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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Disney Art

What with my recent binge on all things Disney, I thought I’d take a break from reviewing today to show you some art I’d done in the recent past. The first is from the Disney Descendants Fan Art contest. Sadly, I didn’t win, but I’m proud of the finished product all the same:

I did it over the weekend, quite literally minutes after I found out about the contest. After discovering that the grand-prize winner could earn a trip to Disneyland, I jumped up and sketched my concept. I grabbed the light-board soon after and completed my clean version. My Pop then generously helped me scan it and import it into our computer. Since he’s an artist himself, he helped me to understand lighting and shading for the piece. Though I didn’t win, I’m happy with the finished art and proud that I could have completed something that looks anything like I imagined it.

 

The next couple pieces of art are just sketches that I did to pass the time. I was reading a lot of books about Edwardian, Victorian, and colonial history when I did these, as you can tell by their getups: 

I did these a while back, perhaps even a year ago. With all the drawing I’ve been doing recently, I almost forgot about these. When drawing them I tried to remain consistent with clothing style of the time, stretching reality just a bit for characters with certain important heritage (Pocahontas, Merida) and certain costume looks that are identifiable (brighter colors, longer hair, etc.).

Tell me down below which drawings you liked better and who’s your favorite Disney princess and/or Descendant!

 

 

 

 

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Rotten to the Core

Today we are talking all things Descendants. As most of you probably know by now, I’m a HUGE Disney fan. However, when I was younger I wasn’t really allowed to watch Disney Channel.

That all changed when a little movie you might have heard of came out.

In 2015, Descendants premiered, breaking the classic Disney Channel film High School Musical record for being the most widely watched and broadcasted Disney Channel Original Movie (keep in mind that these statistics are not factoring in the amount of television watched, the amount of kids watching, and other important stuff. But still. Pretty impressive, right?). I had no idea what this new “Descended” thing was, but it looked intriguing. The more advertisements and trailers that came out, the more excited I became.

When I finally watched the movie, I was beyond enthralled. Children of Disney’s greatest villains meets cotton candy high school? Yes, please. And it only got better when the animated series, Descendants: Wicked World, premiered that fall. I bought Melissa de la Cruz’s book before even seeing the movie and now that it had garnered such popularity, there were now multiple books for the reading. Since the newest film has come out and within a short week become such a hit both with myself (seriously, I watched the film twice in the first two days) and fans everywhere, I decided to do a little post on the Descendants storyline.

Keep in mind that this is about the sequential storyline. Any books mentioned actually have a story independent from the movies, unlike the junior novelization , Mal’s Spellbook, and Mal’s Diary, which are basically retellings of the movie’s story.

Without further ado, shall we begin?

The first item on this list is Melissa de la Cruz’s original novel: Isle of the Lost. In this wicked tale, we are first introduced to the core players of the Descendants universe. Here Mal, Evie, Carlos, Jay, and all the other unfortunate misfits/villains eke out a living. When a mishap causes Carlos and Evie to break through the magical barrier surrounding their island, Diablo awakes bringing news that Maleficent’s staff has been awakened – and it’s all on her daughter’s shoulders to bring it back. With a bitter bond between Mal and Evie already separating the group, can they manage to bring it back and prove they’re rotten to the core after all?

This book is a real treasure. Melissa de la Cruz’s creative storytelling and engaging narrative kept me loving the characters, the plot, and everything else. I fell in love with these characters the minute I met them.

Next up is the original movie itself. Descendants premiered on July 31st of 2015. It became an instant success. With its showstopping musical numbers and memorable characters, this movie was a classic in the making. When soon-to-be-king Ben decides to grant amnesty to villain kids, he opens up a whole new world of discovery, fun, and adventure. Mal, Carlos, Evie, and Jay are the wickedest of the bunch and Maleficent doesn’t plan to let this perfect opportunity go to waste. Their mission? Steal Fairy Godmother’s wand and break the villains out from their prison. But Auradon proves to be more enticing than expected, especially when Mal finds her love spell on Ben providing unexpected side effects. Can these VKs follow their parents’ plan? Or will they discover that being good isn’t so bad?

The movie was amazing, even if it has slightly embarrassing moments. This is still one of my favorite movies (sue me; I like a Disney Channel film that much) and I was over the moon by the credits. And I discovered a strong desire for purple hair and leather jackets…. In all honesty though, I loved the message of the movie, that good is stronger than evil. I also loved that the movie shows high school as being loads of fun and that teenagers can be positive. This is what I wish high school was like.

