Spooktacular Reads

Though I’m a huge Halloween fan, I know many people love the opportunity to dress up, munch on some sweet treats, and have ghoulish fun. In the spirit of October, I decided to pick three of my more spooktacular reads to share with ya’ll. These are sweet, family-friendly picks that the whole family can read and love, so if you’re not one for the darker side of Halloween, you needn’t worry.

Our first read of the day is The Heebie-Jeebie Jamboree. Sam and Daphne love Halloween and this year they can’t wait to enjoy it together – but wait! When mysterious tickets find them, each for the Heebie-Jeebie Jamboree, the two kids decide to head for the festivities. The dazzling midway is truly magical. Daphne can’t wait to check everything out. That is, until she notices Sam has gone missing. Where has her brother gone?! Can Daphne navigate this fun land and find him before the night is out?

The next story is Carl Reiner’s Tell Me a Scary Story… But Not Too Scary. This story I loved in particular because for those of you who don’t know, Carl Reiner was part of one of

my favorite TV shows The Dick Van Dyke Show. This story begins with a grandpa’s scary story as told to his grandchild on a cool autumn night. Following the adventure of a young boy who ventures into the terrifying basement of his neighbor’s house to return a frightening glass eye. This book is a treasure, with its creepy narrative, moody art, and funny ending.

 

There’s a skeleton high in our sycamore tree, high as high can be. He was hung up there by my sister and me, high in our sycamoretree….At night when the wind howls overhead, with ghoulish, ghastly glee, our skeleton dances the dance of the dead, there in our sycamore tree. This frightening tale will be sure to delight both children and adults alike as they read the tale of two children who decorate their tree with a skeleton for Halloween. But the morning after All Hallows Eve, Fred McFree is gone! Where has he disappeared to?

These three books are a scream! Children and adults can appreciate each without getting too petrified and the childlike idea of dressing up these authors use is to be appreciated. I highly recommend you pick up these and similar books at your local library to get into the mood of this “spooktacular” October!

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Say What?!

As a child, reading was a safe haven where every book was like traipsing through Beatrix
Potter’s world. Innocent, carefree, it was a world of hope and freedom, where every danger was easily escapable. When reading classics, my parents chose select books that seldom, if ever, had a word I couldn’t use. It would take me a while before I learned what these words really were.

As a writer, one must wonder then: what is okay for me to write? I, personally, don’t
believe in the usage of language, well, EVER, but there are some who do choose to include “mild” or even severe language when writing for everyone from children to adults. And if it’s not language, it’s often romance or a darker theme that preys upon realistic fears. A major concern I have for the future of children’s books is that kids will be forced to grow up prematurely when they ask the oh-so-innocent question, “what does that mean?” However, I believe there is still a hope for future literature and it starts with new writers like me.

There is always a new generation of authors hoping to break free, many of them Christian like me. In fact, I have been filled with hope by the debuts I’ve seen of multiple adult writers who are Christian and create clean content for children’s reading. Personally, being a girl, I am okay with including some romantic hints and even more blatant relationships, so long as they are conducted in a godly, clean manner. If there is evil, it will be kept to a minimum. It is in fact, in my opinion, better to leave darkness to the imagination, where the unknown can be as mild or as twisted as one likes – though here’s hoping your brain leans towards the mild side.

Perhaps the perfect guidelines can be found in the best text of all:

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

While there may be conflict depicted in our writing, let it be overcome. If there is romance, let it be following God’s depiction of a pure relationship. If there is action…well, people will die in the most non-brutal way possible.

Today, let our hearts and minds be clean and pure as we write so that when children read, they will be uplifted.

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The Van Gogh Deception

No one knows his name. No one knows where he belongs. No one knows who he is.

Not even him.

And what no one really knows is what might just get this mysterious boy killed. Arthur (as the tag on his jacket is labeled) can’t remember anything, but he knows things. Weird things. He knows what Paris is like. He knows what minerals are used in hundred year old paints. And he somehow knows everything about the long-lost Van Gogh collection that is opening at the National Gallery of Art. What he doesn’t know is why in the past 24 hours, everything has been turned upside down. A mysterious piece of plastic, kidnapping, and frantic escape are just parts of the startling revelation taking place. Filled with twists and turns, Art is not sure who he is and what he knows – but it’s enough to get him killed.

