Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Scary stories for Young Readers (and for the Young at Heart) by Amy Bearce #Halloween #mustread #YoungReaders @AmyBearce

Scary stories for Young Readers
 (and for the Young at Heart)
By Amy Bearce

It’s dark outside. Thunder rumbles, then rain begins to beat on the windows. You’re alone in the house.  You snuggle under the covers and open your favorite scary book.  Ghosts.  Hauntings.  Monsters.  You smile, and keep reading. A few minutes later, you pause. Wait. What’s that sound? You listen harder. Is someone in the house with you?  Your heart races. Your palms sweat.  You turn on the overhead light, and check.  It’s just you.  No one’s there. Your fears poof into nothingness.  The book had just scared you. A little.

So you snuggle down…and open the book up again.

What puts the oooh in spooky books? Why do some of us like to scare ourselves by reading stories of ghosts and monsters?

Part of the answer seems to lie in our brains. 

 When we know we are in a safe environment, the fight or flight response triggered in a haunted house or while reading a scary book provides a wash of chemicals in the brain. Some of us respond differently to those chemicals in our sympathetic nervous system than others. Those of us who don’t like scary things are more stress-sensitive. But for some of you, you are thrill-seeking because of the way your brain interacts with the adrenaline, endorphins and dopamine released.  Those chemicals give you a rush that feels good. You are the ones who love those haunted houses, laugh your way through scary movies, and love Stephen King books. 

Another reason some people enjoy scary stories is because, just like with any reading experience, books allow us to experience something without actually living it.  Facing down a scary situation and coming out okay can produce a feeling of confidence and satisfaction. And unlike movies, our brains can more easily control the images created so they will match our comfort levels. 

Scary books aren’t for everyone, but as a school librarian, I had more requests for scary books than almost any other kind.  Scary books can cover a wide variety of topics, but a common and popular tale is the ghost story, especially around Halloween.
 It’s not a new story idea. In the first century AD, a Roman author wrote about a ghost rattling chains in his home. Famous people seem to like to hang out after their deaths, as evidenced as the many sightings of such historical figures as Ann Boleyn, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln. Certain locations seem to draw stories of hauntings, especially with traumatic events in its past. Any of those topics offer great fodder for a chill-inducing tale. People usually tend to love scary books or hate them.  For those young readers in your life who want the thrill of a full-body chill this Halloween, here are five excellent scary stories for young readers.

1.    Spirit Hunters, by Ellen Oh. This is one of the creepier middle grade books I’ve read in a while.  A seventh-grade girl and her family move into a home that is rumored to be haunted. She has strange blanks in her memory, but as dangerous events start happening, she has to confront the angry ghosts who want to take over her younger brother’s life.  A classic haunting tale mixed with exciting adventure. Possessed little kids will always make me shudder.

2.    One for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn— Released in 2018, One for Sorrow is a tale of a vengeful ghost during the 1918 influenza outbreak.  However, any book by Mary Downing Hahn is a good pick—she is a ghost story master.  Her books are great for students who loved Goosebumps and are ready to kick it up a notch. She has a huge backlist, and students devour them. An older book of hers,  All the Lovely Bad Ones, includes mischievous but friendly ghosts of children in addition to an evil ghost.

3.    Doll Bones by Holly Black—Is there anything creepier than a haunted china doll? I’m not sure. This book includes a strong friendship tale and ends positively, at least for a ghost story.  Despite my childhood fear of dolls (I’m looking at you, Barbarella!), I enjoyed this one. It’s a fast, easy read, not quite as scary as some of the others.

4. Coraline—The movie is great, but never as great as the book.  In Coraline’s new home, there’s a locked door. On the other side, is a brick wall, until one day she finds a passage to a home that looks just like hers—but her parents have buttons for eyes.  They are also doting and attentive, unlike her own in the real world.  However, the parents in the other place also want to keep her forever… and have already trapped other children there.  Coraline is their only chance for escape.  To try a ghost story by Neil Gaiman for children, check out The Graveyard Book.