Moving on we come to Descendants: Wicked World. This series probably takes place in the first month or two after the events of Descendants. In the series the focus is on Mal and Evie as they try to prove that they have changed, not including the new characters introduced, evil plots thwarted, and multiple parties thrown. My favorite new character was probably Freddie, daughter of Dr. Facilier. She’s sarcastic and funny, traits I appreciate in a place where your dress being ruined is the end of the world. During the run of the series, there were three books released under the smaller title School of Secrets. These include CJ’s Treasure Chase, Freddie’s Shadow Cards, and Ally’s Mad Mystery. Within the last month there was a new title released to take place around the events of Descendants 2, titled Lonnie’s Warrior Sword. I haven’t read the latter, but hope to as soon as it arrives at our local library.

We then arrive at Return to the Isle of the Lost. Like the first book, it is a wonderful ride. In this story, the original VKs (in case you were confused by this nickname previously mentioned, it stands for villain Kids. The AK’s are Auradon kids) have finally settled into a regular, evil-free lifestyle. That is, until they each receive mysterious messages, threatening them to return to the Isle. When a dragon that looks strangely familiar begins terrorizing the country, Mal and her friends must return to the place they never thought they’d see again. Home sweet home.

This was also a great read. I hope Melissa de la Cruz does not stop writing these books, or at least doesn’t stop for a while.

The next book in the Descendants lineup is Rise of the Isle of the Lost. This is another de la  Cruz novel, although I believe Ally’s Mad Mystery is supposed to take place between the last book and this one. In this book we first meet Uma (daughter of Ursula) and her pirate gang, including Harry (son of Hook) and Gil (son of Gaston). While the threesome make an unlikely team, they’re determined to find the recently lost Trident of Triton and break through to wreak havoc on Auradon. Mal and her friends (of course) are the only ones who stand in her way. With a little help from King Ben and a little luck, they’ve got to stop one of their biggest nemeses – before it’s too late.

Again, this was a great book. I enjoyed this one, although I think I preferred the original two books better.

That brings us back around to Descendants 2. This movie came out not even a week ago, but it’s already become as popular as its predecessor. I can’t stop singing the music and I don’t think there’s a friend I know that hasn’t seen it or doesn’t want to.

In this amazing sequel, Mal is feeling the pressures of Auradon life. Stuck trying to be the princess to Ben’s royal status, she feels the call of evil more than ever. When a fight breaks out, she decides it’s time to save Auradon – by taking herself out of the equation. Back on the Isle of the Lost, Uma’s sick of seeing Mal win every time. She’s ready to break free and luckily a hapless Ben, trying to get his girlfriend back, seems like just the right tool. With large musical numbers that will make you want to dance, new characters (plus original characters’ development), and plot twists that will keep you begging for more, this sequel proves that the second movie can be just as great as the first.

Whew! Crazy, right? There’s so much to enjoy in the world of Descendants and at the heart of it, there’s a powerful message of good conquering evil, and positivity and diplomacy. There’s action, there’s music, and there’s a tad bit of romance. This is the Disney Channel movie series that you’ve been waiting for. To finish off today’s post, I include a quote from both Descendants movies:

“What? You didn’t think this was the end of the story…

Did you?”

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Sweet Sixteen OR The Scariest Number Ever

Some people dread those little gray hairs they find in the mirror. Some people think that if they turn twenty, their life will truly begin – free from all parental supervision. Some wish they weren’t so old…when they turn thirty. Some people are jumping around, dancing, and enjoying life at 90.

And some, like me, balk at the scariest number in the world.

16. 

Now, you’d think like most girls my age, I want to grow up. I get to wear heels, makeup, drive, get a job, go out with boys, and basically become a grownup. Fun, huh? Except everything just mentioned terrifies me. I have yet to master the art of looking graceful in a one-inch heel, I have no idea what most of the makeup brushes are for or how to use half of the products, the only time I’ve tried to park the car I thought I’d have a heart attack, I don’t want to get a job quite yet, and going out with boys is best reserved for when I’m an adult who can actually take it seriously.

As I’ve gotten older and that number has gotten closer, I’ve become more and more nervous. Grownup? Who said anything about being a grownup, I want to be a kid! Recently though, I read a book by a very limber 90-year old who reminded me about part of any growing stage. In his book Keep Moving, Dick Van Dyke reminds all of us – though the book is primarily for those in the older category – that life is meant to be enjoyed no matter where you’re at. Keep smiling, keep moving, and keep giving back. It inspired me, because he is about seventy-four years older than me and yet it definitely made me think.