Deron Hicks adeptly weaves an enchanting tale of intrigue and suspense. In this race against time, readers must try to decipher the clever clues dropped and uncover the truth with the two resourceful main characters, Camille and Art. It is a thrill ride of a story with twists and turns cleverly written to throw readers for a loop. As the daughter of an artist and art enthusiast/museum lover, I admit that I probably had much more of an advantage than most kids, for whom this book is meant to introduce them to art and art history. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed it and highly recommend this book for readers of all levels. A warning to younger readers though: it is a bit thick if you’re used to simpler reads. Also, for art lovers or just curious perusers, there are codes to be scanned so that kids can learn more about the art throughout.

Chime Time! Have you read any art mysteries, such as Chasing Vermeer or Masterpiece? If so, leave a comment and tell me what it was!

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Around the World in 100 Days

the Wager: £6, 000

the Year: 1891

the Terms: 100 days; to circle the entire globe in an automobile.

the Vehicle: The Flash, a custom-built, steam-powered motorcar.

the Stakes: INCONCEIVABLY HIGH

Harry has a talent for disappointing his father, the world-renowned Phileas Fogg. A drop-out of Eton, a non-conformer to English nobility, and an avid car enthusiast, Harry Fogg is anything but the proper gentleman his family expects him to be. When an associate of his father’s mocks the Flash, an ingenious automobile that he and his best friend Johnny have put all their time into, Harry makes a wager that will affect his future forever: a race. And not just any race. A world tour in only 100 days. To beat out competition might be incredibly difficult. To circumnavigate the entire globe in only a motorcar is an impossible feat. Along with Johnny (his mechanic and friend), Charles Hardiman (the son of one of his enemies), and the mysterious Elizabeth (a plucky and quick-witted newspaper reporter), Harry has one shot of proving himself to not only to his father, but to the world itself. The clock is ticking. On your marks…Get set….Race!

Inspired by the true ventures of Nelly Bly and George Train and Jules Verne’s classic book Around the World in 100 Days, Gary Blackwood’s sweeping adventure novel will have you in the seat of the Flash, hanging on for dear life, and hoping for the outcome. The book is well-told and well-paced, filled with all you’d expect from a sequel to the original story. Fans of his work and similar adventure novels will enjoy the feisty characters, various misadventures, and general mischief that the book delivers.

 

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The Lighthouse Family

Today’s review is on a sweet little series of children’s books that are perfect for readers, both young and old.

In a lonely lighthouse upon the sea, there lived a cat named Pandora. Though she loved the lighthouse, she couldn’t help feeling lonely. That is until the day when Seabold the dog appears and brings a little bit of fun back into the lighthouse. And it’s not long after that, they discover three little storm-battered children Whistler, Lila, and Tiny. Together, they are the Lighthouse Family. With each new season there are roads to travel, avenues to be explored, and adventures to be had.

This is such a quaint series. It’s simply illustrated and I love the fact that it is a world of  anthropomorphic animals who live in harmony. Animals that live in homes, enjoy breakfast together, and enjoy taking long picnics are my delight. I love reading Wind in the Willows, Brambly Hedge is magical, and Beatrix Potter’s universe is where my imagination frequented.

For readers of a similar mindset, they will love this little series, perfect for a beginning reader, a seasoned veteran, or a parent reading to a child.

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Mighty Jack

Once upon a time, a poor boy sold a cow for a handful of beans. A beanstalk grew. A giant fell. And they all lived happily ever after.

Or did they? 

Because this is not the fairytale you thought you knew…

For most of his life, Jack has had to deal with an absent father, a mom who’s always over-working herself just to support them, and an autistic sister. All he wants is to get away from his life – or at least change it. And that’s exactly what’s about to happen. When a mysterious street vendor offers them a box of seeds, life takes an unusual turn. Their garden isn’t just a normal garden anymore and nothing is what it seems. Dragons, a sword-wielding new friend, and a monster that lies at the edge of his dreams; things are just getting started. Jack may not have been prepared for this adventure, but he’s going to have to dive right in and face his fears – before it’s too late.

It seems I’m always discovering books at the library. Well, what can I say? This unique read was just begging me to pick it up and who was I to refuse? I am so excited to share this graphic novel with you. It was a truly enjoyable ride of a story and I highly recommend it. I know that adults used to have a phobia about kids and comics, but I truly believe that comics/graphic novels, when done right, can be just as powerful a storytelling tool. I for one, am a huge fan of telling a story visually. This book did not disappoint.