5.    The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier.  This slow burn of psychological horror and suspense is my favorite scary book of all time. The writing is gorgeous, providing atmospheric descriptions while staying crisp and fast-paced.  The book has a gothic mood that creates a dark, creepy story that will appeal to fans of Coraline. This book is in my top ten favorite books for young readers. 

For younger readers who want a scary story but who might not sleep for a week with a really terrifying tale, try Eerie Elementary. This series is for newly independent readers with easy-to-read text. In book 1 of the series, the main character Sam must defend himself from the evil school.

As your young readers grow bigger, many will enjoy Goosebumps. You might have read this series yourself.  It’s a classic for a reason. RL Stine’s books are fast, direct, and captivating to kids, with a lot of dialogue and twists in the stories. They each can stand alone.

For teens, consider the Fear Street series, Anya’s Ghost, Coldest Girl in ColdtownAnna Dressed in Blood, and Frankenstein.  Also, some of the best of Stephen King suits this older teen group, too, such as Carrie and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.
If you’ve never tried these scary stories, Halloween is the perfect day to try them out.  

Who knows…maybe it’ll be an out-of-this world experience.

The world of Aluvia series
By Amy Bearce

The world of Aluvia is a place of magic, but it’s a broken, dark world where magical creatures are suffering, and the land itself begins to shake apart. When the fairy queens disappear and their little fairies die, it marks the beginning of a long journey for three girls who seek to heal their world. 

Sierra hates her calling as a fairy keeper, but is compelled to travel to the dangerous wilderness to find the lost queens. (Book One, Fairy Keeper
Phoebe must help the gentle merfolk reclaim their magic once more—by first discovering her own. (Book Two, Mer-Charmer)

And Nell must hold the line when a new enemy arrives who wants to return Aluvia to the days when humans held all the power, risking the very magic they’ve worked so hard to restore. (Book Three, Dragon Redeemer)

Amy Bearce
Amy writes fantasy and light science fiction for young readers and the young at heart. She is a former English teacher and school librarian. Prior to writing novels, she spent ten years writing short stories, articles, and poetry for state standardized reading tests on a freelance basis. 
As an Army kid, she moved eight times before she was eighteen, so she feels especially fortunate to be married to her high school sweetheart. Together they’re raising two daughters in Texas.  Her next release is called SHORTCUTS and will be released April 9, 2019, from CBAY Books. It’s up for pre-order now in paperback. (And there’s a Halloween dance involved.)
Amy loves to hear from readers. You can fine her on Instagram • Facebook • Twitter • Author

Saturday, 27 October 2018

#BookReview — By Love Divided by Elizabeth St.John #HistoricalFiction #Stuarts #EnglishCivilWar @ElizStJohn

By Love Divided

By Elizabeth St.John

Fiercely independent, Luce Apsley rejects the dazzling English court and an arranged marriage by her aristocratic family, and falls in love with a Roundhead soldier. Desperate to rebuild their lives, her mother embraces the Puritan cause and yet Luce’s beloved brother, Sir Allen Apsley, chooses to fight for king and joins the gallant Royalists. As England marches into civil war, Luce embraces Parliament's radical views and challenges the very core of the family's beliefs. When their influential Villiers cousins raise the stakes, King Charles demands a loyalty of Allen that could jeopardize them all. Allen and Luce face a devastating challenge. Will war unite or divide them? In the dawn of England’s rebellion, love is the final battleground.

In a civil war, there are no winners. Just desperate broken men who have seen things they wished could be unseen, and who have done things they would do anything to undo.

On the death of her husband, Lucy Apsley finds herself and her children on the verge of destitution. Her late husband, Sir Allen Apsley, had loaned large amounts of money to King Charles. However, when they needed that money the most, Charles ignores the warrant. Without that money, Lucy cannot pay their debts. The only way out for gentle Lucy is to marry, and although her late husband was a staunch Royalist, her new husband believes in the Puritan cause.

