A Pirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Cat by Beverly Stowe McClure

pirate-blockade-runner-cat-200x300A perfect, not too spooky, ghost adventure that kids will enjoy is the latest novel from award-winning author Beverly Stowe McClure.

Erik Burns is stuck in South Carolina with his mother and Aunt Molly after he finds a black lace bra in the glove compartment of his dad’s car. Whoops! Kept away from all his friends and the sport he loved to play in Texas, Erik is willing to do whatever it takes to get back home.

When Starry and Stormy Knight, a set of weird twins that live down the block, try to convince Erik that people have seen a light radiating from the deactivated lighthouse and a ghostly pirate ship prowling the harbor, he wants nothing to do with it. But when he witnesses these occurrences, he can’t deny the proof before him. That’s when he hatches a plan to help the ghosts rest in peace in exchange for a personalized haunting that will send his mother rushing back home to Texas so Erick can get his life back.

Beverly and I are in the same critique group, so I had the pleasure of watching this story unfold before it was published. Talented in the areas of contemporary and historical fiction, I am always amazed by how diverse her ideas are while staying true to her fan base. A Pirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Cat should be another big winner for her. Why? Because in a nutshell, no matter what Beverly is writing, she knows what relates well to her readers.

In this story, Erik has been uprooted. Not only is he away from all his friends and baseball, he’s pretty ticked his dad hasn’t tried to contact him since the move. Those emotions work their way into the unfolding stories of Major Stede Bonnet, Blackbeard, and the ghost residing in the deactivated Morris Island Lighthouse. Not only that, Erik’s mom is trying to get him to befriend a couple of odd twins, when all he wants is to be reunited with his friends in Texas.

This paranormal middle grade/tween novel has a lot to offer. A great read any time of the year, it will definitely get you in the mood for Halloween.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

File Size: 410 KB
Print Length: 265 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing (January 9, 2013)
ISBN 978-1-77127-219-3
Available in numerous digital formats. Visit the publisher’s website for more information.

 

I received a free digital copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

 

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First Chapter Review of and Excerpt from Down Under Calling by Margot Finke

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When a reluctant grandson in Oregon is pressured into writing to his grandma in Australia, wonderful things happen. Both have a need for love and reassurance, and between letters their daily lives go on.  Back and forth the letters go: Josh shares his  problems, while Grandma Rose shares stories, and past memories that astonish her grandson and his friend Kelly. His Xbox gathers dust, while he and Kelly ride bikes and bird watch. Googling the weird and wonderful Aussie critters that visit Rose’s garden becomes a hobby for them.  Soon, Andy and Grandma shrink the Pacific Ocean into a puddle they can easily ford.

There is a glossary of Aussie words and animals at the back of the book.

A SAMPLE from the Beginning:

CHAPTER ONE

Grandma Rose

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, where water lapped the sandy eastern shores of Australia, Rose Larkin slept. She lived on the edge of the Queensland bush in a small town called Morningside. At sixty plus Rose was a light sleeper, so the sound of the rifle crack snapped her awake.

Silence. This was followed by the mutter of distant voices. Rose’s cat, Lady, sleeping at the foot of the bed, had not twitched a whisker.

“The same hooligans again I’ll bet,” Rose muttered, “Shooting at whatever moves.”

Stiff from sleeping, Rose threw on a dressing gown and headed for the back door. Outside the door she grabbed a long handled garden fork that leaned against the wall. She hefted it. Not a bad weapon – just in case.

A skimpy moon left the back yard in complete darkness. But Rose didn’t need a flashlight. Her feet had long ago memorized every pebble, dip, and curve that lead to the back fence. The voices now grew more distinct.

“Cripes mate, I killed somethin’!”

“Dumb git! You offed a ‘roo. The old biddy’s heard us for sure. Let’s scarper.”

The voices faded, lost in the far reaches of the wild bush area that backed onto Rose’s property.

Grim-faced, Rose reached the fence line. Soft scrabbling noises came from the bush side of the fence. Leaning the garden fork against a fence post, she hiked up her nightie and dressing gown. Climbing over the broken section of the fence wasn’t easy. Rose struggled. Then a tearing sound. Blast! My favorite nightie, too!

Finally, she made it over the fence and into the bush, hoping to find whatever was making those distressed rustling sounds. Aha… She peered down at the ground around her – dim and blurry. Stupid woman – forgot my glasses! Her toe hit something furry. Kneeling in the darkness Rose searched the ground with outstretched hands. She felt something warm and soft. Oh Lord, NO!

In front of her lay a still warm but very dead female kangaroo. Snuggled beside his dead mum, yet very much alive, was her joey.

“There, there,” murmured Rose. “Not to worry little mate. You come with me.”

It took a few more rips and tears to her nightie, but she finally got the joey over the fence and safely back to the house. Tucking him into a spare pillowcase, Rose hung the makeshift pouch on the back of a kitchen chair. His small head peeked out, all big ears and long snout, a wistful look on its face. The pillowcase, loosely knotted at the open end, was the best she could do to provide a pouch.

Oh-ho, he’s shivering. Mustn’t let the little bloke go into shock. Rose quickly filled a hot water bottle and slipped it into the pillowcase. A swift look through her winter woolies, and her young guest wore a blue beanie scrunched down over his ears. She had knitted the beanie last winter.

“That’ll have to do for now. First thing in the morning I’ll find out what to feed you. Then I’ll phone the police. I just hope they catch the hooligans that killed your poor mum.”

Rose, chilled to her toes, made herself a steaming cup of tea. The joey, blue beanie askew over one eye, ducked inside his makeshift pouch every time she ventured near.

AVAILABLE FOR KINDLE: http://www.amazon.com/Down-Under-Calling-Margot-Finke-ebook/dp/B00FZXORQK/

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I want to thank Cheryl for allowing me to chat with her wonderful readers and introduce a book that means so much to me. Writing “Down Under” took me back to my long ago Aussie roots.  It was a book I had to write, and it came right from my heart. In some ways it is a tribute to my mum.  She was the most honest person I have ever known.  Also a fantastic story teller,  a terrific judge of character, and she always showed her love for me in caring ways.

Some of the stories Grandma Rose tells grandson Andy in her letters are ones told to me by my mum.  Mum was shy, and only opened up to close friends or relatives.  I know she would be delighted to know that I have connected her stories to a far wider audience.  Mum is long gone. . . yet I still miss her a whole bunch.

Website:  http://www.margotfinke.com
Young Teen and Picture Books  + Manuscript Critiques and Help for Writers.

Download a FREE “Sneak Peek” inside ALL my books:
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COVER: I love this hand drawn cover that captures where Grandma Rose lives as well as Andy and his friend Kelly together. Cover artist Agy Wilson chose wonderful colors to attract readers and the drawing has a down-home style that works well for this book.

FIRST CHAPTER: Grandma Rose is awakened by the crack of a rifle. Grabbing a long handled garden fork for protection, she heads out to the fence line. Climbing over the fence, she discovers a mother Kangaroo has been shot and killed, but her joey is very much alive. Rose takes the joey back to her house to care for it. The next day, a letter arrives from Rose’s grandson, Andy, who lives in Portland, Oregon. She wonders if Andy would like to hear about her new animal friend and sits down to draft her reply.

KEEP READING: What I admire about Finke’s work is the way she pulls you in. The opening pages drop you right into the story, as Rose is woken in the middle of the night by the noise of the rifle. You feel her urgency to discover what has happened and the pain of her discovery. That is tempered by the introduction of Andy’s letter and Rose wondering what his mother did to con him into writing. This looks like it will be a great book and I want to know what happens next.

I purchased a copy of this book for my Kindle. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

First Chapter Review: A Pirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Cat by Beverly Stowe McClure

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Today starts the virtual book tour for Beverly Stowe McClure’s A Pirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Cat. My first chapter review of this middle grade/tween paranormal is part of that tour. The author had sent me a copy of this book when it was first released.  It’s high time I read it.

pirate-blockade-runner-cat-200x300BLURB: Thirteen-year-old Erik Burks’ life is falling apart. When he discovers a lace bra in the glove compartment of his dad’s car, his mom leaves his father and drags Erik from being king of the hill in Texas to the bottom of the pits in South Carolina. No Dad, no baseball, no friends, just Starry Knight (a girl who reads minds) and her equally weird brother, Stormy, the twins that live down the block.

Just when Erik thinks life can’t get any worse, while hanging out at the beach one evening, he and the twins notice lights radiating from the lighthouse. The only problem is the lighthouse was deactivated years ago. Stranger still, a ship materializes in the moonlit harbor. Curious, the twins and a reluctant Erik investigate and discover the ghost of a blockade runner, a phantom cat, and a pirate who prowls Charleston Harbor, all searching for rest.

A former nonbeliever in the existence of ghosts, Erik cannot deny the proof before him. And he has a revelation: The ghosts may be the answer to his desire to return home. Erik soon makes a deal with the ghosts. He’ll help them find what they’re looking for so their spirits can rest in peace. In return, the ghosts will scare Erik’s mother so she’ll be on the next flight back to Texas. Star thinks his plan stinks, but Erik wants his life back, even at the cost of his mother’s sanity.

COVER: This publisher has a lot of great covers, but I have to admit this is one of my favorites. The color, the fonts, the images, they all work together nicely. Kudos to the cover artist.

FIRST CHAPTER: Erik is feeling sorry for himself. His mom has uprooted him and moved to South Carolina where he’s got no Dad, no baseball, and no friends. There are those two freaky twins, Stormy and Starry Knight, but Erik is not having a grand time. He’s kind of tired of hearing about the light coming from the lighthouse–which is not likely since the lighthouse was deactivated years ago. Then when what looks like a ship appears, he’s had enough.

KEEP READING: I had the privilege of seeing this story in the pre-published stage, so I have to admit I knew I would keep going. What McClure has always done well is capture the emotions of her characters. Here’s this thirteen-year-old boy with a great life and great friends in Texas, maybe even a girl to admire, and suddenly he’s pulled from all that and brought to South Carolina where all he has is a set of freaky twins to hang out with. His mom keeps telling him he’s going to love it, but Erik isn’t convinced. Change can be hard for children, especially a move away from friends, and McClure captures that so well with Erik.

The ending of this chapter hints at what is to come, even if Erik isn’t ready to buy into anything yet. This makes for a smooth transition into the next chapter, as Erik walks home and contemplates what Stormy and Starry are telling him about the lights and the ship. I’m definitely eager to continue. I don’t know what additional edits have been performed since I first read this book, but everything I’ve read from this author has been fantastic.Beverly Stowe McClure photojpg

Pages  240

ISBN  978-1-77127-219-3

I received a free copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Beverly Stowe McClure, a former teacher, is now enjoying a second career: writing. She never planned to be a writer, but in the classroom she and her students did such fun activities in art and science that she decided to write about some of them. Luckily, a few magazines liked what she sent them, and her articles have appeared in Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill, Ladybug, Focus on the Family Clubhouse, Jr., and others. Nine of her stories have been published as books, the latest one a MG/Tween eBook: A Pirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Cat. She also has two stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies.

Beverly enjoys discovering her ancestors in her genealogy research. She plays the piano. (Thank you, Mom, for making encouraging me to practice.) She takes long walks where she snaps pictures of wildlife and clouds, and of course she reads, usually two books at a time. She teaches a women’s Sunday school class. Watching baseball (Go Rangers) is another of her favorite activities. Retirement is fun.

You can learn more about Beverly Stowe McClure at http://beverlystowemcclure.wordpress.com or follow her blog at http://beverlystowemcclure.blogspot.com.

 

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Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell

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Little Blog on the Prairie is an ingenious way to bring pioneer life to modern children and still make it fun.

Genevieve Walsh is less than happy when she’s informed her family is spending the summer at Camp Frontier, where they will live like the pioneers of the 1890s. She’s even more appalled when they arrive and she discovers she’ll have to churn butter, remove weeds from the corn field, and use an outhouse. Luckily, she was able to sneak in her cell phone–the one she isn’t supposed to get until they return home–and is able to share her pioneer experiences with her friends.

Her friends turn her texts into a blog that quickly goes viral. When a TV crew arrives at Camp Frontier wanting to know all about Gen, she’s afraid she might have ruined the vacation for everyone, even herself.

The Lil’ Diva, who knows I am a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, saw this book at the library and decided she must read it. We ended up reading it together and it made me laugh so hard I couldn’t put it down. I loved the idea of this book so much, it’s getting added to the list of books I wish I wrote. It’s like taking PBS’ Frontier House and putting it into a book. Not all the neighbors get along. Tempers flare. But Gen makes a great narrator and you can’t help but follow along as she discovers things about herself.

I enjoyed the  romantic triangle among Gen, Caleb, and Nora–the owners’ daughter. It’s innocent enough and definitely makes it a more realistic story.  Nora made a great sympathetic villain for this story because these kids spend one summer there and then they are gone, but she lives Camp Frontier 365 days of the year. I would love to see a book about Nora after the events in Little Blog on the Prairie considering how the book concluded.

Definitely a must read.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Lexile Measure: 820L (What’s this?)
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens; Reprint edition (May 24, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599906775
ISBN-13: 978-1599906775

Guest Book Review: Millicent Marie Is Not My Name by Karen Pokras Toz

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Book Review: Millicent Marie Is Not My Name by Karen Pokras Toz
Paperback: 162 pages
Publisher: Grand Daisy Press (September 7, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0984860851
ISBN-13: 978-0984860852
Age group: Preteen and Tween

Five stars


Not content with saddling their daughter with a mouthful of a name like Millicent Marie (after a grumpy family member), Millicent Marie’s parents insist on calling her by that very same huge mouthful. Known to her school friends as Millie, Millicent Marie is grateful that she did not end up with a cool, arty, celebrity kid name like Organza. However, Millie decides that if she’d had a choice, her name would have been Amanda. Amanda has such a nice ring to it. After all, Amandas are beautiful, wildly popular, and talented. When Millie begins a diary in which she signs her name as Amanda, little does she realize what a ten-year-old annoying little brother (Douglas aka Doogle) can do to wreak even more havoc in her life. Doogle finds Millie’s diary on her computer and publishes it as a blog for the entire world to see. Amanda’s soul is suddenly laid bare and, amazingly, people love her. She becomes Springside Elementary’s most sought after sixth-grade mystery gossip and advice columnist. Can Millie keep up the pretence? And for how long before her cover is blown?

This is a lovely read for tweens (and their parents!). Millie has the usual slightly disparaging attitude towards her prehistoric-age, totally embarrassing parents who (in the nature of all parents) seem to be incapable of treating her as the almost-adult she considers herself. Millie was given the choice of a computer or a cell phone when she turned twelve. Everyone knows that any self-respecting teenager needs both. Author Karen Pokras Toz captures Millie’s life angst—from disillusionment with sixth grade, to decisions about doing soccer or drama, to denying she has a crush on the utterly handsome Jordan Cowell—with humor and inside knowledge. I also enjoyed Millie’s coming of age and gradual maturing. As Amanda, Millie learns huge life lessons about friendship, respect, and the fact that other people have feelings and problems. As Millie, Millie learns about her identity, who she really is, and decides if she is happy being herself. Highly recommended.

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.