For those of you who’ve read my post on The Nameless City and Cleopatra in Space, you’ll enjoy this series for its clean reading, colorful graphics, and entertaining tale. To be honest, I’m sort of tired of waiting to read the rest of these series. I want to find them right now! But, I’m sure eventually I’ll find them. Until then, I guess I’ll just have to content myself with the next best thing: Star Wars!

Until next time and remember: Keep reading!

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The World’s Greatest Detective

Meet Toby Montrose. For the past several years, he’s never lived in one place for long, being passed around from relative to relative like an old hand-me-down. But here on Detective Row, he finally thinks he may have a home, if he can just prove to his Uncle Gabriel that he can be a great detective – or at least a good enough one to keep them from the streets. When a mysterious invitation arrives from his uncle’s old nemesis, the intrepid Hugh Abernathy, Toby takes up the quest to solve the mystery and become the World’s Greatest Detective. But solving this puzzle won’t be as easy as he thought. Who is enemy and who is friend? His neighbors are no longer who he thought they were and he himself is stumped by questions concerning his uncle’s own foggy past. With an annoying new spy-turned-friend named Ivy at his side, Toby will have to soldier through a surprise murder, maneuver twists and turns, conquer a dastardly villain, and maybe – just maybe – prove that he is, after all, the World’s Greatest Detective.

This book was a delight and it was only after I’d finished it that I realized who the author was: Caroline Carlson. For those of you who don’t recognize the name, she is the author of the beloved The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series. I have reviewed the first two of this series here and here, but have not yet reviewed the third – guess that’s a blog post for the future. For now though, I highly recommend you read this book. It will keep you laughing, gasping, and guessing till the very end. 

Chime Time! This book is something of a spoof on the image of Sherlock Holmes, with his adventures being published from the point of view of his assistant, and his amazing deduction skills. Have you ever read a book that spoofs Sherlock Holmes or any other famous fictional detectives?

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The Many Faces of George Washington

Ok, so I’ll admit it guys. I am way overdue for reviewing this book. Originally, the post was going to put up in July, somewhere around Independence Day, amongst several other revolutionary war titles. Things changed and plans went awry. Oops! Nevertheless, I really like this book and suggest you give it a try as well.

No two portraits of George Washington are the same. In some we see a tired old man. In others we see a grand general. But what does George Washington really look like? This was the question of a Smithsonian team, dedicated to creating an exhibit on the life of one of our greatest Founding Fathers and the first president of the US. This book delves into the research that went into discovering what Washington looked like, the history of his life, and the work of creating a 3D image of his persona. It is truly a captivating read, with eye-openers into the labor that goes into showing kids our history.

I found this book when wandering around the nonfiction section in our library, looking for books on the American Revolution and the founding of America. I love our country and its history, but the period that fascinates me the most is the birth of our nation. This read was an instant hit with me. I am inspired by those who trekked before me through our nation’s wilderness, fought our battles, and rose above the tyranny of George the III to create a country based on liberty, freedom, and truth. George Washington’s story is one of those and the story of those who made him accessible to a younger generation is also to be deeply appreciated.

I highly recommend this book to all of you, whether you be teacher, parent, or student. It is a satisfactory read and you will discover much more than you thought.

Chime Time! Someday I hope to make it to the Smithsonian to see an exhibit like this. What kind of exhibit would you want to see, and why?

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Just a Lil’ Fanart

So, this week I decided to be lazy – sue me… Anyhoo, I sketched this little image as a rough, quickie for some of my friends who moved away. I had planned on doing something along the line of something Amy Mebberson might do. Some of her stuff has been featured on Disney and Disney-related google searches and I’ve found it to be a great example of caricature.

What was supposed to be a five-minute project turned out to be a fifteen-twenty minute project. My original idea veered, resulting in a piece I’m actually kind of proud of:

This humorous piece came to mind while watching Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Go figure, right? Let me know what you think down below and I will see you next week!

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Scholarship Writing

I don’t know about you guys, but the time has come around for me to be looking at scholarships. Yes, that’s right folks: scholarships. Actually, that time has been around for several months (or years, if you count my mom buying the book for looking at scholarships when I was in elementary school). With my interest in the creative arts, leaning towards writing, most scholarships we have been looking at do require some sort of writing. While most of it has been essays, I’ve found a few that are geared towards fictional writing. One of these has become my latest project which I finished a week or so ago.

Today, I’m going to be posting a small snippet from my story. It doesn’t have a title yet, but  I’m very proud of how the rough draft turned out. This is from that rough draft, so please excuse any spelling and/or grammatical errors. I try to do my best as I’m writing, but there are somethings that will slip by. Keep in mind as you’re reading this, that the assignment was for either a fantasy or science-fiction story. With all those things in mind, begin scene!

 

 With a sharp squeal, twenty ships dove out of the curve, now faced with the equally daunting task of navigating the canyon. 

“Pirago is managing to stay right behind the lead pilots…but wait, here comes Chaminez!” 

Ev swerved to the right, watching as a pink hot-rod approached from behind, only to be deterred by a huge mountain of rock. Grinning, she dove. On her left, a hulking star-ship battered her wings. With a sharp shudder, she felt something hook onto her engines, dragging her back. 

“Let go!” She shrieked. 

Ahead of her, Kinta’s sleek vessel took the lead, twisting around a curve, quickly followed by five other ships.  

“Engines are being rammed. Disengage shields?” 

Ev hit the red button, hearing metal clang onto metal. Free at last, she swooped into the curve. Eighteen of the racers had used that time to gain a jump on her. She was now behind. With a sharp jerk of the controls, Ev rose higher inside the canyon. 

The rules were that no one could fly the race above the canyon. Ev had no intention of flying the race above; all she needed was two seconds to catch up from higher within. The craft jolted as she spotted several brightly-colored ships take a dive down deeper into the canyon. Speeding ahead, she followed, managing to cut out a racer right behind her. Taking the turn quickly, she passed by two more. There were now sixteen racers ahead of her. Ev had managed to go at least to middle ground. 

“The rookie is recovering quickly. Oh, but Loya isn’t having any of that! He’s now attempting to push her into the canyon wall!” 

The crowd gasped. 

Inside the ship, Ev was struggling to keep the vessel from being completely pulverized against the wall. Too bad the rules didn’t say anything about playing dirty. She pushed back, but unlike her ship, which was clearly built for taking small courses, Loya’s space-craft was a muscled vessel that looked like it could smash any rock in the canyon. 

As the two ships sped towards a corner, Ev reached for a silver knob and pushed, wrenching the controls to the right. The two ships trembled. The curve approached and then she dove down lower, leaving Loya’s vessel to plummet, fail, and crash against the wall. Her grin only lasted a second; flames were now flying out of his ship. She could hear the frantic spectators cheering as the announcer narrated his drop, down, down, down into the canyon. 

Ev looked to see Loya rise out of the canyon, jet pack strapped to his back. He’d been eliminated. 

“And there goes Loya. Tough break, but he’s a fighter. I’m sure we’ll see him again next season!” 

She grew more nervous now. Loya Amino was a worthy competitor and he’d gone within the first ten minutes of the race. How long could she last? 

Ev screeched to a halt. 

The canyon had widened, right before a break in the rock. The other competitors were jam-packed, waiting for a giant herd of alien creatures to move past. 

A gigantic yellow eye stared at Ev as they swiggled past. She didn’t realize she was holding her breath until they were gone and the ships had all begun racing forward again. She swerved around, right beside Kinta. 

“Miss me?” She smiled into her speaker. 

“Hello, Sunshine,” a voice said in her other ear. 

She looked upwards as a dark shadow fell across her cockpit. Geery Tomei’s starship. She bolted, sending the ship into an anxious spiral in an attempt to get away. 

The three ships began to judder, crammed in tight in the canyon space. It would appear their wings had hooked together. 

Ev struggled to get away, but the craft was locked tight with Geery’s. To her left she could see Kinta attempting to do the same. She felt a jerk as her ship rocked from side to side. 

Then Ev spotted it. 

Ahead of them was a massive column of rock, placed dead center in the canyon. If they were still locked together, Ev would crash. 

She swallowed and began to try and move more anxiously. Geery’s ship was having as little success as she. Then, with a large jerk, Kinta broke free. Ev’s mouth dropped open as she saw where he was headed. She and Geery now broke apart, but it was too late. 

With a resounding boom, Kinta Mui burst into flames.

 

I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just tell you that this is from the finale of the story. Leave your thoughts down below and check back for when I post the full story!

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