All those things I just mentioned? Mere challenges. Heels? I’ll wear them so well I’ll be able to do karate in them. Makeup? I’ll research and fine-tune it for myself. Driving? Once I get over the initial few moments of “I’m going to crash!”, I’ll enjoy it. Job? Okay, so maybe that’s a mountain I’ve yet to climb, but still. Everything I’ve just brought up is part of the growing stage that I should be enjoying. I can’t ever get my highschool years back, so I’m going to delight in them while I can. Maybe I lose the ability to elbow little kids out of the way for an Easter egg and maybe wearing a plastic princess crown looks far less-attractive, but hey – no one can say I didn’t have fun while it lasted.

Before I close this post, I’d like to take a moment to pray. Would you please pray over my sixteenth year with me?

                       “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for all the blessings You’ve heaped upon me. My life is the best kind of crazy and I thank You for every moment of it. As I grow older and go out into the world, I pray that You would protect me and keep me safe. I pray that I would become wise and strong, and that I would grow in You. And so, Lord, I just close this prayer with thanks and a hope that I can grow to become something good. Amen.” 

Thanks for joining me this week and I leave you all with this quote that I love:

“Even though you’re growing up, you should never stop having fun.”

-Nina Dobrev

 

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Happy Independence Day!

This week, I decided to take a break from my usual blog schedule to honor the USA. Though many people favor Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Easter, etc. as their favorite holidays, none is so intrinsically American as Independence Day.

Often I think we take for granted where we live. I know when I was younger I took for granted that I had a good home, good education, and a world of opportunities ahead of me. It’s not until I’ve become older that I’ve realized how much I have by being an American citizen. God has truly blessed me in this area. What’s more is He has given me a heart for my country. I love the US. I love being an American. I am so proud of what America stands for.

Every day should be the 4th of July for us. We should be celebrating where we are, declaring our patriotism loudly, and standing firm on the values on which we were founded. I know I am. This Independence Day, I hope ya’ll are too. I hope you’re watching fireworks, or having a barbecue, or spending quality time with family and friends. And I hope in everything we do, that we’d be grateful that there is a USA.

“God bless America, land that I love,

Stand beside her, and guide her,

Thru the night with a light from above.”  

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My Inspiration

Normally, I’d do a post on books that I’ve read from the Summer Reading Program. I’ve got a post already planned out for next week (hint: it involves several adventure series, combined with a good deal of fantasy…) But today, I want to talk about part of what makes me, well – me.

Here’s to the most inspirational woman I know. Who suffers through it all and has somehow managed to keep on waking up every morning acting like Mary Poppins. She teaches, cleans, cooks, manages, schedules, overplans, and listens to us. She overachieves, pushes us to our limits, and drives me crazy with all the planning that she does (which I will always eventually thank her for). If there is one person in this world I would like to be, I’d pick my mom (sorry, Pop, but it’d be a bit awkward to have a goatee on my chin…). She is an endless source of inspiration for me. Her long-suffering, her charm, her wit, and most importantly, her love are always there for me. 

And when I get jealous of her good looks – well, at least everyone says I look exactly like her, right?

Thanks to the greatest woman in the whole world. I couldn’t have made it here without you.

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Summer Reading – Week 2

This week I’m reviewing a series rather than a selection of books from this week’s picks. I read this series a while back and decided to get them again to enjoy.

Enola is alone spelled backwards. And that is exactly what Enola is: alone. With her independent mother suddenly missing and her brothers trying to force her into finishing school to be squeezed into the monstrosity called a “corset”, Enola Holmes is on the run. With the help of gifts left behind by her mother, her ingenious brain, and a certain amount of deductive reasoning like her brother’s, she’s navigating London and solving crime – all whilst trying to solve the mystery that’s most important to her. What happened to her mother?

This series is loads of fun to read. It’s told from the perspective of an enigmatic and sympathetic character who manages to survive by her wits and solves mysteries while doing so. I also love that this series centers around Enola Holmes, who is quite as brilliant as her brother and shows a keen affection for him. The humanization of Holmes in any series is welcome as I have mentioned before and I happen to love the voice of Enola Holmes.

The one thing I will say is that I was dissatisfied by the ending to the series. I felt that the ending did not quite satisfy the frustration and anxiety of the main character’s hopes being thwarted again and again in previous books. I won’t say anymore; it’s up to you to find out why and make your own decision. 

Otherwise, this series is fantastic! It’s highly enjoyable, easily readable, and only a little bit of knowledge is required to read these books.

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