Allen, Lucy’s son, is determined to restore the family’s fortune and save his mother from a life of misery. He immerses himself in the court of King Charles as he desperately tries to find someone to plea upon his mother’s behalf to the monarch.

Luce, Lucy’s daughter, is studious and prefers the company of books, to that of the nobility. She has no interest in marrying for political or financial gain.  But then one fateful day, she meets John. John is compassionate and loving. More importantly, he shares the same beliefs as she does. It is no wonder Luce falls in love with him.

However, discontentment rumbles around Charles’ realm and threatens to shatter Luce’s new found happiness. While Allen, who is so armoured with court life and the whole idea of following in his father’s footsteps and fighting in the name of the King, takes up arms, so does Luce’s husband.  However, John does not stand with the King. He stands with parliament. 

Lucy is determined that whatever happens this war will not destroy her family. And although she too, sides with the Puritans, she continually prays for a peaceful resolution that will bring her boys home.

From the dazzling grandeur to Charles Stuart’s court to the horrors of The Battle of Marston Moor. By Love Divided by Elizabeth St.John is an unforgettable sweeping saga of a family who is ripped apart by loyalty to the King, and loyalty to parliament.

By Love Divided is as beautiful as it is harrowing. Ms St.John has captured the very essences of this era within the pages of this remarkable book. By approaching this story using various points of view, Ms St.John has presented us with a story that tells both sides of the war. But make no mistake, By Love Divided is more than just an account of the English Civil War, it is an intimate look at how that war affected the lives of so many and how it tore some families apart. 

What I adored about this book was the fact that all the characters are based on real people who lived through this terrible time. The amount of hours that Ms St.John has spent on research has to be commended. Ms St. John has skilfully woven a story that is as rich in historical detail as it is in action. 

By Love Divided is undoubtedly a very emotional book, and I quickly grew to love the protagonists. I cherished every word, every syllable, every sentence. By Love Divided is one of those rare books that leaves a mark upon your heart. This is not a book that I will forget in a hurry.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Elizabeth St.John

Elizabeth St.John was brought up in England and lives in California. To inform her writing, she has tracked down family papers and residences from Nottingham Castle, Lydiard Park, and Castle Fonmon to the Tower of London. Although the family sold a few castles and country homes along the way (it's hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth's family still occupy them - in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their imprint. And the occasional ghost.

Elizabeth’s debut novel, The Lady of the Tower, has been an Amazon best seller since its release in 2016, and has won numerous awards for historical fiction. By Love Divided, the second in The Lydiard Chronicles series, follows the fortunes of the St.John family during the English Civil War, and was featured a the 2018 Swindon Festival of Literature as well as recognized with an “Editors’ Choice” by the Historical Novel Society.  Elizabeth’s currently working on the next in the series, telling of the lives of the St.John women after the Civil War and into the Restoration.

Elizabeth loves to hear from readers, you can find her: WebsiteAmazon Author PageTwitterFacebook.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

#BookReview — The Beaufort Bride: The Life of Margaret Beaufort (Beaufort Chronicles #1) By Judith Arnopp #HistoricalFiction #Tudors @JudithArnopp

The Beaufort Bride:
 The Life of Margaret Beaufort
(Beaufort Chronicles #1)
By Judith Arnopp

As King Henry VI slips into insanity and the realm of England teeters on the brink of civil war, a child is married to the mad king’s brother. Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, takes his child bride into Wales where she discovers a land of strife and strangers. 

At Caldicot Castle and Lamphey Palace Margaret must put aside childhood, acquire the dignity of a Countess and, despite her tender years, produce Richmond with a son and heir.

While Edmund battles to restore the king’s peace, Margaret quietly supports his quest; but it is a quest fraught with danger.
As the friction between York and Lancaster intensifies 14-year-old Margaret, now widowed, turns for protection to her brother-in-law, Jasper Tudor. At his stronghold in Pembroke, two months after her husband’s death, Margaret gives birth to a son whom she names Henry, after her cousin the king. 

Margaret is small of stature but her tiny frame conceals a fierce and loyal heart and a determination that will not falter until her son’s destiny as the king of England is secured.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me…”
1 Corinthians 13:11

The bells ring out in celebration, but Lady Margaret can only think of all the things that she is losing. At twelve years old she is no longer a child, but a wife to King Henry’s half-brother — Edmund, Earl of Richmond. Marriage to Edmund has secured Margaret’s future, but Margaret cannot help but fear that their marriage will not be a happy one, for he is formidable and so much older than she is.

Forced to put her childish ways behind her, Margaret is determined to make the most of her position as the Countess of Richmond. However, her husband is eager for an heir. Margaret, despite her young years, has no choice but to obey Edmund in everything. In a strange foreign land, far away from her family, Margaret turns to God for reassurance and comfort.

From the comforting nursery at Bletsoe Castle to the cold and formidable fortress of Jasper Tudor’s stronghold in Pembrokeshire, The Beaufort Bride: The Life of Margaret Beaufort (Beaufort Chronicles #1) by Judith Arnopp is a beautifully presented and wonderfully compelling story of Lady Margaret Beaufort’s early years.

Margaret is portrayed as a conscientious student who has a vivid, if somewhat frightening, imagination. She also has all the makings of a powerful and determined young woman. The stage is set for the story of one woman’s resolve to see her son crowned King.

To write in the first person from the perspective of a young child is notoriously difficult to do well. However, Ms Arnopp has cleverly crafted a character whose innocence and lack of understanding as to why she has to marry when she is still in the nursery, shines from the pages as elegantly as the illumination in the Book of Hours.

Margaret is often painted as a rather cold and God-fearing woman, whose cunning and manipulation made way for her son to take the throne. Yet, in Mrs Arnopp’s portrayal, Margaret is very much an innocent who inspires a great deal of sympathy, but also admiration. My heart went out to her on many occasions, and although there are hints of the God-fearing woman, Margaret was later to become, there was also a tender and vulnerable side to her. Nevertheless, even as a young child, Margaret knows who she is. She is a Lancastrian, and will always be loyal to her House.

Ms Arnopp has kept close to the documented history of the time. If you already know Margaret’s story, then you will find no glaring inaccuracies in this book. What Ms Arnopp has done is breathe fresh life into the world that Margaret lived and the people who shared it with her. The Beaufort Bride: The Life of Margaret Beaufort is a story I would willingly get lost in time and again.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde
The Coffee Pot Book Club

Judith Arnopp

Judith Arnopp is the author of ten historical novels including The Winchester Goose, The Beaufort Chronicle (three book series), The Kiss of the Concubine and A Song of Sixpence. You can find her on Facebook • Twitter • Website  • Blog. 

Friday, 12 October 2018

018 #BookReview — Blood and Ink by D. K. Marley #Shakespeare #Marlowe @theRealDKMarley

Blood and Ink
By D. K. Marley

History shows Kit Marlowe died in a tavern brawl in Deptford in 1593, but did he? England is torn apart by religious metamorphosis and espionage. The stages of England and bright intellectual boys are used to bolster Queen Elizabeth I's reign and propagate the rising Protestant faith. At the age of eight, Christopher Marlowe, the muse's darling, is sucked into the labyrinth of secret spy rings, blood, murder, and betrayal, while his own ambition as England's favorite playwright slips further from his grasp.

As Christopher grows to manhood, he sinks further into the darkness, and a chance meeting with an unknown actor from Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare, sets him on a path of destiny; a fate of forced exile and the revelation that the real enemy is not the assassins of Rome, but a man who stared into his eyes and smiled. One he did not expect

“Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more…”
Macbeth — Act V, Scene V.
By William Shakespeare

When a sparrow falls from the sky, God sees, he knows. Christopher Marlowe was born in humble circumstances, but under the brightest of stars. From a tender age, he saw the world differently from how others saw it. His world was one of poetry and prose, sonnets and blank verse, and with his muse, Calliope, whispering in his ear, his future as a playwright was assured. But then on one ordinary and unassuming day at The King’s School in Cambridge, Kit happened upon a man who would take this would-be-playwright into the dark and dangerous world of espionage and murder.

From lofty heights, did Kit’s ambition grow. However, he soon learned a bitter lesson which was that *Hell hath no limits… and where Hell is there must we ever be.

From the banks of the River Stour to the elegant grandeur of Queen Elizabeth’s court, Blood and Ink by D. K. Marley takes us on an unforgettable journey about one man’s hope for immortality.

What can I say about this book? For the pages speak for themselves. It is the story of not one man, but many. As the players fan out upon the stage, Marlowe, and indeed all the principle historical characters from that time, put on a play for your enjoyment.

For fans of Shakespeare, this book poses an age-old question — did Shakespeare, a skilled player, really write 37 plays and 154 sonnets? This story, says no. This story argues so elegantly on the side of Marlowe, and in such a way, that I, a lifelong lover of Shakespeare, found myself at times swept along with the whole argument! With the language of the bards ringing so gracefully in the words that inked the pages, and the atmospheric setting of a book so well drawn that I was oblivious to everything that was going on around me, this story, this book, is the best I have ever read about this era and these people. I cannot commend D. K. Marley enough for this beautiful story. She has brought Marlowe and Shakespeare back to life in this magnificent retelling.

The dialogue is as rich as a Shakespeare sonnet, the darker moments, as terrible as the Massacre of Paris, and the lighter moments as amusing as anything that William wrote. I adored the interpretation of both Marlowe and Shakespeare. So although this is very much Kit’s story, there would not have been a story without William’s running along side it.

This book asks many questions and D. K. Marley has tried to give plausible answers. And although we will never know if Kit really did die in that dreadful fight in a house in Deptford, or if William really did pen the worlds most beloved plays, this story has something for anyone who is interested in these poets and the world in which they lived in.

If you were to read only one book this year, then let it be this one.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

*Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

D.K. Marley

DK Marley is a historical fiction writer specializing in Shakespearean themes. Her grandmother, an English professor, gave her a volume of Shakespeare's plays when she was eleven, inspiring DK to delve further into the rich Elizabethan language. Eleven years ago she began the research leading to the publication of her first novel "Blood and Ink," an epic tale of lost dreams, spurned love, jealousy and deception in Tudor England as the two men, William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe, fight for one name and the famous works now known as the Shakespeare Folio.

She is a true Stratfordian (despite the topic of her novel "Blood and Ink"), a Marlowe fan, a member of the Marlowe Society, the Shakespeare Fellowship and a signer of the Declaration of Intent for the Shakespeare Authorship Debate. Her new series titled "The Fractured Shakespeare Series" will tackle adapting each play into a historical fiction novel. She has traveled to England three times for intensive research and debate workshops and is a graduate of the intense training workshop "The Writer's Retreat Workshop" founded by Gary Provost and hosted by Jason Sitzes and Lorin Oberweger. She is also a blogger for her blog "The Jabberwocky Blog" on Wordpress. She lives in Georgia with her husband and two Scottish Terriers named Maggie and Buster.

Connect with D.K. Marley: Author Website • Facebook • Twitter • Instagram: @theRealDKMarley •Amazon Author Page • Goodreads • Jol's Book Club.

#BookReview — The Potential For Love by Catherine Kullmann #RegencyRomance

The Potential For Love By Catherine Kullmann When Arabella Malvin sees the figure of an officer silhouetted against the sun, for ...