assassin. There are important males as well but it is the women who lead the charge.

There is betrayal, courage, friendship and love, deviousness and honesty. The story builds in complexity and suspense but is not resolved. This is a cliffhanger series. In all likelihood, if you read the first one, you will want to read the next, Moonlight Hunting: The Cardonian Chronicles Book Two.

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Click here to buy Moonlight Hunting: The Cardonian Chronicles Book Two (Volume 2)

Kathrine LaFleur was interviewed on this blog September 7, 2016.

A copy of this book was generously donated by the author to my Little Free Library.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

White Otter Castle Exists in the Deep Northern Woods

Interested in what Terror at White Otter Castle is based on?

My Blurb:

Laurel, Aster, and Beth have been best friends since grade one when they created the “triangle of power”. In September, as high school graduates, they will head off in different directions. Because Laurel fears it will be the end of their friendship, she convinces the others to join her on an end of summer trip – a nine-day canoe expedition to White Otter Castle, deep in the Northern Canadian forest. Unknown to her, the hundred-year-old log castle has a dark secret. The “triangle of power” faces the ultimate test when the dark forest holds a terror they never imagined.

This campy little novella is sure to give you a shiver and a smile.

Reality:

White Otter Castle and the legends around it actually exist. I didn’t have to dig very far into reality to find the germ of my novella.

Although the amazing structure did fall into ruin for a time, The Friends of White Otter Castle raised enough money to save the log building from collapse. It has become a regular site for canoeists, snowmobilers, and hikers to visit.

 

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Click on the picture above for information on the town of Atikokan, Ontario and the surrounding area.

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Easter Seals Ontario along with the Atikokan SnoHo and Kiwanis Club of Atikokan are kicking off the 2016 Snowarama season by hosting the 38th annual Atikokan Snowarama for Easter Seals Kids event on Saturday, January 30, 2016.

We invite you to be part of this year’s event, filled with a variety of fun, family-friendly activities throughout the day and night. This year’s festivities include a 100km sled ride north to White Otter Castle, a hearty lunch at Browns’ Clearwater West, dinner at the Royal Canadian Legion, awards, auction and evening entertainment. Click the picture above for more information.

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Snowmobile to the White Otter Castle in the winter

Click on the picture above to go to: White Otter Castle – The Story of Hope and Dreams: THE REMARKABLE STORY OF JIMMY MCOUAT by By Erin Rody Staff Writer for Sunset Country

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White Otter

Click here to buy the novella in Canada.

Click here to buy the novella in the United States.

Click here to buy the novella in the U.K..

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages