Book Spotlight: Spine Chillers by Q.L. Pearce

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Spine Chillers by Q.L Pearce is a collection of spooky short stories. Are you brave enough to read them after dark?

In the house on Beech Street a terrible tragedy occurred. Now neighbors won’t look at the place as they pass. Those who live nearby draw their blinds and shutter their windows after dark. What are they afraid of?
Hale Hallow Woods seems sinister and menacing even in the light of day. Does a thirst for revenge beat near its dark heart?
The answers lie within these pages, just waiting to send a chill up your spine!

 

And a little about the author…

Q.L.Pearce is the author of more than 120 books for young readers, from picture books to YA, as well as film tie-in books. Her works have received several awards including a Carter G. Woodson Book Award gold medal from NCSS and a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award gold medal. Her fiction includes the popular middle grade series, Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs (Price, Stern, Sloan). Q believes strongly in the value of scary books for young readers. When asked what credentials she has which qualify her as an expert in this area she replies, “I was a child once. That was very scary.”

 

And now for a little taste of Spine Chillers.

 

 The House on Beech Street (Excerpt from Spine Chillers, by Q.L. Pearce
Copyright © Glass Apple Press 2016)

Jason stepped inside. The air within was tainted with an odor that made him gag.

“What is that smell?” he asked putting his hand to his face.

“What smell?” Mike responded. Thomas just shrugged his shoulders.

“Do you know the story of the Carlson’s?” The woman didn’t wait for an answer before she continued. “They were a typical family. The little girl, Anisa, took ballet lessons. The boy, Junior, played baseball. Some people said he had the talent to go far as an athlete … that is … if he’d lived.”

The group entered the kitchen. The table was set for five as if the family would be sitting down for breakfast any minute. Jason noticed a pitcher’s mitt on one of the chairs.

“He was a lefty,” he said to no one in particular.

“Mr. Carlson’s mother slept in the spare room. She was an invalid and needed a lot of care. Mr. Carlson and his wife had quarreled about it that fateful morning and he’d left early. When he came home he found his wife in that very chair.” She pointed to the one at the end of the table. “He’d brought her flowers and wanted to apologize. It took him a few moments to realize she was dead. It seems she had taken a handful of sleeping pills with her tea. The police found the rest of the family in the basement along with a cracked, bloody baseball bat.”

“What happened to the dad?” Mike asked.

“They found him two days later hanging from the tree in the backyard. He’d left a note that said he wasn’t alone in the house. The neighbors claimed they heard noises late at night … screaming. You’ll notice that the houses on both sides are now empty. No one wants to live near this place.” She paused and looked in the direction of the front entrance. “Sometimes I can’t wait to leave.”

Motioning for the boys to follow, the woman moved from the kitchen into a dimly lit hallway. She opened the first door on the left. “This was the grandmother’s room.” Jason was hit with a wave of a smell like rotting fish.

 

Prom Date (Excerpt from Spine Chillers, by Q.L. Pearce
Copyright © Glass Apple Press 2016.)

The Roller Grille was the real deal. An authentic drive-in restaurant with car hops on roller skates delivering trays of burgers and fries to people parked outside. It had been in business for decades. Other than a fresh coat of paint now and then it hadn’t changed from the day it opened.

Tyler, Andy and Jacob threaded around the cars and pushed through the glass doors to the diner. A hostess dressed in a fuzzy sweater and a poodle skirt guided customers to booths covered in red vinyl. A candy-colored jukebox blared from a corner. The laughter and chatter of the crowd was louder than the music. Tyler noticed Shay jammed into a booth with her friends. He raised a hand in greeting but she ignored him.

Andy pointed to the long soda fountain. “There’s room over there.” Tyler nodded and they each claimed a stool.

“What’ll it be?” Randy, the soda jerk adjusted his black bow tie and gave them a toothy grin. The boys ordered shakes.

Andy whirled around once on his stool and stopped to face Jacob. “So do they have any place like this in Phoenix?”

“No. This is pretty cool.” He looked around and his eye settled on a wall of photographs. “Who are those people?”

“Those are the prom kings and queens from the high school,” Tyler answered.

“Wow there’s like a hundred of them. What’s the deal with those two?” Jacob pointed to a black and white photo that was larger than the rest.

Tyler slipped into telling the story that everyone in town knew by heart. “That’s Johnny Tonnarro and his girlfriend, Samantha. He was like a rock star a long time ago. He got killed in an accident off Yetter Point.”

“It was a foggy night. He drove his car off the cliff and got squished like a pancake,” Andy added. “His girlfriend waited for hours in the cold for him to show up. She was all dressed for the prom and crying like a baby.”

Jacob gazed at Samantha’s sweet face. “That’s sad. What happened to her?”

Tyler lowered his voice for effect. “She drowned a year later on the anniversary of the accident. She was down on the jetty throwing flowers out into the ocean, those stinky white ones…gardenias. A wave swept her off the rock. Some people say they’ve seen her.”

“Seen her? What do you mean?”

Andy took up the story again. “Every year around this time her ghost waits out on Thorne Road near Highway One for Johnny to pick her up. Just standing there crying.”

Randy placed the shakes in front of the boys and joined in. “This time of year the evenings are usually foggy,” “They say she waits just off the edge of the road in the mist – lavender gown, white gloves, and gardenias in her long, blonde hair.”

Jacob’s mouth dropped open and his eyes grew wide. “Really? A real ghost? You’ve seen her?”

Taylor and Andy couldn’t hold back their laughter. “Nobody’s seen her,” Andy snickered. “It’s all made up. Not the accident part but the ghost part.

Jacob frowned. “So Samantha didn’t really die?”

“Oh, yeah. She died alright. She drowned. But only little kids and tourists swallow the ghost story. You have to be a real lamebrain to believe it. Last year the town newspaper offered a ten thousand dollar reward for anybody who could get a photograph of her. There were a lot of fakes but nobody’s earned the money yet.”

Still grinning, Tyler turned to take a sip of his milkshake and caught a glimpse of Shay. She was staring toward the entrance. If looks could kill, her eyes were lethal weapons. Tyler followed her gaze.

“Uh oh,” he whispered and his smile faded. His brother was holding the door open for Anilla Jacoby, Shay’s arch-enemy. Anilla beamed up at Lane and slipped her arm through his. The couple slid into a booth. Shay stood and stormed toward the door without looking at them.

“This isn’t good,” Tyler muttered.

A moment later his phone beeped. He read the text. Come outside now. We need to talk. Shay was waiting for him as he pushed open the door.

“I thought I would die of embarrassment. I can’t believe he would show up here in front of everyone with that airhead hanging on him like that. Now I know why he’s been avoiding me.” She turned on Tyler. “How long has this been going on?”

“Don’t ask me. This is the first time I’ve seen him with Anilla.”

“He needs to pay a price for humiliating me like that. I want to embarrass him in front of all of his friends!”

Tyler shifted nervously. “Shay I don’t want to…”

“Think of something!”

“Look, Shay. Maybe you should just let it go. He’s my brother. I can’t …”

“I’m not going to let this go, Tyler.” She leaned in and growled. “You’re with me or against me. And trust me, if you want to survive high school you don’t want to be against me. I can make your life miserable.” Shay turned and stomped away.

 

 

For more information about Q. L. Pearce and her books visit her website, Facebook page, LinkedIn, Amazon Author Page, Goodreads or on YouTube.

 

Soft Play Dough

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Over the holidays we tried a different kind of play dough at home, a very fragrant soft dough using only two ingredients. Now, I’m not sure where I saw or heard of this combination to make play dough originally, but a mum from playgroup had mentioned it recently, only not the quantities required, so we did a bit of trial and error.

I used blueberry and coconut conditioner that we had in the bathroom (technically it was L’s, but it was the nicest smelling stuff we had at the time…) Oh, and it was a cheap conditioner despite the lovely smell, so it kept the cost of our little experiment down.

After mixing and adding and mixing some more, I came to the conclusion that the consistency was pretty good somewhere around one part conditioner to two parts cornflour. However, it still seemed a bit closer to slime than to dough, as it just wasn’t all that great at holding its shape. I did try adding more cornflour to the mix, but the boys declared they liked it as it was. I chose not to add any food colouring as the dough became a very pale blue from the colouring in the conditioner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both boys enjoyed the sensory experience, of the touch and smell of the dough. They squeezed it, and poked it, rolled it in their hands and stretched it. I did have to stop T2 from playing with it after a while though because he kept eating it (despite many warnings and admonishments, and what I can only imagine was a terrible taste!) T1 continued to play with the dough for quite a while, fascinated at the way it felt and moved in his hands.

It kept for a couple of days covered, but it was starting to dry out a little by then. It was fun and easy to make, so we would probably make it again.

Unmasking the April Book Box

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Amidst the chaos that is school holidays this little box of joy was delivered. It took me a while to get a quiet moment to open it on my own, but I was thrilled when I finally did.

The YA Chronicles book boxes have gotten even better this month. They have transitioned to a new price that also sees an increase in the goodies included in the content.

It was so much fun unpacking this box! The April book is The Secret Science of Magic by Australian author Melissa Keil. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it was already on my TBR list, so I’m pretty excited!

I love the Cinderella silhouette artwork, it is just gorgeous. It came from Lolie Freta on Etsy. There was also a The Secret Science of Magic playing card, and a ticket to the Night Circus from RedGoldSparks Press. Seriously cute magnetic bookmarks by Read and Wonder, a Harry Potter inspired notebook from Literary Emporium, and a niffler keyring complete the package.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And as always, there is The YA Chronicles bookmark (I am always looking for a bookmark, so thanks TYAC!) and the postcard that contains information about the box’s contents. 

May is a big month for The YA Chronicles book boxes, with the special pre-ordered A Court of Wings and Ruin boxes coming out on the 2nd plus the regular monthly box. I can’t wait for both to arrive!

 

A Book Box in March

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I was so excited to find this little package on my doorstep during the week! It’s a small box packed with awesomeness that makes me feel so very happy.

The YA Chronicles are an Australian book box subscription service specialising in young adult literature. Each month, a new release YA book is chosen to develop a book box. It is then accompanied by several themed goodies, which make it a truly fun experience. A subscription would make an excellent gift for a lover of YA.

This month, I opened the box to grassy green tissue paper, which I carefully peeled back and unveiled… A beautiful parcel of literary fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book is Frogkisser by Garth Nix! And it came with a signed plate through the publisher, Allen & Unwin. It’s been a hectic week, so I haven’t been able to start reading it yet, but I can hardly wait to get to it (must get kids to bed first!)

Also included was a lovely vinyl sticker from Ink and Wonder Designs, some villainous bath salts from Burning Pages Candles and a delightfully smelling lip balm from From the Page. And of course, The YA Chronicles bookmark and information postcard.

Check out The YA Chronicles to get in on the book box action!

 

 

Guest Post: On Writing Short, Scary Stories for Children

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I love the world of children’s literature. Over the years I have written picture books, activity books, middle grade, YA, biographies, and nonfiction. My favourite genre is scary short stories for middle grade and YA. Picture book author, Mem Fox, once said, “Writing for children is like writing War and Peace in haiku.” I think that’s hilarious but true. A short story obliges the writer to develop characters and plot concisely, while still telling a tale that is fun to read.

When writing a scary story I’m careful to choose a theme that young readers can relate to, and to frame it from a child’s point of view. I usually begin by sketching out the plot beginning to end. Rules can always be bent, but in general, a short story has the typical structure of any work of fiction including the opening, conflict, rising action, climax and resolution, all in about 2500 words or less. The first step is to get everything on paper. The next step is to craft it.

Author Kurt Vonnegut suggested that a short story should begin as close to the end as possible. That’s good advice. A long, drawn out opening won’t hook a reader. The first line should immediately invite the child to enter the world in which the story takes place. Because economy of words is a plus, my goal is to use the most effective language to create the tone and mood quickly. In most scary tales the setting is a character in itself, but I try to find ways to show it without lengthy description.

Each sentence should move the action forward or reveal something about the characters. Still, short doesn’t mean simplistic. It’s essential to give the character a good reason to go into the creepy basement or sneak out to the amusement park at night! If his or her behaviour isn’t believable then the story won’t ring true. For young readers, the main character should succeed or not based on their own choices and decisions. No fair having someone or something else rescue them at the last moment.

Finally, good writing is rewriting so the last stage of crafting a short story is editing. This is the time to be certain that every sentence serves a purpose and every word is as precise as possible to deliver the spooky thrills and chills the reader is anticipating!


 

About the Author: Q.L. Pearce is the author of over 150 books for children, including YA and Middle Grade fiction and non-fiction. She specialises in scary stories, which is evident in her hit series Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the Carter G. Woodson gold medal and the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award. Her multi-award winning book, Red Bird Sings received praise from Publisher’s Weekly, the School Library Journal, and the Library Media Connection.

 

Find out more about Q.L. on her

 

Escape From Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

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Escape From Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth, e-book, 178 pages, published by Curiosity Quills Press in 2014.

After her parents are killed in the terror attacks of 9/11, Honoria moves to the rural town, Arnn, with her brother, aunt and uncle. The town is bordered by a forest, known as Witchwood Hollow. Over the years many people have wandered into the woods never to return. The legend of the witch is well known about town. Soon after arrival, Honoria is introduced to the woods by a couple of kids from her new school, but instead of being afraid, she finds a kind of peace among the trees. Could the witch help her reunite with her parents or will she become trapped forever?

Escape from Witchwood Hollow was an easy and fast read which I really enjoyed. The story was appealing and intriguing, while the characters were interesting and well-written. There was an undertone of sadness throughout the story, with many of the characters experiencing the loss of a loved one, or being lost themselves.

This book is not about witchcraft per se, it is more about historical occurrences becoming an urban myth, and the way that such a myth is regarded by locals and newcomers to the area. The story centres on Honoria, and her experiences in Arnn and the woods in 2001. However, it is also about Lady Clifford, an immigrant new to the Arnn area during the 1600s, and another English immigrant, Albertine, who arrives in Arnn in 1850. Both of whom entered the woods never to return. I liked the way the story spanned across and entwined the stories and times of the three young women.

I felt sorry for Honoria, given the tragic loss of her parents. Her behaviour felt realistic for the situation. Something good for Honoria from the move to Arnn was her burgeoning friendship with her neighbour, Leon. Proximity brought them together, but a shared interest in local history and the legend of Witchwood Hollow strengthened their bond. I really liked everything about Leon, he was my favourite character.

Something I found a little odd in the story was the obsession with clothing brands. It was weird, and completely redundant to the story, so why emphasise their fashion choices?

Escape from Witchwood Hollow is suitable for upper primary and high school students and is perfect for fantasy lovers.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Ferret by C.C. Wyatt

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Ferret by C.C. Wyatt, e-book, 418 pages, published by Me Myself Publishing in 2016.

It has been four years since Pia’s life was transformed by a sixteen hour disappearance from her Florida holiday home. She has no recollection of any part of those hours, but believes that she must have been kidnapped. Pia is plagued by anxiety, crippling panic attacks and hallucinatory visions. Her parents believe it is all in her head, but Pia isn’t so sure. When Pia returns to Florida she attempts to unravel some of the mystery surrounding her disappearance. She also hopes to investigate an island that only she can see in the ocean between Miami and Bermuda. On her first day back in Florida, she meets a mysterious boy, Cameron, who is a fellow sufferer of hallucinations. Could he hold the answers that Pia has been searching for?

It took me a little while to get into Ferret, but once I was in, it was a fast and engaging read. The plot was quite intriguing, with allusions to the Bermuda Triangle and alien abduction. I’ve always been fascinated by the Bermuda Triangle; missing planes, boast and people, navigational disturbances, unexplained lights. There have been plenty of theories, but they are all yet to be proved, which makes a wonderful scene for a novel about paranormal and supernatural activity.

Overall I enjoyed Ferret. The premise was great, execution was good, and the characters were interesting and believable. However, throughout the book, I noticed grammatical errors, repeated or transposed words and some spelling mistakes. Really, they were a minor nuisance, but they should have been picked up and corrected during the proof-reading process. I can get a bit distracted by things like this, and it did dampen my enthusiasm a little.

Without spoiling the end, I can say that it took an unexpected turn that I didn’t especially like. It was still written well, but it felt less real than the rest of the story. There was also very little resolved as it ended with “To be continued…” Ferret is the start of a series, but for over 400 pages, I would have liked to have seen Pia make a bit more progress on her mystery. There is still so much to uncover for Pia, Cameron, and even his cousin, Brian. Answers, I need answers! Luckily there is another book coming.

Pia and Cameron are both incredibly complex characters. They have issues and secrets from their pasts, along with a history of mental illness. They were drawn together, and we have to believe that it was fate that they meet. While they were fascinated by each other, they had to learn to like and trust one another. And believe, in each other and in themselves. This all happened in the space of a week, which is rather fast-tracked, but it made for an eventful storyline.

I found Pia’s parents to be very confusing. At times Pia seemed to be afraid of them, especially her Dad. I can understand that they were frightened by her disappearance and have continued to be concerned about her ‘episodes’, but they also seemed to be using that as an excuse to keep her under their thumb. I didn’t like them. Their reaction to her going behind their backs is extreme. As a parent myself, first and foremost should have come relief, not anger that she broke their trust. Pia did something in order to prove that she wasn’t crazy, but they didn’t appear to care what her motive was, or to want to re-assure her that they believed her. Maybe they will lighten up a little in the next book.

Ferret is most suitable for high school students. I think many mystery and paranormal fans would be interested in this series. The next book, Perseaus, is expected to be published later this year (2017).

 

*I received this book from the author (via @BookTasters) as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Fluffy Hugs by Richard Dodd

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fluffyFluffy Hugs by Richard Dodd, e-book, 60 pages, published by Smashwords in 2015.

Fluffy is a baby emperor penguin, born in captivity within a zoo. Fluffy is a little different to the other penguins in the enclosure, as he can understand what the humans are saying. He discovers he has other magical abilities too, which he can put to good use helping animals and people.

Fluffy Hugs is a short and simple story; a bit of magical fun with one of the cutest animals in the world, a fluffy, grey penguin chick. Who could resist such a sweet little fellow? I would definitely hug him! Being able to use his hugs to help is an unique talent, but I really liked his ability to travel about the world just by thinking about it.

Fluffy Hugs did not take long to read. My seven year old could probably knock it over pretty quickly too, and I think she would enjoy it a lot. Magical animals are in at our house! There were a handful of simple line drawings within the book which I liked. I think the story could have been enhanced by more illustrations, due to its short nature.

Fluffy Hugs would be suitable for lower primary school students and reluctant older readers. It is the first book in a series chronicling Fluffy’s adventures. The next book in the series, Minty Visits, is also available now.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Valentine by Jodi McAlister

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valentineValentine by Jodi McAlister, paperback novel, 389 pages, published by Penguin Random House Australia Pty Ltd in 2017.

Four teenagers in the seaside town of Haylesford were all born on Valentine’s day of the same year. Pearl, Finn, Cardy and Marie have grown up together, but now they seem to be marked by the birthday they share. Who or what is after them? And why? Pearl is determined to find out what is really going on, but she might need a little help.

This book came in a book box from The YA Chronicles, and I knew nothing about it when I started to read. And wow! I probably wouldn’t have picked Valentine up myself, assuming that it was a romance novel, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is actually a paranormal fantasy with some romance. And it is really awesome to boot!

From the first chapter, I knew I was going to have trouble putting Valentine down. The plot was intricate, weaving itself into a fast paced ride of darkness and delight. Every chapter’s end had me saying “just one more chapter…” And there’s another book coming in this new series! Yay! There is a short preview at the end of Valentine, which will have to sustain me until Ironheart‘s release next year.

Valentine is not a fairytale, but it is a tale of faeries. Real faeries who are cruel and unforgiving, and zealously pursuing their task without thought to its effects on the humans. They are ruthless and powerful, with some pretty neat tricks up their sleeves. There were two groups after the Valentine babies, the Seelie and the Unseelie, and while one lot was evil, the others weren’t that much better. The way the Unseelie controlled the black animals to frighten and torment was very creepy. I will never be able to see a black cat again without wondering about its evil intent.

I liked the way the story was told, though it took me a little while to catch up with some of the abbreviations in the lingo, such as PDA. That made me feel a bit old! Still, the plot was dramatic and engaging; a very satisfying read. There were some lusty scenes, which may not be everyone’s cuppa, but I thought they were well written, and appropriately utilised for the story.

Pearl was such an interesting and deep character; strong and passionate, I instantly liked her. Most of the characters were quite complex, and I enjoyed getting to know them all. I was amused by Pearl’s denial of her feelings for bad boy Finn, while crushing on Cardy, who is considerably different in personality and looks. She had a great relationship with her older brother and sister, who were also her guardians. I disliked Finn at the start, he just acted like such a jerk, but he improved. As I got to know him better, I realised that he wasn’t all that bad, much more sensitive than I expected.

Valentine is most suitable for middle to upper high school students and older.

6th Grade Revengers: Cat Crimes and Wannabes by Steven Whibley

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catcrimes6th Grade Revengers: Cat Crimes and Wannabes by Steven Whibley, e-book, 88 pages, published in 2015.

Jared and his best friend Marcus style themselves as The Revengers; a team that takes care of problems in their community. Their first task is to rid the Oak Street neighbourhood of a crazy and evil cat that is ruling the street with his claws and teeth. They also have to do something about Gunner, Jared’s sister’s boyfriend and wannabe pop star. He just hangs about Jared’s house pretending to write music and loafing off Ronie (Jared’s sister). The boys are going to have to be creative to solve these problems, and prove themselves as a team that gets things done.

An easy and quick read, Cat Crimes and Wannabes was entertaining and amusing. There were occasional black and white illustrations among the text, and the chapters were fairly short, good for reluctant readers.

The first chapter was a very clever way to begin the story, introducing Jared and his family. I enjoyed reading about Jared and Marcus and their new business. I especially liked their efforts to banish the evil cat. That was one scary cat! So vicious and aggressive, it was more like a small tiger than a house cat. Jared and Marcus really underestimated how difficult removing such a cat would be, but their efforts were funny.  While Gunner wasn’t dangerous like the cat, he was still an annoying presence who I disliked greatly. The boys’ plan to remove Gunner from their lives was ingenious, and much nicer than things I thought of to do to him!

This is the first book in a series following The Revengers. I had a moment of disappointment when the story finished, as I was expecting it to be longer based on the page count. Instead there was a preview for the next book in the series at the end , and now I want to read that one too!

Cat Crimes and Wannabes is most suitable for middle and upper primary school children into lower high school.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.